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

wreck his ample wardrobe, his watch, and some jewelry, and upon these he
raised money for his cheap lodgings and his cheap food.  He grew careless
of his personal appearance.  Every morning he rose and went about the
city, always with less hope, and every night he returned to his lodging,
but not always sober.

One day he read the announcement that Mrs. Rodney Henderson and Miss
Tavish had sailed for Europe.  That ended that chapter.  What exactly he
had expected he could not say.  Help from Carmen?  Certainly not.  But
there had never been a sign from her, nor any word from Mavick lately.
There evidently was nothing.  He had been thrown over.  Carmen evidently
had no more use for him.  She had other plans.  The thought that he had
been used and duped was almost more bitter than his loss.

In after-days Jack looked back upon this time with a feeling akin to
thankfulness for Carmen's utter heartlessness in regard to his affairs.
He trembled to think what might have happened to him if she had sent for
him and consulted him and drawn him again into the fatal embrace of her
schemes and her fascinations.  Now he was simply enraged when he thought
of her, and irritated with himself.

These were dark days, days to which he looked back with a shudder.
He wrote to Edith frequently--a brief note.  He was straightening out his
affairs; he was busy.  But he did not give her his address, and he only
got her letters when the Major forwarded them from the club, which was
irregularly.  A stranger, who met him at his lodgings or elsewhere, would
have said that he was an idle and rather dissipated-looking man.  He was
idle, except in his feeble efforts to get work; he was worn and
discouraged, but he was not doing anything very bad.  In his way of
looking at it, he was carrying out his notion of honor.  He was only
breaking a woman's heart.

He was conscious of little except his own misfortunes and misery.  He did
not yet apprehend his own selfishness nor her nobility.  He did not yet
comprehend the unselfishness of a good woman's love.

On the East Side one day, as he was sauntering along Grand Street, he
encountered Dr. Leigh, his wife's friend, whom he had seen once at his
house.  She did not at first recognize him until he stopped and spoke his

"Oh," she said, with surprise at seeing him, and at his appearance,
"I didn't expect to see you here.  I thought everybody had gone from the
city.  Perhaps you are going to the Neighborhood Guild?"

"No," and Jack forced a little laugh, "I'm not so good as that.  I'm kept
in town on business.  I strolled over here to see how the other side of
life looks."

"It doesn't improve.  It is one of the worst summers I ever saw.  Since
Mr. Henderson's death--"

"What difference did Henderson's death make over here?"

"Why, he had deposited a little fund for Father Damon to draw on, and the
day after his death the bank returned a small check with the notice that
there was no deposit to draw on.  It had been such a help in
extraordinary cases.  Perhaps you saw some allusion to it in the

"Wasn't it the Margaret Fund?"

"Yes.  Father Damon dropped a note to Mrs. Henderson explaining about it.
No reply came."

"As he might have expected."  Dr. Leigh looked up quickly as if for an
explanation, but Jack ignored the query, and went on.  "And Father Damon,
is he as active as ever?"

"He has gone."

"What, left the city, quit his work?  And the mission?"

"I don't suppose he will ever quit his work while he lives, but he is
much broken down.  The mission chapel is not closed, but a poor woman
told me that it seemed so."

"And he will not return?  Mrs. Delancy will be so sorry."

"I think not.  He is in retreat now, and I heard that he might go to
Baltimore.  I thought of your wife.  She was so interested in his work.
Is she well this summer?"

"Yes, thank you," said Jack, and they parted.  But as she went on her way
his altered appearance struck her anew, and she wondered what had

This meeting with Mr. Delancy recalled most forcibly Edith, her interest
in the East Side work, her sympathy with Father Damon and the mission,
the first flush of those days of enthusiasm.  When Father Damon began his
work the ladies used to come in their carriages to the little chapel with
flowers and money and hearts full of sympathy with the devoted priest.
Alone of all these Edith had been faithful in her visits, always, when
she was in town.  And now the whole glittering show of charity had
vanished for the time, and Father Damon-- The little doctor stopped,
consulted a memorandum in her hand-bag, looked up at the tenement-house
she was passing, and then began to climb its rickety stairway.

Yes, Father Damon had gone, and Ruth Leigh simply went on with her work
as before.  Perhaps in all the city that summer there was no other person
whose daily life was so little changed as hers.  Others were driven away
by the heat, by temporary weariness, by the need of a vacation and change
of scene.  Some charities and some clubs and schools were temporarily
suspended; other charities, befitting the name, were more active, the
very young children were most looked after, and the Good Samaritans of
the Fresh-Air Funds went about everywhere full of this new enthusiasm of
humanity.  But the occupation of Ruth Leigh remained always the same,
in a faithful pertinacity that nothing could wholly discourage, in a
routine that no projects could kindle into much enthusiasm.  Day after
day she went about among the sick and the poor, relieving and counseling
individuals, and tiring herself out in that personal service, and more
and more conscious, when she had time, at night, for instance, to think,
of the monstrous injustice somewhere, and at times in a mood of fierce
revolt against the social order that made all this misery possible and

Yet a great change had come into her life--the greatest that can come to
any man or woman in the natural order.  She loved and she was loved.
An ideal light had been cast upon her commonplace existence, the depths
of her own nature had been revealed to herself.  In this illuminating
light she walked about in the misery of this world.  This love must be
denied, this longing of the heart for companionship could never be
gratified, yet after all it was a sweet self-sacrifice, and the love
itself brought its own consolation.  She had not to think of herself as
weak, and neither was her lover's image dimmed to her by any surrender of
his own principle or his own ideal.  She saw him, as she had first seen
him, a person consecrated and set apart, however much she might disagree
with his supernatural vagaries--set apart to the service of humanity.
She had bitter thoughts sometimes of the world, and bitter thoughts of
the false system that controlled his conduct, but never of him.

It was unavoidable that she should recall her last interview with him,
and that the image of his noble, spiritual face should be ever distinct
in her mind.  And there was even a certain comfort in this recollection.

Father Damon had indeed striven, under the counsel of his own courage and
of Brother Monies, to conquer himself on the field of his temptation.
But with his frail physique it was asking too much.  This at last was so
evident that the good brother advised him, and the advice was in the
nature of a command in his order, to retire for a while, and then take up
his work in a fresh field.

When this was determined on, his desire was nearly irresistible to see
Ruth Leigh; he thought it would be cowardly to disappear and not say
good-by.  Indeed, it was necessary to see her and explain the stoppage of
help from the Margaret Fund.  The check that he had drawn, which was
returned, had been for one of Dr. Leigh's cases.  With his failure to
elicit any response from Mrs. Henderson, the hope, raised by the
newspaper comments on the unexecuted will, that the fund would be renewed
was dissipated.

In the interview which Father Damon sought with Dr. Leigh at the Women's
Hospital all this was explained, and ways and means were discussed for
help elsewhere.

"I wanted to talk this over with you," said Father Damon, "because I am
going away to take a rest."

"You need it, Father Damon," was Ruth's answer, in a professional manner.

"And--and," he continued, with some hesitation, "probably I shall not
return to this mission."

"Perhaps that will be best," she said, simply, but looking up at him now,
with a face full of tender sympathy.

"I am sure of it," he replied, turning away from her gaze.  "The fact is,
doctor, I am a little hipped--overworked, and all that.  I shall pull
myself together with a little rest.  But I wanted to tell you how much I
appreciate your work, and--and what a comfort you have been to me in my
poor labors.  I used to hope that some time you would see this world in
relation to the other, and--"

"Yes, I know," she interrupted, hastily, "I cannot think as you do,
but--"  And she could not go on for a great lump in her throat.
Involuntarily she rose from her seat.  The interview was too trying.
Father Damon rose also.  There was a moment's painful silence as they
looked in each other's faces.  Neither could trust the voice for speech.
He took her hand and pressed it, and said "God bless you!" and went out,
closing the door softly.

A moment after he opened it again and stood on the threshold.  She was in
her chair, her head bowed upon her arms on the table.  As he spoke she
looked up, and she never forgot the expression of his face.

"I want to say, Ruth"--he had never before called her by her first name,
and his accent thrilled her-- "that I shall pray for you as I pray for
myself, and though I may never see you again in this world, the greatest
happiness that can come to me in this life will be to hear that you have
learned to say Our Father which art in heaven."

As she looked he was gone, and his last words remained a refrain in her
mind that evening and afterwards--"Our Father which art in heaven"--
a refrain recurring again and again in all her life, inseparable from the

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: