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List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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a virtuous life, it seems strange to him that more people do not follow
his example."

"The trouble with the virtue of Washington is that it always wants to
interfere with other people's business.  Fellows like Tom are always
hunting up mares' nests in order to be paid for breaking them up."

"I can't say about Tom," rejoined Mavick.  "I suppose it is necessary to
live."

"I suppose so.  And that goes along with another proposition--that the
successful have no rights which the unsuccessful are bound to respect.
As soon as a man gets ahead," Henderson continued, with a tone of
bitterness, "the whole pack are trying to pull him down.  A capitalist is
a public enemy.  Why, look at that Hodge bill!  Strikes directly at the
ability of the railways to develop the country.  Have you seen it?"

"Yes," Mavick admitted; "the drawer of it was good enough to consult me
on its constitutionality.  It's a mighty queer bill."

"It can't get through the Senate," said Henderson; "but it's a bother.
Such schemes are coming up all the time, and they unsettle business.
These fellows need watching."

"And managing," added Mavick.

"Exactly.  I can't be in Washington all the time.  And I need to know
what is going on every twenty-four hours from the inside.  I can't rely
on politicians or lobbyists."

"Well," said Mr. Mavick, in his easiest manner, "that's easy enough.
You want a disinterested friend."

Henderson nodded, but did not even smile, and the talk went on about
other measures, and confidentially about certain men in Washington,
until, after twenty minutes' conversation, the two men came to a perfect
understanding.  When Mavick arose to go they shook hands even more
cordially than at first, and Henderson said:

"Well, I expect to hear from you, and remember that our house will always
be your home in the city."




IX

It seemed very fortunate to Jack Delancy that he should have such a
clever woman as Carmen for his confidante, a man so powerful as Henderson
as his backer, and a person so omniscient as Mavick for his friend.
No combination could be more desirable for a young man who proposed to
himself a career of getting money by adroit management and spending it in
pure and simple self-indulgence.  There are plenty of men who have taken
advantage of like conditions to climb from one position to another, and
have then kicked down the ladders behind them as fast as they attained a
new footing.  It was Jack's fault that he was not one of these.  You
could scarcely dignify his character by saying that he had an aim, except
to saunter through life with as little personal inconvenience as
possible.  His selfishness was boneless.  It was not by any means
negative, for no part of his amiable nature was better developed than
regard for his own care and comfort; but it was not strong enough to give
him Henderson's capacity for hard work and even self-denial, nor Mavick's
cool, persevering skill in making a way for himself in the world.
Why was not Edith his confidante?  His respect for her was undoubted; his
love for her was unquestioned; his trust in her was absolute.  And yet
with either Carmen or Miss Tavish he fell into confidential revelations
of himself which instinctively he did not make to Edith.  The explanation
of this is on the surface, and it is the key to half the unhappiness in
domestic life.  He felt that Edith was not in sympathy with the
associations and the life he was leading.  The pitiful and hopeless part
of it is that if she had been in sympathy with them, Jack would have gone
on in his frivolous career at an accelerated pace.  It was not absence of
love, it was not unfaithfulness, that made Jack enjoy the hours he spent
with Carmen, or with the pleasing and not too fastidious Miss Tavish,
with a zest that was wanting to his hours at home.  If he had been upon a
sinking steamboat with the three women, and could have saved only one of
them, he would not have had a moment's hesitation in rescuing Edith and
letting the other two sink out of his life.  The character is not
unusual, nor the situation uncommon.  What is a woman to do?  Her very
virtues are enemies of her peace; if she appears as a constant check and
monitor, she repels; if she weakly acquiesces, the stream will flow over
both of them.  The dilemma seems hopeless.

It would be a mistake to suppose that either Edith or Jack put their
relations in any such definite shape as this.  He was unthinking.  She
was too high-spirited, too confident of her position, to be assailed by
such fears.  And it must be said, since she was a woman, that she had the
consciousness of power which goes along with the possession of loveliness
and keen wit.  Those who knew her best knew that under her serenity was a
gay temperament, inherited from the original settlers of Manhattan, an
abounding enjoyment of life, and capacity for passion.  It was early
discovered in her childhood that little Edith had a will of her own.

Lent was over.  It was the time of the twittering of sparrows, of the
opening of windows, of putting in order the little sentimental spots
called "squares," where the poor children get their idea of forests, and
the rich renew their faint recollections of innocence and country life;
when the hawkers go about the streets, and the hand-organs celebrate the
return of spring and the possibility of love.  Even the idle felt that it
was a time for relaxation and quiet.

"Have you answered Miss Tavish's invitation?" asked Jack one morning at
the breakfast-table.

"Not yet.  I shall decline today for myself."

"Why?  It's for charity."

"Well, my charity extends to Miss Tavish.  I don't want to see her
dance."

"That leaves me in a nice hole.  I said I'd go."

"And why not?  You go to a good many places you don't take me--the clubs,
brokers' offices, Stalker's, the Conventional, and--"

"Oh, go on.  Why do you object to my going to see this dance?"

"My dear Jack," said Edith, "I haven't objected the least in the world;"
and her animated face sparkled with a smile, which seemed to irritate
Jack more than a frown would have done.

"I don't see why you set yourself up.  I'll bet Miss Tavish will raise
more money for the Baxter Street Guild, yes, and do more good, than you
and the priest and that woman doctor slopping about on the East Side in
six months."

"Very likely," replied Edith, still with the same good-humored smile.
"But, Jack, it's delightful to see your philanthropic spirit stirred up
in this way.  You ought to be encouraged.  Why don't you join Miss Tavish
in this charity?  I have no doubt that if it was advertised that Miss
Tavish and Mr. Jack Delancy would dance for the benefit of an East Side
guild in the biggest hall in the city, there wouldn't be standing room."

"Oh, bosh!" said Jack, getting up from his chair and striding about the
room, with more irritation than he had ever shown to Edith before.
"I wouldn't be a prude."

Edith's eyes flashed and her face flushed, but her smile came back in a
moment, and she was serene again.  "Come here, Jack.  Now, old fellow,
look me straight in the eyes, and tell me if you would like to have me
dance the serpentine dance before a drawing-room full of gossiping women,
with, as you say, just a few men peeping in at the doors."

Jack did look, and the serene eyes, yet dancing with amusement at the
incongruous picture, seemed to take a warmer glow of love and pleading.

"Oh, hang it! that's different," and he stooped and gave her an awkward
kiss.

"I'm glad you know it's different," she said, with a laugh that had not a
trace of mockery in it; "and since you do, you'd better go along and do
your charity, and I'll stay at home, and try to be--different when you
come back."

And Jack went; with a little feeling of sheepishness that he would not
have acknowledged at the time, and he found himself in a company where he
was entirely at his ease.  He admired the dancing of the blithe, graceful
girl, he applauded her as the rest did with hand-clapping and bravas, and
said it was ravishing.  It all suited him perfectly.  And somehow, in the
midst of it all, in the sensuous abandon of this electric-light
eccentricity at mid-day, he had a fleeting vision of something very
different, of a womanhood of another sort, and a flush came to his face
for a moment as he imagined Edith in a skirt dance under the gaze of this
sensation-loving society.  But this was only for a moment.  When he
congratulated Miss Tavish his admiration was entirely sincere; and the
girl, excited with her physical triumph, seemed to him as one emancipated
out of acquired prudishness into the Greek enjoyment of life.  Miss
Tavish, who would not for the world have violated one of the social
conventions of her set, longed, as many women do, for the sort of freedom
and the sort of applause which belongs to women who succeed upon the
stage.  Not that she would have forfeited her position by dancing at a
theatre for money; but; within limits, she craved the excitement, the
abandon, the admiration, that her grace and passion could win.  This was
not at all the ambition which led the Egyptian queen Hatshepsu to assume
the dress of a man, but rather that more famous aspiration which led the
daughter of Herodias, in a pleasure-loving court, to imitate and excel
the professional dancing-girls.  If in this inclination of the women of
the day, which is not new, but has characterized all societies to which
wealth has brought idleness, there was a note of demoralization, it did
not seem so to Jack, who found the world day by day more pleasing and
more complaisant.

As the months went by, everything prospered with him on his drifting
voyage.  Of all voyages, that is the easiest to make which has no port in
view, that depends upon the varying winds, if the winds happen to be soft
and the chance harbors agreeable.  Jack was envied, thanks to Henderson.
He was lucky in whatever he touched.  Without any change in his idle
habits, and with no more attention to business than formerly, money came
to him so freely that he not only had a complacent notion that he was a

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