"But the care has told upon me. I am not so well as I could wish. I need rest, and I need help," he added.
Bartley had by this time made up his mind that, if Witherby had anything to say to him, he should say it unaided.
Witherby put down the paper-weight, and gave his attention for a moment to a paper-cutter. "I don't know whether you have heard that Mr. Clayton is going to leave us?"
"No," Bartley said, "I hadn't heard that."
"Yes, he is going to leave us. Mr. Clayton and I have not agreed upon some points, and we have both judged it best that we should part." Witherby paused again, and changed the positions of his inkstand and mucilage-bottle. "Mr. Clayton has failed me, as I may say, at the last moment, and we have been compelled to part. I found Mr. Clayton—unpractical."
He looked again at Bartley, who said, "Yes?"
"Yes. I found Mr. Clayton so much at variance in his views with—with my own views—that I could do nothing with him. He has used language to me which I am sure he will regret. But that is neither here nor there; he is going. I have had my eye on you, Mr. Hubbard, ever since you came to Boston, and have watched your career with interest. But I thought of Mr. Clayton, in the first instance, because he was already attached to the Events, and I wished to promote him. Office during good behavior, and promotion in the direct line: I'm that much of a civil-service reformer," said Witherby.
"Certainly," said Bartley.
"But of course my idea in starting the Events was to make money."
"I hold that the first duty of a public journal is to make money for the owner; all the rest follows naturally."
"You're quite right, Mr. Witherby," said Bartley. "Unless it makes money, there can be no enterprise about it, no independence,—nothing. That was the way I did with my little paper down in Maine. The first thing—I told the committee when I took hold of the paper—is to keep it from losing money; the next is to make money with it. First peaceable, then pure: that's what I told them."
"Precisely so!" Witherby was now so much at his ease with Bartley that he left off tormenting the things on his desk, and used his hands in gesticulating. "Look at the churches themselves! No church can do any good till it's on a paying basis. As long as a church is in debt, it can't secure the best talent for the pulpit or the choir, and the members go about feeling discouraged and out of heart. It's just so with a newspaper. I say that a paper does no good till it pays; it has no influence, its motives are always suspected, and you've got to make it pay by hook or by crook, before you can hope to—to—forward any good cause by it. That's what I say. Of course," he added, in a large, smooth way, "I'm not going to contend that a newspaper should be run solely in the interest of the counting-room. Not at all! But I do contend that, when the counting-room protests against a certain course the editorial room is taking, it ought to be respectfully listened to. There are always two sides to every question. Suppose all the newspapers pitch in—as they sometimes do—and denounce a certain public enterprise: a projected scheme of railroad legislation, or a peculiar system of banking, or a co-operative mining interest, and the counting-room sends up word that the company advertises heavily with us; shall we go and join indiscriminately in that hue and cry, or shall we give our friends the benefit of the doubt?"
"Give them the benefit of the doubt," answered Bartley. "That's what I say."
"And so would any other practical man!" said Witherby. "And that's just where Mr. Clayton and I differed. Well, I needn't allude to him any more," he added leniently. "What I wish to say is this, Mr. Hubbard. I am overworked, and I feel the need of some sort of relief. I know that I have started the Events in the right line at last,—the only line in which it can be made a great, useful, and respectable journal, efficient in every good cause,—and what I want now is some sort of assistant in the management who shall be in full sympathy with my own ideas. I don't want a mere slave,—a tool; but I do want an independent, right-minded man, who shall be with me for the success of the paper the whole time and every time, and shall not be continually setting up his will against mine on all sorts of doctrinaire points. That was the trouble with Mr. Clayton. I have nothing against Mr. Clayton personally; he is an excellent young man in very many respects; but he was all wrong about journalism, all wrong, Mr. Hubbard. I talked with him a great deal, and tried to make him see where his interest lay. He had been on the paper as a reporter from the start, and I wished very much to promote him to this position; which he could have made the best position in the country. The Events is an evening paper; there is no night-work; and the whole thing is already thoroughly systematized. Mr. Clayton had plenty of talent, and all he had to do was to step in under my direction and put his hand on the helm. But, no! I should have been glad to keep him in a subordinate capacity; but I had to let him go. He said that he would not report the conflagration of a peanut-stand for a paper conducted on the principles I had developed to him. Now, that is no way to talk. It's absurd."
"Perfectly." Bartley laughed his rich, caressing laugh, in which there was the insinuation of all worldly-wise contempt for Clayton and all worldly-wise sympathy with Witherby. It made Witherby feel good,—better perhaps than he had felt at any time since his talk with Clayton.
"Well, now, what do you say, Mr. Hubbard? Can't we make some arrangement with you?" he asked, with a burst of frankness.
"I guess you can," said Bartley. The fact that Witherby needed him was so plain that he did not care to practise any finesse about the matter.
"What are your present engagements?"
"I haven't any."
"Then you can take hold at once?"
"That's good!" Witherby now entered at large into the nature of the position which he offered Bartley. They talked a long time, and in becoming better acquainted with each other's views, as they called them, they became better friends. Bartley began to respect Witherby's business ideas, and Witherby in recognizing all the admirable qualities of this clear-sighted and level-headed young man began to feel that he had secretly liked him from the first, and had only waited a suitable occasion to unmask his affection. It was arranged that Bartley should come on as Witherby's assistant, and should do whatever he was asked to do in the management of the paper; he was to write on topics as they occurred to him, or as they were suggested to him. "I don't say whether this will lead to anything more, Mr. Hubbard, or not; but I do say that you will be in the direct line of promotion."
"Yes, I understand that," said Bartley.
"And now as to terms," continued Witherby, a little tremulously.
"And now as to terms," repeated Bartley to himself; but he said nothing aloud. He felt that Witherby had cut out a great deal of work for him, and work of a kind that he could not easily find another man both willing and able to do. He resolved that he would have all that his service was worth.
"What should you think of twenty dollars a week?" asked Witherby.
"I shouldn't think it was enough," said Bartley, amazed at his own audacity, but enjoying it, and thinking how he had left Marcia with the intention of offering himself to Mr. Atherton as a clerk for ten dollars a week. "There is a great deal of labor in what you propose, and you command my whole time. You would not like to have me do any work outside of the Events."
"No," Witherby assented. "Would twenty-five be nearer the mark?" he inquired soberly.
"It would be nearer, certainly," said Bartley. "But I guess you had better make it thirty." He kept a quiet face, but his heart throbbed.
"Well, say thirty, then," replied Witherby so promptly that Bartley perceived with a pang that he might as easily have got forty from him. But it was now too late, and a salary of fifteen hundred a year passed the wildest hopes he had cherished half an hour before.
"All right," he said quietly. "I suppose you want me to take hold at once?"
"Yes, on Monday. Oh, by the way," said Witherby, "there is one little piece of outside work which I should like you to finish up for us; and we'll agree upon something extra for it, if you wish. I mean our Solid Men series. I don't know whether you've noticed the series in the Events?"
"Yes," said Bartley, "I have."
"Well, then, you know what they are. They consist of interviews—guarded and inoffensive as respects the sanctity of private life—with our leading manufacturers and merchant princes at their places of business and their residences, and include a description of these, and some account of the lives of the different subjects."
"Yes, I have seen them," said Bartley. "I've noticed the general plan."
"You know that Mr. Clayton has been doing them. He made them a popular feature. The parties themselves were very much pleased with them."
"Oh, people are always tickled to be interviewed," said Bartley. "I know they put on airs about it, and go round complaining to each other about the violation of confidence, and so on; but they all like it. You know I reported that Indigent Surf-Bathing entertainment in June for the Chronicle-Abstract. I knew the lady who got it up, and I interviewed her after the entertainment."
"Yes." Witherby made an inarticulate murmur of respect for Bartley in his throat, and involuntarily changed toward him, but not so subtly that Bartley's finer instinct did not take note of the change. "She was a fresh subject, and she told me everything. Of course I printed it all. She was awfully shocked,—or pretended to be,—and wrote me a very O-dear-how-could-you note about it. But I went round to the office the next day, and I found that nearly every lady mentioned in the interview had ordered half a dozen copies of that issue sent to her seaside address, and the office had been full of Beacon Street swells all the morning buying Chronicle-Abstracts,—'the one with the report of the Concert in it.'" These low views of high society, coupled with an apparent familiarity with it, modified Witherby more and more. He began to see that he had got a prize. "The way to do with such fellows as your Solid Men," continued Bartley, "is to submit a proof to 'em. They never know exactly what to do about it, and so you print the interview with their approval, and make 'em particeps criminis. I'll finish up the series for you, and I won't make any very heavy extra charge."
"I should wish to pay you whatever the work was worth," said Witherby, not to be outdone in nobleness.
"All right; we sha'n't quarrel about that, at any rate."
Bartley was getting toward the door, for he was eager to be gone now to Marcia, but Witherby followed him up as if willing to detain him. "My wife," he said, "knows Miss Kingsbury. They have been on the same charities together."
"I met her a good while ago, when I was visiting a chum of mine at his father's house here. I didn't suppose she'd know me; but she did at once, and began to ask me if I was at the Hallecks'—as if I had never gone away."
"Mr. Ezra B. Halleck?" inquired Witherby reverently. "Leather trade?"
"Yes," said Bartley. "I believe his first name was Ezra. Ben Halleck was my friend. Do you know the family?" asked Bartley.
"Yes, we have met them—in society. I hope you're pleasantly situated where you are, Mr. Hubbard? Should be glad to have you call at the house."
"Thank you," said Bartley, "my wife will be glad to have Mrs. Witherby call."
"Oh!" cried Witherby. "I didn't know you were married! That's good! There's nothing like marriage, Mr. Hubbard, to keep a man going in the right direction. But you've begun pretty young."
"Nothing like taking a thing in time," answered Bartley. "But I haven't been married a great while; and I'm not so young as I look. Well, good afternoon, Mr. Witherby."
"What did you say was your address?" asked Witherby, taking out his note-book. "My wife will certainly call. She's down at Nantasket now, but she'll be up the first part of September, and then she'll call. Good afternoon."
They shook hands at last, and Bartley ran home to Marcia. He burst into the room with a glowing face. "Well, Marcia," he shouted, "I've got my basis!"
"Hush! No! Don't be so loud! You haven't!" she answered, springing to her feet. "I don't believe it! How hot you are!"
"I've been running—almost all the way from the Events office. I've got a place on the Events,—assistant managing-editor,—thirty dollars a week," he panted.
"I knew you would succeed yet,—I knew you would, if I could only have a little patience. I've been scolding myself ever since you went. I thought you were going to do something desperate, and I had driven you to it. But Bartley, Bartley! It can't be true, is it? Here, here! Do take this fan. Or no, I'll fan you, if you'll let me sit on your knee! O poor thing, how hot you are! But I thought you wouldn't white for the Events; I thought you hated that old Witherby, who acted so ugly to you when you first came."
"Oh, Witherby is a pretty good old fellow," said Bartley, who had begun to get his breath again. He gave her a full history of the affair, and they rejoiced together over it, and were as happy as if Bartley had been celebrating a high and honorable good fortune. She was too ignorant to feel the disgrace, if there were any, in the compact which Bartley had closed, and he had no principles, no traditions, by which to perceive it. To them it meant unlimited prosperity; it meant provision for the future, which was to bring a new responsibility and a new care.
"We will take the parlor with the alcove, now," said Bartley. "Don't excite yourself," he added, with tender warning.
"No, no," she said, pillowing her head on his shoulder, and shedding peaceful tears.
"It doesn't seem as if we should ever quarrel again, does it?"
"No, no! We never shall," she murmured. "It has always come from my worrying you about the law, and I shall never do that any more. If you like journalism better, I shall not urge you any more to leave it, now you've got your basis."
"But I'm going on with the law, now, for that very reason. I shall read law all my leisure time. I feel independent, and I shall not be anxious about the time I give, because I shall know that I can afford it."
"Well, only you mustn't overdo." She put her lips against his cheek. "You're more to me than anything you can do for me."
Now that Bartley had got his basis and had no favors to ask of any one, he was curious to see his friend Halleck again; but when, in the course of the Solid Men Series, he went to interview A Nestor of the Leather Interest, as he meant to call the elder Halleck, he resolved to let him make all the advances. On a legitimate business errand it should not matter to him whether Mr. Halleck welcomed him or not. The old man did not wait for Bartley to explain why he came; he was so simply glad to see him that Bartley felt a little ashamed to confess that he had been eight months in Boston without making himself known. He answered all the personal questions with which Mr. Halleck plied him; and in his turn he inquired after his college friend.
"Ben is in Europe," said his father. "He has been there all summer; but we expect him home about the middle of September. He's been a good while settling down," continued the old man, with an unconscious sigh. "He talked of the law at first, and then he went into business with me; but he didn't seem to find his calling in it; and now he's taken up the law again. He's been in the Law School at Cambridge, and he's going back there for a year or two longer. I thought you used to talk of the law yourself when you were with us, Mr. Hubbard."
"Yes, I did," Bartley assented. "And I haven't given up the notion yet. I've read a good deal of law already; but when I came up to Boston, I had to go into newspaper work till I could see my way out of the woods."
"Well," said Mr. Halleck, "that's right. And you say you like the arrangement you've made with Mr. Witherby?"
"It's ideal—for me," answered Bartley.
"Well, that's good," said the old man. "And you've come to interview me. Well, that's all right. I'm not much used to being in print, but I shall be glad to tell you all I know about leather."
"You may depend upon my not saying anything that will be disagreeable to you, Mr. Halleck," said Bartley, touched by the old man's trusting friendliness. When his inquisition ended, he slipped his notebook back into his pocket, and said with a smile, "We usually say something about the victim's private residence, but I guess I'll spare you that, Mr. Halleck."
"Why, we live in the old place, and I don't suppose there is much to say. We are plain people, and we don't like to change. When I built there thirty years ago, Rumford Street was one of the most desirable streets in Boston. There was no Back Bay, then, you know, and we thought we were doing something very fashionable. But fashion has drifted away, and left us high and dry enough on Rumford Street; though we don't mind it. We keep the old house and the old garden pretty much as you saw them. You can say whatever you think best. There's a good deal of talk about the intrusiveness of the newspapers; all I know is that they've never intruded upon me. We shall not be afraid that you will abuse our house, Mr. Hubbard, because we expect you to come there again. When shall it be? Mrs. Halleck and I have been at home all summer; we find it the most comfortable place; and we shall be very glad if you'll drop in any evening and take tea with us. We keep the old hours; we've never taken kindly to the late dinners. The girls are off at the mountains, and you'd see nobody but Mrs. Halleck. Come this evening!" cried the old man, with mounting cordiality.
His warmth as he put his hand on Bartley's shoulder made the young man blush again for the reserve with which he had been treating his own affairs. He stammered out, hoping that the other would see the relevancy of the statement, "Why, the fact is, Mr. Halleck, I—I'm married."
"Married?" said Mr. Halleck. "Why didn't you tell me before? Of course we want Mrs. Hubbard, too. Where are you living? We won't stand upon ceremony among old friends. Mrs. Halleck will come with the carriage and fetch Mrs. Hubbard, and your wife must take that for a call. Why, you don't know how glad we shall be to have you both! I wish Ben was married. You'll come?"
"Of course we will," said Bartley. "But you mustn't let Mrs. Halleck send for us; we can walk perfectly well."
"You can walk if you want, but Mrs. Hubbard shall ride," said the old man.
When Bartley reported this to Marcia, "Bartley!" she cried. "In her carriage? I'm afraid!"
"Nonsense! She'll be a great deal more afraid than you are. She's the bashfulest old lady you ever saw. All that I hope is that you won't overpower her."
"Bartley, hush! Shall I wear my silk, or—"
"Oh, wear the silk, by all means. Crush them at a blow!"
Rumford Street is one of those old-fashioned thoroughfares at the West End of Boston, which are now almost wholly abandoned to boarding-houses of the poorer class. Yet they are charming streets, quiet, clean, and respectable, and worthy still to be the homes, as they once were, of solid citizens. The red brick houses, with their swell fronts, looking in perspective like a succession of round towers, are reached by broad granite steps, and their doors are deeply sunken within the wagon-roofs of white-painted Roman arches. Over the door there is sometimes the bow of a fine transom, and the parlor windows on the first floor of the swell front have the same azure gleam as those of the beautiful old houses which front the Common on Beacon Street.
When her husband bought his lot there, Mrs. Halleck could hardly believe that a house on Rumford Street was not too fine for her. They had come to the city simple and good young village people, and simple and good they had remained, through the advancing years which had so wonderfully—Mrs. Halleck hoped, with a trembling heart, not wickedly—prospered them. They were of faithful stock, and they had been true to their traditions in every way. One of these was constancy to the orthodox religious belief in which their young hearts had united, and which had blessed all their life; though their charity now abounded perhaps more than their faith. They still believed that for themselves there was no spiritual safety except in their church; but since their younger children had left it they were forced tacitly to own that this might not be so in all cases. Their last endeavor for the church in Ben's case was to send him to the college where he and Bartley met; and this was such a failure on the main point, that it left them remorsefully indulgent. He had submitted, and had foregone his boyish dreams of Harvard, where all his mates were going; but the sacrifice seemed to have put him at odds with life. The years which had proved the old people mistaken would not come back upon their recognition of their error. He returned to the associations from which they had exiled him too much estranged to resume them, and they saw, with the unavailing regrets which visit fathers and mothers in such cases, that the young know their own world better than their elders can know it, and have a right to be in it and of it, superior to any theory of their advantage which their elders can form. Ben was not the fellow to complain; in fact, after he came home from college, he was allowed to shape his life according to his own rather fitful liking. His father was glad now to content him in anything he could, it was so very little that Ben asked. If he had suffered it, perhaps his family would have spoiled him.
The Halleck girls went early in July to the Profile House, where they had spent their summers for many years; but the old people preferred to stay at home, and only left their large, comfortable house for short absences. Their ways of life had been fixed in other times, and Mrs. Halleck liked better than mountain or sea the high-walled garden that stretched back of their house to the next street. They had bought through to this street when they built, but they had never sold the lot that fronted on it. They laid it out in box-bordered beds, and there were clumps of hollyhocks, sunflowers, lilies, and phlox, in different corners; grapes covered the trellised walls; there were some pear-trees that bore blossoms, and sometimes ripened their fruit beside the walk. Mrs. Halleck used to work in the garden; her husband seldom descended into it, but he liked to sit on the iron-railed balcony overlooking it from the back parlor.
As for the interior of the house, it had been furnished, once for all, in the worst style of that most tasteless period of household art, which prevailed from 1840 to 1870; and it would be impossible to say which were most hideous, the carpets or the chandeliers, the curtains or the chairs and sofas; crude colors, lumpish and meaningless forms, abounded in a rich and horrible discord. The old people thought it all beautiful, and those daughters who had come into the new house as little girls revered it; but Ben and his youngest sister, who had been born in the house, used the right of children of their parents' declining years to laugh at it. Yet they laughed with a sort of filial tenderness.
"I suppose you know how frightful you have everything about you, Olive," said Clara Kingsbury, one day after the Eastlake movement began, as she took a comprehensive survey of the Halleck drawing-room through her pince-nez.
"Certainly," answered the youngest Miss Halleck. "It's a perfect chamber of horrors. But I like it, because everything's so exquisitely in keeping."
"Really, I feel as if I had seen it all for the first time," said Miss Kingsbury. "I don't believe I ever realized it before."
She and Olive Halleck were great friends, though Clara was fashionable and Olive was not.
"It would all have been different," Ben used to say, in whimsical sarcasm of what he had once believed, "if I had gone to Harvard. Then the fellows in my class would have come to the house with me, and we should have got into the right set naturally. Now, we're outside of everything, and it makes me mad, because we've got money enough to be inside, and there's nothing to prevent it. Of course, I'm not going to say that leather is quite as blameless as cotton socially, but taken in the wholesale form it isn't so very malodorous, and it's quite as good as other things that are accepted."
"It's not the leather, Ben," answered Olive, "and it's not your not going to Harvard altogether, though that has something to do with it. The trouble's in me. I was at school with all those girls Clara goes with, and I could have been in that set if I'd wanted; but I didn't really want to. I saw, at a very tender age, that it was going to be more trouble than it was worth, and I just quietly kept out of it. Of course, I couldn't have gone to Papanti's without a fuss, but mother would have let me go if I had made the fuss; and I could be hand and glove with those girls now, if I tried. They come here whenever I ask them; and when I meet them on charities, I'm awfully popular. No, if I'm not fashionable, it's my own fault. But what difference does it make to you, Ben? You don't want to marry any of those girls as long as your heart's set on that unknown charmer of yours." Ben had once seen his charmer in the street of a little Down East town, where he met her walking with some other boarding-school girls; in a freak with his fellow-students, he had bribed the village photographer to let him have the picture of the young lady, which he had sent home to Olive, marked, "My Lost Love."
"No, I don't want to marry anybody," said Ben. "But I hate to live in a town where I'm not first chop in everything."
"Pshaw!" cried his sister, "I guess it doesn't trouble you much."
"Well, I don't know that it does," he admitted.
Mrs. Halleck's black coachman drove her to Mrs. Nash's door on Canary Place, where she alighted and rang with as great perturbation as if it had been a palace, and these poor young people to whom she was going to be kind were princes. It was sufficient that they were strangers; but Marcia's anxiety, evident even to meekness like Mrs. Halleck's, restored her somewhat to her self-possession; and the thought that Bartley, in spite of his personal splendor, was a friend of Ben's, was a help, and she got home with her guests without any great chasms in the conversation, though she never ceased to twist the window-tassel in her embarrassment.
Mr. Halleck came to her rescue at her own door, and let them in. He shook hands with Bartley again, and viewed Marcia with a fatherly friendliness that took away half her awe of the ugly magnificence of the interior. But still she admired that Bartley could be so much at his ease. He pointed to a stick at the foot of the hat-rack, and said, "How much that looks like Halleck!" which made the old man laugh, and clap him on the shoulder, and cry: "So it does! so it does! Recognized it, did you? Well, we shall soon have him with us again, now. Seems a long time to us since he went."
"Still limps a little?" asked Bartley.
"Yes, I guess he'll never quite get over that."
"I don't believe I should like him to," said Bartley. "He wouldn't seem natural without a cane in his hand, or hanging by the crook over his left elbow, while he stood and talked."
The old man clapped Bartley on the shoulder again, and laughed again at the image suggested. "That's so! that's so! You're right, I guess!"
As soon as Marcia could lay off her things in the gorgeous chamber to which Mrs. Halleck had shown her, they went out to tea in the dining-room overlooking the garden.
"Seems natural, don't it?" asked the old man, as Bartley turned to one of the windows.
"Not changed a bit, except that I was here in winter, and I hadn't a chance to see how pretty your garden was."
"It is pretty, isn't it?" said the old man. "Mother—Mrs. Halleck, I mean—looks after it. She keeps it about right. Here's Cyrus!" he said, as the serving-man came into the room with something from the kitchen in his hands. "You remember Cyrus, I guess, Mr. Hubbard?"
"Oh, yes!" said Bartley, and when Cyrus had set down his dish, Bartley shook hands with the New Hampshire exemplar of freedom and equality; he was no longer so young as to wish to mark a social difference between himself and the inside-man who had served Mr. Halleck with unimpaired self-respect for twenty-five years.
There was a vacant place at table, and Mr. Halleck said he hoped it would be taken by a friend of theirs. He explained that the possible guest was his lawyer, whose office Ben was going into after he left the Law School; and presently Mr. Atherton came. Bartley was prepared to be introduced anew, but he was flattered and the Hallecks were pleased to find that he and Mr. Atherton were already acquainted; the latter was so friendly, that Bartley was confirmed in his belief that you could not make an interview too strong, for he had celebrated Mr. Atherton among the other people present at the Indigent Surf-Bathing entertainment.
He was put next to Marcia, and after a while he began to talk with her, feeling with a tacit skill for her highest note, and striking that with kindly perseverance. It was not a very high note, and it was not always a certain sound. She could not be sure that he was really interested in the simple matters he had set her to talking about, and from time to time she was afraid that Bartley did not like it: she would not have liked him to talk so long or so freely with a lady. But she found herself talking on, about boarding, and her own preference for keeping house; about Equity, and what sort of place it was, and how far from Crawford's; about Boston, and what she had seen and done there since she had come in the winter. Most of her remarks began or ended with Mr. Hubbard; many of her opinions, especially in matters of taste, were frank repetitions of what Mr. Hubbard thought; her conversation had the charm and pathos of that of the young wife who devotedly loves her husband, who lives in and for him, tests everything by him, refers everything to him. She had a good mind, though it was as bare as it could well be of most of the things that the ladies of Mr. Atherton's world put into their minds.
Mrs. Halleck made from time to time a little murmur of satisfaction in Marcia's loyalty, and then sank back into the meek silence that she only emerged from to propose more tea to some one, or to direct Cyrus about offering this dish or that.
After they rose she took Marcia about, to show her the house, ending with the room which Bartley had when he visited there. They sat down in this room and had a long chat, and when they came back to the parlor they found Mr. Atherton already gone. Marcia inferred the early habits of the household from the departure of this older friend, but Bartley was in no hurry; he was enjoying himself, and he could not see that Mr. Halleck seemed at all sleepy.
Mrs. Halleck wished to send them home in her carriage, but they would not hear of this; they would far rather walk, and when they had been followed to the door, and bidden mind the steps as they went down, the wide open night did not seem too large for their content in themselves and each other.
"Did you have a nice time?" asked Bartley, though he knew he need not.
"The best time I ever had in the world!" cried Marcia.
They discussed the whole affair; the two old people; Mr. Atherton, and how pleasant he was; the house and its splendors, which they did not know were hideous. "Bartley," said Marcia at last, "I told Mrs. Halleck."
"Did you?" he returned, in trepidation; but after a while he laughed. "Well, all right, if you wanted to."
"Yes, I did; and you can't think how kind she was. She says we must have a house of our own somewhere, and she's going round with me in her carriage to help me to find one."
"Well," said Bartley, and he fetched a sigh, half of pride, half of dismay.
"Yes, I long to go to housekeeping. We can afford it now. She says we can get a cheap little house, or half a house, up at the South End, and it won't cost us any more than to board, hardly; and that's what I think, too."
"Go ahead, if you can find the house. I don't object to my own fireside. And I suppose we must."
"Yes, we must. Ain't you glad of it?"
They were in the shadow of a tall house, and he dropped his face toward the face she lifted to his, and gave her a silent kiss that made her heart leap toward him.
With the other news that Halleck's mother gave him on his return, she told him of the chance that had brought his old college comrade to them again, and of how Bartley was now married, and was just settled in the little house she had helped his wife to find. "He has married a very pretty girl," she said.
"Oh, I dare say!" answered her son. "He isn't the fellow to have married a plain girl."
"Your father and I have been to call upon them in their new house, and they seem very happy together. Mr. Hubbard wants you should come to see them. He talks a great deal about you."
"I'll look them up in good time," said the young man. "Hubbard's ardor to see me will keep."
That evening Mr. Atherton came to tea, and Halleck walked home with him to his lodgings, which were over the hill, and beyond the Public Garden. "Yes, it's very pleasant, getting back," he said, as they sauntered down the Common side of Beacon Street, "and the old town is picturesque after the best they can do across the water." He halted his friend, and brought himself to a rest on his cane, for a look over the hollow of the Common and the level of the Garden where the late September dark was keenly spangled with lamps. "'My heart leaps up,' and so forth, when I see that. Now that Athens and Florence and Edinburgh are past, I don't think there is any place quite so well worth being born in as Boston." He moved forward again, gently surging with his limp, in a way that had its charm for those that loved him. "It's more authentic and individual, more municipal, after the old pattern, than any other modern city. It gives its stamp, it characterizes. The Boston Irishman, the Boston Jew, is a quite different Irishman or Jew from those of other places. Even Boston provinciality is a precious testimony to the authoritative personality of the city. Cosmopolitanism is a modern vice, and we're antique, we're classic, in the other thing. Yes, I'd rather be a Bostonian, at odds with Boston, than one of the curled darlings of any other community."
A friend knows how to allow for mere quantity in your talk, and only replies to the quality, separates your earnest from your whimsicality, and accounts for some whimsicality in your earnest. "I didn't know but you might have got that bee out of your bonnet, on the other side," said Atherton.
"No, sir; we change our skies, but not our bees. What should I amount to without my grievance? You wouldn't have known me. This talk to-night about Hubbard has set my bee to buzzing with uncommon liveliness; and the thought of the Law School next week does nothing to allay him. The Law School isn't Harvard; I realize that more and more, though I have tried to fancy that it was. No, sir, my wrongs are irreparable. I had the making of a real Harvard man in me, and of a Unitarian, nicely balanced between radicalism and amateur episcopacy. Now, I am an orthodox ruin, and the undutiful stepson of a Down East alma mater. I belong nowhere; I'm at odds.—Is Hubbard's wife really handsome, or is she only country-pretty?"
"She's beautiful,—I assure you she's beautiful," said Atherton with such earnestness that Halleck laughed.
"Well, that's right! as my father says. How's she beautiful?"
"That's difficult to tell. It's rather a superb sort of style; and—What did you really use to think of your friend?" Atherton broke off to ask.
"He was a poor, cheap sort of a creature. Deplorably smart, and regrettably handsome. A fellow that assimilated everything to a certain extent, and nothing thoroughly. A fellow with no more moral nature than a base-ball The sort of chap you'd expect to find, the next time you met him, in Congress or the house of correction."
"Yes, that accounts for it," said Atherton, thoughtfully.
"Accounts for what?"
"The sort of look she had. A look as if she were naturally above him, and had somehow fascinated herself with him, and were worshipping him in some sort of illusion."
"Doesn't that sound a little like refining upon the facts? Recollect: I've never seen her, and I don't say you're wrong."
"I'm not sure I'm not, though. I talked with her, and found her nothing more than honest and sensible and good; simple in her traditions, of course, and countrified yet, in her ideas, with a tendency to the intensely practical. I don't see why she mightn't very well be his wife. I suppose every woman hoodwinks herself about her husband in some degree."
"Yes; and we always like to fancy something pathetic in the fate of pretty girls that other fellows marry. I notice that we don't sorrow much over the plain ones. How's the divine Clara?"
"I believe she's well," said Atherton. "I haven't seen her, all summer. She's been at Beverley."
"Why, I should have supposed she would have come up and surf-bathed those indigent children with her own hand. She's equal to it. What made her falter in well-doing?"
"I don't know that we can properly call it faltering. There was a deficit in the appropriation necessary, and she made it up herself. After that, she consulted me seriously as to whether she ought not to stay in town and superintend the execution of the plan. But I told her she might fitly delegate that. She was all the more anxious to perform her whole duty, because she confessed that indigent children were personally unpleasant to her."
Halleck burst out laughing. "That's like Clara! How charming women are! They're charming even in their goodness! I wonder the novelists don't take a hint from that fact, and stop giving us those scaly heroines they've been running lately. Why, a real woman can make righteousness delicious and virtue piquant. I like them for that!"
"Do you?" asked Atherton, laughing in his turn at the single-minded confession. He was some years older than his friend.
They had got down to Charles Street, and Halleck took out his watch at the corner lamp. "It isn't at all late yet,—only half-past eight. The days are getting shorter."
"Suppose we go and call on Hubbard now? He's right up here on Clover Street!"
"I don't know," said Atherton. "It would do for you; you're an old friend. But for me,—wouldn't it be rather unceremonious?"
"Oh, come along! They'll not be punctilious. They'll like our dropping in, and I shall have Hubbard off my conscience. I must go to see him sooner or later, for decency's sake."
Atherton suffered himself to be led away. "I suppose you won't stay long?"
"Oh, no; I shall cut it very short," said Halleck; and they climbed the narrow little street where Marcia had at last found a house, after searching the South End quite to the Highlands, and ransacking Charlestown and Carnbridgeport. These points all seemed to her terribly remote from where Bartley must be at work during the day, and she must be alone without the sight of him from morning till night. The accessibility of Canary Place had spoiled her for distances; she wanted Bartley at home for their one-o'clock dinner; she wanted to have him within easy call at all times; and she was glad when none of those far-off places yielded quite what they desired in a house. They took the house on Clover Street, though it was a little dearer than they expected, for two years, and they furnished it, as far as they could, out of the three or four hundred dollars they had saved, including the remaining hundred from the colt and cutter, kept sacredly intact by Marcia. When you entered, the narrow staircase cramped you into the little parlor opening out of the hall; and back of the parlor was the dining-room. Overhead were two chambers, and overhead again were two chambers more; in the basement was the kitchen. The house seemed absurdly large to people who had been living for the last seven months in one room, and the view of the Back Bay from the little bow-window of the front chamber added all outdoors to their superfluous space.
Bartley came himself to answer Halleck's ring, and they met at once with such a "Why, Halleck!" and "How do you do, Hubbard?" as restored something of their old college comradery. Bartley welcomed Mr. Atherton under the gas-light he had turned up, and then they huddled into the little parlor, where Bartley introduced his old friend to his wife. Marcia wore a sort of dark robe, trimmed with bows of crimson ribbon, which she had made herself, and in which she looked a Roman patrician in an avatar of Boston domesticity; and Bartley was rather proud to see his friend so visibly dazzled by her beauty. It quite abashed Halleck, who limped helplessly about, after his cane had been taken from him, before he sat down, while Marcia, from the vantage of the sofa and the covert of her talk with Atherton, was content that Halleck should be plain and awkward, with close-cut drab hair and a dull complexion; she would not have liked even a man who knew Bartley before she did to be very handsome.
Halleck and Bartley had some talk about college days, from which their eyes wandered at times; and then Marcia excused herself to Atherton, and went out, reappearing after an interval at the sliding doors, which she rolled open between the parlor and dining-room. A table set for supper stood behind her, and as she leaned a little forward with her hands each on a leaf of the door, she said, with shy pride, "Bartley, I thought the gentlemen would like to join you," and he answered, "Of course they would," and led the way out, refusing to hear any demur. His heart swelled with satisfaction in Marcia; it was something like: having fellows drop in upon you, and be asked out to supper in this easy way; it made Bartley feel good, and he would have liked to give Marcia a hug on the spot. He could not help pressing her foot, under the table, and exchanging a quiver of the eyelashes with her, as he lifted the lid of the white tureen, and looked at her across the glitter of their new crockery and cutlery. They made the jokes of the season about the oyster being promptly on hand for the first of the R months, and Bartley explained that he was sometimes kept at the Events office rather late, and that then Marcia waited supper for him, and always gave him an oyster stew, which she made herself. She could not stop him, and the guests praised the oysters, and then they praised the dining-room and the parlor; and when they rose from the table Bartley said, "Now, we must show you the house," and persisted against her deprecations in making her lead the way. She was in fact willing enough to show it; her taste had made their money go to the utmost in furnishing it; and though most people were then still in the period of green reps and tan terry, and of dull black-walnut movables, she had everywhere bestowed little touches that told. She had covered the marble parlor-mantel with cloth, and fringed it; and she had set on it two vases in the Pompeiian colors then liked; her carpet was of wood color and a moss pattern; she had done what could be done with folding carpet chairs to give the little room a specious air of luxury; the centre-table was heaped with her sewing and Bartley's newspapers.
"We've just moved in, and we haven't furnished all the rooms yet," she said of two empty ones which Bartley perversely flung open.
"And I don't know that we shall. The house is much too big for us; but we thought we'd better take it," he added, as if it were a castle for vastness.
Halleck and Atherton were silent for some moments after they came away, and then, "I don't believe he whips her," suggested the latter.
"No, I guess he's fond of her," said Halleck, gravely.
"Did you see how careful he was of her, coming up and down stairs? That was very pretty; and it was pretty to see them both so ready to show off their young housekeeping to us."
"Yes, it improves a man to get married," said Halleck, with a long, stifled sigh. "It's improved the most selfish hound I ever knew."
The two elder Miss Hallecks were so much older than Olive, the youngest, that they seemed to be of a sort of intermediary generation between her and her parents, though Olive herself was well out of her teens, and was the senior of her brother Ben by two or three years. The elder sisters were always together, and they adhered in common to the religion of their father and mother. The defection of their brother was passive, but Olive, having conscientiously adopted an alien faith, was not a person to let others imagine her ashamed of it, and her Unitarianism was outspoken. In her turn she formed a kind of party with Ben inside the family, and would have led him on in her own excesses of independence if his somewhat melancholy indifferentism had consented. It was only in his absence that she had been with her sisters during their summer sojourn in the White Mountains; when they returned home, she vigorously went her way, and left them to go theirs. She was fond of them in her defiant fashion; but in such a matter as calling on Mrs. Hubbard she chose not to be mixed up with her family, or in any way to countenance her family's prepossessions. Her sisters paid their visit together, and she waited for Clara Kingsbury to come up from the seaside. Then she went with her to call upon Marcia, sitting observant and non-committal while Clara swooped through the little house, up stairs and down, clamoring over its prettiness, and admiring the art with which so few dollars could be made to go so far. "Think of finding such a bower on Clover Street!" She made Marcia give her the cost of everything; and her heart swelled with pride in her sex—when she heard that Marcia had put down all the carpets herself. "I wanted to make them up," Marcia explained, "but Mr. Hubbard wouldn't let me,—it cost so little at the store."
"Wouldn't let you!" cried Miss Kingsbury. "I should hope as much, indeed! Why, my child, you're a Roman matron!"
She came away in agony lest Marcia might think she meant her nose. She drove early the next morning to tell Olive Halleck that she had spent a sleepless night from this cause, and to ask her what she should do. "Do you think she will be hurt, Olive? Tell me what led up to it. How did I behave before that? The context is everything in such cases."
"Oh, you went about praising everything, and screaming and shouting, and my-dearing and my-childing her, and patronizing—"
"There, there! say no more! That's sufficient! I see,—I see it all! I've done the very most offensive thing I could, when I meant to be the most appreciative."
"These country people don't like to be appreciated down to the quick, in that way," said Olive. "I should think Mrs. Hubbard was rather a proud person."
"I know! I know!" moaned Miss Kingsbury. 'It was ghastly."
"I don't suppose she's ashamed of her nose—"
"Olive!" cried her friend, "be still! Why, I can't bear it! Why, you wretched thing!"
"I dare say all the ladies in Equity make up their own carpets, and put them down, and she thought you were laughing at her."
"Will you be still, Olive Halleck?" Miss Kingsbury was now a large, blonde mass of suffering, "Oh, dear, dear! What shall I do? It was sacrilege—yes, it was nothing less than sacrilege—to go on as I did. And I meant so well! I did so admire, and respect, and revere her!" Olive burst out laughing. "You wicked girl!" whimpered Clara. "Should you—should you write to her?"
"And tell her you didn't mean her nose? Oh, by all means, Clara,—by all means! Quite an inspiration. Why not make her an evening party?"
"Olive," said Clara, with guilty meekness, "I have been thinking of that."
"No, Clara! Not seriously!" cried Olive, sobered at the idea.
"Yes, seriously. Would it be so very bad? Only just a little party," she pleaded. "Half a dozen people or so; just to show them that I really feel—friendly. I know that he's told her all about meeting me here, and I'm not going to have her think I want to drop him because he's married, and lives in a little house on Clover Street."
"Noble Clara! So you wish to bring them out in Boston society? What will you do with them after you've got them there?" Miss Kingsbury fidgeted in her chair a little. "Now, look me in the eye, Clara! Whom were you going to ask to meet them? Your unfashionable friends, the Hallecks?"
"My friends, the Hallecks, of course."
"And Mr. Atherton, your legal adviser?"
"I had thought of asking Mr. Atherton. You needn't say what he is, if you please, Olive; you know that there's no one I prize so much."
"Very good. And Mr. Cameron?"
"He has got back,—yes. He's very nice."
"A Cambridge tutor; very young and of recent attachment to the College, with no local affiliations, yet. What ladies?"
"Miss Strong is a nice girl; she is studying at the Conservatory."
"Yes. Poverty-stricken votary of Miss Kingsbury. Well?"
"Unfashionable sister of fashionable artist. Yes?"
"Young radical clergyman, and his wife, without a congregation, and hoping for a pulpit in Billerica. Parlor lectures on German literature in the mean time. Well?"
"And Mrs. Savage, I thought."
"Well-preserved young widow of uncertain antecedents tending to grassiness; out-door protegee of the hostess. Yes, Clara, go on and give your party. It will be perfectly safe! But do you think it will deceive anybody?"
"Now, Olive Halleck!" cried Clara, "I am not going to have you talking to me in that way! You have no right to do it, and you have no business to do it," she added, trying to pluck up a spirit. "Is there anybody that I value more than I do you and your sisters, and Ben?"
"No. But you don't value us just in that way, and you know it. Don't you be a humbug, Clara. Now go on with your excuses."
"I'm not making excuses! Isn't Mr. Atherton in the most fashionable society?"
"Yes. Why don't you ask some other fashionable people?"
"Olive, this is all nonsense,—perfect nonsense! I can invite any one I like to meet any one I like, and if I choose to show Mr. Hubbard's wife a little attention, I can do it, can't I?"
"Oh, of course!"
"And what would be the use of inviting fashionable people—as you call them—to meet them? It would just embarrass them, all round."
"Perfectly correct, Miss Kingsbury. All that want you to do is to face the facts of the case. I want you to realize that, in showing Mr. Hubbard's wife this little attention, you're not doing it because you scorn to drop an old friend, and want to do him the highest honor; but because you think you can palm off your second-class acquaintance on them for first-class, and try to make up in that way for telling her she had a hooked nose!"
"You know that I didn't tell her she had a hooked nose."
"You told her that she was a Roman matron,—it's the same thing," said Olive.
Miss Kingsbury bit her lip and tried to look a dignified resentment. She ended by saying, with feeble spite, "I shall have the little evening for all you say. I suppose you won't refuse to come because I don't ask the whole Blue Book to meet them."
"Of course we shall come! I wouldn't miss it for anything. I always like to see how you manage your pieces of social duplicity, Clara. But you needn't expect that I will be a party to the swindle. No, Clara! I shall go to these poor young people and tell them plainly, 'This is not the best society; Miss Kingsbury keeps that for—'"
"Olive! I think I never saw even you in such a teasing humor." The tears came into Clara's large, tender blue eyes, and she continued with an appeal that had no effect, "I'm sure I don't see why you should make it a question of anything of the sort. It's simply a wish to—to have a little company of no particular kind, for no partic—Because I want to."
"Oh, that's it, is it? Then I highly approve of it," said Olive. "When is it to be?"
"I sha'n't tell you, now! You may wait till I'm ready," pouted Clara, as she rose to go.
"Don't go away thinking I'm enough to provoke a saint because you've got mad at me, Clara!"
"Mad? You know I'm not mad! But I think you might be a little sympathetic sometimes, Olive!" said her friend, kissing her.
"Not in cases of social duplicity, Clara. My wrath is all that saves you. If you were not afraid of me, you would have been a lost worldling long ago."
"I know you always really love me," said Miss Kingsbury, tenderly.
"No, I don't," retorted her friend, promptly. "Not when you're humbugging. Don't expect it, for you won't get it." She followed Clara with a triumphant laugh as she went out of the door; and except for this parting taunt Clara might have given up her scheme. She first ordered her coupe driven home, in fact, and then lowered the window to countermand the direction, and drove to Bartley's door on Clover Street.
It was a very handsome equipage, and was in keeping with all the outward belongings of Miss Kingsbury, who mingled a sense of duty and a love of luxury in her life in very exact proportions. When her coupe was not standing before some of the wretchedest doors in the city, it was waiting at the finest; and Clara's days were divided between the extremes of squalor and of fashion.
She was the only child of parents who had early left her an orphan. Her father, who was much her mother's senior, was an old friend of Olive's father, and had made him his executor and the guardian of his daughter. Mr. Halleck had taken her into his own family, and, in the conscientious pursuance of what he believed would have been her father's preference, he gave her worldly advantages which he would not have desired for one of his own children. But the friendship that grew up between Clara and Olive was too strong for him in some things, and the girls went to the same fashionable school together.
When his ward came of age he made over to her the fortune, increased by his careful management, which her father had left her, and advised her to put her affairs in the hands of Mr. Atherton. She had shown a quite ungirlish eagerness to manage them for herself; in the midst of her profusion she had odd accesses of stinginess, in which she fancied herself coming to poverty; and her guardian judged it best that she should have a lawyer who could tell her at any moment just where she stood. She hesitated, but she did as he advised; and having once intrusted her property to Atherton's care, she added her conscience and her reason in large degree, and obeyed him with embarrassing promptness in matters that did not interfere with her pleasures. Her pleasures were of various kinds. She chose to buy herself a fine house, and, having furnished it luxuriously and unearthed a cousin of her father's in Vermont and brought her to Boston to matronize her, she kept house on a magnificent scale, pinching, however, at certain points with unexpected meanness. When she was alone, her table was of a Spartan austerity; she exacted a great deal from her servants, and paid them as small wages as she could. After that she did not mind lavishing money upon them in kindness. A seamstress whom she had once employed fell sick, and Miss Kingsbury sent her to the Bahamas and kept her there till she was well, and then made her a guest in her house till the girl could get back her work. She watched her cook through the measles, caring for her like a mother; and, as Olive Halleck said, she was always portioning or burying the sisters of her second-girls. She was in all sorts of charities, but she was apt to cut her charities off with her pleasures at any moment, if she felt poor. She was fond of dress, and went a great deal into society: she suspected men generally of wishing to marry her for her money, but with those whom she did not think capable of aspiring to her hand, she was generously helpful with her riches. She liked to patronize; she had long supported an unpromising painter at Rome, and she gave orders to desperate artists at home.
The world had pretty well hardened one half of her heart, but the other half was still soft and loving, and into this side of her mixed nature she cowered when she believed she had committed some blunder or crime, and came whimpering to Olive Halleck for punishment. She made Olive her discipline partly in her lack of some fixed religion. She had not yet found a religion that exactly suited her, though she had many times believed herself about to be anchored in some faith forever.
She was almost sorry that she had put her resolution in effect when she rang at the door, and Marcia herself answered the bell, in place of the one servant who was at that moment hanging out the wash. It seemed wicked to pretend to be showing this pretty creature a social attention, when she meant to palm off a hollow imitation of society upon her. Why should she not ask the very superfinest of her friends to meet such a brilliant beauty? It would serve Olive Halleck right if she should do this, and leave the Hallecks out; and Marcia would certainly be a sensation. She half believed that she meant to do it when she quitted the house with Marcia's promise that she would bring her husband to tea on Wednesday evening, at eight; and she drove away so far penitent that she resolved at least to make her company distinguished, if not fashionable. She said to herself that she would make it fashionable yet, if she chose, and as a first move in this direction she easily secured Mr. Atherton: he had no engagements, so few people had got back to town. She called upon Mrs. Witherby, needlessly reminding her of the charity committees they had served on together; and then she went home and actually sent out notes to the plainest daughter and the maiden aunt of two of the most high-born families of her acquaintance. She added to her list an artist and his wife, ("Now I shall have to let him paint me!" she reflected,) a young author whose book had made talk, a teacher of Italian with whom she was pretending to read Dante, and a musical composer.
Olive came late, as if to get a whole effect of the affair at once; and her smile revealed Clara's failure to her, if she had not realized it before. She read there that the aristocratic and aesthetic additions which she had made to the guests Olive originally divined had not sufficed; the party remained a humbug. It had seemed absurd to invite anybody to meet two such little, unknown people as the Hubbards; and then, to avoid marking them as the subjects of the festivity by the precedence to be observed in going out to supper, she resolved to have tea served in the drawing-room, and to make it literally tea, with bread and butter, and some thin, ascetic cakes.
However sharp he was in business, Mr. Witherby was socially a dull man; and his wife and daughter seemed to partake of his qualities by affinition and heredity. They tried to make something of Marcia, but they failed through their want of art. Mrs. Witherby, finding the wife of her husband's assistant in Miss Kingsbury's house, conceived an awe of her, which Marcia would not have known how to abate if she had imagined it; and in a little while the Witherby family segregated themselves among the photograph albums and the bricabrac, from which Clara seemed to herself to be fruitlessly detaching them the whole evening. The plainest daughter and the maiden aunt of the patrician families talked to each other with unavailing intervals of the painter and the author, and the radical clergyman and his wife were in danger of a conjugal devotion which society does not favor; the unfashionable sister of the fashionable artist conversed with the young tutor and the Japanese law-student whom he had asked leave to bring with him, and whose small, mouse-like eyes continually twinkled away in pursuit of the blonde beauty of his hostess. The widow was winningly attentive, with a tendency to be confidential, to everybody. The Italian could not disabuse himself of the notion that he was expected to be light and cheerful, and when the pupil of the Conservatory sang, he abandoned himself to his error, and clapped and cried bravo with unseemly vivacity. But he was restored to reason when the composer sat down at the piano and played, amid the hush that falls on society at such times, something from Beethoven, and again something of his own, which was so like Beethoven that Beethoven himself would not have known the difference.
Mr. Atherton and Halleck moved about among the guests, and did their best to second Clara's efforts for their encouragement; but it was useless. In the desperation which owns defeat, she resolved to devote herself for the rest of the evening to trying to make at least the Hubbards have a good time; and then, upon the dangerous theory, of which young and pretty hostesses cannot be too wary, that a wife is necessarily flattered by attentions to her husband, she devoted herself exclusively to Bartley, to whom she talked long and with a reckless liveliness of the events of his former stay in Boston. Their laughter and scraps of their reminiscence reached Marcia where she sat in a feint of listening to Ben Halleck's perfunctory account of his college days with her husband, till she could bear it no longer. She rose abruptly, and, going to him, she said that it was time to say good-night. "Oh, so soon!" cried Clara, mystified and a little scared at the look she saw on Marcia's face. "Good night," she added coldly.
The assembly hailed this first token of its disintegration with relief; it became a little livelier; there was a fleeting moment in which it seemed as if it might yet enjoy itself; but its chance passed; it crumbled rapidly away, and Clara was left looking humbly into Olive Halleck's pitiless eyes. "Thank you for a delightful evening, Miss Kingsbury! Congratulate you!" she mocked, with an unsparing laugh. "Such a success! But why didn't you give them something to eat, Clara? Those poor Hubbards have a one-o'clock dinner, and I famished for them. I wasn't hungry myself,—we have a two-o'clock dinner!"
Bartley came home elate from Miss Kingsbury's entertainment. It was something like the social success which he used to picture to himself. He had been flattered by the attention specially paid him, and he did not detect the imposition. He was half starved, but he meant to have up some cold meat and bottled beer, and talk it all over with Marcia.
She did not seem inclined to talk it over on their way home, and when they entered their own door, she pushed in and ran up-stairs. "Why, where are you going, Marcia?" he called after her.
"To bed!" she replied, closing the door after her with a crash of unmistakable significance.
Bartley stood a moment in the fury that tempted him to pursue her with a taunt, and then leave her to work herself out of the transport of senseless jealousy she had wrought herself into. But he set his teeth, and, full of inward cursing, he followed her up-stairs with a slow, dogged step. He took her in his arms without a word, and held her fast, while his anger changed to pity, and then to laughing. When it came to that, she put up her arms, which she had kept rigidly at her side, and laid them round his neck, and began softly to cry on his breast.
"Oh, I'm not myself at all, any more!" she moaned penitently.
"Then this is very improper—for me," said Bartley.
The helpless laughter broke through her lamentation, but she cried a little more to keep herself in countenance.
"But I guess, from a previous acquaintance with the party's character, that it's really all you, Marcia. I don't blame you. Miss Kingsbury's hospitality has left me as hollow as if I'd had nothing to eat for a week; and I know you're perishing from inanition. Hence these tears."
It delighted her to have him make fun of Miss Kingsbury's tea, and she lifted her head to let him see that she was laughing for pleasure now, before she turned away to dry her eyes.
"Oh, poor fellow!" she cried. "I did pity you so when I saw those mean little slices of bread and butter coming round!"
"Yes," said Bartley, "I felt sorry myself. But don't speak of them any more, dearest."
"And I suppose," pursued Marcia, "that all the time she was talking to you there, you were simply ravening."
"I was casting lots in my own mind to see which of the company I should devour first."
His drollery appeared to Marcia the finest that ever was; she laughed and laughed again; when he made fun of the conjecturable toughness of the elderly aristocrat, she implored him to stop if he did not want to kill her. Marcia was not in the state in which woman best convinces her enemies of her fitness for empire, though she was charming in her silly happiness, and Bartley felt very glad that he had not yielded to his first impulse to deal savagely with her. "Come," he said, "let us go out somewhere, and get some oysters."
She began at once to take out her ear-rings and loosen her hair. "No, I'll get something here in the house; I'm not very hungry. But you go, Bartley, and have a good supper, or you'll be sick to-morrow, and not fit to work. Go," she added to his hesitating image in the glass, "I insist upon it. I won't have you stay." His reflected face approached from behind; she turned hers a little, and their mirrored lips met over her shoulder. "Oh, how sweet you are, Bartley!" she murmured.
"Yes, you will always find me obedient when commanded to go out and repair my wasted tissue."
"I don't mean that, dear," she said softly. "I mean—your not quarrelling with me when I'm unreasonable. Why can't we always do so!"
"Well, you see," said Bartley, "it throws the whole burden on the fellow in his senses. It doesn't require any great degree of self-sacrifice to fly off at a tangent, but it's rather a maddening spectacle to the party that holds on."
"Now I will show you," said Marcia, "that I can be reasonable too: I shall let you go alone to make our party call on Miss Kingsbury." She looked at him heroically.
"Marcia," said Bartley, "you're such a reasonable person when you're the most unreasonable, that I wonder I ever quarrel with you. I rather think I'll let you call on Miss Kingsbury alone. I shall suffer agonies of suspicion, but it will prove that I have perfect confidence in you." He threw her a kiss from the door, and ran down the stairs. When he returned, an hour later, he found her waiting up for him. "Why, Marcia!" he exclaimed.
"Oh! I just wanted to say that we will both go to call on her very soon. If I sent you, she might think I was mad, and I won't give her that satisfaction."
"Noble girl!" cried Bartley, with irony that pleased her better than praise. Women like to be understood, even when they try not to be understood.
When Marcia went with Bartley to call, Miss Kingsbury received her with careful, perhaps anxious politeness, but made no further effort to take her up. Some of the people whom Marcia met at Miss Kingsbury's called; and the Witherbys came, father, mother, and daughter together; but between the evident fact that the Hubbards were poor, and the other evident fact that they moved in the best society, the Witherbys did not quite know what to do about them. They asked them to dinner, and Bartley went alone; Marcia was not well enough to go.
He was very kind and tractable, now, and went whenever she bade him go without her, though tea at the Hallecks was getting to be an old story with him, and it was generally tea at the Hallecks to which she sent him. The Halleck ladies came faithfully to see her, and she got on very well with the two older sisters, who gave her all the kindness they could spare from their charities, and seemed pleased to have her so pretty and conjugal, though these things were far from them. But she was afraid of Olive at first, and disliked her as a friend of Miss Kingsbury. This rather attracted the odd girl. What she called Marcia's snubs enabled her to declare in her favor with a sense of disinterestedness, and to indulge her repugnance for Bartley with a good heart. She resented his odious good looks, and held it a shame that her mother should promote his visible tendency to stoutness by giving him such nice things for tea.
"Now, I like Mr. Hubbard," said her mother placidly. "It's very kind of him to come to such plain folks as we are, whenever we ask him; now that his wife can't come, I know he does it because he likes us."
"Oh, he comes for the eating," said Olive, scornfully. Then another phase of her mother's remark struck her: "Why, mother!" she cried, "I do believe you think Bartley Hubbard's a distinguished man somehow!"
"Your father says it's very unusual for such a young man to be in a place like his. Mr. Witherby really leaves everything to him, he says."
"Well, I think he'd better not, then! The Events has got to be perfectly horrid, of late. It's full of murders and all uncleanness."
"That seems to be the way with the papers, nowadays. Your father hears that the Events is making money."
"Why, mother! What a corrupt old thing you are! I believe you've been bought up by that disgusting interview with father. Nestor of the Leather Interest! Father ought to have turned him out of doors. Well, this family is getting a little too good, for me! And Ben's almost as bad as any of you, of late,—I haven't a bit of influence with him any more. He seems determined to be friendlier with that person than ever; he's always trying to do him good,—I can see it, and it makes me sick. One thing I know: I'm going to stop Mr. Hubbard's calling me Olive. Impudent!"
Mrs. Halleck shifted her ground with the pretence which women use, even amongst themselves, of having remained steadfast. "He is a very good husband."
"Oh, because he likes to be!" retorted her daughter. "Nothing is easier than to be a good husband."
"Ah, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck, "wait till you have tried."
This made Olive laugh; but she answered with an argument that always had weight with her mother, "Ben doesn't think he's a good husband."
"What makes you think so, Olive?" asked her mother.
"I know he dislikes him intensely."
"Why, you just said yourself, dear, that he was friendlier with him than ever."
"Oh, that's nothing. The more he disliked him the kinder he would be to him."
"That's true," sighed her mother. "Did he ever say anything to you about him?"
"No," cried Olive, shortly; "he never speaks of people he doesn't like."
The mother returned, with logical severity, "All that doesn't prove that Ben thinks he isn't a good husband."
"He dislikes him. Do you believe a bad man can be a good husband, then?"
"No," Mrs. Halleck admitted, as if confronted with indisputable proof of Bartley's wickedness.
In the mean time the peace between Bartley and Marcia continued unbroken, and these days of waiting, of suffering, of hoping and dreading, were the happiest of their lives. He did his best to be patient with her caprices and fretfulness, and he was at least manfully comforting and helpful, and instant in atonement for every failure. She said a thousand times that she should die without him; and when her time came, he thought that she was going to die before he could tell her of his sorrow for all that he had ever done to grieve her. He did not tell her, though she lived to give him the chance; but he took her and her baby both into his arms, with tears of as much fondness as ever a man shed. He even began his confession; but she said, "Hush! you never did a wrong thing yet that I didn't drive you to." Pale and faint, she smiled joyfully upon him, and put her hand on his head when he hid his face against hers on the pillow, and put her lips against his cheek. His heart was full; he was grateful for the mercy that had spared him; he was so strong in his silent repentance that he felt like a good man.
"Bartley," she said, "I'm going to ask a great favor of you."
"There's nothing that I can do that I shall think a favor, darling!" he cried, lifting his face to look into hers.
"Write for mother to come. I want her!"
"Why, of course." Marcia continued to look at him, and kept the quivering hold she had laid of his hand when he raised his head. "Was that all?"
She was silent, and he added, "I will ask your father to come with her."
She hid her face for the space of one sob. "I wanted you to offer."
"Why, of course! of course!" he replied.
She did not acknowledge his magnanimity directly, but she lifted the coverlet and showed him the little head on her arm, and the little creased and crumpled face.
"Pretty?" she asked. "Bring me the letter before you send it.—Yes, that is just right,—perfect!" she sighed, when he came back and read the letter to her; and she fell away to happy sleep.
Her father answered that he would come with her mother as soon as he got the better of a cold he had taken. It was now well into the winter, and the journey must have seemed more formidable in Equity than in Boston. But Bartley was not impatient of his father-in-law's delay, and he set himself cheerfully about consoling Marcia for it. She stole her white, thin hand into his, and now and then gave it a little pressure to accent the points she made in talking.
"Father was the first one I thought of—after you, Bartley. It seems to me as if baby came half to show me how unfeeling I had been to him. Of course, I'm not sorry I ran away and asked you to take me back, for I couldn't have had you if I hadn't done it; but I never realized before how cruel it was to father. He always made such a pet of me; and I know that he thought he was acting for the best."
"I knew that you were," said Bartley, fervently.
"What sweet things you always say to me!" she murmured. "But don't you see, Bartley, that I didn't think enough of him? That's what baby seems to have come to teach me." She pulled a little away on the pillow, so as to fix him more earnestly with her eyes. "If baby should behave so to you when she grew up, I should hate her!"
He laughed, and said, "Well, perhaps your mother hates you."
"No, they don't—either of them," answered Marcia, with a sigh. "And I behaved very stiffly and coldly with him when he came up to see me,—more than I had any need to. I did it for your sake; but he didn't mean any harm to you, he just wanted to make sure that I was safe and well."
"Oh, that's all right, Marsh."
"Yes, I know. But what if he had died!"
"Well, he didn't die," said Bartley, with a smile. "And you've corresponded with them regularly, ever since, and you know they've been getting along all right. And it's going to be altogether different from this out," he added, leaning back a little weary with a matter in which he could not be expected to take a very cordial interest.
"Truly?" she asked, with one of the eagerest of those hand-pressures.
"It won't be my fault if it isn't," he replied, with a yawn.
"How good you are, Bartley!" she said, with an admiring look, as if it were the goodness of God she was praising.
Bartley released himself, and went to the new crib, in which the baby lay, and with his hands in his pockets stood looking down at it with a curious smile.
"Is it pretty?" she asked, envious of his bird's-eye view of the baby.
"Not definitively so," he answered. "I dare say she will smooth out in time; but she seems to be considerably puckered yet."
"Well," returned Marcia, with forced resignation, "I shouldn't let any one else say so."
Her husband set up a soft, low, thoughtful whistle. "I'll tell you what, Marcia," he said presently. "Suppose we name this baby after your father?"
She lifted herself on her elbow, and stared at him as if he must be making fun of her. "Why, how could we?" she demanded. Squire Gaylord's parents had called his name Flavius Josephus, in a superstition once cherished by old-fashioned people, that the Jewish historian was somehow a sacred writer.
"We can't name her Josephus, but we can call her Flavia," said Bartley. "And if she makes up her mind to turn out a blonde, the name will just fit. Flavia,—it's a very pretty name." He looked at his wife, who suddenly turned her face down on the pillow.
"Bartley Hubbard," she cried, "you're the best man in the world!"
"Oh, no! Only the second-best," suggested Bartley.
In these days they took their fill of the delight of young fatherhood and motherhood. After its morning bath Bartley was called in, and allowed to revere the baby's mottled and dimpled back as it lay face downward on the nurse's lap, feebly wiggling its arms and legs, and responding with ineffectual little sighs and gurgles to her acceptable rubbings with warm flannel. When it was fully dressed, and its long clothes pulled snugly down, and its limp person stiffened into something tenable, he was suffered to take it into his arms, and to walk the room with it. After all, there is not much that a man can actually do with a small baby, either for its pleasure or his own, and Barkley's usefulness had its strict limitations. He was perhaps most beneficial when he put the child in its mother's arms, and sat down beside the bed, and quietly talked, while Marcia occasionally put up a slender hand, and smoothed its golden brown hair, bending her neck over to look at it where it lay, with the action of a mother bird. They examined with minute interest the details of the curious little creature: its tiny finger-nails, fine and sharp, and its small queer fist doubled so tight, and closing on one's finger like a canary's claw on a perch; the absurdity of its foot, the absurdity of its toes, the ridiculous inadequacy of its legs and arms to the work ordinarily expected of legs and arms, made them laugh. They could not tell yet whether its eyes would be black like Marcia's, or blue like Bartley's; those long lashes had the sweep of hers, but its mop of hair, which made it look so odd and old, was more like his in color.
"She will be a dark-eyed blonde," Bartley decided.
"Is that nice?" asked Marcia.
"With the telescope sight, they're warranted to kill at five hundred yards."
"Oh, for shame, Bartley! To talk of baby's ever killing!"
"Why, that's what they all come to. It's what you came to yourself."
"Yes, I know. But it's quite another thing with baby." She began to mumble it with her lips, and to talk baby-talk to it. In their common interest in this puppet they already called each other papa and mamma.
Squire Gaylord came alone, and when Marcia greeted him with "Why, father! Where's mother?" he asked, "Did you expect her? Well, I guess your mother's feeling rather too old for such long winter journeys. You know she don't go out a great deal I guess she expects your family down there in the summer."
The old man was considerably abashed by the baby when it was put into his arms, and being required to guess its name he naturally failed.
"Flavia!" cried Marcia, joyfully. "Bartley named it after you."
This embarrassed the Squire still more. "Is that so?" he asked, rather sheepishly. "Well, it's quite a compliment."
Marcia repeated this to her husband as evidence that her father was all right now. Bartley and the Squire were in fact very civil to each other; and Bartley paid the old man many marked attentions. He took him to the top of the State House, and walked him all about the city, to show him its points of interest, and introduced him to such of his friends as they met, though the Squire's dresscoat, whether fully revealed by the removal of his surtout, or betraying itself below the skirt of the latter, was a trial to a fellow of Bartley's style. He went with his father-in-law to see Mr. Warren in Jefferson Scattering Batkins, and the Squire grimly appreciated the burlesque of the member from Cranberry Centre; but he was otherwise not a very amusable person, and off his own ground he was not conversable, while he refused to betray his impressions of many things that Bartley expected to astonish him. The Events editorial rooms had no apparent effect upon him, though they were as different from most editorial dens as tapestry carpets, black-walnut desks, and swivel chairs could make them. Mr. Witherby covered him with urbanities and praises of Bartley that ought to have delighted him as a father-in-law; but apparently the great man of the Events was but a strange variety of the type with which he was familiar in the despised country editors. He got on better with Mr. Atherton, who was of a man's profession. The Squire wore his hat throughout their interview, and everywhere except at table and in bed; and as soon as he rose front either, he put it on.
Bartley tried to impress him with such novel traits of cosmopolitan life as a table d'hote dinner at a French restaurant; but the Squire sat through the courses, as if his barbarous old appetite had satisfied itself in that manner all his life. After that, Bartley practically gave him up; he pleaded his newspaper work, and left the Squire to pass the time as he could in the little house on Clover Street, where he sat half a day at a stretch in the parlor, with his hat on, reading the newspapers, his legs sprawled out towards the grate. In this way he probably reconstructed for himself some image of his wonted life in his office at home, and was for the time at peace; but otherwise he was very restless, except when he was with Marcia. He was as fond of her in his way as he had ever been, and though he apparently cared nothing for the baby, he enjoyed Marcia's pride in it; and he bore to have it thrust upon him with the surly mildness of an old dog receiving children's caresses. He listened with the same patience to all her celebrations of Bartley, which were often tedious enough, for she bragged of him constantly, of his smartness and goodness, and of the great success that had crowned the merit of both in him.
Mr. Halleck had called upon the Squire the morning after his arrival, and brought Marcia a note from his wife, offering to have her father stay with them if she found herself too much crowded at this eventful time. "There! That is just the sort of people the Hallecks are!" she cried, showing the letter to her father. "And to think of our not going near them for months and mouths after we came to Boston, for fear they were stuck up! But Bartley is always just so proud. Now you must go right in, father, and not keep Mr. Halleck waiting. Give me your hat, or you'll be sure to wear it in the parlor." She made him stoop down to let her brush his coat-collar a little. "There! Now you look something like."
Squire Gaylord had never received a visit except on business in his life, and such a thing as one man calling socially upon another, as women did, was unknown to the civilization of Equity. But, as he reported to Marcia, he got along with Mr. Halleck; and he got along with the whole family when he went with Bartley to tea, upon the invitation Mr. Halleck made him that morning. Probably it appeared to him an objectless hospitality; but he spent as pleasant an evening as he could hope to spend with his hat off and in a frock-coat, which he wore as a more ceremonious garment than the dress-coat of his every-day life. He seemed to take a special liking to Olive Halleck, whose habit of speaking her mind with vigor and directness struck him as commendable. It was Olive who made the time pass for him; and as the occasion was not one for personal sarcasm or question of the Christian religion, her task in keeping the old pagan out of rather abysmal silences must have had its difficulties.
"What did you talk about?" asked Marcia, requiring an account of his enjoyment from him the next morning, after Bartley had gone down to his work.
"Mostly about you, I guess," said the Squire, with a laugh. "There was a large sandy-haired young woman there—"
"Miss Kingsbury," said Marcia, with vindictive promptness. Her eyes kindled, and she began to grow rigid under the coverlet. "Whom did she talk with?"
"Well, she talked a little with me; but she talked most of the time to the young man. She engaged to him?"
"No," said Marcia, relaxing. "She's a great friend of the whole family. I don't know what they meant by telling you it was to be just a family party, when they were going to have strangers in," she pouted.
"Perhaps they didn't count her."
"No." But Marcia's pleasure in the affair was tainted, and she began to talk of other things.
Her father stayed nearly a week, and they all found it rather a long week. After showing him her baby, and satisfying herself that he and Bartley were on good terms again, there was not much left for Marcia. Bartley had been banished to the spare room by the presence of the nurse; and he gave up his bed there to the Squire, and slept on a cot in the unfurnished attic room; the cook and a small girl got in to help, had the other. The house that had once seemed so vast was full to bursting.
"I never knew how little it was till I saw your father coming down stairs," said Bartley. "He's too tall for it. When he sits on the sofa, and stretches out his legs, his boots touch the mop-board on the other side of the room. Fact!"
"He won't stay over Sunday," began Marcia, with a rueful smile.
"Why, Marcia, you don't think I want him to go!"
"No, you're as good as can be about it. But I hope he won't stay over Sunday."
"Haven't you enjoyed his visit?" asked Bartley.
"Oh, yes, I've enjoyed it." The tears came into her eyes. "I've made it all up with father; and he doesn't feel hard to me. But, Bartley—Sit down, dear, here on the bed!" She took his hand and gently pulled him down. "I see more and more that father and mother can never be what they used to be to me,—that you're all the world to me. Yes, my life is broken off from theirs forever. Could anything break it off from yours? You'll always be patient with me, won't you? and remember that I'd always rather be good when I'm behaving the worst?"
He rose, and went over to the crib, and kissed the head of their little girl. "Ask Flavia," he said from the door.
"Bartley!" she cried, in utter fondness, as he vanished from her happy eyes.
The next morning they heard the Squire moving about in his room, and he was late in coming down to breakfast, at which he was ordinarily so prompt. "He's packing," said Marcia, sadly. "It's dreadful to be willing to have him go!"
Bartley went out and met him at his door, bag in hand. "Hollo!" he cried, and made a decent show of surprise and regret.
"M-yes!" said the old man, as they went down stairs. "I've made out a visit. But I'm an old fellow, and I ain't easy away from home. I shall tell Mis' Gaylord how you're gettin' along, and she'll be pleased to hear it. Yes, she'll be pleased to hear it. I guess I shall get off on the ten-o'clock train."
The conversation between Bartley and his father-in-law was perfunctory. Men who have dealt so plainly with each other do not assume the conventional urbanities in their intercourse without effort. They had both been growing more impatient of the restraint; they could not have kept it up much longer.
"Well, I suppose it's natural you should want to be home again, but I can't understand how any one can want to go back to Equity when he has the privilege of staying in Boston."
"Boston will do for a young man," said the Squire, "but I'm too old for it. The city cramps me; it's too tight a fit; and yet I can't seem to find myself in it."
He suffered from the loss of identity which is a common affliction with country people coming to town. The feeling that they are of no special interest to any of the thousands they meet bewilders and harasses them; after the searching neighborhood of village life, the fact that nobody would meddle in their most intimate affairs if they could, is a vague distress. The Squire not only experienced this, but, after reigning so long as the censor of morals and religion in Equity, it was a deprivation for him to pass a whole week without saying a bitter thing to any one. He was tired of the civilities that smoothed him down on every side.
"Well, if you must go," said Bartley, "I'll order a hack."
"I guess I can walk to the depot," returned the old man.
"Oh, no, you can't." Bartley drove to the station with him, and they bade each other adieu with a hand-shake. They were no longer enemies, but they liked each other less than ever.
"See you in Equity next summer, I suppose?" suggested the Squire.
"So Marcia says," replied Bartley. "Well, take care of yourself.—You confounded, tight-fisted old woodchuck!" he added under his breath, for the Squire had allowed him to pay the hack fare.
He walked home, composing variations on his parting malison, to find that the Squire had profited by his brief absence while ordering the hack, to leave with Marcia a silver cup, knife, fork, and spoon, which Olive Halleck had helped him choose, for the baby. In the cup was a check for five hundred dollars. The Squire was embarrassed in presenting the gifts, and when Marcia turned upon him with, "Now, look here, father, what do you mean?" he was at a loss how to explain.
"Well, it's what I always meant to do for you."
"Baby's things are all right," said Marcia. "But I'm not going to let Bartley take any money from you, unless you think as well of him as I do, and say so, right out."
The Squire laughed. "You couldn't quite expect me to do that, could you?"
"No, of course not. But what I mean is, do you think now that I did right to marry him?"
"Oh, you're all right, Marcia. I'm glad you're getting along so well."
"No, no! Is Bartley all right?"
The Squire laughed again, and rubbed his chin in enjoyment of her persistence. "You can't expect me to own up to everything all at once."
"So you see, Bartley," said Marcia, in repeating these words to him, "it was quite a concession."
"Well, I don't know about the concession, but I guess there's no doubt about the check," replied Bartley.
"Oh, don't say that, dear!" protested his wife. "I think father was pleased with his visit every way. I know he's been anxious about me, all the time; and yet it was a good deal for him to do, after what he had said, to come down here and as much as take it all back. Can't you look at it from his side?"
"Oh, I dare say it was a dose," Bartley admitted. The money had set several things in a better light. "If all the people that have abused me would take it back as handsomely as your father has,"—he held the check up,—"why, I wish there were twice as many of them."
She laughed for pleasure in his joke. "I think father was impressed by everything about us,—beginning with baby," she said, proudly.
"Well, he kept his impressions to himself."
"Oh, that's nothing but his way. He never was demonstrative,—like me."
"No, he has his emotions under control,—not to say under lock and key,—not to add, in irons."
Bartley went on to give some instances of the Squire's fortitude when apparently tempted to express pleasure or interest in his Boston experiences.
They both undeniably felt freer now that he was gone. Bartley stayed longer than he ought from his work, in tacit celebration of the Squire's departure, and they were very merry together; but when he left her, Marcia called for her baby, and, gathering it close to her heart, sighed over it, "Poor father! poor father!"
When the spring opened, Bartley pushed Flavia about the sunny pavements in a baby carriage, while Marcia paced alongside, looking in under the calash top from time to time, arranging the bright afghan, and twitching the little one's lace hood into place. They never noticed that other perambulators were pushed by Irish nurse-girls or French bonnes; they had paid somewhat more than they ought for theirs, and they were proud of it merely as a piece of property. It was rather Bartley's ideal, as it is that of most young American fathers, to go out with his wife and baby in that way; he liked to have his friends see him; and he went out every afternoon he could spare. When he could not go, Marcia went alone. Mrs. Halleck had given her a key to the garden, and on pleasant mornings she always found some of the family there, when she pushed the perambulator up the path, to let the baby sleep in the warmth and silence of the sheltered place. She chatted with Olive or the elder sisters, while Mrs. Halleck drove Cyrus on to the work of tying up the vines and trimming the shrubs, with the pitiless rigor of women when they get a man about some outdoor labor. Sometimes, Ben Halleck was briefly of the party; and one morning when Marcia opened the gate, she found him there alone with Cyrus, who was busy at some belated tasks of horticulture. The young man turned at the unlocking of the gate, and saw Marcia lifting the front wheels of the perambulator to get it over the steps of the pavement outside. He limped hastily down the walk to help her, but she had the carriage in the path before he could reach, her, and he had nothing to do but to walk back at its side, as she propelled it towards the house. "You see what a useless creature a cripple is," he said.