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

It was a singular phenomenon--very much remarked at the time--that the
women who did not in the least share Father Damon's spiritual faith, and
would have called themselves in contradistinction materialists, were
those who admired him most, were in a way his followers, loved to attend
his services, were inspired by his personality, and drawn to him in a
loving loyalty.  The attraction to these very women was his
unworldliness, his separateness, his devotion to an ideal which in their
reason seemed a delusion.  And no women would have been more sensitive
than they to his fall from his spiritual pinnacle.

It was easy with a little contrivance to avoid meeting him.  She did not
go to the chapel or in its neighborhood when he was likely to be going to
or from service.  She let others send for him when in her calls his
ministration was required, and she was careful not to linger where he was
likely to come.  A little change in the time of her rounds was made
without neglecting her work, for that she would not do, and she trusted
that if accident threw him in her way, circumstances would make it
natural and not embarrassing.  And yet his image was never long absent
from her thoughts; she wondered if he were dejected, if he were ill, if
he were lonely, and mostly there was for him a great pity in her heart, a
pity born, alas! of her own sense of loneliness.

How much she was repressing her own emotions she knew one evening when
she returned from her visits and found a letter in his handwriting.  The
sight of it was a momentary rapture, and then the expectation of what it
might contain gave her a feeling of faintness.  The letter was long.  Its
coming needs a word of explanation.

Father Damon had begun to use the Margaret Fund.  He found that its
judicious use was more perplexing than he had supposed.  He needed
advice, the advice of those who had more knowledge than he had of the
merits of relief cases.  And then there might be many sufferers whom he
in his limited field neglected.  It occurred to him that Dr. Leigh would
be a most helpful co-almoner.  No sooner did this idea come to him than
he was spurred to put it into effect.  This common labor would be a sort
of bond between them, a bond of charity purified from all personal alloy.
He went at once to Mr. Henderson's office and told him his difficulties,
and about Dr. Leigh's work, and the opportunities she would have.  Would
it not be possible for Dr. Leigh to draw from the fund on her own checks
independent of him?  Mr. Henderson thought not.  Dr. Leigh was no doubt a
good woman, but he didn't know much about woman visitors and that sort;
their sympathies were apt to run away with them, and he should prefer at
present to have the fund wholly under Father Damon's control.  Some time,
he intimated, he might make more lasting provisions with trustees.  It
would be better for Father Damon to give Dr. Leigh money as he saw she
needed it.

The letter recited this at length; it had a check endorsed, and the
writer asked the doctor to be his almoner.  He dwelt very much upon the
relief this would be to him, and the opportunity it would give her in
many emergencies, and the absolute confidence he had in her discretion,
as well as in her quick sympathy with the suffering about them.  And also
it would be a great satisfaction to him to feel that he was associated
with her in such a work.

In its length, in its tone of kindliness, of personal confidence,
especially in its length, it was evident that the writing of it had been
a pleasure, if not a relief, to the sender.  Ruth read it and reread it.
It was as if Father Damon were there speaking to her.  She could hear the
tones of his voice.  And the glance of love--that last overmastering
appeal and cry thrilled through her soul.

But in the letter there was no love; to any third person it would have
read like an ordinary friendly philanthropic request.  And her reply,
accepting gratefully his trust, was almost formal, only the writer felt
that she was writing out of her heart.


The Roman poet Martial reckons among the elements of a happy life "an
income left, not earned by toil," and also "a wife discreet, yet blythe
and bright."  Felicity in the possession of these, the epigrammatist
might have added, depends upon content in the one and full appreciation
of the other.

Jack Delancy returned from Washington more discontented than when he
went.  His speculation hung fire in a most tantalizing way; more than
that, it had absorbed nearly all the "income not earned by toil," which
was at the hazard of operations he could neither control nor comprehend.
And besides, this little fortune had come to seem contemptibly
inadequate.  In his associations of the past year his spendthrift habits
had increased, and he had been humiliated by his inability to keep pace
with the prodigality of those with whom he was most intimate.  Miss
Tavish was an heiress in her own right, who never seemed to give a
thought to the cost of anything she desired; the Hendersons, for any
whim, drew upon a reservoir of unknown capacity; and even Mavick began to
talk as if he owned a flock of geese that laid golden eggs.

To be sure, it was pleasant coming home into an atmosphere of sincerity,
of worship--was it not?  It was very flattering to his self-esteem.  The
master had come!  The house was in commotion.  Edith flew to meet him,
hugged him, shook him, criticised his appearance, rallied him for a
recreant father.  How well she looked-buoyant, full of vivacity, running
over with joy, asking a dozen questions before he could answer one,
testifying her delight, her affection, in a hundred ways.  And the boy!
He was so eager to see his papa.  He could converse now--that is, in his
way.  And that prodigy, when Jack was dragged into his presence, and also
fell down with Edith and worshiped him in his crib, did actually smile,
and appear to know that this man belonged to him, was a part of his
worldly possessions.

"Do you know," said Edith, looking at the boy critically, "I think of
making Fletcher a present, if you approve."

"What's that?"

"He'll want some place to go to in the summer.  I want to buy that old
place where he was born and give it to him.  Don't you think it would be
a good investment?"

"Yes, permanent," replied Jack, laughing at such a mite of a real-estate

"I know he would like it.  And you don't object?"

"Not in the least.  It's next to an ancestral feeling to be the father of
a land-owner."

They were standing close to the crib, his arm resting lightly across her
shoulders.  He drew her closer to him, and kissed her tenderly.  "The
little chap has a golden-hearted mother.  I don't know why he should not
have a Golden House."

Her eyes filled with sudden tears.  She could not speak.  But both arms
were clasped round his neck now.  She was too happy for words.  And the
baby, looking on with large eyes, seemed to find nothing unusual in the
proceeding.  He was used to a great deal of this sort of nonsense

It was a happy evening.  In truth, after the first surprise, Jack was
pleased with this contemplated purchase.  It was something removed beyond
temptation.  Edith's property was secure to her, and it was his honorable
purpose never to draw it into his risks.  But he knew her generosity, and
he could not answer for himself if she should offer it, as he was sure
she would do, to save him from ruin.

There was all the news to tell, the harmless gossip of daily life, which
Edith had a rare faculty of making dramatically entertaining, with her
insight and her feeling for comedy.  There had been a musicale at the
Blunts'--oh, strictly amateur--and Edith ran to the piano and imitated
the singers and took off the players, until Jack declared that it beat
the Conventional Club out of sight.  And she had been to a parlor mind-
cure lecture, and to a Theosophic conversation, and to a Reading Club for
the Cultivation of a Feeling for Nature through Poetry.  It was all
immensely solemn and earnest.  And Jack wondered that the managers did
not get hold of these things and put them on the stage.  Nothing could
draw like them.  Not burlesques, though, said Edith; not in the least.
If only these circles would perform in public as they did in private, how
they would draw!

And then Father Damon had been to consult her about his fund.  He had
been ill, and would not stay, and seemed more severe and ascetic than
ever.  She was sure something was wrong.  For Dr. Leigh, whom she had
sought out several times, was reserved, and did not voluntarily speak of
Father Damon; she had heard that he was throwing himself with more than
his usual fervor into his work.  There was plenty to talk about.
The purchase of the farm by the sea had better not be delayed; Jack might
have to go down and see the owner.  Yes, he would make it his first
business in the morning.  Perhaps it would be best to get some Long-
Islander to buy it for them.

By the time it was ten o'clock, Jack said he thought he would step down
to the Union a moment.  Edith's countenance fell.  There might be
letters, he explained, and he had a little matter of business; he
wouldn't be late.

It was very agreeable, home was, and Edith was charming.  He could
distinctly feel that she was charming.  But Jack was restless.  He felt
the need of talking with somebody about what was on his mind.  If only
with Major Fairfax.  He would not consult the Major, but the latter was
in the way of picking up all sorts of gossip, both social and Street

And the Major was willing to unpack his budget.  It was not very
reassuring, what he had to tell; in fact, it was somewhat depressing, the
general tightness and the panicky uncertainty, until, after a couple of
glasses of Scotch, the financial world began to open a little and seem
more hopeful.

"The Hendersons are going to build," Jack said at length, after a remark
of the Major's about that famous operator.

"Build?  What for?  They've got a palace."

"Carmen says it's for an object-lesson.  To show New York millionaires

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: