If my mother suspected that I was anticipating marriage, and said nothing, Nancy Durrett suspected and spoke out.
Life is such a curious succession of contradictions and surprises that I record here without comment the fact that I was seeing much more of Nancy since her marriage than I had in the years preceding it. A comradeship existed between us. I often dined at her house and had fallen into the habit of stopping there frequently on my way home in the evening. Ham did not seem to mind. What was clear, at any rate, was that Nancy, before marriage, had exacted some sort of an understanding by which her "freedom" was not to be interfered with. She was the first among us of the "modern wives."
Ham, whose heartstrings and purse-strings were oddly intertwined, had stipulated that they were to occupy the old Durrett mansion; but when Nancy had made it "livable," as she expressed it, he is said to have remarked that he might as well have built a new house and been done with it. Not even old Nathaniel himself would have recognized his home when Nancy finished what she termed furnishing: out went the horsehair, the hideous chandeliers, the stuffy books, the Recamier statuary, and an army of upholsterers, wood-workers, etc., from Boston and New York invaded the place. The old mahogany doors were spared, but matched now by Chippendale and Sheraton; the new, polished floors were covered with Oriental rugs, the dreary Durrett pictures replaced by good canvases and tapestries. Nancy had what amounted to a genius for interior effects, and she was the first to introduce among us the luxury that was to grow more and more prevalent as our wealth increased by leaps and bounds. Only Nancy's luxury, though lavish, was never vulgar, and her house when completed had rather marvellously the fine distinction of some old London mansion filled with the best that generations could contribute. It left Mrs. Frederick Grierson—whose residence on the Heights had hitherto been our "grandest"—breathless with despair.
With characteristic audacity Nancy had chosen old Nathaniel's sanctum for her particular salon, into which Ham himself did not dare to venture without invitation. It was hung in Pompeiian red and had a little wrought-iron balcony projecting over the yard, now transformed by an expert into a garden. When I had first entered this room after the metamorphosis had taken place I inquired after the tombstone mantel.
"Oh, I've pulled it up by the roots," she said.
"Aren't you afraid of ghosts?" I inquired.
"Do I look it?" she asked. And I confessed that she didn't. Indeed, all ghosts were laid, nor was there about her the slightest evidence of mourning or regret. One was forced to acknowledge her perfection in the part she had chosen as the arbitress of social honours. The candidates were rapidly increasing; almost every month, it seemed, someone turned up with a fortune and the aspirations that go with it, and it was Mrs. Durrett who decided the delicate question of fitness. With these, and with the world at large, her manner might best be described as difficult; and I was often amused at the way in which she contrived to keep them at arm's length and make them uncomfortable. With her intimates—of whom there were few—she was frank.
"I suppose you enjoy it," I said to her once.
"Of course I enjoy it, or I shouldn't do it," she retorted. "It isn't the real thing, as I told you once. But none of us gets the real thing. It's power.... Just as you enjoy what you're doing—sorting out the unfit. It's a game, it keeps us from brooding over things we can't help. And after all, when we have good appetites and are fairly happy, why should we complain?"
"I'm not complaining," I said, taking up a cigarette, "since I still enjoy your favour."
She regarded me curiously.
"And when you get married, Hugh?"
"Sufficient unto the day," I replied.
"How shall I get along, I wonder, with that simple and unsophisticated lady when she appears?"
"Well," I said, "you wouldn't marry me."
She shook her head at me, and smiled....
"No," she corrected me, "you like me better as Hams' wife than you would have as your own."
I merely laughed at this remark.... It would indeed have been difficult to analyze the new relationship that had sprung up between us, to say what elements composed it. The roots of it went back to the beginning of our lives; and there was much of sentiment in it, no doubt. She understood me as no one else in the world understood me, and she was fond of me in spite of it.
Hence, when I became infatuated with Maude Hutchins, after that Sunday when she so unexpectedly had refused me, I might have known that Nancy's suspicions would be aroused. She startled me by accusing me, out of a clear sky, of being in love. I denied it a little too emphatically.
"Why shouldn't you tell me, Hugh, if it's so?" she asked. "I didn't hesitate to tell you."
It was just before her departure for the East to spend the summer. We were on the balcony, shaded by the big maple that grew at the end of the garden.
"But there's nothing to tell," I insisted.
She lay back in her chair, regarding me.
"Did you think that I'd be jealous?"
"There's nothing to be jealous about."
"I've always expected you to get married, Hugh. I've even predicted the type."
She had, in truth, with an accuracy almost uncanny.
"The only thing I'm afraid of is that she won't like me. She lives in that place you've been going to so much, lately,—doesn't she?"
Of course she had put two and two together, my visits to Elkington and my manner, which I had flattered myself had not been distrait. On the chance that she knew more, from some source, I changed my tactics.
"I suppose you mean Maude Hutchins," I said.
"So that's her name!"
"It's the name of a girl in Elkington. I've been doing legal work for the Hutchinses, and I imagine some idiot has been gossiping. She's just a young girl—much too young for me."
"Men are queer creatures," she declared. "Did you think I should be jealous?"
It was exactly what I had thought, but I denied it.
"Why should you be—even if there were anything to be jealous about? You didn't consult me when you got married. You merely announced an irrevocable decision."
Nancy leaned forward and laid her hand on my arm.
"My dear," she said, "strange as it may seem, I want you to be happy. I don't want you to make a mistake, Hugh, too great a mistake."
I was surprised and moved. Once more I had a momentary glimpse of the real Nancy....
Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Ralph Hambleton....
However, thoughts of Maude continued to possess me. She still appeared the most desirable of beings, and a fortnight after my repulse, without any excuse at all, I telegraphed the George Hutchinses that I was coming to pay them a visit. Mrs. George, wearing a knowing smile, met me at the station in a light buck-board.
"I've asked Maude to dinner," she said....
Thus with masculine directness I returned to the charge, and Maude's continued resistance but increased my ardour; could not see why she continued to resist me.
"Because I don't love you," she said.
This was incredible. I suggested that she didn't know what love was, and she admitted it was possible: she liked me very, very much. I told her, sagely, that this was the best foundation for matrimony. That might be, but she had had other ideas. For one thing, she felt that she did not know me.... In short, she was charming and maddening in her defensive ruses, in her advances and retreats, for I pressed her hard during the four weeks which followed, and in them made four visits. Flinging caution to the winds, I did not even pretend to George that I was coming to see him on business. I had the Hutchins family on my side, for they had the sense to see that the match would be an advantageous one; I even summoned up enough courage to talk to Ezra Hutchins on the subject.
"I'll not attempt to influence Maude, Mr. Paret—I've always said I wouldn't interfere with her choice. But as you are a young man of sound habits, sir, successful in your profession, I should raise no objection. I suppose we can't keep her always."
To conceal his emotion, he pulled out the watch he lived by. "Why, it's church time!" he said.... I attended church regularly at Elkington....
On a Sunday night in June, following a day during which victory seemed more distant than ever, with startling unexpectedness Maude capitulated. She sat beside me on the bench, obscured, yet the warm night quivered with her presence. I felt her tremble.... I remember the first exquisite touch of her soft cheek. How strange it was that in conquest the tumult of my being should be stilled, that my passion should be transmuted into awe that thrilled yet disquieted! What had I done? It was as though I had suddenly entered an unimagined sanctuary filled with holy flame....
Presently, when we began to talk, I found myself seeking more familiar levels. I asked her why she had so long resisted me, accusing her of having loved me all the time.
"Yes, I think I did, Hugh. Only—I didn't know it."
"You must have felt something, that afternoon when I first proposed to you!"
"You didn't really want me, Hugh. Not then."
Surprised, and a little uncomfortable at this evidence of intuition, I started to protest. It seemed to me then as though I had always wanted her.
"No, no," she exclaimed, "you didn't. You were carried away by your feelings—you hadn't made up your mind. Indeed, I can't see why you want me now."
"You believe I do," I said, and drew her toward me.
"Yes, I—I believe it, now. But I can't see why. There must be so many attractive girls in the city, who know so much more than I do."
I sought fervidly to reassure her on this point.... At length when we went into the house she drew away from me at arm's length and gave me one long searching look, as though seeking to read my soul.
"Hugh, you will always love me—to the very end, won't you?"
"Yes," I whispered, "always."
In the library, one on each side of the table, under the lamp, Ezra Hutchins and his wife sat reading. Mrs. Hutchins looked up, and I saw that she had divined.
"Mother, I am engaged to Hugh," Maude said, and bent over and kissed her. Ezra and I stood gazing at them. Then he turned to me and pressed my hand.
"Well, I never saw the man who was good enough for her, Hugh. But God bless you, my son. I hope you will prize her as we prize her."
Mrs. Hutchins embraced me. And through her tears she, too, looked long into my face. When she had released me Ezra had his watch in his hand.
"If you're going on the ten o'clock train, Hugh—"
"Father!" Maude protested, laughing, "I must say I don't call that very polite."...
In the train I slept but fitfully, awakening again and again to recall the extraordinary fact that I was now engaged to be married, to go over the incidents of the evening. Indifferent to the backings and the bumpings of the car, the voices in the stations, the clanging of locomotive bells and all the incomprehensible startings and stoppings, exalted yet troubled I beheld Maude luminous with the love I had amazingly awakened, a love somewhere beyond my comprehension. For her indeed marriage was made in heaven. But for me? Could I rise now to the ideal that had once been mine, thrust henceforth evil out of my life? Love forever, live always in this sanctuary she had made for me? Would the time come when I should feel a sense of bondage?...
The wedding was set for the end of September. I continued to go every week to Elkington, and in August, Maude and I spent a fortnight at the sea. There could be no doubt as to my mother's happiness, as to her approval of Maude; they loved each other from the beginning. I can picture them now, sitting together with their sewing on the porch of the cottage at Mattapoisett. Out on the bay little white-caps danced in the sunlight, sail-boats tacked hither and thither, the strong cape breeze, laden with invigorating salt, stirred Maude's hair, and occasionally played havoc with my papers.
"She is just the wife for you, Hugh," my mother confided to me. "If I had chosen her myself I could not have done better," she added, with a smile.
I was inclined to believe it, but Maude would have none of this illusion.
"He just stumbled across me," she insisted....
We went on long sails together, towards Wood's Hole and the open sea, the sprays washing over us. Her cheeks grew tanned.... Sometimes, when I praised her and spoke confidently of our future, she wore a troubled expression.
"What are you thinking about?" I asked her once.
"You mustn't put me on a pedestal," she said gently. "I want you to see me as I am—I don't want you to wake up some day and be disappointed. I'll have to learn a lot of things, and you'll have to teach me. I can't get used to the fact that you, who are so practical and successful in business, should be such a dreamer where I am concerned."
I laughed, and told her, comfortably, that she was talking nonsense.
"What did you think of me, when you first knew me?" I inquired.
"Well," she answered, with the courage that characterized her, "I thought you were rather calculating, that you put too high a price on success. Of course you attracted me. I own it."
"You hid your opinions rather well," I retorted, somewhat discomfited.
"Have you changed them?" I demanded.
"I think you have that side, and I think it a weak side, Hugh. It's hard to tell you this, but it's better to say so now, since you ask me. I do think you set too high a value on success.'
"Well, now that I know what success really is, perhaps I shall reform," I told her.
"I don't like to think that you fool yourself," she replied, with a perspicacity I should have found extraordinary.
Throughout my life there have been days and incidents, some trivial, some important, that linger in my memory because they are saturated with "atmosphere." I recall, for instance, a gala occasion in youth when my mother gave one of her luncheon parties; on my return from school, the house and its surroundings wore a mysterious, exciting and unfamiliar look, somehow changed by the simple fact that guests sat decorously chatting in a dining-room shining with my mother's best linen and treasured family silver and china. The atmosphere of my wedding-day is no less vivid. The house of Ezra Hutchins was scarcely recognizable: its doors and windows were opened wide, and all the morning people were being escorted upstairs to an all-significant room that contained a collection like a jeweller's exhibit,—a bewildering display. There was a massive punch-bowl from which dangled the card of Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Scherer, a really wonderful tea set of old English silver given by Senator and Mrs. Watling, and Nancy Willett, with her certainty of good taste, had sent an old English tankard of the time of the second Charles. The secret was in that room. And it magically transformed for me (as I stood, momentarily alone, in the doorway where I had first beheld Maude) the accustomed scene, and charged with undivined significance the blue shadows under the heavy foliage of the maples. The September sunlight was heavy, tinged with gold....
So fragmentary and confused are the events of that day that a cubist literature were necessary to convey the impressions left upon me. I had something of the feeling of a recruit who for the first time is taking part in a brilliant and complicated manoeuvre. Tom and Susan Peters flit across the view, and Gene Hollister and Perry Blackwood and the Ewanses,—all of whom had come up in a special car; Ralph Hambleton was "best man," looking preternaturally tall in his frock-coat: and his manner, throughout the whole proceeding, was one of good-natured tolerance toward a folly none but he might escape.
"If you must do it, Hughie, I suppose you must," he had said to me. "I'll see you through, of course. But don't blame me afterwards."
Maude was a little afraid of him....
I dressed at George's; then, like one of those bewildering shifts of a cinematograph, comes the scene in church, the glimpse of my mother's wistful face in the front pew; and I found myself in front of the austere Mr. Doddridge standing beside Maude—or rather beside a woman I tried hard to believe was Maude—so veiled and generally encased was she. I was thinking of this all the time I was mechanically answering Mr. Doddridge, and even when the wedding march burst forth and I led her out of the church. It was as though they had done their best to disguise her, to put our union on the other-worldly plane that was deemed to be its only justification, to neutralize her sex at the very moment it should have been most enhanced. Well, they succeeded. If I had not been as conventional as the rest, I should have preferred to have run away with her in the lavender dress she wore when I first proposed to her. It was only when we had got into the carriage and started for the house and she turned to me her face from which the veil had been thrown back that I realized what a sublime meaning it all had for her. Her eyes were wet. Once more I was acutely conscious of my inability to feel deeply at supreme moments. For months I had looked forward with anticipation and impatience to my wedding-day.
I kissed her gently. But I felt as though she had gone to heaven, and that the face I beheld enshrouded were merely her effigy. Commonplace words were inappropriate, yet it was to these I resorted.
"Well—it wasn't so bad after all! Was it?"
She smiled at me.
"You don't want to take it back?"
She shook her head.
"I think it was a beautiful wedding, Hugh. I'm so glad we had a good day."...
She seemed shy, at once very near and very remote. I held her hand awkwardly until the carriage stopped.
A little later we were standing in a corner of the parlour, the atmosphere of which was heavy with the scent of flowers, submitting to the onslaught of relatives. Then came the wedding breakfast: croquettes, champagne, chicken salad, ice-cream, the wedding-cake, speeches and more kisses.... I remember Tom Peters holding on to both my hands.
"Good-bye, and God bless you, old boy," he was saying. Susan, in view of the occasion, had allowed him a little more champagne than usual—enough to betray his feelings, and I knew that these had not changed since our college days. I resolved to see more of him. I had neglected him and undervalued his loyalty.... He had followed me to my room in George's house where I was dressing for the journey, and he gave it as his deliberate judgment that in Maude I had "struck gold."
"She's just the girl for you, Hughie," he declared. "Susan thinks so, too."
Later in the afternoon, as we sat in the state-room of the car that was bearing us eastward, Maude began to cry. I sat looking at her helplessly, unable to enter into her emotion, resenting it a little. Yet I tried awkwardly to comfort her.
"I can't bear to leave them," she said.
"But you will see them often, when we come back," I reassured her. It was scarcely the moment for reminding her of what she was getting in return. This peculiar family affection she evinced was beyond me; I had never experienced it in any poignant degree since I had gone as a freshman to Harvard, and yet I was struck by the fact that her emotions were so rightly placed. It was natural to love one's family. I began to feel, vaguely, as I watched her, that the new relationship into which I had entered was to be much more complicated than I had imagined. Twilight was coming on, the train was winding through the mountain passes, crossing and re-crossing a swift little stream whose banks were massed with alder; here and there, on the steep hillsides, blazed the goldenrod.... Presently I turned, to surprise in her eyes a wide, questioning look,—the look of a child. Even in this irrevocable hour she sought to grasp what manner of being was this to whom she had confided her life, and with whom she was faring forth into the unknown. The experience was utterly unlike my anticipation. Yet I responded. The kiss I gave her had no passion in it.
"I'll take good care of you, Maude," I said.
Suddenly, in the fading light, she flung her arms around me, pressing me tightly, desperately.
"Oh, I know you will, Hugh, dear. And you'll forgive me, won't you, for being so horrid to-day, of all days? I do love you!"
Neither of us had ever been abroad. And although it was before the days of swimming-pools and gymnasiums and a la carte cafes on ocean liners, the Atlantic was imposing enough. Maude had a more lasting capacity for pleasure than I, a keener enjoyment of new experiences, and as she lay beside me in the steamer-chair where I had carefully tucked her she would exclaim:
"I simply can't believe it, Hugh! It seems so unreal. I'm sure I shall wake up and find myself back in Elkington."
"Don't speak so loud, my dear," I cautioned her. There were some very formal-looking New Yorkers next us.
"No, I won't," she whispered. "But I'm so happy I feel as though I should like to tell everyone."
"There's no need," I answered smiling.
"Oh, Hugh, I don't want to disgrace you!" she exclaimed, in real alarm. "Otherwise, so far as I am concerned, I shouldn't care who knew."
People smiled at her. Women came up and took her hands. And on the fourth day the formidable New Yorkers unexpectedly thawed.
I had once thought of Maude as plastic. Then I had discovered she had a mind and will of her own. Once more she seemed plastic; her love had made her so. Was it not what I had desired? I had only to express a wish, and it became her law. Nay, she appealed to me many times a day to know whether she had made any mistakes, and I began to drill her in my silly traditions,—gently, very gently.
"Well, I shouldn't be quite so familiar with people, quite so ready to make acquaintances, Maude. You have no idea who they may be. Some of them, of course, like the Sardells, I know by reputation."
The Sardells were the New Yorkers who sat next us.
"I'll try, Hugh, to be more reserved, more like the wife of an important man." She smiled.
"It isn't that you're not reserved," I replied, ignoring the latter half of her remark. "Nor that I want you to change," I said. "I only want to teach you what little of the world I know myself."
"And I want to learn, Hugh. You don't know how I want to learn!"
The sight of mist-ridden Liverpool is not a cheering one for the American who first puts foot on the mother country's soil, a Liverpool of yellow-browns and dingy blacks, of tilted funnels pouring out smoke into an atmosphere already charged with it. The long wharves and shed roofs glistened with moisture.
"Just think, Hugh, it's actually England!" she cried, as we stood on the wet deck. But I felt as though I'd been there before.
"No wonder they're addicted to cold baths," I replied. "They must feel perfectly at home in them, especially if they put a little lampblack in the water."
"You grumpy old thing!" she exclaimed.
Nothing could dampen her ardour, not the sight of the rain-soaked stone houses when we got ashore, nor even the frigid luncheon we ate in the lugubrious hotel. For her it was all quaint and new. Finally we found ourselves established in a compartment upholstered in light grey, with tassels and arm-supporters, on the window of which was pasted a poster with the word reserved in large, red letters. The guard inquired respectfully, as the porter put our new luggage in the racks, whether we had everything we wanted. The toy locomotive blew its toy whistle, and we were off for the north; past dingy, yellow tenements of the smoking factory towns, and stretches of orderly, hedge-spaced rain-swept country. The quaint cottages we glimpsed, the sight of distant, stately mansions on green slopes caused Maude to cry out with rapture:—"Oh, Hugh, there's a manor-house!"
More vivid than were the experiences themselves of that journey are the memories of them. We went to windswept, Sabbath-keeping Edinburgh, to high Stirling and dark Holyrood, and to Abbotsford. It was through Sir Walter's eyes we beheld Melrose bathed in autumn light, by his aid repeopled it with forgotten monks eating their fast-day kale.
And as we sat reading and dreaming in the still, sunny corners I forgot, that struggle for power in which I had been so furiously engaged since leaving Cambridge. Legislatures, politicians and capitalists receded into a dim background; and the gift I had possessed, in youth, of living in a realm of fancy showed astonishing signs of revival.
"Why, Hugh," Maude exclaimed, "you ought to have been a writer!"
"You've only just begun to fathom my talents," I replied laughingly. "Did you think you'd married just a dry old lawyer?"
"I believe you capable of anything," she said....
I grew more and more to depend on her for little things.
She was a born housewife. It was pleasant to have her do all the packing, while I read or sauntered in the queer streets about the inns. And she took complete charge of my wardrobe.
She had a talent for drawing, and as we went southward through England she made sketches of the various houses that took our fancy—suggestions for future home-building; we spent hours in the evenings in the inn sitting-rooms incorporating new features into our residence, continually modifying our plans. Now it was a Tudor house that carried us away, now a Jacobean, and again an early Georgian with enfolding wings and a wrought-iron grill. A stage of bewilderment succeeded.
Maude, I knew, loved the cottages best. She said they were more "homelike." But she yielded to my liking for grandeur.
"My, I should feel lost in a palace like that!" she cried, as we gazed at the Marquis of So-and-So's country-seat.
"Well, of course we should have to modify it," I admitted. "Perhaps—perhaps our family will be larger."
She put her hand on my lips, and blushed a fiery red....
We examined, with other tourists, at a shilling apiece historic mansions with endless drawing-rooms, halls, libraries, galleries filled with family portraits; elaborate, formal bedrooms where famous sovereigns had slept, all roped off and carpeted with canvas strips to protect the floors. Through mullioned windows we caught glimpses of gardens and geometrical parterres, lakes, fountains, statuary, fantastic topiary and distant stretches of park. Maude sighed with admiration, but did not covet. She had me. But I was often uncomfortable, resenting the vulgar, gaping tourists with whom we were herded and the easy familiarity of the guides. These did not trouble Maude, who often annoyed me by asking naive questions herself. I would nudge her.
One afternoon when, with other compatriots, we were being hurried through a famous castle, the guide unwittingly ushered us into a drawing-room where the owner and several guests were seated about a tea-table. I shall never forget the stares they gave us before we had time precipitately to retreat, nor the feeling of disgust and rebellion that came over me. This was heightened by the remark of a heavy, six-foot Ohioan with an infantile face and a genial manner.
"I notice that they didn't invite us to sit down and have a bite," he said. "I call that kind of inhospitable."
"It was 'is lordship himself!" exclaimed the guide, scandalized.
"You don't say!" drawled our fellow-countryman. "I guess I owe you another shilling, my friend."
The guide, utterly bewildered, accepted it. The transatlantic point of view towards the nobility was beyond him.
"His lordship could make a nice little income if he set up as a side show," added the Ohioan.
Maude giggled, but I was furious. And no sooner were we outside the gates than I declared I should never again enter a private residence by the back door.
"Why, Hugh, how queer you are sometimes," she said.
"I maybe queer, but I have a sense of fitness," I retorted.
She asserted herself.
"I can't see what difference it makes. They didn't know us. And if they admit people for money—"
"I can't help it. And as for the man from Ohio—"
"But he was so funny!" she interrupted. "And he was really very nice."
I was silent. Her point of view, eminently sensible as it was, exasperated me. We were leaning over the parapet of a little-stone bridge. Her face was turned away from me, but presently I realized that she was crying. Men and women, villagers, passing across the bridge, looked at us curiously. I was miserable, and somewhat appalled; resentful, yet striving to be gentle and conciliatory. I assured her that she was talking nonsense, that I loved her. But I did not really love her at that moment; nor did she relent as easily as usual. It was not until we were together in our sitting-room, a few hours later, that she gave in. I felt a tremendous sense of relief.
"Hugh, I'll try to be what you want. You know I am trying. But don't kill what is natural in me."
I was touched by the appeal, and repentant...
It is impossible to say when the little worries, annoyances and disagreements began, when I first felt a restlessness creeping over me. I tried to hide these moods from her, but always she divined them. And yet I was sure that I loved Maude; in a surprisingly short period I had become accustomed to her, dependent on her ministrations and the normal, cosy intimacy of our companionship. I did not like to think that the keen edge of the enjoyment of possession was wearing a little, while at the same time I philosophized that the divine fire, when legalized, settles down to a comfortable glow. The desire to go home that grew upon me I attributed to the irritation aroused by the spectacle of a fixed social order commanding such unquestioned deference from the many who were content to remain resignedly outside of it. Before the setting in of the Liberal movement and the "American invasion" England was a country in which (from my point of view) one must be "somebody" in order to be happy. I was "somebody" at home; or at least rapidly becoming so....
London was shrouded, parliament had risen, and the great houses were closed. Day after day we issued forth from a musty and highly respectable hotel near Piccadilly to a gloomy Tower, a soggy Hampton Court or a mournful British Museum. Our native longing for luxury—or rather my native longing—impelled me to abandon Smith's Hotel for a huge hostelry where our suite overlooked the Thames, where we ran across a man I had known slightly at Harvard, and other Americans with whom we made excursions and dined and went to the theatre. Maude liked these persons; I did not find them especially congenial. My life-long habit of unwillingness to accept what life sent in its ordinary course was asserting itself; but Maude took her friends as she found them, and I was secretly annoyed by her lack of discrimination. In addition to this, the sense of having been pulled up by the roots grew upon me.
"Suppose," Maude surprised me by suggesting one morning as we sat at breakfast watching the river craft flit like phantoms through the yellow-green fog—"suppose we don't go to France, after all, Hugh?"
"Not go to France!" I exclaimed. "Are you tired of the trip?"
"Oh, Hugh!" Her voice caught. "I could go on, always, if you were content."
"And—what makes you think that I'm not content?"
Her smile had in it just a touch of wistfulness.
"I understand you, Hugh, better than you think. You want to get back to your work, and—and I should be happier. I'm not so silly and so ignorant as to think that I can satisfy you always. And I'd like to get settled at home,—I really should."
There surged up within me a feeling of relief. I seized her hand as it lay on the table.
"We'll come abroad another time, and go to France," I said. "Maude, you're splendid!"
She shook her head.
"Oh, no, I'm not."
"You do satisfy me," I insisted. "It isn't that at all. But I think, perhaps, it would be wiser to go back. It's rather a crucial time with me, now that Mr. Watling's in Washington. I've just arrived at a position where I shall be able to make a good deal of money, and later on—"
"It isn't the money, Hugh," she cried, with a vehemence which struck me as a little odd. "I sometimes think we'd be a great deal happier without—without all you are going to make."
"Well, I haven't made it yet."
She possessed the frugality of the Hutchinses. And some times my lavishness had frightened her, as when we had taken the suite of rooms we now occupied.
"Are you sure you can afford them, Hugh?" she had asked when we first surveyed them.
I began married life, and carried it on without giving her any conception of the state of my finances. She had an allowance from the first.
As the steamer slipped westward my spirits rose, to reach a climax of exhilaration when I saw the towers of New York rise gleaming like huge stalagmites in the early winter sun. Maude likened them more happily—to gigantic ivory chessmen. Well, New York was America's chessboard, and the Great Players had already begun to make moves that astonished the world. As we sat at breakfast in a Fifth Avenue hotel I ran my eye eagerly over the stock-market reports and the financial news, and rallied Maude for a lack of spirits.
"Aren't you glad to be home?" I asked her, as we sat in a hansom.
"Of course I am, Hugh!" she protested. "But—I can't look upon New York as home, somehow. It frightens me."
I laughed indulgently.
"You'll get used to it," I said. "We'll be coming here a great deal, off and on."
She was silent. But later, when we took a hansom and entered the streams of traffic, she responded to the stimulus of the place: the movement, the colour, the sight of the well-appointed carriages, of the well-fed, well-groomed people who sat in them, the enticement of the shops in which we made our purchases had their effect, and she became cheerful again....
In the evening we took the "Limited" for home.
We lived for a month with my mother, and then moved into our own house. It was one which I had rented from Howard Ogilvy, and it stood on the corner of Baker and Clinton streets, near that fashionable neighbourhood called "the Heights." Ogilvy, who was some ten years older than I, and who belonged to one of our old families, had embarked on a career then becoming common, but which at first was regarded as somewhat meteoric: gradually abandoning the practice of law, and perceiving the possibilities of the city of his birth, he had "gambled" in real estate and other enterprises, such as our local water company, until he had quadrupled his inheritance. He had built a mansion on Grant Avenue, the wide thoroughfare bisecting the Heights. The house he had vacated was not large, but essentially distinctive; with the oddity characteristic of the revolt against the banal architecture of the 80's. The curves of the tiled roof enfolded the upper windows; the walls were thick, the note one of mystery. I remember Maude's naive delight when we inspected it.
"You'd never guess what the inside was like, would you, Hugh?" she cried.
From the panelled box of an entrance hall one went up a few steps to a drawing-room which had a bowed recess like an oriel, and window-seats. The dining-room was an odd shape, and was wainscoted in oak; it had a tiled fireplace and (according to Maude) the "sweetest" china closet built into the wall. There was a "den" for me, and an octagonal reception-room on the corner. Upstairs, the bedrooms were quite as unusual, the plumbing of the new pattern, heavy and imposing. Maude expressed the air of seclusion when she exclaimed that she could almost imagine herself in one of the mediaeval towns we had seen abroad.
"It's a dream, Hugh," she sighed. "But—do you think we can afford it?"...
"This house," I announced, smiling, "is only a stepping-stone to the palace I intend to build you some day."
"I don't want a palace!" she cried. "I'd rather live here, like this, always."
A certain vehemence in her manner troubled me. I was charmed by this disposition for domesticity, and yet I shrank from the contemplation of its permanency. I felt vaguely, at the time, the possibility of a future conflict of temperaments. Maude was docile, now. But would she remain docile? and was it in her nature to take ultimately the position that was desirable for my wife? Well, she must be moulded, before it were too late. Her ultra-domestic tendencies must be halted. As yet blissfully unaware of the inability of the masculine mind to fathom the subtleties of feminine relationships, I was particularly desirous that Maude and Nancy Durrett should be intimates. The very day after our arrival, and while we were still at my mother's, Nancy called on Maude, and took her out for a drive. Maude told me of it when I came home from the office.
"Dear old Nancy!" I said. "I know you liked her."
"Of course, Hugh. I should like her for your sake, anyway. She's—she's one of your oldest and best friends."
"But I want you to like her for her own sake."
"I think I shall," said Maude. She was so scrupulously truthful! "I was a little afraid of her, at first."
"Afraid of Nancy!" I exclaimed.
"Well, you know, she's much older than I. I think she is sweet. But she knows so much about the world—so much that she doesn't say. I can't describe it."
"It's only her manner. You'll get used to that, when you know what she really is."
"Oh, I hope so," answered Maude. "I'm very anxious to like her—I do like her. But it takes me such a lot of time to get to know people."
Nancy asked us to dinner.
"I want to help Maude all I can,—if she'll let me," Nancy said.
"Why shouldn't she let you?" I asked.
"She may not like me," Nancy replied.
"Nonsense!" I exclaimed.
"It won't be my fault, at any rate, if she doesn't," she said. "I wanted her to meet at first just the right people your old friends and a few others. It is hard for a woman—especially a young woman—coming among strangers." She glanced down the table to where Maude sat talking to Ham. "She has an air about her,—a great deal of self-possession."
I, too, had noticed this, with pride and relief. For I knew Maude had been nervous.
"You are luckier than you deserve to be," Nancy reminded me. "But I hope you realize that she has a mind of her own, that she will form her own opinions of people, independently of you."
I must have betrayed the fact that I was a little startled, for the remark came as a confirmation of what I had dimly felt.
"Of course she has," I agreed, somewhat lamely. "Every woman has, who is worth her salt."
Nancy's smile bespoke a knowledge that seemed to transcend my own.
"You do like her?" I demanded.
"I like her very much indeed," said Nancy, a little gravely. "She's simple, she's real, she has that which so few of us possess nowadays—character. But—I've got to be prepared for the possibility that she may not get along with me."
"Why not?" I demanded.
"There you are again, with your old unwillingness to analyze a situation and face it. For heaven's sake, now that you have married her, study her. Don't take her for granted. Can't you see that she doesn't care for the things that amuse me, that make my life?"
"Of course, if you insist on making yourself out a hardened, sophisticated woman—" I protested. But she shook her head.
"Her roots are deeper,—she is in touch, though she may not realize it, with the fundamentals. She is one of those women who are race-makers."
Though somewhat perturbed, I was struck by the phrase. And I lost sight of Nancy's generosity. She looked me full in the face.
"I wonder whether you can rise to her," she said. "If I were you, I should try. You will be happier—far happier than if you attempt to use her for your own ends, as a contributor to your comfort and an auxiliary to your career. I was afraid—I confess it—that you had married an aspiring, simpering and empty-headed provincial like that Mrs. George Hutchins' whom I met once, and who would sell her soul to be at my table. Well, you escaped that, and you may thank God for it. You've got a chance, think it over.
"A chance!" I repeated, though I gathered something of her meaning.
"Think it over, said Nancy again. And she smiled.
"But—do you want me to bury myself in domesticity?" I demanded, without grasping the significance of my words.
"You'll find her reasonable, I think. You've got a chance now, Hugh. Don't spoil it."
She turned to Leonard Dickinson, who sat on her other side....
When we got home I tried to conceal my anxiety as to Maude's impressions of the evening. I lit a cigarette, and remarked that the dinner had been a success.
"Do you know what I've been wondering all evening?" Maude asked. "Why you didn't marry Nancy instead of me."
"Well," I replied, "it just didn't come off. And Nancy was telling me at dinner how fortunate I was to have married you."
Maude passed this.
"I can't see why she accepted Hambleton Durrett. It seems horrible that such a woman as she is could have married—just for money.
"Nancy has an odd streak in her," I said. "But then we all have odd streaks. She's the best friend in the world, when she is your friend."
"I'm sure of it," Maude agreed, with a little note of penitence.
"You enjoyed it," I ventured cautiously.
"Oh, yes," she agreed. "And everyone was so nice to me—for your sake of course."
"Don't be ridiculous!" I said. "I shan't tell you what Nancy and the others said about you."
Maude had the gift of silence.
"What a beautiful house!" she sighed presently. "I know you'll think me silly, but so much luxury as that frightens me a little. In England, in those places we saw, it seemed natural enough, but in America—! And they all your friends—seem to take it as a matter of course."
"There's no reason why we shouldn't have beautiful things and well served dinners, too, if we have the money to pay for them."
"I suppose not," she agreed, absently.
That winter many other entertainments were given in our honour. But the conviction grew upon me that Maude had no real liking for the social side of life, that she acquiesced in it only on my account. Thus, at the very outset of our married career, an irritant developed: signs of it, indeed, were apparent from the first, when we were preparing the house we had rented for occupancy. Hurrying away from my office at odd times to furniture and department stores to help decide such momentous questions as curtains, carpets, chairs and tables I would often spy the tall, uncompromising figure of Susan Peters standing beside Maude's, while an obliging clerk spread out, anxiously, rugs or wall-papers for their inspection.
"Why don't you get Nancy to help you, too!" I ventured to ask her once.
"Ours is such a little house—compared to Nancy's, Hugh."
My attitude towards Susan had hitherto remained undefined. She was Tom's wife and Tom's affair. In spite of her marked disapproval of the modern trend in business and social life,—a prejudice she had communicated to Tom, as a bachelor I had not disliked her; and it was certain that these views had not mitigated Tom's loyalty and affection for me. Susan had been my friend, as had her brother Perry, and Lucia, Perry's wife: they made no secret of the fact that they deplored in me what they were pleased to call plutocratic obsessions, nor had their disapproval always been confined to badinage. Nancy, too, they looked upon as a renegade. I was able to bear their reproaches with the superior good nature that springs from success, to point out why the American tradition to which they so fatuously clung was a things of the past. The habit of taking dinner with them at least once a week had continued, and their arguments rather amused me. If they chose to dwell in a backwater out of touch with the current of great affairs, this was a matter to be deplored, but I did not feel strongly enough to resent it. So long as I remained a bachelor the relationship had not troubled me, but now that I was married I began to consider with some alarm its power to affect my welfare.
It had remained for Nancy to inform me that I had married a woman with a mind of her own. I had flattered myself that I should be able to control Maude, to govern her predilections, and now at the very beginning of our married life she was showing a disquieting tendency to choose for herself. To be sure, she had found my intimacy with the Peterses and Blackwoods already formed; but it was an intimacy from which I was growing away. I should not have quarrelled with her if she had not discriminated: Nancy made overtures, and Maude drew back; Susan presented herself, and with annoying perversity and in an extraordinarily brief time Maude had become her intimate. It seemed to me that she was always at Susan's, lunching or playing with the children, who grew devoted to her; or with Susan, choosing carpets and clothes; while more and more frequently we dined with the Peterses and the Blackwoods, or they with us. With Perry's wife Maude was scarcely less intimate than with Susan. This was the more surprising to me since Lucia Blackwood was a dyed-in-the-wool "intellectual," a graduate of Radcliffe, the daughter of a Harvard professor. Perry had fallen in love with her during her visit to Susan. Lucia was, perhaps, the most influential of the group; she scorned the world, she held strong views on the higher education of women; she had long discarded orthodoxy for what may be called a Cambridge stoicism of simple living and high thinking; while Maude was a strict Presbyterian, and not in the least given to theories. When, some months after our homecoming, I ventured to warn her gently of the dangers of confining one's self to a coterie—especially one of such narrow views—her answer was rather bewildering.
"But isn't Tom your best friend?" she asked.
I admitted that he was.
"And you always went there such a lot before we were married."
This, too, was undeniable. "At the same time," I replied, "I have other friends. I'm fond of the Blackwoods and the Peterses, I'm not advocating seeing less of them, but their point of view, if taken without any antidote, is rather narrowing. We ought to see all kinds," I suggested, with a fine restraint.
"You mean—more worldly people," she said with her disconcerting directness.
"Not necessarily worldly," I struggled on. "People who know more of the world—yes, who understand it better."
"I do try, Hugh,—I return their calls,—I do try to be nice to them. But somehow I don't seem to get along with them easily—I'm not myself, they make me shy. It's because I'm provincial."
"Nonsense!" I protested, "you're not a bit provincial." And it was true; her dignity and self-possession redeemed her.
Nancy was not once mentioned. But I think she was in both our minds....
Since my marriage, too, I had begun to resent a little the attitude of Tom and Susan and the Blackwoods of humorous yet affectionate tolerance toward my professional activities and financial creed, though Maude showed no disposition to take this seriously. I did suspect, however, that they were more and more determined to rescue Maude from what they would have termed a frivolous career; and on one of these occasions—so exasperating in married life when a slight cause for pique tempts husband or wife to try to ask myself whether this affair were only a squall, something to be looked for once in a while on the seas of matrimony, and weathered: or whether Maude had not, after all, been right when she declared that I had made a mistake, and that we were not fitted for one another? In this gloomy view endless years of incompatibility stretched ahead; and for the first time I began to rehearse with a certain cold detachment the chain of apparently accidental events which had led up to my marriage: to consider the gradual blindness that had come over my faculties; and finally to wonder whether judgment ever entered into sexual selection. Would Maude have relapsed into this senseless fit if she had realized how fortunate she was? For I was prepared to give her what thousands of women longed for, position and influence. My resentment rose again against Perry and Tom, and I began to attribute their lack of appreciation of my achievements to jealousy. They had not my ability; this was the long and short of it.... I pondered also, regretfully, on my bachelor days. And for the first time, I, who had worked so hard to achieve freedom, felt the pressure of the yoke I had fitted over my own shoulders. I had voluntarily, though unwittingly, returned to slavery. This was what had happened. And what was to be done about it? I would not consider divorce.
Well, I should have to make the best of it. Whether this conclusion brought on a mood of reaction, I am unable to say. I was still annoyed by what seemed to the masculine mind a senseless and dramatic performance on Maude's part, an incomprehensible case of "nerves." Nevertheless, there stole into my mind many recollections of Maude's affection, many passages between us; and my eye chanced to fall on the ink-well she had bought me out of the allowance I gave her. An unanticipated pity welled up within me for her loneliness, her despair in that room upstairs. I got up—and hesitated. A counteracting, inhibiting wave passed through me. I hardened. I began to walk up and down, a prey to conflicting impulses. Something whispered, "go to her"; another voice added, "for your own peace of mind, at any rate." I rejected the intrusion of this motive as unworthy, turned out the light and groped my way upstairs. The big clock in the hall struck twelve.
I listened outside the door of the bedroom, but all was silent within. I knocked.
"Maude!" I said, in a low voice.
There was no response.
"Maude—let me in! I didn't mean to be unkind—I'm sorry."
After an interval I heard her say: "I'd rather stay here,—to-night."
But at length, after more entreaty and self-abasement on my part, she opened the door. The room was dark. We sat down together on the window-seat, and all at once she relaxed and her head fell on my shoulder, and she began weeping again. I held her, the alternating moods still running through me.
"Hugh," she said at length, "how could you be so cruel? when you know I love you and would do anything for you."
"I didn't mean to be cruel, Maude," I answered.
"I know you didn't. But at times you seem so—indifferent, and you can't understand how it hurts. I haven't anybody but you, now, and it's in your power to make me happy or—or miserable."
Later on I tried to explain my point of view, to justify myself.
"All I mean," I concluded at length, "is that my position is a little different from Perry's and Tom's. They can afford to isolate themselves, but I'm thrown professionally with the men who are building up this city. Some of them, like Ralph Hambleton and Mr. Ogilvy, I've known all my life. Life isn't so simple for us, Maude—we can't ignore the social side."
"I understand," she said contentedly. "You are more of a man of affairs—much more than Tom or Perry, and you have greater responsibilities and wider interests. I'm really very proud of you. Only—don't you think you are a little too sensitive about yourself, when you are teased?"
I let this pass....
I give a paragraph from a possible biography of Hugh Paret which, as then seemed not improbable, might in the future have been written by some aspiring young worshipper of success.
"On his return from a brief but delightful honeymoon in England Mr. Paret took up again, with characteristic vigour, the practice of the law. He was entering upon the prime years of manhood; golden opportunities confronted him as, indeed, they confronted other men—but Paret had the foresight to take advantage of them. And his training under Theodore Watling was now to produce results.... The reputations had already been made of some of that remarkable group of financial geniuses who were chiefly instrumental in bringing about the industrial evolution begun after the Civil War: at the same time, as is well known, a political leadership developed that gave proof of a deplorable blindness to the logical necessity of combinations in business. The lawyer with initiative and brains became an indispensable factor," etc., etc.
The biography might have gone on to relate my association with and important services to Adolf Scherer in connection with his constructive dream. Shortly after my return from abroad, in answer to his summons, I found him at Heinrich's, his napkin tucked into his shirt front, and a dish of his favourite sausages before him.
"So, the honeymoon is over!" he said, and pressed my hand. "You are right to come back to business, and after awhile you can have another honeymoon, eh? I have had many since I married. And how long do you think was my first? A day! I was a foreman then, and the wedding was at six o'clock in the morning. We went into the country, the wife and I."
He laid down his knife and fork, possessed by the memory. "I have grown rich since, and we've been to Europe and back to Germany, and travelled on the best ships and stayed at the best hotels, but I never enjoyed a holiday more than that day. It wasn't long afterwards I went to Mr. Durrett and told him how he could save much money. He was always ready to listen, Mr. Durrett, when an employee had anything to say. He was a big man,—an iron-master. Ah, he would be astonished if only he could wake up now!"
"He would not only have to be an iron-master," I agreed, "but a financier and a railroad man to boot."
"A jack of all trades," laughed Mr. Scherer. "That's what we are—men in my position. Well, it was comparatively simple then, when we had no Sherman law and crazy statutes, such as some of the states are passing, to bother us. What has got into the politicians, that they are indulging in such foolishness?" he exclaimed, more warmly. "We try to build up a trade for this country, and they're doing their best to tie our hands and tear it down. When I was in Washington the other day I was talking with one of those Western senators whose state has passed those laws. He said to me, 'Mr. Scherer, I've been making a study of the Boyne Iron Works. You are clever men, but you are building up monopolies which we propose to stop.' 'By what means?'" I asked. "'Rebates, for one,' said he, 'you get preferential rates from your railroad which give you advantages over your competitors.' Foolishness!" Mr. Scherer exclaimed. "I tell him the railroad is a private concern, built up by private enterprise, and it has a right to make special rates for large shippers. No,—railroads are public carriers with no right to make special rates. I ask him what else he objects to, and he says patented processes. As if we don't have a right to our own patents! We buy them. I buy them, when other steel companies won't touch 'em. What is that but enterprise, and business foresight, and taking risks? And then he begins to talk about the tariff taking money out of the pockets of American consumers and making men like me rich. I have come to Washington to get the tariff raised on steel rails; and Watling and other senators we send down there are raising it for us. We are building up monopolies! Well, suppose we are. We can't help it, even if we want to. Has he ever made a study of the other side of the question—the competition side? Of course he hasn't."
He brought down his beer mug heavily on the table. In times of excitement his speech suggested the German idiom. Abruptly his air grew mysterious; he glanced around the room, now becoming empty, and lowered his voice.
"I have been thinking a long time, I have a little scheme," he said, "and I have been to Washington to see Watling, to talk over it. Well, he thinks much of you. Fowndes and Ripon are good lawyers, but they are not smart like you. See Paret, he says, and he can come down and talk to me. So I ask you to come here. That is why I say you are wise to get home. Honeymoons can wait—eh?"
I smiled appreciatively.
"They talk about monopoly, those Populist senators, but I ask you what is a man in my place to do? If you don't eat, somebody eats you—is it not so? Like the boa-constrictors—that is modern business. Look at the Keystone Plate people, over there at Morris. For years we sold them steel billets from which to make their plates, and three months ago they serve notice on us that they are getting ready to make their own billets, they buy mines north of the lakes and are building their plant. Here is a big customer gone. Next year, maybe, the Empire Tube Company goes into the business of making crude steel, and many more thousands of tons go from us. What is left for us, Paret?"
"Obviously you've got to go into the tube and plate business yourselves," I said.
"So!" cried Mr. Scherer, triumphantly, "or it is close up. We are not fools, no, we will not lie down and be eaten like lambs for any law. Dickinson can put his hand on the capital, and I—I have already bought a tract on the lakes, at Bolivar, I have already got a plant designed with the latest modern machinery. I can put the ore right there, I can send the coke back from here in cars which would otherwise be empty, and manufacture tubes at eight dollars a ton less than they are selling. If we can make tubes we can make plates, and if we can make plates we can make boilers, and beams and girders and bridges.... It is not like it was but where is it all leading, my friend? The time will come—is right on us now, in respect to many products—when the market will be flooded with tubes and plates and girders, and then we'll have to find a way to limit production. And the inefficient mills will all be forced to shut down."
The logic seemed unanswerable, even had I cared to answer it.... He unfolded his campaign. The Boyne Iron Works was to become the Boyne Iron Works, Ltd., owner of various subsidiary companies, some of which were as yet blissfully ignorant of their fate. All had been thought out as calmly as the partition of Poland—only, lawyers were required; and ultimately, after the process of acquisition should have been completed, a delicate document was to be drawn up which would pass through the meshes of that annoying statutory net, the Sherman Anti-trust Law. New mines were to be purchased, extending over a certain large area; wide coal deposits; little strips of railroad to tap them. The competition of the Keystone Plate people was to be met by acquiring and bringing up to date the plate mills of King and Son, over the borders of a sister state; the Somersworth Bridge and Construction Company and the Gring Steel and Wire Company were to be absorbed. When all of this should have been accomplished, there would be scarcely a process in the steel industry, from the smelting of the ore to the completion of a bridge, which the Boyne Iron Works could not undertake. Such was the beginning of the "lateral extension" period.
"Two can play at that game," Mr. Scherer said. "And if those fellows could only be content to let well enough alone, to continue buying their crude steel from us, there wouldn't be any trouble."...
It was evident, however, that he really welcomed the "trouble," that he was going into battle with enthusiasm. He had already picked out his points of attack and was marching on them. Life, for him, would have been a poor thing without new conflicts to absorb his energy; and he had already made of the Boyne Iron Works, with its open-hearth furnaces, a marvel of modern efficiency that had opened the eyes of the Steel world, and had drawn the attention of a Personality in New York,—a Personality who was one of the new and dominant type that had developed with such amazing rapidity, the banker-dinosaur; preying upon and superseding the industrial-dinosaur, conquering type of the preceding age, builder of the railroads, mills and manufactories. The banker-dinosaurs, the gigantic ones, were in Wall Street, and strove among themselves for the industrial spoils accumulated by their predecessors. It was characteristic of these monsters that they never fought in the open unless they were forced to. Then the earth rocked, huge economic structures tottered and fell, and much dust arose to obscure the vision of smaller creatures, who were bewildered and terrified. Such disturbances were called "panics," and were blamed by the newspapers on the Democratic party, or on the reformers who had wantonly assailed established institutions. These dominant bankers had contrived to gain control of the savings of thousands and thousands of fellow-citizens who had deposited them in banks or paid them into insurance companies, and with the power thus accumulated had sallied forth to capture railroads and industries. The railroads were the strategic links. With these in hand, certain favoured industrial concerns could be fed, and others starved into submission.
Adolf Scherer might be said to represent a transitional type. For he was not only an iron-master who knew every detail of his business, who kept it ahead of the times; he was also a strategist, wise in his generation, making friends with the Railroad while there had yet been time, at length securing rebates and favours. And when that Railroad (which had been constructed through the enterprise and courage of such men as Nathaniel Durrett) had passed under the control of the banker-personality to whom I have referred, and had become part of a system, Adolf Scherer remained in alliance, and continued to receive favours.... I can well remember the time when the ultimate authority of our Railroad was transferred, quietly, to Wall Street. Alexander Barbour, its president, had been a great man, but after that he bowed, in certain matters, to a greater one.
I have digressed.... Mr. Scherer unfolded his scheme, talking about "units" as calmly as though they were checkers on a board instead of huge, fiery, reverberating mills where thousands and thousands of human beings toiled day and night—beings with families, and hopes and fears, whose destinies were to be dominated by the will of the man who sat opposite me. But—did not he in his own person represent the triumph of that American creed of opportunity? He, too, had been through the fire, had sweated beside the blasts, had handled the ingots of steel. He was one of the "fittest" who had survived, and looked it. Had he no memories of the terrors of that struggle?... Adolf Scherer had grown to be a giant. And yet without me, without my profession he was a helpless giant, at the mercy of those alert and vindictive lawmakers who sought to restrain and hamper him, to check his growth with their webs. How stimulating the idea of his dependence! How exhilarating too, the thought that that vision which had first possessed me as an undergraduate—on my visit to Jerry Kyme—was at last to be realized! I had now become the indispensable associate of the few who divided the spoils, I was to have a share in these myself.
"You're young, Paret," Mr. Scherer concluded. "But Watling has confidence in you, and you will consult him frequently. I believe in the young men, and I have already seen something of you—so?"...
When I returned to the office I wrote Theodore Watling a letter expressing my gratitude for the position he had, so to speak, willed me, of confidential legal adviser to Adolf Scherer. Though the opportunity had thrust itself upon me suddenly, and sooner than I expected it, I was determined to prove myself worthy of it. I worked as I had never worked before, making trips to New York to consult leading members of this new branch of my profession there, trips to Washington to see my former chief. There were, too, numerous conferences with local personages, with Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Grierson, and Judah B. Tallant,—whose newspaper was most useful; there were consultations and negotiations of a delicate nature with the owners and lawyers of other companies to be "taken in." Nor was it all legal work, in the older and narrower sense. Men who are playing for principalities are making war. Some of our operations had all the excitement of war. There was information to be got, and it was got—somehow. Modern war involves a spy system, and a friendly telephone company is not to be despised. And all of this work from first to last had to be done with extreme caution. Moribund distinctions of right and wrong did not trouble me, for the modern man labours religiously when he knows that Evolution is on his side.
For all of these operations a corps of counsel had been employed, including the firm of Harrington and Bowes next to Theodore Watling, Joel Harrington was deemed the ablest lawyer in the city. We organized in due time the corporation known as the Boyne Iron Works, Limited; a trust agreement was drawn up that was a masterpiece of its kind, one that caused, first and last, meddling officials in the Department of Justice at Washington no little trouble and perplexity. I was proud of the fact that I had taken no small part in its composition.... In short, in addition to certain emoluments and opportunities for investment, I emerged from the affair firmly established in the good graces of Adolf Scherer, and with a reputation practically made.
A year or so after the Boyne Company, Ltd., came into existence I chanced one morning to go down to the new Ashuela Hotel to meet a New Yorker of some prominence, and was awaiting him in the lobby, when I overheard a conversation between two commercial travellers who were sitting with their backs to me.
"Did you notice that fellow who went up to the desk a moment ago?" asked one.
"The young fellow in the grey suit? Sure. Who is he? He looks as if he was pretty well fixed."
"I guess he is," replied the first. "That's Paret. He's Scherer's confidential counsel. He used to be Senator Watling's partner, but they say he's even got something on the old man."
In spite of the feverish life I led, I was still undoubtedly young-looking, and in this I was true to the incoming type of successful man. Our fathers appeared staid at six and thirty. Clothes, of course, made some difference, and my class and generation did not wear the sombre and cumbersome kind, with skirts and tails; I patronized a tailor in New York. My chestnut hair, a little darker than my father's had been, showed no signs of turning grey, although it was thinning a little at the crown of the forehead, and I wore a small moustache, clipped in a straight line above the mouth. This made me look less like a college youth. Thanks to a strong pigment in my skin, derived probably from Scotch-Irish ancestors, my colour was fresh. I have spoken of my life as feverish, and yet I am not so sure that this word completely describes it. It was full to overflowing—one side of it; and I did not miss (save vaguely, in rare moments of weariness) any other side that might have been developed. I was busy all day long, engaged in affairs I deemed to be alone of vital importance in the universe. I was convinced that the welfare of the city demanded that supreme financial power should remain in the hands of the group of men with whom I was associated, and whose battles I fought in the courts, in the legislature, in the city council, and sometimes in Washington,—although they were well cared for there. By every means ingenuity could devise, their enemies were to be driven from the field, and they were to be protected from blackmail.
A sense of importance sustained me; and I remember in that first flush of a success for which I had not waited too long—what a secret satisfaction it was to pick up the Era and see my name embedded in certain dignified notices of board meetings, transactions of weight, or cases known to the initiated as significant. "Mr. Scherer's interests were taken care of by Mr. Hugh Paret." The fact that my triumphs were modestly set forth gave me more pleasure than if they had been trumpeted in headlines. Although I might have started out in practice for myself, my affection and regard for Mr. Watling kept me in the firm, which became Watling, Fowndes and Paret, and a new, arrangement was entered into: Mr. Ripon retired on account of ill health.
There were instances, however, when a certain amount of annoying publicity was inevitable. Such was the famous Galligan case, which occurred some three or four years after my marriage. Aloysius Galligan was a brakeman, and his legs had become paralyzed as the result of an accident that was the result of defective sills on a freight car. He had sued, and been awarded damages of $15,000. To the amazement and indignation of Miller Gorse, the Supreme Court, to which the Railroad had appealed, affirmed the decision. It wasn't the single payment of $15,000 that the Railroad cared about, of course; a precedent might be established for compensating maimed employees which would be expensive in the long run. Carelessness could not be proved in this instance. Gorse sent for me. I had been away with Maude at the sea for two months, and had not followed the case.
"You've got to take charge, Paret, and get a rehearing. See Bering, and find out who in the deuce is to blame for this. Chesley's one, of course. We ought never to have permitted his nomination for the Supreme Bench. It was against my judgment, but Varney and Gill assured me that he was all right."
I saw Judge Bering that evening. We sat on a plush sofa in the parlour of his house in Baker Street.
"I had a notion Gorse'd be mad," he said, "but it looked to me as if they had it on us, Paret. I didn't see how we could do anything else but affirm without being too rank. Of course, if he feels that way, and you want to make a motion for a rehearing, I'll see what can be done."
"Something's got to be done," I replied. "Can't you see what such a decision lets them in for?"
"All right," said the judge, who knew an order when he heard one, "I guess we can find an error." He was not a little frightened by the report of Mr. Gorse's wrath, for election-day was approaching. "Say, you wouldn't take me for a sentimental man, now, would you?"
I smiled at the notion of it.
"Well, I'll own up to you this kind of got under my skin. That Galligan is a fine-looking fellow, if there ever was one, and he'll never be of a bit of use any more. Of course the case was plain sailing, and they ought to have had the verdict, but that lawyer of his handled it to the queen's taste, if I do say so. He made me feel real bad, by God,—as if it was my own son Ed who'd been battered up. Lord, I can't forget the look in that man Galligan's eyes. I hate to go through it again, and reverse it, but I guess I'll have to, now."
The Judge sat gazing at the flames playing over his gas log.
"Who was the lawyer?" I asked.
"A man by the name of Krebs," he replied. "Never heard of him before. He's just moved to the city."
"This city?" I ejaculated.
The Judge glanced at me interestedly.
"This city, of course. What do you know about him?"
"Well," I answered, when I had recovered a little from the shock—for it was a distinct shock—"he lived in Elkington. He was the man who stirred up the trouble in the legislature about Bill 709."
The Judge slapped his knee.
"That fellow!" he exclaimed, and ruminated. "Why didn't somebody tell me?" he added, complainingly. "Why didn't Miller Gorse let me know about it, instead of licking up a fuss after it's all over?"...
Of all men of my acquaintance I had thought the Judge the last to grow maudlin over the misfortunes of those who were weak or unfortunate enough to be defeated and crushed in the struggle for existence, and it was not without food for reflection that I departed from his presence. To make Mr. Bering "feel bad" was no small achievement, and Krebs had been responsible for it, of course,—not Galligan. Krebs had turned up once more! It seemed as though he were destined to haunt me. Well, I made up my mind that he should not disturb me again, at any rate: I, at least, had learned to eliminate sentimentality from business, and it was not without deprecation I remembered my experience with him at the Capital, when he had made me temporarily ashamed of my connection with Bill 709. I had got over that. And when I entered the court room (the tribunal having graciously granted a rehearing on the ground that it had committed an error in the law!) my feelings were of lively curiosity and zest. I had no disposition to underrate his abilities, but I was fortified by the consciousness of a series of triumphs behind me, by a sense of association with prevailing forces against which he was helpless. I could afford to take a superior attitude in regard to one who was destined always to be dramatic.
As the case proceeded I was rather disappointed on the whole that he was not dramatic—not even as dramatic as he had been when he defied the powers in the Legislature. He had changed but little, he still wore ill-fitting clothes, but I was forced to acknowledge that he seemed to have gained in self-control, in presence. He had nodded at me before the case was called, as he sat beside his maimed client; and I had been on the alert for a hint of reproach in his glance: there was none. I smiled back at him....
He did not rant. He seemed to have rather a remarkable knowledge of the law. In a conversational tone he described the sufferings of the man in the flannel shirt beside him, but there could be no question of the fact that he did produce an effect. The spectators were plainly moved, and it was undeniable that some of the judges wore rather a sheepish look as they toyed with their watch chains or moved the stationery in front of them. They had seen maimed men before, they had heard impassioned, sentimental lawyers talk about wives and families and God and justice. Krebs did none of this. Just how he managed to bring the thing home to those judges, to make them ashamed of their role, just how he managed—in spite of my fortified attitude to revive something of that sense of discomfort I had experienced at the State House is difficult to say. It was because, I think, he contrived through the intensity of his own sympathy to enter into the body of the man whose cause he pleaded, to feel the despair in Galligan's soul—an impression that was curiously conveyed despite the dignified limits to which he confined his speech. It was strange that I began to be rather sorry for him, that I felt a certain reluctant regret that he should thus squander his powers against overwhelming odds. What was the use of it all!
At the end his voice became more vibrant—though he did not raise it—as he condemned the Railroad for its indifference to human life, for its contention that men were cheaper than rolling-stock.
I encountered him afterward in the corridor. I had made a point of seeking him out, perhaps from some vague determination to prove that our last meeting in the little restaurant at the Capital had left no traces of embarrassment in me: I was, in fact, rather aggressively anxious to reveal myself to him as one who has thriven on the views he condemned, as one in whose unity of mind there is no rift. He was alone, apparently waiting for someone, leaning against a steam radiator in one of his awkward, angular poses, looking out of the court-house window.
"How are you?" I said blithely. "So you've left Elkington for a wider field." I wondered whether my alert cousin-in-law, George Hutchins, had made it too hot for him.
He turned to me unexpectedly a face of profound melancholy; his expression had in it, oddly, a trace of sternness; and I was somewhat taken aback by this evidence that he was still bearing vicariously the troubles of his client. So deep had been the thought I had apparently interrupted that he did not realize my presence at first.
"Oh, it's you, Paret. Yes, I've left Elkington," he said.
"Something of a surprise to run up against you suddenly, like this."
"I expected to see you," he answered gravely, and the slight emphasis he gave the pronoun implied not only a complete knowledge of the situation and of the part I had taken in it, but also a greater rebuke than if his accusation had been direct. But I clung to my affability.
"If I can do anything for you, let me know," I told him. He said nothing, he did not even smile. At this moment he was opportunely joined by a man who had the appearance of a labour leader, and I walked away. I was resentful; my mood, in brief, was that of a man who has done something foolish and is inclined to talk to himself aloud: but the mood was complicated, made the more irritating by the paradoxical fact that that last look he had given me seemed to have borne the traces of affection....
It is perhaps needless to add that the court reversed its former decision.
The Pilot published a series of sensational articles and editorials about the Galligan matter, a picture of Galligan, an account of the destitute state of his wife and family. The time had not yet arrived when such newspapers dared to attack the probity of our courts, but a system of law that permitted such palpable injustice because of technicalities was bitterly denounced. What chance had a poor man against such a moloch as the railroad, even with a lawyer of such ability as had been exhibited by Hermann Krebs? Krebs was praised, and the attention of Mr. Lawler's readers was called to the fact that Krebs was the man who, some years before, had opposed single-handed in the legislature the notorious Bill No. 709. It was well known in certain circles—the editorial went on to say—that this legislation had been drawn by Theodore Watling in the interests of the Boyne Iron Works, etc., etc. Hugh Paret had learned at the feet of an able master. This first sight of my name thus opprobriously flung to the multitude gave me an unpleasant shock. I had seen Mr. Scherer attacked, Mr. Gorse attacked, and Mr. Watling: I had all along realized, vaguely, that my turn would come, and I thought myself to have acquired a compensating philosophy. I threw the sheet into the waste basket, presently picked it out again and reread the sentence containing my name. Well, there were certain penalties that every career must pay. I had become, at last, a marked man, and I recognized the fact that this assault would be the forerunner of many.
I tried to derive some comfort and amusement from the thought of certain operations of mine that Mr. Lawler had not discovered, that would have been matters of peculiar interest to his innocent public: certain extra-legal operations at the time when the Bovine corporation was being formed, for instance. And how they would have licked their chops had they learned of that manoeuvre by which I had managed to have one of Mr. Scherer's subsidiary companies in another state, with property and assets amounting to more than twenty millions, reorganized under the laws of New Jersey, and the pending case thus transferred to the Federal court, where we won hands down! This Galligan affair was nothing to that. Nevertheless, it was annoying. As I sat in the street car on my way homeward, a man beside me was reading the Pilot. I had a queer sensation as he turned the page, and scanned the editorial; and I could not help wondering what he and the thousands like him thought of me; what he would say if I introduced myself and asked his opinion. Perhaps he did not think at all: undoubtedly he, and the public at large, were used to Mr. Lawler's daily display of "injustices." Nevertheless, like slow acid, they must be eating into the public consciousness. It was an outrage—this freedom of the press.
With renewed exasperation I thought of Krebs, of his disturbing and almost uncanny faculty of following me up. Why couldn't he have remained in Elkington? Why did he have to follow me here, to make capital out of a case that might never have been heard of except for him?... I was still in this disagreeable frame of mind when I turned the corner by my house and caught sight of Maude, in the front yard, bending bareheaded over a bed of late flowers which the frost had spared. The evening was sharp, the dusk already gathering.
"You'll catch cold," I called to her.
She looked up at the sound of my voice.
"They'll soon be gone," she sighed, referring to the flowers. "I hate winter."
She put her hand through my arm, and we went into the house. The curtains were drawn, a fire was crackling on the hearth, the lamps were lighted, and as I dropped into a chair this living-room of ours seemed to take on the air of a refuge from the vague, threatening sinister things of the world without. I felt I had never valued it before. Maude took up her sewing and sat down beside the table.
"Hugh," she said suddenly, "I read something in the newspaper—"
My exasperation flared up again.
"Where did you get that disreputable sheet?" I demanded.
"At the dressmaker's!" she answered. "I—I just happened to see the name, Paret."
"It's just politics," I declared, "stirring up discontent by misrepresentation. Jealousy."
She leaned forward in her chair, gazing into the flames.
"Then it isn't true that this poor man, Galligan—isn't that his name?—was cheated out of the damages he ought to have to keep himself and his family alive?"
"You must have been talking to Perry or Susan," I said. "They seem to be convinced that I am an oppressor of the poor.
"Hugh!" The tone in which she spoke my name smote me. "How can you say that? How can you doubt their loyalty, and mine? Do you think they would undermine you, and to me, behind your back?"
"I didn't mean that, of course, Maude. I was annoyed about something else. And Tom and Perry have an air of deprecating most of the enterprises in which I am professionally engaged. It's very well for them to talk. All Perry has to do is to sit back and take in receipts from the Boyne Street car line, and Tom is content if he gets a few commissions every week. They're like militiamen criticizing soldiers under fire. I know they're good friends of mine, but sometimes I lose patience with them."
I got up and walked to the window, and came back again and stood before her.
"I'm sorry for this man, Galligan," I went on, "I can't tell you how sorry. But few people who are not on the inside, so to speak, grasp the fact that big corporations, like the Railroad, are looked upon as fair game for every kind of parasite. Not a day passes in which attempts are not made to bleed them. Some of these cases are pathetic. It had cost the Railroad many times fifteen thousand dollars to fight Galligan's case. But if they had paid it, they would have laid themselves open to thousands of similar demands. Dividends would dwindle. The stockholders have a right to a fair return on their money. Galligan claims that there was a defective sill on the car which is said to have caused the wreck. If damages are paid on that basis, it means the daily inspection of every car which passes over their lines. And more than that: there are certain defects, as in the present case, which an inspection would not reveal. When a man accepts employment on a railroad he assumes a certain amount of personal risk,—it's not precisely a chambermaid's job. And the lawyer who defends such cases, whatever his personal feelings may be, cannot afford to be swayed by them. He must take the larger view."
"Why didn't you tell me about it before?" she asked.
"Well, I didn't think it of enough importance—these things are all in the day's work."
"But Mr. Krebs? How strange that he should be here, connected with the case!"
I made an effort to control myself.
"Your old friend," I said. "I believe you have a sentiment about him."
She looked up at me.
"Scarcely that," she replied gravely, with the literalness that often characterized her, "but he isn't a person easily forgotten. He may be queer, one may not agree with his views, but after the experience I had with him I've never been able to look at him in the way George does, for instance, or even as father does."
"Or even as I do," I supplied.
"Well, perhaps not even as you do," she answered calmly. "I believe you once told me, however, that you thought him a fanatic, but sincere."
"He's certainly a fanatic!" I exclaimed.
"But sincere, Hugh-you still think him sincere."
"You seem a good deal concerned about a man you've laid eyes on but once."
She considered this.
"Yes, it is surprising," she admitted, "but it's true. I was sorry for him, but I admired him. I was not only impressed by his courage in taking charge of me, but also by the trust and affection the work-people showed. He must be a good man, however mistaken he may be in the methods he employs. And life is cruel to those people."
"Life is-life," I observed. "Neither you nor I nor Krebs is able to change it."
"Has he come here to practice?" she asked, after a moment.
"Yes. Do you want me to invite him to dinner?" and seeing that she did not reply I continued: "In spite of my explanation I suppose you think, because Krebs defended the man Galligan, that a monstrous injustice has been done."
"That is unworthy of you," she said, bending over her stitch.
I began to pace the room again, as was my habit when overwrought.
"Well, I was going to tell you about this affair if you had not forestalled me by mentioning it yourself. It isn't pleasant to be vilified by rascals who make capital out of vilification, and a man has a right to expect some sympathy from his wife."
"Did I ever deny you that, Hugh?" she asked. "Only you don't ever seem to need it, to want it."
"And there are things," I pursued, "things in a man's province that a woman ought to accept from her husband, things which in the very nature of the case she can know nothing about."
"But a woman must think for herself," she declared. "She shouldn't become a mere automaton,—and these questions involve so much! People are discussing them, the magazines and periodicals are beginning to take them up."
I stared at her, somewhat appalled by this point of view. There had, indeed, been signs of its development before now, but I had not heeded them. And for the first time I beheld Maude in a new light.
"Oh, it's not that I don't trust you," she continued, "I'm open to conviction, but I must be convinced. Your explanation of this Galligan case seems a sensible one, although it's depressing. But life is hard and depressing sometimes I've come to realize that. I want to think over what you've said, I want to talk over it some more. Why won't you tell me more of what you are doing? If you only would confide in me—as you have now! I can't help seeing that we are growing farther and farther apart, that business, your career, is taking all of you and leaving me nothing." She faltered, and went on again. "It's difficult to tell you this—you never give me the chance. And it's not for my sake alone, but for yours, too. You are growing more and more self-centred, surrounding yourself with a hard shell. You don't realize it, but Tom notices it, Perry notices it, it hurts them, it's that they complain of. Hugh!" she cried appealingly, sensing my resentment, forestalling the words of defence ready on my lips. "I know that you are busy, that many men depend on you, it isn't that I'm not proud of you and your success, but you don't understand what a woman craves,—she doesn't want only to be a good housekeeper, a good mother, but she wants to share a little, at any rate, in the life of her husband, in his troubles as well as in his successes. She wants to be of some little use, of some little help to him."
My feelings were reduced to a medley.
"But you are a help to me—a great help," I protested.
She shook her head. "I wish I were," she said.
It suddenly occurred to me that she might be. I was softened, and alarmed by the spectacle she had revealed of the widening breach between us. I laid my hand on her shoulder.
"Well, I'll try to do better, Maude."
She looked up at me, questioningly yet gratefully, through a mist of tears. But her reply—whatever it might have been—was forestalled by the sound of shouts and laughter in the hallway. She sprang up and ran to the door.
"It's the children," she exclaimed, "they've come home from Susan's party!"
It begins indeed to look as if I were writing this narrative upside down, for I have said nothing about children. Perhaps one reason for this omission is that I did not really appreciate them, that I found it impossible to take the same minute interest in them as Tom, for instance, who was, apparently, not content alone with the six which he possessed, but had adopted mine. One of them, little Sarah, said "Uncle Tom" before "Father." I do not mean to say that I had not occasional moments of tenderness toward them, but they were out of my thoughts much of the time. I have often wondered, since, how they regarded me; how, in their little minds, they defined the relationship. Generally, when I arrived home in the evening I liked to sit down before my study fire and read the afternoon newspapers or a magazine; but occasionally I went at once to the nursery for a few moments, to survey with complacency the medley of toys on the floor, and to kiss all three. They received my caresses with a certain shyness—the two younger ones, at least, as though they were at a loss to place me as a factor in the establishment. They tumbled over each other to greet Maude, and even Tom. If I were an enigma to them, what must they have thought of him? Sometimes I would discover him on the nursery floor, with one or two of his own children, building towers and castles and railroad stations, or forts to be attacked and demolished by regiments of lead soldiers. He was growing comfortable-looking, if not exactly stout; prematurely paternal, oddly willing to renounce the fiercer joys of life, the joys of acquisition, of conquest, of youth.
"You'd better come home with me, Chickabiddy," he would say, "that father of yours doesn't appreciate you. He's too busy getting rich."
"Chickabiddy," was his name for little Sarah. Half of the name stuck to her, and when she was older we called her Biddy.
She would gaze at him questioningly, her eyes like blue flower cups, a strange little mixture of solemnity and bubbling mirth, of shyness and impulsiveness. She had fat legs that creased above the tops of the absurd little boots that looked to be too tight; sometimes she rolled and tumbled in an ecstasy of abandon, and again she would sit motionless, as though absorbed in dreams. Her hair was like corn silk in the sun, twisting up into soft curls after her bath, when she sat rosily presiding over her supper table.
As I look back over her early infancy, I realize that I loved her, although it is impossible for me to say how much of this love is retrospective. Why I was not mad about her every hour of the day is a puzzle to me now. Why, indeed, was I not mad about all three of them? There were moments when I held and kissed them, when something within me melted: moments when I was away from them, and thought of them. But these moments did not last. The something within me hardened again, I became indifferent, my family was wiped out of my consciousness as though it had never existed.
There was Matthew, for instance, the oldest. When he arrived, he was to Maude a never-ending miracle, she would have his crib brought into her room, and I would find her leaning over the bedside, gazing at him with a rapt expression beyond my comprehension. To me he was just a brick-red morsel of humanity, all folds and wrinkles, and not at all remarkable in any way. Maude used to annoy me by getting out of bed in the middle of the night when he cried, and at such times I was apt to wonder at the odd trick the life-force had played me, and ask myself why I got married at all. It was a queer method of carrying on the race. Later on, I began to take a cursory interest in him, to watch for signs in him of certain characteristics of my own youth which, in the philosophy of my manhood, I had come to regard as defects. And it disturbed me somewhat to see these signs appear. I wished him to be what I had become by force of will—a fighter. But he was a sensitive child, anxious for approval; not robust, though spiritual rather than delicate; even in comparative infancy he cared more for books than toys, and his greatest joy was in being read to. In spite of these traits—perhaps because of them—there was a sympathy between us. From the time that he could talk the child seemed to understand me. Occasionally I surprised him gazing at me with a certain wistful look that comes back to me as I write.
Moreton, Tom used to call Alexander the Great because he was a fighter from the cradle, beating his elder brother, too considerate to strike back, and likewise—when opportunity offered—his sister; and appropriating their toys. A self-sufficient, doughty young man, with the round head that withstands many blows, taking by nature to competition and buccaneering in general. I did not love him half so much as I did Matthew—if such intermittent emotions as mine may be called love. It was a standing joke of mine—which Maude strongly resented—that Moreton resembled Cousin George of Elkington.
Imbued with the highest ambition of my time, I had set my barque on a great circle, and almost before I realized it the barque was burdened with a wife and family and the steering had insensibly become more difficult; for Maude cared nothing about the destination, and when I took any hand off the wheel our ship showed a tendency to make for a quiet harbour. Thus the social initiative, which I believed should have been the woman's, was thrust back on me. It was almost incredible, yet indisputable, in a day when most American women were credited with a craving for social ambition that I, of all men, should have married a wife in whom the craving was wholly absent! She might have had what other women would have given their souls for. There were many reasons why I wished her to take what I deemed her proper place in the community as my wife—not that I cared for what is called society in the narrow sense; with me, it was a logical part of a broader scheme of life; an auxiliary rather than an essential, but a needful auxiliary; a means of dignifying and adorning the position I was taking. Not only that, but I felt the need of intercourse—of intercourse of a lighter and more convivial nature with men and women who saw life as I saw it. In the evenings when we did not go out into that world our city afforded ennui took possession of me: I had never learned to care for books, I had no resources outside of my profession, and when I was not working on some legal problem I dawdled over the newspapers and went to bed. I don't mean to imply that our existence, outside of our continued intimacy with the Peterses and the Blackwoods, was socially isolated. We gave little dinners that Maude carried out with skill and taste; but it was I who suggested them; we went out to other dinners, sometimes to Nancy's—though we saw less and less of her—sometimes to other houses. But Maude had given evidence of domestic tastes and a disinclination for gaiety that those who entertained more were not slow to sense. I should have liked to take a larger house, but I felt the futility of suggesting it; the children were still small, and she was occupied with them. Meanwhile I beheld, and at times with considerable irritation, the social world changing, growing larger and more significant, a more important function of that higher phase of American existence the new century seemed definitely to have initiated. A segregative process was away to which Maude was wholly indifferent. Our city was throwing off its social conservatism; wealth (which implied ability and superiority) was playing a greater part, entertainments were more luxurious, lines more strictly drawn. We had an elaborate country club for those who could afford expensive amusements. Much of this transformation had been due to the initiative and leadership of Nancy Durrett....