List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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how to adorn their city."

"It's like that little -schemer.  What does Henderson say?"

"He appears to be willing.  I can't get the hang of Henderson.  He
doesn't seem to care what his wife does.  He's a cynical cuss.  The other
night, at dinner, in Washington, when the thing was talked over, he said:
'My dear, I don't know why you shouldn't do that as well as anything.
Let's build a house of gold, as Nero did; we are in the Roman age.'
Carmen looked dubious for a moment, but she said, 'You know, Rodney, that
you always used to say that some time you would show New York what a
house ought to be in this climate.'  'Well, go on,' and he laughed.
'I suppose lightning will not strike that sooner than anything else.'"
"Seems to me," said the Major, reflectively, reaching out his hand for
the brown mug, "the way he gives that woman her head, and doesn't care
what she does, he must have a contempt for her."

"I wish somebody had that sort of contempt for me," said Jack, filling up
his glass also.

"But, I tell you," he continued, "Mrs. Henderson has caught on to the new
notions.  Her idea is the union of all the arts.  She has already got the
refusal of a square 'way up-town, on the rise opposite the Park, and has
been consulting architects about it.  It is to be surrounded with the
building, with a garden in the interior, a tropical garden, under glass
in the winter.  The facades are to be gorgeous and monumental.  Artists
and sculptors are to decorate it, inside and out.  Why shouldn't there be
color on the exterior, gold and painting, like the Fugger palaces in
Augsburg, only on a great scale?  The artists don't see any reason why
there should not.  It will make the city brilliant, that sort of thing,
in place of our monotonous stone lanes.  And it's using her wealth for
the public benefit-the architects and artists all say that.  Gad, I don't
know but the little woman is beginning to regard herself as a public

"She is that or nothing," echoed the Major, warmly.

"And do you know," continued Jack, confidentially, "I think she's got the
right idea.  If I have any luck--of course I sha'n't do that--but if I
have any luck, I mean to build a house that's got some life in it--color,
old boy--something unique and stunning."

"So you will," cried the Major, enthusiastically, and, raising his glass,
"Here's to the house that Jack built!"

It was later than he thought it would be when he went home, but Jack was
attended all the way by a vision of a Golden House--all gold wouldn't be
too good, and he will build it, damme, for Edith and the boy.
The next morning not even the foundations of this structure were visible.
The master of the house came down to a late breakfast, out of sorts with
life, almost surly.  Not even Edith's bright face and fresh toilet and
radiant welcome appealed to him.  No one would have thought from her
appearance that she had waited for him last night hour after hour, and
had at last gone to bed with a heavy heart, and not to sleep-to toss, and
listen, and suffer a thousand tortures of suspense.  How many tragedies
of this sort are there nightly in the metropolis, none the less tragic
because they are subjects of jest in the comic papers and on the stage!
What would be the condition of social life if women ceased to be anxious
in this regard, and let loose the reins in an easy-going indifference?
What, in fact, is the condition in those households where the wives do
not care?  One can even perceive a tender sort of loyalty to women in the
ejaculation of that battered old veteran, the Major, "Thank God, there's
nobody sitting up for me!"

Jack was not consciously rude.  He even asked about the baby.  And he
sipped his coffee and glanced over the morning journal, and he referred
to the conversation of the night before, and said that he would look
after the purchase at once.  If Edith had put on an aspect of injury, and
had intimated that she had hoped that his first evening at home might
have been devoted to her and the boy, there might have been a scene, for
Jack needed only an occasion to vent his discontent.  And for the
chronicler of social life a scene is so much easier to deal with, an
outburst of temper and sharp language, of accusation and recrimination,
than the well-bred commonplace of an undefined estrangement.

And yet estrangement is almost too strong a word to use in Jack's case.
He would have been the first to resent it.  But the truth was that Edith,
in the life he was leading, was a rebuke to him; her very purity and
unworldliness were out of accord with his associations, with his
ventures, with his dissipations in that smart and glittering circle where
he was more welcome the more he lowered his moral standards.  Could he
help it if after the first hours of his return he felt the restraint of
his home, and that the life seemed a little flat?  Almost unconsciously
to himself, his interests and his inclinations were elsewhere.

Edith, with the divination of a woman, felt this.  Last night her love
alone seemed strong enough to hold him, to bring him back to the purposes
and the aspirations that only last summer had appeared to transform him.
Now he was slipping away again.  How pitiful it is, this contest of a
woman who has only her own love, her own virtue, with the world and its
allurements and seductions, for the possession of her husband's heart!
How powerless she is against these subtle invitations, these unknown and
all-encompassing temptations!  At times the whole drift of life, of the
easy morality of the time, is against her.  The current is so strong that
no wonder she is often swept away in it.  And what could an impartial
observer of things as they are say otherwise than that John Delancy was
leading the common life of his kind and his time, and that Edith was only
bringing trouble on herself by being out of sympathy with it?

He might not be in at luncheon, he said, when he was prepared to go down-
town.  He seldom was.  He called at his broker's.  Still suspense.  He
wrote to the Long Island farmer.  At the Union he found a scented note
from Carmen.  They had all returned from the capital.  How rejoiced she
was to be at home!  And she was dying to see him; no, not dying, but very
much living; and it was very important.  She should expect him at the
usual hour.  And could he guess what gown she would wear?

And Jack went.  What hold had this woman on him?  Undoubtedly she had
fascinations, but he knew--knew well enough by this time--that her
friendship was based wholly on calculation.  And yet what a sympathetic
comrade she could be!  How freely he could talk with her; there was no
subject she did not adapt herself to.  No doubt it was this adaptability
that made her such a favorite.  She did not demand too much virtue or
require too much conventionality.  The hours he was with her he was
wholly at his ease.  She made him satisfied with himself, and she didn't
disturb his conscience.

"I think," said Jack--he was holding both her hands with a swinging
motion--when she came forward to greet him, and looking at her
critically--"I think I like you better in New York than in Washington."

"That is because you see more of me here."

"Oh, I saw you enough in Washington."

"But that was my public manner.  I have to live up to Mr. Henderson's

"And here you only have to live up to mine?"

"I can live for my friends," she replied, with an air of candor, giving a
very perceptible pressure with her little hands.  "Isn't that enough?"

Jack kissed each little hand before he let it drop, and looked as if he

"And how does the house get on?"

"Famously.  The lot is bought.  Mr. Van Brunt was here all the morning.
It's going to be something Oriental, mediaeval, nineteenth-century,
gorgeous, and domestic.  Van Brunt says he wants it to represent me."

"How?" inquired Jack; "all the four facades different?"

"With an interior unity--all the styles brought to express an individual
taste, don't you know.  A different house from the four sides of
approach, and inside, home--that's the idea."

"It appears to me," said Jack, still bantering, "that it will look like
an apartment-house."

"That is just what it will not--that is, outside unity, and inside a
menagerie.  This won't look gregarious.  It is to have not more than
three stories, perhaps only two.  And then exterior color, decoration,

"And gold?"

"Not too much--not to give it a cheap gilded look.  Oh, I asked him about
Nero's house.  As I remember it, that was mostly caverns.  Mr. Van Brunt
laughed, and said they were not going to excavate this house.  The Roman
notion was barbarous grandeur.  But in point of beauty and luxury, this
would be as much superior to Nero's house as the electric light is to a
Roman lamp."

"Not classic, then?"

"Why, all that's good in classic form, with the modern spirit.  You ought
to hear Mr. Van Brunt talk.  This country has never yet expressed itself
in domestic inhabitation."

"It's going to cost!  What does Mr. Henderson say?"

"I think he rather likes it.  He told Mr. Van Brunt to consult me and go
ahead with his plans.  But he talks queerly.  He said he thought he would
have money enough at least for the foundation.  Do you think, Jack,"
asked Carmen, with a sudden change of manner, "that Mr. Henderson is
really the richest man in the United States?"

"Some people say so.  Really, I don't know how any one can tell.  If he
let go his hand from his affairs, I don't know what a panic would do."

Carmen looked thoughtful.  "He said to me once that he wasn't afraid of
the Street any more.  I told him this morning that I didn't want to begin
this if it was going to incommode him."

"What did he say?"

"He was just going out.  He looked at me a moment with that speculative
sort of look-no, it isn't cynical, as you say; I know it so well--and
then said: 'Oh, go ahead.  I guess it will be all right.  If anything
happens, you can turn it into a boardinghouse.  It will be an excellent
sanitarium.'  That was all.  Anyway, it's something to do.  Come, let's

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