Infomotions, Inc.The Grain of Dust / Phillips, David Graham, 1867-1911



Author: Phillips, David Graham, 1867-1911
Title: The Grain of Dust
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): tetlow; norman; josephine; miss hallowell
Contributor(s): Rudder, Robert [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 98,214 words (short) Grade range: 6-9 (grade school) Readability score: 71 (easy)
Identifier: etext430
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Title: The Grain Of Dust
       A Novel

Author: David Graham Phillips

Release Date: December 15, 2004 [EBook #430]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE GRAIN OF DUST ***




Produced by Charles Keller and David Garcia





[Illustration: "'I will teach you to love me,' he cried."]





THE GRAIN OF DUST


_A NOVEL_


BY DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS


ILLUSTRATED BY A.B. WENZELL

1911




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"'I will teach you to love he,' he cried"

"'You won't make an out-and-out idiot of yourself, will you Ursula?'"

"'Would you like to think I was marrying you for what you have?--or for
any other reason whatever but for what you are?'"

"'It has killed me,' he groaned."

"She glanced complacently down at her softly glistening shoulders."

"'Father . . . I have asked you not to interfere between Fred and me.'"

"Evidently she had been crying."

"At Josephine's right sat a handsome young foreigner."




THE GRAIN OF DUST




I


Into the offices of Lockyer, Sanders, Benchley, Lockyer & Norman,
corporation lawyers, there drifted on a December afternoon a girl in
search of work at stenography and typewriting. The firm was about the
most important and most famous--radical orators often said infamous--in
New York. The girl seemed, at a glance, about as unimportant and obscure
an atom as the city hid in its vast ferment. She was blonde--tawny hair,
fair skin, blue eyes. Aside from this hardly conclusive mark of identity
there was nothing positive, nothing definite, about her. She was neither
tall nor short, neither fat nor thin, neither grave nor gay. She gave
the impression of a young person of the feminine gender--that, and
nothing more. She was plainly dressed, like thousands of other girls,
in darkish blue jacket and skirt and white shirt waist. Her boots and
gloves were neat, her hair simply and well arranged. Perhaps in these
respects--in neatness and taste--she did excel the average, which is
depressingly low. But in a city where more or less strikingly pretty
women, bent upon being seen, are as plentiful as the blackberries of
Kentucky's July--in New York no one would have given her a second look,
this quiet young woman screened in an atmosphere of self-effacement.

She applied to the head clerk. It so happened that need for another
typewriter had just arisen. She got a trial, showed enough skill to
warrant the modest wage of ten dollars a week; she became part of the
office force of twenty or twenty-five young men and women similarly
employed. As her lack of skill was compensated by industry and
regularity, she would have a job so long as business did not slacken.
When it did, she would be among the first to be let go. She shrank into
her obscure niche in the great firm, came and went in mouse-like
fashion, said little, obtruded herself never, was all but forgotten.

Nothing could have been more commonplace, more trivial than the whole
incident. The name of the girl was Hallowell--Miss Hallowell. On the
chief clerk's pay roll appeared the additional information that her
first name was Dorothea. The head office boy, in one of his occasional
spells of "freshness," addressed her as Miss Dottie. She looked at him
with a puzzled expression; it presently changed to a slight, sweet
smile, and she went about her business. There was no rebuke in her
manner, she was far too self-effacing for anything so positive as the
mildest rebuke. But the head office boy blushed awkwardly--why he did
not know and could not discover, though he often cogitated upon it. She
remained Miss Hallowell.

Opposites suggest each other. The dimmest personality in those offices
was the girl whose name imaged to everyone little more than a pencil,
notebook, and typewriting machine. The vividest personality was
Frederick Norman. In the list of names upon the outer doors of the
firm's vast labyrinthine suite, on the seventeenth floor of the
Syndicate Building, his name came last--and, in the newest lettering,
suggesting recentness of partnership. In age he was the youngest of the
partners. Lockyer was archaic, Sanders an antique; Benchley, actually
only about fifty-five, had the air of one born in the grandfather class.
Lockyer the son dyed his hair and affected jauntiness, but was in fact
not many years younger than Benchley and had the stiffening jerky legs
of one paying for a lively youth. Norman was thirty-seven--at the age
the Greeks extolled as divine because it means all the best of youth
combined with all the best of manhood. Some people thought Norman
younger, almost boyish. Those knew him uptown only, where he hid the man
of affairs beneath the man of the world-that-amuses-itself. Some people
thought he looked, and was, older than the age with which the
biographical notices credited him. They knew him down town only--where
he dominated by sheer force of intellect and will.

As has been said, the firm ranked among the greatest in New York.
It was a trusted counselor in large affairs--commercial, financial,
political--in all parts of America, in all parts of the globe, for many
of its clients were international traffickers. Yet this young man, this
youngest and most recent of the partners, had within the month forced a
reorganization of the firm--or, rather, of its profits--on a basis that
gave him no less than one half of the whole.

His demand threw his four associates into paroxysms of rage and
fear--the fear serving as a wholesome antidote to the rage.

It certainly was infuriating that a youth, admitted to partnership
barely three years ago, should thus maltreat his associates. Ingrate
was precisely the epithet for him. At least, so they honestly thought,
after the quaint human fashion; for, because they had given him the
partnership, they looked on themselves as his benefactors, and neglected
as unimportant detail the sole and entirely selfish reason for their
graciousness. But enraged though these worthy gentlemen were, and
eagerly though they longed to treat the "conceited and grasping upstart"
as he richly deserved, they accepted his ultimatum. Even the venerable
and venerated Lockyer--than whom a more convinced self-deceiver on the
subject of his own virtues never wore white whiskers, black garments,
and the other badges of eminent respectability--even old Joseph Lockyer
could not twist the acceptance into another manifestation of the
benevolence of himself and his associates. They had to stare the
grimacing truth straight in the face; they were yielding because they
dared not refuse. To refuse would mean the departure of Norman with the
firm's most profitable business. It costs heavily to live in New York;
the families of successful men are extravagant; so conduct unbecoming a
gentleman may not there be resented if to resent is to cut down one's
income. The time was, as the dignified and nicely honorable Sanders
observed, when these and many similar low standards did not prevail in
the legal profession. But such is the frailty of human nature--or so
savage the pressure of the need of the material necessities of civilized
life, let a profession become profitable or develop possibilities of
profit--even the profession of statesman, even that of lawyer--or
doctor--or priest--or wife--and straightway it begins to tumble down
toward the brawl and stew of the market place.

In a last effort to rouse the gentleman in Norman or to shame him into
pretense of gentlemanliness, Lockyer expostulated with him like a
prophet priest in full panoply of saintly virtue. And Lockyer was
passing good at that exalted gesture. He was a Websterian figure,
with the venality of the great Daniel in all its pompous dignity
modernized--and correspondingly expanded. He abounded in those idealist
sonorosities that are the stock-in-trade of all solemn old-fashioned
frauds. The young man listened with his wonted attentive courtesy until
the dolorous appeal disguised as fatherly counsel came to an end. Then
in his blue-gray eyes appeared the gleam that revealed the tenacity and
the penetration of his mind. He said:

"Mr. Lockyer, you have been absent six years--except an occasional two
or three weeks--absent as American Ambassador to France. You have done
nothing for the firm in that time. Yet you have not scorned to take
profits you did not earn. Why should I scorn to take profits I do earn?"

Mr. Lockyer shook his picturesque head in sad remonstrance at this
vulgar, coarse, but latterly frequent retort of insurgent democracy upon
indignant aristocracy. But he answered nothing.

"Also," proceeded the graceless youth in the clear and concise way that
won the instant attention of juries and Judges, "also, our profession
is no longer a profession but a business." His humorous eyes twinkled
merrily. "It divides into two parts--teaching capitalists how to loot
without being caught, and teaching them how to get off if by chance
they have been caught. There are other branches of the profession, but
they're not lucrative, so we do not practice them. Do I make myself
clear?"

Mr. Lockyer again shook his head and sighed.

"I am not an Utopian," continued young Norman. "Law and custom
permit--not to say sanctify--our sort of business. So--I do my best. But
I shall not conceal from you that it's distasteful to me. I wish to get
out of it. I shall get out as soon as I've made enough capital to assure
me the income I have and need. Naturally, I wish to gather in the
necessary amount as speedily as possible."

"Fred, my boy, I regret that you take such low views of our noble
profession."

"Yes--as a profession it is noble. But not as a practice. _My_ regret is
that it invites and compels such low views."

"You will look at these things more--more mellowly when you are older."

"I doubt if I'll ever rise very high in the art of self-deception,"
replied Norman. "If I'd had any bent that way I'd not have got so far so
quickly."

It was a boastful remark--of a kind he, and other similar young men,
have the habit of making. But from him it did not sound boastful--simply
a frank and timely expression of an indisputable truth, which indeed it
was. Once more Mr. Lockyer sighed. "I see you are incorrigible," said
he.

"I have not acted without reflection," said Norman.

And Lockyer knew that to persist was simply to endanger his dignity.
"I am getting old," said he. "Indeed, I am old. I have gotten into the
habit of leaning on you, my boy. I can't consent to your going, hard
though you make it for us to keep you. I shall try to persuade our
colleagues to accept your terms."

Norman showed neither appreciation nor triumph. He merely bowed
slightly. And so the matter was settled. Instead of moving into the
suite of offices in the Mills Building on which he had taken an option,
young Norman remained where he had been toiling for twelve years.

After this specimen of Norman's quality, no one will be surprised to
learn that in figure he was one of those solidly built men of medium
height who look as if they were made to sustain and to deliver shocks,
to bear up easily under heavy burdens; or that his head thickly covered
with fairish hair, was hatchet-shaped with the helve or face suggesting
that while it could and would cleave any obstacle, it would wear a merry
if somewhat sardonic smile the while. No one had ever seen Norman angry,
though a few persevering offenders against what he regarded as his
rights had felt the results of swift and powerful action of the same
sort that is usually accompanied--and weakened--by outward show of
anger. Invariably good-humored, he was soon seen to be more dangerous
than the men of flaring temper. In most instances good humor of
thus unbreakable species issues from weakness, from a desire to
conciliate--usually with a view to plucking the more easily. Norman's
good humor arose from a sense of absolute security which in turn was the
product of confidence in himself and amiable disdain for his fellow men.
The masses he held in derision for permitting the classes to rule and
rob and spit upon them. The classes he scorned for caring to occupy
themselves with so cheap and sordid a game as the ruling, robbing, and
spitting aforesaid. Coming down to the specific, he despised men as
individuals because he had always found in each and everyone of them a
weakness that made it easy for him to use them as he pleased.

Not an altogether pleasant character, this. But not so unpleasant as it
may seem to those unable impartially to analyze human character, even
their own--especially their own. And let anyone who is disposed to
condemn Norman first look within himself--in some less hypocritical and
self-deceiving moment, if he have such moments--and let him note what
are the qualities he relies upon and uses in his own struggle to save
himself from being submerged and sunk. Further, there were in Norman
many agreeable qualities, important, but less fundamental, therefore
less deep-hidden--therefore generally regarded as the real man and as
the cause of his success in which they in fact had almost no part. He
was, for example, of striking physical appearance, was attractively
dressed and mannered, was prodigally generous. Neither as lawyer nor as
man did he practice justice. But while as lawyer he practiced injustice,
as man he practiced mercy. Whenever a weakling appealed to him for
protection, he gave it--at times with splendid recklessness as to the
cost to himself in antagonisms and enmities. Indeed, so great were
the generosities of his character that, had he not been arrogant,
disdainful, self-confident, resolutely and single-heartedly ambitious,
he must inevitably have ruined himself--if he had ever been able to rise
high enough to be worthy the dignity of catastrophe.

Successful men are usually trying persons to know well. Lambs, asses,
and chickens do not associate happily with lions, wolves, and hawks--nor
do birds and beasts of prey get on well with one another. Norman was
regarded as "difficult" by his friends--by those of them who happened to
get into the path of his ambition, in front of instead of behind him,
and by those who fell into the not unnatural error of misunderstanding
his good nature and presuming upon it. His clients regarded him as
insolent. The big businesses, seeking the rich spoils of commerce,
frequent highly perilous waters. They need skillful pilots. Usually
these lawyer-pilots "know their place" and put on no airs upon the
quarter-deck while they are temporarily in command. Not so Norman. He
took the full rank, authority--and emoluments--of commander. And as his
power, fame, and income were swiftly growing, it is fair to assume that
he knew what he was about.

He was admired--extravagantly admired--by young men with not too broad a
vein of envy. He was no woman hater--anything but that. Indeed, those
who wished him ill had from time to time hoped to see him tumble down,
through miscalculation in some of his audacities with women. No--he did
not hate women. But there were several women who hated him--or tried to;
and if wounded vanity and baffled machination be admitted as just causes
for hatred, they had cause. He liked--but he did not wholly trust. When
he went to sleep, it was not where Delilah could wield the shears. A
most irritating prudence--irritating to friends and intimates of all
degrees and kinds, in a race of beings with a mania for being trusted
implicitly but with no balancing mania for deserving trust of the
implicit variety.

And he ate hugely--and whatever he pleased. He could drink beyond
belief, all sorts of things, with no apparent ill effect upon either
body or brain. He had all the appetites developed abnormally, and
abnormal capacity for gratifying them. Where there was one man who
envied him his eminence, there were a dozen who envied him his physical
capacities. We cannot live and act without doing mischief, as well as
that which most of us would rather do, provided that in the doing we are
not ourselves undone. Probably in no direction did Norman do so much
mischief as in unconsciously leading men of his sets down town and up to
imitate his colossal dissipations--which were not dissipation for him
who was abnormal.

Withal, he was a monster for work. There is not much truth in men's
unending talk of how hard they work or are worked. The ravages from
their indulgences in smoking, drinking, gallantry, eating too much and
too fast and too often, have to be explained away creditably, to
themselves and to others--notably to the wives or mothers who nurse them
and suffer from their diminishing incomes. Hence the wailing about work.
But once in a while a real worker appears--a man with enormous ingenuity
at devising difficult tasks for himself and with enormous persistence in
doing them. Frederick Norman was one of these blue-moon prodigies.

Obviously, such a man could not but be observed and talked about.
Endless stories, some of them more or less true, most of them
apocryphal, were told of him--stories of his shrewd, unexpected moves in
big cases, of his witty retorts, of his generosities, of his
peculiarities of dress, of eating and drinking; stories of his
adventures with women. Whatever he did, however trivial, took color and
charm from his personality, so easy yet so difficult, so simple yet so
complex, so baffling. Was he wholly selfish? Was he a friend to almost
anybody or to nobody? Did he ever love? No one knew, not even himself,
for life interested him too intensely and too incessantly to leave him
time for self-analysis. One thing he was certain of; he hated nobody,
envied nobody. He was too successful for that.

He did as he pleased. And, on the whole, he pleased to do far less
inconsiderately than his desires, his abilities, and his opportunities
tempted. Have not men been acclaimed good for less?

In the offices, where he was canvased daily by partners, clerks,
everyone down to the cleaners whose labors he so often delayed, opinion
varied from day to day. They worshiped him; they hated him. They loved
him; they feared him. They regarded him as more than human, as less than
human; but never as just human--though always as endowed with fine human
virtues and even finer human weaknesses. Miss Tillotson, next to the
head clerk in rank and pay--and a pretty and pushing young
person--dreamed of getting acquainted with him--really well acquainted.
It was a vain dream. For him, between up town and down town a great gulf
was fixed. Also, he had no interest in or ammunition for sparrows.

It was in December that Miss Hallowell--Miss Dorothea Hallowell--got her
temporary place at ten dollars a week--that obscure event, somewhat like
a field mouse taking quarters in a horizon-bounded grain field. It was
not until mid-February that she, the palest of personalities, came into
direct contact with Norman, about the most refulgent. This is how it
happened.

Late in that February afternoon, an hour or more after the last of the
office force should have left, Norman threw open the door of his private
office and glanced round at the rows on rows of desks. The lights in the
big room were on, apparently only because he was still within. With an
exclamation of disappointment he turned to re-enter his office. He heard
the click of typewriter keys. Again he looked round, but could see no
one.

"Isn't there some one here?" he cried. "Don't I hear a typewriter?"

The noise stopped. There was a slight rustling from a far corner, beyond
his view, and presently he saw advancing a slim and shrinking slip of a
girl with a face that impressed him only as small and insignificant. In
a quiet little voice she said, "Yes, sir. Do you wish anything?"

"Why, what are you doing here?" he asked. "I don't think I've ever seen
you before."

"Yes. I took dictation from you several times," replied she.

He was instantly afraid he might have hurt her feelings, and he, who in
the days when he was far, far less than now, had often suffered from
that commonplace form of brutality, was most careful not to commit it.
"I never know what's going on round me when I'm thinking," explained he,
though he was saying to himself that the next time he would probably
again be unable to remember one with nothing distinctive to fix
identity. "You are--Miss----?"

"Miss Hallowell."

"How do you happen to be here? I've given particular instructions that
no one is ever to be detained after hours."

A little color appeared in the pale, small face--and now he saw that she
had a singularly fair and smooth skin, singularly beautiful--and he
wondered why he had not noticed it before. Being a close observer, he
had long ago noted and learned to appreciate the wonders of that most
amazing of tissues, the human skin; and he had come to be a connoisseur.
"I'm staying of my own accord," said she.

"They ought not to give you so much work," said he. "I'll speak about
it."

Into the small face came the look of the frightened child--a fascinating
look. And suddenly he saw that she had lovely eyes, clear, expressive,
innocent. "Please don't," she pleaded, in the gentle quiet voice. "It
isn't overwork. I did a brief so badly that I was ashamed to hand it in.
I'm doing it again."

He laughed, and a fine frank laugh he had when he was in the mood.
At once a smile lighted up her face, danced in her eyes, hovered
bewitchingly about her lips--and he wondered why he had not at first
glance noted how sweet and charmingly fresh her mouth was. "Why, she's
beautiful," he said to himself, the manly man's inevitable interest
in feminine charm wide awake. "Really beautiful. If she had a
figure--and were tall--" As he thought thus, he glanced at her figure.
A figure? Tall? She certainly was tall--no, she wasn't--yes, she
was. No, not tall from head to foot, but with the most captivating
long lines--long throat, long bust, long arms, long in body and in
legs--long and slender--yet somehow not tall. He--all this took but an
instant--returned his glance to her face. He was startled. The beauty
had fled, leaving not a trace behind. Before him wavered once more a
small insignificance. Even her skin now seemed commonplace.

She was saying, "Did you wish me to do something?"

"Yes--a letter. Come in," he said abruptly.

Once more the business in hand took possession of his mind. He became
unconscious of her presence. He dictated slowly, carefully choosing his
words, for perhaps a quarter of an hour. Then he stopped and paced up
and down, revolving a new idea, a new phase of the business, that had
flashed upon him. When he had his thoughts once more in form he turned
toward the girl, the mere machine. He gazed at her in amazement. When he
had last looked, he had seen an uninteresting nonentity. But that was
not this person, seated before him in the same garments and with the
same general blondness. That person had been a girl. This time the
transformation was not into the sweet innocence of lovely childhood, but
into something incredibly different. He was gazing now at a woman, a
beautiful world-weary woman, one who had known the joys and then the
sorrows of life and love. Heavy were the lids of the large eyes gazing
mournfully into infinity--gazing upon the graves of a life, the long,
long vista of buried joys. Never had he seen anything so sad or so
lovely as her mouth. The soft, smooth skin was not merely pale; its
pallor was that of wakeful nights, of weeping until there were no more
tears to drain away.

"Miss Hallowell--" he began.

She startled; and like the flight of an interrupted dream, the woman he
had been seeing vanished. There sat the commonplace young person he had
first seen. He said to himself: "I must be a little off my base
to-night," and went on with the dictation. When he finished she withdrew
to transcribe the letter on the typewriter. He seated himself at his
desk and plunged into the masses of documents. He lost the sense of his
surroundings until she stood beside him holding the typewritten pages.
He did not glance up, but seized the sheets to read and sign.

"You may go," said he. "I am very much obliged to you." And he
contrived, as always, to put a suggestion of genuineness into the
customary phrase.

"I'm afraid it's not good work," said she. "I'll wait to see if I am to
do any of it over."

"No, thank you," said he. And he looked up--to find himself gazing at
still another person, wholly different from any he had seen before. The
others had all been women--womanly women, full of the weakness, the
delicateness rather, that distinguishes the feminine. This woman he was
looking at now had a look of strength. He had thought her frail. He was
seeing a strong woman--a splendidly healthy body, with sinews of steel
most gracefully covered by that fair smooth skin of hers. And her
features, too--why, this girl was a person of character, of will.

He glanced through the pages. "All right--thank you," he said hastily.
"Please don't stay any longer. Leave the other thing till to-morrow."

"No--it has to be done to-night."

"But I insist upon your going."

She hesitated, said quietly, "Very well," and turned to go.

"And you mustn't do it at home, either."

She made no reply, but waited respectfully until it was evident he
wished to say no more, then went out. He bundled together his papers,
sealed and stamped and addressed his letter, put on his overcoat and hat
and crossed the outer office on his way to the door. It was empty; she
was gone. He descended in the elevator to the street, remembered that he
had not locked one of his private cases, returned. As he opened the
outer door he heard the sound of typewriter keys. In the corner, the
obscure, sheltered corner, sat the girl, bent with childlike gravity
over her typewriter. It was an amusing and a touching sight--she looked
so young and so solemnly in earnest.

"Didn't I tell you to go home?" he called out, with mock sternness.

Up she sprang, her hand upon her heart. And once more she was beautiful,
but once more it was in a way startlingly, unbelievably different from
any expression he had seen before.

"Now, really. Miss--" He had forgotten her name. "You must not stay on
here. We aren't such slave drivers as all that. Go home, please. I'll
take the responsibility."

She had recovered her equanimity. In her quiet, gentle voice--but it no
longer sounded weak or insignificant--she said, "You are very kind, Mr.
Norman. But I must finish my work."

"Haven't I said I'd take the blame?"

"But you can't," replied she. "I work badly. I seem to learn slowly. If
I fall behind, I shall lose my place--sooner or later. It was that way
with the last place I had. If you interfered, you'd only injure me. I've
had experience. And--I must not lose my place."

One of the scrub women thrust her mussy head and ragged, shapeless body
in at the door. With a start Norman awoke to the absurdity of his
situation--and to the fact that he was placing the girl in a
compromising position. He shrugged his shoulders, went in and locked the
cabinet, departed.

"What a queer little insignificance she is!" thought he, and dismissed
her from mind.




II


Many and fantastic are the illusions the human animal, in its ignorance
and its optimism, devises to change life from a pleasant journey along a
plain road into a fumbling and stumbling and struggling about in a fog.
Of these hallucinations the most grotesque is that the weak can come
together, can pass a law to curb the strong, can set one of their number
to enforce it, may then disperse with no occasion further to trouble
about the strong. Every line of every page of history tells how the
strong--the nimble-witted, the farsighted, the ambitious--have worked
their will upon their feebler and less purposeful fellow men, regardless
of any and all precautions to the contrary. Conditions have improved
only because the number of the strong has increased. With so many lions
at war with each other not a few rabbits contrive to avoid perishing in
the nest.

Norman's genius lay in ability to take away from an adversary the legal
weapons implicitly relied upon and to arm his client with them. No man
understood better than he the abysmal distinction between law and
justice; no man knew better than he how to compel--or to assist--courts
to apply the law, so just in the general, to promoting injustice in the
particular. And whenever he permitted conscience a voice in his internal
debates--it was not often--he heard from it its usual servile
approbation: How can the reign of justice be more speedily brought about
than by making the reign of law--lawyer law--intolerable?

About a fortnight after the trifling incident related in the previous
chapter, Norman had to devise a secret agreement among several of the
most eminent of his clients. They wished to band together, to do a thing
expressly forbidden by the law; they wished to conspire to lower wages
and raise prices in several railway systems under their control. But
none would trust the others; so there must be something in writing, laid
away in a secret safety deposit box along with sundry bundles of
securities put up as forfeit, all in the custody of Norman. When he had
worked out in his mind and in fragmentary notes the details of their
agreement, he was ready for some one to do the clerical work. The some
one must be absolutely trustworthy, as the plain language of the
agreement would make clear to the dullest mind dazzling opportunities
for profit--not only in stock jobbing but also in blackmail. He rang for
Tetlow, the head clerk. Tetlow--smooth and sly and smug, lacking only
courageous initiative to make him a great lawyer, but, lacking that,
lacking all--Tetlow entered and closed the door behind him.

Norman leaned back in his desk chair and laced his fingers behind his
head. "One of your typewriters is a slight blonde girl--sits in the
corner to the far left--if she's still here."

"Miss Hallowell," said Tetlow. "We are letting her go at the end of this
week. She's nice and ladylike, and willing--in fact, most anxious to
please. But the work's too difficult for her. She's rather--rather--well,
not exactly stupid, but slow."

"Um," said Norman reflectively. "There's Miss Bostwick--perhaps she'll
do."

"Miss Bostwick got married last week."

Norman smiled. He remembered the girl because she was the oldest and
homeliest in the office. "There's somebody for everybody--eh, Tetlow?"

"He was a lighthouse keeper," said Tetlow. "There's a story that he
advertised for a wife. But that may be a joke."

"Why not that Miss--Miss Halloway?" mused Norman.

"Miss Hallowell," corrected Tetlow.

"Hallowell--yes. Is she--_very_ incompetent?

"Not exactly that. But business is slackening--and she's been only
temporary--and----"

Norman cut him off with, "Send her in."

"You don't wish her dismissed? I haven't told her yet."

"Oh, I'm not interfering in your department. Do as you like. . . .
No--in this case--let her stay on for the present."

"I can use her," said Tetlow. "And she gets only ten a week."

Norman frowned. He did not like to _hear_ that an establishment in which
he had control paid less than decent living wages--even if the market
price did excuse--yes, compel it. "Send her in," he repeated. Then, as
Tetlow was about to leave, "She is trustworthy?"

"All our force is. I see to that, Mr. Norman."

"Has she a young man--steady company, I think they call it?"

"She has no friends at all. She's extremely shy--at least, reserved.
Lives with her father, an old crank of an analytical chemist over in
Jersey City. She hasn't even a lady friend."

"Well, send her in."

A moment later Norman, looking up from his work, saw the dim slim
nonentity before him. Again he leaned back and, as he talked with her,
studied her face to make sure that his first judgment was correct. "Do
you stay late every night?" asked he smilingly.

She colored a little, but enough to bring out the exquisite fineness of
her white skin. "Oh, I don't mind," said she, and there was no
embarrassment in her manner. "I've got to learn--and doing things over
helps."

"Nothing equal to it," declared Norman. "You've been to school?"

"Only six weeks," confessed she. "I couldn't afford to stay longer."

"I mean the other sort of school--not the typewriting."

"Oh! Yes," said she. And once more he saw that extraordinary
transformation. She became all in an instant delicately, deliciously
lovely, with the moving, in a way pathetic loveliness of sweet children
and sweet flowers. Her look was mystery; but not a mystery of guile. She
evidently did not wish to have her past brought to view; but it was
equally apparent that behind it lay hid nothing shameful, only the sad,
perhaps the painful. Of all the periods of life youth is the best fitted
to bear deep sorrows, for then the spirit has its full measure of
elasticity. Yet a shadow upon youth is always more moving than the
shadows of maturer years--those shadows that do not lie upon the surface
but are heavy and corroding stains. When Norman saw this shadow upon her
youth, so immature-looking, so helpless-looking, he felt the first
impulse of genuine interest in her. Perhaps, had that shadow happened to
fall when he was seeing her as the commonplace and colorless little
struggler for bread, and seeming doomed speedily to be worsted in the
struggle--perhaps, he would have felt no interest, but only the brief
qualm of pity that we dare not encourage in ourselves, on a journey so
beset with hopeless pitiful things as is the journey through life.

But he had no impulse to question her. And with some surprise he noted
that his reason for refraining was not the usual reason--unwillingness
uselessly to add to one's own burdens by inviting the mournful
confidences of another. No, he checked himself because in the manner of
this frail and mouselike creature, dim though she once more was, there
appeared a dignity, a reserve, that made intrusion curiously impossible.
With an apologetic note in his voice--a kind and friendly voice--he
said:

"Please have your typewriter brought in here. I want you to do some work
for me--work that isn't to be spoken of--not even to Mr. Tetlow." He
looked at her with grave penetrating eyes. "You will not speak of it?"

"No," replied she, and nothing more. But she accompanied the simple
negative with a clear and honest sincerity of the eyes that set his mind
completely at rest. He felt that this girl had never in her life told a
real lie.

One of the office boys installed the typewriter, and presently Norman
and the quiet nebulous girl at whom no one would trouble to look a
second time were seated opposite each other with the broad table desk
between, he leaning far back in his desk chair, fingers interlocked
behind his proud, strong-looking head, she holding sharpened pencil
suspended over the stenographic notebook. Long before she seated herself
he had forgotten her except as machine. There followed a troubled hour,
as he dictated, ordered erasure, redictated, ordered re-readings,
skipped back and forth, in the effort to frame the secret agreement in
the fewest and simplest, and least startlingly unlawful, words. At last
he leaned forward with the shine of triumph in his eyes.

"Read straight through," he commanded.

She read, interrupted occasionally by a sharp order from him to correct
some mistake in her notes.

"Again," he commanded, when she translated the last of her notes.

This time she was not interrupted once. When she ended, he exclaimed:
"Good! I don't see how you did it so well."

"Nor do I," said she.

"You say you are only a beginner."

"I couldn't have done it so well for anyone else," said she. "You
are--different."

The remark was worded most flatteringly, but it did not sound so. He saw
that she did not herself understand what she meant by "different." _He_
understood, for he knew the difference between the confused and
confusing ordinary minds and such an intelligence as his own--simple,
luminous, enlightening all minds, however dark, so long as they were in
the light-flooded region around it.

"Have I made the meaning clear?" he asked.

He hoped she would reply that he had not, though this would have
indicated a partial defeat in the object he had--to put the complex
thing so plainly that no one could fail to understand. But she answered,
"Yes."

He congratulated himself that his overestimate of her ignorance of
affairs had not lured him into giving her the names of the parties at
interest to transcribe. But did she really understand? To test her, he
said:

"What do you think of it?"

"That it's wicked," replied she, without hesitation and in her small,
quiet voice.

He laughed. In a way this girl, sitting there--this inconsequential and
negligible atom--typefied the masses of mankind against whom that secret
agreement was directed. They, the feeble and powerless ones, with their
necks ever bent under the yoke of the mighty and their feet ever
stumbling into the traps of the crafty--they, too, would utter an
impotent "Wicked!" if they knew. His voice had the note of gentle
raillery in it as he said:

"No--not wicked. Just business."

She was looking down at her book, her face expressionless. A few moments
before he would have said it was an empty face. Now it seemed to him
sphynxlike.

"Just business," he repeated. "It is going to take money from those who
don't know how to keep or to spend it and give it to those who do know
how. The money will go for building up civilization, instead of for beer
and for bargain-trough finery to make working men's wives and daughters
look cheap and nasty."

She was silent.

"Now, do you understand?"

"I understand what you said." She looked at him as she spoke. He
wondered how he could have fancied those lack-luster eyes beautiful or
capable of expression.

"You don't believe it?" he asked.

"No," said she. And suddenly in those eyes, gazing now into space, there
came the unutterably melancholy look--heavy-lidded from heartache,
weary-wise from long, long and bitter, experiences. Yet she still looked
young--girlishly young--but it was the youthful look the classic Greek
sculptors tried to give their young goddesses--the youth without
beginning or end--younger than a baby's, older than the oldest of the
sons of men. He mocked himself for the fancies this queer creature
inspired in him; but she none the less made him uneasy.

"You don't believe it?" he repeated.

"No," she answered again. "My father has taught me--some things."

He drummed impatiently on the table. He resented her impertinence--for,
like all men of clear and positive mind, he regarded contradiction as in
one aspect impudent, in another aspect evidence of the folly of his
contradictor. Then he gave a short laugh--the confessing laugh of the
clever man who has tried to believe his own sophistries and has failed.
"Well--neither do I believe it," said he. "Now, to get the thing
typewritten."

She seated herself at the machine and set to work. As his mind was full
of the agreement he could not concentrate on anything else. From time to
time he glanced at her. Then he gave up trying to work and sat furtively
observing her. What a quaint little mystery it was! There was in
it--that is, in her--not the least charm for him. But, in all his
experience with women, he could recall no woman with a comparable
development of this curious quality of multiple personalities, showing
and vanishing in swift succession.

There had been a time when woman had interested him as a puzzle to be
worked out, a maze to be explored, a temple to be penetrated--until one
reached the place where the priests manipulated the machinery for the
wonders and miracles to fool the devotees into awe. Some men never get
to this stage, never realize that their own passions, working upon the
universal human love of the mysterious, are wholly responsible for the
cult of woman the sphynx and the sibyl. But Norman, beloved of women,
had been let by them into their ultimate secret--the simple humanness of
woman; the clap-trappery of the oracles, miracles, and wonders. He had
discovered that her "divine intuitions" were mere shrewd guesses, where
they had any meaning at all; that her eloquent silences were screens for
ignorance or boredom--and so on through the list of legends that prop
the feminist cult.

But this girl--this Miss Hallowell--here was a tangible mystery--a
mystery of physics, of chemistry. He sat watching her--watching the
changes as she bent to her work, or relaxed, or puzzled over the meaning
of one of her own hesitating stenographic hieroglyphics--watched her as
the waning light of the afternoon varied its intensity upon her skin.
Why, her very hair partook of this magical quality and altered its tint,
its degree of vitality even, in harmony with the other changes. . . . What
was the explanation? By means of what rare mechanism did her nerve force
ebb and flow from moment to moment, bringing about these fascinating
surface changes in her body? Could anything, even any skin, be better
made than that superb skin of hers--that master work of delicacy and
strength, of smoothness and color? How had it been possible for him to
fail to notice it, when he was always looking for signs of a good skin
down town--and up town, too--in these days of the ravages of pastry and
candy? . . . What long graceful fingers she had--yet what small hands!
Certainly here was a peculiarity that persisted. No--absurd though it
seemed, no! One way he looked at those hands, they were broad and
strong, another way narrow and gracefully weak.

He said to himself: "The man who gets that girl will have Solomon's
wives rolled into one. A harem at the price of a wife--or a--" He left
the thought unfinished. It seemed an insult to this helpless little
creature, the more rather than the less cowardly for being unspoken;
for, no doubt her ideas of propriety were firmly conventional.

"About done?" he asked impatiently.

She glanced up. "In a moment. I'm sorry to be so slow."

"You're not," he assured her truthfully. "It's my impatience. Let me see
the pages you've finished."

With them he was able to concentrate his mind. When she laid the last
page beside his arm he was absorbed, did not look at her, did not think
of her. "Take the machine away," said he abruptly.

He was leaving for the day when he remembered her again. He sent for
her. "I forgot to thank you. It was good work. You will do well. All you
need is practice--and confidence. Especially confidence." He looked at
her. She seemed frail--touchingly frail. "You are not strong?"

She smiled, and in an instant the frailty seemed to have been mere
delicacy of build--the delicacy that goes with the strength of steel
wires, or rather of the spider's weaving thread which sustains weights
and shocks out of all proportion to its appearance. "I've never been ill
in my life," said she. "Not a day."

Again, because she was standing before him in full view, he noted the
peculiar construction of her frame--the beautiful lines of length so
dextrously combined that her figure as a whole was not tall. He said, "A
working woman--or man--needs health above all. Thank you again." And he
nodded a somewhat curt dismissal. When she glided away and he was alone
behind the closed door, he reflected for a moment upon the extraordinary
amount of thinking--and the extraordinary kind of thinking--into which
this poor little typewriter girl had beguiled him. He soon found the
explanation for this vagary into a realm so foreign to a man of his high
tastes and ambitions. "It's because I'm so in love with Josephine," he
decided. "I've fallen into the sentimental state of all lovers. The
whole sex becomes novel and interesting and worth while."

As he left the office, unusually late, he saw her still at work--no
doubt doing over again some bungled piece of copying. She had her normal
and natural look and air--the atomic little typewriter, unattractive and
uninteresting. With another smile for his romantic imaginings, he forgot
her. But when he reached the street he remembered her again. The
threatened blizzard had changed into a heavy rain. The swift and sudden
currents of air, that have made of New York a cave of the winds since
the coming of the skyscrapers, were darting round corners, turning
umbrellas inside out, tossing women's skirts about their heads, reducing
all who were abroad to the same level of drenched and sullen
wretchedness. Norman's limousine was waiting at the curb. He, pausing in
the doorway, glanced up and down the street, had an impulse to return
and take the girl home. Then he smiled satirically at himself. Her lot
condemned her to be out in all weathers. It would not be a kindness but
an exhibition of smug vanity to shelter her this one night; also, there
was the question of her reputation--and the possibility of turning her
head, perhaps just enough to cause her ruin. He sprang across the
wind-swept, rain-swept sidewalk and into the limousine whose door was
being held open by an obsequious attendant. "Home," he said, and the
door slammed.

Usually these journeys between office and home or club in the evening
gave Norman a chance for ten or fifteen minutes of sleep. He had
discovered that this brief dropping of the thread of consciousness gave
him a wonderful fresh grip upon the day, enabled him to work or play
until late into the night without fatigue. But that evening his mind was
wide awake. Nor could he fix it upon business. It would interest itself
only in the hurrying throngs of foot passengers and the ideas they
suggested: Here am I--so ran his thoughts--here am I, tucked away
comfortably while all those poor creatures have to plod along in the
storm. I could afford to be sick. They can't. And what have I done to
deserve this good fortune? Nothing. Worse than nothing. If I had made my
career along the lines of what is honest and right and beneficial to my
fellow men, I'd probably be plugging home under an umbrella--and to a
pretty poor excuse for a home. But I was too wise to do that. I've spent
this day, as I spend all my days, in helping the powerful rich to add to
their wealth and power, to add to the burdens those poor devils out
there in the rain must bear. And I'm rewarded with a limousine, and all
the rest of it.

These thoughts neither came from nor produced a mood of penitence, or of
regret even. Norman was simply indulging in his favorite
pastime--following without prejudice the leading of a chain of pure
logic. He despised self-deceivers. He always kept himself free from
prejudice and all its wiles. He took life as he found it; but he did not
excuse it and himself with the familiar hypocrisies that make the
comfortable classes preen themselves on being the guardians and saviours
of the ignorant, incapable masses. When old Lockyer said one day that
this was the function of the "upper classes," Norman retorted: "Perhaps.
But, if so, how do they perform it? Like the brutal old-fashioned farm
family that takes care of its insane member by keeping him chained in
filth in the cellar." And once at the Federal Club--By the way, Norman
had joined it, had compelled it to receive him just to show his
associates how a strong man could break even such a firmly established
tradition as that no one who amounted to anything could be elected to a
fashionable club in New York. Once at the Federal Club old Galloway
quoted with approval some essayist's remark that every clever human
being was looking after and holding above the waves at least fifteen of
his weaker fellows. Norman smiled satirically round at the complacently
nodding circle of gray heads and white heads. "My observation has been,"
said he, "that every clever chap is shrewd enough to compel at least
fifteen of his fellows to wait on him, to take care of him--do his
chores--and his dirty work." The nodding stopped. Scowls appeared,
except on the face of old Galloway. He grinned. He was one of the few
examples of a very rich man with a sense of humor. Norman always thought
it was this slight incident that led to his getting the extremely
profitable--and shady--Galloway business.

No, Norman's mood, as he watched the miserable crowds afoot and
reflected upon them, was neither remorseful nor triumphant. He simply
noted an interesting fact--a commonplace fact--of the methods of that
sardonic practical joker, Life. Because the scheme of things was unjust
and stupid, because others, most others, were uncomfortable or
worse--why should he make himself uncomfortable? It would be an
absurdity to get out of his limousine and trudge along in the wet and
the wind. It would be equally absurd to sit in his limousine and be
unhappy about the misery of the world. "I didn't create it, and I can't
recreate it. And if I'm helping to make it worse, I'm also hastening the
time when it'll be better. The Great Ass must have brains and spirit
kicked and cudgeled into it."

At his house in Madison Avenue, just at the crest of Murray Hill, there
was an awning from front door to curb and a carpet beneath it. He
passed, dry and comfortable, up the steps. A footman in quiet rich
livery was waiting to receive him. From rising until bedtime, up town
and down town, wherever he went and whatever he was about, every
possible menial detail of his life was done for him. He had nothing to
do but think about his own work and keep himself in health. Rarely did
he have even to open or to close a door. He used a pen only in signing
his name or marking a passage in a law book for some secretary to make a
typewritten copy.

Upon most human beings this sort of luxury, carried beyond the ordinary
and familiar uses of menial service, has a speedily enervating effect.
Thinking being the most onerous of all, they have it done, also. They
sink into silliness and moral and mental sloth. They pass the time at
foolish purposeless games indoors and out; or they wander aimlessly
about the earth chattering with similar mental decrepits, much like
monkeys adrift in the boughs of a tropical forest. But Norman had the
tenacity and strength to concentrate upon achievement all the powers
emancipated by the use of menials wherever menials could be used. He
employed to advantage the time saved in putting in shirt buttons and
lacing shoes and carrying books to and from shelves. In this lay one of
the important secrets of his success. "Never do for yourself what you
can get some one else to do for you as well. Save yourself for the
things only _you_ can do."

In his household there were three persons, and sixteen servants to wait
upon them. His sister--she and her husband, Clayton Fitzhugh, were the
other two persons--his sister was always complaining that there were not
enough servants, and Frederick, the most indulgent of brothers, was
always letting her add to the number. It seemed to him that the more
help there was, the less smoothly the household ran. But that did not
concern him; his mind was saved for more important matters. There was no
reason why it should concern him; could he not compel the dollars to
flood in faster than she could bail them out?

This brother and sister had come to New York fifteen years before, when
he was twenty-two and she nineteen. They were from Albany, where their
family had possessed some wealth and much social position for many
generations. There was the usual "queer streak" in the Norman family--an
intermittent but fixed habit of some one of them making a "low
marriage." One view of this aberration might have been that there was in
the Norman blood a tenacious instinct of sturdy and self-respecting
independence that caused a Norman occasionally to do as he pleased
instead of as he conventionally ought. Each time the thing occurred
there was a mighty and horrified hubbub throughout the connection. But
in the broad, as the custom is, the Normans were complacent about the
"queer streak." They thought it kept the family from rotting out and
running to seed. "Nothing like an occasional infusion of common blood,"
Aunt Ursula Van Bruyten (born Norman) used to say. For her Norman's
sister was named.

Norman's father had developed the "queer streak." Their mother was the
daughter of a small farmer and, when she met their father, was
chambermaid in a Troy hotel, Troy then being a largish village. As soon
as she found herself married and in a position with whose duties she was
unfamiliar, she set about fitting herself for them with the same
diligence and thoroughness which she had shown in learning chamber work
in a village hotel. She educated herself, selected not without
shrewdness and carefully put on an assortment of genteel airs, finally
contrived to make a most creditable appearance--was more aristocratic in
tastes and in talk than the high mightiest of her relatives by marriage.
But her son Fred was a Pinkey in character. In boyhood he was noted for
his rough and low associates. His bosom friends were the son of a Jewish
junk dealer, the son of a colored wash-woman, and the son of an Irish
day laborer. Also, the commonness persisted as he grew up. Instead of
seeking aristocratic ease, he aspired to a career. He had choice of
several rich and well-born girls; but he developed a strong distaste for
marriage of any sort and especially for a rich marriage. A fortune he
was resolved to have, but it should be one that belonged to him. When he
was about ready to enter a law office, his father and mother died
leaving less than ten thousand dollars in all for his sister and
himself. His sister hesitated, half inclined to marry a stupid second
cousin who had thirty thousand a year.

"Don't do it, Ursula," Fred advised. "If you must sell out, sell for
something worth while." He laughed in his frank, ironical way. "Fact is,
we've both made up our minds to sell. Let's go to the best market--New
York. If you don't like it, you can come back and marry that fat-wit any
time you please."

Ursula inspected herself in the glass, saw a face and form exceeding
fair to look upon; she decided to take her brother's advice. At twenty
she threw over a multi-millionaire and married Clayton Fitzhugh for
love--Clayton with only seventeen thousand a year. Of course, from the
standpoint of fashionable ambition, seventeen thousand a year in New
York is but one remove from tenement house poverty. As Clayton had no
more ability at making money than had Ursula herself, there was nothing
to do but live with Norman and "take care of him." But for this
self-sacrifice of sisterly affection Norman would have been rich at
thirty-seven. As he had to make her rich as well as himself, progress
toward luxurious independence was slower--and there was the house,
costing nearly fifty thousand a year to keep up.

There had been a time in Norman's career--a brief and very early
time--when, with the maternal peasant blood hot in his veins, he had
entertained the quixotic idea of going into politics on the poor or
people's side and fighting for glory only. The pressure of expensive
living had soon driven this notion clean off. Norman had almost
forgotten that he ever had it, was no longer aware how strong it had
been in the last year at law school. Young men of high intelligence and
ardent temperament always pass through this period. With some--a
few--its glory lingers long after the fire has flickered out before the
cool, steady breath of worldliness.

All this time Norman has been dressing for dinner. He now leaves the
third floor and descends toward the library, as it still lacks twenty
minutes of the dinner hour.

As he walked along the hall of the second floor a woman's voice called
to him, "That you, Fred?"

He turned in at his sister's sitting room. She was standing at a table
smoking a cigarette. Her tall, slim figure looked even taller and
slimmer in the tight-fitting black satin evening dress. Her features
faintly suggested her relationship to Norman. She was a handsome woman,
with a voluptuous discontented mouth.

"What are you worried about, sis?" inquired he.

"How did you know I was worried?" returned she.

"You always are."

"Oh!"

"But you're unusually worried to-night."

"How did you know that?"

"You never smoke just before dinner unless your nerves are ragged. . . .
What is it?"

"Money."

"Of course. No one in New York worries about anything else."

"But _this_ is serious," protested she. "I've been thinking--about your
marriage--and what'll become of Clayton and me?" She halted, red with
embarrassment.

Norman lit a cigarette himself. "I ought to have explained," said he.
"But I assumed you'd understand."

"Fred, you know Clayton can't make anything. And when you
marry--why--what _will_ become of us!"

"I've been taking care of Clayton's money--and of yours. I'll continue
to do it. I think you'll find you're not so badly of. You see, my
position enables me to compel a lot of the financiers to let me in on
the ground floor--and to warn me in good time before the house falls.
You'll not miss me, Ursula."

She showed her gratitude in her eyes, in a slight quiver of the lips, in
an unsteadiness of tone as she said, "You're the real thing, Freddie."

"You can go right on as you are now. Only--" He was looking at her with
meaning directness.

She moved uneasily, refused to meet his gaze. "Well?" she said, with a
suggestion of defiance.

"It's all very natural to get tired of Clayton," said her brother. "I
knew you would when you married him. But--Sis, I mind my own business.
Still--Why make a fool of yourself?"

"You don't understand," she exclaimed passionately. And the light in her
eyes, the color in her cheeks, restored to her for the moment the beauty
of her youth that was almost gone.

"Understand what?" inquired he in a tone of gentle mockery.

"Love. You are all ambition--all self control. You can be
affectionate--God knows, you have been to me, Fred. But love you know
nothing about--nothing."

His was the smile a man gives when in earnest and wishing to be thought
jesting--or when in jest and wishing to be thought in earnest.

"You mean Josephine? Oh, yes, I suppose you do care for her in a way--in
a nice, conventional way. She is a fine handsome piece--just the sort to
fill the position of wife to a man like you. She's sweet and charming,
she appreciates, she flatters you. I'm sure she loves you as much as a
_girl_ knows how to love. But it's all so conventional, so proper. Your
position--her money. You two are of the regulation type even in that
you're suited to each other in height and figure. Everybody'll say,
'What a fine couple--so well matched!'"

"Maybe _you_ don't understand," said Norman.

"If Josephine were poor and low-born--weren't one of us--and all
that--would you have her?"

"I'm sure I don't know," was his prompt and amused answer. "I can only
say that I know what I want, she being what she is."

Ursula shook her head. "I have only to see you and her together to know
that you at least don't understand love."

"It might be well if _you_ didn't," said Norman dryly. "You might be less
unhappy--and Clayton less uneasy."

"Ah, but I can't help myself. Don't you see it in me, Fred? I'm not a
fool. Yet see what a fool I act."

"Spoiled child--that's all. No self-control."

"You despise everyone who isn't as strong as you." She looked at him
intently. "I wonder if you _are_ as self-controlled as you imagine.
Sometimes I wish you'd get a lesson. Then you'd be more sympathetic. But
it isn't likely you will--not through a woman. Oh, they're such
pitifully easy game for a man like you. But then men are the same way
with you--quite as easy. You get anything you want. . . . You're really
going to stick to Josephine?"

He nodded. "It's time for me to settle down."

"Yes--I think it is," she went on thoughtfully. "I can hardly believe
you're to marry. Of course, she's the grand prize. Still--I never
imagined you'd come in and surrender. I guess you _do_ care for her."

"Why else should I marry?" argued he. "She's got nothing I need--except
herself, Ursula."

"What _is_ it you see in her?"

"What you see--what everyone sees," replied Fred, with quiet, convincing
enthusiasm. "What no one could help seeing. As you say, she's the grand
prize."

"Yes, she is sweet and handsome--and intelligent--very superior,
without making others feel that they're outclassed. Still--there's
something lacking--not in her perhaps, but in you. You have it for
her--she's crazy about you. But she hasn't it for you."

"What?"

"I can't tell you. It isn't a thing that can be put into words."

"Then it doesn't exist."

"Oh, yes it does," cried Ursula. "If the engagement were to be
broken--or if anything were to happen to her--why, you'd get over
it--would go on as if nothing had happened. If she didn't fit in with
your plans and ambitions, she'd be sacrificed so quick she'd not know
what had taken off her head. But if you felt what I mean--then you'd
give up everything--do the wildest, craziest things."

"What nonsense!" scoffed Norman. "I can imagine myself making a fool
of myself about a woman as easily as about anything else. But I can't
imagine myself playing the fool for anything whatsoever."

There was mysterious fire in Ursula's absent eyes. "You remember me as a
girl--how mercenary I was--how near I came to marrying Cousin Jake?"

"I saved you from that."

"Yes--and for what? I fell in love."

"And out again."

"I was deceived in Clayton--deceived myself--naturally. How is a woman
to know, without experience?"

"Oh, I'm not criticising," said the brother.

"Besides, a love marriage that fails is different from a mercenary
marriage that fails."

"Very--very," agreed he. "Just the difference between an honorable and a
dishonorable bankruptcy."

"Anyhow--it's bankrupt--my marriage. But I've learned what love is--that
there is such a thing--and that it's valuable. Yes, Fred, I've got the
taste for that wine--the habit of it. Could I go back to water or milk?"

"Spoiled baby--that's the whole story. If you had a nursery full of
children--or did the heavy housework--you'd never think of these
foolish moonshiny things."

"Yet you say you love!"

"Clayton is as good as any you're likely to run across--is better than
_some_ I've seen about."

"How can _you_ say?" cried she. "It's for me to judge."

"If you would only _judge_!"

Ursula sighed. "It's useless to talk to you. Let's go down."

Norman, following her from the room, stopped her in the doorway to give
her a brotherly hug and kiss. "You won't make an out-and-out idiot of
yourself, will you, Ursula?" he said, in his winning manner.

The expression of her eyes as she looked at him showed how strong was
his influence over her. "You know I'll come to you for advice before I
do anything final," said she. "Oh, I don't know what I want! I only know
what I don't want. I wish I were well balanced--as you are, Fred."

[Illustration: "'You won't make an out-and-out idiot of yourself, will
you Ursula?'"]




III


The brother and sister dined alone. Clayton was, finding his club a more
comfortable place than his home, in those days of his wife's
disillusionment and hesitation about the future. Many weak creatures are
curiously armed for the unequal conflict of existence--some with
fleetness of foot, some with a pole-cat weapon of malignance, some with
porcupine quills, some with a 'possumlike instinct for "playing dead."
Of these last was Fitzhugh. He knew when to be silent, when to keep out
of the way, when to "sit tight" and wait. His wife had discovered that
he was a fool--that he perhaps owed more to his tailor than to any other
single factor for the success of his splendid pose of the thorough
gentleman. Yet she did not realize what an utter fool he was, so clever
had he been in the use of the art of discreet silence. Norman suspected
him, but could not believe a human being capable of such fathomless
vacuity as he found whenever he tried to explore his brother-in-law's
brain.

After dinner Norman took Ursula to the opera, to join the Seldins, and
after the first act went to Josephine, who had come with only a deaf old
aunt. Josephine loved music, and to hear an opera from a box one must be
alone. Norman entered as the lights went up. It always gave him a
feeling of dilation, this spectacle of material splendor--the women,
whose part it is throughout civilization to-day to wear for public
admiration and envy the evidences of the prowess of the males to whom
they belong. A truer version of Dr. Holmes's aphorism would be that it
takes several generations in oil to make a deep-dyed snob--wholly to
destroy a man's or a woman's point of view, sense of the kinship of all
flesh, and to make him or her over into the genuine believer in caste
and worshiper of it. For all his keenness of mind, of humor, Norman had
the fast-dyed snobbishness of his family and friends. He knew that caste
was silly, that such displays as this vulgar flaunting of jewels and
costly dresses were in atrocious bad taste. But it is one thing to know,
another thing to feel; and his feeling was delight in the spectacle,
pride in his own high rank in the aristocracy.

His eyes rested with radiant pleasure on the girl he was to marry. And
she was indeed a person to appeal to the passion of pride. Simply and
most expensively dressed in pearl satin, with only a little jewelry, she
sat in the front of her parterre box, a queen by right of her father's
wealth, her family's position, her own beauty. She was a large
woman--tall, a big frame but not ungainly. She had brilliant dark eyes,
a small proud head set upon shoulders that were slenderly young now and,
even when they should became matronly, would still be beautiful. She had
good teeth, an exquisite smile, the gentle good humor of those who,
comfortable themselves, would not have the slightest objection to all
others being equally so. Because she laughed appreciatively and repeated
amusingly she had great reputation for wit. Because she industriously
picked up from men a plausible smatter of small talk about politics,
religion, art and the like, she was renowned as clever verging on
profound. And she believed herself both witty and wise--as do thousands,
male and female, with far less excuse.

She had selected Norman for the same reason that he had selected her;
each recognized the other as the "grand prize." Pity is not nearly so
close kin to love as is the feeling that the other person satisfies to
the uttermost all one's pet vanities. It would have been next door to
impossible for two people so well matched not to find themselves drawn
to each other and filled with sympathy and the sense of comradeship, so
far as there can be comradeship where two are driving luxuriously along
the way of life, with not a serious cause for worry. People without half
the general fitness of these two for each other have gone through to the
end, regarding themselves and regarded as the most devoted of lovers.
Indeed, they were lovers. Only one of those savage tests, to which in
all probability they would never be exposed, would or could reveal just
how much, or how little, that vague, variable word lovers meant when
applied to them.

As their eyes met, into each pair leaped the fine, exalted light of
pride in possession. "This wonderful woman is mine!" his eyes said. And
her eyes answered, "And you--you most wonderful of men--you are mine!"
It always gave each of them a thrill like intoxication to meet, after a
day's separation. All the joy of their dazzling good fortune burst upon
them afresh.

"I'll venture you haven't thought of me the whole day," said she as he
dropped to the chair behind her.

It was a remark she often made--to give him the opportunity to say,
"I've thought of little else, I'm sorry to say--I, who have a career to
look after." He made the usual answer, and they smiled happily at each
other. "And you?" he said.

"Oh, I? What else has a woman to think about?"

Her statement was as true as his was false. He was indeed all she had to
think about--all worth wasting the effort of thought upon. But
he--though he did not realize it--had thought of her only in the
incidental way in which an ambition-possessed man must force himself to
think of a woman. The best of his mind was commandeered to his career.
An amiable but shakily founded theory that it was "our" career enabled
him to say without sense of lying that his chief thought had been she.

"How those men down town would poke fun at you," said she, "if they knew
you had me with you all the time, right beside you."

This amused him. "Still, I suspect there are lots of men who'd be
exposed in the same way if there were a general and complete show-down."

"Sometimes I wish I really were with you--working with you--helping you.
You have girls--a girl--to be your secretary--or whatever you call
it--don't you?"

"You should have seen the one I had to-day. But there's always something
pathetic about every girl who has to make her own living."

"Pathetic!" protested Miss Burroughs. "Not at all. I think it's fine."

"You wouldn't say that if you had tried it."

"Indeed, I should," she declared with spirit. "You men are entirely too
soft about women. You don't realize how strong they are. And, of course,
women don't resist the temptation to use their sex when they see how
easy it is to fool men that way. The sad thing about it is that the
woman who gets along by using her sex and by appealing to the
soft-heartedness of men never learns to rely on herself. She's likely to
come to grief sooner or later."

"There's truth in all that," said Norman. "Enough to make it dangerously
unjust. There's so much lying done about getting on that it's no wonder
those who've never tried to do for themselves get a wholly false notion
of the situation. It is hard--bitterly hard--for a man to get on. Most
men don't. Most men? All but a mere handful. And if those who do get on
were to tell the truth--the _whole_ truth--about how they
succeeded--well, it'd not make a pleasant story."

"But _you've_ got on," retorted the girl.

"So I have. And how?" Norman smiled with humorous cynicism. "I'll never
tell--not all--only the parts that sound well. And those parts are the
least important. However, let's not talk about that. What I set out to
say was that, while it's hard for a man to make a decent living--unless
he has luck--and harder still--much harder--for him to rise to
independence----"

"It wasn't so dreadfully hard for _you_," interrupted Josephine, looking
at him with proud admiration. "But then, you had a wonderful brain."

"That wasn't what did it," replied he. "And, in spite of all my
advantages--friendships, education, enough money to tide me over the
beginnings--in spite of all that, I had a frightful time. Not the work.
Of course, I had to work, but I like that. No, it was the--the
maneuvering, let's call it--the hardening process."

"You!" she exclaimed.

"Everyone who succeeds--in active life. You don't understand the system,
dear. It's a cutthroat game. It isn't at all what the successful
hypocrites describe in their talks to young men!" He laughed. "If I had
followed the 'guides to success,' I'd not be here. Oh, yes, I've made
terrible sacrifices, but--" his look at her made her thrill with
exaltation--"it was worth doing. . . . I understand and sympathize with
those who scorn to succeed. But I'm glad I happened not to be born with
their temperament, at least not with enough of it to keep me down."

"You're too hard on yourself, too generous to the failures."

"Oh, I don't mean the men who were too lazy to do the work or too
cowardly to dare the--the unpleasant things. And I'm not hard with
myself--only frank. But we were talking of the women. Poor things, what
chance have they got? You scorn them for using their sex. Wait till
you're drowning, dear, before you criticise another for what he does to
save himself when he's sinking for the last time. I used everything I
had in making my fight. If I could have got on better or quicker by the
aid of my sex, I'd have used that."

"Don't say those things, Fred," cried Josephine, smiling but half in
earnest.

"Why not? Aren't you glad I'm here?"

She gave him a long look of passionate love and lowered her eyes.

"At whatever cost?"

"Yes," she said in a low voice. "But I'm _sure_ you exaggerate."

"I've done nothing _you_ wouldn't approve of--or find excuses for. But
that's because you--I--all of us in this class--and in most other
classes--have been trained to false ideas--no, to perverted ideas--to a
system of morality that's twisted to suit the demands of practical life.
On Sundays we go to a magnificent church to hear an expensive preacher
and choir, go in expensive dress and in carriages, and we never laugh at
ourselves. Yet we are going in the name of One who was born in a stable
and who said that we must give everything to the poor, and so on."

"But I don't see what we could do about it--" she said hesitatingly.

"We couldn't do anything. Only--don't you see my point?--the difference
between theory and practice? Personally, I've no objection--no strong
objection--to the practice. All I object to is the lying and faking
about it, to make it seem to fit the theory. But we were talking of
women--women who work."

"I've no doubt you're right," admitted she. "I suppose they aren't to
blame for using their sex. I ought to be ashamed of myself, to sneer at
them."

"As a matter of fact, their sex does few of them any good. The reverse.
You see, an attractive woman--one who's attractive _as_ a woman--can
skirmish round and find some one to support her. But most of the working
women--those who keep on at it--don't find the man. They're not
attractive, not even at the start. After they've been at it a few years
and lose the little bloom they ever had--why, they've got to take their
chances at the game, precisely like a man. Only, they're handicapped by
always hoping that they'll be able to quit and become married women. I'd
like to see how men would behave if they could find or could imagine any
alternative to 'root hog or die.'"

"What's the matter with you this evening, Fred? I never saw you in such
a bitter mood."

"We never happened to get on this subject before."

"Oh, yes, we have. And you always have scoffed at the men who fail."

"And I still scoff at them--most of them. A lot of lazy cowards. Or
else, so bent on self-indulgence--petty self-indulgence--that they
refuse to make the small sacrifice to-day for the sake of the large
advantage day after to-morrow. Or else so stuffed with vanity that they
never see their own mistakes. However, why blame them? They were born
that way, and can't change. A man who has the equipment of success and
succeeds has no more right to sneer at one less lucky than you would
have to laugh at a poor girl because she wasn't dressed as well as you."

"What a mood! _Something_ must have happened."

"Perhaps," said he reflectively. "Possibly that girl set me off."

"What girl?"

"The one I told you about. The unfortunate little creature who was
typewriting for me this afternoon. Not so very little, either. A curious
figure she had. She was tall yet she wasn't. She seemed thin, and when
you looked again, you saw that she was really only slender, and
beautifully shaped throughout."

Miss Burroughs laughed. "She must have been attractive."

"Not in the least. Absolutely without charm--and so homely--no, not
homely--commonplace. No, that's not right, either. She had a startling
way of fading and blazing out. One moment she seemed a blank--pale,
lifeless, colorless, a nobody. The next minute she became--amazingly
different. Not the same thing every time, but different things."

Frederick Norman was too experienced a dealer with women deliberately to
make the mistake--rather, to commit the breach of tact and
courtesy--involved in praising one woman to another. But in this case it
never occurred to him that he was talking to a woman of a woman.
Josephine Burroughs was a lady; the other was a piece of office
machinery--and a very trivial piece at that. But he saw and instantly
understood the look in her eyes--the strained effort to keep the
telltale upper lip from giving its prompt and irrepressible signal of
inward agitation.

"I'm very much interested," said she.

"Yes, she was a curiosity," said he carelessly.

"Has she been there--long?" inquired Josephine, with a feigned
indifference that did not deceive him.

"Several months, I believe. I never noticed her until a few days ago.
And until to-day I had forgotten her. She's one of the kind it's
difficult to remember."

He fell to glancing round the house, pretending to be unconscious of the
furtive suspicion with which she was observing him. She said:

"She's your secretary now?"

"Merely a general office typewriter."

The curtain went up for the second act. Josephine fixed her attention on
the stage--apparently undivided attention. But Norman felt rather than
saw that she was still worrying about the "curiosity." He marveled at
this outcropping of jealousy. It seemed ridiculous--it _was_ ridiculous.
He laughed to himself. If she could see the girl--the obscure,
uninteresting cause of her agitation--how she would mock at herself!
Then, too, there was the absurdity of thinking him capable of such a
stoop. A woman of their own class--or a woman of its corresponding
class, on the other side of the line--yes. No doubt she had heard
things that made her uneasy, or, at least, ready to be uneasy. But this
poorly dressed obscurity, with not a charm that could attract even a man
of her own lowly class--It was such a good joke that he would have
teased Josephine about it but for his knowledge of the world--a
knowledge in whose primer it was taught that teasing is both bad taste
and bad judgment. Also, it was beneath his dignity, it was offense to
his vanity, to couple his name with the name of one so beneath him that
even the matter of sex did not make the coupling less intolerable.

When the curtain fell several people came into the box, and he went to
make a few calls round the parterre. He returned after the second act.
They were again alone--the deaf old aunt did not count. At once
Josephine began upon the same subject. With studied indifference--how
amusing for a woman of her inexperience to try to fool a man of his
experience!--she said:

"Tell me some more about that typewriter girl. Women who work always
interest me."

"She wouldn't," said Norman. The subject had been driven clean out of
his mind, and he didn't wish to return to it. "Some day they will
venture to make judicious long cuts in Wagner's operas, and then they'll
be interesting. It always amuses me, this reverence of little people for
the great ones--as if a great man were always great. No--he _is_ always
great. But often it's in a dull way. And the dull parts ought to be
skipped."

"I don't like the opera this evening," said she. "What you said a while
ago has set me to thinking. Is that girl a lady?"

"She works," laughed he.

"But she might have been a lady."

"I'm sure I don't know."

"Don't you know _anything_ about her?"

"Except that she's trustworthy--and insignificant and not too good at
her business."

"I shouldn't think you could afford to keep incompetent people," said
the girl shrewdly.

"Perhaps they won't keep her," parried Norman gracefully. "The head
clerk looks after those things."

"He probably likes her."

"No," said Norman, too indifferent to be cautious. "She has no
'gentlemen friends.'"

"How do you know that?" said the girl, and she could not keep a certain
sharpness out of her voice.

"Tetlow, the head clerk, told me. I asked him a few questions about her.
I had some confidential work to do and didn't want to trust her without
being sure."

He saw that she was now prey to her jealous suspicion. He was uncertain
whether to be amused or irritated. She had to pause long and with
visible effort collect herself before venturing:

"Oh, she does confidential work for you? I thought you said she was
incompetent."

He, the expert cross-examiner, had to admire her skill at that high
science and art. "I felt sorry for her," he said. "She seemed such a
forlorn little creature."

She laughed with a constrained attempt at raillery. "I never should have
suspected you of such weakness. To give confidential things to a forlorn
little incompetent, out of pity."

He was irritated, distinctly. The whole thing was preposterous. It
reminded him of feats of his own before a jury. By clever questioning,
Josephine had made about as trifling an incident as could be imagined
take on really quite imposing proportions. There was annoyance in his
smile as he said:

"Shall I send her up to see you? You might find it amusing, and maybe
you could do something for her."

Josephine debated. "Yes," she finally said. "I wish you would send
her--" with a little sarcasm--"if you can spare her for an hour or so."

"Don't make it longer than that," laughed he. "Everything will stop
while she's gone."

It pleased him, in a way, this discovery that Josephine had such a
common, commonplace weakness as jealousy. But it also took away
something from his high esteem for her--an esteem born of the lover's
idealizings; for, while he was not of the kind of men who are on their
knees before women, he did have a deep respect for Josephine,
incarnation of all the material things that dazzled him--a respect with
something of the reverential in it, and something of awe--more than he
would have admitted to himself. To-day, as of old, the image-makers are
as sincere worshipers as visit the shrines. In our prostrations and
genuflections in the temple we do not discriminate against the idols we
ourselves have manufactured; on the contrary, them we worship with
peculiar gusto. Norman knew his gods were frauds, that their divine
qualities were of the earth earthy. But he served them, and what most
appealed to him in Josephine was that she incorporated about all their
divine qualities.

He and his sister went home together. Her first remark in the auto was:
"What were you and Josie quarreling about?"

"Quarreling?" inquired he in honest surprise.

"I looked at her through my glasses and saw that the was all upset--and
you, too."

"This is too ridiculous," cried he.

"She looked--jealous."

"Nonsense! What an imagination you have!"

"I saw what I saw," Ursula maintained. "Well, I suppose she has heard
something--something recent. I thought you had sworn off, Fred. But I
might have known."

Norman was angry. He wondered at his own exasperation, out of all
proportion to any apparent provoking cause. And it was most unusual for
him to feel temper, all but unprecedented for him to show it, no matter
how strong the temptation.

"It's a good idea, to make her jealous," pursued his sister. "Nothing
like jealousy to stimulate interest."

"Josephine is not that sort of woman."

"You know better. All women are that sort. All men, too. Of course, some
men and women grow angry and go away when they get jealous while others
stick closer. So one has to be judicious."

"Josephine and I understand each other far too well for such pettiness."

"Try her. No, you needn't. You have."

"Didn't I tell you----"

"Then what was she questioning you about?"

"Just to show you how wrong you were, I'll tell you. She was asking me
about a poor little girl down at the office--one she wants to help."

Ursula laughed. "To help out of your office, I guess. I thought you'd
lived long enough, Fred, to learn that no woman trusts _any_ man about
_any_ woman. Who is this 'poor little girl'?"

"I don't even know her name. One of the typewriters."

"What made Josephine jealous of her?"

"Haven't I told you Josephine was not----"

"But I saw. Who is this girl?--pretty?"

Norman pretended to stifle a yawn. "Josephine bored me half to death
talking about her. Now it's you. I never heard so much about so little."

"Is there something up between you and the girl?" teased Ursula.

"Now, that's an outrage!" cried Norman. "She's got nothing but her
reputation, poor child. Do leave her that."

"Is she very young?"

"How should I know?"

"Youth is a charm in itself."

"What sort of rot is this!" exclaimed he. "Do you think I'd drop down to
anything of that kind--in _any_ circumstances? A little working girl--and
in my own office?"

"Why do you heat so, Fred?" teased the sister. "Really, I don't wonder
Josephine was torn up."

An auto almost ran into them--one of those innumerable hairbreadth
escapes that make the streets of New York as exciting as a battle--and
as dangerous. For a few minutes Ursula's mind was deflected. But a
fatality seemed to pursue the subject of the pale obscurity whose very
name he was uncertain whether he remembered aright.

Said Ursula, as they entered the house, "A girl working in the office
with a man has a magnificent chance at him. It's lucky for the men that
women don't know their business, but are amateurs and too stuck on
themselves to set and bait their traps properly. Is that girl trying to
get round you?"

"What possesses everybody to-night!" cried Norman. "I tell you the
girl's as uninteresting a specimen as you could find."

"Then why are _you_ so interested in her?" teased the sister.

Norman shrugged his shoulders, laughed with his normal easy good humor
and went to his own floor.

On top of the pile of letters beside his plate, next morning, lay a note
from Josephine:

  "Don't forget your promise about that girl, dear. I've an hour before
  lunch, and could see her then. I was out of humor last night. I'm very
  penitent this morning. Please forgive me. Maybe I can do something for
  her. JOSEPHINE."


Norman read with amused eyes. "Well!" soliloquized he, "I'm not likely
to forget that poor little creature again. What a fuss about nothing!"




IV


Many men, possibly a majority, have sufficient equipment for at least a
fair measure of success. Yet all but a few are downright failures,
passing their lives in helpless dependence, glad to sell themselves for
a small part of the value they create. For this there are two main
reasons. The first is, as Norman said, that only a few men have the
self-restraint to resist the temptings of a small pleasure to-day in
order to gain a larger to-morrow or next day. The second is that few men
possess the power of continuous concentration. Most of us cannot
concentrate at all; any slight distraction suffices to disrupt and
destroy the whole train of thought. A good many can concentrate for a
few hours, for a week or so, for two or three months. But there comes a
small achievement and it satisfies, or a small discouragement and it
disheartens. Only to the rare few is given the power to concentrate
steadily, year in and year out, through good and evil event or report.

As Norman stepped into his auto to go to the office--he had ridden a
horse in the park before breakfast until its hide was streaked with
lather--the instant he entered his auto, he discharged his mind of
everything but the business before him down town--or, rather, business
filled his mind so completely that everything else poured out and away.
A really fine mind--a perfect or approximately perfect instrument to the
purposes of its possessor--is a marvelous spectacle of order. It is like
a vast public library constantly used by large numbers. There are
alcoves, rows on rows, shelves on shelves, with the exactest system
everywhere prevailing, with the attendants moving about in list-bottomed
shoes, fulfilling without the least hesitation or mistake the multitude
of directions from the central desk. It is like an admirably drilled
army, where there is the nice balance of freedom and discipline that
gives mobility without confusion; the divisions, down to files and even
units, can be disposed along the line of battle wherever needed, or can
be marshaled in reserve for use at the proper moment. Such a mind may be
used for good purpose or bad--or for mixed purposes, after the usual
fashion in human action. But whatever the service to which it is put, it
acts with equal energy and precision. Character--that is a thing apart.
The character determines the morality of action; but only the intellect
determines the skill of action.

In the offices of that great law firm one of the keenest pleasures of
the more intelligent of the staff was watching the workings of Frederick
Norman's mind--its ease of movement, its quickness and accuracy, its
obedience to the code of mental habits he had fixed for himself. In
large part all this was born with the man; but it had been brought to a
state of perfection by the most painful labor, by the severest
discipline, by years of practice of the sacrifice of small
temptations--temptations to waste time and strength on the little
pleasant things which result in such heavy bills--bills that bankrupt a
man in middle life and send him in old age into the deserts of poverty
and contempt.

Such an unique and trivial request as that of Josephine Burroughs being
wholly out of his mental habit for down town, he forgot it along with
everything else having to do with uptown only--along with Josephine
herself, to tell a truth which may pique the woman reader and may be
wholly misunderstood by the sentimentalists. By merest accident he was
reminded.

As the door of his private office opened to admit an important client he
happened to glance up. And between the edge of the door frame and his
client's automobile-fattened and carefully dressed body, he caught a
glimpse of the "poor little forlornness" who chanced to be crossing the
outer office. A glint of sunlight on her hair changed it from
lifelessness to golden vital vividness; the same chance sunbeam touched
her pale skin with a soft yellow radiation--and her profile was
delicately fine and regular. Thus Norman, who observed everything, saw
a head of finely wrought gold--a startling cameo against the dead white
of office wall. It was only with the second thought that he recognized
her. The episode of the night before came back and Josephine's penitent
yet persistent note.

He glanced at the clock. Said the client in the amusing tone of one who
would like to take offense if he only dared, "I'll not detain you long,
Mr. Norman. And really the matter is extremely important."

There are not many lawyers, even of the first rank, with whom their big
clients reverse the attitude of servant and master. Norman might well
have been flattered. In that restrained tone from one used to servility
and fond of it and easily miffed by lack of it was the whole story of
Norman's long battle and splendid victory. But he was not in the mood to
be flattered; he was thinking of other things. And it presently annoyed
him that his usually docile mind refused to obey his will's order to
concentrate on the client and the business--said business being one of
those huge schemes through which a big monster of a corporation is
constructed by lawyers out of materials supplied by great capitalists
and controllers of capital, is set to eating in enormous meals the
substance of the people; at some obscure point in all the principal
veins small but leechlike parasite corporations are attached,
industriously to suck away the surplus blood so that the owners of the
beast may say, "It is eating almost nothing. See how lean it is, poor
thing! Why, the bones fairly poke through its meager hide."

An interesting and highly complicated enterprise is such a construction.
It was of the kind in which Norman's mind especially delighted; Hercules
is himself only in presence of an herculean labor. But on that day he
could not concentrate, and because of a trifle! He felt like a giant
disabled by a grain of dust in the eye--yes, a mere grain of dust! "I
must love Josephine even more than I realize, to be fretted by such a
paltry thing," thought he. And after patiently enduring the client for
half an hour without being able to grasp the outlines of the project, he
rose abruptly and said: "I must get into my mind the points you've given
me before we can go further. So I'll not waste your time."

This sounded very like "Clear out--you've bored me to my limit of
endurance." But the motions of a mind such as he knew Norman had were
beyond and high above the client's mere cunning at dollar-trapping. He
felt that it was the part of wisdom--also soothing to vanity--to assume
that Norman meant only what his words conveyed. When Norman was alone he
rang for an office boy and said:

"Please ask Miss Halliday to come here."

The boy hesitated. "Miss Hallowell?" he suggested.

"Hallowell--thanks--Hallowell," said Norman.

And it somehow pleased him that he had not remembered her name. How
significant it was of her insignificance that so accurate a memory as
his should make the slip. When she, impassive, colorless, nebulous,
stood before him the feeling of pleasure was, queerly enough, mingled
with a sense of humiliation. What absurd vagaries his imagination had
indulged in! For it must have been sheer hallucination, his seeing those
wonders in her. How he would be laughed at if those pictures he had made
of her could be seen by any other eyes! "They must be right when they
say a man in love is touched in the head. Only, why the devil should I
have happened to get these crazy notions about a person I've no interest
in?" However, the main point--and most satisfactory--was that Josephine
would be at a glance convinced--convicted--made ashamed of her absurd
attack. A mere grain of dust.

"Just a moment, please," he said to Miss Hallowell. "I want to give you
a note of introduction."

He wrote the note to Josephine Burroughs: "Here she is. I've told her
you wish to talk with her about doing some work for you." When he
finished he looked up. She was standing at the window, gazing out upon
the tremendous panorama of skyscrapers that makes New York the most
astounding of the cities of men. He was about to speak. The words fell
back unuttered. For once more the hallucination--or whatever it
was--laid hold of him. That figure by the window--that beautiful girl,
with the great dreamy eyes and the soft and languorous nuances of golden
haze over her hair, over the skin of perfectly rounded cheek and
perfectly moulded chin curving with ideal grace into the whitest and
firmest of throats----

"Am I mad? or do I really see what I see?" he muttered.

He turned away to clear his eyes for a second view, for an attempt to
settle it whether he saw or imagined. When he looked again, she was
observing him--and once more she was the obscure, the cipherlike Miss
Hallowell, ten-dollar-a-week typewriter and not worth it. Evidently she
noted his confusion and was vaguely alarmed by it. He recovered himself
as best he could and debated whether it was wise to send her to
Josephine. Surely those transformations were not altogether his own
hallucinations; and Josephine might see, might humiliate him by
suspecting more strongly--... Ridiculous! He held out the letter.

"The lady to whom this is addressed wishes to see you. Will you go
there, right away, please? It may be that you'll get the chance to make
some extra money. You've no objection, I suppose?"

She took the letter hesitatingly.

"You will find her agreeable, I think," continued he. "At any rate, the
trip can do no harm."

She hesitated a moment longer, as if weighing what he had said. "No, it
will do no harm," she finally said. Then, with a delightful color and a
quick transformation into a vision of young shyness, "Thank you, Mr.
Norman. Thank you so much."

"Not at all--not in the least," he stammered, the impulse strong to take
the note back and ask her to return to her desk.

When the door closed behind her he rose and paced about the room
uneasily. He was filled with disquiet, with hazy apprehension. His
nerves were unsteady, as if he were going through an exhausting strain.
He sat and tried to force himself to work. Impossible. "What sort of
damn fool attack is this?" he exclaimed, pacing about again. He searched
his mind in vain for any cause adequate to explain his unprecedented
state. "If I did not know that I was well--absolutely well--I'd think I
was about to have an illness--something in the brain."

He appealed to that friend in any trying hour, his sense of humor. He
laughed at himself; but his nerves refused to return to the normal. He
rushed from his private office on various pretexts, each time lingered
in the general room, talking aimlessly with Tetlow--and watching the
door. When she at last appeared, he guiltily withdrew, feeling that
everyone was observing his perturbation and was wondering at it and
jesting about it. "And what the devil am I excited about?" he demanded
of himself. What indeed? He seated himself, rang the bell.

"If Miss Hallowell has got back," he said to the office boy, "please ask
her to come in."

"I think she's gone out to lunch," said the boy. "I know she came in a
while ago. She passed along as you was talking to Mr. Tetlow."

Norman felt himself flushing. "Any time will do," he said, bending over
the papers spread out before him--the papers in the case of the General
Traction Company resisting the payment of its taxes. A noisome odor
seemed to be rising from the typewritten sheets. He made a wry face and
flung the papers aside with a gesture of disgust. "They never do
anything honest," he said to himself. "From the stock-jobbing owners
down to the nickel-filching conductors they steal--steal--steal!" And
then he wondered at, laughed at, his heat. What did it matter? An ant
pilfering from another ant and a sparrow stealing the crumb found by
another sparrow--a man robbing another man--all part of the universal
scheme. Only a narrow-minded ignoramus would get himself wrought up over
it; a philosopher would laugh--and take what he needed or happened to
fancy.

The door opened. Miss Hallowell entered, a small and demure hat upon her
masses of thick fair hair arranged by anything but unskillful fingers.
"You wished to see me?" came in the quiet little voice, sweet and frank
and shy.

He roused himself from pretended abstraction.

"Oh--it's you?" he said pleasantly. "They said you were out."

"I was going to lunch. But if you've anything for me to do, I'll be glad
to stay."

"No--no. I simply wished to say that if Miss Burroughs wished to make an
arrangement with you, we'd help you about carrying out your part of it."

She was pale--so pale that it brought out strongly the smooth dead-white
purity of her skin. Her small features wore an expression of pride, of
haughtiness even. And in the eyes that regarded him steadily there shone
a cold light--the light of a proud and lonely soul that repels intrusion
even as the Polar fastnesses push back without effort assault upon their
solitudes. "We made no arrangement," said she.

"You are not more than eighteen, are you?" inquired he abruptly.

The irrelevant question startled her. She looked as if she thought she
had not heard aright. "I am twenty," she said.

"You have a most--most unusual way of shifting to various ages and
personalities," explained he, with some embarrassment.

She simply looked at him and waited.

His embarrassment increased. It was a novel sensation to him, this
feeling ill at ease with a woman--he who was at ease with everyone and
put others at their ease or not as he pleased. "I'm sorry you and Miss
Burroughs didn't arrange something. I suppose she found the hours
difficult."

"She made me an offer," replied the girl. "I refused it."

"But, as I told you, we can let you off--anything within reason."

"Thank you, but I do not care to do that kind of work. No doubt any kind
of work for wages classes one as a servant. But those people up
there--they make one _feel_ it--feel menial."

"Not Miss Burroughs, I assure you."

A satirical smile hovered round the girl's lips. Her face was altogether
lovely now, and no lily ever rose more gracefully from its stem than did
her small head from her slender form. "She meant to be kind, but she was
insulting. Those people up there don't understand. They're vain and
narrow. Oh, I don't blame them. Only, I don't care to be brought into
contact with them."

He looked at her in wonder. She talked of Josephine as if she were
Josephine's superior, and her expression and accent were such that they
contrived to convey an impression that she had the right to do it. He
grew suddenly angry at her, at himself for listening to her. "I am
sorry," he said stiffly, and took up a pen to indicate that he wished
her to go.

He rather expected that she would be alarmed. But if she was, she wholly
concealed it. She smiled slightly and moved toward the door. Looking
after her, he relented. She seemed so young--was so young--and was
evidently poor. He said:

"It's all right to be proud, Miss Hallowell. But there is such a thing
as supersensitiveness. You are earning your living. If you'll pardon me
for thrusting advice upon you, I think you've made a mistake. I'm sure
Miss Burroughs meant well. If you had been less sensitive you'd soon
have realized it."

"She patronized me," replied the girl, not angrily, but with amusement.
"It was all I could do not to laugh in her face. The idea of a woman who
probably couldn't make five dollars a week fancying she was the superior
of any girl who makes her own living, no matter how poor a living it
is."

Norman laughed. It had often appealed to his own sense of humor, the
delusion that the tower one happened to be standing upon was part of
one's own stature. But he said: "You're a very foolish young person.
You'll not get far in the world if you keep to that road. It winds
through Poverty Swamps to the Poor House."

"Oh, no," replied she. "One can always die."

Again he laughed. "But why die? Why not be sensible and live?"

"I don't know," replied she. She was looking away dreamily, and her eyes
were wonderful to see. "There are many things I feel and do--and I don't
at all understand why. But--" An expression of startling resolution
flashed across her face. "But I do them, just the same."

A brief silence; then, as she again moved toward the door, he said, "You
have been working for some time?"

"Four years."

"You support yourself?"

"I work to help out father's income. He makes almost enough, but not
quite."

Almost enough! The phrase struck upon Norman's fancy as both amusing and
sad. Almost enough for what? For keeping body and soul together; for
keeping body barely decently clad. Yet she was content. He said:

"You like to work?"

"Not yet. But I think I shall when I learn this business. One feels
secure when one has a trade."

"It doesn't impress me as an interesting life for a girl of your age,"
he suggested.

"Oh, I'm not unhappy. And at home, of evenings and Sundays, I'm happy."

"Doing what?"

"Reading and talking with father and--doing the housework--and all the
rest of it."

What a monotonous narrow little life! He wanted to pity her, but somehow
he could not. There was no suggestion in her manner that she was an
object of pity. "What did Miss Burroughs say to you--if I may ask?"

"Certainly. You sent me, and I'm much obliged to you. I realize it was
an opportunity--for another sort of girl. I half tried to accept because
I knew refusing was only my--queerness." She smiled charmingly. "You are
not offended because I couldn't make myself take it?"

"Not in the least." And all at once he felt that it was true. This girl
would have been out of place in service. "What was the offer?"

Suddenly before him there appeared a clever, willful child, full of the
childish passion for imitation and mockery. And she proceeded to "take
off" the grand Miss Burroughs--enough like Josephine to give the satire
point and barb. He could see Josephine resolved to be affable and equal,
to make this doubtless bedazzled stray from the "lower classes" feel
comfortable in those palatial surroundings. She imitated Josephine's
walk, her way of looking, her voice for the menials--gracious and
condescending. The exhibition was clever, free from malice, redolent of
humor. Norman laughed until the tears rolled down his cheeks.

"You ought to go on the stage," said he. "How Josephine--Miss Burroughs
would appreciate it! For she's got a keen sense of humor."

"Not for the real jokes--like herself," replied Miss Hallowell.

"You're prejudiced."

"No. I see her as she is. Probably everyone else--those around her--see
her money and her clothes and all that. But I saw--just her."

He nodded thoughtfully. Then he looked penetratingly at her. "How did
you happen to learn to do that?" he asked. "To see people as they are?"

"Father taught me." Her eyes lighted up, her whole expression changed.
She became beautiful with the beauty of an intense and adoring love.
"Father is a wonderful man--one of the most wonderful that ever lived.
He----"

There was a knock at the door. She startled, he looked confused. Both
awakened to a sense of their forgotten surroundings, of who and what
they were. She went and Mr. Sanders entered. But even in his confusion
Norman marveled at the vanishing of the fascinating personality who had
been captivating him into forgetting everything else, at the
reappearance of the blank, the pale and insignificant personality
attached to a typewriting machine at ten dollars a week. No, not
insignificant, not blank--never again that, for him. He saw now the full
reality--and also why he, everyone, was so misled. She made him think of
the surface of the sea when the sky is gray and the air calm. It lies
smooth and flat and expressionless--inert, monotonous. But let sunbeam
strike or breeze ever so faint start up, and what a commotion of
unending variety! He could never look at her again without being
reminded of those infinite latent possibilities, without wondering what
new and perhaps more charming, more surprising varieties of look and
tone and manner could be evoked.

And while Sanders was talking--prosing on and on about things Norman
either already knew or did not wish to know--he was thinking of her. "If
she happens to meet a man with enough discernment to fall in love with
her," he said to himself, "he certainly will never weary. What a pity
that such a girl shouldn't have had a chance, should be wasted on some
unappreciative chucklehead of her class! What a pity she hasn't
ambition--or the quality, whatever it is--that makes those who have it
get on, whether they wish or no."

During the rest of the day he revolved from time to time indistinct
ideas of somehow giving this girl a chance. He wished Josephine would
and could help, or perhaps his sister Ursula. It was not a matter that
could be settled, or even taken up, in haste. No man of his mentality
and experience fails to learn how perilous it is in the least to
interfere in the destiny of anyone. And his notion involved not slight
interference with advice or suggestion or momentarily extended helping
hand, but radical change of the whole current of destiny. Also, he
appreciated how difficult it is for a man to do anything for a young
woman--anything that would not harm more than it would help. Only one
thing seemed clear to him--the "clever child" ought to have a chance.

He went to see Josephine after dinner that night His own house, while
richly and showily furnished, as became his means and station,
seemed--and indeed was--merely an example of simple, old-fashioned
"solid comfort" in comparison with the Burroughs palace. He had never
liked, but, being a true New Yorker, had greatly admired the splendor of
that palace, its costly art junk, its rotten old tapestries, its
unlovely genuine antiques, its room after room of tasteless
magnificence, suggesting a museum, or rather the combination home and
salesroom of an art dealer. This evening he found himself curious,
critical, disposed to license a long-suppressed sense of humor. While
he was waiting for Josephine to come down to the small salon into which
he had been shown, her older sister drifted in, on the way to a late
dinner and ball. She eyed him admiringly from head to foot.

"You've _such_ an air, Fred," said she. "You should hear the butler on the
subject of you. He says that of all the men who come to the house you
are most the man of the world. He says he could tell it by the way you
walk in and take off your hat and coat and throw them at him."

Norman laughed and said, "I didn't know. I must stop that."

"Don't!" cried Mrs. Bellowes. "You'll break his heart. He adores it. You
know, servants dearly love to be treated as servants. Anyone who thinks
the world loves equality knows very little about human nature. Most
people love to look up, just as most women love to be ruled. No, you
must continue to be the master, the man of the world, Fred."

She was busy with her gorgeous and trailing wraps and with her cigarette
or she would have seen his confusion. He was recalling his scene with
the typewriter girl. Not much of the man of the world, then and there,
certainly. What a grotesque performance for a man of his position, for a
serious man of any kind! And how came he to permit such a person to
mimic Josephine Burroughs, a lady, the woman to whom he was engaged? In
these proud and pretentious surroundings he felt contemptibly
guilty--and dazed wonder at his own inexplicable folly and weakness.

Mrs. Bellowes departed before Josephine came down. So there was no
relief for his embarrassment. He saw that she too felt constrained.
Instead of meeting him half way in embrace and kiss, as she usually did,
she threw him a kiss and pretended to be busy lighting a cigarette and
arranging the shades of the table lamp. "Well, I saw your 'poor little
creature,'" she began. She was splendidly direct in all her dealings,
after the manner of people who have never had to make their own way--to
cajole or conciliate or dread the consequences of frankness.

"I told you you'd not find her interesting."

"Oh, she was a nice little girl," replied Josephine with elaborate
graciousness--and Norman, the "take off" fresh in his mind, was acutely
critical of her manner, of her mannerisms. "Of course," she went on,
"one does not expect much of people of that class. But I thought her
unusually well-mannered--and quite clean."

"Tetlow makes 'em clean up," said Norman, a gleam of sarcasm in his
careless glance and tone. And into his nostrils stole an odor of
freshness and health and youth, the pure, sweet odor that is the base of
all the natural perfumes. It startled him, his vivid memory of a feature
of her which he had not been until now aware that he had ever noted.

"I offered her some work," continued Josephine, "but I guess you keep
her too busy down there for her to do anything else."

"Probably," said Norman. "Why do you sit on the other side of the room?"

"Oh, I don't know," laughed Josephine. "I feel queer to-night. And it
seems to me you're queer, too."

"I? Perhaps rather tired, dear--that's all."

"Did you and Miss Hallowell work hard to-day?"

"Oh, bother Miss Hallowell. Let's talk about ourselves." And he drew her
to the sofa at one end of the big fireplace. "I wish we hadn't set the
wedding so far off." And suddenly he found himself wondering whether
that remark had been prompted by eagerness--a lover's eagerness--or by
impatience to have the business over and settled.

"You don't act a bit natural to-night, Fred. You touch me as if I were a
stranger."

"I like that!" mocked he. "A stranger hold your hand like
this?--and--kiss you--like this?"

She drew away, suddenly laid her hands on his shoulders, kissed him upon
the lips passionately, then looked into his eyes. "_Do_ you love me,
Fred?--_really_?"

"Why so earnest?"

"You've had a great deal of experience?"

"More or less."

"Have you ever loved any woman as you love me?"

"I've never loved any woman but you. I never before wanted to marry a
woman."

"But you may be doing it because--well, you might be tired and want to
settle down."

"Do you believe that?"

"No, I don't. But I want to hear you say it isn't so."

"Well--it isn't so. Are you satisfied?"

"I'm frightfully jealous of you, Fred."

"What a waste of time!"

"I've got something to confess--something I'm ashamed of."

"Don't confess," cried he, laughing but showing that he meant it.
"Just--don't be wicked again That's much better than confession."

"But I must confess," insisted she. "I had evil thoughts evil suspicions
about you. I've had them all day--until you came. As soon as I saw you I
felt bowed into the dust. A man like you, doing anything so vulgar as I
suspected you of--oh, dearest, I'm _so_ ashamed!"

He put his arms round her and drew her to his shoulder. And the scene of
mimicry in his office flashed into his mind, and the blood burned in his
cheeks. But he had no such access of insanity as to entertain the idea
of confession.

"It was that typewriter girl," continued Josephine. She drew away again
and once more searched his face. "You told me she was homely."

"Not exactly that."

"Insignificant then."

"Isn't she?"

"Yes--in a way," said Josephine, the condescending note in her voice
again--and in his mind Miss Hallowell's clever burlesque of that note.
"But, in another way--Men are different from women. Now I--a woman of
my sort--couldn't stoop to a man of her class. But men seem not to feel
that way."

"No," said he, irritated. "They've the courage to take what they want
wherever they find it. A man will take gold out of the dirt, because
gold is always gold. But a woman waits until she can get it at a
fashionable jeweler's, and makes sure it's made up in a fashionable way.
I don't like to hear _you_ say those things."

Her eyes flashed. "Then you _do_ like that Hallowell girl!" she cried--and
never before had her voice jarred upon him.

"That Hallowell girl has nothing to do with this," he rejoined. "I like
to feel that you really love me--that you'd have taken me wherever you
happened to find me--and that you'd stick to me no matter how far I
might drop."

"I would! I would!" she cried, tears in her eyes. "Oh, I didn't mean
that, Fred. You know I didn't--don't you?"

She tried to put her arms round his neck, but he took her hands and held
them. "Would you like to think I was marrying you for what you have?--or
for any other reason whatever but for what you are?"

It being once more a question of her own sex, the obstinate line
appeared round her mouth. "But, Fred, I'd not be _me_, if I were--a
working girl," she replied.

"You might be something even better if you were," retorted he coldly.
"The only qualities I don't like about you are the surface qualities
that have been plated on in these surroundings. And if I thought it was
anything but just you that I was marrying, I'd lose no time about
leaving you. I'd not let myself degrade myself."

"Fred--that tone--and don't--please don't look at me like that!" she
begged.

[Illustration: "'Would you like to think I was marrying you for what you
have?--or for any other reason whatever but for what you are?'"]

But his powerful glance searched on. He said, "Is it possible that you
and I are deceiving ourselves--and that we'll marry and wake up--and be
bored and dissatisfied--like so many of our friends?"

"No--no," she cried, wildly agitated. "Fred, dear we love each other.
You know we do. I don't use words as well as you do--and my mind works
in a queer way--Perhaps I didn't mean what I said. No matter. If my
love were put to the test--Fred, I don't ask anything more than that
your love for me would stand the tests my love for you would stand."

He caught her in his arms and kissed her with more passion than he had
ever felt for her before. "I believe you, Jo," he said. "I believe you."

"I love you so--that I could be jealous even of her--of that little girl
in your office. Fred, I didn't confess all the truth. It isn't true that
I thought her--a nobody. When she first came in here--it was in this
very room--I thought she was as near nothing as any girl I'd ever seen.
Then she began to change--as you said. And--oh, dearest, I can't help
hating her! And when I tried to get her away from you, and she wouldn't
come----"

"Away from me!" he cried, laughing.

"I felt as if it were like that," she pleaded. "And she wouldn't
come--and treated me as if she were queen and I servant--only politely,
I must say, for Heaven knows I don't want to injure her----"

"Shall I have her discharged?"

"Fred!" exclaimed she indignantly. "Do you think I could do such a
thing?"

"She'd easily get another job as good. Tetlow can find her one. Does
that satisfy you?"

"No," she confessed. "It makes me feel meaner than ever."

"Now, Jo, let's drop this foolish seriousness about nothing at all.
Let's drop it for good."

"Nothing at all--that's exactly it. I can't understand, Fred. What is
there about her that makes her haunt me? That makes me afraid she'll
haunt you?"

Norman felt a sudden thrill. He tightened his hold upon her hands
because his impulse had been to release them. "How absurd!" he said,
rather noisily.

"Isn't it, though?" echoed she. "Think of you and me almost quarreling
about such a trivial person." Her laugh died away. She shivered, cried,
"Fred, I'm superstitious about her. I'm--I'm--_afraid_!" And she flung
herself wildly into his arms.

"She _is_ somewhat uncanny," said he, with a lightness he was far from
feeling. "But, dear--it isn't complimentary to me, is it?"

"Forgive me, dearest--I don't mean that. I couldn't mean that. But--I
_love_ you so. Ever since I began to love you I've been looking round for
something to be afraid of. And this is the first chance you've given
me."

"_I've_ given you!" mocked he.

She laughed hysterically. "I mean the first chance I've had. And I'm
doing the best I can with it."

They were in good spirits now, and for the rest of the evening were as
loverlike as always, the nearer together for the bit of rough sea they
had weathered so nicely. Neither spoke of Miss Hallowell. Each had
privately resolved never to speak of her to the other again. Josephine
was already regretting the frankness that had led her to expose a not
too attractive part of herself--and to exaggerate in his eyes the
importance of a really insignificant chit of a typewriter. When he went
to bed that night he was resolved to have Tetlow find Miss Hallowell a
job in another office.

"She certainly _is_ uncanny," he said to himself. "I wonder why--I wonder
what the secret of her is. She's the first woman I ever ran across who
had a real secret. _Is_ it real? I wonder."




V


Toward noon the following day Norman, suddenly in need of a
stenographer, sent out for Miss Purdy, one of the three experts at
eighteen dollars a week who did most of the important and very
confidential work for the heads of the firm. When his door opened again
he saw not Miss Purdy but Miss Hallowell.

"Miss Purdy is sick to-day," said she. "Mr. Tetlow wishes to know if I
would do."

Norman shifted uneasily in his chair. "Just as
well--perfectly--certainly," he stammered. He was not looking at
her--seemed wholly occupied with the business he was preparing to
dispatch.

She seated herself in the usual place, at the opposite side of the broad
table. With pencil poised she fixed her gaze upon the unmarred page of
her open notebook. Instead of abating, his confusion increased. He could
not think of the subject about which he wished to dictate. First, he
noted how long her lashes were--and darker than her hair, as were her
well-drawn eyebrows also. Never had he seen so white a skin or one so
smooth. She happened to be wearing a blouse with a Dutch neck that day.
What a superb throat! What a line of beauty its gently swelling curve
made. Then his glance fell upon her lips, rosy-red, slightly pouted. And
what masses of dead gold hair--no, not gold, but of the white-gray of
wood ashes, and tinted with gold! No wonder it was difficult to tell
just what color her hair was. Hair like that was ready to be of any
color. And there were her arms, so symmetrical in her rather tight
sleeves, and emerging into view in the most delicate wrists. What a
marvelous skin!

"Have you ever posed?"

She startled and the color flamed in her cheeks. Her eyes shot a glance
of terror at him. "I--I," she stammered. Then almost defiantly, "Yes, I
did--for a while. But I didn't suppose anyone knew. At the time we
needed the money badly."

Norman felt deep disgust with himself for bursting out with such a
question, and for having surprised her secret. "There's nothing to be
ashamed of," he said gently.

"Oh, I'm not ashamed," she returned. Her agitation had subsided. "The
only reason I quit was because the work was terribly hard and the pay
small and uncertain. I was confused because they discharged me at the
last place I had, when they found out I had been a model. It was a
church paper office."

Again she poised her pencil and lowered her eyes. But he did not take
the hint. "Is there anything you would rather do than this sort of
work?" he asked.

"Nothing I could afford," replied she.

"If you had been kind to Miss Burroughs yesterday she would have helped
you."

"I couldn't afford to do that," said the girl in her quiet, reticent
way.

"To do what?"

"To be nice to anyone for what I could get out of it."

Norman smiled somewhat cynically. Probably the girl fancied she was
truthful; but human beings rarely knew anything about their real selves.
"What would you like to do?"

She did not answer his question until she had shrunk completely within
herself and was again thickly veiled with the expression which made
everyone think her insignificant. "Nothing I could afford to do," said
she. It was plain that she did not wish to be questioned further along
that line.

"The stage?" he persisted.

"I hadn't thought of it," was her answer.

"What then?"

"I don't think about things I can't have. I never made any definite
plans."

"But isn't it a good idea always to look ahead? As long as one has to be
moving, one might as well move in a definite direction."

She was waiting with pencil poised.

"There isn't much of a future at this business."

She shrank slightly. He felt that she regarded his remark as preparation
for a kindly hint that she was not giving satisfaction. . . . Well, why not
leave it that way? Perhaps she would quit of her own accord--would spare
him the trouble--and embarrassment--of arranging with Tetlow for another
place for her. He began to dictate--gave her a few sentences mockingly
different from his usual terse and clear statements--interrupted himself
with:

"You misunderstood me a while ago. I didn't mean you weren't doing your
work well. On the contrary, I think you'll soon be expert. But I thought
perhaps I might be able to help you to something you'd like better."

He listened to his own words in astonishment. What new freak of madness
was this? Instead of clearing himself of this uncanny girl, he was
proposing things to her that would mean closer relations. And what
reason had he to think she was fitted for anything but just what she was
now doing--doing indifferently well?

"Thank you," she said, so quietly that it seemed coldly, "but I'm
satisfied as I am."

Her manner seemed to say with polite and restrained plainness that she
was not in the least appreciative of his interest or of himself. But
this could not be. No girl in her position could fail to be grateful for
his interest. No woman, in all his life, had ever failed to respond to
his slightest advance. No, it simply could not be. She was merely shy,
and had a peculiar way of showing it. He said:

"You have no ambition?"

"That's not for a woman."

She was making her replies as brief as civility permitted. He observed
her narrowly. She was not shy, not embarrassed. What kind of game was
this? It could not be in sincere nature for a person in her position
thus to treat overtures, friendly and courteous overtures, from one in
his position. And never before--never--had a woman been thus
unresponsive. Instead of feeling relief that she had disentangled him
from the plight into which his impulsive offer had flung him, he was
piqued--angered--and his curiosity was inflamed as never before about
any woman.

The relations of the sexes are for the most part governed by traditions
of sex allurements and sex tricks so ancient that they have ceased to be
conscious and have become instinctive. One of these venerable first
principles is that mystery is the arch provoker. Norman, an old and
expert student of the great game--the only game for which the staidest
and most serious will abandon all else to follow its merry call--Norman
knew this trick of mystery. The woman veils herself and makes believe to
fly--an excellent trick, as good to-day as ever after five thousand
years of service. And he knew that in it lay the explanation for the
sudden and high upflaming of his interest in this girl. "What an ass I'm
making of myself!" reflected he. "When I care nothing about the girl,
why should I care about the mystery of her? Of course, it's some poor
little affair, a puzzle not worth puzzling out."

All true and clear enough. Yet seeing it did not abate his interest a
particle. She had veiled herself; she was pretending--perhaps
honestly--to fly. He rose and went to the window, stood with his back to
her, resumed dictating. But the sentences would not come. He whirled
abruptly. "I'm not ready to do the thing yet," he said. "I'll send for
you later."

Without a word or a glance she stood, took her book and went toward the
door. He gazed after her. He could not refrain from speaking again. "I'm
afraid you misunderstood my offer a while ago," said he, neither curt
nor friendly. "I forgot how such things from a man to a young woman
might be misinterpreted."

"I never thought of that," replied she unembarrassed. "It was simply
that I can't put myself under obligation to anyone."

As she stood there, her full beauty flashed upon him--the exquisite
form, the subtly graceful poise of her body, of her head--the loveliness
of that golden-hued white skin--the charm of her small rosy mouth--the
delicate, sensitive, slightly tilted nose--and her eyes--above all, her
eyes!--so clear, so sweet. Her voice had seemed thin and faint to him;
its fineness now seemed the rarest delicacy--the exactly fitting kind
for so evasive and delicate a beauty as hers. He made a slight bow of
dismissal, turned abruptly away. Never in all his life, strewn with
gallant experiences--never had a woman thus treated him, and never had a
woman thus affected him. "I am mad--stark mad!" he muttered. "A
ten-dollar-a-week typewriter, whom nobody on earth but myself would look
at a second time!" But something within him hurled back this scornful
fling. Though no one else on earth saw or appreciated--what of it? She
affected _him_ thus--and that was enough. "_I_ want her! . . . I _want_
her! I have never wanted a woman before."

He rushed into the dressing room attached to his office, plunged his
face into ice-cold water. This somewhat eased the burning sensation that
was becoming intolerable. Many were the unaccountable incidents in his
acquaintance with this strange creature; the most preposterous was this
sudden seizure. He realized now that his feeling for her had been like
the quiet, steady, imperceptible filling of a reservoir that suddenly
announces itself by the thunder and roar of a mighty cascade over the
dam. "This is madness--sheer madness! I am still master within myself. I
will make short work of this rebellion." And with an air of calmness so
convincing that he believed in it he addressed himself to the task of
sanity and wisdom lying plain before him. "A man of my position caught
by a girl like that! A man such as I am, caught by _any_ woman whatever!"
It was grotesque. He opened his door to summon Tetlow.

The gate in the outside railing was directly opposite, and about thirty
feet away. Tetlow and Miss Hallowell were going out--evidently to lunch
together. She was looking up at the chief clerk with laughing eyes--they
seemed coquettish to the infuriated Norman. And Tetlow--the serious and
squab young ass was gazing at her with the expression men of the stupid
squab sort put on when they wish to impress a woman. At this spectacle,
at the vision of that slim young loveliness, that perfect form and
deliciously smooth soft skin, white beyond belief beneath its faintly
golden tint--the hot blood steamed up into Norman's brain, blinded his
sight, reddened it with desire and jealousy. He drew back, closed his
door with a bang.

"This is not I," he muttered. "What has happened? Am I insane?"

       *       *       *       *       *

When Tetlow returned from lunch the office boy on duty at the gate told
him that Mr. Norman wished to see him at once. Like all men trying to
advance along ways where their fellow men can help or hinder, the head
clerk was full of more or less clever little tricks thought out with a
view to making a good impression. One of them was to stamp upon all
minds his virtue of promptness--of what use to be prompt unless you
forced every one to feel how prompt you were? He went in to see Norman,
with hat in hand and overcoat on his back and one glove off, the other
still on. Norman was standing at a window, smoking a cigarette. His
appearance--dress quite as much as manner--was the envy of his
subordinate--as, indeed, it was of hundreds of the young men struggling
to rise down town. It was so exactly what the appearance of a man of
vigor and power and high position should be. Tetlow practiced it by the
quarter hour before his glass at home--not without progress in the
direction of a not unimpressive manner of his own.

As Tetlow stood at attention, Norman turned and advanced toward him.
"Mr. Tetlow," he began, in his good-humored voice with the never wholly
submerged under-note of sharpness, "is it your habit to go out to lunch
with the young ladies employed here? If so, I wish to suggest--simply to
suggest--that it may be bad for discipline."

Tetlow's jaw dropped a little. He looked at Norman, was astonished to
discover beneath a thin veneer of calm signs of greater agitation than
he had ever seen in him. "To-day was the first time, sir," he said. "And
I can't quite account for my doing it. Miss Hallowell has been here
several months. I never specially noticed her until the last few
days--when the question of discharging her came up. You may remember it
was settled by you." Norman flung his cigarette away and stalked to the
window.

"Mr. Norman," pursued Tetlow, "you and I have been together many years.
I esteem it my greatest honor that I am able--that you permit me--to
class you as my friend. So I'm going to give you a confidence--one that
really startles me. I called on Miss Hallowell last night."

Norman's back stiffened.

"She is even more charming in her own home. And--" Tetlow blushed and
trembled--"I am going to make her my wife if I can."

Norman turned, a mocking satirical smile unpleasantly sparkling in his
eyes and curling his mouth "Old man," he said, "I think you've gone
crazy."

Tetlow made a helpless gesture. "I think so myself. I didn't intend to
marry for ten years--and then--I had quite a different match in mind."

"What's the matter with you, Billy?" inquired Norman, inspecting him
with smiling, cruelly unfriendly eyes.

"I'm damned if I know, Norman," said the head clerk, assuming that his
friend was sympathetic and dropping into the informality of the old days
when they were clerks together in a small firm. "I'd have proposed to
her last night if I hadn't been afraid I'd lose her by being in such a
hurry. . . . You're in love yourself."

Norman startled violently.

"You're going to get married. Probably you can sympathize. You know how
it is to meet the woman you want and must have."

Norman turned away.

"I've had--or thought I had--rather advanced ideas on the subject of
women. I've always had a horror of being married for a living or for a
home or as an experiment or a springboard. My notion's been that I
wouldn't trust a woman who wasn't independent. And theoretically I still
think that's sound. But it doesn't work out in practice. A man has to
have been in love to be able to speak the last word on the sex
question."

Norman dropped heavily into his desk chair and rumpled his hair into
disorder. He muttered something--the head clerk thought it was an oath.

"I'd marry her," Tetlow went on, "if I knew she was simply using me in
the coldest, most calculating way. My only fear is that I shan't be able
to get her--that she won't marry me."

Norman sneered. "That's not likely," he said.

"No, it isn't," admitted Tetlow. "They--the Hallowells--are nice
people--of as good family as there is. But they're poor--very poor.
There's only her father and herself. The old man is a scientist--spends
most of his time at things that won't pay a cent--utterly impractical. A
gentleman--an able man, if a little cracked--at least he seemed so to me
who don't know much about scientific matters. But getting poorer
steadily. So I think she will accept me."

A gloomy, angry frown, like a black shadow, passed across Norman's face
and disappeared. "You'd marry her--on those terms?" he sneered.

"Of course I _hope_ for better terms----"

Norman sprang up, strode to the window and turned his back.

"But I'm prepared for the worst. The fact is, she treats me as if she
didn't care a rap for the honor of my showing her attention."

"A trick, Billy. An old trick."

"Maybe so. But--I really believe she doesn't realize. She's queer--has
been queerly brought up. Yes, I think she doesn't appreciate. Then, too,
she's young and light--almost childish in some ways. . . . I don't blame
you for being disgusted with me, Fred. But--damn it, what's a man to
do?"

"Cure himself!" exploded Norman, wheeling violently on his friend. "You
must act like a man. Billy, such a marriage is ruin for you. How can we
take you into partnership next year? When you marry, you must marry in
the class you're moving toward, not in any of those you're leaving
behind."

"Do you suppose I haven't thought of all that?" rejoined Tetlow
bitterly. "But I can't help myself. It's useless for me to say I'll try.
I shan't try."

"Don't you want to get over this?" demanded Norman fiercely.

"Of course--No--I don't. Fred, you'd think better of me if you knew
her. You've never especially noticed her. She's beautiful."

Norman dropped to his chair again.

"Really--beautiful," protested Tetlow, assuming that the gesture was one
of disgusted denial. "Take a good look at her, Norman, before you
condemn her. I never was so astonished as when I discovered how
good-looking she is. I don't quite know how it is, but I suppose nobody
ever happened to see how--how lovely she is until I just chanced to see
it." At a rudely abrupt gesture from Norman he hurried on, eagerly
apologetic, "And if you talk with her--She's very reserved. But she's
the lady through and through--and has a good mind. . . . At least, I
think she has. I'll admit a man in love is a poor judge of a woman's
mind. But, anyhow, I _know_ she's lovely to look at. You'll see it
yourself, now that I've called your attention to it. You can't fail to
see it."

Norman threw himself back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his
head. "_Why_ do you want to marry her?" he inquired, in a tone his
sensitive ear approved as judicial.

"How can I tell?" replied the head clerk irritably. "Does a man ever
know?"

"Always--when he's sensibly in love."

"But when he's just in love? That's what ails me," retorted Tetlow, with
a sheepish look and laugh.

"Billy, you've got to get over this. I can't let you make a fool of
yourself."

Tetlow's fat, smooth, pasty face of the overfed, underexercised
professional man became a curious exhibit of alarm and obstinacy.

"You've got to promise me you'll keep away from her--except at the
office--for say, a week. Then--we'll see."

Tetlow debated.

"It's highly improbable that anyone else will discover these
irresistible charms. There's no one else hanging round?"

"No one, as I told you the other day, when you questioned me about her."

Norman shifted, looked embarrassed.

"I hope I didn't give you the impression I was ashamed of loving her or
would ever be ashamed of her anywhere?" continued Tetlow, a very
loverlike light in his usually unromantic eyes. "If I did, it wasn't
what I meant--far from it. You'll see, when I marry her, Norman. You'll
be congratulating me."

Norman sprang up again. "This is plain lunacy, Tetlow. I am amazed at
you--amazed!"

"Get acquainted with her, Mr. Norman," pleaded the subordinate. "Do it,
to oblige me. Don't condemn us----"

"I wish to hear nothing more!" cried Norman violently. "Another thing.
You must find her a place in some other office--at once."

"You're right, sir," assented Tetlow. "I can readily do that."

Norman scowled at him, made an imperious gesture of dismissal. Tetlow,
chopfallen but obdurate, got himself speedily out of sight.

Norman, with hands deep in his pockets, stared out among the skyscrapers
and gave way to a fit of remorse. It was foreign to his nature to do
petty underhanded tricks. Grand strategy--yes. At that he was an adept,
and not the shiftiest, craftiest schemes he had ever devised had given
him a moment's uneasiness. But to be driving a ten-dollar-a-week
typewriter out of her job--to be maneuvering to deprive her of a for
her brilliant marriage--to be lying to an old and loyal retainer who had
helped Norman full as much and as often as Norman had helped him--these
sneaking bits of skullduggery made him feel that he had sunk indeed. But
he ground his teeth together and his eyes gleamed wickedly. "He shan't
have her, damn him!" he muttered. "She's not for him."

He summoned Tetlow, who was obviously low in mind as the result of
revolving the things that had been said to him. "Billy," he began in a
tone so amiable that he was ashamed for himself, "you'll not forget I
have your promise?"

"What did I promise?" cried Tetlow, his voice shrill with alarm.

"Not to see her, except at the office, for a week."

"But I've promised her father I'd call this evening. He's going to show
me some experiments."

"You can easily make an excuse--business."

"But I don't want to," protested the head clerk. "What's the use? I've
got my mind made up. Norman, I'd hang on after her if you fired me out
of this office for it. And I can't rest--I'm fit for nothing--until
this matter's settled. I came very near taking her aside and proposing
to her, just after I went out of here a while ago."

"You _damn_ fool!" cried Norman, losing all control of himself. "Take the
afternoon express for Albany instead of Harcott and attend to those
registrations and arrange for those hearings. I'll do my best to save
you. I'll bring the girl in here and keep her at work until you get out
of the way."

Tetlow glanced at his friend; then the tears came into his eyes. "You're
a hell of a friend!" he ejaculated. "And I thought you'd sympathize
because you were in love."

"I do sympathize, Billy," Norman replied with an abrupt change to
shamefaced apology. "I sympathize more than you know. I feel like a dog,
doing this. But it can't result in any harm, and I want you to get a
little fresh air in that hot brain of yours before you commit yourself.
Be reasonable, old man. Suppose you rushed ahead and proposed--and she
accepted--and then, after a few days, you came to. What about her? You
must act on the level, Tetlow. Do the fair thing by yourself and by
her."

Norman had often had occasion to feel proud of the ingenuity and
resourcefulness of his brain. He had never been quite so proud as he was
when he finished that speech. It pacified Tetlow; it lightened his own
sense of guilt; it gave him a respite.

Tetlow rewarded Norman with the look that in New York is the equivalent
of the handclasp friend seeks from friend in times of stress. "You're
right, Fred. I'm much obliged to you. I haven't been considering _her_
side of it enough. A man ought always to think of that. The women--poor
things--have a hard enough time to get on, at best."

Norman's smile was characteristically cynical. Sentimentality amused
him. "I doubt if there are more female wrecks than male wrecks scattered
about the earth," rejoined he. "And I suspect the fact isn't due to the
gentleness of man with woman, either. Don't fret for the ladies, Tetlow.
They know how to take care of themselves. They know how to milk with a
sure and a steady hand. You may find it out by depressing experience
some day."

Tetlow saw the aim. His obstinate, wretched expression came back. "I
don't care. I've got----"

"You went over that ground," interrupted Norman impatiently. "You'd
better be catching the train."

As Tetlow withdrew, he rang for an office boy and sent him to summon
Miss Hallowell.

Norman had been reasoning with himself--with the aid of the self that
was both better and more worldly wise. He felt that his wrestlings had
not been wholly futile. He believed he had got the strength to face the
girl with a respectful mind, with a mind resolute in duty--if not
love--toward Josephine Burroughs. "I _love_ Josephine," he said to
himself. "My feeling for this girl is some sort of physical attraction.
I certainly shall be able to control it enough to keep it within myself.
And soon it will die out. No doubt I've felt much the same thing as
strongly before. But it didn't take hold because I was never bound
before--never had the sense of the necessity for restraint. That sense
is always highly dangerous for my sort of man."

This sounded well. He eyed the entering girl coldly, said in a voice
that struck him as excellent indifference, "Bring your machine in here,
Miss Hallowell, and recopy these papers. I've made some changes. If you
spoil any sheets, don't throw them away, but return everything to me."

"I'm always careful about the waste-paper baskets," said she, "since
they warned me that there are men who make a living searching the waste
thrown out of offices."

He made no reply. He could not have spoken if he had tried. Once more
the spell had seized him--the spell of her weird fascination for him. As
she sat typewriting, with her back almost toward him, he sat watching
her and analyzing his own folly. He knew that diagnosing a disease does
not cure it; but he found an acute pleasure in lingering upon all the
details of the effect she had upon his nerves. He did not dare move from
his desk, from the position that put a huge table and a revolving case
of reference books between them. He believed that if he went nearer he
would be unable to resist seizing her in his arms and pouring out the
passion that was playing along his nerves as the delicate, intense flame
flits back and forth along the surface of burning alcohol.

A knock at the door. He plunged into his papers. "Come!" he called.

Tetlow thrust in his head. Miss Hallowell did not look up. "I'm off,"
the head clerk said. His gaze was upon the unconscious girl--a gaze that
filled Norman with longing to strangle him.

"Telegraph me from Albany as soon as you get there," said Norman.
"Telegraph me at my club."

Tetlow was gone. The machine tapped monotonously on. The barette which
held the girl's hair at the back was so high that the full beauty of the
nape of her neck was revealed. That wonderful white skin with the golden
tint! How soft--yet how firm--her flesh looked! How slender yet how
strong was her build----

"How do you like Tetlow?" he asked, because speak to her he must.

She glanced up, turned in her chair. He quivered before the gaze from
those enchanting eyes of hers. "I beg pardon," she said. "I didn't
hear."

"Tetlow--how do you like him?"

"He is very kind to me--to everyone."

"How did your father like him?"

He confidently expected some sign of confusion, but there was no sign.
"Father was delighted with him," she said merrily. "He took an interest
in the work father's doing--and that was enough."

She was about to turn back to her task. He hastened to ask another
question. "Couldn't I meet your father some time? What Tetlow told me
interested me greatly."

"Father would be awfully pleased," replied she. "But--unless you really
care about--biology, I don't think you'd like coming."

"I'm interested in everything interesting," replied Norman dizzily. What
was he saying? What was he doing? What folly was his madness plunging
him into?

"You can come with Mr. Tetlow when he gets back."

"I'd prefer to talk with him alone," said Norman. "Perhaps I might see
some way to be of service to him."

Her expression was vividly different from what it had been when he
offered to help _her_. She became radiant with happiness. "I do hope
you'll come," she said--her voice very low and sweet, in the effort she
was making to restrain yet express her feelings.

"When? This evening?"

"He's always at home."

"You'll be there?"

"I'm always there, too. We have no friends. It's not easy to make
acquaintances in the East--congenial acquaintances."

"I'd want you to be there," he explained with great care, "because you
could help him and me in getting acquainted."

"Oh, he'll talk freely--to anyone. He talks only the one subject. He
never thinks of anything else."

She was resting her crossed arms on the back of her chair and, with her
chin upon them, was looking at him--a childlike pose and a childlike
expression. He said: "You are _sure_ you are twenty?"

She smiled gayly. "Nearly twenty-one."

"Old enough to be in love."

She lifted her head and laughed. She had charming white teeth--small and
sharp and with enough irregularity to carry out her general suggestion
of variability. "Yes, I shall like that, when it comes," she said; "But
the chances are against it just now."

"There's Tetlow."

She was much amused. "Oh, he's far too old and serious."

Norman felt depressed. "Why, he's only thirty-five."

"But I'm not twenty-one," she reminded him. "I'd want some one of my own
age. I'm tired of being so solemn. If I had love, I'd expect it to
change all that."

Evidently a forlorn and foolish person--and doubtless thinking of him,
two years the senior of Tetlow and far more serious, as an elderly
person, in the same class with her father. "But you like biology?" he
said. The way to a cure was to make her talk on.

"I don't know anything about it," said she, looking as frivolous as a
butterfly or a breeze-bobbed blossom. "I listen to father, but it's all
beyond me."

Yes--a light-weight. They could have nothing in common. She was a mere
surface--a thrillingly beautiful surface, but not a full-fledged woman.
So little did conversation with him interest her, she had taken
advantage of the short pause to resume her work. No, she had not the
faintest interest in him. It wasn't a trick of coquetry; it was genuine.
He whom women had always bowed before was unable to arouse in her a
spark of interest. She cared neither for what he had nor for what he
was, in himself. This offended and wounded him. He struggled sulkily
with his papers for half an hour. Then he fell to watching her again
and----

"You must not neglect to give me your address," he said. "Write it on a
slip of paper after you finish. I might forget it."

"Very well," she replied, but did not turn round.

"Why, do you think, did Tetlow come to see you?" he asked. He felt
cheapened in his own eyes--he, the great man, the arrived man, the
fiance of Josephine Burroughs, engaged in this halting and sneaking
flirtation! But he could not restrain himself.

She turned to answer. "Mr. Tetlow works very hard and has few friends.
He had heard of my father and wanted to meet him--just like you."

"Naturally," murmured Norman, in confusion. "I thought--perhaps--he was
interested in _you_."

She laughed outright--and he had an entrancing view of the clean rosy
interior of her mouth. "In _me_?--Mr. Tetlow? Why, he's too serious and
important for a girl like me."

"Then he bored you?"

"Oh, no. I like him. He is a good man--thoroughly good."

This pleased Norman immensely. It may be fine to be good, but to be
called good--that is somehow a different matter. It removes a man at
once from the jealousy-provoking class. "Good exactly describes him,"
said Norman. "He wouldn't harm a fly. In love he'd be ridiculous."

"Not with a woman of his own age and kind," protested she. "But I'm
neglecting my work."

And she returned to it with a resolute manner that made him ashamed to
interrupt again--especially after the unconscious savage rebukes she had
administered. He sat there fighting against the impulse to watch
her--denouncing himself--appealing to pride, to shame, to prudence--to
his love for Josephine--to the sense of decency that restrains a hunter
from aiming at a harmless tame song bird. But all in vain. He
concentrated upon her at last, stared miserably at her, filled with
longing and dread and shame--and longing, and yet more longing.

When she finished and stood at the other side of the desk, waiting for
him to pass upon her work, she must have thought he was in a profound
abstraction. He did not speak, made a slight motion with his hand to
indicate that she was to go. Shut in alone, he buried his face in his
arms. "What madness!" he groaned. "If I loved her, there'd be some
excuse for me. But I don't. I couldn't. Yet I seem ready to ruin
everything, merely to gratify a selfish whim--an insane whim."

On top of the papers she had left he saw a separate slip. He drew it
toward him, spread it out before him. Her address. An unknown street in
Jersey City!

"I'll not go," he said aloud, pushing the slip away. Go? Certainly not.
He had never really meant to go. He would, of course, keep his
engagement with Josephine. "And I'll not come down town until she has
taken another job and has caught Tetlow. I'll stop this idiocy of trying
to make an impression on a person not worth impressing. What weak
vanity--to be piqued by this girl's lack of interest!"

Nevertheless--he at six o'clock telephoned to the Burroughs' house that
he was detained down town. He sent away his motor, dined alone in the
station restaurant in Jersey City. And at half past seven he set out in
a cab in search of--what? He did not dare answer that interrogation.




VI


Life many another chance explorer from New York, Norman was surprised to
discover that, within a few minutes of leaving the railway station, his
cab was moving through a not unattractive city. He expected to find the
Hallowells in a tenement in some more or less squalid street overhung
with railway smoke and bedaubed with railway grime. He was delighted
when the driver assured him that there was no mistake, that the
comfortable little cottage across the width of the sidewalk and a small
front yard was the sought-for destination.

"Wait, please," he said to the cabman. "Or, if you like, you can go to
that corner saloon down there. I'll know where to find you." And he gave
him half a dollar.

The cabman hesitated between two theories of this conduct--whether it
was the generosity it seemed or was a ruse to "side step" payment.
He--or his thirst--decided for the decency of human nature; he drove
confidingly away. Norman went up the tiny stoop and rang. The sound of a
piano, in the room on the ground floor where there was light, abruptly
ceased. The door opened and Miss Hallowell stood before him. She was
throughout a different person from the girl of the office. She had
changed to a tight-fitting pale-blue linen dress made all in one piece.
Norman could now have not an instant's doubt about the genuineness, the
bewitching actuality, of her beauty. The wonder was how she could
contrive to conceal so much of it for the purposes of business. It was a
peculiar kind of beauty--not the radiant kind, but that which shines
with a soft glow and gives him who sees it the delightful sense of being
its original and sole discoverer. An artistic eye--or an eye that
discriminates in and responds to feminine loveliness--would have been
captivated, as it searched in vain for flaw.

If Norman anticipated that she would be nervous before the task of
receiving in her humbleness so distinguished a visitor, he must have
been straightway disappointed. Whether from a natural lack of that sense
of social differences which is developed to the most pitiful
snobbishness in New York or from her youth and inexperience, she
received him as if he had been one of the neighbors dropping in after
supper. And it was Norman who was ill at ease. Nothing is more
disconcerting to a man accustomed to be received with due respect to his
importance than to find himself put upon the common human level and
compelled to "make good" all over again from the beginning. He felt--he
knew--that he was an humble candidate for her favor--a candidate with
the chances perhaps against him.

The tiny parlor had little in it beside the upright piano because there
was no space. But the paper, the carpet and curtains, the few pieces of
furniture, showed no evidence of bad taste, of painful failure at the
effort to "make a front." He was in the home of poor people, but they
were obviously people who made a highly satisfactory best of their
poverty. And in the midst of it all the girl shone like the one evening
star in the mystic opalescence of twilight.

"We weren't sure you were coming," said she. "I'll call father. . . .
No, I'll take you back to his workshop. He's easier to get acquainted
with there."

"Won't you play something for me first? Or--perhaps you sing?"

"A very little," she admitted. "Not worth hearing."

"I'm sure I'd like it. I want to get used to my surroundings before I
tackle the--the biology."

Without either hesitation or shyness, she seated herself at the piano.
"I'll sing the song I've just learned." And she began. Norman moved to
the chair that gave him a view of her in profile. For the next five
minutes he was witness to one of those rare, altogether charming visions
that linger in the memory in freshness and fragrance until memory itself
fades away. She sat very straight at the piano, and the position brought
out all the long lines of her figure--the long, round white neck and
throat, the long back and bosom, the long arms and legs--a series of
lovely curves. It has been scientifically demonstrated that pale blue is
pre-eminently the sex color. It certainly was pre-eminently _her_ color,
setting off each and every one of her charms and suggesting the
roundness and softness and whiteness her drapery concealed. She was one
of those rare beings whose every pose is instinct with grace. And her
voice--It was small, rather high, at times almost shrill. But in every
note of its register there sounded a mysterious, melancholy-sweet call
to the responding nerves of man.

Before she got halfway through the song Norman was fighting against the
same mad impulse that had all but overwhelmed him as he watched her in
the afternoon. And when her last note rose, swelled, slowly faded into
silence, it seemed to him that had she kept on for one note more he
would have disclosed to her amazed eyes the insanity raging within him.

She turned on the piano stool, her hands dropped listlessly in her lap.
"Aren't those words beautiful?" she said in a dreamy voice. She was not
looking at him. Evidently she was hardly aware of his presence.

He had not heard a word. He was in no mood for mere words. "I've never
liked anything so well," he said. And he lowered his eyes that she might
not see what they must be revealing.

She rose. He made a gesture of protest. "Won't you sing another?" he
asked.

"Not after that," she said. "It's the best I know. It has put me out of
the mood for the ordinary songs."

"You are a dreamer--aren't you?"

"That's my real life," replied she. "I go through the other part just to
get to the dreams."

"What do you dream?"

She laughed carelessly. "Oh, you'd not be interested. It would seem
foolish to you."

"You're mistaken there," cried he. "The only thing that ever has
interested me in life is dreams--and making them come true."

"But not _my_ kind of dreams. The only kind I like are the ones that
couldn't possibly come true."

"There isn't any dream that can't be made to come true."

She looked at him eagerly. "You think so?"

"The wildest ones are often the easiest." He had a moving voice himself,
and it had been known to affect listening ears hypnotically when he was
deeply in earnest, was possessed by one of those desires that conquer
men of will and then make them irresistible instruments. "What is your
dream?--happiness? . . . love?"

She gazed past him with swimming eyes, with a glance that seemed like a
brave bright bird exploring infinity. "Yes," she said under her breath.
"But it could never--never come true. It's too perfect."

"Don't doubt," he said, in a tone that fitted her mood as the rhythm of
the cradle fits the gentle breathing of the sleeping child. "Don't ever
doubt. And the dream will come true."

"You have been in love?" she said, under the spell of his look and tone.

He nodded slowly. "I am," he replied, and he was under the spell of her
beauty.

"Is it--wonderful?"

"Like nothing else on earth. Everything else seems--poor and
cheap--beside it."

He drew a step nearer. "But you couldn't love--not yet," he said. "You
haven't had the experience. You will have to learn."

"You don't know me," she cried. "I have been teaching myself ever since
I was a little girl. I've thought of nothing else most of the time.
Oh--" she clasped her white hands against her small bosom--"if I ever
have the chance, how much I shall give!"

"I know it! I know it!" he replied. "You will make some man happier than
ever man was before." His infatuation did not blind him to the fact that
she cared nothing about him, looked on him in the most unpersonal way.
But that knowledge seemed only to inflame him the more, to lash him on
to the folly of an ill-timed declaration. "I have felt how much you will
give--how much you will love--I've felt it from the second time I saw
you--perhaps from the first. I've never seen any woman who interested me
as you do--who drew me as you do--against my ambition--against my will.
I--I----"

He had been fighting against the words that would come in spite of him.
He halted now because the food of emotion suffocated speech. He stood
before her, ghastly pale and trembling. She did not draw back. She
seemed compelled by his will, by the force of his passion, to stay where
she was. But in her eyes was a fascinated terror--a fear of him--of the
passion that dominated him, a passion like the devils that made men gash
themselves and leap from precipices into the sea. To unaccustomed eyes
the first sight of passion is always terrifying and is usually
repellent. One must learn to adventure the big wave, the great hissing,
towering billow that conceals behind its menace the wild rapture of
infinite longing realized.

"I have frightened you?" he said.

"Yes," was her whispered reply.

"But it is your dream come true."

She shrank back--not in aversion, but gently. "No--it isn't my dream,"
she replied.

"You don't realize it yet, but you will."

She shook her head positively. "I couldn't ever think of you in that
way."

He did not need to ask why. She had already explained when they were
talking of Tetlow. There was a finality in her tone that filled him with
despair. It was his turn to look at her in terror. What power this slim
delicate girl had over him! What a price she could exact if she but
knew! Knew? Why, he had told her--was telling her in look and tone and
gesture--was giving himself frankly into captivity--was prostrate,
inviting her to trample. His only hope of escape lay in her
inexperience--that she would not realize. In the insanities of passion,
as in some other forms of dementia, there is always left a streak of
reason--of that craft which leads us to try to get what we want as
cheaply as possible. Men, all but beside themselves with love, will
bargain over the terms, if they be of the bargaining kind by nature.
Norman was not a haggler. But common prudence was telling him how unwise
his conduct was, how he was inviting the defeat of his own purposes.

He waved his hand impatiently. "We'll see, my dear," he said with a
light good-humored laugh. "I mustn't forget that I came to see your
father."

She looked at him doubtfully. She did not understand--did not quite
like--this abrupt change of mood. It suggested to her simplicity a lack
of seriousness, of sincerity. "Do you really wish to see my father?" she
inquired.

"Why else should I come away over to Jersey City? Couldn't I have talked
with you at the office?"

This seemed convincing. She continued to study his face for light upon
the real character of this strange new sort of man. He regarded her with
a friendly humorous twinkle in his eyes. "Then I'll take you to him,"
she said at length. She was by no means satisfied, but she could not
discover why she was dissatisfied.

"I can't possibly do you any harm," he urged, with raillery.

"No, I think not," replied she gravely. "But you mustn't say those
things!"

"Why not?" Into his eyes came their strongest, most penetrating look. "I
want you. And I don't intend to give you up. It isn't my habit to give
up. So, sooner or later I get what I go after."

"You make me--afraid," she said nervously.

"Of what?" laughed he. "Not of me, certainly. Then it must be of
yourself. You are afraid you will end by wanting me to want you."

"No--not that," declared she, confused by his quick cleverness of
speech. "I don't know what I'm afraid of."

"Then let's go to your father. . . . You'll not tell Tetlow what I've
said?"

"No." And once more her simple negation gave him a sense of her absolute
truthfulness.

"Or that I've been here?"

She looked astonished. "Why not?"

"Oh--office reasons. It wouldn't do for the others to know."

She reflected on this. "I don't understand," was the result of her
thinking. "But I'll do as you ask. Only, you must not come again."

"Why not? If they knew at the office, they'd simply talk--unpleasantly."

"Yes," she admitted hesitatingly after reflecting. "So you mustn't come
again. I don't like some kinds of secrets."

"But your father will know," he urged. "Isn't that enough for--for
propriety?"

"I can't explain. I don't understand, myself. I do a lot of things by
instinct." She, standing with her hands behind her back and with clear,
childlike eyes gravely upon him, looked puzzled but resolved. "And my
instinct tells me not to do anything secret about you."

This answer made him wonder whether after all he might not be too
positive in his derisive disbelief in women's instincts. He laughed.
"Well--now for your father."

The workshop proved to be an annex to the rear, reached by a passage
leading past a cosy little dining room and a kitchen where the order and
the shine of cleanness were notable even to masculine eyes. "You are
well taken care of," he said to her--she was preceding him to show the
way.

"We take care of ourselves," replied she. "I get breakfast before I
leave and supper after I come home. Father has a cold lunch in the
middle of the day, when he eats at all--which isn't often. And on
Saturday afternoons and Sundays I do the heavy work."

"You _are_ a busy lady!"

"Oh, not so very busy. Father is a crank about system and order. He has
taught me to plan everything and work by the plans."

For the first time Norman had a glimmer of real interest in meeting her
father. For in those remarks of hers he recognized at once the rare
superior man--the man who works by plan, where the masses of mankind
either drift helplessly or are propelled by some superior force behind
them without which they would be, not the civilized beings they seem,
but even as the savage in the dugout or as the beast of the field. The
girl opened a door; a bright light streamed into the dim hallway.

"Father!" she called. "Here's Mr. Norman."

Norman saw, beyond the exquisite profile of the girl's head and figure,
a lean tallish old man, dark and gray, whose expression proclaimed him
at first glance no more in touch with the affairs of active life in the
world than had he been an inhabitant of Mars.

Mr. Hallowell gave his caller a polite glance and handshake--evidence of
merest surface interest in him, of amiable patience with an intruder.
Norman saw in the neatness of his clothing and linen further proof of
the girl's loving care. For no such abstracted personality as this would
ever bother about such things for himself. These details, however,
detained Norman only for a moment. In the presence of Hallowell it was
impossible not to concentrate upon him.

As we grow older what we are inside, the kind of thoughts we admit as
our intimates, appears ever more strongly in the countenance. This had
often struck Norman, observing the men of importance about him, noting
how as they aged the look of respectability, of intellectual
distinction, became a thinner and ever thinner veneer over the
selfishness and greediness, the vanity and sensuality and falsehood. But
never before had he been so deeply impressed by its truth. Evidently
Hallowell during most of his fifty-five or sixty years had lived the
purely intellectual life. The result was a look of spiritual beauty, the
look of the soul living in the high mountain, with serenity and vast
views constantly before it. Such a face fills with awe the ordinary
follower of the petty life of the world if he have the brains to know or
to suspect the ultimate truth about existence. It filled Norman with
awe. He hastily turned his eyes upon the girl--and once more into his
face came the resolute, intense, white-hot expression of a man doggedly
set upon an earthy purpose.

There was an embarrassed silence. Then the girl said, "Show him the
worms, father."

Mr. Hallowell smiled. "My little girl thinks no one has seen that sort
of thing," said he. "I can't make her believe it is one of the
commonplaces."

"You've never had anyone here more ignorant than I, sir," said Norman.
"The only claim on your courtesy I can make is that I'm interested and
that I perhaps know enough in a general way to appreciate."

Hallowell waved his hand toward a row of large glass bottles on one of
the many shelves built against the rough walls of the room. "Here they
are," said he. "It's the familiar illustration of how life may be
controlled."

"I don't understand," said Norman, eying the bottled worms curiously.

"Oh, it's simply the demonstration that life is a mere chemical
process----"

Norman had ceased to listen. The girl was moving toward the door by
which they had entered--was in the doorway--was gone! He stood in an
attitude of attention; Hallowell talked on and on, passing from one
thing to another, forgetting his caller and himself, thinking only of
the subject, the beloved science, that has brought into the modern world
a type of men like those who haunted the deserts and mountain caves in
the days when Rome was falling to pieces. With those saintly hermits of
the Dark Ages religion was the all-absorbing subject. And seeking their
own salvation was the goal upon which their ardent eyes were necessarily
bent. With these modern devotees, science--the search for the truth
about the world in which they live--is their religion; and their goal
is the redemption of the world. They are resolved--step by step, each
worker contributing his mite of discovery--to transform the world from a
hell of discomfort and pain and death to a heaven where men and women,
free and enlightened and perhaps immortal, shall live in happiness. They
even dream that perhaps this race of gods shall learn to construct the
means to take them to another and younger planet, when this Earth has
become too old and too cold and too nakedly clad in atmosphere properly
to sustain life.

From time to time Norman caught a few words of what Hallowell
said--words that made him respect the intelligence that had uttered
them. But he neither cared nor dared to listen. He refused to be
deflected from his one purpose. When he was as old as Hallowell, it
would be time to think of these matters. When he had snatched the things
he needed, it would be time to take the generous, wide, philosopher view
of life. But not yet. He was still young; he could--and he would!--drink
of the sparkling heady life of the senses, typefied now for him in this
girl. How her loveliness flamed in his blood--flamed as fiercely when he
could not see the actual, tangible charms as when they were radiating
their fire into his eyes and through his skin! First he must live that
glorious life of youth, of nerves aquiver with ecstasy. Also, he must
shut out the things of the intellect--must live in brain as well as in
body the animal life--in brain the life of cunning and strategy. For the
intellectual life would make it impossible to pursue such ignoble
things. First, material success and material happiness. Then, in its own
time, this intellectual life to which such men as Hallowell ever beckon,
from their heights, such men as Norman, deep in the wallow that seems to
them unworthy of them, even as they roll in it.

As soon as there came a convenient pause in Hallowell's talk, Norman
said, "And you devote your whole life to these things?"

Hallowell's countenance lost its fine glow of enthusiasm. "I have to
make a living. I do chemical analyses for doctors and druggists. That
takes most of my time."

"But you can dispatch those things quickly."

Hallowell shook his head. "There's only one way to do things. My clients
trust me. I can't shirk."

Norman smiled. He admired this simplicity. But it amused him, too; in a
world of shirking and shuffling, not to speak of downright dishonesty,
it struck the humorous note of the incongruous. He said:

"But if you could give all your time you would get on faster."

"Yes--if I had the time--_and_ the money. To make the search exhaustive
would take money--five or six thousand a year, at the least. A great
deal more than I shall ever have."

"Have you tried to interest capitalists?"

Hallowell smiled ironically. "There is much talk about capitalists and
capital opening up things. But I have yet to learn of an instance of
their touching anything until they were absolutely sure of large
profits. Their failed enterprises are not miscarriage of noble purpose
but mistaken judgment, judgment blinded by hope and greed."

"I see that a philosopher can know life without living it," said Norman.
"But couldn't you put your scheme in such a way that some capitalist
would be led to hope?"

"I'd have to tell them the truth. Possibly I might discover something
with commercial value, but I couldn't promise. I don't think it is
likely."

Norman's eyes were on the door. His thoughts were reaching out to the
distant and faint sound of a piano. "Just what do you propose to search
for?" inquired he.

He tried to listen, because it was necessary that he have some knowledge
of Hallowell's plans. But he could not fix his attention. After a few
moments he glanced at his watch, interrupted with, "I think I understand
enough for the present. I've stayed longer than I intended. I must go
now. When I come again I may perhaps have some plan to propose."

"Plan?" exclaimed Hallowell, his eyes lighting up.

"I'm not sure--not at all sure," hastily added Norman. "I don't wish to
give you false hopes. The matter is extremely difficult. But I'll try.
I've small hope of success, but I'll try."

"My daughter didn't explain to me," said the scientist. "She simply said
one of the gentlemen for whom she worked was coming to look at my place.
I thought it was mere curiosity."

"So it was, Mr. Hallowell," said Norman. "But I have been interested. I
don't as yet see what can be done. I'm only saying that I'll think it
over."

"I understand," said Hallowell. He was trying to seem calm and
indifferent. But his voice had the tremulous note of excitement in it
and his hands fumbled nervously, touching evidence of the agitated
gropings of his mind in the faint, perhaps illusory, light of a
new-sprung hope. "Yes, I understand perfectly. Still--it is pleasant to
think about such a thing, even if there's no chance of it. I am very
fond of dreaming. That has been my life, you know."

Norman colored, moved uneasily. The fineness of this man's character
made him uncomfortable. He could pity Hallowell as a misguided failure.
He could dilate himself as prosperous, successful, much the more
imposing and important figure in the contrast. Yet there was somehow a
point of view at which, if one looked carefully, his own sort of man
shriveled and the Hallowell sort towered.

"I _must_ be going," Norman said. "No--don't come with me. I know the way.
I've interrupted you long enough." And he put out his hand and, by those
little clevernesses of manner which he understood so well, made it
impossible for Hallowell to go with him to Dorothy.

He was glad when he shut the door between him and her father. He paused
in the hall to dispel the vague, self-debasing discomfort--and listening
to _her_ voice as she sang helped wonderfully. There is no more trying
test of a personality than to be estimated by the voice alone. That test
produces many strange and startling results. Again and again it
completely reverses our judgment of the personality, either destroys or
enhances its charm. The voice of this girl, floating out upon the quiet
of the cottage--the voice, soft and sweet, full of the virginal passion
of dreams unmarred by experience--It was while listening to her voice,
as he stood there in the dimly lighted hall, that Frederick Norman
passed under the spell in all its potency. In taking an anaesthetic
there is the stage when we reach out for its soothing effects; then
comes the stage when we half desire, half fear; then a stage in which
fear is dominant, and we struggle to retain our control of the senses.
Last comes the stage when we feel the full power of the drug and relax
and yield or are beaten down into quiet. Her voice drew him into the
final stage, was the blow of the overwhelming wave's crest that crushed
him into submission.

She glanced toward the door. He was leaning there, an ominous calm in
his pale, resolute face. She gazed at him with widening eyes. And her
look was the look of helplessness before a force that may, indeed must,
be struggled against, but with the foregone certainty of defeat.

A gleam of triumph shone in his eyes. Then his expression changed to one
more conventional. "I stopped a moment to listen, on my way out," said
he.

Her expression changed also. The instinctive, probably unconscious
response to his look faded into the sweet smile, serious rather than
merry, that was her habitual greeting. "Mr. Tetlow didn't get away from
father so soon."

"I stayed longer than I intended. I found it even more interesting than
I had expected. . . . Would you be glad if your father could be free to
do as he likes and not be worried about anything?"

"That is one of my dreams."

"Well, it's certainly one that might come true. . . . And you--It's a
shame that you should have to do so much drudgery--both here and in New
York."

"Oh, I don't mind about myself. It's all I'm fit for. I haven't any
talent--except for dreaming."

"And for making--_some_ man's dreams come true."

Her gaze dropped. And as she hid herself she looked once more almost as
insignificant and colorless as he had once believed her to be.

"What are you thinking about?"

She shook her head slowly without raising her eyes or emerging from the
deep recess of her reserve.

"You are a mystery to me. I can't decide whether you are very innocent
or very--concealing."

She glanced inquiringly at him. "I don't understand," she said.

He smiled. "No more do I. I've seen so much of faking--in women as well
as in men--that it's hard for me to believe anyone is genuine."

"Do you think I am trying to deceive you? About what?"

He made an impatient gesture--impatience with his credulity where she
was concerned. "No matter. I want to make you happy--because I want you
to make me happy."

Her eyes became as grave as a wondering child's. "You are laughing at
me," she said.

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I could not make you happy."

"Why not?"

"What could a serious man like you find in me?"

His intense, burning gaze held hers. "Some time I will tell you."

She shut herself within herself like a flower folding away its beauty
and leaving exposed only the underside of its petals. It was impossible
to say whether she understood or was merely obeying an instinct.

He watched her a moment in silence. Then he said:

"I am mad about you--mad. You _must_ understand. I can think only of you.
I am insane with jealousy of you. I want you--I must have you."

He would have seized her in his arms, but the look of sheer amazement
she gave him protected her where no protest or struggle would. "You?"
she said. "Did you really mean it? I thought you were just talking."

"Can't you see that I mean it?"

"Yes--you look as if you did. But I can't believe it. I could never
think of you in that way."

Once more that frank statement of indifference infuriated him. He _must_
compel her to feel--he must give that indifference the lie--and at once!
He caught her in his arms. He rained kisses upon her pale face. She made
not the least resistance, but seemed dazed. "I will teach you to love
me," he cried, drunk now with the wine of her lips, with the perfume of
her exquisite youth. "I will make you happy. We shall be mad with
happiness."

She gently freed herself. "I don't believe I could ever think of you in
that way."

"Yes, darling--you will. You can't help loving where you are loved so
utterly."

She gazed at him wonderingly--the puzzled wonder of a child.
"You--love--me?" she said slowly.

"Call it what you like. I am mad about you. I have forgotten
everything--pride--position--things you can't imagine--and I care for
nothing but you."

And again he was kissing her with the soft fury of fire; and again she
was submitting with the passive, dazed expression that seemed to add to
his passion. To make her feel! To make her respond! He, whom so many
women had loved--women of position, of fame for beauty, of social
distinction or distinction as singers, players--women of society and
women of talent all kinds of worth-while women--they had cared, had run
after him, had given freely all he had asked and more. And this
girl--nobody at all--she had nothing for him.

He held her away from him, cried angrily: "What is the matter with you?
What is the matter with me?"

"I don't understand," she said. "I wish you wouldn't kiss me so much."

He released her, laughed satirically. "Oh--you are playing a game. I
might have known."

"I don't understand," said she. "A while ago you said you loved me. Now
you act as if you didn't like me at all." And she smiled gayly at him,
pouting her lips a little. Once more her beauty was shining. It made his
nerves quiver to see the color in her pure white skin where he had
kissed her.

"I don't care whether it is a game or not," he cried. And he was about
to seize her again, when she repulsed him. He crushed her resistance,
held her tight in his arms.

"You frighten me," she murmured. "You--hurt me."

He released her. "What do you want?" he cried. "Don't you care at all?"

"Oh, yes. I like you--very much. I have from the first time I saw you.
But you seem older--and more serious."

"Never mind about that. We are going to love each other--and I am going
to make you and your father happy."

"If you make father happy I will do anything for you. I don't want
anything myself--but he is getting old and sometimes his despair is
terrible." There were tears in her voice--tears and the most touching
tenderness. "He has some great secret that he wants to discover, and he
is afraid he will die without having had the chance."

"You will love me if I make your father happy?"

He knew it was the question of a fool, but he so longed to hear from her
lips some word to give him hope that he could not help asking it. She
said:

"Love you as--as you seem to love me? Not that same way. I don't feel
that way toward you. But I will love you in my own way."

He observed her with penetrating eyes. Was this speech of hers innocence
or calculation? He could get no clue to the truth. He saw nothing but
innocence; the teaching of experience warned him to believe in nothing
but guile. He hid his doubt and chagrin behind a mocking smile. "As you
please," said he. "I will do my part. Then--we'll see. . . . Do you care
about anyone else--in _my_ way of loving, I mean?"

It was again the question of an infatuated fool, and put in an
infatuated fool's way. For, if she were a "deep one," how could he hope
to get the truth? But her answer reassured him. "No," she said--her
simple, direct negation that had a convincing power he had never seen
equaled.

"If I ever knew of another man's touching you," he said, "I'd feel like
strangling him." He laughed at himself. "Not that I should strangle him.
That sort of thing isn't done any more. But I'd do something devilish."

"But I haven't promised not to kiss anyone else," she said. "Why should
I? I don't love you."

He looked at her strangely. "But you're going to love me," he said.

She shrank within herself again. She looked at him with uneasy eyes.
"You won't kiss me any more until I tell you that I do love you?" she
asked with the gravity and pathos and helplessness of a child.

"Don't you want to learn to love me?--to learn to love?"

She was silent--a silence that maddened him.

"Don't be afraid to speak," he said irritably. "What are you thinking?"

"That I don't want you to kiss me--and that I do want father to be
happy."

Was this guile? Was it innocence? He put his arms round her. "Look at
me," he said.

She gazed at him frankly.

"You like me?"

"Yes."

"Why don't you want me to kiss you?"

"I don't know. It makes me--dislike you."

He released her. She laid her hand on his arm eagerly. "Please--" she
implored. "I don't mean to hurt you. I wouldn't offend you for anything.
Only--when you ask me a question--mustn't I tell you the truth?"

"Always," he said, believing in her, in spite of the warnings of cynical
worldliness. "I don't know whether you are sincere or not--as yet. So
for the present I'll give you the benefit of the doubt." He stood back
and looked at her from head to foot. "You are beautiful!--perfect," he
said in a low voice. He laughed. "I'll resist the temptation to kiss you
again. I must go now. About your father--I'll see what can be done."

She stood with her hands behind her back, looking up at him with an
expression he could not fathom. Suddenly she advanced, put up her lips
and said gravely,

"Won't you kiss me?"

He eyed her quizzically. "Oh--you've changed your mind?"

She shook her head.

"Then why do you ask me to kiss you?"

"Because of what you said about father."

He laughed and kissed her. And then she, too, laughed. He said, "Not for
my own sake--not a little bit?"

"Oh, yes," she cried, "when you kiss me that way. I like to be kissed. I
am very affectionate."

He laughed again. "You _are_ a queer one. If it's a game, it's a good one.
Is it a game?"

"I don't know," said she gayly. "Good night. This is dreadfully late for
me."

"Good night," he said, and they shook hands. "Do you like me better--or
less?"

"Better," was her prompt, apparently honest reply.

"Curiously enough, I'm beginning to _like_ you," said he. "Now don't ask
me what I mean by that. If you don't know already, you'll not find out
from me."

"Oh, but I do know," cried she. "The way you kissed me--that was one
thing. The way you feel toward me now--that's a different thing. Isn't
it so?"

"Exactly. I see we are going to get on."

"Yes, indeed."

They shook hands again in friendliest fashion, and she opened the front
door for him. And her farewell smile was bright and happy.




VII


In the cold clear open he proceeded to take the usual account of
stock--with dismal results. She had wound him round her fingers, had
made him say only the things he should not have said, and leave unsaid
the things that might have furthered his purposes. He had conducted the
affair ridiculously--"just what is to be expected of an infatuated
fool." However, there was no consolation in the discovery that he was
reduced, after all these years of experience, to the common level--man
weak and credulous in his dealings with woman. He hoped that his disgust
with himself would lead on to disgust, or, rather, distaste for her. It
is the primal instinct of vanity to dislike and to shun those who have
witnessed its humiliation.

"I believe I am coming to my senses," he said. And he ventured to call
her up before him for examination and criticism. This as he stood upon
the forward deck of the ferry with the magnificent panorama of New York
before him. New York! And he, of its strong men, of the few in all that
multitude who had rank and power--he who had won as his promised wife
the daughter of one of the dozen mighty ones of the nation! What an
ill-timed, what an absurd, what a crazy step down this excursion of
his! And for what? There he summoned her before him. And at the first
glance of his fancy at her fair sweet face and lovely figure, he
quailed. He was hearing her voice again. He was feeling the yield of her
smooth, round form to his embrace, the yield of her smooth white cheek
to his caress. In his nostrils was the fragrance of her youth, the
matchless perfume of nature, beyond any of the distillations of art in
its appeal to his normal and healthy nerves. And he burned with the fire
only she could quench. "I must--I must.--My God, I _must_!" he muttered.

When he reached home, he asked whether his sister was in. The butler
said that Mrs. Fitzhugh had just come from the theater. In search of
her, he went to the library, found her seated there with a book and a
cigarette, her wrap thrown back upon her chair. "Come out to supper with
me, Ursula," he said. "I'm starved and bored."

"Why, you're not dressed!" exclaimed his sister. "I thought you were at
the Cameron dance with Josephine."

"Had to cut it out," replied he curtly. "Will you come?"

"I can't eat, but I'll drink. Yes, let's have a spree. It's been years
since we had one--not since we were poor. Let's not go to a _deadly_
respectable place. Let's go where there are some of the other kind,
too."

"But I must have food. Why not the Martin?"

"That'll do--though I'd prefer something a little farther up Broadway."

"The Martin is gay enough. The truth is, there's nothing really gay any
more. There's too much money. Money suffocates gayety."

To the Martin they went, and he ordered an enormous supper--one of those
incredible meals for which he was famous. They dispatched a quart of
champagne before the supper began to come, he drinking at least two
thirds of it. He drank as much while he was eating--and called for a
third bottle when the coffee was served. He had eaten half a dozen big
oysters, a whole guinea hen, a whole portion of salad, another of
Boniface cheese, with innumerable crackers.

"If I could eat as you do!" sighed Ursula enviously. "Yet it's only one
of your accomplishments."

"I'm not eating much nowadays," said he gloomily. "I'm losing my
appetite." And he lit a long black cigar and swallowed half a large
glass of the champagne. "Nothing tastes good--not even champagne."

"There _is_ something wrong with you," said Ursula. "Did you ask me out
for confidences, or for advice--or for both?"

"None of them," replied he. "Only for company. I knew I'd not be able to
sleep for hours, and I wanted to put off the time when I'd be alone."

"I wish I had as much influence with you as you have with me," said
Ursula, by way of preparation for confidences.

"Influence? Don't I do whatever you say?"

She laughed. "Nobody has influence over you," she said.

"Not even myself," replied he morosely.

"Well--that talking-to you gave me has had its effect," proceeded Mrs.
Fitzhugh. "It set me to thinking. There are other things besides
love--man and woman love. I've decided to--to behave myself and give
poor Clayton a chance to rest." She smiled, a little maliciously. "He's
had a horrible fright. But it's over now. What a fine thing it is for a
woman to have a sensible brother!"

Norman grunted, took another liberal draught of the champagne.

"If I had a mind like yours!" pursued Ursula. "Now, you simply couldn't
make a fool of yourself."

He looked at her sharply. He felt as if she had somehow got wind of his
eccentric doings.

"I've always resented your rather contemptuous attitude toward women,"
she went on. "But you are right--really you are. We're none of us worth
the excitement men make about us."

"It isn't the woman who makes a fool of the man," said Norman. "It's the
man who makes a fool of himself. A match can cause a terrific explosion
if it's in the right place--but not if it isn't."

She nodded. "That's it. We're simply matches--and most of us of the
poor sputtering kind that burns with a bad odor and goes out right away.
A very inferior quality of matches."

"Yes," repeated Norman, "it's the man who does the whole business."

A mocking smile curled her lips. "I knew you weren't in love with
Josephine."

He stared gloomily at his cigar.

"But you're going to marry her?"

"I'm in love with her," he said angrily. "And I'm going to marry her."

She eyed him shrewdly. "Fred--are you in love with some one else?"

He did not answer immediately. When he did it was with a "No" that
seemed the more emphatic for the delay.

"Oh, just one of your little affairs." And she began to poke fun at him.
"I thought you had dropped that sort of thing for good and all. I hope
Josie won't hear of it. She'd not understand. Women never do--unless
they don't care a rap about the man. . . . Is she on the stage? I know
you'll not tell me, but I like to ask."

Her brother looked at her rather wildly. "Let's go home," he said. He
was astounded and alarmed by the discovery that his infatuation had
whirled him to the lunacy of longing to confide--and he feared lest, if
he should stay on, he would blurt out his disgraceful secret. "Waiter,
the bill."

"Don't let's go yet," urged his sister. "The most interesting people are
beginning to come. Besides, I want more champagne."

He yielded. While she gazed round with the air of a visitor to a Zoo
that is affected by fashionable people, and commented on the faces,
figures, and clothes of the women, he stared at his plate and smoked and
drank. Finally she said, "I'd give anything to see you make a fool of
yourself, just once."

He grinned. "Things are in the way to having your wish gratified," he
said. "It looks to me as if my time had come."

She tried to conceal her anxiety. "Are you serious?" she asked. Then
added: "Of course not. You simply couldn't. Especially now--when
Josephine might hear. I suppose you've noticed how Joe Culver is hanging
round her?"

He nodded.

"There's no danger--unless----"

"I shall marry Josephine."

"Not if she hears."

"She's not going to hear."

"Don't be too sure. Women love to boast. It tickles their vanity to have
a man. Yes, they pretend to be madly in love simply to give themselves
the excuse for tattling."

"She'll not hear."

"You can't be sure."

"I want you to help me out. I'm going to tell her I'm tremendously busy
these few next days--or weeks."

"Weeks!" Ursula Fitzhugh laughed. "My, it must be serious!"

"Weeks," repeated her brother. "And I want you to say things that'll
help out--and to see a good deal of her." He flung down his cigar. "You
women don't understand how it is with a man."

"Don't we though! Why, it's a very ordinary occurrence for a woman to be
really in love with several men at once."

His eyes gleamed jealously. "I don't believe it," he cried.

"Not Josephine," she said reassuringly. "She's one of those
single-hearted, untemperamental women. They concentrate. They have no
imagination."

"I wasn't thinking of Josephine," said he sullenly. "To go back to what
I was saying, I am in love with Josephine and with no one else. I can't
explain to you how or why I'm entangled. But I'll get myself untangled
all right--and very shortly."

"I know that, Fred. You aren't the permanent damn-fool sort."

"I should say not!" exclaimed he. "It's a hopeful sign that I know
exactly how big a fool I am."

She shook her head in strong dissent. "On the contrary," said she,
"it's a bad sign. I didn't realize I was making a fool of myself until
you pointed it out to me. That stopped me. If I had been doing it with
my eyes open, your jacking me up would only have made me go ahead."

"A woman's different. It doesn't take much to stop a woman. She's about
half stopped when she begins."

Ursula was thoroughly alarmed. "Fred," she said earnestly, "you're
running bang into danger. The time to stop is right now."

"Can't do it," he said. "Let's not talk about it."

"Can't? That word from _you_?"

"From me," replied he. "Don't forget helping out with Josephine. Let's
go."

And he refused to be persuaded to stay on--or to be cajoled or baited
into talking further of this secret his sister saw was weighing heavily.

       *       *       *       *       *

He was down town half an hour earlier than usual the next morning. But
no one noted it because his habit had always been to arrive among the
first--not to set an example but to give his prodigious industry the
fullest swing. There was in Turkey a great poet of whom it is said that
he must have written twenty-five hours a day. Norman's accomplishment
bulked in that same way before his associates. He had not slept the
whole night. But, thanks to his enormous vitality, no trace of this
serious dissipation showed. The huge supper he had eaten--and drunk--the
sleepless night and the giant breakfast of fruit and cereal and chops
and wheat cakes and coffee he had laid in to stay him until lunch time,
would together have given pause to any but such a physical organization
as his. The only evidence of it was a certain slight irritability--but
this may have been due to his state of intense self-dissatisfaction.

As he entered the main room his glance sought the corner where Miss
Hallowell was ensconced. She happened to look up at that instant. With a
radiant smile she bowed to him in friendliest fashion. He colored
deeply, frowned with annoyance, bowed coldly and strode into his room.
He fussed and fretted about with his papers for a few minutes, then rang
the bell.

"Send in Miss Pritchard--no, Mr. Gowdy--no, Miss Hallowell," he said to
the office boy. And then he looked sharply at the pert young face for
possible signs of secret cynical amusement. He saw none such, but was
not convinced. He knew too well how by a sort of occult process the
servants, all the subordinates, round a person like himself discover the
most intimate secrets, almost get the news before anything has really
occurred.

Miss Hallowell appeared, and very cold and reserved she looked as she
stood waiting.

"I sent for you because--" he began. He glanced at the door to make sure
that it was closed--"because I wanted to hear your voice." And he
laughed boyishly. He was in high good humor now.

"Why did you speak to me as you did when you came in?" said she.

There was certainly novelty in this direct attack, this equal to equal
criticism of his manners. He was not pleased with the novelty; but at
the same time he felt a lack of the courage to answer her as she
deserved, even if she was playing a clever game. "It isn't necessary
that the whole office should know our private business," said he.

She seemed astonished. "What private business?"

"Last night," said he, uncertain whether she was trifling with him or
was really the innocent she pretended to be. "If I were you, I'd not
speak as friendlily as you did this morning--not before people."

"Why?" inquired she, her sweet young face still more perplexed.

"This isn't a small town out West," explained he. "It's New York. People
misunderstand--or rather--" He gave her a laughing, mischievous
glance--"or rather--they don't."

"I can't see anything to make a mystery about," declared the girl. "Why,
you act as if there were something to be ashamed of in coming to see
me."

He was observing her sharply. How could a girl live in the New York
atmosphere several years without getting a sensible point of view? Yet,
so far as he could judge, this girl was perfectly honest in her
ignorance. "Don't be foolish," said he. "Please accept the fact as I
give it to you. You mustn't let people see everything."

She made no attempt to conceal her dislike for this. "I won't be mixed
up in anything like that," said she, quite gently and without a
suggestion of pique or anger. "It makes me feel low--and it's horribly
common. Either we are going to be friends or we aren't. And if we are,
why, we're friends whenever we meet. I'm not ashamed of you. And if you
are ashamed of me, you can cut me out altogether."

His color deepened until his face was crimson. His eyes avoided hers. "I
was thinking chiefly of you," he said--and he honestly thought he was
speaking the whole truth.

"Then please don't do so any more," said she, turning to go. "I
understand about New York snobbishness. I want nothing to do with it."

He disregarded the danger of the door being opened at any moment. He
rushed to her and took her reluctant hand. "You mustn't blame me for the
ways of the world. I can't change them. Do be sensible, dearest. You're
only going to be here a few days longer. I've got that plan for you and
your father all thought out. I'll put it through at once. I don't want
the office talking scandal about us--do you?"

She looked at him pityingly. His eyes fell before hers. "I know it's a
weakness," he said, giving up trying to deceive her and himself. "But I
can't help it. I was brought up that way."

"Well--I wasn't. I see we can never be friends."

What a mess he had made of this affair! This girl must be playing upon
him. In his folly he had let her see how completely he was in her power,
and she was using that power to establish relations between them that
were the very opposite of what he desired--and must have. He must
control himself. "As you please," he said coldly, dropping her hand.
"I'm sorry, but unless you are reasonable I can do nothing for you." And
he went to his desk.

She hesitated a moment; as her back was toward him, he could not see her
expression. Without looking round she went out of his office. It took
all his strength to let her go. "She's bluffing," he muttered. "And
yet--perhaps she isn't. There may be people like that left in New York."
Whatever the truth, he simply must make a stand. He knew women; no woman
had the least respect for a man who let her rule--and this woman,
relying upon his weakness for her, was bent upon ruling. If he did not
make a stand, she was lost to him. If he did make a stand, he could no
more than lose her. Lose her! That thought made him sick at heart. "What
a fool I am about her!" he cried. "I must hurry things up. I must get
enough of her--must get through it and back to my sober senses."

That was a time of heavy pressure of important affairs. He furiously
attacked one task after another, only to abandon each in turn. His mind,
which had always been his obedient, very humble servant, absolutely
refused to obey. He turned everything over to his associates or to
subordinates, fighting all morning against the longing to send for her.
At half past twelve he strode out of the office, putting on the air of
the big man absorbed in big affairs. He descended to the street. But
instead of going up town to keep an appointment at a business lunch he
hung round the entrance to the opposite building.

She did not appear until one o'clock. Then out she came--with the head
office boy!--the good-looking, young head office boy.

Norman's contempt for himself there reached its lowest ebb. For his
blood boiled with jealousy--jealousy of his head office boy!--and about
an obscure little typewriter! He followed the two, keeping to the other
side of the street. Doubtless those who saw and recognized him fancied
him deep in thought about some mighty problem of corporate law or
policy, as he moved from and to some meeting with the great men who
dictated to a nation of ninety millions what they should buy and how
much they should pay for it. He saw the two enter a quick-lunch
restaurant--struggled with a crack-brained impulse to join them--dragged
himself away to his appointment.

He was never too amiable in dealing with his clients, because he had
found that, in self-protection, to avoid being misunderstood and largely
increasing the difficulties of amicable intercourse, he must keep the
feel of iron very near the surface. That day he was for the first time
irascible. If the business his clients were engaged in had been less
perilous and his acute intelligence not indispensable, he would have
cost the firm dear. But in business circles, where every consideration
yields to that of material gain, the man with the brain may conduct
himself as he pleases--and usually does so, when he has strength of
character.

All afternoon he wrestled with himself to keep away from the office. He
won, but it was the sort of victory that gives the winner the chagrin
and despondency of defeat. At home, late in the afternoon, he found
Josephine in the doorway, just leaving. "You'll walk home with me--won't
you?" she said. And, taken unawares and intimidated by guilt, he could
think of no excuse.

Some one--probably a Frenchman--has said that there are always in a
man's life three women--the one on the way out, the one that is, and the
one that is to be. Norman--ever the industrious trafficker with the
feminine that the man of the intense vitality necessary to a great
career of action is apt to be--was by no means new to the situation in
which he now found himself. But never before had the circumstances been
so difficult. Josephine in no way resembled any woman with whom he had
been involved; she was the first he had taken seriously. Nor did the
other woman resemble the central figure in any of his affairs. He did
not know what she was like, how to classify her; but he did know that
she was unlike any woman he had ever known and that his feeling for her
was different--appallingly different--from any emotion any other woman
had inspired in him. So--a walk alone with Josephine--a first talk with
her after his secret treachery--was no light matter. "Deeper and
deeper," he said to himself. "Where is this going to end?"

She began by sympathizing with him for having so much to do--"and father
says you can get through more work than any man he ever knew, not
excluding himself." She was full of tenderness and compliment, of a kind
of love that made him feel as the dirt beneath his feet. She respected
him so highly; she believed in him so entirely. The thought of her
discovering the truth, or any part of it, gave him a sensation of
nausea. He was watching her out of the corner of his eye. Never had he
seen her more statelily beautiful. If he should lose her! "I'm
mad--_mad_!" he said to himself.

"Josephine is as high above her as heaven above earth. What is there to
her, anyhow? Not brains--nor taste--nor such miraculous beauty. Why do
I make an ass of myself about her? I ought to go to my doctor."

"I don't believe you're listening to what I'm saying," laughed
Josephine.

"My head's in a terrible state," replied he. "I can't think of
anything."

"Don't try to talk or to listen, dearest," said she in the sweet and
soothing tone that is neither sweet nor soothing to a man in a certain
species of unresponsive mood. "This air will do you good. It doesn't
annoy you for me to talk to you, does it?"

The question was one of those which confidently expects, even demands, a
sincere and strenuous negative for answer. It fretted him, this
matter-of-course assumption of hers that she could not but be altogether
pleasing, not to say enchanting to him. Her position, her wealth, the
attentions she had received, the flatteries--In her circumstances could
it be in human nature not to think extremely well of oneself? And he
admitted that she had the right so to think. Still--For the first time
she scraped upon his nerves. His reply, "Annoy me? The contrary," was
distinctly crisp. To an experienced ear there would have sounded the
faint warning under-note of sullenness.

But she, believing in his love and in herself, saw nothing, suspected
nothing. "We know each other so thoroughly," she went on, "that we don't
need to make any effort. How congenial we are! I always understand you.
I feel such a sense of the perfect freedom and perfect frankness between
us. Don't you?"

"You have wonderful intuitions," said he.

It was the time to alarm him by coldness, by capriciousness. But how
could she know it? And she was in love--really in love--not with
herself, not with love, but with him. Thus, she made the mistake of all
true lovers in those difficult moments. She let him see how absolutely
she was his. Nor did the spectacle of her sincerity, of her belief in
his sincerity put him in any better humor with himself.

The walk was a mere matter of a dozen blocks. He thought it would never
end. "You are sure you aren't ill?" she said, when they were at her
door--a superb bronze door it was, opening into a house of the splendor
that for the acclimated New Yorker quite conceals and more than
compensates absence of individual taste. "You don't look ill. But you
act queerly."

"I'm often this way when they drive me too hard down town."

She looked at him with fond admiration; he might have been better
pleased had there not been in the look a suggestion of the possessive.
"How they do need you! Father says--But I mustn't make you any vainer
than you are."

He usually loved compliment, could take it in its rawest form with fine
human gusto. Now, he did not care enough about that "father says" to
rise to her obvious bait. "I'm horribly tired," he said. "Shall I see
you to-morrow? No, I guess not--not for several days. You understand?"

"Perfectly," replied she. "I'll miss you dreadfully, but my father has
trained me well. I know I mustn't be selfish--and tempt you to neglect
things."

"Thank you," said he. "I must be off."

"You'll come in--just a moment?" Her eyes sparkled. "The butler will
have sense enough to go straight away--and the small reception room will
be quite empty as usual."

He could not escape. A few seconds and he was alone with her in the
little room--how often had he--they--been glad of its quiet and
seclusion on such occasions! She laid her hand upon his shoulders, gazed
at him proudly. "It was here," said she, "that you first kissed me. Do
you remember?"

To take her gaze from his face and to avoid seeing her look of loving
trust, he put his arms round her. "I don't deserve you," he said--one of
those empty pretenses of confession that yet give the human soul a sense
of truthfulness.

"You'd not say that if you knew how happy you make me," murmured she.

The welcome sound of a step in the hall give him his release. When he
was in the street, he wiped his hot face with his handkerchief. "And I
thought I had no moral sense left!" he reflected--not the first man, in
this climax day of the triumph of selfish philosophies, to be astonished
by the discovery that the dead hands of heredity and tradition have a
power that can successfully defy reason.

He started to walk back home, on impulse took a passing taxi and went to
his club. It was the Federal. They said of it that no man who amounted
to anything in New York could be elected a member, because any man on
his way up could not but offend one or more of the important persons in
control. Most of its members were nominated at birth or in childhood and
elected as soon as they were twenty-one. Norman was elected after he
became a man of consequence. He regarded it as one of the signal
triumphs of his career; and beyond question it was proof of his power,
of the eagerness of important men, despite their jealousy, to please him
and to be in a position to get the benefit of his brains should need
arise. Norman's whole career, like every career great and small, in the
arena of action, was a derision of the ancient moralities, a
demonstration of the value of fear as an aid to success. Even his
friends--and he had as many as he cared to have--had been drawn to him
by the desire to placate him, to stand well where there was danger in
standing ill.

Until dinner time he stood at the club bar, drinking one cocktail after
another with that supreme indifference to consequences to health which
made his fellow men gape and wonder--and cost an occasional imitator
health, and perhaps life. Nor did the powerful liquor have the least
effect upon him, apparently. Possibly he was in a better humor, but not
noticeably so. He dined at the club and spent the evening at bridge,
winning several hundred dollars. He enjoyed the consideration he
received at that club, for his fellow members being men of both social
and financial consequence, their conspicuous respect for him was a
concentrated essence of general adulation. He lingered on, eating a
great supper with real appetite. He went home in high good humor with
himself. He felt that he was a conqueror born, that such things of his
desire as did not come could be forced to come. He no longer regarded
his passion for the nebulous girl of many personalities as a descent
from dignity. Was he not king? Did not his favor give her whatever rank
he pleased? Might not a king pick and choose, according to his fancy?
Let the smaller fry grow nervous about these matters of caste. They did
well to take care lest they should fall. But not he! He had won thus far
by haughtiness, never by cringing. His mortal day would be that in which
he should abandon his natural tactics for the modes of lesser men. True,
only a strong head could remain steady in these giddy altitudes of
self-confidence. But was not his head strong?

And without hesitation he called up the vision that made him
delirious-and detained it and reveled in it until sleep came.




VIII


The longer he thought of it the stronger grew his doubt that the little
Hallowell girl could be so indifferent to him as she seemed. Not that
she was a fraud--that is, a conscious fraud--even so much of a fraud as
the sincerest of the other women he had known. Simply that she was
carrying out a scheme of coquetry. Could it be in human nature, even in
the nature of the most indiscriminating of the specimens of young
feminine ignorance and folly, not to be flattered by the favor of such a
man as he? Common sense answered that it could not be--but neglected to
point out to him that almost any vagary might be expected of human
nature, when it could produce such a deviation from the recognized types
as a man of his position agitated about such an unsought obscurity as
Miss Hallowell. He continued to debate the state of her mind as if it
were an affair of mightiest moment--which, indeed, it was to him. And
presently his doubt strengthened into conviction. She must be secretly
pleased, flattered, responsive. She had been in the office long enough
to be impressed by his position. Yes, there must be more or less
pretense in her apparently complete indifference--more or less pretense,
more or less coquetry, probably not a little timidity.

She would come down from her high horse--with help and encouragement
from him. He was impatient to get to the office and see just how she
would do it--what absurd, amusing attractive child's trick she would
think out, imagining she could fool him, as lesser intelligences are
ever fatuously imagining they can outwit greater.

He rather thought she would come in to see him on some pretext, would
maneuver round like a bird pretending to flutter away from the trap it
has every intention of entering. But eleven o'clock of a wasted morning
came and she did not appear. He went out to see if she was there--she
must be sick; she could not be there or he would have heard from her. . . .
Yes, she was at her desk, exactly as always. No, not exactly the same.
She was obviously attractive now; the air of insignificance had gone,
and not the dullest eyes in that office could fail to see at least
something of her beauty. And Tetlow was hanging over her, while the
girls and boys grinned and whispered. Clearly, the office was "on to"
Tetlow. . . . Norman, erect and coldly infuriate, called out:

"Mr. Tetlow--one moment, please."

He went back to his den, Tetlow startling and following like one on the
way to the bar for sentence. "Mr. Tetlow," he said, when they were shut
in together, "you are making a fool of yourself before the whole
office."

"Be a little patient with me, Mr. Norman," said the head clerk humbly.
"I've got another place for her. She's going to take it to-morrow.
Then--there'll be no more trouble."

Norman paled. "She wishes to leave?" he contrived to articulate.

"She spoke to me about leaving before I told her I had found her another
job."

Norman debated--but for only a moment. "I do not wish her to leave," he
said coldly. "I find her useful and most trustworthy."

Tetlow's eyes were fixed strangely upon him.

"What's the matter with you?" asked Norman, the under-note of danger but
thinly covered.

"Then she was right," said Tetlow slowly. "I thought she was mistaken. I
see that she is right."

"What do you mean?" said Norman--a mere inquiry, devoid of bluster or
any other form of nervousness.

"You know very well what I mean, Fred Norman," said Tetlow. "And you
ought to be ashamed of yourself."

"Don't stand there scowling and grimacing like an idiot," said Norman
with an amused smile. "What do you mean?"

"She told me--about your coming to see her--about your offer to do
something for her father--about your acting in a way that made her
uneasy."

For an instant Norman was panic-stricken. Then his estimate of her
reassured him. "I took your advice," said he. "I went to see for myself.
How did I act that she was made uneasy?"

"She didn't say. But a woman can tell what a man has in the back of his
head--when it concerns her. And she is a good woman--so innocent that
you ought to be ashamed of yourself for even thinking of her in that
way. God has given innocence instincts, and she felt what you were
about."

Norman laughed--a deliberate provocation. "Love has made a fool of you,
old man," he said.

"I notice you don't deny," retorted Tetlow shrewdly.

"Deny what? There's nothing to deny." He felt secure now that he knew
she had been reticent with Tetlow as to the happenings in the cottage.

"Maybe I'm wronging you," said Tetlow, but not in the tone of belief.
"However that may be, I know you'll not refuse to listen to my appeal. I
love her, Norman. I'm going to make her my wife if I can. And I ask
you--for the sake of our old friendship--to let her alone. I've no
doubt you could dazzle her. You couldn't make a bad woman of her. But
you could make her very miserable."

Norman pushed about the papers before him. His face wore a cynical
smile; but Tetlow, who knew him in all his moods, saw that he was deeply
agitated.

"I don't know that I can win her, Fred," he pleaded. "But I feel that I
might if I had a fair chance."

"You think she'd refuse _you_?" said Norman.

"Like a flash, unless I'd made her care for me. That's the kind she is."

"That sounds absurd. Why, there isn't a woman in New York who would
refuse a chance to take a high jump up."

"I'd have said so, too. But since I've gotten acquainted with her I've
learned better. She may be spoiled some day, but she hasn't been yet.
God knows, I wish I could tempt her. But I can't."

"You're entirely too credulous, old man. She'll make a fool of you."

"I know better," Tetlow stubbornly maintained. "Anyhow, I don't care. I
love her, and I'd marry her, no matter what her reason for marrying me
was."

What pitiful infatuation!--worse than his own. Poor Tetlow!--he deserved
a better fate than to be drawn into this girl's trap--for, of course,
she never could care for such a heavy citizen--heavy and homely--the
loosely fat kind of homely that is admired by no one, not even by a
woman with no eye at all for the physical points of the male. It would
be a real kindness to save worthy Tetlow. What a fool she'd make of
him!--how she'd squander his money--and torment him with jealousy--and
unfit him for his career. Poor Tetlow! If he could get what he wanted,
he'd be well punished for his imprudence in wanting it. Really, could
friendship do him a greater service than to save him?

Norman gave Tetlow a friendly, humorous glance. "You're a hopeless case,
Billy," he said. "But at least don't rush into trouble. Take your time.
You can always get in, you know; and you may not get in quite so deep."

"You promise to let her alone?" said Tetlow eagerly.

Again his distinguished friend laughed. "Don't be an ass, old man. Why
imagine that, just because you've taken a fancy to a girl, everyone
wants her?" He clapped him on the shoulder, gave him a push toward the
door. "I've wasted enough time on this nonsense."

Tetlow did not venture to disregard a hint so plain. He went with his
doubt still unsolved--his doubt whether his jealousy was right or his
high opinion of his hero friend whose series of ever-mounting successes
had filled him with adoration. He knew the way of success, knew no man
could tread it unless he had, or acquired, a certain hardness of heart
that made him an uncomfortable not to say dangerous associate. He
regretted his own inability to acquire that indispensable hardness, and
envied and admired it in Fred Norman. But, at the same time that he
admired, he could not help distrusting.

Norman battled with his insanity an hour, then sent for Miss Hallowell.

The girl had lost her look of strength and vitality. She seemed frail
and dim--so unimportant physically that he wondered why her charm for
him persisted. Yet it did persist. If he could take her in his arms,
could make her drooping beauty revive!--through love for him if
possible; if not, then through anger and hate! He must make her feel,
must make her acknowledge, that he had power. It seemed to him another
instance of the resistless fascination which the unattainable, however
unworthy, has ever had for the conqueror temperament.

"You are leaving?" he said curtly, both a question and an affirmation.

"Yes."

"You are making a mistake--a serious mistake."

She stood before him listlessly, as if she had no interest either in
what he was saying or in him. That maddening indifference!

"It was a mistake to tattle your trouble to Tetlow."

"I did not tattle," said she quietly, colorlessly. "I said only enough
to make him help me."

"And what did he say about me?"

"That I had misjudged you--that I must be mistaken."

Norman laughed. "How seriously the little people of the world do take
themselves!"

She looked at him. His amused eyes met hers frankly. "You didn't mean
it?" she said.

He beamed on her. "Certainly I did. But I'm not a lunatic or a wild
beast. Do you think I would take advantage of a girl in your position?"

Her eyes seemed to grow large and weary, and an expression of experience
stole over her young face, giving it a strange appearance of
age-in-youth. "It has been done," said she.

How reconcile such a look with the theory of her childlike innocence?
But then how reconcile any two of the many varied personalities he had
seen in her? He said: "Yes--it has been done. But not by me. I shall
take from you only what you gladly give."

"You will get nothing else," said she with quiet strength.

"That being settled--" he went on, holding up a small package of papers
bound together by an elastic--"Here are the proposed articles of
incorporation of the Chemical Research Company. How do you like the
name?"

"What is it?"

"The company that is to back your father. Capital stock, twenty-five
thousand dollars, one half paid up. Your father to be employed as
director of the laboratories at five thousand a year, with a fund of ten
thousand to draw upon. You to be employed as secretary and treasurer at
fifteen hundred a year. I will take the paid-up stock, and your father
and you will have the privilege of buying it back at par within five
years. Do you follow me?"

"I think I understand," was her unexpected reply. Her replies were
usually unexpected, like the expressions of her face and figure; she was
continually comprehending where one would have said she would not, and
not comprehending where it seemed absurd that she should not. "Yes, I
understand. . . . What else?"

"Nothing else."

She looked intently at him, and her eyes seemed to be reading his soul
to the bottom.

"Nothing else," he repeated.

"No obligation--for money--or--for anything?"

"No obligation. A hope perhaps." He was smiling with the gayest good
humor. "But not the kind of hope that ever becomes a disagreeable demand
for payment."

She seated herself, her hands in her lap, her eyes down--a lovely
picture of pensive repose. He waited patiently, feasting his senses upon
her delicate, aromatic loveliness. At last she said:

"I accept."

He had anticipated an argument. This promptness took him by surprise. He
felt called upon to explain, to excuse her acceptance. "I am taking a
little flyer--making a gamble," said he. "Your father may turn up
nothing of commercial value. Again the company may pay big----"

She gave him a long look through half-closed eyes, a queer smile
flitting round her lips. "I understand perfectly why you are doing it,"
she said. "Do you understand why I am accepting?"

"Why should you refuse?" rejoined he. "It is a good business prop----"

"You know very well why I should refuse. But--" She gave a quiet laugh
of experience; it made him feel that she was making a fool of him--"I
shall not refuse. I am able to take care of myself. And I want father to
have his chance. Of course, I shan't explain to him." She gave him a
mischievous glance. "And I don't think _you_ will."

He contrived to cover his anger, doubt, chagrin, general feeling of
having been outwitted. "No, I shan't tell him," laughed he. "You are
making a great fool of me."

"Do you want to back out?"

What audacity! He hesitated--did not dare. Her indifference to him--her
personal, her physical indifference gave her the mastery. His teeth
clenched and his passion blazed in his eyes as he said: "No--you witch!
I'll see it through."

She smiled lightly. "I suppose you'll come to the offices of the
company--occasionally?" She drew nearer, stood at the corner of the
desk. Into her exquisite eyes came a look of tenderness. "And I shall be
glad to see you."

"You mean that?" he said, despising himself for his humble eagerness,
and hating her even as he loved her.

"Indeed I do." She smiled bewitchingly. "You are a lot better man than
you think."

"I am an awful fool about you," retorted he. "You see, I play my game
with all my cards on the table. I wish I could say the same of you."

"I am not playing a game," replied she. "You make a mystery where there
isn't any. And--all your cards aren't on the table." She laughed
mockingly. "At least, you think there's one that isn't--though, really,
it is."

"Yes?"

"About your engagement."

He covered superbly. "Oh," said he in the most indifferent tone. "Tetlow
told you."

"As soon as I heard that," she went on, "I felt better about you. I
understand how it is with men--the passing fancies they have for
women."

"How did you learn?" demanded he.

"Do you think a girl could spend several years knocking about down town
in New York without getting experience?"

He smiled--a forced smile of raillery, hiding sudden fierce suspicion
and jealousy. "I should say not. But you always pretend innocence."

"I can't be held responsible for what you read into my looks and into
what I say," observed she with her air of a wise old infant. "But I was
so glad to find out that you were seriously in love with a nice girl up
town."

He burst out laughing. She gazed at him in childlike surprise. "Why are
you laughing at me?" she asked.

"Nothing--nothing," he assured her. He would have found it difficult to
explain why he was so intensely amused at hearing the grand Josephine
Burroughs called "a nice girl up town."

"You are in love with her? You are engaged to her?" she inquired, her
grave eyes upon him with an irresistible appeal for truth in them.

"Tetlow didn't lie to you," evaded he. "You don't know it, but Tetlow is
going to ask you to marry him."

"Yes, I knew," replied she indifferently.

"How? Did he tell you?"

"No. Just as I knew you were not going to ask me to marry you."

The mere phrase, even when stated as a negation, gave him a sensation of
ice suddenly laid against the heart.

"It's quite easy to tell the difference between the two kinds of
men--those that care for me more than they care for themselves and those
that care for themselves more than they care for me."

"That's the way it looks to you--is it?"

"That's the way it is," said she.

"There are some things you don't understand. This is one of them."

"Maybe I don't," said she. "But I've my own idea--and I'm going to stick
to it."

This amused him. "You are a very opinionated and self-confident young
lady," said he.

She laughed roguishly. "I'm taking up a lot of your time."

"Don't think of it. You haven't asked when the new deal is to begin."

"Oh, yes--and I shall have to tell Mr. Tetlow I'm not taking the place
he got for me."

"Be careful what you say to him," cautioned Norman. "You must see it
wouldn't be well to tell him what you are going to do. There's no reason
on earth why he should know your business--is there?"

She did not reply; she was reflecting.

"You are not thinking of marrying Tetlow--are you?"

"No," she said. "I don't love him--and couldn't learn to."

With a sincerely judicial air, now that he felt secure, he said: "Why
not? It would be a good match."

"I don't love him," she repeated, as if that were a sufficient and
complete answer. And he was astonished to find that he so regarded it,
also, in spite of every assault of all that his training had taught him
to regard as common sense about human nature.

"You can simply say to Tetlow that you've decided to stay at home and
take care of your father. The offices of the company will be at your
house. Your official duties practically amount to taking care of your
father. So you'll be speaking the truth."

"Oh, it isn't exactly lying, to keep something from somebody who has no
right to know it. What you suggest isn't quite the truth. But it's near
enough, and I'll say it to him."

His own view of lying was the same as that she had expressed. Also, he
had no squeamishness about saying what was in no sense true, if the
falsehood were necessary to his purposes. Yet her statement of her code,
moral though he thought it and eminently sensible as well, lowered her
once more in his estimation. He was eager to find reason or plausible
excuse for believing her morally other and less than she seemed to be.
Immediately the prospects of his ultimate projects--whatever they might
prove to be--took on a more hopeful air. "And I'd advise you to have
Tetlow keep away from you. We don't want him nosing round."

"No, indeed," said she. "He is a nice man, but tiresome. And if I
encouraged him ever so little, he'd be sentimental. The most tiresome
thing in the world to a girl is a man who talks that sort of thing when
she doesn't want to hear it--from him."

He laughed. "Meaning me?" he suggested.

She nodded, much pleased. "Perhaps," she replied.

"Don't worry about that," mocked he.

"I shan't till I have to," she assured him. "And I don't think I'll have
to."

       *       *       *       *       *

On the Monday morning following, Tetlow came in to see Norman as soon as
he arrived. "I want a two weeks' leave," he said. "I'm going to Bermuda
or down there somewhere."

"Why, what's the matter?" cried Norman. "You do look ill, old man."

"I saw her last night," replied the chief clerk, dropping an effort at
concealing his dejection. "She--she turned me down."

"Really? You?" Norman's tone of sympathetic surprise would not have
deceived half attentive ears. But Tetlow was securely absorbed. "Why,
Billy, she can't hope to make as good a match."

"That's what I told her--when I saw the game was going against me. But
it was no use."

Norman trifled nervously with the papers before him. Presently he said,
"Is it some one else?"

Tetlow shook his head.

"How do you know?"

"Because she said so," replied the head clerk.

"Oh--if she said so, that settles it," said Norman with raillery.

"She's given up work--thank God," pursued Tetlow. "She's getting more
beautiful all the time--Norman, if you had seen her last night, you'd
understand why I'm stark mad about her."

Norman's eyes were down. His hands, the muscles of his jaw were
clinched.

"But, I mustn't think of that," Tetlow went on. "As I was about to say,
if she were to stay on in the offices some one--some attractive man like
you, only with the heart of a scoundrel----"

Norman laughed cynically.

"Yes, a scoundrel!" reiterated the fat head-clerk. "Some scoundrel would
tempt her beyond her power to resist. Money and clothes and luxury will
do anything. We all get to be harlots here in New York. Some of us know
it, and some don't. But we all look it and act it. And she'd go the way
of the rest--with or without marriage. It's just as well she didn't
marry me. I know what'd have become of her."

Norman nodded.

Tetlow gave a weary sigh. "Anyhow, she's safe at home with her father.
He's found a backer for his experiments."

"That's good," said Norman.

"You can spare me for ten days," Tetlow went on. "I'd be of no use if I
stayed."

There was a depth of misery in his kind gray eyes that moved Norman to
get up and lay a friendly hand on his shoulder. "It's the best thing,
old man. She wasn't for you."

Tetlow dropped into a chair and sobbed. "It has killed me," he groaned.
"I don't mean I'll commit suicide or die. I mean I'm dead inside--dead."

"Oh, come, Billy--where's your good sense?"

"I know what I'm talking about," said he. "Norman, God help the man who
meets the woman he really wants--God help him if she doesn't want him.
You don't understand. You'll never have the experience. Any woman you
wanted would be sure to want you."

Norman, his hand still on Tetlow's shoulder, was staring ahead with a
terrible expression upon his strong features.

"If she could see the inside of me--the part that's the real me--I think
she would love me--or learn to love me. But she can only see the
outside--this homely face and body of mine. It's horrible, Fred--to have
a mind and a heart fit for love and for being loved, and an outside that
repels it. And how many of us poor devils of that sort there are--men
and women both!"

Norman was at the window now, his back to the room, to his friend. After
a while Tetlow rose and made a feeble effort to straighten himself. "Is
it all right about the vacation?" he asked.

"Certainly," said Norman, without turning.

"Thank you, Fred. You're a good friend."

"I'll see you before you go," said Norman, still facing the window.
"You'll come back all right."

Tetlow did not answer. When Norman turned he was alone.




IX


In no way was Norman's luck superior to most men's more splendidly than
in that his inborn tendency to arrogant and extravagant desires was
matched by an inborn capacity to get the necessary money. His luxurious
tastes were certainly not moderated by his associations--enormously rich
people who, while they could be stingy enough in some respects, at the
same time could and did fling away fortunes in gratifying selfish
whims--for silly showy houses, for retinues of wasteful servants, for
gewgaws that accentuated the homeliness of their homely women and
coarsened and vulgarized their pretty women--or perhaps for a night's
gambling or entertaining, or for the forced smiles and contemptuous
caresses of some belle of the other world. Norman fortunately cared not
at all for the hugely expensive pomp of the life of the rich; if he had,
he would have hopelessly involved himself, as after all he was not a
money-grubber but a lawyer. But when there appeared anything for which
he did care, he was ready to bid for it like the richest of the rich.

Therefore the investment of a few thousand dollars seemed a small matter
to him. He had many a time tossed away far more for far less. He did not
dole out the sum he had agreed to provide. He paid it into the Jersey
City bank to the credit of the Chemical Research Company and informed
its secretary and treasurer that she could draw freely against it. "If
you will read the by-laws of the company," said he, "you will see that
you've the right to spend exactly as you see fit. When the money runs
low, let me know."

"I'll be very careful," said Dorothea Hallowell, secretary and
treasurer.

"That's precisely what we don't want," replied he. He glanced round the
tiny parlor of the cottage. "We want everything to be run in first-class
shape. That's the only way to get results. First of all, you must take a
proper house--a good-sized one, with large grounds--room for building
your father a proper laboratory."

Her dazed and dazzled expression delighted him.

"And you must live better. You must keep at least two servants."

"But we can't afford it."

"Your father has five thousand a year. You have fifteen hundred. That
makes sixty-five hundred. The rent of the house and the wages and keep
of the servants are a charge against the corporation. So, you can well
afford to make yourselves comfortable."

"I haven't got used to the idea as yet," said Dorothea. "Yes--we _are_
better off than we were."

"And you must live better. I want you to get some clothes--and things of
that sort."

She shrank within herself and sat quiet, her gaze fixed upon her hands
lying limp in her lap.

"There is no reason why your father shouldn't be made absolutely
comfortable and happy. That's the way to get the best results from a man
of his sort."

She faded on toward the self-effacing blank he had first known.

"Think it out, Dorothy," he said in his frankest, kindliest way. "You'll
see I'm right."

"No," she said.

"No? What does that mean?"

"I've an instinct against it," replied she. "I'd rather father and I
kept on as we are."

"But that's impossible. You've no right to live in this small, cramping
way. You must broaden out and give _him_ room to grow. . . . Isn't that
sensible?"

"It sounds so," she admitted. "But--" She gazed round helplessly--"I'm
afraid!"

"Afraid of what?"

"I don't know."

"Then don't bother about it."

"I'll have to be very--careful," she said thoughtfully.

"As you please," replied he. "Only, don't live and think on a
ten-dollar-a-week basis. That isn't the way to get on."

He never again brought up the matter in direct form. But most of his
conversation was indirect and more or less subtle suggestions as to ways
of branching out. She moved cautiously for a few days, then timidly
began to spend money.

There is a notion widely spread abroad that people who have little money
know more about the art of spending money and the science of economizing
than those who have much. It would be about as sensible to say that the
best swimmers are those who have never been near the water, or no nearer
than a bath tub. Anyone wishing to be convinced need only make an
excursion into the poor tenement district and observe the garbage
barrels overflowing with spoiled food--or the trashy goods exposed for
sale in the shops and the markets. Those who have had money and have
lost it are probably, as a rule, the wisest in thrift. Those who have
never had money are almost invariably prodigal--because they are
ignorant. When Dorothea Hallowell was a baby the family had had money.
But never since she could remember had they been anything but poor.

She did not know how to spend money. She did not know prices or
values--being in that respect precisely like the mass of mankind--and
womankind--who imagine they are economical because they hunt so-called
bargains and haggle with merchants who have got doubly ready for them by
laying in inferior goods and by putting up prices in advance. She knew
how much ten dollars a week was, the meaning of the twenty to thirty
dollars a week her father had made. But she had only a faint--and
exaggeratedly mistaken--notion about sixty-five hundred a year--six and
a half thousands. It seemed wealth to her, so vast that a hundred
thousand a year would have seemed no more. As soon as she drifted away
from the known course--the thirty to forty dollars a week upon which
they had been living--Dorothea Hallowell was in a trackless sea, with a
broken compass and no chart whatever. A common enough experience in
America, the land of sudden changes of fortune, of rosiest hopes about
"striking it rich," of carelessness and ignorance as to values, of eager
and untrained appetite for luxury and novelty of any and every kind.

At first any expenditure, however small, for the plainest comfort which
had been beyond their means seemed a giddy extravagance. But a bank
account--_and_ a check book--soon dissipated that nervousness. A few
charge accounts, a little practice in the simple easy gesture of drawing
a check, and she was almost at her ease. With people who have known only
squalor or with those who have earned their better fortune by privation
and slow accumulation, the spreading out process is usually slow--not so
slow as it used to be when our merchants had not learned the art of
tempting any and every kind of human nature, but still far from rapid. A
piece of money reminds them vividly and painfully of the toil put into
acquiring it; and they shy away from the pitfall of the facile check.
With those born and bred as Dorothy was and elevated into what seems to
them affluence by no effort of their own, the spreading is a tropical,
overnight affair.

Counting all she spent and arranged to spend in those first few weeks,
you had no great total. But it was great for a girl who had been making
ten dollars a week. Also there were sown in her mind broadcast and thick
the seeds of desire for more luxurious comfort, of need for it, that
could never be uprooted.

Norman came over almost every evening. He got a new and youthful and
youth-restoring kind of pleasure out of this process of expansion. He
liked to hear each trifling detail, and he was always making suggestions
that bore immediate fruit in further expenditure. When he again brought
up the subject of a larger house, she listened with only the faintest
protests. Her ideas of such a short time before seemed small, laughably
small now. "Father was worrying only this morning because he is so
cramped," she admitted.

"We must remedy that at once," said Norman.

[Illustration: "'It has killed me,' he groaned."]

And on the following Sunday he and she went house hunting. They found a
satisfactory place--peculiarly satisfactory to Norman because it was
near the Hudson tunnel, and so only a few minutes from his office. To
Dorothy it loomed a mansion, almost a palace. In fact it was a modestly
roomy old-fashioned brick house, with a brick stable at the side that,
with a little changing, would make an admirable laboratory.

"You haven't the time--or the experience--to fit this place up," said
Norman. "I'll attend to it--that is, I'll have it attended to." Seeing
her uneasy expression, he added: "I can get much better terms. They'd
certainly overcharge you. There's no sense in wasting money--is there?"

"No," she admitted, convinced.

He gave the order to a firm of decorators. It was a moderate order,
considering the amount of work that had to be done. But if the girl had
seen the estimates Norman indorsed, she would have been terrified.
However, he saw to it that she did not see them; and she, ignorant of
values, believed him when he told her the general account of the
corporation must be charged with two thousand dollars.

Her alarm took him by surprise. The sum seemed small to him--and it was
only about one fifth what the alterations and improvements had cost.
Cried she, "Why, that's more than our whole income for a year has been!"

"You are forgetting these improvements add to the value of the property.
I've bought it."

That quieted her. "You are sure you didn't pay those decorators and
furnishers too much?" said she.

"You don't like their work?" inquired he, chagrined.

"Oh, yes--yes, indeed," she assured him. "I like plain, solid-looking
things. But--two thousand dollars is a lot of money."

Norman regretted that, as his whole object had been to please her, he
had not ordered the more showy cheaper stuff but had insisted upon the
simplest, plainest-looking appointments throughout. Even her bedroom
furniture, even her dressing table set, was of the kind that suggests
cost only to the experienced, carefully and well educated in values and
in taste.

"But I'm sure it isn't fair to charge _all_ these things to the company,"
she protested. "I can't allow it. Not the things for my personal use."

"You _are_ a fierce watchdog of a treasurer," said Norman, laughing at her
but noting and respecting the fine instinct of good breeding shown in
her absence of greediness, of desire to get all she could. "But I'm
letting the firm of decorators take over what you leave behind in the
old house. I'll see what they'll allow for it. Maybe that will cover the
expense you object to."

This contented her. Nor was she in the least suspicious when he
announced that the decorators had made such a liberal allowance that the
deficit was but three hundred dollars. "Those chaps," he explained,
"have a wide margin of profit. Besides, they're eager to get more and
bigger work from me."

A few weeks, and he was enjoying the sight of her ensconced with her
father in luxurious comfort--with two servants, with a well-run house,
with pleasant gardens, with all that is at the command of an income of
six thousand a year in a comparatively inexpensive city. Only
occasionally--and then not deeply--was he troubled by the reflection
that he was still far from his goal--and had made apparently absurdly
little progress toward it through all this maneuvering. The truth was,
he preferred to linger when lingering gave him so many new kinds of
pleasure. Of those in the large and motley company that sit down to the
banquet of the senses, the most are crude, if not coarse, gluttons. They
eat fast and furiously, having a raw appetite. Now and then there is one
who has some idea of the art of enjoyment--the art of prolonging and
varying both the joys of anticipation and the joys of realization.

He turned his attention to tempting her to extravagance in dress. Rut
his success there was not all he could have wished. She wore better
clothes--much better. She no longer looked the poor working girl,
struggling desperately to be neat and clean. She had almost immediately
taken on the air of the comfortable classes. Rut everything she got for
herself was inexpensive and she made dresses for herself, and trimmed
all her hats. With the hats Norman found no fault. There her good taste
produced about as satisfactory results as could have been got at the
fashionable milliners--more satisfactory than are got by the women who
go there, with no taste of their own beyond a hazy idea that they want
"something like what Mrs. So-and-So is wearing." But homemade dresses
were a different matter.

Norman longed to have her in toilettes that would bring out the full
beauty of her marvelous figure. He, after the manner of the more
intelligent and worldly-wise New York men, had some knowledge of
women's clothes. His sister knew how to dress; Josephine knew how,
though her taste was somewhat too sober to suit Norman--at least to suit
him in Dorothy. He thought out and suggested dresses to Dorothy, and
told her where to get them. Dorothy tried to carry out at home such of
his suggestions as pleased her--for, like all women, she believed she
knew how to dress herself. Her handiwork was creditable. It would have
contented a less exacting and less trained taste than Norman's. It would
have contented him had he not been infatuated with her beauty of face
and form. As it was, the improvement in her appearance only served to
intensify his agitation. He now saw in her not only all that had first
conquered him, but also those unsuspected beauties and graces--and
possibilities of beauty and grace yet more entrancing, were she but
dressed properly.

"You don't begin to appreciate how beautiful you are," said he. It had
ever been one of his rules in dealing with women to feed their physical
vanity sparingly and cautiously, lest it should blaze up into one of
those consuming flames that produce a very frenzy of conceit. But this
rule, like all the others, had gone by the board. He could not conceal
his infatuation from her, not even when he saw that it was turning her
head and making his task harder and harder. "If you would only go over
to New York to several dressmakers whose names I'll give you, I know
you'd get clothes from them that you could touch up into something
uncommon."

"I can't afford it," said she. "What I have is good enough--and costs
more than I've the right to pay." And her tone silenced him; it was the
tone of finality, and he had discovered that she had a will.

       *       *       *       *       *

Never before had Frederick Norman let any important thing drift. And
when he started in with Dorothy he had no idea of changing that fixed
policy. He would have scoffed if anyone had foretold to him that he
would permit the days and the weeks to go by with nothing definite
accomplished toward any definite purpose. Yet that was what occurred.
Every time he came he had in mind a fixed resolve to make distinct
progress with the girl. Every time he left he had a furious quarrel with
himself for his weakness. "She is making a fool of me," he said to
himself. "She _must_ be laughing at me." But he returned only to repeat
his folly, to add one more to the lengthening, mocking series of lost
opportunities.

The truth lay deeper than he saw. He recognized only his own weakness of
the infatuated lover's fatuous timidity. He did not realize how potent
her charm for him was, how completely content she made him when he was
with her, just from the fact that they were together. After a time an
unsatisfied passion often thus diffuses itself, ceases to be a narrow
torrent, becomes a broad river whose resistless force is hidden beneath
an appearance of sparkling calm. Her ingenuousness amused him; her
developing taste and imagination interested him; her freshness, her
freedom from any sense of his importance in the world fascinated him,
and there was a keener pleasure than he dreamed in the novel sensation
of breathing the perfume of what he, the one time cynic, would have
staked his life on being unsullied purity. Their relations were to him a
delightful variation upon the intimacy of master and pupil. Either he
was listening to her or was answering her questions--and the time flew.
And there never was a moment when he could have introduced the subject
that most concerned him when he was not with her. To have introduced it
would have been rudely to break the charm of a happy afternoon or
evening.

Was she leading him on and on nowhere deliberately? Or was it the sweet
and innocent simplicity it seemed? He could not tell. He would have
broken the charm and put the matter to the test had he not been afraid
of the consequences. What had he to fear? Was she not in his power? Was
she not his, whenever he should stretch forth his hand and claim her?
Yes--no doubt--not the slightest doubt. But--He was afraid to break
the charm; it was such a satisfying charm.

Then--there was her father.

Men who arrive anywhere in any direction always have the habit of
ignoring the nonessential more or less strongly developed. One
reason--perhaps the chief reason--why Norman had got up to the high
places of material success at so early an age was that he had an
unerring instinct for the essential and wasted no time or energy upon
the nonessential. In his present situation Dorothy's father, the
abstracted man of science, was one of the factors that obviously fell
into the nonessential class. Norman knew little about him, and cared
less. Also, he took care to avoid knowing him. Knowing the father would
open up possibilities of discomfort--But, being a wise young man,
Norman gave this matter the least possible thought.

Still, it was necessary that the two men see something of each other.
Hallowell discovered nothing about Norman, not enough about his personal
appearance to have recognized him in the street far enough away from the
laboratory to dissociate the two ideas. Human beings--except his
daughter--did not interest Hallowell; and his feeling for her was
somewhat in the nature of an abstraction. Norman, on the other hand, was
intensely interested in human beings; indeed, he was interested in
little else. He was always thrusting through surfaces, probing into
minds and souls. He sought thoroughly to understand the living machines
he used in furthering his ambitions and desires. So it was not long
before he learned much about old Newton Hallowell--and began to admire
him--and with a man of Norman's temperament to admire is to like.

He had assumed at the outset that the scientist was more or less the
crank. He had not talked with him many times before he discovered that,
far from being in any respect a crank, he was a most able and
well-balanced mentality--a genius. The day came when, Dorothy not having
returned from a shopping tour, he lingered in the laboratory talking
with the father, or, rather, listening while the man of great ideas
unfolded to him conceptions of the world that set his imagination to
soaring.

Most of us see but dimly beyond the ends of our noses, and visualize
what lies within our range of sight most imperfectly. We know little
about ourselves, less about others. We fancy that the world and the
human race always have been about as they now are, and always will be.
History reads to us like a fairy tale, to which we give conventional
acceptance as truth. As to the future, we can conceive nothing but the
continuation of just what we see about us in the present. Norman,
practical man though he was, living in and for the present, had yet an
imagination. He thought Hallowell a kind of fool for thinking only of
the future and working only for it--but he soon came to think him n
divine fool. And through Hallowell's spectacles he was charmed for many
an hour with visions of the world that is to be when, in the slow but
steady processes of evolution, the human race will become intelligent,
will conquer the universe with the weapons of science and will make it
over.

When he first stated his projects to Norman, the young man had
difficulty in restraining his amusement. A new idea, in any line of
thought with which we are not familiar, always strikes us as ridiculous.
Norman had been educated in the ignorant conventional way still in high
repute among the vulgar and among those whose chief delight is to make
the vulgar gape in awe. He therefore had no science, that is, no
knowledge--outside his profession--but only what is called learning,
though tommyrot would be a fitter name for it. He had only the most
meager acquaintance with that great fundamental of a sound and sane
education, embryology. He knew nothing of what science had already done
to destroy all the still current notions about the mystery of life and
birth. He still laughed, as at a clever bit of legerdemain, when
Hallowell showed him how far science had progressed toward mastery of
the life of the lower forms of existence--how those "worms" could be
artificially created, could be aged, made young again, made diseased and
decrepit, restored to perfect health, could be swung back and forth or
sideways or sinuously along the span of existence--could even be killed
and brought back to vigor.

"We've been at this sort of thing only a few years," said Hallowell. "I
rather think it will not be many years now before we shall not even need
the initial germ of life to enable us to create but can do it by pure
chemical means, just as a taper is lighted by holding a match to it."

Norman ceased to think of sleight-of-hand.

"Life," continued the juggler, transformed now into practical man,
leader of men, "life has been demonstrated to be simply one of the forms
of energy, or one of the consequences of energy. The final discovery is
scientifically not far away. Then--" His eyes lighted up.

"Then what?" asked Norman.

"Then immortality--in the body. Eternal youth and health. A body that is
renewable much as any of our inanimate machines of the factory is
renewable. Why not? So far as we know, no living thing ever dies except
by violence. Disease--old age--they are quite as much violence as the
knife and the bullet. What science can now do with these 'worms,' as my
daughter calls them--that it will be able to do with the higher
organisms."

"And the world would soon be jammed to the last acre," objected Norman.

Hallowell shrugged his shoulders. "Not at all. There will be no
necessity to create new people, except to take the place of those who
may be accidentally obliterated."

"But the world is dying--the earth, itself, I mean."

"True. But science may learn how to arrest that cooling process--or to
adapt man to it. Or, it may be that when the world ceases to be
inhabitable we shall have learned how to cross the star spaces, as I
think I've suggested before. Then--we should simply find a planet in its
youth somewhere, and migrate to it, as a man now moves to a new house
when the old ceases to please him."

"That is a long flight of the fancy," said Norman.

"Long--but no stronger than the telegraph or the telephone. The trouble
with us is that we have been long stupefied by the ignorant theological
ideas of the universe--ideas that have come down to us from the
childhood of the race. We haven't got used to the new era--the
scientific era. And that is natural. Why, until less than three
generations ago there was really no such thing as science."

"I hadn't thought of that," admitted Norman. "We certainly have got on
very fast in those three generations."

"Rather fast. Not so fast, however, as we shall in the next three.
Science--chemistry--is going speedily to change all the conditions of
life because it will turn topsy-turvy all the ways of producing
things--food, clothing, shelter. Less than two generations ago men lived
much as they had for thousands of years. But it's very different to-day.
It will be inconceivably different to-morrow."

Norman could not get these ideas out of his brain. He began to
understand why Hallowell cared nothing about the active life of the
day--about its religion, politics, modes of labor, its habits of one
creature preying upon another. To-morrow, not religion, not politics,
but chemistry, not priests nor politicians, but chemists, would change
all that--and change it by the only methods that compel. An abstract
idea of liberty or justice can be rejected, evaded, nullified. But a
telephone, a steam engine, a mode of prolonging life--those realizations
of ideas _compel_.

When Dorothy came, Norman went into the garden with her in a frame of
mind so different from any he had ever before experienced that he
scarcely recognized himself. As the influence of the father's glowing
imagination of genius waned before the daughter's physical loveliness
and enchantment for him, he said to himself, "I'll keep away from him."
Why? He did not permit himself to go on to examine into his reasons. But
he could not conceal them from himself quickly enough to hide the
knowledge that they were moral.

"What is the matter with you to-day?" said Dorothy. "You are not a bit
interesting."

"Interested, you mean," he said with a smile of raillery, for he had
long since discovered that she was not without the feminine vanity that
commands the centering of all interest in the woman herself and resents
any wandering of thought as a slur upon her own powers of fascination.

"Well, interested then," said she. "You are thinking about something
else."

"Not now," he assured her.

But he left early. No sooner had he got away from the house than the
scientific dreaming vanished and he wished himself back with her
again--back where every glance at her gave him the most exquisite
sensations. And when he came the following day he apparently had once
more restored her father to his proper place of a nonessential. All that
definitely remained of the day before's impression was a certain
satisfaction that he was aiding with his money an enterprise of greater
value and of less questionable character than merely his own project.
But the powerful influences upon our life and conduct are rarely direct
and definite. He, quite unconsciously, had a wholly different feeling
about Dorothy because of her father, because of what his new knowledge
of and respect for her father had revealed and would continue to reveal
to him as to the girl herself--her training, her inheritance, her
character that could not but be touched with the splendor of the
father's noble genius. And long afterward, when the father as a distinct
personality had been almost forgotten, Norman was still, altogether
unconsciously, influenced by him--powerfully, perhaps decisively
influenced. Norman had no notion of it, but ever after that talk in the
laboratory, Dorothy Hallowell was to him Newton Hallowell's daughter.

When he came the following day, with his original purposes and plans
once more intact, as he thought, he found that she had made more of a
toilet than usual, had devised a new way of doing her hair that enabled
him to hang a highly prized addition in his memory gallery of widely
varied portraits of her.

The afternoon was warm. They sat under a big old tree at the end of the
garden. He saw that she was much disturbed--and that it had to do with
him. From time to time she looked at him, studying his face when she
thought herself unobserved. As he had learned that it is never wise to
open up the disagreeable, he waited. After making several futile efforts
at conversation, she abruptly said:

"I saw Mr. Tetlow this morning--in Twenty-third Street. I was coming out
of a chemical supplies store where father had sent me."

She paused. But Norman did not help her. He continued to wait.

"He--Mr. Tetlow--acted very strangely," she went on. "I spoke to him. He
stared at me as if he weren't going to speak--as if I weren't fit to
speak to."

"Oh!" said Norman.

"Then he came hurrying after me. And he said, 'Do you know that Norman
is to be married in two weeks?'"

"So!" said Norman.

"And I said, 'What of it? How does that interest me?'"

"It didn't interest you?"

"I was surprised that you hadn't spoken of it," replied she. "But I was
more interested in Mr. Tetlow's manner. What do you think he said next?"

"I can't imagine," said Norman.

"Why--that I was even more shameless than he thought. He said: 'Oh, I
know all about you. I found out by accident. I shan't tell anyone, for I
can't help loving you still. But it has killed my belief in woman to
find out that _you_ would sell yourself.'"

She was looking at Norman with eyes large and grave. "And what did you
say?" he inquired.

"I didn't say anything. I looked at him as if he weren't there and
started on. Then he said, 'When Norman abandons you, as he soon will,
you can count on me, if you need a friend.'"

There was a pause. Then Norman said, "And that was all?"

"Yes," replied she.

Another pause. Norman said musingly: "Poor Tetlow! I've not seen him
since he went away to Bermuda--at least he said he was going there. One
day he sent the firm a formal letter of resignation. . . . Poor Tetlow!
Do you regret not having married him?"

"I couldn't marry a man I didn't love." She looked at him with sweet
friendly eyes. "I couldn't even marry you, much as I like you."

Norman laughed--a dismal attempt at ease and raillery.

"When he told me about your marrying," she went on, "I knew how I felt
about you. For I was not a bit jealous. Why haven't you ever said
anything about it?"

He disregarded this. He leaned forward and with curious deliberateness
took her hand. She let it lie gently in his. He put his arm round her
and drew her close to him. She did not resist. He kissed her upturned
face, kissed her upon the lips. She remained passive, looking at him
with calm eyes.

"Kiss me," he said.

She kissed him--without hesitation and without warmth.

"Why do you look at me so?" he demanded.

"I can't understand."

"Understand what?"

"Why you should wish to kiss me when you love another woman. What would
she say if she knew?"

"I'm sure I don't know. And I rather think I don't care. You are the
only person on earth that interests me."

"Then why are you marrying?"

"Let's not talk about that. Let's talk about ourselves." He clasped her
passionately, kissed her at first with self-restraint, then in a kind of
frenzy. "How can you be so cruel!" he cried. "Are you utterly cold?"

"I do not love you," she said.

"Why not?"

"There's no reason. I--just don't. I've sometimes thought perhaps it was
because you don't love me."

"Good God, Dorothy! What do you want me to say or do?"

"Nothing," replied she calmly. "You asked me why I didn't love you, and
I was trying to explain. I don't want anything more than I'm getting. I
am content--aren't you?"

"Content!" He laughed sardonically. "As well ask Tantalus if he is
content, with the water always before his eyes and always out of reach.
I want you--all you have to give. I couldn't be content with less."

"You ought not to talk to me this way," she reproved gently, "when you
are engaged."

He flung her hand into her lap. "You are making a fool of me. And I
don't wonder. I've invited it. Surely, never since man was created has
there been such another ass as I." He drew her to her feet, seized her
roughly by the shoulders. "When are you coming to your senses?" he
demanded.

"What do you mean?" she inquired, in her childlike puzzled way.

He shook her, kissed her violently, held her at arm's length. "Do you
think it wise to trifle with me?" he asked. "Don't your good sense tell
you there's a limit even to such folly as mine?"

"What _is_ the matter?" she asked pathetically. "What do you want? I can't
give you what I haven't got to give."

"No," he cried. "But I want what you _have_ got to give."

She shook her head slowly. "Really, I haven't, Mr. Norman."

He eyed her with cynical amused suspicion. "Why did you call me _Mr._
Norman just then? Usually you don't call me at all. It's been weeks
since you have called me Mister. Was your doing it just then one of
those subtle, adroit, timely tricks of yours?"

She was the picture of puzzled innocence. "I don't understand," she
said.

"Well--perhaps you don't," said he doubtfully. "At any rate, don't call
me Mr. Norman. Call me Fred."

"I can't. It isn't natural. You seem Mister to me. I always think of you
as Mr. Norman."

"That's it. And it must stop!"

She smiled with innocent gayety. "Very well--Fred. . . . Fred. . . . Now
that I've said it, I don't find it strange." She looked at him with an
expression between appeal and mockery. "If you'd only let me get
acquainted with you. But you don't. You make me feel that I've got to be
careful with you--that I must be on my guard. I don't know against
what--for you are certainly the very best friend that I've ever had--the
only real friend."

He frowned and bit his lip--and felt uncomfortable, though he protested
to himself that he was simply irritated at her slyness. Yes, it must be
slyness.

"So," she went on, "there's no _reason_ for being on guard. Still, I feel
that way." She looked at him with sweet gravity. "Perhaps I shouldn't if
you didn't talk about love to me and kiss me in a way I feel you've no
right to."

Again he laid his hands upon her shoulders. This time he gazed angrily
into her eyes. "Are you a fool? Or are you making a fool of me?" he
said. "I can't decide which."

"I certainly am very foolish," was her apologetic answer. "I don't know
a lot of things, like you and father. I'm only a girl."

And he had the maddening sense of being baffled again--of having got
nowhere, of having demonstrated afresh to himself and to her his own
weakness where she was concerned. What unbelievable weakness! Had there
ever been such another case? Yes, there must have been. How little he
had known of the possibilities of the relations of men and women--he
who had prided himself on knowing all!

She said, "You are going to marry?"

"I suppose so," replied he sourly.

"Are you worried about the expense? Is it costing you too much, this
helping father? Are you sorry you went into it?"

He was silent.

"You are sorry?" she exclaimed. "You feel that you are wasting your
money?"

His generosity forbade him to keep up the pretense that might aid him in
his project. "No," he said hastily. "No, indeed. This expense--it's
nothing." He flushed, hung his head in shame before his own weakness, as
he added, in complete surrender, "I'm very glad to be helping your
father."

"I knew you would be!" she cried triumphantly. "I knew it!" And she
flung her arms round his neck and kissed him.

"That's better!" he said with a foolishly delighted laugh. "I believe we
are beginning to get acquainted."

"Yes, indeed. I feel quite different already."

"I hoped so. You are coming to your senses?"

"Perhaps. Only--" She laid a beautiful white pleading hand upon his
shoulder and gazed earnestly into his eyes--"please don't frighten me
with that talk--and those other kisses."

He looked at her uncertainly. "Come round in your own way," he said at
last. "I don't want to hurry you. I suppose every bird has its own way
of dropping from a perch."

"You don't like my way?" she inquired.

It was said archly but also in the way that always made him vaguely
uneasy, made him feel like one facing a mystery which should be explored
cautiously. "It is graceful," he admitted, with a smile since he could
not venture to frown. "Graceful--but slow."

She laughed--and he could not but feel that the greater laughter in her
too innocent eyes was directed at him. She talked of other things--and
he let her--charmed, yet cursing his folly, his slavery, the while.




X


Many a time he had pitied a woman for letting him get away from her,
when she obviously wished to hold him and failed solely because she did
not understand her business. Like every other man, he no sooner began to
be attracted by a woman than he began to invest her with a mystery and
awe which she either could dissipate by forcing him to see the truth of
her commonplaceness or could increase into a power that would enslave
him by keeping him agitated and interested and ever satisfied yet ever
baffled. But no woman had shown this supreme skill in the art of
love--until Dorothy Hallowell. She exasperated him. She fascinated him.
She kept him so restless that his professional work was all but
neglected. Was it her skill? Was it her folly? Was she simply leading
him on and on, guided blindly by woman's instinct to get as much as she
could and to give as little as she dared? Or was she protected by a real
indifference to him--the strongest, indeed the only invulnerable armor a
woman can wear? Was she protecting herself? Or was it merely that he,
weakened by his infatuation, was doing the protecting for her?

Beside these distracting questions, the once all-important matter of
professional and worldly ambition seemed not worth troubling about. They
even so vexed him that he had become profoundly indifferent as to
Josephine. He saw her rarely. When they were alone he either talked
neutral subjects or sat almost mute, hardly conscious of her presence.
He received her efforts at the customary caressings with such stolidity
that she soon ceased to annoy him. They reduced their outward show of
affection to a kiss when they met, another when they separated. He was
tired--always tired--worn out--half sick--harassed by business
concerns. He did not trouble himself about whether his listless excuses
would be accepted or not. He did not care what she thought--or might
think--or might do.

Josephine was typical of the women of the comfortable class. For them
the fundamentally vital matters of life--the profoundly harassing
questions of food, clothing, and shelter--are arranged and settled. What
is there left to occupy their minds? Little but the idle emotions they
manufacture and spread foglike over their true natures to hide the
barrenness, the monotony. They fool with phrases about art or love or
religion or charity--for none of those things can be vivid realities to
those who are swathed and stupefied in a luxury they have not to take
the least thought to provide for themselves. Like all those women,
Josephine fancied herself complex--fancied she was a person of variety
and of depth because she repeated with a slight change of wording the
things she read in clever books or heard from clever men. There seemed
to Norman to be small enough originality, personality, to the ordinary
man of the comfortable class; but there was some, because his necessity
of struggling with and against his fellow men in the several arenas of
active life compelled him to be at least a little of a person. In the
women there seemed nothing at all--not even in Josephine. When he
listened to her, when he thought of her, now--he was calmly critical. He
judged her as a human specimen--judged much as would have old Newton
Hallowell to whom the whole world was mere laboratory.

She bored him now--and he made no effort beyond bare politeness to
conceal the fact from her. The situation was saved from becoming
intolerable by that universal saver of intolerable situations, vanity.
She had the ordinary human vanity. In addition, she had the peculiar
vanity of woman, the creation of man's flatteries lavished upon the sex
he alternately serves and spurns. In further addition, she had the
vanity of her class--the comfortable class that feels superior to the
mass of mankind in fortune, in intellect, in taste, in everything
desirable. Heaped upon all these vanities was her vanity of high social
rank--and atop the whole her vanity of great wealth. None but the
sweetest and simplest of human beings can stand up and remain human
under such a weight as this. If we are at all fair in our judgments of
our fellow men, we marvel that the triumphant class--especially the
women, whose point of view is never corrected by the experiences of
practical life--are not more arrogant, more absurdly forgetful of the
oneness and the feebleness of humanity.

Josephine was by nature one of the sweet and simple souls. And her love
for Norman, after the habit of genuine love, had destroyed all the
instinct of coquetry. The woman--or, the man--has to be indeed
interesting, indeed an individuality, to remain interesting when
sincerely in love, and so elevated above the petty but potent sex
trickeries. Josephine, deeply in love, was showing herself to Norman in
her undisguised natural sweet simplicity--and monotony. But, while men
admire and reverence a sweet and simple feminine soul--and love her in
plays and between the covers of a book and when she is talking
highfaluting abstractions of morality--and wax wroth with any other man
who ignores or neglects her--they do not in their own persons become
infatuated with her. Passion is too much given to moods for that; it has
a morbid craving for variety, for the mysterious and the baffling.

The only thing that saves the race from ruin through passion is the
rarity of those by nature or by art expert in using it. Norman felt that
he was paying the penalty for his persistent search for this rarity; one
of the basest tricks of destiny upon man is to give him what he
wants--wealth, or fame, or power, or the woman who enslaves. Norman
felt that destiny had suddenly revealed its resolve to destroy him by
giving him not one of the things he wanted, but all.

The marriage was not quite two weeks away. About the time that the
ordinary plausible excuses for Norman's neglect, his abstraction, his
seeming indifference were exhausted, Josephine's vanity came forward to
explain everything to her, all to her own glory. As the elysian hour
approached--so vanity assured her--the man who loved her as her complex
soul and many physical and social advantages deserved was overcome with
that shy terror of which she had read in the poets and the novelists. A
large income, fashionable attire and surroundings, a carriage and a
maid--these things gave a woman a subtle and superior intellect and
soul. How? Why? No one knew. But everyone admitted, indeed saw, the
truth. Further, these beings--these great ladies--according to all the
accredited poets, novelists, and other final authorities upon
life--always inspired the most awed and worshipful and diffident
feelings in their lovers. Therefore, she--the great lady--was getting
but her due. She would have liked something else--something common and
human--much better. But, having always led her life as the conventions
dictated, never as the common human heart yearned, she had no keen sense
of dissatisfaction to rouse her to revolt and to question. Also, she was
breathlessly busy with trousseau and the other arrangements for the
grand wedding.

One afternoon she telephoned Norman asking him to come on his way home
that evening. "I particularly wish to see you," she said. He thought her
voice sounded rather queer, but he did not take sufficient interest to
speculate about it. When he was with her in the small drawing room on
the second floor, he noted that her eyes were regarding him strangely.
He thought he understood why when she said:

"Aren't you going to kiss me, Fred?"

He put on his good-natured, slightly mocking smile. "I thought you were
too busy for that sort of thing nowadays." And he bent and kissed her
waiting lips. Then he lit a cigarette and seated himself on the sofa
beside her--the sofa at right angles to the open fire. "Well?" he said.

She gazed into the fire for full a minute before she said in a voice of
constraint, "What became of that--that girl--the Miss Hallowell----"

She broke off abruptly. There was a pause choked with those dizzy
pulsations that fill moments of silence and strain. Then with a sob she
flung herself against his breast and buried her face in his shoulder.
"Don't answer!" she cried. "I'm ashamed of myself. I'm ashamed--ashamed!"

He put his arm about her shoulders. "But why shouldn't I answer?" said
he in the kindly gentle tone we can all assume when a matter that
agitates some one else is wholly indifferent to us.

"Because--it was a--a trap," she answered hysterically. "Fred--there was
a man here this afternoon--a man named Tetlow. He got in only because
he said he came from you."

Norman laughed quietly. "Poor Tetlow!" he said. "He used to be your head
clerk--didn't he?"

"And one of my few friends."

"He's not your friend, Fred!" she cried, sitting upright and speaking
with energy that quivered in her voice and flashed in her fine brown
eyes. "He's your enemy--a snake in the grass--a malicious,
poisonous----"

Norman's quiet, even laugh interrupted. "Oh, no," said he. "Tetlow's a
good fellow. Anything he said would be what he honestly
believed--anything he said about me."

"He pleaded that he was doing it for your good," she went on with scorn.
"They always do--like the people that write father wicked anonymous
letters. He--this man Tetlow--he said he wanted me for the sake of my
love for you to save you from yourself."

Norman glanced at her with amused eyes. "Well, why don't you? But then
you _are_ doing it. You're marrying me, aren't you?"

Again she put her head upon his shoulder. "Indeed I am!" she cried. "And
I'd be a poor sort if I let a sneak shake my confidence in you."

He patted her shoulder, and there was laughter in his voice as he said,
"But I never professed to be trustworthy."

"Oh, I know you _used_ to--" She laughed and kissed his cheek. "Never
mind. I've heard. But while you were engaged to me--about to marry
me--why, you simply couldn't!"

"Couldn't what?" inquired he.

"Do you want me to tell you what he said?"

"I think I know. But do as you like."

"Maybe I'd better tell you. I seem to want to get rid of it."

"Then do."

"It was about that girl." She sat upright and looked at him for
encouragement. He nodded. She went on: "He said that if I asked you, you
would not dare deny you were--were--giving her money."

"Her and her father."

She shrank, startled. Then her lips smiled bravely, and she said, "He
didn't say anything about her father."

"No. That was my own correction of his story."

She looked at him with wonder and doubt. "You aren't--_doing_ it, Fred!"
she exclaimed.

He nodded. "Yes, indeed." He looked at her placidly. "Why not?"

"You are _supporting_ her?"

"If you wish to put it that way," said he carelessly. "My money pays the
bills--all the bills."

"Fred!"

"Yes? What is it? Why are you so agitated?" He studied her face, then
rose, took a final pull at the cigarette, tossed it in the fire. "I must
be going," he said, in a cool, even voice.

She started up in a panic. "Fred! What do you mean? Are you angry with
me?"

His calm regard met hers. "I do not like--this sort of thing," he said.

"But surely you'll explain. Surely I'm entitled to an explanation."

"Why should I explain? You have evidently found an explanation that
satisfies you." He drew himself up in a quiet gesture of haughtiness.
"Besides, it has never been my habit to allow myself to be questioned or
to explain myself."

Her eyes widened with terror. "Fred!" she gasped. "What _do_ you mean?"

"Precisely what I say," said he, in the same cool, inevitable way. "A
man came to you with a story about me. You listened. A sufficient answer
to the story was that I am marrying you. That answer apparently does not
content you. Very well. I shall make no other."

She gazed at him uncertainly. She felt him going--and going finally.
She seized him with desperate fingers, cried: "I _am_ content. Oh,
Fred--don't frighten me this way!"

He smiled satirically. "Are you afraid of the scandal--because
everything for the wedding has gone so far?"

"How can you think that!" cried she--perhaps too vigorously, a woman
would have thought.

"What else is there for me to think? You certainly haven't shown any
consideration for me."

"But you told me yourself that you were false to me."

"Really? When?"

She forgot her fear in a gush of rage rising from sudden realization of
what she was doing--of how leniently and weakly and without pride she
was dealing with this man. "Didn't you admit----"

"Pardon me," said he, and his manner might well have calmed the wildest
tempest of anger. "I did not admit. I never admit. I leave that to
people of the sort who explain and excuse and apologize. I simply told
you I was paying the expenses of a family named Hallowell."

"But _why_ should you do it, Fred?"

His smile was gently satirical. "I thought Tetlow told you why."

"I don't believe him!"

"Then why this excitement?"

One could understand how the opposition witnesses dreaded facing him. "I
don't know just why," she stammered. "It seemed to me you were
admitting--I mean, you were confirming what that man accused you of."

"And of what did he accuse me? I might say, of what do _you_ accuse me?"
When she remained silent he went on: "I am trying to be reasonable,
Josephine. I am trying to keep my temper."

The look in her eyes--the fear, the timidity--was a startling revelation
of character--of the cowardice with which love undermines the strongest
nature. "I know I've been foolish and incoherent, Fred," she pleaded.
"But--I love you! And you remember how I always was afraid of that
girl."

"Just what do you wish to know?"

"Nothing, dear--nothing. I am not sillily jealous. I ought to be
admiring you for your generosity--your charity."

"It's neither the one nor the other," said he with exasperating
deliberateness.

She quivered. "Then _what_ is it?" she cried. "You are driving me crazy
with your evasions." Pleadingly, "You must admit they _are_ evasions."

He buttoned his coat in tranquil preparation to depart. She instantly
took alarm. "I don't mean that. It's my fault, not asking you straight
out. Fred, tell me--won't you? But if you are too cross with me,
then--don't tell me." She laughed nervously, hiding her submission
beneath a seeming of mocking exaggeration of humility. "I'll be good.
I'll behave."

A man who admired her as a figure, a man who liked her, a man who had no
feeling for her beyond the general human feeling of wishing well pretty
nearly everybody--in brief, any man but one who had loved her and had
gotten over it would have deeply pitied and sympathized with her. Fred
Norman said, his look and his tone coolly calm:

"I am backing Mr. Hallowell in a company for which he is doing chemical
research work. We are hatching eggs, out of the shell, so to speak. Also
we are aging and rejuvenating arthropods and the like. So far we have
declared no dividends. But we have hopes."

She gave a hysterical sob of relief. "Then it's only business--not the
girl at all!"

"Oh, yes, it's the girl, too," replied he. "She's an officer of the
company. In fact, it was to make a place for her that I went into the
enterprise originally." With an engaging air of frankness he inquired,
"Anything more?"

She was gazing soberly, almost somberly, into the fire. "You'll not be
offended if I ask you one question?"

"Certainly not."

"Is there anything between you and--her?"

"You mean, am I having an affair with her?"

She hung her head, but managed to make a slight nod of assent.

He laughed. "No." He laughed again. "No--not thus far, my dear." He
laughed a third time, with still stronger and stranger mockery. "She
congratulated me on my engagement with a sincerity that would have
piqued a man who was interested in her."

"Will you forgive me?" Josephine said. "What I've just been feeling and
saying and putting you through--it's beneath both of us. I suppose a
woman--no woman--can help being nasty where another woman is
concerned."

With his satirical good-humored smile, "I don't in the least blame you."

"And you'll not think less of me for giving way to a thing so vulgar?"

He kissed her with a carelessness that made her wince But she felt that
she deserved it--and was grateful. He said: "Why don't you go over and
see for yourself? No doubt Tetlow gave you the address--and no doubt
you have remembered it."

She colored and hastily turned her head. "Don't punish me," she pleaded.

"Punish you? What nonsense! . . . Do you want me to take you over? The
laboratory would interest you--and Miss Hallowell is lovelier than ever.
She has an easier life now. Office work wears on women terribly."

Josephine looked at him with a beautiful smile of love and trust. "You
wish to be sure I'm cured. Well, can't you see that I am?"

"I don't see why you should be. I've said nothing one way or the other."

She laughed gayly. "You can't tempt me. I'm really cured. I think the
only reason I had the attack was because Mr. Tetlow so evidently
believed he was speaking the truth."

"No doubt he did think he was. I'm sure, in the same circumstances, I'd
think of anyone else just what he thinks of me."

"Then why do you do it, Fred?" urged she with ill-concealed eagerness.
"It isn't fair to the girl, is it?"

"No one but you and Tetlow knows I'm doing it."

"You're mistaken there, dear. Tetlow says a great many people down town
are talking about it--that they say you go almost every day to Jersey
City to see her. He accuses you of having ruined her reputation. He says
she is quite innocent. He blames the whole thing upon you."

Norman, standing with arms folded upon his broad chest, was gazing
thoughtfully into the fire.

"You don't mind my telling you these things?" she said anxiously. "Of
course, I know they are lies----"

"So everyone is talking about it," interrupted he, so absorbed that he
had not heard her.

"You don't realize how conspicuous you are."

He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, it can't be helped."

"You can't afford to be mixed up in a scandal," she ventured, "or to
injure a poor little creature--I'm afraid you'll have to--to stop it."

"Stop it." His eyes gleamed with mirth and something else. "It isn't my
habit to heed gossip."

"But think of _her_, Fred!"

He smiled ironically. "What a generous, thoughtful dear you are!" said
he.

She blushed. "I'll admit I don't like it. I'm not jealous--but I wish
you weren't doing it."

"So do I!" he exclaimed, with sudden energy that astonished and
disquieted her. "So do I! But since it can't be helped I shall go on."

Never had she respected him so profoundly. For the first time she had
measured strength with him and had been beaten and routed. She fancied
herself enormously proud; for she labored under the common delusion
which mistakes for pride the silly vanity of class, or birth, or wealth,
or position. She had imagined she would never lower that cherished pride
of hers to any man. And she had lowered it into the dust. No wonder
women had loved him, she said to herself; couldn't he do with them, even
the haughtiest of them, precisely as he pleased? He had not tried to
calm, much less to end her jealousy; on the contrary, he had let it
flame as high as it would, had urged it higher. And she did not dare ask
him, even as a loving concession to her weakness, to give up an affair
upon which everybody was putting the natural worst possible
construction! On the contrary, she had given him leave to go on--because
she feared--yes, knew--that if she tried to interfere he would take it
as evidence that they could not get on together. What a man!

       *       *       *       *       *

But there was more to come that day. As he was finishing dressing for
dinner his sister Ursula knocked. "May I come, Frederick?" she said.

"Sure," he cried. "I'm fixing my tie."

Ursula, in a gown that displayed the last possible--many of the
homelier women said impossible--inch of her beautiful shoulders, came
strolling sinuously in and seated herself on the arm of the divan. She
watched him, in his evening shirt, as he with much struggling did his
tie. "How young you do look, Fred!" said she. "Especially in just that
much clothes. Not a day over thirty."

"I'm not exactly a nonogenarian," retorted he.

"But usually your face--in spite of its smoothness and no wrinkles--has
a kind of an old young--or do I mean young old?--look. You've led such a
serious life."

"Um. That's the devil of it."

"You're looking particularly young to-night."

"Same to you, Urse."

"No, I'm not bad for thirty-four. People half believe me when I say I'm
twenty-nine." She glanced complacently down at her softly glistening
shoulders. "I've still got my skin."

"And a mighty good one it is. Best I ever saw--except one."

She reflected a moment, then smiled. "I know it isn't Josephine's. Hers
is good but not notable. Eyes and teeth are her strongholds. I suppose
it's--the other lady's."

"Exactly."

"I mean the one in Jersey City."

He went on brushing his hair with not a glance at the bomb she had
exploded under his very nose.

"You're a cool one," she said admiringly.

"Cool?"

"I thought you'd jump. I'm sure you never dreamed I knew."

He slid into his white waistcoat and began to button it.

"Though you might know I'd find out," she went on, "when everyone's
talking."

"Everyone's always talking," said he indifferently.

"And they rattle on to beat the band when they get a chance at a man
like you. Do you know what they're saying?"

"Certainly. Loosen these straps in the back of my waistcoat--the upper
ones, won't you?"

[Illustration: "She glanced complacently down at her softly glistening
shoulders."]

As she fussed with the buckles she said: "But you don't know that they
say you're going to pieces--neglecting your cases--keeping away from
your office--wasting about half of your day with your lady love. They
say that you have gone stark mad--that you are rushing to ruin."

"A little looser. That's better. Thanks."

"And everyone's wondering when Josephine will hear and go on the
rampage. She's so proud and so stuck on herself that they're betting
she'll give you the bounce."

"Well--" getting into his coat--"you'd delight in that. For you don't
like her."

"Oh--so--so," replied Ursula. "She's all right, as women go. You know we
women don't ever think any too well of each other. We're 'on.' Now, I'm
frank to admit I'm not worth the powder to blow me up. I can't do
anything worth doing. I don't know anything worth knowing--except how to
dress and make a fool of an occasional man. I'm not a good house-keeper,
nor a good wife--and I'd as lief go to jail for two years as have a
baby. But I admit I'm n. g. Most women are as poor excuses as I am, yet
they think they're _grand_!"

Norman, standing before his sister and smiling mysteriously, said: "My
dear Urse, let me give you a great truth in a sentence. The value of
anything is not its value to itself or in itself, but its value to some
one else. A woman--even as incompetent a person as you----"

"Or Josephine."

"--or Josephine--may seem to some man to be pricelessly valuable. And if
she happens to seem so to him, why, she _is_ so."

"Meaning--Jersey City?"

His eyes glittered curiously. "Meaning Jersey City," he said.

A long silence. Then Ursula: "But suppose Josephine hears?"

He stood beside the doorway, waiting for her to pass out. His face
expressed nothing. "Let's go down. I'm hungry. We were talking about it
this afternoon."

"You and Jo!"

"Josephine and I."

"And it's all right?"

"Why not?"

"You fooled her?"

"I don't stoop to that sort of thing."

"No, indeed," she laughed. "You rise to heights of deception that would
make anyone else giddy. Oh, I'd give anything to have heard."

"There's nothing to deceive about," said he.

She shook her head. "You can't put it over me, Fred. You've never before
made a fool of yourself about a woman. I'd like to see her. I suppose
I'd be amazed. I've observed that the women who do the most
extraordinary things with men are the most ordinary sort of women."

"Not to the men," said he bitterly. "Not while they're doing it."

"Does _she_ seem extraordinary to _you_ still?"

He thrust his hands deep in his pockets. "What you heard is true. I'm
letting everything slide--work--career--everything. I think of nothing
else. Ursula, I'm mad about her--mad!"

She threw back her head, looked at him admiringly. Never had she so
utterly worshiped this wonderful, powerful brother of hers. He was in
love--really--madly in love--at last. So he was perfect! "How long do
you think it will hold, Fred?" she said, all sympathy.

"God knows!"

"Yet--caring for her you can go on and marry another woman!"

He looked at his sister cynically. "You wouldn't have me marry _her_,
would you?"

"Of course not," protested she hastily. Her passion for romance did not
carry her to that idiocy. "You couldn't. She's a sort of working
girl--isn't she?--anyhow, that class. No, you couldn't marry her. But
how can you marry another woman?"

"How could I give up Josephine?--and give her up probably to Bob
Culver?"

Ursula nodded understandingly. "But--what are you going to do?"

"How should I know? Perhaps break it off when I marry--if you can call
it breaking off, when there's nothing to break but--me."

"You don't mean--" she cried, stopping when her tone had carried her
meaning.

He laughed. "Yes--that's the kind of damn fool I've been."

"You must have let her see how crazy you were about her."

"Was anyone ever able to hide that sort of insanity?"

Ursula gazed wonderingly at him, drew a long breath. "You!" she
exclaimed. "Of all men--you!"

"Let's go down."

"She must be a deep one--dangerous," said Ursula, furious against the
woman who was daring to resist her matchless brother. "Fred, I'm wild to
see her. Maybe I'd see something that'd help cure you."

"You keep out of it," he replied, curtly but not with ill humor.

"It can't last long."

"It'd do for me, if it did."

"The marriage will settle everything," said Ursula with confidence.

"It's got to," said he grimly.




XI


The next day or the next but one Dorothy telephoned him. He often called
her up on one pretext or another, or frankly for no reason at all beyond
the overwhelming desire to hear her voice. But she had never before
"disturbed" him. He had again and again assured her that he would not
regard himself as "disturbed," no matter what he might be doing. She
would not have it so. As he was always watching for some faint sign that
she was really interested in him, this call gave him a thrill of hope--a
specimen of the minor absurdities of those days of extravagant folly.

"Are you coming over to-day?" she asked.

"Right away, if you wish."

"Oh, no. Any time will do."

"I'll come at once. I'm not busy."

"No. Late this afternoon. Father asked me to call up and make sure. He
wants to see you."

"Oh--not you?"

"I'm a business person," retorted she. "I know better than to annoy you,
as I've often said."

He knew it was foolish, tiresome; yet he could not resist the impulse to
say, "Now that I've heard your voice I can't stay away. I'll come over
to lunch."

Her answering voice was irritated. "Please don't. I'm cleaning house.
You'd be in the way."

He shrank and quivered like a boy who has been publicly rebuked. "I'll
come when you say," he replied.

"Not a minute before four o'clock."

"That's a long time--now you've made me crazy to see you."

"Don't talk nonsense. I must go back to work."

"What are you doing?" he asked, to detain her.

"Dusting and polishing. Molly did the sweeping and is cleaning windows
now."

"What have you got on?"

"How silly you are!"

"No one knows that better than I. But I want to have a picture of you to
look at."

"I've got on an old white skirt and an old shirt waist, both dirty, and
a pair of tennis shoes that were white once but are gray now, where they
aren't black. And I've got a pink chiffon rag tied round my hair."

"Pink is wonderful when you wear it."

"I look a fright. And my face is streaked--and my arms."

"Oh, you've got your sleeves rolled up. That's an important detail."

"You're making fun of me."

"No, I'm thinking of your arms. They are--ravishing."

"That's quite enough. Good-by."

And she rang off. He was used to her treating compliment and flattery
from him in that fashion. He could not--or was it would not?--understand
why. He had learned that she was not at all the indifferent and unaware
person in the matter of her physical charms he had at first fancied her.
On the contrary, she had more than her share of physical vanity--not
more than was her right, in view of her charms, but more than she could
carry off well. With many a secret smile he had observed that she
thought herself perfect physically. This did not repel him; it never
does repel a man--when and so long as he is under the enchantment of the
charms the woman more or less exaggerates. But, while he had often seen
women with inordinate physical vanity, so often that he had come to
regarding it as an essential part of feminine character, never before
had he seen one so content with her own good opinion of herself that she
was indifferent to appreciation from others.

He did not go back to the office after lunch. Several important matters
were coming up; if he got within reach they might conspire to make it
impossible for him to be with her on time. If his partners, his clients
knew! He the important man of affairs kneeling at the feet of a
nobody!--and why? Chiefly because he was unable to convince her that he
amounted to anything. His folly nauseated him. He sat in a corner in the
dining room of the Lawyers' Club and drank one whisky and soda after
another and brooded over his follies and his unhappiness, muttering
monotonously from time to time: "No wonder she makes a fool of me. I
invite it, I beg for it, damned idiot that I am!" By three o'clock he
had drunk enough liquor to have dispatched the average man for several
days. It had produced no effect upon him beyond possibly a slight
aggravation of his moodiness.

It took only twenty minutes to get from New York to her house. He set
out at a few minutes after three; arrived at twenty minutes to four. As
experience of her ways had taught him that she was much less friendly
when he disobeyed her requests, he did not dare go to the house, but,
after looking at it from a corner two blocks away, made a detour that
would use up some of the time he had to waste. And as he wandered he
indulged in his usual alternations between self-derision and passion. He
appeared at the house at five minutes to four. Patrick, who with Molly
his wife looked after the domestic affairs, was at the front gate gazing
down the street in the direction from which he always came. At sight of
him Pat came running. Norman quickened his pace, and every part of his
nervous system was in turmoil.

"Mr. Hallowell--he's--_dead_," gasped Pat.

"Dead?" echoed Norman.

"Three quarters of an hour ago, sir. He came from the lobatry, walked in
the sitting room where Miss Dorothy was oiling the furniture and I was
oiling the floor. And he sets down--and he looks at her--as cool and
calm as could be--and he says, 'Dorothy, my child, I'm dying.' And she
stands up straight and looks at him curious like--just curious like. And
he says, 'Dorothy, good-by.' And he shivers, and I jumps up just in time
to catch him from rolling to the floor. He was dead then--so the doctor
says."

"Dead!" repeated Norman, looking round vaguely.

He went on to the house, Pat walking beside him and chattering on and
on--a stream of words Norman did not hear. As he entered the open front
door Dorothy came down the stairs. He had thought he knew how white her
skin was. But he did not know until then. And from that ghostly pallor
looked the eyes of grief beyond tears. He advanced toward her. But she
seemed to be wrapped in an atmosphere of aloofness. He felt himself a
stranger and an alien. After a brief silence she said: "I don't realize
it. I've been upstairs where Pat carried him--but I don't realize it. It
simply can't be."

"Do you know what he wished to say to me?" he asked.

"No. I guess he felt this coming. Probably it came quicker than he
expected. Now I can see that he hasn't been well for several days. But
he would never let anything about illness be said. He thought talking of
those things made them worse."

"You have relatives--somebody you wish me to telegraph?"

She shook her head. "No one. Our relatives out West are second cousins
or further away. They care nothing about us. No, I'm all alone."

The tears sprang to his eyes. But there were no tears in her eyes, no
forlornness in her voice. She was simply stating a fact. He said: "I'll
look after everything. Don't give it a moment's thought."

"No, I'll arrange," replied she. "It'll give me something to
do--something to do for him. You see, it's my last chance." And she
turned to ascend the stairs. "Something to do," she repeated dully. "I
wish I hadn't cleaned house this morning. That would be something more
to do."

This jarred on him--then brought the tears to his eyes again. How
childish she was!--and how desolate! "But you'll let me stay?" he
pleaded. "You'll need me. At any rate, I want to feel that you do."

"I'd rather you didn't stay," she said, in the same calm, remote way.
"I'd rather be alone with him, this last time. I'll go up and sit there
until they take him away. And then--in a few days I'll see what to
do--I'll send for you."

"I can't leave you at such a time," he cried. "You haven't realized yet.
When you do you will need some one."

"You don't understand," she interrupted. "He and I understood each other
in some ways. I know he'd not want--anyone round."

At her slight hesitation before "anyone" he winced.

"I must be alone with him," she went on. "Thank you, but I want to go
now."

"Not just yet," he begged. Then, seeing the shadow of annoyance on her
beautiful white face, he rose and said: "I'm going. I only want to help
you." He extended his hand impulsively, drew it back before she had the
chance to refuse it. For he felt that she would refuse it. He said, "You
know you can rely on me."

"But I don't need anybody," replied she. "Good-by."

"If I can do anything----"

"Pat will telephone." She was already halfway upstairs.

He found Pat in the front yard, and arranged with him to get news and to
send messages by way of the drug store at the corner, so that she would
know nothing about it. He went to a florist's in New York and sent
masses of flowers. And then--there was nothing more to do. He stopped in
at the club and drank and gambled until far into the morning. He fretted
gloomily about all the next day, riding alone in the Park, driving with
his sister, drinking and gambling at the club again and smiling
cynically to himself at the covert glances his acquaintances exchanged.
He was growing used to those glances. He cared not the flip of a penny
for them.

On the third day came the funeral, and he went. He did not let his
cabman turn in behind the one carriage that followed the hearse. At the
graveyard he stood afar off, watching her in her simple new black,
noting her calm. She seemed thinner, but he thought it might be simply
her black dress. He could see no change in her face. As she was leaving
the grave, she looked in his direction but he was uncertain whether she
had seen him. Pat and Molly were in the big, gloomy looking carriage
with her.

He ventured to go to the front gate an hour later. Pat came out. "It's
no use to go in, Mr. Norman," he said. "She'll not see you. She's shut
up in her own room."

"Hasn't she cried yet, Pat?"

"Not yet. We're waiting for it, sir. We're afraid her mind will give
way. At least, Molly is. I don't think so. She's a queer young lady--as
queer as she looks--though at first you'd never think it. She's always
looking different. I never seen so many persons in one."

"Can't Molly _make_ her cry?--by talking about him?"

"She's tried, sir. It wasn't no use. Why, Miss Dorothy talks about him
just as if he was still here." Pat wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"I've been in many a house of mourning, but never through such a strain
as this. Somehow I feel as if I'd never before been round where there
was anyone that'd lost somebody they _really_ cared about. Weeping and
moaning don't amount to much beside what she's doing."

Norman stayed round for an hour or more, then rushed away distracted. He
drank like a madman--drank himself into a daze, and so got a few hours
of a kind of sleep. He was looking haggard and wild now, and everyone
avoided him, though in fact there was not the least danger of an
outburst of temper. His sister--Josephine--the office--several clients
telephoned for him. To all he sent the same refusal--that he was too ill
to see anyone. Not until the third day after the funeral did Dorothy
telephone for him.

He took an ice-cold bath, got himself together as well as he could, and
reached the house in Jersey City about half past three in the afternoon.
She came gliding into the room like a ghost, trailing a black negligee
that made the whiteness of her skin startling. Her eyelids were heavy
and dark, but unreddened. She gazed at him with calm, clear melancholy,
and his heart throbbed and ached for her. She seated herself, clasped
her hands loosely in her lap, and said:

"I've sent for you so that I could settle things up."

"Your father's affairs? Can't I do it better?"

"He had arranged everything. There are only the papers--his notes--and
he wrote out the addresses of the men they were to be sent to. No, I
mean settle things up with you."

"You mustn't bother about that," said he. "Besides, there's nothing to
settle."

"I shan't pretend I'm going to try to pay you back," she went on, as if
he had not spoken. "I never could do it. But you will get part at least
by selling this furniture and the things at the laboratory."

"Dorothy--please," he implored. "Don't you understand you're to stay on
here, just the same? What sort of man do you think I am? I did this for
you, and you know it."

"But I did it for my father," replied she, "and he's gone." She was
resting her melancholy gaze upon him. "I couldn't take anything from
you. You didn't think I was that kind?"

He was silent.

"I cared nothing about the scandal--what people said--so long as I was
doing it for him. . . . I'd have done _anything_ for him. Sometimes I
thought you were going to compel me to do things I'd have hated to do. I
hope I wronged you, but I feared you meant that." She sat thinking
several minutes, sighed wearily. "It's all over now. It doesn't matter.
I needn't bother about it any more."

"Dorothy, let's not talk of these things now," said Norman. "There's no
hurry. I want you to wait until you are calm and have thought everything
over. Then I'm sure you'll see that you ought to stay on."

"How could I?" she asked wonderingly.

"Why not? Am I demanding anything of you? You know I'm not--and that I
never shall."

"But there's no reason on earth why _you_ should support _me_. I can work.
Why shouldn't I? And if I didn't, if I stayed on here, what sort of
woman would I be?"

He was unable to find an answer. He was trying not to see a look in her
face--or was it in her soul, revealed through her eyes?--a look that
made him think for the first time of a resemblance between her and her
father.

"You see yourself I've got to go. Any money I could earn wouldn't more
than pay for a room and board somewhere."

"You can let me advance you money while you--" He hesitated, had an idea
which he welcomed eagerly--"while you study for the stage. Yes, that's
the sensible thing. You can learn to act. Then you will be able to make
a decent living."

She slowly shook her head. "I've no talent for it--and no liking. No,
Mr. Norman, I must go back to work--and right away."

"But at least wait until you've looked into the stage business," he
urged. "You may find that you like it and that you have talent for it."

"I can't take any more from you," she said.

"You think I am not to be trusted. I'm not going to say now how I feel
toward you. But I can honestly say one thing. Now that you are all alone
and unprotected, you needn't have the least fear of me."

She smiled faintly. "I see you don't believe me. Well, it doesn't
matter. I've seen Mr. Tetlow and he has given me a place at twelve a
week in his office."

Norman sank back in his chair. "He is in for himself now?"

"No. He's head clerk for Pitchley & Culver."

"Culver!" exclaimed Norman. "I don't want you to go into Culver's
office. He's a scoundrel."

Again Dorothy smiled faintly. Norman colored. "I know he stands well--as
well as I do. But I can't trust you with him. That sounds ridiculous
but--it's true."

"I think I can trust myself," she said quietly. Her grave regard fixed
his. "Don't you?" she asked.

His eyes lowered. "Yes," he replied. "But--why shouldn't you come back
with us? I'll see that you get a much better position than Culver's
giving you."

Over her face crept one of those mysterious transformations that made
her so bafflingly fascinating to him. Behind that worldly-wise,
satirical mask was she mocking at him? All she said was: "I couldn't
work there. I've settled it with Mr. Tetlow. I go to work to-morrow."

"To-morrow!" he cried, starting up.

"And I've found a place to live. Pat and Molly; will take care of things
for you here."

"Dorothy! You don't _mean_ this? You're not going to break off?"

"I shan't see you again--except as we may meet by accident."

"Do you realize what you're saying means to me?" he cried. "Don't you
know how I love you?" He advanced toward her. She stood and waited
passively, looking at him. "Dorothy--my love--do you want to kill me?"

"When are you to be married?" she asked quietly.

"You are playing with me!" he cried. "You are tormenting me. What have I
ever done that you should treat me this way?" He caught her unresisting
hands and kissed them. "Dear--my dear--don't you care for me at all?"

"No," she said placidly. "I've always told you so."

He seized her in his arms, kissed her with a frenzy that was savage,
ferocious. "You will drive me mad. You _have_ driven me mad!" he muttered.
And he added, unconscious that he was speaking his thoughts, so
distracted was he: "You _must_ love me--you _must_! No woman has ever
resisted me. You cannot."

She drew herself away from him, stood before him like snow, like ice.
"One thing I have never told you. I'll tell you now," she said
deliberately. "I despise you."

He fell back a step and the chill of her coldness seemed to be freezing
the blood in his veins.

"I've always despised you," she went on, and he shivered before that
contemptuous word--it seemed only the more contemptuous for her
calmness. "Sometimes I've despised you thoroughly--again only a
little--but always that feeling."

For a moment he thought she had at last stung his pride into the
semblance of haughtiness. He was able to look at her with mocking eyes
and to say, "I congratulate you on your cleverness in concealing your
feelings."

"It wasn't my cleverness," she said wearily. "It was your blindness. I
never deceived you."

"No, you never have," he replied sincerely. "Perhaps I deserve to be
despised. Again, perhaps if you knew the world--the one I live
in--better, you'd think less harshly of me."

"I don't think harshly of you. How could I--after all you did for my
father?"

"Dorothy, if you'll stay here and study for the stage--or anything you
choose--I promise you I'll never speak of my feeling for you--or show it
in any way--unless you yourself give me leave."

She smiled with childlike pathos. "You ought not to tempt me. Do you
want me to keep on despising you? Can't you ever be fair with me?"

The sad, frank gentleness of the appeal swung his unhinged mind to the
other extreme--from the savagery of passion to a frenzy of remorse.
"Fair to _you_? No," he cried, "because I love you. Oh, I'm
ashamed--bitterly ashamed. I'm capable of any baseness to get you.
You're right. You can't trust me. In going you're saving me from
myself." He hesitated, stared wildly, appalled at the words that were
fighting for utterance--the words about marriage--about marrying her! He
said hoarsely: "I am mad--mad! I don't know what I'm saying.
Good-by--For God's sake, don't think the worst of me, Dorothy. Good-by.
I _will_ be a man again--I will!"

And he wrung her hand and, talking incoherently, he rushed from the room
and from the house.




XII


He went straight home and sought his sister. She had that moment come in
from tea after a matinee. She talked about the play--how badly it was
acted--and about the women she had seen at tea--how badly dressed they
were. "It's hard to say which is the more dreadful--the ugly, misshapen
human race without clothes or in the clothes it insists on wearing. And
the talk at that tea! Does no one ever say a pleasant thing about
anyone? Doesn't anyone ever do a pleasant thing that can be spoken
about? I read this morning Tolstoy's advice about resolving to think all
day only nice thoughts and sticking to it. That sounded good to me, and
I decided to try it." Ursula laughed and squirmed about in her
tight-fitting dress that made an enchanting display of her figure. "What
is one to do? _I_ can't be a fraud, for one. And if I had stuck to my
resolution I'd have spent the day in lying. What's the matter, Fred?"
Now that her attention was attracted she observed more closely. "What
_have_ you been doing? You look--frightful!"

"I've broken with her," replied he.

"With Jo?" she cried. "Why, Fred, you can't--you can't--with the
wedding only five days away!"

"Not with Jo."

Ursula breathed noisy relief. She said cheerfully: "Oh--with the other.
Well, I'm glad it's over."

"Over?" said he sardonically. "Over? It's only begun."

"But you'll stick it out, Fred. You've made a fool of yourself long
enough. What was the girl playing for? Marriage?"

He nodded. "I guess so." He laughed curtly. "And she almost won."

Ursula smiled with fine mockery. "Almost, but not quite. I know you men.
Women do that sort of fool thing. But men--never--at least not the
ambitious, snobbish New York men."

"She almost won," he repeated. "At least, I almost did it. If I had
stayed a minute longer I'd have done it."

"You like to think you would," mocked Ursula. "But if you had tried to
say the words your lungs would have collapsed, your vocal chords snapped
and your tongue shriveled."

"I am not so damn sure I shan't do it yet," he burst out fiercely.

"But I am," said Ursula, calm, brisk, practical. "What's she going to
do?"

"Going to work."

Ursula laughed joyously. "What a joke! A woman go to work when she
needn't!"

"She is going to work."

"To work another man."

"She meant it."

"How easily women fool men!--even the wise men like you."

"She meant it."

"She still hopes to marry you--or she has heard of your marriage----"

Norman lifted his head. Into his face came the cynical, suspicious
expression.

"And has fastened on some other man. Or perhaps she's found some good
provider who's willing to marry her."

Norman sprang up, his eyes blazing, his mouth working cruelly. "By God!"
he cried. "If I thought that!"

His sister was alarmed. Such a man--in such a delirium--might commit any
absurdity. He flung himself down in despair. "Urse, why can't I get rid
of this thing? It's ruining me. It's killing me!"

"Your good sense tells you if you had her you'd be over it--" She
snapped her fingers--"like that."

"Yes--yes--I know it! But--" He groaned--"she has broken with me."

Ursula went to him and kissed him and took his head in her arms. "What a
_boy_-boy it is!" she said tenderly. "Oh, it must be dreadful to have
always had whatever one wanted and then to find something one can't
have. We women are used to it--and the usual sort of man. But not your
sort, Freddy--and I'm so sorry for you."

"I want her, Urse--I want her," he groaned, and he was almost sobbing.
"My God, I _can't_ get on without her."

"Now, Freddy dear, listen to me. You know she's 'way, 'way beneath
you--that she isn't at all what you've got in the habit of picturing
her--that it's all delusion and nonsense----"

"I want her," he repeated. "I want her."

"You'd be ashamed if you had her as a wife--wouldn't you?"

He was silent.

"She isn't a _lady_."

"I don't know," replied he.

"She hasn't any sense. A low sort of cunning, yes. But not brains--not
enough to hold you."

"I don't know," replied he. "She's got enough for a woman. And--I _want_
her."

"She isn't to be compared with Josephine."

"But I don't want Josephine. I want _her_."

"But which do you want to _marry_?--to bring forward as your wife?--to
spend your life with?"

"I know. I'm a mad fool. But, Urse, I can't help it." He stood up
suddenly. "I've used every weapon I've got. Even pride--and it skulked
away. My sense of humor--and it weakened. My will--and it snapped."

"Is she so wonderful?"

"She is so--elusive. I can't understand her--I can't touch her. I can't
find her. She keeps me going like a man chasing an echo."

"Like a man chasing an echo," repeated Ursula reflectively. "I
understand. It is maddening. She must be clever--in her way."

"Or very simple. God knows which; I don't--and sometimes I think she
doesn't, either." He made a gesture of dismissal. "Well, it's finished.
I must pull myself together--or try to."

"You will," said his sister confidently. "A fortnight from now you'll be
laughing at yourself."

"I am now. I have been all along. But--it does no good."

She had to go and dress. But she could not leave until she had tried to
make him comfortable. He was drinking brandy and soda and staring at his
feet which were stretched straight out toward the fire. "Where's your
sense of humor?" she demanded. "Throw yourself on your sense of humor.
It's a friend that sticks when all others fail."

"It's my only hope," he said with a grim smile. "I can see myself. No
wonder she despises me."

"Despises you?" scoffed Ursula. "A _woman_ despise _you_! She's crazy
about you, I'll bet anything you like. Before you're through with this
you'll find out I'm right. And then--you'll have no use for her."

"She despises me."

"Well--what of it? Really, Fred, it irritates me to see you absolutely
unlike yourself. Why, you're as broken-spirited as a henpecked old
husband."

"Just that," he admitted, rising and looking drearily about. "I don't
know what the devil to do next. Everything seems to have stopped."

"Going to see Josephine this evening?"

"I suppose so," was his indifferent reply.

"You'll have to dress after dinner. There's no time now."

"Dress?" he inquired vaguely. "Why dress? Why do anything?"

She thought he would not go to Josephine but would hide in his club and
drink. But she was mistaken. Toward nine o'clock he, in evening dress,
with the expression of a horse in a treadmill, rang the bell of
Josephine's house and passed in at the big bronze doors. The butler must
have particularly admired the way he tossed aside his coat and hat. As
soon as he was in the presence of his fiancee he saw that she was again
in the throes of some violent agitation.

She began at once: "I've just had the most frightful scene with father,"
she said. "He's been hearing a lot of stuff about you down town and it
set him wild."

"Do you mind if I smoke a cigar?" said he, looking at her unseeingly
with haggard, cold eyes. "And may I have some whisky?"

She rang. "I hope the servants didn't hear him," she said. Then, as a
step sounded outside she put on an air of gayety, as if she were still
laughing at some jest he had made. In the doorway appeared her father
one of those big men who win half the battle in advance on personal
appearance of unconquerable might. Burroughs was noted for his
generosity and for his violent temper. As a rule men of the largeness
necessary to handling large affairs are free from petty vindictiveness.
They are too busy for hatred. They do not forgive; they are most careful
not to forget; they simply stand ready at any moment to do whatever it
is to their interest to do, regardless of friendships or animosities.
Burroughs was an exception in that he got his highest pleasure out of
pursuing his enemies. He enjoyed this so keenly that several times--so
it was said--he had sacrificed real money to satisfy a revenge. But
these rumors may have wronged him. It is hardly probable that a man who
would let a weakness carry him to that pitch of folly could have escaped
destruction. For of all the follies revenge is the most dangerous--as
well as the most fatuous.

Burroughs had a big face. Had he looked less powerful the bigness of his
features, the spread of cheek and jowl, would have been grotesque. As it
was, the face was impressive, especially when one recalled how many,
many millions he owned and how many more he controlled. The control was
better than the ownership. The millions he owned made him a coward--he
was afraid he might lose them. The millions he controlled, and of course
used for his own enrichment, made him brave, for if they were lost in
the daring ventures in which he freely staked them, why, the loss was
not his, and he could shift the blame. Usually Norman treated him with
great respect, for his business gave the firm nearly half its total
income, and it was his daughter and his wealth, prestige and power, that
Norman was marrying. But this evening he looked at the great man with a
superciliousness that was peculiarly disrespectful from so young a man
to one well advanced toward old age. Norman had been feeling relaxed,
languid, exhausted. The signs of battle in that powerful face nerved
him, keyed him up at once. He waited with a joyful impatience while the
servant was bringing cigars and whisky. The enormous quantities of
liquor he had drunk in the last few days had not been without effect.
Alcohol, the general stimulant, inevitably brings out in strong relief a
man's dominant qualities. The dominant quality of Norman was love of
combat.

"Josephine tells me you are in a blue fury," said Norman pleasantly when
the door was closed and the three were alone. "No--not a blue fury. A
black fury."

At the covert insolence of his tone Josephine became violently agitated.
"Father," she said, with the imperiousness of an only and indulged
child, "I have asked you not to interfere between Fred and me. I thought
I had your promise."

"I said I'd think about it," replied her father. He had a heavy voice
that now and then awoke some string of the lower octaves of the piano in
the corner to a dismal groan. "I've decided to speak out."

"That's right, sir," said Norman. "Is your quarrel with me?"

Josephine attempted an easy laugh. "It's that silly story we were
talking about the other day, Fred."

"I supposed so," said he. "You are not smoking, Mr. Burroughs--" He
laughed amiably--"at least not a cigar."

"The doctor only allows me one, and I've had it," replied Burroughs, his
eyes sparkling viciously at this flick of the whip. "What is the truth
about that business, Norman?"

Norman's amused glance encountered the savage glare mockingly. "Why do
you ask?" he inquired.

"Because my daughter's happiness is at stake. Because I cannot but
resent a low scandal about a man who wishes to marry my daughter."

"Very proper, sir," said Norman graciously.

"My daughter," continued Burroughs with accelerating anger, "tells me
you have denied the story."

[Illustration: "'Father ... I have asked you not to interfere between
Fred and me.'"]

Norman interrupted with an astonished look at Josephine. She colored,
gazed at him imploringly. His face terrified her. When body and mind are
in health and at rest the fullness of the face hides the character to a
great extent. But when a human being is sick or very tired the
concealing roundness goes and in the clearly marked features the true
character is revealed. In Norman's face, haggard by his wearing
emotions, his character stood forth--the traits of strength, of
tenacity, of inevitable purpose. And Josephine saw and dreaded.

"But," Burroughs went on, "I have it on the best authority that it is
true."

Norman, looking into the fascinating face of danger, was thrilled. "Then
you wish to break off the engagement?" he said in the gentlest,
smoothest tone.

Burroughs brought his fist down on the table--and Norman recognized the
gesture of the bluffer. "I wish you to break off with that woman!" he
cried. "I insist upon it--upon positive assurances from you."

"Fred!" pleaded Josephine. "Don't listen to him. Remember, I have said
nothing."

He had long been looking for a justifying grievance against her. It now
seemed to him that he had found it. "Why should you?" he said genially
but with subtle irony, "since you are getting your father to speak for
you."

There was just enough truth in this to entangle her and throw her into
disorder. She had been afraid of the consequences of her father's
interfering with a man so spirited as Norman, but at the same time she
had longed to have some one put a check upon him. Norman's suave remark
made her feel that he could see into her inmost soul--could see the
anger, the jealousy, the doubt, the hatred-tinged love, the
love-saturated hate seething and warring there.

Burroughs was saying: "If we had not committed ourselves so deeply, I
should deal very differently with this matter."

"Why should that deter you?" said Norman--and Josephine gave a piteous
gasp. "If this goes much farther, I assure you I shall not be deterred."

Burroughs, firmly planted in a big leather chair, looked at the young
man in puzzled amazement. "I see you think you have us in your power,"
he said at last. "But you are mistaken."

"On the contrary," rejoined the young man, "I see you believe you have
me in your power. And in a sense you are _not_ mistaken."

"Father, he is right," cried Josephine agitatedly. "I shouldn't love and
respect him as I do if he would submit to this hectoring."

"Hectoring!" exclaimed Burroughs. "Josephine, leave the room. I cannot
discuss this matter properly before you."

"I hope you will not leave, Josephine," said Norman. "There is nothing
to be said that you cannot and ought not to hear."

"I'm not an infant, father," said Josephine. "Besides, it is as Fred
says. He has done nothing--improper."

"Then why does he not say so?" demanded Burroughs, seeing a chance to
recede from his former too advanced position. "That's all I ask."

"But I told you all about it, father," said Josephine angrily. "They've
been distorting the truth, and the truth is to his credit."

Norman avoided the glance she sent to him; it was only a glance and
away, for more formidably than ever his power was enthroned in his
haggard face. He stood with his back to the fire and it was plain that
the muscles of his strong figure were braced to give and to receive a
shock. "Mr. Burroughs," he said, "your daughter is mistaken. Perhaps it
is my fault--in having helped her to mislead herself. The plain truth
is, I have become infatuated with a young woman. She cares nothing about
me--has repulsed me. I have been and am making a fool of myself about
her. I've been hoping to cure myself. I still hope. But I am not cured."

There was absolute silence in the room. Norman stole a glance at
Josephine. She was sitting erect, a greenish pallor over her ghastly
face.

He said: "If she will take me, now that she knows the truth, I shall be
grateful--and I shall make what effort I can to do my best."

He looked at her and she at him. And for an instant her eyes softened.
There was the appeal of weak human heart to weak human heart in his
gaze. Her lip quivered. A brief struggle between vanity and love--and
vanity, the stronger, the strongest force in her life, dominating it
since earliest babyhood and only seeming to give way to love when love
came--it was vanity that won. She stiffened herself and her mouth curled
with proud scorn. She laughed--a sneer of jealous rage. "Father," she
said, "the lady in the case is a common typewriter in his office."

But to men--especially to practical men--differences of rank and
position among women are not fundamentally impressive. Man is in the
habit of taking what he wants in the way of womankind wherever he finds
it, and he understands that habit in other men. He was furious with
Norman, but he did not sympathize with his daughter's extreme attitude.
He said to Norman sharply:

"You say you have broken with the woman?"

"She has broken with me," replied Norman.

"At any rate, everything is broken off."

"Apparently."

"Then there is no reason why the marriage should not go on." He turned
to his daughter. "If you understood men, you would attach no importance
to this matter. As you yourself said, the woman isn't a lady--isn't in
our class. That sort of thing amounts to nothing. Norman has acted well.
He has shown the highest kind of honesty--has been truthful where most
men would have shifted and lied. Anyhow, things have gone too far." Not
without the soundest reasons had Burroughs accepted Norman as his
son-in-law; and he had no fancy for giving him up, when men of his
pre-eminent fitness were so rare.

There was another profound silence. Josephine looked at Norman. Had he
returned her gaze, the event might have been different; for within her
there was now going on a struggle between two nearly evenly matched
vanities--the vanity of her own outraged pride and the vanity of what
the world would say and think, if the engagement were broken off at that
time and in those circumstances. But he did not look at her. He kept his
eyes fixed upon the opposite wall, and there was no sign of emotion of
any kind in his stony features. Josephine rose, suppressed a sob, looked
arrogant scorn from eyes shining with tears--tears of self-pity. "Send
him away, father," she said. "He has tried to degrade _me_! I am done with
him." And she rushed from the room, her father half starting from his
chair to detain her.

He turned angrily on Norman. "A hell of a mess you've made!" he cried.

"A hell of a mess," replied the young man.

"Of course she'll come round. But you've got to do your part."

"It's settled," said Norman. And he threw his cigar into the fireplace.
"Good night."

"Hold on!" cried Burroughs. "Before you go, you must see Josie alone and
talk with her."

"It would be useless," said Norman. "You know her."

Burroughs laid his hand friendlily but heavily upon the young man's
shoulder. "This outburst of nonsense might cost you two young people
your happiness for life. This is no time for jealousy and false pride.
Wait a moment."

"Very well," said Norman. "But it is useless." He understood Josephine
now--he who had become a connoisseur of love. He knew that her
vanity-founded love had vanished.

Burroughs disappeared in the direction his daughter had taken. Norman
waited several minutes--long enough slowly to smoke a cigarette. Then he
went into the hall and put on his coat with deliberation. No one
appeared, not even a servant. He went out into the street.

In the morning papers he found the announcement of the withdrawal of the
invitations--and from half a column to several columns of comment, much
of it extremely unflattering to him.




XIII


When a "high life" engagement such as that of Norman and Miss Burroughs,
collapses on the eve of the wedding, the gossip and the scandal, however
great, are but a small part of the mess. Doubtless many a marriage--and
not in high life alone, either--has been put through, although the one
party or the other or both have discovered that disaster was
inevitable--solely because of the appalling muddle the sensible course
would precipitate. In the case of the Norman-Burroughs fiasco, there
were--to note only a few big items--such difficulties as several car
loads of presents from all parts of the earth to be returned, a house
furnished throughout and equipped to the last scullery maid and stable
boy to be disposed of, the entire Burroughs domestic economy which had
been reconstructed to be put back upon its former basis.

It is not surprising that, as Ursula Fitzhugh was credibly informed,
Josephine almost decided to send for Bob Culver and marry him on the day
before the day appointed for her marriage to Fred. The reason given for
her not doing this sounded plausible. Culver, despairing of making the
match on which his ambition--and therefore his heart was set--and
seeing a chance to get suddenly rich, had embarked for a career as a
blackmailer of corporations. That is, he nosed about for a big
corporation stealthily doing or arranging to do some unlawful but highly
profitable acts; he bought a few shares of its stock, using a fake
client as a blind; he then proceeded to threaten it with exposure,
expensive hindrances and the like, unless it bought him off at a huge
profit to himself. This business was regarded as most disreputable
and--thanks to the power of the big corporations over the courts--had
resulted in the sending of several of its practisers to jail or on hasty
journeys to foreign climes. But Culver, almost if not quite as good a
lawyer as Norman, was too clever to be caught in that way. However,
while he was getting very rich rapidly, he was as yet far from rich
enough to overcome the detestation of old Burroughs, and to be eligible
for the daughter.

So, Josephine sailed away to Europe, with the consolation that her
father was so chagrined by the fizzle that he had withdrawn his veto
upon the purchase of a foreign title--that veto having been the only
reason she had looked at home for a husband. Strange indeed are the ways
of love--never stranger than when it comes into contact with the
vanities of wealth and social position and the other things that cause a
human being to feel that he or she is lifted clear of and high above the
human condition. Josephine had her consolation. For Norman the only
consolation was escape from a marriage which had become so irksome in
anticipation that he did not dare think what it would be in the reality.
Over against this consolation was set a long list of disasters. He found
himself immediately shunned by all his friends. Their professed reason
was that he had acted shabbily in the breaking of the engagement; for,
while it was assumed that Josephine must have done the actual breaking,
it was also assumed that he must have given her provocation and to
spare. This virtuous indignation was in large part mere pretext, as
virtuous indignation in frail mortals toward frail mortals is apt to be.
The real reason for shying off from Norman was his atmosphere of
impending downfall. And certainly that atmosphere had eaten away and
dissipated all his former charm. He looked dull and boresome--and he
was.

But the chief disaster was material. As has been said, old Burroughs, in
his own person and in the enterprises he controlled, gave Norman's firm
about half its income. The day Josephine sailed, Lockyer, senior partner
of the firm, got an intimation that unless Norman left, Burroughs would
take his law business elsewhere, and would "advise" others of their
clients to follow his example. Lockyer no sooner heard than he began to
bestir himself. He called into consultation the learned Benchley and the
astute Sanders and the soft and sly Lockyer junior. There could be no
question that Norman must be got rid of. The only point was, who should
inform the lion that he had been deposed?

After several hours of anxious discussion, Lockyer, his inward
perturbations hid beneath that mask of smug and statesmanlike
respectability, entered the lion's den--a sick lion, sick unto death
probably, but not a dead lion. "When you're ready to go uptown,
Frederick," said he in his gentlest, most patriarchal manner, "let me
know. I want to have a little talk with you."

Norman, heavy eyed and listless, looked at the handsome old fraud. As he
looked something of the piercing quality and something of the humorous
came back into his eyes. "Sit down and say it now," said he.

"I'd prefer to talk where we can be quiet."

Norman rang his bell and when an office boy appeared, said "No one is to
disturb me until I ring again." Then as the boy withdrew he said to
Lockyer: "Now, sir, what is it?"

Lockyer strolled to the window, looked out as if searching for something
he failed to find, came back to the chair on the opposite side of the
desk from Norman, seated himself. "I don't know how to begin," said he.
"It is hard to say painful things to anyone I have such an affection for
as I have for you."

Norman pushed a sheet of letter paper across the desk toward his
partner. "Perhaps that will help you," observed he carelessly.

Lockyer put on his nose glasses with the gesture of grace and intellect
that was famous. He read--a brief demand for a release from the
partnership and a request for an immediate settlement. Lockyer blinked
off his glasses with the gesture that was as famous and as admiringly
imitated by lesser legal lights as was his gesture of be-spectacling
himself. "This is most astounding, my boy," said he. "It is
most--most----"

"Gratifying?" suggested Norman with a sardonic grin.

"Not in the least, Frederick. The very reverse--the exact reverse."

Norman gave a shrug that said "Why do you persist in those frauds--and
with _me_?" But he did not speak.

"I know," pursued Lockyer, "that you would not have taken this step
without conclusive reasons. And I shall not venture the impertinence of
prying or of urging."

"Thanks," said Norman drily. "Now, as to the terms of settlement."

Lockyer, from observation and from gossip, had a pretty shrewd notion of
the state of his young partner's mind, and drew the not unwarranted
conclusion that he would be indifferent about terms--would be "easy."
With the suavity of Mr. Great-and-Good-Heart he said: "My dear boy,
there can't be any question of money with us. We'll do the generously
fair thing--for, we're not hucksterers but gentlemen."

"That sounds terrifying," observed the young man, with a faint ironic
smile. "I feel my shirt going and the cold winds whistling about my bare
body. To save time, let _me_ state the terms. You want to be rid of me. I
want to go. It's a whim with me. It's a necessity for you."

Lockyer shifted uneasily at these evidences of unimpaired mentality and
undaunted spirit.

"Here are my terms," proceeded Norman. "You are to pay me forty thousand
a year for five years--unless I open an office or join another firm. In
that case, payments are to cease from the date of my re-entering
practice."

Lockyer leaned back and laughed benignantly. "My dear Norman," he said
with a gently remonstrant shake of the head, "those terms are
impossible. Forty thousand a year! Why that is within ten thousand of
the present share of any of us but you. It is the income of nearly three
quarters of a million at six per cent--of a million at four per cent!"

"Very well," said Norman, settling back in his chair. "Then I stand
pat."

"Now, my dear Norman, permit me to propose terms that are fair to
all----"

"When I said I stood pat I meant that I would stay on." His eyes laughed
at Lockyer. "I guess we can live without Burroughs and his dependents.
Maybe they will find they can't live without us." He slowly leaned
forward until, with his forearms against the edge of his desk, he was
concentrating a memorable gaze upon Lockyer. "Mr. Lockyer," said he, "I
have been exercising my privilege as a free man to make a damn fool of
myself. I shall continue to exercise it so long as I feel disposed that
way. But let me tell you something. I can afford to do it. If a man's
asset is money, or character or position or relatives and friends or
popular favor or any other perishable article, he must take care how he
trifles with it. He may find himself irretrievably ruined. But my asset
happens to be none of those things. It is one that can be lost or
damaged only by insanity or death. Do you follow me?"

The old man looked at him with the sincere and most flattering tribute
of compelled admiration. "What a mind you've got, Frederick--and what
courage!"

"You accept my terms?"

"If the others agree--and I think they will."

"They will," said Norman.

The old man was regarding him with eyes that had genuine anxiety in
them. "Why _do_ you do it, Fred?" he said.

"Because I wish to be free," replied Norman. He would never have told
the full truth to that incredulous old cynic of a time-server--the truth
that he was resigning at the dictation of a pride which forbade him to
involve others in the ruin he, in his madness, was bent upon.

"I don't mean, why do you resign," said Lockyer. "I mean the
other--the--woman."

Norman laughed harshly.

"I've seen too much of the world not to understand," continued Lockyer.
"The measureless power of woman over man--especially--pardon me, my dear
Norman--especially a bad woman!"

"The measureless power of a man's imagination over himself," rejoined
Norman. "Did you ever see or hear of a man without imagination being
upset by a woman? It's in here, Mr. Lockyer"--he rapped his
forehead--"altogether in here."

"You realize that. Yet you go on--and for such a--pardon me, my boy,
for saying it--for such a trifling object."

"What does 'trifling' mean, sir?" replied the young man. "What is
trifling and what is important? It depends upon the point of view. What
I want--that is vital. What I do not want--that is paltry. It's my
nature to go for what I happen to want--to go for it with all there is
in me. I will take nothing else--nothing else."

There was in his eyes the glitter called insanity--the glitter that
reflects the state of mind of any strong man when possessed of one of
those fixed ideas that are the idiosyncrasy of the strong. It would have
been impossible for Lockyer to be possessed in that way; he had not the
courage nor the concentration nor the independence of soul; like most
men, even able men, he dealt only in the conventional. Not in his
wildest youth could he have wrecked or injured himself for a woman;
women, for him, occupied their conventional place in the scheme of
things, and had no allure beyond the conventionally proper and the
conventionally improper--for, be it remembered, vice has its beaten
track no less than virtue and most of the vicious are as tame and
unimaginative as the plodders in the high roads of propriety. Still,
Lockyer had associated with strong men, men of boundless desires; thus,
he could in a measure sympathize with his young associate. What a pity
that these splendid powers should be perverted from the ordinary desires
of strong men!

Norman rose, to end the interview. "My address is my house. They will
forward--if I go away."

Lockyer gave him a hearty handclasp, made a few phrases about good
wishes and the like, left him alone. The general opinion was that Norman
was done for. But Lockyer could not see it. He had seen too many men
fall only to rise out of lowest depths to greater heights than they had
fallen from. And Norman was only thirty-seven. Perhaps this would prove
to be merely a dip in a securely brilliant career and not a fall at all.
In that case--with such a brain, such a genius for the lawlessness of
the law, what a laughing on the other side of the mouth there might yet
be among young Norman's enemies--and friends!

He spent most of the next few days--the lunch time, the late afternoon,
finally the early morning hours--lurking about the Equitable Building,
in which were the offices of Pytchley and Culver. As that building had
entrances on four streets, the best he could do was to walk round and
round, with an occasional excursion through the corridors and past the
elevators. He had written her, asking to see her; he had got no answer.
He ceased to wait at the elevators after he had twice narrowly escaped
being seen by Tetlow. He was indifferent to Tetlow, except as meeting
him might make it harder to see Dorothy. He drank hard. But drink never
affected him except to make him more grimly tenacious in whatever he had
deliberately and soberly resolved. Drink did not explain--neither wholly
nor in any part--this conduct of his. It, and the more erratic vagaries
to follow, will seem incredible conduct for a man of Norman's character
and position to feeble folk with their feeble desires, their dread of
criticism and ridicule, their exaggerated and adoring notions of the
master men. In fact, it was the natural outcome of the man's
nature--arrogant, contemptuous of his fellowmen and of their opinions,
and, like all the master men, capable of such concentration upon a
desire that he would adopt any means, high or low, dignified or the
reverse, if only it promised to further his end. Fred Norman, at these
vulgar vigils, took the measure of his own self-abasement to a hair's
breadth. But he kept on, with the fever of his infatuation burning like
a delirium, burning higher and deeper with each baffled day.

At noon, one day, as he swung into Broadway from Cedar street, he ran
straight into Tetlow. It was raining and his umbrella caught in
Tetlow's. It was a ludicrous situation, but there was no answering smile
in his former friend's eyes. Tetlow glowered.

"I've heard you were hanging about," he said. "How low you have sunk!"

Norman laughed in his face. "Poor Tetlow," he said. "I never expected to
see you develop into a crusader. And what a Don Quixote you look. Cheer
up, old man. Don't take it so hard."

"I warn you to keep away from her," said Tetlow in subdued, tense tones,
his fat face quivering with emotion. "Hasn't she shown you plainly that
she'll have nothing to do with you?"

"I want only five minutes' talk with her, Tetlow," said Norman, dropping
into an almost pleading tone. "And I guarantee I'll say nothing you
wouldn't approve, if you heard. You are advising her badly. You are
doing her an injury."

"I am protecting her from a scoundrel," retorted Tetlow.

"She'll not thank you for it, when she finds out the truth."

"You can write to her. What a shallow liar you are!"

"I cannot write what I must say," said Norman. It had never been
difficult for him, however provoked, to keep his temper--outwardly.
Tetlow's insults were to him no more than the barkings of a watch dog,
and one not at all dangerous, but only amusing. "I must see her. If you
are her friend, and not merely a jealous, disappointed lover, you'll
advise her to see me."

"You shall not see her, if I can help it," cried his former friend. "And
if you persist in annoying her----"

"Don't make futile threats, Tetlow," Norman interrupted. "You've done me
all the mischief you can do. I see you hate me for the injuries you've
done me. That's the way it always is. But I don't hate you. It was at my
suggestion that the Lockyer firm is trying to get you back as a
partner." Then, as Tetlow colored--"Oh, I see you're accepting their
offer."

"If I had thought----"

"Nonsense. You're not a fool. How does it matter whose the hand, if only
it's a helping hand? And you may be sure they'd never have made you the
offer if they didn't need you badly. All the credit I claim is having
the intelligence to enlighten their stupidity with the right
suggestion."

In spite of himself Tetlow was falling under the spell of Norman's
personality, of the old and deep admiration the lesser man had for the
greater.

"Norman," he said, "how can you be such a combination of bigness and
petty deviltry? You are a monster of self-indulgence. It's a God's mercy
there aren't more men with your selfishness and your desires."

Norman laughed sardonically. "The difference between me and most men,"
said he, "isn't in selfishness or in desires, but in courage. Courage,
Billy--there's what most of you lack. And even in courage I'm not alone.
My sort fill most of the high places."

Tetlow looked dismal confession of a fear that Norman was right.

"Yes," pursued Norman, "in this country there are enough wolves to
attend to pretty nearly all the sheep--though it's amazing how much
mutton there is." With an abrupt shift from raillery, "You'll help me
with her, Billy?"

"Why don't you let her alone, Fred?" pleaded Tetlow. "It isn't worthy of
you--a big man like you. Let her alone, Fred!--the poor child, trying to
earn her own living in an honest way."

"Let her alone? Tetlow, I shall never let her alone--as long as she and
I are both alive."

The fat man, with his premature wrinkles and his solemn air of law books
that look venerable though fresh from the press, took on an added
pastiness. "Fred--for God's sake, can't you love her in a noble way--a
way worthy of you?"

Norman gave him a penetrating glance. "Is love--such love as mine--_and_
yours--" There Tetlow flushed guiltily--"is it ever noble?--whatever
that means. No, it's human--human. But I'm not trying to harm her. I
give you my word. . . . Will you help me--and her?"

Tetlow hesitated. His heavy cheeks quivered. "I don't trust you," he
cried violently--the violence of a man fighting against an enemy within.
"Don't ever speak to me again." And he rushed away through the rain,
knocking umbrellas this way and that.

About noon two days later, as Norman was making one of his excursions
past the Equitable elevators, he saw Bob Culver at the news stand. It so
happened that as he recognized Culver, Culver cast in the direction of
the elevators the sort of look that betrays a man waiting for a woman.
Unseen by Culver, Norman stopped short. Into his face blazed the fury of
suspicion, jealousy, and hate--one of the cyclones of passion that swept
him from time to time and revealed to his own appalled self the full
intensity of his feeling, the full power of the demon that possessed
him. Culver was of those glossy, black men who are beloved of women. He
was much handsomer than Norman, who, indeed, was not handsome at all,
but was regarded as handsome because he had the air of great
distinction. Many times these two young men had been pitted against each
other in legal battles. Every time Norman had won. Twice they had
contended for the favor of the same lady. Each had scored once. But as
Culver's victory was merely for a very light and empty-headed lady of
the stage while he had won Josephine Burroughs away from Culver, the
balance was certainly not against him.

As Norman slipped back and into the cross corridor to avoid meeting
Culver, Dorothy Hallowell hurried from a just descended elevator and,
with a quick, frightened glance toward Culver, in profile, almost ran
toward Norman. It was evident that she had only one thought--to escape
being seen by her new employer. When she realized that some one was
standing before her and moved to one side to pass, she looked up. "Oh!"
she gasped, starting back. And then she stood there white and shaking.

"Is that beast Culver hounding you?" demanded Norman.

She recovered herself quickly. With flashing eyes, she cried: "How dare
you! How dare you!"

Norman, possessed by his rage against Culver, paid no attention. "If he
don't let you alone," he said, "I'll thrash him into a hospital for six
months. You must leave his office at once. You'll not go back there."

"You must be crazy," replied she, calm again. "I've no complaint to make
of the way I'm being treated. I never was so well off in my life. And
Mr. Culver is very kind and polite."

"You know what that means," said Norman harshly.

"Everyone isn't like you," retorted she.

He was examining her from head to foot, as if to make sure that it was
she with no charm missing. He noted that she was much less poorly
dressed than when she worked for his firm. In those days she often
looked dowdy, showed plainly the girl who has to make a hasty toilet in
a small bedroom, with tiny wash-stand and looking-glass, in the early,
coldest hours of a cold morning. Now she looked well taken care of
physically, not so well, not anything like so well as the women
uptown--the ladies with nothing to do but make toilettes; still,
unusually well looked after for a working girl. At first glance after
those famished and ravening days of longing for her and seeking her, she
before him in rather dim reality of the obvious office-girl, seemed
disappointing. It could not be that this insignificance was the cause of
all his fever and turmoil. He began to hope that he was recovering, that
the cloud of insane desire was clearing from his sky. But a second
glance killed that hope. For, once more he saw her mystery, her beauties
that revealed their perfection and splendor only to the observant.

While he looked she was regaining her balance, as the fading color in
her white skin and the subsidence of the excitement in her eyes
evidenced. "Let me pass, please," she said coldly--for, she was against
the wall with him standing before her in such a way that she could not
go until he moved aside.

"We'll lunch together," he said. "I want to talk with you. Did that
well-meaning ass--Tetlow--tell you?"

"There is nothing you can say that I wish to hear," was her quiet reply.

"Your eyes--the edges of the lids are red. You have been crying?"

She lifted her glance to his and he had the sense of a veil drawing
aside to reveal a desolation. "For my father," she said.

His face flushed. He looked steadily at her. "Now that he is gone, you
have no one to protect you. I am----"

"I need no one," said she with a faintly contemptuous smile.

"You do need some one--and I am going to undertake it."

Her face lighted up. He thought it was because of what he had said. But
she immediately undeceived him. She said in a tone of delighted relief,
"Here comes Mr. Tetlow. You must excuse me."

"Dorothy--listen!" he cried. "We are going to be married at once."

The words exploded dizzily in his ears. He assumed they would have a far
more powerful effect upon her. But her expression did not change. "No,"
she said hastily. "I must go with Mr. Tetlow." Tetlow was now at hand,
his heavy face almost formidable in its dark ferocity. She said to him:
"I was waiting for you. Come on"

Norman turned eagerly to his former friend. He said: "Tetlow, I have
just asked Miss Hallowell to be my wife."

Tetlow stared. Then pain and despair seemed to flood and ravage his
whole body.

"I told you the other day," Norman went on, "that I was ready to do the
fair thing. I have just been saying to Miss Hallowell that she must have
some one to protect her. You agree with me, don't you?"

Tetlow, fumbling vaguely with his watch chain, gazed straight ahead.
"Yes," he said with an effort. "Yes, you are right, Norman. An office is
no place for an attractive girl as young as she is."

"Has Culver been annoying her?" inquired Norman.

Tetlow started. "Ah--she's told you--has she? I rather hoped she hadn't
noticed or understood."

Both men now looked at the girl. She had shrunk into herself until she
was almost as dim and unimpressive, as cipher-like as when Norman first
beheld her. Also she seemed at least five years less than her twenty.
"Dorothy," said Norman, "you will let me take care of you--won't you?"

"No," she said--and the word carried all the quiet force she was somehow
able to put into her short, direct answers.

Tetlow's pasty sallowness took on a dark red tinge. He looked at her in
surprise. "You don't understand, Miss Dorothy," he said. "He wants to
marry you."

"I understand perfectly," replied she, with the far-away look in her
blue eyes. "But I'll not marry him. I despise him. He frightens me. He
sickens me."

Norman clinched his hands and the muscles of his jaw in the effort to
control himself. "Dorothy," he said, "I've not acted as I should. Tetlow
will tell you that there is good excuse for me. I know you don't
understand about those things--about the ways of the world----"

"I understand perfectly," she interrupted. "It's you that don't
understand. I never saw anyone so conceited. Haven't I told you I don't
love you, and don't want anything to do with you?"

Tetlow, lover though he was--or perhaps because he was lover, of the
hopeless kind that loves generously--could not refrain from protest.
The girl was flinging away a dazzling future. It wasn't fair to her to
let her do it when if she appreciated she would be overwhelmed with joy
and gratitude. "I believe you ought to listen to Norman, Miss Dorothy,"
he said pleadingly. "At any rate, think it over--don't answer right
away. He is making you an honorable proposal--one that's advantageous in
every way----"

Dorothy regarded him with innocent eyes, wide and wondering. "I didn't
think you could talk like that, Mr. Tetlow!" she exclaimed. "You heard
what I said to him--about the way I felt. How could I be his wife? He
tried everything else--and, now, though he's ashamed of it, he's trying
to get me by marriage. Oh, I understand. I wish I didn't. I'd not feel
so low." She looked at Norman. "Can't you realize _ever_ that I don't want
any of the grand things you're so crazy about--that I want something
very different--something you could never give me--or get for me?"

"Isn't there anything I can do, Dorothy, to make you forget and
forgive?" he cried, like a boy, an infatuated boy. "For God's sake,
Tetlow, help me! Tell her I'm not so rotten as she thinks. I'll be
anything you like, my darling--_anything_--if only you'll take me. For I
must have you. You're the only thing in the world I care for--and,
without you, I've no interest in life--none--none!"

He was so impassioned that passersby began to observe them curiously.
Tetlow became uneasy. But Norman and Dorothy were unconscious of what
was going on around them. The energy of his passion compelled her,
though the passion itself was unwelcome. "I'm sorry," she said gently.
"Though you would have hurt me, if you could, I don't want to hurt
you. . . . I'm sorry. I can't love you. . . . I'm sorry. Come on, Mr.
Tetlow."

Norman stood aside. She and Tetlow went on out of the building. He
remained in the same place, oblivious of the crowd streaming by, each
man or woman with a glance at his vacant stare.




XIV


Than Fred Norman no man ever had better reason to feel securely
entrenched upon the heights of success. It was no silly vaunt of
optimism for him to tell Lockyer that only loss of life or loss of mind
could dislodge him. And a few days after Dorothy had extinguished the
last spark of hope he got ready to pull himself together and show the
world that it was indulging too soon in its hypocritical headshakings
over his ruin.

"I am going to open an office of my own at once," he said to his sister.

She did not wish to discourage him, but she could not altogether keep
her thoughts from her face. She had, in a general way, a clear idea of
the complete system of tollgates, duly equipped with strong barriers,
which the mighty few have established across practically all the
highroads to material success. Also, she felt in her brother's manner
and tone a certain profound discouragement, a lack of the unconquerable
spirit which had carried him so far so speedily. It is not a baseless
notion that the man who has never been beaten is often destroyed by his
first reverse. Ursula feared the spell of success had been broken for
him.

"You mean," she suggested, with apparent carelessness, "that you will
give up your forty thousand a year?"

He made a disdainful gesture. "I can make more than that," said he.
"It's a second rate lawyer who can't in this day."

"Of course you can," replied she tactfully. "But why not take a rest
first? Then there's old Burroughs--on the war path. Wouldn't it be wise
to wait till he calms down?"

"If Burroughs or any other man is necessary to me," rejoined Fred, "the
sooner I find it out the better. I ought to know just where I--I
myself--stand."

"No one is necessary to you but yourself," said Ursula, proudly and
sincerely. "But, Fred--Are you yourself just now?"

"No, I'm not," admitted he. "But the way to become so again isn't by
waiting but by working." An expression of sheer wretchedness came into
his listless, heavy eyes. "Urse, I've got to conquer my weakness now, or
go under."

She was eager to hold on to the secure forty thousand a year--for his
sake no less than for her own. She argued with him with all the
adroitness of a mind as good in its way as his own. But she could not
shake his resolution. And she in prudence, desisted when he said
bitterly: "I see you've lost confidence in me. Well, I don't blame
you. . . . So have I." Then after a moment, violently rather than strongly:
"But I've got to get it back. If I don't I'm only putting off the
smash--a complete smash."

"I don't see quite how it's to be arranged," said she, red and
hesitating. For, she feared he would think her altogether selfish in her
anxiety. He certainly would have been justified in so thinking; he knew
how rarely generosity survived in the woman who leads the soft and idle
life.

"How long can we keep on as we're living now--if there's nothing, or
little, coming in?"

"I don't know," confessed she. She was as poor at finance as he, and had
certainly not been improved by his habit of giving her whatever she
happened to think was necessary. "I can't say. Perhaps a few months--I
don't know--Not long, I'm afraid."

"Six months?"

"Oh, no. You see--the fact is--I've been rather careless about the
bills. You're so generous, Fred--and one is so busy in New York. I
guess we owe a good deal--here and there and yonder. And--the last few
days some of the tradespeople have been pressing for payment."

"You see!" exclaimed he. "The report is going round that I'm ruined and
done for. I've simply got to make good. If you can't keep up a front,
shut up the house and go abroad. You can stay till I've got my foot back
on its neck."

She believed in him, at bottom. She could not conceive how appearances
and her forebodings could be true. Such strength as his could not be
overwhelmed thus suddenly. And by so slight a thing!--by an unsatisfied
passion for a woman, and an insignificant woman, at that. For, like all
women, like all the world for that matter, she measured a passion by the
woman who was the object of it, instead of by the man who fabricated it.
"Yes--I'll go abroad," said she, hopefully.

"Quietly arrange for a long stay," he advised. "I _hope_ it won't be long.
But I never plan on hope."

Thus, with his sister and Fitzhugh out of the way and the heaviest of
his burdens of expense greatly lightened, he set about rehabitating
himself. He took an office, waited for clients. And clients
came--excellent clients. Came and precipitately left him.

There were two reasons for it. The first--the one most often heard--was
the story going round that he had been, and probably still was, out of
his mind. No deadlier or crueler weapon can be used against a man than
that same charge as to his sanity. It has been known to destroy, or
seriously maim, brilliant and able men with no trace of any of the
untrustworthy kinds of insanity. Where the man's own conduct gives color
to the report, the attack is usually mortal. And Norman had acted the
crazy man. The second reason was the hostility of Burroughs, reinforced
by all the hatreds and jealousies Norman's not too respectful way of
dealing with his fellow men had been creating through fifteen years.

The worst moment in the life of a man who has always proudly regarded
himself as above any need whatever from his fellow men is when he
discovers all in a flash, that the timid animal he spurned as it fawned
has him upon his back, has its teeth and claws at his helpless throat.

For four months he stood out against the isolation, the suspicion as to
his sanity, the patronizing pity of men who but a little while before
had felt honored when he spoke to them. For four months he gave battle
to unseen and silent foes compassing him on every side. He had no spirit
for the fight; his love of Dorothy Hallowell and his complete rout there
had taken the spirit out of him--and with it had gone that confidence in
himself and in his luck which had won him so many critical battles.
Then--He had been keeping up a large suite of offices, a staff of
clerks and stenographers and all the paraphernalia of the great and
successful lawyer. He had been spreading out the little business he got
in a not unsuccessful effort to make it appear big and growing. He now
gave up these offices and the costly pride, pomp and circumstance--left
with several thousand dollars owing. He took two small rooms in a
building tenanted by beginners and cheap shysters. He continued to live
at his club, where even the servants were subtly insolent to him; he
could see the time approaching when he might have to let himself be
dropped for failing to pay dues and bills.

He stared at his ruin in stupid and dazed amazement. Usually, to hear or
to read about such a catastrophe as this is to get a vague, rather
impressive notion of something picturesque and romantic. Ruined, like
all the big fateful words, has a dignified sound. But the historians and
novelists and poets and other keepers of human records have a pleasant,
but not very honest way, of omitting practically all the essentials from
their records and substituting glittering imaginings that delight the
reader--and wofully mislead him as to the truth about life. What wonder
that we learn slowly--and improve slowly. How wofully we have been, and
are, misled by all upon whom we have relied as teachers.

Already one of these charming tales of majestic downfall was in process
of manufacture, with Frederick Norman as the central figure. It was only
awaiting his suicide or some other mode of complete submergence for its
final glose of glamor. In this manufacture, the truth, as usual, had
been almost omitted; such truth as was retained for this artistic
version of a human happening was so perverted that it was falser than
the simon pure fictions with which it was interwoven. Just as the
literal truth about his success was far from being altogether to his
credit, so the literal truth as to his fall gave him little of the
vesture of the hero, and that little ill fitting, to cover his naked
humanness. Let him who has risen to material success altogether by
methods approved by the idealists, let him who has fallen from on high
with graceful majesty, without hysterical clutchings and desperate
attempts at self-salvation in disregard of the safety of others--let
either of these superhuman beings come forward with the first stone for
Norman.

Those at some distance from the falling man could afford to be romantic
and piteous over his fate. Those in his dangerous neighborhood were too
busy getting out of the way. "Man falling--stand from under!" was the
cry--how familiar it is!--and acquaintances and friends fled in mad
skedaddle. He would surely be asking favors--would be trying to borrow
money. It is no peculiarity of rats to desert a sinking ship; it is
simply an inevitable precaution in a social system modeled as yet upon
nature's cruel law of the survival of the fittest. A falling man is
first of all a warning to all other men high enough up to be able to
fall--a warning to them to take care lest they fall also where footing
is so insecure and precipices and steeps beset every path.

Norman, falling, falling, gazed round him and up and down, in dazed
wonder. He had seen many others fall. He had seen just where and just
why they missed their footing. And he had been confident that with him
no such misstep was possible. He could not believe; a little while, and
luck would turn, and up he would go again--higher than before. Many a
lawyer--to look no farther than his own profession--had through
recklessness or pride or inadvertence got the big men down on him. But
after a time they had relented or had found an exact use for him; and
fall had been succeeded by rise. Was there a single instance where a man
of good brain had been permanently downed? No, not one. Stay--Some of
these unfortunates had failed to reappear on the heights of success.
Yes, thinking of the matter, he recalled several such. Had he been
altogether right in assuming, in his days of confidence and success,
that they stayed down because they belonged down? Perhaps he had judged
them harshly? Yes, he was sure he had judged them harshly. There was
such a thing as breaking a proud spirit--and he found within himself
apparent proof that precisely this calamity had befallen him.

There came a time--and it came soon--when he had about exhausted his
desperate ingenuity at cornering acquaintances and former friends and
"sticking them up" for loans of five hundred, a hundred, fifty,
twenty-five--Because these vulgar and repulsive facts are not found in
the usual records of the men who have dropped and come up again, do not
imagine that only the hopeless and never-reappearing failures pass
through such experiences. On the contrary, they are part of the common
human lot, and few indeed are the men who have not had them--and
worse--if they could but be brought to tell the truth. Destiny rarely
permits any one of us to go from cradle to grave without doing many a
thing shameful and universally condemned. How could it be otherwise
under our social system? When Norman was about at the end of all his
resources Tetlow called on him--Tetlow, now a partner in the Lockyer
firm.

He came with an air of stealth. "I don't want anyone to know I'm doing
this," said he frankly. "If it got out, I'd be damaged and you'd not
profit."

Rarely does anyone, however unworthy--and Fred Norman was far from
unworthy, as we humans go--rarely does anyone find himself absolutely
without a friend. There is a saying that no man ever sunk so low, ever
became so vile and squalid in soul and body, but that if he were dying,
and the fact were noised throughout the world, some woman somewhere
would come--perhaps from a sense of duty, perhaps from love, perhaps for
the sake of a moment of happiness long past but never equaled, and so
never forgotten--but from whatever motive, she would come. In the same
manner, anyone in dire straits can be sure of some friend. There were
several others whom Norman had been expecting--men he had saved by his
legal ingenuity at turning points in their careers. None of these was so
imprudent as uselessly to involve himself. It was Tetlow who
came--Tetlow, with whom his accounts were more than balanced, with the
balance against him. Tetlow, whom he did not expect.

Norman did not welcome him effusively. He said at once: "How is--she?"

Tetlow shifted uneasily. "I don't know. She's not with us. I gave her a
place there--to get her away from Culver. But she didn't stay long. No
doubt she's doing well."

"I thought you cared about her," said Norman, who in estimating Tetlow's
passion had measured it by his own, had neglected to consider that the
desires of most men soon grow short of breath and weary of leg.

"Yes--so I did care for her," said Tetlow, in the voice of a man who has
been ill but is now well. "But that's all over. Women aren't worth
bothering about much. They're largely vanity. The way they soon take a
man for granted if he's at all kind to them discourages any but the
poorest sort of fool. At least that's my opinion."

"Then you don't come from her?" said Norman with complete loss of
interest in his caller.

"No. I've come--Fred, I hear you're in difficulties."

Norman's now deep-set eyes gleamed humorously in his haggard and
failed-looking face. "_In_ difficulties? Not at all. I'm _under_
them--drowned forty fathoms deep."

"Then you'll not resent my coming straight to the point and asking if I
can help you?"

"That's a rash offer, Tetlow. I never suspected rashness was one of your
qualities."

"I don't mean to offer you a loan or anything of that sort," pursued
Tetlow. "There's only one thing that can help a man in your position. He
must either be saved outright or left to drown. I've come with something
that may save you."

There was so much of the incongruous in a situation where _he_ was
listening to an offer of salvation from such a man as Billy Tetlow that
Norman smiled.

"Well, what is it?" he said.

"There's a chance that within six months or so--perhaps
sooner--Burroughs and Galloway may end their truce and declare war on
each other. If so, Galloway will win. Anyhow, the Galloway connection
would be better than the Burroughs connection."

Norman looked at Tetlow shrewdly. "How do you know this?" he asked.

Tetlow's eyes shifted. "Can't tell you. But I know."

"Galloway hates me."

Tetlow nodded. "You were the one who forced him into a position where he
had to make peace with Burroughs. But Galloway's a big man, big enough
to admire ability wherever he sees it. He has admired you ever since."

"And has given his business to another firm."

"But if the break comes he'll need you. And he's the sort of man who
doesn't hesitate to take what he needs."

"Too remote," said Norman, and his despondent gesture showed how quickly
hope had lighted up. "Besides, Billy, I've lost my nerve. I'm no good."

"But you've gotten over that--that attack of insanity."

Norman shook his head.

"I can't understand it," ejaculated Tetlow.

"Of course you can't," said Norman. "But--there it is."

"You haven't seen her lately?"

"Not since that day ... Billy, she hasn't--" Norman stopped, and
Tetlow saw that his hands were trembling with agitation, and marveled.

"Oh, no," replied Tetlow. "So far as I know, she's still respectable.
But--why don't you go to see her? I think you'd be cured."

"Why do you say that?" demanded Norman, the veins in his forehead
bulging with the fury he was ready to release.

"For no especial reason--on my honor, Fred," replied Tetlow. "Simply
because time works wonders in all sorts of ways, including infatuations.
Also--well, the fact is, it didn't seem to me that young lady improved
on acquaintance. Maybe I got tired, or piqued--I don't know. If she
hadn't been a silly little fool, would she have refused you? I know it
sounds well--in a novel or a play--for a poor girl to refuse a good
offer, just from sentiment. But, all the same, only a fool girl does
it--in life--eh? But go to see her. You'll understand what I mean, I
think. I want you to brace up. That may help."

"What's she doing?"

"I don't know. I'll send you her address. I can get it. About
Galloway--If that break comes, I propose that we get his business--you
and I. I want you for a partner. I always did. I think I know how to get
work out of you. I understand you better, than anyone else. That's why
I'm here."

"It's useless," said Norman.

"I'm willing to take the risk. Now, here's what I propose. I'll stake
you to the extent of a thousand dollars a month for the next six months,
you to keep on as you are and not to tie yourself up to any other
lawyer, or to any client likely to hamper us if we get the Galloway
business."

"I've been borrowing right and left----"

"I know about that," interrupted Tetlow. "I'm not interested. If you'll
agree to my proposal, I'll take my chances."

"You are throwing away six thousand dollars."

"I owe you a position where I make five times that much."

Norman shrugged his shoulders. "Very well. Can I have five hundred at
once?"

"I'll send you a check to-day. I'll send two checks a month--the first
and the fifteenth."

"I am drinking a great deal."

"You always did."

"Not until recently. I never knew what drinking meant until these last
few months."

"Well, do as you like with the money. Drink it all, if you please. I'm
making no conditions beyond the two I stated."

"You will send me that address?"

"In the letter with the check."

"Will she see me, do you think?"

"I haven't an idea," replied Tetlow.

"What's the mystery?" asked Norman. "Why do you speak of her so
indifferently?"

"It's the way I feel." Then, in answer to the unspoken suspicion once
more appearing in Norman's eyes, he added: "She's a very nice, sweet
girl, Norman--so far as I know or believe. Beyond that--Go to see
her."

It had been many a week since Norman had heard a friendly voice. The
very sound of the human voice had become hateful to him, because he was
constantly detecting the note of nervousness, the scarcely concealed
fear of being entangled in his misfortunes. As Tetlow rose to go, Norman
tried to detain him. The sound of an unconstrained voice, the sight of a
believing face that did not express one or more of the shadings of
contempt between pity and aversion--the sight and sound of this friend
Tetlow was acting upon him like one of those secret, unexpected,
powerful tonics which nature at times suddenly injects into a dying man
to confound the doctors and cheat death.

"Tetlow," said he, "I'm down--probably down for good. But if I ever get
up again, I'll not make one mistake--the one that cost me this fall. Do
you know what that mistake was?"

"I suppose you mean Miss Hallowell?"

"No," said Norman, to his surprise. "I mean my lack of money, of
capital, of a large and secure income. I used to imagine that brains
were the best, the only sure asset. I was guilty of the stupidity of
overvaluing my own possessions."

"Brains are a mighty good asset, Fred."

"Yes--and necessary. But a man of action must have under his brains
another asset--_must_ have it, Billy. The one secure asset is a big
capital. Money rules this world. Some men have been lucky enough to rise
and stay risen, without money. But not a man of all the men who have
been knocked out could have been dislodged if he had been armed and
armored with money. My prodigality was my fatal mistake. I shan't make
it again--if I get the chance. You don't know, Tetlow, how hard it is to
get money when you are tumbling and must have it. I never dreamed what a
factor it is in calamities of _every_ sort. It's _the_ factor."

"I don't like to hear you talk that way, Norman," said Tetlow earnestly.
"I've always most admired in you the fact that you weren't mercenary."

"And I never shall be," said Norman, with the patient smile of a swift,
keen mind at one that is slow and hard to make understand. "It isn't my
nature. But, if I'm resurrected, I'll seem to be mercenary until I get a
full suit of the only armor that's invulnerable in this world. Why, I
built my fort like a fool. It was impregnable except for one thing--one
obvious thing. It hadn't a supply of water. If I build again it'll be
round a spring--an income big enough for my needs and beyond anybody's
power to cut off."

Tetlow showed that he was much cheered by Norman's revived interest in
life. But he went away uneasy; for the last thing Norman said to him
was:

"Don't forget that address!"




XV


But it chanced that Norman met her in the street about an hour after
Tetlow's call.

He was on the way to lunch at the Lawyer's Club--one of those apparent
luxuries that are the dire and pitiful necessities of men in New York
fighting to maintain the semblance and the reputation of prosperity. It
must not be imagined by those who are here let into Norman's inmost
secrets that his appearance betrayed the depth to which he had fallen.
At least to the casual eye he seemed the same rich and powerful
personage. An expert might have got at a good part of the truth from his
somber eyes and haggard face, from the subtle transformation of the
former look of serene pride into the bravado of pretense. And as, in a
general way, the facts of his fall were known far and wide, all his
acquaintances understood that his seeming of undiminished success was
simply the familiar "bluff." Its advantage to him with them lay in its
raising a doubt as to just what degree of disaster it hid--no small
advantage. Nor was this "bluff" altogether for the benefit of the
outside world. It made his fall less hideously intolerable to himself.
In the bottom of his heart he knew that when drink and no money should
finally force him to release his relaxing hold upon his fashionable
clubs, upon luxurious attire and habits, he would suddenly and with
accelerated speed drop into the abyss--We have all caught glimpses of
that abyss--frayed fine linen cheaply laundered, a tie of one time
smartness showing signs of too long wear, a suit from the best kind of
tailor with shiny spot glistening here, patch peeping there, a queer
unkemptness about the hair and skin--these the beginnings of a road that
leads straight and short to the barrel-house, the park bench, and the
police station. Because, when a man strikes into that stretch of the
road to perdition, he ceases to be one of our friends, passes from view
entirely, we have the habit of _saying_ that such things rarely if ever
happen. But we _know_ better. Many's the man now high who has had the sort
of drop Norman was taking. We remember when he was making a bluff such
as Norman was making in those days; but we think now that we were
mistaken in having suspected it of being bluff.

Norman, dressed with more than ordinary care--how sensitive a man
becomes about those things when there is neither rustle nor jingle in
his pockets, and his smallest check would be returned with the big black
stamp "No Funds"--Norman, groomed to the last button, was in Broadway
near Rector Street. Ahead of him he saw the figure of a girl--a trim,
attractive figure, slim and charmingly long of line. A second glance,
and he recognized her. What was the change that had prevented his
recognizing her at once? He had not seen that particular lightish-blue
dress before--nor the coquettish harmonizing hat. But that was not the
reason. No, it was the coquetry in her toilet--the effort of the girl
to draw attention to her charms by such small devices as are within the
reach of extremely modest means. He did not like this change. It
offended his taste; it alarmed his jealousy.

He quickened his step, and when almost at her side spoke her name--"Miss
Hallowell."

She stopped, turned. As soon as she recognized him there came into her
quiet, lovely face a delightful smile. He could not conceal his
amazement. She was glad to see him! Instantly, following the invariable
habit of an experienced analytical mind, he wondered for what
unflattering reason this young woman who did not like him was no longer
showing it, was seeming more than a little pleased to see him. "Why, how
d'ye do, Mr. Norman?" said she. And her friendliness and assurance of
manner jarred upon him. There was not a suggestion of forwardness; but
he, used to her old-time extreme reserve, felt precisely as if she were
bold and gaudy, after the fashion of so many of the working girls who
were popular with the men.

This unfavorable impression disappeared--or, rather, retired to the
background--even as it became definite. And once more he was seeing the
charms of physical loveliness, of physical--and moral, and
mental--mystery that had a weird power over him. As they shook hands, a
quiver shot through him as at the shock of a terrific stimulant; and he
stood there longing to take her in his arms, to feel the delicate yet
perfect and vividly vital life of that fascinating form--longing to kiss
that sensitive, slightly pouted rosy mouth, to try to make those clear
eyes grow soft and dreamy----

She was saying: "I've been wondering what had become of you."

"I saw Tetlow," he said. "He promised to send me your address."

At Tetlow's name she frowned slightly; then a gleam of ridicule flitted
into her eyes. "Oh, that silly, squeamish old maid! How sick I got of
him!"

Norman winced, and his jealousy stirred. "Why?" he asked.

"Always warning me against everybody. Always giving me advice. It was
too tiresome. And at last he began to criticize me--the way I
dressed--the way I talked--said I was getting too free in my manner. The
impudence of him!"

Norman tried to smile.

"He'd have liked me to stay a silly little mouse forever."

"So you've been--blossoming out?" said Norman.

"In a quiet way," replied she, with a smile of self-content, so lovely
as a smile that no one would have minded its frank egotism. "There isn't
much chance for fun--unless a girl goes too far. But at the same time I
don't intend life to be Sunday when it isn't work. I got very cross with
him--Mr. Tetlow, I mean. And I took another position. It didn't pay
quite so well--only fifteen a week. But I couldn't stand being
watched--and guyed by all the other girls and boys for it."

"Where are you working?"

"With an old lawyer named Branscombe. It's awful slow, as I'm the only
one, and he's old and does everything in an old-fashioned way. But the
hours are easy, and I don't have to get down till nine--which is nice
when you've been out at a dance the night before."

Norman kept his eyes down to hide from her the legion of devils of
jealousy. "You _have_ changed," he said.

"I'm growing up," replied she with a charming toss of her small
head--what beautiful effects the sunlight made in among those wavy
strands and strays!

"And you're as lovely as ever--lovelier," he said--and his eyes were
the eyes of the slave she had spurned.

She did not spurn him now--and it inflamed his jealousy that she did
not. She said: "Oh, what's the good of looks? The town's full of pretty
girls. And so many of them have money--which I haven't. To make a hit in
New York a girl's got to have both looks and dress. But I must be going.
I've an engagement to lunch--" She gave a proud little smile--"at the
Astor House. It's nice upstairs there."

"With Bob Culver?"

She laughed. "I haven't seen him since I left his office. You know, Mr.
Tetlow took me with him--back to your old firm. I didn't like Mr.
Culver. I don't care for those black men. They are bad-tempered and
two-faced. Anyhow, I'd not have anything to do with a man who wanted to
slip round with me as if he were ashamed of me."

She was looking at Norman pleasantly enough. He wasn't sure that the hit
was for him as well as for Culver, but he flushed deeply. "Will you
lunch with me at the Astor House at one to-morrow?"

"I've got an engagement," said she. "And I must be going. I'm awfully
late." He had an instinct that her engagement on both days was with the
same man. "I'm glad to have seen you----"

"Won't you let me call on you?" he said imploringly, but with the
suggestion that he had no hope of being permitted to come.

"Certainly," responded she with friendly promptness. She opened the
shopping bag swinging on her arm. "Here is one of my cards."

"When? This evening?"

Her laugh showed the beautiful deep pink and dazzling white behind her
lips. "No--I'm going to a party."

"Let me take you."

She shook her head. "You wouldn't like it. Only young people."

"But I'm not so old."

She looked at him critically. "No--you're not. It always puzzled me. You
aren't old--you look like a boy lots of the time. But you always _seem_
old to me."

"I'll try to do better. To-night?"

"Not to-night," laughed she. "Let's see--to-morrow's Sunday. Come
to-morrow--about half past two."

"Thank you," he said so gratefully that he cursed himself for his folly
as he heard his voice--the idiotic folly of so plainly betraying his
feelings. No wonder she despised him! Beginning again--and beginning;
wrong.

"Good-by." Her eyes, her smile flashed and he was alone, watching her
slender grace glide through the throngs of lower Broadway.

At his office again at three, he found a note from Tetlow inclosing
another of Dorothy's cards and also the promised check. Into his face
came the look that always comes into the faces of the prisoners of
despair when the bolts slide back and the heavy door swings and hope
stands on the threshold instead of the familiar grim figure of the
jailer. "This looks like the turn of the road," he muttered. Yes, a turn
it certainly was--but was it _the_ turn? "I'll know more as to that," said
he with a glance at the clock, "about this time to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a boarding house on the west side. And when the slovenly, smelly
maid said, "Go right up to her room," he knew it was--probably
respectable, but not rigidly respectable. However, working girls must
receive, and they cannot afford parlors and chaperons. Still--It was no
place for a lovely young girl, full of charm and of love of life--and
not brought up in the class where the women are trained from babyhood to
protect themselves.

He ascended two flights, knocked at the door to the rear. "Come!" called
a voice, and he entered. It was a small neat room, arranged comfortably
and with some taste. He recognized at first glance many little things
from her room in the Jersey City house--things he had provided for her.
On the chimney piece was a large photograph of her father--Norman's eyes
hastily shifted from that. The bed was folded away into a couch--for
space and for respectability. At first he did not see her. But when he
advanced a step farther, she was disclosed in the doorway of a deep
closet that contained a stationary washstand.

He had never seen her when she was not fully dressed. He was now seeing
her in a kind of wrapper--of pale blue, clean but not fresh. It was
open at the throat; its sleeves fell away from her arms. And, to cap the
climax of his agitation, her hair, her wonderful hair, was flowing
loosely about her face and shoulders.

"What's the matter with you?" she cried laughingly. Her eyes sparkled
and danced; the waves of her hair, each hair standing out as if it were
alive, sparkled and danced. It was a smile never to be forgotten. "Why
are you so embarrassed?"

He was embarrassed. He was thrilled. He was enraged--enraged because, if
she would thus receive him whom she did not like, she would certainly
thus receive any man.

"I don't mind you," she went on, mockingly. "I'd have to be careful if
it was one of the boys."

"Do you receive the--boys--here?" demanded he glumly, his voice arrogant
with the possessive rights a man feels when he cares for a woman,
whether she cares for him or not.

"Why not?" scoffed she. "Where else would I see them? I don't make
street corner dates, thank you. You're as bad as fat, foolish Mr.
Tetlow."

"I beg your pardon," said he humbly.

She straightway relented, saying: "Of course I'd not let one of the boys
come up when I was dressed like this. But I didn't mind _you_." He winced
at this amiable, unconscious reminder of her always exasperating and
tantalizing and humiliating indifference to him--"And as I'm going to a
grand dance to-night I simply had to wash my hair. Does that satisfy
you, Mr. Primmey?"

He hid the torment of his reopened wound and seated himself at the
center table. She returned to a chair in the window where the full force
of the afternoon sun would concentrate upon her hair. And he gazed spell
bound. He had always known that her hair was fine. He had never dreamed
it was like this. It was thick, it was fine and soft. In color, as the
sunbeams streamed upon it, it was all the shades of gold and all the
other beautiful shades between brown and red. It fell about her face,
about her neck, about her shoulders in a gorgeous veil. And her pure
white skin--It was an even more wonderful white below the line of her
collar--where he had never seen it before. Such exquisitely modeled
ears--such a delicate nose--and the curve of her cheeks--and the glory
of her eyes! He clinched his teeth and his hands, sat dumb with his gaze
down.

"How do you like my room?" she chattered on. "It's not so bad--really
quite comfortable--though I'm afraid I'll be cold when the weather
changes. But it's the best I can do. As it is, I don't see how I'm going
to make ends meet. I pay twelve of my fifteen for this room and two
meals. The rest goes for lunch and car fare. As soon as I have to get
clothes--" She broke off, laughing.

"Well," he said, "what then?"

"I'm sure I don't know," replied she carelessly. "Perhaps old Mr.
Branscombe'll give me a raise. Still, eighteen or twenty is the most I
could hope for--and that wouldn't mean enough for clothes."

She shook her head vigorously and her hair stood out yet more vividly
and the sunbeams seemed to go mad with joy as they danced over and under
and through it. He had ventured to glance up; again he hastily looked
down.

"You spoiled me," she went on. "Those few months over there in Jersey
City. It made _such_ a change in me, though I didn't realize it at the
time. You see, I hadn't known since I was a tiny little girl what it was
to live really decently, and so I was able to get along quite
contentedly. I didn't know any better." She made a wry face. "How I
loathe the canned and cold storage stuff I have to eat nowadays. And how
I do miss the beautiful room I had in that big house over there! and how
I miss Molly and Pat--and the garden--and doing as I pleased--and the
clothes I had: I thought I was being careful and not spoiling myself.
You may not believe it, but I was really conscientious about spending
money." She laughed in a queer, absent way. "I had such a funny idea of
what I had a right to do and what I hadn't. And I didn't spend so very
much on out-and-out luxury. But--enough to spoil me for this life."

As Norman listened, as he noted--in her appearance, manner, way of
talking--the many meaning signs of the girl hesitating at the fork of
the roads--he felt within him the twinges of fear, of jealousy--and
through fear and jealousy, the twinges of conscience. She was telling
the truth. He had undermined her ability to live in purity the life to
which her earning power assigned her. . . . _Why_ had she been so friendly
to him? Why had she received him in this informal, almost if not quite
inviting fashion?

"So you think I've changed?" she was saying. "Well--I have. Gracious,
what a little fool I was!"

His eyes lifted with an agonized question in them.

She flushed, glanced away, glanced at him again with the old, sweet
expression of childlike innocence which had so often made him wonder
whether it was merely a mannerism, or was a trick, or was indeed a beam
from a pure soul. "I'm foolish still--in certain ways," she said
significantly.

"And you always intend to be?" suggested he with a forced smile.

"Oh--yes," replied she--positively enough, yet it somehow had not the
full force of her simple short statements in the former days.

He believed her. Perhaps because he wished to believe, must believe,
would have been driven quite mad by disbelief. Still, he believed. As
yet she was good. But it would not last much longer. With him--or with
some other. If with him, then certainly afterward with another--with
others. No matter how jealously he might guard her, she would go that
road, if once she entered it. If he would have her for his very own he
must strengthen her, not weaken her, must keep her "foolish still--in
certain ways."

He said: "There's nothing in the other sort of life."

"That's what they say," replied she, with ominous irritation.
"Still--some girls--_lots_ of girls seem to get on mighty well without
being so terribly particular."

"You ought to see them after a few years."

"I'm only twenty-one," laughed she. "I've got lots of time before I'm
old. . . . You haven't--married?"

"No," said he.

"I thought I'd have heard, if you had." She laughed queerly--again shook
out her hair, and it shimmered round her face and over her head and out
from her shoulders like flames. "You've got a kind of a--Mr. Tetlow way
of talking. It doesn't remind me of you as you were in Jersey City."

She said nothing, she suggested nothing that had the least impropriety
in it, or faintest hint of impropriety. It was nothing positive, nothing
aggressive, but a certain vague negative something that gave him the
impression of innocence still innocent but looking or trying to look
tolerantly where it should not. And he felt dizzy and sick, stricken
with shame and remorse and jealous fear. Yes--she was sliding slowly,
gently, unconsciously down to the depth in which he had been lying, sick
and shuddering--no, to deeper depths--to the depths where there is no
light, no trace of a return path. And he had started her down. He had
done it when he, in his pride and selfishness, had ignored what the
success of his project would mean for her. But he knew now; in
bitterness and shame and degradation he had learned. "I was infamous!"
he said to himself.

She began to talk in a low, embarrassed voice:

"Sometimes I think of getting married. There's a young man--a young
lawyer--he makes twenty-five a week, but it'll be years and years before
he has a good living. A man doesn't get on fast in New York unless he
has pull."

Norman, roused from his remorse, blazed inside. "You are in love with
him?"

She laughed, and he could not tell whether it was to tease him or to
evade.

"You'd not care about him long," said Norman, "unless there were more
money coming in than he'd be likely to get soon. Love without money
doesn't go--at least, not in New York."

"Do you suppose I don't know that?" said she with the irritation of one
faced by a hateful fact. "Still--I don't see what to do."

Norman, biting his lip and fuming and observing her with jealous eyes,
said in the best voice he could command, "How long have you been in love
with him?"

"Did I say I was in love?" mocked she.

"You didn't say you weren't. Who is he?"

"If you'll stay on about half an hour or so, you'll see him. No--you
can't. I've got to get dressed before I let him up. He has very strict
ideas--where I'm concerned."

"Then why did you let _me_ come up?" Norman said, with a penetrating
glance.

She lowered her gaze and a faint flush stole into her cheeks. Was it
confession of the purpose he suspected? Or, was it merely embarrassment?

"I heard of a case once," continued Norman, his gaze significantly
direct, "the case of a girl who was in love with a poor young fellow.
She wanted money--luxury. Also, she wanted the poor young fellow."

The color flamed into the girl's face, then left it pale. Her white
fingers fluttered with nervous grace into her masses of hair and back to
her lap again, to rest there in timid quiet.

"She knew another man," pursued Norman, "one who was able to give her
what she wanted in the way of comfort. So, she decided to make an
arrangement with the man, and keep it hidden from her lover--and in that
way get along pleasantly until her lover was in better circumstances ."

Her gaze was upon her hands, listless in her lap. He felt that he had
spoken her unspoken, probably unformed thoughts. Yes, unformed. Men and
women, especially women, habitually pursued these unacknowledged
and--even unformed purposes, in their conflicts of the desire to get
what they wanted and their desire to appear well to themselves.

"What would you think of an arrangement like that?" asked he, determined
to draw her secret heart into the open where he could see, where she
could see.

She lifted frank, guileless eyes to his. "I suppose the girl was trying
to do the best she could."

"What do you think of a girl who'd do that?"

"I don't judge anybody--any more. I've found out that this world isn't
at all as I thought--as I was taught."

"Would _you_ do it?"

She smiled faintly. "No," she replied uncertainly. Then she restored his
wavering belief in her essential honesty and truthfulness by adding:
"That is to say, I don't think I would."

She busied herself with her hair, feeling it to see whether it was not
yet dry, spreading it out. He looked at her unseeingly. At last she
said: "You must go. I've got to get dressed."

"Yes--I must be going," said he absently, rising and reaching for his
hat on the center table.

She stood up, put out her hand. "I'm glad you came."

"Thank you," said he, still in the same abstraction. He shook hands with
her, moved hesitatingly toward the door. With his hand on the knob he
turned and glanced keenly at her. He surprised in her face a look of
mystery--of seriousness, of sadness--was there anxiety in it, also? And
then he saw a certain elusive reminder of her father--and it brought to
him with curious force the memory of how she had been brought up, of
what must be hers by inheritance and by training--she, the daughter of a
great and simple and noble man----

"You'll come again?" she said, and there was the note in her voice that
made his nerves grow tense and vibrate.

But he seemed not to have heard her question. Still at the unopened
door, he folded his arms upon his chest and said, speaking rapidly yet
with the deliberation of one who has thought out his words in advance:

"I don't know what kind of girl you are. I never have known. I've never
wanted to know. If you told me you were--what is called good, I'd doubt
it. If you told me you weren't, I'd want to kill you and myself. They
say there's a fatal woman for every man and a fatal man for every woman.
I always laughed at the idea--until you. I don't know what to make of
myself."

She suddenly laid her finger on her lips. It irritated him, to discover
that, as he talked, speaking the things that came from the very depths
of his soul, she had been giving him only part of her attention, had
been listening for a step on the stairs. He was hearing the ascending
step now. He frowned. "Can't you send him away?" he asked.

"I must," said she in a low tone. "It wouldn't do for him to know you
were here. He has strict ideas--and is terribly jealous."

A few seconds of silence, then a knock on the other side of the door.

"Who's there?" she called.

"I'm a little early," came in an agreeable, young man's voice. "Aren't
you ready?"

"Not nearly," replied she, in a laughing, innocent voice. "You'll have
to go away for half an hour."

"I'll wait out here on the steps."

Her eyes were sparkling. A delicate color had mounted to her skin.
Norman, watching her jealously, clinched his strong jaws. She said:
"No--you must go clear away. I don't want to feel that I'm being
hurried. Don't come back until a quarter past four."

"All right. I'm crazy to see you." This in the voice of a lover. She
smiled radiantly at Norman, as if she thought he would share in her
happiness at these evidences of her being well loved. The unseen young
man said: "Exactly a quarter past. What time does your clock say it is
now?"

"A quarter to," replied she.

"That's what my watch says. So there'll be no mistake. For half an
hour--good-by!"

"Half an hour!" she called.

She and Norman stood in silence until the footsteps died away. Then she
said crossly to Norman: "You ought to have gone before. I don't like to
do these things."

"You do them well," said he, with a savage gleam.

She was prompt and sure with his punishment. She said, simply and
sweetly: "I'd do anything to keep _his_ good opinion of me."

Norman felt and looked cowed. "You don't know how it makes me suffer to
see you fond of another man," he cried.

She seemed not in the least interested, went to the mirror of the bureau
and began to inspect her hair with a view to doing it up. "You can go in
five minutes," said she. "By that time he'll be well out of the way.
Anyhow, if he saw you leaving the house he'd not know but what you had
been to see some one else. He knows you by reputation but not by sight."

Norman went to her, took her by the shoulders gently but strongly. "Look
at me," he said.

She looked at him with an expression, or perhaps absence of expression,
that was simple listening.

"If you meant awhile ago some such thing as I hinted--I will have
nothing to do with it. You must marry me--or it's nothing at all."

Her gaze did not wander, but before his wondering eyes she seemed to
fade, fade toward colorlessness insignificance. The light died from
her eyes, the flush of health from her white skin, the freshness from
her lips, the sparkle and vitality from her hair. A slow, gradual
transformation, which he watched with a frightened tightening at the
heart.

She said slowly: "You--want--me--to--_marry_--you?"

"I've always wanted it, though I didn't realize," replied he. "How else
could I be sure of you? Besides--" He flushed, added hurriedly, almost
in an undertone--"I owe it to you."

She seated herself deliberately.

After he had waited in vain for her to speak, he went on: "If you
married me, I know you'd play square. I could trust you absolutely. I
don't know--can't find out much about you--but at least I know that."

"But I don't love you," said she.

"You needn't remind me of it," rejoined he curtly.

"I don't think so--so poorly of you as I used to," she went on. "I
understand a lot of things better than I did. But I don't love you, and
I feel that I never could."

"I'll risk that," said Norman. Through his clinched teeth, "I've got to
risk it."

"I'd be marrying you because I don't feel able to--to make my own way."

"That's the reason most girls have for marrying," said he. "Love comes
afterward--if it comes. And it's the more likely to come for the girl
not having faked the man and herself beforehand."

She glanced at the clock. He frowned. She started up. "You _must_ go," she
said.

"What is your answer?"

"Oh, I couldn't decide so quickly. I must think."

"You mean you must see your young man again--see whether there isn't
some way of working it out with him."

"That, too," replied she simply. "But--it's nearly four o'clock----"

"I'll come back at seven for my answer."

"No, I'll write you to-night."

"I must know at once. This suspense has got to end. It unfits me for
everything."

"I'll--I'll decide--to-night," she said, with a queer catch in her
voice. "You'll get the letter in the morning mail."

"Very well." And he gave her his club address.

She opened the door in her impatience to be rid of him. He went with a
hasty "Good-by" which she echoed as she closed the door.

When he left the house he saw standing on the curb before it a tall,
good-looking young man--with a frank amiable face. He hesitated,
glowering at the young man's profile. Then he went his way, suffocating
with jealous anger, depressed, despondent, fit for nothing but to drink
and to brood in fatuous futility.




XVI


Until very recently indeed psychology was not an ology at all but an
indefinite something or other "up in the air," the sport of the winds
and fogs of transcendental tommy rot. Now, however, science has drawn it
down, has fitted it in its proper place as a branch of physiology. And
we are beginning to have a clearer understanding of the thoughts and the
thought-producing actions of ourselves and our fellow beings. Soon it
will be no longer possible for the historian and the novelist, the
dramatist, the poet, the painter or sculptor to present in all
seriousness as instances of sane human conduct, the aberrations
resulting from various forms of disease ranging from indigestion in its
mild, temper-breeding forms to acute homicidal or suicidal mania. In
that day of greater enlightenment a large body of now much esteemed art
will become ridiculous. Practically all the literature of strenuous
passion will go by the board or will be relegated to the medical library
where it belongs; and it, and the annals of violence found in the daily
newspapers of our remote time will be cited as documentary proof of the
low economic and hygienic conditions prevailing in that almost barbarous
period. For certain it is that the human animal when healthy and well
fed is invariably peaceable and kindly and tolerant--up to the limits of
selfishness, and even encroaching upon those limits.

Of writing rubbish about love and passion there is no end--and will be
no end until the venerable traditional nonsense about those interesting
emotions shares the fate that should overtake all the cobwebs of
ignorance thickly clogging the windows and walls of the human mind. Of
all the fiddle-faddle concerning passion probably none is more
shudderingly admired than the notion that one possessed of an
overwhelming desire for another longs to destroy that other. It is true
there is a form of murderous mania that involves practically all the
emotions, including of course the passions--which are as readily subject
to derangement as any other part of the human organism. But passion in
itself--even when it is so powerful that it dominates the whole life, as
in the case of Frederick Norman--passion in itself is not a form of
mental derangement in the medical sense. And it does not produce acute
selfishness, paranoiac egotism, but a generous and beautiful kind of
unselfishness. Not from the first moment of Fred Norman's possession did
he wish to injure or in any way to make unhappy the girl he loved. He
longed to be happy with her, to have her happy with and through him. He
represented his plotting to himself as a plan to make her happier than
she ever had been; as for ultimate consequences, he refused to consider
them. The most hardened rake, when passion possesses him, wishes all
happiness to the woman of his pursuit. Indifference, coldness--the
natural hard-heartedness of the normal man--returns only when the
inspiration and elevation of passion disappear in satiety. The man or
the woman who continues to inspire passion continues to inspire
tenderness and considerateness.

So when Norman left Dorothy that Sunday afternoon, he, being a normal if
sore beset human being, was soon in the throes of an agonized remorse.
There may have been some hypocrisy in it, some struggling to cover up
the baser elements in his infatuation for her. What human emotion of
upward tendency has not at least a little of the varnish of hypocrisy on
certain less presentable spots in it? But in the main it was a
creditable, a manly remorse, and not altogether the writhings of
jealousy and jealous fear of losing her.

He saw clearly that she was telling the truth, and telling it too
gently, when she said he was responsible for her having standards of
living which she could not unaided hope to attain. It is a dreadful
thing to interfere in the destiny of a fellow being. We do it all the
time; we do it lightly. Nevertheless, it is a dreadful thing--not one
that ought not to be done, but one that ought to be done only under
imperative compulsion, and then with every precaution. He had interfered
in Dorothy Hallowell's destiny. He had lifted her out of the dim obscure
niche where she was ensconced in comparative contentment. He had lifted
her up where she had seen and felt the pleasures of a life of luxury.

"But for me," he said to himself, "she would now be marrying this poor
young lawyer, or some chap of the same sort, and would be looking
forward to a life of happiness in a little flat or suburban cottage."

If she should refuse his offer--what then? Clearly he ought to do his
best to help her to happiness with the other man. He smiled cynically at
the moral height to which his logic thus pointed the way. Nevertheless,
he did not turn away but surveyed it--and there formed in his mind an
impulse to make an effort to attempt that height, if Fate should rule
against him with her. "If I were a really decent man," thought he, "I'd
sit down now and write her that I would not marry her but would give her
young man a friendly hand in the law if she wished to marry him." But he
knew that such utter generosity was far beyond him. "Only a hero could
do it," said he; he added with what a sentimentalist might have called a
return of his normal cynicism, "only a hero who really in the bottom of
his heart didn't especially want the girl." And a candid person of
experience might possibly admit that there was more truth than cynicism
in his look askance at the grand army of martyrs of renunciation, most
of whom have simply given up something they didn't really want.

"If she accepts me, I'll make it impossible for her not to be happy," he
said to himself, in all the fine unselfishness of passion--not divine
unselfishness but human--not the kind we read about and pretend to
have--and get a savage attack of bruised vanity if we are accused of not
having it--no, but just the kind we have and show in our daily
lives--the unselfishness of longing to make happy those whom it would
make us happier to see happy. "She may think she cares for this young
clerk--" so ran his thoughts--"but she doesn't know her own mind. When
she is mine, I'll take her in hand as a gardener does a delicate rare
flower--and, by Heaven, how I shall make her blossom and bloom!"

It would hardly be possible for a human being to pass a stormier night
than was that night of his. Alternations between hope and
despair--fantastic pictures of future with and without her, wild
pleadings with her--those delirious transports to which our imaginations
give way if we happen to be blessed and cursed with imaginations--in the
security of the darkness and aloneness of night and bed. And through it
all he was tormented body and soul by her loveliness--her hair, her
skin, her eyes, the shy, slender graces of her form--He tossed about
until his bed was so wildly disheveled that he had to rise and remake
it.

When day came and the first mail, there was her letter on the salver of
the boy entering the room. He reached for it with eager, trembling arm,
drew back. "Put it on the table," he said.

The boy left. He was alone. Leaning upon his elbow in the bed he stared
at the letter with hollow, terrified eyes. It contained his destiny. If
she accepted, he would go up, for his soul sickness would be cured. If
she refused, he would cease to struggle. He rose, took from a locked
drawer a bottle of rye whisky. He poured a tall glass--the kind called a
bar glass--half full, drank it straight down without a pause or a
quiver. The shock brought him up standing. He looked and acted like his
former self as he went to the table, took the letter, opened it, and
read:

  "I am willing to marry you, if you really want me. I am so tired of
  struggling, and I don't see anything but dark ahead.--D. H."


Norman struggled over to the bed, threw himself down, flat upon his
back, arms and legs extended wide and whole body relaxed. He felt the
blood whirl up into his brain like the great red and black tongues of
flame and smoke in a conflagration, and then he slept soundly until
nearly one o'clock.

To an outsider there would have been a world of homely commonplace
pathos in that little letter of the girl's if read aright, that is to
say, if read with what was between the lines supplied. It is impossible
to live in cities any length of time and with any sort of eyes without
learning the bitter unromantic truths about poverty--city poverty. In
quiet, desolate places one may be poor, very poor, without much
conscious suffering. There are no teasing contrasts, no torturing
temptations. But in a city, if one knows anything at all of the
possibilities of civilized life, of the joys and comforts of good food,
clothing, and shelter, of theater and concert and excursion, of
entertaining and being entertained, poverty becomes a hell. In the
country, in the quiet towns, the innocent people wonder at the
greediness of the more comfortable kinds of city people, at their love
of money, their incessant dwelling upon it, their reverence for those
who have it, their panic-like flight from those who have it not. They
wonder how folk, apparently human, can be so inhuman. Let them be
careful how they judge. If you discover any human being anywhere acting
as you think a human being should not, investigate all the
circumstances, look thoroughly into all the causes of his or her
conduct, before you condemn him or her as inhuman, unworthy of your
kinship and your sympathy.

In her brief letter the girl showed that, young though she was and not
widely experienced in life, she yet had seen the horrors of city
poverty, how it poisons and kills all the fine emotions. She had seen
many a loving young couple start out confidently, with a few hundred
dollars of debt for furniture--had seen the love fade and wither,
shrivel, die--had seen appear peevishness and hatred and unfaithfulness
and all the huge, foul weeds that choke the flowers of married life. She
knew what her lover's salary would buy--and what it would not buy--for
two. She could imagine their fate if there should be three or more. She
showed frankly her selfishness of renunciation. But there could be read
between the lines--concealed instead of vaunted--perhaps
unsuspected--her unselfishness of renunciation for the sake of her lover
and for the sake of the child or the children that might be. In our love
of moral sham and glitter, we overlook the real beauties of human
morality; we even are so dim or vulgar sighted that we do not see them
when they are shown to us.

As Norman awakened, he reached for the telephone, said to the boy in
charge of the club exchange: "Look in the book, find the number of a
lawyer named Branscombe, and connect me with his office." After some
confusion and delay he got the right office, but Dorothy was out at
lunch. He left a message that she was to call him up at the club as soon
as she came in. He was shaving when the bell rang.

He was at the receiver in a bound. "Is it you?" he said.

"Yes," came in her quiet, small voice.

"Will you resign down there to-day? Will you marry me this afternoon?"

A brief silence, then--"Yes."

Thus it came about that they met at the City Hall license bureau, got
their license, and half an hour later were married at the house of a
minister in East Thirty-third Street, within a block of the Subway
station. He was feverish, gay, looked years younger than his
thirty-seven. She was quiet, dim, passive, neither grave nor gay, but
going through her part without hesitation, with much the same patient,
plodding expression she habitually bore as she sat working at her
machine--as if she did not quite understand, but was doing her best and
hoped to get through not so badly.

"I've had nothing to eat," said he as they came out of the parsonage.

"Nor I," said she.

"We'll go to Delmonico's," said he, and hailed a passing taxi.

On the way, he sitting in one corner explained to her, shrunk into the
other corner: "I can confess now that I married you under false
pretenses. I am not prosperous, as I used to be. To be brief and plain,
I'm down and out, professionally."

She did not move. Apparently she did not change expression. Yet he,
speaking half banteringly, felt some frightful catastrophe within her.
"You are--poor?" she said in her usual quiet way.

"_We_ are poor," corrected he. "I have at present only a thousand dollars
a month--a little more, but not enough to talk about."

She did not move or change expression. Yet he felt that her heart, her
blood were going on again.

"Are you--angry?" he asked.

"A thousand dollars a month seems an awful lot of money to me," she
said.

"It's nothing--nothing to what we'll soon have. Trust me." And back into
his eyes flashed their former look. "I've been sick. I'm well again. I
shall get what I want. If you want anything, you've only to ask for it.
I'll get it. I know how. . . . I don't prey, myself--I've no fancy for
the brutal sports. But I teach lions how to prey, and I make them pay
for the lessons." He laughed with an effervescing of young vitality and
self-confidence that made him look handsome and powerful. "In the future
they'll have to pay still higher prices."

She was looking at him with weary, wondering, pathetic eyes that gazed
from the pallor of her dead-white face mysteriously.

"What are you thinking?" he asked.

"I was listening," replied she.

"Doesn't it make you happy--what you are going to have?"

"No," replied she. "But it makes me content."

With eyes suddenly suffused, he took her hand--so gently. "Dorothy," he
said, "you will try to love me?"

"I'll try," said she. "You'll be kind to me?"

"I couldn't be anything else," he cried. And in a gust of passion he
caught her to his breast and kissed her triumphantly. "I love you--and
you're mine--mine!"

She released herself with the faint insistent push that seemed weak, but
always accomplished its purpose. Her lip was trembling. "You said you'd
be kind," she murmured.

He gazed at her with a baffled expression. "Oh--I understand," he said.
"And I shall be kind. But I must teach you to love me."

Her trembling lip steadied. "You must be careful or you may teach me to
hate you," said she.

He studied her in a puzzled way, laughed. "What a mystery you are!" he
cried with raillery. "Are you child or are you woman? No matter. We
shall be happy."

The taxicab was swinging to the curb. In the restaurant he ordered an
enormous meal. And he ate enormously, and drank in due proportion. She
ate and drank a good deal herself--a good deal for her. And the results
were soon apparent in a return of the spirits that are normal to
twenty-one years, regardless of what may be lurking in the heart, in a
dark corner, to come forth and torment when there is nothing to distract
the attention.

"We shall have to live quietly for a while," said he. "Of course you
must have clothes-at once. I'll take you shopping to-morrow." He laughed
grimly. "Just at present we can get only what we pay cash for. Still,
you won't need much. Later on I'll take you over to Paris. Does that
attract you?"

Her eyes shone. "How soon?" she asked.

"I can tell you in a week or ten days." He became abstracted for a
moment. "I can't understand how I let them get me down so easily--that
is, I can't understand it now. I suppose it's just the difference
between being weak with illness and strong with health." His eyes
concentrated on her. "Is it really you?" he cried gaily. "And are you
really mine? No wonder I feel strong! It was always that way with me. I
never could leave a thing until I had conquered it."

She gave him a sweet smile. "I'm not worth all the trouble you seem to
have taken about me," said she.

He laughed; for he knew the intense vanity so pleasantly hidden beneath
her shy and modest exterior. "On the contrary," said he good-humoredly,
"you in your heart think yourself worth any amount of trouble. It's a
habit we men have got you women into. And you--One of the many things
that fascinate me in you is your supreme self-control. If the king were
to come down from his throne and fall at your feet, you'd take it as a
matter of course."

She gazed away dreamily. And he understood that her indifference to
matters of rank and wealth and power was not wholly vanity but was, in
part at least, due to a feeling that love was the only essential. Nor
did he wonder how she was reconciling this belief of high and pure
sentiment with what she was doing in marrying him. He knew that human
beings are not consistent, cannot be so in a universe that compels them
to face directly opposite conditions often in the same moment. But just
as all lines are parallel in infinity, so all actions are profoundly
consistent when referred to the infinitely broad standard of the
necessity that every living thing shall look primarily to its own well
being. Disobedience to this fundamental carries with it inevitable
punishment of disintegration and death; and those catastrophes are
serious matters when one has but the single chance at life, that will be
repeated never again in all the eternities.

After their late lunch or early dinner, they drove to her lodgings. He
went up with her and helped her to pack--not a long process, as she had
few belongings. He noted that the stockings and underclothes she took
from the bureau drawers were in anything but good condition, that the
half dozen dresses she took from the closet and folded on the couch were
about done for. Presently she said, cheerfully and with no trace of
false shame:

"You see, I'm pretty nearly in rags."

"Oh, that's soon arranged," replied he. "Why bother to take these
things? Why not give them to the maid?"

She debated with herself. "I think you're right," she decided. "Yes,
I'll give them to Jennie."

"The underclothes, too," he urged. "And the hats."

It ended in her having left barely enough loosely to fill the bottom of
a small trunk with two trays.

They drove to the Knickerbocker Hotel, and he took a small suite, one of
the smallest and least luxurious in the house, for with all his desire
to make her feel the contrast of her change of circumstances sharply, he
could not forget how limited his income was, and how unwise it would be
to have to move in a few days to humbler quarters. He hoped that the
rooms, englamoured by the hotel's general air of costly luxury, would
sufficiently impress her. And while she gave no strong indication but
accepted everything in her wonted quiet, passive manner, he was shrewd
enough to see that she was content. "To-morrow," he said to himself,
"after she has done some shopping, the last regret will leave her, and
her memory of that clerk will begin to fade fast. I'll give her too much
else to think about."

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning, when they faced each other at breakfast in their
sitting room, he glanced at her from time to time in wonder and terror.
She looked not merely insignificant, but positively homely. Her skin had
a sickly pallor; her hair seemed to be of many different and
disagreeable shades of uninteresting dead yellow. Her eyes suggested
faded blue china dishes, with colorless lashes and reddened edges of the
lids. Her lips had lost their rosy freshness, her teeth their sparkling
whiteness.

His heavy heart seemed to be resting nauseously upon the pit of his
stomach. Was his infatuation sheer delusion, with no basis of charm in
her at all? Was she, indeed, nothing but this unattractive, faded little
commonplaceness?--a poor specimen of an inferior order of working girl?
What an awakening! And she was his _wife_!--was his companion for the yet
more brilliant career he had resolved and was planning! He must
introduce her everywhere, must see the not to be concealed amazement in
the faces of his acquaintances, must feel the cruel covert laughter and
jeering at his weak folly! Was there ever in history or romance a
parallel to such fatuity as his? Why, people would be right in thinking
him a sham, a mere bluffer at the high and strong qualities he was
reputed to have.

Had Norman been, in fact, the man of ice and iron the compulsions of a
career under the social system made him seem, the homely girl opposite
him that morning would speedily have had something to think about other
than her unhappiness of the woman who has given her person to one man
and her heart to another. Instead, the few words he addressed to her
were all gentleness and forbearance. Stronger than his chagrin was his
pity for her--the poor, unconscious victim of his mad hallucination.
If she thought about the matter at all, she assumed that he was still
the slave of her charms--for, the florid enthusiasm of man's passion
inevitably deludes the woman into fancying it objective instead of
wholly subjective; and, only the rare very wise woman, after much
experience, learns to be suspicious of the validity of her own charms
and to concentrate upon keeping up the man's delusions.

At last he rose and kissed her on the brow and let his hand rest gently
on her shoulder--what a difference between those caresses and the
caresses that had made her beg him to be "kind" to her! Said he:

"Do you mind if I leave you alone for a while? I ought to go to the club
and have the rest of my things packed and sent. I'll not be gone
long--about an hour."

"Very well," said she lifelessly.

"I'll telephone my office that I'll not be down to-day."

With an effort she said, "There's no reason for doing that. I don't want
to interfere with your business."

"I'm neglecting nothing. And that shopping must be done."

She made no reply, but went to the window, and from the height looked
down and out upon the mighty spread of the city. He observed her a
moment with a dazed pitying expression, took his hat and departed.

It was nearly two hours before he got together sufficient courage to
return. He had been hoping--had been saying to himself with vigorous
effort at confidence--that he had simply seen one more of the many
transformations, each of which seemed to present her as a wholly
different personality. When he should see her again, she would have
wiped out the personality that had shocked and saddened him, would
appear as some new variety of enchantress, perhaps even more potent over
his senses than ever before. But a glance as he entered demolished that
hope. She was no different than when he left. Evidently she had been
crying, and spasms of that sort always accentuate every unloveliness. He
did not try to nerve himself to kiss her, but said:

"It'll not take you long to get ready?"

She moved to rise from her languid rest upon the sofa. She sank back.
"Perhaps we'd better not go to-day," suggested she.

"Don't you feel well?" he asked, and his tone was more sympathetic than
it would have been had his sympathy been genuine.

"Not very," replied she, with a faint deprecating smile. "And not
very--not very----"

"Not very what?" he said, in a tone of encouragement.

"Not very happy," she confessed. "I'm afraid I've made a--a dreadful
mistake."

[Illustration: "Evidently she had been crying."]

He looked at her in silence. She could have said nothing that would have
caused a livelier response within himself. His cynicism noted the fact
that while he had mercifully concealed his discontent, she was thinking
only of herself. But he did not blame her. It was only the familiar
habit of the sex, bred of man's assiduous cultivation of its egotism. He
said: "Oh, you'll feel differently about it later. Let's get some fresh
air and see what the shops have to offer."

A pause, then she, timidly: "Would you mind very much if I--if I
didn't--go on?"

"You mean, if you left me?"

She nodded without looking at him. He could not understand himself, but
as he sat observing her, so young, so inexperienced and so undesirable,
a pity of which he would not have dreamed his nature capable welled up
in him, choking his throat with sobs he could scarcely restrain and
filling his eyes with tears he had secretly to wipe away. And he felt
himself seized of a sense of responsibility for her as strong in its
solemn, still way as any of the paroxysms of his passion had been.

He said: "My dear--you mustn't decide anything so important to you in a
hurry."

A tremor passed over her, and he thought she was going to dissolve in
hysterics. But she exhibited once more that marvelous and mysterious
self-control, whose secret had interested and baffled him. She said in
her dim, quiet way:

"It seems to me I just can't stay on."

"You can always go, you know. Why not try it a few days?"

He could feel the trend of her thoughts, and in the way things often
amuse us without in the least moving us to wish to laugh, he was amused
by noting that she was trying to bring herself to stay on, out of
consideration for _his_ feelings! He said with a kind of paternal
tenderness:

"Whenever you want to go, I am willing to arrange things for you--so
that you needn't worry about money. But I feel that, as I am older than
you, I ought to do all I can to keep you from making a mistake you might
soon regret."

She studied him dubiously. He saw that she--naturally enough--did not
believe in his disinterestedness, that she hadn't a suspicion of his
change, or, rather collapse, of feeling. She said:

"If you ask it, I'll stay a while. But you must promise to--to be kind
to me."

There was only gentleness in his smile. But what a depth of satirical
self-mockery and amusement at her innocent young egotism it concealed!
"You'll never have reason to speak of that again, my dear," said he.

"I--can--trust you?" she said.

"Absolutely," replied he. "I'll have another room opened into this
suite. Would you like that?"

"If you--if you don't mind."

He stood up with sudden boyish buoyance. "Now--let's go shopping. Let's
amuse ourselves."

She rose with alacrity. She eyed him uncertainly, then flung her arms
round his neck and kissed him.

"You are _so_ good to me!" she cried. "And I'm not a bit nice."

He did not try to detain her, but sent her to finish dressing, with an
encouraging pat on the shoulder and a cheerful, "Don't worry about
yourself--or me."




XVII


About half an hour later the door into the bedroom opened and she
appeared on the threshold of the sitting room, ready for the street. He
stared at her in the dazed amazement of a man faced by the impossible,
and uncertain whether it is sight or reason that is tricking him. She
had gone into the bedroom not only homely but commonplace, not only
commonplace but common, a dingy washed-out blonde girl whom it would be
a humiliation to present as his wife. She was standing there, in the
majesty of such proud pale beauty as poets delight to ascribe to a
sorrowful princess. Her wonderful skin was clear and translucent, giving
her an ethereal look. Her hair reminded him again of what marvels he had
seen in the sunlight of Sunday afternoon. And looking at her form and
the small head so gracefully capping it, he could think only of the
simile that had always come to him in his moments of ecstasy--the lily
on its tall stem.

And once more, like a torrent, the old infatuation sprang from its dried
sources and came rushing and overwhelming through vein and nerve. "Am I
mad now?--was I mad a few moments ago?--is it she or is it my own
disordered senses?"

She was drawing on her gloves, was unconscious of his confusion. He
controlled himself and said: "You have a most disconcerting way of
changing your appearance."

She glanced down at her costume. "No, it's the same dress. I've only the
one, you know."

He longed to take her in his arms, but could not trust himself. And this
wonder-girl, his very own, was talking of leaving him! And he--not an
hour before--he, apparently in his right senses had been tolerating
such preposterous talk! Give her up? Never! He must see to it that the
subject did not find excuse for intruding again. "I have frightened
her--have disgusted her. I must restrain myself. I must be patient--and
teach her slowly--and win her gradually."

They spent an interesting and even exciting afternoon, driving from shop
to shop and selecting the first beginnings of her wardrobe. He had only
about three hundred dollars. Some of the things they ordered were ready
for delivery, and so had to be paid for at once. When they returned to
the hotel he had but fifty dollars left--and had contracted debts that
made it necessary for him to raise at least a thousand dollars within a
week. He saw that his freedom with sums of money which terrified her
filled her with awe and admiration--and that he was already more
successful than he had expected to be, in increasing her hesitation
about leaving him. Among the things they had bought were a simple black
chiffon dress and a big plumed black hat to match. These needed no
alterations and were delivered soon after they returned. Some silk
stockings came also and a pair of slippers bought for the dinner toilet.

"You can dress to-night," said he, "and I'll take you to Sherry's, and
to the theater afterwards."

She was delighted. At last she was going to look like the women of whom
she had been dreaming these last few months. She set about dressing
herself, he waiting in the sitting room in a state of acute nervousness.
What would be the effect of such a toilet? Would she look like a
lady--or like--what she had suggested that morning? She was so
changeable, had such a wide range of variability that he dared not hope.
When she finally appeared, he was ready to fall down and worship. He was
about to take her where his world would see her, where every inch of her
would be subjected to the cruelest, most hostile criticism. One glance
at her, and he knew a triumph awaited him. No man and no woman would
wonder that he had lost his head over such beauty as hers. Hat and dress
seemed just what had been needed to bring out the full glory of her
charms.

"You are incredibly beautiful," he said in an awed tone. "I am proud of
you."

A little color came into her cheeks. She looked at herself in the mirror
with her quiet intense secret, yet not covert vanity. He laughed in
boyish pleasure. "This is only the small beginning," said he. "Wait a
few months."

At dinner and in a box at the theater afterwards, he had the most
exquisite pleasure of his life. She had been seen by many of his former
friends, and he was certain they knew who she was. He felt that he would
have no difficulty in putting her in the place his wife should occupy. A
woman with such beauty as hers was a sensation, one fashionable society
would not deny itself. She had good manners, an admirable manner. With a
little coaching she would be as much at home in grandeur as were those
who had always had it.

The last fear of losing her left him. On the way back to the hotel he,
in a delirium of pride and passion, crushed her in his arms and caressed
her with the frenzy that had always terrified her. She resisted only
faintly, was almost passive. "She is mine!" he said to himself,
exultantly. "She is really mine!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When he awoke in the morning she was still asleep--looked like a tired
lovely child. Several times, while he was dressing, he went in to feast
his eyes upon her beauty. How could he possibly have thought her homely,
in whatever moment of less beauty or charm she might have had? The
crowning charm of infinite variety! She had a delightfully sweet
disposition. He was not sure how much or how little intelligence she
had--probably more than most women. But what did that matter? It would
be impossible ever to grow weary or to be anything but infatuated lover
when she had such changeful beauty.

He kissed her lightly on her thick braids, as he was about to go. He
left a note explaining that he did not wish to disturb her and that it
was necessary for him to be at the office earlier. And that morning in
all New York no man left his home for the day's struggle for dollars
with a freer or happier heart, or readier to play the game boldly,
skillfully, with success.

Certainly he needed all his courage and all his skill.

To most of the people who live in New York and elsewhere throughout the
country--or the world, for that matter--an income of a thousand dollars
a month seems extremely comfortable, to say the least of it. The average
American family of five has to scrape along on about half that sum a
year. But among the comfortable classes in New York--and perhaps in one
or two other cities--a thousand dollars a month is literally genteel
poverty. To people accustomed to what is called luxury nowadays--people
with the habit of the private carriage, the private automobile, and
several servants--to such people a thousand dollars a month is an absurd
little sum. It would not pay for the food alone. It would not buy for a
man and his wife, with no children, clothing enough to enable them to
make a decent appearance.

Norman, living alone and living very quietly indeed, might have got
along for a while on that sum, if he had taken much thought about
expenditures, had persisted in such severe economies as using street
cars instead of taxicabs and drinking whisky at dinner instead of his
customary quart of six-dollar champagne. Norman, the married man, could
not escape disaster for a single month on an income so pitiful.

Probably on the morning on which he set out for downtown in search of
money enough to enable him to live decently, not less than ten thousand
men on Manhattan Island left comfortable or luxurious homes faced with
precisely the same problem. And each and every one of them knew that on
that day or some day soon they must find the money demanded imperiously
by their own and their families' tastes and necessities or be
ruined--flung out, trampled upon, derided as failures, hated by the
"loved ones" they had caused to be humiliated. And every man of that
legion had a fine, an unusually fine brain--resourceful, incessant,
teeming with schemes for wresting from those who had dollars the dollars
they dared not go home without. And those ten thousand quickest and most
energetic brains, by their mode of thought and action, determined the
thought and action of the entire country--gave the mercenary and
unscrupulous cast to the whole social system. Themselves the victims of
conditions, they were the bellwethers to millions of victims compelled
to follow their leadership.

Norman, by the roundabout mode of communication he and Tetlow had
established, summoned his friend and backer to his office. "Tetlow," he
began straight off, "I've got to have more money."

"How much?" said Tetlow.

"More than you can afford to advance me."

"How much?" repeated Tetlow.

"Three thousand a month right away--at the least."

"That's a big sum," said Tetlow.

"Yes, for a man used to dealing in small figures. But in reality it's a
moderate income."

"Few large families spend more."

"Few large or small families in my part of New York pinch along on so
little."

"What has happened to you?" said Tetlow, dropping into a chair and
folding his fat hands on his stomach.

"Why?" asked Norman.

"It's in your voice--in your face--in your cool demand for a big
income."

"Let's start right, old man," said Norman. "Don't _call_ thirty-six
thousand a year big or you'll _think_ it big. And if you think it big, you
will stay little."

Tetlow nodded. "I'm ready to grow," said he. "Now what's happened to
you?"

"I've got married," replied Norman.

"I thought so. To Miss--Hallowell?"

"To Miss Hallowell. So my way's clear, and I'm going to resume the
march."

"Yes?"

"I've two plans. Either will serve. The first is yours--the one you
partly revealed to me the other day."

"Partly?" said Tetlow.

"Partly," repeated Norman, laughing. "I know you, Billy, and that means
I know you're absolutely incapable of plotting as big a scheme as you
suggested to me. It came either from Galloway or from some one of his
clique."

"I said all I'm at liberty to say, Fred."

"I don't wish you to break your promise. All I want to know is, can I
get the three thousand a month and assurance of its lasting and leading
to something bigger?"

"What is your other scheme?" said Tetlow, and it was plain to the
shrewder young lawyer that the less shrewd young lawyer wished to gain
time.

"Simple and sure," replied Norman. "We will buy ten shares of Universal
Fuel Company through a dummy and bring suit to dissolve it. I looked
into the matter for Burroughs once when he was after the Fosdick-Langdon
group. Universal Fuel wouldn't dare defend the action I could bring. We
could get what we pleased for our ten shares to let up on the suit. The
moment their lawyers saw the papers I'd draw, they'd advise it."

Tetlow shook his large, impressively molded head. "Shady," said he.
"Shady."

Norman smiled with good-natured patience. "You sound like Burroughs or
Galloway when they are denouncing a man for trying to get rich by the
same methods they pursued. My dear Bill, don't be one of those lawyers
who will do the queer work for a client but not for themselves. There's
no sense, no morality, no intelligent hypocrisy even, in that. We didn't
create the commercial morality of the present day. For God's sake, let's
not be of the poor fools who practice it but get none of its benefits."

Tetlow shifted uneasily. "I don't like to hear that sort of thing," said
he, apologetic and nervous.

"Is it true?"

"Yes. But--damn it, I don't like to hear it."

"That is to say, you're willing to pay the price of remaining small and
obscure just for the pleasure of indulging in a wretched hypocrisy of a
self-deception. Bill, come out of the small class. Whether you go in
with me or not, come out of the class of understrappers. What's the
difference between the big men and their little followers? Why, the big
men _see_. They don't deceive themselves with the cant they pour out for
the benefit of the ignorant mob."

Tetlow was listening like a pupil to a teacher. That was always his
attitude toward Norman.

"The big men," continued Norman, "know that canting is necessary--that
one must always profess high and disinterested motives, and so on, and
so on. But they don't let their hypocritical talk influence their
actions. How is it with the little fellows? Why, they believe the
flapdoodle the leaders talk. They go into the enterprise, do all the
small dirty work, lie and cheat and steal, and hand over the proceeds to
the big fellows, for the sake of a pat on the back and a noisy 'Honest
fellow! Here are a few crumbs for you.' And crumbs are all that a weak,
silly, hypocritical fool deserves. Can you deny it?"

"No doubt you're right, Fred," conceded Tetlow. "But I'm afraid I
haven't the nerve."

"Come in behind me. I've got nerve for two--_now_!"

At that triumphant "now" Tetlow looked curiously at his friend. "Yes, _it_
has changed you--changed you back to what you were. I don't understand."

"It isn't necessary that you understand," rejoined Norman."

"Do you think you could really carry through that scheme you've just
outlined?"

"I see it fascinates you."

"I've no objection to rising to the class of big men," said Tetlow. "But
aren't you letting your confidence in yourself deceive you?"

"Did I ever let it deceive me?"

"No," confessed Tetlow. "I've often watched you, and thought you'd fall
through it, or stumble at least. But you never did."

"And shall I tell you why? Because I use my self-confidence and my
hopefulness and all my optimistic qualities only to create an atmosphere
of success. But when it comes to planning a move of any kind, when I
assemble my lieutenants round the council board in my brain, I never
permit a single cheerful one to speak, or even to enter. It's a serious,
gloomy circle of faces, Bill."

Tetlow nodded reminiscently. "Yes, you always were like that, Fred."

"And the one who does the most talking at my council is the gloomiest of
all. He's Lieutenant Flawpicker. He can't see any hope for anything.
He sees all the possibilities of failure. He sees all the chances
against success. And what's the result? Why, when the council rises it
has taken out of the plan every chance of mishap that my intelligence
could foresee and it has provided not one but several safe lines of
orderly retreat in case success proves impossible."

Tetlow gazed at Norman in worshipful admiration. "What a brain! What
a mind!" he ejaculated. "And to think that _you_ could be upset by a
_woman_!"

Norman leaned back in his chair smiling broadly. "Not by a woman," he
corrected. "By a girl--an inexperienced girl of twenty."

"It seems incredible."

"A grain of dust, dropped into a watch movement in just the right
place--you know what happens."

Tetlow nodded. Then, with a sharp, anxious look, "But it's all over?"

Norman hesitated. "I believe so," he said.

Tetlow rose and rubbed his thighs. He had been sitting long in the same
position, and he was now stout enough to suffer from fat man's cramp.
"Well," said he, "we needn't bother about that Universal Fuel scheme at
present. I can guarantee you the three thousand dollars, and the other
things."

Norman shook his head. "Not enough," he said.

"You want more money?"

"No. But I will not work, or rather, wait, in the dark. Tell your
principals that I must be let in."

Tetlow hesitated, walking about the office. Finally he said, "Look here,
Fred--you think I deceived you the other day--posed as your friend when
in reality I was simply acting as agent for people who wanted you."

Norman gave Tetlow a look that made him redden with pleasure. "No, I
don't, old man," said he. "I know you recommended me--and that they were
shy of me because of the way I've been acting--and that you stood
sponsor for me. Isn't that right?"

"Something like that," admitted Tetlow. "But they were eager to get you.
It was only a question of trusting you. I was able to do you a good turn
there."

"And I'll make a rich man, and a famous one, of you," said Norman.

"Yes. I believe you will," cried Tetlow, tears in his prominent studious
eyes. "I'll see those people in a day or two, and let you know. Do you
need money right away? Of course you do." And down he sat and drew a
check for fifteen hundred dollars.

Norman laughed as he glanced to see if it was correctly drawn. "I'd not
have dared return to my bride with empty pockets. That's what it means
to live in New York."

Tetlow grinned. "A sentimental town, isn't it? Especially the women."

"Oh, I don't blame them," said Norman. "They need the money, and the
only way they've got of making it is out of sentiment. And you must
admit they give a bully good quality, if the payment is all right."

Tetlow shrugged his shoulders. "I'm glad I don't need them," said he.
"It gives me the creeps to see them gliding about with their beautiful
dresses and their sweet, soft faces."

He and Norman lunched together in an out-of-the way restaurant. After a
busy and a happy afternoon, Norman returned early to the hotel. He had
cashed his check. He was in funds. He would give her another and more
thrilling taste of the joy that was to be hers through him--and soon she
would be giving even as she got--for he would teach her not to fear
love, not to shrink from it, but to rejoice in it and to let it permeate
and complete all her charms.

He ascended to the apartment and knocked. There was no answer. He
searched in vain for a chambermaid to let him in. He descended to the
office. "Oh, Mr. Norman," said one of the clerks. "Your wife left this
note for you."

Norman took it. "She went out?"

"About three o'clock--with a young gentleman who called on her. They
came back a while ago and she left the note."

"Thank you," said Norman. He took his key, went up to the apartment. Not
until he had closed and locked the door did he open the note. He read:

  "Last night you broke your promise. So I am going away. Don't look for
  me. It won't be any use. When I decide what to do I'll send you word."


He was standing at the table. He tossed the note on the marble, threw
open the bedroom door. The black chiffon dress, the big plumed hat, and
all the other articles they had bought were spread upon the bed,
arranged with the obvious intention that he should see at a glance she
had taken nothing away with her.

"Hell!" he said aloud. "Why didn't I let her go yesterday morning?"




XVIII


A few days later, Tetlow, having business with Norman, tried to reach
him by telephone. After several failures he went to the hotel, and in
the bar learned enough to enable him to guess that Norman was of on a
mad carouse. He had no difficulty in finding the trail or in following
it; the difficulty lay in catching up, for Norman was going fast. Not
until late at night--that is, early in the morning--of the sixth day
from the beginning of his search did he get his man.

He was prepared to find a wreck, haggard, wildly nervous and
disreputably disheveled; for, so far as he could ascertain Norman had
not been to bed, but had gone on and on from one crowd of revelers to
another, in a city where it is easy to find companions in dissipation at
any hour of the twenty-four. Tetlow was even calculating upon having to
put off their business many weeks while the crazy man was pulling
through delirium tremens or some other form of brain fever.

An astonishing sight met his eyes in the Third Avenue oyster house
before which the touring car Norman had been using was drawn up. At a
long table, eating oysters as fast as the opener could work, sat Norman
and his friend Gaskill, a fellow member of the Federal Club, and about a
score of broken and battered tramps. The supper or breakfast was going
forward in admirable order. Gaskill, whom Norman had picked up a few
hours before, showed signs of having done some drinking. But not Norman.
It is true his clothing might have looked fresher; but hardly the man
himself.

"Just in time!" he cried out genially, at sight of Tetlow. "Sit down
with us. Waiter, a chair next to mine. Gentlemen, Mr. Tetlow. Mr.
Tetlow, gentlemen. What'll you have, old man?"

Tetlow declined champagne, accepted half a dozen of the huge oysters.
"I've been after you for nearly a week," said he to Norman.

"Pity you weren't _with_ me," said Norman. "I've been getting acquainted
with large numbers of my fellow citizens."

"From the Bowery to Yonkers."

"Exactly. Don't fall asleep, Gaskill."

But Gaskill was snoring with his head on the back of his chair and his
throat presented as if for the as of the executioner. "He's all in,"
said Tetlow.

"That's the way it goes," complained Norman. "I can't find anyone to
keep me company."

Tetlow laughed. "You look as if you had just started out," said he.
"Tell me--_where_ have you slept?"

"I haven't had time to sleep as yet."

"I dropped in to suggest that a little sleep wouldn't do any harm."

"Not quite yet. Watch our friends eat. It gives me an appetite. Waiter,
another dozen all round--and some more of this carbonated white wine
you've labeled champagne."

As he called out this order, a grunt of satisfaction ran round the row
of human derelicts. Tetlow shuddered, yet was moved and thrilled, too,
as he glanced from face to face--those hideous hairy countenances,
begrimed and beslimed, each countenance expressing in its own repulsive
way the one emotion of gratified longing for food and drink. "Where did
you get 'em?" inquired he.

"From the benches in Madison Square," replied Norman. He laughed
queerly. "Recognize yourself in any of those mugs, Tetlow?" he asked.

Tetlow shivered. "I should say not!" he exclaimed.

Norman's eyes gleamed. "I see myself in all of 'em," said he.

"Poor wretches!" muttered Tetlow.

"Pity wasted," he rejoined. "You might feel sorry for a man on the way
to where they've got. But once arrived--as well pity a dead man sleeping
quietly in his box with three feet of solid earth between him and
worries of every kind."

"Shake this crowd," said Tetlow impatiently. "I want to talk with you."

"All right, if it bores you." He sent the waiter out for enough
lodging-house tickets to provide for all. He distributed them himself,
to make sure that the proprietor of the restaurant did not attempt to
graft. Then he roused Gaskill and bundled him into the car and sent it
away to his address. The tramps gathered round and gave Norman three
cheers--they pressed close while four of them tried to pick his and
Tetlow's pockets. Norman knocked them away good-naturedly, and he and
Tetlow climbed into Tetlow's hansom.

"To my place," suggested Tetlow.

"No, to mine--the Knickerbocker," replied Norman.

"I'd rather you went to my place first," said Tetlow uneasily.

"My wife isn't with me. She has left me," said Norman calmly.

Tetlow hesitated, extremely nervous, finally acquiesced. They drove a
while in silence, then Norman said, "What's the business?"

"Galloway wants to see you."

"Tell him to come to my office to-morrow--that means to-day--at any time
after eleven."

"But that gives you no chance to pull yourself together," objected
Tetlow.

Norman's face, seen in the light of the street lamp they happened to be
passing, showed ironic amusement. "Never mind about me, Billy. Tell him
to come."

Tetlow cleared his throat nervously. "Don't you think, old man, that
you'd better go to see him? I'll arrange the appointment."

Norman said quietly: "Tetlow, I've dropped pretty far. But not so far
that I go to my clients. The rule of calls is that the man seeking the
favor goes to the man who can grant it."

"But it isn't the custom nowadays for a lawyer to deal that way with a
man like Galloway."

"And neither is it the custom for anyone to have any self-respect. Does
Galloway need my brains more than I need his money, or do I need his
money more than he needs my brains? You know what the answer to that is,
Billy. We are partners--you and I. I'm training you for the position."

"Galloway won't come," said Tetlow curtly.

"So much the worse for him," retorted Norman placidly. "No--I've not
been drinking too much, old man--as your worried--old-maid look
suggests. Do a little thinking. If Galloway doesn't get me, whom will he
get?"

"You know very well, Norman, there are scores of lawyers, good ones,
who'd crawl at his feet for his business. Nowadays, most lawyers are
always looking round for a pair of rich man's boots to lick."

"But I am not 'most lawyers,'" said Norman. "Of course, if Galloway
could make me come to him, he'd be a fool to come to me. But when he
finds I'm not coming, why, he'll behave himself--if his business is
important enough for me to bother with."

"But if he doesn't come, Fred?"

"Then--my Universal Fuel scheme, or some other equally good. But you
will never see me limbering my knees in the anteroom of a rich man, when
he needs me and I don't need him."

"Well, we'll see," said Tetlow, with the air of a sober man patient with
one who is not sober.

"By the way," continued Norman, "if Galloway says he's too ill to
come--or anything of that sort--tell him I'd not care to undertake the
affairs of a man too old or too feeble to attend to business, as he
might die in the midst of it."

Tetlow's face was such a wondrous exhibit of discomfiture that Norman
laughed outright. Evidently he had forestalled his fat friend in a
scheme to get him to Galloway in spite of himself. "All right--all
right," said Tetlow fretfully. "We'll sleep on this. But I don't see why
you're so opposed to going to see the man. It looks like snobbishness to
me--false pride--silly false pride."

"It _is_ snobbishness," said Norman. "But you forget that snobbishness
rules the world. The way to rule fools is to make them respect you. And
the way to make them respect you is by showing them that they are your
inferiors. I want Galloway's respect because I want his money. And I'll
not get his money--as much of it as belongs to me--except by showing
him my value. Not my value as a lawyer, for he knows that already, but
my value as a man. Do you see?"

"No, I don't," snapped Tetlow.

"That's what it means to be Tetlow. Now, I do see--and that's why I'm
Norman."

Tetlow looked at him doubtfully, uncertain whether he had been listening
to wisdom put in a jocose form of audacious egotism or to the
effervescings of intoxication. The hint of a smile lurking in the
sobriety of the powerful features of his extraordinary friend only
increased his doubt. Was Norman mocking him, and himself as well? If so,
was it the mockery of sober sense or of drunkenness?

"You seem to be puzzled, Billy," said Norman, and Tetlow wondered how he
had seen. "Don't get your brains in a stew trying to understand me. I'm
acting the way I've always acted--except in one matter. You know that I
know what I'm about?"

"I certainly do," replied his admirer.

"Then, let it go at that. If you could understand me--the sort of man I
am, the sort of thing I do--you'd not need me, but would be the whole
show yourself--eh? That being true, don't show yourself a commonplace
nobody by deriding and denying what your brain is unable to comprehend.
Show yourself a somebody by seeing the limitations of your ability. The
world is full of little people who criticise and judge and laugh at and
misunderstand the few real intelligences. And very tedious interruptions
of the scenery those little people are. Don't be one of them. . . . Did
you know my wife's father?"

Tetlow startled. "No--that is, yes," he stammered. "That is, I met him a
few times."

"Often enough to find out that he was crazy?"

"Oh, yes. He explained some of his ideas to me. Yes--he was quite mad,
poor fellow."

Norman gave way to a fit of silent laughter. "I can imagine," he
presently said, "what you'd have thought if Columbus or Alexander or
Napoleon or Stevenson or even the chaps who doped out the telephone and
the telegraph--if they had talked to you before they arrived. Or even
after they arrived, if they had been explaining some still newer and
bigger idea not yet accomplished."

"You don't think Mr. Hallowell was mad?"

"He was mad, assuming that you are the standard of sanity. Otherwise, he
was a great man. There'll be statues erected and pages of the book of
fame devoted to the men who carry out his ideas."

"His death was certainly a great loss to his daughter," said Tetlow in
his heaviest, most bourgeois manner.

"I said he was a great man," observed Norman. "I didn't say he was a
great father. A great man is never a great father. It takes a small man
to be a great father."

"At any rate, her having no parents or relatives doesn't matter, now
that she has you," said Tetlow, his manner at once forced and
constrained.

"Um," muttered Norman.

Said Tetlow: "Perhaps you misunderstood why I--I acted as I did about
her, toward the last."

"It was of no importance," said Norman brusquely. "I wish to hear
nothing about it."

"But I must explain, Fred. She piqued me by showing so plainly that she
despised me. I must admit the truth, though I've got as much vanity as
the next man, and don't like to admit it. She despised me, and it made
me mad."

An expression of grim satire passed over Norman's face. Said he: "She
despised me, too."

"Yes, she did," said Tetlow. "And both of us were certainly greatly her
superiors--in every substantial way. It seemed to me most--most----"

"Most impertinent of her?" suggested Norman.

"Precisely. _Most_ impertinent."

"Rather say, ignorant and small. My dear Tetlow, let me tell you
something. Anybody, however insignificant, can be loved. To be loved
means nothing, except possibly a hallucination in the brain of the
lover. But to _love_--that's another matter. Only a great soul is capable
of a great love."

"That is true," murmured Tetlow sentimentally, preening in a quiet,
gentle way.

Said Norman sententiously: "_You_ stopped loving. It was _I_ that kept
on."

Tetlow looked uncomfortable. "Yes--yes," he said. "But we were talking
of her--of her not appreciating the love she got. And I was about to
say--" Earnestly--"Fred, she's not to be blamed for her folly! She's
very, very young--and has all the weaknesses and vanities of youth----"

"Here we are," interrupted Norman.

The hansom had stopped in Forty-second Street before the deserted but
still brilliantly lighted entrances to the great hotel. Norman sprang
out so lightly and surely that Tetlow wondered how it was possible for
this to be the man who had been racketing and roistering day after day,
night after night for nearly a week. He helped the heavy and awkward
Tetlow to descend, said:

"You'll have to pay, Bill. I've got less than a dollar left. And I
touched Gaskill for a hundred and fifty to-night. You can imagine how
drunk he was, to let me have it. How they've been shying off from _me_
these last few months!"

"And you want _Galloway_ to come to _you_," thrust Tetlow, as he counted
out the money.

"Don't go back and chew on that," laughed Norman. "It's settled." He
took the money, gave it to the driver. "Thanks," he said to Tetlow.
"I'll pay you to-morrow--that is, later to-day--when you send me another
check."

"Why should you pay for my cab?" rejoined Tetlow.

"Because it's easier for me to make money than it is for you," replied
Norman. "If you were in my position--the position I've been in for
months--would anybody on earth give you three thousand dollars a month?"

Tetlow looked sour. His good nature was rubbing thin in spots.

"Don't lose your temper," laughed Norman. "I'm pounding away at you
about my superiority, partly because I've been drinking, but chiefly for
your own good--so that you'll realize I'm right and not mess things with
Galloway."

They went up to Norman's suite. Norman tried to unlock the door, found
it already unlocked. He turned the knob, threw the door wide for Tetlow
to enter first. Then, over Tetlow's shoulder he saw on the marble-topped
center table Dorothy's hat and jacket, the one she had worn away, the
only one she had. He stared at them, then at Tetlow. A confused look in
the fat, slow face made him say sharply:

"What does this mean, Tetlow?"

"Not so loud, Fred," said Tetlow, closing the door into the public hall.
"She's in the bedroom--probably asleep. She's been here since
yesterday."

"You brought her back?" demanded Norman.

"She wanted to come. I simply----"

Norman made a silencing gesture. Tetlow's faltering voice stopped short.
Norman stood near the table, his hands deep in his trousers' pockets,
his gaze fixed upon the hat and jacket. When Tetlow's agitation could
bear the uncertainties of that silence no longer, he went on:

"Fred, you mustn't forget how young and inexperienced she is. She's been
foolish, but nothing more. She's as pure as when she came into the
world. And it's the truth that she wanted to come back. I saw it as soon
as I began to talk with her."

"What are you chattering about?" said Norman fiercely. "Why did you
meddle in my affairs? Why did you bring her back?"

"I knew she needed you," pleaded Tetlow. "Then, too--I was afraid--I
knew how you acted before, and I thought you'd not get your gait again
until you had her."

Norman gave a short sardonic laugh. "If you'd only stop trying to
understand me!" he said.

Tetlow was utterly confused. "But, Fred, you don't realize--not all," he
cried imploringly. "She discovered--she thinks, I believe--that
is--she--she--that probably--that in a few months you'll be something
more than a husband--and she something more than a wife--that
you--that--you and she will be a father and a mother."

Tetlow's meaning slowly dawned on Norman. He seated himself in his
favorite attitude, legs sprawled, fingers interlaced behind his head.

"Wasn't I right to bring her back--to tell her she needn't fear to
come?" pleaded Tetlow.

Norman made no reply. After a brief silence he said: "Well, good night,
old man. Come round to my office any time after ten." He rose and gave
Tetlow his hand. "And arrange for Galloway whenever you like. Good
night."

Tetlow hesitated. "Fred--you'll not be harsh to her?" he said.

Norman smiled--a satirical smile, yet exquisitely gentle. "If you _only_
wouldn't try to understand me, Bill," he said.

When he was alone he sat lost in thought. At last he rang for a bell
boy. And when the boy came, he said: "That door there"--indicating one
in the opposite wall of the sitting room--"what does it lead into?"

"Another bedroom, sir."

"Unlock it, and tell them at the office I wish that room added to my
suite."

As soon as the additional bedroom was at his disposal, he went in and
began to undress. When he had taken off coat and waistcoat he paused to
telephone to the office a call for eight o'clock. As he finished and
hung up the receiver, a sound from the direction of the sitting room
made him glance in there. On the threshold of the other bedroom stood
his wife. She was in her nightgown; her hair, done in a single thick
braid, hung down across her bosom. There was in the room and upon her
childish loveliness the strange commingling of lights and shadows that
falls when the electricity is still on and the early morning light is
pushing in at the windows. They looked at each other in silence for some
time. If she was frightened or in the least embarrassed she did not show
it. She simply looked at him, while ever so slowly a smile dawned--a
gleam in the eyes, a flutter round the lips, growing merrier and
merrier. He did not smile. He continued to regard her gravely.

"I heard you and Mr. Tetlow come in," she said. "Then--you talked so
long--I fell asleep again. I only this minute awakened."

"Well, now you can go to sleep again," said he.

"But I'm not a bit sleepy. What are you doing in that room?"

She advanced toward his door. He stood aside. She peeped in. She was so
close to him that her nightgown brushed the bosom of his shirt. "Another
bedroom!" she exclaimed. "Just like ours."

"I didn't wish to disturb you," said he, calm and grave.

"But you wouldn't have been disturbing me," protested she, leaning
against the door frame, less than two feet away and directly facing him.

"I'll stay on here," said he.

She gazed at him with great puzzled eyes. "Aren't you glad I'm back?"
she asked.

"Certainly," said he with a polite smile. "But I must get some sleep."
And he moved away.

"You must let me tell you how I happened to go and why I came----"

"Please," he interrupted, looking at her with a piercing though not in
the least unfriendly expression that made her grow suddenly pale and
thoughtful. "I do not wish to hear about it--not now--not ever. Tetlow
told me all that it's necessary for me to know. You have come to stay, I
assume?"

"Yes--if"--her lip quivered--"if you'll let me."

"There can be no question of that," said he with the same polite gravity
he had maintained throughout.

"You want me to leave you alone?"

"Please. I need sleep badly--and I've only three hours."

"You are--angry with me?"

He looked placidly into her lovely, swimming eyes. "Not in the least."

"But how can you help being? I acted dreadfully."

He smiled gently. "But you are back--and the incident is closed."

She looked down at the carpet, her fingers playing with her braid,
twisting and untwisting its strands. He stood waiting to close the door.
She said, without lifting her eyes--said in a quiet, expressionless way,
"I have killed your love?"

"I'll not trouble you any more," evaded he. And he laid his hand
significantly upon the knob.

"I don't understand," she murmured. Then, with a quick apologetic glance
at him, "But I'm very inconsiderate. You want to sleep. Good night."

"Good night," said he, beginning to close the door.

She impulsively stood close before him, lifted her small white face, as
if for a kiss. "Do you forgive me?" she asked. "I was foolish. I didn't
understand--till I went back. Then--nothing was the same. And I knew I
wasn't fitted for that life--and didn't really care for him--and----"

He kissed her on the brow. "Don't agitate yourself," said he. "And we
will never speak of this again."

She shrank as if he had struck her. Her head drooped, and her shoulders.
When she was clear of the door, he quietly closed it.




XIX


It was not many minutes after ten when Tetlow hurried into Norman's
office. "Galloway's coming at eleven!" said he, with an air of triumph.

"So you mulled over what I said and decided that I was not altogether
drunk?"

"I wasn't sure of that," replied Tetlow. "But I was afraid you'd be
offended if I didn't try to get him. He gave me no trouble at all. As
soon as I told him you'd be glad to see him at your office, he astounded
me by saying he'd come."

"He and I have had dealings," said Norman. "He understood at once. I
always know my way when I'm dealing with a big man. It's only the little
people that are muddled and complex. I hope you'll not forget this
lesson, Billy."

"I shan't," promised Tetlow.

"We are to be partners," pursued Norman. "We shall be intimately
associated for years. You'll save me a vast amount of time and energy
and yourself a vast amount of fuming and fretting, if you'll simply
accept what I say, without discussion. When I want discussion I'll ask
your advice."

"I'm afraid you don't think it's worth much," said Tetlow humbly, "and I
guess it isn't."

"On the contrary, invaluable," declared Norman with flattering emphasis.
"Where you lack and I excel is in decision and action. I'll often get
you to tell me what ought to be done, and then I'll make you do
it--which you'd never dare, by yourself."

At eleven sharp Galloway came, looking as nearly like a dangerous old
eagle as a human being well could. Rapacious, merciless, tyrannical; a
famous philanthropist. Stingy to pettiness; a giver away of millions.
Rigidly honest, yet absolutely unscrupulous; faithful to the last letter
of his given word, yet so treacherous where his sly mind could nose out
a way to evade the spirit of his agreements that his name was a synonym
for unfaithfulness. An assiduous and groveling snob, yet so militantly
democratic that, unless his interest compelled, he would not employ any
member of the "best families" in any important capacity. He seemed a
bundle of contradictions. In fact he was profoundly consistent. That is
to say, he steadily pursued in every thought and act the gratification
of his two passions--wealth and power. He lost no seen opportunity,
however shameful, to add to his fortune or to amuse himself with the
human race, which he regarded with the unpitying contempt characteristic
of every cold nature born or risen to success.

His theory of life--and it is the theory that explains most great
financial successes, however they may pretend or believe--his theory of
life was that he did not need friends because the friends of a strong
man weaken and rob him, but that he did need enemies because he could
grow rich and powerful destroying and despoiling them. To him friends
suggested the birds living in a tree. They might make the tree more
romantic to the unthinking observer; but they in fact ate its budding
leaves and its fruit and rotted its bough joints with their filthy
nests.

We Americans are probably nearest to children of any race in
civilization. The peculiar conditions of life--their almost Arcadian
simplicity--up to a generation or so ago, gave us a false training in
the study of human nature. We believe what the good preacher, the
novelist and the poet, all as ignorant of life as nursery books, tell us
about the human heart. We fancy that in a social system modeled upon the
cruel and immoral system of Nature, success is to the good and kind.
Life is like the pious story in the Sunday-school library; evil is the
exception and to practice the simple virtues is to tread with sure step
the highway to riches and fame. This sort of ignorance is taught, is
proclaimed, is apparently accepted throughout the world. Literature and
the drama, representing life as it is dreamed by humanity, life as it
perhaps may be some day, create an impression which defies the plain
daily and hourly mockings of experience. Because weak and petty
offenders are often punished, the universe is pictured as sternly
enforcing the criminal codes enacted by priests or lawyers. But, while
all the world half inclines to this agreeable mendacity about life, only
in America of all civilization is the mendacity accepted as gospel, and
suspicion about it frowned upon as the heresy of cynicism. So the
Galloways prosper and are in high moral repute. Some day we shall learn
that a social system which is merely a slavish copy of Nature's
barbarous and wasteful sway of the survival of the toughest could be and
ought to be improved upon by the intelligence of the human race. Some
day we shall put Nature in its proper place as kindergarten teacher, and
drop it from godship and erect enlightened human understanding instead.
But that is a long way off. Meanwhile the Galloways will reign, and will
assure us that they won their success by the Decalogue and the Golden
Rule--and will be believed by all who seek to assure for themselves in
advance almost certain failure at material success in the arena of
action.

But they will not be believed by men of ambition, pushing resolutely for
power and wealth. So Frederick Norman knew precisely what he was facing
when Galloway's tall gaunt figure and face of the bird of prey appeared
before him. Galloway had triumphed and was triumphing not through
obedience to the Sunday sermons and the silly novels, poems, plays, and
the nonsense chattered by the obscure multitudes whom the mighty few
exploit, but through obedience to the conditions imposed by our social
system. If he raised wages a little, it was in order that he might have
excuse for raising prices a great deal. If he gave away millions, it was
for his fame, and usually to quiet the scandal over some particularly
wicked wholesale robbery. No, Galloway was not a witness to the might of
altruistic virtue as a means to triumph. Charity and all the other forms
of chicanery by which the many are defrauded and fooled by the few--those
"virtues" he understood and practiced. But justice--humanity's ages-long
dream that at last seems to glitter as a hope in the horizon of the
future--justice--not legal justice, nor moral justice, but human
justice--that idea would have seemed to him ridiculous, Utopian,
something for the women and the children and the socialists.

Norman understood Galloway, and Galloway understood Norman. Galloway,
with an old man's garrulity and a confirmed moral poseur's eagerness
about appearances, began to unfold his virtuous reasons for the
impending break with Burroughs--the industrial and financial war out of
which he expected to come doubly rich and all but supreme. Midway he
stopped.

"You are not listening," said he sharply to the young man.

Their eyes met. Norman's eyes were twinkling. "No," said he, "I am
waiting."

There was the suggestion of an answering gleam of sardonic humor in
Galloway's cold gray eyes. "Waiting for what?"

"For you to finish with me as father confessor, to begin with me as
lawyer. Pray don't hurry. My time is yours." This with a fine air of
utmost suavity and respect.

In fact, while Galloway was doddering on and on with his fake
moralities, Norman was thinking of his own affairs, was wondering at his
indifference about Dorothy. The night before--the few hours before--when
he had dealt with her so calmly, he, even as he talked and listened and
acted, had assumed that the enormous amount of liquor he had been
consuming was in some way responsible. He had said to himself, "When I
am over this, when I have had sleep and return to the normal, I shall
again be the foolish slave of all these months." But here he was, sober,
having taken only enough whisky to prevent an abrupt let-down--here he
was viewing her in the same tranquil light. No longer all his life; no
longer even dominant; only a part of life--and he was by no means
certain that she was an important part.

How explain the mystery of the change? Because she had voluntarily come
back, did he feel that she was no longer baffling but was definitely
his? Or had passion running madly on and on dropped--perhaps not dead,
but almost dead--from sheer exhaustion?--was it weary of racing and
content to saunter and to stroll? . . . He could not account for the
change. He only knew that he who had been quite mad was now quite
sane. . . . Would he like to be rid of her? Did he regret that they were
tied together? No, curiously enough. It was high time he got married;
she would do as well as another. She had beauty, youth, amiability,
physical charm for him. There was advantage in the fact that her
inferiority to him, her dependence on him, would enable him to take as
much or as little of her as he might feel disposed, to treat her as the
warrior must ever treat his entire domestic establishment from wife down
to pet dog or cat or baby. . . . No, he did not regret Josephine. He could
see now disadvantages greater than her advantages. All of value she
would have brought him he could get for himself, and she would have been
troublesome--exacting, disputing his sway, demanding full value or more
in return for the love she was giving with such exalted notions of its
worth.

"You are married?" Galloway suddenly said, interrupting his own speech
and Norman's thought.

"Yes," said Norman.

"Just married, I believe?"

"Just."

Young and old, high and low, successful and failed, we are a race of
advice-givers. As for Galloway, he was not one to neglect that showy
form of inexpensive benevolence. "Have plenty of children," said he.

"And keep your family in the country till they grow up. Town's no place
for women. They go crazy. Women--and most men--have no initiative. They
think only about whatever's thrust at them. In the country it'll be
their children and domestic things. In town it'll be getting and
spending money."

Norman was struck by this. "I think I'll take your advice," said he.

"A man's home ought to be a retreat, not an inn. We are humoring the
women too much. They are forgetting who earns what they spend in
exhibiting themselves. If a woman wants that sort of thing, let her get
out and earn it. Why should she expect it from the man who has
undertaken her support because he wanted a wife to take care of his
house and a mother for his children? If a woman doesn't like the job,
all right. But if she takes it and accepts its pay, why, she should do
its work."

"Flawless logic," said Norman.

"When I hire a man to work, he doesn't expect to idle about showing
other people how handsome he is in the clothes my money pays for. Not
that marriage is altogether a business--not at all. But, my dear sir--"
And Galloway brought his cane down with the emphasis of one speaking
from a heart full of bitter experience--"unless it is a business at
bottom, organized and conducted on sound business principles, there's no
sentiment either. We are human beings--and that means we are first of
all _business_ beings, engaged in getting food, clothing, shelter. No
sentiment--_no_ sentiment, sir, is worth while that isn't firmly grounded.
It's a house without a foundation. It's a steeple without a church under
it."

Norman looked at the old man with calm penetrating eyes. "I shall
conduct my married life on a sound, business basis, or not at all," said
he.

"We'll see," said Galloway. "That's what I said forty years ago--No, I
didn't. I had no sense about such matters then. In my youth the men knew
nothing about the woman question." He smiled grimly. "I see signs that
they are learning."

Then as abruptly as he had left the affairs he was there to discuss he
returned to them. His mind seemed to have freed itself of all
irrelevancy and superfluity, as a stream often runs from a faucet with
much spluttering and rather muddy at first, then steadies and clears.
Norman gave him the attention one can get only from a good mind that is
interested in the subject and understands it thoroughly. Such attention
not merely receives the words and ideas as they fall from the mouth of
him who utters them, but also seems to draw them by a sort of suction
faster and in greater abundance. It was this peculiar ability of giving
attention, as much as any other one quality, that gave Norman's clients
their confidence in him. Galloway, than whom no man was shrewder judge
of men, showed in his gratified eyes and voice, long before he had
finished, how strongly his conviction of Norman's high ability was
confirmed.

When Galloway ended, Norman rapidly and in clear and simple sentences
summarized what Galloway had said. "That is right?" he asked.

"Precisely," said Galloway admiringly. "What a gift of clear statement
you have, young man!"

"It has won me my place," said Norman. "As to your campaign, I can tell
you now that the legal part of it can be arranged. That is what the law
is for--to enable a man to do whatever he wants. The penalties are for
those who have the stupidity to try to do things in an unlawful way."

Galloway laughed. "I had heard that they were for doing unlawful
things."

"Nothing is unlawful," said Norman, "except in method."

"That's an interesting view of courts of justice."

"But we have no courts of justice. We have only courts of law."

Galloway threw back his head and laughed till the tears rolled down his
cheeks. "What a gift for clear statement!" he cried.

Norman beamed appreciation of a compliment so flattering. But he went
back to business. "As I was saying, you can do what you want to do. You
wish me to show you how. In our modern way of doing things, the relation
of lawyer and client has somewhat changed. To illustrate by this case,
you are the bear with the taste for honey and the strength to rob the
bees. I am the honey bird--that is, the modern lawyer--who can show you
the way to the hive. Most of the honey birds--as yet--are content with a
very small share of the honey--whatever the bear happens to be unable to
find room for. But I--" Norman's eyes danced and his strong mouth curved
in a charming smile--"I am a honey bird with a bear appetite."

Galloway was sitting up stiffly. "I don't quite follow you, sir," he
said.

"Yet I am plain enough. My ability at clear statement has not deserted
me. If I show you the way through the tangled forest of the law to this
hive you scent--I must be a partner in the honey."

Galloway rose. "Your conceptions of your profession--and of me, I may
say--are not attractive. I have always been, and am willing and anxious
to pay liberally--more liberally than anyone else--for legal advice. But
my business, sir, is my own."

Norman rose, his expression one of apology and polite disappointment. "I
see I misunderstood your purpose in coming to me," said he. "Let us take
no more of each other's time."

"And what did you think my object was in coming?" demanded Galloway.

"To get from me what you realized you could get nowhere else--which
meant, as an old experienced trader like you must have known, that you
were ready to pay my price. Of course, if you can get elsewhere the
assistance you need, why, you would be most unwise to come to me."

Galloway moved toward the door. "And you might have charged practically
any fee you wished," said he, laughing satirically. "Young man, you are
making the mistake that is ruining this generation. You wish to get rich
all at once. You are not willing to be patient and to work and to build
your fortune solidly and slowly."

Norman smiled as at a good joke. "What an asset to you strong men has
been the vague hope in the minds of the masses that each poor devil of
them will have his turn to loot and grow rich. I used to think ignorance
kept the present system going. But I have discovered that it is that
sly, silly, corrupt hope. But, sir, it does not catch me. I shall not
work for you and the other strong men, and patiently wait my turn that
would never come. My time is _now_."

"You threaten me!" cried Galloway furiously.

"Threaten you?" exclaimed Norman, amazed.

"You think, because I have given you, my lawyer, my secrets, that you
can compel me----"

With an imperious gesture Norman stopped him. "Good day, sir," he said
haughtily. "Your secrets are safe with me. I am a lawyer, not a
financier."

Galloway was disconcerted. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Norman," he said. "I
misunderstood you. I thought I heard you say in effect that you purposed
to be rich, and that you purposed to compel me to make you so."

"So I did," replied Norman. "But not by the methods you financiers are
so adept at using. Not by high-class blackmail and blackjacking. I meant
that my abilities were such that you and your fellow masters of modern
society would be compelled to employ me on my own terms. A few moments
ago you outlined to me a plan. It may be you can find other lawyers
competent to steer it through the channel of the law. I doubt it. I may
exaggerate my value. But--" He smiled pleasantly--"I don't think so."

In this modern world of ours there is no more delicate or more important
branch of the art of material success than learning to play one's own
tune on the trumpets of fame. To those who watch careers intelligently
and critically, and not merely with mouth agape and ears awag for
whatever sounds the winds of credulity bear, there is keen interest in
noting how differently this high art is practiced by the
fame-seekers--how well some modest heroes disguise themselves before
essaying the trumpet, how timidly some play, how brazenly others. It is
an art of infinite variety. How many there are who can echo
Shakespeare's sad lament, through Hamlet's lips--"I lack advancement!"
Those are they who have wholly neglected, as did Shakespeare, this
essential part of the art of advancement--Shakespeare, who lived almost
obscure and was all but forgotten for two centuries after his death.

Norman, frankly seeking mere material success, and with the colossal
egotism that disdains egotism and shrugs at the danger of being accused
of it--Norman did not hesitate to proclaim his own merits. He reasoned
that he had the wares, that crying them would attract attention to them,
that he whose attention was attracted, if he were a judge of wares and a
seeker of the best, would see that the Norman wares were indeed as
Norman cried them. At first blush Galloway was amused by Norman's candid
self-esteem. But he had often heard of Norman's conceit--and in a long
and busy life he had not seen an able man who was unaware of his
ability; any more than he had seen a pretty woman unaware of her
prettiness. So, at second blush, Galloway was tempted by Norman's calm
strong blast upon his own trumpet to look again at the wares.

"I always have had a high opinion of you, young man," said he, with
laughing eyes. "Almost as high an opinion as you have of yourself. Think
over the legal side of my plan. When you get your thoughts in order, let
me know--and make me a proposition as to your own share. Does that
satisfy you?"

"It's all I ask," said Norman.

And they parted on the friendliest terms--and Norman knew that his
fortune was assured, if Galloway lived another nine months. When he was
alone, the sweat burst out upon him and, trembling from head to foot, he
locked his door and flung himself at full length upon the rug. It was
half an hour before the fit of silent hysterical reaction passed
sufficiently to let him gather strength to rise. He tottered to his desk
chair, and sat with his head buried in his arms upon the desk. After a
while the telephone at his side rang insistently. He took the receiver
in a hand he could not steady.

"Yes?" he called.

"It's Tetlow. How'd you come out?"

"Oh--" He paused to stiffen his throat to attack the words
naturally--"all right. We go ahead."

"With G.?"

"Certainly. But keep quiet. Don't let him know you've heard, if you see
him or he sends for you. Remember, it's in my hands entirely."

"Trust me." Tetlow's voice, suppressed and jubilant, suggested a fat,
hoarse rooster trying to finish a crow before a coming stone from a farm
boy reaches him. "It seems natural and easy to you, old man. But I'm
about crazy with joy. I'll come right over."

"No. I'm going home."

"Can't I see you there?"

"No. I've other matters to attend to. Come about lunch time
to-morrow--to the office, here."

"All right," said Tetlow disappointedly, and Norman rang off.




XX


In the faces of men who have dominion of whatever kind over their fellow
men--be it the brutal rule of the prize fighter over his gang or the
apparently gentle sway of the apparently meek bishop over his loving
flock--in the faces of all men of power there is a dangerous look. They
may never lose their tempers. They may never lift their voices. They may
be ever suave and civil. The dangerous look is there--and the danger
behind it. And the sense of that look and of its cause has a certain
restraining effect upon all but the hopelessly impudent or solidly
dense. Norman was one of the men without fits of temper. In his moments
of irritation, no one ever felt that a storm of violent language might
be impending. But the danger signal flaunted from his face. Danger of
what? No one could have said. Most people would have laughed at the idea
that so even tempered a man, pleased with himself and with the world,
could ever be dangerous. Yet everyone had instinctively respected that
danger flag--until Dorothy.

Perhaps it had struck for her--had really not been there when she looked
at him. Perhaps she had been too inexperienced, perhaps too
self-centered, to see it. Perhaps she had never before seen his face in
an hour of weariness and relaxation--when the true character, the
dominating and essential trait or traits, shows nakedly upon the
surface, making the weak man or woman look pitiful, the strong man or
woman formidable.

However that may be, when he walked into the sitting room, greeted her
placidly and kissed her on the brow, she, glancing uncertainly up at
him, saw that danger signal for the first time. She studied his face,
her own face wearing her expression of the puzzled child. No, not quite
that expression as it always had been theretofore, but a modified form
of it. To any self-centered, self-absorbed woman--there comes in her
married life, unless she be married to a booby, a time, an hour, a
moment even--for it can be narrowed down to a point--when she takes her
first _seeing_ look at the man upon whom she is dependent for protection,
whether spiritual or material, or both. In her egotism and vanity she
has been regarding him as her property. Suddenly, and usually
disagreeably, it has been revealed to her that she is his property. That
hour had come for Dorothy Norman. And she was looking at her husband,
was wondering who and what he was.

"You've had your lunch?" he said.

"No," replied she.

"You have been out for the air?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"You didn't tell me what to do."

He smiled good humoredly. "Oh, you had no money."

"Yes--a little. But I--" She halted.

"Yes?"

"You hadn't told me what to do," she repeated, as if on mature thought
that sentence expressed the whole matter.

He felt in his pockets, found a small roll of bills. He laid twenty-five
dollars on the table. "I'll keep thirty," he said, "as I shan't have any
more till I see Tetlow to-morrow. Now, fly out and amuse yourself. I'm
going to sleep. Don't wake me till you're ready for dinner."

And he went into his bedroom and closed the door. When he awoke, he saw
that it was dark outside, and some note in the din of street noises from
far below made him feel that it was late. He wrapped a bathrobe round
him, opened the door into the sitting room. It was dark.

"Dorothy!" he called.

"Yes," promptly responded the small quiet voice, so near that he started
back.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, and switched on the light. "There you are--by the
window. What were you doing, in the dark?"

She was dressed precisely as when he had last seen her. She was sitting
with her hands listless in her lap and her face a moving and beautiful
expression of melancholy dreams. On the table were the bills--where he
had laid them. "You've been out?" he said.

"No," she replied.

"Why not?"

"I've been--waiting."

"For what?" laughed he.

"For--I don't know," she replied. "Just waiting."

"But there's nothing to wait for."

She looked at him interrogatively. "No--I suppose not," she said.

He went back into his room and glanced at his watch. "Eleven o'clock!"
he cried. "Why didn't you wake me? You must be nearly starved."

"Yes, I am hungry," said she.

Her patient, passive resignation irritated him. "I'm ravenous," he said.
"I'll dress--and you dress, too. We'll go downstairs to supper."

When he reappeared in the sitting room, in a dinner jacket, she was
again seated near the window, hands listless in her lap and eyes gazing
dreamily into vacancy. But she was now dressed in the black chiffon and
the big black hat. He laughed. "You are prompt and obedient," said he.
"Nothing like hunger to subdue."

A faint flush tinged her lovely skin; the look of the child that has
been struck appeared in her eyes.

He cast about in his mind for the explanation. Did she think he meant it
was need that had brought her meekly back to him? That was true enough,
but he had not intended to hint it. In high good humor because he was so
delightfully hungry and was about to get food, he cried: "Do cheer up!
There's nothing to be sad about--nothing."

She lifted her large eyes and gazed at him timidly. "What are you going
to do with me?"

"Take you downstairs and feed you."

"But I mean--afterward?"

"Bring--or send--you up here to go to bed."

"Are you going away?"

"Where?"

"Away from me."

He looked at her with amused eyes. She was exquisitely lovely; never had
he seen her lovelier. It delighted him to note her charms--the charms
that had enslaved him--not a single charm missing--and to feel that he
was no longer their slave, was his own master again.

A strange look swept across her uncannily mobile face--a look of wonder,
of awe, of fear, of dread. "You don't even like me any more," she said
in her colorless way.

"What have I done to make you think I dislike you?" said he pleasantly.

She gazed down in silence.

"You need have no fear," said he. "You are my wife. You will be well
taken care of, and you will not be annoyed. What more can I say?"

"Thank you," she murmured.

He winced. She had made him feel like an unpleasant cross between an
alms-giver and a bully. "Now," said he, with forced but resolute
cheerfulness, "we will eat, drink and be merry."

On the way down in the elevator he watched her out of the corner of his
eye. When they reached the hall leading to the supper room he touched
her arm and halted her. "My dear," said he in the pleasant voice which
yet somehow never failed to secure attention and obedience, "there will
be some of my acquaintances in there at supper. I don't want them to see
you with that whipped dog look. There's no occasion for it."

Her lip trembled. "I'll do my best," said she.

"Let's see you smile," laughed he. "You have often shown me that you
know the woman's trick of wearing what feelings you choose on the
outside. So don't pretend that you've got to look as if you were about
to be hung for a crime you didn't commit. There!--that's better."

And indeed to a casual glance she looked the happy bride trying--not
very successfully--to seem used to her husband and her new status.

"Hold it!" he urged gayly. "I've no fancy for leading round a lovely
martyr in chains. Especially as you're about as healthy and well placed
a person as I know. And you'll feel as well as you look when you've had
something to eat."

Whether it was obedience or the result of a decision to drop an
unprofitable pose he could not tell, but as soon as they were seated and
she had a bill of fare before her and was reading it, her expression of
happiness lost its last suggestion of being forced. "Crab meat!" she
said. "I love it!"

"Two portions of crab meat," he said to the waiter with pad and pencil
at attention.

"Oh, I don't want that much," she protested.

"You forget that I am hungry," rejoined he. "And when I am hungry, the
price of food begins to go up." He addressed himself to the waiter:
"After that a broiled grouse--with plenty of hominy--and grilled sweet
potatoes--and a salad of endive and hothouse tomatoes--and I know the
difference between hothouse tomatoes and the other kinds. Next--some
cheese--Coullomieres--yes, you have it--I got the steward to get it--and
toasted crackers--the round kind, not the square--and not the hard ones
that unsettle the teeth--and--what kind of ice, my dear?--or would you
prefer a fresh peach flambee?"

"Yes--I think so," said Dorothy.

"You hear, waiter?--and a bottle of--there's the head waiter--ask
him--he knows the champagne I like."

As Norman had talked, in the pleasant, insistent voice, the waiter had
roused from the air of mindless, mechanical sloth characteristic of the
New York waiter--unless and until a fee below his high expectation is
offered. When he said the final "very good, sir," it was with the accent
of real intelligence.

Dorothy was smiling, with the amusement of youth and inexperience. "What
a lot of trouble you took about it," said she.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Anything worth doing at all is worth taking
trouble about. You will see. We shall get results. The supper will be
the best this house can put together."

"You can have anything you want in this world, if you only can pay for
it," said she.

"That's what most people think," replied he. "But the truth is, the
paying is only a small part of the art of getting what one wants."

She glanced nervously at him. "I'm beginning to realize that I'm
dreadfully inexperienced," said she.

"There's nothing discouraging in that," said he. "Lack of experience can
be remedied. But not lack of judgment. It takes the great gift of
judgment to enable one to profit by mistakes, to decide what is the real
lesson of an experience."

"I'm afraid I haven't any judgment, either," confessed she.

"That remains to be seen."

She hesitated--ventured: "What do you think is my worst fault?"

He shook his head laughingly. "We are going to have a happy supper."

"Do you think I am very vain?" persisted she.

"Who's been telling you so?"

"Mr. Tetlow. He gave me an awful talking to, just before I--" She paused
at the edge of the forbidden ground. "He didn't spare me," she went on.
"He said I was a vain, self-centered little fool."

"And what did you say?"

"I was very angry. I told him he had no right to accuse me of that. I
reminded him that he had never heard me say a word about myself."

"And did he say that the vainest people were just that way--never
speaking of themselves, never thinking of anything else?"

"Oh, he told you what he said," cried she.

"No," laughed he.

She reddened. "_You_ think I'm vain?"

He made a good-humoredly satirical little bow. "I think you are
charming," said he. "It would be a waste of time to look at or to think
of anyone else when oneself is the most charming and interesting person
in the world. Still--" He put into his face and voice a suggestion of
gravity that caught her utmost attention--"if one is to get anywhere, is
to win consideration from others--and happiness for oneself--one simply
must do a little thinking about others--occasionally."

Her eyes lowered. A faint color tinged her cheeks.

"The reason most of us are so uncomfortable--downright unhappy most of
the time--is that we never really take our thoughts off our precious
fascinating selves. The result is that some day we find that the
liking--and friendship--and love--of those around us has limits--and we
are left severely alone. Of course, if one has a great deal of money,
one can buy excellent imitations of liking and friendship and even
love--I ought to say, especially love----"

The color flamed in her face.

"But," he went on, "if one is in modest circumstances or poor, one has
to take care."

"Or dependent," she said, with one of those unexpected flashes of subtle
intelligence that so complicated the study of her character. He had been
talking to amuse himself rather than with any idea of her understanding.
Her sudden bright color and her two words--"or dependent"--roused him to
see that she thought he was deliberately giving her a savage lecture
from the cover of general remarks. "With the vanity of the typical
woman," he said to himself, "she always imagines _she_ is the subject of
everyone's thought and talk."

"Or dependent," said he to her, easily. "I wasn't thinking of you, but
yours _is_ a case in point. Come, now--nothing to look blue about! Here's
something to eat. No, it's for the next table."

"You won't let me explain," she protested, between the prudence of
reproach and the candor of anger.

"There's nothing to explain," replied he. "Don't bother about the
mistakes of yesterday. Remember them--yes. If one has a good memory, to
forget is impossible--not to say unwise. But there ought to be no more
heat or sting in the memory of past mistakes than in the memory of last
year's mosquito bites."

The first course of the supper arrived. Her nervousness vanished, and he
got far away from the neighborhood of the subjects that, even in
remotest hint, could not but agitate her. And as the food and the wine
asserted their pacific and beatific sway, she and he steadily moved into
better and better humor with each other. Her beauty grew until it had
him thinking that never, not in the most spiritual feminine conceptions
of the classic painters, had he seen a loveliness more ethereal. Her
skin was so exquisite, the coloring of her hair and eyes and of her lips
was so delicately fine that it gave her the fragility of things
bordering upon the supernal--of rare exotics, of sunset and moonbeam
effects. No, he had been under no spell of illusion as to her beauty. It
was a reality--the more fascinating because it waxed and waned not with
regularity of period but capriciously.

He began to look round furtively, to see what effect this wife of his
was producing on others. These last few months, through prudence as much
as through pride, he had been cultivating the habit of ignoring his
surroundings; he would not invite cold salutations or obvious avoidance
of speaking. He now discovered many of his former associates--and his
vanity dilated as he noted how intensely they were interested in his
wife.

Some men of ability have that purest form of egotism which makes one
profoundly content with himself, genuinely indifferent to the approval
or the disapproval of others. Norman's vanity had a certain amount of
alloy. He genuinely disdained his fellow-men--their timidity, their
hypocrisy, their servility, their limited range of ideas. He was
indifferent to the verge of insensibility as to their adverse criticism.
But at the same time it was necessary to his happiness that he get from
them evidences of their admiration and envy. With that amusing hypocrisy
which tinges all human nature, he concealed from himself the
satisfaction, the joy even, he got out of the showy side of his
position. And no feature of his infatuation for Dorothy surprised him so
much as the way it rode rough shod and reckless over his snobbishness.

With the fading of infatuation had come many reflections upon the
practical aspects of what he had done. It pleased him with himself to
find that, in this first test, he had not the least regret, but on the
contrary a genuine pride in the courageous independence he had
shown--another and strong support to his conviction of his superiority
to his fellow-men. He might be somewhat snobbish--who was not?--who else
in his New York was less than supersaturated with snobbishness? But
snobbishness, the determining quality in the natures of all the women
and most of the men he knew, had shown itself one of the incidental
qualities in his own nature. After all, reflected he, it took a man, a
good deal of a man, to do what he had done, and not to regret it, even
in the hour of disillusionment. And it must be said for this egotistic
self-approval of his that like all his judgments there was sound merit
of truth in it. The vanity of the nincompoop is ridiculous. The vanity
of the man of ability is amusing and no doubt due to a defective point
of view upon the proportions of the universe; but it is not without
excuse, and those who laugh might do well to discriminate even as they
guffaw.

Looking discreetly about, Norman was suddenly confronted by the face of
Josephine Burroughs, only two tables away.

Until their eyes squarely met he did not know she was there, or even in
America. Before he could make a beginning of glancing away, she gave him
her sweetest smile and her friendliest bow. And Dorothy, looking to see
to whom he was speaking, was astonished to receive the same radiance of
cordiality. Norman was pleased at the way his wife dealt with the
situation. She returned both bow and smile in her own quiet, slightly
reserved way of gentle dignity.

"Who was that, speaking?" asked she.

"Miss Burroughs. You must remember her."

He noted it as characteristic that she said, quite sincerely: "Oh, so it
is. I didn't remember her. That is the girl you were engaged to."

"Yes--'the nice girl uptown,'" said he.

"I didn't like her," said Dorothy, with evident small interest in the
subject. "She was vain."

"You mean you didn't like her way of being vain," suggested Norman.
"Everyone is vain; so, if we disliked for vanity we should dislike
everyone."

"Yes, it was her way. And just now she spoke to us both, as if she were
doing us a favor."

"Gracious, it's called," said he. "What of it? It does us no harm and
gives her about the only happiness she's got."

[Illustration: "At Josephine's right sat a handsome young foreigner."]

Norman, without seeming to do so, noted the rest of the Burroughs party.
At Josephine's right sat a handsome young foreigner, and it took small
experience of the world to discover that he was paying court to her, and
that she was pleased and flattered. Norman asked the waiter who he was,
and learned that he came from the waiter's own province of France, was
the Duc de Valdome. At first glance Norman had thought him
distinguished. Afterward he discriminated. There are several kinds or
degrees of distinction. There is distinction of race, of class, of
family, of dress, of person. As Frenchman, as aristocrat, as a scion of
the ancient family of Valdome, as a specimen of tailoring and valeting,
Miss Burroughs's young man was distinguished. But in his own proper
person he was rather insignificant. The others at the table were
Americans. Following Miss Burroughs's cue, they sought an opportunity to
speak friendlily to Norman--and he gave it them. His acknowledgment of
those effusive salutations was polite but restrained.

"They are friends of yours?" said Dorothy.

"They were," said he. "And they may be again--when they are friends of
_ours_."

"I'm not very good at making friends," she warned him. "I don't like
many people." This time her unconscious and profound egotism pleased
him. Evidently it did not occur to her that she should be eager to be
friends with those people on any terms, that the only question was
whether they would receive her.

She asked: "Why was Miss--Miss Burroughs so friendly?"

"Why shouldn't she be?"

"But I thought you threw her over."

He winced at this crude way of putting it. "On the contrary, she threw
me over."

Dorothy laughed incredulously. "I know better. Mr. Tetlow told me."

"She threw me over," repeated he coldly. "Tetlow was repeating malicious
and ignorant gossip."

Dorothy laughed again--it was her second glass of champagne. "You say
that because it's the honorable thing to say. But I know."

"I say it because it's true," said he.

He spoke quietly, but if she had drunk many more than two glasses of an
unaccustomed and heady liquor she would have felt his intonation. She
paled and shrank and her slim white fingers fluttered nervously at the
collar of her dress. "I was only joking," she murmured.

He laughed good-naturedly. "Don't look as if I had given you a
whipping," said he. "Surely you're not afraid of me."

She glanced shyly at him, a smile dancing in her eyes and upon her lips.
"Yes," she said. And after a pause she added: "I didn't used to be. But
that was because I didn't know you--or much of anything." The smile
irradiated her whole face. "You used to be afraid of me. But you aren't,
any more."

"No," said he, looking straight at her. "No, I'm not."

"I always told you you were mistaken in what you thought of me. I really
don't amount to much. A man as serious and as important as you are
couldn't--couldn't care about me."

"It's true you don't amount to much, as yet," said he. "And if you never
do amount to much, you'd be no less than most women and most men. But
I've an idea--at times--that you _could_ amount to something."

He saw that he had wounded her vanity, that her protestations of
humility were precisely what he had suspected. He laughed at her: "I see
you thought I'd contradict you. But I can't afford to be so amiable now.
And the first thing you've got to get rid of is the part of your vanity
that prevents you from growing. Vanity of belief in one's possibilities
is fine. No one gets anywhere without it. But vanity of belief in one's
present perfection--no one but a god could afford that luxury."

Observing her closely he was amused--and pleased--to note that she was
struggling to compose herself to endure his candors as a necessary part
of the duties and obligations she had taken on herself when she gave up
and returned to him.

"What _you_ thought of _me_ used to be the important thing in our
relations," he went on, in his way of raillery that took all or nearly
all the sting out of what he said, but none of its strength. "Now, the
important thing is what I think of you. You are much younger than I,
especially in experience. You are going to school to life with me as
teacher. You'll dislike the teacher for the severity of the school. That
isn't just, but it's natural--perhaps inevitable. And please--my dear--when
you are bitterest over what _you_ have to put up with from _me_--don't
forget what _I_ have to put up with from _you_."

She was fighting bravely against angry tears. As for him, he had
suddenly become indifferent to what the people around them might be
thinking. With all his old arrogance come back in full flood, he was
feeling that he would live his own life in his own way and that those
who didn't approve--yes, including Dorothy--might do as they saw fit.
She said:

"I don't blame you for regretting that you didn't marry Miss Burroughs."

"But I don't regret it," replied he. "On the contrary, I'm glad."

She glanced hopefully at him. But the hopeful expression faded as he
went on:

"Whether or not I made a mistake in marrying you, I certainly had an
escape from disaster when she decided she preferred a foreigner and a
title. There's a good sensible reason why so many girls of her
class--more and more all the time--marry abroad. They are not fit to be
the wives of hard-working American husbands. In fact I've about reached
the conclusion that of the girls growing up nowdays very few in any
class are fit to be American wives. They're not big enough. They're too
coarse and crude in their tastes. They're only fit for the shallow,
showy sort of thing--and the European aristocracy is their hope--and
their place."

Her small face had a fascinating expression of a
child trying to understand things far beyond its depth. He was
interested in his own thoughts, however, and went on--for, if he had
been in the habit of stopping when his hearers failed to understand, or
when they misunderstood, either he would have been silent most of the
time in company or his conversation would have been as petty and narrow
and devoid of originality or imagination as is the mentality of most
human beings--as is the talk and reading that impress them as
interesting--and profound!

"The American man of the more ambitious sort," he went on, "either has
to live practically if not physically apart from his wife or else has to
educate some not too difficult woman to be his wife."

She understood that. "You are really going to educate me?" she said,
with an arch smile. Now that Norman had her attention, now that she was
centering upon him instead of upon herself, she was interested in him,
and in what he said, whether she understood it or not, whether it
pleased her vanity or wounded it. The intellects of women work to an
unsuspected extent only through the sex charm. Their appreciations of
books, of art, of men are dependant, often in the most curious indirect
ways, upon the fact that the author, the artist, the politician or what
not is betrousered. Thus, Dorothy was patient, respectful, attentive,
was not offended by Norman's didactic way of giving her the lessons in
life. Her smile was happy as well as coquettish, as she asked him to
educate her.

He returned her smile. "That depends," answered he.

"You're not sure I'm worth the trouble?"

"You may put it that way, if you like. But I'd say, rather, I'm not sure
I can spare the time--and you're not sure you care to fit yourself for
the place."

"Oh, but I do!" cried she.

"We'll see--in a few weeks or months," replied he.

The Burroughs party were rising. Josephine had choice of two ways to the
door. She chose the one that took her past Norman and his bride. She
advanced, beaming. Norman rose, took her extended hand. Said she:

"So glad to see you." Then, turning the radiant smile upon Dorothy, "And
is this your wife? Is this the pretty little typewriter girl?"

Dorothy nodded--a charming, ingenuous bend of the head. Norman felt a
thrill of pride in her, so beautifully unconscious of the treacherous
attempt at insult. It particularly delighted him that she had not made
the mistake of rising to return Josephine's greeting but had remained
seated. Surely this wife of his had the right instincts that never fail
to cause right manners. For Josephine's benefit, he gazed down at
Dorothy with the proudest, fondest eyes. "Yes--this is she," said he.
"Can you blame me?"

Josephine paled and winced visibly, as if the blow she had aimed at him
had, after glancing off harmlessly, returned to crush her. She touched
Dorothy's proffered hand, murmured a few stammering phrases of vague
compliment, rejoined her friends. Said Dorothy, when she and Norman were
settled again:

"I shall never like her. Nor she me."

"But you do like this cheese? Waiter, another bottle of that same."

"Why did she put you in such a good humor?" inquired his wife.

"It wasn't she. It was you!" replied he. But he refused to explain.




XXI


Galloway accepted Norman's terms. He would probably have accepted terms
far less easy. But Norman as yet knew with the thoroughness which must
precede intelligent plan and action only the legal side of financial
operations; he had been as indifferent to the commercial side as a pilot
to the value of the cargo in the ship he engages to steer clear of
shoals and rocks. So with the prudence of the sagacious man's audacities
he contented himself with a share of this first venture that would
simply make a comfortable foundation for the fortune he purposed to
build. As the venture could not fail outright, even should Galloway die,
he rented a largish place at Hempstead, with the privilege of purchase,
and installed his wife and himself with a dozen servants and a
housekeeper.

"This housekeeper, this Mrs. Lowell," said he to Dorothy, "is a good
enough person as housekeepers go. But you will have to look sharply
after her."

Dorothy seemed to fade and shrink within herself, which was her way of
confessing lack of courage and fitness to face a situation: "I don't
know anything about those things," she confessed.

"I understand perfectly," said he. "But you learned something at the
place in Jersey City--quite enough for the start. Really, all you need
to know just now is whether the place is clean or not, and whether the
food comes on the table in proper condition. The rest you'll pick up
gradually."

"I hope so," said she, looking doubtful and helpless; these new
magnitudes were appalling, especially now that she was beginning to get
a point of view upon life.

"At any rate, don't bother me for these few next months," said he. "I'm
going to be very busy--shall leave early in the morning and not be back
until near dinner time--if I come at all. No, you'll not be annoyed by
me. You'll be absolute mistress of your time."

She tried to look as if this contented her. But he could not have failed
to see how dissatisfied and disquieted she really was. He had the best
of reasons for thinking that she was living under the same roof with him
only because she preferred the roof he could provide to such a one as
she could provide for herself whether by her own earnings or by marrying
a man more to her liking personally. Yet here she was, piqued and
depressed because of his indifference--because he was not thrusting upon
her gallantries she would tolerate only through prudence!

"You will be lonely at times, I'm afraid," said he. "But I can't provide
friends or even acquaintances for you for several months--until my
affairs are in better order and my sister and her husband come back from
Europe."

"Oh, I shan't be lonely," cried she. "I've never cared for people."

"You've your books, and your music--and riding--and shopping trips to
town--and the house and grounds to look after."

"Yes--and my dreams," said she hopefully, her eyes suggesting the dusky
star depths.

"Oh--the dreams. You'll have little time for them," said he drily. "And
little inclination, I imagine, as you wake up to the sense of how much
there is to be learned. Dreaming is the pastime of people who haven't
the intelligence or the energy to accomplish anything. If you wish to
please me--and you do--don't you?"

"Yes," she murmured. She forced her rebellious lips to the laconic
assent. She drooped the lids over her rebellious eyes, lest he should
detect her wounded feelings and her resentment.

"I assumed so," said he, with a secret smile. "Well, if you wish to
please me, you'll give your time to practical things--things that'll
make you more interesting and make us both more comfortable. It was all
very well to dream, while you had little to do and small opportunity.
But now--Try to cut it out."

It is painful to an American girl of any class to find that she has to
earn her position as wife. The current theory, a tradition from an early
and woman-revering day, is that the girl has done her share and more
when she has consented to the suit of the ardent male and has intrusted
her priceless charms to his exclusive keeping. According to that same
theory, it is the husband who must earn his position--must continue to
earn it. He is a humble creature, honored by the presence of a wonderful
being, a cross between a queen and a goddess. He cannot do enough to
show his gratitude. Perhaps--but only perhaps--had Norman married
Josephine Burroughs, he might have assented, after a fashion, to this
idea of the relations of the man and the woman. No doubt, had he
remained under the spell of Dorothy's mystery and beauty, he would have
felt and acted the slave he had made of himself at the outset. But in
the circumstances he was looking at their prospective life together with
sane eyes. And so she had, in addition to all her other reasons for
heartache, a sense that she, the goddess-queen, the American woman, with
the birthright of dominion over the male, was being cheated, humbled,
degraded.

At first he saw that this sense of being wronged made it impossible for
her to do anything at all toward educating herself for her position. But
time brought about the change he had hoped for. A few weeks, and she
began to cheer up, almost in spite of herself. What was the use in
sulking or sighing or in self-pitying, when it brought only unhappiness
to oneself? The coarse and brutal male in the case was either unaware or
indifferent. There was no one and no place to fly to--unless she wished
to be much worse off than her darkest mood of self-pity represented her
to her sorrowing self. The housekeeper, Mrs. Lowell, was a "broken down
gentlewoman" who had been chastened by misfortune into a wholesome state
of practical good sense about the relative values of the real and the
romantic. Mrs. Lowell diagnosed the case of the young wife--as Norman
had shrewdly guessed she would--and was soon adroitly showing her the
many advantages of her lot. Before they had been three months at
Hempstead, Dorothy had discovered that she, in fact, was without a
single ground for serious complaint. She had a husband who was generous
about money, and left her as absolutely alone as if he were mere
occasional visitor at the house. She had her living--and such a
living!--she had plenty of interesting occupation--she had not a single
sordid care--and perfect health.

The dreams, too--It was curious about those dreams. She would now have
found it an intolerable bore to sit with hands idle in her lap and eyes
upon vacancy, watching the dim, luminous shadows flit aimlessly by. Yet
that was the way she used to pass hours--entire days. She used to fight
off sleep at night the longer to enjoy her one source of pure happiness.
There was no doubt about it, the fire of romance was burning low, and
she was becoming commonplace, practical, resigned. Well, why not? Was
not life over for her?--that is, the life a girl's fancy longs for. In
place of hope of romance, there was an uneasy feeling of a necessity of
pleasing this husband of hers--of making him comfortable. What would
befall her if she neglected trying to please him or if she, for all her
trying, failed? She did not look far in that direction. Her uneasiness
remained indefinite--yet definite enough to keep her working from waking
until bedtime. And she dropped into the habit of watching his face with
the same anxiety with which a farmer watches the weather. When he
happened one day to make a careless, absent-minded remark in disapproval
of something in the domestic arrangements, she was thrown into such a
nervous flutter that he observed it.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Nothing--nothing," replied she in the hurried tone of one who is trying
hastily to cover his thoughts.

He reflected, understood, burst into a fit of hearty laughter. "So, you
are trying to make a bogey of me?"

She colored, protested faintly.

"Don't you know I'm about the least tyrannical, least exacting person in
the world?"

"You've been very patient with me," said she.

"Now--now," cried he in a tone of raillery, "you might as well drop
that. Don't you know there's no reason for being afraid of me?"

"Yes, I _know_ it," replied she. "But I _feel_ afraid, just the same. I
can't help it."

It was impossible for him to appreciate the effect of his personality
upon others--how, without his trying or even wishing, it made them dread
a purely imaginary displeasure and its absurdly imaginary consequences.
But this confession of hers was not the first time he had heard of the
effect of potential and latent danger he had upon those associated with
him. And, as it was most useful, he was not sorry that he had it. He
made no further attempt to convince her that he was harmless. He knew
that he was harmless where she was concerned. Was it not just as well
that she should not know it, when vaguely dreading him was producing
excellent results? As with a Christian the fear of the Lord was the
beginning of wisdom, so with a wife the fear of her husband was the
beginning of wisdom. In striving to please him, to fit herself for the
position of wife, she was using up the time she would otherwise have
spent in making herself miserable with self-pity--that supreme curse of
the idle both male and female, that most prolific of the breeders of
unhappy wives. Yes, wives were unhappy not because their husbands
neglected them, for busy people have no time to note whether they are
neglected or not, but because they gave their own worthless, negligent,
incapable selves too much attention.

One evening, she, wearing the look of the timid but resolute intruder,
came into his room while he was dressing for dinner and hung about with
an air no man of his experience could fail to understand.

"Something wrong about the house?" said he finally. "Need more money?"

"No--nothing," she replied, with a slight flush. He saw that she was
mustering all her courage for some grand effort. He waited, only mildly
curious, as his mind was busy with some new business he and Tetlow had
undertaken. Presently she stood squarely before him, her hands behind
her back and her face upturned. "Won't you kiss me?" she said.

"Sure!" said he. And he kissed her on the cheek and resumed operations
with his military brushes.

"I didn't mean that--that kind of a kiss," said she dejectedly.

He paused with a quick characteristic turn of the head, looked keenly at
her, resumed his brushing. A quizzical smile played over his face. "Oh,
I see," said he. "You've been thinking about duty. And you've decided to
do yours. . . . Eh?"

"I think--It seems to me--I don't think--" she stammered, then said
desperately, "I've not been acting right by you. I want to--to do
better."

"That's good," said he briskly, with a nod of approval--and never a
glance in her direction. "You think you'll let me have a kiss now and
then--eh? All right, my dear."

"Oh, you _won't_ understand me!" she cried, ready to weep with vexation.

"You mean I won't misunderstand you," replied he amiably, as he set
about fixing his tie. "You've been mulling things over in your mind.
You've decided I'm secretly pining for you. You've resolved to be good
and kind and dutiful--generous--to feed old dog Tray a few crumbs now
and then. . . . That's nice and sweet of you--" He paused until the
crisis in tying was passed--"very nice and sweet of you--but--There's
nothing in it. All I ask of you for myself is to see that I'm
comfortable--that Mrs. Lowell and the servants treat me right. If I
don't like anything, I'll speak out--never fear."

"But--Fred--I want to be your wife--I really do," she pleaded.

He turned on her, and his eyes seemed to pierce into the chamber of her
thoughts. "Drop it, my dear," he said quietly. "Neither of us is in love
with the other. So there's not the slightest reason for pretending. If I
ever want to be free of you, I'll tell you so. If you ever want to get
rid of me, all you have to do is to ask--and it'll be arranged.
Meanwhile, let's enjoy ourselves."

His good humor, obviously unfeigned, would have completely discouraged a
more experienced woman, though as vain as Dorothy and with as much
ground as he had given her for self-confidence where he was concerned.
But Dorothy was depressed rather than profoundly discouraged. A few
moments and she found courage to plead: "But you used to care for me.
Don't I attract you any more?"

"You say that quite pathetically," said he, in good-humored amusement.
"I'm willing to do anything within reason for your happiness. But
really--just to please your vanity I can't make myself over again into
the fool I used to be about you. You'd hate it yourself. Why, then, this
pathetic air?"

"I feel so useless--and as if I were shirking," she persisted. "And if
you did care for me, it wouldn't offend me now as it used to. I've grown
much wiser--more sensible. I understand things--and I look at them
differently. And--I always did _like_ you."

"Even when you despised me?" mocked he. It irritated him a little
vividly to recall what a consummate fool he had made of himself for her,
even though he had every reason to be content with the event of his
folly.

"A girl always thinks she despises a man when she can do as she pleases
with him," replied she. "As Mr. Tetlow said, I was a fool."

"_I_ was the fool," said he. "Where did that man of mine lay the
handkerchief?"

"I, too," cried she, eagerly. "You were foolish to bother about a little
silly like me. But, oh, what a _fool_ I was not to realize----"

"You're not trying to tell me you're in love with me?" said he sharply.

"Oh, no--no, indeed," she protested in haste, alarmed by his
overwhelming manner. "I'm not trying to deceive you in any way."

"Never do," said he. "It's the one thing I can't stand."

"But I thought--it seemed to me--" she persisted, "that perhaps if we
tried to--to care for each other, we'd maybe get to--to caring--more or
less. Don't you think so?"

"Perhaps," was his careless reply. He added, "But I, for one, am well
content with things as they are. I confess I don't look back with any
satisfaction on those months when I was making an ass of myself about
you. I was ruining my career. Now I'm happy, and everything is going
fine in my business. No experiments, if you please." He shook his head,
looking at her with smiling raillery. "It might turn out that I'd care
for you in the same crazy way again, and that you didn't like it. Again
you might get excited about me and I'd remain calm about you. That would
give me a handsome revenge, but I'm not looking for revenge."

He finished his toilet, she standing quiet and thoughtful in an attitude
of unconscious grace.

"No, my dear," resumed he, as he prepared to descend for dinner, "let's
have a peaceful, cheerful married life, with no crazy excitements.
Let's hang on to what we've got, and take no unnecessary risks." He
patted her on the shoulder. "Isn't that sensible?"

She looked at him with serious, appealing eyes. "You are _sure_ you aren't
unhappy?"

It was amusing to him--though he concealed it--to see how tenaciously
her feminine egotism held to the idea that she was the important person.
And, when women of experience thus deluded themselves, it was not at all
strange that this girl should be unable to grasp the essential truth as
to the relations of men and women--that, while a woman who makes her sex
her profession must give to a man, to some man, a dominant place in her
life, a man need give a woman--at least, any one woman--little or no
place. But he would not wantonly wound her harmless vanity. "Don't worry
about me, please," said he in the kindest, friendliest way. "I am
telling you the truth."

And they descended to the dining room. Usually he was preoccupied and
she did most of the talking--not a difficult matter for her, as she was
one of those who by nature have much to say, who talk on and on, giving
lively, pleasant recitals of commonplace daily happenings. That evening
it was her turn to be abstracted, or, at least, silent. He talked
volubly, torrentially, like a man of teeming mind in the highest
spirits. And he was in high spirits. The Galloway enterprise had
developed into a huge success; also, it did not lessen his sense of the
pleasantness of life to have learned that his wife was feeling about as
well disposed toward him as he cared to have her feel, had come round to
that state of mind which he, as a practical man, wise in the art of
life, regarded as ideal for a wife.

A successful man, with a quiet and comfortable home, well enough looked
after by an agreeable wife, exceeding good to look at and interested
only in her home and her husband--what more could a man ask?

       *       *       *       *       *

What more could a man ask? Only one thing more--a baby. The months soon
passed and that rounding out of the home side of his life was
consummated with no mishap. The baby was a girl, which contented him and
delighted Dorothy. He wished it to be named after her, she preferred his
sister's name--Ursula. It was Ursula who decided the question. "She
looks like you, Fred," she declared, after an earnest scanning of the
weird little face. "Why not call her Frederica?"

Norman thought this clumsy, but Dorothy instantly assented--and the baby
was duly christened Frederica.

Perhaps it was because he was having less pressing business in town, but
whatever the reason, he began to stay at home more--surprisingly more.
And, being at home, he naturally fell into the habit of fussing with the
baby, he having the temperament that compels a man to be always at
something, and the baby being convenient and in the nature of a
curiosity. Ursula, who was stopping in the house, did not try to conceal
her amazement at this extraordinary development of her brother's
character.

Said she: "I never before knew you to take the slightest interest in a
child."

Said he: "I never before saw a child worth taking the slightest interest
in."

"Oh, well," said Ursula, "it won't last. You'll soon grow tired of your
plaything."

"Perhaps you're right," said Norman. "I hope you're wrong." He
reflected, added: "In fact, I'm almost certain you're wrong. I'm too
selfish to let myself lose such a pleasure. If you had observed my life
closely, you'd have discovered that I have never given up a single thing
I found a source of pleasure. That is good sense. That is why the
superior sort of men and women retain something of the boy and the girl
all their lives. I still like a lot of the games I played as a boy. For
some years I've had no chance to indulge in them. I'll be glad when Rica
is old enough to give me the chance again."

She was much amused. "Who'd have suspected that _you_ were a born father!"

"Not I, for one," confessed he. "We never know what there is in us until
circumstances bring it out."

"A devoted father and a doting husband," pursued Ursula. "I must say I
rather sympathize with you as a doting husband. Of course, I, a woman,
can't see her as you do. I can't imagine a man--especially a man of your
sort--going stark mad about a mere woman. But, as women go, I'll admit
she is a good specimen. Not the marvel of intelligence and complex
character you imagine, but still a good specimen. And physically--" She
laughed--"_That's_ what caught you. That's what holds you--and will hold
you as long as it lasts."

"Was there ever a woman who didn't think that?--and didn't like to
think it, though I believe many of them make strong pretense at scorning
the physical." Fred was regarding his sister with a quizzical
expression. "You approve of her?" he said.

"More than I'd have thought possible. And after I've taken her about in
the world a while she'll be perfect."

"No doubt," said Norman. "But, alas, she'll never be perfect. For,
you're not going to take her about."

"So she says when I talk of it to her," replied Ursula. "But I know
you'll insist. You needn't be uneasy as to how she'll be received."

"I'm not," said Norman dryly.

"You've got back all you lost--and more. How we Americans do worship
success!"

"Don't suggest to Dorothy anything further about society," said Norman.
"I've no time or taste for it, and I don't wish to be annoyed by
intrusions into my home."

"But you'll not be satisfied always with just her," urged his sister.
"Besides, you've got a position to maintain."

Norman's smile was cynically patient. "I want my home and I want my
career," said he. "And I don't want any society nonsense. I had the good
luck to marry a woman who knows and cares nothing about it. I don't
purpose to give up the greatest advantage of my marriage."

Ursula was astounded. She knew the meaning of his various tones and
manners, and his way of rejecting her plans for Dorothy--and,
incidentally, for her own amusement--convinced her that he was through
and through in earnest. "It will be dreadfully lonesome for her, Fred,"
she pleaded.

"We'll wait till that trouble faces us," replied he, not a bit
impressed. "And don't forget--not a word of temptation to her from you."
This with an expression that warned her how well he knew her indirect
ways of accomplishing what she could not gain directly.

"Oh, I shan't interfere," said she in a tone that made it a binding
promise. "But you can't expect me to sympathize with your plans for an
old-fashioned domestic life."

"Certainly not," said Norman. "You don't understand. Women of your sort
never do. That's why you're not fit to be the wives of men worth while.
A serious man and a society woman can't possibly hit it off together.
For a serious man the outside world is a place to work, and home is a
place to rest. For a society woman, the world is a place to idle and
home is a work shop, an entertainment factory. It's impossible to
reconcile those two opposite ideas."

She saw his point at once, and it appealed to her intelligence. And she
had his own faculty for never permitting prejudice to influence
judgment. She said in a dubious tone, "Do you think Dorothy will
sympathize with your scheme?"

"I'm sure I don't know," replied he.

"If she doesn't--" Ursula halted there.

Her brother shrugged his shoulders. "If she proves to be the wrong sort
of woman for me, she'll go her way and I mine."

"Why, I thought you loved her!"

"What have I said that leads you to change your mind?" said he.

"A man does not take the high hand with the woman he adores."

"So?" said Norman tranquilly.

"Well," said his puzzled sister by way of conclusion, "if you persist in
being the autocrat----"

"Autocrat?--I?" laughed he. "Am I trying to compel her to do anything
she doesn't wish to do? Didn't I say she would be free to go if she were
dissatisfied with me and my plan--if she didn't adopt it gladly as her
own plan, also?"

"But you know very well she's dependent upon you, Fred."

"Is that my fault? Does a man force a woman to become dependent? And
just because she is dependent, should he therefore yield to her and let
her make of his life a waste and a folly?"

"You're far too clever for me to argue with. Anyhow, as I was saying, if
you persist in what I call tyranny----"

"When a woman cries tyranny, it means she's furious because she is not
getting _her_ autocratic way."

"Maybe so," admitted Ursula cheerfully. "At any rate, if you
persist--unless she loves you utterly, your life will be miserable."

"She may make her own life miserable, but not mine," replied he. "If I
were the ordinary man--counting himself lucky to have induced any woman
to marry him--afraid if he lost his woman he'd not be able to get
another--able to give his woman only an indifferent poor support, and so
on--if I were one of those men, what you say might be true. But what
deep and permanent mischief can a frail woman do a strong man?"

"There's instance after instance in history----"

"Of strong men wrecking _themselves_ through various kinds of madness,
including sex madness. But, my dear Ursula, not an instance--not
one--where the woman was responsible. If history were truth, instead of
lies--you women might have less conceit."

"You--talking this way!" mocked Ursula.

"Meaning, I suppose, my late infatuation?" inquired he, unruffled.

"I never saw or read of a worse case."

"Am I ruined?"

"No. But why not? Because you got her. If you hadn't--" Ursula blew out
a large cloud of cigarette smoke with a "Pouf!"

"If I hadn't got her," said Norman, "I'd have got well, just the same,
in due time. A sick _weak_ man goes down; a sick _strong_ man gets well.
When a man who's reputed to be strong doesn't get well, it's because he
merely seemed strong but wasn't. The poets and novelists and the
historians and the rest of the nature fakers fail to tell _all_ the facts,
dear sister. All the facts would spoil a pretty story."

Ursula thought a few minutes, suddenly burst out with, "Do you think
Dorothy loves you now?"

Norman rose to go out doors. "I don't think about such unprofitable
things," said he. "As long as we suit each other and get along
pleasantly--why bother about a name for it?"

In the French window he paused, stood looking out with an expression so
peculiar that Ursula, curious, came to see the cause. A few yards away,
under a big symmetrical maple in full leaf sat Dorothy with the baby on
her lap. She was dressed very simply in white. There was a little
sunlight upon her hair, a sheen of gold over her skin. She was looking
down at the baby. Her expression----

Said Ursula: "Several of the great painters have tried to catch that
expression. But they've failed."

Norman made no reply. He had not heard. All in an instant there had been
revealed to him a whole new world--a view of man and woman--of woman--of
sex--its meaning so different from what he had believed and lived.

"What're you thinking about, Fred?" inquired his sister.

He shook his head, with a mysterious smile, and strolled away.




XXII


The baby grew and thrived, as the habit is with healthy children well
taken care of. Mrs. Norman soon got back her strength, her figure, and
perhaps more than her former beauty--as the habit is with healthy women
well taken care of. Norman's career continued to prosper, likewise
according to the habit of all healthy things well taken care of. In a
world where nothing happens by chance, mischance, to be serious, must
have some grave fault as its hidden cause. We mortals, who love to live
at haphazard and to blame God or destiny or "bad luck" for our
calamities, hate to take this modern and scientific view of the world
and life. But, whether we like it or not, it is the truth--and, as we
can't get round it, why not accept it cheerfully and, so appear a little
less ignorant and ridiculous?

During their first year at the Hempstead place the results in luxury and
comfort had at no time accounted for the money it cost and the servants
it employed--that is to say, paid. But Norman was neither unreasonable
nor impatient. Also, in his years of experience with his sister's
housekeeping, and of observation of the other women, he had grown
exceedingly moderate in his estimate of the ability of women and in his
expectations from them. He had reached the conclusion that the women who
were sheltered and pampered by the men of the successful classes were
proficient only in those things that call for no skill or effort beyond
the wagging of the tongue. He saw that Dorothy was making honest
endeavor to learn her business, and he knew that learning takes
time--much time.

He believed that in the end she would do better than any other wife of
his acquaintance, at the business of wife and mother.

Before the baby was two years old, his belief was rewarded. Things began
to run better--began to run well, even. Dorothy--a serious person,
unhampered of a keen sense of humor, had taught herself the duties of
her new position in much the same slow plodding way in which she had
formerly made of herself a fair stenographer and a tolerable typewriter.
Mrs. Lowell had helped--and Ursula, too--and Norman not a little. But
Dorothy, her husband discovered, was one of those who thoroughly
assimilate what they take in--who make it over into part of themselves.
So, her manner of keeping house, of arranging the gardens, of bringing
up the baby, of dressing herself, was peculiarly her own. It was not by
any means the best imaginable way. It was even what many energetic,
systematic and highly competent persons would speak contemptuously of.
But it satisfied Norman--and that was all Dorothy had in mind.

If those who have had any considerable opportunity to observe married
life will forget what they have read in novels and will fix their minds
on what they have observed at first hand, they will recognize the Norman
marriage, with the husband and wife living together yet apart as not
peculiar but of a rather common type. Neither Fred nor Dorothy had any
especial reason on any given day to try to alter their relations; so the
law of inertia asserted itself and matters continued as they had begun.
It was, perhaps, a chance remark of Tetlow's that was the remote but
efficient cause of a change, as the single small stone slipping high up
on the mountain side results in a vast landslide into the valley miles
below. Tetlow said one day, in connection with some estate they were
settling:

"I've always pitied the only child. It must be miserably lonesome."

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he colored violently;
for, he remembered that the Normans had but one child and he knew the
probable reason for it. Norman seemed not to have heard or seen. Tetlow
hoped he hadn't, but, knowing the man, feared otherwise. And he was
right.

In the press of other matters Norman forgot Tetlow's remark--remembered
it again a few days later when he was taking the baby out for an airing
in the motor--forgot it again--finally, when he took a several days'
rest at home, remembered it and kept it in mind. He began to think of
Dorothy once more in a definite, personal way, began to observe her as
his wife, instead of as mere part of his establishment. An intellectual
person she certainly was not. She had a quaint individual way of
speaking and of acting. She had the marvelous changeable beauty that had
once caused him to take the bit in his teeth and run wild. But he would
no more think of talking with her about the affairs that really
interested him than--well, than the other men of large career in his
acquaintance would think of talking those matters to their wives.

But--He was astonished to discover that he liked this slim, quiet,
unobtrusive little wife of his better than he liked anyone else in the
world, that he eagerly turned away from the clever and amusing
companionship he might have at his clubs to come down to the country and
be with her and the baby--not the baby alone, but her also. Why? He
could not find a satisfactory reason. He saw that she created at that
Hempstead place an atmosphere of rest, of tranquility. But this merely
thrust the mystery one step back. _How_ did she create this
atmosphere--and for a man of his varied and discriminating tastes? To
that question he could work out no answer. She had for him now a charm
as different from the infatuation of former days as calm sea is from
tempest-racked sea--utterly different, yet fully as potent. As he
observed her and wondered at these discoveries of his, the ghost of a
delight he had thought forever dead stirred in his heart, in his fancy.
Yes, it was a pleasure, a thrilling pleasure to watch her. There was
music in those quiet, graceful movements of hers, in that quiet, sweet
voice. Not the wild, blood-heating music of the former days, but a kind
far more melodious--tender, restful to nerves sorely tried by the
tensions of ambition. He made some sort of an attempt to define his
feeling for her, but could not. It seemed to fit into none of the usual
classifications.

Then, he wondered--"What is _she_ thinking of _me_?"

To find out he resorted to various elaborate round about methods that
did credit to the ingenuity of his mind. But he made at every cunning
cast a barren water-haul. Either she was not thinking of him at all or
what she thought swam too deep for any casts he knew how to make in
those hidden and unfamiliar waters. Or, perhaps she did not herself know
what she thought, being too busy with the baby and the household to have
time for such abstract and not pressing, perhaps not important, matters.
He moved slowly in his inquiries into her state of mind because there
was all the time in the world and no occasion for haste. He moved
cautiously because he wished to do nothing that might disturb the
present serenity of their home life. Did she dislike him? Was she
indifferent? Had she developed a habit of having him about that was in a
way equivalent to liking?

These languid but delightful investigations--not unlike the pastimes one
spins out when one has a long, long lovely summer day with hours on
hours for luxurious happy idling--these investigations were abruptly
suspended by a suddenly compelled trip to Europe. He arranged for
Dorothy to send him a cable every day--"about yourself and the
baby"--and he sent an occasional cabled bulletin about himself in reply.
But neither wrote to the other; their relationship was not of the
letter-exchanging kind--and had no need of pretense at what it was not.

In the third month of his absence, his sister Ursula came over for
dresses, millinery and truly aristocratic society. She had little time
for him, or he for her, but they happened to lunch alone about a week
after his arrival.

"You're looking cross and unhappy," said she. "What's the matter?
Business?"

"No--everything's going well."

"Same thing that's troubling Dorothy, then?"

"Is Dorothy ill?" inquired he, suddenly as alert as he had been absent.
"She hasn't let me know anything about it."

"Ill? Of course not," reassured Ursula. "She's never ill. But--I've not
anywhere or ever seen two people as crazy about each other as you and
she."

"Really?" Norman had relapsed into interest in what he was eating.

"You live all alone down there in the country. You treat anyone who
comes to see you as intruder. And as soon as darling husband goes away,
darling wife wanders about like a damned soul. Honestly, it gave me the
blues to look at her eyes. And I used to think she cared more about the
baby than about you."

"She's probably worried about something else," said Norman. "More salad?
No? There's no dessert--at least I've ordered none. But if you'd like
some strawberries----"

"I thought of that," replied Ursula, not to be deflected. "I mean of her
being upset about something beside you. I'm slow to suspect anyone of
really caring about any _one_ else. But, although she didn't confess, I
soon saw that it was your absence. And she wasn't putting on for my
benefit, either. My maid hears the same thing from all the servants."

"This is pleasant," said Norman in his mocking good-humored way.

"And you're in the same state," she charged with laughing but
sympathetic eyes. "Why, Fred, you're as madly in love with her as ever."

"I wonder," said he reflectively.

"Why didn't you bring her with you?"

He stared at his sister like a man who has just discovered that he, with
incredible stupidity, had overlooked the obvious. "I didn't think I'd
be away long," evaded he.

He saw Ursula off for the Continent, half promised to join her in a few
weeks at Aix. A day or so after her departure he had a violent fit of
blues, was haunted by a vision of the baby and the comfortable, peaceful
house on Long Island. He had expected to stay about two months longer.
"I'm sick of England and of hotels," he said, and closed up his business
and sailed the following week.

       *       *       *       *       *

She and the baby were at the pier to meet him. He looked for signs of
the mourning Ursula had described, but he looked in vain. Never had he
seen her lovelier, or so sparkling. And how she did talk!--rattling on
and on, with those interesting commonplaces of domestic event--the baby,
the household, the garden, the baby--the horses, the dogs, the
baby--the servants, her new dresses, the baby--and so on, and so on--and
the baby.

But when they got into the motor at Hempstead station for the drive
home, silence fell upon her--he had been almost silent from the start of
the little journey. As the motor swung into the grounds, looking their
most beautiful for his homecoming, an enormous wave of pure delight
began to surge up in him, to swell, to rush, to break, dashing its spray
of tears into his eyes. He turned his head away to hide the too obvious
display of feeling. They went into the house, he carrying the baby. He
gave it to the nurse--and he and she were alone.

"It certainly is good to be home again," he said.

The words were the tamest commonplace. We always speak in the old
stereotyped commonplaces when we speak directly from the heart. His tone
made her glance quickly at him.

"Why, I believe you _are_ glad," said she.

He took her hand. They looked at each other. Suddenly she flung herself
wildly into his arms and clung to him in an agony of joy and fear. "Oh,
I missed you so!" she sobbed. "I missed you so!"

"It was frightful," said he. "It shall never happen again."





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