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Title: Jennie Gerhardt
Author: Theodore Dreiser




JENNIE GERHARDT




CHAPTER I


One morning, in the fall of 1880, a middle-aged woman, accompanied
by a young girl of eighteen, presented herself at the clerk's desk of
the principal hotel in Columbus, Ohio, and made inquiry as to whether
there was anything about the place that she could do. She was of a
helpless, fleshy build, with a frank, open countenance and an
innocent, diffident manner. Her eyes were large and patient, and in
them dwelt such a shadow of distress as only those who have looked
sympathetically into the countenances of the distraught and helpless
poor know anything about. Any one could see where the daughter behind
her got the timidity and shamefacedness which now caused her to stand
back and look indifferently away. She was a product of the fancy, the
feeling, the innate affection of the untutored but poetic mind of her
mother combined with the gravity and poise which were characteristic
of her father. Poverty was driving them. Together they presented so
appealing a picture of honest necessity that even the clerk was
affected.

"What is it you would like to do?" he said.

"Maybe you have some cleaning or scrubbing," she replied, timidly.
"I could wash the floors."

The daughter, hearing the statement, turned uneasily, not because
it irritated her to work, but because she hated people to guess at the
poverty that made it necessary. The clerk, manlike, was affected by
the evidence of beauty in distress. The innocent helplessness of the
daughter made their lot seem hard indeed.

"Wait a moment," he said; and, stepping into a back office, he
called the head housekeeper.

There was work to be done. The main staircase and parlor hall were
unswept because of the absence of the regular scrub-woman.

"Is that her daughter with her?" asked the housekeeper, who could
see them from where she was standing.

"Yes, I believe so."

"She might come this afternoon if she wants to. The girl helps her,
I suppose?"

"You go see the housekeeper," said the clerk, pleasantly, as he
came back to the desk. "Right through there"--pointing to a
near-by door. "She'll arrange with you about it."

A succession of misfortunes, of which this little scene might have
been called the tragic culmination, had taken place in the life and
family of William Gerhardt, a glass-blower by trade. Having suffered
the reverses so common in the lower walks of life, this man was forced
to see his wife, his six children, and himself dependent for the
necessaries of life upon whatever windfall of fortune the morning of
each recurring day might bring. He himself was sick in bed. His oldest
boy, Sebastian, or "Bass," as his associates transformed it, worked as
an apprentice to a local freight-car builder, but received only four
dollars a week. Genevieve, the oldest of the girls, was past eighteen,
but had not as yet been trained to any special work. The other
children, George, aged fourteen; Martha, twelve; William ten, and
Veronica, eight, were too young to do anything, and only made the
problem of existence the more complicated. Their one mainstay was the
home, which, barring a six-hundred-dollar mortgage, the father owned.
He had borrowed this money at a time when, having saved enough to buy
the house, he desired to add three rooms and a porch, and so make it
large enough for them to live in. A few years were still to run on the
mortgage, but times had been so bad that he had been forced to use up
not only the little he had saved to pay off the principal, but the
annual interest also. Gerhardt was helpless, and the consciousness of
his precarious situation--the doctor's bill, the interest due
upon the mortgage, together with the sums owed butcher and baker, who,
through knowing him to be absolutely honest, had trusted him until
they could trust no longer--all these perplexities weighed upon
his mind and racked him so nervously as to delay his recovery.

Mrs. Gerhardt was no weakling. For a time she took in washing, what
little she could get, devoting the intermediate hours to dressing the
children, cooking, seeing that they got off to school, mending their
clothes, waiting on her husband, and occasionally weeping. Not
infrequently she went personally to some new grocer, each time farther
and farther away, and, starting an account with a little cash, would
receive credit until other grocers warned the philanthropist of his
folly. Corn was cheap. Sometimes she would make a kettle of lye
hominy, and this would last, with scarcely anything else, for an
entire week. Corn-meal also, when made into mush, was better than
nothing, and this, with a little milk, made almost a feast. Potatoes
fried was the nearest they ever came to luxurious food, and coffee was
an infrequent treat. Coal was got by picking it up in buckets and
baskets along the maze of tracks in the near-by railroad yard. Wood,
by similar journeys to surrounding lumber-yards. Thus they lived from
day to day, each hour hoping that the father would get well and that
the glass-works would soon start up. But as the winter approached
Gerhardt began to feel desperate.

"I must get out of this now pretty soon," was the sturdy German's
regular comment, and his anxiety found but weak expression in the
modest quality of his voice.

To add to all this trouble little Veronica took the measles, and,
for a few days, it was thought that she would die. The mother
neglected everything else to hover over her and pray for the best.
Doctor Ellwanger came every day, out of purely human sympathy, and
gravely examined the child. The Lutheran minister, Pastor Wundt,
called to offer the consolation of the Church. Both of these men
brought an atmosphere of grim ecclesiasticism into the house. They
were the black-garbed, sanctimonious emissaries of superior forces.
Mrs. Gerhardt felt as if she were going to lose her child, and watched
sorrowfully by the cot-side. After three days the worst was over, but
there was no bread in the house. Sebastian's wages had been spent for
medicine. Only coal was free for the picking, and several times the
children had been scared from the railroad yards. Mrs. Gerhardt
thought of all the places to which she might apply, and despairingly
hit upon the hotel. Now, by a miracle, she had her chance.

"How much do you charge?" the housekeeper asked her.

Mrs. Gerhardt had not thought this would be left to her, but need
emboldened her.

"Would a dollar a day be too much?"

"No," said the housekeeper; "there is only about three days' work
to do every week. If you would come every afternoon you could do
it."

"Very well," said the applicant. "Shall we start to-day?"

"Yes; if you'll come with me now I'll show you where the cleaning
things are."

The hotel, into which they were thus summarily introduced, was a
rather remarkable specimen for the time and place. Columbus, being the
State capital, and having a population of fifty thousand and a fair
passenger traffic, was a good field for the hotel business, and the
opportunity had been improved; so at least the Columbus people proudly
thought. The structure, five stories in height, and of imposing
proportions, stood at one corner of the central public square, where
were the Capitol building and principal stores. The lobby was large
and had been recently redecorated. Both floor and wainscot were of
white marble, kept shiny by frequent polishing. There was an imposing
staircase with hand-rails of walnut and toe-strips of brass. An
inviting corner was devoted to a news and cigar-stand. Where the
staircase curved upward the clerk's desk and offices had been located,
all done in hardwood and ornamented by novel gas-fixtures. One could
see through a door at one end of the lobby to the barbershop, with its
chairs and array of shaving-mugs. Outside were usually two or three
buses, arriving or departing, in accordance with the movement of the
trains.

To this caravanserai came the best of the political and social
patronage of the State. Several Governors had made it their permanent
abiding place during their terms of office. The two United States
Senators, whenever business called them to Columbus, invariably
maintained parlor chambers at the hotel. One of them, Senator Brander,
was looked upon by the proprietor as more or less of a permanent
guest, because he was not only a resident of the city, but an
otherwise homeless bachelor. Other and more transient guests included
Congressmen, State legislators and lobbyists, merchants, professional
men, and, after them, the whole raft of indescribables who, coming and
going, make up the glow and stir of this kaleidoscopic world.

Mother and daughter, suddenly flung into this realm of superior
brightness, felt immeasurably overawed. They went about too timid to
touch anything for fear of giving offense. The great red-carpeted
hallway, which they were set to sweep, had for them all the
magnificence of a palace; they kept their eyes down and spoke in their
lowest tones. When it came to scrubbing the steps and polishing the
brass-work of the splendid stairs both needed to steel themselves, the
mother against her timidity, the daughter against the shame at so
public an exposure. Wide beneath lay the imposing lobby, and men,
lounging, smoking, passing constantly in and out, could see them
both.

"Isn't it fine?" whispered Genevieve, and started nervously at the
sound of her own voice.

"Yes," returned her mother, who, upon her knees, was wringing out
her cloth with earnest but clumsy hands.

"It must cost a good deal to live here, don't you think?"

"Yes," said her mother. "Don't forget to rub into these little
corners. Look here what you've left."

Jennie, mortified by this correction, fell earnestly to her task,
and polished vigorously, without again daring to lift her eyes.

With painstaking diligence they worked downward until about five
o'clock; it was dark outside, and all the lobby was brightly lighted.
Now they were very near the bottom of the stairway.

Through the big swinging doors there entered from the chilly world
without a tall, distinguished, middle-aged gentleman, whose silk hat
and loose military cape-coat marked him at once, among the crowd of
general idlers, as some one of importance. His face was of a dark and
solemn cast, but broad and sympathetic in its lines, and his bright
eyes were heavily shaded with thick, bushy, black eyebrows. Passing to
the desk he picked up the key that had already been laid out for him,
and coming to the staircase, started up.

The middle-aged woman, scrubbing at his feet, he acknowledged not
only by walking around her, but by graciously waving his hand, as much
as to say, "Don't move for me."

The daughter, however, caught his eye by standing up, her troubled
glance showing that she feared she was in his way.

He bowed and smiled pleasantly.

"You shouldn't have troubled yourself," he said.

Jennie only smiled.

When he had reached the upper landing an impulsive sidewise glance
assured him, more clearly than before, of her uncommonly prepossessing
appearance. He noted the high, white forehead, with its smoothly
parted and plaited hair. The eyes he saw were blue and the complexion
fair. He had even time to admire the mouth and the full
cheeks--above all, the well-rounded, graceful form, full of
youth, health, and that hopeful expectancy which to the middle-aged is
so suggestive of all that is worth begging of Providence. Without
another look he went dignifiedly upon his way, but the impression of
her charming personality went with him. This was the Hon. George
Sylvester Brander, junior Senator.

"Wasn't that a fine-looking man who went up just now?" observed
Jennie a few moments later.

"Yes, he was," said her mother.

"He had a gold-headed cane."

"You mustn't stare at people when they pass," cautioned her mother,
wisely. "It isn't nice."

"I didn't stare at him," returned Jennie, innocently. "He bowed to
me."

"Well, don't you pay any attention to anybody," said her mother.
"They may not like it."

Jennie fell to her task in silence, but the glamor of the great
world was having its effect upon her senses. She could not help giving
ear to the sounds, the brightness, the buzz of conversation and
laughter surrounding her. In one section of the parlor floor was the
dining-room, and from the clink of dishes one could tell that supper
was being prepared. In another was the parlor proper, and there some
one came to play on the piano. That feeling of rest and relaxation
which comes before the evening meal pervaded the place. It touched the
heart of the innocent working-girl with hope, for hers were the years,
and poverty could not as yet fill her young mind with cares. She
rubbed diligently always, and sometimes forgot the troubled mother at
her side, whose kindly eyes were becoming invested with crows' feet,
and whose lips half repeated the hundred cares of the day. She could
only think that all of this was very fascinating, and wish that a
portion of it might come to her.

At half-past five the housekeeper, remembering them, came and told
them that they might go. The fully finished stairway was relinquished
by both with a sigh of relief, and, after putting their implements
away, they hastened homeward, the mother, at least, pleased to think
that at last she had something to do.

As they passed several fine houses Jennie was again touched by that
half-defined emotion which the unwonted novelty of the hotel life had
engendered in her consciousness.

"Isn't it fine to be rich?" she said.

"Yes," answered her mother, who was thinking of the suffering
Veronica.

"Did you see what a big dining-room they had there?"

"Yes."

They went on past the low cottages and among the dead leaves of the
year.

"I wish we were rich," murmured Jennie, half to herself.

"I don't know just what to do," confided her mother with a
long-drawn sigh. "I don't believe there's a thing to eat in the
house."

"Let's stop and see Mr. Bauman again," exclaimed Jennie, her
natural sympathies restored by the hopeless note in her mother's
voice.

"Do you think he would trust us any more?"

"Let's tell him where we're working. I will."

"Well," said her mother, wearily.

Into the small, dimly lighted grocery store, which was two blocks
from their house, they ventured nervously. Mrs. Gerhardt was about to
begin, but Jennie spoke first.

"Will you let us have some bread to-night, and a little bacon?
We're working now at the Columbus House, and we'll be sure to pay you
Saturday."

"Yes," added Mrs. Gerhardt, "I have something to do."

Bauman, who had long supplied them before illness and trouble
began, knew that they told the truth.

"How long have you been working there?" he asked.

"Just this afternoon."

"You know, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said, "how it is with me. I don't
want to refuse you. Mr. Gerhardt is good for it, but I am poor, too.
Times are hard," he explained further, "I have my family to keep."

"Yes, I know," said Mrs. Gerhardt, weakly.

Her old shoddy shawl hid her rough hands, red from the day's work,
but they were working nervously. Jennie stood by in strained
silence.

"Well," concluded Mr. Bauman, "I guess it's all right this time. Do
what you can for me Saturday."

He wrapped up the bread and bacon, and, handing Jennie the parcel,
he added, with a touch of cynicism:

"When you get money again I guess you'll go and trade somewhere
else."

"No," returned Mrs. Gerhardt; "you know better than that." But she
was too nervous to parley long.

They went out into the shadowy street, and on past the low cottages
to their own home.

"I wonder," said the mother, wearily, when they neared the door,
"if they've got any coal?"

"Don't worry," said Jennie. "If they haven't I'll go."

"A man run us away," was almost the first greeting that the
perturbed George offered when the mother made her inquiry about the
coal. "I got a little, though." he added. "I threw it off a car."

Mrs. Gerhardt only smiled, but Jennie laughed.

"How is Veronica?" she inquired.

"She seems to be sleeping," said the father. "I gave her medicine
again at five."

While the scanty meal was being prepared the mother went to the
sick child's bedside, taking up another long night's vigil quite as a
matter of course.

While the supper was being eaten Sebastian offered a suggestion,
and his larger experience in social and commercial matters made his
proposition worth considering. Though only a car-builder's apprentice,
without any education except such as pertained to Lutheran doctrine,
to which he objected very strongly, he was imbued with American color
and energy. His transformed name of Bass suited him exactly. Tall,
athletic, and well-featured for his age, he was a typical stripling of
the town. Already he had formulated a philosophy of life. To succeed
one must do something--one must associate, or at least seem to
associate, with those who were foremost in the world of
appearances.

For this reason the young boy loved to hang about the Columbus
House. It seemed to him that this hotel was the center and
circumference of all that was worth while in the social sense. He
would go down-town evenings, when he first secured money enough to buy
a decent suit of clothes, and stand around the hotel entrance with his
friends, kicking his heels, smoking a two-for-five-cent cigar,
preening himself on his stylish appearance, and looking after the
girls. Others were there with him--town dandies and nobodies,
young men who came there to get shaved or to drink a glass of whisky.
And all of these he admired and sought to emulate. Clothes were the
main touchstone. If men wore nice clothes and had rings and pins,
whatever they did seemed appropriate. He wanted to be like them and to
act like them, and so his experience of the more pointless forms of
life rapidly broadened.

"Why don't you get some of those hotel fellows to give you their
laundry?" he asked of Jennie after she had related the afternoon's
experiences. "It would be better than scrubbing the stairs."

"How do you get it?" she replied.

"Why, ask the clerk, of course."

This plan struck Jennie as very much worth while.

"Don't you ever speak to me if you meet me around there," he
cautioned her a little later, privately. "Don't you let on that you
know me."

"Why?" she asked, innocently.

"Well, you know why," he answered, having indicated before that
when they looked so poor he did not want to be disgraced by having to
own them as relatives. "Just you go on by. Do you hear?"

"All right," she returned, meekly, for although this youth was not
much over a year her senior, his superior will dominated.

The next day on their way to the hotel she spoke of it to her
mother.

"Bass said we might get some of the laundry of the men at the hotel
to do."

Mrs. Gerhardt, whose mind had been straining all night at the
problem of adding something to the three dollars which her six
afternoons would bring her, approved of the idea.

"So we might," she said. "I'll ask that clerk."

When they reached the hotel, however, no immediate opportunity
presented itself. They worked on until late in the afternoon. Then, as
fortune would have it, the housekeeper sent them in to scrub up the
floor behind the clerk's desk. That important individual felt very
kindly toward mother and daughter. He liked the former's sweetly
troubled countenance and the latter's pretty face. So he listened
graciously when Mrs. Gerhardt ventured meekly to put the question
which she had been revolving in her mind all the afternoon.

"Is there any gentleman here," she said, "who would give me his
washing to do? I'd be so very much obliged for it."

The clerk looked at her, and again recognized that absolute want
was written all over her anxious face.

"Let's see," he answered, thinking of Senator Brander and Marshall
Hopkins. Both were charitable men, who would be more than glad to aid
a poor woman. "You go up and see Senator Brander," he continued. "He's
in twenty-two. Here," he added, writing out the number, "you go up and
tell him I sent you."

Mrs. Gerhardt took the card with a tremor of gratefulness. Her eyes
looked the words she could not say.

"That's all right," said the clerk, observing her emotion. "You go
right up. You'll find him in his room now."

With the greatest diffidence Mrs. Gerhardt knocked at number
twenty-two. Jennie stood silently at her side.

After a moment the door was opened, and in the full radiance of the
bright room stood the Senator. Attired in a handsome smoking-coat, he
looked younger than at their first meeting.

"Well, madam," he said, recognizing the couple, and particularly
the daughter, "what can I do for you?"

Very much abashed, the mother hesitated in her reply.

"We would like to know if you have any washing you could let us
have to do?"

"Washing?" he repeated after her, in a voice which had a peculiarly
resonant quality. "Washing? Come right in. Let me see."

He stepped aside with much grace, waved them in and closed the
door. "Let me see," he repeated, opening and closing drawer after
drawer of the massive black-walnut bureau. Jennie studied the room
with interest. Such an array of nicknacks and pretty things on mantel
and dressing-case she had never seen before. The Senator's easy-chair,
with a green-shaded lamp beside it, the rich heavy carpet and the fine
rugs upon the floor--what comfort, what luxury!

"Sit down; take those two chairs there," said the Senator,
graciously, disappearing into a closet.

Still overawed, mother and daughter thought it more polite to
decline, but now the Senator had completed his researches and he
reiterated his invitation. Very uncomfortably they yielded and took
chairs.

"Is this your daughter?" he continued, with a smile at Jennie.

"Yes, sir," said the mother; "she's my oldest girl."

"Is your husband alive?"

"What is his name?"

"Where does he live?"

To all of these questions Mrs. Gerhardt very humbly answered.

"How many children have you?" he went on.

"Six," said Mrs. Gerhardt.

"Well," he returned, "that's quite a family. You've certainly done
your duty to the nation."

"Yes, sir," returned Mrs. Gerhardt, who was touched by his genial
and interesting manner.

"And you say this is your oldest daughter?"

"Yes, sir."

"What does your husband do?"

"He's a glass-blower. But he's sick now."

During the colloquy Jennie's large blue eyes were wide with
interest. Whenever he looked at her she turned upon him such a frank,
unsophisticated gaze, and smiled in such a vague, sweet way, that he
could not keep his eyes off of her for more than a minute of the
time.

"Well," he continued, sympathetically, "that is too bad! I have
some washing here not very much but you are welcome to it. Next week
there may be more."

He went about now, stuffing articles of apparel into a blue cotton
bag with a pretty design on the side.

"Do you want these any certain day?" questioned Mrs. Gerhardt.

"No," he said, reflectively; "any day next week will do."

She thanked him with a simple phrase, and started to go.

"Let me see," he said, stepping ahead of them and opening the door,
"you may bring them back Monday."

"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Gerhardt. "Thank you."

They went out and the Senator returned to his reading, but it was
with a peculiarly disturbed mind.

"Too bad," he said, closing his volume. "There's something very
pathetic about those people." Jennie's spirit of wonder and
appreciation was abroad in the room.

Mrs. Gerhardt and Jennie made their way anew through the shadowy
streets. They felt immeasurably encouraged by this fortunate
venture.

"Didn't he have a fine room?" whispered Jennie.

"Yes," answered the mother; "he's a great man."

"He's a senator, isn't he?" continued the daughter.

"Yes."

"It must be nice to be famous," said the girl, softly.




CHAPTER II


The spirit of Jennie--who shall express it? This daughter of
poverty, who was now to fetch and carry the laundry of this
distinguished citizen of Columbus, was a creature of a mellowness of
temperament which words can but vaguely suggest. There are natures
born to the inheritance of flesh that come without understanding, and
that go again without seeming to have wondered why. Life, so long as
they endure it, is a true wonderland, a thing of infinite beauty,
which could they but wander into it wonderingly, would be heaven
enough. Opening their eyes, they see a conformable and perfect world.
Trees, flowers, the world of sound and the world of color. These are
the valued inheritance of their state. If no one said to them "Mine,"
they would wander radiantly forth, singing the song which all the
earth may some day hope to hear. It is the song of goodness.

Caged in the world of the material, however, such a nature is
almost invariably an anomaly. That other world of flesh into which has
been woven pride and greed looks askance at the idealist, the dreamer.
If one says it is sweet to look at the clouds, the answer is a warning
against idleness. If one seeks to give ear to the winds, it shall be
well with his soul, but they will seize upon his possessions. If all
the world of the so-called inanimate delay one, calling with
tenderness in sounds that seem to be too perfect to be less than
understanding, it shall be ill with the body. The hands of the actual
are forever reaching toward such as these--forever seizing
greedily upon them. It is of such that the bond servants are made.

In the world of the actual, Jennie was such a spirit. From her
earliest youth goodness and mercy had molded her every impulse. Did
Sebastian fall and injure himself, it was she who struggled with
straining anxiety, carried him safely to his mother. Did George
complain that he was hungry, she gave him all of her bread. Many were
the hours in which she had rocked her younger brothers and sisters to
sleep, singing whole-heartedly betimes and dreaming far dreams. Since
her earliest walking period she had been as the right hand of her
mother. What scrubbing, baking, errand-running, and nursing there had
been to do she did. No one had ever heard her rudely complain, though
she often thought of the hardness of her lot. She knew that there were
other girls whose lives were infinitely freer and fuller, but, it
never occurred to her to be meanly envious; her heart might be lonely,
but her lips continued to sing. When the days were fair she looked out
of her kitchen window and longed to go where the meadows were.
Nature's fine curves and shadows touched her as a song itself. There
were times when she had gone with George and the others, leading them
away to where a patch of hickory-trees flourished, because there were
open fields, with shade for comfort and a brook of living water. No
artist in the formulating of conceptions, her soul still responded to
these things, and every sound and every sigh were welcome to her
because of their beauty.

When the soft, low call or the wood-doves, those spirits of the
summer, came out of the distance, she would incline her head and
listen, the whole spiritual quality of it dropping like silver bubbles
into her own great heart.

Where the sunlight was warm and the shadows flecked with its
splendid radiance she delighted to wonder at the pattern of it, to
walk where it was most golden, and follow with instinctive
appreciation the holy corridors of the trees.

Color was not lost upon her. That wonderful radiance which fills
the western sky at evening touched and unburdened her heart.

"I wonder," she said once with girlish simplicity, "how it would
feel to float away off there among those clouds."

She had discovered a natural swing of a wild grape-vine, and was
sitting in it with Martha and George.

"Oh, wouldn't it be nice if you had a boat up there," said
George.

She was looking with uplifted face at a far-off cloud, a red island
in a sea of silver.

"Just supposing," she said, "people could live on an island like
that."

Her soul was already up there, and its elysian paths knew the
lightness of her feet.

"There goes a bee," said George, noting a bumbler winging by.

"Yes," she said, dreamily, "it's going home."

"Does everything have a home?" asked Martha.

"Nearly everything," she answered.

"Do the birds go home?" questioned George.

"Yes," she said, deeply feeling the poetry of it herself, "the
birds go home."

"Do the bees go home?" urged Martha.

"Yes, the bees go home."

"Do the dogs go home?" said George, who saw one traveling
lonesomely along the nearby road.

"Why, of course," she said, "you know that dogs go home."

"Do the gnats?" he persisted, seeing one of those curious spirals
of minute insects turning energetically in the waning light.

"Yes," she said, half believing her remark. "Listen!"

"Oho," exclaimed George, incredulously, "I wonder what kind of
houses they live in."

"Listen!" she gently persisted, putting out her hand to still
him.

It was that halcyon hour when the Angelus falls like a benediction
upon the waning day. Far off the notes were sounding gently, and
nature, now that she listened, seemed to have paused also. A
scarlet-breasted robin was hopping in short spaces upon the grass
before her. A humming bee hummed, a cow-bell tinkled, while some
suspicious cracklings told of a secretly reconnoitering squirrel.
Keeping her pretty hand weighed in the air, she listened until the
long, soft notes spread and faded and her heart could hold no more.
Then she arose.

"Oh," she said, clenching her fingers in an agony of poetic
feeling. There were crystal tears overflowing in her eyes. The
wondrous sea of feeling in her had stormed its banks. Of such was the
spirit of Jennie.




CHAPTER III


The junior Senator, George Sylvester Brander, was a man of peculiar
mold. In him there were joined, to a remarkable degree, the wisdom of
the opportunist and the sympathetic nature of the true representative
of the people. Born a native of southern Ohio, he had been raised and
educated there, if one might except the two years in which he had
studied law at Columbia University. He knew common and criminal law,
perhaps, as well as any citizen of his State, but he had never
practised with that assiduity which makes for pre-eminent success at
the bar. He had made money, and had had splendid opportunities to make
a great deal more if he had been willing to stultify his conscience,
but that he had never been able to do. And yet his integrity had not
been at all times proof against the claims of friendship. Only in the
last presidential election he had thrown his support to a man for
Governor who, he well knew, had no claim which a strictly honorable
conscience could have recognized.

In the same way, he had been guilty of some very questionable, and
one or two actually unsavory, appointments. Whenever his conscience
pricked him too keenly he would endeavor to hearten himself with his
pet phrase, "All in a lifetime." Thinking over things quite alone in
his easy-chair, he would sometimes rise up with these words on his
lips, and smile sheepishly as he did so. Conscience was not by any
means dead in him. His sympathies, if anything, were keener than
ever.

This man, three times Congressman from the district of which
Columbus was a part, and twice United States Senator, had never
married. In his youth he had had a serious love affair, but there was
nothing discreditable to him in the fact that it came to nothing. The
lady found it inconvenient to wait for him. He was too long in earning
a competence upon which they might subsist.

Tall, straight-shouldered, neither lean nor stout, he was to-day an
imposing figure. Having received his hard knocks and endured his
losses, there was that about him which touched and awakened the
sympathies of the imaginative. People thought him naturally agreeable,
and his senatorial peers looked upon him as not any too heavy
mentally, but personally a fine man.

His presence in Columbus at this particular time was due to the
fact that his political fences needed careful repairing. The general
election had weakened his party in the State Legislature. There were
enough votes to re-elect him, but it would require the most careful
political manipulation to hold them together. Other men were
ambitious. There were a half-dozen available candidates, any one of
whom would have rejoiced to step into his shoes. He realized the
exigencies of the occasion. They could not well beat him, he thought;
but even if this should happen, surely the President could be induced
to give him a ministry abroad.

Yes, he might be called a successful man, but for all that Senator
Brander felt that he had missed something. He had wanted to do so many
things. Here he was, fifty-two years of age, clean, honorable, highly
distinguished, as the world takes it, but single. He could not help
looking about him now and then and speculating upon the fact that he
had no one to care for him. His chamber seemed strangely hollow at
times--his own personality exceedingly disagreeable.

"Fifty!" he often thought to himself. "Alone--absolutely
alone."

Sitting in his chamber that Saturday afternoon, a rap at his door
aroused him. He had been speculating upon the futility of his
political energy in the light of the impermanence of life and
fame.

"What a great fight we make to sustain ourselves!" he thought. "How
little difference it will make to me a few years hence!"

He arose, and opening wide his door, perceived Jennie. She had
come, as she had suggested to her mother, at this time, instead of on
Monday, in order to give a more favorable impression of
promptness.

"Come right in," said the Senator; and, as on the first occasion,
he graciously made way for her.

Jennie passed in, momentarily expecting some compliment upon the
promptitude with which the washing had been done. The Senator never
noticed it at all.

"Well, my young lady," he said when she had put the bundle down,
"how do you find yourself this evening?"

"Very well," replied Jennie. "We thought we'd better bring your
clothes to-day instead of Monday."

"Oh, that would not have made any difference," replied Brander
lightly. "Just leave them on the chair."

Jennie, without considering the fact that she had been offered no
payment for the service rendered, was about to retire, had not the
Senator detained her.

"How is your mother?" he asked pleasantly.

"She's very well," said Jennie simply.

"And your little sister? Is she any better?"

"The doctor thinks so," she replied.

"Sit down," he continued graciously. "I want to talk to you."

Moving to a near-by chair, the young girl seated herself.

"Hem!" he went on, clearing his throat lightly, "What seems to be
the matter with her?"

"She has the measles," returned Jennie. "We thought once that she
was going to die."

Brander studied her face as she said this, and he thought he saw
something exceedingly pathetic there. The girl's poor clothes and her
wondering admiration for his exalted station in life affected him. It
made him feel almost ashamed of the comfort and luxury that surrounded
him. How high up he was in the world, indeed!

"I am glad she is better now," he said kindly. "How old is your
father?"

"Fifty-seven."

"And is he any better?"

"Oh yes, sir; he's around now, although he can't go out just
yet."

"I believe your mother said he was a glass-blower by trade?"

"Yes, sir."

Brander well knew the depressed local conditions in this branch of
manufacture. It had been part of the political issue in the last
campaign. They must be in a bad way truly.

"Do all of the children go to school?" he inquired.

"Why yes, sir," returned Jennie, stammering. She was too shamefaced
to own that one of the children had been obliged to leave school for
the lack of shoes. The utterance of the falsehood troubled her.

He reflected awhile; then realizing that he had no good excuse for
further detaining her, he arose and came over to her. From his pocket
he took a thin layer of bills, and removing one, handed it to her.

"You take that," he said, "and tell your mother that I said she
should use it for whatever she wants."

Jennie accepted the money with mingled feelings; it did not occur
to her to look and see how much it was. The great man was so near her,
the wonderful chamber in which he dwelt so impressive, that she
scarcely realized what she was doing.

"Thank you," she said. "Is there any day you want your washing
called for?" she added.

"Oh yes," he answered; "Monday--Monday evenings."

She went away, and in a half reverie he closed the door behind her.
The interest that he felt in these people was unusual. Poverty and
beauty certainly made up an affecting combination. He sat down in his
chair and gave himself over to the pleasant speculations which her
coming had aroused. Why should he not help them?

"I'll find out where they live," he finally resolved.

In the days that followed Jennie regularly came for the clothes.
Senator Brander found himself more and more interested in her, and in
time he managed to remove from her mind that timidity and fear which
had made her feel uncomfortable in his presence. One thing which
helped toward this was his calling her by her first name. This began
with her third visit, and thereafter he used it with almost
unconscious frequency.

It could scarcely be said that he did this in a fatherly spirit,
for he had little of that attitude toward any one. He felt exceedingly
young as he talked to this girl, and he often wondered whether it were
not possible for her to perceive and appreciate him on his youthful
side.

As for Jennie, she was immensely taken with the comfort and luxury
surrounding this man, and subconsciously with the man himself, the
most attractive she had ever known. Everything he had was fine,
everything he did was gentle, distinguished, and considerate. From
some far source, perhaps some old German ancestors, she had inherited
an understanding and appreciation of all this. Life ought to be lived
as he lived it; the privilege of being generous particularly appealed
to her.

Part of her attitude was due to that of her mother, in whose mind
sympathy was always a more potent factor than reason. For instance,
when she brought to her the ten dollars Mrs. Gerhardt was transported
with joy.

"Oh," said Jennie, "I didn't know until I got outside that it was
so much. He said I should give it to you."

Mrs. Gerhardt took it, and holding it loosely in her folded hands,
saw distinctly before her the tall Senator with his fine manners.

"What a fine man he is!" she said. "He has a good heart."

Frequently throughout the evening and the next day Mrs. Gerhardt
commented upon this wonderful treasure-trove, repeating again and
again how good he must be or how large must be his heart. When it came
to washing his clothes she almost rubbed them to pieces, feeling that
whatever she did she could scarcely do enough. Gerhardt was not to
know. He had such stern views about accepting money without earning it
that even in their distress, she would have experienced some
difficulty in getting him to take it. Consequently she said nothing,
but used it to buy bread and meat, and going as it did such a little
way, the sudden windfall was never noticed.

Jennie, from now on, reflected this attitude toward the Senator,
and, feeling so grateful toward him, she began to talk more freely.
They came to be on such good terms that he gave her a little leather
picture-case from his dresser which he had observed her admiring.
Every time she came he found excuse to detain her, and soon discovered
that, for all her soft girlishness, there lay deep-seated in her a
conscious deprecation of poverty and a shame of having to own any
need. He honestly admired her for this, and, seeing that her clothes
were poor and her shoes worn, he began to wonder how he could help her
without offending.

Not infrequently he thought to follow her some evening, and see for
himself what the condition of the family might be. He was a United
States Senator, however. The neighborhood they lived in must be very
poor. He stopped to consider, and for the time the counsels of
prudence prevailed. Consequently the contemplated visit was put
off.

Early in December Senator Brander returned to Washington for three
weeks, and both Mrs. Gerhardt and Jennie were surprised to learn one
day that he had gone. Never had he given them less than two dollars a
week for his washing, and several times it had been five. He had not
realized, perhaps, what a breach his absence would make in their
finances. But there was nothing to do about it; they managed to pinch
along. Gerhardt, now better, searched for work at the various mills,
and finding nothing, procured a saw-buck and saw, and going from door
to door, sought for the privilege of sawing wood. There was not a
great deal of this to do, but he managed, by the most earnest labor to
earn two, and sometimes three, dollars a week. This added to what his
wife earned and what Sebastian gave was enough to keep bread in their
mouths, but scarcely more.

It was at the opening of the joyous Christmas-time that the
bitterness of their poverty affected them most. The Germans love to
make a great display at Christmas. It is the one season of the year
when the fullness of their large family affection manifests itself.
Warm in the appreciation of the joys of childhood, they love to see
the little ones enjoy their toys and games. Father Gerhardt at his
saw-buck during the weeks before Christmas thought of this very often.
What would little Veronica not deserve after her long illness! How he
would have liked to give each of the children a stout pair of shoes,
the boys a warm cap, the girls a pretty hood. Toys and games and candy
they always had had before. He hated to think of the snow-covered
Christmas morning and no table richly piled with what their young
hearts would most desire.

As for Mrs. Gerhardt, one could better imagine than describe her
feelings. She felt so keenly about it that she could hardly bring
herself to speak of the dreaded hour to her husband. She had managed
to lay aside three dollars in the hope of getting enough to buy a ton
of coal, and so put an end to poor George's daily pilgrimage to the
coal yard, but now as the Christmas week drew near she decided to use
it for gifts. Father Gerhardt was also secreting two dollars without
the knowledge of his wife, thinking that on Christmas Eve he could
produce it at a critical moment, and so relieve her maternal
anxiety.

When the actual time arrived, however, there was very little to be
said for the comfort that they got out of the occasion. The whole city
was rife with Christmas atmosphere. Grocery stores and meat markets
were strung with holly. The toy shops and candy stores were radiant
with fine displays of everything that a self-respecting Santa Claus
should have about him. Both parents and children observed it
all--the former with serious thoughts of need and anxiety, the
latter with wild fancy and only partially suppressed longings.

Frequently had Gerhardt said in their presence:

"Kriss Kringle is very poor this year. He hasn't so very much to
give."

But no child, however poverty-stricken, could be made to believe
this. Every time after so saying he looked into their eyes, but in
spite of the warning, expectation flamed in them undiminished.

Christmas coming on Tuesday, the Monday before there was no school.
Before going to the hotel Mrs. Gerhardt had cautioned George that he
must bring enough coal from the yards to last over Christmas day. The
latter went at once with his two younger sisters, but there being a
dearth of good picking, it took them a long time to fill their
baskets, and by night they had gathered only a scanty supply.

"Did you go for the coal?" asked Mrs. Gerhardt the first thing when
she returned from the hotel that evening.

"Yes," said George.

"Did you get enough for to-morrow?"

"Yes," he replied, "I guess so."

"Well, now, I'll go and look," she replied. Taking the lamp, they
went out into the woodshed where the coal was deposited.

"Oh, my!" she exclaimed when she saw it; "why, that isn't near
enough. You must go right off and get some more."

"Oh," said George, pouting his lips, "I don't want to go. Let Bass
go."

Bass, who had returned promptly at a quarter-past six, was already
busy in the back bedroom washing and dressing preparatory to going
down-town.

"No," said Mrs. Gerhardt. "Bass has worked hard all day. You must
go."

"I don't want to," pouted George.

"All right," said Mrs. Gerhardt, "maybe to-morrow you'll be without
a fire, and then what?"

They went back to the house, but George's conscience was too
troubled to allow him to consider the case as closed.

"Bass, you come, too," he called to his elder brother when he was
inside.

"Go where?" said Bass.

"To get some coal."

"No," said the former, "I guess not. What do you take me for?"

"Well, then, I'll not," said George, with an obstinate jerk of his
head.

"Why didn't you get it up this afternoon?" questioned his brother
sharply; "you've had all day to do it."

"Aw, I did try," said George. "We couldn't find enough. I can't get
any when there ain't any, can I?"

"I guess you didn't try very hard," said the dandy.

"What's the matter now?" asked Jennie, who, coming in after having
stopped at the grocer's for her mother, saw George with a solemn pout
on his face.

"Oh, Bass won't go with me to get any coal?"

"Didn't you get any this afternoon?"

"Yes," said George, "but ma says I didn't get enough."

"I'll go with you," said his sister. "Bass, will you come
along?"

"No," said the young man, indifferently, "I won't." He was
adjusting his necktie and felt irritated.

"There ain't any," said George, "unless we get it off the cars.
There wasn't any cars where I was."

"There are, too," exclaimed Bass.

"There ain't," said George.

"Oh, don't quarrel," said Jennie. "Get the baskets and let's go
right now before it gets too late."

The other children, who had a fondness for their big sister, got
out the implements of supply--Veronica a basket, Martha and
William buckets, and George, a big clothes-basket, which he and Jennie
were to fill and carry between them. Bass, moved by his sister's
willingness and the little regard he still maintained for her, now
made a suggestion.

"I'll tell you what you do, Jen," he said. "You go over there with
the kids to Eighth Street and wait around those cars. I'll be along in
a minute. When I come by don't any of you pretend to know me. Just you
say, 'Mister, won't you please throw us some coal down?' and then I'll
get up on the cars and pitch off enough to fill the baskets. D'ye
understand?"

"All right," said Jennie, very much pleased.

Out into the snowy night they went, and made their way to the
railroad tracks. At the intersection of the street and the broad
railroad yard were many heavily laden cars of bituminous coal newly
backed in. All of the children gathered within the shadow of one.
While they were standing there, waiting the arrival of their brother,
the Washington Special arrived, a long, fine train with several of the
new style drawing-room cars, the big plate-glass windows shining and
the passengers looking out from the depths of their comfortable
chairs. The children instinctively drew back as it thundered past.

"Oh, wasn't it long?" said George.

"Wouldn't I like to be a brakeman, though," sighed William.

Jennie, alone, kept silent, but to her particularly the suggestion
of travel and comfort had appealed. How beautiful life must be for the
rich!

Sebastian now appeared in the distance, a mannish spring in his
stride, and with every evidence that he took himself seriously. He was
of that peculiar stubbornness and determination that had the children
failed to carry out his plan of procedure he would have gone
deliberately by and refused to help them at all.

Martha, however, took the situation as it needed to be taken, and
piped out childishly, "Mister, won't you please throw us down some
coal?"

Sebastian stopped abruptly, and looking sharply at them as though
he were really a stranger, exclaimed, "Why, certainly," and proceeded
to climb up on the car, from whence he cast down with remarkable
celerity more than enough chunks to fill their baskets. Then as though
not caring to linger any longer amid such plebeian company, he
hastened across the network of tracks and was lost to view.

On their way home they encountered another gentleman, this time a
real one, with high hat and distinguished cape coat, whom Jennie
immediately recognized. This was the honorable Senator himself, newly
returned from Washington, and anticipating a very unprofitable
Christmas. He had arrived upon the express which had enlisted the
attention of the children, and was carrying his light grip for the
pleasure of it to the hotel. As he passed he thought that he
recognized Jennie.

"Is that you, Jennie?" he said, and paused to be more certain.

The latter, who had discovered him even more quickly than he had
her, exclaimed, "Oh, there is Mr. Brander!" Then, dropping her end of
the basket, with a caution to the children to take it right home, she
hurried away in the opposite direction.

The Senator followed, vainly calling three or four times "Jennie!
Jennie!" Losing hope of overtaking her, and suddenly recognizing, and
thereupon respecting, her simple, girlish shame, he stopped, and
turning back, decided to follow the children. Again he felt that same
sensation which he seemed always to get from this girl--the far
cry between her estate and his. It was something to be a Senator
to-night, here where these children were picking coal. What could the
joyous holiday of the morrow hold for them? He tramped along
sympathetically, an honest lightness coming into his step, and soon he
saw them enter the gateway of the low cottage. Crossing the street, he
stood in the weak shade of the snow-laden trees. The light was burning
with a yellow glow in a rear window. All about was the white snow. In
the woodshed he could hear the voices of the children, and once he
thought he detected the form of Mrs. Gerhardt. After a time another
form came shadow-like through the side gate. He knew who it was. It
touched him to the quick, and he bit his lip sharply to suppress any
further show of emotion. Then he turned vigorously on his heel and
walked away.

The chief grocery of the city was conducted by one Manning, a
stanch adherent of Brander, and one who felt honored by the Senator's
acquaintance. To him at his busy desk came the Senator this same
night.

"Manning," he said, "could I get you to undertake a little work for
me this evening?"

"Why, certainly, Senator, certainly," said the grocery-man. "When
did you get back? Glad to see you. Certainly."

"I want you to get everything together that would make a nice
Christmas for a family of eight--father and mother and six
children--Christmas tree, groceries, toys--you know what I
mean."

"Certainly, certainly, Senator."

"Never mind the cost now. Send plenty of everything. I'll give you
the address," and he picked up a note-book to write it.

"Why, I'll be delighted, Senator," went on Mr. Manning, rather
affected himself. "I'll be delighted. You always were generous."

"Here you are, Manning," said the Senator, grimly, from the mere
necessity of preserving his senatorial dignity. "Send everything at
once, and the bill to me."

"I'll be delighted," was all the astonished and approving
grocery-man could say.

The Senator passed out, but remembering the old people, visited a
clothier and shoe man, and, finding that he could only guess at what
sizes might be required, ordered the several articles with the
privilege of exchange. When his labors were over, he returned to his
room.

"Carrying coal," he thought, over and over. "Really, it was very
thoughtless in me. I mustn't forget them any more."




CHAPTER IV


The desire to flee which Jennie experienced upon seeing the Senator
again was attributable to what she considered the disgrace of her
position. She was ashamed to think that he, who thought so well of
her, should discover her doing so common a thing. Girl-like, she was
inclined to imagine that his interest in her depended upon something
else than her mere personality.

When she reached home Mrs. Gerhardt had heard of her flight from
the other children.

"What was the matter with you, anyhow?" asked George, when she came
in.

"Oh, nothing," she answered, but immediately turned to her mother
and said, "Mr. Brander came by and saw us."

"Oh, did he?" softly exclaimed her mother. "He's back then. What
made you run, though, you foolish girl?"

"Well, I didn't want him to see me."

"Well, maybe he didn't know you, anyhow," she said, with a certain
sympathy for her daughter's predicament.

"Oh yes, he did, too," whispered Jennie. "He called after me three
or four times."

Mrs. Gerhardt shook her head.

"What is it?" said Gerhardt, who had been hearing the conversation
from the adjoining room, and now came out.

"Oh, nothing," said the mother, who hated to explain the
significance which the Senator's personality had come to have in their
lives. "A man frightened them when they were bringing the coal."

The arrival of the Christmas presents later in the evening threw
the household into an uproar of excitement. Neither Gerhardt nor the
mother could believe their eyes when a grocery wagon halted in front
of their cottage and a lusty clerk began to carry in the gifts. After
failing to persuade the clerk that he had made a mistake, the large
assortment of good things was looked over with very human glee.

"Just you never mind," was the clerk's authoritative words. "I know
what I'm about. Gerhardt, isn't it? Well, you're the people."

Mrs. Gerhardt moved about, rubbing her hands in her excitement, and
giving vent to an occasional "Well, isn't that nice now!"

Gerhardt himself was melted at the thought of the generosity of the
unknown benefactor, and was inclined to lay it all to the goodness of
a great local mill owner, who knew him and wished him well. Mrs.
Gerhardt tearfully suspected the source, but said nothing. Jennie
knew, by instinct, the author of it all.

The afternoon of the day after Christmas Brander encountered the
mother in the hotel, Jennie having been left at home to look after the
house.

"How do you do, Mrs. Gerhardt," he exclaimed genially extending his
hand. "How did you enjoy your Christmas?"

Poor Mrs. Gerhardt took it nervously; her eyes filled rapidly with
tears.

"There, there," he said, patting her on the shoulder. "Don't cry.
You mustn't forget to get my laundry to-day."

"Oh no, sir," she returned, and would have said more had he not
walked away.

From this on, Gerhardt heard continually of the fine Senator at the
hotel, how pleasant he was, and how much he paid for his washing. With
the simplicity of a German workingman, he was easily persuaded that
Mr. Brander must be a very great and a very good man.

Jennie, whose feelings needed no encouragement in this direction,
was more than ever prejudiced in his favor.

There was developing in her that perfection of womanhood, the full
mold of form, which could not help but attract any man. Already she
was well built, and tall for a girl. Had she been dressed in the
trailing skirts of a woman of fashion she would have made a fitting
companion for a man the height of the Senator. Her eyes were
wondrously clear and bright, her skin fair, and her teeth white and
even. She was clever, too, in a sensible way, and by no means
deficient in observation. All that she lacked was training and the
assurance of which the knowledge of utter dependency despoils one. But
the carrying of washing and the compulsion to acknowledge almost
anything as a favor put her at a disadvantage.

Nowadays when she came to the hotel upon her semi-weekly errand
Senator Brander took her presence with easy grace, and to this she
responded. He often gave her little presents for herself, or for her
brothers and sisters, and he talked to her so unaffectedly that
finally the overawing sense of the great difference between them was
brushed away, and she looked upon him more as a generous friend than
as a distinguished Senator. He asked her once how she would like to go
to a seminary, thinking all the while how attractive she would be when
she came out. Finally, one evening, he called her to his side.

"Come over here, Jennie," he said, "and stand by me."

She came, and, moved by a sudden impulse, he took her hand.

"Well, Jennie," he said, studying her face in a quizzical,
interrogative way, "what do you think of me, anyhow?"

"Oh," she answered, looking consciously away, "I don't know. What
makes you ask me that?"

"Oh yes, you do," he returned. "You have some opinion of me. Tell
me now, what is it?"

"No, I haven't," she said, innocently.

"Oh yes, you have," he went on, pleasantly, interested by her
transparent evasiveness. "You must think something of me. Now, what is
it?"

"Do you mean do I like you?" she asked, frankly, looking down at
the big mop of black hair well streaked with gray which hung about his
forehead, and gave an almost lionine cast to his fine face.

"Well, yes," he said, with a sense of disappointment. She was
barren of the art of the coquette.

"Why, of course I like you," she replied, prettily.

"Haven't you ever thought anything else about me?" he went on.

"I think you're very kind," she went on, even more bashfully; she
realized now that he was still holding her hand.

"Is that all?" he asked.

"Well," she said, with fluttering eyelids, "isn't that enough?"

He looked at her, and the playful, companionable directness of her
answering gaze thrilled him through and through. He studied her face
in silence while she turned and twisted, feeling, but scarcely
understanding, the deep import of his scrutiny.

"Well," he said at last, "I think you're a fine girl. Don't you
think I'm a pretty nice man?"

"Yes," said Jennie, promptly.

He leaned back in his chair and laughed at the unconscious drollery
of her reply. She looked at him curiously, and smiled.

"What made you laugh?" she inquired.

"Oh, your answer" he returned. "I really ought not to laugh,
though. You don't appreciate me in the least. I don't believe you like
me at all."

"But I do, though," she replied, earnestly. "I think you're so
good." Her eyes showed very plainly that she felt what she was
saying.

"Well," he said, drawing her gently down to him; then, at the same
instant, he pressed his lips to her cheek.

"Oh!" she cried, straightening up, at once startled and
frightened.

It was a new note in their relationship. The senatorial quality
vanished in an instant. She recognized in him something that she had
not felt before. He seemed younger, too. She was a woman to him, and
he was playing the part of a lover. She hesitated, but not knowing
just what to do, did nothing at all.

"Well," he said, "did I frighten you?"

She looked at him, but moved by her underlying respect for this
great man, she said, with a smile, "Yes, you did."

"I did it because I like you so much."

She meditated upon this a moment, and then said, "I think I'd
better be going."

"Now then," he pleaded, "are you going to run away because of
that?"

"No," she said, moved by a curious feeling of ingratitude; "but I
ought to be going. They'll be wondering where I am."

"You're sure you're not angry about it?"

"No," she replied, and with more of a womanly air than she had ever
shown before. It was a novel experience to be in so authoritative a
position. It was so remarkable that it was somewhat confusing to both
of them.

"You're my girl, anyhow," the Senator said, rising. "I'm going to
take care of you in the future."

Jennie heard this, and it pleased her. He was so well fitted, she
thought, to do wondrous things; he was nothing less than a veritable
magician. She looked about her and the thought of coming into such a
life and such an atmosphere was heavenly. Not that she fully
understood his meaning, however. He meant to be good and generous, and
to give her fine things. Naturally she was happy. She took up the
package that she had come for, not seeing or feeling the incongruity
of her position, while he felt it as a direct reproof.

"She ought not to carry that," he thought. A great wave of sympathy
swept over him. He took her cheeks between his hands, this time in a
superior and more generous way. "Never mind, little girl," he said.
"You won't have to do this always. I'll see what I can do."

The outcome of this was simply a more sympathetic relationship
between them. He did not hesitate to ask her to sit beside him on the
arm of his chair the next time she came, and to question her
intimately about the family's condition and her own desires. Several
times he noticed that she was evading his questions, particularly in
regard to what her father was doing. She was ashamed to own that he
was sawing wood. Fearing lest something more serious was impending, he
decided to go out some day and see for himself.

This he did when a convenient morning presented itself and his
other duties did not press upon him. It was three days before the
great fight in the Legislature began which ended in his defeat.
Nothing could be done in these few remaining days. So he took his cane
and strolled forth, coming to the cottage in the course of a half
hour, and knocked boldly at the door.

Mrs. Gerhardt opened it.

"Good-morning," he said, cheerily; then, seeing her hesitate, he
added, "May I come in?"

The good mother, who was all but overcome by his astonishing
presence, wiped her hands furtively upon her much-mended apron, and,
seeing that he waited for a reply, said:

"Oh yes. Come right in."

She hurried forward, forgetting to close the door, and, offering
him a chair, asked him to be seated.

Brander, feeling sorry that he was the occasion of so much
confusion, said: "Don't trouble yourself, Mrs. Gerhardt. I was passing
and thought I'd come in. How is your husband?"

"He's well, thank you," returned the mother. "He's out working
to-day."

"Then he has found employment?"

"Yes, sir," said Mrs. Gerhardt, who hesitated, like Jennie, to say
what it was.

"The children are all well now, and in school, I hope?"

"Yes," replied Mrs. Gerhardt. She had now unfastened her apron, and
was nervously turning it in her lap.

"That's good, and where is Jennie?"

The latter, who had been ironing, had abandoned the board and had
concealed herself in the bedroom, where she was busy tidying herself
in the fear that her mother would not have the forethought to say that
she was out, and so let her have a chance for escape.

"She's here," returned the mother. "I'll call her."

"What did you tell him I was here for?" said Jennie, weakly.

"What could I do?" asked the mother.

Together they hesitated while the Senator surveyed the room. He
felt sorry to think that such deserving people must suffer so; he
intended, in a vague way, to ameliorate their condition if
possible.

"Good-morning," the Senator said to Jennie, when finally she came
hesitatingly into the room. "How do you do to-day?"

Jennie came forward, extending her hand and blushing. She found
herself so much disturbed by this visit that she could hardly find
tongue to answer his questions.

"I thought," he said, "I'd come out and find where you live. This
is a quite comfortable house. How many rooms have you?"

"Five," said Jennie. "You'll have to excuse the looks this morning.
We've been ironing, and it's all upset."

"I know," said Brander, gently. "Don't you think I understand,
Jennie? You mustn't feel nervous about me."

She noticed the comforting, personal tone he always used with her
when she was at his room, and it helped to subdue her flustered
senses.

"You mustn't think it anything if I come here occasionally. I
intend to come. I want to meet your father."

"Oh," said Jennie, "he's out to-day."

While they were talking, however, the honest woodcutter was coming
in at the gate with his buck and saw. Brander saw him, and at once
recognized him by a slight resemblance to his daughter.

"There he is now, I believe," he said.

"Oh, is he?" said Jennie, looking out.

Gerhardt, who was given to speculation these days, passed by the
window without looking up. He put his wooden buck down, and, hanging
his saw on a nail on the side of the house, came in.

"Mother," he called, in German, and, then not seeing her, he came
to the door of the front room and looked in.

Brander arose and extended his hand. The knotted and weather-beaten
German came forward, and took it with a very questioning expression of
countenance.

"This is my father, Mr. Brander," said Jennie, all her diffidence
dissolved by sympathy. "This is the gentleman from the hotel, papa,
Mr. Brander."

"What's the name?" said the German, turning his head.

"Brander," said the Senator.

"Oh yes," he said, with a considerable German accent.

"Since I had the fever I don't hear good. My wife, she spoke to me
of you."

"Yes," said the Senator, "I thought I'd come out and make your
acquaintance. You have quite a family."

"Yes," said the father, who was conscious of his very poor garments
and anxious to get away. "I have six children--all young. She's
the oldest girl."

Mrs. Gerhardt now came back, and Gerhardt, seeing his chance, said
hurriedly:

"Well, if you'll excuse me, I'll go. I broke my saw, and so I had
to stop work."

"Certainly," said Brander, graciously, realizing now why Jennie had
never wanted to explain. He half wished that she were courageous
enough not to conceal anything.

"Well, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said, when the mother was stiffly seated,
"I want to tell you that you mustn't look on me as a stranger.
Hereafter I want you to keep me informed of how things are going with
you. Jennie won't always do it."

Jennie smiled quietly. Mrs. Gerhardt only rubbed her hands.

"Yes," she answered, humbly grateful.

They talked for a few minutes, and then the Senator rose.

"Tell your husband," he said, "to come and see me next Monday at my
office in the hotel. I want to do something for him."

"Thank you," faltered Mrs. Gerhardt.

"I'll not stay any longer now," he added. "Don't forget to have him
come."

"Oh, he'll come," she returned.

Adjusting a glove on one hand, he extended the other to Jennie.

"Here is your finest treasure, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said. "I think
I'll take her."

"Well, I don't know," said her mother, "whether I could spare her
or not."

"Well," said the Senator, going toward the door, and giving Mrs.
Gerhardt his hand, "good-morning."

He nodded and walked out, while a half-dozen neighbors, who had
observed his entrance, peeked from behind curtains and drawn blinds at
the astonishing sight.

"Who can that be, anyhow?" was the general query.

"See what he gave me," said the innocent mother to her daughter the
moment he had closed the door.

It was a ten-dollar bill. He had placed it softly in her hand as he
said good-by.




CHAPTER V


Having been led by circumstances into an attitude of obligation
toward the Senator, it was not unnatural that Jennie should become
imbued with a most generous spirit of appreciation for everything he
had done and now continued to do. The Senator gave her father a letter
to a local mill owner, who saw that he received something to do. It
was not much, to be sure, a mere job as night-watchman, but it helped,
and old Gerhardt's gratitude was extravagant. Never was there such a
great, such a good man!

Nor was Mrs. Gerhardt overlooked. Once Brander sent her a dress,
and at another time a shawl. All these benefactions were made in a
spirit of mingled charity and self-gratification, but to Mrs. Gerhardt
they glowed with but one motive. Senator Brander was good-hearted.

As for Jennie, he drew nearer to her in every possible way, so that
at last she came to see him in a light which would require
considerable analysis to make clear. This fresh, young soul, however,
had too much innocence and buoyancy to consider for a moment the
world's point of view. Since that one notable and halcyon visit upon
which he had robbed her her original shyness, and implanted a tender
kiss upon her cheek, they had lived in a different atmosphere. Jennie
was his companion now, and as he more and more unbended, and even
joyously flung aside the habiliments of his dignity, her perception of
him grew clearer. They laughed and chatted in a natural way, and he
keenly enjoyed this new entrance into the radiant world of youthful
happiness.

One thing that disturbed him, however, was the occasional thought,
which he could not repress, that he was not doing right. Other people
must soon discover that he was not confining himself strictly to
conventional relations with this washer-woman's daughter. He suspected
that the housekeeper was not without knowledge that Jennie almost
invariably lingered from a quarter to three-quarters of an hour
whenever she came for or returned his laundry. He knew that it might
come to the ears of the hotel clerks, and so, in a general way, get
about town and work serious injury, but the reflection did not cause
him to modify his conduct. Sometimes he consoled himself with the
thought that he was not doing her any actual harm, and at other times
he would argue that he could not put this one delightful tenderness
out of his life. Did he not wish honestly to do her much good?

He thought of these things occasionally, and decided that he could
not stop. The self-approval which such a resolution might bring him
was hardly worth the inevitable pain of the abnegation. He had not so
very many more years to live. Why die unsatisfied?

One evening he put his arm around her and strained her to his
breast. Another time he drew her to his knee, and told her of his life
at Washington. Always now he had a caress and a kiss for her, but it
was still in a tentative, uncertain way. He did not want to reach for
her soul too deeply.

Jennie enjoyed it all innocently. Elements of fancy and novelty
entered into her life. She was an unsophisticated creature, emotional,
totally inexperienced in the matter of the affections, and yet mature
enough mentally to enjoy the attentions of this great man who had thus
bowed from his high position to make friends with her.

One evening she pushed his hair back from his forehead as she stood
by his chair, and, finding nothing else to do, took out his watch. The
great man thrilled as he looked at her pretty innocence.

"Would you like to have a watch, too?" he asked.

"Yes, indeed, I would," said Jennie, with a deep breath.

The next day he stopped as he was passing a jewelry store and
bought one. It was gold, and had pretty ornamented hands.

"Jennie," he said, when she came the next time, "I want to show you
something. See what time it is by my watch."

Jennie drew out the watch from his waistcoat pocket and started in
surprise.

"This isn't your watch!" she exclaimed, her face full of innocent
wonder.

"No," he said, delighted with his little deception. "It's
yours."

"Mine!" exclaimed Jennie. "Mine! Oh, isn't it lovely!"

"Do you think so?" he said.

Her delight touched and pleased him immensely. Her face shone with
light and her eyes fairly danced.

"That's yours," he said. "See that you wear it now, and don't lose
it."

"You're so good!" she exclaimed.

"No," he said, but he held her at arm's length by the waist, to
make up his mind what his reward should be. Slowly he drew her toward
him until, when very close, she put her arms about his neck, and laid
her cheek in gratitude against his own. This was the quintessence of
pleasure for him. He felt as he had been longing to feel for
years.

The progress of his idyl suffered a check when the great senatorial
fight came on in the Legislature. Attacked by a combination of rivals,
Brander was given the fight of his life. To his amazement he
discovered that a great railroad corporation, which had always been
friendly, was secretly throwing its strength in behalf of an already
too powerful candidate. Shocked by this defection, he was thrown
alternately into the deepest gloom and into paroxysms of wrath. These
slings of fortune, however lightly he pretended to receive them, never
failed to lacerate him. It had been long since he had suffered a
defeat--too long.

During this period Jennie received her earliest lesson in the
vagaries of men. For two weeks she did not even see him, and one
evening, after an extremely comfortless conference with his leader, he
met her with the most chilling formality. When she knocked at his door
he only troubled to open it a foot, exclaiming almost harshly: "I
can't bother about the clothes to-night. Come tomorrow."

Jennie retreated, shocked and surprised by this reception. She did
not know what to think of it. He was restored on the instant to his
far-off, mighty throne, and left to rule in peace. Why should he not
withdraw the light of his countenance if it pleased him. But
why--

A day or two later he repented mildly, but had no time to readjust
matters. His washing was taken and delivered with considerable
formality, and he went on toiling forgetfully, until at last he was
miserably defeated by two votes. Astounded by this result, he lapsed
into gloomy dejection of soul. What was he to do now?

Into this atmosphere came Jennie, bringing with her the lightness
and comfort of her own hopeful disposition. Nagged to desperation by
his thoughts, Brander first talked to her to amuse himself; but soon
his distress imperceptibly took flight; he found himself actually
smiling.

"Ah, Jennie," he said, speaking to her as he might have done to a
child, "youth is on your side. You possess the most valuable thing in
life."

"Do I?"

"Yes, but you don't realize it. You never will until it is too
late."

"I love that girl," he thought to himself that night. "I wish I
could have her with me always."

But fortune had another fling for him to endure. It got about the
hotel that Jennie was, to use the mildest expression, conducting
herself strangely. A girl who carries washing must expect criticism if
anything not befitting her station is observed in her apparel. Jennie
was seen wearing the gold watch. Her mother was informed by the
housekeeper of the state of things.

"I thought I'd speak to you about it," she said. "People are
talking. You'd better not let your daughter go to his room for the
laundry."

Mrs. Gerhardt was too astonished and hurt for utterance. Jennie had
told her nothing, but even now she did not believe there was anything
to tell. The watch had been both approved of and admired by her. She
had not thought that it was endangering her daughter's reputation.

Going home she worried almost incessantly, and talked with Jennie
about it. The latter did not admit the implication that things had
gone too far. In fact, she did not look at it in that light. She did
not own, it is true, what really had happened while she was visiting
the Senator.

"It's so terrible that people should begin to talk!" said her
mother. "Did you really stay so long in the room?"

"I don't know," returned Jennie, compelled by her conscience to
admit at least part of the truth. "Perhaps I did."

"He has never said anything out of the way to you, has he?"

"No," answered her daughter, who did not attach any suspicion of
evil to what had passed between them.

If the mother had only gone a little bit further she might have
learned more, but she was only too glad, for her own peace of mind, to
hush the matter up. People were slandering a good man, that she knew.
Jennie had been the least bit indiscreet. People were always so ready
to talk. How could the poor girl, amid such unfortunate circumstances,
do otherwise than she did. It made her cry to think of it.

The result of it all was that she decided to get the washing
herself.

She came to his door the next Monday after this decision. Brander,
who was expecting Jennie, was both surprised and disappointed.

"Why," he said to her, "what has become of Jennie?"

Having hoped that he would not notice, or, at least, not comment
upon the change, Mrs. Gerhardt did not know what to say. She looked up
at him weakly in her innocent, motherly way, and said, "She couldn't
come to-night."

"Not ill, is she?" he inquired.

"No."

"I'm glad to hear that," he said resignedly. "How have you
been?"

Mrs. Gerhardt answered his kindly inquiries and departed. After she
had gone he got to thinking the matter over, and wondered what could
have happened. It seemed rather odd that he should be wondering over
it.

On Saturday, however, when she returned the clothes he felt that
there must be something wrong.

"What's the matter, Mrs. Gerhardt?" he inquired. "Has anything
happened to your daughter?"

"No, sir," she returned, too troubled to wish to deceive him.

"Isn't she coming for the laundry any more?"

"I--I--" ventured the mother, stammering in her
perturbation; "she--they have been talking about her," she at
last forced herself to say.

"Who has been talking?" he asked gravely.

"The people here in the hotel."

"Who, what people?" he interrupted, a touch of annoyance showing in
his voice.

"The housekeeper."

"The housekeeper, eh!" he exclaimed. "What has she got to say?"

The mother related to him her experience.

"And she told you that, did she?" he remarked in wrath. "She
ventures to trouble herself about my affairs, does she? I wonder
people can't mind their own business without interfering with mine.
Your daughter, Mrs. Gerhardt, is perfectly safe with me. I have no
intention of doing her an injury. It's a shame," he added indignantly,
"that a girl can't come to my room in this hotel without having her
motive questioned. I'll look into this matter."

"I hope you don't think that I have anything to do with it," said
the mother apologetically. "I know you like Jennie and wouldn't injure
her. You've done so much for her and all of us, Mr. Brander, I feel
ashamed to keep her away."

"That's all right, Mrs. Gerhardt," he said quietly. "You did
perfectly right. I don't blame you in the least. It is the lying
accusation passed about in this hotel that I object to. We'll see
about that."

Mrs. Gerhardt stood there, pale with excitement. She was afraid she
had deeply offended this man who had done so much for them. If she
could only say something, she thought, that would clear this matter up
and make him feel that she was no tattler. Scandal was distressing to
her.

"I thought I was doing everything for the best," she said at
last.

"So you were," he replied. "I like Jennie very much. I have always
enjoyed her coming here. It is my intention to do well by her, but
perhaps it will be better to keep her away, at least for the
present."

Again that evening the Senator sat in his easy-chair and brooded
over this new development. Jennie was really much more precious to him
than he had thought. Now that he had no hope of seeing her there any
more, he began to realize how much these little visits of hers had
meant. He thought the matter over very carefully, realized instantly
that there was nothing to be done so far as the hotel gossip was
concerned, and concluded that he had really placed the girl in a very
unsatisfactory position.

"Perhaps I had better end this little affair," he thought. "It
isn't a wise thing to pursue."

On the strength of this conclusion he went to Washington and
finished his term. Then he returned to Columbus to await the friendly
recognition from the President which was to send him upon some
ministry abroad. Jennie had not been forgotten in the least. The
longer he stayed away the more eager he was to get back. When he was
again permanently settled in his old quarters he took up his cane one
morning and strolled out in the direction of the cottage. Arriving
there, he made up his mind to go in, and knocking at the door, he was
greeted by Mrs. Gerhardt and her daughter with astonished and
diffident smiles. He explained vaguely that he had been away, and
mentioned his laundry as if that were the object of his visit. Then,
when chance gave him a few moments with Jennie alone, he plunged in
boldly.

"How would you like to take a drive with me to-morrow evening?" he
asked.

"I'd like it," said Jennie, to whom the proposition was a glorious
novelty.

He smiled and patted her cheek, foolishly happy to see her again.
Every day seemed to add to her beauty. Graced with her clean white
apron, her shapely head crowned by the glory of her simply plaited
hair, she was a pleasing sight for any man to look upon.

He waited until Mrs. Gerhardt returned, and then, having
accomplished the purpose of his visit, he arose.

"I'm going to take your daughter out riding to-morrow evening," he
explained. "I want to talk to her about her future."

"Won't that be nice?" said the mother. She saw nothing incongruous
in the proposal. They parted with smiles and much handshaking.

"That man has the best heart," commented Mrs. Gerhardt. "Doesn't he
always speak so nicely of you? He may help you to an education. You
ought to be proud."

"I am," said Jennie frankly.

"I don't know whether we had better tell your father or not,"
concluded Mrs. Gerhardt. "He doesn't like for you to be out
evenings."

Finally they decided not to tell him. He might not understand.

Jennie was ready when he called. He could see by the weak-flamed,
unpretentious parlor-lamp that she was dressed for him, and that the
occasion had called out the best she had. A pale lavender gingham,
starched and ironed, until it was a model of laundering, set off her
pretty figure to perfection. There were little lace-edged cuffs and a
rather high collar attached to it. She had no gloves, nor any jewelry,
nor yet a jacket good enough to wear, but her hair was done up in such
a dainty way that it set off her well-shaped head better than any hat,
and the few ringlets that could escape crowned her as with a halo.
When Brander suggested that she should wear a jacket she hesitated a
moment; then she went in and borrowed her mother's cape, a plain gray
woolen one. Brander realized now that she had no jacket, and suffered
keenly to think that she had contemplated going without one.

"She would have endured the raw night air," he thought, "and said
nothing of it."

He looked at her and shook his head reflectively. Then they
started, and he quickly forgot everything but the great fact that she
was at his side. She talked with freedom and with a gentle girlish
enthusiasm that he found irresistibly charming.

"Why, Jennie," he said, when she had called upon him to notice how
soft the trees looked, where, outlined dimly against the new rising
moon, they were touched with its yellow light, "you're a great one. I
believe you would write poetry if you were schooled a little."

"Do you suppose I could?" she asked innocently.

"Do I suppose, little girl?" he said, taking her hand. "Do I
suppose? Why, I know. You're the dearest little day-dreamer in the
world. Of course you could write poetry. You live it. You are poetry,
my dear. Don't you worry about writing any."

This eulogy touched her as nothing else possibly could have done.
He was always saying such nice things. No one ever seemed to like or
to appreciate her half as much as he did. And how good he was!
Everybody said that. Her own father.

They rode still farther, until suddenly remembering, he said: "I
wonder what time it is. Perhaps we had better be turning back. Have
you your watch?"

Jennie started, for this watch had been the one thing of which she
had hoped he would not speak. Ever since he had returned it had been
on her mind.

In his absence the family finances had become so strained that she
had been compelled to pawn it. Martha had got to that place in the
matter of apparel where she could no longer go to school unless
something new were provided for her. And so, after much discussion, it
was decided that the watch must go.

Bass took it, and after much argument with the local pawn broker,
he had been able to bring home ten dollars. Mrs. Gerhardt expended the
money upon her children, and heaved a sigh of relief. Martha looked
very much better. Naturally, Jennie was glad.

Now, however, when the Senator spoke of it, her hour of retribution
seemed at hand. She actually trembled, and he noticed her
discomfiture.

"Why, Jennie," he said gently, "what made you start like that?"

"Nothing," she answered.

"Haven't you your watch?"

She paused, for it seemed impossible to tell a deliberate
falsehood. There was a strained silence; then she said, with a voice
that had too much of a sob in it for him not to suspect the truth,
"No, sir." He persisted, and she confessed everything.

"Well," he said, "dearest, don't feel badly about it. There never
was such another girl. I'll get your watch for you. Hereafter when you
need anything I want you to come to me. Do you hear? I want you to
promise me that. If I'm not here, I want you to write me. I'll always
be in touch with you from now on. You will have my address. Just let
me know, and I'll help you. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Jennie.

"You'll promise to do that now, will you?'

"Yes," she replied.

For a moment neither of them spoke.

"Jennie," he said at last, the spring-like quality of the night
moving him to a burst of feeling, "I've about decided that I can't do
without you. Do you think you could make up your mind to live with me
from now on?"

Jennie looked away, not clearly understanding his words as he meant
them.

"I don't know," she said vaguely.

"Well, you think about it," he said pleasantly. "I'm serious. Would
you be willing to marry me, and let me put you away in a seminary for
a few years?"

"Go away to school?"

"Yes, after you marry me."

"I guess so," she replied. Her mother came into her mind. Maybe she
could help the family.

He looked around at her, and tried to make out the expression on
her face. It was not dark. The moon was now above the trees in the
east, and already the vast host of stars were paling before it.

"Don't you care for me at all, Jennie?" he asked.

"Yes!"

"You never come for my laundry any more, though," he returned
pathetically. It touched her to hear him say this.

"I didn't do that," she answered. "I couldn't help it; Mother
thought it was best."

"So it was," he assented. "Don't feel badly. I was only joking with
you. You'd be glad to come if you could, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, I would," she answered frankly.

He took her hand and pressed it so feelingly that all his kindly
words seemed doubly emphasized to her. Reaching up impulsively, she
put her arms about him. "You're so good to me," she said with the
loving tone of a daughter.

"You're my girl, Jennie," he said with deep feeling. "I'd do
anything in the world for you."




CHAPTER VI


The father of this unfortunate family, William Gerhardt, was a man
of considerable interest on his personal side. Born in the kingdom of
Saxony, he had had character enough to oppose the army conscription
iniquity, and to flee, in his eighteenth year, to Paris. From there he
had set forth for America, the land of promise.

Arrived in this country, he had made his way, by slow stages, from
New York to Philadelphia, and thence westward, working for a time in
the various glass factories in Pennsylvania. In one romantic village
of this new world he had found his heart's ideal. With her, a simple
American girl of German extraction, he had removed to Youngstown, and
thence to Columbus, each time following a glass manufacturer by the
name of Hammond, whose business prospered and waned by turns.

Gerhardt was an honest man, and he liked to think that others
appreciated his integrity. "William," his employer used to say to him,
"I want you because I can trust you," and this, to him, was more than
silver and gold.

This honesty, like his religious convictions, was wholly due to
inheritance. He had never reasoned about it. Father and grandfather
before him were sturdy German artisans, who had never cheated anybody
out of a dollar, and this honesty of intention came into his veins
undiminished.

His Lutheran proclivities had been strengthened by years of
church-going and the religious observances of home life, In his
father's cottage the influence of the Lutheran minister had been
all-powerful; he had inherited the feeling that the Lutheran Church
was a perfect institution, and that its teachings were of
all-importance when it came to the issue of the future life. His wife,
nominally of the Mennonite faith, was quite willing to accept her
husband's creed. And so his household became a God-fearing one;
wherever they went their first public step was to ally themselves with
the local Lutheran church, and the minister was always a welcome guest
in the Gerhardt home.

Pastor Wundt, the shepherd of the Columbus church, was a sincere
and ardent Christian, but his bigotry and hard-and-fast orthodoxy made
him intolerant. He considered that the members of his flock were
jeopardizing their eternal salvation if they danced, played cards, or
went to theaters, and he did not hesitate to declare vociferously that
hell was yawning for those who disobeyed his injunctions. Drinking,
even temperately, was a sin. Smoking--well, he smoked himself.
Right conduct in marriage, however, and innocence before that state
were absolute essentials of Christian living. Let no one talk of
salvation, he had said, for a daughter who had failed to keep her
chastity unstained, or for the parents who, by negligence, had
permitted her to fall. Hell was yawning for all such. You must walk
the straight and narrow way if you would escape eternal punishment,
and a just God was angry with sinners every day.

Gerhardt and his wife, and also Jennie, accepted the doctrines of
their Church as expounded by Mr. Wundt without reserve. With Jennie,
however, the assent was little more than nominal. Religion had as yet
no striking hold upon her. It was a pleasant thing to know that there
was a heaven, a fearsome one to realize that there was a hell. Young
girls and boys ought to be good and obey their parents. Otherwise the
whole religious problem was badly jumbled in her mind.

Gerhardt was convinced that everything spoken from the pulpit of
his church was literally true. Death and the future life were
realities to him.

Now that the years were slipping away and the problem of the world
was becoming more and more inexplicable, he clung with pathetic
anxiety to the doctrines which contained a solution. Oh, if he could
only be so honest and upright that the Lord might have no excuse for
ruling him out. He trembled not only for himself, but for his wife and
children. Would he not some day be held responsible for them? Would
not his own laxity and lack of system in inculcating the laws of
eternal life to them end in his and their damnation? He pictured to
himself the torments of hell, and wondered how it would be with him
and his in the final hour.

Naturally, such a deep religious feeling made him stern with his
children. He was prone to scan with a narrow eye the pleasures and
foibles of youthful desire. Jennie was never to have a lover if her
father had any voice in the matter. Any flirtation with the youths she
might meet upon the streets of Columbus could have no continuation in
her home. Gerhardt forgot that he was once young himself, and looked
only to the welfare of her spirit. So the Senator was a novel factor
in her life.

When he first began to be a part of their family affairs the
conventional standards of Father Gerhardt proved untrustworthy. He had
no means of judging such a character. This was no ordinary person
coquetting with his pretty daughter. The manner in which the Senator
entered the family life was so original and so plausible that he
became an active part before any one thought anything about it.
Gerhardt himself was deceived, and, expecting nothing but honor and
profit to flow to the family from such a source, accepted the interest
and the service, and plodded peacefully on. His wife did not tell him
of the many presents which had come before and since the wonderful
Christmas.

But one morning as Gerhardt was coming home from his night work a
neighbor named Otto Weaver accosted him.

"Gerhardt," he said, "I want to speak a word with you. As a friend
of yours, I want to tell you what I hear. The neighbors, you know,
they talk now about the man who comes to see your daughter."

"My daughter?" said Gerhardt, more puzzled and pained by this
abrupt attack than mere words could indicate. "Whom do you mean? I
don't know of any one who comes to see my daughter."

"No?" inquired Weaver, nearly as much astonished as the recipient
of his confidences. "The middle-aged man, with gray hair. He carries a
cane sometimes. You don't know him?"

Gerhardt racked his memory with a puzzled face.

"They say he was a senator once," went on Weaver, doubtful of what
he had got into; "I don't know."

"Ah," returned Gerhardt, measurably relieved. "Senator Brander.
Yes. He has come sometimes--so. Well, what of it?"

"It is nothing," returned the neighbor, "only they talk. He is no
longer a young man, you know. Your daughter, she goes out with him now
a few times. These people, they see that, and now they talk about her.
I thought you might want to know."

Gerhardt was shocked to the depths of his being by these terrible
words. People must have a reason for saying such things. Jennie and
her mother were seriously at fault. Still he did not hesitate to
defend his daughter.

"He is a friend of the family," he said confusedly. "People should
not talk until they know. My daughter has done nothing."

"That is so. It is nothing," continued Weaver. "People talk before
they have any grounds. You and I are old friends. I thought you might
want to know."

Gerhardt stood there motionless another minute or so t his jaw
fallen and a strange helplessness upon him. The world was such a grim
thing to have antagonistic to you. Its opinions and good favor were so
essential. How hard he had tried to live up to its rules! Why should
it not be satisfied and let him alone?

"I am glad you told me," he murmured as he started homeward. "I
will see about it. Good-by."

Gerhardt took the first opportunity to question his wife.

"What is this about Senator Brander coming out to call on Jennie?"
he asked in German. "The neighbors are talking about it."

"Why, nothing," answered Mrs. Gerhardt, in the same language. She
was decidedly taken aback at his question. "He did call two or three
times."

"You didn't tell me that," he returned, a sense of her frailty in
tolerating and shielding such weakness in one of their children
irritating him.

"No," she replied, absolutely nonplussed. "He has only been here
two or three times."

"Two or three times!" exclaimed Gerhardt, the German tendency to
talk loud coming upon him. "Two or three times! The whole neighborhood
talks about it. What is this, then?"

"He only called two or three times," Mrs. Gerhardt repeated
weakly.

"Weaver comes to me on the street," continued Gerhardt, "and tells
me that my neighbors are talking of the man my daughter is going with.
I didn't know anything about it. There I stood. I didn't know what to
say. What kind of a way is that? What must the man think of me?"

"There is nothing the matter," declared the mother, using an
effective German idiom. "Jennie has gone walking with him once or
twice. He has called here at the house. What is there now in that for
the people to talk about? Can't the girl have any pleasure at
all?"

"But he is an old man," returned Gerhardt, voicing the words of
Weaver. "He is a public citizen. What should he want to call on a girl
like Jennie for?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Gerhardt, defensively. "He comes here to
the house. I don't know anything but good about the man. Can I tell
him not to come?"

Gerhardt paused at this. All that he knew of the Senator was
excellent. What was there now that was so terrible about it?

"The neighbors are so ready to talk. They haven't got anything else
to talk about now, so they talk about Jennie. You know whether she is
a good girl or not. Why should they say such things?" and tears came
into the soft little mother's eyes.

"That is all right," grumbled Gerhardt, "but he ought not to want
to come around and take a girl of her age out walking. It looks bad,
even if he don't mean any harm."

At this moment Jennie came in. She had heard the talking in the
front bedroom, where she slept with one of the children, but had not
suspected its import. Now her mother turned her back and bent over the
table where she was making biscuit, in order that her daughter might
not see her red eyes.

"What's the matter?" she inquired, vaguely troubled by the tense
stillness in the attitude of both her parents.

"Nothing," said Gerhardt firmly.

Mrs. Gerhardt made no sign, but her very immobility told something.
Jennie went over to her and quickly discovered that she had been
weeping.

"What's the matter?" she repeated wonderingly, gazing at her
father.

Gerhardt only stood there, his daughter's innocence dominating his
terror of evil.

"What's the matter?" she urged softly of her mother.

"Oh, it's the neighbors," returned the mother brokenly.

"They're always ready to talk about something they don't know
anything about."

"Is it me again?" inquired Jennie, her face flushing faintly.

"You see," observed Gerhardt, apparently addressing the world in
general, "she knows. Now, why didn't you tell me that he was coming
here? The neighbors talk, and I hear nothing about it until to-day.
What kind of a way is that, anyhow?"

"Oh," exclaimed Jennie, out of the purest sympathy for her mother,
"what difference does it make?"

"What difference?" cried Gerhardt, still talking in German,
although Jennie answered in English. "Is it no difference that men
stop me on the street and speak of it? You should be ashamed of
yourself to say that. I always thought well of this man, but now,
since you don't tell me about him, and the neighbors talk, I don't
know what to think. Must I get my knowledge of what is going on in my
own home from my neighbors?"

Mother and daughter paused. Jennie had already begun to think that
their error was serious.

"I didn't keep anything from you because it was evil," she said.
"Why, he only took me out riding once."

"Yes, but you didn't tell me that," answered her father.

"You know you don't like for me to go out after dark," replied
Jennie. "That's why I didn't. There wasn't anything else to hide about
it."

"He shouldn't want you to go out after dark with him," observed
Gerhardt, always mindful of the world outside. "What can he want with
you. Why does he come here? He is too old, anyhow. I don't think you
ought to have anything to do with him--such a young girl as you
are."

"He doesn't want to do anything except help me," murmured Jennie.
"He wants to marry me."

"Marry you? Ha! Why doesn't he tell me that!" exclaimed Gerhardt.
"I shall look into this. I won't have him running around with my
daughter, and the neighbors talking. Besides, he is too old. I shall
tell him that. He ought to know better than to put a girl where she
gets talked about. It is better he should stay away altogether."

This threat of Gerhardt's, that he would tell Brander to stay away,
seemed simply terrible to Jennie and to her mother. What good could
come of any such attitude? Why must they be degraded before him? Of
course Brander did call again, while Gerhardt was away at work, and
they trembled lest the father should hear of it. A few days later the
Senator came and took Jennie for a long walk. Neither she nor her
mother said anything to Gerhardt. But he was not to be put off the
scent for long.

"Has Jennie been out again with that man?" he inquired of Mrs.
Gerhardt the next evening.

"He was here last night," returned the mother, evasively.

"Did she tell him he shouldn't come any more?"

"I don't know. I don't think so."

"Well, now, I will see for myself once whether this thing will be
stopped or not," said the determined father. "I shall talk with him.
Wait till he comes again."

In accordance with this, he took occasion to come up from his
factory on three different evenings, each time carefully surveying the
house, in order to discover whether any visitor was being entertained.
On the fourth evening Brander came, and inquiring for Jennie, who was
exceedingly nervous, he took her out for a walk. She was afraid of her
father, lest some unseemly things should happen, but did not know
exactly what to do.

Gerhardt, who was on his way to the house at the time, observed her
departure. That was enough for him. Walking deliberately in upon his
wife, he said:

"Where is Jennie?"

"She is out somewhere," said her mother.

"Yes, I know where," said Gerhardt. "I saw her. Now wait till she
comes home. I will tell him."

He sat down calmly, reading a German paper and keeping an eye upon
his wife, until, at last, the gate clicked, and the front door opened.
Then he got up.

"Where have you been?" he exclaimed in German.

Brander, who had not suspected that any trouble of this character
was pending, felt irritated and uncomfortable. Jennie was covered with
confusion. Her mother was suffering an agony of torment in the
kitchen.

"Why, I have been out for a walk," she answered confusedly.

"Didn't I tell you not to go out any more after dark?" said
Gerhardt, utterly ignoring Brander.

Jennie colored furiously, unable to speak a word.

"What is the trouble?" inquired Brander gravely. "Why should you
talk to her like that?"

"She should not go out after dark," returned the father rudely. "I
have told her two or three times now. I don't think you ought to come
here any more, either."

"And why?" asked the Senator, pausing to consider and choose his
words. "Isn't this rather peculiar? What has your daughter done?"

"What has she done!" exclaimed Gerhardt, his excitement growing
under the strain he was enduring, and speaking almost unaccented
English in consequence. "She is running around the streets at night
when she oughtn't to be. I don't want my daughter taken out after dark
by a man of your age. What do you want with her anyway? She is only a
child yet."

"Want!" said the Senator, straining to regain his ruffled dignity.
"I want to talk with her, of course. She is old enough to be
interesting to me. I want to marry her if she will have me."

"I want you to go out of here and stay out of here," returned the
father, losing all sense of logic, and descending to the ordinary
level of parental compulsion. "I don't want you to come around my
house any more. I have enough trouble without my daughter being taken
out and given a bad name."

"I tell you frankly," said the Senator, drawing himself up to his
full height, "that you will have to make clear your meaning. I have
done nothing that I am ashamed of. Your daughter has not come to any
harm through me. Now, I want to know what you mean by conducting
yourself in this manner."

"I mean," said Gerhardt, excitedly repeating himself, "I mean, I
mean that the whole neighborhood talks about how you come around here,
and have buggy-rides and walks with my daughter when I am not
here--that's what I mean. I mean that you are no man of honorable
intentions, or you would not come taking up with a little girl who is
only old enough to be your daughter. People tell me well enough what
you are. Just you go and leave my daughter alone."

"People!" said the Senator. "Well, I care nothing for your people.
I love your daughter, and I am here to see her because I do love her.
It is my intention to marry her, and if your neighbors have anything
to say to that, let them say it. There is no reason why you should
conduct yourself in this manner before you know what my intentions
are."

Unnerved by this unexpected and terrible altercation, Jennie had
backed away to the door leading out into the dining-room, and her
mother, seeing her, came forward.

"Oh," said the latter, breathing excitedly, "he came home when you
were away. What shall we do?" They clung together, as women do, and
wept silently. The dispute continued.

"Marry, eh," exclaimed the father. "Is that it?"

"Yes," said the Senator, "marry, that is exactly it. Your daughter
is eighteen years of age and can decide for herself. You have insulted
me and outraged your daughter's feelings. Now, I wish you to know that
it cannot stop here. If you have any cause to say anything against me
outside of mere hearsay I wish you to say it."

The Senator stood before him, a very citadel of righteousness. He
was neither loud-voiced nor angry-mannered, but there was a tightness
about his lips which bespoke the man of force and determination.

"I don't want to talk to you any more," returned Gerhardt, who was
checked but not overawed. "My daughter is my daughter. I am the one
who will say whether she shall go out at night, or whether she shall
marry you, either. I know what you politicians are. When I first met
you I thought you were a fine man, but now, since I see the way you
conduct yourself with my daughter, I don't want anything more to do
with you. Just you go and stay away from here. That's all I ask of
you."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Gerhardt," said Brander, turning deliberately
away from the angry father, "to have had such an argument in your
home. I had no idea that your husband was opposed to my visits.
However, I will leave the matter as it stands for the present. You
must not take all this as badly as it seems."

Gerhardt looked on in astonishment at his coolness.

"I will go now," he said, again addressing Gerhardt, "but you
mustn't think that I am leaving this matter for good. You have made a
serious mistake this evening. I hope you will realize that. I bid you
goodnight." He bowed slightly and went out.

Gerhardt closed the door firmly. "Now," he said, turning to his
daughter and wife, "we will see whether we are rid of him or not. I
will show you how to go after night upon the streets when everybody is
talking already."

In so far as words were concerned, the argument ceased, but looks
and feeling ran strong and deep, and for days thereafter scarcely a
word was spoken in the little cottage. Gerhardt began to brood over
the fact that he had accepted his place from the Senator and decided
to give it up. He made it known that no more of the Senator's washing
was to be done in their house, and if he had not been sure that Mrs.
Gerhardt's hotel work was due to her own efforts in finding it he
would have stopped that. No good would come out of it, anyway. If she
had never gone to the hotel all this talk would never have come upon
them.

As for the Senator, he went away decidedly ruffled by this crude
occurrence. Neighborhood slanders are bad enough on their own plane,
but for a man of his standing to descend and become involved in one
struck him now as being a little bit unworthy. He did not know what to
do about the situation, and while he was trying to come to some
decision several days went by. Then he was called to Washington, and
he went away without having seen Jennie again.

In the mean time the Gerhardt family struggled along as before.
They were poor, indeed, but Gerhardt was willing to face poverty if
only it could be endured with honor. The grocery bills were of the
same size, however. The children's clothing was steadily wearing out.
Economy had to be practised, and payments stopped on old bills that
Gerhardt was trying to adjust.

Then came a day when the annual interest on the mortgage was due,
and yet another when two different grocery-men met Gerhardt on the
street and asked about their little bills. He did not hesitate to
explain just what the situation was, and to tell them with convincing
honesty that he would try hard and do the best he could. But his
spirit was unstrung by his misfortunes. He prayed for the favor of
Heaven while at his labor, and did not hesitate to use the daylight
hours that he should have had for sleeping to go about--either
looking for a more remunerative position or to obtain such little jobs
as he could now and then pick up. One of them was that of cutting
grass.

Mrs. Gerhardt protested that he was killing himself, but he
explained his procedure by pointing to their necessity.

"When people stop me on the street and ask me for money I have no
time to sleep."

It was a distressing situation for all of them.

To cap it all, Sebastian got in jail. It was that old coal-stealing
ruse of his practised once too often. He got up on a car one evening
while Jennie and the children waited for him, and a railroad detective
arrested him. There had been a good deal of coal stealing during the
past two years, but so long as it was confined to moderate quantities
the railroad took no notice. When, however, customers of shippers
complained that cars from the Pennsylvania fields lost thousands of
pounds in transit to Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and other points,
detectives were set to work. Gerhardt's children were not the only
ones who preyed upon the railroad in this way. Other families in
Columbus--many of them--were constantly doing the same thing,
but Sebastian happened to be seized upon as the Columbus example.

"You come off that car now," said the detective, suddenly appearing
out of the shadow. Jennie and the other children dropped their baskets
and buckets and fled for their lives. Sebastian's first impulse was to
jump and run, but when he tried it the detective grabbed him by the
coat.

"Hold on here," he exclaimed. "I want you."

"Aw, let go," said Sebastian savagely, for he was no weakling.
There was nerve and determination in him, as well as a keen sense of
his awkward predicament.

"Let go, I tell you," he reiterated, and giving a jerk, he almost
upset his captor.

"Come here now," said the detective, pulling him viciously in an
effort to establish his authority.

Sebastian came, but it was with a blow which staggered his
adversary.

There was more struggling, and then a passing railroad hand came to
the detective's assistance. Together they hurried him toward the
depot, and there discovering the local officer, turned him over. It
was with a torn coat, scarred hands and face, and a black eye that
Sebastian was locked up for the night.

When the children came home they could not say what had happened to
their brother, but as nine o'clock struck, and then ten and eleven,
and Sebastian did not return, Mrs. Gerhardt was beside herself. He had
stayed out many a night as late as twelve and one, but his mother had
a foreboding of something terrible tonight. When half-past one
arrived, and no Sebastian, she began to cry.

"Some one ought to go up and tell your father," she said. "He may
be in jail."

Jennie volunteered, but George, who was soundly sleeping, was
awakened to go along with her.

"What!" said Gerhardt, astonished to see his two children.

"Bass hasn't come yet," said Jennie, and then told the story of the
evening's adventure in explanation.

Gerhardt left his work at once, walking back with his two children
to a point where he could turn off to go to the jail. He guessed what
had happened, and his heart was troubled.

"Is that so, now!" he repeated nervously, rubbing his clumsy hands
across his wet forehead.

Arrived at the station-house, the sergeant in charge told him
curtly that Bass was under arrest.

"Sebastian Gerhardt?" he said, looking over his blotter; "yes, here
he is. Stealing coal and resisting an officer. Is he your boy?"

"Oh, my!" said Gerhardt, "Ach Gott!" He actually wrung his
hands in distress.

"Want to see him?" asked the Sergeant.

"Yes, yes," said the father.

"Take him back, Fred," said the other to the old watchman in
charge, "and let him see the boy."

When Gerhardt stood in the back room, and Sebastian was brought out
all marked and tousled, he broke down and began to cry. No word could
cross his lips because of his emotion.

"Don't cry, pop," said Sebastian bravely. "I couldn't help it. It's
all right. I'll be out in the morning."

Gerhardt only shook with his grief.

"Don't cry," continued Sebastian, doing his very best to restrain
his own tears. "I'll be all right. What's the use of crying?"

"I know, I know," said the gray-headed parent brokenly, "but I
can't help it. It is my fault that I should let you do that."

"No, no, it isn't," said Sebastian. "You couldn't help it. Does
mother know anything about it?"

"Yes, she knows," he returned. "Jennie and George just came up
where I was and told me. I didn't know anything about it until just
now," and he began to cry again.

"Well, don't you feel badly," went on Bass, the finest part of his
nature coming to the surface. "I'll be all right. Just you go back to
work now, and don't worry. I'll be all right."

"How did you hurt your eye?" asked the father, looking at him with
red eyes.

"Oh, I had a little wrestling match with the man who nabbed me,"
said the boy, smiling bravely. "I thought I could get away."

"You shouldn't do that, Sebastian," said the father. "It may go
harder with you on that account. When does your case come up?"

"In the morning, they told me," said Bass. "Nine o'clock."

Gerhardt stayed with his son for some time, and discussed the
question of bail, fine, and the dire possibility of a jail sentence
without arriving at any definite conclusion. Finally he was persuaded
by Bass to go away, but the departure was the occasion for another
outburst of feeling; he was led away shaking and broken with
emotion.

"It's pretty tough," said Bass to himself as he was led back to his
cell. He was thinking solely of his father. "I wonder what ma will
think."

The thought of this touched him tenderly. "I wish I'd knocked the
dub over the first crack," he said. "What a fool I was not to get
away."




CHAPTER VII


Gerhardt was in despair; he did not know any one to whom he could
appeal between the hours of two and nine o'clock in the morning. He
went back to talk with his wife, and then to his post of duty. What
was to be done? He could think of only one friend who was able, or
possibly willing to do anything. This was the glass manufacturer,
Hammond; but he was not in the city. Gerhardt did not know this,
however.

When nine o'clock came, he went alone to the court, for it was
thought advisable that the others should stay away. Mrs. Gerhardt was
to hear immediately what happened. He would come right back.

When Sebastian was lined up inside the dock he had to wait a long
time, for there were several prisoners ahead of him. Finally his name
was called, and the boy was pushed forward to the bar. "Stealing coal,
Your Honor, and resisting arrest," explained the officer who had
arrested him.

The magistrate looked at Sebastian closely; he was unfavorably
impressed by the lad's scratched and wounded face.

"Well, young man," he said, "what have you to say for yourself? How
did you get your black eye?"

Sebastian looked at the judge, but did not answer.

"I arrested him," said the detective. "He was on one of the
company's cars. He tried to break away from me, and when I held him he
assaulted me. This man here was a witness," he added, turning to the
railroad hand who had helped him.

"Is that where he struck you?" asked the Court, observing the
detective's swollen jaw.

"Yes, sir," he returned, glad of an opportunity to be further
revenged.

"If you please," put in Gerhardt, leaning forward, "he is my boy.
He was sent to get the coal. He--"

"We don't mind what they pick up around the yard," interrupted the
detective, "but he was throwing it off the cars to half a dozen
others."

"Can't you earn enough to keep from taking coal off the coal cars?"
asked the Court; but before either father or son had time to answer he
added, "What is your business?"

"Car builder," said Sebastian.

"And what do you do?" he questioned, addressing Gerhardt.

"I am watchman at Miller's furniture factory."

"Um," said the court, feeling that Sebastian's attitude remained
sullen and contentious. "Well, this young man might be let off on the
coal-stealing charge, but he seems to be somewhat too free with his
fists. Columbus is altogether too rich in that sort of thing. Ten
dollars."

"If you please," began Gerhardt, but the court officer was already
pushing him away.

"I don't want to hear any more about it," said the judge. "He's
stubborn, anyhow. What's the next case?"

Gerhardt made his way over to his boy, abashed and yet very glad it
was no worse. Somehow, he thought, he could raise the money. Sebastian
looked at him solicitously as he came forward.

"It's all right," said Bass soothingly. "He didn't give me half a
chance to say anything."

"I'm only glad it wasn't more," said Gerhardt nervously. "We will
try and get the money."

Going home to his wife, Gerhardt informed the troubled household of
the result. Mrs. Gerhardt stood white and yet relieved, for ten
dollars seemed something that might be had. Jennie heard the whole
story with open mouth and wide eyes. It was a terrible blow to her.
Poor Bass! He was always so lively and good-natured. It seemed awful
that he should be in jail.

Gerhardt went hurriedly to Hammond's fine residence, but he was not
in the city. He thought then of a lawyer by the name of Jenkins, whom
he knew in a casual way, but Jenkins was not at his office. There were
several grocers and coal merchants whom he knew well enough, but he
owed them money. Pastor Wundt might let him have it, but the agony
such a disclosure to that worthy would entail held him back. He did
call on one or two acquaintances, but these, surprised at the unusual
and peculiar request, excused themselves. At four o'clock he returned
home, weary and exhausted.

"I don't know what to do," he said despairingly. "If I could only
think."

Jennie thought of Brander, but the situation had not accentuated
her desperation to the point where she could brave her father's
opposition and his terrible insult to the Senator, so keenly
remembered, to go and ask. Her watch had been pawned a second time,
and she had no other means of obtaining money.

The family council lasted until half-past ten, but still there was
nothing decided. Mrs. Gerhardt persistently and monotonously turned
one hand over in the other and stared at the floor. Gerhardt ran his
hand through his reddish brown hair distractedly. "It's no use," he
said at last. "I can't think of anything."

"Go to bed, Jennie," said her mother solicitously; "get the others
to go. There's no use their sitting up I may think of something. You
go to bed."

Jennie went to her room, but the very thought of repose was
insupportable. She had read in the paper, shortly after her father's
quarrel with the Senator, that the latter had departed for Washington.
There had been no notice of his return. Still he might be in the city.
She stood before a short, narrow mirror that surmounted a shabby
bureau, thinking. Her sister Veronica, with whom she slept, was
already composing herself to dreams. Finally a grim resolution fixed
itself in her consciousness. She would go and see Senator Brander. If
he were in town he would help Bass. Why shouldn't she--he
loved her. He had asked over and over to marry her. Why should she not
go and ask him for help?

She hesitated a little while, then hearing Veronica breathing
regularly, she put on her hat and jacket, and noiselessly opened the
door into the sitting-room to see if any one were stirring.

There was no sound save that of Gerhardt rocking nervously to and
fro in the kitchen. There was no light save that of her own small
room-lamp and a gleam from under the kitchen door. She turned and blew
the former out--then slipped quietly to the front door, opened it
and stepped out into the night.

A waning moon was shining, and a hushed sense of growing life
filled the air, for it was nearing spring again. As Jennie hurried
along the shadowy streets--the arc light had not yet been
invented--she had a sinking sense of fear; what was this rash
thing she was about to do? How would the Senator receive her? What
would he think? She stood stock-still, wavering and doubtful; then the
recollection of Bass in his night cell came over her again, and she
hurried on.

The character of the Capitol Hotel was such that it was not
difficult for a woman to find ingress through the ladies' entrance to
the various floors of the hotel at any hour of the night. The hotel,
not unlike many others of the time, was in no sense loosely conducted,
but its method of supervision in places was lax. Any person could
enter, and, by applying at a rear entrance to the lobby, gain the
attention of the clerk. Otherwise not much notice was taken of those
who came and went.

When she came to the door it was dark save for a low light burning
in the entry-way. The distance to the Senator's room was only a short
way along the hall of the second floor. She hurried up the steps,
nervous and pale, but giving no other outward sign of the storm that
was surging within her. When she came to his familiar door she paused;
she feared that she might not find him in his room; she trembled again
to think that he might be there. A light shone through the transom,
and, summoning all her courage, she knocked. A man coughed and
bestirred himself.

His surprise as he opened the door knew no bounds. "Why, Jennie!"
he exclaimed. "How delightful! I was thinking of you. Come
in--come in."

He welcomed her with an eager embrace.

"I was coming out to see you, believe me, I was. I was thinking all
along how I could straighten this matter out. And now you come. But
what's the trouble?"

He held her at arm's length and studied her distressed face. The
fresh beauty of her seemed to him like cut lilies wet with dew.

He felt a great surge of tenderness.

"I have something to ask you," she at last brought herself to say.
"My brother is in jail. We need ten dollars to get him out, and I
didn't know where else to go."

"My poor child!" he said, chafing her hands. "Where else should you
go? Haven't I told you always to come to me? Don't you know, Jennie, I
would do anything in the world for you?"

"Yes," she gasped.

"Well, then, don't worry about that any more. But won't fate ever
cease striking at you, poor child? How did your brother come to get in
jail?"

"They caught him throwing coal down from the cars," she
replied.

"Ah!" he replied, his sympathies touched and awakened. Here was
this boy arrested and fined for what fate was practically driving him
to do. Here was this girl pleading with him at night, in his room, for
what to her was a great necessity--ten dollars; to him, a mere
nothing. "I will arrange about your brother," he said quickly. "Don't
worry. I can get him out in half an hour. You sit here now and be
comfortable until I return."

He waved her to his easy-chair beside a large lamp, and hurried out
of the room.

Brander knew the sheriff who had personal supervision of the county
jail. He knew the judge who had administered the fine. It was but a
five minutes' task to write a note to the judge asking him to revoke
the fine, for the sake of the boy's character, and send it by a
messenger to his home. Another ten minutes' task to go personally to
the jail and ask his friend, the sheriff, to release the boy then and
there.

"Here is the money," he said. "If the fine is revoked you can
return it to me. Let him go now."

The sheriff was only too glad to comply. He hastened below to
personally supervise the task, and Bass, a very much astonished boy,
was set free. No explanations were vouchsafed him.

"That's all right now," said the turnkey. "You're at liberty. Run
along home and don't let them catch you at anything like that
again."

Bass went his way wondering, and the ex-Senator returned to his
hotel trying to decide just how this delicate situation should be
handled. Obviously Jennie had not told her father of her mission. She
had come as a last resource. She was now waiting for him in his
room.

There are crises in all men's lives when they waver between the
strict fulfilment of justice and duty and the great possibilities for
personal happiness which another line of conduct seems to assure. And
the dividing line is not always marked and clear. He knew that the
issue of taking her, even as his wife, was made difficult by the
senseless opposition of her father. The opinion of the world brought
up still another complication. Supposing he should take her openly,
what would the world say? She was a significant type emotionally, that
he knew. There was something there--artistically,
temperamentally, which was far and beyond the keenest suspicion of the
herd. He did not know himself quite what it was, but he felt a
largeness of feeling not altogether squared with intellect, or perhaps
better yet, experience, which was worthy of any man's desire. "This
remarkable girl," he thought, seeing her clearly in his mind's
eye.

Meditating as to what he should do, he returned to his hotel, and
the room. As he entered he was struck anew with her beauty, and with
the irresistible appeal of her personality. In the glow of the shaded
lamp she seemed a figure of marvelous potentiality.

"Well," he said, endeavoring to appear calm, "I have looked after
your brother. He is out."

She rose.

"Oh," she exclaimed, clasping her hands and stretching her arms out
toward him. There were tears of gratefulness in her eyes.

He saw them and stepped close to her. "Jennie, for heaven's sake
don't cry," he entreated. "You angel! You sister of mercy! To think
you should have to add tears to your other sacrifices."

He drew her to him, and then all the caution of years deserted him.
There was a sense both of need and of fulfilment in his mood. At last,
in spite of other losses, fate had brought him what he most
desired--love, a woman whom he could love. He took her in his
arms, and kissed her again and again.

The English Jefferies has told us that it requires a hundred and
fifty years to make a perfect maiden. "From all enchanted things of
earth and air, this preciousness has been drawn. From the south wind
that breathed a century and a half over the green wheat; from the
perfume of the growing grasses waving over heavy-laden clover and
laughing veronica, hiding the green finches, baffling the bee; from
rose-lined hedge, woodbine, and cornflower, azure blue, where
yellowing wheat stalks crowd up under the shadow of green firs. All
the devious brooklets' sweetness where the iris stays the sunlight;
all the wild woods hold of beauty; all the broad hills of thyme and
freedom thrice a hundred years repeated.

"A hundred years of cowslips, bluebells, violets; purple spring and
golden autumn; sunshine, shower, and dewy mornings; the night
immortal; all the rhythm of time unrolling. A chronicle unwritten and
past all power of writing; who shall preserve a record of the petals
that fell from the roses a century ago? The swallows to the house-tops
three hundred--times think of that! Thence she sprang, and the
world yearns toward her beauty as to flowers that are past. The
loveliness of seventeen is centuries old. That is why passion is
almost sad."

If you have understood and appreciated the beauty of harebells
three hundred times repeated; if the quality of the roses, of the
music, of the ruddy mornings and evenings of the world has ever
touched your heart; if all beauty were passing, and you were given
these things to hold in your arms before the world slipped away, would
you give them up?




CHAPTER VIII


The significance of the material and spiritual changes which
sometimes overtake us are not very clear at the time. A sense of
shock, a sense of danger, and then apparently we subside to old ways,
but the change has come. Never again, here or elsewhere, will we be
the same. Jennie pondering after the subtle emotional turn which her
evening's sympathetic expedition had taken, was lost in a vague
confusion of emotions. She had no definite realization of what social
and physical changes this new relationship to the Senator might
entail. She was not conscious as yet of that shock which the
possibility of maternity, even under the most favorable conditions,
must bring to the average woman. Her present attitude was one of
surprise, wonder, uncertainty; and at the same time she experienced a
genuine feeling of quiet happiness. Brander was a good man; now he was
closer to her than ever. He loved her. Because of this new
relationship a change in her social condition was to inevitably
follow. Life was to be radically different from now on--was
different at this moment. Brander assured her over and over of his
enduring affection.

"I tell you, Jennie," he repeated, as she was leaving, "I don't
want you to worry. This emotion of mine got the best of me, but I'll
marry you. I've been carried off my feet, but I'll make it up to you.
Go home and say nothing at all. Caution your brother, if it isn't too
late. Keep your own counsel, and I will marry you and take you away. I
can't do it right now. I don't want to do it here. But I'm going to
Washington, and I'll send for you. And here"--he reached for his
purse and took from it a hundred dollars, practically all he had with
him, "take that. I'll send you more tomorrow. You're my girl
now--remember that. You belong to me."

He embraced her tenderly.

She went out into the night, thinking. No doubt he would do as he
said. She dwelt, in imagination, upon the possibilities of a new and
fascinating existence. Of course he would marry her. Think of it! She
would go to Washington--that far-off place. And her father and
mother--they would not need to work so hard any more. And Bass,
and Martha--she fairly glowed as she recounted to herself the
many ways in which she could help them all.

A block away she waited for Brander, who accompanied her to her own
gate, and waited while she made a cautious reconnaissance. She slipped
up the steps and tried the door. It was open. She paused a moment to
indicate to her lover that she was safe, and entered. All was silent
within. She slipped to her own room and heard Veronica breathing. She
went quietly to where Bass slept with George. He was in bed, stretched
out as if asleep. When she entered he asked, "Is that you,
Jennie?"

"Yes."

"Where have you been?"

"Listen," she whispered. "Have you seen papa and mamma?"

"Yes."

"Did they know I had gone out?"

"Ma did. She told me not to ask after you. Where have you
been?"

"I went to see Senator Brander for you."

"Oh, that was it. They didn't say why they let me out."

"Don't tell any one," she pleaded. "I don't want any one to know.
You know how papa feels about him."

"All right," he replied. But he was curious as to what the
ex-Senator thought, what he had done, and how she had appealed to him.
She explained briefly, then she heard her mother come to the door.

"Jennie," she whispered.

Jennie went out.

"Oh, why did you go?" she asked.

"I couldn't help it, ma," she replied. "I thought I must do
something."

"Why did you stay so long?"

"He wanted to talk to me," she answered evasively.

Her mother looked at her nervously, wanly.

"I have been so afraid, oh, so afraid. Your father went to your
room, but I said you were asleep. He locked the front door, but I
opened it again. When Bass came in he wanted to call you, but I
persuaded him to wait until morning."

Again she looked wistfully at her daughter.

"I'm all right, mamma," said Jennie encouragingly. "I'll tell you
all about it to-morrow. Go to bed. How does he think Bass got
out?"

"He doesn't know. He thought maybe they just let him go because he
couldn't pay the fine."

Jennie laid her hand lovingly on her mother's shoulder.

"Go to bed," she said.

She was already years older in thought and act. She felt as though
she must help her mother now as well as herself.

The days which followed were ones of dreamy uncertainty to Jennie.
She went over in her mind these dramatic events time and time and time
and again. It was not such a difficult matter to tell her mother that
the Senator had talked again of marriage, that he proposed to come and
get her after his next trip to Washington, that he had given her a
hundred dollars and intended to give her more, but of that other
matter--the one all-important thing, she could not bring herself
to speak. It was too sacred. The balance of the money that he had
promised her arrived by messenger the following day, four hundred
dollars in bills, with the admonition that she should put it in a
local bank. The ex-Senator explained that he was already on his way to
Washington, but that he would come back or send for her. "Keep a stout
heart," he wrote. "There are better days in store for you."

Brander was gone, and Jennie's fate was really in the balance. But
her mind still retained all of the heart-innocence, and
unsophistication of her youth; a certain gentle wistfulness was the
only outward change in her demeanor. He would surely send for her.
There was the mirage of a distant country and wondrous scenes looming
up in her mind. She had a little fortune in the bank, more than she
had ever dreamed of, with which to help her mother. There were
natural, girlish anticipations of good still holding over, which made
her less apprehensive than she could otherwise possibly have been. All
nature, life, possibility was in the balance. It might turn good, or
ill, but with so inexperienced a soul it would not be entirely evil
until it was so.

How a mind under such uncertain circumstances could retain so
comparatively placid a vein is one of those marvels which find their
explanation in the inherent trustfulness of the spirit of youth. It is
not often that the minds of men retain the perceptions of their
younger days. The marvel is not that one should thus retain, but that
any should ever lose them Go the world over, and after you have put
away the wonder and tenderness of youth what is there left? The few
sprigs of green that sometimes invade the barrenness of your
materialism, the few glimpses of summer which flash past the eye of
the wintry soul, the half hours off during the long tedium of
burrowing, these reveal to the hardened earth-seeker the universe
which the youthful mind has with it always. No fear and no favor; the
open fields and the light upon the hills; morning, noon, night; stars,
the bird-calls, the water's purl--these are the natural
inheritance of the mind of the child. Men call it poetic, those who
are hardened fanciful. In the days of their youth it was natural, but
the receptiveness of youth has departed, and they cannot see.

How this worked out in her personal actions was to be seen only in
a slightly accentuated wistfulness, a touch of which was in every
task. Sometimes she would wonder that no letter came, but at the same
time she would recall the fact that he had specified a few weeks, and
hence the six that actually elapsed did not seem so long.

In the meanwhile the distinguished ex-Senator had gone
light-heartedly to his conference with the President, he had joined in
a pleasant round of social calls, and he was about to pay a short
country visit to some friends in Maryland, when he was seized with a
slight attack of fever, which confined him to his room for a few days.
He felt a little irritated that he should be laid up just at this
time, but never suspected that there was anything serious in his
indisposition. Then the doctor discovered that he was suffering from a
virulent form of typhoid, the ravages of which took away his senses
for a time and left him very weak. He was thought to be convalescing,
however, when just six weeks after he had last parted with Jennie, he
was seized with a sudden attack of heart failure and never regained
consciousness. Jennie remained blissfully ignorant of his illness and
did not even see the heavy-typed headlines of the announcement of his
death until Bass came home that evening.

"Look here, Jennie," he said excitedly, "Brander's dead!"

He held up the newspaper, on the first column of Which was printed
in heavy block type:

DEATH OF EX-SENATOR BRANDER

Sudden Passing of Ohio's Distinguished Son. Succumbs to Heart Failure
at the Arlington, in Washington.

Recent attack of typhoid, from which he was thought to be recovering,
proves fatal. Notable phases of a remarkable career.

Jennie looked at it in blank amazement. "Dead?" she exclaimed.

"There it is in the paper," returned Bass, his tone being that of
one who is imparting a very interesting piece of news. "He died at ten
o'clock this morning."




CHAPTER IX


Jennie took the paper with but ill-concealed trembling and went
into the adjoining room. There she stood by the front window and
looked at it again, a sickening sensation of dread holding her as
though in a trance.

"He is dead," was all that her mind could formulate for the time,
and as she stood there the voice of Bass recounting the fact to
Gerhardt in the adjoining room sounded in her ears. "Yes, he is dead,"
she heard him say; and once again she tried to get some conception of
what it meant to her. But her mind seemed a blank.

A moment later Mrs. Gerhardt joined her. She had heard Bass's
announcement and had seen Jennie leave the room, but her trouble with
Gerhardt over the Senator had caused her to be careful of any display
of emotion. No conception of the real state of affairs ever having
crossed her mind, she was only interested in seeing how Jennie would
take this sudden annihilation of her hopes.

"Isn't it too bad?" she said, with real sorrow. "To think that he
should have to die just when he was going to do so much for
you--for us all."

She paused, expecting some word of agreement, but Jennie remained
unwontedly dumb.

"I wouldn't feel badly," continued Mrs. Gerhardt. "It can't be
helped. He meant to do a good deal, but you mustn't think of that now.
It's all over, and it can't be helped, you know."

She paused again, and still Jennie remained motionless and mute.
Mrs. Gerhardt, seeing how useless her words were, concluded that
Jennie wished to be alone, and she went away.

Still Jennie stood there, and now, as the real significance of the
news began to formulate itself into consecutive thought, she began to
realize the wretchedness of her position, its helplessness. She went
into her bedroom and sat down upon the side of the bed, from which
position she saw a very pale, distraught face staring at her from out
of the small mirror. She looked at it uncertainly; could that really
be her own countenance? "I'll have to go away," she thought, and
began, with the courage of despair, to wonder what refuge would be
open to her.

In the mean time the evening meal was announced, and, to maintain
appearances, she went out and joined the family; the naturalness of
her part was very difficult to sustain. Gerhardt observed her subdued
condition without guessing the depth of emotion which it covered. Bass
was too much interested in his own affairs to pay particular attention
to anybody.

During the days that followed Jennie pondered over the difficulties
of her position and wondered what she should do. Money she had, it was
true; but no friends, no experience, no place to go. She had always
lived with her family. She began to feel unaccountable sinkings of
spirit, nameless and formless fears seemed to surround and haunt her.
Once when she arose in the morning she felt an uncontrollable desire
to cry, and frequently thereafter this feeling would seize upon her at
the most inopportune times. Mrs. Gerhardt began to note her moods, and
one afternoon she resolved to question her daughter.

"Now you must tell me what's the matter with you," she said
quietly. "Jennie, you must tell your mother everything."

Jennie, to whom confession had seemed impossible, under the
sympathetic persistence of her mother broke down at last and made the
fatal confession. Mrs. Gerhardt stood there, too dumb with misery to
give vent to a word.

"Oh!" she said at last, a great wave of self-accusation sweeping
over her, "it is all my fault. I might have known. But we'll do what
we can." She broke down and sobbed aloud.

After a time she went back to the washing she had to do, and stood
over her tub rubbing and crying. The tears ran down her cheeks and
dropped into the suds. Once in a while she stopped and tried to dry
her eyes with her apron, but they soon filled again.

Now that the first shock had passed, there came the vivid
consciousness of ever-present danger. What would Gerhardt do if he
learned the truth? He had often said that if ever one of his daughters
should act like some of those he knew he would turn her out of doors.
"She should not stay under my roof!" he had exclaimed.

"I'm so afraid of your father," Mrs. Gerhardt often said to Jennie
in this intermediate period. "I don't know what he'll say."

"Perhaps I'd better go away," suggested her daughter.

"No," she said; "he needn't know just yet. Wait awhile." But in her
heart of hearts she knew that the evil day could not be long
postponed.

One day, when her own suspense had reached such a pitch that it
could no longer be endured, Mrs. Gerhardt sent Jennie away with the
children, hoping to be able to tell her husband before they returned.
All the morning she fidgeted about, dreading the opportune moment and
letting him retire to his slumber without speaking. When afternoon
came she did not go out to work, because she could not leave with her
painful duty unfulfilled. Gerhardt arose at four, and still she
hesitated, knowing full well that Jennie would soon return and that
the specially prepared occasion would then be lost. It is almost
certain that she would not have had the courage to say anything if he
himself had not brought up the subject of Jennie's appearance.

"She doesn't look well," he said. "There seems to be something the
matter with her."

"Oh," began Mrs. Gerhardt, visibly struggling with her fears, and
moved to make an end of it at any cost, "Jennie is in trouble. I don't
know what to do. She--"

Gerhardt, who had unscrewed a door-lock and was trying to mend it,
looked up sharply from his work.

"What do you mean?" he asked.

Mrs. Gerhardt had her apron in her hands at the time, her nervous
tendency to roll it coming upon her. She tried to summon sufficient
courage to explain, but fear mastered her completely; she lifted the
apron to her eyes and began to cry.

Gerhardt looked at her and rose. He was a man with the Calvin type
of face, rather spare, with skin sallow and discolored as the result
of age and work in the wind and rain. When he was surprised or angry
sparks of light glittered in his eyes. He frequently pushed his hair
back when he was troubled, and almost invariably walked the floor;
just now he looked alert and dangerous.

"What is that you say?" he inquired in German, his voice straining
to a hard note. "In trouble--has some one--" He paused and
flung his hand upward. "Why don't you speak?" he demanded.

"I never thought," went on Mrs. Gerhardt, frightened, and yet
following her own train of thought, "that anything like that would
happen to her. She was such a good girl. Oh!" she concluded, "to think
he should ruin Jennie."

"By thunder!" shouted Gerhardt, giving way to a fury of feeling, "I
thought so! Brander! Ha! Your fine man! That comes of letting her go
running around at nights, buggy-riding, walking the streets. I thought
so. God in heaven!--"

He broke from his dramatic attitude and struck out in a fierce
stride across the narrow chamber, turning like a caged animal.

"Ruined!" he exclaimed. "Ruined! Ha! So he has ruined her, has
he?"

Suddenly he stopped like an image jerked by a string. He was
directly in front of Mrs. Gerhardt, who had retired to the table at
the side of the wall, and was standing there pale with fear.

"He is dead now!" he shouted, as if this fact had now first
occurred to him. "He is dead!"

He put both hands to his temples, as if he feared his brain would
give way, and stood looking at her, the mocking irony of the situation
seeming to burn in his brain like fire.

"Dead!" he repeated, and Mrs. Gerhardt, fearing for the reason of
the man, shrank still farther away, her wits taken up rather with the
tragedy of the figure he presented than with the actual substance of
his woe.

"He intended to marry her," she pleaded nervously. "He would have
married her if he had not died."

"Would have!" shouted Gerhardt, coming out of his trance at the
sound of her voice. "Would have! That's a fine thing to talk about
now. Would have! The hound! May his soul burn in hell--the dog!
Ah, God, I hope--I hope--If I were not a Christian--" He clenched
his hands, the awfulness of his passion shaking him like a leaf.

Mrs. Gerhardt burst into tears, and her husband turned away, his
own feelings far too intense for him to have any sympathy with her. He
walked to and fro, his heavy step shaking the kitchen floor. After a
time he came back, a new phase of the dread calamity having offered
itself to his mind.

"When did this happen?" he demanded

"I don't know," returned Mrs. Gerhardt, too terror-stricken to tell
the truth. "I only found it out the other day."

"You lie!" he exclaimed in his excitement. "You were always
shielding her. It is your fault that she is where she is. If you had
let me have my way there would have been no cause for our trouble
to-night.

"A fine ending," he went on to himself. "A fine ending. My boy gets
into jail; my daughter walks the streets and gets herself talked
about; the neighbors come to me with open remarks about my children;
and now this scoundrel ruins her. By the God in heaven, I don't know
what has got into my children!

"I don't know how it is," he went on, unconsciously commiserating
himself. "I try, I try! Every night I pray that the Lord will let me
do right, but it is no use. I might work and work. My hands--look
at them--are rough with work. All my life I have tried to be an
honest man. Now--now--" His voice broke, and it seemed for a
moment as if he would give way to tears. Suddenly he turned on his
wife, the major passion of anger possessing him.

"You are the cause of this," he exclaimed. "You are the sole cause.
If you had done as I told you to do this would not have happened. No,
you wouldn't do that. She must go out! out!! out!!! She has become a
street-walker, that's what she has become. She has set herself right
to go to hell. Let her go. I wash my hands of the whole thing. This is
enough for me."

He made as if to go off to his little bedroom, but he had no sooner
reached the door than he came back.

"She shall get out!" he said electrically. "She shall not stay
under my roof! To-night! At once! I will not let her enter my door
again. I will show her whether she will disgrace me or not!"

"You mustn't turn her out on the streets to-night," pleaded Mrs.
Gerhardt. "She has no place to go."

"To-night!" he repeated. "This very minute! Let her find a home.
She did not want this one. Let her get out now. We will see how the
world treats her." He walked out of the room, inflexible resolution
fixed upon his rugged features.

At half-past five, when Mrs. Gerhardt was tearfully going about the
duty of getting supper, Jennie returned. Her mother started when she
heard the door open, for now she knew the storm would burst afresh.
Her father met her on the threshold.

"Get out of my sight!" he said savagely. "You shall not stay
another hour in my house. I don't want to see you any more. Get
out!"

Jennie stood before him, pale, trembling a little, and silent. The
children she had brought home with her crowded about in frightened
amazement. Veronica and Martha, who loved her dearly, began to
cry.

"What's the matter?" George asked, his mouth open in wonder.

"She shall get out," reiterated Gerhardt. "I don't want her under
my roof. If she wants to be a street-walker, let her be one, but she
shall not stay here. Pack your things," he added, staring at her.

Jennie had no word to say, but the children cried loudly.

"Be still," said Gerhardt. "Go into the kitchen."

He drove them all out and followed stubbornly himself.

Jennie went quietly to her room. She gathered up her few little
belongings and began, with tears, to put them into a valise her mother
brought her. The little girlish trinkets that she had accumulated from
time to time she did not take. She saw them, but thought of her
younger sisters, and let them stay. Martha and Veronica would have
assisted her, but their father forbade them to go.

At six o'clock Bass came in, and seeing the nervous assembly in the
kitchen, inquired what the trouble was.

Gerhardt looked at him grimly, but did not answer.

"What's the trouble?" insisted Bass. "What are you all sitting
around for?"

"He is driving Jennie away," whispered Mrs. Gerhardt tearfully.

"What for?" asked Bass, opening his eyes in astonishment.

"I shall tell you what for," broke in Gerhardt, still speaking in
German. "Because she's a street-walker, that's what for. She goes and
gets herself ruined by a man thirty years older than she is, a man old
enough to be her father. Let her get out of this. She shall not stay
here another minute."

Bass looked about him, and the children opened their eyes. All felt
clearly that something terrible had happened, even the little ones.
None but Bass understood.

"What do you want to send her out to-night for?" he inquired. "This
is no time to send a girl out on the streets. Can't she stay here
until morning?"

"No," said Gerhardt.

"He oughtn't to do that," put in the mother.

"She goes now," said Gerhardt. "Let that be an end of it."

"Where is she going to go?" insisted Bass.

"I don't know," Mrs. Gerhardt interpolated weakly.

Bass looked around, but did nothing until Mrs. Gerhardt motioned
him toward the front door when her husband was not looking.

"Go in! Go in!" was the import of her gesture.

Bass went in, and then Mrs. Gerhardt dared to leave her work and
follow. The children stayed awhile, but, one by one, even they slipped
away, leaving Gerhardt alone. When he thought that time enough had
elapsed he arose.

In the interval Jennie had been hastily coached by her mother.

Jennie should go to a private boarding-house somewhere, and send
back her address. Bass should not accompany her, but she should wait a
little way up the street, and he would follow. When her father was
away the mother might get to see her, or Jennie could come home. All
else must be postponed until they could meet again.

While the discussion was still going on, Gerhardt came in.

"Is she going?" he asked harshly.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Gerhardt, with her first and only note of
defiance.

Bass said, "What's the hurry?" But Gerhardt frowned too mightily
for him to venture on any further remonstrance.

Jennie entered, wearing her one good dress and carrying her valise.
There was fear in her eyes, for she was passing through a fiery
ordeal, but she had become a woman. The strength of love was with her,
the support of patience and the ruling sweetness of sacrifice.
Silently she kissed her mother, while tears fell fast. Then she
turned, and the door closed upon her as she went forth to a new
life.




CHAPTER X


The world into which Jennie was thus unduly thrust forth was that
in which virtue has always vainly struggled since time immemorial; for
virtue is the wishing well and the doing well unto others. Virtue is
that quality of generosity which offers itself willingly for another's
service, and, being this, it is held by society to be nearly
worthless. Sell yourself cheaply and you shall be used lightly and
trampled under foot. Hold yourself dearly, however unworthily, and you
will be respected. Society, in the mass, lacks woefully in the matter
of discrimination. Its one criterion is the opinion of others. Its one
test that of self-preservation. Has he preserved his fortune? Has she
preserved her purity? Only in rare instances and with rare individuals
does there seem to be any guiding light from within.

Jennie had not sought to hold herself dear. Innate feeling in her
made for self-sacrifice. She could not be readily corrupted by the
world's selfish lessons on how to preserve oneself from the evil to
come.

It is in such supreme moments that growth is greatest. It comes as
with a vast surge, this feeling of strength and sufficiency. We may
still tremble, the fear of doing wretchedly may linger, but we grow.
Flashes of inspiration come to guide the soul. In nature there is no
outside. When we are cast from a group or a condition we have still
the companionship of all that is. Nature is not ungenerous. Its winds
and stars are fellows with you. Let the soul be but gentle and
receptive, and this vast truth will come home--not in set
phrases, perhaps, but as a feeling, a comfort, which, after all, is
the last essence of knowledge. In the universe peace is wisdom.

Jennie had hardly turned from the door when she was overtaken by
Bass. "Give me your grip," he said; and then seeing that she was dumb
with unutterable feeling, he added, "I think I know where I can get
you a room."

He led the way to the southern part of the city, where they were
not known, and up to the door of an old lady whose parlor clock had
been recently purchased from the instalment firm by whom he was now
employed. She was not well off, he knew, and had a room to rent.

"Is that room of yours still vacant?" he asked.

"Yes," she said, looking at Jennie.

"I wish you'd let my sister have it. We're moving away, and she
can't go yet."

The old lady expressed her willingness, and Jennie was soon
temporarily installed.

"Don't worry now," said Bass, who felt rather sorry for her.
"This'll blow over. Ma said I should tell you not to worry. Come up
to-morrow when he's gone."

Jennie said she would, and, after giving her further oral
encouragement, he arranged with the old lady about board, and took his
leave.

"It's all right now," he said encouragingly as he went out. "You'll
come out all right. Don't worry. I've got to go back, but I'll come
around in the morning."

He went away, and the bitter stress of it blew lightly over his
head, for he was thinking that Jennie had made a mistake. This was
shown by the manner in which he had asked her questions as they had
walked together, and that in the face of her sad and doubtful
mood.

"What'd you want to do that for?" and "Didn't you ever think what
you were doing?" he persisted.

"Please don't ask me to-night," Jennie had said, which put an end
to the sharpest form of his queries. She had no excuse to offer and no
complaint to make. If any blame attached, very likely it was hers. His
own misfortune and the family's and her sacrifice were alike
forgotten.

Left alone in her strange abode, Jennie gave way to her saddened
feelings. The shock and shame of being banished from her home overcame
her, and she wept. Although of a naturally long-suffering and
uncomplaining disposition, the catastrophic wind-up of all her hopes
was too much for her. What was this element in life that could seize
and overwhelm one as does a great wind? Why this sudden intrusion of
death to shatter all that had seemed most promising in life?

As she thought over the past, a very clear recollection of the
details of her long relationship with Brander came back to her, and
for all her suffering she could only feel a loving affection for him.
After all, he had not deliberately willed her any harm. His kindness,
his generosity--these things had been real. He had been
essentially a good man, and she was sorry--more for his sake than
for her own that his end had been so untimely.

These cogitations, while not at all reassuring, at least served to
pass the night away, and the next morning Bass stopped on his way to
work to say that Mrs. Gerhardt wished her to come home that same
evening. Gerhardt would not be present, and they could talk it over.
She spent the day lonesomely enough, but when night fell her spirits
brightened, and at a quarter of eight she set out.

There was not much of comforting news to tell her. Gerhardt was
still in a direfully angry and outraged mood. He had already decided
to throw up his place on the following Saturday and go to Youngstown.
Any place was better than Columbus after this; he could never expect
to hold up his head here again. Its memories were odious. He would go
away now, and if he succeeded in finding work the family should
follow, a decision which meant the abandoning of the little home. He
was not going to try to meet the mortgage on the house--he could
not hope to.

At the end of the week Gerhardt took his leave, Jennie returned
home, and for a time at least there was a restoration of the old
order, a condition which, of course, could not endure.

Bass saw it. Jennie's trouble and its possible consequences weighed
upon him disagreeably. Columbus was no place to stay. Youngstown was
no place to go. If they should all move away to some larger city it
would be much better.

He pondered over the situation, and hearing that a manufacturing
boom was on in Cleveland, he thought it might be wise to try his luck
there. If he succeeded, the others might follow. If Gerhardt still
worked on in Youngstown, as he was now doing, and the family came to
Cleveland, it would save Jennie from being turned out in the
streets.

Bass waited a little while before making up his mind, but finally
announced his purpose.

"I believe I'll go up to Cleveland," he said to his mother one
evening as she was getting supper.

"Why?" she asked, looking up uncertainly. She was rather afraid
that Bass would desert her.

"I think I can get work there," he returned. "We oughtn't to stay
in this darned old town."

"Don't swear," she returned reprovingly.

"Oh, I know," he said, "but it's enough to make any one swear.
We've never had anything but rotten luck here. I'm going to go, and
maybe if I get anything we can all move. We'd be better off if we'd
get some place where people don't know us. We can't be anything
here."

Mrs. Gerhardt listened with a strong hope for a betterment of their
miserable life creeping into her heart. If Bass would only do this. If
he would go and get work, and come to her rescue, as a strong bright
young son might, what a thing it would be! They were in the rapids of
a life which was moving toward a dreadful calamity. If only something
would happen.

"Do you think you could get something to do?" she asked
interestedly.

"I ought to," he said. "I've never looked for a place yet that I
didn't get it. Other fellows have gone up there and done all right.
Look at the Millers."

He shoved his hands into his pockets and looked out the window.

"Do you think you could get along until I try my hand up there?" he
asked.

"I guess we could," she replied. "Papa's at work now and we have
some money that, that--" she hesitated, to name the source, so
ashamed was she of their predicament.

"Yes, I know," said Bass, grimly.

"We won't have to pay any rent here before fall and then we'll have
to give it up anyhow," she added.

She was referring to the mortgage on the house, which fell due the
next September and which unquestionably could not be met. "If we could
move away from here before then, I guess we could get along."

"I'll do it," said Bass determinedly. "I'll go."

Accordingly, he threw up his place at the end of the month, and the
day after he left for Cleveland.




CHAPTER XI


The incidents of the days that followed, relating as they did
peculiarly to Jennie, were of an order which the morality of our day
has agreed to taboo.

Certain processes of the all-mother, the great artificing wisdom of
the power that works and weaves in silence and in darkness, when
viewed in the light of the established opinion of some of the little
individuals created by it, are considered very vile. We turn our faces
away from the creation of life as if that were the last thing that man
should dare to interest himself in, openly.

It is curious that a feeling of this sort should spring up in a
world whose very essence is generative, the vast process dual, and
where wind, water, soil, and light alike minister to the fruition of
that which is all that we are. Although the whole earth, not we alone,
is moved by passions hymeneal, and everything terrestrial has come
into being by the one common road, yet there is that ridiculous
tendency to close the eyes and turn away the head as if there were
something unclean in nature itself. "Conceived in iniquity and born in
sin," is the unnatural interpretation put upon the process by the
extreme religionist, and the world, by its silence, gives assent to a
judgment so marvelously warped.

Surely there is something radically wrong in this attitude. The
teachings of philosophy and the deductions of biology should find more
practical application in the daily reasoning of man. No process is
vile, no condition is unnatural. The accidental variation from a given
social practice does not necessarily entail sin. No poor little
earthling, caught in the enormous grip of chance, and so swerved from
the established customs of men, could possibly be guilty of that depth
of vileness which the attitude of the world would seem to predicate so
inevitably.

Jennie was now to witness the unjust interpretation of that wonder
of nature, which, but for Brander's death, might have been consecrated
and hallowed as one of the ideal functions of life. Although herself
unable to distinguish the separateness of this from every other normal
process of life, yet was she made to feel, by the actions of all about
her, that degradation was her portion and sin the foundation as well
as the condition of her state. Almost, not quite, it was sought to
extinguish the affection, the consideration, the care which,
afterward, the world would demand of her, for her child. Almost, not
quite, was the budding and essential love looked upon as evil.
Although her punishment was neither the gibbet nor the jail of a few
hundred years before, yet the ignorance and immobility of the human
beings about her made it impossible for them to see anything in her
present condition but a vile and premeditated infraction of the social
code, the punishment of which was ostracism. All she could do now was
to shun the scornful gaze of men, and to bear in silence the great
change that was coming upon her. Strangely enough, she felt no useless
remorse, no vain regrets. Her heart was pure, and she was conscious
that it was filled with peace. Sorrow there was, it is true, but only
a mellow phase of it, a vague uncertainty and wonder, which would
sometimes cause her eyes to fill with tears.

You have heard the wood-dove calling in the lone stillness of the
summertime; you have found the unheeded brooklet singing and babbling
where no ear comes to hear. Under dead leaves and snow-banks the
delicate arbutus unfolds its simple blossom, answering some heavenly
call for color. So, too, this other flower of womanhood.

Jennie was left alone, but, like the wood-dove, she was a voice of
sweetness in the summer-time. Going about her household duties, she
was content to wait, without a murmur, the fulfilment of that process
for which, after all, she was but the sacrificial implement. When her
duties were lightest she was content to sit in quiet meditation, the
marvel of life holding her as in a trance. When she was hardest
pressed to aid her mother, she would sometimes find herself quietly
singing, the pleasure of work lifting her out of herself. Always she
was content to face the future with a serene and unfaltering courage.
It is not so with all women. Nature is unkind in permitting the minor
type to bear a child at all. The larger natures in their maturity
welcome motherhood, see in it the immense possibilities of racial
fulfilment, and find joy and satisfaction in being the hand-maiden of
so immense a purpose.

Jennie, a child in years, was potentially a woman physically and
mentally, but not yet come into rounded conclusions as to life and her
place in it. The great situation which had forced her into this
anomalous position was from one point of view a tribute to her
individual capacity. It proved her courage, the largeness of her
sympathy, her willingness to sacrifice for what she considered a
worthy cause. That it resulted in an unexpected consequence, which
placed upon her a larger and more complicated burden, was due to the
fact that her sense of self-protection had not been commensurate with
her emotions. There were times when the prospective coming of the
child gave her a sense of fear and confusion, because she did not know
but that the child might eventually reproach her; but there was always
that saving sense of eternal justice in life which would not permit
her to be utterly crushed. To her way of thinking, people were not
intentionally cruel. Vague thoughts of sympathy and divine goodness
permeated her soul. Life at worst or best was beautiful--had
always been so.

These thoughts did not come to her all at once, but through the
months during which she watched and waited. It was a wonderful thing
to be a mother, even under these untoward conditions. She felt that
she would love this child, would be a good mother to it if life
permitted. That was the problem--what would life permit?

There were many things to be done--clothes to be made; certain
provisions of hygiene and diet to be observed. One of her fears was
that Gerhardt might unexpectedly return, but he did not. The old
family doctor who had nursed the various members of the Gerhardt
family through their multitudinous ailments--Doctor
Ellwanger--was taken into consultation, and he gave sound and
practical advice. Despite his Lutheran upbringing, the practice of
medicine in a large and kindly way had led him to the conclusion that
there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our
philosophies and in our small neighborhood relationships. "So it is,"
he observed to Mrs. Gerhardt when she confided to him nervously what
the trouble was. "Well, you mustn't worry. These things happen in more
places than you think. If you knew as much about life as I do, and
about your neighbors, you would not cry. Your girl will be all right.
She is very healthy. She can go away somewhere afterward, and people
will never know. Why should you worry about what your neighbors think.
It is not so uncommon as you imagine."

Mrs. Gerhardt marveled. He was such a wise man. It gave her a
little courage. As for Jennie, she listened to his advice with
interest and without fear. She wanted things not so much for herself
as for her child, and she was anxious to do whatever she was told. The
doctor was curious to know who the father was; when informed he lifted
his eyes. "Indeed," he commented. "That ought to be a bright
baby."

There came the final hour when the child was ushered into the
world. It was Doctor Ellwanger who presided, assisted by the mother,
who, having brought forth six herself, knew exactly what to do. There
was no difficulty, and at the first cry of the new-born infant there
awakened in Jennie a tremendous yearning toward it. This was
her child! It was weak and feeble--a little girl, and it
needed her care. She took it to her breast, when it had been bathed
and swaddled, with a tremendous sense of satisfaction and joy. This
was her child, her little girl. She wanted to live to be able to work
for it, and rejoiced, even in her weakness, that she was so strong.
Doctor Ellwanger predicted a quick recovery. He thought two weeks
would be the outside limit of her need to stay in bed. As a matter of
fact, in ten days she was up and about, as vigorous and healthy as
ever. She had been born with strength and with that nurturing quality
which makes the ideal mother.

The great crisis had passed, and now life went on much as before.
The children, outside of Bass, were too young to understand fully, and
had been deceived by the story that Jennie was married to Senator
Brander, who had died. They did not know that a child was coming until
it was there. The neighbors were feared by Mrs. Gerhardt, for they
were ever watchful and really knew all. Jennie would never have braved
this local atmosphere except for the advice of Bass, who, having
secured a place in Cleveland some time before, had written that he
thought when she was well enough it would be advisable for the whole
family to seek a new start in Cleveland. Things were flourishing
there. Once away they would never hear of their present neighbors and
Jennie could find something to do. So she stayed at home.




CHAPTER XII


Bass was no sooner in Cleveland than the marvel of that growing
city was sufficient to completely restore his equanimity of soul and
to stir up new illusions as to the possibility of rehabilitation for
himself and his family. "If only they could come here," he thought.
"If only they could all get work and do right." Here was no evidence
of any of their recent troubles, no acquaintances who could suggest by
their mere presence the troubles of the past. All was business, all
activity. The very turning of the corner seemed to rid one of old
times and crimes. It was as if a new world existed in every block.

He soon found a place in a cigar store, and, after working a few
weeks, he began to write home the cheering ideas he had in mind.
Jennie ought to come as soon as she was able, and then, if she found
something to do, the others might follow. There was plenty of work for
girls of her age. She could live in the same house with him
temporarily; or maybe they could take one of the
fifteen-dollar-a-month cottages that were for rent. There were big
general furnishing houses, where one could buy everything needful for
a small house on very easy monthly terms. His mother could come and
keep house for them. They would be in a clean, new atmosphere, unknown
and untalked about. They could start life all over again; they could
be decent, honorable, prosperous.

Filled with this hope and the glamor which new scenes and new
environment invariably throw over the unsophisticated mind, he wrote a
final letter, in which he suggested that Jennie should come at once.
This was when the baby was six months old. There were theaters here,
he said, and beautiful streets. Vessels from the lakes came into the
heart of the city. It was a wonderful city, and growing very fast. It
was thus that the new life appealed to him.

The effect which all this had upon Mrs. Gerhardt, Jennie, and the
rest of the family was phenomenal. Mrs. Gerhardt, long weighed upon by
the misery which Jennie's error had entailed, was for taking measures
for carrying out this plan at once. So buoyant was her natural
temperament that she was completely carried away by the glory of
Cleveland, and already saw fulfilled therein not only her own desires
for a nice home, but the prosperous advancement of her children. "Of
course they could get work," she said. Bass was right. She had always
wanted Gerhardt to go to some large city, but he would not. Now it was
necessary, and they would go and become better off than they ever had
been.

And Gerhardt did take this view of the situation. In answer to his
wife's letter he wrote that it was not advisable for him to leave his
place, but if Bass saw a way for them, it might be a good thing to go.
He was the more ready to acquiesce in the plan for the simple reason
that he was half distracted with the worry of supporting the family
and of paying the debts already outstanding. Every week he laid by
five dollars out of his salary, which he sent in the form of a postal
order to Mrs. Gerhardt. Three dollars he paid for board, and fifty
cents he kept for spending money, church dues, a little tobacco and
occasionally a glass of beer. Every week he put a dollar and a half in
a little iron bank against a rainy day. His room was a bare corner in
the topmost loft of the mill. To this he would ascend after sitting
alone on the doorstep of the mill in this lonely, foresaken
neighborhood, until nine o'clock of an evening; and here, amid the
odor of machinery wafted up from the floor below, by the light of a
single tallow candle, he would conclude his solitary day, reading his
German paper, folding his hands and thinking, kneeling by an open
window in the shadow of the night to say his prayers, and silently
stretching himself to rest. Long were the days, dreary the prospect.
Still he lifted his hands in utmost faith to God, praying that his
sins might be forgiven and that he might be vouchsafed a few more
years of comfort and of happy family life.

So the momentous question was finally decided. There was the
greatest longing and impatience among the children, and Mrs. Gerhardt
shared their emotions in a suppressed way. Jennie was to go first, as
Bass had suggested; later on they would all follow.

When the hour came for Jennie's departure there was great
excitement in the household.

"How long you going to be 'fore you send for us?" was Martha's
inquiry, several times repeated.

"Tell Bass to hurry up," said the eager George.

"I want to go to Cleveland, I want to go to Cleveland," Veronica
was caught singing to herself.

"Listen to her," exclaimed George, sarcastically.

"Aw, you hush up," was her displeased rejoinder.

When the final hour came, however, it required all of Jennie's
strength to go through with the farewells. Though everything was being
done in order to bring them together again under better conditions,
she could not help feeling depressed. Her little one, now six months
old, was being left behind. The great world was to her one
undiscovered bourne. It frightened her.

"You mustn't worry, Ma," she found courage enough to say. "I'll be
all right. I'll write you just as soon as I get there. It won't be so
very long."

But when it came to bending over her baby for the last time her
courage went out like a blown lamp. Stooping over the cradle in which
the little one was resting, she looked into its face with passionate,
motherly yearning.

"Is it going to be a good little girl?" she cooed.

Then she caught it up into her arms, and hugging it closely to her
neck and bosom, she buried her face against its little body. Mrs.
Gerhardt saw that she was trembling.

"Come now," she said, coaxingly, "you mustn't carry on so. She will
be all right with me. I'll take care of her. If you're going to act
this way, you'd better not try to go at all."

Jennie lifted her head, her blue eyes wet with tears, and handed
the little one to her mother.

"I can't help it," she said, half crying, half smiling.

Quickly she kissed her mother and the children; then she hurried
out.

As she went down the street with George she looked back and bravely
waved her hand. Mrs. Gerhardt responded, noticing how much more like a
woman she looked. It had been necessary to invest some of her money in
new clothes to wear on the train. She had selected a neat, ready-made
suit of brown, which fitted her nicely. She wore the skirt of this
with a white shirt-waist, and a sailor hat with a white veil wound
around it in such fashion that it could be easily drawn over her face.
As she went farther and farther away Mrs. Gerhardt followed her
lovingly with her glance; and when she disappeared from view she said
tenderly, through her own tears:

"I'm glad she looked so nice, anyhow."




CHAPTER XIII


Bass met Jennie at the depot in Cleveland and talked hopefully of
the prospects. "The first thing is to get work," he began, while the
jingling sounds and the changing odors which the city thrust upon her
were confusing and almost benumbing her senses. "Get something to do.
It doesn't matter what, so long as you get something. If you don't get
more than three or four dollars a week, it will pay the rent. Then,
with what George can earn, when he comes, and what Pop sends, we can
get along all right. It'll be better than being down in that hole," he
concluded.

"Yes," said Jennie, vaguely, her mind so hypnotized by the new
display of life about her that she could not bring it forcibly to bear
upon the topic under discussion. "I know what you mean. I'll get
something."

She was much older now, in understanding if not in years. The
ordeal through which she had so recently passed had aroused in her a
clearer conception of the responsibilities of life. Her mother was
always in her mind, her mother and the children. In particular Martha
and Veronica must have a better opportunity to do for themselves than
she had had. They should be dressed better; they ought to be kept
longer in school; they must have more companionship, more opportunity
to broaden their lives.

Cleveland, like every other growing city at this time, was crowded
with those who were seeking employment. New enterprises were
constantly springing up, but those who were seeking to fulfil the
duties they provided were invariably in excess of the demand. A
stranger coming to the city might walk into a small position of almost
any kind on the very day he arrived; and he might as readily wander in
search of employment for weeks and even months. Bass suggested the
shops and department stores as a first field in which to inquire. The
factories and other avenues of employment were to be her second
choice.

"Don't pass a place, though," he had cautioned her, "if you think
there's any chance of getting anything to do. Go right in."

"What must I say?" asked Jennie, nervously.

"Tell them you want work. You don't care what you do to begin
with."

In compliance with this advice, Jennie set out the very first day,
and was rewarded by some very chilly experiences. Wherever she went,
no one seemed to want any help. She applied at the stores, the
factories, the little shops that lined the outlying thoroughfares, but
was always met by a rebuff. As a last resource she turned to
housework, although she had hoped to avoid that; and, studying the
want columns, she selected four which seemed more promising than the
others. To these she decided to apply. One had already been filled
when she arrived, but the lady who came to the door was so taken by
her appearance that she invited her in and questioned her as to her
ability.

"I wish you had come a little earlier," she said. "I like you
better than I do the girl I have taken. Leave me your address,
anyhow."

Jennie went away, smiling at her reception. She was not quite so
youthful looking as she had been before her recent trouble, but the
thinner cheeks and the slightly deeper eyes added to the pensiveness
and delicacy of her countenance. She was a model of neatness. Her
clothes, all newly cleaned and ironed before leaving home, gave her a
fresh and inviting appearance. There was growth coming to her in the
matter of height, but already in appearance and intelligence she
looked to be a young woman of twenty. Best of all, she was of that
naturally sunny disposition, which, in spite of toil and privation,
kept her always cheerful. Any one in need of a servant-girl or house
companion would have been delighted to have had her.

The second place at which she applied was a large residence in
Euclid Avenue; it seemed far too imposing for anything she might have
to offer in the way of services, but having come so far she decided to
make the attempt. The servant who met her at the door directed her to
wait a few moments, and finally ushered her into the boudoir of the
mistress of the house on the second floor. The latter, a Mrs.
Bracebridge, a prepossessing brunette of the conventionally
fashionable type, had a keen eye for feminine values and was impressed
rather favorably with Jennie. She talked with her a little while, and
finally decided to try her in the general capacity of maid.

"I will give you four dollars a week, and you can sleep here if you
wish," said Mrs. Bracebridge.

Jennie explained that she was living with her brother, and would
soon have her family with her.

"Oh, very well," replied her mistress. "Do as you like about that.
Only I expect you to be here promptly."

She wished her to remain for the day and to begin her duties at
once, and Jennie agreed. Mrs. Bracebridge provided her a dainty cap
and apron, and then spent some little time in instructing her in her
duties. Her principal work would be to wait on her mistress, to brush
her hair and to help her dress. She was also to answer the bell, wait
on the table if need be, and do any other errand which her mistress
might indicate. Mrs. Bracebridge seemed a little hard and formal to
her prospective servant, but for all that Jennie admired the dash and
go and the obvious executive capacity of her employer.

At eight o'clock that evening Jennie was dismissed for the day. She
wondered if she could be of any use in such a household, and marveled
that she had got along as well as she had. Her mistress had set her to
cleaning her jewelry and boudoir ornaments as an opening task, and
though she had worked steadily and diligently, she had not finished by
the time she left. She hurried away to her brother's apartment,
delighted to be able to report that she had found a situation. Now her
mother could come to Cleveland. Now she could have her baby with her.
Now they could really begin that new life which was to be so much
better and finer and sweeter than anything they had ever had
before.

At Bass's suggestion Jennie wrote her mother to come at once, and a
week or so later a suitable house was found and rented. Mrs. Gerhardt,
with the aid of the children, packed up the simple belongings of the
family, including a single vanload of furniture, and at the end of a
fortnight they were on their way to the new home.

Mrs. Gerhardt always had had a keen desire for a really comfortable
home. Solid furniture, upholstered and trimmed, a thick, soft carpet
of some warm, pleasing color, plenty of chairs, settees, pictures, a
lounge, and a piano she had wanted these nice things all her life, but
her circumstances had never been good enough for her hopes to be
realized. Still she did not despair. Some day, maybe, before she died
these things would be added to her, and she would be happy. Perhaps
her chance was coming now.

Arrived at Cleveland, this feeling of optimism was encouraged by
the sight of Jennie's cheerful face. Bass assured her that they would
get along all right. He took them out to the house, and George was
shown the way to go back to the depot and have the freight looked
after. Mrs. Gerhardt had still fifty dollars left out of the money
which Senator Brander had sent to Jennie, and with this a way of
getting a little extra furniture on the instalment plan was provided.
Bass had already paid the first month's rent, and Jennie had spent her
evenings for the last few days in washing the windows and floors of
this new house and in getting it into a state of perfect cleanliness.
Now, when the first night fell, they had two new mattresses and
comfortables spread upon a clean floor; a new lamp, purchased from one
of the nearby stores, a single box, borrowed by Jennie from a grocery
store, for cleaning purposes, upon which Mrs. Gerhardt could sit, and
some sausages and bread to stay them until morning. They talked and
planned for the future until nine o'clock came, when all but Jennie
and her mother retired. These two talked on, the burden of
responsibilities resting on the daughter. Mrs. Gerhardt had come to
feel in a way dependent upon her.

In the course of a week the entire cottage was in order, with a
half-dozen pieces of new furniture, a new carpet, and some necessary
kitchen utensils. The most disturbing thing was the need of a new
cooking-stove, the cost of which added greatly to the bill. The
younger children were entered at the public school, but it was decided
that George must find some employment. Both Jennie and her mother felt
the injustice of this keenly, but knew no way of preventing the
sacrifice.

"We will let him go to school next year if we can," said
Jennie.

Auspiciously as the new life seemed to have begun, the closeness
with which their expenses were matching their income was an
ever-present menace. Bass, originally very generous in his
propositions, soon announced that he felt four dollars a week for his
room and board to be a sufficient contribution from himself. Jennie
gave everything she earned, and protested that she did not stand in
need of anything, so long as the baby was properly taken care of.
George secured a place as an overgrown cash-boy, and brought in two
dollars and fifty cents a week, all of which, at first, he gladly
contributed. Later on he was allowed the fifty cents for himself as
being meet and just. Gerhardt, from his lonely post of labor,
contributed five dollars by mail, always arguing that a little money
ought to be saved in order that his honest debts back in Columbus
might be paid. Out of this total income of fifteen dollars a week all
of these individuals had to be fed and clothed, the rent paid, coal
purchased, and the regular monthly instalment of three dollars paid on
the outstanding furniture bill of fifty dollars.

How it was done, those comfortable individuals, who frequently
discuss the social aspects of poverty, might well trouble to inform
themselves. Rent, coal, and light alone consumed the goodly sum of
twenty dollars a month; food, another unfortunately necessary item,
used up twenty-five more; clothes, instalments, dues, occasional items
of medicine and the like, were met out of the remaining eleven
dollars--how, the ardent imagination of the comfortable reader
can guess. It was done, however, and for a time the hopeful members
considered that they were doing fairly well.

During this period the little family presented a picture of
honorable and patient toil, which was interesting to contemplate.
Every day Mrs. Gerhardt, who worked like a servant and who received
absolutely no compensation either in clothes, amusements, or anything
else, arose in the morning while the others slept, and built the fire.
Then she took up the task of getting the breakfast. Often as she moved
about noiselessly in her thin, worn slippers, cushioned with pieces of
newspaper to make them fit, she looked in on Jennie, Bass, and George,
wrapped in their heavy slumbers, and with that divine sympathy which
is born in heaven she wished that they did not need to rise so early
or to work so hard. Sometimes she would pause before touching her
beloved Jennie, gaze at her white face, so calm in sleep, and lament
that life had not dealt more kindly with her. Then she would lay her
hand gently upon her shoulder and whisper, "Jennie, Jennie," until the
weary sleeper would wake.

When they arose breakfast was always ready. When they returned at
night supper was waiting. Each of the children received a due share of
Mrs. Gerhardt's attention. The little baby was closely looked after by
her. She protested that she needed neither clothes nor shoes so long
as one of the children would run errands for her.

Jennie, of all the children, fully understood her mother; she alone
strove, with the fullness of a perfect affection, to ease her
burden.

"Ma, you let me do this."

"Now, ma, I'll 'tend to that."

"You go sit down, ma."

These were the every-day expressions of the enduring affection that
existed between them. Always there was perfect understanding between
Jennie and her mother, and as the days passed this naturally widened
and deepened. Jennie could not bear to think of her as being always
confined to the house. Daily she thought as she worked of that humble
home where her mother was watching and waiting. How she longed to give
her those comforts which she had always craved!




CHAPTER XIV


The days spent in the employ of the Bracebridge household were of a
broadening character. This great house was a school to Jennie, not
only in the matter of dress and manners, but as formulating a theory
of existence. Mrs. Bracebridge and her husband were the last word in
the matter of self-sufficiency, taste in the matter of appointments,
care in the matter of dress, good form in the matter of reception,
entertainment, and the various usages of social life. Now and then,
apropos of nothing save her own mood, Mrs. Bracebridge would indicate
her philosophy of life in an epigram.

"Life is a battle, my dear. If you gain anything you will have to
fight for it."

"In my judgment it is silly not to take advantage of any aid which
will help you to be what you want to be." (This while applying a faint
suggestion of rouge.)

"Most people are born silly. They are exactly what they are capable
of being. I despise lack of taste; it is the worst crime."

Most of these worldly-wise counsels were not given directly to
Jennie. She overheard them, but to her quiet and reflective mind they
had their import. Like seeds fallen upon good ground, they took root
and grew. She began to get a faint perception of hierarchies and
powers. They were not for her, perhaps, but they were in the world,
and if fortune were kind one might better one's state. She worked on,
wondering, however, just how better fortune might come to her. Who
would have her to wife knowing her history? How could she ever explain
the existence of her child?

Her child, her child, the one transcendent, gripping theme of joy
and fear. If she could only do something for it--sometime,
somehow!

For the first winter things went smoothly enough. By the closest
economy the children were clothed and kept in school, the rent paid,
and the instalments met. Once it looked as though there might be some
difficulty about the continuance of the home life, and that was when
Gerhardt wrote that he would be home for Christmas. The mill was to
close down for a short period at that time. He was naturally anxious
to see what the new life of his family at Cleveland was like.

Mrs. Gerhardt would have welcomed his return with unalloyed
pleasure had it not been for the fear she entertained of his creating
a scene. Jennie talked it over with her mother, and Mrs. Gerhardt in
turn spoke of it to Bass, whose advice was to brave it out.

"Don't worry," he said; "he won't do anything about it. I'll talk
to him if he says anything."

The scene did occur, but it was not so unpleasant as Mrs. Gerhardt
had feared. Gerhardt came home during the afternoon, while Bass,
Jennie, and George were at work. Two of the younger children went to
the train to meet him. When he entered Mrs. Gerhardt greeted him
affectionately, but she trembled for the discovery which was sure to
come. Her suspense was not for long. Gerhardt opened the front bedroom
door only a few minutes after he arrived. On the white counterpane of
the bed was a pretty child, sleeping. He could not but know on the
instant whose it was, but he pretended ignorance.

"Whose child is that?" he questioned.

"It's Jennie's," said Mrs. Gerhardt, weakly.

"When did that come here?"

"Not so very long ago," answered the mother, nervously.

"I guess she is here, too," he declared, contemptuously, refusing
to pronounce her name, a fact which he had already anticipated.

"She's working in a family," returned his wife in a pleading tone.
"She's doing so well now. She had no place to go. Let her alone."

Gerhardt had received a light since he had been away. Certain
inexplicable thoughts and feelings had come to him in his religious
meditations. In his prayers he had admitted to the All-seeing that he
might have done differently by his daughter. Yet he could not make up
his mind how to treat her for the future. She had committed a great
sin; it was impossible to get away from that.

When Jennie came home that night a meeting was unavoidable.
Gerhardt saw her coming, and pretended to be deeply engaged in a
newspaper. Mrs. Gerhardt, who had begged him not to ignore Jennie
entirely, trembled for fear he would say or do something which would
hurt her feelings.

"She is coming now," she said, crossing to the door of the front
room, where he was sitting; but Gerhardt refused to look up. "Speak to
her, anyhow," was her last appeal before the door opened; but he made
no reply.

When Jennie came in her mother whispered, "He is in the front
room."

Jennie paled, put her thumb to her lip and stood irresolute, not
knowing how to meet the situation.

"Has he seen?"

Jennie paused as she realized from her mother's face and nod that
Gerhardt knew of the child's existence.

"Go ahead," said Mrs. Gerhardt; "it's all right. He won't say
anything."

Jennie finally went to the door, and, seeing her father, his brow
wrinkled as if in serious but not unkindly thought, she hesitated, but
made her way forward.

"Papa," she said, unable to formulate a definite sentence.

Gerhardt looked up, his grayish-brown eyes a study under their
heavy sandy lashes. At the sight of his daughter he weakened
internally; but with the self-adjusted armor of resolve about him he
showed no sign of pleasure at seeing her. All the forces of his
conventional understanding of morality and his naturally sympathetic
and fatherly disposition were battling within him, but, as in so many
cases where the average mind is concerned, convention was temporarily
the victor.

"Yes," he said.

"Won't you forgive me, Papa?"

"I do," he returned grimly.

She hesitated a moment, and then stepped forward, for what purpose
he well understood.

"There," he said, pushing her gently away, as her lips barely
touched his grizzled cheek.

It had been a frigid meeting.

When Jennie went out into the kitchen after this very trying ordeal
she lifted her eyes to her waiting mother and tried to make it seem as
though all had been well, but her emotional disposition got the better
of her.

"Did he make up to you?" her mother was about to ask; but the words
were only half out of her mouth before her daughter sank down into one
of the chairs close to the kitchen table and, laying her head on her
arm, burst forth into soft, convulsive, inaudible sobs.

"Now, now," said Mrs. Gerhardt. "There now, don't cry. What did he
say?"

It was some time before Jennie recovered herself sufficiently to
answer. Her mother tried to treat the situation lightly.

"I wouldn't feel bad," she said. "He'll get over it. It's his
way."




CHAPTER XV


The return of Gerhardt brought forward the child question in all
its bearings. He could not help considering it from the standpoint of
a grandparent, particularly since it was a human being possessed of a
soul. He wondered if it had been baptized. Then he inquired.

"No, not yet," said his wife, who had not forgotten this duty, but
had been uncertain whether the little one would be welcome in the
faith.

"No, of course not," sneered Gerhardt, whose opinion of his wife's
religious devotion was not any too great. "Such carelessness! Such
irreligion! That is a fine thing."

He thought it over a few moments, and felt that this evil should be
corrected at once.

"It should be baptized," he said. "Why don't she take it and have
it baptized?"

Mrs. Gerhardt reminded him that some one would have to stand
godfather to the child, and there was no way to have the ceremony
performed without confessing the fact that it was without a legitimate
father.

Gerhardt listened to this, and it quieted him for a few moments,
but his religion was something which he could not see put in the
background by any such difficulty. How would the Lord look upon
quibbling like this? It was not Christian, and it was his duty to
attend to the matter. It must be taken, forthwith, to the church,
Jennie, himself, and his wife accompanying it as sponsors; or, if he
did not choose to condescend thus far to his daughter, he must see
that it was baptized when she was not present. He brooded over this
difficulty, and finally decided that the ceremony should take place on
one of these week-days between Christmas and New Year's, when Jennie
would be at her work. This proposal he broached to his wife, and,
receiving her approval, he made his next announcement. "It has no
name," he said.

Jennie and her mother had talked over this very matter, and Jennie
had expressed a preference for Vesta. Now her mother made bold to
suggest it as her own choice.

"How would Vesta do?"

Gerhardt heard this with indifference. Secretly he had settled the
question in his own mind. He had a name in store, left over from the
halcyon period of his youth, and never opportunely available in the
case of his own children--Wilhelmina. Of course he had no idea of
unbending in the least toward his small granddaughter. He merely liked
the name, and the child ought to be grateful to get it. With a
far-off, gingery air he brought forward this first offering upon the
altar of natural affection, for offering it was, after all.

"That is nice," he said, forgetting his indifference. "But how
would Wilhelmina do?"

Mrs. Gerhardt did not dare cross him when he was thus unconsciously
weakening. Her woman's tact came to the rescue.

"We might give her both names," she compromised.

"It makes no difference to me," he replied, drawing back into the
shell of opposition from which he had been inadvertently drawn. "Just
so she is baptized."

Jennie heard of this with pleasure, for she was anxious that the
child should have every advantage, religious or otherwise, that it was
possible to obtain. She took great pains to starch and iron the
clothes it was to wear on the appointed day.

Gerhardt sought out the minister of the nearest Lutheran church, a
round-headed, thick-set theologian of the most formal type, to whom he
stated his errand.

"Your grandchild?" inquired the minister.

"Yes," said Gerhardt, "her father is not here."

"So," replied the minister, looking at him curiously.

Gerhardt was not to be disturbed in his purpose. He explained that
he and his wife would bring her. The minister, realizing the probable
difficulty, did not question him further.

"The church cannot refuse to baptize her so long as you, as
grandparent, are willing to stand sponsor for her," he said.

Gerhardt came away, hurt by the shadow of disgrace in which he felt
himself involved, but satisfied that he had done his duty. Now he
would take the child and have it baptized, and when that was over his
present responsibility would cease.

When it came to the hour of the baptism, however, he found that
another influence was working to guide him into greater interest and
responsibility. The stern religion with which he was enraptured, its
insistence upon a higher law, was there, and he heard again the
precepts which had helped to bind him to his own children.

"Is it your intention to educate this child in the knowledge and
love of the gospel?" asked the black-gowned minister, as they stood
before him in the silent little church whither they had brought the
infant; he was reading from the form provided for such occasions.
Gerhardt answered "Yes," and Mrs. Gerhardt added her affirmative.

"Do you engage to use all necessary care and diligence, by
prayerful instruction, admonition, example, and discipline that this
child may renounce and avoid everything that is evil and that she may
keep God's will and commandments as declared in His sacred word?"

A thought flashed through Gerhardt's mind as the words were uttered
of how it had fared with his own children. They, too, had been thus
sponsored. They too, had heard his solemn pledge to care for their
spiritual welfare. He was silent.

"We do," prompted the minister.

"We do," repeated Gerhardt and his wife weakly.

"Do you now dedicate this child by the rite of baptism unto the
Lord, who brought it?"

"We do."

"And, finally, if you can conscientiously declare before God that
the faith to which you have assented is your faith, and that the
solemn promises you have made are the serious resolutions of your
heart, please to announce the same in the presence of God, by saying
'Yes.'"

"Yes," they replied.

"I baptize thee, Wilhelmina Vesta," concluded the minister,
stretching out his hand over her, "in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Let us pray."

Gerhardt bent his gray head and followed with humble reverence the
beautiful invocation which followed:

"Almighty and everlasting God! we adore Thee as the great Parent of
the children of men, as the Father of our spirits and the Former of
our bodies. We praise Thee for giving existence to this infant and for
preserving her until this day. We bless Thee that she is called to
virtue and glory, that she has now been dedicated to Thee, and brought
within-the pale of the Christian Church. We thank Thee that by the
Gospel of the Son she is furnished with everything necessary to her
spiritual happiness; that it supplies light for her mind and comfort
for her heart, encouragement and power to discharge her duty, and the
precious hope of mercy and immortality to sustain and make her
faithful. And we beseech Thee, O most merciful God, that this child
may be enlightened and sanctified from her early years by the Holy
Spirit, and be everlastingly saved by Thy mercy. Direct and bless Thy
servants who are intrusted with the care of her in the momentous work
of her education. Inspire them with just conception of the absolute
necessity of religious instruction and principles. Forbid that they
should ever forget that this offspring belongs to Thee, and that, if
through their criminal neglect or bad example Thy reasonable creature
be lost, Thou wilt require it at their hands. Give them a deep sense
of the divinity of her nature, of the worth of her soul, of the
dangers to which she will be exposed, of the honor and felicity to
which she is capable of ascending with Thy blessing, and of the ruin
in this world and the misery in the world to come which springs from
wicked passion and conduct. Give them grace to check the first risings
of forbidden inclinations in her breast, to be her defense against the
temptations incident to childhood and youth, and, as she grows up, to
enlarge her understanding and to lead her to an acquaintance with Thee
and with Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. Give them grace to
cultivate in her heart a supreme reverence and love for Thee, a
grateful attachment to the Gospel of Thy Son, her Saviour, a due
regard for all its ordinances and institutions, a temper of kindness
and goodwill to all mankind, and an invincible love of sincerity and
truth. Help them to watch continually over her with tender solicitude,
to be studious, that by their conversation and deportment her heart
may not be corrupted, and at all times to set before her such an
example that she may safely tread in their footsteps. If it please
Thee to prolong her days on earth, grant that she may prove an honor
and a comfort to her parents and friends, be useful in the world, and
find in Thy Providence an unfailing defense and support. Whether she
live, let her live to Thee; or whether she die, let her die to Thee.
And, at the great day of account, may she and her parents meet each
other with rapture and rejoice together in Thy redeeming love, through
Jesus Christ, forever and ever, Amen."

As this solemn admonition was read a feeling of obligation
descended upon the grandfather of this little outcast; a feeling that
he was bound to give the tiny creature lying on his wife's arm the
care and attention which God in His sacrament had commanded. He bowed
his head in utmost reverence, and when the service was concluded and
they left the silent church he was without words to express his
feelings. Religion was a consuming thing with him. God was a person, a
dominant reality. Religion was not a thing of mere words or of
interesting ideas to be listened to on Sunday, but a strong, vital
expression of the Divine Will handed down from a time when men were in
personal contact with God. Its fulfilment was a matter of joy and
salvation with him, the one consolation of a creature sent to wander
in a vale whose explanation was not here but in heaven. Slowly
Gerhardt walked on, and as he brooded on the words and the duties
which the sacrament involved the shade of lingering disgust that had
possessed him when he had taken the child to church disappeared and a
feeling of natural affection took its place. However much the daughter
had sinned, the infant was not to blame. It was a helpless, puling,
tender thing, demanding his sympathy and his love. Gerhardt felt his
heart go out to the little child, and yet he could not yield his
position all in a moment.

"That is a nice man," he said of the minister to his wife as they
walked along, rapidly softening in his conception of his duty.

"Yes, he was," agreed Mrs. Gerhardt timidly.

"It's a good-sized little church," he continued.

"Yes."

Gerhardt looked around him, at the street, the houses, the show of
brisk life on this sunshiny, winter's day, and then finally at the
child that his wife was carrying.

"She must be heavy," he said, in his characteristic German. "Let me
take her."

Mrs. Gerhardt, who was rather weary, did not refuse.

"There!" he said, as he looked at her and then fixed her
comfortably upon his shoulder. "Let us hope she proves worthy of all
that has been done to-day."

Mrs. Gerhardt listened, and the meaning in his voice interpreted
itself plainly enough. The presence of the child in the house might be
the cause of recurring spells of depression and unkind words, but
there would be another and greater influence restraining him. There
would always be her soul to consider. He would never again be utterly
unconscious of her soul.




CHAPTER XVI


During the remainder of Gerhardt's stay he was shy in Jennie's
presence and endeavored to act as though he were unconscious of her
existence. When the time came for parting he even went away without
bidding her good-by, telling his wife she might do that for him; but
after he was actually on his way back to Youngstown he regretted the
omission. "I might have bade her good-by," he thought to himself as
the train rumbled heavily along. But it was too late.

For the time being the affairs of the Gerhardt family drifted.
Jennie continued her work with Mrs. Bracebridge. Sebastian fixed
himself firmly in his clerkship in the cigar store. George was
promoted to the noble sum of three dollars, and then three-fifty. It
was a narrow, humdrum life the family led. Coal, groceries, shoes, and
clothing were the uppermost topics of their conversation; every one
felt the stress and strain of trying to make ends meet.

That which worried Jennie most, and there were many things which
weighed upon her sensitive soul, was the outcome of her own
life--not so much for herself as for her baby and the family. She
could not really see where she fitted in. "Who would have me?" she
asked herself over and over. "How was she to dispose of Vesta in the
event of a new love affair?" Such a contingency was quite possible.
She was young, good-looking, and men were inclined to flirt with her,
or rather to attempt it. The Bracebridges entertained many masculine
guests, and some of them had made unpleasant overtures to her.

"My dear, you're a very pretty girl," said one old rake of
fifty-odd when she knocked at his door one morning to give him a
message from his hostess.

"I beg your pardon," she said, confusedly, and colored.

"Indeed, you're quite sweet. And you needn't beg my pardon. I'd
like to talk to you some time."

He attempted to chuck her under the chin, but Jennie hurried away.
She would have reported the matter to her mistress but a nervous shame
deterred her. "Why would men always be doing this?" she thought. Could
it be because there was something innately bad about her, an inward
corruption that attracted its like?

It is a curious characteristic of the non-defensive disposition
that it is like a honey-jar to flies. Nothing is brought to it and
much is taken away. Around a soft, yielding, unselfish disposition men
swarm naturally. They sense this generosity, this non-protective
attitude from afar. A girl like Jennie is like a comfortable fire to
the average masculine mind; they gravitate to it, seek its sympathy,
yearn to possess it. Hence she was annoyed by many unwelcome
attentions.

One day there arrived from Cincinnati a certain Lester Kane, the
son of a wholesale carriage builder of great trade distinction in that
city and elsewhere throughout the country, who was wont to visit this
house frequently in a social way. He was a friend of Mrs. Bracebridge
more than of her husband, for the former had been raised in Cincinnati
and as a girl had visited at his father's house. She knew his mother,
his brother and sisters and to all intents and purposes socially had
always been considered one of the family.

"Lester's coming to-morrow, Henry," Jennie heard Mrs. Bracebridge
tell her husband. "I had a wire from him this noon. He's such a scamp.
I'm going to give him the big east front room up-stairs. Be sociable
and pay him some attention. His father was so good to me."

"I know it," said her husband calmly. "I like Lester. He's the
biggest one in that family. But he's too indifferent. He doesn't care
enough."

"I know; but he's so nice. I do think he's one of the nicest men I
ever knew."

"I'll be decent to him. Don't I always do pretty well by your
people?"

"Yes, pretty well."

"Oh, I don't know about that," he replied, dryly.

When this notable person arrived Jennie was prepared to see some
one of more than ordinary importance, and she was not disappointed.
There came into the reception-hall to greet her mistress a man of
perhaps thirty-six years of age, above the medium in height,
clear-eyed, firm-jawed, athletic, direct, and vigorous. He had a deep,
resonant voice that carried clearly everywhere; people somehow used to
stop and listen whether they knew him or not. He was simple and abrupt
in his speech.

"Oh, there you are," he began. "I'm glad to see you again. How's
Mr. Bracebridge? How's Fannie?"

He asked his questions forcefully, whole-heartedly, and his hostess
answered with an equal warmth. "I'm glad to see you, Lester," she
said. "George will take your things up-stairs. Come up into my room.
It's more comfy. How are grandpa and Louise?"

He followed her up the stairs, and Jennie, who had been standing at
the head of the stairs listening, felt the magnetic charm of his
personality. It seemed, why she could hardly say, that a real
personage had arrived. The house was cheerier. The attitude of her
mistress was much more complaisant. Everybody seemed to feel that
something must be done for this man.

Jennie went about her work, but the impression persisted; his name
ran in her mind. Lester Kane. And he was from Cincinnati. She looked
at him now and then on the sly, and felt, for the first time in her
life, an interest in a man on his own account. He was so big, so
handsome, so forceful. She wondered what his business was. At the same
time she felt a little dread of him. Once she caught him looking at
her with a steady, incisive stare. She quailed inwardly, and took the
first opportunity to get out of his presence. Another time he tried to
address a few remarks to her, but she pretended that her duties called
her away. She knew that often his eyes were on her when her back was
turned, and it made her nervous. She wanted to run away from him,
although there was no very definite reason why she should do so.

As a matter of fact, this man, so superior to Jennie in wealth,
education, and social position, felt an instinctive interest in her
unusual personality. Like the others, he was attracted by the peculiar
softness of her disposition and her pre-eminent femininity. There was
that about her which suggested the luxury of love. He felt as if
somehow she could be reached why, he could not have said. She did not
bear any outward marks of her previous experience. There were no
evidences of coquetry about her, but still he "felt that he might." He
was inclined to make the venture on his first visit, but business
called him away; he left after four days and was absent from Cleveland
for three weeks. Jennie thought he was gone for good, and she
experienced a queer sense of relief as well as of regret. Then,
suddenly, he returned. He came apparently unexpectedly, explaining to
Mrs. Bracebridge that business interests again demanded his presence
in Cleveland. As he spoke he looked at Jennie sharply, and she felt as
if somehow his presence might also concern her a little.

On this second visit she had various opportunities of seeing him,
at breakfast, where she sometimes served, at dinner, when she could
see the guests at the table from the parlor or sitting-room, and at
odd times when he came to Mrs. Bracebridge's boudoir to talk things
over. They were very friendly.

"Why don't you settle down, Lester, and get married?" Jennie heard
her say to him the second day he was there. "You know it's time."

"I know," he replied, "but I'm in no mood for that. I want to
browse around a little while yet."

"Yes, I know about your browsing. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. Your father is really worried."

He chuckled amusedly. "Father doesn't worry much about me. He has
got all he can attend to to look after the business."

Jennie looked at him curiously. She scarcely understood what she
was thinking, but this man drew her. If she had realized in what way
she would have fled his presence then and there.

Now he was more insistent in his observation of her--addressed
an occasional remark to her--engaged her in brief, magnetic
conversations. She could not help answering him--he was pleasing
to her. Once he came across her in the hall on the second floor
searching in a locker for some linen. They were all alone, Mrs.
Bracebridge having gone out to do some morning shopping and the other
servants being below stairs. On this occasion he made short work of
the business. He approached her in a commanding, unhesitating, and
thoroughly determined way.

"I want to talk to you," he said. "Where do you live?"

"I--I--" she stammered, and blanched perceptibly. "I live
out on Lorrie Street."

"What number?" he questioned, as though she were compelled to tell
him.

She quailed and shook inwardly. "Thirteen fourteen," she replied
mechanically.

He looked into her big, soft-blue eyes with his dark, vigorous
brown ones. A flash that was hypnotic, significant, insistent passed
between them.

"You belong to me," he said. "I've been looking for you. When can I
see you?"

"Oh, you mustn't," she said, her fingers going nervously to her
lips. "I can't see you--I--I--"

"Oh, I mustn't, mustn't I? Look here"--he took her arm and
drew her slightly closer--"you and I might as well understand
each other right now. I like you. Do you like me? Say?"

She looked at him, her eyes wide, filled with wonder, with fear,
with a growing terror.

"I don't know," she gasped, her lips dry.

"Do you?" He fixed her grimly, firmly with his eyes.

"I don't know."

"Look at me," he said.

"Yes," she replied.

He pulled her to him quickly. "I'll talk to you later," he said,
and put his lips masterfully to hers.

She was horrified, stunned, like a bird in the grasp of a cat; but
through it all something tremendously vital and insistent was speaking
to her. He released her with a short laugh. "We won't do any more of
this here, but, remember, you belong to me," he said, as he turned and
walked nonchalantly down the hall. Jennie, in sheer panic, ran to her
mistress's room and locked the door behind her.




CHAPTER XVII


The shock of this sudden encounter was so great to Jennie that she
was hours in recovering herself. At first she did not understand
clearly just what had happened. Out of clear sky, as it were, this
astonishing thing had taken place. She had yielded herself to another
man. Why? Why? she asked herself, and yet within her own consciousness
there was an answer. Though she could not explain her own emotions,
she belonged to him temperamentally and he belonged to her.

There is a fate in love and a fate in fight. This strong,
intellectual bear of a man, son of a wealthy manufacturer, stationed,
so far as material conditions were concerned, in a world immensely
superior to that in which Jennie moved, was, nevertheless,
instinctively, magnetically, and chemically drawn to this poor
serving-maid. She was his natural affinity, though he did not know
it--the one woman who answered somehow the biggest need of his
nature. Lester Kane had known all sorts of women, rich and poor, the
highly bred maidens of his own class, the daughters of the
proletariat, but he had never yet found one who seemed to combine for
him the traits of an ideal woman--sympathy, kindliness of
judgment, youth, and beauty. Yet this ideal remained fixedly seated in
the back of his brain--when the right woman appeared he intended
to take her. He had the notion that, for purposes of marriage, he
ought perhaps to find this woman on his own plane. For purposes of
temporary happiness he might take her from anywhere, leaving marriage,
of course, out of the question. He had no idea of making anything like
a serious proposal to a servant-girl. But Jennie was different. He had
never seen a servant quite like her. And she was lady-like and lovely
without appearing to know it. Why, this girl was a rare flower. Why
shouldn't he try to seize her? Let us be just to Lester Kane; let us
try to understand him and his position. Not every mind is to be
estimated by the weight of a single folly; not every personality is to
be judged by the drag of a single passion. We live in an age in which
the impact of materialized forces is well-nigh irresistible; the
spiritual nature is overwhelmed by the shock. The tremendous and
complicated development of our material civilization, the
multiplicity, and variety of our social forms, the depth, subtlety,
and sophistry of our imaginative impressions, gathered, remultiplied,
and disseminated by such agencies as the railroad, the express and the
post-office, the telephone, the telegraph, the newspaper, and, in
short, the whole machinery of social intercourse--these elements
of existence combine to produce what may be termed a kaleidoscopic
glitter, a dazzling and confusing phantasmagoria of life that wearies
and stultifies the mental and moral nature. It induces a sort of
intellectual fatigue through which we see the ranks of the victims of
insomnia, melancholia, and insanity constantly recruited. Our modern
brain-pan does not seem capable as yet of receiving, sorting, and
storing the vast army of facts and impressions which present
themselves daily. The white light of publicity is too white. We are
weighed upon by too many things. It is as if the wisdom of the
infinite were struggling to beat itself into finite and cup-big
minds.

Lester Kane was the natural product of these untoward conditions.
His was a naturally observing mind, Rabelaisian in its strength and
tendencies, but confused by the multiplicity of things, the vastness
of the panorama of life, the glitter of its details, the unsubstantial
nature of its forms, the uncertainty of their justification. Born a
Catholic, he was no longer a believer in the divine inspiration of
Catholicism; raised a member of the social elect, he had ceased to
accept the fetish that birth and station presuppose any innate
superiority; brought up as the heir to a comfortable fortune and
expected to marry in his own sphere, he was by no means sure that he
wanted marriage on any terms. Of course the conjugal state was an
institution. It was established. Yes, certainly. But what of it? The
whole nation believed in it. True, but other nations believed in
polygamy. There were other questions that bothered him--such
questions as the belief in a single deity or ruler of the universe,
and whether a republican, monarchial, or aristocratic form of
government were best. In short, the whole body of things material,
social, and spiritual had come under the knife of his mental surgery
and been left but half dissected. Life was not proved to him. Not a
single idea of his, unless it were the need of being honest, was
finally settled. In all other things he wavered, questioned,
procrastinated, leaving to time and to the powers back of the universe
the solution of the problems that vexed him. Yes, Lester Kane was the
natural product of a combination of elements--religious,
commercial, social--modified by that pervading atmosphere of
liberty in our national life which is productive of almost uncounted
freedom of thought and action. Thirty-six years of age, and apparently
a man of vigorous, aggressive, and sound personality, he was,
nevertheless, an essentially animal-man, pleasantly veneered by
education and environment. Like the hundreds of thousands of Irishmen
who in his father's day had worked on the railroad tracks, dug in the
mines, picked and shoveled in the ditches, and carried up bricks and
mortar on the endless structures of a new land, he was strong, hairy,
axiomatic, and witty.

"Do you want me to come back here next year?" he had asked of
Brother Ambrose, when, in his seventeenth year, that ecclesiastical
member was about to chastise him for some school-boy misdemeanor.

The other stared at him in astonishment. "Your father will have to
look after that," he replied.

"Well, my father won't look after it," Lester returned. "If you
touch me with that whip I'll take things into my own hands. I'm not
committing any punishable offenses, and I'm not going to be knocked
around any more."

Words, unfortunately, did not avail in this case, but a good,
vigorous Irish-American wrestle did, in which the whip was broken and
the discipline of the school so far impaired that he was compelled to
take his clothes and leave. After that he looked his father in the eye
and told him that he was not going to school any more.

"I'm perfectly willing to jump in and work," he explained. "There's
nothing in a classical education for me. Let me go into the office,
and I guess I'll pick up enough to carry me through."

Old Archibald Kane, keen, single-minded, of unsullied commercial
honor, admired his son's determination, and did not attempt to coerce
him.

"Come down to the office," he said; "perhaps there is something you
can do."

Entering upon a business life at the age of eighteen, Lester had
worked faithfully, rising in his father's estimation, until now he had
come to be, in a way, his personal representative. Whenever there was
a contract to be entered upon, an important move to be decided, or a
representative of the manufactory to be sent anywhere to consummate a
deal, Lester was the agent selected. His father trusted him
implicitly, and so diplomatic and earnest was he in the fulfilment of
his duties that this trust had never been impaired.

"Business is business," was a favorite axiom with him and the very
tone in which he pronounced the words was a reflex of his character
and personality.

There were molten forces in him, flames which burst forth now and
then in spite of the fact that he was sure that he had them under
control. One of these impulses was a taste for liquor, of which he was
perfectly sure he had the upper hand. He drank but very little, he
thought, and only, in a social way, among friends; never to excess.
Another weakness lay in his sensual nature; but here again he believed
that he was the master. If he chose to have irregular relations with
women, he was capable of deciding where the danger point lay. If men
were only guided by a sense of the brevity inherent in all such
relationships there would not be so many troublesome consequences
growing out of them. Finally, he flattered himself that he had a grasp
upon a right method of living, a method which was nothing more than a
quiet acceptance of social conditions as they were, tempered by a
little personal judgment as to the right and wrong of individual
conduct. Not to fuss and fume, not to cry out about anything, not to
be mawkishly sentimental; to be vigorous and sustain your personality
intact--such was his theory of life, and he was satisfied that it
was a good one.

As to Jennie, his original object in approaching her had been
purely selfish. But now that he had asserted his masculine
prerogatives, and she had yielded, at least in part, he began to
realize that she was no common girl, no toy of the passing hour.

There is a time in some men's lives when they unconsciously begin
to view feminine youth and beauty not so much in relation to the ideal
of happiness, but rather with regard to the social conventions by
which they are environed.

"Must it be?" they ask themselves, in speculating concerning the
possibility of taking a maiden to wife, "that I shall be compelled to
swallow the whole social code, make a covenant with society, sign a
pledge of abstinence, and give to another a life interest in all my
affairs, when I know too well that I am but taking to my arms a
variable creature like myself, whose wishes are apt to become
insistent and burdensome in proportion to the decrease of her beauty
and interest?" These are the men, who, unwilling to risk the manifold
contingencies of an authorized connection, are led to consider the
advantages of a less-binding union, a temporary companionship. They
seek to seize the happiness of life without paying the cost of their
indulgence. Later on, they think, the more definite and conventional
relationship may be established without reproach or the necessity of
radical readjustment.

Lester Kane was past the youthful love period, and he knew it. The
innocence and unsophistication of younger ideals had gone. He wanted
the comfort of feminine companionship, but he was more and more
disinclined to give up his personal liberty in order to obtain it. He
would not wear the social shackles if it were possible to satisfy the
needs of his heart and nature and still remain free and unfettered. Of
course he must find the right woman, and in Jennie he believed that he
had discovered her. She appealed to him on every side; he had never
known anybody quite like her. Marriage was not only impossible but
unnecessary. He had only to say "Come" and she must obey; it was her
destiny.

Lester thought the matter over calmly, dispassionately. He strolled
out to the shabby street where she lived; he looked at the humble roof
that sheltered her. Her poverty, her narrow and straitened environment
touched his heart. Ought he not to treat her generously, fairly,
honorably? Then the remembrance of her marvelous beauty swept over him
and changed his mood. No, he must possess her if he
could--to-day, quickly, as soon as possible. It was in that frame
of mind that he returned to Mrs. Bracebridge's home from his visit to
Lorrie Street.




CHAPTER XVIII


Jennie was now going through the agony of one who has a varied and
complicated problem to confront. Her baby, her father, her brothers,
and sisters all rose up to confront her. What was this thing that she
was doing? Was she allowing herself to slip into another wretched,
unsanctified relationship? How was she to explain to her family about
this man? He would not marry her, that was sure, if he knew all about
her. He would not marry her, anyhow, a man of his station and
position. Yet here she was parleying with him. What ought she to do?
She pondered over the problem until evening, deciding first that it
was best to run away, but remembering painfully that she had told him
where she lived. Then she resolved that she would summon up her
courage and refuse him--tell him she couldn't, wouldn't have
anything to do with him. This last solution of the difficulty seemed
simple enough--in his absence. And she would find work where he
could not follow her up so easily. It all seemed simple enough as she
put on her things in the evening to go home.

Her aggressive lover, however, was not without his own conclusion
in this matter. Since leaving Jennie he had thought concisely and to
the point. He came to the decision that he must act at once. She might
tell her family, she might tell Mrs. Bracebridge, she might leave the
city. He wanted to know more of the conditions which surrounded her,
and there was only one way to do that--talk to her. He must
persuade her to come and live with him. She would, he thought. She
admitted that she liked him. That soft, yielding note in her character
which had originally attracted him seemed to presage that he could win
her without much difficulty, if he wished to try. He decided to do so,
anyhow, for truly he desired her greatly.

At half-past five he returned to the Bracebridge home to see if she
were still there. At six he had an opportunity to say to her,
unobserved, "I am going to walk home with you. Wait for me at the next
corner, will you?"

"Yes," she said, a sense of compulsion to do his bidding seizing
her. She explained to herself afterward that she ought to talk to him,
that she must tell him finally of her decision not to see him again,
and this was as good an opportunity as any. At half-past six he left
the house on a pretext--a forgotten engagement--and a little
after seven he was waiting for her in a closed carriage near the
appointed spot. He was calm, absolutely satisfied as to the result,
and curiously elated beneath a sturdy, shock-proof exterior. It was as
if he breathed some fragrant perfume, soft, grateful, entrancing.

A few minutes after eight he saw Jennie coming along. The flare of
the gas-lamp was not strong, but it gave sufficient light for his eyes
to make her out. A wave of sympathy passed over him, for there was a
great appeal in her personality. He stepped out as she neared the
corner and confronted her. "Come," he said, "and get in this carriage
with me. I'll take you home."

"No," she replied. "I don't think I ought to."

"Come with me. I'll take you home. It's a better way to talk."

Once more that sense of dominance on his part, that power of
compulsion. She yielded, feeling all the time that she should not; he
called out to the cabman, "Anywhere for a little while." When she was
seated beside him he began at once.

"Listen to me, Jennie, I want you. Tell me something about
yourself."

"I have to talk to you," she replied, trying to stick to her
original line of defense.

"About what?" he inquired, seeking to fathom her expression in the
half light.

"I can't go on this way," she murmured nervously. "I can't act this
way. You don't know how it all is. I shouldn't have done what I did
this morning. I mustn't see you any more. Really I mustn't."

"You didn't do what you did this morning," he remarked,
paradoxically, seizing on that one particular expression. "I did that.
And as for seeing me any more, I'm going to see you." He seized her
hand. "You don't know me, but I like you. I'm crazy about you, that's
all. You belong to me. Now listen. I'm going to have you. Are you
going to come to me?"

"No, no, no!" she replied in an agonized voice, "I can't do
anything like that, Mr. Kane. Please listen to me. It can't be. You
don't know. Oh, you don't know. I can't do what you want. I don't want
to. I couldn't, even if I wanted to. You don't know how things are.
But I don't want to do anything wrong. I mustn't. I can't. I won't.
Oh, no! no!! no!!! Please let me go home."

He listened to this troubled, feverish outburst with sympathy, with
even a little pity.

"What do you mean by you can't?" he asked, curiously.

"Oh, I can't tell you," she replied. "Please don't ask me. You
oughtn't to know. But I mustn't see you any more. It won't do any
good."

"But you like me," he retorted.

"Oh yes, yes, I do. I can't help that. But you mustn't come near me
any more. Please don't."

He turned his proposition over in his mind with the solemnity of a
judge. He knew that this girl liked him--loved him really, brief
as their contact had been. And he was drawn to her, perhaps not
irrevocably, but with exceeding strength. What prevented her from
yielding, especially since she wanted to? He was curious.

"See here, Jennie," he replied. "I hear what you say. I don't know
what you mean by 'can't' if you want to. You say you like me. Why
can't you come to me? You're my sort. We will get along beautifully
together. You're suited to me temperamentally. I'd like to have you
with me. What makes you say you can't come?"

"I can't," she replied. "I can't. I don't want to. I oughtn't. Oh,
please don't ask me any more. You don't know. I can't tell you why."
She was thinking of her baby.

The man had a keen sense of justice and fair play. Above all things
he wanted to be decent in his treatment of people. In this case he
intended to be tender and considerate, and yet he must win her. He
turned this over in his mind.

"Listen to me," he said finally, still holding her hand. "I may not
want you to do anything immediately. I want you to think it over. But
you belong to me. You say you care for me. You admitted that this
morning. I know you do. Now why should you stand out against me? I
like you, and I can do a lot of things for you. Why not let us be good
friends now? Then we can talk the rest of this over later."

"But I mustn't do anything wrong," she insisted. "I don't want to.
Please don't come near me any more. I can't do what you want."

"Now, look here," he said. "You don't mean that. Why did you say
you liked me? Have you changed your mind? Look at me." (She had
lowered her eyes.) "Look at me! You haven't, have you?"

"Oh no, no, no," she half sobbed, swept by some force beyond her
control.

"Well, then, why stand out against me? I love you, I tell
you--I'm crazy about you. That's why I came back this time. It
was to see you!"

"Was it?" asked Jennie, surprised.

"Yes, it was. And I would have come again and again if necessary. I
tell you I'm crazy about you. I've got to have you. Now tell me you'll
come with me."

"No, no, no," she pleaded. "I can't. I must work. I want to work. I
don't want to do anything wrong. Please don't ask me. You mustn't. You
must let me go. Really you must. I can't do what you want."

"Tell me, Jennie," he said, changing the subject. "What does your
father do?"

"He's a glass-blower."

"Here in Cleveland?"

"No, he works in Youngstown."

"Is your mother alive?"

"Yes, sir."

"You live with her?"

"Yes, sir."

He smiled at the "sir." "Don't say 'sir' to me, sweet!" he pleaded
in his gruff way. "And don't insist on the Mr. Kane. I'm not 'mister'
to you any more. You belong to me, little girl, me." And he pulled her
close to him.

"Please don't, Mr. Kane," she pleaded. "Oh, please don't. I can't!
I can't! You mustn't."

But he sealed her lips with his own.

"Listen to me, Jennie," he repeated, using his favorite expression.
"I tell you you belong to me. I like you better every moment. I
haven't had a chance to know you. I'm not going to give you up. You've
got to come to me eventually. And I'm not going to have you working as
a lady's maid. You can't stay in that place except for a little while.
I'm going to take you somewhere else. And I'm going to leave you some
money, do you hear? You have to take it."

At the word money she quailed and withdrew her hand.

"No, no, no!" she repeated. "No, I won't take it."

"Yes, you will. Give it to your mother. I'm not trying to buy you.
I know what you think. But I'm not. I want to help you. I want to help
your family. I know where you live. I saw the place to-day. How many
are there of you?"

"Six," she answered faintly.

"The families of the poor," he thought.

"Well, you take this from me," he insisted, drawing a purse from
his coat. "And I'll see you very soon again. There's no escape,
sweet."

"No, no," she protested. "I won't. I don't need it. No, you mustn't
ask me."

He insisted further, but she was firm, and finally he put the money
away.

"One thing is sure, Jennie, you're not going to escape me," he said
soberly. "You'll have to come to me eventually. Don't you know you
will? Your own attitude shows that. I'm not going to leave you
alone."

"Oh, if you knew the trouble you're causing me."

"I'm not causing you any real trouble, am I?" he asked. "Surely
not."

"Yes. I can never do what you want."

"You will! You will!" he exclaimed eagerly, the bare thought of
this prize escaping him heightening his passion. "You'll come to me."
And he drew her close in spite of all her protests.

"There," he said when, after the struggle, that mystic something
between them spoke again, and she relaxed. Tears were in her eyes, but
he did not see them. "Don't you see how it is? You like me too."

"I can't," she repeated, with a sob.

Her evident distress touched him. "You're not crying, little girl,
are you?" he asked.

She made no answer.

"I'm sorry," he went on. "I'll not say anything more to-night.
We're almost at your home. I'm leaving to-morrow, but I'll see you
again. Yes, I will, sweet. I can't give you up now. I'll do anything
in reason to make it easy for you, but I can't, do you hear?"

She shook her head.

"Here's where you get out," he said, as the carriage drew up near
the corner. He could see the evening lamp gleaming behind the Gerhardt
cottage curtains.

"Good-by," he said as she stepped out.

"Good-by," she murmured.

"Remember," he said, "this is just the beginning."

"Oh no, no!" she pleaded.

He looked after her as she walked away.

"The beauty!" he exclaimed.

Jennie stepped into the house weary, discouraged, ashamed. What had
she done? There was no denying that she had compromised herself
irretrievably. He would come back.

He would come back. And he had offered her money. That was the
worst of all.




CHAPTER XIX


The inconclusive nature of this interview, exciting as it was, did
not leave any doubt in either Lester Kane's or Jennie's mind;
certainly this was not the end of the affair. Kane knew that he was
deeply fascinated. This girl was lovely. She was sweeter than he had
had any idea of. Her hesitancy, her repeated protests, her gentle "no,
no, no" moved him as music might. Depend upon it, this girl was for
him, and he would get her. She was too sweet to let go. What did he
care about what his family or the world might think?

It was curious that Kane held the well-founded idea that in time
Jennie would yield to him physically, as she had already done
spiritually. Just why he could not say. Something about her--a
warm womanhood, a guileless expression of countenance--intimated
a sympathy toward sex relationship which had nothing to do with hard,
brutal immorality. She was the kind of a woman who was made for a
man--one man. All her attitude toward sex was bound up with love,
tenderness, service. When the one man arrived she would love him and
she would go to him. That was Jennie as Lester understood her. He felt
it. She would yield to him because he was the one man.

On Jennie's part there was a great sense of complication and of
possible disaster. If he followed her of course he would learn all.
She had not told him about Brander, because she was still under the
vague illusion that, in the end, she might escape. When she left him
she knew that he would come back. She knew, in spite of herself that
she wanted him to do so. Yet she felt that she must not yield, she
must go on leading her straitened, humdrum life. This was her
punishment for having made a mistake. She had made her bed, and she
must lie on it.

The Kane family mansion at Cincinnati to which Lester returned
after leaving Jennie was an imposing establishment, which contrasted
strangely with the Gerhardt home. It was a great, rambling, two-story
affair, done after the manner of the French chateaux, but in red brick
and brownstone. It was set down, among flowers and trees, in an almost
park-like inclosure, and its very stones spoke of a splendid dignity
and of a refined luxury. Old Archibald Kane, the father, had amassed a
tremendous fortune, not by grabbing and brow-beating and unfair
methods, but by seeing a big need and filling it. Early in life he had
realized that America was a growing country. There was going to be a
big demand for vehicles--wagons, carriages, drays--and he
knew that some one would have to supply them. Having founded a small
wagon industry, he had built it up into a great business; he made good
wagons, and he sold them at a good profit. It was his theory that most
men were honest; he believed that at bottom they wanted honest things,
and if you gave them these they would buy of you, and come back and
buy again and again, until you were an influential and rich man. He
believed in the measure "heaped full and running over." All through
his life and now in his old age he enjoyed the respect and approval of
every one who knew him. "Archibald Kane," you would hear his
competitors say, "Ah, there is a fine man. Shrewd, but honest. He's a
big man."

This man was the father of two sons and three daughters, all
healthy, all good-looking, all blessed with exceptional minds, but
none of them so generous and forceful as their long-living and
big-hearted sire. Robert, the eldest, a man forty years of age, was
his father's right-hand man in financial matters, having a certain
hard incisiveness which fitted him for the somewhat sordid details of
business life. He was of medium height, of a rather spare build, with
a high forehead, slightly inclined to baldness, bright, liquid-blue
eyes, an eagle nose, and thin, firm, even lips. He was a man of few
words, rather slow to action and of deep thought. He sat close to his
father as vice-president of the big company which occupied two whole
blocks in an outlying section of the city. He was a strong man--a
coming man, as his father well knew.

Lester, the second boy, was his father's favorite. He was not by
any means the financier that Robert was, but he had a larger vision of
the subtleties that underlie life. He was softer, more human, more
good-natured about everything. And, strangely enough, old Archibald
admired and trusted him. He knew he had the bigger vision. Perhaps he
turned to Robert when it was a question of some intricate financial
problem, but Lester was the most loved as a son.

Then there was Amy, thirty-two years of age, married, handsome, the
mother of one child--a boy; Imogene, twenty-eight, also married,
but as yet without children, and Louise, twenty-five, single, the
best-looking of the girls, but also the coldest and most critical. She
was the most eager of all for social distinction, the most vigorous of
all in her love of family prestige, the most desirous that the Kane
family should outshine every other. She was proud to think that the
family was so well placed socially, and carried herself with an air
and a hauteur which was sometimes amusing, sometimes irritating to
Lester! He liked her--in a way she was his favorite
sister--but he thought she might take herself with a little less
seriousness and not do the family standing any harm.

Mrs. Kane, the mother, was a quiet, refined woman, sixty years of
age, who, having come up from comparative poverty with her husband,
cared but little for social life. But she loved her children and her
husband, and was naively proud of their position and attainments. It
was enough for her to shine only in their reflected glory. A good
woman, a good wife, and a good mother.

Lester arrived at Cincinnati early in the evening, and drove at
once to his home. An old Irish servitor met him at the door.

"Ah, Mr. Lester," he began, joyously, "sure I'm glad to see you
back. I'll take your coat. Yes, yes, it's been fine weather we're
having. Yes, yes, the family's all well. Sure your sister Amy is just
after leavin' the house with the boy. Your mother's up-stairs in her
room. Yes, yes."

Lester smiled cheerily and went up to his mother's room. In this,
which was done in white and gold and overlooked the garden to the
south and east, sat Mrs. Kane, a subdued, graceful, quiet woman, with
smoothly laid gray hair. She looked up when the door opened, laid down
the volume that she had been reading, and rose to greet him.

"There you are, Mother," he said, putting his arms around her and
kissing her. "How are you?"

"Oh, I'm just about the same, Lester. How have you been?"

"Fine. I was up with the Bracebridges for a few days again. I had
to stop off in Cleveland to see Parsons. They all asked after
you."

"How is Minnie?"

"Just the same. She doesn't change any that I can see. She's just
as interested in entertaining as she ever was."

"She's a bright girl," remarked his mother, recalling Mrs.
Bracebridge as a girl in Cincinnati. "I always liked her. She's so
sensible."

"She hasn't lost any of that, I can tell you," replied Lester
significantly. Mrs. Kane smiled and went on to speak of various family
happenings. Imogene's husband was leaving for St. Louis on some
errand. Robert's wife was sick with a cold. Old Zwingle, the yard
watchman at the factory, who had been with Mr. Kane for over forty
years, had died. Her husband was going to the funeral. Lester listened
dutifully, albeit a trifle absently.

Lester, as he walked down the hall, encountered Louise. "Smart" was
the word for her. She was dressed in a beaded black silk dress,
fitting close to her form, with a burst of rubies at her throat which
contrasted effectively with her dark complexion and black hair. Her
eyes were black and piercing.

"Oh, there you are, Lester," she exclaimed. "When did you get in?
Be careful how you kiss me. I'm going out, and I'm all fixed, even to
the powder on my nose. Oh, you bear!" Lester had gripped her firmly
and kissed her soundly. She pushed him away with her strong hands.

"I didn't brush much of it off," he said. "You can always dust more
on with that puff of yours." He passed on to his own room to dress for
dinner. Dressing for dinner was a custom that had been adopted by the
Kane family in the last few years. Guests had become so common that in
a way it was a necessity, and Louise, in particular, made a point of
it. To-night Robert was coming, and a Mr. and Mrs. Burnett, old
friends of his father and mother, and so, of course, the meal would be
a formal one. Lester knew that his father was around somewhere, but he
did not trouble to look him up now. He was thinking of his last two
days in Cleveland and wondering when he would see Jennie again.




CHAPTER XX


As Lester came down-stairs after making his toilet he found his
father in the library reading.

"Hello, Lester," he said, looking up from his paper over the top of
his glasses and extending his hand. "Where do you come from?"

"Cleveland," replied his son, shaking hands heartily, and
smiling.

"Robert tells me you've been to New York."

"Yes, I was there."

"How did you find my old friend Arnold?"

"Just about the same," returned Lester. "He doesn't look any
older."

"I suppose not," said Archibald Kane genially, as if the report
were a compliment to his own hardy condition. "He's been a temperate
man. A fine old gentleman."

He led the way back to the sitting-room where they chatted over
business and home news until the chime of the clock in the hall warned
the guests up-stairs that dinner had been served.

Lester sat down in great comfort amid the splendors of the great
Louis Quinze dining-room. He liked this homey home
atmosphere--his mother and father and his sisters--the old
family friends. So he smiled and was exceedingly genial.

Louise announced that the Leverings were going to give a dance on
Tuesday, and inquired whether he intended to go.

"You know I don't dance," he returned dryly. "Why should I go?"

"Don't dance? Won't dance, you mean. You're getting too lazy to
move. If Robert is willing to dance occasionally I think you
might."

"Robert's got it on me in lightness," Lester replied, airily.

"And politeness," retorted Louise.

"Be that as it may," said Lester.

"Don't try to stir up a fight, Louise," observed Robert,
sagely.

After dinner they adjourned to the library, and Robert talked with
his brother a little on business. There were some contracts coming up
for revision. He wanted to see what suggestions Lester had to make.
Louise was going to a party, and the carriage was now announced. "So
you are not coming?" she asked, a trifle complainingly.

"Too tired," said Lester lightly. "Make my excuses to Mrs.
Knowles."

"Letty Pace asked about you the other night," Louise called back
from the door.

"Kind," replied Lester. "I'm greatly obliged."

"She's a nice girl, Lester," put in his father, who was standing
near the open fire. "I only wish you would marry her and settle down.
You'd have a good wife in her."

"She's charming," testified Mrs. Kane.

"What is this?" asked Lester jocularly--"a conspiracy? You
know I'm not strong on the matrimonial business."

"And I well know it," replied his mother semi-seriously. "I wish
you were."

Lester changed the subject. He really could not stand for this sort
of thing any more, he told himself. And as he thought his mind
wandered back to Jennie and her peculiar "Oh no, no!" There was
someone that appealed to him. That was a type of womanhood worth
while. Not sophisticated, not self-seeking, not watched over and set
like a man-trap in the path of men, but a sweet little
girl--sweet as a flower, who was without anybody, apparently, to
watch over her. That night in his room he composed a letter, which he
dated a week later, because he did not want to appear too urgent and
because he could not again leave Cincinnati for at least two
weeks.

"MY DEAR JENNIE, Although it has been a week, and I have said
nothing, I have not forgotten you--believe me. Was the impression
I gave of myself very bad? I will make it better from now on, for I
love you, little girl--I really do. There is a flower on my table
which reminds me of you very much--white, delicate, beautiful.
Your personality, lingering with me, is just that. You are the essence
of everything beautiful to me. It is in your power to strew flowers in
my path if you will.

"But what I want to say here is that I shall be in Cleveland on the
18th, and I shall expect to see you. I arrive Thursday night, and I
want you to meet me in the ladies' parlor of the Dornton at noon
Friday. Will you? You can lunch with me.

"You see, I respect your suggestion that I should not call. (I will
not--on condition.) These separations are dangerous to good
friendship. Write me that you will. I throw myself on your generosity.
But I can't take "no" for an answer, not now.

"With a world of affection.

"LESTER KANE."

He sealed the letter and addressed it. "She's a remarkable girl in
her way," he thought. "She really is."




CHAPTER XXI


The arrival of this letter, coming after a week of silence and
after she had had a chance to think, moved Jennie deeply. What did she
want to do? What ought she to do? How did she truly feel about this
man? Did she sincerely wish to answer his letter? If she did so, what
should she say? Heretofore all her movements, even the one in which
she had sought to sacrifice herself for the sake of Bass in Columbus,
had not seemed to involve any one but herself. Now, there seemed to be
others to consider--her family, above all, her child. The little
Vesta was now eighteen months of age; she was an interesting child;
her large, blue eyes and light hair giving promise of a comeliness
which would closely approximate that of her mother, while her mential
traits indicated a clear and intelligent mind. Mrs. Gerhardt had
become very fond of her. Gerhardt had unbended so gradually that his
interest was not even yet clearly discernible, but he had a distinct
feeling of kindliness toward her. And this readjustment of her
father's attitude had aroused in Jennie an ardent desire to so conduct
herself that no pain should ever come to him again. Any new folly on
her part would not only be base ingratitude to her father, but would
tend to injure the prospects of her little one. Her life was a
failure, she fancied, but Vesta's was a thing apart; she must do
nothing to spoil it. She wondered whether it would not be better to
write Lester and explain everything. She had told him that she did not
wish to do wrong. Suppose she went on to inform him that she had a
child, and beg him to leave her in peace. Would he obey her? She
doubted it. Did she really want him to take her at her word?

The need of making this confession was a painful thing to Jennie.
It caused her to hesitate, to start a letter in which she tried to
explain, and then to tear it up. Finally, fate intervened in the
sudden home-coming of her father, who had been seriously injured by an
accident at the glass-works in Youngstown where he worked.

It was on a Wednesday afternoon, in the latter part of August, when
a letter came from Gerhardt. But instead of the customary fatherly
communication, written in German and inclosing the regular weekly
remittance of five dollars, there was only a brief note, written by
another hand, and explaining that the day before Gerhardt had received
a severe burn on both hands, due to the accidental overturning of a
dipper of molten glass. The letter added that he would be home the
next morning.

"What do you think of that?" exclaimed William, his mouth wide
open.

"Poor papa!" said Veronica, tears welling up in her eyes.

Mrs. Gerhardt sat down, clasped her hands in her lap, and stared at
the floor. "Now, what to do?" she nervously exclaimed. The possibility
that Gerhardt was disabled for life opened long vistas of difficulties
which she had not the courage to contemplate.

Bass came home at half-past six and Jennie at eight. The former
heard the news with an astonished face.

"Gee! that's tough, isn't it?" he exclaimed. "Did the letter say
how bad he was hurt?"

"No," replied Mrs. Gerhardt.

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it," said Bass easily. "It won't do
any good. We'll get along somehow. I wouldn't worry like that if I
were you."

The truth was, he wouldn't, because his nature was wholly
different. Life did not rest heavily upon his shoulders. His brain was
not large enough to grasp the significance and weigh the results of
things.

"I know," said Mrs. Gerhardt, endeavoring to recover herself. "I
can't help it, though. To think that just when we were getting along
fairly well this new calamity should be added. It seems sometimes as
if we were under a curse. We have so much bad luck."

When Jennie came her mother turned to her instinctively; here was
her one stay.

"What's the matter, ma?" asked Jennie as she opened the door and
observed her mother's face. "What have you been crying about?"

Mrs. Gerhardt looked at her, and then turned half away.

"Pa's had his hands burned," put in Bass solemnly. "He'll be home
to-morrow."

Jennie turned and stared at him. "His hands burned!" she
exclaimed.

"Yes," said Bass.

"How did it happen?"

"A pot of glass was turned over."

Jennie looked at her mother, and her eyes dimmed with tears.
Instinctively she ran to her and put her arms around her.

"Now, don't you cry, ma," she said, barely able to control herself.
"Don't you worry. I know how you feel, but we'll get along. Don't cry
now." Then her own lips lost their evenness, and she struggled long
before she could pluck up courage to contemplate this new disaster.
And now without volition upon her part there leaped into her
consciousness a new and subtly persistent thought. What about Lester's
offer of assistance now? What about his declaration of love? Somehow
it came back to her--his affection, his personality, his desire
to help her, his sympathy, so like that which Brander had shown when
Bass was in jail. Was she doomed to a second sacrifice? Did it really
make any difference? Wasn't her life a failure already? She thought
this over as she looked at her mother sitting there so silent,
haggard, and distraught. "What a pity," she thought, "that her mother
must always suffer! Wasn't it a shame that she could never have any
real happiness?"

"I wouldn't feel so badly," she said, after a time. "Maybe pa isn't
burned so badly as we think. Did the letter say he'd be home in the
morning?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Gerhardt, recovering herself.

They talked more quietly from now on, and gradually, as the details
were exhausted, a kind of dumb peace settled down upon the
household.

"One of us ought to go to the train to meet him in the morning,"
said Jennie to Bass. "I will. I guess Mrs. Bracebridge won't
mind."

"No," said Bass gloomily, "you mustn't. I can go."

He was sour at this new fling of fate, and he looked his feelings;
he stalked off gloomily to his room and shut himself in. Jennie and
her mother saw the others off to bed, and then sat out in the kitchen
talking.

"I don't see what's to become of us now," said Mrs. Gerhardt at
last, completely overcome by the financial complications which this
new calamity had brought about. She looked so weak and helpless that
Jennie could hardly contain herself.

"Don't worry, mamma dear," she said, softly, a peculiar resolve
coming into her heart. The world was wide. There was comfort and ease
in it scattered by others with a lavish hand. Surely, surely
misfortune could not press so sharply but that they could live!

She sat down with her mother, the difficulties of the future
seeming to approach with audible and ghastly steps.

"What do you suppose will become of us now?" repeated her mother,
who saw how her fanciful conception of this Cleveland home had
crumbled before her eyes.

"Why," said Jennie, who saw clearly and knew what could be done,
"it will be all right. I wouldn't worry about it. Something will
happen. We'll get something."

She realized, as she sat there, that fate had shifted the burden of
the situation to her. She must sacrifice herself; there was no other
way.

Bass met his father at the railway station in the morning. He
looked very pale, and seemed to have suffered a great deal. His cheeks
were slightly sunken and his bony profile appeared rather gaunt. His
hands were heavily bandaged, and altogether he presented such a
picture of distress that many stopped to look at him on the way home
from the station.

"By chops," he said to Bass, "that was a burn I got. I thought once
I couldn't stand the pain any longer. Such pain I had! Such pain! By
chops! I will never forget it."

He related just how the accident had occurred, and said that he did
not know whether he would ever be able to use his hands again. The
thumb on his right hand and the first two fingers on the left had been
burned to the bone. The latter had been amputated at the first
joint--the thumb he might save, but his hands would be in danger
of being stiff.

"By chops!" he added, "just at the time when I needed the money
most. Too bad! Too bad!"

When they reached the house, and Mrs. Gerhardt opened the door, the
old mill-worker, conscious of her voiceless sympathy, began to cry.
Mrs. Gerhardt sobbed also. Even Bass lost control of himself for a
moment or two, but quickly recovered. The other children wept, until
Bass called a halt on all of them.

"Don't cry now," he said cheeringly. "What's the use of crying? It
isn't so bad as all that. You'll be all right again. We can get
along."

Bass's words had a soothing effect, temporarily, and, now that her
husband was home, Mrs. Gerhardt recovered her composure. Though his
hands were bandaged, the mere fact that he could walk and was not
otherwise injured was some consolation. He might recover the use of
his hands and be able to undertake light work again. Anyway, they
would hope for the best.

When Jennie came home that night she wanted to run to her father
and lay the treasury of her services and affection at his feet, but
she trembled lest he might be as cold to her as formerly.

Gerhardt, too, was troubled. Never had he completely recovered from
the shame which his daughter had brought upon him. Although he wanted
to be kindly, his feelings were so tangled that he hardly knew what to
say or do.

"Papa," said Jennie, approaching him timidly.

Gerhardt looked confused and tried to say something natural, but it
was unavailing. The thought of his helplessness, the knowledge of her
sorrow and of his own responsiveness to her affection--it was all
too much for him; he broke down again and cried helplessly.

"Forgive me, papa," she pleaded, "I'm so sorry. Oh, I'm so
sorry."

He did not attempt to look at her, but in the swirl of feeling that
their meeting created he thought that he could forgive, and he
did.

"I have prayed," he said brokenly. "It is all right."

When he recovered himself he felt ashamed of his emotion, but a new
relationship of sympathy and of understanding had been established.
From that time, although there was always a great reserve between
them, Gerhardt tried not to ignore her completely, and she endeavored
to show him the simple affection of a daughter, just as in the old
days.

But while the household was again at peace, there were other cares
and burdens to be faced. How were they to get along now with five
dollars taken from the weekly budget, and with the cost of Gerhardt's
presence added? Bass might have contributed more of his weekly
earnings, but he did not feel called upon to do it. And so the small
sum of nine dollars weekly must meet as best it could the current
expenses of rent, food, and coal, to say nothing of incidentals, which
now began to press very heavily. Gerhardt had to go to a doctor to
have his hands dressed daily. George needed a new pair of shoes.
Either more money must come from some source or the family must beg
for credit and suffer the old tortures of want. The situation
crystallized the half-formed resolve in Jennie's mind.

Lester's letter had been left unanswered. The day was drawing near.
Should she write? He would help them. Had he not tried to force money
on her? She finally decided that it was her duty to avail herself of
this proffered assistance. She sat down and wrote him a brief note.
She would meet him as he had requested, but he would please not come
to the house. She mailed the letter, and then waited, with mingled
feelings of trepidation and thrilling expectancy, the arrival of the
fateful day.




CHAPTER XXII


The fatal Friday came, and Jennie stood face to face with this new
and overwhelming complication in her modest scheme of existence. There
was really no alternative, she thought. Her own life was a failure.
Why go on fighting? If she could make her family happy, if she could
give Vesta a good education, if she could conceal the true nature of
this older story and keep Vesta in the background perhaps,
perhaps--well, rich men had married poor girls before this, and
Lester was very kind, he certainly liked her. At seven o'clock she
went to Mrs. Bracebridge's; at noon she excused herself on the pretext
of some work for her mother and left the house for the hotel.

Lester, leaving Cincinnati a few days earlier than he expected, had
failed to receive her reply; he arrived at Cleveland feeling sadly out
of tune with the world. He had a lingering hope that a letter from
Jennie might be awaiting him at the hotel, but there was no word from
her. He was a man not easily wrought up, but to-night he felt
depressed, and so went gloomily up to his room and changed his linen.
After supper he proceeded to drown his dissatisfaction in a game of
billiards with some friends, from whom he did not part until he had
taken very much more than his usual amount of alcoholic stimulant. The
next morning he arose with a vague idea of abandoning the whole
affair, but as the hours elapsed and the time of his appointment drew
near he decided that it might not be unwise to give her one last
chance. She might come. Accordingly, when it still lacked a quarter of
an hour of the time, he went down into the parlor. Great was his
delight when he beheld her sitting in a chair and waiting--the
outcome of her acquiescence. He walked briskly up, a satisfied,
gratified smile on his face.

"So you did come after all," he said, gazing at her with the look
of one who has lost and recovered a prize. "What do you mean by not
writing me? I thought from the way you neglected me that you had made
up your mind not to come at all."

"I did write," she replied.

"Where?"

"To the address you gave me. I wrote three days ago."

"That explains it. It came too late. You should have written me
before. How have you been?"

"Oh, all right," she replied.

"You don't look it!" he said. "You look worried. What's the
trouble, Jennie? Nothing gone wrong out at your house, has there?"

It was a fortuitous question. He hardly knew why lie had asked it.
Yet it opened the door to what she wanted to say.

"My father's sick," she replied.

"What's happened to him?"

"He burned his hands at the glass-works. We've been terribly
worried. It looks as though he would not be able to use them any
more."

She paused, looking the distress she felt, and he saw plainly that
she was facing a crisis.

"That's too bad," he said. "That certainly is. When did this
happen?"

"Oh, almost three weeks ago now."

"It certainly is bad. Come in to lunch, though. I want to talk with
you. I've been wanting to get a better understanding of your family
affairs ever since I left." He led the way into the dining-room and
selected a secluded table. He tried to divert her mind by asking her
to order the luncheon, but she was too worried and too shy to do so
and he had to make out the menu by himself. Then he turned to her with
a cheering air. "Now, Jennie," he said, "I want you to tell me all
about your family. I got a little something of it last time, but I
want to get it straight. Your father, you said, was a glass-blower by
trade. Now he can't work any more at that, that's obvious."

"Yes," she said.

"How many other children are there?"

"Six."

"Are you the oldest?"

"No, my brother Sebastian is. He's twenty-two."

"And what does he do?"

"He's a clerk in a cigar store."

"Do you know how much he makes?"

"I think it's twelve dollars," she replied thoughtfully.

"And the other children?"

"Martha and Veronica don't do anything yet. They're too young. My
brother George works at Wilson's. He's a cash-boy. He gets three
dollars and a half."

"And how much do you make?"

"I make four."

He stopped, figuring up mentally just what they had to live on.
"How much rent do you pay?" he continued.

"Twelve dollars."

"How old is your mother?"

"She's nearly fifty now."

He turned a fork in his hands back and forth; he was thinking
earnestly.

"To tell you the honest truth, I fancied it was something like
that, Jennie," he said. "I've been thinking about you a lot. Now, I
know. There's only one answer to your problem, and it isn't such a bad
one, if you'll only believe me." He paused for an inquiry, but she
made none. Her mind was running on her own difficulties.

"Don't you want to know?" he inquired.

"Yes," she answered mechanically.

"It's me," he replied. "You have to let me help you. I wanted to
last time. Now you have to; do you hear?"

"I thought I wouldn't," she said simply.

"I knew what you thought," he replied. "That's all over now. I'm
going to 'tend to that family of yours. And I'll do it right now while
I think of it."

He drew out his purse and extracted several ten and twenty-dollar
bills--two hundred and fifty dollars in all. "I want you to take
this," he said. "It's just the beginning. I will see that your family
is provided for from now on. Here, give me your hand."

"Oh no," she said. "Not so much. Don't give me all that."

"Yes," he replied. "Don't argue. Here. Give me your hand."

She put it out in answer to the summons of his eyes, and he shut
her fingers on the money, pressing them gently at the same time. "I
want you to have it, sweet. I love you, little girl. I'm not going to
see you suffer, nor any one belonging to you."

Her eyes looked a dumb thankfulness, and she bit her lips.

"I don't know how to thank you," she said.

"You don't need to," he replied. "The thanks are all the other
way--believe me."

He paused and looked at her, the beauty of her face holding him.
She looked at the table, wondering what would come next.

"How would you like to leave what you're doing and stay at home?"
he asked. "That would give you your freedom day times."

"I couldn't do that," she replied. "Papa wouldn't allow it. He
knows I ought to work."

"That's true enough," he said. "But there's so little in what
you're doing. Good heavens! Four dollars a week! I would be glad to
give you fifty times that sum if I thought there was any way in which
you could use it." He idly thrummed the cloth with his fingers.

"I couldn't," she said. "I hardly know how to use this. They'll
suspect. I'll have to tell mamma."

From the way she said it he judged there must be some bond of
sympathy between her and her mother which would permit of a confidence
such as this. He was by no means a hard man, and the thought touched
him. But he would not relinquish his purpose.

"There's only one thing to be done, as far as I can see," he went
on very gently. "You're not suited for the kind of work you're doing.
You're too refined. I object to it. Give it up and come with me down
to New York; I'll take good care of you. I love you and want you. As
far as your family is concerned, you won't have to worry about them
any more. You can take a nice home for them and furnish it in any
style you please. Wouldn't you like that?"

He paused, and Jennie's thoughts reverted quickly to her mother,
her dear mother. All her life long Mrs. Gerhardt had been talking of
this very thing--a nice home. If they could just have a larger
house, with good furniture and a yard filled with trees, how happy she
would be. In such a home she would be free of the care of rent, the
discomfort of poor furniture, the wretchedness of poverty; she would
be so happy. She hesitated there while his keen eye followed her in
spirit, and he saw what a power he had set in motion. It had been a
happy inspiration--the suggestion of a decent home for the
family. He waited a few minutes longer, and then said:

"Well, wouldn't you better let me do that?"

"It would be very nice," she said, "but it can't be done now. I
couldn't leave home. Papa would want to know all about where I was
going. I wouldn't know what to say."

"Why couldn't you pretend that you are going down to New York with
Mrs. Bracebridge?" he suggested. "There couldn't be any objection to
that, could there?"

"Not if they didn't find out," she said, her eyes opening in
amazement. "But if they should!"

"They won't," he replied calmly. "They're not watching Mrs.
Bracebridge's affairs. Plenty of mistresses take their maids on long
trips. Why not simply tell them you're invited to go--have to
go--and then go?"

"Do you think I could?" she inquired.

"Certainly," he replied. "What is there peculiar about that?"

She thought it over, and the plan did seem feasible. Then she
looked at this man and realized that relationship with him meant
possible motherhood for her again. The tragedy of giving birth to a
child--ah, she could not go through that a second time, at least
under the same conditions. She could not bring herself to tell him
about Vesta, but she must voice this insurmountable objection.

"I--" she said, formulating the first word of her sentence,
and then stopping.

"Yes," he said. "I--what?"

"I--" She paused again.

He loved her shy ways, her sweet, hesitating lips.

"What is it, Jennie?" he asked helpfully. "You're so delicious.
Can't you tell me?"

Her hand was on the table. He reached over and laid his strong
brown one on top of it.

"I couldn't have a baby," she said, finally, and looked down.

He gazed at her, and the charm of her frankness, her innate decency
under conditions so anomalous, her simple unaffected recognition of
the primal facts of life lifted her to a plane in his esteem which she
had not occupied until that moment.

"You're a great girl, Jennie," he said. "You're wonderful. But
don't worry about that. It can be arranged. You don't need to have a
child unless you want to, and I don't want you to."

He saw the question written in her wondering, shamed face.

"It's so," he said. "You believe me, don't you? You think I know,
don't you?"

"Yes," she faltered.

"Well, I do. But anyway, I wouldn't let any trouble come to you.
I'll take you away. Besides, I don't want any children. There wouldn't
be any satisfaction in that proposition for me at this time. I'd
rather wait. But there won't be--don't worry."

"Yes," she said faintly. Not for worlds could she have met his
eyes.

"Look here, Jennie," he said, after a time. "You care for me, don't
you? You don't think I'd sit here and plead with you if I didn't care
for you? I'm crazy about you, and that's the literal truth. You're
like wine to me. I want you to come with me. I want you to do it
quickly. I know how difficult this family business is, but you can
arrange it. Come with me down to New York. We'll work out something
later. I'll meet your family. We'll pretend a courtship, anything you
like--only come now."

"You don't mean right away, do you?" she asked, startled.

"Yes, to-morrow if possible. Monday sure. You can arrange it. Why,
if Mrs. Bracebridge asked you you'd go fast enough, and no one would
think anything about it. Isn't that so?"

"Yes," she admitted slowly.

"Well, then, why not now?"

"It's always so much harder to work out a falsehood," she replied
thoughtfully.

"I know it, but you can come. Won't you?"

"Won't you wait a little while?" she pleaded. "It's so very sudden.
I'm afraid."

"Not a day, sweet, that I can help. Can't you see how I feel? Look
in my eyes. Will you?"

"Yes," she replied sorrowfully, and yet with a strange thrill of
affection. "I will."




CHAPTER XXIII


The business of arranging for this sudden departure was really not
so difficult as it first appeared. Jennie proposed to tell her mother
the whole truth, and there was nothing to say to her father except
that she was going with Mrs. Bracebridge at the latter's request. He
might question her, but he really could not doubt Before going home
that afternoon she accompanied Lester to a department store, where she
was fitted out with a trunk, a suit-case, and a traveling suit and
hat. Lester was very proud of his prize. "When we get to New York I am
going to get you some real things," he told her. "I am going to show
you what you can be made to look like." He had all the purchased
articles packed in the trunk and sent to his hotel. Then he arranged
to have Jennie come there and dress Monday for the trip which began in
the afternoon.

When she came home Mrs. Gerhardt, who was in the kitchen, received
her with her usual affectionate greeting. "Have you been working very
hard?" she asked. "You look tired."

"No," she said, "I'm not tired. It isn't that. I just don't feel
good."

"What's the trouble?"

"Oh, I have to tell you something, mamma. It's so hard." She
paused, looking inquiringly at her mother, and then away.

"Why, what is it?" asked her mother nervously. So many things had
happened in the past that she was always on the alert for some new
calamity. "You haven't lost your place, have you?"

"No," replied Jennie, with an effort to maintain her mental poise,
"but I'm going to leave it."

"No!" exclaimed her mother. "Why?"

"I'm going to New York."

Her mother's eyes opened widely. "Why, when did you decide to do
that?" she inquired.

"To-day."

"You don't mean it!"

"Yes, I do, mamma. Listen. I've got something I want to tell you.
You know how poor we are. There isn't any way we can make things come
out right. I have found some one who wants to help us. He says he
loves me, and he wants me to go to New York with him Monday. I've
decided to go."

"Oh, Jennie!" exclaimed her mother. "Surely not! You wouldn't do
anything like that after all that's happened. Think of your
father."

"I've thought it all out," went on Jennie, firmly. "It's really for
the best. He's a good man. I know he is. He has lots of money. He
wants me to go with him, and I'd better go. He will take a new house
for us when we come back and help us to get along. No one will ever
have me as a wife--you know that. It might as well be this way.
He loves me. And I love him. Why shouldn't I go?"

"Does he know about Vesta?" asked her mother cautiously.

"No," said Jennie guiltily. "I thought I'd better not tell him
about her. She oughtn't to be brought into it if I can help it."

"I'm afraid you're storing up trouble for yourself, Jennie," said
her mother. "Don't you think he is sure to find it out some time?"

"I thought maybe that she could be kept here," suggested Jennie,
"until she's old enough to go to school. Then maybe I could send her
somewhere."

"She might," assented her mother; "but don't you think it would be
better to tell him now? He won't think any the worse of you."

"It isn't that. It's her," said Jennie passionately. "I don't want
her to be brought into it."

Her mother shook her head. "Where did you meet him?" she
inquired.

"At Mrs. Bracebridge's."

"How long ago?"

"Oh, it's been almost two months now."

"And you never said anything about him," protested Mrs. Gerhardt
reproachfully.

"I didn't know that he cared for me this way," said Jennie
defensively.

"Why didn't you wait and let him come out here first?" asked her
mother. "It will make things so much easier. You can't go and not have
your father find out."

"I thought I'd say I was going with Mrs. Bracebridge. Papa can't
object to my going with her."

"No," agreed her mother thoughtfully.

The two looked at each other in silence. Mrs. Gerhardt, with her
imaginative nature, endeavored to formulate some picture of this new
and wonderful personality that had come into Jennie's life. He was
wealthy; he wanted to take Jennie; he wanted to give them a good home.
What a story!

"And he gave me this," put in Jennie, who, with some instinctive
psychic faculty, had been following her mother's mood. She opened her
dress at the neck, and took out the two hundred and fifty dollars; she
placed the money in her mother's hands.

The latter stared at it wide-eyed. Here was the relief for all her
woes--food, clothes, rent, coal--all done up in one small
package of green and yellow bills. If there were plenty of money in
the house Gerhardt need not worry about his burned hands; George and
Martha and Veronica could be clothed in comfort and made happy.

Jennie could dress better; there would be a future education for
Vesta.

"Do you think he might ever want to marry you?" asked her mother
finally.

"I don't know," replied Jennie "he might. I know he loves me."

"Well," said her mother after a long pause, "if you're going to
tell your father you'd better do it right away. He'll think it's
strange as it is."

Jennie realized that she had won. Her mother had acquiesced from
sheer force of circumstances. She was sorry, but somehow it seemed to
be for the best. "I'll help you out with it," her mother had
concluded, with a little sigh.

The difficulty of telling this lie was very great for Mrs.
Gerhardt, but she went through the falsehood with a seeming
nonchalance which allayed Gerhardt's suspicions. The children were
also told, and when, after the general discussion, Jennie repeated the
falsehood to her father it seemed natural enough.

"How long do you think you'll be gone?" he inquired.

"About two or three weeks," she replied.

"That's a nice trip," he said. "I came through New York in 1844. It
was a small place then compared to what it is now."

Secretly he was pleased that Jennie should have this fine chance.
Her employer must like her.

When Monday came Jennie bade her parents good-by and left early,
going straight to the Dornton, where Lester awaited her.

"So you came," he said gaily, greeting her as she entered the
ladies' parlor.

"Yes," she said simply.

"You are my niece," he went on. "I have engaged H room for you near
mine. I'll call for the key, and you go dress. When you're ready I'll
have the trunk sent to the depot. The train leaves at one
o'clock."

She went to her room and dressed, while he fidgeted about, read,
smoked, and finally knocked at her door.

She replied by opening to him, fully clad.

"You look charming," he said with a smile.

She looked down, for she was nervous and distraught. The whole
process of planning, lying, nerving herself to carry out her part had
been hard on her. She looked tired and worried.

"Not grieving, are you?" he asked, seeing how things stood.

"No-o," she replied.

"Come now, sweet. You mustn't feel this way. It's coming out all
right." He took her in his arms and kissed her, and they strolled down
the hall. He was astonished to see how well she looked in even these
simple clothes--the best she had ever had.

They reached the depot after a short carriage ride. The
accommodations had been arranged for before hand, and Kane had allowed
just enough time to make the train. When they settled themselves in a
Pullman state-room it was with a keen sense of satisfaction on his
part. Life looked rosy. Jennie was beside him. He had succeeded in
what he had started out to do. So might it always be.

As the train rolled out of the depot and the long reaches of the
fields succeeded Jennie studied them wistfully. There were the
forests, leafless and bare; the wide, brown fields, wet with the rains
of winter; the low farm-houses sitting amid flat stretches of prairie,
their low roofs making them look as if they were hugging the ground.
The train roared past little hamlets, with cottages of white and
yellow and drab, their roofs blackened by frost and rain. Jennie noted
one in particular which seemed to recall the old neighborhood where
they used to live at Columbus; she put her handkerchief to her eyes
and began silently to cry.

"I hope you're not crying, are you, Jennie?" said

Lester, looking up suddenly from the letter he had been reading.
"Come, come," he went on as he saw a faint tremor shaking her. "This
won't do. You have to do better than this. You'll never get along if
you act that way."

She made no reply, and the depth of her silent grief filled him
with strange sympathies.

"Don't cry," he continued soothingly; "everything will be all
right. I told you that. You needn't worry about anything."

Jennie made a great effort to recover herself, and began to dry her
eyes.

"You don't want to give way like that," he continued. "It doesn't
do you any good. I know how you feel about leaving home, but tears
won't help it any. It isn't as if you were going away for good, you
know. Besides, you'll be going back shortly. You care for me, don't
you, sweet? I'm something?"

"Yes," she said, and managed to smile back at him.

Lester returned to his correspondence and Jennie fell to thinking
of Vesta. It troubled her to realize that she was keeping this secret
from one who was already very dear to her. She knew that she ought to
tell Lester about the child, but she shrank from the painful
necessity. Perhaps later on she might find the courage to do it.

"I'll have to tell him something," she thought with a sudden
upwelling of feeling as regarded the seriousness of this duty. "If I
don't do it soon and I should go and live with him and he should find
it out he would never forgive me. He might turn me out, and then where
would I go? I have no home now. What would I do with Vesta?"

She turned to contemplate him, a premonitory wave of terror
sweeping over her, but she only saw that imposing and comfort-loving
soul quietly reading his letters, his smoothly shaved red cheek and
comfortable head and body looking anything but militant or like an
avenging Nemesis. She was just withdrawing her gaze when he looked
up.

"Well, have you washed all your sins away?" he inquired
merrily.

She smiled faintly at the allusion. The touch of fact in it made it
slightly piquant.

"I expect so," she replied.

He turned to some other topic, while she looked out of the window,
the realization that one impulse to tell him had proved unavailing
dwelling in her mind. "I'll have to do it shortly," she thought, and
consoled herself with the idea that she would surely find courage
before long.

Their arrival in New York the next day raised the important
question in Lester's mind as to where he should stop. New York was a
very large place, and he was not in much danger of encountering people
who would know him, but he thought it just as well not to take
chances. Accordingly he had the cabman drive them to one of the more
exclusive apartment hotels, where he engaged a suite of rooms; and
they settled themselves for a stay of two or three weeks.

This atmosphere into which Jennie was now plunged was so wonderful,
so illuminating, that she could scarcely believe this was the same
world that she had inhabited before. Kane was no lover of vulgar
display. The appointments with which he surrounded himself were always
simple and elegant. He knew at a glance what Jennie needed, and bought
for her with discrimination and care. And Jennie, a woman, took a keen
pleasure in the handsome gowns and pretty fripperies that he lavished
upon her. Could this be really Jennie Gerhardt, the washerwoman's
daughter, she asked herself, as she gazed in her mirror at the figure
of a girl clad in blue velvet, with yellow French lace at her throat
and upon her arms? Could these be her feet, clad in soft shapely shoes
at ten dollars a pair, these her hands adorned with flashing jewels?
What wonderful good fortune she was enjoying! And Lester had promised
that her mother would share in it. Tears sprang to her eyes at the
thought. The dear mother, how she loved her!

It was Lester's pleasure in these days to see what he could do to
make her look like some one truly worthy of im. He exercised his most
careful judgment, and the result surprised even himself. People turned
in the halls, in the dining-rooms, and on the street to gaze at
Jennie.

"A stunning woman that man has with him," was a frequent
comment.

Despite her altered state Jennie did not lose her judgment of life
or her sense of perspective or proportion. She felt as though life
were tentatively loaning her something which would be taken away after
a time. There was no pretty vanity in her bosom. Lester realized this
as he watched her. "You're a big woman, in your way," he said. "You'll
amount to something. Life hasn't given you much of a deal up to
now."

He wondered how he could justify this new relationship to his
family, should they chance to hear about it. If he should decide to
take a home in Chicago or St. Louis (there was such a thought running
in his mind) could he maintain it secretly? Did he want to? He was
half persuaded that he really, truly loved her.

As the time drew near for their return he began to counsel her as
to her future course of action. "You ought to find some way of
introducing me, as an acquaintance, to your father," he said. "It will
ease matters up. I think I'll call. Then if you tell him you're going
to marry me he'll think nothing of it." Jennie thought of Vesta, and
trembled inwardly. But perhaps her father could be induced to remain
silent.

Lester had made the wise suggestion that she should retain the
clothes she had worn in Cleveland in order that she might wear them
home when she reached there. "There won't be any trouble about this
other stuff," he said. "I'll have it cared for until we make some
other arrangement." It was all very simple and easy; he was a master
strategist.

Jennie had written her mother almost daily since she had been East.
She had inclosed little separate notes to be read by Mrs. Gerhardt
only. In one she explained Lester's desire to call, and urged her
mother to prepare the way by telling her father that she had met some
one who liked her. She spoke of the difficulty concerning Vesta, and
her mother at once began to plan a campaign o have Gerhardt hold his
peace. There must be no hitch now. Jennie must be given an opportunity
to better herself. When she returned there was great rejoicing. Of
course she could not go back to her work, but Mrs. Gerhardt explained
that Mrs. Bracebridge had given Jennie a few weeks' vacation in order
that she might look for something better, something at which he could
make more money.




CHAPTER XXIV


The problem of the Gerhardt family and its relationship to himself
comparatively settled, Kane betook himself to Cincinnati and to his
business duties. He was heartily interested in the immense plant,
which occupied two whole blocks in the outskirts of the city, and its
conduct and development was as much a problem and a pleasure to him as
to either his father or his brother. He liked to feel that he was a
vital part of this great and growing industry. When he saw freight
cars going by on the railroads labelled "The Kane Manufacturing
Company--Cincinnati" or chanced to notice displays of the
company's products in the windows of carriage sales companies in the
different cities he was conscious of a warm glow of satisfaction. It
was something to be a factor in an institution so stable, so
distinguished, so honestly worth while. This was all very well, but
now Kane was entering upon a new phase of his personal
existence--in a word, there was Jennie. He was conscious as he
rode toward his home city that he was entering on a relationship which
might involve disagreeable consequences. He was a little afraid of his
father's attitude; above all, there was his brother Robert.

Robert was cold and conventional in character; an excellent
business man; irreproachable in both his public and in his private
life. Never overstepping the strict boundaries of legal righteousness,
he was neither warm-hearted nor generous--in fact, he would turn
any trick which could be speciously, or at best necessitously,
recommended to his conscience. How he reasoned Lester did not
know--he could not follow the ramifications of a logic which
could combine hard business tactics with moral rigidity, but somehow
his brother managed to do it. "He's got a Scotch Presbyterian
conscience mixed with an Asiatic perception of the main chance."
Lester once told somebody, and he had the situation accurately
measured. Nevertheless he could not rout his brother from his
positions nor defy him, for he had the public conscience with him. He
was in line with convention practically, and perhaps
sophisticatedly.

The two brothers were outwardly friendly; inwardly they were far
apart. Robert liked Lester well enough personally, but he did not
trust his financial judgment, and, temperamentally, they did not agree
as to how life and its affairs should be conducted. Lester had a
secret contempt for his brother's chill, persistent chase of the
almighty dollar. Robert was sure that Lester's easy-going ways were
reprehensible, and bound to create trouble sooner or later. In the
business they did not quarrel much--there was not so much chance
with the old gentleman still in charge--but there were certain
minor differences constantly cropping up which showed which way the
wind blew. Lester was for building up trade through friendly
relationship, concessions, personal contact, and favors. Robert was
for pulling everything tight, cutting down the cost of production, and
offering such financial inducements as would throttle competition.

The old manufacturer always did his best to pour oil on these
troubled waters, but he foresaw an eventual clash. One or the other
would have to get out or perhaps both. "If only you two boys could
agree!" he used to say.

Another thing which disturbed Lester was his father's attitude on
the subject of marriage--Lester's marriage, to be specific.
Archibald Kane never ceased to insist on the fact that Lester ought to
get married, and that he was making a big mistake in putting it off.
All the other children, save Louise, were safely married. Why not his
favorite son? It was doing him injury morally, socially, commercially,
that he was sure of.

"The world expects it of a man in your position," his father had
argued from time to time. "It makes for social solidity and prestige.
You ought to pick out a good woman and raise a family. Where will you
be when you get to my time of life if you haven't any children, any
home?"

"Well, if the right woman came along," said Lester, "I suppose I'd
marry her. But she hasn't come along. What do you want me to do? Take
anybody?"

"No, not anybody, of course, but there are lots of good women. You
can surely find some one if you try. There's that Pace girl. What
about her? You used to like her. I wouldn't drift on this way, Lester;
it can't come to any good."

His son would only smile. "There, father, let it go now. I'll come
around some time, no doubt. I've got to be thirsty when I'm led to
water."

The old gentleman gave over, time and again, but it was a sore
point with him. He wanted his son to settle down and be a real man of
affairs.

The fact that such a situation as this might militate against any
permanent arrangement with Jennie was obvious even to Lester at this
time. He thought out his course of action carefully. Of course he
would not give Jennie up, whatever the possible consequences. But he
must be cautious; he must take no unnecessary risks. Could he bring
her to Cincinnati? What a scandal if it were ever found out! Could he
install her in a nice home somewhere near the city? The family would
probably eventually suspect something. Could he take her along on his
numerous business journeys? This first one to New York had been
successful. Would it always be so? He turned the question over in his
mind.

The very difficulty gave it zest. Perhaps St. Louis, or Pittsburg,
or Chicago would be best after all. He went to these places
frequently, and particularly to Chicago. He decided finally that it
should be Chicago if he could arrange it. He could always make excuses
to run up there, and it was only a night's ride. Yes, Chicago was
best. The very size and activity of the city made concealment easy.
After two weeks' stay at Cincinnati Lester wrote Jennie that he was
coming to Cleveland soon, and she answered that she thought it would
be all right for him to call and see her. Her father had been told
about him. She had felt it unwise to stay about the house, and so had
secured a position in a store at four dollars a week. He smiled as he
thought of her working, and yet the decency and energy of it appealed
to him. "She's all right," he said. "She's the best I've come across
yet."

He ran up to Cleveland the following Saturday, and, calling at her
place of business, he made an appointment to see her that evening. He
was anxious that his introduction, as her beau, should be gotten over
with as quickly as possible. When he did call the shabbiness of the
house and the manifest poverty of the family rather disgusted him, but
somehow Jennie seemed as sweet to him as ever. Gerhardt came in the
front-room, after he had been there a few minutes, and shook hands
with him, as did also Mrs. Gerhardt, but Lester paid little attention
to them. The old German appeared to him to be merely
commonplace--the sort of man who was hired by hundreds in common
capacities in his father's factory. After some desultory conversation
Lester suggested to Jennie that they should go for a drive. Jennie put
on her hat, and together they departed. As a matter of fact, they went
to an apartment which he had hired for the storage of her clothes.
When she returned at eight in the evening the family considered it
nothing amiss.




CHAPTER XXV


A month later Jennie was able to announce that Lester intended to
marry her. His visits had of course paved the way for this, and it
seemed natural enough. Only Gerhardt seemed a little doubtful. He did
not know just how this might be. Perhaps it was all right. Lester
seemed a fine enough man in all conscience, and really, after Brander,
why not? If a United States Senator could fall in love with Jennie,
why not a business man? There was just one thing--the child. "Has
she told him about Vesta?" he asked his wife.

"No," said Mrs. Gerhardt, "not yet."

"Not yet, not yet. Always something underhanded. Do you think he
wants her if he knows? That's what comes of such conduct in the first
place. Now she has to slip around like a thief. The child cannot even
have an honest name."

Gerhardt went back to his newspaper reading and brooding. His life
seemed a complete failure to him and he was only waiting to get well
enough to hunt up another job as watchman. He wanted to get out of
this mess of deception and dishonesty.

A week or two later Jennie confided to her mother that Lester had
written her to join him in Chicago. He was not feeling well, and could
not come to Cleveland. The two women explained to Gerhardt that Jennie
was going away to be married to Mr. Kane. Gerhardt flared up at this,
and his suspicions were again aroused. But he could do nothing but
grumble over the situation; it would lead to no good end, of that he
was sure.

When the day came for Jennie's departure she had to go without
saying farewell to her father. He was out looking for work until late
in the afternoon, and before he had returned she had been obliged to
leave for the station. "I will write a note to him when I get there,"
she said. She kissed her baby over and over. "Lester will take a
better house for us soon," she went on hopefully. "He wants us to
move." The night train bore her to Chicago; the old life had ended and
the new one had begun.

The curious fact should be recorded here that, although Lester's
generosity had relieved the stress upon the family finances, the
children and Gerhardt were actually none the wiser. It was easy for
Mrs. Gerhardt to deceive her husband as to the purchase of necessities
and she had not as yet indulged in any of the fancies which an
enlarged purse permitted. Fear deterred her. But, after Jennie had
been in Chicago for a few days, she wrote to her mother saying that
Lester wanted them to take a new home. This letter was shown to
Gerhardt, who had been merely biding her return to make a scene. He
frowned, but somehow it seemed an evidence of regularity. If he had
not married her why should he want to help them? Perhaps Jennie was
well married after all. Perhaps she really had been lifted to a high
station in life, and was now able to help the family. Gerhardt almost
concluded to forgive her everything once and for all.

The end of it was that a new house was decided upon, and Jennie
returned to Cleveland to help her mother move. Together they searched
the streets for a nice, quiet neighborhood, and finally found one. A
house of nine rooms, with a yard, which rented for thirty dollars, was
secured and suitably furnished. There were comfortable fittings for
the dining-room and sitting-room, a handsome parlor set and bedroom
sets complete for each room. The kitchen was supplied with every
convenience, and there was even a bath-room, a luxury the Gerhardts
had never enjoyed before. Altogether the house was attractive, though
plain, and Jennie was happy to know that her family could be
comfortable in it.

When the time came for the actual moving Mrs. Gerhardt was fairly
beside herself with joy, for was not this the realization of her
dreams? All through the long years of her life she had been waiting,
and now it had come. A new house, new furniture, plenty of
room--things finer than she had ever even imagined--think of
it! Her eyes shone as she looked at the new beds and tables and
bureaus and whatnots. "Dear, dear, isn't this nice!" she exclaimed.
"Isn't it beautiful!" Jennie smiled and tried to pretend satisfaction
without emotion, but there were tears in her eyes. She was so glad for
her mother's sake. She could have kissed Lester's feet for his
goodness to her family.

The day the furniture was moved in Mrs. Gerhardt, Martha, and
Veronica were on hand to clean and arrange things. At the sight of the
large rooms and pretty yard, bare enough in winter, but giving promise
of a delightful greenness in spring, and the array of new furniture
standing about in excelsior, the whole family fell into a fever of
delight. Such beauty, such spaciousness! George rubbed his feet over
the new carpets and Bass examined the quality of the furniture
critically. "Swell," was his comment. Mrs. Gerhardt roved to and fro
like a person in a dream. She could not believe that these bright
bedrooms, this beautiful parlor, this handsome dining-room were
actually hers.

Gerhardt came last of all. Although he tried hard not to show it,
he, too, could scarcely refrain from enthusiastic comment. The sight
of an opal-globed chandelier over the dining-room table was the
finishing touch.

"Gas, yet!" he said.

He looked grimly around, under his shaggy eyebrows, at the new
carpets under his feet, the long oak extension table covered with a
white cloth and set with new dishes, at the pictures on the walls, the
bright, clean kitchen. He shook his head. "By chops, it's fine!" he
said. "It's very nice. Yes, it's very nice. We want to be careful now
not to break anything. It's so easy to scratch things up, and then
it's all over." Yes, even Gerhardt was satisfied.




CHAPTER XXVI


It would be useless to chronicle the events of the three years that
followed--events and experiences by which the family grew from an
abject condition of want to a state of comparative self-reliance,
based, of course, on the obvious prosperity of Jennie and the
generosity (through her) of her distant husband. Lester was seen now
and then, a significant figure, visiting Cleveland, and sometimes
coming out to the house where he occupied with Jennie the two best
rooms of the second floor. There were hurried trips on her
part--in answer to telegraph massages--to Chicago, to St.
Louis, to New York. One of his favorite pastimes was to engage
quarters at the great resorts--Hot Springs, Mt. Clemens,
Saratoga--and for a period of a week or two at a stretch enjoy
the luxury of living with Jennie as his wife. There were other times
when he would pass through Cleveland only for the privilege of seeing
her for a day. All the time he was aware that he was throwing on her
the real burden of a rather difficult situation, but he did not see
how he could remedy it at this time. He was not sure as yet that he
really wanted to. They were getting along fairly well.

The attitude of the Gerhardt family toward this condition of
affairs was peculiar. At first, in spite of the irregularity of it, it
seemed natural enough. Jennie said she was married. No one had seen
her marriage certificate, but she said so, and she seemed to carry
herself with the air of one who holds that relationship. Still, she
never went to Cincinnati, where his family lived, and none of his
relatives ever came near her. Then, too, his attitude, in spite of the
money which had first blinded them, was peculiar. He really did not
carry himself like a married man. He was so indifferent. There were
weeks in which she appeared to receive only perfunctory notes. There
were times when she would only go away for a few days to meet him.
Then there were the long periods in which she absented
herself--the only worthwhile testimony toward a real
relationship, and that, in a way, unnatural.

Bass, who had grown to be a young man of twenty-five, with some
business judgment and a desire to get out in the world, was
suspicious. He had come to have a pretty keen knowledge of life, and
intuitively he felt that things were not right. George, nineteen, who
had gained a slight foothold in a wall-paper factory and was looking
forward to a career in that field, was also restless. He felt that
something was wrong. Martha, seventeen, was still in school, as were
William and Veronica. Each was offered an opportunity to study
indefinitely; but there was unrest with life. They knew about Jennie's
child. The neighbors were obviously drawing conclusions for
themselves. They had few friends. Gerhardt himself finally concluded
that there was something wrong, but he had let himself into this
situation, and was not in much of a position now to raise an argument.
He wanted to ask her at times--proposed to make her do better if
he could--but the worst had already been done. It depended on the
man now, he knew that.

Things were gradually nearing a state where a general upheaval
would have taken place had not life stepped in with one of its
fortuitous solutions. Mrs. Gerhardt's health failed. Although stout
and formerly of a fairly active disposition, she had of late years
become decidedly sedentary in her habits and grown weak, which,
coupled with a mind naturally given to worry, and weighed upon as it
had been by a number of serious and disturbing ills, seemed now to
culminate in a slow but very certain case of systemic poisoning. She
became decidedly sluggish in her motions, wearied more quickly at the
few tasks left for her to do, and finally complained to Jennie that it
was very hard for her to climb stairs. "I'm not feeling well," she
said. "I think I'm going to be sick."

Jennie now took alarm and proposed to take her to some near-by
watering-place, but Mrs. Gerhardt wouldn't go. "I don't think it would
do any good," she said. She sat about or went driving with her
daughter, but the fading autumn scenery depressed her. "I don't like
to get sick in the fall," she said. "The leaves coming down make me
think I am never going to get well."

"Oh, ma, how you talk!" said Jennie; but she felt frightened,
nevertheless.

How much the average home depends upon the mother was seen when it
was feared the end was near. Bass, who had thought of getting married
and getting out of this atmosphere, abandoned the idea temporarily.
Gerhardt, shocked and greatly depressed, hung about like one expectant
of and greatly awed by the possibility of disaster. Jennie, too
inexperienced in death to feel that she could possibly lose her
mother, felt as if somehow her living depended on her. Hoping in spite
of all opposing circumstances, she hung about, a white figure of
patience, waiting and serving.

The end came one morning after a month of illness and several days
of unconsciousness, during which silence reigned in the house and all
the family went about on tiptoe. Mrs. Gerhardt passed away with her
dying gaze fastened on Jennie's face for the last few minutes of
consciousness that life vouchsafed her. Jennie stared into her eyes
with a yearning horror. "Oh, mamma! mamma!" she cried. "Oh no,
no!"

Gerhardt came running in from the yard, and, throwing himself down
by the bedside, wrung his bony hands in anguish. "I should have gone
first!" he cried. "I should have gone first!"

The death of Mrs. Gerhardt hastened the final breaking up of the
family. Bass was bent on getting married at once, having had a girl in
town for some time. Martha, whose views of life had broadened and
hardened, was anxious to get out also. She felt that a sort of stigma
attached to the home--to herself, in fact, so long as she
remained there. Martha looked to the public schools as a source of
income; she was going to be a teacher. Gerhardt alone scarcely knew
which way to turn. He was again at work as a night watchman. Jennie
found him crying one day alone in the kitchen, and immediately burst
into tears herself. "Now, papa!" she pleaded, "it isn't as bad as
that. You will always have a home--you know that--as long as
I have anything. You can come with me."

"No, no," he protested. He really did not want to go with her. "It
isn't that," he continued. "My whole life comes to nothing."

It was some little time before Bass, George and Martha finally
left, but, one by one, they got out, leaving Jennie, her father,
Veronica, and William, and one other--Jennie's child. Of course
Lester knew nothing of Vesta's parentage, and curiously enough he had
never seen the little girl. During the short periods in which he
deigned to visit the house--two or three days at most--Mrs.
Gerhardt took good care that Vesta was kept in the background. There
was a play-room on the top floor, and also a bedroom there, and
concealment was easy. Lester rarely left his rooms, he even had his
meals served to him in what might have been called the living-room of
the suite. He was not at all inquisitive or anxious to meet any one of
the other members of the family. He was perfectly willing to shake
hands with them or to exchange a few perfunctory words, but
perfunctory words only. It was generally understood that the child
must not appear, and so it did not.

There is an inexplicable sympathy between old age and childhood, an
affinity which is as lovely as it is pathetic. During that first year
in Lorrie Street, when no one was looking, Gerhardt often carried
Vesta about on his shoulders and pinched her soft, red cheeks. When
she got old enough to walk he it was who, with a towel fastened
securely under her arms, led her patiently around the room until she
was able to take a few steps of her own accord. When she actually
reached the point where she could walk he was the one who coaxed her
to the effort, shyly, grimly, but always lovingly. By some strange
leading of fate this stigma on his family's honor, this blotch on
conventional morality, had twined its helpless baby fingers about the
tendons of his heart. He loved this little outcast ardently,
hopefully. She was the one bright ray in a narrow, gloomy life, and
Gerhardt early took upon himself the responsibility of her education
in religious matters. Was it not he who had insisted that the infant
should be baptized?

"Say 'Our Father,'" he used to demand of the lisping infant when he
had her alone with him.

"Ow Fowvaw," was her vowel-like interpretation of his words.

"'Who art in heaven.'"

"'Ooh ah in aven,'" repeated the child.

"Why do you teach her so early?" pleaded Mrs. Gerhardt, overhearing
the little one's struggles with stubborn consonants and vowels.

"Because I want she should learn the Christian faith," returned
Gerhardt determinedly. "She ought to know her prayers. If she don't
begin now she never will know them."

Mrs. Gerhardt smiled. Many of her husband's religious
idiosyncrasies were amusing to her. At the same time she liked to see
this sympathetic interest he was taking in the child's upbringing. If
he were only not so hard, so narrow at times. He made himself a
torment to himself and to every one else.

On the earliest bright morning of returning spring he was wont to
take her for her first little journeys in the world. "Come, now," he
would say, "we will go for a little walk."

"Walk," chirped Vesta.

"Yes, walk," echoed Gerhardt.

Mrs. Gerhardt would fasten on one of her little hoods, for in these
days Jennie kept Vesta's wardrobe beautifully replete. Taking her by
the hand, Gerhardt would issue forth, satisfied to drag first one foot
and then the other in order to accommodate his gait to her toddling
steps.

One beautiful May day, when Vesta was four years old, they started
on one of their walks. Everywhere nature was budding and bourgeoning;
the birds twittering their arrival from the south; the insects making
the best of their brief span of life. Sparrows chirped in the road;
robins strutted upon the grass; bluebirds built in the eaves of the
cottages. Gerhardt took a keen delight in pointing out the wonders of
nature to Vesta, and she was quick to respond. Every new sight and
sound interested her.

"Ooh!--ooh!" exclaimed Vesta, catching sight of a low,
flashing touch of red as a robin lighted upon a twig nearby. Her hand
was up, and her eyes were wide open.

"Yes," said Gerhardt, as happy as if he himself had but newly
discovered this marvelous creature. "Robin. Bird. Robin. Say
robin."

"Wobin," said Vesta.

"Yes, robin," he answered. "It is going to look for a worm now. We
will see if we cannot find its nest. I think I saw a nest in one of
these trees."

He plodded peacefully on, seeking to rediscover an old abandoned
nest that he had observed on a former walk. "Here it is," he said at
last, coming to a small and leafless tree, in which a winter-beaten
remnant of a home was still clinging. "Here, come now, see," and he
lifted the baby up at arm's length.

"See," said Gerhardt, indicating the wisp of dead grasses with his
free hand, "nest. That is a bird's nest. See!"

"Ooh!" repeated Vesta, imitating his pointing finger with one of
her own. "Ness--ooh!"

"Yes," said Gerhardt, putting her down again. "That was a wren's
nest. They have all gone now. They will not come any more."

Still further they plodded, he unfolding the simple facts of life,
she wondering with the wide wonder of a child. When they had gone a
block or two he turned slowly about as if the end of the world had
been reached.

"We must be going back!" he said.

And so she had come to her fifth year, growing in sweetness,
intelligence, and vivacity. Gerhardt was fascinated by the questions
she asked, the puzzles she pronounced. "Such a girl!" he would exclaim
to his wife. "What is it she doesn't want to know? 'Where is God? What
does He do? Where does He keep His feet?" she asks me. "I gotta laugh
sometimes." From rising in the morning, to dress her to laying her
down at night after she had said her prayers, she came to be the chief
solace and comfort of his days. Without Vesta, Gerhardt would have
found his life hard indeed to bear.




CHAPTER XXVII


For three years now Lester had been happy in the companionship of
Jennie. Irregular as the connection might be in the eyes of the church
and of society, it had brought him peace and comfort, and he was
perfectly satisfied with the outcome of the experiment. His interest
in the social affairs of Cincinnati was now practically nil, and he
had consistently refused to consider any matrimonial proposition which
had himself as the object. He looked on his father's business
organization as offering a real chance for himself if he could get
control of it; but he saw no way of doing so. Robert's interests were
always in the way, and, if anything, the two brothers were farther
apart than ever in their ideas and aims. Lester had thought once or
twice of entering some other line of business or of allying himself
with another carriage company, but he did not feel that ha could
conscientiously do this. Lester had his salary--fifteen thousand
a year as secretary and treasurer of the company (his brother was
vice-president)--and about five thousand from some outside
investments. He had not been so lucky or so shrewd in speculation as
Robert had been; aside from the principal which yielded his five
thousand, he had nothing. Robert, on the other hand, was
unquestionably worth between three and four hundred thousand dollars,
in addition to his future interest in the business, which both
brothers shrewdly suspected would be divided somewhat in their favor.
Robert and Lester would get a fourth each, they thought; their sisters
a sixth. It seemed natural that Kane senior should take this view,
seeing that the brothers were actually in control and doing the work.
Still, there was no certainty. The old gentleman might do anything or
nothing. The probabilities were that he would be very fair and
liberal. At the same time, Robert was obviously beating Lester in the
game of life. What did Lester intend to do about it?

There comes a time in every thinking man's life when he pauses and
"takes stock" of his condition; when he asks himself how it fares with
his individuality as a whole, mental, moral, physical, material. This
time comes after the first heedless flights of youth have passed, when
the initiative and more powerful efforts have been made, and he begins
to feel the uncertainty of results and final values which attaches
itself to everything. There is a deadening thought of uselessness
which creeps into many men's minds--the thought which has been
best expressed by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes.

Yet Lester strove to be philosophical. "What difference does it
make?" he used to say to himself, "whether I live at the White House,
or here at home, or at the Grand Pacific?" But in the very question
was the implication that there were achievements in life which he had
failed to realize in his own career. The White House represented the
rise and success of a great public character. His home and the Grand
Pacific were what had come to him without effort.

He decided for the time being--it was about the period of the
death of Jennie's mother--that he would make some effort to
rehabilitate himself. He would cut out idling--these numerous
trips with Jennie had cost him considerable time. He would make some
outside investments. If his brother could find avenues of financial
profit, so could he. He would endeavor to assert his
authority--he would try to make himself of more importance in the
business, rather than let Robert gradually absorb everything. Should
he forsake Jennie?--that thought also, came to him. She had no
claim on him. She could make no protest. Somehow he did not see how it
could be done. It seemed cruel, useless; above all (though he disliked
to admit it) it would be uncomfortable for himself. He liked
her--loved her, perhaps, in a selfish way. He didn't see how he
could desert her very well.

Just at this time he had a really serious difference with Robert.
His brother wanted to sever relations with an old and well established
paint company in New York, which had manufactured paints especially
for the house, and invest in a new concern in Chicago, which was
growing and had a promising future. Lester, knowing the members of the
Eastern firm, their reliability, their long and friendly relations
with the house, was in opposition. His father at first seemed to agree
with Lester. But Robert argued out the question in his cold, logical
way, his blue eyes fixed uncompromisingly upon his brother's face. "We
can't go on forever," he said, "standing by old friends, just because
father here has dealt with them, or you like them. We must have a
change. The business must be stiffened up; we're going to have more
and stronger competition."

"It's just as father feels about it," said Lester at last. "I have
no deep feeling in the matter. It won't hurt me one way or the other.
You say the house is going to profit eventually. I've stated the
arguments on the other side."

"I'm inclined to think Robert is right," said Archibald Kane
calmly. "Most of the things he has suggested so far have worked
out."

Lester colored. "Well, we won't have any more discussion about it
then," he said. He rose and strolled out of the office.

The shock of this defeat, coming at a time when he was considering
pulling himself together, depressed Lester considerably. It wasn't
much but it was a straw, and his father's remark about his brother's
business acumen was even more irritating. He was beginning to wonder
whether his father would discriminate in any way in the distribution
of the property. Had he heard anything about his entanglement with
Jennie? Had he resented the long vacations he had taken from business?
It did not appear to Lester that he could be justly chargeable with
either incapacity or indifference, so far as the company was
concerned. He had done his work well. He was still the investigator of
propositions put up to the house, the student of contracts, the
trusted adviser of his father and mother--but he was being
worsted. Where would it end? He thought about this, but could reach no
conclusion.

Later in this same year Robert came forward with a plan for
reorganization in the executive department of the business. He
proposed that they should build an immense exhibition and storage
warehouse on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and transfer a portion of
their completed stock there. Chicago was more central than Cincinnati.
Buyers from the West and country merchants could be more easily
reached and dealt with there. It would be a big advertisement for the
house, a magnificent evidence of its standing and prosperity. Kane
senior and Lester immediately approved of this. Both saw its
advantages. Robert suggested that Lester should undertake the
construction of the new buildings. It would probably be advisable for
him to reside in Chicago a part of the time.

The idea appealed to Lester, even though it took him away from
Cincinnati, largely if not entirely. It was dignified and not
unrepresentative of his standing in the company. He could live in
Chicago and he could have Jennie with him. The scheme he had for
taking an apartment could now be arranged without difficulty. He voted
yes. Robert smiled. "I'm sure we'll get good results from this all
around," he said.

As construction work was soon to begin, Lester decided to move to
Chicago immediately. He sent word for Jennie to meet him, and together
they selected an apartment on the North Side, a very comfortable suite
of rooms on a side street near the lake, and he had it fitted up to
suit his taste. He figured that living in Chicago he could pose as a
bachelor. He would never need to invite his friends to his rooms.
There were his offices, where he could always be found, his clubs and
the hotels. To his way of thinking the arrangement was practically
ideal.

Of course Jennie's departure from Cleveland brought the affairs of
the Gerhardt family to a climax. Probably the home would be broken up,
but Gerhardt himself took the matter philosophically. He was an old
man, and it did not matter much where he lived. Bass, Martha, and
George were already taking care of themselves. Veronica and William
were still in school, but some provision could be made for boarding
them with a neighbor. The one real concern of Jennie and Gerhardt was
Vesta. It was Gerhardt's natural thought that Jennie must take the
child with her. What else should a mother do?

"Have you told him yet?" he asked her, when the day of her
contemplated departure had been set.

"No; but I'm going to soon," she assured him.

"Always soon," he said.

He shook his head. His throat swelled.

"It's too bad," he went on. "It's a great sin. God will punish you,
I'm afraid. The child needs some one. I'm getting old--otherwise
I would keep her. There is no one here all day now to look after her
right, as she should be." Again he shook his head.

"I know," said Jennie weakly. "I'm going to fix it now. I'm going
to have her live with me soon. I won't neglect her--you know
that."

"But the child's name," he insisted. "She should have a name. Soon
in another year she goes to school. People will want to know who she
is. It can't go on forever like this."

Jennie understood well enough that it couldn't. She was crazy about
her baby. The heaviest cross she had to bear was the constant
separations and the silence she was obliged to maintain about Vesta's
very existence. It did seem unfair to the child, and yet Jennie did
not see clearly how she could have acted otherwise. Vesta had good
clothes, everything she needed. She was at least comfortable. Jennie
hoped to give her a good education. If only she had told the truth to
Lester in the first place. Now it was almost too late, and yet she
felt that she had acted for the best. Finally she decided to find some
good woman or family in Chicago who would take charge of Vesta for a
consideration. In a Swedish colony to the west of La Salle Avenue she
came across an old lady who seemed to embody all the virtues she
required--cleanliness, simplicity, honesty. She was a widow,
doing work by the day, but she was glad to make an arrangement by
which she should give her whole time to Vesta. The latter was to go to
kindergarten when a suitable one should be found. She was to have toys
and kindly attention, and Mrs. Olsen was to inform Jennie of any
change in the child's health. Jennie proposed to call every day, and
she thought that sometimes, when Lester was out of town, Vesta might
be brought to the apartment. She had had her with her at Cleveland,
and he had never found out anything.

The arrangements completed, Jennie returned at the first
opportunity to Cleveland to take Vesta away. Gerhardt, who had been
brooding over his approaching loss, appeared most solicitous about her
future. "She should grow up to be a fine girl," he said. "You should
give her a good education--she is so smart." He spoke of the
advisability of sending her to a Lutheran school and church, but
Jennie was not so sure of that. Time and association with Lester had
led her to think that perhaps the public school was better than any
private institution. She had no particular objection to the church,
but she no longer depended upon its teachings as a guide in the
affairs of life. Why should she?

The next day it was necessary for Jennie to return to Chicago.
Vesta, excited and eager, was made ready for the journey. Gerhardt had
been wandering about, restless as a lost spirit, while the process of
dressing was going on; now that the hour had actually struck he was
doing his best to control his feelings. He could see that the
five-year-old child had no conception of what it meant to him. She was
happy and self-interested, chattering about the ride and the
train.

"Be a good little girl," he said, lifting her up and kissing her.
"See that you study your catechism and say your prayers. And you won't
forget the grandpa--what?--" He tried to go on, but his
voice failed him.

Jennie, whose heart ached for her father, choked back her emotion.
"There," she said, "if I'd thought you were going to act like
that--" She stopped.

"Go," said Gerhardt, manfully, "go. It is best this way." And he
stood solemnly by as they went out of the door. Then he turned back to
his favorite haunt, the kitchen, and stood there staring at the floor.
One by one they were leaving him--Mrs. Gerhardt, Bass, Martha,
Jennie, Vesta. He clasped his hands together, after his old-time
fashion, and shook his head again and again. "So it is! So it is!" he
repeated. "They all leave me. All my life goes to pieces."




CHAPTER XXVIII


During the three years in which Jennie and Lester had been
associated there had grown up between them a strong feeling of mutual
sympathy and understanding. Lester truly loved her in his own way. It
was a strong, self-satisfying, determined kind of way, based solidly
on a big natural foundation, but rising to a plane of genuine
spiritual affinity. The yielding sweetness of her character both
attracted and held him. She was true, and good, and womanly to the
very center of her being; he had learned to trust her, to depend upon
her, and the feeling had but deepened with the passing of the
years.

On her part Jennie had sincerely, deeply, truly learned to love
this man. At first when he had swept her off her feet, overawed her
soul, and used her necessity as a chain wherewith to bind her to him,
she was a little doubtful, a little afraid of him, although she had
always liked him. Now, however, by living with him, by knowing him
better, by watching his moods, she had come to love him. He was so
big, so vocal, so handsome. His point of view and opinions of anything
and everything were so positive. His pet motto, "Hew to the line, let
the chips fall where they may," had clung in her brain as something
immensely characteristic. Apparently he was not afraid of
anything--God, man, or devil. He used to look at her, holding her
chin between the thumb and fingers of his big brown hand, and say:
"You're sweet, all right, but you need courage and defiance. You
haven't enough of those things." And her eyes would meet his in dumb
appeal. "Never mind," he would add, "you have other things." And then
he would kiss her.

One of the most appealing things to Lester was the simple way in
which she tried to avoid exposure of her various social and
educational shortcomings. She could not write very well, and once he
found a list of words he had used written out on a piece of paper with
the meanings opposite. He smiled, but he liked her better for it.
Another time in the Southern hotel in St. Louis he watched her
pretending a loss of appetite because she thought that her lack of
table manners was being observed by nearby diners. She could not
always be sure of the right forks and knives, and the strange-looking
dishes bothered her; how did one eat asparagus and artichokes?

"Why don't you eat something?" he asked good-naturedly. "You're
hungry, aren't you?"

"Not very."

"You must be. Listen, Jennie. I know what it is. You mustn't feel
that way. Your manners are all right. I wouldn't bring you here if
they weren't. Your instincts are all right. Don't be uneasy. I'd tell
you quick enough when there was anything wrong." His brown eyes held a
friendly gleam.

She smiled gratefully. "I do feel a little nervous at times," she
admitted.

"Don't," he repeated. "You're all right. Don't worry. I'll show
you." And he did.

By degrees Jennie grew into an understanding of the usages and
customs of comfortable existence. All that the Gerhardt family had
ever had were the bare necessities of life. Now she was surrounded
with whatever she wanted--trunks, clothes, toilet articles, the
whole varied equipment of comfort--and while she liked it all, it
did not upset her sense of proportion and her sense of the fitness of
things. There was no element of vanity in her, only a sense of joy in
privilege and opportunity. She was grateful to Lester for all that he
had done and was doing for her. If only she could hold
him--always!

The details of getting Vesta established once adjusted, Jennie
settled down into the routine of home life. Lester, busy about his
multitudinous affairs, was in and out. He had a suite of rooms
reserved for himself at the Grand Pacific, which was then the
exclusive hotel of Chicago, and this was his ostensible residence. His
luncheon and evening appointments were kept at the Union Club. An
early patron of the telephone, he had one installed in the apartment,
so that he could reach Jennie quickly and at any time. He was home two
or three nights a week, sometimes oftener. He insisted at first on
Jennie having a girl of general housework, but acquiesced in the more
sensible arrangement which she suggested later of letting some one
come in to do the cleaning. She liked to work around her own home. Her
natural industry and love of order prompted this feeling.

Lester liked his breakfast promptly at eight in the morning. He
wanted dinner served nicely at seven. Silverware, cut glass, imported
china--all the little luxuries of life appealed to him. He kept
his trunks and wardrobe at the apartment.

During the first few months everything went smoothly. He was in the
habit of taking Jennie to the theater now and then, and if he chanced
to run across an acquaintance he always introduced her as Miss
Gerhardt. When he registered her as his wife it was usually under an
assumed name; where there was no danger of detection he did not mind
using his own signature. Thus far there had been no difficulty or
unpleasantness of any kind.

The trouble with this situation was that it was criss-crossed with
the danger and consequent worry which the deception in regard to Vesta
had entailed, as well as with Jennie's natural anxiety about her
father and the disorganized home. Jennie feared, as Veronica hinted,
that she and William would go to live with Martha, who was installed
in a boarding-house in Cleveland, and that Gerhardt would be left
alone. He was such a pathetic figure to her, with his injured hands
and his one ability--that of being a watchman--that she was
hurt to think of his being left alone. Would he come to her? She knew
that he would not--feeling as he did at present. Would Lester
have him--she was not sure of that. If he came Vesta would have
to be accounted for. So she worried.

The situation in regard to Vesta was really complicated. Owing to
the feeling that she was doing her daughter a great injustice, Jennie
was particularly sensitive in regard to her, anxious to do a thousand
things to make up for the one great duty that she could not perform.
She daily paid a visit to the home of Mrs. Olsen, always taking with
her toys, candy, or whatever came into her mind as being likely to
interest and please the child. She liked to sit with Vesta and tell
her stories of fairy and giant, which kept the little girl wide-eyed.
At last she went so far as to bring her to the apartment, when Lester
was away visiting his parents, and she soon found it possible, during
his several absences, to do this regularly. After that, as time went
on and she began to know his habits, she became more
bold--although bold is scarcely the word to use in connection
with Jennie. She became venturesome much as a mouse might; she would
risk Vesta's presence on the assurance of even short
absences--two or three days. She even got into the habit of
keeping a few of Vesta's toys at the apartment, so that she could have
something to play with when she came.

During these several visits from her child Jennie could not but
realize the lovely thing life would be were she only an honored wife
and a happy mother. Vesta was a most observant little girl. She could
by her innocent childish questions give a hundred turns to the dagger
of self-reproach which was already planted deeply in Jennie's
heart.

"Can I come to live with you?" was one of her simplest and most
frequently repeated questions. Jennie would reply that mamma could not
have her just yet, but that very soon now, just as soon as she
possibly could, Vesta should come to stay always.

"Don't you know just when?" Vesta would ask.

"No, dearest, not just when. Very soon now. You won't mind waiting
a little while. Don't you like Mrs. Olsen?"

"Yes," replied Vesta; "but then she ain't got any nice things now.
She's just got old things." And Jennie, stricken to the heart, would
take Vesta to the toy shop, and load her down with a new assortment of
playthings.

Of course Lester was not in the least suspicious. His observation
of things relating to the home were rather casual. He went about his
work and his pleasures believing Jennie to be the soul of sincerity
and good-natured service, and it never occurred to him that there was
anything underhanded in her actions. Once he did come home sick in the
afternoon and found her absent--an absence which endured from two
o'clock to five. He was a little irritated and grumbled on her return,
but his annoyance was as nothing to her astonishment and fright when
she found him there. She blanched at the thought of his suspecting
something, and explained as best she could. She had gone to see her
washerwoman. She was slow about her marketing. She didn't dream he was
there. She was sorry, too, that her absence had lost her an
opportunity to serve him. It showed her what a mess she was likely to
make of it all.

It happened that about three weeks after the above occurrence
Lester had occasion to return to Cincinnati for a week, and during
this time Jennie again brought Vesta to the flat; for four days there
was the happiest goings on between the mother and child.

Nothing would have come of this little reunion had it not been for
an oversight on Jennie's part, the far-reaching effects of which she
could only afterward regret. This was the leaving of a little toy lamb
under the large leather divan in the front room, where Lester was wont
to lie and smoke. A little bell held by a thread of blue ribbon was
fastened about its neck, and this tinkled feebly whenever it was
shaken. Vesta, with the unaccountable freakishness of children had
deliberately dropped it behind the divan, an action which Jennie did
not notice at the time. When she gathered up the various playthings
after Vesta's departure she overlooked it entirely, and there it
rested, its innocent eyes still staring upon the sunlit regions of
toyland, when Lester returned.

That same evening, when he was lying on the divan, quietly enjoying
his cigar and his newspaper, he chanced to drop the former, fully
lighted. Wishing to recover it before it should do any damage, he
leaned over and looked under the divan. The cigar was not in sight, so
he rose and pulled the lounge out, a move which revealed to him the
little lamb still standing where Vesta had dropped it. He picked it
up, turning it over and over, and wondering how it had come there.

A lamb! It must belong to some neighbor's child in whom Jennie had
taken an interest, he thought. He would have to go and tease her about
this.

Accordingly he held the toy jovially before him, and, coming out
into the dining-room, where Jennie was working at the sideboard, he
exclaimed in a mock solemn voice, "Where did this come from?"

Jennie, who was totally unconscious of the existence of this
evidence of her duplicity, turned, and was instantly possessed with
the idea that he had suspected all and was about to visit his just
wrath upon her. Instantly the blood flamed in her cheeks and as
quickly left them.

"Why, why!" she stuttered, "it's a little toy I bought."

"I see it is," he returned genially, her guilty tremor not escaping
his observation, but having at the same time no explicable
significance to him. "It's frisking around a mighty lone
sheepfold."

He touched the little bell at its throat, while Jennie stood there,
unable to speak. It tinkled feebly, and then he looked at her again.
His manner was so humorous that she could tell he suspected nothing.
However, it was almost impossible for her to recover her
self-possession.

"What's ailing you?" he asked.

"Nothing," she replied.

"You look as though a lamb was a terrible shock to you."

"I forgot to take it out from there, that was all," she went on
blindly.

"It looks as though it has been played with enough," he added more
seriously, and then seeing that the discussion was evidently painful
to her, he dropped it. The lamb had not furnished him the amusement
that he had expected.

Lester went back into the front room, stretched himself out and
thought it over. Why was she nervous? What was there about a toy to
make her grow pale? Surely there was no harm in her harboring some
youngster of the neighborhood when she was alone--having it come
in and play. Why should she be so nervous? He thought it over, but
could come to no conclusion.

Nothing more was said about the incident of the toy lamb. Time
might have wholly effaced the impression from Lester's memory had
nothing else intervened to arouse his suspicions; but a mishap of any
kind seems invariably to be linked with others which follow close upon
its heels.

One evening when Lester happened to be lingering about the flat
later than usual the door bell rang, and, Jennie being busy in the
kitchen, Lester went himself to open the door. He was greeted by a
middle-aged lady, who frowned very nervously upon him, and inquired in
broken Swedish accents for Jennie.

"Wait a moment," said Lester; and stepping to the rear door he
called her.

Jennie came, and seeing who the visitor was, she stepped nervously
out in the hall and closed the door after her. The action instantly
struck Lester as suspicious. He frowned and determined to inquire
thoroughly into the matter. A moment later Jennie reappeared. Her face
was white and her fingers seemed to be nervously seeking something to
seize upon.

"What's the trouble?" he inquired, the irritation he had felt the
moment before giving his voice a touch of gruffness.

"I've got to go out for a little while," she at last managed to
reply.

"Very well," he assented unwillingly. "But you can tell me what's
the trouble with you, can't you? Where do you have to go?"

"I--I," began Jennie, stammering. "I--have--"

"Yes," he said grimly.

"I have to go on an errand," she stumbled on. "I--I can't
wait. I'll tell you when I come back, Lester. Please don't ask me
now."

She looked vainly at him, her troubled countenance still marked by
preoccupation and anxiety to get away, and Lester, who had never seen
this look of intense responsibility in her before, was moved and
irritated by it.

"That's all right," he said, "but what's the use of all this
secrecy? Why can't you come out and tell what's the matter with you?
What's the use of this whispering behind doors? Where do you have to
go?"

He paused, checked by his own harshness, and Jennie, who was
intensely wrought up by the information she had received, as well as
the unwonted verbal castigation she was now enduring, rose to an
emotional state never reached by her before.

"I will, Lester, I will," she exclaimed. "Only not now. I haven't
time. I'll tell you everything when I come back. Please don't stop me
now."

She hurried to the adjoining chamber to get her wraps, and Lester,
who had even yet no clear conception of what it all meant, followed
her stubbornly to the door.

"See here," he exclaimed in his vigorous, brutal way, "you're not
acting right. What's the matter with you? I want to know."

He stood in the doorway, his whole frame exhibiting the pugnacity
and settled determination of a man who is bound to be obeyed. Jennie,
troubled and driven to bay, turned at last.

"It's my child, Lester," she exclaimed. "It's dying. I haven't time
to talk. Oh, please don't stop me. I'll tell you everything when I
come back."

"Your child!" he exclaimed. "What the hell are you talking
about?"

"I couldn't help it," she returned. "I was afraid--I should
have told you long ago. I meant to only--only--Oh, let me go
now, and I'll tell you all when I come back!"

He stared at her in amazement; then he stepped aside, unwilling to
force her any further for the present. "Well, go ahead," he said
quietly. "Don't you want some one to go along with you?"

"No," she replied. "Mrs. Olsen is right here. I'll go with
her."

She hurried forth, white-faced, and he stood there, pondering.
Could this be the woman he had thought he knew? Why, she had been
deceiving him for years. Jennie! The white-faced! The simple!

He choked a little as he muttered:

"Well, I'll be damned!"




CHAPTER XXIX


The reason why Jennie had been called was nothing more than one of
those infantile seizures the coming and result of which no man can
predict two hours beforehand. Vesta had been seriously taken with
membranous croup only a few hours before, and the development since
had been so rapid that the poor old Swedish mother was half frightened
to death herself, and hastily despatched a neighbor to say that Vesta
was very ill and Mrs. Kane was to come at once. This message,
delivered as it was in a very nervous manner by one whose only object
was to bring her, had induced the soul-racking fear of death in Jennie
and caused her to brave the discovery of Lester in the manner
described. Jennie hurried on anxiously, her one thought being to reach
her child before the arm of death could interfere and snatch it from
her, her mind weighed upon by a legion of fears. What if it should
already be too late when she got there; what if Vesta already should
be no more. Instinctively she quickened her pace and as the street
lamps came and receded in the gloom she forgot all the sting of
Lester's words, all fear that he might turn her out and leave her
alone in a great city with a little child to care for, and remembered
only the fact that her Vesta was very ill, possibly dying, and that
she was the direct cause of the child's absence from her; that perhaps
but for the want of her care and attention Vesta might be well
to-night.

"If I can only get there," she kept saying to herself; and then,
with that frantic unreason which is the chief characteristic of the
instinct-driven mother: "I might have known that God would punish me
for my unnatural conduct. I might have known--I might have
known."

When she reached the gate she fairly sped up the little walk and
into the house, where Vesta was lying pale, quiet, and weak, but
considerably better. Several Swedish neighbors and a middle-aged
physician were in attendance, all of whom looked at her curiously as
she dropped beside the child's bed and spoke to her.

Jennie's mind had been made up. She had sinned, and sinned
grievously, against her daughter, but now she would make amends so far
as possible. Lester was very dear to her, but she would no longer
attempt to deceive him in anything, even if he left her--she felt
an agonized stab, a pain at the thought--she must still do the
one right thing. Vesta must not be an outcast any longer. Her mother
must give her a home. Where Jennie was, there must Vesta be.

Sitting by the bedside in this humble Swedish cottage, Jennie
realized the fruitlessness of her deception, the trouble and pain it
had created in her home, the months of suffering it had given her with
Lester, the agony it had heaped upon her this night--and to what
end? The truth had been discovered anyhow. She sat there and
meditated, not knowing what next was to happen, while Vesta quieted
down, and then went soundly to sleep.

Lester, after recovering from the first heavy import of this
discovery, asked himself some perfectly natural questions. "Who was
the father of the child? How old was it? How did it chance to be in
Chicago, and who was taking care of it?" He could ask, but he could
not answer; he knew absolutely nothing.

Curiously, now, as he thought, his first meeting with Jennie at
Mrs. Bracebridge's came back to him. What was it about her then that
had attracted him? What made him think, after a few hours'
observation, that he could seduce her to do his will? What was
it--moral looseness, or weakness, or what? There must have been
art in the sorry affair, the practised art of the cheat, and, in
deceiving such a confiding nature as his, she had done even more than
practise deception--she had been ungrateful.

Now the quality of ingratitude was a very objectionable thing to
Lester--the last and most offensive trait of a debased nature,
and to be able to discover a trace of it in Jennie was very
disturbing. It is true that she had not exhibited it in any other way
before--quite to the contrary--but nevertheless he saw
strong evidences of it now, and it made him very bitter in his feeling
toward her. How could she be guilty of any such conduct toward him?
Had he not picked her up out of nothing, so to speak, and befriended
her?

He moved from his chair in this silent room and began to pace
slowly to and fro, the weightiness of this subject exercising to the
full his power of decision. She was guilty of a misdeed which he felt
able to condemn. The original concealment was evil; the continued
deception more. Lastly, there was the thought that her love after all
had been divided, part for him, part for the child, a discovery which
no man in his position could contemplate with serenity. He moved
irritably as he thought of it, shoved his hands in his pockets and
walked to and fro across the floor.

That a man of Lester's temperament should consider himself wronged
by Jennie merely because she had concealed a child whose existence was
due to conduct no more irregular than was involved later in the
yielding of herself to him was an example of those inexplicable
perversions of judgment to which the human mind, in its capacity of
keeper of the honor of others, seems permanently committed. Lester,
aside from his own personal conduct (for men seldom judge with that in
the balance), had faith in the ideal that a woman should reveal
herself completely to the one man with whom she is in love; and the
fact that she had not done so was a grief to him. He had asked her
once tentatively about her past. She begged him not to press her. That
was the time she should have spoken of any child. Now--he shook
his head.

His first impulse, after he had thought the thing over, was to walk
out and leave her. At the same time he was curious to hear the end of
this business. He did put on his hat and coat, however, and went out,
stopping at the first convenient saloon to get a drink. He took a car
and went down to the club, strolling about the different rooms and
chatting with several people whom he encountered. He was restless and
irritated; and finally, after three hours of meditation, he took a cab
and returned to his apartment.

The distraught Jennie, sitting by her sleeping child, was at last
made to realize, by its peaceful breathing that all danger was over.
There was nothing more that she could do for Vesta, and now the claims
of the home that she had deserted began to reassert themselves, the
promise to Lester and the need of being loyal to her duties unto the
very end. Lester might possibly be waiting for her. It was just
probable that he wished to hear the remainder of her story before
breaking with her entirely. Although anguished and frightened by the
certainty, as she deemed it, of his forsaking her, she nevertheless
felt that it was no more than she deserved--a just punishment for
all her misdoings.

When Jennie arrived at the flat it was after eleven, and the hall
light was already out. She first tried the door, and then inserted her
key. No one stirred, however, and, opening the door, she entered in
the expectation of seeing Lester sternly confronting her. He was not
there, however. The burning gas had merely been an oversight on his
part. She glanced quickly about, but seeing only the empty room, she
came instantly to the other conclusion, that he had forsaken
her--and so stood there, a meditative, helpless figure.

"Gone!" she thought.

At this moment his footsteps sounded on the stairs. He came in with
his derby hat pulled low over his broad forehead, close to his sandy
eyebrows, and with his overcoat buttoned up closely about his neck. He
took off the coat without looking at Jennie and hung it on the rack.
Then he deliberately took off his hat and hung that up also. When he
was through he turned to where she was watching him with wide
eyes.

"I want to know about this thing now from beginning to end," he
began. "Whose child is that?"

Jennie wavered a moment, as one who might be going to take a leap
in the dark, then opened her lips mechanically and confessed:

"It's Senator Brander's."

"Senator Brander!" echoed Lester, the familiar name of the dead but
still famous statesman ringing with shocking and unexpected force in
his ears. "How did you come to know him?"

"We used to do his washing for him," she rejoined simply--"my
mother and I."

Lester paused, the baldness of the statements issuing from her
sobering even his rancorous mood. "Senator Brander's child," he
thought to himself. So that great representative of the interests of
the common people was the undoer of her--a self-confessed
washerwoman's daughter. A fine tragedy of low life all this was.

"How long ago was this?" he demanded, his face the picture of a
darkling mood.

"It's been nearly six years now," she returned.

He calculated the time that had elapsed since he had known her, and
then continued:

"How old is the child?"

"She's a little over five."

Lester moved a little. The need for serious thought made his tone
more peremptory but less bitter.

"Where have you been keeping her all this time?"

"She was at home until you went to Cincinnati last spring. I went
down and brought her then."

"Was she there the times I came to Cleveland?"

"Yes," said Jennie; "but I didn't let her come out anywhere where
you could see her."

"I thought you said you told your people that you were married," he
exclaimed, wondering how this relationship of the child to the family
could have been adjusted.

"I did," she replied, "but I didn't want to tell you about her.
They thought all the time I intended to."

"Well, why didn't you?"

"Because I was afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"I didn't know what was going to become of me when I went with you,
Lester. I didn't want to do her any harm if I could help it. I was
ashamed, afterward; when you said you didn't like children I was
afraid."

"Afraid I'd leave you?"

"Yes."

He stopped, the simplicity of her answers removing a part of the
suspicion of artful duplicity which had originally weighed upon him.
After all, there was not so much of that in it as mere wretchedness of
circumstance and cowardice of morals. What a family she must have!
What queer non-moral natures they must have to have brooked any such a
combination of affairs!

"Didn't you know that you'd be found out in the long run?" he at
last demanded. "Surely you might have seen that you couldn't raise her
that way. Why didn't you tell me in the first place? I wouldn't have
thought anything of it then."

"I know," she said. "I wanted to protect her."

"Where is she now?" he asked.

Jennie explained.

She stood there, the contradictory aspect of these questions and of
his attitude puzzling even herself. She did try to explain them after
a time, but all Lester could gain was that she had blundered along
without any artifice at all--a condition that was so manifest
that, had he been in any other position than that he was, he might
have pitied her. As it was, the revelation concerning Brander was
hanging over him, and he finally returned to that.

"You say your mother used to do washing for him. How did you come
to get in with him?"

Jennie, who until now had borne his questions with unmoving pain,
winced at this. He was now encroaching upon the period that was by far
the most distressing memory of her life. What he had just asked seemed
to be a demand upon her to make everything clear.

"I was so young, Lester," she pleaded. "I was only eighteen. I
didn't know. I used to go to the hotel where he was stopping and get
his laundry, and at the end of the week I'd take it to him again."

She paused, and as he took a chair, looking as if he expected to
hear the whole story, she continued: "We were so poor. He used to give
me money to give to my mother. I didn't know."

She paused again, totally unable to go on, and he, seeing that it
would be impossible for her to explain without prompting, took up his
questioning again--eliciting by degrees the whole pitiful story.
Brander had intended to marry her. He had written to her, but before
he could come to her he died.

The confession was complete. It was followed by a period of five
minutes, in which Lester said nothing at all; he put his arm on the
mantel and stared at the wall, while Jennie waited, not knowing what
would follow--not wishing to make a single plea. The clock ticked
audibly. Lester's face betrayed no sign of either thought or feeling.
He was now quite calm, quite sober, wondering what he should do.
Jennie was before him as the criminal at the bar. He, the righteous,
the moral, the pure of heart, was in the judgment seat. Now to
sentence her--to make up his mind what course of action he should
pursue.

It was a disagreeable tangle, to be sure, something that a man of
his position and wealth really ought not to have anything to do with.
This child, the actuality of it, put an almost unbearable face upon
the whole matter--and yet he was not quite prepared to speak. He
turned after a time, the silvery tinkle of the French clock on the
mantel striking three and causing him to become aware of Jennie, pale,
uncertain, still standing as she had stood all this while.

"Better go to bed," he said at last, and fell again to pondering
this difficult problem.

But Jennie continued to stand there wide-eyed, expectant, ready to
hear at any moment his decision as to her fate. She waited in vain,
however. After a long time of musing he turned and went to the
clothes-rack near the door.

"Better go to bed," he said, indifferently. "I'm going out."

She turned instinctively, feeling that even in this crisis there
was some little service that she might render, but he did not see her.
He went out, vouchsafing no further speech.

She looked after him, and as his footsteps sounded on the stair she
felt as if she were doomed and hearing her own death-knell. What had
she done? What would he do now? She stood there a dissonance of
despair, and when the lower door clicked moved her hand out of the
agony of her suppressed hopelessness.

"Gone!" she thought. "Gone!"

In the light of a late dawn she was still sitting there pondering,
her state far too urgent for idle tears.




CHAPTER XXX


The sullen, philosophic Lester was not so determined upon his
future course of action as he appeared to be. Stern as was his mood,
he did not see, after all, exactly what grounds he had for complaint.
And yet the child's existence complicated matters considerably. He did
not like to see the evidence of Jennie's previous misdeeds walking
about in the shape of a human being; but, as a matter of fact, he
admitted to himself that long ago he might have forced Jennie's story
out of her if he had gone about it in earnest. She would not have
lied, he knew that. At the very outset he might have demanded the
history of her past. He had not done so; well, now it was too late.
The one thing it did fix in his mind was that it would be useless to
ever think of marrying her. It couldn't be done, not by a man in his
position. The best solution of the problem was to make reasonable
provision for Jennie and then leave her. He went to his hotel with his
mind made up, but he did not actually say to himself that he would do
it at once.

It is an easy thing for a man to theorize in a situation of this
kind, quite another to act. Our comforts, appetites and passions grow
with usage, and Jennie was not only a comfort, but an appetite, with
him. Almost four years of constant association had taught him so much
about her and himself that he was not prepared to let go easily or
quickly. It was too much of a wrench. He could think of it bustling
about the work of a great organization during the daytime, but when
night came it was a different matter. He could be lonely, too, he
discovered much to his surprise, and it disturbed him.

One of the things that interested him in this situation was
Jennie's early theory that the intermingling of Vesta with him and her
in this new relationship would injure the child. Just how did she come
by that feeling, he wanted to know? His place in the world was better
than hers, yet it dawned on him after a time that there might have
been something in her point of view. She did not know who he was or
what he would do with her. He might leave her shortly. Being
uncertain, she wished to protect her baby. That wasn't so bad. Then
again, he was curious to know what the child was like. The daughter of
a man like Senator Brander might be somewhat of an infant. He was a
brilliant man and Jennie was a charming woman. He thought of this,
and, while it irritated him, it aroused his curiosity. He ought to go
back and see the child--he was really entitled to a view of
it--but he hesitated because of his own attitude in the
beginning. It seemed to him that he really ought to quit, and here he
was parleying with himself.

The truth was that he couldn't. These years of living with Jennie
had made him curiously dependent upon her. Who had ever been so close
to him before? His mother loved him, but her attitude toward him had
not so much to do with real love as with ambition. His
father--well, his father was a man, like himself. All of his
sisters were distinctly wrapped up in their own affairs; Robert and he
were temperamentally uncongenial. With Jennie he had really been
happy, he had truly lived. She was necessary to him; the longer he
stayed away from her the more he wanted her. He finally decided to
have a straight-out talk with her, to arrive at some sort of
understanding. She ought to get the child and take care of it. She
must understand that he might eventually want to quit. She ought to be
made to feel that a definite change had taken place, though no
immediate break might occur. That same evening he went out to the
apartment. Jennie heard him enter, and her heart began to flutter.
Then she took her courage in both hands, and went to meet him.

"There's just one thing to be done about this as far as I can see,"
began Lester, with characteristic directness.

"Get the child and bring her here where you can take care of her.
There's no use leaving her in the hands of strangers."

"I will, Lester," said Jennie submissively. "I always wanted
to."

"Very well, then, you'd better do it at once." He took an evening
newspaper out of his pocket and strolled toward one of the front
windows; then he turned to her. "You and I might as well understand
each other, Jennie," he went on. "I can see how this thing came about.
It was a piece of foolishness on my part not to have asked you before,
and made you tell me. It was silly for you to conceal it, even if you
didn't want the child's life mixed with mine. You might have known
that it couldn't be done. That's neither here nor there, though, now.
The thing that I want to point out is that one can't live and hold a
relationship such as ours without confidence. You and I had that, I
thought. I don't see my way clear to ever hold more than a tentative
relationship with you on this basis. The thing is too tangled. There's
too much cause for scandal."

"I know," said Jennie.

"Now, I don't propose to do anything hasty. For my part I don't see
why things can't go on about as they are--certainly for the
present--but I want you to look the facts in the face."

Jennie sighed. "I know, Lester," she said, "I know."

He went to the window and stared out. There were some trees in the
yard, where the darkness was settling. He wondered how this would
really come out, for he liked a home atmosphere. Should he leave the
apartment and go to his club?

"You'd better get the dinner," he suggested, after a time, turning
toward her irritably; but he did not feel so distant as he looked. It
was a shame that life could not be more decently organized. He
strolled back to his lounge, and Jennie went about her duties. She was
thinking of Vesta, of her ungrateful attitude toward Lester, of his
final decision never to marry her. So that was how one dream had been
wrecked by folly.

She spread the table, lighted the pretty silver candles, made his
favorite biscuit, put a small leg of lamb in the oven to roast, and
washed some lettuce-leaves for a salad. She had been a diligent
student of a cook-book for some time, and she had learned a good deal
from her mother. All the time she was wondering how the situation
would work out. He would leave her eventually--no doubt of that.
He would go away and marry some one else.

"Oh, well," she thought finally, "he is not going to leave me right
away--that is something. And I can bring Vesta here." She sighed
as she carried the things to the table. If life would only give her
Lester and Vesta together--but that hope was over.




CHAPTER XXXI


There was peace and quiet for some time after this storm. Jennie
went the next day and brought Vesta away with her. The joy of the
reunion between mother and child made up for many other worries. "Now
I can do by her as I ought," she thought; and three or four times
during the day she found herself humming a little song.

Lester came only occasionally at first. He was trying to make
himself believe that he ought to do something toward reforming his
life--toward bringing about that eventual separation which he had
suggested. He did not like the idea of a child being in this
apartment--particularly that particular child. He fought his way
through a period of calculated neglect, and then began to return to
the apartment more regularly. In spite of all its drawbacks, it was a
place of quiet, peace, and very notable personal comfort.

During the first days of Lester's return it was difficult for
Jennie to adjust matters so as to keep the playful, nervous, almost
uncontrollable child from annoying the staid, emphatic,
commercial-minded man. Jennie gave Vesta a severe talking to the first
night Lester telephoned that he was coming, telling her that he was a
very bad-tempered man who didn't like children, and that she mustn't
go near him. "You mustn't talk," she said. "You mustn't ask questions.
Let mamma ask you what you want. And don't reach, ever."

Vesta agreed solemnly, but her childish mind hardly grasped the
full significance of the warning.

Lester came at seven. Jennie, who had taken great pains to array
Vesta as attractively as possible, had gone into her bedroom to give
her own toilet a last touch. Vesta was supposedly in the kitchen. As a
matter of fact, she had followed her mother to the door of the
sitting-room, where now she could be plainly seen. Lester hung up his
hat and coat, then, turning, he caught his first glimpse. The child
looked very sweet--he admitted that at a glance. She was arrayed
in a blue-dotted, white flannel dress, with a soft roll collar and
cuffs, and the costume was completed by white stockings and shoes. Her
corn-colored ringlets hung gaily about her face. Blue eyes, rosy lips,
rosy cheeks completed the picture. Lester stared, almost inclined to
say something, but restrained himself. Vesta shyly retreated.

When Jennie came out he commented on the fact that Vesta had
arrived. "Rather sweet-looking child," he said. "Do you have much
trouble in making her mind?"

"Not much," she returned.

Jennie went on to the dining-room, and Lester overheard a scrap of
their conversation.

"Who are he?" asked Vesta.

"Sh! That's your Uncle Lester. Didn't I tell you you mustn't
talk?"

"Are he your uncle?"

"No, dear. Don't talk now. Run into the kitchen."

"Are he only my uncle?"

"Yes. Now run along."

"All right."

In spite of himself Lester had to smile.

What might have followed if the child had been homely, misshapen,
peevish, or all three, can scarcely be conjectured. Had Jennie been
less tactful, even in the beginning, he might have obtained a
disagreeable impression. As it was, the natural beauty of the child,
combined with the mother's gentle diplomacy in keeping her in the
background, served to give him that fleeting glimpse of innocence and
youth which is always pleasant. The thought struck him that Jennie had
been the mother of a child all these years; she had been separated
from it for months at a time; she had never even hinted at its
existence, and yet her affection for Vesta was obviously great. "It's
queer," he said. "She's a peculiar woman."

One morning Lester was sitting in the parlor reading his paper when
he thought he heard something stir. He turned, and was surprised to
see a large blue eye fixed upon him through the crack of a neighboring
door--the effect was most disconcerting. It was not like the
ordinary eye, which, under such embarrassing circumstances, would have
been immediately withdrawn; it kept its position with deliberate
boldness. He turned his paper solemnly and looked again. There was the
eye. He turned it again. Still was the eye present. He crossed his
legs and looked again. Now the eye was gone.

This little episode, unimportant in itself, was yet informed with
the saving grace of comedy, a thing to which Lester was especially
responsive. Although not in the least inclined to relax his attitude
of aloofness, he found his mind, in the minutest degree, tickled by
the mysterious appearance; the corners of his mouth were animated by a
desire to turn up. He did not give way to the feeling, and stuck by
his paper, but the incident remained very clearly in his mind. The
young wayfarer had made her first really important impression upon
him.

Not long after this Lester was sitting one morning at breakfast,
calmly eating his chop and conning his newspaper, when he was aroused
by another visitation--this time not quite so simple. Jennie had
given Vesta her breakfast, and set her to amuse herself alone until
Lester should leave the house. Jennie was seated at the table, pouring
out the coffee, when Vesta suddenly appeared, very business-like in
manner, and marched through the room. Lester looked up, and Jennie
colored and arose.

"What is it, Vesta?" she inquired, following her.

By this time, however, Vesta had reached the kitchen, secured a
little broom, and returned, a droll determination lighting her
face.

"I want my little broom," she exclaimed and marched sedately past,
at which manifestation of spirit Lester again twitched internally,
this time allowing the slightest suggestion of a smile to play across
his mouth.

The final effect of this intercourse was gradually to break down
the feeling of distaste Lester had for the child, and to establish in
its place a sort of tolerant recognition of her possibilities as a
human being.

The developments of the next six months were of a kind to further
relax the strain of opposition which still existed in Lester's mind.
Although not at all resigned to the somewhat tainted atmosphere in
which he was living, he yet found himself so comfortable that he could
not persuade himself to give it up. It was too much like a bed of
down. Jennie was too worshipful. The condition of unquestioned
liberty, so far as all his old social relationships were concerned,
coupled with the privilege of quiet, simplicity, and affection in the
home was too inviting. He lingered on, and began to feel that perhaps
it would be just as well to let matters rest as they were.

During this period his friendly relations with the little Vesta
insensibly strengthened. He discovered that there was a real flavor of
humor about Vesta's doings, and so came to watch for its development.
She was forever doing something interesting, and although Jennie
watched over her with a care that was in itself a revelation to him,
nevertheless Vesta managed to elude every effort to suppress her and
came straight home with her remarks. Once, for example, she was sawing
away at a small piece of meat upon her large plate with her big knife,
when Lester remarked to Jennie that it might be advisable to get her a
little breakfast set.

"She can hardly handle these knives."

"Yes," said Vesta instantly. "I need a little knife. My hand is
just so very little."

She held it up. Jennie, who never could tell what was to follow,
reached over and put it down, while Lester with difficulty restrained
a desire to laugh.

Another morning, not long after, she was watching Jennie put the
lumps of sugar in Lester's cup, when she broke in with, "I want two
lumps in mine, mamma."

"No, dearest," replied Jennie, "you don't need any in yours. You
have milk to drink."

"Uncle Lester has two," she protested.

"Yes," returned Jennie; "but you're only a little girl. Besides you
mustn't say anything like that at the table. It isn't nice."

"Uncle Lester eats too much sugar," was her immediate rejoinder, at
which that fine gourmet smiled broadly.

"I don't know about that," he put in, for the first time deigning
to answer her directly. "That sounds like the fox and grapes to me."
Vesta smiled back at him, and now that the ice was broken she
chattered on unrestrainedly. One thing led to another, and at last
Lester felt as though, in a way, the little girl belonged to him; he
was willing even that she should share in such opportunities as his
position and wealth might make possible--provided, of course,
that he stayed with Jennie, and that they worked out some arrangement
which would not put him hopelessly out of touch with the world which
was back of him, and which he had to keep constantly in mind.




CHAPTER XXXII


The following spring the show-rooms and warehouse were completed,
and Lester removed his office to the new building. Heretofore, he had
been transacting all his business affairs at the Grand Pacific and the
club. From now on he felt himself to be firmly established in
Chicago--as if that was to be his future home. A large number of
details were thrown upon him--the control of a considerable
office force, and the handling of various important transactions. It
took away from him the need of traveling, that duty going to Amy's
husband, under the direction of Robert. The latter was doing his best
to push his personal interests, not only through the influence he was
bringing to bear upon his sisters, but through his reorganization of
the factory. Several men whom Lester was personally fond of were in
danger of elimination. But Lester did not hear of this, and Kane
senior was inclined to give Robert a free hand. Age was telling on
him. He was glad to see some one with a strong policy come up and take
charge. Lester did not seem to mind. Apparently he and Robert were on
better terms than ever before.

Matters might have gone on smoothly enough were it not for the fact
that Lester's private life with Jennie was not a matter which could be
permanently kept under cover. At times he was seen driving with her by
people who knew him in a social and commercial way. He was for
brazening it out on the ground that he was a single man, and at
liberty to associate with anybody he pleased. Jennie might be any
young woman of good family in whom he was interested. He did not
propose to introduce her to anybody if he could help it, and he always
made it a point to be a fast traveler in driving, in order that others
might not attempt to detain and talk to him. At the theater, as has
been said, she was simply "Miss Gerhardt."

The trouble was that many of his friends were also keen observers
of life. They had no quarrel to pick with Lester's conduct. Only he
had been seen in other cities, in times past, with this same woman.
She must be some one whom he was maintaining irregularly. Well, what
of it? Wealth and youthful spirits must have their fling. Rumors came
to Robert, who, however, kept his own counsel. If Lester wanted to do
this sort of thing, well and good. But there must come a time when
there would be a show-down.

This came about in one form about a year and a half after Lester
and Jennie had been living in the north side apartment. It so happened
that, during a stretch of inclement weather in the fall, Lester was
seized with a mild form of grip. When he felt the first symptoms he
thought that his indisposition would be a matter of short duration,
and tried to overcome it by taking a hot bath and a liberal dose of
quinine. But the infection was stronger than he counted on; by morning
he was flat on his back, with a severe fever and a splitting
headache.

His long period of association with Jennie had made him incautious.
Policy would have dictated that he should betake himself to his hotel
and endure his sickness alone. As a matter of fact, he was very glad
to be in the house with her. He had to call up the office to say that
he was indisposed and would not be down for a day or so; then he
yielded himself comfortably to her patient ministrations.

Jennie, of course, was delighted to have Lester with her, sick or
well. She persuaded him to see a doctor and have him prescribe. She
brought him potions of hot lemonade, and bathed his face and hands in
cold water over and over. Later, when he was recovering, she made him
appetizing cups of beef-tea or gruel.

It was during this illness that the first real contretemps
occurred. Lester's sister Louise, who had been visiting friends in St.
Paul, and who had written him that she might stop off to see him on
her way, decided upon an earlier return than she had originally
planned. While Lester was sick at his apartment she arrived in
Chicago. Calling up the office, and finding that he was not there and
would not be down for several days, she asked where he could be
reached.

"I think he is at his rooms in the Grand Pacific," said an
incautious secretary. "He's not feeling well." Louise, a little
disturbed, telephoned to the Grand Pacific, and was told that Mr. Kane
had not been there for several days--did not, as a matter of
fact, occupy his rooms more than one or two days a week. Piqued by
this, she telephoned his club.

It so happened that at the club there was a telephone boy who had
called up the apartment a number of times for Lester himself. He had
not been cautioned not to give its number--as a matter of fact,
it had never been asked for by any one else. When Louise stated that
she was Lester's sister, and was anxious to find him, the boy replied,
"I think he lives at 19 Schiller Place."

"Whose address is that you're giving?" inquired a passing
clerk.

"Mr. Kane's."

"Well, don't be giving out addresses. Don't you know that yet?"

The boy apologized, but Louise had hung up the receiver and was
gone.

About an hour later, curious as to this third residence of her
brother, Louise arrived at Schiller Place. Ascending the
steps--it was a two-apartment house--she saw the name of
Kane on the door leading to the second floor. Ringing the bell, she
was opened to by Jennie, who was surprised to see so fashionably
attired a young woman.

"This is Mr. Kane's apartment, I believe," began Louise,
condescendingly, as she looked in at the open door behind Jennie. She
was a little surprised to meet a young woman, but her suspicions were
as yet only vaguely aroused.

"Yes," replied Jennie.

"He's sick, I believe. I'm his sister. May I come in?"

Jennie, had she had time to collect her thoughts, would have tried
to make some excuse, but Louise, with the audacity of her birth and
station, swept past before Jennie could say a word. Once inside Louise
looked about her inquiringly. She found herself in the sitting-room,
which gave into the bedroom where Lester was lying. Vesta happened to
be playing in one corner of the room, and stood up to eye the
new-comer. The open bedroom showed Lester quite plainly lying in bed,
a window to the left of him, his eyes closed.

"Oh, there you are, old fellow!" exclaimed Louise. "What's ailing
you?" she hurried on.

Lester, who at the sound of her voice had opened his eyes, realized
in an instant how things were. He pulled himself up on one elbow, but
words failed him.

"Why, hello, Louise," he finally forced himself to say. "Where did
you come from?"

"St. Paul. I came back sooner than I thought," she answered lamely,
a sense of something wrong irritating her. "I had a hard time finding
you, too. Who's your--" she was about to say "pretty
housekeeper," but turned to find Jennie dazedly gathering up certain
articles in the adjoining room and looking dreadfully distraught.

Lester cleared his throat hopelessly.

His sister swept the place with an observing eye. It took in the
home atmosphere, which was both pleasing and suggestive. There was a
dress of Jennie's lying across a chair, in a familiar way, which
caused Miss Kane to draw herself up warily. She looked at her brother,
who had a rather curious expression in his eyes--he seemed
slightly nonplussed, but cool and defiant.

"You shouldn't have come out here," said Lester finally, before
Louise could give vent to the rising question in her mind.

"Why shouldn't I?" she exclaimed, angered at the brazen confession.
"You're my brother, aren't you? Why should you have any place that I
couldn't come. Well, I like that--and from you to me."

"Listen, Louise," went on Lester, drawing himself up further on one
elbow. "You know as much about life as I do. There is no need of our
getting into an argument. I didn't know you were coming, or I would
have made other arrangements."

"Other arrangements, indeed," she sneered. "I should think as much.
The idea!"

She was greatly irritated to think that she had fallen into this
trap; it was really disgraceful of Lester.

"I wouldn't be so haughty about it," he declared, his color rising.
"I'm not apologizing to you for my conduct. I'm saying I would have
made other arrangements, which is a very different thing from begging
your pardon. If you don't want to be civil, you needn't."

"Why, Lester Kane!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flaming. "I thought
better of you, honestly I did. I should think you would be ashamed of
yourself living here in open--" she paused without using the
word--"and our friends scattered all over the city. It's
terrible! I thought you had more sense of decency and
consideration."

"Decency nothing," he flared. "I tell you I'm not apologizing to
you. If you don't like this you know what you can do."

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "This from my own brother! And for the sake of
that creature! Whose child is that?" she demanded, savagely and yet
curiously.

"Never mind, it's not mine. If it were it wouldn't make any
difference. I wish you wouldn't busy yourself about my affairs."

Jennie, who had been moving about the dining-room beyond the
sitting-room, heard the cutting references to herself. She winced with
pain.

"Don't flatter yourself. I won't any more," retorted Louise. "I
should think, though, that you, of all men, would be above anything
like this--and that with a woman so obviously beneath you. Why, I
thought she was--" she was again going to add "your housekeeper,"
but she was interrupted by Lester, who was angry to the point of
brutality.

"Never mind what you thought she was," he growled. "She's better
than some who do the so-called superior thinking. I know what you
think. It's neither here nor there, I tell you. I'm doing this, and I
don't care what you think. I have to take the blame. Don't bother
about me."

"Well, I won't, I assure you," she flung back. "It's quite plain
that your family means nothing to you. But if you had any sense of
decency, Lester Kane, you would never let your sister be trapped into
coming into a place like this. I'm disgusted, that's all, and so will
the others be when they hear of it."

She turned on her heel and walked scornfully out, a withering look
being reserved for Jennie, who had unfortunately stepped near the door
of the dining-room. Vesta had disappeared. Jennie came in a little
while later and closed the door. She knew of nothing to say. Lester,
his thick hair pushed back from his vigorous face, leaned back moodily
on his pillow. "What a devilish trick of fortune," he thought. Now she
would go home and tell it to the family. His father would know, and
his mother. Robert, Imogene, Amy all would hear. He would have no
explanation to make--she had seen. He stared at the wall
meditatively.

Meanwhile Jennie, moving about her duties, also found food for
reflection. So this was her real position in another woman's eyes. Now
she could see what the world thought. This family was as aloof from
her as if it lived on another planet. To his sisters and brothers, his
father and mother, she was a bad woman, a creature far beneath him
socially, far beneath him mentally and morally, a creature of the
streets. And she had hoped somehow to rehabilitate herself in the eyes
of the world. It cut her as nothing before had ever done. The thought
tore a great, gaping wound in her sensibilities. She was really low
and vile in her--Louise's--eyes, in the world's eyes,
basically so in Lester's eyes. How could it be otherwise? She went
about numb and still, but the ache of defeat and disgrace was under it
all. Oh, if she could only see some way to make herself right with the
world, to live honorably, to be decent. How could that possibly be
brought about? It ought to be--she knew that. But how?




CHAPTER XXXIII


Outraged in her family pride, Louise lost no time in returning to
Cincinnati, where she told the story of her discovery, embellished
with many details. According to her, she was met at the door by a
"silly-looking, white-faced woman," who did not even offer to invite
her in when she announced her name, but stood there "looking just as
guilty as a person possibly could." Lester also had acted shamefully,
having outbrazened the matter to her face. When she had demanded to
know whose the child was he had refused to tell her. "It isn't mine,"
was all he would say.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Kane, who was the first to hear
the story. "My son, my Lester! How could he have done it!"

"And such a creature!" exclaimed Louise emphatically, as though the
words needed to be reiterated to give them any shadow of reality.

"I went there solely because I thought I could help him," continued
Louise. "I thought when they said he was indisposed that he might be
seriously ill. How should I have known?"

"Poor Lester!" exclaimed her mother. "To think he would come to
anything like that!"

Mrs. Kane turned the difficult problem over in her mind and, having
no previous experiences whereby to measure it, telephoned for old
Archibald, who came out from the factory and sat through the
discussion with a solemn countenance. So Lester was living openly with
a woman of whom they had never heard. He would probably be as defiant
and indifferent as his nature was strong. The standpoint of parental
authority was impossible. Lester was a centralized authority in
himself, and if any overtures for a change of conduct were to be made,
they would have to be very diplomatically executed.

Archibald Kane returned to the manufactory sore and disgusted, but
determined that something ought to be done. He held a consultation
with Robert, who confessed that he had heard disturbing rumors from
time to time, but had not wanted to say anything. Mrs. Kane suggested
that Robert might go to Chicago and have a talk with Lester.

"He ought to see that this thing, if continued, is going to do him
irreparable damage," said Mr. Kane. "He cannot hope to carry it off
successfully. Nobody can. He ought to marry her or he ought to quit. I
want you to tell him that for me."

"All well and good," said Robert, "but who's going to convince him?
I'm sure I don't want the job."

"I hope to," said old Archibald, "eventually; but you'd better go
up and try, anyhow. It can't do any harm. He might come to his
senses."

"I don't believe it," replied Robert. "He's a strong man. You see
how much good talk does down here. Still, I'll go if it will relieve
your feelings any. Mother wants it."

"Yes, yes," said his father distractedly, "better go."

Accordingly Robert went. Without allowing himself to anticipate any
particular measure of success in this adventure, he rode pleasantly
into Chicago confident in the reflection that he had all the powers of
morality and justice on his side.

Upon Robert's arrival, the third morning after Louise's interview,
he called up the warerooms, but Lester was not there. He then
telephoned to the house, and tactfully made an appointment. Lester was
still indisposed, but he preferred to come down to the office, and he
did. He met Robert in his cheerful, nonchalant way, and together they
talked business for a time. Then followed a pregnant silence.

"Well, I suppose you know what brought me up here," began Robert
tentatively.

"I think I could make a guess at it," Lester replied.

"They were all very much worried over the fact that you were
sick--mother particularly. You're not in any danger of having a
relapse, are you?"

"I think not."

"Louise said there was some sort of a peculiar menage
she ran into up here. You're not married, are you?"

"No."

"The young woman Louise saw is just--" Robert waved his hand
expressively.

Lester nodded.

"I don't want to be inquisitive, Lester. I didn't come up for that.
I'm simply here because the family felt that I ought to come. Mother
was so very much distressed that I couldn't do less than see you for
her sake"--he paused, and Lester, touched by the fairness and
respect of his attitude, felt that mere courtesy at least made some
explanation due.

"I don't know that anything I can say will help matters much," he
replied thoughtfully. "There's really nothing to be said. I have the
woman and the family has its objections. The chief difficulty about
the thing seems to be the bad luck in being found out."

He stopped, and Robert turned over the substance of this worldly
reasoning in his mind. Lester was very calm about it. He seemed, as
usual, to be most convincingly sane.

"You're not contemplating marrying her, are you?" queried Robert
hesitatingly.

"I hadn't come to that," answered Lester coolly.

They looked at each other quietly for a moment, and then Robert
turned his glance to the distant scene of the city.

"It's useless to ask whether you are seriously in love with her, I
suppose," ventured Robert.

"I don't know whether I'd be able to discuss that divine afflatus
with you or not," returned Lester, with a touch of grim humor. "I have
never experienced the sensation myself. All I know is that the lady is
very pleasing to me."

"Well, it's all a question of your own well-being and the family's,
Lester," went on Robert, after another pause. "Morality doesn't seem
to figure in it anyway--at least you and I can't discuss that
together. Your feelings on that score naturally relate to you alone.
But the matter of your own personal welfare seems to me to be
substantial enough ground to base a plea on. The family's feelings and
pride are also fairly important. Father's the kind of a man who sets
more store by the honor of his family than most men. You know that as
well as I do, of course."

"I know how father feels about it," returned Lester. "The whole
business is as clear to me as it is to any of you, though off-hand I
don't see just what's to be done about it. These matters aren't always
of a day's growth, and they can't be settled in a day. The girl's
here. To a certain extent I'm responsible that she is here. While I'm
not willing to go into details, there's always more in these affairs
than appears on the court calendar."

"Of course I don't know what your relations with her have been,"
returned Robert, "and I'm not curious to know, but it does look like a
bit of injustice all around, don't you think--unless you intend
to marry her?" This last was put forth as a feeler.

"I might be willing to agree to that, too," was Lester's baffling
reply, "if anything were to be gained by it. The point is, the woman
is here, and the family is in possession of the fact. Now if there is
anything to be done I have to do it. There isn't anybody else who can
act for me in this matter."

Lester lapsed into a silence, and Robert rose and paced the floor,
coming back after a time to say: "You say you haven't any idea of
marrying her--or rather you haven't come to it. I wouldn't,
Lester. It seems to me you would be making the mistake of your life,
from every point of view. I don't want to orate, but a man of your
position has so much to lose; you can't afford to do it. Aside from
family considerations, you have too much at stake. You'd be simply
throwing your life away--"

He paused, with his right hand held out before him, as was
customary when he was deeply in earnest, and Lester felt the candor
and simplicity of this appeal. Robert was not criticizing him now. He
was making an appeal to him, and this was somewhat different.

The appeal passed without comment, however, and then Robert began
on a new tack, this time picturing old Archibald's fondness for Lester
and the hope he had always entertained that he would marry some
well-to-do Cincinnati girl, Catholic, if agreeable to him, but at
least worthy of his station. And Mrs. Kane felt the same way; surely
Lester must realize that.

"I know just how all of them feel about it," Lester interrupted at
last, "but I don't see that anything's to be done right now."

"You mean that you don't think it would be policy for you to give
her up just at present?"

"I mean that she's been exceptionally good to me, and that I'm
morally under obligations to do the best I can by her. What that may
be, I can't tell."

"To live with her?" inquired Robert coolly.

"Certainly not to turn her out bag and baggage if she has been
accustomed to live with me," replied Lester.

Robert sat down again, as if he considered his recent appeal
futile.

"Can't family reasons persuade you to make some amicable
arrangements with her and let her go?"

"Not without due consideration of the matter; no."

"You don't think you could hold out some hope that the thing will
end quickly--something that would give me a reasonable excuse for
softening down the pain of it to the family?"

"I would be perfectly willing to do anything which would take away
the edge of this thing for the family, but the truth's the truth, and
I can't see any room for equivocation between you and me. As I've said
before, these relationships are involved with things which make it
impossible to discuss them--unfair to me, unfair to the woman. No
one can see how they are to be handled, except the people that are in
them, and even they can't always see. I'd be a damned dog to stand up
here and give you my word to do anything except the best I can."

Lester stopped, and now Robert rose and paced the floor again, only
to come back after a time and say, "You don't think there's anything
to be done just at present?"

"Not at present."

"Very well, then, I expect I might as well be going. I don't know
that there's anything else we can talk about."

"Won't you stay and take lunch with me? I think I might manage to
get down to the hotel if you'll stay."

"No, thank you," answered Robert. "I believe I can make that one
o'clock train for Cincinnati. I'll try, anyhow."

They stood before each other now, Lester pale and rather flaccid,
Robert clear, wax-like, well-knit, and shrewd, and one could see the
difference time had already made. Robert was the clean, decisive man,
Lester the man of doubts. Robert was the spirit of business energy and
integrity embodied, Lester the spirit of commercial self-sufficiency,
looking at life with an uncertain eye. Together they made a striking
picture, which was none the less powerful for the thoughts that were
now running through their minds.

"Well," said the older brother, after a time, "I don't suppose
there is anything more I can say. I had hoped to make you feel just as
we do about this thing, but of course you are your own best judge of
this. If you don't see it now, nothing I could say would make you. It
strikes me as a very bad move on your part though."

Lester listened. He said nothing, but his face expressed an
unchanged purpose.

Robert turned for his hat, and they walked to the office door
together.

"I'll put the best face I can on it," said Robert, and walked
out.




CHAPTER XXXIV


In this world of ours the activities of animal life seem to be
limited to a plane or circle, as if that were an inherent necessity to
the creatures of a planet which is perforce compelled to swing about
the sun. A fish, for instance, may not pass out of the circle of the
seas without courting annihilation; a bird may not enter the domain of
the fishes without paying for it dearly. From the parasites of the
flowers to the monsters of the jungle and the deep we see clearly the
circumscribed nature of their movements--the emphatic manner in
which life has limited them to a sphere; and we are content to note
the ludicrous and invariably fatal results which attend any effort on
their part to depart from their environment.

In the case of man, however, the operation of this theory of
limitations has not as yet been so clearly observed. The laws
governing our social life are not so clearly understood as to permit
of a clear generalization. Still, the opinions, pleas, and judgments
of society serve as boundaries which are none the less real for being
intangible. When men or women err--that is, pass out from the
sphere in which they are accustomed to move--it is not as if the
bird had intruded itself into the water, or the wild animal into the
haunts of man. Annihilation is not the immediate result. People may do
no more than elevate their eyebrows in astonishment, laugh
sarcastically, lift up their hands in protest. And yet so well defined
is the sphere of social activity that he who departs from it is
doomed. Born and bred in this environment, the individual is
practically unfitted for any other state. He is like a bird accustomed
to a certain density of atmosphere, and which cannot live comfortably
at either higher or lower level.

Lester sat down in his easy-chair by the window after his brother
had gone and gazed ruminatively out over the flourishing city. Yonder
was spread out before him life with its concomitant phases of energy,
hope, prosperity, and pleasure, and here he was suddenly struck by a
wind of misfortune and blown aside for the time being--his
prospects and purposes dissipated. Could he continue as cheerily in
the paths he had hitherto pursued? Would not his relations with Jennie
be necessarily affected by this sudden tide of opposition? Was not his
own home now a thing of the past so far as his old easy-going
relationship was concerned? All the atmosphere of unstained affection
would be gone out of it now. That hearty look of approval which used
to dwell in his father's eye--would it be there any longer?
Robert, his relations with the manufactory, everything that was a part
of his old life, had been affected by this sudden intrusion of
Louise.

"It's unfortunate," was all that he thought to himself, and
therewith turned from what he considered senseless brooding to the
consideration of what, if anything, was to be done.

"I'm thinking I'd take a run up to Mt. Clemens to-morrow, or
Thursday anyhow, if I feel strong enough," he said to Jennie after he
had returned. "I'm not feeling as well as I might. A few days will do
me good." He wanted to get off by himself and think. Jennie packed his
bag for him at the given time, and he departed, but he was in a
sullen, meditative mood.

During the week that followed he had ample time to think it all
over, the result of his cogitations being that there was no need of
making a decisive move at present. A few weeks more, one way or the
other, could not make any practical difference. Neither Robert nor any
other member of the family was at all likely to seek another
conference with him. His business relations would necessarily go on as
usual, since they were coupled with the welfare of the manufactory;
certainly no attempt to coerce him would be attempted. But the
consciousness that he was at hopeless variance with his family weighed
upon him. "Bad business," he meditated--"bad business." But he
did not change.

For the period of a whole year this unsatisfactory state of affairs
continued. Lester did not go home for six months; then an important
business conference demanding his presence, he appeared and carried it
off quite as though nothing important had happened. His mother kissed
him affectionately, if a little sadly; his father gave him his
customary greeting, a hearty handshake; Robert, Louise, Amy, Imogene,
concertedly, though without any verbal understanding, agreed to ignore
the one real issue. But the feeling of estrangement was there, and it
persisted. Hereafter his visits to Cincinnati were as few and far
between as he could possibly make them.




CHAPTER XXXV


In the meantime Jennie had been going through a moral crisis of her
own. For the first time in her life, aside from the family attitude,
which had afflicted her greatly, she realized what the world thought
of her. She was bad--she knew that. She had yielded on two
occasions to the force of circumstances which might have been fought
out differently. If only she had had more courage! If she did not
always have this haunting sense of fear! If she could only make up her
mind to do the right thing! Lester would never marry her. Why should
he? She loved him, but she could leave him, and it would be better for
him. Probably her father would live with her if she went back to
Cleveland. He would honor her for at last taking a decent stand. Yet
the thought of leaving Lester was a terrible one to her--he had
been so good. As for her father, she was not sure whether he would
receive her or not.

After the tragic visit of Louise she began to think of saving a
little money, laying it aside as best she could from her allowance.
Lester was generous and she had been able to send home regularly
fifteen dollars a week to maintain the family--as much as they
had lived on before, without any help from the outside. She spent
twenty dollars to maintain the table, for Lester required the best of
everything--fruits, meats, desserts, liquors, and what not. The
rent was fifty-five dollars, with clothes and extras a varying sum.
Lester gave her fifty dollars a week, but somehow it had all gone. She
thought how she might economize but this seemed wrong.

Better go without taking anything, if she were going, was the
thought that came to her. It was the only decent thing to do.

She thought over this week after week, after the advent of Louise,
trying to nerve herself to the point where she could speak or act.
Lester was consistently generous and kind, but she felt at times that
he himself might wish it. He was thoughtful, abstracted. Since the
scene with Louise it seemed to her that he had been a little
different. If she could only say to him that she was not satisfied
with the way she was living, and then leave. But he himself had
plainly indicated after his discovery of Vesta that her feelings on
that score could not matter so very much to him, since he thought the
presence of the child would definitely interfere with his ever
marrying her. It was her presence he wanted on another basis. And he
was so forceful, she could not argue with him very well. She decided
if she went it would be best to write a letter and tell him why. Then
maybe when he knew how she felt he would forgive her and think nothing
more about it.

The condition of the Gerhardt family was not improving. Since
Jennie had left Martha had married. After several years of teaching in
the public schools of Cleveland she had met a young architect, and
they were united after a short engagement. Martha had been always a
little ashamed of her family, and now, when this new life dawned, she
was anxious to keep the connection as slight as possible. She barely
notified the members of the family of the approaching
marriage--Jennie not at all--and to the actual ceremony she
invited only Bass and George. Gerhardt, Veronica, and William resented
the slight. Gerhardt ventured upon no comment. He had had too many
rebuffs. But Veronica was angry. She hoped that life would give her an
opportunity to pay her sister off. William, of course, did not mind
particularly. He was interested in the possibilities of becoming an
electrical engineer, a career which one of his school-teachers had
pointed out to him as being attractive and promising.

Jennie heard of Martha's marriage after it was all over, a note
from Veronica giving her the main details. She was glad from one point
of view, but realized that her brothers and sisters were drifting away
from her.

A little while after Martha's marriage Veronica and William went to
reside with George, a break which was brought about by the attitude of
Gerhardt himself. Ever since his wife's death and the departure of the
other children he had been subject to moods of profound gloom, from
which he was not easily aroused. Life, it seemed, was drawing to a
close for him, although he was only sixty-five years of age. The
earthly ambitions he had once cherished were gone forever. He saw
Sebastian, Martha, and George out in the world practically ignoring
him, contributing nothing at all to a home which should never have
taken a dollar from Jennie. Veronica and William were restless. They
objected to leaving school and going to work, apparently preferring to
live on money which Gerhardt had long since concluded was not being
come by honestly. He was now pretty well satisfied as to the true
relations of Jennie and Lester. At first he had believed them to be
married, but the way Lester had neglected Jennie for long periods, the
humbleness with which she ran at his beck and call, her fear of
telling him about Vesta--somehow it all pointed to the same
thing. She had not been married at home. Gerhardt had never had sight
of her marriage certificate. Since she was away she might have been
married, but he did not believe it.

The real trouble was that Gerhardt had grown intensely morose and
crotchety, and it was becoming impossible for young people to live
with him. Veronica and William felt it. They resented the way in which
he took charge of the expenditures after Martha left. He accused them
of spending too much on clothes and amusements, he insisted that a
smaller house should be taken, and he regularly sequestered a part of
the money which Jennie sent, for what purpose they could hardly guess.
As a matter of fact, Gerhardt was saving as much as possible in order
to repay Jennie eventually. He thought it was sinful to go on in this
way, and this was his one method, out side of his meager earnings, to
redeem himself. If his other children had acted rightly by him he felt
that he would not now be left in his old age the recipient of charity
from one, who, despite her other good qualities, was certainly not
leading a righteous life. So they quarreled.

It ended one winter month when George agreed to receive his
complaining brother and sister on condition that they should get
something to do. Gerhardt was nonplussed for a moment, but invited
them to take the furniture and go their way. His generosity shamed
them for the moment; they even tentatively invited him to come and
live with them, but this he would not do. He would ask the foreman of
the mill he watched for the privilege of sleeping in some
out-of-the-way garret. He was always liked and trusted. And this would
save him a little money.

So in a fit of pique he did this, and there was seen the spectacle
of an old man watching through a dreary season of nights, in a lonely
trafficless neighborhood while the city pursued its gaiety elsewhere.
He had a wee small corner in the topmost loft of a warehouse away from
the tear and grind of the factory proper. Here Gerhardt slept by day.
In the afternoon he would take a little walk, strolling toward the
business center, or out along the banks of the Cuyahoga, or the lake.
As a rule his hands were below his back, his brow bent in meditation.
He would even talk to himself a little--an occasional "By chops!"
or "So it is" being indicative of his dreary mood. At dusk he would
return, taking his stand at the lonely gate which was his post of
duty. His meals he secured at a nearby workingmen's boarding-house,
such as he felt he must have.

The nature of the old German's reflections at this time were of a
peculiarly subtle and somber character. What was this
thing--life? What did it all come to after the struggle, and the
worry, and the grieving? Where does it all go to? People die; you hear
nothing more from them. His wife, now, she had gone. Where had her
spirit taken its flight?

Yet he continued to hold some strongly dogmatic convictions. He
believed there was a hell, and that people who sinned would go there.
How about Mrs. Gerhardt? How about Jennie? He believed that both had
sinned woefully. He believed that the just would be rewarded in
heaven. But who were the just? Mrs. Gerhardt had not had a bad heart.
Jennie was the soul of generosity. Take his son Sebastian. Sebastian
was a good boy, but he was cold, and certainly indifferent to his
father. Take Martha--she was ambitious, but obviously selfish.
Somehow the children, outside of Jennie, seemed self-centered. Bass
walked off when he got married, and did nothing more for anybody.
Martha insisted that she needed all she made to live on. George had
contributed for a little while, but had finally refused to help out.
Veronica and William had been content to live on Jennie's money so
long as he would allow it, and yet they knew it was not right. His
very existence, was it not a commentary on the selfishness of his
children? And he was getting so old. He shook his head. Mystery of
mysteries. Life was truly strange, and dark, and uncertain. Still he
did not want to go and live with any of his children. Actually they
were not worthy of him--none but Jennie, and she was not good. So
he grieved.

This woeful condition of affairs was not made known to Jennie for
some time. She had been sending her letters to Martha, but, on her
leaving, Jennie had been writing directly to Gerhardt. After
Veronica's departure Gerhardt wrote to Jennie saying that there was no
need of sending any more money. Veronica and William were going to
live with George. He himself had a good place in a factory, and would
live there a little while. He returned her a moderate sum that he had
saved--one hundred and fifteen dollars--with the word that
he would not need it.

Jennie did not understand, but as the others did not write, she was
not sure but what it might be all right--her father was so
determined. But by degrees, however, a sense of what it really must
mean overtook her--a sense of something wrong, and she worried,
hesitating between leaving Lester and going to see about her father,
whether she left him or not. Would he come with her? Not here
certainly. If she were married, yes, possibly. If she were
alone--probably. Yet if she did not get some work which paid well
they would have a difficult time. It was the same old problem. What
could she do? Nevertheless, she decided to act. If she could get five
or six dollars a week they could live. This hundred and fifteen
dollars which Gerhardt had saved would tide them over the worst
difficulties perhaps.




CHAPTER XXXVI


The trouble with Jennie's plan was that it did not definitely take
into consideration Lester's attitude. He did care for her in an
elemental way, but he was hedged about by the ideas of the
conventional world in which he had been reared. To say that he loved
her well enough to take her for better or worse--to legalize her
anomalous position and to face the world bravely with the fact that he
had chosen a wife who suited him--was perhaps going a little too
far, but he did really care for her, and he was not in a mood, at this
particular time, to contemplate parting with her for good.

Lester was getting along to that time of life when his ideas of
womanhood were fixed and not subject to change. Thus far, on his own
plane and within the circle of his own associates, he had met no one
who appealed to him as did Jennie. She was gentle, intelligent,
gracious, a handmaiden to his every need; and he had taught her the
little customs of polite society, until she was as agreeable a
companion as he cared to have. He was comfortable, he was
satisfied--why seek further?

But Jennie's restlessness increased day by day. She tried writing
out her views, and started a half dozen letters before she finally
worded one which seemed, partially at least, to express her feelings.
It was a long letter for her, and it ran as follows:

"Lester dear, When you get this I won't be here, and I want you
not to think harshly of me until you have read it all. I am taking
Vesta and leaving, and I think it is really better that I should.
Lester, I ought to do it. You know when you met me we were very poor,
and my condition was such that I didn't think any good man would ever
want me. When you came along and told me you loved me I was hardly
able to think just what I ought to do. You made me love you, Lester,
in spite of myself.

"You know I told you that I oughtn't to do anything wrong any more
and that I wasn't good, but somehow when you were near me I couldn't
think just right, and I didn't see just how I was to get away from
you. Papa was sick at home that time, and there was hardly anything in
the house to eat. We were all doing so poorly. My brother George
didn't have good shoes, and mamma was so worried. I have often
thought, Lester, if mamma had not been compelled to worry so much she
might be alive to-day. I thought if you liked me and I really liked
you--I love you, Lester--maybe it wouldn't make so much
difference about me. You know you told me right away you would like to
help my family, and I felt that maybe that would be the right thing to
do. We were so terribly poor.

"Lester, dear, I am ashamed to leave you this way; it seems so mean,
but if you knew how I have been feeling these days you would forgive
me. Oh, I love you, Lester, I do, I do. But for months past--ever
since your sister came--I felt that I was doing wrong, and that I
oughtn't to go on doing it, for I know how terribly wrong it is. It
was wrong for me ever to have anything to do with Senator Brander, but
I was such a girl then--I hardly knew what I was doing. It was
wrong of me not to tell you about Vesta when I first met you, though I
thought I was doing right when I did it. It was terribly wrong of me
to keep her here all that time concealed, Lester, but I was afraid of
you then--afraid of what you would say and do. When your sister
Louise came it all came over me somehow, clearly, and I have never
been able to think right about it since. It can't be right, Lester,
but I don't blame you. I blame myself.

"I don't ask you to marry me, Lester. I know how you feel about me
and how you feel about your family, and I don't think it would be
right. They would never want you to do it, and it isn't right that I
should ask you. At the same time I know I oughtn't to go on living
this way. Vesta is getting along where she understands everything. She
thinks you are her really truly uncle. I have thought of it all so
much. I have thought a number of times that I would try to talk to you
about it, but you frighten me when you get serious, and I don't seem
to be able to say what I want to. So I thought if I could just write
you this and then go you would understand. You do, Lester, don't you?
You won't be angry with me? I know it's for the best for you and for
me. I ought to do it. Please forgive me, Lester, please; and don't
think of me any more. I will get along. But I love you--oh yes, I
do--and I will never be grateful enough for all you have done for
me. I wish you all the luck that can come to you. Please forgive me,
Lester. I love you, yes, I do. I love you.

"JENNIE.

"P. S. I expect to go to Cleveland with papa. He needs me. He is all
alone. But don't come for me, Lester. It's best that you
shouldn't."

She put this in an envelope, sealed it, and, having hidden it in
her bosom, for the time being, awaited the hour when she could
conveniently take her departure.

It was several days before she could bring herself to the actual
execution of the plan, but one afternoon, Lester, having telephoned
that he would not be home for a day or two, she packed some necessary
garments for herself and Vesta in several trunks, and sent for an
expressman. She thought of telegraphing her father that she was
coming; but, seeing he had no home, she thought it would be just as
well to go and find him. George and Veronica had not taken all the
furniture. The major portion of it was in storage--so Gerhard t
had written. She might take that and furnish a little home or flat.
She was ready for the end, waiting for the expressman, when the door
opened and in walked Lester.

For some unforeseen reason he had changed his mind. He was not in
the least psychic or intuitional, but on this occasion his feelings
had served him a peculiar turn. He had thought of going for a day's
duck-shooting with some friends in the Kankakee Marshes south of
Chicago, but had finally changed his mind; he even decided to go out
to the house early. What prompted this he could not have said.

As he neared the house he felt a little peculiar about coming home
so early; then at the sight of the two trunks standing in the middle
of the room he stood dumfounded. What did it mean--Jennie dressed
and ready to depart? And Vesta in a similar condition? He stared in
amazement, his brown eyes keen in inquiry.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"Why--why--" she began, falling back. "I was going
away."

"Where to?"

"I thought I would go to Cleveland," she replied.

"What for?"

"Why--why--I meant to tell you, Lester, that I didn't
think I ought to stay here any longer this way. I didn't think it was
right. I thought I'd tell you, but I couldn't. I wrote you a
letter."

"A letter," he exclaimed. "What the deuce are you talking about?
Where is the letter?"

"There," she said, mechanically pointing to a small center-table
where the letter lay conspicuous on a large book.

"And you were really going to leave me, Jennie, with just a
letter?" said Lester, his voice hardening a little as he spoke. "I
swear to heaven you are beyond me. What's the point?" He tore open the
envelope and looked at the beginning. "Better send Vesta from the
room," he suggested.

She obeyed. Then she came back and stood there pale and wide-eyed,
looking at the wall, at the trunks, and at him. Lester read the letter
thoughtfully. He shifted his position once or twice, then dropped the
paper on the floor.

"Well, I'll tell you, Jennie," he said finally, looking at her
curiously and wondering just what he was going to say. Here again was
his chance to end this relationship if he wished. He couldn't feel
that he did wish it, seeing how peacefully things were running. They
had gone so far together it seemed ridiculous to quit now. He truly
loved her--there was no doubt of that. Still he did not want to
marry her--could not very well. She knew that. Her letter said as
much. "You have this thing wrong," he went on slowly. "I don't know
what comes over you at times, but you don't view the situation right.
I've told you before that I can't marry you--not now, anyhow.
There are too many big things involved in this, which you don't know
anything about. I love you, you know that. But my family has to be
taken into consideration, and the business. You can't see the
difficulties raised on these scores, but I can. Now I don't want you
to leave me. I care too much about you. I can't prevent you, of
course. You can go if you want to. But I don't think you ought to want
to. You don't really, do you? Sit down a minute."

Jennie, who had been counting on getting away without being seen,
was now thoroughly nonplussed. To have him begin a quiet
argument--a plea as it were. It hurt her. He, Lester, pleading
with her, and she loved him so.

She went over to him, and he took her hand.

"Now, listen," he said. "There's really nothing to be gained by
your leaving me at present. Where did you say you were going?"

"To Cleveland," she replied.

"Well, how did you expect to get along?"

"I thought I'd take papa, if he'd come with me--he's alone
now--and get something to do, maybe."

"Well, what can you do, Jennie, different from what you ever have
done? You wouldn't expect to be a lady's maid again, would you? Or
clerk in a store?"

"I thought I might get some place as a housekeeper," she suggested.
She had been counting up her possibilities, and this was the most
promising idea that had occurred to her.

"No, no," he grumbled, shaking his head. "There's nothing to that.
There's nothing in this whole move of yours except a notion. Why, you
won't be any better off morally than you are right now. You can't undo
the past. It doesn't make any difference, anyhow. I can't marry you
now. I might in the future, but I can't tell anything about that, and
I don't want to promise anything. You're not going to leave me though
with my consent, and if you were going I wouldn't have you dropping
back into any such thing as you're contemplating. I'll make some
provision for you. You don't really want to leave me, do you,
Jennie?"

Against Lester's strong personality and vigorous protest Jennie's
own conclusions and decisions went to pieces. Just the pressure of his
hand was enough to upset her. Now she began to cry.

"Don't cry, Jennie," he said. "This thing may work out better than
you think. Let it rest for a while. Take off your things. You're not
going to leave me any more, are you?"

"No-o-o!" she sobbed.

He took her in his lap. "Let things rest as they are," he went on.
"It's a curious world. Things can't be adjusted in a minute. They may
work out. I'm putting up with some things myself that I ordinarily
wouldn't stand for."

He finally saw her restored to comparative calmness, smiling sadly
through her tears.

"Now you put those things away," he said genially, pointing to the
trunks. "Besides, I want you to promise me one thing."

"What's that?" asked Jennie.

"No more concealment of anything, do you hear? No more thinking
things out for yourself, and acting without my knowing anything about
it. If you have anything on your mind, I want you to come out with it.
I'm not going to eat you! Talk to me about whatever is troubling you.
I'll help you solve it, or, if I can't, at least there won't be any
concealment between us."

"I know, Lester," she said earnestly, looking him straight in the
eyes. "I promise I'll never conceal anything any more--truly I
won't. I've been afraid, but I won't be now. You can trust me."

"That sounds like what you ought to be," he replied. "I know you
will." And he let her go.

A few days later, and in consequence of this agreement, the future
of Gerhardt came up for discussion. Jennie had been worrying about him
for several days; now it occurred to her that this was something to
talk over with Lester. Accordingly, she explained one night at dinner
what had happened in Cleveland. "I know he is very unhappy there all
alone," she said, "and I hate to think of it. I was going to get him
if I went back to Cleveland. Now I don't know what to do about
it."

"Why don't you send him some money?" he inquired.

"He won't take any more money from me, Lester," she explained. "He
thinks I'm not good--not acting right. He doesn't believe I'm
married."

"He has pretty good reason, hasn't he?" said Lester calmly.

"I hate to think of him sleeping in a factory. He's so old and
lonely."

"What's the matter with the rest of the family in Cleveland? Won't
they do anything for him? Where's your brother Bass?"

"I think maybe they don't want him, he's so cross," she said
simply.

"I hardly know what to suggest in that case," smiled Lester. "The
old gentleman oughtn't to be so fussy."

"I know," she said, "but he's old now, and he has had so much
trouble."

Lester ruminated for a while, toying with his fork. "I'll tell you
what I've been thinking, Jennie," he said finally. "There's no use
living this way any longer, if we're going to stick it out. I've been
thinking that we might take a house out in Hyde Park. It's something
of a run from the office, but I'm not much for this apartment life.
You and Vesta would be better off for a yard. In that case you might
bring your father on to live with us. He couldn't do any harm
pottering about; indeed, he might help keep things straight."

"Oh, that would just suit papa, if he'd come," she replied. "He
loves to fix things, and he'd cut the grass and look after the
furnace. But he won't come unless he's sure I'm married."

"I don't know how that could be arranged unless you could show the
old gentleman a marriage certificate. He seems to want something that
can't be produced very well. A steady job he'd have running the
furnace of a country house," he added meditatively.

Jennie did not notice the grimness of the jest. She was too busy
thinking what a tangle she had made of her life. Gerhardt would not
come now, even if they had a lovely home to share with him. And yet he
ought to be with Vesta again. She would make him happy.

She remained lost in a sad abstraction, until Lester, following the
drift of her thoughts, said: "I don't see how it can be arranged.
Marriage certificate blanks aren't easily procurable. It's bad
business--a criminal offense to forge one, I believe. I wouldn't
want to be mixed up in that sort of thing."

"Oh, I don't want you to do anything like that, Lester. I'm just
sorry papa is so stubborn. When he gets a notion you can't change
him."

"Suppose we wait until we get settled after moving," he suggested.
"Then you can go to Cleveland and talk to him personally. You might be
able to persuade him." He liked her attitude toward her father. It was
so decent that he rather wished he could help her carry out her
scheme. While not very interesting, Gerhardt was not objectionable to
Lester, and if the old man wanted to do the odd jobs around a big
place, why not?




CHAPTER XXXVII


The plan for a residence in Hyde Park was not long in taking shape.
After several weeks had passed, and things had quieted down again,
Lester invited Jennie to go with him to South Hyde Park to look for a
house. On the first trip they found something which seemed to suit
admirably--an old-time home of eleven large rooms, set in a lawn
fully two hundred feet square and shaded by trees which had been
planted when the city was young. It was ornate, homelike, peaceful.
Jennie was fascinated by the sense of space and country, although
depressed by the reflection that she was not entering her new home
under the right auspices. She had vaguely hoped that in planning to go
away she was bringing about a condition under which Lester might have
come after her and married her. Now all that was over. She had
promised to stay, and she would have to make the best of it. She
suggested that they would never know what to do with so much room, but
he waved that aside. "We will very likely have people in now and
then," he said. "We can furnish it up anyhow, and see how it looks."
He had the agent make out a five-year lease, with an option for
renewal, and set at once the forces to work to put the establishment
in order.

The house was painted and decorated, the lawn put in order, and
everything done to give the place a trim and satisfactory appearance.
There was a large, comfortable library and sitting-room, a big
dining-room, a handsome reception-hall, a parlor, a large kitchen,
serving-room, and in fact all the ground-floor essentials of a
comfortable home. On the second floor were bedrooms, baths, and the
maid's room. It was all very comfortable and harmonious, and Jennie
took an immense pride and pleasure in getting things in order.

Immediately after moving in, Jennie, with Lester's permission,
wrote to her father asking him to come to her. She did not say that
she was married, but left it to be inferred. She descanted on the
beauty of the neighborhood, the size of the yard, and the manifold
conveniences of the establishment. "It is so very nice," she added,
"you would like it, papa. Vesta is here and goes to school every day.
Won't you come and stay with us? It's so much better than living in a
factory. And I would like to have you so."

Gerhardt read this letter with a solemn countenance, Was it really
true? Would they be taking a larger house if they were not permanently
united? After all these years and all this lying? Could he have been
mistaken? Well, it was high time--but should he go? He had lived
alone this long time now--should he go to Chicago and live with
Jennie? Her appeal did touch him, but somehow he decided against it.
That would be too generous an acknowledgment of the fact that there
had been fault on his side as well as on hers.

Jennie was disappointed at Gerhardt's refusal. She talked it over
with Lester, and decided that she would go on to Cleveland and see
him. Accordingly, she made the trip, hunted up the factory, a great
rumbling furniture concern in one of the poorest sections of the city,
and inquired at the office for her father. The clerk directed her to a
distant warehouse, and Gerhardt was informed that a lady wished to see
him. He crawled out of his humble cot and came down, curious as to who
it could be. When Jennie saw him in his dusty, baggy clothes, his hair
gray, his eye brows shaggy, coming out of the dark door, a keen sense
of the pathetic moved her again. "Poor papa!" she thought. He came
toward her, his inquisitorial eye softened a little by his
consciousness of the affection that had inspired her visit. "What are
you come for?" he asked cautiously.

"I want you to come home with me, papa," she pleaded yearningly. "I
don't want you to stay here any more. I can't think of you living
alone any longer."

"So," he said, nonplussed, "that brings you?"

"Yes," she replied; "Won't you? Don't stay here."

"I have a good bed," he explained by way of apology for his
state.

"I know," she replied, "but we have a good home now and Vesta is
there. Won't you come? Lester wants you to."

"Tell me one thing," he demanded. "Are you married?"

"Yes," she replied, lying hopelessly. "I have been married a long
time. You can ask Lester when you come." She could scarcely look him
in the face, but she managed somehow, and he believed her.

"Well," he said, "it is time."

"Won't you come, papa?" she pleaded.

He threw out his hands after his characteristic manner. The urgency
of her appeal touched him to the quick. "Yes, I come," he said, and
turned; but she saw by his shoulders what was happening. He was
crying.

"Now, papa?" she pleaded.

For answer he walked back into the dark warehouse to get his
things.




CHAPTER XXXVIII


Gerhardt, having become an inmate of the Hyde Park home, at once
bestirred himself about the labors which he felt instinctively
concerned him. He took charge of the furnace and the yard, outraged at
the thought that good money should be paid to any outsider when he had
nothing to do. The trees, he declared to Jennie, were in a dreadful
condition. If Lester would get him a pruning knife and a saw he would
attend to them in the spring. In Germany they knew how to care for
such things, but these Americans were so shiftless. Then he wanted
tools and nails, and in time all the closets and shelves were put in
order. He found a Lutheran Church almost two miles away, and declared
that it was better than the one in Cleveland. The pastor, of course,
was a heaven-sent son of divinity. And nothing would do but that Vesta
must go to church with him regularly.

Jennie and Lester settled down into the new order of living with
some misgivings; certain difficulties were sure to arise. On the North
Side it had been easy for Jennie to shun neighbors and say nothing.
Now they were occupying a house of some pretensions; their immediate
neighbors would feel it their duty to call, and Jennie would have to
play the part of an experienced hostess. She and Lester had talked
this situation over. It might as well be understood here, he said,
that they were husband and wife. Vesta was to be introduced as
Jennie's daughter by her first marriage, her husband, a Mr. Stover
(her mother's maiden name), having died immediately after the child's
birth. Lester, of course, was the stepfather. This particular
neighborhood was so far from the fashionable heart of Chicago that
Lester did not expect to run into many of his friends. He explained to
Jennie the ordinary formalities of social intercourse, so that when
the first visitor called Jennie might be prepared to receive her.
Within a fortnight this first visitor arrived in the person of Mrs.
Jacob Stendahl, a woman of considerable importance in this particular
section. She lived five doors from Jennie--the houses of the
neighborhood were all set in spacious lawns--and drove up in her
carriage, on her return from her shopping, one afternoon.

"Is Mrs. Kane in?" she asked of Jeannette, the new maid.

"I think so, mam," answered the girl. "Won't you let me have your
card?"

The card was given and taken to Jennie, who looked at it
curiously.

When Jennie came into the parlor Mrs. Stendahl, a tall dark,
inquisitive-looking woman, greeted her most cordially.

"I thought I would take the liberty of intruding on you," she said
most winningly. "I am one of your neighbors. I live on the other side
of the street, some few doors up. Perhaps you have seen the
house--the one with the white stone gate-posts."

"Oh, yes indeed," replied Jennie. "I know it well. Mr. Kane and I
were admiring it the first day we came out here."

"I know of your husband, of course, by reputation. My husband is
connected with the Wilkes Frog and Switch Company."

Jennie bowed her head. She knew that the latter concern must be
something important and profitable from the way in which Mrs. Stendahl
spoke of it.

"We have lived here quite a number of years, and I know how you
must feel coming as a total stranger to a new section of the city. I
hope you will find time to come in and see me some afternoon. I shall
be most pleased. My regular reception day is Thursday."

"Indeed I shall," answered Jennie, a little nervously, for the
ordeal was a trying one. "I appreciate your goodness in calling. Mr.
Kane is very busy as a rule, but when he is at home I am sure he would
be most pleased to meet you and your husband."

"You must both come over some evening," replied Mrs. Stendahl. "We
lead a very quiet life. My husband is not much for social gatherings.
But we enjoy our neighborhood friends."

Jennie smiled her assurances of good-will. She accompanied Mrs.
Stendahl to the door, and shook hands with her. "I'm so glad to find
you so charming," observed Mrs. Stendahl frankly.

"Oh, thank you," said Jennie flushing a little. "I'm sure I don't
deserve so much praise."

"Well, now I will expect you some afternoon. Good-by," and she
waved a gracious farewell.

"That wasn't so bad," thought Jennie as she watched Mrs. Stendahl
drive away. "She is very nice, I think. I'll tell Lester about
her."

Among the other callers were a Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael Burke, a
Mrs. Hanson Field, and a Mrs. Timothy Ballinger--all of whom left
cards, or stayed to chat a few minutes. Jennie found herself taken
quite seriously as a woman of importance, and she did her best to
support the dignity of her position. And, indeed, she did
exceptionally well. She was most hospitable and gracious. She had a
kindly smile and a manner wholly natural; she succeeded in making a
most favorable impression. She explained to her guests that she had
been living on the North Side until recently, that her husband,
Mr. Kane, had long wanted to have a home in Hyde Park, that her father
and daughter were living here, and that Lester was the child's
stepfather. She said she hoped to repay all these nice attentions and
to be a good neighbor.

Lester heard about these calls in the evening, for he did not care
to meet these people. Jennie came to enjoy it in a mild way. She liked
making new friends, and she was hoping that something definite could
be worked out here which would make Lester look upon her as a good
wife and an ideal companion. Perhaps, some day, he might really want
to marry her.

First impressions are not always permanent, as Jennie was soon to
discover. The neighborhood had accepted her perhaps a little too
hastily, and now rumors began to fly about. A Mrs. Sommerville,
calling on Mrs. Craig, one of Jennie's near neighbors, intimated that
she knew who Lester was--"oh, yes, indeed. You know, my dear,"
she went on, "his reputation is just a little--" she raised her
eyebrows and her hand at the same time.

"You don't say!" commented her friend curiously. "He looks like
such a staid, conservative person."

"Oh, no doubt, in a way, he is," went on Mrs. Sommerville. "His
family is of the very best. There was some young woman he went
with--so my husband tells me. I don't know whether this is the
one or not, but she was introduced as a Miss Gorwood, or some such
name as that, when they were living together as husband and wife on
the North Side."

"Tst! Tst! Tst!" clicked Mrs. Craig with her tongue at this
astonishing news. "You don't tell me! Come to think of it, it must be
the same woman. Her father's name is Gerhardt."

"Gerhardt!" exclaimed Mrs. Sommerville. "Yes, that's the name. It
seems to me that there was some earlier scandal in connection with
her--at least there was a child. Whether he married her afterward
or not, I don't know. Anyhow, I understand his family will not have
anything to do with her."

"How very interesting!" exclaimed Mrs. Craig. "And to think he
should have married her afterward, if he really did. I'm sure you
can't tell with whom you're coming in contact these days, can
you?"

"It's so true. Life does get badly mixed at times. She appears to
be a charming woman."

"Delightful!" exclaimed Mrs. Craig. "Quite naive. I was really
taken with her."

"Well, it may be," went on her guest, "that this isn't the same
woman after all. I may be mistaken."

"Oh, I hardly think so. Gerhardt! She told me they had been living
on the North Side."

"Then I'm sure it's the same person. How curious that you should
speak of her!"

"It is, indeed," went on Mrs. Craig, who was speculating as to what
her attitude toward Jennie should be in the future.

Other rumors came from other sources. There were people who had
seen Jennie and Lester out driving on the North Side, who had been
introduced to her as Miss Gerhardt, who knew what the Kane family
thought. Of course her present position, the handsome house, the
wealth of Lester, the beauty of Vesta--all these things helped to
soften the situation. She was apparently too circumspect, too much the
good wife and mother, too really nice to be angry with; but she had a
past, and that had to be taken into consideration.

An opening bolt of the coming storm fell upon Jennie one day when
Vesta, returning from school, suddenly asked: "Mamma, who was my
papa?"

"His name was Stover, dear," replied her mother, struck at once by
the thought that there might have been some criticism--that some
one must have been saying something. "Why do you ask?"

"Where was I born?" continued Vesta, ignoring the last inquiry, and
interested in clearing up her own identity.

"In Columbus, Ohio, pet. Why?"

"Anita Ballinger said I didn't have any papa, and that you weren't
ever married when you had me. She said I wasn't a really, truly girl
at all--just a nobody. She made me so mad I slapped her."

Jennie's face grew rigid. She sat staring straight before her. Mrs.
Ballinger had called, and Jennie had thought her peculiarly gracious
and helpful in her offer of assistance, and now her little daughter
had said this to Vesta. Where did the child hear it?

"You mustn't pay any attention to her, dearie," said Jennie at
last. "She doesn't know. Your papa was Mr. Stover, and you were born
in Columbus. You mustn't fight other little girls. Of course they say
nasty things when they fight--sometimes things they don't really
mean. Just let her alone and don't go near her any more. Then she
won't say anything to you."

It was a lame explanation, but it satisfied Vesta for the time
being. "I'll slap her if she tries to slap me," she persisted.

"You mustn't go near her, pet, do you hear? Then she can't try to
slap you," returned her mother. "Just go about your studies, and don't
mind her. She can't quarrel with you if you don't let her."

Vesta went away leaving Jennie brooding over her words. The
neighbors were talking. Her history was becoming common gossip. How
had they found out.

It is one thing to nurse a single thrust, another to have the wound
opened from time to time by additional stabs. One day Jennie, having
gone to call on Mrs. Hanson Field, who was her immediate neighbor, met
a Mrs. Williston Baker, who was there taking tea. Mrs. Baker knew of
the Kanes, of Jennie's history on the North Side, and of the attitude
of the Kane family. She was a thin, vigorous, intellectual woman,
somewhat on the order of Mrs. Bracebridge, and very careful of her
social connections. She had always considered Mrs. Field a woman of
the same rigid circumspectness of attitude, and when she found Jennie
calling there she was outwardly calm but inwardly irritated. "This is
Mrs. Kane, Mrs. Baker," said Mrs. Field, introducing her guests with a
smiling countenance. Mrs. Baker looked at Jennie ominously.

"Mrs. Lester Kane?" she inquired.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Fields.

"Indeed," she went on freezingly. "I've heard a great deal about
Mrs.--" accenting the word "Mrs.--Lester Kane."

She turned to Mrs. Field, ignoring Jennie completely, and started
an intimate conversation in which Jennie could have no possible share.
Jennie stood helplessly by, unable to formulate a thought which would
be suitable to so trying a situation. Mrs. Baker soon announced her
departure, although she had intended to stay longer. "I can't remain
another minute," she said; "I promised Mrs. Neil that I would stop in
to see her to-day. I'm sure I've bored you enough already as it
is."

She walked to the door, not troubling to look at Jennie until she
was nearly out of the room. Then she looked in her direction, and gave
her a frigid nod.

"We meet such curious people now and again," she observed finally
to her hostess as she swept away.

Mrs. Field did not feel able to defend Jennie, for she herself was
in no notable social position, and was endeavoring, like every other
middle-class woman of means, to get along. She did not care to offend
Mrs. Williston Baker, who was socially so much more important than
Jennie. She came back to where Jennie was sitting, smiling
apologetically, but she was a little bit flustered. Jennie was out of
countenance, of course. Presently she excused herself and went home.
She had been cut deeply by the slight offered her, and she felt that
Mrs. Field realized that she had made a mistake in ever taking her up.
There would be no additional exchange of visits there--that she
knew. The old hopeless feeling came over her that her life was a
failure. It couldn't be made right, or, if it could, it wouldn't be.
Lester was not inclined to marry her and put her right.

Time went on and matters remained very much as they were. To look
at this large house, with its smooth lawn and well grown trees, its
vines clambering about the pillars of the veranda and interlacing
themselves into a transparent veil of green; to see Gerhardt pottering
about the yard, Vesta coming home from school, Lester leaving in the
morning in his smart trap--one would have said that here is peace
and plenty, no shadow of unhappiness hangs over this charming
home.

And as a matter of fact existence with Lester and Jennie did run
smoothly. It is true that the neighbors did not call any more, or only
a very few of them, and there was no social life to speak of; but the
deprivation was hardly noticed; there was so much in the home life to
please and interest. Vesta was learning to play the piano, and to play
quite well. She had a good ear for music. Jennie was a charming figure
in blue, lavender, and olive-green house-gowns as she went about her
affairs, sewing, dusting, getting Vesta off to school, and seeing that
things generally were put to rights. Gerhardt busied himself about his
multitudinous duties, for he was not satisfied unless he had his hands
into all the domestic economies of the household. One of his
self-imposed tasks was to go about the house after Lester, or the
servants, turning out the gas-jets or electric-light bulbs which might
accidentally have been left burning. That was a sinful extravagance.

Again, Lester's expensive clothes, which he carelessly threw aside
after a few month's use, were a source of woe to the thrifty old
German. Moreover, he grieved over splendid shoes discarded because of
a few wrinkles in the leather or a slightly run down heel or sole.
Gerhardt was for having them repaired, but Lester answered the old
man's querulous inquiry as to what was wrong "with them shoes" by
saying that they weren't comfortable any more.

"Such extravagance!" Gerhardt complained to Jennie. "Such waste! No
good can come of anything like that, It will mean want one of these
days."

"He can't help it, papa," Jennie excused. "That's the way he was
raised."

"Ha! A fine way to be raised. These Americans, they know nothing of
economy. They ought to live in Germany awhile. Then they would know
what a dollar can do."

Lester heard something of this through Jennie, but he only smiled.
Gerhardt was amusing to him.

Another grievance was Lester's extravagant use of matches. He had
the habit of striking a match, holding it while he talked, instead of
lighting his cigar, and then throwing it away. Sometimes he would
begin to light a cigar two or three minutes before he would actually
do so, tossing aside match after match. There was a place out in one
corner of the veranda where he liked to sit of a spring or summer
evening, smoking and throwing away half-burned matches. Jennie would
sit with him, and a vast number of matches would be lit and flung out
on the lawn. At one time, while engaged in cutting the grass, Gerhardt
found, to his horror, not a handful, but literally boxes of
half-burned match-sticks lying unconsumed and decaying under the
fallen blades. He was discouraged, to say the least. He gathered up
this damning evidence in a newspaper and carried it back into the
sitting-room where Jennie was sewing.

"See here, what I find!" he demanded. "Just look at that! That man,
he has no more sense of economy than a--than a--" the right
term failed him. "He sits and smokes, and this is the way he uses
matches. Five cents a box they cost--five cents. How can a man
hope to do well and carry on like that, I like to know. Look at
them."

Jennie looked. She shook her head. "Lester is extravagant," she
said.

Gerhardt carried them to the basement. At least they should be
burned in the furnace. He would have used them as lighters for his own
pipe, sticking them in the fire to catch a blaze, only old newspapers
were better, and he had stacks of these--another evidence of his
lord and master's wretched, spendthrift disposition. It was a sad
world to work in. Almost everything was against him. Still he fought
as valiantly as he could against waste and shameless extravagance. His
own economies were rigid. He would wear the same suit of
black--cut down from one of Lester's expensive investments of
years before--every Sunday for a couple of years. Lester's shoes,
by a little stretch of the imagination, could be made to seem to fit,
and these he wore. His old ties also--the black ones--they
were fine. If he could have cut down Lester's shirts he would have
done so; he did make over the underwear, with the friendly aid of the
cook's needle. Lester's socks, of course, were just right. There was
never any expense for Gerhardt's clothing.

The remaining stock of Lester's discarded clothing--shoes,
shirts, collars, suits, ties, and what not--he would store away
for weeks and months, and then, in a sad and gloomy frame of mind, he
would call in a tailor, or an old-shoe man, or a ragman, and dispose
of the lot at the best price he could. He learned that all second-hand
clothes men were sharks; that there was no use in putting the least
faith in the protests of any rag dealer or old-shoe man. They all
lied. They all claimed to be very poor, when as a matter of fact they
were actually rolling in wealth. Gerhardt had investigated these
stories; he had followed them up; he had seen what they were doing
with the things he sold them.

"Scoundrels!" he declared. "They offer me ten cents for a pair of
shoes, and then I see them hanging out in front of their places marked
two dollars. Such robbery! My God! They could afford to give me a
dollar."

Jennie smiled. It was only to her that he complained, for he could
expect no sympathy from' Lester. So far as his own meager store of
money was concerned, he gave the most of it to his beloved church,
where he was considered to be a model of propriety, honesty,
faith--in fact, the embodiment of all the virtues.

And so, for all the ill winds that were beginning to blow socially,
Jennie was now leading the dream years of her existence. Lester, in
spite of the doubts which assailed him at times as to the wisdom of
his career, was invariably kind and considerate, and he seemed to
enjoy his home life.

"Everything all right?" she would ask when he came in of an
evening.

"Sure!" he would answer, and pinch her chin or cheek.

She would follow him in while Jeannette, always alert, would take
his coat and hat. In the winter-time they would sit in the library
before the big grate-fire. In the spring, summer, or fall Lester
preferred to walk out on the porch, one corner of which commanded a
sweeping view of the lawn and the distant street, and light his
before-dinner cigar. Jennie would sit on the side of his chair and
stroke his head. "Your hair is not getting the least bit thin, Lester;
aren't you glad?" she would say; or, "Oh, see how your brow is
wrinkled now. You mustn't do that. You didn't change your tie, mister,
this morning. Why didn't you? I laid one out for you."

"Oh, I forgot," he would answer, or he would cause the wrinkles to
disappear, or laughingly predict that he would soon be getting bald if
he wasn't so now.

In the drawing-room or library, before Vesta and Gerhardt, she was
not less loving, though a little more circumspect. She loved odd
puzzles like pigs in clover, the spider's hole, baby billiards, and
the like. Lester shared in these simple amusements. He would work by
the hour, if necessary, to make a difficult puzzle come right. Jennie
was clever at solving these mechanical problems. Sometimes she would
have to show him the right method, and then she would be immensely
pleased with herself. At other times she would stand behind him
watching, her chin on his shoulder, her arms about his neck. He seemed
not to mind--indeed, he was happy in the wealth of affection she
bestowed. Her cleverness, her gentleness, her tact created an
atmosphere which was immensely pleasing; above all her youth and
beauty appealed to him. It made him feel young, and if there was one
thing Lester objected to, it was the thought of drying up into an
aimless old age. "I want to keep young, or die young," was one of his
pet remarks; and Jennie came to understand. She was glad that she was
so much younger now for his sake.

