Chapter XII
 

It was two o'clock in the morning when Jane said good-bye to Theodore Brower in the vestibule and burst into the house. There was a light burning in the library, and thitherward Jane swept in high feather. Her father was sitting there; as she entered he took up a newspaper that he had completely read out three hours before.

"Why, poppy!" she cried; "isn't this pretty late for you? But I know what you've been sitting up for so long: to have me tell you all about the party. Now, haven't you?"

Her father looked up at her in some wonder. Jane was distinctly in a state of exhilaration. She seemed conscious of having played well her part--no mean part, either--in a large performance; one might have fancied indeed that the splendor and success of the occasion was in some degree due to her own participation. She was decidedly gay, bright, sparkling; her father felt that here at last was his daughter almost pretty.

"Maybe I was," he answered. He threw down the newspaper so as to make it cover several loose sheets full of figures. "Did you enjoy yourself?"

"I should say I did!" She seated herself on the arm of his chair; one of her big puffed sleeves almost covered his face. "Don't think I was a wallflower, either; I wasn't. I went out on the floor three times. Mr. Brower walked me around once, and Mr. Bingham waltzed with me once. And so did Truedy. Oh, poppy, he was so good to me! And he was the only young man there with violet eyes--I didn't see another one."

Her father gave vent to a low, inarticulate monosyllable; it seemed to convey little appreciation of his son's eyes.

Jane had met Truesdale for a moment just before she came away. "How's the handkerchief?" she had asked. "All right," he responded, cheerfully. He took it folded and crumpled from his coat-pocket and showed it to her. He had carried it in his trousers pocket until a moment before; but Jane never knew.

"And I went to supper with Mrs. Bates and Theo--Mr. Brower," she continued. "And the oldest Bates boy took Rosy. We all went up in the elevator together and had a table quite to ourselves. I saw Mr. Bates there too. And lots of other elderly gentlemen. I wish you had been there. Several of them made themselves prominent enough--no younger than you, no richer, no more deserving of notice. Poppy, you must get out that coat some time and brush it up, and go somewhere with me."

Marshall thrust a finger under the edge of the newspaper. "I don't know, Jennie. There are lots of other things to think about."

Rosy came home at four. Mrs. Rhodes dropped her on her own way southward. Bertie Patterson nodded sleepily in one corner of the carriage. She was unused to late hours, and had been ready to go long before. But Rosy made it plain to all involved that she regarded herself as the first to be considered; she did not design leaving a minute sooner or a minute later than her own good pleasure should will. Her card was filled to the last line, and she danced it out--with William Bates, with Arthur Paston, and with a score of other young men for whose names the present pages have no need.

In the course of a week Arthur Paston called. Truesdale, who happened to be at home, found himself regarding Paston's presence with something the reverse of complacency, and his bearing with something that distinctly approached disapproval. He recalled to mind many of the diversions in which they had participated together, and he felt offended that Paston should bring here the same jaunty, familiar, off-hand ways that he had displayed in other scenes but slightly approved by Propriety. He would have preferred a line of conduct suggestive, in some small degree at least, of the penitent, the chastened, the abashed; a laugh less ready; a smile less confident; a bearing less self-assured, less divested of any sense of his need of tolerance, charity, forbearance. "I don't precisely like his acting in that free fashion here with Rosy," thought Truesdale; "there are times and times, and there are places and places."

His thought presently turned towards himself. He had no less need, truly, of charity and forbearance than Paston, yet he was not in the habit, to any great degree, of adjusting his own manner to varying conditions. He treated other fellows' sisters just as Paston was treating his. The idealizing gaze of little Bertie Patterson was upon him; it was not precisely with reverence, certainly, that he was in the habit of treating her, for example. And the other girl with the red gown and the wax-work eyes--her he had treated almost with open derision. But that was different.

Paston's cheery laugh rang out from the parlor. Truesdale stood in the library before the bookcase, reading the tarnished titles of the few spare volumes, as he shifted his weight from one foot to another, uncertain whether to advance or to retire. Paston knew him for what he was; but Bertie Patterson, he felt sure, would never acknowledge that he could be guilty of any wrong. "Hideous thing to be poetized," thought Truesdale; "but they all do it in one way or another." He thought of the faithful little hearts that beat in the German garrison towns. "'Byron's Poems'--I could easily be better than I am--'Lossing's History of the American Revolution,' volume one, volume two--and I must try to be. 'The Lamplighter'; 'The Wide, Wide World';--oh, curse that fellow's funny stories!" as Rosy's ready laugh came from the next room. Truesdale blushed as he thought of some of the stories that Paston could tell, when so minded; and he stamped his foot that such a--such a--(he found no word)--should be telling his sister any story at all. "But he's as good as I am," Truesdale was forced to avow, as he passed through the hallway and ascended to his room. "And better than lots of others. What can I say or do?"

Rosy herself, however, would have asked for no change in Paston's manner. She found him charming, fascinating; compared with him, William Bates was far from entertaining. If Paston had attempted the chastened, the deprecatory, she would have feared that he was not enjoying himself. She would have taken but little satisfaction in deference pushed to humility. She was beginning to idealize him, as Bertie Patterson had begun to idealize her brother; but Rosy's idealization was not half so generous.

While walking on his arm a week ago, she had not felt her self in a public hall within a few hundred yards of her own home; no, she was at Buckingham Palace or at St. James's--she was not sure which. There were moments, indeed, when it was not a palace at all: it was the terrace of some Tudor house, with stone balls on all the posts, or it was the trim path of some village church-yard, bordered by yew-trees and by tombstones with cherubs' heads and hour-glasses. She was the bride of a month, and this was her first service in England. The people around them figured no longer as the swell crush of London, but as a respectful, lock-tugging, courtesy-dropping tenantry who fell off on either side as she passed out to her carriage on her husband's arm. There were side-long glimpses, too, of forgeries and murders and lost wills and stolen jewels and people drowned in wells; in one book there had been a maniac girl shut up in a room--but she should try to avoid all these superfluities; a duchess in possession of her senses would be decidedly preferable. A week later and she was deeper in Burke and Debrett than ever.

"Well, here it is finally--Saltonstall, Scamperdown, Scodd-Paston." Rosy bent her head and studied the large gilt volume with redoubled vigor. "It's pretty near the end, after all."

Rosy sat at a desk in a big new granite building to one side of a small park. Above the window-ledge appeared the tops of trees, the towers and gables of a pair of churches, the dark and dignified facade of a club-house, and the various elements that make up one of the half-dozen local views which bear in any great degree the stamp of civilization. Around her people fluttered leaves, or put books back on their shelves, or carried on the cataloguing of a large and but half-arranged library. But Rosy gave heed to none of this. "Scodd-Paston," she said; "here's a whole paragraph." And she buried herself in it at once.

She had begun with the Queen and the royal family and the order of precedence. Then she had gone through the dukes, very carefully; then through the marquesses, not so carefully; then through the earls, somewhat cursorily: "Here's one with eight daughters, the Honourable Gertrude-Adeline, and seven more." Then she had bolted through the viscounts and barons: "This one's awfully new--only from 1810." Then she slid lightly over the baronets. Then she passed on to the knights. "I don't suppose it's here." But it was.

"'General Sir John-George-Alexander Scodd-Paston,'--that's a pretty good name," thought the girl--"'born in 1835; entered Life Guards in 1855; married in 1857 to Mary-Victoria, dau. of James, Lord Lyndhurst'--I wonder if she was of higher rank than he. Oh, here we come to his own. 'Attained rank of colonel, 1869; general, 1877; served in Egyptian campaign of 1882; appointed Groom-in-Waiting to Her Majesty in 1883'--ever so many capital letters. 'C.B., 1882; K.C.B., 1885'--a lot more. Whatever do they mean? Does he wear stars and things? And here's where he lives: 'Boxton Park, Witham, Essex.' And somewhere else, too: '10, King's-gate Gardens, S. Kensington'--that's in London, I suppose. And here are his clubs: 'Whitehall and United Service.' Only two; why, lots of the others have five or six. But papa hasn't got one, even. Besides, think of our ever being in a book!"

She paused a moment in perplexity. "But where are his children--all the sons and daughters, and when they were born, and who they married, and everything? It tells in the dukes and earls. Never mind, though; I don't need a book for that. Boxton Park, Witham, Essex," she mused. The posts came back again with the stone balls on top of them; and a few oriel-windows; and a peacock or two strutting on a terrace. The prospect widened; ditches and hedge-rows under a low, gray sky, packs of yelping hounds, hunters following in red coats....

Rosamund went home in a thoughtful mood. It was within a fortnight of this that she was taking hurdles at her riding-school.

This involved still another horse, and a habit, and a saddle. Rosamund was teaching her father how to spend money; no other member of the family, save Truesdale, had ever attempted as much.

"Are we going on forever living in this same old place?" Rosy asked her mother one day. She had fallen into the way of making comparisons between Boxton Park and No. two hundred and whatever-it-may-have-been Michigan Avenue--just as she had made comparisons with the many fine houses where she had lately been entertained.

