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Title: Patience Sparhawk and Her Times - A Novel
Author: Atherton, Gertrude Franklin Horn
Language: English
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PATIENCE SPARHAWK AND HER TIMES

A Novel

by

GERTRUDE ATHERTON

Author of “A Whirl Asunder,” “The Doomswoman,”
“Before the Gringo Came,” etc.



John Lane: The Bodley Head
London and New York
1897

Copyright, 1895,
By Gertrude Atherton.

Copyright, 1897,
By John Lane.

All rights reserved.

University Press:
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A.



CONTENTS

      Book I
      Book II
      Book III
      Book IV
      Book V



                                   TO
                            M. PAUL BOURGET,

Who alone, of all foreigners, has detected, in its full significance,
that the motive power, the cohering force, the ultimate religion of that
strange composite known as “The American,” is Individual Will. Leaving
the ultra-religious element out of the question, the high, the low, the
rich, the poor, the man, the woman of this section of the Western world,
each, consciously or unconsciously, believes in, relies on himself
primarily. In the higher civilisation this amounts to intellectual
anarchy, and its tendency is to make Americans, or, more exactly, United
Statesians, a New Race in a sense far more portentous than in any which
has yet been recognised. As M. Bourget prophesies, destruction, chaos,
may eventuate. On the other hand, the final result may be a race of
harder fibre and larger faculties than any in the history of
civilisation. That this extraordinary self-dependence and independence
of certain traditions that govern older nations make the quintessential
part of the women as of the men of this race I have endeavoured to
illustrate in the following pages.

                                                                G. A.



                    Patience Sparhawk and Her Times



                                 BOOK I


                                   I

“Oh, git up! Git up! Did you ever see such an old slug? Billy! _Will_
you git up?”

“What’s the use of talking to him?” drawled a soft, inactive voice. “You
know he never goes one bit faster. What’s the difference anyhow?”

“Difference is my mother wants these groceries for supper. We’re all out
of sugar ’n flour ’n beans, and the men’s got to eat.”

“Well, as long as he won’t go, just be comfortable and don’t bother.”

“I wish I could be as easy-going as you are, Rosita, but I can’t: I
suppose it’s because I’m not Spanish. Guess I’ve got some Yankee in me,
if I am a Californian.” The little girl leaned over the dash-board of
the rickety buggy, thumping with her whip-stump the back of the aged
nag. Billy was blind, uncertain in the knees, and as languid as any
_caballero_ that once had sighed at _doña’s_ feet in these dim pine
woods. As far back as Patience could remember he had never broken his
record, and his record was two miles an hour. In a few moments she set
the whip in the socket with an irritable thump, wound the reins about
it, and sat down on the floor beside her companion. For some reason best
known to themselves, the girls preferred this method of disposition when
Billy led the way,—perhaps because he had an errant fondness for the
roughest spots of the rough road, making the high seat as uneasy and
precarious as thrones are still; perhaps because Patience rebelled at
habit, and in all her divagations was blindly followed by her Spanish
friend.

Billy ambled up and down the steep roads of the fragrant pine woods on
the hills behind Monterey, and the girls gave him no further heed.
Patience’s long plait having been shaken loose in her wild lurches over
the dash-board, she swung about, dangled her legs out of the buggy, and
commanded Rosita to braid her hair. The legs she kicked recklessly
against the wheel were not pretty. They were long and thin, clothed with
woollen stockings darned and wrinkled, and angled off with copper-toed
boots. She wore a frock of faded gingham, and chewed the strings of a
sunbonnet.

“Don’t pull so, and do hurry,” she exclaimed as the Spanish girl’s deft
slow fingers moved in and out of the scanty wisps.

“I’m not pulling, Patita, dear, and you know I can’t hurry. And I’m just
thinking that your hair is the colour of ashes.”

“I know it,” said Patience, gloomily, “but maybe it’ll be yellow when I
grow up. Do you remember Polly Collins? When she graduated she had hair
the colour of a wharf rat, and when she came back from San Francisco the
next year it was as yellow as the hills in summer.”

“I don’t care for yellow hair,” and Rosita moved her dark head with the
slow rotary motion which was hers by divine right.

“Oh, you’re pretty,” said Patience, sarcastically. “You want to be told
so, I suppose—There! you pulled my hair on purpose, you know you did,
Rosita Thrailkill.”

“I didn’t, Patita. Don’t fire up so.” And Rosita, who was the most
amiable of children, tied the end of the braid with a piece of tape,
rubbed her blooming cheek against the pale one, and was forgiven.

Patience drew herself into the buggy and braced her back against the
seat. Her face had little more beauty than her legs. It was colourless
and freckled. The mouth was firm, almost dogged, as if the contest with
life had already begun. Her brows and lashes were several shades darker
than her hair, but her eyes, wide apart and very bright, were a light,
rather cold grey. The nose alone was a beautiful feature, straight and
fine; and the hands, although rough and sunburned, were tapering and
slender, and very flexible.

In her red frock, the highly-coloured little Spanish girl glowed like a
cactus blossom beside a neglected weed. Her plump face was full of
blood; her large dark eyes were indolent and soft. Patience’s eyes
comprehended everything within their radius in one flashing glance;
Rosita’s, even at the tender age of fifteen, looked unswerving
disapproval of all exertion, mental or physical.

“I wonder if your mother is drunk?” she asked in her slow delicious
voice.

“Likely,” said Patience, with frowning resignation. “But let’s talk of
something more agreeable. Isn’t this perfume heavenly?”

The dark solemn woods were ravishing with the perfumes of spring, the
perfume of wild violet and lilac and lily, and the faint sweet odour the
damp earth gives up as the sun goes down. From above came the strong
bracing scent of the pines. Now and again the wind brought a salt whiff
from the ocean. No birds carolled, but the pines sang their eternal
dirge.

“What’s your ideal?” demanded Patience.

“Ideal? What ideal?”

“Why, of man, of course.”

“Oh, man!” contemptuously. “I haven’t thought much about men. I don’t
read novels like you do. I wish somebody would die and leave me a
thousand dollars so I could live in San Francisco and have a new dress
every day and go to the theatre every night. Miss Galpin says we mustn’t
think about boys, and I don’t—perhaps because the boys in Monterey are
so horrid.”

“Boys? Who said anything about boys?” The chrysalis elevated her
patrician nose. “I mean men.”

“Well, you’re mean to turn up your nose at boys. They like you a good
deal better than they do me, and a good many of the other girls.”

“That’s funny, isn’t it? and I not pretty. But I suppose it’s because I
talk. You just sit still and look pretty, and that’s not very
entertaining. I read in a novel that men like that; but boys have got to
be entertained. Goodness gracious! Don’t I know it? When I was at
Manuela’s party the other night in my old washed muslin frock and plaid
sash, didn’t I talk my throat sore to make them forget that I was the
worst dressed girl in the room and had the most freckles? Of course the
girls didn’t forget—nor some other things—” with a bitter lowering of
the lids—“but the boys did. Somehow I feel as if men would always be my
friends, if I’m not pretty.”

“What do you know about men, anyhow? You’re only fifteen, and you’ve
never met any but old Mr. Foord, and the farm hands and store keepers,
who,” aristocratically, “don’t count.”

“Haven’t I read novels? Haven’t I read Thackeray and Dickens and Scott
and ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Shakespeare and Plutarch’s
Lives, and the life of Napoleon and Macaulay’s ‘History of England’ and
Essays—those all ain’t novels, but they write about men, real men, too.
I’ve made my ideal out of a lot of them put together, and I’ll never
marry till I find him.”

“Well, I’d like to know where you’ll find him in Monterey,” said the
practical Rosita. “Miss Galpin says you’re too romantic, and that it’s a
pity, because you’re the brightest girl in the school.”

“Did Miss Galpin say that?” Patience took a brass pin out of her frock
and extracted a splinter from her thumb with a fine air of indifference;
but the pink flooded her cheek. “She’s always reading Howells and James,
and says they’d keep anybody from being romantic. But that’s about all
I’ve got, so I think I’ll hold on to it.”

The sun dropped below the horizon as they jolted out of the woods and
down the steep road toward Carmel Valley. They reached a ledge, and
Patience, forgetful of hungry men and an irascible parent, called:
“Whoa!” to which Billy responded with an alacrity reserved for such
occasions only.

“I never get tired of this,” she said. “Do you?”

“It’s pretty,” said Rosita, indifferently. “Why are you so fond of
scenery—nature, as Miss Galpin calls it—I wonder?”

“I don’t know,” said Patience, and at that age she did not. She was
responsive but dumb. She gazed down and out and upward with a pleasure
that never grew old. A great bleak mountain loomed on the other side of
the valley. It was as steep as if the ocean had gnawed it flat, but only
the peaceful valley lay under; out in the ocean it tapered to an immense
irregular mass of rock over which the breakers leapt and fought. Carmel
River sparkled peacefully beneath its moving willows. The blue bay
murmured to the white sands with the peace of evening. Close to the
little beach the old Mission hung its dilapidated head. Through its
yawning arches dark objects flitted; mould was on the yellow walls; from
yawning crevice the rank grass grew. Only the tower still defied
elements and vandals, although the wind whistled through its gaping
windows and the silver bells were no more. The huts about the church had
collapsed like old muscles, but in their ruin still whispered the story
of the past.

“Isn’t it splendid to think that we have a ruin!” exclaimed Patience.

“It’s a ruin sure enough; but there’s uncle Jim. He must think we’re
dead.”

A prolonged “Halloa!” came from the valley, and Patience, with a sigh,
bade Billy “Git up,” which he did in the course of a moment.

“Halloa, you youngsters, why don’t you hurry?” cried a nasal voice.
“I’ve been waiting here an hour.”

“Coming,” said Patience. “It’s too bad he had to wait.”

“Oh, he smoked and swore, so he’s all right,” said Rosita, who had not
taken the trouble to reply. None of the girls was allowed to visit
Patience at her house; but Mrs. Thrailkill, who was fond of her
daughter’s chosen friend, and pitiful in her indolent way, often allowed
Patience to drive Rosita as far as the branching of the roads, where the
Kentucky uncle met his niece and took her to his farm.

In the dusk below a wagon and two horses could be seen, and a big man
under a wide straw hat, sitting on the upper rail of a fence, his heels
hooked to the rail below. Patience inferred that he was chewing tobacco
and expectorating upon the poppies.

“Well, I reckon!” he exclaimed as the buggy reached the foot of the
hill. “You two do beat all. Do you s’pose I’ve got nothing better to do
than moon round pikes waiting on kids like you? How’s your ma, Rosita?
Well, Patience, I won’t keep you—much obliged for giving my lazy
Spanish niece a lift. Come on now; supper’s ready ’n after.”

The two little girls kissed each other affectionately. Mr. Thrailkill
lifted Rosita down, and Patience turned Billy in the direction of a
fiery eye and a dim column of smoke under the mountain. The evening
seemed very quiet after the rattle of Mr. Thrailkill’s team had become a
part of the distance. Only the roar of the surf, the moaning of the
pines, the harsh music of the frogs, the thousand vocal mysteries of
night—not a sound of man. Patience, after her fashion, rehabilitated
the Mission and peopled the valley with padres and Indians; but when
Billy came to a sudden halt, she sprang prosaically to the ground and
let down the bars of her mother’s ranch. After she had replaced them she
took hold of Billy’s bridle, and endeavoured, by jerks and
expostulation, to induce him to move more rapidly. The road now lay
through a ploughed field stretching gloomily on the east to the horizon,
where the stars seemed dropping into the dark. Cows roamed at will, or
lay heavily in their first sleep. Here and there an oak thrust out its
twisted arms, its trunk bent backward by ocean winds. The house soon
became plainly outlined, a long unpainted wooden story-and-a-half
structure, the type of ranch house of the second era. Castilian roses
clambered up the unpainted front. Clumps of gladiolus, pinks, and
fuschias struggled with weeds in the front garden. Beyond was a number
of out-buildings.

When Patience reached the porch she dropped Billy’s bridle, lifted out
the sugar, and stepping to the kitchen window, looked through it for a
moment before opening the door. Her mother was very drunk.


                                   II

The room into which Patience frowned was a large rough kitchen of the
old familiar type. The rafters were festooned with cobwebs, through
which tin cans and aged pails were visible, and an occasional bundle of
rags. The board walls were unplastered and unpainted. Out of the uneven
floor, knots had dropped to the cellar below. The door of a cupboard,
built against the wall with primitive simplicity, stood open, revealing
a motley collection of cans, bottles, and cracked dishes. Pots and pans
were heaped on a shelf traversing two sides of the room. A table was
loaded with odds and ends, in the midst of which place had been made for
a lamp.

Over a large stove a woman was frying bacon and eggs. She wore a brown
calico garment, torn and smudged. Her fine black hair, sprinkled with
ashes, hung raggedly above magnificent dark eyes, blinking in a crimson
face. The thin nostrils and full mouth were twitching. In her ruin she
was still a beautiful woman, and she moved her tall bloated form with
the pride of race, despite the alcohol in her veins.

On a broken chair by the stove sat a young man in the overalls and
flannel shirt of a farm hand. His hair was clipped to his skull with
colourless result; his large red under lip curved down into a yellow
beard. In a long low room adjoining the kitchen a half dozen other men
were seated on benches about a table covered with white oilcloth and
chipped crockery. They also wore overalls and flannel shirts; and they
were bearded and seamed and brown. The Californian sun soon burns the
juices out of the flesh that defies it.

Patience flung open the kitchen door and threw the sugar on the table.

“Oscar,” she said peremptorily to the man by the stove, “take Billy
round to the barn and put him up, and bring in the flour and the beans.
They’re under the seat.” The man went out, muttering angrily, and she
turned to her mother, who had begun a tirade of abuse. “Keep quiet,” she
said. “So you’re drunk again? I thought you promised me that you
wouldn’t drink again for a week. Where did you get it?”

“Couldn’t help it,” muttered the woman, cowed by the bitter contempt in
her small daughter’s eyes, and thrusting a long fork into the sputtering
fat.

“Where did you get it?”

“Couldn’t help it.”

Patience opened the package of sugar with a jerk, and filling two bowls
with the coarse brown stuff carried them into the next room and set them
at opposite ends of the table. The men ceased talking as she entered,
and saluted her respectfully. They felt vaguely sorry for her; but they
were afraid of her, and she was not a favourite with them. Her mother,
“Madge,” as they called her to a man, they worshipped, despite or
because of her peccability. They went down before her deathless
magnetism, her coarse good nature, her spurious kind-heartedness. It was
only when very drunk that she became violent and vituperative, and even
then she fascinated them. Patience told herself proudly that she had no
attraction for “common men”—that she repelled them. Not being a seer,
she was saved the foreknowledge of a fatal gift in operation.

She took the large coffee-pot from the back of the stove and filled the
men’s cups with its thick fluid. Her mother’s rolling eyes followed her
with a malignant sparkle. She was afraid of her daughter, and resentment
had eaten deep into her perverted nature. Patience filled a plate with
bread and apple sauce, and went into the parlour to eat her supper in
solitude. She took all her meals in this room, which with little
difficulty she appropriated to her exclusive use: it was very small. She
kept it in fairly good order: she was not the tidiest of children. But
the old brussels carpet was clean, barring the corners, and the
horsehair furniture had been mended here and there with shoe thread. As
it still prickled, however, Patience had made a cushion for the clumsy
rocker out of an elderly gown which she had found in a trunk in the
garret with other relics of finery. She occupied the rocker impartially
whether eating or reading. The marble-topped table also served for
dining and study.

In a forlorn old bookcase were her only treasures, the few books, mostly
classics, which John Sparhawk had reserved when a succession of failures
had forced him to sell his library to Mr. Foord. In one corner was a
large family Bible on a small table. It was old and worn. Its gilt edges
shone dimly through a cobweb of infinite pains.

On the papered walls were two large coloured photographs of Mr. and Mrs.
Sparhawk, taken apparently when each was close on thirty years. The
woman’s face bore traces of dissipation even then, and the red mouth was
very sensual. But the cheeks were still delicate and there were no bags
under the large flaming eyes. The bare neck and arms and half revealed
bust were superb; the poise of the head, the curve of the short upper
lip, the fine arched nostril, were the delicate insignia of race; the
pride stamped on every feature was that of birth, not of defiance. The
man had a slender upright figure and a finely modelled head and face.
The deeply set eyes were cold and piercing, but between the stern curves
of the mouth there was much passion. Patience had studied these faces,
but she was as innocent as if she had been bred in a cloister, and their
mystery baffled while it allured her.

She ate her supper with a hearty appetite. Her mother’s lapses, being
accepted as part of the routine of existence, rarely depressed her
spirits. Nevertheless she frowned heavily as turbulent sounds pierced
the thin partition, not so much at her mother’s iniquity, as at the
prospect of being obliged to wash the supper dishes. The expected crash
came, and she ran into the kitchen. Her mother lay prone. Two of the men
lifted her immediately and carried her up the narrow stair. Patience
sullenly attacked the dishes. She dumped them into a large pan of hot
water, stirred them gingerly with a cloth fastened to a stick, drained
the water off, poured in a fresh pailful, and dried them hastily. She
filled the frying-pan with water and set it on the hottest part of the
stove to cook itself clean. Occasionally she coughed with angry
significance: the men in the next room were invisible behind a grey fog
of their own puffing. She spattered her clean pinafore, blackened her
hands, and devoutly wished herself alone on a desert island where she
could live on cocoanuts and bananas. At such times she forgot the few
compensations of her unfortunate life and felt herself only the
poverty-stricken drudge, the daughter of Madge Sparhawk.


                                  III

Who Madge Sparhawk was before she married the Yankee rancher had at one
time been an absorbing topic for dispute in Monterey. One gossip averred
that she had been the dashing leader of the lower ten thousand of San
Francisco, another that she had come from the Eastern States as the
mistress of a wealthy man who had wearied and cast her off; a third
confidently affirmed that she had been a brilliant New York woman of
fashion who had gone wrong through love of drink, and been sent under an
assumed name to California by her afflicted family; a fourth swore that
she had been an actress, a fifth that she had been the high-tempered
queen of a gambling house. On one point all agreed: she was
disreputable, and John Sparhawk was a fool to marry her. However, they
were somewhat disappointed that they saw so little of her. They were not
called upon to snub nor tolerate her. She rarely came into the town;
never excepting on horseback with her husband, when her splendid beauty
drew masculine Monterey from its perch on the fence tops,—where it sat
and smoked and murmured the hours away,—and gathered it about her,
stirring the diluted rill of _caballero_ blood.

As far as the little world of Monterey could learn through the gossip of
servants, she was a helpful wife to a devoted husband who patiently
strove with the fiend that possessed her. When he was killed by the
accidental discharge of a gun her grief was so violent that only a
prolonged carouse could assuage it. Subsequently she recovered, and with
occasional advice from Mr. Foord attempted to run the farm. As John
Sparhawk had made no will, she was her child’s legal guardian, the
absolute mistress for eight years of what property her husband had left.
There was a little ready money, the dairy was remunerative, and the
ranch well stocked. But that was five years ago. Her habits had grown
upon her; the ranch was mortgaged and run down, the stock decreased by
half.

Patience had rebelled heavily at her father’s death, and wondered, with
childish logic, why, if one parent had to die, it could not have been
her mother. Her father’s manner had been cold, repellent, like her own;
but that his nature was deep and passionate even her young mind had
never doubted. She felt it in the close clasp of his arms as he held her
before him on his horse when galloping about the ranch; in his sudden
infrequent caress; in the strong pressure of his hand as they wandered
through the woods or along the shore at night, not a word spoken between
them.

It was not until after his death that she made acquaintance with her
social separateness. He had begun her education himself. Her only girl
companion was Rosita Thrailkill, the niece of a neighbour, whom her
father would not permit her to visit in Monterey. John Sparhawk’s only
friends were the Thrailkill brothers and Mr. Foord, an elderly
gentleman, who had lived in Monterey under the old régime, lost his
fortune in the great Bonanza time, and returned to the somnolent town to
end his days with his library, the memory of his dead Spanish wife, and
a few old friends, world-forgotten like himself. He lived in the
dilapidated Custom House on the rocks at the edge of the town, and
Patience had ruled his establishment since her baby days. It was the
only house in Monterey she was permitted to enter, and she entered it as
often as she could. A hundred times she had sat with the old gentleman
on the upper corridor and listened to the story of the capture of
Monterey by the United States fleet in 1846; stared breathlessly at the
crumbling fort—the _castillo_—on the hill above Junipero Serra’s
cross, as Mr. Foord verbally restored its former impregnability.

He told her tales of the days of light and life and joy when Monterey
was the capital of the Californians, and the Americans were not yet
come,—stories of love and revenge and the great free play of the
primitive passions, unpared by modern civilisation. For her those old
adobe houses in the town were alive once more with dark-eyed _doñas_ and
magnificently attired _caballeros_. Behind the high walls of the old
gardens fans fluttered among the Castilian roses and dueñas stealthily
prowled. The twisted streets were gay again with the court life of the
olden time, the grand parades of the governors, the triumphant returns
from the race on the restless silver-trapped steeds.

Every house had its history, and Patience knew them all. She wandered
with Mr. Foord along the dusty streets, lingered before the garden
walls, over which she could see and smell the nasturtiums and the sweet
Castilian roses. But gone were the _caballeros_ and the _doñas_. They
lay in the little cemetery of the _padres_ on the hill, over beyond the
yellow church which marked a corner of the old _presidio_, and well on
the road to a great hotel whose typical life was vastly different from
that old romantic time. They lay under their stones, forgotten. The
thistles and wild oats rioted under the gnarled old oaks. The new-comer
never paused to glance at the worn carvings on the thick rough slabs.

Behind the garden walls a few brown old women lived alone, too practical
to brood upon an enchanted past. Cows nibbled in the _plaza_ where once
the bull and the bear had fought while the gay jewelled people screamed
with delight. Gone was the tinkle of the guitar, the flutter of fan, the
graceful woman hastening down the street half hidden in her mantilla,
the lovely face behind the grating. The screaming of the sea-gulls, the
moaning of the pines, the roar of the surf, alone remained the same,
careless of change or decay. Wooden houses crowded between the old
adobes. Most of the Spanish families were half American: their women had
preferred the enterprising intruder to the indolent _caballero_. Arcadia
was no more. The old had kissed the hand of the new, and spawned a
hybrid.

After John Sparhawk’s death, Mr. Foord persuaded his widow to send
Patience to the public school. The little girl was delighted. She had
looked with envious longing at the stone building, painted a beautiful
pink, which stood well up on the hill at the right of the town and was
still known by the imposing name of Colton Hall; it had been built by
the first American _alcalde_, and was a court house for a brief while.

But it was not long before Patience learned the bitter lesson that she
was not as other girls, despite the fact that at that time she was well
dressed and that she drifted naturally to the head of her classes.
School girls are coarse and cruel. Children are the periodical relapse
of civilisation into savagery. These girls of Monterey excluded Patience
from their games and recess conversations, and intimated broadly that
her mother was not respectable.

At first Patience gave them little heed. She loved study, and was of a
wild happy nature beneath her prim exterior. Moreover, Rosita was her
loyal friend; and one of the older girls, Manuela Peralta, who had a
kind and independent heart, sheltered her as much as she could. But
Patience was too bright and observing to remain long in ignorance of her
hostile environment. When the awakening came her young soul was filled
with rage and bitterness. The full meaning of their innuendoes she was
too ignorant to understand, but that she was regarded as a pariah was
sufficiently evident.

Little as she loved her mother, a natural impulse sent her to her only
remaining parent with the story of her wrongs. Mrs. Sparhawk became
violently indignant and shortly after very drunk. The subject was never
mentioned between them again; nor did Patience speak of it with any one
but Rosita, whom she regarded as a second, beloved, and somewhat
inferior self. But her soul cried out for the strength that only a man’s
strong soul can give to woman at any age; and the man that had prayed to
live and defend her lay with the forgotten Californians on the hill.

Mr. Foord divined her trouble, and did what he could to make her life
endurable, although her shy reserve forbade any intimacy beyond the old
friendship. Miss Galpin, her teacher, made no secret of the fact that
Patience was her favourite scholar, and encouraged her to study and read
and forget.

Patience indulged in no further outbreak, even to herself. She
cultivated a cold and impassive exterior, an air of rigid indifference,
and studied until her small head ached. She was not old enough to
analyse; it was instinct only that made her assume callousness; but in
her young vague way she grappled with the social problem. She did not
approve of Mrs. Sparhawk any more than others did; but Mrs. Sparhawk’s
daughter behaved herself, and stood at the head of her classes, and had
been assured again and again that she “looked like a little lady:”
therefore she was at a loss to comprehend why Patience Sparhawk was not
as good as other girls. There was Panchita McPherson, who lied profusely
and whose mother sat in the sun all day and baked herself like an old
crocodile, while her husband sat on the fence by the Post Office and
smoked a pipe from the first of January until the thirty-first of
December. Yet Panchita was of the _haute noblesse_, and treated Patience
as she would a rag-picker. Francesca Montez never knew a lesson and was
so vulgar that she brought the blush to Patience’s cheek; but she lived
in an adobe mansion which once had been the scene of princely splendour,
and gave two parties a year. The American girls had not even the
prestige of the past; they could not reckon up a great-grandfather
between them, much less peeling portraits of _caballeros_ and trunks of
splendid finery; but they were bright and aggressive, and made
themselves a power in the school.

As Patience grew older she compelled the respect of her mates, and they
ceased to annoy her. The consciousness of social supremacy never faded,
not for an instant; but even tying a tin can to a dog’s tail becomes
monotonous in time, and they had numberless little interests to absorb
them. If Patience had been a rollicking emotional child she would
doubtless have kissed herself into popularity and been treated to much
good-natured patronage; but she scorned placation, and grew more
reserved as the years went by. She accepted her fate, and discovered
that there were times and hours when her mother, schoolmates, and social
problems could be forgotten. Her spirits were naturally buoyant, and her
mind grew philosophical; but as Mr. Foord once observed to Miss Galpin,
“her start in life had been all wrong, and it would matter more with her
than with some others.”


                                   IV

After Patience had put the kitchen in order she went up to her room. She
slept at one end of the house, her mother at the opposite. Several of
the hired men occupied a dormitory between; the rest slept over the
dairy.

She lit her candle and began to undress, then extinguished the flame
suddenly and went down stairs and out of the house. She felt sullen and
heavy and depressed, and knew the remedy.

The moon was at the full; the great ploughed fields were a sea of
silver; the dark pines on the hills opened their aisles to cataracts of
crystal, splashing through the green uplifted arms. Strange shadows
moved amidst the showers of cold light, twisting rhythmically under the
touch of the night wind.

Patience loved nature too passionately to fear her in any mood or hour.
She sped over the rough field, climbed the fence, and walked hastily
toward the Mission, pausing now and again to inhale the rich perfumes of
Spring. The ruin looked like the skeleton of a mammoth caught in a
phantom iceberg. Even the dark things that haunted it were touched to
beauty by the silver light pouring through the storm-beaten rose window
over the massive doors, into the abysms between the arches.

Patience skirted the long body of the church with haste; mouldering
skeletons lay under the floor, and like all imaginative minds she had a
lively horror of the dead. She entered the open doorway and ascended the
steep spiral stair in the tower. The steps were cut from solid stone and
were worn by the trampling of many feet. As she neared the top she
called,—

“Tu wit! Tu woo!” and was promptly answered.

As her chin appeared above the floor of the little room, where the
moonlight came through hollow casements, an old grey owl, a large wise
solemn owl, advanced from the wall with slow and stately step; and
despite his massive dignity there was expectancy in his mien.

“Poor Solomon,” said Patience, contritely. “I forgot your supper.” She
climbed into the room and attempted to pat his head; but when he saw
that the hand was empty, he flapped his wings, and turning his back upon
her, retired to the wall, blinking indignantly.

Patience laughed, then sighed, and sank on her knees before the low
window overlooking the ocean. The blue bay still whispered to the white
sands sparkling like diamond dust in the moonlight, the yellow stars
winking in its clear depths. But the ocean was uneasy, and hurtled
reiterantly in great deep-throated waves at the rocky shore as if its
giant soul were in final rebellion against this conventional war with a
passive foe. About Point Lobos its voice waxed trumpet-toned. It
shouldered itself into mighty waves and tossed the spray into writhing
shapes. Everything else was at rest. The great forces of nature were the
angry prisoners of the tides. The moon grinned in his superior way. The
little stars seemed to say: “Up here we are quite composed, and as vain
as pretty women. If you would only keep quiet you would make such a fine
large looking-glass.”

As Patience gazed out upon the beautiful scene, her young mind shifted
its impressions. She forgot her life, and began to dream in a vague
sweet way. Not of a lover. Despite the fact that she had manufactured a
composite which occupied a pedestal in her imagination, she thought
little about love. Her reveries were a wandering of her ego through the
books she had read, environed by the nature whom she knew only in lovely
profile. Had she lived her fifteen years on the sterile plains of
Soledad, she might perhaps have been as harsh and bitter as its sands,
her soul as grey, so susceptible was she to the subtle influence of
great externals. But Monterey had saved her, and on nights like this she
felt as if she too were flooded with crystal light, now and again
clouded by something which perturbed, yet vibrated like the music of the
pines.

When in a particularly romantic mood, she imagined herself Mariana in
the “Moated Grange,” or hummed “The Long Long Weary Day,” and tried to
feel sad, but could not. She never felt sad in her tower, with the owl
on guard and the slighted dead in the church below. Sometimes she took
herself to task for not having a proper amount of sentiment, but
concluded that no one could be unhappy when so high above the world and
all its hateful details. Occasionally she looked longingly at the
perpendicular mountain: it was many times higher than her tower; but she
was a lazy little thing, and would not climb.

As she knelt, gazing out on the ocean, or up at the spangled night, she
was a very different-looking being from the sharp practical child that
had exhorted old Billy and berated her mother. The loosened hair clung
softly about her pale face, whose freckles the kind moon with his white
brush painted out. Her mouth had relaxed its stern lines. Her eyes were
full of the moon’s shimmer, and of something else,—the struggling light
of a developing soul.

Patience’s soul had taken care of itself and showed virility in spite of
the forces at war against it. What the little battling spark strove for,
puzzled Patience even at that unanalytical age. Religion—Christianity,
to be more exact—said nothing to her; it appealed to no want in her;
even the instinct was lacking. John Sparhawk had clung to the rigid
faith of his fathers with a desperation which Patience, child as she
was, had half divined. He had had prayers night and morning, and
compelled his daughter to learn her catechism and many chapters of the
Bible. After his death Mr. Foord took her to church on Sunday mornings
and occasionally read her a little lecture. She listened respectfully,
but felt no interest.

Nevertheless, when alone in her tower at night, when she had set her
foot on its lowest step with deliberate intent to get as high above the
earth as she could, she was conscious of an upreaching of the spiritual
entity within her, a wordless demand for the something higher and holier
of which the supreme beauty of the Universe is symbolical.


                                   V

The next morning, Patience, after helping her convalescent parent to get
breakfast, stood on the porch debating whether she should go over to Mr.
Thrailkill’s ranch and see Rosita or spend the day in Mr. Foord’s
library.

The scholars of Colton Hall had a week’s vacation, and how to make the
most of seven long days of freedom in exquisite spring weather was a
serious question.

As she hesitated she bethought herself of Solomon. She ran to the safe,
and gingerly extracting a piece of raw meat wrapped it in a newspaper,
and went over to the Mission. The owl had not moved, apparently, from
the spot where he had taken his indignant stand the night before. When
he scented the meat, however, he walked majestically forward, and taking
no notice whatever of Patience, began at once upon the meal she spread
at his feet.

Patience had decided in favour of the library, and started leisurely for
Monterey. The ocean rested heavily after its labour of the night,
swinging forward at long intervals with deep murmur, or throwing an
occasional iridescent cloud of spray about Point Lobos. The keen air
sparkled under a flood of golden light. The earth was green with the
deep rich green of spring. Great bunches of it sprang from even the
ragged mountain side, and long blades struggled to life between the
broken tiles of the old Mission. Patience crossed the valley through
beds of golden poppies and pale blue baby-eyes struggling with infantile
pertinacity to raise themselves above the waving grass. She plucked a
poppy and held her nose in the great cup that covered half her face. She
liked the slight languor its heavy perfume induced.

She climbed the hill, and the woods shut out the world. Patience forgot
her destination and wandered happily and aimlessly in the dim fragrance.
She plucked some pine needles, and rubbing their juices free pressed her
hands about her face. On the whole she preferred their pungent freshness
to the poppy.

After a time she began to skip over the carpet of yellow violets and to
sing in a high childish treble. She was only a happy little girl with
her lungs full of oxygen, her veins warmed by the sun, her heart
exhilarated with the surpassing beauty of the morning. She threw pebbles
at the squirrels and laughed loudly when they scampered up the stately
trees. Spiritual problems did not trouble her, and social trials were
forgotten.

She dawdled away the earlier hours of the morning in the woods, then
descending the hill on the town side, regained her severe and elderly
demeanour. The ocean was not visible here, but a bay bluer than sapphire
curved into sands whiter than marble dust. The sun shone down on the
red-tiled white adobes, on the high garden walls pink with Castilian
roses, as gaily as in the old Arcadian time. But alas! it shone also on
cheap wooden cottages and shops which had invaded even the hill on the
right, where once a few stately mansions stood alone.

The town was very quiet. It was always quiet. Some holy unheard voice
seemed ever saying “Hush!” As Patience walked down Alvarado Street to
the Custom House, she saw a slender brown woman watering the roses
behind her garden wall. She had been the belle of Monterey in her time,
“La Tulita,” and tradition had it that she still watered a rose-bush
which General Sherman had planted.

On the next block several dark lads sat on a fence in the approved
Montereño style, smoking _cigaritos_. As Patience passed they lifted
their caps as gallantly as ever _caballero_ had done, although they did
not fling them at her feet.

She saw no one else until she reached the Custom House. Mr. Foord stood
on the corridor that overhung the rocks. He was a large round-shouldered
man, with a benign face the colour of aging marble and a brow of the old
time intellectual type. The eyes behind his spectacles were dim and
kind. The lower part of his face was humorous and stern. He wore a silk
hat, a well-brushed suit of broadcloth, and carried a gold-headed cane.

“You’re going to town!” cried Patience.

“I am,” he said smiling, “and I suppose you are going to read your eyes
out in the library. Well, I’ll not be back until to-morrow, so you’ll
have things all your own way. Tell Lola to cook you some dinner. I must
be off.”

“Bring me a box of candy,” she commanded, as she stood on tiptoe to give
him the little peck she called a kiss. It was her mark of supreme
consideration.

He promised, and she went into the library, a large room opening on the
corridor, where many a great ball had been given in the days before and
after the Americans came. A half dozen old-fashioned bookcases, crowded
with books, stood against the walls of the low room. The books were
bound in spotted calf or faded cloth, black cloth with peeling gilt
letters. One large case contained John Sparhawk’s library, and Patience
knew that it was practically hers. The floor was covered with a thick
red carpet. A large easy-chair was drawn before the deep fire-place, in
which a huge log crackled: it was still winter within adobe walls.

“Altogether,” thought the philosopher of fifteen, as she flung her
sunbonnet on the floor, “I guess that so long as I’ve got my tower and
the woods and this room, I’m not so badly off as some.”

She roamed about the room, opening the doors of the bookcases in turn.
One case had been filled with books selected for her especial use, but
Mr. Foord had not forbidden her the freedom of the others, being wiser
than many guardians. Nevertheless, certain books were placed on top
shelves, their titles concealed beneath the moulding of the case, and
Patience had looked speculatively at them more than once. To-day they
exerted a peculiar fascination. And it was rarely that she was alone in
the library.

She possessed an investigating and tentative mind, and this forbidden
territory appealed eloquently to her unruly will. But to get them out
was not an easy task. They were tightly packed, and the moulding was
like unto a prison bar. But Patience was a person of resource. She gave
one of the books a smart thump, and it slanted inward. She inserted her
thumb under its lifted edge and worried it out. It was a small volume
bound in black, its lettering worn away. She opened it and glanced
curiously at the titlepage. “Boccaccio’s Decameron” winked invitingly.
The pages were spotted with yellow. The drawings looked as if the
stories might be reasonably interesting.

Patience curled herself in the deep window-seat, quite sure that she had
found a treasure. The book had a furtive and apologetic air. “I have
grown old, at least,” it seemed to say. “I am but an elderly rake, and
can only mumble of the past.”

She read a few stories, then put the book back in its place with a
resentful shove. Being wholly without the knowledge for which Eve pined,
the stories were stupid and meaningless to her. She took down a thick
volume bound in ragged calf. On the back was one large word, “Byron.”
The leaves of this book were spotted too, but on the leaves were poems,
and she loved poetry. Even when it was uninteresting she enjoyed the
rhythm. She returned to the window-seat, and child-like, looked at the
pictures first. The portrait of Byron she fell in love with immediately,
and knocking her composite off its pedestal, lifted that proud
passionate face to the station of honour.

There was an immense-eyed picture of the Bride of Abydos which she
thought looked like Rosita, and one of the Corsair dashing in upon his
segregated love:—

        “My own Medora, sure thy song is sad!”

Francesca and Paola gazed at each other across a table:—

        “That day no further leaf we did uncover.”

A castle which looked older than the book loomed massively from the
page:—

        “Lake Leman lies by Chillon’s walls.”

Never having heard of Byron, she was unable to enlarge her knowledge at
once with his most celebrated creations; but she liked the looks of
Conrad and Medora, and plunged into their fortunes. She read every line
of the poem, and when she had finished she read it over again. Then she
stared at the breakers booming to the rocks on the opposite horn of the
crescent, her eyes expanded and filled with a wholly new light. She
might be unlettered in woman’s wisdom, but the transcendent passion, the
pounding vitality of the poet, carried straight to intuition. The
insidious elixir drifted into the crystal stream. That incomparable
objectivity sang the song of songs as distinctly into her brain as had
it gathered the sounds of life for twenty years. Her cheeks were
flushed, her eyes were bright. She felt as if she were a musical
instrument upon which some divine unknown music were vibrating; and as
she was wont to feel in the tower—but with a substratum of something
quite different. She was filled with a soft tumult which she did not in
the least comprehend, and happy. She looked almost beautiful.

After a time she read “The Bride of Abydos,” and dreamed over that until
she discovered that she was hungry. She had forgotten to order dinner,
and went to the kitchen to beg a crust.

Lola, large, unwhaleboned, vibrating porcinely with every motion, her
brown coarsely moulded face beaming with good nature, her little black
eyes full of temper and kindness, her black hair in a neat small knot,
an unspotted brown and yellow calico garment secluding her person, stood
at a sink in a kitchen as brilliantly clean as a varnished boot. Even
the corners shone like glass, Patience often observed with a sigh. The
two tables were scrubbed daily. The stove was black, the windows white.
Not a pan nor a dish save those in the sink was in sight.

Patience made a sudden dash, a leap, and alighted on Lola’s back,
encircling the yielding waist with her supple legs. The woman emitted a
hoarse shriek, then laughed and pinched the legs. Patience plunged her
cold hands into the creases of Lola’s neck, gathering a quantity into
the palms. She was unrebuked. There were a few persons that loved
Patience, and Lola was of them.

“_Pobrecita!_” she exclaimed. “You are cold, no?”

“_Mucho frizo_,” murmured Patience, sliding the back of her hands down
the mountainous surface of Lola’s. “And hungry, _madre de dios_.”

“Hungry? You no have the dinner? When you coming?”

“Hours ago, Lola. How cruel of you not to call me to dinner! How mean
and piggish to eat it all yourself!”

“Ay, no call me the names. How I can know you are here _si_ you no tell?
Why you no coming here straight before going to the _librario_?”

“I forgot, Lola _mia_; and then I became—interested. But do give me
something to eat.”

“_Si._” And with Patience still on her back Lola waddled to the cupboard
and lifted down the remains of a corn cake rolled about olives and
cheese and peppers.

“An _enchilada_!” said Patience. “Good.”

Lola warmed the compound, and spread a napkin on a corner of one of the
tables; then, suddenly unloosening Patience’s arms and legs, tumbled her
headlong into a chair, laughing sluggishly as she ambled off. Patience
ate the steaming _enchilada_ as heartily as had Byron never been. In a
moment she begged for a cup of chocolate.

“_Si_,” said Lola, “I have some scrape already;” and she brewed
chocolate in a little earthen pot, then beat it to froth with her
_molinillo_. Patience kicked her heels together with delight, and sipped
it daintily while Lola stood by with fat hands on fat hips in reflex
enjoyment.

“Like it, _niña_?”

“You bet.” Then after a moment she asked dreamily: “Lola, were you ever
in love?”

“_Que!_ Sure. Was I not marry? Poor my Pedro! How he lika the
_enchilada_ and the chocolaty; and the lard cakes and the little pig
cooking with onions. And now the worms eating him. Ay, yi!” and Lola sat
herself upon a chair and wept.


                                   VI

As Patience walked home through the woods subsequently to a long
afternoon with Byron, she was hazily sensible that she had stepped from
one phase of girlhood into another. She had an odd consciousness of
gazing through a veil of gauze upon an exquisite but unfamiliar
landscape over which was a dazzle of sunlight. She by no means
understood the mystery of her nature as yet; she was technically too
ignorant; but instinct was awake, and she felt somewhat as when she had
drained the poppy cup for long. She was in that transition state when
for the first and last time passion is poetry.

She arrived home in time to get supper. Mrs. Sparhawk was unexpectedly
sober, and very cross.

“My land, Patience Sparhawk!” she exclaimed, as her daughter opened the
door and untied her sunbonnet, “seems to me you might help cook dinner
in vacation instead of being off all day reading books or playing with
that Spanish girl.”

“Seems to me,” said Patience, restored to her practical self, “that as
you’re twice as big as I am and twice as strong, you’re pretty well able
to get it yourself. And as it’s your fault there ain’t any servant in
this house, I don’t see why I should make one of myself for you. Seems
to me you’re fixed up.”

Mrs. Sparhawk blushed, and smoothed her hair consciously. The hair had
been washed, and was decorated with a red bow. She wore a garment of
turkey red calico with a bit of cheap lace at the throat and wrists. Her
face was plastered with a whitewash much in vogue. She looked handsome,
but evil, and Patience stared at her with an uneasiness she was not able
to analyse. She turned away after a moment.

“I’d put on an apron,” she remarked drily. “You might get spots on that
gorgeous window curtain dress of yours.”

At that moment the man Oscar entered the room. He uttered a note of
admiration which made Patience turn about sharply. He was gazing upon
Mrs. Sparhawk’s enhanced charms with an expression which Patience did
not understand, but which filled her with sudden fury.

“Here!” she exclaimed roughly, “go into the dining room until supper’s
ready. This kitchen ain’t big enough for three.”

The man moved his eyes and regarded her angrily.

“Who’s boss here?” he demanded.

“It’s not your place to ask questions. You’re hired to work outside, and
when you come into this house there’s only one place for you. Now go
into the other room.” Her eyes were flashing, and she had drawn up her
shoulders. The man backed away from her much as dogs do when cats give
warning.

“That girl gives me a chill. I hate her,” he muttered to his mistress.

Mrs. Sparhawk gave a loud laugh which covered her embarrassment, and
slapped him heartily on the shoulder. “Go in, go in,” she said. “What’s
the use of family quarrels?”

The man slunk away, and Patience went about her work with vicious
energy. She fried liver and baked biscuits while her mother stirred the
steaming cherries and brewed tea. When supper was ready she filled
Oscar’s plate first and served him last, not hating herself in the least
for her spite and spleen. After Mrs. Sparhawk had taken her place at the
head of the table even her exuberant beauty could not dispel the frown
on the hired man’s brow, until, to Patience’s disgust, she divined the
cause of his surliness, and deftly exchanged her plate for his.


                                  VII

That night Patience did not go to her tower, but wandered over the dark
fields, a drooping forlorn little figure in the crawling shadows. She
felt dull and tired and disheartened. By nine o’clock she was asleep.
She awoke as fresh as the morning. When Mr. Foord returned from San
Francisco in the afternoon he found her curled in the easy-chair by his
fire. She started guiltily as he entered, then tossed her head
defiantly, let Byron slide to the floor, and went forward to kiss him.

As he was about to take the chair she had occupied he espied the fallen
volume. He lifted it hastily.

“What is this?” he demanded.

Patience blushed furiously, but set her lips with an expression he
understood.

“It’s Byron, and I’m going to read it all. I’ve read a lot.”

He shifted the book from one hand to the other for a moment, his face
much perturbed. Finally he laid it on the table, merely remarking:
“Sooner or later, sooner or later.”

Patience offered him a piece of the candy he had brought her; but he
preferred his pipe, and she perched herself on the arm of his chair and
ate half the contents of her box without pause. She had not yet learned
the subtle delights of the epicure, and to enjoy until capacity was
exhausted was typical of her enthusiastic temperament. When she could no
longer look upon the candy without a shudder she climbed to the old
gentleman’s shoulder and scratched his bald pate with her ragged nails.
It was her emphatic way of expressing gratitude, and beloved by Mr.
Foord above pipe and _enchilada_.

Patience took Byron home with her that evening, Mr. Foord merely
shrugging his shoulders. After supper she read until dark, then hid the
book under the bed and went over to the tower. She ran up the twisted
stair, and astonished the owl by clasping him in her arms and kissing
him passionately. He manifested his disapproval by biting at her
shoulder fiercely. She shrieked and boxed his ears smartly. He flapped
his large wings wildly. A battle royal was imminent in that sacred tower
where once the silver bells had called the holy men to prayer. But
Patience suddenly broke into a laugh and sank on her knees by the
window, while Solomon retreated to the wall, and regarded her with a
round unwinking stare, brooding over problems which he did not in the
least understand.

Patience brooded also, but her lids drooped, and she barely saw the
beauty of ocean and rock and spray. The moon was not yet up, and the
half revealed intoning sea was full of mystery.

She was conscious that her mood was not quite what it had been during
her last visit. All of that was there—but more. She felt higher above
the earth than ever before, but more conscious of its magnetism.
Something hummed along her nerves and stirred in her veins. Her musings
shaped to definite form, inasmuch as they assumed the semblance of man.
Inevitably Byron was exhumed for duty; and if his restless soul were
prowling space and Carmel Valley, his famous humour, desuetous in
Eternity, must have echoed in the dull ears of roaming shapes.

Beside the white face of the child was the solemn and hebraic visage of
the owl. Some outworn chord of Solomon’s youth may have been stirred by
his friend’s tumultuous greeting, for he had stepped, with the dignity
of his years, to her side, and stood regarding, with introspective
stare, the reflection of the rising moon.

Patience did not see him. She was gazing upon Byron, whose moody
passionate face was distinctly visible among the stars. Alas! her vision
was suddenly obscured by a hideous black object. A bat flew straight at
Carmel tower. Patience sprang to her feet, tossed her skirt over her
head, and fled down the stair. The owl stepped to the stair’s head and
gazed into the winding darkness, his eyes full of unutterable nothing.


                                  VIII

On Monday school re-opened, and Patience was late as usual. She loitered
through the woods, conning her lessons, having been too much occupied
with her poet to give them attention before. As she ascended the steps
of the schoolhouse the drone of the Lord’s Prayer came through the open
window, and she paused for a moment on the landing, swinging her bag in
one hand and her tin lunch-pail in the other.

She was not a picturesque figure. Her sunbonnet was of faded blue calico
dotted with white. The meagre braid projecting beneath the cape was tied
with a shoe string. The calico frock was faded and mended and much too
short, although the hem and tucks had been let out. The copper-toed
boots were of a greyish-green hue, and the coarse stockings wrinkled
above them. The nails of her pretty brown hands looked as if they had
been sawed off. But the eyes under the old sunbonnet were dreamy and
happy. The brain behind was full of new sensations. In the sparkling
atmosphere was an electric thrill. The day was as still as only the days
of Monterey can be. The pines, and the breakers had never intoned more
sweetly.

A voluminous A—men! startled Patience from her reverie. She went
hastily within, hung her bonnet and pail on a peg, and entered the
schoolroom, smiling half deprecatingly half confidently, at Miss Galpin.
The young teacher’s stern nod did not discompose her. As she passed
Rosita she received a friendly pinch, and Manuela looked up and smiled;
but while traversing the width of the room to her desk she became aware
of something unfriendly in the atmosphere. As she took her seat she
glanced about and met the malevolent eyes of a dozen turned heads. One
girl’s lip was curled; another’s brows were raised significantly, as
would their owner query: “What could you expect?”

Patience blushed until her face glowed like one of the Castilian roses
on the garden wall opposite the window. “They’ve found out about Byron,”
she thought. “Horrors, how they’ll tease me!”

School girls have a traditional habit of “willing” each other to “miss”
when in aggressive mood. To-day some twenty of the girls appeared to
have concerted to will that Patience should forget what little lore she
had gathered on her way to school. Patience, always sensitive to
impressions, was as taut as the strings of an Æolian harp from her
experience of the past week. Such natures are responsive to the core to
the psychological power of the environment, and once or twice this
morning Patience felt as if she must jump to her feet and scream. But
even at that early age she divined that the sweetest revenge is success,
and she strove as she had never striven before to acquit herself with
credit.

All morning the silent battle went on. Miss Galpin, who was beloved of
her pupils because she was pretty and dressed well, was a graduate of
the San Francisco High School, and an excellent teacher. Frankly as she
liked Patience she had never shown her any partiality in the schoolroom;
but to-day, noting the antagonism that was brought to bear on the girl,
she exerted all her cleverness to assist her in such subtle fashion that
Patience alone should appreciate her effort. In consequence, when the
morning session closed, Patience wore the doubtful laurels and the bad
blood was black.

As the girls trooped down into the yard Rosita laid her arm about
Patience and endeavoured to lead her away. Manuela conferred in a low
tone with the foe, voice and gestures remonstrant. But there was blood
in the air, and Patience squared her shoulders and awaited the
onslaught. Incidentally she inspected her nails and copper toes.

Several of the girls walked rapidly up to her. They were smiling
disagreeably.

“Can’t you keep her at home?” asked one of them.

“Think she’ll marry him?” demanded another.

Patience, completely taken aback, glanced helplessly from one to the
other.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Come, Patita,” murmured Rosita, on the verge of tears.

Manuela exclaimed: “You are fiends, _fiends_!” and walked away.

“Mean? Do you mean to say she got off without you knowing it?”

“Knowing what?” A horrible presentiment assailed Patience. Her fingers
jerked and her breath came fast.

“Why,” said Panchita McPherson, brutally, “your mother was in here
Saturday night with her young man and regularly turned the town upside
down. They were thrown out of three saloons. Can’t you keep her at
home?”

Patience stared dully at the girls, her dry lips parted. She knew that
they had spoken the truth. She had gone to bed early on Saturday night.
Shortly afterward she had heard the sound of buggy wheels and Billy’s
uncertain gait. Many hours later she had been awakened by the sound of
her mother stumbling upstairs; but she had thought nothing of either
incident at the time.

Panchita continued relentlessly, memories of many class defeats rushing
forward to lash her spleen: “You’ll please understand after this that we
don’t care to have you talk to us, for we don’t think you’re
respectable.” Whereupon the other girls, nodding sarcastically at
Patience, entwined their arms and walked away, led by the haughty Miss
McPherson.

For a few moments Patience hardly realised how she felt. She stood
impassive; but a cyclone raged within. All the blood in her body seemed
to have rushed to her head, to scorch her face and pound in her ears.
She wondered why her hands and feet were cold.

“Come, Patita, don’t mind them,” said Rosita, putting her arm round her
comrade. “The mean hateful nasty—_pigs!_” Never before had the indolent
little Californian been so vehement; but Patience slipped from her hold,
and running through a gate at the back of the yard crouched down on a
box. Rosita’s words had broken the spell. She was filled with a volcano
of hate. She hated the girls, she hated Monterey, she hated life; but
above all she hated her mother.

After a time all the hate in her concentrated on the woman who had made
her young life so bitter. She had never liked her, but not until the
dreadful moments just past had she realised the full measure of her
inheritance. The innuendoes she had not understood, but it was enough to
know that her mother had disgraced her publicly and insulted her
father’s memory. Her schoolmates she dismissed from her mind with a
scornful jerk of the shoulders. She had beaten them too easily and often
in the schoolroom not to despise them consummately. They could prick but
not stab her.

The bell rang; but she had an account to settle, and bonnetless she
started for home.

Mrs. Sparhawk was sitting on the porch reading a novel when Patience
walked up to her, snatched the book from her hand, and flung it into a
rose-tree. The woman was sober, and quailed as she met her daughter’s
eyes. Patience had walked rapidly under a hot sun. Her face was scarlet,
and she was trembling.

“I hate you!” she sobbed. “I hate you! It doesn’t do any good to tell
you so, but it does me good to say it.”

The girl looked the incarnation of evil passions. She was elemental
Hate, a young Cain.

“I wish you were dead,” she continued. “You’ve ruined every bit of my
life.”

“Why—what—what—” mumbled the woman. But the colour was coming to her
face, and her eyes were beginning to glitter unpleasantly.

“You know well enough what. You were in town drunk on Saturday night,
and were in saloons _with a farm hand_. To make a brute of yourself was
bad enough—but to go about with a common man! Are you going to marry
him?”

Mrs. Sparhawk laughed. “Well, I guess not.”

Patience drew a quick breath of relief. “Well, that’s what they’re
saying—that you’re going to marry him—a man that can’t read nor write.
Now look here, I want one thing understood—unless you swear to me
you’ll not set foot in that town again I’ll have you put in the Home of
the Inebriates—There! I’ll not be disgraced again; I’ll do it.”

Mrs. Sparhawk sprang to her feet, her face blazing with rage. “You will,
will you?” she cried. She caught the girl by the shoulders, and shaking
her violently, boxed first one ear, then the other, with her strong
rough hands. For an instant Patience was stunned, then the blood boiled
back to her brain. She screamed harshly, and springing at her mother
clutched her about the throat. The lust to kill possessed her. A red
curtain blotted even the hated face from sight. Instinctively she
tripped her mother and went down on top of her. The crash of the body
brought two men to the rescue, and Patience was dragged off and flung
aside.

“My land!” exclaimed one of the men, his face white with horror. “Was
you going to kill your ma?”

“Yes, that she was,” spluttered Mrs. Sparhawk, sitting up and pulling
vaguely at the loose flesh of her throat. “She’d have murdered me in
another minute.”

Patience by this time was white and limp. She crawled upstairs to her
room and locked the door. She sank on the floor and thought on herself
with horror.

“I never knew,” she reiterated, “that I was so bad. Why, I’m fifteen,
and I never wanted to kill even a bird before. I wouldn’t learn to
shoot. I’d never drown a kitten. When the Chinaman stuck a red-hot poker
through the bars of the trap and burnt ridges in the live rat I screamed
and screamed. And now I’ve nearly killed my mother, and wanted to. Who,
who would have thought it?”

When she was wearied with the futile effort to solve the new problem,
she became suddenly conscious that she felt no repentance, no remorse.
She was horrified at the sight of the black veins in her soul; but she
felt a certain satisfaction at having unbottled the wrath that consumed
her, at having given her mother the physical equivalent of her own
mental agony. Over this last cognisance of her capacity for sin she
sighed and shook her head.

“I may as well give myself up,” she thought with young philosophy. “I am
what I am, and I suppose I’ll do what I’m going to do.”

She went downstairs and out of the house. She passed a group of men;
they stared at her in horror. Then another little seed from the vast
garden of human nature shot up to flower in Patience’s puzzled brain.
She lifted her head with an odd feeling of elation: she was the
sensation of the hour.

She went out on Point Lobos and listened to the hungry roar of the
waves, watched the tossing spray. Nature took her to her heart as ever,
and when the day was done she was normal once more. She returned to the
house and helped to get supper, although she refused to speak to her
equally sullen parent.


                                   IX

It was several days before the story reached Monterey. When it did, the
girls treated Patience to invective and contumely, but delivered their
remarks at long range. The mother of Manuela said peremptorily that
Patience Sparhawk should never darken the doors of the Peralta mansion
again, and even Mrs. Thrailkill told the weeping Rosita that the
intimacy must end.

Miss Galpin was horrified. When school was over she took Patience firmly
by the hand and led her up the hill to her boarding-place, the widow
Thrailkill’s ancestral home. The long low adobe house was traversed from
end to end by a pillared corridor. It was whitewashed every year, and
its red tiles were renewed at intervals, but otherwise the march of
civilisation had passed it by. Mrs. Thrailkill, large and brown, with a
wart between her kind black eyes, and a handsome beard, was rocking
herself on the corridor. When she recognised the teacher’s companion she
arose with great dignity and swung herself into the house.

Miss Galpin led Patience down the corridor to a room at the end, and
motioned her to a chair. Several magazines lay on a table, and Patience
reached her hand to them involuntarily; but Miss Galpin took the hand
and drew the girl toward her. The young teacher’s brown eyes wore a very
puzzled expression. Even her carefully regulated bang had been pushed
upward with a sudden dash of the hand. She was only twenty-two, and her
experience of human nature was limited. Her ideas of life were
accumulated largely from the novels of Mr. Howells and Mr. James, whom
she revered; and neither of these gentlemen photographed such characters
as Patience. It had probably never occurred to them that Patiences
existed. She experienced a sudden thrill of superiority, then craved
pardon of her idols.

“Patience, dear,” she said gently, “is this terrible story true?”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Patience, standing passively at Miss Galpin’s knee.

“You actually tried to kill your mother?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Miss Galpin gasped. She waited a moment for a torrent of excuse and
explanation; but Patience was mute.

“And you are not sorry?” she faltered.

“No, ma’am.”

“Oh, Patience!”

“I’m sorry you feel so badly, ma’am. Please don’t cry,” for the
estimable young woman was in tears, and mentally reviling her
preceptors.

“How can I help feeling terribly, Patience? You break my heart.”

“I’m sorry, dear Miss Galpin.”

“Patience, don’t you love God?”

“No, ma’am, not particularly. Leastways, I’ve never thought much about
it.”

“You little heathen!”

“No, ma’am, I’m not. My father was very religious. But please don’t talk
religion to me.”

“Patience, I don’t know what to make of you. I am in despair. You’re not
a bad girl. You give me little trouble, and I’ve always said that you
had finer impulses than any girl I’ve ever known, and the best brain.
You ought to realise better than any girl of your age the difference
between right and wrong. And yet you have done what not another girl in
the school would do, inferior as they are—”

“How do you know, ma’am? I never thought I would. Neither did you think
I would. You can’t tell what you’ll do till you do it.”

Miss Galpin was distracted. She resumed hurriedly:

“I want you to be a good woman, Patience,—a good as well as a clever
woman. And how can you be good if you don’t love God?”

“Are all people good the same way?”

“Well, it all comes to the same thing in the end.” Miss Galpin blessed
the evolution of verbiage.

“Are all religious people good?”

“Certainly.”

“These girls are religious, especially the Spanish ones, and they’ve
behaved to me like devils. So have their mothers, and some of them go to
five o’clock mass.”

“Girls are undisciplined, and mothers often have a mistaken sense of
duty.”

“You are good, and Mr. Foord is good,” pursued the terrible child. “But
you’d be just as good if you weren’t religious. It’s born in you, and
you’re refined and kind-hearted. Those people are just naturally vulgar,
and religion won’t make them any better.”

Miss Galpin drew the girl suddenly to her lap and kissed her. “I’m
terribly sorry for you, dear,” she said. “I wish I understood you
better, and could help you, but I don’t. I never knew any one in the
least like you. I worry so about your future. People that are not like
other people don’t get along nicely in this world. And you have such
impulses! But I love you, Patience, and I’ll always be your friend. Will
you remember this?”

Patience was undemonstrative, but she kissed Miss Galpin warmly and
arranged her bang.

“Now, let’s talk about something else,” she said. “Are you going to get
up those private theatricals for the night that school closes?”

Miss Galpin sighed and gave up the engagement. “Yes,” she said. Then,
hesitatingly: “Do you wish to take part?”

“No, of course I don’t. I’ll have nothing more to do with those girls
than I can help. You can bet your life on that. But I can help drill
Rosita. What’s the play?”

“I’ll read it to you.” Miss Galpin took a pamphlet from a drawer and
read aloud the average amateur concoction. Rosita was to take the part
of an indolent girl with the habit of arousing herself unexpectedly. In
one act she would have to dash to the front of the stage and dance a
parlour breakdown.

“I am afraid Rosita cannot act,” said Miss Galpin, in conclusion, “but
she is so pretty I couldn’t leave her out.”

“Rosita can act,” said Patience, emphatically. “I’ve seen her imitate
every actress that has been here, and take off pretty nearly every crank
in Monterey. And Mrs. Thrailkill can teach her one of the old
Californian dances—and a song. Rosita has a lovely voice, almost as
pretty as a lark’s.”

“Really? Well, I’ll talk to Mrs. Thrailkill and persuade her to forgive
you, and then you can come here every afternoon and drill Rosita. And
now will you promise me to be a good little girl?”

“Yes, ma’am—leastways I’ll try. Good-bye,” and Patience gave her a
little peck, seized her sunbonnet, and went hurriedly out.

“I suppose,” she thought as she sauntered down the hill, “I’d better go
and have it out with Mr. Foord. It’s got to come, and the sooner it’s
over the better. Poor man, I’ll make it as easy for him as I can. It’ll
be harder on him than on me, for I’m used to it now.”

The old gentleman was walking up and down the corridor as she turned the
corner of the custom house. He looked very yellow and feeble, and
supported himself with a stick.

“Oh, Patience!” he exclaimed.

For the first time Patience felt inclined to cry, but her aversion to
display feeling controlled her. She merely approached and stood before
him, swinging her sunbonnet.

“Don’t let us talk about it,” he said hastily. “I have something else to
say to you. Sit down.”

They sat down side by side on a bench.

“You know,” the old gentleman continued, “I have a half-sister in the
east—Harriet Tremont, her name is—in Mariaville-on-Hudson, New York.
She is the best woman in the world, the most sinless creature I ever
knew, yet full of human nature and never dull. She is very religious,
has given up her life to doing good, and has some eccentric notions of
her own. She writes me dutifully twice a year, although we have not met
for thirty, and in her last letter she told me she intended to adopt a
child, rescue a soul as she called it, and furthermore that she should
adopt the child of the most worthless parents she could discover in her
work among the worthless. Since—lately—I have been thinking strongly
of sending you to her. You must get away from here. You must have a
chance in life. If you remain here you will grow up bitter and hard, and
the result with your brain and temperament may be terrible. You are
capable of becoming a very bad or a very good woman. You are still
young—but there is no time to lose. Should you care to go?”

“Of course I should,” cried Patience, enchanted with the idea of an
excursion into unknown worlds. Then her face fell. “But I shouldn’t like
to be adopted. That is too much like charity.”

“Is the ranch entirely mortgaged?”

Patience nodded.

“Well, let us look at it as a business proposition. You will be little
expense to her—she is fairly well off; and one more in the household
makes no appreciable difference. You will attend the public schools with
the view to become a teacher, and when you are earning a salary you can
repay her for what little outlay she may have made. Do you see?”

“Yes. I don’t mind if you look at it that way.”

“I’ll see your mother in a day or two. You don’t think she’ll object, do
you?”

“Object? What has she got to say about it?”

“A great deal, unfortunately. She is your legal guardian. But she
doesn’t love you, and I think can be persuaded. I shall miss you, my
dear. What shall I do without my bright little girl?”

Patience nestled up to him, and the two strangely assorted companions
remained silent for a time watching the seagulls sweep over the blue
bay. Then Mr. Foord drifted naturally into the past, and Patience grew
romantic once more.


                                   X

That night Patience felt no inclination for either bed or tower. She
wandered over the field, entered the pine forest, and walked to the
coast. The tall straight trees grew close together; their aisles were
very gloomy. From the ground arose the ominous voices of the night, and
the wind in the treetops moaned heavily. But Patience was not afraid.
She revelled in the vast dark silence, and felt that the world was all
her own.

As she left the forest she saw great clouds of spray tossed high into
the starry dark, heard the ocean rush at the outlying rocks, breaking
into mist or leaping to the shore. The sea lions were talking loudly;
the seagulls, huddled on the high points of the coast, scolded hoarsely.

On the edge of the forest was a cabin. Patience walked toward it. She
knew the old man that lived there. He was evidently awake, for the open
window was yellow with light. As she passed it on her way to the door
she glanced within. Her skin turned cold; her hair stiffened. A sheeted
corpse lay on the bed. Candles burned at head and foot. Patience, brave
as she was, abjectly feared the corpse. She believed that she could
survive a ghost, but she knew that if shut up with a dead body for ten
minutes she should go mad. To-night she would have fled shrieking were
it not that the room had a living occupant.

In a chair beside the bed sat a man gazing at the floor, his chin
dropped to his chest. He wore rough clothes, but they were the
affectations of the gentleman, not the garb of the dead man and his
friends. Nor had Patience ever seen so noble a head. The profile was
beautiful, the expression mild and intellectual, and most melancholy.

Patience forgot her terror as she wondered who the stranger could be;
but in a moment it was renewed tenfold. Down the ocean road from
Monterey came a wild hideous yell. The man by the corpse raised his head
apprehensively, rose as if to flee, then sank wearily to his chair
again. The clatter of hoofs on the hard road mounted above the thunder
of the waves. Patience staring into the dark suddenly saw the leaping
fire of torches, and a moment later tall figures riding recklessly. The
yelling was incessant and demoniac.

“The man murdered Jim and they’re lynchers,” thought Patience. She
glanced about wildly. A small tree stood near. She scampered up the
trunk like a squirrel, and hid in the branches. None too soon. In
another moment those terrible figures were screaming and gesticulating
before the hut.

The smoky flames revealed an extraordinary sight to Patience’s distended
eyes. These men were bearded like the men of modern civilisation, even
their hair was properly cut; but they wore the garments of Greece and
Japan, flowing robes of white and red; one dark sinister-looking being
upheld a glittering helmet.

Patience rubbed her eyes. Did she dream over her Byron? But no mortal,
none but the sheeted dead, could have slept and dreamed in that infernal
clamour. Only the man by the bed sat immobile. He did not raise his
head. Out of the pandemonium of sound Patience at last distinguished one
word: “Charley! Charley!” If “Charley” were the man within the hut he
gave no sign; nor when they threw back their heads and as from one
throat gave forth a rattling volume of ribald laughter.

Suddenly Patience, who, seeing no rope, began to recover her courage,
noticed that one of the men had ridden beneath her tree, taking no part
in this singular drama. Once he turned his head, and an aquiline
profile, fine and strong, with black hair falling above it, was sharply
revealed against the red glare. Impulsively Patience leaned down and
touched his shoulder. He looked up with a start, and saw a small white
face among the leaves.

“What on earth is this?” he asked. “Is it a child?” His voice was rich
and deep, with a gentle hint of brogue.

“What are they?” asked Patience. “Are they real devils, or only men? And
are they going to kill him?”

The man laughed. “I certainly should ask the same question if I had not
happened to come with them. Oh, they won’t do any murder, unless they
happen to frighten some one to death. They’re members of the Bohemian
Club of San Francisco—newspaper men and artists—who are down here on a
lark.”

“Who’s the man in there by him, and why do they yell at him so?”

“Oh, he is a solitary spirit, a man of genius. He got tired of them and
gave them the slip to-night. This is revenge.”

“They have the Estrada house on Alvarado Street,” said Patience. “I
heard they were here.” Then she noticed that her companion wore the
common garb of American civilisation. “Why aren’t you rigged up, too?”
she asked.

“Oh, I’m hardly one of them. I’m only an Eastern man—a New Yorker—and
am staying at Del Monte for a day or two. I rode over to see them this
afternoon, and they insisted upon my staying for dinner. What on earth
are you doing here by yourself at this time of night?”

Patience explained. Then she added wistfully, “I shall be frightened to
death going home through those woods alone. I’ll imagine that that
corpse and those dreadful-looking men are behind me at every step.”

“Just drop onto my horse and I’ll take you home. I’m pretty tired of all
this.” He raised his arms and lifted her down, placing her in front of
him. “Lucky I had an English saddle,” he said, and as he bent his head
Patience could see that he was smiling. “Oh!” he added abruptly, “I have
seen you before. Now—tell me where to go.”

Patience directed him, and they cantered away unobserved.

“Where did you see me?” she asked, “and how odd that you should remember
_me_!”

“You have wonderful eyes. Although I’m an Irishman I won’t go so far as
to say they are pretty, but they look as if they had been born to see so
much. It would be difficult to forget them. Upon me soul you are
actually trembling. Did you never have a compliment before?”

“Never! And I guess I’ll remember it longer than you remember my eyes.
Where did you see me?”

“I was standing at the window of the house in Alvarado Street when you
came along from school with a dozen or more of the girls. You all
stopped to gaze at a passing circus troupe, and—I noticed you first
because you stood a little apart from the others.”

“I usually do,” said Patience, drily.

He did not add that, attracted by the eagerness of her gaze and her
rapid changes of expression, he had asked who she was, and that a
Montereño present had related the family history and her own notable
performances in no measured terms. “She’s got bad blood in her and the
temper of Old Nick himself. She’ll come to no good, homely as she is,”
the man had concluded. “Curious enough, the boys all like her and would
spark her if they got a show; but she’s hell-set on gettin’ an education
at present and doesn’t notice them much.”

Patience made him talk on for the pleasure of hearing his voice. “Are
you a real Irishman?” she asked.

“Well, I’ve been an American for twenty years, but there’s a good deal
of Irish left in me yet, especially in me tongue.”

“I’d keep it, if I were you. It’s nicer even than the Spanish. Do you
think our voices are horrid?”

“I think that if you’d pitch yours a little lower it would be an
improvement,” he said, smiling. And Patience registered a vow which she
kept. In after years when great changes had come upon her, her voice was
envied and emulated.

As they left the forest and entered Carmel Valley Patience pointed to
her home, then suddenly took the reins from his hand and directed the
horse toward the Mission. The waning moon hung over the ocean, and the
Mission stood out boldly.

“Come up to my tower,” said Patience; “the view is _something_! That
will be your reward. I never took any one there before.”

“All right,” he said, “I may as well make a night of it.” He tethered
his horse and followed her up the spiral stair.

“Solomon is not here,” she said regretfully. “He’s out foraging. Now!”

The young man walked to the window and inspected the view. Patience
regarded him with rapt admiration. He was tall and strong and well
dressed. She had never dreamed that anything romantic could really
happen to her; and as she was sure that it would be her last experience
as well as her first, she suddenly felt depressed and miserable, her
imagination leaping to the finish.

He turned and met her eyes. “What are you thinking of?” he asked.

But Patience was too shy to tell him, and asked him if he liked the
view.

“It’s a jolly view and no mistake. You’re not a happy child, are you?”
he added, abruptly. With the enthusiasm and spontaneous kindness of his
Irish blood he had conceived the idea of dropping a seed in this plastic
soil, and was feeling his way toward the right spot.

“I don’t know that I am,” said Patience, haughtily. “I suppose some of
those people told you things.”

“Well, they did, that’s a fact. But you mustn’t get angry with me,
please, for upon me word I like you better than any one I’ve met in
California.”

“Don’t you live here?”

“My home is in New York, and I return to-morrow.”

“Oh! Well, I don’t see how I should interest you.”

“You do, though, and that’s all there is to it. I’m neither as cautious
as an Englishman nor as practical as an American—though God rest the
two of them; I mean nothing to their detriment. But there’s a force in
you, and force doesn’t go to waste, although it’s more often than not
misdirected. I can feel yours myself; and I’m told that you’re the
cleverest girl in the town as well as the proudest and most ambitious.
Now, what do you intend to do with yourself?”

“I suppose I’ll be a teacher; and if Mrs. Sparhawk has no objections I
may go East soon and live with a religious old lady.”

“Well, that’s not so bad; only I doubt if that life will suit you any
better than this.” He put his finger under her chin and turned her face
to the light. “I am a lawyer, you know,” he added, “and features and
lines and curves mean a good deal to me. You’ve got a good will, begad,
and like all first-class American women, you’ll keep your head up until
you drop. And you have all her faculty of beginning life over again
several times, if necessary. You’ll never rust nor mould, nor write
polemical novels if things don’t go your way. You’ve got a good strong
brain behind those eyes, and although you’ll make mistakes of various
sorts, you’ll kick them behind you when you’re done with them, begin
over and be none the worse. Remember that no mistake is irrevocable;
that there are as many to-morrows as yesterdays; that only the incapable
has a past. It is all a matter of will as far as the world is concerned,
and ideals as far as your own soul goes. No matter how often
circumstances and your own weakness compel you to let go your own
private ideals, deliberately put them back on their pedestal the moment
you have recovered balance, and make for their attainment as if nothing
had happened. Then you’ll never acquire an aged soul and never lose your
grip. Can you remember all that?”

“You bet I can.”

He laughed. “I believe you. I might add: Don’t love the wrong man, but
I’ll not throw away good advice. You’ll not be wholly guided by reason
in those matters. I will merely say, Rub the first experience in hard
and let a long while elapse before your second, or it will be the
greater mistake of the two. Your reactions will be very violent, I
should say. Well, I’ll be going now.”

“I’d rather you’d stay and talk.”

“Would you? Well, being a lawyer, I know where to stop. Besides, I’ll
have all those fellows after me if I stay too long. We’ll doubtless meet
again. The world is small these days.”

Patience followed him reluctantly down the stair, and he walked beside
her across the valley, leading his horse. When they reached the
farmhouse he shook hands with her warmly, wished her good luck, and rode
away. She ran up to her room, and, lighting a candle, transcribed his
words into an old copybook.


                                   XI

Miss Galpin expostulated with Mrs. Thrailkill to such effect that
Patience spent two hours each afternoon in the family garret rehearsing
Rosita while the astonished rats took refuge in the chimney. Patience
could not act, but she had dramatic appreciation and an intellectual
conception of any part not beyond her years. Rosita was not
intellectual, but, as Patience had discerned, the spirit of Thalia was
in her. She quickly became enamoured of her unsuspected resources and at
the prospect of exhibiting herself on a platform. Not only did she rouse
herself to something like exertion, but she faithfully followed the
instructions of her strenuous teacher and discovered a talent for posing
and little tricks of manner all her own. Her mother taught her the song
and dance, which were to be the sensation of the evening.

It was on the fourth day that Patience, returning home late in the
afternoon, met Mr. Foord in the woods. The old gentleman looked sad and
perplexed, and Patience sprang upon the step of his buggy and demanded
to know what was the matter.

“It’s very odd,” he said, “but she won’t let you go.”

“Won’t let me go?” cried Patience, furiously. “Well, I’ll go anyhow.”

“You can’t, my dear. The law won’t let you.”

“Do you mean to say that the law won’t protect me from that woman?”

“I am afraid she has the best of it.” He recalled the woman’s angry
cunning face, as he had pleaded with her, and shook his head. “You see
she was never in the town in that condition before. The men out there
are so devoted to her that—so she has informed me—they would swear to
a man that they had never seen her drunk. And, you see, she’s never
abused you—the only time she struck you she had provocation—you must
admit that. You are under her control until you are eighteen, and I
don’t see that we can do anything. I’m very sorry. I never felt so
defeated in my life.”

“But for gracious goodness sake why won’t she let me go? I’m no good to
speak of about the place, and she certainly isn’t keeping me for love.”

“Well—I think it’s revenge. She remarked that she had a chance to pay
up and she’d do it.”

“I’ll just run away, that’s all.”

“The law would bring you back, and arrest me for abduction.”

“I hate the law,” said Patience, gloomily. “Seems to me I’m always
finding something new to hate.”

“You must not hate, my child,” and he quoted the Bible dutifully,
although in entire sympathy with her. “That is what I am so afraid
of—that you will become hard and bitter. I want to save you from that.
Well, perhaps she’ll relent. I shall see her again and again. I must go
on, Patience.”

She kissed him and walked sullenly homeward. As she entered the kitchen
her mother looked up and laughed. Her face was triumphant and malignant.

“You don’t go,” she said. “Not much. I’ve got the whip hand this time
and I’ll keep it. Here you’ll stay until you’re eighteen—”

Patience turned abruptly and ran upstairs. As she locked her door she
thought with some satisfaction: “Now that I know myself I can control
myself. If I’d jumped on her then she’d have fallen in the stove.”

As her imagination had not dwelt at great length upon the proposed
change the disappointment was not as keen as it might have been, much as
she desired to leave Monterey. Moreover, she was occupied with Rosita
and the coming examinations. And did she not have her Byron? She rose at
dawn and read him. In the evening she went over to the tower and
declaimed him to the grey ocean whose passions were eternal. The owl,
who regarded Byron as a great bore, closed his eyes when she began and
went to sleep. Sometimes—when the sun rode high—she sat upon the
rubbish over Junipero Serra’s bones, and with one eye out for rats and
snakes and tarantulas, conned a new poem. She liked the contrast between
the desolation and death in the old ruin and the warm atmosphere of the
poetry. As often Byron was unheeded, and she dreamed of the mysterious
stranger who had so magnetised her that she had forgotten to ask his
name. She had only to close her eyes to hear his voice, to recall the
words which seemed forever moving in one or other chamber of her mind,
to see the profile which she admired quite as much as Byron’s. As for
the voice, it had a possessing quality which made her understand the
wherefore of the thrilling notes of the male bird in spring-time. She
invested her ambitious young lawyer with all the dark sardonic
melancholic fascinations of Lara, Conrad, Manfred, and Don Juan. The
wild sweet sting of spring was in her veins. Her mind was full of vague
illusions, very lovely and very strange, shifting of outline and wholly
inexplicable.


                                  XII

On the afternoon of the last day of school several of the girls
decorated the hall with garlands and flags. Carpenters erected a stage,
and Patience arranged the “properties.” When the great night arrived and
Monterey in its best attire crowded the room, no curtain in the sleepy
town had ever been regarded with more complacent expectation. The
Montereñas were thoroughly satisfied with their offspring, and
performances of any sort were few.

The programme was opened by Manuela, who wore an old pink satin frock of
her mother’s cut short and trimmed with a flounce of Spanish lace. Her
brown shining face looked good will upon all the world as she recited
“The Wreck of the Hesperus.” Then came a dialogue in which all the
little participants wore white frocks and crimped hair.

Meanwhile, in the dressing-room, Rosita was limp in Patience’s arms.

“Oh, Patita!” she gasped, “I can’t! I can’t! I’m frightened to death!
What shall I do?”

“Do?” cried Patience, angrily, who was so excited herself that she
pumped Rosita’s arms up and down as if the unfledged Thespian had just
been rescued from the bay. “Do? You must brace up. When you get there
you’ll be all right. And you _must not_ get stage fright. Rosita, you
_must_ make a success. Remember you’ve got the star part. Don’t, _don’t_
make a fool of yourself.”

“Oh, if you could only hold my hand,” wailed Rosita.

“Well, I can’t, and that’s the end of it. Now! brace up quick.” The
prompter was calling in a loud whisper,—

“Miss Thrailkill, be ready when I say, ‘Life.’”

“_Ay, dios de mi alma_,” almost sobbed Rosita.

Patience dragged her to the wings and held her there. When the cue was
spoken she gave her a hard pinch, then a shove. Rosita gasped and
disappeared.

Patience slipped round into the audience, her heart in her throat, her
eyes black with excitement. If Rosita broke down she felt that she
should have hysterics.

At first Rosita had nothing to say. Upon entering she had merely to
fling herself upon a divan in an indolent attitude whilst the others
carried on a spirited dialogue. Patience saw that she had managed to get
to the sofa without falling prone, but also observed that her bosom was
heaving. Nevertheless, when her time came she managed to drawl her
lines, although with as little expression as she told her rosary.
Patience stamped her foot audibly.

But as the play progressed it was evident that Rosita was recovering her
poise. When she finally had to come forward she moved with all the
indolent grace of her blood, and delivered her little speech with such
piquant fire that the audience applauded loudly. And with that clatter
of feet and hands a new light sprang into the Spanish girl’s eyes, an
expression half of surprise, half of transport. From that time on she
acted in a manner which astonished even her instructor.

She looked exquisitely pretty. Her white rounded neck and arms were
bare. Her black soft hair hung to her knees, unbound, caught back above
one little ear with a pink rose. Her dress was of black Spanish lace
covered with natural roses. On her tiny feet she wore a pair of black
satin slippers which had belonged to her grandmother and twinkled many a
time to the music of El Son.

When, upon being twitted with her indolence, she suddenly sprang to the
front of the stage, and after singing an old Spanish love-song to the
music of her own guitar, danced El Son with all the rhythmic grace of
the beautiful women of the old gay time, she was no longer an actress
but an impersonator. The more the delighted audience applauded the more
poetically she danced, the more significantly her long eyes flamed. Once
when the applause deafened she swayed as if intoxicated. As the dance
finished, her red lips were parted. She was panting slightly.

When the curtain fell Patience rushed into the dressing-room and
embraced her rapturously. “Rosita!” she cried, “you were simply,
mag-_nif_-icent.”

Rosita, who was trembling violently, hung about Patience’s neck.

“Oh, Patita!” she gasped. “I was in heaven. I never was so happy. You
don’t know what it is to have a hundred people thinking of nothing but
you and applauding as if they were mad. Oh, I’m going to act, act, act
forever! I never want to do anything else. And isn’t my skin white? I
wish I had two necks and four arms.”


                                  XIII

The next morning prizes were distributed. Patience took most of them,
but Rosita was still the sensation of the hour, although she had not
passed an examination. At noon she had a luncheon party. She sat at the
head of her table in a white dotted Swiss frock and Roman sash, and
talked faster than she had ever talked in her life before. Altogether
she was by no means the Rosita of twenty-four hours ago.

Mrs. Thrailkill had prepared a luncheon of old time Spanish dishes, and
hovered, large and brown and placid, about a table loaded with chickens
under mounds of yellow rice, _tamales_, and _dulces_. Patience, between
Manuela and a young cousin of Rosita’s, was not unhappy. Her prizes lay
on the window seat, she liked good things, and was infected with the
gaiety of the hour. True, she wore her old muslin frock and a plaid sash
made from an ancient gown of her mother’s, and the rest of the girls
looked like a bed of newly blossomed flowers; but at fifteen the spirits
rise high above trifles.

When she started for home she was as light of heart as her more favoured
mates; but in the wood a dire affliction smote her. One of her teeth
began to ache. She had seen her mother many times with head tied up and
distorted face, and had wondered scornfully how any one could make a
fuss about a mere tooth. Now, however, when her own suddenly felt as if
impaled on a needle, she uttered a loud wail, and ran toward home as
fast as her legs could carry her. She found her mother similarly
afflicted, and a bottle of drops on the kitchen table. Mrs. Sparhawk
condescended to apply the remedy, and the agony left as suddenly as it
had come.

After supper Patience went over to her tower, and as ever floated
between Carmel Valley and the stars, enveloped with warm ether, which
swirled to towers and turrets inhabited by a projection of herself which
she saw only as a lover. Unfortunately all this rapture was enacted in a
strong draught. Even Solomon uttered a sound once or twice which
resembled a sneeze. Again Patience’s tooth was punctured by a red-hot
needle. Her castles vanished. She caught her cheek with her hand,
stumbled down the winding stair, and flew across the valley, the needle
developing into a screw.

The house was quiet, the kitchen dark. She lit a candle and searched
frantically for the drops. They were not to be found. Then it occurred
to her that her mother must have taken them to her room, and she ran up
the stair.


                                  XIV

At dawn next morning Patience found herself on the summit of the
mountain behind the house. Her progress thither had skimmed the surface
of memory and left no trace.

The sea was grey, the sky was grey. A grey mist moved in the valley.
Beyond, the wood on the hill loomed in faint black outline. The birds in
the trees, the seagulls on the rocks, the very ocean itself, were locked
in the heavy sleep of early morning. Once, from the tower of the
Mission, came the plaintive hooting of the owl.

After a time Patience plucked a number of stickers from her stockings,
and wiped blood from her torn hands with a large leaf wet with dew. She
clasped her hands inertly about her knees and stared down upon the
ocean. Horror was in her sunken eyes. The skin of her face looked faded
and old. Her nose and chin were as pinched as the features of the dead.
She did not look like the same child. Nor was she.

Her eyes closed heavily, her head dropped. She roused herself. She felt
that she had no right to do anything again so natural as to sleep. But
suddenly she toppled over and lay motionless; until the sun sent its
slanting rays under her eyelids. Then she stretched herself lazily,
rubbing her eyes, and smiling as children do when waking. But the smile
froze to a ghastly grin.

She raised herself stiffly and descended the mountain, clinging to the
brush, the stones rolling from beneath her feet. She ran across the
valley and plunged into the pine woods, but did not linger in those
fragrant aisles.

When she reached the edge of the town she paused and half turned back;
but there was one thing she dreaded more than to meet the people of
Monterey, and she went on.

She skirted the town and made her way toward the Custom House by a
roundabout path. She passed a group of boys, and averted her head with a
gesture of loathing. One boy, a gallant admirer, ran after her.

“Patience!” he cried, “wait a minute.” But Patience took to her heels
and never paused until she reached the Custom House. The perplexed
knight stood still and whistled.

“Well,” he exclaimed to his jeering comrades, “I always knew Patience
Sparhawk was a crank, but this lets _me_ out.”

Patience stood for a few moments on the rocks, then went slowly to the
library and opened the door. Mr. Foord sat by the fire. He looked up
with a smile.

“Ah, it’s you,” he said. “I’m very proud of you.—Why, what’s the
matter?”

Patience, her eyes fixed on the floor, took a chair opposite him.

“What is it, Patience?”

She did not look up. She could not. Finally she moved her face from him
and stared at the mantel.

“I’ve left home,” she said. “I’d like to stay here for a while.”

“Why, of course you can stay here. I’ll tell Lola to put a cot in her
room. But what is the matter? Has your mother been drinking again?”

“I don’t know.”

“Has she struck you again?”

“No.”

“Well, what is it, my dear child? You know that you are always more than
welcome here; but you must have some excuse for leaving home.”

“I have an excuse. I can’t tell it. Please don’t say anything more about
it. I don’t think she’ll send for me.”

“Well, well, perhaps you’ll tell me after a time. Meanwhile make
yourself at home.”

He was much puzzled, but reflected that Patience was not like other
children; and he knew Mrs. Sparhawk’s commanding talent for making
herself disagreeable. Still, he was shocked at her appearance; and as
the day wore on and she would not meet his eye, but sat staring at the
floor, his uneasy mind glimpsed ugly possibilities. At dinner she ate
little and did not raise her eyes from her plate, although she made a
few commonplace remarks.

At four o’clock Billy, the buggy, and a farm hand stopped before the
Custom House. The man handed a note to Lola, asking her to give it to
Patience.

The note read:

    You come home—hear? If you don’t, I’ll see that you do.

                     M. SPARHAWK.

Patience went out to the man, who still sat in the buggy. “Tell her,”
she said, looking at Billy, “that I’m not going home,—not now nor at
any other time. Just make her understand that I mean it.”

The man stared, but nodded and drove off.


                                   XV

At midnight Patience was awakened by a frantic clamour in the street.
“Those dreadful Bohemians,” she thought sleepily, then sat up with
thumping heart.

“They say your name, _niña_, no?” said Lola, whose sonorous slumbers had
also been disturbed.

Patience slipped to the floor and looked through the window. The moon
flooded the old town. The ruined fort on the hill had never looked more
picturesque, the pines above more calm. In the hollow near the blue
waters the white arms of Junipero Serra’s cross seemed extended in
benediction. The old adobes were young for the hour. One might fancy
Isabel Herrara walking down from the long house on the hill, her
_reboso_ fluttering in the night wind, old Pio Pico, glittering with
jewels, beside her.

And in the wide street before the Custom House, surrounded by a hooting
mob, the refuse of the saloons, was a cursing gesticulating woman. Her
black hair was unbound, her garment torn. She flung her fists in the
face of those that sought to hold her.

“Patience Sparhawk!” she shrieked. “Patience Sparhawk! Come down here to
your mother. Come down here this minute. Come, I say,” and a volley of
oaths followed, greeted with a loud cackling laugh by the rabble.

Patience saw Mr. Foord, clad in his dressing-gown, go forth. She flung
on her clothes hastily and ran down the stair. Her mother and Mr. Foord
were in the kitchen.

“Oh, she’ll come back,” Mrs. Sparhawk was saying. “I’ll see to that. How
do you like a row under your windows? Well, I’ll come here every night
unless she comes home. You’ll put me in the Home of the Inebriates, will
you? Think she’ll like to have that said of her mother when she’s grown
up? Not Patience Sparhawk. I know her weak point. She’s as proud as
hell, and I’m not afraid of going to any Home of the Inebriates.”

Patience pushed open the door. “I’m going with you,” she said. “Now get
out of this house as fast as you can.”

“Oh, Patience,” exclaimed Mr. Foord. His old cheeks were splashed with
tears.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry,” said Patience, her hands clenching and
quivering. “I didn’t think she’d do this, or I wouldn’t have stayed.
What a return for all your kindness!”

“Patience,” said the old gentleman, “promise me that you will come to
see me to-morrow. Promise, or I shall not let you go. She can do her
worst.”

“Well, I’ll come.”

She ordered her mother to follow her out of the back door that they
might avoid the expectant mob. Mrs. Sparhawk walked unsteadily, but
received no assistance from her daughter. If she had fallen, Patience
could not have forced herself to touch her. Had the woman been a reeling
mass of physical corruption, a leper, a small-pox scab, the girl could
not have shrunken farther from her.

They did not speak until they ascended the hill behind the town and
entered the woods. Patience never recalled that night without inhaling
the balsamic odour of the pines, the heavy perfume of forest lilies,
without seeing the great yellow stars through the uplifted arms of the
trees. It was a night for love, and its guest was hate.

No more terrible conversation ever took place between mother and
daughter. After that night they never spoke again.


                                  XVI

The next morning Patience, after breakfast, carried a pair of tongs and
a newspaper up to her room. She spread the newspaper on the table, then
with the tongs extracted Byron from beneath the bed and laid it on the
paper. She wrapped it up and tied it securely without letting her hands
come in contact with the cover. That same afternoon she carried the book
to the Custom House and threw it behind a row of tall volumes in one of
the cases. Long after, Mr. Foord found it there and wondered. He was not
at home when she arrived. When he returned she was deep in his
arm-chair, reading Gibbon’s “Rome.” He was not without tact, and
determined at once to ignore the events of the previous day and night.

“What!” he exclaimed, “are you really giving poor old Gibbon a trial at
last? And after all your abuse? But perhaps you won’t find him so dry,
after all.”

“I wish to read what is dry,” said Patience. “I’m going to take a course
in ancient history.”

“No more poetry and novels?”

“Not a line.” She spoke harshly, and compelled herself to meet Mr.
Foord’s eyes. Her own were as hard and as cold as steel. All the soft
dreaming light of the past two months had gone out of them. They were
the eyes neither of a girl nor of a woman. They looked the eyes of a
sexless intellect.

Patience had done the one thing which a girl of fifteen can do when
crushed with problems; she had twitched her shoulders and flung them
off. She comprehended that her intellect was her best friend, and
plunged her racked head into the hard facts which required utmost
concentration of mind. The sweet vague dreams of the past were turned
from in loathing. If she thought of them at all it was with fierce
resentment that she had become conscious of her womanhood. The stranger
was thrust out of memory. She went no more to the tower. The owl hooted
in his loneliness, and she drew the bed-clothes over her ears. When she
walked through the woods, to and from the town, she recited Gibbon in
synopsis. She spent the day in Mr. Foord’s library, returning home in
time to get supper. She did her household duties mechanically, and the
eyes of mother and daughter never met. The man Oscar kept out of her
way.

Miss Galpin had gone to San Francisco and would return no more: she was
to marry. Rosita was visiting in Santa Barbara. Manuela, now a young
lady, was devoting the greater part of her time to the Hotel Del Monte,
where the flower and vegetables of San Francisco gather in summer. She
went up to the tanks in the morning and to the dances in the evening;
and informed Patience, one day as they met on the street, that she was
having a perfectly gorgeous time, and had met a man who was too lovely
for words.

The long hot days and the foggy nights wore slowly away. Patience grew
thinner, her face harder. Mr. Foord did his best to divert her, but his
resources were limited. She peremptorily forbade him to allude to the
romance of Monterey, and he took her out in his old buggy and talked of
Gibbon’s “Rome.”

Once they drove through the grounds of Del Monte,—the trim artificial
grounds that are such an anomaly in that valley of memories. On the long
veranda of the great hotel of airy architecture people sat in the bright
attire of summer. Matrons rocked and gossiped; girls talked eagerly to
languid youths that sat on the railing. It was all as unreal to Patience
as the fairy-land of her childhood, when she had hunted for fays and
elves in the wood. She stared at the scene angrily, for the first time
feeling the sting of the social bee.

“A vain frivolous life those people lead,” remarked Mr. Foord, who
disapproved of The World. “A waste of time and God’s best gifts, which
makes them selfish and heartless. Empty heads and hollow hearts.”

But Patience, gazing at those girls in their gay dainty attire, the like
of which she had never seen before, experienced a sudden violent wish to
be of them, empty head, hollow heart, and all. They looked happy and
free of care. The very atmosphere of the veranda seemed full of colour
and music. Above all, they were utterly different from Patience
Sparhawk, blessed and enviable beings. Even the frivolity of the scene
appealed to her, so sick unto death of serious things.


                                  XVII

One day, late in September, Patience, as usual, left Monterey at half
past four in order to reach home in time to cook the supper. Nature had
smiled for so many successive days that she wondered if the lips so
persistently set must not soon strain back and reveal the teeth. The
sun, poised behind the pine woods, flooded them with yellow light. As
Patience walked through the soft radiance she set her teeth and recalled
the chapters of Thiers’ “French Revolution,” through which she had that
day plodded. But her head felt dull. She realised with a quiver of
terror that she was beginning to feel less like an intellect and more
like a very helpless little girl. Once she discovered her curved arm
creeping to her eyes. She flung it down and shook her head angrily. Was
she like other people?

Mingling with the fragrance of the pines it seemed to her that she smelt
smoke. She hoped that her woods were not on fire. She walked slowly,
indisposed as ever to return home, the more so to-day as she felt
herself breaking.

“I wish the sun would not grin so,” she thought. “I’ll be glad when
winter comes.”

The smell of smoke grew stronger. She left the woods. A moment later she
stood, white and trembling, looking down upon Carmel Valley. The
Sparhawk farmhouse was a blazing mass of timbers. A volume of smoke, as
straight and full as a waterspout, stood directly above it. Men were
running about. Their shouts came faintly to her.

Patience pressed her hands convulsively to her eyes. She clutched her
head as if to tear out the terrible hope clattering in her brain, then
ran down the hill and across the valley, feeling all the while as if
possessed by ten thousand devils.

“Oh, I’m bad, bad, bad!” she sobbed in terror. “I don’t, I don’t!”

As she reached the scene the roof fell in. She glanced hastily about.
The men, withdrawn to a safe distance, were gathered round the man
Oscar. One was binding his hands and face. As they saw Patience they
turned as if to run, then stood doggedly.

“Where is she?” Patience asked.

There was an instant’s pause. The crackling of the flames grew louder,
as if it would answer. Then one of the men blurted out: “Burnt up in her
bed. She was drunk. We was all in the field when the fire broke out.
When we got here Oscar tried to get at her room with a ladder, but it
was no go. Poor old Madge.”

Patience without another word turned and ran back to the woods. She ran
until she was exhausted, more horrified at herself than she had been at
any of her unhappy experiences. After a time she fell among the dry pine
needles, her good, as she expressed it, still trying to fight down her
bad. She felt that the demon possessing her would have sung aloud had
she not held it by the throat. She conjured up all the horrible details
of her mother’s death and ordered her soul to pity; but her brain
remarked coldly that her mother had probably felt nothing. She imagined
the charred corpse, but it only offended her artistic sense.

Finally she fell asleep. The day was far gone when she awoke. She lay
for a time staring at the dim arches above her, listening to the night
voices she had once loved so passionately. At last she drew a deep sigh.

“I might just as well face the truth,” she said aloud. “I’m glad, and
that’s the end of it. It’s wicked and I’m sorry; but what is, is, and I
can’t help it. We’re not all made alike.”


                                 XVIII

Patience was once more installed in Lola’s room. Mr. Foord applied for
letters of guardianship, which were granted at once. But as he had
feared, she was left without a penny. He wrote to his half-sister,
asking her if she would take charge of his ward. Miss Tremont replied in
enthusiastic affirmation. Miss Galpin invited Patience to spend two
weeks with her in San Francisco, offering to replenish the girl’s
wardrobe with several of her own old frocks made over.

Those two weeks seemed to Patience the mad whirl of excitement of which
she had read in novels. She had never seen a city before, and the very
cable cars fascinated her. To glide up and down the hills was to her the
poetry of science. The straggling city on its hundred hills, the crowded
streets and gay shop windows, the theatres, the restaurants, China Town,
the beautiful bay with its bare colorous hills, surprised her into
admitting that life appeared to be quite well worth living after all.
When she returned to Monterey she talked so fast that Mr. Foord clapped
his hands to his ears, and Rosita listened with expanded eyes.

“Ay, if I could live in San Francisco!” she said, plaintively. “I acted
all summer, Patita, but I got tired of the same people, and I want to go
to the big theatres and see the real ones do it. I’d like to hear a
great big house applauding, only I’d be so jealous of the leading lady.”

Patience was to start, immediately after Christmas, by steamer for New
York. Mr. Foord spent the last days giving her much good advice. He said
little of his own sorrow to part from her. Once he had been tempted to
keep her for the short time that remained to him, but had put the
temptation aside with the sad resignation of old age. He knew Patience’s
imperative need of new impressions in these her plastic years.

The day before she left she went over to Carmel to say good-bye to
Solomon. He flapped his wings with delight, although he could not see
her, and nestled close to her side in a manner quite unlike his haughty
habit. Patience thought he looked older and greyer, and his wings had a
dejected droop. She took him in her arms with an impulse of tenderness,
and this time he did not repulse her.

“Poor old Solomon,” she said, “I suppose you are lonely and forlorn in
your old age, but this old tower wouldn’t be what it is without you.
It’s too bad I can’t write to you as I can to my two or three other
friends, and you’ll never know I haven’t forgotten you, poor old
Solomon. Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I wonder if owls do suffer too. You look so
wise and venerable, perhaps you are thinking that lonely old age is
terrible—as I know Mr. Foord does.”

Solomon pecked at her mildly. Her gaze wandered out over the ocean. She
wondered if a thousand years had passed since she had dreamed her
dreams. Their very echoes came from the mountains of space.

When she went away Solomon followed her to the head of the stair. She
looked upward once and saw him standing there, with drooping wings and
head a little bent. The darkness of the stair gave him vision, and he
fluttered his wings expectantly, as she paused and lifted her face to
him. But when she did not return he walked with great dignity to his
accustomed place against the wall, nor even lifted up his voice in
protest.

The next morning Rosita accompanied her to the station and wept loudly
as the train approached. But Patience did not cry until she stood in her
stateroom with Mr. Foord.



                                BOOK II


                                   I

Patience watched the dusty hills of San Francisco, the sparkling bay
alive with sail and spar, the pink mountains of the far coast range, the
brown hills opposite the grey city, willowed and gulched and bare, the
forts on rock and points, until the wild lurching of the steamer over
the bar directed her attention to the unhappy passengers. In a short
while she had not even these to amuse her, nothing but a grey plain and
empty decks. At first she felt a waif in space; but soon a delightful
sense of independence stole over her, of freedom from all the ills and
responsibilities of life. The land world might have collapsed upon its
fiery heart, so little could it affect her while that waste of waters
slid under the horizon.

The few passengers came forth restored in a day or two. A husband and
wife and several children did not interest Patience; neither did the
captain’s wife, in whose charge she was. A young girl with a tangle of
yellow hair under a sailor hat was more inviting, but she flirted
industriously with the purser and took not the slightest notice of
Patience. Her invalid mother reclined languidly in a steamer chair and
read the novels of E. P. Roe.

The only other passenger was an elderly gentleman who read books in
white covers neatly lettered with black which fascinated Patience. She
was beginning to long for books. The invalid lent her a Roe, but she
returned it half unread. As the old gentleman had never addressed her,
did not seem to be aware of her existence, she could hardly expect a
similar courtesy from him.

She was glowering upon universal stupidity one morning when he appeared
on deck with a carpet bag, from which, after comfortably establishing
himself in his steamer chair, he took little white volume after little
white volume. Patience’s curiosity overcame her. She went forward slowly
and stood before him. He looked up sharply. His black eyes, piercing
from their shaggy arches, made her twitch her head as if to fling aside
some penetrative force. His very beard, silver though it was, had a
fierce sidewise twist. His nose was full nostrilled and drooped
scornfully. The spectacles he wore served as a sort of lens for the fire
of his extraordinary eyes.

“Well?” he said gruffly.

“Please, sir,” said Patience, humbly, “will you lend me a book?”

“Book? I don’t carry children’s literature round with me.”

“I don’t read children’s literature.”

“Oh, you don’t? Well, not ‘The Chatterbox,’ I suppose; but I have
nothing of Pansy’s nor yet of The Duchess.”

“I wouldn’t read them if you had,” cried Patience, angrily. “Perhaps
I’ve read a good many books that you haven’t re-read so long ago
yourself. I’ve read Dickens and Thackeray and Scott, and,” with a
shudder, “Gibbon’s ‘Rome’ and Thiers’ ‘French Revolution.’”

“Oh, you have? Well, I beg your pardon. Sit down, and I’ll see if I can
find something for a young lady of your surprising attainments.”

Patience, too pleased to resent sarcasm, applied herself to his elbow.

“Why are they all bound alike?” she asked.

“This is the Tauchnitz edition of notable English and American books.
How is this?” He handed her a volume of Grace Aguilar.

“No, sir! I’ve tried her, and she’s a greater bore than Jane Austen.”

“Oh, you want a love story, I suppose?” His accentuation was fairly
sardonic.

“No, I don’t,” she said with an intonation which made him turn and
regard her with interest. Then once more he explored his bag.

“Will this suit you?” He held out a copy of Carlyle’s “French
Revolution.”

Patience groaned. “Didn’t I tell you I’d just read Thiers’?”

“This isn’t Thiers’. Try it.” And he took no further notice of her.

Patience opened the volume, and in a few moments was absorbed. There was
something in the storm and blare of the style which struck a responsive
chord. She did not raise her head until dinner time. She scarcely spoke
until she had finished the volume, and then only to ask for the second.
For several days she felt as if the atmosphere was charged with
dynamite, and jumped when any one addressed her. The owner of the
Tauchnitz watched her curiously. When she had finished the second volume
she told him that she did not care for anything more at present. She
leaned over the railing most of the day, watching the waves. Toward
sunset the gentleman called peremptorily,—

“Come here.”

Patience stood before his chair.

“Well, what do you think of it?” he demanded. “Tell me exactly what your
impressions are.”

“I feel as if there was an earthquake in my skull and all sorts of
pictures flying about, and exploded pieces of drums and trumpets, and
kings and queens. I think Carlyle must have been made on purpose to
write the French Revolution. It was—as if—there was a great picture of
it made on the atmosphere, and when he was born it passed into him.”

“Upon my word,” he said, “you are a degree or two removed from the
letters of bread and milk. You are a very remarkable kid. Sit down.”

Patience took the chair beside him. “He made my head ache,” she added.
“I feel as if it had been hammered.”

“I don’t wonder. Older heads have felt the same way. What’s your name?”

“Patience Sparhawk.”

“Tell me all about yourself.”

“Oh, there isn’t much to tell,” and she frowned heavily.

“Don’t look so tragic—you alarm me. I’m convinced there is a great
deal. Come, I want to know.”

Patience gave a few inane particulars. The old gentleman snorted. “It’s
evident you’ve never been interviewed,” he said grimly. “Now, I’ll tell
you who I am, and then you won’t mind talking about yourself. There’s
nothing so catching as egotism. My name is James E. Field. I own one of
the great newspapers of New York, of which I am also editor-in-chief. Do
you know what that means? Well, if you don’t, let me tell you. It is to
be a man more powerful than the President of the United States, for he
can make presidents, which is something the president himself can’t do.
He knows more about people’s private affairs than any of intimate
relationship; he has his finger on the barometer of his readers’ brain;
he can make them sensational or sober, intellectually careless or
exacting; he can keep them in ignorance of all that is best worth
knowing of the world’s affairs, by snubbing the great events and
tendencies of the day and vitiating their brain with local crimes and
scandals, or he can illumine their minds and widen their brain cells by
not only enlarging upon what every intelligent person should wish to
know, but by making such matter of profound interest; he can ignore
science, or enlighten several hundred thousand people; he can add to the
happiness of the human race by exposing abuses and hidden crime, or he
can accept hush money and let the sore fester; he can lash the unrest of
the lower classes, or chloroform it; he can use the sledge hammer, the
rapier, and the vitriol, or give over his editorial page to windy
nothings; he can demolish political bosses, or prolong their career. In
short, his power is greater than Alexander’s was, for he is a general of
minds instead of brute force.”

“My goodness gracious!” exclaimed Patience. “What sort of a paper have
you got?”

He laughed. “Wait until you’ve lived in New York awhile and you’ll find
out. Its name is the ‘Day,’ and it has made a president or two, and made
one or two others wish they’d never been born. By the way, I didn’t tell
you much about myself, did I? The auxiliary subject carried me away. I’m
married, and have several sons and daughters, and am off for a rest—not
from the family but from the ‘Day.’ I’ve been round the world. That will
do for the present. Tell me all about Monterey.”

With consummate skill he extracted the history of her sixteen years. On
some points she fought him so obstinately that he inferred what she
would not tell. He ended by becoming profoundly interested. He was a man
of enthusiasms, which sometimes wrote themselves in vitriol, at others
in the milk of human kindness. His keen unerring brain, which Patience
fancied flashed electric search lights, comprehended that it had
stumbled upon a character waging perpetual war with the pitiless Law of
Circumstance, and that the issue might serve as a plot for one of the
mental dramas of the day.

“Your experience and the bad blood in you, taken in connection with your
bright and essentially modern mind, will make a sort of intellectual
anarchist of you,” he said. “I doubt if you take kindly to the domestic
life. You will probably go in for the social problems, and ride some
polemical hobby for eight or ten years, at the end of which time you
will be inclined to look upon your sex as the soubrettes of history.
Your enthusiasm may make you a faddist, but your common sense may aid
you in the perception of several eternal truths which the women of
to-day in their blind bolt have overlooked.”

A moment later he repented his generalisations, for Patience had
demanded full particulars. Nevertheless, he gave her many a graphic
outline of the various phases of current history, and was the most
potent educational force that she had yet encountered. She preferred him
to books and admired him without reserve, trotting at his heels like a
small dog. His unique and virile personality, his brilliant and
imperious mind, magnetised the modern essence of which she was made.
There was nothing of the old-fashioned intellectual type about him. He
might have induced the coining of the word “brainy,”—he certainly typed
it. Although he had the white hair and the accumulated wisdom of his
years, he had the eyes of youth and the fist of vigour at any age. One
day when two natives looked too long upon Patience’s blondinity, as she
and Mr. Field were exploring a banana grove during one of their brief
excursions on shore, he cracked their skulls together as if they had
been two cocoanuts.

Patience laughed as the blacks dropped sullenly behind. “How funny that
they should admire me,” she said. “I’m not pretty.”

“Well, you’re white. Besides, there is one thing more fascinating than
beauty, and that is a strong individuality. It radiates and magnetises.”

“Have I all that?” Patience blushed with delight.

He laughed good-naturedly. “Yes, I’ll stake a good deal that you have.
You may even be pretty some day; that is, if you ever get those freckles
off.”

Inherent as was her passion for nature, she enjoyed the rich beauty of
the tropics the more for the companionship of a mind skilled in
observation and interpretation. It was her first mental comprehension of
the law of duality.

As they approached New York harbour Mr. Field said to her: “I think I’ll
have to make a newspaper woman of you. When you have finished your
education, don’t think of settling down to any such humdrum career as
that of the school-teacher. Come to me, and I’ll put you through your
paces. If I’m not more mistaken than I’ve been yet, I’ll turn out a
newspaper woman that will induce a mightier blast of woman’s horn. Think
you’d like it?”

“I’d like to be with you,” said Patience, on the verge of tears.
“Sha’n’t I see you again till I’m eighteen?”

“No, I don’t want to see or hear from you again until you’ve kneaded
that brain of yours into some sort of shape by three years of hard
study. Then I’ll go to work on a good foundation. You haven’t told me if
you’ll take a try at it.”

“Of course I will. Do you think I want to be a school-teacher? I should
think it would be lovely to be a newspaper woman.”

“Well, it isn’t exactly lovely, but it is a good training in the art of
getting along without adjectives. Now look round you and I’ll explain
this harbour; and don’t you brag any more about your San Francisco
harbour.”

They entered through The Narrows, between the two toy forts. A few lone
sentries paced the crisp snow on the heights of Staten Island, and
looked in imminent danger of tumbling down the perpendicular lawns. The
little stone windows of the earthen redoubts seemed to wink confidently
at each other across the water, and loomed superciliously above the
forts on the water’s edge. Long Island, had the repose of a giant that
had stretched his limbs in sleep, unmindful of the temporary hamlets on
his swelling front. Staten Island curved and uplifted herself
coquettishly under her glittering garb and crystal woods. Far away the
faint line of the New Jersey shore, looking like one unbroken city on a
hundred altitudes, hovered faintly under its mist. The river at its base
was a silver ribbon between a mirage and a stupendous castle of seven
different architectures surmounted by a golden dome—which same was New
York and the dome of a newspaper. Then a faint fairy-like bridge,
delicate as a cobweb, sprang lightly across another river to a city of
walls with windows in them—which same was Brooklyn. Under the shadow of
the arches was a baby island fortified with what appeared to be a large
Dutch cheese out of which the mice had gnawed their way with much
regularity. The great bay, blue as liquid sapphire, was alive with craft
of every design: rowboats scuttled away from the big outgoing steamers;
sails, white as the snow on the heights, bellied in the sharp wind;
yellow and red ferry boats gave back long symmetrical curves of white
smoke; gaunt ships with naked spars lay at rest. On Liberty Island the
big girl pointed solemnly upward as if reminding the city on the waters
of the many mansions in the invisible stars. Snow clouds were scudding
upward from the east, but overhead there was plentiful gold and blue.

Patience gazed through Mr. Field’s glass, enraptured, and promised not
to brag. As they swung toward the dock he laid his hand kindly on hers.

“Now don’t think I’m callous,” he said, “because I part from you without
any apparent regret. You are going to be in good hands during the rest
of your early girlhood, and I could be of no assistance to you; and I am
a very busy man. Let me tell you that you have made this month a good
deal shorter than it would otherwise have been; and when we meet again
you won’t have to introduce yourself. There are my folks, and there goes
the gang-plank. Good-bye, and God bless you.”


                                   II

Patience leaned over the upper railing, looking at the expectant crowd
on the wharf, wondering when the captain would remember her. She felt a
strong inclination to run after Mr. Field. As he receded up the wharf,
surrounded by his family, he turned and waved his hand to her.

“Why couldn’t he have been Mr. Foord’s brother or something?” she
thought resentfully. “I think he might have adopted me.”

As the crowd thinned she noticed two elderly women standing a few feet
from the vessel, alternately inspecting the landed passengers and the
decks. One was a very tall slender and graceful woman, possessed of that
subtle quality called style, despite her unfashionable attire. In her
dark regular face were the remains of beauty, and although nervous and
anxious, it wore the seal of gentle blood. Her large black eyes
expressed a curious commingling of the spiritual and the human. She was
probably sixty years old. At her side was a woman some ten years
younger, of stouter and less elastic figure, with a strong dark kind
intelligent face and an utter disregard of dress. She carried several
bundles.

“Oh, hasn’t she come?” cried the elder woman. “Can she have died at sea?
I am sure the dear Lord wouldn’t let anything happen to her. Dear
sister, _do_ you see her?”

The other woman, who was also looking everywhere except at Patience,
replied in a round cheerful voice: “No, not yet, but I feel sure she is
there. The captain hasn’t had time to bring her on shore. The Lord tells
me that it is all right.”

“One of those is Miss Tremont,” thought Patience, “I may as well go
down. They appear to be frightfully religious, but they have nice
faces.”

She ran down to the lower deck, then across the gang-plank.

“I’m Patience Sparhawk,” she said; “are you—” The older woman uttered a
little cry, caught her in her arms, and kissed her. “Oh, you dear little
thing!” she exclaimed, and kissed her again. “How I’ve prayed the dear
Lord to bring you safely, and He has, praise His holy name. Oh, I am so
glad to see you. I do love children so. We’ll be so happy together—you
and I and Him—and, oh, I’m so glad to see you.”

Patience, breathless, but much gratified, kissed her warmly.

“Don’t forget me,” exclaimed the other lady. She had a singularly hearty
voice and a brilliant smile. Patience turned to her dutifully, and
received an emphatic kiss.

“This is my dear friend, my dear sister in the Lord, Miss Beale,
Patience,” said Miss Tremont, flurriedly, “and she wanted to see you
almost as much as I did.”

“Indeed I did,” said Miss Beale, breezily. “I too love little girls.”

“I’m sure you’re both very kind,” said Patience, helplessly. She hardly
knew how to meet so much effusion. But something cold and old within her
seemed to warm and thaw.

“You dear little thing,” continued Miss Tremont. “Are you cold? That is
a very light coat you have on.”

Patience was not dressed for an eastern winter, but her young blood and
curiosity kept her warm.

“Here comes the captain,” she said. “Oh, no, I’m all right. I like the
cold.”

The captain, satisfying himself that his charge was in the proper hands,
offered to send her trunk to Mariaville by express, and Patience, wedged
closely between the two ladies, boarded a street car.

“You know,” exclaimed Miss Tremont, “I knew the Lord would bring you to
me safely in spite of the perils of the ocean. Every night and every
morning I prayed: _Dear_ Lord, don’t let anything happen to her,—and I
knew He wouldn’t.”

“Does He always do what you tell Him?” asked Patience.

“Almost everything I ask Him,—that is to say, when He thinks best. Dear
Patience, if you knew how He looks out for me—and it is well He sees
fit, for dear knows I have a time taking care of myself. Why, He even
takes care of my purse. I’m always leaving it round, and He always sends
it back to me—from counters and trains and restaurants and everywhere.
And when I start in the wrong direction He always whispers in my ear in
time. Why, once I had to catch a certain train to Philadelphia, where I
was to preside at a convention, and I’d taken the wrong street car, and
when I jumped off and took the right one, the driver said I couldn’t
possibly get to the ferry in time. So I just shut my eyes and prayed;
and then I told the driver that it would be all right, as I had asked
the Lord to see that I got there in time. The driver laughed, and said:
‘W-a-a-l, I guess the Lord’ll go back on you this time.’ But I caught
that ferry-boat. _He_—the Lord—made it five minutes late. And it’s
always the same. He takes care of me, praised be His name.”

“You must feel as if He were your husband,” said Patience, too gravely
to be suspected of irreverence.

“Why, He is. Doesn’t the Bible say—” But the car began to rattle over
the badly paved streets, and the quotation was lost.

Patience looked eagerly through the windows at purlieus of indescribable
ugliness; but it was New York, a city greater than San Francisco, and
she found even its youthful old age picturesque. The dense throng of
people in Sixth Avenue and the immense shop windows induced expressions
of rapture.

“You don’t live here, do you?” she said with a sigh.

“Oh, Mariaville is much nicer than New York,” replied Miss Beale, in her
enthusiastic way. “I hate a great crowded city. It baffles you so when
you try to do good.”

“Still they do say that reform work is more systematised here, dear
sister.”

“Forty-second Street,” shouted the conductor, and they changed cars. A
few moments later they were pulling out of the Grand Central Station for
Mariaville.

Miss Beale had asked the conductor to turn a seat, and Patience faced
her new friends. As they left the tunnel she caught sight of a tiny bow
of white ribbon each wore on her coat.

“Why do you wear that?” she asked.

“Why, we’re W. C. T. U’s,” replied Miss Beale.

“Wctus?”

“Temperance cranks,” said Miss Tremont, smiling.

“Temperance cranks?”

“Why, have you never heard of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union?”
asked Miss Beale, a chill breathing over her cordial voice. “The
movement has reason to feel encouraged all through the West.”

“I’ve never heard of it. They don’t have it in Monterey, and I’ve not
been much in San Francisco.”

“She’s such a child,” said Miss Tremont. “How could she know of it out
there? But now I know she is going to be one of our very best Y’s.”

“Y’s?” asked Patience, helplessly. She wondered if this was the “fad”
Mr. Field had predicted for her, then recalled that he had alluded once
to the “Temperance movement,” but could not remember his explanation, if
he had made any. Doubtless she had evaded a disagreeable topic. But now
that it was evidently to be a part of her new life she made no attempt
to stem Miss Tremont’s enthusiasm.

“The Y’s are the young women of the Union; we are the W’s. It is our
lifework, Patience, and I am sure you will become as much interested in
it as we are, and be proud to wear the white ribbon. We have done so
much good, and expect to do much more, with the dear Lord’s help. It is
slow work, but we shall conquer in the end, for He is with us.”

“What do you do,—forbid people to sell liquor?”

Both ladies laughed. They were not without humour, and their experience
had developed it. “No,” said Miss Tremont, “we don’t waste our time like
that.” She gave an enthusiastic account of what the Union had
accomplished. Her face glowed; her fine head was thrown back; her dark
eyes sparkled. Patience thought she must have been a beautiful girl. She
had a full voice with odd notes of protest and imperious demand which
puzzled her young charge. One would have supposed that she was
constantly imploring favours, and yet her air suggested natural hauteur,
unexterminated by cultivated humility.

“I should think it was a good idea,” said Patience, with perfect
sincerity.

“Oh, there’s dear Sister Watt,” cried Miss Tremont, and she rose
precipitately, and crossing the aisle sat down beside a careworn
anxious-eyed woman who also wore the white ribbon.

“Come over by me until Miss Tremont comes back,” said Miss Beale, with
her brilliant smile. “Tell me, don’t you love her already? Oh, you have
no idea how good she is. She is heart and soul in her work, and just
lives for the Lord. She sometimes visits twenty poor families a week,
besides her Temperance class, her sewing school, her Bible Readings, her
Bible class, and all the religious societies, of which she is the most
active worker. She is also the Mariaville agent for the Society for
Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and trustee of the Bible Society. You
should hear her pray. I have heard all the great revivalists, but I have
never heard anything like Miss Tremont’s prayers. How I envy you living
with her! You’ll hear her twice a day, and sometimes oftener. She has a
nice house on the outskirts of Mariaville. Her father left it to her
twenty years ago, and she dedicated it to the Lord at once. It is
headquarters for church meetings of all sorts. She has a Bible reading
one afternoon a week. Any one can go, even a servant, for Miss Tremont,
like all true followers of the Lord, is humble.”

Patience reflected that she had never seen any one look less humble than
Miss Beale. In spite of her old frock she conveyed with unmistakable if
unconscious emphasis that she possessed wealth and full knowledge of its
power.

“You look so happy,” Patience said, her curiosity regarding Miss Tremont
blunted for the present. “Are you?”

“Happy? Of course I am. I’ve never known an unhappy moment in my life.
When my dear parents died, I only envied them. And have I not perfect
health? Is not every moment of my time occupied?—why, I only sleep six
hours out of the twenty-four. And Him. Do I not work for Him, and is He
not always with me?”

“They are so funny about God,” thought Patience. “She talks as if He
were her beau; and Miss Tremont as if He were her old man she’d been
jogging along with for forty years or so.—Do you live alone?” she
asked.

“Yes—that is, I board.”

“And don’t you ever feel lonesome?”

“Never. Is not He always with me?” Her strong brown face was suddenly
illuminated. “Is He not my lover? Is He not always at my side,
encouraging me and whispering of His love, night and day? Why, I can
almost hear His voice, feel His hand. How could I be lonesome even on a
desert island with no work to do?”

Patience gasped. The extraordinary simplicity of this woman of fifty
fascinated her whom life and heredity had made so complex. But she moved
restlessly, and felt an impulse to thrust out her legs and arms. She had
a sensation of being swamped in religion.

“I shouldn’t think you’d like boarding,” she said irrelevantly.

“I don’t like it particularly, but it gives me more time for my work. I
make myself comfortable, I can tell you, for I have my own bed with two
splendid mattresses,—my landlady’s are the hardest things you ever
felt,—and all my own furniture and knick-knacks. And I have my own tub,
and every morning even in dead of winter, I take a cold bath. And I
don’t wear corsets—”

“Mariaville,” called the conductor.

“Oh, here we are,” cried Miss Tremont. She made a wild dive for her
umbrella and bag, seized Patience by the hand, and rushed up the aisle,
followed leisurely by Miss Beale.

The snow was falling heavily. Patience had watched it drift and swirl
over the Hudson, and should have liked to give it her undivided
attention.

As they left the station they were greeted by a chorus of shrieks: “Have
a sleigh? Have a sleigh?”

“What do you think, sister?” asked Miss Tremont, dubiously. “Do you
think Patience can walk two miles in this snow? I don’t like to spend
money on luxuries that I should give to the Lord.”

“Perhaps the sleigh man needs it,” said Patience, who had no desire to
walk two miles in a driving storm.

“We’d better have a sleigh,” said Miss Beale, decidedly. “We will each
pay half.”

“But why should you pay half,” said Miss Tremont, in her protesting
voice, “when there are three of us?”

“I will pay for myself,” said Patience. “Mr. Foord gave me a twenty
dollar gold piece, and I haven’t spent it.”

“Oh, dear child!” exclaimed Miss Tremont. “As if I’d let you.”

“Come, get in,” said Miss Beale; “we’ll be snowed under, here.”

And a few minutes later Patience, on the front seat, was enjoying her
first sleigh-ride. She slid down under the fur robe, and winking the
snow stars from her lashes, looked out eagerly upon Mariaville. The town
rose from the Hudson in a succession of irregular precipitous terraces.
The trees were skeletons, the houses old, but the effect was very
picturesque; and the dancing crystals, the faint music of bells from far
and near, the wide steep streets, delighted a mind magnetic for novelty.

They left Miss Beale before a pretty house, standing in a frozen garden,
then climbed to the top of a hill, slid away to the edge of the town,
and drew rein before an old-fashioned white one-winged house, which
stood well back in a neglected yard behind walnut-trees and hemlocks.
Beyond, closing the town, were the stark woods. Opposite was a prim
little grove in which the snow stars were dancing.

“Here we are,” said Miss Tremont, climbing out. “Welcome home, Patience
dear.” She paid the man, and hurried down the path. The door was opened
by an elderly square-faced woman, who looked sharply at Patience, then
smiled graciously.

“Patience, this is Ellen. She takes good care of me. Come in. Come in.”

The narrow hall ran through the main building, and was unfurnished but
for a table and the stair. Miss Tremont led the way into a large double
room of comfortable temperature, although no fire was visible. Bright
red curtains covered the windows, a neat black carpet sprinkled with
flowers the floor. The chairs were stiffly arranged, but upholstered
cheerfully, the tables and mantels crowded with an odd assortment of
cheap and handsome ornaments. The papered walls were a mosaic of family
portraits. In the back parlour were a bookcase, a piano piled high with
hymn-books, and a dozen or so queer little pulpit chairs. A door opened
from the front parlour into a faded but hospitable dining-room.

Patience for the first time in her life experienced the enfolding of the
home atmosphere, an experience denied to many for ever and ever. She
turned impulsively, and throwing her arms about Miss Tremont, kissed and
hugged her.

“Somehow I feel all made over,” she said apologetically, and getting
very red. “But it is so nice—and you are so nice—and oh, it is all so
different!”

And Miss Tremont, enraptured, first wished that this forlorn homely
little waif was her very own, then vowed that neither should ever
remember that she was not, and half carried her up to the bedroom
prepared for her, a white fresh little room overlooking the shelving
town.


                                  III

The next afternoon a sewing woman came and cut down an old-fashioned but
handsome fur-lined cloak of Miss Tremont’s to Patience’s diminutive
needs. When Miss Tremont returned home, after a hard day’s work, she
brought with her a hood, a pair of woollen gloves, and a pair of
arctics; and Patience felt that she could weather a New York winter.

But Patience gave little attention to her clothes. When she was not
watching the snow she was studying the steady stream of people who
called at all hours, and invariably talked “church” and “temperance.”
The atmosphere was so charged with religion that she was haunted by an
uneasy prescience of a violent explosion during which Miss Tremont and
her friends would sail upward, leaving her among the débris.

Her coat finished, she went in town with Miss Tremont to Temperance
Hall. The snow had ceased to fall. The sun rode solitary on a cold blue
sky, the ground was white and hard. The bare trees glittered in their
crystal garb, icicles jewelled the eaves of the houses. The telegraph
wires, studded with pendent spheres, looked like a vast diamond necklace
of many strings which only Nature was mighty enough to wear. The hills
were snowdrifts. The Hudson, far below, moved sluggishly under great
blocks of ice. The Palisades were black and white. Miss Tremont and
Patience walked rapidly, their frozen breath waving before them in
fantastic shapes. It was all very delightful to Patience, who thrust her
hands into her deep pockets and would have scorned to ride. At times she
danced; new blood, charged with electricity, seemed shooting through her
veins. Miss Tremont’s older teeth clattered occasionally. She bent
forward slightly, her brow contracted over eyes which seemed ever
seeking something, her long legs carrying her swiftly and with
surprising grace. Patience had solved the enigma of her voice after
hearing her pray, and she supposed that her eyes were on loyal watch for
the miseries of the world.

After a time they descended an almost perpendicular hill to the business
part of the town. Beyond a few level streets the ground rose again,
wooded and thickly built upon. On the left was another hill, which, Miss
Tremont informed her, was Hog Heights, the quarter of the poor.

The streets in the valley twisted and doubled like the curves of an
angry python. In the centre was a square which might have been called
Rome, since all ways led to it.

Temperance Hall, a building of Christian-like humility, stood on a back
street flanked by many low-browed shops. On the first floor were the
parlour, reading-room, and refectory, on the second a large hall, on the
third bedrooms. The hall was already half full of boys and girls, kept
in order by the matron, Mrs. Blair, a middle-aged woman with the
expression of one who stands no nonsense.

“Now, Patience,” said Miss Tremont, “you listen attentively, and next
time you can take Mrs. Blair’s place.”

The occasion was the weekly assemblage of the Loyal Legion children, who
were being educated in the ways of temperance. Miss Tremont opened with
the Lord’s Prayer, which she invested with all its meaning; then the
children sang from a temperance hymn-book, and the lesson began. Miss
Tremont read a series of questions appurtenant to the inevitable results
of unholy indulgence, to which Mrs. Blair read the answers, which in
turn were repeated by the children. Then they sang “Down with King
Alcohol,” a minister came in and made a dramatic address, and the
children, some of whom were attentive and some extremely naughty, filed
out.

“I only come on alternate Fridays,” said Miss Tremont, as they went
downstairs; “Sister Beale takes the other. Come and see our
reading-room. These are our boarders,” indicating several prim old maids
that sat in the front room by the window.

In the dining-room a half dozen tramps were imbibing free soup. The
reading-room was empty.


                                   IV

Before a week had passed Patience was so busy that her old life slept as
heavily as a bear in winter. She passed her difficult examinations and
entered the High School, selecting the three years course, which
included French, German, mathematics, the sciences, literature, and
rhetoric.

The recesses and evenings were spent in study, the afternoons in
assisting Miss Tremont; occasionally she snatched an hour to write to
her friends in California. Besides the temperance work, she had a class
in the church sewing school, kept the books of various societies, and
occasionally visited the poor on Hog Heights. The work did not interest
her, but she was glad to satisfactorily repay Miss Tremont’s
hospitality. But had she wished to protest she would have realised its
uselessness: she was carried with the tide. It might be said that Miss
Tremont was the tide. Her enthusiasm had no reflex action, and tore
through obstacles like a mill-race. When night came she was so weary
that more than once Patience offered to put her to bed; but the offer
was declined with a curious mixture of religious fervour and hauteur.
Miss Tremont had none of the ordinary vanity of woman, but she resented
the imputation that she could not work for the Lord as ardently at sixty
as she had at forty.

When she prayed Patience listened with bated breath. A torrent of
eloquence boiled from her lips. All the shortcomings and needs of
unregenerate Mariaville, individual and collective, were laid down with
a vehement precision which could leave the Lord little doubt of His
obligations. The Temperance Cause was rehearsed with a passion which
would have thrilled the devil. Sounding through all was a wholly
unselfconscious note of command, as when one pleads with the pocket of
an intimate friend for some worthy cause.

Patience saw so many disreputable people at this time that her mother’s
pre-eminence was extinguished. They had a habit of commanding the
hospitalities of Miss Tremont’s barn, sure of two meals and a night’s
lodging. Miss Tremont insisted upon their attendance at evening prayers,
and Patience assumed the task of persuading them to clean up. Her
methods were less gentle than Miss Tremont’s: when they refused to wash
she turned the hose on them.

Projected suddenly into the dry bracing cold of an eastern winter she
quickly became robust. Before spring had come, her back was straight and
a faint colour was in her rounding cheeks. If there had been time to
think about it, or any one to tell her, she would have discovered that
she was growing pretty. But at this time, despite the distant advances
of the High School boys, Patience found no leisure for vanity. Sometimes
she paused long enough to wonder if she had any individuality left; if
environment was not stronger than heredity after all; if immediate
impressions could not ever efface those of the past, no matter how
deeply the latter may have been etched into the plastic mind. But she
was quite conscious that she was happy, despite the vague restlessness
and longings of youth. She loved Miss Tremont with all the sudden
expansion of a long repressed temperament endowed with a tragic capacity
for passionate affection. In Monterey the iron mould of reserve into
which circumstance had forced her nature, had cramped and warped what
love she had felt for Mr. Foord and Rosita; but in this novel
atmosphere, where love enfolded her, where everybody respected her, and
knew nothing of her past, where there was not a word nor an occurrence
to remind her of the ugly experiences of her young life, she quickly
became a normal being, living, belatedly, along the large and generous
lines of her nature.

She had no friends of her own age with whom to discuss the problems dear
to the heart of developing woman. The girls at the High School rarely
talked during recess, and she left hurriedly the moment the scholars
were dismissed for the day. The “Y’s” she persistently refused to join,
as well as the young people’s societies of Miss Tremont’s church.

“I’ll be your helper in everything,” she said to her perplexed guardian;
“but those girls bore me, and, you know, I really haven’t time for
them.”

And Miss Tremont, despite the fact that Patience gave no sign of
spiritual thaw, was the most doting of old maid parents. After the first
few weeks she ceased to dig in Patience’s soul for the stunted seeds of
Christianity, finding that she only irritated her, and trusting to the
daily sprinkling of habit and example to promote their ultimate growth.


                                   V

With summer came a cessation of school, Loyal Legion, and sewing school
duties; but the Poor took no vacation and gave none. Nevertheless,
Patience had far more leisure, and borrowed many books from the town
library. She read much of Hugo and Balzac and Goethe, and in the new
intellectual delight forgot herself more completely than in her work.

Moreover, the town was very beautiful in summer, and she spent many
hours rambling along the shadowy streets whose venerable trees shut the
sunlight from the narrow side ways. The gardens too were full of trees;
and the town from a distance looked like a densely wooded hillside, a
riot of green, out of which housetops showed like eggs in a nest. Over
some of the steep old streets the maples met, growing denser and denser
down in the perspective, until closed by the flash of water.

The woods on the slope of the Hudson were thick with great trees
dropping a leafy curtain before the brilliant river, and full of
isolated nooks where a girl could read and dream, unsuspected of the
chance pedestrian.

After one long drowsy afternoon by a brook in a hollow of the woods,
Patience returned home to find a carriage standing before the door. It
was a turnout of extreme elegance. The grey horses were thoroughbreds; a
coachman in livery sat on the box; a footman stood on the sidewalk. She
looked in wonder. Miss Tremont had no time for the fine people of
Mariaville, and they had ceased to call on her long since. Moreover,
Patience knew every carriage in the town, and this was not of them.

She went rapidly into the house, youthfully eager for a new experience.
Miss Tremont was seated on the sofa in the front parlour, holding the
hand of a tall handsomely gowned woman. Patience thought, as she stood
for a moment unobserved, that she had never seen so cold a face. It was
the face of a woman of fifty, oval and almost regular. The mouth was a
straight line. The clear pale eyes looked like the reflection of the
blue atmosphere on icicles. The skin was as smooth as a girl’s, the
brown hair parted and waved, the tall figure slender and superbly
carried. She was smiling and patting Miss Tremont’s hand, but there was
little light in her eyes.

As Patience entered, she turned her head and regarded her without
surprise; she had evidently heard of her. Miss Tremont’s face illumined,
and she held out her hand.

“This is Patience,” she said triumphantly. “I haven’t told you half
about the dear child. Patience, this is my cousin, Mrs. Gardiner Peele.”

Mrs. Gardiner Peele bent her head patronisingly, and Patience hated her
violently.

“I am glad you have a companion,” said the lady, coldly. “But how is it
you haven’t the white ribbon on her?”

Miss Tremont blushed. “Oh, I can’t control Patience in all things,” she
said, in half angry deprecation. “She just won’t wear the ribbon.”

Mrs. Peele smiled upon Patience for the first time. It was a wintry
light, but it bespoke approval. “I wish she could make you take it off,”
she said to her relative. “That dreadful, dreadful _badge_. How can you
wear it?—you—”

“Now, cousin,” said Miss Tremont, laughing good-naturedly, “we won’t go
over all that again. You know I’m a hopeless crank. All I can do is to
pray for you.”

“Thank you. I don’t doubt I need it, although I attend church quite as
regularly as you could wish.”

“I know you are good,” said Miss Tremont, with enthusiasm, “and of
course I don’t expect everybody to be as interested in Temperance as I
am. But I do wish you loved the world less and the Lord more.”

Mrs. Peele gave a low, well modulated laugh. “Now, Harriet, I want you
to be worldly for a few minutes. I have brought you back two new gowns
from Paris, and I want you, when you come to visit me next week, to wear
them. I have had them trimmed with white ribbon bows so that no one will
notice one more or less—”

“I’m not ashamed of my white ribbon,” flashed out Miss Tremont, then
relented. “You dear good Honora. Yes, I’ll wear them if they’re not too
fashionable.”

“Oh, I studied your style. And let me tell you, Harriet Tremont, that
fashionable gowns are what you should be wearing. It does provoke me so
to see you—”

But Miss Tremont leaned over and kissed her short. “Now what’s the use
of talking to an old crank like me? I’m a humble servant of my dear
Lord, and I couldn’t be anything else if I had a million. But you dear
thing, I’m so glad to see you once more. You do look so well. Tell me
all about the children.”

Patience, quite forgotten, listened to the conversation with deep
interest. There was a vague promise of variety in this new advent. As
she watched the woman, who seemed to have brought with her something of
the atmosphere of all that splendid existence of which she had longingly
read, she was stirred with a certain dissatisfaction: some dormant chord
was struck—as on the day she drove by Del Monte. When Mrs. Peele arose
to go, she thought that not Balzac himself had ever looked upon a more
elegant woman. Even Patience’s untrained eye recognised that those long
simple folds, those so quiet textures, were of French woof and make. And
the woman’s carriage was like unto that of the fictional queen. She
nodded carelessly to Patience, and swept out. When Miss Tremont returned
after watching her guest drive away, Patience pounced upon her.

“_Who_ is she?” she demanded. “And _why_ didn’t you tell me you had such
a swell for a cousin?”

“Did I never tell you?” asked Miss Tremont, wonderingly. “Why, I was
sure I had often talked of Honora. But I’m so busy I suppose I forgot.”

She sat down and fanned herself, smiling. “Honora Tremont is my first
cousin. We used to be great friends until she married a rich man and
became so dreadfully fashionable. The Lord be praised, she has always
loved me; but she lives a great deal abroad, and spends her winters,
when she is here, in New York. They have a beautiful place on the
Hudson, Peele Manor, that has been in the family for nearly three
hundred years. Mr. Peele is an eminent lawyer. I don’t know him very
well. He doesn’t talk much; I suppose he has to talk so much in Court.
I’ve not seen the children for a year. I always thought them pretty
badly spoiled, particularly Beverly. May isn’t very bright. But I always
liked Hal—short for Harriet, after me—better than any of them. She is
about nineteen now. May is eighteen and Beverly twenty-four.

“Then there is Honora, cousin Honora’s sister Mary’s child, and the
tallest woman I ever saw. Her parents died when she was a little thing
and left her without a dollar. Honora took her, and has treated her like
her own children. Sometimes I think she is very much under her
influence. I don’t know why, but I never liked her. She is Beverly’s
age. Oh!” she burst out, “just think! I have got to go to Peele Manor
for a week. I promised. I couldn’t help it. And oh, I do dread it. They
are all so different, and they don’t sympathise with my work. Much as I
love them I’m always glad to get away. Wasn’t it kind and good of her to
bring me two dresses from Paris?”

Patience shrewdly interpreted the prompting of Mrs. Peele’s generosity,
but made no comment.

Miss Tremont drew a great sigh: “My temperance work—my poor—what will
they do without me? Maria Twist gets so mad when I don’t read the Bible
to her twice a week. Patience, you will have to stay in Temperance Hall.
I shouldn’t like to think of you here alone. I do wish Honora had asked
you too—”

“I wouldn’t go for worlds. When do you think your dresses will come? I
do so want to see a real Paris dress.”

“She said they’d come to-morrow. Oh, to think of wearing stiff tight
things. Well, if they are uncomfortable or too stylish I just won’t wear
them, that’s all.”

“You just will, auntie dear. You’ll not look any less fine than those
people, or I’ll not go near Hog Heights.”

Miss Tremont kissed her, grateful for the fondness displayed. “Well,
well, we’ll see,” she said.

But the next day, when the two handsome black gowns lay on the bed of
the spare room, she shook her head with flashing eyes.

“I won’t wear those things,” she cried. “Why, they were made for a
society woman, not for an humble follower of the Lord. I should be
miserable in them.”

Patience, who had been hovering over the gowns,—one of silk grenadine
trimmed with long loops of black and white ribbon, the other of satin
with a soft knot of white ribbon on the shoulder and another at the back
of the high collar,—came forward and firmly divested Miss Tremont of
her alpaca. She lifted the heavy satin gown with reverent hands and
slipped it over Miss Tremont’s head, then hooked it with deft fingers.

“There!” she exclaimed. “You look like a swell at last. Just what you
ought to look like.”

Miss Tremont glanced at the mirror with a brief spasm of youthful
vanity. The rich fashionable gown became her long slender figure, her
unconscious pride of carriage, far better than did her old alpaca and
merino frocks. But she shook her head immediately, her eyes flashing
under a quick frown.

“The idea of perching a white bow like a butterfly on my shoulder and
another at the back of my neck, as if I had a scar. It’s an insult to
the white ribbon. And this collar would choke me. I can’t breathe. Take
it off! Take it off!”

“Not until I have admired you some more. You look just grand. If the
collar is too high, I’ll send for Mrs. Best, and we’ll cut it off and
sew some soft black stuff in the neck—although I just hate to. Auntie
dear, don’t you think you could stand it?”

Miss Tremont shook her head with decision. “I couldn’t. It hurts my old
throat. And how could I ever bend my head to get at my soup? And these
bows make me feel actually cross. If the dress can be made comfortable
I’ll wear it, for I’ve no right to disgrace Honora, nor would I hurt her
feelings by scorning her gowns; but I’ll not stand any such mockery as
these flaunting white things.”

Patience exchanged the satin for the grenadine gown. This met with more
tolerance at first, as the throat was finished with soft folds, and the
white ribbon was less demonstrative.

“It floats so,” said Patience, ecstatically. “Oh, auntie, you _are_ a
beauty.”

“I a beauty with my ugly scowling old face? But this thing is like a
ball dress, Patience—this thin stuff! I prefer the satin.”

“You will wear this on the hot evenings. All thin things are not made
for the ball-room. You needn’t look at yourself like that. I only wish
I’d ever be half as pretty. Auntie, why didn’t you ever marry?”

Miss Tremont’s face worked after all the years. Memories could not die
in so uniform a nature.

“My youth was very sad,” she said, turning away abruptly. “I only talk
about it with the dear Lord.” And Patience asked no more questions.


                                   VI

The dressmaker was sent for, and the satin gown divested of its collar.
Miss Tremont ruthlessly clipped off the beautiful French bows and sewed
a tiny one of narrow white ribbon in a conspicuous place on the left
chest. The grenadine was decorated in like manner. Patience wailed, and
then laughed as she thought of Mrs. Gardiner Peele. She wished she might
be there to see that lady’s face.

Miss Tremont changed her mind four times as to the possibility of
leaving Mariaville for a week of sinful idleness, before she was finally
assisted into the train by Patience’s firm hand. Even then she abruptly
left her seat and started for the door. But the train was moving.
Patience saw her resume her seat with an impatient twitch of her
shoulders.

“Poor auntie,” she thought, as she walked up the street; “but on the
whole I think I pity Mrs. Peele more.”

Her bag had been sent to Temperance Hall, and she went directly there,
and to her own room. As the day was very warm, she exchanged her frock
for a print wrapper, then extended herself on the bed with “’93.” It was
her duty to assuage the wrath of Maria Twist, but she made up her mind
that for twenty-four hours she would shirk every duty on her calendar.

But she had failed to make allowance for the net of circumstance. She
had not turned ten pages when she heard the sound of agitated footsteps
in the hall. A moment later Mrs. Blair opened the door unceremoniously.
Her usually placid face was much perturbed.

“Oh, Miss Patience,” she said, “I’m in such a way. Late last night a
poor man fell at the door, and I took him in as there was no policeman
around. I thought he was only ill, but it seems he was drunk. He’s been
awake now for two hours, and is awful bad—not drunk, but suffering.”

“Why don’t you send for the doctor?” asked Patience, lazily.

“I have, but he’s gone to New York and won’t be back till night. The man
says he can doctor himself—that all he wants is whisky; but of course I
can’t give him that. Do come over and talk to him. Miss Beale is over at
White Plains, and I don’t know what to do.”

Patience rose reluctantly and followed the matron to the side of the
house reserved for men. As she went down the hall she heard groans and
sharp spasmodic cries. Mrs. Blair opened a door, and Patience saw an
elderly man lying in the bed. His grey hair and beard were ragged, his
eyes dim and bleared, his long, well-cut but ignoble face was greenishly
pale. He was very weak, and lay clutching at the bed clothes with limp
hairy hands. As he saw the matron his eyes lit up with resentment.

“I didn’t come here to be murdered,” he ejaculated. “It’s the last place
I’d have come to if I’d known what I was doing. But I tell you that if I
don’t have a drink of whisky I’ll be a dead man in an hour.”

“I can’t give you that,” said Mrs. Blair, desperately. “And you know you
only think you need it, anyhow. We try to make men overcome their
terrible weakness; we don’t encourage them.”

“That’s all right, but you can’t reform a man when his inside is on fire
and feels as if it were dropping out—but my God! I can’t argue with
you, damn you. Give it to me.”

“I’m of the opinion that he ought to have it,” said Patience.

The man turned to her eagerly. “Bless you,” he said. “It’s not the taste
of it I’m craving, miss; it’s relief from this awful agony. If you give
it to me, I swear I’ll try never to touch a drop again after I get over
this spree. It’ll be bad enough to break off then, but it’s death now.”

Mrs. Blair looked at him with pity, but shook her head.

“I’ve been here seven years,” she said to Patience, “and the ladies have
yet to find one fault with me. I don’t dare give it to him. Besides, I
don’t believe in it. How can what’s killing him cure him? And it’s a
sin. Even if the ladies excused me—which they wouldn’t—I’d never
forgive myself.”

“I’ll take the responsibility,” said Patience. “I believe that man will
die if he doesn’t have whisky.”

The man groaned and tossed his arms. “Oh, my God!” he cried.

Mrs. Blair shuddered. “Oh, I don’t know, miss. If you will take the
responsibility—I can’t give it to him—where could you get it?”

“At a drug store.”

“They won’t sell it to you—we’ve got a law passed, you know.”

“Then I’ll go to a saloon.”

“Oh, my! my!” cried Mrs. Blair, “you’d never do that?”

“The man is in agony. Can’t you see? I’m going this minute.”

The door opened, and Miss Beale entered. She looked warm and tired, but
came forward with active step, and stood beside the bed. A spasm of
disgust crossed her face. “What is the matter, my man?” she asked. “I am
sorry to see you here.”

“Give me whisky,” groaned the man.

Miss Beale turned away with twitching mouth.

“The man is dying. Nothing but whisky can save him,” said Patience. “If
you called a doctor he would tell you the same thing.”

“What?” said Miss Beale, coldly, “do you suppose that he can have whisky
in Temperance Hall? Is that what we are here for? You must be crazy.”

“But you don’t want him to die on your hands, do you?” exclaimed
Patience, who was losing her temper.

“My God!” screeched the man, “I am in Hell.”

“My good man,” said Miss Beale, gently, “it is for us to save you from
Hell, not to send you there.”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.” His voice died to an inarticulate
murmur; but he writhed, and doubled, and twisted, as men may have done
when fanatics tortured in the name of religion.

“Good heavens, Miss Beale,” cried Patience, excitedly, “you can’t set
yourself up in opposition to nature. That man must have whisky. If he
were younger and stronger it wouldn’t matter so much; but can’t you see
he hasn’t strength to resist the terrible strain? The torture is killing
him, eating out his life—”

“Oh, it is terrible!” exclaimed the matron. “Perhaps it is best—”

“Mrs. Blair!” Miss Beale turned upon her in consternation. Then she bent
over the man.

“You can’t have whisky,” she said gently; “not if I thought you were
really dying would I give it to you. If it is the Lord’s will that you
are to die here you must abide by it. I shall not permit you to further
imperil your soul. Nor could that which has not the blessing of God on
it be of benefit to you. Alcohol is a destroyer, both of soul and of
body—not a medicine.”

The man’s knees suddenly shot up to his chest; but he raised his head
and darted at her a glance of implacable hate.

“Damn you,” he stuttered. “Murderer—” Then he extended rigid arms and
clutched the bed clothes, his body twitching uncontrollably.

Miss Beale looked upon him with deep compassion. “Poor thing,” she
exclaimed, “is not this enough to warn all men from that fiend?” She
laid her hand on the man’s head, but he shook it off with an oath.

“Whisky,” he cried. “O my God! Have these women—_women!_—no pity?”

“I’m going for whisky—” said Patience.

Miss Beale stepped swiftly to the door, locked it, and slipped the key
into her pocket.

“You will buy no whisky,” she said sternly. “I will save you from that
sin.” Suddenly her face lit up. “I will pray,” she said solemnly, “I
will pray that this poor lost creature may recover, and lead a better
life—”

“I swear I’ll never touch another drop after I’m out of this if you’ll
give it to me now—”

“If it be the Lord’s will that you shall live you will not die,” said
Miss Beale. “I will pray, and in His mercy He may let you live to
repent.”

She fell upon her knees by the bed, and clasping her hands, prayed
aloud; while the man reared and plunged and groaned and cursed, his
voice and body momentarily weaker. Miss Beale’s prayers were always very
long and very fervid. She was not eloquent, but her deep tear-voiced
earnestness was most impressive; and never more so than to-day, when she
flung herself before the throne of Grace with a lost soul in her hand. A
light like a halo played upon her spiritualised face, her voice became
ineffably sweet. Gradually, in her ecstatic communion with, her intimate
nearness to her God, she forgot the man on the bed, forgot the flesh
which prisoned her soaring soul, was conscious only of the divine light
pouring through her, the almost palpable touch of her lover’s hand.

Suddenly Patience exclaimed brutally: “The man is dead.”

Miss Beale arose with a start. She drew the sheet gently over the
distorted face. “It is the Lord’s will,” she said.

After Patience was in her own room and had relieved her feelings by
slamming the door, she sat for a long time staring at the pattern of the
carpet and pondering upon the problem of Miss Beale.

“Well,” she thought finally, “_she’s_ happy, so I suppose it’s all
right. No wonder she’s satisfied with herself when she lives up to her
ideals as consistently as that. I think I’ll label all the different
forms of selfishness I come across. There seems to be a large variety,
but all put together don’t seem to be a patch to having fun with your
ideals. Miss Beale would be the most wretched woman in Westchester
county if she’d given that man whisky and saved his life.”


                                  VII

The man was buried with Christian service at Miss Beale’s expense, and
her serene face wore no shadow. The following day she said to Patience:
“I spent nearly all of the last two nights in prayer, and I almost heard
the Lord’s voice as He told me I did right.”

“You ought to write a novel,” said Patience, drily, but the sarcasm was
lost. In a moment Patience forgot Miss Beale: the postman handed her two
letters, and she went up to her room to read them.

The first she opened was from Miss Tremont.

                                              PEELE MANOR, Friday.

    Oh my dear darling little girl, how I wish, _how_ I wish I were
    with you and my work once more. I ought to be happy because they
    are all so kind, but I’m not. I feel as if I were throwing away
    one of the few precious weeks I have left to give to the Lord
    (arrange for a prayer meeting on Wednesday, the day of my
    return, and we’ll have a regular feast of manna). Do you miss
    me? I think of you every moment. You should have seen dear
    Cousin Honora’s face when I came down to dinner in the black
    satin. She didn’t say anything, she just _looked_ at the bow,
    and I felt sorry for her. But I know I am right. Hal giggled and
    winked at me. (I do love Hal!) Honora Mairs said so sweetly
    after Cousin Honora had left the room: “Dear Cousin Harriet, I
    think you are so brave and consistent to wear the little white
    bow of your cause. It is so _like_ you.” Was not that sweet of
    her? Beverly has very heavy eyebrows, and he raised them at my
    ribbon, and turned away his head as if it hurt his eyes. He is a
    very elegant young gentleman, and his mother says he is a great
    stickler for form, whatever that may mean. (They speak a
    different language here anyway. I don’t understand half what
    they say. Hal talks slang all the time.) I don’t like Beverly as
    much as I did, although he’s quite the handsomest young man I
    ever saw and very polite; but he smokes cigarettes all the time
    and big black cigars. When I told him that five hundred million
    dollars were spent annually on tobacco, he got up and went off
    in a huff. May is just a talkative child—I never heard any one
    talk so much in my life,—and about nothing but gowns and young
    men and balls and the opera. Beverly talks about horses all the
    time, and Hal thinks a great deal of society, although she
    listens to me very sweetly when I talk to her about my work.
    Yesterday she said: “Why, Cousin Harriet, you’re a regular steam
    engine. It must be jolly good fun to carry a lot of sinners to
    heaven on an express train.” I told her it was a freight train,
    and it certainly is, as you know, Patience dear. She replied:
    “Well, if you get there all the same, a century more or less
    doesn’t make any difference. You must be right in it with the
    Lord.” That was the only time I’d heard the dear Lord’s name
    mentioned since I arrived, so I didn’t scold her. But Patience,
    dear, I hope you’ll never use slang. I’ve talked to Hal about
    you, and she says she’s coming to see you.

    Honora doesn’t use slang. She is very stately and dignified, and
    Cousin Honora (it’s very awkward when you’re writing for two
    people to have the same name, isn’t it?) holds her up as a model
    for the girls. Hal and she _fight_. I can’t call it anything
    else, although Honora doesn’t lose her temper and Hal does. Hal
    said to me (of Honora) yesterday (I use her own words, although
    they’re awful; but if I didn’t I couldn’t give you the same idea
    of her): “She’s a d—— hypocrite: and she wants to marry
    Beverly, but she won’t,—not if I have to turn matchmaker and
    marry him to a variety actress. She makes me wild. I wish she’d
    elope with the priest, but she’s too confoundedly clever.” Isn’t
    it dreadful—Honora is a Catholic. She became converted last
    year. Perhaps that’s the reason I can’t like her. But even the
    Catholic religion teaches charity, for she said to me this
    morning: “Poor Hal is really a good-hearted child, but she’s
    worldly and just a little superficial.”

    They haven’t any company this week—how kind of Cousin Honora to
    ask me when they are alone! I wish you were here to enjoy the
    library. It is a great big room overlooking the river, and the
    walls are covered with books—three or four generations of them.
    Mr. Peele is intellectual, and so is Honora; but the others
    don’t read much, except Hal, who reads dreadful-looking yellow
    paper books written in the French language which she says are
    “corkers,” whatever that may mean. I do wish the dear child
    would read her Bible. I asked her if I gave her a copy if she’d
    promise me to read a little every day, and she said she would,
    as some of the stories were as good as a French novel. So I
    shall buy her one.

    We sit in the library every evening. In the morning we sit in
    the Tea House on the slope and Honora embroiders Catholic Church
    things, Cousin Honora knits (she says it’s all the fashion), May
    _talks_, and Hal reads her yellow books and tells May to “let
    up.” I sew for my poor, and they don’t seem to mind that as much
    as the white ribbon. They say that they always sew for the poor
    in Lent. Hal says it is the “swagger thing.” In the afternoon we
    drive, and I do think it such a waste of time to be going, going
    nowhere for two hours.

    Well, Patience, I shall be with you on Wednesday, praise the
    Lord. Come to the train and meet me, and be sure to write me
    about _everything_. How is Polly Jones, and old Mrs. Murphy, and
    Belinda Greggs? Have you read to Maria Twist, and taken the
    broth to old Jonas Hobb? Give my love to dear sister Beale, and
    tell her I pray for her. With a kiss from your old auntie, God
    bless you,

                                                  HARRIET TREMONT.

“Dear old soul,” thought Patience. “I think I know them better than she
does, already. She is worth the whole selfish crowd; but I should like
to know Hal. Beverly must be a chump.”


                                  VIII

The other letter was from Rosita. Patience had not heard from her for a
long while. Three months previously, Mr. Foord had written of Mrs.
Thrailkill’s death, and mentioned that Rosita had gone to Sacramento to
visit Miss Galpin—now Mrs. Trent—until her uncle, who had returned to
Kentucky, should send for her.

    Oh, Patita! Patita! [the letter began], what do you think? _I am
    on the stage._ I had been crazy to go on ever since _that
    night_. A theatrical man was in Monterey just before mamma’s
    death, and he told me they were always wanting pretty corus
    girls at the Tivoli; so after the funeral I told everybody I was
    going to stay with Miss Galpin until Uncle Jim sent for me—I
    hated to lie, but I had to—and I went up to San Francisco and
    went right to the Tivoli. He took me because he said I was
    pretty and had a fresh voice. I had to ware tights. You should
    have seen me. At first I felt all the time like stooping over to
    cover up my legs with my arms. But after a while I got used to
    it, and one night we had to dance, and everybody said I was the
    most graceful. The manager said I was a born dancer and actress.
    The other day what do you think happened? A New York manager was
    here and heard me sing,—I had a little part by that time,—and
    he told me that if I took lessons I could be a prima donna in
    comic opera. He said I not only was going to have a lovely
    voice, but that I had a new style (Spanish) and would take in
    New York. He offered to send me to Paris for a year and then
    bring me out in New York if I’d give him my word—I’m too young
    to sign a contract—that I wouldn’t go with any other manager.
    At first my manager, who is a good old sole (I didn’t tell you
    that I live with him and his wife, and that their awful good to
    me and stand the fellers off), wouldn’t have it; but after a
    while he gave in—said I’d have to go the pace sooner or later
    (whatever that means), and I might as well go it in first class
    style. His wife, the good old sole, cried. She said I was the
    first corus girl she’d ever taken an interest in, but somehow it
    would be on her conscience if I went wrong. But I’m not going
    wrong. I don’t care a bit for men. There was a bald-headed old
    fool who used to come and sit in the front row every night and
    throw kisses to me, and one night he threw me a bouquet with a
    bracelet in it. I wore the bracelet, for it was a beauty with a
    big diamond in it; but I never looked at him or answered any of
    his notes, and Mr. Bell—the manager—wrote him he’d punch his
    head if he came near the stage door. No, all I want is to act,
    act, act, and sing, sing, sing, and dance, dance, dance, and
    have beautiful cloths and jewels and a carriage and two horses.
    Mr. Soper has told me ten times since I’ve met him that “virtue
    in an actress pays,” and he’s going to send a horrid old woman
    with me to Paris, as if I’d bother with the fools anyhow. I’m
    sure I can’t see what Mrs. Bell cries about if I’m going to be
    famous and make a lot of money. Anyhow, I’m going. I do so want
    to see you, Patita dear. Maybe you can come up to the steamer
    and see me off. I wonder if you have changed. I’m not so very
    tall; but they all say my figure is good. Mr. Soper says it will
    be divine in a year or two, but that I may be a cow at thirty,
    so I’d better not lose any time. Good-bye. Good-bye. I want to
    give you a hundred kisses. How different our lives are! Isn’t
    yours dreadfully stupid with that old temprance work? And just
    think it was you who taught me to act first! Mr. Soper says I
    must cultivate the Spanish racket for all it’s worth, and that
    he expects me to be more Spanish in New York than I was in
    Monterey. He is going to get an opera written for me with the
    part of a Spanish girl in it so I can wear the costume. He says
    if I study and do everything he tells me I’ll make a _furore_.
    _Hasta luego_—Patita _mia_.

                               ROSITA ELVIRA FRANCESCA THRAILKILL.

    P. S.—I’m to have a Spanish stage name, “La Rosita,” I guess.
    Mr. Soper says that Thrailkill is an “anti-climax,” and would
    never “go down.”


                                   IX

Patience read this letter with some alarm. All that she had heard and
read of the stage made her apprehensive. She feared that Rosita would
become fast, would drink and smoke, and not maintain a proper reserve
with men. Then the natural independence of her character asserted
itself, and she felt pride in Rosita’s courage and promptness of action.
She even envied her a little: her life would be so full of variety.

“And after all it’s fate,” she thought philosophically. “She was cut out
for the stage if ever a girl was. You might as well try to keep a bird
from using its wings, or Miss Beale and auntie from being Temperance. I
wonder what my fate is. It’s not the stage, but it’s not this,
neither—not much. Shouldn’t wonder if I made a break for Mr. Field some
day. But I couldn’t leave auntie. She’s the kind that gets a hold on
you.”

She did her duty by Hog Heights during Miss Tremont’s brief holiday, but
did it as concisely as was practicable. She found it impossible to
sympathise with people that were content to let others support them,
giving nothing in return. Her strong independent nature despised
voluntary weakness. It was her private opinion that these useless
creatures with only the animal instinct to live, and not an ounce of
grey matter in their skulls, encumbered the earth, and should be quietly
chloroformed.

Despite her love for Miss Tremont, she breathed more freely in her
absence. She was surfeited with religion, and at times possessed with a
very flood of revolt and the desire to let it loose upon every church
worker in Mariaville. But affection and gratitude restrained her.


                                   X

Miss Tremont returned on Wednesday morning. She stepped off the train
with a bag under one arm, a bundle under the other, and both arms full
of flowers.

“Oh, you darling, you darling!” she cried as she fell upon Patience.
“How it does my heart good to see you! These are for you. Hal picked
them, and sent her love. Aren’t they sweet?”

“Lovely,” said Patience, crushing the flowers as she hugged and kissed
Miss Tremont. “Here, give me the bag.”

Miss Tremont would go to Temperance Hall first, then to call upon Miss
Beale, but was finally guided to her home. The trunk had preceded them.
Patience unpacked the despised gowns, while listening to a passionate
dissertation upon the heavy trial they had been to their owner.

“I think you had a good time all the same,” she said. “You look as if
you’d had, at any rate. You’ve not looked so well since I came. That
sort of thing agrees with you better than tramping over Hog Heights—”

“It does not!” cried Miss Tremont. “And I am so glad to get back to my
work and my little girl.”

“And the Lord,” supplemented Patience.

“Oh, He was with me even there. Only He didn’t feel so near.” She sighed
reminiscently. “But I’ve brought pictures of the children to show you.
Let us go down to the parlour where it’s cooler, and then we’ll stand
them in a row on the mantel. They’re the first pictures I’ve had of them
in years.” She caught a package from the tray of her trunk, in her usual
abrupt fashion, and hurried downstairs, Patience at her heels.

Miss Tremont seated herself in her favourite upright chair, put on her
spectacles, and opened the package. “This is Hal,” she said, handing one
of the photographs to Patience. “I must show you her first, for she’s my
pet.”

Patience examined the photograph eagerly. It was a half length of a girl
with a straight tilted nose, a small mouth with a downward droop at the
corners, large rather prominent eyes, and sleek hair which was in
keeping with her generally well-groomed appearance. She wore a tailor
frock. Her slender erect figure was beautifully poised. In one hand she
carried a lorgnette. She was not pretty, but her expression was frank
and graceful, and she had much distinction.

“I like her. Any one could see she was a swell. What colour hair has
she?”

“Oh, a kind of brown. Her eyes are a sort of grey. Here is May. She
always has her photographs coloured.”

“Oh, she’s a beauty!” The girl even in photograph showed an exquisite
bit of flesh and blood. The large blue eyes were young and appealing
under soft fall of lash. The mouth was small and red, the nose small and
straight. Chestnut hair curled about the small head and oval face. The
skin was like tinted jade. It was the face of the American aftermath.
She wore a ball gown revealing a slender girlish neck and a throat of
tender curves.

“She is a real beauty,” said Miss Tremont. “Poor Hal says, ‘she can’t
wear her neck because she hasn’t got any.’ Did you ever hear such an
expression?”

“Hal looks as if she had a good figure.”

Miss Tremont shook her head. “I don’t approve of all Hal does—she pads.
She doesn’t seem to care much who knows it, for when the weather’s very
warm she takes them out, right before your eyes, so it isn’t so bad as
if she were deceitful about it. Here is Beverly.”

Patience looked long at the young man’s face. This face too was oval,
with a high intellectual forehead, broad black brows, and very regular
features. The mouth appeared to pout beneath the drooping moustache. The
expression of the eyes was very sweet. It was a strong handsome face,
high-bred like the others, but with a certain nobility lacking in the
women.

“He is said to be the handsomest young man in Westchester County, and
he’s quite dark,” said Miss Tremont. “What do you think of him?”

“He is rather handsome. Where is Honora?”

“She never has pictures taken. But, dear me, I must go out and see
Ellen.”

Patience disposed the photographs on the mantel, then, leaning on her
elbows, gazed upon Beverly Peele. The Composite, Byron, the Stranger,
rattled their bones unheard. She concluded that no knight of olden time
could ever have been so wholly satisfactory as this young man. Romance,
who had been boxed about the ears, and sent to sleep, crept to her old
throne with a sly and meaning smile. Patience began at once to imagine
her meeting with Beverly Peele. She would be in a runaway carriage, and
he would rescue her. She would be skating and fall in a hole, and he
would pull her out. He would be riding to hounds in his beautiful pink
coat (which was red) and run over her.

She pictured his face with a variety of expressions. She was sure that
he had the courage of a lion and the tenderness of some women.
Unquestionably he had read his ancestors’ entire library—“with that
forehead,”—and he probably had the high and mighty air of her favourite
heroes of fiction. In one of her letters Miss Tremont had remarked that
he loved children and animals; therefore he had a beautiful character
and a kind heart. And she was glad to have heard that he also had a
temper: it saved him from being a prig. Altogether, Patience, with the
wisdom of sixteen and three quarters, was quite convinced that she had
found her ideal, and overlooked its extreme unlikeness to the Composite,
which was the only ideal she had ever created. A woman’s ideal is the
man she is in love with for the time being.

She went up to her room, and for the first time in her life critically
examined herself in the mirror. With May Peele and one or two beauties
of the High School in mind, she decided with a sigh that _she_ was no
beauty.

“But who knows,” she thought with true insight, “what I’d be with
clothes? Who could be pretty in a calico dress? My nose is as straight
as May’s, anyhow, and my upper lip as short. But to be a real beauty
you’ve got to have blue eyes and golden or chestnut hair and a little
mouth, or else black eyes and hair like Rosita’s. My eyes are only grey,
and my hair’s the colour of ashes, as Rosita once remarked. There’s no
getting over that, although it certainly has grown a lot since I came
here.”

Then she remembered that Rosita had once decorated her with red ribbons
and assured her that they were becoming. She ran down to the best spare
room, and, divesting a tidy of its scarlet bows, pinned them upon
herself before the mirror, which she discovered was more becoming than
her own. The brilliant colour was undoubtedly improving—“And, my
goodness!” she exclaimed suddenly, “I do believe I haven’t got a freckle
left. It must be the climate.”

“What on earth are you doing?” said an abrupt voice from the doorway.

Patience started guiltily, and restored the bows to the tidy.

“Oh, you see,” she stammered, “May is so pretty I wanted to see if I
could be a little less homely.” Patience was truthful by nature, but the
woman does not live that will not lie under purely feminine provocation.
Otherwise she would not be worthy to bear the hallowed name of woman.

“Nonsense,” said Miss Tremont, crossly, “I thought you were above that
kind of foolishness. You, must remember that you are as the Lord made
you, and be thankful that you were not born a negro or a Chinaman.”

“Oh, I am,” said Patience.


                                   XI

Thereafter, Patience roamed the woods munching chestnuts and dreaming of
Beverly Peele. Hugo and Balzac and Goethe were neglected. Her brain wove
thrilling romances of its own, especially in the night to the sound of
rain. She never emerged from the woods without a shortening of the
breath; but even Hal did not pay the promised call; nor did Beverly dash
through the streets in a pink coat, a charger clasped between his knees.

“Well, it’s fun to be in love, anyhow,” she thought. “I’ll meet him some
time, I know.”

Much to her regret she was not permitted to go to New York to see Rosita
off. Miss Tremont had a morbid horror of the stage, and after Patience’s
exhibition of vanity was convinced that “actress creatures” would exert
a pernicious influence.

And, shortly after, Patience received news which made her forget Rosita
and even Beverly Peele for a while. Mr. Foord was dead. Patience had
hoarded his twenty dollar gold piece because he had given it to her. She
bought a black hat and frock with it, and felt as sad as she could at
that age of shifting impressions. A later mail brought word that he had
left her John Sparhawk’s library, which could stay in the Custom House
until she was able to send for it, and a few hundred dollars which would
remain in a savings bank until she was eighteen. He had nothing else to
leave except his books, which went to found a town library. All but
those few hundreds had been sunken in an annuity. Miss Tremont was quite
content to be overlooked in the girl’s favour.

By the time Patience was ready to return to Beverly Peele the new term
opened, and the uncompromising methods of the High School left no time
for romance. Once more her ambition to excel became paramount, and she
studied night and day. She had no temptation to dissipate, for she was
not popular with the young people of Mariaville. The Y’s disapproved of
her because she would not don the white ribbon; and the church girls,
generally, felt that except when perfunctorily assisting Miss Tremont
she held herself aloof, even at the frequent sociables. And they were
scandalised because she did not join the church, nor the King’s
Daughters, nor the Christian Endeavor.

The High School scholars liked her because she was “square,” and
cordially admired her cleverness; but there were no recesses in the
ordinary sense, and after school Miss Tremont claimed her. Even the boys
“had no show,” as they phrased it. Occasionally they lent her a hand on
the ice; but like all Californians, she bitterly felt the cold of her
second winter, and in her few leisure hours preferred the fire.

Sometimes she looked at Beverly Peele’s picture with a sigh and some
resentment. “But never mind,” she would think philosophically, “I can
fall in love with him over again next summer.” When vacation came she
did in a measure take up the broken threads of her romance, but they had
somewhat rotted from disuse.

Rosita wrote every few weeks, reporting hard work and unbounded hope.
“The _dueña_,” as she called her companion, “was an old devil,” and
never let her go out alone, nor receive a man; but she “didn’t care,”
she had no time for nonsense, anyhow. She was learning her part in the
Spanish opera, which had been written for her, and it was “lovely.”

“It must be a delightful sensation to have your future assured at
seventeen,” thought Patience. “Mine is as problematical as the outcome
of the Temperance cause. I have had one unexpected change, and may have
more. If it were not for Rosita’s letters I should almost forget those
sixteen years in California. I certainly am not the same person. I
haven’t lost my temper for a year and a half, and I don’t seem to be
disturbed any more by vague yearnings. Life is too practical, I
suppose.”

Miss Tremont did not visit the Gardiner Peeles this summer: they spent
the season in travel. Late in the fall Rosita returned to America. She
wrote the day before she sailed. That was the last letter Patience
received from her. Later she sent a large envelope full of clippings
descriptive of her triumphal début; thereafter nothing whatever.
Patience, supposing herself forgotten, anathematised her old friend
wrathfully, but pride forbade her to write and demand an explanation.

She noticed with spasms of terror that Miss Tremont was failing. The
rush and worry of a lifetime had worn the blood white, and the
nerve-force down like an old wharf pile. But Miss Tremont would not
admit that she had lost an ounce of strength. She arose at the same hour
and toiled until late. When Patience begged her to take care of herself,
she became almost querulous, and all Patience could do was to anticipate
her in every possible way. But when school reopened she had little time
for anything but study. She was to finish in June, and the last year’s
course was very difficult.

She graduated with flying colours, and Miss Tremont was so proud and
excited that she took a day’s vacation. A week later Patience hinted
that she thought she should be earning her own living; but Miss Tremont
would not even discuss the subject. She fell into a rage every time it
was broached, and Patience, who would have rebelled, had Miss Tremont
been younger and stronger, submitted: she knew it would not be for long.


                                  XII

Patience was languid all summer, and lay about in the woods, when she
could, reading little and thinking much. Her school books put away
forever, she felt for the first time that she was a woman, but did not
take as much interest in herself as she had thought she should. She
speculated a good deal upon her future career as a newspaper woman, and
expended two cents every morning upon the New York “Day.” But she forgot
to study it in the new interest it created: she had just the order of
mind to succumb to the fascination of the newspaper, and she read the
“Day’s” report of current history with a keener pleasure than even the
great records of the past had induced. She longed for a companion with
whom to talk over the significant tendencies of the age, and gazed upon
Beverly Peele’s dome-like brow with a sigh.

Once, in the Sunday issue, she came upon a column and a half devoted to
Rosita, “The Sweetheart of the Public,” “The Princess Royal of Opera
Bouffe.” The description of the young prima donna’s home life, personal
characteristics, and footlight triumphs, was further embellished by a
painfully _décolleté_ portrait, a lace night gown, a pair of wonderfully
embroidered stockings, and a rosary.

Patience read the article twice, wondering why fame realised looked so
different from the abstract quality of her imagination.

“Somehow it seems a sort of tin halo,” she thought. Then her thoughts
drifted back to Monterey, and recalled it with startling vividness.
“Still even if I haven’t forgotten it, it is like the memory of another
life. Its only lasting effect has been to make me hate what is coarse
and sinful; and dear auntie, even if she hasn’t converted me, has
developed all my good.

“I wonder if Rosita has been in love, and if that is the reason she has
forgotten me. But she hasn’t married, so perhaps it’s only adulation
that has driven everything else out of her head.” And then with her eyes
on the river, which under the heavy sky looked like a stream of
wrinkling lead from which a coating of silver had worn off in places,
she fell to dreaming of Beverly Peele and an ideal existence in which
they travelled and read and assured each other of respectful and
rarefied affection.

Early in the winter the influenza descended upon America. Mr. Peele, his
wife wrote, was one of the first victims, and the entire family took him
to Florida. One night, a month later, Miss Tremont returned from Hog
Heights and staggered through her door.

“Oh,” she moaned, as Patience rushed forward and caught her in her arms,
“I feel so strangely. I have pains all over me, and the queerest feeling
in my knees.”

“It’s the grippe,” said Patience, who had read its history in the “Day.”
She put Miss Tremont to bed, and sent for the doctor. The old lady was
too weak to protest, and swallowed the medicines submissively. She
recovered in due course, and one day slipped out and plodded through the
snow to Hog Heights. She was brought home unconscious, and that night
was gasping with pneumonia.

There was no lack of nurses. Miss Beale and Mrs. Watt, who had helped to
care for her during the less serious attack, returned at once, and many
others called at intervals during the day and night.

Patience sat constantly by the bed, staring at the face so soon to be
covered from all sight. She wanted to cry and scream, but could not. Her
heart was like lead in her breast.

At one o’clock on the second night, she and Miss Beale were alone in the
sick room. Mrs. Watt was walking softly up and down the hall without.

Miss Tremont was breathing irregularly, and Patience bent over her with
white face. Miss Beale began to sob.

“Is it not terrible, terrible,” she ejaculated, “that she
should die like this, she whose deathbed should have been so
beautiful,—unconscious, drugged—morphine, which is as accursed as
whisky—”

“I am glad of it. It would be more horrible to see her suffer.”

“I don’t want to see her suffer—dear, dear Miss Tremont. But she should
have died in the full knowledge that she was going to God. Oh! Oh!” she
burst out afresh. “How I envy her! It’s my only, only sin, but I can’t
help envying those who are going to heaven. I can’t wait. I do so want
to see the beautiful green pastures and the still waters—and oh, how I
want to talk with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!”

Patience flung her head into her lap and burst into a fit of laughter.


                                  XIII

An hour later she went downstairs and turned up all the lights. Mrs.
Watt had gone to the next house to telephone for the undertakers. When
she returned she went upstairs to Miss Beale. Patience could hear the
two women praying. That was the only sound in the terrible stillness.
She paced up and down, wringing her hands and gasping occasionally. Her
sense of desolation was appalling, although as yet she but half realised
her bereavement.

Suddenly she heard the sound of runners on the crisp snow. They stopped
before the gate. She ran shuddering to the window. The moon flooded the
white earth. Two tall black shadows came down the path. They trod as if
on velvet. Even on the steps and porch they made no sound. They knocked
as death may knock on a human soul, lightly, meaningly. Patience dragged
herself to the door and opened it. The long narrow black men entered and
bent their heads solemnly. Patience raised her shaking hand, and pointed
to the floor above. The men of death bowed again, and stole upward like
black ghosts. In a few moments they stole down again and out and away.
Patience rushed frantically through the rooms to the kitchen, where she
fell upon Ellen, dozing by the fire, and screamed and laughed until the
terrified woman flung a pitcher of water on her, then carried her
upstairs and put her to bed.


                                  XIV

A week later Patience wandered restlessly about the lonely house. The
hundreds of people that had thronged it had gone at last, even Miss
Beale and Mrs. Watt.

She had cried until she had no tears left, and rebelled until reason
would hear no more. Her nerves felt blunt and worn down.

Yesterday Miss Tremont’s lawyer had told her that after a few
unimportant bequests she was to have the income of the dead woman’s
small estate until she married, after which she would have nothing and
the Temperance cause all. She was therefore exempt from the pettiest and
severest of life’s trials. Miss Tremont had also left a letter, begging
her to devote herself to a life of charity and reform. But Patience had
at last revolted. She realised how empty had been her part, how
torrential the impulsion of Miss Tremont.

The great world outside of Mariaville pressed upon her imagination,
gigantic, rainbow-hued, alluring. It beckoned with a thousand fingers,
and all her complex being responded. She longed for a talent with which
to add to its beauty, and thought no ill of it.

She had sat up half the night thinking, and this morning she felt doubly
restless and lonely. She wanted to go away at once, but as yet she had
made no plans; and plans were necessary. She was too tired to go to Mr.
Field and apply for work; and she knew that her delicate appearance
would not commend itself to his approval. She went to the mirror in the
best spare bedroom and regarded herself anxiously. Her black-robed
figure seemed very tall and thin, her face white and sharp.

“Even red bows—” she began; then her memory tossed up Rosita. “Oh,” she
thought, “if I could only see her,—see some one I care a little for. I
believe I’ll go—there may have been some reason—her letters may have
miscarried—I must see somebody.”

She ran upstairs, put on her outing things, and walked rapidly to the
station. The sharp air electrified her blood. The world was full of
youth and hope once more. She forgot her bereavement for the hour. She
hoped Rosita would ask her to visit her: the popular young prima donna
must have drawn many brilliant people about her.

When she reached New York she inquired her way to “Soper’s Opera House,”
obtained Rosita’s address, and took the elevated train up town. She
found the great apartment house with little difficulty, and was
enraptured with its marble floors and pillars, its liveried servants and
luxurious elevator.

“I certainly had rich ancestors,” she thought, “and I am sure they were
swells. I have a natural affinity for all this sort of thing.”

She was landed at the very top of the house. The elevator boy directed
her attention to a button, then slid down and out of sight, leaving
Patience with the delightful sensation of having stepped upon a new
stratum, high and away from the vast terrestrial cellar.

A trim French maid opened the door. She stared at Patience, and looked
disinclined to admit her. But Patience pushed the door back with
determined hand.

“I wish to see La Rosita,” she said in French.

“But madame is not receiving to-day.”

“She will see me, I am sure. Tell her that Miss Sparhawk is here.”

The woman admitted her reluctantly, and left her standing in an
anteroom, passing between heavy portières. Patience followed, and
entered a large drawing-room furnished with amber satin and ebony: a
magnificent room, heavy with the perfume of great baskets of flowers,
and filled with costly articles of decoration. The carpet was of amber
velvet. Not a sound of street penetrated the heavy satin curtains.

An indefinable sensation stole over Patience’s mind, a ghost whose
lineaments were blurred, yet familiar. She felt an impulse to turn and
run, then twitched her shoulders impatiently, and approaching other
portières, parted them and glanced into the room beyond.

It was evidently a boudoir, a fragrant fairy-like thing of rose and
lace.

In a deep chair, clad in a _robe de chambre_ of rose-coloured silk,
flowing open over a lace smock and petticoat, lay Rosita. Her dense
black hair was twisted carelessly on top of her head and confined with a
jewelled dagger. One tiny foot, shod in a high-heeled slipper of
rose-coloured silk, was conspicuous on a low _pouf_. The flush of youth
was in her cheek, its scarlet in her mouth. The large white lids lay
heavily on the languorous eyes. In one hand she held a pink cigarette in
a jewelled holder. She spoke in a low tantalising voice to a man who sat
before her, leaning eagerly forward.

The maid had evidently not succeeded in gaining her attention. Patience,
conquering another impulse to run, pushed the hangings aside and
entered. Rosita sprang to her feet, the blood flashing to her hair; but
her eyes expanded with pleasure.

“Patita! Patita!” she stammered, then caught Patience in her arms. As
both girls looked as if about to weep, the man hurriedly departed.

The girls hugged each other as of old; then Rosita divested Patience of
her wraps and told the astonished maid to take them out of sight.

“Now that you are here, you shall stay,” she said, “stay a long, long
while. Have you had luncheon?”

“No—but I’m not—yes, I am, though, come to think of it. Get me
something to eat. Rosita, how good it is to see you again! Why, why
didn’t you write to me?”

“O—h; I will tell you, perhaps; but you must have luncheon first. I
take a late breakfast, just after rising, so it will be a few minutes
before yours is ready.” She rang a bell and gave an order to the maid,
then pushed Patience into the deepest and softest chair in the room.

“Now,” she said, smiling affectionately, “lie back and be comfortable;
you look tired. Oh, Patita, I am so glad to see you. Isn’t it like old
times?”

With a grace which long practice had made a fine art, she sank upon one
end of a divan, and back among a mass of cushions. Her white arms lay
along the pillows in such careless wise as to best exhibit their
perfection; her head dropped backward slightly, revealing the round
throat. The attitude was so natural as to suggest that she had ceased to
pose.

Patience stared at her, wondering if it could be the same Rosita. All
the freshness of youth was in that beautiful face and round voluptuous
form, but she looked years and years and years older than the Rosita of
Monterey. Patience suddenly felt young and foolish and green. The world
that had been so great and wonderful to her imagination seemed to have
shrunken to a ball, to be tossed from one to the other of those white
idle hands.

“What has changed you so?” she asked abruptly.

Rosita gave the low delicious laugh of which Patience had read in the
New York “Day.” She relit her cigarette and blew a soft cloud.

“I will tell you after luncheon. You are the only person I would never
fib to. I believe those grey eyes of yours are the only honest eyes in
the world. Why are you in black?”

Patience told her, and was drawn on to speak of herself and her life.
Rosita shuddered once or twice, an adorable little French shudder, and
cast upward her glittering hands, whose nails Patience admired even more
than their jewels.

“_Dios de mi alma!_” she cried finally. “What an existence!—I cannot
call it life. I should have jumped into the river. That life would drive
me mad, and I do not believe that it suits you either.”

She spoke with a Spanish accent, and with the affected precision of a
foreigner that has carefully learned the English language. Her monotony
of inflection was more effective than animation.

“No, it doesn’t,” said Patience, “and I have no intention of pursuing
it. I’m going to be a newspaper woman.”

Rosita gave forth a sound that from any other throat would have been a
shriek.

“A newspaper woman! And then you will come and interview me. How droll!
I shall have to become eccentric, so that I can furnish you with
‘stories,’ as they call them. I have been pumped dry. When the newspaper
women have run out of everything else they come to me, and they love me
because I am good-natured, and turn my things upside down for them. I
never refuse to see them, so they have never written anything horrid
about me. Oh, I can tell you I have learned a great many lessons since I
left Monterey. But here is your luncheon. While you are eating it I will
do something for you that I have never done for any one else off the
stage: I will sing to you.”

The maid placed a silver tray on a little table, and while Patience ate
of creamed oysters and broiled partridge, Rosita sang as the larks of
paradise may sing when angels awake with the dawn. Once Patience glanced
hastily upward, half expecting to see the notes falling in a golden
shower. When she expressed her admiration, Rosita’s red lips smiled
slowly away from the white sharp little teeth.

“Do you like it, Patita _mia_?” she asked with bewitching graciousness.
“Yes, I can sing. I have the world at my feet.”

She resumed her languid attitude on the divan. “_Bueno_,” she said, “now
I am going to tell you all about it. People are always a little heavy
after eating; I waited on purpose. But you must promise not to move
until I get through. Will you?”

“Yes,” said Patience, uncomfortably. “I hope it is nothing very
dreadful.”

“That all depends upon the way you look at things. It will seem odd to
tell it to you. You used to be the one to do what you felt like and tell
other people that if they did not like it they could do the other thing;
but I suppose you are W. C. T. U’d.”

“No, I’m not. Go on.”

“Well, I will.” She paused and laughed lightly. “Funny world. We do not
usually tell this sort of story to a woman, but you and I are different.
_Bueno._

“I went to Paris and studied hard. Yes, I am lazy yet, but I had made up
my mind to be a great, great, great success. I had what in insane people
is called the fixed idea, and the American in me conquered the Spanish.
Everybody praised my voice. No one said it was the greatest voice in the
world, nor even better than two or three others over there; but I had no
discouragement. I attracted a great deal of attention from men, but the
_dueña_ never let them get a word with me, and I did not care. I used to
wonder at the stories told about some of the other girls, and did not
half understand. Two sold themselves; but why? with a fortune in one’s
throat. Others fell in love, and talked about the temperament of the
artist, but I could not understand that nonsense either.

“_Bueno_, at the end of the time Soper came over and bought me eight
trunks full of the most beautiful clothes you ever saw,—mostly for the
stage, but lots for the house and street. He said I was a first-class
investment, and worth the outlay. When he heard me sing he shook all
over. I ought to tell you that I had been kept on short allowance, and
had had very dowdy clothes, which broke my heart.

“_Bueno_, we came home. On the steamer, Soper treated me like a father,
but never let me talk to a man. Either he or the _dueña_ was at my heels
all the time. He is a coarse-looking man, but I really liked him because
he had been so good to me, and there was something very attractive about
him. When we reached New York the _dueña_ left us. She said she was
going straight to Philadelphia to her home. Soper and I got in another
cab and drove to an apartment on Broadway. I did not know until the next
day that it was his apartment. That was in the evening. The next
morning, while I was at a late breakfast, he sent me a note, saying that
he would call in an hour and have a business talk with me. I was
practising my scales when he came in, and he clapped his hands and
offered me a chair. He drew one up for himself, and then said in a
perfectly business-like voice:—

“‘When I ran across you I knew that you only needed training to become a
queen of opera bouffe, and to make a fortune for some one besides
yourself. I also saw that you were going to become a beautiful woman. I
made up my mind that I would own both the woman and the artist. Don’t
look like a little tigress—still, I’m glad you can look that way,—you
may be able to do Carmen yet. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a
villain, merely a practical man with an eye to beauty. I have no idea of
letting you get under the influence of any other man,—not even if you
weren’t so pretty. Let me console you by telling you that for the sort
of woman you are there is no escape. You were made to drive men mad, and
for the comic opera stage. That sort of combination might as well get
down to business as early in the game as possible: it saves time.

“‘Had I never discovered you, you would have drifted from company to
company, gone the pace with nothing to show for it, and worn out your
youth at one-night stands. I saved you from a terrible fate. You know
the rest. You know what you owe me. You have developed even beyond my
hopes, but—mark you this—I have not advertised you in any way. You are
as unknown as on the day you left California. If you mount the high
horse and say: ”Sir, you are a villain. Go to, go to!“ I shall merely
turn you loose without your trunks. You may imagine that with your voice
and beauty you could get an engagement anywhere. So you could—without
advertising, without an opera, and without a theatre of your own. Every
existing troupe has its own prima donna; you would have to take a second
or third rate part,—and unquestionably in a travelling troupe. There is
no place for you in New York but the one I propose to create. Lillian
Russell practically owns the Casino, and will, unless all signs fail,
for many years. She would not tolerate you on the same stage five
minutes; neither would any prima donna who had any influence with her
manager,—and they mostly have. Your career would be exactly what it
would have been if I had not met you,—full of hardships and change and
racing about the country; arriving at six in the evening, singing at
eight, leave the next morning at four, get what sleep you could on the
train. That’s about the size of it. You’d be painting inside of a year,
if not wearing plumpers. And what you’re mad at now, you’d be looking
upon as a matter of course then, and grateful for the admiration.

“‘Moreover, no success is worth a tinker’s dam that ain’t made in New
York,—I think I wrote you that on an average of once a month. If you
show that you have horse sense, and will sign a contract with me for
five years, I’ll make you the rage in New York inside of two months. Now
it is success or failure: you can take your choice. I’ll be here
to-morrow at ten.’ And he was gone before I could speak.

“_Bueno_, after I had gotten over being fearfully mad I sat down and
thought it all over. I knew that all he said was true. I had heard too
much in Paris. He had kept writing me that virtue paid in an actress to
keep me straight, but I had heard the opposite about nine hundred times.
_Bueno_, I was in a trap. I had made up my mind to succeed. I had even
worked for it,—and you know how much that meant with me. I made up my
mind that succeed I would, no matter what the price. It is one of two
things in this world,—success or failure,—and if you fail nobody cares
a hang about your virtue.

“You know I never was sentimental nor romantic. Soper had made a plain
business proposition in a practical way that I liked. If he had gone on
like a stage lover it would have been much harder. And after all I would
be no worse than a society girl who sells herself to a rich husband. So,
after turning it over for twenty-four hours—or all the time I was
awake—I concluded not to be a fool, but La Rosita, Queen of Opera
Bouffe. When he called I merely shrugged my shoulders and said
‘_Bueno_.’ He laughed, and said I would certainly succeed in this world;
that the beautiful woman with the cool calculating brain always got
there. So—here I am. What do you think of it?”

During this recital her voice had not for one instant broken nor
hardened. She told her story in the soft sweet languid voice of Spain;
she might have been relating an idyl of which she was the Juliet and
Soper the Romeo.

Patience stared at her with wide eyes and dry lips.

“And you have never regretted it?” she asked; “you don’t care?”

Rosita raised her beautiful brows. “Regret? Well, no, I should say not.
Have I not realised my dreams and ambition? Am I not rich and famous and
happy instead of a scrambling nobody? Regret?—No—rather. What is more,
I know how to save. A good many of us have learned that lesson. When I
have lost voice and youth I shall be rich,—rich. We do not end in a
garret, like in the old days. And I do not drink, and I rest a great
deal—it will be a long time before I go off. Besides, there are the
beauty doctors—Oh, no, I am not regretting. And Soper is getting tired
of me, I am happy to say.”

Patience rose and went into the room where the maid had carried her hat
and jacket. It was a bedroom, a white nest of lace and velvet. When she
returned she said: “I should like to go home and think it over. I feel
queer and stunned. You have taken me so completely by surprise that I
can hardly think.”

Rosita coloured angrily.

“You are shocked, I suppose,” she said with a sneer. “I should think—”
She paused abruptly. She was still an amiable little soul.

Patience understood perfectly, and turned a shade paler. “I told you
that I did not understand how I felt. In fact, I hardly ever know just
how I feel about anything. I suppose it is because I have the sort of
mind that is made to analyse, and I haven’t had experience enough to
know how. And I never judge any one. Why should I? Why should we judge
anybody? We are not all made alike. I couldn’t do what you have done,
but that is no reason why I should condemn you. That would be absurd. If
any one else had told me this story I should only have been
interested—I am so curious about everything. But you see you are the
only girl friend I ever had, and that is what makes me feel so
strangely. Good-bye;” and she hurriedly left the room.


                                   XV

When she reached home she forgot her horror of death chambers, and went
to Miss Tremont’s room and flung herself on the bed. She did not
cry—her tears had all been spent; but she felt something of the
profound misery of the last year in Monterey. During the intervening
years she had seen little of the cloven hoof of human nature; the
occasional sin over on Hog Heights hardly counted; creatures of the
lower conditions had no high lights to make the shadows startling. But
to-day the horror of old experiences rushed over her; she was filled
with a profound loathing of life, of human nature.

So far, of love, in its higher sense—if it possessed such a part—she
had seen nothing; of sensuality, too much. True, she had spent two weeks
with Miss Galpin, during that estimable young woman’s engagement; but
Miss Galpin took love as a sort of front-parlour, evening-dress affair,
and Patience had not deigned to be interested. She had speculated
somewhat over Miss Tremont’s early romance, but could only conclude that
it was one of those undeveloped little histories that so many old maids
cherish.

She recalled all the love stories she had read. Even the masters were
insipid when they attempted to portray spiritual love. It was only when
they got down to the congenial substratum of passion that they wrote of
love with colour and fire. Was she to believe that it did not
exist,—this union of soul and mind? Her dreams receded, and refused to
cohere. She wondered, with natural egoism, if any girl of her age had
ever received so many shocks. She was on the threshold of life, with a
mass of gross material out of which to shape her mental attitude to
existing things. True, she had met only women of relative sinlessness
during these last years, but their purity was uninteresting because it
was that of people mentally limited, and possessed of the fad of the
unintellectual. Moreover, they had their erotism, the oddest, most
unreal, and harmless erotism the world has known in the last two
thousand years; and after all quite incidental: her keen eyes had long
since observed that the old maids were far more religious than the
married women, that the girls cooled perceptibly to the great
abstraction as soon as a concrete candidate was approved.

She longed passionately for Miss Tremont. All her old restlessness and
doubt had returned with the flight of that ardent absorbing personality.
She wished that she could have been remodelled; for, after all, the dear
old lady, whatever her delusions, had been happy. But she was still
Patience Sparhawk; she could only be thankful that Miss Tremont had
cemented her hatred of evil.

She rose abruptly, worn out by conjectures and analysis that led
nowhere, and went out into the woods.

“Oh,” she said, lifting her arms, “this at least is beautiful.”

The ground was hard and white and sparkling. The trees were crystal,
down to the tiniest twig. They glittered iridescently under the level
rays of the sun descending upon the Palisades on the far side of the
Hudson. The river was grey under great floating blocks of ice. Groves of
slender trees in the hollows of the Palisades looked like fine bunches
of feathers. On the long slopes the white snow lay deep; above, the dark
steeps were merely powdered, here and there; on the high crest the woods
looked black.

She walked rapidly up and down, calmed, as of old, by the beauty of
nature, but dreading the morrow and the recurring to-morrows. Suddenly
through those glittering aisles pealed the rich sonorous music of the
organ. The keys were under the hands of a master, and the great notes
throbbed and swelled and rolled through the winter stillness in the
divine harmonies of “The Messiah.” Patience stood still, shaking a
little. On a hill above the wood a large house had been built recently;
the organ must be there.

The diamond radiance of the woods was living melody. The very trees
looked to bow their crystal heads. The great waves of harmony seemed
rolling down from an infinite height, down from some cathedral of light
and stars.

The ugly impressions of the day vanished. The sweet intangible longing
she had been used to know in Carmel tower flashed back to her. What was
it? She recalled the words of the Stranger. It was long since she had
thought of him. She closed her eyes and stood with him in the tower. His
voice was as distinct as the notes of the organ. She felt again the
tumult of her young half-comprehending mind. Was not life all a matter
of ideals? Were not the bad and the good happy only if consistent to a
fixed idea? Did she make of herself such a woman as the Stranger had
evoked out of the great mass of small feminity, could she not be
supremely happy with such a man? Where was he? Was he married? He seemed
so close—it was incredible that he existed for another woman. Who more
surely than she could realise the purest ideal of her imaginings,—she
with her black experience and hatred of all that was coarse and evil?
She closed her eyes to her womanhood no longer. It thrilled and shook
her. If he would come—She trembled a little.

All men were henceforth possible lovers. Unless the Stranger appeared
speedily his memory must give way to the definite. The imperious demands
of a woman’s nature cannot be satisfied with abstractions. The ideal
which he stood for would lend a measure of itself to each engaging man
with whom she exchanged greeting.


                                  XVI

“Miss Patience!” cried a strident voice.

Patience turned with a violent start. Ellen was a large blotch on the
white beauty of the wood.

“There’s a young lady to see you. She didn’t give her name as I
remember.”

Patience followed the servant resentfully. The world was cold and dull
again. But when she recognised the Peele coachman and footman on the
handsome sleigh before the door she forgot her dreams, and went eagerly
into the house.

A girl was standing before the mantel, regarding through a lorgnette a
row of photographs. She turned as she heard footsteps, and came forward
with a cordial smile on her plain charming face. She wore a black cloth
frock and turban which made Patience feel dowdy as Rosita’s magnificence
had not.

“I am Hal,” she said, “and you are Patience, of course. I hope you have
heard as much of me as I have of you. Dear old girl, I was awfully fond
of her. You look so tired—are you?”

“A little. It is so good of you to come. Yes, I’ve heard a very great
deal of you.”

“I’ll sit down, thank you. Let’s try this sofa. I’ve already tried the
chairs, and they’re awful. But I suppose dear old Harriet never sat down
at all. I wonder if she’ll be happy in heaven with nothing to do.”

Patience smiled sympathetically. “She ought to be glad of a rest, but I
don’t believe she is.”

“She thought we were all heathens—dear old soul; but I did love her.
What was the trouble? We only had one short letter from Miss Beale. Do
tell me all about it.”

Miss Peele had an air of reposeful alertness. She leaned forward
slightly, her eyes fixed on Patience’s with flattering attention. She
looked a youthful worldling, a captivating type to a country girl. Her
voice was very sweet, and exquisitely modulated. Occasionally it went
down into a minor key.

“What shall you do with yourself, now?” she asked anxiously, when
Patience had finished the brief story. “I am so interested in you. I
don’t know why I haven’t called before, except that I never find time to
do the things I most care for; but I have wanted to come a dozen times,
and when we returned yesterday and heard of the dear old girl’s death I
made up my mind to come at once. And I’m coming often. I know we shall
be such good friends. I’m so glad she left you her money so you won’t
have to work. It must be so horrid to work. I’m going to ask mamma to
ask you to visit us. She’s feeling rather soft now over Cousin Harriet’s
death, so I’ll strike before she gets the icebergs on. She isn’t
pleasant then. I’ll tell her you don’t wear the white ribbon yet—” She
broke into a light peal of laughter. “Poor mamma! how she used to
suffer. Cousin Harriet’s white bow was the great cross of her life. It
will go far toward reconciling her—Don’t think that my parent is
heartless. She merely insists upon everything belonging to her to be
_sans reproche_. That’s the reason we don’t always get along. What
lovely hair you have—a real _blonde cendrée_. It’s all the rage in
Paris. And that great coil is beautiful. Tell me, didn’t you find that
Temperance work a hideous bore?”

“Oh, yes, but no one could resist Miss Tremont.”

“Indeed one couldn’t. I believe she’d have roped me in if I’d lived with
her; but I’m a frivolous good-for-nothing thing. You look so serious. Do
you always feel that way?”

Patience smiled broadly. “Oh, no. I often feel that I would be very
frivolous indeed if circumstances would permit. It must be very
interesting.”

“You get tired of yourself sometimes—I mean I do. Are you very
religious?”

“I am not religious at all.”

“Oh, how awfully jolly. I do the regulation business, but it is really
tragic to carry so much religion round all the time. I wonder how Cousin
Harriet and the Lord hit it off, or if they liked each other better at a
distance? I corresponded once with the brother of a school friend for a
year, and when I met him I couldn’t endure him. Those things are very
trying. I am going to call you Patience. May I? And if ever you call me
Miss Peele you’ll be sorry. How awfully smart you’d look in gowns. My
colouring is so commonplace. If I didn’t know how to dress, and hadn’t
been taught to carry myself with an air, I’d be just nothing—no more
and no less. But you have such a lovely nose and white skin—and that
hair! You are aristocratic looking without being swagger. I’m the other
way. You can acquire the one, but you can’t the other. When you have
both you’ll be out of sight.

“What fun it would be,” she rambled on in her bright inconsequential
way, “if Bev should fall in love with you and you’d marry him. Then I’d
have such fun dressing you, and we’d get ahead of my cousin Honora
Mairs, whom I hate, and who, I’m afraid, will get him. Propinquity and
flattery will bring down any man—they’re such peacocks. But I’ll bring
him to see you. You ought to have a violet velvet frock. I’d bet on Bev
then. But, of course, you can’t wear colours yet, and that dead black is
wonderfully becoming. Can I bring him up in a day or two?”

“Oh, yes,” said Patience, smiling as she recalled her brief periods of
spiritual matrimony with Beverly Peele; “by all means. I’ll be so glad
to meet all of you. And you are certainly good to take so much interest
in me.”

“I am the angel of the family. Well, I must be off, or I’ll have to dine
all by me lonely. None of the rest of the family uses slang: that is the
reason I do. May is a grown-up baby, and never disobeyed her mamma in
her life. Honora is a classic, and only swears in the privacy of her
closet when her schemes fail. Mother—well, you’ve seen mother. As you
may imagine, she doesn’t use slang. Papa doesn’t talk at all, and Bev is
a prig where decent women are concerned. So, you see, I have to let off
steam somehow, and as I haven’t the courage to be larky, I read French
novels and use bad words.”

She rose and moved toward a heavy coat that lay on a chair. “Well,
Patience—what a funny lovely old-fashioned name you have—I’m going to
bring Bev to see you as a last resource. I’ve tried him on a dozen other
girls, but it was no go. I’ll talk you up to him meanwhile—I’ll tell
him that you are one of the cold haughty indifferent sort, and yet
withal a village maiden. He admires blondes, and you’re such a natural
one. We’ll come up Sunday on horseback. Now be sure to make him think
you don’t care a hang whether he likes you or not—he’s been so run
after. Isn’t it too funny? I did not come here on matchmaking thoughts
intent, but I do like you, and we could have such jolly good fun
together. I’ll teach you how to smoke cigarettes—”

“But Miss Peele—Hal—you know—I don’t want to marry your brother—I
have never even seen him—much as I should like to live with you—I’d
even smoke cigarettes to please you—but really—”

“Oh, I know, of course. I can only hope for the best, and Bev certainly
is fascinating. At least he appears to be,” and she smiled oddly; “but
being a man’s sister is much like being his valet, you know. Would you
mind helping me into this coat?

“I hate these heavy fur things,” she said petulantly. “Oh, thanks—they
don’t suit my light and airy architecture, and I can’t get up any
dignity in them at all. I need fluffy graceful French things. You’d look
superb in velvet and furs and all that sort of thing. Well,
bye-bye,—no,—_au revoir_.”

She took Patience’s face between her hands and lightly kissed her on
either cheek.

“Don’t be lonesome,” she said. “I’d go frantic in this house. Can’t I
send you some books? I’ve a lot of naughty French ones—”

“No!” said Patience, abruptly, “I don’t want them. Don’t think I’m a
prig,” she added, hastily, as a look of apprehension crossed Miss
Peele’s face; “but I had a hideous shock to-day, and I don’t want to
read anything similar at present—”

“Oh, tell me about it. How could you have a shock in Mariaville?”

“I didn’t. It was in New York—”

“Oh, was it real wicked? Did you have an adventure? Do tell me—Well,
don’t, of course, if you don’t want to, only I’m so interested in you.
Well, I must, must go;” and despite the furs she moved down the walk
with exceeding grace. As she drove off she leaned out of the sleigh and
waved her hand.

“Oh!” thought Patience, “I’m so glad she came. It was like fresh air
after a corpse covered with sachet bags.” And then she went to the
mantel and gazed upon Beverly Peele.


                                  XVII

When Sunday came Patience dressed herself with unusual care. It did not
occur to her that people in different spheres of life arose at different
hours, and she expected her guests any time after eight o’clock.

Of course she must wear unrelieved black, but after prolonged regard in
the becoming mirror of the best spare room, she decided that it rather
enhanced her charms, now that a week’s rest had banished the circles
from her eyes and cleared her skin.

She had coiled her soft ashen hair loosely on the top of her head,
pulling it out a little about her face—she wore no bangs. Her restless
eyes were dark and clear and sparkling, her mouth pink. She carried her
slender figure with a free graceful poise. The carriage of her head was
almost haughty. Her hips had a generous swell. Her hands and teeth were
very white.

“I certainly have a look of race,” she thought, “if I’m not a beauty.
I’d give a good deal to know that my ancestors really did have good
blood in their veins. I don’t care so much for money, but I’d like to be
sure of that.”

After breakfast she wandered about restlessly. She had known few moments
of peace since Miss Peele’s visit. The train had been fired, and her
being was in a tumult. Beverly Peele, the Stranger, and the vague ideals
of her earlier girlhood were inextricably mixed. The result was a being
before whom she trembled with mingled rapture and terror. Her vivid
imagination had evoked a distinct entity, and the love scenes that had
been enacted between the girl and this wholly satisfactory eidolon were
such as have time out of mind made life as it is seem a singularly
defective composition to the wondering mind of woman.

At times she was terrified at the rich possibilities of her nature, so
little suspected. The revelation gave her vivid comprehension of woman’s
tremendous power for sacrifice and surrender, possibilities of which she
had read with much curiosity, but little sympathy. For those women she
felt a warm honour, a fierce desire to espouse their cause. For Rosita
she had only loathing and contempt.

It was not only passion that was awake. Sentiment, that finer child of
the brain, and the sweet faint feeling which assuredly lingers about the
region of the heart, whatever its physical cause may be, were there in
full measure to lend their potent lashings to that primeval force which
is as mighty in some women as in some men. It is doubtful if a woman
ever loves a man when in his arms with the same exaltation of soul and
passion which she feels for that creation of her brain that he little
more than suggests, and that is only wholly hers when the man himself is
absent. Imagination in woman is as arbitrary as desire in man, and she
is beaten down and crushed by this imperious and capricious brain-imp so
many times in her life that the wonder is she is not driven to the hopes
and illusions of religion, or to humour, long before the skin has
yellowed and the eye paled.

And when the imagination has full sway, when the man has not been
beheld, when he has been invested with every quality dear to the heart
of the generously endowed woman, when, indeed, all eidola blend, and she
has a confused vision of an immense and mighty force bearing down upon
her which shall sweep every tradition out of existence and annihilate
the material world, then assuredly man himself would do well to retire
into obscurity and curse his shortcomings.

It was four o’clock, and she had been through the successive stages of
hope, despair, hope, melancholia, hope, and resignation, before she
heard the sharp clatter of hoofs on the road. She ran to the dining-room
window, her heart thumping, and peered through the blind. They were
coming! Hal sat her horse like a swaying reed, but the young man on the
large chestnut rode in the agonised fashion of the day. He was of medium
height, she saw, compactly and elegantly built, and the beauty of his
face had defied the photographer’s art.

Patience ran to the kitchen and told Ellen to answer the bell
immediately, then sat down by the stove to compose herself. She was
still trembling, and wished to appear cold and stately, as Hal had
recommended. When Ellen returned and announced the visitors, she sprang
up, patted her hair, pulled down the bodice of her gown, and then, with
what dignity she could muster, went forth to meet her fate. She did wish
she had a train. It was so difficult to be stately in a skirt that
cleared the ground.

As she entered the parlour Mr. Peele was standing by the opposite door.
His riding gear was very becoming. Patience noted swiftly that his eyes
were a spotted brown and that his mouth pouted under the dark moustache.

Hal came forward with both hands extended. “We have come, you see,” she
said, “and we had to make a wild break to do it—had a lot of company;
but I was bound to come. Patience, this is Beverly. He’s quite frantic
to meet you. It was all I could do to keep him away until to-day.”

The young man bowed in anything but a frantic manner, and stood
gracefully until the girls were seated. Then he took a chair and
caressed his moustache, regarding Patience attentively.

“Would you mind if Bev smoked?” asked Hal. “He is just wild for a cigar.
We had to ride so hard to keep warm that he didn’t have a chance, and
he’s a slave to the weed.”

Patience glanced swiftly at the door, half-expecting to see the
indignant wraith of Miss Tremont, then, almost reluctantly, gave the
required permission. Mr. Peele promptly lit a cigar. Patience wondered
if he would ever speak. Perhaps he did not think it worth his while. He
looked very haughty.

“We had a perfectly beautiful ride,” said Hal, in her plaintive voice.
“I’d rather be on a horse than on an ocean steamer, and I do love to
travel. You look ever so much better than you did, Patience. You must
have needed a rest.”

Mr. Peele removed his cigar. “Perhaps that was what she had been
_im_patiently waiting for,” he remarked.

Patience stared at him. Her eyes expanded. Something seemed crumbling
within her.

“Oh, Bev, you do make me so tired,” said his sister. “I tell him
eighteen times a day that punning is the lowest form of wit, but he’s
incorrigible. I suppose it’s in the blood, and I’m glad it broke out in
him instead of in me. It is well to be philosophical in this life—”

“When you can’t help yourself—” interrupted Mr. Peele, easily.

Patience felt it incumbent upon her to make conversation, although her
thoughts were dancing a jig.

“You have a beautiful horse,” she said to the young man.

His eyes lit up with enthusiasm. “Isn’t she a beauty?” he exclaimed.
“She’s taken two prizes and won a race. She’s the daughter—”

“Patience doesn’t know anything about horses,” interrupted Hal. “What
does she care whose daughter Firefly is?”

“Oh, I’m very much interested,” faltered Patience.

“Are you really?” cried Mr. Peele, with a smile so beautiful that
Patience caught her breath. “I’ve got the rarest book in the country on
horses—beautiful pictures—coloured—I’ll bring it up and explain it to
you. Tell you a lot of stories about famous horses.”

“I shall be delighted.”

“Do you ride?”

“I used to ride a pony, but I haven’t been on a horse for so long I’ve
almost forgotten what it’s like.”

“That’s too bad. There’s nothing like it. Makes you feel so good. When I
have dyspepsia I just jump on Firefly, and I’m all right in less than no
time. I take a canter for dyspepsia—although I can’t—er—always feel
at home that way. Ahem!”

Patience wanted to tear her hair. It was with an effort that she kept
her face from convulsing with disgust. She caught sight of the young
man’s intellectual brow, and, without any premonitory consciousness,
laughed aloud. Mr. Peele smiled back with the pleasure of appreciated
wit, and resumed his cigar.

“Bev isn’t such a fool as he looks,” remarked Hal, airily. “Just have
patience with him. We all have our little failings.”

Patience sat as if turned to clay. She could not talk. All her natural
animation had deserted her. She wished they would go and leave her
alone. But Hal pulled off her riding gloves, and made herself
comfortable on the sofa. As she rattled on, Patience noticed how
beautiful her nails were. She turned her own hands over so that the
palms lay upward.

“Never mind,” said young Peele, in a low tone. “They’re much prettier.”

“What’s that?” cried Hal. “What are you blushing about, Patience? How
lovely it is to blush like that. I’ve forgotten how—and I’m only
twenty-two. There’s tragedy for you. It’s not that I’ve had so many
compliments about my beauty, nor yet about my winning ways,—which are
my strong point,—but I found so much to blush about when I was first
launched upon this wicked world that I exhausted my capacity. And Bev
always did tell such naughty stories—” She paused abruptly. “Dear me!
perhaps I’ve made a bad break, and prejudiced you against my brother;
and I want you to be good friends so that we can have jolly times
together. Perhaps you have an ideal man—a sort of Sir Galahad. I
haven’t sounded you yet.”

“Sir Galahad is not my ideal,” said Patience, with the quick scorn of
the woman who is born with intuitive knowledge of man. “I could not find
anything interesting in an elongated male infant.”

“Oh, how lovely!” cried Hal. “Give me the man of the world every time. I
tell you, you appreciate the difference when you have to entertain ’em.
And the elongated infant, as you put it, never understands a woman, and
she has no use for that species whatever. He doesn’t even want to
understand her, and a woman resents that as a personal insult. The bad
ones hurt sometimes, but they’re interesting; and when you learn how to
manage them it’s plain sailing enough. Mrs. Laurence Gibbs—a friend of
mamma’s, awfully good, goes in for charity and all that sort of
thing—said the other day that at the rate women were developing and
advancing, the standard of men morally would have to be raised. But I
said ‘Not much!’ that the development of woman meant that women were
becoming more clever, not merely bright and intellectual, and that
clever women would demand cleverness and fascination in man above all
else; and that Sir Galahads were not that sort. It’s experience that
makes a man interesting to us women,—they represent all we’d like to be
and don’t dare. If they were like ourselves—if they didn’t excite our
imaginations—we wouldn’t care a hang for them. Mrs. Gibbs was
horrified, of course, and told me I didn’t know what I was talking
about. But I said I guessed it was the other way. I’m not clever—not by
a long sight,—and if I can’t stand a prig I know a clever woman can’t
and won’t.”

“I’m so glad I’m not a prig,” murmured Mr. Peele.

“Oh, you’re a real devil. If you were clever now, you’d have to be shut
up to protect society; but as it is, you just go on your good looks, so
you’re not as dangerous as some.”

She rattled on, not giving the others a chance for more than a stray
remark. Patience, listening with deep curiosity to this new philosophy,
became aware of an increasing desire to turn her eyes to the man that
had so bitterly disappointed her. A direct potent force seemed to
emanate from him. It was her first experience of man’s magnetism, but
she knew that he possessed it to a remarkable degree. When he finally
shot out an insignificant remark she felt, in the excuse it gave her to
turn to him, a sensation of positive relief. He was leaning back in his
chair, in the easy attitude of a man that has been too accustomed to
luxury all his life to look uncomfortable in any circumstances. With his
picturesque garb, his noble, beautiful face, his subtle air of elegance
and distinction, he looked the ideal hero of girlhood’s dreams. Patience
wondered what Nature had been about, then recalled the many tricks of
that capricious dame made famous in history, the round innocent faces of
the worst boys in the Loyal Legion class, the saintly physiognomy of a
Mariaville minister who had recently fallen from grace.

Peele was watching her out of his half-closed eyes, and as she met them
he smiled almost affectionately. Patience averted her head quickly,
angry that she had felt an impulse to respond, and fixed her attention
on Hal. “Dear old Cousin Harriet,” that young woman was remarking, “how
I do wish that I were even sorrier than I am that she is dead. I try to
think it’s because I saw so little of her; but I know it’s just because
I’m so beastly selfish. I don’t care a hang for anything that doesn’t
affect my own happiness—”

“You’re not selfish,” interrupted Patience, indignantly.

“Oh, but I am,” said Miss Peele, with a comical little air of disgust
which sat as gracefully upon her as all her varying moods and manners.
“I get up thinking what I can get out of the day, and I go to bed glad
or mad according to what the day has done for me. I don’t go in for
Church work like Honora—dear Honora!—nor am I always doing some pretty
little thing for people like May. I suppose you think I’m an angel
because I came to see you. I assured myself at great length that it was
my duty—but it was plain curiosity, no more nor less; and now I like
you awfully, better than any woman I ever met—and I do so want you to
come and visit us, but—”

“Couldn’t you come and stay with me?” asked Patience, hurriedly. She had
no desire to visit Mrs. Gardiner Peele. “You know you have more or less
company, and I should be very quiet for a while. And oh! I should so
like to have you.”

“Oh, I’d love to! I’ll come and stay a week. I’m so sick of the whole
family, Bev included. We won’t be going anywhere for three months out of
respect for Cousin Harriet—mamma is very particular about those
things—and I can get away as well as not. I’ll come on Tuesday,—can I?
Bev will come up occasionally and see how I’m getting on—won’t you,
Bevvy, dear?”

“I’d much rather you would not be here,” said Mr. Peele, calmly.

“Oh—really—well, we’re all young yet. I’m coming all the same. I
suppose we must be going. We have to get home to dress for dinner, you
know.”

She rose, and drew on her gloves. Her brother stood up immediately and
helped her into her covert coat. “Well, Patience,” she said, kissing her
lightly, “you’ll see me on Tuesday. I’ll come by train, and wire you
beforehand. Mamma’ll raise Cain, but I’ll manage it. It’s only
occasionally she’s too much for me. The cold glare of those blue eyes of
hers freezes my marrow at times and takes all the starch out of me. It’s
awful to have been brought up under that sort of eye. When Honora
marries it’s the sort of eye she’ll have. She cultivates the angelic at
present. Have I talked you to death, Patience? So good of you to ask me
to come.”

Peele held out his hand, and Patience could do no less than lay hers
within it. As it closed she resisted an impulse to nestle her own more
closely into that warm grasp. He held her hand longer than was
altogether necessary, and she felt indignantly that she had no desire to
draw it away.

“That’ll do for one day,” said Hal, drily. “Come along, Beverly Peele.
We won’t get home for coffee at this rate.”

When they had gone Patience threw herself on the sofa and burst into
tears, then laughed suddenly. “I feel like the heroine of a tragedy,”
she thought. “And the tragedy is a pun!”


                                 XVIII

Hal arrived on Tuesday afternoon. Patience for twenty-four hours after
Beverly Peele’s visit looked upon life through grey spectacles. She had
an impression of being a solitary figure on a sandy waste, illimitable
in extent. Life was ugly practical reality. It frightened her, and she
cowered before it, hating the future, her blood chilled, her nerves
blunt, her brain stagnant.

But by Tuesday morning, being young and buoyant, she revived, and roamed
through the woods, entirely loyal to the Stranger. She made up her mind
that she would find him, that he could not be married. He must have
waited for her. “Oh!” she thought, “if I could not believe that
something existed in this world as I have imagined it, some man good
enough to love and look up to, I believe I’d jump into the river. At
least I have heard Him talk. He could not be a disappointment, like that
hollow bronze. If there are many men in the world like Beverly Peele I
don’t wonder women are in revolt. Women start out in life with big
ideals of man, and if they are disappointed I suppose they unconsciously
strive to make themselves what they should have found in man. But it is
unnatural. It seems to me that man must be able to give woman the best
she can find in life, whether he does or not. Something in civilisation
has gone wrong.”

“I’ve been so restless,” she said to Hal, as the girls sat on the edge
of the bed in the spare room, holding each other’s hand. “If you had not
been coming I’d have gone to New York before this and seen Mr. Field,
the editor of the ‘Day’—He promised me once he’d make a newspaper woman
of me—”

“A what?” cried Hal. “What on earth do you want to be a newspaper woman
for?”

“Well, I must be something. I couldn’t live out of Mariaville on my
income, and the few hundred dollars Mr. Foord left me, and I don’t know
of anything else I want to be.”

“You are going to be Mrs. Beverly Peele,” said Hal, definitely. “Beverly
has the worst attack of my recollection. He has simply raved about you.
Tell me, don’t you like him?”

Patience said nothing.

Hal leaned forward and turned Patience’s face about. “Don’t you like
him?” she asked in a disappointed tone. “Tell me. Please be frank. I
hate people who are not.”

“Well, I’ll confess it—I was disappointed in him. You see, I’d thought
about him a good deal—several years, if you want to know the truth—and
I was sure he was an intellectual man—”

Hal threw back her head and gave a clear ringing laugh. “Bev
intellectual! That’s too funny. I don’t believe he ever read anything
but a newspaper and horse literature in his life. But we all think he’s
bright. I think it my duty to tell you that he has a fearful temper.
He’s always been mamma’s pet, and she never would cross him, so he flies
into regular tantrums when things don’t go to suit him; but on the whole
he’s pretty good sort. Don’t you think he’s good-looking?”

“Oh, wonderfully,” said Patience, glad to be enthusiastic.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll like him when you’ve forgotten the ideal and got
used to the real. Do please try to like him, for I’m bent on having you
for a sister-in-law.”

“Well, I’ll try,” said Patience, laughing.

“You have no idea,” continued the astute Miss Peele, “how many girls
have been in love with him. I’ve known girls that looked like marble
statues—the marble statue with the snub nose; that’s our swagger New
York type, you know,—well, I’ve seen them make perfect idiots of
themselves about him. But so far he’s rather preferred the ladies that
don’t visit at Peele Manor. I’ve brought some cigarettes. Can I smoke?”

“You can just do anything you like.”

“Thanks. Well, I think I’ll begin by lying down on this soft bed. It’s
way ahead of the chairs and sofa in the parlour.”

She exchanged her frock for a _peignoir_, and extended herself on the
bed. Patience sat beside her in a rocking chair, her troubles forgotten.

“By the way,” said Hal, suddenly removing her cigarette, “what was the
shock you had the other day? Tell me.”

“Well, I will,” and Patience told the story of Rosita from beginning to
end. Hal listened with deep interest.

“That’s a stunner,” she said, “and worth coming to Mariaville for. The
little rip. She didn’t tell you half. I’ll bet my hopes of a tiara on
that. But she does dance and sing like an angel. And so you were
children together? How perfectly funny! Now tell me your history, every
bit of it.”

Patience hesitated, then impulsively told the story, omitting few
particulars.

Miss Peele’s cigarette was allowed to go out. “Well, well,” she said,
when Patience had finished. “Fate did play the devil with you, didn’t
she? I’m so glad you’ve told me. I’ll tell the family what I like, and
you keep quiet. I have the inestimable gift of selection. You poor
child! I’m so glad you fell in with Cousin Harriet; and now you are
going to be happy for the rest of your life. Oh, it’s so good to be here
in this quiet place. I’m so tired of everybody. Sometimes I get a
fearful disgust. The same old grind, year after year. If I could only
fall in love; but when I do I know it’ll be with a poor man. I never did
have any luck.”

“Wouldn’t you marry him?”

Hal shook her wise young head. “I don’t know. You never can tell what
you’ll do when you get that disease; but I do know that I’d be miserable
if I did. Money, and plenty of it, is necessary to my happiness. You see
we’re not so horribly rich. Papa gives mamma and May and me two thousand
dollars each a year, and his income comes mostly from his practice. We
haven’t anything else but a little house in town, and Peele Manor—which
of course we’ll never sell—and a big farm adjoining. Bev runs that, and
has the income from it—about three thousand dollars a year. When he
wants more mamma gets it for him, and when he’s married of course he’ll
have a lot more. Two thousand stands me in very well now, but as a
married woman I want nothing under thirty thousand a year—and that’s a
modest ambition enough. You can’t be anybody in New York on less. Oh,
dear—life is a burden.”

“Your woes are not very terrible,” said Patience, drily.

“Oh, you’d think so if you were me. We suffer according to our
capacities and point of view. What is comedy to one is tragedy to
another. If I had to wear the same clothes for two seasons I’d be as
miserable as a defeated candidate for the Presidency. Beer makes one man
drunk and champagne another. Bev, by the way, never drinks. He’s rather
straight than otherwise. What’s your ideal of a man, by the way? Of
course you have an ideal.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Patience, vaguely. “A man with a big brain and
a big heart and a big arm.”

Miss Peele laughed heartily. “You are not exacting in your combinations,
not in the least.”

The week passed delightfully to Patience, although Hal became rather
restless toward the end. She arranged Patience’s hair in six different
fashions, then decided that the large soft coil suited her best.
Patience’s nails were manicured, she was taught how to smoke cigarettes,
and select extracts from French novels were read to her. Hal was an
accomplished gossip, and regaled her hostess with all the whispered
scandals of New York society. She was a liberal education.

Beverly did not call, nor did he write, and Hal anathematised him
freely.

“But I have my ideas on the subject,” she said darkly. “Just you wait.”


                                  XIX

On the evening of Hal’s departure, as Patience was braiding her hair for
the night, there was a sharp ring at the bell, and a few moments later
Ellen came upstairs with a card inscribed “Mr. Beverly Peele.” Patience
felt disposed to send word that she had retired, so thoroughly had she
lost interest in the young man; but reflecting that he had probably
ridden ten miles on a cold night to see her, told Ellen to light all the
burners in the parlour, and twisted up her hair.

As she went downstairs she saw a heavy overcoat on the hall table.

“If it had occurred to me that he had come by train,” she thought, “I’d
have let him go home again.”

He came forward with his charming smile, looking remarkably handsome in
his evening clothes.

“It was kind of you to come,” she said, too unsophisticated to feel
embarrassed at receiving a man at night in a house where she lived alone
with a servant. “Of course you knew how lonely I must be.”

“Hal is good company, isn’t she?” he asked, holding her hand and staring
hard at her. “But I should think she’d miss you more than you’d miss
her.”

Patience withdrew her hand abruptly. Her face wore its accustomed cold
gravity, contradicted by the eager eyes of youth. “Won’t you sit down? I
hope Hal has missed me, but she has hardly had time to tell you so.”

“Hasn’t she? She has had several hours, and I suppose you know by this
time how fast she can talk. She’s awfully bright, don’t you think so?”

“Indeed she is.”

“She isn’t a beauty like May, nor intellectual like Honora, but you
can’t have everything—that is, everybody can’t.”

“Does any one?” asked Patience, indifferently.

“Hal says you are the cleverest woman she has ever met,—and—”

“I’m afraid Hal is carried away by the enthusiasms of the moment,” said
Patience, as he paused. She was highly gratified, nevertheless.

“—you are the prettiest woman I ever saw,” he continued, as if she had
not spoken.

“Oh, nonsense!” exclaimed Patience, angrily, but the colour flew to her
face.

“I mean it,” and indisputably his eyes spoke admiration. “I’ve thought
of no one else since I was here. I haven’t come before, because there’s
nothing in calling on your sister, and that’s what it would have
amounted to. But, you see, I’m here the very night she left.”

“You are very flattering.” Patience was beginning to feel vaguely
uncomfortable. She realised that the lore gathered from novels was
valueless in a practical emergency, and longed for the experience of
Hal. “I understand that you are considered fascinating, and I suppose
most women do like to be flattered.”

“I never paid a woman a compliment before in my life,” he said,
unblushingly. “You don’t look a bit like any woman I ever saw. Hal says
you look like a ‘white star on a dark night,’ and that’s about the size
of it. You have such lovely hair and skin. I’ve always rather admired
plump women, but your slenderness suits you—”

“Oh, please talk about something else! I am not used to such stuff, and
I don’t like it. Suppose you talk about yourself.” (She had read that
man could ever be beguiled by this bait.) “Are you as fond of travel as
Hal is?”

“I never travel,” he said shortly. “When I find a comfortable place I
stay in it. Westchester County suits me down to the ground.”

“You mean to say that you can travel and don’t? that you don’t care at
all to see the beautiful things in Europe?”

“Oh, my mother always brings home a lot of photographs and things, and
that’s all I want of it. I never could understand why Americans are so
restless. I’m sick of the very sound of Europe, anyway.”

“Are you fond of New York?”

“New York is the centre of the earth, and full of pretty—interesting
things, dontcherknow? I’ve had some gay times there, I can tell you. But
I’ve settled down now, and prefer Westchester County to any place on
earth. I’d rather be behind or on a horse than anything else.”

“Don’t you care for society?”

“I hate it. One winter was enough for me. Wild horses wouldn’t drag me
into a ball-room again. Of course when the house is full of company in
summer I like that well enough. I play billiards with the men and
spoon—flirt with the girls and the pretty married women; but I’m just
as contented when they’ve all cleared out.”

“Do you mean to say that you stay in the country by yourself all winter?
What do you do? Read?”

“N-o-o-o. I don’t care much about books. We have a big farm and I run
it, and I skate and drive and ride and smoke—Oh, there’s plenty to do.
Occasionally I go to town and have a little fun.”

“What do you call fun if you don’t like society,—the theatre?”

“The theatre!” he laughed. “I never sat out a play in my life. Oh, I
don’t know you well enough to tell you everything yet. Sometime, I’ll
tell you a lot of funny things.”

“Perhaps you enjoy the newspapers in winter,” said Patience, hastily.

“Oh, I read even the advertisements. The papers are all the reading any
man wants. There are two or three good sensational stories every day.”

“I don’t read those,” said Patience, disgustedly. This idol appeared to
be clay straight up to his hair. “I like to read the big news and Mr.
Field’s editorials.”

“Oh, you need educating. I read those too—not Field; he’s too much for
me. But I didn’t come here to talk about newspapers—”

“Won’t you smoke a cigar?”

“No, thanks. I smoked all the way down, and in the cab too, for that
matter—”

“Are the horses standing out there in the cold? Wouldn’t you like to
tell him to take them to the barn?”

“I suppose he can look after his own horses. They’re nothing but old
hacks, anyhow.” He leaned forward abruptly and took her hand, pressing
it closely. “Oh!” he said. “I’ve been wild to see you again.”

Patience attempted to jerk her hand away, acutely conscious of a desire
to return his clasp. She did the worst thing possible, but the only
thing that could be expected: she lost her head. “I don’t like you to do
that,” she exclaimed. “Let me go! What do you mean, anyhow?”

“That you are the loveliest woman I ever saw. I have been wild about
you—” He had taken her other hand, and his face was close to hers. He
had lowered his lids slightly.

“And you think that because I am alone here you can say what you like?”
she cried passionately. “You would not dare act like this with one of
your mother’s guests!”

“Oh, wouldn’t I?” He laughed disagreeably. “But what is the use of being
a goose—”

Patience sprang to her feet, overturning her chair: but she only
succeeded in pulling him to his feet also; he would not release her
hands.

“I wish you would leave the house,” she said, stamping her foot. “If you
don’t let me go, I’ll call Ellen.”

“Oh, don’t make a goose of yourself. And I’m not afraid of a servant.
I’m not going to murder you—nor anything else. Only,—do you drive all
men wild like this?”

“I don’t know anything about men,” almost sobbed Patience, “and I don’t
want to. Will you go?”

“No, I won’t.” He released her hands suddenly; and, as she made a spring
for the door, flung his arms about her. She ducked her head and fought
him, but he kissed her cheeks and brow and hair. His lips burnt her
delicate skin, his powerful embrace seemed absorbing her. She was filled
with fury and loathing, but the blood pounded in her ears, and the very
air seemed humming. The man’s magnetism was purely animal, but it was a
tremendous force.

“You are a brute, a beast!” she sobbed. “Let me go! Let me go!”

“I won’t,” he muttered. He too had lost his head. “I’ll not leave you.”
He strove to reach her mouth. She managed to disengage her right arm,
and clinching her hand hit him a smart blow in the face. He laughed, and
caught her hand, holding it out at arm’s length.

“Ellen!” she cried. As she lifted her head to call he was quick to see
his advantage. His mouth closed suddenly on hers.

The room swam round her. She ceased to struggle. Her feet had touched
that nether world where the electrical forces of the universe appear to
be generated, and its wonder—not the man—conquered her. She shook
horribly. She felt a tumultuous impulse to spring upon her ideals and
beat them in the face.

Heavy footfalls sounded in the kitchen hall.

“There is Ellen!” she gasped, wrenching herself free. The man stamped
his foot. He looked hideous.

“Go!” said Patience. “Go, just as fast as you can, and don’t you ever
come here again. If you do, it won’t do you any good, for you’ll not see
me.”

And she ran upstairs and locked her door loudly.


                                   XX

For some time she walked rapidly up and down, pressing her hands to her
hot face. Chaos was in her. She could not think. She only felt that she
wanted to die, and preferred the river. She poured water into a basin
and plunged her face into it again and again. The water had the chill of
midwinter, and sent the blood from her brain; but she felt no cleaner.
Still, her brain was no longer racing like a screw out of water, and she
sat down to think. It was her trend of mind to face all questions with
the least possible delay, and she looked at herself squarely.

“So,” she thought, “I am the daughter of Madge Sparhawk, after all. The
horror of that night left me as I was made. Three years with the best
woman the sun ever shone on only put the real me to sleep for a time.
All my ideals were the vagaries of my imagination, a sort of unwritten
book, of the nature of those that geniuses write, who spend their
leisure hours in debauchery. I am no better than Rosita. I have not even
the excuse of love—if I had—if it had been Him—I might
perhaps—perhaps—look upon passion as a natural thing. Certainly it is
not disagreeable,” and she laughed unpleasantly. “But I despised this
man. He has not the brain of a calf nor the principle of a savage, and
yet it is he that made me forget every ideal I ever cherished. If I met
Him now, I would not insult him with the gift of myself. . . .

“If Beverly Peele came in here now I verily believe that I should kiss
him again. What—what is human nature made of? I have the blood of
refined and enlightened ancestors in my veins—I know that. I have seen
nothing of sexual sin that did not make me abhor it. Barring my mother,
I had the best of influences in Monterey, and I knew the difference. I
have—or had—a natural tendency toward all that was refined and
uplifting. I was even sure I had a soul. My brain is better, and better
furnished, than that of the average woman of my age. And yet, at the
first touch, I crumble like an old corpse exposed to air. I am simply a
body with a mental annex, and the one appears to be independent of the
other.

“Is the world all vile?” she continued, resuming her restless walk.
“This man attacked me as if he had no anticipation of a rebuff. And yet
I am the friend of his sister, the adopted daughter of his mother’s
cousin, and, he has every reason to think, of irreproachable life. If
the world—his mother’s world—were not full of such women as he
imagined me to be—he would never have taken so much for granted. He
acted as if he thought me a fool, and I appear to be remarkably green. I
am certainly learning. Oh—the brute! the brute!” And she flung herself
on the bed and burst into violent weeping, which lasted until she was so
exhausted that she fell asleep without disrobing.


                                  XXI

The next morning her head ached violently. She started for the woods,
but turned back. They held her lost ideals. She sat all day by the
window, looking at the Hudson, listless, and mentally nauseated.

During the afternoon a special messenger brought a note of abject
apology from Beverly Peele. She burnt it half read and told the man
there was no answer. There is only one thing a woman scorns more than a
man’s insult, and that is his apology.

The next day he called, but was refused admission by the sturdy Ellen.
Patience spent the day on Hog Heights. On the following day he called
again, with the same result. The next day Hal came.

“What is the row between you and Bev?” she exclaimed, before she had
seated herself. “He says you’ve taken a dislike to him, and is in the
most beastly temper about it. I never saw him so cut up. He’s sent me
here to patch it up and give you this letter. Do tell me what is the
matter?”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” said Patience, grimly. “The idea of his sending
his sister to patch it up!” And she gave an account of Mr. Peele’s
performance, woman-like omitting her own momentary forbearance.

Hal listened with an amused smile. “So Bev made a bad break,” she
remarked when Patience had concluded. “I’m not surprised, for he’s
pretty hot-headed, and head over ears in love. You mustn’t take life so
tragically. I’ve had several weird experiences myself, although I’m not
the kind that men lose their head about as a rule; only given the hour
and the occasion, some men will lose their head about any woman. Perhaps
I should have said New York men. They are a rare and lovely species.
They admire God because he made himself of their gender and knew what he
was about when he invented woman. I was out on a sleighing party one
moonlight night last winter, and on the back seat with a man I’d never
seen out of a ball-room before. The way that man’s legs and arms flew
round that sleigh made my hair curl. You see, a lot of us are fast, but
then plenty of us are not. The trouble is that the men can’t
discriminate, as we look pretty much alike on the outside. They’re not a
very clever lot—our society men—and they don’t learn much until
they’ve been taught. Then when they are forced to believe in your virtue
they feel rather sorry for you, and later on are apt to propose—if you
have any money. Bev would propose to you if you were living in a tent
and clad in a gunny sack. He would have preferred things the other
way—it’s so much less trouble—but as he can’t, he won’t stop at any
such trifling nuisance as matrimony. Oh, men are a lovely lot! Still,
the world would be a pretty stupid place without them. You’ll learn to
manage them in time, and then they’ll only amuse you. They are not
really so bad at heart—they’ve been badly educated. I know four married
women of the type we call ‘friskies,’ whom my mother would shudder at
the thought of excluding from her visiting list, and whom I’d bet my new
Paquin trunk, several men I know have had affairs with. So what can you
expect of a man?”

“Is the world rotten?” asked Patience, in disgust.

“It’s just about half and half. I know as many good women as bad. Half
the women in society are good wives and devoted mothers. The other half,
girls and married women, old and young, are no better than your Rosita.
Sometimes their motives are no higher. Usually, though, it’s craving for
excitement. I don’t blame those much myself. The most fascinating woman
I know is larky. She as much as told me so. Some of the confessions I’ve
had from married women would make you gasp. Well—let’s quit the
subject. Promise me you’ll forgive Bev.”

“I shall not. I hate him. I shall never look at him again if I can help
it.”

“Oh, dear, dear, you are young! And I do so want you for a sister. May
is such a fool, and I do hate Honora.”

“You wouldn’t have me loathe myself for the sake of being your sister, I
suppose?”

“Of course I wouldn’t have you marry Bev if you couldn’t like him; but I
believe you really do, only things haven’t turned out as you planned in
that innocent little skull of yours. Bev is a good fellow, as men go.
You’ll get used to him and his kind in the course of time, and then
you’ll enjoy life in a calm practical way.”

“Is there no other way?” asked Patience, bitterly.

“Not in my experience. And if you stay here in your woods you’ll get
tired of your ideals after a while. You can’t live on ideals—the human
constitution isn’t made that way. If it was there’d be no such thing as
society. We’d live in caves and bay the moon. So you’d better come into
the world, Patience dear, and accept it as it is, and drain it for all
it’s worth.”

“Oh, hush! You are too good to talk like that.”

“Good?—what is good? I am the result of my surroundings—a little
better than some, a little worse than others. So was Cousin Harriet. So
is La Rosita. I’m not cynical. I merely see life—my section of
it—exactly as it is. If you become a newspaper woman you’ll probably
receive a succession of shocks. As nearly as I can make out they’re
about like us—half and half. I became quite chummy with a newspaper
woman, once, crossing the Atlantic. She was awfully pretty, and, as
nearly as one woman can judge of another, perfectly proper. She related
some wild and weird experiences she had had with men. Yours would
probably be wilder and weirder, as you appear to be possessed of an
unholy fascination; and in a year or two you’ll be a beauty. All you
want is a little more figure and style—or rather clothes.”

“Well, if I’m to have wild and weird experiences I prefer to have them
with men of brains, not with a lot of empty-headed society men.”

“Don’t generalise too freely, my dear. There are newspaper men and
newspaper men,—according to this girl I’ve just told you of. Some are
brainy, some are merely bright; some are gentlemen, most are common
beyond words. And, as she said—after you’ve worked with man in his
shirt sleeves, you don’t have many illusions about the animal left.”

“I have not one, and I lost them in an hour. Your brother is supposed to
be a gentleman with a long array of ancestors, and he acted like a wild
Indian.”

“My dear, he merely lost his head. That was a compliment to you, and you
should not be too hard on a man in those circumstances. He won’t do it
again, I’m sure of that. He has some control. I warned him before he
came not to pun, and he says he didn’t, not once. Now, tell me one
thing—Don’t you like him just a little?”

“No,” said Patience; but she flushed to her hair, and Hal, with her
uncanny wisdom, said no more.


                                  XXII

The next day Patience went to the woods for the first time since Beverly
Peele’s onslaught. A natural reaction had lifted her spirits out of the
slough, and she turned to nature, as ever. She could never be the same
again, she thought with a sigh; and once more she must readjust herself.
She wondered if any girl had ever done so much readjusting in an equal
number of years.

The woods were no longer a scene of enchantment. The ice had melted. The
trees were grey and naked again. The ground was slush, and nasty to walk
upon.

“But the spring must come in time,” she thought; “and then perhaps I’ll
feel new too—but not the same, for like the spring I shall have other
seasons behind me.

“But—perhaps—who knows?—I may be the better for knowing myself. I was
in a fool’s paradise before. Perhaps I was in danger of becoming an
egoist, and imagining myself made of finer fibre than other women. Great
writers show that the same brute is in all of us, and I can believe it.
Some work it off in religion, but the majority don’t. There seems to be
some tremendous magnetic force in the Universe that makes the human race
nine-tenths Love—for want of a better name. Circumstances and ancestors
determine the direction of it. It seems too bad that Civilisation has
not done more for us than to give us the analytical mind which
understands and rebels, and no more, at the inheritance of the savage.
But now that I know myself, perhaps I can go forward more surely on the
path to the higher altitudes of life. I should like to be as good as
auntie, and worldly-wise beside.

“I suppose my horrid experience with this man will make me more exacting
with all men. I think I could not blunder into matrimony, as some women
do. I feel as if I never wanted to see another man, but that impression
will pass—all impressions appear to pass. I may even want to meet Him
after a time, and perhaps he will forgive. Shouldn’t be surprised if
he’d want a good deal of forgiveness himself. Meanwhile I can work, and
learn all I can of what life means, anyway. I’ll go to Mr. Field—”

The soft ground echoed no footfalls, but Patience suddenly became aware
that some one was approaching her. She turned, and saw Beverly Peele.



                                BOOK III


                                   I

“I do hope you’ll make a hit, Patience,” said Hal, regarding her
critically. “The public, even the little public of a garden party, is a
thing you can’t bet on, but you certainly are stunning. If ever papa
loses his fortune, in the curious American way, I shall follow the ever
seductive example of the English aristocracy and go in for dressmaking.
That frock is a triumph of art, if I do say it myself.”

Patience revolved slowly before the Psyche mirror which stood between
two open windows in one corner of Hal’s pretty terra-cotta bedroom. She
too was pleased with the airy concoction of violet and white. On a chair
lay a picture hat, another bird of the same feather. Hal placed it on
Patience’s head, a little back, and the violet velvet of the interior
made a very effective frame for the soft ashen hair and white skin.

“You certainly carry yourself well,” continued Hal, “and before long you
will acquire an air. Always keep in mind that _that_ is the most
important thing in life—our life—to acquire. But you look like a lily,
a purple and white forest lily.”

“I haven’t the faintest idea what to talk to fashionable people about.”

“Don’t be too clever—don’t frighten the men and antagonise the women.
You see, you’re not known at all, so people won’t begin by being afraid
of you—as they would if they knew all that went on in that pretty skull
of yours. Just be Mrs. Beverly Peele. Nobody would ever suspect Bev of
marrying a clever woman. You can’t do the artless and infantile, like
May: your face is too strong; but you can be unsophisticated, and that
always goes.”

“I’m not unsophisticated!”

“Oh, don’t look like that. All the light seems to go out of your skin. I
mean give everybody the impression that you have everything to learn,
and that each, individually, can teach it all. It’s awfully fetching.
That is what has made May’s success. Of course you wouldn’t be another
May, if you could; but you want to begin at the beginning—don’t you
know? You must let society feel that it gives you everything, tells you
everything. Then it will love you. But if it suspects that you are
alien—the least little bit—then there will be the devil to pay. Of
course a few of the best sort would like you, but I’m set on your making
a hit.”

“I’m afraid I’ll never take,” said Patience, with a sigh, “but I am wild
to see Vanity Fair, all the same. It must be great fun—all that
brilliancy and life. But somehow I don’t feel in tune with the people I
have met, so far.”

“Oh, that’s natural. You are not acclimatised yet, so to speak. Society
is a distinctly foreign country to those that have not been brought up
in it. Just sit down on the edge of that chair and rest while I take a
look at myself.”

“White is certainly my day colour,” she continued, revolving in her turn
before the mirror. “It is wonderful how it clears the skin, especially
with a touch of blue near the face. Pink would make me as yellow as
October, and green would suggest thirty-five. Your grey matter will be
spared the wear and tear of The Study of Colour, but if I hadn’t reduced
it to a fine art, I’d have had to turn literary or something when May
came out.”

“You look just like a fairy! I never saw anything so dainty.”

“Oh, of course; I’m so little and light that I have to work the fairy
racket for all it’s worth. It’s a heavenly day, isn’t it? The country’s
got its best spring clothes on, sure enough.”

The girls leaned out of each of the windows in turn, scrutinising the
grounds. In front and on both sides of the house the land rolled away in
great irregular waves. Woods were in the sudden hollows, on the lofty
knolls; between, shelving expanses of green, bare but for an occasional
oak or elm. Beside the driveway was a long narrow avenue of elms, down
which two might pace shoulder to shoulder, and no more. In a deep hollow
on the right was the orchard, a riot of pink and white. The immediate
grounds were small and trim, and fragrant with the flowers of
civilisation; out on the hills beyond the wild-flowers and tall grass,
the locust and hawthorn, had their way. Behind all flowed the Hudson
under the green Palisades, its surface gay with sail and steamboat.

A dancing booth had been erected on one of the lawns, and the musicians
were already assembling under the silken curtains.

“It looks very well,” said Hal, “and you couldn’t have a more perfect
day for your _début_. Not that I care much for garden parties; the fresh
air makes me sleepy, and there’s no concentration, as it were—as there
is in a ball-room, don’t you know? But mamma decreed that the world
should make your acquaintance out of doors, and that is the end of it. I
wonder if you’ll manage to induce Bev to go to town for the winter.”

“I hope so! It will be horribly dull to stay here all winter, with all
of you away.”

“That’s an edifying sentiment for a bride of three months. However, I
agree with you. I’d go mad shut up in a country house in winter with the
most fascinating man that ever breathed. And the dickens of it is, mamma
always takes his part, whether he’s wrong or right. She’ll preach wifely
duty to you until you’d live on a desert island to get rid of her.”

“I’ve heard her,” said Patience, gloomily.

“I wondered if that was what she was at in the library yesterday. When
mamma has her chin well up and her lower lip well out I can tell at long
range that she’s embracing the cause of virtue. But she tackled you
rather early in the game, considering you haven’t made any notable break
as yet.”

“I wouldn’t go driving with Beverly yesterday,—the sun makes my head
ache,—and I’d also begged him to take me to the theatre to see Rosita,
and he wouldn’t.”

“Oh, you’ll never get Bev to the theatre. We’ll go by ourselves to a
matinée. However, it’s better than being a newspaper woman on several
dollars a week—come now, own up?”

“I enjoyed Florida and New Orleans and Canada immensely.”

“That was a tremendous concession for Bev to make—he detests
travelling. He certainly is in love; but I imagine he expects you to
live on that same concession for some time to come—thinks it’s your
turn to do the self-sacrificing act. Such is man. Anyhow, I’m glad it’s
all turned out so comfortably, and that you are here, and that all is
settled—”

“I want to ask you something. I couldn’t get it out of Beverly. Did your
mother make a very violent objection to his marrying me? Of course I am
a social nobody, and she must have made great plans for her only son.
She didn’t say anything when she came to call; but, you see, she didn’t
call until three days before the wedding, and Beverly’s and your excuses
were not very good.”

“Oh, of course she raised Cain,” said Miss Peele, easily; “that was to
be expected. But papa put his foot down and said he was glad to have
Beverly marry a clever woman: it might be the making of him. And _I_
just fought! Of course I’d told papa that you were as high bred as any
woman in America, and that you’d look a swell in less than no time. That
weighed heavy with him, for, in his opinion, God may have made himself
first, but he made the Peeles next, and no mistake. And Bev! He went
into the most awful tantrums you ever saw. I think that was what brought
mamma round—she was afraid he’d burst a blood-vessel. When she wrote
and asked Miss Beale to live with you I knew the day was won. And now
that you are Mrs. Beverly Peele she’ll respect you accordingly, although
you’ll have some lively tussles. But make her think you adore Bev, and
you’ll pull through. Suppose we go down now. Tra-la-la! I wish it were
over.”


                                   II

The girls descended the twisted stair into the wide hall. All the doors
and windows were open, and the soft air blew through the great house,
lifting the lace and silken curtains.

A girl, looking like a large butterfly, in her yellow frock, was
fluttering about the hall amidst the palms and the huge vases of
flowers. Her skin was of matchless tints, her large blue eyes as
guileless as those of an infant.

“Oh! Oh!” she cried, as Hal and Patience reached the first landing, “how
perfectly sweet! Hal, is my frock all right in the back? My things never
fit quite as well as yours do. Isn’t Patience too fetching for words? I
wish I was just white like that. How perfectly funny that we should be
giving a garden party for Bev’s wife! Who would have thought it last
year? Isn’t it odd how things do happen? And hasn’t Honora been
perfectly lovely about it? I always knew she didn’t care. I wonder if
any decent men will come up! It’s so hard—Hal, _does_ my frock wrinkle
in the back?”

“Oh, no, no,” drawled Hal, without looking at her. She glanced at the
tall clock in an angle. “They’ll be here in ten minutes, now—Oh—h—h!”

A portière was pushed aside, and a girl entered the hall from a dark
background of books and heavy curtains. She was far above the ordinary
height of woman, and extremely slender. Golden hair clustered about a
long face, pale rather than white. The large azure eyes had the
extraordinary clarity of childhood, and an expression of perfect purity.
The nose was long, the mouth thin, but well curved and very red. She
wore a clinging gown of white crêpe and a large knot of blue
wild-flowers at her belt. She moved slowly forward, managing her long
limbs with much dexterity, but could hardly be called graceful. Patience
thought her the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, and murmured her
admiration to Hal, who snorted in a gentle, ladylike way.

“They will be here in a moment, I suppose,” said Honora, wearily. “I
think I shall not go out. I’ll stay in the drawing-room and entertain
the older people. Some one must attend to them, and I really prefer the
house.”

“You are always so amiable,” said Hal, drily, “and you certainly won’t
get freckled.”

“It is true that I don’t like freckles,” said Honora, calmly, “and I do
like the older people. Even you, when you have a few white hairs, may
become more or less interesting. Patience, dear, you look very lovely.
You must let me kiss you.” She bent her cool lips to the brow of the
bride, swaying over her. Her voice could not be described by any
adjective devoid of the letter L. It was liquid, silvery, cold, light.

“She certainly is a stunning-looking woman,” said Hal, as Honora passed
into the drawing-room, “but she’s a whole rattlesnake, and no mistake.
I’ve never seen her strike real hard yet; she merely spits occasionally,
and always in that amiable way. You can imagine how subtle she is, and
what a dangerous force such self-control is. I shall never understand
how she failed to get Bev.”

“Perhaps, as May suggests, she didn’t want him.”

“Oh, didn’t she! Just wait! you’ll hear from her yet. There’s the
whistle. The train’ll be here in three minutes. Let us group ourselves
gracefully under Peele the First.”

They went into the large white drawing-room, whose old-fashioned
woodwork was as it had been nearly three hundred years ago, even to the
heavy shutters over the small-paned windows. The ceiling was fretted
with floral designs, executed in _papier mâché_, surrounding a _bas
relief_ of “our well beloved Whyte Peele,” who had received the grant of
these many acres from James the First. All the woodwork was painted
white, and carved. The furniture, modern, but of colonial design, was
upholstered in pale pink and blue.

Beyond a side hall was a long dining-room panelled to the ceiling in
oak, and hung on all sides with dead and living Peeles. The carved oaken
table was spread with the light unsubstantial feast of the modern time.
Adjoining the dining-room were two small reception-rooms looking upon
the terrace at the back of the rambling old house. In the middle of this
hall, under the carved twisted stair, was a round enclosure whose door
opened upon a well, from whence a secret passage led to the river.

Mrs. Peele swept across the hall from the dining-room, and raising her
lorgnette, considered Patience.

“You look very well,” she said, coldly. “Don’t get nervous, please; it
is the one thing for which people have no toleration. Where is Beverly?”

“He has gone for a drive. You know he does not like entertainments.”
Patience’s nerves were muttering, and her mother-in-law’s admonition was
not of the nature of balm.

Mrs. Peele raised her brows. “It is odd that a bride should have so
little influence over her husband,” she remarked; and Patience was now
in that equable frame of mind which carries one through the severe
ordeals of life.

How she did live through that ordeal of introduction to some five
hundred people she never knew. Fortunately, all but the neighbours
arrived on the special train which had been sent for them, and there was
little for her to do but smile and bend her head as Mrs. Peele named her
new daughter-in-law to her guests.

And whatever might be that exalted dame’s private opinion of her son’s
choice, whatever methods she might employ in untrammelled domestic hours
to make her disapproval felt, to the world she assumed her habitual air
of being supremely content with all that pertained to the house of
Peele. Had Patience been the daughter of a belted earl she could not
have been presented to New York with a haughtier pride, a calmer
assumption that New York must embrace with gratitude and enthusiasm this
opportunity to meet the daughter-in-law of the Gardiner Peeles.

Her manner gave Patience confidence after a time. Her own pride had
already conquered diffidence; and trying as the long ordeal was, she
thrilled a little at the sudden realisation of half-formed ambitions.
There was no taint of the snob in her; some echo-voice of other
generations lifted itself out of the inherited impressions which had
moulded her brain cells, and protested against its descendant ranking
below the first of the land.

Many of the guests were politely indifferent to the honour provided for
them; the girls stared at her in a manner calculated to upset any
_débutante’s_ equilibrium; but the gracious kindness of others and the
languid admiration of the men kept her in poise.

The neighbours arrived shortly after the train, and it was an hour
before the greater part of the company had dispersed over the grounds,
and Patience could sit down. Mrs. Peele remained in the drawing-room
with some eight or ten people, and as Hal and May had both disappeared,
Patience stayed with her mother-in-law, not knowing where to go.

She thought the girls very forbidding with their pert noses and keen
eyes, although she admired their luminous skin and splendid grooming,
striking even in the airy attire of spring. The older women looked as if
they would patronise her did Mrs. Peele withdraw her protecting wing,
and one man, passing the window, inserted a monocle and regarded her
deliberately. Suddenly Patience experienced a sensation of profound
loneliness. No force in life is surer of touch than the subtle play of
spirit on spirit, and Patience read that these people did not like her
and never would, that they recognised the alien who would regard their
world spectacularly, never acquire their comic seriousness.

“Are you fond of golf, Mrs. Peele?” asked one girl, languidly.

“I never have played golf.”

The girl raised her brows. “Really! Are you fond of tennis?”

“I have never played tennis.” Patience repressed a smile as the girl
looked frankly shocked. Still the guest was evidently determined to be
amiable.

“I hope you don’t think it frivolous?”

“Oh, no, I should like to learn all those things very much.”

“Well, Miss Peele can teach you. She is awfully clever at all those
things. Don’t you think Miss Mairs looks like Mary Anderson?”

“Mary Anderson?”

“Yes, the actress, you know.”

“I have never seen her.”

The girl was visibly embarrassed. Another, who looked as if harbouring a
grin in her straight little mouth, came to the rescue.

“Oh, I do think Mr. Peele is so good-looking,” she exclaimed, with a
fine show of animation. “We all think you are to be congratulated.”

Patience smiled at the frank rudeness of this remark, and said nothing.

“You know Amy Murray was wild about him. She’s not here to-day, I
notice. We did think it too bad that he wouldn’t go out. Some of the
girls have met him here, but I never have. They say he is awfully
fascinating.”

“Oh, yes, he is fascinating,” said Patience.

“What have you been doing with yourself if you have never learned to
golf nor play tennis?” asked another girl, insolently. She was a tall
girl, with a wooden face, a tight mouth, and an “air.”

“Oh, I read, mostly,” said Patience, with an extremely bored air.

The mother of the third girl turned swiftly and smiled at the bride, a
humorous smile in which there was some pity. Patience had observed her
before. She was a tall woman with a slender figure of extreme elegance.
Her dark bright face was little older than her daughter’s. Her ease of
manner was so great that it was almost self-conscious.

“Oh, say!” she exclaimed, “don’t think we’re all like that. The girls
don’t have much time to read—that’s true—but after they settle down
they do, really. Hal reads French novels—the little reprobate!—We read
French novels too, but a lot else besides. Oh, really! Outsiders—the
people that only know society through the newspapers, don’t you
know?—misjudge us terribly, really. Some of the brightest women of the
world are in New York society—why shouldn’t they be? And if the girls
don’t study it’s their own fault; they certainly have every opportunity
under the sun. I was made to study. My father was old-fashioned, and had
no nonsense about him. I always say I was educated beyond my brains, but
I’d rather have it that way than the other. Now, I assure you I read
everything. I have a standing order on the other side with an English
and a French book-seller, to send me every book the minute it attracts
attention—”

“Oh, you’re real intellectual, you are,” drawled Hal’s mocking voice.

The lady turned with a start and a little flush.

“Oh, Hal!” she cried gaily, “how you do take the starch out of one.”

“You’ve got enough to stock a laundry, so you needn’t worry. I’ve come
to rescue my fair sister-in-law before you talk her to death. Come,
Patience.”

Patience arose with alacrity, and followed her out of the house.

“Don’t you like her?” she asked.

“Oh, immensely. She’s as bright as a woman can be who has so little time
to think about it. She’s a tall and majestic pillar of Society, you
know, and she carries it—the intellect, not the pillar—round like a
chip on her shoulder. That makes me weary at times. I’ve heard her talk
for an hour without stopping. The only thing that makes me forgive her
is her slang. We have a match occasionally.”

“Her daughter doesn’t look as if she used slang.”

“Oh, she doesn’t. She’s no earthly use whatever. Are you enjoying
yourself?”

“Not particularly. But it’s a lovely scene.”

The lawns, and knolls, and woods were kaleidoscopic with fashionettes in
gay attire, shifting continually. There were not men enough to mar the
brilliant effect. The music of birds soared above the chatter of girls,
the sound of wood and brass. The river flashed away into the distance, a
silver girdle about Earth’s green gown.

“Yes, very pret,” said Hal. “But come, I’m going to introduce you to my
latest.”

“You didn’t tell me that you had a latest.”

“I’ve only met him a few times—he’s from Boston. I expect I forgot
about him.”

They were walking over the lawns toward the Tea House, a long low rustic
building which stood on the edge of the slope. A hubbub of voices
floated through the windows, peals of laughter, affected shrieks.

“A lot of my intimates are there,” said Hal. “I’ve managed to get them
together. May is doing the hostess act with her accustomed grace and
charm, and I’m taking a half hour off.”

They went round to the front of the house and entered. It was an airy
structure of polished maple. Little tables, each with a delicate
tea-service, were scattered about with artistic irregularity; round the
wall ran a divan, luxurious, but not too low for whaleboned forms. On
this the girls were stiffly lounging. The men were more at their ease.
All were smoking, the girls daintily, but firmly.

“Hal! Hal! sweet Queen Hal!” cried one of the young men, rising to his
feet. “I’ve been keeping this place—directly in the middle—for you.
See, it shall be a throne.” He piled three cushions atop, and with
exaggerated homage led her forward amidst the ejaculatory applause of
the others.

“Isn’t Norry too witty?” said one girl to Patience, as she made room for
her, “and so original! Whoever else would have thought of such a
thing?—although Hal ought to be a queen, don’t you think so? We just
rave about her. Do you smoke? try my kind.”

Patience, thankful that at last she could do something like these
people, accepted the cigarette. During her three months’ trip she had
not smoked, as Beverly thought it shocking.

“Mr. Wynne,” cried Hal, suddenly, “come over here and talk to my
sister-in-law. Patience, this is the young man from Boston, famous as
the only New Englander whose ancestors did not come over on the ‘May
Flower.’”

A man with a smooth serious face rose from his cushions and came
forward.

“Awfully good-looking,” murmured the girl who had proffered the
cigarette, “and wonderfully smart, considering he’s not a New Yorker.
It’s too bad he’s so beastly poor, for he’s terribly _épris_ with Hal.”

The young man, who had paused a moment to speak with Hal, inserted
himself as best he could between Patience and her new acquaintance.

“I am glad you are here,” murmured the bride. “You do not look quite at
home, and I am not, either.”

He smiled with instant sympathy. “Oh, I don’t care very much for
society, and I don’t like to see women smoke. It’s an absurd prejudice
to have in these progressive days, but I can’t help it.”

“You mean you don’t like to see Miss Peele smoke,” said Patience,
mischievously.

He flushed, then laughed. “Well, perhaps that is it. They are all
charming, these girls, but there is something about Miss Peele that
distinguishes her. Did you ever notice it?”

“Oh, yes. She is herself, and these others are twelve for a dozen.”

“That is it.” He glanced about at the girls in their bright gowns, which
clung to their tiny waists and hips, their narrow chests and modest
busts, with the wrinkleless perfection that has made the modern milliner
the god he is. Their polished skin and brilliant shallow eyes, their
elegant sexless forms, their haughty poise and supercilious air, laid
aside among themselves but always in reserve, their consciousness of
caste, were the several parts of a unique and homogeneous effect, which,
Patience confided to Mr. Wynne, must mark out the New York girl in
whatever wilds she trod.

“Oh, it does,” he said. “The New York girl is _sui generis_, and so
thoroughly artificial a product that it seems incredible she can exist
through another generation. I will venture to predict that the species
will be extinct in three, and that American women of a larger and more
human type will gradually be drawn into New York, and found a new race,
so to speak. Why, it seems to me that the children of these women must
be pigmies—imagine one of those girls being the mother of a man. It is
well that New York is not America.”

Involuntarily Patience’s eyes wandered to Hal. Her waist was as small,
her figure as unwomanly as the others.

“It is true,” said Wynne, answering her thought; “but she is so charming
that one is quite willing she should do nothing further for the human
race.”

Patience burst into a light laugh.

“What’s the matter?” asked Wynne.

“It suddenly struck me—the almost comical difference between these
girls and the ‘Y’s,’ and the ‘King’s Daughters.’ It does not seem
possible that such types can exist within ten miles of each other. I
should explain that I have passed the last three years in a country
town.”

“It is odd how religion holds its own in those small places. It is
opera, theatre, balls, Browning societies, everything to those people
shut out of the manifold distractions of cities. Religion seems to be
the one excitement of the restricted life. Human nature demands some
sort of emotional outlet—”

“What on earth are you two talking about?” cried the girl on the other
side. “Will you have another cigarette, Mrs. Beverly?—that is what we
shall all call you, you know. Mr. Wynne, please talk to me a while.
Isn’t this Tea House too sweet?”

“It is more,—it is angelic,” said Wynne, gravely.

“Oh! you’re guying!” Even her voice pouted. “Oh! please shake those
ashes off my gown—quick!—thanks. Oh, your eyes are grey. I thought
they were brown. I’m afraid of grey eyes, aren’t you, Mrs. Beverly—Oh,
dear! your eyes are grey too. What ever shall I do?” and she cast up her
hands. Even her sleek hair seemed to quiver.

“It is the misfortune of the American race to run to grey eyes,” said
Wynne. “Habit should have steeled you by this time—”

“Oh, he made a pun! he made a pun!” cried the girl.

“I did not!—I beg pardon, but I never did such a thing in my life,”
cried Wynne, indignantly; and Patience felt suddenly depressed, although
she too had found a friend in habit.

Hal rose while the girl was lisping mock apologies.

“I’ve got to go,” she said. “Isn’t it hateful? But I must go and do my
duty. Patience, you must come too. Why are you blocking the doorway, Mr.
Wynne?”

“I am going with you.”

“Really? Well, bye-bye;” and the three went off, followed by a gentle
chorus of regrets.

“Patience, my dear,” said Hal, “there is a group of people over there
looking hideously bored. You go and cheer them up, while I do my duty by
those austere and venerable dames who are staring through their
lorgnettes at the dining-room windows—”

“Oh, Hal, I can’t! Don’t send me to those people alone. What can I say
to them?”

“Patience, my dear, this is a world of woe. One day you will be
châtelaine of this place and be giving garden-parties on your own
account, so you’d better take the kindergarten course, and be thankful
for the chance. Go on.”

Patience walked unwillingly over to a group of four women seated under a
drooping oak. She had forgotten the names of nine tenths of the guests,
but she recognised Mrs. Laurence Gibbs, a plain rather dowdy little
woman with sad face and abstracted gaze. Beside her on the rustic seat
was a woman who gave a dominant impression of teeth: they fairly flashed
in the shadows. In a chair sat a woman of remarkable prettiness. She
would have been a beauty had her features been larger, so regular were
they, so sweet her expression, so soft her colouring of pink and white
and brown, so tall and full her figure. In another chair was a young
woman of no beauty but much distinction. Her prematurely white hair was
curled and tied at the base of her head with a black ribbon, realising
an eighteenth century effect. Her face was dark and brilliant. She sat
forward, her slim figure full of suppressed energy. She had been talking
with much animation, but as Patience approached she paused abruptly. The
pretty woman burst into a merry laugh.

“Mrs. Lafarge was just remarking what hideous bores garden parties are,”
she said audaciously.

“Oh, you needn’t mind me,” said Patience, sitting down on the grass, as
there was no other seat. “I quite agree with you.”

“Oh, that’s awfully good of you, Mrs. Peele,” said Mrs. Lafarge, “and
awfully mean of you, Mary Gallatin. Of course this is one of the
loveliest places on the Hudson, and I love to come here; but there are
not enough men. That’s the whole trouble.”

“That always seems to be the cry with you American women,” said she of
the teeth. “You have no resources. You should be independent of men.
They seem to be of you.”

“Perhaps you are driven to resources in Russia,” said Mrs. Gallatin,
sweetly, “but your observation is faulty. We are spoiled over here, and
that is the reason we grumble occasionally.”

“You see we haven’t a large leisure class, as you have,” said Mrs.
Gibbs, hastily.

“I really think the reason men avoid garden parties is that they are
afraid they might be betrayed into sentiment,” broke in Mrs. Lafarge.
“They do protect themselves so fiercely. How did you ever make Tom
Gallatin propose, Mary dear? He had the most ideal bachelor apartment in
New York, and entrenched himself as in a fortress.”

“Oh, one or two fall by the wayside every year, you know, and this time
Gally happened to stumble over me. Poor Gally, he told me yesterday that
he hadn’t seen me to speak to for a month. The idea of the lower classes
grumbling. I should like to know who works as hard as we do. How do you
manage to do the society and the charity, both?” she asked of Mrs.
Gibbs. “Does Mr. Gibbs ever see _you_?”

“I never neglect my husband,” said Mrs. Gibbs, sternly. “When I must
neglect anything it is society. I came to-day because I longed for a
glimpse of the country, and I have not been able to go to Woody Cliffs
yet—the poverty is so terrible this year. I wish you would come with me
sometime and see for yourself—”

“God forbid! I never could stand the smells. I give my pastor so much a
year, and I really think that’s doing one’s share. Of course if you like
it, it’s another thing.”

“Like it!” cried the Russian. “You speak as if it were her pastime. I
cannot express how gratifying it is to me to meet a serious woman
occasionally in New York society.”

“I had a lovely time in Petersbourg,” murmured Mrs. Gallatin. “I never
met an offensive Russian inside of the country. Poor America!”

“I don’t understand,” said the foreigner, stiffly.

“Oh, I am sure you understand English—you express yourself so clearly.
We all weep over America occasionally, you know. It is a sort of dumping
ground for foreigners,—who sit at our feet, and abuse us.”

“One is at liberty to abuse insolence,” said the Russian, with
suppressed wrath, “and the women of New York are the most insolent I
have ever met.”

“Oh, not among ourselves—not really. We think it insolent in outsiders
to elbow their way in—”

“Mary! Mary!” cried Mrs. Gibbs. “I hear that you spent some years with
Miss Harriet Tremont,” she continued, addressing Patience. “She passed
her entire life in charitable work, did she not?”

“Oh, she did, and she enjoyed it too. Don’t you?”

Mrs. Gallatin laughed softly.

“Enjoy it?” said Mrs. Gibbs. “I never have looked at it in that way. I
think it my duty to aid my miserable fellow beings, and I am thankful
that I am able to aid them.”

“Odd, the fads different people have,” murmured Mrs. Gallatin. “Now mine
is Russians. What is yours, Leontine?”

“Oh, Mary, you deserve to be shaken,” exclaimed Mrs. Lafarge, as the
Russian sprang to her feet and stalked away.

“I can’t help it. She’s a boor, and I wish she’d go back and live with a
Cossack. Foreigners are all very well on their native heath, but as soon
as they are transplanted to this side and treated with common decency
they become intolerable. They grovel at our feet, swell because we
receive them, and sneer at us behind our backs.”

“I think you have a way of irritating them, my dear,” said Mrs. Gibbs.
“You are a very naughty girl. Won’t you sit up here by me, Mrs. Peele? I
am afraid the ground is damp. I shall ask you some time to explain to me
Miss Tremont’s methods. I often feel sadly at sea.”

“Oh, dear!” said Patience, “I doubt if I know them. I just followed her
blindly. I may as well confess it—I didn’t take a very great interest
in the work.”

“Oh, how lovely!” cried Mrs. Gallatin.

“I am sorry that I have made a mistake,” said Mrs. Gibbs, stiffly.

“Oh, well—you know—there is such a thing as getting too much of
anything—”

“Is there?” Mrs. Gibbs rose, and shook out her skirts with an absent
air. “I think I will go over and talk to Mrs. Peele;” and she walked
away with an awkward gait, her head bent forward. She certainly did not
have an “air.”

“Dear! dear!” exclaimed Mrs. Gallatin. “Just think! you have lost the
interest of Mrs. Laurence Gibbs. She might have invited you to her
exciting musicales or her cast-iron dinners.”

“Oh, don’t abuse her,” said Mrs. Lafarge. “She is a harmless little
soul, and does what she thinks is right.”

“She is happier too,” said Patience, her thoughts in Mariaville. “It is
odd, but they always are. I think it’s because they’ve unconsciously
cultivated the supremest and most inspired form of egoism, and naturally
they get a tremendous amount of joy out of it—”

“Hear! Hear!” cried Mrs. Gallatin. “She analyses!”

“My dear, you mustn’t do that out loud,” said Mrs. Lafarge. “You’ll be a
terrible failure if you do.”

“That would be a pity, because you are so pretty,” said Mrs. Gallatin,
smiling. “I’ve been staring at you whenever I’ve had the chance, and you
don’t know how many charming things I’ve heard said of you this
afternoon.”

“Oh, have you really?” asked Patience, warming instantly, as much to the
kindly sympathy as to the agreeable words.

“Indeed I have. That violet against your hair and skin makes a perfect
picture of you. _N’est-ce pas_, Leontine?”

“It certainly does.”

“I think you are both very kind,” said Patience, with a young impulse to
be frank. “I feel so out of it all. You see this is my first experience
of this sort of thing, and some of those girls have made me feel like a
barbarian.”

“They’d be glad of your freshness, not only of looks but of mind,” said
Mary Gallatin. “I should think it would be a blessed relief to have some
other sort of interest but just this,” and she swept out her arm
disdainfully. “That’s the reason I go, go, all the time. I don’t dare
think. When you have no talent, and are not intellectual, and not
frantic about your husband, what are you to do? There’s no other
resource, in spite of that Russian prig. I’d give a good deal to be
beginning it all again at eighteen.”

“There is no spice in life without violent contrasts,” said Mrs.
Lafarge. “That’s the real reason why so many of our good young friends
are larky. The trouble with this world is that although there is variety
enough in it, each variety travels in a different orbit. The social
scheme is all wrong, somehow.”

“True! True!” said Mrs. Gallatin, plaintively. “But I see they are about
to eat. The open air always makes me hungry. That is variety enough for
the present.”

As they crossed the lawn she laid her arm about Patience’s waist. “Bev
doesn’t like society,” she said, “and I’m afraid you’re not in any
danger of satiety; but don’t think out loud when you are in it. Leontine
never does, do you, Leontine? And she is clever too. It must be
delightful to be clever. Heigh-ho! Well, you must be sure to come to see
me anyhow. I feel positive we shall be friends. Come some morning at
eleven. That is just after I have had my tub and am back in bed again. I
love to see my friends then. Oh, dear, we must scatter. There are not
two seats together anywhere. Bye-bye.”


                                  III

“Thank God they’re gone.” Hal divested herself of her tight smart frock,
got into a lawn gown, lit a cigarette, and extended herself on the divan
in her bedroom. “Well, Patience, how did you like it?”

“I don’t think I made the hit you expected.”

“N-o-o-o, you didn’t exactly create a _furore_; but I don’t know that
any one could do that with so much oxygen round: makes peoples so
drowsy, don’t you know? But you were admired awfully. And then you are
an unconventional beauty, and that always takes longer. Now, May made a
howling sensation, but people are tired of her already. That type
doesn’t wear. My plain phiz wears much better, because there was never
any chance of reaction with me. Oh, dear, here comes Bev.”

A knock, and in response to Hal’s languid invitation, Beverly entered.
He was in evening clothes, and as handsome as ever; but he looked rather
sulky.

“You might have met me when I got home,” he said to his wife. “I haven’t
seen you since luncheon.”

“Tragic!” exclaimed Hal.

“I was so tired I just drifted in here and fell in a heap,” said
Patience, apologetically. “My skull feels empty, and aches inside and
out.”

“Then you don’t like society?” said Mr. Peele, eagerly.

“Oh, very much indeed! I think it is delightful, delightful! Only the
first time is rather trying, you know. I met some charming people, and
want to meet them again.”

Peele grunted, and lit his cigar. His eyes devoured his wife’s fair
face. Patience looked at Hal.

“My mother says you carried yourself very well,” remarked Mr. Peele,
gracefully; “that after the first you were quite at your ease. That was
one reason I went away: I was so afraid you’d break down, or something.”

Patience flushed angrily, but made no reply. She had learned that even a
slight dispute would move her husband to a violent outbreak.

“She looked more to the manor born than half the guests,” said Hal, “and
if you took her out next winter she’d become the rage—”

“I don’t wish my wife to be the rage! And she is going to stay here. If
she loves me as much as I love her she’ll be as contented with my
society as I am with hers.”

“As if any woman ever loved a man as much as he loved her,” remarked
Miss Peele. “I am sure Patience is no such idiot.”

“What?” cried Beverly. Patience rose hastily.

“I think I’ll go and brush my hair,” she said, moving to the door; but
he sprang to his feet and stood in front of her.

“Tell me!” he cried, his voice shaking. “Don’t you love me as much as I
love you?”

“Oh, Beverly,” she said, impatiently, “how can you get into such tempers
about nothing? You have asked me if I loved you about nine thousand
times since we were married. How am I to know how much you love me? Have
you a plummet and line about you?”

“You are dodging the question. And you have never asked me if I loved
you—not once—”

Patience slipped past him and ran down the hall to her room. Before she
could close the door he was beside her. He caught her in his arms and
kissed her violently.

“I shall always be mad about you,” he said. “And I believe you are
growing cold. You have not been the same lately. Sometimes I think that
you shrink from me as you did at first. Tell me what I have done. I’d
sell my soul to keep you. If you are tired of me, I’ll kill myself—”

She disengaged herself. “Listen,” she said; “I’ve tried to explain—but
you don’t seem to understand—that I didn’t want to fall in love with
you—not in that way. That should not come first. Then when I found
myself made of common clay, I said that I would forget that I had ever
been Patience Sparhawk, and begin life again as Mrs. Beverly Peele.
Novelty helped me; and when one is travelling, one’s ego appears to be
dissolved into the changing scene—one is simply a sensitised plate. But
now I am beginning to feel like Patience Sparhawk again, and it
frightens me a little.”

Beverly, to whom the larger part of these remarks were pure Greek,
blanched to the lips.

“Then you regret it,” he stammered.

“I didn’t say that. I only mean that I seem to spend life readjusting
myself; and that now I seem to be all at sea again.”

“You don’t love me any longer! Oh, God!” and he flung himself on the
floor, and burying his face in a chair, groaned aloud.

Patience was disgusted, but his suffering, primary as it was, touched
her. Moreover, her broad vein of philosophy was active once more. She
was by no means prepared to leave him—the tide was ebbing very slowly.
She sat down on the chair, and lifted his face to her lap. “There,” she
said, “I am sorry I spoke. You don’t seem to understand me. If you did,
though, this scene could never have occurred. But I love you—of
course—and I do not regret it. So get up and bathe your eyes. It is
after seven o’clock.”

He kissed her hands, his face glowing again. The words were all
sufficient to him. “Then if you love me you will see how happy I’ll make
you,” he exclaimed. “I’ll never leave you a minute I can help; but if
you stop loving me I’ll make life hell for you.”

“I thought you said you’d kill yourself.”

“Well, I would, but I’d get square with you first.”

“Well, suppose you go into your own room now, and let me dress for
dinner.”


                                   IV

The summer passed agreeably enough. Circumstances prevented Beverly
bestowing an undue amount of his society on his wife, and until a woman
is wholly tired of a man she retains her self respect. Moreover,
Patience chose to believe herself in love with him: “it had been in her
original estimate of herself that she had been at fault.” She persuaded
herself that she loved him as much as she could love any man, and she
did her pathetic best to shed some glimmer of spiritual light into a man
who might have been compounded in a laboratory, so little soul was in
him. But despite the clay which was hers, she loved it a great deal for
a time in loving it at all, for that was her nature.

She went to several other garden-parties, and found them more amusing
than her own, although the young men that frequented them were quite
uninteresting: even Beverly scintillated by contrast, for he, at least,
had a temper; these more civilised youths appeared to have no emotions
whatever.

Peele Manor was full of company all summer. Patience found the married
men more entertaining than the younger ones, although they usually made
love to her; but after she had outgrown her surprise and disapproval of
their direct and business-like methods, it amused her to fence with
them. They had more self-control than Beverly Peele, and were a trifle
more skilful, but their general attitude was, as she expressed it to
Hal: “There’s no time to lose, dontcherknow! Life is short, and New
York’s a busy place. What the deuce is there to wait for? Sentiment? Oh,
sentiment be hanged! It takes too much time.”

Hal was an accomplished hostess, and allowed her guests little time to
make love or to yawn. There were constant riding and driving and
yachting parties, picnics and tennis and golf. In the evening they
danced, romped, or had impromptu “Varieties.”

Patience was fascinated with the life, although she still had the sense
of being an alien, and moments of terrible loneliness. But she was too
much of a girl not to take a girl’s delight in the dash and glitter and
picturesqueness of society. She was not popular, although she quickly
outgrew any external points of difference; but the essential difference
was felt and resented.

On the whole there was concord between herself and her mother-in-law.
Mr. Peele she barely knew. His family saw little of him. He had not
attended the wedding. When Patience had arrived at Peele Manor after her
trip, he had kissed her formally, and remarked that he hoped she “would
make something of Beverly.”

He was an undersized man with scant iron grey hair whose tint seemed to
have invaded his complexion. His lips were folded on each other so
closely, that Patience watched them curiously at table: when eating they
merely moved apart as if regulated by a spring; their expression never
changed. His eyes were dark and rather dull, his nose straight and fine,
his hands small and very white. He was not an eloquent man at the bar;
he owed his immense success to his mastery of the law, to a devilish
subtlety, and to his skill at playing upon the weak points of human
nature. No man could so adroitly upset an “objection,” no man so terrify
a witness. It was said of him that he played upon a jury with the
consummate art of a great musician for his instrument. He rarely lost a
case.

His voice was very soft, his manners exquisite. He was never known to
lose his temper. His cold aristocratic face looked the sarcophagus of
buried passions.

He deeply resented his children’s failure to inherit his brain, but in
his inordinate pride of birth, forgave them, for they bore the name of
Peele. Hal was his favourite, for she, at least, was bright.

May admired her sister-in-law “to death,” as she phrased it, and bored
her with attentions. Patience preferred Honora, who puzzled and repelled
her, but assuredly could not be called superficial, although her claims
to intellectuality were based upon her preference for George Eliot and
George Meredith to the lighter order of fiction, and upon her knowledge
of the history of the Catholic Church.

One day, as Patience was crossing the lawn in front of the house, May
called to her from the hall, beckoning excitedly. She and Hal and Honora
were standing by a table on which was a saucer half full of what
appeared to be dead leaves. As Patience entered, May lifted the saucer
to her sister-in-law’s nostrils.

“Why? What?” asked Patience, then paused.

“Oh,—what a faint, delicious, far-away perfume,” she said after a
moment. “What is it?”

May dropped the saucer and clapped her hands. Hal laughed as if much
gratified. Honora’s eyes wandered to the landscape with an absent and
introspective regard.

“What is it?” asked Patience again.

“Why, it’s dried strawberry leaves,” said May. “Don’t you know that they
say in the South that you can’t perceive their perfume unless every drop
of blood in your veins is blue? The common people can’t smell it at
all.”

Patience blushed and moved her head disdainfully, but she thrilled with
pleasure.

“Won’t you come up and see my room?” said Honora, softly. “You’ve never
called on me yet, and I think I have a very pretty room.”

“Oh, I’ll be delighted,” said Patience, who was half consciously
avoiding Beverly: Peele Manor was without guests for a few hours.

“Now you must tell me if you like my room as much as you do me,” said
Honora, who looked more like an angel than ever, in a white mull frock
and blue sash. Her manner to Patience was evenly affectionate, with an
undercurrent of subtle sadness and reproach.

As she opened the door of her room, Patience exclaimed with admiration.
The ceiling was blue, frescoed with golden stars, the walls with
celestial visions. A blue carpet strewn with lilies covered the floor,
fluttering curtains of blue silk and white muslin, the old windows. From
the dome of the brass bedstead mull curtains hung like clouds. A faint
odour of incense mixed with the sweet perfumes of summer.

“Is it not beautiful?” said Honora, in a rapt voice. “It makes me think
of heaven. Does it not you? It was dear Aunt Honora’s last Christmas
gift to me. It was so sweet of her, for of course I am only the poor
cousin.”

Patience looked at her, wondering, as she had often done, whether the
girl were a fool, or deeper than any one of her limited experience.
Honora rarely talked, but she had reduced listening to a fine art, and
was a favourite in society. Whether she had nothing to say, or whether
she had divined that her poverty would make eloquence unpardonable,
Patience had not determined. One thing was patent, however: she managed
her aunt, and her wants were never ignored.

“Now,” she said softly, “I am going to show you something that I don’t
show to every one—but you are dear Beverly’s wife.” She folded a screen
and revealed an altar covered with cloth of silver, antique
candlesticks, and heavy silver cross.

“My faith which sustains me in all the trials of life,” whispered
Honora, crossing herself. “Ah, if I could have made dear Beverly a
convert. Once he seemed balancing—but he slipped away. I have tried to
win Hal and May to the true faith too; but we were always so much more
to each other—Beverly and I,—playmates from childhood. I think I know
him better than anybody in the world.”

Patience felt an interloper, a thief and an alien, but out of her new
schooling answered carelessly: “Oh, he is awfully fond of you, but I
don’t think he is inclined to be religious. This room is too sanctified
to speak above a whisper in. Come to my room and talk to me awhile.”

Honora opened a door by the head of her bed, and they passed through a
large lavatory, then through Beverly’s room to that of the bride, a
square room whose windows framed patches of Hudson and Palisade, and
daintily furnished in lilac and white. A photograph of Miss Tremont hung
between the windows. On one side were shelves containing John Sparhawk’s
library.

Beverly arose from a deep chair, where he had been smoking and glowering
upon the Hudson. Patience caught Honora firmly by the waist and pushed
her into the most comfortable chair in the room, then with much skill
engaged her in a discussion with Beverly upon the subject of music, the
one subject besides horse which interested him.


                                   V

In August the girls went to Newport, and Patience became very tired of
her mother-in-law. May returned engaged to a wealthy Cuban, who had been
dancing attendance on her blondinitude for some months past, and Mrs.
Peele became so amiable that she forgot to lecture her daughter-in-law
or irritate her with the large vigilance of her polaric eyes. The girls
left again for Lenox and Tuxedo. On the first of January the family
moved to their town house for the winter.

Patience was alone with her husband.

During the first three days of this new connubial solitude it snowed
heavily. Beverly could not ride nor drive, and wandered restlessly
between the stable and the library, where his wife sat before the
blazing logs.

There were some two thousand volumes at Peele Manor. Patience had had no
time to read since her marriage, but on the morning of the family’s
departure she made for the library, partly in self defence, partly with
pleasurable anticipation. She hoped that Beverly would succumb to the
charms of the stable, where there were many congenial spirits and a
comfortable parlour; but she had barely discovered Heine’s prose and had
read but ten pages of the “Reisebilder,” when the door opened, and he
came in. She merely nodded, and went on reading. She was barely
conscious of his presence, for Heine is a magician, and she was already
under his spell.

“Well, you might shut up your book and talk to me,” said Beverly,
pettishly, flinging himself into a chair opposite her. “This is a nice
way to treat a fellow on a stormy day.”

“Oh, you read too,” murmured Patience.

“No, I will not. I want to talk to you.”

Patience closed the book over her finger and looked at him impatiently.
Then an idea occurred to her, and she spoke with her usual
impulsiveness.

“Look, Beverly,” she said, “you and I have to spend many months alone
together, and if we are to make a success of matrimony we must be
companions, and to be companions we must have similar tastes. Now I’ll
make a bargain with you: I’ll try to like horses if you’ll try to like
books. On pleasant days I’ll ride and drive with you, and when it storms
we’ll read together here in the library. I am sure you will like it
after a time. If you find it tiresome to read to yourself I’ll read
aloud. I don’t mind, and then we can talk it over.”

“All right,” said Beverly. “Anything you say. What’s that you’re reading
now?”

“Heine’s prose. He is wonderful—such a style and such sardonic wit, and
such exquisite thoughts. I’ll begin all over again. Now light a cigar
and make yourself comfortable.”

For a half hour she read aloud, and then Mr. Peele remarked,—

“Hang it! The skating is spoiled for a week.”

“Oh, Beverly, you haven’t been listening.”

“Well, I don’t like it very much. He skips around so. Besides, I always
did hate Germans. Give me America every time.”

“Well, read something American then,” said Patience, crossly.

“You find something and read it to me. I like to hear your voice, even
if I can’t keep my mind on it. Wait a while though. I guess I’ll go and
see how the stable is getting on.”

He bent down to kiss his wife, but she was once more absorbed, and did
not see him. He snatched the book from her with an oath and flung it
across the room. She sprang to her feet with flashing eyes, pushed him
aside with no gentle hand, and ran after the book.

“You sha’n’t read that book!” he cried. “The idea of forgetting your
husband for a book—_a book_! You are a lovely wife! You are a disgrace
to the name! You would rather read than kiss your husband! I’ll lock
this room up, damned if I don’t.”

“I’ll go and live with Miss Beale and do Temperance work,” sobbed
Patience. “I won’t live with you.”

“Oh, you won’t—what? What did I marry you for? My God! What did I marry
you for? My life is hell, for I’m no fool. I know you don’t love me. You
married me for my money.”

“I wish I had,” she exclaimed passionately, then controlled herself. “I
hope we are not going to squabble in the usual commonplace way. I shall
not, at any rate. If you lose your temper, you can have the quarrel all
to yourself. I shall not pay any attention to you. Now go out to the
stable and cool off, and when you come back I’ll read something else to
you.”

“Do you love me?”

“Oh, yes—yes.”

And Beverly disappeared, slamming the door behind him.

“I wonder if any one on earth has such a temper,” she thought. “And
people believe that vulgarity and lack of control are confined to the
lower classes! What is the matter with civilisation anyhow? I can only
explain my own remarkable aberration in this way: youthful love is a
compound of curiosity, a surplus of vitality, and inherited
sentimentalism. It is likely to arrive just after the gamut of
children’s diseases has run its course. Of course the disease is merely
a complacent state of the system until the germ arrives, which same is
the first attractive and masterful man. All diseases run their course,
however. I could not be more insensible to Beverly Peele’s dead
ancestors out in the vault than I am to him. No woman is capable of
loving at nineteen. She is nothing but an overgrown child, a chaos of
emotions and imagination. There ought to be a law passed that no woman
could marry until she was twenty-eight. Then, perhaps a few of us would
feel less like—Well, there is nothing to do but make the best of it,
regard life as a highly seasoned comedy, in which one is little more
than a spectator, after all—and at present I have Heine.”

Beverly did not return for an hour. When he did she rose at once, and
running her eye along the shelves, selected a volume of Webster’s
Speeches.

“You like politics,” she said; “and all of us should read the great
works of our great men. I’ll read the famous Seventh of March Speech.”

And she did, Beverly listening with considerable attention. When she had
finished he remarked enthusiastically,—

“Do you know what that speech has made me make up my mind to do? I’m
going to run for the Senate, and make speeches like that myself.”

Patience merely stared at him. She wondered if he were really something
more than a fool; if there was a sort of post-graduate course.

“What makes you look at me like that? Don’t you think I can?”

“Well—” She hardly knew what to say.

“Well! Is that the way you encourage a fellow? You are a nice wife. Here
my father has been at me all my life to do something, and just as soon
as I make up my mind, my wife laughs at me.”

“I didn’t laugh at you.”

“Well, it’s all the same. If I never do anything, it’ll be your fault.”

“Go to the Senate just as fast as ever you can get there. And you might
as well spend the rest of the day studying Webster; but suppose you read
to yourself for a while: my throat is tired.”

“I don’t like to read to myself.”

“Well, anyhow, I hear Lawson coming. Luncheon is ready.”

The table in the dining-room had been divested of its leaves, and the
young couple sat only a few feet apart. The room had once been a
banqueting-hall. It was very large and dark. The white light filtered
meagrely through the small panes. The wind moaned through the naked
elms.

“The country is awfully dull in winter,” remarked Patience. “I wish we
were in town.”

“That’s a beautiful speech to make to a husband. I don’t mind so long as
you are here.”

“Of course I am deeply flattered,” and she smiled upon him. There seemed
nothing else to do.

“Damn it!” cried Beverly, “this steak is as thin as a plate and burnt to
a cinder. Patience, I do wish you’d give some of your attention to
housekeeping and less to books. It is your place to see that things are
properly cooked, now that Honora is gone.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know anything about cooking, or housekeeping,
either.”

“Well, then, I’d be much obliged if you’d learn as quickly as possible.
Take this steak out,” he said to the maid, “and bring some cold beef or
ham. Damn it! I might have known that when Honora went away I’d have
nothing fit to eat, with this new cook.”

But Patience refused to continue the conversation, and when the ham and
beef came he ate of them with such relish that his good-nature returned
as speedily as it had departed.

During the afternoon the scene of the morning was repeated with
variations, and the same might be said of the two following days. Then
came an interval of sleighing and skating. Then rain turned the snow to
slush, and once again Beverly exhibited the characteristics of a caged
tiger.

“I shall have nervous prostration before the winter is over,” thought
Patience, who was still determined to take the situation humorously,
still refused to face her former self. “I do wish the family would come
back, mother-in-law and all.”

Occasionally, despite Beverly’s indignant protests, she went to town for
the day, and shopped or paid calls with Hal. On one occasion they went
to see Rosita. That “beautiful young prima donna of ever increasing
popularity” wore black gauze over gold-coloured tights, and acted and
sang and danced and allured with consummate art. The opera house was
two-thirds crowded with men, although there was the usual matinée
contingent of girls and young married women.

“Well,” thought Patience, “she’s way ahead of me, for she’s made a
success of herself, at least, and is not bothered with scruples and
regrets.”

The winter dragged along as slowly as if time had lamed the old man,
then fallen asleep. The relations between Patience and Beverly became
very strained. His frequent tempers were alternated by sulks. He was
genuinely unhappy, for limited as he was, mentally and spiritually, he
was very human; and in his primitive way he loved his wife.

Patience’s resolution to go through life as a cynical humourist, deaf
and blind to the great wants of her nature, died hard, but it died at
last. Monotony accentuated fact, and the time came when pretence failed
her, and she visibly shrank from his lightest caress. The tide of horror
and loathing had risen slowly, but definitely. He threatened to kill
her, to commit suicide, to get a divorce; but his threats did not
disturb her. He was too weak to kill himself, too proud to make himself
ridiculous in the divorce courts, and too much in love to put her beyond
his reach. What sustained her was the hope that his passion would die a
natural death, and that they would then go their diverse ways as other
married people did,—that had come to seem to her the most blessed
meaning of the holy state of matrimony. Then she could enjoy her books,
and he would permit her to spend the winters in New York, or in travel.

Beverly’s affections, however, showed no sign of dissolution.


                                   VI

One afternoon in March, Patience, glancing out of the library window,
saw Hal coming up the lawn from the path that led down the slope to the
station. She suppressed a war-whoop with which she and Rosita had been
used to awake the echoes of the Californian hills, opened the window,
and vaulted out.

“Well,” cried Miss Peele, as Patience ran toward her, “you do look glad
to see me, sure enough. Bev can’t be very exciting, for you don’t look
as if it were me particularly—just somebody. Oh, matrimony! matrimony!
I envy the women that have solved the problem in some other way—the
journalists and artists, and authors and actresses, and even the
suffragists, God rest them. Hello, there’s Bev. He looks as if he were
about to cry. What have you been doing to him?”

“I left him writing an order for some new kind of horse-feed,” said
Patience, indifferently. Her husband stood at the window, staring
gloomily at the beaming faces. When the girls entered the room he had
gone.

“He looks as if he had just been let out of the dark room. Do you beat
him? What do you suppose my mother will say?”

“Oh, I suppose he’s bored too. You see it’s nearly three months now. I
tried to make him read, but after the third day he went to sleep.”

Hal drew a low chair to the fire, close to the one Patience occupied.
She laughed merrily.

“Fancy your trying to make Bev intellectual! That would be a good
subject for a one-act farce. Well, I’ve come up here to tell you
something, and to talk it over. I, too, am contemplating matrimony.”

“Oh, don’t!” cried Patience.

“I believe that is usually the advice of married people, but the world
goes on marrying itself just the same. But my problem is much more
complicated than the average, for there are two men in the question.”

“Two? You don’t mean to say you don’t know your own mind?”

“That is exactly the fact in the case. You remember Reginald Wynne?
Well, Patience, I do like that man. I never liked any man one tenth as
much. I might say he’s the only serious man I’ve ever met, the only one,
to put it in another way, that I ever could take seriously as a man. He
has brains—he’s a lawyer, you know, and they say very fine things of
him—and he is so kind, and _strong_. When I am with him I don’t feel
frivolous and worldly and one of a dozen. If I have any better nature
and any apology for a brain, they are on top then. He is the last sort
of man I ever thought I’d fall in love with, but it takes us some years
to become acquainted with ourselves, doesn’t it? I do respect him so,
and it is such a novel sensation. He even makes me read. Fancy! And I’ve
even promised him that I won’t read any more French novels, excepting
those he selects, nor smoke cigarettes. So, you see, I am in love.

“But, Patience,” she continued with tragic emphasis, “he hasn’t a
red—and I know I’d be miserable, poor. When papa saw which way the wind
was blowing, he took me into the library and told me that although he
made fifty thousand dollars a year, we spent nearly all of it, and that
he should not have much to leave besides his life insurance—one hundred
thousand—which of course would go to mamma. It is a matter of honour
never to sell this place, and the revenue from the farm—which is to go
to Beverly—would keep it up in a small way. The town house is to be
May’s and mine; but what will that amount to? May and I have always
pretty well understood that if we want to keep on having the things that
habit has made a necessity to us, we must marry rich men! Oh, dear! Oh,
dear!”

“Well, the other man?”

“He has appeared on the scene lately. He is not the usual alternative by
any means, for he is very attractive in his way. He has the manners of
the man of the world, a _fin de siècle_ brain, and the devil in his eye.
He is rather good-looking and tremendously good form. And, my dear, he
has three cold millions. Think what I should be with three millions!
Fancy me in Boston on three or four hundred dollars a month. Oh,
Patience, what shall I do?” And Hal, the most undemonstrative of women,
laid her head on Patience’s knee and sobbed bitterly.

“I had to come to see you, Patience,” she continued after a moment. “I
have no one else; I could never have said a word of this to mamma or
May. And I like you better than any one in the world except Reginald
Wynne. And you seem to understand things. Do tell me what to do.”

“Do this: Be true to your ideals. If love means, and has always meant
more to you than anything else in the world, marry Reginald Wynne. If
money and power and luxury are the very essentials of happiness to you,
marry the other man. No temporary aberration can permanently divert
one’s paramount want from its natural course. As soon as the novelty has
gone, the ego swings back to its old point of view as surely as water
does that has been temporarily dammed. There is only one thing that
persists, and that is the ideal,—that habit of mind which is bred of
heredity and environment, even where care or consciousness is lacking.
It is as relentless and pitiless as the law of cause and effect. I
believe it would outlive a very leprosy of the soul. And it makes no
difference whether that ideal be great or small, high or low, its hold
is precisely the same, for it is individuality itself. Rosita is happy
because she has realised her ideal. Miss Tremont was happy because she
lived up to hers. Miss Beale was supremely satisfied with herself when
she let a man die whom she might have saved by smirching her ideals. The
religionists are happy generally, not through communion with the
presiding deity, as they imagine, but because they have arbitrarily
created a sort of spiritual Blackstone whom they delight to obey. The
author is happy when he toils, even without hope of reward. Martyrs have
known ecstasy—But one could go on for a week. Don’t marry Wynne if you
feel that you would be unhappy in poverty after the first few months;
and if you feel that great wealth without love would be misery, don’t
marry the other.”

“Oh, I could like Latimer Burr well enough,” said Hal, staring gloomily
at the fire; “and after a time I suppose I’d forget. You see, I have
been in love so short a time that the wrench would be a good deal less
violent than the wrench from luxury—I’d soon get over it, I expect. But
I do like him—I never thought I could feel like this.”

Patience fondled the sleek head, but she was not in a mood to feel in
sympathy with love. The only thing that to her seemed of paramount
importance was to fix a clear eye on the future.

“You see,” she said, “the present is ever with us, and the past recedes
farther and farther. If the rich man can give you what you most want,
time will make you forget the very sensation of love. If you marry Wynne
and the love goes, you will have equal difficulty to recall it, and
nothing to compensate in the present.”

“I’m not afraid that it would go; but I know that I should be thoroughly
miserable poor, and make him miserable too. I do love it all so—all
that money means—why, one can’t even be well groomed without money. It
has gone to make up nine-tenths of my composition; the other tenth is
only a bit of miserable wax. But I love this new feeling, and I never
believed that anything could be so sweet. Oh, dear; I’ll have to dry up.
Here comes Bev.”

“Remember this,” said Patience, “and let it console you: however you
feel or are torn, you’ll do one thing only,—follow along the line of
least resistance.”

Beverly entered and kissed his sister affectionately. Her back was to
the light, and he did not notice her swollen eyes.

“Well, you are looking hilarious,” she remarked in her usual flippant
tones. “Has Tammany gone lame, or Mrs. Langtry refused to take her five
bars?”

“My wife doesn’t love me!” Beverly had brooded upon his wrongs for two
months. Hal’s words were as a match to a mine.

“Oh!” exclaimed Patience, springing to her feet, “don’t let us have a
scene for Hal’s benefit. Do cultivate a little good taste, if good sense
is too far beyond you.”

Her words were not soothing, and Beverly exploded in one of his most
violent passions. He tore up and down the room, banging his fist
alternately on the table, the mantel, and the books, and once he hit the
panel of a door so heavy a blow that it sprang. Patience sat down and
turned her back. Hal endeavoured to stop him; but he had found a
listener, and would discharge his mind of its accumulated virus. He told
the tale of the winter in spasmodic gusts, hung and fringed with oaths.
Finally he flung himself out of the room, shouting all the way across
the hall.

For a moment there was an intense and meaning silence between the two
women; then Hal stood up and laid her palms to her head.

“Patience!” she said, “Patience! this is awful. What have I done? Oh,
does it really mean anything? I have seen Bev go into tempers all my
life—but—Tell me, please—does this really mean anything—”

“Whether it does or does not it need not worry you beyond warning you
against mistakes on your own account. I married with my eyes open, and I
can take care of myself. Don’t marry your rich man unless you like him
well enough to pretend to like him a good deal more. If you do, you’ll
end by loathing him and yourself—and what is more, he’ll know it.”

“Oh, no, I don’t think I am as intense as you are—but what do you
suppose makes Beverly such a wild animal? We are none of us like that,
and never have been, as far as I know, although some of the old boys
were pretty gay, not to say lawless. But for two or three generations we
seem to have been a fairly well-conducted lot. Beverly is almost a
freak.”

Patience crossed the room, and lifting down a volume of Darwin’s
“Descent of Man” read from the chapter on Civilised Nations:—

    “‘With mankind some of the worst dispositions which
    occasionally, without any assignable cause, make their
    appearance in families, may perhaps be reversions to a savage
    state from which we are not removed by very many generations.’”


                                  VII

Two weeks later Patience received a letter from Hal which induced no
surprise.

    The die is cast [it read]. Reginald Wynne has gone back to
    Boston, and I am going to marry Latimer Burr. On the first of
    April we sail for Europe—mamma and May and I—to get our
    things.

    Don’t imagine that I am doing the novel-heroine act, and
    sprinkling my pillow o’ nights. I did feel terribly, and I’ll
    never love any other man; but the thing is done, and done for
    the best, and that is the end of it. What you said about
    following along the line of least resistance is as sure as love
    and fate and a good many other things; for what Latimer Burr can
    give me I want more than what Reginald Wynne can give me, and it
    drew me like a magnet. And the other thing you said is equally
    true,—that the only joy in life is to pursue your ideals to the
    bitter end. Mine are not lofty, but they are _me_, and that is
    all there is to it. I shall not weep it out, because I’ve no
    beauty to lose, and weeping does no earthly good, anyway. If it
    would give Wynne Burr’s fortune I’d drown New York.

    We’ll be back on the first of June. We’re only going over to
    order things. I wish you joy of Honora. It’s too bad Bev is so
    much in love with you, or you might switch him off on to her.
    Oh, Patience, dear, you don’t know how much I’ve thought about
    you. It hurts me _hard_ to think that you are unhappy. I feel as
    guilty as a murderer, but really I thought you’d get along. So
    many women had been in love with Bev, I thought you would be,
    too. I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that women
    sometimes had a soul. If I had known as much then as I do now
    I’d have done all I could to keep you apart, for Beverly Peele
    certainly has not the attenuated ghost of a soul.

    But Patience, dear, do stand it out. Don’t, _don’t_ get a
    divorce. Remember that all over the world women are as miserable
    as you are, and as I might be if I would let myself go. Now, at
    least, you have compensations; and when I am married I’ll do
    everything I can to make life gay and pleasant for you; but
    don’t make a horrid vulgar newspaper scandal and leave yourself
    without resources. This world is a pretty good place after all
    when you are on top, but it must be hell underneath.

                                             Lovingly         HAL.


                                  VIII

The day Mrs. Peele and her daughters sailed for France Mr. Peele and his
niece returned to the Manor. Honora kissed Patience on either cheek.

“Oh, I am so glad to come back to my lovely room, and to see you,
Patience dear,” she said wearily. “We have had such a gay winter, and I
am so tired. Dear me, how fresh and sweet you look in that white frock.
I just long to get into thin things.”

When Mr. Peele came up in the evening he narrowed his lids as he kissed
Patience, and regarded her critically. “Well, how does Beverly wear in a
three months’ _tête-à-tête_?” he asked. “Gad! I shouldn’t care to try
it.”

“Oh,” she said flushing, “we didn’t talk much. He had the farm and the
horses to attend to, you know, and I had the library. Oh, I am so glad
you have that library.”

He laughed aloud, with the harsh notes of a voice unused to such music.

“I see you have had a Paul and Virginia time, as Hal would say. I’m
sorry you’ve put your foot in it, for even you can’t make anything of
him; but make the best of it. Don’t leave him—Hal has told me
something, you see. It was best that she should. There must be no
scandal. If he makes too great a nuisance of himself come to me; and if
he cuts off your allowance at any time just let me know, and I’ll see
that you have all the money you want. He doesn’t own the farm. I like
you. You’re a clever woman. If you’d been my daughter I’d have been
proud of you.”

And whether he really found pleasure in his daughter-in-law’s society,
or whether he merely thought it politic to lighten her burden, from that
time until the return of the family he devoted his evenings to her. He
was deeply read, and Patience, after years of mental loneliness, was
grateful for his companionship, although personally he antagonised her.
He was a mentality without heart or soul, and she knew that he would
sacrifice her as readily as he accepted her if it better suited his
purpose.

She clung to Honora during the day and read aloud to her in the Tea
House, while that devoted young Catholic embroidered for the village
church or sewed for the poor of her beloved priest. Father O’Donovan, a
young man with a healthy serious face and a clear eye, frequently joined
them. Every morning the girls rode or sailed. Beverly frequently made
one of the party, and Patience and Honora exercised all their tact to
keep him in good humour. In the evening he played duets with his cousin.
Her touch was as light and hollow as an avalanche of icicles from the
roof, he pounded the piano as if it were a prize fighter’s chest.

One evening Patience did not go downstairs until a few moments before
dinner was announced. As she entered the library she saw that a stranger
stood at the window with Mr. Peele. The priest was present, and she
shook hands with him before going over to greet the stranger and her
father-in-law. While she was agreeing with him that Honora in her white
robe and blue sash looked exactly like an angel, the man at the window
turned, and she recognised Mr. Field. She ran forward and held out her
hand.

“Oh! Oh!” she cried. “I’m so glad to see you again. I’ve wanted and
wanted to.”

He took her hand, smiling, but regarded her with the keen gaze she so
well remembered.

“Bless my soul,” he said, “but you have changed. It is not too much to
say that you have improved. Even the freckles have gone, I see. I
thought I was to make a newspaper woman of you. I felt rather cross when
you married. But this life certainly agrees with you. You look quite the
_grande dame_—quite—ah! Good evening, sir,” as Beverly entered and was
presented. Mr. Field darted a glance from one to the other, his mouth
twitching sardonically.

He sat at Patience’s right during dinner, and they talked constantly.
Beverly was sulky, and said nothing. Mr. Peele rarely talked at table,
even to Patience. Honora and the priest conversed in a solemn undertone.
It is doubtful if two courses had been served before the terrible old
man understood the situation.

“There’s tragedy brewing here,” he thought, grimly. “That fellow has the
temper of a fiend in the skull of a fool, and this girl is not the
compound I take her to be if she lives a lie very long for the sake of
champagne and truffles. I’d give a good deal to foresee the outcome.
Unless I’m all wrong there’ll be a two column story on the first page of
the ‘Day’ some fine morning. Well, she’ll have its support, right or
wrong. She’s a brick, and he’s the sort of fellow a man always wants to
kick.—What is that?” he asked of the priest, who had begun a story that
suddenly appealed to Mr. Field’s editorial instinct.

“A physician over at Mount Vernon, who stands very high in his
profession, has been accused of poisoning his wife. She died in great
agony, and her mother insisted upon a post-mortem. Her stomach was full
of strychnine. He maintains that she threatened to commit suicide
repeatedly, and that he is innocent; but opinion is against him, and
people seem to think that the jury will convict him. I knew both, and I
feel positive of his innocence.”

“Undoubtedly he is innocent,” said Mr. Field. “No physician of ordinary
cleverness would bungle like that. Strychnine! absurd! Why, there are
poisons known to all physicians and chemists which absolutely defy
analysis. I don’t doubt that more than one doctor has put his wife out
of the way, and the world none the wiser.”

“Is that true?” said Patience, eagerly, leaning forward. Her curious
mind leapt at any new fact. “What are they like?”

“That I can’t say. That is a little secret known to the fraternity only,
although I don’t doubt they give their friends the benefit of their
knowledge occasionally. Indubitably a large proportion of murderers are
never discovered—unless they discover themselves, like the guilty pair
in ‘Thérèse Raquin.’”

“Oh, they belonged to the cruder order of civilisation,” said Patience,
lightly. “I am sure that if I committed a murder, I should not be
bothered by conscience if I had felt myself justified in committing it.
It seems to me that if the development of the intellect means anything
it means the casting out of inherited prejudices. Of course I don’t
believe in murder,” she continued, carried away as ever by the pleasure
of abstract reasoning, “but if a man of the world and of brains, after
due deliberation, makes way with a person who is fatal to his happiness
or his career, then I think he must have sufficient development of
mental muscle to scorn remorse. The highest intelligences are
anarchistic.”

“Undoubtedly there are those that have reached that point of
civilisation,” said Mr. Field, “but for my part, I have not. Although I
keep abreast of this extraordinary generation, my roots are planted
pretty far down in the old one. But assuredly if I did feel the
disposition to murder, and succumbed, I’d cover up my tracks.”

“Do these poisons give pain? Are they mineral or vegetable?”

As Mr. Field was about to answer, a peculiar expression crossed his
face, and Patience, following his eyes, looked at Beverly. Her husband
was staring at her with his heavy brows together, the corners of his
mouth drawn down in an ugly sneer. To her horror and disgust she felt
the blood fly to her hair. At the same time she became conscious that
Mr. Peele, the priest, and Honora were exchanging glances of surprise.
Beverly gave an abrupt unpleasant laugh, and pushing his chair violently
back, left the room. Patience glanced appealingly about, then dropped
her glance to her plate. She felt as if the floor were dissolving
beneath her feet.


                                   IX

A week later, after a pleasant morning in the Tea House with Honora and
Father O’Donovan, she left it to go to the library. As she turned the
corner of the house she saw Beverly standing close to one of the
windows.

“What are you doing there?” she asked in surprise.

His brows were lowered and his skin looked black, as it always did when
his angry passions were risen.

“I’ve been watching you and that priest,” he said savagely, following
her as she retreated hastily out of earshot of the people in the Tea
House. “I saw you exchanging glances with him! Now I know why you want
to know so much about poisons—”

“Are you insane?” she cried. “What on earth are you talking about?”

“No, I’m not insane—by God! You’re in love with that priest, and I know
it. But I’m on the watch—”

“Oh,—you—you—” stammered Patience. She could not speak. Her face was
crimson with anger and disgust. In her husband’s eyes she was an image
of guilt. He burst into a sneering laugh.

“You think I’m a fool, I suppose, because I don’t know anything about
books. But a woman said once that I had the instincts of the devil, and
I’ve no idea of—”

Patience found her tongue. “You poor fool,” she said. “It was ridiculous
of me to pay any attention whatever to you; but I am not used to being
insulted, even by you. And remember that I am not used to any display of
imagination in you. As for _love_—” the scorn with which she uttered
the word made even him wince—“do not worry. You have made me loathe the
thing. I could not fall in love with a god. Don’t have the least fear
that I shall be unfaithful to you. I couldn’t!”

She walked away, leaving Beverly trembling and speechless. When she
reached her room she locked the doors and sobbed wildly.

“Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?” she thought. “I can’t stand it
any longer. I believe I really would kill him if I stayed. I feel as if
my nature were in ruins. I hate myself! I loathe myself! I’ll leave this
very day!”

But she had said the same thing many times. Why does a woman hesitate
long before she leaves the man who has made life shocking to her?
Indolence, abhorrence of scandal, shame to confess that she has made a
failure of her life, above all, lack of private fortune and the
uncertainty of self-support. For whatever the so-called advanced woman
may preach, woman has in her the instinct of dependence on man,
transmitted through the ages, and a sexual horror of the arena. Patience
let the days slip by, hoping, as women will, that the problem would
solve itself, that Beverly Peele would die, or become indifferent, or
that she would drift naturally into some other sphere.


                                   X

Mrs. Peele and the girls returned with the June roses; the house was
filled with guests at once. The Cuban had gone to his islands for the
summer, and May chose to wear the willow and occasionally to weep upon
Patience’s unsympathetic shoulder; but as frequently she consoled
herself with the transient flirtation. Hal, apparently, was her old gay
self. She did not mention Wynne’s name, and Patience was equally
reticent.

“I should be the last to remind any woman of what she wished to forget,”
she thought. “And love—what does it amount to anyhow? If He came I
believe I should hate him, because once I felt something like passion
for him too.”

She had looked forward with some curiosity to meeting Latimer Burr. He
also had been in Paris. He followed his lady home on the next steamer,
and immediately upon his return came to Peele Manor. Patience did not
meet him until dinner. She sat beside him, and at once became acutely
aware that he was a man of superlative physical magnetism. She
proscribed him accordingly—magnetism was a repellent force at this
stage of her development. She was rather surprised that she could feel
it again, so completely had Beverly’s evaporated.

Burr was a tall heavily built man about forty years old. He carried
himself and wore his clothes as only a New York man can. His face was
florid and well modelled, his mouth and half closed eyes sensual. But
his voice and manners were charming. He appeared to be deeply in love
with Hal, and his voice became a caress when he spoke to her. Patience
did not like his type, but she forgave him individually because he was
fond of Hal and appeared to possess brains.

She fell into conversation with him, and his manner would have led her
to believe that while she spoke neither Hal nor any other woman existed.
To this Patience gave little attention: she had met that manner before;
it was pleasant, and she missed it when lacking; but she had practised
it too often herself to feel more than its passing fascination. His
eyes, however, were more insistently eloquent than his manner, and their
eloquence was of the order that induced discomposure.

Patience at times looked very lovely, and she was at her best to-night.
Her white skin was almost transparent, and the wine had touched her
cheeks with pink. The sadness of her spirit had softened her eyes. Her
gown of peacock blue gauze fitted her round elastic figure very firmly,
and her bare throat and neck and arms were statuesque. She had by no
means the young married woman look, but she had some time since acquired
an “air,” much to Hal’s satisfaction. To all appearances she was a girl,
but her figure was womanly. Although about five feet six, and built on a
more generous plan than the average New York woman, she walked with all
their spring and lightness of foot. Her round waist looked smaller than
it was; she never laced. Lately she had discovered that she “had an
arm,” as Hal would have phrased it, and the discovery had given her such
satisfaction that she had forgotten her troubles for the hour, and sent
for a dressmaker to take the sleeves out of her evening gowns.

Mr. Burr also discovered it, and murmured his approval as caressingly as
were he addressing his prospective bride.

“The milk-white woman!” he ejaculated softly. “The milk-white woman!”

“Can’t you get any farther?” asked Patience. “If you were a poet now,
that would make a good first line for a rhapsody—to Hal, for instance.”

He laughed indulgently. “How awfully bright you are. I am afraid of
you.” But he did not look in the least afraid. “You are to be my sister,
you know. We must become friends at once.”

“And flattery is the quickest and surest way of establishing the
fraternal relation? Well, you are quite right; but just look at my hair
for a change, will you?” (She felt as if her skin must be covered with
red spots.) “Or my profile. They are also good points.”

“They are exquisite. I have rarely seen a woman so beautiful.”

“Dear! Dear! How relieved you must be to feel that you can keep your
hand in without straying too far from Peele Manor. And there is also
Honora.”

“I don’t admire Miss Mairs. She is too tall, and her nose is too long.”

“Poor dear Honora! But how well you understand women! What tact! I like
you so much better than I did before.”

He laughed again in his indulgent way. “You mustn’t guy me. It is your
fault if I pay you too many compliments. You are a very fascinating
woman.”

“You are wonderfully entertaining. What must you be when you are in
love! What do you and Hal talk about?”

“Isn’t Hal a dear little girl? I do love her. I never loved a woman so
much in my life—never proposed before. She is so bright. She keeps me
amused all the time. I always said I’d never marry a woman that didn’t
amuse me, and I’ve kept my word. It isn’t so much what she says, don’t
you know, as the way she says it. Dear little girl!”

On this subject they could agree, and Patience kept him to it as long as
possible.

After dinner Burr went with Mr. Peele into the library. Patience,
passing through the room, found them talking earnestly upon the great
question of the day,—the financial future of the country. She paused a
moment, then sat down. To her surprise she found that Burr was master of
his subject, and possessed of a gift of words which fell little short of
eloquence.

The argument lasted an hour, during which Patience sat with her elbows
on the table, her chin on her folded hands, her eager eyes glancing from
one to the other. Occasionally she smiled responsively as Burr made some
felicitous phrase. When the discussion was over, Mr. Peele left the
room. Burr arose at once and seated himself beside her.

“I never talked so well,” he said. “You inspired me;” and he took her
hand in the matter-of-fact manner she knew so well.

“You talked quite as well before you saw me—”

“I knew you were there—”

“Kindly let me have my hand. I have only two—”

“Nonsense! Let me hold your hand. I want to! I am going to—Why are
you—”

“Haven’t you Hal’s hand?”

“Oh, my God! You don’t expect me to go through life holding one woman’s
hand? Hal is the most fascinating woman in the world, and I love
her—but I want you to let me love you, too.”

“It is quite immaterial to me whether you love me or not; and, I think,
if you want plain English, that you are a scoundrel.”

“Oh, come, come. You—_you_—must know more of the world than to talk
like that. Why am I a scoundrel?” He looked much amused.

“You are engaged to one woman and are making love to another.”

“Well, what of that so long as she doesn’t know it? I shall be the most
uxorious and indulgent of husbands—but faithful—that is not to be
expected.”

“You must have great confidence in me. Suppose I describe this scene and
conversation to Hal?”

“You will not,—not out of regard for me, but because you love Hal—dear
little girl! And you are one of the few women devoid of the cat
instincts. That long-legged girl, now, has a whole tiger inside of her,
but you have only the faults of the big woman. I hope you have their
weaknesses.”

“Well, you shall never know if I have. Please let go my hand.”

He flung it from him. “Oh, well,” he said, haughtily, “I hoped we should
be friends, but if you will have it otherwise, so be it;” and he stalked
out, and devoted himself to Hal for the rest of the evening.


                                   XI

“Funny world,” thought Patience. She shrugged her beautiful young
shoulders cynically, and went forth to do her duty by the guests. As she
passed out of the front door to join some one of the scattered groups on
the lawns, she heard a voice which made her pause and tap her forehead
with her finger. It was a rich deep voice, with a vibration in it, and a
light suggestion of brogue. She turned to the drawing-room, whence it
came. A man in riding clothes was talking to Mrs. Peele, who was
listening with a bend of the head that meant much to Patience’s trained
eye. The man had an athletic nervous figure, suggestive of great
virility and suppressed force, although it was carried with a fine
repose. The thick black hair on his large finely shaped head glinted
here and there with silver. His profile was aquiline, delicately cut and
very strong, his mouth, under the slight moustache, neither full nor
thin, and both mobile and firm, the lips beautifully cut. The eyes,
deeply set, were not large, and were of an indefinite blue grey, but
piercing, restless, kind, and humourous. There were lines about them,
and a deep line on one side of his mouth. His lean face had a touch of
red on its olive. He might have been anywhere between thirty-five and
forty.

Patience recognised him and trembled a little, but with excitement, not
passion. She had understood herself for once when she had said that in
her present conditions she was incapable of love. Beverly Peele would
have to go down among the memories before his wife could shake her
spirit free, and turn with swept brain and clear eyes to even a
conception of the love whose possibilities dwelt within her.

But she was fully alive to the picturesqueness of meeting this man once
more, and suddenly became possessed of the spirit of adventure. There
must be some sort of sequel to that old romance.

She withdrew to the shadow of a tree, where she could watch the
drawing-room through the window. Burr entered, slapped the visitor on
the back, and bore him away to the dining-room, presumably to have a
drink. When they returned, Mr. Peele was in the room. He shook hands
with the stranger more heartily than was his wont. In a few moments he
crossed over to the library, and Patience, seeing that her early hero
would be held in conversation for some time to come, followed her
father-in-law and asked casually who the visitor was.

“Oh, that’s Bourke, Garan Bourke, the legal idol,” sarcastically, “of
Westchester County. In truth he’s a brilliant lawyer enough, and one of
the rising men at the New York bar, although he will go off his head
occasionally and take criminal cases. I don’t forgive him that, if he
_is_ always successful. However, we all have our little fads. I suppose
he can’t resist showing his power over a jury. I heard an enthusiastic
youngster assert the other day that Bourke whips up a jury’s grey matter
into one large palpitating batter, then moulds it with the tips of his
fingers while the jury sits with mouth open and spinal marrow paralysed.
Personally, I like him well enough, and rather hoped he and Hal would
fancy each other. But he doesn’t seem to be a marrying man. You’d better
go over and meet him. He’ll just suit you.”

Patience returned to her post. Burr had disappeared, Bourke was talking
to half a dozen women. In a few moments he rose to go. Patience went
hastily across the lawns to the narrow avenue of elms by the driveway.
No two were billing and cooing in its shadows, and Beverly was in bed
with a nervous headache.

The moon was large and very brilliant. One could have read a newspaper
as facilely as by the light of an electric pear. As Bourke rode to the
main avenue a woman came toward him. He had time to think her very
beautiful and of exceeding grace before she surprised him by laying her
hand on his horse’s neck.

“Well?” she said, looking up and smiling as he reined in.

“Well?” he stammered, lifting his hat.

“I am too heavy to ride before you now.”

He stared at her perplexedly, but made no reply.

“Still if I were up a tree—literally, you know—and a band of terrible
demons were shouting at a man beside a corpse—”

“What?” he said. “Not you?—not you? That homely fascinating little
girl—no, it cannot be possible—”

“Oh, yes,” lifting her chin, coquettishly. “I have improved, and grown,
you see. I was more than delighted when I saw you through the window. It
was rather absurd, but I disliked the idea of going in to meet you
conventionally—”

He laid his hand strongly on hers, and she treated him with a passivity
denied to Latimer Burr.

“I am going to tie up my horse and talk to you a while, may I?” America
and the law had not crowded all the romance out of his Irish brain, and
he was keenly alive to the adventure. He had forgotten her name long
since, and it did not occur to him that this lovely impulsive girl was
the property of another man; but although he had lived too long, nor yet
long enough, to lose his heart to the first flash of magnetism from a
pretty woman, yet his blood was thrilled by the commingling of
spirituality and deviltry in the face of this high-bred girl who cared
to give the flavour of romance to their acquaintance. He saw that she
was clever, and he had no intention of making a fool of himself; but he
was quite willing to follow whither she cared to lead. And it was night
and the moon was high; the leaves sang in a crystal sea; a creek
murmured somewhere; the frogs chanted their monotonous recitative to the
hushed melodies and discords of the night world; the deep throbbing of
steamboats came from the river.

He tied his horse to a tree, and they entered the avenue.

“You told me that it was a small world, and that we should probably meet
again,” she said; “and I never doubted that we should.”

“Oh, I never did either,” he exclaimed. He was racking his brains to
recall the conversation which had passed between them a half dozen years
ago, and for the life of him could not remember a word; but he was a man
of resource.

“I am glad that it is at night,” he continued, “even if the scene is not
so charming as Carmel Valley from that old tower. How beautiful the
ocean looked from there, and what a jolly ride we had in the pine
woods!”

She understood perfectly, and grinned in the dark.

“Ah! I remember I gave you some advice,” he exclaimed with suspicious
abruptness. “I thought afterward that it was great presumption on my
part.”

“I wonder if you had an ideal of your own in mind when you spoke?”

“An ideal?” He cursed his memory and floundered hopelessly. Even his
Irish wit for once deserted him.

“Oh, I hoped you had not forgotten it. Why, I have made a little ‘Night
Thoughts’ of what you said, and it has been one of the strongest forces
in my development. Shall I repeat it to you?”

“Oh, please.” He was blushing with pleasure, but sore perplexed.

And she repeated his comments and advice, word for word.

“Is it possible that you remember all that? I am deeply flattered.” And
he was, in fact.

“What more natural than that I should remember? I was a lonely little
waif, full of dreams and vague ideals, and with much that was terrible
in my actual life. I had never talked with a young man before—a man of
seventy was my only experience of your sex, barring boys, that don’t
count. And you swooped down into my life in the most picturesque manner
possible, and talked as no one in my little world was capable of
talking. So, you see, it is not so remarkable that I retain a vivid
impression of you and your words. I was frightfully in love with you.”

“Oh—were you? Were you?” He was very much at sea. It was true that she
had paid him the most subtle tribute one mind can pay to another, but
her very audacity would go to prove that she was a brilliant coquette.
He had a keen sense of the ridiculous, and he was still a little afraid
of her. He took refuge on the broad impersonal shore of flirtation,
where the boat is ever dancing on the waves.

“If you felt obliged to use the past tense you might have left that last
unsaid.”

“Oh, there are a thousand years between fifteen and twenty-one. I am
quite another person, as you see.”

“You are merely an extraordinary child developed; and you have carried
your memory along with you.”

“Oh, yes, the memory is there, and the tablets are pretty full; but
never mind me. I want to know if your ideals are as strong now as I am
sure they were then—if any one in this world manages to hold onto his
ideals when circumstances don’t happen to coddle them.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m afraid I haven’t thought much about
them since that night. I doubt if I’d given too much thought to them
before. Deep in every man’s brain is an ideal of some sort, I imagine,
but it is seldom he sits down and analyses it out. He knows when he’s
missed it and locked the gates behind him, and perhaps, occasionally, he
knows when he’s found it—or something approximating it. We are all the
victims of that terrible thing called Imagination, which, I sometimes
think, is the sudden incursion of a satirical Deity. I have not
married—why, I can hardly say. Perhaps because there has been some
vague idea that if I waited long enough I might meet the one woman; but
partly, also, because I have had no very great desire to marry. I keep
bachelor’s hall over on the Sound, and the life is very jolly and free
of small domestic details. There are so many women that give you almost
everything you want—or at least four or five will make up a very good
whole—that I have never yet faced the tremendous proposition of going
through life expecting one woman to give me everything my nature and
mind demand. But there are such women, I imagine,” he added abruptly,
trying to see her face in one of the occasional splashes of moonlight.

“A very clever woman—Mrs. Lafarge; perhaps you know her—said to me the
other day, that many men and women of strong affinity took a good deal
of spirituality with them into marriage, but soon forgot all about
it—matrimony is so full of reiterant details, and everything becomes so
matter of course. Do you think that is true?”

“I am afraid it is. The imagination wears blunt. The Deity is sending
his electricity elsewhere—to those still prowling about the shores of
the unknown. Perhaps if one could keep the danger in mind—if one were
unusually clever—I don’t know. I fancy civilisation will get to that
point after a while. Unquestionably the companionship of man and woman,
when no essentials are lacking, is the one supremely satisfying thing in
life. If we loved each other, for instance—on such a night—it seems to
me that we are in tune—”

“But we don’t love each other, as it happens, and we met about three
quarters of an hour ago. We’ll probably hate each other by daylight.”

“Oh, I hope not,” he said, accepting the ice-water. “But tell me what
your ideals were. I hope they have proved more stable than mine.”

“Oh, mine were a sort of yearning for some unseen force in nature; I
suppose the large general force from which love is a projection. Every
mortal, except the purely material, the Beverly Peele type, for
instance, has an affinity with something in the invisible world, an
uplifting of the soul. Christianity satisfies the great mass, hence its
extraordinary hold. Do you suppose the real link between the soul of man
and the soul of nature will ever be established?”

He laughed a little, piqued, but amused. “You are very clever,” he said,
“and this is just the hour and these are just the circumstances for
impersonal abstractions. Well—perhaps the link will be established when
we have lived down this civilisation and entered upon another which has
had drilled out of it all the elements which plant in human nature the
instincts of cupidity and sordidness and envy and political corruption,
and all that goes to make us the aliens from nature that we are. About
all that keeps us in touch with her now are our large vices. There is
some tremendous spiritual force in the Universe which projects itself
into us, making man and nature correlative. What wonder that
man—particularly an imaginative and intelligent child—should be
affected and played upon by this Mystery? What wonder that the heathens
have gods, and the civilised a symbol called the Lord God?—a concrete
something which they can worship, and upon which unburden the load of
spirituality which becomes oppressive to matter? It is for the same
reason that women fall in love and marry earlier than men, who have so
many safety-valves. On the other hand, men who have a great deal of
emotional imagination and who can neither love nor accept religion take
refuge in excess. It is all a matter of temperament. Cold-blooded
people—those that have received a meagre share of this great vital
force pervading the Universe, which throws a continent into convulsions
or a human being into ecstasy—such, for instance, are religious only
because their ancestors were,—their brain is pointed that way. Their
blood has nothing to do with it, as is the more general case—for
Christianity is pre-eminently sensuous.”

“What do you suppose will take its place? The world is bound to become
wholly civilised in time; but still human nature will demand some sort
of religion (which is another word for ideality), some sort of
lodestar.”

“A superlative refinement, I think; a perfected æstheticism which shall
by no means eradicate the strong primal impulses; which shall, in fact,
create conditions of higher happiness than now exist. Do we not enjoy
all arts the more as they approach perfection? Does not a nude appeal
with more subtle strength to the senses the more exquisite its beauty,
the more entire its freedom from coarseness? When people strive to place
human nature on a level with what is highest in art and in nature
itself, the true religion will have been discovered. So far, man himself
is infinitely below what man has achieved. It is hard to believe that
genius is the result of any possible combination of heredity. It would
seem that it must, like its other part, imagination, be the direct and
more permanent indwelling of the supreme creative force—as if the
creator would lighten his burden occasionally, and shakes off rings
which float down to torment favoured brains.”

“I always knew that I should love to hear you talk,” murmured Patience.

His hand closed over hers. He drew it through his arm and held it
against his heart, which was beating irregularly.

“And I haven’t talked so much nor such stuff to a woman since God made
me. I believe that I could talk to you through twenty years. You have
said enough to-night to make me hope that our minds have been running
along the same general lines. Tell me—honestly—no coquetry—has what I
said that night had the slightest effect in your development?”

She told the tale of the day in the crystal woods, giving a sufficiently
comprehensive sketch of the events which had led up to it to make her
the more keenly interesting to the man whose brain was beginning to
whirl a little.

“If you had come at that moment,” she concluded, “I would have gone with
you to the end of the earth. I have a pretty strong personality, but
there was a good deal of wax in me then, and if you could have gotten it
between your hands I think that what you moulded would have closely
resembled your ideal—the impression you had already made had so
strongly coloured and trained my imagination. But,” she continued
hastily, and glancing anxiously to the far distant end of the avenue,
“you see my life changed immediately after that, and I went into the
world and became hard and bitter and cynical. I have no ideals left, and
I do not want any—I have seen too much—”

“Hush!” he said passionately, “I do not believe a word of it. Why, that
was not two years ago, and you are still a young girl. Have you loved
any one else?” he asked abruptly, his voice less steady.

“No!”

He was too excited to note the meaning of her emphasis. He was only
conscious that he was very close to a beautiful woman who allured him in
all ways as no one woman had ever done before.

“You are full of a girl’s cynicism,” he said; “you have seen just enough
to make you think you know the world—to accept the superficial for the
real. You—you yourself are an ideal. All you need is to know yourself,
and I am going to undertake the task of teaching you—do you hear? If I
fail—if I have made a mistake—if it is only the night and your beauty
that have gone to my head—well and good; but I shall have the
satisfaction of having tried—of knowing—”

“No, no! No, no!” she said. “You must not come here again. I do not want
to see you again—”

“Nonsense! You have some sentimental foolish idea in your head,—or
perhaps you are engaged to some man who can give you great wealth and
position. I shall not regard that, either. If I feel to you by daylight
as I do now, I’ll have you—do you understand?”

Patience opened her lips to tell him the truth, then cynically made up
her mind to let matters take their course. At the same time she was
bitterly resentful that she should feel as she did, not as she had once
dreamed of feeling for this man.

“Very well,” she said, “I shall be here for a while.”

“And I shall see you in the course of a day or two. I’m going now.
Good-night.” He let her arm slip from under his, but held her hand
closely. “And even if it so happened that I never did see you again, I
should thank you for the glimpse you have given me of a woman I hardly
dared dream existed.”

When he had gone she anathematised fate for a moment, then went back to
her guests.


                                  XII

Latimer Burr was evidently a man upon whom rebuff sat lightly. The next
morning he came suddenly upon Patience in a dark corner, and tried to
kiss her. Whenever the opportunity offered he held her hand, and once,
to her infinite disgust, he planted his foot squarely on hers under the
dinner table. A few hours later they happened to be alone in one of the
small reception-rooms.

“Look here,” exclaimed Patience, wrathfully, “will you let me alone?”

“No, I won’t,” he said good-naturedly. “Jove! but you are a beauty!”

She wore a gown of white mull and lace, trimmed with large knots of
dark-blue velvet. She had been talking all the evening with Mr. Peele,
Mr. Field, and Burr, and was somewhat excited. Her lips were very pink,
her eyes very bright and dark. She held her head with a young triumph in
beauty and the intellectual tribute of clever men.

“Hal would be delighted. She has always wanted me to become the
fashion.”

“You never will be that, for there are not enough brainy men in society
to appreciate you. If all were like myself, you would be wearied with
the din of admiration—”

“There’s nothing like having a good opinion of oneself.”

“Why not? I don’t set up to be an intellectual man—intellectual men are
out of date; but I’m a brainy man, and I’d like to know how I’m to help
being aware of the fact. I certainly don’t claim to be pretty, so you
can’t say I’m actually wallowing in conceit.”

Patience was forced to laugh. “Oh, you’d do very well if you’d exercise
as much sense in regard to women as you do to affairs. Just answer me
one question, will you? Are you so amazingly fascinating that women have
the habit of succumbing at the end of the second interview?”

“I never set up to be an ass.”

“But your manner is quite assured. You seem very much surprised that I
don’t tumble into your arms and say ‘Thank you.’ Oh, you New York men
are so funny!”

“Well, answer me one question—you don’t love your husband, do you?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Do you like me?”

“I would if you wouldn’t make such an idiot of yourself. You certainly
are very agreeable to talk to.”

He came closer, his lids falling. The fine repose of his manner was a
trifle ruffled. “Do you love anybody else?” he asked.

“I do not.”

“Then let me love you.”

“I shall not.”

“Then if you don’t love your husband and you like me and will not let me
love you, you must have a lover.”

Patience burst into brief hilarity.

“Is that the logic of your kind?”

“A beautiful woman that does not love her husband always loves another
man.”

“Or is willing to be loved by the first man that happens to have no
other affair on hand.”

“You have said that you like me.”

“I didn’t say I loved you!”

“I’d make you!”

“Oh!” with a deep contempt he was incapable of understanding, “you
couldn’t. But tell me another thing; I’m very curious. Has it never
occurred to you that a woman must be wooed, that it is somewhat
necessary to arouse sentiment and feeling in her before she is willing
to advance one step? Why, you and your kind demand her off-hand in a way
that is positively funny. What has become of all the old traditions?”

“Oh, bother,” he said. “Life is too short to waste time on old-fashioned
nonsense. If a man wants a woman he says so, and if she’s sensible and
likes him she meets him half way. Men and women of the world know what
they want.”

“That is all there is to love then? It no longer means anything else
whatever?”

“Oh—you are all wrong. If you were not a spiritual woman I wouldn’t
cross the room to win you. One can buy the other sort. It is your
spirituality, your intellectuality, that fascinates me as much as your
beauty.”

“What do you know about spirituality?” she said contemptuously. “I don’t
like to hear you speak the word. You desecrate it.”

He flushed purple. “There are few things I don’t understand—and a good
deal better than you do, perhaps.”

“You have a clever man’s perception, that is all. Association with all
sorts of women has taught you the difference between them. But what
could you give a spiritual woman? Nothing. You have not a shrunken
kernel of soul. The sensual envelope is too thick; your brain too
crowded with the thousand and one petty experiences of material life.
You are as ingenuous as all fast men, for the women you have spent your
life running after make no demands upon subtlety—”

“Take care,” he said angrily; “you are going too far. I tell you I have
as much soul as any man living.”

“Perhaps. I doubt if any man has much. Men give women nothing, as far as
I can see. If we want companionship there seems nothing to do but to
descend to your level and grovel with you.”

“I would never make you grovel. I would reverence—”

“Oh, rot!” she cried, stamping her foot. “What a fool—and worse—the
average woman must be. You have no idea how ingenuously you are giving
away the women of society. And soul! The idea of a man who pretends to
love the woman he is engaged to and is making love to another, and that
her sister-in-law and most intimate friend, claiming to have a soul!
Have you no sense of humour? I say nothing about honour, as I wish to be
understood, if possible; but you are clever enough to see the ridiculous
in most things—Please don’t walk over me. There is plenty of room. And
the windows are open, you know—”

“Yes, and I am here,” cried a furious voice, and Beverly sprang into the
room.

Patience stepped back with a faint exclamation. Burr turned white.
Beverly was shaking with rage. His face was almost black; there were
white flecks on his nostrils.

“I kept quiet,” he articulated, “to hear every word. You dog!” to Burr.
“I may be pretty bad, but I’d never do what you have done. And as for
you,” he shook his fist at his wife, “you were only leading him on. If I
could only have held myself in another moment I’d have seen you in his
arms. Get out of this house,” he roared, “both of you. You’ll never
marry my sister. I’m going to tell her this minute—”

Burr sprang forward and caught him by the collar; but Beverly was not a
coward. He turned, flinging out his fist, and the two men grappled.
Patience closed the door and glanced out of the window. No one was near.
Voices floated up from the cliffs. Burr was the more powerful man of the
two, and in a moment had flung Beverly, panting, into a chair.

“Keep him here,” said Patience, rapidly, and she left the room.

“Man is certainly still a savage, a brute,” she thought. “What is the
matter with civilisation?”

As she crossed the lawn, she met one of the servants.

“Go and find Miss Hal, and ask her to come here,” she said. A few
moments later her sister-in-law hurried up from the cliffs.

“What is it?” she called cheerily. “Has Bev had an apoplectic fit?”

“Beverly has been making a greater fool of himself than usual,” said
Patience, as the girls met, “and I want to see you before he does. I was
standing in one of the reception-rooms talking to Mr. Burr after Mr.
Field and Mr. Peele had gone out, and he had on all his manner and was
telling me how beautiful I was, in his usual after dinner style, when
Beverly leaped through the window like the wronged husband in the
melodrama and accused us of making love. He threatened to come and tell
you, and he and Mr. Burr wrestled like two prize-fighters. If Beverly
were put on the witness stand he’d be obliged to admit that Mr. Burr had
not so much as touched my hand. I suppose you will believe me?”

Hal gave her light laugh. “Certainly, my dear, certainly; although if I
were a man I should fall in love with you myself. I wouldn’t bet on
Latimer, but I would on you—so don’t worry your little head. Do you
suppose I expect a man with that mouth and those eyes to be faithful to
me? Still, I must say that I should have given him credit for more
decency than to make love to my sister-in-law—”

“He didn’t! I swear he didn’t.”

“Oh, of course not! Nor will he make love to every pretty woman he finds
himself alone with for five minutes. He can’t help it, poor thing. Let
us go and talk to the gentlemen.”

As they entered the little room she exclaimed airily, “Been making a
fool of yourself again, Bev? No, don’t speak. Patience has told me all
about it. I have every confidence in her and Latimer. Better go and take
a spin with Tammany. Latimer, you really must mend your manners. They’re
too good. From a distance a stranger would really think you were making
love when you are swearing at the heat. Now, come down to the Tea House.
Good-night, Bevvy dear.”

And she went off between her lover and her sister-in-law, leaving her
brother to swear forth his righteous indignation.

That night Patience opened the door of her husband’s room for the first
time. Beverly, who had just entered, was so astonished that the wrath he
had carefully nourished fell like quicksilver under a cool wave, and he
stared at her without speaking.

“I wish to tell you,” said his wife, “that you were entirely justified
in being angry to-night. I could have suppressed Burr by a word, but I
chose to lead him on to gratify my curiosity. Hal wishes to marry him,
and I am determined that she shall. If I had admitted the truth to her
or permitted you to enlighten her, her self-respect would have forced
her to break the engagement. That would have been absurd, for the match
is exactly what she wants, and she is not marrying with illusions. But
you have been treated inconsiderately, and I apologise for my share in
it. Will you forgive me?”

“Of course I’ll forgive you,” said Beverly, eagerly. “I wasn’t angry
with you, anyhow—only with that scoundrel. But I never believed you’d
do this. Do you care for me a little?”

Patience averted her face that she might not see the expression on his.
Despite her loathing of him she gave him a certain measure of pity. With
all the preponderance of the savage in him and the limitations of his
intelligence he had his own capacity for suffering, and to-night he
stood before her crushed under the sudden reaction, his eyes full of the
dumb appeal of shrinking brutes.

“If we are going to live peacefully don’t let us discuss that subject,”
she said gently. “We have both missed it, and I sometimes think that you
are more to be pitied than I am. However, I shall not flirt—I promise
you that. Good-night.”

That was the last of Mr. Burr’s illegal love-making at Peele Manor. He
had had a fright and a lesson, and he forgot neither.


                                  XIII

“Garan Bourke is coming to dinner to-night,” said Hal, the next day.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world to get him; he never goes anywhere;
but he half promised mamma, when he called the other night, that he’d
come some day this week, and he wrote yesterday, saying he’d dine with
us to-day. I want you to meet him. He is awfully clever, and when he
talks I want to close my eyes and listen to his voice. If the dear girls
ever get the vote and do jury duty, all he’ll have to do will be to
quote law. He needn’t take the trouble to sum up. His voice will do the
business every time.”

Patience, in a French gown of black chiffon, was very beautiful that
night. She did not go down to dinner until every one was seated. Bourke
sat next to Mrs. Peele. Her own chair was near the end of the opposite
side of the long table. For a time she did not look at Bourke. When she
did she met his eyes; and knew by their expression that some one had
told him she was the wife of Beverly Peele.

After dinner he went with Mr. Peele and Burr into the library. Patience
was about to follow a party of young people down to the bluff, when Mr.
Field drew her arm firmly through his.

“You are not going to desert your court?” he said. “Why, you don’t
suppose I come up here to talk to Peele, do you? If you go out with
those boys I’ll never come here again.” And he led her into the library.

It was nearly twelve o’clock when she found herself alone with Bourke.
The others had gone out, one by one. She had made no attempt to follow
them. She sat with defiant eyes and inward trepidation. Bourke regarded
her with narrowed eyes and twitching nostrils.

“So you are married?” he said at last.

“Yes.”

“And you deliberately made a fool of me?”

“No—no—I did nothing deliberately that night—no—I acted on impulse.
And all that I said was quite true. Of course I should have told you—”

“But it would have spoiled your comedy.”

“No—no—don’t think that. I see that I was dishonest—I am not making
excuses—I never thought you’d become really interested—”

“I am not breaking my heart. Don’t let that worry you. The mere fact of
your dishonesty is quite enough to break the spell—for you are not the
woman I imagined you to be. I was merely worshipping an ideal for the
hour. Do you love your husband?”

“No.”

“Then you are a harlot,” he said, deliberately. “It only needed that.”
He rose to his feet and looked contemptuously at her scarlet face. “At
all events it was an amusing episode,” he said. “Good-night.”


                                  XIV

It was a matter of comment before the summer was over, both among the
guests at Peele Manor and the neighbours, that Mr. and Mrs. Beverly
Peele had come to the parting of the ways. As the young man’s
infatuation was as notable as his wife’s indifference, he received the
larger share of sympathy. The married men championed Patience and
expressed it in their time-honoured fashion; and although they worried
her she looked forward with terror to the winter: she would willingly
have taken them all to board and trusted to their wives to keep them in
order.

Beverly had confided his woes long since to his mother. She declined to
discuss the subject with her daughter-in-law, but treated her with a
chill severity. Fortunately they were gay that summer, and Patience had
much to do. Hal and May were absorbed in preparations for their wedding,
and the duties of hostess fell largely on her shoulders.

Late in the fall there was a double wedding under the medallion of Peele
the First. Immediately thereafter May went to Cuba; and Hal to Europe,
to pay a series of visits. Mrs. Peele continued to entertain, and was
obliged to confess that her daughter-in-law was very useful, and in
deportment above reproach. Outwardly Patience looked almost as cold a
woman of the world as herself, and gave no evidence of the storms
brewing within; but one day she hung out a signal. Mrs. Peele announced
that she should go to town on the first of December. Patience followed
her into her bedroom and closed the door.

“May I speak to you a moment alone?” she asked.

“Certainly,” said Mrs. Peele, frigidly. “Will you sit down?”

She herself took an upright chair, and suggested, Patience thought, a
judge on his bench.

“I want to go to town with you this winter.”

“I should be happy to have my dear son with me, and I will not deny that
you are a great help to me; but Beverly is as strongly opposed as ever
to city life. I asked him myself to go down for the winter, but he
refused. He is one of Nature’s own children, and loves the country.”

“He certainly is very close to Nature in several of her moods. But I
wish to go whether he does or not.”

“You would leave your husband?” Mrs. Peele spoke with meditative scorn.

“It will be better for both of us not to be shut up here together for
another winter. I—I will not answer for the consequences.”

“Is that a threat?”

“You can take it as you choose.”

“Do you not love my son?”

“No, I do not.”

“And you are not ashamed to make such an admission?”

“Would you prefer to have me lie about it?”

“It is your duty to love your husband.”

“That proposition is rather too absurd for argument, don’t you think so?
Will you persuade Beverly to let me go with you to town?”

“I shall not. You should be glad, overjoyed, to have such a husband. You
should feel grateful,” she added, unburdening her spite in the vulgarity
which streaks high and low, “that he loved you well enough to overlook
your lack of family and fortune—”

But Patience had left the room.

That evening she went to her father-in-law and stated her case. She
spoke calmly, although she was bitter and sore and worried. “I cannot
stay here with Beverly this winter,” she continued. “I need not explain
any farther. Mrs. Peele will not consent to my going to town with her.
But couldn’t I live abroad? I could do so on very little. I should care
nothing for society if I could live my life by myself. I should be quite
contented with books and freedom. But I cannot stay here with Beverly
alone again.”

Mr. Peele shook his head. “It wouldn’t do. I understand; but it would
only result in scandal, and I don’t like scandal. We have never gone to
pieces, like so many great New York families. Our women have been proud
and conservative, and have not used their position to cloak their
amours. I have perfect confidence in you, of course; but if you went to
Europe and left Beverly raging here, people would say that you had gone
to meet another man. Moreover, it would do no good. Beverly would follow
you. And he will give you no cause for divorce: he has the cunning
peculiar to the person of ugly disposition and limited mentality. No,
try to stand it. Remember that all the humours of human nature have
their limit. Beverly will become indifferent in time. Then he will let
you come to us. I intend to take a rest in a year or two and go abroad,
and I shall be glad to have you with us. I do not mind telling you that
you are the brightest young woman I have ever known—and Mr. Field has
said the same thing.”

But Patience was not in a mood to bend her neck to flattery. She shook
her head gloomily.

“If I have any brain, cannot you see that I suffer the more? Mr. Peele,
I cannot stay here with Beverly! Do you know that sometimes I have felt
that I could kill him? I am afraid of myself.”

“Hush! Hush! Don’t say such things. You excitable young women are
altogether too extravagant in your way of expressing yourselves. Words
carry a great deal farther than you have any idea of—take an old
lawyer’s word for it. Now try to stand it. In fact, you must stand it.
I’ll do all I can. I’ll leave a standing order with Brentano to send you
all the new books, and I’ll insist upon your coming up every week or so
to have some amusement. But for God’s sake make no scandal.”


                                   XV

On the first of December Patience and Beverly were alone once more. The
weather was fine, and Beverly temporarily absorbed in breaking in a colt
on his private track. Patience spent the first day wandering about the
woods, tormented by her thoughts. She remembered with passionate regret
the old crystal woods where she had been a girl of dreams and ideals.
Her ideals were in ruins. The hero of her dreams had told her a hideous
truth that had made her hate him and more abundantly despise herself.
She longed ardently to get away to a mountain top, a hundred miles from
civilisation. Nature had been her friend in the old Californian days,
and the green or white beauty of her second environment had satisfied
her in that peaceful intermediate time. But Westchester County, although
exquisitely pretty, lacked grandeur and the suggestion of colossal
throes in remote ages with which every stone in California is eloquent.
That was what she wanted now. But there was no prospect of getting away.
Did she have enthusiasm enough left to leave summarily she had little
money. She was very extravagant, and left the larger part of her
quarterly allowance with New York shops and milliners and dressmakers;
but she knew that the end was approaching, and listlessly awaited it.

Heavy with rebellious disgust she returned to the house and went
mechanically to the library. For a while she did not read; she felt no
impulse to do so. But after a time she took down a book in desperation,
a volume of a new edition de luxe of “Childe Harold.” She had not read
it during her brief Byronic fever, and had not opened the poet since.
Gradually she forgot self. She began with the third canto, and when she
had finished the fourth she discovered that her spirits were lighter, a
weight had risen from her brain. She had always regarded “notes” as an
evidence of the amateur reader, but to-day she scrawled on a fly-leaf of
Mr. Peele’s new morocco edition:—

    “As the Christian goes to his God for help, the intellectual, in
    hours of depression and disgust and doubt go to the great
    Creators of Literature, those master minds that lift our own
    temporarily above the terrible enigma of the commonplace, and
    possess us to the extinction of personal meditation. Are not
    these genii as worthy of deification by the higher civilisation
    as was Jesus Christ—their brother—by the great illogical
    suffering mass of mankind? ‘Faith shall make ye whole,’ said
    Christ; ‘come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden.’ ‘Develop
    your brain, and I will give you self-oblivion, philosophy, and a
    soul of many windows,’ say the great masters of thought and
    style, the stupendous creative imaginations.”

Beverly came home in high good humour; his colt had showed his blood,
and nearly pulled him out of the break-cart. Patience endeavoured to
appear interested, and he was so pleased that the atmosphere during
dinner was quite domestic. Afterward he went to sleep on a sofa by the
library fire, and his wife read.

A week passed more placidly than Patience had expected. Beverly was
evidently under stress to make himself agreeable. His wife suspected
that he had had a long and meaning conference with his father. In truth
he was desperately afraid that she would leave him. Patience did not
know whether she hated him most when he was amiable or violent; but she
hated herself more than she hated him.

“I think I’ll go to town and see Rosita,” she thought one morning as she
awakened. “It seems to me that she is the fittest companion I could
find.”

At the breakfast-table she appeared in a tailor frock and turban, and
informed Beverly that she was going to town to pay some visits. Beverly
looked at her for a moment with black face, then dropped his eyes
without comment. He recalled his father’s advice.

“What train shall you come home in?” he asked after a moment. “I’ll go
down to the station to meet you.”

“I cannot say. I shall be back to dinner.”

“Aren’t you going to kiss me good-bye?” he asked sullenly, when she was
about to open the front door. She hesitated a moment, then raised her
face, closing her eyes, lest he should see the impulse to strike him. He
saw the hesitation and turned away with an oath, then ran after her,
flung his arms about her and kissed her. She walked down to the station
with burning face, rubbing her mouth and cheeks violently, careless of
the wide-eyed regard of two gardeners.


                                  XVI

When she arrived at Rosita’s the maid admitted her without protest, not
recognising in this elegant young woman the countrified girl of two
years before. She left Patience in the dark drawing-room, but returned
in a moment and announced that Madame would see Mrs. Peele at once.
Patience followed the woman through the boudoir and bedroom to the
bath-room, a classic apartment of pink tiles. The tub was merely one
corner of the room walled off with tiles; and in it, covered from throat
to foot with a sheet, her head on a silken strap, lay Rosita. By her
side sat a girl in a fashionable ulster and large hat, a note-book and
pencil on her lap. Rosita looked like a dark-haired Aphrodite, and was
as fresh as a rose. A maid had just dried one pink and white hand, and
she held it out to Patience.

“Patita! Patita! Patita!” she said with her sweet drawl and accent, and
without a trace of resentment in her soft heavy eyes. “Where, where have
you been all these years? Miss Merrien, this is my oldest and dearest
friend, Mrs. Beverly Peele [she pronounced the name with visible pride].
Patita, this is Miss Merrien of the ‘Day.’ She is interviewing me.”

Patience flushed as she bent her head to the young woman, who regarded
her with conspicuous amazement, and whose nostrils quivered a little, as
if she scented a “story.” She was a pretty girl with a dark rather worn
face, a frank eye, and a nervous manner.

“Patita, sit down there just for a moment while I look at you. Then we
will go into the other room. I could not wait to see you. _Dios de mi
alma_, but you have changed, Patita _mia_. Who would ever have thought
that you would be such a beauty and such a swell. Gray cloth and
chinchilla! Just think, Miss Merrien, we used to wear sunbonnets and
copper-toed boots, and drove an old blind horse that would not go off a
walk.”

“May I put that down?” asked the girl, eagerly.

“Oh, please don’t,” exclaimed Patience. Miss Merrien’s face fell. Then
she smiled, and said good-naturedly, “All right, I won’t.”

“And now Patita is a swell,” pursued Rosita, as if no interruption had
occurred, “and I am a famous _prima donna_. Such is life. Patita, do you
know that I have two hundred thousand dollars invested?”

“Really?”

“_Si, señorita!_ Oh, my price has gone up, Patita _mia_,” and she
laughed her low delicious laugh.

Miss Merrien smiled. “A man shot himself for that laugh the other day—I
suppose you read about it,” she said.

“No, I did not. I have read the newspapers irregularly of late—the
‘stories,’ at least.”

“It is true,” said Rosita, complacently. “Oh, Patita, life is so lovely.
To think that we both had such great destinies! _Pobre_ Manuela, and
Panchita, and all the rest! _Bueno_, go into the bedroom, both of you,
and I will be there in ten minutes.”

Patience and Miss Merrien seated themselves in the white bower of velvet
and lace.

“Please do not put me into your story,” said Patience, hastily. “It
would not do—you see my husband would not like it—but we are old
friends, and I wanted to see her.”

Miss Merrien nodded intelligently. With the suspicion of her craft she
leaped to the conclusion that the fashionable young woman came to her
disreputable friend for an occasional lark.

“Oh, I promise you. If you hadn’t asked me I should though. It would
make a fine story.”

“Tell me,” said Patience abruptly, “do you like being a newspaper woman?
Is it very hard work?”

“Yes, it’s hard work,” Miss Merrien answered in some surprise; “but then
it is the most fascinating, I do believe, in the whole world. I have a
family and a home out West, and I could go back and be comfortable if I
wanted to; but I wouldn’t give up this life, with all its grind and
uncertainty, for that dead and alive existence. I only go out there once
a year to rest. I came on here for an experiment, to see a little of the
world. I had a dreadful time catching on; once I thought I’d starve, for
I was bound I wouldn’t write home for money; but I hung on and got
there. And I’m here to stay.”

“Oh, is it really so pleasant? Sometimes I wish I were a newspaper
woman.”

“You? You? I never saw anybody that looked less like one.”

“I am very strong. I am naturally pale, that is all.”

“Oh, your skin is lovely: it’s that warm dead white. I wasn’t thinking
of that. But you look like the princess that felt the pea under sixteen
mattresses.”

“One adapts one’s self easily to luxury. I have only had it two years. I
do like it certainly. Nevertheless, I’d like to be a newspaper woman.
You look tired; are you?”

“Yes, I am, Mrs. Peele. It’s hard work, if it is fascinating; for
instance, I’ve chased about this entire week for stories that haven’t
panned out for a cent. I haven’t made ten dollars. I came up here as a
last resource. La Rosita is always good-natured, and I hoped she’d have
a story for me. But all I’ve got is a crank that’s following her about
threatening to kill her if she doesn’t marry him, and that’s such a
chestnut. If I could only fake something I know she’d let it go, but my
imagination’s worn to a thread—”

The portière was pushed aside, and Rosita entered. She wore a glistening
night-robe of silk and lace and ribbon under a yellow plush bath gown.
Her dense black hair fell to her knees. She slid into bed and ordered
her maid to admit the manicure. An old woman, looking like a witch and
clad in shabby black, came in and took a chair beside the bed. The maid
brought a crystal bowl and warm water, and a golden manicure set, and
Rosita held forth her incomparable arm with its little Spanish hand. She
lay with indolent grace among the large pillows.

“You certainly are a beauty,” exclaimed Miss Merrien, enthusiastically.

Rosita smiled with much pleasure. “I love to hear a woman say that, and
I shall make good copy for many years yet. I shall not fade like most
Spanish women. Oh, I have learned many secrets.”

“I wish you hadn’t told them to me, and then I should still have them to
write about. They made a great story.”

“_Dios! Dios!_” said Rosita, plaintively, “I wish we could think of
something. I hate to send you away with nothing at all. I love to be
written about. Patita, can’t you think of something?”

“Now, Mrs. Peele,” said Miss Merrien, “let us see if you are a good
fakir. That is one of the first essentials of being a successful
newspaper woman.”

“Oh, dear! Is it? If I could fake I’d make books. I’d like that even
better. Rosita, did you ever tell the newspapers about that time I
coached you for your first appearance on any stage, and the great hit
you made?”

“What is that?” asked Miss Merrien, sharply.

“I never thought of it. Patita, you tell the story.”

This Patience did, while Miss Merrien wrote rapidly in shorthand,
pausing occasionally to exclaim with rapture.

“Oh, my good angel sent me here this morning,” she said when Patience
had finished. “I won’t mention your name, of course, but you won’t mind
my saying that you are one of the Four Hundred.”

“I don’t suppose there is any objection. I am such an obscure member of
it that no one will suspect me. Only don’t give any details.”

“Oh, I won’t, indeed I won’t.” She slipped her book into her muff and
rose to go. “You don’t know how much obliged I am. I’ll do as much for
you some day. If ever you want to be written up, let me know.”

“I never should want to be in the newspapers.”

“Oh, there’s no telling. You haven’t had a taste of it yet. Well,
good-morning,” and she went out.

Patience leaned back in her luxurious chair, and watched the old woman
polish the pretty nails. Rosita babbled, and Patience watched her face
closely. Its colouring was as fresh, its contours as perfect as ever,
but there was a faint touch of hardness somewhere, and the eyes held
more secrets than they had two years ago. They were the eyes of the
wanton. For a moment Patience forgot her surroundings. Her mind flew
back to the old days, to the rickety buggy with the two contented
innocent little girls, then, by a natural deflection, to her tower and
her dreams. She longed passionately for the old Mission, and wondered if
Solomon were still alive. Then she thought of Bourke, and came back to
the present with a shudder. The woman had gone.

“What is the matter?” asked Rosita. “Is it true—what the men say—that
you are not happy with your husband?”

“I hate him,” said Patience.

“Why don’t you get a divorce?”

“I have no grounds.”

“No grounds? Fancy a wife having no grounds!”

“I have not the slightest doubt of his faith.”

“Send him to me.”

“Oh, Rosita! How can you be so coarse?”

“No-o-o-o! You are my old friend. I would do anything for you. Think it
over, Patita _mia_.”

“I do not need to think it over. I would never do so vile a thing as
that. Have you no refinement left?”

“What earthly use would I have for refinement? Patita, you are such a
baby, and you always had ideals and things. Have you got them yet?”

“No,” said Patience, rising abruptly. “I haven’t. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Patita dear,” said Rosita, with unruffled good humour, “and
if ever you are in trouble come here and I will take you in. I would
even lend you money, and if you knew me you would know how much I loved
you to do that. There is not another person living I would give a five
cent piece to.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

When Patience reached the sidewalk she filled her lungs with fresh air,
then looked at her watch. It was only a half after twelve, and she
decided to call on Mary Gallatin. She had never yet paid that charming
young fashionette the promised morning call, although she had attended
one or two of her afternoon receptions.

She told the coachman to drive to the house in Fifty-seventh Street,
then threw herself back on the seat and laughed, a long unpleasant
laugh. She tapped first one foot and then the other, with increasing
nervousness.

“What fools we mortals be to cry for the unattainable,” she said,
addressing the little mirror opposite. “Probably that young newspaper
woman envies me bitterly. So, doubtless, do many others. Why on earth am
I longing for what I’ll never find, instead of making the best of a bad
bargain and the most of my position? I think I’ll find my way out of the
difficulty with the average woman’s solution: I’ll take a lover.”

The carriage stopped before a house with the breadth of stoop which in
New York means plentiful wealth. She waited in the drawing-room while
the cautious butler went up to see if his mistress would receive this
stranger. He returned in a moment and conducted her up to a door at the
front of the house. Patience entered a large room whose light was so
subdued that for a moment she could see only vaguely outlined forms.

“Oh, Mrs. Beverly, how dear of you,” cried a sweet voice, and Patience
groped her way round the angle of a large bed and saw Mrs. Gallatin
sitting against a mass of pillows. “I’m so glad you came this morning.
I’m feeling so blue. I’ve twisted my foot, you know, and my friends are
so kind to me. Mr. Rutger, give Mrs. Peele a chair. Mrs. Beverly, you
know Mr. Rutger and Mr. Maitland and Mr. Owen, do you not? There is
Leontine.”

The three young men, who had risen as she entered, bowed and resumed
their seats. Mrs. Lafarge threw her a kiss from the depths of a chair by
the fire.

Patience sat down and glanced about her while Mrs. Lafarge finished an
anecdote she had been telling. Her eyes became accustomed to the light,
and in a moment she saw things quite distinctly. The large room was
furnished in Empire style, the walls and windows and the great mahogany
and brass bedstead covered with crimson satin damask. There were only a
few pieces of heavy furniture, in the room, but like the bed they were
magnificent. Each brass carving told a different story.

Mrs. Gallatin, smiling, exquisite, wore a cambric gown, less elaborate
than Rosita’s but more dainty. Her shining hair was drawn modishly to
the top of her head and confined with a pink porcelain comb, carved into
semblance of wild roses. A pink silk shawl slipped from her shoulders.
Another wild rose was at her throat. On her hands she wore rubies only.

The story Mrs. Lafarge told was slightly naughty, and all laughed
heartily at its conclusion. Patience had heard too many naughty stories
in the last two years to be shocked; but when one of the young men began
another he was promptly hissed down.

“You are not going to tell that before Mrs. Beverly,” said Mary
Gallatin. “She is quite too frightfully proper. But we’re awfully fond
of her all the same,” and she patted Patience’s hand while her lovely
young face contracted in a charming scowl. Patience wondered if she had
a lover—Mr. Gallatin was a dapper little man—and if that was why she
looked so happy. She glanced speculatively at the men, and wondered if
she could fall in love with one of them. But they were very ordinary New
York youths of fashion, high of shoulder, slow of speech, large of
epiglottis, vacuous of expression. She shook her head unconsciously.

“Why, what on earth are you thinking about?” cried Mrs. Gallatin, with
her silvery laugh. “That wasn’t a shake of disapproval, was it?”

“Oh, no, no!” said Patience, hastily. “Something occurred to me, and I
forgot I was not alone. You see, I am so much alone that I’ve even
gotten into the habit of thinking out loud.” She felt that she was a
restraint—the suppressed young man had relapsed into moody
silence—and, as soon as she reasonably could, rose to go. Mrs. Gallatin
kissed her warmly and Mrs. Lafarge came forward and kissed her also; but
Patience detected a faint note of relief in their voices, and went
downstairs feeling more depressed than ever. “There seems to be no place
for me,” she thought. “I must be out of tune with everything.”

She went to her father-in-law’s house in Eleventh Street and found Mrs.
Peele and Honora gowned for expected luncheon guests. The former
apologised coldly for not being able to ask her to join them, but “there
was only room in the dining-room for eight.” Honora rippled regret, and
Patience felt that she should disgrace herself with tears if she did not
get out of the house. She went directly to the station, intending to
return home, but as the train approached Peele Manor she turned her back
squarely on the old house and decided to go on to Mariaville and see
Miss Beale. She remembered with satisfaction that she knew at least one
wholesome thoroughly sincere woman, however misguided.

When she reached the station she concluded to walk to the house. She
felt nervous and excited. Her cheeks burned and her temples ached a
little. She had taken no nourishment that day but a cup of coffee and a
roll, and her head felt light. It was now two o’clock.

When she had gone a little more than half way she lifted her eyes and
saw Miss Beale coming toward her with beaming face, one hand ready to
wave.

“Why, Patience!” she cried, as they met. “I’m so glad to see you. I’m
just going to kiss you if it is on the street. I can’t say I thought
you’d forgotten me, for you’ve sent me money for my poor every time I
begged for it; but I did think you’d never come to see me.”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Patience had no excuse to offer, so wisely attempted none, but returned
Miss Beale’s embrace heartily. The older woman’s face was brilliant with
pleasure.

“Dear me, how pretty you have grown! What a colour! I’m so glad to see
you looking so well. How happy dear Miss Tremont would be to see you
now. She was always afraid you would be delicate. But we can’t wish her
back, can we, Patience?”

“There’s no use wishing anything undone. Where are you going?”

“Where I am going to take you. Now, don’t ask any questions, but just
come along.”

Patience, hoping that the destination was a fair where she could get
luncheon, followed submissively, and evaded Miss Beale’s personal
inquiries as best she could.

“How does the Temperance Cause get on?” she asked at length.

“Oh, just the same! Just the same!” said Miss Beale, with a cheerful
sigh. “One makes slow progress in this wicked world; all we can do is to
trust in the Lord and do our humble best. Mariaville has three new
saloons, and the father of one of my scholars beat him nearly to death
the other day for coming to the Loyal Legion class; but we’ll win in the
end.”

“Meanwhile are you as much interested as ever?” asked Patience,
curiously.

“Oh, my!” Miss Beale gave an almost hilarious laugh. “Well, I should
think so. How could I ever lose interest in the Lord’s work? Why, I
never even get discouraged.”

“It has occurred to me, sometimes—since I have been away and met all
sorts of people—that if you really were Temperance you might have more
chance of success.”

“If we were what?”

“Temperance in the actual meaning of the word. You’re not, you know;
you’re teetotalists. That is the reason you antagonise so many thousands
of men who might be glad to help you with their vote otherwise. The
average gentleman—and there are thousands upon thousands of him—never
gets drunk, and enjoys his wine at dinner and even his whiskey and
water. He doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t have it, and there
isn’t any. It adds to the pleasures of life. Those are the people that
really represent Temperance, and naturally they have no sympathy with a
movement that they consider narrow-minded and an unwarrantable
intrusion.”

Miss Beale shook her head vigorously. “It is a sin to touch it!” she
exclaimed, “and sooner or later they will all be drunkards, every one of
them. The blessing of God is not on alcohol, and it should be banished
from the face of the earth.”

Patience was in a perverse and almost ugly mood. “Tell me,” she said,
“how do you reconcile your animosity to alcohol with the story of
Christ’s turning the water into wine at the wedding feast?”

“It wasn’t wine,” said Miss Beale, triumphantly; “it was grape juice.
Wine takes days to ferment, so the water couldn’t possibly have become
wine all in a minute.”

Patience burst into laughter. “But, Miss Beale, it was a miracle anyhow,
wasn’t it? If he could perform a miracle at all it would have been as
easy to make wine out of water as grape juice.”

Miss Beale shook her head emphatically and set her lips. “I _know_ that
the Lord never would have offered wine to anybody; but grape juice is
delightful, and he probably knew it, and they called it wine. That is
all there is to it.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Patience, forgetting the Temperance question, as Miss
Beale turned into a path and walked toward the side entrance of the
First Presbyterian Church, “are we going here?”

“Yes, this is just where we are going. There is a special meeting of the
Y’s and Christian Endeavourers of Mariaville and White Plains and two or
three other places. Ah! I’ve caught you now, you naughty girl.”

Patience turned away her face and frowned heavily. All her old dislike
of religion, almost forgotten during the past two years, surged up above
the impulsion of her fermenting spirit. She felt the old impatience, the
old intolerance.

“Do you want me to go in there?” she asked. “I came to see you.”

“Oh, you’re not going to get out of it,” cried Miss Beale, gayly. “And I
know you better than you know yourself. I know you always wanted to give
yourself to the Lord, only you are too proud.”

Patience stared at her, wondering if she had so far forgotten herself as
to indulge in a little joke at the expense of her idols; but Miss Beale
was looking at her with kind, earnest eyes. Patience laughed, and
shrugged her shoulders.

“Well, I’ll go in to please you; but I hope it won’t be too long, for
I’m horribly hungry.”

“Dear, dear! Why didn’t you come a little earlier? But it won’t be more
than two hours, and then I’ll have a hot luncheon prepared for you.”

She led Patience through the large church parlour and straight up to a
table, lifting a chair as she passed the front row of seats.

“I don’t want to sit here,” whispered Patience, hurriedly; but Miss
Beale pushed her into the chair, and seated herself beside her, at the
back of the table.

“I am going to preside, and you are the guest of honour,” she said.
“Young ladies,” she continued, smiling at the rows of bright and serious
faces, “I am sure you will all be glad to see Patience again. I know she
is glad to see you.”

Patience arose and bowed awkwardly, then sat down and tapped the floor
with her foot. The young women looked surprised and pleased. One and all
smiled encouragingly, sure that she had been converted at last. Many of
the faces were bright with youth and even mischief; others were careworn
and aging. Not one of them but looked happy.

Patience under her calm exterior began to seethe and mutter once more.
Once she almost laughed aloud as she thought of the effect upon these
simple-minded girls if the hell within her were suddenly made manifest.

The meeting opened at once. Miss Beale offered a prayer, in which she
implored that they all might love the Lord the more. Hymns were sung,
the Bible read, and reports by the various secretaries and treasurers.
Then one serious and not unintelligent-looking woman of thirty read a
platitudinous paper beginning: “Some one has said, ‘The time will come
when it will be the proudest boast of every man and woman to say “I am
an American.”’ I say that the time will come when it will be the
proudest boast of every man and woman to say, ‘I am a Christian.’”

All regarded the reader with eyes of affection and approval. Each word
Patience, in her abnormal state of mind, took as a personal insult to
Intellect. She felt furiously resentful that in this Nineteenth Century
with its educational facilities, its libraries full of the achievements
of great masters of thought, there should be so low a standard of
intellectuality in the middle classes. Even the fashionable women,
frivolous as they were, were brighter, and keener to pierce outworn
traditions. They might not be thinkers, but they had a species of
lightning in their brain which rent superstition and gave them
flashlight glimpses of life in its true proportions.

The girls began to give experiences. One had just joined the Y’s, and
she related with tears the story of her struggle between the World and
the Church, and her thankfulness that at last she had been permitted to
decide in favour of the Lord. Patience remembered her as the vapid
daughter of rather wealthy parents who in her own day had been devoted
to society and young men. She was very faded. Many of the girls wept in
sympathy, and Miss Beale mopped her eyes several times.

An extremely pretty girl stood up, a girl with black hair and pale blue
eyes and rich pink colour. Patience regarded her satirically, thinking
what a beauty she would be if properly gowned. Miss Beale, noting her
interest, patted her hand and smiled.

“I just want to say,” began the girl, with deep earnestness, “that every
day of my life I have greater confidence that the Lord loves me and
hears what I ask Him. You know that I write the reports of the Y. W. C.
T. U., and of course I have to get them printed for nothing. So when I
sit down to write them I just ask the Lord to tell me what to say and
how to say it, and all the way to the office I keep asking Him to tell
me what to say to the editor so that he will print it and help our great
cause along. And, girls, he prints it every time, and only yesterday he
said to me: ‘I like your stuff because it’s direct and to the point, no
gush, no rhetoric—it’s plain horse sense.’ Now, girls, you need not
think I say that to compliment myself. I just say it to prove that the
Lord writes those newspaper articles, not I.”

Patience put her handkerchief to her face and shook convulsively. She
bit her lips to keep from laughing aloud; she wanted to scream.

Suddenly she became conscious of a deep murmur. Supposing it to be of
disapproval, she straightened her mouth and dropped her handkerchief;
but her face was scarlet, her eyes full of tears. The girls were leaning
forward, regarding her earnestly. Miss Beale leaned over and placed her
arm about her.

“Speak,” she said softly. “Don’t be afraid.”

“What on earth are you thinking about?” gasped Patience.

“Tell us what is in your heart,” said Miss Beale, in a tremulous voice.

And, “Tell us! Tell us!” came from the girls.

“You don’t know what you are saying,” said Patience, freeing herself
angrily. “Let me go.” She was trembling with excitement. Her head felt
very light. The blood was pounding in her ears. She started to her feet,
meaning to rush to the door; but Miss Beale was too quick for her. She
caught her firmly by the waist and led her to the middle of the space at
the head of the room.

“I know she will speak,” said Miss Beale. “Patience, we all feel our
awful responsibility. If you speak out now, you will be saved. If your
timidity overcomes you, you may go hence and never hear His knock
again.”

“Speak! Speak!” came with solemn emphasis from the Y’s.

“Oh, well, I’ll speak,” cried Patience. “And suppose you hear me out. It
will be only polite, since you have forced me to speak. You have always
misunderstood me. I am by no means indifferent to the God you worship. I
have the most exalted respect and admiration for this tremendous
creative force behind the Universe, a respect so great that I should
never presume to address him as you do in your funny little egoism. Do
you realise that this magnificent Being of whose essence you have not
the most approximate idea, is the Creator, not only of this but of
countless other worlds and systems, and furthermore of the psychic and
physical laws that govern them and of the extraordinary mystery of which
we are a part, and which has its most subtle expression in the Space
surrounding us? And yet you, atoms, pigmies, tiny individual
manifestations of a great correlative force called human nature, you
presume to address this stupendous Being, and stand up and kneel down
and talk to It, to imagine that It listens to your insignificant
wants,—that It writes newspaper articles! Is it Christianity that has
destroyed the sense of humour in its disciples?

“In each of you is a shaft from the great dominating Force—that is
quite true, and it is for you to develop that force—character—and rely
upon it, not upon a spiritual lover, as weak women do upon some
unfortunate man. What good does all this religious sentimentality do
you? Your brains are rotting. You have nothing to talk about to
intelligent men. No wonder the men of small towns get away as soon as
they can, and seek the intelligent women of lower strata. Men are
naturally brighter than women, and girls of your sort deliberately make
yourselves as limited and colourless as you can. Go, make yourselves
companions for men, if you would make the world better, if you must
improve the human race. Study the subjects that interest them, that fill
their life; study politics and the great questions of the day, that you
may lead them to the higher ethical plane on which nature has placed
you. Quit this erotic sentimentalising over an abstract being to whom
you must be the profoundest joke of his civilisation—”

“Hush!” shrieked Miss Beale. For some moments Patience had been obliged
to raise her voice above the angry mutterings of her audience. One or
two were sobbing hysterically. Miss Beale’s cry was the signal for the
explosion of pent-up excitement.

“Go! Go!” cried the girls. “Go out of this church! Blasphemer! Shame!
Shame!”

Patience looked out undaunted upon the sea of flushed angry faces, which
a few moments before had been all peace and love. She shrugged her
shoulders, bowed to Miss Beale, who was staring at her with horrified
eyes in a livid face, and walked toward the door. The girls pressed her
forward, lest she should speak again.

“We have a right as churchwomen to hate you,” cried one, “for we are
told to hate the devil, and you are he incarnate.”

Patience refused to accelerate her steps, but reached the door in a
moment. As she was about to pass out a joyous face was uplifted to hers.
It belonged to a girl still sitting. Her lap was piled with loose sheets
of paper. There was an excited smirch of lead on her cheek. Even as she
raised her head and spoke she continued writing. “That was a corker,”
she whispered, “the biggest story I’ve had in weeks.” It was Miss
Merrien.


                                  XVII

Patience was an early riser, and had usually read the “Day” through
before Beverly lounged downstairs, sleepy and cross and masculine. On
the morning after her day of varied experience she took the newspaper
into the library and read the first page leisurely, as was her habit.
The news of the world still interested her profoundly. Then she read the
editorials, and, later, glanced idly at the headlines of the “stories.”
The following arrested her startled eye:

                      AN EARTHQUAKE IN MARIAVILLE!
                     THE GOOD PEOPLE ARE OUTRAGED!
               A SENSATION BY THE BEAUTIFUL AND BRILLIANT
                          MRS. BEVERLY PEELE!

The story covered two thirds of a column. Patience read it three times
in succession without stopping to comment. It was graphically told, much
exaggerated, and as carefully climaxed as dramatic fiction. And it was
interesting reading. Patience decided that if it had not been about
herself she should have given it more than passing attention. Her beauty
and grace and elegance, her grand air, were described with enthusiasm.
Every possible point of contrast was made to the serious and
unfashionable Y’s.

At first Patience was horrified. She wondered what Mr. and Mrs. Peele
would say. Beverly’s comments were not within the limitations of doubt.

“I’m in for it,” she thought. Then she smiled. She felt the same thrill
she had experienced when the men looked askance at her after her assault
upon her mother. The Ego ever lifts its head at the first caress, and
quickly becomes as insatiable as a child for sweets. Patience glanced at
the article to note how many times her name—in small capitals—sprang
forth to meet her eyes. She imagined Bourke reading it, and Mrs.
Gallatin, and Mrs. Lafarge, and many others, and wondered if strangers
would find it interesting; then, suddenly, she threw back her head and
laughed aloud.

“What fools we mortals be!” she thought. “And the President of the
United States has dozens of paragraphs written about him every day. And
actors and writers are paragraphed _ad nauseam_. If a woman is run over
in the street she has a column, and if she goes to a hotel and commits
suicide, she has two, and is a raving beauty. Rosita is persecuted for
stories. The Ego ought to have its ears boxed every morning, as some
old-fashioned people switch their children. Well, here comes Beverly.”

Her husband entered, and for the first time in many months she sprang to
her feet and gave him a little peck on his cheek. He was so surprised
that he forgot to pick up the newspaper, and followed her at once into
the dining-room. During the meal she talked of his horses and his farm,
and even offered to take a drive with him. He was going to White Plains
to look at some blooded stock which was to be sold at auction, and
promptly invited her to accompany him; but her diplomacy had its limits,
and she declined. However, he went from the table in high good humour.
When she left him in the library, a few moments later, he was arranging
the scattered sheets of the “Day,” without his accustomed comments upon
“the infernal manner in which a woman always left a newspaper.”

Patience went up to her room and wrote a note of apology to Miss Beale.
She was half way through a long letter to Hal when she heard Beverly
bounding up the stair three steps at a time.

“The cyclone struck Peele Manor at 10.25,” she said, looking at the
clock. “Sections of the fair—”

Beverly burst in without ceremony.

“What the hell does this mean?” he cried, brandishing the newspaper. His
dilating nostrils were livid. The rest of his face was almost black.

“Beverly, you will certainly have apoplexy or burst a blood vessel,”
said his wife, solicitously. “Think of those that love you and preserve
yourself—”

“Those that love me be damned! The idea of my wife—_my wife_—being the
heroine of a vulgar newspaper story! Her name out in a headline! Mrs.
Beverly Peele! My God!”

“God was the cause of the whole trouble,” said Patience, flippantly. “I
thought the young women were entirely too intimate with him. The
spectacle conjured of The Almighty with his sleeves rolled up grinding
out copy at five dollars per column was too much for me. I have the most
profound admiration and respect for the Deity, and felt called upon to
defend him—the others seemed so unconscious of insult—”

“This is no subject for a joke,” cried Beverly, who had sworn steadily
through these remarks. “I don’t care a hang if you had a reason or not
for making a public speech—Christ!—it’s enough that you made it, that
your name’s in the paper—my wife’s name! What will my father and mother
say?”

“They will not swear. A few of the Peeles are decently well bred.”

“No one ever gave them cause to swear before. You’ve turned this family
upside down since you came into it. You’ve been the ruin of my life. I
wish to God I’d never seen you.”

“I sincerely wish you hadn’t. What had you intended to make of your life
that I have interfered with?”

“If I’d married a woman who loved me I’d have been a better man.”

“I wonder how many weak men have said that since the world began! You
were twenty-six when I married you, and I cannot see that there has been
any change in kind since, although there certainly is in degree. If you
had married the ordinary little domestic woman, you would have been
happier, but you would not have been better, for you possess neither
soul nor intelligence. But I am perfectly willing to give you a chance
for happiness. Give me my freedom, and look about you for a doll—”

“Do you mean to say that you want a divorce?”

“I think you know just how much I do.”

“Well, you won’t get it—by God! Do you understand that? You’ve no
cause, and you’ll not get any.”

“There should be a law made for women who—who—well, like myself.”

Her husband was incapable of understanding her. “Well, you just remember
that,” he said. “You don’t get a divorce, and you keep out of the
newspapers, or you’ll be sorry,” and he slammed the door and strode
away.

A quarter of an hour after Patience heard the wheels of his cart. At the
same time the train stopped below the slope. A few moments later she saw
Miss Merrien come up the walk. The maid brought up the visitor’s card,
and with it a note from Mr. Field.

    DEAR MRS. BEVERLY [it read],—Forgive me—but you are a woman of
    destiny, or I haven’t studied people sixty years for nothing. I
    chose to be the first—the scent of the old war-horse for news,
    you know. Peele will be furious, but I can’t bother about a
    trifle like that. Just give this young woman an interview, and
    oblige your old friend

                                                          J. E. F.

Patience started to go downstairs, then turned to the mirror and
regarded herself attentively. She looked very pretty, remarkably so, as
she always did when the pink was in her cheeks; but her morning gown was
plain and not particularly becoming. She changed it, after some
deliberation, for a house-robe of pearl grey silk with a front of pale
pink chiffon hanging straight from a collar of cut steel. The maid had
brought her some pink roses from the greenhouse; she fastened one in the
coil of her soft pale hair. Then she smiled at her reflection, shook out
her train, and rustled softly down the stair.

Miss Merrien exclaimed with feminine enthusiasm as she entered the
library.

“Oh, you are the loveliest woman to write about,” she said. “I do a lot
of society work; and I am so tired of describing the conventional
beauty. And that gown! I’m going to describe every bit of it. Did it
come from Paris?”

“Yes,” said Patience, amused at her immediate success. “My mother-in-law
brought it to me last summer—but perhaps you had better not mention
Mrs. Peele in your story.”

“Well, I won’t, of course, if you don’t want me to. I have written the
story about La Rosita for the Sunday ‘Day,’ and I did not hint at your
identity. It made a good story, but not as good as the one about you.
Mr. Field wrote me a note this morning, complimenting me, and told me to
come up here and interview you. I hope you don’t mind very much.”

“I haven’t the faintest idea whether I do or not. How do you do it?”

“Well, you see, I’ll just ask you questions and you answer them, and
I’ll put it all down in shorthand, and then when I go to the office I’ll
thresh it into shape. You can be sure that I won’t say anything that
isn’t pleasant, for I really never admired any one half so much.”

“Very well, you interview me, and then I’ll interview you. I have some
questions to ask also.”

“I’ll tell you anything you like. This story, by the way, is to be in
the Sunday issue on the Woman’s Page. Now we’ll begin. Were you always
an unbeliever? Tell me exactly what are your religious opinions.”

“Oh, dear me! You are not going to write a serious analysis of me?”

“Yes, but I’ll give it the light touch so that it won’t bore anybody. It
is to be called ‘A Society Woman Who Thinks,’ and will be read with
interest all over America.”

“But I am not a society woman.”

“Well, you’re a swell, and that’s the same thing, for this purpose
anyhow. The Gardiner Peeles are out of sight, and I have heard lots of
times how beautifully you entertain in summer and how charmingly you
gown yourself. Tell me first—what do you think of this everlasting
woman question? I hate the very echo of the thing, but we’ll have to
touch on it.”

“Oh, I haven’t given much thought to it, except as a phase of current
history. One thing is positive, I think: we must adjust our individual
lives without reference to any of the problems of the moment,—Womanism,
Socialism, the Ethical Question, the Marriage Question, and all the
others that are everlasting raging. He that would be happy must deal
with the great primal facts of life—and these facts will endure until
human nature is no more. Moreover, however much she may reason, nothing
can eradicate the strongest instinct in woman—that she can find
happiness only through some man.”

“Good,” said Miss Merrien. “I’d have thought the same thing if I’d ever
had time. Now tell me if you have any religion at all.”

“I suppose I should be called an anarchist. Don’t be alarmed: I mean the
philosophical or spiritual anarchist, not these poor maniarchists that
are merely an objectionable variety of lunatics. The religious situation
is this, I think: Jesus Christ does not satisfy the intellectual needs
of the Nineteenth Century. And yet, indisputably, the religionists are
happier than the multiplying scores that could no more continue in the
old delusion than they could worship idols or torture the flesh.
Civilisation needs a new prophet, and he must be an anarchist,—one who
will teach the government of self by self, the government of man’s
nature by will, which in its turn is subservient to the far seeing
brain. Human nature is anarchic in its essence. The child never was born
that was brought to bend to authority without effort. We are still
children, or we should not need laws and governments.”

“Wait till I get that down.”

“Of course these are only individual opinions. I don’t claim any value
for them, and should never have thought of airing them if you hadn’t
asked me. For my part I’m glad I live in this imperfect chaotic age.
When we can all do exactly as we please and won’t even remember how to
want to do anything wrong—Awful!”

“But you said the advanced thinkers needed this new religion to make
them happy.”

“Their happiness will consist in the tremendous effort to reach the
difficult goal. That will take centuries, just as the spiritualised
socialism of Jesus Christ has taken twenty centuries, and only
imperfectly possessed one third of the globe. When anarchy is a cold
hard fact—well, I suspect the anarchists will suddenly discover that
_ennui_ is in their vitals, and will gently yawn each other to death.
Then the tadpoles will begin over again; or perhaps there will then be
mental and moral developments that we in our present limitations cannot
conceive. Haven’t you had enough?”

“No, no. I’ve a dozen questions more.”

Miss Merrien, like all good newspaper reporters, was an amateur lawyer
and a harmless hypnotist. In an hour she had extracted Patience’s views
of society, books, dress, public questions, and the actors in the great
national theatre, the Capitol at Washington.

“Oh, this is magnificent,” she announced, when the pages had been
folded. “Now can I look at the house?”

“We will have luncheon first. No, don’t protest. I am delighted. Mr.
Peele is away for the day, otherwise I fear you would not have had this
interview.”

“Oh, you don’t believe in the submission of wives, then?”

“I’ve never thought much about it,” said Patience, indifferently. “There
is too much fuss made about it all. When a man commands his wife to do a
thing she does not care to do, and when a woman does what she knows will
displease her husband, it is time for them to separate.”

“Oh, that is too simple. It wouldn’t do to reduce the woman question to
a rule of three. What would all the reformers do? And the poor polemical
novelists! Oh, these are the famous portraits, I suppose?”

“You can look at them if the luncheon is bad,” said Patience, as they
took their seats at table. “I’m not a very good housekeeper, although I
actually did take some lessons of Miss Mairs. And sometimes I forget to
order luncheon. I did to-day.”

But the luncheon proved to be a very good one, and Miss Merrien did it
justice, while Patience explained the portraits. Afterward she showed
her guest over the lower part of the house. Then they went back to the
library, and Patience had her interview.

“Tell me exactly how does a woman begin on a newspaper?” she asked.

“Oh, different ones have different experiences,” said Miss Merrien,
vaguely. “Sometimes you have letters, and are put on as a fashion or
society reporter, or to get interviews with famous women, or to go and
ask prominent people their opinion on a certain subject—for a
symposium, you know; like ‘What Would You do if You Knew that the World
was to End in Three Days?’ or, ‘Is Society Society?’ I have written
dozens of symposiums. Sometimes you do free-lance work, just pick up
what you can and trust to luck to catch on. But of course you must have
the nose for news. I was at a matinée one day and sat in front of two
society women. Between the acts they talked about a prominent woman of
their set who was getting a divorce from her husband so quietly that no
newspaper had suspected it. They also joked about the fact that her
lawyer was an old lover. I knew this was a tip, and a big one. I wrote
all the names on my cuff, and before the matinée was over I was down at
the ‘Day’ and had turned in my tip to the City editor. He sent a
reporter to the lawyer to bluff him into admitting the truth. The next
day we had a big story, and after that the editor gave me work
regularly.”

“How much do you make a week?”

“Sometimes forty, sometimes not twenty; but I average pretty well and
get along. Still, when you have to lay by for sickness and vacations,
and put about one half on your back it doesn’t amount to much. You see,
a newspaper woman must dress well, must make a big bluff. If she doesn’t
look successful she won’t be, to say nothing of the fact that she
couldn’t get inside a smart house if she looked shabby. And then she’s
got to eat good nourishing food, or she never could stand the work. Of
course there’s got to be economy somewhere, so I live in a hall bedroom
and make my own coffee in the morning. Still, I don’t complain, for I do
like the work. If I had to go back home I’d ruin the happiness of the
entire family.”

“What do you look forward to?—I mean what ultimate? You don’t want to
be a reporter always, I suppose. Everybody is striving for some top
notch.”

“Oh, maybe I’ll become Sunday editor, or I might fall in with somebody
that wanted to start a woman’s newspaper, or magazine—you never can
tell. There aren’t many good berths for women. Of course there are a
good many very bright newspaper women, and it’s a toss up who goes to
the top.”

“You don’t seem to take matrimony into consideration.”

“Oh, I don’t deny I get so tired sometimes that I’d be only too glad to
have a man take care of me. I guess we all look forward to that, more or
less. I think I’d always work, but not so hard. It would make all the
difference in the world if you knew some one else was paying the bills.
And then, you see, we go to pieces in eight or ten years. A man is good
for hard newspaper work until he’s forty, but we women are made to be
taken care of, and that’s a fact. We take turns having nervous
prostration. I haven’t had it yet, but I’m looking cheerfully forward to
it.”

“Now I want to tell you,” said Patience, “that I am going to be a
newspaper woman.”

“Oh, nonsense, Mrs. Peele! Excuse me, but you belong here. Your rôle is
that of the châtelaine in exquisite French gowns and an air half of
languor, half of pride. You were not made for work.”

“That is very pretty, but I suspect you don’t want to lose me for copy.”

“Well, I don’t deny it. I wish you’d keep the ball rolling, and give me
a story a month.”

“I’m afraid I’ve given you my last. In a week or two I shall be a
châtelaine in a pink and grey gown no longer, but a humble applicant for
work in Mr. Field’s office.”

“Is it possible that you mean it?”

“Do I look as if I were joking?”

“You don’t look unhappy—Pardon me—but—but—does he beat you?”

“Oh, no,” said Patience, laughing outright, “he doesn’t beat me. I have
better grounds for desertion than that. Do you think you would do me a
favour? I shall have to slip away. He would never let me go with a
trunk. I am going to ask you to let me send you a box of things every
few days. That will excite no comment among the servants, as we are
always sending clothes to the poor. May I?”

“Of course you may. I’ll do everything I can to help you. But—I can’t
imagine you out of this environment. Don’t you hate to give it up,—all
this luxury, this ease, this atmosphere?”

“Yes, I like it all. I’m a sybarite, fast enough. But I’ve weighed it
all in the balance, and Peele Manor stays up. I have a hundred dollars
or so, and that will last me for a time. I’ll give it to you to take
care of for me. I never was wealthy, but I have no idea of economy. I
don’t think I should like a hall room though. Are the others so very
expensive?”

“They are if you have a good address, and that’s very important. And you
want to be in a house with a handsome parlour.”

“I have no friends,—none that will come to see me.”

“Oh, you’ll make friends. You’re an awfully sweet woman. I can’t bear to
think—Well, there’s no use saying any more about it. I expect you’re
the sort that knows your own mind. I should like to keep on seeing you a
great lady, but if you can’t be a happy one I suppose you are right.
Well, I’ll stand by you through thick and thin, and I’ll show you the
ropes. Now I must get back to the office and work up my story. Here’s my
address. There’s a spare room on the floor above mine. If you’re in dead
earnest I’d better take it right away; then I can unpack your things and
hang them up. But—but—do you really mean it?”

“Of course I do.”

“You know Mr. Field personally, don’t you?”

“Very well, indeed; and he told me when I was sixteen that he should
make a newspaper woman of me.”

“Oh, well, then, you’ll have a lot of push, and your road won’t be as
hard as some—not by a long shot. About six out of every ten newspaper
women either go to the wall or to the bad. It is a mixture of knack and
pluck as much as brains that carries the favoured minority through. You
have brains and pluck, and you’ll have push, so you ought to get there.
About the knack of course I can’t tell. Good-bye.”


                                 XVIII

The evening mail brought from Mrs. Peele to her son a note which he read
with a rumbling accompaniment, then tossed to Patience.

    “Do you intend to permit your wife to disgrace your family?” it
    read. “If I had my way that abominable paper, the ‘Day,’ should
    never enter this house—nor any other paper that dealt in
    personalities. I literally writhe every time I see my name—your
    father’s honoured name—in the society columns. You may, then,
    perhaps, imagine my feelings when your father handed me the
    ‘Day’ this morning with his finger on that outrageous column. He
    was speechless with wrath, and will personally call Mr. Field to
    account. I am in bed with a violent headache, in consequence,
    and dictating this letter to Honora. But although I deeply feel
    for you, my beloved son, I must _insist_ that you assert your
    authority with your wrong-headed wife and command her to refrain
    from disgracing this family. I don’t wish to reproach you, but I
    cannot help saying that it is _always_ a dangerous experiment to
    marry beneath one. This girl is not one of us, she never can be;
    for, not to mention that we know nothing whatever of her family,
    she comes from that dreadful savage _new_ Western country. In
    spite of the fact that she has been clever enough to
    superficially adapt herself to our ways, I always knew that she
    would break out somewhere—I always said so to Honora. But I
    don’t wish to add to your own sorrow. I know how you, with all
    your proud Peele reserve, must feel. Only, my son, use your
    authority in the future.”

Patience finished this letter with a disagreeable lowering of the brows.
She made no comment, however, but opened a book and refused to converse
with her husband.

On Sunday morning she found three columns on the Woman’s Page of the
“Day” devoted to her beauty, her intellect, her gowns, and her opinions.
It was embellished with a photograph of Peele Manor and a sketch of
herself, which Miss Merrien had evidently made from memory. When Beverly
came down she handed the newspaper to him at once, to read the story
with the raw temper of early morning. She hoped that Mrs. Peele would
read it in similar conditions.

After he had gone through the headlines he let the newspaper fall to the
floor, and stared at her with a face so livid that for a moment she felt
as if looking upon the risen dead. Then gradually it blackened, only the
nostrils remaining white.

“So you deliberately defy me?” he articulated.

“Yes,” she said, watching him narrowly. She thought that he might strike
her.

“You did it on purpose to drive me crazy?”

“I had no object whatever, except that it pleased me to be interviewed.
Understand at once that I shall do exactly as I please in all things.
This is not the country for petty household tyrants. I don’t doubt there
are many men in this world whom I should be glad to treat with deference
and respect if I happened to be married to one of them; but with men
like you there is only one course to take. I have asked you to let me
live abroad. If you consent to this, it may save you a great deal of
trouble in the future; for, I repeat, I shall in all things do exactly
as I choose.”

“We’ll see whether you will or not,” he roared. “You’ll do as I say, or
I’ll lock you up.”

“Oh, you will not lock me up. You are way behind your times, Beverly.
There is no law in the United States to compel me to obey you.”

“I’ll stop your allowance. You’ll never get another cent from me.”

“That has nothing whatever to do with it. Now, I ask you for the last
time, Will you let me travel?”

“No!” he shouted, and he rushed from the room.



                                BOOK IV


                                   I

Miss Merrien lived in West Forty-fourth Street, near Broadway. Ten days
after her visit to Peele Manor Patience rang the door-bell of the house
that was to be her new home, one of a long impersonal row.

The maid that answered her ring handed her a note from Miss Merrien, and
conducted her up to a hall room on the third floor. Patience closed the
door, and looked about her with the sensation of the shipwrecked. For a
moment she was strongly tempted to flee back to Peele Manor. The room
was about eight feet square, and furnished with a folding-bed, which was
likewise a bureau, and with a washstand, a table, and two chairs. The
furniture and carpet were new, and there were pretty blue and white
curtains on the window. Nevertheless the tiny room with its modern
contrivances was the symbol of poverty and struggle and an entirely new
existence. Her second impulse was to sit down on a chair and cry; but
she set her teeth, and read Miss Merrien’s note instead.

    I am so sorry not to be able to meet you [it read]; but I am a
    slave, you know. Before I was out of bed this morning I received
    an assignment to go to a woman’s club meeting at eleven. But
    I’ll get back in time to go down to the shop with you. Don’t get
    blue—if you can help it. Remember that every woman feels the
    same way when she first makes the break for self-support; and
    that your chances are better than those of most. There’s a
    little restaurant round the corner—the maid will show
    you—where you can get your luncheon. _Au revoir._ I’m so glad
    the sun is out.

                                           ANNA CHETWYNDE MERRIEN.

    P. S. Your clothes are in the closet in the hall. The key is in
    the washstand drawer.

Patience felt in better cheer after reading Miss Merrien’s kindly
greeting, but the day dragged along very heavily. She went out and
bought all the newspapers, and studied them attentively for hints; but
they did not tell her inexperience anything, and after a time she let
them fall to the floor and sat staring at the blank windows opposite.
For the first time doubts assailed her. She had been so full of young
confidence, and pride in her brains and health and courage, that she had
not regarded the issue of her struggle with the world in the light of a
problem; but face to face with the practical details, she felt short of
breath and weak in the knees.

At two o’clock Miss Merrien came in, looking very tired. There were
black scoops under her eyes, and the lines about her mouth were strongly
accentuated. But she smiled brightly as Patience rose to greet her.

“Well, you are here,” she said. “I changed my mind fifty times about
your coming, but on the whole I thought you would. Fortunately I have
nothing on hand for this afternoon. I’ll rest, and then go down with you
to the shop. Oh, I am so tired, my dear. Can I lie down on your bed
awhile?”

“I shall be delighted to learn how to open it,” said Patience, who was
wondering if her fair face was to become scooped and lined.

Miss Merrien deftly manipulated the bed, loosened her frock, and flung
herself full length.

“I spent all day yesterday and half the night tramping over Brooklyn
hunting up facts in the case of that girl who was found dead in a
tenement-house bed in a grand ball gown. A great story that, but it has
done me up. Tell me—how do you feel?”

“Oh, I’m glad I’m here, but I wish it was six months from now.”

“Of course you do. That’s the way we all feel. But you’ll soon swing
into place, and be too busy to think. I do wish you could get work in
the office, so that you could keep regular hours and meals, and not lose
your good looks; but there’s no berth of that sort. I tell you it is a
sad day when a girl under twenty-five sees the lines coming. The
Revolting Sisterhood say that the next century is to be ours; but I
doubt it. Men lighten our burdens a little now, but I’m afraid they’ll
hate us if we worry and supplant them any further. Well, I’m going to
take a nap. Wake me promptly at 3.10.”

She closed her eyes and fell asleep immediately. The lines grew fainter
as she slept, and the hair fell softly about her face. Patience
reflected gratefully that three months of absolute leisure and peace of
mind would give back to the girl all her freshness and rounded contours.
At ten minutes past three she awakened her. Miss Merrien sat up with a
sigh.

“I feel better, though. Cultivate those cat-naps. They refresh you
wonderfully. Now, we’ll go.”


                                   II

They went down town on the Elevated, leaving it at Park Row. Patience
was so much interested in the great irregular mass of buildings
surrounding City Hall Square, at the dense throngs packing the crooked
side streets, at the fakirs with their nonsensical wares, at the
bewildering array of gilt newspaper names on the rows and stories of
polished windows, that she forgot her errand for the moment, and was
nearly run over.

“Yes, this is the heart of New York, sure enough,” assented Miss
Merrien. “All those big buildings over there are on the famous Newspaper
Row. Brooklyn Bridge is just behind. This is the Post Office on the
right, and that flat building in the square is the City Hall. I tell you
when you get down here, the rest of New York, including all the smart
folk, seems pretty insignificant.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Patience, with a sudden sinking of the heart, “there is
the ‘Day’ building.”

“That is our shop. Now, brace up.”

Patience needed the admonition. She forgot City Hall Park. All her
doubts returned, with others in their wake. She knew something of the
snobbery of the world. As Mrs. Beverly Peele she had been an object of
respectful interest to Mr. Field. What would she be as an applicant for
work? True, he had been kind to her when she was a small nobody, but
that might have been merely a caprice.

They climbed up two narrow stairs in an ugly old building, and entered a
large gas-lit room full of desks. Many young men were writing or moving
about; several were in their shirt sleeves.

“This is the City room,” said Miss Merrien, “and these are the
reporters. Those men in that little room there are the editors and
editorial writers. Mr. Field’s room is just beyond. Now send your card
in by this boy. The Chief’s harder to see than the President of the
United States, but I guess he’ll see you.”

Patience gave the boy her card, and at the end of half an hour, during
which she was much stared at by some of the men and totally ignored by
others, the boy returned and conducted her to Mr. Field’s office.

It was a typical editor’s den of the old-fashioned type. A big desk
covered with papers, a revolving chair, and one other chair completed
the furniture. A large cat was walking about, switching its tail. The
floor was bare. The light straggled down between the tall buildings
surrounding, and entered through small windows. It was Mr. Field’s pride
to have the greatest newspaper and the most unpretentious “shop” in the
United States.

He rose as Patience entered, his eyes twinkling.

“Well,” he said, as he handed her the extra chair, “there’s a mighty row
on, isn’t there? Peele has been here, and now we do not speak as we pass
by. But we hadn’t had a good woman sensation for a month. I tried to
explain that to Peele, but it didn’t seem to impress him. I suppose
you’ve come to beg for mercy.”

“No—I haven’t come for that.”

“Why, what is the matter? I never saw you look the least bit rattled
before. You are always the young queen with a court of us old fellows at
your feet. But tell me; you know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you.”

Patience drew a long breath of relief.

“Oh, you make it easier—I’ve been horribly frightened. But I’ll get to
the point—I suppose you’re very busy down here. Can I have ten
minutes?”

He laughed. “We are usually what you might call busy in this office, but
you may have twenty minutes. Take your time.”

“Well, it’s this: I’ve left Peele Manor for good and all, and I want to
be a newspaper woman.”

Mr. Field’s shaggy white brows rushed up his forehead. His black eyes
expanded.

“My God! What did you make such a break as that for?”

“There are many reasons. I can’t give them all. But all the same I’ve
left, and I’m not going back.”

“Well, your reasons must be good, for you had a delightful position, and
you became it. Are you sure you are not acting rashly?”

“I’ve thought and thought and thought about it. I can’t understand why I
didn’t leave before. I suppose my ideas and intentions didn’t
crystallise until I met Miss Merrien. She has been very kind. I sent my
clothes to her by degrees; she engaged a room for me in her house; we
are going to cook together; and I have given her what money I have to
take care of.”

“Well, well, you have acted deliberately. I don’t know that I am so much
surprised, after all, and I’ll say nothing to persuade you to go back. I
respect your courage and independence, and I’ll do all I can. I haven’t
the slightest idea what you can do, but we’ll find out.” He leaned
forward and patted her hand. Patience had one moment of painful
misgiving, but again she had misjudged him. “If you get discouraged,
just remember that the old man at the helm is your friend and won’t let
you go under.”

“I’m sure you’re awfully good,” said Patience, tears of contrition and
gratitude in her eyes. “I knew you would.”

Mr. Field touched a bell. A boy entered.

“If Mr. Steele is still in the office ask him to step here,” said the
chief.

“Steele is the editor of the Evening ‘Day,’” he explained, “and has a
remarkable faculty for discovering other people’s abilities.”

Patience expected to see a man of middle years and business-like
demeanour. She stared in amazement as a young man under thirty entered
and was presented. He was closely built, but held himself carelessly.
His smooth rather square face was very pale, and despite the
irregularity of feature, bore an odd resemblance to the Greek fauns. The
mouth was large and full, the eyes large, dark blue, and very cold. His
fashionable attire accentuated the antiquity of his face and head.

“Mr. Steele,” said Mr. Field, “this is Mrs. Beverly Peele, of whom you
have heard so much lately. She has made up her mind to support herself.
When she was a little girl I told her that I should one day make a
newspaper woman of her, and she has come to hold me to my word—much to
my satisfaction. I put her in your hands, and feel confident you will
make a success of her.”

Patience expected to see a look of blank surprise cross the young
editor’s face, but she did not know the modern newspaper youth. Mr.
Steele could not have displayed less emotion had the new-comer been a
young woman with letters from Posy County, Illinois. He merely bowed to
her, then to his chief. Patience rose at once.

“I won’t keep you,” she said to Mr. Field. “I’ll only thank you again,
and promise to work as hard as Miss Merrien.”

“I haven’t the slightest doubt of your success. Always remember that,”
said Mr. Field. Patience saw Mr. Steele’s eyebrow give a slight
involuntary jerk; but it was immediately controlled, and he bowed her
through the door.

“We had better go upstairs to the evening room,” he said. “There is no
one there at present.”

Patience followed him up a precipitous stairway into a walled-off
section of the composing-room.

“Sit down,” he said politely, but Patience for the first time in her
life felt terrified and humble. This young man, of whom she had never
heard before, had the air of a superior being, omnipotent in her
destiny. His manner conveyed that he was not one whit impressed by the
fact that she had stepped down from the Sacred Reservation, took not the
faintest interest in her as a pretty woman. She was merely a young
person particularly recommended by his chief, and as such it was his
duty to give her consideration.

He took a chair opposite her own, and she felt as if those classic
guileless eyes were exploring her innermost brain.

“What can you do?” he asked coldly.

“Oh, nothing,” she said desperately, “absolutely nothing. I suppose you
feel like remarking that the ‘Day’ is not a kindergarten.”

“Well, it certainly is not. Nevertheless, as Mr. Field thinks that you
have ability, and wishes you to write for his paper, I, of course, shall
do all I can to abet him. I shall begin by giving you a few words of
advice. Have you a good memory; or should you prefer to write them
down?”

He spoke very slowly, as if he had a deep respect for the value of
words.

“I have read a great deal,” said Patience, proudly, “and my memory is
very good indeed.”

There was a faint twitching of one corner of Mr. Steele’s mouth, but he
continued in the same business-like tone:—

“Read the ‘Day’ through carefully, morning and evening. Observe the
style in which facts are presented, and the general tone and atmosphere
of the paper. Cultivate that general style, not your own. Remember that
you are not on this newspaper to make an individual reputation, but to
become, if possible, a unit of a harmonious whole, and to give the
public the best news in the style to which this newspaper has accustomed
it. When you are sent on an assignment remember that you are to gather
facts—facts. Keep your eyes open, and cultivate the faculty of
observation for all it is worth. When you have gathered these facts put
them into as picturesque a shape as you choose—or as you can. But no
rhetoric, no rhapsodies, no flights, no theories. If the facts admit of
being treated humorously, treat them in that way, by all means,—that
is, if you can imitate a man’s humour, not a woman’s flippancy. A good
many women can. And never forget that it must not be your humour but the
inherent humour of the subject. Be concise. When you feel disposed to
say a thing in ten words say it in five. That is all I can think of at
present. Be here at eight o’clock to-morrow, and I will give you an
assignment.”

He rose, and Patience felt herself dismissed. She sat for a minute
looking at him with angry eyes. Not even in the early days of her
married life had she been so patronised as by this unknown young man.
She felt as if he had plucked her individuality out with his thumb and
finger and contemptuously tossed it aside.

“Is anything the matter?” he asked indifferently, although one corner of
his mouth twitched again.

“No!” Patience sprang to her feet and ran down the stair, at the
imminent risk of breaking her neck. Miss Merrien was waiting for her.

“Why, what on earth is the matter?” she exclaimed.

“Oh, let us get out into the air! Come, and then I’ll tell you.”

But they were not able to converse until seated in the Elevated Train.
Then Patience exclaimed with an accent of cutting sarcasm,—

“Who, _who_ is Mr. Steele?”

Miss Merrien smiled broadly. “Oh, I see. Did he patronise you? You must
get used to editors. Remember they are monarchs in a small way, and love
their power—the more because their dominion is confined within four
walls. But Morgan Steele is one of the kindest men in the office. I’d
rather work for him than for any one. He puts on an extra amount of side
on account of his youth, but the reporters all adore him. He won’t keep
an incompetent man two days, and during those two days the man’s life is
a burden; but he is always doing good turns to the boys he likes. When
you know him you’ll like him.”

“I think him an insolent young cub, and if I didn’t hate to bother Mr.
Field I’d refuses to write for him. What on earth is a youngster like
that in such a responsible position for?”

“Oh, my dear, this is the young man’s epoch. Just cast your eyes over
the United States and even England, and think of the men under thirty
that are editors and authors and special writers and famous artists and
leaders of enterprises. They are burnt out at forty, but they begin to
play a brilliant part in their early twenties. I heard a man say the
other day of another man who is only twenty-six and supposed to be
ambitious: ‘Well, he’d better hump himself. He’s no chicken.’ A man
feels a failure nowadays if he hasn’t distinguished himself before
thirty.”

“They are certainly distinguished for conceit.”

“Oh, when you get used to newspaper men you’ll like them better than any
men you’ve known. What is objectionable is counteracted by their brains
and their intimate and wonderfully varied knowledge of life. A newspaper
man who is at the same time a gentleman, is charming. It is true they
have no respect for anybody nor anything. They believe in no woman’s
virtue and no man’s honesty—under stress. Their kindness—like Morgan
Steele’s—is half cynical, and they look upon life as a thing to be
lived out in twenty years—and then dry rot or suicide. But no men know
so well how to enjoy life, know so thoroughly its resources, or have all
their senses so keenly developed, particularly the sense of humour,
which keeps them from making fools of themselves. No man can feel so
strongly for a day, and that after all is the philosophy of life. All
this makes them very interesting, although, I must confess, I should
hate to marry one. It seems to be a point of honour among them to be
unfaithful to their wives; however, I imagine, the real reason is that
no one woman has sufficient variety in her to satisfy a man who sees
life from so many points of view daily that he becomes a creature of
seven heads and seven hearts and seven ideals. Now, tell me all about
your interviews with Mr. Field and Morgan Steele.”

Patience told the tale, and Miss Merrien raised her eyebrows at its
conclusion. “Well, you need not lie awake nights trembling for the
future. You are in for push and no mistake. If the Chief has taken you
under his wing in that fashion you can be sure that Morgan Steele will
work you for all that is in you, whether he wants to or not.” Suddenly
she laughed, and leaning over looked quizzically at Patience. “You vain
girl,” she said, “you are piqued because Morgan Steele did not succumb
as other men—including Mr. Field—have done to your beauty and charm.
But I’ll tell you this, by way of consolation: it is a point of
etiquette—or prudence—among editors never to pay the most commonplace
attentions to, or manifest the slightest interest in the women of the
office. It would not only lead to endless complications, but would
impair the lordlings’ dignity: in other words, they would be guyed. So
cheer up. You haven’t gone off since this morning. I see three men
staring at you in true Elevated style.”

Patience laughed. “Well, I will admit that I have no respect whatever
for a man that is unappreciative of the charms of woman. I’d like to
give Mr. Steele a lesson, but I won’t. I wouldn’t condescend. I’ll be as
business-like as he is. He knew why I was angry to-day, I am afraid, but
he won’t see me angry again. Why is Mr. Field so much nicer?”

“Oh, he owns the paper.”


                                  III

Patience’s indignation had worn itself out by bedtime. When Miss Merrien
left her for the night she locked her door and spread her arms out with
an exultant sense of freedom. She seemed to feel the ugly weight of the
past two years fall from her, and to hear it go clattering down the
quiet streets. Her sense of humour and the liveliness of her mind had
saved her from morbidity at any time, although she had not escaped
cynicism. She now felt that she could turn her back squarely on the
past, that she was not a woman whose mistakes and dark experiences would
corrode the brain and spirit, ruining present and future. She could not
make the same mistake again; and it was better to have made it in early
youth when the etchery of experience eats the copper of the ego more
lightly. The future seemed to her to be full of infinite possibilities.
She could be her own fastidious dreaming idealising self again. New
friends dotted the dusk like stars. She felt ten years away from the man
to whom she had nodded a careless good-bye that morning. A vague
pleasurable loneliness assailed her, the instinct of plurality. Then she
laughed suddenly and went to bed.

The next morning, at eight o’clock, after a cup of black coffee to
stiffen her nerves, she presented herself in the evening room of the
“Day.” Two men and a woman were writing at little tables. Mr. Steele in
his shirt sleeves was at his desk, reading copy. She sat down, priding
herself that her face was as impassive as his own. In a few moments he
called her to his desk.

“You have read in the newspapers, I suppose, of this crusade of Dr.
Broadhead, the fashionable Presbyterian clergyman, against the voting of
Immigrants?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“Well, he is doing his best to get the women of New York to help him,
and is holding his first meeting this morning in Cooper
Union—eleven-thirty. One of our best men will go to report the
addresses, but I want you to go and sit in the audience, and observe how
many fashionable women are there, what they wear, and what degree of
interest they appear to take in the proceedings. Above all, I want you
to keep your eyes and ears open for any significant fact which may or
may not appear. It usually does. That is all.—Well, what do you want?”
This to the office boy.

Patience went slowly downstairs, feeling as if she had been sent out to
discover the North Pole with a chart and a row-boat. When she reached
Cooper Union, two hours later, and found herself for the moment an
integer of one of the many phases of current history, she forgot the
agonising travail of the “news sense,” and became so deeply interested
that she observed the many familiar faces abstractedly, and, later,
“faked” their costumes.

She hurried to her room before the meeting was over and wrote her
“story.” It concluded thus:—

    “Some four hundred women were present, at half-past eleven in
    the morning; the hour indicating that they were women of
    leisure, which in its turn presupposes the large measure of
    education and refinement, and a general superiority over the
    toiling millions. They were very enthusiastic. When Dr.
    Broadhead entered the applause was deafening. They interrupted
    him every few minutes. When he sat down, and Mr. Lionel Chambers
    came forward he, too, was warmly welcomed, for his popularity is
    well established. He smiled, and began something like this:—

    “‘Ladies: Dr. Broadhead has left me little to say. I being
    somewhat versed in politics, however, in other words, in hard
    fighting with the enemy, he believes that I may be able to give
    you a little useful advice.’ (Applause and cries of ‘Yes! Yes!’)
    ‘Now, ladies, there are several points upon which I must ask
    your attention.’ (No man ever had more serious attention.) ‘I
    will check them off in detail. First of all, ladies, my advice
    to you is to—’ (every ear went forward)—‘is—to—pray.’

    “He paused. There was an intense and disgusted silence, with the
    exception of one or two muttered exclamations of impatience.
    _There were just four hundred women in the city of New York who
    were beyond that sort of thing._ He saw his mistake at once,
    blundered on confusedly, recovered himself, and gave them much
    sound, practical advice which they received with every mark of
    gratitude.”

She hastened down to the office, her eyes shining with the proud delight
of authorship. Steele looked busier than any one she had ever seen, but
he asked sharply:

“Got anything?”

“Yes.”

“Let me see it. Skip the descriptive part.”

She handed him the latter part of her story, and he ran his eye hastily
over it. A gleam shot from his eyes, but he compressed his lips.

“That’s not bad—but I don’t know that I dare print it. The religious
hypocrisy of this country beats that of England, strange as it may
appear. However, I’ll think it over. Come down to-morrow morning.”

The article was printed, and the result was a shower of protesting
letters from clergymen and religious women. Patience was sent to
interview a number of representative women, of various spheres of life,
on the subject, and found herself fairly launched. She hardly had time
to realise whether she liked the work or not, but when she was not too
tired, concluded that she did. As this phase wore off, she developed
considerable enthusiasm, and felt her bump of curiosity enlarge.

She practically forgot the past, except to wonder occasionally that she
heard nothing from the Peeles. Upon her arrival in New York, on the
morning of her departure from Peele Manor, she had mailed a note to
Beverly, which merely announced that she had left him, never to return.
He was the sort of a man to put the matter in the hands of a detective,
but so far—and the weeks were growing into a month—he had given no
sign of any kind. She cared little for the cause of his silence,
however; she was too thankful for the fact. Occasionally Steele gave her
a brief word of praise, and she was more delighted than she had ever
been at the admiration of man.


                                   IV

Patience sprang out of bed, full of the mere joy of living. She felt as
happy as a wild creature of the woods, and for no reason whatever. She
longed for Rosita’s voice that she might carol, and wondered if it were
possible that she had ever thought herself the most miserable of women.
The small room would not hold her, and she went out and took a long walk
in the sharp white air; it was Sunday, and she was not obliged to go to
the office.

When she returned, the servant told her that a gentleman awaited her in
the parlour. She turned cold, but went defiantly in. The visitor was Mr.
Field, and the revulsion of feeling was so great, and her exuberance of
spirits so undiminished, that she ran forward, threw her arms about his
neck, and kissed him.

“I am so happy I must kiss some one,” she said, “and after all you are
the right person, for it is owing to you that I am happy.”

“Well! well!” he said laughing, “I am delighted; and also relieved that
you did not take it into your head to do that down at the office. I’ve
just dropped in to ask after your health and to say good-bye. How do you
stand it?”

“Oh, I am well. I never felt so well. I get tired, but I sleep it off. I
made twenty-five dollars last week, and I celebrated the occasion by
coming home in a cab. Oh, I can tell you I feel all made over, and Peele
Manor seems prehistoric.”

“You always did live at a galloping rate mentally. You are doing first
rate—not but what you’ll do better a year from now. There’s pulse in
your stuff. Keep your enthusiasm as long as you can. Nothing takes its
place. Here’s something for you.”

A messenger boy had entered with a note.

“For me?”

“For Mrs. Beverly Peele.”

“Oh, dear!” she exclaimed, “it has come. This is from Mr. Peele. Do let
me read it—I can’t wait.”

She tore the envelope open and read hastily:—

    DEAR PATIENCE,—On the night of the day of your departure from
    Peele Manor, my son came up to us in a distracted condition. He
    had also contracted the grippe. The combination of disorders
    produced delirium and serious illness. For that reason and
    others we have not endeavoured to communicate with you. In fact,
    I only ascertained yesterday that you were working for Mr.
    Field, who I consider has further betrayed my friendship in
    associating himself with you in your insubordination.

    Of course you are at liberty to act as you choose. The laws of
    this country are wretchedly inadequate regarding the authority
    of the husband. But one thing I insist upon: that you call upon
    us and make a definite statement of what you purpose to do. If
    you have repented and wish to return to us, we will overlook
    this wretched mistake. If you intend definitely to leave your
    husband and to follow the disgraceful life of a reporter on a
    sensational newspaper, you owe it to us to come here in person
    and define your position. The family with which you have allied
    yourself, my dear young woman, is not one to be dismissed with a
    note of three lines.

    I particularly request that you call at three o’clock this
    afternoon.

                                                   Yours truly
                                                  GARDINER PEELE.

Patience handed the note to Mr. Field, who read it with much interest.

“Go by all means,” he said; “otherwise they will annoy you with petty
persecutions, and Beverly will haunt the ‘Day.’ Keep up all your pluck,
and remember that this is a free country, and that they can compel you
to do nothing you do not wish to do. You are mistress of the situation,
and can call upon me for proof that you are supporting yourself
adequately.”

“Oh, I don’t want to go. I never want to look at one of them again. I’d
just managed to forget them all.”

“But you must go. It would look cowardly if you didn’t; and, when you
come to think of it, you certainly do owe them some sort of explanation.
Poor Peele! he must have actually suffered at being treated in such
cavalier fashion.”

“Oh, well, I’ll go! I’ll go! But I wish I’d never seen them.”

“You don’t look at all pretty with that face, and I shall run. By the
way, I came to tell you that I start for Paris to-morrow to join my
wife, who has been on the other side for some months. Otherwise she
would have called before this. Steele will take care of you.”


                                   V

When Patience went up to her room she slammed the door, closed the
window violently, then sat down and beat a tattoo on the floor with her
heels. Her spirits were still high, but cyclonic. She would willingly
have smashed things, and felt no disposition to sing.

Nevertheless she rang the bell of the house in Eleventh Street at three
o’clock. The butler bowed solemnly, and announced that the family
awaited her in the library. Patience, piqued that they were assured of
her coming, was half inclined to turn back, then shrugged her shoulders,
walked down the hall, and through the dining-room to the library in the
annex.

The afternoon sun irradiated the cheerful room, but Beverly, with sunken
eyes and pallid face, sat huddled by the fire. He sprang to his feet as
Patience entered, then turned away with a scowl and sank back in his
chair. His mother sat opposite. She merely bent her head to Patience,
then turned her solicitous eyes to her son’s face. Honora came forward
and kissed her sweetly. Mr. Peele did not shake hands with her, but
offered her a chair by the long table. Patience took it, and experienced
a desire to laugh immoderately. They had the air of a Court of Inquiry,
and appeared to regard her as a delinquent at the bar.

Mr. Peele sat in his revolving chair, tipped a little back. He had
crossed his legs and leaned his elbows on the arms of the chair,
pressing his finger tips lightly together.

“Now,” he said coldly, “we are ready to hear you.”

“I have nothing in particular to say. I gave you fair warning, and you
refused to listen, or to let me go abroad and so avoid publicity. I
therefore took the matter in my own hands and went.”

“You ignore your duty to your husband; your marriage vows?”

“There is only one law for a woman to acknowledge, and that is her self
respect.”

“The husband that loves you is entitled to no consideration?”

“Not when he exercises none himself. I refuse to admit that any human
being has the right to control me unless I voluntarily submit myself to
that control.”

“Are you aware that you are uttering the principles of anarchy?”

“Well, the true anarchists of this world are not the bomb throwers. When
a man and woman are properly married there is no question of authority
or disobedience; but a woman is a common harlot who lives with a man
that makes her curse the whole scheme of creation.”

Honora lifted a screen and hid her face. Beverly muttered inaudible
remarks. Mrs. Peele lifted her eyebrows and curled her mouth. Mr. Peele
moved his head slowly back and forth.

“I shall not attempt to contradict any of your remarkable theories,” he
said. “It is apparent that you are imbued with all the pernicious
thought of the time. I am thankful that it is not my destiny to live
among the next generation of women. Will you kindly tell me how you
should have acted in this matter if you had had children?”

“Oh, I don’t know! I have thought of that. No woman should have a child
until she has been married three years. By that time she would know
whether or not she had made a mistake.”

“And what shall you do if you are unable to support yourself?”

“Starve. No one has a right to live that the world has no use for, that
can give the world nothing. Man’s chief end is not bread and butter. If
I can give the world anything it will be glad to give me a living in
return. If I am a failure I’ll walk out of existence as quietly as I
altered my life. But I haven’t the slightest doubt of my ability to take
care of myself.”

Mr. Peele pressed his lips together. The old man and the young woman
regarded each other steadily, the one with malevolence in his eye, the
other with defiance in hers. In that moment Mr. Peele hated her, and she
knew it. She had made him feel old and a component part of the decaying
order of things, while she represented the insolent confidence of youth
in the future.

“Women make too much fuss,” continued Patience. “If they don’t like
their life why don’t they alter it quietly, without taking it to the
lecture platform or the polemical novel? If they don’t like the way man
governs why don’t they educate their sons differently? They can do
anything with the plastic mind. I am sure it could be proved that most
corrupt politicians and bad husbands had weak or careless mothers. If
the men of a country are bad you can be sure the women are worse—”

Beverly sprang to his feet, overturning his chair. “Damn it!” he cried.
“You can talk all you like, but you are mine and I’ll have you.”

Patience turned and fixed her angry eyes on his face. “Oh, no, you will
not. Your father will tell you that I am quite free.”

Mr. Peele gave a short dry laugh. “She has the best of it,” he said.
“You cannot compel her to return to you, and she has the air of one who
has tasted of the independence of making money—”

“Then I’ll dog her steps. I’ll make life hell for her—”

“You will do nothing of the sort, sir. Much as I disapprove of this
young woman’s course, she has in me an unwilling abettor. I shall not
have my domestic affairs made food for the newspapers and their hordes
of vulgar readers. Field would take up her cause and hound me to my
grave. You will keep quiet, and in the course of time get a divorce of
which no one will be the wiser until you marry again. If the gossip does
not get into the papers it will not rise above a murmur. If you add to
my annoyance I shall turn you out of Peele Manor and cut you off without
a cent. You will not pretend that you can support yourself.”

Patience rose. “If you have nothing more to ask I shall go,” she said.
“Beverly can bring his suit as soon as he chooses. It will go by
default.”

Beverly flung off his mother’s restraining arm and rushed forward. “You
shall not go!” he cried.

“Don’t touch me!” cried Patience; but before she could reach the door
Beverly had caught her in his arms. Excitement gave him strength. He
held her with hard muscles and kissed her many times.

The ugly temper she had kept under control broke loose. She lifted her
hand and struck him violently on the mouth. Her face too was convulsed,
but with another passion. She felt as if the past month had been
annihilated.

“Will you let me go?” she gasped. “Oh, how I hate you!” Then as he
kissed her again, “I could kill you! I could kill you!” She flung
herself free, and shaking with passion faced the scandalised family.

“You had better keep him out of the way,” she said. “Do you know that
once I nearly killed my own mother?”


                                   VI

Patience slept little that night. Her head ached violently. When she
presented herself at the office Steele sent her to report a morning
lecture. It was dull, and she fell asleep. When she returned to the
office Steele happened to be alone.

“I have no report,” she said. “I fell asleep. That is all I have to
say.”

For a few seconds he stared at her, then turned on his heel. In a moment
he came back. “The next time you do that,” he said, “hunt up the
reporter of some other newspaper and get points from him. First-class
reporters always stand in together. Here’s a good story badly written
that has come up from Honduras. Take it home and revamp it, and let me
have it to-morrow.”

“You are awfully good. I thought you would tell me to go, and I
certainly deserve to.”

“You certainly do, but we won’t discuss the matter further.”

That was an unhappy week for Patience, and she lost faith in her star. A
great foreign actress, whom she was sent to interview, haughtily refused
to be seen, and the next morning capriciously sent for a reporter of the
“Eye,” the hated rival of the “Day.” She was put on the trail of a
fashionable scandal and failed to gather any facts. She was sent to
interview a strange old woman, supposed to have a history, who lived on
a canal boat, and became so interested in the creature that she forgot
all about the “Day,” and did not appear at Mr. Steele’s desk for three
days. When she did he looked sternly at her guilty face, although the
corners of his mouth twitched.

“I’m delighted to see you have not forsaken us,” he said sarcastically.
“May I ask if the canal boat woman quite slipped your memory?”

“N-o-o. I have been there ever since.”

“Indeed?” His ears visibly twitched. “That alters the case. Did you get
the story out of her?”

Patience looked at him steadily for a moment, then dropped her eyes.

“There is nothing to tell,” she answered.

Steele sprang to his feet.

“Come out here,” he said. He led her into a corner of the
composing-room, and they sat down on a bench.

“Now tell me,” he said peremptorily. “What have you heard? You have news
in your eye. I see it.”

“I have nothing to tell.”

“Suppose you tell the truth. You have the story, and you won’t give it
up. Why not?”

“Well—you see—she confided in me—she said I was the only woman who
had given her a decent word in twenty years; and if I told the story she
would be in jail to-morrow night. Do you think I’d be so low as to tell
it?”

“Sentimentality, my dear young woman, is fatal to a newspaper reporter.
Suppose the entire staff should go silly; where would the ‘Day’ be?”

“It might possibly be a good deal more admirable than it is now.”

“We won’t go into a discussion of theory _v._ practice. I want that
story.”

“You won’t get it.”

“Indeed.” He looked at her with cold angry eyes. “The trouble is that
you have not been made to feel what the discipline of a newspaper office
is—”

Patience leaned forward and smiled up audaciously into his face. “You
would do exactly the same thing yourself,” she said; “so don’t scold any
more. I admit that you frighten me half to death, but all the same I
know that you would never send a poor old woman to prison—not to be
made editor-in-chief.”

He reddened, and looked anything but pleased at the compliment. “Do you
know that you have just said that I am a jay newspaper man?” he asked.

But Patience only continued to smile, and in a moment he smiled back at
her, then, with an impatient exclamation, left her and returned to his
desk.


                                  VII

Two months later Steele asked her to come to the office at six o’clock,
an hour at which the evening room was empty, and suggested that she
should give up reporting, and start a column of paragraphs.

“I should like it better, of course,” said Patience, after he had fully
explained the requirements of the new department. “I was going to tell
you that I _would not_ go to that Morgue again.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t? Well, you stood it rather longer than I thought you
would.”

“And I’m tired of interviewing insolent conceited people. Oh, by the
way, I should thank you for all these nice things you’ve just said to
me.”

He dropped his business-like manner suddenly. “How do you stand it?” he
asked. Then in reply to her look of surprise: “Oh, you know, the Chief,
when he went away, told me to look out for you.”

Patience immediately became the charming woman accustomed to the homage
of man. Steele’s pre-eminence was gone from that moment.

“I am remarkably well, thank you, considering how you have bullied
me—and I can tell you that I did not fancy at all being ordered about
by such an infant.”

“Oh! Thanks! But when a man’s too polite he doesn’t get anything done
for him—not in this business. And is it a crime to be an editor before
you are thirty?”

“Oh, you have reason to be proud of yourself.”

“You mean that I have the big head. Well, that is the disease of the
age, you know. It would never do for a newspaper man to get a reputation
for eccentricity. You’ll have it yourself inside of six months if these
paragraphs are a success.”

“Never! I scorn to be so unoriginal.”

“Well, we’ll encourage your sentiments, and keep you as the office
curio; but I didn’t really bully you, did I?”

“Oh, I’ll admit that you were kinder than I deserved, once in a while:
when I fell asleep at the lecture, for instance.”

He laughed heartily. “That was the richest joke. There was absolutely
nothing to say to you. If you only stood at the end of a long
perspective of this business and could fully appreciate the humour of
that situation! An experienced reporter, if he couldn’t have lied out of
it, or borrowed news, would never have shown up. You looked like a
naughty child expecting to have its ears boxed.”

“Oh, yes, Miss Merrien guyed me for a whole week; I know all about that
now. And now that you’ve come down off your pedestal I’ll thank you for
all your patience and good training. If I’ve learned to write I owe it
to your blue pencil; and I don’t need to be told by Miss Merrien that
you’ve saved me from a great deal of hard work.”

He smiled charmingly. There were times when he looked like an old man
with the mask of youth; to-day he looked a mere boy. “Oh, any one would
do as much for you, even if the Chief hadn’t given orders. You are an
unusual woman, you know. You proved that—but, of course, I have no
right to speak to you of that.” He stood up suddenly and held out his
hand. “Well, be good to yourself,” he said. “If you feel yourself
breaking, take a rest.”

“I wonder,” she thought, as she went downstairs, “if that young man
knows he betrayed the fact that he has been thinking a good deal about
me? He certainly is an interesting youth, and I should like to know him
better.”

Patience did not find her paragraphs as easy as she expected. It was one
thing to work on a given idea, and another to supply idea and execution
both; but after a time her sharpened brain grew more magnetic and life
fuller of ideas than of lay figures. The men in the office frequently
gave her tips, and one clever young reporter, who worshipped her from
afar, fell into the daily habit of presenting her with a slip of
suggestions.

Her choicest paragraphs were usually edited by Steele’s ruthless hand,
and now and again she was moved to wrath. Upon such occasions Mr. Steele
merely smiled, and she was forced to smile in return or retire with the
sulks.


                                  VIII

Patience was writing busily in her little bedroom. The March winds were
howling down the street. Her door opened, and a very elegant young woman
entered.

“Hal!” cried Patience.

“You dear bad girl!”

They kissed a half dozen times, then sat down and looked at each other.
Hal had quite the young married woman air, and held herself with a mien
of conscious importance, entirely removed from conceit: she was _grande
dame_, and the late object of attentions from smart folks abroad.

“Well, how are you?” asked Patience. “Oh, but I am glad to see you. Tell
me all about yourself. When did you get back?”

“Day before yesterday. I’ve returned with thirty-two trunks, the
loveliest jewels you ever saw, and quite a slave of a husband. I must
say I never thought Latimer would keep up such a prolonged bluff, but he
fills the rôle as if he’d been husbanding all his life. Oh, no. Don’t
look at me like that. I’ve forgotten it, and I’ve no regrets. _Mon
Dieu!_ To think that I might be in Boston on four hundred a month! I
shall be a leader, my dear. You can do as much with a hundred and fifty
thousand a year as you can with a million, for you can only spend just
so much money anyhow. All that the big millionaires get out of their
wealth is notoriety. Nobody’d remember about them if it wasn’t for the
newspapers. But you bad bad girl! What have you been and gone and done?
Why didn’t you wait for me? I would have rescued you.”

“Oh, you couldn’t, Hal dear. I didn’t want to be rescued for a day or a
month. I’ve run away for good and all.”

“But, Patience, what an alternative! Do you mean to say you live in this
cubby-hole?”

“I’m mighty happy in this cubby-hole, I can tell you; happier than I
ever was at Peele Manor.”

“That certainly was the mistake of my life. However, you’ve solved the
problem more promptly than most women do. The celerity with which you
untied that knot when you set about it moved me to admiration. By the
way, do you know that Bev is ill?”

“Is he? What is the matter?”

“I don’t know exactly,—one of those organic afflictions that men are
always getting. How uninteresting men are when their interior
decorations get out of gear. And they always will talk about them.
Latimer is ever groaning with his liver; but no wonder. I’ve had to eat
so much rich stuff to keep him from feeling lonesome that I’ve actually
grown fat. Well, we don’t know what is the matter with Bev, yet. The
doctor says it’s a result of the influenza. He has some pain, and makes
an awful fuss, like all men.”

“Where are you going to stay, now?”

“I am at the Holland, but will spend the summer at the Manor and the
fall at Newport. Our house on the Avenue—opposite the park, you
know—will be finished by winter. That house will be a jewel. I got the
most beautiful things abroad for it. Then you will come and live with
me.”

Patience shook her head.

“It wouldn’t do, and you will see it. I belong to another sphere now;
but I can see you sometimes.”

“Well, put up that stuff, and come to the Holland and dine with me. You
can finish up to-night. I have yards and yards to talk to you about.
I’ll never give you up,—remember that.”


                                   IX

When the hot days and nights of summer came Patience did not find
routine and the hunt as fascinating sport as when the electric thrill of
cooler seasons was in the air. Her paragraphs acquired some reputation,
and her mind grew tense in the effort to keep them up to a high
standard, and to prepare at least one surprise a day. She grew thin and
nervous, and began to wonder what life and herself would be like five
years hence. Mr. Field and Steele helped her as much as they dared, and
she managed to make about fifty dollars a week: her success gave Mr.
Field the excuse to pay her special rates. It never occurred to her to
give up, and she assured Hal that she would have nervous prostration
four times a year before she would return to Peele Manor.

There were times when she passionately longed for the isolation of a
mountain top. Nature had been part of her very individuality for all the
years of her life until this last, and a forested mountain top alone was
the antithesis of Park Row. She sometimes had a whimsical idea that her
grey matter was becoming slowly modelled into a semblance of that famous
precinct. She loved it loyally; but the isolation of high altitudes sent
their magnetism to another side of her nature. She was getting farther
and farther away from herself in the jealous absorption of her
work,—the skurrying practical details of her life. She felt that she
could no longer forecast what she should do under given circumstances,
that something in her was slowly changing. What the result would be she
could not predict; and she craved solitude and the opportunity to study
herself out.

In August Mrs. Field took her to her house in the Berkshire hills.
Although she had no solitude there, she returned much refreshed, and did
good work all winter. Steele she never saw outside of the office, but he
managed to treat her with a certain knightliness, and she lay awake,
occasionally, thinking about him. Hard work and the practical side of
life had disposed of a good deal of her romance, but she was still given
to vagaries. Steele’s modernity fascinated her. No other epoch but this
extraordinary last quarter of the nineteenth century could have produced
him.

She was a great favourite in the office. Again a thaw had succeeded a
second glacier period, induced by entire change of environment, and she
liked nearly everybody she knew, and became a most genial and expansive
young woman. She often laughed at herself, and concluded that she would
never strike the proper balance until she fell in love (if she ever
did), when the large and restless currents of her nature would unite and
find their proper destination. She had no “weird experiences.” Her
abounding feminity appealed to the chivalry of the gentlemen among whom
she was thrown, and she was clever enough not to flirt with them, to
treat them impartially as good comrades. The second-class men detested
her, and were not conciliated: the underbred newspaper man touches a
lower notch of vulgarity than any person of similar social degree the
world over.

                 *        *        *        *        *

One morning she awoke about four o’clock,—that is, her mind awoke; her
body was still too full of sleep to move to the right or left. It was
one of her favourite sensations, and she lay for a time meditating upon
the various pleasures, great and small, which are part of man’s
inheritance.

Suddenly she became conscious that it was raining. She had moved into a
back room on the second floor. Beside one window was a tin roof upon
which the rain poured with heavy reiterance. In the back yard was a
large ailanthus tree which lifted itself past her windows to the floor
above. A light wind rustled it. The rain pattered monotonously upon its
wide leaves, producing a certain sweet volume of sound.

It was long since she had listened to rain in the night. It was
associated in her mind with the vague sweet dreams of girlhood and with
her life in Carmel Valley. She had loved to wander through the pine
woods when the winter rains were beating through the uplifted arms,
swirling and splashing in the dark fragrant depths. It said something to
her then, she hardly knew what, nor when it roared upon the roof of the
old farmhouse, or flung itself through the windows of Carmel tower, as
she and Solomon huddled close to the wall.

But when it had beaten upon the roof of her little room in Miss
Tremont’s house it had sung the loneliness of youth into her soul,
murmured of the great joy to which every woman looks forward as her
birthright. Hard worked and absorbed as she may have been during the
day, if the rain awoke her in the night, it was to dreams of love and of
nothing else, and of the time when she should no longer be alone.

This morning she listened to the rain for a time, then moved suddenly to
her side, her eyes opening more widely in the dark. The rain said
nothing to her. She listened to it without a thrill, with no longing,
with no loneliness of soul, and no vague tremor of passion.

Nothing in her unhappy experience had so forcibly brought home to her
the changes which her inner self had undergone in the last few years.
Life was a hard clear-cut fact; she could no longer dream. Imagination
had taken itself out of her and gone elsewhere, into some brain whose
dear privilege it was to have a long future and a brief past.

The tears scalded her eyes. She cursed Beverly Peele. She wished she had
remained in Monterey. There, at least, she would never have married any
one, for there was no one to marry.

“Even if my life had been a success,” she thought, “if Beverly Peele had
been less objectionable, or had died, and I had had the world at my
feet, it would be too high a price to pay. Not even to care that one is
alone when the rain is sweeping about with that hollow song! To think
and dream of nothing beyond the moment! To have accepted life with
cynical philosophy, and feel no desire to shake the Universe with a
great passion! To be beyond the spell of the rain is to be a thousand
years old, and a thousand centuries away from the cosmic sense. I wish I
were dead.”

And there were other moods. Sometimes the devil which is an integral
part of all strong natures—of woman’s as well as of man’s, and no
matter what her creed—awoke and clamoured. There were four or five men
in the office whom she liked well enough when absent, and in whom the
lightning of her glance would have changed friendship to passion. Why
she resisted the temptation which so fiercely assailed her at times she
never knew. Conventions did not exist for her impatient mind excepting
in so far as they made life more comfortable; she had in full measure
youth’s power to know and to give joy, and she owed no one loyalty. And
at this time she imaged no future: she had lost faith in ideals. It was
only at brief intervals that there came a sudden passionate
desire—almost a flash of prophetic insight—for the one man who must
exist for her among the millions of men. And this, if anything, took the
place of her lost ideals and conquered the primal impulses of her
nature. Or was it a mere matter of destiny? Woman is a strange and
complex instrument. She is as she was made, and it is not well to
condemn her even after elaborate analysis.


                                   X

One morning in May, Hal came in before Patience was out of bed. She sat
down on a chair and tapped the floor with her foot.

“I come charged with a message, a special mission, as it were,” she
said. “I hardly know where to begin.”

“Well?”

“Don’t look at me like that, or I’ll never have the courage to go on.
Bev is desperately ill,—not in bed, but he has the most frightful
pains: his disease, which has been threatening for a year, has
developed. It may or may not be fatal. The doctor says it certainly will
be unless he has peace of mind, and he is fretting after you like a big
baby. The grippe seems to have broken the back of his temper, and he is
simply a great calf bleating for its parent. It would be ridiculous if
it were not serious. You’d better come back to us, Patience.”

“I won’t.”

“I knew you would say exactly that; but when you think it over you will
come. Remember that the doctor practically says that you can either save
or prolong his life. Mamma is simply distracted. You know she adores
Bev, and she broke down completely last night and told me to come and
beg you to return. You know what that means: you’ll have nothing to fear
from her.”

“Oh, I can’t go back! I can’t! I think I should die if I went back.”

“We don’t die so easily, my dear. Now, I’ll go and let you think it
over,” and the diplomat kissed Patience and retired.

Patience endeavoured to put the matter out of her mind, but it harassed
her through her day’s duties, and her work was bad. Steele told her as
much the next afternoon when she came into the office late, intending to
write there instead of at home. Her room was haunted by Beverly’s pallid
face and sunken eyes.

“Oh, well,” she said, flinging herself down before a table, “perhaps
it’s the last, so it doesn’t matter.”

“Why? What do you mean? You do look pale. Are you ill?”

Patience hesitated a moment, then told him of the complication. He
listened, without comment, looking down upon the skurrying throngs.

“I suppose I must go,” she said in conclusion. “Anyway I feel that I
shall go, whether I want to or not.”

He came over to the table and regarded her with his preternatural
seriousness.

“Yes,” he said, “you will go. It will be like you.”

“Oh, I am no angel. It’s not that—please! It’s—don’t you know there
are some good acts you can’t help? Not only do traditions and
conventions drive you into them, but your own selfishness—I haven’t the
courage to be lashed by my conscience. If I could give that morphine, do
you think I’d go?”

He smiled. “Do you analyse everything like that? However, I choose to
keep to my illusions. I think that you have magnificent theories, but
act very much like other people. Can I go up and see you sometimes? I
may have a chance to know you, now.”

She put up her hand and took his impulsively. “Yes, come,” she said.
“That is the only thing that will make life supportable.”


                                   XI

She went home and wrote the following letter to Beverly Peele:—

    “I will return to Peele Manor and remain while you are seriously
    ill, under the following conditions: (1) That you pay me what
    you would be obliged to pay a trained nurse; (2) That you will
    treat me on that basis absolutely. My feeling toward you has
    undergone no change. I am not your wife. But as your physician
    holds me responsible for your life, I will be your nurse on the
    terms stated above.”

The next day she received this telegram:—

    Come. Terms agreed to.

         BEVERLY PEELE.

She was received by the various members of the household with infinite
tact. Mrs. Peele’s cold blue eyes sheltered an angry spark, but she
behaved to her errant daughter-in-law exactly as if matrimonial
vacations were orthodox and inevitable. Honora kissed her sweetly, and
asked her if the roses were not beautiful. When Mr. Peele came home he
said, “Ah, good-evening.” Beverly, who had evidently been coached, did
not offer to kiss her, but immediately explained every detail of his
disease. Hal and her husband were in the North Carolina mountains.

Beverly was not a good actor, and his eyes followed his wife with
kaleidoscopic expression. She frequently encountered hungry admiration
and angry resentment; and if he had made up his mind to abide by her
decree he as clearly evidenced that he considered her his salaried
property: he demanded her constant attendance. He looked so wan and
hopeless that Patience was moved to pity, and even to tenderness, and
devoted herself to his care.

For the first two weeks she felt hourly as if she must pack her trunk
and flit back to the “Day.” She longed for a very glimpse of the grimy
men in the composing-room, and felt that the sight of Morgan Steele in
his shirt sleeves would give more spiritual satisfaction than the green
and grey of the Palisades.

The life at Peele Manor seemed doubly flat after her emancipation. At
the breakfast table, Mrs. Peele and Honora discussed their small
interests. At luncheon, Beverly—who arose late—gave the details of his
night. At dinner there was little conversation of any sort. The
mornings, and the afternoons from four to six—when Beverly drove with
his mother and Honora—were Patience’s own. Although discontented, she
was by no means unhappy: she was out of bondage forever. If Beverly grew
better she could return to the “Day” after a reasonable time had
elapsed.

She spent most of her leisure rambling over the hills in idle reverie or
meditating upon her checkered life. She gave a good deal of thought to
the many phases of life which had flashed before her startled eyes in
the last year, but was too young not to be more interested in herself
than in problems, however momentous. Still, she did not feel much more
intimate with herself than she had felt in Park Row.

She frequently wondered with some pique and much disapproval that she
heard nothing from Morgan Steele. The few glimpses she had caught of the
nature behind the mask tempted her to idealise him, and she finally
succumbed. One night she awoke to the fact that she had been walking the
stars with him, discussing the mysteries of the Universe. She pictured
the smile with which he would regard the workings of her imagination,
were they revealed to him, and recalled his business-like demeanour, his
shirt sleeves, his Park Row vocabulary, and his impatient scorn of
“damned slush.”

It happened to be midnight when these later thoughts arrived, and she
laughed aloud.

“What are you laughing at?” demanded a querulous voice from the next
room.

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Do you suppose I’m an idiot? Tell me what you were laughing
at.”

“Go to sleep, go to sleep.”

“I can’t go to sleep. You lie there and laugh while I lie here and
suffer.”

“Why didn’t you say you were suffering? Do you want the morphine?”

“No, I don’t.”

An hour later Patience was roused from her first heavy sleep.

“Patience! Patience! Oh, my God! My God! My God!”

Patience stumbled out of bed and into her dressing-gown and slippers,
shaking her head vigorously to dispel the vapours in her brain.

“Yes, yes!” she said. “I’m coming. Do please don’t make such a fuss.
You’ll wake up everybody—”

“Not make a fuss! Oh, I wish you had it for a minute—”

Patience ran into the lavatory and turned up the gas. The night was very
warm, and the door leading into Honora’s room stood wide. The light fell
full on her face. Patience saw that her eyes were open.

“I hope Beverly didn’t wake you up,” she said. “He does make such a
noise.”

“I was awake. I never sleep well in warm weather. I don’t envy you,
though.”

“Oh, I don’t mind if only I don’t make a terrible mistake some night and
give him an overdose. He takes particular pains to wait until I am in my
first sleep and then I hardly know what I am doing. There! this is the
third time I have dropped the wretched stuff. What is the good of drop
bottles, anyway?”

“Why don’t you use the hypodermic?”

“I can’t. It would make me ill to puncture people. And this does him as
much good.” She set the bottle down impatiently, drew a basin full of
cold water, dashed it over her face, then dropped the dose and took it
to Beverly.

“Stay with me,” he commanded. “You know it doesn’t take effect at once,
and I feel better if I hold your hand.” She sat down beside him and
nodded sleepily until the morphine did its work.


                                  XII

The next afternoon, a few moments after Beverly had gone for his drive,
Morgan Steele’s card was brought up to Patience. She had imagined that
this first call would induce a mild thrill of nerve, but she merely
remarked to the butler: “Tell him I will be down in a moment,” walked to
the long mirror in the corner, and shook out her violet and white
organdie skirts. Her long hair was braided and tied with a lavender
ribbon.

“I look very well,” she thought, and went downstairs.

Steele awaited her in the drawing-room, and, as she entered, was
standing with his head thrown back, regarding the medallion of Whyte
Peele. She noted anew how well he dressed and carried his clothes. He
looked quite at home in the drawing-room of Peele Manor. Her first
remark followed in natural sequence,—

“How odd not to see you in your shirt sleeves.”

He turned with a start and a sudden warmth in his face.

“Oh, well, I hope you’ll never see me that way again. How charming you
look in that frock and with your hair in that braid! _I_ always imagine
_you_ in prim tailor things, with your hair tucked out of sight under a
stiff turban. This is lovely. You look like a little girl. Those awful
dress reformers should see you.”

“It’s a comfort to think that the She-males cannot exterminate the
artistic sense. Let us go into the library.”

“Is there a large comfortable chair there? These are impressive but
unpleasant. Perhaps you would not suspect it, but I love a comfortable
chair and a cigar better than anything in life.”

“One thing I do suspect—that we shall have to become acquainted all
over again. You are not exactly like a fallen angel outside of the
office, but you certainly have not patronised me for five minutes.”

“Oh, you can take your revenge now and patronise me. Hang the shop! I
don’t want to think about it.”

In the library he critically inspected every chair, selected one that
pleased him, and drawing it to the open window sank into it with a deep
sigh of content. Patience gave him permission to smoke, and a moment
later he looked so happy that she laughed aloud.

“You may laugh,” he said plaintively, “but you have less imagination
than I thought if you don’t understand what this is to a man after Park
Row. After an hour of that water and your muslin frock, I shall go back
as refreshed as if my brain had taken a cold bath.”

“I’d fly back to the office this minute if I could. I’ve felt like a
bottle of over-charged champagne for two weeks.”

“You have the enthusiasm of youth. When you are my age—sixty-five—you
will be thankful for the _dolce far niente_ of a colonial manor. This
sort of life suits you—you are a born châtelaine. You have lost your
tired expression, and are actually stouter. Besides, I want to come up
here to see you.”

“Will you come often?”

“As often as you will let me. I am free every afternoon, you know, and
if I followed my tactless inclination I’d come seven times a week.
However, don’t look alarmed; I’m only coming once a week—” He sat up
suddenly, his eyes sparkling. “By Jove!” he exclaimed. “What a beauty!”

Patience followed his eyes, which were directed ardently upon a
sail-boat skimming up the river.

“Are you fond of sailing?” she asked.

“Am I? I could live in a boat. I’d rather be in a boat than—than even
talking to you.”

“Well, you shall be inside of a boat in five minutes,” she said
good-naturedly. “Wait until I get my hat and gloves!”

“Being only the nurse,” she said, as they walked down the wooded slope
to the boathouse, “I don’t know that I have any right to take liberties,
but I will, all the same. I feel that it is an act of charity.”

“It certainly is, and you really are an angel.—She’s a good boat,” he
said approvingly, a few moments later, as he unreefed the sail.

Patience arranged the cushions and made herself comfortable, and they
shot up the river in a stiff breeze. She watched Steele curiously. He
looked as happy as a schoolboy. His hat was on the back of his head, his
eyes shone. Once as he threw back his head and laughed, he bore an
extraordinary resemblance to the Laughing Faun.

“I’ve lived in a boat for a whole summer,” he said, “and never seen a
woman nor wanted to, nor a man neither, for that matter. There are three
months in the year when I want nothing better in life than this.” His
large cool eyes moved slowly to hers. “Still,” he added, “I do believe
it’s an improvement to have you here. What fun if we had a little yacht
and could sail like this all summer! I think we’d hit it off, don’t you?
We shouldn’t either of us talk too much.”

Patience laughed. It was impossible to coquet with Steele. He took no
notice of it. “I should be afraid you’d tip me over if you got tired of
me.”

“I shouldn’t get tired of you,” he said seriously. “I never met a woman
I liked half as much. You’re lovely to look at, and your mind is so
interesting to study. Guess I’d better come about.”

They sailed for two hours. The wind fell, and they talked in a desultory
fashion. They discovered that they had the same literary gods, and
occasionally Steele waxed enthusiastic. He had read more than most men
of forty; nor was there anything youthful about the fixity of his
opinions.

“Oh, dear!” said Patience, suddenly, “why did we never meet before? I
like you better than any one I ever knew. I’ve been hunting all my life
for a mental companion.”

“So have I,” he said, smiling at her in his half cynical way, “and now
I’ve found you I don’t propose to let you go; not even next winter.”

He confided to her that he had written a good deal, although he had
published nothing. Patience wondered where he had found time to
accomplish so much.

“I’m going to bring up some of my stuff and read it to you,” he said.
“You can take that as a compliment if you like, for I’ve only shown it
to one other person—a man.”

“Now, I know why you like me! You are going to study me.”

“Well, it’s partly that,” he replied coolly. “You are a new type—to me
at any rate, and I shall probably know a good deal more after I have
known you a year or so than I do now. Who is that? What an
amiable-looking person!”

Patience followed his glance. Beverly stood at the foot of the slope,
with distorted face.

“Oh, dear,” she said, “that is Mr. Peele. I am afraid he is going to be
disagreeable. Of course I am not obliged to stay—but in a way I am.”

Steele ran the boat into the dock, handed her out, and reefed the sail
before he spoke. Then he turned and looked at her squarely.

“Would you rather I did not come?” he asked.

“No! No! I want you to come. I’ll think it over and write you—or—I
wonder if you are horrid like most men and would misunderstand me if I
asked you always to come on a certain day and meet me in that wood up
there, instead of going to the house?”

“Look here,” he said in his old business-like tone, “just let me set
your mind at rest. I haven’t the slightest intention of making love to
you. In the first place I am just now tired and sick of that sort of
thing—a state a man does get into occasionally, although a woman will
never believe it. In the second place I like to think of you as _sui
generis_; a woman on a pedestal. It is very refreshing. A week from
to-day I’ll be in that wood, and I’ll stay there from four to six
whether you come or not. There comes my train.”

“You must flag it. Hurry. I’ll expect you Thursday.”


                                  XIII

“Who is that man?” thundered Beverly, as she crossed the track behind
the train.

Patience raised her eyebrows. “What have you to do with my visitors?”

“You sha’n’t receive men, and you sha’n’t sail in my boat.”

“Of course the boat is yours. I shall not use it again.”

“You are my nurse.”

“Your nurse is always ready to be dismissed,” and she walked up the
slope, taking no further notice of him.

Hal returned the following week; and, as Beverly improved steadily, the
house was filled with company once more. Whenever Patience hinted that
she was no longer required, Beverly immediately went to bed and rent the
air; but as a matter of fact his attacks were growing less and less
frequent.

Patience, in the circumstances, was not impatient to return to work
until the hot weather was over. Her position was very pleasant, Hal was
ever her loyal friend, and she saw Morgan Steele once a week.

The wood was a wild place on a slope of the bluff some distance above
the house. Its underbrush made it unpopular with the guests of Peele
Manor. Steele left the train at the regular station a mile up the road
and walked back without encounter. In the heart of the dark cool little
wood Patience swung two hammocks and filled them with pillows. Steele
lay full length in his and looked comfortable and happy, a cigar ever
between his lips. Patience, in hers, sat in as dignified an attitude as
she could assume.

“Does it make you feel romantic?” he said one day, looking at her
quizzically.

“What do you mean?” she asked, flushing a little.

“Oh, I think you have a queer romantic sentimental streak through your
modernity—or had. I’ve been wondering if there was any of it left.”

“I never told you.”

“No, but you suggest it. Tell me: didn’t you once have ideals and that
sort of thing?”

“I don’t see how you can even guess it, for I have none now.”

“Oh, yes, you have. You won’t when you’re thirty, but you have all sorts
of kiddish notions stored away yet in that brain of yours.” He had seen
Peele a few days before in the train, and knew the history of their
courtship quite as well as if she had related it to him, but he was
curious to know what she had been before. He drew her on until she told
him the story of the tower and the owl.

That little picture pleased his artistic sense, but when she described
her girlish ideals and dreams he threw back his head and laughed loud
and long.

“What would I have done with you if I had met you then?” he said,
looking with intense amusement at her half angry face. “I should have
run, I expect. You are a thousand times more interesting now.”

“Not to myself.”

“Of course not, because you are less of an egoist, and draw a larger
measure of your individuality from your environment. But you are real
now, where before you were unreal—you were a sort of waxwork with
numerous dents. The two extremes in this world are nature and
civilisation. Children belong by right to nature, and she holds on to
them as long as possible. When civilisation gets hold of them she
proceeds to pick out with a pair of tweezers all but the primal
passions; and the result is the only human variety capable of enjoying
life.”

“Don’t you believe in ideals?” asked Patience, rather wistfully.

“Of course not,” he said contemptuously. “Life is what it is, and you
can’t alter it. And as we are only just so big and have only just so
many years in which to get over a limited surface of this mighty
complication called Life, all we can do is to keep our eyes open, and
pick out here and there what appeals to our taste most strongly,
swallowing the disagreeable majority as philosophically as possible.
When you know the world—and yourself—you can’t have ideals, and the
sooner you quit wasting time thinking about them the sooner you begin to
enjoy life. And remember that we live but from day to day—we may be a
cold cadaver to-morrow. Life is a game of chance. To set up ideals is as
purposeless as to waste this life preparing for an impossible next. Omar
expressed it better than I can when he said:—

        “‘To-morrow? Why, to-morrow I myself may be
          With yesterday’s seven thousand years.’”

“You have certain ideals though,” said Patience. “You are intellectually
ambitious; and you say that you never run after a merely pretty face,
and never wasted time on any sort of woman unless she had brains; and
the men at the office say that you are scrupulously square in money
matters. So that I can’t see that you are altogether without ideals.”

“Those are mere matters of taste and worldly sense. I aim for nothing
that is impossible. When I think I want a thing I set about to
accomplish it. If I find that it is impossible I quit without further
loss of time. You don’t suppose I have an ideal woman, do you? How can
any man that knows women?—although he may often succumb to a happy
combination. When I was exactly twelve my Sunday School teacher
forestalled any inclination I might have developed to idealise woman. I
met her once after I was grown, by the way, and it did me good to tell
her what I thought of her. That is where you women have the advantage of
us. It is so long before you know man at all that after you do it is
hard work making him over as he is. The woman never lived that
understood man by intuition. That is the reason a woman so seldom has
any fascination but that of mere youth until she’s pretty well on to
thirty. You, of course, have had an exceptional experience, but you are
a good deal of a kid yet.”


                                  XIV

Morgan Steele was a type of the precocious young United States newspaper
man which only this end of the century has evolved: Preternaturally wise
in the way of the world and the nature of woman; with young blood and
cold judgment; wary, deliberate, calculating; full of kind impulses;
generous with his money, yet careful of it; ready to make cold-blooded
use of a man to-day and offer him a free lodging to-morrow; possessed of
more self-control than the Club man of forty; without sentimentality,
yet with a certain limited power of loving; having a thorough
appreciation of the finer as of the coarser shades of woman; incapable
of a blind supreme rush of feeling, through the habit of eternal
analysis; placidly and philosophically content with the present, and
fully expecting to be laid away in the past at forty; _blasé_, yet full
of boyish delight in outdoor sport; having faith in no woman, yet
treating the lowest with a cynical kindness and consideration which was
part of his philosophy.

One night he faced the question of his relationship to Patience with his
usual deliberation.

He lay on a divan in his bachelor quarters: a long room with bedroom and
bath attached. The walls of the living-room were covered with red paper,
the doors and windows hung with Smyrna cloth. A rug half covered the
stained floor. Between the windows was a large desk covered with papers.
A long table was strewn thick with magazines. Small bookcases were
filled with the works of Omar, Whitman, Emerson, Hugo, Heine, Dumas,
Maupassant, Bourget, Pater, Dobson, Herrick, Ibsen, Zola, Landor,
Rabelais, Stevenson, Kipling. On the mantel there was a number of
photographs and a notable absence of legs. The walls were covered with
artists’ sketches.

“The summer will pass harmlessly enough,” he thought. “I only see her
once a week, and her husband is likely to be hidden in the brush; but
when she returns to town in the winter I shall find myself calling on
her every night. I’m not stuck on matrimony, but I certainly should like
her for a companion in a little house or double apartment where there
would be plenty of elbow room and some chance of keeping up the
illusions. I think it would be some years before I should tire of her,
and I think I could love her a good deal. Why in thunder doesn’t the man
die? She’s too good for anything else. It would be a terrible pity—the
details smirch so. A novelist would remark at this point, ‘And yet he
never thought of sparing her.’ No, my dear fictionist, we don’t, nor if
she loved me would she thank me for sparing her. And yet it would be a
pity. She is like some delicate wild-flower that has been transplanted.
I should like to offer her the best one can, instead of practically
remarking: ‘My dear, this brain racket is worked out for the present.
We’ll return to it later, or not at all.’

“It is often a clever thing for those that love and cannot marry to part
when the shock comes: they coddle the misery and have a glorious time
suffering. But that would not do for us. We live in the thick and rush
of life, and have no time to sit down with memories, hardly time enough
to realise an ache. We must have our day in fact or not at all; and
afterward, thank God, there is again no time for memories. Well, this is
only the eighth of July. By winter that intolerable nuisance may be in
the family vault.”


                                   XV

People remarked that summer that Patience looked unusually well. At
times her eyes had a certain liquid softness, at others they sparkled
wickedly. Her colour was beautiful and her manner and conversation full
of animation.

It was on a hot August afternoon that Patience and Steele, in the green
shades of their wood, suddenly met each other’s eyes and burst out
laughing.

“We are in love,” said Patience.

“Well—yes—I suppose we are.”

“I feel very light-minded over this unexpected _dénouement_. I had
imagined all sorts of dramatic climaxes; but the unexpected always will
happen in this life—more’s the pity.”

“Did you expect we should not fall in love?”

“I did not think about it at all for a time—just drifted. But as the
situation is so serious it is as well to take it humourously. What are
we going to do about it?”

He had removed his cigar, and was regarding her with his contemplative
stare. “I have thanked your complicated ancestors more than once for
your large variety of moods. I am glad and sorry that you have spoken:
sorry, because this was very pleasant; glad that the discussion of ways
and means should take place here instead of in town. I shall be brutally
frank. How long is your husband likely to live?”

“He may live for twenty years. I heard the doctors—they have a
consultation every once in a while—tell Mrs. Peele so the other day. He
is much better. On the other hand, he might take a turn for the worse
any day.”

“Then you must persuade him to give you a divorce.”

“Oh, dear, I am afraid that is out of the question. I’ve thought of it;
but—you don’t know him.”

“You are a clever woman: now look up your resources. Enlist the family
on your side. Tell them that you are about to leave, never to return,
and that you are on the road to become a famous newspaper woman; that if
they will persuade your husband to give you a divorce you will drop
their name; otherwise that it will be dinned in their ears for the next
twenty years. Tell them that we intend to let you sign hereafter. That
ought to fetch them, as they appear to look upon the newspaper business
with shuddering horror. And persuade them that Beverly needs a good
domestic little wife who would gladden his declining years.”

“I’m sorry I feel in this mood,” said Patience, abruptly. “I should far
rather it had been the other way—the usual way. I suppose I am
possessed with what Poe calls The Imp of the Perverse.”

“My dear girl, I need not remind you that it is just as well and a good
deal better. You need a shaking to wake you up, though. You imagine that
you are awake already, but you are not—not by a long sight. You have
buried your nature five fathoms deep. Well, time is up. I must be off.
Think over what I have said. Good-bye.”


                                  XVI

On the following Thursday morning Patience walked slowly over to where
Beverly sat under a tree on one of the lawns, reading a newspaper. She
had made up her mind to adopt Steele’s advice, but had deferred the evil
moment as long as possible.

“Beverly,” she said abruptly, sitting down in front of him, “I want to
speak to you.”

He laid down the newspaper and regarded her with eager admiration. She
had carefully selected the most unbecoming frock she possessed, a sickly
green, and twisted her hair in a fashion to distort the fine lines of
her head. Nevertheless, she looked as fresh as the morning, and her eyes
sparkled with excitement.

“What is it?” he asked. “Oh, why—why—”

“Never mind! I am going to have a business talk with you, and please
don’t get excited. If you do, you’ll be sure to have a pain, you know.”

“Well, what is it? It doesn’t do a fellow any good to keep him in
suspense.”

“On the first of November I am going away—”

“You are not!”

“And I shall not come back—not in any circumstances. You have proved
that your attacks are more or less under your own control. A sojourn at
some foreign baths will probably cure you. I have given you all of my
life that I intend to give you. I know that self-sacrifice is the ideal
of happiness of some women, but it is not mine. When I leave here on the
first of November it will be forever. There is no inducement, material
nor sentimental, that will bring me back. Do you understand that much
clearly?”

He burst into a volley of oaths, and beat his knees with his fists.
Patience continued as soon as she could be heard:—

“Now, it can do you no possible good to retain a legal hold on me, nor
can you care to hear of your name becoming familiar in Park Row. Give me
my freedom, and I will take my own name—”

“You’ll get no divorce,” he roared, “now nor ever. Do you understand
that? I’ll brace up and live until I’m ninety—by God I will! I’ll go
abroad and live at a water cure. You’ll never be the wife of any other
man. Do you understand that?”

“Oh, Beverly,” she said, breaking suddenly, “don’t be cruel,—don’t!
What good can it do you? Give me my freedom.”

He grasped her wrists. His eyes were full of rage and malevolence. “Do
you want to marry some one else?” he asked. “Some damned newspaper man,
I suppose.”

Patience stood up and shook him off. “If ever I do marry another man,”
she said cuttingly, “you may be sure he will have brains this time, and
that he will also be a gentleman. The most vulgar persons I have ever
known have been socially the most highly placed.”

As she moved away he sprang after her and caught her arm. “Now look
here,” he said hoarsely, “you’ll neither marry, nor will you have a
lover, unless you want all New York to know it. The moment you leave
this place a detective goes after you. You’ll do nothing that I don’t
know. I may not have brains, but I’ll get the best of you all the same.”

Patience flung him off and went straight to Mrs. Peele. Her
mother-in-law watched her with narrowed eyes until she had finished,
then remarked unexpectedly: “I shall do my best to make my son divorce
you. If you intend to leave us I prefer that the rupture should be
complete. As you suggest, I have no desire to see the name of Peele
signed to newspaper articles. Moreover, I believe I can persuade my son
to marry again,—a woman of his own station, who will not desecrate the
name of wife; and who,” with sudden violence, “will give this house an
heir.” She paused a moment to recover herself, then continued more
calmly: “I have talked the matter over with my husband, and he agrees
with me. Of course, you will expect no alimony.”

“I don’t want alimony. I make more with my pen than Beverly ever allowed
me.”

The red came into Mrs. Peele’s face. “My son was quite as generous as
was to be expected. Moreover, he had the right to demand that his wife
should not come to him empty handed. I shall speak to Beverly.”

An hour later Patience met Mrs. Peele in the side hall. The older woman
looked flushed and excited. “I have had a most terrible interview with
Beverly,” she exclaimed. “I can do nothing with him. You little fool,
why didn’t you swear that you did not want to marry another man? Heaven
knows I should prefer to have you take another name as soon as possible;
but you have ruined your chances by letting Beverly suspect the truth.”

Patience sank upon a chair, and sat for a long while staring straight
before her. She felt the incarnation of rage and hate. Her lovely face
was set and repellent. She came to herself with a start, and wondered if
she had ever had any womanly impulses.

She had never wanted anything in her life as much as she wanted to marry
Morgan Steele. His very unlikeness to all her old ideals fascinated her,
and she was convinced that she was profoundly in love. She could hardly
imagine what life with him would be like, and was the more curious to
ascertain; and the obstacles enraged her impatient spirit.

The butler left the dining-room to announce luncheon.

“Send mine up to my room,” she said. As she reached the first landing of
the stair she turned to him suddenly. “Tell John to go to New York this
afternoon, and have Mr. Beverly’s morphine bottle filled. He took the
last last night and he may need it again before I go down myself. Don’t
fail to tell him. The bottle is in the lavatory.”

That afternoon she met Steele at the edge of the wood.

“I could not keep still,” she said. “My brain feels on fire.”

He drew her hand through his arm and held it tenderly. “What is it?” he
asked. “Did you speak, and was it disagreeable?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute. Just now it is enough to feel you here.”

“I can only stay an hour. I should not have come at all, but I could not
stay away.”

When they reached the hammocks Patience flung herself into hers and told
the story of the morning with dramatic indignation. Then, insensibly,
she drifted into the story of her married life, and described her
intense hatred and loathing of her husband.

“It was all my own fault,” she said in conclusion. “I married him with
my eyes open; but all the same I hate him. Sometimes I felt, and feel
yet, fairly murderous. I seem to have a terrible nature—does it make
you hate me?”

He laughed. “No, I don’t hate you, and you know it quite as well as I
do. You have wonderful possibilities—but I can’t quite make up my mind
that I am the man—”

“Oh, yes, you are. I could love you as much as I hate Beverly Peele.”

“Well, if you think so it amounts to the same thing, for a while at
least. I shall come again in a few days. I’ll write you. If your husband
cannot be induced to change his mind I’ll talk to you about a paper that
has been offered to me in Texas; but if you prefer it the other way,
I’ll leave you alone without a word.”

“Oh, I don’t know! There are some words I hate,—the words free-love and
adultery. I don’t want to be exploited in the newspapers, and I don’t
want to be insulted by my landlord. After all, expediency is the source
of all morality. My life with you would be a thousand times better than
it was with Beverly Peele; but I suspect that we can’t violate certain
moral laws that heredity has made part of our brain fibre, without
ultimate regret, even when we keep the world in ignorance. I suffered
horribly once, although I had not defied the conventions. But I think we
must have everything, or the large share of herself that Nature has
given each of us rebels,—in other words, the ideal is not complete.”

“When you are very much in love,” he said dryly, “you won’t analyse.”

Contrary to her habit, she remained in the wood for some time after he
left her. Suddenly she was aroused from her reverie by a peculiar heavy
sound, as of a man crawling. She listened intently, her hair stiffening:
the house was a quarter of a mile away. The sound continued steadily.
She sprang to her feet and fled from the wood. As she ran up the hill
beyond, she glanced fearfully over her shoulder. A man shot from the
lower edge of the wood and ran toward the stables.


                                  XVII

An hour after midnight Patience ran into Honora’s room and shook her
violently.

“Honora! Honora!” she cried, “something is the matter with Beverly. I
can’t wake him up.”

Honora stretched herself languidly. Her eyelids fluttered a moment, then
lifted. She said sleepily:

“What is it, Patience?”

“Beverly! Go to him—quick—while I wake up Mr. and Mrs. Peele, and send
for the doctor. He dropped his own morphine to-night, and he must have
taken too much.”

A few moments later there was an alarmed group of people at Beverly
Peele’s bedside, and the butler could be heard at the telephone
demanding the doctor.

Mr. Peele was in his pyjamas, and Patience struggled with an importunate
desire to tell him that his hair stood on end. Mrs. Peele’s back hair
was in a scant braid; the front locks were on pins. Her skin looked
pallid and old. Honora, as usual, looked like a vision from heaven. Hal
and her husband were in Newport, and there were no guests at Peele
Manor.

“Are you sure,” asked Mr. Peele, as precisely as if his hair was parted
in the middle and plastered on each side, “that anything is the matter?
Does not the morphine always put him to sleep?”

“Not at once. You see he takes it internally, and it’s twenty minutes or
half an hour before it takes effect. During that time he always groans,
for he never takes it until the last minute. I heard him get up and
return to bed; and then I knew something must be the matter because he
was so quiet—”

“How could you let him drop it himself?” exclaimed Mrs. Peele,
passionately. “How could you? What are you here for?”

“I offered to drop it for him, but he wouldn’t let me. I didn’t insist,
as he always put it off—and we had had a quarrel—”

“My poor son!”

“Well, something’s got to be done,” said Mr. Peele. “I don’t like the
way he’s beginning to breathe. There are one or two things we can do
until the doctor comes.”

He raised Beverly’s arms above the head, brought them down and pressed
them into the chest, repeating the act twenty or thirty times. Beverly
meanwhile was breathing stertorously.

“Can’t I do something?” cried his mother, distractedly.

“I think we had better walk him,” said Mr. Peele, whose mouth was
tightening. “Call Hickman.”

The butler was waiting in the hall, and came at once. He helped Mr.
Peele to lift the young man from the bed. The stalwart figure hung
limply between them: he was as collapsed as the new dead. Mr. Peele and
Hickman walked him up and down the long line of rooms, shaking him
vigorously from time to time; but they would have produced as much
effect upon the bolster. Mrs. Peele had sunk into a chair. She sat with
compressed lips, and dilating eyes fixed upon Patience. Honora knelt
beside her, patting her hand. After a time she arose, liberated Mrs.
Peele’s hair from its braid and steels, and arranged it with deft hands,
fetching some of her own amber pins.

Patience sat on the edge of the bed. She was beginning to feel
hopelessly sleepy. The day’s excitement had sapped her nerves. It was
now nearly two o’clock, and she had not slept. Beverly had been ill the
night before and given her little rest. She felt bitterly ashamed of
herself; but every few moments she was obliged to cover her face with
her handkerchief to conceal a yawn. Once or twice her head dropped
suddenly.

The last time she sat up with a gasp. Mrs. Peele groaned. The two men
had entered with their burden. Beverly’s face was blue, and he breathed
infrequently.

“His body is bathed in a cold perspiration,” said Mr. Peele. “Will that
doctor never come?”

“O my God!” murmured Mrs. Peele.

Patience left the bed and sat on the sill of the window. The night was
very hot and still. A shuddering horror took possession of her. A
palpable presence seemed skimming the dark gulf under the window. She
sat with distended eyes, half expecting to see a long arm reach past her
and pluck the soul from the unconscious man on the bed. She closed her
eyes and put her fingers in her ears. When she removed them she drew a
long breath.

“The doctor is coming,” she said. “I hear the wheels.”

“Did you make him understand what was the matter?” asked Mr. Peele of
the butler.

“Yes, sir. He said he would bring everything necessary.”

When the doctor came in he bent over the sick man and lifted his
eyelids.

“It is morphine poisoning, sure enough,” he said. “Have some black
coffee made. I shall use the electricity meanwhile. Better telegraph to
New York. I don’t like this case, and don’t want it alone.”

Patience watched them mechanically for an hour, then slipped into her
own room and into her bed. Nature had conquered her. Another moment, and
she would have fallen to the floor in sleep.

Four hours later she was awakened by a vigorous shaking of her shoulder.

She sat upright and glanced about wildly. “What is it? What is the
matter?” she cried. “I had such a horrible dream. I thought Beverly was
drowning me—holding me down under the water—”

“Your husband is dead,” said the doctor. “Do you wish to go to him?”

Patience shrank under the bedclothes, pulling them about her head. After
the doctor had gone she ran over to a spare room, opened all the windows
to admit light, then went to bed and slept until late in the day.



                                 BOOK V


                                   I

The editor-in-chief of the New York “Eye” sat in the large
revolving-chair in his private room, dictating to a typewriter answers
to the great pile of letters on the desk before him. He opened one
letter after another with expert swiftness, glanced over it, gave it a
few lines of response, or tossed it, half read, into a wastebasket. But
although his heed to duty was alert, his brow was contracted, and he was
carrying on a double train of thought. The subconsciousness was not
pleasant.

Arnold Sturges was one of the most remarkable men in New York. Not
thirty-three, he had been editor-in-chief of one of the great newspapers
of the United States for a year and a half. He had elected journalism as
the safety-valve for a superabundant nervous energy and a means to
gratify ambition and love of power. Although possessed of a little
fortune he had begun his career on the city staff. As a reporter he had
worked as hard as if twenty-five dollars a week stood between him and
starvation. He had risen rapidly from one editorship to another, and
still no half naked man down in the printing-rooms worked more lustily.
His rushing career was by no means due to work alone, nor yet to his
superlative cleverness: it was said of him that he could smell news a
week off, and not only ahead but backward; by which was meant that he
knew the subtle and valuable relation that old news occasionally holds
to that of the moment. Naturally, he had made many brilliant and
memorable coups.

When friends had blocked his way he had thrust them aside as lightly as
he seemed to spurn less material obstacles. Body and brain he was the
dauntless servant of the “Eye;” its personality was his; his very nerves
were tuned to its sensational policy. He lived for it, and would have
died for it. He hardly regarded himself as an individual, although his
fine intellect, his bold executive ability, his splendid suggestions,
had been large factors in the success of the paper.

Cold, cruel, charming, calculating, enthusiastic, audacious,
unscrupulous, fearless, relentless, brilliant, executive, had he been a
factor in the French Revolution his name would have become infamously
immortal. As it was, he was supreme in the field he had deliberately
chosen ten years before, immediately after graduating from Harvard with
such honours that the faculty had sent for and severally congratulated
him upon his future.

He lived with a soubrette with whom he spent his evenings, playing
_parchisi_.

To-day he was in a serious quandary. Three days before he had paid
fifteen hundred dollars for a scandalous story relative to one of the
most fashionable families in Westchester County,—a story which bore
truth on the face of it, but which he had not yet published, as it was
necessary to go through the form of verification. The family meanwhile
had heard of the sale, and brought tremendous pressure to bear upon him
to suppress the story: the owner of the “Eye” was travelling in Europe.
Lawyers had called and harangued. A woman had gone to his apartment and
wept at his feet. A man had flourished a pistol. For tears and threats
he cared nothing, but it had occurred to him when too late that the
owner of the “Eye” purposed to build in Westchester County and had
aspirations to the Country Club. Despite the fact that the story would
make the sensation of the day, the owner might be moved to fury. On the
other hand, he had paid fifteen hundred dollars for the facts, and must
justify himself. It was the first time in his career that he had made a
serious mistake, and he was in a cold rage.

The man would have given pleasure to a physiognomist; he was a type so
marked, so essentially modern, that an amateur could not have misplaced
him, as one easily could so commonplace a type as Beverly Peele. His
forehead was full and wide, his grey eyes piercing, restless, hard as
ice. The nose was finely cut, the mouth licentious, the face thin and
sallow. At each extremity of the jaw was an abnormal development of
muscle. His small thin figure was as lithe as a panther, and so crowded
with pure nerve force that it seemed to shed electricity. His attire was
fashionable and elegant. In flannel shirt and overalls he would still
have looked a product of the higher civilisation.

The door opened. He wheeled about with a frown, then smiled pleasantly.

“Oh, it’s you, Van,” he said. “I’ll be through in a minute. Sit down.”

The man that had entered bore so striking a resemblance to Sturges that
the two men might have been twins. He was, in fact, three years younger
than his brother. Yet there were some points of difference. Van
Cortlandt Sturges’ mouth was a straight line, his hair was many shades
lighter, almost flaxen, and he was several inches taller. But the
expression of the upper part of the two faces was identical. He, too,
had left Harvard with high honours, and ambition devoured him. Although
only thirty he was District Attorney of Westchester County. But as yet
his fame had not gone beyond its borders, although within them his dry
incisive bitter eloquence had carried many juries. Criminals in their
cells thought on him with terror. He had sent several men to the chair,
but no man that had been defended by Garan Bourke. People said of him
lightly that he would not go out of his way to be President of the
United States until he had thrashed Bourke on his own ground.

“I’d like ten minutes as soon as possible,” he said. “I have an
important communication to make.”

“I’ll hear it now.” To the typewriter: “You can go. Don’t return until I
ring, and tell Tom to stand in front of the door and admit no
one.—Well, what is it?”

“Have you made up your mind to publish that Westchester County scandal?”

“How do you know anything about that?”

“They sent for me yesterday and besought me to use my influence with
you. I am engaged to the woman’s sister.”

“The devil you are! This is bad—bad. But I can’t do anything. I paid
fifteen hundred dollars for that story.”

“I know you did. If I could give you a better, would you let that go?”

“Wouldn’t I? It’s a white elephant. I thought you didn’t know me so
little as to come here with sentiment. Fire away.”

“Of course you remember the Gardiner Peeles, although you never go
anywhere. You went to one or two children’s parties there when you were
a kid. Well, Beverly Peele died suddenly night before last, supposedly
of an overdose of morphine administered by himself. Now, old Lewis, the
family physician, is a great friend of mine, and likely to be
communicative in his cups. Last night he dined with me, and after he was
pretty well loaded told me a remarkable yarn. It seems that Mrs. Beverly
had not been on good terms with her husband since the early days of
their marriage, and had threatened to leave him from time to time. He
treated her well, and was desperately in love with her. She, as far as
is known, had nothing against him but personal dislike. She is said to
have frequently expressed hatred of him in violent terms. Well, winter
before last she left him, came to New York, and went to work on the
‘Day.’ The Peeles did everything to induce her to return, but she only
consented to go back temporarily this summer to nurse her husband, who
had been attacked with a chronic but not immediately fatal complaint.
Meanwhile it seems she had fallen in love with some one, and she met him
every Thursday in a wood. Jim, a stable boy, who had been brought up on
the place and was devoted to Beverly Peele, watched her, but said
nothing to his master, as he was cautiously waiting for some proof of
criminality. On the afternoon of Peele’s death there was a tremendous
scene between the lovers: young Mrs. Peele telling a furious story of
her husband’s refusal to give her divorce, of his threat to have her
watched, to expose her if she took a lover, and to live until ninety if
he had to go abroad and live at a foreign spa. She reiterated that she
hated him, and had frequently had the impulse to murder him. The lover
invited her to go to Texas, and she demurred, as she disliked scandal.
Jim told this story to Lewis when driving him home from the
death-bed,—his own horse had cast a shoe,—and the doctor advised him
to keep quiet.

“The night after the interview between the lovers—or rather the
following morning—Peele died of an overdose of morphine. She says he
took it himself; but it is a remarkable fact that never before—not in a
single instance—had he dropped the morphine himself. He had had a nurse
from the first, and when the pain was on he shook like a leaf. And
yet she asserts that she did not drop it that particular night, and
adds—by way of explanation—that they had had a violent quarrel and
he had refused to let her wait on him. While he was dying and the
others were working over him, she behaved in the most heartless
manner,—deliberately went to bed in the next room and went to sleep.
When Lewis awakened her, however, and told her that Peele was dead, she
displayed symptoms of abject terror, and tore across the hall and locked
herself in another room. Now, what do you think of it?”

Sturges’ eyes were glittering like smoked diamonds. “My God!” he cried.
“That’s a grand story! a corker! I’ll have Bart Tripp, the best
detective reporter in New York, up there inside of two hours. Between
whiskey and gold he’ll get every fact out of the servants they’ve got.
It’s worth two of the other. A young, beautiful, swagger woman accused
of murdering her husband, and that husband a Peele of Peele Manor! The
‘Eye’ will be read in the very bowels of the earth.”

“And I shall conduct the case for the prosecution.”

“The ‘Eye’ will let people know it. Don’t worry about that. Does Lewis
remember that he told you?”

“Not a word.”


                                   II

On the following Sunday Patience arose early. Beverly had been in the
family vault down in the hollow for a week. She had wished to leave
immediately after the funeral, but had remained at the insistence of
Hal, who had returned at once, and was doubly depressed by her brother’s
death and the gloomy house. Mrs. Peele had gone to bed with a violent
attack of neuralgia some days ago, and had not risen since. Honora was
in constant attendance. Mr. Peele never opened his lips except to ask
for what he wanted. Burr, as a matter of course, spent the days in New
York or at a private club house in the neighbourhood.

Patience had moved into a room adjoining Hal’s. She kept the light
burning all night.

“I’ll be all right when I get back to New York,” she said, “but I have a
horror of death. I can’t help it.”

“Who hasn’t?” asked Hal. “I wish I were a man—or could be as selfish as
one.”

On this Sunday morning Patience rose after a restless night, and went
downstairs as soon as she was dressed. The “Day” and the “Eye”—Burr’s
favorite newspaper—lay on a table in the hall. She carried them into
the library and turned them over listlessly, then remembered that a
great Westchester County scandal had been promised for the Sunday “Eye”
by the issue of the day before, and that Hal and Burr were on the alert,
suspecting that they half knew the story already.

She opened the “Eye” and glanced at the headlines of the first page. In
the place of honour, the extreme left hand column, she found her story:

                             WAS IT MURDER?
              AN OLD MANOR HOUSE IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY MAY
                HAVE BEEN THE THEATRE OF A GREAT CRIME!
                A YOUNG WIFE SUSPECTED OF THE FOUL DEED!

Patience read ten lines. Then she stumbled to her feet, spilling the
papers to the floor. Her skin felt cold and wet, her knees trembled, her
hands moved spasmodically. Something within her seemed disintegrating.

She got to the door and up to her room. Aside from the horror which sat
in each nerve centre and jabbered, she was conscious of but one idea:
she must fly. She flung off her robe and put on the black frock she had
bought out of deference to the family’s grief. She scratched herself and
thrust the buttons into the wrong holes, but she could call no one to
her assistance. She was thankful it was so early; she could get away
without encountering any of the family. She was about to put on her
black bonnet when her muddled consciousness emitted another flash and
bade her disguise herself; detectives would have orders to search for a
woman in weeds. She tore off the mourning frock, dropping it to the
floor, and got herself into a grey one, then pinned on a grey hat
trimmed with pink flowers. She thrust a few things into a bag, and ran
down the stair. She reached the station in time to flag the 8.30 train
for New York. Some one else boarded the same train, but she did not see
him.

Having accomplished her flight, her thoughts travelled to the objective
point. Inevitably her woman’s instinct turned to the man whose duty it
was to protect her. She convinced herself femininely that if she could
reach him all would be well; he not only loved her, but he was so
amazingly clever.

At the station in New York she walked deliberately to a cab and gave the
man Morgan Steele’s address. She looked neither to the right nor to the
left, consequently did not see that the man who had boarded the train at
Peele Manor stood at her elbow when she gave the order, and followed her
immediately.

When the cab reached the house in which Morgan Steele lived, she
dismissed it and ran up the steps. She rang again and again, pacing the
narrow stoop in an agony of fear and impatience. At the end of ten
minutes an irritable half dressed Frenchman came shuffling down the
stairs. There were no curtains on the door, and the man’s expression
struck new terror to her heart.

“What is it?” he asked surlily, as he opened the door.

“I—I—must see Mr. Steele.”

“Mr. Steele is asleep. He does not receive visitors at this hour.”

“I must see him.” Her cheeks were flaming under the man’s scrutiny.
“Here,” she opened her purse and gave him a bill, then pushed him aside
and ran upstairs. She remembered that Steele had told her that his rooms
were on the second floor, front. The halls were as dark as midnight. She
had to feel with her hands for a door. There was one at the end facing
the hall. She knocked so loudly that Steele sprang out of bed.

“What is it?” he cried.

“It is I. Open the door—quick!”

Steele made no reply until he opened a door at the side of the hall. He
had tied himself into a bath robe.

“Good heavens!” he said, “why have you come here? Are you mad?”

“Oh, I think I am. Lock the door—quick. Oh, haven’t you heard? Didn’t
you know about it before? The ‘Day’ is right next door to the ‘Eye.’ Why
didn’t you warn me?”

“What on earth are you talking about? What has happened? Do sit down and
calm yourself.”

“The ‘Eye’ is out with a big story that I murdered Beverly Peele. That
is what is the matter.”

“What? Oh, you poor child! The damned rascals! But you shouldn’t have
come here. Don’t you know that the ‘Eye’ will watch every move you make?
It takes the clever woman to do the wrong thing, every time!”

He went to the window and peered out, then clenched his teeth, and
raising his arm brought it down violently.

“They can’t put me in prison, can they?”

He pressed his finger to a bell. “I must read what they have to say.
They are very wary, and never would have printed such a story unless
they had had a good deal of circumstantial evidence. But they will need
a terrible lot to convict you. Don’t worry.”

“Oh, how can you be so cool?”

“Some one has to be cool, my dear girl. If you cannot think I must think
for you.” A man has not much sentiment at that hour of the morning;
still, Steele had sympathy in his nature, and was profoundly disturbed.

The servant came up with the newspapers, and Steele ordered coffee and
rolls from the restaurant below. He threw himself into a chair, opened
the “Eye,” and read the story through deliberately, word for word, while
Patience walked nervously up and down the room. When he had finished he
laid the newspaper on the table.

“It’s a damned bad case,” he said.

“You don’t believe I did it, do you?”

He looked at her for a moment with his peculiarly searching gaze. “No,”
he said, “you didn’t do it. You’d be even more interesting if you had.
But that’s not the question. We’ve got to make others believe you didn’t
do it. The first thing for you to do is to go directly back to Peele
Manor. Tell them you came up to see Miss Merrien and to engage rooms.
Anything you like—only go back there and wait. If you are arrested, it
must be from there, and there must be no suggestion of fear on your
part—you must brace up and carry it off.”

The waiter entered with the coffee and rolls, and Steele made her drink
and eat.

“It is 9.45,” he said. “You can catch a train that goes between ten and
eleven.”

When Patience had finished she drew on her gloves. “I’ll go,” she said,
“and I’ll try to do as you say. I’ve made a fool of myself, but I won’t
again—I promise. I can be as cold as stone, you know. That’s the New
England part of me. And so long as I know that you care I sha’n’t break
down—in public at least.”

“Oh, I care fast enough—poor little woman. Here, leave that bag, for
heaven’s sake. You mustn’t go back with that.”


                                  III

When Patience arrived at Peele Manor she knew before she reached the
house that her story had been read and told. The gardener turned on his
heel as she passed him and walked hastily away. A new stable boy stared
at her until she thought his eyes would fly from their sockets.

As she entered the front door, Hal ran forward and threw her arms about
her.

“Oh, Patience! Patience!” she sobbed hysterically. “That brutal paper!
How could they do such a thing? Have they no heart nor soul?”

“You don’t believe it then?” said Patience, gratefully.

“Of course I don’t believe it—believe such a thing of _you_! Oh, I’m so
glad you’ve come back. They were all sure you’d run away; but I knew you
hadn’t. It is only the guilty that hide—But why on earth did you put on
that grey frock?”

“Oh, I don’t know. How can one know what one’s doing—What does your
father say?”

The girls were in one of the small reception-rooms. Hal removed
Patience’s hat and gloves.

“Oh, this has been the most terrible day of my life,” she said
evasively. “But you must be prudent, Patience dear. You must wear
black—What is it?”

A servant had entered the room.

“Mr. Peele would like to see Mrs. Beverly in the library!”

Patience rose and shook herself a little, as if she would shake her
nerves into place. Hal’s face flushed, and she turned away.

As Patience crossed the hall she met Latimer Burr. He held out his hand
and pressed hers warmly.

“This is terrible, Patience,” he said; “but remember that Hal and I are
always your friends. If the worst comes to the worst I’ll send you my
attorney. Remember that, and don’t engage any one else, for he’s one of
the ablest criminal lawyers in the country.”

“Oh, you are good!” she said. She smiled even through the grateful tears
which sprang to her eyes. Burr had grown a visible inch. His chest and
lips were slightly extended.

Mr. Peele sat in a large chair, his elbows on the arms, his finger-tips
lightly pressed together. As Patience stood before him she felt as if
transfixed by two steel lances.

“You murdered my son.”

“I did not.” Her courage came back to her under the overt attack.

“You murdered my son. The evidence is conclusive to me as a lawyer—and
to my knowledge of you. My error was that I regarded your threats as
feminine ravings. I wish you to leave my house at once—within the hour.
I shall not have you arrested, but if you are I shall appear against
you; and I have some evidence, as you will admit. You have dishonoured
an ancient house,” he continued with cold passion, “and you have left it
without an heir. Its name, after nearly three hundred years in this
country alone, must die with me. If you had borne a son I should move
heaven and earth to get you out of the country, but now I hope to heaven
you’ll go to the chair.”

Patience shuddered and chilled, but she answered: “You despised your
son, and you should be thankful that he left no second edition of
himself.”

“He was my son, and the last of his name. Now, kindly leave this house.”

Patience went up to her room and began to pack her trunk. Hal followed,
and when she heard what her father had said cried bitterly. She helped
Patience to pack, assisted her into the black clothes, then walked to
the station with her and stood conspicuously on the platform, waving her
hand as the train moved off.


                                   IV

Patience went directly to her old quarters in Forty-Fourth Street. She
told the cabman not to lift her trunk down until she ascertained if
there was a vacant room in the house. The bell was answered by a maid
that had been there in her time. The girl stifled a scream and fled.
Patience shut the door behind her with a hand that trembled again, and
went slowly upstairs to Miss Merrien’s room. A solemn voice answered her
knock. When she opened the door Miss Merrien sprang up and came forward.
Her face was drawn, her eyes were red.

“Oh, Mrs. Peele!” she cried.

“Do you believe it? If you do, I’ll go at once.”

“Of course I don’t believe it! How can you ask me? Sit down. How good of
you to come here. Tell me—are you terribly frightened?”

“No, I don’t think I am now. Why should I be? If I am so unlucky as to
have been tossed up in the news hat of the ‘Eye,’ I cannot help it; and
I suppose this is only the beginning. If I have to go to jail I have to,
and that is the end of it; but they cannot possibly convict me, for I am
innocent.”

“Oh, you always were the bravest woman I ever knew. It is like
you—Come.”

The door opened, and the landlady entered and closed it carefully behind
her. She was a tall thin elderly woman with a refined face stamped with
commercial unquiet. Her grey hair was piled high. Her voice was low, and
well modulated. She looked at Patience out of faded blue eyes in which
there was a faint sparkle of resentment.

“I see that you have a trunk on your cab, Mrs. Peele,” she said, “I am
very sorry that I have no room.”

“I had no intention of asking you for a room,” said Patience, haughtily.
“I merely came to call on Miss Merrien; and as I have only a few moments
to spare, I should be obliged if you would leave us alone.”

The landlady retired in disorder, and Miss Merrien exhausted her
vocabulary of invective.

“What is the use?” said Patience. “She is right. In the struggle for
bread and butter it must be self first, last, and always. If it were
known—as it would be—that I had been arrested from her house every
other lodger would leave. Well, I must go roof-hunting.” She laughed
suddenly. “If I do go to jail I suppose you’ll come to interview me. I
hope so. Good-bye.”

Miss Merrien, although not a demonstrative girl, kissed her
affectionately. “The ‘Day’ will defend you for all it’s worth—you know
that. And I needn’t say anything about myself.”

Patience told her cabman to drive to the Holland House, but when he
stopped there she did not get out. Reflection had convinced her that no
hotel in New York would take her in. She dared not give a false name
lest her motive should be misconstrued. She put her head out of the
window and gave the man Rosita’s address.

“There is no other way,” she thought. “I cannot live in a cab. Mrs.
Field would take me in, but I have no right to make such a test of
friendship as that.”

Rosita received her with open arms. She was looking very beautiful in
flowing nainsook and lace, and exhaled a new and delicious perfume.

“Patita! Patita _mia_!” she purred. “_Pobrecita!_ Who would have thought
that this would happen to my _lili_.” (Her accent was more pronounced
than ever.)

“Can I stay with you until they arrest me, or this blows over?”

“You shall stay with me forever. ‘Are we not bound by the ties of
childhood?’ That is a line in my new opera. Isn’t it funny? Ay, Patita,
I am so sorry.” And she sent down for the trunk and removed Patience’s
hat.


                                   V

The next morning Patience was awakened by Rosita’s ecstatic voice. She
opened her eyes to see her hostess standing at the bedside, the “Eye” in
her hand, her face radiant.

“Patita!” she cried. “Read it—there is a whole column about you and
me.”

Patience sat up in bed. “Is that why you were so glad to have me come
here?” she asked.

“Patita! Do not look at me like that. Oh, if I could only look that way
when I am stage mad!—but they always say I look like an angry baby. Of
course, that was not the reason, Patita _mia_; but it is heavenly to be
written about; do not you think so? And, of course, every new story
about me—and such a sensation as this—means a perfect rush—”

“Give me the paper, please.”

She read the column while Rosita pattered back to her room and ate her
dainty breakfast. Every move she had made on the day before was
chronicled. On another page an editorial commented on the facts of her
having visited a young man’s apartment, and finally taken refuge with
the notorious Spanish woman.

She dressed herself hastily in her black garments, and locked and
strapped her trunk. “I’ll go straight down and give myself up,” she
thought. “It’s what I ought to have done yesterday. It’s eleven o’clock.
I wish it were nine. Come.”

“Two gentlemen to see madame,” said the maid.

“What—who—what do they look like?”

“Like policemen, and yet not, madame.”

Patience gasped. Her knees gave way. Again she experienced that horrible
feeling of disintegration. Her untasted breakfast stood on a table by
the bed. She hastily drank a cup of black coffee, then walked steadily
to the drawing-room.

“You have come for me?” she asked of the men.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Where am I to go?”

“To the jail at White Plains, Westchester County. You are arrested on
charge of murder;” and he displayed the warrant.

Patience touched the bell button. “Take my trunk downstairs to the cab,”
she said to the butler. Then she stepped to the portières and said
good-bye to Rosita.

“She’s a cool one,” said one man to the other. “She done it.”

They went down in the elevator. As they left it, one of the men preceded
her, the other followed close. Both entered the cab with her. She felt
that they were regarding her with the frank curiosity of their kind, and
kept her eyes fixed on the street with an expressionless stare. On the
train they gave her a seat to herself, each taking the outside of
another, one before and one behind. The passengers did not suspect the
meaning of the party. She saw no one she knew. It was not the line that
passed Peele Manor. For small mercies she was duly thankful. She
guessed, however, that a meagre wiry black-eyed young man on the
opposite side of the aisle, a man with a mean sharp common face, was
Bart Tripp. He stared at her until she thought she should scream aloud,
or, what would be almost as fatal, relax the proud calm of her face. It
was with a sigh of profound relief that she stepped from the train at
White Plains.

“We won’t meet no one,” said one of the detectives, as they entered the
hack. “The sheriff’s got ready for you, I guess; he was wired yesterday;
but we took good care not to say what train we was coming on, so there
wouldn’t be no crowd. Feeling’s pretty high against you, I guess.”

As they drove through the ugly little town, Patience wondered why it was
called White Plains. She had never seen a more undulating country. One
or two of the environing hills were almost perpendicular. She also
noticed with the minute observance of persons approaching crises, that
the court house was a big handsome building of grey stone, and decided
that she liked its architecture. The extension behind, one of the
keepers told her, was the jail.

She was escorted before a police justice, who read the charge and
explained such privileges as the law allowed her; then to the sheriff’s
office, where she was registered. A crowd of men were in the office.
They watched her with deep but respectful attention, as she answered the
many questions put to her, but she managed to maintain her impassive
demeanour. There was a buzz of excitement by this time all through the
court house, and a little of it began to communicate itself to her. The
few that are sustained through life’s trials by public interest are
immeasurably fortunate. Before the sheriff—who could not have treated
her with more consideration were she a dethroned queen—had finished,
word had gone up into the court room, and a sudden trampling on the back
stair indicated that the case in hand had lost its interest.

“That’s all,” said the sheriff, hurriedly. “Guess you’d better get
along.—Tarbox,” he called.

A short stout man with a ruddy kind face came forward, offered Patience
his arm, pushed his way through the crowd of men in the hall, and led
her out of a back door and down a long yard beside the jail. At the end
of the building he inserted a key in a lock.

“Go right up, ma’am,” he said politely, and she ascended a narrow flight
of stairs. At its head he unlocked another door, and again they
ascended, again a door was unlocked. Then Patience stepped into a long
low clean well-lighted room. In the middle of its length was a stove
over which a kettle boiled. On a bench sat four women. At each end and
on one side were low grated windows. On the other side were a number of
grated doors.

The man led Patience to the upper end of the room and swung open the
door of the corner cell. It was a large cell, and had it not been for
the low window with its iron bars would have been in no wise different
from any room of simple comfort. A red carpet covered the floor. The bed
in the corner was fresh and spotless. The rest of the furniture was new
and convenient. There were even a large rocker and a student’s lamp.
Over the door a curtain had been hung.

“Why!” exclaimed Patience, “are all prison cells like this?”

“No, ma’am, they’re not; but you see when we have a lady—which isn’t
often—we do what we can to make her feel at home. We can’t afford to
forget that this is the swell county of New York, you know. And of
course you’re the finest person we’ve ever had. You’ll be treated well
here,—you needn’t worry about that. I’ll order one of them girls
outside to wait on you.”

“You are very good.” For the first time tears threatened.

“Well, I’ll try to be to you, ma’am. I’m John Tarbox, deputy sheriff,
jailor, warden, and all the rest of it. I shall look after you. I’ll
call twice a day, and anything you want you’ll get. If any of them
hussies out there get to fighting just sing out the window, and I’ll
lock them up.”

“You won’t lock me in?”

“Oh, no—there’s no need for that. This cell’s no stronger than the
whole place. Well, make yourself comfortable. I’ll send over to the
hotel to get a lunch for you. You must be hungry. Keep a stiff upper
lip.”

Patience, when she was alone, drew a long breath and looked about her.
The cheerful room, the unexpected kindness of the sheriffs, had raised
her spirits. She took off her hat and tossed it on the bed.

“I may as well take the situation humourously,” she thought. “It helps
more than anything else in life, I’ve discovered. This can’t last
forever, and they can’t convict me. The serious people of this world
have always struck me as being the most farcical. So here goes my ninth
or tenth lesson in philosophy. Such is life.”

After luncheon Mag, the improvised maid, unpacked the trunk and shook
out the pretty garments with many expressions of rapture. Patience gave
her a red frock, and the girl was her slave thenceforth.

The afternoon hours revolved like a clogged wheel in a muddy stream.
Excitement and novelty kept horror at bay, but she knew that it lurked,
biding its time.

When night came she lit the lamp and tried to read a magazine that
Tarbox had brought her; but it fell from her hands again and again. Her
ears acted independently of her will. She had never known so terrible a
stillness. The women had gone to bed at half past seven. No voice came
from the distant street. The silence of eternity seemed to have
descended upon those massive walls.

She was in jail!

She sprang to her feet, shuddering; then set her teeth and knelt by the
window.

The heat waves of August hid the stars. Beyond the jail-yard was a mass
of buildings, but no light in any window. Now and again a tramp came
forth from his quarters on the ground floor and strolled about the yard,
smoking his pipe; but he made no sound, and in his grey dilapidation
looked like a parodied ghost. One of the women cursed loudly in her
sleep, then collapsed into silence. An engine whistle shrieked,
hilarious with freedom, but the rattle of the train was too distant to
carry to straining ears.

She clutched the bars and shook them, then crouched, trembling and
gasping. She dropped forward, resting her face on her arms. Her fine
courage retreated, and mocked her. She had no wish to recall it. She
longed passionately for the strong arm and the strong soul of a man. The
independence and self-reliance which Circumstance had implanted, seemed
to fade out of her; she was woman symbolised. No shipwrecked mariner was
ever so desolate; for nothing in all life is so tragic as a woman forced
to stand and do battle alone.

It was only when she arose, shivering and exhausted, and groped her way
to bed, that it occurred to her that in those appalling moments she had
not thought of Morgan Steele.


                                   VI

In the morning she awoke with a start and a chill, and sprang out of
bed, governed by an impulse to fling herself against the bars. But sleep
had refreshed her, and she sat down and reasoned herself into courage
and hope once more. The tussle with the world develops the iron in a
woman’s blood, and Patience’s experiences of the last year and a half
stood her in good stead now. When the girl came in to arrange her room
and Tarbox brought her breakfast, the commonplace details completed her
poise. The morning mail brought her letters from Steele and Hal.

    DEAR GIRL [Steele’s ran],—You are blue and frightened and
    lonesome. I wish I were there to cheer you up. But the first day
    will be the worst. Remember that liberty is not far off. They
    cannot convict you. I shall see you a few hours after you get
    this.

                                                             M. S.

    Oh, Patience dear [Hal had written], it has come! I wish I could
    tell you how terribly I feel. But cheer up, old girl. It will
    come out all right—I know it will. Latimer is hustling me out
    of the country so I cannot appear as a witness—he says I would
    do you more harm than good. But he will stay and see you
    through. His attorney will call on you at once. I send you a box
    to cheer you up a little. Do write to me, and always remember
    that I am your sister

                                                              HAL.

The box arrived an hour later. It contained her silver toilet-set, and
all the paraphernalia of a well-groomed and pretty woman, a bottle of
cologne, a box of candy, eight French novels, a large box of handsome
writing paper, and a bolt of black satin ribbon. Patience arranged the
toilet-set on the bureau, halved the candy with the women, then sat down
with a volume of Bourget. When Tarbox came up an hour later with a card
she was still reading, and quite herself.

“Well,” he said, “I’m glad, I am, to see you so contented and so cool,”
he added, mopping his brow. “This gent is below. He says he’s one of the
lawyers in the case. I hoped you’d have Bourke. He’s the smartest man in
Westchester County! Shall I tell him to come up, or would you like to
see him down in the sheriffs office? Anything to please you.”

“Oh, here, by all means, if he doesn’t mind the stairs.”

Tarbox gazed at her admiringly. “Well, ma’am,” he ejaculated, “you are
cool, but I for one believe it’s the coolness of innocence. You never
did murder!” and he walked hastily away as if ashamed of his enthusiasm.

The lawyer’s card bore the name of Eugene A. Simms. He came up at once,
a short thick-set man of thirty, with a square shrewd dogged face, a low
brow, a snub nose, and black brilliant hard eyes. He came in with a
bustling aggressive business-like air, scanning Patience as if he
expected to find all the points of the case written upon her. Patience
conceived an immediate and violent dislike to him.

“Will you sit down?” she said stiffly. “You are Mr. Burr’s lawyer, I
believe.”

“Oh, no. That’s Bourke. He has charge of the case. I’m getting it up. I
shall attend the coroner’s inquest and get the case in shape for Mr.
Bourke to conduct.”

The blood rose to Patience’s hair and receded to her heart, which
changed its time; but she asked no questions.

Simms leaned forward and fixed her with his unpleasant eyes. “Be
perfectly frank with me,” he said, abruptly. “It’s best. We can’t work
in the dark. We’ll pull you through; that’s what we are here for.”

“You take it for granted that I am guilty, I suppose?”

“I’m bound to say that all the revealed facts point that way. But of
course that makes no difference to us. In fact, the harder a case is the
better Bourke likes it—”

“Does Mr. Bourke believe that I am guilty?”

“I haven’t discussed it with him. He merely called me in, put the facts
in my hands, and told me to go to work. I haven’t seen him since.”

“I will be perfectly frank with you,” said Patience, who had recovered
herself. “I did not murder Mr. Peele. I am not wholly an idiot. If I had
wished to poison him do you suppose I would have selected the drug I was
known to administer?”

“You might have done it in a moment of passion. You had had a quarrel
with him that night.”

“So much the more reason why I would not make such a fatal mistake. It
is quite true that when in a passion I frequently expressed the wish to
kill him. I will also tell you that one night when dropping the morphine
I was seized with an uncontrollable impulse to give him a double dose. I
dropped twenty-six drops. But fortunately it takes some time to do that,
and meanwhile the impulse weakened, and I anathematised myself as a
fool. No man nor woman of respectable brains ever made a mistake like
that.”

“What is your own theory?”

“I hardly believe that he committed suicide. I think that he was wild
with pain, and did not count the drops. He was probably half blind. On
the other hand, he was capable of anything when in a rage.”

Mr. Simms scraped the floor with his boot-heels and beat a tattoo on his
knee with his fingers. “Very well,” he said at last. “We take your word,
of course. Now tell me as nearly as you can, every circumstance of that
night, and give me a general idea of your relations with him and your
reasons for leaving him. It is going to be one of the biggest fights
this State has ever seen, and we want all the help you can give us.”

After he had gone Patience fell into a rage. Why had not Bourke come
himself instead of sending his underling? If he hesitated to meet her
after the abominable words he had used that second night at Peele Manor
why had he undertaken her case at all? Her pride revolted at the thought
of being defended by him, of owing her life to him. Once she was at the
point of writing him a haughty note declining to accept his services;
but Latimer Burr’s kindness deserved a more gracious acknowledgment.
Again, she took up her pen to inform him that unless he apologised he
must understand that she could have no relations with him; but her
lively fear of making herself ridiculous came to the rescue, and she
threw the pen aside. She resumed her novel, but it had lost its flavour.
Bourke’s face was on every page. The interview in the elm walk wrote
itself between the French lines; and the subsequent conversation in the
library danced in letters of red. She hated Bourke the more bitterly
because he had once been something more to her than any other man had
been. She worked herself into such a bad humour that she almost snubbed
Miss Merrien and a “Day” artist who came to interview and sketch her;
and when Morgan Steele arrived, late in the afternoon, she was as
perverse and unreasonable as if the widowed châtelaine of Peele Manor
with the world at her feet. He understood her mood perfectly, although
not the cause of it, and guyed her into good humour and her native sense
of the ridiculous.

“Oh, I do like you,” she said. “You understand me so. Any other man
would go off in a huff. And I won’t always be like this. I suppose I am
nervous and upset and all the rest of it. Who wouldn’t be? And you know
I am tremendously fond of you.”

“I know you are,” he said dryly. “As you will have ample time for
reflection and meditation in the next few months, you will find out just
how fond. But I am more glad than I can say to find you in this mood. It
is as healthy as irritability in illness. I am even willing to be
sacrificed.”

Patience put out her hand and patted his soft hair with a spasm of
genuine affection. “You are the dearest boy in the world,” she said,
“and I do love you. For all your uncanny wisdom and cold-blooded
philosophy you are just a big lovable good-natured boy.”

“Just the kind of fellow a woman would like to have for a brother, in
short.”

“No! No! I think it will be the most charming thing in the world to be
married to you. You are such a compound. You will interest me forever.
Most people are such bores after a little.”

“If you hadn’t started out in life with ideas upside-down, you would
really love me in loving me no more than you do now. But ideals and the
fixed idea have got to be worked out to the bitter end, as you are fond
of remarking. In reality, happiness means a comfortable state of affairs
between a man and a woman with plenty of brains, philosophy, and
passion, who are wholly congenial in these three matters, and have
chucked their illusions overboard. However, we won’t discuss the matter
any further at present. How do you like being the sensation of the day?”

“Am I?”

“Are you? Every newspaper in town had a big story this morning, and of
course the news has gone all over the country. Nothing else is to be
heard in the trains or in Park Row. Oh, you will have plenty to sustain
you. Lots of women would give their heads to be in your place.”

He dined with her and remained until eight o’clock. After he had gone,
Patience sat for some time lost in a pleasurable reverie. He always left
her in a good humour, and she unquestionably loved him. Few women could
help loving Morgan Steele. She sighed once as she reflected that love
was not the tremendous passion she had once imagined it to be; in all
her dreams she had never pictured it as a restful and tranquillising
element; but she conceded that Steele’s philosophy was correct.

And if he did not inspire her with a mightier passion it was her fault,
not his. Miss Merrien had told her of one brilliant newspaper woman who
had made a wilful idiot of herself on his behalf, and of a popular and
gifted actress who at one time had taken to haunting the “Day” office,
much to the enjoyment of his fellow editors and to his own futile wrath.

“No,” she thought, “I made a mistake once, and the shock was so great
that it either benumbed or stunted me; or else the imaginary me was
killed and the real developed. And after such a marriage I doubt if
there are depths or heights left in one’s nature.”

Then her mind drifted to her predicament, and she wondered that the
workings of fear had so wholly ceased. “I suppose it is because that man
is going to defend me,” she said, ruthlessly, at last. “They say he
could save a man that had been caught driving a knife into another man’s
heart with a hammer; so it is quite natural that I should feel safe.”


                                  VII

The next day a box of books and periodicals arrived from Steele. Rosita
thoughtfully subscribed to a clipping bureau, and sent Patience daily a
heavy package of “stories,” editorials, and telegrams of which she was
the heroine. Patience became so bewildered over the contradictory
descriptions of her personal appearance, the various versions of her
marital drama, the hundred and one theories for the murder and defence,
the ingenious analyses of her character, and the conflicting information
regarding her girlhood, that she wondered sometimes if a person could
come forth from the hands of so many creators and retain any original
birthmarks. The “Eye” telegraphed to its correspondent in San Francisco
to investigate her childhood, and the correspondent evidently
interviewed all her old enemies. Her mother’s happy career was detailed
with glee, and her own “sulky, moody, eccentric, murderous propensities”
were brilliantly epitomised. The story was entitled “She Tried To Murder
Her Mother,” and the “Eye’s” perfervid joy at this discovery throbbed in
an editorial.

The story was copied the length and breadth of the United States; but it
is only fair to add that Mr. Field’s eloquent leaders in her defence
were as widely quoted.

Miss Beale came to see her at once, and after a few tears and an
emphatic warning that “this terrible ordeal was the logical punishment
of her blasphemy of and disrespect to the Lord,” announced her intention
to sit by her during the trial, and let the jury see what a president of
the W. C. T. U. thought of a prisoner whose life was in their hands.
Patience told her that she loved her, and indeed was deeply grateful.

She spent her mornings reading the newspapers and attending to her
correspondence. Tarbox always paid her a short call, and usually
discoursed of Garan Bourke, whom he admired extravagantly. For a half
hour before luncheon she permitted her fellow prisoners to sit before
her in a wondering semi-circle while she manicured her nails and drew
vivid word-pictures of the superior comforts incident upon the
resignation of alcohol. With the exception of Mag they were
weather-beaten creatures, with hollow eyes and weak pathetic mouths.
They admired Patience superlatively. She was touched by their devotion,
and occasionally read them the funny stories in the illustrated
weeklies. They listened with open mouth and voiceless laughter, which,
however, expressed itself vocally when the stories were told in Irish or
German dialect. Patience gave them the papers, and they pasted the
pictures on the walls of the corridor. Never before had the female ward
of the White Plains Jail presented so festive an appearance. When the W.
C. T. U. ladies came to sing to the prisoners they were inclined to be
horrified; but Patience assured them that love of art, however
manifested, was a hopeful sign.

She was very comfortable. She had saved a thousand dollars,—to be
exact, Miss Merrien had saved them for her,—and she could command all
the small luxuries of prison life. The ugly walls of her cell had been
draped with red cloth, and a low bookcase was rapidly filling with the
literature of the moment. She would never have consented to save those
thousand dollars had not Miss Merrien represented that by judicious
economy she could manage to spend every third year abroad. They did her
good service now; she could accept great favours, but not small ones.
Graceful tributes were to be expected by every charming woman; but if
she had been dependent upon friends for the small comforts of her daily
life she would have gone without them.

The W’s and Y’s of Mariaville forgave her, and brought her flowers,
tracts, and spiritual admonitions. She received the former with
gratitude and the latter with grace. Miss Merrien came as often as her
duties permitted, and so did all the other newspaper women she had ever
known or heard of. She was interviewed for nearly every newspaper in the
Union, and in most cases treated with sensational kindness. Many
strangers and a few old friends called.

Steele came regularly once a week. He dared not come oftener. The “lover
in the case” was still a mystery, and it was as well that he should
remain so. Five other newspaper men lived in his house; therefore
Patience’s visit had told Bart Tripp nothing beyond the fact that she
had indubitably called on a young man at his apartments at a quarter
past nine in the morning.

But despite the fact that much of her time was occupied Patience grew
very restless and nervous, after the novelty wore off. She spent hours
pacing up and down the corridor, and every evening after dark Tarbox
took her out in the jail-yard for a walk; but she had been used to long
walks and hours in the open air all her life, and no woman ever lived
less suited to routine and restraint of any sort. Fear did not return,
although the coroner’s jury had pronounced her guilty and she had been
indicted by the Grand Jury.


                                  VIII

When the dark days of winter came little light struggled through the low
grating, and she was obliged to keep her lamp burning most of the time.
Steele sent her one with a rose-coloured shade which shed a cheerful
light but hurt her eyes. When the storms began visitors came
infrequently. Moreover, as public interest cannot be kept at concert
pitch for any length of time, there was less and less about her in the
newspapers. Steele, who understood the intimate relationship between
public interest and the resignation of a prisoner, assured her that when
her trial came off in March she would once more be the popular news of
the day.

At first the monotony of the long silent winter days was intolerable.
But gradually, by such short degrees, that she hardly realised the
change taking place within her, she grew to love her solitude and to be
grateful for it. For the first time since she had left Monterey her
hours were absolutely her own. She had longed for the solitude of a
forested mountain top. From her prison window she could see the naked
tops of a clump of trees above the buildings opposite, and even her
obedient imagination could not expand them to primeval heights; but at
least she had solitude and not a petty detail to annoy her.

She sometimes wondered if it mattered where one spent the few years of
this unsatisfactory life. Nothing was of permanent satisfaction.
Strongly as she had been infatuated with newspaper work the interest
would have lasted only just so long. She found her modernity slipping
from her, herself relapsing into the dreaming child of the tower with
vague desire for something her varied experience of the world had not
helped her to find. Inevitably she came to know herself and the large
demands of her nature, and as inevitably she said to Morgan Steele one
day,—

“I think you have known all along that it was a mistake.”

“Yes,” he said, “I have known it.”

“You have everything—everything,—good looks and distinction, brains
and modernity, magnetism of a queer cold sort, knowledge of women and
kindness of heart—I cannot understand. But the spark, the response, the
exaltation is not there,—the splendid rush of emotion. I love you, but
not in the way that makes matrimony marriage.”

He looked at her with his peculiar smile, an expansion of one corner of
his mouth which gave him something of the expression of a satyr. “You
were badly in need of a companion, and you found one in me. You wanted
to be understood, and I understood you. You wanted sympathy, and I
sympathised with you; but I am not the man, and I have never for one
moment deluded myself.”

“Then why would you have allowed me to drift into matrimony with
you?—as I should have done if I had not come here.”

“Because the experiment would have been no more dangerous than most
matrimonial experiments. And it would have been very delightful for a
time.”

“I should have loved you a good deal,” she said musingly, “and habit is
a tremendous force. And I should never have permitted myself to
recognise a mistake again—if the decisive step had been taken. Tell
me—” she added abruptly, “do you believe that if I had married you that
you would always have loved me?”

“I certainly should never have been so unwise as to promise to, for that
is something no man can foretell. The chances are that I should not. All
phases of feeling are temporary,—all emotions, all desires, all
fulfilment. Life itself is temporary.”

“Should you have been true to me?”

“O-h-h, how in thunder can a man answer a question like that? That is
something he never knows till the time comes. If he is sensible he
wastes no time making resolutions, and if he is honest he makes no
promises.”

“You do not love me,” she exclaimed triumphantly.

“I am merely more honest, perhaps more analytical than most men,—that
is all. The man who swears he will love forever the woman that pleases
him most is simply talking from the depths of ignorance straight up
through his hat. No man knows anything—what he will do or feel
to-morrow. He knows nothing of himself until his time comes to die, and
then he knows blamed little.”

Patience shook her head. “I don’t know. You may be right in the
analysis, but I think you lose a good deal. Love may be a species of
insanity, but the man whose brain is crystal is not to be envied by the
man whose brain can scorch reason and thought at times. You may save
yourself heartbreak, but you miss heaven. If you are a type of the
future, woman will change too. Man has been at woman’s feet throughout
the centuries. You and your kind will place her on an exact level with
yourselves and teach her that love means a comfortable coupling of
personalities. Something primitive has gone out of you. You have every
ingredient in your make-up except love. Liking and passion don’t make
love. When it fades out of man altogether chivalry and homage will go
with it. You would do a great deal for me, but you are incapable of any
splendid self-sacrifice. You are entirely selfish, although in the most
charming way.”

“You are quite right,” he said smiling, “I have not much love in me;
just enough to make life a comfortable and pleasant sojourn, but not
enough to induce a regret were I obliged to toss it over to-morrow—”

“Nor to make it a life of bitter misery did I leave it.”

“No—to be perfectly frank I should not be bitterly miserable. I should
regret—but I should work and readjust myself. I have never yet given a
glance to the past. I give few to the future. No man gets more out of
the present—”

“I won’t be loved like that,” said Patience, passionately.

He leaned forward and took her hand, patting it gently. “You have depths
and heights in your nature which I fully appreciate but which I could
never stir nor satisfy,” he said. “Some man will. It won’t be all that
you expect—you have too much imagination—but you will have your day.
With your nature that is inevitable. I am sorry to give you up. You are
the most delightful woman I shall ever know. And if you had married me
things would probably have gone along satisfactorily enough. I should
have kept your mind occupied and talked to you about yourself—those are
the secrets of success in matrimony.”

“Marriage with you would be like playing at matrimony. I want a home and
husband and children. I have seen enough to know that unless one is a
fanatic like Miss Tremont or Miss Beale, or the temporary result of a
new and forced civilisation like Hal, or a mercenary wanton like
Rosita—in short, if one is woman _par excellence_, and most of us,
clever or otherwise, even gifted, usually are, nothing else is worth the
toil and perplexity of being alive. But you mustn’t leave me,” she added
hurriedly; “I can’t stand it here if you don’t come to see me.”

“I shall come exactly as I have done. Why not? Our love-making has
barely progressed beyond friendship: we shall hardly recognise any
change. I should feel lost if I could not have a talk with you once in a
while. I intend to have that for the rest of my life. It isn’t usually
the man that proposes the brother racket, but I merely define the basis
upon which we have really stood all along.”

After he had gone Patience drew a long sigh of relief. The first
terrible mistake of her life was buried with Beverly Peele. A second had
been averted. Something seemed rebuilding within her: the undeflected
continuation of the little girl in the tower. For the first time she
understood herself as absolutely as mortal can; and she paid a tribute
to the zigzag of life which had helped her to that final understanding.


                                   IX

On the third of February she received a letter, the handwriting of whose
address made her change colour: she had seen it once on Mrs. Peele’s
desk. It was the first communication of any sort that she had received
from the man who was to defend her life. She opened the letter with
angry curiosity.

    MY DEAR MRS. PEELE, [it read],—You will pardon me I am sure for
    not having called before this when I tell you that I have had a
    rush of civil cases which have hardly given me time for sleep
    and have kept me constantly in New York. And of course you have
    understood that there was really nothing I could do until my
    able confederate, Mr. Simms, had gathered in and digested all
    the facts in the case. Now, however, I am free, and the time has
    come when I shall be obliged to see you twice a week until the
    first of March. I have worked the harder in order to be at
    liberty to devote myself wholly to your case. Need I add how
    absolute that devotion will be, my dear Mrs. Peele, or how
    entirely every resource I possess shall be at your service?

    At two o’clock on Monday I shall be in the sheriff’s private
    office with Mr. Simms and my assistant, Mr. Lansing. Will you
    kindly meet us there?

    With highest regard, I am, dear Mrs. Peele,

                                             Yours faithfully,
                                                     GARAN BOURKE.

Patience read this carefully worded epistle twice, then laughed and
shrugged her shoulders.

“I am glad he has declared himself,” she thought. “Of course I should
have ignored the past, but it is a relief to think that there will be no
awkwardness.”


                                   X

On Monday at two o’clock Tarbox came up to her cell to escort her down
to the sheriff’s office.

“Bourke’s there, and I never saw him looking better,” he said, rubbing
his hands. “Oh, he’ll pull you through. Don’t you worry.”

Patience was very nervous, but her years of self-repression and her
experience at Peele Manor had forged a key with which she could at times
lock nerve and muscle into subjection. As she entered the sheriff’s
office she smiled upon Mr. Bourke as graciously as any young and
beautiful woman would be expected to smile upon a great lawyer enlisted
in her service.

Bourke came forward with the same ballast, although the red was in his
face.

“It was better for you to come down here,” he said. “There could be no
privacy in your cell, and we must have absolute privacy for these
meetings. Of course you know that we are going to rehearse you. Mrs.
Peele, this is my assistant, Mr. Lansing.” He indicated a good-looking
well-dressed young fellow, with boyish blue eyes and a tilted nose. She
liked him at once and gave him her hand. Mr. Simms had risen as she
entered, and they had nodded distantly.

“Take this chair, Mrs. Peele,” continued Bourke. “Yes. This is the first
of many rehearsals. We shall keep them up until the trial. You will
imagine yourself on the witness stand. Mr. Simms, whom, fortunately, you
don’t like, is the district attorney, Lansing is the judge, I am the
counsel for the defence. I shall make the direct examination, and then
Mr. Simms will cross-examine you with all the subtlety, the venom, and
the irritating minutiæ of a district attorney determined to make himself
immortal. I think we have outlined with reasonable completeness all that
will or can be asked you, so that you can hardly be taken off your
guard: you must be prepared to give direct answers without suspicious
promptness, and avoid saying anything that could be misconstrued.”

“Must I go on the stand?” asked Patience, fearfully. “I thought one was
not obliged to, and I shall be so nervous.”

Bourke shook his head emphatically. “The judge might reiterate a hundred
times to the jury that your failure to go on the witness stand should
not be counted against you, and still it would count—more than
anything. It is something a jury never overlooks. These rehearsals are
to keep you from being nervous, as much as anything else.”

“Do you believe I am innocent?” asked Patience, giving way to an
uncontrollable impulse.

“I do—both personally and professionally.”

Simms laughed. “Bourke is so enthusiastic,” he said, “that if he had
made up his professional mind that you were innocent, the personal would
follow suit.”

“No, but I do,” said Bourke, laughing, and looking at Patience with eyes
which for the moment were more kind than keen. “Now, here goes.”

When the two hours’ rehearsal were over she was very pale. “I did not
know the case could look so black,” she said.

“It is a black case,” said Simms.

“Do you really take so much interest?” she asked Bourke, curiously. “You
make me feel as if the issue were yours and not mine. Or is that only
your professional pride?”

“Bourke is the most ambitious man at the New York bar,” said Simms.

“And the most human,” added Lansing.

Patience smiled at the young man and turned to Bourke, whose eyes were
twinkling. “I take a very deep personal interest in your case,” he said
gallantly.

“Bourke is an Irishman,” said Simms, with sarcasm.

“We’ll excuse you,” said Bourke. “You know you have business with
Sturges,” and Simms gathered up his papers and retired, followed by
Lansing. As the door closed Bourke’s face changed. He became serious at
once.

“Mrs. Peele,” he said, “it would be foolish and unkind to conceal from
you the fact that you are in a very grave position. I have never known a
more damaging chain of circumstantial evidence. The only jury we can
possibly get together, the only men in Westchester County who will know
nothing about the case, will be farmers and small tradespeople. These
men are narrow minded, unworldly, religious, bigoted people who will
look with horror upon a woman accused of murder; who will be surlily
prejudiced against you because you did not love your husband, and
because you left him; and above all they are likely to think you should
be executed if for no other reason than because,”—He hesitated. The
blood came into his face. “Tell me, is it true? I don’t believe it. I
can’t believe it—”

“That I had a lover? No, I did not have a lover. If that spy reports
exactly what he heard, he must himself prove that I did not. I liked—I
do like—a man, a former editor of mine, immensely. At that time I
believed myself in love with him; but I was as mistaken as I suppose all
impulsive and mentally lonely people are once or oftener in their
lifetimes. Although he visits me now we have come to a complete
understanding. I shall not marry him.”

Bourke looked at the floor for a moment. “Yes,” he said finally. “Yes.
That is a great point, of course. Well—as a rule I can do anything I
like with a jury in Westchester County; I know and have known for twenty
years almost every man within forty miles; but we shall have to go out
into the highways and byways for talesmen: your case has attracted
almost universal attention. It is just possible, therefore, that the
jury may convict you—Don’t be frightened—Don’t look like
that—please!—If that happens I shall take the case to the General
Term, and failing that, to the Court of Appeals. One way or another I
shall get you off—I pledge you my life on that,” he added vehemently.
“Will you put your faith in me and keep up?”

“I am sure no woman could help it,” said Patience, smiling graciously.

That night, somewhat to her amusement, she thought on Bourke with a
certain sweet tremor until she fell asleep. She did not yet love him,
but he satisfied her imagination; and he was the first man that ever
had.


                                   XI

Patience was rehearsed eight or ten times, Mr. Simms cross-examining by
a different method upon each occasion, racking his brain for new points
with which to confound her. She began to feel quite at ease on the
witness stand, and equal to the coming tilt with the district attorney.
Aside from a natural nervousness she felt no fear of the approaching
crisis, rather an excited interest. The papers were booming her again,
and she would have been less than American had she not appreciated her
position as heroine of the most sensational drama of the day.

In the last week of February, however, she received information which
induced her first misgiving: Miss Beale was down with pneumonia. That
superlatively healthy person loved fresh air only less than she loved
the Lord, and slept with her windows open in mid-winter. Despite habit
she invariably caught cold when travelling, as the one window of a small
sleeping-room was likely to be at the head of her bed. She had defied
Nature once too often.

When Patience told Mr. Bourke of Miss Beale’s illness, the red streaked
his face, as it had a habit of doing when he was disturbed. They were
alone in the office.

“Will it make much difference?” she asked anxiously.

“Oh, no, I hope not; only she would have been a great card. She is known
and respected throughout the county, and I should have dinned her in the
ears of the jury. But you should have some woman with you. Is there no
one else?”

Patience shook her head. “No one that would be of use. I have few women
friends. Women don’t like me much, I think. Mrs. Burr was my most
intimate friend, but her husband naturally wanted to keep her out of the
affair, and sent her off to Europe.”

“It is odd. I cannot think of you as friendless. You attract and
antagonise more strongly than any one I ever saw.”

He was staring hard at her, and she turned her head away, colouring
slightly. It was the first time they had been alone since the initial
rehearsal, although he and the other lawyers had often lingered, after
business was over, to talk with her. Apparently she and he were the best
of friends, and their former acquaintance had not been recognised by a
glance.

“I wonder if we really are friends,” he said abruptly, then shook his
shoulders slightly, as if, having made the plunge, he would not retreat.

Patience beat her fingers lightly on the desk, but did not turn her face
to him.

“Our relationship is very agreeable,” she said coolly. “I am delighted
that Mr. Simms, for instance, is not my counsel.”

There was a moment’s suggestive silence, and then he said: “I
understand. I can be nothing but counsel to you until I apologise. I
have not done so before because there is no excuse to offer. I can only
explain: you had deceived and outwitted and made a fool of me, and I was
furious. Moreover, I was horribly disappointed. I am perfectly well
aware that all that is no excuse. I was bitterly ashamed afterwards, and
far more furious with myself than I had been with you. I have never
ceased to deplore it. We might at least have been friends—”

“Ah, you forgave me then?” asked Patience, looking at his flushed face
with a smile. He had never looked more awkward nor more attractive.

“Oh, yes; my offence was so much worse, you see, I had to.”

“Well,” she said, giving him her hand gracefully, “we will forgive each
other.”

He accepted her hand promptly and evinced no disposition to relinquish
it. “You are so cold, though,” he said ruefully. “Your forgiveness is
merely indifference. But of course,” hastily, “you are absorbed in much
weightier matters than friendship. I can imagine how insignificant all
other episodes of your past must seem—”

“Oh, if it were not for you I might have been here before to-day, and in
a much worse predicament. I doubt if I should have left him as soon as I
did if it had not been for your unpleasant truths. I was drifting, and
also drifting toward morbidity, where I might have been capable of
anything. If I had really killed him and been arrested I should have
said so, and even you could not have saved me.”

“Oh, it would have been easier: I could have got you off on the plea of
insanity. But am I really a link in the chain? I am egoistical—and
interested—enough to be—pleased.”

“Oh, yes,” she said, laughing a little. “You have had a good deal more
to do with forging some of the links than you imagine.”

His hand was beginning to tremble, and she withdrew her own. He did not
attempt to recapture it, and for a moment they regarded each other
defensively. He had avoided the mistake of mistakes for thirty-six
years, and the very flavour of romance about his experience with this
woman made him wary. She had been mistaken twice and had ordered her
imagination to sleep. Something within him pulled her, but none knew
better than she the independent activity of sex. Still, like all women,
fire was dear to her fingers. His eyes had a gleam in them which made
her experience keenly the pleasurable sensation of danger.

“Did you know that night that I had forgotten our conversation in the
tower?” he said, laughing uneasily. “Well, I will admit that I had, but
I certainly remember the conversation in the elm walk—every word of it.
It was a singular conversation,” he continued hurriedly. “I have not
found her yet, by the way. What is love, anyhow? Something always seems
to be lacking. I have wanted a good many women, but there were shallows
somewhere.”

Patience had taken a chair and was fanning herself slowly. She answered
with a judicial air, as of one deciding some abstract point to which she
had given exhaustive study: “The lack is spiritual emotion. People of
strong natures who are really in love are shaken by a passion that for
the time being demands no physical expression. It is only when it
subsides, in fact, that the other manifests itself. On the other hand,
the unimpassioned, the physically meagre, are incapable of even
imagining such an exaltation of emotion. It is the supreme convulsion of
mystery. And it must be impossible to feel it more than once in a
lifetime—for more than one person, I mean.”

“Have you ever felt it?” he asked abruptly. He was sitting opposite her,
his brows drawn together, regarding her intently. Her cool impersonality
nonplussed him.

“No.”

“Then how do you know?”

“From the organ. If one wants to read the riddle of human nature let him
listen to the organ for ten minutes. It lashes the soul—the emotional
nature—up to its utmost possibilities. One knows instinctively—that
is, if one is given to reasoning at all; for instincts are dead letters
without analysis—that only one other force can cause a mightier tumult,
a greater exaltation. Those that do not reason mistake it for a desire
to spread their wings and fly to the throne of grace.”

Bourke set his lips and looked at the floor. “Of course you are right,”
he said. “A man would never know that until he had felt it. It takes a
woman to divine it. Perhaps it is as well he doesn’t know it—there is
one disappointment the less in life if such moments never come to him;
and I doubt if they come to many. Either the savage is too strong in
most of us, or we never come within range of the responsive spark. I
have held that if there is any meaning at all in the progress of man out
of barbarism it is that he shall become a brain with a refinement and
intensity of passion which shall give happiness without disgust. But you
go beyond me.”

“Oh, we are both right,” said Patience, rising. “We are much better off
than our ancestors. I like so much to talk to you. When I am free you
must come to see me often.”

“I shall, indeed. How gracefully you fan yourself. I never saw any one
use the fan in exactly the same way.”

“I learned how from the old Spanish women in Monterey. They hold the
thumb outwards, you know. That makes all the difference in the world.
_Au revoir._”


                                  XII

The trial began on the eighth of March. Patience slept ill the night
before, and arose early. She looked forward to the day’s ordeal with
mingled nervousness and curiosity. Her faith in Bourke was complete, and
her mind was of the order that craves experience. She could not divest
herself of the idea that she was about to play the part of heroine in a
great human drama. And assuredly there has been no such theatre as the
court room since the world began.

She dressed herself with extreme care, in a tailor frock and toque of
black and white. The costume was becoming, but she shook her head at her
reflection in the mirror: hers was not the type of beauty to appeal to
the class of men in whose hands her life would be; rather they would
resent its cold pride, its manifest of race and civilisation. She
remembered her youthful satisfaction in the fact that “common men did
not like her.” Rosita or Honora would carry a jury by storm, but she was
too subtle to appeal to men outside of her own social sphere. Tarbox
liked her because she was game and dependent on him for comfort: it was
doubtful if he thought her pretty. He came up at ten minutes to ten. He
wore a new suit of clothes, and looked excited and impatient.

“There’s a lot of swells come,” he said without preliminary; “some from
New York and some from the county. We’ve got ’em up in the gallery, and
they look fine in their new spring clothes, I tell you. First time I
ever seen swells in this court house. I rather thought they didn’t go in
for that kind of thing.”

“They go in for fads, and you can as easily tell where lightning will
strike next as what will be the next fad to possess fashionable women.
Where is Mr. Bourke?”

“Up in the court room, I guess. Ready?”

A few moments later he led her up the stair at the back of the court
room. A crowd of men at the door parted to let her enter, staring at her
with eager curiosity. As she walked down the room to her seat beside her
counsel she was conscious of a deep level of men’s faces below and a
tier of high-bred faces and bright spring gowns in the gallery above.
She felt as if she were being shot upon a battery of eyes, and an
impulse to turn and run; she looked like a black and white effigy of
pride.

The large handsome room was tinted a pale blue and stencilled about the
mouldings. The Bench and panelling behind it, the desks and tables, were
of black walnut. Four long windows on each side of the room revealed the
naked trees of March and the cheerless landscape. On the right of
Patience’s chair was the empty jury box, before her the Bench. In the
space thus formed—flanked on the other side by the talesmen summoned
for the trial and at the back by the audience—was a right angle of long
study tables, three or four round tables, and many chairs. Every chair
was occupied. Writing pads lay on the smaller tables. Patience
recognised several of the reporters. By one of the long tables before
the jury box sat Bourke, Simms, and Lansing. The former whispered to her
that many of the men within the rail were eminent lawyers who had come
to hear the case tried.

The judge sat alone on the Bench: an old man with pink face and head and
neck, a close band of silver hair at the base of his skull. His face was
narrow, his upper lip long. On either side of his mouth was a deep rut.
The nose was coarse and strong, the eyes behind the spectacles
humourous, severe, and a little sly. His silver chin-tuft was shaped
like the queen of hearts.

Just below the Bench, beside one of the long tables, sat a man whom
Patience did not notice at once, but to whom, as the judge called the
court to order, she turned suddenly, conscious of a fixed gaze. He sat
with one arm along the table, the other hand absently rolling a piece of
paper. His narrowed eyes were regarding her with cold speculation.
Patience shuddered. She knew that he was Sturges, the district attorney.
Tarbox had told and retold the history of his jealousy of Bourke, and
his registered vow to win one of the great legal battles of which they
were occasionally chief combatants. And this was the greatest! The man’s
face was set. He looked like a fate.

The clerk called a name. A man shuffled into the jury box. Sturges stood
up and put the usual questions. He spoke with exaggerated courtesy.
Occasionally he smiled: a mechanical smile, as if an invisible string
connected each corner of his mouth with a manipulator at the back of his
head. His voice was soothing and cultivated, his manner almost
deferential to the humble man in the box. Patience followed every motion
and word with fascinated attention. When he asked the talesman if he had
“any conscientious scruples regarding capital punishment as practised in
this State,” she felt the touch of icy fingers and her feet slipping
into an open grave. Bourke, who divined her sensations, smiled
encouragingly; and after she had heard the question some fifty times,
she ceased to attach any personal meaning to it.

They were four days impannelling the jury. The first time Patience stood
up to face an accepted juror she regarded the hairy and ill-kept farmer
with such haughty and disdainful eyes that Bourke whispered hurriedly:
“For God’s sake don’t look at them like that or they’ll send you up out
of spite. Remember that this class of people is always at war with its
betters.”

“I can’t help it,” said Patience. “It’s humiliating to think of being at
the mercy of men like that.”

When the box was filled at last she regarded the occupants attentively.
They were hard-featured men of middle age, with long bare upper lip and
compressed mouth. Their grey skin was furrowed with lines of care and
hardship, their chin whiskers grizzled and scant. Their eyebrows stood
out over faded eyes in wrinkled sockets. But what excited Patience’s
wonder was the small size of the heads. She had never seen twelve heads
so little. They were hardly an advance upon their hairy ancestors.
Throughout the trial she furtively watched the twelve faces of those
twelve meagre heads. Never once did their expression, stolid and set,
change. At night they haunted her. She awoke in the morning with a
violent start, seeing them for a moment in a row on the foot board of
her bed. She speculated, at times, upon the lives of those men, those
pinched grubbing lives, and felt for them a sort of terrified pity. What
a mere glimpse of the world she had had, after all, and what ugly strata
it had! What was the matter with civilisation?


                                  XIII

On the fourth day the district attorney opened the case with an address
to the jury which was a masterpiece of temperate statement and damning
suggestion. He dwelt long upon the remarkable points of the case: the
youth and beauty and intelligence and social position of the defendant,
the distinguished family which had been plunged into sorrow and disgrace
by her crime, the extraordinary interest the crime had excited
throughout the civilised world. He then gave a running account, clear
and straightforward and decisive, of what the prosecution would prove,
and concluded with a cold, terse, but reiterated warning that the
prisoner at the bar was entitled to no sympathy because of her sex and
position; that he and the jury were there for one purpose only: to
consider the facts of the case and to do their plain duty, utterly
regardless of consequences to the individual. Every word was chosen and
weighed, and told like the ring of a steel hammer on a steel plate.

Dr. Lewis was then called to prove the fact of Beverly Peele’s death,
and his vigorous story weighed heavily in the scales against the
defence. The moment the district attorney sat down Bourke was on his
feet. For a moment he stood lifting and shaking the loose cloth of the
table beside him; then asked one or two random questions which put the
witness for the prosecution quite at his ease. In the course of a moment
the witness began to writhe, and at the end of five minutes manifested
his consciousness of the fact that he was a small country practitioner,
to be regarded by any intelligent jury with contempt. Nevertheless, it
was impossible to shake his testimony.

He was followed by the New York physician, a man of eminence, who had
assisted at the death-bed, then by the coroner. The fact of young
Peele’s death being firmly established in the jury box, a chemist was
put upon the stand to testify that he had found morphine in the stomach
of the deceased. He was worried and badgered and ridiculed and derided
by Bourke, who temporarily infected everybody in the court room with his
scorn of the exercise of chemistry as applied to morphine in the stomach
of a dead man, but held his ground, having been maltreated in a like
manner many times before. Following, came a civil engineer, who
described the grounds and general position of Peele Manor to the jury;
and the testimony for the day was over.

The next morning the prosecution passed on to the motive. Honora was the
first witness called. She wore a black frock and hat, and looked
dignified and sad. In her clear childlike voice she described to the
jury her moment of confusion and horror when awakened from a profound
sleep by the prisoner; told the mournful story of the unavailing
attempts at resuscitation; and hesitatingly admitted, in full detail,
the unmistakable indifference of the wife. To the latter testimony Mr.
Bourke “objected,” as he had done to similar testimony by the doctors,
but the objection was over-ruled by the judge. She also admitted having
seen from her window the defendant returning from town after her early
visit on the morning of the “Eye” story, inappropriately attired in grey
and pink, and having discovered the newspapers in confusion on the
library floor before any other member of the household except the
prisoner had arisen. She related Patience’s previous complaint that her
husband always waited until she was in her first heavy sleep before
demanding the morphine, and her fear lest she should some night give him
an overdose. The jury must have been small headed indeed, to fail to
understand the district attorney’s insinuations regarding the prisoner’s
deep-laid scheme to avert suspicion.

As Honora gave her testimony Patience saw Mr. Bourke’s eyes sparkle. She
knew that some pregnant idea had flashed into that lightning-like brain.
As the district attorney took his seat he rose slowly and smiled
sociably at Honora. She bent her head slightly; she had always liked
him.

“Miss Mairs,” he said haltingly, his eyes wandering to the judge, as if
in search of inspiration, his hand flirting the loose cloth of the
table, “you are sure that Mrs. Peele wore a gray gown to New York that
morning?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And the condition of the newspapers seemed to you to indicate great
agitation of mind?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yes, yes. And she returned in an hour or two, you say?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Miss Mairs!” he thundered, turning suddenly upon her and pointing a
rigid finger straight at her startled face, “are you sure that you were
asleep when Mrs. Peele awakened you on the night of Beverly Peele’s
death?”

Patience drew her breath sharply. She closed her eyes. Honora had not
been asleep that night! The certainty came to her as suddenly and as
positively as it had come to Bourke.

For the fraction of a moment Honora hesitated. Every man and woman in
the court room was breathless. Several had started to their feet.

“Quite sure,” she replied finally, and that silver shallow voice did not
falter.

“You are _sure_ that you heard no one go to the lavatory that night,
before Mrs. Peele spoke to you?” He hurled the words at her as the Great
Judge might hurl the final sentence on Judgment Day.

“Sure.”

“Was your door open that night?”

“I don’t remember.”

Patience leaned over and whispered to Lansing, who sprang forward and
whispered to Bourke.

“The night was hot,” continued Bourke. “Were you not in the habit of
leaving your door open on hot nights?”

“Sometimes.”

“Was it not always your custom?”

“Not always. When I thought of it I opened the door, but I frequently
forgot it.”

“Yes! Yes! You are quite sure you cannot remember whether or not it was
open on that night?”

“I cannot remember.”

“Do you remember any other nights on which Mrs. Peele went to the
lavatory to drop the morphine?”

“Yes, sir; a great many.”

“But of this all important night you remember nothing?”

“No, sir.”

“Yes! Mrs. Peele never was called upon to drop the morphine until after
twelve o’clock. Were you in the habit of lying awake until late?”

“Yes.”

“But on this night you went to sleep early?”

“Yes.”

“You heard or saw—you are on your oath, remember—nothing whatever
until Mrs. Peele called you?”

“Nothing.”

“You can go.—She is lying,” he whispered to Patience. “Damn her, I’ll
make her speak yet if I have to throttle it out of her.”

Mr. Peele was the witness next called. He was treated with extreme
diffidence by the district attorney, and even the judge gave him a
fraternal smile. He told the story of the momentous night with parental
indignation finally controlled, then, in spite of repeated “objections”
and constant nagging, the significant tale of wifely indifference and
desertion, and read to the jury “that cruel letter written to a dying
man” the day before the defendant returned to nurse her husband. He
repeated with the dramatic effect of the legal actor those dark
insinuations of the prisoner: “You had better let me go! I feel that I
shall kill him if I stay!” And later in the town house when she had
struck her husband in the face: “You had better keep him out of my way.
Do you know that once I tried to kill my own mother?”

He told of her eager interest in untraceable poisons one night when the
subject of murder had come up at the dinner-table, her cold-blooded
analysis of human motives.

Then he passed on to the painfully significant history of the day before
the death: her demand for a divorce; her fury at her husband’s refusal;
her acknowledgment that she had quarrelled violently with the deceased a
short time before calling the family to his death-bed.

As he spoke Patience’s blood congealed. The woman he depicted was enough
to inspire any jury with horror. It was herself and not herself, a
Galatea manufactured by a clever lawyer.

But it was Mr. Bourke’s privilege to give the Galatea a soul. Despite
the older man’s greater legal experience, his superior wariness and
subtlety, he was forced to admit that his son was a fool; that his son’s
wife was a woman of brilliant intellect driven to desperation at being
tied down to a fool; that so long as she had lived with him she had done
her duty; that when she had returned as his nurse she had fulfilled her
part of the contract to the letter; that never had she given her husband
cause for real jealousy; that the witness himself had made a companion
of her, and that he had been bitterly disappointed in his son.

The terrible facts could not be stricken out, but Mr. Peele,
nevertheless, was made to pass the most uncomfortable hours of his life.
“And in spite of these threats,” exclaimed Bourke, with the accentuation
of one addressing an idiot at large, “in spite of the precision with
which you remembered them, you permitted your family to implore her to
return and become your son’s nurse; you permitted her to sleep in a room
communicating with his, where, in a fit of passion—if she is the woman
you profess to believe her to be—she could have murdered him in the
dead of night with a carving knife or a hatchet, before any one—even
the lightly sleeping Miss Mairs—could have flown to the rescue; you
permitted her—” he turned suddenly and faced the jury, then wheeled
about and regarded Mr. Peele with scornful inquiry—“you permitted her
to drop morphine for your son, and to have unrestrained access to the
drug, knowing that he in his agony would swallow whatever she gave him
without question. Will you kindly explain to the jury whether this mode
of proceeding was ingenuousness on your part, or criminal connivance?”

Mr. Peele’s under lip pressed the upper almost to the septum of his
nose. His eyes half closed and glittered unpleasantly; but he controlled
himself and answered,—

“I paid no attention to her threats at the time.”

“Ah! You did not believe in them? You admit that?”

“I classed them with the usual hysterical ravings of women. That was my
error.”

“State, if you please, your specific reasons for your change of mind.
You will hardly, as a lawyer, claim to have been converted to the
defendant’s capacity for crime by the mere fact that your son died of an
overdose of morphine?”

And throughout the long day Mr. Bourke hectored him, fighting him, point
by point, smashing to bits his testimony relative to the events of the
day preceding the death, evidence to which he was not an eye-witness,
which he had received at second hand from his wife and son. The “cruel
letter written to a dying man” was disposed of in a similar manner.

“You believed your son to be in a precarious condition when you
counselled them to send for your son’s wife?”

“I did.”

“But you believed with the doctors that if she returned, thereby
bringing him peace of mind as well as tender care, he had excellent
chances for life?”

“I did.”

“And Mrs. Burr was instructed to present that phase of the question to
the defendant, with all the force of which she was capable?”

“Yes.”

“And the defendant so understood it?”

“I suppose she did.”

“And yet you assert that this purely business-like letter, written by a
self-respecting woman, was addressed to a dying man, while at the same
time you assert that this man could be cured by the gratification of a
whim, and that you had taken particular pains to make the defendant
aware of the fact!”

When Mr. Peele finally left the stand, he looked battered and limp.


                                  XIV

As soon as the court had opened on the following morning, Mrs. Peele was
called. She looked haughtily askance at the worn Bible as the clerk
rattled off the oath, bent her head as would she whiff upon what
plebeian lips had touched so often and so evidently, and took the
witness chair as were she mounting a throne. She was apparelled in
crape. Only her intimate friends could have told whether the backward
bend of her head was due to the weight of her veil or the weight of her
ancestors. At first she stared at the district attorney with haughty
resentment, as, for the benefit of the humble jury, he curtly asked her
several direct questions; but remembering that he was “a Sturges,” and
also recalling her husband’s admonitions, she unbent, and even
condescended to address the jury. Her tale of the night in no wise
differed from her husband’s; but her accentuation of Patience’s dark
threats and marital deficiencies was all her own. Her suggestion of a
lover in the case caused a sudden movement in the jury box, although the
stolid faces did not relax. Under cross-examination much of her
testimony was as effectually demolished as her husband’s had been.

Two maid servants followed. They testified to violent quarrels between
the young couple. Then the butler testified to the reiterant and
emphatic command of the prisoner on the day before the death to send to
New York for morphine.

The prosecution produced its trump card: the stable boy who had spied
upon the interviews between the prisoner and the mysterious lover. The
man had evidently been carefully rehearsed—as Bourke later on pointed
out to the jury—for his memory of the eight or ten interviews he had
witnessed needed little refreshing. His “best recollection” was given
glibly and ungrammatically. He dilated upon the young man’s remarkable
personal beauty, and observed that it far outshone his beloved Mr.
Beverly’s. They had talked principally of books in all but the last two
interviews, but had looked perfectly happy. His account of the last two
interviews created a profound impression in the court room, even the
jury leaning forward slightly. The judge frowned and wheeled his chair
sharply when the man gave the gist of the prisoner’s matter-of-fact
objection to living with a man who was not her husband.

Mr. Bourke’s rich voice had never rung with deeper indignation and
disgust, never shaped itself to more cutting sarcasm than when he made
the man see himself and the jury see him as a coward, a cur, a spy, a
liar, an eager schemer for an innocent woman’s life. “You felt it your
duty,” he concluded, “to spy upon a woman of irreproachable reputation
who met a friend in an open wood in broad daylight—Yes, yes,” with all
the lingering scornful emphasis which only he could give that simple
word. “You never felt yourself a cowardly scoundrel meddling in what was
none of your business—No! No!” He turned to the jury with the passion
still upon his face, but when he took his seat he smiled encouragingly
to his admiring young client.

“Wouldn’t he make an actor?” whispered Simms. “I never saw him do the
lofty indignation act with finer effect.”

“Well, he would be a great actor, at least,” retorted Patience, “and I
am convinced that you would be a very small one.”

“Just wait,” said Simms, angrily. “I’ve got to talk to this jury about
you in a day or two, and if you don’t forget I ever doubted you I’ll eat
my hat. The best lawyer’s the best fakir, and a few days from now you’ll
see what an ambitious man I am.”

“Miss Rosita Thrailkill,” called the district attorney when the court
opened next morning. The audience stood up to a man.

A plump willowy Spanish figure undulated behind the jury box, kissed the
Bible reverently, and ascended the witness stand. Rosita was clad in
black and yellow, a mantilla in place of a hat, and many diamonds. She
looked as pretty and as naughty as possible. As she met Patience’s eyes,
she wafted her a kiss, and the prisoner groaned in spirit. She gave her
name and birthplace with melodious caressing accent and her marked
precision of speech. Yes, the defendant had been her dear friend, her
best friend, her only intimate friend. Yes, with unaffected reluctance,
Mrs. Sparhawk had been disreputable, and Patience had once attempted her
life. Yes, she was the prima donna of light opera known as La Rosita.
Did she appear before the public in tights and scant attire? Yes, why
not? Had she not had a number of lovers? Objected to and sustained.
Flashing indignation of soft Spanish eyes. Did she not have the
reputation of being a woman of loose and lawless life? Objected to and
sustained. Angry rattle of fan. Was it not in her house that the
prisoner was arrested? Yes, it was! and she loved her Patita and would
always give her shelter.

When the district attorney sat down with an ugly smile on his thin
mouth, Bourke, muttering anathema, rose to his feet.

“Was there ever a whisper against your reputation when you were a
school-girl in Monterey and most intimate with the prisoner?”

“No, _señor_!” cried Rosita, paying no attention to the objection. “I
was a child, and could not even endure boys.”

“How many times have you seen the defendant since you left Monterey?”

Rosita cast up her eyes, then tapped the sticks of her fan successively
as she spoke.

“Once she came to see me just after—ah—WCTU died; then once just
before she left Mr. Peele; then that day the ‘Eye’ came out and said she
had done this so horrible thing. _Ay, dios!_”

“She has called upon you three times only, then, since you were children
in Monterey, since you have been the Rosita of the public; in the last
five years, in short?”

“_Si, señor_—yes, sir.”

“How long did she remain upon her first visit?”

“Oh, only a little while. I told her something that shocked her, for she
was always so proper.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Objected to,” cried the district attorney.

“Objection sustained,” snapped the judge.

“How long did she remain on her second visit?”

“About a half hour. I never knew what she came at all for. She just
floated in and out.” Rosita waved her arm with enchanting grace.

“Did she tell you why she came the third time?”

“Because she had no other place to go to. She said no hotel would take
her in.”

“She said that her old landlady had refused to admit her, did she not?”

“_Si, señor._”

“Yes, yes!—and that in her terrible extremity she naturally turned to
the friend of her childhood?”

“_Si!_” and Rosita wept.

“But that she should not have gone to your house if there had been any
possibility of obtaining entrance to a hotel, or if she had not been
turned out of her father-in-law’s house?”

“_Ay, yi!_ yes.”

“That is all. You can go.”

During the rest of that day and the two following days the experts for
the prosecution had the stand. The innumerable questions asked by the
district attorney, the technical details of the cross-examinations, the
constant interruptions, and the minutiæ of the evidence emptied the
court room after the first hour, and even Patience became bored, and
fell to thinking of other things, not forgetting to pity those twelve
puzzled little heads in the jury box.

The gist of the evidence was that there was enough morphine in Beverly
Peele’s stomach to kill two men.


                                   XV

“Our turn has come,” said Lansing to Patience on the morning after the
expert testimony was concluded. “We are confident of success now.”

“But the facts are hideous, and they have painted me black.”

“Mr. Bourke scraped off a good deal, and he’ll have the rest off before
he gets through. If he could only make that lying woman open her mouth!
You’ve borne yourself splendidly. Keep in good condition for the witness
stand. Are you frightened?”

“No,” she said, smiling at Bourke gratefully. “Not a bit.”

Simms opened the case for the defence.

He had a harsh strident voice. He gesticulated as if practising for a
prize fight, doubling back and springing forward. He cleared his throat
with vicious emphasis and rasped his heels upon the floor. His
statements were dry and matter-of-fact, his language bald; but he made a
direct vigorous and enthusiastic speech. The jury was informed that it
was there to save the life of one of the most brilliant and high-minded
young women of the age,—a woman utterly incapable of murder or of any
violent act, a woman with the mild and meditative mind of the student.
That it would be proved not only that she was far too clever to take
life by such clumsy methods, but that she had no object, as she had
gained her liberty, and the lover was a myth. The whole prosecution was
a malignant and personal prosecution of an innocent but too gifted woman
by an absurdly conceited family that had resented her superior
intelligence. This and much more of fact and fancy. But Patience, with
perverse feminity, liked him none the better, and would not even look at
him when he sat down.

Mr. Field was the first witness for the defence. Although compelled
under cross-examination to admit the prisoner’s interest in subtle
poisons, he managed to convey to the jury that it was merely the result
of an unusually brilliant and inquiring mind, a thought born of the
moment, of his suggestion. He gave the highest tribute to her
cleverness, her work on his paper, and to her reputation.

Latimer Burr was called next, and spoke with enthusiasm of her
“unfailing submission to a man of abominable and savage temper until
submission ceased to be a virtue.” He had never heard her utter any
threats to kill. Yes, it was true that he had engaged counsel for
defence. He believed in her thoroughly.

Miss Merrien, her landlady, and Mrs. Blair were put on the stand next
morning, and the good character they gave Patience was unshaken by the
nagging of the district attorney. Mr. Tarbox testified to her demeanour
of innocence during her imprisonment.

“But the defence is weak all the same,” whispered Patience to Lansing.
“Not a word can be said in rebuttal. Only Mr. Bourke’s eloquence can
save me.”

“Good character goes a long way,” replied Lansing. “You have no idea of
its weight with a jury, particularly with a jury of this kind.”

Patience was put on the witness stand next. The supreme effort to
overcome nervousness gave her an icy and repellent demeanour. Never had
she held her back as erect, her head as high. She kept her eyelids half
lowered, and spoke with scarcely any change of inflection. She told the
story of the night as she had told it in rehearsal many times. There had
been a quarrel an hour before she heard the deceased get up and go to
the lavatory. She offered to drop his morphine, and he replied with an
oath that she should never do another thing for him as long as he lived,
that he hoped she would leave the house by the first train next morning.
His sudden silence upon his return to his bed excited her apprehension,
and she called the family.

When Bourke sat down and the district attorney arose and confronted her
she shivered suddenly. Bourke’s rich strong voice and kind magnetic gaze
had given her courage, but this man with his eyes like grey ice, his
mechanical smile, and cold smooth voice conjured up a sudden awful
picture of the execution room at Sing Sing. Her insight appreciated with
exactitude the pitiless ambition of the man, knew that he stood pledged
to his future to send her to her death. He made her admit all the
damning facts of the evidence against her, the facts which stood out
like phosphorescent letters on a black wall, and to acknowledge her
abhorrence of the man that had been her husband. But all this had been
anticipated: at least he could not confuse her.

Again two days and a part of a third were monopolised by experts. These
two illustrious chemists testified, through the same bewildering mass of
detail as that employed by their equally illustrious predecessors, that
there was not enough morphine in Beverly Peele’s stomach to kill a cat.

There was a short interval, after the second expert had been permitted
to leave the stand, during which Bourke and Simms and Lansing conferred
together, preparatory to the summing up of the former. As Bourke was
about to rise, the district attorney stood up, cleared his throat, and
said: “One moment, please. Will Miss Honora Mairs kindly take the
stand?”

Bourke was on the alert in an instant. “The case for the prosecution has
closed,” he said.

“This is by special permission of the Court,” replied the district
attorney, coldly.

As Honora ascended the stand there was a deep murmur of admiration. She
looked like an angel, nothing less. She wore a white lawn frock, girt
with a blue sash; a large white leghorn lined with azure velvet, against
which the baby gold of her hair shone softly. Her great blue eyes had
the clear calm serenity of a young child. Patience drew her breath in a
series of short gasps. Bourke sat with clenched hands.

“We understand,” said the district attorney, severely, “that you did not
tell all you knew the other day, and that you have signified your
willingness to now tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth. Is this true?”

Honora bowed her head with an expression of deep humility, as a child
might that had been justly rebuked.

“You had not slept at all upon that fatal night?”

“No.”

“Your door was open?”

“Yes.”

“You did see somebody enter the lavatory?”

“Yes.”

“Whom did you see?”

There was a moment’s breathless silence, during which Patience wondered
if a clock had ever ticked so loudly, or if the sun had ever shone with
so vicious a glare.

“Whom did you see?” repeated the district attorney.

“The prisoner.”

“What did she do?”

“She dropped some thirty or forty drops of morphine, I should say, then
half filled the glass with water, as usual.”

“You did not see the deceased go to the lavatory that night.”

“No.”

“Nor any one else until the defendant called you?”

“No.”

“That is all.”

Mr. Bourke sprang to his feet, his nostrils dilating, his fine face
quivering with unassumed scorn and indignation.

“You admit that you perjured yourself the other day?”

“I could not make up my mind to—”

“Never mind what you had not made up your mind to do. You admit that you
perjured yourself?”

“Yes,” gently.

“That in other words you lied.”

“Yes, sir.” Her voice was like the quiver of a violin.

“What proof are we to have that you are not lying now?”

“I am not lying. My conscience gave me no rest.”

“It will give you more, I suppose, if you will have succeeded in
swearing away the life of an innocent woman. Yes, yes!—Exactly how long
did Mrs. Peele remain in the lavatory?”

“I cannot remember. Five or ten minutes.”

“State the exact time.”

“Perhaps five.”

“And a few moments later when she ran into your room you pretended to be
asleep: Why did you assume sleep; what reason had you for lying at that
time?”

“I had dropped off.”

“You had been sufficiently wide awake five minutes before to note
precisely all these other things, and then had promptly fallen into a
sound sleep. Is that your usual habit?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you speak to the prisoner when she came into the lavatory?”

“No.”

“Were not you in the habit of holding a conversation with her upon such
occasions?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why did you not address her on that night?”

“I was very sleepy, and had nothing in particular to say.”

“But you were not too sleepy to note carefully all the details in the
evidence you have just given. You can go,—and to the devil,” he
muttered. He thrust his hands into his pockets and wheeled about,
looking at Patience with such intensity of gaze that she moved suddenly
forward. Her face was pale, but her eyes blazed with rage. Bourke
glanced at the clock.

“It is twenty minutes to one,” he said. “I would ask your honour to
adjourn until two. I must have time to digest this new testimony. Its
remarkable glibness prevented me from giving it the running deliberation
that it demanded.”

The judge sulkily dismissed the court. As Patience passed out of the
room with Tarbox she heard the word “angel” more than once, and knew
that it did not refer to her.

Patience was not conscious of fear as she ate her luncheon. Her heart
was black with rage. “I’d willingly murder _her_,” she thought, “and my
conscience wouldn’t trouble me the least little bit.”


                                  XVI

Immediately after recess Mr. Bourke began his summing up. He commenced
quietly, shaking the loose cloth of the table in an absent manner. His
language was colloquial as he spoke to the jury of its grave
responsibilities, and complimented it upon the “unusual intelligence
which it had so far made evident.” He passed naturally to the subject in
hand, and dwelt eloquently upon the character of the defendant, of her
lonely pathetic youth, her high ideals, her remarkable intelligence, her
ignorance of the world which had led her to fall in love with the first
handsome and attractive man that had addressed her.

His voice rose to tragic pitch as he dwelt upon the terrible awakening
of such a woman, bound for life to such a man,—a sensual, ill-tempered,
selfish brute, who was a disgrace to the nineteenth century.

He depicted two years of uncomplaining wifely devotion (until Patience
became lost in admiration of the defendant), the husband’s frantic rages
about nothing, his unrecognition of her superiority, his ignorant
determination to make her his slave—his plaything—she, a woman whom
such men as James E. Field and Gardiner Peele delighted to honour.

Then he dropped again into pathos (which never for a moment degenerated
into bathos) and described the desolate life of such a woman in an empty
frivolous brainless society (faint murmur and indignant rustle in the
gallery), a society of idle people with neither soul nor intelligence,
but who squandered the money wrested from the People, the great People,
of whom the Gentlemen of the Jury were twelve worthy and doubtless long
suffering members.

It was not until he had emphasised and recapitulated with every resource
of his splendid vocabulary, every modulation of his glorious voice, by
controlled and telling gesture, by sudden tremendous bursts of
indignation, the married life of the prisoner, that he passed to the day
and night of the tragedy. He began with the morning, and dwelt upon
every detail of the day. Before he reached midnight he had Beverly Peele
in a frame of mind for both suicide and murder. He sent him to bed with
black skin and white flecked nose and chaos in his heart. With a
magnificent burst of scorn he quoted his shameful language when his wife
had offered to get him the morphine, the oaths he had used to a “refined
and elegant and patient woman.” Then he took him to the lavatory, showed
him jerking the stopper from the morphine bottle, and recklessly pouring
a fourth of its contents into a glass. “He knew that he had to die
anyhow, and he could at least die happy in a hideous revenge.” In brief
and vivid phrase he cited several similar instances in legal history.

Then he returned to Peele Manor and denounced the jealous woman who for
five years had nursed fury in her heart, and who, on the witness stand,
here, Gentlemen of the Jury, conceived, at the unfortunate suggestion of
the speaker, the frightful revenge upon a woman who had treated her with
unvarying kindness. She did not speak at once, partly because her lying
tale needed rehearsing, partly because she believed that the case for
the prosecution would win without her. But when she saw that the case
for the prosecution was wholly lost she arrayed herself like an angel,
that she might the better impose upon the unworldly Gentlemen of the
Jury, and swore away a woman’s life.

The several assertions on the defendant’s part that she felt disposition
to murder he tore to rags and flung in the face of the jury. Had not
every high tempered person—could not the Gentlemen of the Jury recall
having exclaimed in bitter moments: “I wish you were dead! I could kill
you!” With deep regret and remorse he would confess that he had used
similar expressions many times.

Then with consummate skill he dilated upon the impossibility of so
clever a woman as the defendant doing aught so stupid as to murder in
the manner of the accusation. When there was nothing left to say on this
subject he expatiated upon the lack of motive with a technical and
personal brilliancy which made even the cross-grained old judge lean
forward with a cynical smile.

The interviews, even the final ones, with the mysterious stranger, he
treated with contempt, although the contempt was sufficiently long drawn
out to impress the jury with every most insignificant detail. It, was
the mere longing for companionship of a lonely woman: that was the
beginning and the end of it. The lover, the intention of either to
marry, he disposed of with a vehemence which made Simms twist about
suddenly and look at Lansing; but the young man was regarding his chief
with rapt admiration.

Not so much as the scraping of a boot heel was heard in the court room.
Patience glanced at the district attorney. His face was set and sullen.

After every possible point had been considered Bourke concluded with an
appeal so stirring, so ringing, so thrilling that every person in the
court room except the district attorney sat forward and held his breath.
No such burst of passion had ever been heard in that room before.
Patience covered her face with her hands. Her heart beat suffocatingly.
The blood pounded in her ears; but not one note of that wonderful voice,
not one phrase of fire, escaped her.

Is there any possible condition in which a man can appear to such
supreme advantage as when pleading for the life of a fellow being, more
particularly of a young and beautiful woman? How paltry all the
time-worn rescues of woman from sinking ship and runaway horse and
burning house. A great criminal lawyer standing before the jury box with
a life in his hand has the unique opportunity to display all the best
gifts ever bestowed upon man: genius, brain, passion, heart, soul,
eloquence, a figure instinct with grace and virility, a face blazing
with determination to snatch a man or woman from the most awful of
dooms.

And all in two short hours.

If those in the court room for whom the case had no personal interest
were at Bourke’s feet, hanging upon his words, adoring him for the
moment, what were the feelings of the woman for whom he was making so
desperate and manly a fight? She forgot her danger, forgot everything
but the man, the reckless joy of loving, of being swept out of her calm
orbit at last. Her analytical brain was dulled, her arms ached, her
heart shook her body.

As Bourke made a few supplementary remarks calculated to take the wind
out of the district attorney’s sails,—references to the young man’s
ambition, his youthful eagerness to become famous, what the winning of
such a great case would mean to him, and to his remarkable cleverness
and skill with a jury,—Patience heard Simms say to Lansing: “My God!
Bourke has surpassed even himself. Even he never got as high as that
before.”

“He’s the greatest man in the country, God bless him!” said Lansing.

As Bourke finally dropped upon his chair he turned to Patience. Their
eyes met and lingered; and in that moment each passed into the other’s
keeping.


                                  XVII

Sturges lost no time taking his stand before the jury box. It was the
hour of his life, but he was not nervous. His long thin figure leaning
toward the box as he rested his finger tips on the table, showed as fine
a repose of nerve as of brain. His clear-cut face with the cruel mouth
and pleasant smile was calm and unclouded.

He began by defending himself against Mr. Bourke’s remarks, and asserted
with convincing emphasis that when he had taken the oath of office he
had left his personal ambition behind him with his personal interests,
and had given himself body and soul and brain to the People of
Westchester County. Then he made an equally earnest statement of the
grave responsibilities of a district attorney, his solemn duty to the
People, the necessity to smother all promptings of humanity that he
might do what was best for the People—“The greatest good of the
greatest number.”

Then he painted Patience as black as Bourke had enamelled her white.
With masterly ingenuity he made each juror feel what an awful being a
bad woman was, an unloving undutiful wife; what a curse each man of them
would writhe under had Fate played him as scurvy a trick as it had
played poor Beverly Peele; that no unloved husband’s life would be safe
were not such women exploited and punished, that if the Gentlemen of the
Jury were weak enough to consider her sex they might be imperilling the
lives of countless thousands. For the matter of that, he reiterated,
crime had no sex.

He took up each detail of the story, and in the light of his
interpretation Patience was the modern Lucretia Borgia and Beverly Peele
an injured, peaceable, affectionate husband, who had been sacrificed by
an abandoned woman to whom he had given his honoured name, his fortune,
and his love.

He scarcely raised his voice. There was no passion in his utterance; but
he manufactured a mosaic, bit by bit, each fragment fitting so exactly
that the design was without crevice or crack. He demonstrated
mathematically that the tardy evidence of Miss Mairs had been
superfluous; that the chain of circumstantial evidence was symmetrical
and complete, and that no possible motive beyond duty to her conscience
could be attributed to her. With devilish adroitness, without a direct
phrase, he managed to filter into those twelve small brains the secret
of the inspired eloquence of the eminent counsel for the defence,—in
behalf of his young and beautiful client.

While he was talking, the skeleton trees beyond the windows grew dim of
outline, the mass of colour in the gallery faded. An official came out
of the library behind the court room and lit the tall gas lamps on
either side of the bench. The judge looked like a bas-relief in pink and
silver against the dark panelling of the background. The rest of the
room was in shadow. The light of the near jet fell full upon Sturges’
stern face.

Patience’s life from “its fiendish childhood” was rehearsed with such
consecutive logic that crime at some point of such a woman’s career was
inevitable. The only wonder was that it had not been committed sooner.
The threats, he demonstrated, whether uttered in moments of passion or
not, were the significant output of a brooding mind. The “cruel letter
to a dying man” was read with slow and indignant emphasis. Then the
events of the fatal day and night, the quarrels, the prisoner’s fury at
being denied a divorce, the deceased’s threat to live twenty years to
spite her, her carefully rehearsed and absurd story that her husband had
dropped the morphine himself,—something he knew himself physically
incapable of doing,—the equal absurdity of his suicide when a greater
revenge lay in his hands, her brutal indifference while he lay dying,
were deliberately gone over with passionless and insidious effect. The
quiet half-lit room was oddly in keeping with the deadly methods of the
man.

When he had made the most of her flight on the morning of the “Eye”
story, he paused a moment, during which the rising wind could be heard
in the trees. Within, there was no sound. No one seemed breathing.
Bourke and Patience were in deep shadow. With an instinct of protection
he clasped his hand suddenly about hers.

Sturges resumed, with lowered and vibrating voice:

“And—where—Gentlemen of the Jury,—was—this—woman—arrested?——_In
the house of a harlot!_” He paused another half moment. “In the house of
her oldest friend, La Rosita, one of the most abandoned women in
America.”

Bourke’s hand twitched spasmodically. Simms twisted his neck, and shot
at Lansing an uneasy glance. Patience shuddered. For the moment she
forgot Bourke. She felt as if a cobra were folding her about,—very
slowly, and gently, and inexorably.

When Sturges sat down the jury was told to rise. The judge stood under
one of the lamps and read them his charge. He explained that unless they
could find the prisoner guilty of murder in the first degree—of
deliberate premeditated murder—they must acquit her. As the final
quarrel had taken place an hour before the killing it was obviously
impossible that she could have dropped the morphine in a moment of
excitement; and a verdict of self-defence would be equally absurd. He
also charged them that they were to consider the law in the case and
nothing but the law,—that human sympathy must have no place in their
verdict.

Bourke was too able a lawyer not to have the last word. As the judge sat
down, he arose with several sheets of manuscript, and for twenty minutes
asked the judge to charge the jury so and so, practically recapitulating
all the strong points of the defence. The judge answered mechanically,
“I so charge,” and at last the patient jury was conducted out of the
court room and locked up. Bourke was surrounded at once.

As Tarbox, with Patience on his arm, left the court house and its crowd
behind him, he exclaimed, “By God, that was a great speech of Bourke’s!
There never has been a summing up like that in my time before, not even
by him. But he’s the smartest man in Westchester County! Hanged if I
don’t think he’s the smartest man in the State of New York. He’ll be in
the United States Senate yet.”


                                 XVIII

After dinner Patience went back to the court room to remain until ten
o’clock, at which time the jury, if it had not come to a decision, would
be locked up for the night. She sat surrounded by her counsel and the
lawyers that had taken so deep an interest in the case. Bourke sat very
close to her, and once or twice as she met his eyes she forgot the
terrible moment to come. Few people were in the court house. No one
expected a verdict that night.

It was exactly at half-past nine that the jury filed solemnly in.
Patience’s knees jerked suddenly upward. She lost her breath for a
moment. Bourke leaned over her and took her hand, regardless of the
curious people surrounding them.

“Be brave. Be brave,” he said hurriedly. “Now is the time for all your
pride and disdain.”

When she was ordered to stand up and face the jury, she did so with an
air so collected and so haughty that even Simms murmured: “By Jove, she
is a thoroughbred.”

There was a moment of horrible and vibrating silence, during which
Patience’s brain reiterated hilariously: “Twelve little Jurymen all in a
row. Twelve little heads all in a row.” Then the foreman was asked for
the verdict. He cleared his throat, and without moving a muscle of his
face, remarked,—

“Guilty.”

The district attorney sat down suddenly and hid his face with a
convulsive hand. Patience resumed her seat with a mien as stolid as that
of the twelve jurors. Bourke’s face blanched, but he sprang to his feet
and demanded that the jury be polled. Each solemn “Yes,” twelve and
unhesitating, sounded like a knell. Then Bourke demanded a Stay, which
was granted by the impassive judge, and Patience was led through the
silent crowd from the court room to her cell. Tarbox escorted her
mutely, his face turned away. At the door of her cell he attempted to
speak, but gave it up and retreated hastily.

Patience threw off her hat and sat down on the edge of the bed. The
verdict, she knew now, had not been a surprise. But she thought little
of the verdict. She was waiting for something else. It came in a moment.
She heard a quick impatient step on the ground below, then a rapid
ascent of stair, a word or two at the door, Tarbox’s retreating step.

Bourke was in the cell. His face was white, but that of Patience as she
rose and confronted him was not.

“I don’t care!” she said. “I don’t care! I believe I am happier than any
woman alive.”

The red sprang to his face. He took her outstretched hands and held them
to lips and eyes for a moment, then caught her in his arms and kissed
her until the rest of the world lay dull, and all life was in that quiet
cell.


                                  XIX

A year later they took her to Sing Sing. The General Term had refused
her a new trial, the Court of Appeals had sustained the lower court.
Bourke had won nothing but additional glory.

He did not go with her to Sing Sing. She saw him alone for an hour
before Tarbox came to take her away. Her composure was greater than his.
He was torn with horror and defeat, and his surpassing love for the
woman. Not that he had given up hope by any means, nor the fight; but he
knew the fearful odds, and he cursed the law which he had outwitted and
played with so often and so brilliantly.

“I wish we were back in the middle ages,” he said savagely, “when a man
took his rights and regulated justice by brute force. We are not half
men now that we are under the yoke of a thing that operates blindly, and
strikes by chance where it should strike, in nine cases out of ten. Good
God! Good God! it seems incredible that I can _let_ you go, that I shall
stand by and see Tarbox lead you away. Think of the combined intellect
of the world and the centuries having done no more for man than that. I
must stand aside and see you go to a hideous cell in the Death House—O
my God!”

He had awakened the woman down to the depths; to-day he called to life
the maternal instinct in her. She put her arms about him with the
passionate strength of one who would transmit courage and hope through
physical pressure.

“Listen,” she said; “I don’t mind one cell more than another—and I
know, I _know_, that you will save me. I feel it. I am not going to die.
You are a man of genius. Everybody says that—everybody—I know that you
will have an inspiration at the last minute. And I have been happy,
happy, happy! Don’t forget that—not ever. I would go through twenty
times what I have suffered in all my life for this past year. Don’t you
think I can live on that for a month or two? Why, I can feel your touch,
the pressure of your arms for hours after you leave me. I shall be with
you every minute—”

He threw back his head, shaking it with a brief violent motion
characteristic of him.

“Very well,” he said, “very well; it is not for me to be weak when you
are strong. Perhaps it is because the prize is so great that the fight
is so long and desperate. Oh, you wonderful woman!

“Tell me,” he said after a moment, “that it has all been as perfect to
you as to me. I want to hear you say that, but I know it, I know it.”

“Oh,—I—I—”

                 *        *        *        *        *

Tarbox came and took her away. He looked as if he had lost home and
friends and fortune, and did not speak from White Plains to Sing Sing.
The details of the trip interested her less than such details are
supposed to interest the condemned that look their last on sky and land;
her head ached, and the glare of the Hudson blinded her; but as the
train neared Sing Sing she opened her eyes suddenly, then sat forward
with a note of admiration.

The river was covered with a dense rosy mist which half obscured the
opposite shore, giving it the effect of an irregular group of islands.
Above was a calm lake of yellow fire surrounded by heavy billows of
boiling gold; beyond, storm clouds, growing larger and darker.

As they drove, a few moments later, to the prison, the great grey
battlemented pile was swimming in the same rosy glow. Patience murmured
satirically:

        “‘The splendour falls on castle walls.’”

Tarbox looked at her in amazement. “Oh,” he said, “how do you manage
it?”

“All hope is not gone,” she replied; “there is still the governor.” But
she knew how slender that hope was. The governor was on the eve of
re-election; public feeling was multiplied against her; the “Eye” was
clamouring for her life, and strutting like a turkey cock; the “Eye” and
Tammany Hall were one; the governor was the creature of Tammany Hall.

The warden was in his office. He greeted her with elaborate politeness,
albeit puffed with alcohol and pride. She handed him what valuables she
had not presented to Tarbox, and answered his questions in a manner not
calculated to placate his Irish dignity. Then she turned to say good-bye
to Tarbox, but he had disappeared. The head-keeper, a big kindly man,
who pressed her arm in a paternal manner, led her down long echoing
corridors, past rows and tiers of cells, and yards full of Things in
striped garments, and talked to her in the manner one adopts to a
frightened child, until she said:—

“I am not going to have hysterics; nor am I at all sure that I am to be
executed—but please don’t imagine that I don’t appreciate your
kindness.”

“Well, I like that,” he said. “To tell the truth the prospect of having
a woman here has half scared me out of my wits. But if you won’t take
on, I’ll do everything I can to make you comfortable. We’ve put a woman
servant in there to wait on you. I hope myself it won’t be for long. The
evidence is pretty black, but some of us has our opinion all the same.”

“Must I go into the Death House? I think I shouldn’t mind it so much if
they’d put me anywhere else.”

“I’m afraid you must, ma’am. That’s the custom in these parts.” He
opened a door with a huge key, and Patience did not need to be told that
she was in the famous Death House.

A long corridor with a high window at either end; on one side a row of
cells separated from the main corridor by an iron fence sufficiently
removed from the cells to make space for a narrow promenade. Where the
middle cell should have been was a dark arched stone passage terminated
by a stout oaken door. Patience knew that it led to the execution room.
Two guards walked up and down the corridor. At the end, a sullen-looking
woman stood over a stove, making tea.

“You’ve got the house all to yourself,” said the keeper, with an attempt
at jocularity. “If there’d been any men here I guess you’d have been
sent to Dannemora, but it’s always Sing Sing for the swells, when it’s
possible, you know.”

He opened the gate of the iron fence and led her down to the cell at the
extreme end. It was large and well lighted, but very different from the
cell at White Plains.

“Are you going to lock me in?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I must. If everything ain’t comfortable, just let me know.”

The key grated in the lock. The head-keeper with an encouraging smile
walked away. Patience crouched in a corner, for the first time fully
realising the awfulness of her position, her imagination leaping to the
room beyond the passage. What did it look like, that horrible chair? How
long—how long—the hideously practical details of electric
execution—the awful mystery of it—the new death to which imagination
had not yet become accustomed—

There was no sound but the monotonous pacing of the death watch. The
world beyond those stone walls might have sprung away into space,
leaving the great beautiful prison alone on a whirling fragment.

She sprang to her feet and clenched her hands. “I’ll not go mad and make
an everlasting fool of myself,” she thought. “If I have to die, I’ll die
with my head up and my eyes dry. If I have the blood of the aristocrat
in me I’ll prove it then, not die like a flabby woman of the people. The
people! O God, how I hate the people!”


                                   XX

A great petition was sent to the governor. It was signed uniformly by
men and women of the upper class.

It is not the aristocrats that do the electing in the United States. The
lower classes were against her to a man. Her personality enraged them;
her unreligion, her disdainful bearing, her intellect, her position,
antagonised the superstitious and ambitious masses more than her crime.
Inevitable result: the governor refused to pardon.

Honora returned to Peele Manor from town in April. Bourke’s attempts to
see her were frustrated by a bodyguard of servants. He took up his
residence in the little village adjoining the grounds. He hardly knew
what he hoped. But Honora Mairs was the last and only resource, and he
could not keep away from her vicinity. He did not go to Sing Sing. It
had been agreed between himself and Patience that he should stay away:
they had no desire to communicate through iron bars.

The execution was set for the seventh of May. On the evening of the
sixth, while walking down the single street of the village Bourke came
face to face with the new priest of the district.

“Tim Connor!” he exclaimed, forgetting for the moment, in the sudden
retrospect which this man’s face unrolled, the horror that held him.

“Well, it’s me, sure enough, Garan, and I’ve been hunting for you these
two days. I heard you were here, but faith, I’ve been busy!—not to say
I’ve been away for two weeks.”

“How long have you been here?”

“Six months, come June, it is since I left old Ireland; and I’m wanting
to tell you that the creek we used to wade in is as tempting to the boys
as ever, and that the bog you pulled me out of has moved on a mile and
more. Twenty times I’ve been for going across the country to call on you
and have a good grip of the hand, and to bless you again for letting me
live to do good work; but I was caught in a net here—But what’s the
matter—Are you ill?—Oh, sure! sure! This terrible business! I
remember! Poor young thing!”

He laid his arm about the shoulders of the other man and guided him to
his house. There, in his bare little study, he brewed an Irish toddy,
and the two men drank without a spoken toast to the old times when they
had punched each other’s head, fought each other’s battles, and shared
each other’s joys, two affectionate rollicking mischievous Irish lads.

The priest spoke finally.

“Nothing else is talked of here in the village,” he said; “but you don’t
hear a word of it mentioned over at the house.”

“What house?”

“Peele Manor, to be sure.”

“Do you go there?”

“Occasionally—to dine; or to talk with Miss Mairs. We are amiable
friends, although she doesn’t confess to me.”

Bourke raised his head slowly. Something seemed to swirl through his
heavy heart.

“Is Honora Mairs a Catholic?” he asked.

“She is indeed, and, like all converts, full to the brim and running
over.”

Bourke leaned forward, his hand clinching about his chin, his elbow
pressing his knee with such force that his arm vibrated. He had been
raised a Catholic—he knew its grip. His mind was trained to grasp
opportunities on the moment, to work with the nervous yet mathematical
rapidity of electric currents. And like all great lawyers he was a great
actor.

“Tim,” he said meditatively, “I’m feeling terribly bad over that poor
girl I couldn’t save.”

“Sure and I should think you would, Garan. My heart’s breaking for her
myself.”

“Did you read the trial, Tim?”

“No, faith, I didn’t. I’ve been too busy with these godless folk. Sure
they get away from us priests when they get into America. It’s only one
more drop to hell.”

“You’re right, Tim, you’re right. You always saw things at a glance. But
I’ve got a great work for you to do,—a great work for you and for the
Church.”

“You have, Garan? You have? Out with it, my boy.”

“Do you remember the time when Paddy Flannagan was accused of murdering
his old grandmother for the sake of the money in her stocking?”
continued Bourke, in the same half absent tone, and lapsing gradually
into brogue. “He was convicted, you know, and the whole town was set on
him, and we two boys were the worst of the lot. Do you remember how we
used to hoot under his jail window at night? And then, quite by
accident, at the last minute, two days before he was going to be hanged,
you discovered the man that had committed the murder, and you ran as
fast as your legs could carry you to save Paddy, shouting all the
way,—and that it was the happiest day of your life?”

“Yes, yes!” exclaimed the priest, his face aglow. Bourke had thrown
himself back in his chair, his eyes dwelling on his old friend with a
smile of affectionate satisfaction.

“It’s a grand thing to save a human life, isn’t it, Tim?”

“It is, indeed; the grandest, next to saving an immortal soul.”

“I’m going to give you a chance to do both,—the soul of one woman and
the life of another.”

“Garan, Garan, what do you mean?”

“Just let me tell you a few things first, a few things you don’t know
already.” He gave a concise but picturesque and thrilling account of
Patience’s life and of her trial. As he repeated Honora’s testimony, the
priest, who had followed his recital with profound interest, leaned
forward with sombre brows.

“That woman lied,” concluded Bourke, abruptly.

“I’m afraid so. I’m afraid so.”

“And if she doesn’t open her accursed perjured lips between now and
to-morrow morning at eleven o’clock, that woman up there—” he caught
the priest’s shoulders suddenly, his face contracting with agony—“the
woman I love, Tim, will be murdered. My God, man, don’t you see what
you’ve got to do?”


                                  XXI

Honora was lying on a couch in her celestial bedroom. No incense burned.
The screen was folded closely about the altar. The windows were open.
The pure air of spring, the peaceful sounds of night,—disturbed now and
again by the hideous shriek of an engine,—the delicate perfume of
flowers, played upon her irritated senses. She held a bottle of smelling
salts in her hand. On the table beside her was a jolly looking bottle of
Benedictine.

There was a tap at the door. Honora answered wearily. A maid entered.

“It’s Father Connor, miss, and he wants to see you particular.”

“Tell him I cannot see him—no, tell him to come up.”

She rose hurriedly and smoothed her hair. Mr. and Mrs. Peele had gone
South. She was alone in the house, and welcomed the brief distraction of
the priest’s visit.

“You will pardon me for asking you to come up here,” she said as he
entered. “But I am in dishabille, and I did not want to keep you
waiting. How kind of you to come!”

“Sure it is always a pleasure to see you anywhere, Miss Mairs,” he said,
taking the seat she indicated. “What should I do without you in this
godless place?”

Several candles burned. The moonlight wandered in, making a ghastly
combination. Honora lay back in her chair, looking very pale and
beautiful. The priest’s profile was toward her for a moment after he
ceased speaking, a strong lean determined profile. She watched it
warily. But he turned suddenly to her and smiled, and told her an absurd
episode of one of his village delinquents.

“Faith, Miss Mairs,” he concluded, “you’ve got to help me. They’re too
much for one poor priest. I’m not one to flatter, but your face would be
enough to make a sinner think of heaven—sure it’s the face of an angel!
Between the two of us and with the Grace of God we’ll reform the village
and drive the dirty politicians into the Church or out of the country.”

Honora smiled radiantly, and held out her hand. “I will work with you,”
she said. “I intend to devote my life to the Church.”

He held her hand closely, in a strong masculine clasp.

“I believed it of you. But why don’t you go to confession, my child?”

The muscles under Honora’s fair skin contracted briefly, and she
attempted to withdraw her hand; but the priest held it closely.

“I shall go to you next week.”

“To-night,” he said with soft insistence; “to-night. Do you know it was
that brought me here to-night? I’ve been knowing ever since I came that
something troubled you—was eating your heart out—but I didn’t like to
speak. I thought every day you would come to me, and I didn’t like to
intrude. But to-night I said, ‘I will!’ I couldn’t get up my courage
when I first came in; but I’m glad I’ve spoken, for I know you’ll be
after confessing now. Poor girl! But remember, dear child, the comfort
and consolation our blessed Church has for every sinner. Come.”

Honora turned her face away, and shook her head.

The priest put out a long arm, and grasping the screen drew it away from
the altar. Then he leaned forward, and laying his hands on her shoulders
drew her slowly forward and pressed her to her knees. He laid his hand
on her head.

“Confess,” he said, solemnly.

And Honora suddenly burst into wild sobbing, and confessed that Beverly
Peele had dropped his own morphine that night, that his shaking hand had
refused to obey his will, and that, blind with pain, he had poured a
fourth of the contents into the glass, mixed it with water, and gulped
it down; that she had not gone to his assistance because she wished him
to die, and the responsibility to fall upon his wife.

Then she sprang to her feet and smote her hands together.

“I did not intend to confess until all was over, but—I—Oh—it has been
horrible here alone these two days—but I would not yield to
superstition and go away—and you found me in a weak moment.”

She walked up and down the room, talking the more rapidly, the more
unreservedly, as the priest made no comment. And after all the years of
immobility it was joy to speak out everything in her crowded heart and
brain.

“Oh, I am not a monster, I am not abnormal, I am merely a result. It
began—when did it begin? I was a child when I came here—I remember
little that happened before—it has always been the _rôle_ of the poor
cousin, I remember no other—no other! never! never! I had to learn
patience at an age when other children are clamouring for their little
desires. I had to learn humility when other children—while I watched my
cousins take all the goods and joys of childhood as their divine right.
While their little world was at their feet I was learning to cringe and
watch and wait and smile upon people I hated, and listen to people that
bored me to death, and suffer vicariously for all the shortcomings of
the Peele family when my aunt was in one of her cold rages. It was early
that I learned the lesson that if I would occupy a supportable position
in life I must ‘work’ people; I must cultivate will and tact—how I hate
the loathsome word—and study the natures of those about me, and play
upon them; that I must acquire absolute self repression, be a sort of
automaton, that, being once wound up properly, never makes a false move.
I believe that was one thing which drove me to the Catholic Church,—the
unspeakable relief that I should find in confession,—that and one other
thing—”

She paused abruptly, and pressed her hands to her face, to which the
blood had sprung.

“I loved Beverly Peele,” she continued violently. “I do not know when it
began; when I was old enough to fall in love, I suppose, and that is
young enough with a woman. When we were children we used to play at
being married. Even after he was grown and was rather wild, he used to
come back to me in the summer time and tell me that he cared for no one
else. I knew all his faults, his weaknesses, his limitations, mental and
moral and spiritual,—none better. But I loved him. I worshipped him. He
was not even a companion to me, for I was always intellectually
ambitious. Not a taste but music did we have in common. I have seen him
in raging tempers that would make any other woman despise him—when he
seemed an animal, a savage. But nothing made any difference to me. A
woman loves or she does not love—that is the beginning and the end.
There is no more relation between cause and effect in an infatuated
woman’s mind than—Oh, well, I can’t be finding similes.

“One night he came in here. The next night I kissed the pillow his head
would lie on. For a year I was happy; for another I alternated between
joy and anguish, jealousy and peace, despair and hope. Then a year of
misery, during which he brutally cast me off. It was that which drove me
to the Catholic Church—not only the peace it promised, but the
knowledge that with baptism my sin would be washed away—for when
happiness went remorse began. I have not a brain of iron, like that
woman he married. She could snap her past in two and fling it behind
her. She could snap her fingers at moral laws, if it suited her purpose,
and know no regret, provided she had had nothing to regret meanwhile.
That was one reason why I hated her.

“Oh, how I hated her! How I hated her! Beverly never had any reserve,
and he made love to her before my eyes. He was infatuated. His affection
for me was an incidental fancy compared to his mad passion for that
woman. And month after month! Month after month! And I loved him still!

“I never dared say to myself that when the time came I should have
vengeance, for such a resolution I should be obliged to confess; and the
priest would make me promise to thrust it out, or refuse me absolution.
But down in my heart I knew that when the hour came the temptation would
conquer. It came first when I let him drink the morphine. And when I saw
her in court, when her lover gave me that sudden suggestion, when I knew
that I could send her to that horrible chair—” She threw out her arms
and laughed hysterically, “O God, I was almost happy again.”

The priest rose and stood before her. There were tears in his eyes.

“Poor woman!” he said. “Poor woman!”

Honora’s face convulsed, but she shut her lips resolutely and tapped the
floor with her foot.

“There is pardon and peace in the Church,” he continued softly; “and not
only for the sake of that poor girl at Sing Sing, battling to-night with
horror and terror, sleepless, listening to the solemn tramp of the death
watch, counting the hours that are marching her to that hideous death,
but for the future peace of your own soul, speak out and save her. Think
of the years of torment, of remorse, when you will not have the
excitement of the present, the pressure of your wrongs to sustain you.
Speak out, and I will give you absolution, and your soul shall know
peace.”

But Honora threw back her head and laughed.

“No! No!” she said. “I am not so weak as that. I have no intention of
going to pieces at the last moment. It is only her death that will give
me peace.”

He bent his long body backward, drawing himself up to his full imposing
height.

“And have you thought of what will be the penalty?” he said, in a low
voice, and with an intonation that was almost a chant.

She shuddered, but dragged her eyes away.

“I don’t care!” she said passionately. “I don’t care!”

“You are sure?” he said, in the same voice.

She drew two short breaths. “Oh, go away and leave me,” she said. “Why
did you come here? I did not intend to confess until all was over.”

“And you expected absolution?”

“I would have done any penance. I would have burnt my flesh with red-hot
irons—”

He gave a short, scornful laugh.

“The Church wants no such makeshift penances,” he said passionately. “It
has no use for the sinner that commits deliberate crime to-day and comes
cringing and triumphant to the confessional to-morrow. We have no use
for such as you,” he suddenly shouted, flinging out his arm and pointing
his index finger at her. “You are a disgrace to the Church, a pollution;
you are the lips of the leper upon the pure body of a Saint. We have no
place for such as you. We have only one method by which to deal with you
and such as you—” He curved his body, and his voice fell to a hollow
monotone: “Ex-commu-nica-tion.”

The woman stared at him with pale distended eyes, no breath issuing from
her dry lips, then sank to the floor, a miserable, collapsed, quivering
heap. The priest went to the window and called to a man who stood on the
walk below.


                                  XXII

Bourke was pacing up and down among the trees, his eyes seldom absent
from the man standing motionless in front of the house, or from the
light in Honora Mairs’ window. He struck a match every few moments and
looked at his watch. He lit a cigar, then found himself biting rapidly
along its length with vicious energy. He flung it away and lit another,
puffed at it violently, then let it fall to the ground as he pressed his
hands suddenly to his eyes, shutting out the picture of Patience in her
cell.

All the agony and doubt and despair of the past year were crowded into
this hour. Would the priest succeed? Was he clever enough to outwit a
clever and implacable woman? If he had only caught her in a moment of
weakness. But was there any weakness in that organisation of knit and
tempered steel? “He’ll blarney her,” he thought, with sudden hope,—“but
bah! you can’t blarney a snake. That will go so far with her and no
farther. Only acting can save us. If he can act well enough to fill the
stage on which this terrible tragedy is set, and conquer that woman’s
imagination, he can save my poor girl, but not otherwise.”

His hands clutched the bushes as he passed. He kicked the gravel from
his feet. He cursed aloud, not knowing what he was saying. He felt an
intolerable thirst; his eyeballs burned; his heart hammered
spasmodically.

He looked at his watch. It was twelve o’clock. His spinning brain
conceived the wild project of forcing himself up to that lighted room at
the corner of the house and putting the woman to the torture. And at
that moment he saw the priest lean out of the window and speak to the
notary public, who immediately entered the house.

A half hour later the priest came out of the front door and toward him.
He held a paper in his hand.

Bourke was waiting at the door. He took the affidavit from the priest,
glanced over it, and thrust it into his pocket.

“Come,” he said. “I’ll get one of the men here to hitch up a team and
drive us to the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street station. There we’ll
take the train for Forty-second Street, and at the Grand Central the
train for Albany. No south bound local will pass here for an hour. I
happen to know that the governor is in Albany to-night attending a
banquet.”


                                 XXIII

Patience had given up hope at last. Its death had been accompanied by
wonder rather than by despair. Her remarkable experience with Bourke had
led her to idealise him even beyond the habit of woman, and her faith in
his ability to save her had been absolute. Nevertheless, woman like, she
wove elaborate excuses for him, and loved him none the less.

The day had dragged itself into twenty years. The chaplain had called
and been dismissed. The warden had visited her and uttered the
conventional words of sympathy, to which Patience had listened without
expression, loathing the coarse ungrammatical brute. The head-keeper she
liked, for she was the first to recognise true sympathy and nobility
within whatever bark. Miss Beale had come and wept and kissed her hands
through the bars.

“Patience! Patience!” she sobbed. “If it could only be said that you
died like a Christian!”

“It can be said that I died like an American gentlewoman of the
nineteenth century,” replied Patience. “I am quite satisfied to know
that they will be obliged to say that.”

Miss Beale shook her head vigorously. “You will fail when the time
comes,” she said. “Only the Lord can sustain you. Please, Patience, let
me pray with you.”

“Please let me die in peace,” said Patience, wearily, “and consistently.
I shall not make a spectacle of myself. Don’t worry.”

After Miss Beale had gone the prison barber came and shaved a bald spot
on the back of her head. She kept her face in the shadow, her teeth set,
her skin thrilling with horror.

                 *        *        *        *        *

She sat on the edge of her bed until midnight. In the past two months,
despite her faith in Bourke, she had deliberately allowed her mind to
dwell upon the execution until fear had worn blunt. She was conscious of
none to-night. Moreover, she had the poise of one that has lived close
to the great mysteries of life. Were she free she might have a lifetime
of happiness with Bourke, but in degree there were many hours of the
past year that in mortal limitations could never be surpassed. The
people had won their fight, but she felt that she had cheated them at
every other point. For, after all, happiness is of kind, not of
quantity. They could strike from her many years of life, but had she not
lived? And a few years more or less—what mattered it? One must die at
the last. She had realised an ideal. She had known love in its
profoundest meaning, in its most delicate vibrations. A thousand years
could give her no more than that.

Suddenly she lifted her head. The rain was dashing against her high
window and against the windows of the corridor. She flushed and trembled
and held her breath expectantly. In a moment she lay along the bed, and
in a moment more forgot her evil state. Memories without form trooped
through her brain: snatches and flashes of childhood and adolescence,
glimmers of dawn, and stirrings of deeps, vistas of enchanted future,
the rising and receding, rising and receding of Mystery, the vague
pleasurable loneliness—the protest of separateness.

Then she pressed her face into the pillows, weeping wildly that she
should see Bourke no more. The rain gave him to her in terrible mockery.
Every part of her demanded him. She cared nothing for the morrow; she
had thought of no to-morrows when with him. Morrows were naught, for
there was always the last; but the present are always there to fulfil or
torment. She shuddered once. The rain had given her back the power to
long and dream; and to longing and dreaming there could be no
fulfilment, not in this world, now nor ever.

She beat her clenched hand against the bed, not in fear, but in
passionate resentment that she with her magnificent endowment for
happiness should be snuffed out in her youth, and that there was no
power on earth to assuage her lover’s agony. She wondered where he was,
what he was doing. She knew that there was no sleep for him.

Her philosophy deserted her, as philosophy will when the sun is under
the horizon. She ceased to be satisfied with what had been; the great
love in her soul cried out and demanded its eternal rights. And her
fainting courage demanded the man. . . .

Her thoughts suddenly took a whimsical turn. What should she be like in
eternity shorn of her stronger part?—for assuredly in her case the man
and the woman were one. Was space full of those incomplete
shapes?—roaming—roaming—for what?—and whither? She recalled a
painting of Vedder’s called “Identity” and Aldrich’s verses beneath:—

        “Somewhere, in desolate, wind-swept space,
           In Twilight land, in No-man’s land,
         Two wandering shapes met face to face,
           And bade each other stand.

        “‘And who are you?’ cried one, agape,
           Shuddering in the gloaming light,
         ‘I know not,’ said the second shape,
          ‘I only died last night.’”

The picture had fascinated her profoundly until she had suddenly noticed
that one of the shapes looked as if she had left her teeth on her
death-bed. She laughed aloud suddenly. . . .

For the first time she felt curious about the hereafter. Poetry had
demonstrated to her that hereafter of some sort there must be: the poet
sees only the soul of his creations, makes the soul talk as it would if
untrammelled of flesh, and in unconscious forecast of its freedom.
Browning, alone, would have taught her this. His greater poems were
those of another and loftier world. No wonder poets were a mad unhappy
race with their brief awakenings of the cosmic sense, their long
contemplations of what should be, in awful contrast to what is. . . .

Patience suddenly turned from the thoughts of the hereafter in
shuddering horror. Then, as now, she should be alone. Perhaps it would
be as well, if she were to look like that shape. . . . But she should
know soon enough!

Whimsies deserted her as abruptly as they had come. She realised with
terrible vividness all that she was leaving, the sweetness of it, the
beauty of it—and the awful part allotted to the man.

She had imagined that in her last night on earth—if it came to
that—her mind would dwell on the great problems of life; but she cried
herself to sleep.


                                  XXIV

Bourke and the priest arrived in Albany at two minutes past eight in the
morning. A hack carried them to the governor’s house in less than ten
minutes.

Bourke’s ring was answered immediately. He had his card ready, also that
of the priest.

“Take these to the governor,” he said to the butler. “We must see him at
once.”

“The governor took the 8.13 express for New York.”

Bourke uttered an oath which the priest did not rebuke.

“Did he leave an answer to a telegram he received between two and five
this morning?”

“No, sir; no telegrams are ever sent here—by special orders, sir. They
are all sent to the State House.”

Bourke’s skin turned grey; his eyes dulled like those of a dying man.
But only for a moment. His brain worked with its customary rapidity.

“Come,” he said to the priest. “There is only one thing to do.”

To the hackman he said: “Twenty dollars if you get to the station in
five minutes.”

He and the priest jumped into the hack. The driver lashed the horses.
They dashed down the steep hills of Albany. Two policemen rushed after
them, shouting angrily; but the horses galloped the faster, the driver
bounding on his seat. People darted shrieking out of their way. Other
teams pulled hastily aside, oaths flying.

They reached the station in exactly four minutes and a half. Bourke had
little money with him, but he was well known, and known to be wealthy.
In less than five minutes the superintendent, in regard for a check for
two hundred and fifty dollars, had ordered out the fastest engine in the
shop. In ten minutes more it was ready, and the message had flashed
along the line to make way for “45.”

By this time every man in the yard was surging about the engine in
excited sympathy. As the engineer gave the word and Bourke and the
priest climbed in, the men cheered lustily. Bourke raised his hat.
Father Connor waved them his blessing. The engine sprang down the road
in pursuit of the New York express.

Despite the flying moments, the horror that seemed to sit grimacing upon
the hour of eleven every time that he looked at his watch, Bourke felt
the exhilaration of that ride, the enchantment of uncertainty. The
morning air was cool; the river flashed with gold; the earth was very
green. They seemed to cut the air as they raced through fields and
towns, dashed and whizzed round curve after curve. People ran after
them, some shouting with terror, thinking it was a runaway engine.

Father Connor had bought some sandwiches at the station, and Bourke ate
mechanically. He wondered if he should ever recognise the fine flavour
of food again.

The priest put his lips to Bourke’s ear and spoke for the first time.

“Where do you expect to catch the train?”

“At Poughkeepsie. It waits there ten minutes.”

“And what shall you do if you don’t catch it?”

“Go on to Sing Sing, and do the best I can. I have made one fatal
mistake: I should have telegraphed to Sing Sing. But I was mad, I think,
until I reached Albany, and there it is no wonder I forgot it. The
regular time for—that business is round eleven o’clock, about a quarter
past; but if the warden happens to be drunk there’s no telling what he
will take it into his head to do. But I dare not stop.”

Suddenly they shot about a curve. The engineer shouted “There! There!” A
dark speck was just making another curve, far to the south.

“The express!” cried the engineer. “We’ve side-tracked everything else.
We’ll catch her now.”

An hour later they dashed into Poughkeepsie, the express only two
minutes ahead of them. Amidst a crowd of staring people, Bourke and the
priest, begrimed, dishevelled, leaped from the engine and boarded a
parlour car of the express. Alone, Bourke would probably have been
arrested as a madman, controlled as was his demeanour; but the priest’s
frock forbade interference.

The governor was not in the parlour car, nor in the next, nor in the
next.

Yes, he had been there, a porter replied, and would be there again; but
he had left the train as soon as it had stopped. No, he did not know in
what direction he had gone; nor did any one else.

There was nothing to do but to wait. Bourke sent a telegram to Sing
Sing, but it relieved his anxiety little: he knew the languid methods of
the company’s officials in country towns.

There were five of those remaining seven minutes when he thought he was
going mad. An immense crowd had gathered by this time about the station.
Nobody knew exactly what was the matter, and nobody dared ask the man
walking rapidly up and down the platform, watch in hand, gripping the
arm of a priest; but hints were flying, and no one doubted that this
sudden furious incursion of a flying engine and the extraordinary
appearance of Bourke had to do with the famous prisoner at Sing Sing.

At exactly three minutes to starting time the governor came sauntering
down the street, a tooth-pick in his mouth, his features overspread with
the calm and good-will which bespeak a recently warmed interior. Bourke
reached him almost at a bound. He was a master of words, and in less
than a minute he had presented the governor with the facts in the case
and handed him the affidavit.

“Good,” said the governor. “I’m glad enough to do this. It’s you that
will understand, Mr. Bourke, that I would have been violating a sacred
duty if I’d slapped public opinion in the face before.”

He wrote rapidly on the back of the affidavit.

“This will do for the present,” he said. “I’ll fix it up in style when I
go back. You’re a great man, Mr. Bourke.”

But Bourke had gone. Whistles were sounding, train men were yelling. He
and the priest barely had time to jump on their engine when they were
ordered to clear the track.

Bourke glanced at his watch as they sprang out of the station. The time
was twenty minutes past ten. It was barely possible to reach Sing Sing
in three quarters of an hour. Lead was in his veins. His head felt
light. The chances for his last and paramount success were very slim.

But the great engine dashed along like an inspired thing, and seemed to
throb in sympathy. There was a note of triumphant encouragement in its
sudden piercing shrieks. It tossed a cow off the track as lightly as the
poor brute had lately whisked a fly from its hind-quarters. It whistled
merrily to the roaring air. It snorted disdainfully when Bourke,
refusing to heed its mighty lullaby, curved his hands about his mouth
and shouted to the engineer:—

“For God’s sake, go faster!”


                                  XXV

The town of Sing Sing was awake at daylight. It was the most exciting
and important day of its history. The women, even the pitiful ones,
arose with a pleasurable flutter and donned their Sunday frocks. The
matrons dressed the children in their brightest and best, and laid the
gala cover on the baby carriage. The men of the village took a
half-holiday and made themselves as smart as their women. The saloon
keepers stocked their shelves and spread their counters with tempting
array of corned beef, cold ham, cheese, crackers, pickles, and pretzels.

By ten o’clock a hundred teams had driven into the town, and were
hitched to every post, housed in every stable. A number stood along that
part of the road which commanded a view of the prison towers.

The women sat about on the slope opposite the prison, pushing the baby
carriages absently back and forth, or gossiping with animation. Other
women crowded up the bluff, settling themselves comfortably to await,
with what patience they could muster, the elevation of the black flag.

The reporters and witnesses of the execution sat on a railing near the
main entrance, smoking cigarettes and discussing probabilities. Inside
and out the atmosphere of intense and suppressed excitement was trying
to even the stout nerves of the head-keeper. The assistant keepers, in
bright new caps, moved about with an air of portentous solemnity.

Never had Sing Sing seen a more beautiful day. The sky was a dome of
lapis-lazuli. The yellow sun sparkled down on the imposing mediæval pile
of towers and turrets, on the handsome grey buildings above the green
slopes near by, on the graveyard with its few dishonoured dead, on the
gayly dressed expectant people, as exhilaratingly as had death and
dishonour never been. The river and the wooded banks beyond were as
sweet and calm as if the great building with the men in the watch towers
were some feudal castle, in which, perchance, a captured princess pined.

The head-keeper walked once or twice to the telegraph table in a corner
of the office, and asked the girl in charge if any message had come.

“It’s the wish that’s father to the thought,” he said to the warden;
“but I can’t help hoping for a reprieve or a commutation or something.
Poor thing, I feel awful sorry for her.”

“Damn her,” growled his chief. “She’s too high-toned for me. When I read
the death warrant to her this morning she turned her back on me square.”

“She’s awful proud, and I guess she has a hard time keeping up; but it
ain’t no time for resentment. I must say I did think Mr. Bourke’d save
her, and I can’t help thinking he will yet.”

“Time’s getting short,” said the warden, with a dry laugh. “It’s 10.40,
and the execution takes place at 11.12 sharp.”

“Couldn’t you make some excuse to put it off a day or so? It ain’t like
Mr. Bourke.”

“Not much. Off she goes at 11.12.” And he got up heavily and shuffled
out.

The head-keeper took a decanter of brandy from the sideboard and placed
it, with a number of glasses, on the table. Then he called in the
newspaper men and other witnesses.

He wandered about restlessly as the men entered and drank in silence. He
carried a stick of malacca topped with silver. One or two of the
newspaper men shuddered as it caught their eye. They knew its hideous
portent.

“Guess we’d better go,” he said, after one more fruitless trip to the
telegraph table. “It takes time to go through those underground
passages.”

As the great gates were about to close behind them he turned suddenly
and called a guard.

“If it should so happen that Mr. Bourke should come, or telegraph, or
that anything should happen before—11.16—I can delay it that
long—just you be on hand to make a bolt. It ain’t like Mr. Bourke to
sit down and do nothing. I feel it in my bones that he’s moving heaven
and earth this minute.”


                                  XXVI

It was five minutes after eleven. Patience sat on the edge of her bed,
her hands clenched, her face grey. But she was calm. The horror and
sinking which had almost mastered her as the warden read the death
warrant, she had fought down and under. And she had drunk a quantity of
black coffee. She had but one thought, one desire left,—to die bravely.
Even Bourke was forgotten, and hope and regret. She was conscious of but
one passionate wish, not to quail, not for a second. Perhaps there was a
slight touch of the dramatic instinct, even in this last extremity, for
she imagined the scene and her attitude again and again. In consequence,
there was a sense of unreality in it all. She felt as if about to play
some great final act; she could not realise that the climax meant her
own annihilation. Physically she was very tired, and should have liked
to lie down for hours, although the coffee had routed sleep. Once she
half extended herself on the bed, then sat erect, her mouth contracting
spasmodically.

Suddenly she heard the noise of many feet shuffling on a bare floor. She
knew that it came from the execution room. She shuddered and bit her
lips. Now and again, through the high windows, came the shrill note of a
woman’s voice, or a baby’s soft light laugh.

A moment later she sprang to her feet, quivering in every nerve, her
hands clenched in a final and successful attempt at absolute
self-mastery. On the door separating the Death House from the main
building, resounded three loud raps, slow and deliberate. They
reverberated in the ears of the condemned like the blast of the last
trumpet.

The door opened, and the head-keeper entered, walking slowly, and
stopping once to hold whispered converse with the death watch. Patience
controlled an impulse to call to him to hurry and have it over.

He came forward at last, tapping his malacca stick on the floor,
unlocked the door of her cell, and offered her his arm. He bent to her
ear as if to whisper something, then evidently thought better of it, and
led her slowly to the passage facing the execution room. Again she
wanted to ask him to hurry, but dared not speak. The death watch turned
away his head. The lace of her low shoe untied, and she stooped
mechanically and fastened it.

The head-keeper asked her if she would like some brandy,—he would send
and get it for her. She shook her head emphatically. The exaltation of
heroism was beginning to possess her, and she would give no newspaper
the chance to say that she owed her fortitude to alcohol.

They walked down the narrow vaulted way through which so many had gone
to their last hideous moments. The head-keeper fumbled at the lock. The
door swung open. For a moment Patience closed her eyes; the big room of
yellow wood was a blaze of sunlight. Then she opened them and glanced
curiously about her.

The execution room was large and high and square and cheerful. On the
left, many feet above the floor, was a row of windows. At the far end a
number of men that had been sitting on stools stood up hurriedly as the
prisoner entered, and doffed their hats. They were the newspaper men.
She recognised most of them, and bent her head. At the opposite end near
the door leading to the Death House was a chair. Patience regarded it
steadily in spite of its brilliancy. It was a solid chair of light
coloured oak, like the room, and supported on three legs. Two were at
the back; in front was one of curious construction, almost a foot in
breadth. This leg was divided in two at the extremity. Half way up there
was a cross piece which spread the full width of the chair. To this was
fastened the straps to hold the ankles of the condemned. The chair stood
on a rubber mat to ensure perfect insulation. It was studded with small
electric lamps, dazzling, white-hot.

Behind the chair was a square cupboard in which stood the unknown, who,
at a given signal, would turn on the current.

Two prison guards stood by the chair, one behind it and one on the
right. The State electrician, two surgeons, and a man in light blue
clothes stood near.

Patience turned her eyes to the reporters. The young men were very pale.
They regarded her with deep sympathy, and perhaps a bitter resentment at
the impotence of their manhood. One looked as if he should faint, and
turning his back suddenly raised something to his lips. Even the “Eye”
man still held his hat in his hand, and had not resumed his seat. Only
one watched her with eager wolfish curiosity. He was the youngest of
them all, and it was his first great story.

Patience wondered if she looked ugly after her long confinement, and
possibly ridiculous, as most women look when they have dressed without a
mirror. But there was no curve of amusement on the young men’s faces,
and they were shuffling their feet uneasily. Her hair hung in a long
braid. She looked very young.

She dropped the head-keeper’s arm and walked deliberately to the chair;
but he caught her hand and held her back.

“Wait a minute,” he said, with affected gruffness. He went to the chair
and examined it in detail. He asked a number of questions, which were
answered by the electrician with haughty surprise. In a moment the
reporters were staring, and like a lightning flash one brain informed
another that “something was in the wind.”

When the head-keeper had lingered about the chair as long as he dared he
returned to Patience, who was standing rigidly where he had left her,
and drawing a short breath said,—

“If you have any last words, ma’am, you are at liberty to speak.”

“I have nothing to say,” replied Patience, wondering if her mouth or
brain were speaking.

“Yes, yes, speak,” exclaimed several of the reporters. They had out
their pads in an instant; but, for once, it was not the news instinct
that was alert. The most quick-witted men in the world, they realised
that the head-keeper was endeavouring to gain time. Their stiff felt
hats dropped to the floor and bounced about. Their hands shook a little.
For perhaps the first time in their history they were more men than
journalists.

“I don’t wish to speak,” said Patience, and again she walked toward the
chair. The newspaper men sprang forward with an uncontrollable movement,
but the guards waved them back.

“Be careful, young men,” said the head-keeper with pompous severity.
“Any more of that, and you go out.” Taking advantage of the momentary
scraping of boots, he whispered in Patience’s ear, “For God’s sake
speak—and a good long one. You must have something to say; and it’s
your last chance on earth.”

“I have nothing to say,” she replied, her brain closed to all
impressions but one. “Can’t you see that I need all my strength? If you
have any mercy in you put me in that chair and have done with it.”

“Oh, you are not the kind to break down—my God!”

The silence of the prison, the hush without the walls, was pierced by a
single shriek, a shriek which seemed shot from earth to heaven, a mighty
shriek of furious warning.

Every man in the room jumped. The newspaper men drew their breath with a
hard sound. Only Patience gave no heed.

“It’s an engine,” stuttered the head-keeper, “and there’s no train due
at this hour—”

The outer door was flung violently open. The warden stamped heavily into
the room. His face was purple.

“Why in hell hasn’t this execution taken place?” he roared. “Get to
work!”

The head-keeper’s face turned very white. His hand shook a little. The
men stared at him with jumping nerves. Patience and the warden were the
only persons in the room unaffected by the inexplicable excitement which
had taken possession of the atmosphere.

“Get to work,” repeated the warden.

Patience walked to the chair and seated herself, extending her arms in
position. Once more her brain relaxed its grasp on every thought but the
determination not to scream nor quiver. She closed her eyes and set her
teeth.

The guards began to fasten the straps, but slowly, under the significant
eyes of the head-keeper. The warden stamped up and down. The electrician
came forward. The surgeon went into an adjoining room and cast his eyes
over his instruments, laid out on a long table.

The brain works eccentrically in such moments. Patience’s suddenly flung
upon her consciousness a picture of Carmel tower. She speculated upon
the fate of her owl. She recalled that the Mission had been restored,
and wondered if Solomon, that proud and elderly hermit, had turned his
haughty back upon civilisation to dwell alone in the black arbours of
the remote pine tops of the forest. She saw the spray toss itself into
scattering wraiths, as when she had knelt there—a thousand years ago—a
little lonely girl in copper-toed boots, dreaming dreams that were
pricked with no premonition of life’s tragic horrors.

She frowned suddenly, recalling her long-lived determination to take
life as a spectacular drama. Life had gotten the best of her! Assuredly
there was nothing impersonal about this ignominious and possibly
excruciating death. The thought banished Carmel tower. Her mind was a
sudden blaze of light—white light she thought with a stifled shrink—in
which every detail of the room was sharply accentuated. She opened her
eyes, but only a trifle, lest these men see the horror in them. Her
blood was curdling, but she knew that she was making no sign.

Her sensitised mind received the immediate impression that the
atmosphere of the room was vibrating with excitement. She saw the
head-keeper’s neck crane, his furtive glance at the outer door. He
expected some one. Bourke!

She set her teeth. She had believed up to last night that he would save
her. Why had she doubted him for an instant? She understood now the
diplomacy of the head-keeper. Why had she not spoken when he had
implored her?

It seemed to her that the men fastening the straps were racing each
other. She wanted to whisper to them to lag, but pride stayed her
tongue.

The warden was striding about and swearing. The electricians and
surgeons were whispering in a group.

She looked at the newspaper men. She met their gaze of excited sympathy,
understood at last the spirit that animated them, and bowed her head.
She dared not speak.

But in a moment indignation routed gratitude. Why did they not rescue
her, these young vigorous men! They knew her to be innocent. They
outmatched in number the guards. Where was their manhood? What had
become of all the old traditions? Then her anger left as suddenly as it
had come. They were not knights with battle axes, but the most
exaggerated product of modern civilisation. It was almost a miracle that
they passionately wished to save her.

Her head was drawn gently back, her eyes covered. Something leapt and
fought within her. Horror tore at her vitals, snarling like a
wolf-hound. But once more her will rose supreme. Then, as she realised
that her last moment had come, she became possessed by one mighty
desire, to compel her imagination to give her the phantasm, the voice,
the touch of her lover.

The wrench with which she accomplished her object was so violent, the
mental concentration so overmastering, that all other consciousness was
extinguished.

Suddenly her ears were pierced by a din which made her muscles leap
against the straps. Was she in hell, and was this her greeting? She felt
a second’s thankfulness that death had been painless.

Then, out of the babel of sound she distinguished words which made her
sit erect and open her eyes, her pulses bound, her blood leap, hot and
stinging, her whole being rebound with gladness of life.

The cap had been removed, the men were unbuckling the straps. The
head-keeper had flung his cap on the floor and run his hands through his
hair until it stood up straight. Round her chair the newspaper men were
pressing, shouting and cheering, trying to get at her hand to shake it.

She smiled and held out her hand, but dared not speak to them. Pride
still lived, and she was afraid that she should cry.

Then she forgot them. A sudden parting in the ranks showed her the open
door. At the same moment the men stopped shouting. Bourke had entered.
He had followed the guard mechanically, neither hoping nor fearing until
the far-reaching cheers sent the blood springing through his veins once
more.

He was neither clean nor picturesque, but Patience saw only his eyes. He
walked forward rapidly, and lifting her in his arms carried her from the
room.



                 *        *        *        *        *



Transcriber’s note:

A Table of Contents was added for the convenience of the reader.

Hyphenation and archaic spellings have been retained as in the original.
Punctuation and type-setting errors have been corrected without note.
Other corrections are as noted below.

page 301, not by a long short ==> not by a long shot

page 343, and the diplomate kissed ==> and the diplomat kissed





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