The Story of Julia Page by Kathleen Thompson Norris
Yet Dr. James Studdiford, walking down to his club, an hour later, with the memory of his aunt's joyous congratulations ringing in his ears, and of Julia's last warm little kiss upon his cheek, was perhaps more miserable than he had been before in the course of his life. Julia was his girl--his own girl--and the thrill of her submission, the enchanting realization that she loved him, rose over and over again in his heart, like the rising of deep waters-- only to wash against the firm barrier of that hideous Fact.
Jim could do nothing with the Fact. It did not seem to belong to him, or to Julia, to their love and future together, or to her gallant, all-enduring past. Julia was Julia--that was the only significant thing, the sweetest, purest, cleverest woman he knew. And she loved him! A rush of ecstasy flooded his whole being; how sweet she was when he made her say she loved him--when she surrendered her hands, when she raised her gravely smiling blue eyes! What a little wife she would be, what a gay little comrade, and some day, perhaps, what a mother!
Again the Fact. After such a little interval of radiant peace it seemed to descend upon him with an ugly violence. It was true; nothing that they could do now would alter it. And, of course, the thing was serious. If anything in life was serious, this was. It was frightful--it seemed sacrilegious to connect such things for an instant with Julia. Dear little Julia, with her crisp little uniforms, her authority in the classroom, her charming deference to Aunt Sanna! And she loved him---
"Damn it, the thing either counts or it doesn't count!" Jim muttered, striding down Market Street, past darkened shops and corners where lights showed behind the swinging doors of saloons. Either it was all important or it was not important at all. With most women, all important, of course. With Julia--Jim let his mind play for a few minutes with the thought of renunciation. There would be no trouble with Julia, and Aunt Sanna could easily be silenced.
He shook the mere vision from him with an angry shake of the head. She belonged to him now, his little steadfast, serious girl. And she had deceived them all these years! Not that he could blame her for it! Naturally, Aunt Sanna would never have overlooked that, and presumably no other woman would have engaged her, knowing it, even to wash dishes and sweep steps.
"Lord, what a world for women!" thought Jim, in simple wonder. Hunted down mercilessly, pushed at the first sign of weakening, they know not where, and then lost! Hundreds of thousands of them forever outcast, to pay through all the years that are left to them for that hour of yielding! Hundreds of thousands of them, and his Julia only different because she had made herself so--
It seemed to Jim, in his club now, and sunk in a deep chair before the wood fire in the quiet library, that he could never marry her. It must simply be his sorrow to have loved Julia--God, how he did love her!
But, through all their years together, there must not be that shadow upon their happiness; it was too hideous to be endured. "It must be endured," mused Jim wretchedly. "It is true!
"Anyway," he went on presently, rousing himself, "the thing is no more important than I choose to make it. Ordinarily, yes. But in this case the thing to be considered is its effect on Julia's character, and if ever any soul was pure, hers is!
"And if we marry, we must simply make up our minds that the past is dead!" And suddenly Jim's heart grew lighter, and the black mood of the past hour seemed to drop. He stretched himself luxuriously and folded his arms. "If Julia isn't a hundred per cent, sweeter and better and finer than these friends of Babbie's, who go chasing about to bad plays and read all the rottenest books that are printed," he said, "then there's no such thing as a good woman! My little girl--I'm not half worthy of her, that's the truth!"
"Hello, Jim!" said Gray Babcock, coming in from the theatre, and stretching his long cold hands over the dying fire. "We thought you might come in to-night. Hazzard and Tom Parley had a little party for Miss Manning, of the 'Dainty Duchess' Company, you know- -awfully pretty girl, straight, too, they say. There were a couple of other girls, and Roy Grinell--things were just about starting up when I came away!"
Jim rose, and kicked the scattered ends of a log toward the flame.
"I've not got much use for Hazzard," he observed, frowning.
Babcock gave a surprised and vacant laugh.
"Gosh! I thought all you people were good friends!"
"Hazzard's an ass," observed Jim irritably. "There are some things that aren't any too becoming to college kids--however, you can forgive them! But when it comes to an ass like Hazzard chasing to every beauty show, and taking good little girls to supper--"
"Alice don't care a whoop what he does," Babcock remarked hastily.
"Yes, so of course that makes everything all right," Jim said ironically. But Mr. Babcock was in no mood to be critical of tones.
"Sure it does!" he agreed contentedly. And when Jim had disgustedly departed, he remained still staring into the fire, a pleased smile upon his face.
Julia spent the next day in bed fighting a threatened nervous breakdown, and Jim came to see her at two o'clock, and they had a long and memorable talk, with Jim's chair drawn close to the couch, and the girl's lax hand in his own. She had not slept all night, she told him, and he suspected that she had spent much of the long vigil in tears. Tears came again as she begged a hundred times to set him free, but he quieted her at last, and the old tragedy that had risen to haunt them was laid. And if Julia felt a rush of blind gratitude and hope when they sealed their new compact with a kiss, Jim was no less happy--everything had come out wonderfully, and he loved Julia not less, but more than he had ever loved her. The facts of her life, whatever they had been, had made her what she was; now let them all be forgotten.
