Make your own free website on Tripod.com

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

abandoning the field.

"I had thought that; but it is hard to tell, these days.  Never mind,
when we go back to town I'll stir round; you'll see."

This was an unusual sort of talk.  Jack had never heard Edith break out
in this direction before, and he wondered if many women were beginning to
think of men in this way, as cowardly about their public duties.
Not many in his set, he was sure.  If Edith had urged him to go into
Neighborhood Guild work, he could have understood that.  Women and
ethical cranks were interested in that.  And women were getting queerer
every day, beginning, as Mavick said, to take notice.  However, it was
odd, when you thought over it, that the city should be ruled by the
slums.

It was easy to talk about these things; in fact, Jack talked a great deal
about them in the clubs, and occasionally with a knot of men after dinner
in a knowing, pessimistic sort of way.  Sometimes the discussions were
very animated and even noisy between these young citizens.  It seemed,
sometimes, about midnight, that something might be done; but the
resolution vanished next morning when another day, to be lived through,
confronted them.  They illustrated the great philosophic observation that
it is practically impossible for an idle man who has nothing to do to
begin anything today.

To do Jack justice, this enforced detention in the country he did not
find dull exactly.  To be sure it was vacation-time, and his whole life
was a vacation, and summer was rather more difficult to dispose of than
winter, for one had to make more of an effort to amuse himself.  But
Edith was never more charming than in this new dependence, and all his
love and loyalty were evoked in caring for her.  This was occupation
enough, even if he had been the busiest man in the world-to watch over
her, to read to her, to anticipate her fancies, to live with her in that
dream of the future which made life seem almost ideal.  There came a time
when he looked back upon this month at the Golden House as the happiest
in his life.

The talk about an occupation was not again referred to.  Edith seemed
entirely happy to have Jack with her, more entirely her own than he had
ever been, and to have him just as he was.  And yet he knew, by a sure
instinct, that she saw him as she thought he would be, with some aim and
purpose in life.  And he made many good resolutions.

That which was nearest him attracted him most, and very feeble now were
the allurements of the life and the company he had just left.  Not that
he would break with it exactly; it was not necessary to do that; but he
would find something to do, something worth a man's doing, or, at any
rate, some occupation that should tax his time and his energies.  That,
he knew, would make Edith happy, and to make her happy seemed now very
much like a worthy object in life.  She was so magnanimous, so
unsuspicious, so full of all nobility.  He knew she would stand by him
whatever happened.  Down here her attitude to life was no longer a rebuke
to him nor a restraint upon him.  Everything seemed natural and
wholesome.  Perhaps his vanity was touched, for there must be something
in, him if such a woman could love him.  And probably there was, though
he himself had never yet had a chance to find it out.  Brought up in the
expectation of a fortune, bred to idleness as others are to industry, his
highest ambition having been to amuse himself creditably and to take life
easily, what was to hinder his being one of the multitude of "good-for-
nothings" in our modern life?  If there had been war, he had spirit
enough to carry him into it, and it would have surprised no one to hear
that Jack had joined an exploring expedition to the North Pole or the
highlands of Central Asia.  Something uncommon he might do if opportunity
offered.

About his operations with Henderson he had never told Edith, and he did
not tell her now.  Perhaps she divined it, and he rather wondered that
she had never asked him about his increased expenditures, his yacht, and
all that.  He used to look at her steadily at times, as if he were trying
to read the secrets of her heart.

"What are you looking at, Jack?"

"To see if I can find out how much you know, you look so wise."

"Do I?  I was just thinking about you.  I suppose that made me look so."

"No; about life and the world generally."

"Mighty little, Jack, except--well, I study you."

"Do you?  Then you'll presently lose your mind:"

Jack and most men have little idea that they are windows through which
their wives see the world; and how much more of the world they know in
that way than men usually suspect or wives ever tell!

He did not tell her about Henderson, but he almost resolved that when his
present venture was over he would let stocks alone as speculations, and
go into something that he could talk about to his wife as he talked about
stocks to Carmen.

From the stranded mariners at Bar Harbor Captain Jack had many and
facetious letters.  They wanted to know if his idea was that they should
stick by the yacht until he got leisure to resume the voyage, or if he
expected them to walk home.  He had already given orders to the skipper
to patch it up and bring it to New York if possible, and he advised his
correspondents to stay by the yacht as long as there was anything in the
larder, but if they were impatient, he offered them transportation on any
vessel that would take able-bodied seamen.  He must be excused from
commanding, because he had been assigned to shore duty.  Carmen and Miss
Tavish wrote that it was unfair to leave them to sustain all the
popularity and notoriety of the shipwreck, and that he owed it to the
public to publish a statement, in reply to the insinuations of the
newspapers, in regard to the sea-worthiness of the yacht and the object
of this voyage.  Jack replied that the only object of the voyage was to
relieve the tedium of Bar Harbor, and, having accomplished this, he would
present the vessel to Miss Tavish if she would navigate it back to the
city.

The golden autumn days by the sea were little disturbed by these echoes
of another life, which seemed at the moment to be a very shallow one.
Yet the time was not without its undertone of anxieties, of grave perils
that seemed to sanctify it and heighten its pleasures of hope.  Jack saw
and comprehended for the first time in his life the real nature of a pure
woman, the depths of tenderness and self-abnegation, the heroism and calm
trust and the nobility of an unworldly life.  No wonder that he stood a
little in awe of it, and days when he wandered down on the beach, with
only the waves for company, or sat smoking in the arbor, with an unread
book in his hand, his own career seemed petty and empty.  Such moods,
however, are not uncommon in any life, and are not of necessity fruitful.
It need not be supposed that Jack took it too seriously, on the one hand,
or, on the other, that a vision of such a woman's soul is ever without
influence.

By the end of October they returned to town, Jack, and Edith with a new
and delicate attractiveness, and young Fletcher Delancy the most
wonderful and important personage probably who came to town that season.
It seemed to Edith that his advent would be universally remarked, and
Jack felt relieved when the boy was safely housed out of the public gaze.
Yes, to Edith's inexpressible joy it was a boy, and while Jack gallantly
said that a girl would have suited him just as well, he was conscious of
an increased pride when he announced the sex to his friends.  This
undervaluation of women at the start is one of the mysteries of life.
And until women themselves change their point of view, it is to be feared
that legislation will not accomplish all that many of them wish.

"So it is a boy.  I congratulate you," was the exclamation of Major
Fairfax the first time Jack went down to the Union.

"I'm glad, Major, to have your approval."

"Oh, it's what is expected, that's all.  For my part, I prefer girls.
The announcement of boys is more expensive."

Jack understood, and it turned out in all the clubs that he had hit upon
the most expensive sex in the view of responding to congratulations.

"It used to seem to me," said the Major, "that I must have a male heir to
my estates.  But, somehow, as the years go on, I feel more like being an
heir myself.  If I had married and had a boy, he would have crowded me
out by this time; whereas, if it had been a girl, I should no doubt have
been staying at her place in Lenox this summer instead of being
shipwrecked on that desert island.  There is nothing, my dear boy, like a
girl well invested."

"You speak with the feelings of a father."

"I speak, sir, from observation.  I look at society as it is, not as it
would be if we had primogeniture and a landed aristocracy.  A daughter
under our arrangements is more likely to be a comfort to her parent in
his declining years than a son."

"But you seem, Major, to have preferred a single life?"

"Circumstances--thank you, just a drop more--we are the creatures of
circumstances.  It is a long story.  There were misrepresentation and
misunderstanding.  It is true, sir, that at that time my property was
encumbered, but it was not unproductive.  She died long ago.  I have
reason to believe that her married life was not happy.  I was hot-blooded
in those days, and my honor was touched, but I never blamed her.  She
was, at twenty, the most beautiful woman in Virginia.  I have never seen
her equal."

This was more than the Major had ever revealed about his private life
before.  He had created an illusion about himself which society accepted,
and in which he lived in apparent enjoyment of metropolitan existence.
This was due to a sanguine temperament and a large imagination.  And he
had one quality that made him a favorite--a hearty enjoyment of the
prosperity of others.  With regard to himself, his imagination was
creative, and Jack could not now tell whether this "most beautiful woman
of Virginia " was not evoked by the third glass, about which the Major
remarked, as he emptied it, that only this extraordinary occasion could

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >



Other sites:

db3nf.com screen-capture.net floresca.net simonova.net flora-source.com flora-source.com sourcecentral.com sourcecentral.com geocities.com