THE SECOND GENERATION
BY DAVID GRAHAM PHILLIPS
AUTHOR OF "THE COST," "THE PLUM TREE," "THE SOCIAL SECRETARY," "THE DELUGE," ETC.
I.—"PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER!" II.—OF SOMEBODIES AND NOBODIES III.—MRS. WHITNEY INTERVENES IV.—THE SHATTERED COLOSSUS V.—THE WILL VI.—MRS. WHITNEY NEGOTIATES VII.—JILTED VIII.—A FRIEND IN NEED IX.—THE LONG FAREWELL X.—"THROUGH LOVE FOR MY CHILDREN" XI.—"SO SENSITIVE" XII.—ARTHUR FALLS AMONG LAWYERS XIII.—BUT IS RESCUED XIV.—SIMEON XV.—EARLY ADVENTURES OF A 'PRENTICE XVI.—A CAST-OFF SLIPPER XVII.—POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE XVIII.—LOVE, THE BLUNDERER XIX.—MADELENE XX.—LORRY'S ROMANCE XXI.—HIRAM'S SON XXII.—VILLA D'ORSAY XXIII.—A STROLL IN A BYPATH XXIV.—DR. MADELENE PRESCRIBES XXV.—MAN AND GENTLEMAN XXVI.—CHARLES WHITNEY'S HEIRS XXVII.—THE DOOR AJAR XXVIII.—THE DEAD THAT LIVE
THE SECOND GENERATION
"PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER!"
In six minutes the noon whistle would blow. But the workmen—the seven hundred in the Ranger-Whitney flour mills, the two hundred and fifty in the Ranger-Whitney cooperage adjoining—were, every man and boy of them, as hard at it as if the dinner rest were hours away. On the threshold of the long room where several scores of filled barrels were being headed and stamped there suddenly appeared a huge figure, tall and broad and solid, clad in a working suit originally gray but now white with the flour dust that saturated the air, and coated walls and windows both within and without. At once each of the ninety-seven men and boys was aware of that presence and unconsciously showed it by putting on extra "steam." With swinging step the big figure crossed the packing room. The gray-white face held straight ahead, but the keen blue eyes paused upon each worker and each task. And every "hand" in those two great factories knew how all-seeing that glance was—critical, but just; exacting, but encouraging. All-seeing, in this instance, did not mean merely fault-seeing.
Hiram Ranger, manufacturing partner and controlling owner of the Ranger-Whitney Company of St. Christopher and Chicago, went on into the cooperage, leaving energy behind him, rousing it before him. Many times, each working day, between seven in the morning and six at night, he made the tour of those two establishments. A miller by inheritance and training, he had learned the cooper's trade like any journeyman, when he decided that the company should manufacture its own barrels. He was not a rich man who was a manufacturer; he was a manufacturer who was incidentally rich—one who made of his business a vocation. He had no theories on the dignity of labor; he simply exemplified it, and would have been amazed, and amused or angered according to his mood, had it been suggested to him that useful labor is not as necessary and continuous a part of life as breathing. He did not speculate and talk about ideals; he lived them, incessantly and unconsciously. The talker of ideals and the liver of ideals get echo and response, each after his kind—the talker, in the empty noise of applause; the liver, in the silent spread of the area of achievement.
A moment after Hiram roused the packing room of the flour mill with the master's eye, he was in the cooperage, the center of a group round one of the hooping machines. It had got out of gear, and the workman had bungled in shutting off power; the result was chaos that threatened to stop the whole department for the rest of the day. Ranger brushed away the wrangling tinkerers and examined the machine. After grasping the problem in all its details, he threw himself flat upon his face, crawled under the machine, and called for a light. A moment later his voice issued again, in a call for a hammer. Several minutes of sharp hammering; then the mass of iron began to heave. It rose at the upward pressure of Ranger's powerful arms and legs, shoulders and back; it crashed over on its side; he stood up and, without pause or outward sign of his exertion of enormous strength, set about adjusting the gearing to action, with the broken machinery cut out. "And he past sixty!" muttered one workman to another, as a murmur of applause ran round the admiring circle. Clearly Hiram Ranger was master there not by reason of money but because he was first in brain and in brawn; not because he could hire but because he could direct and do.
In the front rank of the ring of on-looking workmen stood a young man, tall as himself and like him in the outline of his strong features, especially like him in the fine curve of the prominent nose. But in dress and manner this young man was the opposite of the master workman now facing him in the dust and sweat of toil. He wore a fashionable suit of light gray tweed, a water-woven Panama with a wine-colored ribbon, a wine-colored scarf; several inches of wine-colored socks showed below his high-rolled, carefully creased trousers. There was a seal ring on the little finger of the left of a pair of large hands strong with the symmetrical strength which is got only at "polite" or useless exercise. Resting lightly between his lips was a big, expensive-looking Egyptian cigarette; the mingled odor of that and a delicate cologne scented the air. With a breeziness which a careful observer of the niceties of manner might have recognized as a disguise of nervousness, the young man advanced, extending his right hand.
"Hello, father!" said he, "I came to bring you home to lunch."
The master workman did not take the offered hand. After a quick glance of pride and pleasure which no father could have denied so manly and handsome a son, he eyed the young man with a look that bit into every one of his fashionable details. Presently he lifted his arm and pointed. The son followed the direction of that long, strong, useful-looking forefinger, until his gaze rested upon a sign: "No Smoking"—big, black letters on a white background.
"Beg pardon," he stammered, flushing and throwing away the cigarette.
The father went to the smoking butt and set his foot upon it. The son's face became crimson; he had flung the cigarette among the shavings which littered the floor. "The scientists say a fire can't be lighted from burning tobacco," he said, with a vigorous effort to repair the rent in his surface of easy assurance.
The old man—if that adjective can be justly applied to one who had such strength and energy as his—made no reply. He strode toward the door, the son following, acute to the grins and winks the workmen were exchanging behind his back. The father opened the shut street door of the cooperage, and, when the son came up, pointed to the big, white letters: "No Admittance. Apply at the Office."
"How did you get in here?" he asked.
"I called in at the window and ordered one of the men to open the door," explained the son.
"Ordered." The father merely repeated the word.
"Requested, then," said the son, feeling that he was displaying praiseworthy patience with "the governor's" eccentricities.
The son indicated a man who was taking a dinner pail from under a bench at the nearest window. The father called to him: "Jerry!" Jerry came quickly.
"Why did you let this young—young gentleman in among us?"
"I saw it was Mr. Arthur," began Jerry.
"Then you saw it was not anyone who has any business here. Who gave you authority to suspend the rules of this factory?"
"Don't, father!" protested Arthur. "You certainly can't blame him. He knew I'd make trouble if he didn't obey."
"He knew nothing of the sort," replied Hiram Ranger. "I haven't been dealing with men for fifty years—However, next time you'll know what to do, Jerry."
"He warned me it was against the rules," interjected Arthur.
A triumphant smile gleamed in the father's eyes at this vindication of the discipline of the mills. "Then he knew he was doing wrong. He must be fined. You can pay the fine, young gentleman—if you wish."
"Certainly," murmured Arthur. "And now, let's go to lunch."
"To dinner," corrected the father; "your mother and I have dinner in the middle of the day, not lunch."
"To dinner, then. Anything you please, pa, only let's go."
When they were at the office and the father was about to enter the inner room to change his clothes, he wheeled and said: "Why ain't you at Harvard, passing your examinations?"
Arthur's hands contracted and his eyes shifted; in a tone to which repression gave a seeming lightness, he announced: "The exams, are over. I've been plucked."
The slang was new to Hiram Ranger, but he understood. In important matters his fixed habit was never to speak until he had thought well; without a word he turned and, with a heaviness that was new in his movements, went into the dressing room. The young man drew a cautious but profound breath of relief—the confession he had been dreading was over; his father knew the worst. "If the governor only knew the world better," he said to himself, "he'd know that at every college the best fellows always skate along the edge of the thin ice. But he doesn't, and so he thinks he's disgraced." He lit another cigarette by way of consolation and clarification.
When the father reappeared, dressed for the street, he was apparently unconscious of the cigarette. They walked home in silence—a striking-looking pair, with their great similar forms and their handsome similar faces, typical impersonations of the first generation that is sowing in labor, and the second generation that is reaping in idleness.
"Oh!" exclaimed Arthur, as they entered the Ranger place and began to ascend the stone walk through the lawns sloping down from the big, substantial-looking, creeper-clad house. "I stopped at Cleveland half a day, on the way West, and brought Adelaide along." He said this with elaborate carelessness; in fact, he had begged her to come that she might once more take her familiar and highly successful part of buffer between him and his father's displeasure.
The father's head lifted, and the cloud over his face also. "How is she?" he asked. "Bang up!" answered Arthur. "She's the sort of a sister a man's proud of—looks and style, and the gait of a thoroughbred." He interrupted himself with a laugh. "There she is, now!" he exclaimed.
This was caused by the appearance, in the open front doors, of a strange creature with a bright pink ribbon arranged as a sort of cockade around and above its left ear—a brown, hairy, unclean-looking thing that gazed with human inquisitiveness at the approaching figures. As the elder Ranger drew down his eyebrows the creature gave a squeak of alarm and, dropping from a sitting position to all fours, wheeled and shambled swiftly along the wide hall, walking human fashion with its hind feet, dog fashion with its fore feet or arms.
At first sight of this apparition Ranger halted. He stared with an expression so astounded that Arthur laughed outright.
"What was that?" he now demanded.
"Simeon," replied Arthur. "Del has taken on a monk. It's the latest fad."
"Oh!" ejaculated Ranger. "Simeon."
"She named it after grandfather—and there is a—" Arthur stopped short. He remembered that "Simeon" was his father's father; perhaps his father might not see the joke. "That is," he explained, "she was looking for a name, and I thought of 'simian,' naturally, and that, of course, suggested 'Simeon'—and—"
"That'll do," said Hiram, in a tone of ominous calm which his family knew was the signal that a subject must be dropped.
Now there was a quick froufrou of skirts, and from the sitting room to the left darted a handsome, fair girl of nineteen, beautifully dressed in a gray summer silk with simple but effectively placed bands of pink embroidery on blouse and skirt. As she bounded down the steps and into her father's arms her flying skirts revealed a pair of long, narrow feet in stylish gray shoes and gray silk stockings exactly matching the rest of her costume. "Daddy! Daddy!" she cried.
His arms were trembling as they clasped her—were trembling with the emotion that surged into her eyes in the more obvious but less significant form of tears. "Glad to see you, Delia," was all he said.
She put her slim white forefinger on his lips.
He smiled. "Oh! I forgot. You're Adelaide, of course, since you've grown up."
"Why call me out of my name?" she demanded, gayly. "You should have christened me Delia if you had wanted me named that."
"I'll try to remember, next time," he said, meekly. His gray eyes were dancing and twinkling like sunbeams pouring from breaches in a spent storm-cloud; there was an eloquence of pleasure far beyond laughter's in the rare, infrequent eye smiles from his sober, strong face.
Now there was a squeaking and chattering behind them. Adelaide whirled free of her father's arms and caught up the monkey. "Put out your hand, sir," said she, and she kissed him. Her father shuddered, so awful was the contrast between the wizened, dirty-brown face and her roselike skin and fresh fairness. "Put out your hand and bow, sir," she went on. "This is Mr. Hiram Ranger, Mr. Simeon. Mr. Simeon, Mr. Ranger; Mr. Ranger, Mr. Simeon."
Hiram, wondering at his own weakness, awkwardly took the paw so uncannily like a mummied hand. "What did you do this for, Adelaide?" said he, in a tone of mild remonstrance where he had intended to be firm.
"He's so fascinating, I couldn't resist. He's so wonderfully human—"
"That's it," said her father; "so—so—"
"Loathsomely human," interjected Arthur.
"Loathsome," said the father.
"That impression soon wears off," assured Adelaide, "and he's just like a human being as company. I'd be bored to death if I didn't have him. He gives me an occupation."
At this the cloud settled on Ranger's face again—a cloud of sadness. An occupation!
Simeon hid his face in Adelaide's shoulder and began to whimper. She patted him softly. "How can you be so cruel?" she reproached her father. "He has feelings almost like a human being."
Ranger winced. Had the daughter not been so busy consoling her unhappy pet, the father's expression might have suggested to her that there was, not distant from her, a being who had feelings, not almost, but quite human, and who might afford an occupation for an occupation-hunting young woman which might make love and care for a monkey superfluous. But he said nothing. He noted that the monkey's ribbon exactly matched the embroidery on Adelaide's dress.
"If he were a dog or a cat, you wouldn't mind," she went on.
True enough! Clearly, he was unreasonable with her.
"Do you want me to send him away?"
"I'll get used to him, I reckon," replied Hiram, adding, with a faint gleam of sarcasm, "I've got used to a great many things these last few years."
They went silently into the house, Adelaide and Arthur feeling that their father had quite unreasonably put a damper upon their spirits—a feeling which he himself had. He felt that he was right, and he was puzzled to find himself, even in his own mind, in the wrong.
"He's hopelessly old-fashioned!" murmured Arthur to his sister.
"Yes, but such a dear," murmured Adelaide.
"No wonder you say that!" was his retort. "You wind him round your finger."
In the sitting room—the "back parlor"—Mrs. Ranger descended upon them from the direction of the kitchen. Ellen was dressed for work; her old gingham, for all its neatness, was in as sharp contrast to her daughter's garb of the lady of leisure as were Hiram's mill clothes to his son's "London latest." "It's almost half-past twelve," she said. "Dinner's been ready more than half an hour. Mary's furious, and it's hard enough to keep servants in this town since the canning factories started."
Adelaide and Arthur laughed; Hiram smiled. They were all thoroughly familiar with that canning-factory theme. It constituted the chief feature of the servant problem in Saint X, as everybody called St. Christopher; and the servant problem there, as everywhere else, was the chief feature of domestic economy. As Mrs. Ranger's mind was concentrated upon her household, the canning factories were under fire from her early and late, in season and out of season.
"And she's got to wait on the table, too," continued Ellen, too interested in reviewing her troubles to mind the amusement of the rest of the family.
"Why, where's the new girl Jarvis brought you?" asked Hiram.
"She came from way back in the country, and, when she set the table, she fixed five places. 'There's only four of us, Barbara,' said I. 'Yes, Mrs. Ranger,' says she, 'four and me.' 'But how're you going to wait on the table and sit with us?' says I, very kindly, for I step mighty soft with those people. 'Oh, I don't mind bouncin' up and down,' says she; 'I can chew as I walk round.' When I explained, she up and left in a huff. 'I'm as good as you are, Mrs. Ranger, I'd have you know,' she said, as she was going, just to set Mary afire; 'my father's an independent farmer, and I don't have to live out. I just thought I'd like to visit in town, and I'd heard your folks well spoke of. I'll get a place in the canning factory!' I wasn't sorry to have her go. You ought to have seen the way she set the table!"
"We'll have to get servants from the East," said Arthur. "They know their place a little better there. We can get some English that have just come over. They're the best—thoroughly respectful."
He did not see the glance his father shot at him from under his heavy eyebrows. But Adelaide did—she was expecting it. "Don't talk like a cad, Artie!" she said. "You know you don't think that way."
"Oh, of course, I don't admire that spirit—or lack of it," he replied. "But—what are you going to do? It's the flunkies or the Barbaras and Marys—or doing our own work."
To Hiram Ranger that seemed unanswerable, and his resentment against his son for expressing ideas for which he had utter contempt seemed unreasonable. Again reason put him in the wrong, though instinct was insisting that he was in the right.
"It's a pity people aren't contented in 'the station to which God has called them,' as the English prayer book says," continued Arthur, not catching sensitive Adelaide's warning frown.
"If your mother and I had been content," said Hiram, "you and Delia would be looking for places in the canning factory." The remark was doubly startling—for the repressed energy of its sarcasm, and because, as a rule, Hiram never joined in the discussions in the family circle.
They were at the table, all except Mrs. Ranger. She had disappeared in the direction of the kitchen and presently reappeared bearing a soup tureen, which she set down before her husband. "I don't dare ask Mary to wait on the table," said she. "If I did, she's just in the humor to up and light out, too; and your mother's got no hankering for hanging over a hot stove in this weather."
She transferred the pile of soup plates from the sideboard and seated herself. Her husband poured the soup, and the plates were passed from hand to hand until all were served. "If the Sandyses could see us now, Del," said Arthur.
"Or the Whitneys," suggested Adelaide, and both laughed as people laugh when they think the joke, or the best part of it, is a secret between themselves.
Nothing more was said until the soup was finished and Mrs. Ranger rose and began to remove the dishes. Adelaide, gazing at the table, her thoughts far away, became uneasy, stirred, looked up; she saw that the cause of her uneasiness was the eyes of her father fixed steadily upon her in a look which she could not immediately interpret. When he saw that he had her attention, he glanced significantly toward her mother, waiting upon them. "If the Sandyses or the Whitneys could see us now!" he said.
She reddened, pushed back her chair, and sprang up. "Oh, I never thought!" she exclaimed. "Sit down, mother, and let me do that. You and father have got us into awful bad ways, always indulging us and waiting on us."
"You let me alone," replied her mother. "I'm used to it. I did my own work for fifteen years after we were married, and I'd have been doing it yet if your father hadn't just gone out and got a girl and brought her in and set her to work. No; sit down, Del. You don't know anything about work. I didn't bring you up to be a household drudge."
But Del was on her way to the kitchen, whence she presently reappeared with a platter and a vegetable dish. Down the front of her skirt was a streak of grease. "There!" exclaimed Mrs. Ranger, coloring high with exasperation, "your dress is spoiled! I don't believe I can take it out of that kind of goods without leaving a spot. Hiram, I do wish you wouldn't meddle with the children! It seems to me you've got enough to do to 'tend your own affairs at the mill."
This was unanswerable, or so it seemed to her husband. Once more he felt in the wrong, when he knew that, somehow, he was in the right.
But Adelaide was laughing and going forward gracefully with her duties as waitress. "It's nothing," she said; "the stain will come out; and, if it doesn't, there's no harm done. The dress is an old thing. I've worn it until everybody's sick of the sight of it."
Mrs. Ranger now took her turn at looking disapproval. She exclaimed: "Why, the dress is as good as new; much too good to travel in. You ought to have worn a linen duster over it on the train."
At this even Hiram showed keen amusement, and Mrs. Ranger herself joined in the laugh. "Well, it was a good, sensible fashion, anyhow," said she.
Instead of hurrying through dinner to get back to his work with the one o'clock whistle, Hiram Ranger lingered on, much to the astonishment of his family. When the faint sound of the whistles of the distant factories was borne to them through the open windows, Mrs. Ranger cried, "You'll be late, father."
"I'm in no hurry to-day," said Ranger, rousing from the seeming abstraction in which he passed most of his time with his assembled family. After dinner he seated himself on the front porch. Adelaide came up behind and put her arm round his neck. "You're not feeling well, daddy?"
"Not extra," he answered. "But it's nothing to bother about. I thought I'd rest a few minutes." He patted her in shy expression of gratitude for her little attention. It is not strange that Del overvalued the merit of these trivial attentions of hers when they were valued thus high by her father, who longed for proofs of affection and, because of his shyness and silence, got few.
"Hey, Del! Hurry up! Get into your hat and dust-coat!" was now heard, in Arthur's voice, from the drive to the left of the lawns.
Hiram's glance shifted to the direction of the sound. Arthur was perched high in a dogcart to which were attached two horses, one before the other. Adelaide did not like to leave her father with that expression on his face, but after a brief hesitation she went into the house. Hiram advanced slowly across the lawn toward the tandem. When he had inspected it in detail, at close range, he said: "Where'd you get it, young gentleman?" Again there was stress on the "gentleman."
"Oh, I've had it at Harvard several months," he replied carelessly. "I shipped it on. I sold the horses—got a smashing good price for 'em. Yours ain't used to tandem, but I guess I can manage 'em."
"That style of hitching's new to these parts," continued Hiram.
Arthur felt the queerness of his father's tone. "Two, side by side, or two, one in front of the other—where's the difference?"
True, reflected Hiram. He was wrong again—yet again unconvinced. Certainly the handsome son, so smartly gotten up, seated in this smart trap, did look attractive—but somehow not as he would have had his son look. Adelaide came; he helped her to the lower seat. As he watched them dash away, as fine-looking a pair of young people as ever gladdened a father's eye, this father's heart lifted with pride—but sank again. Everything seemed all right; why, then, did everything feel all wrong?
"I'm not well to-day," he muttered. He returned to the porch, walking heavily. In body and in mind he felt listless. There seemed to be something or some one inside him—a newcomer—aloof from all that he had regarded as himself—aloof from his family, from his work, from his own personality—an outsider, studying the whole perplexedly and gloomily.
As he was leaving the gate a truck entered the drive. It was loaded with trunks—his son's and his daughter's baggage on the way from the station. Hiram paused and counted the boxes—five huge trunks—Adelaide's beyond doubt; four smaller ones, six of steamer size and thereabouts—profuse and elegant Arthur's profuse and elegant array of canvas and leather. This mass of superfluity seemed to add itself to his burden. He recalled what his wife had once said when he hesitated over some new extravagance of the children's: "What'd we toil and save for, unless to give them a better time than we had? What's the use of our having money if they can't enjoy it?" A "better time," "enjoy"—they sounded all right, but were they really all right? Was this really a "better time"?—really enjoyment? Were his and his wife's life all wrong, except as they had contributed to this new life of thoughtless spending and useless activity and vanity and splurge?
Instead of going toward the factories, he turned east and presently out of Jefferson Street into Elm. He paused at a two-story brick house painted brown, with a small but brilliant and tasteful garden in front and down either side. To the right of the door was an unobtrusive black-and-gold sign bearing the words "Ferdinand Schulze, M.D." He rang, was admitted by a pretty, plump, Saxon-blond young woman—the doctor's younger daughter and housekeeper. She looked freshly clean and wholesome—and so useful! Hiram's eyes rested upon her approvingly; and often afterwards his thoughts returned to her, lingering upon her and his own daughter in that sort of vague comparisons which we would not entertain were we aware of them.
Dr. Schulze was the most distinguished—indeed, the only distinguished—physician in Saint X. He was a short, stout, grizzled, spectacled man, with a nose like a scarlet button and a mouth like a buttonhole; in speech he was abrupt, and, on the slightest pretext or no pretext at all, sharp; he hid a warm sympathy for human nature, especially for its weaknesses, behind an uncompromising candor which he regarded as the duty of the man of science toward a vain and deluded race that knew little and learned reluctantly. A man is either better or worse than the manner he chooses for purposes of conciliating or defying the world. Dr. Schulze was better, as much better as his mind was superior to his body. He and his motherless daughters were "not in it" socially. Saint X was not quite certain whether it shunned them or they it. His services were sought only in extremities, partly because he would lie to his patients neither when he knew what ailed them nor when he did not, and partly because he was a militant infidel. He lost no opportunity to attack religion in all its forms; and his two daughters let no opportunity escape to show that they stood with their father, whom they adored, and who had brought them up with his heart. It was Dr. Schulze's furious unbelief, investing him with a certain suggestion of Satan-got intelligence, that attracted Saint X to him in serious illnesses—somewhat as the Christian princes of mediaeval Europe tolerated and believed in the Jew physicians. Saint X was only just reaching the stage at which it could listen to "higher criticism" without dread lest the talk should be interrupted by a bolt from "special Providence"; the fact that Schulze lived on, believing and talking as he did, could be explained only as miraculous and mysterious forbearance in which Satan must somehow have direct part.
"I didn't expect to see you for many a year yet," said Schulze, as Hiram, standing, faced him sitting at his desk.
The master workman grew still more pallid as he heard the thought that weighted him in secret thus put into words. "I have never had a doctor before in my life," said he. "My prescription has been, when you feel badly stop eating and work harder."
"Starve and sweat—none better," said Schulze. "Well, why do you come here to-day?"
"This morning I lifted a rather heavy weight. I've felt a kind of tiredness ever since, and a pain in the lower part of my back—pretty bad. I can't understand it."
"But I can—that's my business. Take off your clothes and stretch yourself on this chair. Call me when you're ready."
Schulze withdrew into what smelled like a laboratory. Hiram could hear him rattling glass against glass and metal, could smell the fumes of uncorked bottles of acids. When he called, Schulze reappeared, disposed instruments and tubes upon a table. "I never ask my patients questions," he said, as he began to examine Hiram's chest. "I lay 'em out here and go over 'em inch by inch. I find all the weak spots, both those that are crying out and those worse ones that don't. I never ask a man what's the matter; I tell him. And my patients, and all the fools in this town, think I'm in league with the devil. A doctor who finds out what's the matter with a man Providence is trying to lay in the grave—what can it be but the devil?"
He had reached his subject; as he worked he talked it—religion, its folly, its silliness, its cruelty, its ignorance, its viciousness. Hiram listened without hearing; he was absorbed in observing the diagnosis. He knew nothing of medicine, but he did know good workmanship. As the physician worked, his admiration and confidence grew. He began to feel better—not physically better, but that mental relief which a courageous man feels when the peril he is facing is stripped of the mystery that made it a terror. After perhaps three quarters of an hour, Schulze withdrew to the laboratory, saying: "That's all. You may dress."
Hiram dressed, seated himself. By chance he was opposite a huge image from the Orient, a hideous, twisted thing with a countenance of sardonic sagacity. As he looked he began to see perverse, insidious resemblances to the physician himself. When Schulze reappeared and busied himself writing, he looked from the stone face to the face of flesh with fascinated repulsion—the man and the "familiar" were so ghastly alike. Then he suddenly understood that this was a quaint double jest of the eccentric physician's—his grim fling at his lack of physical charm, his ironic jeer at the superstitions of Saint X.
"There!" said Schulze, looking up. "That's the best I can do for you."
"What's the matter with me?"
"You wouldn't know if I told you."
"Is it serious?"
"In this world everything is serious—and nothing."
"Will I die?"
Schulze slowly surveyed all Hiram's outward signs of majesty that had been denied his own majestic intellect, noted the tremendous figure, the shoulders, the forehead, the massive brow and nose and chin—an ensemble of unabused power, the handiwork of Nature at her best, a creation worth while, worth preserving intact and immortal.
"Yes," he answered, with satiric bitterness; "you will have to die, and rot, just like the rest of us."
"Tell me!" Hiram commanded. "Will I die soon?"
Schulze reflected, rubbing his red-button nose with his stubby fingers. When he spoke, his voice had a sad gentleness. "You can bear hearing it. You have the right to know." He leaned back, paused, said in a low tone: "Put your house in order, Mr. Ranger."
Hiram's steadfast gray eyes met bravely the eyes of the man who had just read him his death warrant. A long pause; then Hiram said "Thank you," in his quiet, calm way.
He took the prescriptions, went out into the street. It looked strange to him; he felt like a stranger in that town where he had spent half a century—felt like a temporary tenant of that vast, strong body of his which until now had seemed himself. And he—or was it the stranger within him?—kept repeating: "Put your house in order. Put your house in order."
OF SOMEBODIES AND NOBODIES
At the second turning Arthur rounded the tandem out of Jefferson Street into Willow with a skill that delighted both him and his sister. "But why go that way?" said she. "Why not through Monroe street? I'm sure the horses would behave."
"Better not risk it," replied Arthur, showing that he, too, had had, but had rejected, the temptation to parade the crowded part of town. "Even if the horses didn't act up, the people might, they're such jays."
Adelaide's estimate of what she and her brother had acquired in the East was as high as was his, and she had the same unflattering opinion of those who lacked it. But it ruffled her to hear him call the home folks jays—just as it would have ruffled him had she been the one to make the slighting remark. "If you invite people's opinion," said she, "you've no right to sneer at them because they don't say what you wanted."
"But I'm not driving for show if you are," he retorted, with a testiness that was confession.
"Don't be silly," was her answer. "You know you wouldn't take all this trouble on a desert island."
"Of course not," he admitted, "but I don't care for the opinion of any but those capable of appreciating."
"And those capable of appreciating are only those who approve," teased Adelaide. "Why drive tandem among these 'jays?'"
"To keep my hand in," replied he; and his adroit escape restored his good humor.
"I wish I were as free from vanity as you are, Arthur, dear," said she.
"You're just as fond of making a sensation as I am," replied he. "And, my eye, Del! but you do know how." This with an admiring glance at her most becoming hat with its great, gracefully draped chiffon veil, and at her dazzling white dust-coat with its deep blue facings that matched her eyes.
She laughed. "Just wait till you see my new dresses—and hats."
"Another shock for your poor father."
"Shock of joy."
"Yes," assented Arthur, rather glumly; "he'll take anything off you. But when I—"
"It's no compliment to me," she cut in, the prompter to admit the truth because it would make him feel better. "He thinks I'm 'only a woman,' fit for nothing but to look pretty as long as I'm a girl, and then to devote myself to a husband and children, without any life or even ideas of my own."
"Mother always seems cheerful enough," said Arthur. His content with the changed conditions which the prosperity and easy-going generosity of the elder generation were making for the younger generation ended at his own sex. The new woman—idle and frivolous, ignorant of all useful things, fit only for the show side of life and caring only for it, discontented with everybody but her own selfish self—Arthur had a reputation among his friends for his gloomy view of the American woman and for his courage in expressing it.
"You are so narrow-minded, Artie!" his sister exclaimed impatiently. "Mother was brought up very differently from the way she and father have brought me up—"
"Have let you bring yourself up."
"No matter; I am different."
"But what would you do? What can a woman do?"
"I don't know," she admitted. "But I do know I hate a humdrum life." There was the glint of the Ranger will in her eyes as she added: "Furthermore, I shan't stand for it."
He looked at her enviously. "You'll be free in another year," he said. "You and Ross Whitney will marry, and you'll have a big house in Chicago and can do what you please and go where you please."
"Not if Ross should turn out to be the sort of man you are."
He laughed. "I can see Ross—or any man—trying to manage you! You've got too much of father in you."
"But I'll be dependent until—" Adelaide paused, then added a satisfactorily vague, "for a long time. Father won't give me anything. How furious he'd be at the very suggestion of dowry. Parents out here don't appreciate that conditions have changed and that it's necessary nowadays for a woman to be independent of her husband."
Arthur compressed his lips, to help him refrain from comment. But he felt so strongly on the subject that he couldn't let her remarks pass unchallenged. "I don't know about that, Del," he said. "It depends on the woman. Personally, I'd hate to be married to a woman I couldn't control if necessary."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," cried Del, indignant. "Is that your idea of control—to make a woman mercenary and hypocritical? You'd better change your way of thinking if you don't want Janet to be very unhappy, and yourself, too."
"That sounds well," he retorted, "but you know better. Take our case, for instance. Is it altogether love and affection that make us so cautious about offending father?"
"Speak for yourself," said Adelaide. "I'm not cautious."
"Do try to argue fair, even if you are a woman. You're as cautious in your way as I am in mine."
Adelaide felt that he was offended, and justly. "I didn't mean quite what I said, Artie. You are cautious, in a way, and sometimes. But often you're reckless. I'm frightened every once in a while by it, and I'm haunted by the dread that there'll be a collision between father and you. You're so much alike, and you understand each other less and less, all the time."
After a silence Arthur said, thoughtfully: "I think I understand him. There are two distinct persons inside of me. There's the one that was made by inheritance and by my surroundings as a boy—the one that's like him, the one that enables me to understand him. Then, there's this other that's been made since—in the East, and going round among people that either never knew the sort of life we had as children or have grown away from it. The problem is how to reconcile those two persons so that they'll stop wrangling and shaming each other. That's my problem, I mean. Father's problem—He doesn't know he has one. I must do as he wishes or I'll not be at all, so far as he is concerned."
Another and longer silence; then Adelaide, after an uneasy, affectionate look at his serious profile, said: "I'm often ashamed of myself, Artie—about father; I don't think I'm a hypocrite, for I do love him dearly. Who could help it, when he is so indulgent and when even in his anger he's kind? But you—Oh, Artie, even though you are less, much less, uncandid with him than I am, still isn't it more—more—less manly in you? After all, I'm a woman and helpless; and, if I seriously offend him, what would become of me? But you're a man. The world was made for men; they can make their own way. And it seems unworthy of you to be afraid to be yourself before anybody. And I'm sure it's demoralizing."
She spoke so sincerely that he could not have resented it, even had her words raised a far feebler echo within him. "I don't honestly believe, Del, that my caution with father is from fear of his shutting down on me, any more than yours is," he replied. "I know he cares for me. And often I don't let him see me as I am simply because it'd hurt him if he knew how differently I think and feel about a lot of things."
"But are you right?—or is he?"
Arthur did not answer immediately. He had forgotten his horses; they were jogging along, heads down and "form" gone. "What do you think?" he finally asked.
"I—I can't quite make up my mind."
"Do you think I ought to drudge and slave, as he has? Do you think I ought to spend my life in making money, in dealing in flour? Isn't there something better than that?"
"I don't think it's what a man deals in; I think it's how he deals. And I don't believe there's any sort of man finer and better than father, Arthur."
"That's true," he assented warmly. "I used to envy the boys at college—some of them—because their fathers and mothers had so much culture and knowledge of the world. But when I came to know their parents better—and them, too—I saw how really ignorant and vulgar—yes, vulgar—they were, under their veneer of talk and manner which they thought was everything. 'They may be fit to stand before kings' I said to myself, 'but my father is a king—and of a sort they ain't fit to stand before.'"
The color was high in Del's cheeks and her eyes were brilliant. "You'll come out all right, Artie," said she. "I don't know just how, but you'll do something, and do it well."
"I'd much rather do nothing—well," said he lightly, as if not sure whether he was in earnest or not. "It's so much nicer to dream than to do." He looked at her with good-humored satire. "And you—what's the matter with your practising some of the things you preach? Why don't you marry—say, Dory Hargrave, instead of Ross?"
She made a failure of a stout attempt to meet his eyes and to smile easily. "Because I don't love Dory Hargrave," she said.
"But you wouldn't let yourself if you could—would you, now?"
"It's a poor love that lags for let," she replied. "Besides, why talk about me? I'm 'only a woman.' I haven't any career, or any chance to make one."
"But you might help some man," he teased.
"Then you'd like me to marry Dory—if I could?"
"I'm just showing you how vain your theorizing is," was his not altogether frank reply. "You urge me to despise money when you yourself—"
"That isn't fair, Arthur. If I didn't care for Ross I shouldn't think of marrying him, and you know it."
"He's so like father!" mocked Arthur.
"No, but he's so like you," she retorted. "You know he was your ideal for years. It was your praising him that—that first made me glad to do as father and mother wished. You know father approves of him."
Arthur grinned, and Del colored. "A lot father knows about Ross as he really is," said he. "Oh, he's clever about what he lets father see. However, you do admit there's some other ideal of man than successful workingman."
"Of course!" said Adelaide. "I'm not so silly and narrow as you try to make out. Only, I prefer a combination of the two. And I think Ross is that, and I hope and believe he'll be more so—afterwards."
Adelaide's tone was so judicial that Arthur thought it discreet not to discuss his friend and future brother-in-law further. "He isn't good enough for Del," he said to himself. "But, then, who is? And he'll help her to the sort of setting she's best fitted for. What side they'll put on, once they get going! She'll set a new pace—and it'll be a grand one."
At the top of the last curve in the steep road up from Deer Creek the horses halted of themselves to rest; Arthur and his sister gazed out upon the vast, dreamy vision—miles on miles of winding river shimmering through its veil of silver mist, stately hills draped in gauziest blue. It was such uplifting vistas that inspired the human imagination, in the days of its youth, to breathe a soul into the universe and make it a living thing, palpitant with love and hope; it was an outlook that would have moved the narrowest, the smallest, to think in the wide and the large. Wherever the hills were not based close to the water's edge or rose less abruptly, there were cultivated fields; and in each field, far or near, men were at work. These broad-hatted, blue-shirted toilers in the ardent sun determined the turn of Adelaide's thoughts.
"It doesn't seem right, does it," said she, "that so many—almost everybody—should have to work so hard just to get enough to eat and to wear and a place to sleep, when there's so much of everything in the world—and when a few like us don't have to work at all and have much more than they need, simply because one happened to be born in such or such conditions. I suppose it's got to be so, but it certainly looks unjust—and silly."
"I'm not sure the workers haven't the best of it," replied Arthur. "They have the dinner; we have only the dessert; and I guess one gets tired of only desserts, no matter how great the variety."
"It's a stupid world in lots of ways, isn't it?"
"Not so stupid as it used to be, when everybody said and thought it was as good as possible," replied he. "You see, it's the people in the world that make it stupid. For instance, do you suppose you and I, or anybody, would care for idling about and doing all sorts of things our better judgment tells us are inane, if it weren't that most of our fellow-beings are stupid enough to admire and envy that sort of thing, and that we are stupid enough to want to be admired and envied by stupid people?"
"Did you notice the Sandys's English butler?" asked Adelaide.
"Did I? I'll bet he keeps every one in the Sandys family up to the mark."
"That's it," continued Adelaide. "He's a poor creature, dumb and ignorant. He knows only one thing—snobbishness. Yet every one of us was in terror of his opinion. No doubt kings feel the same way about the people around them. Always what's expected of us—and by whom? Why, by people who have little sense and less knowledge. They run the world, don't they?"
"As Dory Hargrave says," said her brother, "the only scheme for making things better that's worth talking about is raising the standards of the masses because their standards are ours. We'll be fools and unjust as long as they'll let us. And they'll let us as long as they're ignorant."
By inheritance Arthur and Adelaide had excellent minds, shrewd and with that cast of humor which makes for justice of judgment by mocking at the solemn frauds of interest and prejudice. But, as is often the case with the children of the rich and the well-to-do, there had been no necessity for either to use intellect; their parents and hirelings of various degrees, paid with their father's generously given money, had done their thinking for them. The whole of animate creation is as lazy as it dares be, and man is no exception. Thus, the Ranger children, like all other normal children of luxury, rarely made what would have been, for their fallow minds, the arduous exertion of real thinking. When their minds were not on pastimes or personalities they were either rattling round in their heads or exchanging the ideas, real and reputed, that happened to be drifting about, at the moment, in their "set." Those ideas they and their friends received, and stored up or passed on with never a thought as to whether they were true or false, much as they used coins or notes they took in and paid out. Arthur and Adelaide soon wearied of their groping about in the mystery of human society—how little direct interest it had for them then! They drove on; the vision which had stimulated them to think vanished; they took up again those personalities about friends, acquaintances and social life that are to thinking somewhat as massage is to exercise—all the motions of real activity, but none of its spirit. They stopped for two calls and tea on the fashionable Bluffs.
When they reached home, content with tandem, drive, themselves, their friends, and life in general, they found Hiram Ranger returned from work, though it was only half-past five, and stretched on the sofa in the sitting room, with his eyes shut. At this unprecedented spectacle of inactivity they looked at each other in vague alarm; they were stealing away, when he called: "I'm not asleep."
His expression made Adelaide impulsively kneel beside him and gaze anxiously into his face. He smiled, roused himself to a sitting posture, well concealing the effort the exertion cost him.
"Your father's getting old," he said, hiding his tragedy of aching body and aching heart and impending doom in a hypocrisy of cheerfulness that would have passed muster even had he not been above suspicion. "I'm not up to the mark of the last generation. Your grandfather was fifty when I was born, and he didn't die till I was fifty."
His face shadowed; Adelaide, glancing round for the cause, saw Simeon, half-sitting, half-standing in the doorway, humble apology on his weazened, whiskered face. He looked so like her memory-picture of her grandfather that she burst out laughing. "Don't be hard on the poor old gentleman, father," she cried. "How can you resist that appeal? Tell him to come in and make himself at home."
As her father did not answer, she glanced at him. He had not heard her; he was staring straight ahead with an expression of fathomless melancholy. The smile faded from her face, from her heart, as the light fades before the oncoming shadow of night. Presently he was absent-mindedly but tenderly stroking her hair, as if he were thinking of her so intensely that he had become unconscious of her physical presence. The apparition of Simeon had set him to gathering in gloomy assembly a vast number of circumstances about his two children; each circumstance was so trivial in itself that by itself it seemed foolishly inconsequential; yet, in the mass, they bore upon his heart, upon his conscience, so heavily that his very shoulders stooped with the weight. "Put your house in order," the newcomer within him was solemnly warning; and Hiram was puzzling over his meaning, was dreading what that meaning might presently reveal itself to be. "Put my house in order?" muttered Hiram, an inquiring echo of that voice within.
"What did you say, father?" asked Adelaide, timidly laying her hand on his arm. Though she knew he was simple, she felt the vastness in him that was awe-inspiring—just as a mountain or an ocean, a mere aggregation of simple matter, is in the total majestic and incomprehensible. Beside him, the complex little individualities among her acquaintances seemed like the acrostics of a children's puzzle column.
"Leave me with your brother awhile," he said.
She glanced quickly, furtively at Arthur and admired his self-possession—for she knew his heart must be heavier than her own. She rose from her knees, laid her hand lingeringly, appealingly upon her father's broad shoulder, then slowly left the room. Simeon, forgotten, looked up at her and scratched his head; he turned in behind her, caught the edge of her skirt and bore it like a queen's page.
The son watched the father, whose powerful features were set in an expression that seemed stern only because his eyes were hid, gazing steadily at the floor. It was the father who broke the silence. "What do you calculate to do—now?"
"Tutor this summer and have another go at those exams in September. I'll have no trouble in rejoining my class. I sailed just a little too close to the wind—that's all."
"What does that mean?" inquired the father. College was a mystery to him, a deeply respected mystery. He had been the youngest of four sons. Their mother's dream was the dream of all the mothers of those pioneer and frontier days—to send her sons to college. Each son in turn had, with her assistance, tried to get together the sum—so small, yet so hugely large—necessary to make the start. But fate, now as sickness, now as crop failure, now as flood, and again as war, had been too strong for them. Hiram had come nearest, and his defeat had broken his mother's heart and almost broken his own. It was therefore with a sense of prying into hallowed mysteries that he began to investigate his son's college career.
"Well, you know," Arthur proceeded to explain; "there are five grades—A, B, C, D, and E. I aimed for C, but several things came up—interfered—and I—just missed D."
"Is C the highest?"
Arthur smiled faintly. "Well—not in one sense. It's what's called the gentleman's grade. All the fellows that are the right sort are in it—or in D."
"And what did you get?"
"I got E. That means I have to try again."
Hiram began to understand. So this was the hallowed mystery of higher education. He was sitting motionless, his elbows on his knees, his big chest and shoulders inclined forward, his gaze fixed upon a wreath of red roses in the pattern of the moquette carpet—that carpet upon which Adelaide, backed by Arthur, had waged vain war as the worst of the many, to cultured nerves, trying exhibitions of "primitive taste" in Ellen's best rooms. When Hiram spoke his lips barely opened and his voice had no expression. His next question was: "What does A mean?"
"The A men are those that keep their noses in their books. They're a narrow set—have no ideas—think the book side is the only side of a college education."
"Then you don't go to college to learn what's in the books?"
"Oh, of course, the books are part of it. But the real thing is association—the friendships one makes, the knowledge of human nature and of—of life."
"What does that mean?"
Arthur had been answering Hiram's questions in a flurry, though he had been glib enough. He had had no fear that his father would appreciate that he was getting half-truths, or, rather, truths prepared skillfully for paternal consumption; his flurry had come from a sense that he was himself not doing quite the manly, the courageous thing. Now, however, something in the tone of the last question, or, perhaps, some element that was lacking, roused in him a suspicion of depth in his simple unworldly father; and swift upon this awakening came a realization that he was floundering in that depth—and in grave danger of submersion. He shifted nervously when his father, without looking up and without putting any expression into his voice, repeated: "What do you mean by associations—and life—and—all that?"
"I can't explain exactly," replied Arthur. "It would take a long time."
"I haven't asked you to be brief."
"I can't put it into words."
"You would misunderstand."
Arthur made no reply.
"Then you can't tell me what you go to college for?"
Again the young man looked perplexedly at his father. There was no anger in that tone—no emotion of any kind. But what was the meaning of the look, the look of a sorrow that was tragic?
"I know you think I've disgraced you, father, and myself," said Arthur. "But it isn't so—really, it isn't. No one, not even the faculty, thinks the less of me. This sort of thing often occurs in our set."
"Among the fellows I travel with. They're the nicest men in Harvard. They're in all the best clubs—and lead in supporting the athletics and—and—their fathers are among the richest, the most distinguished men in the country. There are only about twenty or thirty of us, and we make the pace for the whole show—the whole university, I mean. Everybody admires and envies us—wants to be in our set. Even the grinds look up to us, and imitate us as far as they can. We give the tone to the university!"
"What is 'the tone'?"
Again Arthur shifted uneasily. "It's hard to explain that sort of thing. It's a sort of—of manner. It's knowing how to do the—the right sort of thing."
"What is the right sort of thing?"
"I can't put it into words. It's what makes you look at one man and say, 'He's a gentleman'; and look at another and see that he isn't."
"What is a 'gentleman'—at Harvard?"
"Just what it is anywhere."
"What is it anywhere?"
Again Arthur was silent.
"Then there are only twenty or thirty gentlemen at Harvard? And the catalogue says there are three thousand or more students."
"Oh—of course," began Arthur. But he stopped short.
How could he make his father, ignorant of "the world" and dominated by primitive ideas, understand the Harvard ideal? So subtle and evanescent, so much a matter of the most delicate shadings was this ideal that he himself often found the distinction quite hazy between it and that which looked disquietingly like "tommy rot."
"And these gentlemen—these here friends of yours—your 'set,' as you call 'em—what are they aiming for?"
Arthur did not answer. It would be hopeless to try to make Hiram Ranger understand, still less tolerate, an ideal of life that was elegant leisure, the patronage of literature and art, music, the drama, the turf, and the pursuit of culture and polite extravagance, wholly aloof from the frenzied and vulgar jostling of the market place.
With a mighty heave of the shoulders which, if it had found outward relief, would have been a sigh, Hiram Ranger advanced to the hard part of the first task which the mandate, "Put your house in order," had set for him. He took from the inside pocket of his coat a small bundle of papers, the records of Arthur's college expenses. The idea of accounts with his children had been abhorrent to him. The absolute necessity of business method had forced him to make some records, and these he had expected to destroy without anyone but himself knowing of their existence. But in the new circumstances he felt he must not let his own false shame push the young man still farther from the right course. Arthur watched him open each paper in the bundle slowly, spread it out and, to put off the hateful moment for speech, pretend to peruse it deliberately before laying it on his knee; and, dim though the boy's conception of his father was, he did not misjudge the feelings behind that painful reluctance. Hiram held the last paper in a hand that trembled. He coughed, made several attempts to speak, finally began: "Your first year at Harvard, you spent seventeen hundred dollars. Your second year, you spent fifty-three hundred. Last year—Are all your bills in?"
"There are a few—" murmured Arthur.
He flushed hotly.
"Don't you know?" With this question his father lifted his eyes without lifting his shaggy eyebrows.
"About four or five thousand—in all—including the tailors and other tradespeople."
A pink spot appeared in the left cheek of the old man—very bright against the gray-white of his skin. Somehow, he did not like that word "tradespeople," though it seemed harmless enough. "This last year, the total was," said he, still monotonously, "ninety-eight hundred odd—if the bills I haven't got yet ain't more than five thousand."
"A dozen men spend several times that much," protested Arthur.
"What for?" inquired Hiram.
"Not for dissipation, father," replied the young man, eagerly. "Dissipation is considered bad form in our set."
"What do you mean by dissipation?"
"Drinking—and—all that sort of thing," Arthur replied. "It's considered ungentlemanly, nowadays—drinking to excess, I mean."
"What do you spend the money for?"
"For good quarters and pictures, and patronizing the sports, and club dues, and entertainments, and things to drive in—for living as a man should."
"You've spent a thousand, three hundred dollars for tutoring since you've been there."
"Everybody has to do tutoring—more or less."
"What did you do with the money you made?"
"What money, father?"
"The money you made tutoring. You said everybody had to do tutoring. I suppose you did your share."
Arthur did not smile at this "ignorance of the world"; he grew red, and stammered: "Oh, I meant everybody in our set employs tutors."
"Then who does the tutoring? Who're the nobodies that tutor the everybodies?"
Arthur grew cold, then hot. He was cornered, therefore roused. He stood, leaned against the table, faced his father defiantly. "I see what you're driving at, father," he said. "You feel I've wasted time and money at college, because I haven't lived like a dog and grubbed in books day in and day out, and filled my head with musty stuff; because I've tried to get what I believe to be the broadest knowledge and experience; because I've associated with the best men, the fellows that come from the good families. You accept the bluff the faculty puts up of pretending the A fellows are really the A fellows, when, in fact, everybody there and all the graduates and everyone everywhere who knows the world knows that the fellows in our set are the ones the university is proud of—the fellows with manners and appearance and—"
"The gentlemen," interjected the father, who had not changed either his position or his expression.
"Yes—the gentlemen!" exclaimed Arthur. "There are other ideals of life besides buying and selling."
"And working?" suggested Hiram.
"Yes—and what you call working," retorted Arthur, angry through and through. "You sent me East to college to get the education of a man in my position."
"What is your position?" inquired Hiram—simply an inquiry.
"Your son," replied the young man; "trying to make the best use of the opportunities you've worked so hard to get for me. I'm not you, father. You'd despise me if I didn't have a character, an individuality, of my own. Yet, because I can't see life as you see it, you are angry with me."
For answer Hiram only heaved his great shoulders in another suppressed sigh. He knew profoundly that he was right, yet his son's plausibilities—they could only be plausibilities—put him clearly in the wrong. "We'll see," he said; "we'll see. You're wrong in thinking I'm angry, boy." He was looking at his son now, and his eyes made his son's passion vanish. He got up and went to the young man and laid his hand on his shoulder in a gesture of affection that moved the son the more profoundly because it was unprecedented. "If there's been any wrong done," said the old man—and he looked very, very old now—"I've done it. I'm to blame—not you."
A moment after Hiram left the room, Adelaide hurried in. A glance at her brother reassured her. They stood at the window watching their father as he walked up and down the garden, his hands behind his back, his shoulders stooped, his powerful head bent.
"Was he very angry?" asked Del.
"He wasn't angry at all," her brother replied. "I'd much rather he had been." Then, after a pause, he added: "I thought the trouble between us was that, while I understood him, he didn't understand me. Now I know that he has understood me but that I don't understand him"—and, after a pause—"or myself."
MRS. WHITNEY INTERVENES
As Hiram had always been silent and seemingly abstracted, no one but Ellen noted the radical change in him. She had brought up her children in the old-fashioned way—her thoughts, and usually her eyes, upon them all day, and one ear open all night. When she no longer had them to guard, she turned all this energy of solicitude to her husband; thus the passionate love of her youth was having a healthy, beautiful old age. The years of circumventing the easily roused restiveness of her spirited boy and girl had taught her craft; without seeming to be watching Hiram, no detail of his appearance or actions escaped her.
"There's mighty little your pa don't see," had been one of her stock observations to the children from their earliest days. "And you needn't flatter yourselves he don't care because he don't speak." Now she noted that from under his heavy brows his eyes were looking stealthily out, more minutely observant than ever before, and that what he saw either added to his sadness or took a color of sadness from his mood. She guessed that the actions of Adelaide and Arthur, so utterly different from the actions of the children of her and Hiram's young days—except those regarded by all worth-while people as "trifling and trashy"—had something to do with Hiram's gloom. She decided that Arthur's failure and his lightness of manner in face of it were the chief trouble—this until Hiram's shoulders began to stoop and hollows to appear in his cheeks and under his ears, and a waxlike pallor to overspread his face. Then she knew that he was not well physically; and, being a practical woman, she dismissed the mental causes of the change. "People talk a lot about their mental troubles," she said to herself, "but it's usually three-fourths stomach and liver."
As Hiram and illness, real illness, could not be associated in her mind, she gave the matter no importance until she heard him sigh heavily one night, after they had been in bed several hours. "What is it, father?" she asked.
There was no answer, but a return to an imitation of the regular breathing of a sleeper.
"Hiram," she insisted, "what is it?"
"Nothing, Ellen, nothing," he answered; "I must have ate something that don't sit quite right."
"You didn't take no supper at all," said she.
This reminded him how useless it was to try to deceive her. "I ain't been feeling well of late," he confessed, "but it'll soon be over." He did not see the double meaning of his words until he had uttered them; he stirred uneasily in his dread that she would suspect. "I went to the doctor."
"What did he say?—though I don't know why I should ask what such a fool as Milbury said about anything."
"I got some medicine," replied he, evading telling her what doctor.
Instantly she sat up in bed. "I haven't seen you take no drugs!" she exclaimed. Drugs were her especial abhorrence. She let no one in the family take any until she had passed upon them.
"I didn't want to make a fuss," he explained.
"Where is it?" she demanded, on the edge of the bed now, ready to rise.
"I'll show it to you in the morning, mother. Lie down and go to sleep. I've been awake long enough."
"Where is it?" she repeated, and he heard her moving across the room toward the gas fixture.
"In my vest pocket. It's a box of pills. You can't tell nothin' about it."
She lit the gas and went to his waistcoat, hanging where it always hung at night—on a hook beside the closet door. He watched her fumble through the pockets, watched her take her spectacles from the corner of the mantel and put them on, the bridge well down toward the end of her nose. A not at all romantic figure she made, standing beside the sputtering gas jet, her spectacles balanced on her nose, her thin neck and forearms exposed, and her old face studying the lid of the pill box held in her toil- and age-worn hands. The box dropped from her fingers and rolled along the floor. He saw an awful look slowly creep over her features as the terrible thought crept over her mind. As she began to turn her face toward him, with a motion of the head like that of a machine on unoiled bearings, he closed his eyes; but he felt her looking at him.
"Dr. Schulze!" she said, an almost soundless breathing of the name that always meant the last resort in mortal illness.
He was trying to think of lies to tell her, but he could think of nothing. The sense of light upon his eyelids ceased. He presently felt her slowly getting into bed. A pall-like silence; then upon his cheek, in long discontinued caress, a hand whose touch was as light and soft as the fall of a rose leaf—the hand of love that toil and age cannot make harsh, and her fingers were wet with her tears. Thus they lay in the darkness and silence, facing together the tragedy of the eternal separation.
"What did he say, dearest?" she asked. She had not used that word to him since the first baby came and they began to call each other "father" and "mother." All these years the children had been between them, and each had held the other important chiefly as related to them. Now it was as in their youth—just he and she, so close that only death could come between them.
"It's a long way off," said Hiram. He would not set ringing in her ears that knell which was clanging to him its solemn, incessant, menacing "Put your house in order!"
"Tell me what he said," she urged gently.
"He couldn't make out exactly. The medicine'll patch me up."
She did not insist—why fret him to confess what she knew the instant she read "Schulze" on the box? After an hour she heard him breathing as only a sleeper can breathe; but she watched on until morning. When they were dressing, each looked at the other furtively from time to time, a great tenderness in his eyes, and in hers the anguish of a dread that might not be spoken.
On the day after Mrs. Whitney's arrival for the summer, she descended in state from the hills to call upon the Rangers.
When the front bell rang Mrs. Ranger was in the kitchen—and was dressed for the kitchen. As the "girl" still had not been replaced she answered the door herself. In a gingham wrapper, with her glasses thrust up into her gray hair, she was facing a footman in livery.
"Are Mrs. Ranger and Miss Ranger at home?" asked he, mistaking her for a servant and eying her dishevelment with an expression which was not lost on her.
She smiled with heartiest good nature. "Yes, I'm here—I'm Mrs. Ranger," said she; and she looked beyond him to the victoria in which sat Mrs. Whitney. "How d'ye do, Matilda?" she called. "Come right in. As usual when the canneries are running, I'm my own upstairs girl. I reckon your young man here thinks I ought to discharge her and get one that's tidier."
"Your young man here" was stiffly touching the brim of his top hat and saying: "Beg parding, ma'am."
"Oh, that's all right," replied Mrs. Ranger; "I am what I look to be!"
Behind her now appeared Adelaide, her cheeks burning in mortification she was ashamed of feeling and still more ashamed of being unable to conceal. "Go and put on something else, mother," she urged in an undertone; "I'll look after Mrs. Whitney till you come down."
"Ain't got time," replied her mother, conscious of what was in her daughter's mind and a little contemptuous and a little resentful of it. "I guess Tilly Whitney will understand. If she don't, why, I guess we can bear up under it."
Mrs. Whitney had left her carriage and was advancing up the steps. She was a year older than Ellen Ranger; but so skillfully was she got together that, had she confessed to forty or even thirty-eight, one who didn't know would have accepted her statement as too cautious by hardly more than a year or so. The indisputably artificial detail in her elegant appearance was her hair; its tinting, which had to be made stronger year by year as the gray grew more resolute, was reaching the stage of hard, rough-looking red. "Another year or two," thought Adelaide, "and it'll make her face older than she really is. Even now she's getting a tough look."
Matilda kissed Mrs. Ranger and Adelaide affectedly on both cheeks. "I'm so glad to find you in!" said she. "And you, poor dear"—this to Mrs. Ranger—"are in agony over the servant question." She glanced behind her to make sure the carriage had driven away. "I don't know what we're coming to. I can't keep a man longer than six months. Servants don't appreciate a good home and good wages. As soon as a man makes acquaintances here he becomes independent and leaves. If something isn't done, the better class of people will have to move out of the country."
"Or go back to doing their own work," said Mrs. Ranger.
Mrs. Whitney smiled vaguely—a smile which said, "I'm too polite to answer that remark as it deserves."
"Why didn't you bring Jenny along?" inquired Mrs. Ranger, when they were in the "front parlor," the two older women seated, Adelaide moving restlessly about.
"Janet and Ross haven't come yet," answered Mrs. Whitney. "They'll be on next week, but only for a little while. They both like it better in the East. All their friends are there and there's so much more to do." Mrs. Whitney sighed; before her rose the fascination of all there was to "do" in the East—the pleasures she was denying herself.
"I don't see why you don't live in New York," said Mrs. Ranger. "You're always talking about it."
"Oh, I can't leave Charles!" was Mrs. Whitney's answer. "Or, rather he'd not hear of my doing it. But I think he'll let us take an apartment at Sherry's next winter—for the season, just—unless Janet and I go abroad."
Mrs. Ranger had not been listening. She now started up. "If you'll excuse me, Mattie, I must see what that cook's about. I'm afraid to let her out of my sight for five minutes for fear she'll up and leave."
"What a time your poor mother has!" said Mrs. Whitney, when she and Adelaide were alone.
Del had recovered from her attack of what she had been denouncing to herself as snobbishness. For all the gingham wrapper and spectacles anchored in the hair and general air of hard work and no "culture," she was thinking, as she looked at Mrs. Whitney's artificiality and listened to those affected accents, that she was glad her mother was Ellen Ranger and not Matilda Whitney. "But mother doesn't believe she has a hard time," she answered, "and everything depends on what one believes oneself; don't you think so? I often envy her. She's always busy and interested. And she's so useful, such a happiness-maker."
"I often feel that way, too," responded Mrs. Whitney, in her most profusely ornate "grande dame" manner. "I get so bored with leading an artificial life. I often wish fate had been more kind to me. I was reading, the other day, that the Queen of England said she had the tastes of a dairy maid. Wasn't that charming? Many of us whom fate has condemned to the routine of high station feel the same way."
It was by such deliverances that Mrs. Whitney posed, not without success, as an intellectual woman who despised the frivolities of a fashionable existence—this in face of the obvious fact that she led a fashionable existence, or, rather, it led her, from the moment her masseuse awakened her in the morning until her maid undressed her at night. But, although Adelaide was far too young, too inexperienced to know that judgment must always be formed from actions, never from words, she was not, in this instance, deceived. "It takes more courage than most of us have," said she, "to do what we'd like instead of what vanity suggests."
Mrs. Whitney did not understand this beyond getting from it a vague sense that she had somehow been thrust at. "You must be careful of that skin of yours, Adele," she thrust back. "I've been looking at it. You can't have been home long, yet the exposure to the sun is beginning to show. You have one of those difficult, thin skins, and one's skin is more than half one's beauty. You ought never to go out without a veil. The last thing Ross said to me was, 'Do tell Adelaide to keep her color down.' You know he admires the patrician style."
Adelaide could not conceal the effect of the shot. Her skin was a great trial to her, it burned so easily; and she hated wrapping herself in under broad brims and thick veils when the feeling of bareheadedness was so delightful. "At any rate," said she sweetly, "it's easier to keep color down than to keep it up."
Mrs. Whitney pretended not to hear. She was now at the window which gave on the garden by way of a small balcony. "There's your father!" she exclaimed; "let's go to him."
There, indeed, was Hiram, pacing the walk along the end of the garden with a ponderousness in the movements of his big form that bespoke age and effort. It irritated Mrs. Whitney to look at him, as it had irritated her to look at Ellen; very painful were the reminders of the ravages of time from these people of about her own age, these whom she as a child had known as children. Crow's-feet and breaking contour and thin hair in those we have known only as grown people, do not affect us; but the same signs in lifelong acquaintances make it impossible to ignore Decay holding up the mirror to us and pointing to aging mouth and throat, as he wags his hideous head and says, "Soon—you, too!"
Hiram saw Matilda and his daughter the instant they appeared on the balcony, but he gave no hint of it until they were in the path of his monotonous march. He was nerving himself for Mrs. Whitney as one nerves himself in a dentist's chair for the descent of the grinder upon a sensitive tooth. Usually she got no further than her first sentence before irritating him. To-day the very sight of her filled him with seemingly causeless anger. There was a time when he, watching Matilda improve away from her beginnings as the ignorant and awkward daughter of the keeper of a small hotel, had approved of her and had wished that Ellen would give more time to the matter of looks. But latterly he had come to the conclusion that a woman has to choose between improving her exterior and improving her interior, and that it is impossible or all but impossible for her to do both; he therefore found in Ellen's very indifference to exteriors another reason why she seemed to him so splendidly the opposite of Charles's wife.
"You certainly look the same as ever, Hiram," Matilda said, advancing with extended, beautifully gloved hand. The expression of his eyes as he turned them upon her gave her a shock, but she forced the smile back into her face and went on, "Ross says you always make him think of a tower on top of a high hill, one that has always stood there and always will."
The gray shadow over Hiram's face grew grayer. "But you ought to rest," Mrs. Whitney went on. "You and Charles both ought to rest. It's ridiculous, the way American men act. Now, Charles has never taken a real vacation. When he does go away he has a secretary with him and works all day. But at least he gets change of scene, while you—you rarely miss a day at the mills."
"I haven't missed a whole day in forty-three years," replied Hiram, "except the day I got married, and I never expect to. I'll drop in the harness. I'd be lost without it."
"Don't you think that's a narrow view of life?" asked Mrs. Whitney. "Don't you think we ought all to take time to cultivate our higher natures?"
"What do you mean by higher natures?"
Mrs. Whitney scented sarcasm and insult. To interrogate a glittering generality is to slur its projector; she wished her hearers to be dazzled, not moved to the impertinence of cross-examination. "I think you understand me," she said loftily.
"I don't," replied Hiram. "I'm only a cooper and miller. I haven't had the advantages of a higher education"—this last with a steady look toward his son, approaching from the direction of the stables. The young man was in a riding suit that was too correct at every point for good taste, except in a college youth, and would have made upon anyone who had been born, or initiated into, the real mysteries of "good form" an impression similar to that of Mrs. Whitney's costume and accent and manner. There was the note of the fashion plate, the evidence of pains, of correctness not instinctive but studied—the marks our new-sprung obstreperous aristocracy has made familiar to us all. It would have struck upon a sense of humor like a trivial twitter from the oboe trickling through a lull in the swell of brasses and strings; but Hiram Ranger had no sense of humor in that direction, had only his instinct for the right and the wrong. The falseness, the absence of the quality called "the real thing," made him bitter and sad. And, when his son joined them and walked up and down with them, he listened with heavier droop of face and form to the affected chatter of the young "man of the world" and the old "grande dame" of Chicago society. They talked the language and the affairs of a world he had never explored and had no wish to explore; its code and conduct, his training, his reason and his instinct all joined in condemning as dishonorable shirking of a man's and woman's part in a universe so ordered that, to keep alive in it, everyone must either work or steal.
But his boy was delighted with the conversation, with Mrs. Whitney, and, finally, with himself. A long, hard ride had scattered his depression of many weeks into a mere haze over the natural sunshine of youth and health; this haze now vanished. When Mrs. Whitney referred to Harvard, he said lightly, "You know I was plucked."
"Ross told me," said she, in an amused tone; "but you'll get back all right next fall."
"I don't know that I care to go," said Arthur. "I've been thinking it over. I believe I've got about all the good a university can do a man. It seems to me a year or so abroad—traveling about, seeing the world—would be the best thing for me. I'm going to talk it over with father—as soon as he gets through being out of humor with me."
Hiram did not look at his son, who glanced a little uneasily at him as he unfolded this new scheme for perfecting his education as "man of the world."
"Surely your father's not angry" cried Mrs. Whitney, in a tone intended to make Hiram ashamed of taking so narrow, so rural, a view of his son's fashionable mischance.
"No," replied Hiram, and his voice sounded curt. He added, in an undertone: "I wish I were."
"You're wrong there, Hiram," said Mrs. Whitney, catching the words not intended for her, and misunderstanding them. "It's not a case for severity."
Arthur smiled, and the look he gave his father was a bright indication of the soundness of his heart. Severity! The idea was absurd in connection with the most generous and indulgent of fathers. "You don't get his meaning, Mrs. Whitney," said he. "I, too, wish he were angry. I'm afraid I've made him sad. You know he's got old-fashioned views of many things, and he can't believe I've not really disgraced him and myself."
"Do you believe it?" inquired Hiram, with a look at him as sudden and sharp as the ray of a search light.
"I know it, father," replied Arthur earnestly. "Am I not right, Mrs. Whitney?"
"Don't be such an old fogy, Hiram," said Mrs. Whitney. "You ought to be thankful you've got a son like Arthur, who makes a splendid impression everywhere. He's the only western man that's got into exclusive societies at Harvard in years simply on his own merits, and he's a great favorite in Boston and in New York."
"My children need no one to defend them to me," said Hiram, in what might be called his quiet tone—the tone he had never in his life used without drying up utterly the discussion that had provoked it. Many people had noted the curious effect of that tone and had resolved to defy it at the next opportunity, "just to see what the consequences would be." But when the opportunity had come, their courage had always withered.
"You can't expect me to be like you, father. You wouldn't, want it," said Arthur, after the pause. "I must be myself, must develop my own individuality."
Ranger stopped and that stopped the others. Without looking at his son, he said slowly: "I ain't disputing that, boy. It ain't the question." There was tremendousness in his restrained energy and intensity as he went on: "What I'm thinking about is whether I ought to keep on helping you to 'develop' yourself, as you call it. That's what won't let me rest." And he abruptly walked away.
Mrs. Whitney and Arthur stared after him. "I don't think he's quite well, Artie," she said reassuringly. "Don't worry. He'll come round all right. But you ought to be a little more diplomatic."
Arthur was silent. Diplomacy meant deceit, and he hadn't yet reached the stage of polite and comfortable compromise where deceit figures merely as an amiable convenience for promoting smoothness in human intercourse. But he believed that his father would "come round all right," as Mrs. Whitney had so comfortingly said. How could it be otherwise when he had done nothing discreditable, but, on the contrary, had been developing himself in a way that reflected the highest credit upon his family, as it marched up toward the lofty goal of "cultured" ambition, toward high and secure social station.
Mrs. Whitney, however, did not believe her own statement. In large part her reputation of being a "good, kind sort," like many such reputations, rested on her habit of cheering on those who were going the wrong way and were disturbed by some suspicion of the truth. She had known Hiram Ranger long, had had many a trying experience of his character, gentle as a trade wind—and as steady and unchangeable. Also, beneath her surface of desperate striving after the things which common sense denounces, or affects to denounce, as foolishness, there was a shrewd, practical person. "He means some kind of mischief," she thought—an unreasoned, instinctive conclusion, and, therefore, all-powerful with a woman.
That evening she wrote her daughter not to cut short her visit to get to Saint X. "Wait until Ross is ready. Then you can join him at Chicago and let him bring you."
Just about the hour she was setting down this first result of her instinct's warning against the danger signal she had seen in Hiram Ranger's manner, he was delivering a bombshell. He had led in the family prayers as usual and had just laid the Bible on the center-table in the back parlor after they rose from their knees. With his hands resting on the cover of the huge volume he looked at his son. There was a sacrificial expression in his eyes. "I have decided to withdraw Arthur's allowance," he said, and his voice sounded hollow and distant, as unfamiliar to his own ears as to theirs. "He must earn his own living. If he wants a place at the mills, there's one waiting for him. If he'd rather work at something else, I'll do what I can to get him a job."
Silence; and Hiram left the room.
Adelaide was first to recover sufficiently to speak. "O mother," cried she, "you're not going to allow this!"
To Adelaide's and Arthur's consternation, Ellen replied quietly: "It ain't no use to talk to him. I ain't lived all these years with your father without finding out when he means what he says."
"It's so unjust!" exclaimed Adelaide.
There came into Ellen's face a look she had never seen there before. It made her say: "O mother, I didn't mean that; only, it does seem hard."
Mrs. Ranger thought so, too; but she would have died rather than have made the thought treason by uttering it. She followed her husband upstairs, saying: "You and Arthur can close up, and put out the lights."
Adelaide, almost in tears over her brother's catastrophe, was thrilled with admiration of his silent, courageous bearing. "What are you going to do, Artie?"
This incautious question drew his inward ferment boiling to the surface. "He has me down and I've got to take his medicine," said the young man, teeth together and eyes dark with fury.
This she did not admire. Her first indignation abated, as she sat on there thinking it out. "Maybe father is nearer right than we know," she said to herself finally. "After all, Arthur will merely be doing as father does. There's something wrong with him, and with me, too, or we shouldn't think that so terrible." But to Arthur she said nothing. Encourage him in his present mood she must not; and to try to dissuade him would simply goad him on.
THE SHATTERED COLOSSUS
That night there was sleep under Hiram Ranger's roof for Mary the cook only. Of the four wakeful ones the most unhappy was Hiram himself, the precipitator of it all. Arthur had the consolation of his conviction that his calamity was unjust; Adelaide and her mother, of their conviction that in the end it could not but be well with Arthur. For Hiram there was no consolation. He reviewed and re-reviewed the facts, and each time he reached again his original conclusion; the one course in repairing the mistakes of the boy's bringing up was a sharp rightabout. "Don't waste no time gettin' off the wrong road, once you're sure it's wrong," had been a maxim of his father, and he had found it a rule with no exceptions. He appreciated that there is a better way from the wrong road into the right than a mad dash straight across the stumpy fields and rocky gullies between. That rough, rude way, however, was the single way open to him here. Whenever it had become necessary for him to be firm with those he loved, it had rarely been possible for him to do right in the right way; he had usually been forced to do right in the wrong way—to hide himself from them behind a manner of cold and silent finality, and, so, to prevent them from forming an alliance and a junction of forces with the traitor softness within him. Besides, gentle, roundabout, gradual measures would require time—delay; and he must "put his house in order" forthwith.
Thus, even the consolation that he was at least doing right was denied him. As he lay there he could see himself harshly forcing the bitter medicine upon his son, the cure for a disease for which he was himself responsible; he could see his son's look and could not deny its justice. "I reckon he hates me," thought Hiram, pouring vitriol into his own wounds, "and I reckon he's got good cause to."
But there was in the old miller a Covenanter fiber tough as ironwood. The idea of yielding did not enter his head. He accepted his sufferings as part of his punishment for past indulgence and weakness; he would endure, and go forward. His wife understood him by a kind of intuition which, like most of our insight into the true natures of those close about us, was a gradual permeation from the one to the other rather than clear, deliberate reasoning. But the next morning her sore and anxious mother's heart misread the gloom of his strong face into sternness toward her only son.
"When did you allow to put the boy to work, father?" she finally said, and her tone unintentionally made Hiram feel more than ever as if he had sentenced "the boy" to hard labor in the degradation and disgrace of a chain gang.
As he waited some time for self-control before answering, she thought her inquiry had deepened his resentment. "Not that I don't think you're right, maybe," she hastened to add, "though"—this wistfully, in a feminine and maternal subtlety of laying the first lines for sapping and mining his position—"I often think about our life, all work and no play, and wonder if we oughtn't to give the children the chance we never had."