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Title: A Far Country — Complete
Author: Churchill, Winston
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.

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A FAR COUNTRY

By Winston Churchill



BOOK 1.



I.

My name is Hugh Paret. I was a corporation lawyer, but by no means a
typical one, the choice of my profession being merely incidental, and
due, as will be seen, to the accident of environment. The book I am
about to write might aptly be called The Autobiography of a Romanticist.
In that sense, if in no other, I have been a typical American, regarding
my country as the happy hunting-ground of enlightened self-interest, as
a function of my desires. Whether or not I have completely got rid of
this romantic virus I must leave to those the aim of whose existence
is to eradicate it from our literature and our life. A somewhat Augean
task!

I have been impelled therefore to make an attempt at setting forth, with
what frankness and sincerity I may, with those powers of selection of
which I am capable, the life I have lived in this modern America; the
passions I have known, the evils I have done. I endeavour to write a
biography of the inner life; but in order to do this I shall have to
relate those causal experiences of the outer existence that take place
in the world of space and time, in the four walls of the home, in the
school and university, in the noisy streets, in the realm of business
and politics. I shall try to set down, impartially, the motives that
have impelled my actions, to reveal in some degree the amazing mixture
of good and evil which has made me what I am to-day: to avoid the tricks
of memory and resist the inherent desire to present myself other and
better than I am. Your American romanticist is a sentimental spoiled
child who believes in miracles, whose needs are mostly baubles, whose
desires are dreams. Expediency is his motto. Innocent of a knowledge
of the principles of the universe, he lives in a state of ceaseless
activity, admitting no limitations, impatient of all restrictions.
What he wants, he wants very badly indeed. This wanting things was the
corner-stone of my character, and I believe that the science of the
future will bear me out when I say that it might have been differently
built upon. Certain it is that the system of education in vogue in the
70’s and 80’s never contemplated the search for natural corner-stones.

At all events, when I look back upon the boy I was, I see the beginnings
of a real person who fades little by little as manhood arrives and
advances, until suddenly I am aware that a stranger has taken his
place....

I lived in a city which is now some twelve hours distant from the
Atlantic seaboard. A very different city, too, it was in youth, in my
grandfather’s day and my father’s, even in my own boyhood, from what it
has since become in this most material of ages.

There is a book of my photographs, preserved by my mother, which I
have been looking over lately. First is presented a plump child of two,
gazing in smiling trustfulness upon a world of sunshine; later on a
lean boy in plaided kilts, whose wavy, chestnut-brown hair has been
most carefully parted on the side by Norah, his nurse. The face is
still childish. Then appears a youth of fourteen or thereabout in long
trousers and the queerest of short jackets, standing beside a marble
table against a classic background; he is smiling still in undiminished
hope and trust, despite increasing vexations and crossings, meaningless
lessons which had to be learned, disciplines to rack an aspiring soul,
and long, uncomfortable hours in the stiff pew of the First Presbyterian
Church. Associated with this torture is a peculiar Sunday smell and the
faint rustling of silk dresses. I can see the stern black figure of Dr.
Pound, who made interminable statements to the Lord.

“Oh, Lord,” I can hear him say, “thou knowest...”

These pictures, though yellowed and faded, suggest vividly the being
I once was, the feelings that possessed and animated me, love for my
playmates, vague impulses struggling for expression in a world forever
thwarting them. I recall, too, innocent dreams of a future unidentified,
dreams from which I emerged vibrating with an energy that was lost for
lack of a definite objective: yet it was constantly being renewed. I
often wonder what I might have become if it could have been harnessed,
directed! Speculations are vain. Calvinism, though it had begun to make
compromises, was still a force in those days, inimical to spontaneity
and human instincts. And when I think of Calvinism I see, not Dr. Pound,
who preached it, but my father, who practised and embodied it. I loved
him, but he made of righteousness a stern and terrible thing implying
not joy, but punishment, the suppression rather than the expansion of
aspirations. His religion seemed woven all of austerity, contained
no shining threads to catch my eye. Dreams, to him, were matters for
suspicion and distrust.

I sometimes ask myself, as I gaze upon his portrait now, the duplicate
of the one painted for the Bar Association, whether he ever could have
felt the secret, hot thrills I knew and did not identify with religion.
His religion was real to him, though he failed utterly to make it
comprehensible to me. The apparent calmness, evenness of his life awed
me. A successful lawyer, a respected and trusted citizen, was he lacking
somewhat in virility, vitality? I cannot judge him, even to-day. I
never knew him. There were times in my youth when the curtain of his
unfamiliar spirit was withdrawn a little: and once, after I had passed
the crisis of some childhood disease, I awoke to find him bending over
my bed with a tender expression that surprised and puzzled me.

He was well educated, and from his portrait a shrewd observer might
divine in him a genteel taste for literature. The fine features bear
witness to the influence of an American environment, yet suggest
the intellectual Englishman of Matthew Arnold’s time. The face is
distinguished, ascetic, the chestnut hair lighter and thinner than my
own; the side whiskers are not too obtrusive, the eyes blue-grey. There
is a large black cravat crossed and held by a cameo pin, and the coat
has odd, narrow lapels. His habits of mind were English, although he
harmonized well enough with the manners and traditions of a city whose
inheritance was Scotch-Irish; and he invariably drank tea for breakfast.
One of my earliest recollections is of the silver breakfast service and
egg-cups which my great-grandfather brought with him from Sheffield to
Philadelphia shortly after the Revolution. His son, Dr. Hugh Moreton
Paret, after whom I was named, was the best known physician of the city
in the decorous, Second Bank days.

My mother was Sarah Breck. Hers was my Scotch-Irish side. Old Benjamin
Breck, her grandfather, undaunted by sea or wilderness, had come
straight from Belfast to the little log settlement by the great river
that mirrored then the mantle of primeval forest on the hills. So much
for chance. He kept a store with a side porch and square-paned windows,
where hams and sides of bacon and sugar loaves in blue glazed paper hung
beside ploughs and calico prints, barrels of flour, of molasses and rum,
all of which had been somehow marvellously transported over the passes
of those forbidding mountains,--passes we blithely thread to-day in
dining cars and compartment sleepers. Behind the store were moored the
barges that floated down on the swift current to the Ohio, carrying
goods to even remoter settlements in the western wilderness.

Benjamin, in addition to his emigrant’s leather box, brought with him
some of that pigment that was to dye the locality for generations a
deep blue. I refer, of course, to his Presbyterianism. And in order the
better to ensure to his progeny the fastness of this dye, he married
the granddaughter of a famous divine, celebrated in the annals of New
England,--no doubt with some injustice,--as a staunch advocate on the
doctrine of infant damnation. My cousin Robert Breck had old Benjamin’s
portrait, which has since gone to the Kinley’s. Heaven knows who painted
it, though no great art were needed to suggest on canvas the tough
fabric of that sitter, who was more Irish than Scotch. The heavy
stick he holds might, with a slight stretch of the imagination, be a
blackthorn; his head looks capable of withstanding many blows; his hand
of giving many. And, as I gazed the other day at this picture hanging in
the shabby suburban parlour, I could only contrast him with his anaemic
descendants who possessed the likeness. Between the children of poor
Mary Kinley,--Cousin Robert’s daughter, and the hardy stock of the old
country there is a gap indeed!

Benjamin Breck made the foundation of a fortune. It was his son who
built on the Second Bank the wide, corniced mansion in which to house
comfortably his eight children. There, two tiers above the river, lived
my paternal grandfather, Dr. Paret, the Breck’s physician and friend;
the Durretts and the Hambletons, iron-masters; the Hollisters, Sherwins,
the McAlerys and Ewanses,--Breck connections,--the Willetts and Ogilvys;
in short, everyone of importance in the days between the ‘thirties and
the Civil War. Theirs were generous houses surrounded by shade trees,
with glorious back yards--I have been told--where apricots and pears and
peaches and even nectarines grew.

The business of Breck and Company, wholesale grocers, descended to my
mother’s first cousin, Robert Breck, who lived at Claremore. The very
sound of that word once sufficed to give me a shiver of delight; but
the Claremore I knew has disappeared as completely as Atlantis, and
the place is now a suburb (hateful word!) cut up into building lots
and connected with Boyne Street and the business section of the city
by trolley lines. Then it was “the country,” and fairly saturated with
romance. Cousin Robert, when he came into town to spend his days at the
store, brought with him some of this romance, I had almost said of this
aroma. He was no suburbanite, but rural to the backbone, professing a
most proper contempt for dwellers in towns.

Every summer day that dawned held Claremore as a possibility. And such
was my capacity for joy that my appetite would depart completely when I
heard my mother say, questioningly and with proper wifely respect--

“If you’re really going off on a business trip for a day or two, Mr.
Paret” (she generally addressed my father thus formally), “I think I’ll
go to Robert’s and take Hugh.”

“Shall I tell Norah to pack, mother,” I would exclaim, starting up.

“We’ll see what your father thinks, my dear.”

“Remain at the table until you are excused, Hugh,” he would say.

Released at length, I would rush to Norah, who always rejoiced with
me, and then to the wire fence which marked the boundary of the Peters
domain next door, eager, with the refreshing lack of consideration
characteristic of youth, to announce to the Peterses--who were to remain
at home the news of my good fortune. There would be Tom and Alfred and
Russell and Julia and little Myra with her grass-stained knees, faring
forth to seek the adventures of a new day in the shady western yard.
Myra was too young not to look wistful at my news, but the others
pretended indifference, seeking to lessen my triumph. And it was Julia
who invariably retorted “We can go out to Uncle Jake’s farm whenever we
want to. Can’t we, Tom?”...

No journey ever taken since has equalled in ecstasy that leisurely trip
of thirteen miles in the narrow-gauge railroad that wound through hot
fields of nodding corn tassels and between delicious, acrid-smelling
woods to Claremore. No silent palace “sleeping in the sun,” no edifice
decreed by Kubla Khan could have worn more glamour than the house of
Cousin Robert Breck.

It stood half a mile from the drowsy village, deep in its own grounds
amidst lawns splashed with shadows, with gravel paths edged--in
barbarous fashion, if you please with shells. There were flower beds of
equally barbarous design; and two iron deer, which, like the figures
on Keats’s Grecian urn, were ever ready poised to flee,--and yet never
fled. For Cousin Robert was rich, as riches went in those days: not only
rich, but comfortable. Stretching behind the house were sweet meadows of
hay and red clover basking in the heat, orchards where the cows cropped
beneath the trees, arbours where purple clusters of Concords hung
beneath warm leaves: there were woods beyond, into which, under the
guidance of Willie Breck, I made adventurous excursions, and in the
autumn gathered hickories and walnuts. The house was a rambling, wooden
mansion painted grey, with red scroll-work on its porches and horsehair
furniture inside. Oh, the smell of its darkened interior on a midsummer
day! Like the flavour of that choicest of tropical fruits, the
mangosteen, it baffles analysis, and the nearest I can come to it is a
mixture of matting and corn-bread, with another element too subtle to
define.

The hospitality of that house! One would have thought we had arrived,
my mother and I, from the ends of the earth, such was the welcome we got
from Cousin Jenny, Cousin Robert’s wife, from Mary and Helen with the
flaxen pig-tails, from Willie, whom I recall as permanently without
shoes or stockings. Met and embraced by Cousin Jenny at the station and
driven to the house in the squeaky surrey, the moment we arrived she and
my mother would put on the dressing-sacks I associated with hot weather,
and sit sewing all day long in rocking-chairs at the coolest end of the
piazza. The women of that day scorned lying down, except at night, and
as evening came on they donned starched dresses; I recall in particular
one my mother wore, with little vertical stripes of black and white, and
a full skirt. And how they talked, from the beginning of the visit until
the end! I have often since wondered where the topics came from.

It was not until nearly seven o’clock that the train arrived which
brought home my Cousin Robert. He was a big man; his features and even
his ample moustache gave a disconcerting impression of rugged integrity,
and I remember him chiefly in an alpaca or seersucker coat. Though much
less formal, more democratic--in a word--than my father, I stood in
awe of him for a different reason, and this I know now was because
he possessed the penetration to discern the flaws in my youthful
character,--flaws that persisted in manhood. None so quick as Cousin
Robert to detect deceptions which were hidden from my mother.

His hobby was carpentering, and he had a little shop beside the
stable filled with shining tools which Willie and I, in spite of their
attractions, were forbidden to touch. Willie, by dire experience, had
learned to keep the law; but on one occasion I stole in alone, and
promptly cut my finger with a chisel. My mother and Cousin Jenny
accepted the fiction that the injury had been done with a flint
arrowhead that Willie had given me, but when Cousin Robert came home and
saw my bound hand and heard the story, he gave me a certain look which
sticks in my mind.

“Wonderful people, those Indians were!” he observed. “They could make
arrowheads as sharp as chisels.”

I was most uncomfortable....

He had a strong voice, and spoke with a rising inflection and a marked
accent that still remains peculiar to our locality, although it was much
modified in my mother and not at all noticeable in my father; with an
odd nasal alteration of the burr our Scotch-Irish ancestors had brought
with them across the seas. For instance, he always called my father
Mr. Par-r-ret. He had an admiration and respect for him that seemed
to forbid the informality of “Matthew.” It was shared by others of my
father’s friends and relations.

“Sarah,” Cousin Robert would say to my mother, “you’re coddling that
boy, you ought to lam him oftener. Hand him over to me for a couple of
months--I’ll put him through his paces.... So you’re going to send him
to college, are you? He’s too good for old Benjamin’s grocery business.”

He was very fond of my mother, though he lectured her soundly for her
weakness in indulging me. I can see him as he sat at the head of the
supper table, carving liberal helpings which Mary and Helen and Willie
devoured with country appetites, watching our plates.

“What’s the matter, Hugh? You haven’t eaten all your lamb.”

“He doesn’t like fat, Robert,” my mother explained.

“I’d teach him to like it if he were my boy.”

“Well, Robert, he isn’t your boy,” Cousin Jenny would remind him....
His bark was worse than his bite. Like many kind people he made use of
brusqueness to hide an inner tenderness, and on the train he was hail
fellow well met with every Tom, Dick and Harry that commuted,--although
the word was not invented in those days,--and the conductor and brakeman
too. But he had his standards, and held to them....

Mine was not a questioning childhood, and I was willing to accept the
scheme of things as presented to me entire. In my tenderer years, when
I had broken one of the commandments on my father’s tablet (there were
more than ten), and had, on his home-coming, been sent to bed, my mother
would come softly upstairs after supper with a book in her hand; a book
of selected Bible stories on which Dr. Pound had set the seal of his
approval, with a glazed picture cover, representing Daniel in the lions’
den and an angel standing beside him. On the somewhat specious plea that
Holy Writ might have a chastening effect, she was permitted to minister
to me in my shame. The amazing adventure of Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego particularly appealed to an imagination needing little
stimulation. It never occurred to me to doubt that these gentlemen had
triumphed over caloric laws. But out of my window, at the back of the
second storey, I often saw a sudden, crimson glow in the sky to the
southward, as though that part of the city had caught fire. There were
the big steel-works, my mother told me, belonging to Mr. Durrett and
Mr. Hambleton, the father of Ralph Hambleton and the grandfather of
Hambleton Durrett, my schoolmates at Miss Caroline’s. I invariably
connected the glow, not with Hambleton and Ralph, but with Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego! Later on, when my father took me to the
steel-works, and I beheld with awe a huge pot filled with molten metal
that ran out of it like water, I asked him--if I leaped into that
stream, could God save me? He was shocked. Miracles, he told me, didn’t
happen any more.

“When did they stop?” I demanded.

“About two thousand years ago, my son,” he replied gravely.

“Then,” said I, “no matter how much I believed in God, he wouldn’t save
me if I jumped into the big kettle for his sake?”

For this I was properly rebuked and silenced.

My boyhood was filled with obsessing desires. If God, for example, had
cast down, out of his abundant store, manna and quail in the desert,
why couldn’t he fling me a little pocket money? A paltry quarter of
a dollar, let us say, which to me represented wealth. To avoid the
reproach of the Pharisees, I went into the closet of my bed-chamber to
pray, requesting that the quarter should be dropped on the north side of
Lyme Street, between Stamford and Tryon; in short, as conveniently near
home as possible. Then I issued forth, not feeling overconfident, but
hoping. Tom Peters, leaning over the ornamental cast-iron fence which
separated his front yard from the street, presently spied me scanning
the sidewalk.

“What are you looking for, Hugh?” he demanded with interest.

“Oh, something I dropped,” I answered uneasily.

“What?”

Naturally, I refused to tell. It was a broiling, midsummer day; Julia
and Russell, who had been warned to stay in the shade, but who were
engaged in the experiment of throwing the yellow cat from the top of
the lattice fence to see if she would alight on her feet, were presently
attracted, and joined in the search. The mystery which I threw around it
added to its interest, and I was not inconsiderably annoyed. Suppose one
of them were to find the quarter which God had intended for me? Would
that be justice?

“It’s nothing,” I said, and pretended to abandon the quest--to be
renewed later. But this ruse failed; they continued obstinately to
search; and after a few minutes Tom, with a shout, picked out of a hot
crevice between the bricks--a nickel!

“It’s mine!” I cried fiercely.

“Did you lose it?” demanded Julia, the canny one, as Tom was about to
give it up.

My lying was generally reserved for my elders.

“N-no,” I said hesitatingly, “but it’s mine all the same. It was--sent
to me.”

“Sent to you!” they exclaimed, in a chorus of protest and derision. And
how, indeed, was I to make good my claim? The Peterses, when assembled,
were a clan, led by Julia and in matters of controversy, moved as one.
How was I to tell them that in answer to my prayers for twenty-five
cents, God had deemed five all that was good for me?

“Some--somebody dropped it there for me.”

“Who?” demanded the chorus. “Say, that’s a good one!”

Tears suddenly blinded me. Overcome by chagrin, I turned and flew into
the house and upstairs into my room, locking the door behind me. An
interval ensued, during which I nursed my sense of wrong, and it pleased
me to think that the money would bring a curse on the Peters family. At
length there came a knock on the door, and a voice calling my name.

“Hugh! Hugh!”

It was Tom.

“Hughie, won’t you let me in? I want to give you the nickel.”

“Keep it!” I shouted back. “You found it.”

Another interval, and then more knocking.

“Open up,” he said coaxingly. “I--I want to talk to you.”

I relented, and let him in. He pressed the coin into my hand. I refused;
he pleaded.

“You found it,” I said, “it’s yours.”

“But--but you were looking for it.”

“That makes no difference,” I declared magnanimously.

Curiosity overcame him.

“Say, Hughie, if you didn’t drop it, who on earth did?”

“Nobody on earth,” I replied cryptically....

Naturally, I declined to reveal the secret. Nor was this by any means
the only secret I held over the Peters family, who never quite knew what
to make of me. They were not troubled with imaginations. Julia was a
little older than Tom and had a sharp tongue, but over him I exercised
a distinct fascination, and I knew it. Literal himself, good-natured and
warm-hearted, the gift I had of tingeing life with romance (to put the
thing optimistically), of creating kingdoms out of back yards--at which
Julia and Russell sniffed--held his allegiance firm.



II.

I must have been about twelve years of age when I realized that I was
possessed of the bard’s inheritance. A momentous journey I made with
my parents to Boston about this time not only stimulated this gift, but
gave me the advantage of which other travellers before me have likewise
availed themselves--of being able to take certain poetic liberties with
a distant land that my friends at home had never seen. Often during the
heat of summer noons when we were assembled under the big maple beside
the lattice fence in the Peters’ yard, the spirit would move me to
relate the most amazing of adventures. Our train, for instance, had been
held up in the night by a band of robbers in black masks, and rescued by
a traveller who bore a striking resemblance to my Cousin Robert Breck.
He had shot two of the robbers. These fabrications, once started, flowed
from me with ridiculous ease. I experienced an unwonted exhilaration,
exaltation; I began to believe that they had actually occurred. In vain
the astute Julia asserted that there were no train robbers in the east.
What had my father done? Well, he had been very brave, but he had had no
pistol. Had I been frightened? No, not at all; I, too, had wished for
a pistol. Why hadn’t I spoken of this before? Well, so many things
had happened to me I couldn’t tell them all at once. It was plain that
Julia, though often fascinated against her will, deemed this sort of
thing distinctly immoral.

I was a boy divided in two. One part of me dwelt in a fanciful realm
of his own weaving, and the other part was a commonplace and protesting
inhabitant of a world of lessons, disappointments and discipline. My
instincts were not vicious. Ideas bubbled up within me continually
from an apparently inexhaustible spring, and the very strength of the
longings they set in motion puzzled and troubled my parents: what I
seem to see most distinctly now is a young mind engaged in a ceaseless
struggle for self-expression, for self-development, against the inertia
of a tradition of which my father was the embodiment. He was an enigma
to me then. He sincerely loved me, he cherished ambitions concerning me,
yet thwarted every natural, budding growth, until I grew unconsciously
to regard him as my enemy, although I had an affection for him and a
pride in him that flared up at times. Instead of confiding to him my
aspirations, vague though they were, I became more and more secretive as
I grew older. I knew instinctively that he regarded these aspirations
as evidences in my character of serious moral flaws. And I would sooner
have suffered many afternoons of his favourite punishment--solitary
confinement in my room--than reveal to him those occasional fits of
creative fancy which caused me to neglect my lessons in order to put
them on paper. Loving literature, in his way, he was characteristically
incapable of recognizing the literary instinct, and the symptoms of its
early stages he mistook for inherent frivolity, for lack of respect
for the truth; in brief, for original sin. At the age of fourteen I had
begun secretly (alas, how many things I did secretly!) to write stories
of a sort, stories that never were finished.

He regarded reading as duty, not pleasure. He laid out books for me,
which I neglected. He was part and parcel of that American environment
in which literary ambition was regarded as sheer madness. And no one
who has not experienced that environment can have any conception of the
pressure it exerted to stifle originality, to thrust the new generation
into its religious and commercial moulds. Shall we ever, I wonder,
develop the enlightened education that will know how to take advantage
of such initiative as was mine? that will be on the watch for it,
sympathize with it and guide it to fruition?

I was conscious of still another creative need, that of dramatizing
my ideas, of converting them into action. And this need was to lead me
farther than ever afield from the path of righteousness. The concrete
realization of ideas, as many geniuses will testify, is an expensive
undertaking, requiring a little pocket money; and I have already touched
upon that subject. My father did not believe in pocket money. A sea
story that my Cousin Donald Ewan gave me at Christmas inspired me to
compose one of a somewhat different nature; incidentally, I deemed it
a vast improvement on Cousin Donald’s book. Now, if I only had a boat,
with the assistance of Ham Durrett and Tom Peters, Gene Hollister and
Perry Blackwood and other friends, this story of mine might be
staged. There were, however, as usual, certain seemingly insuperable
difficulties: in the first place, it was winter time; in the second, no
facilities existed in the city for operations of a nautical character;
and, lastly, my Christmas money amounted only to five dollars. It was my
father who pointed out these and other objections. For, after a careful
perusal of the price lists I had sent for, I had been forced to appeal
to him to supply additional funds with which to purchase a row-boat.
Incidentally, he read me a lecture on extravagance, referred to my last
month’s report at the Academy, and finished by declaring that he would
not permit me to have a boat even in the highly improbable case of
somebody’s presenting me with one. Let it not be imagined that my ardour
or my determination were extinguished. Shortly after I had retired from
his presence it occurred to me that he had said nothing to forbid my
making a boat, and the first thing I did after school that day was to
procure, for twenty-five cents, a second-hand book on boat construction.
The woodshed was chosen as a shipbuilding establishment. It was
convenient--and my father never went into the back yard in cold weather.
Inquiries of lumber-yards developing the disconcerting fact that four
dollars and seventy-five cents was inadequate to buy the material
itself, to say nothing of the cost of steaming and bending the ribs, I
reluctantly abandoned the ideal of the graceful craft I had sketched,
and compromised on a flat bottom. Observe how the ways of deception lead
to transgression: I recalled the cast-off lumber pile of Jarvis,
the carpenter, a good-natured Englishman, coarse and fat: in our
neighbourhood his reputation for obscenity was so well known to mothers
that I had been forbidden to go near him or his shop. Grits Jarvis, his
son, who had inherited the talent, was also contraband. I can see
now the huge bulk of the elder Jarvis as he stood in the melting,
soot-powdered snow in front of his shop, and hear his comments on my
pertinacity.

“If you ever wants another man’s missus when you grows up, my lad, Gawd
‘elp ‘im!”

“Why should I want another man’s wife when I don’t want one of my own?”
 I demanded, indignant.

He laughed with his customary lack of moderation.

“You mind what old Jarvis says,” he cried. “What you wants, you gets.”

I did get his boards, by sheer insistence. No doubt they were not very
valuable, and without question he more than made up for them in my
mother’s bill. I also got something else of equal value to me at the
moment,--the assistance of Grits, the contraband; daily, after school,
I smuggled him into the shed through the alley, acquiring likewise the
services of Tom Peters, which was more of a triumph than it would seem.
Tom always had to be “worked up” to participation in my ideas, but in
the end he almost invariably succumbed. The notion of building a boat in
the dead of winter, and so far from her native element, naturally struck
him at first as ridiculous. Where in Jehoshaphat was I going to sail it
if I ever got it made? He much preferred to throw snowballs at innocent
wagon drivers.

All that Tom saw, at first, was a dirty, coal-spattered shed with dim
recesses, for it was lighted on one side only, and its temperature was
somewhere below freezing. Surely he could not be blamed for a tempered
enthusiasm! But for me, all the dirt and cold and discomfort were
blotted out, and I beheld a gallant craft manned by sturdy seamen
forging her way across blue water in the South Seas. Treasure Island,
alas, was as yet unwritten; but among my father’s books were two old
volumes in which I had hitherto taken no interest, with crude engravings
of palms and coral reefs, of naked savages and tropical mountains
covered with jungle, the adventures, in brief, of one Captain Cook. I
also discovered a book by a later traveller. Spurred on by a mysterious
motive power, and to the great neglect of the pons asinorum and the
staple products of the Southern States, I gathered an amazing amount of
information concerning a remote portion of the globe, of head-hunters
and poisoned stakes, of typhoons, of queer war-craft that crept up on
you while you were dismantling galleons, when desperate hand-to-hand
encounters ensued. Little by little as I wove all this into personal
adventures soon to be realized, Tom forgot the snowballs and the
maddened grocery-men who chased him around the block; while Grits would
occasionally stop sawing and cry out:--“Ah, s’y!” frequently adding that
he would be G--d--d.

The cold woodshed became a chantry on the New England coast, the alley
the wintry sea soon to embrace our ship, the saw-horses--which stood
between a coal-bin on one side and unused stalls filled with rubbish
and kindling on the other--the ways; the yard behind the lattice fence
became a backwater, the flapping clothes the sails of ships that took
refuge there--on Mondays and Tuesdays. Even my father was symbolized
with unparalleled audacity as a watchful government which had, up to the
present, no inkling of our semi-piratical intentions! The cook and the
housemaid, though remonstrating against the presence of Grits, were
friendly confederates; likewise old Cephas, the darkey who, from my
earliest memory, carried coal and wood and blacked the shoes, washed the
windows and scrubbed the steps.

One afternoon Tom went to work....

The history of the building of the good ship Petrel is similar to that
of all created things, a story of trial and error and waste. At last,
one March day she stood ready for launching. She had even been caulked;
for Grits, from an unknown and unquestionably dubious source, had
procured a bucket of tar, which we heated over afire in the alley and
smeared into every crack. It was natural that the news of such a feat
as we were accomplishing should have leaked out, that the “yard” should
have been visited from time to time by interested friends, some of whom
came to admire, some to scoff, and all to speculate. Among the scoffers,
of course, was Ralph Hambleton, who stood with his hands in his pockets
and cheerfully predicted all sorts of dire calamities. Ralph was always
a superior boy, tall and a trifle saturnine and cynical, with an
amazing self-confidence not wholly due to the wealth of his father, the
iron-master. He was older than I.

“She won’t float five minutes, if you ever get her to the water,” was
his comment, and in this he was supported on general principles by Julia
and Russell Peters. Ralph would have none of the Petrel, or of the South
Seas either; but he wanted,--so he said,--“to be in at the death.” The
Hambletons were one of the few families who at that time went to the sea
for the summer, and from a practical knowledge of craft in general Ralph
was not slow to point out the defects of ours. Tom and I defended her
passionately.

Ralph was not a romanticist. He was a born leader, excelling at
organized games, exercising over boys the sort of fascination that comes
from doing everything better and more easily than others. It was only
during the progress of such enterprises as this affair of the Petrel
that I succeeded in winning their allegiance; bit by bit, as Tom’s had
been won, fanning their enthusiasm by impersonating at once Achilles
and Homer, recruiting while relating the Odyssey of the expedition in
glowing colours. Ralph always scoffed, and when I had no scheme on foot
they went back to him. Having surveyed the boat and predicted calamity,
he departed, leaving a circle of quaint and youthful figures around the
Petrel in the shed: Gene Hollister, romantically inclined, yet somewhat
hampered by a strict parental supervision; Ralph’s cousin Ham Durrett,
who was even then a rather fat boy, good-natured but selfish; Don and
Harry Ewan, my second cousins; Mac and Nancy Willett and Sam and Sophy
McAlery. Nancy was a tomboy, not to be denied, and Sophy her shadow. We
held a council, the all-important question of which was how to get the
Petrel to the water, and what water to get her to. The river was not to
be thought of, and Blackstone Lake some six miles from town. Finally,
Logan’s mill-pond was decided on,--a muddy sheet on the outskirts of
the city. But how to get her to Logan’s mill-pond? Cephas was at length
consulted. It turned out that he had a coloured friend who went by the
impressive name of Thomas Jefferson Taliaferro (pronounced Tolliver),
who was in the express business; and who, after surveying the boat
with some misgivings,--for she was ten feet long,--finally consented to
transport her to “tide-water” for the sum of two dollars. But it proved
that our combined resources only amounted to a dollar and seventy-five
cents. Ham Durrett never contributed to anything. On this sum Thomas
Jefferson compromised.

Saturday dawned clear, with a stiff March wind catching up the dust into
eddies and whirling it down the street. No sooner was my father safely
on his way to his office than Thomas Jefferson was reported to be in
the alley, where we assembled, surveying with some misgivings Thomas
Jefferson’s steed, whose ability to haul the Petrel two miles seemed
somewhat doubtful. Other difficulties developed; the door in the back of
the shed proved to be too narrow for our ship’s beam. But men embarked
on a desperate enterprise are not to be stopped by such trifles, and
the problem was solved by sawing out two adjoining boards. These were
afterwards replaced with skill by the ship’s carpenter, Able Seaman
Grits Jarvis. Then the Petrel by heroic efforts was got into the wagon,
the seat of which had been removed, old Thomas Jefferson perched himself
precariously in the bow and protestingly gathered up his rope-patched
reins.

“Folks’ll ‘low I’se plum crazy, drivin’ dis yere boat,” he declared,
observing with concern that some four feet of the stern projected over
the tail-board. “Ef she topples, I’ll git to heaven quicker’n a bullet.”

When one is shanghaied, however,--in the hands of buccaneers,--it is
too late to withdraw. Six shoulders upheld the rear end of the Petrel,
others shoved, and Thomas Jefferson’s rickety horse began to move
forward in spite of himself. An expression of sheer terror might have
been observed on the old negro’s crinkled face, but his voice was
drowned, and we swept out of the alley. Scarcely had we travelled a
block before we began to be joined by all the boys along the line of
march; marbles, tops, and even incipient baseball games were abandoned
that Saturday morning; people ran out of their houses, teamsters halted
their carts. The breathless excitement, the exaltation I had felt on
leaving the alley were now tinged with other feelings, unanticipated,
but not wholly lacking in delectable quality,--concern and awe at these
unforeseen forces I had raised, at this ever growing and enthusiastic
body of volunteers springing up like dragon’s teeth in our path. After
all, was not I the hero of this triumphal procession? The thought was
consoling, exhilarating. And here was Nancy marching at my side, a
little subdued, perhaps, but unquestionably admiring and realizing that
it was I who had created all this. Nancy, who was the aptest of pupils,
the most loyal of followers, though I did not yet value her devotion at
its real worth, because she was a girl. Her imagination kindled at my
touch. And on this eventful occasion she carried in her arms a parcel,
the contents of which were unknown to all but ourselves. At length we
reached the muddy shores of Logan’s pond, where two score eager hands
volunteered to assist the Petrel into her native element.

Alas! that the reality never attains to the vision. I had beheld, in my
dreams, the Petrel about to take the water, and Nancy Willett standing
very straight making a little speech and crashing a bottle of wine
across the bows. This was the content of the mysterious parcel; she
had stolen it from her father’s cellar. But the number of uninvited
spectators, which had not been foreseen, considerably modified the
programme,--as the newspapers would have said. They pushed and crowded
around the ship, and made frank and even brutal remarks as to her
seaworthiness; even Nancy, inured though she was to the masculine sex,
had fled to the heights, and it looked at this supreme moment as though
we should have to fight for the Petrel. An attempt to muster her doughty
buccaneers failed; the gunner too had fled,--Gene Hollister; Ham Durrett
and the Ewanses were nowhere to be seen, and a muster revealed only Tom,
the fidus Achates, and Grits Jarvis.

“Ah, s’y!” he exclaimed in the teeth of the menacing hordes. “Stand
back, carn’t yer? I’ll bash yer face in, Johnny. Whose boat is this?”

Shall it be whispered that I regretted his belligerency? Here, in truth,
was the drama staged,--my drama, had I only been able to realize it. The
good ship beached, the headhunters hemming us in on all sides, the scene
prepared for one of those struggles against frightful odds which I had
so graphically related as an essential part of our adventures.

“Let’s roll the cuss in the fancy collar,” proposed one of the
head-hunters,--meaning me.

“I’ll stove yer slats if yer touch him,” said Grits, and then resorted
to appeal. “I s’y, carn’t yer stand back and let a chap ‘ave a charnst?”

The head-hunters only jeered. And what shall be said of the Captain
in this moment of peril? Shall it be told that his heart was beating
wildly?--bumping were a better word. He was trying to remember that
he was the Captain. Otherwise, he must admit with shame that he, too,
should have fled. So much for romance when the test comes. Will he
remain to fall fighting for his ship? Like Horatius, he glanced up at
the hill, where, instead of the porch of the home where he would fain
have been, he beheld a wisp of a girl standing alone, her hat on the
back of her head, her hair flying in the wind, gazing intently down at
him in his danger. The renegade crew was nowhere to be seen. There are
those who demand the presence of a woman in order to be heroes....

“Give us a chance, can’t you?” he cried, repeating Grits’s appeal in
not quite such a stentorian tone as he would have liked, while his hand
trembled on the gunwale. Tom Peters, it must be acknowledged, was much
more of a buccaneer when it was a question of deeds, for he planted
himself in the way of the belligerent chief of the head-hunters (who
spoke with a decided brogue).

“Get out of the way!” said Tom, with a little squeak in his voice. Yet
there he was, and he deserves a tribute.

An unlooked-for diversion saved us from annihilation, in the shape of
one who had a talent for creating them. We were bewilderingly aware of a
girlish figure amongst us.

“You cowards!” she cried. “You cowards!”

Lithe, and fairly quivering with passion, it was Nancy who showed us
how to face the head-hunters. They gave back. They would have been brave
indeed if they had not retreated before such an intense little nucleus
of energy and indignation!...

“Ah, give ‘em a chanst,” said their chief, after a moment.... He even
helped to push the boat towards the water. But he did not volunteer to
be one of those to man the Petrel on her maiden voyage. Nor did
Logan’s pond, that wild March day, greatly resemble the South Seas.
Nevertheless, my eye on Nancy, I stepped proudly aboard and seized
an “oar.” Grits and Tom followed,--when suddenly the Petrel sank
considerably below the water-line as her builders had estimated it. Ere
we fully realized this, the now friendly head-hunters had given us
a shove, and we were off! The Captain, who should have been waving
good-bye to his lady love from the poop, sat down abruptly,--the crew
likewise; not, however, before she had heeled to the scuppers, and
a half-bucket of iced water had run it. Head-hunters were mere daily
episodes in Grits’s existence, but water... He muttered something in
cockney that sounded like a prayer.... The wind was rapidly driving
us toward the middle of the pond, and something cold and ticklish was
seeping through the seats of our trousers. We sat like statues....

The bright scene etched itself in my memory--the bare brown slopes with
which the pond was bordered, the Irish shanties, the clothes-lines with
red flannel shirts snapping in the biting wind; Nancy motionless on the
bank; the group behind her, silent now, impressed in spite of itself at
the sight of our intrepidity.

The Petrel was sailing stern first.... Would any of us, indeed, ever see
home again? I thought of my father’s wrath turned to sorrow because he
had refused to gratify a son’s natural wish and present him with a real
rowboat.... Out of the corners of our eyes we watched the water creeping
around the gunwale, and the very muddiness of it seemed to enhance its
coldness, to make the horrors of its depths more mysterious and hideous.
The voice of Grits startled us.

“O Gawd,” he was saying, “we’re a-going to sink, and I carn’t swim! The
blarsted tar’s give way back here.”

“Is she leaking?” I cried.

“She’s a-filling up like a bath tub,” he lamented.

Slowly but perceptibly, in truth, the bow was rising, and above the
whistling of the wind I could hear his chattering as she settled....
Then several things happened simultaneously: an agonized cry behind me,
distant shouts from the shore, a sudden upward lunge of the bow, and
the torture of being submerged, inch by inch, in the icy, yellow water.
Despite the splashing behind me, I sat as though paralyzed until I was
waist deep and the boards turned under me, and then, with a spasmodic
contraction of my whole being I struck out--only to find my feet on the
muddy bottom. Such was the inglorious end of the good ship Petrel! For
she went down, with all hands, in little more than half a fathom of
water.... It was not until then I realized that we had been blown clear
across the pond!

Figures were running along the shore. And as Tom and I emerged dragging
Grits between us,--for he might have been drowned there abjectly in the
shallows,--we were met by a stout and bare-armed Irishwoman whose scanty
hair, I remember, was drawn into a tight knot behind her head; and who
seized us, all three, as though we were a bunch of carrots.

“Come along wid ye!” she cried.

Shivering, we followed her up the hill, the spectators of the tragedy,
who by this time had come around the pond, trailing after. Nancy was not
among them. Inside the shanty into which we were thrust were two small
children crawling about the floor, and the place was filled with steam
from a wash-tub against the wall and a boiler on the stove. With a
vigorous injunction to make themselves scarce, the Irishwoman slammed
the door in the faces of the curious and ordered us to remove our
clothes. Grits was put to bed in a corner, while Tom and I, provided
with various garments, huddled over the stove. There fell to my lot the
red flannel shirt which I had seen on the clothes-line. She gave us
hot coffee, and was back at her wash-tub in no time at all, her entire
comment on a proceeding that seemed to Tom and me to have certain
elements of gravity being, “By’s will be by’s!” The final ironical touch
was given the anti-climax when our rescuer turned out to be the mother
of the chief of the head-hunters himself! He had lingered perforce with
his brothers and sister outside the cabin until dinner time, and when he
came in he was meek as Moses.

Thus the ready hospitality of the poor, which passed over the heads
of Tom and me as we ate bread and onions and potatoes with a ravenous
hunger. It must have been about two o’clock in the afternoon when we
bade good-bye to our preserver and departed for home....

At first we went at a dog-trot, but presently slowed down to discuss the
future looming portentously ahead of us. Since entire concealment was
now impossible, the question was,--how complete a confession would be
necessary? Our cases, indeed, were dissimilar, and Tom’s incentive to
hold back the facts was not nearly so great as mine. It sometimes seemed
to me in those days unjust that the Peterses were able on the whole
to keep out of criminal difficulties, in which I was more or less
continuously involved: for it did not strike me that their sins were not
those of the imagination. The method of Tom’s father was the slipper. He
and Tom understood each other, while between my father and myself was a
great gulf fixed. Not that Tom yearned for the slipper; but he regarded
its occasional applications as being as inevitable as changes in the
weather; lying did not come easily to him, and left to himself he much
preferred to confess and have the matter over with. I have already
suggested that I had cultivated lying, that weapon of the weaker party,
in some degree, at least, in self-defence.

Tom was loyal. Moreover, my conviction would probably deprive him
for six whole afternoons of my company, on which he was more or less
dependent. But the defence of this case presented unusual difficulties,
and we stopped several times to thrash them out. We had been absent from
dinner, and doubtless by this time Julia had informed Tom’s mother of
the expedition, and anyone could see that our clothing had been wet. So
I lingered in no little anxiety behind the Peters stable while he made
the investigation. Our spirits rose considerably when he returned to
report that Julia had unexpectedly been a trump, having quieted his
mother by the surmise that he was spending the day with his Aunt Fanny.
So far, so good. The problem now was to decide upon what to admit. For
we must both tell the same story.

It was agreed that we had fallen into Logan’s Pond from a raft: my
suggestion. Well, said Tom, the Petrel hadn’t proved much better than a
raft, after all. I was in no mood to defend her.

This designation of the Petrel as a “raft” was my first legal quibble.
The question to be decided by the court was, What is a raft? just as
the supreme tribunal of the land has been required, in later years, to
decide, What is whiskey? The thing to be concealed if possible was the
building of the “raft,” although this information was already in the
possession of a number of persons, whose fathers might at any moment
see fit to congratulate my own on being the parent of a genius. It was a
risk, however, that had to be run. And, secondly, since Grits Jarvis was
contraband, nothing was to be said about him.

I have not said much about my mother, who might have been likened on
such occasions to a grand jury compelled to indict, yet torn between
loyalty to an oath and sympathy with the defendant. I went through the
Peters yard, climbed the wire fence, my object being to discover first
from Ella, the housemaid, or Hannah, the cook, how much was known in
high quarters. It was Hannah who, as I opened the kitchen door, turned
at the sound, and set down the saucepan she was scouring.

“Is it home ye are? Mercy to goodness!” (this on beholding my shrunken
costume) “Glory be to God you’re not drownded! and your mother worritin’
her heart out! So it’s into the wather ye were?”

I admitted it.

“Hannah?” I said softly.

“What then?”

“Does mother know--about the boat?”

“Now don’t ye be wheedlin’.”

I managed to discover, however, that my mother did not know, and
surmised that the best reason why she had not been told had to do with
Hannah’s criminal acquiescence concerning the operations in the shed. I
ran into the front hall and up the stairs, and my mother heard me coming
and met me on the landing.

“Hugh, where have you been?”

As I emerged from the semi-darkness of the stairway she caught sight of
my dwindled garments, of the trousers well above my ankles. Suddenly she
had me in her arms and was kissing me passionately. As she stood before
me in her grey, belted skirt, the familiar red-and-white cameo at her
throat, her heavy hair parted in the middle, in her eyes was an odd,
appealing look which I know now was a sign of mother love struggling
with a Presbyterian conscience. Though she inherited that conscience,
I have often thought she might have succeeded in casting it off--or at
least some of it--had it not been for the fact that in spite of herself
she worshipped its incarnation in the shape of my father. Her voice
trembled a little as she drew me to the sofa beside the window.

“Tell me about what happened, my son,” she said.

It was a terrible moment for me. For my affections were still
quiveringly alive in those days, and I loved her. I had for an instant
an instinctive impulse to tell her the whole story,--South Sea Islands
and all! And I could have done it had I not beheld looming behind her
another figure which represented a stern and unsympathetic Authority,
and somehow made her, suddenly, of small account. Not that she would
have understood the romance, but she would have comprehended me. I knew
that she was powerless to save me from the wrath to come. I wept. It was
because I hated to lie to her,--yet I did so. Fear gripped me, and--like
some respectable criminals I have since known--I understood that any
confession I made would inexorably be used against me.... I wonder
whether she knew I was lying? At any rate, the case appeared to be a
grave one, and I was presently remanded to my room to be held over for
trial....

Vividly, as I write, I recall the misery of the hours I have spent,
while awaiting sentence, in the little chamber with the honeysuckle
wall-paper and steel engravings of happy but dumpy children romping in
the fields and groves. On this particular March afternoon the weather
had become morne, as the French say; and I looked down sadly into the
grey back yard which the wind of the morning had strewn with chips from
the Petrel. At last, when shadows were gathering in the corners of the
room, I heard footsteps. Ella appeared, prim and virtuous, yet a little
commiserating. My father wished to see me, downstairs. It was not the
first time she had brought that summons, and always her manner was the
same!

The scene of my trials was always the sitting room, lined with grim
books in their walnut cases. And my father sat, like a judge, behind the
big desk where he did his work when at home. Oh, the distance between us
at such an hour! I entered as delicately as Agag, and the expression in
his eye seemed to convict me before I could open my mouth.

“Hugh,” he said, “your mother tells me that you have confessed to going,
without permission, to Logan’s Pond, where you embarked on a raft and
fell into the water.”

The slight emphasis he contrived to put on the word raft sent a colder
shiver down my spine than the iced water had done. What did he know? or
was this mere suspicion? Too late, now, at any rate, to plead guilty.

“It was a sort of a raft, sir,” I stammered.

“A sort of a raft,” repeated my father. “Where, may I ask, did you find
it?”

“I--I didn’t exactly find it, sir.”

“Ah!” said my father. (It was the moment to glance meaningly at the
jury.) The prisoner gulped. “You didn’t exactly find it, then. Will you
kindly explain how you came by it?”

“Well, sir, we--I--put it together.”

“Have you any objection to stating, Hugh, in plain English, that you
made it?”

“No, sir, I suppose you might say that I made it.”

“Or that it was intended for a row-boat?”

Here was the time to appeal, to force a decision as to what constituted
a row-boat.

“Perhaps it might be called a row-boat, sir,” I said abjectly.

“Or that, in direct opposition to my wishes and commands in forbidding
you to have a boat, to spend your money foolishly and wickedly on a
whim, you constructed one secretly in the woodshed, took out a part of
the back partition, thus destroying property that did, not belong
to you, and had the boat carted this morning to Logan’s Pond?” I was
silent, utterly undone. Evidently he had specific information.... There
are certain expressions that are, at times, more than mere figures of
speech, and now my father’s wrath seemed literally towering. It added
visibly to his stature.

“Hugh,” he said, in a voice that penetrated to the very corners of my
soul, “I utterly fail to understand you. I cannot imagine how a son
of mine, a son of your mother who is the very soul of truthfulness and
honour--can be a liar.” (Oh, the terrible emphasis he put on that word!)
“Nor is it as if this were a new tendency--I have punished you for it
before. Your mother and I have tried to do our duty by you, to instil
into you Christian teaching. But it seems wholly useless. I confess that
I am at a less how to proceed. You seem to have no conscience whatever,
no conception of what you owe to your parents and your God. You not only
persistently disregard my wishes and commands, but you have, for many
months, been leading a double life, facing me every day, while you were
secretly and continually disobeying me. I shudder to think where this
determination of yours to have what you desire at any price will lead
you in the future. It is just such a desire that distinguishes wicked
men from good.”

I will not linger upon a scene the very remembrance of which is painful
to this day.... I went from my father’s presence in disgrace, in an
agony of spirit that was overwhelming, to lock the door of my room and
drop face downward on the bed, to sob until my muscles twitched. For he
had, indeed, put into me an awful fear. The greatest horror of my
boyish imagination was a wicked man. Was I, as he had declared, utterly
depraved and doomed in spite of myself to be one?

There came a knock at my door--Ella with my supper. I refused to open,
and sent her away, to fall on my knees in the darkness and pray wildly
to a God whose attributes and character were sufficiently confused in my
mind. On the one hand was the stern, despotic Monarch of the Westminster
Catechism, whom I addressed out of habit, the Father who condemned a
portion of his children from the cradle. Was I one of those who he had
decreed before I was born must suffer the tortures of the flames of
hell? Putting two and two together, what I had learned in Sunday school
and gathered from parts of Dr. Pound’s sermons, and the intimation of
my father that wickedness was within me, like an incurable disease,--was
not mine the logical conclusion? What, then, was the use of praying?...
My supplications ceased abruptly. And my ever ready imagination, stirred
to its depths, beheld that awful scene of the last day: the darkness,
such as sometimes creeps over the city in winter, when the jaundiced
smoke falls down and we read at noonday by gas-light. I beheld the
tortured faces of the wicked gathered on the one side, and my mother
on the other amongst the blessed, gazing across the gulf at me with
yearning and compassion. Strange that it did not strike me that the
sight of the condemned whom they had loved in life would have marred if
not destroyed the happiness of the chosen, about to receive their crowns
and harps! What a theology--that made the Creator and Preserver of all
mankind thus illogical!



III.

Although I was imaginative, I was not morbidly introspective, and by the
end of the first day of my incarceration my interest in that solution
had waned. At times, however, I actually yearned for someone in whom I
could confide, who could suggest a solution. I repeat, I would not for
worlds have asked my father or my mother or Dr. Pound, of whom I had a
wholesome fear, or perhaps an unwholesome one. Except at morning Bible
reading and at church my parents never mentioned the name of the Deity,
save to instruct me formally. Intended or no, the effect of my religious
training was to make me ashamed of discussing spiritual matters,
and naturally I failed to perceive that this was because it laid
its emphasis on personal salvation.... I did not, however, become an
unbeliever, for I was not of a nature to contemplate with equanimity a
godless universe....

My sufferings during these series of afternoon confinements did not come
from remorse, but were the result of a vague sense of injury; and their
effect was to generate within me a strange motive power, a desire to do
something that would astound my father and eventually wring from him the
confession that he had misjudged me. To be sure, I should have to wait
until early manhood, at least, for the accomplishment of such a coup.
Might it not be that I was an embryonic literary genius? Many were the
books I began in this ecstasy of self-vindication, only to abandon them
when my confinement came to an end.

It was about this time, I think, that I experienced one of those shocks
which have a permanent effect upon character. It was then the custom
for ladies to spend the day with one another, bringing their sewing; and
sometimes, when I unexpectedly entered the sitting-room, the voices of
my mother’s visitors would drop to a whisper. One afternoon I returned
from school to pause at the head of the stairs. Cousin Bertha Ewan and
Mrs. McAlery were discussing with my mother an affair that I judged from
the awed tone in which they spoke might prove interesting.

“Poor Grace,” Mrs. McAlery was saying, “I imagine she’s paid a heavy
penalty. No man alive will be faithful under those circumstances.”

I stopped at the head of the stairs, with a delicious, guilty feeling.

“Have they ever heard of her?” Cousin Bertha asked.

“It is thought they went to Spain,” replied Mrs. McAlery, solemnly, yet
not without a certain zest. “Mr. Jules Hollister will not have her name
mentioned in his presence, you know. And Whitcomb chased them as far as
New York with a horse-pistol in his pocket. The report is that he got
to the dock just as the ship sailed. And then, you know, he went to live
somewhere out West,--in Iowa, I believe.”

“Did he ever get a divorce?” Cousin Bertha inquired.

“He was too good a church member, my dear,” my mother reminded her.

“Well, I’d have got one quick enough, church member or no church
member,” declared Cousin Bertha, who had in her elements of daring.

“Not that I mean for a moment to excuse her,” Mrs. McAlery put in, “but
Edward Whitcomb did have a frightful temper, and he was awfully strict
with her, and he was old enough, anyhow, to be her father. Grace
Hollister was the last woman in the world I should have suspected of
doing so hideous a thing. She was so sweet and simple.”

“Jennings was very attractive,” said my Cousin Bertha. “I don’t think I
ever saw a handsomer man. Now, if he had looked at me--”

The sentence was never finished, for at this crucial moment I dropped a
grammar....

I had heard enough, however, to excite my curiosity to the highest
pitch. And that evening, when I came in at five o’clock to study, I
asked my mother what had become of Gene Hollister’s aunt.

“She went away, Hugh,” replied my mother, looking greatly troubled.

“Why?” I persisted.

“It is something you are too young to understand.”

Of course I started an investigation, and the next day at school I
asked the question of Gene Hollister himself, only to discover that he
believed his aunt to be dead! And that night he asked his mother if his
Aunt Grace were really alive, after all? Whereupon complications and
explanations ensued between our parents, of which we saw only the
surface signs.... My father accused me of eavesdropping (which I
denied), and sentenced me to an afternoon of solitary confinement for
repeating something which I had heard in private. I have reason to
believe that my mother was also reprimanded.

It must not be supposed that I permitted the matter to rest. In addition
to Grits Jarvis, there was another contraband among my acquaintances,
namely, Alec Pound, the scrape-grace son of the Reverend Doctor Pound.
Alec had an encyclopaedic mind, especially well stocked with the kind of
knowledge I now desired; first and last he taught me much, which I would
better have got in another way. To him I appealed and got the story, my
worst suspicions being confirmed. Mrs. Whitcomb’s house had been across
the alley from that of Mr. Jennings, but no one knew that anything
was “going on,” though there had been signals from the windows--the
neighbours afterwards remembered....

I listened shudderingly.

“But,” I cried, “they were both married!”

“What difference does that make when you love a woman?” Alec replied
grandly. “I could tell you much worse things than that.”

This he proceeded to do. Fascinated, I listened with a sickening
sensation. It was a mild afternoon in spring, and we stood in the deep
limestone gutter in front of the parsonage, a little Gothic wooden house
set in a gloomy yard.

“I thought,” said I, “that people couldn’t love any more after they were
married, except each other.”

Alec looked at me pityingly.

“You’ll get over that notion,” he assured me.

Thus another ingredient entered my character. Denied its food at
home, good food, my soul eagerly consumed and made part of itself the
fermenting stuff that Alec Pound so willing distributed. And it was
fermenting stuff. Let us see what it did to me. Working slowly but
surely, it changed for me the dawning mystery of sex into an evil
instead of a holy one. The knowledge of the tragedy of Grace Hollister
started me to seeking restlessly, on bookshelves and elsewhere, for
a secret that forever eluded me, and forever led me on. The word
fermenting aptly describes the process begun, suggesting as it does
something closed up, away from air and sunlight, continually working in
secret, engendering forces that fascinated, yet inspired me with fear.
Undoubtedly this secretiveness of our elders was due to the pernicious
dualism of their orthodox Christianity, in which love was carnal and
therefore evil, and the flesh not the gracious soil of the spirit, but
something to be deplored and condemned, exorcised and transformed by
the miracle of grace. Now love had become a terrible power (gripping me)
whose enchantment drove men and women from home and friends and kindred
to the uttermost parts of the earth....

It was long before I got to sleep that night after my talk with Alec
Pound. I alternated between the horror and the romance of the story I
had heard, supplying for myself the details he had omitted: I beheld
the signals from the windows, the clandestine meetings, the sudden and
desperate flight. And to think that all this could have happened in our
city not five blocks from where I lay!

My consternation and horror were concentrated on the man,--and yet I
recall a curious bifurcation. Instead of experiencing that automatic
righteous indignation which my father and mother had felt, which had
animated old Mr. Jules Hollister when he had sternly forbidden his
daughter’s name to be mentioned in his presence, which had made these
people outcasts, there welled up within me an intense sympathy and
pity. By an instinctive process somehow linked with other experiences,
I seemed to be able to enter into the feelings of these two outcasts,
to understand the fearful yet fascinating nature of the impulse that
had led them to elude the vigilance and probity of a world with which
I myself was at odds. I pictured them in a remote land, shunned by
mankind. Was there something within me that might eventually draw me
to do likewise? The desire in me to which my father had referred, which
would brook no opposition, which twisted and squirmed until it found its
way to its object? I recalled the words of Jarvis, the carpenter, that
if I ever set my heart on another man’s wife, God help him. God help me!

A wicked man! I had never beheld the handsome and fascinating Mr.
Jennings, but I visualised him now; dark, like all villains, with a
black moustache and snapping black eyes. He carried a cane. I always
associated canes with villains. Whereupon I arose, groped for the
matches, lighted the gas, and gazing at myself in the mirror was a
little reassured to find nothing sinister in my countenance....

Next to my father’s faith in a Moral Governor of the Universe was his
belief in the Tariff and the Republican Party. And this belief, among
others, he handed on to me. On the cinder playground of the Academy
we Republicans used to wage, during campaigns, pitched battles for the
Tariff. It did not take a great deal of courage to be a Republican
in our city, and I was brought up to believe that Democrats
were irrational, inferior, and--with certain exceptions like the
Hollisters--dirty beings. There was only one degree lower, and that was
to be a mugwump. It was no wonder that the Hollisters were Democrats,
for they had a queer streak in them; owing, no doubt, to the fact that
old Mr. Jules Hollister’s mother had been a Frenchwoman. He looked like
a Frenchman, by the way, and always wore a skullcap.

I remember one autumn afternoon having a violent quarrel with
Gene Hollister that bade fair to end in blows, when he suddenly
demanded:--“I’ll bet you anything you don’t know why you’re a
Republican.”

“It’s because I’m for the Tariff,” I replied triumphantly.

But his next question floored me. What, for example, was the Tariff? I
tried to bluster it out, but with no success.

“Do you know?” I cried finally, with sudden inspiration.

It turned out that he did not.

“Aren’t we darned idiots,” he asked, “to get fighting over something we
don’t know anything about?”

That was Gene’s French blood, of course. But his question rankled. And
how was I to know that he would have got as little satisfaction if he
had hurled it into the marching ranks of those imposing torch-light
processions which sometimes passed our house at night, with drums
beating and fifes screaming and torches waving,--thousands of citizens
who were for the Tariff for the same reason as I: to wit, because they
were Republicans.

Yet my father lived and died in the firm belief that the United States
of America was a democracy!

Resolved not to be caught a second time in such a humiliating position
by a Democrat, I asked my father that night what the Tariff was. But I
was too young to understand it, he said. I was to take his word for it
that the country would go to the dogs if the Democrats got in and the
Tariff were taken away. Here, in a nutshell, though neither he nor
I realized it, was the political instruction of the marching hordes.
Theirs not to reason why. I was too young, they too ignorant. Such is
the method of Authority!

The steel-mills of Mr. Durrett and Mr. Hambleton, he continued, would
be forced to shut down, and thousands of workmen would starve. This was
just a sample of what would happen. Prosperity would cease, he declared.
That word, Prosperity, made a deep impression on me, and I recall the
certain reverential emphasis he laid on it. And while my solicitude for
the workmen was not so great as his and Mr. Durrett’s, I was concerned
as to what would happen to us if those twin gods, the Tariff and
Prosperity, should take their departure from the land. Knowing my love
for the good things of the table, my father intimated, with a rare
humour I failed to appreciate, that we should have to live henceforth
in spartan simplicity. After that, like the intelligent workman, I was
firmer than ever for the Tariff.

Such was the idealistic plane on which--and from a good man--I received
my first political instruction! And for a long time I connected the
dominance of the Republican Party with the continuation of manna and
quails, in other words, with nothing that had to do with the spiritual
welfare of any citizen, but with clothing and food and material
comforts. My education was progressing....

Though my father revered Plato and Aristotle, he did not, apparently,
take very seriously the contention that that government alone is good
“which seeks to attain the permanent interests of the governed by
evolving the character of its citizens.” To put the matter brutally,
politics, despite the lofty sentiments on the transparencies in
torchlight processions, had only to do with the belly, not the soul.

Politics and government, one perceives, had nothing to do with religion,
nor education with any of these. A secularized and disjointed world! Our
leading citizens, learned in the classics though some of them might be,
paid no heed to the dictum of the Greek idealist, who was more practical
than they would have supposed. “The man who does not carry his city
within his heart is a spiritual starveling.”

One evening, a year or two after that tariff campaign, I was pretending
to study my lessons under the student lamp in the sitting-room while my
mother sewed and my father wrote at his desk, when there was a ring
at the door-bell. I welcomed any interruption, even though the
visitor proved to be only the druggist’s boy; and there was always
the possibility of a telegram announcing, for instance, the death of a
relative. Such had once been the case when my Uncle Avery Paret had died
in New York, and I was taken out of school for a blissful four days for
the funeral.

I went tiptoeing into the hall and peeped over the banisters while Ella
opened the door. I heard a voice which I recognized as that of Perry
Blackwood’s father asking for Mr. Paret; and then to my astonishment, I
saw filing after him into the parlour some ten or twelve persons. With
the exception of Mr. Ogilvy, who belonged to one of our old families,
and Mr. Watling, a lawyer who had married the youngest of Gene
Hollister’s aunts, the visitors entered stealthily, after the manner of
burglars; some of these were heavy-jowled, and all had an air of mystery
that raised my curiosity and excitement to the highest pitch. I caught
hold of Ella as she came up the stairs, but she tore herself free, and
announced to my father that Mr. Josiah Blackwood and other gentlemen had
asked to see him. My father seemed puzzled as he went downstairs.... A
long interval elapsed, during which I did not make even a pretence of
looking at my arithmetic. At times the low hum of voices rose to what
was almost an uproar, and on occasions I distinguished a marked Irish
brogue.

“I wonder what they want?” said my mother, nervously.

At last we heard the front door shut behind them, and my father came
upstairs, his usually serene face wearing a disturbed expression.

“Who in the world was it, Mr. Paret?” asked my mother.

My father sat down in the arm-chair. He was clearly making an effort for
self-control.

“Blackwood and Ogilvy and Watling and some city politicians,” he
exclaimed.

“Politicians!” she repeated. “What did they want? That is, if it’s
anything you can tell me,” she added apologetically.

“They wished me to be the Republican candidate for the mayor of this
city.”

This tremendous news took me off my feet. My father mayor!

“Of course you didn’t consider it, Mr. Paret,” my mother was saying.

“Consider it!” he echoed reprovingly. “I can’t imagine what Ogilvy and
Watling and Josiah Blackwood were thinking of! They are out of their
heads. I as much as told them so.”

This was more than I could bear, for I had already pictured myself
telling the news to envious schoolmates.

“Oh, father, why didn’t you take it?” I cried.

By this time, when he turned to me, he had regained his usual
expression.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Hugh,” he said. “Accept a
political office! That sort of thing is left to politicians.”

The tone in which he spoke warned me that a continuation of the
conversation would be unwise, and my mother also understood that the
discussion was closed. He went back to his desk, and began writing again
as though nothing had happened.

As for me, I was left in a palpitating state of excitement which my
father’s self-control or sang-froid only served to irritate and enhance,
and my head was fairly spinning as, covertly, I watched his pen steadily
covering the paper.

How could he--how could any man of flesh and blood sit down calmly after
having been offered the highest honour in the gift of his community! And
he had spurned it as if Mr. Blackwood and the others had gratuitously
insulted him! And how was it, if my father so revered the Republican
Party that he would not suffer it to be mentioned slightingly in his
presence, that he had refused contemptuously to be its mayor?...

The next day at school, however, I managed to let it be known that the
offer had been made and declined. After all, this seemed to make my
father a bigger man than if he had accepted it. Naturally I was asked
why he had declined it.

“He wouldn’t take it,” I replied scornfully. “Office-holding should be
left to politicians.”

Ralph Hambleton, with his precocious and cynical knowledge of the
world, minimized my triumph by declaring that he would rather be his
grandfather, Nathaniel Durrett, than the mayor of the biggest city in
the country. Politicians, he said, were bloodsuckers and thieves, and
the only reason for holding office was that it enabled one to steal the
taxpayers’ money....

As I have intimated, my vision of a future literary career waxed and
waned, but a belief that I was going to be Somebody rarely deserted
me. If not a literary lion, what was that Somebody to be? Such an
environment as mine was woefully lacking in heroic figures to satisfy
the romantic soul. In view of the experience I have just related, it is
not surprising that the notion of becoming a statesman did not appeal
to me; nor is it to be wondered at, despite the somewhat exaggerated
respect and awe in which Ralph’s grandfather was held by my father and
other influential persons, that I failed to be stirred by the elements
of greatness in the grim personality of our first citizen, the
iron-master. For he possessed such elements. He lived alone in Ingrain
Street in an uncompromising mansion I always associated with the
Sabbath, not only because I used to be taken there on decorous Sunday
visits by my father, but because it was the very quintessence of
Presbyterianism. The moment I entered its “portals”--as Mr. Hawthorne
appropriately would have called them--my spirit was overwhelmed and
suffocated by its formality and orderliness. Within its stern walls
Nathaniel Durrett had made a model universe of his own, such as the
Deity of the Westminster Confession had no doubt meant his greater one
to be if man had not rebelled and foiled him.... It was a world from
which I was determined to escape at any cost.

My father and I were always ushered into the gloomy library, with its
high ceiling, with its long windows that reached almost to the rococo
cornice, with its cold marble mantelpiece that reminded me of a
tombstone, with its interminable book shelves filled with yellow
bindings. On the centre table, in addition to a ponderous Bible, was one
of those old-fashioned carafes of red glass tipped with blue surmounted
by a tumbler of blue tipped with red. Behind this table Mr. Durrett sat
reading a volume of sermons, a really handsome old man in his black tie
and pleated shirt; tall and spare, straight as a ramrod, with a finely
moulded head and straight nose and sinewy hands the colour of mulberry
stain. He called my father by his first name, an immense compliment,
considering how few dared to do so.

“Well, Matthew,” the old man would remark, after they had discussed Dr.
Pound’s latest flight on the nature of the Trinity or the depravity of
man, or horticulture, or the Republican Party, “do you have any better
news of Hugh at school?”

“I regret to say, Mr. Durrett,” my father would reply, “that he does not
yet seem to be aroused to a sense of his opportunities.”

Whereupon Mr. Durrett would gimble me with a blue eye that lurked
beneath grizzled brows, quite as painful a proceeding as if he used an
iron tool. I almost pity myself when I think of what a forlorn stranger
I was in their company. They two, indeed, were of one kind, and I of
another sort who could never understand them,--nor they me. To what
depths of despair they reduced me they never knew, and yet they were
doing it all for my good! They only managed to convince me that my
love of folly was ineradicable, and that I was on my way head first
for perdition. I always looked, during these excruciating and personal
moments, at the coloured glass bottle.

“It grieves me to hear it, Hugh,” Mr. Durrett invariably declared.
“You’ll never come to any good without study. Now when I was your
age...”

I knew his history by heart, a common one in this country, although
he made an honourable name instead of a dishonourable one. And when I
contrast him with those of his successors whom I was to know later...!
But I shall not anticipate. American genius had not then evolved the
false entry method of overcapitalization. A thrilling history, Mr.
Durrett’s, could I but have entered into it. I did not reflect then that
this stern old man must have throbbed once; nay, fire and energy still
remained in his bowels, else he could not have continued to dominate a
city. Nor did it occur to me that the great steel-works that lighted the
southern sky were the result of a passion, of dreams similar to those
possessing me, but which I could not express. He had founded a family
whose position was virtually hereditary, gained riches which for those
days were great, compelled men to speak his name with a certain awe.
But of what use were such riches as his when his religion and morality
compelled him to banish from him all the joys in the power of riches to
bring?

No, I didn’t want to be an iron-master. But it may have been about
this time that I began to be impressed with the power of wealth, the
adulation and reverence it commanded, the importance in which it clothed
all who shared in it....

The private school I attended in the company of other boys with whom I
was brought up was called Densmore Academy, a large, square building
of a then hideous modernity, built of smooth, orange-red bricks with
threads of black mortar between them. One reads of happy school days,
yet I fail to recall any really happy hours spent there, even in the
yard, which was covered with black cinders that cut you when you fell.
I think of it as a penitentiary, and the memory of the barred lower
windows gives substance to this impression.

I suppose I learned something during the seven years of my
incarceration. All of value, had its teachers known anything of youthful
psychology, of natural bent, could have been put into me in three. At
least four criminally wasted years, to say nothing of the benumbing
and desiccating effect of that old system of education! Chalk and
chalk-dust! The Mediterranean a tinted portion of the map, Italy a man’s
boot which I drew painfully, with many yawns; history no glorious epic
revealing as it unrolls the Meaning of Things, no revelation of that
wondrous distillation of the Spirit of man, but an endless marching and
counter-marching up and down the map, weary columns of figures to
be learned by rote instantly to be forgotten again. “On June the 7th
General So-and-so proceeded with his whole army--” where? What does
it matter? One little chapter of Carlyle, illuminated by a teacher
of understanding, were worth a million such text-books. Alas, for the
hatred of Virgil! “Paret” (a shiver), “begin at the one hundred
and thirtieth line and translate!” I can hear myself droning out in
detestable English a meaningless portion of that endless journey of
the pious AEneas; can see Gene Hollister, with heart-rending glances of
despair, stumbling through Cornelius Nepos in an unventilated room with
chalk-rubbed blackboards and heavy odours of ink and stale lunch. And
I graduated from Densmore Academy, the best school in our city, in the
80’s, without having been taught even the rudiments of citizenship.

Knowledge was presented to us as a corpse, which bit by bit we
painfully dissected. We never glimpsed the living, growing thing, never
experienced the Spirit, the same spirit that was able magically to
waft me from a wintry Lyme Street to the South Seas, the energizing,
electrifying Spirit of true achievement, of life, of God himself. Little
by little its flames were smothered until in manhood there seemed no
spark of it left alive. Many years were to pass ere it was to revive
again, as by a miracle. I travelled. Awakening at dawn, I saw, framed
in a port-hole, rose-red Seriphos set in a living blue that paled the
sapphire; the seas Ulysses had sailed, and the company of the Argonauts.
My soul was steeped in unimagined colour, and in the memory of one
rapturous instant is gathered what I was soon to see of Greece, is
focussed the meaning of history, poetry and art. I was to stand one
evening in spring on the mound where heroes sleep and gaze upon the
plain of Marathon between darkening mountains and the blue thread of the
strait peaceful now, flushed with pink and white blossoms of fruit
and almond trees; to sit on the cliff-throne whence a Persian King had
looked down upon a Salamis fought and lost.... In that port-hole glimpse
a Themistocles was revealed, a Socrates, a Homer and a Phidias, an
AEschylus, and a Pericles; yes, and a John brooding Revelations on his
sea-girt rock as twilight falls over the waters....

I saw the Roman Empire, that Scarlet Woman whose sands were dyed
crimson with blood to appease her harlotry, whose ships were laden with
treasures from the immutable East, grain from the valley of the Nile,
spices from Arabia, precious purple stuffs from Tyre, tribute and spoil,
slaves and jewels from conquered nations she absorbed; and yet whose
very emperors were the unconscious instruments of a Progress they wot
not of, preserved to the West by Marathon and Salamis. With Caesar’s
legions its message went forth across Hispania to the cliffs of the
wild western ocean, through Hercynian forests to tribes that dwelt where
great rivers roll up their bars by misty, northern seas, and even to
Celtic fastnesses beyond the Wall....



IV.

In and out of my early memories like a dancing ray of sunlight flits
the spirit of Nancy. I was always fond of her, but in extreme youth I
accepted her incense with masculine complacency and took her allegiance
for granted, never seeking to fathom the nature of the spell I exercised
over her. Naturally other children teased me about her; but what was
worse, with that charming lack of self-consciousness and consideration
for what in after life are called the finer feelings, they teased her
about me before me, my presence deterring them not at all. I can see
them hopping around her in the Peters yard crying out:--“Nancy’s in love
with Hugh! Nancy’s in love with Hugh!”

A sufficiently thrilling pastime, this, for Nancy could take care of
herself. I was a bungler beside her when it came to retaliation, and
not the least of her attractions for me was her capacity for anger: fury
would be a better term. She would fly at them--even as she flew at the
head-hunters when the Petrel was menaced; and she could run like a
deer. Woe to the unfortunate victim she overtook! Masculine strength,
exercised apologetically, availed but little, and I have seen Russell
Peters and Gene Hollister retire from such encounters humiliated and
weeping. She never caught Ralph; his methods of torture were more
intelligent and subtle than Gene’s and Russell’s, but she was his equal
when it came to a question of tongues.

“I know what’s the matter with you, Ralph Hambleton,” she would
say. “You’re jealous.” An accusation that invariably put him on the
defensive. “You think all the girls are in love with you, don’t you?”

These scenes I found somewhat embarrassing. Not so Nancy. After
discomfiting her tormenters, or wounding and scattering them, she would
return to my side.... In spite of her frankly expressed preference
for me she had an elusiveness that made a continual appeal to my
imagination. She was never obvious or commonplace, and long before I
began to experience the discomforts and sufferings of youthful love
I was fascinated by a nature eloquent with contradictions and
inconsistencies. She was a tomboy, yet her own sex was enhanced rather
than overwhelmed by contact with the other: and no matter how many trees
she climbed she never seemed to lose her daintiness. It was innate.

She could, at times, be surprisingly demure. These impressions of her
daintiness and demureness are particularly vivid in a picture my memory
has retained of our walking together, unattended, to Susan Blackwood’s
birthday party. She must have been about twelve years old. It was the
first time I had escorted her or any other girl to a party; Mrs. Willett
had smiled over the proceeding, but Nancy and I took it most seriously,
as symbolic of things to come. I can see Powell Street, where Nancy
lived, at four o’clock on a mild and cloudy December afternoon, the
decorous, retiring houses, Nancy on one side of the pavement by the iron
fences and I on the other by the tree boxes. I can’t remember her dress,
only the exquisite sense of her slimness and daintiness comes back to
me, of her dark hair in a long braid tied with a red ribbon, of her
slender legs clad in black stockings of shining silk. We felt the
occasion to be somehow too significant, too eloquent for words....

In silence we climbed the flight of stone steps that led up to the
Blackwood mansion, when suddenly the door was opened, letting out sounds
of music and revelry. Mr. Blackwood’s coloured butler, Ned, beamed at us
hospitably, inviting us to enter the brightness within. The shades were
drawn, the carpets were covered with festal canvas, the folding
doors between the square rooms were flung back, the prisms of the
big chandeliers flung their light over animated groups of matrons and
children. Mrs. Watling, the mother of the Watling twins--too young to be
present was directing with vivacity the game of “King William was King
James’s son,” and Mrs. McAlery was playing the piano.

       “Now choose you East, now choose you West,
        Now choose the one you love the best!”

Tom Peters, in a velvet suit and consequently very miserable, refused
to embrace Ethel Hollister; while the scornful Julia lurked in a corner:
nothing would induce her to enter such a foolish game. I experienced
a novel discomfiture when Ralph kissed Nancy.... Afterwards came the
feast, from which Ham Durrett, in a pink paper cap with streamers, was
at length forcibly removed by his mother. Thus early did he betray his
love for the flesh pots....

It was not until I was sixteen that a player came and touched the keys
of my soul, and it awoke, bewildered, at these first tender notes. The
music quickened, tripping in ecstasy, to change by subtle phrases into
themes of exquisite suffering hitherto unexperienced. I knew that I
loved Nancy.

With the advent of longer dresses that reached to her shoe tops a change
had come over her. The tomboy, the willing camp-follower who loved me
and was unashamed, were gone forever, and a mysterious, transfigured
being, neither girl nor woman, had magically been evolved. Could it be
possible that she loved me still? My complacency had vanished; suddenly
I had become the aggressor, if only I had known how to “aggress”; but
in her presence I was seized by an accursed shyness that paralyzed my
tongue, and the things I had planned to say were left unuttered. It was
something--though I did not realize it--to be able to feel like that.

The time came when I could no longer keep this thing to myself. The need
of an outlet, of a confidant, became imperative, and I sought out Tom
Peters. It was in February; I remember because I had ventured--with
incredible daring--to send Nancy an elaborate, rosy Valentine; written
on the back of it in a handwriting all too thinly disguised was the
following verse, the triumphant result of much hard thinking in school
hours:--

          Should you of this the sender guess
          Without another sign,
          Would you repent, and rest content
          To be his Valentine

I grew hot and cold by turns when I thought of its possible effects on
my chances.

One of those useless, slushy afternoons, I took Tom for a walk that led
us, as dusk came on, past Nancy’s house. Only by painful degrees did
I succeed in overcoming my bashfulness; but Tom, when at last I had
blurted out the secret, was most sympathetic, although the ailment from
which I suffered was as yet outside of the realm of his experience.
I have used the word “ailment” advisedly, since he evidently put my
trouble in the same category with diphtheria or scarlet fever, remarking
that it was “darned hard luck.” In vain I sought to explain that I did
not regard it as such in the least; there was suffering, I admitted, but
a degree of bliss none could comprehend who had not felt it. He refused
to be envious, or at least to betray envy; yet he was curious, asking
many questions, and I had reason to think before we parted that his
admiration for me was increased. Was it possible that he, too, didn’t
love Nancy? No, it was funny, but he didn’t. He failed to see much in
girls: his tone remained commiserating, yet he began to take an interest
in the progress of my suit.

For a time I had no progress to report. Out of consideration for those
members of our weekly dancing class whose parents were Episcopalians the
meetings were discontinued during Lent, and to call would have demanded
a courage not in me; I should have become an object of ridicule among
my friends and I would have died rather than face Nancy’s mother and the
members of her household. I set about making ingenious plans with a view
to encounters that might appear casual. Nancy’s school was dismissed at
two, so was mine. By walking fast I could reach Salisbury Street, near
St. Mary’s Seminary for Young Ladies, in time to catch her, but even
then for many days I was doomed to disappointment. She was either in
company with other girls, or else she had taken another route; this
I surmised led past Sophy McAlery’s house, and I enlisted Tom as a
confederate. He was to make straight for the McAlery’s on Elm while I
followed Powell, two short blocks away, and if Nancy went to Sophy’s and
left there alone he was to announce the fact by a preconcerted signal.
Through long and persistent practice he had acquired a whistle shrill
enough to wake the dead, accomplished by placing a finger of each hand
between his teeth;--a gift that was the envy of his acquaintances, and
the subject of much discussion as to whether his teeth were peculiar.
Tom insisted that they were; it was an added distinction.

On this occasion he came up behind Nancy as she was leaving Sophy’s gate
and immediately sounded the alarm. She leaped in the air, dropped her
school-books and whirled on him.

“Tom Peters! How dare you frighten me so!” she cried.

Tom regarded her in sudden dismay.

“I--I didn’t mean to,” he said. “I didn’t think you were so near.”

“But you must have seen me.”

“I wasn’t paying much attention,” he equivocated,--a remark not
calculated to appease her anger.

“Why were you doing it?”

“I was just practising,” said Tom.

“Practising!” exclaimed Nancy, scornfully. “I shouldn’t think you needed
to practise that any more.”

“Oh, I’ve done it louder,” he declared, “Listen!”

She seized his hands, snatching them away from his lips. At this
critical moment I appeared around the corner considerably out of breath,
my heart beating like a watchman’s rattle. I tried to feign nonchalance.

“Hello, Tom,” I said. “Hello, Nancy. What’s the matter?”

“It’s Tom--he frightened me out of my senses.” Dropping his wrists, she
gave me a most disconcerting look; there was in it the suspicion of a
smile. “What are you doing here, Hugh?”

“I heard Tom,” I explained.

“I should think you might have. Where were you?”

“Over in another street,” I answered, with deliberate vagueness. Nancy
had suddenly become demure. I did not dare look at her, but I had a most
uncomfortable notion that she suspected the plot. Meanwhile we had
begun to walk along, all three of us, Tom, obviously ill at ease and
discomfited, lagging a little behind. Just before we reached the corner
I managed to kick him. His departure was by no means graceful.

“I’ve got to go;” he announced abruptly, and turned down the side
street. We watched his sturdy figure as it receded.

“Well, of all queer boys!” said Nancy, and we walked on again.

“He’s my best friend,” I replied warmly.

“He doesn’t seem to care much for your company,” said Nancy.

“Oh, they have dinner at half past two,” I explained.

“Aren’t you afraid of missing yours, Hugh?” she asked wickedly.

“I’ve got time. I’d--I’d rather be with you.” After making which
audacious remark I was seized by a spasm of apprehension. But nothing
happened. Nancy remained demure. She didn’t remind me that I had
reflected upon Tom.

“That’s nice of you, Hugh.”

“Oh, I’m not saying it because it’s nice,” I faltered. “I’d rather be
with you than--with anybody.”

This was indeed the acme of daring. I couldn’t believe I had actually
said it. But again I received no rebuke; instead came a remark that set
me palpitating, that I treasured for many weeks to come.

“I got a very nice valentine,” she informed me.

“What was it like?” I asked thickly.

“Oh, beautiful! All pink lace and--and Cupids, and the picture of a
young man and a young woman in a garden.”

“Was that all?”

“Oh, no, there was a verse, in the oddest handwriting. I wonder who sent
it?”

“Perhaps Ralph,” I hazarded ecstatically.

“Ralph couldn’t write poetry,” she replied disdainfully. “Besides, it
was very good poetry.”

I suggested other possible authors and admirers. She rejected them all.
We reached her gate, and I lingered. As she looked down at me from
the stone steps her eyes shone with a soft light that filled me with
radiance, and into her voice had come a questioning, shy note that
thrilled the more because it revealed a new Nancy of whom I had not
dreamed.

“Perhaps I’ll meet you again--coming from school,” I said.

“Perhaps,” she answered. “You’ll be late to dinner, Hugh, if you don’t
go....”

I was late, and unable to eat much dinner, somewhat to my mother’s
alarm. Love had taken away my appetite.... After dinner, when I was
wandering aimlessly about the yard, Tom appeared on the other side of
the fence.

“Don’t ever ask me to do that again,” he said gloomily.

I did meet Nancy again coming from school, not every day, but nearly
every day. At first we pretended that there was no arrangement in this,
and we both feigned surprise when we encountered one another. It
was Nancy who possessed the courage that I lacked. One afternoon she
said:--“I think I’d better walk with the girls to-morrow, Hugh.”

I protested, but she was firm. And after that it was an understood thing
that on certain days I should go directly home, feeling like an exile.
Sophy McAlery had begun to complain: and I gathered that Sophy was
Nancy’s confidante. The other girls had begun to gossip. It was Nancy
who conceived the brilliant idea--the more delightful because she said
nothing about it to me--of making use of Sophy. She would leave school
with Sophy, and I waited on the corner near the McAlery house. Poor
Sophy! She was always of those who piped while others danced. In those
days she had two straw-coloured pigtails, and her plain, faithful face
is before me as I write. She never betrayed to me the excitement that
filled her at being the accomplice of our romance.

Gossip raged, of course. Far from being disturbed, we used it, so to
speak, as a handle for our love-making, which was carried on in an
inferential rather than a direct fashion. Were they saying that we were
lovers? Delightful! We laughed at one another in the sunshine.... At
last we achieved the great adventure of a clandestine meeting and went
for a walk in the afternoon, avoiding the houses of our friends. I’ve
forgotten which of us had the boldness to propose it. The crocuses and
tulips had broken the black mould, the flower beds in the front yards
were beginning to blaze with scarlet and yellow, the lawns had turned a
living green. What did we talk about? The substance has vanished, only
the flavour remains.

One awoke of a morning to the twittering of birds, to walk to school
amidst delicate, lace-like shadows of great trees acloud with old gold:
the buds lay curled like tiny feathers on the pavements. Suddenly the
shade was dense, the sunlight white and glaring, the odour of lilacs
heavy in the air, spring in all its fulness had come,--spring and Nancy.
Just so subtly, yet with the same seeming suddenness had budded and come
to leaf and flower a perfect understanding, which nevertheless
remained undefined. This, I had no doubt, was my fault, and due to the
incomprehensible shyness her presence continued to inspire. Although we
did not altogether abandon our secret trysts, we began to meet in more
natural ways; there were garden parties and picnics where we strayed
together through the woods and fields, pausing to tear off, one by
one, the petals of a daisy, “She loves me, she loves me not.” I never
ventured to kiss her; I always thought afterwards I might have done so,
she had seemed so willing, her eyes had shone so expectantly as I sat
beside her on the grass; nor can I tell why I desired to kiss her save
that this was the traditional thing to do to the lady one loved. To be
sure, the very touch of her hand was galvanic. Paradoxically, I saw the
human side of her, the yielding gentleness that always amazed me, yet I
never overcame my awe of the divine; she was a being sacrosanct. Whether
this idealism were innate or the result of such romances as I had read
I cannot say.... I got, indeed, an avowal of a sort. The weekly dancing
classes having begun again, on one occasion when she had waltzed twice
with Gene Hollister I protested.

“Don’t be silly, Hugh,” she whispered. “Of course I like you better than
anyone else--you ought to know that.”

We never got to the word “love,” but we knew the feeling.

One cloud alone flung its shadow across these idyllic days. Before I
was fully aware of it I had drawn very near to the first great
junction-point of my life, my graduation from Densmore Academy. We were
to “change cars,” in the language of Principal Haime. Well enough for
the fortunate ones who were to continue the academic journey, which
implied a postponement of the serious business of life; but month after
month of the last term had passed without a hint from my father that I
was to change cars. Again and again I almost succeeded in screwing up
my courage to the point of mentioning college to him,--never quite; his
manner, though kind and calm, somehow strengthened my suspicion that
I had been judged and found wanting, and doomed to “business”: galley
slavery, I deemed it, humdrum, prosaic, degrading! When I thought of it
at night I experienced almost a frenzy of self-pity. My father couldn’t
intend to do that, just because my monthly reports hadn’t always been
what he thought they ought to be! Gene Hollister’s were no better, if as
good, and he was going to Princeton. Was I, Hugh Paret, to be denied
the distinction of being a college man, the delights of university
existence, cruelly separated and set apart from my friends whom I loved!
held up to the world and especially to Nancy Willett as good for nothing
else! The thought was unbearable. Characteristically, I hoped against
hope.

I have mentioned garden parties. One of our annual institutions was Mrs.
Willett’s children’s party in May; for the Willett house had a garden
that covered almost a quarter of a block. Mrs. Willett loved children,
the greatest regret of her life being that providence had denied her a
large family. As far back as my memory goes she had been something of
an invalid; she had a sweet, sad face, and delicate hands so thin as to
seem almost transparent; and she always sat in a chair under the great
tree on the lawn, smiling at us as we soared to dizzy heights in the
swing, or played croquet, or scurried through the paths, and in and out
of the latticed summer-house with shrieks of laughter and terror. It all
ended with a feast at a long table made of sawhorses and boards covered
with a white cloth, and when the cake was cut there was wild excitement
as to who would get the ring and who the thimble.

We were more decorous, or rather more awkward now, and the party began
with a formal period when the boys gathered in a group and pretended
indifference to the girls. The girls were cleverer at it, and actually
achieved the impression that they were indifferent. We kept an eye on
them, uneasily, while we talked. To be in Nancy’s presence and not alone
with Nancy was agonizing, and I wondered at a sang-froid beyond my power
to achieve, accused her of coldness, my sufferings being the greater
because she seemed more beautiful, daintier, more irreproachable than
I had ever seen her. Even at that early age she gave evidence of the
social gift, and it was due to her efforts that we forgot our best
clothes and our newly born self-consciousness. When I begged her to slip
away with me among the currant bushes she whispered:--“I can’t, Hugh.
I’m the hostess, you know.”

I had gone there in a flutter of anticipation, but nothing went right
that day. There was dancing in the big rooms that looked out on the
garden; the only girl with whom I cared to dance was Nancy, and she was
busy finding partners for the backward members of both sexes; though she
was my partner, to be sure, when it all wound up with a Virginia reel on
the lawn. Then, at supper, to cap the climax of untoward incidents, an
animated discussion was begun as to the relative merits of the various
colleges, the girls, too, taking sides. Mac Willett, Nancy’s cousin, was
going to Yale, Gene Hollister to Princeton, the Ewan boys to our State
University, while Perry Blackwood and Ralph Hambleton and Ham Durrett
were destined for Harvard; Tom Peters, also, though he was not to
graduate from the Academy for another year. I might have known that
Ralph would have suspected my misery. He sat triumphantly next to Nancy
herself, while I had been told off to entertain the faithful Sophy.
Noticing my silence, he demanded wickedly:--“Where are you going, Hugh?”

“Harvard, I think,” I answered with as bold a front as I could muster.
“I haven’t talked it over with my father yet.” It was intolerable to
admit that I of them all was to be left behind.

Nancy looked at me in surprise. She was always downright.

“Oh, Hugh, doesn’t your father mean to put you in business?” she
exclaimed.

A hot flush spread over my face. Even to her I had not betrayed my
apprehensions on this painful subject. Perhaps it was because of this
very reason, knowing me as she did, that she had divined my fate. Could
my father have spoken of it to anyone?

“Not that I know of,” I said angrily. I wondered if she knew how deeply
she had hurt me. The others laughed. The colour rose in Nancy’s cheeks,
and she gave me an appealing, almost tearful look, but my heart had
hardened. As soon as supper was over I left the table to wander, nursing
my wrongs, in a far corner of the garden, gay shouts and laughter still
echoing in my ears. I was negligible, even my pathetic subterfuge had
been detected and cruelly ridiculed by these friends whom I had
always loved and sought out, and who now were so absorbed in their own
prospects and happiness that they cared nothing for mine. And Nancy!
I had been betrayed by Nancy!... Twilight was coming on. I remember
glancing down miserably at the new blue suit I had put on so hopefully
for the first time that afternoon.

Separating the garden from the street was a high, smooth board fence
with a little gate in it, and I had my hand on the latch when I heard
the sound of hurrying steps on the gravel path and a familiar voice
calling my name.

“Hugh! Hugh!”

I turned. Nancy stood before me.

“Hugh, you’re not going!”

“Yes, I am.”

“Why?”

“If you don’t know, there’s no use telling you.”

“Just because I said your father intended to put you in business!
Oh, Hugh, why are you so foolish and so proud? Do you suppose that
anyone--that I--think any the worse of you?”

Yes, she had read me, she alone had entered into the source of that
prevarication, the complex feelings from which it sprang. But at
that moment I could not forgive her for humiliating me. I hugged my
grievance.

“It was true, what I said,” I declared hotly. “My father has not spoken.
It is true that I’m going to college, because I’ll make it true. I may
not go this year.”

She stood staring in sheer surprise at sight of my sudden, quivering
passion. I think the very intensity of it frightened her. And then,
without more ado, I opened the gate and was gone....

That night, though I did not realize it, my journey into a Far Country
was begun.

The misery that followed this incident had one compensating factor.
Although too late to electrify Densmore and Principal Haime with my
scholarship, I was determined to go to college now, somehow, sometime.
I would show my father, these companions of mine, and above all Nancy
herself the stuff of which I was made, compel them sooner or later
to admit that they had misjudged me. I had been possessed by similar
resolutions before, though none so strong, and they had a way of sinking
below the surface of my consciousness, only to rise again and again
until by sheer pressure they achieved realization.

Yet I might have returned to Nancy if something had not occurred which
I would have thought unbelievable: she began to show a marked preference
for Ralph Hambleton. At first I regarded this affair as the most obvious
of retaliations. She, likewise, had pride. Gradually, however, a feeling
of uneasiness crept over me: as pretence, her performance was altogether
too realistic; she threw her whole soul into it, danced with Ralph as
often as she had ever danced with me, took walks with him, deferred
to his opinions until, in spite of myself, I became convinced that the
preference was genuine. I was a curious mixture of self-confidence and
self-depreciation, and never had his superiority seemed more patent than
now. His air of satisfaction was maddening.

How well I remember his triumph on that hot, June morning of our
graduation from Densmore, a triumph he had apparently achieved without
labour, and which he seemed to despise. A fitful breeze blew through the
chapel at the top of the building; we, the graduates, sat in two rows
next to the platform, and behind us the wooden benches nicked by many
knives--were filled with sisters and mothers and fathers, some anxious,
some proud and some sad. So brief a span, like that summer’s day, and
youth was gone! Would the time come when we, too, should sit by the
waters of Babylon and sigh for it? The world was upside down.

We read the one hundred and third psalm. Then Principal Haime, in
his long “Prince Albert” and a ridiculously inadequate collar that
emphasized his scrawny neck, reminded us of the sacred associations we
had formed, of the peculiar responsibilities that rested on us, who
were the privileged of the city. “We had crossed to-day,” he said,
“an invisible threshold. Some were to go on to higher institutions of
learning. Others...” I gulped. Quoting the Scriptures, he complimented
those who had made the most of their opportunities. And it was then
that he called out, impressively, the name of Ralph Forrester Hambleton.
Summa cum laude! Suddenly I was seized with passionate, vehement regrets
at the sound of the applause. I might have been the prize scholar,
instead of Ralph, if I had only worked, if I had only realized what
this focussing day of graduation meant! I might have been a marked
individual, with people murmuring words of admiration, of speculation
concerning the brilliancy of my future!... When at last my name
was called and I rose to receive my diploma it seemed as though my
incompetency had been proclaimed to the world...

That evening I stood in the narrow gallery of the flag-decked gymnasium
and watched Nancy dancing with Ralph.

I let her go without protest or reproach. A mysterious lesion seemed to
have taken place, I felt astonished and relieved, yet I was heavy with
sadness. My emancipation had been bought at a price. Something hitherto
spontaneous, warm and living was withering within me.



V.

It was true to my father’s character that he should have waited until
the day after graduation to discuss my future, if discussion be the
proper word. The next evening at supper he informed me that he wished
to talk to me in the sitting-room, whither I followed him with a sinking
heart. He seated himself at his desk, and sat for a moment gazing at me
with a curious and benumbing expression, and then the blow fell.

“Hugh, I have spoken to your Cousin Robert Breck about you, and he has
kindly consented to give you a trial.”

“To give me a trial, sir!” I exclaimed.

“To employ you at a small but reasonable salary.”

I could find no words to express my dismay. My dreams had come to this,
that I was to be made a clerk in a grocery store! The fact that it was a
wholesale grocery store was little consolation.

“But father,” I faltered, “I don’t want to go into business.”

“Ah!” The sharpness of the exclamation might have betrayed to me the
pain in which he was, but he recovered himself instantly. And I could
see nothing but an inexorable justice closing in on me mechanically;
a blind justice, in its inability to read my soul. “The time to have
decided that,” he declared, “was some years ago, my son. I have given
you the best schooling a boy can have, and you have not shown the least
appreciation of your advantages. I do not enjoy saying this, Hugh,
but in spite of all my efforts and of those of your mother, you have
remained undeveloped and irresponsible. My hope, as you know, was to
have made you a professional man, a lawyer, and to take you into my
office. My father and grandfather were professional men before me. But
you are wholly lacking in ambition.”

And I had burned with it all my life!

“I have ambition,” I cried, the tears forcing themselves to my eyes.

“Ambition--for what, my son?”

I hesitated. How could I tell him that my longings to do something,
to be somebody in the world were never more keen than at that moment?
Matthew Arnold had not then written his definition of God as the stream
of tendency by which we fulfil the laws of our being; and my father,
at any rate, would not have acquiesced in the definition. Dimly but
passionately I felt then, as I had always felt, that I had a mission to
perform, a service to do which ultimately would be revealed to me. But
the hopelessness of explaining this took on, now, the proportions of a
tragedy. And I could only gaze at him.

“What kind of ambition, Hugh?” he repeated sadly.

“I--I have sometimes thought I could write, sir, if I had a chance. I
like it better than anything else. I--I have tried it. And if I could
only go to college--”

“Literature!” There was in his voice a scandalized note.

“Why not, father?” I asked weakly.

And now it was he who, for the first time, seemed to be at a loss to
express himself. He turned in his chair, and with a sweep of the hand
indicated the long rows of musty-backed volumes. “Here,” he said, “you
have had at your disposal as well-assorted a small library as the city
contains, and you have not availed yourself of it. Yet you talk to me
of literature as a profession. I am afraid, Hugh, that this is merely
another indication of your desire to shun hard work, and I must tell
you frankly that I fail to see in you the least qualification for such
a career. You have not even inherited my taste for books. I venture
to say, for instance, that you have never even read a paragraph of
Plutarch, and yet when I was your age I was completely familiar with the
Lives. You will not read Scott or Dickens.”

The impeachment was not to be denied, for the classics were hateful to
me. Naturally I was afraid to make such a damning admission. My father
had succeeded in presenting my ambition as the height of absurdity and
presumption, and with something of the despair of a shipwrecked mariner
my eyes rested on the green expanses of those book-backs, Bohn’s
Standard Library! Nor did it occur to him or to me that one might be
great in literature without having read so much as a gritty page of
them....

He finished his argument by reminding me that worthless persons sought
to enter the arts in the search for a fool’s paradise, and in order
to satisfy a reprehensible craving for notoriety. The implication was
clear, that imaginative production could not be classed as hard work.
And he assured me that literature was a profession in which no one could
afford to be second class. A Longfellow, a Harriet Beecher Stowe, or
nothing. This was a practical age and a practical country. We had indeed
produced Irvings and Hawthornes, but the future of American letters was,
to say the least, problematical. We were a utilitarian people who would
never create a great literature, and he reminded me that the days of the
romantic and the picturesque had passed. He gathered that I desired to
be a novelist. Well, novelists, with certain exceptions, were fantastic
fellows who blew iridescent soap-bubbles and who had no morals. In the
face of such a philosophy as his I was mute. The world appeared a dreary
place of musty offices and smoky steel-works, of coal dust, of labour
without a spark of inspiration. And that other, the world of my dreams,
simply did not exist.

Incidentally my father had condemned Cousin Robert’s wholesale grocery
business as a refuge of the lesser of intellect that could not achieve
the professions,--an inference not calculated to stir my ambition and
liking for it at the start.

I began my business career on the following Monday morning. At
breakfast, held earlier than usual on my account, my mother’s sympathy
was the more eloquent for being unspoken, while my father wore an air of
unwonted cheerfulness; charging me, when I departed, to give his kindest
remembrances to my Cousin Robert Breck. With a sense of martyrdom
somehow deepened by this attitude of my parents I boarded a horse-car
and went down town. Early though it was, the narrow streets of the
wholesale district reverberated with the rattle of trucks and echoed
with the shouts of drivers. The day promised to be scorching. At
the door of the warehouse of Breck and Company I was greeted by the
ineffable smell of groceries in which the suggestion of parched coffee
prevailed. This is the sharpest remembrance of all, and even to-day
that odour affects me somewhat in the manner that the interior of a
ship affects a person prone to seasickness. My Cousin Robert, in his
well-worn alpaca coat, was already seated at his desk behind the clouded
glass partition next the alley at the back of the store, and as I
entered he gazed at me over his steel-rimmed spectacles with that same
disturbing look of clairvoyance I have already mentioned as one of his
characteristics. The grey eyes were quizzical, and yet seemed to express
a little commiseration.

“Well, Hugh, you’ve decided to honour us, have you?” he asked.

“I’m much obliged for giving me the place, Cousin Robert,” I replied.

But he had no use for that sort of politeness, and he saw through me, as
always.

“So you’re not too tony for the grocery business, eh?”

“Oh, no, sir.”

“It was good enough for old Benjamin Breck,” he said. “Well, I’ll give
you a fair trial, my boy, and no favouritism on account of relationship,
any more than to Willie.”

His strong voice resounded through the store, and presently my cousin
Willie appeared in answer to his summons, the same Willie who used to
lead me, on mischief bent, through the barns and woods and fields of
Claremore. He was barefoot no longer, though freckled still, grown lanky
and tall; he wore a coarse blue apron that fell below his knees, and a
pencil was stuck behind his ear.

“Get an apron for Hugh,” said his father.

Willie’s grin grew wider.

“I’ll fit him out,” he said.

“Start him in the shipping department,” directed Cousin Robert, and
turned to his letters.

I was forthwith provided with an apron, and introduced to the slim and
anaemic but cheerful Johnny Hedges, the shipping clerk, hard at work in
the alley. Secretly I looked down on my fellow-clerks, as one destined
for a higher mission, made out of better stuff,--finer stuff. Despite
my attempt to hide this sense of superiority they were swift to discover
it; and perhaps it is to my credit as well as theirs that they did not
resent it. Curiously enough, they seemed to acknowledge it. Before the
week was out I had earned the nickname of Beau Brummel.

“Say, Beau,” Johnny Hedges would ask, when I appeared of a morning,
“what happened in the great world last night?”

I had an affection for them, these fellow-clerks, and I often
wondered at their contentment with the drab lives they led, at their
self-congratulation for “having a job” at Breck and Company’s.

“You don’t mean to say you like this kind of work?” I exclaimed one day
to Johnny Hedges, as we sat on barrels of XXXX flour looking out at the
hot sunlight in the alley.

“It ain’t a question of liking it, Beau,” he rebuked me. “It’s all very
well for you to talk, since your father’s a millionaire” (a fiction so
firmly embedded in their heads that no amount of denial affected it),
“but what do you think would happen to me if I was fired? I couldn’t
go home and take it easy--you bet not. I just want to shake hands with
myself when I think that I’ve got a home, and a job like this. I know
a feller--a hard worker he was, too who walked the pavements for three
months when the Colvers failed, and couldn’t get nothing, and took to
drink, and the last I heard of him he was sleeping in police stations
and walking the ties, and his wife’s a waitress at a cheap hotel. Don’t
you think it’s easy to get a job.”

I was momentarily sobered by the earnestness with which he brought home
to me the relentlessness of our civilization. It seemed incredible. I
should have learned a lesson in that store. Barring a few discordant
days when the orders came in too fast or when we were short handed
because of sickness, it was a veritable hive of happiness; morning after
morning clerks and porters arrived, pale, yet smiling, and laboured with
cheerfulness from eight o’clock until six, and departed as cheerfully
for modest homes in obscure neighbourhoods that seemed to me areas of
exile. They were troubled with no visions of better things. When
the travelling men came in from the “road” there was great hilarity.
Important personages, these, looked up to by the city clerks; jolly,
reckless, Elizabethan-like rovers, who had tasted of the wine of
liberty--and of other wines with the ineradicable lust for the road in
their blood. No more routine for Jimmy Bowles, who was king of them all.
I shudder to think how much of my knowledge of life I owe to this Jimmy,
whose stories would have filled a quarto volume, but could on no account
have been published; for a self-respecting post-office would not have
allowed them to pass through the mails. As it was, Jimmy gave them
circulation enough. I can still see his round face, with the nose just
indicated, his wicked, twinkling little eyes, and I can hear his husky
voice fall to a whisper when “the boss” passed through the store. Jimmy,
when visiting us, always had a group around him. His audacity with women
amazed me, for he never passed one of the “lady clerks” without some
form of caress, which they resented but invariably laughed at. One day
he imparted to me his code of morality: he never made love to another
man’s wife, so he assured me, if he knew the man! The secret of life he
had discovered in laughter, and by laughter he sold quantities of Cousin
Robert’s groceries.

Mr. Bowles boasted of a catholic acquaintance in all the cities of his
district, but before venturing forth to conquer these he had learned his
own city by heart. My Cousin Robert was not aware of the fact that Mr.
Bowles “showed” the town to certain customers. He even desired to show
it to me, but an epicurean strain in my nature held me back. Johnny
Hedges went with him occasionally, and Henry Schneider, the bill clerk,
and I listened eagerly to their experiences, afterwards confiding them
to Tom....

There were times when, driven by an overwhelming curiosity, I ventured
into certain strange streets, alone, shivering with cold and excitement,
gripped by a fascination I did not comprehend, my eyes now averted, now
irresistibly raised toward the white streaks of light that outlined the
windows of dark houses....

One winter evening as I was going home, I encountered at the mail-box
a young woman who shot at me a queer, twisted smile. I stood still, as
though stunned, looking after her, and when halfway across the slushy
street she turned and smiled again. Prodigiously excited, I followed
her, fearful that I might be seen by someone who knew me, nor was it
until she reached an unfamiliar street that I ventured to overtake her.
She confounded me by facing me.

“Get out!” she cried fiercely.

I halted in my tracks, overwhelmed with shame. But she continued to
regard me by the light of the street lamp.

“You didn’t want to be seen with me on Second Street, did you? You’re
one of those sneaking swells.”

The shock of this sudden onslaught was tremendous. I stood frozen to the
spot, trembling, convicted, for I knew that her accusation was just; I
had wounded her, and I had a desire to make amends.

“I’m sorry,” I faltered. “I didn’t mean--to offend you. And you
smiled--” I got no farther. She began to laugh, and so loudly that I
glanced anxiously about. I would have fled, but something still held me,
something that belied the harshness of her laugh.

“You’re just a kid,” she told me. “Say, you get along home, and tell
your mamma I sent you.”

Whereupon I departed in a state of humiliation and self-reproach I had
never before known, wandering about aimlessly for a long time. When at
length I arrived at home, late for supper, my mother’s solicitude only
served to deepen my pain. She went to the kitchen herself to see if my
mince-pie were hot, and served me with her own hands. My father remained
at his place at the head of the table while I tried to eat, smiling
indulgently at her ministrations.

“Oh, a little hard work won’t hurt him, Sarah,” he said. “When I was his
age I often worked until eleven o’clock and never felt the worse for it.
Business must be pretty good, eh, Hugh?”

I had never seen him in a more relaxing mood, a more approving one.
My mother sat down beside me.... Words seem useless to express the
complicated nature of my suffering at that moment,--my remorse, my
sense of deception, of hypocrisy,--yes, and my terror. I tried to talk
naturally, to answer my father’s questions about affairs at the store,
while all the time my eyes rested upon the objects of the room, familiar
since childhood. Here were warmth, love, and safety. Why could I not be
content with them, thankful for them? What was it in me that drove me
from these sheltering walls out into the dark places? I glanced at my
father. Had he ever known these wild, destroying desires? Oh, if I only
could have confided in him! The very idea of it was preposterous. Such
placidity as theirs would never understand the nature of my temptations,
and I pictured to myself their horror and despair at my revelation. In
imagination I beheld their figures receding while I drifted out to sea,
alone. Would the tide--which was somehow within me--carry me out and
out, in spite of all I could do?

     “Give me that man
     That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
     In my heart’s core....”

I did not shirk my tasks at the store, although I never got over the
feeling that a fine instrument was being employed where a coarser one
would have done equally well. There were moments when I was almost
overcome by surges of self-commiseration and of impotent anger: for
instance, I was once driven out of a shop by an incensed German grocer
whom I had asked to settle a long-standing account. Yet the days passed,
the daily grind absorbed my energies, and when I was not collecting, or
tediously going over the stock in the dim recesses of the store, I was
running errands in the wholesale district, treading the burning brick of
the pavements, dodging heavy trucks and drays and perspiring clerks who
flew about with memorandum pads in their hands, or awaiting the pleasure
of bank tellers. Save Harvey, the venerable porter, I was the last to
leave the store in the evening, and I always came away with the taste on
my palate of Breck and Company’s mail, it being my final duty to “lick”
 the whole of it and deposit it in the box at the corner. The gum on the
envelopes tasted of winter-green.

My Cousin Robert was somewhat astonished at my application.

“We’ll make a man of you yet, Hugh,” he said to me once, when I had
performed a commission with unexpected despatch....

Business was his all-in-all, and he had an undisguised contempt for
higher education. To send a boy to college was, in his opinion, to run
no inconsiderable risk of ruining him. What did they amount to when they
came home, strutting like peacocks, full of fads and fancies, and much
too good to associate with decent, hard-working citizens? Nevertheless
when autumn came and my friends departed with eclat for the East, I was
desperate indeed! Even the contemplation of Robert Breck did not console
me, and yet here, in truth, was a life which might have served me as a
model. His store was his castle; and his reputation for integrity and
square dealing as wide as the city. Often I used to watch him with a
certain envy as he stood in the doorway, his hands in his pockets,
and greeted fellow-merchant and banker with his genuine and dignified
directness. This man was his own master. They all called him “Robert,”
 and they made it clear by their manner that they knew they were
addressing one who fulfilled his obligations and asked no favours.

Crusty old Nathaniel Durrett once declared that when you bought a bill
of goods from Robert Breck you did not have to check up the invoice or
employ a chemist. Here was a character to mould upon. If my ambition
could but have been bounded by Breck and Company, I, too, might have
come to stand in that doorway content with a tribute that was greater
than Caesar’s.

I had been dreading the Christmas holidays, which were indeed to be no
holidays for me. And when at length they arrived they brought with them
from the East certain heroes fashionably clad, citizens now of a larger
world than mine. These former companions had become superior beings,
they could not help showing it, and their presence destroyed the Balance
of Things. For alas, I had not wholly abjured the feminine sex after
all! And from being a somewhat important factor in the lives of Ruth
Hollister and other young women I suddenly became of no account. New
interests, new rivalries and loyalties had arisen in which I had no
share; I must perforce busy myself with invoices of flour and coffee and
canned fruits while sleigh rides and coasting and skating expeditions
to Blackstone Lake followed one another day after day,--for the irony of
circumstances had decreed a winter uncommonly cold. There were evening
parties, too, where I felt like an alien, though my friends were guilty
of no conscious neglect; and had I been able to accept the situation
simply, I should not have suffered.

The principal event of those holidays was a play given in the old
Hambleton house (which later became the Boyne Club), under the direction
of the lively and talented Mrs. Watling. I was invited, indeed, to
participate; but even if I had had the desire I could not have done
so, since the rehearsals were carried on in the daytime. Nancy was the
leading lady. I have neglected to mention that she too had been away
almost continuously since our misunderstanding, for the summer in the
mountains,--a sojourn recommended for her mother’s health; and in the
autumn she had somewhat abruptly decided to go East to boarding-school
at Farmington. During the brief months of her absence she had
marvellously acquired maturity and aplomb, a worldliness of manner and a
certain frivolity that seemed to put those who surrounded her on a lower
plane. She was only seventeen, yet she seemed the woman of thirty whose
role she played. First there were murmurs, then sustained applause. I
scarcely recognized her: she had taken wings and soared far above me,
suggesting a sphere of power and luxury hitherto unimagined and beyond
the scope of the world to which I belonged.

Her triumph was genuine. When the play was over she was immediately
surrounded by enthusiastic admirers eager to congratulate her, to dance
with her. I too would have gone forward, but a sense of inadequacy, of
unimportance, of an inability to cope with her, held me back, and from a
corner I watched her sweeping around the room, holding up her train, and
leaning on the arm of Bob Lansing, a classmate whom Ralph had brought
home from Harvard. Then it was Ralph’s turn: that affair seemed still
to be going on. My feelings were a strange medley of despondency and
stimulation....

Our eyes met. Her partner now was Ham Durrett. Capriciously releasing
him, she stood before me,

“Hugh, you haven’t asked me to dance, or even told me what you thought
of the play.”

“I thought it was splendid,” I said lamely.

Because she refrained from replying I was farther than ever from
understanding her. How was I to divine what she felt? or whether any
longer she felt at all? Here, in this costume of a woman of the world,
with the string of pearls at her neck to give her the final touch of
brilliancy, was a strange, new creature who baffled and silenced me....
We had not gone halfway across the room when she halted abruptly.

“I’m tired,” she exclaimed. “I don’t feel like dancing just now,” and
led the way to the big, rose punch-bowl, one of the Durretts’ most
cherished possessions. Glancing up at me over the glass of lemonade I
had given her she went on: “Why haven’t you been to see me since I came
home? I’ve wanted to talk to you, to hear how you are getting along.”

Was she trying to make amends, or reminding me in this subtle way of
the cause of our quarrel? What I was aware of as I looked at her was
an attitude, a vantage point apparently gained by contact with that
mysterious outer world which thus vicariously had laid its spell on me;
I was tremendously struck by the thought that to achieve this attitude
meant emancipation, invulnerability against the aches and pains which
otherwise our fellow-beings had the power to give us; mastery over
life,--the ability to choose calmly, as from a height, what were best
for one’s self, untroubled by loves and hates. Untroubled by loves and
hates! At that very moment, paradoxically, I loved her madly, but with a
love not of the old quality, a love that demanded a vantage point of its
own. Even though she had made an advance--and some elusiveness in her
manner led me to doubt it I could not go to her now. I must go as a
conqueror,--a conqueror in the lists she herself had chosen, where the
prize is power.

“Oh, I’m getting along pretty well,” I said. “At any rate, they don’t
complain of me.”

“Somehow,” she ventured, “somehow it’s hard to think of you as a
business man.”

I took this for a reference to the boast I had made that I would go to
college.

“Business isn’t so bad as it might be,” I assured her.

“I think a man ought to go away to college,” she declared, in what
seemed another tone. “He makes friends, learns certain things,--it gives
him finish. We are very provincial here.”

Provincial! I did not stop to reflect how recently she must have
acquired the word; it summed up precisely the self-estimate at which I
had arrived. The sting went deep. Before I could think of an effective
reply Nancy was being carried off by the young man from the East, who
was clearly infatuated. He was not provincial. She smiled back at
me brightly over his shoulder.... In that instant were fused in one
resolution all the discordant elements within me of aspiration and
discontent. It was not so much that I would show Nancy what I intended
to do--I would show myself; and I felt a sudden elation, and accession
of power that enabled me momentarily to despise the puppets with whom
she danced.... From this mood I was awakened with a start to feel a hand
on my shoulder, and I turned to confront her father, McAlery Willett;
a gregarious, easygoing, pleasure-loving gentleman who made only a
pretence of business, having inherited an ample fortune from his father,
unique among his generation in our city in that he paid some attention
to fashion in his dress; good living was already beginning to affect his
figure. His mellow voice had a way of breaking an octave.

“Don’t worry, my boy,” he said. “You stick to business. These college
fellows are cocks of the walk just now, but some day you’ll be able to
snap your fingers at all of ‘em.”

The next day was dark, overcast, smoky, damp-the soft, unwholesome
dampness that follows a spell of hard frost. I spent the morning and
afternoon on the gloomy third floor of Breck and Company, making a list
of the stock. I remember the place as though I had just stepped out
of it, the freight elevator at the back, the dusty, iron columns,
the continuous piles of cases and bags and barrels with narrow aisles
between them; the dirty windows, spotted and soot-streaked, that looked
down on Second Street. I was determined now to escape from all this, and
I had my plan in mind.

No sooner had I swallowed my supper that evening than I set out at a
swift pace for a modest residence district ten blocks away, coming to a
little frame house set back in a yard,--one of those houses in which
the ringing of the front door-bell produces the greatest commotion;
children’s voices were excitedly raised and then hushed. After a brief
silence the door was opened by a pleasant-faced, brown-bearded man, who
stood staring at me in surprise. His hair was rumpled, he wore an old
house coat with a hole in the elbow, and with one finger he kept his
place in the book which he held in his hand.

“Hugh Paret!” he exclaimed.

He ushered me into a little parlour lighted by two lamps, that bore
every evidence of having been recently vacated. Its features somehow
bespoke a struggle for existence; as though its occupants had
worried much and loved much. It was a room best described by the word
“home”--home made more precious by a certain precariousness. Toys and
school-books strewed the floor, a sewing-bag and apron lay across the
sofa, and in one corner was a roll-topped desk of varnished oak. The
seats of the chairs were comfortably depressed.

So this was where Mr. Wood lived! Mr. Wood, instructor in Latin and
Greek at Densmore Academy. It was now borne in on me for the first time
that he did live and have his ties like any other human being, instead
of just appearing magically from nowhere on a platform in a chalky room
at nine every morning, to vanish again in the afternoon. I had formerly
stood in awe of his presence. But now I was suddenly possessed by an
embarrassment, and (shall I say it?) by a commiseration bordering on
contempt for a man who would consent to live thus for the sake of being
a schoolteacher. How strange that civilization should set such a high
value on education and treat its functionaries with such neglect!

Mr. Wood’s surprise at seeing me was genuine. For I had never shown
a particular interest in him, nor in the knowledge which he strove to
impart.

“I thought you had forgotten me, Hugh,” he said, and added whimsically:
“most boys do, when they graduate.”

I felt the reproach, which made it the more difficult for me to state my
errand.

“I knew you sometimes took pupils in the evening, Mr. Wood.”

“Pupils,--yes,” he replied, still eyeing me. Suddenly his eyes twinkled.
He had indeed no reason to suspect me of thirsting for learning. “But I
was under the impression that you had gone into business, Hugh.”

“The fact is, sir,” I explained somewhat painfully, “that I am not
satisfied with business. I feel--as if I ought to know more. And I came
to see if you would give me lessons about three nights a week, because I
want to take the Harvard examinations next summer.”

Thus I made it appear, and so persuaded myself, that my ambition had
been prompted by a craving for knowledge. As soon as he could recover
himself he reminded me that he had on many occasions declared I had a
brain.

“Your father must be very happy over this decision of yours,” he said.

That was the point, I told him. It was to be a surprise for my father; I
was to take the examinations first, and inform him afterwards.

To my intense relief, Mr. Wood found the scheme wholly laudable, and
entered into it with zest. He produced examinations of preceding
years from a pigeonhole in his desk, and inside of half an hour the
arrangement was made, the price of the lessons settled. They were well
within my salary, which recently had been raised....

When I went down town, or collecting bills for Breck and Company, I took
a text-book along with me in the street-cars. Now at last I had behind
my studies a driving force. Algebra, Latin, Greek and history became
worth while, means to an end. I astonished Mr. Wood; and sometimes he
would tilt back his chair, take off his spectacles and pull his beard.

“Why in the name of all the sages,” he would demand, “couldn’t you have
done this well at school? You might have led your class, instead of
Ralph Hambleton.”

I grew very fond of Mr. Wood, and even of his thin little wife, who
occasionally flitted into the room after we had finished. I fully
intended to keep up with them in after life, but I never did. I forgot
them completely....

My parents were not wholly easy in their minds concerning me; they were
bewildered by the new aspect I presented. For my lately acquired motive
was strong enough to compel me to restrict myself socially, and the
evenings I spent at home were given to study, usually in my own room.
Once I was caught with a Latin grammar: I was just “looking over it,” I
said. My mother sighed. I knew what was in her mind; she had always
been secretly disappointed that I had not been sent to college. And
presently, when my father went out to attend a trustee’s meeting, the
impulse to confide in her almost overcame me; I loved her with that
affection which goes out to those whom we feel understand us, but I was
learning to restrain my feelings. She looked at me wistfully.... I knew
that she would insist on telling my father, and thus possibly frustrate
my plans. That I was not discovered was due to a certain quixotic twist
in my father’s character. I was working now, and though not actually
earning my own living, he no longer felt justified in prying into my
affairs.

When June arrived, however, my tutor began to show signs that his
conscience was troubling him, and one night he delivered his ultimatum.
The joke had gone far enough, he implied. My intentions, indeed, he
found praiseworthy, but in his opinion it was high time that my father
were informed of them; he was determined to call at my father’s office.

The next morning was blue with the presage of showers; blue, too,
with the presage of fate. An interminable morning. My tasks had become
utterly distasteful. And in the afternoon, so when I sat down to make
out invoices, I wrote automatically the names of the familiar customers,
my mind now exalted by hope, now depressed by anxiety. The result of
an interview perhaps even now going on would determine whether or no I
should be immediately released from a slavery I detested. Would Mr.
Wood persuade my father? If not, I was prepared to take more desperate
measures; remain in the grocery business I would not. In the evening,
as I hurried homeward from the corner where the Boyne Street car had
dropped me, I halted suddenly in front of the Peters house, absorbing
the scene where my childhood had been spent: each of these spreading
maples was an old friend, and in these yards I had played and dreamed.
An unaccountable sadness passed over me as I walked on toward our
gate; I entered it, gained the doorway of the house and went upstairs,
glancing into the sitting room. My mother sat by the window, sewing. She
looked up at me with an ineffable expression, in which I read a trace of
tears.

“Hugh!” she exclaimed.

I felt very uncomfortable, and stood looking down at her.

“Why didn’t you tell us, my son?” In her voice was in truth reproach;
yet mingled with that was another note, which I think was pride.

“What has father said?” I asked.

“Oh, my dear, he will tell you himself. I--I don’t know--he will talk to
you.”

Suddenly she seized my hands and drew me down to her, and then held
me away, gazing into my face with a passionate questioning, her
lips smiling, her eyes wet. What did she see? Was there a subtler
relationship between our natures than I guessed? Did she understand by
some instinctive power the riddle within me? divine through love the
force that was driving me on she knew not whither, nor I? At the sound
of my father’s step in the hall she released me. He came in as though
nothing had happened.

“Well, Hugh, are you home?” he said....

Never had I been more impressed, more bewildered by his self-command
than at that time. Save for the fact that my mother talked less than
usual, supper passed as though nothing had happened. Whether I had
shaken him, disappointed him, or gained his reluctant approval I
could not tell. Gradually his outward calmness turned my suspense to
irritation....

But when at length we were alone together, I gained a certain
reassurance. His manner was not severe. He hesitated a little before
beginning.

“I must confess, Hugh; that I scarcely know what to say about this
proceeding of yours. The thing that strikes me most forcibly is that you
might have confided in your mother and myself.”

Hope flashed up within me, like an explosion.

“I--I wanted to surprise you, father. And then, you see, I thought it
would be wiser to find out first how well I was likely to do at the
examinations.”

My father looked at me. Unfortunately he possessed neither a sense of
humour nor a sense of tragedy sufficient to meet such a situation. For
the first time in my life I beheld him at a disadvantage; for I had,
somehow, managed at length to force him out of position, and he was
puzzled. I was quick to play my trump card.

“I have been thinking it over carefully,” I told him, “and I have made
up my mind that I want to go into the law.”

“The law!” he exclaimed sharply.

“Why, yes, sir. I know that you were disappointed because I did not do
sufficiently well at school to go to college and study for the bar.”

I felt indeed a momentary pang, but I remembered that I was fighting for
my freedom.

“You seemed satisfied where you were,” he said in a puzzled voice, “and
your Cousin Robert gives a good account of you.”

“I’ve tried to do the work as well as I could, sir,” I replied. “But I
don’t like the grocery business, or any other business. I have a feeling
that I’m not made for it.”

“And you think, now, that you are made for the law?” he asked, with the
faint hint of a smile.

“Yes, sir, I believe I could succeed at it. I’d like to try,” I replied
modestly.

“You’ve given up the idiotic notion of wishing to be an author?”

I implied that he himself had convinced me of the futility of such a
wish. I listened to his next words as in a dream.

“I must confess to you, Hugh, that there are times when I fail to
understand you. I hope it is as you say, that you have arrived at a
settled conviction as to your future, and that this is not another of
those caprices to which you have been subject, nor a desire to shirk
honest work. Mr. Wood has made out a strong case for you, and I have
therefore determined to give you a trial. If you pass the examinations
with credit, you may go to college, but if at any time you fail to
make good progress, you come home, and go into business again. Is that
thoroughly understood?”

I said it was, and thanked him effusively.... I had escaped,--the prison
doors had flown open. But it is written that every happiness has
its sting; and my joy, intense though it was, had in it a core of
remorse....

I went downstairs to my mother, who was sitting in the hall by the open
door.

“Father says I may go!” I said.

She got up and took me in her arms.

“My dear, I am so glad, although we shall miss you dreadfully.... Hugh?”

“Yes, mother.”

“Oh, Hugh, I so want you to be a good man!”

Her cry was a little incoherent, but fraught with a meaning that came
home to me, in spite of myself....

A while later I ran over to announce to the amazed Tom Peters that I
was actually going to Harvard with him. He stood in the half-lighted
hallway, his hands in his pockets, blinking at me.

“Hugh, you’re a wonder!” he cried. “How in Jehoshaphat did you work
it?”...

I lay long awake that night thinking over the momentous change so soon
to come into my life, wondering exultantly what Nancy Willett would say
now. I was not one, at any rate, to be despised or neglected.



VI.

The following September Tom Peters and I went East together. In the
early morning Boston broke on us like a Mecca as we rolled out of the
old Albany station, joint lords of a “herdic.” How sharply the smell of
the salt-laden east wind and its penetrating coolness come back to me! I
seek in vain for words to express the exhilarating effect of that briny
coolness on my imagination, and of the visions it summoned up of the
newer, larger life into which I had marvellously been transported. We
alighted at the Parker House, full-fledged men of the world, and tried
to act as though the breakfast of which we partook were merely an
incident, not an Event; as though we were Seniors, and not freshmen,
assuming an indifference to the beings by whom we were surrounded and
who were breakfasting, too,--although the nice-looking ones with fresh
faces and trim clothes were all undoubtedly Olympians. The better
to proclaim our nonchalance, we seated ourselves on a lounge of the
marble-paved lobby and smoked cigarettes. This was liberty indeed! At
length we departed for Cambridge, in another herdic.

Boston! Could it be possible? Everything was so different here as to
give the place the aspect of a dream: the Bulfinch State House, the
decorous shops, the still more decorous dwellings with the purple-paned
windows facing the Common; Back Bay, still boarded up, ivy-spread,
suggestive of a mysterious and delectable existence. We crossed the
Charles River, blue-grey and still that morning; traversed a nondescript
district, and at last found ourselves gazing out of the windows at the
mellowed, plum-coloured bricks of the University buildings.... All
at once our exhilaration evaporated as the herdic rumbled into a
side street and backed up before the door of a not-too-inviting,
three-storied house with a queer extension on top. Its steps and
vestibule were, however, immaculate. The bell was answered by a plainly
overworked servant girl, of whom we inquired for Mrs. Bolton, our
landlady. There followed a period of waiting in a parlour from which the
light had been almost wholly banished, with slippery horsehair furniture
and a marble-topped table; and Mrs. Bolton, when she appeared, dressed
in rusty black, harmonized perfectly with the funereal gloom. She was a
tall, rawboned, severe lady with a peculiar red-mottled complexion that
somehow reminded one of the outcropping rocks of her native New England
soil.

“You want to see your rooms, I suppose,” she remarked impassively when
we had introduced ourselves, and as we mounted the stairs behind her
Tom, in a whisper, nicknamed her “Granite Face.” Presently she left us.

“Hospitable soul!” said Tom, who, with his hands in his pockets, was
gazing at the bare walls of our sitting-room. “We’ll have to go into
the house-furnishing business, Hughie. I vote we don’t linger here
to-day--we’ll get melancholia.”

Outside, however, the sun was shining brightly, and we departed
immediately to explore Cambridge and announce our important presences
to the proper authorities.... We went into Boston to dine.... It was
not until nine o’clock in the evening that we returned and the bottom
suddenly dropped out of things. He who has tasted that first, acute
homesickness of college will know what I mean. It usually comes at the
opening of one’s trunk. The sight of the top tray gave me a pang I shall
never forget. I would not have believed that I loved my mother so much!
These articles had been packed by her hands; and in one corner, among
the underclothes on which she had neatly sewed my initials, lay the new
Bible she had bought. “Hugh Moreton Paret, from his Mother. September,
1881.” I took it up (Tom was not looking) and tried to read a passage,
but my eyes were blurred. What was it within me that pressed and pressed
until I thought I could bear the pain of it no longer? I pictured the
sitting-room at home, and my father and mother there, thinking of me.
Yes, I must acknowledge it; in the bitterness of that moment I longed
to be back once more in the railed-off space on the floor of Breck and
Company, writing invoices....

Presently, as we went on silently with our unpacking, we became aware of
someone in the doorway.

“Hello, you fellows!” he cried. “We’re classmates, I guess.”

We turned to behold an ungainly young man in an ill-fitting blue suit.
His face was pimply, his eyes a Teutonic blue, his yellow hair rumpled,
his naturally large mouth was made larger by a friendly grin.

“I’m Hermann Krebs,” he announced simply. “Who are you?”

We replied, I regret to say, with a distinct coolness that did not seem
to bother him in the least. He advanced into the room, holding out a
large, red, and serviceable hand, evidently it had never dawned on him
that there was such a thing in the world as snobbery. But Tom and I
had been “coached” by Ralph Hambleton and Perry Blackwood, warned to be
careful of our friendships. There was a Reason! In any case Mr. Krebs
would not have appealed to us. In answer to a second question he was
informed what city we hailed from, and he proclaimed himself likewise a
native of our state.

“Why, I’m from Elkington!” he exclaimed, as though the fact sealed
our future relationships. He seated himself on Tom’s trunk and added:
“Welcome to old Harvard!”

We felt that he was scarcely qualified to speak for “old Harvard,” but
we did not say so.

“You look as if you’d been pall-bearers for somebody,” was his next
observation.

To this there seemed no possible reply.

“You fellows are pretty well fixed here,” he went on, undismayed, gazing
about a room which had seemed to us the abomination of desolation. “Your
folks must be rich. I’m up under the skylight.”

Even this failed to touch us. His father--he told us with undiminished
candour--had been a German emigrant who had come over in ‘49, after the
cause of liberty had been lost in the old country, and made eye-glasses
and opera glasses. There hadn’t been a fortune in it. He, Hermann,
had worked at various occupations in the summer time, from peddling to
farming, until he had saved enough to start him at Harvard. Tom, who had
been bending over his bureau drawer, straightened up.

“What did you want to come here for?” he demanded.

“Say, what did you?” Mr. Krebs retorted genially. “To get an education,
of course.”

“An education!” echoed Tom.

“Isn’t Harvard the oldest and best seat of learning in America?” There
was an exaltation in Krebs’s voice that arrested my attention, and made
me look at him again. A troubled chord had been struck within me.

“Sure,” said Tom.

“What did you come for?” Mr. Krebs persisted.

“To sow my wild oats,” said Tom. “I expect to have something of a crop,
too.”

For some reason I could not fathom, it suddenly seemed to dawn on Mr.
Krebs, as a result of this statement, that he wasn’t wanted.

“Well, so long,” he said, with a new dignity that curiously belied the
informality of his farewell.

An interval of silence followed his departure.

“Well, he’s got a crust!” said Tom, at last.

My own feeling about Mr. Krebs had become more complicated; but I took
my cue from Tom, who dealt with situations simply.

“He’ll come in for a few knockouts,” he declared. “Here’s to old
Harvard, the greatest institution of learning in America! Oh, gee!”

Our visitor, at least, made us temporarily forget our homesickness, but
it returned with redoubled intensity when we had put out the lights and
gone to bed.

Before we had left home it had been mildly hinted to us by Ralph and
Perry Blackwood that scholarly eminence was not absolutely necessary
to one’s welfare and happiness at Cambridge. The hint had been somewhat
superfluous; but the question remained, what was necessary? With a view
of getting some light on this delicate subject we paid a visit the next
evening to our former friends and schoolmates, whose advice was conveyed
with a masterly circumlocution that impressed us both. There are some
things that may not be discussed directly, and the conduct of life at
a modern university--which is a reflection of life in the greater
world--is one of these. Perry Blackwood and Ham did most of the talking,
while Ralph, characteristically, lay at full length on the window-seat,
interrupting with an occasional terse and cynical remark very much to
the point. As a sophomore, he in particular seemed lifted immeasurably
above us, for he was--as might have been expected already a marked
man in his class. The rooms which he shared with his cousin made a
tremendous impression on Tom and me, and seemed palatial in comparison
to our quarters at Mrs. Bolton’s, eloquent of the freedom and luxury
of undergraduate existence; their note, perhaps, was struck by the
profusion of gay sofa pillows, then something of an innovation. The
heavy, expensive furniture was of a pattern new to me; and on the mantel
were three or four photographs of ladies in the alluring costume of the
musical stage, in which Tom evinced a particular interest.

“Did grandfather send ‘em?” he inquired.

“They’re Ham’s,” said Ralph, and he contrived somehow to get into those
two words an epitome of his cousin’s character. Ham was stouter, and his
clothes were more striking, more obviously expensive than ever.... On
our way homeward, after we had walked a block or two in silence, Tom
exclaimed:--“Don’t make friends with the friendless!--eh, Hughie? We
knew enough to begin all right, didn’t we?”...

Have I made us out a pair of deliberate, calculating snobs? Well,
after all it must be remembered that our bringing up had not been of
sufficient liberality to include the Krebses of this world. We did not,
indeed, spend much time in choosing and weighing those whom we should
know and those whom we should avoid; and before the first term of that
Freshman year was over Tom had become a favourite. He had the gift of
making men feel that he delighted in their society, that he wished for
nothing better than to sit for hours in their company, content to listen
to the arguments that raged about him. Once in a while he would make a
droll observation that was greeted with fits of laughter. He was always
referred to as “old Tom,” or “good old Tom”; presently, when he began to
pick out chords on the banjo, it was discovered that he had a good tenor
voice, though he could not always be induced to sing.... Somewhat to the
jeopardy of the academic standard that my father expected me to sustain,
our rooms became a rendezvous for many clubable souls whose maudlin,
midnight attempts at harmony often set the cocks crowing.

       “Free from care and despair,
        What care we?
       ‘Tis wine, ‘tis wine
        That makes the jollity.”

As a matter of truth, on these occasions it was more often beer; beer
transported thither in Tom’s new valise,--given him by his mother,--and
stuffed with snow to keep the bottles cold. Sometimes Granite Face,
adorned in a sky-blue wrapper, would suddenly appear in the doorway to
declare that we were a disgrace to her respectable house: the university
authorities should be informed, etc., etc. Poor woman, we were
outrageously inconsiderate of her.... One evening as we came through
the hall we caught a glimpse in the dimly lighted parlour of a young
man holding a shy and pale little girl on his lap, Annie, Mrs. Bolton’s
daughter: on the face of our landlady was an expression I had never seen
there, like a light. I should scarcely have known her. Tom and I paused
at the foot of the stairs. He clutched my arm.

“Darned if it wasn’t our friend Krebs!” he whispered.

While I was by no means so popular as Tom, I got along fairly well.
I had escaped from provincialism, from the obscure purgatory of the
wholesale grocery business; new vistas, exciting and stimulating, had
been opened up; nor did I offend the sensibilities and prejudices of
the new friends I made, but gave a hearty consent to a code I found
congenial. I recognized in the social system of undergraduate life at
Harvard a reflection of that of a greater world where I hoped some
day to shine; yet my ambition did not prey upon me. Mere conformity,
however, would not have taken me very far in a sphere from which I, in
common with many others, desired not to be excluded.... One day, in an
idle but inspired moment, I paraphrased a song from “Pinafore,” applying
it to a college embroglio, and the brief and lively vogue it enjoyed was
sufficient to indicate a future usefulness. I had “found myself.” This
was in the last part of the freshman year, and later on I became a sort
of amateur, class poet-laureate. Many were the skits I composed, and Tom
sang them....

During that freshman year we often encountered Hermann Krebs, whistling
merrily, on the stairs.

“Got your themes done?” he would inquire cheerfully.

And Tom would always mutter, when he was out of earshot: “He has got a
crust!”

When I thought about Krebs at all,--and this was seldom indeed,--his
manifest happiness puzzled me. Our cool politeness did not seem to
bother him in the least; on the contrary, I got the impression that
it amused him. He seemed to have made no friends. And after that first
evening, memorable for its homesickness, he never ventured to repeat his
visit to us.

One windy November day I spied his somewhat ludicrous figure striding
ahead of me, his trousers above his ankles. I was bundled up in a new
ulster,--of which I was secretly quite proud,--but he wore no overcoat
at all.

“Well, how are you getting along?” I asked, as I overtook him.

He made clear, as he turned, his surprise that I should have addressed
him at all, but immediately recovered himself.

“Oh, fine,” he responded. “I’ve had better luck than I expected. I’m
correspondent for two or three newspapers. I began by washing windows,
and doing odd jobs for the professors’ wives.” He laughed. “I guess that
doesn’t strike you as good luck.”

He showed no resentment at my patronage, but a self-sufficiency that
made my sympathy seem superfluous, giving the impression of an inner
harmony and content that surprised me.

“I needn’t ask how you’re getting along,” he said....

At the end of the freshman year we abandoned Mrs. Bolton’s for more
desirable quarters.

I shall not go deeply into my college career, recalling only such
incidents as, seen in the retrospect, appear to have had significance. I
have mentioned my knack for song-writing; but it was not, I think, until
my junior year there was startlingly renewed in me my youthful desire to
write, to create something worth while, that had so long been dormant.

The inspiration came from Alonzo Cheyne, instructor in English; a
remarkable teacher, in spite of the finicky mannerisms which Tom
imitated. And when, in reading aloud certain magnificent passages, he
forgot his affectations, he managed to arouse cravings I thought to have
deserted me forever. Was it possible, after all, that I had been right
and my father wrong? that I might yet be great in literature?

A mere hint from Alonzo Cheyne was more highly prized by the grinds
than fulsome praise from another teacher. And to his credit it should
be recorded that the grinds were the only ones he treated with any
seriousness; he took pains to answer their questions; but towards the
rest of us, the Chosen, he showed a thinly veiled contempt. None so
quick as he to detect a simulated interest, or a wily effort to make him
ridiculous; and few tried this a second time, for he had a rapier-like
gift of repartee that transfixed the offender like a moth on a pin. He
had a way of eyeing me at times, his glasses in his hand, a queer smile
on his lips, as much as to imply that there was one at least among the
lost who was made for better things. Not that my work was poor, but I
knew that it might have been better. Out of his classes, however, beyond
the immediate, disturbing influence of his personality I would relapse
into indifference....

Returning one evening to our quarters, which were now in the “Yard,”
 I found Tom seated with a blank sheet before him, thrusting his hand
through his hair and biting the end of his penholder to a pulp. In his
muttering, which was mixed with the curious, stingless profanity of
which he was master, I caught the name of Cheyne, and I knew that he
was facing the crisis of a fortnightly theme. The subject assigned was a
narrative of some personal experience, and it was to be handed in on the
morrow. My own theme was already, written.

“I’ve been holding down this chair for an hour, and I can’t seem to
think of a thing.” He rose to fling himself down on the lounge. “I wish
I was in Canada.”

“Why Canada?”

“Trout fishing with Uncle Jake at that club of his where he took me last
summer.” Tom gazed dreamily at the ceiling. “Whenever I have some darned
foolish theme like this to write I want to go fishing, and I want to go
like the devil. I’ll get Uncle Jake to take you, too, next summer.”

“I wish you would.”

“Say, that’s living all right, Hughie, up there among the tamaracks and
balsams!” And he began, for something like the thirtieth time, to relate
the adventures of the trip.

As he talked, the idea presented itself to me with sudden fascination
to use this incident as the subject of Tom’s theme; to write it for him,
from his point of view, imitating the droll style he would have had if
he had been able to write; for, when he was interested in any matter,
his oral narrative did not lack vividness. I began to ask him questions:
what were the trees like, for instance? How did the French-Canadian
guides talk? He had the gift of mimicry: aided by a partial knowledge of
French I wrote down a few sentences as they sounded. The canoe had upset
and he had come near drowning. I made him describe his sensations.

“I’ll write your theme for you,” I exclaimed, when he had finished.

“Gee, not about that!”

“Why not? It’s a personal experience.”

His gratitude was pathetic.... By this time I was so full of the subject
that it fairly clamoured for expression, and as I wrote the hours flew.
Once in a while I paused to ask him a question as he sat with his chair
tilted back and his feet on the table, reading a detective story. I
sketched in the scene with bold strokes; the desolate bois brule on the
mountain side, the polished crystal surface of the pool broken here
and there with the circles left by rising fish; I pictured Armand,
the guide, his pipe between his teeth, holding the canoe against the
current; and I seemed to smell the sharp tang of the balsams, to hear
the roar of the rapids below. Then came the sudden hooking of the big
trout, habitant oaths from Armand, bouleversement, wetness, darkness,
confusion; a half-strangled feeling, a brief glimpse of green things and
sunlight, and then strangulation, or what seemed like it; strangulation,
the sense of being picked up and hurled by a terrific force whither? a
blinding whiteness, in which it was impossible to breathe, one sharp,
almost unbearable pain, then another, then oblivion.... Finally,
awakening, to be confronted by a much worried Uncle Jake.

By this time the detective story had fallen to the floor, and Tom was
huddled up in his chair, asleep. He arose obediently and wrapped a wet
towel around his head, and began to write. Once he paused long enough to
mutter:--“Yes, that’s about it,--that’s the way I felt!” and set to work
again, mechanically,--all the praise I got for what I deemed a literary
achievement of the highest order! At three o’clock, a.m., he finished,
pulled off his clothes automatically and tumbled into bed. I had no
desire for sleep. My brain was racing madly, like an engine without a
governor. I could write! I could write! I repeated the words over and
over to myself. All the complexities of my present life were blotted
out, and I beheld only the long, sweet vista of the career for which
I was now convinced that nature had intended me. My immediate fortunes
became unimportant, immaterial. No juice of the grape I had ever
tasted made me half so drunk.... With the morning, of course, came the
reaction, and I suffered the after sensations of an orgie, awaking to a
world of necessity, cold and grey and slushy, and necessity alone made
me rise from my bed. My experience of the night before might have taught
me that happiness lies in the trick of transforming necessity, but it
did not. The vision had faded,--temporarily, at least; and such was the
distraction of the succeeding days that the subject of the theme passed
from my mind....

One morning Tom was later than usual in getting home. I was writing a
letter when he came in, and did not notice him, yet I was vaguely aware
of his standing over me. When at last I looked up I gathered from his
expression that something serious had happened, so mournful was his
face, and yet so utterly ludicrous.

“Say, Hugh, I’m in the deuce of a mess,” he announced.

“What’s the matter?” I inquired.

He sank down on the table with a groan.

“It’s Alonzo,” he said.

Then I remembered the theme.

“What--what’s he done?” I demanded.

“He says I must become a writer. Think of it, me a writer! He says I’m a
young Shakespeare, that I’ve been lazy and hid my light under a bushel!
He says he knows now what I can do, and if I don’t keep up the quality,
he’ll know the reason why, and write a personal letter to my father. Oh,
hell!”

In spite of his evident anguish, I was seized with a convulsive
laughter. Tom stood staring at me moodily.

“You think it’s funny,--don’t you? I guess it is, but what’s going to
become of me? That’s what I want to know. I’ve been in trouble before,
but never in any like this. And who got me into it? You!”

Here was gratitude!

“You’ve got to go on writing ‘em, now.” His voice became desperately
pleading. “Say, Hugh, old man, you can temper ‘em down--temper ‘em
down gradually. And by the end of the year, let’s say, they’ll be about
normal again.”

He seemed actually shivering.

“The end of the year!” I cried, the predicament striking me for the
first time in its fulness. “Say, you’ve got a crust!”

“You’ll do it, if I have to hold a gun over you,” he announced grimly.

Mingled with my anxiety, which was real, was an exultation that
would not down. Nevertheless, the idea of developing Tom into a
Shakespeare,--Tom, who had not the slightest desire to be one I was
appalling, besides having in it an element of useless self-sacrifice
from which I recoiled. On the other hand, if Alonzo should discover that
I had written his theme, there were penalties I did not care to dwell
upon.... With such a cloud hanging over me I passed a restless night.

As luck would have it the very next evening in the level light under the
elms of the Square I beheld sauntering towards me a dapper figure which
I recognized as that of Mr. Cheyne himself. As I saluted him he gave me
an amused and most disconcerting glance; and when I was congratulating
myself that he had passed me he stopped.

“Fine weather for March, Paret,” he observed.

“Yes, sir,” I agreed in a strange voice.

“By the way,” he remarked, contemplating the bare branches above our
heads, “that was an excellent theme your roommate handed in. I had no
idea that he possessed such--such genius. Did you, by any chance, happen
to read it?”

“Yes, sir,--I read it.”

“Weren’t you surprised?” inquired Mr. Cheyne.

“Well, yes, sir--that is--I mean to say he talks just like that,
sometimes--that is, when it’s anything he cares about.”

“Indeed!” said Mr. Cheyne. “That’s interesting, most interesting. In
all my experience, I do not remember a case in which a gift has been
developed so rapidly. I don’t want to give the impression--ah that there
is no room for improvement, but the thing was very well done, for
an undergraduate. I must confess I never should have suspected it in
Peters, and it’s most interesting what you say about his cleverness
in conversation.” He twirled the head of his stick, apparently lost in
reflection. “I may be wrong,” he went on presently, “I have an idea
it is you--” I must literally have jumped away from him. He paused a
moment, without apparently noticing my panic, “that it is you who have
influenced Peters.”

“Sir?”

“I am wrong, then. Or is this merely commendable modesty on your part?”

“Oh, no, sir.”

“Then my hypothesis falls to the ground. I had greatly hoped,” he added
meaningly, “that you might be able to throw some light on this mystery.”

I was dumb.

“Paret,” he asked, “have you time to come over to my rooms for a few
minutes this evening?”

“Certainly, sir.”

He gave me his number in Brattle Street....

Like one running in a nightmare and making no progress I made my way
home, only to learn from Hallam,--who lived on the same floor,--that
Tom had inconsiderately gone to Boston for the evening, with four other
weary spirits in search of relaxation! Avoiding our club table, I took
what little nourishment I could at a modest restaurant, and restlessly
paced the moonlit streets until eight o’clock, when I found myself
in front of one of those low-gabled colonial houses which, on less
soul-shaking occasions, had exercised a great charm on my imagination.
My hand hung for an instant over the bell.... I must have rung it
violently, for there appeared almost immediately an old lady in a lace
cap, who greeted me with gentle courtesy, and knocked at a little door
with glistening panels. The latch was lifted by Mr. Cheyne himself.

“Come in, Paret,” he said, in a tone that was unexpectedly hospitable.

I have rarely seen a more inviting room. A wood fire burned brightly
on the brass andirons, flinging its glare on the big, white beam that
crossed the ceiling, and reddening the square panes of the windows in
their panelled recesses. Between these were rows of books,--attractive
books in chased bindings, red and blue; books that appealed to be taken
down and read. There was a table covered with reviews and magazines in
neat piles, and a lamp so shaded as to throw its light only on the white
blotter of the pad. Two easy chairs, covered with flowered chintz, were
ranged before the fire, in one of which I sank, much bewildered, upon
being urged to do so.

I utterly failed to recognize “Alonzo” in this new atmosphere. And
he had, moreover, dropped the subtly sarcastic manner I was wont to
associate with him.

“Jolly old house, isn’t it?” he observed, as though I had casually
dropped in on him for a chat; and he stood, with his hands behind him
stretched to the blaze, looking down at me. “It was built by a certain
Colonel Draper, who fought at Louisburg, and afterwards fled to England
at the time of the Revolution. He couldn’t stand the patriots, I’m not
so sure that I blame him, either. Are you interested in colonial things,
Mr. Paret?”

I said I was. If the question had concerned Aztec relics my answer would
undoubtedly have been the same. And I watched him, dazedly, while he
took down a silver porringer from the shallow mantel shelf.

“It’s not a Revere,” he said, in a slightly apologetic tone as though to
forestall a comment, “but it’s rather good, I think. I picked it up at
a sale in Dorchester. But I have never been able to identify the coat of
arms.”

He showed me a ladle, with the names of “Patience and William Simpson”
 engraved quaintly thereon, and took down other articles in which I
managed to feign an interest. Finally he seated himself in the chair
opposite, crossed his feet, putting the tips of his fingers together and
gazing into the fire.

“So you thought you could fool me,” he said, at length.

I became aware of the ticking of a great clock in the corner. My mouth
was dry.

“I am going to forgive you,” he went on, more gravely, “for several
reasons. I don’t flatter, as you know. It’s because you carried out the
thing so perfectly that I am led to think you have a gift that may be
cultivated, Paret. You wrote that theme in the way Peters would
have written it if he had not been--what shall I say?--scripturally
inarticulate. And I trust it may do you some good if I say it was
something of a literary achievement, if not a moral one.”

“Thank you, sir,” I faltered.

“Have you ever,” he inquired, lapsing a little into his lecture-room
manner, “seriously thought of literature as a career? Have you ever
thought of any career seriously?”

“I once wished to be a writer, sir,” I replied tremulously, but
refrained from telling him of my father’s opinion of the profession.
Ambition--a purer ambition than I had known for years--leaped within me
at his words. He, Alonzo Cheyne, had detected in me the Promethean fire!

I sat there until ten o’clock talking to the real Mr. Cheyne, a human
Mr. Cheyne unknown in the lecture-room. Nor had I suspected one in
whom cynicism and distrust of undergraduates (of my sort) seemed so
ingrained, of such idealism. He did not pour it out in preaching;
delicately, unobtrusively and on the whole rather humorously he managed
to present to me in a most disillusionizing light that conception of the
university held by me and my intimate associates. After I had left him
I walked the quiet streets to behold as through dissolving mists another
Harvard, and there trembled in my soul like the birth-struggle of a
flame something of the vision later to be immortalized by St. Gaudens,
the spirit of Harvard responding to the spirit of the Republic--to the
call of Lincoln, who voiced it. The place of that bronze at the corner
of Boston Common was as yet empty, but I have since stood before it to
gaze in wonder at the light shining in darkness on mute, uplifted faces,
black faces! at Harvard’s son leading them on that the light might live
and prevail.

I, too, longed for a Cause into which I might fling myself, in which
I might lose myself... I halted on the sidewalk to find myself staring
from the opposite side of the street at a familiar house, my old
landlady’s, Mrs. Bolton’s, and summoned up before me was the tired,
smiling face of Hermann Krebs. Was it because when he had once spoken so
crudely of the University I had seen the reflection of her spirit in his
eyes? A light still burned in the extension roof--Krebs’s light; another
shone dimly through the ground glass of the front door. Obeying a sudden
impulse, I crossed the street.

Mrs. Bolton, in the sky-blue wrapper, and looking more forbidding
than ever, answered the bell. Life had taught her to be indifferent to
surprises, and it was I who became abruptly embarrassed.

“Oh, it’s you, Mr. Paret,” she said, as though I had been a frequent
caller. I had never once darkened her threshold since I had left her
house.

“Yes,” I answered, and hesitated.... “Is Mr. Krebs in?”

“Well,” she replied in a lifeless tone, which nevertheless had in it a
touch of bitterness, “I guess there’s no reason why you and your friends
should have known he was sick.”

“Sick!” I repeated. “Is he very sick?”

“I calculate he’ll pull through,” she said. “Sunday the doctor gave him
up. And no wonder! He hasn’t had any proper food since he’s be’n here!”
 She paused, eyeing me. “If you’ll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I was just going
up to him when you rang.”

“Certainly,” I replied awkwardly. “Would you be so kind as to tell
him--when he’s well enough--that I came to see him, and that I’m sorry?”

There was another pause, and she stood with a hand defensively clutching
the knob.

“Yes, I’ll tell him,” she said.

With a sense of having been baffled, I turned away.

Walking back toward the Yard my attention was attracted by a slowly
approaching cab whose occupants were disturbing the quiet of the night
with song.

“Shollity--‘tis wine, ‘tis wine, that makesh--shollity.”

The vehicle drew up in front of a new and commodious building,--I
believe the first of those designed to house undergraduates who were
willing to pay for private bathrooms and other modern luxuries; out
of one window of the cab protruded a pair of shoeless feet, out of the
other a hatless head I recognized as belonging to Tom Peters; hence I
surmised that the feet were his also. The driver got down from the
box, and a lively argument was begun inside--for there were other
occupants--as to how Mr. Peters was to be disembarked; and I gathered
from his frequent references to the “Shgyptian obelisk” that the
engineering problem presented struck him as similar to the unloading of
Cleopatra’s Needle.

“Careful, careful!” he cautioned, as certain expelling movements began
from within, “Easy, Ham, you jam-fool, keep the door shut, y’ll break
me.”

“Now, Jerry, all heave sh’gether!” exclaimed a voice from the blackness
of the interior.

“Will ye wait a minute, Mr. Durrett, sir?” implored the cabdriver.
“You’ll be after ruining me cab entirely.” (Loud roars and vigorous
resistance from the obelisk, the cab rocking violently.) “This
gintleman” (meaning me) “will have him by the head, and I’ll get hold of
his feet, sir.” Which he did, after a severe kick in the stomach.

“Head’sh all right, Martin.”

“To be sure it is, Mr. Peters. Now will ye rest aisy awhile, sir?”

“I’m axphyxiated,” cried another voice from the darkness, the mined
voice of Jerome Kyme, our classmate.

“Get the tackles under him!” came forth in commanding tones from
Conybear.

In the meantime many windows had been raised and much gratuitous
advice was being given. The three occupants of the cab’s seat who
had previously clamoured for Mr. Peters’ removal, now inconsistently
resisted it; suddenly he came out with a jerk, and we had him fairly
upright on the pavement minus a collar and tie and the buttons of his
evening waistcoat. Those who remained in the cab engaged in a riotous
game of hunt the slipper, while Tom peered into the dark interior,
observing gravely the progress of the sport. First flew out an overcoat
and a much-battered hat, finally the pumps, all of which in due time
were adjusted to his person, and I started home with him, with much
parting counsel from the other three.

“Whereinell were you, Hughie?” he inquired. “Hunted all over for you.
Had a sousin’ good time. Went to Babcock’s--had champagne--then to see
Babesh in--th’--Woods. Ham knows one of the Babesh had supper with four
of ‘em. Nice Babesh!”

“For heaven’s sake don’t step on me again!” I cried.

“Sh’poloshize, old man. But y’know I’m William Shakespheare. C’n do
what I damplease.” He halted in the middle of the street and recited
dramatically:--

    “‘Not marble, nor th’ gilded monuments
     Of prinches sh’ll outlive m’ powerful rhyme.’”

“How’s that, Alonzho, b’gosh?”

“Where did you learn it?” I demanded, momentarily forgetting his
condition.

“Fr’m Ralph,” he replied, “says I wrote it. Can’t remember....”

After I had got him to bed,--a service I had learned to perform with
more or less proficiency,--I sat down to consider the events of the
evening, to attempt to get a proportional view. The intensity of my
disgust was not hypocritical as I gazed through the open door into the
bedroom and recalled the times when I, too, had been in that condition.
Tom Peters drunk, and sleeping it off, was deplorable, without doubt;
but Hugh Paret drunk was detestable, and had no excuse whatever. Nor
did I mean by this to set myself on a higher ethical plane, for I
felt nothing but despair and humility. In my state of clairvoyance
I perceived that he was a better man, than I, and that his lapses
proceeded from a love of liquor and the transcendent sense of
good-fellowship that liquor brings.



VII.

The crisis through which I passed at Cambridge, inaugurated by the
events I have just related, I find very difficult to portray. It was a
religious crisis, of course, and my most pathetic memory concerning it
is of the vain attempts to connect my yearnings and discontents with
the theology I had been taught; I began in secret to read my Bible, yet
nothing I hit upon seemed to point a way out of my present predicament,
to give any definite clew to the solution of my life. I was not mature
enough to reflect that orthodoxy was a Sunday religion unrelated to a
world whose wheels were turned by the motives of self-interest; that it
consisted of ideals not deemed practical, since no attempt was made
to put them into practice in the only logical manner,--by reorganizing
civilization to conform with them. The implication was that the
Christ who had preached these ideals was not practical.... There were
undoubtedly men in the faculty of the University who might have helped
me had I known of them; who might have given me, even at that time,
a clew to the modern, logical explanation of the Bible as an immortal
record of the thoughts and acts of men who had sought to do just what
I was seeking to do,--connect the religious impulse to life and make
it fruitful in life: an explanation, by the way, a thousand-fold more
spiritual than the old. But I was hopelessly entangled in the meshes
of the mystic, the miraculous and supernatural. If I had analyzed my
yearnings, I might have realized that I wanted to renounce the life I
had been leading, not because it was sinful, but because it was aimless.
I had not learned that the Greek word for sin is “a missing of the
mark.” Just aimlessness! I had been stirred with the desire to perform
some service for which the world would be grateful: to write great
literature, perchance. But it had never been suggested to me that such
swellings of the soul are religious, that religion is that kind of
feeling, of motive power that drives the writer and the scientist, the
statesman and the sculptor as well as the priest and the Prophet to
serve mankind for the joy of serving: that religion is creative, or
it is nothing: not mechanical, not a force imposed from without, but a
driving power within. The “religion” I had learned was salvation from
sin by miracle: sin a deliberate rebellion, not a pathetic missing of
the mark of life; useful service of man, not the wandering of untutored
souls who had not been shown the way. I felt religious. I wanted to go
to church, I wanted to maintain, when it was on me, that exaltation I
dimly felt as communion with a higher power, with God, and which also
was identical with my desire to write, to create....

I bought books, sets of Wordsworth and Keats, of Milton and Shelley
and Shakespeare, and hid them away in my bureau drawers lest Tom and my
friends should see them. These too I read secretly, making excuses for
not joining in the usual amusements. Once I walked to Mrs. Bolton’s and
inquired rather shamefacedly for Hermann Krebs, only to be informed that
he had gone out.... There were lapses, of course, when I went off on
the old excursions,--for the most part the usual undergraduate follies,
though some were of a more serious nature; on these I do not care to
dwell. Sex was still a mystery.... Always I awoke afterwards to bitter
self-hatred and despair.... But my work in English improved, and I
earned the commendation and friendship of Mr. Cheyne. With a wisdom
for which I was grateful he was careful not to give much sign of it
in classes, but the fact that he was “getting soft on me” was evident
enough to be regarded with suspicion. Indeed the state into which I had
fallen became a matter of increasing concern to my companions, who tried
every means from ridicule to sympathy, to discover its cause and shake
me out of it. The theory most accepted was that I was in love.

“Come on now, Hughie--tell me who she is. I won’t give you away,” Tom
would beg. Once or twice, indeed, I had imagined I was in love with the
sisters of Boston classmates whose dances I attended; to these parties
Tom, not having overcome his diffidence in respect to what he called
“social life,” never could be induced to go.

It was Ralph who detected the true cause of my discontent. Typical as no
other man I can recall of the code to which we had dedicated ourselves,
the code that moulded the important part of the undergraduate world
and defied authority, he regarded any defection from it in the light of
treason. An instructor, in a fit of impatience, had once referred to
him as the Mephistopheles of his class; he had fatal attractions, and a
remarkable influence. His favourite pastime was the capricious exercise
of his will on weaker characters, such as his cousin, Ham Durrett; if
they “swore off,” Ralph made it his business to get them drunk again,
and having accomplished this would proceed himself to administer a new
oath and see that it was kept. Alcohol seemed to have no effect whatever
on him. Though he was in the class above me, I met him frequently at a
club to which I had the honour to belong, then a suite of rooms over a
shop furnished with a pool and a billiard table, easy-chairs and a bar.
It has since achieved the dignity of a house of its own.

We were having, one evening, a “religious” argument, Cinibar, Laurens
and myself and some others. I can’t recall how it began; I think
Cinibar had attacked the institution of compulsory chapel, which nobody
defended; there was something inherently wrong, he maintained, with a
religion to which men had to be driven against their wills. Somewhat to
my surprise I found myself defending a Christianity out of which I had
been able to extract but little comfort and solace. Neither Laurens
nor Conybear, however, were for annihilating it: although they took
the other side of the discussion of a subject of which none of us knew
anything, their attacks were but half-hearted; like me, they were still
under the spell exerted by a youthful training.

We were all of us aware of Ralph, who sat at some distance looking over
the pages of an English sporting weekly. Presently he flung it down.

“Haven’t you found out yet that man created God, Hughie?” he inquired.
“And even if there were a personal God, what reason have you to think
that man would be his especial concern, or any concern of his whatever?
The discovery of evolution has knocked your Christianity into a cocked
hat.”

I don’t remember how I answered him. In spite of the superficiality
of his own arguments, which I was not learned enough to detect, I was
ingloriously routed. Darwin had kicked over the bucket, and that was all
there was to it.... After we had left the club both Conybear and Laurens
admitted they were somewhat disturbed, declaring that Ralph had gone too
far. I spent a miserable night, recalling the naturalistic assertions
he had made so glibly, asking myself again and again how it was that the
religion to which I so vainly clung had no greater effect on my actions
and on my will, had not prevented me from lapses into degradation. And
I hated myself for having argued upon a subject that was still sacred.
I believed in Christ, which is to say that I believed that in some
inscrutable manner he existed, continued to dominate the world and had
suffered on my account.

To whom should I go now for a confirmation of my wavering beliefs? One
of the results--it will be remembered of religion as I was taught it
was a pernicious shyness, and even though I had found a mentor and
confessor, I might have hesitated to unburden myself. This would be
different from arguing with Ralph Hambleton. In my predicament, as I was
wandering through the yard, I came across a notice of an evening talk
to students in Holder Chapel, by a clergyman named Phillips Brooks. This
was before the time, let me say in passing, when his sermons at Harvard
were attended by crowds of undergraduates. Well, I stood staring at the
notice, debating whether I should go, trying to screw up my courage; for
I recognized clearly that such a step, if it were to be of any value,
must mean a distinct departure from my present mode of life; and I
recall thinking with a certain revulsion that I should have to “turn
good.” My presence at the meeting would be known the next day to all my
friends, for the idea of attending a religious gathering when one was
not forced to do so by the authorities was unheard of in our set. I
should be classed with the despised “pious ones” who did such things
regularly. I shrank from the ridicule. I had, however, heard of Mr.
Brooks from Ned Symonds, who was by no means of the pious type, and
whose parents attended Mr. Brooks’s church in Boston.... I left my
decision in abeyance. But when evening came I stole away from the club
table, on the plea of an engagement, and made my way rapidly toward
Holder Chapel. I had almost reached it--when I caught a glimpse of
Symonds and of some others approaching,--and I went on, to turn again.
By this time the meeting, which was in a room on the second floor, had
already begun. Palpitating, I climbed the steps; the door of the
room was slightly ajar; I looked in; I recall a distinct sensation of
surprise,--the atmosphere of that meeting was so different from what
I had expected. Not a “pious” atmosphere at all! I saw a very tall
and heavy gentleman, dressed in black, who sat, wholly at ease, on the
table! One hand was in his pocket, one foot swung clear of the ground;
and he was not preaching, but talking in an easy, conversational tone to
some forty young men who sat intent on his words. I was too excited to
listen to what he was saying, I was making a vain attempt to classify
him. But I remember the thought, for it struck me with force,--that
if Christianity were so thoroughly discredited by evolution, as Ralph
Hambleton and other agnostics would have one believe, why should this
remarkably sane and able-looking person be standing up for it as though
it were still an established and incontrovertible fact?

He had not, certainly, the air of a dupe or a sentimentalist, but
inspired confidence by his very personality. Youthlike, I watched him
narrowly for flaws, for oratorical tricks, for all kinds of histrionic
symptoms. Again I was near the secret; again it escaped me. The argument
for Christianity lay not in assertions about it, but in being it. This
man was Christianity.... I must have felt something of this, even though
I failed to formulate it. And unconsciously I contrasted his strength,
which reinforced the atmosphere of the room, with that of Ralph
Hambleton, who was, a greater influence over me than I have recorded,
and had come to sway me more and more, as he had swayed others. The
strength of each was impressive, yet this Mr. Brooks seemed to me the
bodily presentment of a set of values which I would have kept constantly
before my eyes.... I felt him drawing me, overcoming my hesitation,
belittling my fear of ridicule. I began gently to open the door--when
something happened,--one of those little things that may change the
course of a life. The door made little noise, yet one of the men sitting
in the back of the room chanced to look around, and I recognized Hermann
Krebs. His face was still sunken from his recent illness. Into his eyes
seemed to leap a sudden appeal, an appeal to which my soul responded yet
I hurried down the stairs and into the street. Instantly I regretted my
retreat, I would have gone back, but lacked the courage; and I strayed
unhappily for hours, now haunted by that look of Krebs, now wondering
what the remarkably sane-looking and informal clergyman whose presence
dominated the little room had been talking about. I never learned, but
I did live to read his biography, to discover what he might have talked
about,--for he if any man believed that life and religion are one, and
preached consecration to life’s task.

Of little use to speculate whether the message, had I learned it then,
would have fortified and transformed me!

In spite of the fact that I was unable to relate to a satisfying
conception of religion my new-born determination, I made up my mind, at
least, to renounce my tortuous ways. I had promised my father to be
a lawyer; I would keep my promise, I would give the law a fair trial;
later on, perhaps, I might demonstrate an ability to write. All very
praiseworthy! The season was Lent, a fitting time for renunciations and
resolves. Although I had more than once fallen from grace, I believed
myself at last to have settled down on my true course--when something
happened. The devil interfered subtly, as usual--now in the person of
Jerry Kyme. It should be said in justice to Jerry that he did not look
the part. He had sunny-red, curly hair, mischievous blue eyes with
long lashes, and he harboured no respect whatever for any individual or
institution, sacred or profane; he possessed, however, a shrewd sense
of his own value, as many innocent and unsuspecting souls discovered
as early as our freshman year, and his method of putting down the
presumptuous was both effective and unique. If he liked you, there could
be no mistake about it.

One evening when I was engaged in composing a theme for Mr. Cheyne on
no less a subject than the interpretation of the work of William
Wordsworth, I found myself unexpectedly sprawling on the floor, in my
descent kicking the table so vigorously as to send the ink-well a foot
or two toward the ceiling. This, be it known, was a typical proof of
Jerry’s esteem. For he had entered noiselessly, jerking the back of
my chair, which chanced to be tilted, and stood with his hands in his
pockets, surveying the ruin he had wrought, watching the ink as it
trickled on the carpet. Then he picked up the book.

“Poetry, you darned old grind!” he exclaimed disgustedly. “Say, Parry, I
don’t know what’s got into you, but I want you to come home with me
for the Easter holidays. It’ll do you good. We’ll be on the Hudson, you
know, and we’ll manage to make life bearable somehow.”

I forgot my irritation, in sheer surprise.

“Why, that’s mighty good of you, Jerry--” I began, struggling to my
feet.

“Oh, rot!” he exclaimed. “I shouldn’t ask you if I didn’t want you.”

There was no denying the truth of this, and after he had gone I sat for
a long time with my pen in my mouth, reflecting as to whether or not
I should go. For I had the instinct that here was another cross-roads,
that more depended on my decision than I cared to admit. But even then
I knew what I should do. Ridiculous not to--I told myself. How could a
week or ten days with Jerry possibly affect my newborn, resolve?

Yet the prospect, now, of a visit to the Kymes’ was by no means so
glowing as it once would have been. For I had seen visions, I had
dreamed dreams, beheld a delectable country of my very own. A
year ago--nay, even a month ago--how such an invitation would have
glittered!... I returned at length to my theme, over which, before
Jerry’s arrival, I had been working feverishly. But now the glamour had
gone from it.

Presently Tom came in.

“Anyone been here?” he demanded.

“Jerry,” I told him.

“What did he want?”

“He wanted me to go home with him at Easter.”

“You’re going, of course.”

“I don’t know. I haven’t decided.”

“You’d be a fool not to,” was Tom’s comment. It voiced, succinctly, a
prevailing opinion.

It was the conclusion I arrived at in my own mind. But just why I had
been chosen for the honour, especially at such a time, was a riddle.
Jerry’s invitations were charily given, and valued accordingly; and more
than once, at our table, I had felt a twinge of envy when Conybear or
someone else had remarked, with the proper nonchalance, in answer to a
question, that they were going to Weathersfield. Such was the name of
the Kyme place....

I shall never forget the impression made on me by the decorous luxury
of that big house, standing amidst its old trees, halfway up the gentle
slope that rose steadily from the historic highway where poor Andre was
captured. I can see now the heavy stone pillars of its portico vignetted
in a flush of tenderest green, the tulips just beginning to flame forth
their Easter colours in the well-kept beds, the stately, well-groomed
evergreens, the vivid lawns, the clipped hedges. And like an
overwhelming wave of emotion that swept all before it, the
impressiveness of wealth took possession of me. For here was a kind of
wealth I had never known, that did not exist in the West, nor even in
the still Puritan environs of Boston where I had visited. It took itself
for granted, proclaimed itself complacently to have solved all problems.
By ignoring them, perhaps. But I was too young to guess this. It was
order personified, gaining effect at every turn by a multitude of
details too trivial to mention were it not for the fact that they
entered deeply into my consciousness, until they came to represent,
collectively, the very flower of achievement. It was a wealth that
accepted tribute calmly, as of inherent right. Law and tradition
defended its sanctity more effectively than troops. Literature descended
from her high altar to lend it dignity; and the long, silent library
displayed row upon row of the masters, appropriately clad in morocco or
calf,--Smollett, Macaulay, Gibbon, Richardson, Fielding, Scott, Dickens,
Irving and Thackeray, as though each had striven for a tablet here. Art
had denied herself that her canvases might be hung on these walls; and
even the Church, on that first Sunday of my visit, forgot the blood of
her martyrs that she might adorn an appropriate niche in the setting.
The clergyman, at one of the dinner parties, gravely asked a blessing as
upon an Institution that included and absorbed all other institutions in
its being....

The note of that house was a tempered gaiety. Guests arrived from New
York, spent the night and departed again without disturbing the even
tenor of its ways. Unobtrusive servants ministered to their wants,--and
to mine....

Conybear was there, and two classmates from Boston, and we were treated
with the amiable tolerance accorded to college youths and intimates of
the son of the house. One night there was a dance in our honour. Nor
have I forgotten Jerry’s sister, Nathalie, whom I had met at Class Days,
a slim and willowy, exotic young lady of the Botticelli type, with
a crown of burnished hair, yet more suggestive of a hothouse than of
spring. She spoke English with a French accent. Capricious, impulsive,
she captured my interest because she put a high value on her favour;
she drove me over the hills, informing me at length that I was
sympathique--different from the rest; in short, she emphasized and
intensified what I may call the Weathersfield environment, stirred up in
me new and vague aspirations that troubled yet excited me.

Then there was Mrs. Kyme, a pretty, light-hearted lady, still young,
who seemed to have no intention of growing older, who romped and played
songs for us on the piano. The daughter of an old but now impecunious
Westchester family, she had been born to adorn the position she held,
she was adapted by nature to wring from it the utmost of the joys it
offered. From her, rather than from her husband, both of the children
seemed to have inherited. I used to watch Mr. Grosvenor Kyme as he sat
at the end of the dinner-table, dark, preoccupied, taciturn, symbolical
of a wealth new to my experience, and which had about it a certain
fabulous quality. It toiled not, neither did it spin, but grew as if by
magic, day and night, until the very conception of it was overpowering.
What must it be to have had ancestors who had been clever enough to sit
still until a congested and discontented Europe had begun to pour its
thousands and hundreds of thousands into the gateway of the western
world, until that gateway had become a metropolis? ancestors, of course,
possessing what now suddenly appeared to me as the most desirable of
gifts--since it reaped so dazzling a harvest-business foresight. From
time to time these ancestors had continued to buy desirable corners,
which no amount of persuasion had availed to make them relinquish. Lease
them, yes; sell them, never! By virtue of such a system wealth was as
inevitable as human necessity; and the thought of human necessity did
not greatly bother me. Mr. Kyme’s problem of life was not one of making
money, but of investing it. One became automatically a personage....

It was due to one of those singular coincidences--so interesting a
subject for speculation--that the man who revealed to me this golden
romance of the Kyme family was none other than a resident of my own
city, Mr. Theodore Watling, now become one of our most important
and influential citizens; a corporation lawyer, new and stimulating
qualification, suggesting as it did, a deus ex machina of great affairs.
That he, of all men, should come to Weathersfield astonished me, since
I was as yet to make the connection between that finished, decorous,
secluded existence and the source of its being. The evening before my
departure he arrived in company with two other gentlemen, a Mr. Talbot
and a Mr. Saxes, whose names were spoken with respect in a sphere of
which I had hitherto taken but little cognizance-Wall Street. Conybear
informed me that they were “magnates,”... We were sitting in the
drawing-room at tea, when they entered with Mr. Watling, and no sooner
had he spoken to Mrs. Kyme than his quick eye singled me out of the
group.

“Why, Hugh!” he exclaimed, taking my hand. “I had no idea I should meet
you here--I saw your father only last week, the day I left home.” And he
added, turning to Mrs. Kyme, “Hugh is the son of Mr. Matthew Paret, who
has been the leader of our bar for many years.”

The recognition and the tribute to my father were so graciously given
that I warmed with gratitude and pride, while Mr. Kyme smiled a little,
remarking that I was a friend of Jerry’s. Theodore Watling, for being
here, had suddenly assumed in my eyes a considerable consequence, though
the note he struck in that house was a strange one. It was, however, his
own note, and had a certain distinction, a ring of independence, of
the knowledge of self-worth. Dinner at Weathersfield we youngsters had
usually found rather an oppressive ceremony, with its shaded lights
and precise ritual over which Mr. Kyme presided like a high priest;
conversation had been restrained. That night, as Johnnie Laurens
afterwards expressed it, “things loosened up,” and Mr. Watling was
responsible for the loosening. Taking command of the Kyme dinner table
appeared to me to be no mean achievement, but this is just what he did,
without being vulgar or noisy or assertive. Suavitar in modo, forbiter
in re. If, as I watched him there with a newborn pride and loyalty, I
had paused to reconstruct the idea that the mention of his name would
formerly have evoked, I suppose I should have found him falling short
of my notion of a gentleman; it had been my father’s opinion; but Mr.
Watling’s marriage to Gene Hollister’s aunt had given him a standing
with us at home. He possessed virility, vitality in a remarkable degree,
yet some elusive quality that was neither tact nor delicacy--though
related to these differentiated him from the commonplace, self-made man
of ability. He was just off the type. To liken him to a clothing
store model of a well-built, broad-shouldered man with a firm neck, a
handsome, rather square face not lacking in colour and a conventional,
drooping moustache would be slanderous; yet he did suggest it.
Suggesting it, he redeemed it: and the middle western burr in his voice
was rather attractive than otherwise. He had not so much the air of
belonging there, as of belonging anywhere--one of those anomalistic
American citizens of the world who go abroad and make intimates of
princes. Before the meal was over he had inspired me with loyalty
and pride, enlisted the admiration of Jerry and Conybear and Johnnie
Laurens; we followed him into the smoking-room, sitting down in a row on
a leather lounge behind our elders.

Here, now that the gentlemen were alone, there was an inspiring
largeness in their talk that fired the imagination. The subject was
investments, at first those of coal and iron in my own state, for Mr.
Watling, it appeared, was counsel for the Boyne Iron Works.

“It will pay you to keep an eye on that company, Mr. Kyme,” he said,
knocking the ashes from his cigar. “Now that old Mr. Durrett’s gone--”

“You don’t mean to say Nathaniel Durrett’s dead!” said Mr. Kyme.

The lawyer nodded.

“The old regime passed with him. Adolf Scherer succeeds him, and you may
take my word for it, he’s a coming man. Mr. Durrett, who was a judge of
men, recognized that. Scherer was an emigrant, he had ideas, and rose to
be a foreman. For the last few years Mr. Durrett threw everything on his
shoulders....”

Little by little the scope of the discussion was enlarged until it
ranged over a continent, touching lightly upon lines of railroad, built
or projected, across the great west our pioneers had so lately succeeded
in wresting from the savages, upon mines of copper and gold hidden away
among the mountains, and millions of acres of forest and grazing
lands which a complacent government would relinquish provided certain
technicalities were met: touching lightly, too, very lightly,--upon
senators and congressmen at Washington. And for the first time I learned
that not the least of the functions of these representatives of the
people was to act as the medium between capital and investment, to
facilitate the handing over of the Republic’s resources to those in
a position to develop them. The emphasis was laid on development,
or rather on the resulting prosperity for the country: that was the
justification, and it was taken for granted as supreme. Nor was it new
to me; this cult of prosperity. I recalled the torch-light processions
of the tariff enthusiasts of my childhood days, my father’s championship
of the Republican Party. He had not idealized politicians, either. For
the American, politics and ethics were strangers.

Thus I listened with increasing fascination to these gentlemen in
evening clothes calmly treating the United States as a melon patch that
existed largely for the purpose of being divided up amongst a limited
and favored number of persons. I had a feeling of being among the
initiated. Where, it may be asked, were my ideals? Let it not be
supposed that I believed myself to have lost them. If so, the impression
I have given of myself has been wholly inadequate. No, they had been
transmuted, that is all, transmuted by the alchemy of Weathersfield,
by the personality of Theodore Watling into brighter visions. My eyes
rarely left his face; I hung on his talk, which was interspersed with
native humour, though he did not always join in the laughter, sometimes
gazing at the fire, as though his keen mind were grappling with a
problem suggested. I noted the respect in which his opinions were
held, and my imagination was fired by an impression of the power to be
achieved by successful men of his profession, by the evidence of their
indispensability to capital itself.... At last when the gentlemen rose
and were leaving the room, Mr. Watling lingered, with his hand on my
arm.

“Of course you’re going through the Law School, Hugh,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“Good!” he exclaimed emphatically. “The law, to-day, is more of a
career than ever, especially for a young man with your antecedents and
advantages, and I know of no city in the United States where I would
rather start practice, if I were a young man, than ours. In the next
twenty years we shall see a tremendous growth. Of course you’ll be going
into your father’s office. You couldn’t do better. But I’ll keep an eye
on you, and perhaps I’ll be able to help you a little, too.”

I thanked him gratefully.

A famous artist, who started out in youth to embrace a military career
and who failed to pass an examination at West Point, is said to have
remarked that if silicon had been a gas he would have been a soldier.
I am afraid I may have given the impression that if I had not gone
to Weathersfield and encountered Mr. Watling I might not have been a
lawyer. This impression would be misleading. And while it is certain
that I have not exaggerated the intensity of the spiritual experience
I went through at Cambridge, a somewhat belated consideration for the
truth compels me to register my belief that the mood would in any case
have been ephemeral. The poison generated by the struggle of my nature
with its environment had sunk too deep, and the very education that
was supposed to make a practical man of me had turned me into a
sentimentalist. I became, as will be seen, anything but a practical man
in the true sense, though the world in which I had been brought up and
continued to live deemed me such. My father was greatly pleased when
I wrote him that I was now more than ever convinced of the wisdom of
choosing the law as my profession, and was satisfied that I had come
to my senses at last. He had still been prepared to see me “go off at a
tangent,” as he expressed it. On the other hand, the powerful effect
of the appeal made by Weathersfield and Mr. Watling must not be
underestimated. Here in one object lesson was emphasized a host of
suggestions each of which had made its impression. And when I returned
to Cambridge Alonzo Cheyne knew that he had lost me....

I pass over the rest of my college course, and the years I spent at the
Harvard Law School, where were instilled into me without difficulty the
dictums that the law was the most important of all professions, that
those who entered it were a priestly class set aside to guard from
profanation that Ark of the Covenant, the Constitution of the United
States. In short, I was taught law precisely as I had been taught
religion,--scriptural infallibility over again,--a static law and a
static theology,--a set of concepts that were supposed to be equal to
any problems civilization would have to meet until the millennium.
What we are wont to call wisdom is often naively innocent of impending
change. It has no barometric properties.

I shall content myself with relating one incident only of this period.
In the January of my last year I went with a party of young men and
girls to stay over Sunday at Beverly Farms, where Mrs. Fremantle--a
young Boston matron had opened her cottage for the occasion. This
“cottage,” a roomy, gabled structure, stood on a cliff, at the foot of
which roared the wintry Atlantic, while we danced and popped corn before
the open fires. During the daylight hours we drove about the country in
sleighs, or made ridiculous attempts to walk on snow-shoes.

On Sunday afternoon, left temporarily to my own devices, I wandered
along the cliff, crossing into the adjoining property. The wind had
fallen; the waves, much subdued, broke rhythmically against the rocks;
during the night a new mantle of snow had been spread, and the
clouds were still low and menacing. As I strolled I became aware of a
motionless figure ahead of me,--one that seemed oddly familiar; the set
of the shabby overcoat on the stooping shoulders, the unconscious pose
contributed to a certain sharpness of individuality; in the act of
challenging my memory, I halted. The man was gazing at the seascape,
and his very absorption gave me a sudden and unfamiliar thrill. The word
absorption precisely expresses my meaning, for he seemed indeed to have
become a part of his surroundings,--an harmonious part. Presently
he swung about and looked at me as though he had expected to find me
there--and greeted me by name.

“Krebs!” I exclaimed.

He smiled, and flung out his arm, indicating the scene. His eyes at that
moment seemed to reflect the sea,--they made the gaunt face suddenly
beautiful.

“This reminds me of a Japanese print,” he said.

The words, or the tone in which he spoke, curiously transformed the
picture. It was as if I now beheld it, anew, through his vision: the
grey water stretching eastward to melt into the grey sky, the massed,
black trees on the hillside, powdered with white, the snow in rounded,
fantastic patches on the huge boulders at the foot of the cliff. Krebs
did not seem like a stranger, but like one whom I had known always,--one
who stood in a peculiar relationship between me and something greater I
could not define. The impression was fleeting, but real.... I remember
wondering how he could have known anything about Japanese prints.

“I didn’t think you were still in this part of the country,” I remarked
awkwardly.

“I’m a reporter on a Boston newspaper, and I’ve been sent up here to
interview old Mr. Dome, who lives in that house,” and he pointed to a
roof above the trees. “There is a rumour, which I hope to verify, that
he has just given a hundred thousand dollars to the University.”

“And--won’t he see you?”

“At present he’s taking a nap,” said Krebs. “He comes here occasionally
for a rest.”

“Do you like interviewing?” I asked.

He smiled again.

“Well, I see a good many different kinds of people, and that’s
interesting.”

“But--being a reporter?” I persisted.

This continued patronage was not a conscious expression of superiority
on my part, but he did not seem to resent it. He had aroused my
curiosity.

“I’m going into the law,” he said.

The quiet confidence with which he spoke aroused, suddenly, a twinge
of antagonism. He had every right to go into the law, of course,
and yet!... my query would have made it evident to me, had I been
introspective in those days, that the germ of the ideal of the
profession, implanted by Mr. Watling, was expanding. Were not
influential friends necessary for the proper kind of career? and where
were Krebs’s? In spite of the history of Daniel Webster and a long
line of American tradition, I felt an incongruity in my classmate’s
aspiration. And as he stood there, gaunt and undoubtedly hungry, his
eyes kindling, I must vaguely have classed him with the revolutionaries
of all the ages; must have felt in him, instinctively, a menace to the
stability of that Order with which I had thrown my fortunes. And yet
there were comparatively poor men in the Law School itself who had not
made me feel this way! He had impressed me against my will, taken me by
surprise, commiseration had been mingled with other feelings that sprang
out of the memory of the night I had called on him, when he had been
sick. Now I resented something in him which Tom Peters had called
“crust.”

“The law!” I repeated. “Why?”

“Well,” he said, “even when I was a boy, working at odd jobs, I used to
think if I could ever be a lawyer I should have reached the top notch of
human dignity.”

Once more his smile disarmed me.

“And now” I asked curiously.

“You see, it was an ideal with me, I suppose. My father was responsible
for that. He had the German temperament of ‘48, and when he fled to this
country, he expected to find Utopia.” The smile emerged again, like
the sun shining through clouds, while fascination and antagonism again
struggled within me. “And then came frightful troubles. For years he
could get only enough work to keep him and my mother alive, but he never
lost his faith in America. ‘It is man,’ he would say, ‘man has to grow
up to it--to liberty.’ Without the struggle, liberty would be worth
nothing. And he used to tell me that we must all do our part, we who had
come here, and not expect everything to be done for us. He had made that
mistake. If things were bad, why, put a shoulder to the wheel and help
to make them better.

“That helped me,” he continued, after a moment’s pause. “For I’ve seen
a good many things, especially since I’ve been working for a newspaper.
I’ve seen, again and again, the power of the law turned against those
whom it was intended to protect, I’ve seen lawyers who care a great
deal more about winning cases than they do about justice, who prostitute
their profession to profit making,--profit making for themselves and
others. And they are often the respectable lawyers, too, men of high
standing, whom you would not think would do such things. They are on the
side of the powerful, and the best of them are all retained by rich
men and corporations. And what is the result? One of the worst evils, I
think, that can befall a country. The poor man goes less and less to the
courts. He is getting bitter, which is bad, which is dangerous. But men
won’t see it.”

It was on my tongue to refute this, to say that everybody had a chance.
I could indeed recall many arguments that had been drilled into me;
quotations, even, from court decisions. But something prevented me from
doing this,--something in his manner, which was neither argumentative
nor combative.

“That’s why I am going into the law,” he added. “And I intend to stay
in it if I can keep alive. It’s a great chance for me--for all of us.
Aren’t you at the Law School?”

I nodded. Once more, as his earnest glance fell upon me, came that
suggestion of a subtle, inexplicable link between us; but before I could
reply, steps were heard behind us, and an elderly servant, bareheaded,
was seen coming down the path.

“Are you the reporter?” he demanded somewhat impatiently of Krebs. “If
you want to see Mr. Dome, you’d better come right away. He’s going out
for a drive.”

For a while, after he had shaken my hand and departed, I stood in the
snow, looking after him....



VIII

On the Wednesday of that same week the news of my father’s sudden and
serious illness came to me in a telegram, and by the time I arrived at
home it was too late to see him again alive. It was my first experience
with death, and what perplexed me continually during the following days
was an inability to feel the loss more deeply. When a child, I had been
easily shaken by the spectacle of sorrow. Had I, during recent years, as
a result of a discovery that emotions arising from human relationships
lead to discomfort and suffering, deliberately been forming a shell,
until now I was incapable of natural feelings? Of late I had seemed
closer to my father, and his letters, though formal, had given evidence
of his affection; in his repressed fashion he had made it clear that he
looked forward to the time when I was to practise with him. Why was it
then, as I gazed upon his fine features in death, that I experienced
no intensity of sorrow? What was it in me that would not break down? He
seemed worn and tired, yet I had never thought of him as weary, never
attributed to him any yearning. And now he was released.

I wondered what had been his private thoughts about himself, his
private opinions about life; and when I reflect now upon my lack of
real knowledge at five and twenty, I am amazed at the futility of an
expensive education which had failed to impress upon me the simple,
basic fact that life was struggle; that either development or
retrogression is the fate of all men, that characters are never
completely made, but always in the making. I had merely a disconcerting
glimpse of this truth, with no powers of formulation, as I sat beside my
mother in the bedroom, where every article evoked some childhood scene.
Here was the dent in the walnut foot-board of the bed made, one wintry
day, by the impact of my box of blocks; the big arm-chair, covered
with I know not what stiff embroidery, which had served on countless
occasions as a chariot driven to victory. I even remembered how every
Wednesday morning I had been banished from the room, which had been so
large a part of my childhood universe, when Ella, the housemaid, had
flung open all its windows and crowded its furniture into the hall.

The thought of my wanderings since then became poignant, almost
terrifying. The room, with all its memories, was unchanged. How safe I
had been within its walls! Why could I not have been, content with what
it represented? of tradition, of custom,--of religion? And what was it
within me that had lured me away from these?

I was miserable, indeed, but my misery was not of the kind I thought it
ought to be. At moments, when my mother relapsed into weeping, I glanced
at her almost in wonder. Such sorrow as hers was incomprehensible. Once
she surprised and discomfited me by lifting her head and gazing fixedly
at me through her tears.

I recall certain impressions of the funeral. There, among the
pall-bearers, was my Cousin Robert Breck, tears in the furrows of his
cheeks. Had he loved my father more than I? The sight of his grief moved
me suddenly and strongly.... It seemed an age since I had worked in
his store, and yet here he was still, coming to town every morning and
returning every evening to Claremore, loving his friends, and mourning
them one by one. Was this, the spectacle presented by my Cousin Robert,
the reward of earthly existence? Were there no other prizes save those
known as greatness of character and depth of human affections? Cousin
Robert looked worn and old. The other pall-bearers, men of weight, of
long standing in the community, were aged, too; Mr. Blackwood, and Mr.
Jules Hollister; and out of place, somehow, in this new church building.
It came to me abruptly that the old order was gone,--had slipped away
during my absence. The church I had known in boyhood had been torn down
to make room for a business building on Boyne Street; the edifice in
which I sat was expensive, gave forth no distinctive note; seemingly
transitory with its hybrid interior, its shiny oak and blue and red
organ-pipes, betokening a compromised and weakened faith. Nondescript,
likewise, seemed the new minister, Mr. Randlett, as he prayed unctuously
in front of the flowers massed on the platform. I vaguely resented his
laudatory references to my father.

The old church, with its severity, had actually stood for something. It
was the Westminster Catechism in wood and stone, and Dr. Pound had been
the human incarnation of that catechism, the fit representative of a
wrathful God, a militant shepherd who had guarded with vigilance his
respectable flock, who had protested vehemently against the sins of the
world by which they were surrounded, against the “dogs, and sorcerers,
and whoremongers, and murderers and idolaters, and whosoever loveth
and maketh a lie.” How Dr. Pound would have put the emphasis of the
Everlasting into those words!

Against what was Mr. Randlett protesting?

My glance wandered to the pews which held the committees from various
organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Bar Association,
which had come to do honour to my father. And there, differentiated from
the others, I saw the spruce, alert figure of Theodore Watling. He, too,
represented a new type and a new note,--this time a forceful note,
a secular note that had not belonged to the old church, and seemed
likewise anomalistic in the new....

During the long, slow journey in the carriage to the cemetery my mother
did not raise her veil. It was not until she reached out and seized
my hand, convulsively, that I realized she was still a part of my
existence.

In the days that followed I became aware that my father’s death had
removed a restrictive element, that I was free now to take without
criticism or opposition whatever course in life I might desire. It may
be that I had apprehended even then that his professional ideals would
not have coincided with my own. Mingled with this sense of emancipation
was a curious feeling of regret, of mourning for something I had never
valued, something fixed and dependable for which he had stood, a rock
and a refuge of which I had never availed myself!... When his will was
opened it was found that the property had been left to my mother during
her lifetime. It was larger than I had thought, four hundred thousand
dollars, shrewdly invested, for the most part, in city real estate. My
father had been very secretive as to money matters, and my mother had no
interest in them.

Three or four days later I received in the mail a typewritten letter
signed by Theodore Watling, expressing sympathy for my bereavement, and
asking me to drop in on him, down town, before I should leave the city.
In contrast to the somewhat dingy offices where my father had practised
in the Blackwood Block, the quarters of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon on
the eighth floor of the new Durrett Building were modern to a degree,
finished in oak and floored with marble, with a railed-off space where
young women with nimble fingers played ceaselessly on typewriters. One
of them informed me that Mr. Watling was busy, but on reading my card
added that she would take it in. Meanwhile, in company with two others
who may have been clients, I waited. This, then, was what it meant to be
a lawyer of importance, to have, like a Chesterfield, an ante-room where
clients cooled their heels and awaited one’s pleasure...

The young woman returned, and led me through a corridor to a door on
which was painted Mr. Wailing.

I recall him tilted back in his chair in a debonnair manner beside his
polished desk, the hint of a smile on his lips; and leaning close to him
was a yellow, owl-like person whose eyes, as they turned to me, gave the
impression of having stared for years into hard, artificial lights. Mr.
Watling rose briskly.

“How are you, Hugh?” he said, the warmth of his greeting tempered by
just the note of condolence suitable to my black clothes. “I’m glad
you came. I wanted to see you before you went back to Cambridge. I must
introduce you to Judge Bering, of our State Supreme Court. Judge, this
is Mr. Paret’s boy.”

The judge looked me over with a certain slow impressiveness, and gave me
a soft and fleshy hand.

“Glad to know you, Mr. Paret. Your father was a great loss to our bar,”
 he declared.

I detected in his tone and manner a slight reservation that could not be
called precisely judicial dignity; it was as though, in these few words,
he had gone to the limit of self-commitment with a stranger--a striking
contrast to the confidential attitude towards Mr. Watling in which I had
surprised him.

“Judge,” said Mr. Watling, sitting down again, “do you recall that time
we all went up to Mr. Paret’s house and tried to induce him to run for
mayor? That was before you went on the lower bench.”

The judge nodded gloomily, caressing his watch chain, and suddenly rose
to go.

“That will be all right, then?” Mr. Watling inquired cryptically, with
a smile. The other made a barely perceptible inclination of the head and
departed. Mr. Watling looked at me. “He’s one of the best men we have on
the bench to-day,” he added. There was a trace of apology in his tone.

He talked a while of my father, to whom, so he said, he had looked up
ever since he had been admitted to the bar.

“It would be a pleasure to me, Hugh, as well as a matter of pride,” he
said cordially, but with dignity, “to have Matthew Paret’s son in my
office. I suppose you will be wishing to take your mother somewhere this
summer, but if you care to come here in the autumn, you will be welcome.
You will begin, of course, as other young men begin,--as I began. But
I am a believer in blood, and I’ll be glad to have you. Mr. Fowndes and
Mr. Ripon feel the same way.” He escorted me to the door himself.

Everywhere I went during that brief visit home I was struck by change,
by the crumbling and decay of institutions that once had held me in
thrall, by the superimposition of a new order that as yet had assumed
no definite character. Some of the old landmarks had disappeared; there
were new and aggressive office buildings, new and aggressive residences,
new and aggressive citizens who lived in them, and of whom my mother
spoke with gentle deprecation. Even Claremore, that paradise of my
childhood, had grown shrivelled and shabby, even tawdry, I thought, when
we went out there one Sunday afternoon; all that once represented
the magic word “country” had vanished. The old flat piano, made in
Philadelphia ages ago, the horsehair chairs and sofa had been replaced
by a nondescript furniture of the sort displayed behind plate-glass
windows of the city’s stores: rocking-chairs on stands, upholstered in
clashing colours, their coiled springs only half hidden by tassels, and
“ornamental” electric fixtures, instead of the polished coal-oil lamps.
Cousin Jenny had grown white, Willie was a staid bachelor, Helen an old
maid, while Mary had married a tall, anaemic young man with glasses,
Walter Kinley, whom Cousin Robert had taken into the store. As I
contemplated the Brecks odd questions suggested themselves: did honesty
and warm-heartedness necessarily accompany a lack of artistic taste?
and was virtue its own reward, after all? They drew my mother into the
house, took off her wraps, set her down in the most comfortable rocker,
and insisted on making her a cup of tea.

I was touched. I loved them still, and yet I was conscious of
reservations concerning them. They, too, seemed a little on the
defensive with me, and once in a while Mary was caustic in her remarks.

“I guess nothing but New York will be good enough for Hugh now. He’ll be
taking Cousin Sarah away from us.”

“Not at all, my dear,” said my mother, gently, “he’s going into Mr.
Watling’s office next autumn.”

“Theodore Watling?” demanded Cousin Robert, pausing in his carving.

“Yes, Robert. Mr. Watling has been good enough to say that he would like
to have Hugh. Is there anything--?”

“Oh, I’m out of date, Sarah,” Cousin Robert replied, vigorously severing
the leg of the turkey. “These modern lawyers are too smart for me.
Watling’s no worse than the others, I suppose,--only he’s got more
ability.”

“I’ve never heard anything against him,” said my mother in a pained
voice. “Only the other day McAlery Willett congratulated me that Hugh
was going to be with him.”

“You mustn’t mind Robert, Sarah,” put in Cousin Jenny,--a remark
reminiscent of other days.

“Dad has a notion that his generation is the only honest one,” said
Helen, laughingly, as she passed a plate.

I had gained a sense of superiority, and I was quite indifferent to
Cousin Robert’s opinion of Mr. Watling, of modern lawyers in general.
More than once a wave of self-congratulation surged through me that I
had possessed the foresight and initiative to get out of the wholesale
grocery business while there was yet time. I looked at Willie, still
freckled, still literal, still a plodder, at Walter Kinley, and I
thought of the drabness of their lives; at Cousin Robert himself as he
sat smoking his cigar in the bay-window on that dark February day, and
suddenly I pitied him. The suspicion struck me that he had not prospered
of late, and this deepened to a conviction as he talked.

“The Republican Party is going to the dogs,” he asserted.

“It used to be an honourable party, but now it is no better than the
other. Politics are only conducted, now, for the purpose of making
unscrupulous men rich, sir. For years I furnished this city with good
groceries, if I do say it myself. I took a pride in the fact that the
inmates of the hospitals, yes, and the dependent poor in the city’s
institutions, should have honest food. You can get anything out of the
city if you are willing to pay the politicians for it. I lost my city
contracts. Why? Because I refused to deal with scoundrels. Weill and
Company and other unscrupulous upstarts are willing to do so, and poison
the poor and the sick with adulterated groceries! The first thing I knew
was that the city auditor was holding back my bills for supplies, and
paying Weill’s. That’s what politics and business, yes, sir, and the
law, have come to in these days. If a man wants to succeed, he must turn
into a rascal.”

I was not shocked, but I was silent, uncomfortable, wishing that it were
time to take the train back to the city. Cousin Robert’s face was
more worn than I had thought, and I contrasted him inevitably with
the forceful person who used to stand, in his worn alpaca coat, on the
pavement in front of his store, greeting with clear-eyed content his
fellow merchants of the city. Willie Breck, too, was silent, and Walter
Kinley took off his glasses and wiped them. In the meanwhile Helen had
left the group in which my mother sat, and, approaching us, laid her
hands on her father’s shoulders.

“Now, dad,” she said, in affectionate remonstrance, “you’re excited
about politics again, and you know it isn’t good for you. And besides,
they’re not worth it.”

“You’re right, Helen,” he replied. Under the pressure of her hands he
made a strong effort to control himself, and turned to address my mother
across the room.

“I’m getting to be a crotchety old man,” he said. “It’s a good thing I
have a daughter to remind me of it.”

“It is a good thing, Robert,” said my mother.

During the rest of our visit he seemed to have recovered something of
his former spirits and poise, taking refuge in the past. They talked
of their own youth, of families whose houses had been landmarks on the
Second Bank.

“I’m worried about your Cousin Robert, Hugh,” my mother confided to me,
when we were at length seated in the train. “I’ve heard rumours that
things are not so well at the store as they might be.” We looked out
at the winter landscape, so different from that one which had thrilled
every fibre of my being in the days when the railroad on which we
travelled had been a winding narrow gauge. The orchards--those that
remained--were bare; stubble pricked the frozen ground where tassels
had once waved in the hot, summer wind. We flew by row after row of
ginger-bread, suburban houses built on “villa plots,” and I read in
large letters on a hideous sign-board, “Woodbine Park.”

“Hugh, have you ever heard anything against--Mr. Watling?”

“No, mother,” I said. “So far as I knew, he is very much looked up to by
lawyers and business men. He is counsel, I believe, for Mr. Blackwood’s
street car line on Boyne Street. And I told you, I believe, that I met
him once at Mr. Kyme’s.”

“Poor Robert!” she sighed. “I suppose business trouble does make one
bitter,--I’ve seen it so often. But I never imagined that it would
overtake Robert, and at his time of life! It is an old and respected
firm, and we have always had a pride in it.”...

That night, when I was going to bed, it was evident that the subject was
still in her mind. She clung to my hand a moment.

“I, too, am afraid of the new, Hugh,” she said, a little tremulously.
“We all grow so, as age comes on.”

“But you are not old, mother,” I protested.

“I have a feeling, since your father has gone, that I have lived my
life, my dear, though I’d like to stay long enough to see you happily
married--to have grandchildren. I was not young when you were born.” And
she added, after a little while, “I know nothing about business affairs,
and now--now that your father is no longer here, sometimes I’m afraid--”

“Afraid of what, mother?”

She tried to smile at me through her tears. We were in the old
sitting-room, surrounded by the books.

