Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

had now.  With her at that time there had been nobler aspirations about
life.  But now she was his wife.  That was settled.  And not only that,
but she was the best woman he knew; and if she were not his wife, he
would spare no effort to win her.  He felt sure of that.  He did not put
it to himself in the way an Oriental would do, "That is finished"; but it
was an act done--a good act--and here was his world again, with a hundred
interests, and there were people besides Edith to be thought of, other
women and men, and affairs.  Because a man was married, was he to be shut
up to one little narrow career, that of husband?  Probably it did not
occur to him that women take a different view of this in the singleness
of their purpose and faith.  Edith, for instance, knew or guessed that
Jack had no purpose in life that was twenty-four hours old; but she had
faith--and no amount of observation destroys this faith in women--that
marriage would inspire him with energy and ambition to take a man's place
in the world.

With most men marriage is un fait accompli.  Jack had been lucky, but
there was, no doubt, truth in an observation of Mavick's.  One night as
they sat at the club Jack had asked him a leading question, apropos of
Henderson's successful career: " Mavick, why don't you get married?"
"I have never," he replied, with his usual cynical deliberation, "been
obliged to.  The fact is, marriage is a curb-bit.  Some horses show off
better with it, and some are enraged and kick over the traces.  I cannot
decide which I would be."

"That's true enough," said Jack, "from a bachelor's point of view of
independence, but it's really a question of matching."

"The most difficult thing in the world--in horses.  Just about impossible
in temperament and movement, let alone looks.  Most men are lucky if they
get, like Henderson, a running mate."

"I see," said Jack, who knew something about the Henderson household,
"your idea of a pair is that they should go single."

Mavick laughed, and said something about the ideas of women changing so
much lately that nobody could tell what the relation of marriage would
become, and Jack, who began to feel that he was disloyal, changed the
subject.  To do him justice, he would have been ashamed for Edith to hear
this sort of flippant and shallow talk, which wouldn't have been at all
out of place with Carmen or Miss Tavish.

"I wanted to ask you, Mavick, as a friend, do you think Henderson is

"How square?"

"Well, safe?"

"Nobody is safe.  Henderson is as safe as anybody.  You can rely on what
he says.  But there's a good deal he doesn't say.  Anything wrong?"

"Not that I know.  I've been pretty lucky.  But the fact is, I've gone in
rather deep."

"Well, it's a game.  Henderson plays it, as everybody does, for himself.
I like Henderson.  He plays to win, and generally does.  But, you know,
if one man wins, somebody else has got to lose in this kind of industry."

"But Henderson looks out for his friends?"

"Yes--when it doesn't cost too much.  Times may come when a man has to
look out for himself.  Wealth isn't made out of nothing.  There must be
streams into the reservoir.  These great accumulations of one--you can
see that--must be made up of countless other men's small savings.
There's Uncle Jerry.  He operates a good deal with Henderson, and they'd
incline to help each other out.  But Uncle Jerry says he's got a small
pond of his own, and he's careful not to connect it with Henderson's

"What do you think of Missouri?"

"What do I think of the Milky Way?  It doesn't much matter to me what
becomes of Missouri, unless Henderson should happen to get smashed in it,
and that isn't what he is there for.  But when you look at the
combinations, and the dropping-off of roads that have been drained,
and the scaling down in refunding, and the rearranging, and the strikes,
how much chance do you think the small fry stand?  I don't doubt that
Henderson will make a big thing out of it, and there will be lots of
howling by those who were not so smart, and the newspapers will say that
Henderson was too strong for them.  What we respect nowadays are
adroitness and strength."

"It's an exciting game," Mavick continued, after a moment's pause.
"Let me know if you get uneasy.  But I'll tell you what it is, Jack;
if I had a comfortable income, I wouldn't risk it in any speculation.
There is a good deal that is interesting going on in this world, and I
like to be in it; but the best plan for a man who has anything is, as
Uncle Jerry says, to sail close and salt down."

