List Of Contents | Contents of The Golden House, by Charles Dudley Warner
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memory of the man she loved.


Along the Long Island coast lay the haze of early autumn.  It was the
time of lassitude.  In the season of ripening and decay Nature seemed to
have lost her spring, and lay in a sort of delicious languor.  Sea and
shore were in a kind of truce, and the ocean south wind brought cool
refreshment but no incentive.

From the sea the old brown farmhouse seemed a snug haven of refuge; from
the inland road it appeared, with its spreading, sloping roofs, like an
ancient sea-craft come ashore, which had been covered in and then
embowered by kindly Nature with foliage.  In those days its golden-brown
color was in harmony with the ripening orchards and gardens.

Surely, if anywhere in the world, peace was here.  But to its owner this
very peace and quietness was becoming intolerable.  The waiting days were
so long, the sleepless nights of uncertainty were so weary.  When her
work was done, and Edith sat with a book or some sewing under the arbor
where the grape clusters hung, growing dark and transparent, and the boy
played about near her, she had a view of the blue sea, and about her were
the twitter of birds and the hum of the cicada.  The very beauty made her
heart ache.  Seaward there was nothing--nothing but the leaping little
waves and the sky.  From the land side help might come at any hour, and
at every roll of wheels along the road her heart beat faster and hope
sprang up anew.  But day after day nothing came.

Perhaps there is no greater bravery than this sort of waiting, doing the
daily duty and waiting.  Endurance is woman's bravery, and Edith was
enduring, with an almost broken but still with a courageous heart.  It
was all so strange.  Was it simply shame that kept him away, or had he
ceased to love her?  If the latter, there was no help for her.  She had
begged him to come, she had offered to leave the boy with her cousin
companion and go to him.  Perhaps it was pride only.  In one of his short
letters he had said, "Thank God, your little fortune is untouched."
If it were pride only, how could she overcome it?  Of this she thought
night and day.  She thought, and she was restless, feverish, and growing
thin in her abiding anxiety.

It was true that her own fortune was safe and in her control.  But with
the usual instinct of women who know they have an income not likely to be
ever increased, she began to be economical.  She thought not of herself;
but of the boy.  It was the boy's fortune now.  She began to look sharply
after expenses; she reduced her household; she took upon herself the care
of the boy, and other household duties.  This was all well for her, for
it occupied her time, and to some extent diverted her thoughts.

So the summer passed--a summer of anxiety, longing, and dull pain for
Edith.  The time came when the uncertainty of it could no longer be
endured.  If Jack had deserted her, even if he should die, she could
order her life and try to adjust her heavy burden.  But this uncertainty
was quite beyond her power to sustain.

She made up her mind that she would go to the city and seek him.  It was
what he had written that she must not on any account do, but nothing that
could happen to her there could be so bad as this suspense.  Perhaps she
could bring him back.  If he refused, and was angry at her interference,
that even would be something definite.  And then she had carefully
thought out another plan.  It might fail, but some action had now become
for her a necessity.

Early one morning--it was in September-she prepared for a journey to the
city.  This little trip, which thousands of people made daily, took on
for her the air of an adventure.  She had been immured so long that it
seemed a great undertaking.  And when she bade good-by to the boy for the
day she hugged him and kissed him again and again, as if it were to be an
eternal farewell.  To her cousin were given the most explicit directions
for his care, and after she had started for the train she returned to
give further injunctions.  So she told herself, but it was really for one
more look at the boy.

But on the whole there was a certain exhilaration in the preparation and
the going, and her spirits rose as they had not done in months before.
Arrived in the city, she drove at once to the club Jack most frequented.
"He is not in," the porter said; "indeed, Mr. Delancy has not been here

"Is Major Fairfax in?" Edith asked.

Major Fairfax was in, and he came out immediately to her carriage.
From him she learned Jack's address, and drove to his lodging-house.
The Major was more than civil; he was disposed to be sympathetic, but he
had the tact to see that Mrs. Delancy did not wish to be questioned, nor
to talk.

"Is Mr. Delancy at home?" she asked the small boy who ran the elevator.


"And he did not say where he was going?"


"Is he not sometimes at home in the daytime?"


"And what time does he usually come home in the evening?"

"Don't know.  After I've gone, I guess."

Edith hesitated whether she should leave a card or a note, but she
decided not to do either, and ordered the cabman to take her to Pearl
Street, to the house of Fletcher & Co.

Mr. Fletcher, the senior partner, was her cousin, the son of her father's
elder brother, and a man now past sixty years.  Circumstances had carried
the families apart socially since the death of her father and his
brother, but they were on the most friendly terms, and the ties of blood
were not in any way weakened.  Indeed, although Edith had seen Gilbert
Fletcher only a few times since her marriage, she felt that she could go
to him any time if she were in trouble, with the certainty of sympathy
and help.  He had the reputation of the old-fashioned New York merchants,
to whom her father belonged, for integrity and conservatism.

It was to him that she went now.  The great shop, or wholesale warehouse
rather, into which she entered from the narrow and cart-encumbered
street, showed her at once the nature of the business of Fletcher & Co.
It was something in the twine and cordage way.  There were everywhere
great coils of ropes and bales of twine, and the dark rooms had a tarry
smell.  Mr. Fletcher was in his office, a little space partitioned off
in the rear, with half a dozen clerks working by gaslight, and a little
sanctum where the senior partner was commonly found at his desk.

Mr. Fletcher was a little, round-headed man, with a shrewd face, vigorous
and cheerful, thoroughly a man of business, never speculating, and who
had been slowly gaining wealth by careful industry and cautious extension
of his trade.  Certain hours of the day--from ten to three--he gave to
his business.  It was a habit, and it was a habit that he enjoyed.  He
had now come back, as he told Edith, from a little holiday at the sea,
where his family were, to get into shape for the fall trade.

Edith was closeted with him for a full hour.  When she came out her eyes
were brighter and her step more elastic.  At sundown she reached home,
almost in high spirits.  And when she snatched up the boy and hugged him,
she whispered in his ear, "Baby, we have done it, and we shall see."

One night when Jack returned from his now almost aimless tramping about
the city he found a letter on his table.  It seemed from the printing on
the envelope to be a business letter; and business, in the condition he
was in--and it was the condition in which he usually came home--did not
interest him.  He was about to toss the letter aside, when the name of
Fletcher caught his eye, and he opened it.

It was a brief note, written on an office memorandum, which simply asked
Mr. Delancy to call at the office as soon as it was convenient, as the
writer wished to talk with him on a matter of business, and it was signed
"Gilbert Fletcher."

"Why don't he say what his business is?" said Jack, throwing the letter
down impatiently.  "I am not going to be hauled over the coals by any of
the Fletchers."  And he tumbled into bed in an injured and yet
independent frame of mind.

But the next morning he reread the formal little letter in a new light.
To be sure, it was from Edith's cousin.  He knew him very well; he was
not a person to go out of his way to interfere with anybody, and more
than likely it was in relation to Edith's affairs that he was asked to
call.  That thought put a new aspect on the matter.  Of course if it
concerned her interests he ought to go.  He dressed with unusual care for
him in these days, breakfasted at the cheap restaurant which he
frequented, and before noon was in the Fletcher warehouse in Pearl

He had never been there before, and he was somewhat curious to see what
sort of a place it was where Gilbert carried on the string business,
as he used to call it when speaking to Edith of her cousin's occupation.
It was a much more dingy and smelly place than he expected, but the carts
about the doors, and the bustle of loading and unloading, of workmen
hauling and pulling, and of clerks calling out names and numbers to be
registered and checked, gave him the impression that it was not a dull

Mr. Fletcher received him in the little dim back office with a cordial
shake of the hand, gave him a chair, and reseated himself, pushing back
the papers in front of him with the air of a very busy man who was
dropping for a moment one thing in order to give his mind promptly to

"Our fall trade is just starting up," he said, "and it keeps us all
pretty busy."

"Yes," said Jack.  "I could drop in any other time--"

"No, no," interrupted Mr. Fletcher; "it is just because I am busy that I
wanted to see you.  Are you engaged in anything?"

"Nothing in particular," replied Jack, hesitating.  "I'd thought of going
into some business."  And then, after a pause: "It's no use to mince
matters.  You know--everybody knows, I suppose--that I got hit in that
Henderson panic."

"So did lots of others," replied Mr. Fletcher, cheerfully.  "Yes, I know
about it.  And I'm not sure but it was a lucky thing for me."  He spoke

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