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Galloway accepted Norman's terms. He would probably have accepted terms far less easy. But Norman as yet knew with the thoroughness which must precede intelligent plan and action only the legal side of financial operations; he had been as indifferent to the commercial side as a pilot to the value of the cargo in the ship he engages to steer clear of shoals and rocks. So with the prudence of the sagacious man's audacities he contented himself with a share of this first venture that would simply make a comfortable foundation for the fortune he purposed to build. As the venture could not fail outright, even should Galloway die, he rented a largish place at Hempstead, with the privilege of purchase, and installed his wife and himself with a dozen servants and a housekeeper.
"This housekeeper, this Mrs. Lowell," said he to Dorothy, "is a good enough person as housekeepers go. But you will have to look sharply after her."
Dorothy seemed to fade and shrink within herself, which was her way of confessing lack of courage and fitness to face a situation: "I don't know anything about those things," she confessed.
"I understand perfectly," said he. "But you learned something at the place in Jersey City--quite enough for the start. Really, all you need to know just now is whether the place is clean or not, and whether the food comes on the table in proper condition. The rest you'll pick up gradually."
"I hope so," said she, looking doubtful and helpless; these new magnitudes were appalling, especially now that she was beginning to get a point of view upon life.
"At any rate, don't bother me for these few next months," said he. "I'm going to be very busy--shall leave early in the morning and not be back until near dinner time--if I come at all. No, you'll not be annoyed by me. You'll be absolute mistress of your time."
She tried to look as if this contented her. But he could not have failed to see how dissatisfied and disquieted she really was. He had the best of reasons for thinking that she was living under the same roof with him only because she preferred the roof he could provide to such a one as she could provide for herself whether by her own earnings or by marrying a man more to her liking personally. Yet here she was, piqued and depressed because of his indifference--because he was not thrusting upon her gallantries she would tolerate only through prudence!
"You will be lonely at times, I'm afraid," said he. "But I can't provide friends or even acquaintances for you for several months--until my affairs are in better order and my sister and her husband come back from Europe."
"Oh, I shan't be lonely," cried she. "I've never cared for people."
"You've your books, and your music--and riding--and shopping trips to town--and the house and grounds to look after."
"Yes--and my dreams," said she hopefully, her eyes suggesting the dusky star depths.
"Oh--the dreams. You'll have little time for them," said he drily. "And little inclination, I imagine, as you wake up to the sense of how much there is to be learned. Dreaming is the pastime of people who haven't the intelligence or the energy to accomplish anything. If you wish to please me--and you do--don't you?"
"Yes," she murmured. She forced her rebellious lips to the laconic assent. She drooped the lids over her rebellious eyes, lest he should detect her wounded feelings and her resentment.
"I assumed so," said he, with a secret smile. "Well, if you wish to please me, you'll give your time to practical things--things that'll make you more interesting and make us both more comfortable. It was all very well to dream, while you had little to do and small opportunity. But now--Try to cut it out."
It is painful to an American girl of any class to find that she has to earn her position as wife. The current theory, a tradition from an early and woman-revering day, is that the girl has done her share and more when she has consented to the suit of the ardent male and has intrusted her priceless charms to his exclusive keeping. According to that same theory, it is the husband who must earn his position--must continue to earn it. He is a humble creature, honored by the presence of a wonderful being, a cross between a queen and a goddess. He cannot do enough to show his gratitude. Perhaps--but only perhaps--had Norman married Josephine Burroughs, he might have assented, after a fashion, to this idea of the relations of the man and the woman. No doubt, had he remained under the spell of Dorothy's mystery and beauty, he would have felt and acted the slave he had made of himself at the outset. But in the circumstances he was looking at their prospective life together with sane eyes. And so she had, in addition to all her other reasons for heartache, a sense that she, the goddess-queen, the American woman, with the birthright of dominion over the male, was being cheated, humbled, degraded.
At first he saw that this sense of being wronged made it impossible for her to do anything at all toward educating herself for her position. But time brought about the change he had hoped for. A few weeks, and she began to cheer up, almost in spite of herself. What was the use in sulking or sighing or in self-pitying, when it brought only unhappiness to oneself? The coarse and brutal male in the case was either unaware or indifferent. There was no one and no place to fly to--unless she wished to be much worse off than her darkest mood of self-pity represented her to her sorrowing self. The housekeeper, Mrs. Lowell, was a "broken down gentlewoman" who had been chastened by misfortune into a wholesome state of practical good sense about the relative values of the real and the romantic. Mrs. Lowell diagnosed the case of the young wife--as Norman had shrewdly guessed she would--and was soon adroitly showing her the many advantages of her lot. Before they had been three months at Hempstead, Dorothy had discovered that she, in fact, was without a single ground for serious complaint. She had a husband who was generous about money, and left her as absolutely alone as if he were mere occasional visitor at the house. She had her living--and such a living!--she had plenty of interesting occupation--she had not a single sordid care--and perfect health.
The dreams, too--It was curious about those dreams. She would now have found it an intolerable bore to sit with hands idle in her lap and eyes upon vacancy, watching the dim, luminous shadows flit aimlessly by. Yet that was the way she used to pass hours--entire days. She used to fight off sleep at night the longer to enjoy her one source of pure happiness. There was no doubt about it, the fire of romance was burning low, and she was becoming commonplace, practical, resigned. Well, why not? Was not life over for her?--that is, the life a girl's fancy longs for. In place of hope of romance, there was an uneasy feeling of a necessity of pleasing this husband of hers--of making him comfortable. What would befall her if she neglected trying to please him or if she, for all her trying, failed? She did not look far in that direction. Her uneasiness remained indefinite--yet definite enough to keep her working from waking until bedtime. And she dropped into the habit of watching his face with the same anxiety with which a farmer watches the weather. When he happened one day to make a careless, absent-minded remark in disapproval of something in the domestic arrangements, she was thrown into such a nervous flutter that he observed it.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Nothing--nothing," replied she in the hurried tone of one who is trying hastily to cover his thoughts.
He reflected, understood, burst into a fit of hearty laughter. "So, you are trying to make a bogey of me?"
She colored, protested faintly.
"Don't you know I'm about the least tyrannical, least exacting person in the world?"
"You've been very patient with me," said she.
"Now--now," cried he in a tone of raillery, "you might as well drop that. Don't you know there's no reason for being afraid of me?"
"Yes, I know it," replied she. "But I feel afraid, just the same. I can't help it."
It was impossible for him to appreciate the effect of his personality upon others--how, without his trying or even wishing, it made them dread a purely imaginary displeasure and its absurdly imaginary consequences. But this confession of hers was not the first time he had heard of the effect of potential and latent danger he had upon those associated with him. And, as it was most useful, he was not sorry that he had it. He made no further attempt to convince her that he was harmless. He knew that he was harmless where she was concerned. Was it not just as well that she should not know it, when vaguely dreading him was producing excellent results? As with a Christian the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom, so with a wife the fear of her husband was the beginning of wisdom. In striving to please him, to fit herself for the position of wife, she was using up the time she would otherwise have spent in making herself miserable with self-pity--that supreme curse of the idle both male and female, that most prolific of the breeders of unhappy wives. Yes, wives were unhappy not because their husbands neglected them, for busy people have no time to note whether they are neglected or not, but because they gave their own worthless, negligent, incapable selves too much attention.
One evening, she, wearing the look of the timid but resolute intruder, came into his room while he was dressing for dinner and hung about with an air no man of his experience could fail to understand.
"Something wrong about the house?" said he finally. "Need more money?"
"No--nothing," she replied, with a slight flush. He saw that she was mustering all her courage for some grand effort. He waited, only mildly curious, as his mind was busy with some new business he and Tetlow had undertaken. Presently she stood squarely before him, her hands behind her back and her face upturned. "Won't you kiss me?" she said.
"Sure!" said he. And he kissed her on the cheek and resumed operations with his military brushes.
"I didn't mean that--that kind of a kiss," said she dejectedly.
He paused with a quick characteristic turn of the head, looked keenly at her, resumed his brushing. A quizzical smile played over his face. "Oh, I see," said he. "You've been thinking about duty. And you've decided to do yours. . . . Eh?"
"I think--It seems to me--I don't think--" she stammered, then said desperately, "I've not been acting right by you. I want to--to do better."
"That's good," said he briskly, with a nod of approval--and never a glance in her direction. "You think you'll let me have a kiss now and then--eh? All right, my dear."
"Oh, you won't understand me!" she cried, ready to weep with vexation.
"You mean I won't misunderstand you," replied he amiably, as he set about fixing his tie. "You've been mulling things over in your mind. You've decided I'm secretly pining for you. You've resolved to be good and kind and dutiful--generous--to feed old dog Tray a few crumbs now and then. . . . That's nice and sweet of you--" He paused until the crisis in tying was passed--"very nice and sweet of you--but--There's nothing in it. All I ask of you for myself is to see that I'm comfortable--that Mrs. Lowell and the servants treat me right. If I don't like anything, I'll speak out--never fear."
"But--Fred--I want to be your wife--I really do," she pleaded.
He turned on her, and his eyes seemed to pierce into the chamber of her thoughts. "Drop it, my dear," he said quietly. "Neither of us is in love with the other. So there's not the slightest reason for pretending. If I ever want to be free of you, I'll tell you so. If you ever want to get rid of me, all you have to do is to ask--and it'll be arranged. Meanwhile, let's enjoy ourselves."
His good humor, obviously unfeigned, would have completely discouraged a more experienced woman, though as vain as Dorothy and with as much ground as he had given her for self-confidence where he was concerned. But Dorothy was depressed rather than profoundly discouraged. A few moments and she found courage to plead: "But you used to care for me. Don't I attract you any more?"
"You say that quite pathetically," said he, in good-humored amusement. "I'm willing to do anything within reason for your happiness. But really--just to please your vanity I can't make myself over again into the fool I used to be about you. You'd hate it yourself. Why, then, this pathetic air?"
"I feel so useless--and as if I were shirking," she persisted. "And if you did care for me, it wouldn't offend me now as it used to. I've grown much wiser--more sensible. I understand things--and I look at them differently. And--I always did like you."
"Even when you despised me?" mocked he. It irritated him a little vividly to recall what a consummate fool he had made of himself for her, even though he had every reason to be content with the event of his folly.
"A girl always thinks she despises a man when she can do as she pleases with him," replied she. "As Mr. Tetlow said, I was a fool."
"I was the fool," said he. "Where did that man of mine lay the handkerchief?"
"I, too," cried she, eagerly. "You were foolish to bother about a little silly like me. But, oh, what a fool I was not to realize----"
"You're not trying to tell me you're in love with me?" said he sharply.
"Oh, no--no, indeed," she protested in haste, alarmed by his overwhelming manner. "I'm not trying to deceive you in any way."
"Never do," said he. "It's the one thing I can't stand."
"But I thought--it seemed to me--" she persisted, "that perhaps if we tried to--to care for each other, we'd maybe get to--to caring--more or less. Don't you think so?"
"Perhaps," was his careless reply. He added, "But I, for one, am well content with things as they are. I confess I don't look back with any satisfaction on those months when I was making an ass of myself about you. I was ruining my career. Now I'm happy, and everything is going fine in my business. No experiments, if you please." He shook his head, looking at her with smiling raillery. "It might turn out that I'd care for you in the same crazy way again, and that you didn't like it. Again you might get excited about me and I'd remain calm about you. That would give me a handsome revenge, but I'm not looking for revenge."
He finished his toilet, she standing quiet and thoughtful in an attitude of unconscious grace.
"No, my dear," resumed he, as he prepared to descend for dinner, "let's have a peaceful, cheerful married life, with no crazy excitements. Let's hang on to what we've got, and take no unnecessary risks." He patted her on the shoulder. "Isn't that sensible?"
She looked at him with serious, appealing eyes. "You are sure you aren't unhappy?"
It was amusing to him--though he concealed it--to see how tenaciously her feminine egotism held to the idea that she was the important person. And, when women of experience thus deluded themselves, it was not at all strange that this girl should be unable to grasp the essential truth as to the relations of men and women--that, while a woman who makes her sex her profession must give to a man, to some man, a dominant place in her life, a man need give a woman--at least, any one woman--little or no place. But he would not wantonly wound her harmless vanity. "Don't worry about me, please," said he in the kindest, friendliest way. "I am telling you the truth."
And they descended to the dining room. Usually he was preoccupied and she did most of the talking--not a difficult matter for her, as she was one of those who by nature have much to say, who talk on and on, giving lively, pleasant recitals of commonplace daily happenings. That evening it was her turn to be abstracted, or, at least, silent. He talked volubly, torrentially, like a man of teeming mind in the highest spirits. And he was in high spirits. The Galloway enterprise had developed into a huge success; also, it did not lessen his sense of the pleasantness of life to have learned that his wife was feeling about as well disposed toward him as he cared to have her feel, had come round to that state of mind which he, as a practical man, wise in the art of life, regarded as ideal for a wife.
A successful man, with a quiet and comfortable home, well enough looked after by an agreeable wife, exceeding good to look at and interested only in her home and her husband--what more could a man ask?
* * * * * * *
What more could a man ask? Only one thing more--a baby. The months soon passed and that rounding out of the home side of his life was consummated with no mishap. The baby was a girl, which contented him and delighted Dorothy. He wished it to be named after her, she preferred his sister's name--Ursula. It was Ursula who decided the question. "She looks like you, Fred," she declared, after an earnest scanning of the weird little face. "Why not call her Frederica?"
Norman thought this clumsy, but Dorothy instantly assented--and the baby was duly christened Frederica.
Perhaps it was because he was having less pressing business in town, but whatever the reason, he began to stay at home more--surprisingly more. And, being at home, he naturally fell into the habit of fussing with the baby, he having the temperament that compels a man to be always at something, and the baby being convenient and in the nature of a curiosity. Ursula, who was stopping in the house, did not try to conceal her amazement at this extraordinary development of her brother's character.
Said she: "I never before knew you to take the slightest interest in a child."
Said he: "I never before saw a child worth taking the slightest interest in."
"Oh, well," said Ursula, "it won't last. You'll soon grow tired of your plaything."
"Perhaps you're right," said Norman. "I hope you're wrong." He reflected, added: "In fact, I'm almost certain you're wrong. I'm too selfish to let myself lose such a pleasure. If you had observed my life closely, you'd have discovered that I have never given up a single thing I found a source of pleasure. That is good sense. That is why the superior sort of men and women retain something of the boy and the girl all their lives. I still like a lot of the games I played as a boy. For some years I've had no chance to indulge in them. I'll be glad when Rica is old enough to give me the chance again."
She was much amused. "Who'd have suspected that you were a born father!"
"Not I, for one," confessed he. "We never know what there is in us until circumstances bring it out."
"A devoted father and a doting husband," pursued Ursula. "I must say I rather sympathize with you as a doting husband. Of course, I, a woman, can't see her as you do. I can't imagine a man--especially a man of your sort--going stark mad about a mere woman. But, as women go, I'll admit she is a good specimen. Not the marvel of intelligence and complex character you imagine, but still a good specimen. And physically--" She laughed--"That's what caught you. That's what holds you--and will hold you as long as it lasts."
"Was there ever a woman who didn't think that?--and didn't like to think it, though I believe many of them make strong pretense at scorning the physical." Fred was regarding his sister with a quizzical expression. "You approve of her?" he said.
"More than I'd have thought possible. And after I've taken her about in the world a while she'll be perfect."
"No doubt," said Norman. "But, alas, she'll never be perfect. For, you're not going to take her about."
"So she says when I talk of it to her," replied Ursula. "But I know you'll insist. You needn't be uneasy as to how she'll be received."
"I'm not," said Norman dryly.
"You've got back all you lost--and more. How we Americans do worship success!"
"Don't suggest to Dorothy anything further about society," said Norman. "I've no time or taste for it, and I don't wish to be annoyed by intrusions into my home."
"But you'll not be satisfied always with just her," urged his sister. "Besides, you've got a position to maintain."
Norman's smile was cynically patient. "I want my home and I want my career," said he. "And I don't want any society nonsense. I had the good luck to marry a woman who knows and cares nothing about it. I don't purpose to give up the greatest advantage of my marriage."
Ursula was astounded. She knew the meaning of his various tones and manners, and his way of rejecting her plans for Dorothy--and, incidentally, for her own amusement--convinced her that he was through and through in earnest. "It will be dreadfully lonesome for her, Fred," she pleaded.
"We'll wait till that trouble faces us," replied he, not a bit impressed. "And don't forget--not a word of temptation to her from you." This with an expression that warned her how well he knew her indirect ways of accomplishing what she could not gain directly.
"Oh, I shan't interfere," said she in a tone that made it a binding promise. "But you can't expect me to sympathize with your plans for an old-fashioned domestic life."
"Certainly not," said Norman. "You don't understand. Women of your sort never do. That's why you're not fit to be the wives of men worth while. A serious man and a society woman can't possibly hit it off together. For a serious man the outside world is a place to work, and home is a place to rest. For a society woman, the world is a place to idle and home is a work shop, an entertainment factory. It's impossible to reconcile those two opposite ideas."
She saw his point at once, and it appealed to her intelligence. And she had his own faculty for never permitting prejudice to influence judgment. She said in a dubious tone, "Do you think Dorothy will sympathize with your scheme?"
"I'm sure I don't know," replied he.
"If she doesn't--" Ursula halted there.
Her brother shrugged his shoulders. "If she proves to be the wrong sort of woman for me, she'll go her way and I mine."
"Why, I thought you loved her!"
"What have I said that leads you to change your mind?" said he.
"A man does not take the high hand with the woman he adores."
"So?" said Norman tranquilly.
"Well," said his puzzled sister by way of conclusion, "if you persist in being the autocrat----"
"Autocrat?--I?" laughed he. "Am I trying to compel her to do anything she doesn't wish to do? Didn't I say she would be free to go if she were dissatisfied with me and my plan--if she didn't adopt it gladly as her own plan, also?"
"But you know very well she's dependent upon you, Fred."
"Is that my fault? Does a man force a woman to become dependent? And just because she is dependent, should he therefore yield to her and let her make of his life a waste and a folly?"
"You're far too clever for me to argue with. Anyhow, as I was saying, if you persist in what I call tyranny----"
"When a woman cries tyranny, it means she's furious because she is not getting her autocratic way."
"Maybe so," admitted Ursula cheerfully. "At any rate, if you persist--unless she loves you utterly, your life will be miserable."
"She may make her own life miserable, but not mine," replied he. "If I were the ordinary man--counting himself lucky to have induced any woman to marry him--afraid if he lost his woman he'd not be able to get another--able to give his woman only an indifferent poor support, and so on--if I were one of those men, what you say might be true. But what deep and permanent mischief can a frail woman do a strong man?"
"There's instance after instance in history----"
"Of strong men wrecking themselves through various kinds of madness, including sex madness. But, my dear Ursula, not an instance--not one--where the woman was responsible. If history were truth, instead of lies--you women might have less conceit."
"You--talking this way!" mocked Ursula.
"Meaning, I suppose, my late infatuation?" inquired he, unruffled.
"I never saw or read of a worse case."
"Am I ruined?"
"No. But why not? Because you got her. If you hadn't--" Ursula blew out a large cloud of cigarette smoke with a "Pouf!"
"If I hadn't got her," said Norman, "I'd have got well, just the same, in due time. A sick weak man goes down; a sick strong man gets well. When a man who's reputed to be strong doesn't get well, it's because he merely seemed strong but wasn't. The poets and novelists and the historians and the rest of the nature fakers fail to tell all the facts, dear sister. All the facts would spoil a pretty story."
Ursula thought a few minutes, suddenly burst out with, "Do you think Dorothy loves you now?"
Norman rose to go out doors. "I don't think about such unprofitable things," said he. "As long as we suit each other and get along pleasantly--why bother about a name for it?"
In the French window he paused, stood looking out with an expression so peculiar that Ursula, curious, came to see the cause. A few yards away, under a big symmetrical maple in full leaf sat Dorothy with the baby on her lap. She was dressed very simply in white. There was a little sunlight upon her hair, a sheen of gold over her skin. She was looking down at the baby. Her expression----
Said Ursula: "Several of the great painters have tried to catch that expression. But they've failed."
Norman made no reply. He had not heard. All in an instant there had been revealed to him a whole new world--a view of man and woman--of woman--of sex--its meaning so different from what he had believed and lived.
"What're you thinking about, Fred?" inquired his sister.
He shook his head, with a mysterious smile, and strolled away.
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