“I know it’s foolish, and it isn’t that I don’t trust you. I know that
the son of your father couldn’t do anything that was not honourable. And
yet I am afraid of what the world is becoming. The city is growing so
fast, and so many new people are coming in. Things are not the same.
Robert is right, there. And I have heard your father say the same thing.
Hugh, promise me that you will try to remember always what he was, and
what he would wish you to be!”

“I will, mother,” I answered. “But I think you would find that Cousin
Robert exaggerates a little, makes things seem worse than they really
are. Customs change, you know. And politics were never well--Sunday
schools.” I, too, smiled a little. “Father knew that. And he would never
take an active part in them.”

“He was too fine!” she exclaimed.

“And now,” I continued, “Cousin Robert has happened to come in contact
with them through business. That is what has made the difference in him.
Before, he always knew they were corrupt, but he rarely thought about
them.”

“Hugh,” she said suddenly, after a pause, “you must remember one
thing,--that you can afford to be independent. I thank God that your
father has provided for that!”

I was duly admitted, the next autumn, to the bar of my own state, and
was assigned to a desk in the offices of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon.
Larry Weed was my immediate senior among the apprentices, and Larry was
a hero-worshipper. I can see him now. He suggested a bullfrog as he sat
in the little room we shared in common, his arms akimbo over a law book,
his little legs doubled under him, his round, eyes fixed expectantly
on the doorway. And even if I had not been aware of my good fortune
in being connected with such a firm as Theodore Watling’s, Larry would
shortly have brought it home to me. During those weeks when I was making
my first desperate attempts at briefing up the law I was sometimes
interrupted by his exclamations when certain figures went by in the
corridor.

“Say, Hugh, do you know who that was?”

“No.”

“Miller Gorse.”

“Who’s he?”

“Do you mean to say you never heard of Miller Gorse?”

“I’ve been away a long time,” I would answer apologetically. A person of
some importance among my contemporaries at Harvard, I had looked forward
to a residence in my native city with the complacency of one who has
seen something of the world,--only to find that I was the least in the
new kingdom. And it was a kingdom. Larry opened up to me something of
the significance and extent of it, something of the identity of the men
who controlled it.

“Miller Gorse,” he said impressively, “is the counsel for the railroad.”

“What railroad? You mean the--” I was adding, when he interrupted me
pityingly.

“After you’ve been here a while you’ll find out there’s only one
railroad in this state, so far as politics are concerned. The Ashuela
and Northern, the Lake Shore and the others don’t count.”

I refrained from asking any more questions at that time, but afterwards
I always thought of the Railroad as spelled with a capital.

“Miller Gorse isn’t forty yet,” Larry told me on another occasion.
“That’s doing pretty well for a man who comes near running this state.”

For the sake of acquiring knowledge, I endured Mr. Weed’s patronage. I
inquired how Mr. Gorse ran the state.

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough,” he assured me.

“But Mr. Barbour’s president of the Railroad.”

“Sure. Once in a while they take something up to him, but as a rule he
leaves things to Gorse.”

Whereupon I resolved to have a good look at Mr. Gorse at the first
opportunity. One day Mr. Watling sent out for some papers.

“He’s in there now;” said Larry. “You take ‘em.”

“In there” meant Mr. Watling’s sanctum. And in there he was. I had only
a glance at the great man, for, with a kindly but preoccupied “Thank
you, Hugh,” Mr. Watling took the papers and dismissed me. Heaviness,
blackness and impassivity,--these were the impressions of Mr. Gorse
which I carried away from that first meeting. The very solidity of his
flesh seemed to suggest the solidity of his position. Such, say the
psychologists, is the effect of prestige.

I remember well an old-fashioned picture puzzle in one of my boyhood
books. The scene depicted was to all appearances a sylvan, peaceful one,
with two happy lovers seated on a log beside a brook; but presently, as
one gazed at the picture, the head of an animal stood forth among the
branches, and then the body; more animals began to appear, bit by bit; a
tiger, a bear, a lion, a jackal, a fox, until at last, whenever I
looked at the page, I did not see the sylvan scene at all, but only the
predatory beasts of the forest. So, one by one, the figures of the real
rulers of the city superimposed themselves for me upon the simple and
democratic design of Mayor, Council, Board of Aldermen, Police Force,
etc., that filled the eye of a naive and trusting electorate which
fondly imagined that it had something to say in government. Miller Gorse
was one of these rulers behind the screen, and Adolf Scherer, of the
Boyne Iron Works, another; there was Leonard Dickinson of the Corn
National Bank; Frederick Grierson, becoming wealthy in city real estate;
Judah B. Tallant, who, though outlawed socially, was deferred to as the
owner of the Morning Era; and even Ralph Hambleton, rapidly superseding
the elderly and conservative Mr. Lord, who had hitherto managed the
great Hambleton estate. Ralph seemed to have become, in a somewhat
gnostic manner, a full-fledged financier. Not having studied law, he had
been home for four years when I became a legal fledgling, and during
the early days of my apprenticeship I was beholden to him for many
“eye openers” concerning the conduct of great affairs. I remember him
sauntering into my room one morning when Larry Weed had gone out on an
errand.

“Hello, Hughie,” he said, with his air of having nothing to do.
“Grinding it out? Where’s Watling?”

“Isn’t he in his office?”

“No.”

“Well, what can we do for you?” I asked.

Ralph grinned.

“Perhaps I’ll tell you when you’re a little older. You’re too young.”
 And he sank down into Larry Weed’s chair, his long legs protruding on
the other side of the table. “It’s a matter of taxes. Some time ago I
found out that Dickinson and Tallant and others I could mention were
paying a good deal less on their city property than we are. We don’t
propose to do it any more--that’s all.”

“How can Mr. Watling help you?” I inquired.

“Well, I don’t mind giving you a few tips about your profession, Hughie.
I’m going to get Watling to fix it up with the City Hall gang. Old
Lord doesn’t like it, I’ll admit, and when I told him we had been
contributing to the city long enough, that I proposed swinging into line
with other property holders, he began to blubber about disgrace and what
my grandfather would say if he were alive. Well, he isn’t alive. A good
deal of water has flowed under the bridges since his day. It’s a mere
matter of business, of getting your respectable firm to retain a City
Hall attorney to fix it up with the assessor.”

“How about the penitentiary?” I ventured, not too seriously.

“I shan’t go to the penitentiary, neither will Watling. What I do is to
pay a lawyer’s fee. There isn’t anything criminal in that, is there?”

For some time after Ralph had departed I sat reflecting upon this new
knowledge, and there came into my mind the bitterness of Cousin Robert
Breck against this City Hall gang, and his remarks about lawyers. I
recalled the tone in which he had referred to Mr. Watling. But Ralph’s
philosophy easily triumphed. Why not be practical, and become master
of a situation which one had not made, and could not alter, instead
of being overwhelmed by it? Needless to say, I did not mention the
conversation to Mr. Watling, nor did he dwindle in my estimation. These
necessary transactions did not interfere in any way with his personal
relationships, and his days were filled with kindnesses. And was not
Mr. Ripon, the junior partner, one of the evangelical lights of the
community, conducting advanced Bible classes every week in the Church
of the Redemption?... The unfolding of mysteries kept me alert. And I
understood that, if I was to succeed, certain esoteric knowledge must
be acquired, as it were, unofficially. I kept my eyes and ears open, and
applied myself, with all industry, to the routine tasks with which every
young man in a large legal firm is familiar. I recall distinctly my
pride when, the Board of Aldermen having passed an ordinance lowering
the water rates, I was intrusted with the responsibility of going before
the court in behalf of Mr. Ogilvy’s water company, obtaining a temporary
restricting order preventing the ordinance from going at once into
effect. Here was an affair in point. Were it not for lawyers of the
calibre of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon, hard-earned private property
would soon be confiscated by the rapacious horde. Once in a while I was
made aware that Mr. Watling had his eye on me.

“Well, Hugh,” he would say, “how are you getting along? That’s right,
stick to it, and after a while we’ll hand the drudgery over to somebody
else.”

He possessed the supreme quality of a leader of men in that he took
pains to inform himself concerning the work of the least of his
subordinates; and he had the gift of putting fire into a young man by
a word or a touch of the hand on the shoulder. It was not difficult for
me, therefore, to comprehend Larry Weed’s hero-worship, the loyalty of
other members of the firm or of those occupants of the office whom I
have not mentioned. My first impression of him, which I had got at Jerry
Kyme’s, deepened as time went on, and I readily shared the belief of
those around me that his legal talents easily surpassed those of any of
his contemporaries. I can recall, at this time, several noted cases in
the city when I sat in court listening to his arguments with thrills
of pride. He made us all feel--no matter how humble may have been our
contributions to the preparation--that we had a share in his triumphs.
We remembered his manner with judges and juries, and strove to emulate
it. He spoke as if there could be no question as to his being right
as to the law and the facts, and yet, in some subtle way that bated
analysis, managed not to antagonize the court. Victory was in the air in
that office. I do not mean to say there were not defeats; but frequently
these defeats, by resourcefulness, by a never-say-die spirit, by a
consummate knowledge, not only of the law, but of other things at which
I have hinted, were turned into ultimate victories. We fought cases from
one court to another, until our opponents were worn out or the decision
was reversed. We won, and that spirit of winning got into the blood.
What was most impressed on me in those early years, I think, was the
discovery that there was always a path--if one were clever enough to
find it--from one terrace to the next higher. Staying power was the most
prized of all the virtues. One could always, by adroitness, compel a
legal opponent to fight the matter out all over again on new ground, or
at least on ground partially new. If the Court of Appeals should fail
one, there was the Supreme Court; there was the opportunity, also, to
shift from the state to the federal courts; and likewise the much-prized
device known as a change of venue, when a judge was supposed to be
“prejudiced.”



IX.

As my apprenticeship advanced I grew more and more to the inhabitants of
our city into two kinds, the who were served, and the inefficient, who
were separate efficient, neglected; but the mental process of which the
classification was the result was not so deliberate as may be supposed.
Sometimes, when an important client would get into trouble, the affair
took me into the police court, where I saw the riff-raff of the city
penned up, waiting to have justice doled out to them: weary women who
had spent the night in cells, indifferent now as to the front they
presented to the world, the finery rued that they had tended so
carefully to catch the eyes of men on the darkened streets; brazen young
girls, who blazed forth defiance to all order; derelict men, sodden and
hopeless, with scrubby beards; shifty looking burglars and pickpockets.
All these I beheld, at first with twinges of pity, later to mass them
with the ugly and inevitable with whom society had to deal somehow.
Lawyers, after all, must be practical men. I came to know the justices
of these police courts, as well as other judges. And underlying my
acquaintance with all of them was the knowledge--though not on the
threshold of my consciousness--that they depended for their living,
every man of them, those who were appointed and those who were elected,
upon a political organization which derived its sustenance from the
element whence came our clients. Thus by degrees the sense of belonging
to a special priesthood had grown on me.

I recall an experience with that same Mr. Nathan. Weill, the wholesale
grocer of whose commerce with the City Hall my Cousin Robert Breck had
so bitterly complained. Late one afternoon Mr. Weill’s carriage ran
over a child on its way up-town through one of the poorer districts. The
parents, naturally, were frantic, and the coachman was arrested. This
was late in the afternoon, and I was alone in the office when the
telephone rang. Hurrying to the police station, I found Mr. Weill in
a state of excitement and abject fear, for an ugly crowd had gathered
outside.

“Could not Mr. Watling or Mr. Fowndes come?” demanded the grocer.

With an inner contempt for the layman’s state of mind on such occasions
I assured him of my competency to handle the case. He was impressed, I
think, by the sergeant’s deference, who knew what it meant to have such
an office as ours interfere with the affair. I called up the prosecuting
attorney, who sent to Monahan’s saloon, close by, and procured a release
for the coachman on his own recognizance, one of many signed in blank
and left there by the justice for privileged cases. The coachman was
hustled out by a back door, and the crowd dispersed.

The next morning, while a score or more of delinquents sat in the
anxious seats, Justice Garry recognized me and gave me precedence. And
Mr. Weill, with a sigh of relief, paid his fine.

“Mr. Paret, is it?” he asked, as we stood together for a moment on
the sidewalk outside the court. “You have managed this well. I will
remember.”

He was sued, of course. When he came to the office he insisted on
discussing the case with Mr. Watling, who sent for me.

“That is a bright young man,” Mr. Weill declared, shaking my hand. “He
will get on.”

“Some day,” said Mr. Watling, “he may save you a lot of money, Weill.”

“When my friend Mr. Watling is United States Senator,--eh?”

Mr. Watling laughed. “Before that, I hope. I advise you to compromise
this suit, Weill,” he added. “How would a thousand dollars strike you?
I’ve had Paret look up the case, and he tells me the little girl has had
to have an operation.”

“A thousand dollars!” cried the grocer. “What right have these people to
let their children play on the streets? It’s an outrage.”

“Where else have the children to play?” Mr. Watling touched his arm.
“Weill,” he said gently, “suppose it had been your little girl?” The
grocer pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his bald forehead. But he
rallied a little.

“You fight these damage cases for the street railroads all through the
courts.”

“Yes,” Mr. Watling agreed, “but there a principle is involved. If the
railroads once got into the way of paying damages for every careless
employee, they would soon be bankrupt through blackmail. But here you
have a child whose father is a poor janitor and can’t afford sickness.
And your coachman, I imagine, will be more particular in the future.”

In the end Mr. Weill made out a cheque and departed in a good humour,
convinced that he was well out of the matter. Here was one of many
instances I could cite of Mr. Watling’s tenderness of heart. I felt,
moreover, as if he had done me a personal favour, since it was I who had
recommended the compromise. For I had been to the hospital and had seen
the child on the cot,--a dark little thing, lying still in her pain,
with the bewildered look of a wounded animal....

Not long after this incident of Mr. Weill’s damage suit I obtained a
more or less definite promotion by the departure of Larry Weed. He had
suddenly developed a weakness of the lungs. Mr. Watling got him a place
in Denver, and paid his expenses west.

The first six or seven years I spent in the office of Wading, Fowndes
and Ripon were of importance to my future career, but there is little
to relate of them. I was absorbed not only in learning law, but in
acquiring that esoteric knowledge at which I have hinted--not to be
had from my seniors and which I was convinced was indispensable to
a successful and lucrative practice. My former comparison of the
organization of our city to a picture puzzle wherein the dominating
figures become visible only after long study is rather inadequate. A
better analogy would be the human anatomy: we lawyers, of course, were
the brains; the financial and industrial interests the body, helpless
without us; the City Hall politicians, the stomach that must continually
be fed. All three, law, politics and business, were interdependent,
united by a nervous system too complex to be developed here. In these
years, though I worked hard and often late, I still found time for
convivialities, for social gaieties, yet little by little without
realizing the fact, I was losing zest for the companionship of my former
intimates. My mind was becoming polarized by the contemplation of
one object, success, and to it human ties were unconsciously being
sacrificed.

Tom Peters began to feel this, even at a time when I believed
myself still to be genuinely fond of him. Considering our respective
temperaments in youth, it is curious that he should have been the first
to fall in love and marry. One day he astonished me by announcing his
engagement to Susan Blackwood.

“That ends the liquor, Hughie,” he told me, beamingly. “I promised her
I’d eliminate it.”

He did eliminate it, save for mild relapses on festive occasions. A more
seemingly incongruous marriage could scarcely be imagined, and yet it
was a success from the start. From a slim, silent, self-willed girl
Susan had grown up into a tall, rather rawboned and energetic young
woman. She was what we called in those days “intellectual,” and had
gone in for kindergartens, and after her marriage she turned out to be
excessively domestic; practising her theories, with entire success, upon
a family that showed a tendency to increase at an alarming rate.
Tom, needless to say, did not become intellectual. He settled
down--prematurely, I thought--into what is known as a family man,
curiously content with the income he derived from the commission
business and with life in general; and he developed a somewhat critical
view of the tendencies of the civilization by which he was surrounded.
Susan held it also, but she said less about it. In the comfortable but
unpretentious house they rented on Cedar Street we had many discussions,
after the babies had been put to bed and the door of the living-room
closed, in order that our voices might not reach the nursery. Perry
Blackwood, now Tom’s brother-in-law, was often there. He, too, had
lapsed into what I thought was an odd conservatism. Old Josiah, his
father, being dead, he occupied himself mainly with looking after
certain family interests, among which was the Boyne Street car line.
Among “business men” he was already getting the reputation of being a
little difficult to deal with. I was often the subject of their banter,
and presently I began to suspect that they regarded my career and
beliefs with some concern. This gave me no uneasiness, though at limes
I lost my temper. I realized their affection for me; but privately
I regarded them as lacking in ambition, in force, in the fighting
qualities necessary for achievement in this modern age. Perhaps,
unconsciously, I pitied them a little.

“How is Judah B. to-day, Hughie?” Tom would inquire. “I hear you’ve put
him up for the Boyne Club, now that Mr. Watling has got him out of that
libel suit.”

“Carter Ives is dead,” Perry would add, sarcastically, “let bygones be
bygones.”

It was well known that Mr. Tallant, in the early days of his newspaper,
had blackmailed Mr. Ives out of some hundred thousand dollars. And
that this, more than any other act, stood in the way, with certain
recalcitrant gentlemen, of his highest ambition, membership in the
Boyne.

“The trouble with you fellows is that you refuse to deal with conditions
as you find them,” I retorted. “We didn’t make them, and we can’t change
them. Tallant’s a factor in the business life of this city, and he has
to be counted with.”

Tom would shake his head exasperatingly.

“Why don’t you get after Ralph?” I demanded. “He doesn’t antagonize
Tallant, either.”

“Ralph’s hopeless,” said Tom. “He was born a pirate, you weren’t,
Hughie. We think there’s a chance for his salvation, don’t we, Perry?”

I refused to accept the remark as flattering.

Another object of their assaults was Frederick Grierson, who by this
time had emerged from obscurity as a small dealer in real estate into a
manipulator of blocks and corners.

“I suppose you think it’s a lawyer’s business to demand an ethical
bill of health of every client,” I said. “I won’t stand up for all of
Tallant’s career, of course, but Mr. Wading has a clear right to take
his cases. As for Grierson, it seems to me that’s a matter of giving a
dog a bad name. Just because his people weren’t known here, and because
he has worked up from small beginnings. To get down to hard-pan, you
fellows don’t believe in democracy,--in giving every man a chance to
show what’s in him.”

“Democracy is good!” exclaimed Perry. “If the kind of thing we’re coming
to is democracy, God save the state!”...

On the other hand I found myself drawing closer to Ralph Hambleton,
sometimes present at these debates, as the only one of my boyhood
friends who seemed to be able to “deal with conditions as he found
them.” Indeed, he gave one the impression that, if he had had the making
of them, he would not have changed them.

“What the deuce do you expect?” I once heard him inquire with
good-natured contempt. “Business isn’t charity, it’s war.

“There are certain things,” maintained Perry, stoutly, “that gentlemen
won’t do.”

“Gentlemen!” exclaimed Ralph, stretching his slim six feet two: We were
sitting in the Boyne Club. “It’s ungentlemanly to kill, or burn a town
or sink a ship, but we keep armies and navies for the purpose. For a
man with a good mind, Perry, you show a surprising inability to think
things, out to a logical conclusion. What the deuce is competition, when
you come down to it? Christianity? Not by a long shot! If our nations
are slaughtering men and starving populations in other countries,--are
carried on, in fact, for the sake of business, if our churches are
filled with business men and our sky pilots pray for the government, you
can’t expect heathen individuals like me to do business on a Christian
basis,--if there is such a thing. You can make rules for croquet, but
not for a game that is based on the natural law of the survival of the
fittest. The darned fools in the legislatures try it occasionally, but
we all know it’s a sop to the ‘common people.’ Ask Hughie here if there
ever was a law put on the statute books that his friend Watling couldn’t
get ‘round’? Why, you’ve got competition even among the churches. Yours,
where I believe you teach in the Sunday school, would go bankrupt if it
proclaimed real Christianity. And you’ll go bankrupt if you practise
it, Perry, my boy. Some early, wide-awake, competitive, red-blooded bird
will relieve you of the Boyne Street car line.”

It was one of this same new and “fittest” species who had already
relieved poor Mr. McAlery Willett of his fortune. Mr. Willett was a
trusting soul who had never known how to take care of himself or his
money, people said, and now that he had lost it they blamed him. Some
had been saved enough for him and Nancy to live on in the old house,
with careful economy. It was Nancy who managed the economy, who
accomplished remarkable things with a sum they would have deemed poverty
in former days. Her mother had died while I was at Cambridge. Reverses
did not subdue Mr. Willett’s spirits, and the fascination modern
“business” had for him seemed to grow in proportion to the misfortunes
it had caused him. He moved into a tiny office in the Durrett Building,
where he appeared every morning about half-past ten to occupy himself
with heaven knows what short cuts to wealth, with prospectuses of
companies in Mexico or Central America or some other distant place:
once, I remember, it was a tea, company in which he tried to interest
his friends, to raise in the South a product he maintained would surpass
Orange Pekoe. In the afternoon between three and four he would turn up
at the Boyne Club, as well groomed, as spruce as ever, generally with a
flower in his buttonhole. He never forgot that he was a gentleman,
and he had a gentleman’s notions of the fitness of things, and it was
against his principles to use, a gentleman’s club for the furtherance of
his various enterprises.

“Drop into my office some day, Dickinson,” he would say. “I think I’ve
got something there that might interest you!”

He reminded me, when I met him, that he had always predicted I would get
along in life....

The portrait of Nancy at this period is not so easily drawn. The decline
of the family fortunes seemed to have had as little effect upon her as
upon her father, although their characters differed sharply. Something
of that spontaneity, of that love of life and joy in it she had
possessed in youth she must have inherited from McAlery Willett,
but these qualities had disappeared in her long before the coming of
financial reverses. She was nearing thirty, and in spite of her beauty
and the rarer distinction that can best be described as breeding, she
had never married. Men admired her, but from a distance; she kept them
at arm’s length, they said: strangers who visited the city invariably
picked her out of an assembly and asked who she was; one man from New
York who came to visit Ralph and who had been madly in love with her,
she had amazed many people by refusing, spurning all he might have
given her. This incident seemed a refutation of the charge that she was
calculating. As might have been foretold, she had the social gift in
a remarkable degree, and in spite of the limitations of her purse the
knack of dressing better than other women, though at that time the
organization of our social life still remained comparatively simple, the
custom of luxurious and expensive entertainment not having yet set in.

The more I reflect upon those days, the more surprising does it seem
that I was not in love with her. It may be that I was, unconsciously,
for she troubled my thoughts occasionally, and she represented all the
qualities I admired in her sex. The situation that had existed at the
time of our first and only quarrel had been reversed, I was on the
highroad to the worldly success I had then resolved upon, Nancy was
poor, and for that reason, perhaps, prouder than ever. If she was
inaccessible to others, she had the air of being peculiarly inaccessible
to me--the more so because some of the superficial relics of our
intimacy remained, or rather had been restored. Her very manner of
camaraderie seemed paradoxically to increase the distance between us. It
piqued me. Had she given me the least encouragement, I am sure I should
have responded; and I remember that I used occasionally to speculate as
to whether she still cared for me, and took this method of hiding her
real feelings. Yet, on the whole, I felt a certain complacency about it
all; I knew that suffering was disagreeable, I had learned how to avoid
it, and I may have had, deep within me, a feeling that I might marry her
after all. Meanwhile my life was full, and gave promise of becoming even
fuller, more absorbing and exciting in the immediate future.

One of the most fascinating figures, to me, of that Order being woven,
like a cloth of gold, out of our hitherto drab civilization,--an Order
into which I was ready and eager to be initiated,--was that of Adolf
Scherer, the giant German immigrant at the head of the Boyne Iron
Works. His life would easily lend itself to riotous romance. In the old
country, in a valley below the castle perched on the rack above, he had
begun life by tending his father’s geese. What a contrast to “Steeltown”
 with its smells and sickening summer heat, to the shanty where Mrs.
Scherer took boarders and bent over the wash-tub! She, too, was an
immigrant, but lived to hear her native Wagner from her own box at
Covent Garden; and he to explain, on the deck of an imperial yacht,
to the man who might have been his sovereign certain processes in the
manufacture of steel hitherto untried on that side of the Atlantic. In
comparison with Adolf Scherer, citizen of a once despised democracy, the
minor prince in whose dominions he had once tended geese was of small
account indeed!

The Adolf Scherer of that day--though it is not so long ago as time
flies--was even more solid and impressive than the man he afterwards
became, when he reached the dizzier heights from which he delivered
to an eager press opinions on politics and war, eugenics and woman’s
suffrage and other subjects that are the despair of specialists. Had he
stuck to steel, he would have remained invulnerable. But even then
he was beginning to abandon the field of production for that of
exploitation: figuratively speaking, he had taken to soap, which with
the aid of water may be blown into beautiful, iridescent bubbles to
charm the eye. Much good soap, apparently, has gone that way, never to
be recovered. Everybody who was anybody began to blow bubbles about that
time, and the bigger the bubble the greater its attraction for investors
of hard-earned savings. Outside of this love for financial iridescence,
let it be called, Mr. Scherer seemed to care little then for glitter
of any sort. Shortly after his elevation to the presidency of the Boyne
Iron Works he had been elected a member of the Boyne Club,--an honour of
which, some thought, he should have been more sensible; but generally,
when in town, he preferred to lunch at a little German restaurant
annexed to a saloon, where I used often to find him literally towering
above the cloth,--for he was a giant with short legs,--his napkin
tucked into his shirt front, engaged in lively conversation with the
ministering Heinrich. The chef at the club, Mr. Scherer insisted, could
produce nothing equal to Heinrich’s sauer-kraut and sausage. My earliest
relationship with Mr. Scherer was that of an errand boy, of bringing
to him for his approval papers which might not be intrusted to a common
messenger. His gruffness and brevity disturbed me more than I cared to
confess. I was pretty sure that he eyed me with the disposition of the
self-made to believe that college educations and good tailors were
the heaviest handicaps with which a young man could be burdened: and I
suspected him of an inimical attitude toward the older families of the
city. Certain men possessed his confidence; and he had built, as it
were, a stockade about them, sternly keeping the rest of the world
outside. In Theodore Watling he had a childlike faith.

Thus I studied him, with a deliberation which it is the purpose of these
chapters to confess, though he little knew that he was being made the
subject of analysis. Nor did I ever venture to talk with him, but held
strictly to my role of errand boy,--even after the conviction came over
me that he was no longer indifferent to my presence. The day arrived,
after some years, when he suddenly thrust toward me a big, hairy hand
that held the document he was examining.

“Who drew this, Mr. Paret!” he demanded.

Mr. Ripon, I told him.

The Boyne Works were buying up coal-mines, and this was a contract
looking to the purchase of one in Putman County, provided, after a
certain period of working, the yield and quality should come up to
specifications. Mr. Scherer requested me to read one of the sections,
which puzzled him. And in explaining it an idea flashed over me.

“Do you mind my making a suggestion, Mr. Scherer?” I ventured.

“What is it?” he asked brusquely.

I showed him how, by the alteration of a few words, the difficulty to
which he had referred could not only be eliminated, but that certain
possible penalties might be evaded, while the apparent meaning of the
section remained unchanged. In other words, it gave the Boyne Iron Works
an advantage that was not contemplated. He seized the paper, stared
at what I had written in pencil on the margin, and then stared at me.
Abruptly, he began to laugh.

“Ask Mr. Wading what he thinks of it?”

“I intended to, provided it had your approval, sir,” I replied.

“You have my approval, Mr. Paret,” he declared, rather cryptically, and
with the slight German hardening of the v’s into which he relapsed at
times. “Bring it to the Works this afternoon.”

Mr. Wading agreed to the alteration. He looked at me amusedly.

“Yes, I think that’s an improvement, Hugh,” he said. I had a feeling
that I had gained ground, and from this time on I thought I detected a
change in his attitude toward me; there could be no doubt about the new
attitude of Mr. Scherer, who would often greet me now with a smile and
a joke, and sometimes went so far as to ask my opinions.... Then, about
six months later, came the famous Ribblevale case that aroused the moral
indignation of so many persons, among whom was Perry Blackwood.

“You know as well as I do, Hugh, how this thing is being manipulated,”
 he declared at Tom’s one Sunday evening; “there was nothing the matter
with the Ribblevale Steel Company--it was as right as rain before
Leonard Dickinson and Grierson and Scherer and that crowd you train with
began to talk it down at the Club. Oh, they’re very compassionate. I’ve
heard ‘em. Dickinson, privately, doesn’t think much of Ribblevale paper,
and Pugh” (the president of the Ribblevale) “seems worried and looks
badly. It’s all very clever, but I’d hate to tell you in plain words
what I’d call it.”

“Go ahead,” I challenged him audaciously. “You haven’t any proof that
the Ribblevale wasn’t in trouble.”

“I heard Mr. Pugh tell my father the other day it was a d--d outrage. He
couldn’t catch up with these rumours, and some of his stockholders were
liquidating.”

“You, don’t suppose Pugh would want to admit his situation, do you?” I
asked.

“Pugh’s a straight man,” retorted Perry. “That’s more than I can say
for any of the other gang, saving your presence. The unpleasant truth is
that Scherer and the Boyne people want the Ribblevale, and you ought to
know it if you don’t.” He looked at me very hard through the glasses he
had lately taken to wearing. Tom, who was lounging by the fire, shifted
his position uneasily. I smiled, and took another cigar.

“I believe Ralph is right, Perry, when he calls you a sentimentalist.
For you there’s a tragedy behind every ordinary business transaction.
The Ribblevale people are having a hard time to keep their heads above
water, and immediately you smell conspiracy. Dickinson and Scherer have
been talking it down. How about it, Tom?”

But Tom, in these debates, was inclined to be noncommittal, although it
was clear they troubled him.

“Oh, don’t ask me, Hughie,” he said.

“I suppose I ought to cultivate the scientific point of view, and look
with impartial interest at this industrial cannibalism,” returned Perry,
sarcastically. “Eat or be eaten that’s what enlightened self-interest
has come to. After all, Ralph would say, it is nature, the insect world
over again, the victim duped and crippled before he is devoured, and the
lawyer--how shall I put it?--facilitating the processes of swallowing
and digesting....”

There was no use arguing with Perry when he was in this vein....

Since I am not writing a technical treatise, I need not go into the
details of the Ribblevale suit. Since it to say that the affair, after
a while, came apparently to a deadlock, owing to the impossibility of
getting certain definite information from the Ribblevale books, which
had been taken out of the state. The treasurer, for reasons of his own,
remained out of the state also; the ordinary course of summoning him
before a magistrate in another state had naturally been resorted to, but
the desired evidence was not forthcoming.

“The trouble is,” Mr. Wading explained to Mr. Scherer, “that there is no
law in the various states with a sufficient penalty attached that will
compel the witness to divulge facts he wishes to conceal.”

It was the middle of a February afternoon, and they were seated in deep,
leather chairs in one corner of the reading room of the Boyne Club. They
had the place to themselves. Fowndes was there also, one leg twisted
around the other in familiar fashion, a bored look on his long and
sallow face. Mr. Wading had telephoned to the office for me to bring
them some papers bearing on the case.

“Sit down, Hugh,” he said kindly.

“Now we have present a genuine legal mind,” said Mr. Scherer, in the
playful manner he had adopted of late, while I grinned appreciatively
and took a chair. Mr. Watling presently suggested kidnapping the
Ribblevale treasurer until he should promise to produce the books as the
only way out of what seemed an impasse. But Mr. Scherer brought down a
huge fist on his knee.

“I tell you it is no joke, Watling, we’ve got to win that suit,” he
asserted.

“That’s all very well,” replied Mr. Watling. “But we’re a respectable
firm, you know. We haven’t had to resort to safe-blowing, as yet.”

Mr. Scherer shrugged his shoulders, as much as to say it were a matter
of indifference to him what methods were resorted to. Mr. Watling’s eyes
met mine; his glance was amused, yet I thought I read in it a query
as to the advisability, in my presence, of going too deeply into the
question of ways and means. I may have been wrong. At any rate, its
sudden effect was to embolden me to give voice to an idea that had begun
to simmer in my mind, that excited me, and yet I had feared to utter it.
This look of my chief’s, and the lighter tone the conversation had taken
decided me.

“Why wouldn’t it be possible to draw up a bill to fit the situation?” I
inquired.

Mr. Wading started.

“What do you mean?” he asked quickly.

All three looked at me. I felt the blood come into my face, but it was
too late to draw back.

“Well--the legislature is in session. And since, as Mr. Watling says,
there is no sufficient penalty in other states to compel the witness to
produce the information desired, why not draw up a bill and--and have
it passed--” I paused for breath--“imposing a sufficient penalty on home
corporations in the event of such evasions. The Ribblevale Steel Company
is a home corporation.”

I had shot my bolt.... There followed what was for me an anxious
silence, while the three of them continued to stare at me. Mr. Watling
put the tips of his fingers together, and I became aware that he was not
offended, that he was thinking rapidly.

“By George, why not, Fowndes?” he demanded.

“Well,” said Fowndes, “there’s an element of risk in such a proceeding I
need not dwell upon.”

“Risk!” cried the senior partner vigorously. “There’s risk in
everything. They’ll howl, of course. But they howl anyway, and nobody
ever listens to them. They’ll say it’s special legislation, and the
Pilot will print sensational editorials for a few days. But what of
it? All of that has happened before. I tell you, if we can’t see those
books, we’ll lose the suit. That’s in black and white. And, as a matter
of justice, we’re entitled to know what we want to know.”

“There might be two opinions as to that,” observed Fowndes, with his
sardonic smile.

Mr. Watling paid no attention to this remark. He was already deep in
thought. It was characteristic of his mind to leap forward, seize a
suggestion that often appeared chimerical to a man like Fowndes and turn
it into an accomplished Fact. “I believe you’ve hit it, Hugh,” he said.
“We needn’t bother about the powers of the courts in other states. We’ll
put into this bill an appeal to our court for an order on the clerk
to compel the witness to come before the court and testify, and we’ll
provide for a special commissioner to take depositions in the state
where the witness is. If the officers of a home corporation who are
outside of the state refuse to testify, the penalty will be that the
ration goes into the hands of a receiver.”

Fowndes whistled.

“That’s going some!” he said.

“Well, we’ve got to go some. How about it, Scherer?”

Even Mr. Scherer’s brown eyes were snapping.

“We have got to win that suit, Watling.”

We were all excited, even Fowndes, I think, though he remained
expressionless. Ours was the tense excitement of primitive man in chase:
the quarry which had threatened to elude us was again in view, and not
unlikely to fall into our hands. Add to this feeling, on my part,
the thrill that it was I who had put them on the scent. I had all the
sensations of an aspiring young brave who for the first time is admitted
to the councils of the tribe!

“It ought to be a popular bill, too,” Mr. Schemer was saying, with a
smile of ironic appreciation at the thought of demagogues advocating it.
“We should have one of Lawler’s friends introduce it.”

“Oh, we shall have it properly introduced,” replied Mr. Wading.

“It may come back at us,” suggested Fowndes pessimistically. “The Boyne
Iron Works is a home corporation too, if I am not mistaken.”

“The Boyne Iron Works has the firm of Wading, Fowndes and Ripon behind
it,” asserted Mr. Scherer, with what struck me as a magnificent faith.

“You mustn’t forget Paret,” Mr. Watling reminded him, with a wink at me.

We had risen. Mr. Scherer laid a hand on my arm.

“No, no, I do not forget him. He will not permit me to forget him.”

A remark, I thought, that betrayed some insight into my character... Mr.
Watling called for pen and paper and made then and there a draft of the
proposed bill, for no time was to be lost. It was dark when we left
the Club, and I recall the elation I felt and strove to conceal as I
accompanied my chief back to the office. The stenographers and clerks
were gone; alone in the library we got down the statutes and set to
work to perfect the bill from the rough draft, on which Mr. Fowndes had
written his suggestions. I felt that a complete yet subtle change had
come over my relationship with Mr. Watling.

In the midst of our labours he asked me to call up the attorney for the
Railroad. Mr. Gorse was still at his office.

“Hello! Is that you, Miller?” Mr. Watling said. “This is Wading. When
can I see you for a few minutes this evening? Yes, I am leaving for
Washington at nine thirty. Eight o’clock. All right, I’ll be there.”

It was almost eight before he got the draft finished to his
satisfaction, and I had picked it out on the typewriter. As I handed it
to him, my chief held it a moment, gazing at me with an odd smile.

“You seem to have acquired a good deal of useful knowledge, here and
there, Hugh,” he observed.

“I’ve tried to keep my eyes open, Mr. Watling,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “there are a great many things a young man practising
law in these days has to learn for himself. And if I hadn’t given you
credit for some cleverness, I shouldn’t have wanted you here. There’s
only one way to look at--at these matters we have been discussing, my
boy, that’s the common-sense way, and if a man doesn’t get that point of
view by himself, nobody can teach it to him. I needn’t enlarge upon it.”

“No, sir,” I said.

He smiled again, but immediately became serious.

“If Mr. Gorse should approve of this bill, I’m going to send you down to
the capital--to-night. Can you go?”

I nodded.

“I want you to look out for the bill in the legislature. Of course there
won’t be much to do, except to stand by, but you will get a better idea
of what goes on down there.”

I thanked him, and told him I would do my best.

“I’m sure of that,” he replied. “Now it’s time to go to see Gorse.”

The legal department of the Railroad occupied an entire floor of the
Corn Bank building. I had often been there on various errands, having on
occasions delivered sealed envelopes to Mr. Gorse himself, approaching
him in the ordinary way through a series of offices. But now, following
Mr. Watling through the dimly lighted corridor, we came to a door
on which no name was painted, and which was presently opened by a
stenographer. There was in the proceeding a touch of mystery that
revived keenly my boyish love for romance; brought back the days when I
had been, in turn, Captain Kidd and Ali Baba.

I have never realized more strongly than in that moment the
psychological force of prestige. Little by little, for five years, an
estimate of the extent of Miller Gorse’s power had been coming home to
me, and his features stood in my mind for his particular kind of power.
He was a tremendous worker, and often remained in his office until ten
and eleven at night. He dismissed the stenographer by the wave of a hand
which seemed to thrust her bodily out of the room.

“Hello, Miller,” said Mr. Watling.

“Hello, Theodore,” replied Mr. Gorse.

“This is Paret, of my office.”

“I know,” said Mr. Gorse, and nodded toward me. I was impressed by the
felicity with which a cartoonist of the Pilot had once caricatured him
by the use of curved lines. The circle of the heavy eyebrows ended at
the wide nostrils; the mouth was a crescent, but bowed downwards; the
heavy shoulders were rounded. Indeed, the only straight line to be
discerned about him was that of his hair, black as bitumen, banged
across his forehead; even his polished porphyry eyes were constructed on
some curvilinear principle, and never seemed to focus. It might be said
of Mr. Gorse that he had an overwhelming impersonality. One could never
be quite sure that one’s words reached the mark.

In spite of the intimacy which I knew existed between them, in my
presence at least Mr. Gorse’s manner was little different with Mr.
Watling than it was with other men. Mr. Wading did not seem to mind.
He pulled up a chair close to the desk and began, without any
preliminaries, to explain his errand.

“It’s about the Ribblevale affair,” he said. “You know we have a suit.”

Gorse nodded.

“We’ve got to get at the books, Miller,--that’s all there is to it. I
told you so the other day. Well, we’ve found out a way, I think.”

He thrust his hand in his pocket, while the railroad attorney remained
impassive, and drew out the draft of the bill. Mr. Gorse read it, then
read it over again, and laid it down in front of him.

“Well,” he said.

“I want to put that through both houses and have the governor’s
signature to it by the end of the week.”

“It seems a little raw, at first sight, Theodore,” said Mr. Gorse, with
the suspicion of a smile.

My chief laughed a little.

“It’s not half so raw as some things I might mention, that went through
like greased lightning,” he replied. “What can they do? I believe it
will hold water. Tallant’s, and most of the other newspapers in the
state, won’t print a line about it, and only Socialists and Populists
read the Pilot. They’re disgruntled anyway. The point is, there’s no
other way out for us. Just think a moment, bearing in mind what I’ve
told you about the case, and you’ll see it.”

Mr. Gorse took up the paper again, and read the draft over.

“You know as well as I do, Miller, how dangerous it is to leave this
Ribblevale business at loose ends. The Carlisle steel people and the
Lake Shore road are after the Ribblevale Company, and we can’t afford
to run any risk of their getting it. It’s logically a part of the Boyne
interests, as Scherer says, and Dickinson is ready with the money for
the reorganization. If the Carlisle people and the Lake Shore get it,
the product will be shipped out by the L and G, and the Railroad will
lose. What would Barbour say?”

Mr. Barbour, as I have perhaps mentioned, was the president of the
Railroad, and had his residence in the other great city of the state. He
was then, I knew, in the West.

“We’ve got to act now,” insisted Mr. Watling. “That’s open and shut.
If you have any other plan, I wish you’d trot it out. If not, I want
a letter to Paul Varney and the governor. I’m going to send Paret down
with them on the night train.”

It was clear to me then, in the discussion following, that Mr. Watling’s
gift of persuasion, though great, was not the determining factor in
Mr. Gorse’s decision. He, too, possessed boldness, though he preferred
caution. Nor did the friendship between the two enter into the
transaction. I was impressed more strongly than ever with the fact
that a lawsuit was seldom a mere private affair between two persons or
corporations, but involved a chain of relationships and nine times
out of ten that chain led up to the Railroad, which nearly always was
vitally interested in these legal contests. Half an hour of masterly
presentation of the situation was necessary before Mr. Gorse became
convinced that the introduction of the bill was the only way out for all
concerned.

“Well, I guess you’re right, Theodore,” he said at length. Whereupon
he seized his pen and wrote off two notes with great rapidity. These he
showed to Mr. Watling, who nodded and returned them. They were folded
and sealed, and handed to me. One was addressed to Colonel Paul Varney,
and the other to the Hon. W. W. Trulease, governor of the state.

“You can trust this young man?” demanded Mr. Gorse.

“I think so,” replied Mr. Watling, smiling at me. “The bill was his own
idea.”

The railroad attorney wheeled about in his chair and looked at me;
looked around me, would better express it, with his indefinite,
encompassing yet inclusive glance. I had riveted his attention. And from
henceforth, I knew, I should enter into his calculations. He had made
for me a compartment in his mind.

“His own idea!” he repeated.

“I merely suggested it,” I was putting in, when he cut me short.

“Aren’t you the son of Matthew Paret?”

“Yes,” I said.

He gave me a queer glance, the significance of which I left
untranslated. My excitement was too great to analyze what he meant by
this mention of my father....

When we reached the sidewalk my chief gave me a few parting
instructions.

“I need scarcely say, Hugh,” he added, “that your presence in the
capital should not be advertised as connected with this--legislation.
They will probably attribute it to us in the end, but if you’re
reasonably careful, they’ll never be able to prove it. And there’s no
use in putting our cards on the table at the beginning.”

“No indeed, sir!” I agreed.

He took my hand and pressed it.

“Good luck,” he said. “I know you’ll get along all right.”



BOOK 2.



X.

This was not my first visit to the state capital. Indeed, some of that
recondite knowledge, in which I took a pride, had been gained on the
occasions of my previous visits. Rising and dressing early, I beheld
out of the car window the broad, shallow river glinting in the morning
sunlight, the dome of the state house against the blue of the sky.
Even at that early hour groups of the gentlemen who made our laws were
scattered about the lobby of the Potts House, standing or seated within
easy reach of the gaily coloured cuspidors that protected the marble
floor: heavy-jawed workers from the cities mingled with moon-faced but
astute countrymen who manipulated votes amongst farms and villages; fat
or cadaverous, Irish, German or American, all bore in common a certain
indefinable stamp. Having eaten my breakfast in a large dining-room
that resounded with the clatter of dishes, I directed my steps to
the apartment occupied from year to year by Colonel Paul Barney,
generalissimo of the Railroad on the legislative battlefield,--a
position that demanded a certain uniqueness of genius.

“How do you do, sir,” he said, in a guarded but courteous tone as he
opened the door. I entered to confront a group of three or four figures,
silent and rather hostile, seated in a haze of tobacco smoke around a
marble-topped table. On it reposed a Bible, attached to a chain.

“You probably don’t remember me, Colonel,” I said. “My name is Pared,
and I’m associated with the firm of Watling, Fowndes, and Ripon.”

His air of marginality,--heightened by a grey moustache and goatee a la
Napoleon Third,--vanished instantly; he became hospitable, ingratiating.

“Why--why certainly, you were down heah with Mr. Fowndes two years ago.”
 The Colonel spoke with a slight Southern accent. “To be sure, sir. I’ve
had the honour of meeting your father. Mr. Norris, of North Haven, meet
Mr. Paret--one of our rising lawyers...” I shook hands with them all
and sat down. Opening his long coat, Colonel Varney revealed two rows of
cigars, suggesting cartridges in a belt. These he proceeded to hand
out as he talked. “I’m glad to see you here, Mr. Paret. You must stay
awhile, and become acquainted with the men who--ahem--are shaping the
destinies of a great state. It would give me pleasure to escort you
about.”

I thanked him. I had learned enough to realize how important are
the amenities in politics and business. The Colonel did most of the
conversing; he could not have filled with efficiency and ease the
important post that was his had it not been for the endless fund of
humorous anecdotes at his disposal. One by one the visitors left, each
assuring me of his personal regard: the Colonel closed the door, softly,
turning the key in the lock; there was a sly look in his black eyes as
he took a chair in proximity to mine.

“Well, Mr. Paret,” he asked softly, “what’s up?”

Without further ado I handed him Mr. Gorse’s letter, and another Mr.
Watling had given me for him, which contained a copy of the bill. He
read these, laid them on the table, glancing at me again, stroking his
goatee the while. He chuckled.

“By gum!” he exclaimed. “I take off my hat to Theodore Watling, always
did.” He became contemplative. “It can be done, Mr. Paret, but it’s
going to take some careful driving, sir, some reaching out and flicking
‘em when they r’ar and buck. Paul Varney’s never been stumped yet.
Just as soon as this is introduced we’ll have Gates and Armstrong down
here--they’re the Ribblevale attorneys, aren’t they? I thought so,--and
the best legal talent they can hire. And they’ll round up all the
disgruntled fellows, you know,--that ain’t friendly to the Railroad.
We’ve got to do it quick, Mr. Paret. Gorse gave you a letter to the
Governor, didn’t he?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, come along. I’ll pass the word around among the boys, just to let
‘em know what to expect.” His eyes glittered again. “I’ve been
following this Ribblevale business,” he added, “and I understand Leonard
Dickinson’s all ready to reorganize that company, when the time comes.
He ought to let me in for a little, on the ground floor.”

I did not venture to make any promises for Mr. Dickinson.

“I reckon it’s just as well if you were to meet me at the Governor’s
office,” the Colonel added reflectively, and the hint was not lost on
me. “It’s better not to let ‘em find out any sooner than they have to
where this thing comes from,--you understand.” He looked at his watch.
“How would nine o’clock do? I’ll be there, with Trulease, when you
come,--by accident, you understand. Of course he’ll be reasonable, but
when they get to be governors they have little notions, you know, and
you’ve got to indulge ‘em, flatter ‘em a little. It doesn’t hurt, for
when they get their backs up it only makes more trouble.”

He put on a soft, black felt hat, and departed noiselessly...

At nine o’clock I arrived at the State House and was ushered into a
great square room overlooking the park. The Governor was seated at a
desk under an elaborate chandelier, and sure enough, Colonel Varney was
there beside him; making barely perceptible signals.

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Paret,” said Mr.
Trulease. “Your name is a familiar one in your city, sir. And I gather
from your card that you are associated with my good friend, Theodore
Watling.”

I acknowledged it. I was not a little impressed by the perfect blend of
cordiality, democratic simplicity and impressiveness Mr. Trulease had
achieved. For he had managed, in the course of a long political career,
to combine in exact proportions these elements which, in the public
mind, should up the personality of a chief executive. Momentarily
he overcame the feeling of superiority with which I had entered his
presence; neutralized the sense I had of being associated now with the
higher powers which had put him where he was. For I knew all about his
“record.”

“You’re acquainted with Colonel Varney?” he inquired.

“Yes, Governor, I’ve met the Colonel,” I said.

“Well, I suppose your firm is getting its share of business these days,”
 Mr. Trulease observed. I acknowledged it was, and after discussing for a
few moments the remarkable growth of my native city the Governor tapped
on his desk and inquired what he could do for me. I produced the letter
from the attorney for the Railroad. The Governor read it gravely.

“Ah,” he said, “from Mr. Gorse.” A copy of the proposed bill was
enclosed, and the Governor read that also, hemmed and hawed a little,
turned and handed it to Colonel Varney, who was sitting with a detached
air, smoking contemplatively, a vacant expression on his face. “What do
you think of this, Colonel?”

Whereupon the Colonel tore himself away from his reflections.

“What’s that, Governor?”

“Mr. Gorse has called my attention to what seems to him a flaw in our
statutes, an inability to obtain testimony from corporations whose books
are elsewhere, and who may thus evade, he says, to a certain extent, the
sovereign will of our state.”

The Colonel took the paper with an admirable air of surprise, adjusted
his glasses, and became absorbed in reading, clearing his throat once or
twice and emitting an exclamation.

“Well, if you ask me, Governor,” he said, at length, “all I can say is
that I am astonished somebody didn’t think of this simple remedy before
now. Many times, sir, have I seen justice defeated because we had no
such legislation as this.”

He handed it back. The Governor studied it once more, and coughed.

“Does the penalty,” he inquired, “seem to you a little severe?”

“No, sir,” replied the Colonel, emphatically. “Perhaps it is because I
am anxious, as a citizen, to see an evil abated. I have had an intimate
knowledge of legislation, sir, for more than twenty years in this
state, and in all that time I do not remember to have seen a bill more
concisely drawn, or better calculated to accomplish the ends of justice.
Indeed, I often wondered why this very penalty was not imposed. Foreign
magistrates are notoriously indifferent as to affairs in another state
than their own. Rather than go into the hands of a receiver I venture to
say that hereafter, if this bill is made a law, the necessary testimony
will be forthcoming.”

The Governor read the bill through again.

“If it is introduced, Colonel,” he said, “the legislature and the people
of the state ought to have it made clear to them that its aim is
to remedy an injustice. A misunderstanding on this point would be
unfortunate.”

“Most unfortunate, Governor.”

“And of course,” added the Governor, now addressing me, “it would be
improper for me to indicate what course I shall pursue in regard to it
if it should come to me for my signature. Yet I may go so far as to say
that the defect it seeks to remedy seems to me a real one. Come in and
see me, Mr. Paret, when you are in town, and give my cordial regards to
Mr. Watling.”

So gravely had the farce been carried on that I almost laughed, despite
the fact that the matter in question was a serious one for me. The
Governor held out his hand, and I accepted my dismissal.

I had not gone fifty steps in the corridor before I heard the Colonel’s
voice in my ear.

“We had to give him a little rope to go through with his act,” he
whispered confidentially. “But he’ll sign it all right. And now, if
you’ll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I’ll lay a few mines. See you at the hotel,
sir.”

Thus he indicated, delicately, that it would be better for me to keep
out of sight. On my way to the Potts House the bizarre elements in
the situation struck me again with considerable force. It seemed so
ridiculous, so puerile to have to go through with this political farce
in order that a natural economic evolution might be achieved. Without
doubt the development of certain industries had reached a stage
where the units in competition had become too small, when a greater
concentration of capital was necessary. Curiously enough, in this mental
argument of justification, I left out all consideration of the size of
the probable profits to Mr. Scherer and his friends. Profits and brains
went together. And, since the Almighty did not limit the latter, why
should man attempt to limit the former? We were playing for high but
justifiable stakes; and I resented the comedy which an hypocritical
insistence on the forms of democracy compelled us to go through. It
seemed unworthy of men who controlled the destinies of state and nation.
The point of view, however, was consoling. As the day wore on I sat
in the Colonel’s room, admiring the skill with which he conducted the
campaign: a green country lawyer had been got to introduce the bill, it
had been expedited to the Committee on the Judiciary, which would have
an executive session immediately after dinner. I had ventured to inquire
about the hearings.

“There won’t be any hearings, sir,” the Colonel assured me. “We own that
committee from top to bottom.”

Indeed, by four o’clock in the afternoon the message came that the
committee had agreed to recommend the bill.

Shortly after that the first flurry occurred. There came a knock at the
door, followed by the entrance of a stocky Irish American of about forty
years of age, whose black hair was plastered over his forehead. His
sea-blue eyes had a stormy look.

“Hello, Jim,” said the Colonel. “I was just wondering where you were.”

“Sure, you must have been!” replied the gentleman sarcastically.

But the Colonel’s geniality was unruffled.

“Mr. Maker,” he said, “you ought to know Mr. Paret. Mr. Maker is the
representative from Ward Five of your city, and we can always count on
him to do the right thing, even if he is a Democrat. How about it, Jim?”

Mr. Maker relighted the stump of his cigar.

“Take a fresh one, Jim,” said the Colonel, opening a bureau drawer.

Mr. Maker took two.

“Say, Colonel,” he demanded, “what’s this bill that went into the
judiciary this morning?”

“What bill?” asked the Colonel, blandly.

“So you think I ain’t on?” Mr. Maker inquired.

The Colonel laughed.

“Where have you been, Jim?”

“I’ve been up to the city, seem’ my wife--that’s where I’ve been.”

The Colonel smiled, as at a harmless fiction.

“Well, if you weren’t here, I don’t see what right you’ve got to
complain. I never leave my good Democratic friends on the outside, do
I?”

“That’s all right,” replied Mr. Maker, doggedly, “I’m on, I’m here now,
and that bill in the Judiciary doesn’t pass without me. I guess I can
stop it, too. How about a thousand apiece for five of us boys?”

“You’re pretty good at a joke, Jim,” remarked the Colonel, stroking his
goatee.

“Maybe you’re looking for a little publicity in this here game,”
 retorted Mr. Maker, darkly. “Say, Colonel, ain’t we always treated the
Railroad on the level?”

“Jim,” asked the Colonel, gently, “didn’t I always take care of you?”

He had laid his hand on the shoulder of Mr. Maker, who appeared slightly
mollified, and glanced at a massive silver watch.

“Well, I’ll be dropping in about eight o’clock,” was his significant
reply, as he took his leave.

“I guess we’ll have to grease the wheels a little,” the Colonel remarked
to me, and gazed at the ceiling....

The telegram apropos of the Ward Five leader was by no means the only
cipher message I sent back during my stay. I had not needed to be told
that the matter in hand would cost money, but Mr. Watling’s parting
instruction to me had been to take the Colonel’s advice as to specific
sums, and obtain confirmation from Fowndes. Nor was it any surprise to
me to find Democrats on intimate terms with such a stout Republican
as the Colonel. Some statesman is said to have declared that he knew
neither Easterners nor Westerners, Northerners nor Southerners, but
only Americans; so Colonel Varney recognized neither Democrats nor
Republicans; in our legislature party divisions were sunk in a greater
loyalty to the Railroad.

At the Colonel’s suggestion I had laid in a liberal supply of cigars
and whiskey. The scene in his room that evening suggested a session of
a sublimated grand lodge of some secret order, such were the mysterious
comings and goings, knocks and suspenses. One after another the
“important” men duly appeared and were introduced, the Colonel supplying
the light touch.

“Why, cuss me if it isn’t Billy! Mr. Paret, I want you to shake hands
with Mr. Donovan, the floor leader of the ‘opposition,’ sir. Mr. Donovan
has had the habit of coming up here for a friendly chat ever since he
first came down to the legislature. How long is it, Billy?”

“I guess it’s nigh on to fifteen years, Colonel.”

“Fifteen years!” echoed the Colonel, “and he’s so good a Democrat it
hasn’t changed his politics a particle.”

Mr. Donovan grinned in appreciation of this thrust, helped himself
liberally from the bottle on the mantel, and took a seat on the bed. We
had a “friendly chat.”

Thus I made the acquaintance also of the Hon. Joseph Mecklin, Speaker
of the House, who unbent in the most flattering way on learning my
identity.

“Mr. Paret’s here on that little matter, representing Watling, Fowndes
and Ripon,” the Colonel explained. And it appeared that Mr. Mecklin
knew all about the “little matter,” and that the mention of the firm
of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon had a magical effect in these parts. The
President of the Senate, the Hon. Lafe Giddings, went so far as to say
that he hoped before long to see Mr. Watling in Washington. By no means
the least among our callers was the Hon. Fitch Truesdale, editor of the
St. Helen’s Messenger, whose editorials were of the trite effectiveness
that is taken widely for wisdom, and were assiduously copied every week
by other state papers and labeled “Mr. Truesdale’s Common Sense.” At
countless firesides in our state he was known as the spokesman of the
plain man, who was blissfully ignorant of the fact that Mr. Truesdale
was owned body and carcass by Mr. Cyrus Ridden, the principal
manufacturer of St. Helen’s and a director in several subsidiary lines
of the Railroad. In the legislature, the Hon. Fitch’s function was that
of the moderate counsellor and bellwether for new members, hence nothing
could have been more fitting than the choice of that gentleman for the
honour of moving, on the morrow, that Bill No. 709 ought to pass.

Mr. Truesdale reluctantly consented to accept a small “loan” that would
help to pay the mortgage on his new press....

When the last of the gathering had departed, about one o’clock in the
morning, I had added considerably to my experience, gained a pretty
accurate idea of who was who in the legislature and politics of the
state, and established relationships--as the Colonel reminded me--likely
to prove valuable in the future. It seemed only gracious to congratulate
him on his management of the affair,--so far. He appeared pleased, and
squeezed my hand.

“Well, sir, it did require a little delicacy of touch. And if I do
say it myself, it hasn’t been botched,” he admitted. “There ain’t an
outsider, as far as I can learn, who has caught on to the nigger in
the wood-pile. That’s the great thing, to keep ‘em ignorant as long as
possible. You understand. They yell bloody murder when they do find out,
but generally it’s too late, if a bill’s been handled right.”

I found myself speculating as to who the “outsiders” might be. No
Ribblevale attorneys were on the spot as yet,--of that I was satisfied.
In the absence of these, who were the opposition? It seemed to me as
though I had interviewed that day every man in the legislature.

I was very tired. But when I got into bed, it was impossible to sleep.
My eyes smarted from the tobacco smoke; and the events of the day,
in disorderly manner, kept running through my head. The tide of
my exhilaration had ebbed, and I found myself struggling against a
revulsion caused, apparently, by the contemplation of Colonel Varney and
his associates; the instruments, in brief, by which our triumph over our
opponents was to be effected. And that same idea which, when launched
amidst the surroundings of the Boyne Club, had seemed so brilliant, now
took on an aspect of tawdriness. Another thought intruded itself,--that
of Mr. Pugh, the president of the Ribblevale Company. My father had
known him, and some years before I had traveled halfway across the state
in his company; his kindliness had impressed me. He had spent a large
part of his business life, I knew, in building up the Ribblevale, and
now it was to be wrested from him; he was to be set aside, perhaps
forced to start all over again when old age was coming on! In vain I
accused myself of sentimentality, and summoned all my arguments to prove
that in commerce efficiency must be the only test. The image of Mr. Pugh
would not down.

I got up and turned on the light, and took refuge in a novel I had in
my bag. Presently I grew calmer. I had chosen. I had succeeded. And now
that I had my finger at last on the nerve of power, it was no time to
weaken.

It was half-past six when I awoke and went to the window, relieved to
find that the sun had scattered my morbid fancies with the darkness;
and I speculated, as I dressed, whether the thing called conscience
were not, after all, a matter of nerves. I went downstairs through the
tobacco-stale atmosphere of the lobby into the fresh air and sparkly
sunlight of the mild February morning, and leaving the business district
I reached the residence portion of the little town. The front steps of
some of the comfortable houses were being swept by industrious servant
girls, and out of the chimneys twisted, fantastically, rich blue smoke;
the bare branches of the trees were silver-grey against the sky; gaining
at last an old-fashioned, wooden bridge, I stood for awhile gazing at
the river, over the shallows of which the spendthrift hand of nature had
flung a shower of diamonds. And I reflected that the world was for the
strong, for him who dared reach out his hand and take what it
offered. It was not money we coveted, we Americans, but power, the
self-expression conferred by power. A single experience such as I had
had the night before would since to convince any sane man that democracy
was a failure, that the world-old principle of aristocracy would assert
itself, that the attempt of our ancestors to curtail political power had
merely resulted in the growth of another and greater economic power that
bade fair to be limitless. As I walked slowly back into town I felt a
reluctance to return to the noisy hotel, and finding myself in front of
a little restaurant on a side street, I entered it. There was but one
other customer in the place, and he was seated on the far side of the
counter, with a newspaper in front of him; and while I was ordering my
breakfast I was vaguely aware that the newspaper had dropped, and that
he was looking at me. In the slight interval that elapsed before my
brain could register his identity I experienced a distinct shock of
resentment; a sense of the reintrusion of an antagonistic value at a
moment when it was most unwelcome....

The man had risen and was coming around the counter. He was Hermann
Krebs.

“Paret!” I heard him say.

“You here?” I exclaimed.

He did not seem to notice the lack of cordiality in my tone. He appeared
so genuinely glad to see me again that I instantly became rather ashamed
of my ill nature.

“Yes, I’m here--in the legislature,” he informed me.

“A Solon!”

“Exactly.” He smiled. “And you?” he inquired.

“Oh, I’m only a spectator. Down here for a day or two.”

He was still lanky, his clothes gave no evidence of an increased
prosperity, but his complexion was good, his skin had cleared. I was
more than ever baked by a resolute good humour, a simplicity that was
not innocence, a whimsical touch seemingly indicative of a state of mind
that refused to take too seriously certain things on which I set store.
What right had he to be contented with life?

“Well, I too am only a spectator here,” he laughed. “I’m neither fish,
flesh nor fowl, nor good red herring.”

“You were going into the law, weren’t you?” I asked. “I remember you
said something about it that day we met at Beverly Farms.”

“Yes, I managed it, after all. Then I went back home to Elkington to try
to make a living.”

“But somehow I have never thought of you as being likely to develop
political aspirations, Krebs,” I said.

“I should say not! he exclaimed.

“Yet here you are, launched upon a political career! How did it happen?”

“Oh, I’m not worrying about the career,” he assured me. “I got here by
accident, and I’m afraid it won’t happen again in a hurry. You see, the
hands in those big mills we have in Elkington sprang a surprise on the
machine, and the first thing I knew I was nominated for the legislature.
A committee came to my boarding-house and told me, and there was the
deuce to pay, right off. The Railroad politicians turned in and worked
for the Democratic candidate, of course, and the Hutchinses, who own the
mills, tried through emissaries to intimidate their operatives.”

“And then?” I asked.

“Well,--I’m here,” he said.

“Wouldn’t you be accomplishing more,” I inquired, “if you hadn’t
antagonized the Hutchinses?”

“It depends upon what you mean by accomplishment,” he answered, so
mildly that I felt more rued than ever.

“Well, from what you say, I suppose you’re going in for reform, that
these workmen up at Elkington are not satisfied with their conditions
and imagine you can help to better them. Now, provided the conditions
are not as good as they might be, how are you going to improve them if
you find yourself isolated here, as you say?”

“In other words, I should cooperate with Colonel Varney and other
disinterested philanthropists,” he supplied, and I realized that I was
losing my temper.

“Well, what can you do?” I inquired defiantly.

“I can find out what’s going on,” he said. “I have already learned
something, by the way.”

“And then?” I asked, wondering whether the implication were personal.

“Then I can help--disseminate the knowledge. I may be wrong, but I
have an idea that when the people of this country learn how their
legislatures are conducted they will want to change things.”

“That’s right!” echoed the waiter, who had come up with my
griddle-cakes. “And you’re the man to tell ‘em, Mr. Krebs.”

“It will need several thousand of us to do that, I’m afraid,” said
Krebs, returning his smile.

My distaste for the situation became more acute, but I felt that I was
thrown on the defensive. I could not retreat, now.

“I think you are wrong,” I declared, when the waiter had departed to
attend to another customer. “The people the great majority of them, at
least are indifferent, they don’t want to be bothered with politics.
There will always be labour agitation, of course,--the more wages those
fellows get, the more they want. We pay the highest wages in the world
to-day, and the standard of living is higher in this country than
anywhere else. They’d ruin our prosperity, if we’d let ‘em.”

“How about the thousands of families who don’t earn enough to live
decently even in times of prosperity?” inquired Krebs.

“It’s hard, I’ll admit, but the inefficient and the shiftless are bound
to suffer, no matter what form of government you adopt.”

“You talk about standards of living,--I could show you some examples of
standards to make your heart sick,” he said. “What you don’t realize,
perhaps, is that low standards help to increase the inefficient of whom
you complain.”

He smiled rather sadly. “The prosperity you are advocating,” he added,
after a moment, “is a mere fiction, it is gorging the few at the expense
of the many. And what is being done in this country is to store up an
explosive gas that some day will blow your superstructure to atoms if
you don’t wake up in time.”

“Isn’t that a rather one-sided view, too?” I suggested.

“I’ve no doubt it may appear so, but take the proceedings in this
legislature. I’ve no doubt you know something about them, and that you
would maintain they are justified on account of the indifference of the
public, and of other reasons, but I can cite an instance that is simply
legalized thieving.” For the first time a note of indignation crept into
Krebs’s voice. “Last night I discovered by a mere accident, in talking
to a man who came in on a late train, that a bill introduced yesterday,
which is being rushed through the Judiciary Committee of the House--an
apparently innocent little bill--will enable, if it becomes a law, the
Boyne Iron Works, of your city, to take possession of the Ribblevale
Steel Company, lock, stock, and barrel. And I am told it was conceived
by a lawyer who claims to be a respectable member of his profession, and
who has extraordinary ability, Theodore Watling.”

Krebs put his hand in his pocket and drew out a paper. “Here’s a copy
of it,--House Bill 709.” His expression suddenly changed. “Perhaps Mr.
Watling is a friend of yours.”

“I’m with his firm,” I replied....

Krebs’s fingers closed over the paper, crumpling it.

“Oh, then, you know about this,” he said. He was putting the paper back
into his pocket when I took it from him. But my adroitness, so carefully
schooled, seemed momentarily to have deserted me. What should I say? It
was necessary to decide quickly.

“Don’t you take rather a--prejudiced view of this, Krebs?” I said. “Upon
my word, I can’t see why you should accept a rumour running around the
lobbies that Mr. Watling drafted this bill for a particular purpose.”

He was silent. But his eyes did not leave my face.

“Why should any sensible man, a member of the legislature, take stock in
that kind of gossip?” I insisted. “Why not judge this bill by its face,
without heeding a cock and bull story as to how it may have originated?
It is a good bill, or a bad bill? Let’s see what it says.”

I read it.

“So far as I can see, it is legislation which we ought to have had long
ago, and tends to compel a publicity in corporation affairs that is much
needed, to put a stop to practices which every decent citizen deplores.”

He drew the paper out of my hand.

“You needn’t go on, Paret,” he told me. “It’s no use.”

“Well, I’m sorry we don’t agree,” I said, and got up. I left him
twisting the paper in his fingers.

Beside the clerk’s desk in the Potts House, relating one of his
anecdotes, I spied Colonel Varney, and managed presently to draw him
upstairs to his room. “What’s the matter?” he asked.

“Do you know a man named Krebs in the House?” I said.

“From Elkington? Why, that’s the man the Hutchinses let slip
through,--the Hutchinses, who own the mills over there. The agitators
put up a job on them.” The Colonel was no longer the genial and social
purveyor of anecdotes. He had become tense, alert, suspicious. “What’s
he up to?”

“He’s found out about this bill,” I replied.

“How?”

“I don’t know. But someone told him that it originated in our office,
and that we were going to use it in our suit against the Ribblevale.”

I related the circumstances of my running across Krebs, speaking of
having known him at Harvard. Colonel Varney uttered an oath, and strode
across to the window, where he stood looking down into the street from
between the lace curtains.

“We’ll have to attend to him, right off,” he said.

I was surprised to find myself resenting the imputation, and deeply.
“I’m afraid he’s one of those who can’t be ‘attended to,’” I answered.

“You mean that he’s in the employ of the Ribblevale people?” the Colonel
inquired.

“I don’t mean anything of the kind,” I retorted, with more heat,
perhaps, than I realized. The Colonel looked at me queerly.

“That’s all right, Mr. Paret. Of course I don’t want to question your
judgment, sir. And you say he’s a friend of yours.”

“I said I knew him at college.”

“But you will pardon me,” the Colonel went on, “when I tell you that
I’ve had some experience with that breed, and I have yet to see one of
‘em you couldn’t come to terms with in some way--in some way,” he added,
significantly. I did not pause to reflect that the Colonel’s attitude,
from his point of view (yes, and from mine,--had I not adopted it?)
was the logical one. In that philosophy every man had his price, or
his weakness. Yet, such is the inconsistency of human nature, I was now
unable to contemplate this attitude with calmness.

“Mr. Krebs is a lawyer. Has he accepted a pass from the Railroad?” I
demanded, knowing the custom of that corporation of conferring this
delicate favour on the promising young talent in my profession.

“I reckon he’s never had the chance,” said Mr. Varney.

“Well, has he taken a pass as a member of the legislature?”

“No,--I remember looking that up when he first came down. Sent that
back, if I recall the matter correctly.” Colonel Varney went to a desk
in the corner of the room, unlocked it, drew forth a black book, and
running his fingers through the pages stopped at the letter K. “Yes,
sent back his legislative pass, but I’ve known ‘em to do that when they
were holding out for something more. There must be somebody who can get
close to him.”

The Colonel ruminated awhile. Then he strode to the door and called out
to the group of men who were always lounging in the hall.

“Tell Alf Young I want to see him, Fred.”

I waited, by no means free from uneasiness and anxiety, from a certain
lack of self-respect that was unfamiliar. Mr. Young, the Colonel
explained, was a legal light in Galesburg, near Elkington,--the Railroad
lawyer there. And when at last Mr. Young appeared he proved to be an
oily gentleman of about forty, inclining to stoutness, with one of those
“blue,” shaven faces.

“Want me, Colonel?” he inquired blithely, when the door had closed
behind him; and added obsequiously, when introduced to me, “Glad to meet
you, Mr. Paret. My regards to Mr. Watling, when you go back.

“Alf,” demanded the Colonel, “what do you know of this fellow Krebs?”

Mr. Young laughed. Krebs was “nutty,” he declared--that was all there
was to it.

“Won’t he--listen to reason?”

“It’s been tried, Colonel. Say, he wouldn’t know a hundred-dollar bill
if you showed him one.”

“What does he want?”

“Oh, something,--that’s sure, they all want something.” Mr. Young
shrugged his shoulder expressively, and by a skillful manipulation
of his lips shifted his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other
without raising his hands. “But it ain’t money. I guess he’s got a
notion that later on the labour unions’ll send him to the United States
Senate some day. He’s no slouch, either, when it comes to law. I can
tell you that.”

“No--no flaw in his--record?” Colonel Varney’s agate eyes sought those
of Mr. Young, meaningly.

“That’s been tried, too,” declared the Galesburg attorney. “Say, you can
believe it or not, but we’ve never dug anything up so far. He’s been too
slick for us, I guess.”

“Well,” exclaimed the Colonel, at length, “let him squeal and be d--d!
He can’t do any more than make a noise. Only I hoped we’d be able to
grease this thing along and slide it through the Senate this afternoon,
before they got wind of it.”

“He’ll squeal, all right, until you smother him,” Mr. Young observed.

“We’ll smother him some day!” replied the Colonel, savagely.

Mr. Young laughed.

But as I made my way toward the State House I was conscious of a feeling
of relief. I had no sooner gained a front seat in the gallery of the
House of Representatives when the members rose, the Senate marched
gravely in, the Speaker stopped jesting with the Chaplain, and over the
Chaplain’s face came suddenly an agonized expression. Folding his hands
across his stomach he began to call on God with terrific fervour, in an
intense and resounding voice. I was struck suddenly by the irony of it
all. Why have a legislature when Colonel Paul Varney was so efficient!
The legislature was a mere sop to democratic prejudice, to pray over
it heightened the travesty. Suppose there were a God after all? not
necessarily the magnified monarch to whom these pseudo-democrats prayed,
but an Intelligent Force that makes for righteousness. How did He, or
It, like to be trifled with in this way? And, if He existed, would not
His disgust be immeasurable as He contemplated that unctuous figure in
the “Prince Albert” coat, who pretended to represent Him?

As the routine business began I searched for Krebs, to find him
presently at a desk beside a window in the rear of the hall making notes
on a paper; there was, confessedly, little satisfaction in the thought
that the man whose gaunt features I contemplated was merely one of those
impractical idealists who beat themselves to pieces against the forces
that sway the world and must forever sway it. I should be compelled to
admit that he represented something unique in that assembly if he had
the courage to get up and oppose House Bill 709. I watched him narrowly;
the suggestion intruded itself--perhaps he had been “seen,” as the
Colonel expressed it. I repudiated it. I grew impatient, feverish; the
monotonous reading of the clerk was interrupted now and then by the
sharp tones of the Speaker assigning his various measures to this or
that committee, “unless objection is offered,” while the members moved
about and murmured among themselves; Krebs had stopped making notes; he
was looking out of the window. At last, without any change of emphasis
in his droning voice, the clerk announced the recommendation of the
Committee on Judiciary that House Bill 709 ought to pass.

Down in front a man had risen from his seat--the felicitous Mr.
Truesdale. Glancing around at his fellow-members he then began to
explain in the impressive but conversational tone of one whose counsels
are in the habit of being listened to, that this was merely a little
measure to remedy a flaw in the statutes. Mr. Truesdale believed in
corporations when corporations were good, and this bill was calculated
to make them good, to put an end to jugglery and concealment. Our great
state, he said, should be in the forefront of such wise legislation,
which made for justice and a proper publicity; but the bill in question
was of greater interest to lawyers than to laymen, a committee composed
largely of lawyers had recommended it unanimously, and he was sure that
no opposition would develop in the House. In order not to take up their
time he asked: therefore, that it be immediately put on its second and
third reading and allowed to pass.

He sat down, and I looked at Krebs. Could he, could any man, any lawyer,
have the presumption to question such an obviously desirable measure,
to arraign the united judgment of the committee’s legal talent? Such
was the note Mr. Truesdale so admirably struck. As though fascinated,
I continued to gaze at Krebs. I hated him, I desired to see him
humiliated, and yet amazingly I found myself wishing with almost equal
vehemence that he would be true to himself. He was rising,--slowly,
timidly, I thought, his hand clutching his desk lid, his voice sounding
wholly inadequate as he addressed the Speaker. The Speaker hesitated,
his tone palpably supercilious.

“The gentleman from--from Elkington, Mr. Krebs.”

There was a craning of necks, a staring, a tittering. I burned with
vicarious shame as Krebs stood there awkwardly, his hand still holding
the desk. There were cries of “louder” when he began; some picked up
their newspapers, while others started conversations. The Speaker rapped
with his gavel, and I failed to hear the opening words. Krebs paused,
and began again. His speech did not, at first, flow easily.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to protest against this bill, which in my opinion
is not so innocent as the gentleman from St. Helen’s would have the
House believe. It is on a par, indeed, with other legislation that in
past years has been engineered through this legislature under the guise
of beneficent law. No, not on a par. It is the most arrogant, the most
monstrous example of special legislation of them all. And while I do not
expect to be able to delay its passage much longer than the time I shall
be on my feet--”

“Then why not sit down?” came a voice, just audible.

As he turned swiftly toward the offender his profile had an eagle-like
effect that startled me, seemingly realizing a new quality in the man.
It was as though he had needed just the stimulus of that interruption to
electrify and transform him. His awkwardness disappeared; and if he
was a little bombastic, a little “young,” he spoke with the fire of
conviction.

“Because,” he cried, “because I should lose my self-respect for life if
I sat here and permitted the political organization of a railroad, the
members of which are here under the guise of servants of the people, to
cow me into silence. And if it be treason to mention the name of that
Railroad in connection with its political tyranny, then make the most of
it.” He let go of the desk, and tapped the copy of the bill. “What are
the facts? The Boyne Iron Works, under the presidency of Adolf Scherer,
has been engaged in litigation with the Ribblevale Steel Company for
some years: and this bill is intended to put into the hands of the
attorneys for Mr. Scherer certain information that will enable him to
get possession of the property. Gentlemen, that is what ‘legal practice’
has descended to in the hands of respectable lawyers. This device
originated with the resourceful Mr. Theodore Watling, and if it had
not had the approval of Mr. Miller Gorse, it would never have got any
farther than the judiciary committee. It was confided to the skillful
care of Colonel Paul Varney to be steered through this legislature,
as hundreds of other measures have been steered through,--without
unnecessary noise. It may be asked why the Railroad should bother itself
by lending its political organization to private corporations? I will
tell you. Because corporations like the Boyne corporation are a part of
a network of interests, these corporations aid the Railroad to maintain
its monopoly, and in return receive rebates.”

Krebs had raised his voice as the murmurs became louder. At this point
a sharp-faced lawyer from Belfast got to his feet and objected that the
gentleman from Elkington was wasting the time of the House, indulging
in hearsay. His remarks were not germane, etc. The Speaker rapped
again, with a fine show of impartiality, and cautioned the member from
Elkington.

“Very well,” replied Krebs. “I have said what I wanted to say on that
score, and I know it to be the truth. And if this House does not find it
germane, the day is coming when its constituents will.”

Whereupon he entered into a discussion of the bill, dissecting it with
more calmness, with an ability that must have commanded, even from
some hostile minds, an unwilling respect. The penalty, he said, was
outrageous, hitherto unheard of in law,--putting a corporation in the
hands of a receiver, at the mercy of those who coveted it, because
one of its officers refused, or was unable, to testify. He might be in
China, in Timbuctoo when the summons was delivered at his last or usual
place of abode. Here was an enormity, an exercise of tyrannical power
exceeding all bounds, a travesty on popular government.... He ended by
pointing out the significance of the fact that the committee had given
no hearings; by declaring that if the bill became a law, it would
inevitably react upon the heads of those who were responsible for it.

He sat down, and there was a flutter of applause from the scattered
audience in the gallery.

“By God, that’s the only man in the whole place!”

I was aware, for the first time, of a neighbour at my side,--a solid,
red-faced man, evidently a farmer. His trousers were tucked into his
boots, and his gnarled and powerful hands, ingrained with dirt, clutched
the arms of the seat as he leaned forward.

“Didn’t he just naturally lambaste ‘em?” he cried excitedly. “They’ll
down him, I guess,--but say, he’s right. A man would lose his
self-respect if he didn’t let out his mind at them hoss thieves,
wouldn’t he? What’s that fellow’s name?”

I told him.

“Krebs,” he repeated. “I want to remember that. Durned if I don’t shake
hands with him.”

His excitement astonished me. Would the public feel like that, if they
only knew?... The Speaker’s gavel had come down like a pistol shot.

One “war-hoss”--as my neighbour called them--after another proceeded to
crush the member from Elkington. It was, indeed, very skillfully done,
and yet it was a process from which I did not derive, somehow, much
pleasure. Colonel Varney’s army had been magnificently trained to meet
just this kind of situation: some employed ridicule, others declared, in
impassioned tones, that the good name of their state had been wantonly
assailed, and pointed fervently to portraits on the walls of patriots
of the past,--sentiments that drew applause from the fickle gallery. One
gentleman observed that the obsession of a “railroad machine” was a sure
symptom of a certain kind of insanity, of which the first speaker had
given many other evidences. The farmer at my side remained staunch.

“They can’t fool me,” he said angrily, “I know ‘em. Do you see that
fellow gettin’ up to talk now? Well, I could tell you a few things about
him, all right. He comes from Glasgow, and his name’s Letchworth. He’s
done more harm in his life than all the criminals he’s kept out of
prison,--belongs to one of the old families down there, too.”

I had, indeed, remarked Letchworth’s face, which seemed to me peculiarly
evil, its lividity enhanced by a shock of grey hair. His method was
withering sarcasm, and he was clearly unable to control his animus....

No champion appeared to support Krebs, who sat pale and tense while this
denunciation of him was going on. Finally he got the floor. His voice
trembled a little, whether with passion, excitement, or nervousness it
was impossible to say. But he contented himself with a brief defiance.
If the bill passed, he declared, the men who voted for it, the men who
were behind it, would ultimately be driven from political life by an
indignant public. He had a higher opinion of the voters of the state
than those who accused him of slandering it, than those who sat silent
and had not lifted their voices against this crime.

When the bill was put to a vote he demanded a roll call. Ten members
besides himself were recorded against House Bill No. 709!

In spite of this overwhelming triumph my feelings were not wholly
those of satisfaction when I returned to the hotel and listened to the
exultations and denunciations of such politicians as Letchworth, Young,
and Colonel Varney. Perhaps an image suggesting Hermann Krebs as some
splendid animal at bay, dragged down by the hounds, is too strong:
he had been ingloriously crushed, and defeat, even for the sake of
conviction, was not an inspiring spectacle.... As the chase swept
on over his prostrate figure I rapidly regained poise and a sense of
proportion; a “master of life” could not permit himself to be tossed
about by sentimentality; and gradually I grew ashamed of my bad quarter
of an hour in the gallery of the House, and of the effect of it--which
lingered awhile--as of a weakness suddenly revealed, which must at all
costs be overcome. I began to see something dramatic and sensational in
Krebs’s performance....

The Ribblevale Steel Company was the real quarry, after all. And such
had been the expedition, the skill and secrecy, with which our affair
was conducted, that before the Ribblevale lawyers could arrive, alarmed
and breathless, the bill had passed the House, and their only real
chance of halting it had been lost. For the Railroad controlled the
House, not by owning the individuals composing it, but through the
leaders who dominated it,--men like Letchworth and Truesdale. These,
and Colonel Varney, had seen to it that men who had any parliamentary
ability had been attended to; all save Krebs, who had proved a surprise.
There were indeed certain members who, although they had railroad passes
in their pockets (which were regarded as just perquisites,--the
Railroad being so rich!), would have opposed the bill if they had
felt sufficiently sure of themselves to cope with such veterans as
Letchworth. Many of these had allowed themselves to be won over or cowed
by the oratory which had crushed Krebs.

Nor did the Ribblevale people--be it recorded--scruple to fight fire
with fire. Their existence, of course, was at stake, and there was no
public to appeal to. A part of the legal army that rushed to the aid of
our adversaries spent the afternoon and most of the night organizing
all those who could be induced by one means or another to reverse their
sentiments, and in searching for the few who had grievances against
the existing power. The following morning a motion was introduced to
reconsider; and in the debate that followed, Krebs, still defiant, took
an active part. But the resolution required a two-thirds vote, and was
lost.

When the battle was shifted to the Senate it was as good as lost. The
Judiciary Committee of the august body did indeed condescend to give
hearings, at which the Ribblevale lawyers exhausted their energy and
ingenuity without result with only two dissenting votes the bill
was calmly passed. In vain was the Governor besieged, entreated,
threatened,--it was said; Mr. Trulease had informed protesters--so
Colonel Varney gleefully reported--that he had “become fully convinced
of the inherent justice of the measure.” On Saturday morning he signed
it, and it became a law....

Colonel Varney, as he accompanied me to the train, did not conceal his
jubilation.

“Perhaps I ought not to say it, Mr. Paret, but it couldn’t have been
done neater. That’s the art in these little affairs, to get ‘em runnin’
fast, to get momentum on ‘em before the other party wakes up, and then
he can’t stop ‘em.” As he shook hands in farewell he added, with more
gravity: “We’ll see each other often, sir, I guess. My very best regards
to Mr. Watling.”

Needless to say, I had not confided to him the part I had played in
originating House Bill No. 709, now a law of the state. But as the train
rolled on through the sunny winter landscape a sense of well-being,
of importance and power began to steal through me. I was victoriously
bearing home my first scalp,--one which was by no means to be
despised.... It was not until we reached Rossiter, about five o’clock,
that I was able to get the evening newspapers. Such was the perfection
of the organization of which I might now call myself an integral part
that the “best” publications contained only the barest mention,--and
that in the legislative news,--of the signing of the bill. I read
with complacency and even with amusement the flaring headlines I had
anticipated in Mr. Lawler’s ‘Pilot.’

“The Governor Signs It!”

“Special legislation, forced through by the Railroad Lobby, which will
drive honest corporations from this state.”

“Ribblevale Steel Company the Victim.”

It was common talk in the capital, the article went on to say, that
Theodore Watling himself had drawn up the measure.... Perusing the
editorial page my eye fell on the name, Krebs. One member of the
legislature above all deserved the gratitude of the people of the
state,--the member from Elkington. “An unknown man, elected in spite of
the opposition of the machine, he had dared to raise his voice against
this iniquity,” etc., etc.

We had won. That was the essential thing. And my legal experience
had taught me that victory counts; defeat is soon forgotten. Even the
discontented, half-baked and heterogeneous element from which the Pilot
got its circulation had short memories.



XI.

The next morning, which was Sunday, I went to Mr. Watling’s house in,
Fillmore Street--a new residence at that time, being admired as the
dernier cri in architecture. It had a mediaeval look, queer dormers in
a steep roof of red tiles, leaded windows buried deep in walls of rough
stone. Emerging from the recessed vestibule on a level with the street
were the Watling twins, aglow with health, dressed in identical costumes
of blue. They had made their bow to society that winter.

“Why, here’s Hugh!” said Frances. “Doesn’t he look pleased with
himself?”

“He’s come to take us to church,” said Janet.

“Oh, he’s much too important,” said Frances. “He’s made a killing of
some sort,--haven’t you, Hugh?”...

I rang the bell and stood watching them as they departed, reflecting
that I was thirty-two years of age and unmarried. Mr. Watling,
surrounded with newspapers and seated before his library fire, glanced
up at me with a welcoming smile: how had I borne the legislative baptism
of fire? Such, I knew, was its implication.

“Everything went through according to schedule, eh? Well, I congratulate
you, Hugh,” he said.

“Oh, I didn’t have much to do with it,” I answered, smiling back at him.
“I kept out of sight.”

“That’s an art in itself.”

“I had an opportunity, at close range, to study the methods of our
lawmakers.”

“They’re not particularly edifying,” Mr. Watling replied. “But they
seem, unfortunately, to be necessary.”

Such had been my own thought.

“Who is this man Krebs?” he inquired suddenly. “And why didn’t Varney
get hold of him and make him listen to reason?”

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t have been any use,” I replied. “He was in my
class at Harvard. I knew him--slightly. He worked his way through, and
had a pretty hard time of it. I imagine it affected his ideas.”

“What is he, a Socialist?”

“Something of the sort.” In Theodore Watling’s vigorous, sanity-exhaling
presence Krebs’s act appeared fantastic, ridiculous. “He has queer
notions about a new kind of democracy which he says is coming. I think
he is the kind of man who would be willing to die for it.”

“What, in these days!” Mr. Watling looked at me incredulously. “If
that’s so, we must keep an eye on him, a sincere fanatic is a good deal
more dangerous than a reformer who wants something. There are such men,”
 he added, “but they are rare. How was the Governor, Trulease?” he asked
suddenly. “Tractable?”

“Behaved like a lamb, although he insisted upon going through with his
little humbug,” I said.

Mr. Watling laughed. “They always do,” he observed, “and waste a lot of
valuable time. You’ll find some light cigars in the corner, Hugh.”

I sat down beside him and we spent the morning going over the details
of the Ribblevale suit, Mr. Watling delegating to me certain matters
connected with it of a kind with which I had not hitherto been
entrusted; and he spoke again, before I left, of his intention of
taking me into the firm as soon as the affair could be arranged. Walking
homeward, with my mind intent upon things to come, I met my mother at
the corner of Lyme Street coming from church. Her face lighted up at
sight of me.

“Have you been working to-day, Hugh?” she asked.

I explained that I had spent the morning with Mr. Watling.

“I’ll tell you a secret, mother. I’m going to be taken into the firm.”

“Oh, my dear, I’m so glad!” she exclaimed. “I often think, if only your
father were alive, how happy he would be, and how proud of you. I wish
he could know. Perhaps he does know.”

Theodore Watling had once said to me that the man who can best keep
his own counsel is the best counsel for other men to keep. I did not go
about boasting of the part I had played in originating the now famous
Bill No. 709, the passage of which had brought about the capitulation of
the Ribblevale Steel Company to our clients. But Ralph Hambleton knew of
it, of course.

“That was a pretty good thing you pulled off, Hughie,” he said. “I
didn’t think you had it in you.”

It was rank patronage, of course, yet I was secretly pleased. As the
years went on I was thrown more and more with him, though in boyhood
there had been between us no bond of sympathy. About this time he was
beginning to increase very considerably the Hambleton fortune, and a
little later I became counsel for the Crescent Gas and Electric Company,
in which he had shrewdly gained a controlling interest. Even toward the
colossal game of modern finance his attitude was characteristically
that of the dilettante, of the amateur; he played it, as it were,
contemptuously, even as he had played poker at Harvard, with a cynical
audacity that had a peculiarly disturbing effect upon his companions. He
bluffed, he raised the limit in spite of protests, and when he lost one
always had the feeling that he would ultimately get his money back twice
over. At the conferences in the Boyne Club, which he often attended, his
manner toward Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Scherer and even toward Miller Gorse
was frequently one of thinly veiled amusement at their seriousness.
I often wondered that they did not resent it. But he was a privileged
person.

His cousin, Ham Durrett, whose inheritance was even greater than Ralph’s
had been, had also become a privileged person whose comings and goings
and more reputable doings were often recorded in the newspapers. Ham
had attained to what Gene Hollister aptly but inadvertently called
“notoriety”: as Ralph wittily remarked, Ham gave to polo and women that
which might have gone into high finance. He spent much of his time in
the East; his conduct there and at home would once have created a black
scandal in our community, but we were gradually leaving our Calvinism
behind us and growing more tolerant: we were ready to Forgive much to
wealth especially if it was inherited. Hostesses lamented the fact that
Ham was “wild,” but they asked him to dinners and dances to meet their
daughters.

If some moralist better educated and more far-seeing than Perry
Blackwood (for Perry had become a moralist) had told these hostesses
that Hambleton Durrett was a victim of our new civilization, they would
have raised their eyebrows. They deplored while they coveted. If Ham had
been told he was a victim of any sort, he would have laughed.

He enjoyed life; he was genial and jovial, both lavish and
parsimonious,--this latter characteristic being the curious survival of
the trait of the ancestors to which he owed his millions. He was growing
even heavier, and decidedly red in the face.

Perry used to take Ralph to task for not saving Ham from his iniquities,
and Ralph would reply that Ham was going to the devil anyway, and not
even the devil himself could stop him.

“You can stop him, and you know it,” Perry retorted indignantly.

“What do you want me to do with him?” asked Ralph. “Convert him to the
saintly life I lead?”

This was a poser.

“That’s a fact,” sand Perry, “you’re no better than he is.”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘better,’” retorted Ralph, grinning. “I’m
wiser, that’s all.” (We had been talking about the ethics of business
when Perry had switched off to Ham.) “I believe, at least, in restraint
of trade. Ham doesn’t believe in restraint of any kind.”

When, therefore, the news suddenly began to be circulated in the Boyne
Club that Ham was showing a tendency to straighten up, surprise and
incredulity were genuine. He was drinking less,--much less; and it was
said that he had severed certain ties that need not again be definitely
mentioned. The theory of religious regeneration not being tenable, it
was naturally supposed that he had fallen in love; the identity of
the unknown lady becoming a fruitful subject of speculation among
the feminine portion of society. The announcement of the marriage of
Hambleton Durrett would be news of the first magnitude, to be
absorbed eagerly by the many who had not the honour of his
acquaintance,--comparable only to that of a devastating flood or a
murder mystery or a change in the tariff.

Being absorbed in affairs that seemed more important, the subject did
not interest me greatly. But one cold Sunday afternoon, as I made my
way, in answer to her invitation, to see Nancy Willett, I found myself
wondering idly whether she might not be by way of making a shrewd guess
as to the object of Hambleton’s affections. It was well known that he
had entertained a hopeless infatuation for her; and some were inclined
to attribute his later lapses to her lack of response. He still called
on her, and her lectures, which she delivered like a great aunt with
a recondite knowledge of the world, he took meekly. But even she had
seemed powerless to alter his habits....

Powell Street, that happy hunting-ground of my youth, had changed its
character, become contracted and unfamiliar, sooty. The McAlerys and
other older families who had not decayed with the neighbourhood were
rapidly deserting it, moving out to the new residence district known
as “the Heights.” I came to the Willett House. That, too, had an air of
shabbiness,--of well-tended shabbiness, to be sure; the stone steps had
been scrupulously scrubbed, but one of them was cracked clear across,
and the silver on the polished name-plate was wearing off; even the act
of pulling the knob of a door-bell was becoming obsolete, so used had
we grown to pushing porcelain buttons in bright, new vestibules. As I
waited for my summons to be answered it struck me as remarkable that
neither Nancy nor her father had been contaminated by the shabbiness
that surrounded them.

She had managed rather marvellously to redeem one room from the
old-fashioned severity of the rest of the house, the library behind
the big “parlour.” It was Nancy’s room, eloquent of her daintiness and
taste, of her essential modernity and luxuriousness; and that evening,
as I was ushered into it, this quality of luxuriousness, of being
able to shut out the disagreeable aspects of life that surrounded
and threatened her, particularly impressed me. She had not lacked
opportunities to escape. I wondered uneasily as I waited why she had
not embraced them. I strayed about the room. A coal fire burned in the
grate, the red-shaded lamps gave a subdued but cheerful light; some
impulse led me to cross over to the windows and draw aside the heavy
hangings. Dusk was gathering over that garden, bleak and frozen now,
where we had romped together as children. How queer the place seemed!
How shrivelled! Once it had had the wide range of a park. There, still
weathering the elements, was the old-fashioned latticed summer-house,
but the fruit-trees that I recalled as clouds of pink and white were
gone.... A touch of poignancy was in these memories. I dropped the
curtain, and turned to confront Nancy, who had entered noiselessly.

“Well, Hugh, were you dreaming?” she said.

“Not exactly,” I replied, embarrassed. “I was looking at the garden.”

“The soot has ruined it. My life seems to be one continual struggle
against the soot,--the blacks, as the English call them. It’s a more
expressive term. They are like an army, you know, overwhelming in their
relentless invasion. Well, do sit down. It is nice of you to come.
You’ll have some tea, won’t you?”

The maid had brought in the tray. Afternoon tea was still rather a new
custom with us, more of a ceremony than a meal; and as Nancy handed
me my cup and the thinnest of slices of bread and butter I found the
intimacy of the situation a little disquieting. Her manner was indeed
intimate, and yet it had the odd and disturbing effect of making her
seem more remote. As she chatted I answered her perfunctorily, while all
the time I was asking myself why I had ceased to desire her, whether
the old longing for her might not return--was not even now returning? I
might indeed go far afield to find a wife so suited to me as Nancy. She
had beauty, distinction, and position. She was a woman of whom any man
might be proud....

“I haven’t congratulated you yet, Hugh,” she said suddenly, “now that
you are a partner of Mr. Watling’s. I hear on all sides that you are on
the high road to a great success.”

“Of course I’m glad to be in the firm,” I admitted.

It was a new tack for Nancy, rather a disquieting one, this discussion
of my affairs, which she had so long avoided or ignored. “You are
getting what you have always wanted, aren’t you?”

I wondered in some trepidation whether by that word “always” she was
making a deliberate reference to the past.

“Always?” I repeated, rather fatuously.

“Nearly always, ever since you have been a man.”

I was incapable of taking advantage of the opening, if it were one. She
was baffling.

“A man likes to succeed in his profession, of course,” I said.

“And you made up your mind to succeed more deliberately than most men. I
needn’t ask you if you are satisfied, Hugh. Success seems to agree with
you,--although I imagine you will never be satisfied.”

“Why do you say that?” I demanded.

“I haven’t known you all your life for nothing. I think I know you much
better than you know yourself.”

“You haven’t acted as if you did,” I exclaimed.

She smiled.

“Have you been interested in what I thought about you?” she asked.

“That isn’t quite fair, Nancy,” I protested. “You haven’t given me much
evidence that you did think about me.”

“Have I received much encouragement to do so?” she inquired.

“But you haven’t seemed to invite--you’ve kept me at arm’s length.”

“Oh, don’t fence!” she cried, rather sharply.

I had become agitated, but her next words gave me a shock that was
momentarily paralyzing.

“I asked you to come here to-day, Hugh, because I wished you to know
that I have made up my mind to marry Hambleton Durrett.”

“Hambleton Durrett!” I echoed stupidly. “Hambleton Durrett!”

“Why not?”

“Have you--have you accepted him?”

“No. But I mean to do so.”

“You--you love him?”

“I don’t see what right you have to ask.”

“But you just said that you invited me here to talk frankly.”

“No, I don’t love him.”

“Then why, in heaven’s name, are you going to marry him?”

She lay back in her chair, regarding me, her lips slightly parted. All
at once the full flavour of her, the superfine quality was revealed
after years of blindness.--Nor can I describe the sudden rebellion, the
revulsion that I experienced. Hambleton Durrett! It was an outrage,
a sacrilege! I got up, and put my hand on the mantel. Nancy remained
motionless, inert, her head lying back against the chair. Could it be
that she were enjoying my discomfiture? There is no need to confess that
I knew next to nothing of women; had I been less excited, I might have
made the discovery that I still regarded them sentimentally. Certain
romantic axioms concerning them, garnered from Victorian literature,
passed current in my mind for wisdom; and one of these declared that
they were prone to remain true to an early love. Did Nancy still care
for me? The query, coming as it did on top of my emotion, brought with
it a strange and overwhelming perplexity. Did I really care for her? The
many years during which I had practised the habit of caution began
to exert an inhibiting pressure. Here was a situation, an opportunity
suddenly thrust upon me which might never return, and which I was
utterly unprepared to meet. Would I be happy with Nancy, after all? Her
expression was still enigmatic.

“Why shouldn’t I marry him?” she demanded.

“Because he’s not good enough for you.”

“Good!” she exclaimed, and laughed. “He loves me. He wants me without
reservation or calculation.” There was a sting in this. “And is he any
worse,” she asked slowly, “than many others who might be mentioned?”

“No,” I agreed. I did not intend to be led into the thankless and
disagreeable position of condemning Hambleton Durrett. “But why have you
waited all these years if you did not mean to marry a man of ability, a
man who has made something of himself?”

“A man like you, Hugh?” she said gently.

I flushed.

“That isn’t quite fair, Nancy.”

“What are you working for?” she suddenly inquired, straightening up.

“What any man works for, I suppose.”

“Ah, there you have hit it,--what any man works for in our world.
Power,--personal power. You want to be somebody,--isn’t that it? Not the
noblest ambition, you’ll have to admit,--not the kind of thing we used
to dream about, when we did dream. Well, when we find we can’t realize
our dreams, we take the next best thing. And I fail to see why you
should blame me for taking it when you yourself have taken it. Hambleton
Durrett can give it to me. He’ll accept me on my own terms, he won’t
interfere with me, I shan’t be disillusionized,--and I shall have a
position which I could not hope to have if I remained unmarried, a very
marked position as Hambleton Durrett’s wife. I am thirty, you know.”

Her frankness appalled me.

“The trouble with you, Hugh, is that you still deceive yourself. You
throw a glamour over things. You want to keep your cake and eat it too.

“I don’t see why you say that. And marriage especially--”

She took me up.

“Marriage! What other career is open to a woman? Unless she is married,
and married well, according to the money standard you men have set up,
she is nobody. We can’t all be Florence Nightingales, and I am unable
to imagine myself a Julia Ward Howe or a Harriet Beecher Stowe. What is
left? Nothing but marriage. I’m hard and cynical, you will say, but I
have thought, and I’m not afraid, as I have told you, to look things in
the face. There are very few women, I think, who would not take the real
thing if they had the chance before it were too late, who wouldn’t be
willing to do their own cooking in order to get it.”

She fell silent suddenly. I began to pace the room.

“For God’s sake, don’t do this, Nancy!” I begged.

But she continued to stare into the fire, as though she had not heard
me.

“If you had made up your mind to do it, why did you tell me?” I asked.

“Sentiment, I suppose. I am paying a tribute to what I once was, to what
you once were,” she said. “A--a sort of good-bye to sentiment.”

“Nancy!” I said hoarsely.

She shook her head.

“No, Hugh. Surely you can’t misjudge me so!” she answered reproachfully.
“Do you think I should have sent for you if I had meant--that!”

“No, no, I didn’t think so. But why not? You--you cared once, and you
tell me plainly you don’t love him. It was all a terrible mistake. We
were meant for each other.”

“I did love you then,” she said. “You never knew how much. And there is
nothing I wouldn’t give to bring it all back again. But I can’t. It’s
gone. You’re gone, and I’m gone. I mean what we were. Oh, why did you
change?”

“It was you who changed,” I declared, bewildered.

“Couldn’t you see--can’t you see now what you did? But perhaps you
couldn’t help it. Perhaps it was just you, after all.”

“What I did?”

“Why couldn’t you have held fast to your faith? If you had, you would
have known what it was I adored in you. Oh, I don’t mind telling you
now, it was just that faith, Hugh, that faith you had in life, that
faith you had in me. You weren’t cynical and calculating, like Ralph
Hambleton, you had imagination. I--I dreamed, too. And do you remember
the time when you made the boat, and we went to Logan’s Pond, and you
sank in her?”

“And you stayed,” I went on, “when all the others ran away? You ran down
the hill like a whirlwind.”

She laughed.

“And then you came here one day, to a party, and said you were going to
Harvard, and quarrelled with me.”

“Why did you doubt met” I asked agitatedly. “Why didn’t you let me see
that you still cared?”

“Because that wasn’t you, Hugh, that wasn’t your real self. Do you
suppose it mattered to me whether you went to Harvard with the others?
Oh, I was foolish too, I know. I shouldn’t have said what I did. But
what is the use of regrets?” she exclaimed. “We’ve both run after the
practical gods, and the others have hidden their faces from us. It may
be that we are not to blame, either of us, that the practical gods are
too strong. We’ve learned to love and worship them, and now we can’t do
without them.”

“We can try, Nancy,” I pleaded.

“No,” she answered in a low voice, “that’s the difference between you
and me. I know myself better than you know yourself, and I know you
better.” She smiled again. “Unless we could have it all back again, I
shouldn’t want any of it. You do not love me--”

I started once more to protest.

“No, no, don’t say it!” she cried.

“You may think you do, just this moment, but it’s only because--you’ve
been moved. And what you believe you want isn’t me, it’s what I was. But
I’m not that any more,--I’m simply recalling that, don’t you see? And
even then you wouldn’t wish me, now, as I was. That sounds involved,
but you must understand. You want a woman who will be wrapped up in your
career, Hugh, and yet who will not share it,--who will devote herself
body and soul to what you have become. A woman whom you can shape. And
you won’t really love her, but only just so much of her as may become
the incarnation of you. Well, I’m not that kind of woman. I might have
been, had you been different. I’m not at all sure. Certainly I’m not
that kind now, even though I know in my heart that the sort of career
you have made for yourself, and that I intend to make for myself is all
dross. But now I can’t do without it.”

“And yet you are going to marry Hambleton Durrett!” I said.

She understood me, although I regretted my words at once.

“Yes, I am going to marry him.” There was a shade of bitterness, of
defiance in her voice. “Surely you are not offering me the--the other
thing, now. Oh, Hugh!”

“I am willing to abandon it all, Nancy.”

“No,” she said, “you’re not, and I’m not. What you can’t see and won’t
see is that it has become part of you. Oh, you are successful, you will
be more and more successful. And you think I should be somebody, as your
wife, Hugh, more perhaps, eventually, than I shall be as Hambleton’s.
But I should be nobody, too. I couldn’t stand it now, my dear. You must
realize that as soon as you have time to think it over. We shall be
friends.”

The sudden gentleness in her voice pierced me through and through. She
held out her hand. Something in her grasp spoke of a resolution which
could not be shaken.

“And besides,” she added sadly, “I don’t love you any more, Hugh. I’m
mourning for something that’s gone. I wanted to have just this one talk
with you. But we shan’t mention it again,--we’ll close the book.”...

At that I fled out of the house, and at first the thought of her as
another man’s wife, as Hambleton Durrett’s wife, was seemingly not to
be borne. It was incredible! “We’ll close the book.” I found myself
repeating the phrase; and it seemed then as though something within me
I had believed dead--something that formerly had been all of me--had
revived again to throb with pain.

It is not surprising that the acuteness of my suffering was of short
duration, though I remember certain sharp twinges when the announcement
of the engagement burst on the city. There was much controversy over the
question as to whether or not Ham Durrett’s reform would be permanent;
but most people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt; it
was time he settled down and took the position in the community that was
to be expected of one of his name; and as for Nancy, it was generally
agreed that she had done well for herself. She was not made for
poverty--and who so well as she was fitted for the social leadership of
our community?

They were married in Trinity Church in the month of May, and I was one
of Ham’s attendants. Ralph was “best man.” For the last time the old
Willett mansion in Powell Street wore the gala air of former days;
carpets were spread over the sidewalk, and red and white awnings; rooms
were filled with flowers and flung open to hundreds of guests. I
found the wedding something of an ordeal. I do not like to dwell upon
it--especially upon that moment when I came to congratulate Nancy as she
stood beside Ham at the end of the long parlour. She seemed to have no
regrets. I don’t know what I expected of her--certainly not tears and
tragedy. She seemed taller than ever, and very beautiful in her veil and
white satin gown and the diamonds Ham had given her; very much mistress
of herself, quite a contrast to Ham, who made no secret of his elation.
She smiled when I wished her happiness.

“We’ll be home in the autumn, Hugh, and expect to see a great deal of
you,” she said.

As I paused in a corner of the room my eye fell upon Nancy’s father.
McAlery Willett’s elation seemed even greater than Ham’s. With a
gardenia in his frock-coat and a glass of champagne in his hand he went
from group to group; and his familiar laughter, which once had seemed
so full of merriment and fun, gave me to-day a somewhat scandalized
feeling. I heard Ralph’s voice, and turned to discover him standing
beside me, his long legs thrust slightly apart, his hands in his
pockets, overlooking the scene with typical, semi-contemptuous
amusement.

“This lets old McAlery out, anyway,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I demanded.

“One or two little notes of his will be cancelled, sooner or
later--that’s all.”

For a moment I was unable to speak.

“And do you think that she--that Nancy found out--?” I stammered.

“Well, I’d be willing to take that end of the bet,” he replied. “Why
the deuce should she marry Ham? You ought to know her well enough to
understand how she’d feel if she discovered some of McAlery’s financial
coups? Of course it’s not a thing I talk about, you understand. Are you
going to the Club?”

“No, I’m going home,” I said. I was aware of his somewhat compassionate
smile as I left him....



XII.

One November day nearly two years after my admission as junior member of
the firm of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon seven gentlemen met at luncheon
in the Boyne Club; Mr. Barbour, President of the Railroad, Mr. Scherer,
of the Boyne Iron Works and other corporations, Mr. Leonard Dickinson,
of the Corn National Bank, Mr. Halsey, a prominent banker from the other
great city of the state, Mr. Grunewald, Chairman of the Republican State
Committee, and Mr. Frederick Grierson, who had become a very important
man in our community. At four o’clock they emerged from the club:
citizens in Boyne Street who saw them chatting amicably on the steps
little suspected that in the last three hours these gentlemen had chosen
and practically elected the man who was to succeed Mr. Wade as United
States Senator in Washington. Those were the days in which great affairs
were simply and efficiently handled. No democratic nonsense about
leaving the choice to an electorate that did not know what it wanted.

The man chosen to fill this high position was Theodore Watling. He said
he would think about the matter.

In the nation at large, through the defection of certain Northern states
neither so conservative nor fortunate as ours, the Democratic party was
in power, which naturally implies financial depression. There was no
question about our ability to send a Republican Senator; the choice in
the Boyne Club was final; but before the legislature should ratify it,
a year or so hence, it were just as well that the people of the state
should be convinced that they desired Mr. Watling more than any other
man; and surely enough, in a little while such a conviction sprang
up spontaneously. In offices and restaurants and hotels, men began to
suggest to each other what a fine thing it would be if Theodore Watling
might be persuaded to accept the toga; at the banks, when customers
called to renew their notes and tight money was discussed and Democrats
excoriated, it was generally agreed that the obvious thing to do was
to get a safe man in the Senate. From the very first, Watling sentiment
stirred like spring sap after a hard winter.

The country newspapers, watered by providential rains, began to put
forth tender little editorial shoots, which Mr. Judah B. Tallant
presently collected and presented in a charming bouquet in the Morning
Era. “The Voice of the State Press;” thus was the column headed; and the
remarks of the Hon. Fitch Truesdale, of the St. Helen’s Messenger, were
given a special prominence. Mr. Truesdale was the first, in his section,
to be inspired by the happy thought that the one man preeminently fitted
to represent the state in the present crisis, when her great industries
had been crippled by Democratic folly, was Mr. Theodore Watling. The
Rossiter Banner, the Elkington Star, the Belfast Recorder, and I know
not how many others simultaneously began to sing Mr. Watling’s praises.

“Not since the troublous times of the Civil War,” declared the Morning
Era, “had the demand for any man been so unanimous.” As a proof of it,
there were the country newspapers, “which reflected the sober opinion of
the firesides of the common people.”

There are certain industrious gentlemen to whom little credit is given,
and who, unlike the average citizen who reserves his enthusiasm for
election time, are patriotic enough to labour for their country’s good
all the year round. When in town, it was their habit to pay a friendly
call on the Counsel for the Railroad, Mr. Miller Gorse, in the Corn
Bank Building. He was never too busy to converse with them; or, it
might better be said, to listen to them converse. Let some legally
and politically ambitious young man observe Mr. Gorse’s method. Did he
inquire what the party worker thought of Mr. Watling for the Senate? Not
at all! But before the party worker left he was telling Mr. Gorse that
public sentiment demanded Mr. Watling. After leaving Mr. Gorse they
wended their way to the Durrett Building and handed their cards over
the rail of the offices of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon. Mr. Watling shook
hands with scores of them, and they departed, well satisfied with the
flavour of his cigars and intoxicated by his personality. He had a
marvellous way of cutting short an interview without giving offence.
Some of them he turned over to Mr. Paret, whom he particularly desired
they should know. Thus Mr. Paret acquired many valuable additions to his
acquaintance, cultivated a memory for names and faces that was to stand
him in good stead; and kept, besides, an indexed note-book into which he
put various bits of interesting information concerning each. Though
not immediately lucrative, it was all, no doubt, part of a lawyer’s
education.

During the summer and the following winter Colonel Paul Varney came
often to town and spent much of his time in Mr. Paret’s office smoking
Mr. Watling’s cigars and discussing the coming campaign, in which he
took a whole-souled interest.

“Say, Hugh, this is goin’ slick!” he would exclaim, his eyes glittering
like round buttons of jet. “I never saw a campaign where they fell in
the way they’re doing now. If it was anybody else but Theodore Watling,
it would scare me. You ought to have been in Jim Broadhurst’s campaign,”
 he added, referring to the junior senator, “they wouldn’t wood up at
all, they was just listless. But Gorse and Barbour and the rest wanted
him, and we had to put him over. I reckon he is useful down there in
Washington, but say, do you know what he always reminded me of? One
of those mud-turtles I used to play with as a boy up in Columbia
County,--shuts up tight soon as he sees you coming. Now Theodore Watling
ain’t like that, any way of speaking. We can get up some enthusiasm
for a man of his sort. He’s liberal and big. He’s made his pile, and he
don’t begrudge some of it to the fellows who do the work. Mark my words,
when you see a man who wants a big office cheap, look out for him.”

This, and much more wisdom I imbibed while assenting to my chief’s
greatness. For Mr. Varney was right,--one could feel enthusiasm for
Theodore Watling; and my growing intimacy with him, the sense that I
was having a part in his career, a share in his success, became for the
moment the passion of my life. As the campaign progressed I gave more
and more time to it, and made frequent trips of a confidential nature
to the different counties of the state. The whole of my being was
energized. The national fever had thoroughly pervaded my blood--the
national fever to win. Prosperity--writ large--demanded it, and Theodore
Watling personified, incarnated the cause. I had neither the time nor
the desire to philosophize on this national fever, which animated all
my associates: animated, I might say, the nation, which was beginning to
get into a fever about games. If I remember rightly, it was about
this time that golf was introduced, tennis had become a commonplace,
professional baseball was in full swing; Ham Durrett had even organized
a local polo team.... The man who failed to win something tangible
in sport or law or business or politics was counted out. Such was the
spirit of America, in the closing years of the nineteenth century.

And yet, when one has said this, one has failed to express the national
Geist in all its subtlety. In brief, the great American sport was not so
much to win the game as to beat it; the evasion of rules challenged
our ingenuity; and having won, we set about devising methods whereby it
would be less and less possible for us winners to lose in the future. No
better illustration of this tendency could be given than the development
which had recently taken place in the field of our city politics,
hitherto the battle-ground of Irish politicians who had fought one
another for supremacy. Individualism had been rampant, competition
the custom; you bought an alderman, or a boss who owned four or five
aldermen, and then you never could be sure you were to get what you
wanted, or that the aldermen and the bosses would “stay bought.” But
now a genius had appeared, an American genius who had arisen swiftly
and almost silently, who appealed to the imagination, and whose name was
often mentioned in a whisper,--the Hon. Judd Jason, sometimes known as
the Spider, who organized the City Hall and capitalized it; an ultimate
and logical effect--if one had considered it--of the Manchester school
of economics. Enlightened self-interest, stripped of sentiment, ends
on Judd Jasons. He ran the city even as Mr. Sherrill ran his department
store; you paid your price. It was very convenient. Being a genius, Mr.
Jason did not wholly break with tradition, but retained those elements
of the old muddled system that had their value, chartering steamboats
for outings on the river, giving colossal picnics in Lowry Park. The
poor and the wanderer and the criminal (of the male sex at least) were
cared for. But he was not loved, as the rough-and-tumble Irishmen had
been loved; he did not make himself common; he was surrounded by an aura
of mystery which I confess had not failed of effect on me. Once, and
only once during my legal apprenticeship, he had been pointed out to
me on the street, where he rarely ventured. His appearance was not
impressive....

Mr. Jason could not, of course, prevent Mr. Watling’s election, even
did he so desire, but he did command the allegiance of several city
candidates--both democratic and republican--for the state legislature,
who had as yet failed to announce their preferences for United States
Senator. It was important that Mr. Watling’s vote should be large, as
indicative of a public reaction and repudiation of Democratic national
folly. This matter among others was the subject of discussion one
July morning when the Republican State Chairman was in the city; Mr.
Grunewald expressed anxiety over Mr. Jason’s continued silence. It was
expedient that somebody should “see” the boss.

“Why not Paret?” suggested Leonard Dickinson. Mr. Watling was not
present at this conference. “Paret seems to be running Watling’s
campaign, anyway.”

It was settled that I should be the emissary. With lively sensations of
curiosity and excitement, tempered by a certain anxiety as to my
ability to match wits with the Spider, I made my way to his “lair”
 over Monahan’s saloon, situated in a district that was anything but
respectable. The saloon, on the ground floor, had two apartments; the
bar-room proper where Mike Monahan, chamberlain of the establishment,
was wont to stand, red faced and smiling, to greet the courtiers, big
and little, the party workers, the district leaders, the hangers-on
ready to be hired, the city officials, the police judges,--yes, and
the dignified members of state courts whose elections depended on Mr.
Jason’s favour: even Judge Bering, whose acquaintance I had made the day
I had come, as a law student, to Mr. Watling’s office, unbent from time
to time sufficiently to call there for a small glass of rye and water,
and to relate, with his owl-like gravity, an anecdote to the “boys.” The
saloon represented Democracy, so dear to the American public. Here
all were welcome, even the light-fingered gentlemen who enjoyed the
privilege of police protection; and who sometimes, through fortuitous
circumstances, were hauled before the very magistrates with whom
they had rubbed elbows on the polished rail. Behind the bar-room, and
separated from it by swinging doors only the elite ventured to thrust
apart, was an audience chamber whither Mr. Jason occasionally descended.
Anecdote and political reminiscence gave place here to matters of high
policy.

I had several times come to the saloon in the days of my apprenticeship
in search of some judge or official, and once I had run down here
the city auditor himself. Mike Monahan, whose affair it was to
know everyone, recognized me. It was part of his business, also, to
understand that I was now a member of the firm of Watling, Fowndes and
Ripon.

“Good morning to you, Mr. Paret,” he said suavely. We held a colloquy
in undertones over the bar, eyed by the two or three customers who were
present. Mr. Monahan disappeared, but presently returned to whisper:
“Sure, he’ll see you,” to lead the way through the swinging doors and up
a dark stairway. I came suddenly on a room in the greatest disorder, its
tables and chairs piled high with newspapers and letters, its windows
streaked with soot. From an open door on its farther side issued a
voice.

“Is that you, Mr. Paret? Come in here.”

It was little less than a command.

“Heard of you, Mr. Paret. Glad to know you. Sit down, won’t you?”

The inner room was almost dark. I made out a bed in the corner, and
propped up in the bed a man; but for the moment I was most aware of a
pair of eyes that flared up when the man spoke, and died down again
when he became silent. They reminded me of those insects which in my
childhood days we called “lightning bugs.” Mr. Jason gave me a hand
like a woman’s. I expressed my pleasure at meeting him, and took a chair
beside the bed.

“I believe you’re a partner of Theodore Watling’s now aren’t you? Smart
man, Watling.”

“He’ll make a good senator,” I replied, accepting the opening.

“You think he’ll get elected--do you?” Mr. Jason inquired.

I laughed.

“Well, there isn’t much doubt about that, I imagine.”

“Don’t know--don’t know. Seen some dead-sure things go wrong in my
time.”

“What’s going to defeat him?” I asked pleasantly.

“I don’t say anything,” Mr. Jason replied. “But I’ve known funny things
to happen--never does to be dead sure.”

“Oh, well, we’re as sure as it’s humanly possible to be,” I declared.
The eyes continued to fascinate me, they had a peculiar, disquieting
effect. Now they died down, and it was as if the man’s very presence had
gone out, as though I had been left alone; and I found it exceedingly
difficult, under the circumstances, to continue to address him. Suddenly
he flared up again.

“Watling send you over here?” he demanded.

“No. As a matter of fact, he’s out of town. Some of Mr. Watling’s
friends, Mr. Grunewald and Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Gorse and others,
suggested that I see you, Mr. Jason.”

There came a grunt from the bed.

“Mr. Watling has always valued your friendship and support,” I said.

“What makes him think he ain’t going to get it?”

“He hasn’t a doubt of it,” I went on diplomatically. “But we felt--and
I felt personally, that we ought to be in touch with you, to work along
with you, to keep informed how things are going in the city.”

“What things?”

“Well--there are one or two representatives, friends of yours, who
haven’t come out for Mr. Watling. We aren’t worrying, we know you’ll do
the right thing, but we feel that it would have a good deal of influence
in some other parts of the state if they declared themselves. And then
you know as well as I do that this isn’t a year when any of us
can afford to recognize too closely party lines; the Democratic
administration has brought on a panic, the business men in that party
are down on it, and it ought to be rebuked. And we feel, too, that some
of the city’s Democrats ought to be loyal to Mr. Watling,--not that we
expect them to vote for him in caucus, but when it comes to the joint
ballot--”

“Who?” demanded Mr. Jason.

“Senator Dowse and Jim Maher, for instance,” I suggested.

“Jim voted for Bill 709 all right--didn’t he?” said Mr. Jason abruptly.

“That’s just it,” I put in boldly. “We’d like to induce him to come in
with us this time. But we feel that--the inducement would better come
through you.”

I thought Mr. Jason smiled. By this time I had grown accustomed to
the darkness, the face and figure of the man in the bed had become
discernible. Power, I remember thinking, chooses odd houses for itself.
Here was no overbearing, full-blooded ward ruffian brimming with
vitality, but a thin, sallow little man in a cotton night-shirt, with
iron-grey hair and a wiry moustache; he might have been an overworked
clerk behind a dry-goods counter; and yet somehow, now that I had talked
to him, I realized that he never could have been. Those extraordinary
eyes of his, when they were functioning, marked his individuality as
unique. It were almost too dramatic to say that he required darkness to
make his effect, but so it seemed. I should never forget him. He had in
truth been well named the Spider.

“Of course we haven’t tried to get in touch with them. We are leaving
them to you,” I added.

“Paret,” he said suddenly, “I don’t care a damn about Grunewald--never
did. I’d turn him down for ten cents. But you can tell Theodore Watling
for me, and Dickinson, that I guess the ‘inducement’ can be fixed.”

I felt a certain relief that the interview had come to an end, that the
moment had arrived for amenities. To my surprise, Mr. Jason anticipated
me.

“I’ve been interested in you, Mr. Paret,” he observed. “Know who you
are, of course, knew you were in Watling’s office. Then some of the boys
spoke about you when you were down at the legislature on that Ribblevale
matter. Guess you had more to do with that bill than came out in the
newspapers--eh?”

I was taken off my guard.

“Oh, that’s talk,” I said.

“All right, it’s talk, then? But I guess you and I will have some more
talk after a while,--after Theodore Watling gets to be United States
Senator. Give him my regards, and--and come in when I can do anything
for you, Mr. Paret.”

Thanking him, I groped my way downstairs and let myself out by a side
door Monahan had shown me into an alleyway, thus avoiding the saloon.
As I walked slowly back to the office, seeking the shade of the awnings,
the figure in the darkened room took on a sinister aspect that troubled
me....

The autumn arrived, the campaign was on with a whoop, and I had my first
taste of “stump” politics. The acrid smell of red fire brings it back
to me. It was a medley of railroad travel, of committees provided with
badges--and cigars, of open carriages slowly drawn between lines of
bewildered citizens, of Lincoln clubs and other clubs marching in
serried ranks, uniformed and helmeted, stalwarts carrying torches and
banners. And then there were the draughty opera-houses with the sylvan
scenery pushed back and plush chairs and sofas pushed forward; with
an ominous table, a pitcher of water on it and a glass, near the
footlights. The houses were packed with more bewildered citizens. What a
wonderful study of mob-psychology it would have offered! Men who had not
thought of the grand old Republican party for two years, and who had not
cared much about it when they had entered the dooms, after an hour or so
went mad with fervour. The Hon. Joseph Mecklin, ex-Speaker of the
House, with whom I traveled on occasions, had a speech referring to the
martyred President, ending with an appeal to the revolutionary fathers
who followed Washington with bleeding feet. The Hon. Joseph possessed
that most valuable of political gifts, presence; and when with quivering
voice he finished his peroration, citizens wept with him. What it all
had to do with the tariff was not quite clear. Yet nobody seemed to miss
the connection.

We were all of us most concerned, of course, about the working-man
and his dinner pail,--whom the Democrats had wantonly thrown out of
employment for the sake of a doctrinaire theory. They had put him in
competition with the serf of Europe. Such was the subject-matter of my
own modest addresses in this, my maiden campaign. I had the sense to
see myself in perspective; to recognize that not for me, a dignified and
substantial lawyer of affairs, were the rhetorical flights of the Hon.
Joseph Mecklin. I spoke with a certain restraint. Not too dryly, I hope.
But I sought to curb my sentiments, my indignation, at the manner in
which the working-man had been treated; to appeal to the common sense
rather than to the passions of my audiences. Here were the statistics!
(drawn, by the way, from the Republican Campaign book). Unscrupulous
demagogues--Democratic, of course--had sought to twist and evade them.
Let this terrible record of lack of employment and misery be compared
with the prosperity under Republican rule.

“One of the most effective speakers in this campaign for the restoration
of Prosperity,” said the Rossiter Banner, “is Mr. Hugh Paret, of
the firm of Watling, Fowndes and Ripon. Mr. Paret’s speech at the
Opera-House last evening made a most favourable impression. Mr. Paret
deals with facts. And his thoughtful analysis of the situation into
which the Democratic party has brought this country should convince any
sane-minded voter that the time has come for a change.”

I began to keep a scrap-book, though I locked it up in the drawer of
my desk. In it are to be found many clippings of a similarly gratifying
tenor....

Mecklin and I were well contrasted. In this way, incidentally, I made
many valuable acquaintances among the “solid” men of the state, the
local capitalists and manufacturers, with whom my manner of dealing with
public questions was in particular favour. These were practical men;
they rather patronized the Hon. Joseph, thus estimating, to a nicety, a
mans value; or solidity, or specific gravity, it might better be said,
since our universe was one of checks and balances. The Hon. Joseph and
his like, skyrocketing through the air, were somehow necessary in the
scheme of things, but not to be taken too seriously. Me they did take
seriously, these provincial lords, inviting me to their houses and
opening their hearts. Thus, when we came to Elkington, Mr. Mecklin
reposed in the Commercial House, on the noisy main street. Fortunately
for him, the clanging of trolley cars never interfered with his
slumbers. I slept in a wide chamber in the mansion of Mr. Ezra Hutchins.
There were many Hutchinses in Elkington,--brothers and cousins and
uncles and great-uncles,--and all were connected with the woollen
mills. But there is always one supreme Hutchins, and Ezra was he: tall,
self-contained, elderly, but well preserved through frugal living,
essentially American and typical of his class, when he entered the lobby
of the Commercial House that afternoon the babel of political discussion
was suddenly hushed; politicians, traveling salesmen and the members of
the local committee made a lane for him; to him, the Hon. Joseph and I
were introduced. Mr. Hutchins knew what he wanted. He was cordial to
Mr. Mecklin, but he took me. We entered a most respectable surrey with
tassels, driven by a raw-boned coachman in a black overcoat, drawn by
two sleek horses.

“How is this thing going, Paret?” he asked.

I gave him Mr. Grunewald’s estimated majority.

“What do you think?” he demanded, a shrewd, humorous look in his blue
eyes.

“Well, I think we’ll carry the state. I haven’t had Grunewald’s
experience in estimating.”

Ezra Hutchins smiled appreciatively.

“What does Watling think?”

“He doesn’t seem to be worrying much.”

“Ever been in Elkington before?”

I said I hadn’t.

“Well, a drive will do you good.”

It was about four o’clock on a mild October afternoon. The little town,
of fifteen thousand inhabitants or so, had a wonderful setting in the
widening valley of the Scopanong, whose swiftly running waters furnished
the power for the mills. We drove to these through a gateway over which
the words “No Admittance” were conspicuously painted, past long brick
buildings that bordered the canals; and in the windows I caught sight
of drab figures of men and women bending over the machines. Half of the
buildings, as Mr. Hutchins pointed out, were closed,--mute witnesses
of tariff-tinkering madness. Even more eloquent of democratic folly was
that part of the town through which we presently passed, streets lined
with rows of dreary houses where the workers lived. Children were
playing on the sidewalks, but theirs seemed a listless play; listless,
too, were the men and women who sat on the steps,--listless, and
somewhat sullen, as they watched us passing. Ezra Hutchins seemed to
read my thought.

“Since the unions got in here I’ve had nothing but trouble,” he said.
“I’ve tried to do my duty by my people, God knows. But they won’t see
which side their bread’s buttered on. They oppose me at every step, they
vote against their own interests. Some years ago they put up a job on
us, and sent a scatter-brained radical to the legislature.”

“Krebs.”

“Do you know him?”

“Slightly. He was in my class at Harvard.... Is he still here?” I asked,
after a pause.

“Oh, yes. But he hasn’t gone to the legislature this time, we’ve seen to
that. His father was a respectable old German who had a little shop and
made eye-glasses. The son is an example of too much education. He’s a
notoriety seeker. Oh, he’s clever, in a way. He’s given us a good deal
of trouble, too, in the courts with damage cases.”...

We came to a brighter, more spacious, well-to-do portion of the town,
where the residences faced the river. In a little while the waters
widened into a lake, which was surrounded by a park, a gift to the
city of the Hutchins family. Facing it, on one side, was the Hutchins
Library; on the other, across a wide street, where the maples
were turning, were the Hutchinses’ residences of various dates of
construction, from that of the younger George, who had lately married a
wife, and built in bright yellow brick, to the old-fashioned mansion of
Ezra himself. This, he told me, had been good enough for his father, and
was good enough for him. The picture of it comes back to me, now, with
singular attractiveness. It was of brick, and I suppose a modification
of the Georgian; the kind of house one still sees in out-of-the way
corners of London, with a sort of Dickensy flavour; high and square and
uncompromising, with small-paned windows, with a flat roof surrounded
by a low balustrade, and many substantial chimneys. The third storey was
lower than the others, separated from them by a distinct line. On one
side was a wide porch. Yellow and red leaves, the day’s fall, scattered
the well-kept lawn. Standing in the doorway of the house was a girl in
white, and as we descended from the surrey she came down the walk to
meet us. She was young, about twenty. Her hair was the colour of the
russet maple leaves.

“This is Mr. Paret, Maude.” Mr. Hutchins looked at his watch as does a
man accustomed to live by it. “If you’ll excuse me, Mr. Paret, I have
something important to attend to. Perhaps Mr. Paret would like to look
about the grounds?” He addressed his daughter.

I said I should be delighted, though I had no idea what grounds were
meant. As I followed Maude around the house she explained that all the
Hutchins connection had a common back yard, as she expressed it. In
reality, there were about two blocks of the property, extending behind
all the houses. There were great trees with swings, groves, orchards
where the late apples glistened between the leaves, an old-fashioned
flower garden loath to relinquish its blooming. In the distance the
shadowed western ridge hung like a curtain of deep blue velvet against
the sunset.

“What a wonderful spot!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, it is nice,” she agreed, “we were all brought up here--I mean my
cousins and myself. There are dozens of us. And dozens left,” she added,
as the shouts and laughter of children broke the stillness.

A boy came running around the corner of the path. He struck out at
Maude. With a remarkably swift movement she retaliated.

“Ouch!” he exclaimed.

“You got him that time,” I laughed, and, being detected, she suddenly
blushed. It was this act that drew my attention to her, that defined
her as an individual. Before that I had regarded her merely as a shy and
provincial girl. Now she was brimming with an unsuspected vitality. A
certain interest was aroused, although her shyness towards me was not
altered. I found it rather a flattering shyness.

“It’s Hugh,” she explained, “he’s always trying to be funny. Speak to
Mr. Paret, Hugh.”

“Why, that’s my name, too,” I said.

“Is it?”

“She knocked my hat off a little while ago,” said Hugh. “I was only
getting square.”

“Well, you didn’t get square, did you?” I asked.

“Are you going to speak in the tows hall to-night?” the boy demanded. I
admitted it. He went off, pausing once to stare back at me.... Maude and
I walked on.

“It must be exciting to speak before a large audience,” she said. “If I
were a man, I think I should like to be in politics.”

“I cannot imagine you in politics,” I answered.

She laughed.

“I said, if I were a man.”

“Are you going to the meeting?”

“Oh, yes. Father promised to take me. He has a box.”

I thought it would be pleasant to have her there.

“I’m afraid you’ll find what I have to say rather dry,” I said.

“A woman can’t expect to understand everything,” she answered quickly.

This remark struck me favourably. I glanced at her sideways. She was not
a beauty, but she was distinctly well-formed and strong. Her face was
oval, her features not quite regular,--giving them a certain charm; her
colour was fresh, her eyes blue, the lighter blue one sees on Chinese
ware: not a poetic comparison, but so I thought of them. She was
apparently not sophisticated, as were most of the young women at home
whom I knew intimately (as were the Watling twins, for example, with one
of whom, Frances, I had had, by the way, rather a lively flirtation the
spring before); she seemed refreshingly original, impressionable and
plastic....

We walked slowly back to the house, and in the hallway I met Mrs.
Hutchins, a bustling, housewifely lady, inclined to stoutness, whose
creased and kindly face bore witness to long acquiescence in the
discipline of matrimony, to the contentment that results from an
essentially circumscribed and comfortable life. She was, I learned
later, the second Mrs. Hutchins, and Maude their only child. The
children of the first marriage, all girls, had married and scattered.

Supper was a decorous but heterogeneous meal of the old-fashioned sort
that gives one the choice between tea and cocoa. It was something of
an occasion, I suspected. The minister was there, the Reverend Mr.
Doddridge, who would have made, in appearance at least, a perfect
Puritan divine in a steeple hat and a tippet. Only--he was no longer
the leader of the community; and even in his grace he had the air of
deferring to the man who provided the bounties of which we were about
to partake rather than to the Almighty. Young George was there, Mr.
Hutchins’s nephew, who was daily becoming more and more of a factor in
the management of the mills, and had built the house of yellow brick
that stood out so incongruously among the older Hutchinses’ mansions,
and marked a transition. I thought him rather a yellow-brick gentleman
himself for his assumption of cosmopolitan manners. His wife was a
pretty, discontented little woman who plainly deplored her environment,
longed for larger fields of conquest: George, she said, must remain
where he was, for the present at least,--Uncle Ezra depended on him; but
Elkington was a prosy place, and Mrs. George gave the impression that
she did not belong here. They went to the city on occasions; both
cities. And when she told me we had a common acquaintance in Mrs.
Hambleton Durrett--whom she thought so lovely!--I knew that she had
taken Nancy as an ideal: Nancy, the social leader of what was to Mrs.
George a metropolis.

Presently the talk became general among the men, the subject being the
campaign, and I the authority, bombarded with questions I strove to
answer judicially. What was the situation in this county and in that?
the national situation? George indulged in rather a vigorous arraignment
of the demagogues, national and state, who were hurting business in
order to obtain political power. The Reverend Mr. Doddridge assented,
deploring the poverty that the local people had brought on themselves
by heeding the advice of agitators; and Mrs. Hutchins, who spent much of
her time in charity work, agreed with the minister when he declared
that the trouble was largely due to a decline in Christian belief. Ezra
Hutchins, too, nodded at this.

“Take that man Krebs, for example,” the minister went on, stimulated by
this encouragement, “he’s an atheist, pure and simple.” A sympathetic
shudder went around the table at the word. George alone smiled. “Old
Krebs was a free-thinker; I used to get my glasses of him. He was at
least a conscientious man, a good workman, which is more than can be
said for the son. Young Krebs has talent, and if only he had devoted
himself to the honest practice of law, instead of stirring up
dissatisfaction among these people, he would be a successful man
to-day.”

Mr. Hutchins explained that I was at college with Krebs.

“These people must like him,” I said, “or they wouldn’t have sent him to
the legislature.”

“Well, a good many of them do like him,” the minister admitted.
“You see, he actually lives among them. They believe his socialistic
doctrines because he’s a friend of theirs.”

“He won’t represent this town again, that’s sure,” exclaimed George.
“You didn’t see in the papers that he was nominated,--did you, Paret?”

“But if the mill people wanted him, George, how could it be prevented?”
 his wife demanded.

George winked at me.

“There are more ways of skinning a cat than one,” he said cryptically.

“Well, it’s time to go to the meeting, I guess,” remarked Ezra, rising.
Once more he looked at his watch.

We were packed into several family carriages and started off. In front
of the hall the inevitable red fire was burning, its quivering light
reflected on the faces of the crowd that blocked the street. They stood
silent, strangely apathetic as we pushed through them to the curb, and
the red fire went out suddenly as we descended. My temporary sense of
depression, however, deserted me as we entered the hall, which was well
lighted and filled with people, who clapped when the Hon. Joseph and
I, accompanied by Mr. Doddridge and the Hon. Henry Clay Mellish from
Pottstown, with the local chairman, walked out on the stage. A glance
over the audience sufficed to ascertain that that portion of the
population whose dinner pails we longed to fill was evidently not
present in large numbers. But the farmers had driven in from the
hills, while the merchants and storekeepers of Elkington had turned out
loyally.

The chairman, in introducing me, proclaimed me as a coming man, and
declared that I had already achieved, in the campaign, considerable
notoriety. As I spoke, I was pleasantly aware of Maude Hutchins leaning
forward a little across the rail of the right-hand stage box--for the
town hall was half opera-house; her attitude was one of semi-absorbed
admiration; and the thought that I had made an impression on her
stimulated me. I spoke with more aplomb. Somewhat to my surprise, I
found myself making occasional, unexpected witticisms that drew laughter
and applause. Suddenly, from the back of the hall, a voice called
out:--“How about House Bill 709?”

There was a silence, then a stirring and craning of necks. It was my
first experience of heckling, and for the moment I was taken aback. I
thought of Krebs. He had, indeed, been in my mind since I had risen to
my feet, and I had scanned the faces before me in search of his. But it
was not his voice.

“Well, what about Bill 709?” I demanded.

“You ought to know something about it, I guess,” the voice responded.

“Put him out!” came from various portions of the hall.

Inwardly, I was shaken. Not--in orthodox language from any “conviction
of sin.” Yet it was my first intimation that my part in the legislation
referred to was known to any save a select few. I blamed Krebs, and a
hot anger arose within me against him. After all, what could they prove?

“No, don’t put him out,” I said. “Let him come up here to the platform.
I’ll yield to him. And I’m entirely willing to discuss with him and
defend any measures passed in the legislature of this state by a
Republican majority. Perhaps,” I added, “the gentleman has a copy of the
law in his pocket, that I may know what he is talking about, and answer
him intelligently.”

At this there was wild applause. I had the audience with me. The
offender remained silent and presently I finished my speech. After that
Mr. Mecklin made them cheer and weep, and Mr. Mellish made them laugh.
The meeting had been highly successful.

“You polished him off, all right,” said George Hutchins, as he took my
hand.

“Who was he?”

“Oh, one of the local sore-heads. Krebs put him up to it, of course.”

“Was Krebs here?” I asked.

“Sitting in the corner of the balcony. That meeting must have made him
feel sick.” George bent forward and whispered in my ear: “I thought Bill
709 was Watling’s idea.”

“Oh, I happened to be in the Potts House about that time,” I explained.

George, of whom it may be gathered that he was not wholly
unsophisticated, grinned at me appreciatively.

“Say, Paret,” he replied, putting his hand through my arm, “there’s
a little legal business in prospect down here that will require some
handling, and I wish you’d come down after the campaign and talk it
over, with us. I’ve just about made up my mind that you’re he man to
tackle it.”

“All right, I’ll come,” I said.

“And stay with me,” said George....

We went to his yellow-brick house for refreshments, salad and ice-cream
and (in the face of the Hutchins traditions) champagne. Others had been
invited in, some twenty persons.... Once in a while, when I looked up,
I met Maude’s eyes across the room. I walked home with her, slowly, the
length of the Hutchinses’ block. Floating over the lake was a waning
October moon that cast through the thinning maples a lace-work of
shadows at our feet; I had the feeling of well-being that comes to
heroes, and the presence of Maude Hutchins was an incense, a vestal
incense far from unpleasing. Yet she had reservations which appealed to
me. Hers was not a gushing provincialism, like that of Mrs. George.

“I liked your speech so much, Mr. Paret,” she told me. “It seemed so
sensible and--controlled, compared to the others. I have never thought a
great deal about these things, of course, and I never understood before
why taking away the tariff caused so much misery. You made that quite
plain.

“If so, I’m glad,” I said.

She was silent a moment.

“The working people here have had a hard time during the last year,”
 she went on. “Some of the mills had to be shut down, you know. It has
troubled me. Indeed, it has troubled all of us. And what has made it
more difficult, more painful is that many of them seem actually to
dislike us. They think it’s father’s fault, and that he could run all
the mills if he wanted to. I’ve been around a little with mother and
sometimes the women wouldn’t accept any help from us; they said they’d
rather starve than take charity, that they had the right to work. But
father couldn’t run the mills at a loss--could he?”

“Certainly not,” I replied.

“And then there’s Mr. Krebs, of whom we were speaking at supper, and who
puts all kinds of queer notions into their heads. Father says he’s an
anarchist. I heard father say at supper that he was at Harvard with you.
Did you like him?”

“Well,” I answered hesitatingly, “I didn’t know him very well.”

“Of course not,” she put in. “I suppose you couldn’t have.”

“He’s got these notions,” I explained, “that are mischievous and
crazy--but I don’t dislike him.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that!” she answered quietly. “I like him,
too--he seems so kind, so understanding.”

“Do you know him?”

“Well,--” she hesitated--“I feel as though I do. I’ve only met him once,
and that was by accident. It was the day the big strike began, last
spring, and I had been shopping, and started for the mills to get father
to walk home with me, as I used to do. I saw the crowds blocking the
streets around the canal. At first I paid no attention to them, but
after a while I began to be a little uneasy, there were places where I
had to squeeze through, and I couldn’t help seeing that something was
wrong, and that the people were angry. Men and women were talking
in loud voices. One woman stared at me, and called my name, and said
something that frightened me terribly. I went into a doorway--and then
I saw Mr. Krebs. I didn’t know who he was. He just said, ‘You’d better
come with me, Miss Hutchins,’ and I went with him. I thought afterwards
that it was a very courageous thing for him to do, because he was so
popular with the mill people, and they had such a feeling against us.
Yet they didn’t seem to resent it, and made way for us, and Mr. Krebs
spoke to many of them as we passed. After we got to State Street, I
asked him his name, and when he told me I was speechless. He took off
his hat and went away. He had such a nice face--not at all ugly when you
look at it twice--and kind eyes, that I just couldn’t believe him to be
as bad as father and George think he is. Of course he is mistaken,” she
added hastily, “but I am sure he is sincere, and honestly thinks he can
help those people by telling them what he does.”

The question shot at me during the meeting rankled still; I wanted to
believe that Krebs had inspired it, and her championship of him gave
me a twinge of jealousy,--the slightest twinge, to be sure, yet a
perceptible one. At the same time, the unaccountable liking I had
for the man stirred to life. The act she described had been so
characteristic.

“He’s one of the born rebels against society,” I said glibly. “Yet I do
think he’s sincere.”

Maude was grave. “I should be sorry to think he wasn’t,” she replied.
After I had bidden her good night at the foot of the stairs, and gone to
my room, I reflected how absurd it was to be jealous of Krebs. What
was Maude Hutchins to me? And even if she had been something to me, she
never could be anything to Krebs. All the forces of our civilization
stood between the two; nor was she of a nature to take plunges of that
sort. The next day, as I lay back in my seat in the parlour-car and
gazed at the autumn landscape, I indulged in a luxurious contemplation
of the picture she had made as she stood on the lawn under the trees
in the early morning light, when my carriage had driven away; and I had
turned, to perceive that her eyes had followed me. I was not in love
with her, of course. I did not wish to return at once to Elkington, but
I dwelt with a pleasant anticipation upon my visit, when the campaign
should be over, with George.



XIII.

“The good old days of the Watling campaign,” as Colonel Paul Varney is
wont to call them, are gone forever. And the Colonel himself, who
stuck to his gods, has been through the burning, fiery furnace of
Investigation, and has come out unscathed and unrepentant. The flames of
investigation, as a matter of fact, passed over his head in their vain
attempt to reach the “man higher up,” whose feet they licked; but him
they did not devour, either. A veteran in retirement, the Colonel is
living under his vine and fig tree on the lake at Rossiter; the vine
bears Catawba grapes, of which he is passionately fond; the fig tree,
the Bartlett pears he gives to his friends. He has saved something
from the spoils of war, but other veterans I could mention are not so
fortunate. The old warriors have retired, and many are dead; the
good old methods are becoming obsolete. We never bothered about those
mischievous things called primaries. Our county committees, our state
committees chose the candidates for the conventions, which turned around
and chose the committees. Both the committees and the conventions--under
advice--chose the candidates. Why, pray, should the people complain,
when they had everything done for them? The benevolent parties, both
Democratic and Republican, even undertook the expense of printing the
ballots! And generous ballots they were (twenty inches long and five
wide!), distributed before election, in order that the voters might have
the opportunity of studying and preparing them: in order that Democrats
of delicate feelings might take the pains to scratch out all the
Democratic candidates, and write in the names of the Republican
candidates. Patriotism could go no farther than this....

I spent the week before election in the city, where I had the
opportunity of observing what may be called the charitable side of
politics. For a whole month, or more, the burden of existence had been
lifted from the shoulders of the homeless. No church or organization,
looked out for these frowsy, blear-eyed and ragged wanderers who had
failed to find a place in the scale of efficiency. For a whole month, I
say, Mr. Judd Jason and his lieutenants made them their especial care;
supported them in lodging-houses, induced the night clerks to give them
attention; took the greatest pains to ensure them the birth-right which,
as American citizens, was theirs,--that of voting. They were not only
given homes for a period, but they were registered; and in the abundance
of good feeling that reigned during this time of cheer, even the
foreigners were registered! On election day they were driven, like
visiting notables, in carryalls and carriages to the polls! Some of
them, as though in compensation for ills endured between elections,
voted not once, but many times; exercising judicial functions for which
they should be given credit. For instance, they were convinced that
the Hon. W. W. Trulease had made a good governor; and they were Watling
enthusiasts,--intent on sending men to the legislature who would vote
for him for senator; yet there were cases in which, for the minor
offices, the democrat was the better man!

It was a memorable day. In spite of Mr. Lawler’s Pilot, which was as
a voice crying in the wilderness, citizens who had wives and homes and
responsibilities, business men and clerks went to the voting booths
and recorded their choice for Trulease, Watling and Prosperity: and
working-men followed suit. Victory was in the air. Even the policemen
wore happy smiles, and in some instances the election officers
themselves in absent-minded exuberance thrust bunches of ballots into
the boxes!

In response to an insistent demand from his fellow-citizens Mr. Watling,
the Saturday evening before, had made a speech in the Auditorium, decked
with bunting and filled with people. For once the Morning Era did
not exaggerate when it declared that the ovation had lasted fully ten
minutes. “A remarkable proof” it went on to say, “of the esteem and
confidence in which our fellow-citizen is held by those who know him
best, his neighbours in the city where he has given so many instances
of his public spirit, where he has achieved such distinction in the
practice of the law. He holds the sound American conviction that the
office should seek the man. His address is printed in another column,
and we believe it will appeal to the intelligence and sober judgment of
the state. It is replete with modesty and wisdom.”

Mr. Watling was introduced by Mr. Bering of the State Supreme Court (a
candidate for re-election), who spoke with deliberation, with owl-like
impressiveness. He didn’t believe in judges meddling in politics, but
this was an unusual occasion. (Loud applause.) Most unusual. He had
come here as a man, as an American, to pay his tribute to another man, a
long-time friend, whom he thought to stand somewhat aside and above
mere party strife, to represent values not merely political.... So
accommodating and flexible is the human mind, so “practical” may it
become through dealing with men and affairs, that in listening to Judge
Bering I was able to ignore the little anomalies such a situation might
have suggested to the theorist, to the mere student of the institutions
of democracy. The friendly glasses of rye and water Mr. Bering had
taken in Monahan’s saloon, the cases he had “arranged” for the firm of
Watling, Fowndes and Ripon were forgotten. Forgotten, too, when Theodore
Watling stood up and men began, to throw their hats in the air,--were
the cavilling charges of Mr. Lawler’s Pilot that, far from the office
seeking the man, our candidate had spent over a hundred thousand dollars
of his own money, to say nothing of the contributions of Mr. Scherer,
Mr. Dickinson and the Railroad! If I had been troubled with any weak,
ethical doubts, Mr. Watling would have dispelled them; he had red blood
in his veins, a creed in which he believed, a rare power of expressing
himself in plain, everyday language that was often colloquial, but
never--as the saying goes--“cheap.” The dinner-pail predicament was
real to him. He would present a policy of our opponents charmingly, even
persuasively, and then add, after a moment’s pause: “There is only one
objection to this, my friends--that it doesn’t work.” It was all in the
way he said it, of course. The audience would go wild with approval,
and shouts of “that’s right” could be heard here and there. Then he
proceeded to show why it didn’t work. He had the faculty of bringing
his lessons home, the imagination to put himself into the daily life of
those who listened to him,--the life of the storekeeper, the clerk, of
the labourer and of the house-wife. The effect of this can scarcely
be overestimated. For the American hugs the delusion that there are no
class distinctions, even though his whole existence may be an effort
to rise out of once class into another. “Your wife,” he told them once,
“needs a dress. Let us admit that the material for the dress is a little
cheaper than it was four years ago, but when she comes to look into the
family stocking--” (Laughter.) “I needn’t go on. If we could have things
cheaper, and more money to buy them with, we should all be happy, and
the Republican party could retire from business.”

He did not once refer to the United States Senatorship.

It was appropriate, perhaps, that many of us dined on the evening of
election day at the Boyne Club. There was early evidence of a Republican
land-slide. And when, at ten o’clock, it was announced that Mr. Trulease
was re-elected by a majority which exceeded Mr. Grunewald’s most hopeful
estimate, that the legislature was “safe,” that Theodore Watling would
be the next United States Senator, a scene of jubilation ensued within
those hallowed walls which was unprecedented. Chairs were pushed back,
rugs taken up, Gene Hollister played the piano and a Virginia reel
started; in a burst of enthusiasm Leonard Dickinson ordered champagne
for every member present. The country was returning to its senses.
Theodore Watling had preferred, on this eventful night, to remain
quietly at home. But presently carriages were ordered, and a
“delegation” of enthusiastic friends departed to congratulate him;
Dickinson, of course, Grierson, Fowndes, Ogilvy, and Grunewald. We found
Judah B. Tallant there,--in spite of the fact that it was a busy night
for the Era; and Adolf Scherer himself, in expansive mood, was filling
the largest of the library chairs. Mr. Watling was the least excited
of them all; remarkably calm, I thought, for a man on the verge of
realizing his life’s high ambition. He had some old brandy, and a box
of cigars he had been saving for an occasion. He managed to convey to
everyone his appreciation of the value of their cooperation....

It was midnight before Mr. Scherer arose to take his departure. He
seized Mr. Watling’s hand, warmly, in both of his own.

“I have never,” he said, with a relapse into the German f’s, “I
have never had a happier moment in my life, my friend, than when I
congratulate you on your success.” His voice shook with emotion. “Alas,
we shall not see so much of you now.”

“He’ll be on guard, Scherer,” said Leonard Dickinson, putting his arm
around my chief.

“Good night, Senator,” said Tallant, and all echoed the word, which
struck me as peculiarly appropriate. Much as I had admired Mr. Watling
before, it seemed indeed as if he had undergone some subtle change in
the last few hours, gained in dignity and greatness by the action of the
people that day. When it came my turn to bid him good night, he retained
my hand in his.

“Don’t go yet, Hugh,” he said.

“But you must be tired,” I objected.

“This sort of thing doesn’t make a man tired,” he laughed, leading me
back to the library, where he began to poke the fire into a blaze. “Sit
down awhile. You must be tired, I think,--you’ve worked hard in this
campaign, a good deal harder than I have. I haven’t said much about it,
but I appreciate it, my boy.” Mr. Watling had the gift of expressing his
feelings naturally, without sentimentality. I would have given much for
that gift.

“Oh, I liked it,” I replied awkwardly.

I read a gentle amusement in his eyes, and also the expression of
something else, difficult to define. He had seated himself, and was
absently thrusting at the logs with the poker.

“You’ve never regretted going into law?” he asked suddenly, to my
surprise.

“Why, no, sir,” I said.

“I’m glad to hear that. I feel, to a considerable extent, responsible
for your choice of a profession.”

“My father intended me to be a lawyer,” I told him. “But it’s true that
you gave me my--my first enthusiasm.”

He looked up at me at the word.

“I admired your father. He seemed to me to be everything that a lawyer
should be. And years ago, when I came to this city a raw country boy
from upstate, he represented and embodied for me all the fine traditions
of the profession. But the practice of law isn’t what it was in his day,
Hugh.”

“No,” I agreed, “that could scarcely be expected.”

“Yes, I believe you realize that,” he said. “I’ve watched you, I’ve
taken a personal pride in you, and I have an idea that eventually
you will succeed me here--neither Fowndes nor Ripon have the peculiar
ability you have shown. You and I are alike in a great many respects,
and I am inclined to think we are rather rare, as men go. We are able to
keep one object vividly in view, so vividly as to be able to work for
it day and night. I could mention dozens who had and have more natural
talent for the law than I, more talent for politics than I. The same
thing may be said about you. I don’t regard either of us as natural
lawyers, such as your father was. He couldn’t help being a lawyer.”

Here was new evidence of his perspicacity.

“But surely,” I ventured, “you don’t feel any regrets concerning your
career, Mr. Watling?”

“No,” he said, “that’s just the point. But no two of us are made wholly
alike. I hadn’t practised law very long before I began to realize that
conditions were changing, that the new forces at work in our industrial
life made the older legal ideals impracticable. It was a case of
choosing between efficiency and inefficiency, and I chose efficiency.
Well, that was my own affair, but when it comes to influencing others--”
 He paused. “I want you to see this as I do, not for the sake of
justifying myself, but because I honestly believe there is more to it
than expediency,--a good deal more. There’s a weak way of looking at
it, and a strong way. And if I feel sure you understand it, I shall be
satisfied.

“Because things are going to change in this country, Hugh. They are
changing, but they are going to change more. A man has got to make up
his mind what he believes in, and be ready to fight for it. We’ll have
to fight for it, sooner perhaps than we realize. We are a nation divided
against ourselves; democracy--Jacksonian democracy, at all events, is
a flat failure, and we may as well acknowledge it. We have a political
system we have outgrown, and which, therefore, we have had to nullify.
There are certain needs, certain tendencies of development in nations
as well as in individuals,--needs stronger than the state, stronger
than the law or constitution. In order to make our resources effective,
combinations of capital are more and more necessary, and no more to be
denied than a chemical process, given the proper ingredients, can be
thwarted. The men who control capital must have a free hand, or the
structure will be destroyed. This compels us to do many things which we
would rather not do, which we might accomplish openly and unopposed if
conditions were frankly recognized, and met by wise statesmanship which
sought to bring about harmony by the reshaping of laws and policies. Do
you follow me?”

“Yes,” I answered. “But I have never heard the situation stated
so clearly. Do you think the day will come when statesmanship will
recognize this need?”

“Ah,” he said, “I’m afraid not--in my time, at least. But we shall have
to develop that kind of statesmen or go on the rocks. Public opinion
in the old democratic sense is a myth; it must be made by strong
individuals who recognize and represent evolutionary needs, otherwise
it’s at the mercy of demagogues who play fast and loose with the
prejudice and ignorance of the mob. The people don’t value the vote,
they know nothing about the real problems. So far as I can see, they
are as easily swayed to-day as the crowd that listened to Mark Antony’s
oration about Caesar. You’ve seen how we have to handle them, in this
election and--in other matters. It isn’t a pleasant practice, something
we’d indulge in out of choice, but the alternative is unthinkable. We’d
have chaos in no time. We’ve just got to keep hold, you understand--we
can’t leave it to the irresponsible.”

“Yes,” I said. In this mood he was more impressive than I had ever known
him, and his confidence flattered and thrilled me.

“In the meantime, we’re criminals,” he continued. “From now on we’ll
have to stand more and more denunciation from the visionaries, the
dissatisfied, the trouble makers. We may as well make up our minds to
it. But we’ve got something on our side worth fighting for, and the man
who is able to make that clear will be great.”

“But you--you are going to the Senate,” I reminded him.

He shook his head.

“The time has not yet come,” he said. “Confusion and misunderstanding
must increase before they can diminish. But I have hopes of you, Hugh,
or I shouldn’t have spoken. I shan’t be here now--of course I’ll keep in
touch with you. I wanted to be sure that you had the right view of this
thing.”

“I see it now,” I said. “I had thought of it, but never--never as
a whole--not in the large sense in which you have expressed it.” To
attempt to acknowledge or deprecate the compliment he had paid me was
impossible; I felt that he must have read my gratitude and appreciation
in my manner.

“I mustn’t keep you up until morning.” He glanced at the clock, and went
with me through the hall into the open air. A meteor darted through
the November night. “We’re like that,” he observed, staring after it, a
“flash across the darkness, and we’re gone.”

“Only--there are many who haven’t the satisfaction of a flash,” I was
moved to reply.

He laughed and put his hand on my shoulder as he bade me good night.

“Hugh, you ought to get married. I’ll have to find a nice girl for you,”
 he said. With an elation not unmingled with awe I made my way homeward.

Theodore Watling had given me a creed.

A week or so after the election I received a letter from George Hutchins
asking me to come to Elkington. I shall not enter into the details of
the legal matter involved. Many times that winter I was a guest at the
yellow-brick house, and I have to confess, as spring came on, that
I made several trips to Elkington which business necessity did not
absolutely demand.

I considered Maude Hutchins, and found the consideration rather a
delightful process. As became an eligible and successful young man, I
was careful not to betray too much interest; and I occupied myself at
first with a review of what I deemed her shortcomings. Not that I was
thinking of marriage--but I had imagined the future Mrs. Paret as tall;
Maude was up to my chin: again, the hair of the fortunate lady was to
be dark, and Maude’s was golden red: my ideal had esprit, lightness
of touch, the faculty of seizing just the aspect of a subject that
delighted me, and a knowledge of the world; Maude was simple, direct,
and in a word provincial. Her provinciality, however, was negative
rather than positive, she had no disagreeable mannerisms, her voice was
not nasal; her plasticity appealed to me. I suppose I was lost without
knowing it when I began to think of moulding her.

All of this went on at frequent intervals during the winter, and while
I was organizing the Elkington Power and Traction Company for George I
found time to dine and sup at Maude’s house, and to take walks with
her. I thought I detected an incense deliciously sweet; by no means
overpowering, like the lily’s, but more like the shy fragrance of the
wood flower. I recall her kind welcomes, the faint deepening of colour
in her cheeks when she greeted me, and while I suspected that she looked
up to me she had a surprising and tantalizing self-command.

There came moments when I grew slightly alarmed, as, for instance, one
Sunday in the early spring when I was dining at the Ezra Hutchins’s
house and surprised Mrs. Hutchins’s glance on me, suspecting her of
seeking to divine what manner of man I was. I became self-conscious; I
dared not look at Maude, who sat across the table; thereafter I began to
feel that the Hutchins connection regarded me as a suitor. I had
grown intimate with George and his wife, who did not refrain from sly
allusions; and George himself once remarked, with characteristic tact,
that I was most conscientious in my attention to the traction affair; I
have reason to believe they were even less delicate with Maude. This was
the logical time to withdraw--but I dallied. The experience was becoming
more engrossing,--if I may so describe it,--and spring was approaching.
The stars in their courses were conspiring. I was by no means as yet
a self-acknowledged wooer, and we discussed love in its lighter phases
through the medium of literature. Heaven forgive me for calling it so!
About that period, it will be remembered, a mushroom growth of volumes
of a certain kind sprang into existence; little books with “artistic”
 bindings and wide margins, sweetened essays, some of them written in
beautiful English by dilettante authors for drawing-room consumption;
and collections of short stories, no doubt chiefly bought by
philanderers like myself, who were thus enabled to skate on thin ice
over deep water. It was a most delightful relationship that these helped
to support, and I fondly believed I could reach shore again whenever I
chose.

There came a Sunday in early May, one of those days when the feminine
assumes a large importance. I had been to the Hutchinses’ church; and
Maude, as she sat and prayed decorously in the pew beside me, suddenly
increased in attractiveness and desirability. Her voice was very sweet,
and I felt a delicious and languorous thrill which I identified not only
with love, but also with a reviving spirituality. How often the two seem
to go hand in hand!

She wore a dress of a filmy material, mauve, with a design in gold
thread running through it. Of late, it seemed, she had had more new
dresses: and their modes seemed more cosmopolitan; at least to the
masculine eye. How delicately her hair grew, in little, shining wisps,
around her white neck! I could have reached out my hand and touched
her. And it was this desire,--although by no means overwhelming,--that
startled me. Did I really want her? The consideration of this vital
question occupied the whole time of the sermon; made me distrait at
dinner,--a large family gathering. Later I found myself alone with heron
a bench in the Hutchinses’ garden where we had walked the day of my
arrival, during the campaign.

The gardens were very different, now. The trees had burst forth again
into leaf, the spiraea bushes seemed weighted down with snow, and with a
note like that of the quivering bass string of a ‘cello the bees hummed
among the fruit blossoms. And there beside me in her filmy dress
was Maude, a part of it all--the meaning of all that set my being
clamouring. She was like some ripened, delicious flower ready to be
picked.... One of those pernicious, make-believe volumes had fallen on
the bench between us, for I could not read any more; I could not think;
I touched her hand, and when she drew it gently away I glanced at her.
Reason made a valiant but hopeless effort to assert itself. Was I sure
that I wanted her--for life? No use! I wanted her now, no matter
what price that future might demand. An awkward silence fell between
us--awkward to me, at least--and I, her guide and mentor, became banal,
apologetic, confused. I made some idiotic remark about being together in
the Garden of Eden.

“I remember Mr. Doddridge saying in Bible class that it was supposed
to be on the Euphrates,” she replied. “But it’s been destroyed by the
flood.”

“Let’s make another--one of our own,” I suggested.

“Why, how silly you are this afternoon.”

“What’s to prevent us--Maude?” I demanded, with a dry throat.

“Nonsense!” she laughed. In proportion as I lost poise she seemed to
gain it.

“It’s not nonsense,” I faltered. “If we were married.”

At last the fateful words were pronounced--irrevocably. And, instead of
qualms, I felt nothing but relief, joy that I had been swept along by
the flood of feeling. She did not look at me, but gazed straight ahead
of her.

“If I love you, Maude?” I stammered, after a moment.

“But I don’t love you,” she replied, steadily.

Never in my life had I been so utterly taken aback.

“Do you mean,” I managed to say, “that after all these months you don’t
like me a little?”

“‘Liking’ isn’t loving.” She looked me full in the face. “I like you
very much.”

“But--” there I stopped, paralyzed by what appeared to me the
quintessence of feminine inconsistency and caprice. Yet, as I stared at
her, she certainly did not appear capricious. It is not too much to
say that I was fairly astounded at this evidence of self-command and
decision, of the strength of mind to refuse me. Was it possible that she
had felt nothing and I all? I got to my feet.

“I hate to hurt your feelings,” I heard her say. “I’m very sorry.”...
She looked up at me. Afterwards, when reflecting on the scene, I seemed
to remember that there were tears in her eyes. I was not in a
condition to appreciate her splendid sincerity. I was overwhelmed and
inarticulate. I left her there, on the bench, and went back to George’s,
announcing my intention of taking the five o’clock train....

Maude Hutchins had become, at a stroke, the most desirable of women.
I have often wondered how I should have felt on that five-hour journey
back to the city if she had fallen into my arms! I should have persuaded
myself, no doubt, that I had not done a foolish thing in yielding to an
impulse and proposing to an inexperienced and provincial young woman,
yet there would have been regrets in the background. Too deeply
chagrined to see any humour in the situation, I settled down in a
Pullman seat and went over and over again the event of that afternoon
until the train reached the city.

As the days wore on, and I attended to my cases, I thought of Maude
a great deal, and in those moments when the pressure of business was
relaxed, she obsessed me. She must love me,--only she did not realize
it. That was the secret! Her value had risen amazingly, become supreme;
the very act of refusing me had emphasized her qualifications as a wife,
and I now desired her with all the intensity of a nature which had
been permitted always to achieve its objects. The inevitable process of
idealization began. In dusty offices I recalled her freshness as she had
sat beside me in the garden,--the freshness of a flower; with Berkeleyan
subjectivism I clothed the flower with colour, bestowed it with
fragrance. I conferred on Maude all the gifts and graces that woman had
possessed since the creation. And I recalled, with mingled bitterness
and tenderness, the turn of her head, the down on her neck, the
half-revealed curve of her arm.... In spite of the growing sordidness of
Lyme Street, my mother and I still lived in the old house, for which
she very naturally had a sentiment. In vain I had urged her from time to
time to move out into a brighter and fresher neighbourhood. It would be
time enough, she said, when I was married.

“If you wait for that, mother,” I answered, “we shall spend the rest of
our lives here.”

“I shall spend the rest of my life here,” she would declare. “But
you--you have your life before you, my dear. You would be so much more
contented if--if you could find some nice girl. I think you live--too
feverishly.”

I do not know whether or not she suspected me of being in love, nor
indeed how much she read of me in other ways. I did not confide in her,
nor did it strike me that she might have yearned for confidences; though
sometimes, when I dined at home, I surprised her gentle face--framed
now with white hair--lifted wistfully toward me across the table.
Our relationship, indeed, was a pathetic projection of that which had
existed in my childhood; we had never been confidants then. The world
in which I lived and fought, of great transactions and merciless
consequences frightened her; her own world was more limited than ever.
She heard disquieting things, I am sure, from Cousin Robert Breck, who
had become more and more querulous since the time-honoured firm of Breck
and Company had been forced to close its doors and the home at Claremore
had been sold. My mother often spent the day in the scrolled suburban
cottage with the coloured glass front door where he lived with the
Kinleys and Helen....

If my mother suspected that I was anticipating marriage, and said
nothing, Nancy Durrett suspected and spoke out.

Life is such a curious succession of contradictions and surprises that
I record here without comment the fact that I was seeing much more
of Nancy since her marriage than I had in the years preceding it. A
comradeship existed between us. I often dined at her house and had
fallen into the habit of stopping there frequently on my way home in the
evening. Ham did not seem to mind. What was clear, at any rate, was that
Nancy, before marriage, had exacted some sort of an understanding by
which her “freedom” was not to be interfered with. She was the first
among us of the “modern wives.”

Ham, whose heartstrings and purse-strings were oddly intertwined, had
stipulated that they were to occupy the old Durrett mansion; but when
Nancy had made it “livable,” as she expressed it, he is said to have
remarked that he might as well have built a new house and been done with
it. Not even old Nathaniel himself would have recognized his home when
Nancy finished what she termed furnishing: out went the horsehair, the
hideous chandeliers, the stuffy books, the Recamier statuary, and an
army of upholsterers, wood-workers, etc., from Boston and New York
invaded the place. The old mahogany doors were spared, but matched now
by Chippendale and Sheraton; the new, polished floors were covered with
Oriental rugs, the dreary Durrett pictures replaced by good canvases and
tapestries. Nancy had what amounted to a genius for interior effects,
and she was the first to introduce among us the luxury that was to grow
more and more prevalent as our wealth increased by leaps and bounds.
Only Nancy’s luxury, though lavish, was never vulgar, and her house
when completed had rather marvellously the fine distinction of some old
London mansion filled with the best that generations could contribute.
It left Mrs. Frederick Grierson--whose residence on the Heights had
hitherto been our “grandest”--breathless with despair.

With characteristic audacity Nancy had chosen old Nathaniel’s sanctum
for her particular salon, into which Ham himself did not dare to venture
without invitation. It was hung in Pompeiian red and had a little
wrought-iron balcony projecting over the yard, now transformed by an
expert into a garden. When I had first entered this room after the
metamorphosis had taken place I inquired after the tombstone mantel.

“Oh, I’ve pulled it up by the roots,” she said.

“Aren’t you afraid of ghosts?” I inquired.

“Do I look it?” she asked. And I confessed that she didn’t. Indeed,
all ghosts were laid, nor was there about her the slightest evidence of
mourning or regret. One was forced to acknowledge her perfection in the
part she had chosen as the arbitress of social honours. The candidates
were rapidly increasing; almost every month, it seemed, someone turned
up with a fortune and the aspirations that go with it, and it was Mrs.
Durrett who decided the delicate question of fitness. With these,
and with the world at large, her manner might best be described as
difficult; and I was often amused at the way in which she contrived
to keep them at arm’s length and make them uncomfortable. With her
intimates--of whom there were few--she was frank.

“I suppose you enjoy it,” I said to her once.

“Of course I enjoy it, or I shouldn’t do it,” she retorted. “It isn’t
the real thing, as I told you once. But none of us gets the real thing.
It’s power.... Just as you enjoy what you’re doing--sorting out the
unfit. It’s a game, it keeps us from brooding over things we can’t help.
And after all, when we have good appetites and are fairly happy, why
should we complain?”

“I’m not complaining,” I said, taking up a cigarette, “since I still
enjoy your favour.”

She regarded me curiously.

“And when you get married, Hugh?”

“Sufficient unto the day,” I replied.

“How shall I get along, I wonder, with that simple and unsophisticated
lady when she appears?”

“Well,” I said, “you wouldn’t marry me.”

She shook her head at me, and smiled....

“No,” she corrected me, “you like me better as Hams’ wife than you would
have as your own.”

I merely laughed at this remark.... It would indeed have been difficult
to analyze the new relationship that had sprung up between us, to say
what elements composed it. The roots of it went back to the beginning
of our lives; and there was much of sentiment in it, no doubt. She
understood me as no one else in the world understood me, and she was
fond of me in spite of it.

Hence, when I became infatuated with Maude Hutchins, after that Sunday
when she so unexpectedly had refused me, I might have known that Nancy’s
suspicions would be aroused. She startled me by accusing me, out of a
clear sky, of being in love. I denied it a little too emphatically.

“Why shouldn’t you tell me, Hugh, if it’s so?” she asked. “I didn’t
hesitate to tell you.”

It was just before her departure for the East to spend the summer. We
were on the balcony, shaded by the big maple that grew at the end of the
garden.

“But there’s nothing to tell,” I insisted.

She lay back in her chair, regarding me.

“Did you think that I’d be jealous?”

“There’s nothing to be jealous about.”

“I’ve always expected you to get married, Hugh. I’ve even predicted the
type.”

She had, in truth, with an accuracy almost uncanny.

“The only thing I’m afraid of is that she won’t like me. She lives in
that place you’ve been going to so much, lately,--doesn’t she?”

Of course she had put two and two together, my visits to Elkington and
my manner, which I had flattered myself had not been distrait. On the
chance that she knew more, from some source, I changed my tactics.

“I suppose you mean Maude Hutchins,” I said.

Nancy laughed.

“So that’s her name!”

“It’s the name of a girl in Elkington. I’ve been doing legal work for
the Hutchinses, and I imagine some idiot has been gossiping. She’s just
a young girl--much too young for me.”

“Men are queer creatures,” she declared. “Did you think I should be
jealous?”

It was exactly what I had thought, but I denied it.

“Why should you be--even if there were anything to be jealous about?
You didn’t consult me when you got married. You merely announced an
irrevocable decision.”

Nancy leaned forward and laid her hand on my arm.

“My dear,” she said, “strange as it may seem, I want you to be happy. I
don’t want you to make a mistake, Hugh, too great a mistake.”

I was surprised and moved. Once more I had a momentary glimpse of the
real Nancy....

Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Ralph Hambleton....



XIV.

However, thoughts of Maude continued to possess me. She still appeared
the most desirable of beings, and a fortnight after my repulse, without
any excuse at all, I telegraphed the George Hutchinses that I was coming
to pay them a visit. Mrs. George, wearing a knowing smile, met me at the
station in a light buck-board.

“I’ve asked Maude to dinner,” she said....

Thus with masculine directness I returned to the charge, and Maude’s
continued resistance but increased my ardour; could not see why she
continued to resist me.

“Because I don’t love you,” she said.

This was incredible. I suggested that she didn’t know what love was, and
she admitted it was possible: she liked me very, very much. I told her,
sagely, that this was the best foundation for matrimony. That might be,
but she had had other ideas. For one thing, she felt that she did not
know me.... In short, she was charming and maddening in her defensive
ruses, in her advances and retreats, for I pressed her hard during
the four weeks which followed, and in them made four visits. Flinging
caution to the winds, I did not even pretend to George that I was coming
to see him on business. I had the Hutchins family on my side, for they
had the sense to see that the match would be an advantageous one; I even
summoned up enough courage to talk to Ezra Hutchins on the subject.

“I’ll not attempt to influence Maude, Mr. Paret--I’ve always said I
wouldn’t interfere with her choice. But as you are a young man of sound
habits, sir, successful in your profession, I should raise no objection.
I suppose we can’t keep her always.”

To conceal his emotion, he pulled out the watch he lived by. “Why, it’s
church time!” he said.... I attended church regularly at Elkington....

On a Sunday night in June, following a day during which victory seemed
more distant than ever, with startling unexpectedness Maude capitulated.
She sat beside me on the bench, obscured, yet the warm night quivered
with her presence. I felt her tremble.... I remember the first exquisite
touch of her soft cheek. How strange it was that in conquest the tumult
of my being should be stilled, that my passion should be transmuted into
awe that thrilled yet disquieted! What had I done? It was as though I
had suddenly entered an unimagined sanctuary filled with holy flame....

Presently, when we began to talk, I found myself seeking more familiar
levels. I asked her why she had so long resisted me, accusing her of
having loved me all the time.

“Yes, I think I did, Hugh. Only--I didn’t know it.”

“You must have felt something, that afternoon when I first proposed to
you!”

“You didn’t really want me, Hugh. Not then.”

Surprised, and a little uncomfortable at this evidence of intuition, I
started to protest. It seemed to me then as though I had always wanted
her.

“No, no,” she exclaimed, “you didn’t. You were carried away by your
feelings--you hadn’t made up your mind. Indeed, I can’t see why you want
me now.”

“You believe I do,” I said, and drew her toward me.

“Yes, I--I believe it, now. But I can’t see why. There must be so many
attractive girls in the city, who know so much more than I do.”

I sought fervidly to reassure her on this point.... At length when we
went into the house she drew away from me at arm’s length and gave me
one long searching look, as though seeking to read my soul.

“Hugh, you will always love me--to the very end, won’t you?”

“Yes,” I whispered, “always.”

In the library, one on each side of the table, under the lamp, Ezra
Hutchins and his wife sat reading. Mrs. Hutchins looked up, and I saw
that she had divined.

“Mother, I am engaged to Hugh,” Maude said, and bent over and kissed
her. Ezra and I stood gazing at them. Then he turned to me and pressed
my hand.

“Well, I never saw the man who was good enough for her, Hugh. But God
bless you, my son. I hope you will prize her as we prize her.”

Mrs. Hutchins embraced me. And through her tears she, too, looked long
into my face. When she had released me Ezra had his watch in his hand.

“If you’re going on the ten o’clock train, Hugh--”

“Father!” Maude protested, laughing, “I must say I don’t call that very
polite.”...

In the train I slept but fitfully, awakening again and again to recall
the extraordinary fact that I was now engaged to be married, to go
over the incidents of the evening. Indifferent to the backings and
the bumpings of the car, the voices in the stations, the clanging of
locomotive bells and all the incomprehensible startings and stoppings,
exalted yet troubled I beheld Maude luminous with the love I had
amazingly awakened, a love somewhere beyond my comprehension. For her
indeed marriage was made in heaven. But for me? Could I rise now to the
ideal that had once been mine, thrust henceforth evil out of my life?
Love forever, live always in this sanctuary she had made for me? Would
the time come when I should feel a sense of bondage?...

The wedding was set for the end of September. I continued to go every
week to Elkington, and in August, Maude and I spent a fortnight at the
sea. There could be no doubt as to my mother’s happiness, as to her
approval of Maude; they loved each other from the beginning. I can
picture them now, sitting together with their sewing on the porch of the
cottage at Mattapoisett. Out on the bay little white-caps danced in the
sunlight, sail-boats tacked hither and thither, the strong cape breeze,
laden with invigorating salt, stirred Maude’s hair, and occasionally
played havoc with my papers.

“She is just the wife for you, Hugh,” my mother confided to me. “If I
had chosen her myself I could not have done better,” she added, with a
smile.

I was inclined to believe it, but Maude would have none of this
illusion.

“He just stumbled across me,” she insisted....

We went on long sails together, towards Wood’s Hole and the open sea,
the sprays washing over us. Her cheeks grew tanned.... Sometimes, when
I praised her and spoke confidently of our future, she wore a troubled
expression.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked her once.

“You mustn’t put me on a pedestal,” she said gently. “I want you to see
me as I am--I don’t want you to wake up some day and be disappointed.
I’ll have to learn a lot of things, and you’ll have to teach me. I can’t
get used to the fact that you, who are so practical and successful in
business, should be such a dreamer where I am concerned.”

I laughed, and told her, comfortably, that she was talking nonsense.

“What did you think of me, when you first knew me?” I inquired.

“Well,” she answered, with the courage that characterized her, “I
thought you were rather calculating, that you put too high a price on
success. Of course you attracted me. I own it.”

“You hid your opinions rather well,” I retorted, somewhat discomfited.

She flushed.

“Have you changed them?” I demanded.

“I think you have that side, and I think it a weak side, Hugh. It’s hard
to tell you this, but it’s better to say so now, since you ask me. I do
think you set too high a value on success.’

“Well, now that I know what success really is, perhaps I shall reform,”
 I told her.

“I don’t like to think that you fool yourself,” she replied, with a
perspicacity I should have found extraordinary.

Throughout my life there have been days and incidents, some trivial,
some important, that linger in my memory because they are saturated with
“atmosphere.” I recall, for instance, a gala occasion in youth when my
mother gave one of her luncheon parties; on my return from school, the
house and its surroundings wore a mysterious, exciting and unfamiliar
look, somehow changed by the simple fact that guests sat decorously
chatting in a dining-room shining with my mother’s best linen and
treasured family silver and china. The atmosphere of my wedding-day is
no less vivid. The house of Ezra Hutchins was scarcely recognizable:
its doors and windows were opened wide, and all the morning people were
being escorted upstairs to an all-significant room that contained a
collection like a jeweller’s exhibit,--a bewildering display. There was
a massive punch-bowl from which dangled the card of Mr. and Mrs. Adolf
Scherer, a really wonderful tea set of old English silver given by
Senator and Mrs. Watling, and Nancy Willett, with her certainty of
good taste, had sent an old English tankard of the time of the second
Charles. The secret was in that room. And it magically transformed for
me (as I stood, momentarily alone, in the doorway where I had first
beheld Maude) the accustomed scene, and charged with undivined
significance the blue shadows under the heavy foliage of the maples. The
September sunlight was heavy, tinged with gold....

So fragmentary and confused are the events of that day that a cubist
literature were necessary to convey the impressions left upon me. I had
something of the feeling of a recruit who for the first time is taking
part in a brilliant and complicated manoeuvre. Tom and Susan Peters
flit across the view, and Gene Hollister and Perry Blackwood and the
Ewanses,--all of whom had come up in a special car; Ralph Hambleton
was “best man,” looking preternaturally tall in his frock-coat: and
his manner, throughout the whole proceeding, was one of good-natured
tolerance toward a folly none but he might escape.

“If you must do it, Hughie, I suppose you must,” he had said to me.
“I’ll see you through, of course. But don’t blame me afterwards.”

Maude was a little afraid of him....

I dressed at George’s; then, like one of those bewildering shifts of
a cinematograph, comes the scene in church, the glimpse of my mother’s
wistful face in the front pew; and I found myself in front of the
austere Mr. Doddridge standing beside Maude--or rather beside a woman
I tried hard to believe was Maude--so veiled and generally encased was
she. I was thinking of this all the time I was mechanically answering
Mr. Doddridge, and even when the wedding march burst forth and I led her
out of the church. It was as though they had done their best to disguise
her, to put our union on the other-worldly plane that was deemed to
be its only justification, to neutralize her sex at the very moment it
should have been most enhanced. Well, they succeeded. If I had not been
as conventional as the rest, I should have preferred to have run away
with her in the lavender dress she wore when I first proposed to her. It
was only when we had got into the carriage and started for the house and
she turned to me her face from which the veil had been thrown back that
I realized what a sublime meaning it all had for her. Her eyes were
wet. Once more I was acutely conscious of my inability to feel deeply at
supreme moments. For months I had looked forward with anticipation and
impatience to my wedding-day.

I kissed her gently. But I felt as though she had gone to heaven, and
that the face I beheld enshrouded were merely her effigy. Commonplace
words were inappropriate, yet it was to these I resorted.

“Well--it wasn’t so bad after all! Was it?”

She smiled at me.

“You don’t want to take it back?”

She shook her head.

“I think it was a beautiful wedding, Hugh. I’m so glad we had a good
day.”...

She seemed shy, at once very near and very remote. I held her hand
awkwardly until the carriage stopped.

A little later we were standing in a corner of the parlour, the
atmosphere of which was heavy with the scent of flowers, submitting to
the onslaught of relatives. Then came the wedding breakfast: croquettes,
champagne, chicken salad, ice-cream, the wedding-cake, speeches and more
kisses.... I remember Tom Peters holding on to both my hands.

“Good-bye, and God bless you, old boy,” he was saying. Susan, in view of
the occasion, had allowed him a little more champagne than usual--enough
to betray his feelings, and I knew that these had not changed since our
college days. I resolved to see more of him. I had neglected him and
undervalued his loyalty.... He had followed me to my room in George’s
house where I was dressing for the journey, and he gave it as his
deliberate judgment that in Maude I had “struck gold.”

“She’s just the girl for you, Hughie,” he declared. “Susan thinks so,
too.”

Later in the afternoon, as we sat in the state-room of the car that
was bearing us eastward, Maude began to cry. I sat looking at her
helplessly, unable to enter into her emotion, resenting it a little. Yet
I tried awkwardly to comfort her.

“I can’t bear to leave them,” she said.

“But you will see them often, when we come back,” I reassured her. It
was scarcely the moment for reminding her of what she was getting in
return. This peculiar family affection she evinced was beyond me; I
had never experienced it in any poignant degree since I had gone as a
freshman to Harvard, and yet I was struck by the fact that her emotions
were so rightly placed. It was natural to love one’s family. I began to
feel, vaguely, as I watched her, that the new relationship into which
I had entered was to be much more complicated than I had imagined.
Twilight was coming on, the train was winding through the mountain
passes, crossing and re-crossing a swift little stream whose banks were
massed with alder; here and there, on the steep hillsides, blazed
the goldenrod.... Presently I turned, to surprise in her eyes a wide,
questioning look,--the look of a child. Even in this irrevocable hour
she sought to grasp what manner of being was this to whom she had
confided her life, and with whom she was faring forth into the unknown.
The experience was utterly unlike my anticipation. Yet I responded. The
kiss I gave her had no passion in it.

“I’ll take good care of you, Maude,” I said.

Suddenly, in the fading light, she flung her arms around me, pressing me
tightly, desperately.

“Oh, I know you will, Hugh, dear. And you’ll forgive me, won’t you, for
being so horrid to-day, of all days? I do love you!”

Neither of us had ever been abroad. And although it was before the days
of swimming-pools and gymnasiums and a la carte cafes on ocean liners,
the Atlantic was imposing enough. Maude had a more lasting capacity for
pleasure than I, a keener enjoyment of new experiences, and as she lay
beside me in the steamer-chair where I had carefully tucked her she
would exclaim:

“I simply can’t believe it, Hugh! It seems so unreal. I’m sure I shall
wake up and find myself back in Elkington.”

“Don’t speak so loud, my dear,” I cautioned her. There were some very
formal-looking New Yorkers next us.

“No, I won’t,” she whispered. “But I’m so happy I feel as though I
should like to tell everyone.”

“There’s no need,” I answered smiling.

“Oh, Hugh, I don’t want to disgrace you!” she exclaimed, in real alarm.
“Otherwise, so far as I am concerned, I shouldn’t care who knew.”

People smiled at her. Women came up and took her hands. And on the
fourth day the formidable New Yorkers unexpectedly thawed.

I had once thought of Maude as plastic. Then I had discovered she had
a mind and will of her own. Once more she seemed plastic; her love had
made her so. Was it not what I had desired? I had only to express a
wish, and it became her law. Nay, she appealed to me many times a day to
know whether she had made any mistakes, and I began to drill her in my
silly traditions,--gently, very gently.

“Well, I shouldn’t be quite so familiar with people, quite so ready to
make acquaintances, Maude. You have no idea who they may be. Some of
them, of course, like the Sardells, I know by reputation.”

The Sardells were the New Yorkers who sat next us.

“I’ll try, Hugh, to be more reserved, more like the wife of an important
man.” She smiled.

“It isn’t that you’re not reserved,” I replied, ignoring the latter half
of her remark. “Nor that I want you to change,” I said. “I only want to
teach you what little of the world I know myself.”

“And I want to learn, Hugh. You don’t know how I want to learn!”

The sight of mist-ridden Liverpool is not a cheering one for the
American who first puts foot on the mother country’s soil, a Liverpool
of yellow-browns and dingy blacks, of tilted funnels pouring out smoke
into an atmosphere already charged with it. The long wharves and shed
roofs glistened with moisture.

“Just think, Hugh, it’s actually England!” she cried, as we stood on the
wet deck. But I felt as though I’d been there before.

“No wonder they’re addicted to cold baths,” I replied. “They must feel
perfectly at home in them, especially if they put a little lampblack in
the water.”

Maude laughed.

“You grumpy old thing!” she exclaimed.

Nothing could dampen her ardour, not the sight of the rain-soaked stone
houses when we got ashore, nor even the frigid luncheon we ate in the
lugubrious hotel. For her it was all quaint and new. Finally we found
ourselves established in a compartment upholstered in light grey, with
tassels and arm-supporters, on the window of which was pasted a poster
with the word reserved in large, red letters. The guard inquired
respectfully, as the porter put our new luggage in the racks, whether we
had everything we wanted. The toy locomotive blew its toy whistle, and
we were off for the north; past dingy, yellow tenements of the smoking
factory towns, and stretches of orderly, hedge-spaced rain-swept
country. The quaint cottages we glimpsed, the sight of distant, stately
mansions on green slopes caused Maude to cry out with rapture:--“Oh,
Hugh, there’s a manor-house!”

More vivid than were the experiences themselves of that journey are the
memories of them. We went to windswept, Sabbath-keeping Edinburgh, to
high Stirling and dark Holyrood, and to Abbotsford. It was through
Sir Walter’s eyes we beheld Melrose bathed in autumn light, by his aid
repeopled it with forgotten monks eating their fast-day kale.

And as we sat reading and dreaming in the still, sunny corners I forgot,
that struggle for power in which I had been so furiously engaged since
leaving Cambridge. Legislatures, politicians and capitalists receded
into a dim background; and the gift I had possessed, in youth, of living
in a realm of fancy showed astonishing signs of revival.

“Why, Hugh,” Maude exclaimed, “you ought to have been a writer!”

“You’ve only just begun to fathom my talents,” I replied laughingly.
“Did you think you’d married just a dry old lawyer?”

“I believe you capable of anything,” she said....

I grew more and more to depend on her for little things.

She was a born housewife. It was pleasant to have her do all the
packing, while I read or sauntered in the queer streets about the inns.
And she took complete charge of my wardrobe.

She had a talent for drawing, and as we went southward through England
she made sketches of the various houses that took our fancy--suggestions
for future home-building; we spent hours in the evenings in the inn
sitting-rooms incorporating new features into our residence, continually
modifying our plans. Now it was a Tudor house that carried us away,
now a Jacobean, and again an early Georgian with enfolding wings and a
wrought-iron grill. A stage of bewilderment succeeded.

Maude, I knew, loved the cottages best. She said they were more
“homelike.” But she yielded to my liking for grandeur.

“My, I should feel lost in a palace like that!” she cried, as we gazed
at the Marquis of So-and-So’s country-seat.

“Well, of course we should have to modify it,” I admitted.
“Perhaps--perhaps our family will be larger.”

She put her hand on my lips, and blushed a fiery red....

We examined, with other tourists, at a shilling apiece historic mansions
with endless drawing-rooms, halls, libraries, galleries filled with
family portraits; elaborate, formal bedrooms where famous sovereigns
had slept, all roped off and carpeted with canvas strips to protect
the floors. Through mullioned windows we caught glimpses of gardens and
geometrical parterres, lakes, fountains, statuary, fantastic topiary
and distant stretches of park. Maude sighed with admiration, but did not
covet. She had me. But I was often uncomfortable, resenting the vulgar,
gaping tourists with whom we were herded and the easy familiarity of
the guides. These did not trouble Maude, who often annoyed me by asking
naive questions herself. I would nudge her.

One afternoon when, with other compatriots, we were being hurried
through a famous castle, the guide unwittingly ushered us into a
drawing-room where the owner and several guests were seated about a
tea-table. I shall never forget the stares they gave us before we had
time precipitately to retreat, nor the feeling of disgust and rebellion
that came over me. This was heightened by the remark of a heavy,
six-foot Ohioan with an infantile face and a genial manner.

“I notice that they didn’t invite us to sit down and have a bite,” he
said. “I call that kind of inhospitable.”

“It was ‘is lordship himself!” exclaimed the guide, scandalized.

“You don’t say!” drawled our fellow-countryman. “I guess I owe you
another shilling, my friend.”

The guide, utterly bewildered, accepted it. The transatlantic point of
view towards the nobility was beyond him.

“His lordship could make a nice little income if he set up as a side
show,” added the Ohioan.

Maude giggled, but I was furious. And no sooner were we outside the
gates than I declared I should never again enter a private residence by
the back door.

“Why, Hugh, how queer you are sometimes,” she said.

“I maybe queer, but I have a sense of fitness,” I retorted.

She asserted herself.

“I can’t see what difference it makes. They didn’t know us. And if they
admit people for money--”

“I can’t help it. And as for the man from Ohio--”

“But he was so funny!” she interrupted. “And he was really very nice.”

I was silent. Her point of view, eminently sensible as it was,
exasperated me. We were leaning over the parapet of a little-stone
bridge. Her face was turned away from me, but presently I realized that
she was crying. Men and women, villagers, passing across the bridge,
looked at us curiously. I was miserable, and somewhat appalled;
resentful, yet striving to be gentle and conciliatory. I assured her
that she was talking nonsense, that I loved her. But I did not really
love her at that moment; nor did she relent as easily as usual. It was
not until we were together in our sitting-room, a few hours later, that
she gave in. I felt a tremendous sense of relief.

“Hugh, I’ll try to be what you want. You know I am trying. But don’t
kill what is natural in me.”

I was touched by the appeal, and repentant...

It is impossible to say when the little worries, annoyances and
disagreements began, when I first felt a restlessness creeping over me.
I tried to hide these moods from her, but always she divined them. And
yet I was sure that I loved Maude; in a surprisingly short period I had
become accustomed to her, dependent on her ministrations and the normal,
cosy intimacy of our companionship. I did not like to think that the
keen edge of the enjoyment of possession was wearing a little, while
at the same time I philosophized that the divine fire, when legalized,
settles down to a comfortable glow. The desire to go home that grew upon
me I attributed to the irritation aroused by the spectacle of a fixed
social order commanding such unquestioned deference from the many who
were content to remain resignedly outside of it. Before the setting
in of the Liberal movement and the “American invasion” England was a
country in which (from my point of view) one must be “somebody” in order
to be happy. I was “somebody” at home; or at least rapidly becoming
so....

London was shrouded, parliament had risen, and the great houses
were closed. Day after day we issued forth from a musty and highly
respectable hotel near Piccadilly to a gloomy Tower, a soggy Hampton
Court or a mournful British Museum. Our native longing for luxury--or
rather my native longing--impelled me to abandon Smith’s Hotel for a
huge hostelry where our suite overlooked the Thames, where we ran across
a man I had known slightly at Harvard, and other Americans with whom
we made excursions and dined and went to the theatre. Maude liked these
persons; I did not find them especially congenial. My life-long habit
of unwillingness to accept what life sent in its ordinary course was
asserting itself; but Maude took her friends as she found them, and I
was secretly annoyed by her lack of discrimination. In addition to this,
the sense of having been pulled up by the roots grew upon me.

“Suppose,” Maude surprised me by suggesting one morning as we sat
at breakfast watching the river craft flit like phantoms through the
yellow-green fog--“suppose we don’t go to France, after all, Hugh?”

“Not go to France!” I exclaimed. “Are you tired of the trip?”

“Oh, Hugh!” Her voice caught. “I could go on, always, if you were
content.”

“And--what makes you think that I’m not content?”

Her smile had in it just a touch of wistfulness.

“I understand you, Hugh, better than you think. You want to get back
to your work, and--and I should be happier. I’m not so silly and so
ignorant as to think that I can satisfy you always. And I’d like to get
settled at home,--I really should.”

There surged up within me a feeling of relief. I seized her hand as it
lay on the table.

“We’ll come abroad another time, and go to France,” I said. “Maude,
you’re splendid!”

She shook her head.

“Oh, no, I’m not.”

“You do satisfy me,” I insisted. “It isn’t that at all. But I think,
perhaps, it would be wiser to go back. It’s rather a crucial time
with me, now that Mr. Watling’s in Washington. I’ve just arrived at a
position where I shall be able to make a good deal of money, and later
on--”

“It isn’t the money, Hugh,” she cried, with a vehemence which struck
me as a little odd. “I sometimes think we’d be a great deal happier
without--without all you are going to make.”

I laughed.

“Well, I haven’t made it yet.”

She possessed the frugality of the Hutchinses. And some times my
lavishness had frightened her, as when we had taken the suite of rooms
we now occupied.

“Are you sure you can afford them, Hugh?” she had asked when we first
surveyed them.

I began married life, and carried it on without giving her any
conception of the state of my finances. She had an allowance from the
first.

As the steamer slipped westward my spirits rose, to reach a climax of
exhilaration when I saw the towers of New York rise gleaming like huge
stalagmites in the early winter sun. Maude likened them more happily--to
gigantic ivory chessmen. Well, New York was America’s chessboard, and
the Great Players had already begun to make moves that astonished the
world. As we sat at breakfast in a Fifth Avenue hotel I ran my eye
eagerly over the stock-market reports and the financial news, and
rallied Maude for a lack of spirits.

“Aren’t you glad to be home?” I asked her, as we sat in a hansom.

“Of course I am, Hugh!” she protested. “But--I can’t look upon New York
as home, somehow. It frightens me.”

I laughed indulgently.

“You’ll get used to it,” I said. “We’ll be coming here a great deal, off
and on.”

She was silent. But later, when we took a hansom and entered the streams
of traffic, she responded to the stimulus of the place: the movement,
the colour, the sight of the well-appointed carriages, of the well-fed,
well-groomed people who sat in them, the enticement of the shops in
which we made our purchases had their effect, and she became cheerful
again....

In the evening we took the “Limited” for home.

We lived for a month with my mother, and then moved into our own house.
It was one which I had rented from Howard Ogilvy, and it stood on the
corner of Baker and Clinton streets, near that fashionable neighbourhood
called “the Heights.” Ogilvy, who was some ten years older than I, and
who belonged to one of our old families, had embarked on a career then
becoming common, but which at first was regarded as somewhat
meteoric: gradually abandoning the practice of law, and perceiving the
possibilities of the city of his birth, he had “gambled” in real estate
and other enterprises, such as our local water company, until he had
quadrupled his inheritance. He had built a mansion on Grant Avenue, the
wide thoroughfare bisecting the Heights. The house he had vacated was
not large, but essentially distinctive; with the oddity characteristic
of the revolt against the banal architecture of the 80’s. The curves
of the tiled roof enfolded the upper windows; the walls were thick, the
note one of mystery. I remember Maude’s naive delight when we inspected
it.

“You’d never guess what the inside was like, would you, Hugh?” she
cried.

From the panelled box of an entrance hall one went up a few steps to a
drawing-room which had a bowed recess like an oriel, and window-seats.
The dining-room was an odd shape, and was wainscoted in oak; it had a
tiled fireplace and (according to Maude) the “sweetest” china closet
built into the wall. There was a “den” for me, and an octagonal
reception-room on the corner. Upstairs, the bedrooms were quite as
unusual, the plumbing of the new pattern, heavy and imposing. Maude
expressed the air of seclusion when she exclaimed that she could almost
imagine herself in one of the mediaeval towns we had seen abroad.

“It’s a dream, Hugh,” she sighed. “But--do you think we can afford
it?”...

“This house,” I announced, smiling, “is only a stepping-stone to the
palace I intend to build you some day.”

“I don’t want a palace!” she cried. “I’d rather live here, like this,
always.”

A certain vehemence in her manner troubled me. I was charmed by this
disposition for domesticity, and yet I shrank from the contemplation of
its permanency. I felt vaguely, at the time, the possibility of a future
conflict of temperaments. Maude was docile, now. But would she remain
docile? and was it in her nature to take ultimately the position that
was desirable for my wife? Well, she must be moulded, before it were too
late. Her ultra-domestic tendencies must be halted. As yet blissfully
unaware of the inability of the masculine mind to fathom the subtleties
of feminine relationships, I was particularly desirous that Maude and
Nancy Durrett should be intimates. The very day after our arrival, and
while we were still at my mother’s, Nancy called on Maude, and took her
out for a drive. Maude told me of it when I came home from the office.

“Dear old Nancy!” I said. “I know you liked her.”

“Of course, Hugh. I should like her for your sake, anyway. She’s--she’s
one of your oldest and best friends.”

“But I want you to like her for her own sake.”

“I think I shall,” said Maude. She was so scrupulously truthful! “I was
a little afraid of her, at first.”

“Afraid of Nancy!” I exclaimed.

“Well, you know, she’s much older than I. I think she is sweet. But she
knows so much about the world--so much that she doesn’t say. I can’t
describe it.”

I smiled.

“It’s only her manner. You’ll get used to that, when you know what she
really is.”

“Oh, I hope so,” answered Maude. “I’m very anxious to like her--I do
like her. But it takes me such a lot of time to get to know people.”

Nancy asked us to dinner.

“I want to help Maude all I can,--if she’ll let me,” Nancy said.

“Why shouldn’t she let you?” I asked.

“She may not like me,” Nancy replied.

“Nonsense!” I exclaimed.

Nancy smiled.

“It won’t be my fault, at any rate, if she doesn’t,” she said. “I wanted
her to meet at first just the right people your old friends and a few
others. It is hard for a woman--especially a young woman--coming among
strangers.” She glanced down the table to where Maude sat talking to
Ham. “She has an air about her,--a great deal of self-possession.”

I, too, had noticed this, with pride and relief. For I knew Maude had
been nervous.

“You are luckier than you deserve to be,” Nancy reminded me. “But I hope
you realize that she has a mind of her own, that she will form her own
opinions of people, independently of you.”

I must have betrayed the fact that I was a little startled, for the
remark came as a confirmation of what I had dimly felt.

“Of course she has,” I agreed, somewhat lamely. “Every woman has, who is
worth her salt.”

Nancy’s smile bespoke a knowledge that seemed to transcend my own.

“You do like her?” I demanded.

“I like her very much indeed,” said Nancy, a little gravely.
“She’s simple, she’s real, she has that which so few of us possess
nowadays--character. But--I’ve got to be prepared for the possibility
that she may not get along with me.”

“Why not?” I demanded.

“There you are again, with your old unwillingness to analyze a situation
and face it. For heaven’s sake, now that you have married her, study
her. Don’t take her for granted. Can’t you see that she doesn’t care for
the things that amuse me, that make my life?”

“Of course, if you insist on making yourself out a hardened,
sophisticated woman--” I protested. But she shook her head.

“Her roots are deeper,--she is in touch, though she may not realize it,
with the fundamentals. She is one of those women who are race-makers.”

Though somewhat perturbed, I was struck by the phrase. And I lost sight
of Nancy’s generosity. She looked me full in the face.

“I wonder whether you can rise to her,” she said. “If I were you, I
should try. You will be happier--far happier than if you attempt to use
her for your own ends, as a contributor to your comfort and an auxiliary
to your career. I was afraid--I confess it--that you had married an
aspiring, simpering and empty-headed provincial like that Mrs. George
Hutchins’ whom I met once, and who would sell her soul to be at my
table. Well, you escaped that, and you may thank God for it. You’ve got
a chance, think it over.

“A chance!” I repeated, though I gathered something of her meaning.

“Think it over, said Nancy again. And she smiled.

“But--do you want me to bury myself in domesticity?” I demanded, without
grasping the significance of my words.

“You’ll find her reasonable, I think. You’ve got a chance now, Hugh.
Don’t spoil it.”

She turned to Leonard Dickinson, who sat on her other side....

When we got home I tried to conceal my anxiety as to Maude’s impressions
of the evening. I lit a cigarette, and remarked that the dinner had been
a success.

“Do you know what I’ve been wondering all evening?” Maude asked. “Why
you didn’t marry Nancy instead of me.”

“Well,” I replied, “it just didn’t come off. And Nancy was telling me at
dinner how fortunate I was to have married you.”

Maude passed this.

“I can’t see why she accepted Hambleton Durrett. It seems horrible that
such a woman as she is could have married--just for money.

“Nancy has an odd streak in her,” I said. “But then we all have odd
streaks. She’s the best friend in the world, when she is your friend.”

“I’m sure of it,” Maude agreed, with a little note of penitence.

“You enjoyed it,” I ventured cautiously.

“Oh, yes,” she agreed. “And everyone was so nice to me--for your sake of
course.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” I said. “I shan’t tell you what Nancy and the
others said about you.”

Maude had the gift of silence.

“What a beautiful house!” she sighed presently. “I know you’ll think me
silly, but so much luxury as that frightens me a little. In England,
in those places we saw, it seemed natural enough, but in America--! And
they all your friends--seem to take it as a matter of course.”

“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have beautiful things and well
served dinners, too, if we have the money to pay for them.”

“I suppose not,” she agreed, absently.



XV.

That winter many other entertainments were given in our honour. But the
conviction grew upon me that Maude had no real liking for the social
side of life, that she acquiesced in it only on my account. Thus, at the
very outset of our married career, an irritant developed: signs of it,
indeed, were apparent from the first, when we were preparing the house
we had rented for occupancy. Hurrying away from my office at odd
times to furniture and department stores to help decide such momentous
questions as curtains, carpets, chairs and tables I would often spy the
tall, uncompromising figure of Susan Peters standing beside Maude’s,
while an obliging clerk spread out, anxiously, rugs or wall-papers for
their inspection.

“Why don’t you get Nancy to help you, too!” I ventured to ask her once.

“Ours is such a little house--compared to Nancy’s, Hugh.”

My attitude towards Susan had hitherto remained undefined. She was Tom’s
wife and Tom’s affair. In spite of her marked disapproval of the modern
trend in business and social life,--a prejudice she had communicated to
Tom, as a bachelor I had not disliked her; and it was certain that these
views had not mitigated Tom’s loyalty and affection for me. Susan had
been my friend, as had her brother Perry, and Lucia, Perry’s wife:
they made no secret of the fact that they deplored in me what they were
pleased to call plutocratic obsessions, nor had their disapproval always
been confined to badinage. Nancy, too, they looked upon as a renegade.
I was able to bear their reproaches with the superior good nature that
springs from success, to point out why the American tradition to which
they so fatuously clung was a things of the past. The habit of taking
dinner with them at least once a week had continued, and their arguments
rather amused me. If they chose to dwell in a backwater out of touch
with the current of great affairs, this was a matter to be deplored,
but I did not feel strongly enough to resent it. So long as I remained
a bachelor the relationship had not troubled me, but now that I was
married I began to consider with some alarm its power to affect my
welfare.

It had remained for Nancy to inform me that I had married a woman with a
mind of her own. I had flattered myself that I should be able to control
Maude, to govern her predilections, and now at the very beginning of
our married life she was showing a disquieting tendency to choose for
herself. To be sure, she had found my intimacy with the Peterses and
Blackwoods already formed; but it was an intimacy from which I was
growing away. I should not have quarrelled with her if she had not
discriminated: Nancy made overtures, and Maude drew back;
Susan presented herself, and with annoying perversity and in an
extraordinarily brief time Maude had become her intimate. It seemed
to me that she was always at Susan’s, lunching or playing with the
children, who grew devoted to her; or with Susan, choosing carpets and
clothes; while more and more frequently we dined with the Peterses and
the Blackwoods, or they with us. With Perry’s wife Maude was scarcely
less intimate than with Susan. This was the more surprising to me since
Lucia Blackwood was a dyed-in-the-wool “intellectual,” a graduate of
Radcliffe, the daughter of a Harvard professor. Perry had fallen in
love with her during her visit to Susan. Lucia was, perhaps, the most
influential of the group; she scorned the world, she held strong views
on the higher education of women; she had long discarded orthodoxy
for what may be called a Cambridge stoicism of simple living and high
thinking; while Maude was a strict Presbyterian, and not in the least
given to theories. When, some months after our homecoming, I ventured
to warn her gently of the dangers of confining one’s self to a
coterie--especially one of such narrow views--her answer was rather
bewildering.

“But isn’t Tom your best friend?” she asked.

I admitted that he was.

“And you always went there such a lot before we were married.”

This, too, was undeniable. “At the same time,” I replied, “I have other
friends. I’m fond of the Blackwoods and the Peterses, I’m not advocating
seeing less of them, but their point of view, if taken without any
antidote, is rather narrowing. We ought to see all kinds,” I suggested,
with a fine restraint.

“You mean--more worldly people,” she said with her disconcerting
directness.

“Not necessarily worldly,” I struggled on. “People who know more of the
world--yes, who understand it better.”

Maude sighed.

“I do try, Hugh,--I return their calls,--I do try to be nice to them.
But somehow I don’t seem to get along with them easily--I’m not myself,
they make me shy. It’s because I’m provincial.”

“Nonsense!” I protested, “you’re not a bit provincial.” And it was true;
her dignity and self-possession redeemed her.

Nancy was not once mentioned. But I think she was in both our minds....

Since my marriage, too, I had begun to resent a little the attitude of
Tom and Susan and the Blackwoods of humorous yet affectionate tolerance
toward my professional activities and financial creed, though Maude
showed no disposition to take this seriously. I did suspect, however,
that they were more and more determined to rescue Maude from what they
would have termed a frivolous career; and on one of these occasions--so
exasperating in married life when a slight cause for pique tempts
husband or wife to try to ask myself whether this affair were only
a squall, something to be looked for once in a while on the seas of
matrimony, and weathered: or whether Maude had not, after all, been
right when she declared that I had made a mistake, and that we were
not fitted for one another? In this gloomy view endless years of
incompatibility stretched ahead; and for the first time I began
to rehearse with a certain cold detachment the chain of apparently
accidental events which had led up to my marriage: to consider the
gradual blindness that had come over my faculties; and finally to wonder
whether judgment ever entered into sexual selection. Would Maude have
relapsed into this senseless fit if she had realized how fortunate she
was? For I was prepared to give her what thousands of women longed for,
position and influence. My resentment rose again against Perry and Tom,
and I began to attribute their lack of appreciation of my achievements
to jealousy. They had not my ability; this was the long and short of
it.... I pondered also, regretfully, on my bachelor days. And for the
first time, I, who had worked so hard to achieve freedom, felt
the pressure of the yoke I had fitted over my own shoulders. I had
voluntarily, though unwittingly, returned to slavery. This was what
had happened. And what was to be done about it? I would not consider
divorce.

Well, I should have to make the best of it. Whether this conclusion
brought on a mood of reaction, I am unable to say. I was still
annoyed by what seemed to the masculine mind a senseless and dramatic
performance on Maude’s part, an incomprehensible case of “nerves.”
 Nevertheless, there stole into my mind many recollections of Maude’s
affection, many passages between us; and my eye chanced to fall on
the ink-well she had bought me out of the allowance I gave her. An
unanticipated pity welled up within me for her loneliness, her despair
in that room upstairs. I got up--and hesitated. A counteracting,
inhibiting wave passed through me. I hardened. I began to walk up and
down, a prey to conflicting impulses. Something whispered, “go to
her”; another voice added, “for your own peace of mind, at any rate.” I
rejected the intrusion of this motive as unworthy, turned out the light
and groped my way upstairs. The big clock in the hall struck twelve.

I listened outside the door of the bedroom, but all was silent within. I
knocked.

“Maude!” I said, in a low voice.

There was no response.

“Maude--let me in! I didn’t mean to be unkind--I’m sorry.”

After an interval I heard her say: “I’d rather stay here,--to-night.”

But at length, after more entreaty and self-abasement on my part,
she opened the door. The room was dark. We sat down together on the
window-seat, and all at once she relaxed and her head fell on my
shoulder, and she began weeping again. I held her, the alternating moods
still running through me.

“Hugh,” she said at length, “how could you be so cruel? when you know I
love you and would do anything for you.”

“I didn’t mean to be cruel, Maude,” I answered.

“I know you didn’t. But at times you seem so--indifferent, and you can’t
understand how it hurts. I haven’t anybody but you, now, and it’s in
your power to make me happy or--or miserable.”

Later on I tried to explain my point of view, to justify myself.

“All I mean,” I concluded at length, “is that my position is a little
different from Perry’s and Tom’s. They can afford to isolate themselves,
but I’m thrown professionally with the men who are building up this
city. Some of them, like Ralph Hambleton and Mr. Ogilvy, I’ve known all
my life. Life isn’t so simple for us, Maude--we can’t ignore the social
side.”

“I understand,” she said contentedly. “You are more of a man
of affairs--much more than Tom or Perry, and you have greater
responsibilities and wider interests. I’m really very proud of you.
Only--don’t you think you are a little too sensitive about yourself,
when you are teased?”

I let this pass....

I give a paragraph from a possible biography of Hugh Paret which, as
then seemed not improbable, might in the future have been written by
some aspiring young worshipper of success.

“On his return from a brief but delightful honeymoon in England Mr.
Paret took up again, with characteristic vigour, the practice of
the law. He was entering upon the prime years of manhood; golden
opportunities confronted him as, indeed, they confronted other men--but
Paret had the foresight to take advantage of them. And his training
under Theodore Watling was now to produce results.... The reputations
had already been made of some of that remarkable group of financial
geniuses who were chiefly instrumental in bringing about the industrial
evolution begun after the Civil War: at the same time, as is well
known, a political leadership developed that gave proof of a deplorable
blindness to the logical necessity of combinations in business. The
lawyer with initiative and brains became an indispensable factor,” etc.,
etc.

The biography might have gone on to relate my association with and
important services to Adolf Scherer in connection with his constructive
dream. Shortly after my return from abroad, in answer to his summons, I
found him at Heinrich’s, his napkin tucked into his shirt front, and a
dish of his favourite sausages before him.

“So, the honeymoon is over!” he said, and pressed my hand. “You are
right to come back to business, and after awhile you can have another
honeymoon, eh? I have had many since I married. And how long do you
think was my first? A day! I was a foreman then, and the wedding was at
six o’clock in the morning. We went into the country, the wife and I.”

He laid down his knife and fork, possessed by the memory. “I have grown
rich since, and we’ve been to Europe and back to Germany, and travelled
on the best ships and stayed at the best hotels, but I never enjoyed
a holiday more than that day. It wasn’t long afterwards I went to Mr.
Durrett and told him how he could save much money. He was always ready
to listen, Mr. Durrett, when an employee had anything to say. He was a
big man,--an iron-master. Ah, he would be astonished if only he could
wake up now!”

“He would not only have to be an iron-master,” I agreed, “but a
financier and a railroad man to boot.”

“A jack of all trades,” laughed Mr. Scherer. “That’s what we are--men
in my position. Well, it was comparatively simple then, when we had no
Sherman law and crazy statutes, such as some of the states are passing,
to bother us. What has got into the politicians, that they are indulging
in such foolishness?” he exclaimed, more warmly. “We try to build up a
trade for this country, and they’re doing their best to tie our hands
and tear it down. When I was in Washington the other day I was talking
with one of those Western senators whose state has passed those laws.
He said to me, ‘Mr. Scherer, I’ve been making a study of the Boyne Iron
Works. You are clever men, but you are building up monopolies which we
propose to stop.’ ‘By what means?’” I asked. “‘Rebates, for one,’
said he, ‘you get preferential rates from your railroad which give you
advantages over your competitors.’ Foolishness!” Mr. Scherer exclaimed.
“I tell him the railroad is a private concern, built up by private
enterprise, and it has a right to make special rates for large shippers.
No,--railroads are public carriers with no right to make special rates.
I ask him what else he objects to, and he says patented processes. As if
we don’t have a right to our own patents! We buy them. I buy them, when
other steel companies won’t touch ‘em. What is that but enterprise, and
business foresight, and taking risks? And then he begins to talk about
the tariff taking money out of the pockets of American consumers and
making men like me rich. I have come to Washington to get the tariff
raised on steel rails; and Watling and other senators we send down there
are raising it for us. We are building up monopolies! Well, suppose we
are. We can’t help it, even if we want to. Has he ever made a study
of the other side of the question--the competition side? Of course he
hasn’t.”

He brought down his beer mug heavily on the table. In times of
excitement his speech suggested the German idiom. Abruptly his air grew
mysterious; he glanced around the room, now becoming empty, and lowered
his voice.

“I have been thinking a long time, I have a little scheme,” he said,
“and I have been to Washington to see Watling, to talk over it. Well, he
thinks much of you. Fowndes and Ripon are good lawyers, but they are not
smart like you. See Paret, he says, and he can come down and talk to me.
So I ask you to come here. That is why I say you are wise to get home.
Honeymoons can wait--eh?”

I smiled appreciatively.

“They talk about monopoly, those Populist senators, but I ask you what
is a man in my place to do? If you don’t eat, somebody eats you--is it
not so? Like the boa-constrictors--that is modern business. Look at
the Keystone Plate people, over there at Morris. For years we sold them
steel billets from which to make their plates, and three months ago
they serve notice on us that they are getting ready to make their own
billets, they buy mines north of the lakes and are building their plant.
Here is a big customer gone. Next year, maybe, the Empire Tube Company
goes into the business of making crude steel, and many more thousands of
tons go from us. What is left for us, Paret?”

“Obviously you’ve got to go into the tube and plate business
yourselves,” I said.

“So!” cried Mr. Scherer, triumphantly, “or it is close up. We are not
fools, no, we will not lie down and be eaten like lambs for any law.
Dickinson can put his hand on the capital, and I--I have already bought
a tract on the lakes, at Bolivar, I have already got a plant designed
with the latest modern machinery. I can put the ore right there, I can
send the coke back from here in cars which would otherwise be empty, and
manufacture tubes at eight dollars a ton less than they are selling. If
we can make tubes we can make plates, and if we can make plates we can
make boilers, and beams and girders and bridges.... It is not like it
was but where is it all leading, my friend? The time will come--is right
on us now, in respect to many products--when the market will be flooded
with tubes and plates and girders, and then we’ll have to find a way to
limit production. And the inefficient mills will all be forced to shut
down.”

The logic seemed unanswerable, even had I cared to answer it.... He
unfolded his campaign. The Boyne Iron Works was to become the Boyne Iron
Works, Ltd., owner of various subsidiary companies, some of which were
as yet blissfully ignorant of their fate. All had been thought out as
calmly as the partition of Poland--only, lawyers were required; and
ultimately, after the process of acquisition should have been completed,
a delicate document was to be drawn up which would pass through the
meshes of that annoying statutory net, the Sherman Anti-trust Law. New
mines were to be purchased, extending over a certain large area; wide
coal deposits; little strips of railroad to tap them. The competition of
the Keystone Plate people was to be met by acquiring and bringing up
to date the plate mills of King and Son, over the borders of a sister
state; the Somersworth Bridge and Construction Company and the Gring
Steel and Wire Company were to be absorbed. When all of this should
have been accomplished, there would be scarcely a process in the steel
industry, from the smelting of the ore to the completion of a bridge,
which the Boyne Iron Works could not undertake. Such was the beginning
of the “lateral extension” period.

“Two can play at that game,” Mr. Scherer said. “And if those fellows
could only be content to let well enough alone, to continue buying their
crude steel from us, there wouldn’t be any trouble.”...

It was evident, however, that he really welcomed the “trouble,” that
he was going into battle with enthusiasm. He had already picked out his
points of attack and was marching on them. Life, for him, would have
been a poor thing without new conflicts to absorb his energy; and he had
already made of the Boyne Iron Works, with its open-hearth furnaces, a
marvel of modern efficiency that had opened the eyes of the Steel world,
and had drawn the attention of a Personality in New York,--a Personality
who was one of the new and dominant type that had developed with such
amazing rapidity, the banker-dinosaur; preying upon and superseding the
industrial-dinosaur, conquering type of the preceding age, builder
of the railroads, mills and manufactories. The banker-dinosaurs, the
gigantic ones, were in Wall Street, and strove among themselves for
the industrial spoils accumulated by their predecessors. It was
characteristic of these monsters that they never fought in the open
unless they were forced to. Then the earth rocked, huge economic
structures tottered and fell, and much dust arose to obscure the
vision of smaller creatures, who were bewildered and terrified. Such
disturbances were called “panics,” and were blamed by the newspapers
on the Democratic party, or on the reformers who had wantonly assailed
established institutions. These dominant bankers had contrived to gain
control of the savings of thousands and thousands of fellow-citizens who
had deposited them in banks or paid them into insurance companies, and
with the power thus accumulated had sallied forth to capture railroads
and industries. The railroads were the strategic links. With these in
hand, certain favoured industrial concerns could be fed, and others
starved into submission.

Adolf Scherer might be said to represent a transitional type. For he was
not only an iron-master who knew every detail of his business, who kept
it ahead of the times; he was also a strategist, wise in his generation,
making friends with the Railroad while there had yet been time, at
length securing rebates and favours. And when that Railroad (which
had been constructed through the enterprise and courage of such men
as Nathaniel Durrett) had passed under the control of the
banker-personality to whom I have referred, and had become part of a
system, Adolf Scherer remained in alliance, and continued to receive
favours.... I can well remember the time when the ultimate authority
of our Railroad was transferred, quietly, to Wall Street. Alexander
Barbour, its president, had been a great man, but after that he bowed,
in certain matters, to a greater one.

I have digressed.... Mr. Scherer unfolded his scheme, talking about
“units” as calmly as though they were checkers on a board instead of
huge, fiery, reverberating mills where thousands and thousands of human
beings toiled day and night--beings with families, and hopes and fears,
whose destinies were to be dominated by the will of the man who sat
opposite me. But--did not he in his own person represent the triumph of
that American creed of opportunity? He, too, had been through the fire,
had sweated beside the blasts, had handled the ingots of steel. He was
one of the “fittest” who had survived, and looked it. Had he no memories
of the terrors of that struggle?... Adolf Scherer had grown to be a
giant. And yet without me, without my profession he was a helpless
giant, at the mercy of those alert and vindictive lawmakers who sought
to restrain and hamper him, to check his growth with their webs. How
stimulating the idea of his dependence! How exhilarating too,
the thought that that vision which had first possessed me as an
undergraduate--on my visit to Jerry Kyme--was at last to be realized!
I had now become the indispensable associate of the few who divided the
spoils, I was to have a share in these myself.

“You’re young, Paret,” Mr. Scherer concluded. “But Watling has
confidence in you, and you will consult him frequently. I believe in the
young men, and I have already seen something of you--so?”...

When I returned to the office I wrote Theodore Watling a letter
expressing my gratitude for the position he had, so to speak, willed me,
of confidential legal adviser to Adolf Scherer. Though the opportunity
had thrust itself upon me suddenly, and sooner than I expected it, I was
determined to prove myself worthy of it. I worked as I had never worked
before, making trips to New York to consult leading members of this
new branch of my profession there, trips to Washington to see my former
chief. There were, too, numerous conferences with local personages, with
Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Grierson, and Judah B. Tallant,--whose newspaper
was most useful; there were consultations and negotiations of a delicate
nature with the owners and lawyers of other companies to be “taken in.”
 Nor was it all legal work, in the older and narrower sense. Men who are
playing for principalities are making war. Some of our operations had
all the excitement of war. There was information to be got, and it was
got--somehow. Modern war involves a spy system, and a friendly telephone
company is not to be despised. And all of this work from first to last
had to be done with extreme caution. Moribund distinctions of right and
wrong did not trouble me, for the modern man labours religiously when he
knows that Evolution is on his side.

For all of these operations a corps of counsel had been employed,
including the firm of Harrington and Bowes next to Theodore Watling,
Joel Harrington was deemed the ablest lawyer in the city. We organized
in due time the corporation known as the Boyne Iron Works, Limited; a
trust agreement was drawn up that was a masterpiece of its kind, one
that caused, first and last, meddling officials in the Department of
Justice at Washington no little trouble and perplexity. I was proud of
the fact that I had taken no small part in its composition.... In short,
in addition to certain emoluments and opportunities for investment, I
emerged from the affair firmly established in the good graces of Adolf
Scherer, and with a reputation practically made.

A year or so after the Boyne Company, Ltd., came into existence I
chanced one morning to go down to the new Ashuela Hotel to meet a New
Yorker of some prominence, and was awaiting him in the lobby, when I
overheard a conversation between two commercial travellers who were
sitting with their backs to me.

“Did you notice that fellow who went up to the desk a moment ago?” asked
one.

“The young fellow in the grey suit? Sure. Who is he? He looks as if he
was pretty well fixed.”

“I guess he is,” replied the first. “That’s Paret. He’s Scherer’s
confidential counsel. He used to be Senator Watling’s partner, but they
say he’s even got something on the old man.”

In spite of the feverish life I led, I was still undoubtedly
young-looking, and in this I was true to the incoming type of successful
man. Our fathers appeared staid at six and thirty. Clothes, of course,
made some difference, and my class and generation did not wear the
sombre and cumbersome kind, with skirts and tails; I patronized a tailor
in New York. My chestnut hair, a little darker than my father’s had
been, showed no signs of turning grey, although it was thinning a little
at the crown of the forehead, and I wore a small moustache, clipped in
a straight line above the mouth. This made me look less like a college
youth. Thanks to a strong pigment in my skin, derived probably from
Scotch-Irish ancestors, my colour was fresh. I have spoken of my life as
feverish, and yet I am not so sure that this word completely describes
it. It was full to overflowing--one side of it; and I did not miss (save
vaguely, in rare moments of weariness) any other side that might have
been developed. I was busy all day long, engaged in affairs I deemed to
be alone of vital importance in the universe. I was convinced that the
welfare of the city demanded that supreme financial power should remain
in the hands of the group of men with whom I was associated, and whose
battles I fought in the courts, in the legislature, in the city council,
and sometimes in Washington,--although they were well cared for there.
By every means ingenuity could devise, their enemies were to be driven
from the field, and they were to be protected from blackmail.

A sense of importance sustained me; and I remember in that first
flush of a success for which I had not waited too long--what a secret
satisfaction it was to pick up the Era and see my name embedded in
certain dignified notices of board meetings, transactions of weight, or
cases known to the initiated as significant. “Mr. Scherer’s interests
were taken care of by Mr. Hugh Paret.” The fact that my triumphs were
modestly set forth gave me more pleasure than if they had been trumpeted
in headlines. Although I might have started out in practice for myself,
my affection and regard for Mr. Watling kept me in the firm, which
became Watling, Fowndes and Paret, and a new, arrangement was entered
into: Mr. Ripon retired on account of ill health.

There were instances, however, when a certain amount of annoying
publicity was inevitable. Such was the famous Galligan case, which
occurred some three or four years after my marriage. Aloysius Galligan
was a brakeman, and his legs had become paralyzed as the result of an
accident that was the result of defective sills on a freight car. He
had sued, and been awarded damages of $15,000. To the amazement and
indignation of Miller Gorse, the Supreme Court, to which the Railroad
had appealed, affirmed the decision. It wasn’t the single payment of
$15,000 that the Railroad cared about, of course; a precedent might be
established for compensating maimed employees which would be expensive
in the long run. Carelessness could not be proved in this instance.
Gorse sent for me. I had been away with Maude at the sea for two months,
and had not followed the case.

“You’ve got to take charge, Paret, and get a rehearing. See Bering,
and find out who in the deuce is to blame for this. Chesley’s one, of
course. We ought never to have permitted his nomination for the Supreme
Bench. It was against my judgment, but Varney and Gill assured me that
he was all right.”

I saw Judge Bering that evening. We sat on a plush sofa in the parlour
of his house in Baker Street.

“I had a notion Gorse’d be mad,” he said, “but it looked to me as if
they had it on us, Paret. I didn’t see how we could do anything else but
affirm without being too rank. Of course, if he feels that way, and you
want to make a motion for a rehearing, I’ll see what can be done.”

“Something’s got to be done,” I replied. “Can’t you see what such a
decision lets them in for?”

“All right,” said the judge, who knew an order when he heard one, “I
guess we can find an error.” He was not a little frightened by the
report of Mr. Gorse’s wrath, for election-day was approaching. “Say, you
wouldn’t take me for a sentimental man, now, would you?”

I smiled at the notion of it.

“Well, I’ll own up to you this kind of got under my skin. That Galligan
is a fine-looking fellow, if there ever was one, and he’ll never be of
a bit of use any more. Of course the case was plain sailing, and they
ought to have had the verdict, but that lawyer of his handled it to the
queen’s taste, if I do say so. He made me feel real bad, by God,--as if
it was my own son Ed who’d been battered up. Lord, I can’t forget the
look in that man Galligan’s eyes. I hate to go through it again, and
reverse it, but I guess I’ll have to, now.”

The Judge sat gazing at the flames playing over his gas log.

“Who was the lawyer?” I asked.

“A man by the name of Krebs,” he replied. “Never heard of him before.
He’s just moved to the city.”

“This city?” I ejaculated.

The Judge glanced at me interestedly.

“This city, of course. What do you know about him?”

“Well,” I answered, when I had recovered a little from the shock--for it
was a distinct shock--“he lived in Elkington. He was the man who stirred
up the trouble in the legislature about Bill 709.”

The Judge slapped his knee.

“That fellow!” he exclaimed, and ruminated. “Why didn’t somebody tell
me?” he added, complainingly. “Why didn’t Miller Gorse let me know about
it, instead of licking up a fuss after it’s all over?”...

Of all men of my acquaintance I had thought the Judge the last to grow
maudlin over the misfortunes of those who were weak or unfortunate
enough to be defeated and crushed in the struggle for existence, and it
was not without food for reflection that I departed from his presence.
To make Mr. Bering “feel bad” was no small achievement, and Krebs had
been responsible for it, of course,--not Galligan. Krebs had turned up
once more! It seemed as though he were destined to haunt me. Well, I
made up my mind that he should not disturb me again, at any rate: I, at
least, had learned to eliminate sentimentality from business, and it
was not without deprecation I remembered my experience with him at the
Capital, when he had made me temporarily ashamed of my connection with
Bill 709. I had got over that. And when I entered the court room (the
tribunal having graciously granted a rehearing on the ground that it had
committed an error in the law!) my feelings were of lively curiosity
and zest. I had no disposition to underrate his abilities, but I was
fortified by the consciousness of a series of triumphs behind me, by
a sense of association with prevailing forces against which he was
helpless. I could afford to take a superior attitude in regard to one
who was destined always to be dramatic.

As the case proceeded I was rather disappointed on the whole that he
was not dramatic--not even as dramatic as he had been when he defied
the powers in the Legislature. He had changed but little, he still wore
ill-fitting clothes, but I was forced to acknowledge that he seemed to
have gained in self-control, in presence. He had nodded at me before the
case was called, as he sat beside his maimed client; and I had been on
the alert for a hint of reproach in his glance: there was none. I smiled
back at him....

He did not rant. He seemed to have rather a remarkable knowledge of the
law. In a conversational tone he described the sufferings of the man in
the flannel shirt beside him, but there could be no question of the fact
that he did produce an effect. The spectators were plainly moved, and
it was undeniable that some of the judges wore rather a sheepish look as
they toyed with their watch chains or moved the stationery in front
of them. They had seen maimed men before, they had heard impassioned,
sentimental lawyers talk about wives and families and God and justice.
Krebs did none of this. Just how he managed to bring the thing home
to those judges, to make them ashamed of their role, just how he
managed--in spite of my fortified attitude to revive something of that
sense of discomfort I had experienced at the State House is difficult to
say. It was because, I think, he contrived through the intensity of his
own sympathy to enter into the body of the man whose cause he pleaded,
to feel the despair in Galligan’s soul--an impression that was curiously
conveyed despite the dignified limits to which he confined his speech.
It was strange that I began to be rather sorry for him, that I felt a
certain reluctant regret that he should thus squander his powers against
overwhelming odds. What was the use of it all!

At the end his voice became more vibrant--though he did not raise it--as
he condemned the Railroad for its indifference to human life, for its
contention that men were cheaper than rolling-stock.

I encountered him afterward in the corridor. I had made a point of
seeking him out, perhaps from some vague determination to prove that our
last meeting in the little restaurant at the Capital had left no traces
of embarrassment in me: I was, in fact, rather aggressively anxious to
reveal myself to him as one who has thriven on the views he condemned,
as one in whose unity of mind there is no rift. He was alone, apparently
waiting for someone, leaning against a steam radiator in one of his
awkward, angular poses, looking out of the court-house window.

“How are you?” I said blithely. “So you’ve left Elkington for a wider
field.” I wondered whether my alert cousin-in-law, George Hutchins, had
made it too hot for him.

He turned to me unexpectedly a face of profound melancholy; his
expression had in it, oddly, a trace of sternness; and I was somewhat
taken aback by this evidence that he was still bearing vicariously the
troubles of his client. So deep had been the thought I had apparently
interrupted that he did not realize my presence at first.

“Oh, it’s you, Paret. Yes, I’ve left Elkington,” he said.

“Something of a surprise to run up against you suddenly, like this.”

“I expected to see you,” he answered gravely, and the slight emphasis he
gave the pronoun implied not only a complete knowledge of the situation
and of the part I had taken in it, but also a greater rebuke than if his
accusation had been direct. But I clung to my affability.

“If I can do anything for you, let me know,” I told him. He said
nothing, he did not even smile. At this moment he was opportunely joined
by a man who had the appearance of a labour leader, and I walked away.
I was resentful; my mood, in brief, was that of a man who has done
something foolish and is inclined to talk to himself aloud: but the mood
was complicated, made the more irritating by the paradoxical fact
that that last look he had given me seemed to have borne the traces of
affection....

It is perhaps needless to add that the court reversed its former
decision.



XVI.

The Pilot published a series of sensational articles and editorials
about the Galligan matter, a picture of Galligan, an account of the
destitute state of his wife and family. The time had not yet arrived
when such newspapers dared to attack the probity of our courts, but
a system of law that permitted such palpable injustice because of
technicalities was bitterly denounced. What chance had a poor man
against such a moloch as the railroad, even with a lawyer of such
ability as had been exhibited by Hermann Krebs? Krebs was praised, and
the attention of Mr. Lawler’s readers was called to the fact that Krebs
was the man who, some years before, had opposed single-handed in the
legislature the notorious Bill No. 709. It was well known in certain
circles--the editorial went on to say--that this legislation had been
drawn by Theodore Watling in the interests of the Boyne Iron Works,
etc., etc. Hugh Paret had learned at the feet of an able master. This
first sight of my name thus opprobriously flung to the multitude gave
me an unpleasant shock. I had seen Mr. Scherer attacked, Mr. Gorse
attacked, and Mr. Watling: I had all along realized, vaguely, that my
turn would come, and I thought myself to have acquired a compensating
philosophy. I threw the sheet into the waste basket, presently picked it
out again and reread the sentence containing my name. Well, there were
certain penalties that every career must pay. I had become, at last,
a marked man, and I recognized the fact that this assault would be the
forerunner of many.

I tried to derive some comfort and amusement from the thought of certain
operations of mine that Mr. Lawler had not discovered, that would
have been matters of peculiar interest to his innocent public: certain
extra-legal operations at the time when the Bovine corporation was being
formed, for instance. And how they would have licked their chops had
they learned of that manoeuvre by which I had managed to have one of
Mr. Scherer’s subsidiary companies in another state, with property and
assets amounting to more than twenty millions, reorganized under the
laws of New Jersey, and the pending case thus transferred to the Federal
court, where we won hands down! This Galligan affair was nothing to
that. Nevertheless, it was annoying. As I sat in the street car on
my way homeward, a man beside me was reading the Pilot. I had a queer
sensation as he turned the page, and scanned the editorial; and I could
not help wondering what he and the thousands like him thought of me;
what he would say if I introduced myself and asked his opinion. Perhaps
he did not think at all: undoubtedly he, and the public at large, were
used to Mr. Lawler’s daily display of “injustices.” Nevertheless, like
slow acid, they must be eating into the public consciousness. It was an
outrage--this freedom of the press.

With renewed exasperation I thought of Krebs, of his disturbing and
almost uncanny faculty of following me up. Why couldn’t he have remained
in Elkington? Why did he have to follow me here, to make capital out
of a case that might never have been heard of except for him?... I was
still in this disagreeable frame of mind when I turned the corner by my
house and caught sight of Maude, in the front yard, bending bareheaded
over a bed of late flowers which the frost had spared. The evening was
sharp, the dusk already gathering.

“You’ll catch cold,” I called to her.

She looked up at the sound of my voice.

“They’ll soon be gone,” she sighed, referring to the flowers. “I hate
winter.”

She put her hand through my arm, and we went into the house. The
curtains were drawn, a fire was crackling on the hearth, the lamps were
lighted, and as I dropped into a chair this living-room of ours seemed
to take on the air of a refuge from the vague, threatening sinister
things of the world without. I felt I had never valued it before. Maude
took up her sewing and sat down beside the table.

“Hugh,” she said suddenly, “I read something in the newspaper--”

My exasperation flared up again.

“Where did you get that disreputable sheet?” I demanded.

“At the dressmaker’s!” she answered. “I--I just happened to see the
name, Paret.”

“It’s just politics,” I declared, “stirring up discontent by
misrepresentation. Jealousy.”

She leaned forward in her chair, gazing into the flames.

“Then it isn’t true that this poor man, Galligan--isn’t that his
name?--was cheated out of the damages he ought to have to keep himself
and his family alive?”

“You must have been talking to Perry or Susan,” I said. “They seem to be
convinced that I am an oppressor of the poor.

“Hugh!” The tone in which she spoke my name smote me. “How can you say
that? How can you doubt their loyalty, and mine? Do you think they would
undermine you, and to me, behind your back?”

“I didn’t mean that, of course, Maude. I was annoyed about something
else. And Tom and Perry have an air of deprecating most of the
enterprises in which I am professionally engaged. It’s very well for
them to talk. All Perry has to do is to sit back and take in receipts
from the Boyne Street car line, and Tom is content if he gets a few
commissions every week. They’re like militiamen criticizing soldiers
under fire. I know they’re good friends of mine, but sometimes I lose
patience with them.”

I got up and walked to the window, and came back again and stood before
her.

“I’m sorry for this man, Galligan,” I went on, “I can’t tell you how
sorry. But few people who are not on the inside, so to speak, grasp the
fact that big corporations, like the Railroad, are looked upon as fair
game for every kind of parasite. Not a day passes in which attempts are
not made to bleed them. Some of these cases are pathetic. It had cost
the Railroad many times fifteen thousand dollars to fight Galligan’s
case. But if they had paid it, they would have laid themselves open to
thousands of similar demands. Dividends would dwindle. The stockholders
have a right to a fair return on their money. Galligan claims that there
was a defective sill on the car which is said to have caused the wreck.
If damages are paid on that basis, it means the daily inspection of
every car which passes over their lines. And more than that: there are
certain defects, as in the present case, which an inspection would not
reveal. When a man accepts employment on a railroad he assumes a certain
amount of personal risk,--it’s not precisely a chambermaid’s job. And
the lawyer who defends such cases, whatever his personal feelings may
be, cannot afford to be swayed by them. He must take the larger view.”

“Why didn’t you tell me about it before?” she asked.

“Well, I didn’t think it of enough importance--these things are all in
the day’s work.”

“But Mr. Krebs? How strange that he should be here, connected with the
case!”

I made an effort to control myself.

“Your old friend,” I said. “I believe you have a sentiment about him.”

She looked up at me.

“Scarcely that,” she replied gravely, with the literalness that often
characterized her, “but he isn’t a person easily forgotten. He may be
queer, one may not agree with his views, but after the experience I had
with him I’ve never been able to look at him in the way George does, for
instance, or even as father does.”

“Or even as I do,” I supplied.

“Well, perhaps not even as you do,” she answered calmly. “I believe you
once told me, however, that you thought him a fanatic, but sincere.”

“He’s certainly a fanatic!” I exclaimed.

“But sincere, Hugh-you still think him sincere.”

“You seem a good deal concerned about a man you’ve laid eyes on but
once.”

She considered this.

“Yes, it is surprising,” she admitted, “but it’s true. I was sorry
for him, but I admired him. I was not only impressed by his courage in
taking charge of me, but also by the trust and affection the work-people
showed. He must be a good man, however mistaken he may be in the methods
he employs. And life is cruel to those people.”

“Life is-life,” I observed. “Neither you nor I nor Krebs is able to
change it.”

“Has he come here to practice?” she asked, after a moment.

“Yes. Do you want me to invite him to dinner?” and seeing that she did
not reply I continued: “In spite of my explanation I suppose you think,
because Krebs defended the man Galligan, that a monstrous injustice has
been done.”

“That is unworthy of you,” she said, bending over her stitch.

I began to pace the room again, as was my habit when overwrought.

“Well, I was going to tell you about this affair if you had not
forestalled me by mentioning it yourself. It isn’t pleasant to be
vilified by rascals who make capital out of vilification, and a man has
a right to expect some sympathy from his wife.”

“Did I ever deny you that, Hugh?” she asked. “Only you don’t ever seem
to need it, to want it.”

“And there are things,” I pursued, “things in a man’s province that a
woman ought to accept from her husband, things which in the very nature
of the case she can know nothing about.”

“But a woman must think for herself,” she declared. “She shouldn’t
become a mere automaton,--and these questions involve so much! People
are discussing them, the magazines and periodicals are beginning to take
them up.”

I stared at her, somewhat appalled by this point of view. There had,
indeed, been signs of its development before now, but I had not heeded
them. And for the first time I beheld Maude in a new light.

“Oh, it’s not that I don’t trust you,” she continued, “I’m open to
conviction, but I must be convinced. Your explanation of this Galligan
case seems a sensible one, although it’s depressing. But life is hard
and depressing sometimes I’ve come to realize that. I want to think over
what you’ve said, I want to talk over it some more. Why won’t you tell
me more of what you are doing? If you only would confide in me--as you
have now! I can’t help seeing that we are growing farther and farther
apart, that business, your career, is taking all of you and leaving me
nothing.” She faltered, and went on again. “It’s difficult to tell you
this--you never give me the chance. And it’s not for my sake alone, but
for yours, too. You are growing more and more self-centred, surrounding
yourself with a hard shell. You don’t realize it, but Tom notices it,
Perry notices it, it hurts them, it’s that they complain of. Hugh!”
 she cried appealingly, sensing my resentment, forestalling the words
of defence ready on my lips. “I know that you are busy, that many men
depend on you, it isn’t that I’m not proud of you and your success, but
you don’t understand what a woman craves,--she doesn’t want only to be a
good housekeeper, a good mother, but she wants to share a little, at
any rate, in the life of her husband, in his troubles as well as in his
successes. She wants to be of some little use, of some little help to
him.”

My feelings were reduced to a medley.

“But you are a help to me--a great help,” I protested.

She shook her head. “I wish I were,” she said.

It suddenly occurred to me that she might be. I was softened, and
alarmed by the spectacle she had revealed of the widening breach between
us. I laid my hand on her shoulder.

“Well, I’ll try to do better, Maude.”

She looked up at me, questioningly yet gratefully, through a mist of
tears. But her reply--whatever it might have been--was forestalled by
the sound of shouts and laughter in the hallway. She sprang up and ran
to the door.

“It’s the children,” she exclaimed, “they’ve come home from Susan’s
party!”

It begins indeed to look as if I were writing this narrative upside
down, for I have said nothing about children. Perhaps one reason for
this omission is that I did not really appreciate them, that I found
it impossible to take the same minute interest in them as Tom, for
instance, who was, apparently, not content alone with the six which he
possessed, but had adopted mine. One of them, little Sarah, said “Uncle
Tom” before “Father.” I do not mean to say that I had not occasional
moments of tenderness toward them, but they were out of my thoughts much
of the time. I have often wondered, since, how they regarded me; how,
in their little minds, they defined the relationship. Generally, when I
arrived home in the evening I liked to sit down before my study fire and
read the afternoon newspapers or a magazine; but occasionally I went at
once to the nursery for a few moments, to survey with complacency the
medley of toys on the floor, and to kiss all three. They received my
caresses with a certain shyness--the two younger ones, at least, as
though they were at a loss to place me as a factor in the establishment.
They tumbled over each other to greet Maude, and even Tom. If I were an
enigma to them, what must they have thought of him? Sometimes I would
discover him on the nursery floor, with one or two of his own children,
building towers and castles and railroad stations, or forts to be
attacked and demolished by regiments of lead soldiers. He was growing
comfortable-looking, if not exactly stout; prematurely paternal, oddly
willing to renounce the fiercer joys of life, the joys of acquisition,
of conquest, of youth.

“You’d better come home with me, Chickabiddy,” he would say, “that
father of yours doesn’t appreciate you. He’s too busy getting rich.”

“Chickabiddy,” was his name for little Sarah. Half of the name stuck to
her, and when she was older we called her Biddy.

She would gaze at him questioningly, her eyes like blue flower cups, a
strange little mixture of solemnity and bubbling mirth, of shyness
and impulsiveness. She had fat legs that creased above the tops of the
absurd little boots that looked to be too tight; sometimes she
rolled and tumbled in an ecstasy of abandon, and again she would sit
motionless, as though absorbed in dreams. Her hair was like corn silk in
the sun, twisting up into soft curls after her bath, when she sat rosily
presiding over her supper table.

As I look back over her early infancy, I realize that I loved her,
although it is impossible for me to say how much of this love is
retrospective. Why I was not mad about her every hour of the day is a
puzzle to me now. Why, indeed, was I not mad about all three of them?
There were moments when I held and kissed them, when something within
me melted: moments when I was away from them, and thought of them. But
these moments did not last. The something within me hardened again,
I became indifferent, my family was wiped out of my consciousness as
though it had never existed.

There was Matthew, for instance, the oldest. When he arrived, he was to
Maude a never-ending miracle, she would have his crib brought into her
room, and I would find her leaning over the bedside, gazing at him with
a rapt expression beyond my comprehension. To me he was just a brick-red
morsel of humanity, all folds and wrinkles, and not at all remarkable in
any way. Maude used to annoy me by getting out of bed in the middle of
the night when he cried, and at such times I was apt to wonder at the
odd trick the life-force had played me, and ask myself why I got married
at all. It was a queer method of carrying on the race. Later on, I began
to take a cursory interest in him, to watch for signs in him of certain
characteristics of my own youth which, in the philosophy of my manhood,
I had come to regard as defects. And it disturbed me somewhat to see
these signs appear. I wished him to be what I had become by force of
will--a fighter. But he was a sensitive child, anxious for approval;
not robust, though spiritual rather than delicate; even in comparative
infancy he cared more for books than toys, and his greatest joy was in
being read to. In spite of these traits--perhaps because of them--there
was a sympathy between us. From the time that he could talk the child
seemed to understand me. Occasionally I surprised him gazing at me with
a certain wistful look that comes back to me as I write.

Moreton, Tom used to call Alexander the Great because he was a fighter
from the cradle, beating his elder brother, too considerate to
strike back, and likewise--when opportunity offered--his sister; and
appropriating their toys. A self-sufficient, doughty young man, with the
round head that withstands many blows, taking by nature to competition
and buccaneering in general. I did not love him half so much as I did
Matthew--if such intermittent emotions as mine may be called love. It
was a standing joke of mine--which Maude strongly resented--that Moreton
resembled Cousin George of Elkington.

Imbued with the highest ambition of my time, I had set my barque on a
great circle, and almost before I realized it the barque was burdened
with a wife and family and the steering had insensibly become more
difficult; for Maude cared nothing about the destination, and when I
took any hand off the wheel our ship showed a tendency to make for a
quiet harbour. Thus the social initiative, which I believed should have
been the woman’s, was thrust back on me. It was almost incredible, yet
indisputable, in a day when most American women were credited with a
craving for social ambition that I, of all men, should have married
a wife in whom the craving was wholly absent! She might have had what
other women would have given their souls for. There were many reasons
why I wished her to take what I deemed her proper place in the community
as my wife--not that I cared for what is called society in the narrow
sense; with me, it was a logical part of a broader scheme of life; an
auxiliary rather than an essential, but a needful auxiliary; a means of
dignifying and adorning the position I was taking. Not only that, but
I felt the need of intercourse--of intercourse of a lighter and more
convivial nature with men and women who saw life as I saw it. In the
evenings when we did not go out into that world our city afforded ennui
took possession of me: I had never learned to care for books, I had no
resources outside of my profession, and when I was not working on some
legal problem I dawdled over the newspapers and went to bed. I don’t
mean to imply that our existence, outside of our continued intimacy with
the Peterses and the Blackwoods, was socially isolated. We gave little
dinners that Maude carried out with skill and taste; but it was I
who suggested them; we went out to other dinners, sometimes to
Nancy’s--though we saw less and less of her--sometimes to other houses.
But Maude had given evidence of domestic tastes and a disinclination for
gaiety that those who entertained more were not slow to sense. I should
have liked to take a larger house, but I felt the futility of suggesting
it; the children were still small, and she was occupied with them.
Meanwhile I beheld, and at times with considerable irritation, the
social world changing, growing larger and more significant, a more
important function of that higher phase of American existence the new
century seemed definitely to have initiated. A segregative process was
away to which Maude was wholly indifferent. Our city was throwing off
its social conservatism; wealth (which implied ability and superiority)
was playing a greater part, entertainments were more luxurious, lines
more strictly drawn. We had an elaborate country club for those who
could afford expensive amusements. Much of this transformation had been
due to the initiative and leadership of Nancy Durrett....

Great and sudden wealth, however, if combined with obscure antecedents
and questionable qualifications, was still looked upon askance. In spite
of the fact that Adolf Scherer had “put us on the map,” the family of
the great iron-master still remained outside of the social pale.
He himself might have entered had it not been for his wife, who was
supposed to be “queer,” who remained at home in her house opposite
Gallatin Park and made little German cakes,--a huge house which an
unknown architect had taken unusual pains to make pretentious and
hideous, for it was Rhenish, Moorish and Victorian by turns. Its
geometric grounds matched those of the park, itself a monument to
bad taste in landscape. The neighbourhood was highly respectable, and
inhabited by families of German extraction. There were two flaxen-haired
daughters who had just graduated from an expensive boarding-school in
New York, where they had received the polish needful for future careers.
But the careers were not forthcoming.

I was thrown constantly with Adolf Scherer; I had earned his gratitude,
I had become necessary to him. But after the great coup whereby he had
fulfilled Mr. Watling’s prophecy and become the chief factor in our
business world he began to show signs of discontent, of an irritability
that seemed foreign to his character, and that puzzled me. One day,
however, I stumbled upon the cause of this fermentation, to wonder that
I had not discovered it before. In many ways Adolf Scherer was a child.
We were sitting in the Boyne Club.

“Money--yes!” he exclaimed, apropos of some demand made upon him by
a charitable society. “They come to me for my money--there is always
Scherer, they say. He will make up the deficit in the hospitals. But
what is it they do for me? Nothing. Do they invite me to their houses,
to their parties?”

This was what he wanted, then,--social recognition. I said nothing, but
I saw my opportunity: I had the clew, now, to a certain attitude he had
adopted of late toward me, an attitude of reproach; as though, in return
for his many favours to me, there were something I had left undone. And
when I went home I asked Maude to call on Mrs. Scherer.

“On Mrs. Scherer!” she repeated.

“Yes, I want you to invite them to dinner.” The proposal seemed to take
away her breath. “I owe her husband a great deal, and I think he feels
hurt that the wives of the men he knows down town haven’t taken up his
family.” I felt that it would not be wise, with Maude, to announce my
rather amazing discovery of the iron-master’s social ambitions.

“But, Hugh, they must be very happy, they have their friends. And after
all this time wouldn’t it seem like an intrusion?”

“I don’t think so,” I said, “I’m sure it would please him, and them. You
know how kind he’s been to us, how he sent us East in his private car
last year.”

“Of course I’ll go if you wish it, if you’re sure they feel that way.”
 She did make the call, that very week, and somewhat to my surprise
reported that she liked Mrs. Scherer and the daughters: Maude’s likes
and dislikes, needless to say, were not governed by matters of policy.

“You were right, Hugh,” she informed me, almost with enthusiasm,
“they did seem lonely. And they were so glad to see me, it was rather
pathetic. Mr. Scherer, it seems, had talked to them a great deal about
you. They wanted to know why I hadn’t come before. That was rather
embarrassing. Fortunately they didn’t give me time to talk, I never
heard people talk as they do. They all kissed me when I went away, and
came down the steps with me. And Mrs. Scherer went into the conservatory
and picked a huge bouquet. There it is,” she said, laughingly, pointing
to several vases. “I separated the colours as well as I could when I got
home. We had coffee, and the most delicious German cakes in the Turkish
room, or the Moorish room, whichever it is. I’m sure I shan’t be able to
eat anything more for days. When do you wish to have them for dinner?”

“Well,” I said, “we ought to have time to get the right people to meet
them. We’ll ask Nancy and Ham.”

Maude opened her eyes.

“Nancy! Do you think Nancy would like them?”

“I’m going to give her a chance, anyway,” I replied....

It was, in some ways, a memorable dinner. I don’t know what I expected
in Mrs. Scherer--from Maude’s description a benevolent and somewhat
stupid, blue-eyed German woman, of peasant extraction. There could be no
doubt about the peasant extraction, but when she hobbled into our little
parlour with the aid of a stout, gold-headed cane she dominated it.
Her very lameness added to a distinction that evinced itself in a
dozen ways. Her nose was hooked, her colour high,--despite the years
in Steelville,--her peculiar costume heightened the effect of her
personality; her fire-lit black eyes bespoke a spirit accustomed to
rule, and instead of being an aspirant for social honours, she seemed to
confer them. Conversation ceased at her entrance.

“I’m sorry we are late, my dear,” she said, as she greeted Maude
affectionately, “but we have far to come. And this is your husband!”
 she exclaimed, as I was introduced. She scrutinized me. “I have heard
something of you, Mr. Paret. You are smart. Shall I tell you the
smartest thing you ever did?” She patted Maude’s shoulder. “When you
married your wife--that was it. I have fallen in love with her. If you
do not know it, I tell you.”

Next, Nancy was introduced.

“So you are Mrs. Hambleton Durrett?”

Nancy acknowledged her identity with a smile, but the next remark was a
bombshell.

“The leader of society.”

“Alas!” exclaimed Nancy, “I have been accused of many terrible things.”

Their glances met. Nancy’s was amused, baffling, like a spark in amber.
Each, in its way, was redoubtable. A greater contrast between two women
could scarcely have been imagined. It was well said (and not snobbishly)
that generations had been required to make Nancy’s figure: she wore a
dress of blue sheen, the light playing on its ripples; and as she stood,
apparently wholly at ease, looking down at the wife of Adolf Scherer,
she reminded me of an expert swordsman who, with remarkable skill, was
keeping a too pressing and determined aspirant at arm’s length. I was
keenly aware that Maude did not possess this gift, and I realized for
the first time something of the similarity between Nancy’s career and my
own. She, too, in her feminine sphere, exercised, and subtly, a power in
which human passions were deeply involved.

If Nancy Durrett symbolized aristocracy, established order and prestige,
what did Mrs. Scherer represent? Not democracy, mob rule--certainly. The
stocky German peasant woman with her tightly drawn hair and heavy jewels
seemed grotesquely to embody something that ultimately would have
its way, a lusty and terrible force in the interests of which my own
services were enlisted; to which the old American element in business
and industry, the male counterpart of Nancy Willett, had already
succumbed. And now it was about to storm the feminine fastnesses! I
beheld a woman who had come to this country with a shawl aver her head
transformed into a new species of duchess, sure of herself, scorning the
delicate euphemisms in which Fancy’s kind were wont to refer to asocial
realm, that was no less real because its boundaries had not definitely
been defined. She held her stick firmly, and gave Nancy an indomitable
look.

“I want you to meet my daughters. Gretchen, Anna, come here and be
introduced to Mrs. Durrett.”

It was not without curiosity I watched these of the second generation as
they made their bows, noted the differentiation in the type for which
an American environment and a “finishing school” had been responsible.
Gretchen and Anna had learned--in crises, such as the present--to
restrain the superabundant vitality they had inherited. If their
cheekbones were a little too high, their Delft blue eyes a little too
small, their colour was of the proverbial rose-leaves and cream. Gene
Hollister’s difficulty was to know which to marry. They were nice
girls,--of that there could be no doubt; there was no false modesty in
their attitude toward “society”; nor did they pretend--as so many silly
people did, that they were not attempting to get anywhere in particular,
that it was less desirable to be in the centre than on the dubious outer
walks. They, too, were so glad to meet Mrs. Durrett.

Nancy’s eyes twinkled as they passed on.

“You see what I have let you in for?” I said.

“My dear Hugh,” she replied, “sooner or later we should have had to face
them anyhow. I have recognized that for some time. With their money, and
Mr. Scherer’s prestige, and the will of that lady with the stick, in
a few years we should have had nothing to say. Why, she’s a female
Napoleon. Hilda’s the man of the family.”

After that, Nancy invariably referred to Mrs. Scherer as Hilda.

If Mrs. Scherer was a surprise to us, her husband was a still greater
one; and I had difficulty in recognizing the Adolf Scherer who came
to our dinner party as the personage of the business world before whom
lesser men were wont to cringe. He seemed rather mysteriously to have
shed that personality; become an awkward, ingratiating, rather too
exuberant, ordinary man with a marked German accent. From time to time
I found myself speculating uneasily on this phenomenon as I glanced down
the table at his great torso, white waist-coated for the occasion. He
was plainly “making up” to Nancy, and to Mrs. Ogilvy, who sat opposite
him. On the whole, the atmosphere of our entertainment was rather
electric. “Hilda” was chiefly responsible for this; her frankness was
of the breath-taking kind. Far from attempting to hide or ignore
the struggle by which she and her husband had attained their present
position, she referred with the utmost naivete to incidents in her
career, while the whole table paused to listen.

“Before we had a carriage, yes, it was hard for me to get about. I had
to be helped by the conductors into the streetcars. I broke my hip when
we lived in Steelville, and the doctor was a numbskull. He should be put
in prison, is what I tell Adolf. I was standing on a clothes-horse, when
it fell. I had much washing to do in those days.”

“And--can nothing be done, Mrs. Scherer?” asked Leonard Dickinson,
sympathetically.

“For an old woman? I am fifty-five. I have had many doctors. I would put
them all in prison. How much was it you paid Dr. Stickney, in New York,
Adolf? Five thousand dollars? And he did nothing--nothing. I’d rather be
poor again, and work. But it is well to make the best of it.”...

“Your grandfather was a fine man, Mr. Durrett,” she informed Hambleton.
“It is a pity for you, I think, that you do not have to work.”

Ham, who sat on her other side, was amused.

“My grandfather did enough work for both of us,” he said.

“If I had been your grandfather, I would have started you in puddling,”
 she observed, as she eyed with disapproval the filling of his third
glass of champagne. “I think there is too much gay life, too much games
for rich young men nowadays. You will forgive me for saying what I think
to young men?”

“I’ll forgive you for not being my grandfather, at any rate,” replied
Ham, with unaccustomed wit.

She gazed at him with grim humour.

“It is bad for you I am not,” she declared.

There was no gainsaying her. What can be done with a lady who will not
recognize that morality is not discussed, and that personalities are
tabooed save between intimates. Hilda was a personage as well as a
Tartar. Laws, conventions, usages--to all these she would conform when
it pleased her. She would have made an admirable inquisitorial judge,
and quite as admirable a sick nurse. A rare criminal lawyer, likewise,
was wasted in her. She was one of those individuals, I perceived, whose
loyalties dominate them; and who, in behalf of those loyalties, carry
chips on their shoulders.

“It is a long time that I have been wanting to meet you,” she informed
me. “You are smart.”

I smiled, yet I was inclined to resent her use of the word, though I
was by no means sure of the shade of meaning she meant to put into it.
I had, indeed, an uneasy sense of the scantiness of my fund of humour to
meet and turn such a situation; for I was experiencing, now, with her,
the same queer feeling I had known in my youth in the presence of Cousin
Robert Breck--the suspicion that this extraordinary person saw through
me. It was as though she held up a mirror and compelled me to look at my
soul features. I tried to assure myself that the mirror was distorted. I
lost, nevertheless, the sureness of touch that comes from the conviction
of being all of a piece. She contrived to resolve me again
into conflicting elements. I was, for the moment, no longer the
self-confident and triumphant young attorney accustomed to carry all
before him, to command respect and admiration, but a complicated being
whose unity had suddenly been split. I glanced around the table at
Ogilvy, at Dickinson, at Ralph Hambleton. These men were functioning
truly. But was I? If I were not, might not this be the reason for the
lack of synthesis--of which I was abruptly though vaguely aware between
my professional life, my domestic relationships, and my relationships
with friends. The loyalty of the woman beside me struck me forcibly as
a supreme trait. Where she had given, she did not withdraw. She had
conferred it instantly on Maude. Did I feel that loyalty towards a
single human being? towards Maude herself--my wife? or even towards
Nancy? I pulled myself together, and resolved to give her credit for
using the word “smart” in its unobjectionable sense. After all; Dickens
had so used it.

“A lawyer must needs know something of what he is about, Mrs. Scherer,
if he is to be employed by such a man as your husband,” I replied.

Her black eyes snapped with pleasure.

“Ah, I suppose that is so,” she agreed. “I knew he was a great man when
I married him, and that was before Mr. Nathaniel Durrett found it out.”

“But surely you did not think, in those days, that he would be as big
as he has become? That he would not only be president of the Boyne Iron
Works, but of a Boyne Iron Works that has exceeded Mr. Durrett’s wildest
dreams.”

She shook her head complacently.

“Do you know what I told him when he married me? I said, ‘Adolf, it is a
pity you are born in Germany.’ And when he asked me why, I told him that
some day he might have been President of the United States.”

“Well, that won’t be a great deprivation to him,” I remarked. “Mr.
Scherer can do what he wants, and the President cannot.”

“Adolf always does as he wants,” she declared, gazing at him as he sat
beside the brilliant wife of the grandson of the man whose red-shirted
foreman he had been. “He does what he wants, and gets what he wants. He
is getting what he wants now,” she added, with such obvious meaning
that I found no words to reply. “She is pretty, that Mrs. Durrett, and
clever,--is it not so?”

I agreed. A new and indescribable note had come into Mrs. Scherer’s
voice, and I realized that she, too, was aware of that flaw in the
redoubtable Mr. Scherer which none of his associates had guessed. It
would have been strange if she had not discovered it. “She is beautiful,
yes,” the lady continued critically, “but she is not to compare with
your wife. She has not the heart,--it is so with all your people of
society. For them it is not what you are, but what you have done, and
what you have.”

The banality of this observation was mitigated by the feeling she threw
into it.

“I think you misjudge Mrs. Durrett,” I said, incautiously. “She has
never before had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Scherer of appreciating
him.”

“Mrs. Durrett is an old friend of yours?” she asked.

“I was brought up with her.”

“Ah!” she exclaimed, and turned her penetrating glance upon me. I was
startled. Could it be that she had discerned and interpreted those
renascent feelings even then stirring within me, and of which I myself
was as yet scarcely conscious? At this moment, fortunately for me, the
women rose; the men remained to smoke; and Scherer, as they discussed
matters of finance, became himself again. I joined in the conversation,
but I was thinking of those instants when in flashes of understanding my
eyes had met Nancy’s; instants in which I was lifted out of my humdrum,
deadly serious self and was able to look down objectively upon the life
I led, the life we all led--and Nancy herself; to see with her the comic
irony of it all. Nancy had the power to give me this exquisite sense of
detachment that must sustain her. And was it not just this sustenance
she could give that I needed? For want of it I was hardening,
crystallizing, growing blind to the joy and variety of existence.
Nancy could have saved me; she brought it home to me that I needed
salvation.... I was struck by another thought; in spite of our
separation, in spite of her marriage and mine, she was still nearer to
me--far nearer--than any other being.

Later, I sought her out. She looked up at me amusedly from the
window-seat in our living-room, where she had been talking to the
Scherer girls.

“Well, how did you get along with Hilda?” she asked. “I thought I saw
you struggling.”

“She’s somewhat disconcerting,” I said. “I felt as if she were turning
me inside out.”

Nancy laughed.

“Hilda’s a discovery--a genius. I’m going to have them to dinner
myself.”

“And Adolf?” I inquired. “I believe she thought you were preparing to
run away with him. You seemed to have him hypnotized.”

“I’m afraid your great man won’t be able to stand--elevation,” she
declared. “He’ll have vertigo. He’s even got it now, at this little
height, and when he builds his palace on Grant Avenue, and later moves
to New York, I’m afraid he’ll wobble even more.”

“Is he thinking of doing all that?” I asked.

“I merely predict New York--it’s inevitable,” she replied. “Grant
Avenue, yes; he wants me to help him choose a lot. He gave me ten
thousand dollars for our Orphans’ Home, but on the whole I think I
prefer Hilda even if she doesn’t approve of me.”

Nancy rose. The Scherers were going. While Mr. Scherer pressed my hand
in a manner that convinced me of his gratitude, Hilda was bidding an
affectionate good night to Maude. A few moments later she bore her
husband and daughters away, and we heard the tap-tap of her cane on the
walk outside....



XVII.

The remembrance of that dinner when with my connivance the Scherers
made their social debut is associated in my mind with the coming of the
fulness of that era, mad and brief, when gold rained down like manna
from our sooty skies. Even the church was prosperous; the Rev. Carey
Heddon, our new minister, was well abreast of the times, typical of the
new and efficient Christianity that has finally buried the hatchet with
enlightened self-interest. He looked like a young and prosperous man of
business, and indeed he was one.

The fame of our city spread even across the Atlantic, reaching obscure
hamlets in Europe, where villagers gathered up their lares and
penates, mortgaged their homes, and bought steamship tickets from
philanthropists,--philanthropists in diamonds. Our Huns began to arrive,
their Attilas unrecognized among them: to drive our honest Americans and
Irish and Germans out of the mills by “lowering the standard of
living.” Still--according to the learned economists in our universities,
enlightened self-interest triumphed. Had not the honest Americans and
Germans become foremen and even presidents of corporations? What greater
vindication for their philosophy could be desired?

The very aspect of the city changed like magic. New buildings sprang
high in the air; the Reliance Trust (Mr. Grierson’s), the Scherer
Building, the Hambleton Building; a stew hotel, the Ashuela, took
proper care of our visitors from the East,--a massive, grey stone,
thousand-awninged affair on Boyne Street, with a grill where it became
the fashion to go for supper after the play, and a head waiter who knew
in a few weeks everyone worth knowing.

To return for a moment to the Huns. Maude had expressed a desire to
see a mill, and we went, one afternoon, in Mr. Scherer’s carriage to
Steelville, with Mr. Scherer himself,--a bewildering, educative, almost
terrifying experience amidst fumes and flames, gigantic forces and
titanic weights. It seemed a marvel that we escaped being crushed or
burned alive in those huge steel buildings reverberating with sound.
They appeared a very bedlam of chaos, instead of the triumph of order,
organization and human skill. Mr. Scherer was very proud of it all, and
ours was a sort of triumphal procession, accompanied by superintendents,
managers and other factotums. I thought of my childhood image of
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and our progress through the flames
seemed no less remarkable and miraculous.

Maude, with alarm in her eyes, kept very close to me, as I supplemented
the explanations they gave her. I had been there many times before.

“Why, Hugh,” she exclaimed, “you seem to know a lot about it!”

Mr. Scherer laughed.

“He’s had to talk about it once or twice in court--eh, Hugh? You didn’t
realize how clever your husband was did you, Mrs. Paret?”

“But this is so--complicated,” she replied. “It is overwhelming.”

“When I found out how much trouble he had taken to learn about my
business,” added Mr. Scherer, “there was only one thing to do. Make
him my lawyer. Hugh, you have the floor, and explain the open-hearth
process.”

I had almost forgotten the Huns. I saw Maude gazing at them with a new
kind of terror. And when we sat at home that evening they still haunted
her.

“Somehow, I can’t bear to think about them,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll
have to pay for it, some day.”

“Pay for what?” I asked.

“For making them work that way. And twelve hours! It can’t be right,
while we have so much, and are so comfortable.”

“Don’t be foolish,” I exclaimed. “They’re used to it. They think
themselves lucky to get the work--and they are. Besides, you give them
credit for a sensitiveness that they don’t possess. They wouldn’t know
what to do with such a house as this if they had it.”

“I never realized before that our happiness and comfort were built on
such foundations;” she said, ignoring my remark.

“You must have seen your father’s operatives, in Elkington, many times a
week.”

“I suppose I was too young to think about such things,” she reflected.
“Besides, I used to be sorry for them, sometimes. But these men at the
steel mills--I can’t tell you what I feel about them. The sight of their
great bodies and their red, sullen faces brought home to me the cruelty
of life. Did you notice how some of them stared at us, as though they
were but half awake in the heat, with that glow on their faces? It made
me afraid--afraid that they’ll wake up some day, and then they will be
terrible. I thought of the children. It seems not only wicked, but mad
to bring ignorant foreigners over here and make them slaves like that,
and so many of them are hurt and maimed. I can’t forget them.”

“You’re talking Socialism,” I said crossly, wondering whether Lucia had
taken it up as her latest fad.

“Oh, no, I’m not,” said Maude, “I don’t know what Socialism is. I’m
talking about something that anyone who is not dazzled by all this
luxury we are living in might be able to see, about something which,
when it comes, we shan’t be able to help.”

I ridiculed this. The prophecy itself did not disturb me half as much
as the fact that she had made it, as this new evidence that she was
beginning to think for herself, and along lines so different from my own
development.

While it lasted, before novelists, playwrights, professors and ministers
of the Gospel abandoned their proper sphere to destroy it, that
Golden Age was heaven; the New Jerusalem--in which we had ceased to
believe--would have been in the nature of an anticlimax to any of our
archangels of finance who might have attained it. The streets of our own
city turned out to be gold; gold likewise the acres of unused, scrubby
land on our outskirts, as the incident of the Riverside Franchise--which
I am about to relate--amply proved.

That scheme originated in the alert mind of Mr. Frederick Grierson, and
in spite of the fact that it has since become notorious in the eyes of
a virtue-stricken public, it was entered into with all innocence at the
time: most of the men who were present at the “magnate’s” table at the
Boyne Club the day Mr. Grierson broached it will vouch for this. He
casually asked Mr. Dickinson if he had ever noticed a tract lying on the
river about two miles beyond the Heights, opposite what used to be in
the old days a road house.

“This city is growing so fast, Leonard,” said Grierson, lighting a
special cigar the Club kept for him, “that it might pay a few of us to
get together and buy that tract, have the city put in streets and sewers
and sell it in building lots. I think I can get most of it at less than
three hundred dollars an acre.”

Mr. Dickinson was interested. So were Mr. Ogilvy and Ralph Hambleton,
and Mr. Scherer, who chanced to be there. Anything Fred Grierson had to
say on the question of real estate was always interesting. He went on to
describe the tract, its size and location.

“That’s all very well, Fred,” Dickinson objected presently, “but how are
your prospective householders going to get out there?”

“Just what I was coming to,” cried Grierson, triumphantly, “we’ll get
a franchise, and build a street-railroad out Maplewood Avenue, an
extension of the Park Street line. We can get the franchise for next
to nothing, if we work it right.” (Mr. Grierson’s eye fell on me), “and
sell it out to the public, if you underwrite it, for two million or so.”

“Well, you’ve got your nerve with you, Fred, as usual,” said Dickinson.
But he rolled his cigar in his mouth, an indication, to those who knew
him well, that he was considering the matter. When Leonard Dickinson
didn’t say “no” at once, there was hope. “What do you think the property
holders on Maplewood Avenue would say? Wasn’t it understood, when
that avenue was laid out, that it was to form part of the system of
boulevards?”

“What difference does it make what they say?” Ralph interposed.

Dickinson smiled. He, too, had an exaggerated respect for Ralph. We all
thought the proposal daring, but in no way amazing; the public existed
to be sold things to, and what did it matter if the Maplewood residents,
as Ralph said; and the City Improvement League protested?

Perry Blackwood was the Secretary of the City Improvement League, the
object of which was to beautify the city by laying out a system of
parkways.

The next day some of us gathered in Dickinson’s office and decided that
Grierson should go ahead and get the options. This was done; not, of
course, in Grierson’s name. The next move, before the formation of the
Riverside Company, was to “see” Mr. Judd Jason. The success or failure
of the enterprise was in his hands. Mahomet must go to the mountain, and
I went to Monahan’s saloon, first having made an appointment. It was not
the first time I had been there since I had made that first memorable
visit, but I never quite got over the feeling of a neophyte before
Buddha, though I did not go so far as to analyze the reason,--that in
Mr. Jason I was brought face to face with the concrete embodiment of
the philosophy I had adopted, the logical consequence of enlightened
self-interest. If he had ever heard of it, he would have made no
pretence of being anything else. Greatness, declares some modern
philosopher, has no connection with virtue; it is the continued, strong
and logical expression of some instinct; in Mr. Jason’s case, the
predatory instinct. And like a true artist, he loved his career for
itself--not for what its fruits could buy. He might have built a palace
on the Heights with the tolls he took from the disreputable houses of
the city; he was contented with Monahan’s saloon: nor did he seek to
propitiate a possible God by endowing churches and hospitals with a
portion of his income. Try though I might, I never could achieve the
perfection of this man’s contempt for all other philosophies. The very
fact of my going there in secret to that dark place of his from out
of the bright, respectable region in which I lived was in itself an
acknowledgment of this. I thought him a thief--a necessary thief--and
he knew it: he was indifferent to it; and it amused him, I think, to
see clinging to me, when I entered his presence, shreds of that morality
which those of my world who dealt with him thought so needful for the
sake of decency.

He was in bed, reading newspapers, as usual. An empty coffee-cup and a
plate were on the littered table.

“Sit down, sit down, Paret,” he said. “What do you hear from the
Senator?”

I sat down, and gave him the news of Mr. Watling. He seemed, as usual,
distrait, betraying no curiosity as to the object of my call, his lean,
brown fingers playing with the newspapers on his lap. Suddenly, he
flashed out at me one of those remarks which produced the uncanny
conviction that, so far as affairs in the city were concerned, he was
omniscient.

“I hear somebody has been getting options on that tract of land beyond
the Heights, on the river.”

He had “focussed.”

“How did you hear that?” I asked.

He smiled.

“It’s Grierson, ain’t it?”

“Yes, it’s Grierson,” I said.

“How are you going to get your folks out there?” he demanded.

“That’s what I’ve come to see you about. We want a franchise for
Maplewood Avenue.”

“Maplewood Avenue!” He lay back with his eyes closed, as though trying
to visualize such a colossal proposal....

When I left him, two hours later, the details were all arranged, down to
Mr. Jason’s consideration from Riverside Company and the “fee” which
his lawyer, Mr. Bitter, was to have for “presenting the case” before
the Board of Aldermen. I went back to lunch at the Boyne Club, and to
receive the congratulations of my friends. The next week the Riverside
Company was formed, and I made out a petition to the Board of Aldermen
for a franchise; Mr. Bitter appeared and argued: in short, the procedure
so familiar to modern students of political affairs was gone through.
The Maplewood Avenue residents rose en masse, supported by the City
Improvement League. Perry Blackwood, as soon as he heard of the
petition, turned up at my office. By this time I was occupying Mr.
Watling’s room.

“Look here,” he began, as soon as the office-boy had closed the door
behind him, “this is going it a little too strong.”

“What is?” I asked, leaning back in my chair and surveying him.

“This proposed Maplewood Avenue Franchise. Hugh,” he said, “you and I
have been friends a good many years, Lucia and I are devoted to Maude.”

I did not reply.

“I’ve seen all along that we’ve been growing apart,” he added sadly.
“You’ve got certain ideas about things which I can’t share. I suppose
I’m old fashioned. I can’t trust myself to tell you what I think--what
Tom and I think about this deal.”

“Go ahead, Perry,” I said.

He got up, plainly agitated, and walked to the window. Then he turned to
me appealingly.

“Get out of it, for God’s sake get out of it, before it’s too late. For
your own sake, for Maude’s, for the children’s. You don’t realize what
you are doing. You may not believe me, but the time will come when these
fellows you are in with will be repudiated by the community,--their
money won’t help them. Tom and I are the best friends you have,” he
added, a little irrelevantly.

“And you think I’m going to the dogs.”

“Now don’t take it the wrong way,” he urged.

“What is it you object to about the Maplewood franchise?” I asked. “If
you’ll look at a map of the city, you’ll see that development is bound
to come on that side. Maplewood Avenue is the natural artery,
somebody will build a line out there, and if you’d rather have eastern
capitalists--”

“Why are you going to get this franchise?” he demanded. “Because we
haven’t a decent city charter, and a healthy public spirit, you fellows
are buying it from a corrupt city boss, and bribing a corrupt board of
aldermen. That’s the plain language of it. And it’s only fair to warn
you that I’m going to say so, openly.”

“Be sensible,” I answered. “We’ve got to have street railroads,--your
family has one. We know what the aldermen are, what political conditions
are. If you feel this way about it, the thing to do is to try to change
them. But why blame me for getting a franchise for a company in the only
manner in which, under present conditions, a franchise can be got? Do
you want the city to stand still? If not, we have to provide for the new
population.”

“Every time you bribe these rascals for a franchise you entrench them,”
 he cried. “You make it more difficult to oust them. But you mark my
words, we shall get rid of them some day, and when that fight comes, I
want to be in it.”

He had grown very much excited; and it was as though this excitement
suddenly revealed to me the full extent of the change that had taken
place in him since he had left college. As he stood facing me, almost
glaring at me through his eye-glasses, I beheld a slim, nervous,
fault-finding doctrinaire, incapable of understanding the world as it
was, lacking the force of his pioneer forefathers. I rather pitied him.

“I’m sorry we can’t look at this thing alike, Perry,” I told him.
“You’ve said solve pretty hard things, but I realize that you hold your
point of view in good faith, and that you have come to me as an old
friend. I hope it won’t make any difference in our personal relations.”

“I don’t see how it can help making a difference,” he answered slowly.
His excitement had cooled abruptly: he seemed dazed. At this moment my
private stenographer entered to inform me that I was being called up on
the telephone from New York. “Well, you have more important affairs to
attend to, I won’t bother you any more,” he added.

“Hold on,” I exclaimed, “this call can wait. I’d like to talk it over
with you.”

“I’m afraid it wouldn’t be any use, Hugh,” he said, and went out.

After talking with the New York client whose local interests I
represented I sat thinking over the conversation with Perry. Considering
Maude’s intimacy with and affection for the Blackwoods, the affair was
awkward, opening up many uncomfortable possibilities; and it was the
prospect of discomfort that bothered me rather than regret for the
probable loss of Perry’s friendship. I still believed myself to have an
affection for him: undoubtedly this was a sentimental remnant....

That evening after dinner Tom came in alone, and I suspected that Perry
had sent him. He was fidgety, ill at ease, and presently asked if I
could see him a moment in my study. Maude’s glance followed us.

“Say, Hugh, this is pretty stiff,” he blurted out characteristically,
when the door was closed.

“I suppose you mean the Riverside Franchise,” I said. He looked up at
me, miserably, from the chair into which he had sunk, his hands in his
pockets.

“You’ll forgive me for talking about it, won’t you? You used to lecture
me once in a while at Cambridge, you know.”

“That’s all right--go ahead,” I replied, trying to speak amiably.

“You know I’ve always admired you, Hugh,--I never had your ability,”
 he began painfully, “you’ve gone ahead pretty fast,--the truth is that
Perry and I have been worried about you for some time. We’ve tried
not to be too serious in showing it, but we’ve felt that these modern
business methods were getting into your system without your realizing
it. There are some things a man’s friends can tell him, and it’s their
duty to tell him. Good God, haven’t you got enough, Hugh,--enough
success and enough money, without going into a thing like this Riverside
scheme?”

I was intensely annoyed, if not angry; and I hesitated a moment to calm
myself.

“Tom, you don’t understand my position,” I said. “I’m willing to discuss
it with you, now that you’ve opened up the subject. Perry’s been talking
to you, I can see that. I think Perry’s got queer ideas,--to be plain
with you, and they’re getting queerer.”

He sat down again while, with what I deemed a rather exemplary patience,
I went over the arguments in favour of my position; and as I talked,
it clarified in my own mind. It was impossible to apply to business an
individual code of ethics,--even to Perry’s business, to Tom’s business:
the two were incompatible, and the sooner one recognized that the
better: the whole structure of business was built up on natural, as
opposed to ethical law. We had arrived at an era of frankness--that was
the truth--and the sooner we faced this truth the better for our peace
of mind. Much as we might deplore the political system that had grown
up, we had to acknowledge, if we were consistent, that it was the base
on which our prosperity was built. I was rather proud of having evolved
this argument; it fortified my own peace of mind, which had been
disturbed by Tom’s attitude. I began to pity him. He had not been very
successful in life, and with the little he earned, added to Susan’s
income, I knew that a certain ingenuity was required to make both ends
meet. He sat listening with a troubled look. A passing phase of feeling
clouded for a brief moment my confidence when there arose in my mind an
unbidden memory of my youth, of my father. He, too, had mistrusted my
ingenuity. I recalled how I had out-manoeuvred him and gone to college;
I remembered the March day so long ago, when Tom and I had stood on the
corner debating how to deceive him, and it was I who had suggested the
nice distinction between a boat and a raft. Well, my father’s illogical
attitude towards boyhood nature, towards human nature, had forced me
into that lie, just as the senseless attitude of the public to-day
forced business into a position of hypocrisy.

“Well, that’s clever,” he said, slowly and perplexedly, when I had
finished. “It’s damned clever, but somehow it looks to me all wrong. I
can’t pick it to pieces.” He got up rather heavily. “I--I guess I ought
to be going. Susan doesn’t know where I am.”

I was exasperated. It was clear, though he did not say so, that he
thought me dishonest. The pain in his eyes had deepened.

“If you feel that way--” I said.

“Oh, God, I don’t know how I feel!” he cried. “You’re the oldest friend
I have, Hugh,--I can’t forget that. We’ll say nothing more about it.” He
picked up his hat and a moment later I heard the front door close
behind him. I stood for a while stock-still, and then went into the
living-room, where Maude was sewing.

“Why, where’s Tom?” she inquired, looking up.

“Oh, he went home. He said Susan didn’t know where he was.”

“How queer! Hugh, was there anything the matter? Is he in trouble?” she
asked anxiously.

I stood toying with a book-mark, reflecting. She must inevitably come to
suspect that something had happened, and it would be as well to fortify
her.

“The trouble is,” I said after a moment, “that Perry and Tom would like
to run modern business on the principle of a charitable institution.
Unfortunately, it is not practical. They’re upset because I have been
retained by a syndicate whose object is to develop some land out beyond
Maplewood Avenue. They’ve bought the land, and we are asking the city
to give us a right to build a line out Maplewood Avenue, which is the
obvious way to go. Perry says it will spoil the avenue. That’s nonsense,
in the first place. The avenue is wide, and the tracks will be in a
grass plot in the centre. For the sake of keeping tracks off that avenue
he would deprive people of attractive homes at a small cost, of the
good air they can get beyond the heights; he would stunt the city’s
development.”

“That does seem a little unreasonable,” Maude admitted. “Is that all he
objects to?”

“No, he thinks it an outrage because, in order to get the franchise, we
have to deal with the city politicians. Well, it so happens, and always
has happened, that politics have been controlled by leaders, whom
Perry calls ‘bosses,’ and they are not particularly attractive men. You
wouldn’t care to associate with them. My father once refused to be mayor
of the city for this reason. But they are necessities. If the people
didn’t want them, they’d take enough interest in elections to throw them
out. But since the people do want them, and they are there, every time
a new street-car line or something of that sort needs to be built they
have to be consulted, because, without their influence nothing could be
done. On the other hand, these politicians cannot afford to ignore men
of local importance like Leonard Dickinson and Adolf Scherer and Miller
Gorse who represent financial substance and’ responsibility. If a new
street-railroad is to be built, these are the logical ones to build it.
You have just the same situation in Elkington, on a smaller scale.

“Your family, the Hutchinses, own the mills and the street-railroads,
and any new enterprise that presents itself is done with their money,
because they are reliable and sound.”

“It isn’t pleasant to think that there are such people as the
politicians, is it?” said Maude, slowly.

“Unquestionably not,” I agreed. “It isn’t pleasant to think of some
other crude forces in the world. But they exist, and they have to be
dealt with. Suppose the United States should refuse to trade with Russia
because, from our republican point of view, we regarded her government
as tyrannical and oppressive? or to cooperate with England in some
undertaking for the world’s benefit because we contended that she ruled
India with an iron hand? In such a case, our President and Senate would
be scoundrels for making and ratifying a treaty. Yet here are Perry and
Tom, and no doubt Susan and Lucia, accusing me, a lifetime friend, of
dishonesty because I happen to be counsel for a syndicate that wishes to
build a street-railroad for the convenience of the people of the city.”

“Oh, no, not of dishonesty!” she exclaimed. “I can’t--I won’t believe
they would do that.”

“Pretty near it,” I said. “If I listened to them, I should have to give
up the law altogether.”

“Sometimes,” she answered in a low voice, “sometimes I wish you would.”

“I might have expected that you would take their point of view.”

As I was turning away she got up quickly and put her hand on my
shoulder.

“Hugh, please don’t say such things--you’ve no right to say them.”

“And you?” I asked.

“Don’t you see,” she continued pleadingly, “don’t you see that we are
growing apart? That’s the only reason I said what I did. It isn’t that I
don’t trust you, that I don’t want you to have your work, that I demand
all of you. I know a woman can’t ask that,--can’t have it. But if you
would only give me--give the children just a little, if I could feel
that we meant something to you and that this other wasn’t gradually
becoming everything, wasn’t absorbing you more and more, killing the
best part of you. It’s poisoning our marriage, it’s poisoning all your
relationships.”

In that appeal the real Maude, the Maude of the early days of our
marriage flashed forth again so vividly that I was taken aback. I
understood that she had had herself under control, had worn a mask--a
mask I had forced on her; and the revelation of the continued existence
of that other Maude was profoundly disturbing. Was it true, as she said,
that my absorption in the great game of modern business, in the modern
American philosophy it implied was poisoning my marriage? or was it
that my marriage had failed to satisfy and absorb me? I was touched--but
sentimentally touched: I felt that this was a situation that ought to
touch me; I didn’t wish to face it, as usual: I couldn’t acknowledge to
myself that anything was really wrong... I patted her on the shoulder, I
bent over and kissed her.

“A man in my position can’t altogether choose just how busy he will be,”
 I said smiling. “Matters are thrust upon me which I have to accept, and
I can’t help thinking about some of them when I come home. But we’ll go
off for a real vacation soon, Maude, to Europe--and take the children.”

“Oh, I hope so,” she said.

From this time on, as may be supposed, our intercourse with both the
Blackwoods began to grow less frequent, although Maude continued to see
a great deal of Lucia; and when we did dine in their company, or
they with us, it was quite noticeable that their former raillery was
suppressed. Even Tom had ceased to refer to me as the young Napoleon
of the Law: he clung to me, but he too kept silent on the subject of
business. Maude of course must have noticed this, must have sensed the
change of atmosphere, have known that the Blackwoods, at least, were
maintaining appearances for her sake. She did not speak to me of the
change, nor I to her; but when I thought of her silence, it was to
suspect that she was weighing the question which had led up to the
difference between Perry and me, and I had a suspicion that the fact
that I was her husband would not affect her ultimate decision. This
faculty of hers of thinking things out instead of accepting my views and
decisions was, as the saying goes, getting a little “on my nerves”: that
she of all women should have developed it was a recurring and unpleasant
surprise. I began at times to pity myself a little, to feel the need of
sympathetic companionship--feminine companionship....

I shall not go into the details of the procurement of what became known
as the Riverside Franchise. In spite of the Maplewood residents, of the
City Improvement League and individual protests, we obtained it with
absurd ease. Indeed Perry Blackwood himself appeared before the Public
Utilities Committee of the Board of Aldermen, and was listened to
with deference and gravity while he discoursed on the defacement of a
beautiful boulevard to satisfy the greed of certain private individuals.
Mr. Otto Bitter and myself, who appeared for the petitioners, had
a similar reception. That struggle was a tempest in a tea-pot. The
reformer raged, but he was feeble in those days, and the great public
believed what it read in the respectable newspapers. In Mr. Judah
B. Tallant’s newspaper, for instance, the Morning Era, there were
semi-playful editorials about “obstructionists.” Mr. Perry Blackwood
was a well-meaning, able gentleman of an old family, etc., but with a
sentiment for horse-cars. The Era published also the resolutions which
(with interesting spontaneity!) had been passed by our Board of Trade
and Chamber of Commerce and other influential bodies in favour of the
franchise; the idea--unknown to the public--of Mr. Hugh Paret, who
wrote drafts of the resolutions and suggested privately to Mr. Leonard
Dickinson that a little enthusiasm from these organizations might be
helpful. Mr. Dickinson accepted the suggestion eagerly, wondering why he
hadn’t thought of it himself. The resolutions carried some weight with a
public that did not know its right hand from its left.

After fitting deliberation, one evening in February the Board of
Aldermen met and granted the franchise. Not unanimously, oh, no! Mr.
Jason was not so simple as that! No further visits to Monahan’s saloon
on my part, in this connection were necessary; but Mr. Otto Bitter met
me one day in the hotel with a significant message from the boss.

“It’s all fixed,” he informed me. “Murphy and Scott and Ottheimer and
Grady and Loth are the decoys. You understand?”

“I think I gather your meaning,” I said.

Mr. Bitter smiled by pulling down one corner of a crooked mouth.

“They’ll vote against it on principle, you know,” he added. “We get a
little something from the Maple Avenue residents.”

I’ve forgotten what the Riverside Franchise cost. The sum was paid in a
lump sum to Mr. Bitter as his “fee,”--so, to their chagrin, a grand jury
discovered in later years, when they were barking around Mr. Jason’s
hole with an eager district attorney snapping his whip over them.
I remember the cartoon. The municipal geese were gone, but it was
impossible to prove that this particular fox had used his enlightened
reason in their procurement. Mr. Bitter was a legally authorized fox,
and could take fees. How Mr. Jason was to be rewarded by the land
company’s left-hand, unknown, to the land company’s right hand, became a
problem worthy of a genius. The genius was found, but modesty forbids
me to mention his name, and the problem was solved, to wit: the land
company bought a piece of downtown property from--Mr. Ryerson, who was
Mr. Grierson’s real estate man and the agent for the land company, for
a consideration of thirty thousand dollars. An unconfirmed rumour had it
that Mr. Ryerson turned over the thirty thousand to Mr. Jason. Then the
Riverside Company issued a secret deed of the same property back to Mr.
Ryerson, and this deed was not recorded until some years later.

Such are the elaborate transactions progress and prosperity demand.
Nature is the great teacher, and we know that her ways are at times
complicated and clumsy. Likewise, under the “natural” laws of economics,
new enterprises are not born without travail, without the aid of legal
physicians well versed in financial obstetrics. One hundred and fifty
to two hundred thousand, let us say, for the right to build tracks on
Maplewood Avenue, and we sold nearly two million dollars worth of the
securities back to the public whose aldermen had sold us the franchise.
Is there a man so dead as not to feel a thrill at this achievement?
And let no one who declares that literary talent and imagination are
nonexistent in America pronounce final judgment until he reads that
prospectus, in which was combined the best of realism and symbolism,
for the labours of Alonzo Cheyne were not to be wasted, after all. Mr.
Dickinson, who was a director in the Maplewood line, got a handsome
underwriting percentage, and Mr. Berringer, also a director, on the
bonds and preferred stock he sold. Mr. Paret, who entered both companies
on the ground floor, likewise got fees. Everybody was satisfied except
the trouble makers, who were ignored. In short, the episode of the
Riverside Franchise is a triumphant proof of the contention that
business men are the best fitted to conduct the politics of their
country.

We had learned to pursue our happiness in packs, we knew that the
Happy Hunting-Grounds are here and now, while the Reverend Carey Heddon
continued to assure the maimed, the halt and the blind that their
kingdom was not of this world, that their time was coming later. Could
there have been a more idyl arrangement! Everybody should have been
satisfied, but everybody was not. Otherwise these pages would never have
been written.



BOOK 3.



XVIII.

As the name of our city grew to be more and more a byword for sudden and
fabulous wealth, not only were the Huns and the Slavs, the Czechs and
the Greeks drawn to us, but it became the fashion for distinguished
Englishmen and Frenchmen and sometimes Germans and Italians to pay us a
visit when they made the grand tour of America. They had been told that
they must not miss us; scarcely a week went by in our community--so it
was said--in which a full-fledged millionaire was not turned out. Our
visitors did not always remain a week,--since their rapid journeyings
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to the Gulf rarely
occupied more than four,--but in the books embodying their mature
comments on the manners, customs and crudities of American civilization
no less than a chapter was usually devoted to us; and most of the
adjectives in their various languages were exhausted in the attempt
to prove how symptomatic we were of the ambitions and ideals of
the Republic. The fact that many of these gentlemen--literary and
otherwise--returned to their own shores better fed and with larger
balances in the banks than when they departed is neither here nor there.
Egyptians are proverbially created to be spoiled.

The wiser and more fortunate of these travellers and students of life
brought letters to Mr. and Mrs. Hambleton Durrett. That household was
symptomatic--if they liked--of the new order of things; and it was rare
indeed when both members of it were at home to entertain them. If Mr.
Durrett were in the city, and they did not happen to be Britons with
sporting proclivities, they simply were not entertained: when Mrs.
Durrett received them dinners were given in their honour on the Durrett
gold plate, and they spent cosey and delightful hours conversing with
her in the little salon overlooking the garden, to return to their
hotels and jot down paragraphs on the superiority of the American
women over the men. These particular foreigners did not lay eyes on Mr.
Durrett, who was in Florida or in the East playing polo or engaged in
some other pursuit. One result of the lavishness and luxury that amazed
them they wrote--had been to raise the standard of culture of the women,
who were our leisure class. But the travellers did not remain long
enough to arrive at any conclusions of value on the effect of luxury and
lavishness on the sacred institution of marriage.

If Mr. Nathaniel Durrett could have returned to his native city after
fifteen years or so in the grave, not the least of the phenomena to
startle him would have been that which was taking place in his own
house. For he would have beheld serenely established in that former
abode of Calvinism one of the most reprehensible of exotic abominations,
a ‘mariage de convenance;’ nor could he have failed to observe,
moreover, the complacency with which the descendants of his friends,
the pew holders in Dr. Pound’s church, regarded the matter: and not only
these, but the city at large. The stronghold of Scotch Presbyterianism
had become a London or a Paris, a Gomorrah!

Mrs. Hambleton Durrett went her way, and Mr. Durrett his. The less said
about Mr. Durrett’s way--even in this suddenly advanced age--the better.
As for Nancy, she seemed to the distant eye to be walking through life
in a stately and triumphant manner. I read in the newspapers of her
doings, her comings and goings; sometimes she was away for months
together, often abroad; and when she was at home I saw her, but
infrequently, under conditions more or less formal. Not that she was
formal,--or I: our intercourse seemed eloquent of an intimacy in a
tantalizing state of suspense. Would that intimacy ever be renewed? This
was a question on which I sometimes speculated. The situation that had
suspended or put an end to it, as the case might be, was never referred
to by either of us.

One afternoon in the late winter of the year following that in which
we had given a dinner to the Scherers (where the Durretts had rather
marvellously appeared together) I left my office about three o’clock--a
most unusual occurrence. I was restless, unable to fix my mind on my
work, filled with unsatisfied yearnings the object of which I sought
to keep vague, and yet I directed my steps westward along Boyne Street
until I came to the Art Museum, where a loan exhibition was being held.
I entered, bought a catalogue, and presently found myself standing
before number 103, designated as a portrait of Mrs. Hambleton
Durrett,--painted in Paris the autumn before by a Polish artist then
much in vogue, Stanislaus Czesky. Nancy--was it Nancy?--was standing
facing me, tall, superb in the maturity of her beauty, with one hand
resting on an antique table, a smile upon her lips, a gentle mockery in
her eyes as though laughing at the world she adorned. With the smile
and the mockery--somehow significant, too, of an achieved
inaccessibility--went the sheen of her clinging gown and the glint
of the heavy pearls drooping from her high throat to her waist. These
caught the eye, but failed at length to hold it, for even as I looked
the smile faded, the mockery turned to wistfulness. So I thought, and
looked again--to see the wistfulness: the smile had gone, the pearls
seemed heavier. Was it a trick of the artist? had he seen what I saw,
or thought I saw? or was it that imagination which by now I might have
learned to suspect and distrust. Wild longings took possession of me,
for the portrait had seemed to emphasize at once how distant now she was
from me, and yet how near! I wanted to put that nearness to the test.
Had she really changed? did anyone really change? and had I not been
a fool to accept the presentment she had given me? I remembered those
moments when our glances had met as across barriers in flashes
of understanding. After all, the barriers were mere relics of the
superstition of the past. What if I went to her now? I felt that I
needed her as I never had needed anyone in all my life.... I was aroused
by the sound of lowered voices beside me.

“That’s Mrs. Hambleton Durrett,” I heard a woman say. “Isn’t she
beautiful?”

The note of envy struck me sharply--horribly. Without waiting to listen
to the comment of her companion I hurried out of the building into the
cold, white sunlight that threw into bold relief the mediocre houses of
the street. Here was everyday life, but the portrait had suggested that
which might have been--might be yet. What did I mean by this? I didn’t
know, I didn’t care to define it,--a renewal of her friendship, of our
intimacy. My being cried out for it, and in the world in which I lived
we took what we wanted--why not this? And yet for an instant I stood on
the sidewalk to discover that in new situations I was still subject
to unaccountable qualms of that thing I had been taught to call
“conscience”; whether it were conscience or not must be left to
the psychologists. I was married--terrible word! the shadow of that
Institution fell athwart me as the sun went under a cloud; but the
sun came out again as I found myself walking toward the Durrett house
reflecting that numbers of married men called on Nancy, and that what
I had in mind in regard to her was nothing that the court would have
pronounced an infringement upon the Institution.... I reached her
steps, the long steps still guarded by the curved wrought-iron railings
reminiscent of Nathaniel’s day, though the “portals” were gone, a modern
vestibule having replaced them; I rang the bell; the butler, flung open
the doors. He, at any rate, did not seem surprised to see me here, he
greeted me with respectful cordiality and led me, as a favoured guest,
through the big drawing-room into the salon.

“Mr. Paret, Madam!”

Nancy, rose quickly from the low chair where she sat cutting the pages
of a French novel.

“Hugh!” she exclaimed. “I’m out if anyone calls. Bring tea,” she added
to the man, who retired. For a moment we stood gazing at each other,
questioningly. “Well, won’t you sit down and stay awhile?” she asked.

I took a chair on the opposite side of the fire.

“I just thought I’d drop in,” I said.

“I am flattered,” said Nancy, “that a person so affaire should find
time to call on an old friend. Why, I thought you never left your office
until seven o’clock.”

“I don’t, as a rule, but to-day I wasn’t particularly busy, and I
thought I’d go round to the Art Museum and look at your portrait.”

“More flattery! Hugh, you’re getting quite human. What do you think of
it?”

“I like it. I think it quite remarkable.”

“Have a cigarette!”

I took one.

“So you really like it,” she said.

“Don’t you?”

“Oh, I think it’s a trifle--romantic,” she replied “But that’s Czesky.
He made me quite cross,--the feminine presentation of America, the
spoiled woman who has shed responsibilities and is beginning to have a
glimpse--just a little one--of the emptiness of it all.”

I was stirred.

“Then why do you accept it, if it isn’t you?” I demanded. “One doesn’t
refuse Czesky’s canvases,” she replied. “And what difference does it
make? It amused him, and he was fairly subtle about it. Only those who
are looking for romance, like you, are able to guess what he meant,
and they would think they saw it anyway, even if he had painted
me--extinct.”

“Extinct!” I repeated.

She laughed.

“Hugh, you’re a silly old goose!”

“That’s why I came here, I think, to be told so,” I said.

Tea was brought in. A sense of at-homeness stole over me,--I was more at
home here in this room with Nancy, than in any other place in the world;
here, where everything was at once soothing yet stimulating, expressive
of her, even the smaller objects that caught my eye,--the crystal
inkstand tipped with gold, the racks for the table books, her
paper-cutter. Nancy’s was a discriminating luxury. And her talk! The
lightness with which she touched life, the unexplored depths of her,
guessed at but never fathomed! Did she feel a little the need of me as I
felt the need of her?

“Why, I believe you’re incurably romantic, Hugh,” she said laughingly,
when the men had left the room. “Here you are, what they call a paragon
of success, a future senator, Ambassador to England. I hear of those
remarkable things you have done--even in New York the other day a man
was asking me if I knew Mr. Paret, and spoke of you as one of the coming
men. I suppose you will be moving there, soon. A practical success! It
always surprises me when I think of it, I find it difficult to remember
what a dreamer you were and here you turn out to be still a dreamer!
Have you discovered, too, the emptiness of it all?” she inquired
provokingly. “I must say you don’t look it”--she gave me a critical,
quizzical glance--“you look quite prosperous and contented, as though
you enjoyed your power.”

I laughed uneasily.

“And then,” she continued, “and then one day when your luncheon has
disagreed with you--you walk into a gallery and see a portrait of--of an
old friend for whom in youth, when you were a dreamer, you professed a
sentimental attachment, and you exclaim that the artist is a discerning
man who has discovered the secret that she has guarded so closely. She’s
sorry that she ever tried to console herself with baubles it’s what
you’ve suspected all along. But you’ll just run around to see for
yourself--to be sure of it.” And she handed me my tea. “Come now,
confess. Where are your wits--I hear you don’t lack them in court.”

“Well,” I said, “if that amuses you--”

“It does amuse me,” said Nancy, twining her fingers across her knee and
regarding me smilingly, with parted lips, “it amuses me a lot--it’s so
characteristic.”

“But it’s not true, it’s unjust,” I protested vigorously, smiling, too,
because the attack was so characteristic of her.

“What then?” she demanded.

“Well, in the first place, my luncheon didn’t disagree with me. It never
does.”

She laughed. “But the sentiment--come now--the sentiment? Do you
perceive any hint of emptiness--despair?”

Our chairs were very close, and she leaned forward a little.

“Emptiness or no emptiness,” I said a little tremulously, “I know that I
haven’t been so contented, so happy for a long time.”

She sat very still, but turned her gaze on the fire.

“You really wouldn’t want to find that, Hugh,” she said in another
voice, at which I exclaimed. “No, I’m not being sentimental. But, to be
serious, I really shouldn’t care to think that of you. I’d like to think
of you as a friend--a good friend--although we don’t see very much of
one another.”

“But that’s why I came, Nancy,” I explained. “It wasn’t just an
impulse--that is, I’ve been thinking of you a great deal, all along. I
miss you, I miss the way you look at things--your point of view. I can’t
see any reason why we shouldn’t see something of each other--now--”

She continued to stare into the fire.

“No,” she said at length, “I suppose there isn’t any reason.” Her mood
seemed suddenly to change as she bent over and extinguished the flame
under the kettle. “After all,” she added gaily, “we live in a tolerant
age, we’ve reached the years of discretion, and we’re both too
conventional to do anything silly--even if we wanted to--which we don’t.
We’re neither of us likely to quarrel with the world as it is, I think,
and we might as well make fun of it together. We’ll begin with our
friends. What do you think of Mr. Scherer’s palace?”

“I hear you’re building it for him.”

“I told him to get Eyre,” said Nancy, laughingly, “I was afraid he’d
repeat the Gallatin Park monstrosity on a larger scale, and Eyre’s the
only man in this country who understands the French. It’s been rather
amusing,” she went on, “I’ve had to fight Hilda, and she’s no mean
antagonist. How she hates me! She wanted a monstrosity, of course, a
modernized German rock-grotto sort of an affair, I can imagine. She’s
been so funny when I’ve met her at dinner. ‘I understand you take a
great interest in the house, Mrs. Durrett.’ Can’t you hear her?”

“Well, you did get ahead of her,” I said.

“I had to. I couldn’t let our first citizen build a modern Rhine castle,
could I? I have some public spirit left. And besides, I expect to build
on Grant Avenue myself.”

“And leave here?”

“Oh, it’s too grubby, it’s in the slums,” said Nancy. “But I really owe
you a debt of gratitude, Hugh, for the Scherers.”

“I’m told Adolf’s lost his head over you.”

“It’s not only over me, but over everything. He’s so ridiculously proud
of being on the board of the Children’s Hospital.... You ought to hear
him talking to old Mrs. Ogilvy, who of course can’t get used to him
at all,--she always has the air of inquiring what he’s doing in that
galley. She still thinks of him as Mr. Durrett’s foreman.”

The time flew. Her presence was like a bracing, tingling atmosphere in
which I felt revived and exhilarated, self-restored. For Nancy did not
question--she took me as I was. We looked out on the world, as it were,
from the same window, and I could not help thinking that ours, after
all, was a large view. The topics didn’t matter--our conversation was
fragrant with intimacy; and we were so close to each other it seemed
incredible that we ever should be parted again. At last the little clock
on the mantel chimed an hour, she started and looked up.

“Why, it’s seven, Hugh!” she exclaimed, rising. “I’d no idea it was so
late, and I’m dining with the Dickinsons. I’ve only just time to dress.”

“It’s been like a reunion, hasn’t it?--a reunion after many years,” I
said. I held her hand unconsciously--she seemed to be drawing me to her,
I thought she swayed, and a sudden dizziness seized me. Then she drew
away abruptly, with a little cry. I couldn’t be sure about the cry,
whether I heard it or not, a note was struck in the very depths of me.

“Come in again,” she said, “whenever you’re not too busy.” And a minute
later I found myself on the street.

This was the beginning of a new intimacy with Nancy, resembling the old
intimacy yet differing from it. The emotional note of our parting on
the occasion I have just related was not again struck, and when I
went eagerly to see her again a few days later I was conscious of
limitations,--not too conscious: the freedom she offered and which I
gladly accepted was a large freedom, nor am I quite sure that even I
would have wished it larger, though there were naturally moments when
I thought so: when I asked myself what I did wish, I found no answer.
Though I sometimes chafed, it would have been absurd of me to object to
a certain timidity or caution I began to perceive in her that had been
absent in the old Nancy; but the old Nancy had ceased to exist, and here
instead was a highly developed, highly specialized creature in whom I
delighted; and after taking thought I would not have robbed her of
fine acquired attribute. As she had truly observed, we were both
conventional; conventionality was part of the price we had willingly
paid for membership in that rarer world we had both achieved. It was
a world, to be sure, in which we were rapidly learning to take the law
into our own hands without seeming to defy it, in order that the fear
of it might remain in those less fortunately placed and endowed: we
had begun with the appropriation of the material property of our
fellow-citizens, which we took legally; from this point it was, of
course, merely a logical step to take--legally, too other gentlemen’s
human property--their wives, in short: the more progressive East had set
us our example, but as yet we had been chary to follow it.

About this time rebellious voices were beginning to make themselves
heard in the literary wilderness proclaiming liberty--liberty of the
sexes. There were Russian novels and French novels, and pioneer English
novels preaching liberty with Nietzschean stridency, or taking it for
granted. I picked these up on Nancy’s table.

“Reading them?” she said, in answer to my query. “Of course I’m reading
them. I want to know what these clever people are thinking, even if I
don’t always agree with them, and you ought to read them too. It’s quite
true what foreigners say about our men,--that they live in a groove,
that they haven’t any range of conversation.”

“I’m quite willing to be educated,” I replied. “I haven’t a doubt that I
need it.”

She was leaning back in her chair, her hands behind her head, a posture
she often assumed. She looked up at me amusedly.

“I’ll acknowledge that you’re more teachable than most of them,” she
said. “Do you know, Hugh, sometimes you puzzle me greatly. When you are
here and we’re talking together I can never think of you as you are out
in the world, fighting for power--and getting it. I suppose it’s part
of your charm, that there is that side of you, but I never consciously
realize it. You’re what they call a dual personality.”

“That’s a pretty hard name!” I exclaimed.

She laughed.

“I can’t help it--you are. Oh, not disagreeably so, quite
normally--that’s the odd thing about you. Sometimes I believe that you
were made for something different, that in spite of your success you
have missed your ‘metier.’”

“What ought I to have been?”

“How can I tell? A Goethe, perhaps--a Goethe smothered by a
twentieth-century environment. Your love of adventure isn’t dead, it’s
been merely misdirected, real adventure, I mean, forth faring, straying
into unknown paths. Perhaps you haven’t yet found yourself.”

“How uncanny!” I said, stirred and startled.

“You have a taste for literature, you know, though you’ve buried it.
Give me Turgeniev. We’ll begin with him....”

Her reading and the talks that followed it were exciting, amazingly
stimulating.... Once Nancy gave me an amusing account of a debate which
had taken place in the newly organized woman’s discussion club to which
she belonged over a rather daring book by an English novelist. Mrs.
Dickinson had revolted.

“No, she wasn’t really shocked, not in the way she thought she was,”
 said Nancy, in answer to a query of mine.

“How was she shocked, then?”

“As you and I are shocked.”

“But I’m not shocked,” I protested.

“Oh, yes, you are, and so am I--not on the moral side, nor is it the
moral aspect that troubles Lula Dickinson. She thinks it’s the moral
aspect, but it’s really the revolutionary aspect, the menace to those
precious institutions from which we derive our privileges and comforts.”

I considered this, and laughed.

“What’s the use of being a humbug about it,” said Nancy.

“But you’re talking like a revolutionary,” I said.

“I may be talking like one, but I’m not one. I once had the makings
of one--of a good one,--a ‘proper’ one, as the English would say.” She
sighed.

“You regret it?” I asked curiously.

“Of course I regret it!” she cried. “What woman worth her salt doesn’t
regret it, doesn’t want to live, even if she has to suffer for it?
And those people--the revolutionaries, I mean, the rebels--they live,
they’re the only ones who do live. The rest of us degenerate in a
painless paralysis we think of as pleasure. Look at me! I’m incapable
of committing a single original act, even though I might conceive one.
Well, there was a time when I should have been equal to anything and
wouldn’t have cared a--a damn.”

I believed her....

I fell into the habit of dropping in on Nancy at least twice a week on
my way from the office, and I met her occasionally at other houses. I
did not tell Maude of that first impulsive visit; but one evening a few
weeks later she asked me where I had been, and when I told her she
made no comment. I came presently to the conclusion that this renewed
intimacy did not trouble her--which was what I wished to believe. Of
course I had gone to Nancy for a stimulation I failed to get at home,
and it is the more extraordinary, therefore, that I did not become more
discontented and restless: I suppose this was because I had grown
to regard marriage as most of the world regarded it, as something
inevitable and humdrum, as a kind of habit it is useless to try to shake
off. But life is so full of complexities and anomalies that I still had
a real affection for Maude, and I liked her the more because she didn’t
expect too much of me, and because she didn’t complain of my friendship
with Nancy although I should vehemently have denied there was anything
to complain of. I respected Maude. If she was not a squaw, she performed
religiously the traditional squaw duties, and made me comfortable: and
the fact that we lived separate mental existences did not trouble me
because I never thought of hers--or even that she had one. She had the
children, and they seemed to suffice. She never renewed her appeal for
my confidence, and I forgot that she had made it.

Nevertheless I always felt a tug at my heartstrings when June came
around and it was time for her and the children to go to Mattapoisett
for the summer; when I accompanied them, on the evening of their
departure, to the smoky, noisy station and saw deposited in the
sleeping-car their luggage and shawls and bundles. They always took the
evening train to Boston; it was the best. Tom and Susan were invariably
there with candy and toys to see them off--if Susan and her children had
not already gone--and at such moments my heart warmed to Tom. And I was
astonished as I clung to Matthew and Moreton and little Biddy at
the affection that welled up within me, saddened when I kissed Maude
good-bye. She too was sad, and always seemed to feel compunctions for
deserting me.

“I feel so selfish in leaving you all alone!” she would say. “If it
weren’t for the children--they need the sea air. But I know you don’t
miss me as I miss you. A man doesn’t, I suppose.... Please don’t work so
hard, and promise me you’ll come on and stay a long time. You can if you
want to. We shan’t starve.” She smiled. “That nice room, which is yours,
at the southeast corner, is always waiting for you. And you do like the
sea, and seeing the sail-boats in the morning.”

I felt an emptiness when the train pulled out. I did love my family,
after all! I would go back to the deserted house, and I could not bear
to look in at the nursery door, at the little beds with covers flung
over them. Why couldn’t I appreciate these joys when I had them?

One evening, as we went home in an open street-car together, after such
a departure, Tom blurted out:--“Hugh, I believe I care for your family
as much as for my own. I often wonder if you realize how wonderful these
children are! My boys are just plain ruffians--although I think they’re
pretty decent ruffians, but Matthew has a mind--he’s thoughtful--and
an imagination. He’ll make a name for himself some day if he’s steered
properly and allowed to develop naturally. Moreton’s more like my boys.
And as for Chickabiddy!--” words failed him.

I put my hand on his knee. I actually loved him again as I had loved
and yearned for him as a child,--he was so human, so dependable. And why
couldn’t this feeling last? He disapproved--foolishly, I thought--of
my professional career, and this was only one of his limitations. But
I knew that he was loyal. Why hadn’t I been able to breathe and be
reasonably happy in that atmosphere of friendship and love in which I
had been placed--or rather in which I had placed myself?... Before the
summer was a day or two older I had grown accustomed to being alone,
and enjoyed the liberty; and when Maude and the children returned in the
autumn, similarly, it took me some days to get used to the restrictions
imposed by a household. I run the risk of shocking those who read this
by declaring that if my family had been taken permanently out of my
life, I should not long have missed them. But on the whole, in those
years my marriage relation might be called a negative one. There were
moments, as I have described, when I warmed to Maude, moments when I
felt something akin to a violent antagonism aroused by little mannerisms
and tricks she had. The fact that we got along as well as we did
was probably due to the orthodox teaching with which we had been
inoculated,--to the effect that matrimony was a moral trial, a
shaking-down process. But moral trials were ceasing to appeal to people,
and more and more of them were refusing to be shaken down. We didn’t cut
the Gordian knot, but we managed to loosen it considerably.

I have spoken of a new species of titans who inhabited the giant
buildings in Wall Street, New York, and fought among themselves for
possession of the United States of America. It is interesting to note
that in these struggles a certain chivalry was observed among the
combatants, no matter how bitter the rivalry: for instance, it was
deemed very bad form for one of the groups of combatants to take the
public into their confidence; cities were upset and stirred to the
core by these conflicts, and the citizens never knew who was doing
the fighting, but imagined that some burning issue was at stake that
concerned them. As a matter of fact the issue always did concern them,
but not in the way they supposed.

Gradually, out of the chaotic melee in which these titans were engaged
had emerged one group more powerful than the rest and more respectable,
whose leader was the Personality to whom I have before referred. He and
his group had managed to gain control of certain conservative fortresses
in various cities such as the Corn National Bank and the Ashuela
Telephone Company--to mention two of many: Adolf Scherer was his ally,
and the Boyne Iron Works, Limited, was soon to be merged by him into a
greater corporation still. Leonard Dickinson might be called his local
governor-general. We manned the parapets and kept our ears constantly to
the ground to listen for the rumble of attacks; but sometimes they burst
upon us fiercely and suddenly, without warning. Such was the assault on
the Ashuela, which for years had exercised an apparently secure monopoly
of the city’s telephone service, which had been able to ignore with
complacency the shrillest protests of unreasonable subscribers. Through
the Pilot it was announced to the public that certain benevolent
“Eastern capitalists” were ready to rescue them from their thraldom if
the city would grant them a franchise. Mr. Lawler, the disinterestedness
of whose newspaper could not be doubted, fanned the flame day by day,
sent his reporters about the city gathering instances of the haughty
neglect of the Ashuela, proclaiming its instruments antiquated compared
with those used in more progressive cities, as compared with the very
latest inventions which the Automatic Company was ready to install
provided they could get their franchise. And the prices! These, too,
would fall--under competition. It was a clever campaign. If the city
would give them a franchise, that Automatic Company--so well named!
would provide automatic instruments. Each subscriber, by means of a
numerical disk, could call up any other, subscriber; there would be no
central operator, no listening, no tapping of wires; the number of
calls would be unlimited. As a proof of the confidence of these Eastern
gentlemen in our city, they were willing to spend five millions, and
present more than six hundred telephones free to the city departments!
What was fairer, more generous than this! There could be no doubt that
popular enthusiasm was enlisted in behalf of the “Eastern Capitalists,”
 who were made to appear in the light of Crusaders ready to rescue a
groaning people from the thrall of monopoly. The excitement approached
that of a presidential election, and became the dominant topic at
quick-lunch counters and in street-cars. Cheap and efficient service!
Down with the Bastille of monopoly!

As counsel for the Ashuela, Mr. Ogilvy sent for me, and by certain
secret conduits of information at my disposal I was not long in
discovering the disquieting fact that a Mr. Orthwein, who was described
as a gentleman with fat fingers and a plausible manner, had been in town
for a week and had been twice seen entering and emerging from Monahan’s
saloon. In short, Mr. Jason had already been “seen.” Nevertheless I
went to him myself, to find him for the first time in my experience
absolutely non-committal.

“What’s the Ashuela willing to do?” he demanded.

I mentioned a sum, and he shook his head. I mentioned another, and still
he shook his head.

“Come ‘round again,” he said...

I was compelled to report this alarming situation to Ogilvy and
Dickinson and a few chosen members of a panicky board of directors.

“It’s that damned Grannis crowd,” said Dickinson, mentioning an
aggressive gentleman who had migrated from Chicago to Wall Street some
five years before in a pink collar.

“But what’s to be done?” demanded Ogilvy, playing nervously with a gold
pencil on the polished table. He was one of those Americans who in a
commercial atmosphere become prematurely white, and today his boyish,
smooth-shaven face was almost as devoid of colour as his hair. Even
Leonard Dickinson showed anxiety, which was unusual for him.

“You’ve got to fix it, Hugh,” he said.

I did not see my way, but I had long ago learned to assume the unruffled
air and judicial manner of speaking that inspires the layman with almost
superstitious confidence in the lawyer....

“We’ll find a way out,” I said.

Mr. Jason, of course, held the key to the situation, and just how I
was to get around him was problematical. In the meantime there was the
public: to permit the other fellow to capture that was to be lacking in
ordinary prudence; if its votes counted for nothing, its savings were
desirable; and it was fast getting into a state of outrage against
monopoly. The chivalry of finance did not permit of a revelation that
Mr. Grannis and his buccaneers were behind the Automatic, but it was
possible to direct and strengthen the backfire which the Era and other
conservative newspapers had already begun. Mr. Tallant for delicate
reasons being persona non grata at the Boyne Club, despite the fact that
he had so many friends there, we met for lunch in a private room at the
new hotel, and as we sipped our coffee and smoked our cigars we planned
a series of editorials and articles that duly appeared. They made
a strong appeal to the loyalty of our citizens to stand by the home
company and home capital that had taken generous risks to give them
service at a time when the future of the telephone business was by no
means assured; they belittled the charges made by irresponsible and
interested “parties,” and finally pointed out, not without effect, that
one logical consequence of having two telephone companies would be to
compel subscribers in self-defence to install two telephones instead of
one. And where was the saving in that?

“Say, Paret,” said Judah B. when we had finished our labours; “if you
ever get sick of the law, I’ll give you a job on the Era’s staff. This
is fine, the way you put it. It’ll do a lot of good, but how in hell are
you going to handle Judd?...”

For three days the inspiration was withheld. And then, as I was
strolling down Boyne Street after lunch gazing into the store windows it
came suddenly, without warning. Like most inspirations worth anything,
it was very simple. Within half an hour I had reached Monahan’s saloon
and found Mr. Jason out of bed, but still in his bedroom, seated
meditatively at the window that looked over the alley.

“You know the crowd in New York behind this Automatic company as well
as I do, Jason,” I said. “Why do you want to deal with them when we’ve
always been straight with you, when we’re ready to meet them and go one
better? Name your price.”

“Suppose I do--what then,” he replied. “This thing’s gone pretty
far. Under that damned new charter the franchise has got to be bid
for--hasn’t it? And the people want this company. There’ll be a howl
from one end of this town to the other if we throw ‘em down.”

“We’ll look out for the public,” I assured him, smiling.

“Well,” he said, with one of his glances that were like flashes, “what
you got up your sleeve?”

“Suppose another telephone company steps in, and bids a little higher
for the franchise. That relieves, your aldermen of all responsibility,
doesn’t it?”

“Another telephone company!” he repeated.

I had already named it on my walk.

“The Interurban,” I said.

“A dummy company?” said Mr. Jason.

“Lively enough to bid something over a hundred thousand to the city for
its franchise,” I replied.

Judd Jason, with a queer look, got up and went to a desk in a
dark corner, and after rummaging for a few moments in one of the
pigeon-holes, drew forth a glass cylinder, which he held out as he
approached me.

“You get it, Mr. Paret,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked, “a bomb!”

“That,” he announced, as he twisted the tube about in his long fingers,
holding it up to the light, “is the finest brand of cigars ever made in
Cuba. A gentleman who had every reason to be grateful to me--I won’t
say who he was--gave me that once. Well, the Lord made me so’s I can’t
appreciate any better tobacco than those five-cent ‘Bobtails’ Monahan’s
got downstairs, and I saved it. I saved it for the man who would put
something over me some day, and--you get it.”

“Thank you,” I said, unconsciously falling in with the semi-ceremony of
his manner. “I do not flatter myself that the solution I have suggested
did not also occur to you.”

“You’ll smoke it?” he asked.

“Surely.”

“Now? Here with me?”

“Certainly,” I agreed, a little puzzled. As I broke the seal, pulled out
the cork and unwrapped the cigar from its gold foil he took a stick and
rapped loudly on the floor. After a brief interval footsteps were
heard on the stairs and Mike Monahan, white aproned and scarlet faced,
appeared at the door.

“Bobtails,” said Mr. Jason, laconically.

“It’s them I thought ye’d be wanting,” said the saloon-keeper, holding
out a handful. Judd Jason lighted one, and began smoking reflectively.

I gazed about the mean room, with its litter of newspapers and reports,
its shabby furniture, and these seemed to have become incongruous, out
of figure in the chair facing me keeping with the thoughtful figure in
the chair facing me.

“You had a college education, Mr. Paret,” he remarked at length.

“Yes.”

“Life’s a queer thing. Now if I’d had a college education, like you, and
you’d been thrown on the world, like me, maybe I’d be livin’ up there on
Grant Avenue and you’d be down here over the saloon.”

“Maybe,” I said, wondering uneasily whether he meant to imply a
similarity in our gifts. But his manner remained impassive, speculative.

“Ever read Carlyle’s ‘French Revolution’?” he asked suddenly.

“Why, yes, part of it, a good while ago.”

“When you was in college?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve got a little library here,” he said, getting up and raising the
shades and opening the glass doors of a bookcase which had escaped my
attention. He took down a volume of Carlyle, bound in half calf.

“Wouldn’t think I cared for such things, would you?” he demanded as he
handed it to me.

“Well, you never can tell what a man’s real tastes are until you know
him,” I observed, to conceal my surprise.

“That’s so,” he agreed. “I like books--some books. If I’d had an
education, I’d have liked more of ‘em, known more about ‘em. Now I can
read this one over and over. That feller Carlyle was a genius, he could
look right into the bowels of the volcano, and he was on to how men and
women feet down there, how they hate, how they square ‘emselves when
they get a chance.”

He had managed to bring before me vividly that terrible, volcanic flow
on Versailles of the Paris mob. He put back the book and resumed his
seat.

“And I know how these people fed down here, below the crust,” he went
on, waving his cigar out of the window, as though to indicate the whole
of that mean district. “They hate, and their hate is molten hell. I’ve
been through it.”

“But you’ve got on top,” I suggested.

“Sure, I’ve got on top. Do you know why? it’s because I hated--that’s
why. A man’s feelings, if they’re strong enough, have a lot to do with
what he becomes.”

“But he has to have ability, too,” I objected.

“Sure, he has to have ability, but his feeling is the driving power if
he feels strong enough, he can make a little ability go a long way.”

I was struck by the force of this remark. I scarcely recognized Judd
Jason. The man, as he revealed himself, had become at once more sinister
and more fascinating.

“I can guess how some of those Jacobins felt when they had the
aristocrats in the dock. They’d got on top--the Jacobins, I mean. It’s
human nature to want to get on top--ain’t it?” He looked at me and
smiled, but he did not seem to expect a reply. “Well, what you call
society, rich, respectable society like you belong to would have made
a bum and a criminal out of me if I hadn’t been too smart for ‘em, and
it’s a kind of satisfaction to have ‘em coming down here to Monahan’s
for things they can’t have without my leave. I’ve got a half Nelson on
‘em. I wouldn’t live up on Grant Avenue if you gave me Scherer’s new
house.”

I was silent.

“Instead of starting my career in college, I started in jail,” he went
on, apparently ignoring any effect he may have produced. So subtly, so
dispassionately indeed was he delivering himself of these remarks that
it was impossible to tell whether he meant their application to be
personal, to me, or general, to my associates. “I went to jail when I
was fourteen because I wanted a knife to make kite sticks, and I stole a
razor from a barber. I was bitter when they steered me into a lockup in
Hickory Street. It was full of bugs and crooks, and they put me in
the same cell with an old-timer named ‘Red’ Waters; who was one of the
slickest safe-blowers around in those days. Red took a shine to me,
found out I had a head piece, and said their gang could use a clever
boy. If I’d go in with him, I could make all kinds of money. I guess
I might have joined the gang if Red hadn’t kept talking--about how
the boss of his district named Gallagher would come down and get him
out,--and sure enough Gallagher did come down and get him out. I thought
I’d rather be Gallagher than Red--Red had to serve time once in a while.
Soon as he got out I went down to Gallagher’s saloon, and there was
Red leaning over the bar. ‘Here’s a smart kid! he says, ‘He and me were
room-mates over in Hickory Street.’ He got to gassing me, and telling me
I’d better come along with him, when Gallagher came in. ‘What is it ye’d
like to be, my son?’ says he. A politician, I told him. I was through
going to jail. Gallagher had a laugh you could hear all over the place.
He took me on as a kind of handy boy around the establishment, and by
and by I began to run errands and find out things for him. I was boss of
that ward myself when I was twenty-six.... How’d you like that cigar?”

I praised it.

“It ought to have been a good one,” he declared. “Well, I don’t want to
keep you here all afternoon telling you my life story.”

I assured him I had been deeply interested.

“Pretty slick idea of yours, that dummy company, Mr. Paret. Go ahead and
organize it.” He rose, which was contrary to his custom on the departure
of a visitor. “Drop in again. We’ll talk about the books.”...

I walked slowly back reflecting on this conversation, upon the motives
impelling Mr. Jason to become thus confidential; nor was it the most
comforting thought in the world that the artist in me had appealed to
the artist in him, that he had hailed me as a breather. But for the
grace of God I might have been Mr. Jason and he Mr. Paret: undoubtedly
that was what he had meant to imply... And I was forced to admit that he
had succeeded--deliberately or not--in making the respectable Mr. Paret
just a trifle uncomfortable.

In the marble vestibule of the Corn National Bank I ran into Tallant,
holding his brown straw hat in his hand and looking a little more
moth-eaten than usual.

“Hello, Paret,” he said “how is that telephone business getting along?”

“Is Dickinson in?” I asked.

Tallant nodded.

We went through the cool bank, with its shining brass and red mahogany,
its tiled floor, its busy tellers attending to files of clients, to
the president’s sanctum in the rear. Leonard Dickinson, very spruce and
dignified in a black cutaway coat, was dictating rapidly to a woman,
stenographer, whom he dismissed when he saw us. The door was shut.

“I was just asking Paret about the telephone affair,” said Mr. Tallant.

“Well, have you found a way out?” Leonard Dickinson looked questioningly
at me.

“It’s all right,” I answered. “I’ve seen Jason.”

“All right!” they both ejaculated at once.

“We win,” I said.

They stood gazing at me. Even Dickinson, who was rarely ruffled, seemed
excited.

“Do you mean to say you’ve fixed it?” he demanded.

I nodded. They stared at me in amazement.

“How the deuce did you manage it?”

“We organize the Interurban Telephone Company, and bid for the
franchise--that’s all.”

“A dummy company!” cried Tallant. “Why, it’s simple as ABC!”

Dickinson smiled. He was tremendously relieved, and showed it.

“That’s true about all great ideas, Tallant,” he said. “They’re simple,
only it takes a clever man to think of them.”

“And Jason agrees?” Tallant demanded.

I nodded again. “We’ll have to outbid the Automatic people. I haven’t
seen Bitter yet about the--about the fee.”

“That’s all right,” said Leonard Dickinson, quickly. “I take off my
hat to you. You’ve saved us. You can ask any fee you like,” he added
genially. “Let’s go over to--to the Ashuela and get some lunch.” He had
been about to say the Club, but he remembered Mr. Tallant’s presence in
time. “Nothing’s worrying you, Hugh?” he added, as we went out, followed
by the glances of his employees.

“Nothing,” I said....



XVIX.

Making money in those days was so ridiculously easy! The trouble was to
know how to spend it. One evening when I got home I told Maude I had a
surprise for her.

“A surprise?” she asked, looking up from a little pink smock she was
making for Chickabiddy.

“I’ve bought that lot on Grant Avenue, next to the Ogilvys’.”

She dropped her sewing, and stared at me.

“Aren’t you pleased?” I asked. “At last we are going to have a house of
our very own. What’s the matter?”

“I can’t bear the thought of leaving here. I’m so used to it. I’ve grown
to love it. It’s part of me.”

“But,” I exclaimed, a little exasperated, “you didn’t expect to live
here always, did you? The house has been too small for us for years.
I thought you’d be delighted.” (This was not strictly true, for I had
rather expected some such action on her part.) “Most women would. Of
course, if it’s going to make such a difference to you as that, I’ll
sell the lot. That won’t be difficult.”

I got up, and started to go into my study. She half rose, and her sewing
fell to the floor.

“Oh, why are we always having misunderstandings? Do sit down a minute,
Hugh. Don’t think I’m not appreciative,” she pleaded. “It was--such a
shock.”

I sat down rather reluctantly.

“I can’t express what I think,” she continued, rather breathlessly, “but
sometimes I’m actually frightened, we’re going through life so fast in
these days, and it doesn’t seem as if we were getting the real things
out of it. I’m afraid of your success, and of all the money you’re
making.”

I smiled.

“I’m not so rich yet, as riches go in these days, that you need be
alarmed,” I said.

She looked at me helplessly a moment.

“I feel that it isn’t--right, somehow, that you’ll pay for it, that
we’ll pay for it. Goodness knows, we have everything we want, and more
too. This house--this house is real, and I’m afraid that won’t be a
home, won’t be real. That we’ll be overwhelmed with--with things!”...

She was interrupted by the entrance of the children. But after dinner,
when she had seen them to bed, as was her custom, she came downstairs
into my study and said quietly:--“I was wrong, Hugh. If you want to
build a house, if you feel that you’d be happier, I have no right to
object. Of course my sentiment for this house is natural, the children
were born here, but I’ve realized we couldn’t live here always.”

“I’m glad you look at it that way,” I replied. “Why, we’re already
getting cramped, Maude, and now you’re going to have a governess I don’t
know where you’d put her.”

“Not too large, a house,” she pleaded. “I know you think I’m silly, but
this extravagance we see everywhere does make me uneasy. Perhaps it’s
because I’m provincial, and always shall be.”

“Well, we must have a house large enough to be comfortable in,” I said.
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be comfortable.” I thought it as
well not to confess my ambitions, and I was greatly relieved that she
did not reproach me for buying the lot without consulting her. Indeed, I
was grateful for this unanticipated acquiescence, I felt nearer to her,
than I had for a long time. I drew up another chair to my desk.

“Sit down and we’ll make a few sketches, just for fun,” I urged.

“Hugh,” she said presently, as we were blacking out prospective rooms,
“do you remember all those drawings and plans we made in England, on our
wedding trip, and how we knew just what we wanted, and changed our minds
every few days? And now we’re ready to build, and haven’t any ideas at
all!”

“Yes,” I answered--but I did not look at her.

“I have the book still--it’s in the attic somewhere, packed away in a
box. I suppose those plans would seem ridiculous now.”

It was quite true,--now that we were ready to build the home that had
been deferred so long, now that I had the money to spend without stint
on its construction, the irony of life had deprived me of those strong
desires and predilections I had known on my wedding trip. What a joy it
would have been to build then! But now I found myself: wholly lacking in
definite ideas as to style and construction. Secretly, I looked forward
to certain luxuries, such as a bedroom and dressing-room and warm tiled
bathroom all to myself bachelor privacies for which I had longed. Two
mornings later at the breakfast table Maude asked me if I had thought of
an architect.

“Why, Archie Lammerton, I suppose. Who else is there? Have you anyone
else in mind?”

“N-no,” said Maude. “But I heard of such a clever man in Boston, who
doesn’t charge Mr. Lammerton’s prices; and who designs such beautiful
private houses.”

“But we can afford to pay Lammerton’s prices,” I replied, smiling. “And
why shouldn’t we have the best?”

“Are you sure--he is the best, Hugh?”

“Everybody has him,” I said.

Maude smiled in return.

“I suppose that’s a good reason,” she answered.

“Of course it’s a good reason,” I assured her. “These people--the people
we know--wouldn’t have had Lammerton unless he was satisfactory. What’s
the matter with his houses?”

“Well,” said Maude, “they’re not very original. I don’t say they’re not
good, in away, but they lack a certain imagination. It’s difficult for
me to express what I mean, ‘machine made’ isn’t precisely the idea, but
there should be a certain irregularity in art--shouldn’t there? I saw a
reproduction in one of the architectural journals of a house in Boston
by a man named Frey, that seemed to me to have great charm.”

Here was Lucia, unmistakably.

“That’s all very well,” I said impatiently, “but when one has to live in
a house, one wants something more than artistic irregularity. Lammerton
knows how to build for everyday existence; he’s a practical man, as well
as a man of taste, he may not be a Christopher Wrenn, but he understands
conveniences and comforts. His chimneys don’t smoke, his windows are
tight, he knows what systems of heating are the best, and whom to go
to: he knows what good plumbing is. I’m rather surprised you don’t
appreciate that, Maude, you’re so particular as to what kind of rooms
the children shall have, and you want a schoolroom-nursery with all the
latest devices, with sun and ventilation. The Berringers wouldn’t have
had him, the Hollisters and Dickinsons wouldn’t have had him if his work
lacked taste.”

“And Nancy wouldn’t have had him,” added Maude, and she smiled once
more.

“Well, I haven’t consulted Nancy, or anyone else,” I replied--a little
tartly, perhaps. “You don’t seem to realize that some fashions may have
a basis of reason. They are not all silly, as Lucia seems to think. If
Lammerton builds satisfactory houses, he ought to be forgiven for being
the fashion, he ought to have a chance.” I got up to leave. “Let’s see
what kind of a plan he’ll draw up, at any rate.”

Her glance was almost indulgent.

“Of course, Hugh. I want you to be satisfied, to be pleased,” she said.

“And you?” I questioned, “you are to live in the house more than I.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will turn out all right,” she replied. “Now you’d
better run along, I know you’re late.”

“I am late,” I admitted, rather lamely. “If you don’t care for
Lammerton’s drawings, we’ll get another architect.”

Several years before Mr. Lammerton had arrived among us with a Beaux
Arts moustache and letters of introduction to Mrs. Durrett and others.
We found him the most adaptable, the most accommodating of young
men, always ready to donate his talents and his services to private
theatricals, tableaux, and fancy-dress balls, to take a place at a
table at the last moment. One of his most appealing attributes was his
“belief” in our city,--a form of patriotism that culminated, in later
years, in “million population” clubs. I have often heard him declare,
when the ladies had left the dining-room, that there was positively no
limit to our future growth; and, incidentally, to our future wealth.
Such sentiments as these could not fail to add to any man’s popularity,
and his success was a foregone conclusion. Almost before we knew it he
was building the new Union Station of which he had foreseen the need,
to take care of the millions to which our population was to be swelled;
building the new Post Office that the unceasing efforts of Theodore
Watling finally procured for us: building, indeed, Nancy’s new house,
the largest of our private mansions save Mr. Scherer’s, a commission
that had immediately brought about others from the Dickinsons and the
Berringers.... That very day I called on him in his offices at the top
of one of our new buildings, where many young draftsmen were bending
over their boards. I was ushered into his private studio.

“I suppose you want something handsome, Hugh,” he said, looking at me
over his cigarette, “something commensurate with these fees I hear you
are getting.”

“Well, I want to be comfortable,” I admitted.

We lunched at the Club together, where we talked over the requirements.

When he came to dinner the next week and spread out his sketch on the
living-room table Maude drew in her breath.

“Why, Hugh,” she exclaimed in dismay, “it’s as big as--as big as the
White House!”

“Not quite,” I answered, laughing with Archie. “We may as well take our
ease in our old age.”

“Take our ease!” echoed Maude. “We’ll rattle ‘round in it. I’ll never
get used to it.”

“After a month, Mrs. Paret, I’ll wager you’ll be wondering how you ever
got along without it,” said Archie.

It was not as big as the White House, yet it could not be called small.
I had seen, to that. The long facade was imposing, dignified, with a
touch of conventionality and solidity in keeping with my standing in the
city. It was Georgian, of plum-coloured brick with marble trimmings and
marble wedges over the ample windows, some years later I saw the house
by Ferguson, of New York, from which Archie had cribbed it. At one end,
off the dining-room, was a semicircular conservatory. There was a small
portico, with marble pillars, and in the ample, swift sloping roof
many dormers; servants’ rooms, Archie explained. The look of anxiety
on Maude’s face deepened as he went over the floor plans, the
reception-room; dining room to seat thirty, the servants’ hall;
and upstairs Maude’s room, boudoir and bath and dress closet, my
“apartments” adjoining on one side and the children’s on the other, and
the guest-rooms with baths....

Maude surrendered, as one who gives way to the inevitable. When the
actual building began we both of us experienced, I think; a certain mild
excitement; and walked out there, sometimes with the children, in the
spring evenings, and on Sunday afternoons. “Excitement” is, perhaps, too
strong a word for my feelings: there was a pleasurable anticipation
on my part, a looking forward to a more decorous, a more luxurious
existence; a certain impatience at the delays inevitable in building.
But a new legal commercial enterprise of magnitude began to absorb me
at his time, and somehow the building of this home--the first that we
possessed was not the event it should have been; there were moments when
I felt cheated, when I wondered what had become of that capacity for
enjoyment which in my youth had been so keen. I remember indeed, one
grey evening when I went there alone, after the workmen had departed,
and stood in the litter of mortar and bricks and boards gazing at the
completed front of the house. It was even larger than I had imagined it
from the plans; in the Summer twilight there was an air about it,--if
not precisely menacing, at least portentous, with its gaping windows
and towering roof. I was a little tired from a hard day; I had the
odd feeding of having raised up something with which--momentarily
at least--I doubted my ability to cope: something huge, impersonal;
something that ought to have represented a fireside, a sanctuary, and
yet was the embodiment of an element quite alien to the home; a restless
element with which our American atmosphere had, by invisible degrees,
become charged. As I stared at it, the odd fancy seized me that the
building somehow typified my own career.... I had gained something, in
truth, but had I not also missed something? something a different home
would have embodied?

Maude and the children had gone, to the seaside.

With a vague uneasiness I turned away from the contemplation of those
walls. The companion mansions were closed, their blinds tightly drawn;
the neighbourhood was as quiet as the country, save for a slight but
persistent noise that impressed itself on my consciousness. I walked
around the house to spy in the back yard; a young girl rather stealthily
gathering laths, and fragments of joists and flooring, and loading
them into a child’s express-wagon. She started when she saw me. She was
little, more than a child, and the loose calico dress she wore seemed
to emphasize her thinness. She stood stock-still, staring at me with
frightened yet defiant eyes. I, too, felt a strange timidity in her
presence.

“Why do you stop?” I asked at length.

“Say, is this your heap?” she demanded.

I acknowledged it. A hint of awe widened her eyes. Then site glanced at
the half-filled wagon.

“This stuff ain’t no use to you, is it?”

“No, I’m glad to have you take it.”

She shifted to the other foot, but did not continue her gathering.
An impulse seized me, I put down my walkingstick and began picking up
pieces of wood, flinging them into the wagon. I looked at her again,
rather furtively; she had not moved. Her attitude puzzled me, for it
was one neither of surprise nor of protest. The spectacle of the
“millionaire” owner of the house engaged in this menial occupation gave
her no thrills. I finished the loading.

“There!” I said, and drew a dollar bill out of my pocket and gave it to
her. Even then she did not thank me, but took up the wagon tongue and
went off, leaving on me a disheartening impression of numbness, of
life crushed out. I glanced up once more at the mansion I had built for
myself looming in the dusk, and walked hurriedly away....

One afternoon some three weeks after we had moved into the new house,
I came out of the Club, where I had been lunching in conference with
Scherer and two capitalists from New York. It was after four o’clock,
the day was fading, the street lamps were beginning to cast sickly
streaks of jade-coloured light across the slush of the pavements. It was
the sight of this slush (which for a brief half hour that morning
had been pure snow, and had sent Matthew and Moreton and Biddy into
ecstasies at the notion of a “real Christmas”), that brought to my mind
the immanence of the festival, and the fact that I had as yet bought no
presents. Such was the predicament in which I usually found myself on
Christmas eve; and it was not without a certain sense of annoyance at
the task thus abruptly confronting me that I got into my automobile and
directed the chauffeur to the shopping district. The crowds surged along
the wet sidewalks and overflowed into the street, and over the heads of
the people I stared at the blazing shop-windows decked out in Christmas
greens. My chauffeur, a bristly-haired Parisian, blew his horn
insolently, men and women jostled each other to get out of the way,
their holiday mood giving place to resentment as they stared into the
windows of the limousine. With the American inability to sit still I
shifted from one corner of the seat to another, impatient at the slow
progress of the machine: and I felt a certain contempt for human beings,
that they should make all this fuss, burden themselves with all these
senseless purchases, for a tradition. The automobile stopped, and I
fought my way across the sidewalk into the store of that time-honoured
firm, Elgin, Yates and Garner, pausing uncertainly before the very
counter where, some ten years before, I had bought an engagement ring.
Young Mr. Garner himself spied me, and handing over a customer to a
tired clerk, hurried forward to greet me, his manner implying that my
entrance was in some sort an event. I had become used to this aroma of
deference.

“What can I show you, Mr. Paret?” he asked.

“I don’t know--I’m looking around,” I said, vaguely, bewildered by the
glittering baubles by which I was confronted. What did Maude want? While
I was gazing into the case, Mr. Garner opened a safe behind him, laying
before me a large sapphire set with diamonds in a platinum brooch; a
beautiful stone, in the depths of it gleaming a fire like a star in an
arctic sky. I had not given Maude anything of value of late. Decidedly,
this was of value; Mr. Garner named the price glibly; if Mrs. Paret
didn’t care for it, it might be brought back or exchanged. I took it,
with a sigh of relief. Leaving the store, I paused on the edge of the
rushing stream of humanity, with the problem of the children’s gifts
still to be solved. I thought of my own childhood, when at Christmastide
I had walked with my mother up and down this very street, so changed
and modernized now; recalling that I had had definite desires, desperate
ones; but my imagination failed me when I tried to summon up the
emotions connected with them. I had no desires now: I could buy anything
in reason in the whole street. What did Matthew and Moreton want? and
little Biddy? Maude had not “spoiled” them; but they didn’t seem to have
any definite wants. The children made me think, with a sudden softening,
of Tom Peters, and I went into a tobacconist’s and bought him a box of
expensive cigars. Then I told the chauffeur to take me to a toy-shop,
where I stood staring through a plate-glass window at the elaborate
playthings devised for the modern children of luxury. In the centre
was a toy man-of-war, three feet in length, with turrets and guns, and
propellers and a real steam-engine. As a boy I should have dreamed about
it, schemed for it, bartered my immortal soul for it. But--if I gave
it to Matthew, what was there for Moreton? A steam locomotive caught my
eye, almost as elaborate. Forcing my way through the doors, I captured
a salesman, and from a state bordering on nervous collapse he became
galvanized into an intense alertness and respect when he understood my
desires. He didn’t know the price of the objects in question. He brought
the proprietor, an obsequious little German who, on learning my name,
repeated it in every sentence. For Biddy I chose a doll that was all but
human; when held by a young woman for my inspection, it elicited murmurs
of admiration from the women shoppers by whom we were surrounded. The
proprietor promised to make a special delivery of the three articles
before seven o’clock....

Presently the automobile, after speeding up the asphalt of Grant Avenue,
stopped before the new house. In spite of the change that house had made
in my life, in three weeks I had become amazingly used to it; yet I had
an odd feeling that Christmas eve as I stood under the portico with
my key in the door, the same feeling of the impersonality of the place
which I had experienced before. Not that for one moment I would have
exchanged it for the smaller house we had left. I opened the door. How
often, in that other house, I had come in the evening seeking quiet, my
brain occupied with a problem, only to be annoyed by the romping of the
children on the landing above. A noise in one end of it echoed to the
other. But here, as I entered the hall, all was quiet: a dignified,
deep-carpeted stairway swept upward before me, and on either side were
wide, empty rooms; and in the subdued light of one of them I saw a dark
figure moving silently about--the butler. He came forward to relieve
me, deftly, of my hat and overcoat. Well, I had it at last, this
establishment to which I had for so long looked forward. And yet that
evening, as I hesitated in the hall, I somehow was unable to grasp that
it was real and permanent, the very solidity of the walls and doors
paradoxically suggested transientness, the butler a flitting ghost. How
still the place was! Almost oppressively still. I recalled oddly a story
of a peasant who, yearning for the great life, had stumbled upon an
empty palace, its tables set with food in golden dishes. Before two days
had passed he had fled from it in horror back to his crowded cottage and
his drudgery in the fields. Never once had the sense of possession of
the palace been realized. Nor did I feel that I possessed this house,
though I had the deeds of it in my safe and the receipted bills in my
files. It eluded me; seemed, in my bizarre mood of that evening, almost
to mock me. “You have built me,” it seemed to say, “but I am stronger
than you, because you have not earned me.” Ridiculous, when the years
of my labour and the size of my bank account were considered! Such,
however, is the verbal expression of my feeling. Was the house empty,
after all? Had something happened? With a slight panicky sensation I
climbed the stairs, with their endless shallow treads, to hurry through
the silent hallway to the schoolroom. Reassuring noises came faintly
through the heavy door. I opened it. Little Biddy was careening round
and round, crying out:--“To-morrow’s Chris’mas! Santa Claus is coming
tonight.”

Matthew was regarding her indulgently, sympathetically, Moreton rather
scornfully. The myth had been exploded for both, but Matthew still
hugged it. That was the difference between them. Maude, seated on the
floor, perceived me first, and glanced up at me with a smile.

“It’s father!” she said.

Biddy stopped in the midst of a pirouette. At the age of seven she was
still shy with me, and retreated towards Maude.

“Aren’t we going to have a tree, father?” demanded Moreton,
aggressively. “Mother won’t tell us--neither will Miss Allsop.”

Miss Allsop was their governess.

“Why do you want a tree?” I asked.

“Oh, for Biddy,” he said.

“It wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree,” Matthew declared, “--and
Santa Claus,” he added, for his sister’s benefit.

“Perhaps Santa Claus, when he sees we’ve got this big house, will think
we don’t need anything, and go on to some poorer children,” said Maude.
“You wouldn’t blame him if he did that,--would you?”

The response to this appeal cannot be said to have been enthusiastic....

After dinner, when at last all of them were in bed, we dressed the tree;
it might better be said that Maude and Miss Allsop dressed it, while I
gave a perfunctory aid. Both the women took such a joy in the process,
vying with each other in getting effects, and as I watched them eagerly
draping the tinsel and pinning on the glittering ornaments I wondered
why it was that I was unable to find the same joy as they. Thus it had
been every Christmas eve. I was always tired when I got home, and after
dinner relaxation set in.

An electrician had come while we were at the table, and had fastened on
the little electric bulbs which did duty as candles.

“Oh,” said Maude, as she stood off to survey the effect, “isn’t it
beautiful! Come, Miss Allsop, let’s get the presents.”

They flew out of the room, and presently hurried back with their arms
full of the usual parcels: parcels from Maude’s family in Elkington,
from my own relatives, from the Blackwoods and the Peterses, from Nancy.
In the meantime I had had my own contributions brought up, the man of
war, the locomotive, the big doll. Maude stood staring.

“Hugh, they’ll be utterly ruined!” she exclaimed.

“The boys might as well have something instructive,” I replied, “and as
for Biddy--nothing’s too good for her.”

“I might have known you wouldn’t forget them, although you are so
busy.”....

We filled the three stockings hung by the great fireplace. Then, with
a last lingering look at the brightness of the tree, she stood in the
doorway and turned the electric switch.

“Not before seven to-morrow morning, Miss Allsop,” she said. “Hugh, you
will get up, won’t you? You mustn’t miss seeing them. You can go back to
bed again.”

I promised.

Evidently, this was Reality to Maude. And had it not been one of
my dreams of marriage, this preparing for the children’s Christmas,
remembering the fierce desires of my own childhood? It struck me, after
I had kissed her good night and retired to my dressing-room, that fierce
desires burned within me still, but the objects towards which their
flames leaped out differed. That was all. Had I remained a child, since
my idea of pleasure was still that of youth? The craving far excitement,
adventure, was still unslaked; the craving far freedom as keen as ever.
During the whole of my married life, I had been conscious of an inner
protest against “settling down,” as Tom Peters had settled down. The
smaller house from which we had moved, with its enforced propinquity,
hard emphasized the bondage of marriage. Now I had two rooms to myself,
in the undisputed possession of which I had taken a puerile delight. On
one side of my dressing-room Archie Lammerton had provided a huge
closet containing the latest devices for the keeping of a multitudinous
wardrobe; there was a reading-lamp, and the easiest of easy-chairs,
imported from England, while between the windows were shelves of
Italian walnut which I had filled with the books I had bought while at
Cambridge, and had never since opened. As I sank down in my chair
that odd feeling of uneasiness, of transience and unreality, of
unsatisfaction I had had ever since we had moved suddenly became
intensified, and at the very moment when I had gained everything I
had once believed a man could desire! I was successful, I was rich, my
health had not failed, I had a wife who catered to my wishes, lovable
children who gave no trouble and yet--there was still the void to be
filled, the old void I had felt as a boy, the longing for something
beyond me, I knew not what; there was the strange inability to taste any
of these things, the need at every turn for excitement, for a stimulus.
My marriage had been a disappointment, though I strove to conceal this
from myself; a disappointment because it had not filled the requirements
of my category--excitement and mystery: I had provided the setting
and lacked the happiness. Another woman Nancy--might have given me the
needed stimulation; and yet my thoughts did not dwell on Nancy that
night, my longings were not directed towards her, but towards the
vision of a calm, contented married happiness I had looked forward to
in youth,--a vision suddenly presented once more by the sight of Maude’s
simple pleasure in dressing the Christmas tree. What restless, fiendish
element in me prevented my enjoying that? I had something of the fearful
feeling of a ghost in my own house and among my own family, of a spirit
doomed to wander, unable to share in what should have been my own, in
what would have saved me were I able to partake of it. Was it too late
to make that effort?... Presently the strains of music pervaded my
consciousness, the chimes of Trinity ringing out in the damp night the
Christmas hymn, Adeste Fideles. It was midnight it was Christmas. How
clear the notes rang through the wet air that came in at my window! Back
into the dim centuries that music led me, into candle-lit Gothic chapels
of monasteries on wind-swept heights above the firs, and cathedrals
in mediaeval cities. Twilight ages of war and scourge and stress and
storm--and faith. “Oh, come, all ye Faithful!” What a strange thing,
that faith whose flame so marvellously persisted, piercing the gloom;
the Christmas myth, as I had heard someone once call it. Did it possess
the power to save me? Save me from what? Ah, in this hour I knew. In
the darkness the Danger loomed up before me, vague yet terrible, and I
trembled. Why was not this Thing ever present, to chasten and sober me?
The Thing was myself.

Into my remembrance, by what suggestion I know not, came that March
evening when I had gone to Holder Chapel at Harvard to listen to a
preacher, a personality whose fame and influence had since spread
throughout the land. Some dim fear had possessed me then. I recalled
vividly the man, and the face of Hermann Krebs as I drew back from the
doorway....

When I awoke my disquieting, retrospective mood had disappeared, and
yet there clung to me, minus the sanction of fear or reward or revealed
truth, a certain determination to behave, on this day at least, more
like a father and a husband: to make an effort to enter into the spirit
of the festival, and see what happened. I dressed in cheerful haste,
took the sapphire pendant from its velvet box, tiptoed into the still
silent schoolroom and hung it on the tree, flooding on the electric
light that set the tinsel and globes ablaze. No sooner had I done this
than I heard the patter of feet in the hallway, and a high-pitched
voice--Biddy’s--crying out:--“It’s Santa Claus!”

Three small, flannel-wrappered figures stood in the doorway.

“Why, it’s father!” exclaimed Moreton.

“And he’s all dressed!” said Matthew.

“Oh-h-h!” cried Biddy, staring at the blazing tree, “isn’t it
beautiful!”

Maude was close behind them. She gave an exclamation of delighted
surprise when she saw me, and then stood gazing with shining eyes at
the children, especially at Biddy, who stood dazzled by the glory of the
constellation confronting her.... Matthew, too, wished to prolong the
moment of mystery. It was the practical Moreton who cried:--“Let’s see
what we’ve got!”

The assault and the sacking began. I couldn’t help thinking as I watched
them of my own wildly riotous, Christmas-morning sensations, when all
the gifts had worn the aura of the supernatural; but the arrival of
these toys was looked upon by my children as a part of the natural order
of the universe. At Maude’s suggestion the night before we had placed my
presents, pieces de resistance, at a distance from the tree, in the hope
that they would not be spied at once, that they would be in some sort a
climax. It was Matthew who first perceived the ship, and identified it,
by the card, as his property. To him it was clearly wonderful, but no
miracle. He did not cry out, or call the attention of the others to it,
but stood with his feet apart, examining it, his first remark being
a query as to why it didn’t fly the American flag. It’s ensign was
British. Then Moreton saw the locomotive, was told that it was his, and
took possession of it violently. Why wasn’t there more track? Wouldn’t
I get more track? I explained that it would go by steam, and he began
unscrewing the cap on the little boiler until he was distracted by the
man-of-war, and with natural acquisitiveness started to take possession
of that. Biddy was bewildered by the doll, which Maude had taken up and
was holding in her lap. She had had talking dolls before, and dolls
that closed their eyes; she recognized this one, indeed, as a sort of
super-doll, but her little mind was modern, too, and set no limits on
what might be accomplished. She patted it, but was more impressed by the
raptures of Miss Allsop, who had come in and was admiring it with some
extravagance. Suddenly the child caught sight of her stocking, until now
forgotten, and darted for the fireplace.

I turned to Maude, who stood beside me, watching them.

“But you haven’t looked on the tree yourself,” I reminded her.

She gave me an odd, questioning glance, and got up and set down the
doll. As she stood for a moment gazing at the lights, she seemed very
girlish in her dressing-gown, with her hair in two long plaits down her
back.

“Oh, Hugh!” She lifted the pendant from the branch and held it up.
Her gratitude, her joy at receiving a present was deeper than the
children’s!

“You chose it for me?”

I felt something like a pang when I thought how little trouble it had
been.

“If you don’t like it,” I said, “or wish to have it changed--”

“Changed!” she exclaimed reproachfully. “Do you think I’d change it?
Only--it’s much too valuable--”

I smiled.... Miss Allsop deftly undid the clasp and hung it around
Maude’s neck.

“How it suits you, Mrs. Paret!” she cried....

This pendant was by no means the only present I had given Maude in
recent years, and though she cared as little for jewels as for dress she
seemed to attach to it a peculiar value and significance that disturbed
and smote me, for the incident had revealed a love unchanged and
unchangeable. Had she taken my gift as a sign that my indifference was
melting?

As I went downstairs and into the library to read the financial page of
the morning newspaper I asked myself, with a certain disquiet, whether,
in the formal, complicated, and luxurious conditions in which we now
lived it might be possible to build up new ties and common interests.
I reflected that this would involve confessions and confidences on
my part, since there was a whole side of my life of which Maude knew
nothing. I had convinced myself long ago that a man’s business career
was no affair of his wife’s: I had justified that career to myself: yet
I had always had a vague feeling that Maude, had she known the details,
would not have approved of it. Impossible, indeed, for a woman to grasp
these problems. They were outside of her experience.

Nevertheless, something might be done to improve our relationship,
something which would relieve me of that uneasy lack of unity I felt
when at home, of the lassitude and ennui I was wont to feel creeping
over me on Sundays and holidays....



XX.

I find in relating those parts of my experience that seem to be of
most significance I have neglected to tell of my mother’s death, which
occurred the year before we moved to Grant Avenue. She had clung the
rest of her days to the house in which I had been born. Of late years
she had lived in my children, and Maude’s devotion to her had been
unflagging. Truth compels me to say that she had long ceased to be a
factor in my life. I have thought of her in later years.

Coincident with the unexpected feeling of fruitlessness that came to
me with the Grant Avenue house, of things achieved but not realized or
appreciated, was the appearance of a cloud on the business horizon; or
rather on the political horizon, since it is hard to separate the two
realms. There were signs, for those who could read, of a rising popular
storm. During the earliest years of the new century the political
atmosphere had changed, the public had shown a tendency to grow
restless; and everybody knows how important it is for financial
operations, for prosperity, that the people should mind their own
business. In short, our commercial-romantic pilgrimage began to meet
with unexpected resistance. It was as though the nation were entering
into a senseless conspiracy to kill prosperity.

In the first place, in regard to the Presidency of the United States,
a cog had unwittingly been slipped. It had always been recognized--as I
have said--by responsible financial personages that the impulses of
the majority of Americans could not be trusted, that these--who had
inherited illusions of freedom--must be governed firmly yet with
delicacy; unknown to them, their Presidents must be chosen for them,
precisely as Mr. Watling had been chosen for the people of our state,
and the popular enthusiasm manufactured later. There were informal
meetings in New York, in Washington, where candidates were discussed;
not that such and such a man was settled upon,--it was a process of
elimination. Usually the affair had gone smoothly. For instance, a while
before, a benevolent capitalist of the middle west, an intimate of Adolf
Scherer, had become obsessed with the idea that a friend of his was
the safest and sanest man for the head of the nation, had convinced his
fellow-capitalists of this, whereupon he had gone ahead to spend his
energy and his money freely to secure the nomination and election of
this gentleman.

The Republican National Committee, the Republican National Convention
were allowed to squabble to their hearts’ content as to whether Smith,
Jones or Brown should be nominated, but it was clearly understood that
if Robinson or White were chosen there would be no corporation campaign
funds. This applied also to the Democratic party, on the rare occasions
when it seemed to have an opportunity of winning. Now, however, through
an unpardonable blunder, there had got into the White House a President
who was inclined to ignore advice, who appealed over the heads of the
“advisers” to the populace; who went about tilting at the industrial
structures we had so painfully wrought, and in frequent blasts of
presidential messages enunciated new and heretical doctrines; who
attacked the railroads, encouraged the brazen treason of labour unions,
inspired an army of “muck-rakers” to fill the magazines with the wildest
and most violent of language. State legislatures were emboldened to
pass mischievous and restrictive laws, and much of my time began to
be occupied in inducing, by various means, our courts to declare these
unconstitutional. How we sighed for a business man or a lawyer in the
White House! The country had gone mad, the stock-market trembled,
the cry of “corporation control” resounded everywhere, and everywhere
demagogues arose to inaugurate “reform campaigns,” in an abortive
attempt to “clean up politics.” Down with the bosses, who were the tools
of the corporations!

In our own city, which we fondly believed to be proof against the
prevailing madness, a slight epidemic occurred; slight, yet momentarily
alarming. Accidents will happen, even in the best regulated political
organizations,--and accidents in these days appeared to be the rule.
A certain Mr. Edgar Greenhalge, a middle-aged, mild-mannered and
inoffensive man who had made a moderate fortune in wholesale drugs, was
elected to the School Board. Later on some of us had reason to suspect
that Perry Blackwood--with more astuteness than he had been given credit
for--was responsible for Mr. Greenhalge’s candidacy. At any rate, he was
not a man to oppose, and in his previous life had given no hint that he
might become a trouble maker. Nothing happened for several months.
But one day on which I had occasion to interview Mr. Jason on a little
matter of handing over to the Railroad a piece of land belonging to the
city, which was known as Billings’ Bowl, he inferred that Mr. Greenhaige
might prove a disturber of that profound peace with which the city
administration had for many years been blessed.

“Who the hell is he?” was Mr. Jason’s question.

It appeared that Mr. G.’s private life had been investigated, with
disappointingly barren results; he was, seemingly, an anomalistic being
in our Nietzschean age, an unaggressive man; he had never sold any drugs
to the city; he was not a church member; nor could it be learned that
he had ever wandered into those byways of the town where Mr. Jason might
easily have got trace of him: if he had any vices, he kept them locked
up in a safe-deposit box that could not be “located.” He was very
genial, and had a way of conveying disturbing facts--when he wished to
convey them--under cover of the most amusing stories. Mr. Jason was not
a man to get panicky. Greenhalge could be handled all right, only--what
was there in it for Greenhalge?--a nut difficult for Mr. Jason to crack.
The two other members of the School Board were solid. Here again the
wisest of men was proved to err, for Mr. Greenhalge turned out to have
powers of persuasion; he made what in religious terms would have been
called a conversion in the case of another member of the board,
an hitherto staunch old reprobate by the name of Muller, an
ex-saloon-keeper in comfortable circumstances to whom the idea of public
office had appealed.

Mr. Greenhalge, having got wind of certain transactions that interested
him extremely, brought them in his good-natured way to the knowledge of
Mr. Gregory, the district attorney, suggesting that he investigate. Mr.
Gregory smiled; undertook, as delicately as possible, to convey to
Mr. Greenhalge the ways of the world, and of the political world
in particular, wherein, it seemed, everyone was a good fellow. Mr.
Greenhalge was evidently a good fellow, and didn’t want to make trouble
over little things. No, Mr. Greenhalge didn’t want to make trouble;
he appreciated a comfortable life as much as Mr. Gregory; he told the
district attorney a funny story which might or might not have had an
application to the affair, and took his leave with the remark that he
had been happy to make Mr. Gregory’s acquaintance. On his departure
the district attorney’s countenance changed. He severely rebuked a
subordinate for some trivial mistake, and walked as rapidly as he could
carry his considerable weight to Monahan’s saloon.... One of the things
Mr. Gregory had pointed out incidentally was that Mr. Greenhalge’s
evidence was vague, and that a grand jury wanted facts, which might be
difficult to obtain. Mr. Greenhalge, thinking over the suggestion,
sent for Krebs. In the course of a month or two the investigation
was accomplished, Greenhalge went back to Gregory; who repeated his
homilies, whereupon he was handed a hundred or so typewritten pages of
evidence.

It was a dramatic moment.

Mr. Gregory resorted to pleading. He was sure that Mr. Greenhalge didn’t
want to be disagreeable, it was true and unfortunate that such things
were so, but they would be amended: he promised all his influence to
amend them. The public conscience, said Mr. Gregory, was being aroused.
Now how much better for the party, for the reputation, the fair name of
the city if these things could be corrected quietly, and nobody indicted
or tried! Between sensible and humane men, wasn’t that the obvious way?
After the election, suit could be brought to recover the money. But Mr.
Greenhalge appeared to be one of those hopeless individuals without a
spark of party loyalty; he merely continued to smile, and to suggest
that the district attorney prosecute. Mr. Gregory temporized, and
presently left the city on a vacation. A day or two after his second
visit to the district attorney’s office Mr. Greenhalge had a call
from the city auditor and the purchasing agent, who talked about
their families,--which was very painful. It was also intimated to Mr.
Greenhalge by others who accosted him that he was just the man for
mayor. He smiled, and modestly belittled his qualifications....

Suddenly, one fine morning, a part of the evidence Krebs had gathered
appeared in the columns of the Mail and State, a new and enterprising
newspaper for which the growth and prosperity of our city were
responsible; the sort of “revelations” that stirred to amazement and
wrath innocent citizens of nearly every city in our country: politics
and “graft” infesting our entire educational system, teachers and
janitors levied upon, prices that took the breath away paid to favoured
firms for supplies, specifications so worded that reasonable bids were
barred. The respectable firm of Ellery and Knowles was involved.
In spite of our horror, we were Americans and saw the humour of
the situation, and laughed at the caricature in the Mail and State
representing a scholar holding up a pencil and a legend under it, “No,
it’s not gold, but it ought to be.”

Here I must enter into a little secret history. Any affair that
threatened the integrity of Mr. Jason’s organization was of serious
moment to the gentlemen of the financial world who found that
organization invaluable and who were also concerned about the fair name
of their community; a conference in the Boyne Club decided that the city
officials were being persecuted, and entitled therefore to “the very
best of counsel,”--in this instance, Mr. Hugh Paret. It was also thought
wise by Mr. Dickinson, Mr. Gorse, and Mr. Grierson, and by Mr. Paret
himself that he should not appear in the matter; an aspiring young
attorney, Mr. Arbuthnot, was retained to conduct the case in public.
Thus capital came to the assistance of Mr. Jason, a fund was raised,
and I was given carte blanche to defend the miserable city auditor and
purchasing agent, both of whom elicited my sympathy; for they were stout
men, and rapidly losing weight. Our first care was to create a delay in
the trial of the case in order to give the public excitement a chance to
die down. For the public is proverbially unable to fix its attention
for long on one object, continually demanding the distraction that our
newspapers make it their business to supply. Fortunately, a murder was
committed in one of our suburbs, creating a mystery that filled the
“extras” for some weeks, and this was opportunely followed by the
embezzlement of a considerable sum by the cashier of one of our state
banks. Public interest was divided between baseball and the tracking of
this criminal to New Zealand.

Our resentment was directed, not so much against Commissioner Greenhalge
as against Krebs. It is curious how keen is the instinct of men like
Grierson, Dickinson, Tallant and Scherer for the really dangerous
opponent. Who the deuce was this man Krebs? Well, I could supply them
with some information: they doubtless recalled the Galligan, case; and
Miller Gorse, who forgot nothing, also remembered his opposition in the
legislature to House Bill 709. He had continued to be the obscure legal
champion of “oppressed” labour, but how he had managed to keep body and
soul together I knew not. I had encountered him occasionally in court
corridors or on the street; he did not seem to change much; nor did he
appear in our brief and perfunctory conversations to bear any resentment
against me for the part I had taken in the Galligan affair. I avoided
him when it was possible.... I had to admit that he had done a
remarkably good piece of work in collecting Greenhalge’s evidence, and
how the erring city officials were to be rescued became a matter of
serious concern. Gregory, the district attorney, was in an abject funk;
in any case a mediocre lawyer, after the indictment he was no help at
all. I had to do all the work, and after we had selected the particular
“Railroad” judge before whom the case was to be tried, I talked it
over with him. His name was Notting, he understood perfectly what was
required of him, and that he was for the moment the chief bulwark on
which depended the logical interests of capital and sane government for
their defence; also, his re-election was at stake. It was indicated
to newspapers (such as the Mail and State) showing a desire to keep
up public interest in the affair that their advertising matter might
decrease; Mr. Sherrill’s great department store, for instance, did not
approve of this sort of agitation. Certain stationers, booksellers
and other business men had got “cold feet,” as Mr. Jason put it, the
prospect of bankruptcy suddenly looming ahead of them,--since the Corn
National Bank held certain paper....

In short, when the case did come to trial, it “blew up,” as one of our
ward leaders dynamically expressed it. Several important witnesses were
mysteriously lacking, and two or three school-teachers had suddenly
decided--to take a trip to Europe. The district attorney was ill,
and assigned the prosecution to a mild assistant; while a sceptical
jury--composed largely of gentlemen who had the business interests of
the community, and of themselves, at heart returned a verdict of “not
guilty.” This was the signal for severely dignified editorials in Mr.
Tallant’s and other conservative newspapers, hinting that it might be
well in the future for all well-meaning but misguided reformers to
think twice before subjecting the city to the cost of such trials, and
uselessly attempting to inflame public opinion and upset legitimate
business. The Era expressed the opinion that no city in the United
States was “more efficiently and economically governed than our own.”
 “Irregularities” might well occur in every large organization; and it
would better have become Mr. Greenhalge if, instead of hiring an unknown
lawyer thirsting for notoriety to cook up charges, he had called the
attention of the proper officials to the matter, etc., etc. The Pilot
alone, which relied on sensation for its circulation, kept hammering
away for a time with veiled accusations. But our citizens had become
weary....

As a topic, however, this effective suppression of reform was referred
to with some delicacy by my friends and myself. Our interference had
been necessary and therefore justified, but we were not particularly
proud of it, and our triumph had a temporarily sobering effect. It was
about this time, if I remember correctly, that Mr. Dickinson gave the
beautiful stained-glass window to the church....

Months passed. One day, having occasion to go over to the Boyne Iron
Works to get information at first hand from certain officials, and
having finished my business, I boarded a South Side electric car
standing at the terminal. Just before it started Krebs came down the
aisle of the car and took the seat in front of me.

“Well,” I said, “how are you?” He turned in surprise, and thrust his
big, bony hand across the back of the seat. “Come and sit here.”
 He came. “Do you ever get back to Cambridge in these days?” I asked
cordially.

“Not since I graduated from newspaper work in Boston. That’s a good many
years ago. By the way, our old landlady died this year.”

“Do you mean--?” “Granite Face,” I was about to say. I had forgotten
her name, but that homesick scene when Tom and I stood before our open
trunks, when Krebs had paid us a visit, came back to me. “You’ve kept in
touch with her?” I asked, in surprise.

“Well,” said Krebs, “she was one of the few friends I had at Cambridge.
I had a letter from the daughter last week. She’s done very well, and is
an instructor in biology in one of the western universities.”

I was silent a moment.

“And you,--you never married, did you?” I inquired, somewhat
irrelevantly.

His semi-humorous gesture seemed to deny that such a luxury was for
him. The conversation dragged a little; I began to feel the curiosity he
invariably inspired. What was his life? What were his beliefs? And I was
possessed by a certain militancy, a desire to “smoke him out.” I did
not stop to reflect that mine was in reality a defensive rather than an
aggressive attitude.

“Do you live down here, in this part of the city?” I asked.

No, he boarded in Fowler Street. I knew it as in a district given over
to the small houses of working-men.

“I suppose you are still a socialist.”

“I suppose I am,” he admitted, and added, “at any rate, that is as near
as you can get to it.”

“Isn’t it fairly definite?”

“Fairly, if my notions are taken in general as the antithesis of what
you fellows believe.”

“The abolition of property, for instance.”

“The abolition of too much property.”

“What do you mean by ‘too much’?”

“When it ceases to be real to a man, when it represents more than his
need, when it drives him and he becomes a slave to it.”

Involuntarily I thought of my new house,--not a soothing reflection.

“But who is going to decree how much property, a man should have?”

“Nobody--everybody. That will gradually tend to work itself out as we
become more sensible and better educated, and understand more clearly
what is good for us.”

I retorted with the stock, common-sense phrase.

“If we had a division to-morrow, within a few years or so the most
efficient would contrive to get the bulk of it back in their hands.”

“That’s so,” he admitted. “But we’re not going to have a division
to-morrow.”

“Thank God!” I exclaimed.

He regarded me.

“The ‘efficient’ will have to die or be educated first. That will take
time.”

“Educated!”

“Paret, have you ever read any serious books on what you call
socialism?” he asked.

I threw out an impatient negative. I was going on to protest that I was
not ignorant of the doctrine.

“Oh, what you call socialism is merely what you believe to be the more
or less crude and utopian propaganda of an obscure political party.
That isn’t socialism. Nor is the anomalistic attempt that the Christian
Socialists make to unite modern socialistic philosophy with Christian
orthodoxy, socialism.”

“What is socialism, then?” I demanded, somewhat defiantly.

“Let’s call it education, science,” he said smilingly, “economics and
government based on human needs and a rational view of religion. It
has been taught in German universities, and it will be taught in ours
whenever we shall succeed in inducing your friends, by one means or
another, not to continue endowing them. Socialism, in the proper sense,
is merely the application of modern science to government.”

I was puzzled and angry. What he said made sense somehow, but it sounded
to me like so much gibberish.

“But Germany is a monarchy,” I objected.

“It is a modern, scientific system with monarchy as its superstructure.
It is anomalous, but frank. The monarchy is there for all men to see,
and some day it will be done away with. We are supposedly a democracy,
and our superstructure is plutocratic. Our people feel the burden, but
they have not yet discovered what the burden is.”

“And when they do?” I asked, a little defiantly.

“When they do,” replied Krebs, “they will set about making the
plutocrats happy. Now plutocrats are discontented, and never satisfied;
the more they get, the more they want, the more they are troubled by
what other people have.”

I smiled in spite of myself.

“Your interest in--in plutocrats is charitable, then?”

“Why, yes,” he said, “my interest in all kinds of people is charitable.
However improbable it may seem, I have no reason to dislike or envy
people who have more than they know what to do with.” And the worst of
it was he looked it. He managed somehow simply by sitting there with his
strange eyes fixed upon me--in spite of his ridiculous philosophy--to
belittle my ambitions, to make of small worth my achievements, to bring
home to me the fact that in spite of these I was neither contented nor
happy though he kept his humour and his poise, he implied an experience
that was far deeper, more tragic and more significant than mine. I was
goaded into making an injudicious remark.

“Well, your campaign against Ennerly and Jackson fell through, didn’t
it?” Ennerly and Jackson were the city officials who had been tried.

“It wasn’t a campaign against them,” he answered. “And considering the
subordinate part I took in it, it could scarcely be called mine.”

“Greenhalge turned to you to get the evidence.”

“Well, I got it,” he said.

“What became of it?”

“You ought to know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Just what I say, Paret,” he answered slowly. “You ought to know, if
anyone knows.”

I considered this a moment, more soberly. I thought I might have counted
on my fingers the number of men cognizant of my connection with the
case. I decided that he was guessing.

“I think you should explain that,” I told him.

“The time may come, when you’ll have to explain it.”

“Is that a threat?” I demanded.

“A threat?” he repeated. “Not at all.”

“But you are accusing me--”

“Of what?” he interrupted suddenly.

He had made it necessary for me to define the nature of his charges.

“Of having had some connection with the affair in question.”

“Whatever else I may be, I’m not a fool,” he said quietly. “Neither the
district attorney’s office, nor young Arbuthnot had brains enough to
get them out of that scrape. Jason didn’t have influence enough with
the judiciary, and, as I happen to know, there was a good deal of money
spent.”

“You may be called upon to prove it,” I retorted, rather hotly.

“So I may.”

His tone, far from being defiant, had in it a note of sadness. I looked
at him. What were his potentialities? Was it not just possible that I
should have to revise my idea of him, acknowledge that he might become
more formidable than I had thought?

There was an awkward silence.

“You mustn’t imagine, Paret, that I have any personal animus against
you, or against any of the men with whom you’re associated,” he went on,
after a moment. “I’m sorry you’re on that side, that’s all,--I told
you so once before. I’m not calling you names, I’m not talking about
morality and immorality. Immorality, when you come down to it, is often
just the opposition to progress that comes from blindness. I don’t
make the mistake of blaming a few individuals for the evils of modern
industrial society, and on the other hand you mustn’t blame individuals
for the discomforts of what you call the reform movement, for that
movement is merely a symptom--a symptom of a disease due to a change
in the structure of society. We’ll never have any happiness or real
prosperity until we cure that disease. I was inclined to blame you once,
at the capital that time, because it seemed to me that a man with all
the advantages you have had and a mind like yours didn’t have much
excuse. But I’ve thought about it since; I realize now that I’ve had a
good many more ‘advantages’ than you, and to tell you the truth, I don’t
see how you could have come out anywhere else than where you are,--all
your surroundings and training were against it. That doesn’t mean that
you won’t grasp the situation some day--I have an idea you will. It’s
just an idea. The man who ought to be condemned isn’t the man that
doesn’t understand what’s going on, but the man who comes to understand
and persists in opposing it.” He rose and looked down at me with the
queer, disturbing smile I remembered. “I get off at this corner,” he
added, rather diffidently. “I hope you’ll forgive me for being personal.
I didn’t mean to be, but you rather forced it on me.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” I replied. The car stopped, and he hurried
off. I watched his tall figure as it disappeared among the crowd on the
sidewalk....

I returned to my office in one of those moods that are the more
disagreeable because conflicting. To-day in particular I had been
aroused by what Tom used to call Krebs’s “crust,” and as I sat at my
desk warm waves of resentment went through me at the very notion of his
telling me that my view was limited and that therefore my professional
conduct was to be forgiven! It was he, the fanatic, who saw things in
the larger scale! an assumption the more exasperating because at the
moment he made it he almost convinced me that he did, and I was unable
to achieve for him the measure of contempt I desired, for the incident,
the measure of ridicule it deserved. My real animus was due to the fact
that he had managed to shake my self-confidence, to take the flavour out
of my achievements,--a flavour that was in the course of an hour to
be completely restored by one of those interesting coincidences
occasionally occurring in life. A young member of my staff entered with
a telegram; I tore it open, and sat staring at it a moment before I
realized that it brought to me the greatest honour of my career.

The Banker-Personality in New York had summoned me for consultation.
To be recognized by him conferred indeed an ennoblement, the Star and
Garter, so to speak, of the only great realm in America, that of high
finance; and the yellow piece of paper I held in my hand instantly
re-magnetized me, renewed my energy, and I hurried home to pack my
bag in order to catch the seven o’clock train. I announced the news to
Maude.

“I imagine it’s because he knows I have made something of a study of the
coal roads situation,” I added.

“I’m glad, Hugh,” she said. “I suppose it’s a great compliment.”

Never had her inadequacy to appreciate my career been more apparent! I
looked at her curiously, to realize once more with peculiar sharpness
how far we were apart; but now the resolutions I had made--and never
carried out--on that first Christmas in the new home were lacking.
Indeed, it was the futility of such resolutions that struck me at this
moment. If her manner had been merely one of indifference, it would in
a way have been easier to bear; she was simply incapable of grasping the
significance of the event, the meaning to me of the years of unceasing,
ambitious effort it crowned.

“Yes, it is something of a recognition,” I replied. “Is there anything
I can get for you in New York? I don’t know how long I shall have
to stay--I’ll telegraph you when I’m getting back.” I kissed her and
hurried out to the automobile. As I drove off I saw her still standing
in the doorway looking after me.... In the station I had a few minutes
to telephone Nancy.

“If you don’t see me for a few days it’s because I’ve gone to New York,”
 I informed her.

“Something important, I’m sure.”

“How did you guess?” I demanded, and heard her laugh.

“Come back soon and tell me about it,” she said, and I walked,
exhilarated, to the train.... As I sped through the night, staring out
of the window into the darkness, I reflected on the man I was going to
see. But at that time, although he represented to me the quintessence
of achievement and power, I did not by any means grasp the many sided
significance of the phenomenon he presented, though I was keenly
aware of his influence, and that men spoke of him with bated breath.
Presidents came and went, kings and emperors had responsibilities and
were subject daily to annoyances, but this man was a law unto himself.
He did exactly what he chose, and compelled other men to do it. Wherever
commerce reigned,--and where did it not?--he was king and head of its
Holy Empire, Pope and Emperor at once. For he had his code of ethics,
his religion, and those who rebelled, who failed to conform, he
excommunicated; a code something like the map of Europe,--apparently
inconsistent in places. What I did not then comprehend was that he was
the American Principle personified, the supreme individual assertion of
the conviction that government should remain modestly in the background
while the efficient acquired the supremacy that was theirs by natural
right; nor had I grasped at that time the crowning achievement of a
unity that fused Christianity with those acquisitive dispositions said
to be inherent in humanity. In him the Lion and the Lamb, the Eagle and
the Dove dwelt together in amity and power.

New York, always a congenial place to gentlemen of vitality and means
and influential connections, had never appeared to me more sparkling,
more inspiring. Winter had relented, spring had not as yet begun. And
as I sat in a corner of the dining-room of my hotel looking out on the
sunlit avenue I was conscious of partaking of the vigour and confidence
of the well-dressed, clear-eyed people who walked or drove past my
window with the air of a conquering race. What else was there in the
world more worth having than this conquering sense? Religion might offer
charms to the weak. Yet here religion itself became sensible, and wore
the garb of prosperity. The stonework of the tall church on the corner
was all lace; and the very saints in their niches, who had known
martyrdom and poverty, seemed to have renounced these as foolish, and
to look down complacently on the procession of wealth and power..
Across the street, behind a sheet of glass, was a carrosserie where were
displayed the shining yellow and black panels of a closed automobile,
the cost of which would have built a farm-house and stocked a barn.

At eleven o’clock, the appointed hour, I was in Wall Street. Sending in
my name, I was speedily ushered into a room containing a table, around
which were several men; but my eyes were drawn at once to the figure of
the great banker who sat, massive and preponderant, at one end, smoking
a cigar, and listening in silence to the conversation I had interrupted.
He rose courteously and gave me his hand, and a glance that is
unforgettable.

“It is good of you to come, Mr. Paret,” he said simply, as though
his summons had not been a command. “Perhaps you know some of these
gentlemen.”

One of them was our United States Senator, Theodore Watling. He, as
it turned out, had been summoned from Washington. Of course I saw him
frequently, having from time to time to go to Washington on various
errands connected with legislation. Though spruce and debonnair as ever,
in the black morning coat he invariably wore, he appeared older than he
had on the day when I had entered his office. He greeted me warmly, as
always.

“Hugh, I’m glad to see you here,” he said, with a slight emphasis on the
last word. My legal career was reaching its logical climax, the climax
he had foreseen. And he added, to the banker, that he had brought me up.

“Then he was trained in a good school,” remarked that personage,
affably.

Mr. Barbour, the president of our Railroad, was present, and nodded to
me kindly; also a president of a smaller road. In addition, there were
two New York attorneys of great prominence, whom I had met. The banker’s
own special lieutenant of the law, Mr. Clement T. Grolier, for whom I
looked, was absent; but it was forthwith explained that he was offering,
that morning, a resolution of some importance in the Convention of his
Church, but that he would be present after lunch.

“I have asked you to come here, Mr. Paret,” said the banker, “not only
because I know something personally of your legal ability, but because
I have been told by Mr. Scherer and Mr. Barbour that you happen to have
considerable knowledge of the situation we are discussing, as well as
some experience with cases involving that statute somewhat hazy to lay
minds, the Sherman anti-trust law.”

A smile went around the table. Mr. Watling winked at me; I nodded, but
said nothing. The banker was not a man to listen to superfluous words.
The keynote of his character was despatch....

The subject of the conference, like many questions bitterly debated and
fought over in their time, has in the year I write these words come to
be of merely academic interest. Indeed, the very situation we discussed
that day has been cited in some of our modern text-books as a classic
consequence of that archaic school of economics to which the name of
Manchester is attached. Some half dozen or so of the railroads running
through the anthracite coal region had pooled their interests,--an
extremely profitable proceeding. The public paid. We deemed it quite
logical that the public should pay--having been created largely for
that purpose; and very naturally we resented the fact that the meddling
Person who had got into the White House without asking anybody’s
leave,--who apparently did not believe in the infallibility of our legal
Bible, the Constitution,--should maintain that the anthracite roads
had formed a combination in restraint of trade, should lay down
the preposterous doctrine--so subversive of the Rights of Man--that
railroads should not own coal mines. Congress had passed a law to meet
this contention, suit had been brought, and in the lower court the
government had won.

As the day wore on our numbers increased, we were joined by other
lawyers of renown, not the least of whom was Mr. Grolier himself, fresh
from his triumph over religious heresy in his Church Convention. The
note of the conference became tinged with exasperation, and certain
gentlemen seized the opportunity to relieve their pent-up feelings on
the subject of the President and his slavish advisers,--some of whom,
before they came under the spell of his sorcery, had once been sound
lawyers and sensible men. With the exception of the great Banker
himself, who made few comments, Theodore Watling was accorded the most
deference; as one of the leaders of that indomitable group of senators
who had dared to stand up against popular clamour, his opinions were
of great value, and his tactical advice was listened to with respect. I
felt more pride than ever in my former chief, who had lost none of his
charm. While in no way minimizing the seriousness of the situation, his
wisdom was tempered, as always, with humour; he managed, as it were,
to neutralize the acid injected into the atmosphere by other gentlemen
present; he alone seemed to bear no animus against the Author of our
troubles; suave and calm, good natured, he sometimes brought the company
into roars of laughter and even succeeded in bringing occasional
smiles to the face of the man who had summoned us--when relating some
characteristic story of the queer genius whom the fates (undoubtedly as
a practical joke) had made the chief magistrate of the United States of
America. All geniuses have weaknesses; Mr. Wading had made a study of
the President’s, and more than once had lured him into an impasse.
The case had been appealed to the Supreme Court, and Mr. Wading, with
remarkable conciseness and penetration, reviewed the characteristics of
each and every member of that tribunal, all of whom he knew intimately.
They were, of course, not subject to “advice,” as were some of the
gentlemen who sat on our state courts; no sane and self-respecting
American would presume to “approach” them. Nevertheless they were human,
and it were wise to take account, in the conduct of the case, of the
probable bias of each individual.

The President, overstepping his constitutional, Newtonian limits, might
propose laws, Congress might acquiesce in them, but the Supreme Court,
after listening to lawyers like Grolier (and he bowed to the attorney),
made them: made them, he might have added, without responsibility to any
man in our unique Republic that scorned kings and apotheosized lawyers.
A Martian with a sense of humour witnessing a stormy session of Congress
would have giggled at the thought of a few tranquil gentlemen in another
room of the Capitol waiting to decide what the people’s representatives
meant--or whether they meant anything....

For the first time since I had known Theodore Watling, however, I saw
him in the shadow of another individual; a man who, like a powerful
magnet, continually drew our glances. When we spoke, we almost
invariably addressed him, his rare words fell like bolts upon the
consciousness. There was no apparent rift in that personality.

When, about five o’clock, the conference was ended and we were
dismissed, United States Senator, railroad presidents, field-marshals of
the law, the great banker fell into an eager conversation with Grolier
over the Canon on Divorce, the subject of warm debate in the convention
that day. Grolier, it appeared, had led his party against the
theological liberals. He believed that law was static, but none knew
better its plasticity; that it was infallible, but none so well as he
could find a text on either side. His reputation was not of the popular,
newspaper sort, but was known to connoisseurs, editors, financiers,
statesmen and judges,--to those, in short, whose business it is to make
themselves familiar with the instruments of power. He was the banker’s
chief legal adviser, the banker’s rapier of tempered steel, sheathed
from the vulgar view save when it flashed forth on a swift errand.

“I’m glad to be associated with you in this case, Mr. Paret,” Mr.
Grolier said modestly, as we emerged into the maelstrom of Wall Street.
“If you can make it convenient to call at my office in the morning,
we’ll go over it a little. And I’ll see you in a day or two in
Washington, Watling. Keep your eye on the bull,” he added, with a
twinkle, “and don’t let him break any more china than you can help. I
don’t know where we’d be if it weren’t for you fellows.”

By “you fellows,” he meant Mr. Watling’s distinguished associates in the
Senate....

Mr. Watling and I dined together at a New York club. It was not a dinner
of herbs. There was something exceedingly comfortable about that club,
where the art of catering to those who had earned the right to be
catered to came as near perfection as human things attain. From the
great, heavily curtained dining-room the noises of the city had been
carefully excluded; the dust of the Avenue, the squalour and smells of
the brown stone fronts and laddered tenements of those gloomy districts
lying a pistol-shot east and west. We had a vintage champagne, and
afterwards a cigar of the club’s special importation.

“Well,” said Mr. Watling, “mow that you’re a member of the royal
council, what do you think of the King?”

“I’ve been thinking a great deal about him,” I said, and indeed it was
true. He had made, perhaps, his greatest impression when I had shaken
his hand in parting. The manner in which he had looked at me then had
puzzled me; it was as though he were seeking to divine something in
me that had escaped him. “Why doesn’t the government take him over?” I
exclaimed.

Mr. Watling smiled.

“You mean, instead of his mines and railroads and other properties?”

“Yes. But that’s your idea. Don’t you remember you said something of
the kind the night of the election, years ago? It occurred to me to-day,
when I was looking at him.”

“Yes,” he agreed thoughtfully, “if some American genius could find a way
to legalize that power and utilize the men who created it the worst
of our problems would be solved. A man with his ability has a right to
power, and none would respond more quickly or more splendidly to a call
of the government than he. All this fight is waste, Hugh, damned
waste of the nation’s energy.” Mr. Watling seldom swore. “Look at the
President! There’s a man of remarkable ability, too. And those two
oughtn’t to be fighting each other. The President’s right, in a way.
Yes, he is, though I’ve got to oppose him.”

I smiled at this from Theodore Watling, though I admired him the more
for it. And suddenly, oddly, I happened to remember what Krebs had said,
that our troubles were not due to individuals, but to a disease that had
developed in industrial society. If the day should come when such men as
the President and the great banker would be working together, was it
not possible, too, that the idea of Mr. Watling and the vision of Krebs
might coincide? I was struck by a certain seeming similarity in their
views; but Mr. Watling interrupted this train of thought by continuing
to express his own.

“Well,--they’re running right into a gale when they might be sailing
with it,” he said.

“You think we’ll have more trouble?” I asked.

“More and more,” he replied. “It’ll be worse before it’s better I’m
afraid.” At this moment a club servant announced his cab, and he rose.
“Well, good-bye, my son,” he said. “I’ll hope to see you in Washington
soon. And remember there’s no one thinks any more of you than I do.”

I escorted him to the door, and it was with a real pang I saw him wave
to me from his cab as he drove away. My affection for him was never more
alive than in this hour when, for the first time in my experience, he
had given real evidence of an inner anxiety and lack of confidence in
the future.



XXI.

In spite of that unwonted note of pessimism from Mr. Watling, I went
home in a day or two flushed with my new honours, and it was
impossible not to be conscious of the fact that my aura of prestige was
increased--tremendously increased--by the recognition I had received. A
certain subtle deference in the attitude of the small minority who
owed allegiance to the personage by whom I had been summoned was more
satisfying than if I had been acclaimed at the station by thousands
of my fellow-citizens who knew nothing of my journey and of its
significance, even though it might have a concern for them. To men like
Berringer, Grierson and Tallant and our lesser great lights the banker
was a semi-mythical figure, and many times on the day of my return I was
stopped on the street to satisfy the curiosity of my friends as to
my impressions. Had he, for instance, let fall any opinions,
prognostications on the political and financial situation? Dickinson
and Scherer were the only other men in the city who had the honour of a
personal acquaintance with him, and Scherer was away, abroad, gathering
furniture and pictures for the house in New York Nancy had predicted,
and which he had already begun to build! With Dickinson I lunched in
private, in order to give him a detailed account of the conference. By
five o’clock I was ringing the door-bell of Nancy’s new mansion on Grant
Avenue. It was several blocks below my own.

“Well, how does it feel to be sent for by the great sultan?” she
asked, as I stood before her fire. “Of course, I have always known that
ultimately he couldn’t get along without you.”

“Even if he has been a little late in realizing it,” I retorted.

“Sit down and tell me all about him,” she commanded.

“I met him once, when Ham had the yacht at Bar Harbor.”

“And how did he strike you?”

“As somewhat wrapped up in himself,” said Nancy.

We laughed together.

“Oh, I fell a victim,” she went on. “I might have sailed off with him,
if he had asked me.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t ask you.”

“I suspect that it was not quite convenient,” she said. “Women are
secondary considerations to sultans, we’re all very well when they
haven’t anything more serious to occupy them. Of course that’s why they
fascinate us. What did he want with you, Hugh?”

“He was evidently afraid that the government would win the coal roads
suit unless I was retained.”

“More laurels!” she sighed. “I suppose I ought to be proud to know you.”

“That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to impress on you all these
years,” I declared. “I’ve laid the laurels at your feet, in vain.”

She sat with her head back on the cushions, surveying me.

“Your dress is very becoming,” I said irrelevantly.

“I hoped it would meet your approval,” she mocked.

“I’ve been trying to identify the shade. It’s elusive--like you.”

“Don’t be banal.... What is the colour?”

“Poinsetta!”

“Pretty nearly,” she agreed, critically.

I took the soft crepe between my fingers.

“Poet!” she smiled. “No, it isn’t quite poinsetta. It’s nearer the
red-orange of a tree I remember one autumn, in the White Mountains,
with the setting sun on it. But that wasn’t what we were talking about.
Laurels! Your laurels.”

“My laurels,” I repeated. “Such as they are, I fling them into your
lap.”

“Do you think they increase your value to me, Hugh?”

“I don’t know,” I said thickly.

She shook her head.

“No, it’s you I like--not the laurels.”

“But if you care for me--?” I began.

She lifted up her hands and folded them behind the knot of her hair.

“It’s extraordinary how little you have changed since we were children,
Hugh. You are still sixteen years old, that’s why I like you. If you got
to be the sultan of sultans yourself, I shouldn’t like you any better,
or any worse.”

“And yet you have just declared that power appeals to you!”

“Power--yes. But a woman--a woman like me--wants to be first, or
nothing.”

“You are first,” I asserted. “You always have been, if you had only
realized it.”

She gazed up at me dreamily.

“If you had only realized it! If you had only realized that all I wanted
of you was to be yourself. It wasn’t what you achieved. I didn’t want
you to be like Ralph or the others.”

“Myself? What are you trying to say?”

“Yourself. Yes, that is what I like about you. If you hadn’t been in
such a hurry--if you hadn’t misjudged me so. It was the power in you,
the craving, the ideal in you that I cared for--not the fruits of it.
The fruits would have come naturally. But you forced them, Hugh, for
quicker results.”

“What kind of fruits?” I asked.

“Ah,” she exclaimed, “how can I tell what they might have been! You have
striven and striven, you have done extraordinary things, but have they
made you any happier? have you got what you want?”

I stooped down and seized her wrists from behind her head.

“I want you, Nancy,” I said. “I have always wanted you. You’re more
wonderful to-day than you have ever been. I could find myself--with
you.”

She closed her eyes. A dreamy smile was on her face, and she lay
unresisting, very still. In that tremendous moment, for which it seemed
I had waited a lifetime, I could have taken her in my arms--and yet I
did not. I could not tell why: perhaps it was because she seemed to have
passed beyond me--far beyond--in realization. And she was so still!

“We have missed the way, Hugh,” she whispered, at last.

“But we can find it again, if we seek it together,” I urged.

“Ah, if I only could!” she said. “I could have once. But now I’m
afraid--afraid of getting lost.” Slowly she straightened up, her hands
falling into her lap. I seized them again, I was on my knees in front
of her, before the fire, and she, intent, looking down at me, into me,
through me it seemed--at something beyond which yet was me.

“Hugh,” she asked, “what do you believe? Anything?”

“What do I believe?”

“Yes. I don’t mean any cant, cut-and-dried morality. The world is
getting beyond that. But have you, in your secret soul, any religion
at all? Do you ever think about it? I’m not speaking about
anything orthodox, but some religion--even a tiny speck of it, a
germ--harmonizing with life, with that power we feel in us we seek to
express and continually violate.”

“Nancy!” I exclaimed.

“Answer me--answer me truthfully,” she said....

I was silent, my thoughts whirling like dust atoms in a storm.

“You have always taken things--taken what you wanted. But they haven’t
satisfied you, convinced you that that is all of life.”

“Do you mean--that we should renounce?” I faltered.

“I don’t know what I mean. I am asking, Hugh, asking. Haven’t you any
clew? Isn’t there any voice in you, anywhere, deep down, that can tell
me? give me a hint? just a little one?”

I was wracked. My passion had not left me, it seemed to be heightened,
and I pressed her hands against her knees. It was incredible that my
hands should be there, in hers, feeling her. Her beauty seemed as fresh,
as un-wasted as the day, long since, when I despaired of her. And yet
and yet against the tumult and beating of this passion striving to throb
down thought, thought strove. Though I saw her as a woman, my senses and
my spirit commingled and swooned together.

“This is life,” I murmured, scarcely knowing what I said.

“Oh, my dear!” she cried, and her voice pierced me with pain, “are we to
be lost, overpowered, engulfed, swept down its stream, to come up below
drifting--wreckage? Where, then, would be your power? I’m not speaking
of myself. Isn’t life more than that? Isn’t it in us, too,--in you?
Think, Hugh. Is there no god, anywhere, but this force we feel,
restlessly creating only to destroy? You must answer--you must find
out.”

I cannot describe the pleading passion in her voice, as though hell and
heaven were wrestling in it. The woman I saw, tortured yet uplifted, did
not seem to be Nancy, yet it was the woman I loved more than life itself
and always had loved.

“I can’t think,” I answered desperately, “I can only feel--and I
can’t express what I feel. It’s mixed, it’s dim, and yet bright and
shining--it’s you.”

“No, it’s you,” she said vehemently. “You must interpret it.” Her voice
sank: “Could it be God?” she asked.

“God!” I exclaimed sharply.

Her hands fell away from mine.... The silence was broken only by the
crackling of the wood fire as a log turned over and fell. Never before,
in all our intercourse that I could remember, had she spoken to me about
religion.... With that apparent snap in continuity incomprehensible to
the masculine mind-her feminine mood had changed. Elements I had never
suspected, in Nancy, awe, even a hint of despair, entered into it,
and when my hand found hers again, the very quality of its convulsive
pressure seemed to have changed. I knew then that it was her soul I
loved most; I had been swept all unwittingly to its very altar.

“I believe it is God,” I said. But she continued to gaze at me, her lips
parted, her eyes questioning.

“Why is it,” she demanded, “that after all these centuries of certainty
we should have to start out to find him again? Why is it when something
happens like--like this, that we should suddenly be torn with doubts
about him, when we have lived the best part of our lives without so much
as thinking of him?”

“Why should you have qualms?” I said. “Isn’t this enough? and doesn’t it
promise--all?”

“I don’t know. They’re not qualms--in the old sense.” She smiled down
at me a little tearfully. “Hugh, do you remember when we used to go to
Sunday-school at Dr. Pound’s church, and Mrs. Ewan taught us? I really
believed something then--that Moses brought down the ten commandments of
God from the mountain, all written out definitely for ever and ever. And
I used to think of marriage” (I felt a sharp twinge), “of marriage as
something sacred and inviolable,--something ordained by God himself. It
ought to be so--oughtn’t it? That is the ideal.”

“Yes--but aren’t you confusing--?” I began.

“I am confusing and confused. I shouldn’t be--I shouldn’t care if there
weren’t something in you, in me, in our--friendship, something I can’t
explain, something that shines still through the fog and the smoke in
which we have lived our lives--something which, I think, we saw clearer
as children. We have lost it in our hasty groping. Oh, Hugh, I couldn’t
bear to think that we should never find it! that it doesn’t really
exist! Because I seem to feel it. But can we find it this way, my dear?”
 Her hand tightened on mine.

“But if the force drawing us together, that has always drawn us
together, is God?” I objected.

“I asked you,” she said. “The time must come when you must answer, Hugh.
It may be too late, but you must answer.”

“I believe in taking life in my own hands,” I said.

“It ought to be life,” said Nancy. “It--it might have been life.... It
is only when a moment, a moment like this comes that the quality of what
we have lived seems so tarnished, that the atmosphere which we ourselves
have helped to make is so sordid. When I think of the intrigues, and
divorces, the self-indulgences,--when I think of my own marriage--” her
voice caught. “How are we going to better it, Hugh, this way? Am I to
get that part of you I love, and are you to get what you crave in me?
Can we just seize happiness? Will it not elude us just as much as though
we believed firmly in the ten commandments?”

“No,” I declared obstinately.

She shook her head.

“What I’m afraid of is that the world isn’t made that way--for you--for
me. We’re permitted to seize those other things because they’re just
baubles, we’ve both found out how worthless they are. And the worst
of it is they’ve made me a coward, Hugh. It isn’t that I couldn’t do
without them, I’ve come to depend on them in another way. It’s because
they give me a certain protection,--do you see? they’ve come to stand in
the place of the real convictions we’ve lost. And--well, we’ve taken the
baubles, can we reach out our hands and take--this? Won’t we be punished
for it, frightfully punished?”

“I don’t care if we are,” I said, and surprised myself.

“But I care. It’s weak, it’s cowardly, but it’s so. And yet I want to
face the situation--I’m trying to get you to face it, to realize how
terrible it is.”

“I only know that I want you above everything else in the world--I’ll
take care of you--”

I seized her arms, I drew her down to me.

“Don’t!” she cried. “Oh, don’t!” and struggled to her feet and stood
before me panting. “You must go away now--please, Hugh. I can’t bear any
more--I want to think.”

I released her. She sank into the chair and hid her face in her
hands....

As may be imagined, the incident I have just related threw my life
into a tangle that would have floored a less persistent optimist and
romanticist than myself, yet I became fairly accustomed to treading what
the old moralists called the devious paths of sin. In my passion I
had not hesitated to lay down the doctrine that the courageous and
the strong took what they wanted,--a doctrine of which I had been a
consistent disciple in the professional and business realm. A logical
buccaneer, superman, “master of life” would promptly have extended this
doctrine to the realm of sex. Nancy was the mate for me, and Nancy and
I, our development, was all that mattered, especially my development.
Let every man and woman look out for his or her development, and in the
end the majority of people would be happy. This was going Adam Smith one
better. When it came to putting that theory into practice, however,
one needed convictions: Nancy had been right when she had implied that
convictions were precisely what we lacked; what our world in general
lacked. We had desires, yes convictions, no. What we wanted we got not
by defying the world, but by conforming to it: we were ready to defy
only when our desires overcame the resistance of our synapses, and even
then not until we should have exhausted every legal and conventional
means.

A superman with a wife and family he had acquired before a great passion
has made him a superman is in rather a predicament, especially if he
be one who has achieved such superhumanity as he possesses not by
challenging laws and conventions, but by getting around them. My wife
and family loved me; and paradoxically I still had affection for them,
or thought I had. But the superman creed is, “be yourself, realize
yourself, no matter how cruel you may have to be in order to do so.” One
trouble with me was that remnants of the Christian element of pity still
clung to me. I would be cruel if I had to, but I hoped I shouldn’t have
to: something would turn up, something in the nature of an intervening
miracle that would make it easy for me. Perhaps Maude would take the
initiative and relieve me.... Nancy had appealed for a justifying
doctrine, and it was just what I didn’t have and couldn’t evolve. In the
meanwhile it was quite in character that I should accommodate myself to
a situation that might well be called anomalous.

This “accommodation” was not unaccompanied by fever. My longing to
realize my love for Nancy kept me in a constant state of tension--of
“nerves”; for our relationship had merely gone one step farther, we
had reached a point where we acknowledged that we loved each other, and
paradoxically halted there; Nancy clung to her demand for new sanctions
with a tenacity that amazed and puzzled and often irritated me. And yet,
when I look back upon it all, I can see that some of the difficulty
lay with me: if she had her weakness--which she acknowledged--I had
mine--and kept it to myself. It was part of my romantic nature not to
want to break her down. Perhaps I loved the ideal better than the woman
herself, though that scarcely seems possible.

We saw each other constantly. And though we had instinctively begun to
be careful, I imagine there was some talk among our acquaintances. It is
to be noted that the gossip never became riotous, for we had always
been friends, and Nancy had a saving reputation for coldness. It seemed
incredible that Maude had not discovered my secret, but if she knew
of it, she gave no sign of her knowledge. Often, as I looked at her, I
wished she would. I can think of no more expressive sentence in regard
to her than the trite one that she pursued the even tenor of her way;
and I found the very perfection of her wifehood exasperating. Our
relationship would, I thought, have been more endurable if we had
quarrelled. And yet we had grown as far apart, in that big house, as
though we had been separated by a continent; I lived in my apartments,
she in hers; she consulted me about dinner parties and invitations; for,
since we had moved to Grant Avenue, we entertained and went out more
than before. It seemed as though she were making every effort consistent
with her integrity and self-respect to please me. Outwardly she
conformed to the mould; but I had long been aware that inwardly a person
had developed. It had not been a spontaneous development, but one in
resistance to pressure; and was probably all the stronger for that
reason. At times her will revealed itself in astonishing and unexpected
flashes, as when once she announced that she was going to change
Matthew’s school.

“He’s old enough to go to boarding-school,” I said. “I’ll look up a
place for him.”

“I don’t wish him to go to boarding-school yet, Hugh,” she said quietly.

“But that’s just what he needs,” I objected. “He ought to have the
rubbing-up against other boys that boarding-school will give him.
Matthew is timid, he should have learned to take care of himself. And he
will make friendships that will help him in a larger school.”

“I don’t intend to send him,” Maude said.

“But if I think it wise?”

“You ought to have begun to consider such things many years ago. You
have always been too--busy to think of the children. You have left them
to me. I am doing the best I can with them.”

“But a man should have something to say about boys. He understands
them.”

“You should have thought of that before.”

“They haven’t been old enough.”

“If you had taken your share of responsibility for them, I would listen
to you.”

“Maude!” I exclaimed reproachfully.

“No, Hugh,” she went on, “you have been too busy making money. You have
left them to me. It is my task to see that the money they are to inherit
doesn’t ruin them.”

“You talk as though it were a great fortune,” I said.

But I did not press the matter. I had a presentiment that to press it
might lead to unpleasant results.

It was this sense of not being free, of having gained everything but
freedom that was at times galling in the extreme: this sense of living
with a woman for whom I had long ceased to care, a woman with a baffling
will concealed beneath an unruffled and serene exterior. At moments I
looked at her across the table; she did not seem to have aged much: her
complexion was as fresh, apparently, as the day when I had first walked
with her in the garden at Elkington; her hair the same wonderful colour;
perhaps she had grown a little stouter. There could be no doubt about
the fact that her chin was firmer, that certain lines had come into her
face indicative of what is called character. Beneath her pliability she
was now all firmness; the pliability had become a mockery. It cannot
be said that I went so far as to hate her for this,--when it was in my
mind,--but my feelings were of a strong antipathy. And then again there
were rare moments when I was inexplicably drawn to her, not by love and
passion; I melted a little in pity, perhaps, when my eyes were opened
and I saw the tragedy, yet I am not referring now to such feelings as
these. I am speaking of the times when I beheld her as the blameless
companion of the years, the mother of my children, the woman I was used
to and should--by all canons I had known--have loved....

And there were the children. Days and weeks passed when I scarcely
saw them, and then some little incident would happen to give me an
unexpected wrench and plunge me into unhappiness. One evening I came
home from a long talk with Nancy that had left us both wrought up, and
I had entered the library before I heard voices. Maude was seated under
the lamp at the end of the big room reading from “Don Quixote”; Matthew
and Biddy were at her feet, and Moreton, less attentive, at a little
distance was taking apart a mechanical toy. I would have tiptoed out,
but Biddy caught sight of me.

“It’s father!” she cried, getting up and flying to me.

“Oh, father, do come and listen! The story’s so exciting, isn’t it,
Matthew?”

I looked down into the boy’s eyes shining with an expression that
suddenly pierced my heart with a poignant memory of myself. Matthew was
far away among the mountains and castles of Spain.

“Matthew,” demanded his sister, “why did he want to go fighting with all
those people?”

“Because he was dotty,” supplied Moreton, who had an interesting habit
of picking up slang.

“It wasn’t at all,” cried Matthew, indignantly, interrupting Maude’s
rebuke of his brother.

“What was it, then?” Moreton demanded.

“You wouldn’t understand if I told you,” Matthew was retorting, when
Maude put her hand on his lips.

“I think that’s enough for to-night,” she said, as she closed the book.
“There are lessons to do--and father wants to read his newspaper in
quiet.”

This brought a protest from Biddy.

“Just a little more, mother! Can’t we go into the schoolroom? We shan’t
disturb father there.”

“I’ll read to them--a few minutes,” I said.

As I took the volume from her and sat down Maude shot at me a swift look
of surprise. Even Matthew glanced at me curiously; and in his glance I
had, as it were, a sudden revelation of the boy’s perplexity concerning
me. He was twelve, rather tall for his age, and the delicate modelling
of his face resembled my father’s. He had begun to think.. What did he
think of me?

Biddy clapped her hands, and began to dance across the carpet.

“Father’s going to read to us, father’s going to read to us,” she cried,
finally clambering up on my knee and snuggling against me.

“Where is the place?” I asked.

But Maude had left the room. She had gone swiftly and silently.

“I’ll find it,” said Moreton.

I began to read, but I scarcely knew what I was reading, my fingers
tightening over Biddy’s little knee....

Presently Miss Allsop, the governess, came in. She had been sent by
Maude. There was wistfulness in Biddy’s voice as I kissed her good
night.

“Father, if you would only read oftener!” she said, “I like it when you
read--better than anyone else.”....

Maude and I were alone that night. As we sat in the library after our
somewhat formal, perfunctory dinner, I ventured to ask her why she had
gone away when I had offered to read.

“I couldn’t bear it, Hugh,” she answered.

“Why?” I asked, intending to justify myself.

She got up abruptly, and left me. I did not follow her. In my heart I
understood why....

Some years had passed since Ralph’s prophecy had come true, and Perry
and the remaining Blackwoods had been “relieved” of the Boyne
Street line. The process need not be gone into in detail, being the
time-honoured one employed in the Ribblevale affair of “running down”
 the line, or perhaps it would be better to say “showing it up.” It
had not justified its survival in our efficient days, it had held
out--thanks to Perry--with absurd and anachronous persistence against
the inevitable consolidation. Mr. Tallant’s newspaper had published
many complaints of the age and scarcity of the cars, etc.; and alarmed
holders of securities, in whose vaults they had lain since time
immemorial, began to sell.... I saw little of Perry in those days, as I
have explained, but one day I met him in the Hambleton Building, and he
was white.

“Your friends are doing thus, Hugh,” he said.

“Doing what?”

“Undermining the reputation of a company as sound as any in this city,
a company that’s not overcapitalized, either. And we’re giving better
service right now than any of your consolidated lines.”...

He was in no frame of mind to argue with; the conversation was
distinctly unpleasant. I don’t remember what I said something to the
effect that he was excited, that his language was extravagant. But after
he had walked off and left me I told Dickinson that he ought to be given
a chance, and one of our younger financiers, Murphree, went to Perry and
pointed out that he had nothing to gain by obstruction; if he were only
reasonable, he might come into the new corporation on the same terms
with the others.

All that Murphree got for his pains was to be ordered out of the office
by Perry, who declared that he was being bribed to desert the other
stockholders.

“He utterly failed to see the point of view,” Murphree reported in some
astonishment to Dickinson.

“What else did he say?” Mr. Dickinson asked.

Murphree hesitated.

“Well--what?” the banker insisted.

“He wasn’t quite himself,” said Murphree, who was a comparative newcomer
in the city and had a respect for the Blackwood name. “He said that that
was the custom of thieves: when they were discovered, they offered to
divide. He swore that he would get justice in the courts.”

Mr. Dickinson smiled....

Thus Perry, through his obstinacy and inability to adapt himself to new
conditions, had gradually lost both caste and money. He resigned from
the Boyne Club. I was rather sorry for him. Tom naturally took the
matter to heart, but he never spoke of it; I found that I was seeing
less of him, though we continued to dine there at intervals, and he
still came to my house to see the children. Maude continued to see
Lucia. For me, the situation would have been more awkward had I been
less occupied, had my relationship with Maude been a closer one. Neither
did she mention Perry in those days. The income that remained to him
being sufficient for him and his family to live on comfortably, he began
to devote most of his time to various societies of a semipublic nature
until--in the spring of which I write his activities suddenly became
concentrated in the organization of a “Citizens Union,” whose avowed
object was to make a campaign against “graft” and political corruption
the following autumn. This announcement and the call for a mass-meeting
in Kingdon Hall was received by the newspapers with a good-natured
ridicule, and in influential quarters it was generally hinted that this
was Mr. Blackwood’s method of “getting square” for having been deprived
of the Boyne Street line. It was quite characteristic of Ralph Hambleton
that he should go, out of curiosity, to the gathering at Kingdon Hall,
and drop into my office the next morning.

“Well, Hughie, they’re after you,” he said with a grin.

“After me? Why not include yourself?”

He sat down and stretched his long legs and his long arms, and smiled as
he gaped.

“Oh, they’ll never get me,” he said. And I knew, as I gazed at him, that
they never would.

“What sort of things did they say?” I asked.

“Haven’t you read the Pilot and the Mail and State?”

“I just glanced over them. Did they call names?”

“Call names! I should say they did. They got drunk on it, worked
themselves up like dervishes. They didn’t cuss you personally,--that’ll
come later, of course. Judd Jason got the heaviest shot, but they
said he couldn’t exist a minute if it wasn’t for the ‘respectable’
crowd--capitalists, financiers, millionaires and their legal tools. Fact
is, they spoke a good deal of truth, first and last, in a fool kind of
way.”

“Truth!” I exclaimed irritatedly.

Ralph laughed. He was evidently enjoying himself.

“Is any of it news to you, Hughie, old boy?”

“It’s an outrage.”

“I think it’s funny,” said Ralph. “We haven’t had such a circus for
years. Never had. Of course I shouldn’t like to see you go behind the
bars,--not that. But you fellows can’t expect to go on forever skimming
off the cream without having somebody squeal sometime. You ought to be
reasonable.”

“You’ve skimmed as much cream as anybody else.”

“You’ve skimmed the cream, Hughie,--you and Dickinson and Scherer and
Grierson and the rest,--I’ve only filled my jug. Well, these fellows
are going to have a regular roof-raising campaign, take the lid off of
everything, dump out the red-light district some of our friends are so
fond of.”

“Dump it where?” I asked curiously.

“Oh,” answered Ralph, “they didn’t say. Out into the country, anywhere.”

“But that’s damned foolishness,” I declared.

“Didn’t say it wasn’t,” Ralph admitted. “They talked a lot of that, too,
incidentally. They’re going to close the saloons and dance halls and
make this city sadder than heaven. When they get through, it’ll all be
over but the inquest.”

“What did Perry do?” I asked.

“Well, he opened the meeting,--made a nice, precise, gentlemanly speech.
Greenhalge and a few young highbrows and a reformed crook named Harrod
did most of the hair-raising. They’re going to nominate Greenhalge for
mayor; and he told ‘em something about that little matter of the school
board, and said he would talk more later on. If one of the ablest
lawyers in the city hadn’t been hired by the respectable crowd and a lot
of other queer work done, the treasurer and purchasing agent would be
doing time. They seemed to be interested, all right.”

I turned over some papers on my desk, just to show Ralph that he hadn’t
succeeded in disturbing me.

“Who was in the audience? anyone you ever heard of?” I asked.

“Sure thing. Your cousin Robert Breck; and that son-in-law of
his--what’s his name? And some other representatives of our oldest
families,--Alec Pound. He’s a reformer now, you know. They put him on
the resolutions committee. Sam Ogilvy was there, he’d be classed as
respectably conservative. And one of the Ewanses. I could name a few
others, if you pressed me. That brother of Fowndes who looks like an
up-state minister. A lot of women--Miller Gorse’s sister, Mrs. Datchet,
who never approved of Miller. Quite a genteel gathering, I give you my
word, and all astonished and mad as hell when the speaking was over.
Mrs. Datchet said she had been living in a den of iniquity and vice, and
didn’t know it.”

“It must have been amusing,” I said.

“It was,” said Ralph. “It’ll be more amusing later on. Oh, yes, there
was another fellow who spoke I forgot to mention--that queer Dick who
was in your class, Krebs, got the school board evidence, looked as if
he’d come in by freight. He wasn’t as popular as the rest, but he’s got
more sense than all of them put together.”

“Why wasn’t he popular?”

“Well, he didn’t crack up the American people,--said they deserved all
they got, that they’d have to learn to think straight and be straight
before they could expect a square deal. The truth was, they secretly
envied these rich men who were exploiting their city, and just as long
as they envied them they hadn’t any right to complain of them. He was
going into this campaign to tell the truth, but to tell all sides of
it, and if they wanted reform, they’d have to reform themselves first. I
admired his nerve, I must say.”

“He always had that,” I remarked. “How did they take it?”

“Well, they didn’t like it much, but I think most of them had a respect
for him. I know I did. He has a whole lot of assurance, an air of
knowing what he’s talking about, and apparently he doesn’t give a
continental whether he’s popular or not. Besides, Greenhalge had cracked
him up to the skies for the work he’d done for the school board.”

“You talk as if he’d converted you,” I said.

Ralph laughed as he rose and stretched himself.

“Oh, I’m only the intelligent spectator, you ought to know that by this
time, Hughie. But I thought it might interest you, since you’ll have to
go on the stump and refute it all. That’ll be a nice job. So long.”

And he departed. Of course I knew that he had been baiting me, his scent
for the weaknesses of his friends being absolutely fiendish. I was angry
because he had succeeded,--because he knew he had succeeded. All the
morning uneasiness possessed me, and I found it difficult to concentrate
on the affairs I had in hand. I felt premonitions, which I tried in vain
to suppress, that the tide of the philosophy of power and might
were starting to ebb: I scented vague calamities ahead, calamities I
associated with Krebs; and when I went out to the Club for lunch
this sense of uneasiness, instead of being dissipated, was increased.
Dickinson was there, and Scherer, who had just got back from Europe; the
talk fell on the Citizens Union, which Scherer belittled with an air of
consequence and pompousness that struck me disagreeably, and with an
eye newly critical I detected in him a certain disintegration,
deterioration. Having dismissed the reformers, he began to tell of his
experiences abroad, referring in one way or another to the people of
consequence who had entertained him.

“Hugh,” said Leonard Dickinson to me as we walked to the bank together,
“Scherer will never be any good any more. Too much prosperity. And he’s
begun to have his nails manicured.”

After I had left the bank president an uncanny fancy struck me that in
Adolf Scherer I had before me a concrete example of the effect of my
philosophy on the individual....

Nothing seemed to go right that spring, and yet nothing was absolutely
wrong. At times I became irritated, bewildered, out of tune, and unable
to understand why. The weather itself was uneasy, tepid, with long
spells of hot wind and dust. I no longer seemed to find refuge in my
work. I was unhappy at home. After walking for many years in confidence
and security along what appeared to be a certain path, I had suddenly
come out into a vague country in which it was becoming more and more
difficult to recognize landmarks. I did not like to confess this; and
yet I heard within me occasional whispers. Could it be that I, Hugh
Paret, who had always been so positive, had made a mess of my life?
There were moments when the pattern of it appeared to have fallen apart,
resolved itself into pieces that refused to fit into each other.

Of course my relationship with Nancy had something to do with this....

One evening late in the spring, after dinner, Maude came into the
library.

“Are you busy, Hugh?” she asked.

I put down my newspapers.

“Because,” she went on, as she took a chair near the table where I was
writing, “I wanted to tell you that I have decided to go to Europe, and
take the children.”

“To Europe!” I exclaimed. The significance of the announcement failed at
once to register in my brain, but I was aware of a shock.

“Yes.”

“When?” I asked.

“Right away. The end of this month.”

“For the summer?”

“I haven’t decided how long I shall stay.”

I stared at her in bewilderment. In contrast to the agitation I felt
rising within me, she was extraordinarily calm, unbelievably so.

“But where do you intend to go in Europe?”

“I shall go to London for a month or so, and after that to some quiet
place in France, probably at the sea, where the children can learn
French and German. After that, I have no plans.”

“But--you talk as if you might stay indefinitely.”

“I haven’t decided,” she repeated.

“But why--why are you doing this?”

I would have recalled the words as soon as I had spoken them. There
was the slightest unsteadiness in her voice as she replied:--“Is it
necessary to go into that, Hugh? Wouldn’t it be useless as well as a
little painful? Surely, going to Europe without one’s husband is not an
unusual thing in these days. Let it just be understood that I want to
go, that the children have arrived at an age when it will do them good.”

I got up and began to walk up and down the room, while she watched me
with a silent calm which was incomprehensible. In vain I summoned my
faculties to meet it.

I had not thought her capable of such initiative.

“I can’t see why you want to leave me,” I said at last, though with
a full sense of the inadequacy of the remark, and a suspicion of its
hypocrisy.

“That isn’t quite true,” she answered. “In the first place, you don’t
need me. I am not of the slightest use in your life, I haven’t been a
factor in it for years. You ought never to have married me,--it was all
a terrible mistake. I began to realize that after we had been married
a few months--even when we were on our wedding trip. But I was too
inexperienced--perhaps too weak to acknowledge it to myself. In the last
few years I have come to see it plainly. I should have been a fool if I
hadn’t. I am not your wife in any real sense of the word, I cannot hold
you, I cannot even interest you. It’s a situation that no woman with
self-respect can endure.”

“Aren’t those rather modern sentiments, for you, Maude?” I said.

She flushed a little, but otherwise retained her remarkable composure.

“I don’t care whether they are ‘modern’ or not, I only know that my
position has become impossible.”

I walked to the other end of the room, and stood facing the carefully
drawn curtains of the windows; fantastically, they seemed to represent
the impasse to which my mind had come. Did she intend, ultimately, to
get a divorce? I dared not ask her. The word rang horribly in my ears,
though unpronounced; and I knew then that I lacked her courage, and the
knowledge was part of my agony.

I turned.

“Don’t you think you’ve overdrawn things, Maude exaggerated them? No
marriages are perfect. You’ve let your mind dwell until it has become
inflamed on matters which really don’t amount to much.”

“I was never saner, Hugh,” she replied instantly. And indeed I was
forced to confess that she looked it. That new Maude I had seen emerging
of late years seemed now to have found herself; she was no longer the
woman I had married,--yielding, willing to overlook, anxious to please,
living in me.

“I don’t influence you, or help you in any way. I never have.”

“Oh, that’s not true,” I protested.

But she cut me short, going on inexorably:--“I am merely your
housekeeper, and rather a poor one at that, from your point of view. You
ignore me. I am not blaming you for it--you are made that way. It’s
true that you have always supported me in luxury,--that might have been
enough for another woman. It isn’t enough for me--I, too, have a life to
live, a soul to be responsible for. It’s not for my sake so much as for
the children’s that I don’t want it to be crushed.”

“Crushed!” I repeated.

“Yes. You are stifling it. I say again that I’m not blaming you, Hugh.
You are made differently from me. All you care for, really, is your
career. You may think that you care, at times, for--other things, but it
isn’t so.”

I took, involuntarily, a deep breath. Would she mention Nancy? Was it in
reality Nancy who had brought about this crisis? And did Maude suspect
the closeness of that relationship?

Suddenly I found myself begging her not to go; the more astonishing
since, if at any time during the past winter this solution had presented
itself to me as a possibility, I should eagerly have welcomed it! But
should I ever have had the courage to propose a separation? I even
wished to delude myself now into believing that what she suggested was
in reality not a separation. I preferred to think of it as a trip.... A
vision of freedom thrilled me, and yet I was wracked and torn. I had an
idea that she was suffering, that the ordeal was a terrible one for
her; and at that moment there crowded into my mind, melting me, incident
after incident of our past.

“It seems to me that we have got along pretty well together, Maude. I
have been negligent--I’ll admit it. But I’ll try to do better in the
future. And--if you’ll wait a month or so, I’ll go to Europe with you,
and we’ll have a good time.”

She looked at me sadly,--pityingly, I thought.

“No, Hugh, I’ve thought it all out. You really don’t want me. You only
say this because you are sorry for me, because you dislike to have your
feelings wrung. You needn’t be sorry for me, I shall be much happier
away from you.”

“Think it over, Maude,” I pleaded. “I shall miss you and the children. I
haven’t paid much attention to them, either, but I am fond of them, and
depend upon them, too.”

She shook her head.

“It’s no use, Hugh. I tell you I’ve thought it all out. You don’t care
for the children, you were never meant to have any.”

“Aren’t you rather severe in your judgments?”

“I don’t think so,” she answered. “I’m willing to admit my faults, that
I am a failure so far as you are concerned. Your ideas of life and mine
are far apart.”

“I suppose,” I exclaimed bitterly, “that you are referring to my
professional practices.”

A note of weariness crept into her voice. I might have known that she
was near the end of her strength.

“No, I don’t think it’s that,” she said dispassionately. “I prefer to
put it down, that part of it, to a fundamental difference of ideas. I
do not feel qualified to sit in judgment on that part of your life,
although I’ll admit that many of the things you have done, in common
with the men with whom you are associated, have seemed to me unjust and
inconsiderate of the rights and feelings of others. You have alienated
some of your best friends. If I were to arraign you at all, it would be
on the score of heartlessness. But I suppose it isn’t your fault, that
you haven’t any heart.”

“That’s unfair,” I put in.

“I don’t wish to be unfair,” she replied. “Only, since you ask me, I
have to tell you that that is the way it seems to me. I don’t want
to introduce the question of right and wrong into this, Hugh, I’m not
capable of unravelling it; I can’t put myself into your life, and see
things from your point of view, weigh your problems and difficulties. In
the first place, you won’t let me. I think I understand you, partly--but
only partly. You have kept yourself shut up. But why discuss it? I have
made up my mind.”

The legal aspect of the matter occurred to me. What right had she to
leave me? I might refuse to support her. Yet even as these thoughts came
I rejected them; I knew that it was not in me to press this point. And
she could always take refuge with her father; without the children, of
course. But the very notion sickened me. I could not bear to think of
Maude deprived of the children. I had seated myself again at the table.
I put my hand to my forehead.

“Don’t make it hard, Hugh,” I heard her say, gently. “Believe me, it
is best. I know. There won’t be any talk about it,--right away, at any
rate. People will think it natural that I should wish to go abroad for
the summer. And later--well, the point of view about such affairs has
changed. They are better understood.”

She had risen. She was pale, still outwardly composed,--but I had a
strange, hideous feeling that she was weeping inwardly.

“Aren’t you coming back--ever?” I cried.

She did not answer at once.

“I don’t know,” she said, “I don’t know,” and left the room abruptly....

I wanted to follow her, but something withheld me. I got up and walked
around the room in a state of mind that was near to agony, taking one
of the neglected books out of the shelves, glancing at its meaningless
print, and replacing it; I stirred the fire, opened the curtains and
gazed out into the street and closed them again. I looked around me,
a sudden intensity of hatred seized me for this big, silent, luxurious
house; I recalled Maude’s presentiment about it. Then, thinking I might
still dissuade her, I went slowly up the padded stairway--to find her
door locked; and a sense of the finality of her decision came over me. I
knew then that I could not alter it even were I to go all the lengths of
abjectness. Nor could I, I knew, have brought myself to have feigned a
love I did not feel.

What was it I felt? I could not define it. Amazement, for one thing,
that Maude with her traditional, Christian view of marriage should have
come to such a decision. I went to my room, undressed mechanically and
got into bed....

She gave no sign at the breakfast table of having made the decision of
the greatest moment in our lives; she conversed as usual, asked about
the news, reproved the children for being noisy; and when the children
had left the table there were no tears, reminiscences, recriminations.
In spite of the slight antagonism and envy of which I was
conscious,--that she was thus superbly in command of the situation,
that she had developed her pinions and was thus splendidly able to use
them,--my admiration for her had never been greater. I made an effort
to achieve the frame of mind she suggested: since she took it so calmly,
why should I be tortured by the tragedy of it? Perhaps she had ceased to
love me, after all! Perhaps she felt nothing but relief. At any rate,
I was grateful to her, and I found a certain consolation, a sop to my
pride in the reflection that the initiative must have been hers to take.
I could not have deserted her.

“When do you think of leaving?” I asked.

“Two weeks from Saturday on the Olympic, if that is convenient for you.”
 Her manner seemed one of friendly solicitude. “You will remain in the
house this summer, as usual, I suppose?”

“Yes,” I said.

It was a sunny, warm morning, and I went downtown in the motor almost
blithely. It was the best solution after all, and I had been a fool to
oppose it.... At the office, there was much business awaiting me;
yet once in a while, during the day, when the tension relaxed, the
recollection of what had happened flowed back into my consciousness.
Maude was going!

I had telephoned Nancy, making an appointment for the afternoon.
Sometimes--not too frequently--we were in the habit of going out into
the country in one of her motors, a sort of landaulet, I believe, in
which we were separated from the chauffeur by a glass screen. She was
waiting for me when I arrived, at four; and as soon as we had shot clear
of the city, “Maude is going away,” I told her.

“Going away?” she repeated, struck more by the tone of my voice than by
what I had said.

“She announced last night that she was going abroad indefinitely.”

I had been more than anxious to see how Nancy would take the news. A
flush gradually deepened in her cheeks.

“You mean that she is going to leave you?”

“It looks that way. In fact, she as much as said so.”

“Why?” said Nancy.

“Well, she explained it pretty thoroughly. Apparently, it isn’t a sudden
decision,” I replied, trying to choose my words, to speak composedly as
I repeated the gist of our conversation. Nancy, with her face averted,
listened in silence--a silence that continued some time after I had
ceased to speak.

“She didn’t--she didn’t mention--?” the sentence remained unfinished.

“No,” I said quickly, “she didn’t. She must know, of course, but I’m
sure that didn’t enter into it.”

Nancy’s eyes as they returned to me were wet, and in them was an
expression I had never seen before,--of pain, reproach, of questioning.
It frightened me.

“Oh, Hugh, how little you know!” she cried.

“What do you mean?” I demanded.

“That is what has brought her to this decision--you and I.”

“You mean that--that Maude loves me? That she is jealous?” I don’t know
how I managed to say it.

“No woman likes to think that she is a failure,” murmured Nancy.

“Well, but she isn’t really,” I insisted. “She could have made another
man happy--a better man. It was all one of those terrible mistakes our
modern life seems to emphasize so.”

“She is a woman,” Nancy said, with what seemed a touch of vehemence.
“It’s useless to expect you to understand.... Do you remember what I
said to you about her? How I appealed to you when you married to try to
appreciate her?”

“It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate her,” I interrupted, surprised that
Nancy should have recalled this, “she isn’t the woman for me, we aren’t
made for each other. It was my mistake, my fault, I admit, but I don’t
agree with you at all, that we had anything to do with her decision. It
is just the--the culmination of a long period of incompatibility. She
has come to realize that she has only one life to live, and she seems
happier, more composed, more herself than she has ever been since our
marriage. Of course I don’t mean to say it isn’t painful for her....
But I am sure she isn’t well, that it isn’t because of our seeing one
another,” I concluded haltingly.

“She is finer than either of us, Hugh,--far finer.”

I did not relish this statement.

“She’s fine, I admit. But I can’t see how under the circumstances any of
us could have acted differently.” And Nancy not replying, I continued:
“She has made up her mind to go,--I suppose I could prevent it by taking
extreme measures,--but what good would it do? Isn’t it, after all,
the most sensible, the only way out of a situation that has become
impossible? Times have changed, Nancy, and you yourself have been the
first to admit it. Marriage is no longer what it was, and people
are coming to look upon it more sensibly. In order to perpetuate the
institution, as it was, segregation, insulation, was the only course.
Men segregated their wives, women their husbands,--the only logical
method of procedure, but it limited the individual. Our mothers and
fathers thought it scandalous if husband or wife paid visits alone. It
wasn’t done. But our modern life has changed all that. A marriage, to be
a marriage, should be proof against disturbing influences, should leave
the individuals free; the binding element should be love, not the force
of an imposed authority. You seemed to agree to all this.”

“Yes, I know,” she admitted. “But I cannot think that happiness will
ever grow out of unhappiness.”

“But Maude will not be unhappy,” I insisted. “She will be happier, far
happier, now that she has taken the step.”

“Oh, I wish I thought so,” Nancy exclaimed. “Hugh, you always believe
what you want to believe. And the children. How can you bear to part
with them?”

I was torn, I had a miserable sense of inadequacy.

“I shall miss them,” I said. “I have never really appreciated them. I
admit I don’t deserve to have them, and I am willing to give them up for
you, for Maude...”

We had made one of our favourite drives among the hills on the far side
of the Ashuela, and at six were back at Nancy’s house. I did not go
in, but walked slowly homeward up Grant Avenue. It had been a trying
afternoon. I had not expected, indeed, that Nancy would have rejoiced,
but her attitude, her silences, betraying, as they did, compunctions,
seemed to threaten our future happiness.



XXII.

One evening two or three days later I returned from the office to gaze
up at my house, to realize suddenly that it would be impossible for me
to live there, in those great, empty rooms, alone; and I told Maude that
I would go to the Club--during her absence. I preferred to keep up
the fiction that her trip would only be temporary. She forbore from
contradicting me, devoting herself efficiently to the task of closing
the house, making it seem, somehow, a rite,--the final rite in her
capacity as housewife. The drawing-room was shrouded, and the library;
the books wrapped neatly in paper; a smell of camphor pervaded the
place; the cheerful schoolroom was dismantled; trunks and travelling
bags appeared. The solemn butler packed my clothes, and I arranged for
a room at the Club in the wing that recently had been added for the
accommodation of bachelors and deserted husbands. One of the ironies of
those days was that the children began to suggest again possibilities of
happiness I had missed--especially Matthew. With all his gentleness, the
boy seemed to have a precocious understanding of the verities, and the
capacity for suffering which as a child I had possessed. But he had more
self-control. Though he looked forward to the prospect of new scenes and
experiences with the anticipation natural to his temperament, I thought
he betrayed at moments a certain intuition as to what was going on.

“When are you coming over, father?” he asked once. “How soon will your
business let you?”

He had been brought up in the belief that my business was a tyrant.

“Oh, soon, Matthew,--sometime soon,” I said.

I had a feeling that he understood me, not intellectually, but
emotionally. What a companion he might have been!... Moreton and Biddy
moved me less. They were more robust, more normal, less introspective
and imaginative; Europe meant nothing to them, but they were frankly
delighted and excited at the prospect of going on the ocean, asking
dozens of questions about the great ship, impatient to embark.....

“I shan’t need all that, Hugh,” Maude said, when I handed her a letter
of credit. “I--I intend to live quite simply, and my chief expenses
will be the children’s education. I am going to give them the best, of
course.”

“Of course,” I replied. “But I want you to live over there as you have
been accustomed to live here. It’s not exactly generosity on my part,--I
have enough, and more than enough.”

She took the letter.

“Another thing--I’d rather you didn’t go to New York with us, Hugh. I
know you are busy--”

“Of course I’m going,” I started to protest.

“No,” she went on, firmly. “I’d rather you didn’t. The hotel people will
put me on the steamer very comfortably,--and there are other reasons
why I do not wish it.” I did not insist.... On the afternoon of her
departure, when I came uptown, I found her pinning some roses on her
jacket.

“Perry and Lucia sent them,” she informed me. She maintained the
friendly, impersonal manner to the very end; but my soul, as we drove
to the train, was full of un-probed wounds. I had had roses put in
her compartments in the car; Tom and Susan Peters were there with more
roses, and little presents for the children. Their cheerfulness seemed
forced, and I wondered whether they suspected that Maude’s absence would
be prolonged.

“Write us often, and tell us all about it, dear,” said Susan, as she
sat beside Maude and held her hand; Tom had Biddy on his knee. Maude was
pale, but smiling and composed.

“I hope to get a little villa in France, near the sea,” she said. “I’ll
send you a photograph of it, Susan.”

“And Chickabiddy, when she comes back, will be rattling off French like
a native,” exclaimed Tom, giving her a hug.

“I hate French,” said Biddy, and she looked at him solemnly. “I wish you
were coming along, Uncle Tom.”

Bells resounded through the great station. The porter warned us off. I
kissed the children one by one, scarcely realizing what I was doing. I
kissed Maude. She received my embrace passively.

“Good-bye, Hugh,” she said.

I alighted, and stood on the platform as the train pulled out. The
children crowded to the windows, but Maude did not appear.... I found
myself walking with Tom and Susan past hurrying travellers and porters
to the Decatur Street entrance, where my automobile stood waiting.

“I’ll take you home, Susan,” I said.

“We’re ever so much obliged, Hugh,” she answered, “but the street-cars
go almost to ferry’s door. We’re dining there.”

Her eyes were filled with tears, and she seemed taller, more ungainly
than ever--older. A sudden impression of her greatness of heart was
borne home to me, and I grasped the value of such rugged friendship as
hers--as Tom’s.

“We shouldn’t know how to behave in an automobile,” he said, as though
to soften her refusal. And I stood watching their receding figures as
they walked out into the street and hailed the huge electric car that
came to a stop beyond them. Above its windows was painted “The Ashuela
Traction Company,” a label reminiscent of my professional activities.
Then I heard the chauffeur ask:--“Where do you wish to go, sir?”

“To the Club,” I said.

My room was ready, my personal belongings, my clothes had been laid out,
my photographs were on the dressing-table. I took up, mechanically, the
evening newspaper, but I could not read it; I thought of Maude, of the
children, memories flowed in upon me,--a flood not to be dammed....
Presently the club valet knocked at my door. He had a dinner card.

“Will you be dining here, sir?” he inquired.

I went downstairs. Fred Grierson was the only man in the dining-room.

“Hello, Hugh,” he said, “come and sit down. I hear your wife’s gone
abroad.”

“Yes,” I answered, “she thought she’d try it instead of the South Shore
this summer.”

Perhaps I imagined that he looked at me queerly. I had made a great deal
of money out of my association with Grierson, I had valued very highly
being an important member of the group to which he belonged; but
to-night, as I watched him eating and drinking greedily, I hated him
even as I hated myself. And after dinner, when he started talking with a
ridicule that was a thinly disguised bitterness about the Citizens Union
and their preparations for a campaign I left him and went to bed.

Before a week had passed my painful emotions had largely subsided, and
with my accustomed resiliency I had regained the feeling of self-respect
so essential to my happiness. I was free. My only anxiety was for Nancy,
who had gone to New York the day after my last talk with her; and it was
only by telephoning to her house that I discovered when she was expected
to return.... I found her sitting beside one of the open French windows
of her salon, gazing across at the wooded hills beyond the Ashuela. She
was serious, a little pale; more exquisite, more desirable than ever;
but her manner implied the pressure of control, and her voice was not
quite steady as she greeted me.

“You’ve been away a long time,” I said.

“The dressmakers,” she answered. Her colour rose a little. “I thought
they’d never get through.”

“But why didn’t you drop me a line, let me know when you were coming?”
 I asked, taking a chair beside her, and laying my hand on hers. She drew
it gently away.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I’ve been thinking it all over--what we’re doing. It doesn’t seem
right, it seems terribly wrong.”

“But I thought we’d gone over all that,” I replied, as patiently as I
could. “You’re putting it on an old-fashioned, moral basis.”

“But there must be same basis,” she urged. “There are responsibilities,
obligations--there must be!--that we can’t get away from. I can’t help
feeling that we ought to stand by our mistakes, and by our bargains;
we made a choice--it’s cheating, somehow, and if we take this--what we
want--we shall be punished for it.”

“But I’m willing to be punished, to suffer, as I told you. If you loved
me--”

“Hugh!” she exclaimed, and I was silent. “You don’t understand,”
 she went on, a little breathlessly, “what I mean by punishment is
deterioration. Do you remember once, long ago, when you came to me
before I was married, I said we’d both run after false gods, and that
we couldn’t do without them? Well, and now this has come; it seems so
wonderful to me, coming again like that after we had passed it by, after
we thought it had gone forever; it’s opened up visions for me that I
never hoped to see again. It ought to restore us, dear--that’s what I’m
trying to say--to redeem us, to make us capable of being what we were
meant to be. If it doesn’t do that, if it isn’t doing so, it’s the most
horrible of travesties, of mockeries. If we gain life only to have it
turn into death--slow death; if we go to pieces again, utterly. For now
there’s hope. The more I think, the more clearly I see that we can’t
take any step without responsibilities. If we take this, you’ll have me,
and I’ll have you. And if we don’t save each other--”

“But we will,” I said.

“Ah,” she exclaimed, “if we could start new, without any past. I married
Ham with my eyes open.”

“You couldn’t know that he would become--well, as flagrant as he is. You
didn’t really know what he was then.”

“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t have anticipated it. I can’t claim
that I was deceived, that I thought my marriage was made in heaven. I
entered into a contract, and Ham has kept his part of it fairly well.
He hasn’t interfered with my freedom. That isn’t putting it on a high
plane, but there is an obligation involved. You yourself, in your law
practice, are always insisting upon the sacredness of contract as the
very basis of our civilization.”

Here indeed would have been a home thrust, had I been vulnerable at
the time. So intent was I on overcoming her objections, that I resorted
unwittingly to the modern argument I had more than once declared in
court to be anathema-the argument of the new reform in reference to the
common law and the constitution.

“A contract, no matter how seriously entered into at the time it was
made, that later is seen to violate the principles of humanity should be
void. And not only this, but you didn’t consent that he should disgrace
you.”

Nancy winced.

“I never told you that he paid my father’s debts, I never told anyone,”
 she said, in a low voice.

“Even then,” I answered after a moment, “you ought to see that it’s
too terrible a price to pay for your happiness. And Ham hasn’t ever
pretended to consider you in any way. It’s certain you didn’t agree that
he should do--what he is doing.”

“Suppose I admitted it,” she said, “there remain Maude and your
children. Their happiness, their future becomes my responsibility as
well as yours.”

“But I don’t love Maude, and Maude doesn’t love me. I grant it’s my
fault, that I did her a wrong in marrying her, but she is right in
leaving me. I should be doing her a double wrong. And the children will
be happy with her, they will be well brought up. I, too, have thought
this out, Nancy,” I insisted, “and the fact is that in our respective
marriages we have been, each of us, victims of our time, of our
education. We were born in a period of transition, we inherited views
of life that do not fit conditions to-day. It takes courage to achieve
happiness, initiative to emancipate one’s self from a morality that
begins to hamper and bind. To stay as we are, to refuse to take what is
offered us, is to remain between wind and water. I don’t mean that we
should do anything--hastily. We can afford to take a reasonable time, to
be dignified about it. But I have come to the conclusion that the only
thing that matters in the world is a love like ours, and its fulfilment.
Achievement, success, are empty and meaningless without it. And you do
love me--you’ve admitted it.”

“Oh, I don’t want to talk about it,” she exclaimed, desperately.

“But we have to talk about it,” I persisted. “We have to thrash it out,
to see it straight, as you yourself have said.”

“You speak of convictions, Hugh,--new convictions, in place of the old
we have discarded. But what are they? And is there no such thing
as conscience--even though it be only an intuition of happiness or
unhappiness? I do care for you, I do love you--”

“Then why not let that suffice?” I exclaimed, leaning towards her.

She drew back.

“But I want to respect you, too,” she said.

I was shocked, too shocked to answer.

“I want to respect you,” she repeated, more gently. “I don’t want to
think that--that what we feel for each other is--unconsecrated.”

“It consecrates itself,” I declared.

She shook her head.

“Surely it has its roots in everything that is fine in both of us.”

“We both went wrong,” said Nancy. “We both sought to wrest power and
happiness from the world, to make our own laws. How can we assert
that--this is not merely a continuation of it?”

“But can’t we work out our beliefs together?” I demanded. “Won’t you
trust me, trust our love for one another?”

Her breath came and went quickly.

“Oh, you know that I want you, Hugh, as much as you want me, and more.
The time may come when I can’t resist you.”

“Why do you resist me?” I cried, seizing her hands convulsively, and
swept by a gust of passion at her confession.

“Try to understand that I am fighting for both of us!” she pleaded--an
appeal that wrung me in spite of the pitch to which my feelings had been
raised. “Hugh, dear, we must think it out. Don’t now.”

I let her hands drop....

Beyond the range of hills rising from the far side of the Ashuela was
the wide valley in which was situated the Cloverdale Country Club, with
its polo field, golf course and tennis courts; and in this same
valley some of our wealthy citizens, such as Howard Ogilvy and Leonard
Dickinson, had bought “farms,” week-end playthings for spring and
autumn. Hambleton Durrett had started the fashion. Capriciously, as he
did everything else, he had become the owner of several hundred acres
of pasture, woodland and orchard, acquired some seventy-five head of
blooded stock, and proceeded to house them in model barns and milk by
machinery; for several months he had bored everyone in the Boyne Club
whom he could entice into conversation on the subject of the records of
pedigreed cows, and spent many bibulous nights on the farm in company
with those parasites who surrounded him when he was in town. Then
another interest had intervened; a feminine one, of course, and his
energies were transferred (so we understood) to the reconstruction and
furnishing of a little residence in New York, not far from Fifth Avenue.
The farm continued under the expert direction of a superintendent
who was a graduate of the State Agricultural College, and a select
clientele, which could afford to pay the prices, consumed the milk and
cream and butter. Quite consistent with their marital relations was
the fact that Nancy should have taken a fancy to the place after Ham’s
interest had waned. Not that she cared for the Guernseys, or Jerseys,
or whatever they may have been; she evinced a sudden passion for
simplicity,--occasional simplicity, at least,--for a contrast to and
escape from a complicated life of luxury. She built another house for
the superintendent banished him from the little farmhouse (where Ham had
kept two rooms); banished along with the superintendent the stiff plush
furniture, the yellow-red carpets, the easels and the melodeon, and
decked it out in bright chintzes, with wall-papers to match, dainty
muslin curtains, and rag-carpet rugs on the hardwood floors. The
pseudo-classic porch over the doorway, which had suggested a cemetery,
was removed, and a wide piazza added, furnished with wicker lounging
chairs and tables, and shaded with gay awnings.

Here, to the farm, accompanied by a maid, she had been in the habit
of retiring from time to time, and here she came in early July. Here,
dressed in the simplest linen gowns of pink or blue or white, I found a
Nancy magically restored to girlhood,--anew Nancy, betraying only traces
of the old, a new Nancy in a new Eden. We had all the setting, all the
illusion of that perfect ideal of domesticity, love in a cottage. Nancy
and I, who all our lives had spurned simplicity, laughed over the joy
we found in it: she made a high art of it, of course; we had our simple
dinners, which Mrs. Olsen cooked and served in the open air; sometimes
on the porch, sometimes under the great butternut tree spreading its
shade over what in a more elaborate country-place, would have been
called a lawn,--an uneven plot of grass of ridges and hollows that ran
down to the orchard. Nancy’s eyes would meet mine across the little
table, and often our gaze would wander over the pastures below, lucent
green in the level evening light, to the darkening woods beyond,
gilt-tipped in the setting sun. There were fields of ripening yellow
grain, of lusty young corn that grew almost as we watched it: the
warm winds of evening were heavy with the acrid odours of fecundity.
Fecundity! In that lay the elusive yet insistent charm of that country;
and Nancy’s, of course, was the transforming touch that made it
paradise. It was thus, in the country, I suggested that we should spend
the rest of our existence. What was the use of amassing money, when
happiness was to be had so simply?

“How long do you think you could stand it?” she asked, as she handed me
a plate of blackberries.

“Forever, with the right woman,” I announced.

“How long could the woman stand it?”.... She humoured, smilingly, my
crystal-gazing into our future, as though she had not the heart to
deprive me of the pleasure.

“I simply can’t believe in it, Hugh,” she said when I pressed her for an
answer.

“Why not?”

“I suppose it’s because I believe in continuity, I haven’t the romantic
temperament,--I always see the angel with the flaming sword. It isn’t
that I want to see him.”

“But we shall redeem ourselves,” I said. “It won’t be curiosity and
idleness. We are not just taking this thing, and expecting to give
nothing for it in return.”

“What can we give that is worth it?” she exclaimed, with one of her
revealing flashes.

“We won’t take it lightly, but seriously,” I told her. “We shall find
something to give, and that something will spring naturally out of our
love. We’ll read together, and think and plan together.”

“Oh, Hugh, you are incorrigible,” was all she said.

The male tendency in me was forever strained to solve her, to deduce
from her conversation and conduct a body of consistent law. The effort
was useless. Here was a realm, that of Nancy’s soul, in which there was
apparently no such thing as relevancy. In the twilight, after dinner,
we often walked through the orchard to a grassy bank beside the little
stream, where we would sit and watch the dying glow in the sky. After a
rain its swollen waters were turbid, opaque yellow-red with the clay
of the hills; at other times it ran smoothly, temperately, almost clear
between the pasture grasses and wild flowers. Nancy declared that it
reminded her of me. We sat there, into the lush, warm nights, and the
moon shone down on us, or again through long silences we searched the
bewildering, starry chart of the heavens, with the undertones of the
night-chorus of the fields in our ears. Sometimes she let my head rest
upon her knee; but when, throbbing at her touch, with the life-force
pulsing around us, I tried to take her in my arms, to bring her lips to
mine, she resisted me with an energy of will and body that I could not
overcome, I dared not overcome. She acknowledged her love for me, she
permitted me to come to her, she had the air of yielding but never
yielded. Why, then, did she allow the words of love to pass? and how
draw the line between caresses? I was maddened and disheartened by that
elusive resistance in her--apparently so frail a thing!--that neither
argument nor importunity could break down. Was there something lacking
in me? or was it that I feared to mar or destroy the love she had. This,
surely, had not been the fashion of other loves, called unlawful, the
classic instances celebrated by the poets of all ages rose to mock me.

“Incurably romantic,” she had called me, in calmer moments, when I was
able to discuss our affair objectively. And once she declared that I had
no sense of tragedy. We read “Macbeth” together, I remember, one rainy
Sunday. The modern world, which was our generation, would seem to be
cut off from all that preceded it as with a descending knife. It was
precisely from “the sense of tragedy” that we had been emancipated: from
the “agonized conscience,” I should undoubtedly have said, had I been
acquainted then with Mr. Santayana’s later phrase. Conscience--the old
kind of conscience,--and nothing inherent in the deeds themselves, made
the tragedy; conscience was superstition, the fear of the wrath of the
gods: conscience was the wrath of the gods. Eliminate it, and behold!
there were no consequences. The gods themselves, that kind of gods,
became as extinct as the deities of the Druids, the Greek fates, the
terrible figures of German mythology. Yes, and as the God of Christian
orthodoxy.

Had any dire calamities overtaken the modern Macbeths, of whose personal
lives we happened to know something? Had not these great ones broken
with impunity all the laws of traditional morality? They ground the
faces of the poor, played golf and went to church with serene minds,
untroubled by criticism; they appropriated, quite freely, other men’s
money, and some of them other men’s wives, and yet they were not haggard
with remorse. The gods remained silent. Christian ministers regarded
these modern transgressors of ancient laws benignly and accepted their
contributions. Here, indeed, were the supermen of the mad German prophet
and philosopher come to life, refuting all classic tragedy. It is true
that some of these supermen were occasionally swept away by disease,
which in ancient days would have been regarded as a retributive scourge,
but was in fact nothing but the logical working of the laws of hygiene,
the result of overwork. Such, though stated more crudely, were my
contentions when desire did not cloud my brain and make me incoherent.
And I did not fail to remind Nancy, constantly, that this was the path
on which her feet had been set; that to waver now was to perish. She
smiled, yet she showed concern.

“But suppose you don’t get what you want?” she objected. “What then?
Suppose one doesn’t become a superman? or a superwoman? What’s to happen
to one? Is there no god but the superman’s god, which is himself? Are
there no gods for those who can’t be supermen? or for those who may
refuse to be supermen?”

To refuse, I maintained, were a weakness of the will.

“But there are other wills,” she persisted, “wills over which the
superman may conceivably have no control. Suppose, for example, that
you don’t get me, that my will intervenes, granting it to be conceivable
that your future happiness and welfare, as you insist, depend upon your
getting me--which I doubt.”

“You’ve no reason to doubt it.”

“Well, granting it, then. Suppose the orthodoxies and superstitions
succeed in inhibiting me. I may not be a superwoman, but my will, or my
conscience, if you choose, may be stronger than yours. If you don’t get
what you want, you aren’t happy. In other words, you fail. Where are
your gods then? The trouble with you, my dear Hugh, is that you have
never failed,” she went on, “you’ve never had a good, hard fall, you’ve
always been on the winning side, and you’ve never had the world against
you. No wonder you don’t understand the meaning and value of tragedy.”

“And you?” I asked.

“No,” she agreed, “nor I. Yet I have come to feel, instinctively, that
somehow concealed in tragedy is the central fact of life, the true
reality, that nothing is to be got by dodging it, as we have dodged it.
Your superman, at least the kind of superman you portray, is petrified.
Something vital in him, that should be plastic and sensitive, has turned
to stone.”

“Since when did you begin to feel this?” I inquired uneasily.

“Since--well, since we have been together again, in the last month or
two. Something seems to warn me that if we take--what we want, we shan’t
get it. That’s an Irish saying, I know, but it expresses my meaning. I
may be little, I may be superstitious, unlike the great women of history
who have dared. But it’s more than mere playing safe--my instinct, I
mean. You see, you are involved. I believe I shouldn’t hesitate if
only myself were concerned, but you are the uncertain quantity--more
uncertain than you have any idea; you think you know yourself, you think
you have analyzed yourself, but the truth is, Hugh, you don’t know the
meaning of struggle against real resistance.”

I was about to protest.

“I know that you have conquered in the world of men and affairs,” she
hurried on, “against resistance, but it isn’t the kind of resistance
I mean. It doesn’t differ essentially from the struggle in the animal
kingdom.”

I bowed. “Thank you,” I said.

She laughed a little.

“Oh, I have worshipped success, too. Perhaps I still do--that isn’t the
point. An animal conquers his prey, he is in competition, in constant
combat with others of his own kind, and perhaps he brings to bear a
certain amount of intelligence in the process. Intelligence isn’t the
point, either. I know what I’m saying is trite, it’s banal, it sounds
like moralizing, and perhaps it is, but there is so much confusion
to-day that I think we are in danger of losing sight of the simpler
verities, and that we must suffer for it. Your super-animal, your
supreme-stag subdues the other stags, but he never conquers himself, he
never feels the need of it, and therefore he never comprehends what we
call tragedy.”

“I gather your inference,” I said, smiling.

“Well,” she admitted, “I haven’t stated the case with the shade of
delicacy it deserves, but I wanted to make my meaning clear. We
have raised up a class in America, but we have lost sight,
a little--considerably, I think--of the distinguishing human
characteristics. The men you were eulogizing are lords of the forest,
more or less, and we women, who are of their own kind, what they have
made us, surrender ourselves in submission and adoration to the
lordly stag in the face of all the sacraments that have been painfully
inaugurated by the race for the very purpose of distinguishing us from
animals. It is equivalent to saying that there is no moral law; or, if
there is, nobody can define it. We deny, inferentially, a human realm as
distinguished from the animal, and in the denial it seems to me we are
cutting ourselves off from what is essential human development. We are
reverting to the animal. I have lost and you have lost--not entirely,
perhaps, but still to a considerable extent--the bloom of that fervour,
of that idealism, we may call it, that both of us possessed when we were
in our teens. We had occasional visions. We didn’t know what they meant,
or how to set about their accomplishment, but they were not, at least,
mere selfish aspirations; they implied, unconsciously no doubt, an
element of service, and certainly our ideal of marriage had something
fine in it.”

“Isn’t it for a higher ideal of marriage that we are searching?” I
asked.

“If that is so,” Nancy objected, “then all the other elements of our
lives are sadly out of tune with it. Even the most felicitous union of
the sexes demands sacrifice, an adjustment of wills, and these are the
very things we balk at; and the trouble with our entire class in this
country is that we won’t acknowledge any responsibility, there’s no
sacrifice in our eminence, we have no sense of the whole.”

“Where did you get all these ideas?” I demanded.

She laughed.

“Well,” she admitted, “I’ve been thrashing around a little; and I’ve
read some of the moderns, you know. Do you remember my telling you
I didn’t agree with them? and now this thing has come on me
like a judgment. I’ve caught their mania for liberty, for
self-realization--whatever they call it--but their remedies are vague,
they fail to convince me that individuals achieve any quality by just
taking what they want, regardless of others.”....

I was unable to meet this argument, and the result was that when I was
away from her I too began to “thrash around” among the books in a vain
search for a radical with a convincing and satisfying philosophy.
Thus we fly to literature in crises of the heart! There was no lack
of writers who sought to deal--and deal triumphantly with the very
situation in which I was immersed. I marked many passages, to read them
over to Nancy, who was interested, but who accused me of being willing
to embrace any philosophy, ancient or modern, that ran with the stream
of my desires. It is worth recording that the truth of this struck home.
On my way back to the city I reflected that, in spite of my protests
against Maude’s going--protests wholly sentimental and impelled by the
desire to avoid giving pain on the spot--I had approved of her departure
because I didn’t want her. On the other hand I had to acknowledge if I
hadn’t wanted Nancy, or rather, if I had become tired of her, I should
have been willing to endorse her scruples.... It was not a comforting
thought.

One morning when I was absently opening the mail I found at my office I
picked up a letter from Theodore Watling, written from a seaside resort
in Maine, the contents of which surprised and touched me, troubled me,
and compelled me to face a situation with which I was wholly unprepared
to cope. He announced that this was to be his last term in the Senate.
He did not name the trouble his physician had discovered, but he had
been warned that he must retire from active life. “The specialist whom
I saw in New York,” he went on, “wished me to resign at once, but when I
pointed out to him how unfair this would be to my friends in the state,
to my party as a whole--especially in these serious and unsettled
times--he agreed that I might with proper care serve out the remainder
of my term. I have felt it my duty to write to Barbour and Dickinson and
one or two others in order that they might be prepared and that no time
may be lost in choosing my successor. It is true that the revolt within
the party has never gained much headway in our state, but in these days
it is difficult to tell when and where a conflagration may break out,
or how far it will go. I have ventured to recommend to them the man who
seems to me the best equipped to carry on the work I have been trying to
do here--in short, my dear Hugh, yourself. The Senate, as you know, is
not a bed of roses just now for those who think as we do; but I have the
less hesitancy in making the recommendation because I believe you are
not one to shun a fight for the convictions we hold in common, and
because you would regard, with me, the election of a senator with the
new views as a very real calamity. If sound business men and lawyers
should be eliminated from the Senate, I could not contemplate with any
peace of mind what might happen to the country. In thus urging you, I
know you will believe me when I say that my affection and judgment are
equally involved, for it would be a matter of greater pride than I can
express to have you follow me here as you have followed me at home. And
I beg of you seriously to consider it.... I understand that Maude and
the children are abroad. Remember me to them affectionately when you
write. If you can find it convenient to come here, to Maine, to discuss
the matter, you may be sure of a welcome. In any case, I expect to be
in Washington in September for a meeting of our special committee.
Sincerely and affectionately yours, Theodore Watling.”

It was characteristic of him that the tone of the letter should be
uniformly cheerful, that he should say nothing whatever of the blow
this must be to his ambitions and hopes; and my agitation at the new and
disturbing prospect thus opened up for me was momentarily swept away by
feelings of affection and sorrow. A sharp realization came to me of how
much I admired and loved this man, and this was followed by a pang
at the thought of the disappointment my refusal would give him.
Complications I did not wish to examine were then in the back of my
mind; and while I still sat holding the letter in my hand the telephone
rang, and a message came from Leonard Dickinson begging me to call at
the bank at once.

Miller Gorse was there, and Tallant, waving a palm-leaf while sitting
under the electric fan. They were all very grave, and they began to talk
about the suddenness of Mr. Watling’s illness and to speculate upon its
nature. Leonard Dickinson was the most moved of the three; but they were
all distressed, and showed it--even Tallant, whom I had never credited
with any feelings; they spoke about the loss to the state. At length
Gorse took a cigar from his pocket and lighted it; the smoke, impelled
by the fan, drifted over the panelled partition into the bank.

“I suppose Mr. Watling mentioned to you what he wrote to us,” he said.

“Yes,” I admitted.

“Well,” he asked, “what do you think of it?”

“I attribute it to Mr. Watling’s friendship,” I replied.

“No,” said Gorse, in his businesslike manner, “Watling’s right, there’s
no one else.” Considering the number of inhabitants of our state, this
remark had its humorous aspect.

“That’s true,” Dickinson put in, “there’s no one else available who
understands the situation as you do, Hugh, no one else we can trust as
we trust you. I had a wire from Mr. Barbour this morning--he agrees.
We’ll miss you here, but now that Watling will be gone we’ll need you
there. And he’s right--it’s something we’ve got to decide on right away,
and get started on soon, we can’t afford to wobble and run any chances
of a revolt.”

“It isn’t everybody the senatorship comes to on a platter--especially at
your age,” said Tallant.

“To tell you the truth,” I answered, addressing Dickinson, “I’m not
prepared to talk about it now. I appreciate the honour, but I’m not at
all sure I’m the right man. And I’ve been considerably upset by this
news of Mr. Watling.”

“Naturally you would be,” said the banker, sympathetically, “and we
share your feelings. I don’t know of any man for whom I have a greater
affection than I have for Theodore Wading. We shouldn’t have mentioned
it now, Hugh, if Watling hadn’t started the thing himself, if it weren’t
important to know where we stand right away. We can’t afford to lose the
seat. Take your time, but remember you’re the man we depend upon.”

Gorse nodded. I was aware, all the time Dickinson was speaking, of
being surrounded by the strange, disquieting gaze of the counsel for the
Railroad....

I went back to my office to spend an uneasy morning. My sorrow for
Mr. Watling was genuine, but nevertheless I found myself compelled to
consider an honour no man lightly refuses. Had it presented itself at
any other time, had it been due to a happier situation than that brought
about by the illness of a man whom I loved and admired, I should have
thought the prospect dazzling indeed, part and parcel of my amazing
luck. But now--now I was in an emotional state that distorted the
factors of life, all those things I hitherto had valued; even such a
prize as this I weighed in terms of one supreme desire: how would the
acceptance of the senatorship affect the accomplishment of this desire?
That was the question. I began making rapid calculations: the actual
election would take place in the legislature a year from the following
January; provided I were able to overcome Nancy’s resistance--which I
was determined to do--nothing in the way of divorce proceedings could be
thought of for more than a year; and I feared delay. On the other hand,
if we waited until after I had been duly elected to get my divorce and
marry Nancy my chances of reelection would be small. What did I care for
the senatorship anyway--if I had her? and I wanted her now, as soon as I
could get her. She--a life with her represented new values, new values
I did not define, that made all I had striven for in the past of little
worth. This was a bauble compared with the companionship of the woman
I loved, the woman intended for me, who would give me peace of mind and
soul and develop those truer aspirations that had long been thwarted and
starved for lack of her. Gradually, as she regained the ascendency over
my mind she ordinarily held--and from which she had been temporarily
displaced by the arrival of Mr. Watling’s letter and the talk in the
bank--I became impatient and irritated by the intrusion. But what answer
should I give to Dickinson and Gorse? what excuse for declining such an
offer? I decided, as may be imagined, to wait, to temporize.

The irony of circumstances--of what might have been--prevented now my
laying this trophy at Nancy’s feet, for I knew I had only to mention the
matter to be certain of losing her.



XXIII.

I had bought a small automobile, which I ran myself, and it was my
custom to arrive at the farm every evening about five o’clock. But as I
look back upon those days they seem to have lost succession, to be fused
together, as it were, into one indeterminable period by the intense
pressure of emotion; unsatisfied emotion,--and the state of physical and
mental disorganization set up by it is in the retrospect not a little
terrifying. The world grew more and more distorted, its affairs were
neglected, things upon which I had set high values became as nothing.
And even if I could summon back something of the sequence of our
intercourse, it would be a mere repetition--growing on my part more
irrational and insistent--of what I have already related. There were
long, troubled, and futile silences when we sat together on the porch
or in the woods and fields; when I wondered whether it were weakness
or strength that caused Nancy to hold out against my importunities:
the fears she professed of retribution, the benumbing effects of the
conventional years, or the deep-rooted remnants of a Calvinism which--as
she proclaimed--had lost definite expression to persist as an intuition.
I recall something she said when she turned to me after one of these
silences.

“Do you know how I feel sometimes? as though you and I had wandered
together into a strange country, and lost our way. We have lost our way,
Hugh--it’s all so clandestine, so feverish, so unnatural, so unrelated
to life, this existence we’re leading. I believe it would be better if
it were a mere case of physical passion. I can’t help it,” she went on,
when I had exclaimed against this, “we are too--too complicated, you are
too complicated. It’s because we want the morning stars, don’t you see?”
 She wound her fingers tightly around mine. “We not only want this, but
all of life besides--you wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less. Oh,
I know it. That’s your temperament, you were made that way, and I
shouldn’t be satisfied if you weren’t. The time would come when you
would blame me I don’t mean vulgarly--and I couldn’t stand that. If you
weren’t that way, if that weren’t your nature, I mean, I should have
given way long ago.”

I made some sort of desperate protest.

“No, if I didn’t know you so well I believe I should have given in long
ago. I’m not thinking of you alone, but of myself, too. I’m afraid I
shouldn’t be happy, that I should begin to think--and then I couldn’t
stop. The plain truth, as I’ve told you over and over again, is that I’m
not big enough.” She continued smiling at me, a smile on which I could
not bear to look. “I was wrong not to have gone away,” I heard her say.
“I will go away.”

I was, at the time, too profoundly discouraged to answer....

One evening after an exhausting talk we sat, inert, on the grass hummock
beside the stream. Heavy clouds had gathered in the sky, the light had
deepened to amethyst, the valley was still, swooning with expectancy,
louder and louder the thunder rolled from behind the distant hills, and
presently a veil descended to hide them from our view. Great drops began
to fall, unheeded.

“We must go in,” said Nancy, at length.

I followed her across the field and through the orchard. From the porch
we stood gazing out at the whitening rain that blotted all save the
nearer landscape, and the smell of wet, midsummer grasses will always be
associated with the poignancy of that moment.... At dinner, between the
intervals of silence, our talk was of trivial things. We made a mere
pretence of eating, and I remember having my attention arrested by the
sight of a strange, pitying expression on the face of Mrs. Olsen, who
waited on us. Before that the woman had been to me a mere ministering
automaton. But she must have had ideas and opinions, this transported
Swedish peasant.... Presently, having cleared the table, she retired....
The twilight deepened to dusk, to darkness. The storm, having spent the
intensity of its passion in those first moments of heavy downpour and
wind, had relaxed to a gentle rain that pattered on the roof, and from
the stream came recurringly the dirge of the frogs. All I could see
of Nancy was the dim outline of her head and shoulders: she seemed
fantastically to be escaping me, to be fading, to be going; in sudden
desperation I dropped on my knees beside her, and I felt her hands
straying with a light yet agonized touch, over my head.

“Do you think I haven’t suffered, too? that I don’t suffer?” I heard her
ask.

Some betraying note for which I had hitherto waited in vain must have
pierced to my consciousness, yet the quiver of joy and the swift,
convulsive movement that followed it seemed one. Her strong, lithe body
was straining in my arms, her lips returning my kisses.... Clinging to
her hands, I strove to summon my faculties of realization; and I began
to speak in broken, endearing sentences.

“It’s stronger than we are--stronger than anything else in the world,”
 she said.

“But you’re not sorry?” I asked.

“I don’t want to think--I don’t care,” she replied. “I only know that I
love you. I wonder if you will ever know how much!”

The moments lengthened into hours, and she gently reminded me that it
was late. The lights in the little farmhouses near by had long been
extinguished. I pleaded to linger; I wanted her, more of her, all of her
with a fierce desire that drowned rational thought, and I feared that
something might still come between us, and cheat me of her.

“No, no,” she cried, with fear in her voice. “We shall have to think
it out very carefully--what we must do. We can’t afford to make any
mistakes.”

“We’ll talk it all over to-morrow,” I said.

With a last, reluctant embrace I finally left her, walked blindly to
where the motor car was standing, and started the engine. I looked back.
Outlined in the light of the doorway I saw her figure in what seemed an
attitude of supplication....

I drove cityward through the rain, mechanically taking the familiar
turns in the road, barely missing a man in a buggy at a four-corners.
He shouted after me, but the world to which he belonged didn’t exist. I
lived again those moments that had followed Nancy’s surrender, seeking
to recall and fix in my mind every word that had escaped from her
lips--the trivial things that to lovers are so fraught with meaning.
I lived it all over again, as I say, but the reflection of it, though
intensely emotional, differed from the reality in that now I was
somewhat able to regard the thing, to regard myself, objectively; to
define certain feelings that had flitted in filmy fashion through my
consciousness, delicate shadows I recognized at the time as related to
sadness. When she had so amazingly yielded, the thought for which my
mind had been vaguely groping was that the woman who lay there in my
arms, obscured by the darkness, was not Nancy at all! It was as if this
one precious woman I had so desperately pursued had, in the capture,
lost her identity, had mysteriously become just woman, in all her
significance, yes, and helplessness. The particular had merged
(inevitably, I might have known) into the general: the temporary had
become the lasting, with a chain of consequences vaguely implied that
even in my joy gave me pause. For the first time in my life I had a
glimpse of what marriage might mean,--marriage in a greater sense than
I had ever conceived it, a sort of cosmic sense, implying obligations
transcending promises and contracts, calling for greatness of soul of a
kind I had not hitherto imagined. Was there in me a grain of doubt of my
ability to respond to such a high call? I began to perceive that such a
union as we contemplated involved more obligations than one not opposed
to traditional views of morality. I fortified myself, however,--if
indeed I really needed fortification in a mood prevailingly triumphant
and exalted,--with the thought that this love was different, the real
thing, the love of maturity steeped in the ideals of youth. Here was a
love for which I must be prepared to renounce other things on which I
set a high value; prepared, in case the world, for some reason, should
not look upon us with kindliness. It was curious that such reflections
as these should have been delayed until after the achievement of my
absorbing desire, more curious that they should have followed so closely
on the heels of it. The affair had shifted suddenly from a basis
of adventure, of uncertainty; to one of fact, of commitment; I am
exaggerating my concern in order to define it; I was able to persuade
myself without much difficulty that these little, cloudy currents in
the stream of my joy were due to a natural reaction from the tremendous
strain of the past weeks, mere morbid fancies.

When at length I reached my room at the Club I sat looking out at the
rain falling on the shining pavements under the arc-lights. Though waves
of heat caused by some sudden recollection or impatient longing
still ran through my body, a saner joy of anticipation was succeeding
emotional tumult, and I reflected that Nancy had been right in insisting
that we walk circumspectly in spite of passion. After all, I had
outwitted circumstance, I had gained the prize, I could afford to wait a
little. We should talk it over to-morrow,--no, to-day. The luminous face
of the city hall clock reminded me that midnight was long past....

I awoke with the consciousness of a new joy, suddenly to identify it
with Nancy. She was mine! I kept repeating it as I dressed; summoning
her, not as she had lain in my arms in the darkness--though the
intoxicating sweetness of that pervaded me--but as she had been
before the completeness of her surrender, dainty, surrounded by things
expressing an elusive, uniquely feminine personality. I could afford
to smile at the weather, at the obsidian sky, at the rain still
falling persistently; and yet, as I ate my breakfast, I felt a certain
impatience to verify what I knew was a certainty, and hurried to
the telephone booth. I resented the instrument, its possibilities
of betrayal, her voice sounded so matter-of-fact as she bade me good
morning and deplored the rain.

“I’ll be out as soon as I can get away,” I said. “I have a meeting at
three, but it should be over at four.” And then I added irresistibly:
“Nancy, you’re not sorry? You--you still--?”

“Yes, don’t be foolish,” I heard her reply, and this time the telephone
did not completely disguise the note for which I strained. I said
something more, but the circuit was closed....

I shall not attempt to recount the details of our intercourse during
the week that followed. There were moments of stress and strain when it
seemed to me that we could not wait, moments that strengthened Nancy’s
resolution to leave immediately for the East: there were other, calmer
periods when the wisdom of her going appealed to me, since our
ultimate union would be hastened thereby. We overcame by degrees the
distastefulness of the discussion of ways and means.... We spent an
unforgettable Sunday among the distant high hills, beside a little lake
of our own discovery, its glinting waters sapphire and chrysoprase.
A grassy wood road, at the inviting entrance to which we left the
automobile, led down through an undergrowth of laurel to a pebbly
shore, and there we lunched; there we lingered through the long summer
afternoon, Nancy with her back against a tree, I with my head in her
lap gazing up at filmy clouds drifting imperceptibly across the sky,
listening to the droning notes of the bees, notes that sometimes rose
in a sharp crescendo, and again were suddenly hushed. The smell of the
wood-mould mingled with the fainter scents of wild flowers. She had
brought along a volume by a modern poet: the verses, as Nancy read
them, moved me,--they were filled with a new faith to which my being
responded, the faith of the forth-farer; not the faith of the anchor,
but of the sail. I repeated some of the lines as indications of a creed
to which I had long been trying to convert her, though lacking the
expression. She had let the book fall on the grass. I remember how she
smiled down at me with the wisdom of the ages in her eyes, seeking my
hand with a gesture that was almost maternal.

“You and the poets,” she said, “you never grow up. I suppose that’s the
reason why we love you--and these wonderful visions of freedom you have.
Anyway, it’s nice to dream, to recreate the world as one would like to
have it.”

“But that’s what you and I are doing,” I insisted.

“We think we’re doing it--or rather you think so,” she replied. “And
sometimes, I admit that you almost persuade me to think so. Never quite.
What disturbs me,” she continued, “is to find you and the poets founding
your new freedom on new justifications, discarding the old law only
to make a new one,--as though we could ever get away from necessities,
escape from disagreeable things, except in dreams. And then, this
delusion of believing that we are masters of our own destiny--” She
paused and pressed my fingers.

“There you go-back to predestination!” I exclaimed.

“I don’t go back to anything, or forward to anything,” she exclaimed.
“Women are elemental, but I don’t expect you to understand it. Laws and
codes are foreign to us, philosophies and dreams may dazzle us for the
moment, but what we feel underneath and what we yield to are the primal
forces, the great necessities; when we refuse joys it’s because we know
these forces by a sort of instinct, when we’re overcome it’s with a full
knowledge that there’s a price. You’ve talked a great deal, Hugh, about
carving out our future. I listened to you, but I resisted you. It wasn’t
the morality that was taught me as a child that made me resist, it was
something deeper than that, more fundamental, something I feel but
can’t yet perceive, and yet shall perceive some day. It isn’t that I’m
clinging to the hard and fast rules because I fail to see any others, it
isn’t that I believe that all people should stick together whether
they are happily married or not, but--I must say it even now--I have a
feeling I can’t define that divorce isn’t for us. I’m not talking about
right and wrong in the ordinary sense--it’s just what I feel. I’ve
ceased to think.”

“Nancy!” I reproached her.

“I can’t help it--I don’t want to be morbid. Do you remember my asking
you about God?--the first day this began? and whether you had a god?
Well, that’s the trouble with us all to-day, we haven’t any God, we’re
wanderers, drifters. And now it’s just life that’s got hold of us, my
dear, and swept us away together. That’s our justification--if we needed
one--it’s been too strong for us.” She leaned back against the tree and
closed her eyes. “We’re like chips in the torrent of it, Hugh.”....

It was not until the shadow of the forest had crept far across the lake
and the darkening waters were still that we rose reluctantly to put the
dishes in the tea basket and start on our homeward journey. The tawny
fires of the sunset were dying down behind us, the mist stealing,
ghostlike, into the valleys below; in the sky a little moon curled like
a freshly cut silver shaving, that presently turned to gold, the white
star above it to fire.

Where the valleys widened we came to silent, decorous little towns and
villages where yellow-lit windows gleaming through the trees suggested
refuge and peace, while we were wanderers in the night. It was Nancy’s
mood; and now, in the evening’s chill, it recurred to me poignantly.
In one of these villages we passed a church, its doors flung open; the
congregation was singing a familiar hymn. I slowed down the car; I felt
her shoulder pressing against my own, and reached out my hand and found
hers.

“Are you warm enough?” I asked....

We spoke but little on that drive, we had learned the futility of words
to express the greater joys and sorrows, the love that is compounded of
these.

It was late when we turned in between the white dates and made our way
up the little driveway to the farmhouse. I bade her good night on the
steps of the porch.

“You do love me, don’t you?” she whispered, clinging to me with a
sudden, straining passion. “You will love me, always no matter what
happens?”

“Why, of course, Nancy,” I answered.

“I want to hear you say it, ‘I love you, I shall love you always.’”

I repeated it fervently....

“No matter what happens?”

“No matter what happens. As if I could help it, Nancy! Why are you so
sad to-night?”

“Ah, Hugh, it makes me sad--I can’t tell why. It is so great, it is so
terrible, and yet it’s so sweet and beautiful.”

She took my face in her hands and pressed a kiss against my forehead....

The next day was dark. At two o’clock in the afternoon the electric
light was still burning over my desk when the telephone rang and I heard
Nancy’s voice.

“Is that you, Hugh?”

“Yes.”

“I have to go East this afternoon.”

“Why?” I asked. Her agitation had communicated itself to me. “I thought
you weren’t going until Thursday. What’s the matter?”

“I’ve just had a telegram,” she said. “Ham’s been hurt--I don’t know how
badly--he was thrown from a polo pony this morning at Narragansett, in
practice, and they’re taking him to Boston to a private hospital. The
telegram’s from Johnny Shephard. I’ll be at the house in town at four.”

Filled with forebodings I tried in vain to suppress I dropped the work
I was doing and got up and paced the room, pausing now and again to gaze
out of the window at the wet roofs and the grey skies. I was aghast at
the idea of her going to Ham now even though he were hurt badly hurt;
and yet I tried to think it was natural, that it was fine of her to
respond to such a call. And she couldn’t very well refuse his summons.
But it was not the news of her husband’s accident that inspired the
greater fear, which was quelled and soothed only to rise again when
I recalled the note I had heard in her voice, a note eloquent of
tragedy--of tragedy she had foreseen. At length, unable to remain where
I was any longer, I descended to the street and walked uptown in the
rain. The Durrett house was closed, the blinds of its many windows
drawn, but Nancy was watching for me and opened the door. So used had
I grown to seeing her in the simple linen dresses she had worn in the
country, a costume associated with exclusive possession, that the sight
of her travelling suit and hat renewed in me an agony of apprehension.
The unforeseen event seemed to have transformed her once more. Her veil
was drawn up, her face was pale, in her eyes were traces of tears.

“You’re going?” I asked, as I took her hands.

“Hugh, I have to go.”

She led me through the dark, shrouded drawing room into the little salon
where the windows were open on the silent city-garden. I took her in my
arms; she did not resist, as I half expected, but clung to me with what
seemed desperation.

“I have to go, dear--you won’t make it too hard for me! It’s
only--ordinary decency, and there’s no one else to go to him.”

She drew me to the sofa, her eyes beseeching me.

“Listen, dear, I want you to see it as I see it. I know that you will,
that you do. I should never be able to forgive myself if I stayed away
now, I--neither of us could ever be happy about it. You do see, don’t
you?” she implored.

“Yes,” I admitted agitatedly.

Her grasp on my hand tightened.

“I knew you would. But it makes me happier to hear you say it.”

We sat for a moment in helpless silence, gazing at one another. Slowly
her eyes had filled.

“Have you heard anything more?” I managed to ask.

She drew a telegram from her bag, as though the movement were a relief.

“This is from the doctor in Boston--his name is Magruder. They have got
Ham there, it seems. A horse kicked him in the head, after he fell,--he
had just recovered consciousness.”

I took the telegram. The wordy seemed meaningless, all save those of
the last sentence. “The situation is serious, but by no means hopeless.”
 Nancy had not spoken of that. The ignorant cruelty of its convention!
The man must have known what Hambleton Durrett was! Nancy read my
thoughts, and took the paper from my hand.

“Hugh, dear, if it’s hard for you, try to understand that it’s terrible
for me to think that he has any claim at all. I realize now, as I never
did before, how wicked it was in me to marry him. I hate him, I can’t
bear the thought of going near him.”

She fell into wild weeping. I tried to comfort her, who could
not comfort myself; I don’t remember my inadequate words. We were
overwhelmed, obliterated by the sense of calamity.... It was she who
checked herself at last by an effort that was almost hysterical.

“I mustn’t yield to it!” she said. “It’s time to leave and the train
goes at six. No, you mustn’t come to the station, Hugh--I don’t think
I could stand it. I’ll send you a telegram.” She rose. “You must go
now--you must.”

“You’ll come back to me?” I demanded thickly, as I held her.

“Hugh, I am yours, now and always. How can you doubt it?”

At last I released her, when she had begged me again. And I found
myself a little later walking past the familiar, empty houses of those
streets....

The front pages of the evening newspapers announced the accident to
Hambleton Durrett, and added that Mrs. Durrett, who had been lingering
in the city, had gone to her husband’s bedside. The morning papers
contained more of biography and ancestry, but had little to add to the
bulletin; and there was no lack of speculation at the Club and elsewhere
as to Ham’s ability to rally from such a shock. I could not bear to
listen to these comments: they were violently distasteful to me. The
unforeseen accident and Nancy’s sudden departure had thrown my life
completely out of gear: I could not attend to business, I dared not
go away lest the news from Nancy be delayed. I spent the hours in an
exhausting mental state that alternated between hope and fear, a
state of unmitigated, intense desire, of balked realization, sometimes
heightening into that sheer terror I had felt when I had detected over
the telephone that note in her voice that seemed of despair. Had she had
a presentiment, all along, that something would occur to separate us?
As I went back over the hours we had passed together since she had
acknowledged her love, in spite of myself the conviction grew on me that
she had never believed in the reality of our future. Indeed, she had
expressed her disbelief in words. Had she been looking all along for a
sign--a sign of wrath? And would she accept this accident of Ham’s as
such?

Retrospection left me trembling and almost sick.

It was not until the second morning after her departure that I received
a telegram giving the name of her Boston hotel, and saying that there
was to be a consultation that day, and as soon as it had taken place she
would write. Such consolation as I could gather from it was derived from
four words at the end,--she missed me dreadfully. Some tremor of pity
for her entered into my consciousness, without mitigating greatly the
wildness of my resentment, of my forebodings.

I could bear no longer the city, the Club, the office, the daily contact
with my associates and clients. Six hours distant, near Rossiter, was a
small resort in the mountains of which I had heard. I telegraphed Nancy
to address me there, notified the office, packed my bag, and waited
impatiently for midday, when I boarded the train. At seven I reached a
little station where a stage was waiting to take me to Callender’s Mill.

It was not until morning that I beheld my retreat, when little wisps of
vapour were straying over the surface of the lake, and the steep green
slopes that rose out of the water on the western side were still in
shadow. The hotel, a much overgrown and altered farm-house, stood,
surrounded by great trees, in an ancient clearing that sloped gently
to the water’s edge, where an old-fashioned, octagonal summerhouse
overlooked a landing for rowboats. The resort, indeed, was a survival of
simpler times....

In spite of the thirty-odd guests, people of very moderate incomes who
knew the place and had come here year after year, I was as much alone as
if I had been the only sojourner. The place was so remote, so peaceful
in contrast to the city I had left, which had become intolerable. And at
night, during hours of wakefulness, the music of the waters falling over
the dam was soothing. I used to walk down there and sit on the stones of
the ruined mill; or climb to the crests on the far side of the pond to
gaze for hours westward where the green billows of the Alleghenies lost
themselves in the haze. I had discovered a new country; here, when our
trials should be over, I would bring Nancy, and I found distraction
in choosing sites for a bungalow. In my soul hope flowered with little
watering. Uncertain news was good news. After two days of an impatience
all but intolerable, her first letter arrived, I learned that the
specialists had not been able to make a diagnosis, and I began to take
heart again. At times, she said, Ham was delirious and difficult to
manage; at other times he sank into a condition of coma; and again he
seemed to know her and Ralph, who had come up from Southampton, where he
had been spending the summer. One doctor thought that Ham’s remarkable
vitality would pull him through, in spite of what his life had been.
The shock--as might have been surmised--had affected the brain.... The
letters that followed contained no additional news; she did not dwell
on the depressing reactions inevitable from the situation in which she
found herself--one so much worse than mine; she expressed a continual
longing for me; and yet I had trouble to convince myself that they
did not lack the note of reassurance for which I strained as I eagerly
scanned them--of reassurance that she had no intention of permitting her
husband’s condition to interfere with that ultimate happiness on which
it seemed my existence depended. I tried to account for the absence
of this note by reflecting that the letters were of necessity brief,
hurriedly scratched off at odd moments; and a natural delicacy would
prevent her from referring to our future at such a time. They recorded
no change in Ham’s condition save that the periods of coma had ceased.
The doctors were silent, awaiting the arrival in this country of a
certain New York specialist who was abroad. She spent most of her days
at the hospital, returning to the hotel at night exhausted: the people
she knew in the various resorts around Boston had been most kind,
sending her flowers, and calling when in town to inquire. At length came
the news that the New York doctor was home again; and coming to Boston.
In that letter was a sentence which rang like a cry in my ears: “Oh,
Hugh, I think these doctors know now what the trouble is, I think I
know. They are only waiting for Dr. Jameson to confirm it.”

It was always an effort for me to control my impatience after the first
rattling was heard in the morning of the stage that brought the mail,
and I avoided the waiting group in front of the honeycombed partition of
boxes beside the “office.” On the particular morning of which I am now
writing the proprietor himself handed me a letter of ominous thickness
which I took with me down to the borders of the lake before tearing open
the flap. In spite of the calmness and restraint of the first lines,
because of them, I felt creeping over me an unnerving sensation I knew
for dread....

“Hugh, the New York doctor has been here. It is as I have feared for
some weeks, but I couldn’t tell you until I was sure. Ham is not exactly
insane, but he is childish. Sometimes I think that is even worse. I have
had a talk with Dr. Jameson, who has simply confirmed the opinion which
the other physicians have gradually been forming. The accident has
precipitated a kind of mental degeneration, but his health, otherwise,
will not be greatly affected.

“Jameson was kind, but very frank, for which I was grateful. He did not
hesitate to say that it would have been better if the accident had been
fatal. Ham won’t be helpless, physically. Of course he won’t be able to
play polo, or take much active exercise. If he were to be helpless, I
could feel that I might be of some use, at least of more use. He knows
his friends. Some of them have been here to see him, and he talks quite
rationally with them, with Ralph, with me, only once in a while he says
something silly. It seems odd to write that he is not responsible, since
he never has been,--his condition is so queer that I am at a loss to
describe it. The other morning, before I arrived from the hotel and when
the nurse was downstairs, he left the hospital, and we found him several
blocks along Commonwealth Avenue, seated on a bench, without a hat--he
was annoyed that he had forgotten it, and quite sensible otherwise. We
began by taking him out every morning in an automobile. To-day he had a
walk with Ralph, and insisted on going into a club here, to which they
both belong. Two or three men were there whom they knew, and he talked
to them about his fall from the pony and told them just how it happened.

“At such times only a close observer can tell from his manner that
everything is not right.

“Ralph, who always could manage him, prevented his taking anything to
drink. He depends upon Ralph, and it will be harder for me when he is
not with us. His attitude towards me is just about what it has always
been. I try to amuse him by reading the newspapers and with games;
we have a chess-board. At times he seems grateful, and then he will
suddenly grow tired and hard to control. Once or twice I have had to
call in Dr. Magruder, who owns the hospital.

“It has been terribly hard for me to write all this, but I had to do it,
in order that you might understand the situation completely. Hugh dear,
I simply can’t leave him. This has been becoming clearer and clearer to
me all these weeks, but it breaks my heart to have to write it. I
have struggled against it, I have lain awake nights trying to find
justification for going to you, but it is stronger than I. I am afraid
of it--I suppose that’s the truth. Even in those unforgettable days at
the farm I was afraid of it, although I did not know what it was to be.
Call it what you like, say that I am weak. I am willing to acknowledge
that it is weakness. I wish no credit for it, it gives me no glow, the
thought of it makes my heart sick. I’m not big enough I suppose that’s
the real truth. I once might have been; but I’m not now,--the years of
the life I chose have made a coward of me. It’s not a question of
morals or duty it’s simply that I can’t take the thing for which my soul
craves. It’s too late. If I believed in prayer I’d pray that you might
pity and forgive me. I really can’t expect you to understand what I
can’t myself explain. Oh, I need pity--and I pity you, my dear. I can
only hope that you will not suffer as I shall, that you will find relief
away to work out your life. But I will not change my decision, I cannot
change it. Don’t come on, don’t attempt to see me now. I can’t stand any
more than I am standing, I should lose my mind.”

Here the letter was blotted, and some words scratched out. I was unable
to reconstruct them.

“Ralph and I,” she proceeded irrelevantly, “have got Ham to agree to go
to Buzzard’s Bay, and we have taken a house near Wareham. Write and tell
me that you forgive and pity me. I love you even more, if such a thing
is possible, than I have ever loved you. This is my only comfort and
compensation, that I have had and have been able to feel such a love,
and I know I shall always feel it.--Nancy.” The first effect of this
letter was a paralyzing one. I was unable to realize or believe the
thing that had happened to me, and I sat stupidly holding the sheet
in my hand until I heard voices along the path, and then I fled
instinctively, like an animal, to hide my injury from any persons I
might meet. I wandered down the shore of the lake, striking at length
into the woods, seeking some inviolable shelter; nor was I conscious of
physical effort until I found myself panting near the crest of the ridge
where there was a pasture, which some ancient glacier had strewn with
great boulders. Beside one of these I sank. Heralded by the deep tones
of bells, two steers appeared above the shoulder of a hill and stood
staring at me with bovine curiosity, and fell to grazing again. A fleet
of white clouds, like ships pressed with sail, hurried across the sky as
though racing for some determined port; and the shadows they cast along
the hillsides accentuated the high brightness of the day, emphasized
the vivid and hateful beauty of the landscape. My numbness began to be
penetrated by shooting pains, and I grasped little by little the fulness
of my calamity, until I was in the state of wild rebellion of one whom
life for the first time has foiled in a supreme desire. There was no
fate about this thing, it was just an absurd accident. The operation of
the laws of nature had sent a man to the ground: another combination of
circumstances would have killed him, still another, and he would have
arisen unhurt. But because of this particular combination my happiness
was ruined, and Nancy’s! She had not expected me to understand. Well,
I didn’t understand, I had no pity, in that hour I felt a resentment
almost amounting to hate; I could see only unreasoning superstition in
the woman I wanted above everything in the world. Women of other days
had indeed renounced great loves: the thing was not unheard of. But that
this should happen in these times--and to me! It was unthinkable
that Nancy of all women shouldn’t be emancipated from the thralls of
religious inhibition! And if it wasn’t “conscience,” what was it?

Was it, as she said, weakness, lack of courage to take life when it
was offered her?... I was suddenly filled with the fever of composing
arguments to change a decision that appeared to me to be the result of
a monstrous caprice and delusion; writing them out, as they occurred
to me, in snatches on the backs of envelopes--her envelopes. Then
I proceeded to make the draft of a letter, the effort required for
composition easing me until the draft was finished; when I started for
the hotel, climbing fences, leaping streams, making my way across
rock faces and through woods; halting now and then as some reenforcing
argument occurred to me to write it into my draft at the proper place
until the sheets were interlined and blurred and almost illegible. It
was already three o’clock when I reached my room, and the mail left at
four. I began to copy and revise my scrawl, glancing from time to time
at my watch, which I had laid on the table. Hurriedly washing my
face and brushing my hair, I arrived downstairs just as the stage was
leaving....

After the letter had gone still other arguments I might have added began
to occur to me, and I regretted that I had not softened some of the
things I wrote and made others more emphatic. In places argument
had degenerated into abject entreaty. Never had my desire been so
importunate as now, when I was in continual terror of losing her. Nor
could I see how I was to live without her, life lacking a motive being
incomprehensible: yet the fire of optimism in me, though died down to
ashes, would not be extinguished. At moments it flared up into what
almost amounted to a conviction that she could not resist my appeal. I
had threatened to go to her, and more than once I started packing....

Three days later I received a brief note in which she managed to convey
to me, though tenderly and compassionately, that her decision was
unalterable. If I came on, she would refuse to see me. I took the
afternoon stage and went back to the city, to plunge into affairs again;
but for weeks my torture was so acute that it gives me pain to recall
it, to dwell upon it to-day.... And yet, amazing as it may seem, there
came a time when hope began to dawn again out of my despair. Perhaps
my life had not been utterly shattered, after all: perhaps Ham Durrett
would get well: such things happened, and Nancy would no longer have an
excuse for continuing to refuse me. Little by little my anger at what
I had now become convinced was her weakness cooled, and--though
paradoxically I had continued to love her in spite of the torture for
which she was responsible, in spite of the resentment I felt, I melted
toward her. True to my habit of reliance on miracles, I tried to
reconcile myself to a period of waiting.

Nevertheless I was faintly aware--consequent upon if not as a result of
this tremendous experience--of some change within me. It was not only
that I felt at times a novel sense of uneasiness at being a prey to
accidents, subject to ravages of feeling; the unity of mind that had
hitherto enabled me to press forward continuously toward a concrete
goal showed signs of breaking up:--the goal had lost its desirability.
I seemed oddly to be relapsing into the states of questioning that had
characterized my earlier years. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to
say that I actually began to speculate on the possible existence of a
realm where the soul might find a refuge from the buffetings of life,
from which the philosophy of prosperity was powerless to save it....



XXIV.

It was impossible, of course, that my friends should have failed to
perceive the state of disorganization I was in, and some of them at
least must have guessed its cause. Dickinson, on his return from Maine,
at once begged me to go away. I rather congratulated myself that Tom had
chosen these months for a long-delayed vacation in Canada. His passion
for fishing still persisted.

In spite of the fact I have noted, that I had lost a certain zest for
results, to keep busy seemed to be the only way to relieve my mind of
an otherwise intolerable pressure: and I worked sometimes far into the
evening. In the background of my thoughts lay the necessity of coming to
a decision on the question of the senatorship; several times Dickinson
and Gorse had spoken of it, and I was beginning to get letters from
influential men in other parts of the state. They seemed to take it for
granted that there was no question of my refusing. The time came when
I had grown able to consider the matter with a degree of calmness.
What struck me first, when I began to debate upon it, was that the
senatorship offered a new and possibly higher field for my energies,
while at the same time the office would be a logical continuation of a
signal legal career. I was now unable to deny that I no longer felt any
exhilaration at the prospect of future legal conquests similar to those
of the past; but once in the Senate, I might regain something of that
intense conviction of fighting for a just and sound cause with which
Theodore Wading had once animated me: fighting there, in the Capitol at
Washington, would be different; no stigma of personal gain attached to
it; it offered a nearer approach to the ideal I had once more begun to
seek, held out hopes of a renewal of my unity of mind. Mr. Watling had
declared that there was something to fight for; I had even glimpsed
that something, but I had to confess that for some years I had not been
consciously fighting for it. I needed something to fight for.

There was the necessity, however, of renewing my calculations. If
Hambleton Durrett should recover, even during the ensuing year, and
if Nancy relented it would not be possible for us to be divorced and
married for some time. I still clung tenaciously to the belief that
there were no relationships wholly unaffected by worldly triumphs, and
as Senator I should have strengthened my position. It did not
strike me--even after all my experience--that such a course as I now
contemplated had a parallel in the one that I had pursued in regard to
her when I was young.

It seemed fitting that Theodore Watling should be the first to know of
my decision. I went to Washington to meet him. It pained me to see him
looking more worn, but he was still as cheerful, as mentally vigorous as
ever, and I perceived that he did not wish to dwell upon his illness.
I did venture to expostulate with him on the risk he must be running in
serving out his term. We were sitting in the dining room of his house.

“We’ve only one life to live, Hugh,” he answered, smiling at me, “and we
might as well get all out of it we can. A few years more or less doesn’t
make much difference--and I ought to be satisfied. I’d resign now, to
please my wife, to please my friends, but we can’t trust this governor
to appoint a safe man. How little we suspected when we elected him that
he’d become infected. You never can tell, in these days, can you?”

It was the note of devotion to his cause that I had come to hear: I
felt it renewing me, as I had hoped. The threat of disease, the louder
clamourings of the leaders of the mob had not sufficed to dismay
him--though he admitted more concern over these. My sympathy and
affection were mingled with the admiration he never failed to inspire.

“But you, Hugh,” he said concernedly, “you’re not looking very well, my
son. You must manage to take a good rest before coming here--before the
campaign you’ll have to go through. We can’t afford to have anything
happen to you--you’re too young.”

I wondered whether he had heard anything.... He spoke to me again about
the work to be done, the work he looked to me to carry on.

“We’ll have to watch for our opportunity,” he said, “and when it comes
we can handle this new movement not by crushing it, but by guiding it.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a true instinct in it, that
there are certain things we have done which have been mistakes, and
which we can’t do any more. But as for this theory that all wisdom
resides in the people, it’s buncombe. What we have to do is to work out
a practical programme.”

His confidence in me had not diminished. It helped to restore confidence
in myself.

The weather was cool and bracing for September, and as we drove in a
motor through the beautiful avenues of the city he pointed out a house
for me on one of the circles, one of those distinguished residences,
instances of a nascent good taste, that are helping to redeem the
polyglot aspect of our national capital. Mr. Watling spoke--rather
tactfully, I thought--of Maude and the children, and ventured the
surmise that they would be returning in a few months. I interpreted
this, indeed, as in rather the nature of a kindly hint that such a
procedure would be wise in view of the larger life now dawning for me,
but I made no comment.... He even sympathized with Nancy Durrett.

“She did the right thing, Hugh,” he said, with the admirable casual
manner he possessed of treating subjects which he knew to be delicate.
“Nancy’s a fine woman. Poor devil!” This in reference to Ham....

Mr. Watling reassured me on the subject of his own trouble, maintaining
that he had many years left if he took care. He drove me to the station.
I travelled homeward somewhat lifted out of myself by this visit to him;
with some feeling of spaciousness derived from Washington itself, with
its dignified Presidential Mansion among the trees, its granite shaft
drawing the eye upward, with its winged Capitol serene upon the hill.
Should we deliver these heirlooms to the mob? Surely Democracy meant
more than that!

All this time I had been receiving, at intervals, letters from Maude and
the children. Maude’s were the letters of a friend, and I found it easy
to convince myself that their tone was genuine, that the separation had
brought contentment to her; and those independent and self-sufficient
elements in her character I admired now rather than deplored. At
Etretat, which she found much to her taste, she was living quietly, but
making friends with some American and English, and one French family of
the same name, Buffon, as the great naturalist. The father was a retired
silk manufacturer; they now resided in Paris, and had been very kind
in helping her to get an apartment in that city for the winter. She
had chosen one on the Avenue Kleber, not far from the Arc. It is
interesting, after her arraignment of me, that she should have taken
such pains to record their daily life for my benefit in her clear,
conscientious handwriting. I beheld Biddy, her dresses tucked above slim
little knees, playing in the sand on the beach, her hair flying in the
wind and lighted by the sun which gave sparkle to the sea. I saw Maude
herself in her beach chair, a book lying in her lap, its pages whipped
by the breeze. And there was Moreton, who must be proving something of
a handful, since he had fought with the French boys on the beach and
thrown a “rock” through the windows of the Buffon family. I remember one
of his letters--made perfect after much correcting and scratching,--in
which he denounced both France and the French, and appealed to me
to come over at once to take him home. Maude had enclosed it without
comment. This letter had not been written under duress, as most of his
were.

Matthew’s letters--he wrote faithfully once a week--I kept in a little
pile by themselves and sometimes reread them. I wondered whether it
were because of the fact that I was his father--though a most inadequate
one--that I thought them somewhat unusual. He had learned French--Maude
wrote--with remarkable ease. I was particularly struck in these letters
with the boy’s power of observation, with his facile use of language,
with the vivid simplicity of his descriptions of the life around him, of
his experiences at school. The letters were thoughtful--not dashed off
in a hurry; they gave evidence in every line of the delicacy of feeling
that was, I think, his most appealing quality, and I put them down with
the impression strong on me that he, too, longed to return home, but
would not say so. There was a certain pathos in this youthful restraint
that never failed to touch me, even in those times when I had been most
obsessed with love and passion.... The curious effect of these letters
was that of knowing more than they expressed. He missed me, he wished to
know when I was coming over. And I was sometimes at a loss whether to be
grateful to Maude or troubled because she had as yet given him no hint
of our separation. What effect would it have on him when it should be
revealed to him?... It was through Matthew I began to apprehend certain
elements in Maude I had both failed to note and appreciate; her little
mannerisms that jarred, her habits of thought that exasperated, were
forgotten, and I was forced to confess that there was something fine in
the achievement of this attitude of hers that was without ill will or
resentment, that tacitly acknowledged my continued rights and interest
in the children. It puzzled and troubled me.

The Citizens Union began its campaign early that autumn, long before
the Hons. Jonathan Parks and Timothy MacGuire--Republican and Democratic
candidates for Mayor--thought of going on the stump. For several weeks
the meetings were held in the small halls and club rooms of various
societies and orders in obscure portions of the city.

The forces of “privilege and corruption” were not much alarmed. Perry
Blackwood accused the newspapers of having agreed to a “conspiracy of
silence”; but, as Judah B. Tallant remarked, it was the business of the
press to give the public what it wanted, and the public as yet hadn’t
shown much interest in the struggle being waged in its behalf. When the
meetings began to fill up it would be time to report them in the columns
of the Era. Meanwhile, however, the city had been quietly visited by
an enterprising representative of a New York periodical of the new
type that developed with the opening years of the century--one making a
specialty of passionate “muck-raking.” And since the people of America
love nothing better than being startled, Yardley’s Weekly had acquired
a circulation truly fabulous. The emissary of the paper had attended
several of the Citizens meetings; interviewed, it seemed, many
persons: the result was a revelation to make the blood of politicians,
capitalists and corporation lawyers run cold. I remember very well the
day it appeared on our news stands, and the heated denunciations it
evoked at the Boyne Club. Ralph Hambleton was the only one who took it
calmly, who seemed to derive a certain enjoyment from the affair. Had
he been a less privileged person, they would have put him in chancery.
Leonard Dickinson asserted that Yardley’s should be sued for libel.

“There’s just one objection to that,” said Ralph.

“What?” asked the banker.

“It isn’t libel.”

“I defy them to prove it,” Dickinson snapped. “It’s a d--d outrage!
There isn’t a city or village in the country that hasn’t exactly the
same conditions. There isn’t any other way to run a city--”

“That’s what Mr. Krebs says,” Ralph replied, “that the people ought to
put Judd Jason officially in charge. He tells ‘em that Jason is probably
a more efficient man than Democracy will be able to evolve in a coon’s
age, that we ought to take him over, instead of letting the capitalists
have him.”

“Did Krebs say that?” Dickinson demanded.

“You can’t have read the article very thoroughly, Leonard,” Ralph
commented. “I’m afraid you only picked out the part of it that
compliments you. This fellow seems to have been struck by Krebs, says
he’s a coming man, that he’s making original contributions to the
people’s cause. Quite a tribute. You ought to read it.”

Dickinson, who had finished his lunch, got up and left the table after
lighting his cigar. Ralph’s look followed him amusedly.

“I’m afraid it’s time to cash in and be good,” he observed.

“We’ll get that fellow Krebs yet,” said Grierson, wrathfully. Miller
Gorse alone made no remarks, but in spite of his silence he emanated an
animosity against reform and reformers that seemed to charge the very
atmosphere, and would have repressed any man but Ralph....

I sat in my room at the Club that night and reread the article, and if
its author could have looked into my soul and observed the emotions he
had set up, he would, no doubt, have experienced a grim satisfaction.
For I, too, had come in for a share of the comment. Portions of the
matter referring to me stuck in my brain like tar, such as the reference
to my father, to the honoured traditions of the Parets and the Brecks
which I had deliberately repudiated. I had less excuse than many others.
The part I had played in various reprehensible transactions such as the
Riverside Franchise and the dummy telephone company affair was dwelt
upon, and I was dismissed with the laconic comment that I was a graduate
of Harvard....

My associates and myself were referred to collectively as a “gang,” with
the name of our city prefixed; we were linked up with and compared to
the gangs of other cities--the terminology used to describe us being
that of the police reporter. We “operated,” like burglars; we “looted”:
only, it was intimated in one place, “second-story men” were angels
compared to us, who had never seen the inside of a penitentiary. Here
we were, all arraigned before the bar of public opinion, the relentless
Dickinson, the surfeited Scherer, the rapacious Grierson, the salacious
Tallant. I have forgotten what Miller Gorse was called; nothing so
classic as a Minotaur; Judd Jason was a hairy spider who spread his net
and lurked in darkness for his victims. Every adjective was called upon
to do its duty.... Even Theodore Watling did not escape, but it was
intimated that he would be dealt with in another connection in a future
number.

The article had a crude and terrifying power, and the pain it aroused,
following almost immediately upon the suffering caused by my separation
from Nancy, was cumulative in character and effect, seeming actively to
reenforce the unwelcome conviction I had been striving to suppress, that
the world, which had long seemed so acquiescent in conforming itself to
my desires, was turning against me.

Though my hunger for Nancy was still gnawing, I had begun to fear that I
should never get her now; and the fact that she would not even write to
me seemed to confirm this.

Then there was Matthew--I could not bear to think that he would ever
read that article.

In vain I tried that night to belittle to myself its contentions and
probable results, to summon up the heart to fight; in vain I sought to
reconstruct the point of view, to gain something of that renewed hope
and power, of devotion to a cause I had carried away from Washington
after my talk with Theodore Watling. He, though stricken, had not
wavered in his faith. Why should I?

Whether or not as the result of the article in Yardley’s, which had been
read more or less widely in the city, the campaign of the Citizens Union
gained ground, and people began to fill the little halls to hear Krebs,
who was a candidate for district attorney. Evidently he was entertaining
and rousing them, for his reputation spread, and some of the larger
halls were hired. Dickinson and Gorse became alarmed, and one morning
the banker turned up at the Club while I was eating my breakfast.

“Look here, Hugh,” he said, “we may as well face the fact that we’ve got
a fight ahead of us,--we’ll have to start some sort of a back-fire right
away.”

“You think Greenhalge has a chance of being elected?” I asked.

“I’m not afraid of Greenhalge, but of this fellow Krebs. We can’t afford
to have him district attorney, to let a demagogue like him get a start.
The men the Republicans and Democrats have nominated are worse than
useless. Parks is no good, and neither is MacGuire. If only we could
have foreseen this thing we might have had better candidates put up--but
there’s no use crying over spilt milk. You’ll have to go on the stump,
Hugh--that’s all there is to it. You can answer him, and the newspapers
will print your speeches in full. Besides it will help you when it comes
to the senatorship.”

The mood of extreme dejection that had followed the appearance of the
article in Yardley’s did not last. I had acquired aggressiveness: an
aggressiveness, however, differing in quality from the feeling I once
would have had,--for this arose from resentment, not from belief. It
was impossible to live in the atmosphere created by the men with whom I
associated--especially at such a time--without imbibing something of
the emotions animating them,--even though I had been free from these
emotions myself. I, too, had begun to be filled with a desire for
revenge; and when this desire was upon me I did not have in my mind a
pack of reformers, or even the writer of the article in Yardley’s. I
thought of Hermann Krebs. He was my persecutor; it seemed to me that he
always had been....

“Well, I’ll make speeches if you like,” I said to Dickinson.

“I’m glad,” he replied. “We’re all agreed, Gorse and the rest of us,
that you ought to. We’ve got to get some ginger into this fight, and a
good deal more money, I’m afraid. Jason sends word we’ll need more. By
the way, Hugh, I wish you’d drop around and talk to Jason and get his
idea of how the land lies.”

I went, this time in the company of Judah B. Tallant. Naturally we
didn’t expect to see Mr. Jason perturbed, nor was he. He seemed to be in
an odd, rather exultant mood--if he can be imagined as exultant. We were
not long in finding out what pleased him--nothing less than the fact
that Mr. Krebs had proposed him for mayor!

“D--d if I wouldn’t make a good one, too,” he said. “D--d if I wouldn’t
show ‘em what a real mayor is!”

“I guess there’s no danger of your ever being mayor, Judd,” Tallant
observed, with a somewhat uneasy jocularity.

“I guess there isn’t, Judah,” replied the boss, quickly, but with a
peculiar violet flash in his eyes. “They won’t ever make you mayor,
either, if I can help it. And I’ve a notion I can. I’d rather see Krebs
mayor.”

“You don’t think he meant to propose you seriously,” Tallant exclaimed.

“I’m not a d--d fool,” said the boss. “But I’ll say this, that he half
meant it. Krebs has a head-piece on him, and I tell you if any of this
reform dope is worth anything his is. There’s some sense in what he’s
talking, and if all the voters was like him you might get a man like me
for mayor. But they’re not, and I guess they never will be.”

“Sure,” said Mr. Jason. “The people are dotty--there ain’t one in ten
thousand understands what he’s driving at when he gets off things like
that. They take it on the level.”

Tallant reflected.

“By gum, I believe you’re right,” he said. “You think they will blow
up?” he added.

“Krebs is the whole show, I tell you. They wouldn’t be anywhere without
him. The yaps that listen to him don’t understand him, but somehow he
gets under their skins. Have you seen him lately?”

“Never saw him,” replied Tallant.

“Well, if you had, you’d know he was a sick man.”

“Sick!” I exclaimed. “How do you know?”

“It’s my business to know things,” said Judd Jason, and added to
Tallant, “that your reporters don’t find out.”

“What’s the matter with him?” Tallant demanded. A slight exultation in
his tone did not escape me.

“You’ve got me there,” said Jason, “but I have it pretty straight. Any
one of your reporters will tell you that he looks sick.”....

The Era took Mr. Jason’s advice and began to publish those portions of
Krebs’s speeches that were seemingly detrimental to his own cause. Other
conservative newspapers followed suit....

Both Tallant and I were surprised to hear these sentiments out of the
mouth of Mr. Jason.

“You don’t think that crowd’s going to win, do you?” asked the owner of
the Era, a trifle uneasily.

“Win!” exclaimed the boss contemptuously. “They’ll blow up, and you’ll
never hear of ‘em. I’m not saying we won’t need a little--powder,” he
added--which was one of the matters we had come to talk about. He
gave us likewise a very accurate idea of the state of the campaign,
mentioning certain things that ought to be done. “You ought to print
some of Krebs’s speeches, Judah, like what he said about me. They’re
talking it all around that you’re afraid to.”

“Print things like his proposal to make you mayor!”

The information that I was to enter the lists against Krebs was received
with satisfaction and approval by those of our friends who were called
in to assist at a council of war in the directors’ room of the Corn
National Bank. I was flattered by the confidence these men seemed to
have in my ability. All were in a state of anger against the reformers;
none of them seriously alarmed as to the actual outcome of the
campaign,--especially when I had given them the opinion of Mr. Jason.
What disturbed them was the possible effect upon the future of the
spread of heretical, socialistic doctrines, and it was decided to
organize a publicity bureau, independently of the two dominant political
parties, to be in charge of a certain New York journalist who made a
business of such affairs, who was to be paid a sum commensurate with the
emergency. He was to have carte blanche, even in the editorial columns
of our newspapers. He was also to flood the city with “literature.” We
had fought many wars before this, and we planned our campaign precisely
as though we were dealing with one of those rebellions in the realm of
finance of which I have given an instance. But now the war chest of our
opponents was negligible; and we were comforted by the thought that,
however disagreeable the affair might be while it lasted, in the long
run capital was invincible.

Before setting to work to prepare my speeches it was necessary to make
an attempt to familiarize myself with the seemingly unprecedented
line of argument Krebs had evolved--apparently as disconcerting to his
friends as to his opponents. It occurred to me, since I did not care
to attend Krebs’s meetings, to ask my confidential stenographer,
Miss McCoy, to go to Turner’s Hall and take down one of his speeches
verbatim. Miss McCoy had never intruded on me her own views, and I took
for granted that they coincided with my own.

“I’d like to get an accurate record of what he is saying,” I told her.
“Do you mind going?”

“No, I’ll be glad to go, Mr. Paret,” she said quietly.

“He’s doing more harm than we thought,” I remarked, after a moment.
“I’ve known him for a good many years. He’s clever. He’s sowing seeds
of discontent, starting trouble that will be very serious unless it is
headed off.”

Miss McCoy made no comment....

Before noon the next day she brought in the speech, neatly typewritten,
and laid it on my desk. Looking up and catching her eye just as she was
about to withdraw, I was suddenly impelled to ask:--“Well, what did you
think of it?”

She actually flushed, for the first time in my dealings with her
betraying a feeling which I am sure she deemed most unprofessional.

“I liked it, Mr. Paret,” she replied simply, and I knew that she had
understated. It was quite apparent that Krebs had captivated her. I
tried not to betray my annoyance.

“Was there a good audience?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“How many do you think?”

She hesitated.

“It isn’t a very large hall, you know. I should say it would hold about
eight hundred people.”

“And--it was full?”--I persisted.

“Oh, yes, there were numbers of people standing.”

I thought I detected in her tone-although it was not apologetic--a
desire to spare my feelings. She hesitated a moment more, and then left
the room, closing the door softly behind her...

Presently I took up the pages and began to read. The language was simple
and direct, an appeal to common sense, yet the words strangely seemed
charged with an emotional power that I found myself resisting. When at
length I laid down the sheets I wondered whether it were imagination,
or the uncomfortable result of memories of conversations I had had with
him.

I was, however, confronted with the task of refuting his arguments: but
with exasperating ingenuity, he seemed to have taken the wind out of our
sails. It is difficult to answer a man who denies the cardinal principle
of American democracy,--that a good mayor or a governor may be made
out of a dog-catcher. He called this the Cincinnatus theory: that any
American, because he was an American, was fit for any job in the gift
of state or city or government, from sheriff to Ambassador to Great
Britain. Krebs substituted for this fallacy what may be called the
doctrine of potentiality. If we inaugurated and developed a system of
democratic education, based on scientific principles, and caught the
dog-catcher, young enough, he might become a statesman or thinker or
scientist and make his contribution to the welfare and progress of the
nation: again, he might not; but he would have had his chance, he would
not be in a position to complain.

Here was a doctrine, I immediately perceived, which it would be suicidal
to attempt to refute. It ought, indeed, to have been my line. With a
growing distaste I began to realize that all there was left for me was
to flatter a populace that Krebs, paradoxically, belaboured. Never in
the history of American “uplift” had an electorate been in this manner
wooed! upbraided for expediency, a proneness to demand immediate
results, an unwillingness to think, yes, and an inability to think
straight. Such an electorate deserved to be led around by the nose by
the Jasons and Dickinsons, the Gorses and the Griersons and the Parets.

Yes, he had mentioned me. That gave me a queer sensation. How is one
to handle an opponent who praises one with a delightful irony? We, the
Dickinsons, Griersons, Parets, Jasons, etc., had this virtue at least,
and it was by no means the least of the virtues,--that we did think.
We had a plan, a theory of government, and we carried it out. He was
inclined to believe that morality consisted largely, if not wholly, in
clear thinking, and not in the precepts of the Sunday-school. That was
the trouble with the so-called “reform” campaigns, they were conducted
on lines of Sunday-school morality; the people worked themselves up into
a sort of revivalist frenzy, an emotional state which, if the truth were
told, was thoroughly immoral, unreasonable and hypocritical: like all
frenzies, as a matter of course it died down after the campaign was
over. Moreover, the American people had shown that they were unwilling
to make any sacrifices for the permanent betterment of conditions, and
as soon as their incomes began to fall off they turned again to the
bosses and capitalists like an abject flock of sheep.

He went on to explain that he wasn’t referring now to that part of the
electorate known as the labour element, the men who worked with
their hands in mills, factories, etc. They had their faults, yet they
possessed at least the virtue of solidarity, a willingness to undergo
sacrifices in order to advance the standard of conditions; they too
had a tenacity of purpose and a plan, such as it was, which the small
business men, the clerks lacked....

We must wake up to the fact that we shouldn’t get Utopia by turning out
Mr. Jason and the highly efficient gentlemen who hired and financed him.
It wasn’t so simple as that. Utopia was not an achievement after
all, but an undertaking, a state of mind, the continued overcoming of
resistance by a progressive education and effort. And all this talk of
political and financial “wickedness” was rubbish; the wickedness they
complained of did not reside merely in individuals it was a social
disorder, or rather an order that no longer suited social conditions.
If the so-called good citizens would take the trouble to educate
themselves, to think instead of allowing their thinking to be done for
them they would see that the “evils” which had been published broadcast
were merely the symptoms of that disease which had come upon the social
body through their collective neglect and indifference. They held
up their hands in horror at the spectacle of a commercial, licensed
prostitution, they shunned the prostitute and the criminal; but there
was none of us, if honest, who would not exclaim when he saw them,
“there, but for the Grace of God, go I!” What we still called “sin” was
largely the result of lack of opportunity, and the active principle
of society as at present organized tended more and more to restrict
opportunity. Lack of opportunity, lack of proper nutrition,--these made
sinners by the wholesale; made, too, nine-tenths of the inefficient of
whom we self-righteously complained. We had a national philosophy that
measured prosperity in dollars and cents, included in this measurement
the profits of liquor dealers who were responsible for most of our
idiots. So long as we set our hearts on that kind of prosperity, so long
as we failed to grasp the simple and practical fact that the greatest
assets of a nation are healthy and sane and educated, clear-thinking
human beings, just so long was prostitution logical, Riverside
Franchises, traction deals, Judd Jasons, and the respectable gentlemen
who continued to fill their coffers out of the public purse inevitable.

The speaker turned his attention to the “respectable gentlemen” with the
full coffers, amongst whom I was by implication included. We had simply
succeeded under the rules to which society tacitly agreed. That was our
sin. He ventured to say that there were few men in the hall who at the
bottom of their hearts did not envy and even honour our success. He, for
one, did not deem these “respectable gentlemen” utterly reprehensible;
he was sufficiently emancipated to be sorry for us. He suspected that we
were not wholly happy in being winners in such a game,--he even believed
that we could wish as much as any others to change the game and
the prizes. What we represented was valuable energy misdirected and
misplaced, and in a reorganized community he would not abolish us, but
transform us: transform, at least, the individuals of our type, who were
the builders gone wrong under the influence of an outworn philosophy.
We might be made to serve the city and the state with the same
effectiveness that we had served ourselves.

If the best among the scientists, among the university professors and
physicians were willing to labour--and they were--for the advancement
of humanity, for the very love of the work and service without
disproportionate emoluments, without the accumulation of a wealth
difficult to spend, why surely these big business men had been moulded
in infancy from no different clay! All were Americans. Instance after
instance might be cited of business men and lawyers of ability making
sacrifices, giving up their personal affairs in order to take places of
honour in the government in which the salary was comparatively small,
proving that even these were open to inducements other than merely
mercenary ones.

It was unfortunate, he went on, but true, that the vast majority of
people of voting age in the United States to-day who thought they had
been educated were under the obligation to reeducate themselves.
He suggested, whimsically, a vacation school for Congress and all
legislative bodies as a starter. Until the fact of the utter inadequacy
of the old education were faced, there was little or no hope of solving
the problems that harassed us. One thing was certain--that they couldn’t
be solved by a rule-of-thumb morality. Coincident with the appearance
of these new and mighty problems, perhaps in response to them, a new and
saner view of life itself was being developed by the world’s thinkers,
new sciences were being evolved, correlated sciences; a psychology
making a truer analysis of human motives, impulses, of human
possibilities; an economics and a theory of government that took account
of this psychology, and of the vast changes applied science had made in
production and distribution. We lived in a new world, which we sought
to ignore; and the new education, the new viewpoint was in truth nothing
but religion made practical. It had never been thought practical before.
The motive that compelled men to work for humanity in science, in
medicine, in art--yes, and in business, if we took the right view of
it, was the religious motive. The application of religion was to-day
extending from the individual to society. No religion that did not fill
the needs of both was a true religion.

This meant the development of a new culture, one to be founded on the
American tradition of equality of opportunity. But culture was not
a weed that grew overnight; it was a leaven that spread slowly and
painfully, first inoculating a few who suffered and often died for it,
that it might gradually affect the many. The spread of culture implied
the recognition of leadership: democratic leadership, but still
leadership. Leadership, and the wisdom it implied, did not reside in the
people, but in the leaders who sprang from the people and interpreted
their needs and longings.... He went on to discuss a part of the
programme of the Citizens Union....

What struck me, as I laid down the typewritten sheets, was the
extraordinary resemblance between the philosophies of Hermann Krebs
and Theodore Watling. Only--Krebs’s philosophy was the bigger, held
the greater vision of the two; I had reluctantly and rather bitterly to
admit it. The appeal of it had even reached and stirred me, whose task
was to refute it! Here indeed was something to fight for--perhaps to die
for, as he had said: and as I sat there in my office gazing out of the
window I found myself repeating certain phrases he had used--the phrase
about leadership, for instance. It was a tremendous conception
of Democracy, that of acquiescence to developed leadership made
responsible; a conception I was compelled to confess transcended Mr.
Watling’s, loyal as I was to him.... I began to reflect how novel all
this was in a political speech--although what I have quoted was in the
nature of a preamble. It was a sermon, an educational sermon. Well,
that is what sermons always had been,--and even now pretended to
be,--educational and stirring, appealing to the emotions through the
intellect. It didn’t read like the Socialism he used to preach, it had
the ring of religion. He had called it religion.

With an effort of the will I turned from this ironical and dangerous
vision of a Hugh Paret who might have been enlisted in an inspiring
struggle, of a modern yet unregenerate Saul kicking against the pricks,
condemned to go forth breathing fire against a doctrine that made a true
appeal; against the man I believed I hated just because he had made this
appeal. In the act of summoning my counter-arguments I was interrupted
by the entrance of Grierson. He was calling on a matter of business, but
began to talk about the extracts from Krebs’s speech he had read in the
Mail and State.

“What in hell is this fellow driving at, Paret?” he demanded. “It sounds
to me like the ranting of a lunatic dervish. If he thinks so much of us,
and the way we run the town, what’s he squawking about?”

I looked at Grierson, and conceived an intense aversion for him. I
wondered how I had ever been able to stand him, to work with him. I saw
him in a sudden flash as a cunning, cruel bird of prey, a gorged, drab
vulture with beady eyes, a resemblance so extraordinary that I wondered
I had never remarked it before. For he had the hooked vulture nose,
while the pink baldness of his head was relieved by a few scanty tufts
of hair.

“The people seem to like what he’s got to say,” I observed.

“It beats me,” said Grierson. “They don’t understand a quarter of
it--I’ve been talking to some of ‘em. It’s their d--d curiosity, I
guess. You know how they’ll stand for hours around a street fakir.”

“It’s more than that,” I retorted.

Grierson regarded me piercingly.

“Well, we’ll put a crimp in him, all right,” he said, with a laugh.

I was in an unenviable state of mind when he left me. I had an impulse
to send for Miss McCoy and ask her if she had understood what Krebs was
“driving at,” but for reasons that must be fairly obvious I refrained.
I read over again that part of Krebs’s speech which dealt with the
immediate programme of the Citizens Union. After paying a tribute to
Greenhalge as a man of common sense and dependability who would make a
good mayor, he went on to explain the principle of the new charter they
hoped ultimately to get, which should put the management of the city
in the hands of one man, an expert employed by a commission; an expert
whose duty it would be to conduct the affairs of the city on a business
basis, precisely as those of any efficient corporation were conducted.
This plan had already been adopted, with encouraging results, in
several smaller cities of the country. He explained in some detail,
with statistics, the waste and inefficiency and dishonesty in various
departments under the present system, dwelling particularly upon the
deplorable state of affairs in the city hospital.

I need not dwell upon this portion of his remarks. Since then text-books
and serious periodicals have dealt with these matters thoroughly. They
are now familiar to all thinking Americans.



XXV.

My entrance into the campaign was accompanied by a blare of publicity,
and during that fortnight I never picked up a morning or evening
newspaper without reading, on the first page, some such headline as
“Crowds flock to hear Paret.” As a matter of fact, the crowds did flock;
but I never quite knew as I looked down from platforms on seas of faces
how much of the flocking was spontaneous. Much of it was so, since the
struggle had then become sufficiently dramatic to appeal to the larger
public imagination that is but occasionally waked; on the other
hand, the magic of advertising cannot be underestimated; nor must
the existence be ignored of an organized corps of shepherds under the
vigilant direction of Mr. Judd Jason, whose duty it was to see that none
of our meetings was lacking in numbers and enthusiasm. There was always
a demonstrative gathering overflowing the sidewalk in front of the
entrance, swaying and cheering in the light of the street lamps, and on
the floor within an ample scattering of suspiciously bleary-eyed voters
to start the stamping and applauding. In spite of these known facts, the
impression of popularity, of repudiation of reform by a large majority
of level-headed inhabitants had reassuring and reenforcing effects.

Astute citizens, spectators of the fray--if indeed there were any--might
have remarked an unique and significant feature of that campaign: that
the usual recriminations between the two great parties were lacking.
Mr. Parks, the Republican candidate, did not denounce Mr. MacGuire, the
Democratic candidate. Republican and Democratic speakers alike expended
their breath in lashing Mr. Krebs and the Citizens Union.

It is difficult to record the fluctuations of my spirit. When I was in
the halls, speaking or waiting to speak, I reacted to that phenomenon
known as mob psychology, I became self-confident, even exhilarated; and
in those earlier speeches I managed, I think, to strike the note for
which I strove--the judicial note, suitable to a lawyer of weight and
prominence, of deprecation rather than denunciation. I sought to embody
and voice a fine and calm sanity at a time when everyone else seemed in
danger of losing their heads, and to a large extent achieved it. I had
known Mr. Krebs for more than twenty years, and while I did not care to
criticise a fellow-member of the bar, I would go so far as to say that
he was visionary, that the changes he proposed in government would,
if adopted, have grave and far-reaching results: we could not, for
instance, support in idleness those who refused to do their share of the
work of the world. Mr. Krebs was well-meaning. I refrained from dwelling
too long upon him, passing to Mr. Greenhalge, also well-meaning, but
a man of mediocre ability who would make a mess of the government of a
city which would one day rival New York and Chicago. (Loud cheers.) And
I pointed out that Mr. Perry Blackwood had been unable to manage the
affairs of the Boyne Street road. Such men, well-intentioned though
they might be, were hindrances to progress. This led me naturally to a
discussion of the Riverside Franchise and the Traction Consolidation. I
was one of those whose honesty and good faith had been arraigned, but I
would not stoop to refute the accusations. I dwelt upon the benefits
to the city, uniform service, electricity and large comfortable cars
instead of rattletrap conveyances, and the development of a large
and growing population in the Riverside neighbourhood: the continual
extension of lines to suburban districts that enabled hard-worked men
to live out of the smoke: I called attention to the system of transfers,
the distance a passenger might be conveyed, and conveyed quickly, for
the sum of five cents. I spoke of our capitalists as men more sinned
against than sinning. Their money was always at the service of
enterprises tending to the development of our metropolis.

When I was not in the meetings, however, and especially when in my room
at night, I was continually trying to fight off a sense of loneliness
that seemed to threaten to overwhelm me. I wanted to be alone, and yet
I feared to be. I was aware, in spite of their congratulations on my
efforts, of a growing dislike for my associates; and in the appalling
emptiness of the moments when my depression was greatest I was forced to
the realization that I had no disinterested friend--not one--in whom I
could confide. Nancy had failed me; I had scarcely seen Tom Peters that
winter, and it was out of the question to go to him. For the third time
in my life, and in the greatest crisis of all, I was feeling the need of
Something, of some sustaining and impelling Power that must be presented
humanly, possessing sympathy and understanding and love.... I think I
had a glimpse just a pathetic glimpse--of what the Church might be of
human solidarity, comfort and support, of human tolerance, if stripped
of the superstition of an ancient science. My tortures weren’t of the
flesh, but of the mind. My mind was the sheep which had gone astray. Was
there no such thing, could there be no such thing as a human association
that might at the same time be a divine organism, a fold and a refuge
for the lost and divided minds? The source of all this trouble was
social....

Then toward the end of that last campaign week, madness suddenly came
upon me. I know now how near the breaking point I was, but the immediate
cause of my “flying to pieces”--to use a vivid expression--was a speech
made by Guptill, one of the Citizens Union candidates for alderman, a
young man of a radical type not uncommon in these days, though new to
my experience: an educated man in the ultra-radical sense, yet lacking
poise and perspective, with a certain brilliance and assurance. He was a
journalist, a correspondent of some Eastern newspapers and periodicals.
In this speech, which was reported to me--for it did not get into the
newspapers--I was the particular object of his attack. Men of my kind,
and not the Judd Jasons (for whom there was some excuse) were the
least dispensable tools of the capitalists, the greatest menace to
civilization. We were absolutely lacking in principle, we were ready at
any time to besmirch our profession by legalizing steals; we fouled our
nests with dirty fees. Not all that he said was vituperation, for he
knew something of the modern theory of the law that legal radicals had
begun to proclaim, and even to teach in some tolerant universities.

The next night, in the middle of a prepared speech I was delivering to
a large crowd in Kingdom Hall there had been jeers from a group in
a corner at some assertion I made. Guptill’s accusations had been
festering in my mind. The faces of the people grew blurred as I felt
anger boiling, rising within me; suddenly my control gave way, and I
launched forth into a denunciation of Greenhalge, Krebs, Guptill and
even of Perry Blackwood that must have been without license or bounds. I
can recall only fragments of my remarks: Greenhalge wanted to be mayor,
and was willing to put the stigma of slander on his native city in order
to gain his ambition; Krebs had made a failure of his profession, of
everything save in bringing shame on the place of his adoption; and on
the single occasion heretofore when he had been before the public, in
the School Board fiasco, the officials indicted on his supposed evidence
had triumphantly been vindicated--, Guptill was gaining money and
notoriety out of his spleen; Perry Blackwood was acting out of spite....
I returned to Krebs, declaring that he would be the boss of the city if
that ticket were elected, demanding whether they wished for a boss an
agitator itching for power and recognition....

I was conscious at the moment only of a wild relief and joy in letting
myself go, feelings heightened by the clapping and cheers with which my
characterizations were received. The fact that the cheers were mingled
with hisses merely served to drive me on. At length, when I had returned
to Krebs, the hisses were redoubled, angering me the more because of the
evidence they gave of friends of his in my audiences. Perhaps I had made
some of these friends for him! A voice shouted out above the uproar:--“I
know about Krebs. He’s a d--d sight better man than you.” And this
started a struggle in a corner of the hall.... I managed, somehow, when
the commotion had subsided, to regain my poise, and ended by uttering
the conviction that the common sense of the community would repudiate
the Citizens Union and all it stood for....

But that night, as I lay awake listening to the street noises and
staring at the glint from a street lamp on the brass knob of my
bedstead, I knew that I had failed. I had committed the supreme
violation of the self that leads inevitably to its final dissolution....
Even the exuberant headlines of the newspapers handed me by the club
servant in the morning brought but little relief.

On the Saturday morning before the Tuesday of election there was a
conference in the directors’ room of the Corn National. The city reeked
with smoke and acrid, stale gas, the electric lights were turned on
to dispel the November gloom. It was not a cheerful conference, nor a
confident one. For the first time in a collective experience the men
gathered there were confronted with a situation which they doubted their
ability to control, a situation for which there was no precedent.
They had to reckon with a new and unsolvable equation in politics and
finance,--the independent voter. There was an element of desperation in
the discussion. Recriminations passed. Dickinson implied that Gorse
with all his knowledge of political affairs ought to have foreseen that
something like this was sure to happen, should have managed better the
conventions of both great parties. The railroad counsel retorted that it
had been as much Dickinson’s fault as his. Grierson expressed a
regret that I had broken out against the reformers; it had reacted, he
said,--and this was just enough to sting me to retaliate that things had
been done in the campaign, chiefly through his initiative, that were not
only unwise, but might land some of us in the penitentiary if Krebs were
elected.

“Well,” Grierson exclaimed, “whether he’s elected or not, I wouldn’t
give much now for your chances of getting to the Senate. We can’t afford
to fly in the face of the dear public.”

A tense silence followed this remark. In the street below the rumble of
the traffic came to us muffled by the heavy plate-glass windows. I saw
Tallant glance at Gorse and Dickinson, and I knew the matter had been
decided between themselves, that they had been merely withholding it
from me until after election. I was besmirched, for the present at
least.

“I think you will do me the justice, gentlemen,” I remember saying
slowly, with the excessive and rather ridiculous formality of a man who
is near the end of his tether, “that the idea of representing you in
the Senate was yours, not mine. You begged me to take the appointment
against my wishes and my judgment. I had no desire to go to Washington
then, I have less to-day. I have come to the conclusion that my
usefulness to you is at an end.”

I got to my feet. I beheld Miller Gorse sitting impassive, with
his encompassing stare, the strongest man of them all. A change of
firmaments would not move him. But Dickinson had risen and put his hand
on my shoulder. It was the first time I had ever seen him white.

“Hold on, Hugh,” he exclaimed, “I guess we’re all a little cantankerous
today. This confounded campaign has got on our nerves, and we say things
we don’t mean. You mustn’t think we’re not grateful for the services
you’ve rendered us. We’re all in the same boat, and there isn’t a man
who’s been on our side of this fight who could take a political office
at this time. We’ve got to face that fact, and I know you have the sense
to see it, too. I, for one, won’t be satisfied until I see you in
the Senate. It’s where you belong, and you deserve to be there. You
understand what the public is, how it blows hot and cold, and in a few
years they’ll be howling to get us back, if these demagogues win.

“Sure,” chimed in Grierson, who was frightened, “that’s right, Hugh. I
didn’t mean anything. Nobody appreciates you more than I do, old man.”

Tallant, too, added something, and Berringer,--I’ve forgotten what. I
was tired, too tired to meet their advances halfway. I said that I had a
speech to get ready for that night, and other affairs to attend to,
and left them grouped together like crestfallen conspirators--all save
Miller Gorse, whose pervasive gaze seemed to follow me after I had
closed the door.

An elevator took me down to the lobby of the Corn Bank Building.
I paused for a moment, aimlessly regarding the streams of humanity
hurrying in and out, streaking the white marble floor with the wet
filth of the streets. Someone spoke my name. It was Bitter, Judd Jason’s
“legal” tool, and I permitted myself to be dragged out of the eddies
into a quiet corner by the cigar stand.

“Say, I guess we’ve got Krebs’s goat all right, this time,” he told me
confidentially, in a voice a little above a whisper; “he was busy with
the shirt-waist girls last year, you remember, when they were striking.
Well, one of ‘em, one of the strike leaders, has taken to easy street;
she’s agreed to send him a letter to-night to come ‘round to her room
after his meeting, to say that she’s sick and wants to see him. He’ll
go, all right. We’ll have some fun, we’ll be ready for him. Do you get
me? So long. The old man’s waiting for me.”

It may seem odd that this piece of information did not produce an
immediately revolting effect. I knew that similar practices had been
tried on Krebs, but this was the first time I had heard of a definite
plan, and from a man like Bitter. As I made my way out of the building
I had, indeed, a nauseated feeling; Jason’s “lawyer” was a dirty little
man, smelling of stale cigars, with a blue-black, unshaven face. In
spite of the shocking nature of his confidence, he had actually not
succeeded in deflecting the current of my thoughts; these were still
running over the scene in the directors’ room. I had listened to him
passively while he had held my buttonhole, and he had detained me but an
instant.

When I reached the street I was wondering whether Gorse and Dickinson
and the others, Grierson especially, could possibly have entertained the
belief that I would turn traitor? I told myself that I had no intention
of this. How could I turn traitor? and what would be the object?
revenge? The nauseated feeling grew more acute.... Reaching my office,
I shut the door, sat down at my desk, summoned my will, and began to
jot down random notes for the part of my speech I was to give the
newspapers, notes that were mere silly fragments of arguments I had once
thought effective. I could no more concentrate on them than I could have
written a poem. Gradually, like the smoke that settled down on our city
until we lived in darkness at midday, the horror of what Bitter had told
me began to pervade my mind, until I was in a state of terror.

Had I, Hugh Paret, fallen to this, that I could stand by consenting to
an act which was worse than assassination? Was any cause worth it? Could
any cause survive it? But my attempts at reasoning might be likened to
the strainings of a wayfarer lost on a mountain side to pick his way in
the gathering dusk. I had just that desperate feeling of being lost, and
with it went an acute sense of an imminent danger; the ground, no longer
firm under my feet, had become a sliding shale sloping toward an unseen
precipice. Perhaps, like the wayfarer, my fears were the sharper for the
memory of the beauty of the morning on that same mountain, when, filled
with vigour, I had gazed on it from the plain below and beheld the sun
breaking through the mists....

The necessity of taking some action to avert what I now realized as
an infamy pressed upon me, yet in conflict with the pressure of this
necessity there persisted that old rebellion, that bitterness which
had been growing all these years against the man who, above all others,
seemed to me to represent the forces setting at nought my achievements,
bringing me to this pass....

I thought of appealing to Leonard Dickinson, who surely, if he knew of
it, would not permit this thing to be done; and he was the only man with
the possible exception of Miller Gorse who might be able to restrain
Judd Jason. But I delayed until after the luncheon hour, when I called
up the bank on the telephone, to discover that it was closed. I had
forgotten that the day was Saturday. I was prepared to say that I would
withdraw from the campaign, warn Krebs myself if this kind of tactics
were not suppressed. But I could not get the banker. Then I began to
have doubts of Dickinson’s power in the matter. Judd Jason had never
been tractable, by any means; he had always maintained a considerable
independence of the financial powers, and to-day not only financial
control, but the dominance of Jason himself was at stake. He would fight
for it to the last ditch, and make use of any means. No, it was of
no use to appeal to him. What then? Well, there was a reaction, or an
attempt at one. Krebs had not been born yesterday, he had avoided the
wiles of the politicians heretofore, he wouldn’t be fool enough to be
taken in now. I told myself that if I were not in a state bordering on
a nervous breakdown, I should laugh at such morbid fears, I steadied
myself sufficiently to dictate the extract from my speech that was to be
published. I was to make addresses at two halls, alternating with Parks,
the mayoralty candidate. At four o’clock I went back to my room in the
Club to try to get some rest....

Seddon’s Hall, the place of my first meeting, was jammed that Saturday
night. I went through my speech automatically, as in a dream, the habit
of long years asserting itself. And yet--so I was told afterwards--my
delivery was not mechanical, and I actually achieved more emphasis, gave
a greater impression of conviction than at any time since the night
I had lost my control and violently denounced the reformers. By some
astonishing subconscious process I had regained my manner, but the
applause came to me as from a distance. Not only was my mind not there;
it did not seem to be anywhere. I was dazed, nor did I feel--save
once--a fleeting surge of contempt for the mob below me with their silly
faces upturned to mine. There may have been intelligent expressions
among them, but they failed to catch my eye.

I remember being stopped by Grierson as I was going out of the side
entrance. He took my hand and squeezed it, and there was on his face an
odd, surprised look.

“That was the best yet, Hugh,” he said.

I went on past him. Looking back on that evening now, it would almost
seem as though the volition of another possessed me, not my own:
seemingly, I had every intention of going on to the National Theatre, in
which Parks had just spoken, and as I descended the narrow stairway and
emerged on the side street I caught sight of my chauffeur awaiting me by
the curb.

“I’m not going to that other meeting,” I found myself saying. “I’m
pretty tired.”

“Shall I drive you back to the Club, sir?” he inquired.

“No--I’ll walk back. Wait a moment.” I entered the ear, turned on the
light and scribbled a hasty note to Andrews, the chairman of the meeting
at the National, telling him that I was too tired to speak again that
night, and to ask one of the younger men there to take my place. Then I
got out of the car and gave the note to the chauffeur.

“You’re all right, sir?” he asked, with a note of anxiety in his voice.
He had been with me a long time.

I reassured him. He started the car, and I watched it absently as it
gathered speed and turned the corner. I began to walk, slowly at first,
then more and more rapidly until I had gained a breathless pace; in ten
minutes I was in West Street, standing in front of the Templar’s Hall
where the meeting of the Citizens Union west in progress. Now that I had
arrived there, doubt and uncertainty assailed me. I had come as it were
in spite of myself, thrust onward by an impulse I did not understand,
which did not seem to be mine. What was I going to do? The proceeding
suddenly appeared to me as ridiculous, tinged with the weirdness of
somnambulism. I revolted, walked away, got as far as the corner and
stood beside a lamp post, pretending to be waiting for a car. The street
lights were reflected in perpendicular, wavy-yellow ribbons on the wet
asphalt, and I stood staring with foolish intentness at this phenomenon,
wondering how a painter would get the effect in oils. Again I was
walking back towards the hall, combating the acknowledgment to myself
that I had a plan, a plan that I did not for a moment believe I would
carry out. I was shivering.

I climbed the steps. The wide vestibule was empty except for two men who
stopped a low-toned conversation to look at me. I wondered whether they
recognized me; that I might be recognized was an alarming possibility
which had not occurred to me.

“Who is speaking?” I asked.

“Mr. Krebs,” answered the taller man of the two.

The hum of applause came from behind the swinging doors. I pushed them
open cautiously, passing suddenly out of the cold into the reeking,
heated atmosphere of a building packed with human beings. The space
behind the rear seats was filled with men standing, and those nearest
glanced around with annoyance at the interruption of my entrance. I made
my way along the wall, finally reaching a side aisle, whence I could get
sight of the platform and the speaker.

I heard his words distinctly, but at first lacked the faculty of
stringing them together, or rather of extracting their collective sense.
The phrases indeed were set ringing through my mind, I found myself
repeating them without any reference to their meaning; I had reached the
peculiar pitch of excitement that counterfeits abnormal calm, and all
sense of strangeness at being there in that meeting had passed away. I
began to wonder how I might warn Krebs, and presently decided to send
him a note when he should have finished speaking--but I couldn’t make up
my mind whether to put my name to the note or not. Of course I needn’t
have entered the hall at all: I might have sent in my note at the side
door.

I must have wished to see Krebs, to hear him speak; to observe, perhaps,
the effect on the audience. In spite of my inability to take in what
he was saying, I was able to regard him objectively,--objectively, in
a restricted sense. I noticed that he had grown even thinner; the flesh
had fallen away from under his cheek-bones, and there were sharp,
deep, almost perpendicular lines on either side of his mouth. He was
emaciated, that was the word. Once in a while he thrust his hand through
his dry, ashy hair which was of a tone with the paleness of his face.
Such was his only gesture.

He spoke quietly, leaning with one elbow against the side of his reading
stand. The occasional pulsations of applause were almost immediately
hushed, as though the people feared to lose even a word that should
fall from his dry lips. What was it he was talking about? I tried to
concentrate my attention, with only partial success. He was explaining
the new theory of city government that did not attempt to evade, but
dealt frankly with the human needs of to-day, and sought to meet those
needs in a positive way... What had happened to me, though I did not
realize it, was that I had gradually come under the influence of
a tragic spell not attributable to the words I heard, existing
independently of them, pervading the spacious hall, weaving into unity
dissentient minds. And then, with what seemed a retarded rather than
sudden awareness, I knew that he had stopped speaking. Once more he ran
his hand through his hair, he was seemingly groping for words that would
not come. I was pierced by a strange agony--the amazing source of which,
seemed to be a smile on the face of Hermann Krebs, an ineffable smile
illuminating the place like a flash of light, in which suffering and
tragedy, comradeship and loving kindness--all were mingled. He stood for
a moment with that smile on his face--swayed, and would have fallen had
it not been for the quickness of a man on the platform behind him, and
into whose arms he sank.

In an instant people had risen in their seats, men were hurrying down
the aisles, while a peculiar human murmur or wail persisted like an
undertone beneath the confusion of noises, striking the very note of
my own feelings. Above the heads of those about me I saw Krebs being
carried off the platform.... The chairman motioned for silence and
inquired if there were a physician in the audience, and then all began
to talk at once. The man who stood beside me clutched my arm.

“I hope he isn’t dead! Say, did you see that smile? My God, I’ll never
forget it!”

The exclamation poignantly voiced the esteem in which Krebs was held. As
I was thrust along out of the hall by the ebb of the crowd still other
expressions of this esteem came to me in fragments, expressions of
sorrow and dismay, of a loyalty I had not imagined. Mingled with these
were occasional remarks of skeptics shaken, in human fashion, by the
suggestion of the inevitable end that never fails to sober and terrify
humanity.

“I guess he was a bigger man than we thought. There was a lot of sense
in what he had to say.”

“There sure was,” the companion of this speaker answered.

They spoke of him in the past tense. I was seized and obsessed by
the fear that I should never see him again, and at the same moment I
realized sharply that this was the one thing I wanted--to see him. I
pushed through the people, gained the street, and fairly ran down the
alley that led to the side entrance of the hall, where a small group was
gathered under the light that hung above the doorway. There stood on the
step, a little above the others, a young man in a grey flannel shirt,
evidently a mechanic. I addressed him.

“What does the doctor say?”

Before replying he surveyed me with surprise and, I think, with
instinctive suspicion of my clothes and bearing.

“What can he say?” he retorted.

“You mean--?” I began.

“I mean Mr. Krebs oughtn’t never to have gone into this campaign,” he
answered, relenting a trifle, perhaps at the tone of my voice. “He knew
it, too, and some of us fellows tried to stop him. But we couldn’t do
nothing with him,” he added dejectedly.

“What is--the trouble?” I asked.

“They tell me it’s his heart. He wouldn’t talk about it.”

“When I think of what he done for our union!” exclaimed a thick-set
man, plainly a steel worker. “He’s just wore himself out, fighting that
crooked gang.” He stared with sudden aggressiveness at me. “Haven’t I
seen you some-wheres?” he demanded.

A denial was on my lips when the sharp, sinister strokes of a bell were
heard coming nearer.

“It’s the ambulance,” said the man on the step.

Glancing up the alley beyond the figures of two policemen who had
arrived and were holding the people back, I saw the hood of the
conveyance as it came to a halt, and immediately a hospital doctor and
two assistants carrying a stretcher hurried towards us, and we made way
for them to enter. After a brief interval, they were heard coming slowly
down the steps inside. By the white, cruel light of the arc I saw Krebs
lying motionless.... I laid hold of one of the men who had been on
the platform. He did not resent the act, he seemed to anticipate my
question.

“He’s conscious. The doctors expect him to rally when he gets to the
hospital.”

I walked back to the Club to discover that several inquiries had been
made about me. Reporters had been there, Republican Headquarters had
telephoned to know if I were ill. Leaving word that I was not to be
disturbed under any circumstances, I went to my room, and spent most of
the night in distracted thought. When at last morning came I breakfasted
early, searching the newspapers for accounts of the occurrence at
Templar’s Hall; and the fact that these were neither conspicuous nor
circumstantial was in the nature of a triumph of self-control on the
part of editors and reporters. News, however sensational, had severely
to be condensed in the interest of a cause, and at this critical stage
of the campaign to make a tragic hero of Hermann Krebs would have been
the height of folly. There were a couple of paragraphs giving the gist
of his speech, and a statement at the end that he had been taken ill and
conveyed to the Presbyterian Hospital....

The hospital itself loomed up before me that Sunday morning as I
approached it along Ballantyne Street, a diluted sunshine washing the
extended, businesslike facade of grimy, yellow brick. We were proud
of that hospital in the city, and many of our foremost citizens had
contributed large sums of money to the building, scarcely ten years old.
It had been one of Maude’s interests. I was ushered into the reception
room, where presently came the physician in charge, a Dr. Castle, one of
those quiet-mannered, modern young medical men who bear on their persons
the very stamp of efficiency, of the dignity of a scientific profession.
His greeting implied that he knew all about me, his presence seemed to
increase the agitation I tried not to betray, and must have betrayed.

“Can I do anything for you, Mr. Paret?” he asked.

“I have come to inquire about Mr. Krebs, who was brought here last
night, I believe.”

I was aware for an instant of his penetrating, professional glance, the
only indication of the surprise he must have felt that Hermann Krebs, of
all men, should be the object of my solicitude.

“Why, we sent him home this morning. Nineteen twenty six Fowler Street.
He wanted to go, and there was no use in his staying.”

“He will recover?” I asked.

The physician shook his head, gazing at me through his glasses.

“He may live a month, Mr. Paret, he may die to-morrow. He ought never
to have gone into this campaign, he knew he had this trouble. Hepburn
warned him three months ago, and there’s no man who knows more about the
heart than Hepburn.”

“Then there’s no hope?” I asked.

“Absolutely none. It’s a great pity.” He added, after a moment, “Mr.
Krebs was a remarkable man.”

“Nineteen twenty-six Fowler Street?” I repeated.

“Yes.”

I held out my hand mechanically, and he pressed it, and went with me to
the door.

“Nineteen twenty-six Fowler Street,” he repeated...

The mean and sordid aspect of Fowler Street emphasized and seemed to
typify my despair, the pungent coal smoke stifled my lungs even as
it stifled my spirit. Ugly factories, which were little more than
sweatshops, wore an empty, menacing, “Sunday” look, and the faint
November sunlight glistened on dirty pavements where children were
making a semblance of play. Monotonous rows of red houses succeeded one
another, some pushed forward, others thrust back behind little plots of
stamped earth. Into one of these I turned. It seemed a little cleaner,
better kept, less sordid than the others. I pulled the bell, and
presently the door was opened by a woman whose arms were bare to the
elbow. She wore a blue-checked calico apron that came to her throat, but
the apron was clean, and her firm though furrowed face gave evidences
of recent housewifely exertions. Her eyes had the strange look of the
cheerfulness that is intimately acquainted with sorrow. She did not seem
surprised at seeing me.

“I have come to ask about Mr. Krebs,” I told her.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “there’s been so many here this morning already.
It’s wonderful how people love him, all kinds of people. No, sir, he
don’t seem to be in any pain. Two gentlemen are up there now in his
room, I mean.”

She wiped her arms, which still bore traces of soap-suds, and then, with
a gesture natural and unashamed, lifted the corner of her apron to her
eyes.

“Do you think I could see him--for a moment?” I asked. “I’ve known him
for a long time.”

“Why, I don’t know,” she said, “I guess so. The doctor said he could
see some, and he wants to see his friends. That’s not strange--he always
did. I’ll ask. Will you tell me your name?”

I took out a card. She held it without glancing at it, and invited me
in.

I waited, unnerved and feverish, pulsing, in the dark and narrow hall
beside the flimsy rack where several coats and hats were hung. Once
before I had visited Krebs in that lodging-house in Cambridge long
ago with something of the same feelings. But now they were greatly
intensified. Now he was dying....

The woman was descending.

“He says he wants to see you, sir,” she said rather breathlessly, and I
followed her. In the semi-darkness of the stairs I passed the three men
who had been with Krebs, and when I reached the open door of his room
he was alone. I hesitated just a second, swept by the heat wave that
follows sudden shyness, embarrassment, a sense of folly it is too late
to avert.

Krebs was propped up with pillows.

“Well, this is good of you,” he said, and reached out his hand across
the spread. I took it, and sat down beside the shiny oak bedstead, in a
chair covered with tobacco-colored plush.

“You feel better?” I asked.

“Oh, I feel all right,” he answered, with a smile. “It’s queer, but I
do.”

My eye fell upon the long line of sectional book-cases that lined one
side of the room. “Why, you’ve got quite a library here,” I observed.

“Yes, I’ve managed to get together some good books. But there is so much
to read nowadays, so much that is really good and new, a man has the
hopeless feeling he can never catch up with it all. A thousand writers
and students are making contributions today where fifty years ago there
was one.”

“I’ve been following your speeches, after a fashion,--I wish I might
have been able to read more of them. Your argument interested me. It’s
new, unlike the ordinary propaganda of--”

“Of agitators,” he supplied, with a smile.

“Of agitators,” I agreed, and tried to return his smile. “An agitator
who appears to suggest the foundations of a constructive programme
and who isn’t afraid to criticise the man with a vote as well as the
capitalist is an unusual phenomenon.”

“Oh, when we realize that we’ve only got a little time left in which to
tell what we think to be the truth, it doesn’t require a great deal of
courage, Paret. I didn’t begin to see this thing until a little while
ago. I was only a crude, hot-headed revolutionist. God knows I’m crude
enough still. But I began to have a glimmering of what all these new
fellows in the universities are driving at.” He waved his hand towards
the book-cases. “Driving at collectively, I mean. And there are
attempts, worthy attempts, to coordinate and synthesize the sciences.
What I have been saying is not strictly original. I took it on the
stump, that’s all. I didn’t expect it to have much effect in this
campaign, but it was an opportunity to sow a few seeds, to start a sense
of personal dissatisfaction in the minds of a few voters. What is it
Browning says? It’s in Bishop Blougram, I believe. ‘When the fight
begins within himself, a man’s worth something.’ It’s an intellectual
fight, of course.”

His words were spoken quietly, but I realized suddenly that the
mysterious force which had drawn me to him now, against my will, was
an intellectual rather than apparently sentimental one, an intellectual
force seeming to comprise within it all other human attractions. And yet
I felt a sudden contrition.

“See here, Krebs,” I said, “I didn’t come here to bother you about these
matters, to tire you. I mustn’t stay. I’ll call in again to see how you
are--from time to time.”

“But you’re not tiring me,” he protested, stretching forth a thin,
detaining hand. “I don’t want to rot, I want to live and think as long
as I can. To tell you the truth, Paret, I’ve been wishing to talk to
you--I’m glad you came in.”

“You’ve been wishing to talk to me?” I said.

“Yes, but I didn’t expect you’d come in. I hope you won’t mind my saying
so, under the circumstances, but I’ve always rather liked you, admired
you, even back in the Cambridge days. After that I used to blame you
for going out and taking what you wanted, and I had to live a good many
years before I began to see that it’s better for a man to take what he
wants than to take nothing at all. I took what I wanted, every man worth
his salt does. There’s your great banker friend in New York whom I used
to think was the arch-fiend. He took what he wanted, and he took a
good deal, but it happened to be good for him. And by piling up his
corporations, Ossa on Pelion, he is paving the way for a logical
economic evolution. How can a man in our time find out what he does want
unless he takes something and gives it a trial?”

“Until he begins to feel that it disagrees with him,” I said. “But
then,” I added involuntarily, “then it may be too late to try something
else, and he may not know what to try.” This remark of mine might have
surprised me had it not been for the feeling--now grown definite--that
Krebs had something to give me, something to pass on to me, of all men.
Indeed, he had hinted as much, when he acknowledged a wish to talk to
me. “What seems so strange,” I said, as I looked at him lying back on
his pillows, “is your faith that we shall be able to bring order out of
all this chaos--your belief in Democracy.”

“Democracy’s an adventure,” he replied, “the great adventure of mankind.
I think the trouble in many minds lies in the fact that they persist in
regarding it as something to be made safe. All that can be done is
to try to make it as safe as possible. But no adventure is safe--life
itself is an adventure, and neither is that safe. It’s a hazard, as you
and I have found out. The moment we try to make life safe we lose all
there is in it worth while.”

I thought a moment.

“Yes, that’s so,” I agreed. On the table beside the bed in company with
two or three other volumes, lay a Bible. He seemed to notice that my eye
fell upon it.

“Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son?” he asked. “Well, that’s
the parable of democracy, of self-government in the individual and in
society. In order to arrive at salvation, Paret, most of us have to take
our journey into a far country.”

“A far country!” I exclaimed. The words struck a reminiscent chord.

“We have to leave what seem the safe things, we have to wander
and suffer in order to realize that the only true safety lies in
development. We have first to cast off the leading strings of authority.
It’s a delusion that we can insure ourselves by remaining within its
walls--we have to risk our lives and our souls. It is discouraging when
we look around us to-day, and in a way the pessimists are right when
they say we don’t see democracy. We see only what may be called the
first stage of it; for democracy is still in a far country eating the
husks of individualism, materialism. What we see is not true freedom,
but freedom run to riot, men struggling for themselves, spending on
themselves the fruits of their inheritance; we see a government intent
on one object alone--exploitation of this inheritance in order to
achieve what it calls prosperity. And God is far away.”

“And--we shall turn?” I asked.

“We shall turn or perish. I believe that we shall turn.” He fixed his
eyes on my face. “What is it,” he asked, “that brought you here to me,
to-day?”

I was silent.

“The motive, Paret--the motive that sends us all wandering into is
divine, is inherited from God himself. And the same motive, after our
eyes shall have been opened, after we shall have seen and known the
tragedy and misery of life, after we shall have made the mistakes and
committed the sins and experienced the emptiness--the same motive will
lead us back again. That, too, is an adventure, the greatest adventure
of all. Because, when we go back we shall not find the same God--or
rather we shall recognize him in ourselves. Autonomy is godliness,
knowledge is godliness. We went away cringing, superstitious, we saw
everywhere omens and evidences of his wrath in the earth and sea and
sky, we burned candles and sacrificed animals in the vain hope of
averting scourges and other calamities. But when we come back it will
be with a knowledge of his ways, gained at a price,--the price he, too,
must have paid--and we shall be able to stand up and look him in the
face, and all our childish superstitions and optimisms shall have been
burned away.”

Some faith indeed had given him strength to renounce those things in
life I had held dear, driven him on to fight until his exhausted body
failed him, and even now that he was physically helpless sustained him.
I did not ask myself, then, the nature of this faith. In its presence it
could no more be questioned than the light. It was light; I felt bathed
in it. Now it was soft, suffused: but I remembered how the night before
in the hall, just before he had fallen, it had flashed forth in a smile
and illumined my soul with an ecstasy that yet was anguish....

“We shall get back,” I said at length. My remark was not a question--it
had escaped from me almost unawares.

“The joy is in the journey,” he answered. “The secret is in the search.”

“But for me?” I exclaimed.

“We’ve all been lost, Paret. It would seem as though we have to be.”

“And yet you are--saved,” I said, hesitating over the word.

“It is true that I am content, even happy,” he asserted, “in spite of my
wish to live. If there is any secret, it lies, I think, in the struggle
for an open mind, in the keeping alive of a desire to know more and
more. That desire, strangely enough, hasn’t lost its strength. We don’t
know whether there is a future life, but if there is, I think it must
be a continuation of this.” He paused. “I told you I was glad you came
in--I’ve been thinking of you, and I saw you in the hall last night. You
ask what there is for you--I’ll tell you,--the new generation.”

“The new generation.”

“That’s the task of every man and woman who wakes up. I’ve come to see
how little can be done for the great majority of those who have reached
our age. It’s hard--but it’s true. Superstition, sentiment, the habit
of wrong thinking or of not thinking at all have struck in too deep, the
habit of unreasoning acceptance of authority is too paralyzing. Some may
be stung back into life, spurred on to find out what the world really
is, but not many. The hope lies in those who are coming after us--we
must do for them what wasn’t done for us. We really didn’t have much of
a chance, Paret. What did our instructors at Harvard know about the age
that was dawning? what did anybody know? You can educate yourself--or
rather reeducate yourself. All this”--and he waved his hand towards his
bookshelves--“all this has sprung up since you and I were at Cambridge;
if we don’t try to become familiar with it, if we fail to grasp the
point of view from which it’s written, there’s little hope for us. Go
away from all this and get straightened out, make yourself acquainted
with the modern trend in literature and criticism, with modern history,
find out what’s being done in the field of education, read the modern
sciences, especially biology, and psychology and sociology, and try to
get a glimpse of the fundamental human needs underlying such phenomena
as the labour and woman’s movements. God knows I’ve just begun to get
my glimpse, and I’ve floundered around ever since I left college.... I
don’t mean to say we can ever see the whole, but we can get a clew, an
idea, and pass it on to our children. You have children, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” I said....

He said nothing--he seemed to be looking out of the window.

“Then the scientific point of view in your opinion hasn’t done away with
religion?” I asked presently.

“The scientific point of view is the religious point of view,” he said
earnestly, “because it’s the only self-respecting point of view. I can’t
believe that God intended to make a creature who would not ultimately
weigh his beliefs with his reason instead of accepting them blindly.
That’s immoral, if you like--especially in these days.”

“And are there, then, no ‘over-beliefs’?” I said, remembering the
expression in something I had read.

“That seems to me a relic of the method of ancient science, which was
upside down,--a mere confusion with faith. Faith and belief are two
different things; faith is the emotion, the steam, if you like, that
drives us on in our search for truth. Theories, at a stretch, might
be identified with ‘over-beliefs’ but when it comes to confusing our
theories with facts, instead of recognizing them as theories, when
it comes to living by ‘over-beliefs’ that have no basis in reason and
observed facts,--that is fatal. It’s just the trouble with so much of
our electorate to-day--unreasoning acceptance without thought.”

“Then,” I said, “you admit of no other faculty than reason?”

“I confess that I don’t. A great many insights that we seem to get
from what we call intuition I think are due to the reason, which is
unconsciously at work. If there were another faculty that equalled or
transcended reason, it seems to me it would be a very dangerous thing
for the world’s progress. We’d come to rely on it rather than on
ourselves the trouble with the world is that it has been relying on it.
Reason is the mind--it leaps to the stars without realizing always
how it gets there. It is through reason we get the self-reliance that
redeems us.”

“But you!” I exclaimed. “You rely on something else besides reason?”

“Yes, it is true,” he explained gently, “but that Thing
Other-than-Ourselves we feel stirring in us is power, and that power, or
the Source of it, seems to have given us our reason for guidance--if
it were not so we shouldn’t have a semblance of freedom. For there is
neither virtue nor development in finding the path if we are guided.
We do rely on that power for movement--and in the moments when it is
withdrawn we are helpless. Both the power and the reason are God’s.”

“But the Church,” I was moved by some untraced thought to ask, “you
believe there is a future for the Church?”

“A church of all those who disseminate truth, foster open-mindedness,
serve humanity and radiate faith,” he replied--but as though he were
speaking to himself, not to me....

A few moments later there was a knock at the door, and the woman of
the house entered to say that Dr. Hepburn had arrived. I rose and
shook Krebs’s hand: sheer inability to express my emotion drove me to
commonplaces.

“I’ll come in soon again, if I may,” I told him.

“Do, Paret,” he said, “it’s done me good to talk to you--more good than
you imagine.”

I was unable to answer him, but I glanced back from the doorway to see
him smiling after me. On my way down the stairs I bumped into the doctor
as he ascended. The dingy brown parlour was filled with men, standing in
groups and talking in subdued voices. I hurried into the street, and on
the sidewalk stopped face to face with Perry Blackwood.

“Hugh!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to inquire for Krebs,” I answered. “I’ve seen him.”

“You--you’ve been talking to him?” Perry demanded.

I nodded. He stared at me for a moment with an astonishment to which I
was wholly indifferent. He did not seem to know just how to act.

“Well, it was decent of you, Hugh, I must say. How does he seem?”

“Not at all like--like what you’d expect, in his manner.”

“No,” agreed Perry agitatedly, “no, he wouldn’t. My God, we’ve lost a
big man in him.”

“I think we have,” I said.

He stared at me again, gave me his hand awkwardly, and went into the
house. It was not until I had walked the length of the block that I
began to realize what a shock my presence there must have been to him,
with his head full of the contrast between this visit and my former
attitude. Could it be that it was only the night before I had made a
speech against him and his associates? It is interesting that my mind
rejected all sense of anomaly and inconsistency. Krebs possessed me; I
must have been in reality extremely agitated, but this sense of being
possessed seemed a quiet one. An amazing thing had happened--and yet I
was not amazed. The Krebs I had seen was the man I had known for many
years, the man I had ridiculed, despised and oppressed, but it seemed to
me then that he had been my friend and intimate all my life: more than
that, I had an odd feeling he had always been a part of me, and that now
had begun to take place a merging of personality. Nor could I feel that
he was a dying man. He would live on....

I could not as yet sort and appraise, reduce to order the possessions he
had wished to turn over to me.

It was noon, and people were walking past me in the watery, diluted
sunlight, men in black coats and top hats and women in bizarre,
complicated costumes bright with colour. I had reached the more
respectable portion of the city, where the churches were emptying. These
very people, whom not long ago I would have acknowledged as my own kind,
now seemed mildly animated automatons, wax figures. The day was like
hundreds of Sundays I had known, the city familiar, yet passing strange.
I walked like a ghost through it....



XXVI.

Accompanied by young Dr. Strafford, I went to California. My physical
illness had been brief. Dr. Brooke had taken matters in his own hands
and ordered an absolute rest, after dwelling at some length on the
vicious pace set by modern business and the lack of consideration and
knowledge shown by men of affairs for their bodies. There was a limit
to the wrack and strain which the human organism could stand. He must
of course have suspected the presence of disturbing and disintegrating
factors, but he confined himself to telling me that only an exceptional
constitution had saved me from a serious illness; he must in a way have
comprehended why I did not wish to go abroad, and have my family join me
on the Riviera, as Tom Peters proposed. California had been my choice,
and Dr. Brooke recommended the climate of Santa Barbara.

High up on the Montecito hills I found a villa beside the gateway of one
of the deep canons that furrow the mountain side, and day after day
I lay in a chair on the sunny terrace, with a continually recurring
amazement at the brilliancy of my surroundings. In the early morning I
looked down on a feathery mist hiding the world, a mist presently to be
shot with silver and sapphire-blue, dissolved by slow enchantment until
there lay revealed the plain and the shimmering ocean with its distant
islands trembling in the haze. At sunset my eyes sought the mountains,
mountains unreal, like glorified scenery of grand opera, with violet
shadows in the wooded canon clefts, and crags of pink tourmaline and
ruby against the skies. All day long in the tempered heat flowers blazed
around me, insects hummed, lizards darted in and out of the terrace
wall, birds flashed among the checkered shadows of the live oaks. That
grove of gnarled oaks summoned up before me visions of some classic
villa poised above Grecian seas, shining amidst dark foliage, the refuge
of forgotten kings. Below me, on the slope, the spaced orange trees were
heavy with golden fruit.

After a while, as I grew stronger, I was driven down and allowed to walk
on the wide beach that stretched in front of the gay houses facing the
sea. Cormorants dived under the long rollers that came crashing in from
the Pacific; gulls wheeled and screamed in the soft wind; alert little
birds darted here and there with incredible swiftness, leaving tiny
footprints across the ribs and furrows of the wet sand. Far to the
southward a dark barrier of mountains rose out of the sea. Sometimes
I sat with my back against the dunes watching the drag of the outgoing
water rolling the pebbles after it, making a gleaming floor for the
light to dance.

At first I could not bear to recall the events that had preceded and
followed my visit to Krebs that Sunday morning. My illness had begun
that night; on the Monday Tom Peters had come to the Club and insisted
upon my being taken to his house.... When I had recovered sufficiently
there had been rather a pathetic renewal of our friendship. Perry came
to see me. Their attitude was one of apprehension not unmixed with
wonder; and though they, knew of the existence of a mental crisis,
suspected, in all probability, some of the causes of it, they refrained
carefully from all comments, contenting themselves with telling me
when I was well enough that Krebs had died quite suddenly that Sunday
afternoon; that his death--occurring at such a crucial moment--had been
sufficient to turn the tide of the election and make Edgar Greenhalge
mayor. Thousands who had failed to understand Hermann Krebs, but whom he
had nevertheless stirred and troubled, suddenly awoke to the fact that
he had had elements of greatness....

My feelings in those first days at Santa Barbara may be likened, indeed,
to those of a man who has passed through a terrible accident that has
deprived him of sight or hearing, and which he wishes to forget. What I
was most conscious of then was an aching sense of loss--an ache that
by degrees became a throbbing pain as life flowed back into me,
re-inflaming once more my being with protest and passion, arousing me to
revolt against the fate that had overtaken me. I even began at moments
to feel a fierce desire to go back and take up again the fight from
which I had been so strangely removed--removed by the agency of things
still obscure. I might get Nancy yet, beat down her resistance, overcome
her, if only I could be near her and see her. But even in the midst of
these surges of passion I was conscious of the birth of a new force I
did not understand, and which I resented, that had arisen to give battle
to my passions and desires. This struggle was not mentally reflected as
a debate between right and wrong, as to whether I should or should not
be justified in taking Nancy if I could get her: it seemed as though
some new and small yet dogged intruder had forced an entrance into me,
an insignificant pigmy who did not hesitate to bar the pathway of the
reviving giant of my desires. These contests sapped my strength. It
seemed as though in my isolation I loved Nancy, I missed her more than
ever, and the flavour she gave to life.

Then Hermann Krebs began to press himself on me. I use the word as
expressive of those early resentful feelings,--I rather pictured him
then as the personification of an hostile element in the universe that
had brought about my miseries and accomplished my downfall; I attributed
the disagreeable thwarting of my impulses to his agency; I did not wish
to think of him, for he stood somehow for a vague future I feared to
contemplate. Yet the illusion of his presence, once begun, continued to
grow upon me, and I find myself utterly unable to describe that struggle
in which he seemed to be fighting as against myself for my confidence;
that process whereby he gradually grew as real to me as though he still
lived--until I could almost hear his voice and see his smile. At moments
I resisted wildly, as though my survival depended on it; at other
moments he seemed to bring me peace. One day I recalled as vividly as
though it were taking place again that last time I had been with him;
I seemed once more to be listening to the calm yet earnest talk ranging
over so many topics, politics and government, economics and science and
religion. I did not yet grasp the synthesis he had made of them all,
but I saw them now all focussed in him elements he had drawn from
human lives and human experiences. I think it was then I first felt the
quickenings of a new life to be born in travail and pain.... Wearied,
yet exalted, I sank down on a stone bench and gazed out at the little
island of Santa Cruz afloat on the shimmering sea.

I have mentioned my inability to depict the terrible struggle that went
on in my soul. It seems strange that Nietzsche--that most ruthless
of philosophers to the romantic mind!--should express it for me. “The
genius of the heart, from contact with which every man goes away richer,
not ‘blessed’ and overcome,... but richer himself, fresher to himself
than before, opened up, breathed upon and sounded by a thawing wind;
more uncertain, perhaps, more delicate, more bruised; but full of hopes
which as yet lack names, full of a new will and striving, full of a new
unwillingness and counterstriving.”...

Such was my experience with Hermann Krebs. How keenly I remember that
new unwillingness and counter-striving! In spite of the years it has not
wholly died down, even to-day....

Almost coincident with these quickenings of which I have spoken was the
consciousness of a hunger stronger than the craving for bread and meat,
and I began to meditate on my ignorance, on the utter inadequacy and
insufficiency of my early education, on my neglect of the new learning
during the years that had passed since I left Harvard. And I remembered
Krebs’s words--that we must “reeducate ourselves.” What did I know? A
system of law, inherited from another social order, that was utterly
unable to cope with the complexities and miseries and injustices of a
modern industrial world. I had spent my days in mastering an inadequate
and archaic code--why? in order that I might learn how to evade it? This
in itself condemned it. What did I know of life? of the shining universe
that surrounded me? What did I know of the insect and the flower, of the
laws that moved the planets and made incandescent the suns? of the human
body, of the human soul and its instincts? Was this knowledge acquired
at such cost of labour and life and love by my fellow-men of so little
worth to me that I could ignore it? declare that it had no significance
for me? no bearing on my life and conduct? If I were to rise and go
forward--and I now felt something like a continued impulse, in spite
of relaxations and revolts--I must master this knowledge, it must be my
guide, form the basis of my creed. I--who never had had a creed, never
felt the need of one! For lack of one I had been rudely jolted out of
the frail shell I had thought so secure, and stood, as it were, naked
and shivering to the storms, staring at a world that was no function
of me, after all. My problem, indeed, was how to become a function of
it....

I resolved upon a course of reading, but it was a question what books to
get. Krebs could have told me, if he had lived. I even thought once
of writing Perry Blackwood to ask him to make a list of the volumes in
Krebs’s little library; but I was ashamed to do this.

Dr. Strafford still remained with me. Not many years out of the medical
school, he had inspired me with a liking for him and a respect for his
profession, and when he informed me one day that he could no longer
conscientiously accept the sum I was paying him, I begged him to stay
on. He was a big and wholesome young man, companionable, yet quiet and
unobtrusive, watchful without appearing to be so, with the innate as
well as the cultivated knowledge of psychology characteristic of the
best modern physicians. When I grew better I came to feel that he had
given his whole mind to the study of my case, though he never betrayed
it in his conversation.

“Strafford,” I said to him one morning with such an air of unconcern as
I could muster, “I’ve an idea I’d like to read a little science. Could
you recommend a work on biology?”

I chose biology because I thought he would know something about it.

“Popular biology, Mr. Paret?”

“Well, not too popular,” I smiled. “I think it would do me good to use
my mind, to chew on something. Besides, you can help me over the tough
places.”

He returned that afternoon with two books.

“I’ve been rather fortunate in getting these,” he said. “One is fairly
elementary. They had it at the library. And the other--” he paused
delicately, “I didn’t know whether you might be interested in the latest
speculations on the subject.”

“Speculations?” I repeated.

“Well, the philosophy of it.” He almost achieved a blush under his tan.
He held out the second book on the philosophy of the organism. “It’s
the work of a German scientist who stands rather high. I read it last
winter, and it interested me. I got it from a clergyman I know who is
spending the winter in Santa Barbara.”

“A clergyman!”

Strafford laughed. “An ‘advanced’ clergyman,” he explained. “Oh, a lot
of them are reading science now. I think it’s pretty decent of them.”

I looked at Strafford, who towered six feet three, and it suddenly
struck me that he might be one of the forerunners of a type our
universities were about to turn out. I wondered what he believed. Of
one thing I was sure, that he was not in the medical profession to make
money. That was a faith in itself.

I began with the elementary work.

“You’d better borrow a Century Dictionary,” I said.

“That’s easy,” he said, and actually achieved it, with the clergyman’s
aid.

The absorption in which I fought my way through those books may prove
interesting to future generations, who, at Sunday-school age, when the
fable of Adam and Eve was painfully being drummed into me (without
any mention of its application), will be learning to think straight,
acquiring easily in early youth what I failed to learn until after
forty. And think of all the trouble and tragedy that will have been
averted. It is true that I had read some biology at Cambridge, which
I had promptly forgotten; it had not been especially emphasized by my
instructors as related to life--certainly not as related to religion:
such incidents as that of Adam and Eve occupied the religious field
exclusively. I had been compelled to commit to memory, temporarily, the
matter in those books; but what I now began to perceive was that the
matter was secondary compared to the view point of science--and this had
been utterly neglected. As I read, I experienced all the excitement of
an old-fashioned romance, but of a romance of such significance as to
touch the very springs of existence; and above all I was impressed with
the integrity of the scientific method--an integrity commensurate with
the dignity of man--that scorned to quibble to make out a case, to
affirm something that could not be proved.

Little by little I became familiar with the principles of embryonic
evolution, ontogeny, and of biological evolution, phylogeny; realized,
for the first time, my own history and that of the ancestors from whom
I had developed and descended. I, this marvellously complicated being,
torn by desires and despairs, was the result of the union of two
microscopic cells. “All living things come from the egg,” such had been
Harvey’s dictum. The result was like the tonic of a cold douche. I began
to feel cleansed and purified, as though something sticky-sweet which
all my life had clung to me had been washed away. Yet a question arose,
an insistent question that forever presses itself on the mind of man;
how could these apparently chemical and mechanical processes, which the
author of the book contented himself with recording, account for me? The
spermia darts for the egg, and pierces it; personal history begins. But
what mysterious shaping force is it that repeats in the individual the
history of the race, supervises the orderly division of the cells, by
degrees directs the symmetry, sets aside the skeleton and digestive
tract and supervises the structure?

I took up the second book, that on the philosophy of the organism, to
read in its preface that a much-to-be-honoured British nobleman
had established a foundation of lectures in a Scotch University for
forwarding the study of a Natural Theology. The term possessed me.
Unlike the old theology woven of myths and a fanciful philosophy of
the decadent period of Greece, natural theology was founded on science
itself, and scientists were among those who sought to develop it. Here
was a synthesis that made a powerful appeal, one of the many signs and
portents of a new era of which I was dimly becoming cognizant; and now
that I looked for signs, I found them everywhere, in my young Doctor, in
Krebs, in references in the texts; indications of a new order
beginning to make itself felt in a muddled, chaotic human world, which
might--which must have a parallel with the order that revealed itself in
the egg! Might not both, physical and social, be due to the influence of
the same invisible, experimenting, creating Hand?

My thoughts lingered lovingly on this theology so well named “natural,”
 on its conscientiousness, its refusal to affirm what it did not prove,
on its lack of dogmatic dictums and infallible revelations; yet it gave
me the vision of a new sanction whereby man might order his life, a
sanction from which was eliminated fear and superstition and romantic
hope, a sanction whose doctrines--unlike those of the sentimental
theology--did not fly in the face of human instincts and needs. Nor was
it a theology devoid of inspiration and poetry, though poetry might be
called its complement. With all that was beautiful and true in the
myths dear to mankind it did not conflict, annulling only the vicious
dogmatism of literal interpretation. In this connection I remembered
something that Krebs had said--in our talk about poetry and art,--that
these were emotion, religion expressed by the tools reason had evolved.
Music, he had declared, came nearest to the cry of the human soul....

That theology cleared for faith an open road, made of faith a reasonable
thing, yet did not rob it of a sense of high adventure; cleansed it
of the taints of thrift and selfish concern. In this reaffirmation of
vitalism there might be a future, yes, an individual future, yet it was
far from the smug conception of salvation. Here was a faith conferred by
the freedom of truth; a faith that lost and regained itself in life; it
was dynamic in its operation; for, as Lessing said, the searching after
truth, and not its possession, gives happiness to man. In the words
of an American scientist, taken from his book on Heredity, “The
evolutionary idea has forced man to consider the probable future of his
own race on earth and to take measures to control that future, a matter
he had previously left largely to fate.”

Here indeed was another sign of the times, to find in a strictly
scientific work a sentence truly religious! As I continued to read
these works, I found them suffused with religion, religion of a kind
and quality I had not imagined. The birthright of the spirit of man
was freedom, freedom to experiment, to determine, to create--to create
himself, to create society in the image of God! Spiritual creation the
function of cooperative man through the coming ages, the task that was
to make him divine. Here indeed was the germ of a new sanction, of a new
motive, of a new religion that strangely harmonized with the concepts of
the old--once the dynamic power of these was revealed.

I had been thinking of my family--of my family in terms of Matthew--and
yet with a growing yearning that embraced them all. I had not informed
Maude of my illness, and I had managed to warn Tom Peters not to do so.
I had simply written her that after the campaign I had gone for a rest
to California; yet in her letters to me, after this information had
reached her, I detected a restrained anxiety and affection that troubled
me. Sequences of words curiously convey meanings and implications that
transcend their literal sense, true thoughts and feelings are difficult
to disguise even in written speech. Could it be possible after all that
had happened that Maude still loved me? I continually put the thought
away from me, but continually it returned to haunt me. Suppose Maude
could not help loving me, in spite of my weaknesses and faults, even as
I loved Nancy in spite of hers? Love is no logical thing.

It was Matthew I wanted, Matthew of whom I thought, and trivial,
long-forgotten incidents of the past kept recurring to me constantly. I
still received his weekly letters; but he did not ask why, since I
had taken a vacation, I had not come over to them. He represented
the medium, the link between Maude and me that no estrangement, no
separation could break.

All this new vision of mine was for him, for the coming generation, the
soil in which it must be sown, the Americans of the future. And who so
well as Matthew, sensitive yet brave, would respond to it? I wished not
only to give him what I had begun to grasp, to study with him, to be
his companion and friend, but to spare him, if possible, some of my
own mistakes and sufferings and punishments. But could I go back? Happy
coincidences of desires and convictions had been so characteristic of
that other self I had been struggling to cast off: I had so easily been
persuaded, when I had had a chance of getting Nancy, that it was the
right thing to do! And now, in my loneliness, was I not growing just as
eager to be convinced that it was my duty to go back to the family
which in the hour of self-sufficiency I had cast off? I had believed in
divorce then--why not now? Well, I still believed in it. I had
thought of a union with Nancy as something that would bring about
the “self-realization that springs from the gratification of a great
passion,”--an appealing phrase I had read somewhere. But, it was at
least a favourable symptom that I was willing now to confess that the
“self-realization” had been a secondary and sentimental consideration,
a rosy, self-created halo to give a moral and religious sanction to my
desire. Was I not trying to do that very thing now? It tortured me
to think so; I strove to achieve a detached consideration of the
problem,--to arrive at length at a thought that seemed illuminating:
that the it “wrongness” or “rightness,” utility and happiness of all
such unions depend upon whether or not they become a part of the woof
and warp of the social fabric; in other words, whether the gratification
of any particular love by divorce and remarriage does or does not tend
to destroy a portion of that fabric. Nancy certainly would have been
justified in divorce. It did not seem in the retrospect that I would
have been: surely not if, after I had married Nancy, I had developed
this view of life that seemed to me to be the true view. I should have
been powerless to act upon it. But the chances were I should not have
developed it, since it would seem that any salvation for me at least
must come precisely through suffering, through not getting what I
wanted. Was this equivocating?

My mistake had been in marrying Maude instead of Nancy--a mistake
largely due to my saturation with a false idea of life. Would not
the attempt to cut loose from the consequences of that mistake in my
individual case have been futile? But there was a remedy for it--the
remedy Krebs had suggested: I might still prevent my children from
making such a mistake, I might help to create in them what I might have
been, and thus find a solution for myself. My errors would then assume a
value.

But the question tortured me: would Maude wish it? Would it be fair to
her if she did not? By my long neglect I had forfeited the right to go.
And would she agree with my point of view if she did permit me to stay?
I had less concern on this score, a feeling that that development of
hers, which once had irritated me, was in the same direction as my
own....

I have still strangely to record moments when, in spite of the
aspirations I had achieved, of the redeeming vision I had gained, at the
thought of returning to her I revolted. At such times recollections
came into my mind of those characteristics in her that had seemed most
responsible for my alienation.... That demon I had fed so mightily still
lived. By what right--he seemed to ask--had I nourished him all these
years if now I meant to starve him? Thus sometimes he defied me, took
on Protean guises, blustered, insinuated, cajoled, managed to make me
believe that to starve him would be to starve myself, to sap all there
was of power in me. Let me try and see if I could do it! Again he
whispered, to what purpose had I gained my liberty, if now I renounced
it? I could not live in fetters, even though the fetters should be
self-imposed. I was lonely now, but I would get over that, and life lay
before me still.

Fierce and tenacious, steel in the cruelty of his desires, fearful in
the havoc he had wrought, could he be subdued? Foiled, he tore and rent
me....

One morning I rode up through the shady canon, fragrant with bay, to
the open slopes stained smoky-blue by the wild lilac, where the twisted
madrona grows. As I sat gazing down on tiny headlands jutting out into
a vast ocean my paralyzing indecision came to an end. I turned my horse
down the trail again. I had seen at last that life was bigger than I,
bigger than Maude, bigger than our individual wishes and desires. I felt
as though heavy shackles had been struck from me. As I neared the house
I spied my young doctor in the garden path, his hands in his pockets
watching a humming-bird poised over the poppies. He greeted me with a
look that was not wholly surprise at my early return, that seemed to
have in it something of gladness.

“Strafford,” I said, “I’ve made up my mind to go to Europe.”

“I have been thinking for some time, Mr. Paret,” he replied, “that a
sea-voyage is just what you need to set you on your feet.”

I started eastward the next morning, arriving in New York in time to
catch one of the big liners sailing for Havre. On my way across the
continent I decided to send a cable to Maude at Paris, since it were
only fair to give her an opportunity to reflect upon the manner in which
she would meet the situation. Save for an impatience which at moments
I restrained with difficulty, the moods that succeeded one another as
I journeyed did not differ greatly from those I had experienced in the
past month. I was alternately exalted and depressed; I hoped and doubted
and feared; my courage, my confidence rose and fell. And yet I was aware
of the nascence within me of an element that gave me a stability I had
hitherto lacked: I had made my decision, and I felt the stronger for it.

It was early in March. The annual rush of my countrymen and women for
foreign shores had not as yet begun, the huge steamer was far from
crowded. The faint throbbing of her engines as she glided out on the
North River tide found its echo within me as I leaned on the heavy rail
and watched the towers of the city receding in the mist; they became
blurred and ghostlike, fantastic in the grey distance, sad, appealing
with a strange beauty and power. Once the sight of them, sunlit,
standing forth sharply against the high blue of American skies, had
stirred in me that passion for wealth and power of which they were so
marvellously and uniquely the embodiment. I recalled the bright day of
my home-coming with Maude, when she too had felt that passion drawing me
away from her, after the briefest of possessions.... Well, I had had it,
the power. I had stormed and gained entrance to the citadel itself. I
might have lived here in New York, secure, defiant of a veering public
opinion that envied while it strove to sting. Why was I flinging it
all away? Was this a sudden resolution of mine, forced by events,
precipitated by a failure to achieve what of all things on earth I had
most desired? or was it the inevitable result of the development of the
Hugh Paret of earlier days, who was not meant for that kind of power?

The vibration of the monster ship increased to a strong, electric
pulsation, the water hummed along her sides, she felt the swell of the
open sea. A fine rain began to fall that hid the land--yes, and the life
I was leaving. I made my way across the glistening deck to the saloon
where, my newspapers and periodicals neglected, I sat all the morning
beside a window gazing out at the limited, vignetted zone of waters
around the ship. We were headed for the Old World. The wind rose, the
rain became pelting, mingling with the spume of the whitecaps racing
madly past: within were warmth and luxury, electric lights, open fires,
easy chairs, and men and women reading, conversing as unconcernedly as
though the perils of the deep had ceased to be. In all this I found
an impelling interest; the naive capacity in me for wonder, so long
dormant, had been marvellously opened up once more. I no longer thought
of myself as the important man of affairs; and when in the progress of
the voyage I was accosted by two or three men I had met and by others
who had heard of me it was only to feel amazement at the remoteness I
now felt from a world whose realities were stocks and bonds, railroads
and corporations and the detested new politics so inimical to the smooth
conduct of “business.”

It all sounded like a language I had forgotten.

It was not until near the end of the passage that we ran out of the
storm. A morning came when I went on deck to survey spaces of a blue
and white sea swept by the white March sunlight; to discern at length
against the horizon toward which we sped a cloud of the filmiest and
most delicate texture and design. Suddenly I divined that the cloud was
France! Little by little, as I watched, it took on substance. I made out
headlands and cliffs, and then we were coasting beside them. That night
I should be in Paris with Maude. My bag was packed, my steamer trunk
closed. I strayed about the decks, in and out of the saloons,
wondering at the indifference of other passengers who sat reading in
steamer-chairs or wrote last letters to be posted at Havre. I was
filled with impatience, anticipation, yes, with anxiety concerning the
adventure that was now so imminent; with wavering doubts. Had I done the
wisest thing after all? I had the familiar experience that often comes
just before reunion after absence of recalling intimate and forgotten
impressions of those whom I was about to see again the tones of their
voices, little gestures....

How would they receive me?

The great ship had slowed down and was entering the harbour, carefully
threading her way amongst smaller craft, the passengers lining the rails
and gazing at the animated scene, at the quaint and cheerful French
city bathed in sunlight.... I had reached the dock and was making my way
through the hurrying and shifting groups toward the steamer train when
I saw Maude. She was standing a little aside, scanning the faces that
passed her.

I remember how she looked at me, expectantly, yet timidly, almost
fearfully. I kissed her.

“You’ve come to meet me!” I exclaimed stupidly. “How are the children?”

“They’re very well, Hugh. They wanted to come, too, but I thought it
better not.”

Her restraint struck me as extraordinary; and while I was thankful for
the relief it brought to a situation which might have been awkward, I
was conscious of resenting it a little. I was impressed and puzzled. As
I walked along the platform beside her she seemed almost a stranger:
I had difficulty in realizing that she was my wife, the mother of my
children. Her eyes were clear, more serious than I recalled them, and
her physical as well as her moral tone seemed to have improved. Her
cheeks glowed with health, and she wore a becoming suit of dark blue.

“Did you have a good trip, Hugh?” she asked.

“Splendid,” I said, forgetting the storm. We took our seats in an empty
compartment. Was she glad to see me? She had come all the way from Paris
to meet me! All the embarrassment seemed to be on my side. Was
this composure a controlled one or had she indeed attained to the
self-sufficiency her manner and presence implied? Such were the
questions running through my head.

“You’ve really liked Paris?” I asked.

“Yes, Hugh, and it’s been very good for us all. Of course the boys
like America better, but they’ve learned many things they wouldn’t have
learned at home; they both speak French, and Biddy too. Even I have
improved.”

“I’m sure of it,” I said.

She flushed.

“And what else have you been doing?”

“Oh, going to galleries. Matthew often goes with me. I think he quite
appreciates the pictures. Sometimes I take him to the theatre, too, the
Francais. Both boys ride in the Bois with a riding master. It’s been
rather a restricted life for them, but it won’t have hurt them. It’s
good discipline. We have little excursions in an automobile on fine days
to Versailles and other places of interest around Paris, and Matthew and
I have learned a lot of history. I have a professor of literature from
the Sorbonne come in three times a week to give me lessons.”

“I didn’t know you cared for literature.”

“I didn’t know it either.” She smiled. “Matthew loves it. Monsieur
Despard declares he has quite a gift for language.”

Maude had already begun Matthew’s education!

“You see a few people?” I inquired.

“A few. And they have been very kind to us. The Buffons, whom I met at
Etretat, and some of their friends, mostly educated French people.”

The little railway carriage in which we sat rocked with speed as we flew
through the French landscape. I caught glimpses of solid, Norman farm
buildings, of towers and keeps and delicate steeples, and quaint towns;
of bare poplars swaying before the March gusts, of green fields ablaze
in the afternoon sun. I took it all in distractedly. Here was Maude
beside me, but a Maude I had difficulty in recognizing, whom I did not
understand: who talked of a life she had built up for herself and that
seemed to satisfy her; one with which I had nothing to do. I could
not tell how she regarded my re-intrusion. As she continued to talk, a
feeling that was almost desperation grew upon me. I had things to say
to her, things that every moment of this sort of intercourse was making
more difficult. And I felt, if I did not say them now, that perhaps I
never should: that now or never was the appropriate time, and to delay
would be to drift into an impossible situation wherein the chance of an
understanding would be remote.

There was a pause. How little I had anticipated the courage it would
take to do this thing! My blood was hammering.

“Maude,” I said abruptly, “I suppose you’re wondering why I came over
here.”

She sat gazing at me, very still, but there came into her eyes a
frightened look that almost unnerved me. She seemed to wish to speak, to
be unable to. Passively, she let my hand rest on hers.

“I’ve been thinking a great deal during the last few months,” I went on
unsteadily. “And I’ve changed a good many of my ideas--that is, I’ve got
new ones, about things I never thought of before. I want to say, first,
that I do not put forth any claim to come back into your life. I know
I have forfeited any claim. I’ve neglected you, and I’ve neglected the
children. Our marriage has been on a false basis from the start, and
I’ve been to blame for it. There is more to be said about the chances
for a successful marriage in these days, but I’m not going to dwell on
that now, or attempt to shoulder off my shortcomings on my bringing
up, on the civilization in which we have lived. You’ve tried to do your
share, and the failure hasn’t been your fault. I want to tell you
first of all that I recognize your right to live your life from now on,
independently of me, if you so desire. You ought to have the children--”
 I hesitated a moment. It was the hardest thing I had to say. “I’ve never
troubled myself about them, I’ve never taken on any responsibility in
regard to their bringing up.”

“Hugh!” she cried.

“Wait--I’ve got more to tell you, that you ought to know. I shouldn’t
be here to-day if Nancy Durrett had consented to--to get a divorce and
marry me. We had agreed to that when this accident happened to Ham, and
she went back to him. I have to tell you that I still love her--I can’t
say how much, or define my feelings toward her now. I’ve given up all
idea of her. I don’t think I’d marry her now, even if I had the chance,
and you should decide to live away from me. I don’t know. I’m not so
sure of myself as I once was. The fact is, Maude, circumstances have
been too much for me. I’ve been beaten. And I’m not at all certain that
it wasn’t a cowardly thing for me to come back to you at all.”

I felt her hand trembling under mine, but I had not the courage to look
at her. I heard her call my name again a little cry, the very poignancy
of pity and distress. It almost unnerved me.

“I knew that you loved her, Hugh,” she said. “It was only--only a little
while after you married me that I found it out. I guessed it--women do
guess such things--long before you realized it yourself. You ought to
have married her instead of me. You would have been happier with her.”

I did not answer.

“I, too, have thought a great deal,” she went on, after a moment. “I
began earlier than you, I had to.” I looked up suddenly and saw her
smiling at me, faintly, through her tears. “But I’ve been thinking more,
and learning more since I’ve been over here. I’ve come to see that that
our failure hasn’t been as much your fault as I once thought, as much
as you yourself declare. You have done me a wrong, and you’ve done the
children a wrong. Oh, it is frightful to think how little I knew when I
married you, but even then I felt instinctively that you didn’t love me
as I deserved to be loved. And when we came back from Europe I knew
that I couldn’t satisfy you, I couldn’t look upon life as you saw it, no
matter how hard I tried. I did try, but it wasn’t any use. You’ll never
know how much I’ve suffered all these years.

“I have been happier here, away from you, with the children; I’ve had a
chance to be myself. It isn’t that I’m--much. It isn’t that I don’t need
guidance and counsel and--sympathy. I’ve missed those, but you’ve never
given them to me, and I’ve been learning more and more to do without
them. I don’t know why marriage should suddenly have become such a
mockery and failure in our time, but I know that it is, that ours hasn’t
been such an exception as I once thought. I’ve come to believe that
divorce is often justified.”

“It is justified so far as you are concerned, Maude,” I replied. “It is
not justified for me. I have forfeited, as I say, any rights over you. I
have been the aggressor and transgressor from the start. You have been
a good wife and a good mother, you have been faithful, I have had
absolutely nothing to complain of.”

“Sometimes I think I might have tried harder,” she said. “At least I
might have understood better. I was stupid. But everything went wrong.
And I saw you growing away from me all the time, Hugh, growing away
from the friends who were fond of you, as though you were fading in the
distance. It wasn’t wholly because--because of Nancy that I left
you. That gave me an excuse--an excuse for myself. Long before that I
realized my helplessness, I knew that whatever I might have done was
past doing.”

“Yes, I know,” I assented.

We sat in silence for a while. The train was skirting an ancient town
set on a hill, crowned with a castle and a Gothic church whose windows
were afire in the setting sun.

“Maude,” I said, “I have not come to plead, to appeal to your pity as
against your judgment and reason. I can say this much, that if I do not
love you, as the word is generally understood, I have a new respect for
you, and a new affection, and I think that these will grow. I have
no doubt that there are some fortunate people who achieve the kind of
mutual love for which it is human to yearn, whose passion is naturally
transmuted into a feeling that may be even finer, but I am inclined
to think, even in such a case, that some effort and unselfishness are
necessary. At any rate, that has been denied to us, and we can never
know it from our own experience. We can only hope that there is such a
thing,--yes, and believe in it and work for it.”

“Work for it, Hugh?” she repeated.

“For others--for our children. I have been thinking about the children a
great deal in the last few months especially about Matthew.”

“You always loved him best,” she said.

“Yes,” I admitted. “I don’t know why it should be so. And in spite of
it, I have neglected him, neglected them, failed to appreciate them all.
I did not deserve them. I have reproached myself, I have suffered for
it, not as much as I deserved. I came to realize that the children were
a bond between us, that their existence meant something greater than
either of us. But at the same time I recognized that I had lost my right
over them, that it was you who had proved yourself worthy.... It
was through the children that I came to think differently, to feel
differently toward you. I have come to you to ask your forgiveness.”

“Oh, Hugh!” she cried.

“Wait,” I said.... “I have come to you, through them. I want to say
again that I should not be here if I had obtained my desires. Yet there
is more to it than that. I think I have reached a stage where I am able
to say that I am glad I didn’t obtain them. I see now that this coming
to you was something I have wanted to do all along, but it was the
cowardly thing to do, after I had failed, for it was not as though I had
conquered the desires, the desires conquered me. At any rate, I couldn’t
come to you to encumber you, to be a drag upon you. I felt that I must
have something to offer you. I’ve got a plan, Maude, for my life, for
our lives. I don’t know whether I can make a success of it, and you are
entitled to decline to take the risk. I don’t fool myself that it
will be all plain sailing, that there won’t be difficulties and
discouragements. But I’ll promise to try.”

“What is it?” she asked, in a low voice. “I--I think I know.”

“Perhaps you have guessed it. I am willing to try to devote what is left
of my life to you and to them. And I need your help. I acknowledge it.
Let us try to make more possible for them the life we have missed.”

“The life we have missed!” she said.

“Yes. My mistakes, my failures, have brought us to the edge of a
precipice. We must prevent, if we can, those mistakes and failures for
them. The remedy for unhappy marriages, for all mistaken, selfish and
artificial relationships in life is a preventive one. My plan is that
we try to educate ourselves together, take advantage of the accruing
knowledge that is helping men and women to cope with the problems, to
think straight. We can then teach our children to think straight, to
avoid the pitfalls into which we have fallen.”

I paused. Maude did not reply. Her face was turned away from me, towards
the red glow of the setting sun above the hills.

“You have been doing this all along, you have had the vision, the true
vision, while I lacked it, Maude. I offer to help you. But if you think
it is impossible for us to live together, if you believe my feeling
toward you is not enough, if you don’t think I can do what I propose, or
if you have ceased to care for me--”

She turned to me with a swift movement, her eyes filled with tears.

“Oh, Hugh, don’t say any more. I can’t stand it. How little you know,
for all your thinking. I love you, I always have loved you. I grew to be
ashamed of it, but I’m not any longer. I haven’t any pride any more, and
I never want to have it again.”

“You’re willing to take me as I am,--to try?” I said.

“Yes,” she answered, “I’m willing to try.” She smiled at me. “And I have
more faith than you, Hugh. I think we’ll succeed.”....

At nine o’clock that night, when we came out through the gates of the
big, noisy station, the children were awaiting us. They had changed,
they had grown. Biddy kissed me shyly, and stood staring up at me.

“We’ll take you out to-morrow and show you how we can ride,” said
Moreton.

Matthew smiled. He stood very close to me, with his hand through my arm.

“You’re going to stay, father?” he asked.

“I’m going to stay, Matthew,” I answered, “until we all go back to
America.”....



      PG EDITOR’S BOOKMARKS:

      Barriers were mere relics of the superstition of the past
      Benumbing and desiccating effect of that old system of education
      Conscience was superstition, the fear of the wrath of the gods
      Conventionality was part of the price we had willingly paid
      Conviction that government should remain modestly in the background
      Everybody should have been satisfied, but everybody was not
      I hated to lie to her,--yet I did so
      I’m incapable of committing a single original act
      It was not money we coveted, we Americans, but power
      Knowledge was presented to us as a corpse
      Marriage! What other career is open to a woman?
      Meaningless lessons which had to be learned
      Opponent who praises one with a delightful irony
      Righteousness a stern and terrible thing implying not joy
      Staunch advocate on the doctrine of infant damnation
      That’s the great thing, to keep ‘em ignorant as long as possible
      The saloon represented Democracy, so dear to the American public
      They deplored while they coveted
      We lived separate mental existences
      We had learned to pursue our happiness in packs
      What you wants, you gets
      Your American romanticist is a sentimental spoiled child





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