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List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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other, and momentarily evidently serious things, and at receptions Jack
had interrupted their glances of intelligence.  But what stuff this was!
He jealous of the attentions of his friend to another man's wife!  If she
was a coquette, what did it matter to him?  Certainly he was not jealous.
But he was irritated.

One day after a round of receptions, in which Jack had been specially
disgruntled, and when he was alone in the drawing-room of the hotel with
Carmen, his manner was so positively rude to her that she could not but
notice it.  There was this trait of boyishness in Jack, and it was one of
the weaknesses that made him loved, that he always cried out when he was
hurt.

Did Carmen resent this?  Did she upbraid him for his manner?  Did she
apologize, as if she had done anything to provoke it?  She sank down
wearily in a chair and said:

"I'm so tired.  I wish I were back in New York."

"You don't act like it," Jack replied, gruffly.

"No.  You don't understand.  And now you want to make me more miserable.
See here, Mr. Delancy," and she started up in her seat and turned to him,
"you are a man of honor.  Would you advise me to make an enemy of Mr.
Mavick, knowing all that he does know about Mr. Henderson's affairs?"

"I don't see what that has got to do with it," said Jack, wavering.
"Lately your manner--"

"Nonsense!" cried Carmen, springing up and approaching Jack with a smile
of animation and trust, and laying her hand on his shoulder.  " We are
old, old friends.  And I have just confided to you what I wouldn't to any
other living being.  There!"  And looking around at the door, she tapped
him lightly on the cheek and ran out of the room.

Whatever you might say of Carmen, she had this quality of a wise person,
that she never cut herself loose from one situation until she was
entirely sure of a better position.

For one reason or another Jack's absence was prolonged.  He wrote often,
he made bright comments on the characters and peculiarities of the
capital, and he said that he was tired to death of the everlasting whirl
and scuffle.  People plunged in the social whirlpool always say they are
weary of it, and they complain bitterly of its exactions and its tax on
their time and strength.  Edith judged, especially from the complaints,
that her husband was enjoying himself.  She felt also that his letters
were in a sense perfunctory, and gave her only the surface of his life.
She sought in vain in them for those evidences of spontaneous love, of
delight in writing to her of all persons in the world, the eagerness of
the lover that she recalled in letters written in other days.  However
affectionate in expression, these were duty letters.  Edith was not
alone.  She had no lack of friends, who came and went in the common round
of social exchange, and for many of them she had a sincere affection.
And there were plenty of relatives on the father's and on the mother's
side.  But for the most part they were old-fashioned, home-keeping New-
Yorkers, who were sufficient to themselves, and cared little for the set
into which Edith's marriage had more definitely placed her.  In any real
trouble she would not have lacked support.  She was deemed fortunate in
her marriage, and in her apparent serene prosperity it was believed that
she was happy.  If she had had mother or sister or brother, it is
doubtful if she would have made either a confidant of her anxieties,
but high-spirited and self-reliant as she was, there were days when she
longed with intolerable heartache for the silent sympathy of a mother's
presence.

It is singular how lonely a woman of this nature can be in a gay and
friendly world.  She had her interests, to be sure.  As she regained her
strength she took up her social duties, and she tried to resume her
studies, her music, her reading, and she occupied herself more and more
with the charities and the fortunes of her friends who were giving their
lives to altruistic work.  But there was a sense of unreality in all
this.  The real thing was the soul within, the longing, loving woman
whose heart was heavy and unsatisfied.  Jack was so lovable, he had in
his nature so much nobility, if the world did not kill it, her life might
be so sweet, and so completely fulfill her girlish dreams.  All these
schemes of a helpful, altruistic life had been in her dream, but how
empty it was without the mutual confidence, the repose in the one human
love for which she cared.

Though she was not alone, she had no confidant.  She could have none.
What was there to confide?  There was nothing to be done.  There was no
flagrant wrong or open injustice.  Some women in like circumstances
become bitter and cynical.  Others take their revenge in a career
reckless, but within social conventions, going their own way in a sort of
matrimonial truce.  These are not noticeable tragedies.  They are things
borne with a dumb ache of the heart.  There are lives into which the show
of spring comes, but without the song of birds or the scent of flowers.
They are endured bravely, with a heroism for which the world does not
often give them credit.  Heaven only knows how many noble women-noble in
this if in nothing else--carry through life this burden of an unsatisfied
heart, mocked by the outward convention of love.

But Edith had one confidant--the boy.  And he was perfectly safe; he
would reveal nothing.  There were times when he seemed to understand,
and whether he did or not she poured out her heart to him.  Often in the
twilight she sat by him in this silent communion.  If he were asleep--and
he was not troubled with insomnia--he was still company.  And when he was
awake, his efforts to communicate the dawning ideas of the queer world
into which he had come were a never-failing delight.  He wanted so many
more things than he could ask for, which it was his mother's pleasure to
divine; later on he would ask for so many things he could not get.  The
nurse said that he had uncommon strength of will.

These were happy hours, imagining what the boy would be, planning what
she would make his life, hours enjoyed as a traveler enjoys wayside
flowers, snatched before an approaching storm.  It is a pity, the nurse
would say, that his father cannot see him now.  And at the thought Edith
could only see the child through tears, and a great weight rested on her
heart in all this happiness.




XVI

When Father Damon parted from Edith he seemed to himself strengthened in
his spirit.  His momentary outburst had shown him where he stood-the
strength of his fearful temptation.  To see it was to be able to conquer
it.  He would humiliate himself; he would scourge himself; he would fast
and pray; he would throw himself more unreservedly into the service of
his Master.  He had been too compromising with sin and sinners, and with
his own weakness and sin, the worst of all.

The priest walked swiftly through the wintry streets, welcoming as a sort
of penance the biting frost which burned his face and penetrated his
garments.  He little heeded the passers in the streets, those who hurried
or those who loitered, only, if he met or passed a woman or a group of
girls, he instinctively drew himself away and walked more rapidly.  He
strode on uncompromisingly, and his clean-shaved face was set in rigid
lines.  Those who saw him pass would have said that there went an ascetic
bent on judgment.  Many who did know him, and who ordinarily would have
saluted him, sure of a friendly greeting, were repelled by his stern face
and determined air, and made no sign.  The father had something on his
mind.

As he turned into Rivington Street there approached him from the opposite
direction a girl, walking slowly and undecidedly.  When he came near her
she looked up, with an appealing recognition.  In a flash of the quick
passing he thought he knew her--a girl who had attended his mission and
whom he had not seen for several months-but he made no sign and passed
on.

"Father Damon!"

He turned about short at the sound of the weak, pleading voice, but with
no relaxation of his severe, introverted mood.  "Well?"

It was the girl he remembered.  She wore a dress of silk that had once
been fine, and over it an ample cloak that had quite lost its freshness,
and a hat still gay with cheap flowers.  Her face, which had a sweet and
almost innocent expression, was drawn and anxious.  The eyes were those
of a troubled and hunted animal.

"I thought," she said, hesitatingly, "you didn't know me."

"Yes, I know you.  Why haven't you been at the mission lately?"

"I couldn't come.  I--"

"I'm afraid you have fallen into bad ways."

She did not answer immediately.  She looked away, and, still avoiding his
gaze, said, timidly: "I thought I would tell you, Father Damon, that I'm
--that I'm in trouble.  I don't know what to do."

"Have you repented of your sin?" asked he, with a little softening of his
tone.  "Did you want to come to me for help?"

"He's deserted me," said the girl, looking down, absorbed in her own
misery, and not heeding his question.

"Ah, so that is what you are sorry for?"  The severe, reproving tone had
come back to his voice.

"And they don't want me in the shop any more."

The priest hesitated.  Was he always to preach against sin, to strive to
extirpate it, and yet always to make it easy for the sinner?  This girl
must realize her guilt before he could do her any good.  "Are you sorry
for what you have done?"

"Yes, I'm sorry," she replied.  Wasn't to be in deep trouble to be
sorry?  And then she looked up, and continued with the thought in her
mind, "I didn't know who else to go to."

"Well, my child, if you are sorry, and want to lead a different life,
come to me at the mission and I will try to help you."

The priest, with a not unkindly good-by, passed on.  The girl stood a
moment irresolute, and then went on her way heavily and despondent.
What good would it do her to go to the mission now?

Three days later Dr. Leigh was waiting at the mission chapel to speak
with the rector after the vesper service.  He came out pale and weary,

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