THE STURDY OAK
A COMPOSITE NOVEL OF AMERICAN POLITICS BY FOURTEEN AMERICAN AUTHORS
By Samuel Merwin, et al.
THE STURDY OAK
SAMUEL MERWIN HARRY LEON WILSON FANNIE HURST DOROTHY CANFIELD KATHLEEN NORRIS HENRY KITCHELL WEBSTER ANNE O'HAGAN MARY HEATON VORSE ALICE DUER MILLER ETHEL WATTS MUMFORD MARJORIE BENTON COOKE WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE MARY AUSTIN LEROY SCOTT
THEME BY MARY AUSTIN
The chapters collected and (very cautiously) edited by ELIZABETH JORDAN
NEW YORK HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 1917 [Blank-copyright info]
At a certain committee meeting held in the spring of 1916, it was agreed that fourteen leading American authors, known to be extremely generous as well as gifted, should be asked to write a composite novel.
As I was not present at this particular meeting, it was unanimously and joyously decided by those who were present that I should attend to the trivial details of getting this novel together.
It appeared that all I had to do was:
First, to persuade each of the busy authors on the list to write a chapter of the novel.
Second, to keep steadily on their trails from the moment they promised their chapters until they turned them in.
Third, to have the novel finished and published serially during the autumn Campaign of 1917.
The carrying out of these requirements has not been the childish diversion it may have seemed. Splendid team work, however, has made success possible.
Every author represented, every worker on the team, has gratuitously contributed his or her services; and every dollar realized by the serial and book publication of "The Sturdy Oak" will be devoted to the Suffrage Cause. But the novel itself is first of all a very human story of American life today. It neither unduly nor unfairly emphasizes the question of equal suffrage, and it should appeal to all lovers of good fiction.
Therefore, pausing only to wipe the beads of perspiration from our brows, we urge every one to buy this book!
November, 1917. CONTENTS
I. BY SAMUEL MERWIN
II. BY HARRY LEON WILSON
III. BY FANNIE HURST
IV. BY DOROTHY CANFIELD
V. BY KATHLEEN NORRIS
VI. BY HENRY KITCHELL WEBSTER
VII. BY ANNE O'HAGAN
VIII. BY MARY HEATON VORSE
IX. BY ALICE DUER MILLER
X. BY ETHEL WATTS MUMFORD
XI. BY MARJORIE BENTON COOK
XII. BY WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE
XIII. BY MARY AUSTIN
XIV. BY LEROY SCOTT ILLUSTRATIONS
"Nobody ever means that a woman really can't get along without a man's protection, because look at the women who do."
It was hard on the darling old boy to come home to Miss Emelene and the cat and Eleanor and Alys every night!
"You mean because she's a suffragist? You sent her away for that! Why, really, that's tyranny!"
Across the way, Mrs. Herrington, the fighting blood of five generations of patriots roused in her, had reinstated the Voiceless Speech.
George Remington... Aged twenty-six; newly married. Recently returned to his home town, New York State, to take up the practice of law. Politically ambitious, a candidate for District Attorney. Opposed to woman suffrage.
Genevieve... His wife, aged twenty-three, graduate of Smith. Devoted to George; her ideal being to share his every thought.
Betty Sheridan... A friend of Genevieve. Very pretty; one of the first families, well-to-do but in search of economic independence. Working as stenographer in George's office; an ardent Suffragist.
Penfield Evans... Otherwise "Penny," George's partner, in love with Betty. Neutral on the subject of Suffrage.
Alys Brewster-Smith... Cousin of George, once removed; thirty-three, a married woman by profession, but temporarily widowed. Anti-suffragist. One Angel Child aged five.
Martin Jaffry... Uncle to George, bachelor of uncertain age and certain income. The widow's destined prey.
Cousin Emelene.... On Genevieve's side. Between thirty-five and forty, a born spinster but clinging to the hope of marriage as the only career for women. Has a small and decreasing income. Affectedly feminine and genuinely incompetent.
Mrs. Harvey Herrington.... President of the Woman's Club, the Municipal League, Suffrage Society leader, wealthy, cultured and possessing a sense of humor.
Percival Pauncefoot Sheridan.... Betty's brother, fifteen, commonly called Pudge. Pink, pudgy, sensitive; always imposed upon, always grouchy and too good-natured to assert himself.
E. Eliot.... Real estate agent (added in Chapter VI by Henry Kitchell Webster).
Benjamin Doolittle.... A leader of his party, and somewhat careless where he leads it. (Added in Anne O'Hagan's Chapter).
Patrick Noonan.... A follower of Doolittle.
Time.... The Present.
Place.... Whitewater, N. Y. A manufacturing town of from ten to fifteen thousand inhabitants.
THE STURDY OAK
CHAPTER I. BY SAMUEL MERWIN
Genevieve Remington had been called beautiful. She was tall, with brown eyes and a fine spun mass of golden-brown hair. She had a gentle smile, that disclosed white, even teeth. Her voice was not unmusical. She was twenty-three years old and possessed a husband who, though only twenty-six, had already shown such strength of character and such aptitude at the criminal branch of the law that he was now a candidate for the post of district attorney on the regular Republican ticket.
The popular impression was that he would be elected hands down. His address on Alexander Hamilton at the Union League Club banquet at Hamilton City, twenty-five miles from Whitewater (with which smaller city we are concerned in this narrative), had been reprinted in full in the Hamilton City Tribune; and Mrs. Brewster-Smith reported that former Congressman Hancock had compared it, not unfavorably, with certain public utterances of the Honorable Elihu Root.
George Remington was an inch more than six feet tall, with sturdy shoulders, a chin that gave every indication of stubborn strength, a frank smile, and a warm, strong handclasp. He was connected by blood (as well as by marriage) with five of the eight best families in Whitewater. Mr. Martin Jaffry, George's uncle and sole inheritor of the great Jaffry estate (and a bachelor), was known to favor his candidacy; was supposed, indeed, to be a large contributor to the Remington campaign fund. In fact, George Remington was a lucky young man, a coming young man.
George and Genevieve had been married five weeks; this was their first day as master and mistress of the old Remington place on Sheridan Road.
Genevieve, that afternoon, was in the long living-room, trying out various arrangements of the flowers that had been sent in. There were a great many flowers. Most of them came from admirers of George. The Young Men's Republican Club, for one item, had sent eight dozen roses. But Genevieve, still a-thrill with the magic of her five-weeks-long honeymoon, tremulously happy in the cumulative proof that her husband was the noblest, strongest, bravest man alive, felt only joy in his popularity.
As his wife she shared his triumphs. "For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health..." the ancient phrases repeated themselves so many times in her softly confused thought, as she moved about among the flowers, that they finally took on a rhythm—
"For better or worse, For richer or poorer, For richer or poorer, For better or worse—"
* * * * *
On this day her life was beginning. She had given herself irrevocably into the hands of this man. She would live only in him. Her life would find expression only through his. His strong, trained mind would be her guide, his sturdy courage her strength. He would build for them both, for the twain that were one.
She caught up one red rose, winked the moisture from her eyes, and gazed—rapt, lips parted, color high—out at the close-clipped lawn behind the privet hedge. The afternoon would soon be waning—in another hour or so. She must not disturb him now.
In an hour, say, she would run up the stairs and tap at his door. And he would come out, clasp her in his big arms, and she would stand on the tips of her toes and kiss away the wrinkles between his brows, and they would walk on the lawn and talk about themselves and the miracle of their love.
The clock on the mantel struck three. She pouted; turned and stared at it. "Well," she told herself, "I'll wait until half-past four."
The doorbell rang.
Genevieve's color faded. The slim hand that held the rose trembled a very little. Her first caller! She decided that it would be best not to talk about George. Not one word about George! Her feelings were her secret—and his.
Marie ushered in two ladies. One, who rushed forward with outstretched hand, was a curiously vital-appearing creature in black—plainly a widow—hardly more than thirty-two or thirty-three, fresh of skin, rather prominent as to eyeballs, yet, everything considered, a handsome woman. This was Alys Brewster-Smith. The other, shorter, slighter, several years older, a faded, smiling, tremulously hopeful spinster, was Genevieve's own cousin, Emelene Brand.
"It's so nice of you to come—" Genevieve began timidly, only to be swept aside by the superior aggressiveness and the stronger voice of Mrs. Brewster-Smith.
"My dear! Isn't it perfectly delightful to see you actually mistress of this wonderful old home. And"—her slightly prominent eyes swiftly took in furniture, pictures, rugs, flowers,—"how wonderfully you have managed to give the old place your own tone!" "Nothing has been changed," murmured Genevieve, a thought bewildered.
"Nothing, my dear, but yourself! I am so looking forward to a good talk with you. Emelene and I were speaking of that only this noon. And I can't tell you how sorry I am that our first call has to be on a miserable political matter. Tell me, dear, is that wonderful husband of yours at home?"
"Why—yes. But I am not to disturb him."
"Ah, shut away in his den?"
"It's a very important paper he has to write. It has to be done now, before he is drawn into the whirl of campaign work."
"Of course! Of course! But I'm afraid the campaign is whirling already. I will tell you what brought us, my dear. You know of course that Mrs. Harvey Herrington has come out for suffrage—thrown in her whole personal weight and, no doubt, her money. I can't understand it—with her home, and her husband—going into the mire of politics. But that is what she has done. And Grace Hatfield called up not ten minutes ago to say that she has just led a delegation of ladies up to your husband's office. Think of it—to his office! The first day!... Well, Emelene, it is some consolation that they won't find him there."
"He isn't going to the office today," said Genevieve. "But what can they want of him?"
"To get him to declare for suffrage, my dear."
"Oh—I'm sure he wouldn't do that!"
"Are you, my dear? Are you sure?"
"He has told you his views, of course?"
Genevieve knit her brows. "Why, yes—of course, we've talked about things——"
"My dear, of course he is against suffrage."
"Oh yes, of course. I'm sure he is. Though, you see, I would no more think of intruding in George's business affairs than he would think of intruding in my household duties."
"Naturally, Genevieve. And very sweet and dear of you! But I'm sure you will see how very important this is. Here we are, right at the beginning of his campaign. Those vulgar women are going to hound him. They've begun already. As our committee wrote him last week, it is vitally important that he should declare himself unequivocally at once."
"Oh, yes," murmured Genevieve, "of course. I can see that."
The doors swung open. A thin little man of forty to fifty stood there, a dry but good-humored man, with many wrinkles about his quizzical blue eyes, and sandy hair at the sides and back of an otherwise bald head. He was smartly dressed in a homespun Norfolk suit. He waved a cap of homespun in greeting.
"Afternoon, ladies! Genevieve, a bachelor's admiration and respect! I hope that boy George has got sense enough to be proud of you. But they haven't at that age. They're all for themselves."
"Oh no, Uncle Martin," cried Genevieve, "George is the most generous——"
Mr. Martin Jaffry flicked his cap. "All right. All right! He is." And slowly retreated.
Mrs. Brewster-Smith, an eager light in her eyes, moved part way across the room. "But we can't let you run away like this, Mr. Jaffry. Do sit down and tell us about the work you are doing at the Country Club. Is it to be bowling alley and swimming pool——"
"Bowling alley and swimming pool, yes. Tell me, chick, might a humble constituent speak to the great man?"
Genevieve hesitated. "I'm sure he'd love to see you, Uncle Martin. But he did say——"
"Not to be disturbed by anybody, eh?"
"Yes, Uncle Martin. It's a very important statement he has to prepare before——"
"Good day, then. You look fine in the old house, chick!"
Mr. Jaffry donned his cap of homespun, ran down the steps and out the front walk, hopped into his eight-cylinder roadster, and was off down the street in a second. There was a sharp decisiveness about his exit, and about the sudden speed of his machine; all duly noted by Mrs. Brewster-Smith, who had gone so far as to move down the room to the front window and watch the performance with narrowed eyes. The Jaffry Building stands at the southwest corner of Fountain Square. It boasts six stories, mosaic flooring in the halls, and the only passenger elevator in Whitewater. The ground floor was given over to Humphrey's drug store; and most of Humphrey's drug store was given over to the immense marble soda fountain and the dozen or more wire-legged tables and the two or three dozen wire chairs that served to accommodate the late afternoon and evening crowd.
At the moment the fountain had but one patron—a remarkably fat boy of, perhaps, fifteen, with plump cheeks and drooping mouth.... The row of windows across the second floor front of the building, above Humphrey's, bore, each, the legend—Remington and Evans, Attorneys at Law.
The fat boy was Percival Sheridan, otherwise Pudge. His sister, Betty Sheridan, worked in the law offices directly overhead and possessed a heart of stone.
Betty was rich, at least in the eyes of Pudge. For more than a year (Betty was twenty-two) she had enjoyed a private income. Pudge definitely knew this. She had money to buy out the soda fountain. But her character, thought Pudge, might be summed up in the statement that she worked when she didn't have to (people talked about this; even to him!) and flatly refused to give her brother money for soda.
As if a little soda ever hurt anybody. She took it herself, often enough. Within five minutes he had laid the matter before her—up in that solemn office, where they made you feel so uncomfortable. She had said: "Pudge Sheridan, you're killing yourself! Not one cent more for wrecking your stomach!"
She had called him "Pudge." For months he had been reminding her that his name was Percival. And he wasn't wrecking his stomach. That was silly talk. He had eaten but two nut sundaes and a chocolate frappe since luncheon. It wasn't soda and candy that made him so fat. Some folks just were fat, and some folks were thin. That was all there was to it!
Pudge himself would have a private income when he was twenty-one. Six years off... and Billy Simmons in his white apron, was waiting now, on the other side of the marble counter, for his order—and grinning as he waited. Six years! Why, Pudge would be a man then—too old for nut sundaes and chocolate frappes, too far gone down the sober slope of life to enjoy anything!
Pudge wriggled nervously, locked his feet around behind the legs of the high stool, rubbed a fat forefinger on the edge of the counter, and watched the finger intently with gloomy eyes.
"Well, what'll it be, Pudge?" This from Billy Simmons.
"My name ain't Pudge."
"Very good, Mister Sheridan. What'll it be?"
"One of those chocolate marshmallow nut sundaes, I guess, if—if——"
"If what, Mister Sheridan?"
"—if, oh well, just charge it."
Billy Simmons paused in the act of reaching for a sundae glass. The smile left his face.
Pudge, though he did not once look up from that absorbing little operation with the fat forefinger, felt this pause and knew that Billy's grin had gone; and his own mouth drooped and drooped. It was a tense moment.
"You see, Pudge," Billy began in some embarrassment, only to conclude rather sharply, "I'll have to ask Mr. Humphrey. Your sister said we weren't——"
"Oh, well!" sighed Pudge. Getting down from the stool he waddled slowly out of the store.
It was no use going up against old Humphrey. He had tried that. He went as far as the fire-plug, close to the corner, and sank down upon it. Everybody was against him. He would sit here awhile and think it over. Perhaps he could figure out some way of breaking through the conspiracy. Then Mr. Martin Jaffry drove up to the curb and he had to move his legs. Mr. Jaffry said, "Hello, Pudge," too. It was all deeply annoying.
Meantime, during the past half-hour, the law offices of Remington and Evans were not lacking in the sense of life and activity. Things began moving when Penny Evans (christened Penfield) came back from lunch. He wore an air—Betty Sheridan noted, from her typewriter desk within the rail—of determination. His nod toward herself was distinctly brusque; a new quality which gave her a moment's thought. And then when he had hung up his hat and was walking past her to his own private office, he indulged in a faint, fleeting grin.
Betty considered him. She had known Penny Evans as long as she could remember knowing anybody; and she had never seen him look quite as he looked this afternoon.
The buzzer sounded. It was absurd, of course; nobody else in the office. He could have spoken—you could hear almost every sound over the seven-foot partitions.
She rose, waited an instant to insure perfect composure, smoothed down her trim shirtwaist, pushed back a straying wisp of her naturally wavy hair, picked up her notebook and three sharp pencils, and went quietly into his office.
He sat there at his flat desk—his blond brows knit, his mouth firm, a light of eager good humor in his blue eyes.
"Take this," he said... Betty seated herself opposite him, and was instantly ready for work.
"... Memorandum. From rentals—the old Evans property on Ash Street, the two houses on Wilson Avenue South, and the factory lease in the South Extension, a total of slightly over $3600.
"New paragraph. From investments in bonds, railway and municipal, an average the last four years of $2800.
"New paragraph. From law practice, last year, over $4500. Will be considerably more this year. Total——"
"No. Continue. Total, $10,900. This year will be close to $12,000. Don't you think that's a reasonably good showing for an unencumbered man of twenty-seven?"
"No, personal query, Penny to Betty."
"Yes, then, it is very good. You want this in memorandum form. Any carbons?"
"One carbon—in the form of a diamond—gift from Penny to Betty." Miss Sheridan settled back in her chair, tapped her pretty mouth with her pencil, and surveyed the blond young man. Her eyes were blue—frank, capable eyes.
"Penny, I like my work here——"
"I should hope so——"
"And I don't want to give it up."
"I shall have to, Penny, if you don't stop breaking your word. It was a definite agreement, you know. You were not to propose to me, on any working day, before seven P.M. This is a proposal of course——"
"Yes, of course, but I've just——"
"That makes twice this month, then, that you've broken the agreement. Now I can go on and put my mind on my work, if you'll let me. Otherwise, I shall have to get a job where they will let me."
"But, Betty, I've just this noon sat down and figured up where I stand. It has frightened me a little. I didn't realize I was taking in more than ten thousand a year. And all of a sudden it struck me that I've been an imbecile to wait, or make any agreement——"
"Then you broke it deliberately?"
"Absolutely. Betty—no fooling now; I'm in earnest——"
Studying him, she saw that he was intensely in earnest.
"You see, child, I've tried to be patient because I know how you were brought up, what you're used to. Why, I wouldn't dream of asking you to be my wife unless I could feel pretty sure of being able to give you the comforts you've always had and ought to have. But hang it, Betty, I can do it right! I can give you a home that's worthy of you. Any time! This year, even!"
"Penny, do you think I care what your income is—for one minute?"
"When I'm earning twenty dollars a week myself and prouder of it than—"
"But that's absurd, Betty—for you to be working—as a stenographer, of all things! A girl with your looks and your gifts and all that's back of you."
"You mean that I should make marriage my profession?"
"Probably that's why we keep missing each other, Penny. I've pinned my flag to the principle of economic independence. You're looking for a girl who will marry for a living. There are lots of them. Pretty, attractive girls, too. Your difficulty is, you want that sort. You really believe all girls are that sort at heart, and you think my independence a fad—something I shall get over. Don't you, now?"
"Well, I'll confess I can't see it as the normal thing. Yes, I believe—I hope—you will get over it."
"Well—" Miss Sheridan slammed her book shut and stood up—"I won't."
She stepped to the door.
"And the agreement stands. I want to keep on working. And I want to keep on being fond of you. That agreement is necessary to both desires." She opened the door, hesitated and a hint of mischief flashed across her face. "I'll tell you just the person for you, Penny. Really. Marriage is her profession. She's very experienced. Temporarily out of a job—Alys Brewster-Smith."
He snatched a carnation from the glass on his desk and threw it at her. It struck a closed door.
* * * * *
The outer door opened just then, and Mr. Martin Jaffry stepped in. He nodded, with his little quizzical smile, to the composed young woman who stood within the railing.
"Anybody here, Betty?"
A slight movement of her prettily poised head indicated the door marked "Mr. Evans." And she said, "Penny's there."
"Is he shut up, too? His partner is too important to be seen today."
"Oh no," Betty replied, inscrutably sober, "he's not important."
Mr. Jaffry wrinkled up his eyes, chuckled softly, then stepped to the door of the unimportant one. Before opening it, he turned. "Mrs. Harvey Herrington been in?"
"Twice with a committee."
"Any idea what she wanted?"
Betty was aware that the whimsical and roundabout Mr. Jaffry knew everything about everybody in Whitewater. She was further aware that he had, undoubtedly, reasons of his own for questioning her. He was always asking questions, anyway. Worse than a Chinaman. And for some reason—perhaps because he was Martin Jaffry—you always answered his questions.
"Yes," said Betty. "She wants to pledge him to suffrage."
"Umm! Yes, I see! You wouldn't be against that yourself, would you?"
"Naturally not. I'm secretary of the Second Ward Suffrage Club."
"Umm! Yes, yes!" With which illuminating comment, Mr. Jaffry tapped on Penny Evans' door, opened it and entered.
"Spare a minute?" he inquired.
"Sure," said Penny; "two, ten! Take a chair."
"No," replied Mr. Jaffry, "I won't take a chair. Think better on my feet. I'm in a bit of a quandary. Suppose you tell me what this important paper is that George is drawing up. Do you know?"
"Is he coming out against suffrage?"
"Umm!" Mr. Jaffry flicked his cap about. "I want to see George. He mustn't do that."
"Say, Mr. Jaffry, you haven't swung over——"
"Not at all. It's tactics. I ought to see him."
"Why not run out to his house——"
"Just been there. Ran away. Some one there I'm afraid of."
Mr. Jaffry shook his head and lowered his voice.
"With Betty hearing it at this end, and the committee from the Antis sitting it out down there—the telephone's on the stair landing——"
He pursed his lips, waved his cap slowly to and fro and observed it with a whimsical expression on his sandy face, then glanced out of the window. He stepped closer, looking sharply down. A very fat boy with pink cheeks and a downcast expression was sitting on a fire-plug. Mr. Jaffry leaned out.
"Pudge," he called, "come up here a minute."
On the Remington and Evans stationery he penciled a note, which he sealed. Then he scribbled another—to Mrs. George Remington, asking her to hand George the inclosure the moment he appeared from his work. The two he slipped into a large envelope. The very fat boy stood before him.
"Want to make a quarter, Pudge? Take this letter, right now, to Mrs. George Remington. Give it to her personally. It's the old Remington place, you know."
He felt in his change pocket. It was empty. He hesitated, turned to Evans, then, reconsidering, produced a dollar bill from another pocket and gave it to the boy.
"Now run," he said.
The boy, speechless, turned and moved out of the office. His sister spoke to him, but he did not turn his head. He rolled down the stairs to the street, stood a moment in front of Humphrey's, drew a sudden breath that was almost a gasp, waddled into the store, advanced directly on the soda fountain, and with a blazing red face and angrily triumphant eyes confronted Billy Simmons.
"I'll take a chocolate marshmallow nut sundae," he said. "And you needn't be stingy with the marshmallow, either!"
* * * * *
At ten minutes past four, the anxious Antis in the Remington living-room heard the candidate for district attorney running down the stairs, and even Mrs. Brewster-Smith was hushed. The candidate stopped, however, on the landing. They heard him lift the telephone receiver. He called a number. Then——
"Sentinel office?... Mr. Ledbetter, please.... Hello, Ledbetter! Remington speaking. I have that statement ready. Will you send a man around?... Yes, right away. And I wish you'd put it on the wires. Display it just as prominently as you can, won't you?... Thanks. That's fine! Good-by."
He ran back upstairs.
But shortly he appeared, wearing the distrait, exalted expression of the genius who has just passed through the creative act. He looked very tall and strong as he stood before the mantel, receiving the congratulations of Mrs. Brewster-Smith and the timid admiration of Cousin Emelene. His few words were well chosen and were uttered with dignity.
"And now, dear Mr. Remington, I'm sure I don't need to ask you if you are taking the right stand on suffrage." This from Mrs. Brewster-Smith.
The candidate smiled tolerantly.
"If unequivocal opposition is 'right'——"
"Oh, you dear man! I was sure we could count on you. Isn't it splendid, Genevieve!"
The reporters came.
* * * * *
It was a busy evening for the young couple. There were relatives for dinner. Other relatives and an old friend or two came later. Throughout, George wore that quietly exalted expression, and carried himself with the new dignity.
To the adoring Genevieve his chin had never appeared so long and strong, his thought had never seemed so elevated, his quiet self-respect had never been so commanding. He was no longer merely her George, he was now a public figure. Soon he would be district attorney; then, very likely, Governor; then—well, Senator; and finally—it was possible—some one had to be—President of the United States. He had begun, this day, by making a great decision, by stepping boldly out on principle, on moral principle, and announcing himself a defender of the home, of the right.
At midnight, the last guest departed. George and Genevieve stepped out into the summer moonlight and strolled arm in arm down the walk.
Waddling up the street appeared a very fat boy.
"Why, Pudge," cried Genevieve, "what on earth are you doing out at this time of night!"
"I'm going home, I tell you!" muttered the boy, on the defensive. He carried a large bag of what seemed to be chocolate creams, from which he was eating.
As he passed, a twinge of memory disturbed him. He fumbled in his pockets.
"I was to give you this," he said then; and leaving a crumpled envelope in Genevieve's hand, he walked on as rapidly as he could.
A few minutes later, standing under the light in the front hall, George Remington read this penciled note:
"I stood ready to contribute more than I promised—any amount to put you over. But if you give out a statement against suffrage you're a damn fool and I withdraw every cent. A man with no more political sense and skill than that isn't worth helping. You should have advised me.
CHAPTER II. BY HARRY LEON WILSON
It may have been surmised that our sterling young candidate for district attorney had not yet become skilled in dalliance with the equivocal; that he was no adept in ambiguity; that he would confront all issues with a rugged valiance susceptible of no misconstruction; that, in short, George Remington was no trimmer.
If he opposed an issue, one knew that he opposed it from the heart out. He said so and he meant it. And, being opposed to the dreadful heresy of equal suffrage, no reader of the Whitewater Sentinel that morning could say, as the shrewd so often say of our older statesmen, that George was "side-stepping."
Not George's the mellow gift to say, in effect, that of course woman should vote the instant she wishes to, though perhaps that day has not yet come. Meantime the speaker boldly defies the world to show a man holding woman in loftier regard than he does, or ready to accord her a higher value in all true functions of the body politic. Equal suffrage, thank God, is inevitable at some future time, but until that glorious day when we can be assured that the sex has united in a demand for it, it were perhaps as well not to cloud the issues of the campaign now opening; though let it be understood, and he cannot put this too plainly, that he reveres the memory of his gray-haired mother without whose tender ministrations and wise guidance he could never have reached the height from which he now speaks. And so let us pass on to the voting on these canal bonds, the true inwardness of which, thanks to the venal activities of a corrupt opposition, even an exclusively male constituency has thus far failed to comprehend. And so forth.
Our hero, then, had yet to acquire this finesse. As we are now privileged to observe him, he is as easy to understand as the multiplication table, as little devious and, alas! as lacking in suavity. Yet, let us be fair to George. Mere innocence of guile, of verbal trickery, had not alone sufficed for his passionate bluntness in the present crisis. At a later stage in his career as a husband he might have been equally blunt; yet never again, perhaps, would he have been so emotional in his opposition to woman polluting herself with the mire of politics.
Be it recalled that but five weeks had elapsed since George had solemnly promised to cherish and protect the fairest of the non-voting sex—at least in his State—and he was still taking his mission seriously. As he wrote the words that were now electrifying, in a manner of speaking, the readers of the Sentinel, and of neighboring journals with enough enterprise to secure them, he had beheld his own Genevieve, fine, flawless, tenderly nourished flower that she was, being dragged from her high place with the most distressing results.
He saw her rushed from the sacred shelter of her home and made to attend primaries; he saw her compelled to strive tearfully with problems that revolted all her finer instincts; he saw her insulted at polling booths; saw her voting in company with persons of both sexes whom one could never know.
He saw her tainted, bruised, beaten down in the struggle, losing little by little all sense of the holy values of Wife, Mother, Home. As he wrote he heard her weakening cries for help as she perished, and more than once his left arm instinctively curved to shield her.
Was it not for his wife, then; nay, for wifehood itself, that he wrote? And so, was it quite fair for unmarried Penfield Evans, burning at his breakfast table a cynical cigarette over the printed philippic, to murmur, "Gee! old George has spilled the beans!"
Simple words enough and not devoid of friendly concern. But should he not have divined that George had been appalled to his extremities of speech by the horrendous vision of his fair young bride being hurled into depths where she would be obliged, if not to have opinions of her own, at least to vote with the rabble as he might decide they ought to vote?
And should not other critics known to us have divined the racking anguish under which George had labored? For one, should not Elizabeth Sheridan, amateur spinster, have been all sympathy for one who was palpably more an alarmed bridegroom than a mere candidate?
Should not her maiden heart have been touched by this plausible aspect of George's dilemma, rather than her mere brain to have been steeled to a humorous disparagement tinged with bitterness?
And yet, "What rot!" muttered Miss Sheridan,—"silly rot, bally rot, tommy rot, and all the other kinds!"
Hereupon she creased a brow not meant for creases and defaced an admirable nose with grievous wrinkles of disdain. "Sacred names of wife and mother!" This seemed regrettably like swearing as she delivered it, though she quoted verbatim. "Sacred names of petted imbeciles!" she amended.
Then, with berserker fury, crumpling her Sentinel into a ball, she venomously hurled it to the depths of a waste basket and religiously rubbed the feel of it from her fingers. As she had not even glanced at the column headed "Births, Deaths, Marriages," it will be seen that her agitation was real. And surely a more discerning sympathy might have been looked for from the seasoned Martin Jaffry. A bachelor full of years and therefore with illusions not only unimpaired but ripened, who more quickly than he should have divined that his nephew for the moment viewed all womankind as but one multiplied Genevieve, upon whom it would be heinous to place the shackles of suffrage?
Perhaps Uncle Martin did divine this. Perhaps he was a mere trimmer, a rank side-stepper, steeped in deceit and ever ready to mouth the abominable phrase "political expediency." It were rash to affirm this, for no analyst has ever fathomed the heart of a man who has come to his late forties a bachelor by choice. One may but guess from the ensuing meager data.
Uncle Martin at a certain corner of Maple Avenue that morning, fell in with Penfield Evans, who, clad as the lilies of a florist's window, strode buoyantly toward his office, the vision of his day's toil pinkly suffused by an overlaying vision of a Betty or Sheridan character. Mr. Evans bubbled his greeting. "Morning! Have you seen it? Oh, say, have you seen it?"
The immediate manner of Uncle Martin not less than his subdued garb of gray, his dark gloves and his somber stick, intimated that he saw nothing to bubble about.
"He has burned his bridges behind him." The speaker looked as grim as any bachelor-by-choice ever may.
"Regular little fire-bug," blithely responded Mr. Evans, moderating his stride to that of the other.
"Can't understand it," resumed the gloomy uncle. "I sent him word in time; sent it from your office by messenger. It was plain enough. I told him no money of mine would go into his campaign if he made a fool of himself—or words to that effect."
"Phew! Cast you off, did he? Just like that?"
"Just like that! Went out of his way to overdo it, too. Needn't have come out half so strong. No chance now to backwater—not a chance on earth to explain what he really did mean—and make it something different." "Quixotic! That's how it reads to me."
Uncle Martin here became oracular, his somber stick gesturing to point his words.
"Trouble with poor George, he's been silly enough to blurt out the truth, what every man of us thinks in his heart—"
"Eh?" said Mr. Evans quickly, as one who has been jolted.
"No more sense than to come right out and say what every one of us thinks in his secret heart about women. I think it and you think it—"
"Oh, well, if you put it that way," admitted young Mr. Evans gracefully. "But of course—"
"Certainly, of course! We all think it—sacred names of home and mother and all the rest of it; but a man running for office these days is a chump to say so, isn't he? Of course he is! What chance does it leave him? Answer me that."
"Darned little, if you ask me," said Mr. Evans judicially. "Poor old George!"
"Talks as if he were going to be married tomorrow instead of its having come off five weeks ago," pursued Uncle Martin bitterly. Plainly there were depths of understanding in the man, trimmer though he might be.
Mr. Evans made no reply. Irrationally he was considering the terms "five weeks" and "married" in relation to a spinster who would have professed to be indignant had she known it.
"Got to pull the poor devil out," said Uncle Martin, when in silence they had traversed fifty feet more of the shaded side of Maple Avenue.
"How?" demanded the again practical Mr. Evans.
"Make him take it back; make him recant; swing him over the last week before election. Make him eat his words with every sign of exquisite relish. Simple enough!"
"How?" persisted Mr. Evans.
"Wiles, tricks, subterfuges, chicanery—understand what I mean?"
"Sure! I understand what you mean as well as you do, but—come down to brass tacks."
"That's an entirely different matter," conceded Uncle Martin gruffly. "It may take thought."
"Oh, is that all? Very well then; we'll think. I, myself, will think. First, I'll have a talk with the sodden amorist. I'll grill him. I'll find the weak spot in his armor. There must be something we can put over on him."
"By fair means or foul," insisted Uncle Martin as they paused at the parting of their ways. "Low-down, underhanded work—do you get what I mean?"
"I do, I do!" declared young Mr. Evans and broke once more into the buoyant stride of an earlier moment. This buoyance was interrupted but once, and briefly, ere he gained the haven of his office.
As he stepped quite too buoyantly into Fountain Square, he was all but run down by the new six-cylinder roadster of Mrs. Harvey Herrington, driven by the enthusiastic owner. He regained the curb in time, with a ready and heartfelt utterance nicely befitting the emergency.
The president of the Whitewater Women's Club, the Municipal League and the Suffrage Society, brought her toy to a stop fifteen feet beyond her too agile quarry, with a fine disregard for brakes and tire surfaces. She beckoned eagerly to him she might have slain. She was a large woman with an air of graceful but resolute authority; a woman good to look upon, attired with all deference to the modes of the moment, and exhaling an agreeable sense of good-will to all.
"Be careful always to look before you start across and you'll never have to say such things," was her greeting to Mr. Evans, as he halted beside this minor juggernaut.
"Sorry you heard it," lied the young man readily.
"Such a flexible little car—picks up before one realizes," conceded Whitewater's acknowledged social dictator. "But what I wanted to say is this: that poor daft partner of yours has mortally offended every woman in town except three, with that silly screed of his. I've seen nearly all of them that count this morning, or they've called me by telephone. Now, why couldn't he have had the advice of some good, capable woman before committing himself so rabidly?"
"Who were the three?" queried Mr. Evans.
"Oh, poor Genevieve, of course; she goes without saying. And you'd guess the other two if you knew them better—his cousin, Alys Brewster-Smith, and poor Genevieve's Cousin Emelene. They both have his horrible school-boy composition committed to memory, I do believe.
"Cousin Emelene recited most of it to me with tears in her weak eyes, and Alys tells me his noble words have made the world seem like a different place to her. She said she had been coming to believe that chivalry of the old true brand was dying out, but that dear Cousin George has renewed her faith in it.
"Think of poor Genevieve when they both fall on his neck. They're going up for that particular purpose this afternoon. The only two in town, mind you, except poor Genevieve. Oh, it's too awfully bad, because aside from this medieval view of his, George was probably as acceptable for this office as any man could be."
The lady burdened the word "man" with a tiny but distinguishable emphasis. Mr. Evans chose to ignore this.
"George's friends are going to take him in hand," said he. "Of course he was foolish to come out the way he has, even if he did say only what every man believes in his secret heart."
The president of the Whitewater Woman's Club fixed him with a glittering and suddenly hostile eye.
"What! you too?" she flung at him. He caught himself. He essayed explanations, modifications, a better lighting of the thing. But at the expiration of his first blundering sentence Mrs. Herrington, with her flexible little car, was narrowly missing an aged and careless pedestrian fifty yards down the street.
* * * * *
"George come in yet?"
For the second time Mr. Evans was demanding this of Miss Elizabeth Sheridan who had also ignored his preliminary "Good morning!"
Now for a moment more she typed viciously. One would have said that the thriving legal business of Remington and Evans required the very swift completion of the document upon which she wrought. And one would have been grossly deceived. The sheet had been drawn into the machine at the moment Mr. Evans' buoyant step had been heard in the outer hall, and upon it was merely written a dozen times the bald assertion, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party."
Actually it was but the mechanical explosion of the performer's mood, rather than the wording of a sentiment now or at any happier time entertained by her.
At last she paused; she sullenly permitted herself to be interrupted. Her hands still hovered above the already well-punished keys of the typewriter. She glanced over a shoulder at Mr. Evans and allowed him to observe her annoyance at the interruption.
"George has not come in yet," she said coldly. "I don't think he will ever come in again. I don't see how he can have the face to. I shouldn't think he could ever show himself on the street again after that—that—"
The young woman's emotion overcame her at this point. Again her relentless fingers stung the blameless mechanism—"to come to the aid of the party. Now is the time for all good—" She here controlled herself to further speech. "And you! Of course you applaud him for it. Oh, I knew you were all alike!"
"Now look here, Betty, this thing has gone far enough——"
"Far enough, indeed!"
"But you won't give me a chance!"
Mr. Evans here bent above his employee in a threatening manner.
"You don't even ask what I think about it. You say I'm guilty and ought to be shot without a trial—not even waiting till sunrise. If you had the least bit of fairness in your heart you'd have asked me what I really thought about this outbreak of George's, and I'd have told you in so many words that I think he's made all kinds of a fool of himself."
"No! Do you really, Pen?"
Miss Sheridan had swiftly become human. She allowed her eyes to meet those of Mr. Evans' with an easy gladness but little known to him of late. "Of course I do, Betty. The idea of a candidate for office in this enlightened age breaking loose in that manner! It's suicide. He could be arrested for the attempt in this State. Is that strong enough for you? You surely know how I feel now, don't you? Come on, Betty dear! Let's not spar in that foolish way any longer. Remember all I said yesterday. It goes double today—really, I see things more clearly."
Plainly Miss Sheridan was disarmed.
"And I thought you'd approve every word of his silly tirade," she murmured. Mr. Evans, still above her, was perilously shaken by the softer note in her voice, but he controlled himself in time and sat in one of the chairs reserved for waiting clients. It was near Miss Sheridan, yet beyond reaching distance. He felt that he must be cool in this moment of impending triumph.
"Wasn't it the awfullest rot?" demanded the spinster, pounding out a row of periods for emphasis.
"And he's got to be made to eat his words," said Mr. Evans, wisely taking the same by-path away from the one subject in all the world that really mattered.
"Who could make him?"
"I could, if I tried." It came in quiet, masterful tones that almost convinced the speaker himself.
"Oh, Pen, if you could! Wouldn't that be a victory, though? If you only could——"
"Well, if I only could—and if I do?" His intention was too pointed to be ignored.
"Oh, that!" He winced at the belittling "that." "Of course I couldn't promise—anyway I don't believe you could ever do it, so what's the use of being silly?"
"But you will—will you promise, if I do convert George? Answer the question, please!" Mr. Evans glared as only actual district attorneys have the right to.
"Oh, what nonsense—but, well, I'll promise—I'll promise to promise to think very seriously about it indeed, if you bring George around."
"Betty!" It was the voice of an able pleader and he half arose from his chair, his arms eloquent of purpose. "'Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. Now is the time for'—" wrote Miss Sheridan with dazzling fingers, and the pleader resumed his seat.
"How will you bring him 'round," she then demanded.
"Wiles, tricks, stratagems," replied the rising young diplomat moodily, smarting under the moment's defeat.
"Serve him right for pulling all that old-fashioned nonsense," said Miss Sheridan, and accorded her employer a glance in which admiration for his prowess was not half concealed.
"The words of a fool wise in his own folly," went on the encouraged Mr. Evans, and then, alas! a victim to the slight oratorical thrill these words brought him,—"honestly uttering what every last man believes and feels about woman in his heart and yet what no sane man running for office can say in public—here, what's the matter?"
The latter clause had been evoked by the sight of a blazing Miss Sheridan, who now stood over him with fists tightly clenched. "Oh, oh, oh!" This was low, tense, thrilling. It expressed horror. "So that's what your convictions amount to! Then you do applaud him, every word of him, and you were deceiving me. Every man in his own heart, indeed. Thank heaven I found you out in time!"
It may be said that Mr. Evans now cowered in his chair. The term is not too violent. He ventured to lift a hand in weak protest.
"No, no, Betty, you are being unjust to me again. I meant that that was what Martin Jaffry told me this morning. It isn't what I believe at all. I tell you my own deepest sentiments are exactly what yours are in this great cause which—which—"
Painfully he became aware of his own futility. Miss Sheridan had ceased to blaze. Seated again before the typewriter she grinned at him with amused incredulity.
"You nearly had me going, Pen."
Mr. Evans summoned the deeper resources of his manhood and achieved an easier manner. He brazenly returned her grin. "I'll have you going again before I'm through—remember that."
"By wiles, tricks and stratagems, I suppose."
"The same. By those I shall make poor George recant, and by those, assuming you to be a woman with a fine sense of honor who will hold a promise sacred, I shall have you going. And, mark my words, you'll be going good, too!"
She drew from the waste basket the maltreated Sentinel, unfurled it to expose the offending matter, and smote the column with the backs of four accusing fingers.
"There, my dear, is your answer. Now run along like a good boy."
"Silly!" said Mr. Evans, striving for a masterly finish to the unequal combat. He arose, dissembling cheerful confidence, straightened the frame of a steel-engraved Daniel Webster on the wall, and thrice paced the length of the room, falsely appearing to be engaged in deep thought.
Miss Sheridan, apparently for mere exclamatory purposes, now reread the fulmination of the absent partner. She scoffed, she sneered, flouted, derided, and one understood that she was including both members of the firm. Then her listener became aware that she had achieved coherence.
"Indeed, yes! Do you know what ought to happen to him? Every unprotected female in this county ought to pack her trunk and trudge right up to the Remington place and say, 'Here we are, noble man! We have read your burning words in which you offer to protect us. Save us from the vote! Let your home be our sanctuary. That's what you mean if you meant anything but tommy-rot. Here and now we throw ourselves upon your boasted chivalry. Where are our rooms, and what time is luncheon served.'"
"Here! Just say that again," called Mr. Evans from across the room. Miss Sheridan obliged. She elaborated her theme. George should be taken at his word by every weak flower of womanhood. If women were nothing but ministering angels, it was "up to" George to give 'em a chance to minister.
So went Miss Sheridan's improvisation and Mr. Evans, suffering the throes of a mighty inspiration, suddenly found it sweetest music.
When Miss Sheridan subsided, Mr. Evans appeared to have forgotten the cause of their late encounter. Whistling cheerily he bustled into his own office, mumbling of matters that had to be "gotten off." For some moments he busied himself at his desk, then emerged to dictate three business letters to his late antagonist.
He dictated in a formal and distant manner, pausing in the midst of the last letter to spell out the word "analysis," which he must have known would enrage her further. Then, quite casually, he wished to be told if she might know the local habitat of Mrs. Alys Brewster-Smith and a certain Cousin Emelene. His manner was arid.
Miss Sheridan chanced to know that the ladies were sheltered in the exclusive boarding-house of one Mrs. Gallup, out on Erie Street, and informed him to this effect in the fewest possible words. Mr. Evans whistled absently a moment, then formally announced that he should be absent from the office for perhaps an hour. Hat, gloves and stick in hand, he was about to nod punctiliously to the back of Miss Sheridan's head when the door opened to admit none other than our hero, George Remington. George wore the look of one who is uplifted and who yet has found occasion to be thoughtful about it. Penfield Evans grasped his hand and shook it warmly.
"Fine, George, old boy—simply corking! Honestly, I didn't believe you had it in you. You covered the ground and you did it in a big way. It took nerve, all right! Of course you probably know that every woman in town is speaking of your young wife as 'poor Genevieve,' but you've had the courage of your convictions. It's great!"
"Thanks, old man! I've spoken for the right as I saw it, let come what may. By the way, has Uncle Martin been in this morning, or telephoned, or sent any word?"
Miss Sheridan coldly signified that none of these things had occurred, whereupon George sighed in an interesting manner and entered his own room.
Mr. Evans had uttered his congratulations in clear, ringing tones and Miss Sheridan, even as she wrote, contrived with her trained shoulders to exhibit to his lingering eye an overwhelming contempt for his opinions and his double-dealing.
In spite of which he went out whistling, and dosed the door in a defiant manner.
CHAPTER III. BY FANNIE HURST
Destiny, busybody that she is, has her thousand irons in her perpetual fires, turning, testing and wielding them.
While Miss Betty Sheridan, for another scornful time, was rereading the well-thumbed copy of the Sentinel, her fine back arched like a prize cat's, George Remington in his small mahogany office adjoining, neck low and heels high, was codifying, over and over again, the small planks of his platform, stuffing the knot holes which afforded peeps to the opposite side of the issue with anti-putty, and planning a bombardment of his pattest phrases for the complete capitulation of his Uncle Jaffry.
While Genevieve Remington in her snug library, so eager in her wifeliness to clamber up to her husband's small planks, and if need be, spread her prettily flounced skirts over the rotting places, was memorizing, with more pride than understanding, extracts from the controversial article for quotation at the Woman's Club meeting, Mr. Penfield Evans, with a determination which considerably expanded his considerable chest measurement, ran two at a bound up the white stone steps of Mrs. Gallup's private boarding-house and pulled out the white china knob of a bell that gave no evidence of having sounded within, and left him uncertain to ring again.
A cast-iron deer, with lichen growing along its antlers, stood poised for instant flight in Mrs. Gallup's front yard.
While Mr. Evans waited he regarded its cast-iron flanks, but not seeingly. His rather the expression of one who stares into the future and smiles at what he sees.
Erie Street, shaded by a double row of showy chestnuts, lay in summer calm. A garden hose with a patent attachment spun spray over an adjoining lawn and sent up a greeny smell. Out from under the striped awning of Hassebrock's Ice Cream Parlor, cat-a-corner, Percival Pauncefort Sheridan, in rubber-heeled canvas shoes and white trousers, cuffed high, emerged and turned down Huron Street, making frequent forays into a bulging rear pocket.
Miss Lydia Chipley, vice-president of the Busy Bee Sewing and Civic Club, cool, starchy and unhatted, clicked past on slim, trim heels, all radiated by the reflection from a pink parasol, gay embroidery bag dangling.
"What's your hurry?"
"It's my middle name."
"Why hurry, when the future is always waiting?"
"Why aren't you holding your partner's head since he committed political suicide in the Sentinel?"
"I'd rather hold your head, Lyd, any day in the week."
"Gaul," said Miss Chipley, passing on, her sharply etched little face glowing in the pink reflection of the parasol, "is bounded on the north by Mrs. Gallup's boarding-house, and on the south by——"
"By the Frigid Zone!"
Then the door from behind swung open. Mr. Penfield Evans stepped into Mrs. Gallup's cool, exclusive parlor of better days, and delivering his card to a moist-fingered maid, sat himself among the shrouded furniture to await Mrs. Alys Brewster-Smith and Miss Emelene Brand.
Mrs. Gallup's boarding-house was finishing its noonday meal. Boiled odors lay upon a parlor that was otherwise redolent of the more opulent days of the Gallups. A not too ostentatious clatter of dishes came through the closed folding-doors.
Almost immediately Mrs. Alys Brewster-Smith, her favorite Concentrated Breath of the Lily always in advance, rustled into the darkened parlor, her stride hitting vigorously into her black taffeta skirts. Even as she shook hands with Mr. Evans, she jerked the window shade to its height, so that her smoothness and coloring shone out above her weeds.
In the shadow of her and at her life job of bringing up the rear, with a large Maltese cat padding beside her, entered Miss Brand on rubber heels. She was the color of long twilight.
Mr. Evans rose to his six-feet-in-his-stockings and extended them each a hand, Miss Emelene drawing the left.
Mrs. Smith threw up a dainty gesture, black lace ruffles falling back from arms all the whiter because of them.
"Well, Penny Evans!"
"None other, Mrs. Smith, than the villain himself."
"Be seated, Penfield."
"Thanks, Miss Emelene."
They drew up in a triangle beside the window overlooking the cast-iron deer. The cat sprang up, curling in the crotch of Miss Emelene's arm.
"Nice ittie kittie, say how-do to big Penny-field-Evans. Say how-do to big man. Say how-do, muvver's ittie kittie." Miss Emelene extended the somewhat reluctant Maltese paw, five hook-shaped claws slightly in evidence.
"Say how-do to Hanna, Penfield. Hanna, say how-do to big man." "How-do, Hanna," said Mr. Evans, reddening slightly beneath his tan. Then hitched his chair closer.
"To what," he began, flashing his white smile from one to the other of them, and with a strong veer to the facetious, "are we indebted for the honor of this visit? Are those the unspoken words, ladies?"
"Nothing wrong at home, Penfield? Nobody ailing or—"
"No, no, Miss Emelene, never better. As a matter of fact, it's a piece of political business that has prompted me to—"
At that Mrs. Smith jangled her bracelets, leaning forward on her knees.
"If it's got anything to do with your partner and my cousin George Remington having the courage to go in for the district attorneyship without the support of the vote-hunting, vote-eating women of this town, I'm here to tell you that I'm with him heart and soul. He can have my support and—"
"Mine too. And if I've got anything to say my two nephews will vote for him; and I think I have, with my two heirs."
"Ladies, it fills my heart with joy to—"
"Votes! Why what would the powder-puffing, short-skirted, bridge-playing women of this town do with the vote if they had it? Wear it around their necks on a gold chain?"
"Well spoken, Mrs. Smith, if—"
"I know the direction you lean, Penfield Evans, letting—"
"But, Miss Emelene, I—"
"Letting that shameless Betty Sheridan, a girl that had as sweet and womanly a mother as Whitewater ever boasted, lead you around by the nose on her suffrage string. A girl with her raising and both of her grandmothers women that lived and died genteel, to go traipsing around in her low heels in men's offices and addressing hoi polloi from soap boxes! Why, between her and that female chauffeur, Mrs. Herrington, another woman whose mother was of too fine feelings even to join the Delsarte class, the women of this town are being influenced to making disgraceful—dis—oh, what shall I say, Alys?"
Here Mrs. Smith broke in, thumping a soft fist into a soft palm.
"It's the most pernicious movement, Mr. Evans, that has ever got hold of this community and we need a man like my cousin George Remington to—"
"But, Mrs. Smith, that's just what I—"
"To stamp it out! Stamp it out! It's eating into the homes of Whitewater, trying to make breadwinners out of the creatures God intended for the bread-eaters—I mean bread-bakers."
"But, Mrs. Smith, I—"
"Woman's place has been the home since home was a cave, and it will be the home so long as women will remember that womanliness is their greatest asset. As poor dear Mr. Smith was so fond of saying, he—I can't bring myself to talk of him, Mr. Evans, but—but as he used to say, I—I—"
"Yes, yes, Mrs. Smith, I understa—"
"But as my cousin says in his article, which in my mind should be spread broadcast, what higher mission for woman than—than—just what are his words, Emelene?"
Miss Brand leaned forward, her gaze boring into space.
"What higher mission," she quoted, as if talking in a chapel, "for woman than that she sit enthroned in the home, wielding her invisible but mighty scepter from that throne, while man, kissing the hand that so lovingly commands him, shall bear her gifts and do her bidding. That is the strongest vote in the world. That is the universal suffrage which chivalry grants to woman. The unpolled vote! Long may it reign!"
Round spots of color had come out on Miss Emelene's long cheeks.
"A man who can think like that has the true—the true—what shall I say, Alys?"
"But, ladies, I protest that I'm not—"
"Has the true chivalry of spirit, Emelene, that the women are too stark raving mad to appreciate. You can't come here, Mr. Evans, to two women to whom womanliness and love of home, thank God, are still uppermost and try to convert us to—"
Here Mr. Evans executed a triple gyration, to the annoyance of Hanna, who withdrew from the gesture, and raised his voice to a shout that was not without a note of command.
"Convert you! Why women alive, what I've been bursting a blood vessel trying to say during the length of this interview is that I'd as soon dip my soul in boiling oil as try to convert you away from the cause. My cause! Our cause!"
"I'm here to tell you that I'm with my partner head-over-heels on the plank he has taken."
"But we thought—"
"We thought you and Betty Sheridan—why, my cousin Genevieve Remington told me that—"
"Yes, yes, Miss Emelene. But not even the wiles of a pretty woman can hold out indefinitely against Truth! A broad-minded man has got to keep the door of his mind open to conviction, or it decays of mildew. I confess that finally I am convinced that if there is one platform more than another upon which George Remington deserves his election it is on the brave and chivalrous principles he has so courageously come out with in the current Sentinel. Whatever may have been between Betty Sheridan and—"
"Mr. Evans, you don't mean to tell me that you and Betty Sheridan have quarreled! Such a desirable match from every point of view, family and all! It goes to show what a rattle-pated bunch of women they are! Any really clever girl with an eye to her future, anti or pro, could shift her politics when it came to a question of matri—"
"Mrs. Smith, there comes a time in every modern man's life when he's got to keep his politics and his pretty girls separate, or suffrage will get him if he don't watch out!"
"Yes, and Mr. Evans, if what I hear is true, a good-looking woman can talk you out of your safety deposit key!"
"That's where you're wrong, Mrs. Smith, and I'll prove it to you. Despite any wavering I may have exhibited, I now stand, as George puts it in his article, 'ready to conserve the threatened flower of womanhood by also endeavoring to conserve her unpolled vote!' If you women want prohibition, it is in your power to sway man's vote to prohibition. If you women want the moon, let man cast your proxy vote for it! In my mind, that is the true chivalry. To quote again, 'Woman is man's rarest heritage, his beautiful responsibility, and at all times his co-operation, support and protection are due her. His support and protection.'"
Miss Emelene closed her eyes. The red had spread in her cheeks and she laid her head back against the chair, rocking softly and stroking the thick-napped cat.
"The flower of womanhood," she repeated. "'His support and his protection.' If ever a man deserved high office because of high principles, it's my cousin George Remington! My cousin Genevieve Livingston Remington is the luckiest girl in the world, and not one of us Brands but what is willing to admit it. My two nephews, too, if their Aunt Emelene has anything to say, and I think she has—"
"Why, there isn't a stone in the world I wouldn't turn to see that boy in office," Mrs. Smith interrupted.
At that Mr. Evans rose.
"You mean that, Mrs. Smith?"
Miss Emelene rose with him, the cat pouring from her lap.
"Of course she means it, Penfield. What self-respecting woman wouldn't!"
Mr. Evans sat down again suddenly, Miss Emelene with him, and leaning violently forward, thrust his eager, sun-tanned face between the two women.
"Well, then, ladies, here's your chance to prove it! That's what brings me today. As two of the self-respecting, idealistic and womanly women of this community, I have come to urge you both to—"
"Oh, Mr. Evans!"
"Penfield, you are the flatterer!"
"To induce two such representative women as yourselves to help my partner to the election he so well deserves."
"Us?" "It is in your power, ladies, to demonstrate to Whitewater that George Remington's chivalry is not only on paper, but in his soul."
"By throwing yourselves upon his generosity and hospitality, at least during the campaign. You have it in your power, ladies, to strengthen the only uncertain plank upon which George Remington stands today."
A clock ticked roundly into a silence tinged with eloquence. The Maltese leaped back into Miss Emelene's lap, purring there.
"You mean, Penfield, for us to go visit George—er—er—"
"Just that! Bag and baggage. As two relatives and two unattached women, it is your privilege, nay, your right."
"He hasn't come out in words with it, but he has intimated that such an act from the representative antis of this town would more than anything strengthen his theories into facts. As unattached women, particularly as women of his own family, his support and protection, as he puts it, are due you, due you!"
Mrs. Smith clasped her plentifully ringed fingers, and regarded him with her prominent eyes widening.
"Why, I—unprotected widow that I am, Mr. Evans, am not the one to force myself even upon my cousin if—"
"Nor I, Penfield. It would be a pleasant enough change, heaven knows, from the boarding-house. But you can ask your mother, Penfield, if there ever was a prouder girl in all Whitewater than Emmy Brand. I—"
"But I tell you, ladies, the obligation is all on George's part. It's just as if you were polling votes for him. What is probably the oldest adage in the language, states that actions speak louder than words. Give him his chance to spread broadcast to your sex his protection, his support. That, ladies, is all I—we—ask."
"But I—Genevieve—the housekeeping, Penfield. Genevieve isn't much on management when it comes to—" "Housekeeping! Why, I have it from your fair cousin herself, Miss Emelene, that her idea of their new little home is the Open House."
"Yes, but—as Emelene says, Mr. Evans, it's an imposition to—"
"Why do you think, Mrs. Smith, Martin Jaffry spends all his evenings up at Remingtons' since they're back from their honeymoon? Why, he was telling me only last night it's for the joy of seeing that new little niece of his lording it over her well-oiled little household, where a few extra dropping in makes not one whit of difference."
At this remark, embedded like a diamond in a rock, a shade of faintest color swam across Mrs. Smith's face and she swung him her profile and twirled at her rings.
"And where Genevieve Remington's husband's interests are involved, ladies, need I go further in emphasizing your welcome into that little home?"
"Heaven knows it would be a change from the boarding-house, Alys. The lunches here are beginning to go right against me! That sago pudding today—and Gallup knowing how I hate starchy desserts!"
"For the sake of the cause, Miss Emelene, too!"
"Gallup would have to hold our rooms at half rate."
"Of course, Mrs. Smith. I'll arrange all that."
"I—I can't go over until evening, with three trunks to pack."
"Just fine, Mrs. Smith. You'll be there just in time to greet George at dinner."
Miss Emelene fell to stroking the cat, again curled like a sardelle in her lap.
"Kitti-kitti-kitti—, does muvver's ittsie Hanna want to go on visit to Tousin George in fine new ittie house? To fine Tousin Georgie what give ittsie Hanna big saucer milk evvy day? Big fine George what like ladies and lady kitties!"
"Emelene, it's out of the question to take Hanna. You know how George Remington hates cats! You remember at the Sunday School Bazaar when—" A grimness descended like a mask over Miss Brand's features. Her mouth thinned.
"Very well, then. Without Hanna you can count me out, Penfield. If—"
"No, no! Why nonsense, Miss Emelene! George doesn't—"
"This cat has the feelings and sensibilities of a human being."
"Why of course," cried Penfield Evans, reaching for his hat. "Just you bring Hanna right along, Miss Emelene. That's only a pet pose of George's when he wants to tease his relatives, Mrs. Smith. I remember from college—why I've seen George kiss a cat!"
Miss Emelene huddled the object of controversy up in her chin, talking down into the warm gray fur.
"Was 'em tryin' to 'buse muvver's ittsie bittsie kittsie? Muvver's ittsie bittsie kittsie!"
They were in the front hall now, Mr. Evans tugging at the door.
"I'll run around now and arrange to have your trunks called for at five. My congratulations and thanks, ladies, for helping the right man toward the right cause."
"You're sure, Penfield, we'll be welcome?"
"Welcome as the sun that shines!"
"If I thought, Penfield, that Hanna wouldn't be welcome I wouldn't budge a step."
"Of course she's welcome, Miss Emelene. Isn't she of the gentler sex? There'll be a cab around for you and Mrs. Smith and Hanna about five. So long, Mrs. Smith, and many thanks. Miss Emelene, Hanna."
On the outer steps they stood for a moment in a dapple of sunshine and shadow from chestnut trees.
"Good-by, Mr. Evans, until evening."
"Good-by, Mrs. Smith." He paused on the walk, lifting his hat and flashing his smile a third time.
"Good-by, Miss Emelene."
From the steps Miss Brand executed a rotary motion with the left paw of the dangling Maltese.
"Tell nice gentleman by-by. Tum now, Hanna, get washed and new ribbon to go by-by. Her go to big Cousin George and piddy Cousin Genevieve. By-by! By-by!"
The door swung shut, enclosing them. Down the quiet, tree-shaped sidewalk, Mr. Penfield Evans strode into the somnolent afternoon, turning down Huron Street. At the remote end of the block and before her large frame mansion of a thousand angles and wooden lace work, Mrs. Harvey Herrington's low car sidled to her curb-stone, racy-looking as a hound. That lady herself, large and modish, was in the act of stepping up and in.
"Well, Pen Evans! 'Tis writ in the book our paths should cross."
"Who more pleased than I?"
"Which way are you bound?"
"Jenkins' Transfer and Cab Service."
"No sooner said than done."
Mrs. Herrington threw her clutch and let out a cough of steam. They jerked and leaped forward. From the rear of the car an orange and black pennant—Votes for Women—stiffened out like a semaphore against the breeze.
CHAPTER IV. BY DOROTHY CANFIELD
Genevieve Remington sat in her pretty drawing-room and watched the hour hand of the clock slowly approach five. Five was a sacred hour in her day. At five George left his office, turned off the business-current with a click and turned on, full-voltage, the domestic-affectionate.
Genevieve often told her girl friends that she only began really to live after five, when George was restored to her. She assured them the psychical connection between George and herself was so close that, sitting alone in her drawing-room, she could feel a tingling thrill all over when the clock struck five and George emerged from his office downtown.
On the afternoon in question she received her five o'clock electric thrill promptly on time, although history does not record whether or not George walked out from his office at that moment. With all due respect for the world-shaking importance of Mr. Remington's movements, it must be stated that history had, on that afternoon, other more important events to chronicle.
As the clock struck five, the front doorbell rang. Marie, the maid, went to open the door. Genevieve adjusted the down-sweeping, golden-brown tress over her right eye, brushed an invisible speck from the piano, straightened a rose in a vase, and after these traditionally bridal preparations, waited with a bride's optimistic smile the advent of a caller. But it was Marie who appeared at the door, with a stricken face of horror.
"Mrs. Remington! Mrs. Remington!" she whispered loudly. "They've come to stay. The men are getting their trunks down from the wagon."
"Who has come to stay? Where?" queried the startled bride.
"The two ladies who came to call yesterday!"
"Oh!" said the relieved Genevieve. "There's some mistake, of course. If it's Cousin Emelene and Mrs.——"
She advanced into the hall and was confronted by two burly men with a very large trunk between them.
"Which room?" said one of them in a bored and insolent voice.
"Oh, you must have come to the wrong house," Genevieve assured them with her pretty, friendly smile.
She was so happy and so convinced of the essential rightness of a world which had produced George Remington that she had a friendly smile for every one, even for unshaven men who kept their battered derby hats on their heads, had viciously smelling cigars in their mouths, and penetrated to her sacred front hall with trunks which belonged somewhere else.
"Isn't this G. L. Remington's house?" inquired one of the men, dropping his end of the trunk and consulting a dirty slip of paper.
"Yes, it is," admitted Genevieve, thrilling at the thought that it was also hers. "This is the place all right, then," said the man. He heaved up his end of the trunk again, and said once more, "Which room?"
The repetition fell a little ominously on Genevieve's ear. What on earth could be the matter?
She heard voices outside and craning her soft white neck, she saw Cousin Emelene, with her gray kitten under one arm and a large suitcase in her other hand, coming up the steps. There was a beatific expression in her gentle, faded eyes, and her lips were quivering uncertainly. When she caught sight of Genevieve's sweet face back of the bored expressmen, she gave a little cry, ran forward, set down her suitcase and clasped her young cousin in her arms.
"Oh Genevieve dear, that noble wonderful husband of yours! What have you done to deserve such a man... out of this Age of Gold!"
This was a sentiment after Genevieve's own heart, but she found it rather too vague to meet the present somewhat tense situation.
Cousin Emelene went on, clasping her at intervals, and talking very fast. "I can hardly believe it! Now that my time of trial is all over I don't mind telling you that I was growing embittered and cynical. All those phrases my dear mother had brought me to believe, the sanctity of the home, the chivalrous protection of men, the wicked folly of women who leave the home to engage in fierce industrial struggle."... At about this point the expressmen set the trunk down, put their hands on their hips, cocked their hats at a new angle and waited in gloomy ennui for the conversation to stop. Cousin Emelene flowed on, her voice unsteady with a very real emotion.
"See, dear, you must not blame me for my lack of faith... but see how it looked to me. There I was, as womanly a woman as ever breathed, and yet I had no home to be sanctified, I had never had a bit of chivalrous protection from any man. And with the New Haven stocks shrinking from one day to the next, the way they do, it looked as though I would either have to starve or engage in the wicked, unwomanly folly of earning my own living. Do you know, dear Genevieve, I had almost come to the point—you know how the suffragists do keep banging away at their points—I almost wondered if perhaps they were right and if men really mean those things about protection and support in place of the vote.... And then George's splendid, noble-spirited article appeared, and a kind friend interpreted it for me and told what it really meant, for me! Oh, Genevieve."... The tears rose to her mild eyes, her gentle, flat voice faltered, she took out a handkerchief hastily. "It seemed too good to be true," she said brokenly into its folds. "I've longed all my life to be protected, and now I'm going to be!"
"Which room, please?" said the expressman. "We gotta be goin' on."
Genevieve pinched herself hard, jumped and said "ouch." Yes, she was awake, all right!
"Oh, Marie, will you please get Hanna a saucer of milk?" said Cousin Emelene now, seeing the maid's round eyes glaring startled from the dining-room door. "And just warm it a little bit, don't scald it. She won't touch it if there's the least bit of a scum on it. Just take that ice-box chill off. Here, I'll go with you this time. Since we're going to live here now, you'll have to do it a good many times, and I'd better show you just how to do it right."
She disappeared, leaving a trail of caressing baby-talk to the effect that she would take good care of muvver's ittie bittie kittie.
She left Genevieve for all practical purposes turned to stone. She felt as though she were stone, from head to foot, and she could open her mouth no more than any statue when, in answer to the next repetition, very peremptory now, of "Which room?" a voice as peremptory called from the open front door, "Straight upstairs; turn to your right, first door on the left."
As the men started forward, banging the mahogany banisters with the corners of the trunk at every step, Mrs. Brewster-Smith stepped in, immaculate as to sheer collar and cuffs, crisp and tailored as to suit, waved and netted as to hair, and chilled steel and diamond point as to will-power.
"Oh, Genevieve, I didn't see you there! I didn't know why they stood there waiting so long. I know the house so well I knew of course which room you'll have for guests. Dear old house! It will be like returning to my childhood to live here again!" She cocked an ear toward the upper regions and frowned, but went on smoothly.
"Such happy girlhood hours as I have passed here! After all there is nothing like the home feeling, is there, for us women at any rate! We're the natural conservatives, who cling to the simple, elemental satisfactions, and there's a heart-hunger that can only be satisfied by a home and a man's protection! I thought George's description too beautiful ... in his article you know... of the ideal home with the women of the family safe within its walls, protected from the savagery of the economic struggle which only men in their strength can bear without being crushed."
She turned quickly and terribly to the expressmen coming down the stairs and said in so fierce a voice that they shrank back visibly, "There's another trunk to take up to the room next to that. And if you let it down with the bang you did this one, you'll get something that will surprise you! Do you hear me!"
They shrank out, cowed and tiptoeing. Mrs. Brewster-Smith turned back to her young cousin-by-marriage and murmured, "That was such a true and deep saying of George's... wherever does such a young man get his wisdom!... that women are not fitted by nature to cope with hostile forces!"
Cousin Emelene approached from behind the statue of Genevieve, still frozen in place with an expression of stupefaction on her white face. The older woman put her arms around the bride's neck and gave her an affectionate hug.
"Oh, dearest Jinny, doesn't it seem like a dream that we're all going to be together, all we women, in a real home, with a real man at the head of it to direct us and give us of his strength! It does seem just like that beautiful old-fashioned home that George drew such an exquisite picture of, in his article, where the home was the center of the world to the women in it. It will be to me, I assure you, dear. I feel as though I had come to a haven, and as though I never would want to leave it!"
The expressmen were carrying up another trunk now, and so conscious of the glittering eyes of mastery upon them that they carried it as though it were the Ark of the Covenant and they its chosen priests. Mrs. Brewster-Smith followed them with a firm tread, throwing over her shoulder to the stone Genevieve below, "Oh, my dear, little Eleanor and her nurse will be in soon. Frieda was taking Eleanor for her usual afternoon walk. Will you just send them upstairs when they come! I suppose Frieda will have the room in the third story, that extra room that was finished off when Uncle Henry lived here. Emelene, you'd better come right up, too, if you expect to get unpacked before dinner."
She disappeared, and Emelene fluttered up after her, drawn along by suction, apparently, like a sheet of paper in the wake of a train. The expressmen came downstairs, still treading softly, and went out. Genevieve was alone again in her front hall. To her came tiptoeing Marie, with wide eyes of query and alarm. And from Marie's questioning face, Genevieve fled away like one fleeing from the plague.
"Don't ask me, Marie! Don't speak to me. Don't you dare ask me what... or I'll..." She was at the front door as she spoke, poised for flight like a terrified doe. "I must see Mr. Remington! I don't know what to tell you, Marie, till I have seen Mr. Remington! I must see my husband! I don't know what to say, I don't know what to think, until I have seen my husband."
Calling this eminently wifely sentiment over her shoulder she ran down the front walk, hatless, wrapless, just as she was in her pretty flowered and looped-up bride's house dress. She couldn't have run faster if the house had been on fire.
The clicking of her high heels on the concrete sidewalk was a rattling tattoo so eloquent of disorganized panic that more than one head was thrust from a neighboring window to investigate, and more than one head was pulled back, nodding to the well-worn and charitable hypothesis, "Their first quarrel." The hypothesis would instantly have been withdrawn if any one had continued looking after the fleeing bride long enough to see her, regardless of passers-by, fling herself wildly into her husband's arms as he descended from the trolley-car at the corner.
Betty Sheridan was sitting in the drawing-room of her parents' house, rather moodily reading a book on the Balance of Trade.
She had an unconfessed weakness of mind on the subject of tariffs and international trade. Although when in college she had written a paper on it which had been read aloud in the Economics Seminar and favorably commented upon, she knew, in her heart of hearts, that she understood less than nothing about the underlying principles of the subject. This nettled her and gave her occasional nightmare moments of doubt as to the real fitness of women for public affairs. She read feverishly all she could find on the subject, ending by addling her brains to the point of frenzy.
She was almost in that condition now although she did not look it in the least as, dressed for dinner in the evening gown which replaced the stark linens and tailored seams of her office-costume, she bent her shining head and earnest face over the pages of the book.
Penfield Evans took a long look at her, as one looks at a rose-bush in bloom, before he spoke through the open door and broke the spell.
"Oh, Betty," he called in a low tone, beckoning her with a gesture redolent of mystery.
Betty laid down her book and stared. "What you want?" she challenged him, reverting to the phrase she had used when they were children together.
"Come on out here a minute!" he said, jerking his head over his shoulder. "I want to show you something."
"Oh, I can't fuss around with you," said Betty, turning to her book again. "I've got Roberts' Balance of Trade out of the library and I must finish it by tomorrow." She began to read again.
The young man stood silent for a moment. "Great Scott!" he was saying to himself with a sinking heart. "So that's what they pick up for light reading, when they're waiting for dinner!"
He had a particularly gone feeling because, although he had made several successful political speeches on international trade and foreign tariffs, he was intelligent enough to know in his heart of hearts that he had no real understanding of the principles involved. He had come, indeed, to doubt if any one had!
Now, as he watched the pretty sleek head bent over the book he had supposed of course was a novel, he felt a qualm of real apprehension. Maybe there was something in what that guy said, the one who wrote a book to prove (bringing Queen Elizabeth and Catherine the Great as examples) that the real genius of women is for political life. Maybe they have a special gift for it! Maybe, a generation or so from now, it'll be the men who are disfranchised for incompetence.... He put away as fantastic such horrifying ideas, and with a quick action of his resolute will applied himself to the present situation. "Oh Betty, you don't know what you're missing! It's a sight you'll never forget as long as you live... oh, come on! Be a sport. Take a chance!"
Betty was still suspicious of frivolity, but she rose, looked at her wrist-watch and guessed she'd have a few minutes before dinner, to fool away in light-minded society.
"There's nothing light-minded about this!" Penny assured her gravely, leading her swiftly down the street, around the corner, up another street and finally, motioning her to silence, up on the well-clipped lawn of a handsome, dignified residence, set around with old trees.
"Look!" he whispered in her ear, dramatically pointing in through the lighted window. "Look! What do you see?"
Betty looked, and looked again and turned on him petulantly:
"What foolishness are you up to now, Penfield Evans!" she whispered energetically. "Why under the sun did you drag me out to see Emelene and Alys Brewster-Smith dining with the Remingtons? Isn't it just the combination of reactionary old fogies you might expect to get together... though I didn't know Alys ever took her little girl out to dinner-parties, and Emelene must be perfectly crazy over that cat to take her here. Cats make George's flesh creep. Don't you remember, at the Sunday School Bazaar."
He cut her short with a gesture of command, and applying his lips to her ear so that he would not be heard inside the house, he said, "You think all you see is Emelene and Alys taking dinner en famille with the Remingtons. Eyes that see not! What you are gazing upon is a reconstruction of the blessed family life that existed in the good old days, before the industrial period and the abominable practice of economic independence for women began! You are seeing Woman in her proper place, the Home,... if not her own Home, somebody's Home, anybody's Home... the Home of the man nearest to her, who owes her protection because she can't vote. You are gazing upon..."
His rounded periods were silenced by a tight clutch on his wrist. "Penfield Evans. Don't you dare exaggerate to me! Have they come there to stay! To take him at his word!"
He nodded solemnly.
"Their trunks are upstairs in the only two spare-rooms in the house, and Frieda is installed in the only extra room in the attic. Marie gave notice that she was going to quit, just before dinner. George has been telephoning to my Aunt Harriet to see if she knows of another maid...."
"Whatever... whatever could have made them think of such a thing!" gasped Betty, almost beyond words.
"I did!" said Penfield Evans, tapping himself on the chest. "It was my giant intelligence that propelled them here."
He was conscious of a lacy rush upon him, and of a couple of soft arms which gave him an impassioned embrace none the less vigorous because the arms were more used to tennis-racquets and canoe-paddles than impassioned embraces. Then he was thrust back... and there was Betty, collapsed against a lilac bush, shaking and convulsed, one hand pressed hard on her mouth to keep back the shrieks of merriment which continually escaped in suppressed squeals, the other hand outstretched to ward him off....
"No, don't you touch me, I didn't mean a thing by it! I just couldn't help it! It's too, too rich! Oh Penny, you duck! Oh, I shall die! I shall die! I never saw anything so funny in my life! Oh, Penny, take me away or I shall perish here and now!"
On the whole, in spite of the repulsing hand, he took it that he had advanced his cause. He broke into a laugh, more light-hearted than he had uttered for a long time. They stood for a moment more in the soft darkness, gazing in with rapt eyes at the family scene. Then they reeled away up the street, gasping and choking with mirth, festooning themselves about trees for support when their legs gave way under them.
"Did you see George's face when Emelene let the cat eat out of her plate!" cried Betty.
"And did you see Genevieve's when Mrs. Brewster-Smith had the dessert set down in front of her to serve!"
"How about little Eleanor upsetting the glass of milk on George's trousers!"
"Oh poor old George! Did you ever see such gloom!"
Thus bubbling, they came again to Betty's home with the door still open from which she had lately emerged. There Betty fell suddenly silent, all the laughter gone from her face. The man peered in the dusk, apprehensive. What had gone wrong, now, after all?
"Do you know, Penny, we're pigs!" she said suddenly, with energy. "We're hateful, abominable pigs!"
He glared at her and clutched his hair.
"Didn't you see Emelene Brand's face? I can't get it out of my mind! It makes me sick, it was so happy and peaceful and befooled! Poor old dear! She believes all that! And she's the only one who does! And its beastly in us to make a joke of it! She has wanted a home all her life, and she'd have made a lovely one, too, for children! And she's been kept from it by all this fool's talk about womanliness."
"Help! What under the sun are you..." began Penfield.
"Why, look here, she's not and never was, the kind any man wants to marry. She wouldn't have liked a real husband, either... poor, dear, thin-blooded old child! But she wanted a home just the same. Everybody does! And if she had been taught how to earn a decent living, if she hadn't been fooled out of her five senses by that idiotic cant about a man's doing everything for you, or else going without... why she'd be working now, a happy, useful woman, bringing up two or three adopted children in a decent home she'd made for them with her own efforts... instead of making her loving heart ridiculous over a cat...."
She dashed her hand over her eyes angrily, and stood silent for a moment, trying to control her quivering chin before she went into the house.
The young man touched her shoulder with reverent fingers. "Betty," he said in a rather unsteady voice, "its true, all that bally-rot about women being better than men. You are!"
With which very modern compliment, he turned and left her.
CHAPTER V. BY KATHLEEN NORRIS
Her first evening with her augmented family Genevieve Remington never forgot. It is not at all likely that George ever forgot it, either; but to George it was only one in the series of disturbing events that followed his unqualified repudiation of the suffrage cause.
To Genevieve's tender heart it meant the wreckage, not the preservation of the home; that lovely home to whose occupancy she had so hopefully looked. She was too young a wife to recognize in herself the evanescent emotions of the bride. The blight had fallen upon her for all time. What had been fire was ashes; it was all over. The roseate dream had been followed by a cruel, and a lasting, awakening.
Some day Genevieve would laugh at the memory of this tragic evening, as she laughed at George's stern ultimatums, and at Junior's decision to be an engineer, and at Jinny's tiny cut thumb. But she had no sense of humor now. As she ran to the corner, and poured the whole distressful story into her husband's ears, she felt the walls of her castle in Spain crashing about her ears.
George, of course, was wonderful; he had been that all his life. He only smiled, at first, at her news.
"You poor little sweetheart!" he said to his wife, as she clung to his arm, and they entered the house together. "It's a shame to distress you so, just as we are getting settled, and Marie and Lottie are working in! But it's too absurd, and to have you worry your little head is ridiculous, of course! Let them stay here to dinner, and then I'll just quietly take it for granted that they are going home—"
"But—but their trunks are here, dearest!"
Husband and wife were in their own room now, and Genevieve was rapidly recovering her calm. George turned from his mirror to frown at her in surprise. "Their trunks! They didn't lose any time, did they? But do you mean to say there was no telephoning—no notice at all?"
"They may have telephoned, George, love. But I was over at Grace Hatfield's for a while, and I got back just before they came in!"
George went on with his dressing, a thoughtful expression on his face. Genevieve thought he looked stunning in the loose Oriental robe he wore while he shaved.