Another pleasant feature of the home life was Lester's steadily
increasing affection for Vesta. The child would sit at the big table
in the library in the evening conning her books, while Jennie would
sew, and Gerhardt would read his interminable list of German Lutheran
papers. It grieved the old man that Vesta should not be allowed to go
to a German Lutheran parochial school, but Lester would listen to
nothing of the sort. "We'll not have any thick-headed German training
in this," he said to Jennie, when she suggested that Gerhardt had
complained. "The public schools are good enough for any child. You
tell him to let her alone."

There were really some delightful hours among the four. Lester
liked to take the little seven-year-old school-girl between his knees
and tease her. He liked to invert the so-called facts of life, to
propound its paradoxes, and watch how the child's budding mind took
them. "What's water?" he would ask; and being informed that it was
"what we drink," he would stare and say, "That's so, but what is it?
Don't they teach you any better than that?"

"Well, it is what we drink, isn't it?" persisted Vesta.

"The fact that we drink it doesn't explain what it is," he would
retort. "You ask your teacher what water is"; and then he would leave
her with this irritating problem troubling her young soul.

Food, china, her dress, anything was apt to be brought back to its
chemical constituents, and he would leave her to struggle with these
dark suggestions of something else back of the superficial appearance
of things until she was actually in awe of him. She had a way of
showing him how nice she looked before she started to school in the
morning, a habit that arose because of his constant criticism of her
appearance. He wanted her to look smart, he insisted on a big bow of
blue ribbon for her hair, he demanded that her shoes be changed from
low quarter to high boots with the changing character of the seasons'
and that her clothing be carried out on a color scheme suited to her
complexion and disposition.

"That child's light and gay by disposition. Don't put anything
somber on her," he once remarked.

Jennie had come to realize that he must be consulted in this, and
would say, "Run to your papa and show him how you look."

Vesta would come and turn briskly around before him, saying,
"See."

"Yes. You're all right. Go on"; and on she would go.

He grew so proud of her that on Sundays and some week-days when
they drove he would always have her in between them. He insisted that
Jennie send her to dancing-school, and Gerhardt was beside himself
with rage and grief. "Such irreligion!" he complained to Jennie. "Such
devil's fol-de-rol. Now she goes to dance. What for? To make a no-good
out of her--a creature to be ashamed of?"

"Oh no, papa," replied Jennie. "It isn't as bad as that. This is an
awful nice school. Lester says she has to go."

"Lester, Lester; that man! A fine lot he knows about what is good
for a child. A card-player, a whisky-drinker!"

"Now, hush, papa; I won't have you talk like that," Jennie would
reply warmly. "He's a good man, and you know it."

"Yes, yes, a good man. In some things, maybe. Not in this. No."

He went away groaning. When Lester was near he said nothing, and
Vesta could wind him around her finger.

"Oh you," she would say, pulling at his arm or rubbing his grizzled
cheek. There was no more fight in Gerhardt when Vesta did this. He
lost control of himself--something welled up and choked his
throat. "Yes, I know how you do," he would exclaim.

Vesta would tweak his ear.

"Stop now!" he would say. "That is enough."

It was noticeable, however, that she did not have to stop unless
she herself willed it. Gerhardt adored the child, and she could do
anything with him; he was always her devoted servitor.




CHAPTER XXXIX


During this period the dissatisfaction of the Kane family with
Lester's irregular habit of life grew steadily stronger. That it could
not help but become an open scandal, in the course of time, was
sufficiently obvious to them. Rumors were already going about. People
seemed to understand in a wise way, though nothing was ever said
directly. Kane senior could scarcely imagine what possessed his son to
fly in the face of conventions in this manner. If the woman had been
some one of distinction--some sorceress of the stage, or of the
world of art, or letters, his action would have been explicable if not
commendable, but with this creature of very ordinary capabilities, as
Louise had described her, this putty-faced nobody--he could not
possibly understand it.

Lester was his son, his favorite son; it was too bad that he had
not settled down in the ordinary way. Look at the women in Cincinnati
who knew him and liked him. Take Letty Pace, for instance. Why in the
name of common sense had he not married her? She was good looking,
sympathetic, talented. The old man grieved bitterly, and then, by
degrees, he began to harden. It seemed a shame that Lester should
treat him so. It wasn't natural, or justifiable, or decent. Archibald
Kane brooded over it until he felt that some change ought to be
enforced, but just what it should be he could not say. Lester was his
own boss, and he would resent any criticism of his actions.
Apparently, nothing could be done.

Certain changes helped along an approaching denouement. Louise
married not many months after her very disturbing visit to Chicago,
and then the home property was fairly empty except for visiting
grandchildren. Lester did not attend the wedding, though he was
invited. For another thing, Mrs. Kane died, making a readjustment of
the family will necessary. Lester came home on this occasion, grieved
to think he had lately seen so little of his mother--that he had
caused her so much pain--but he had no explanation to make. His
father thought at the time of talking to him, but put it off because
of his obvious gloom. He went back to Chicago, and there were more
months of silence.

After Mrs. Kane's death and Louise's marriage, the father went to
live with Robert, for his three grandchildren afforded him his
greatest pleasure in his old age. The business, except for the final
adjustment which would come after his death, was in Robert's hands.
The latter was consistently agreeable to his sisters and their
husbands and to his father, in view of the eventual control he hoped
to obtain. He was not a sycophant in any sense of the word, but a
shrewd, cold business man, far shrewder than his brother gave him
credit for. He was already richer than any two of the other children
put together, but he chose to keep his counsel and to pretend modesty
of fortune. He realized the danger of envy, and preferred a Spartan
form of existence, putting all the emphasis on inconspicuous but very
ready and very hard cash. While Lester was drifting Robert was
working--working all the time.

Robert's scheme for eliminating his brother from participation in
the control of the business was really not very essential, for his
father, after long brooding over the details of the Chicago situation,
had come to the definite conclusion that any large share of his
property ought not to go to Lester. Obviously, Lester was not so
strong a man as he had thought him to be. Of the two brothers, Lester
might be the bigger intellectually or
sympathetically--artistically and socially there was no
comparison--but Robert got commercial results in a silent,
effective way. If Lester was not going to pull himself together at
this stage of the game, when would he? Better leave his property to
those who would take care of it. Archibald Kane thought seriously of
having his lawyer revise his will in such a way that, unless Lester
should reform, he would be cut off with only a nominal income. But he
decided to give Lester one more chance--to make a plea, in fact,
that he should abandon his false way of living, and put himself on a
sound basis before the world. It wasn't too late. He really had a
great future. Would he deliberately choose to throw it away? Old
Archibald wrote Lester that he would like to have a talk with him at
his convenience, and within the lapse of thirty-six hours Lester was
in Cincinnati.

"I thought I'd have one more talk with you, Lester, on a subject
that's rather difficult for me to bring up," began the elder Kane.
"You know what I'm referring to?"

"Yes, I know," replied Lester, calmly.

"I used to think, when I was much younger that my son's matrimonial
ventures would never concern me, but I changed my views on that score
when I got a little farther along. I began to see through my business
connections how much the right sort of a marriage helps a man, and
then I got rather anxious that my boys should marry well. I used to
worry about you, Lester, and I'm worrying yet. This recent connection
you've made has caused me no end of trouble. It worried your mother up
to the very last. It was her one great sorrow. Don't you think you
have gone far enough with it? The scandal has reached down here. What
it is in Chicago I don't know, but it can't be a secret. That can't
help the house in business there. It certainly can't help you. The
whole thing has gone on so long that you have injured your prospects
all around, and yet you continue. Why do you?"

"I suppose because I love her," Lester replied.

"You can't be serious in that," said his father. "If you had loved
her, you'd have married her in the first place. Surely you wouldn't
take a woman and live with her as you have with this woman for years,
disgracing her and yourself, and still claim that you love her. You
may have a passion for her, but it isn't love."

"How do you know I haven't married her?" inquired Lester coolly. He
wanted to see how his father would take to that idea.

"You're not serious!" The old gentleman propped himself up on his
arms and looked at him.

"No, I'm not," replied Lester, "but I might be. I might marry
her."

"Impossible!" exclaimed his father vigorously. "I can't believe it.
I can't believe a man of your intelligence would do a thing like that,
Lester. Where is your judgment? Why, you've lived in open adultery
with her for years, and now you talk of marrying her. Why, in heaven's
name, if you were going to do anything like that, didn't you do it in
the first place? Disgrace your parents, break your mother's heart,
injure the business, become a public scandal, and then marry the cause
of it? I don't believe it."

Old Archibald got up.

"Don't get excited, father," said Lester quickly. "We won't get
anywhere that way. I say I might marry her. She's not a bad woman, and
I wish you wouldn't talk about her as you do. You've never seen her.
You know nothing about her."

"I know enough," insisted old Archibald, determinedly. "I know that
no good woman would act as she has done. Why, man, she's after your
money. What else could she want? It's as plain as the nose on your
face."

"Father," said Lester, his voice lowering ominously, "why do you
talk like that? You never saw the woman. You wouldn't know her from
Adam's off ox. Louise comes down here and gives an excited report, and
you people swallow it whole. She isn't as bad as you think she is, and
I wouldn't use the language you're using about her if I were you.
You're doing a good woman an injustice, and you won't, for some
reason, be fair."

"Fair! Fair!" interrupted Archibald. "Talk about being fair. Is it
fair to me, to your family, to your dead mother to take a woman of the
streets and live with her? Is it--"

"Stop now, father," exclaimed Lester, putting up his hand. "I warn
you. I won't listen to talk like that. You're talking about the woman
that I'm living with--that I may marry. I love you, but I won't
have you saying things that aren't so. She isn't a woman of the
streets. You know, as well as you know anything, that I wouldn't take
up with a woman of that kind. We'll have to discuss this in a calmer
mood, or I won't stay here. I'm sorry. I'm awfully sorry. But I won't
listen to any such language as that."

Old Archibald quieted himself. In spite of his opposition, he
respected his son's point of view. He sat back in his chair and stared
at the floor. "How was he to handle this thing?" he asked himself.

"Are you living in the same place?" he finally inquired.

"No, we've moved out to Hyde Park. I've taken a house out
there."

"I hear there's a child. Is that yours?"

"No."

"Have you any children of your own?"

"No."

"Well, that's a God's blessing."

Lester merely scratched his chin.

"And you insist you will marry her?" Archibald went on.

"I didn't say that," replied his son. "I said I might."

"Might! Might!" exclaimed his father, his anger bubbling again.
"What a tragedy! You with your prospects! Your outlook! How do you
suppose I can seriously contemplate entrusting any share of my fortune
to a man who has so little regard for what the world considers as
right and proper? Why, Lester, this carriage business, your family,
your personal reputation appear to be as nothing at all to you. I
can't understand what has happened to your pride. It seems like some
wild, impossible fancy."

"It's pretty hard to explain, father, and I can't do it very well.
I simply know that I'm in this affair, and that I'm bound to see it
through. It may come out all right. I may not marry her--I may.
I'm not prepared now to say what I'll do. You'll have to wait. I'll do
the best I can."

Old Archibald merely shook his head disapprovingly.

"You've made a bad mess of this, Lester," he said finally. "Surely
you have. But I suppose you are determined to go your way. Nothing
that I have said appears to move you."

"Not now, father. I'm sorry."

"Well, I warn you, then, that, unless you show some consideration
for the dignity of your family and the honor of your position it will
make a difference in my will. I can't go on countenancing this thing,
and not be a party to it morally and every other way. I won't do it.
You can leave her, or you can marry her. You certainly ought to do one
or the other. If you leave her, everything will be all right. You can
make any provision for her you like. I have no objection to that. I'll
gladly pay whatever you agree to. You will share with the rest of the
children, just as I had planned. If you marry her it will make a
difference. Now do as you please. But don't blame me. I love you. I'm
your father. I'm doing what I think is my bounden duty. Now you think
that over and let me know."

Lester sighed. He saw how hopeless this argument was. He felt that
his father probably meant what he said, but how could he leave Jennie,
and justify himself to himself? Would his father really cut him off?
Surely not. The old gentleman loved him even now--he could see
it. Lester felt troubled and distressed; this attempt at coercion
irritated him. The idea--he, Lester Kane, being made to do such a
thing to throw Jennie down. He stared at the floor.

Old Archibald saw that he had let fly a telling bullet.

"Well," said Lester finally, "there's no use of our discussing it
any further now--that's certain, isn't it? I can't say what I'll
do. I'll have to take time and think. I can't decide this
offhand."

The two looked at each other. Lester was sorry for the world's
attitude and for his father's keen feeling about the affair. Kane
senior was sorry for his son, but he was determined to see the thing
through. He wasn't sure whether he had converted Lester or not, but he
was hopeful. Maybe he would come around yet.

"Good-by, father," said Lester, holding out his hand. "I think I'll
try and make that two-ten train. There isn't anything else you wanted
to see me about?"

"No."

The old man sat there after Lester had gone, thinking deeply. What
a twisted career! What an end to great possibilities? What a foolhardy
persistence in evil and error! He shook his head. Robert was wiser. He
was the one to control a business. He was cool and conservative. If
Lester were only like that. He thought and thought. It was a long time
before he stirred. And still, in the bottom of his heart, his erring
son continued to appeal to him.




CHAPTER XL


Lester returned to Chicago. He realized that he had offended his
father seriously, how seriously he could not say. In all his personal
relations with old Archibald he had never seen him so worked up. But
even now Lester did not feel that the breach was irreparable; he
hardly realized that it was necessary for him to act decisively if he
hoped to retain his father's affection and confidence. As for the
world at large, what did it matter how much people talked or what they
said. He was big enough to stand alone. But was he? People turn so
quickly from weakness or the shadow of it. To get away from
failure--even the mere suspicion of it--that seems to be a
subconscious feeling with the average man and woman; we all avoid
non-success as though we fear that it may prove contagious. Lester was
soon to feel the force of this prejudice.

One day Lester happened to run across Berry Dodge, the millionaire
head of Dodge, Holbrook & Kingsbury, a firm that stood in the
dry-goods world, where the Kane Company stood in the carriage world.
Dodge had been one of Lester's best friends. He knew him as intimately
as he knew Henry Bracebridge, of Cleveland, and George Knowles, of
Cincinnati. He visited at his handsome home on the North Shore Drive,
and they met constantly in a business and social way. But since Lester
had moved out to Hyde Park, the old intimacy had lapsed. Now they came
face to face on Michigan Avenue near the Kane building.

"Why, Lester, I'm glad to see you again," said Dodge.

He extended a formal hand, and seemed just a little cool. "I hear
you've gone and married since I saw you."

"No, nothing like that," replied Lester, easily, with the air of
one who prefers to be understood in the way of the world sense.

"Why so secret about it, if you have?" asked Dodge, attempting to
smile, but with a wry twist to the corners of his mouth. He was trying
to be nice, and to go through a difficult situation gracefully. "We
fellows usually make a fuss about that sort of thing. You ought to let
your friends know."

"Well," said Lester, feeling the edge of the social blade that was
being driven into him, "I thought I'd do it in a new way. I'm not much
for excitement in that direction, anyhow."

"It is a matter of taste, isn't it?" said Dodge a little absently.
"You're living in the city, of course?"

"In Hyde Park."

"That's a pleasant territory. How are things otherwise?" And he
deftly changed the subject before waving him a perfunctory
farewell.

Lester missed at once the inquiries which a man like Dodge would
have made if he had really believed that he was married. Under
ordinary circumstances his friend would have wanted to know a great
deal about the new Mrs. Kane. There would have been all those little
familiar touches common to people living on the same social plane.
Dodge would have asked Lester to bring his wife over to see them,
would have definitely promised to call. Nothing of the sort happened,
and Lester noticed the significant omission.

It was the same with the Burnham Moores, the Henry Aldriches, and a
score of other people whom he knew equally well. Apparently they all
thought that he had married and settled down. They were interested to
know where he was living, and they were rather disposed to joke him
about being so very secretive on the subject, but they were not
willing to discuss the supposed Mrs. Kane. He was beginning to see
that this move of his was going to tell against him notably.

One of the worst stabs--it was the cruelest because, in a way,
it was the most unintentional--he received from an old
acquaintance, Will Whitney, at the Union Club. Lester was dining there
one evening, and Whitney met him in the main reading-room as he was
crossing from the cloak-room to the cigar-stand. The latter was a
typical society figure, tall, lean, smooth-faced, immaculately garbed,
a little cynical, and to-night a little the worse for liquor. "Hi,
Lester!" he called out, "what's this talk about a menage
of yours out in Hyde Park? Say, you're going some. How are you going
to explain all this to your wife when you get married?"

"I don't have to explain it," replied Lester irritably. "Why should
you be so interested in my affairs? You're not living in a stone
house, are you?"

"Say, ha! ha! that's pretty good now, isn't it? You didn't marry
that little beauty you used to travel around with on the North Side,
did you? Eh, now! Ha, ha! Well, I swear. You married! You didn't, now,
did you?"

"Cut it out, Whitney," said Lester roughly. "You're talking
wild."

"Pardon, Lester," said the other aimlessly, but sobering. "I beg
your pardon. Remember, I'm just a little warm. Eight whisky-sours
straight in the other room there. Pardon. I'll talk to you some time
when I'm all right. See, Lester? Eh! Ha! ha! I'm a little loose,
that's right. Well, so long! Ha! ha!"

Lester could not get over that cacophonous "ha! ha!" It cut him,
even though it came from a drunken man's mouth. "That little beauty
you used to travel with on the North Side. You didn't marry her, did
you?" He quoted Whitney's impertinences resentfully. George! But this
was getting a little rough! He had never endured anything like this
before--he, Lester Kane. It set him thinking. Certainly he was
paying dearly for trying to do the kind thing by Jennie.




CHAPTER XLI


But worse was to follow. The American public likes gossip about
well-known people, and the Kanes were wealthy and socially prominent.
The report was that Lester, one of its principal heirs, had married a
servant girl. He, an heir to millions! Could it be possible? What a
piquant morsel for the newspapers! Very soon the paragraphs began to
appear. A small society paper, called the South Side Budget,
referred to him anonymously as "the son of a famous and wealthy
carriage manufacturer of Cincinnati," and outlined briefly what it
knew of the story. "Of Mrs. ----" it went on, sagely, "not
so much is known, except that she once worked in a well-known
Cleveland society family as a maid and was, before that, a
working-girl in Columbus, Ohio. After such a picturesque love-affair
in high society, who shall say that romance is dead?"

Lester saw this item. He did not take the paper, but some kind soul
took good care to see that a copy was marked and mailed to him. It
irritated him greatly, for he suspected at once that it was a scheme
to blackmail him. But he did not know exactly what to do about it. He
preferred, of course, that such comments should cease, but he also
thought that if he made any effort to have them stopped he might make
matters worse. So he did nothing. Naturally, the paragraph in the
Budget attracted the attention of other newspapers. It sounded
like a good story, and one Sunday editor, more enterprising than the
others, conceived the notion of having this romance written up. A
full-page Sunday story with a scare-head such as "Sacrifices Millions
for His Servant Girl Love," pictures of Lester, Jennie, the house at
Hyde Park, the Kane manufactory at Cincinnati, the warehouse on
Michigan Avenue--certainly, such a display would make a
sensation. The Kane Company was not an advertiser in any daily or
Sunday paper. The newspaper owed him nothing. If Lester had been
forewarned he might have put a stop to the whole business by putting
an advertisement in the paper or appealing to the publisher. He did
not know, however, and so was without power to prevent the
publication. The editor made a thorough job of the business. Local
newspaper men in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus were instructed
to report by wire whether anything of Jennie's history was known in
their city. The Bracebridge family in Cleveland was asked whether
Jennie had ever worked there. A garbled history of the Gerhardts was
obtained from Columbus. Jennie's residence on the North Side, for
several years prior to her supposed marriage, was discovered and so
the whole story was nicely pieced together. It was not the idea of the
newspaper editor to be cruel or critical, but rather complimentary.
All the bitter things, such as the probable illegitimacy of Vesta, the
suspected immorality of Lester and Jennie in residing together as man
and wife, the real grounds of the well-known objections of his family
to the match, were ignored. The idea was to frame up a Romeo and
Juliet story in which Lester should appear as an ardent,
self-sacrificing lover, and Jennie as a poor and lovely working-girl,
lifted to great financial and social heights by the devotion of her
millionaire lover. An exceptional newspaper artist was engaged to make
scenes depicting the various steps of the romance and the whole thing
was handled in the most approved yellow-journal style. There was a
picture of Lester obtained from his Cincinnati photographer for a
consideration; Jennie had been surreptitiously "snapped" by a staff
artist while she was out walking.

And so, apparently out of a clear sky, the story
appeared--highly complimentary, running over with sugary phrases,
but with all the dark, sad facts looming up in the background. Jennie
did not see it at first. Lester came across the page accidentally, and
tore it out. He was stunned and chagrined beyond words. "To think the
damned newspaper would do that to a private citizen who was quietly
minding his own business!" he thought. He went out of the house, the
better to conceal his deep inward mortification. He avoided the more
populous parts of the town, particularly the down-town section, and
rode far out on Cottage Grove Avenue to the open prairie. He wondered,
as the trolley-car rumbled along, what his friends were
thinking--Dodge, and Burnham Moore, and Henry Aldrich, and the
others. This was a smash, indeed. The best he could do was to put a
brave face on it and say nothing, or else wave it off with an
indifferent motion of the hand. One thing was sure--he would
prevent further comment. He returned to the house calmer, his
self-poise restored, but he was eager for Monday to come in order that
he might get in touch with his lawyer, Mr. Watson. But when he did see
Mr. Watson it was soon agreed between the two men that it would be
foolish to take any legal action. It was the part of wisdom to let the
matter drop. "But I won't stand for anything more," concluded
Lester.

"I'll attend to that," said the lawyer, consolingly.

Lester got up. "It's amazing--this damned country of ours!" he
exclaimed. "A man with a little money hasn't any more privacy than a
public monument."

"A man with a little money," said Mr. Watson, "is just like a cat
with a bell around its neck. Every rat knows exactly where it is and
what it is doing."

"That's an apt simile," assented Lester, bitterly.

Jennie knew nothing of this newspaper story for several days.
Lester felt that he could not talk it over, and Gerhardt never read
the wicked Sunday newspapers. Finally, one of Jennie's neighborhood
friends, less tactful than the others, called her attention to the
fact of its appearance by announcing that she had seen it. Jennie did
not understand at first. "A story about me?" she exclaimed.

"You and Mr. Kane, yes," replied her guest. "Your love
romance."

Jennie colored swiftly. "Why, I hadn't seen it," she said. "Are you
sure it was about us?"

"Why, of course," laughed Mrs. Stendahl. "How could I be mistaken?
I have the paper over at the house. I'll send Marie over with it when
I get back. You look very sweet in your picture."

Jennie winced.

"I wish you would," she said, weakly.

She was wondering where they had secured her picture, what the
article said. Above all, she was dismayed to think of its effect upon
Lester. Had he seen the article? Why had he not spoken to her about
it?

The neighbor's daughter brought over the paper, and Jennie's heart
stood still as she glanced at the title-page. There it all
was--uncompromising and direct. How dreadfully conspicuous the
headline--"This Millionaire Fell in Love With This Lady's Maid,"
which ran between a picture of Lester on the left and Jennie on the
right. There was an additional caption which explained how Lester, son
of the famous carriage family of Cincinnati, had sacrificed great
social opportunity and distinction to marry his heart's desire. Below
were scattered a number of other pictures--Lester addressing
Jennie in the mansion of Mrs. Bracebridge, Lester standing with her
before an imposing and conventional-looking parson, Lester driving
with her in a handsome victoria, Jennie standing beside the window of
an imposing mansion (the fact that it was a mansion being indicated by
most sumptuous-looking hangings) and gazing out on a very modest
working-man's cottage pictured in the distance. Jennie felt as though
she must die for very shame. She did not so much mind what it meant to
her, but Lester, Lester, how must he feel? And his family? Now they
would have another club with which to strike him and her. She tried to
keep calm about it, to exert emotional control, but again the tears
would rise, only this time they were tears of opposition to defeat.
She did not want to be hounded this way. She wanted to be let alone.
She was trying to do right now. Why couldn't the world help her,
instead of seeking to push her down?




CHAPTER XLII


The fact that Lester had seen this page was made perfectly clear to
Jennie that evening, for he brought it home himself, having concluded,
after mature deliberation, that he ought to. He had told her once that
there was to be no concealment between them, and this thing, coming so
brutally to disturb their peace, was nevertheless a case in point. He
had decided to tell her not to think anything of it--that it did
not make much difference, though to him it made all the difference in
the world. The effect of this chill history could never be undone. The
wise--and they included all his social world and many who were
not of it--could see just how he had been living. The article
which accompanied the pictures told how he had followed Jennie from
Cleveland to Chicago, how she had been coy and distant and that he had
to court her a long time to win her consent. This was to explain their
living together on the North Side. Lester realized that this was an
asinine attempt to sugar-coat the true story and it made him angry.
Still he preferred to have it that way rather than in some more brutal
vein. He took the paper out of his pocket when he arrived at the
house, spreading it on the library table. Jennie, who was close by,
watched him, for she knew what was coming.

"Here's something that will interest you, Jennie," he said dryly,
pointing to the array of text and pictures.

"I've already seen it, Lester," she said wearily. "Mrs. Stendahl
showed it to me this afternoon. I was wondering whether you had."

"Rather high-flown description of my attitude, isn't it? I didn't
know I was such an ardent Romeo."

"I'm awfully sorry, Lester," said Jennie, reading behind the dry
face of humor the serious import of this affair to him. She had long
since learned that Lester did not express his real feeling, his big
ills in words. He was inclined to jest and make light of the
inevitable, the inexorable. This light comment merely meant "this
matter cannot be helped, so we will make the best of it."

"Oh, don't feel badly about it," he went on. "It isn't anything
which can be adjusted now. They probably meant well enough. We just
happen to be in the limelight."

"I understand," said Jennie, coming over to him. "I'm sorry,
though, anyway." Dinner was announced a moment later and the incident
was closed.

But Lester could not dismiss the thought that matters were getting
in a bad way. His father had pointed it out to him rather plainly at
the last interview, and now this newspaper notoriety had capped the
climax. He might as well abandon his pretension to intimacy with his
old world. It would have none of him, or at least the more
conservative part of it would not. There were a few bachelors, a few
gay married men, some sophisticated women, single and married, who saw
through it all and liked him just the same, but they did not make
society. He was virtually an outcast, and nothing could save him but
to reform his ways; in other words, he must give up Jennie once and
for all.

But he did not want to do this. The thought was painful to
him--objectionable in every way. Jennie was growing in mental
acumen. She was beginning to see things quite as clearly as he did.
She was not a cheap, ambitious, climbing creature. She was a big woman
and a good one. It would be a shame to throw her down, and besides she
was good-looking. He was forty-six and she was twenty-nine; and she
looked twenty-four or five. It is an exceptional thing to find beauty,
youth, compatibility, intelligence, your own point of
view--softened and charmingly emotionalized--in another. He
had made his bed, as his father had said. He had better lie on it.

It was only a little while after this disagreeable newspaper
incident that Lester had word that his father was quite ill and
failing; it might be necessary for him to go to Cincinnati at any
moment. Pressure of work was holding him pretty close when the news
came that his father was dead. Lester, of course, was greatly shocked
and grieved, and he returned to Cincinnati in a retrospective and
sorrowful mood. His father had been a great character to him--a
fine and interesting old gentleman entirely aside from his
relationship to him as his son. He remembered him now dandling him
upon his knee as a child, telling him stories of his early life in
Ireland, and of his subsequent commercial struggle when he was a
little older, impressing the maxims of his business career and his
commercial wisdom on him as he grew to manhood. Old Archibald had been
radically honest. It was to him that Lester owed his instincts for
plain speech and direct statement of fact. "Never lie," was
Archibald's constant, reiterated statement. "Never try to make a thing
look different from what it is to you. It's the breath of
life--truth--it's the basis of real worth, while commercial
success--it will make a notable character of any one who will
stick to it." Lester believed this. He admired his father intensely
for his rigid insistence on truth, and now that he was really gone he
felt sorry. He wished he might have been spared to be reconciled to
him. He half fancied that old Archibald would have liked Jennie if he
had known her. He did not imagine that he would ever have had the
opportunity to straighten things out, although he still felt that
Archibald would have liked her.

When he reached Cincinnati it was snowing, a windy, blustery snow.
The flakes were coming down thick and fast. The traffic of the city
had a muffled sound. When he stepped down from the train he was met by
Amy, who was glad to see him in spite of all their past differences.
Of all the girls she was the most tolerant. Lester put his arms about
her, and kissed her.

"It seems like old times to see you, Amy," he said, "your coming to
meet me this way. How's the family? I suppose they're all here. Well,
poor father, his time had to come. Still, he lived to see everything
that he wanted to see. I guess he was pretty well satisfied with the
outcome of his efforts."

"Yes," replied Amy, "and since mother died he was very lonely."

They rode up to the house in kindly good feeling, chatting of old
times and places. All the members of the immediate family, and the
various relatives, were gathered in the old family mansion. Lester
exchanged the customary condolences with the others, realizing all the
while that his father had lived long enough. He had had a successful
life, and had fallen like a ripe apple from the tree. Lester looked at
him where he lay in the great parlor, in his black coffin, and a
feeling of the old-time affection swept over him. He smiled at the
clean-cut, determined, conscientious face.

"The old gentleman was a big man all the way through," he said to
Robert, who was present. "We won't find a better figure of a man
soon."

"We will not," said his brother, solemnly.

After the funeral it was decided to read the will at once. Louise's
husband was anxious to return to Buffalo; Lester was compelled to be
in Chicago. A conference of the various members of the family was
called for the second day after the funeral, to be held at the offices
of Messrs. Knight, Keatley & O'Brien, counselors of the late
manufacturer.

As Lester rode to the meeting he had the feeling that his father
had not acted in any way prejudicial to his interests. It had not been
so very long since they had had their last conversation; he had been
taking his time to think about things, and his father had given him
time. He always felt that he had stood well with the old gentleman,
except for his alliance with Jennie. His business judgment had been
valuable to the company. Why should there be any discrimination
against him? He really did not think it possible.

When they reached the offices of the law firm, Mr. O'Brien, a
short, fussy, albeit comfortable-looking little person, greeted all
the members of the family and the various heirs and assigns with a
hearty handshake. He had been personal counsel to Archibald Kane for
twenty years. He knew his whims and idiosyncrasies, and considered
himself very much in the light of a father confessor. He liked all the
children, Lester especially.

"Now I believe we are all here," he said, finally, extracting a
pair of large horn reading-glasses from his coat pocket and looking
sagely about. "Very well. We might as well proceed to business. I will
just read the will without any preliminary remarks."

He turned to his desk, picked up a paper lying upon it, cleared his
throat, and began.

It was a peculiar document, in some respects, for it began with all
the minor bequests; first, small sums to old employees, servants, and
friends. It then took up a few institutional bequests, and finally
came to the immediate family, beginning with the girls. Imogene, as a
faithful and loving daughter was left a sixth of the stock of the
carriage company and a fourth of the remaining properties of the
deceased, which roughly aggregated (the estate--not her share)
about eight hundred thousand dollars. Amy and Louise were provided for
in exactly the same proportion. The grandchildren were given certain
little bonuses for good conduct, when they should come of age. Then it
took up the cases of Robert and Lester.

"Owing to certain complications which have arisen in the affairs of
my son Lester," it began, "I deem it my duty to make certain
conditions which shall govern the distribution of the remainder of my
property, to wit: One-fourth of the stock of the Kane Manufacturing
Company and one-fourth of the remainder of my various properties,
real, personal, moneys, stocks and bonds, to go to my beloved son
Robert, in recognition of the faithful performance of his duty, and
one-fourth of the stock of the Kane Manufacturing Company and the
remaining fourth of my various properties, real, personal, moneys,
stocks and bonds, to be held in trust by him for the benefit of his
brother Lester, until such time as such conditions as may hereinafter
be set forth shall have been complied with. And it is my wish and
desire that my children shall concur in his direction of the Kane
Manufacturing Company, and of such other interests as are entrusted to
him, until such time as he shall voluntarily relinquish such control,
or shall indicate another arrangement which shall be better."

Lester swore under his breath. His cheeks changed color, but he did
not move. He was not inclined to make a show. It appeared that he was
not even mentioned separately.

The conditions "hereinafter set forth" dealt very fully with his
case, however, though they were not read aloud to the family at the
time, Mr. O'Brien stating that this was in accordance with their
father's wish. Lester learned immediately afterward that he was to
have ten thousand a year for three years, during which time he had the
choice of doing either one of two things: First, he was to leave
Jennie, if he had not already married her, and so bring his life into
moral conformity with the wishes of his father. In this event Lester's
share of the estate was to be immediately turned over to him.
Secondly, he might elect to marry Jennie, if he had not already done
so, in which case the ten thousand a year, specifically set aside to
him for three years, was to be continued for life--but for his
life only. Jennie was not to have anything of it after his death. The
ten thousand in question represented the annual interest on two
hundred shares of L. S. and M. S. stock which were also to be held in
trust until his decision had been reached and their final disposition
effected. If Lester refused to marry Jennie, or to leave her, he was
to have nothing at all after the three years were up. At Lester's
death the stock on which his interest was drawn was to be divided pro
rata among the surviving members of the family. If any heir or assign
contested the will, his or her share was thereby forfeited
entirely.

It was astonishing to Lester to see how thoroughly his father had
taken his case into consideration. He half suspected, on reading these
conditions, that his brother Robert had had something to do with the
framing of them, but of course he could not be sure. Robert had not
given any direct evidence of enmity.

"Who drew this will?" he demanded of O'Brien, a little later.

"Well, we all had a hand in it," replied O'Brien, a little
shamefacedly. "It was a very difficult document to draw up. You know,
Mr. Kane, there was no budging your father. He was adamant. He has
come very near defeating his own wishes in some of these clauses. Of
course, you know, we had nothing to do with its spirit. That was
between you and him. I hated very much to have to do it."

"Oh, I understand all that!" said Lester. "Don't let that worry
you."

Mr. O'Brien was very grateful.

During the reading of the will Lester had sat as stolid as an
ox.

He got up after a time, as did the others, assuming an air of
nonchalance. Robert, Amy, Louise and Imogene all felt shocked, but not
exactly, not unqualifiedly regretful. Certainly Lester had acted very
badly. He had given his father great provocation.

"I think the old gentleman has been a little rough in this," said
Robert, who had been sitting next him. "I certainly did not expect him
to go as far as that. So far as I am concerned some other arrangement
would have been satisfactory."

Lester smiled grimly. "It doesn't matter," he said.

Imogene, Amy, and Louise were anxious to be consolatory, but they
did not know what to say. Lester had brought it all on himself. "I
don't think papa acted quite right, Lester," ventured Amy, but Lester
waved her away almost gruffly.

"I can stand it," he said.

He figured out, as he stood there, what his income would be in case
he refused to comply with his father's wishes. Two hundred shares of
L. S. and M. S., in open market, were worth a little over one thousand
each. They yielded from five to six per cent., sometimes more,
sometimes less. At this rate he would have ten thousand a year, not
more.

The family gathering broke up, each going his way, and Lester
returned to his sister's house. He wanted to get out of the city
quickly, gave business as an excuse to avoid lunching with any one,
and caught the earliest train back to Chicago. As he rode he
meditated.

So this was how much his father really cared for him! Could it
really be so? He, Lester Kane, ten thousand a year, for only three
years, and then longer only on condition that he married Jennie! "Ten
thousand a year," he thought, "and that for three years! Good Lord!
Any smart clerk can earn that. To think he should have done that to
me!"




CHAPTER XLIII


This attempt at coercion was the one thing which would definitely
set Lester in opposition to his family, at least for the time being.
He had realized clearly enough of late that he had made a big mistake;
first in not having married Jennie, thus avoiding scandal; and in the
second place in not having accepted her proposition at the time when
she wanted to leave him; There were no two ways about it, he had made
a mess of this business. He could not afford to lose his fortune
entirely. He did not have enough money of his own. Jennie was unhappy,
he could see that. Why shouldn't she be? He was unhappy. Did he want
to accept the shabby ten thousand a year, even if he were willing to
marry her? Finally, did he want to lose Jennie, to have her go out of
his life once and for all? He could not make up his mind; the problem
was too complicated.

When Lester returned to his home, after the funeral, Jennie saw at
once that something was amiss with him, something beyond a son's
natural grief for his father's death was weighing upon his spirits.
What was it, she wondered. She tried to draw near to him
sympathetically, but his wounded spirit could not be healed so easily.
When hurt in his pride he was savage and sullen--he could have
struck any man who irritated him. She watched him interestedly,
wishing to do something for him, but he would not give her his
confidence. He grieved, and she could only grieve with him.

Days passed, and now the financial situation which had been created
by his father's death came up for careful consideration. The factory
management had to be reorganized. Robert would have to be made
president, as his father wished. Lester's own relationship to the
business would have to come up for adjudication. Unless he changed his
mind about Jennie, he was not a stockholder. As a matter of fact, he
was not anything. To continue to be secretary and treasurer, it was
necessary that he should own at least one share of the company's
stock. Would Robert give him any? Would Amy, Louise, or Imogene? Would
they sell him any? Would the other members of the family care to do
anything which would infringe on Robert's prerogatives under the will?
They were all rather unfriendly to Lester at present, and he realized
that he was facing a ticklish situation. The solution was--to get
rid of Jennie. If he did that he would not need to be begging for
stock. If he didn't, he was flying in the face of his father's last
will and testament. He turned the matter over in his mind slowly and
deliberately. He could quite see how things were coming out. He must
abandon either Jennie or his prospects in life. What a dilemma!

Despite Robert's assertion, that so far as he was concerned another
arrangement would have been satisfactory, he was really very well
pleased with the situation; his dreams were slowly nearing completion.
Robert had long had his plans perfected, not only for a thorough
reorganization of the company proper, but for an extension of the
business in the direction of a combination of carriage companies. If
he could get two or three of the larger organizations in the East and
West to join with him, selling costs could be reduced, over-production
would be avoided, and the general expenses could be materially scaled
down. Through a New York representative, he had been picking up stock
in outside carriage companies for some time and he was almost ready to
act. In the first place he would have himself elected president of the
Kane Company, and since Lester was no longer a factor, he could select
Amy's husband as vice-president, and possibly some one other than
Lester as secretary and treasurer. Under the conditions of the will,
the stock and other properties set aside temporarily for Lester, in
the hope that he would come to his senses, were to be managed and
voted by Robert. His father had meant, obviously, that he, Robert,
should help him coerce his brother. He did not want to appear mean,
but this was such an easy way. It gave him a righteous duty to
perform. Lester must come to his senses or he must let Robert run the
business to suit himself.

Lester, attending to his branch duties in Chicago, foresaw the
drift of things. He realized now that he was permanently out of the
company, a branch manager at his brother's sufferance, and the thought
irritated him greatly. Nothing had been said by Robert to indicate
that such a change had taken place--things went on very much as
before--but Robert's suggestions were now obviously law. Lester
was really his brother's employee at so much a year. It sickened his
soul.

There came a time, after a few weeks, when he felt as if he could
not stand this any longer. Hitherto he had been a free and independent
agent. The approaching annual stockholder's meeting which hitherto had
been a one-man affair and a formality, his father doing all the
voting, would be now a combination of voters, his brother presiding,
his sisters very likely represented by their husbands, and he not
there at all. It was going to be a great come-down, but as Robert had
not said anything about offering to give or sell him any stock which
would entitle him to sit as a director or hold any official position
in the company, he decided to write and resign. That would bring
matters to a crisis. It would show his brother that he felt no desire
to be under obligations to him in any way or to retain anything which
was not his--and gladly so--by right of ability and the
desire of those with whom he was associated. If he wanted to move back
into the company by deserting Jennie he would come in a very different
capacity from that of branch manager. He dictated a simple,
straight-forward business letter, saying:

"DEAR ROBERT, I know the time is drawing near when the company
must be reorganized under your direction. Not having any stock, I am
not entitled to sit as a director, or to hold the joint position of
secretary and treasurer. I want you to accept this letter as formal
notice of my resignation from both positions, and I want to have your
directors consider what disposition should be made of this position
and my services. I am not anxious to retain the branch-managership as
a branch-managership merely; at the same time I do not want to do
anything which will embarrass you in your plans for the future. You
see by this that I am not ready to accept the proposition laid down in
father's will--at least, not at present. I would like a definite
understanding of how you feel in this matter. Will you write and let
me know?

"Yours,

"LESTER."

Robert, sitting in his office at Cincinnati, considered this letter
gravely. It was like his brother to come down to "brass tacks." If
Lester were only as cautious as he was straightforward and direct,
what a man he would be! But there was no guile in the man--no
subtlety. He would never do a snaky thing--and Robert knew, in
his own soul, that to succeed greatly one must. "You have to be
ruthless at times--you have to be subtle," Robert would say to
himself. "Why not face the facts to yourself when you are playing for
big stakes?" He would, for one, and he did.

Robert felt that although Lester was a tremendously decent fellow
and his brother, he wasn't pliable enough to suit his needs. He was
too outspoken, too inclined to take issue. If Lester yielded to his
father's wishes, and took possession of his share of the estate, he
would become, necessarily, an active partner in the affairs of the
company. Lester would be a barrier in Robert's path. Did Robert want
this? Decidedly he did not. He much preferred that Lester should hold
fast to Jennie, for the present at least, and so be quietly shelved by
his own act.

After long consideration, Robert dictated a politic letter. He
hadn't made up his mind yet just what he wanted to do. He did not know
what his sisters' husbands would like. A consultation would have to be
held. For his part, he would be very glad to have Lester remain as
secretary and treasurer, if it could be arranged. Perhaps it would be
better to let the matter rest for the present.

Lester cursed. What did Robert mean by beating around the bush? He
knew well enough how it could be arranged. One share of stock would be
enough for Lester to qualify. Robert was afraid of him--that was
the basic fact. Well, he would not retain any branch-managership,
depend on that. He would resign at once. Lester accordingly wrote
back, saying that he had considered all sides, and had decided to look
after some interests of his own, for the time being. If Robert could
arrange it, he would like to have some one come on to Chicago and take
over the branch agency. Thirty days would be time enough. In a few
days came a regretful reply, saying that Robert was awfully sorry, but
that if Lester was determined he did not want to interfere with any
plans he might have in view. Imogene's husband, Jefferson Midgely, had
long thought he would like to reside in Chicago. He could undertake
the work for the time being.

Lester smiled. Evidently Robert was making the best of a very
subtle situation. Robert knew that he, Lester, could sue and tie
things up, and also that he would be very loath to do so. The
newspapers would get hold of the whole story. This matter of his
relationship to Jennie was in the air, anyhow. He could best solve the
problem by leaving her. So it all came back to that.




CHAPTER XLIV


For a man of Lester's years--he was now forty-six--to be
tossed out in the world without a definite connection, even though he
did have a present income (including this new ten thousand) of fifteen
thousand a year, was a disturbing and discouraging thing. He realized
now that, unless he made some very fortunate and profitable
arrangements in the near future, his career was virtually at an end.
Of course he could marry Jennie. That would give him the ten thousand
for the rest of his life, but it would also end his chance of getting
his legitimate share of the Kane estate. Again, he might sell out the
seventy-five thousand dollars' worth of moderate interest-bearing
stocks, which now yielded him about five thousand, and try a practical
investment of some kind--say a rival carriage company. But did he
want to jump in, at this stage of the game, and begin a running fight
on his father's old organization? Moreover, it would be a hard row to
hoe. There was the keenest rivalry for business as it was, with the
Kane Company very much in the lead. Lester's only available capital
was his seventy-five thousand dollars. Did he want to begin in a
picayune, obscure way? It took money to get a foothold in the carriage
business as things were now.

The trouble with Lester was that, while blessed with a fine
imagination and considerable insight, he lacked the ruthless,
narrow-minded insistence on his individual superiority which is a
necessary element in almost every great business success. To be a
forceful figure in the business world means, as a rule, that you must
be an individual of one idea, and that idea the God-given one that
life has destined you for a tremendous future in the particular field
you have chosen. It means that one thing, a cake of soap, a new
can-opener, a safety razor, or speed-accelerator, must seize on your
imagination with tremendous force, burn as a raging flame, and make
itself the be-all and end-all of your existence. As a rule, a man
needs poverty to help him to this enthusiasm, and youth. The thing he
has discovered, and with which he is going to busy himself, must be
the door to a thousand opportunities and a thousand joys. Happiness
must be beyond or the fire will not burn as brightly as it
might--the urge will not be great enough to make a great
success.

Lester did not possess this indispensable quality of enthusiasm.
Life had already shown him the greater part of its so-called joys. He
saw through the illusions that are so often and so noisily labeled
pleasure. Money, of course, was essential, and he had already had
money--enough to keep him comfortably. Did he want to risk it? He
looked about him thoughtfully. Perhaps he did. Certainly he could not
comfortably contemplate the thought of sitting by and watching other
people work for the rest of his days.

In the end he decided that he would bestir himself and look into
things. He was, as he said to himself, in no hurry; he was not going
to make a mistake. He would first give the trade, the people who were
identified with v he manufacture and sale of carriages, time to
realize that he was out of the Kane Company, for the time being,
anyhow, and open to other connections. So he announced that he was
leaving the Kane Company and going to Europe, ostensibly for a rest.
He had never been abroad, and Jennie, too, would enjoy it. Vesta could
be left at home with Gerhardt and a maid, and he and Jennie would
travel around a bit, seeing what Europe had to show. He wanted to
visit Venice and Baden-Baden, and the great watering-places that had
been recommended to him. Cairo and Luxor and the Parthenon had always
appealed to his imagination. After he had had his outing he could come
back and seriously gather up the threads of his intentions.

The spring after his father died, he put his plan into execution.
He had wound up the work of the warerooms and with a pleasant
deliberation had studied out a tour. He made Jennie his confidante,
and now, having gathered together their traveling comforts they took a
steamer from New York to Liverpool. After a few weeks in the British
Isles they went to Egypt. From there they came back, through Greece
and Italy, into Austria and Switzerland, and then later, through
France and Paris, to Germany and Berlin. Lester was diverted by the
novelty of the experience and yet he had an uncomfortable feeling that
he was wasting his time. Great business enterprises were not built by
travelers, and he was not looking for health.

Jennie, on the other hand, was transported by what she saw, and
enjoyed the new life to the full. Before Luxor and Karnak--places
which Jennie had never dreamed existed--she learned of an older
civilization, powerful, complex, complete. Millions of people had
lived and died here, believing in other gods, other forms of
government, other conditions of existence. For the first time in her
life Jennie gained a clear idea of how vast the world is. Now from
this point of view--of decayed Greece, of fallen Rome, of
forgotten Egypt, she saw how pointless are our minor difficulties, our
minor beliefs. Her father's Lutheranism--it did not seem so
significant any more; and the social economy of Columbus,
Ohio--rather pointless, perhaps. Her mother had worried so of
what people--her neighbors--thought, but here were dead
worlds of people, some bad, some good. Lester explained that their
differences in standards of morals were due sometimes to climate,
sometimes to religious beliefs, and sometimes to the rise of peculiar
personalities like Mohammed. Lester liked to point out how small
conventions bulked in this, the larger world, and vaguely she began to
see. Admitting that she had been bad--locally it was important,
perhaps, but in the sum of civilization, in the sum of big forces,
what did it all amount to? They would be dead after a little while,
she and Lester and all these people. Did anything matter except
goodness--goodness of heart? What else was there that was
real?




CHAPTER XLV


It was while traveling abroad that Lester came across, first at the
Carlton in London and later at Shepheards in Cairo, the one girl,
before Jennie, whom it might have been said he truly
admired--Letty Pace. He had not seen her for a long time, and she
had been Mrs. Malcolm Gerald for nearly four years, and a charming
widow for nearly two years more. Malcolm Gerald had been a wealthy
man, having amassed a fortune in banking and stock-brokering in
Cincinnati, and he had left Mrs. Malcolm Gerald very well off. She was
the mother of one child, a little girl, who was safely in charge of a
nurse and maid at all times, and she was invariably the picturesque
center of a group of admirers recruited from every capital of the
civilized world. Letty Gerald was a talented woman, beautiful,
graceful, artistic, a writer of verse, an omnivorous reader, a student
of art, and a sincere and ardent admirer of Lester Kane.

In her day she had truly loved him, for she had been a wise
observer of men and affairs, and Lester had always appealed to her as
a real man. He was so sane, she thought, so calm. He was always
intolerant of sham, and she liked him for it. He was inclined to wave
aside the petty little frivolities of common society conversation, and
to talk of simple and homely things. Many and many a time, in years
past, they had deserted a dance to sit out on a balcony somewhere, and
talk while Lester smoked. He had argued philosophy with her, discussed
books, described political and social conditions in other
cities--in a word, he had treated her like a sensible human
being, and she had hoped and hoped and hoped that he would propose to
her. More than once she had looked at his big, solid head with its
short growth of hardy brown hair, and wished that she could stroke it.
It was a hard blow to her when he finally moved away to Chicago; at
that time she knew nothing of Jennie, but she felt instinctively that
her chance of winning him was gone.

Then Malcolm Gerald, always an ardent admirer, proposed for
something like the sixty-fifth time, and she took him. She did not
love him, but she was getting along, and she had to marry some one. He
was forty-four when he married her, and he lived only four
years--just long enough to realize that he had married a
charming, tolerant, broad-minded woman. Then he died of pneumonia and
Mrs. Gerald was a rich widow, sympathetic, attractive, delightful in
her knowledge of the world, and with nothing to do except to live and
to spend her money.

She was not inclined to do either indifferently. She had long since
had her ideal of a man established by Lester. These whipper-snappers
of counts, earls, lords, barons, whom she met in one social world and
another (for her friendship and connections had broadened notably with
the years), did not interest her a particle. She was terribly weary of
the superficial veneer of the titled fortune-hunter whom she met
abroad. A good judge of character, a student of men and manners, a
natural reasoner along sociologic and psychologic lines, she saw
through them and through the civilization which they represented. "I
could have been happy in a cottage with a man I once knew out in
Cincinnati," she told one of her titled women friends who had been an
American before her marriage. "He was the biggest, cleanest, sanest
fellow. If he had proposed to me I would have married him if I had had
to work for a living myself."

"Was he so poor?" asked her friend.

"Indeed he wasn't. He was comfortably rich, but that did not make
any difference to me. It was the man I wanted."

"It would have made a difference in the long run," said the
other.

"You misjudge me," replied Mrs. Gerald. "I waited for him for a
number of years, and I know."

Lester had always retained pleasant impressions and kindly memories
of Letty Pace, or Mrs. Gerald, as she was now. He had been fond of her
in a way, very fond. Why hadn't he married her? He had asked himself
that question time and again. She would have made him an ideal wife,
his father would have been pleased, everybody would have been
delighted. Instead he had drifted and drifted, and then he had met
Jennie; and somehow, after that, he did not want her any more. Now
after six years of separation he met her again. He knew she was
married. She was vaguely aware he had had some sort of an
affair--she had heard that he had subsequently married the woman
and was living on the South Side. She did not know of the loss of his
fortune. She ran across him first in the Carlton one June evening. The
windows were open, and the flowers were blooming everywhere, odorous
with that sense of new life in the air which runs through the world
when spring comes back. For the moment she was a little beside
herself. Something choked in her throat; but she collected herself and
extended a graceful arm and hand.

"Why, Lester Kane," she exclaimed. "How do you do! I am so glad.
And this is Mrs. Kane? Charmed, I'm sure. It seems truly like a breath
of spring to see you again. I hope you'll excuse me, Mrs. Kane, but
I'm delighted to see your husband. I'm ashamed to say how many years
it is, Lester, since I saw you last! I feel quite old when I think of
it. Why, Lester, think; it's been all of six or seven years! And I've
been married and had a child, and poor Mr. Gerald has died, and oh,
dear, I don't know what all hasn't happened to me."

"You don't look it," commented Lester, smiling. He was pleased to
see her again, for they had been good friends. She liked him
still--that was evident, and he truly liked her.

Jennie smiled. She was glad to see this old friend of Lester's.
This woman, trailing a magnificent yellow lace train over pale,
mother-of-pearl satin, her round, smooth arms bare to the shoulder,
her corsage cut low and a dark red rose blowing at her waist, seemed
to her the ideal of what a woman should be. She liked looking at
lovely women quite as much as Lester; she enjoyed calling his
attention to them, and teasing him, in the mildest way, about their
charms. "Wouldn't you like to run and talk to her, Lester, instead of
to me?" she would ask when some particularly striking or beautiful
woman chanced to attract her attention. Lester would examine her
choice critically, for he had come to know that her judge of feminine
charms was excellent. "Oh, I'm pretty well off where I am," he would
retort, looking into her eyes; or, jestingly, "I'm not as young as I
used to be, or I'd get in tow of that."

"Run on," was her comment. "I'll wait for you."

"What would you do if I really should?"

"Why, Lester, I wouldn't do anything. You'd come back to me,
maybe."

"Wouldn't you care?"

"You know I'd care. But if you felt that you wanted to, I wouldn't
try to stop you. I wouldn't expect to be all in all to one man, unless
he wanted me to be."

"Where do you get those ideas, Jennie?" he asked her once, curious
to test the breadth of her philosophy.

"Oh, I don't know, why?"

"They're so broad, so good-natured, so charitable. They're not
common, that's sure."

"Why, I don't think we ought to be selfish, Lester. I don't know
why. Some women think differently, I know, but a man and a woman ought
to want to live together, or they ought not to--don't you think?
It doesn't make so much difference if a man goes off for a little
while--just so long as he doesn't stay--if he wants to come
back at all."

Lester smiled, but he respected her for the sweetness of her point
of view--he had to.

To-night, when she saw this woman so eager to talk to Lester, she
realized at once that they must have a great deal in common to talk
over; whereupon she did a characteristic thing. "Won't you excuse me
for a little while?" she asked, smiling. "I left some things uncared
for in our rooms. I'll be back."

She went away, remaining in her room as long as she reasonably
could, and Lester and Letty fell to discussing old times in earnest.
He recounted as much of his experiences as he deemed wise, and Letty
brought the history of her life up to date. "Now that you're safely
married, Lester," she said daringly, "I'll confess to you that you
were the one man I always wanted to have propose to me--and you
never did."

"Maybe I never dared," he said, gazing into her superb black eyes,
and thinking that perhaps she might know that he was not married. He
felt that she had grown more beautiful in every way. She seemed to him
now to be an ideal society figure-perfection itself--gracious,
natural, witty, the type of woman who mixes and mingles well, meeting
each new-comer upon the plane best suited to him or her.

"Yes, you thought! I know what you thought. Your real thought just
left the table."

"Tut, tut, my dear. Not so fast. You don't know what I
thought."

"Anyhow, I allow you some credit. She's charming."

"Jennie has her good points," he replied simply.

"And are you happy?"

"Oh, fairly so. Yes, I suppose I'm happy--as happy as any one
can be who sees life as it is. You know I'm not troubled with many
illusions."

"Not any, I think, kind sir, if I know you."

"Very likely, not any, Letty; but sometimes I wish I had a few. I
think I would be happier."

"And I, too, Lester. Really, I look on my life as a kind of
failure, you know, in spite of the fact that I'm almost as rich as
Croesus--not quite. I think he had some more than I have."

"What talk from you--you, with your beauty and talent, and
money--good heavens!"

"And what can I do with it? Travel, talk, shoo away silly
fortune-hunters. Oh, dear, sometimes I get so tired!"

Letty looked at Lester. In spite of Jennie, the old feeling came
back. Why should she have been cheated of him? They were as
comfortable together as old married people, or young lovers. Jennie
had had no better claim. She looked at him, and her eyes fairly spoke.
He smiled a little sadly.

"Here comes my wife," he said. "We'll have to brace up and talk of
other things. You'll find her interesting--really."

"Yes, I know," she replied, and turned on Jennie a radiant
smile.

Jennie felt a faint sense of misgiving. She thought vaguely that
this might be one of Lester's old flames. This was the kind of woman
he should have chosen--not her. She was suited to his station in
life, and he would have been as happy--perhaps happier. Was he
beginning to realize it? Then she put away the uncomfortable thought;
pretty soon she would be getting jealous, and that would be
contemptible.

Mrs. Gerald continued to be most agreeable in her attitude toward
the Kanes. She invited them the next day to join her on a drive
through Rotten Row. There was a dinner later at Claridge's, and then
she was compelled to keep some engagement which was taking her to
Paris. She bade them both an affectionate farewell, and hoped that
they would soon meet again. She was envious, in a sad way, of Jennie's
good fortune. Lester had lost none of his charm for her. If anything,
he seemed nicer, more considerate, more wholesome. She wished
sincerely that he were free. And Lester--subconsciously
perhaps--was thinking the same thing.

No doubt because of the fact that she was thinking of it, he had
been led over mentally all of the things which might have happened if
he had married her. They were so congenial now, philosophically,
artistically, practically. There was a natural flow of conversation
between them all the time, like two old comrades among men. She knew
everybody in his social sphere, which was equally hers, but Jennie did
not. They could talk of certain subtle characteristics of life in a
way which was not possible between him and Jennie, for the latter did
not have the vocabulary. Her ideas did not flow as fast as those of
Mrs. Gerald. Jennie had actually the deeper, more comprehensive,
sympathetic, and emotional note in her nature, but she could not show
it in light conversation. Actually she was living the thing she was,
and that was perhaps the thing which drew Lester to her. Just now, and
often in situations of this kind, she seemed at a disadvantage, and
she was. It seemed to Lester for the time being as if Mrs. Gerald
would perhaps have been a better choice after all--certainly as
good, and he would not now have this distressing thought as to his
future.

They did not see Mrs. Gerald again until they reached Cairo. In the
gardens about the hotel they suddenly encountered her, or rather
Lester did, for he was alone at the time, strolling and smoking.

"Well, this is good luck," he exclaimed. "Where do you come
from?"

"Madrid, if you please. I didn't know I was coming until last
Thursday. The Ellicotts are here. I came over with them. You know I
wondered where you might be. Then I remembered that you said you were
going to Egypt. Where is your wife?"

"In her bath, I fancy, at this moment. This warm weather makes
Jennie take to water. I was thinking of a plunge myself."

They strolled about for a time. Letty was in light blue silk, with
a blue and white parasol held daintily over her shoulder, and looked
very pretty. "Oh, dear!" she suddenly ejaculated, "I wonder sometimes
what I am to do with myself. I can't loaf always this way. I think
I'll go back to the States to live."

"Why don't you?"

"What good would it do me? I don't want to get married. I haven't
any one to marry now--that I want." She glanced at Lester
significantly, then looked away.

"Oh, you'll find some one eventually," he said, somewhat awkwardly.
"You can't escape for long--not with your looks and money."

"Oh, Lester, hush!"

"All right! Have it otherwise, if you want. I'm telling you."

"Do you still dance?" she inquired lightly, thinking of a ball
which was to be given at the hotel that evening. He had danced so well
a few years before.

"Do I look it?"

"Now, Lester, you don't mean to say that you have gone and
abandoned that last charming art. I still love to dance. Doesn't Mrs.
Kane?"

"No, she doesn't care to. At least she hasn't taken it up. Come to
think of it, I suppose that is my fault. I haven't thought of dancing
in some time."

It occurred to him that he hadn't been going to functions of any
kind much for some time. The opposition his entanglement had generated
had put a stop to that.

"Come and dance with me to-night. Your wife won't object. It's a
splendid floor. I saw it this morning."

"I'll have to think about that," replied Lester. "I'm not much in
practice. Dancing will probably go hard with me at my time of
life."

"Oh, hush, Lester," replied Mrs. Gerald. "You make me feel old.
Don't talk so sedately. Mercy alive, you'd think you were an old
man!"

"I am in experience, my dear."

"Pshaw, that simply makes us more attractive," replied his old
flame.




CHAPTER XLVI


That night after dinner the music was already sounding in the
ball-room of the great hotel adjacent to the palm-gardens when Mrs.
Gerald found Lester smoking on one of the verandas with Jennie by his
side. The latter was in white satin and white slippers, her hair lying
a heavy, enticing mass about her forehead and ears. Lester was
brooding over the history of Egypt, its successive tides or waves of
rather weak-bodied people; the thin, narrow strip of soil along either
side of the Nile that had given these successive waves of population
sustenance; the wonder of heat and tropic life, and this hotel with
its modern conveniences and fashionable crowd set down among ancient,
soul-weary, almost despairing conditions. He and Jennie had looked
this morning on the pyramids. They had taken a trolley to the Sphinx!
They had watched swarms of ragged, half-clad, curiously costumed men
and boys moving through narrow, smelly, albeit brightly colored, lanes
and alleys.

"It all seems such a mess to me," Jennie had said at one place.
"They are so dirty and oily. I like it, but somehow they seem tangled
up, like a lot of worms."

Lester chuckled, "You're almost right. But climate does it. Heat.
The tropics. Life is always mushy and sensual under these conditions.
They can't help it."

"Oh, I know that. I don't blame them. They're just queer."

To-night he was brooding over this, the moon shining down into the
grounds with an exuberant, sensuous luster.

"Well, at last I've found you!" Mrs. Gerald exclaimed. "I couldn't
get down to dinner, after all. Our party was so late getting back.
I've made your husband agree to dance with me, Mrs. Kane," she went on
smilingly. She, like Lester and Jennie, was under the sensuous
influence of the warmth, the spring, the moonlight. There were rich
odors abroad, floating subtly from groves and gardens; from the remote
distance camel-bells were sounding and exotic cries, "Ayah!"
and "oosh! oosh!" as though a drove of strange animals were
being rounded up and driven through the crowded streets.

"You're welcome to him," replied Jennie pleasantly. "He ought to
dance. I sometimes wish I did."

"You ought to take lessons right away then," replied Lester
genially. "I'll do my best to keep you company. I'm not as light on my
feet as I was once, but I guess I can get around."

"Oh, I don't want to dance that badly," smiled Jennie. "But you two
go on, I'm going up-stairs in a little while, anyway."

"Why don't you come sit in the ball-room? I can't do more than a
few rounds. Then we can watch the others," said Lester rising.

"No. I think I'll stay here. It's so pleasant. You go. Take him,
Mrs. Gerald."

Lester and Letty strolled away. They made a striking
pair--Mrs. Gerald in dark wine-colored silk, covered with
glistening black beads, her shapely arms and neck bare, and a flashing
diamond of great size set just above her forehead in her dark hair.
Her lips were red, and she had an engaging smile, showing an even row
of white teeth between wide, full, friendly lips. Lester's strong,
vigorous figure was well set off by his evening clothes, he looked
distinguished.

"That is the woman he should have married," said Jennie to herself
as he disappeared. She fell into a reverie, going over the steps of
her past life. Sometimes it seemed to her now as if she had been
living in a dream. At other times she felt as though she were in that
dream yet. Life sounded in her ears much as this night did. She heard
its cries. She knew its large-mass features. But back of it were
subtleties that shaded and changed one into the other like the
shifting of dreams. Why had she been so attractive to men? Why had
Lester been so eager to follow her? Could she have prevented him? She
thought of her life in Columbus, when she carried coal; to-night she
was in Egypt, at this great hotel, the chatelaine of a suite of rooms,
surrounded by every luxury, Lester still devoted to her. He had
endured so many things for her! Why? Was she so wonderful? Brander had
said so. Lester had told her so. Still she felt humble, out of place,
holding handfuls of jewels that did not belong to her. Again she
experienced that peculiar feeling which had come over her the first
time she went to New York with Lester--namely, that this fairy
existence could not endure. Her life was fated. Something would
happen. She would go back to simple things, to a side street, a poor
cottage, to old clothes.

And then as she thought of her home in Chicago, and the attitude of
his friends, she knew it must be so. She would never be received, even
if he married her. And she could understand why. She could look into
the charming, smiling face of this woman who was now with Lester, and
see that she considered her very nice, perhaps, but not of Lester's
class. She was saying to herself now no doubt as she danced with
Lester that he needed some one like her. He needed some one who had
been raised in the atmosphere of the things to which he had been
accustomed. He couldn't very well expect to find in her, Jennie, the
familiarity with, the appreciation of the niceties to, which he had
always been accustomed. She understood what they were. Her mind had
awakened rapidly to details of furniture, clothing, arrangement,
decorations, manner, forms, customs, but--she was not to the
manner born.

If she went away Lester would return to his old world, the world of
the attractive, well-bred, clever woman who now hung upon his arm. The
tears came into Jennie's eyes; she wished, for the moment, that she
might die. It would be better so. Meanwhile Lester was dancing with
Mrs. Gerald, or sitting out between the waltzes talking over old
times, old places, and old friends. As he looked at Letty he marveled
at her youth and beauty. She was more developed than formerly, but
still as slender and shapely as Diana. She had strength, too, in this
smooth body of hers, and her black eyes were liquid and lusterful.

"I swear, Letty," he said impulsively, "you're really more
beautiful than ever. You're exquisite. You've grown younger instead of
older."

"You think so?" she smiled, looking up into his face.

"You know I do, or I wouldn't say so. I'm not much on
philandering."

"Oh, Lester, you bear, can't you allow a woman just a little
coyness? Don't you know we all love to sip our praise, and not be
compelled to swallow it in one great mouthful?"

"What's the point?" he asked. "What did I say?"

"Oh, nothing. You're such a bear. You're such a big, determined,
straightforward boy. But never mind. I like you. That's enough, isn't
it?"

"It surely is," he said.

They strolled into the garden as the music ceased, and he squeezed
her arm softly. He couldn't help it; she made him feel as if he owned
her. She wanted him to feel that way. She said to herself, as they sat
looking at the lanterns in the gardens, that if ever he were free, and
would come to her, she would take him. She was almost ready to take
him anyhow--only he probably wouldn't. He was so straight-laced,
so considerate. He wouldn't, like so many other men she knew, do a
mean thing. He couldn't. Finally Lester rose and excused himself. He
and Jennie were going farther up the Nile in the morning--toward
Karnak and Thebes and the water-washed temples at Phylae. They
would have to start at an unearthly early hour, and he must get to
bed.

"When are you going home?" asked Mrs. Gerald, ruefully.

"In September."

"Have you engaged your passage?"

"Yes; we sail from Hamburg on the ninth--the
Fulda."

"I may be going back in the fall," laughed Letty. "Don't be
surprised if I crowd in on the same boat with you. I'm very unsettled
in my mind."

"Come along, for goodness sake," replied Lester. "I hope you do....
I'll see you to-morrow before we leave." He paused, and she looked at
him wistfully.

"Cheer up," he said, taking her hand. "You never can tell what life
will do. We sometimes find ourselves right when we thought we were all
wrong."

He was thinking that she was sorry to lose him, and he was sorry
that she was not in a position to have what she wanted. As for
himself, he was saying that here was one solution that probably he
would never accept; yet it was a solution. Why had he not seen this
years before?

"And yet she wasn't as beautiful then as she is now, nor as wise,
nor as wealthy." Maybe! Maybe! But he couldn't be unfaithful to Jennie
nor wish her any bad luck. She had had enough without his willing, and
had borne it bravely.




CHAPTER XLVII


The trip home did bring another week with Mrs. Gerald, for after
mature consideration she had decided to venture to America for a
while. Chicago and Cincinnati were her destinations, and she hoped to
see more of Lester. Her presence was a good deal of a surprise to
Jennie, and it started her thinking again. She could see what the
point was. If she were out of the way Mrs. Gerald would marry Lester;
that was certain. As it was--well, the question was a complicated
one. Letty was Lester's natural mate, so far as birth, breeding, and
position went. And yet Jennie felt instinctively that, on the large
human side, Lester preferred her. Perhaps time would solve the
problem; in the mean time the little party of three continued to
remain excellent friends. When they reached Chicago Mrs. Gerald went
her way, and Jennie and Lester took up the customary thread of their
existence.

On his return from Europe Lester set to work in earnest to find a
business opening. None of the big companies made him any overtures,
principally because he was considered a strong man who was looking for
a control in anything he touched. The nature of his altered fortunes
had not been made public. All the little companies that he
investigated were having a hand-to-mouth existence, or manufacturing a
product which was not satisfactory to him. He did find one company in
a small town in northern Indiana which looked as though it might have
a future. It was controlled by a practical builder of wagons and
carriages--such as Lester's father had been in his day--who,
however, was not a good business man. He was making some small money
on an investment of fifteen thousand dollars and a plant worth, say,
twenty-five thousand. Lester felt that something could be done here if
proper methods were pursued and business acumen exercised. It would be
slow work. There would never be a great fortune in it. Not in his
lifetime. He was thinking of making an offer to the small manufacturer
when the first rumors of a carriage trust reached him.

Robert had gone ahead rapidly with his scheme for reorganizing the
carriage trade. He showed his competitors how much greater profits
could be made through consolidation than through a mutually
destructive rivalry. So convincing were his arguments that one by one
the big carriage manufacturing companies fell into line. Within a few
months the deal had been pushed through, and Robert found himself
president of the United Carriage and Wagon Manufacturers' Association,
with a capital stock of ten million dollars, and with assets
aggregating nearly three-fourths of that sum at a forced sale. He was
a happy man.

While all this was going forward Lester was completely in the dark.
His trip to Europe prevented him from seeing three or four minor
notices in the newspapers of some of the efforts that were being made
to unite the various carriage and wagon manufactories. He returned to
Chicago to learn that Jefferson Midgely, Imogene's husband, was still
in full charge of the branch and living in Evanston, but because of
his quarrel with his family he was in no position to get the news
direct. Accident brought it fast enough, however, and that rather
irritatingly.

The individual who conveyed this information was none other than
Mr. Henry Bracebridge, of Cleveland, into whom he ran at the Union
Club one evening after he had been in the city a month.

"I hear you're out of the old company," Bracebridge remarked,
smiling blandly.

"Yes," said Lester, "I'm out."

"What are you up to now?"

"Oh, I have a deal of my own under consideration, I'm thinking
something of handling an independent concern."

"Surely you won't run counter to your brother? He has a pretty good
thing in that combination of his."

"Combination! I hadn't heard of it," said Lester. "I've just got
back from Europe."

"Well, you want to wake up, Lester," replied Bracebridge. "He's got
the biggest thing in your line. I thought you knew all about it. The
Lyman-Winthrop Company, the Myer-Brooks Company, the Woods
Company--in fact, five or six of the big companies are all in.
Your brother was elected president of the new concern. I dare say he
cleaned up a couple of millions out of the deal."

Lester stared. His glance hardened a little.

"Well, that's fine for Robert. I'm glad of it."

Bracebridge could see that he had given him a vital stab.

"Well, so long, old man," he exclaimed. "When you're in Cleveland
look us up. You know how fond my wife is of you."

"I know," replied Lester. "By-by."

He strolled away to the smoking-room, but the news took all the
zest out of his private venture. Where would he be with a shabby
little wagon company and his brother president of a carriage trust?
Good heavens! Robert could put him out of business in a year. Why, he
himself had dreamed of such a combination as this. Now his brother had
done it.

It is one thing to have youth, courage, and a fighting spirit to
meet the blows with which fortune often afflicts the talented. It is
quite another to see middle age coming on, your principal fortune
possibly gone, and avenue after avenue of opportunity being sealed to
you on various sides. Jennie's obvious social insufficiency, the
quality of newspaper reputation which had now become attached to her,
his father's opposition and death, the loss of his fortune, the loss
of his connection with the company, his brother's attitude, this
trust, all combined in a way to dishearten and discourage him. He
tried to keep a brave face--and he had succeeded thus far, he
thought, admirably, but this last blow appeared for the time being a
little too much. He went home, the same evening that he heard the
news, sorely disheartened. Jennie saw it. She realized it, as a matter
of fact, all during the evening that he was away. She felt blue and
despondent herself. When he came home she saw what it
was--something had happened to him. Her first impulse was to say,
"What is the matter, Lester?" but her next and sounder one was to
ignore it until he was ready to speak, if ever. She tried not to let
him see that she saw, coming as near as she might affectionately
without disturbing him.

"Vesta is so delighted with herself to-day," she volunteered by way
of diversion. "She got such nice marks in school."

"That's good," he replied solemnly.

"And she dances beautifully these days. She showed me some of her
new dances to-night. You haven't any idea how sweet she looks."

"I'm glad of it," he grumbled. "I always wanted her to be perfect
in that. It's time she was going into some good girls' school, I
think."

"And papa gets in such a rage. I have to laugh. She teases him
about it--the little imp. She offered to teach him to dance
to-night. If he didn't love her so he'd box her ears."

"I can see that," said Lester, smiling. "Him dancing! That's pretty
good!"

"She's not the least bit disturbed by his storming, either."

"Good for her," said Lester. He was very fond of Vesta, who was now
quite a girl.

So Jennie tripped on until his mood was modified a little, and then
some inkling of what had happened came out. It was when they were
retiring for the night. "Robert's formulated a pretty big thing in a
financial way since we've been away," he volunteered.

"What is it?" asked Jennie, all ears.

"Oh, he's gotten up a carriage trust. It's something which will
take in every manufactory of any importance in the country.
Bracebridge was telling me that Robert was made president, and that
they have nearly eight millions in capital."

"You don't say!" replied Jennie. "Well, then you won't want to do
much with your new company, will you?"

"No; there's nothing in that, just now," he said. "Later on I fancy
it may be all right. I'll wait and see how this thing comes out. You
never can tell what a trust like that will do."

Jennie was intensely sorry. She had never heard Lester complain
before. It was a new note. She wished sincerely that she might do
something to comfort him, but she knew that her efforts were useless.
"Oh, well," she said, "there are so many interesting things in this
world. If I were you I wouldn't be in a hurry to do anything, Lester.
You have so much time."

She didn't trust herself to say anything more, and he felt that it
was useless to worry. Why should he? After all, he had an ample income
that was absolutely secure for two years yet. He could have more if he
wanted it. Only his brother was moving so dazzlingly onward, while he
was standing still--perhaps "drifting" would be the better word.
It did seem a pity; worst of all, he was beginning to feel a little
uncertain of himself.




CHAPTER XLVIII


Lester had been doing some pretty hard thinking, but so far he had
been unable to formulate any feasible plan for his re-entrance into
active life. The successful organization of Robert's carriage trade
trust had knocked in the head any further thought on his part of
taking an interest in the small Indiana wagon manufactory. He could
not be expected to sink his sense of pride and place, and enter a
petty campaign for business success with a man who was so obviously
his financial superior. He had looked up the details of the
combination, and he found that Bracebridge had barely indicated how
wonderfully complete it was. There were millions in the combine. It
would have every little manufacturer by the throat. Should he begin
now in a small way and "pike along" in the shadow of his giant
brother? He couldn't see it. It was too ignominious. He would be
running around the country trying to fight a new trust, with his own
brother as his tolerant rival and his own rightful capital arrayed
against him. It couldn't be done. Better sit still for the time being.
Something else might show up. If not--well, he had his
independent income and the right to come back into the Kane Company if
he wished. Did he wish? The question was always with him.

It was while Lester was in this mood, drifting, that he received a
visit from Samuel E. Ross, a real estate dealer, whose great, wooden
signs might be seen everywhere on the windy stretches of prairie about
the city. Lester had seen Ross once or twice at the Union Club, where
he had been pointed out as a daring and successful real estate
speculator, and he had noticed his rather conspicuous offices at La
Salle and Washington streets. Ross was a magnetic-looking person of
about fifty years of age, tall, black-bearded, black-eyed, an arched,
wide-nostriled nose, and hair that curled naturally, almost
electrically. Lester was impressed with his lithe, cat-like figure,
and his long, thin, impressive white hands.

Mr. Ross had a real estate proposition to lay before Mr. Kane. Of
course Mr. Kane knew who he was. And Mr. Ross admitted fully that he
knew all about Mr. Kane. Recently, in conjunction with Mr. Norman
Yale, of the wholesale grocery firm of Yale, Simpson & Rice, he
had developed "Yalewood." Mr. Kane knew of that?

Yes, Mr. Kane knew of that.

Only within six weeks the last lots in the Ridgewood section of
"Yalewood" had been closed out at a total profit of forty-two per
cent. He went over a list of other deals in real estate which he had
put through, all well-known properties. He admitted frankly that there
were failures in the business; he had had one or two himself. But the
successes far outnumbered the bad speculations, as every one knew. Now
Lester was no longer connected with the Kane Company. He was probably
looking for a good investment, and Mr. Ross had a proposition to lay
before him. Lester consented to listen, and Mr. Ross blinked his
cat-like eyes and started in.

The idea was that he and Lester should enter into a one-deal
partnership, covering the purchase and development of a forty-acre
tract of land lying between Fifty-fifth, Seventy-first, Halstead
streets, and Ashland Avenue, on the southwest side. There were
indications of a genuine real estate boom there--healthy,
natural, and permanent. The city was about to pave Fifty-fifth Street.
There was a plan to extend the Halstead Street car line far below its
present terminus. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which ran near
there, would be glad to put a passenger station on the property. The
initial cost of the land would be forty thousand dollars which they
would share equally. Grading, paving, lighting, tree planting,
surveying would cost, roughly, an additional twenty-five thousand.
There would be expenses for advertising--say ten per cent, of the
total investment for two years, or perhaps three--a total of
nineteen thousand five hundred or twenty thousand dollars. All told,
they would stand to invest jointly the sum of ninety-five thousand, or
possibly one hundred thousand dollars, of which Lester's share would
be fifty thousand. Then Mr. Ross began to figure on the profits.

The character of the land, its salability, and the likelihood of a
rise in value could be judged by the property adjacent, the sales that
had been made north of Fifty-fifth Street and east of Halstead. Take,
for instance, the Mortimer plot, at Halstead and Fifty-fifth streets,
on the south-east corner. Here was a piece of land that in 1882 was
held at forty-five dollars an acre. In 1886 it had risen to five
hundred dollars an acre, as attested by its sale to a Mr. John L.
Slosson at that time. In 1889, three years later, it had been sold to
Mr. Mortimer for one thousand per acre, precisely the figure at which
this tract was now offered. It could be parceled out into lots fifty
by one hundred feet at five hundred dollars per lot. Was there any
profit in that?

Lester admitted that there was.

Ross went on, somewhat boastfully, to explain just how real estate
profits were made. It was useless for any outsider to rush into the
game, and imagine that he could do in a few weeks or years what
trained real estate speculators like himself had been working on for a
quarter of a century. There was something in prestige, something in
taste, something in psychic apprehension. Supposing that they went
into the deal, he, Ross, would be the presiding genius. He had a
trained staff, he controlled giant contractors, he had friends in the
tax office, in the water office, and in the various other city
departments which made or marred city improvements. If Lester would
come in with him he would make him some money--how much he would
not say exactly--fifty thousand dollars at the lowest--one
hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand in all likelihood. Would
Lester let him go into details, and explain just how the scheme could
be worked out? After a few days of quiet cogitation, Lester decided to
accede to Mr. Ross's request; he would look into this thing.




CHAPTER XLIX


The peculiarity of this particular proposition was that it had the
basic elements of success. Mr. Ross had the experience and the
judgment which were quite capable of making a success of almost
anything he undertook. He was in a field which was entirely familiar.
He could convince almost any able man if he could get his ear
sufficiently long to lay his facts before him.

Lester was not convinced at first, although, generally speaking, he
was interested in real estate propositions. He liked land. He
considered it a sound investment providing you did not get too much of
it. He had never invested in any, or scarcely any, solely because he
had not been in a realm where real estate propositions were talked of.
As it was he was landless and, in a way, jobless.

He rather liked Mr. Ross and his way of doing business. It was easy
to verify his statements, and he did verify them in several
particulars. There were his signs out on the prairie stretches, and
here were his ads in the daily papers. It seemed not a bad way at all
in his idleness to start and make some money.

The trouble with Lester was that he had reached the time where he
was not as keen for details as he had formerly been. All his work in
recent years--in fact, from the very beginning--had been
with large propositions, the purchasing of great quantities of
supplies, the placing of large orders, the discussion of things which
were wholesale and which had very little to do with the minor details
which make up the special interests of the smaller traders of the
world. In the factory his brother Robert had figured the pennies and
nickels of labor-cost, had seen to it that all the little leaks were
shut off. Lester had been left to deal with larger things, and he had
consistently done so. When it came to this particular proposition his
interest was in the wholesale phases of it, not the petty details of
selling. He could not help seeing that Chicago was a growing city, and
that land values must rise. What was now far-out prairie property
would soon, in the course of a few years, be well built-up suburban
residence territory. Scarcely any land that could be purchased now
would fall in value. It might drag in sales or increase, but it
couldn't fall. Ross convinced him of this. He knew it of his own
judgment to be true.

The several things on which he did not speculate sufficiently were
the life or health of Mr. Ross; the chance that some obnoxious
neighborhood growth would affect the territory he had selected as
residence territory; the fact that difficult money situations might
reduce real estate values--in fact, bring about a flurry of real
estate liquidation which would send prices crashing down and cause the
failure of strong promoters, even such promoters for instance, as Mr.
Samuel E. Ross.

For several months he studied the situation as presented by his new
guide and mentor, and then, having satisfied himself that he was
reasonably safe, decided to sell some of the holdings which were
netting him a beggarly six per cent, and invest in this new
proposition. The first cash outlay was twenty thousand dollars for the
land, which was taken over under an operative agreement between
himself and Ross; this was run indefinitely--so long as there was
any of this land left to sell. The next thing was to raise twelve
thousand five hundred dollars for improvements, which he did, and then
to furnish some twenty-five hundred dollars more for taxes and
unconsidered expenses, items which had come up in carrying out the
improvement work which had been planned. It seemed that hard and soft
earth made a difference in grading costs, that trees would not always
flourish as expected, that certain members of the city water and gas
departments had to be "seen" and "fixed" before certain other
improvements could be effected. Mr. Ross attended to all this, but the
cost of the proceedings was something which had to be discussed, and
Lester heard it all.

After the land was put in shape, about a year after the original
conversation, it was necessary to wait until spring for the proper
advertising and booming of the new section; and this advertising began
to call at once for the third payment. Lester disposed of an
additional fifteen thousand dollars worth of securities in order to
follow this venture to its logical and profitable conclusion.

Up to this time he was rather pleased with his venture. Ross had
certainly been thorough and business-like in his handling of the
various details. The land was put in excellent shape. It was given a
rather attractive title--"Inwood," although, as Lester noted,
there was precious little wood anywhere around there. But Ross assured
him that people looking for a suburban residence would be attracted by
the name; seeing the vigorous efforts in tree-planting that had been
made to provide for shade in the future, they would take the will for
the deed. Lester smiled.

The first chill wind that blew upon the infant project came in the
form of a rumor that the International Packing Company, one of the big
constituent members of the packing house combination at Halstead and
Thirty-ninth streets, had determined to desert the old group and lay
out a new packing area for itself. The papers explained that the
company intended to go farther south, probably below Fifty-fifth
Street and west of Ashland Avenue. This was the territory that was
located due west of Lester's property, and the mere suspicion that the
packing company might invade the territory was sufficient to blight
the prospects of any budding real estate deal.

Ross was beside himself with rage. He decided, after quick
deliberation, that the best thing to do would be to boom the property
heavily, by means of newspaper advertising, and see if it could not be
disposed of before any additional damage was likely to be done to it.
He laid the matter before Lester, who agreed that this would be
advisable. They had already expended six thousand dollars in
advertising, and now the additional sum of three thousand dollars was
spent in ten days, to make it appear that In wood was an ideal
residence section, equipped with every modern convenience for the
home-lover, and destined to be one of the most exclusive and beautiful
suburbs of the city. It was "no go." A few lots were sold, but the
rumor that the International Packing Company might come was persistent
and deadly; from any point of view, save that of a foreign population
neighborhood, the enterprise was a failure.

To say that Lester was greatly disheartened by this blow is to put
it mildly. Practically fifty thousand dollars, two-thirds of all his
earthly possessions, outside of his stipulated annual income, was tied
up here; and there were taxes to pay, repairs to maintain, actual
depreciation in value to face. He suggested to Ross that the area
might be sold at its cost value, or a loan raised on it, and the whole
enterprise abandoned; but that experienced real estate dealer was not
so sanguine. He had had one or two failures of this kind before. He
was superstitious about anything which did not go smoothly from the
beginning. If it didn't go it was a hoodoo--a black
shadow--and he wanted no more to do with it. Other real estate
men, as he knew to his cost, were of the same opinion.

Some three years later the property was sold under the sheriff's
hammer. Lester, having put in fifty thousand dollars all told,
recovered a trifle more than eighteen thousand; and some of his wise
friends assured him that he was lucky in getting off so easily.




CHAPTER L


While the real estate deal was in progress Mrs. Gerald decided to
move to Chicago. She had been staying in Cincinnati for a few months,
and had learned a great deal as to the real facts of Lester's
irregular mode of life. The question whether or not he was really
married to Jennie remained an open one. The garbled details of
Jennie's early years, the fact that a Chicago paper had written him up
as a young millionaire who was sacrificing his fortune for love of
her, the certainty that Robert had practically eliminated him from any
voice in the Kane Company, all came to her ears. She hated to think
that Lester was making such a sacrifice of himself. He had let nearly
a year slip by without doing anything. In two more years his chance
would be gone. He had said to her in London that he was without many
illusions. Was Jennie one? Did he really love her, or was he just
sorry for her? Letty wanted very much to find out for sure.

The house that Mrs. Gerald leased in Chicago was a most imposing
one on Drexel Boulevard. "I'm going to take a house in your town this
winter, and I hope to see a lot of you," she wrote to Lester. "I'm
awfully bored with life here in Cincinnati. After Europe it's
so--well, you know. I saw Mrs. Knowles on Saturday. She asked
after you. You ought to know that you have a loving friend in her. Her
daughter is going to marry Jimmy Severance in the spring."

Lester thought of her coming with mingled feelings of pleasure and
uncertainty. She would be entertaining largely, of course. Would she
foolishly begin by attempting to invite him and Jennie? Surely not.
She must know the truth by this time. Her letter indicated as much.
She spoke of seeing a lot of him. That meant that Jennie would have to
be eliminated. He would have to make a clean breast of the whole
affair to Letty. Then she could do as she pleased about their future
intimacy. Seated in Letty's comfortable boudoir one afternoon, facing
a vision of loveliness in pale yellow, he decided that he might as
well have it out with her. She would understand. Just at this time he
was beginning to doubt the outcome of the real estate deal, and
consequently he was feeling a little blue, and, as a concomitant, a
little confidential. He could not as yet talk to Jennie about his
troubles.

"You know, Lester," said Letty, by way of helping him to his
confession--the maid had brought tea for her and some brandy and
soda for him, and departed--"that I have been hearing a lot of
things about you since I've been back in this country. Aren't you
going to tell me all about yourself? You know I have your real
interests at heart."

"What have you been hearing, Letty?" he asked, quietly.

"Oh, about your father's will for one thing, and the fact that
you're out of the company, and some gossip about Mrs. Kane which
doesn't interest me very much. You know what I mean. Aren't you going
to straighten things out, so that you can have what rightfully belongs
to you? It seems to me such a great sacrifice, Lester, unless, of
course, you are very much in love. Are you?" she asked archly.

Lester paused and deliberated before replying. "I really don't know
how to answer that last question, Letty," he said. "Sometimes I think
that I love her; sometimes I wonder whether I do or not. I'm going to
be perfectly frank with you. I was never in such a curious position in
my life before. You like me so much, and I--well, I don't say
what I think of you," he smiled. "But anyhow, I can talk to you
frankly. I'm not married."

"I thought as much," she said, as he paused.

"And I'm not married because I have never been able to make up my
mind just what to do about it. When I first met Jennie I thought her
the most entrancing girl I had ever laid eyes on."

"That speaks volumes for my charms at that time," interrupted his
vis-a-vis.

"Don't interrupt me if you want to hear this," he smiled.

"Tell me one thing," she questioned, "and then I won't. Was that in
Cleveland?"

"Yes."

"So I heard," she assented.

"There was something about her so--"

"Love at first sight," again interpolated Letty foolishly. Her
heart was hurting her. "I know."

"Are you going to let me tell this?"

"Pardon me, Lester. I can't help a twinge or two."

"Well, anyhow, I lost my head. I thought she was the most perfect
thing under the sun, even if she was a little out of my world. This is
a democratic country. I thought that I could just take her, and
then--well, you know. That is where I made my mistake. I didn't
think that would prove as serious as it did. I never cared for any
other woman but you before and--I'll be frank--I didn't know
whether I wanted to marry you. I thought I didn't want to marry any
woman. I said to myself that I could just take Jennie, and then, after
a while, when things had quieted down some, we could separate. She
would be well provided for. I wouldn't care very much. She wouldn't
care. You understand."

"Yes, I understand," replied his confessor.

"Well, you see, Letty, it hasn't worked out that way. She's a woman
of a curious temperament. She possesses a world of feeling and
emotion. She's not educated in the sense in which we understand that
word, but she has natural refinement and tact. She's a good
housekeeper. She's an ideal mother. She's the most affectionate
creature under the sun. Her devotion to her mother and father was
beyond words. Her love for her--daughter she's hers, not
mine--is perfect. She hasn't any of the graces of the smart
society woman. She isn't quick at repartee. She can't join in any
rapid-fire conversation. She thinks rather slowly, I imagine. Some of
her big thoughts never come to the surface at all, but you can feel
that she is thinking and that she is feeling."

"You pay her a lovely tribute, Lester," said Letty.

"I ought to," he replied. "She's a good woman, Letty; but, for all
that I have said, I sometimes think that it's only sympathy that's
holding me."

"Don't be too sure," she said warningly.

"Yes, but I've gone through with a great deal. The thing for me to
have done was to have married her in the first place. There have been
so many entanglements since, so much rowing and discussion, that I've
rather lost my bearings. This will of father's complicates matters. I
stand to lose eight hundred thousand if I marry her--really, a
great deal more, now that the company has been organized into a trust.
I might better say two millions. If I don't marry her, I lose
everything outright in about two more years. Of course, I might
pretend that I have separated from her, but I don't care to lie. I
can't work it out that way without hurting her feelings, and she's
been the soul of devotion. Right down in my heart, at this minute, I
don't know whether I want to give her up. Honestly, I don't know what
the devil to do."

Lester looked, lit a cigar in a far-off, speculative fashion, and
looked out of the window.

"Was there ever such a problem?" questioned Letty, staring at the
floor. She rose, after a few moments of silence, and put her hands on
his round, solid head. Her yellow, silken house-gown, faintly scented,
touched his shoulders. "Poor Lester," she said. "You certainly have
tied yourself up in a knot. But it's a Gordian knot, my dear, and it
will have to be cut. Why don't you discuss this whole thing with her,
just as you have with me, and see how she feels about it?"

"It seems such an unkind thing to do," he replied.

"You must take some action, Lester dear," she insisted. "You can't
just drift. You are doing yourself such a great injustice. Frankly, I
can't advise you to marry her; and I'm not speaking for myself in
that, though I'll take you gladly, even if you did forsake me in the
first place. I'll be perfectly honest--whether you ever come to
me or not--I love you, and always shall love you."

"I know it," said Lester, getting up. He took her hands in his, and
studied her face curiously. Then he turned away. Letty paused to get
her breath. His action discomposed her.

"But you're too big a man, Lester, to settle down on ten thousand a
year," she continued. "You're too much of a social figure to drift.
You ought to get back into the social and financial world where you
belong. All that's happened won't injure you, if you reclaim your
interest in the company. You can dictate your own terms. And if you
tell her the truth she won't object, I'm sure. If she cares for you,
as you think she does, she will be glad to make this sacrifice. I'm
positive of that. You can provide for her handsomely, of course."

"It isn't the money that Jennie wants," said Lester, gloomily.

"Well, even if it isn't, she can live without you and she can live
better for having an ample income."

"She will never want if I can help it," he said solemnly.

"You must leave her," she urged, with a new touch of decisiveness.
"You must. Every day is precious with you, Lester! Why don't you make
up your mind to act at once--to-day, for that matter? Why
not?"

"Not so fast," he protested. "This is a ticklish business. To tell
you the truth, I hate to do it. It seems so brutal--so unfair.
I'm not one to run around and discuss my affairs with other people.
I've refused to talk about this to any one heretofore--my father,
my mother, any one. But somehow you have always seemed closer to me
than any one else, and, since I met you this time, I have felt as
though I ought to explain--I have really wanted to. I care for
you. I don't know whether you understand how that can be under the
circumstances. But I do. You're nearer to me intellectually and
emotionally than I thought you were. Don't frown. You want the truth,
don't you? Well, there you have it. Now explain me to myself, if you
can."

"I don't want to argue with you, Lester," she said softly, laying
her hand on his arm. "I merely want to love you. I understand quite
well how it has all come about. I'm sorry for myself. I'm sorry for
you. I'm sorry--" she hesitated--"for Mrs. Kane. She's a
charming woman. I like her. I really do. But she isn't the woman for
you, Lester; she really isn't. You need another type. It seems so
unfair for us two to discuss her in this way, but really it isn't. We
all have to stand on our merits. And I'm satisfied, if the facts in
this case were put before her, as you have put them before me, she
would see just how it all is, and agree. She can't want to harm you.
Why, Lester, if I were in her position I would let you go. I would,
truly. I think you know that I would. Any good woman would. It would
hurt me, but I'd do it. It will hurt her, but she'll do it. Now, mark
you my words, she will. I think I understand her as well as you
do--better--for I am a woman. Oh," she said, pausing, "I
wish I were in a position to talk to her. I could make her
understand."

Lester looked at Letty, wondering at her eagerness. She was
beautiful, magnetic, immensely worth while.

"Not so fast," he repeated. "I want to think about this. I have
some time yet."

She paused, a little crestfallen but determined.

"This is the time to act," she repeated, her whole soul in her
eyes. She wanted this man, and she was not ashamed to let him see that
she wanted him.

"Well, I'll think of it," he said uneasily, then, rather hastily,
he bade her good-by and went away.




CHAPTER LI


Lester had thought of his predicament earnestly enough, and he
would have been satisfied to act soon if it had not been that one of
those disrupting influences which sometimes complicate our affairs
entered into his Hyde Park domicile. Gerhardt's health began rapidly
to fail.

Little by little he had been obliged to give up his various duties
about the place; finally he was obliged to take to his bed. He lay in
his room, devotedly attended by Jennie and visited constantly by
Vesta, and occasionally by Lester. There was a window not far from his
bed, which commanded a charming view of the lawn and one of the
surrounding streets, and through this he would gaze by the hour,
wondering how the world was getting on without him. He suspected that
Woods, the coachman, was not looking after the horses and harnesses as
well as he should, that the newspaper carrier was getting negligent in
his delivery of the papers, that the furnace man was wasting coal, or
was not giving them enough heat. A score of little petty worries,
which were nevertheless real enough to him. He knew how a house should
be kept. He was always rigid in his performance of his self-appointed
duties, and he was so afraid that things would not go right. Jennie
made for him a most imposing and sumptuous dressing-gown of basted
wool, covered with dark-blue silk, and bought him a pair of soft,
thick, wool slippers to match, but he did not wear them often. He
preferred to lie in bed, read his Bible and the Lutheran papers, and
ask Jennie how things were getting along.

"I want you should go down in the basement and see what that feller
is doing. He's not giving us any heat," he would complain. "I bet I
know what he does. He sits down there and reads, and then he forgets
what the fire is doing until it is almost out. The beer is right there
where he can take it. You should lock it up. You don't know what kind
of a man he is. He may be no good."

Jennie would protest that the house was fairly comfortable, that
the man was a nice, quiet, respectable-looking American--that if
he did drink a little beer it would not matter. Gerhardt would
immediately become incensed.

"That is always the way," he declared vigorously. "You have no
sense of economy. You are always so ready to let things go if I am not
there. He is a nice man! How do you know he is a nice man? Does he
keep the fire up? No! Does he keep the walks clean? If you don't watch
him he will be just like the others, no good. You should go around and
see how things are for yourself."

"All right, papa," she would reply in a genial effort to soothe
him, "I will. Please don't worry. I'll lock up the beer. Don't you
want a cup of coffee now and some toast?"

"No," Gerhardt would sigh immediately, "my stomach it don't do
right. I don't know how I am going to come out of this."

Dr. Makin, the leading physician of the vicinity, and a man of
considerable experience and ability, called at Jennie's request and
suggested a few simple things--hot milk, a wine tonic, rest, but
he told Jennie that she must not expect too much. "You know he is
quite well along in years now. He is quite feeble. If he were twenty
years younger we might do a great deal for him. As it is he is quite
well off where he is. He may live for some time. He may get up and be
around again, and then he may not. We must all expect these things. I
have never any care as to what may happen to me. I am too old
myself."

Jennie felt sorry to think that her father might die, but she was
pleased to think that if he must it was going to be under such
comfortable circumstances. Here at least he could have every care.

It soon became evident that this was Gerhardt's last illness, and
Jennie thought it her duty to communicate with her brothers and
sisters. She wrote Bass that his father was not well, and had a letter
from him saying that he was very busy and couldn't come on unless the
danger was an immediate one. He went on to say that George was in
Rochester, working for a wholesale wall-paper house--the
Sheff-Jefferson Company, he thought. Martha and her husband had gone
to Boston. Her address was a little suburb named Belmont, just outside
the city. William was in Omaha, working for a local electric company.
Veronica was married to a man named Albert Sheridan, who was connected
with a wholesale drug company in Cleveland. "She never comes to see
me," complained Bass, "but I'll let her know." Jennie wrote each one
personally. From Veronica and Martha she received brief replies. They
were very sorry, and would she let them know if anything happened.
George wrote that he could not think of coming to Chicago unless his
father was very ill indeed, but that he would like to be informed from
time to time how he was getting along. William, as he told Jennie some
time afterward, did not get her letter.

The progress of the old German's malady toward final dissolution
preyed greatly on Jennie's mind; for, in spite of the fact that they
had been so far apart in times past, they had now grown very close
together. Gerhardt had come to realize clearly that his outcast
daughter was goodness itself--at least, so far as he was
concerned. She never quarreled with him, never crossed him in any way.
Now that he was sick, she was in and out of his room a dozen times in
an evening or an afternoon, seeing whether he was "all right," asking
how he liked his breakfast, or his lunch, or his dinner. As he grew
weaker she would sit by him and read, or do her sewing in his room.
One day when she was straightening his pillow he took her hand and
kissed it. He was feeling very weak--and despondent. She looked
up in astonishment, a lump in her throat. There were tears in his
eyes.

"You're a good girl, Jennie," he said brokenly. "You've been good
to me. I've been hard and cross, but I'm an old man. You forgive me,
don't you?"

"Oh, papa, please don't," she pleaded, tears welling from her eyes.
"You know I have nothing to forgive. I'm the one who has been all
wrong."

"No, no," he said; and she sank down on her knees beside him and
cried. He put his thin, yellow hand on her hair. "There, there," he
said brokenly, "I understand a lot of things I didn't. We get wiser as
we get older."

She left the room, ostensibly to wash her face and hands, and cried
her eyes out. Was he really forgiving her at last? And she had lied to
him so! She tried to be more attentive, but that was impossible. But
after this reconciliation he seemed happier and more contented, and
they spent a number of happy hours together, just talking. Once he
said to her, "You know I feel just like I did when I was a boy. If it
wasn't for my bones I could get up and dance on the grass."

Jennie fairly smiled and sobbed in one breath. "You'll get
stronger, papa," she said. "You're going to get well. Then I'll take
you out driving." She was so glad she had been able to make him
comfortable these last few years.

As for Lester, he was affectionate and considerate.

"Well, how is it to-night?" he would ask the moment he entered the
house, and he would always drop in for a few minutes before dinner to
see how the old man was getting along. "He looks pretty well," he
would tell Jennie. "He's apt to live some time yet. I wouldn't
worry."

Vesta also spent much time with her grandfather, for she had come
to love him dearly. She would bring her books, if it didn't disturb
him too much, and recite some of her lessons, or she would leave his
door open, and play for him on the piano. Lester had bought her a
handsome music-box also, which she would sometimes carry to his room
and play for him. At times he wearied of everything and everybody save
Jennie; he wanted to be alone with her. She would sit beside him quite
still and sew. She could see plainly that the end was only a little
way off.

Gerhardt, true to his nature, took into consideration all the
various arrangements contingent upon his death. He wished to be buried
in the little Lutheran cemetery, which was several miles farther out
on the South Side, and he wanted the beloved minister of his church to
officiate.

"I want everything plain," he said. "Just my black suit and those
Sunday shoes of mine, and that black string tie. I don't want anything
else. I will be all right."

Jennie begged him not to talk of it, but he would. One day at four
o'clock he had a sudden sinking spell, and at five he was dead. Jennie
held his hands, watching his labored breathing; once or twice he
opened his eyes to smile at her. "I don't mind going," he said, in
this final hour. "I've done what I could."

"Don't talk of dying, papa," she pleaded.

"It's the end," he said. "You've been good to me. You're a good
woman."

She heard no other words from his lips.

The finish which time thus put to this troubled life affected
Jennie deeply. Strong in her kindly, emotional relationships, Gerhardt
had appealed to her not only as her father, but as a friend and
counselor. She saw him now in his true perspective, a hard-working,
honest, sincere old German, who had done his best to raise a
troublesome family and lead an honest life. Truly she had been his one
great burden, and she had never really dealt truthfully with him to
the end. She wondered now if where he was he could see that she had
lied. And would he forgive her? He had called her a good woman.

Telegrams were sent to all the children. Bass wired that he was
coming, and arrived the next day. The others wired that they could not
come, but asked for details, which Jennie wrote. The Lutheran minister
was called in to say prayers and fix the time of the burial service. A
fat, smug undertaker was commissioned to arrange all the details. Some
few neighborhood friends called--those who had remained most
faithful--and on the second morning following his death the
services were held. Lester accompanied Jennie and Vesta and Bass to
the little red brick Lutheran church, and sat stolidly through the
rather dry services. He listened wearily to the long discourse on the
beauties and rewards of a future life and stirred irritably when
reference was made to a hell. Bass was rather bored, but considerate.
He looked upon his father now much as he would on any other man. Only
Jennie wept sympathetically. She saw her father in perspective, the
long years of trouble he had had, the days in which he had had to saw
wood for a living, the days in which he had lived in a factory loft,
the little shabby house they had been compelled to live in in
Thirteenth Street, the terrible days of suffering they had spent in
Lorrie Street, in Cleveland, his grief over her, his grief over Mrs.
Gerhardt, his love and care of Vesta, and finally these last days.

"Oh, he was a good man," she thought. "He meant so well." They sang
a hymn, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and then she sobbed.

Lester pulled at her arm. He was moved to the danger-line himself
by her grief. "You'll have to do better than this," he whispered. "My
God, I can't stand it. I'll have to get up and get out." Jennie
quieted a little, but the fact that the last visible ties were being
broken between her and her father was almost too much.

At the grave in the Cemetery of the Redeemer, where Lester had
immediately arranged to purchase a lot, they saw the plain coffin
lowered and the earth shoveled in. Lester looked curiously at the bare
trees, the brown dead grass, and the brown soil of the prairie turned
up at this simple graveside. There was no distinction to this burial
plot. It was commonplace and shabby, a working-man's resting-place,
but so long as he wanted it, it was all right. He studied Bass's keen,
lean face, wondering what sort of a career he was cutting out for
himself. Bass looked to him like some one who would run a cigar store
successfully. He watched Jennie wiping her red eyes, and then he said
to himself again, "Well, there is something to her." The woman's
emotion was so deep, so real. "There's no explaining a good woman," he
said to himself.

On the way home, through the wind-swept, dusty streets, he talked
of life in general, Bass and Vesta being present. "Jennie takes things
too seriously," he said. "She's inclined to be morbid. Life isn't as
bad as she makes out with her sensitive feelings. We all have our
troubles, and we all have to stand them, some more, some less. We
can't assume that any one is so much better or worse off than any one
else. We all have our share of troubles."

"I can't help it," said Jennie. "I feel so sorry for some
people."

"Jennie always was a little gloomy," put in Bass.

He was thinking what a fine figure of a man Lester was, how
beautifully they lived, how Jennie had come up in the world. He was
thinking that there must be a lot more to her than he had originally
thought. Life surely did turn out queer. At one time he thought Jennie
was a hopeless failure and no good.

"You ought to try to steel yourself to take things as they come
without going to pieces this way," said Lester finally.

Bass thought so too.

Jennie stared thoughtfully out of the carriage window. There was
the old house now, large and silent without Gerhardt. Just think, she
would never see him any more. They finally turned into the drive and
entered the library. Jeannette, nervous and sympathetic, served tea.
Jennie went to look after various details. She wondered curiously
where she would be when she died.




CHAPTER LII


The fact that Gerhardt was dead made no particular difference to
Lester, except as it affected Jennie. He had liked the old German for
his many sterling qualities, but beyond that he thought nothing of him
one way or the other. He took Jennie to a watering-place for ten days
to help her recover her spirits, and it was soon after this that he
decided to tell her just how things stood with him; he would put the
problem plainly before her. It would be easier now, for Jennie had
been informed of the disastrous prospects of the real-estate deal. She
was also aware of his continued interest in Mrs. Gerald. Lester did
not hesitate to let Jennie know that he was on very friendly terms
with her. Mrs. Gerald had, at first, formally requested him to bring
Jennie to see her, but she never had called herself, and Jennie
understood quite clearly that it was not to be. Now that her father
was dead, she was beginning to wonder what was going to become of her;
she was afraid that Lester might not marry her. Certainly he showed no
signs of intending to do so.

By one of those curious coincidences of thought, Robert also had
reached the conclusion that something should be done. He did not, for
one moment, imagine that he could directly work upon Lester--he
did not care to try--but he did think that some influence might
be brought to bear on Jennie. She was probably amenable to reason. If
Lester had not married her already, she must realize full well that he
did not intend to do so. Suppose that some responsible third person
were to approach her, and explain how things were, including, of
course, the offer of an independent income? Might she not be willing
to leave Lester, and end all this trouble? After all, Lester was his
brother, and he ought not to lose his fortune. Robert had things very
much in his own hands now, and could afford to be generous. He finally
decided that Mr. O'Brien, of Knight, Keatley & O'Brien, would be
the proper intermediary, for O'Brien was suave, good-natured, and
well-meaning, even if he was a lawyer. He might explain to Jennie very
delicately just how the family felt, and how much Lester stood to lose
if he continued to maintain his connection with her. If Lester had
married Jennie, O'Brien would find it out. A liberal provision would
be made for her--say fifty or one hundred thousand, or even one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars. He sent for Mr. O'Brien and gave
him his instructions. As one of the executors of Archibald Kane's
estate, it was really the lawyer's duty to look into the matter of
Lester's ultimate decision.

Mr. O'Brien journeyed to Chicago. On reaching the city, he called
up Lester, and found out to his satisfaction that he was out of town
for the day. He went out to the house in Hyde Park, and sent in his
card to Jennie. She came down-stairs in a few minutes quite
unconscious of the import of his message; he greeted her most
blandly.

"This is Mrs. Kane?" he asked, with an interlocutory jerk of his
head.

"Yes," replied Jennie.

"I am, as you see by my card, Mr. O'Brien, of Knight, Keatley &
O'Brien," he began. "We are the attorneys and executors of the late
Mr. Kane, your--ah--Mr. Kane's father. You'll think it's
rather curious, my coming to you, but under your husband's father's
will there were certain conditions stipulated which affect you and Mr.
Kane very materially. These provisions are so important that I think
you ought to know about them--that is if Mr. Kane hasn't already
told you. I--pardon me--but the peculiar nature of them
makes me conclude that--possibly--he hasn't." He paused, a
very question-mark of a man--every feature of his face an
interrogation.

"I don't quite understand," said Jennie. "I don't know anything
about the will. If there's anything that I ought to know, I suppose
Mr. Kane will tell me. He hasn't told me anything as yet."

"Ah!" breathed Mr. O'Brien, highly gratified. "Just as I thought.
Now, if you will allow me I'll go into the matter briefly. Then you
can judge for yourself whether you wish to hear the full particulars.
Won't you sit down?" They had both been standing. Jennie seated
herself, and Mr. O'Brien pulled up a chair near to hers.

"Now to begin," he said. "I need not say to you, of course, that
there was considerable opposition on the part of Mr. Kane's father, to
this--ah--union between yourself and his son."

"I know--" Jennie started to say, but checked herself. She was
puzzled, disturbed, and a little apprehensive.

"Before Mr. Kane senior died," he went on, "he indicated to
your--ah--to Mr. Lester Kane, that he felt this way. In his
will he made certain conditions governing the distribution of his
property which made it rather hard for his son,
your--ah--husband, to come into his rightful share.
Ordinarily, he would have inherited one-fourth of the Kane
Manufacturing Company, worth to-day in the neighborhood of a million
dollars, perhaps more; also one-fourth of the other properties, which
now aggregate something like five hundred thousand dollars. I believe
Mr. Kane senior was really very anxious that his son should inherit
this property. But owing to the conditions which
your--ah--which Mr. Kane's father made, Mr. Lester Kane
cannot possibly obtain his share, except by complying with
a--with a--certain wish which his father had expressed."

Mr. O'Brien paused, his eyes moving back and forth side wise in
their sockets. In spite of the natural prejudice of the situation, he
was considerably impressed with Jennie's pleasing appearance. He could
see quite plainly why Lester might cling to her in the face of all
opposition. He continued to study her furtively as he sat there
waiting for her to speak.

"And what was that wish?" she finally asked, her nerves becoming
just a little tense under the strain of the silence.

"I am glad you were kind enough to ask me that," he went on. "The
subject is a very difficult one for me to introduce--very
difficult. I come as an emissary of the estate, I might say as one of
the executors under the will of Mr. Kane's father. I know how keenly
your--ah--how keenly Mr. Kane feels about it. I know how
keenly you will probably feel about it. But it is one of those very
difficult things which cannot be helped--which must be got over
somehow. And while I hesitate very much to say so, I must tell you
that Mr. Kane senior stipulated in his will that unless,
unless"--again his eyes were moving sidewise to and fro--"he
saw fit to separate from--ah--you" he paused to get
breath--"he could not inherit this or any other sum or, at least,
only a very minor income of ten thousand a year; and that only on
condition that he should marry you." He paused again. "I should add,"
he went on, "that under the will he was given three years in which to
indicate his intentions. That time is now drawing to a close."

He paused, half expecting some outburst of feeling from Jennie, but
she only looked at him fixedly, her eyes clouded with surprise,
distress, unhappiness. Now she understood. Lester was sacrificing his
fortune for her. His recent commercial venture was an effort to
rehabilitate himself, to put himself in an independent position. The
recent periods of preoccupation, of subtle unrest, and of
dissatisfaction over which she had grieved were now explained. He was
unhappy, he was brooding over this prospective loss, and he had never
told her. So his father had really disinherited him!

Mr. O'Brien sat before her, troubled himself. He was very sorry for
her, now that he saw the expression of her face. Still the truth had
to come out. She ought to know.

"I'm sorry," he said, when he saw that she was not going to make
any immediate reply, "that I have been the bearer of such unfortunate
news. It is a very painful situation that I find myself in at this
moment, I assure you. I bear you no ill will personally--of
course you understand that. The family really bears you no ill will
now--I hope you believe that. As I told your--ah--as I
told Mr. Kane, at the time the will was read, I considered it most
unfair, but, of course, as a mere executive under it and counsel for
his father, I could do nothing. I really think it best that you should
know how things stand, in order that you may help your--your
husband"--he paused, significantly--"if possible, to some
solution. It seems a pity to me, as it does to the various other
members of his family, that he should lose all this money."

Jennie had turned her head away and was staring at the floor. She
faced him now steadily. "He mustn't lose it," she said; "it isn't fair
that he should."

"I am most delighted to hear you say that, Mrs.--Mrs. Kane,"
he went on, using for the first time her improbable title as Lester's
wife, without hesitation. "I may as well be very frank with you, and
say that I feared you might take this information in quite another
spirit. Of course you know to begin with that the Kane family is very
clannish. Mrs. Kane, your--ah--your husband's mother, was a
very proud and rather distant woman, and his sisters and brothers are
rather set in their notions as to what constitute proper family
connections. They look upon his relationship to you as irregular,
and--pardon me if I appear to be a little cruel--as not
generally satisfactory. As you know, there had been so much talk in
the last few years that Mr. Kane senior did not believe that the
situation could ever be nicely adjusted, so far as the family was
concerned. He felt that his son had not gone about it right in the
first place. One of the conditions of his will was that if your
husband--pardon me--if his son did not accept the
proposition in regard to separating from you and taking up his
rightful share of the estate, then to inherit anything at
all--the mere ten thousand a year I mentioned before--he
must--ah--he must pardon me, I seem a little brutal, but not
intentionally so--marry you."

Jennie winced. It was such a cruel thing to say this to her face.
This whole attempt to live together illegally had proved disastrous at
every step. There was only one solution to the unfortunate
business--she could see that plainly. She must leave him, or he
must leave her. There was no other alternative. Lester living on ten
thousand dollars a year! It seemed silly.

Mr. O'Brien was watching her curiously. He was thinking that Lester
both had and had not made a mistake. Why had he not married her in the
first place? She was charming.

"There is just one other point which I wish to make in this
connection, Mrs. Kane," he went on softly and easily. "I see now that
it will not make any difference to you, but I am commissioned and in a
way constrained to make it. I hope you will take it in the manner in
which it is given. I don't know whether you are familiar with your
husband's commercial interests or not?"

"No," said Jennie simply.

"Well, in order to simplify matters, and to make it easier for you,
should you decide to assist your husband to a solution of this very
difficult situation--frankly, in case you might possibly decide
to leave on your own account, and maintain a separate establishment of
your own I am delighted to say that--ah--any sum,
say--ah--"

Jennie rose and walked dazedly to one of the windows, clasping her
hands as she went. Mr. O'Brien rose also.

"Well, be that as it may. In the event of your deciding to end the
connection it has been suggested that any reasonable sum you might
name, fifty, seventy-five, a hundred thousand dollars"--Mr.
O'Brien was feeling very generous toward her--"would be gladly
set aside for your benefit--put in trust, as it were, so that you
would have it whenever you needed it. You would never want for
anything."

"Please don't," said Jennie, hurt beyond the power to express
herself, unable mentally and physically to listen to another word.
"Please don't say any more. Please go away. Let me alone now, please.
I can go away. I will. It will be arranged. But please don't talk to
me any more, will you?"

"I understand how you feel, Mrs. Kane," went on Mr. O'Brien, coming
to a keen realization of her sufferings. "I know exactly, believe me.
I have said all I intend to say. It has been very hard for me to do
this--very hard. I regret the necessity. You have my card. Please
note the name. I will come any time you suggest, or you can write me.
I will not detain you any longer. I am sorry. I hope you will see fit
to say nothing to your husband of my visit--it will be advisable
that you should keep your own counsel in the matter. I value his
friendship very highly, and I am sincerely sorry."

Jennie only stared at the floor.

Mr. O'Brien went out into the hall to get his coat. Jennie touched
the electric button to summon the maid, and Jeannette came. Jennie
went back into the library, and Mr. O'Brien paced briskly down the
front walk. When she was really alone she put her doubled hands to her
chin, and stared at the floor, the queer design of the silken Turkish
rug resolving itself into some curious picture. She saw herself in a
small cottage somewhere, alone with Vesta; she saw Lester living in
another world, and beside him Mrs. Gerald. She saw this house vacant,
and then a long stretch of time, and then--

"Oh," she sighed, choking back a desire to cry. With her hands she
brushed away a hot tear from each eye. Then she got up.

"It must be," she said to herself in thought. "It must be. It
should have been so long ago." And then--"Oh, thank God that papa
is dead Anyhow, he did not live to see this."




CHAPTER LIII


The explanation which Lester had concluded to be inevitable,
whether it led to separation or legalization of their hitherto banal
condition, followed quickly upon the appearance of Mr. O'Brien. On the
day Mr. O'Brien called he had gone on a journey to Hegewisch, a small
manufacturing town in Wisconsin, where he had been invited to witness
the trial of a new motor intended to operate elevators--with a
view to possible investment. When he came out to the house, interested
to tell Jennie something about it even in spite of the fact that he
was thinking of leaving her, he felt a sense of depression everywhere,
for Jennie, in spite of the serious and sensible conclusion she had
reached, was not one who could conceal her feelings easily. She was
brooding sadly over her proposed action, realizing that it was best to
leave but finding it hard to summon the courage which would let her
talk to him about it. She could not go without telling him what she
thought. He ought to want to leave her. She was absolutely convinced
that this one course of action--separation--was necessary
and advisable. She could not think of him as daring to make a
sacrifice of such proportions for her sake even if he wanted to. It
was impossible. It was astonishing to her that he had let things go
along as dangerously and silently as he had.

When he came in Jennie did her best to greet him with her
accustomed smile, but it was a pretty poor imitation.

"Everything all right?" she asked, using her customary phrase of
inquiry.

"Quite," he answered. "How are things with you?"

"Oh, just the same." She walked with him to the library, and he
poked at the open fire with a long-handled poker before turning around
to survey the room generally. It was five o'clock of a January
afternoon. Jennie had gone to one of the windows to lower the shade.
As she came back he looked at her critically. "You're not quite your
usual self, are you?" he asked, sensing something out of the common in
her attitude.

"Why, yes, I feel all right," she replied, but there was a peculiar
uneven motion to the movement of her lips--a rippling tremor
which was unmistakable to him.

"I think I know better than that," he said, still gazing at her
steadily. "What's the trouble? Anything happened?"

She turned away from him a moment to get her breath and collect her
senses. Then she faced him again. "There is something," she managed to
say. "I have to tell you something."

"I know you have," he agreed, half smiling, but with a feeling that
there was much of grave import back of this. "What is it?"

She was silent for a moment, biting her lips. She did not quite
know how to begin. Finally she broke the spell with: "There was a man
here yesterday--a Mr. O'Brien, of Cincinnati. Do you know
him?"

"Yes, I know him. What did he want?"

"He came to talk to me about you and your father's will."

She paused, for his face clouded immediately. "Why the devil should
he be talking to you about my father's will!" he exclaimed. "What did
he have to say?"

"Please don't get angry, Lester," said Jennie calmly, for she
realized that she must remain absolute mistress of herself if anything
were to be accomplished toward the resolution of her problem. "He
wanted to tell me what a sacrifice you are making," she went on. "He
wished to show me that there was only a little time left before you
would lose your inheritance. Don't you want to act pretty soon? Don't
you want to leave me."

"Damn him!" said Lester fiercely. "What the devil does he mean by
putting his nose in my private affairs? Can't they let me alone?" He
shook himself angrily. "Damn them!" he exclaimed again. "This is some
of Robert's work. Why should Knight, Keatley & O'Brien be meddling
in my affairs? This whole business is getting to be a nuisance!" He
was in a boiling rage in a moment, as was shown by his darkening skin
and sulphurous eyes.

Jennie trembled before his anger. She did not know what to say.

He came to himself sufficiently after a time to add:

"Well. Just what did he tell you?"

"He said that if you married me you would only get ten thousand a
year. That if you didn't and still lived with me you would get nothing
at all. If you would leave me, or I would leave you, you would get all
of a million and a half. Don't you think you had better leave me
now?"

She had not intended to propound this leading question so quickly,
but it came out as a natural climax to the situation. She realized
instantly that if he were really in love with her he would answer with
an emphatic "no." If he didn't care, he would hesitate, he would
delay, he would seek to put off the evil day of reckoning.

"I don't see that," he retorted irritably. "I don't see that
there's any need for either interference or hasty action. What I
object to is their coming here and mixing in my private affairs."

Jennie was cut to the quick by his indifference, his wrath instead
of affection. To her the main point at issue was her leaving him or
his leaving her. To him this recent interference was obviously the
chief matter for discussion and consideration. The meddling of others
before he was ready to act was the terrible thing. She had hoped, in
spite of what she had seen, that possibly, because of the long time
they had lived together and the things which (in a way) they had
endured together, he might have come to care for her deeply--that
she had stirred some emotion in him which would never brook real
separation, though some seeming separation might be necessary. He had
not married her, of course, but then there had been so many things
against them. Now, in this final hour, anyhow, he might have shown
that he cared deeply, even if he had deemed it necessary to let her
go. She felt for the time being as if, for all that she had lived with
him so long, she did not understand him, and yet, in spite of this
feeling, she knew also that she did. He cared, in his way. He could
not care for any one enthusiastically and demonstratively. He could
care enough to seize her and take her to himself as he had, but he
could not care enough to keep her if something more important
appeared. He was debating her fate now. She was in a quandary, hurt,
bleeding, but for once in her life, determined. Whether he wanted to
or not, she must not let him make this sacrifice. She must leave
him--if he would not leave her. It was not important enough that
she should stay. There might be but one answer. But might he not show
affection?

"Don't you think you had better act soon?" she continued, hoping
that some word of feeling would come from him. "There is only a little
time left, isn't there?"

Jennie nervously pushed a book to and fro on the table, her fear
that she would not be able to keep up appearances troubling her
greatly. It was hard for her to know what to do or say. Lester was so
terrible when he became angry. Still it ought not to be so hard for
him to go, now that he had Mrs. Gerald, if he only wished to do
so--and he ought to. His fortune was so much more important to
him than anything she could be.

"Don't worry about that," he replied stubbornly, his wrath at his
brother, and his family, and O'Brien still holding him. "There's time
enough. I don't know what I want to do yet. I like the effrontery of
these people! But I won't talk any more about it; isn't dinner nearly
ready?" He was so injured in his pride that he scarcely took the
trouble to be civil. He was forgetting all about her and what she was
feeling. He hated his brother Robert for this affront. He would have
enjoyed wringing the necks of Messrs. Knight, Keatley & O'Brien,
singly and collectively.

The question could not be dropped for good and all, and it came up
again at dinner, after Jennie had done her best to collect her
thoughts and quiet her nerves. They could not talk very freely because
of Vesta and Jeannette, but she managed to get in a word or two.

"I could take a little cottage somewhere," she suggested softly,
hoping to find him in a modified mood. "I would not want to stay here.
I would not know what to do with a big house like this alone."

"I wish you wouldn't discuss this business any longer, Jennie," he
persisted. "I'm in no mood for it. I don't know that I'm going to do
anything of the sort. I don't know what I'm going to do." He was so
sour and obstinate, because of O'Brien, that she finally gave it up.
Vesta was astonished to see her stepfather, usually so courteous, in
so grim a mood.

Jennie felt a curious sense that she might hold him if she would,
for he was doubting; but she knew also that she should not wish. It
was not fair to him. It was not fair to herself, or kind, or
decent.

"Oh yes, Lester, you must," she pleaded, at a later time. "I won't
talk about it any more, but you must. I won't let you do anything
else."

There were hours when it came up afterward--every day, in
fact--in their boudoir, in the library, in the dining-room, at
breakfast, but not always in words. Jennie was worried. She was
looking the worry she felt. She was sure that he should be made to
act. Since he was showing more kindly consideration for her, she was
all the more certain that he should act soon. Just how to go about it
she did not know, but she looked at him longingly, trying to help him
make up his mind. She would be happy, she assured herself--she
would be happy thinking that he was happy once she was away from him.
He was a good man, most delightful in everything, perhaps, save his
gift of love. He really did not love her--could not perhaps,
after all that had happened, even though she loved him most earnestly.
But his family had been most brutal in their opposition, and this had
affected his attitude. She could understand that, too. She could see
now how his big, strong brain might be working in a circle. He was too
decent to be absolutely brutal about this thing and leave her, too
really considerate to look sharply after his own interests as he
should, or hers--but he ought to.

"You must decide, Lester," she kept saying to him, from time to
time. "You must let me go. What difference does it make? I will be all
right. Maybe, when this thing is all over you might want to come back
to me. If you do, I will be there."

"I'm not ready to come to a decision," was his invariable reply. "I
don't know that I want to leave you. This money is important, of
course, but money isn't everything. I can live on ten thousand a year
if necessary. I've done it in the past."

"Oh, but you're so much more placed in the world now, Lester," she
argued. "You can't do it. Look how much it costs to run this house
alone. And a million and a half of dollars--why, I wouldn't let
you think of losing that. I'll go myself first."

"Where would you think of going if it came to that?" he asked
curiously.

"Oh, I'd find some place. Do you remember that little town of
Sandwood, this side of Kenosha? I have often thought it would be a
pleasant place to live."

"I don't like to think of this," he said finally in an outburst of
frankness. "It doesn't seem fair. The conditions have all been against
this union of ours. I suppose I should have married you in the first
place. I'm sorry now that I didn't."

Jennie choked in her throat, but said nothing.

"Anyhow, this won't be the last of it, if I can help it," he
concluded. He was thinking that the storm might blow over; once he had
the money, and then--but he hated compromises and
subterfuges.

It came by degrees to be understood that, toward the end of
February, she should look around at Sandwood and see what she could
find. She was to have ample means, he told her, everything that she
wanted. After a time he might come out and visit her occasionally. And
he was determined in his heart that he would make some people pay for
the trouble they had caused him. He decided to send for Mr. O'Brien
shortly and talk things over. He wanted for his personal satisfaction
to tell him what he thought of him.

At the same time, in the background of his mind, moved the shadowy
figure of Mrs. Gerald--charming, sophisticated, well placed in
every sense of the word. He did not want to give her the broad reality
of full thought, but she was always there. He thought and thought.
"Perhaps I'd better," he half concluded. When February came he was
ready to act.




CHAPTER LIV


The little town of Sandwood, "this side of Kenosha," as Jennie had
expressed it, was only a short distance from Chicago, an hour and
fifteen minutes by the local train. It had a population of some three
hundred families, dwelling in small cottages, which were scattered
over a pleasant area of lake-shore property. They were not rich
people. The houses were not worth more than from three to five
thousand dollars each, but, in most cases, they were harmoniously
constructed, and the surrounding trees, green for the entire year,
gave them a pleasing summery appearance. Jennie, at the time they had
passed by there--it was an outing taken behind a pair of fast
horses--had admired the look of a little white church steeple,
set down among green trees, and the gentle rocking of the boats upon
the summer water.

"I should like to live in a place like this some time," she had
said to Lester, and he had made the comment that it was a little too
peaceful for him. "I can imagine getting to the place where I might
like this, but not now. It's too withdrawn."

Jennie thought of that expression afterward. It came to her when
she thought that the world was trying. If she had to be alone ever and
could afford it she would like to live in a place like Sandwood. There
she would have a little garden, some chickens, perhaps, a tall pole
with a pretty bird-house on it, and flowers and trees and green grass
everywhere about. If she could have a little cottage in a place like
this which commanded a view of the lake she could sit of a summer
evening and sew. Vesta could play about or come home from school. She
might have a few friends, or not any. She was beginning to think that
she could do very well living alone if it were not for Vesta's social
needs. Books were pleasant things--she was finding that
out--books like Irving's Sketch Book, Lamb's Elia,
and Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales. Vesta was coming to be quite
a musician in her way, having a keen sense of the delicate and refined
in musical composition. She had a natural sense of harmony and a love
for those songs and instrumental compositions which reflect
sentimental and passionate moods; and she could sing and play quite
well. Her voice was, of course, quite untrained--she was only
fourteen--but it was pleasant to listen to. She was beginning to
show the combined traits of her mother and father--Jennie's
gentle, speculative turn of mind, combined with Brander's vivacity of
spirit and innate executive capacity. She could talk to her mother in
a sensible way about things, nature, books, dress, love, and from her
developing tendencies Jennie caught keen glimpses of the new worlds
which Vesta was to explore. The nature of modern school life, its
consideration of various divisions of knowledge, music, science, all
came to Jennie watching her daughter take up new themes. Vesta was
evidently going to be a woman of considerable ability--not
irritably aggressive, but self-constructive. She would be able to take
care of herself. All this pleased Jennie and gave her great hopes for
Vesta's future.

The cottage which was finally secured at Sandwood was only a story
and a half in height, but it was raised upon red brick piers between
which were set green lattices and about which ran a veranda. The house
was long and narrow, its full length--some five rooms in a
row--facing the lake. There was a dining-room with windows
opening even with the floor, a large library with built-in shelves for
books, and a parlor whose three large windows afforded air and
sunshine at all times.

The plot of ground in which this cottage stood was one hundred feet
square and ornamented with a few trees. The former owner had laid out
flower-beds, and arranged green hardwood tubs for the reception of
various hardy plants and vines. The house was painted white, with
green shutters and green shingles.

It had been Lester's idea, since this thing must be, that Jennie
might keep the house in Hyde Park just as it was, but she did not want
to do that. She could not think of living there alone. The place was
too full of memories. At first, she did not think she would take
anything much with her, but she finally saw that it was advisable to
do as Lester suggested--to fit out the new place with a selection
of silverware, hangings, and furniture from the Hyde Park house.

"You have no idea what you will or may want," he said. "Take
everything. I certainly don't want any of it."

A lease of the cottage was taken for two years, together with an
option for an additional five years, including the privilege of
purchase. So long as he was letting her go, Lester wanted to be
generous. He could not think of her as wanting for anything, and he
did not propose that she should. His one troublesome thought was, what
explanation was to be made to Vesta. He liked her very much and wanted
her "life kept free of complications.

"Why not send her off to a boarding-school until spring?" he
suggested once; but owing to the lateness of the season this was
abandoned as inadvisable. Later they agreed that business affairs made
it necessary for him to travel and for Jennie to move. Later Vesta
could be told that Jennie had left him for any reason she chose to
give. It was a trying situation, all the more bitter to Jennie because
she realized that in spite of the wisdom of it indifference to her was
involved. He really did not care enough, as much as he
cared.

The relationship of man and woman which we study so passionately in
the hope of finding heaven knows what key to the mystery of existence
holds no more difficult or trying situation than this of mutual
compatibility broken or disrupted by untoward conditions which in
themselves have so little to do with the real force and beauty of the
relationship itself. These days of final dissolution in which this
household, so charmingly arranged, the scene of so many pleasant
activities, was literally going to pieces was a period of great trial
to both Jennie and Lester. On her part it was one of intense
suffering, for she was of that stable nature that rejoices to fix
itself in a serviceable and harmonious relationship, and then stay so.
For her life was made up of those mystic chords of sympathy and memory
which bind up the transient elements of nature into a harmonious and
enduring scene. One of those chords--this home was her home,
united and made beautiful by her affection and consideration for each
person and every object. Now the time had come when it must cease.

If she had ever had anything before in her life which had been like
this it might have been easier to part with it now, though, as she had
proved, Jennie's affections were not based in any way upon material
considerations. Her love of life and of personality were free from the
taint of selfishness. She went about among these various rooms
selecting this rug, that set of furniture, this and that ornament,
wishing all the time with all her heart and soul that it need not be.
Just to think, in a little while Lester would not come any more of an
evening! She would not need to get up first of a morning and see that
coffee was made for her lord, that the table in the dining-room looked
just so. It had been a habit of hers to arrange a bouquet for the
table out of the richest blooming flowers of the conservatory, and she
had always felt in doing it that it was particularly for him. Now it
would not be necessary any more--not for him. When one is
accustomed to wait for the sound of a certain carriage-wheel of an
evening grating upon your carriage drive, when one is used to listen
at eleven, twelve, and one, waking naturally and joyfully to the echo
of a certain step on the stair, the separation, the ending of these
things, is keen with pain. These were the thoughts that were running
through Jennie's brain hour after hour and day after day.

Lester on his part was suffering in another fashion. His was not
the sorrow of lacerated affection, of discarded and despised love, but
of that painful sense of unfairness which comes to one who knows that
he is making a sacrifice of the virtues--kindness, loyalty,
affection--to policy. Policy was dictating a very splendid course
of action from one point of view. Free of Jennie, providing for her
admirably, he was free to go his way, taking to himself the mass of
affairs which come naturally with great wealth. He could not help
thinking of the thousand and one little things which Jennie had been
accustomed to do for him, the hundred and one comfortable and pleasant
and delightful things she meant to him. The virtues which she
possessed were quite dear to his mind. He had gone over them time and
again. Now he was compelled to go over them finally, to see that she
was suffering without making a sign. Her manner and attitude toward
him in these last days were quite the same as they had always
been--no more, no less. She was not indulging in private
hysterics, as another woman might have done; she was not pretending a
fortitude in suffering she did not feel, showing him one face while
wishing him to see another behind it. She was calm, gentle,
considerate--thoughtful of him--where he would go and what
he would do, without irritating him by her inquiries. He was struck
quite favorably by her ability to take a large situation largely, and
he admired her. There was something to this woman, let the world think
what it might. It was a shame that her life was passed under such a
troubled star. Still a great world was calling him. The sound of its
voice was in his ears. It had on occasion shown him its bared teeth.
Did he really dare to hesitate?

The last hour came, when having made excuses to this and that
neighbor, when having spread the information that they were going
abroad, when Lester had engaged rooms at the Auditorium, and the mass
of furniture which could not be used had gone to storage, that it was
necessary to say farewell to this Hyde Park domicile. Jennie had
visited Sandwood in company with Lester several times. He had
carefully examined the character of the place. He was satisfied that
it was nice but lonely. Spring was at hand, the flowers would be
something. She was going to keep a gardener and man of all work. Vesta
would be with her.

"Very well," he said, "only I want you to be comfortable."

In the mean time Lester had been arranging his personal affairs. He
had notified Messrs. Knight, Keatley & O'Brien through his own
attorney, Mr. Watson, that he would expect them to deliver his share
of his father's securities on a given date. He had made up his mind
that as long as he was compelled by circumstances to do this thing he
would do a number of other things equally ruthless. He would probably
marry Mrs. Gerald. He would sit as a director in the United Carriage
Company--with his share of the stock it would be impossible to
keep him out. If he had Mrs. Gerald's money he would become a
controlling factor in the United Traction of Cincinnati, in which his
brother was heavily interested, and in the Western Steel Works, of
which his brother was now the leading adviser. What a different figure
he would be now from that which he had been during the past few
years!

Jennie was depressed to the point of despair. She was tremendously
lonely. This home had meant so much to her. When she first came here
and neighbors had begun to drop in she had imagined herself on the
threshold of a great career, that some day, possibly, Lester would
marry her. Now, blow after blow had been delivered, and the home and
dream were a ruin. Gerhardt was gone. Jeannette, Harry Ward, and Mrs.
Frissell had been discharged, the furniture for a good part was in
storage, and for her, practically, Lester was no more. She realized
clearly that he would not come back. If he could do this thing now,
even considerately, he could do much more when he was free and away
later. Immersed in his great affairs, he would forget, of course. And
why not? She did not fit in. Had not everything--everything
illustrated that to her? Love was not enough in this world--that
was so plain. One needed education, wealth, training, the ability to
fight and scheme, She did not want to do that. She could not.

The day came when the house was finally closed and the old life was
at an end. Lester traveled with Jennie to Sandwood. He spent some
little while in the house trying to get her used to the idea of
change--it was not so bad. He intimated that he would come again
soon, but he went away, and all his words were as nothing against the
fact of the actual and spiritual separation. When Jennie saw him going
down the brick walk that afternoon, his solid, conservative figure
clad in a new tweed suit, his overcoat on his arm, self-reliance and
prosperity written all over him, she thought that she would die. She
had kissed Lester good-by and had wished him joy, prosperity, peace;
then she made an excuse to go to her bedroom. Vesta came after a time,
to seek her, but now her eyes were quite dry; everything had subsided
to a dull ache. The new life was actually begun for her--a life
without Lester, without Gerhardt, without any one save Vesta.

"What curious things have happened to me!" she thought, as she went
into the kitchen, for she had determined to do at least some of her
own work. She needed the distraction. She did not want to think. If it
were not for Vesta she would have sought some regular outside
employment. Anything to keep from brooding, for in that direction lay
madness.




CHAPTER LV


The social and business worlds of Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland,
and other cities saw, during the year or two which followed the
breaking of his relationship with Jennie, a curious rejuvenation in
the social and business spirit of Lester Kane. He had become rather
distant and indifferent to certain personages and affairs while he was
living with her, but now he suddenly appeared again, armed with
authority from a number of sources, looking into this and that matter
with the air of one who has the privilege of power, and showing
himself to be quite a personage from the point of view of finance and
commerce. He was older of course. It must be admitted that he was in
some respects a mentally altered Lester. Up to the time he had met
Jennie he was full of the assurance of the man who has never known
defeat. To have been reared in luxury as he had been, to have seen
only the pleasant side of society, which is so persistent and so
deluding where money is concerned, to have been in the run of big
affairs not because one has created them, but because one is a part of
them and because they are one's birthright, like the air one breathes,
could not help but create one of those illusions of solidarity which
is apt to befog the clearest brain. It is so hard for us to know what
we have not seen. It is so difficult for us to feel what we have not
experienced. Like this world of ours, which seems so solid and
persistent solely because we have no knowledge of the power which
creates it, Lester's world seemed solid and persistent and real enough
to him. It was only when the storms set in and the winds of adversity
blew and he found himself facing the armed forces of convention that
he realized he might be mistaken as to the value of his personality,
that his private desires and opinions were as nothing in the face of a
public conviction; that he was wrong. The race spirit, or social
avatar, the "Zeitgeist" as the Germans term it, manifested itself as
something having a system in charge, and the organization of society
began to show itself to him as something based on possibly a
spiritual, or, at least, superhuman counterpart. He could not fly in
the face of it. He could not deliberately ignore its mandates. The
people of his time believed that some particular form of social
arrangement was necessary, and unless he complied with that he could,
as he saw, readily become a social outcast. His own father and mother
had turned on him--his brother and sisters, society, his friends.
Dear heaven, what a to-do this action of his had created! Why, even
the fates seemed adverse. His real estate venture was one of the most
fortuitously unlucky things he had ever heard of. Why? Were the gods
battling on the side of a to him unimportant social arrangement?
Apparently. Anyhow, he had been compelled to quit, and here he was,
vigorous, determined, somewhat battered by the experience, but still
forceful and worth while.

And it was a part of the penalty that he had become measurably
soured by what had occurred. He was feeling that he had been compelled
to do the first ugly, brutal thing of his life. Jennie deserved better
of him. It was a shame to forsake her after all the devotion she had
manifested. Truly she had played a finer part than he. Worst of all,
his deed could not be excused on the grounds of necessity. He could
have lived on ten thousand a year; he could have done without the
million and more which was now his. He could have done without the
society, the pleasures of which had always been a lure. He could have,
but he had not, and he had complicated it all with the thought of
another woman.

Was she as good as Jennie? That was a question which always rose
before him. Was she as kindly? Wasn't she deliberately scheming under
his very eyes to win him away from the woman who was as good as his
wife? Was that admirable? Was it the thing a truly big woman would do?
Was she good enough for him after all? Ought he to marry her? Ought he
to marry any one seeing that he really owed a spiritual if not a legal
allegiance to Jennie? Was it worth while for any woman to marry him?
These things turned in his brain. They haunted him. He could not shut
out the fact that he was doing a cruel and unlovely thing.

Material error in the first place was now being complicated with
spiritual error. He was attempting to right the first by committing
the second. Could it be done to his own satisfaction? Would it
pay mentally and spiritually? Would it bring him peace of mind? He was
thinking, thinking, all the while he was readjusting his life to the
old (or perhaps better yet, new) conditions, and he was not feeling
any happier. As a matter of fact he was feeling worse--grim,
revengeful. If he married Letty he thought at times it would be to use
her fortune as a club to knock other enemies over the head, and he
hated to think he was marrying her for that. He took up his abode at
the Auditorium, visited Cincinnati in a distant and aggressive spirit,
sat in council with the board of directors, wishing that he was more
at peace with himself, more interested in life. But he did not change
his policy in regard to Jennie.

Of course Mrs. Gerald had been vitally interested in Lester's
rehabilitation. She waited tactfully some little time before sending
him any word; finally she ventured to write to him at the Hyde Park
address (as if she did not know where he was), asking, "Where are
you?" By this time Lester had become slightly accustomed to the change
in his life. He was saying to himself that he needed sympathetic
companionship, the companionship of a woman, of course. Social
invitations had begun to come to him now that he was alone and that
his financial connections were so obviously restored. He had made his
appearance, accompanied only by a Japanese valet, at several country
houses, the best sign that he was once more a single man. No reference
was made by any one to the past.

On receiving Mrs. Gerald's note he decided that he ought to go and
see her. He had treated her rather shabbily. For months preceding his
separation from Jennie he had not gone near her. Even now he waited
until time brought a 'phoned invitation to dinner. This he
accepted.

Mrs. Gerald was at her best as a hostess at her perfectly appointed
dinner-table. Alboni, the pianist, was there on this occasion,
together with Adam Rascavage, the sculptor, a visiting scientist from
England, Sir Nelson Keyes, and, curiously enough, Mr. and Mrs. Berry
Dodge, whom Lester had not met socially in several years. Mrs. Gerald
and Lester exchanged the joyful greetings of those who understand each
other thoroughly and are happy in each other's company. "Aren't you
ashamed of yourself, sir," she said to him when he made his
appearance, "to treat me so indifferently? You are going to be
punished for this."

"What's the damage?" he smiled. "I've been extremely rushed. I
suppose something like ninety stripes will serve me about right."

"Ninety stripes, indeed!" she retorted. "You're letting yourself
off easy. What is it they do to evil-doers in Siam?"

"Boil them in oil, I suppose."

"Well, anyhow, that's more like. I'm thinking of something
terrible."

"Be sure and tell me when you decide," he laughed, and passed on to
be presented to distinguished strangers by Mrs. De Lincum who aided
Mrs. Gerald in receiving.

The talk was stimulating. Lester was always at his ease
intellectually, and this mental atmosphere revived him. Presently he
turned to greet Berry Dodge, who was standing at his elbow.

Dodge was all cordiality. "Where are you now?" he asked. "We
haven't seen you in--oh, when? Mrs. Dodge is waiting to have a
word with you." Lester noticed the change in Dodge's attitude.

"Some time, that's sure," he replied easily. "I'm living at the
Auditorium."

"I was asking after you the other day. You know Jackson Du Bois? Of
course you do. We were thinking of running up into Canada for some
hunting. Why don't you join us?"

"I can't," replied Lester. "Too many things on hand just now.
Later, surely."

Dodge was anxious to continue. He had seen Lester's election as a
director of the C. H. & D. Obviously he was coming back into the
world. But dinner was announced and Lester sat at Mrs. Gerald's right
hand.

"Aren't you coming to pay me a dinner call some afternoon after
this?" asked Mrs. Gerald confidentially when the conversation was
brisk at the other end of the table.

"I am, indeed," he replied, "and shortly. Seriously, I've been
wanting to look you up. You understand though how things are now?"

"I do. I've heard a great deal. That's why I want you to come. We
need to talk together."

Ten days later he did call. He felt as if he must talk with her; he
was feeling bored and lonely; his long home life with Jennie had made
hotel life objectionable. He felt as though he must find a
sympathetic, intelligent ear, and where better than here? Letty was
all ears for his troubles. She would have pillowed his solid head upon
her breast in a moment if that had been possible.

"Well," he said, when the usual fencing preliminaries were over,
"what will you have me say in explanation?"

"Have you burned your bridges behind you?" she asked.

"I'm not so sure," he replied gravely. "And I can't say that I'm
feeling any too joyous about the matter as a whole."

"I thought as much," she replied. "I knew how it would be with you.
I can see you wading through this mentally, Lester. I have been
watching you, every step of the way, wishing you peace of mind. These
things are always so difficult, but don't you know I am still sure
it's for the best. It never was right the other way. It never could
be. You couldn't afford to sink back into a mere shell-fish life. You
are not organized temperamentally for that any more than I am. You may
regret what you are doing now, but you would have regretted the other
thing quite as much and more. You couldn't work your life out that
way--now, could you?"

"I don't know about that, Letty. Really, I don't. I've wanted to
come and see you for a long time, but I didn't think that I ought to.
The fight was outside--you know what I mean."

"Yes, indeed, I do," she said soothingly.

"It's still inside. I haven't gotten over it. I don't know whether
this financial business binds me sufficiently or not. I'll be frank
and tell you that I can't say I love her entirely; but I'm sorry, and
that's something."

"She's comfortably provided for, of course," she commented rather
than inquired.

"Everything she wants. Jennie is of a peculiar disposition. She
doesn't want much. She's retiring by nature and doesn't care for show.
I've taken a cottage for her at Sandwood, a little place north of here
on the lake; and there's plenty of money in trust, but, of course, she
knows she can live anywhere she pleases."

"I understand exactly how she feels, Lester. I know how you feel.
She is going to suffer very keenly for a while--we all do when we
have to give up the thing we love. But we can get over it, and we do.
At least, we can live. She will. It will go hard at first, but after a
while she will see how it is, and she won't feel any the worse toward
you."

"Jennie will never reproach me, I know that," he replied. "I'm the
one who will do the reproaching. I'll be abusing myself for some time.
The trouble is with my particular turn of mind. I can't tell, for the
life of me, how much of this disturbing feeling of mine is
habit--the condition that I'm accustomed to--and how much is
sympathy. I sometimes think I'm the the most pointless individual in
the world. I think too much."

"Poor Lester!" she said tenderly. "Well, I understand for one.
You're lonely living where you are, aren't you?"

"I am that," he replied.

"Why not come and spend a few days down at West Baden? I'm going
there."

"When?" he inquired.

"Next Tuesday."

"Let me see," he replied. "I'm not sure that I can." He consulted
his notebook. "I could come Thursday, for a few days."

"Why not do that? You need company. We can walk and talk things out
down there. Will you?"

"Yes, I will," he replied.

She came toward him, trailing a lavender lounging robe. "You're
such a solemn philosopher, sir," she observed comfortably, "working
through all the ramifications of things. Why do you? You were always
like that."

"I can't help it," he replied. "It's my nature to think."

"Well, one thing I know--" and she tweaked his ear gently.
"You're not going to make another mistake through sympathy if I can
help it," she said daringly. "You're going to stay disentangled long
enough to give yourself a chance to think out what you want to do. You
must. And I wish for one thing you'd take over the management of my
affairs. You could advise me so much better than my lawyer."

He arose and walked to the window, turning to look back at her
solemnly. "I know what you want," he said doggedly.

"And why shouldn't I?" she demanded, again approaching him. She
looked at him pleadingly, defiantly. "Yes, why shouldn't I?"

"You don't know what you're doing," he grumbled; but he kept on
looking at her; she stood there, attractive as a woman of her age
could be, wise, considerate, full of friendship and affection.

"Letty," he said. "You ought not to want to marry me. I'm not worth
it. Really I'm not. I'm too cynical. Too indifferent. It won't be
worth anything in the long run."

"It will be worth something to me," she insisted. "I know what you
are. Anyhow, I don't care. I want you!"

He took her hands, then her arms. Finally he drew her to him, and
put his arms about her waist. "Poor Letty!" he said; "I'm not worth
it. You'll be sorry."

"No, I'll not," she replied. "I know what I'm doing. I don't care
what you think you are worth." She laid her cheek on his shoulder. "I
want you."

"If you keep on I venture to say you'll have me," he returned. He
bent and kissed her.

"Oh," she exclaimed, and hid her hot face against his breast.

"This is bad business," he thought, even as he held her within the
circle of his arms. "It isn't what I ought to be doing."

Still he held her, and now when she offered her lips coaxingly he
kissed her again and again.




CHAPTER LVI


It is difficult to say whether Lester might not have returned to
Jennie after all but for certain influential factors. After a time,
with his control of his portion of the estate firmly settled in his
hands and the storm of original feeling forgotten, he was well aware
that diplomacy--if he ignored his natural tendency to fulfil even
implied obligations--could readily bring about an arrangement
whereby he and Jennie could be together. But he was haunted by the
sense of what might be called an important social opportunity in the
form of Mrs. Gerald. He was compelled to set over against his natural
tendency toward Jennie a consciousness of what he was ignoring in the
personality and fortunes of her rival, who was one of the most
significant and interesting figures on the social horizon. For think
as he would, these two women were now persistently opposed in his
consciousness. The one polished, sympathetic,
philosophic--schooled in all the niceties of polite society, and
with the means to gratify her every wish; the other natural,
sympathetic, emotional, with no schooling in the ways of polite
society, but with a feeling for the beauty of life and the lovely
things in human relationship which made her beyond any question an
exceptional woman. Mrs. Gerald saw it and admitted it. Her criticism
of Lester's relationship with Jennie was not that she was not worth
while, but that conditions made it impolitic. On the other hand, union
with her was an ideal climax for his social aspirations. This would
bring everything out right. He would be as happy with her as he would
be with Jennie--almost--and he would have the satisfaction
of knowing that this Western social and financial world held no more
significant figure than himself. It was not wise to delay either this
latter excellent solution of his material problems, and after thinking
it over long and seriously he finally concluded that he would not. He
had already done Jennie the irreparable wrong of leaving her. What
difference did it make if he did this also? She was possessed of
everything she could possibly want outside of himself. She had herself
deemed it advisable for him to leave. By such figments of the brain,
in the face of unsettled and disturbing conditions, he was becoming
used to the idea of a new alliance.

The thing which prevented an eventual resumption of relationship in
some form with Jennie was the constant presence of Mrs. Gerald.
Circumstances conspired to make her the logical solution of his mental
quandary at this time. Alone he could do nothing save to make visits
here and there, and he did not care to do that. He was too indifferent
mentally to gather about him as a bachelor that atmosphere which he
enjoyed and which a woman like Mrs. Gerald could so readily provide.
United with her it was simple enough. Their home then, wherever it
was, would be full of clever people. He would need to do little save
to appear and enjoy it. She understood quite as well as any one how he
liked to live. She enjoyed to meet the people he enjoyed meeting.
There were so many things they could do together nicely. He visited
West Baden at the same time she did, as she suggested. He gave himself
over to her in Chicago for dinners, parties, drives. Her house was
quite as much his own as hers--she made him feel so. She talked
to him about her affairs, showing him exactly how they stood and why
she wished him to intervene in this and that matter. She did not wish
him to be much alone. She did not want him to think or regret. She
came to represent to him comfort, forgetfulness, rest from care. With
the others he visited at her house occasionally, and it gradually
became rumored about that he would marry her. Because of the fact that
there had been so much discussion of his previous relationship, Letty
decided that if ever this occurred it should be a quiet affair. She
wanted a simple explanation in the papers of how it had come about,
and then afterward, when things were normal again and gossip had
subsided, she would enter on a dazzling social display for his
sake.

"Why not let us get married in April and go abroad for the summer?"
she asked once, after they had reached a silent understanding that
marriage would eventually follow. "Let's go to Japan. Then we can come
back in the fall, and take a house on the drive."

Lester had been away from Jennie so long now that the first severe
wave of self-reproach had passed. He was still doubtful, but he
preferred to stifle his misgivings. "Very well," he replied, almost
jokingly. "Only don't let there be any fuss about it."

"Do you really mean that, sweet?" she exclaimed, looking over at
him; they had been spending the evening together quietly reading and
chatting.

"I've thought about it a long while," he replied. "I don't see why
not."

She came over to him and sat on his knee, putting her arms upon his
shoulders.

"I can scarcely believe you said that," she said, looking at him
curiously.

"Shall I take it back?" he asked.

"No, no. It's agreed for April now. And we'll go to Japan. You
can't change your mind. There won't be any fuss. But my, what a
trousseau I will prepare!"

He smiled a little constrainedly as she tousled his head; there was
a missing note somewhere in this gamut of happiness; perhaps it was
because he was getting old.




CHAPTER LVII


In the meantime Jennie was going her way, settling herself in the
markedly different world in which henceforth she was to move. It
seemed a terrible thing at first--this life without Lester.
Despite her own strong individuality, her ways had become so involved
with his that there seemed to be no possibility of disentangling them.
Constantly she was with him in thought and action, just as though they
had never separated. Where was he now? What was he doing? What was he
saying? How was he looking? In the mornings when she woke it was with
the sense that he must be beside her. At night as if she could not go
to bed alone. He would come after a while surely--ah, no, of
course he would not come. Dear heaven, think of that! Never any more.
And she wanted him so.

Again there were so many little trying things to adjust, for a
change of this nature is too radical to be passed over lightly. The
explanation she had to make to Vesta was of all the most important.
This little girl, who was old enough now to see and think for herself,
was not without her surmises and misgivings. Vesta recalled that her
mother had been accused of not being married to her father when she
was born. She had seen the article about Jennie and Lester in the
Sunday paper at the time it had appeared--it had been shown to
her at school--but she had had sense enough to say nothing about
it, feeling somehow that Jennie would not like it. Lester's
disappearance was a complete surprise; but she had learned in the last
two or three years that her mother was very sensitive, and that she
could hurt her in unexpected ways. Jennie was finally compelled to
tell Vesta that Lester's fortune had been dependent on his leaving
her, solely because she was not of his station. Vesta listened soberly
and half suspected the truth. She felt terribly sorry for her mother,
and, because of Jennie's obvious distress, she was trebly gay and
courageous. She refused outright the suggestion of going to a
boarding-school and kept as close to her mother as she could. She
found interesting books to read with her, insisted that they go to see
plays together, played to her on the piano, and asked for her mother's
criticisms on her drawing and modeling. She found a few friends in the
excellent Sand wood school, and brought them home of an evening to add
lightness and gaiety to the cottage life. Jennie, through her growing
appreciation of Vesta's fine character, became more and more drawn
toward her. Lester was gone, but at least she had Vesta. That prop
would probably sustain her in the face of a waning existence.

There was also her history to account for to the residents of
Sandwood. In many cases where one is content to lead a secluded life
it is not necessary to say much of one's past, but as a rule something
must be said. People have the habit of inquiring--if they are no
more than butchers and bakers. By degrees one must account for this
and that fact, and it was so here. She could not say that her husband
was dead. Lester might come back. She had to say that she had left
him--to give the impression that it would be she, if any one, who
would permit him to return. This put her in an interesting and
sympathetic light in the neighborhood. It was the most sensible thing
to do. She then settled down to a quiet routine of existence, waiting
what denouement to her life she could not guess.

Sandwood life was not without its charms for a lover of nature, and
this, with the devotion of Vesta, offered some slight solace. There
was the beauty of the lake, which, with its passing boats, was a
never-ending source of joy, and there were many charming drives in the
surrounding country. Jennie had her own horse and carryall--one
of the horses of the pair they had used in Hyde Park. Other household
pets appeared in due course of time, including a collie, that Vesta
named Rats; she had brought him from Chicago as a puppy, and he had
grown to be a sterling watch-dog, sensible and affectionate. There was
also a cat, Jimmy Woods, so called after a boy Vesta knew, and to whom
she insisted the cat bore a marked resemblance. There was a singing
thrush, guarded carefully against a roving desire for bird-food on the
part of Jimmy Woods, and a jar of goldfish. So this little household
drifted along quietly and dreamily indeed, but always with the
undercurrent of feeling which ran so still because it was so deep.

There was no word from Lester for the first few weeks following his
departure; he was too busy following up the threads of his new
commercial connections and too considerate to wish to keep Jennie in a
state of mental turmoil over communications which, under the present
circumstances, could mean nothing. He preferred to let matters rest
for the time being; then a little later he would write her sanely and
calmly of how things were going. He did this after the silence of a
month, saying that he had been pretty well pressed by commercial
affairs, that he had been in and out of the city frequently (which was
the truth), and that he would probably be away from Chicago a large
part of the time in the future. He inquired after Vesta and the
condition of affairs generally at Sandwood. "I may get up there one of
these days," he suggested, but he really did not mean to come, and
Jennie knew that he did not.

Another month passed, and then there was a second letter from him,
not so long as the first one. Jennie had written him frankly and
fully, telling him just how things stood with her. She concealed
entirely her own feelings in the matter, saying that she liked the
life very much, and that she was glad to be at Sand wood. She
expressed the hope that now everything was coming out for the best for
him, and tried to show him that she was really glad matters had been
settled. "You mustn't think of me as being unhappy," she said in one
place, "for I'm not. I am sure it ought to be just as it is, and I
wouldn't be happy if it were any other way. Lay out your life so as to
give yourself the greatest happiness, Lester," she added. "You deserve
it. Whatever you do will be just right for me. I won't mind." She had
Mrs. Gerald in mind, and he suspected as much, but he felt that her
generosity must be tinged greatly with self-sacrifice and secret
unhappiness. It was the one thing which made him hesitate about taking
that final step.

The written word and the hidden thought--how they conflict!
After six months the correspondence was more or less perfunctory on
his part, and at eight it had ceased temporarily.

One morning, as she was glancing over the daily paper, she saw
among the society notes the following item:

The engagement of Mrs. Malcolm Gerald, of 4044 Drexel Boulevard,
to Lester Kane, second son of the late Archibald Kane, of Cincinnati,
was formally announced at a party given by the prospective bride on
Tuesday to a circle of her immediate friends. The wedding will take
place in April.

The paper fell from her hands. For a few minutes she sat perfectly
still, looking straight ahead of her. Could this thing be so? she
asked herself. Had it really come at last? She had known that it must
come, and yet--and yet she had always hoped that it would not.
Why had she hoped? Had not she herself sent him away? Had not she
herself suggested this very thing in a roundabout way? It had come
now. What must she do? Stay here as a pensioner? The idea was
objectionable to her. And yet he had set aside a goodly sum to be hers
absolutely. In the hands of a trust company in La Salle Street were
railway certificates aggregating seventy-five thousand dollars, which
yielded four thousand five hundred annually, the income being paid to
her direct. Could she refuse to receive this money? There was Vesta to
be considered.

Jennie felt hurt through and through by this denouement, and yet as
she sat there she realized that it was foolish to be angry. Life was
always doing this sort of a thing to her. It would go on doing so. She
was sure of it. If she went out in the world and earned her own living
what difference would it make to him? What difference would it make to
Mrs. Gerald? Here she was walled in this little place, leading an
obscure existence, and there was he out in the great world enjoying
life in its fullest and freest sense. It was too bad. But why cry?
Why?

Her eyes indeed were dry, but her very soul seemed to be torn in
pieces within her. She rose carefully, hid the newspaper at the bottom
of a trunk, and turned the key upon it.




CHAPTER LVIII


Now that his engagement to Mrs. Gerald was an accomplished, fact,
Lester found no particular difficulty in reconciling himself to the
new order of things; undoubtedly it was all for the best. He was sorry
for Jennie--very sorry. So was Mrs. Gerald; but there was a
practical unguent to her grief in the thought that it was best for
both Lester and the girl. He would be happier--was so now. And
Jennie would eventually realize that she had done a wise and kindly
thing; she would be glad in the consciousness that she had acted so
unselfishly. As for Mrs. Gerald, because of her indifference to the
late Malcolm Gerald, and because she was realizing the dreams of her
youth in getting Lester at last--even though a little
late--she was intensely happy. She could think of nothing finer
than this daily life with him--the places they would go, the
things they would see. Her first season in Chicago as Mrs. Lester Kane
the following winter was going to be something worth remembering. And
as for Japan--that was almost too good to be true.

Lester wrote to Jennie of his coming marriage to Mrs. Gerald. He
said that he had no explanation to make. It wouldn't be worth anything
if he did make it. He thought he ought to marry Mrs. Gerald. He
thought he ought to let her (Jennie) know. He hoped she was well. He
wanted her always to feel that he had her real interests at heart. He
would do anything in his power to make life as pleasant and agreeable
for her as possible. He hoped she would forgive him. And would she
remember him affectionately to Vesta? She ought to be sent to a
finishing school.

Jennie understood the situation perfectly. She knew that Lester had
been drawn to Mrs. Gerald from the time he met her at the Carlton in
London. She had been angling for him. Now she had him. It was all
right. She hoped he would be happy. She was glad to write and tell him
so, explaining that she had seen the announcement in the papers.
Lester read her letter thoughtfully; there was more between the lines
than the written words conveyed. Her fortitude was a charm to him even
in this hour. In spite of all he had done and what he was now going to
do, he realized that he still cared for Jennie in a way. She was a
noble and a charming woman. If everything else had been all right he
would not be going to marry Mrs. Gerald at all. And yet he did marry
her.

The ceremony was performed on April fifteenth, at the residence of
Mrs. Gerald, a Roman Catholic priest officiating. Lester was a poor
example of the faith he occasionally professed. He was an agnostic,
but because he had been reared in the church he felt that he might as
well be married in it. Some fifty guests, intimate friends, had been
invited. The ceremony went off with perfect smoothness. There were
jubilant congratulations and showers of rice and confetti. While the
guests were still eating and drinking Lester and Letty managed to
escape by a side entrance into a closed carriage, and were off.
Fifteen minutes later there was pursuit pell-mell on the part of the
guests to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific depot; but by that time
the happy couple were in their private car, and the arrival of the
rice throwers made no difference. More champagne was opened; then the
starting of the train ended all excitement, and the newly wedded pair
were at last safely off.

"Well, now you have me," said Lester, cheerfully pulling Letty down
beside him into a seat, "what of it?"

"This of it," she exclaimed, and hugged him close, kissing him
fervently. In four days they were in San Francisco, and two days later
on board a fast steamship bound for the land of the Mikado.

In the meanwhile Jennie was left to brood. The original
announcement in the newspapers had said that he was to be married in
April, and she had kept close watch for additional information.
Finally she learned that the wedding would take place on April
fifteenth at the residence of the prospective bride, the hour being
high noon. In spite of her feeling of resignation, Jennie followed it
all hopelessly, like a child, hungry and forlorn, looking into a
lighted window at Christmas time.

On the day of the wedding she waited miserably for twelve o'clock
to strike; it seemed as though she were really present--and
looking on. She could see in her mind's eye the handsome residence,
the carriages, the guests, the feast, the merriment, the
ceremony--all. Telepathically and psychologically she received
impressions of the private car and of the joyous journey they were
going to take. The papers had stated that they would spend their
honeymoon in Japan. Their honeymoon! Her Lester! And Mrs. Gerald was
so attractive. She could see her now--the new Mrs. Kane--the
only Mrs. Kane that ever was, lying in his arms. He had held
her so once. He had loved her. Yes, he had! There was a solid lump in
her throat as she thought of this. Oh, dear! She sighed to herself,
and clasped her hands forcefully; but it did no good. She was just as
miserable as before.

When the day was over she was actually relieved; anyway, the deed
was done and nothing could change it. Vesta was sympathetically aware
of what was happening, but kept silent. She too had seen the report in
the newspaper. When the first and second day after had passed Jennie
was much calmer mentally, for now she was face to face with the
inevitable. But it was weeks before the sharp pain dulled to the old
familiar ache. Then there were months before they would be back again,
though, of course, that made no difference now. Only Japan seemed so
far off, and somehow she had liked the thought that Lester was near
her--somewhere in the city.

The spring and summer passed, and now it was early in October. One
chilly day Vesta came home from school complaining of a headache. When
Jennie had given her hot milk--a favorite remedy of her
mother's--and had advised a cold towel for the back of her head,
Vesta went to her room and lay down. The following morning she had a
slight fever. This lingered while the local physician, Dr. Emory,
treated her tentatively, suspecting that it might be typhoid, of which
there were several cases in the village. This doctor told Jennie that
Vesta was probably strong enough constitutionally to shake it off, but
it might be that she would have a severe siege. Mistrusting her own
skill in so delicate a situation, Jennie sent to Chicago for a trained
nurse, and then began a period of watchfulness which was a combination
of fear, longing, hope, and courage.

Now there could be no doubt; the disease was typhoid. Jennie
hesitated about communicating with Lester, who was supposed to be in
New York; the papers had said that he intended to spend the winter
there. But when the doctor, after watching the case for a week,
pronounced it severe, she thought she ought to write anyhow, for no
one could tell what would happen. Lester had been so fond of Vesta. He
would probably want to know.

The letter sent to him did not reach him, for at the time it
arrived he was on his way to the West Indies. Jennie was compelled to
watch alone by Vesta's sick-bed, for although sympathetic neighbors,
realizing the pathos of the situation were attentive, they could not
supply the spiritual consolation which only those who truly love us
can give. There was a period when Vesta appeared to be rallying, and
both the physician and the nurse were hopeful; but afterward she
became weaker. It was said by Dr. Emory that her heart and kidneys had
become affected.

There came a time when the fact had to be faced that death was
imminent. The doctor's face was grave, the nurse was non-committal in
her opinion. Jennie hovered about, praying the only prayer that is
prayer--the fervent desire of her heart concentrated on the one
issue--that Vesta should get well. The child had come so close to
her during the last few years! She understood her mother. She was
beginning to realize clearly what her life had been. And Jennie,
through her, had grown to a broad understanding of responsibility. She
knew now what it meant to be a good mother and to have children. If
Lester had not objected to it, and she had been truly married, she
would have been glad to have others. Again, she had always felt that
she owed Vesta so much--at least a long and happy life to make up
to her for the ignominy of her birth and rearing. Jennie had been so
happy during the past few years to see Vesta growing into beautiful,
graceful, intelligent womanhood. And now she was dying. Dr. Emory
finally sent to Chicago for a physician friend of his, who came to
consider the case with him. He was an old man, grave, sympathetic,
understanding. He shook his head. "The treatment has been correct," he
said. "Her system does not appear to be strong enough to endure the
strain. Some physiques are more susceptible to this malady than
others." It was agreed that if within three days a change for the
better did not come the end was close at hand.

No one can conceive the strain to which Jennie's spirit was
subjected by this intelligence, for it was deemed best that she should
know. She hovered about white-faced--feeling intensely, but
scarcely thinking. She seemed to vibrate consciously with Vesta's
altering states. If there was the least improvement she felt it
physically. If there was a decline her barometric temperament
registered the fact.

There was a Mrs. Davis, a fine, motherly soul of fifty, stout and
sympathetic, who lived four doors from Jennie, and who understood
quite well how she was feeling. She had co-operated with the nurse and
doctor from the start to keep Jennie's mental state as nearly normal
as possible.

"Now, you just go to your room and lie down, Mrs. Kane," she would
say to Jennie when she found her watching helplessly at the bedside or
wandering to and fro, wondering what to do. "I'll take charge of
everything. I'll do just what you would do. Lord bless you, don't you
think I know? I've been the mother of seven and lost three. Don't you
think I understand?" Jennie put her head on her big, warm shoulder one
day and cried. Mrs. Davis cried with her. "I understand," she said.
"There, there, you poor dear. Now you come with me." And she led her
to her sleeping-room.

Jennie could not be away long. She came back after a few minutes
unrested and unrefreshed. Finally one midnight, when the nurse had
persuaded her that all would be well until morning anyhow, there came
a hurried stirring in the sick-room. Jennie was lying down for a few
minutes on her bed in the adjoining room. She heard it and arose. Mrs.
Davis had come in, and she and the nurse were conferring as to Vesta's
condition--standing close beside her.

Jennie understood. She came up and looked at her daughter keenly.
Vesta's pale, waxen face told the story. She was breathing faintly,
her eyes closed. "She's very weak," whispered the nurse. Mrs. Davis
took Jennie's hand.

The moments passed, and after a time the clock in the hall struck
one. Miss Murfree, the nurse, moved to the medicine-table several
times, wetting a soft piece of cotton cloth with alcohol and bathing
Vesta's lips. At the striking of the half-hour there was a stir of the
weak body--a profound sigh. Jennie bent forward eagerly, but Mrs.
Davis drew her back. The nurse came and motioned them away.
Respiration had ceased.

Mrs. Davis seized Jennie firmly. "There, there, you poor dear," she
whispered when she began to shake. "It can't be helped. Don't
cry."

Jennie sank on her knees beside the bed and caressed Vesta's still
warm hand. "Oh no, Vesta," she pleaded. "Not you! Not you!"

"There, dear, come now," soothed the voice of Mrs. Davis. "Can't
you leave it all in God's hands? Can't you believe that everything is
for the best?"

Jennie felt as if the earth had fallen. All ties were broken. There
was no light anywhere in the immense darkness of her existence.




CHAPTER LIX


This added blow from inconsiderate fortune was quite enough to
throw Jennie back into that state of hyper-melancholia from which she
had been drawn with difficulty during the few years of comfort and
affection which she had enjoyed with Lester in Hyde Park. It was
really weeks before she could realize that Vesta was gone. The
emaciated figure which she saw for a day or two after the end did not
seem like Vesta. Where was the joy and lightness, the quickness of
motion, the subtle radiance of health? All gone. Only this pale,
lily-hued shell--and silence. Jennie had no tears to shed; only a
deep, insistent pain to feel. If only some counselor of eternal wisdom
could have whispered to her that obvious and convincing
truth--there are no dead.

Miss Murfree, Dr. Emory, Mrs. Davis, and some others among the
neighbors were most sympathetic and considerate. Mrs. Davis sent a
telegram to Lester saying that Vesta was dead, but, being absent,
there was no response. The house was looked after with scrupulous care
by others, for Jennie was incapable of attending to it herself. She
walked about looking at things which Vesta had owned or
liked--things which Lester or she had given her--sighing
over the fact that Vesta would not need or use them any more. She gave
instructions that the body should be taken to Chicago and buried in
the Cemetery of the Redeemer, for Lester, at the time of Gerhardt's
death, had purchased a small plot of ground there. She also expressed
her wish that the minister of the little Lutheran church in Cottage
Grove Avenue, where Gerhardt had attended, should be requested to say
a few words at the grave. There were the usual preliminary services at
the house. The local Methodist minister read a portion of the first
epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, and a body of Vesta's classmates
sang "Nearer My God to Thee." There were flowers, a white coffin, a
world of sympathetic expressions, and then Vesta was taken away. The
coffin was properly incased for transportation, put on the train, and
finally delivered at the Lutheran cemetery in Chicago.

Jennie moved as one in a dream. She was dazed, almost to the point
of insensibility. Five of her neighborhood friends, at the
solicitation of Mrs. Davis, were kind enough to accompany her. At the
grave-side when the body was finally lowered she looked at it, one
might have thought indifferently, for she was numb from suffering. She
returned to Sandwood after it was all over, saying that she would not
stay long. She wanted to come back to Chicago, where she could be near
Vesta and Gerhardt.

After the funeral Jennie tried to think of her future. She fixed
her mind on the need of doing something, even though she did not need
to. She thought that she might like to try nursing, and could start at
once to obtain the training which was required. She also thought of
William. He was unmarried, and perhaps he might be willing to come and
live with her. Only she did not know where he was, and Bass was also
in ignorance of his whereabouts. She finally concluded that she would
try to get work in a store. Her disposition was against idleness. She
could not live alone here, and she could not have her neighbors
sympathetically worrying over what was to become of her. Miserable as
she was, she would be less miserable stopping in a hotel in Chicago,
and looking for something to do, or living in a cottage somewhere near
the Cemetery of the Redeemer. It also occurred to her that she might
adopt a homeless child. There were a number of orphan asylums in the
city.

Some three weeks after Vesta's death Lester returned to Chicago
with his wife, and discovered the first letter, the telegram, and an
additional note telling him that Vesta was dead. He was truly grieved,
for his affection for the girl had been real. He was very sorry for
Jennie, and he told his wife that he would have to go out and see her.
He was wondering what she would do. She could not live alone. Perhaps
he could suggest something which would help her. He took the train to
Sandwood, but Jennie had gone to the Hotel Tremont in Chicago. He went
there, but Jennie had gone to her daughter's grave; later he called
again and found her in. When the boy presented his card she suffered
an upwelling of feeling--a wave that was more intense than that
with which she had received him in the olden days, for now her need of
him was greater.

Lester, in spite of the glamor of his new affection and the
restoration of his wealth, power, and dignities, had had time to think
deeply of what he had done. His original feeling of doubt and
dissatisfaction with himself had never wholly quieted. It did not ease
him any to know that he had left Jennie comfortably fixed, for it was
always so plain to him that money was not the point at issue with her.
Affection was what she craved. Without it she was like a rudderless
boat on an endless sea, and he knew it. She needed him, and he was
ashamed to think that his charity had not outweighed his sense of
self-preservation and his desire for material advantage. To-day as the
elevator carried him up to her room he was really sorry, though he
knew now that no act of his could make things right. He had been to
blame from the very beginning, first for taking her, then for failing
to stick by a bad bargain. Well, it could not be helped now. The best
thing he could do was to be fair, to counsel with her, to give her the
best of his sympathy and advice.

"Hello, Jennie," he said familiarly as she opened the door to him
in her hotel room, his glance taking in the ravages which death and
suffering had wrought. She was thinner, her face quite drawn and
colorless, her eyes larger by contrast. "I'm awfully sorry about
Vesta," he said a little awkwardly. "I never dreamed anything like
that could happen."

It was the first word of comfort which had meant anything to her
since Vesta died--since Lester had left her, in fact. It touched
her that he had come to sympathize; for the moment she could not
speak. Tears welled over her eyelids and down upon her cheeks.

"Don't cry, Jennie," he said, putting his arm around her and
holding her head to his shoulder. "I'm sorry. I've been sorry for a
good many things that can't be helped now. I'm intensely sorry for
this. Where did you bury her?"

"Beside papa," she said, sobbing.

"Too bad," he murmured, and held her in silence. She finally gained
control of herself sufficiently to step away from him; then wiping her
eyes with her handkerchief, she asked him to sit down.

"I'm so sorry," he went on, "that this should have happened while I
was away. I would have been with you if I had been here. I suppose you
won't want to live out at Sand wood now?"

"I can't, Lester," she replied. "I couldn't stand it."

"Where are you thinking of going?"

"Oh, I don't know yet. I didn't want to be a bother to those people
out there. I thought I'd get a little house somewhere and adopt a baby
maybe, or get something to do. I don't like to be alone."

"That isn't a bad idea," he said, "that of adopting a baby. It
would be a lot of company for you. You know how to go about getting
one?"

"You just ask at one of these asylums, don't you?"

"I think there's something more than that," he replied
thoughtfully. "There are some formalities--I don't know what they
are. They try to keep control of the child in some way. You had better
consult with Watson and get him to help you. Pick out your baby, and
then let him do the rest. I'll speak to him about it."

Lester saw that she needed companionship badly. "Where is your
brother George?" he asked.

"He's in Rochester, but he couldn't come. Bass said he was
married," she added.

"There isn't any other member of the family you could persuade to
come and live with you?"

"I might get William, but I don't know where he is."

"Why not try that new section west of Jackson Park," he suggested,
"if you want a house here in Chicago? I see some nice cottages out
that way. You needn't buy. Just rent until you see how well you're
satisfied."

Jennie thought this good advice because it came from Lester. It was
good of him to take this much interest in her affairs. She wasn't
entirely separated from him after all. He cared a little. She asked
him how his wife was, whether he had had a pleasant trip, whether he
was going to stay in Chicago. All the while he was thinking that he
had treated her badly. He went to the window and looked down into
Dearborn Street, the world of traffic below holding his attention. The
great mass of trucks and vehicles, the counter streams of hurrying
pedestrians, seemed like a puzzle. So shadows march in a dream. It was
growing dusk, and lights were springing up here and there.

"I want to tell you something, Jennie," said Lester, finally
rousing himself from his fit of abstraction. "I may seem peculiar to
you, after all that has happened, but I still care for you--in my
way. I've thought of you right along since I left. I thought it good
business to leave you--the way things were. I thought I liked
Letty well enough to marry her. From one point of view it still seems
best, but I'm not so much happier. I was just as happy with you as I
ever will be. It isn't myself that's important in this transaction
apparently; the individual doesn't count much in the situation. I
don't know whether you see what I'm driving at, but all of us are more
or less pawns. We're moved about like chessmen by circumstances over
which we have no control."

"I understand, Lester," she answered. "I'm not complaining. I know
it's for the best."

"After all, life is more or less of a farce," he went on a little
bitterly. "It's a silly show. The best we can do is to hold our
personality intact. It doesn't appear that integrity has much to do
with it."

Jennie did not quite grasp what he was talking about, but she knew
it meant that he was not entirely satisfied with himself and was sorry
for her.

"Don't worry over me, Lester," she consoled. "I'm all right; I'll
get along. It did seem terrible to me for a while--getting used
to being alone. I'll be all right now. I'll get along."

"I want you to feel that my attitude hasn't changed," he continued
eagerly. "I'm interested in what concerns you. Mrs.--Letty
understands that. She knows just how I feel. When you get settled I'll
come in and see how you're fixed. I'll come around here again in a few
days. You understand how I feel, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," she said.

He took her hand, turning it sympathetically in his own. "Don't
worry," he said. "I don't want you to do that. I'll do the best I can.
You're still Jennie to me, if you don't mind. I'm pretty bad, but I'm
not all bad."

"It's all right, Lester. I wanted you to do as you did. It's for
the best. You probably are happy since--"

"Now, Jennie," he interrupted; then he pressed affectionately her
hand, her arm, her shoulder. "Want to kiss me for old times' sake?" he
smiled.

She put her hands over his shoulders, looked long into his eyes,
then kissed him. When their lips met she trembled. Lester also felt
unsteady. Jennie saw his agitation, and tried hard to speak.

"You'd better go now," she said firmly. "It's getting dark."

He went away, and yet he knew that he wanted above all things to
remain; she was still the one woman in the world for him. And Jennie
felt comforted even though the separation still existed in all its
finality. She did not endeavor to explain or adjust the moral and
ethical entanglements of the situation. She was not, like so many,
endeavoring to put the ocean into a tea-cup, or to tie up the shifting
universe in a mess of strings called law. Lester still cared for her a
little. He cared for Letty too. That was all right. She had hoped once
that he might want her only. Since he did not, was his affection worth
nothing? She could not think, she could not feel that. And neither
could he.




CHAPTER LX


The drift of events for a period of five years carried Lester and
Jennie still farther apart; they settled naturally into their
respective spheres, without the renewal of the old time relationship
which their several meetings at the Tremont at first seemed to
foreshadow. Lester was in the thick of social and commercial affairs;
he walked in paths to which Jennie's retiring soul had never aspired.
Jennie's own existence was quiet and uneventful. There was a simple
cottage in a very respectable but not showy neighborhood near Jackson
Park, on the South Side, where she lived in retirement with a little
foster-child--a chestnut-haired girl taken from the Western Home
for the Friendless--as her sole companion. Here she was known as
Mrs. J. G. Stover, for she had deemed it best to abandon the name of
Kane. Mr. and Mrs. Lester Kane when resident in Chicago were the
occupants of a handsome mansion on the Lake Shore Drive, where
parties, balls, receptions, dinners were given in rapid and at times
almost pyrotechnic succession.

Lester, however, had become in his way a lover of a peaceful and
well-entertained existence. He had cut from his list of acquaintances
and associates a number of people who had been a little doubtful or
overfamiliar or indifferent or talkative during a certain period which
to him was a memory merely. He was a director, and in several cases
the chairman of a board of directors, in nine of the most important
financial and commercial organizations of the West--The United
Traction Company of Cincinnati, The Western Crucible Company, The
United Carriage Company, The Second National Bank of Chicago, the
First National Bank of Cincinnati, and several others of equal
importance. He was never a personal factor in the affairs of The
United Carriage Company, preferring to be represented by
counsel--Mr. Dwight L. Watson, but he took a keen interest in its
affairs. He had not seen his brother Robert to speak to him in seven
years. He had not seen Imogene, who lived in Chicago, in three.
Louise, Amy, their husbands, and some of their closest acquaintances
were practically strangers. The firm of Knight, Keatley & O'Brien
had nothing whatever to do with his affairs.

The truth was that Lester, in addition to becoming a little
phlegmatic, was becoming decidedly critical in his outlook on life. He
could not make out what it was all about. In distant ages a queer
thing had come to pass. There had started on its way in the form of
evolution a minute cellular organism which had apparently reproduced
itself by division, had early learned to combine itself with others,
to organize itself into bodies, strange forms of fish, animals, and
birds, and had finally learned to organize itself into man. Man, on
his part, composed as he was of self-organizing cells, was pushing
himself forward into comfort and different aspects of existence by
means of union and organization with other men. Why? Heaven only knew.
Here he was endowed with a peculiar brain and a certain amount of
talent, and he had inherited a certain amount of wealth which he now
scarcely believed he deserved, only luck had favored him. But he could
not see that any one else might be said to deserve this wealth any
more than himself, seeing that his use of it was as conservative and
constructive and practical as the next one's. He might have been born
poor, in which case he would have been as well satisfied as the next
one--not more so. Why should he complain, why worry, why
speculate?--the world was going steadily forward of its own
volition, whether he would or no. Truly it was. And was there any need
for him to disturb himself about it? There was not. He fancied at
times that it might as well never have been started at all. "The one
divine, far-off event" of the poet did not appeal to him as having any
basis in fact. Mrs. Lester Kane was of very much the same opinion.

Jennie, living on the South Side with her adopted child, Rose
Perpetua, was of no fixed conclusion as to the meaning of life. She
had not the incisive reasoning capacity of either Mr. or Mrs. Lester
Kane. She had seen a great deal, suffered a great deal, and had read
some in a desultory way. Her mind had never grasped the nature and
character of specialized knowledge. History, physics, chemistry,
botany, geology, and sociology were not fixed departments in her brain
as they were in Lester's and Letty's. Instead there was the feeling
that the world moved in some strange, unstable way. Apparently no one
knew clearly what it was all about. People were born and died. Some
believed that the world had been made six thousand years before; some
that it was millions of years old. Was it all blind chance, or was
there some guiding intelligence--a God? Almost in spite of
herself she felt there must be something--a higher power which
produced all the beautiful things--the flowers, the stars, the
trees, the grass. Nature was so beautiful! If at times life seemed
cruel, yet this beauty still persisted. The thought comforted her; she
fed upon it in her hours of secret loneliness.

It has been said that Jennie was naturally of an industrious turn.
She liked to be employed, though she thought constantly as she worked.
She was of matronly proportions in these days--not disagreeably
large, but full bodied, shapely, and smooth-faced in spite of her
cares. Her eyes were gray and appealing. Her hair was still of a rich
brown, but there were traces of gray in it. Her neighbors spoke of her
as sweet-tempered, kindly, and hospitable. They knew nothing of her
history, except that she had formerly resided in Sandwood, and before
that in Cleveland. She was very reticent as to her past.

Jennie had fancied, because of her natural aptitude for taking care
of sick people, that she might get to be a trained nurse. But she was
obliged to abandon that idea, for she found that only young people
were wanted. She also thought that some charitable organization might
employ her, but she did not understand the new theory of charity which
was then coming into general acceptance and practice--namely,
only to help others to help themselves. She believed in giving, and
was not inclined to look too closely into the credentials of those who
asked for help; consequently her timid inquiry at one relief agency
after another met with indifference, if not unqualified rebuke. She
finally decided to adopt another child for Rose Perpetua's sake; she
succeeded in securing a boy, four years old, who was known as
Henry--Henry Stover. Her support was assured, for her income was
paid to her through a trust company. She had no desire for speculation
or for the devious ways of trade. The care of flowers, the nature of
children, the ordering of a home were more in her province.

One of the interesting things in connection with this separation
once it had been firmly established related to Robert and Lester, for
these two since the reading of the will a number of years before had
never met. Robert had thought of his brother often. He had followed
his success since he had left Jennie with interest. He read of his
marriage to Mrs. Gerald with pleasure; he had always considered her an
ideal companion for his brother. He knew by many signs and tokens that
his brother, since the unfortunate termination of their father's
attitude and his own peculiar movements to gain control of the Kane
Company, did not like him. Still they had never been so far apart
mentally--certainly not in commercial judgment. Lester was
prosperous now. He could afford to be generous. He could afford to
make up. And after all, he had done his best to aid his brother to
come to his senses--and with the best intentions. There were
mutual interests they could share financially if they were friends. He
wondered from time to time if Lester would not be friendly with
him.

Time passed, and then once, when he was in Chicago, he made the
friends with whom he was driving purposely turn into the North Shore
in order to see the splendid mansion which the Kanes occupied. He knew
its location from hearsay and description.

When he saw it a touch of the old Kane home atmosphere came back to
him. Lester in revising the property after purchase had had a
conservatory built on one side not unlike the one at home in
Cincinnati. That same night he sat down and wrote Lester asking if he
would not like to dine with him at the Union Club. He was only in town
for a day or two, and he would like to see him again. There was some
feeling he knew, but there was a proposition he would like to talk to
him about. Would he come, say, on Thursday?

On the receipt of this letter Lester frowned and fell into a brown
study. He had never really been healed of the wound that his father
had given him. He had never been comfortable in his mind since Robert
had deserted him so summarily. He realized now that the stakes his
brother had been playing for were big. But, after all, he had been his
brother, and if he had been in Robert's place at the time, he would
not have done as he had done; at least he hoped not. Now Robert wanted
to see him.

He thought once of not answering at all. Then he thought he would
write and say no. But a curious desire to see Robert again, to hear
what he had to say, to listen to the proposition he had to offer, came
over him; he decided to write yes. It could do no harm. He knew it
could do no good. They might agree to let by-gones be by-gones, but
the damage had been done. Could a broken bowl be mended and called
whole? It might be called whole, but what of it? Was it not
broken and mended? He wrote and intimated that he would come.

On the Thursday in question Robert called up from the Auditorium to
remind him of the engagement. Lester listened curiously to the sound
of his voice. "All right," he said, "I'll be with you." At noon he
went down-town, and there, within the exclusive precincts of the Union
Club, the two brothers met and looked at each other again. Robert was
thinner than when Lester had seen him last, and a little grayer. His
eyes were bright and steely, but there were crow's-feet on either
side. His manner was quick, keen, dynamic. Lester was noticeably of
another type--solid, brusque, and indifferent. Men spoke of
Lester these days as a little hard. Robert's keen blue eyes did not
disturb him in the least--did not affect him in any way. He saw
his brother just as he was, for he had the larger philosophic and
interpretative insight; but Robert could not place Lester exactly. He
could not fathom just what had happened to him in these years. Lester
was stouter, not gray, for some reason, but sandy and ruddy, looking
like a man who was fairly well satisfied to take life as he found it.
Lester looked at his brother with a keen, steady eye. The latter
shifted a little, for he was restless. He could see that there was no
loss of that mental force and courage which had always been
predominant characteristics in Lester's make-up.

"I thought I'd like to see you again, Lester," Robert remarked,
after they had clasped hands in the customary grip. "It's been a long
time now--nearly eight years, hasn't it?"

"About that," replied Lester. "How are things with you?"

"Oh, about the same. You've been fairly well, I see."

"Never sick," said Lester. "A little cold now and then. I don't
often go to bed with anything. How's your wife?"

"Oh, Margaret's fine."

"And the children?"

"We don't see much of Ralph and Berenice since they married, but
the others are around more or less. I suppose your wife is all right,"
he said hesitatingly. It was difficult ground for Robert.

Lester eyed him without a change of expression.

"Yes," he replied. "She enjoys pretty fair health. She's quite well
at present."

They drifted mentally for a few moments, while Lester inquired
after the business, and Amy, Louise, and Imogene. He admitted frankly
that he neither saw nor heard from them nowadays. Robert told him what
he could.

"The thing that I was thinking of in connection with you, Lester,"
said Robert finally, "is this matter of the Western Crucible Steel
Company. You haven't been sitting there as a director in person I
notice, but your attorney, Watson, has been acting for you. Clever
man, that. The management isn't right--we all know that. We need
a practical steel man at the head of it, if the thing is ever going to
pay properly. I have voted my stock with yours right along because the
propositions made by Watson have been right. He agrees with me that
things ought to be changed. Now I have a chance to buy seventy shares
held by Rossiter's widow. That with yours and mine would give us
control of the company. I would like to have you take them, though it
doesn't make a bit of difference so long as it's in the family. You
can put any one you please in for president, and we'll make the thing
come out right."

Lester smiled. It was a pleasant proposition. Watson had told him
that Robert's interests were co-operating with him. Lester had long
suspected that Robert would like to make up. This was the olive
branch--the control of a property worth in the neighborhood of a
million and a half.

"That's very nice of you," said Lester solemnly. "It's a rather
liberal thing to do. What makes you want to do it now?"

"Well, to tell you the honest truth, Lester," replied Robert, "I
never did feel right about that will business. I never did feel right
about that secretary-treasurership and some other things that have
happened. I don't want to rake up the past--you smile at
that--but I can't help telling you how I feel. I've been pretty
ambitious in the past. I was pretty ambitious just about the time that
father died to get this United Carriage scheme under way, and I was
afraid you might not like it. I have thought since that I ought not to
have done it, but I did. I suppose you're not anxious to hear any more
about that old affair. This other thing though--"

"Might be handed out as a sort of compensation," put in Lester
quietly.

"Not exactly that, Lester--though it may have something of
that in it. I know these things don't matter very much to you now. I
know that the time to do things was years ago--not now. Still I
thought sincerely that you might be interested in this proposition. It
might lead to other things. Frankly, I thought it might patch up
matters between us. We're brothers after all."

"Yes," said Lester, "we're brothers."

He was thinking as he said this of the irony of the situation. How
much had this sense of brotherhood been worth in the past? Robert had
practically forced him into his present relationship, and while Jennie
had been really the only one to suffer, he could not help feeling
angry. It was true that Robert had not cut him out of his one-fourth
of his father's estate, but certainly he had not helped him to get it,
and now Robert was thinking that this offer of his might mend things.
It hurt him--Lester--a little. It irritated him. Life was
strange.

"I can't see it, Robert," he said finally and determinedly. "I can
appreciate the motive that prompts you to make this offer. But I can't
see the wisdom of my taking it. Your opportunity is your opportunity.
I don't want it. We can make all the changes you suggest if you take
the stock. I'm rich enough anyhow. Bygones are bygones. I'm perfectly
willing to talk with you from time to time. That's all you want. This
other thing is simply a sop with which to plaster an old wound. You
want my friendship and so far as I'm concerned you have that. I don't
hold any grudge against you. I won't."

Robert looked at him fixedly. He half smiled. He admired Lester in
spite of all that he had done to him--in spite of all that Lester
was doing to him now.

"I don't know but what you're right, Lester," he admitted finally.
"I didn't make this offer in any petty spirit though. I wanted to
patch up this matter of feeling between us. I won't say anything more
about it. You're not coming down to Cincinnati soon, are you?"

"I don't expect to," replied Lester.

"If you do I'd like to have you come and stay with us. Bring your
wife. We could talk over old times."

Lester smiled an enigmatic smile.

"I'll be glad to," he said, without emotion. But he remembered that
in the days of Jennie it was different. They would never have receded
from their position regarding her. "Well," he thought, "perhaps I
can't blame them. Let it go."

They talked on about other things. Finally Lester remembered an
appointment. "I'll have to leave you soon," he said, looking at his
watch.

"I ought to go, too," said Robert. They rose. "Well, anyhow," he
added, as they walked toward the cloakroom, "we won't be absolute
strangers in the future, will we?"

"Certainly not," said Lester. "I'll see you from time to time."
They shook hands and separated amicably. There was a sense of
unsatisfied obligation and some remorse in Robert's mind as he saw his
brother walking briskly away. Lester was an able man. Why was it that
there was so much feeling between them--had been even before
Jennie had appeared? Then he remembered his old thoughts about "snaky
deeds." That was what his brother lacked, and that only. He was not
crafty; not darkly cruel, hence. "What a world!" he thought.

On his part Lester went away feeling a slight sense of opposition
to, but also of sympathy for, his brother. He was not so terribly
bad--not different from other men. Why criticize? What would he
have done if he had been in Robert's place? Robert was getting along.
So was he. He could see now how it all came about--why he had
been made the victim, why his brother had been made the keeper of the
great fortune. "It's the way the world runs," he thought. "What
difference does it make? I have enough to live on. Why not let it go
at that?"




CHAPTER LXI


The days of man under the old dispensation, or, rather, according
to that supposedly biblical formula, which persists, are threescore
years and ten. It is so ingrained in the race-consciousness by
mouth-to-mouth utterance that it seems the profoundest of truths. As a
matter of fact, man, even under his mortal illusion, is organically
built to live five times the period of his maturity, and would do so
if he but knew that it is spirit which endures, that age is an
illusion, and that there is no death. Yet the race-thought, gained
from what dream of materialism we know not, persists, and the death of
man under the mathematical formula so fearfully accepted is daily
registered.

Lester was one of those who believed in this formula. He was
nearing sixty. He thought he had, say, twenty years more at the utmost
to live--perhaps not so long. Well, he had lived comfortably. He
felt that he could not complain. If death was coming, let it come. He
was ready at any time. No complaint or resistance would issue from
him. Life, in most of its aspects, was a silly show anyhow.

He admitted that it was mostly illusion--easily proved to be
so. That it might all be one he sometimes suspected. It was very much
like a dream in its composition truly--sometimes like a very bad
dream. All he had to sustain him in his acceptance of its reality from
hour to hour and day to day was apparent contact with this material
proposition and that--people, meetings of boards of directors,
individuals and organizations planning to do this and that, his wife's
social functions Letty loved him as a fine, grizzled example of a
philosopher. She admired, as Jennie had, his solid, determined,
phlegmatic attitude in the face of troubled circumstance. All the
winds of fortune or misfortune could not apparently excite or disturb
Lester. He refused to be frightened. He refused to budge from his
beliefs and feelings, and usually had to be pushed away from them,
still believing, if he were gotten away at all. He refused to do
anything save as he always said, "Look the facts in the face" and
fight. He could be made to fight easily enough if imposed upon, but
only in a stubborn, resisting way. His plan was to resist every effort
to coerce him to the last ditch. If he had to let go in the end he
would when compelled, but his views as to the value of not letting go
were quite the same even when he had let go under compulsion.

His views of living were still decidedly material, grounded in
creature comforts, and he had always insisted upon having the best of
everything. If the furnishings of his home became the least dingy he
was for having them torn out and sold and the house done over. If he
traveled, money must go ahead of him and smooth the way. He did not
want argument, useless talk, or silly palaver as he called it. Every
one must discuss interesting topics with him or not talk at all. Letty
understood him thoroughly. She would chuck him under the chin
mornings, or shake his solid head between her hands, telling him he
was a brute, but a nice kind of a brute. "Yes, yes," he would growl.
"I know. I'm an animal, I suppose. You're a seraphic suggestion of
attenuated thought."

"No; you hush," she would reply, for at times he could cut like a
knife without really meaning to be unkind. Then he would pet her a
little, for, in spite of her vigorous conception of life, he realized
that she was more or less dependent upon him. It was always so plain
to her that he could get along without her. For reasons of kindliness
he was trying to conceal this, to pretend the necessity of her
presence, but it was so obvious that he really could dispense with her
easily enough. Now Letty did depend upon Lester. It was something, in
so shifty and uncertain a world, to be near so fixed and determined a
quantity as this bear-man. It was like being close to a warmly glowing
lamp in the dark or a bright burning fire in the cold. Lester was not
afraid of anything. He felt that he knew how to live and to die.

It was natural that a temperament of this kind should have its
solid, material manifestation at every point. Having his financial
affairs well in hand, most of his holding being shares of big
companies, where boards of solemn directors merely approved the
strenuous efforts of ambitious executives to "make good," he had
leisure for living. He and Letty were fond of visiting the various
American and European watering-places. He gambled a little, for he
found that there was considerable diversion in risking interesting
sums on the spin of a wheel or the fortuitous roll of a ball; and he
took more and more to drinking, not in the sense that a drunkard takes
to it, but as a high liver, socially, and with all his friends. He was
inclined to drink the rich drinks when he did not take straight
whiskey--champagne, sparkling Burgundy, the expensive and
effervescent white wines. When he drank he could drink a great deal,
and he ate in proportion. Nothing must be served but the
best--soup, fish, entree, roast, game, dessert--everything
that made up a showy dinner and he had long since determined that only
a high-priced chef was worth while. They had found an old cordon
bleu, Louis Berdot, who had served in the house of one of the
great dry goods princes, and this man he engaged. He cost Lester a
hundred dollars a week, but his reply to any question was that he only
had one life to live.

The trouble with this attitude was that it adjusted nothing,
improved nothing, left everything to drift on toward an indefinite
end. If Lester had married Jennie and accepted the comparatively
meager income of ten thousand a year he would have maintained the same
attitude to the end. It would have led him to a stolid indifference to
the social world of which now necessarily he was a part. He would have
drifted on with a few mentally compatible cronies who would have
accepted him for what he was--a good fellow--and Jennie in
the end would not have been so much better off than she was now.

One of the changes which was interesting was that the Kanes
transferred their residence to New York. Mrs. Kane had become very
intimate with a group of clever women in the Eastern four hundred, or
nine hundred, and had been advised and urged to transfer the scene of
her activities to New York. She finally did so, leasing a house in
Seventy-eighth Street, near Madison Avenue. She installed a novelty
for her, a complete staff of liveried servants, after the English
fashion, and had the rooms of her house done in correlative periods.
Lester smiled at her vanity and love of show.

"You talk about your democracy," he grunted one day. "You have as
much democracy as I have religion, and that's none at all."

"Why, how you talk!" she denied. "I am democratic. We all run in
classes. You do. I'm merely accepting the logic of the situation."

"The logic of your grandmother! Do you call a butler and doorman in
red velvet a part of the necessity of the occasion?"

"I certainly do," she replied. "Maybe not the necessity exactly,
but the spirit surely. Why should you quarrel? You're the first one to
insist on perfection--to quarrel if there is any flaw in the
order of things."

"You never heard me quarrel."

"Oh, I don't mean that literally. But you demand
perfection--the exact spirit of the occasion, and you know
it."

"Maybe I do, but what has that to do with your democracy?"

"I am democratic. I insist on it. I'm as democratic in spirit as
any woman. Only I see things as they are, and conform as much as
possible for comfort's sake, and so do you. Don't you throw rocks at
my glass house, Mister Master. Yours is so transparent I can see every
move you make inside."

"I'm democratic and you're not," he teased; but he approved
thoroughly of everything she did. She was, he sometimes fancied, a
better executive in her world than he was in his.

Drifting in this fashion, wining, dining, drinking the waters of
this curative spring and that, traveling in luxurious ease and taking
no physical exercise, finally altered his body from a vigorous,
quick-moving, well-balanced organism into one where plethora of
substance was clogging every essential function. His liver, kidneys,
spleen, pancreas--every organ, in fact--had been overtaxed
for some time to keep up the process of digestion and elimination. In
the past seven years he had become uncomfortably heavy. His kidneys
were weak, and so were the arteries of his brain. By dieting, proper
exercise, the right mental attitude, he might have lived to be eighty
or ninety. As a matter of fact, he was allowing himself to drift into
a physical state in which even a slight malady might prove dangerous.
The result was inevitable, and it came.

It so happened that he and Letty had gone to the North Cape on a
cruise with a party of friends. Lester, in order to attend to some
important business, decided to return to Chicago late in November; he
arranged to have his wife meet him in New York just before the
Christmas holidays. He wrote Watson to expect him, and engaged rooms
at the Auditorium, for he had sold the Chicago residence some two
years before and was now living permanently in New York.

One late November day, after having attended to a number of details
and cleared up his affairs very materially, Lester was seized with
what the doctor who was called to attend him described as a cold in
the intestines--a disturbance usually symptomatic of some other
weakness, either of the blood or of some organ. He suffered great
pain, and the usual remedies in that case were applied. There were
bandages of red flannel with a mustard dressing, and specifics were
also administered. He experienced some relief, but he was troubled
with a sense of impending disaster. He had Watson cable his
wife--there was nothing serious about it, but he was ill. A
trained nurse was in attendance and his valet stood guard at the door
to prevent annoyance of any kind. It was plain that Letty could not
reach Chicago under three weeks. He had the feeling that he would not
see her again.

Curiously enough, not only because he was in Chicago, but because
he had never been spiritually separated from Jennie, he was thinking
about her constantly at this time. He had intended to go out and see
her just as soon as he was through with his business engagements and
before he left the city. He had asked Watson how she was getting
along, and had been informed that everything was well with her. She
was living quietly and looking in good health, so Watson said. Lester
wished he could see her.

This thought grew as the days passed and he grew no better. He was
suffering from time to time with severe attacks of griping pains that
seemed to tie his viscera into knots, and left him very weak. Several
times the physician administered cocaine with a needle in order to
relieve him of useless pain.

After one of the severe attacks he called Watson to his side, told
him to send the nurse away, and then said: "Watson, I'd like to have
you do me a favor. Ask Mrs. Stover if she won't come here to see me.
You'd better go and get her. Just send the nurse and Kozo (the valet)
away for the afternoon, or while she's here. If she comes at any other
time I'd like to have her admitted."

Watson understood. He liked this expression of sentiment. He was
sorry for Jennie. He was sorry for Lester. He wondered what the world
would think if it could know of this bit of romance in connection with
so prominent a man. Lester was decent. He had made Watson prosperous.
The latter was only too glad to serve him in any way.

He called a carriage and rode out to Jennie's residence. He found
her watering some plants; her face expressed her surprise at his
unusual presence.

"I come on a rather troublesome errand, Mrs. Stover," he said,
using her assumed name. "Your--that is, Mr. Kane is quite sick at
the Auditorium. His wife is in Europe, and he wanted to know if I
wouldn't come out here and ask you to come and see him. He wanted me
to bring you, if possible. Could you come with me now?"

"Why yes," said Jennie, her face a study. The children were in
school. An old Swedish housekeeper was in the kitchen. She could go as
well as not. But there was coming back to her in detail a dream she
had had several nights before. It had seemed to her that she was out
on a dark, mystic body of water over which was hanging something like
a fog, or a pall of smoke. She heard the water ripple, or stir
faintly, and then out of the surrounding darkness a boat appeared. It
was a little boat, oarless, or not visibly propelled, and in it were
her mother, and Vesta, and some one whom she could not make out. Her
mother's face was pale and sad, very much as she had often seen it in
life. She looked at Jennie solemnly, sympathetically, and then
suddenly Jennie realized that the third occupant of the boat was
Lester. He looked at her gloomily--an expression she had never
seen on his face before--and then her mother remarked, "Well, we
must go now." The boat began to move, a great sense of loss came over
her, and she cried, "Oh, don't leave me, mamma!"

But her mother only looked at her out of deep, sad, still eyes, and
the boat was gone.

She woke with a start, half fancying that Lester was beside her.
She stretched out her hand to touch his arm; then she drew herself up
in the dark and rubbed her eyes, realizing that she was alone. A great
sense of depression remained with her, and for two days it haunted
her. Then, when it seemed as if it were nothing, Mr. Watson appeared
with his ominous message.

She went to dress, and reappeared, looking as troubled as were her
thoughts. She was very pleasing in her appearance yet, a sweet, kindly
woman, well dressed and shapely. She had never been separated mentally
from Lester, just as he had never grown entirely away from her. She
was always with him in thought, just as in the years when they were
together. Her fondest memories were of the days when he first courted
her in Cleveland--the days when he had carried her off, much as
the cave-man seized his mate--by force. Now she longed to do what
she could for him. For this call was as much a testimony as a shock.
He loved her--he loved her, after all.

The carriage rolled briskly through the long streets into the smoky
down-town district. It arrived at the Auditorium, and Jennie was
escorted to Lester's room. Watson had been considerate. He had talked
little, leaving her to her thoughts. In this great hotel she felt
diffident after so long a period of complete retirement. As she
entered the room she looked at Lester with large, gray, sympathetic
eyes. He was lying propped up on two pillows, his solid head with its
growth of once dark brown hair slightly grayed. He looked at her
curiously out of his wise old eyes, a light of sympathy and affection
shining in them--weary as they were. Jennie was greatly
distressed. His pale face, slightly drawn from suffering, cut her like
a knife. She took his hand, which was outside the coverlet, and
pressed it. She leaned over and kissed his lips.

"I'm so sorry, Lester," she murmured. "I'm so sorry. You're not
very sick though, are you? You must get well, Lester--and soon!"
She patted his hand gently.

"Yes, Jennie, but I'm pretty bad," he said. "I don't feel right
about this business. I don't seem able to shake it off. But tell me,
how have you been?"

"Oh, just the same, dear," she replied. "I'm all right. You mustn't
talk like that, though. You're going to be all right very soon
now."

He smiled grimly. "Do you think so?" He shook his head, for he
thought differently. "Sit down, dear," he went on, "I'm not worrying
about that. I want to talk to you again. I want you near me." He
sighed and shut his eyes for a minute.

She drew up a chair close beside the bed, her face toward his, and
took his hand. It seemed such a beautiful thing that he should send
for her. Her eyes showed the mingled sympathy, affection, and
gratitude of her heart. At the same time fear gripped her; how ill he
looked!

"I can't tell what may happen," he went on. "Letty is in Europe.
I've wanted to see you again for some time. I was coming out this
trip. We are living in New York, you know. You're a little stouter,
Jennie."

"Yes, I'm getting old, Lester," she smiled.

"Oh, that doesn't make any difference," he replied, looking at her
fixedly. "Age doesn't count. We are all in that boat. It's how we feel
about life."

He stopped and stared at the ceiling. A slight twinge of pain
reminded him of the vigorous seizures he had been through. He couldn't
stand many more paroxysms like the last one.

"I couldn't go, Jennie, without seeing you again," he observed,
when the slight twinge ceased and he was free to think again. "I've
always wanted to say to you, Jennie," he went on, "that I haven't been
satisfied with the way we parted. It wasn't the right thing, after
all. I haven't been any happier. I'm sorry. I wish now, for my own
peace of mind, that I hadn't done it."

"Don't say that, Lester," she demurred, going over in her mind all
that had been between them. This was such a testimony to their real
union--their real spiritual compatibility. "It's all right. It
doesn't make any difference. You've been very good to me. I wouldn't
have been satisfied to have you lose your fortune. It couldn't be that
way. I've been a lot better satisfied as it is. It's been hard, but,
dear, everything is hard at times." She paused.

"No," he said. "It wasn't right. The thing wasn't worked out right
from the start; but that wasn't your fault. I'm sorry. I wanted to
tell you that. I'm glad I'm here to do it."

"Don't talk that way, Lester--please don't," she pleaded.
"It's all right. You needn't be sorry. There's nothing to be sorry
for. You have always been so good to me. Why, when I think--" she
stopped, for it was hard for her to speak. She was choking with
affection and sympathy. She pressed his hands. She was recalling the
house he took for her family in Cleveland, his generous treatment of
Gerhardt, all the long ago tokens of love and kindness.

"Well, I've told you now, and I feel better. You're a good woman,
Jennie, and you're kind to come to me this way." I loved you. I love
you now. I want to tell you that. It seems strange, but you're the
only woman I ever did love truly. We should never have parted.

Jennie caught her breath. It was the one thing she had waited for
all these years--this testimony. It was the one thing that could
make everything right--this confession of spiritual if not
material union. Now she could live happily. Now die so. "Oh, Lester,"
she exclaimed with a sob, and pressed his hand. He returned the
pressure. There was a little silence. Then he spoke again.

"How are the two orphans?" he asked.

"Oh, they're lovely," she answered, entering upon a detailed
description of their diminutive personalities. He listened
comfortably, for her voice was soothing to him. Her whole personality
was grateful to him. When it came time for her to go he seemed
desirous of keeping her.

"Going, Jennie?"

"I can stay just as well as not, Lester," she volunteered. "I'll
take a room. I can send a note out to Mrs. Swenson. It will be all
right."

"You needn't do that," he said, but she could see that he wanted
her, that he did not want to be alone.

From that time on until the hour of his death she was not out of
the hotel.




CHAPTER LXII


The end came after four days during which Jennie was by his bedside
almost constantly. The nurse in charge welcomed her at first as a
relief and company, but the physician was inclined to object. Lester,
however, was stubborn. "This is my death," he said, with a touch of
grim humor. "If I'm dying I ought to be allowed to die in my own
way."

Watson smiled at the man's unfaltering courage. He had never seen
anything like it before.

There were cards of sympathy, calls of inquiry, notices in the
newspaper. Robert saw an item in the Inquirer and decided to go
to Chicago. Imogene called with her husband, and they were admitted to
Lester's room for a few minutes after Jennie had gone to hers. Lester
had little to say. The nurse cautioned them that he was not to be
talked to much. When they were gone Lester said to Jennie, "Imogene
has changed a good deal." He made no other comment.

Mrs. Kane was on the Atlantic three days out from New York the
afternoon Lester died. He had been meditating whether anything more
could be done for Jennie, but he could not make up his mind about it.
Certainly it was useless to leave her more money. She did not want it.
He had been wondering where Letty was and how near her actual arrival
might be when he was seized with a tremendous paroxysm of pain. Before
relief could be administered in the shape of an anesthetic he was
dead. It developed afterward that it was not the intestinal trouble
which killed him, but a lesion of a major blood-vessel in the
brain.

Jennie, who had been strongly wrought up by watching and worrying,
was beside herself with grief. He had been a part of her thought and
feeling so long that it seemed now as though a part of herself had
died. She had loved him as she had fancied she could never love any
one, and he had always shown that he cared for her--at least in
some degree. She could not feel the emotion that expresses itself in
tears--only a dull ache, a numbness which seemed to make her
insensible to pain. He looked so strong--her Lester--lying
there still in death. His expression was unchanged--defiant,
determined, albeit peaceful. Word had come from Mrs. Kane that she
would arrive on the Wednesday following. It was decided to hold the
body. Jennie learned from Mr. Watson that it was to be transferred to
Cincinnati, where the Paces had a vault. Because of the arrival of
various members of the family, Jennie withdrew to her own home; she
could do nothing more.

The final ceremonies presented a peculiar commentary on the
anomalies of existence. It was arranged with Mrs. Kane by wire that
the body should be transferred to Imogene's residence, and the funeral
held from there. Robert, who arrived the night Lester died; Berry
Dodge, Imogene's husband; Mr. Midgely, and three other citizens of
prominence were selected as pall-bearers. Louise and her husband came
from Buffalo; Amy and her husband from Cincinnati. The house was full
to overflowing with citizens who either sincerely wished or felt it
expedient to call. Because of the fact that Lester and his family were
tentatively Catholic, a Catholic priest was called in and the ritual
of that Church was carried out. It was curious to see him lying in the
parlor of this alien residence, candles at his head and feet, burning
sepulchrally, a silver cross upon his breast, caressed by his waxen
fingers. He would have smiled if he could have seen himself, but the
Kane family was too conventional, too set in its convictions, to find
anything strange in this.

The Church made no objection, of course. The family was
distinguished. What more could be desired?

On Wednesday Mrs. Kane arrived. She was greatly distraught, for her
love, like Jennie's, was sincere. She left her room that night when
all was silent and leaned over the coffin, studying by the light of
the burning candles Lester's beloved features. Tears trickled down her
cheeks, for she had been happy with him. She caressed his cold cheeks
and hands. "Poor, dear Lester!" she whispered. "Poor, brave soul!" No
one told her that he had sent for Jennie. The Kane family did not
know.

Meanwhile in the house on South Park Avenue sat a woman who was
enduring alone the pain, the anguish of an irreparable loss. Through
all these years the subtle hope had persisted, in spite of every
circumstance, that somehow life might bring him back to her. He had
come, it is true--he really had in death--but he had gone
again. Where? Whither her mother, whither Gerhardt, whither Vesta had
gone? She could not hope to see him again, for the papers had informed
her of his removal to Mrs. Midgely's residence, and of the fact that
he was to be taken from Chicago to Cincinnati for burial. The last
ceremonies in Chicago were to be held in one of the wealthy Roman
Catholic churches of the South Side, St. Michael's, of which the
Midgelys were members.

Jennie felt deeply about this. She would have liked so much to have
had him buried in Chicago, where she could go to the grave
occasionally, but this was not to be. She was never a master of her
fate. Others invariably controlled. She thought of him as being taken
from her finally by the removal of the body to Cincinnati, as though
distance made any difference. She decided at last to veil herself
heavily and attend the funeral at the church. The paper had explained
that the services would be at two in the afternoon. Then at four the
body would be taken to the depot, and transferred to the train; the
members of the family would accompany it to Cincinnati. She thought of
this as another opportunity. She might go to the depot.

A little before the time for the funeral cortege to arrive at the
church there appeared at one of its subsidiary entrances a woman in
black, heavily veiled, who took a seat in an inconspicuous corner. She
was a little nervous at first, for, seeing that the church was dark
and empty, she feared lest she had mistaken the time and place; but
after ten minutes of painful suspense a bell in the church tower began
to toll solemnly. Shortly thereafter an acolyte in black gown and
white surplice appeared and lighted groups of candles on either side
of the altar. A hushed stirring of feet in the choir-loft indicated
that the service was to be accompanied by music. Some loiterers,
attracted by the bell, some idle strangers, a few acquaintances and
citizens not directly invited appeared and took seats.

Jennie watched all this with wondering eyes. Never in her life had
she been inside a Catholic church. The gloom, the beauty of the
windows, the whiteness of the altar, the golden flames of the candles
impressed her. She was suffused with a sense of sorrow, loss, beauty,
and mystery. Life in all its vagueness and uncertainty seemed typified
by this scene.

As the bell tolled there came from the sacristy a procession of
altar-boys. The smallest, an angelic youth of eleven, came first,
bearing aloft a magnificent silver cross. In the hands of each
subsequent pair of servitors was held a tall, lighted candle. The
priest, in black cloth and lace, attended by an acolyte on either
hand, followed. The procession passed out the entrance into the
vestibule of the church, and was not seen again until the choir began
a mournful, responsive chant, the Latin supplication for mercy and
peace.

Then, at this sound the solemn procession made its reappearance.
There came the silver cross, the candles, the dark-faced priest,
reading dramatically to himself as he walked, and the body of Lester
in a great black coffin, with silver handles, carried by the
pall-bearers, who kept an even pace. Jennie stiffened perceptibly, her
nerves responding as though to a shock from an electric current. She
did not know any of these men. She did not know Robert. She had never
seen Mr. Midgely. Of the long company of notables who followed two by
two she recognized only three, whom Lester had pointed out to her in
times past. Mrs. Kane she saw, of course, for she was directly behind
the coffin, leaning on the arm of a stranger; behind her walked Mr.
Watson, solemn, gracious. He gave a quick glance to either side,
evidently expecting to see her somewhere; but not finding her, he
turned his eyes gravely forward and walked on. Jennie looked with all
her eyes, her heart gripped by pain. She seemed so much a part of this
solemn ritual, and yet infinitely removed from it all.

The procession reached the altar rail, and the coffin was put down.
A white shroud bearing the insignia of suffering, a black cross, was
put over it, and the great candles were set beside it. There were the
chanted invocations and responses, the sprinkling of the coffin with
holy water, the lighting and swinging of the censer and then the
mumbled responses of the auditors to the Lord's Prayer and to its
Catholic addition, the invocation to the Blessed Virgin. Jennie was
overawed and amazed, but no show of form colorful, impression
imperial, could take away the sting of death, the sense of infinite
loss. To Jennie the candles, the incense, the holy song were
beautiful. They touched the deep chord of melancholy in her, and made
it vibrate through the depths of her being. She was as a house filled
with mournful melody and the presence of death. She cried and cried.
She could see, curiously, that Mrs. Kane was sobbing convulsively
also.

When it was all over the carriages were entered and the body was
borne to the station. All the guests and strangers departed, and
finally, when all was silent, she arose. Now she would go to the depot
also, for she was hopeful of seeing his body put on the train. They
would have to bring it out on the platform, just as they did in
Vesta's case. She took a car, and a little later she entered the
waiting-room of the depot. She lingered about, first in the concourse,
where the great iron fence separated the passengers from the tracks,
and then in the waiting-room, hoping to discover the order of
proceedings. She finally observed the group of immediate relatives
waiting--Mrs. Kane, Robert, Mrs. Midgely, Louise, Amy, Imogene,
and the others. She actually succeeded in identifying most of them,
though it was not knowledge in this case, but pure instinct and
intuition.

No one had noticed it in the stress of excitement, but it was
Thanksgiving Eve. Throughout the great railroad station there was a
hum of anticipation, that curious ebullition of fancy which springs
from the thought of pleasures to come. People were going away for the
holiday. Carriages were at the station entries. Announcers were
calling in stentorian voices the destination of each new train as the
time of its departure drew near. Jennie heard with a desperate ache
the description of a route which she and Lester had taken more than
once, slowly and melodiously emphasized. "Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland,
Buffalo, and New York." There were cries of trains for "Fort Wayne,
Columbus, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, and points East," and then finally
for "Indianapolis, Louisville, Columbus, Cincinnati, and points
South." The hour had struck.

Several times Jennie had gone to the concourse between the
waiting-room and the tracks to see if through the iron grating which
separated her from her beloved she could get one last look at the
coffin, or the great wooden box which held it, before it was put on
the train. Now she saw it coming. There was a baggage porter pushing a
truck into position near the place where the baggage car would stop.
On it was Lester, that last shadow of his substance, incased in the
honors of wood, and cloth, and silver. There was no thought on the
part of the porter of the agony of loss which was represented here. He
could not see how wealth and position in this hour were typified to
her mind as a great fence, a wall, which divided her eternally from
her beloved. Had it not always been so? Was not her life a patchwork
of conditions made and affected by these things which she
saw--wealth and force--which had found her unfit? She had
evidently been born to yield, not seek. This panoply of power had been
paraded before her since childhood. What could she do now but stare
vaguely after it as it marched triumphantly by? Lester had been of it.
Him it respected. Of her it knew nothing. She looked through the
grating, and once more there came the cry of "Indianapolis,
Louisville, Columbus, Cincinnati, and points South." A long red train,
brilliantly lighted, composed of baggage cars, day coaches, a
dining-car, set with white linen and silver, and a half dozen
comfortable Pullmans, rolled in and stopped. A great black engine,
puffing and glowing, had it all safely in tow.

As the baggage car drew near the waiting truck a train-hand in
blue, looking out of the car, called to some one within.

"Hey, Jack! Give us a hand here. There's a stiff outside!"

Jennie could not hear.

All she could see was the great box that was so soon to disappear.
All she could feel was that this train would start presently, and then
it would all be over. The gates opened, the passengers poured out.
There were Robert, and Amy, and Louise, and Midgely--all making
for the Pullman cars in the rear. They had said their farewells to
their friends. No need to repeat them. A trio of assistants "gave a
hand" at getting the great wooden case into the car. Jennie saw it
disappear with an acute physical wrench at her heart.

There were many trunks to be put aboard, and then the door of the
baggage car half closed, but not before the warning bell of the engine
sounded. There was the insistent calling of "all aboard" from this
quarter and that; then slowly the great locomotive began to move. Its
bell was ringing, its steam hissing, its smoke-stack throwing aloft a
great black plume of smoke that fell back over the cars like a pall.
The fireman, conscious of the heavy load behind, flung open a flaming
furnace door to throw in coal. Its light glowed like a golden eye.

Jennie stood rigid, staring into the wonder of this picture, her
face white, her eyes wide, her hands unconsciously clasped, but one
thought in her mind--they were taking his body away. A leaden
November sky was ahead, almost dark. She looked, and looked until the
last glimmer of the red lamp on the receding sleeper disappeared in
the maze of smoke and haze overhanging the tracks of the
far-stretching yard.

"Yes," said the voice of a passing stranger, gay with the
anticipation of coming pleasures. "We're going to have a great time
down there. Remember Annie? Uncle Jim is coming and Aunt Ella."

Jennie did not hear that or anything else of the chatter and bustle
around her. Before her was stretching a vista of lonely years down
which she was steadily gazing. Now what? She was not so old yet. There
were those two orphan children to raise. They would marry and leave
after a while, and then what? Days and days in endless reiteration,
and then--?



THE END





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