The fact was that Mavick's connection with Henderson was an appreciable
addition to his income, and it was not a bad thing for Henderson.
Mavick's reputation for knowing the inside of everything and being close-
mouthed actually brought him confidences; that which at first was a
clever assumption became a reality, and his reputation was so established
for being behind the scenes that he was not believed when he honestly
professed ignorance of anything.  His modest disclaimer merely increased
the impression that he was deep.  Henderson himself had something of the
Bismarck trait of brutal, contemptuous frankness.  Mavick was never
brutal and never contemptuous, but he had a cynical sort of frankness,
which is a good deal more effectual in a business way than the oily,
plausible manner which on 'Change, as well as in politics, is distrusted
as hypocrisy.  Now Uncle Jerry Hollowell was neither oily nor frank; he
was long-headed and cautious, and had a reputation for shrewdness and
just enough of plasticity of conscience to remove him out of the list of
the impracticable and over-scrupulous.  This reputation that business men
and politicians acquire would be a very curious study.  The world is very
complacent, and apparently worships success and votes for smartness,
but it would surprise some of our most successful men to know what a real
respect there is in the community, after all, for downright integrity.

Even Jack, who fell into the current notion of his generation of young
men that the Henderson sort of morality was best adapted to quick
success, evinced a consciousness of want of nobility in the course he was
pursuing by not making Edith his confidante.  He would have said, of
course, that she knew nothing about business, but what he meant was that
she had a very clear conception of what was honest.  All the evidences of
his prosperity, shown in his greater freedom of living, were sore trials
to her.  She belonged to that old class of New-Yorkers who made trade
honorable, like the merchants of Holland and Venice, and she knew also
that Jack's little fortune had come out of honest toil and strict
business integrity.  Could there be any happiness in life in any other

It seemed cruel to put such a problem as this upon a young woman hardly
yet out of girlhood, in the first flush of a new life, which she had
dreamed should be so noble and high and so happy, in the period which is
consecrated by the sweetest and loveliest visions and hopes that ever
come into a woman's life.

As the summer wore on to its maximum of heat and discomfort in the city,
Edith, who never forgot to measure the hardships of others by her own
more fortunate circumstances, urged Dr. Leigh to come away from her
labors and rest a few days by the sea.  The reply was a refusal, but
there was no complaint in the brief business-like note.  One might have
supposed that it was the harvest-time of the doctor, if he had not known
that she gathered nothing for herself.  There had never been so much
sickness, she wrote, and such an opportunity for her.  She was learning a
great deal, especially about some disputed contagious diseases.  She
would like to see Mrs. Delancy, and she wouldn't mind a breath of air
that was more easily to be analyzed than that she existed in, but nothing
could induce her to give up her cases.  All that appeared in her letter
was her interest in her profession.

Father Damon, who had been persuaded by Edith's urgency to go down with
Jack for a few days to the Golden House, seemed uncommonly interested in
the reasons of Dr. Leigh's refusal to come.

"I never saw her," he said, "so cheerful.  The more sickness there is,
the more radiant she is.  I don't mean," he added, laughing, "in apparel.
Apparently she never thinks of herself, and positively she seems to take
no time to eat or sleep.  I encounter her everywhere.  I doubt if she
ever sits down, except when she drops in at the mission chapel now and
then, and sits quite unmoved on a bench by the door during vespers."

"Then she does go there?" said Edith.

"That is a queer thing.  She would promptly repudiate any religious
interest.  But I tell her she is a bit of a humbug.  When I speak about
her philanthropic zeal, she says her interest is purely scientific."

"Anyway, I believe," Jack put in, "that women doctors are less mercenary
than men.  I dare say they will get over that when the novelty of coming
into the profession has worn off."

"That is possible," said Father Damon; "but that which drives women into
professions now is the desire to do something rather than the desire to
make something.  Besides, it is seldom, in their minds, a finality;
marriage is always a possibility."

"Yes," replied Edith, "and the probability of having to support a husband
and family; then they may be as mercenary as men are."

"Still, the enthusiasm of women," Father Damon insisted, "in hospital and
outdoor practice, the singleness of their devotion to it, is in contrast
to that of the young men-doctors.  And I notice another thing in the
city: they take more interest in philanthropic movements, in the
condition of the poor, in the labor questions; they dive eagerly into
philosophic speculations, and they are more aggressively agnostics.
And they are not afraid of any social theories.  I have one friend,
a skillful practitioner they tell me, a linguist, and a metaphysician,
a most agreeable and accomplished woman, who is in theory an extreme
nihilist, and looks to see the present social and political order upset."

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: