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

go and see the place."  And she started up and touched the bell for the
carriage.  It was more than something to do.  In those days before her
marriage, when her mother was living, and when they wandered about
Europe, dangerously near to the reputation of adventuresses, the girl had
her dream of chateaux and castles and splendor.  Her chance did not come
in Europe, but, as she would have said, Providence is good to those who

The next day Jack went to Long Island, and the farm was bought, and the
deed brought to Edith, who, with much formality, presented it to the boy,
and that young gentleman showed his appreciation of it by trying to eat
it.  It would have seemed a pretty incident to Jack, if he had not been
absorbed in more important things.

But he was very much absorbed, and apparently more idle than ever.  As
the days went on, and the weeks, he was less and less at home, and in a
worse humor--that is, at home.  Carmen did not find him ill-humored, nor
was there any change towards the fellows at the Union, except that it was
noticed that he had his cross days.  There was nothing specially to
distinguish him from a dozen others, who led the same life of vacuity, of
mild dissipation, of enforced pleasure.  A wager now and then on an
"event"; a fictitious interest in elections; lively partisanship in
society scandals: Not much else.  The theatres were stale, and only
endurable on account of the little suppers afterwards; and really there
wasn't much in life except the women who made it agreeable.

Major Fairfax was not a model; there had not much survived out of his
checkered chances and experiences, except a certain instinct of being a
gentleman, sir; the close of his life was not exactly a desirable goal;
but even the Major shook his head over Jack.


The one fact in which men universally agree is that we come into the
world alone and we go out of the world alone; and although we travel in
company, make our pilgrimage to Canterbury or to Vanity Fair in a great
show of fellowship, and of bearing one another's burdens, we carry our
deepest troubles alone.  When we think of it, it is an awful lonesomeness
in this animated and moving crowd.  Each one either must or will carry
his own burden, which he commonly cannot, or by pride or shame will not,
ask help in carrying.

Henderson drew more and more apart from confidences, and was alone in
building up the colossal structure of his wealth.  Father Damon was
carrying his renewed temptation alone, after all his brave confession and
attempt at renunciation.  Ruth Leigh plodded along alone, with her secret
which was the joy and the despair of her life--the opening of a gate into
the paradise which she could never enter.  Jack Delancy, the confiding,
open-hearted good fellow, had come to a stage in his journey where he
also was alone.  Not even to Carmen could he confess the extent of his
embarrassments, nor even in her company, nor in the distraction of his
increasingly dissipated life, could he forget them.  Not only had his
investments been all transferred to his speculations, but his home had
been mortgaged, and he did not dare tell Edith of the lowering cloud that
hung over it; and that his sole dependence was the confidence of the
Street, which any rumor might shatter, in that one of Henderson's schemes
to which he had committed himself.  Edith, the one person who could have
comforted him, was the last person to whom he could have told this, for
he had the most elementary, and the common conception of what marriage

But Edith's lot was the most pitiful of all.  She was not only alone, but
compelled to inaction.  She saw the fair fabric of her life dissolving,
and neither by cries nor tears, by appeals nor protest, by show of anger
nor by show of suffering, could she hinder the dissolution.  Strong in
herself and full of courage, day by day and week by week she felt her
powerlessness.  Heaven knows what it cost her--what it costs all women in
like circumstances--to be always cheerful, never to show distrust.  If
her love were not enough, if her attractions were not enough, there was
no human help to which she could appeal.

And what, pray, was there to appeal?  There was no visible neglect, no
sufficient alienation for gossip to take hold of.  If there was a little
talk about Jack's intimacy elsewhere, was there anything uncommon in
that?  Affairs went on as usual.  Was it reasonable to suppose that
society should notice that one woman's heart was full of foreboding,
heavy with a sense of loss and defeat, and with the ruin of two lives?
Could simple misery like this rise to the dignity of tragedy in a world
that has its share of tragedies, shocking and violent, but is on the
whole going on decorously and prosperously?

The season wore on.  It was the latter part of May.  Jack had taken Edith
and the boy down to the Long Island house, and had returned to the city
and was living at his club, feverishly waiting for some change in his
affairs.  It was a sufficient explanation of his anxiety that money was
"tight," that failures were daily announced, and that there was a general
fear of worse times.  It was fortunate for Jack and other speculators
that they could attribute their ill-luck to the general financial
condition.  There were reasons enough for this condition.  Some
attributed it to want of confidence, others to the tariff, others to the
action of this or that political party, others to over-production, others
to silver, others to the action of English capitalists in withdrawing.
their investments.  It could all be accounted for without referring to
the fact that most of the individual sufferers, like Jack, owed more than
they could pay.

Henderson was much of the time absent--at the West and at the South.
His every move was watched, his least sayings were reported as
significant, and the Street was hopeful or depressed as he seemed to be
cheerful or unusually taciturn.  Uncle Jerry was the calmest man in town,
and his observation that Henderson knew what he was about was reassuring.
His serenity was well founded.  The fact was that he had been pulling in
and lowering canvas for months.  Or, as he put it, he hadn't much hay
out. . .  "It's never a good plan," said Uncle Jerry, "to put off raking
up till the shower begins."

It seems absurd to speak of the East Side in connection with the
financial situation.  But that was where the pinch was felt, and felt
first.  Work was slack, and that meant actual hunger for many families.
The monetary solidarity of the town is remarkable.  No one flies a kite
in Wall Street that somebody in Rivington Street does not in consequence
have to go without his dinner.  As Dr. Leigh went her daily rounds she
encountered painful evidence of the financial disturbance.  Increased
number of cases for the doctor followed want of sufficient food and the
eating of cheap, unwholesome food.  She was often obliged to draw upon
the Margaret Fund, and to invoke the aid of Father Damon when the
responsibility was too great for her.  And Father Damon found that his
ministry was daily diverted from the cure of souls to the care of bodies.
Among all those who came to the mission as a place of refuge and rest,
and to whom the priest sought to offer the consolations of religion and
of his personal sympathy, there were few who did not have a tale of
suffering to tell that wrung his heart.  Some of them were actually ill,
or had at home a sick husband or a sick daughter.  And such cases had to
be reported to Dr. Leigh.

It became necessary, therefore, that these two, who had shunned each
other for months, should meet as often as they had done formerly.  This
was very hard for both, for it meant only the renewal of heart-break,
regret, and despair.  And yet it had been almost worse when they did not
see each other.  They met; they talked of nothing but their work; they
tried to forget themselves in their devotion to humanity.  But the human
heart will not be thus disposed of.  It was impossible that some show of
personal interest, some tenderness, should not appear.  They were walking
towards Fourth Avenue one evening--the priest could not resist the
impulse to accompany her a little way towards her home--after a day of
unusual labor and anxiety.

"You are working too hard," he said, gently; "you look fatigued."

"Oh no," she replied, looking up cheerfully; "I'm a regular machine.
I get run down, and then I wind up.  I get tired, and then I get rested.
It isn't the work," she added, after a moment, "if only I could see any
good of it.  It seems so hopeless."

"From your point of view, my dear doctor," he answered, but without any
shade of reproof in his tone.  "But no good deed is lost.  There is
nothing else in the world--nothing for me."  The close of the sentence
seemed wholly accidental, and he stopped speaking as if he could not
trust himself to go on.

Ruth Leigh looked up quickly.  "But, Father Damon, it is you who ought to
be rebuked for overwork.  You are undertaking too much.  You ought to go
off for a vacation, and go at once."

The father looked paler and thinner than usual, but his mouth was set in
firm lines, and he said: "It cannot be.  My duty is here.  And"--he
turned, and looked her full in the face--"I cannot go."

No need to explain that simple word.  No need to interpret the swift
glance that their eyes exchanged--the eager, the pitiful glance.  They
both knew.  It was not the work.  It was not the suffering of the world.
It was the pain in their own hearts, and the awful chasm that his holy
vows had put between them.  They stood so only an instant.  He was
trembling in the extort to master himself, and in a second she felt the
hot blood rising to her face.  Her woman's wit was the first to break the
hopeless situation.  She turned, and hailed a passing car.  "I cannot
walk any farther.  Good-night."  And she was gone.

The priest stood as if a sudden blow had struck him, following the
retreating car till it was out of sight, and then turned homeward, dazed,
and with feeble steps.  What was this that had come to him to so shake

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: