List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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their yachts for a Mediterranean voyage or for loitering down the
Southern coast, to give a ball that was the talk of the town, to make up
a special train of luxurious private cars for Mexico or California.  Even
at the clubs the talk was about these things and the opportunities for
getting them.

There was a rumor about town that Henderson was a good deal extended.
It alarmed a hundred people, not on Henderson's account, but their own.
When one of them consulted Uncle Jerry, that veteran smiled.

"Oh, I guess Henderson's all right.  But I wouldn't wonder if it meant a
squeeze.  Of course if he's extended, it's an excuse for settling up, and
the shorts will squeal.  I've seen Henderson extended a good many times,"
and the old man laughed.  "Don't you worry about him."

This opinion, when reported, did not seem to quiet Jack's fears, who saw
his own little venture at the mercy of a sweeping Street game.  It
occurred to him that he possibly might get a little light on the matter
by dropping in that afternoon and taking a quiet cup of tea with Mrs.

He found her in the library.  Outdoors winter was slouching into spring
with a cold drizzle, with a coating of ice on the pavements-animating
weather for the medical profession.  Within, there was the glow of warmth
and color that Carmen liked to create for herself.  In an entrancing tea-
gown, she sat by a hickory fire, with a fresh magazine in one hand and a
big paper-cutter in the other.  She rose at Jack's entrance, and,
extending her hand, greeted him with a most cordial smile.  It was so
good of him!  She was so lonesome!  He could himself see that the
lonesomeness was dissipated, as she seated him in a comfortable chair by
the fire, and then stood a moment looking at him, as if studying his
comfort.  She was such a domestic woman!

"You look tired, monsieur," she said, as she passed behind his chair and
rested the tip of her forefinger for a second on his head.  "I shall make
you a cup of tea at once."

"Not tired, but bothered," said Jack, stretching out his legs.

"I know," she replied; "it's a bothering world."  She was still behind
him, and spoke low, but with sympathy.  "I remember, it's only one lump."

He could feel her presence, so womanly and friendly.  "I don't care what
people say," he was thinking, "she's a good-hearted little thing, and
understands men."  He felt that he could tell her anything, almost
anything that he could tell a man.  She was sympathetic and not

"There," she said, handing him the tea and looking down on him.

The cup was dainty, the fragrance of the tea delicious, the woman

"I'm better already," said Jack, with a laugh.

She made a cup for herself, handed him the cigarettes, lit one for
herself, and sat on a low stool not far from him.

"Now what is it?"

"Oh, nothing--a little business worry.  Have you heard any Street rumor?"

"Rumor?" she repeated, with a little start.  And then, leaning forward,
"Do you mean that about Mr. Henderson in the morning papers?"


Carmen, relieved, gave a liquid little laugh, and then said, with a
change to earnestness: "I'm going to trust you, my friend.  Henderson put
it in himself!  He told me so this morning when I asked him about it.
This is just between ourselves."

Jack said, "Of course," but he did not look relieved.  The clever
creature divined the situation without another word, for there was no
turn in the Street that she was not familiar with.  But there was no
apparent recognition of it, except in her sympathetic tone, when she
said: " Well, the world is full of annoyances.  I'm bothered myself--and
such a little thing."

"What is it?"

"Oh nothing, not even a rumor.  You cannot do anything about it.  I don't
know why I should tell you.  But I will."  And she paused a moment,
looking down in an innocent perplexity.  "It's just this: I am on the
Foundlings' Board with Mrs. Schuyler Blunt, and I don't know her, and you
can't think how awkward it is having to meet her every week in that stiff
kind of way."  She did not go on to confide to Jack how she had intrigued
to get on the board, and how Mrs. Schuyler Blunt, in the most well-bred
manner, had practically ignored her.

"She's an old friend of mine."

"Indeed!  She's a charming woman."

"Yes.  We were great cronies when she was Sadie Mack.  She isn't a
genius, but she is good-hearted.  I suppose she is on all the charity
boards in the city.  She patronizes everything," Jack continued, with a

"I'm sure she is," said Carmen, thinking that however good-hearted she
might be she was very "snubby."  "And it makes it all the more awkward,
for I am interested in so many things myself."

"I can arrange all that," Jack said, in an off-hand way.  Carmen's look
of gratitude could hardly be distinguished from affection.  "That's easy
enough.  We are just as good friends as ever, though I fancy she doesn't
altogether approve of me lately.  It's rather nice for a fellow, Mrs.
Henderson, to have a lot of women keeping him straight, isn't it?" asked
Jack, in the tone of a bad boy.

"Yes.  Between us all we will make a model of you.  I am so glad now that
I told you."

Jack protested that it was nothing.  Why shouldn't friends help each
other?  Why not, indeed, said Carmen, and the talk went on a good deal
about friendship, and the possibility of it between a man and a woman.
This sort of talk is considered serious and even deep, not to say
philosophic.  Carmen was a great philosopher in it.  She didn't know, but
she believed, it seemed natural, that every woman should have one man
friend.  Jack rose to go.

"So soon?" And it did seem pathetically soon.  She gave him her hand, and
then by an impulse she put her left hand over his, and looked up to him
in quite a business way.

"Mr. Delancy, don't you be troubled about that rumor we were speaking of.
It will be all right.  Trust me."

He understood perfectly, and expressed both his understanding and his
gratitude by bending over and kissing the little hand that lay in his.

When he had gone, Carmen sat a long time by the fire reflecting.  It
would be sweet to humiliate the Delancy and Schuyler Blunt set, as
Henderson could.  But what would she gain by that?  It would be sweeter
still to put them under obligations, and profit by that.  She had endured
a good many social rebuffs in her day, this tolerant little woman, and
the sting of their memory could only be removed when the people who had
ignored her had to seek social favors she could give.  If Henderson only
cared as much for such things as she did!  But he was at times actually
brutal about it.  He seemed to have only one passion.  She herself liked
money, but only for what it would bring.  Henderson was like an old
Pharaoh, who was bound to build the biggest pyramid ever built to his
memory; he hated to waste a block.  But what was the good of that when
one had passed beyond the reach of envy?

Revolving these deep things in her mind, she went to her dressing-room
and made an elaborate toilet for dinner.  Yet it was elaborately simple.
That sort needed more study than the other.  She would like to be the
Carmen of ten years ago in Henderson's eyes.

Her lord came home late, and did not dress for dinner.  It was often so,
and the omission was usually not allowed to pass by Carmen without
notice, to which Henderson was sure to growl that he didn't care to be
always on dress parade.  Tonight Carmen was all graciousness and warmth.
Henderson did not seem to notice it.  He ate his dinner abstractedly, and
responded only in monosyllables to her sweet attempts at conversation.
The fact was that the day had been a perplexing one; he was engaged in
one of his big fights, a scheme that aroused all his pugnacity and taxed
all his resources.  He would win--of course; he would smash everybody,
but he would win.  When he was in this mood Carmen felt that she was like
a daisy in the path of a cyclone.  In the first year of their marriage he
used to consult her about all his schemes, and value her keen
understanding.  She wondered why he did not now.  Did he distrust even
her, as he did everybody else?  Tonight she asked no questions.  She was
unruffled by his short responses to her conversational attempts; by her
subtle, wifely manner she simply put herself on his side, whatever the
side was.

In the library she brought him his cigar, and lighted it.  She saw that
his coffee was just as he liked it.  As she moved about, making things
homelike, Henderson noticed that she was more Carmenish than he had seen
her in a long time.  The sweet ways and the simple toilet must be by
intention.  And he knew her so well.  He began to be amused and softened.
At length he said, in his ordinary tone, "Well, what is it?"

"What is what, dear?"

"What do you want?"

Carmen looked perplexed and sweetly surprised.  There is nothing so
pitiful about habitual hypocrisy as that it never deceives anybody.
It was not the less painful now that Carmen knew that Henderson knew her
to the least fibre of her self-seeking soul, and that she felt that there
were currents in his life that she could not calculate.  A man is so much
more difficult to understand than a woman, she reflected.  And yet he is
so susceptible that he can be managed even when he knows he is being
managed.  Carmen was not disconcerted for a moment.  She replied, with
her old candor:

"What an idea!  You give me everything I want before I know what it is."

"And before I know it either," he responded, with a grim smile.  "Well,
what is the news today?"

"Just the same old round.  The Foundlings' Board, for one thing."

"Are you interested in foundlings?"

"Not much," said Carmen, frankly.  "I'm interested in those that find
them.  I told you how hateful that Mrs. Schuyler Blunt is."

"Why don't you cut her?  Why don't you make it uncomfortable for her?"

"I can't find out," she said, with a laugh, dropping into the language of
the Street, "anything she is short in, or I would."

"And you want me to get a twist on old Blunt?" and Henderson roared with

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