"Still, you are not sorry I told you, Jim?" Julia asked.
"No, oh, no, dearest! If only because you would have been sure to want to do it sooner or later--it would have worried you. But now I do know, Julie, you little Spartan! And this ends it. We'll never speak of it again, and we'll never think of it again. You and I are the only two who know--And we love each other. When all's said and done, it's I that am not good enough for you, darling, not worthy to tie your little shoe laces!"
"Oh, you!" Julia said, in great content.
The rest followed, as Julia herself said, like "a house-maid's dream." Jim went home to tell his own people that night, and the very next morning Julia, surprised and smiling, took in at the door a trim little package that proved to be a blue-and-white Copenhagen teacup, with a card that bore only the words "Miss Barbara Lowe Toland." Julia twisted it in her fingers with a curious little thrill at the heart. The "nicest" people sent cups to engaged girls, the "nicest" people sent their cards innocent of scribbled messages. She, Julia Page, was one of the "nicest" people now, and these were the first tentacles of her new estate reaching out to meet her.
Notes and flowers from the Tolands and the warm-hearted Tolands themselves followed thick and fast, and in a day or two notes and cups--cups--cups--were coming from other people as well. The Misses Saunders, the Harvey Brocks, the George Chickerings, Mr. Peter Coleman, Mr. Jerome Phillips, Mrs. Arnold Keith, and Miss Mary Peacock--all had found time to go into Nathan Dohrmann's, or Gump's, or the White House, and pick out a beautiful cup to send Miss Julia Page.
Six weeks--five weeks--three weeks to the wedding, sang Julia's heart; the time ran away. She had dreaded having to meet Jim's friends, and had dreaded some possible embarrassment from an unexpected move on the part of her own family, but the days fled by, and the miracle of their happiness only expanded and grew sweeter, like a great opening rose. Their hours together, with so much to tell each other and so much to discuss, no matter how short the parting had been, were hours of exquisite delight. And as Julia's beauty and charm were praised on all sides, Jim beamed like a proud boy. As for Julia, every day brought to her notice something new to admire in this wonderful lover of hers: his scowl as he fixed his engine, the smile that always met hers, the instant soberness and attention with which he answered any question as to his work from the older doctor--all this was delightful to her. And when he took her to luncheon, his careless big fingers on the ready gold pieces and his easy nod to the waiter were not lost upon Julia. She had loved him for himself, but it was additionally endearing to learn that other people loved him, too, to be stopped by elderly women who smiled and praised him, to have young people affectionately interested in his plans.
"You know you are nothing but a small boy, Jim," Julia said one day, "just a sweet, happy kid! You were a spoiled and pitied little boy, with your big eyes and your velvet suits and your patent leathers; you loved every one--every one loved you; you had your allowance, you were born to be a surgeon, and chance made your guardian a doctor--"
"I fell down on my exams," Jim submitted meekly. "And there was a fellow at college who said I bored him!"
"Oh, dearest," Julia said, beginning to laugh at his rueful face, "and are those the worst things that ever happened to you?"
"About," said Jim, enjoying the consolatory little kiss she gave him.
"And your youngness baffles me," pursued Julia thoughtfully. "You're ten years older than I am, you've been able to do a thousand things I never did, you're a rising young surgeon, and yet--and yet sometimes there's a sort of level--level isn't the word!--a sort of positive youth about you that makes me feel eighty! It's just as if you had been born everything you are, ready made! When you have to straighten a child's hip, you push your hair back like a nice little kid, and say to yourself, 'Sure- -I can do that!' You seem as pleased and surprised as any one else when everything comes out right!"
"Well, gosh! I never can put on any lugs!" said James, rumpling his hair in penitential enjoyment.
"I have to learn things so hard," Julia mused, "they dig down right into the very soul of me--"
"You're implying that I'm shallow," said the doctor sternly. "You think I'm a pampered child of luxury, but I'm not! I just think I'm a pretty ordinary fellow who came in for an extraordinary line of luck. I would have made a pretty good bluff at supporting myself in any sort of life; as it was, when I was a youngster, growing up, I used to say to myself, 'You think you're going to be rich, but half the poor men in the world are born rich, anything may happen!' However, I enjoyed things just the same, and I went to medical college just because Dad said every man ought to be able to support himself. Then I got interested in the thing, and old Fox was a king to me, and told me I ought to go in for surgery. My own father was a surgeon, you know. Some hands are just naturally better for it than others, and his were, and mine are. And at twenty-five I came of age, and found that my money was pretty safely fixed, and that Dad was kind of counting on my going in with him. So there you are! Things just come my way; as I say, I'd have been satisfied with less, but I've got in the habit of taking my luck for granted."
"And some people, like--well, like my grandmother, for instance, just get in the habit of bad luck," Julia said, with a sigh. "And some, like myself," she added, brightening, "are born in the bad belt, and push into the good! And we're the really lucky ones! I shall never put on a fresh frock, or go downtown with you to the theatre, without a special separate joy!"
Jim said, "You angel!" and as she jumped up--they had been sitting side by side in the hall at The Alexander--he caught her around the waist, and Julia set a little kiss on the top of his hair.
"But you do love me, Ju?" Jim asked.
"But I do indeed!" she answered. "Why do you always ask me in that argumentative sort of way? But me no buts!"
"Ah, well, it's because I'm always afraid you'll stop!" Jim pleaded. "And I do so want you to begin to love me as much as I do you!"
"You must have had thousands of girls!" Julia remarked, idly rumpling his hair.
"I never was engaged before!" he assured her promptly. "Except to that Delaware girl, as I told you, and after five years she threw me over for a boy named Gregory Biddle, with several millions, but no chin, Julia, and had the gall to ask me to the wedding!"
"Jim, and you went?"
"Sure I went!" Jim declared.
"Oh, Jim!" and Julia gave him another kiss, through a gale of laughter, and ran off to change her gown and put on her hat.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and they were going to Sausalito. But first they went downtown in the lazy soft spring afternoon, to buy gloves for Julia and a scarf pin for Richie, who was to be Jim's best man, and to go into the big railroad office to get tickets for the use of Dr. and Mrs. James Studdiford three days later.
"Where are we going?" Julia asked idly, her eyes moving about the bright pigeonholed office, and to the window, and the street beyond. Jim for answer put his thumb upon the magic word that stared up at her from the long ticket.
"New York!" she whispered; her radiant look flashed suddenly to him. "Oh, Jim!" And as they went out he heard a little sigh of utter content beside him. "It's too much!" said Julia. "To go to New York--with you!"
"Wherever you go, you go with me," he reminded her, with a glance that brought the swift colour to her face.
Then they went down to the boat. It was the first hot afternoon of the season; there was a general carrying of coats, and people were using the deck seats; there was even some grumbling at the heat. But Sausalito was at its loveliest, and Julia felt almost oppressed by the exquisite promise of summer that came with the sudden sound of laughter and voices in lanes that had long been silent, and with the odour of dying grass and drooping buttercups beside the road. The Toland garden was full of roses, bright in level sunshine, windows and doors were all wide open, and the odours from bowls of flowers drifted about the house. Barbara, lovely in white, came to meet them.
"Come in, you poor things, you must be roasted! Jim, you're as red as a beet; go take a bath!" said Barbara. "And Julia, Aunt Sanna is here, and she says that you're to lie down for not less than an hour. And there are some packages for you, so come up and lie down on my bed, and we'll open them!"
"Barbara, I am so happy I think my heart will burst!" said Julia, ten minutes later, from Barbara's pillows.
"Well, you ought to be, my good woman! Jim Studdiford--when he's sober--is as good a husband as you're likely to get!" said Barbara, laughing. "Now, look, Julia, here's a jam pot from the Fowlers--Frederic Fowlers--I call that decent of them! Janey, come in here and put this jam pot down on Julia's list! And this heavy thing from the Penroses. I hope to goodness it isn't more carvers!"
It was Barbara who said later to Julia, in a confidential undertone:
"You know you've got to write personal notes for every bit of this stuff, Julia, right away? Lots of girls do it on their honeymoons."
"Well, I wanted to ask you, Barbara: how do I sign myself to these people I've never seen: 'Yours truly'?"
"Oh, heavens, no! 'Sincerely yours' or 'Yours cordially' and make 'em short. The shorter they are the smarter they are, remember that."
"And if I sign J. P. Studdiford, or Julia P. Studdiford--then oughtn't 'Mrs. J. N.' go in one corner?"
"Oh, no, you poor webfoot! No. Just write a good splashy 'Julia Page Studdiford' all over the page; they'll know who you are fast enough!"
"Thanks," said Julia shyly.
"You're welcome," Barbara said, smiling. "Are you ready to go down?"
After dinner the young Tolands, augmented by several young men, and by Julia and the doctor, all wandered out into the thick darkness, rejoicing in the return of summer. Sausalito's lanes were sweet with roses, lights shone out across the deep fresh green of gardens, and lights moved on the gently moving waters of the bay. A ferryboat, a mass of checkered brightness, plowed its way from Alcatraz--far off the city lay like a many-stranded chain of glittering gems upon the water. Julia and Doctor Studdiford let the others go on without them, and sat together in the dim curve of the O'Connell seat, and the heartbreaking beauty of the night wrapped them both in a happiness so deep as to touch the borderland of pain.
"Was there ever such a night?" said little Julia. "Shall we ever be so happy again?"
Jim could not see her clearly, but he saw her bright, soft eyes in the gloom, the shimmer of her loosened hair, the little white-clad figure in the seat's wide curve, and the crossed slim ankles. He put his arm about her, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
"Don't say that, darling!" said Jim. "This is great, of course. But it's nothing to all the happy months and years that we'll belong to each other. Nothing but death will ever come between you and me, Julie!"
"And I shouldn't be afraid of death," murmured Julia, staring up at the stars. "Strange--strange--strange that we all must go that way some day!" she mused.
"Well, please God, we'll do some living first," Jim said, with healthy anticipation. "We'll go to New York, and gad about, and go to Washington and Boston, and pick up things here and there for the house, do you see? Then we'll come back here and go to a hotel, and find a house and fix it up!"
"That'll be fun," said Julia.
"You bet your life it'll be fun! And then, my dear, we'll give some corking dinners, and my beautiful wife will wear blue velvet, or white lace, or peachy silk--"
"Or all three together," the prospective wife suggested, "with the flags of all nations in my hair!"
"Then next year we'll visit old Gilchrist, at Monterey, and go up to Tahoe," continued Jim, unruffled. "Or we could take some place in Ross--"
"And then I will give a small and select party for one guest," said Julia whimsically," and board him, free, for fifteen or twenty years--"
"Julia, you little duck!" Jim bent his head over her in the starlight, and felt her soft hair brush his face, and caught the glint of her laughing eyes close to his own, and the vague delicious little perfume of youth and beauty and radiant health that hung about her. "Do you know that you are as cunning as a sassy kid?" he demanded. "Now, kiss me once and for all, and no nonsense about it, for I can hear the others coming back!"
Two days later they were married, very quietly, in the little Church of Saint Charles Borromeo, where Julia's father and mother had been married a quarter of a century ago. They had "taken advantage," as Julia said, of her old grandfather's death, and announced that because the bride's family was in mourning the ceremony would be a very quiet one. Even the press was not notified; the Tolands filled two pews, and two more were filled by Julia's mother, her grandmother, and cousins. Kennedy Scott Marbury and her husband were there, and sturdy two-year-old Scott Marbury, who was much interested in this extraordinary edifice and impressive proceeding, but there were no other witnesses. Julia wore a dark-blue gown, and a wide black hat whose lacy brim cast a most becoming shadow over her lovely, serious face. She and Miss Toland drove from the settlement house, and stopped to pick up Mrs. Page, who was awed by Julia's dignity, and a little resentful of the way in which others had usurped her place with her daughter. However, Emeline had very wisely decided to make the best of the situation, and treated Miss Toland with stiff politeness. Julia was in a smiling dream, out of which she roused herself, at intervals, for only a gentle, absent-minded "Yes" or "No."
"I tried to persuade her to be married at the Cathedral, by His Grace," said Miss Toland to Mrs. Page. "But she wanted it this way!"
"Well, I'm sure she feels you've done too much for her as it is," Emeline said mincingly. "Now she must turn around and return some of it!"
To this Miss Toland made no answer except an outraged snort, and a closer pressure of her fine, bony hand upon Julia's warm little fingers. They presently reached the church, and Julia was in Barbara's hands.
"You look lovely, darling, and your hat is a dream!" said Barbara, who looked very handsome herself, in her brown suit and flower- trimmed hat. "We go upstairs, I think. Jim's here, nervous as a fish. You're wonderful--as calm! I'd simply be in spasms. Ted was awful; you'd think she had been married every day, but Robert--his collar was wilted!"
They had reached the upper church now, and Miss Toland and Mrs. Page followed the girls down the long aisle to the altar. Julia saw her little old grandmother, in an outrageous flowered bonnet, and Evelyn who was a most successful modiste now, and Marguerite, looking flushed and excited, with her fat, apple-faced young husband, and three lumpy little children. Also her Aunt May was there, and some young people: Muriel, who was what Evelyn had been at fifteen, and a toothless nine-year-old Regina, in pink, and some boys. On the other side were the elegant Tolands, the dear old doctor in an aisle seat, with his hands, holding his eye- glasses and his handkerchief, fallen on either knee; Ted lovely in blue, Constance and Jane with Ned and Mrs. Ned, frankly staring.
As Julia came down the aisle, with a sudden nervous jump of her heart, she saw Jim and Richie, who was limping badly, but without his crutch, come toward her. The old priest came down the altar steps at the same time. She and Jim listened respectfully to a short address without hearing a word of it, and found themselves saying the familiar words without in the least sensing them. Julia battled through the prayer with a vague idea that she was losing a valuable opportunity to invoke the blessing of God, but unable to think of anything but the fact that the bride usually walked out of church on the groom's arm, and that St. Charles's aisle was long and rather dismal in the waning afternoon light.
"Here, darling, in the vestry!" Jim was whispering, smiling his dear, easy, reassuring smile as he guided her to the nearby door. And in a second they were all about her, her first kiss on the wet cheek of Aunt Sanna, the second to her mother--"Evelyn, you were a darling to come way across the city, and Marguerite, you were a darling to bring those precious angels"--and then the old doctor's kiss, and Richie's kiss, and a pressure from his big bony fingers. Julia half knelt to embrace little Scott Marbury. "He's beautiful, Kennedy; no wonder you're proud!" And she tore her beautiful bunch of roses apart, that each girl might have a few.
