"Oh, Bartley, you know I didn't doubt you! I just got to thinking, and I was a little worked up! I suppose I'm excited."
"I knew it! I knew it!" cried her husband. "Don't you suppose I understand you?"
They talked a long time together, and made each other loving promises of patience. They confessed their faults, and pledged each other that they would try hard to overcome them. They wished to be good; they both felt they had much to retrieve; but they had no concealments, and they knew that was the best way to begin the future, of which they did their best to conceive seriously. Bartley told her his plans about getting some newspaper work till he could complete his law studies. He meant to settle down to practice in Boston. "You have to wait longer for it than you would in a country place; but when you get it, it's worth while." He asked Marcia whether she would look up his friend Halleck if she were in his place; but he did not give her time to decide. "I guess I won't do it. Not just yet, at any rate. He might suppose that I wanted something of him. I'll call on him when I don't need his help."
Perhaps, if they had not planned to go to the theatre, they would have staid where they were, for they were tired, and it was very cosey. But when they were once in the street, they were glad they had come out. Bowdoin Square and Court Street and Tremont Row were a glitter of gas-lights, and those shops, with their placarded bargains, dazzled Marcia.
"Is it one of the principal streets?" she asked Bartley.
He gave the laugh of a veteran habitue of Boston. "Tremont Row? No. Wait till I show you Washington Street to-morrow. There's the Museum," he said, pointing to the long row of globed lights on the facade of the building. "Here we are in Scollay Square. There's Hanover Street; there's Cornhill; Court crooks down that way; there's Pemberton Square."
His familiarity with these names estranged him to her again; she clung the closer to his arm, and caught her breath nervously as they turned in with the crowd that was climbing the stairs to the box-office of the theatre. Bartley left her a moment, while he pushed his way up to the little window and bought the tickets. "First-rate seats," he said, coming back to her, and taking her hand under his arm again, "and a great piece of luck. They were just returned for sale by the man in front of me, or I should have had to take something 'way up in the gallery. There's a regular jam. These are right in the centre of the parquet."
Marcia did not know what the parquet was; she heard its name with the certainty that but for Bartley she should not be equal to it. All her village pride was quelled; she had only enough self-control to act upon Bartley's instructions not to give herself away by any conviction of rusticity. They passed in through the long, colonnaded vestibule, with its paintings, and plaster casts, and rows of birds and animals in glass cases on either side, and she gave scarcely a glance at any of those objects, endeared by association, if not by intrinsic beauty, to the Boston play-goer. Gulliver, with the Liliputians swarming upon him; the painty-necked ostriches and pelicans; the mummied mermaid under a glass bell; the governors' portraits; the stuffed elephant; Washington crossing the Delaware; Cleopatra applying the asp; Sir William Pepperell, at full length, on canvas; and the pagan months and seasons in plaster,—if all these are, indeed, the subjects,—were dim phantasmagoria amid which she and Bartley moved scarcely more real. The usher, in his dress-coat, ran up the aisle to take their checks, and led them down to their seats; half a dozen elegant people stood to let them into their places; the theatre was filled with faces. At Portland, where she saw the "Lady of Lyons," with her father, three-quarters of the house was empty.
Bartley only had time to lean over and whisper, "The place is packed with Beacon Street swells,—it's a regular field night,"—when the bell tinkled and the curtain rose.
As the play went on, the rich jacqueminot-red flamed into her cheeks, and burnt there a steady blaze to the end. The people about her laughed and clapped, and at times they seemed to be crying. But Marcia sat through every part as stoical as a savage, making no sign, except for the flaming color in her cheeks, of interest or intelligence. Bartley talked of the play all the way home, but she said nothing, and in their own room he asked: "Didn't you really like it? Were you disappointed? I haven't been able to get a word out of you about it. Didn't you like Boucicault?"
"I didn't know which he was," she answered, with impassioned exaltation. "I didn't care for him. I only thought of that poor girl, and her husband who despised her—"
She stopped. Bartley looked at her a moment, and then caught her to him and fell a-laughing over her, till it seemed as if he never would end. "And you thought—you thought," he cried, trying to get his breath,—"you thought you were Eily, and I was Hardress Cregan! Oh, I see, I see!" He went on making a mock and a burlesque of her tragical hallucination till she laughed with him at last. When he put his hand up to turn out the gas, he began his joking afresh. "The real thing for Hardress to do," he said, fumbling for the key, "is to blow it out. That's what Hardress usually does when he comes up from the rural districts with Eily on their bridal tour. That finishes off Eily, without troubling Danny Mann. The only drawback is that it finishes off Hardress, too: they're both found suffocated in the morning."
The next day, after breakfast, while they stood together before the parlor fire, Bartley proposed one plan after another for spending the day. Marcia rejected them all, with perfectly recovered self-composure.
"Then what shall we do?" he asked, at last.
"Oh, I don't know," she answered, rather absently. She added, after an interval, smoothing the warm front of her dress, and putting her foot on the fender, "What did those theatre-tickets cost?"
"Two dollars," he replied carelessly. "Why?"
Marcia gasped. "Two dollars! Oh, Bartley, we couldn't afford it!"
"It seems we did."
"And here,—how much are we paying here?"
"That room, with fire," said Bartley, stretching himself, "is seven dollars a day—"
"We mustn't stay another instant!" said Marcia, all a woman's terror of spending money on anything but dress, all a wife's conservative instinct, rising within her. "How much have you got left?"
Bartley took out his pocket-book and counted over the bills in it. "A hundred and twenty dollars."
"Why, what has become of it all? We had a hundred and sixty!"
"Well, our railroad tickets were nineteen, the sleeping-car was three, the parlor-car was three, the theatre was two, the hack was fifty cents, and we'll have to put down the other two and a half to refreshments."
Marcia listened in dismay. At the end she drew a long breath. "Well, we must go away from here as soon as possible,—that I know. We'll go out and find some boarding-place. That's the first thing."
"Oh, now, Marcia, you're not going to be so severe as that, are you?" pleaded Bartley. "A few dollars, more or less, are not going to keep us out of the poorhouse. I just want to stay here three days: that will leave us a clean hundred, and we can start fair." He was half joking, but she was wholly serious.
"No, Bartley! Not another hour,—not another minute! Come!" She took his arm and bent it up into a crook, where she put her hand, and pulled him toward the door.
"Well, after all," he said, "it will be some fun looking up a room."
There was no one else in the parlor; in going to the door they took some waltzing steps together.
While she dressed to go out, he looked up places where rooms were let with or without board, in the newspaper. "There don't seem to be a great many," he said meditatively, bending over the open sheet. But he cut out half a dozen advertisements with his editorial scissors, and they started upon their search.
They climbed those pleasant old up-hill streets that converge to the State House, and looked into the houses on the quiet Places that stretch from one thoroughfare to another. They had decided that they would be content with two small rooms, one for a chamber, and the other for a parlor, where they could have a fire. They found exactly what they wanted in the first house where they applied, one flight up, with sunny windows, looking down the street; but it made Marcia's blood run cold when the landlady said that the price was thirty dollars a week. At another place the rooms were only twenty; the position was as good, and the carpet and furniture prettier. This was still too dear, but it seemed comparatively reasonable till it appeared that this was the price without board.
"I think we should prefer rooms with board, shouldn't we?" asked Bartley, with a sly look at Marcia.
The prices were of all degrees of exorbitance, and they varied for no reason from house to house; one landlady had been accustomed to take more and another less, but never little enough for Marcia, who overruled Bartley again and again when he wished to close with some small abatement of terms. She declared now that they must put up with one room, and they must not care what floor it was on. But the cheapest room with board was fourteen dollars a week, and Marcia had fixed her ideal at ten: even that was too high for them.
"The best way will be to go back to the Revere House, at seven dollars a day," said Bartley. He had lately been leaving the transaction of the business entirely to Marcia, who had rapidly acquired alertness and decision in it.
She could not respond to his joke. "What is there left?" she asked.
"There isn't anything left," he said. "We've got to the end."
They stood on the edge of the pavement and looked up and down the street, and then, by a common impulse, they looked at the house opposite, where a placard in the window advertised, "Apartments to Let—to Gentlemen only."
"It would be of no use asking there," murmured Marcia, in sad abstraction.
"Well, let's go over and try," said her husband. "They can't do more than turn us out of doors."
"I know it won't be of any use," Marcia sighed, as people do when they hope to gain something by forbidding themselves hope. But she helplessly followed, and stood at the foot of the door-steps while he ran up and rang.
It was evidently the woman of the house who came to the door and shrewdly scanned them.
"I see you have apartments to let," said Bartley.
"Well, yes," admitted the woman, as if she considered it useless to deny it, "I have."
"I should like to look at them," returned Bartley, with promptness. "Come, Marcia." And, reinforced by her, he invaded the premises before the landlady had time to repel him. "I'll tell you what we want," he continued, turning into the little reception-room at the side of the door, "and if you haven't got it, there's no need to trouble you. We want a fair-sized room, anywhere between the cellar-floor and the roof, with a bed and a stove and a table in it, that sha'n't cost us more than ten dollars a week, with board."
"Set down," said the landlady, herself setting the example by sinking into the rocking-chair behind her and beginning to rock while she made a brief study of the intruders. "Want it for yourselves?"
"Yes," said Bartley.
"Well," returned the landlady, "I always have preferred single gentlemen."
"I inferred as much from a remark which you made in your front window," said Bartley, indicating the placard.
The landlady smiled. They were certainly a very pretty-appearing young couple, and the gentleman was evidently up-and-coming. Mrs. Nash liked Bartley, as most people of her grade did, at once. "It's always be'n my exper'ence," she explained, with the lazily rhythmical drawl in which most half-bred New-Englanders speak, "that I seemed to get along rather better with gentlemen. They give less trouble—as a general rule," she added, with a glance at Marcia, as if she did not deny that there were exceptions, and Marcia might be a striking one.
Bartley seized his advantage. "Well, my wife hasn't been married long enough to be unreasonable. I guess you'd get along."
They both laughed, and Marcia, blushing, joined them.
"Well, I thought when you first come up the steps you hadn't been married—well, not a great while," said the landlady.
"No," said Bartley. "It seems a good while to my wife; but we were only married day before yesterday."
"The land!" cried Mrs. Nash.
"Bartley!" whispered Marcia, in soft upbraiding.
"What? Well, say last week, then. We were married last week, and we've come to Boston to seek our fortune."
His wit overjoyed Mrs. Nash. "You'll find Boston an awful hard place to get along," she said, shaking her head with a warning smile.
"I shouldn't think so, by the price Boston people ask for their rooms," returned Bartley. "If I had rooms to let, I should get along pretty easily."
This again delighted the landlady. "I guess you aint goin' to get out of spirits, anyway," she said. "Well," she continued, "I have got a room 't I guess would suit you. Unexpectedly vacated." She seemed to recur to the language of an advertisement in these words, which she pronounced as if reading them. "It's pretty high up," she said, with another warning shake of the head.
"Stairs to get to it?" asked Bartley.
"Plenty of stairs."
"Well, when a place is pretty high up, I like to have plenty of stairs to get to it. I guess we'll see it, Marcia." He rose.
"Well, I'll just go up and see if it's fit to be seen, first," said the landlady.
"Oh, Bartley!" said Marcia, when she had left them alone, "how could you joke so about our just being married!"
"Well, I saw she wanted awfully to ask. And anybody can tell by looking at us, anyway. We can't keep that to ourselves, any more than we can our greenness. Besides, it's money in our pockets; she'll take something off our board for it, you'll see. Now, will you manage the bargaining from this on? I stepped forward because the rooms were for gentlemen only."
"I guess I'd better," said Marcia.
"All right; then I'll take a back seat from this out."
"Oh, I do hope it won't be too much!" sighed the young wife. "I'm so tired, looking."
"You can come right along up," the landlady called down through the oval spire formed by the ascending hand-rail of the stairs.
They found her in a broad, low room, whose ceiling sloped with the roof, and had the pleasant irregularity of the angles and recessions of two dormer windows. The room was clean and cosey; there was a table, and a stove that could be used open or shut; Marcia squeezed Bartley's arm to signify that it would do perfectly—if only the price would suit.
The landlady stood in the middle of the floor and lectured: "Now, there! I get five dollars a week for this room; and I gen'ly let it to two gentlemen. It's just been vacated by two gentlemen unexpectedly; and it's hard to get gentlemen at this time the year; and that's the reason I thought of takin' you. As I say, I don't much like ladies for inmates, and so I put in the window 'for gentlemen only.' But it's no use bein' too particular; I can't have the room layin' empty on my hands. If it suits you, you can have it for four dollars. It's high up, and there's no use tryin' to deny it. But there aint such another view as them winders commands anywheres. You can see the harbor, and pretty much the whole coast."
"Anything extra for the view?" said Bartley, glancing out.
"No, I throw that in."
"Does the price include gas and fire?" asked Marcia, sharpened as to all details by previous interviews.
"It includes the gas, but it don't include the fire," said the landlady, firmly. "And it's pretty low at that, as you've found out, I guess."
"Yes, it is low," said Marcia. "Bartley, I think we'd better take it."
She looked at him timidly, as if she were afraid he might not think it good enough; she did not think it good enough for him, but she felt that they must make their money go as far as possible.
"All right!" he said. "Then it's a bargain."
"And how much more will the board be?"
"Well, there," the landlady said, with candor, "I don't know as I can meet your views. I don't ever give board. But there's plenty of houses right on the street here where you can get day-board from four dollars a week up."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Marcia; "and that would make it twelve dollars!"
"Why, the dear suz, child!" exclaimed the landlady, "you didn't expect to get it for less?"
"We must," said Marcia.
"Then you'll have to go to a mechanics' boardin'-house."
"I suppose we shall," she returned, dejectedly. Bartley whistled.
"Look here," said the landlady, "aint you from Down East, some'eres?"
Marcia started, as if the woman had recognized them. "Yes." she said.
"Well, now," said Mrs. Nash, "I'm from down Maine way myself, and I'll tell you what I should do, if I was in your place. You don't want much of anything tor breakfast or tea; you can boil you an egg on the stove here, and you can make your own tea or coffee; and if I was you, I'd go out for my dinners to an eatin'-house. I heard some my lodgers tellin' how they done. Well, I heard the very gentlemen that occupied this room sayin' how they used to go to an eatin'-house, and one 'd order one thing, and another another, and then they'd halve it between 'em, and make out a first-rate meal for about a quarter apiece. Plenty of places now where they give you a cut o'lamb or rib-beef for a shillin', and they bring you bread and butter and potato with it; an' it's always enough for two. That's what they said. I haint never tried it myself; but as long as you haint got anybody but yourselves to care for, there aint any reason why you shouldn't."
They looked at each other.
"Well," added the landlady for a final touch, "say fire. That stove won't burn a great deal, anyway."
"All right," said Bartley, "we'll take the room—for a month, at least."
Mrs. Nash looked a little embarrassed. If she had made some concession to the liking she had conceived for this pretty young couple, she could not risk everything. "I always have to get the first week in advance—where there ain't no reference," she suggested.
"Of course," said Bartley, and he took out his pocket-book, which he had a boyish satisfaction in letting her see was well filled. "Now, Marcia," he continued, looking at his watch, "I'll just run over to the hotel, and give up our room before they get us in for dinner."
Marcia accepted Mrs. Nash's invitation to come and sit with her till the chill was off the room; and she borrowed a pen and paper of her to write home. The note she sent was brief: she was not going to seem to ask anything of her father. But she was going to do what was right; she told him where she was, and she sent her love to her mother. She would not speak of her things; he might send them or not, as he chose; but she knew he would. This was the spirit of her letter, and her training had not taught her to soften and sweeten her phrase; but no doubt the old man, who was like her, would understand that she felt no compunction for what she had done, and that she loved him though she still defied him.
Bartley did not ask her what her letter was when she demanded a stamp of him on his return; but he knew. He inquired of Mrs. Nash where these cheap eating-houses were to be found, and he posted the letter in the first box they came to, merely saying, "I hope you haven't been asking any favors, Marsh?"
"Because I couldn't stand that."
Marcia had never dined in a restaurant, and she was somewhat bewildered by the one into which they turned. There was a great show of roast, and steak, and fish, and game, and squash and cranberry-pie in the window, and at the door a tack was driven through a mass of bills of fare, two of which Bartley plucked off as they entered, with a knowing air, and then threw on the floor when he found the same thing on the table. The table had a marble top, and a silver-plated castor in the centre. The plates were laid with a coarse red doily in a cocked hat on each, and a thinly plated knife and fork crossed beneath it; the plates were thick and heavy; the handle as well as the blade of the knife was metal, and silvered. Besides the castor, there was a bottle of Leicestershire sauce on the table, and salt in what Marcia thought a pepper-box; the marble was of an unctuous translucence in places, and showed the course of the cleansing napkin on its smeared surface. The place was hot, and full of confused smells of cooking; all the tables were crowded, so that they found places with difficulty, and pale, plain girls, of the Provincial and Irish-American type, in fashionable bangs and pull-backs, went about taking the orders, which they wailed out toward a semicircular hole opening upon a counter at the farther end of the room; there they received the dishes ordered, and hurried with them to the customers, before whom they laid them with a noisy clacking of the heavy crockery. A great many of the people seemed to be taking hulled corn and milk; baked beans formed another favorite dish, and squash-pie was in large request. Marcia was not critical; roast turkey for Bartley and stewed chicken for herself, with cranberry-pie for both, seemed to her a very good and sufficient dinner, and better than they ought to have had. She asked Bartley if this were anything like Parker's; he had always talked to her about Parker's.
"Well, Marcia," he said, folding up his doily, which does not betray use like the indiscreet white napkin, "I'll just take you round and show you the outside of Parker's, and some day we'll go there and get dinner."
He not only showed her Parker's, but the City Hall; they walked down School Street, and through Washington as far as Boylston: and Bartley pointed out the Old South, and brought Marcia home by the Common, where they stopped to see the boys coasting under the care of the police, between two long lines of spectators.
"The State House," said Bartley, with easy command of the facts, and, pointing in the several directions; "Beacon Street; Public Garden; Back Bay."
She came home to Mrs. Nash joyfully admiring the city, but admiring still more her husband's masterly knowledge of it.
Mrs. Nash was one of those people who partake intimately of the importance of the place in which they live; to whom it is sufficient splendor and prosperity to be a Bostonian, or New-Yorker, or Chicagoan, and who experience a delicious self-flattery in the celebration of the municipal grandeur. In his degree, Bartley was of this sort, and he exchanged compliments of Boston with Mrs. Nash, till they grew into warm favor with each other.
After a while, he said he must go up-stairs and do some writing; and then he casually dropped the fact that he was an editor, and that he had come to Boston to get an engagement on a newspaper; he implied that he had come to take one.
"Well," said Mrs. Nash, smoothing the back of the cat, which she had in her lap, "I guess there ain't anything like our Boston papers. And they say this new one—the 'Daily Events'—is goin' to take the lead. You acquainted any with our Boston editors?"
Bartley hemmed. "Well—I know the proprietor of the Events."
"Ah, yes: Mr. Witherby. Well, they say he's got the money. I hear my lodgers talkin' about that paper consid'able. I haven't ever seen it."
Bartley now went up-stairs; he had an idea in his head. Marcia remained with Mrs. Nash a few moments. "He's been in Boston before," she said, with proud satisfaction; "he visited here when he was in college."
"Law, is he college-bred?" cried Mrs. Nash. "Well, I thought he looked 'most too wide-awake for that. He aint a bit offish. He seems re'l practical. What you hurryin' off so for?" she asked, as Marcia rose, and stood poised on the threshold, in act to follow her husband. "Why don't you set here with me, while he's at his writin'? You'll just keep talkin to him and takin' his mind off, the whole while. You stay here!" she commanded hospitably. "You'll just be in the way, up there."
This was a novel conception to Marcia, but its good sense struck her. "Well, I will," she said. "I'll run up a minute to leave my things, and then I'll come back."
She found Bartley dragging the table, on which he had already laid out his writing-materials, into a good light, and she threw her arms round his neck, as if they had been a great while parted.
"Come up to kiss me good luck?" he asked, finding her lips.
"Yes, and to tell you how splendid you are, going right to work this way," she answered fondly.
"Oh, I don't believe in losing time; and I've got to strike while the iron's hot, if I'm going to write out that logging-camp business. I'll take it over to that Events man, and hit him with it, while it's fresh in his mind."
"Yes," said Marcia. "Are you going to write that out?"
"Why, I told you I was. Any objections?" He did not pay much attention to her, and he asked his question jokingly, as he went on making his preparations.
"It's hard for me to realize that people can care for such things. I thought perhaps you'd begin with something else," she suggested, hanging up her sack and hat in the closet.
"No, that's the very thing to begin with," he answered, carelessly. "What are you going to do? Want that book to read that I bought on the cars?"
"No, I'm going down to sit with Mrs. Nash while you're writing."
"Well, that's a good idea."
"You can call me when you've done."
"Done!" cried Bartley. "I sha'n't be done till this time to-morrow. I'm going to make a lot about it."
"Oh!" said his wife. "Well, I suppose the more there is, the more you will get for it. Shall you put in about those people coming to see the camp?"
"Yes, I think I can work that in so that old Witherby will like it. Something about a distinguished Boston newspaper proprietor and his refined and elegant ladies, as a sort of contrast to the rude life of the loggers."
"I thought you didn't admire them a great deal."
"Well, I didn't much. But I can work them up."
Marcia was quite ready to go; Bartley had seated himself at his table, but she still hovered about. "And are you—shall you put that Montreal woman in?"
"Yes, get it all in. She'll work up first-rate."
Marcia was silent. Then, "I shouldn't think you'd put her in," she said, "if she was so silly and disagreeable."
Bartley turned around, and saw the look on her face that he could not mistake. He rose and took her by the chin. "Look here, Marsh!" he said, "didn't you promise me you'd stop that?"
"Yes," she murmured, while the color flamed into her cheeks.
"And will you?"
"I did try—"
He looked sharply into her eyes. "Confound the Montreal woman! I won't put in a word about her. There!" He kissed Marcia, and held her in his arms and soothed her as if she had been a jealous child.
"Oh, Bartley! Oh, Bartley!" she cried. "I love you so!"
"I think it's a remark you made before," he said, and, with a final kiss and laugh, he pushed her out of the door; and she ran down stairs to Mrs. Nash again.
"Your husband ever write poetry, any?" inquired the landlady.
"No," returned Marcia; "he used to in college, but he says it don't pay."
"One my lodgers—well, she was a lady; you can't seem to get gentlemen oftentimes in the summer season, for love or money, and I was puttin' up with her,—breakin' joints, as you may say, for the time bein'—she wrote poetry; 'n' I guess she found it pretty poor pickin'. Used to write for the weekly papers, she said, 'n' the child'n's magazines. Well, she couldn't get more 'n a doll' or two, 'n' I do' know but what less, for a piece as long as that." Mrs. Nash held her hands about a foot apart. "Used to show 'em to me, and tell me about 'em. I declare I used to pity her. I used to tell her I ruther break stone for my livin'."
Marcia sat talking more than an hour to Mrs. Nash, informing herself upon the history of Mrs. Nash's past and present lodgers, and about the ways of the city, and the prices of provisions and dress-goods. The dearness of everything alarmed and even shocked her; but she came back to her faith in Bartley's ability to meet and overcome all difficulties. She grew drowsy in the close air which Mrs. Nash loved, after all her fatigues and excitements, and she said she guessed she would go up and see how Bartley was getting on. But when she stole into the room and saw him busily writing, she said, "Now I won't speak a word, Bartley," and coiled herself down under a shawl on the bed, near enough to put her hand on his shoulder if she wished, and fell asleep.
It took Bartley two days to write out his account of the logging-camp. He worked it up to the best of his ability, giving all the facts that he had got out of Kinney, and relieving these with what he considered picturesque touches. He had the newspaper instinct, and he divined that his readers would not care for his picturesqueness without his facts. He therefore subordinated this, and he tried to give his description of the loggers a politico-economical interest, dwelling upon the variety of nationalities engaged in the industry, and the changes it had undergone in what he called its personnel; he enlarged upon its present character and its future development in relation to what he styled, in a line of small capitals, with an early use of the favorite newspaper possessive,
COLUMBIA'S MORIBUND SHIP-BUILDING.
And he interspersed his text plentifully with exclamatory headings intended to catch the eye with startling fragments of narration and statement, such as
THE PINE-TREE STATE'S STORIED STAPLE
MORE THAN A MILLION OF MONEY
WILD-CATS, LYNXES, AND BEARS
BOTH LEGS FROZEN TO THE KNEES
THE LAMPLIGHT ON THEIR SWARTHY FACES.
He spent a final forenoon in polishing his article up, and stuffing it full of telling points. But after dinner on this last day he took leave of Marcia with more trepidation than he was willing to show, or knew how to conceal. Her devout faith in his success seemed to unnerve him, and he begged her not to believe in it so much.
He seized what courage he had left in both hands, and found himself, after the usual reluctance of the people in the business office, face to face with Mr. Witherby in his private room. Mr. Witherby had lately dismissed his managing editor for his neglect of the true interests of the paper as represented by the counting-room; and was managing the Events himself. He sat before a table strewn with newspapers and manuscripts; and as he looked up, Bartley saw that he did not recognize him.
"How do you do, Mr. Witherby? I had the pleasure of meeting you the other day in Maine—at Mr. Willett's logging-camp. Hubbard is my name; remember me as editor of the Equity Free Press."
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Witherby, rising and standing at his desk, as a sort of compromise between asking his visitor to sit down and telling him to go away. He shook hands in a loose way, and added: "I presume you would like to exchange. But the fact is, our list is so large already, that we can't extend it, just now; we can't—"
Bartley smiled. "I don't want any exchange, Mr. Witherby. I'm out of the Free Press."
"Ah!" said the city journalist, with relief. He added, in a leading tone: "Then—"
"I've come to offer you an article,—an account of lumbering in our State. It's a little sketch that I've prepared from what I saw in Mr. Willett's camp, and some facts and statistics I've picked up. I thought it might make an attractive feature of your Sunday edition."
"The Events," said Mr. Witherby, solemnly, "does not publish a Sunday edition!"
"Of course not," answered Bartley, inwardly cursing his blunder,—"I mean your Saturday evening supplement." He handed him his manuscript.
Mr. Witherby looked at it, with the worry of a dull man who has assumed unintelligible duties. He had let the other papers "get ahead of him" on several important enterprises lately, and he would have been glad to retrieve himself; but he could not be sure that this was an enterprise. He began by saying that their last Saturday supplement was just out, and the next was full; and he ended by declaring, with stupid pomp, that the Events preferred to send its own reporters to write up those matters. Then he hemmed, and looked at Bartley, and he would really have been glad to have him argue him out of this position; but Bartley could not divine what was in his mind. The cold fit, which sooner or later comes to every form of authorship, seized him. He said awkwardly he was very sorry, and putting his manuscript back in his pocket he went out, feeling curiously light-headed, as if his rebuff had been a stunning blow. The affair was so quickly over, that he might well have believed it had not happened. But he was sickeningly disappointed; he had counted upon the sale of his article to the Events; his hope had been founded upon actual knowledge of the proprietor's intention; and although he had rebuked Marcia's overweening confidence, he had expected that Witherby would jump at it. But Witherby had not even looked at it.
Bartley walked a long time in the cold winter sunshine, fie would have liked to go back to his lodging, and hide his face in Marcia's hands, and let her pity him, but he could not bear the thought of her disappointment, and he kept walking. At last he regained courage enough to go to the editor of the paper for which he used to correspond in the summer, and which had always printed his letters. This editor was busy, too, but he apparently felt some obligations to civility with Bartley; and though he kept glancing over his exchanges as they talked, he now and then glanced at Bartley also. He said that he should be glad to print the sketch, but that they never paid for outside material, and he advised Bartley to go with it to the Events or to the Daily Chronicle-Abstract; the Abstract and the Brief Chronicle had lately consolidated, and they were showing a good deal of enterprise. Bartley said nothing to betray that he had already been at the Events office, and upon this friendly editor's invitation to drop in again some time he went away considerably re-inspirited.
"If you should happen to go to the Chronicle-Abstract folks," the editor called after him, "you can tell them I suggested your coming."
The managing editor of the Chronicle-Abstract was reading a manuscript, and he did not desist from his work on Bartley's appearance, which he gave no sign of welcoming. But he had a whimsical, shrewd, kind face, and Bartley felt that he should get on with him, though he did not rise, and though he let Bartley stand.
"Yes," he said. "Lumbering, hey? Well, there's some interest in that, just now, on account of this talk about the decay of our shipbuilding interests. Anything on that point?"
"That's the very point I touch on first," said Bartley.
The editor stopped turning over his manuscript. "Let's see," he said, holding out his hand for Bartley's article. He looked at the first head-line, "What I Know about Logging," and smiled. "Old, but good." Then he glanced at the other headings, and ran his eye down the long strips on which Bartley had written; nibbled at the text here and there a little; returned to the first paragraph, and read that through; looked back at something else, and then read the close.
"I guess you can leave it," he said, laying the manuscript on the table.
"No, I guess not," said Bartley, with equal coolness, gathering it up.
The editor looked fairly at him for the first time, and smiled. Evidently he liked this. "What's the reason? Any particular hurry?"
"I happen to know that the Events is going to send a man down East to write up this very subject. And I don't propose to leave this article here till they steal my thunder, and then have it thrown back on my hands not worth the paper it's written on."
The editor tilted himself back in his chair and braced his knees against his table. "Well, I guess you're right," he said. "What do you want for it?"
This was a terrible question. Bartley knew nothing about the prices that city papers paid; he feared to ask too much, but he also feared to cheapen his wares by asking too little. "Twenty-five dollars," he said, huskily.
"Let's look at it," said the editor, reaching out his hand for the manuscript again. "Sit down." He pushed a chair toward Bartley with his foot, having first swept a pile of newspapers from it to the floor. He now read the article more fully, and then looked up at Bartley, who sat still, trying to hide his anxiety. "You're not quite a new hand at the bellows, are you?"
"I've edited a country paper."
"Down in Maine."
The editor bent forward and took out a long, narrow blank-book. "I guess we shall want your article What name?"
"Bartley J. Hubbard." It sounded in his ears like some other name.
"Going to be in Boston some time?"
"All the time," said Bartley, struggling to appear nonchalant. The revulsion from the despair into which he had fallen after his interview with Witherby was still very great. The order on the counting-room which the editor had given him shook in his hand. He saw his way before him clearly now; he wished to propose some other things that he would like to write; but he was saved from this folly for the time by the editor's saying, in a tone of dismissal: "Better come in to-morrow and see a proof. We shall put you into the Wednesday supplement."
"Thanks," said Bartley. "Good day."
The editor did not hear him, or did not think it necessary to respond from behind the newspaper which he had lifted up between them, and Bartley went out. He did not stop to cash his order; he made boyish haste to show it to Marcia, as something more authentic than the money itself, and more sacred. As he hurried homeward he figured Marcia's ecstasy in his thought. He saw himself flying up the stairs to their attic three steps at a bound, and bursting into the room, where she sat eager and anxious, and flinging the order into her lap; and then, when she had read it with rapture at the sum, and pride in the smartness with which he had managed the whole affair, he saw himself catching her up and dancing about the floor with her. He thought how fond of her he was, and he wondered that he could ever have been cold or lukewarm.
She was standing at the window of Mrs. Nash's little reception-room when he reached the house. It was not to be as he had planned, but he threw her a kiss, glad of the impatience which would not let her wait till he could find her in their own room, and he had the precious order in his hand to dazzle her eyes as soon as he should enter. But, as he sprang into the hall, his foot struck against a trunk and some boxes.
"Hello!" he cried, "Your things have come!"
Marcia lingered within the door of the reception-room; she seemed afraid to come out. "Yes," she said, faintly; "father brought them. He has just been here."
He seemed there still, and the vision unnerved her as if Bartley and he had been confronted there in reality. Her husband had left her hardly a quarter of an hour, when a hack drove up to the door, and her father alighted. She let him in herself, before he could ring, and waited tremulously for what he should do or say. But he merely took her hand, and, stooping over, gave her the chary kiss with which he used to greet her at home when he returned from an absence.
She flung her arms around his neck. "Oh, father!"
"Well, well! There, there!" he said, and then he went into the reception-room with her; and there was nothing in his manner to betray that anything unusual had happened since they last met. He kept his hat on, as his fashion was, and he kept on his overcoat, below which the skirts of his dress-coat hung an inch or two; he looked old, and weary, and shabby.
"I can't leave Bartley, father," she began, hysterically.
"I haven't come to separate you from your husband, Marcia. What made you think so? It's your place to stay with him."
"He's out, now," she answered, in an incoherent hopefulness. "He's just gone. Will you wait and see him, father?"
"No, I guess I can't wait," said the old man. "It wouldn't do any good for us to meet now."
"Do you think he coaxed me away? He didn't. He took pity on me,—he forgave me. And I didn't mean to deceive you when I left home, father. But I couldn't help trying to see Bartley again."
"I believe you, Marcia. I understand. The thing had to be. Let me see your marriage certificate."
She ran up to her room and fetched it.
Her father read it carefully. "Yes, that is all right," he said, and returned it to her. He added, after an absent pause: "I have brought your things, Marcia. Your mother packed all she could think of."
"How is mother?" asked Marcia, as if this had first reminded her of her mother.
"She is usually well," replied her father.
"Won't you—won't you come up and see our room, father?" Marcia asked, after the interval following this feint of interest in her mother.
"No," said the old man, rising restlessly from his chair, and buttoning at his coat, which was already buttoned. "I guess I sha'n't have time. I guess I must be going."
Marcia put herself between him and the door. "Won't you let me tell you about it, father?"
"How—I came to go off with Bartley. I want you should know."
"I guess I know all I want to know about it, Marcia. I accept the facts. I told you how I felt. What you've done hasn't changed me toward you. I understand you better than you understand yourself; and I can't say that I'm surprised. Now I want you should make the best of it."
"You don't forgive Bartley!" she cried, passionately. "Then I don't want you should forgive me!"
"Where did you pick up this nonsense about forgiving?" said her father, knitting his shaggy brows. "A man does this thing or that, and the consequence follows. I couldn't forgive Bartley so that he could escape any consequence of what he's done; and you're not afraid I shall hurt him?"
"Stay and see him!" she pleaded. "He is so kind to me! He works night and day, and he has just gone out to sell something he has written for the papers."
"I never said he was lazy," returned her father. "Do you want any money, Marcia?"
"No, we have plenty. And Bartley is earning it all the time. I wish you would stay and see him!"
"No, I'm glad he didn't happen to be in," said the Squire. "I sha'n't wait for him to come back. It wouldn't do any good, just yet, Marcia; it would only do harm. Bartley and I haven't had time to change our minds about each other yet. But I'll say a good word for him to you. You're his wife, and it's your part to help him, not to hinder him. You can make him worse by being a fool; but you needn't be a fool. Don't worry him about other women; don't be jealous. He's your husband, now: and the worst thing you can do is to doubt him."
"I won't, father, I won't, indeed! I will be good, and I will try to be sensible. Oh, I wish Bartley could know how you feel!"
"Don't tell him from me," said her father. "And don't keep making promises and breaking them. I'll help the man in with your things."
He went out, and came in again with one end of a trunk, as if he had been giving the man a hand with it into the house at home, and she suffered him as passively as she had suffered him to do her such services all her life. Then he took her hand laxly in his, and stooped down for another chary kiss. "Good by, Marcia."
"Why, father! Are you going to leave me?" she faltered.
He smiled in melancholy irony at the bewilderment, the childish forgetfulness of all the circumstances, which her words expressed. "Oh, no! I'm going to take you with me."
His sarcasm restored her to a sense of what she had said, and she ruefully laughed at herself through her tears. "What am I talking about? Give my love to mother. When will you come again?" she asked, clinging about him almost in the old playful way.
"When you want me," said the Squire, freeing himself.
"I'll write!" she cried after him, as he went down the steps; and if there had been, at any moment, a consciousness of her cruelty to him in her heart, she lost it, when he drove away, in her anxious waiting for Bartley's return. It seemed to her that, though her father had refused to see him, his visit was of happy augury for future kindness between them, and she was proudly eager to tell Bartley what good advice her father had given her. But the sight of her husband suddenly turned these thoughts to fear. She trembled, and all that she could say was, "I know father will be all right, Bartley."
"How?" he retorted, savagely. "By the way he abused me to you? Where is he?"
"He's gone,—gone back."
"I don't care where he's gone, so he's gone. Did he come to take you home with him? Why didn't you go?—Oh, Marcia!" The brutal words had hardly escaped him when he ran to her as if he would arrest them before their sense should pierce her heart.
She thrust him back with a stiffly extended arm. "Keep away! Don't touch me!" She walked by him up the stairs without looking round at him, and he heard her close their door and lock it.
Bartley stood for a moment, and then went out and wandered aimlessly about till nightfall. He went out shocked and frightened at what he had done, and ready for any reparation. But this mood wore away, and he came back sullenly determined to let her make the advances toward reconciliation, if there was to be one. Her love had already made his peace, and she met him in the dimly lighted little hall with a kiss of silent penitence and forgiveness. She had on her hat and shawl, as if she had been waiting for him to come and take her out to tea; and on their way to the restaurant she asked him of his adventure among the newspapers. He told her briefly, and when they sat down at their table he took out the precious order and showed it to her. But its magic was gone; it was only an order for twenty-five dollars, now; and two hours ago it had been success, rapture, a common hope and a common joy. They scarcely spoke of it, but talked soberly of indifferent things.
She could not recur to her father's visit at once, and he would not be the first to mention it. He did nothing to betray his knowledge of her intention, as she approached the subject through those feints that women use, and when they stood again in their little attic room she was obliged to be explicit.
"What hurt me, Bartley," she said, "was that you should think for an instant that I would let father ask me to leave you, or that he would ask such a thing. He only came to tell me to be good to you, and help you, and trust you; and not worry you with my silliness and—and—jealousy. And I don't ever mean to. And I know he will be good friends with you yet. He praised you for working so hard;"—she pushed it a little beyond the bare fact;—"he always did that; and I know he's only waiting for a good chance to make it up with you."
She lifted her eyes, glistening with tears, and it touched his peculiar sense of humor to find her offering him reparation, when he had felt himself so outrageously to blame; but he would not be outdone in magnanimity, if it came to that.
"It's all right, Marsh. I was a furious idiot, or I should have let you explain at once. But you see I had only one thought in my mind, and that was my luck, which I wanted to share with you; and when your father seemed to have come in between us again—"
"Oh, yes, yes!" she answered. "I understand." And she clung to him in the joy of this perfect intelligence, which she was sure could never be obscured again.
When Bartley's article came out, she read it with a fond admiration which all her praises seemed to leave unsaid. She bought a scrap-book, and pasted the article into it, and said that she was going to keep everything he wrote. "What are you going to write the next thing?" she asked.
"Well, that's what I don't know," he answered. "I can't find another subject like that, so easily."
"Why, if people care to read about a logging-camp, I should think they would read about almost anything. Nothing could be too common for them. You might even write about the trouble of getting cheap enough rooms in Boston."
"Marcia," cried Bartley, "you're a treasure! I'll write about that very thing! I know the Chronicle-Abstract will be glad to get it."
She thought he was joking, till he came to her after a while for some figures which he did not remember. He had the true newspaper instinct, and went to work with a motive that was as different as possible from the literary motive. He wrote for the effect which he was to make, and not from any artistic pleasure in the treatment. He did not attempt to give it form,—to imagine a young couple like himself and Marcia coming down from the country to place themselves in the city; he made no effort to throw about it the poetry of their ignorance and their poverty, or the pathetic humor of their dismay at the disproportion of the prices to their means. He set about getting all the facts he could, and he priced a great many lodgings in different parts of the city; then he went to a number of real-estate agents, and, giving himself out as a reporter of the Chronicle-Abstract, he interviewed them as to house-rents, past and present. Upon these bottom facts, as he called them, he based a "spicy" sketch, which had also largely the character of an expose. There is nothing the public enjoys so much as an expose: it seems to be made in the reader's own interest; it somehow constitutes him a party to the attack upon the abuse, and its effectiveness redounds to the credit of all the newspaper's subscribers. After a week's stay in Boston, Bartley was able to assume the feelings of a native who sees his city falling into decay through the rapacity of its landladies. In the heading of ten or fifteen lines which he gave his sketch, the greater number were devoted to this feature of it; though the space actually allotted to it in the text was comparatively small. He called his report "Boston's Boarding-Houses," and he spent a paragraph upon the relation of boarding-houses to civilization, before detailing his own experience and observation. This part had many of those strokes of crude picturesqueness and humor which he knew how to give, and was really entertaining; but it was when he came to contrast the rates of house-rent and the cost of provisions with the landladies'
that Bartley showed all the virtue of a born reporter. The sentences were vivid and telling; the ensemble was very alarming; and the conclusion was inevitable, that, unless this abuse could somehow be reached, we should lose a large and valuable portion of our population,—especially those young married people of small means with whom the city's future prosperity so largely rested, and who must drift away to find homes in rival communities if the present exorbitant demands were maintained.
As Bartley had foretold, he had not the least trouble in selling this sketch to the Chronicle-Abstract. The editor probably understood its essential cheapness perfectly well; but he also saw how thoroughly readable it was. He did not grumble at the increased price which Bartley put upon his work; it was still very far from dear; and he liked the young Downeaster's enterprise. He gave him as cordial a welcome as an overworked man may venture to offer when Bartley came in with his copy, and he felt like doing him a pleasure. Some things out of the logging-camp sketch had been copied, and people had spoken to the editor about it, which was a still better sign that it was a hit.
"Don't you want to come round to our club to-night?" asked the editor, as he handed Bartley the order for his money across the table. "We have a bad dinner, and we try to have a good time. We're all newspaper men together."
"Why, thank you," said Bartley, "I guess I should like to go."
"Well, come round at half-past five, and go with me."
Bartley walked homeward rather soberly. He had meant, if he sold this article, to make amends for the disappointment they had both suffered before, and to have a commemorative supper with Marcia at Parker's: he had ignored a little hint of hers about his never having taken her there yet, because he was waiting for this chance to do it in style. He resolved that, if she did not seem to like his going to the club, he would go back and withdraw his acceptance. But when he told her he had been invited,—he thought he would put the fact in this tentative way,—she said, "I hope you accepted!"
"Would you have liked me to?" he asked with relief.
"Why, of course! It's a great honor. You'll get acquainted with all those editors, and perhaps some of them will want to give you a regular place." A salaried employment was their common ideal of a provision for their future.
"Well, that's what I was thinking myself," said Bartley.
"Go and accept at once," she pursued.
"Oh, that isn't necessary. If I get round there by half-past five, I can go," he answered.
His lurking regret ceased when he came into the reception-room, where the members of the club were constantly arriving, and putting off their hats and overcoats, and then falling into groups for talk. His friend of the Chronicle-Abstract introduced him lavishly, as our American custom is. Bartley had a little strangeness, but no bashfulness, and, with his essentially slight opinion of people, he was promptly at his ease. These men liked his handsome face, his winning voice, the good-fellowship of his instant readiness to joke; he could see that they liked him, and that his friend Ricker was proud of the impression he made; before the evening was over he kept himself with difficulty from patronizing Ricker a little.
The club has grown into something much more splendid and expensive; but it was then content with a dinner certainly as bad as Ricker promised, but fabulously modest in price, at an old-fashioned hotel, whose site was long ago devoured by a dry-goods palace. The drink was commonly water or beer; occasionally, if a great actor or other distinguished guest honored the board, some spendthrift ordered champagne. But no one thought fit to go to this ruinous extreme for Bartley. Ricker offered him his choice of beer or claret, and Bartley temperately preferred water to either; he could see that this raised him in Ricker's esteem.
No company of men can fail to have a good time at a public dinner, and the good time began at once with these journalists, whose overworked week ended in this Saturday evening jollity. They were mostly young men, who found sufficient compensation in the excitement and adventure of their underpaid labors, and in the vague hope of advancement; there were grizzled beards among them, for whom neither the novelty nor the expectation continued, but who loved the life for its own sake, and would hardly have exchanged it for prosperity. Here and there was an old fellow, for whom probably all the illusion was gone; but he was proud of his vocation, proud even of the changes that left him somewhat superannuated in his tastes and methods. None, indeed, who have ever known it, can wholly forget the generous rage with which journalism inspires its followers. To each of those young men, beginning the strangely fascinating life as reporters and correspondents, his paper was as dear as his king once was to a French noble; to serve it night and day, to wear himself out for its sake, to merge himself in its glory, and to live in its triumphs without personal recognition from the public, was the loyal devotion which each expected his sovereign newspaper to accept as its simple right. They went and came, with the prompt and passive obedience of soldiers, wherever they were sent, and they struggled each to "get in ahead" of all the others with the individual zeal of heroes. They expanded to the utmost limits of occasion, and they submitted with an anguish that was silent to the editorial excision, compression, and mutilation of reports that were vitally dear to them. What becomes of these ardent young spirits, the inner history of journalism in any great city might pathetically show; but the outside world knows them only in the fine frenzy of interviewing, or of recording the midnight ravages of what they call the devouring element, or of working up horrible murders or tragical accidents, or of tracking criminals who have baffled all the detectives. Hearing their talk Bartley began to realize that journalism might be a very different thing from what he had imagined it in a country printing-office, and that it might not be altogether wise to consider it merely as a stepping-stone to the law.
With the American eagerness to recognize talent, numbers of good fellows spoke to him about his logging sketch; even those who had not read it seemed to know about it as a hit. They were all delighted to be able to say, "Ricker tells me that you offered it to old Witherby, and he wouldn't look at it!" He found that this fact, which he had doubtfully confided to Ricker, was not offensive to some of the Events people who were there; one of them got him aside, and darkly owned to him that Witherby was doing everything that any one man could to kill the Events, and that in fact the counting-room was running the paper.
All the club united in abusing the dinner, which in his rustic ignorance Bartley had not found so infamous; but they ate it with perfect appetite and with mounting good spirits. The president brewed punch in a great bowl before him, and, rising with a glass of it in his hand, opened a free parliament of speaking, story-telling, and singing. Whoever recollected a song or a story that he liked, called upon the owner of it to sing it or tell it; and it appeared not to matter how old the fun or the music was: the company was resolved to be happy; it roared and clapped till the glasses rang. "You will like this song," Bartley's neighbors to right and left of him prophesied; or, "Just listen to this story of Mason's,—it's capital,"—as one or another rose in response to a general clamor. When they went back to the reception-room they carried the punch-bowl with them, and there, amid a thick cloud of smoke, two clever amateurs took their places at the piano, and sang and played to their heart's content, while the rest, glass in hand, talked and laughed, or listened as they chose. Bartley had not been called upon, but he was burning to try that song in which he had failed so dismally in the logging-camp. When the pianist rose at last, he slipped down into the chair, and, striking the chords of the accompaniment, he gave his piece with brilliant audacity. The room silenced itself and then burst into a roar of applause, and cries of "Encore!" There could be no doubt of the success. "Look here, Ricker," said a leading man at the end of the repetition, "your friend must be one of us!"—and, rapping on the table, he proposed Bartley's name. In that simple time the club voted viva voce on proposed members, and Bartley found himself elected by acclamation, and in the act of paying over his initiation fee to the treasurer, before he had well realized the honor done him. Everybody near him shook his hand, and offered to be of service to him. Much of this cordiality was merely collective good feeling; something of it might be justly attributed to the punch; but the greater part was honest. In this civilization of ours, grotesque and unequal and imperfect as it is in many things, we are bound together in a brotherly sympathy unknown to any other. We new men have all had our hard rubs, but we do not so much remember them in soreness or resentment as in the wish to help forward any other who is presently feeling them. If he will but help himself too, a hundred hands are stretched out to him.
Bartley had kept his head clear of the punch, but he left the club drunk with joy and pride, and so impatient to be with Marcia and tell her of his triumphs that he could hardly wait to read the proof of his boarding-house article which Ricker had put in hand at once for the Sunday edition. He found Marcia sitting up for him, and she listened with a shining face while he hastily ran over the most flattering facts of the evening. She was not so much surprised at the honors done him as he had expected but she was happier, and she made him repeat it all and give her the last details. He was afraid she would ask him what his initiation had cost; but she seemed to have no idea that it had cost anything, and though it had swept away a third of the money he had received for his sketch, he still resolved that she should have that supper at Parker's.
"I consider my future made," he said aloud, at the end of his swift cogitation on this point.
"Oh, yes!" she responded rapturously. "We needn't have a moment's anxiety. But we must be very saving still till you get a place."
"Oh, certainly," said Bartley.
During several months that followed, Bartley's work consisted of interviewing, of special reporting in all its branches, of correspondence by mail and telegraph from points to which he was sent; his leisure he spent in studying subjects which could be treated like that of the boarding-houses. Marcia entered into his affairs with the keen half-intelligence which characterizes a woman's participation in business; whatever could be divined, she was quickly mistress of; she vividly sympathized with his difficulties and his triumphs; she failed to follow him in matters of political detail, or of general effect; she could not be dispassionate or impartial; his relation to any enterprise was always more important than anything else about it. On some of his missions he took her with him, and then they made it a pleasure excursion; and if they came home late with the material still unwritten, she helped him with his notes, wrote from his dictation, and enabled him to give a fuller report than his rivals. She caught up with amusing aptness the technical terms of the profession, and was voluble about getting in ahead of the Events and the other papers; and she was indignant if any part of his report was cut out or garbled, or any feature was spoiled.
He made a "card" of grouping and treating with picturesque freshness the spring openings of the milliners and dry-goods people; and when he brought his article to Ricker, the editor ran it over, and said, "Guess you took your wife with you, Hubbard."
"Yes, I did," Bartley owned. He was always proud of her looks, and it flattered him that Ricker should see the evidences of her feminine taste and knowledge in his account of the bonnets and dress goods. "You don't suppose I could get at all these things by inspiration, do you?"
Marcia was already known to some of his friends whom he had introduced to her in casual encounters. They were mostly unmarried, or if married they lived at a distance, and they did not visit the Hubbards at their lodgings. Marcia was a little shy, and did not quite know whether they ought to call without being asked, or whether she ought to ask them; besides, Mrs. Nash's reception-room was not always at her disposal, and she would not have liked to take them all the way up to her own room. Her social life was therefore confined to the public places where she met these friends of her husband's. They sometimes happened together at a restaurant, or saw one another between the acts at the theatre, or on coming out of a concert. Marcia was not so much admired for her conversation by her acquaintance, as for her beauty and her style; a rustic reluctance still lingered in her; she was thin and dry in her talk with any one but Bartley, and she could not help letting even men perceive that she was uneasy when they interested him in matters foreign to her.
Bartley did not see why they could not have some of these fellows up in their room for tea; but Marcia told him it was impossible. In fact, although she willingly lived this irregular life with him, she was at heart not at all a Bohemian. She did not like being in lodgings or dining at restaurants; on their horse-car excursions into the suburbs, when the spring opened, she was always choosing this or that little house as the place where she would like to live, and wondering if it were within their means. She said she would gladly do all the work herself; she hated to be idle so much as she now must. The city's novelty wore off for her sooner than for him: the concerts, the lectures, the theatres, had already lost their zest for her, and she went because he wished her to go, or in order to be able to help him with what he was always writing about such things.
As the spring advanced, Bartley conceived the plan of a local study, something in the manner of the boarding-house article, but on a much vaster scale: he proposed to Ricker a timely series on the easily accessible hot-weather resorts, to be called "Boston's Breathing-Places," and to relate mainly to the seaside hotels and their surroundings. His idea was encouraged, and he took Marcia with him on most of his expeditions for its realization. These were largely made before the regular season had well begun; but the boats were already running, and the hotels were open, and they were treated with the hospitality which a knowledge of Bartley's mission must invoke. As he said, it was a matter of business, give and take on both sides, and the landlords took more than they gave in any such trade.
On her part Marcia regarded dead-heading as a just and legitimate privilege of the press, if not one of its chief attributes; and these passes on boats and trains, this system of paying hotel-bills by the presentation of a card, constituted distinguished and honorable recognition from the public. To her simple experience, when Bartley told how magnificently the reporters had been accommodated, at some civic or commercial or professional banquet, with a table of their own, where they were served with all the wines and courses, he seemed to have been one of the principal guests, and her fear was that his head should be turned by his honors. But at the bottom of her heart, though she enjoyed the brilliancy of Bartley's present life, she did not think his occupation comparable to the law in dignity. Bartley called himself a journalist now, but his newspaper connection still identified him in her mind with those country editors of whom she had always heard her father speak with such contempt: men dedicated to poverty and the despite of all the local notables who used them. She could not shake off the old feeling of degradation, even when she heard Bartley and some of his fellow-journalists talking in their boastfulest vein of the sovereign character of journalism; and she secretly resolved never to relinquish her purpose of having him a lawyer. Till he was fairly this, in regular and prosperous practice, she knew that she should not have shown her father that she was right in marrying Bartley.
In the mean time their life went ignorantly on in the obscure channels where their isolation from society kept it longer than was natural. Three or four months after they came to Boston, they were still country people, with scarcely any knowledge of the distinctions and differences so important to the various worlds of any city. So far from knowing that they must not walk in the Common, they used to sit down on a bench there, in the pleasant weather, and watch the opening of the spring, among the lovers whose passion had a publicity that neither surprised nor shocked them. After they were a little more enlightened, they resorted to the Public Garden, where they admired the bridge, and the rock-work, and the statues. Bartley, who was already beginning to get up a taste for art, boldly stopped and praised the Venus, in the presence of the gardeners planting tulip-bulbs.
They went sometimes to the Museum of Fine Arts, where they found a pleasure in the worst things which the best never afterwards gave them; and where she became as hungry and tired as if it were the Vatican. They had a pride in taking books out of the Public Library, where they walked about on tiptoe with bated breath; and they thought it a divine treat to hear the Great Organ play at noon. As they sat there in the Music Hall, and let the mighty instrument bellow over their strong young nerves, Bartley whispered Marcia the jokes he had heard about the organ; and then, upon the wave of aristocratic sensation from this experience, they went out and dined at Copeland's, or Weber's, or Fera's, or even at Parker's: they had long since forsaken the humble restaurant with its doilies and its ponderous crockery, and they had so mastered the art of ordering that they could manage a dinner as cheaply at these finer places as anywhere, especially if Marcia pretended not to care much for her half of the portion, and connived at its transfer to Bartley's plate.
In his hours of leisure, they were so perpetually together that it became a joke with the men who knew them to say, when asked if Bartley were married, "Very much married." It was not wholly their inseparableness that gave the impression of this extreme conjugality; as I said, Marcia's uneasiness when others interested Bartley in things alien to her made itself felt even by these men. She struggled against it because she did not wish to put him to shame before them, and often with an aching sense of desolation she sent him off with them to talk apart, or left him with them if they met on the street, and walked home alone, rather than let any one say that she kept her husband tied to her apron-strings. His club, after the first sense of its splendor and usefulness wore away, was an ordeal; she had failed to conceal that she thought the initiation and annual fees extravagant. She knew no other bliss like having Bartley sit down in their own room with her; it did not matter whether they talked; if he were busy, she would as lief sit and sew, or sit and silently look at him as he wrote. In these moments she liked to feign that she had lost him, that they had never been married, and then come back with a rush of joy to the reality. But on his club nights she heroically sent him off, and spent the evening with Mrs. Nash. Sometimes she went out by day with the landlady, who had a passion for auctions and cemeteries, and who led Marcia to an intimate acquaintance with such pleasures. At Mount Auburn, Marcia liked the marble lambs, and the emblematic hands pointing upward with the dexter finger, and the infants carved in stone, and the angels with folded wings and lifted eyes, better than the casts which Bartley said were from the antique, in the Museum; on this side her mind was as wholly dormant as that of Mrs. Nash herself. She always came home feeling as if she had not seen Bartley for a year, and fearful that something had happened to him.
The hardest thing about their irregular life was that he must sometimes be gone two or three days at a time, when he could not take her with him. Then it seemed to her that she could not draw a full breath in his absence; and once he found her almost wild on his return: she had begun to fancy that he was never coming back again. He laughed at her when she betrayed her secret, but she was not ashamed; and when he asked her, "Well, what if I hadn't come back?" she answered passionately, "It wouldn't have made much difference to me: I should not have lived."
The uncertainty of his income was another cause of anguish to her. At times he earned forty or fifty dollars a week; oftener he earned ten; there was now and then a week when everything that he put his hand to failed, and he earned nothing at all. Then Marcia despaired; her frugality became a mania, and they had quarrels about what she called his extravagance. She embittered his daily bread by blaming him for what he spent on it; she wore her oldest dresses, and would have had him go shabby in token of their adversity. Her economies were frantic child's play,—methodless, inexperienced, fitful; and they were apt to be followed by remorse in which she abetted him in some wanton excess.
The future of any heroic action is difficult to manage; and the sublime sacrifice of her pride and all the conventional proprieties which Marcia had made in giving herself to Bartley was inevitably tried by the same sordid tests that every married life is put to.
That salaried place which he was always seeking on the staff of some newspaper, proved not so easy to get as he had imagined in the flush of his first successes. Ricker willingly included him among the Chronicle-Abstract's own correspondents and special reporters; and he held the same off-and-on relation to several other papers; but he remained without a more definite position. He earned perhaps more money than a salary would have given him, and in their way of living he and Marcia laid up something out of what he earned. But it did not seem to her that he exerted himself to get a salaried place; she was sure that, if so many others who could not write half so well had places, he might get one if he only kept trying. Bartley laughed at these business-turns of Marcia's as he called them; but sometimes they enraged him, and he had days of sullen resentment when he resisted all her advances towards reconciliation. But he kept hard at work, and he always owned at last how disinterested her most ridiculous alarm had been.
Once, when they had been talking as usual about that permanent place on some newspaper, she said, "But I should only want that to be temporary, if you got it. I want you should go on with the law, Bartley. I've been thinking about that. I don't want you should always be a journalist."
Bartley smiled. "What could I do for a living, I should like to know, while I was studying law?"
"You could do some newspaper work,—enough to support us,—while you were studying. You said when we first came to Boston that you should settle down to the law."
"I hadn't got my eyes open, then. I've got a good deal longer row to hoe than I supposed, before I can settle down to the law."
"Father said you didn't need to study but a little more."
"Not if I were going into the practice at Equity. But it's a very different thing, I can tell you, in Boston: I should have to go in for a course in the Harvard Law School, just for a little start-off."
Marcia was silenced, but she asked, after a moment, "Then you're going to give up the law, altogether?"
"I don't know what I'm going to do; I'm going to do the best I can for the present, and trust to luck. I don't like special reporting, for a finality; but I shouldn't like shystering, either."
"What's shystering?" asked Marcia.
"It's pettifogging in the city courts. Wait till I can get my basis,—till I have a fixed amount of money for a fixed amount of work,—and then I'll talk to you about taking up the law again. I'm willing to do it whenever it seems the right thing. I guess I should like it, though I don't see why it's any better than journalism, and I don't believe it has any more prizes."
"But you've been a long time trying to get your basis on a newspaper," she reasoned. "Why don't you try to get it in some other way? Why don't you try to get a clerk's place with some lawyer?"
"Well, suppose I was willing to starve along in that way, how should I go about to get such a place?" demanded Bartley, with impatience.
"Why don't you go to that Mr. Halleck you visited here? You used to tell me he was going to be a lawyer."
"Well, if you remember so distinctly what I said about going into the law when I first came to Boston," said her husband angrily, "perhaps you'll remember that I said I shouldn't go to Halleck until I didn't need his help. I shall not go to him for his help."
Marcia gave way to spiteful tears. "It seems as if you were ashamed to let them know that you were in town. Are you afraid I shall want to get acquainted with them? Do you suppose I shall want to go to their parties, and disgrace you?"
Bartley took his cigar out of his mouth, and looked blackly at her. "So, that's what you've been thinking, is it?"
She threw herself upon his neck. "No! no, it isn't!" she cried, hysterically. "You know that I never thought it till this instant; you know I didn't think it at all; I just said it. My nerves are all gone; I don't know what I'm saying half the time, and you're as strict with me as if I were as well as ever! I may as well take off my things,—I'm not well enough to go with you, to-day, Bartley."
She had been dressing while they talked for an entertainment which Bartley was going to report for the Chronicle-Abstract; and now she made a feint of wishing to remove her hat. He would not let her. He said that if she did not go, he should not; he reproached her with not wishing to go with him any more; he coaxed her laughingly and fondly.
"It's only because I'm not so strong, now," she said in a whisper that ended in a kiss on his cheek. "You must walk very slowly, and not hurry me."
The entertainment was to be given in aid of the Indigent Children's Surf-Bathing Society, and it was at the end of June, rather late in the season. But the society itself was an afterthought, not conceived till a great many people had left town on whose assistance such a charity must largely depend. Strenuous appeals had been made, however: it was represented that ten thousand poor children could be transported to Nantasket Beach, and there, as one of the ladies on the committee said, bathed, clam-baked, and lemonaded three times during the summer at a cost so small that it was a saving to spend the money. Class Day falling about the same time, many exiles at Newport and on the North Shore came up and down; and the affair promised to be one of social distinction, if not pecuniary success. The entertainment was to be varied: a distinguished poet was to read an old poem of his, and a distinguished poetess was to read a new poem of hers; some professional people were to follow with comic singing; an elocutionist was to give impressions of noted public speakers; and a number of vocal and instrumental amateurs were to contribute their talent.
Bartley had instructions from Ricker to see that his report was very full socially. "We want something lively, and at the same time nice and tasteful, about the whole thing, and I guess you're the man to do it. Get Mrs. Hubbard to go with you, and keep you from making a fool of yourself about the costumes." He gave Bartley two tickets. "Mighty hard to get, I can tell you, for love or money,—especially love," he said; and Bartley made much of this difficulty in impressing Marcia's imagination with the uncommon character of the occasion. She had put on a new dress which she had just finished for herself, and which was a marvel not only of cheapness, but of elegance; she had plagiarized the idea from the costume of a lady with whom she stopped to look in at a milliner's window where she formed the notion of her bonnet. But Marcia had imagined the things anew in relation to herself, and made them her own; when Bartley first saw her in them, though he had witnessed their growth from the germ, he said that he was afraid of her, she was so splendid, and he did not quite know whether he felt acquainted. When they were seated at the concert, and had time to look about them, he whispered, "Well, Marsh, I don't see anything here that comes near you in style," and she flung a little corner of her drapery out over his hand so that she could squeeze it: she was quite happy again.
After the concert, Bartley left her for a moment, and went up to a group of the committee near the platform, to get some points for his report. He spoke to one of the gentlemen, note-book and pencil in hand, and the gentleman referred him to one of the ladies of the committee, who, after a moment of hesitation, demanded in a rich tone of injury and surprise, "Why! Isn't this Mr. Hubbard?" and, indignantly answering herself, "Of course it is!" gave her hand with a sort of dramatic cordiality, and flooded him with questions: "When did you come to Boston? Are you at the Hallecks'? Did you come—Or no, you're not Harvard. You're not living in Boston? And what in the world are you getting items for? Mr. Hubbard, Mr. Atherton."
She introduced him in a breathless climax to the gentleman to whom he had first spoken, and who had listened to her attack on Bartley with a smile which he was at no trouble to hide from her. "Which question are you going to answer first, Mr. Hubbard?" he asked quietly, while his eyes searched Bartley's for an instant with inquiry which was at once kind and keen. His face had the distinction which comes of being clean-shaven in our bearded times.
"Oh, the last," said Bartley. "I'm reporting the concert for the Chronicle-Abstract, and I want to interview some one in authority about it."
"Then interview me, Mr. Hubbard," cried the young lady. "I'm in authority about this affair,—it's my own invention, as the White Knight says,—and then I'll interview you afterwards. And you've gone into journalism, like all the Harvard men! So glad it's you, for you can be a perfect godsend to the cause if you will. The entertainment hasn't given us all the money we shall want, by any means, and we shall need all the help the press can give us. Ask me any questions you please, Mr. Hubbard: there isn't a soul here that I wouldn't sacrifice to the last personal particular, if the press will only do its duty in return. You've no idea how we've been working during the last fortnight since this Old Man of the Sea-Bathing sprang upon us. I was sitting quietly at home, thinking of anything else in the world, I can assure you, when the atrocious idea occurred to me." She ran on to give a full sketch of the inception and history of the scheme up to the present time. Suddenly she arrested herself and Bartley's flying pencil: "Why, you're not putting all that nonsense down?"
"Certainly I am," said Bartley, while Mr. Atherton, with a laugh, turned and walked away to talk with some other ladies. "It's the very thing I want. I shall get in ahead of all the other papers on this; they haven't had anything like it, yet."
She looked at him for a moment in horror. Then, "Well, go on; I would do anything for the cause!" she cried.
"Tell me who's been here, then," said Bartley.
She recoiled a little. "I don't like giving names."
"But I can't say who the people were, unless you do."
"That's true," said the young lady thoughtfully. She prided herself on her thoughtfulness, which sometimes came before and sometimes after the fact. "You're not obliged to say who told you?"
"Of course not."
She ran over a list of historical and distinguished names, and he slyly asked if this and that lady were not dressed so, and so, and worked in the costumes from her unconsciously elaborate answers; she was afterwards astonished that he should have known what people had on. Lastly, he asked what the committee expected to do next, and was enabled to enrich his report with many authoritative expressions and intimations. The lady became all zeal in these confidences to the public, at last; she told everything she knew, and a great deal that she merely hoped.
"And now come into the committee-room and have a cup of coffee; I know you must be faint with all this talking," she concluded. "I want to ask you something about yourself." She was not older than Bartley, but she addressed him with the freedom we use in encouraging younger people.
"Thank you," he said coolly; "I can't, very well. I must go back to my wife, and hurry up this report."
"Oh! is Mrs. Hubbard here?" asked the young lady with well-controlled surprise. "Present me to her!" she cried, with that fearlessness of social consequences for which she was noted: she believed there were ways of getting rid of undesirable people without treating them rudely.
The audience had got out of the hall, and Marcia stood alone near one of the doors waiting for Bartley. He glanced proudly toward her, and said, "I shall be very glad."
Miss Kingsbury drifted by his side across the intervening space, and was ready to take Marcia impressively by the hand when she reached her; she had promptly decided her to be very beautiful and elegantly simple in dress, but she found her smaller than she had looked at a distance. Miss Kingsbury was herself rather large,—sometimes, she thought, rather too large: certainly too large if she had not had such perfect command of every inch of herself. In complexion she was richly blonde, with beautiful fair hair roughed over her forehead, as if by a breeze, and apt to escape in sunny tendrils over the peachy tints of her temples. Her features were massive rather than fine; and though she thoroughly admired her chin and respected her mouth, she had doubts about her nose, which she frankly referred to friends for solution: had it not too much of a knob at the end? She seemed to tower over Marcia as she took her hand at Bartley's introduction, and expressed her pleasure at meeting her.
"I don't know why it need be such a surprise to find one's gentlemen friends married, but it always is, somehow. I don't think Mr. Hubbard would have known me if I hadn't insisted upon his recognizing me; I can't blame him: it's three years since we met. Do you help him with his reports? I know you do! You must make him lenient to our entertainment,—the cause is so good! How long have you been in Boston? Though I don't know why I should ask that,—you may have always been in Boston! One used to know everybody; but the place is so large, now. I should like to come and see you; but I'm going out of town to-morrow, for the summer. I'm not really here, now, except ex officio; I ought to have been away weeks ago, but this Indigent Surf-Bathing has kept me. You've no idea what such an undertaking is. But you must let me have your address, and as soon as I get back to town in the fall, I shall insist upon looking you up. Good by! I must run away, now, and leave you; there are a thousand things for me to look after yet to-day." She took Marcia again by the hand, and superadded some bows and nods and smiles of parting, after she released her, but she did not ask her to come into the committee-room and have some coffee; and Bartley took his wife's hand under his arm and went out of the hall.
"Well," he said, with a man's simple pleasure in Miss Kingsbury's friendliness to his wife, "that's the girl I used to tell you about,—the rich one with the money in her own right, whom I met at the Hallecks'. She seemed to think you were about the thing, Marsh! I saw her eyes open as she came up, and I felt awfully proud of you; you never looked half so well. But why didn't you say something?"
"She didn't give me any chance," said Marcia, "and I had nothing to say, anyway. I thought she was very disagreeable."
"Disagreeable!" repeated Bartley in amaze.
Miss Kingsbury went back to the committee-room, where one of the amateurs had been lecturing upon her: "Clara Kingsbury can say and do, from the best heart in the world, more offensive things in ten minutes than malice could invent in a week. Somebody ought to go out and drag her away from that reporter by main force. But I presume it's too late already; she's had time to destroy us all. You'll see that there won't be a shred left of us in his paper at any rate. Really, I wonder that, in a city full of nervous and exasperated people like Boston, Clara Kingsbury has been suffered to live. She throws her whole soul into everything she undertakes, and she has gone so en masse into this Indigent Bathing, and splashed about in it so, that I can't understand how we got anybody to come to-day. Why, I haven't the least doubt that she's offered that poor man a ticket to go down to Nantasket and bathe with the other Indigents; she's treated me as if I ought to be personally surf-bathed for the last fortnight; and if there's any chance for us left by her tactlessness, you may be sure she's gone at it with her conscience and simply swept it off the face of the earth."
One hot day in August, when Bartley had been doing nothing for a week, and Marcia was gloomily forecasting the future when they would have to begin living upon the money they had put into the savings bank, she reverted to the question of his taking up the law again. She was apt to recur to this in any moment of discouragement, and she urged him now to give up his newspaper work with that wearisome persistence with which women torment the men they love.
"My newspaper work seems to have given me up, my dear," said Bartley. "It's like asking a fellow not to marry a girl that won't have him." He laughed and then whistled; and Marcia burst into fretful, futile tears, which he did not attempt to assuage.
They had been all summer in town; the country would have been no change to them; and they knew nothing of the seaside except the crowded, noisy, expensive resorts near the city. Bartley wished her to go to one of these for a week or two, at any rate, but she would not; and in fact neither of them had the born citizen's conception of the value of a summer vacation. But they had found their attic intolerable; and, the single gentlemen having all given up their rooms by this time, Mrs. Nash let Marcia have one lower down, where they sat looking out on the hot street.
"Well," cried Marcia at last, "you don't care for my feelings, or you would take up the law again."
Her husband rose with a sigh that was half a curse, and went out. After what she had said, he would not give her the satisfaction of knowing what he meant to do; but he had it in his head to go to that Mr. Atherton to whom Miss Kingsbury had introduced him, and ask his advice; he had found out that Mr. Atherton was a lawyer, and he believed that he would tell him what to do. He could at least give him some authoritative discouragement which he might use in these discussions with Marcia.
Mr. Atherton had his office in the Events building, and Bartley was on his way thither when he met Ricker.
"Seen Witherby?" asked his friend. "He was round looking for you."
"What does Witherby want with me?" asked Bartley, with a certain resentment.
"Wants to give you the managing-editorship of the Events," said Ricker, jocosely.
"Pshaw! Well, he knows where to find me, if he wants me very badly."
"Perhaps he doesn't," suggested Ricker. "In that case, you'd better look him up."
"Why, you don't advise—"
"Oh, I don't advise anything! But if he can let bygones be bygones, I guess you can afford to! I don't know just what he wants with you, but if he offers you anything like a basis, you'd better take it."
Bartley's basis had come to be a sort of by-word between them; Ricker usually met him with some such demand as, "Well, what about the basis?" or, "How's your poor basis?" Bartley's ardor for a salaried position amused him, and he often tried to argue him out of it. "You're much better off as a free lance. You make as much money as most of the fellows in places, and you lead a pleasanter life. If you were on any one paper, you'd have to be on duty about fifteen hours out of the twenty-four; you'd be out every night till three or four o'clock; you'd have to do fires, and murders, and all sorts of police business; and now you work mostly on fancy jobs,—something you suggest yourself, or something you're specially asked to do. That's a kind of a compliment, and it gives you scope."
Nevertheless, if Bartley had his heart set upon a basis, Ricker wanted him to have it. "Of course," he said, "I was only joking about the basis. But if Witherby should have something permanent to offer, don't quarrel with your bread and butter, and don't hold yourself too cheap. Witherby's going to get all he can, for as little as he can, every time."
Ricker was a newspaper man in every breath. His great interest in life was the Chronicle-Abstract, which paid him poorly and worked him hard. To get in ahead of the other papers was the object for which he toiled with unremitting zeal; but after that he liked to see a good fellow prosper, and he had for Bartley that feeling of comradery which comes out among journalists when their rivalries are off. He would hate to lose Bartley from the Chronicle-Abstract; if Witherby meant business, Bartley and he might be excoriating each other before a week passed in sarcastic references to "our esteemed contemporary of the Events," and "our esteemed contemporary of the Chronicle-Abstract"; but he heartily wished him luck, and hoped it might be some sort of inside work.
When Ricker left him Bartley hesitated. He was half minded to go home and wait for Witherby to look him up, as the most dignified and perhaps the most prudent course. But he was curious and impatient, and he was afraid of letting the chance, whatever it might be, slip through his fingers. He suddenly resolved upon a little ruse, which would still oblige Witherby to make the advance, and yet would risk nothing by delay. He mounted to Witherby's room in the Events building, and pushed open the door. Then he drew back, embarrassed, as if he had made a mistake. "Excuse me," he said, "isn't Mr. Atherton's office on this floor?"
Witherby looked up from the papers on his desk, and cleared his throat. When he overreached himself he was apt to hold any party to the transaction accountable for his error. Ever since he refused Bartley's paper on the logging-camp, he had accused him in his heart of fraud because he had sold the rejected sketch to another paper, and anticipated Witherby's tardy enterprise in the same direction. Each little success that Bartley made added to Witherby's dislike; and whilst Bartley had written for all the other papers, he had never got any work from the Events. Witherby had the guilty sense of having hated him as he looked up, and Bartley on his part was uneasily sensible of some mocking paragraphs of a more or less personal cast, which he had written in the Chronicle-Abstract, about the enterprise of the Events.
"Mr. Atherton is on the floor above," said Witherby. "But I'm very glad you happened to look in, Mr. Hubbard. I—I was just thinking about you. Ah—wont you take a chair?"
"Thanks," said Bartley, non-committally; but he sat down in the chair which the other rose to offer him.
Witherby fumbled about among the things on his desk before he resumed his own seat. "I hope you have been well since I saw you?"
"Oh, yes, I'm always well. How have you been?" Bartley wondered whither this exchange of civilities tended; but he believed he could keep it up as long as old Witherby could.
"Why, I have not been very well," said Witherby, getting into his chair, and taking up a paper-weight to help him in talk. "The fact is, I find that I have been working too hard. I have undertaken to manage the editorial department of the Events in addition to looking after its business, and the care has been too great. It has told upon me. I flatter myself that I have not allowed either department to suffer—"
He referred this point so directly to him, that Bartley made a murmur of assent, and Witherby resumed.