"Well," called the Sculptor after him, as he sauntered away, "as one of our mutual friends used to say 'The Indian Summer of Passion scorches.'"
"But, alas!" added the other, "it does not always kill."
"Witness—" began the Journalist, but the Critic cut him short.
"As you love me—not that famous list of yours including so many of the actresses we all know. I can't bear THAT to-night. After all the French have a better phrase for it—'La Crise de quarante ans.'"
The Nurse and Divorcee had been very quiet, but here they locked hands, and the former remarked that they prepared to withdraw:
"That is our cue to disappear—and you, too, Youngster. These men are far too wise."
So we of the discussed sex made a circle with our clasped hand about the Youngster and danced him into the house. The last I saw of the garden that night, as I looked out of my window toward the northeast, with "Namur" beating in my head, the five men had their heads still together, but whether "the other sex" was getting scientifically torn to bits, or they, too, had Namur in their minds I never knew.
THE DOCTOR'S STORY
AS ONE DREAMS
THE TALE OF AN ADOLESCENT
The next day was very peaceful. We were becoming habituated to the situation. It was a Sunday, and the weather was warm. There had been no real news so far as we knew, except that Japan had lined up with the Allies. The Youngster had come near to striking fire by wondering how the United States, with her dislike for Japan, would view the entering into line of the yellow man, but the spark flickered out, and I imagine we settled down for the story with more eagerness than on the previous evening, especially when the Doctor thrust his hands into his pockets and lifted his chin into the air, as if he were in the tribune. More than one of us smiled at his resemblance to Pierre Janet entering the tribune at the College de France, and the Youngster said, under his breath, "A Clinique, I suppose."
The Doctor's ears were sharp. "Not a bit," he answered, running his keen brown eyes over us to be sure we were listening before he began:
* * * * *
In the days when it was thought that the South End was to be the smart part of Boston, and when streets were laid out along wide tree shaded malls, with a square in the centre, in imitation of some quarters of London,—for Boston was in those days much more English in appearance than it is now,—there was in one of those squares a famous private school. In those days it was rather smart to go to a private school. It was in the days before Boston had much of an immigrant quarter, when some smart families still lived in the old Colonial houses at the North End, and ministers and lawyers and all professional men sent their sons and their daughters to the public schools, at that time probably the best in the world.
At this private school, there was, at the time of which I speak, what one might almost call a "principal girl."
She was the daughter of a rich banker—his only daughter. The gods all seemed to have been very good to her. She was not only a really beautiful girl, she was, for her age, a distinguished girl,—one of the sort who seemed to do everything better than any one else, and with a lack of self-consciousness or pretension. Every one admired her. Some of her comrades would have loved her if she had given them the chance. But no one could ever get intimate with her. She came and went from school quite alone, in the habit of the American girl of those days before the chaperon became the correct thing. She was charming to every one, but she kept every one a little at arm's length. Of course such a girl would be much talked over by the other type of girl to whom confidences were necessary.
As always happens in any school there was a popular teacher. She taught history and literature, and I imagine girls get more intimate with such a teacher than they ever do with the mathematics.
Also, as always happens, there was a "teacher's pet," one of those girls that has to adore something, and the literature teacher, as she was smart and good looking, was as convenient to adore as anything else,—and more adjacent.
Of course "teacher's pet" never has any secrets from the teacher, and does not mean to be a sneak either. Just can't help turning herself inside out for her idol, and when the heart of a girl of seventeen turns itself inside out, almost always something comes out that is not her business. That was how it happened that one day the literature teacher was told that the "Principal Girl" was receiving wonderful boxes of violets at the school door, and "Don't you know ONE DAY she was seen by a group of pupils who happened to be going home, and were just behind her, getting into a closed carriage and driving away from the corner of the street!"
Now the literature teacher did not, as a rule, encourage such confidences, but this time it seemed useful. She liked the Principal Girl—admired her, in fact. She was terribly shocked. She warned her pet to talk to no one else, and then she went at once to the clergyman who was at the head of the school. She knew that he felt responsible for his pupils, and this had an unpleasant look. He took the pains to verify the two statements. Then there was but one thing to do—to lay the matter before the parents of the girl.
Now, as so often happens in American families, the banker and his wife stood in some awe of their daughter. There was not that confidence between them which one traditionally supposes to exist between parents and children. I imagine that there is no doubt that the adolescent finds it much easier to confide in some one other than the parents who would seem to be her proper confidants.
At any rate the banker and his wife were simply staggered. They dared not broach the subject to the Principal Girl, and in their distress turned to the family lawyer. As they were too cowardly to take his first advice—perhaps they were afraid the daughter would lie, they sometimes do in the best regulated families,—it was decided to put a discreet person "on the job," and discover first of all what was really going on.
The result of the investigation was at first consoling, and then amazing.
They discovered that the bunches of violets were ordered at a smart down town florist by the girl herself, and by her order delivered at the school door by a liveried messenger boy, who, by her orders, awaited her arrival. As for the closed carriage, that she also bespoke herself at a smart livery stable where she was known. When she entered it, she was at once driven to the Park Street station, where she bought a round trip ticket to Waltham. There she walked to the river, hired a boat, rowed herself up stream, tied her boat at a wooden bank, climbed the slope, and sat there all the afternoon, sometimes reading, and sometimes merely staring out at the river, or up at the sky. At sunset she rowed back to the town, returned to the city, and walked from the station to her home.
This all seemed simple enough, but it puzzled the father, it made him unquiet in his mind. Why all this mystery? Why—well, why a great many things, for of course the Principal Girl had to prepare for these absences, and, although the little fibs she told were harmless enough—well, why? The literature teacher, who had been watching her carefully, had her theory. She knew a lot about girls. Wasn't she once one herself? So it was by her advice that the family doctor was taken into the family confidence, chiefly because neither father nor mother had the pluck to tackle the matter—they were ashamed to have their daughter know that she had been caught in even a small deception—it seemed so like intruding into her intimate life.
There are parents like that, you know.
The doctor had known the girl since he ushered her into the world. If there were any one with whom she had shown the slightest sign of intimacy, it was with him. Like all doctors whose associations are so largely with women, and who are moderately intelligent and temperamental, he knew a great deal about the dangers of the imagination. No one ever heard just what passed between the two. One thing is pretty sure, he made no secrets regarding the affair, and at the end of the interview he advised the parents to take the girl out of school, take her abroad, keep her active, present her at courts, show her the world, keep her occupied, interest her, keep her among people whether she liked it or not.
The literature teacher counted for something in the affair, and I imagine that it was never talked over between the parents and daughter, who soon after left town for Europe, and for three years were not seen in Boston.
When they did return, it was to announce the marriage of the Principal Girl to the son of the family lawyer, a clever man, and a rising politician.
Relations between the literature teacher and the Principal Girl had never wholly broken off, so ten years after the school adventure it happened one beautiful day in early September that the teacher was a guest at the North Shore summer home of the Principal Girl, now the mother of two handsome boys.
That afternoon at tea, sitting on the verandah, watching the white sails as the yachts made for Marblehead harbor, and the long line of surf beating against the rugged rocks beyond the wide pebbly beach on which the dragging stones made weird music, the literature teacher, supposing the old story to be so much ancient history that it could, as can so many of the incidents of one's teens, be referred to lightly, had the misfortune to mention it. To her horror, the Principal Girl gave her one startled look, and then rolled over among the cushions of the hammock in which she was swinging, and burst into a torrent of tears.
When the paroxysm had passed, she sat up, wiped her eyes in which, however, there was no laughter, and said passionately:
"I suppose you think me the most ungrateful woman in the world. I know only too well that to many women my position has always appeared enviable. Poor things, if they only knew! Of course, my husband is a good man. In all ways I do him perfect justice. He is everything that is kind and generous—only, alas, he is not the lover of my dreams. My children are nice handsome boys, but they are the every day children of every day life. I dreamed another and a different life in which my children were oh, so different, and beside which the life I try to lead with all the strength I have is no more like the life I dreamed than my boys are like my dream children. If you think it has not taken courage to play the part I have played, I am sorry for your lack of insight."
And she got up, and walked away.
It was as well, for, as the literature teacher told the doctor afterward, it was one notch above her experience, and she absolutely could have found no word to say. When the Wife came back to the hammock, ten minutes later, the cloud was gone from her face, and she never mentioned the subject again. And you may be sure that the literature teacher never did. She always looked upon the incident as her worst moment of tactlessness.
* * * * *
"Bully, bully!" exclaimed the Lawyer, "Take off your laurels, Critic, and crown the Doctor!"
"For that little tale," shouted the Critic. "Never! That has not a bit of literary merit. It has not one rounded period."
"The Lawyer is a realist," said the Sculptor. "Of course that appeals to him."
"If you want my opinion, I consider that there is just as much imagination in that story as in the morbid rigmarole you threw at us last night," persisted the Lawyer.
"Why," declared the Critic, "I call mine a healthy story compared with this one. It is a shocking tale for the operating room—I mean the insane asylum."
"All right," laughed the Doctor, "then we had all better go inside the sanitarium walls at once."
"Do you presume," said the Journalist, "to pretend that this is a normal incident?"
"I am not going into that. I only claim that more people know the condition than dare to confess it. It is after all only symbolic of the duality of the soul—or call it what you like. It is the embodiment of a truth which no one thinks of denying—that the spirit has its secrets. Imagination plays a great part in most of our lives—it is the glory that gilds our facts—it is the brilliant barrier which separates us from the beasts, and the only real thing that divides us into classes, though, of course, it does not run through the world like straight lines of latitude and longitude, but like the lines of mean temperature."
"The truth is," said the Lawyer, "if the Principal Girl had been obliged to struggle for her living, the fact that her imagination did not run at any point into her world of realities would not have been dangerous."
"Naturally not," said the Doctor, "for she would have been a great novelist, or a poor one, and all would have been well, or not, according to circumstances."
"All the same," persisted the Critic, "I think it a horrid story and—"
"I think," interrupted the Doctor, "that you have a vicious mind, and—" Here the Doctor cast a quick look in the direction of the Youngster, who was stretched out in a steamer chair and had not said a word.
"All right," said the Trained Nurse, "he is fast asleep." And so he was.
"Just as well," said the Doctor, "though it does not speak so well for the story as it might."
"Well," laughed the Journalist, "you have had a double success, Doctor. You have been spontaneously applauded by the man of law, and sent the man of the air to faire dodo. I reckon you get the laurels."
"Don't you be in such a hurry to award the palm," protested the Sculptor. "There are some of us who have not spoken yet. I am going to put some brilliant touches on mine before I give my star performance."
"What's that about stars?" yawned the Youngster, waking up slowly.
"Nothing except that you have given a very distinguished and unexpected star performance as a sleeper," said the Doctor.
"I say!" he exclaimed, sitting up. "By Jove, is the story of the Principal Girl all told? That's a shame. What became of her?"
"You'll never know now," said the Doctor.
"Besides," said the Critic, "you would not understand. You are too young."
"Well, I like your cheek."
"After all," said the Journalist, "it is only another phase of the Dear Little Josephine, and I still think that is the banner story."
"Me, too," said the Doctor, as we went into the house.
And I thought to myself, "I can tell a third phase—the tragic—when my turn comes," and I was the only one who knew that my story would come last.
THE SCULPTOR'S STORY
UNTO THIS END
THE TALE OF A VIRGIN
It was on August 26th that we were first sure that the Allied forces and the German army had actually come in contact. It seemed impossible for us to realize it, but, in the afternoon the Doctor, the Lawyer, and the Youngster took one of the cars, and made a run to the northeast. The news they brought back did not at all coincide with the hopeful tone of the morning papers. In fact it was not only evident that the fall of Namur had been followed almost immediately by that of Mons and Charleroi, but that the German hordes were well over the French frontier, and advancing rapidly, and the Allied armies simply flying before them.
The odd part was, that though the Youngster said that they had only run out fifty miles, they had heard the guns, and "the Doctor thinks," he added, under his breath, "that we may be able to stick it out to the last day of the month. Anyway, I advise you girls to look over your kits. We may fly in a hurry—such of us as must fly."
However, we managed to get through dinner quite gaily. We simply could not realize the menace, and the Doctor evidently meant that we should not. He was in gayer spirits than he had been since the days of the great discussions, and after the few facts he had brought back were given us, he kept the talk on other matters, until the Sculptor, who had been lying back in his chair, blowing smoke rings in the air, stretched himself into his most graceful position, and called attention even to his pose, before he threw his cigarette far from him with a fine gesture, settled his handsome head into his clasped hands, and began:
* * * * *
I had been ten years abroad.
In all that time I had been idle, prosperous, and wretched.
Every time Fate wrenched my heart with one of her long thin pitiless hands, she recompensed me with what the world calls "good luck." Every hope I had cherished failed me. Every faith I had harbored deserted me. Every venture in which neither heart nor soul was concerned flourished and flaunted its success in the face of the world, where I was considered a very fortunate man.
In the ten years of my exile I had travelled much, had been in contact with all kinds of people, had served some, and tried in vain to be concerned for them while I served. If it had been my fate to make no friends, it was within my choice to be never alone.
I had that in my memory which I hoarded, and yet with which I would not allow myself to be deliberately alone. The most terrible hours of my life were those when, toward morning, the rest of the world—all the world save me—having no past to escape, no enticing phantom to flee, went peacefully off to bed, and I was left alone in the night to drug memory, fight off thought, outwit imagination by any means that I might—and some of them were desperate enough.
Ten years had passed thus.
Another tenth of August had come round!
Only a man who has but one anniversary in his life, the backward and forward shadows of which make an unbroken circle over the whole year, can appreciate my existence. One cannot escape such a date. You may never speak of it. You may forswear calendars, abjure newspapers, refuse to date a letter; you may even lose days in a drunken stupor. Still there is that in your heart and your brain which keeps the reckoning. The hour will strike, in spite of you, when the day comes round on the dial of the year.
I had been living for some time in a city far distant from my native land. Half the world stretched on either side between me and the spot I tried to forget, and which floated forever, like a vision, between me and reality.
I had remained longer than usual in this city, for the simple reason that it was the hot season, and while the natives could stand it by day, visitors, unused to the heat, were forced to sleep by day and wander abroad by night, a condition that made it possible for me to feel my fellowmen about me nearly the entire twenty-four hours.
It was night.
I was sitting alone on the balcony of my room, looking down on to the crowded bridges of the city where throngs were passing, and filled my eyes and mind.
It was the very hour at which I had last seen her. There was no clock in sight—I always guarded against that in selecting my room. I had long ceased to carry a watch.
Yet I knew the hour.
I had been sitting there for hours watching the crowd. I had not been drinking. I had long ago abandoned that. No stimulant could blur the fixed regret, no narcotic numb my full sense of it. Sleep, whether I rose to it, or fell to it—only brought me dreams of her. Desperate nourishing of a great misery, in a nature that resented it, even while cherishing it, had made me a conscious monomaniac. Fate had thwarted me, and distorted me. I had become jealous and morbid, bitterly reviling my hurt, but violently preventing its healing.
There was a moon—just as there had been that night, only now it fell on a many bridged river across which were ghostly cypress trees, rising along the hillside to a strangely outlined church behind ruined fortifications. I was wondering, against my will, at what hour that moon rose over the distant New England village, which came before me in a vision that wiped out the wooded heights of reality.
Suddenly all the pain dropped away from me.
I drew a long breath in amazement.
Where was the weight under which I had staggered, mentally, all these years? Whence came the peace that had so suddenly descended upon me? In an instant it had passed, and I could only remember my bitter mood of ten years as if it had been a dream that I had lived so long unconsoled by that great healer, Time.
As the torturing jealousy dropped from me, a gentle sadness took its place. In an instant my mind was made up. I would go back.
This idea, which had never come to me in ten years, seemed now perfectly natural. I would return at once to that far off village where, for a brief hour, I had dwelt in a "Fool's Paradise," through which my way had lain but a brief span, and where I had passed, like the fabled bird, that "floats through Heaven, but cannot light."
* * * * *
I remember but little of the journey home, save that it was long, and that I slept much. But whether it was months or years I never knew. I seemed to be making up what I had lost in ten years. Time occupied itself in restoring the balance I had taken so much pains to upset.
It was night when I reached the place at last.
I found it as I had left it. Had a magic sleep settled there it could not have been less changed.
I was recognized in the small bare office of the one tavern. I felt that my sudden appearance surprised no one. But I did not wonder why.
Oddly enough, I never asked a question. I had not even questioned myself as to what I expected to find. Years afterward I was convinced, in reviewing the matter, that my soul had known from the first.
I dined alone, quite calmly, after which I stepped out into the starlight. I turned up the hill, and struck into the familiar road I had so often travelled in the old days. It led toward the river, and along the steep bank of the rapid noisy stream. The chill wind of an early autumn night moaned sadly in the tall trees, and the dead leaves under my feet rustled a sad accompaniment to my thoughts, which at last, unhooded, flew back to the past.
Below rushed the river, whose torrent had ever been an accompaniment to all my recollections of her—as inseparable from them as the color of her eyes, or the tones of her voice.
I could not but contrast my present calm with the mad humor in which I had last rushed down the slope I was so quietly climbing. As I went forward, I began to ask myself, "Why?" I could not answer that, but I began to hurry.
Suddenly I stopped.
The moon had emerged above the trees on the opposite side of the river. It struck and illumined something white above me. I was standing exactly where I had stood on that fatal tenth of August, so many years before.
I came to my senses as if by an electric shock.
At last everything was clear to me. At last I understood whence had gone all my vanity and jealousy. At last I understood the spell of peace that had settled on me in that moonlit tenth of August, in that far off city.
My burden had passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with her—for I was standing at the door of her tomb!
I did not question. I knew, I comprehended.
In no other way could I have found such calm.
Though I flung myself on the shining marble steps that led in the moonlight up to the top of the knoll where the tomb stood, I had no tears to shed.
The present floated still further away.
Even the rush of the torrent died out of my ears.
Once more it seemed to me that lovely day in May when we three had marched, shoulder to shoulder, down the city street—that spring day in the early sixties, when the North was sending her flower to fight for a united country.
Again I felt the warm sunshine on my head.
Once more I heard the ringing cheers, saw the floating flags, and the faces of women who wept as well as women who smiled in the throngs that lined the street.
Just as in all my life it had been his emotions and his enthusiasms that led me, it was his excitement that impelled me forward at this moment. His was the hand that in my school days, at college, in our Bohemian days abroad, had swept my responsive nature as a master hand strikes a harp, and made harmonies or discords at his will—or, I should say, according to his mood.
I used to think in those days that he never willfully wronged any one, but I had to own also that he never deliberately sacrificed himself for any one. And, if I were the victim of his temperament, he was no less so. But he was an artist. I was not. All things either good or bad were merely material to him. With me it was different.
He and I were alone in the world. But beside us marched, that May morning, with the glory of youth on his handsome but weak face, one whose "baptism of fire" was to make him a hero, who had else been remembered a coward.
The story of the girl he had wronged, and fear of whom had even reconciled his family to his enlisting, was common property, and had been for several seasons. There was a child, too, a little daughter, fondly loved, but unacknowledged, the fame of whose childish beauty many a heedless voice had already sung.
He, poor youngster, looked on his all that morning.
Once more I saw the flag draped house where his mother waved a brave farewell to him.
But there was another later picture in my mind. Again I heard the blare of the band before us as it flung its satire of "The Girl I Left Behind Me," into the spring air. I saw once more in my mind the child, with her floating red gold curls, raised above the crowd on the shoulders of tall men. Her eyes were too young for tears—and for that matter, tears came to her but seldom in later years—and the lips that shouted "bood-bye" smiled, unconscious of bravery, as she swung her hat with its symbolic colors above her shining head.
That was the picture that three of us carried to the front.
We left him—all his errors redeemed by a noble death—with his face turned up to the stars, as silent, as mysterious as they, after our first battle.
From the horrors of that night we two came away bound by an oath to care for that child.
* * * * *
Again my memory shifted to the days that found her a woman. Fair, beautiful, dainty, her father's daughter in looks, but inheriting from a rare mother a peculiar strength of character, a moral force rarely found with such a temperament and such beauty.
We had aided to raise her as became the child of her father, whose story she knew as soon as she was able to understand, but she knew it from the lips of the brave mother, who cherished his memory. Until she was a woman grown it was I, however, who, of her two self-appointed guardians, had watched over her. Children did not interest him.
He had married some years before that time, married well with an eye to a calm comfortable future, as became an artist who could not be hampered by the need of money.
Indeed, it was not until he knew that I was to marry her that he really looked at her.
And I, with all my experience of him, simply because I was never able to understand the dual nature, failed at that fatal hour when we stood together beside our protegee to apply to the situation the knowledge that years of experience should have taught me.
I was so bound up in my own feelings that I failed to remember that, until then, I had never had a great emotion that his nature had not acted as a lens in the kindling.
Then, too, there was a dense sense of the conventional—a logical enough birthright—in my make-up. I, who had known him so long, so well, seemed, nevertheless, when he married, to have fancied there was some hocus-pocus in the ceremony, which should make a definite change in a man's character, as well as a presumable change in his way of life.
It must have been that there, in the open, at the foot of the knoll, I slept, as one does the first night after a long awaited death, when the relief that pain is passed, and suspense ended, deadens grief. She was no longer in this world of torture. That helped me.
* * * * *
The next I knew, it was the sun, and not the moon which was shining on me.
The wind had stilled its sobbing in the trees.
Only the rushing of the river sounded in my ears.
I rose slowly, and mounted the steps.
A tiny white marble mosque of wonderful beauty—for he who erected it was one of the world's great artists, whose works will live to glorify his name and his art when all his follies shall have been forgotten—stood in a court paved with marble.
It was encircled with a low coping of the whitest of stone. Over this low wall vines were already growing, and the woodbine that was mingled with it was stained with those glorious tints in which Nature says to life, "Even death is beautiful."
The wide bronze doors on either side were open.
I accepted the fact without even wondering why—or asking myself who, in opening them, had discovered my presence!
For a brief time I stood once more within the room where she lay.
An awful peace fell on my soul, as if her soul had whispered in the words we had so often read together:
"I lie so composedly Now in my bed—"
I knew at last, as I gazed, that all her life, and all mine, as well, had been to his profit. That out of this, too, he had wrought some of his greatness.
The interior of the vault was of red marble, and, such of chiselling as there was done, seemed wonderful to me even in my frame of mind. I took it all in, through unwilling, though fascinated eyes.
I have never seen it since. I can never forget it.
Yet art is, and always has been, so much to me, that I could not help, even in my strangely wrought-up mental condition, comprehending and admiring his scheme and the masterly manner in which he had worked it out.
At my feet, as I stood on the threshold, was an elaborate scroll engraved on the stone and surrounded with a wreath of leaves, that vied with the tombs of the old world. As I gazed at it, and read the gothic letters in which it was set forth that this monument was erected in adoration of this woman, how well I remembered the day when we had crouched together over those stones in the crypt at Certosa, to admire the chiselling of Donatello which had inspired this.
There was a space left for the signature of the artist, which would, I knew, some day be written there boldly enough!
In the centre stood the sarcophagus.
I felt its presence, though my eyes avoided it.
Above, on the wall, were the words borne along by carved angels:
"My love she sleeps: Oh, may her sleep As it was lasting, so be deep."
And I seemed to hear her voice intone the words as I had heard them from her lips so many times.
And then my eyes fell—on her! Aye! On her, stretched at full length in her warm and glorious tomb. For above her mortal remains slept her effigy wrought with all the skill of a great art.
I had feared to look upon it, but having looked, I felt that I could never tear myself away from its peace and loveliness.
The long folds of the drapery fell straight from the small, round throat to the tiny unshod feet, and so wonderfully was it wrought, that it seemed as if the living beautiful flesh of the slender body was still quick beneath it. The exquisite hands that I knew so well—so delicate, and yet so strong—were gently crossed upon her breast, and her arms held a long stemmed lily, emblem of purity, and it looked to me there like a martyr's palm.
Perhaps it was the pale reflection from the red walls, but the figure seemed too real to be mere stone!
I forgot the irony of the fact that I was merely seeing her through his eyes—the eyes of the man who had robbed me. I felt only her presence. I fell on my knees. I flung my arms across the beautiful form—no colder to my embrace than had been the living woman! As I recoiled from the death-like touch, my eyes fell on the words carved on the face of the sarcophagus, and once more, it was like the voice that was hushed in my ears.
"I pray to God that she may lie Forever with unopened eye While the dim sheeted ghosts go by."
"Amen," I said, with all my heart, to the words he had carved above her, for what, after the fever of such a life, could be so welcome to her as dreamless, eternal silence, in which there would be no more passion, no more struggling, no more love?
And, if I wished with all my soul, that the great surprise of death might, for her, have been peace and silence, did I not bar myself as well as him from the hope of Heaven?
How long I stood there, with hungry eyes devouring the marble effigy of her I so loved—now tortured by its fidelity, now punished by its coldness—I never knew.
Sometimes I noticed the changing of the light, the shifting of the shadows, as the sun swung steadily upward, but it was a subconscious observation which did not recall me to myself and the present.
Back, back turned my thoughts to the past.
Here, where she now lay in her gorgeous tomb, had then stood an arbor, and below had roared the rushing river.
It was the night of our wedding.
Then, as now, on this very spot, I had looked down on that fair pale face, and then it had given me back a gaze as lifeless as this.
I had missed my bride from the little throng in the quaint house beyond. I had stolen out to seek her. Instinctively I had turned to the old arbor above the river, where her hours of meditation had always been passed.
It was there I had found her as a child, when I came to bring her father's dying message. It was there I had asked her to become my wife. It was there we three had first stood together.
For a week before the wedding she had been in a strange mood, tearless, but nervous, and sad! Still, it had not seemed to me an unnatural mood in such a woman, on the eve of her marriage.
Fate is ironical.
I remembered that I was serenely happy as I sped up the hill in search of her, and so sure that I knew where to find her. Light scudding clouds crossed the track of the moon, which, with a broadly smiling face, rolled up the heavens at a spinning pace, now appearing, now disappearing behind the flying clouds.
I was humming gaily as I strode along the narrow path. Nothing tugged at my heart strings to warn me of approaching sorrow. There was no signal in all nature to prepare me for the end in a complete shipwreck of all my dreams. The peace about me gave no hint of its cynicism. Nothing, either within or without, hinted that my hours of happiness and content were running out rapidly to the last sand!
I had reached the shallow steps that led up the knoll to the arbor!
At that moment the clouds were swept off from the face of the moon, and the white light fell full on her.
But she was not alone. She rested in the arms of my friend, as, God help me, she had never rested in mine—in an abandon that was only too eloquent.
What was said?
Who but God knows that now?
What do men like us, who have thought themselves one in all things, until one love rends them asunder, say at such a time? As for me, I cannot recall a word!
I did not even see his face.
I think he saw mine no more.
We seemed to see into the soul of each other, through the very heart of that frail woman between us, that slender creature in the bridal dress, who sank down before us, as if the colliding passions of two strong men had killed her.
It was he who raised her up. His hands placed her in my arms. No need to say that she was blameless. I knew all that.
It was only Fate after all, that I blamed, yet the fatalist is human. He suffers in living like other men—sometimes more, because he refuses to struggle in the clutches of Chance!
As I gazed down into her white face, I heard the steps of my friend, even above the roaring of the river, as he strode down the hillside, out of my life! And I know not even to-day which was the bitterest grief, the loss of my faith in being loved, or the passing from my heart of that man!
Of the pain of the night that followed, only the silence and our own hearts knew.
Love and passion are so twinned in some hours of life that one cannot distinguish in himself the one from the other.
Into my keeping "to have and to hold," the law had given this beautiful woman, "until death should us part." I loved her! But, out of her heart, at once stronger and weaker than mine, my friend had barred me.
It is not in hours like these, that all men can be sane.
I thought of what might have been, if they had not met that night, and my ignoble side craved ignorance of that Chance, or the brutality to ignore it.
I looked down into that cold face as I laid her from the arms that had borne her down the hill—laid her on what was to have been her nuptial couch—and closed the door between us and all the world.
We were together—alone—at last!
I had dreamed of this hour. Here was its realization. I watched the misery of remembrance dawn slowly on her white face. I pitied her as I gazed at her, yet my whole being cried out in rage at its own pity. On her trembling lips I seemed to see his kisses. In her frightened eyes I saw his image. The shudder that shook her whole body as her eyes held mine, confessed him—and that confession kept me at bay.
All that night I sat beside her.
What mad words I uttered a merciful nature never let me recall.
In the chill dawn I fled from her presence.
The width of the world had lain between us, me—and this woman whom I had worshipped, of whom a consuming jealousy had made ten years of my life a mad fever, which only her death had cured. Saner men have protested against the same situation that ruined me—and yet, even in my reasoning moments, like this, I knew that to have rebelled would have been to have forced a tragic climax before the hour at which Fate had fixed it.
* * * * *
When something—I know not what—recalled me again to the present, I found that I had sat by her a day, as, on our last meeting, I watched out the night. The sun, which had sent its almost level rays in at the east door of the tomb when I entered, was now shining in brilliant almost level rays in at the west.
The day was passing.
A shadow fell from the opposite door. I became suddenly conscious of his presence, and, once more, across her body, I looked into my friend's eyes.
Between us, as on that dreadful night, she was stretched!
But she was at peace.
Our colliding emotions might rend us, they could never again tear at her gentle heart. That was at rest.
Over her we stood once more, as if years had not passed—years of silence.
Above the woman we had both loved, we two, who had stood shoulder to shoulder in battle, been one in thought and ambition until passion rent us asunder, met as we parted, but she was at peace!
We had severed without farewells.
We met without greetings.
We stood in silence until he waved me to a broad seat behind me, and sank into a similar niche opposite.
We sat in the shadow.
She lay between us in the level light of the setting sun, which fell across her from the wide portal, and once more our eyes met on her face, but they would not disturb her calm.
His influence was once more upon me.
In the silence—for it was some time before he spoke, and I was dumb—my accursed eye for detail had taken in the change in him. Yet I fancied I was not looking at him. I noted that he had aged—that this was one of the periods in him which I knew so well—when a passion for work was on him, and the fever and fervor of creation trained him down like a race-horse, all spirit and force. I noted that he still wore the velveteens and the broad hat and loose open collar of his student days.
Sitting on either side of the tomb he had built to enshrine her, on carved marble seats such as Tuscan poets sat on, in the old days, to sing to fair women, with our gaze focussed on the long white form between us—ah, between us indeed!—his voice broke the long silence.
He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, and the broad brim of his soft hat swept the marble floor with a gentle rhythmic swish, as it swung idly from his loosened grasp. I heard it as an accompaniment to his voice.
His eyes never once strayed from her face.
"You think you are to be pitied," he said. "You are wrong! No one who has not sinned against another needs pity. I meant you no harm. Fate—my temperament, your immobility, the very gifts that have made me what I am were to blame—if blame there were. Every one of us must live out his life, according to his nature. I, as well as you!
"When, on this very spot where we last parted, you told me that you loved her, I swear to you, if need be, that I rejoiced. I was glad that she would have you to make the future smooth for her. Later I grew to envy you. It was for your safety, as well as mine and hers, that I decided to see neither of you again until she had been some time your wife. No word of love, no confidence of any kind, had ever passed between us. When I wrote you that I should not be here to see you married, and when not even your reproaches could move me, I had already engaged my passage on a sailing ship bound for the Azores. I had planned to put a long uncertain voyage between you and any possibility that I might mar your chances for happiness, for the nearer the day came, the more—in spite of myself—I resented it!
"My good intentions were thwarted by—Fate.
"For some reason, forgotten and unimportant, the Captain deferred lifting anchor for a whole week. I called myself unpretty names for thinking that I could not even see her without danger. I despised myself for the judgment that accused me of being such a scamp as to think I would do anything to rob her of the protection and safety you could give her, and I could not, and an egoist for being possessed with the idea that I could if I would.
"Suddenly I felt quite sure of myself.
"Yet I had meant to see her without being seen, when I hurried so unexpectedly down here on your wedding night. I fancied I only longed to see what a lovely bride she would make—she who as a child, a girl, a maiden, had been in your eyes the most exquisite creature you had ever known; she whom I had avoided for years, because I, of all men, could least afford to take a place in her life! I longed to see those eyes, still so pure, under her bridal veil.
"I came in secret! I saw her—and all prudence fled out of me, leaving but one instinct.
"Was it my fault that, alone, she fled from the house? That, with her veil thrown over her arm, she ran directly by me, like a sprite in the moonlight, to this spot?
"The rest you know.
"It is not you who need pity!
"You have the pain of an imperishable loyalty in your soul. It is like a glory in your face, in spite of all you have suffered. As I look at you, it seems but yesterday that all was well between us.
"I lost much in losing you.
"Nor am I sure that you were right to go! But that was for your own nature to decide. In your place I should have fought Fate, I expected you to do it.
"I loved her first, because she satisfied my eyes. I loved her the more that she was denied to me! Yet I knew always that this love was not in me what it was in you. With me it was, like many other emotions of a similar sort—a sentiment that would pass. I tried to think otherwise. But I had awakened her heart, and you, to whom the law had given her, were gone!
"I waited long for your return, or for some sign.
"You neither came nor spoke.
"I argued that something must be done. I owed it to her to offer her my protection.
"I came back here. I met her on this very spot. I said to her, 'You are alone in the world—your mother has married—she has other children. I have saddened your life with my love. Let me at least help to cheer it again. You need affection. Here it is—in my arms!'
"And, while I waited for her answer, I prayed with all my soul that she might deny me.
"God bless her! She did! I turned away from her with a glad heart, and in that heart I enshrined this woman, who, loving me, had denied me. There I set up her image, pure and inviolate. Two long years I stayed away from her, and as I worked, I worshipped her, and out of that worship I wrought a great thing.
"With time, however, her real image grew faint within me. Other emotions, other experiences seemed to blur and dim it. In spite of myself, I returned here. Once more I stood on this spot, within the gaze of her deep eyes. I began to believe that a love everlasting, all enduring, had been given me! But still it was passion that pleaded for possession, and still it was self-knowledge that looked on in fear.
"Passion bade me plead: 'You love me! You need me! Come to me!' And fear kept my heart still, in dread of her consent.
"But she looked up into my face with eyes that seemed to widen under mine, and simply whispered, 'My mother.' The heart that knew and understood now all that sad history seemed to feel that her act might re-open the mother's old wound; that the verdict 'like mother, like daughter' would turn virtue back to sin again.
"Once more I went out into the world with a light heart! Her virtue, her strength, seemed to be mine. I went back to my work with renewed spirit, back to my life with no new self-reproach.
"But once more I swung round the circle. With a perversity that, dreading success, and conscious of fear, yet longs to strive for what it dreads to win, I returned to her again. The death of her mother was my new excuse.
"She came to me—here, as usual. But this time she came leading by the hand her little sister, and I felt her armored against me even before I spoke.
"You, who used to believe in a merciful God, can you explain to me why he has left in the nature of man, created—so you believe—in His own image—that impulse to destroy that which he loves? I loved her for exactly what she was. I loved her because she had the courage to resist me. Yet from each denial so ardently desired, so thankfully received, my soul sprang up strengthened in desire. Safe above me I worshipped her. Once in my arms, I knew, only too well, that even that love would pass as all other emotions had done. I knew I should put her aside, gently if I could, urgently, if I must, and pass on. That is my Fate! Everything that enters my life leaves something I need—and departs! For what I have not, I hunger. What I win soon wearies me. It is the price life exacts for what it gives me.
"So, when August of this year came round, I found myself once more standing here.
"Ten years had passed since we stood here with her between us—ten years that had laid their richest gifts on her beauty. This time she was indeed alone. As I looked into her face, I somehow thought of Agamemnon's fair daughter doomed to die a virgin. You can see my 'Iphigenia' in the spring, if you chance to be in Paris.
"This time, self-knowledge deserted me. The past was forgotten. The future was undreaded. The passion in my heart spoke without reserve or caution! I no longer said: 'You need me! You love me!' I cried out: 'I can no longer live without you!' I no longer said, 'Come to me!' I pleaded, 'Take me to your heart. There, where my image is, let me rest at last. I have waited long, be kind to me.'
"I saw her sway toward me as once before she had done. It was too late to look backward or forward. I had conquered. In my weakness I believed it was thus ordained—that I deserved some credit for waiting so long.
"Yet, when she left me here alone, having promised, with downcast eyes that avoided mine, to place her hand in mine, and walk boldly beside me down the forbidden path of the world, I fell down on the spot her feet had pressed, and wept bitterly, as I had never done before in all my life. Wept over the shattered ideal, the faith I had so wilfully torn down, the miserable victory of my meanest self.
"I thought the end was come. Fate was merciful to me, however!
"I had myself fixed the following Thursday as the day for our departure. As I dated a letter to her that night my mind involuntarily reckoned the days, and I was startled to find that Thursday fell on that fatal tenth of August.
"I had not thought I could be so tortured in my mind as I was by the dread that she should notice the dire coincidence.
"The hour that should have brought her to me, brought a note instead. It was dated boldly 'August tenth.' It was without beginning or signature. It said—I can repeat every word—'Of the two roads to self-destruction open to me, I have chosen the one that will, in the end, give the least pain to you. I love you. I have always loved you since I was a child. I do not regret anything yet! Thank God for me that I depart without ever having seen a look of weariness in the eyes that gazed so lovingly into mine when we parted, and thank Him for yourself that you will never see a look of reproach in mine. I know no time so fitting to say a long farewell for both of us as this—Farewell, then.'
"I knew what I should find when I went up the hill.
"The doctors said 'heart disease.' She had been troubled with some such weakness. I alone knew the truth! As I had known myself, she had known me!
"You think you suffer—you, who might, but for me, have made her happy, as such women should be, in a world of simple natural joys! My friend, loss without guilt is pain—but it is not without the balm of virtuous compensation. You have at least a right to grieve.
"But I! I am forced to know myself. To feel myself borne along in spite of myself; and to realize that she who should have worn a crown of happy womanhood, lies there a sacrifice, to be bewailed like Jepthah's one fair daughter; and to sit here in full dread of the ebbing of even this great emotion, knowing too well that it will pass out of my life when it shall have achieved its purpose, leaving only as evidence this—another great work, crystalized into immortality in everlasting stone. I know that I cannot long hold it here in my heart. The day will come—perhaps soon—when I shall stand outside that door, and recognize this as my work, and be proud of it, without the power to grieve, as I do now; when I shall approve my own handiwork, and be unable to mourn for her who was sacrificed to achieve it. What is your pain to mine?"
And I saw the hot tears drop from his eyes. I saw them fall on the marble floor, and they watered the very spot where his name was so soon to spring up in pride to confess his handiwork.
I looked on her calm face. I knew she did not regret her part! I rose, and, without a word, I passed out at the wide door, and, without looking back, I passed down the slope in the dusk, and left them together—the woman I had loved, and the friend I had lost!
* * * * *
As his voice died away, he sat upright quickly, threw a glance about the circle, and, with another fine gesture said: "Et voila!"
The Doctor was the only one to really laugh, though a broad grin ran round the circle.
"Well," remarked the Doctor, who had been leaning against a tree, and indulging in shrugs and an occasional groan, which had not even disconcerted the story teller, "I suppose that is how that very great man, your governor, did the trick. I can see him in every word."
"That is all you know about it," laughed the Sculptor. "That is not a bit how the governor did it. That is how I should have done it, had I been the governor, and had the old man's chances. I call that an ideal thing to happen to a man."
"Not even founded on fact—which might have been some excuse for telling it," groaned the Critic. "I'd love to write a review of that story. I'd polish it off."
"Of course you would," sneered the Sculptor. "That's all a critic is for—to polish off the tales he can't write. I call that a nice romantic, ideal tale for a sculptor to conceive, and as the Doctor said the other night, it is a possible story, since I conceived it, and what the mind of mortal can conceive, can happen."
"The trouble," said the Journalist, "with chaps like you, and the Critic, is that your people are all framework. They're not a bit of flesh and blood."
"I'd like to know," said the Sculptor, throwing himself back in his chair, "who has a right to decide that?"
"What I'd like to know," said the Youngster, "is, what did she do between times? Of course he sculpted, and earned slathers of money. But she—?"
"Oh, ouch—help!" cried the Sculptor. "Do I know?"
"Exactly!" answered the Critic, "and that you don't sticks out in every line of your story."
"Goodness me, you might ask the same thing about Leda, or Helen of Troy."
"Ha! Ha!" laughed the Doctor. "But we know what they did!"
"A lot you do. It is because they are old classics, and you accept them, whereas my story is quite new and original—and you were unprepared for it, and so you can't appreciate it. Anyway, it's my first-born story, and I'll defend it with my life."
Only a laugh replied to the challenge, and the attitude of defense he struck, as he leaped to his feet, though the Journalist said, under his breath, "It takes a carver in stone to think of a tale like that!"
"But think," replied the Doctor, "how much trouble some women would escape if they kept on saying A B C like that—for the A B C is usually lovely—and when it was time to X Y Z—often terrible, they just slipped out through the 'open door.'"
"On the other hand, they risk losing heaps of fun," said the Journalist.
"What I like about that story," said the Lawyer, "is that it is so aristocratic. Every one seems to have plenty of money. They all three do just what they like, have no duties but to analyze themselves, and evidently everything goes like clockwork. The husband enjoys being morbid, and has the means to be gloriously so. The sculptor likes to carve Edgar Allan Poe all over the place, and the fair lady is able to gratify the tastes of both men."
"You can laugh as much as you please," sighed the Sculptor, "I wish it had happened to me."
"Well," said the Doctor, "you have the privilege of going to bed and dreaming that it did."
"Thank you," answered the Sculptor. "That is just what I am going to do."
"What did I tell you last night?" said the Doctor, under his breath, as he watched the Sculptor going slowly toward the house. "Bet he has been telling that tale to himself under many skies for years!"
"I suppose," laughed the Journalist, "that the only reason he has never built the tomb is that he has never had the money."
"Oh, be fair!" said the Violinist. "He has not built the tomb because he is not his father. The old man would have done it in a minute, only he lacked imagination. You bet he never day-dreamed, and yet what skill he had, and what adventures! He never saw anything but the facts of life, yet how magnificently he recorded them."
"It is a pity," sighed the Violinist, "that the son did not seek a different career."
"What difference does it make after all?" remarked the Doctor. "One never knows when the next generation will step up or down, and, after all, what does it matter?"
"It is all very well for you to talk," said the Critic.
"I assure you that the great pageant would have been just as interesting from any other point of view. It has been a great spectacle,—this living. I'm glad I've seen it."
"Amen to that," said the Divorcee. "I only hope I am going to see it again—even though it hurts."
THE DIVORCEE'S STORY
ONE WOMAN'S PHILOSOPHY
THE TALE OF A MODERN WIFE
As I look back, I remember that the next night was one of the most trying of the week.
As we came down to dinner we all had visions of the destruction of Louvain, and the burning of the famous library. It is hard enough to think of lives going out; still, as the Doctor was so fond of saying, "man is born to die, and woman, too," but that the great works of men, his bequest to the coming generations, should be wantonly destroyed, seemed even more horrible, especially to those who love beauty, and the idea of the charred leaves of the library flying in the air above the historic city of catholic culture, made us all feel as if we were sitting down to a funeral service rather than a very good dinner.
Matters were not made any gayer because Angele, who was waiting on table, had rings round her eyes, which told of sleepless nights. And why? We were mere spectators. We had been interested to dispute and look on. But she knew that somewhere out there in the northeast her man was carrying a gun.
Yet all about us the country was so lovely and so tranquil, horses were walking the fields, and, even as we sat at dinner, we could hear the voices and the heavy feet of the peasant women as they went home from their work. The garden had never been more beautiful than it was that evening, with the silver light of the moon through the trees, and the smell of the freshly watered earth and flowers.
We had no doubt who was to contribute the story. The Divorcee was dressed with unusual care for the role, and carried a big lace bag on her arm, and, as she leaned back in her chair, she pulled one of the big old fashioned candles in its deep glass toward her, and said with a nervous laugh:
"I shall have to ask you to let me read my story. You know I am not accustomed to this sort of thing. It is really my very 'first appearance,' and I could not possibly tell it as the rest of you more experienced people can do," and she took the manuscript out of her lace bag, and, settling herself gracefully, unrolled it. The Youngster put a stool under her pretty feet, and the Doctor set a cushion behind her back, while the Journalist, with a laugh, poured her a glass of water, and the Violinist ceremoniously leaned over, and asked, "Shall I turn for you?"
She could not help laughing, but it did not make her any the less nervous, or her voice any the less shaky as she began:
* * * * *
It was after dinner on one of those rare occasions when they dined alone together.
They were taking coffee in Mrs. Shattuck's especial corner of the drawing-room, and she had just asked her husband to smoke.
She was leaning back comfortably in a nest of cushions, in her very latest gown, with a most becoming light falling on her from the tall, yellow-shaded lamp.
He was facing her—astride his chair, in a position man has loved since creation.
He was just thinking that his wife had never looked handsomer, finer, in fact, in all her life—quite the satisfactory, all-round, desirable sort of a woman a man's wife ought to be.
She was wondering if he would ever be any less attractive to all women than he was now at forty-two—or any better able to resist his own power.
As she put her coffee cup back on the tiny table at her elbow, he leaned forward, and picked up a book which lay open on a chair near him, and carelessly glanced at it.
"Schopenhauer," and he wrinkled his brows and glanced half whimsically down the page. "I never can get used to a woman reading that stuff—and in French, at that. If you took it up to perfect your German there would be some sense in it."
Mrs. Shattuck did not reply. When a moment later, she did speak it was to ignore his remark utterly, and ask:
"The Kaiser Wilhelm got off in good season this morning—speaking of German things?"
"Oh, yes," was the indifferent reply, "at ten o'clock, quite promptly."
"I suppose she was comfortable, and that you explained why I could not come?"
"Certainly. One of your beastly head-aches. She understood."
Shattuck yawned lazily, and changed the subject, which did not seem to interest him.
"Do you mean to say," he asked, still turning the leaves of the book he held, "that this pleases you?"
"Well, amuses you? Instructs you, if you like that better?"
"No, I mean to say simply—since you insist—that he speaks the truth, and there are some—even among women—who must know the truth and abide by it."
"Well, thank Heaven," said the man, pulling at his cigar, "that most women are more emotional than intelligent—as Nature meant them to be."
Mrs. Shattuck examined her daintily polished nails, rubbed them carefully on the palm of her hand, as women have a trick of doing, and then polished them on her lace handkerchief, before she said, "Yes, it is a pity that we are not all like that,—a very great pity—for our own sakes. Yet, unluckily, some of us will think."
"But the thinking woman is so rarely logical, so unable to take life impersonally, that Schopenhauer does her no good. He only fills her mind with errors, mistrust, unhappiness."
"You men always argue that way with women—as if life were not the same for us as for you. Pass me the book. I wager that I can open it at random, and that you cannot deny the truth of the first sentence I read."
He passed her the book.
She took it, laid it open carelessly on her knees, bending the covers far back that it might stay open, and she gave her finger tips a final rub with her handkerchief before she looked at the page. She paused a bit after she glanced at it, then picked up the book and read: "'L'homme est par Nature porte a l'inconstance dans l'amour, la femme a la fidelite. L'amour de l'homme baisse d'une facon sensible a partir de l'instant ou il a obtenu satisfaction: il semble que toute autre femme ait plus d'attrait que celle qu'il possede.'"
She laid the book down, but she did not look at him.
"Rubbish," was his remark.
"Yes, I know. You men always find it so easy to say 'rubbish' to all natural truths which you prefer not to discuss."
"Well, my dear Naomi, it seems to me that if you are to advocate Schopenhauer, you must go the whole length with him. The fault is in Nature, and you must accept it as inevitable, and not kick against it."
"I don't kick against Nature—as you put it—I kick against civilization, which makes laws regardless of Nature, which deliberately shuts its eyes to all natural truths in regard to the relations of men to women,—and is therefore forced to continually wink to avoid confessing its folly."
"Civilization seems to me to have done the best it could with a very difficult problem. It has not actually allowed different codes of morals to men and women, and it may have had to wink on that account. Right there, in your Schopenhauer, you have a primal reason, that is, if you chose to follow your philosopher to the extent of actually believing that Nature has deliberately, from the beginning, protected women against that sin of which so much is made, and to which she has, as deliberately, for economic reasons of her own, tempted men."
"I do believe it, truly."
"You are no more charitable toward my sex than most women are. Yet neither your teacher nor you may be right. A theoretic arguer like Schopenhauer makes good enough reading for calm minds, but he is bad for an emotional temperament, and, by Jove, Naomi, he was a bad example of his own philosophy."
"My dear Dick, I am afraid I read Schopenhauer because I thought what he writes long before I ever heard of him. I read him because did I not find a clear logical mind going the same way my mind will go, I might be troubled with doubts, and afraid that I was going quite wrong."
"Well, the deuce and all with a woman when she begins to read stuff like that is her inability to generalize. You women take everything home to yourselves. You try to deduct conclusions from your own lives which men like Schopenhauer have scanned the centuries for. The natural course of your life could hardly have provided you with the pessimism with which—I hope you will pardon my remark, my dear—you have treated me several times in the past few months. Chamfort and Schopenhauer did that. But these are not subjects a man discusses easily with his wife."
"Indeed? Then that is surely an error of civilization. If a man can discuss such matters more easily with a woman who is not his wife, it is because there is no frankness in marriage. Dick, did it ever occur to you that a man and woman, strongly attracted toward one another, might live together many years without understanding each other?"
"How easily you say that!"
"I have heard that most women think they are not understood, but I never reflected on the matter."
"You and I have not troubled one another much with our doubts and perplexities."
"You and I have been very happy together—I hope." There was a little pause before the last two words, as if he had expected her to anticipate them with something, and there was a half interrogative note in his voice. She made no response, so he went on, "I've surely not been a hard master—and I hope I've not been selfish. I know I've not been unloving."
"And I hope you've not suffered many discomforts on my account. I think, as women go, I am fairly reasonable—or I have been."
For some reason Shattuck seemed to find the cigar he was smoking most unsatisfactory. Either it had been broken, or he had unconsciously chewed the end—a thing which he detested—and there was a pause while he discarded the weed, and selected a fresh one. He appeared to be reflecting as he lighted it, and if his mind could have been read, it would have probably been discovered that he was wondering how it had happened that the conversation had taken this turn, and mentally cursing his own stupidity in making any remarks on the Schopenhauer. He was conscious all the time that his wife was looking rather steadily at him, and he knew that at least a conventional reply was expected of him.
"My dear girl," he said, "I look back on ten very satisfactory years of married life. You have been a model wife, a charming companion—and if occasionally it has occurred to me—just lately—that my wife has developed rather singular, to say the least, unflattering ideas of life, why, you have such a brilliant way of putting it, that I am more than half proud that you've the brains to hold such ideas, though they are a bit disconcerting to me as a husband. I suppose the development is logical enough. You were always, even as a girl, inclined to making footnotes. I suppose their present daring is simply the result of our being just a little older than we used to be. I suppose if we did not outgrow our illusions, the road to death would be too tragic."
For a moment she made no reply. Then, as if for the first time owning to the idea which had long been uppermost in her mind, she said suddenly: "The truth of the matter is, that I really believe marriage is foolish. I do believe that no man ever approached it without regretting that civilization had made it necessary, and that many men would escape, at the very last moment, if women did not so rigidly hold them to their promises, and if, between two ridiculous positions, marriage having been pushed nearest, had not become desperately inevitable."
"How absurd, Naomi, when you see the whole procession of men walking,—according to their dispositions—calmly or eagerly to their fate every day."
"Nevertheless, I think the pre-nuptial confessions of a majority of men of our class, would prove that what I say is true."
"Are you hinting that it was true in your case?"
Shattuck gave an amused laugh. "Do you mean to say that you kept me to the point?"
"Not exactly. At that time I had an able bodied father who would have had to be dealt with. Besides, a man does not own up even to himself—not always—when he finds himself face to face with the inevitable. I am not speaking of what men talk about in such cases, or of what they do, but of what they feel,—of the fact that, in too many instances, Nature not having meant men for bondage, after they have passed the Rubicon to that spot from which the code of civilized honor does not permit them to turn back, they usually have a period of regret, and are forced to make a real effort to face the Future,—to go on, in fact."
The smile had died out of Shattuck's face and he said quite seriously: "As far as we are concerned, Naomi, I have very different recollections of the whole affair."
"Have you? And yet, months before we were married, I knew that it would not have broken your heart if the wedding had not come off at all."
"My dear, the modern heart does not break easily in this age. We are schooled to meet the accidents of life with some philosophy."
"And yet to have lost you then, would have killed me."
Shattuck looked at her sharply, with, one might almost have said, a new interest, but she was no longer looking at him. She went on, hurriedly: "You loved me, of course. I was of your world. I was a woman that other men liked, and therefore a desirable woman. I was of good family—altogether your social equal, in fact, quite the sort of woman it became you to marry. I pleased you—and I loved you."
"Thank you, my dear," he said. "In ten years, I doubt if you have ever made so frank a declaration as that—in words." He was wondering, if, after all, she were going to develop into an emotional woman, and his heart gave a quick leap at the very thought—for there are hours when a woman who runs too much to head has a man at a cruel disadvantage.
"Things are so much harder, so much more complex for a woman," she went on.
"For the protection of the community?"
"Perhaps. Still, it is not always pleasant to be a woman,—and yet think; a woman whose reason has been mistakenly developed at the expense of her capacity to enjoy being a woman, and who is forced at the same time to encounter the laws of Nature, and pay at the same time, the penalty of being a woman, and the penalty of knowledge. For, just so surely as we live, we must encounter love.—"
"You might take it out," interrupted the husband, "in feeling flattered that it takes so much to conquer such as you."
"So we might, but that, once conquered, neither man nor Nature has any further use for us, and regret, like art, is long. Not even you can deny," she exclaimed, sitting up in some excitement, and letting her cushions fall in a mess all about her, "that life is very unfair to women."
"Well, I don't see that. Physically it is a little rough on you, but there are compensations."
"I have never been able to discover them. Love itself is hard on a woman. It seems to stir a man's faculties healthily. They seem the stronger and more fit for it. It does not seem to uproot a man's whole being. Does it serve women in that way?"
"I bear witness that it makes some of you deucedly handsome. And I have heard that it makes some of you—good."
"Yes, as chastisement does. No, Life seems to have adjusted matters between men and women very badly, very unjustly."
"And yet, as this life is the only one we know we must adjust ourselves to it as we find it."
"No, no. We had better have accepted the thing as Nature gave it to us. We came into this world like beasts—why aren't we content to live like beasts, and make no pretenses? Women would have nothing to expect then, and there'd be no such thing as broken hearts. In spite of all the polish of civilization, man is simply bent on conquest. Woman is only one phase of the chase to him—a chase in which every active virile man is occupied from his cradle to his grave. You are the conquerors. We are simply the conquered."
Shattuck tried to make his voice light, as he said: "Not always unhappy ones, I fancy."
"I suppose all men flatter themselves that way, and argue that probably the Sabine women preferred their fate to no fate at all."
"Don't be bitter on so old and impersonal a topic, Naomi. It is the law of life that one must give, and one must take. That the emotions differ does not prove that one is better than the other."
Shattuck took a turn up and down the long room, not quite at ease with himself.
Mrs. Shattuck seemed to be thinking. As he passed her, he stopped, picked up her cushions, and re-arranged them about her, with an idle caress by the way, a kiss gently dropped on the inside of her white wrist.
She followed his every movement with a strange speculative look in her eyes, almost as if he were some new and strange animal that she was studying for the first time.
When she spoke again, it was to go on as if she had not been interrupted, "It seems to me that man comes out of a great passion just as good as new, while a woman is shattered—in a moral sense—and never fully recovers herself."
Shattuck's back was toward her when he replied. "Sorry to spoil any more illusions, dear child, but how about the long list of men who are annually ruined by it? The men in the prisons, the men who kill themselves, the men who hang for it?"
"Those are crimes. I am not talking of the criminal classes, but of the world in which normal people live."
"Our set," he laughed, "but that is not the whole world, alas!"
"I know that men—well bred, cultivated, refined, even honorable men,—seem to be able to repeat every emotion of life. A woman scales the heights but once. Hence it must depend, in the case of women capable of deep love—on the men whether the relation into which marriage betrays them be decent or indecent. What I should like to be able to discover is—what provision does either man or civilization propose to make for the woman whom Fate, in wanton irony, reduces, even in marriage, to the self-considered level of the girl in the street?"
There was amazement—even a foreboding—on Shattuck's face as he paused in his walk, and, for the first time speaking anxiously ejaculated, "I swear I don't follow you!"
She went on as if she had not been interrupted, as if she had something to say which had to be said, as if she were reasoning it out for herself: "Take my case. I don't claim that it is uncommon. I do claim that I was not the woman for the situation. I was an only child. My father's marriage had not been happy. I was brought up by a disappointed man on philosophy and pessimism."
"Old sceptics, and modern scoffers. I remember it well."
"Before I was out of my teens, I had imbibed a mistrust for all emotions. Perhaps you did not know that? You may have thought, because they were not all on the outside, that I had none. My poor father had hoped, with his teachings, to save me from future misery. He had probably thought to spare me the commonplace sorrows of love. But he could not."
"There is one thing, my child, that the passing generation cannot do for its heirs—live for them—luckily. Why, you might as well forbid a rose to blossom by word of mouth, as try to thwart nature in a beautiful healthy woman."
"It seems to me that to bring up a woman as I was brought up only prepares her to take the distemper the quicker."
"I do not remember that of you. But I do know that no woman was ever wooed as hotly as you were—or ever—I swear it—more ardently desired. No woman ever led a man the chase you led me. If ever in those days you were as anxious for my love as you have said you were this evening, no one would have guessed it, least of all I."
"My reason had already taught me that mine was but the common fate of all women: that life was demanding of me the usual tribute to posterity: that the sweetness of the emotion was Nature's trick to make it endurable. But according to Nature's eternal plan, my heart could not listen to my head—it beat so loud when you were by, it could not hear, perhaps. But there was something of my father's philosophy left in me, and when I was alone it would speak, and be heard, too. Even when I believed in you—because I wanted to—and half hoped that all my teaching was wrong, I made a bargain with myself. I told myself, quite calmly, that I knew perfectly well all the possibilities of the future. That if I went forward with you, I went forward deliberately with open eyes, knowing what, logically, I might expect to find in the future. Ignorance—that blissful comfort of so many women,—was denied me. Still, the spell of Nature was upon me, and for a time I dreamed that a depth of passionate love like mine, a life of loyal devotion might wrap one man round, and keep him safe—might in fact, work a miracle—and make one polygamous man monogamous. But, even while that hope was in my heart, reason rose up and mocked it, bidding me advance into the Future at my peril. I did it, but I made a bargain with myself, I agreed to abide the consequences—and to abide them calmly."
"And during all those days when I supposed we were so near together—you showed me nothing of this that was in your heart."
"Men and women know very rarely anything of the great struggles that go on in the hearts of one another. Besides, I knew how easily you would reply—naturally. We are all on the defensive in this life. It was with things deeper than words that I was dealing—the things one does—not says. Even in the early days of our engagement I knew that I was not as essential to you as you were to me. Life held other interests for you. Even the flattery of other women still had its charm for you. Young as I was, I said to myself: 'If you marry this man—with your eyes open—blame yourself, not him, if you suffer.' I do believe that I have been able to do that."
Shattuck was astride his chair again, his elbows on the back, his chin in his hands. He no longer responded. Words were dangerous. His lips were pressed close together, and there was a long deep line between his eyes.
"My love for you absorbed every other emotion of my life. But I seemed to lack some of the qualities that aid to reconcile other wives to life. I seemed to be without mother-love. My children were dear to me only because they were yours. The maternal passion, which in so many women is the absorbing emotion of life, was denied me. My children were to me merely the tribute to posterity which Life had demanded of me as the penalty of your love—nothing more. I must be singularly unfitted for marriage, because, when the hour came in which I felt that I was no longer your wife, your children seemed no longer mine. They merely represented the next generation—born of me. I know that this is very shocking. I have become used to it,—and, it is the truth. I have not blamed you, I could not—and be reasonable. No man can be other than Nature plans or permits, but how I have pitied myself! I have been through the tempest alone. In spite of reason,—in spite of philosophy—I have suffered from jealousy, from shame, from rage, from self contempt. But that is all past now."
She had not raised her voice, which seemed as without feeling as it was without emphasis. She carefully examined her handkerchief corner by corner, and he noticed for the first time how thin her hands had become.
"Naturally," she went on in that colorless voice, "my first impulse was to be done with life. But I could not bring myself to that, much as I desired it. It would have left you such a wretched memory of me. You could never have pardoned me the scandal—and I felt that I had at least the right to leave you a decent recollection of me."
Shattuck's head fell forward on his arms.—The idea of denial or protest did not occur to him.
The steady voice went monotonously on. "I could not bear to humble you in the eyes of others even by forcing you to face a scandal. I could not bear to humble you in your own eyes by letting you suspect that I knew the truth. I could not bring myself to disturb the outward respectability of your life by interrupting its outward calm. To be absolutely honest—though I had lost you, I could not bring myself to give you up,—as I felt I must, if I let any one discover—most of all you—what I knew. So, like a coward, I lived on, becoming gradually accustomed to the idea that my day was past, but knowing that the moment I was forced to speak, I would be forced to move on out of your life. Singularly enough, as I grew calm, I grew to respect this other woman. I could not blame her for loving you. I ended by admiring her. I had known her so well—she was such a proud woman! I looked back at my marriage and saw the affair as it really was. I had not sold myself to you exactly—I had loved you too much to bargain in that way; nevertheless, the marriage had been a bargain. In exchange for your promise to protect and provide for me,—to feed me, clothe me, share your fortune with me, and give me your name, I had given you myself,—openly sanctioned by the law, of course—I was too great a coward to have done it otherwise, in spite of the fact that the law gives that same permission to almost any one who asks for it."
"Naomi," he groaned from his covered mouth, "what ghastly philosophy."
"Isn't that the marriage law? How much better am I after all than the poor girl in the street, who is forced to it by misery? To be sure, I believe there is some farcical phrase in the bargain about promising to love none other,—a bare-faced attempt to outwit Nature,—at which Nature laughs. Yet this other woman, proud, high-minded, unselfish, hitherto above reproach, had given herself for love alone—with everything to lose and nothing to gain. I have come to doubt myself. I have had my day. For years it was an enviable one. No woman can hope for more. What right have I to stand in the way of another woman's happiness? A happiness no one can value better than I, who so long wore it in security. I bore my children in peace, with the divine consolation of your devotion about me. What right have I to deny another woman the same joy?"
Shattuck sprang to his feet.
"It's not true!" he gasped. "It's not true!"
The woman never even raised her eyes. She went on carefully inspecting the filmy bit of lace in her hands.
"It is true," she replied. "Never mind how I discovered it. I know it. That is why she has gone abroad alone. I did not speak until I had to. I am a coward, but not enough of one to bear the thought of her alone in a foreign country with mind and emotions clouded. I may be cowardly enough to wish that I had never found it out,—I am not coward enough to keep silent any longer."
A torrent of words rushed to the man's lips, but he was too wise to make excuses. Yet there were excuses. Any fair-minded judge would have said so. But he knew better than to think that for one moment they would be excuses in the mind of this woman. Besides, the first man's excuse for the first sin has never been viewed with much respect under the modern civilization.
He felt her slowly rise to her feet, and when he raised his head to look at her—not yet fully realizing what had happened to him—all emotion seemed to have become so foreign to her face, that he felt as if she were already a stranger to him.
She took a last look round the room. Her eyes seemed to devour every detail.
"I shall find means to give you your freedom at once."
"You will actually leave me—go away?"
"Can we two remain together now?"
"But your children?"
"Your children, Dick—I have forgotten that I have any. I have had my life. You have still yours to live."
She swept by him down the long room, everything in which was so closely associated with her. Before she reached the door, he was there—and his back against it. She stopped, but she did not look at him. If she could have read the truth in his face, it would have told her that she had never been loved as she was at that moment. All that she had been in her loyalty, her nobility, was so much a part of this man's life. What, compared to that, were petty sins, or big ones? He saw the past as a drowning man sees the panorama of his existence. Yet he knew that everything he could say would be powerless to move her.
It was useless to remind her of their happy years together. They could never be happy again with this between them. It would be equally useless to tell her that this other woman had known, but too well, that he would never desert his wife for her. Had he not betrayed her?
Of what use to tell her how he had repented his folly, that he could never understand it himself? There were the facts, and Nature, and his wife's philosophy against him.
And he had dared be gay the moment the steamer slid into the channel! Was that only this morning? It seemed to be in the last century.
She approached, and stretched her hand toward the door.
He did not move.
"Don't stop me," she pleaded. "Don't make it any harder than it is. Let me take with me the consolation of a decent life together—a decent life decently severed."
He made one last appeal—he opened his arms wide to her.
She shrank back with a shudder, crying out that he should spare her her own contempt—that he should leave her the power to seek peace—and her voice had such a tone of terror, as she recoiled from him, that he felt how powerless any protest would be.
He stepped aside.
Without looking at him she quickly opened the door and passed out.
* * * * *
The Divorcee nervously rolled up her manuscript.
The usual laugh was not forthcoming. No one dared. Men can't rough-house that kind of a woman.
After a moment's silence the Critic spoke up. "You were right to read that story. It is not the sort of thing that lends itself to narrating. Of course you might have acted it out, but you were wise not to."
"I can't help it—got to say it," said the Journalist: "What a horrid woman!"
The Divorcee looked at him in amazement. "How can you say that?" she exclaimed. "I thought I had made her so reasonable. Just what all women ought to be, and what none of us are."
"Thank God for that," said the Journalist. "I'd as lief live in a world created and run by George Bernard Shaw as in one where women were like that."
"Come, come," interrupted the Doctor, who had been eyeing her profile with a curious half amused expression, all through the reading: "Don't let us get on that subject to-night. A story is a story. You have asked, and you have received. None of you seem to really like any story but your own, and I must confess that among us, we are putting forth a strange baggage."
"On the contrary," said the Critic, "I think we are doing pretty well for a crowd of amateurs."
"You are not an amateur," laughed the Journalist, "and yours was the worst yet."
"I deny it," said the Critic. "Mine had real literary quality, and a very dramatic climax."
"Oh, well, if death is dramatic—perhaps. You are the only one up to date who has killed his heroine."
"No story is finished until the heroine is dead," said the Journalist. "This woman,—I'll bet she had another romance."
"Did she?" asked the Critic of the Divorcee, who was still nervously rolling her manuscript in both hands.
"I don't know. How should I? And if I did I shouldn't tell you. It isn't a true story, of course." And she rose from her chair and walked away into the moonlight.
"Do you mean to say," ejaculated the Violinist, who admired her tremendously, "that she made that up in the imagination she carries around under that pretty fluffy hair? I'd rather that it were true—that she had picked it up somewhere."
As we began to prepare to go in, the Doctor looked down the path to where the Divorcee was still standing. After a moment's hesitation he took her lace scarf from the back of her chair, and strolled after her. The Sculptor shrugged his shoulders with such a droll expression that we all had to smile. Then we went indoors.
"Well," said the Doctor, as he joined her—she told me about it afterwards—"was that the way it happened?"
"No, no," replied the Divorcee, petulantly. "That is not a bit the way it happened. That is the way I wish it had happened. Oh, no. I was brought up to believe in the proprietary rights in marriage, and I did what I thought became a womanly woman. I asserted my rights, and made a common or garden row."
The Doctor laughed, as she stamped her foot at him.
"Pardon—pardon," said he. "I was only going to say 'Thank God.' You know I like it best that way."
"I wish I had not told the old story," she said pettishly. "It serves me quite right. Now I suppose they've got all sorts of queer notions in their heads."
"Nonsense," said the Doctor. "All authors, you know, run the risk of getting mixed up in their romances—think of Charlotte Bronte."
"I'm not an author, and I am going to bed,—to repent of my folly," and she sailed into the house, leaving the Doctor gazing quizzically after her. Before she was out of hearing, he called to her: "I say, you haven't changed a bit since '92."
She heard but she did not answer.
THE LAWYER'S STORY
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING
THE TALE OF A BRIDE-ELECT
The next day we all hung about the garden, except the Youngster, who disappeared on his wheel early in the day, and only came back, hot and dusty, at tea-time. He waved a hand at us as he ran through the garden crying: "I'll change, and be with you in a moment," and leapt up the outside staircase that led to the gallery on which his room opened, and disappeared.
I found an opportunity to go up the other staircase a little later—the Youngster was an old pet of mine, and off and on, I had mothered him. I tapped at the door.
"Can't come in!" he cried.
"Where've you been?"
"Wait there a minute—and mum—. I'll tell you."
So I went and sat in the window looking down the road, until he came, spick and span in white flannels, with his head not yet dried from the douching he had taken.
"See here," he whispered, "I know you can keep a secret. Well, I've been out toward Cambrai—only sixty miles—and I am tuckered. There was a battle there last night—English driven back. They are only two days' march away, and oh! the sight on the roads. Don't let's talk of it."
In spite of myself, I expect I went white, for he exclaimed: "Darn it, I suppose I ought not to have told you. But I had to let off to some one. I don't want to tell the Doctor. In fact, he forbade my going again."
"Is it a real German victory?" I asked.
"If it isn't I don't know what you'd call it, though such of the English as I saw were in gay enough spirits, and there was not an atmosphere of defeat. Fact is—I kept out of sight and only got stray impressions. Go on down now, or they'll guess something. I'm not going to say a word—yet. Awful sorry now I told you. Force of habit."
I went down. I had hard work for a few minutes to throw the impression off. But the garden was lovely, and tea being over, we all busied ourselves in rifling the flowerbeds to dress the dinner table. If we were going in two days, where was the good of leaving the flowers to die alone? I don't suppose that it was strange that the table conversation was all reminiscent. We talked of the old days: of ourselves when we were boys and girls together: of old Papanti, and our first Cotillion, of Class Days, and, I remembered afterward, that not one of us talked of ourselves except in the days of our youth.
When the coffee came out, we looked about laughing to see which of the three of us left was to tell the story. The Lawyer coughed, tapped himself on his chest, and crossed his long legs.
* * * * *
It was a cold December afternoon.
The air was piercing.
There had been a slight fall of snow, then a sudden drop in the thermometer preceded nightfall.
Miss Moreland, wrapped in her furs, was standing on a street corner, looking in vain for a cab, and wondering, after all, why she had ventured out.
It was somewhat later than she had supposed, and she was just conventional enough, in spite of her pose to the exact contrary, to hope that none of her friends would pass. She knew her set well enough to know that it would cause something almost like a scandal if she were seen out alone, on foot, on the very eve of her wedding day, when all well bred brides ought to be invisible—repenting their sins, and praying for blessings on the future in theory, but in reality, fussing themselves ill over belated finery.
She had had for some years a number of poor protegees in the lower end of the city, which she had been accustomed to visit on work of a charitable nature begun when she was a school girl. She had found work enough to do there ever since.
It was work of which her father, a hard headed man of business, strongly disapproved, although he was ready enough to give his money. Jack was of her father's mind. She realized that when she returned from the three years' trip round the world, on which she was starting the day after her wedding, she would have other duties, and she knew it would be harder to oppose Jack,—and more dangerous—than it had been to oppose her father.
In this realization there was a touch of self-reproach. She knew, in her own heart, that she would be glad to do no more work of that sort. Experience had made her hopeless, and she had none of the spiritual support that made women like St. Catherine of Sienna. But, if experience had robbed her of her illusions, she knew, too, that it had set a seal of pain on all the future for her. She could never forget the misery she had seen. So it had been a little in a desire to give one more sop to her conscience, that she had dedicated her last afternoon to freedom to her friends in the very worst part of the town.
If her mother had remained at home, she would never have been allowed to go. All the more reason for returning in good season, and here it was dark! Worse still, the trip had been in every way unsuccessful. She had turned her face homeward, simply asking herself, as she had done so many times before, if it were "worth while," and answered the question once more with: "Neither to me nor to them." She had already learned, though too young for the lesson, that each individual works out his own salvation,—that neither moral nor physical growth ever works from the surface inward. Opportunity—she could perhaps give that in the future, but she was convinced that those who may give of themselves, and really help in the giving, are elected to the task by something more than the mere desire to serve. In her case the gift of her youth and her illusions had done others no real good, and had more or less saddened her life forever. If she were to really go on with the work, it would only be by giving up the world—her world,—abandoning her life, with its luxury, its love, everything she had been bred to, and longed for. She did not feel a call to do that, so she chose the existence to which she had been born; the love of a man in her own set,—but the shadow of too much knowledge sat on her like a shadow of fear.
She was impatient with herself, the world, living,—and there was no cab in sight.
She looked at her watch. Half past four.
It was foolish not to have driven over, but she had felt it absurd, always, to go about this kind of work in a private carriage, and to-day she could not, as she usually did, take a street car for fear of meeting friends. They thought her queer enough as it was.
An impatient ejaculation escaped her, and like an echo of it she heard a child's voice beside her.
She looked down.
It was a poor miserable specimen. At first she was not quite sure whether it were boy or girl.
Whimpering and mopping its nose with a very dirty hand, the child begged money for a sick mother—a dying mother—and begged as if not accustomed to it—all the time with an eye for that dread of New England beggars, the man in the blue coat and brass buttons.
Miss Moreland was so consciously irritated with life that she was unusually gentle. She stooped down. The child did not seem six years old. The face was not so very cunning. It was not ugly, either. It was merely the epitome of all that Miss Moreland tried to forget—the little one born without a chance in the world.
With a full appreciation of the child's fear of the police,—begging is a crime in many American towns—she carefully questioned her, watching for the dreaded officer herself.
It was the old story—a dying mother—no father—no one to do anything—a child sent out to cunningly defy the law, but it seemed to be only for bread.
Obviously the thing to do was to deliver the child up to the police. It would be at once properly cared for, and the mother also.
But Miss Moreland knew too much of official charity to be guilty of that.
The easiest thing was to give her money. But, unluckily, she belonged to a society pledged not to give alms in the streets, and her sense of the power of a moral obligation was a strong notion of duty, which had descended to her from her Puritan ancestors. There was one thing left to do.
"Do you know Chardon Street?" she asked.
The child nodded.
There was a flower shop on the corner. She led the child across to it, entered, and asked for an envelope. She wrote a few lines on a card, enclosed it and sealed the envelope. Then she went out to the side-walk again with the child. Stooping over her she made sure that the little one really did know the street. "It isn't far from here," she said. "Give that to any one there, and somebody will go right home with you to see your mother, to warm you, you poor little mite, and feed you, and make you quite happy."