"I've got to get her to the train!" Jim protested presently, trying patiently to disengage his wife's hands, eyes, and attention. "Julia! Julia Studdiford!"
"Yes, I know!" Julia laughed, and was snatched away, half laughing and half in tears, and hurried down to the side street, where a carriage was waiting. And here there was one more delay: Chester Cox, a thin shambling figure, came forward from a shadowy doorway, and rather timidly held out his hand.
"I couldn't get away until jest now," said Chester. "But of course I wish you luck, Julia!"
"Why, it's my uncle!" Julia said, cordially clasping his hand. "Mr. Cox--Doctor Studdiford. I'm so glad you came, Chess!"
"Glad to know you, Mr. Cox," Jim said heartily.
"And I brought you a little present; it ain't much, but maybe you can use it!" mumbled Chester, terribly embarrassed, and with a nervous laugh handing Julia a rather large package somewhat flimsily wrapped and tied.
"Oh, thank you!" Julia said gratefully. And before she got in the carriage she put her hand on Chester's arm, and raised her fresh, exquisite little face for a kiss.
"Now, about this--" Doctor Studdiford began delicately, glancing at Chester's gift, which Julia had given him to hold. "I wonder if it wouldn't be wise to ask your uncle to send this to my mother's until we get back, Ju. You see, dear--"
"Oh, no-no!" Julia said eagerly, leaning out of the carriage, and taking the package again. She sent Chester a last bright smile, as Jim jumped in and slammed the door, but it was an April face that she turned a second later to her husband.
"They're all so good to me, and it just breaks my heart!" she said.
"At last--it's all over--and you belong to me!" exulted Jim. "I have been longing and longing for this, just to be alone with you, and have you to myself. Are you tired, sweetheart?"
"No-o. Just a little--perhaps."
"But you do love me?"
"Oh, Jim--you idiot!" Julia slipped her hand into his, as he put one arm about her, and rested against his shoulder. "When I think that I will often ride in carriages," she mused, half smiling, "and that, besides being my Jim, you are a rich man, it makes me feel as if I were Cinderella!"
"You shall have your own carriage if you want it, Pussy!" he smiled.
"Oh, don't--don't give me anything more," begged Julia, "or a clock somewhere will strike twelve, and I'll wake up in The Alexander, with the Girls' Club rehearsing a play!"
When she had examined every inch of her Pullman drawing-room, and commented upon one hundred of its surprising conveniences, and when her smart little travelling case, the groom's gift, had been partly unpacked, and when her blue eyes had refreshed themselves with a long look at the rolling miles of lovely San Mateo hills, then young Mrs. Studdiford looked at her Uncle Chester's wedding gift. She found a brush and comb and mirror in pink celluloid, with roses painted on them, locked with little brass hasps into a case lined with yellow silk.
"Look, Jim!" said Julia pitifully, not knowing whether to laugh or to cry.
"Gosh!" said the doctor thoughtfully, looking over the coat he was neatly arranging on a hanger. "I've often wondered who buys those things!"
"I'll give it to the porter," Julia decided. "He may like it. Dear old Chess!" And Jim grinned indulgently a few minutes later at the picture of his beautiful little wife enslaving the old coloured porter, and gravely discussing with him the advantages and disadvantages of his work.
"You know, we could have our meals in here, Ju," Jim suggested. "Claude here"--all porters were "Claude" to Jim--"would take care of us, wouldn't you, Claude?"
"Dat I would!" said Claude with husky fervour. But Julia's face fell.
"Oh, Jim! But it would be such fun to go out to the dining-car!" she pleaded.
Jim shouted. "All right, you baby!" he said. "You see, my wife's only a little girl," he explained. "She's--are you eight or nine, Julia?"
"She sho' don't look more'n dat," Claude gallantly assured them, as he departed.
"I'll be twenty-four on my next birthday," Julia said thoughtfully, a few moments later.
"Well, at that, you may live three or four years more!" Jim consoled her. "Do you know what time it is, Loveliness? It's twenty minutes past six. We've been married exactly two hours and twenty minutes. How do you like it?"
"I love it!" said Julia boldly. "Do I have to change my dress for dinner?"
"You do not."
"But I ought to fix my hair, it's all mashed!" Julia did wonders to it with one of the ivory-backed brushes that had come with the new travelling case, fluffing the thick braids and tucking the loose golden strands about her temples trimly into place. Then she rubbed her face with a towel, and jumped up to straighten her belt, and run an investigating finger about the embroidered "turn- down" collar that finished her blue silk blouse. Finally she handed Jim her new whisk-broom with a capable air, and presented straight little shoulders to be brushed.
Jim turned her round and round, whisking and straightening, and occasionally kissing the tip of a pink ear, or the straight white line where her hair parted.
"Here, you can't keep that up all night!" Julia suddenly protested, grabbing the brush. "I'll do you!" But Jim stopped the performance by suddenly imprisoning girl and whiskbroom in his arms.
"Do you know I think we are going to have great fun!" said he. "You're such a good little sport, Ju! No nerves and no nonsense about you! It's such fun to do things with a person who isn't eternally fussing about heat and cold, and whether she ought to wear her gloves into the dining-car, and whether any one will guess that she's just married!"
"Oh, I have my nervous moments," Julia confessed, her eyes looking honestly up into his. "It seems awfully strange and queer, rushing farther and farther away from home, alone with you!" Her voice sank a little; she put up her arms and locked them about his neck. "I have to keep reminding myself that you are just you, Jim," she said bravely, "who gave me my Browning, and took me to tea at the Pheasant--and then it all seems right again! And then--such lots of nice people have got married, and gone away on honeymoons," she ended, argumentatively.
The laughter had gone from Jim's eyes; a look almost shy, almost ashamed, had taken its place. He kept her as she was for a moment, then gave her a serious kiss, and they went laughing through the rocking cars to eat their first dinner together as man and wife. And Jim watched her as she radiantly settled herself at table, and watched the frown of childish gravity with which she studied her menu, with some new and tender emotion stirring at his heart. Life had greater joys in it than he had ever dreamed, and greater potentialities for sorrow, too. What was bright in life was altogether more gloriously bright, and what was dark seemed to touch him more closely; he felt the sorrow of age in the trembling old man at the table across the aisle, the pathos of youth in the two young travelling salesmen who chattered so self-confidently over their meal.
Several weeks later young Mrs. Studdiford wrote to Barbara that New York was "a captured dream." "I seem to belong to it," wrote Julia, "and it seems to belong to me! I can't tell you how it satisfies me; it is good just to look down from my window at Fifth Avenue, every morning, and say to myself, 'I'm still in New York!' For the first two weeks Jim and I did everything alone, like two children: the new Hippodrome, and Coney Island, and the Liberty Statue, and the Bronx Zoo. I never had such a good time! We went to the theatres, and the museums, and had breakfast at the Casino, and lived on top of the green 'busses! But now Jim has let some of his old college friends know we are here, and we are spinning like tops. One is an artist, and has the most fascinating studio I ever saw, down on Washington Square, and another is an editor, and gave us a tea in his rooms, overlooking Stuyvesant Square, and Barbara, everybody there was a celebrity (except us) and all so sweet and friendly--it was a hot spring day, and the trees in the square were all such a fresh, bright green.
"They make a great fuss about the spring here, and you can hardly blame them. The whole city turns itself inside out; people simply stream to the parks, and the streets swarm with children. Some of the poorer women go bareheaded or with shawls, even in the cars-- did you ever see a bareheaded woman in a car at home? But they are all much nearer the peasant here. And after clean San Francisco, you wouldn't believe how dirty this place is; all the smaller stores have shops in the basements, and enough dirt and old rags and wet paper lying around to send Doctor Blue into a convulsion! And they use pennies here, which seems so petty, and paper dollars instead of silver, which I hate. And you say 'L' or 'sub' for the trains, and always 'surface cars' for the regular cars--it's all so different and so interesting.
"Tell Richie Jim is going to assist the great Doctor Cassell in some demonstrations of bone transplanting, at Bellevue, next week- -oh, and Barbara, did I write Aunt Sanna that we met the President! My dear, we did. We were at the theatre with the Cassells, and saw him in a box, and Doctor Cassell, the old darling, knows him, and went to the President's box to ask if we might be brought in and presented, and, my dear, he got up and came back with Doctor Cassell to our box, and was simply sweet, and asked me if I wasn't from the South, and I nearly said, 'Yes, south of Market Street,' but refrained in time. I had on the new apricot crepe, and a black hat, and felt very Lily-like-a- princess, as Jane says.
"But we're both getting homesick; it will seem good to see the old ferry building again--and Sausalito, and all of you."
Early in July they did start homeward, but by so circuitous a route, and with such prolonged stops at the famous hotels of Canada, that it was on a September afternoon that they found themselves taking the Toland household by storm. And Julia thought no experience in her travels so sweet as this one: to be received into the heart of the family, and to settle down to a review of the past five months. Richie was so brotherly and kind, the girls so admiring of her furs and her diamonds, so full of gay chatter, the old doctor so gallant and so affectionate! Mrs. Toland chirped and twittered like the happy mother of a cageful of canaries; and Julia, when they gathered about the fire after dinner, took a low stool next to Miss Toland's chair and rested a shoulder, little- girl fashion, against the older woman's knee.
"It was simply a tour of triumph for Ju," said Doctor Jim, packing his pipe at the fireplace, with satisfied eyes on his wife. "She has friends in the Ghetto and friends in the White House. We went down to the Duponts', on Long Island, and Dupont said she--"
"Oh, please, Jim!" Julia said seriously.
"Dupont said she was one of the most interesting women he ever talked to," Jim continued inexorably, "and John Mandrake wanted to paint her!"
"Tell me the news!" begged Julia. "How's The Alexander, Aunt Sanna--how is Miss Striker turning out?"
"She's turned out," said Miss Toland grimly, her knitting needles flashing steadily. "She came to me with her charts and rules, and oh, she couldn't lie in bed after half-past six in the morning, and she couldn't put off the sewing class, and she would like to ask me not to eat my breakfast after nine o'clock! A girl who never cared what she ate--sardines and tea!--and she wouldn't come in with me to dinner at the Colonial because she was afraid they used coal tar and formaldehyde--ha! Finally she asked me if I wouldn't please keep the expenditures of the house and my own expenditures separate, and that was the end!"
Jim's great laugh burst out, and Julia dimpled as she asked demurely:
"What on earth did you say?"
"Say? I asked her if she knew I built The Alexander, and sent her packing! And now"--Miss Toland rubbed her nose with the gesture Julia knew so well--"now Miss Pierce is temporarily in charge, but she won't stay there nights, so the clubs are given up," she observed discontentedly.
"And what's the news from Sally?" Julia pursued.
"Just the loveliest in the world," Mrs. Toland said. "Keith is working like a little Trojan; and Sally sent us a perfectly charming description of the pension, and their walks--"
"Yes, and how she couldn't go out because she hadn't shoes," Jane added, half in malice, half in fun. "Don't look so shocked, Mother dear, you know it's true. And the landlady cheating them out of a whole week's board--"
"Gracious me!" said Mrs. Toland, in a low undertone full of annoyance. "Did any one ever hear such nonsense! All that is past history now, Janey," she reminded her young daughter, in her usual hopeful voice. "Dad sent a cheque, like the dear, helpful daddy he is, and now everything's lovely again!"
Julia did not ask for Ted until she saw Barbara alone for a moment the next day. It was about ten o'clock on a matchless autumn morning, and Julia, stepping from her bedroom's French window to the wide sunny porch that ran the width of the house, saw Barbara some forty feet away sitting just outside her own window, with a mass of hair spread to the sun.
Julia joined her, dragged out a low, light chair from Barbara's room, and settled herself for a gossip.
"Had breakfast?" Barbara smiled. "Jim downstairs?"
"Oh, hours ago!" Julia said to the first question, and to the second, with the young wife's conscious blush, "Jim's dressing. He's the most impossible person to get started in the morning!"
Barbara did not blush but she felt a little tug at her heart.
"Come," she said, "I thought Jim had no faults?"
"Well, he hasn't," Julia laughed. And then, a little confused by her own fervent tone, she changed the subject, and asked about Ted.
"Why, Ted's happy, and rich, and simply adored by Bob Carleton," Barbara summarized briefly, in a rather dry voice, "but Mother and Dad never will get over it, and I suppose Ted herself doesn't like the idea of that other wife--she lives at The Palace, and she's got a seven-year-old girl! It's done, you know, Julie, and of course Ted's accepted everywhere; she'll go to the Brownings' this year, and Mrs. Morton has asked her to receive with her at some sort of dinner reception next month, you'll meet her everywhere. But I do think it's terribly hard on Mother and Dad!"
"But how could she, that great big black creature?"
"Oh, she loves him fast enough! It was perfectly legal, of course. I think Dad was at the wedding, and I think Richie was, but we girls never knew anything until it was all over. Mother simply announced to us one night that Ted was married, and that there was to be no open break, but that she and Dad were just about sick! I never saw Mother give way so! She said--and it's true--that if ever there was a mother who deserved her children's confidence, and so on! All the newspapers blazed about it--Ted's picture, Bob's picture--and, as I say, society welcomed her with open arms. They've got a gorgeous suite at the St. Francis, and Ted really looks stunning, and acts as if she'd done something very smart. Con says that when she called, it reminded her of the second act of a bad play. Ted came here with Bob, one Saturday afternoon, but Mother hasn't been near her!"
"It seems too bad," Julia said thoughtfully, "when your father and mother are always so sweet!"
"There must be some reason for it," Barbara observed, "I suppose we were all spoiled as kids, with our dancing schools and our dresses from Paris, and so now when we want things we oughtn't have, we just take 'em, from habit! I remember a governess once, a nice enough little Danish woman, but Ned and I got together and decided we wouldn't stand her, and Mother let her go. It seems funny now. Mother used to say that never in her life did she allow her children to want anything she could give them; but I'm not at all sure that's a very wise ideal!"
"Nor I," said Julia earnestly. Barbara had parted and brushed her dark hair now, and as she gathered it back, the ruthless morning sunlight showed lines on her pretty face and faint circles about her eyes.
"Because life gets in and gives you whacks," Barbara presently pursued, "you're going to want a lot of things you can't have before you get through, and it only makes it harder! Sally's paying for her jump in the dark, poor old Ned is condemned to Yolo City and Eva for the rest of his life, and somehow Ted's the saddest of all--so confident and noisy and rich, boasting about Bob's affection, buying everything she sees--and so young, somehow! As for me," said Barbara, "my only consolation is that nearly every family has one of me, and some have more--a nice- looking, well-liked, well-dressed young woman, who has cost her parents an enormous amount of money, to get--nowhere!"
"Why, Lady Babbie!" Julie protested. "It's not like you to talk so!"
Barbara patted the hand that had been laid upon her knee, and laughed.
"And the moral of that is, Ju," she said, "if you have children, don't spoil them! You've had horribly hard times, but they've given you some sense. As for Jim, he's an exception. It's a miracle he wasn't ruined--but he wasn't!" And she gathered up her towels and brushes to go back into her room. "But I needn't tell you that, Julie!" said she.
"Ah, well, Jim!" Julia conceded, smiling.
Jim had no faults, of course. Yet the five-months wife sighed unconsciously as she went back to her room. Jim had qualities that had now and then caused a faint little cloud to drift across Julia's life, but that sheer loyalty had kept her from defining, even in her inmost heart. Now this talk with Barbara had suddenly seemed to make them clear. Jim was--spoiled was too harsh a word. But Jim wanted his own way, in little things and big--all the time. The world just now for Jim held only Julia. What she wanted he wanted, and, at any cost, he would have. If her gown was not right for the special occasion, she should have a new gown; if the motor car was out of order, telephone for another; if the steward assured them that there was not another table in the dining-room-- tip him, tip everybody, make a scene, but see that the "Reserved" card comes off somebody's table, and that the Studdifords are seated there in triumph.
At first Julia had only laughed at her lord's masterful progress. It was very funny to her to see how quickly his money and his determination won him his way. A great deal of money was wasted, of course, but then, this was their honeymoon, and some day they would settle down and spend rationally. Jim, like all rich men, had an absolute faith in the power of gold. The hall maid must come in and hook Mrs. Studdiford's gown; oh, and would she be here at, say, one o'clock, when Mrs. Studdiford came home? She went off at twelve, eh? Well, what was it worth to her to stay on to-night, until one? Good. And by the way, Mrs. Studdiford had torn a lace gown and wanted it to-morrow; could the maid mend it and press it? She didn't think so? Well, come, there must be somebody who would rush it through for Mrs. Studdiford? Ah, that was fine, thank you very much, that would do very nicely. Or perhaps it was a question of theatre tickets, and Jim would stop his taxicab on Broadway at the theatre's door. Here, boy! Boy, come here! Go up and ask him what his best for to-night are? There's a line of people waiting, eh?--well, go up and ask some fellow at the top of the line what it's worth to him to get two seats for me. Oh, fine. Much obliged to you, sir. Thank you. And here--boy!
"Do you think the entire world circles about your convenience, Jim?" Julia asked amusedly one day, after some such episode. "Sure," he answered, grinning.
"Jim, you don't think you can go through life walking over people this way?"
"Why not, my good lady?"
"Well," said Julia gravely, "some day you may find you want something you can't buy!"
"There ain't no such animal," Jim assured her cheerfully.
Only a trifling cloud, after all, Julia assured herself hardily. But there was a constant little sensation of uneasiness in her heart. She tried to convince herself that the sweetness of his nature had not been undermined by this ability to indulge himself however fast his fancies shifted; she reasoned that because so many good things were his, he need not necessarily hold them in light esteem. Yet the thought persisted that he knew neither his own mind nor his own heart; there had been no discipline there, no hard-won battles--there were no reserves.
"I call that simply borrowing trouble!" said Kennedy Scott Marbury healthily, one day when she and the tiny Scott were lunching with Julia at the hotel. Kennedy was close to her second confinement, and the ladies had lunched in Julia's handsome sitting-room. "Lord, Julie dear! It seems sometimes as if you have to have something in this world," Kennedy went on cheerfully; "either actual trouble or mental worries! Anthony and I were talking finances half last night: we decided that we can't move to a larger house, just now, and so on--and we both said what would it be like to be free from money worries for ten minutes--"
"But, Ken, don't you see how necessary you are to each other!" said Julia, kneeling before the chair in which her fat godson was seated, and displaying a number of gold chains and bracelets for his amusement. "You have to take a turn at everything--cooking and sewing and caring for old Sweetum here--Anthony couldn't get on without you!"
"And I suppose you think Doctor Studdiford could find twenty wives as pretty and clever and charming as you are, Ju?"
"Fifty!" Julia answered.
"Well, now, that just shows what a little idiot you are!" Mrs. Marbury scolded. "Not but what most women feel that way sooner or later," she added, less severely. "I remember that phase very well, myself! But the thing for you to do, Julie, is to remember that you're exactly the same woman he fell in love with, d'you see? Just mind your own affairs, and be happy and busy, and try not to fancy things!"
"What a sensible old thing you are, Ken!" said Julia gratefully. And as Kennedy came over to stand near her, Julia gave her a little rub with her head, like an affectionate pony. "I think it's partly this hotel that's demoralizing me," Julia went on, a little shamed. "I feel so useless--getting up, eating, dressing, idling about, and going to bed again. Jim has his work, and I'll be glad when I have mine again!"