"I don't expect to live anywhere forever," replied her mother, tartly.

"It's so old and dismal," Rosy went on. "I declare, I hate almost to ask anybody here. And it's getting so noisy and dirty--and all those awful people over there on those streets behind us."

Eliza Marshall's thought flew swiftly towards the second-hand dealer of those purlieus who had carried away so much good, solid furniture, and then had declined to pay for it. But this did not prevent her from looking on her child now as if a viper, warmed at her hearth, had roused to life and stung her.

"Why can't we change?" Rosy proceeded; "why can't we move? Why can't we build somewhere--where we can have neighbors, and a house to invite them to?"

"What do you call the Blackburns and the Freemans?" asked her mother, severely. "Where can you find nicer folks? Why do we want to chase after a lot of new people that we don't know anything about?"

"The Blackburns and the Freemans are no company for me," Rosy declared. "All the people I know are up on the North side or down on Prairie Avenue."

"The North side!" repeated her mother, out of all patience. "I see myself moving to the North side at my time of life, after living on this side for more than forty years. I should feel as much at home in Milwaukee. And don't talk to me about Prairie, either; as long as I live, I live on Michigan, and nowhere else. I don't want to hear any more about it--no, not a word."

While Rosy assailed her mother about the house, Jane attacked her father about himself. Her social triumphs (so she regarded them) had made her more ambitious and more aggressive than ever. She was less solicitous about the family in general, which seemed to be moving on satisfactorily enough, than she was about the head of it himself, who appeared distinctly to be lagging behind.

Marshall now listened to his daughter's urgings with a more serious consideration; she was only saying to him what older and more experienced people had said already--Susan Bates, for example, and Tom Bingham. Susan Bates, in fact, had renewed the attack, and she prosecuted it whenever occasion offered. She had not scrupled, indeed, to pursue the theme within the precincts of her own house.

Mrs. Bates had not yet achieved the peculiar aboriginal function which she had outlined to Jane in the course of their first talk--the reel, the old settlers, and the young squaws to pour firewater were still in the future; but she had entertained the Marshalls at dinner, en famille, and she had pushed the subject with still greater insistency in her own house than at David Marshall's office.

For the occasion of the Marshall dinner Mrs. Bates put her household on a peace footing. She banished, as far as possible, all traces of social war-paint. She determined to dispense with as many of the men-servants as might be, and to have those who were left over wear their plainest liveries; she even thought of arranging to have the Marshalls' ring answered by a maid instead of a footman. So when David Marshall came, in the dress-coat that had not seen the light for over a year, and Eliza Marshall, in the plum-colored silk whose only recent airing had been at Rosy's coming-out, they had little to contend against save the house itself and its furnishings.

Jane accompanied them. "Tom Bingham is going to take you out," Mrs. Bates announced. "He is very much interested in you. He thinks you are quite a clever girl."

"All right," replied Jane. "I'm interested in him, too. I think him a person of great discernment."

"I had some notion of asking Rosy at first; Billy was so taken with her. But this is really an old folks' party, after all. Besides, Billy had a theatre engagement."

"Sorry," said Jane; "I'm sure pa and ma would have liked to meet him." Whatever little plan Mrs. Bates may have been revolving in her mind, Jane was too loyal to throw cold water on it. "So should I myself."

Susan Bates gave the Marshalls a short, plain dinner; she had no desire to glorify herself or to embarrass her guests. But Eliza Marshall learned more of contemporanics in that one evening than she had picked up in the previous decade. She learned how people received, how they set their tables and served them, how they built their houses and furnished them. She learned not only the possibilities but the actualities of splendor and luxury in the town where she had led a retired and humdrum existence for nearly a lifetime. She now thrust her head forth from her dim old cavern, and fed her eyes on the flowers and fields and skies and goodly streams of the great world outside.

While Jane supported her mother against the lumbering charges of Granger Bates's conversational cavalry, his wife engrossed Marshall's attention for her dormitory. Her plans had taken shape in her own mind, and were now beginning to take shape on paper.

"It's more than a mere dormitory, of course." She cleared a space between them, and took up a dessert-spoon. "Here's the vestibule and entrance-hall," she began, drawing with the spoon on the table-cloth; "and here's where the stairs run up. Off to this side--John, do take some of these glasses away--off to this side"--with a wider sweep of the spoon--"is a sort of parlor and reception-room--quite a good size, you see. Right next to it is the dining-room--so that they can be thrown together, when the girls receive."

"Good," said Bingham; "nothing more civilizing than receptions."

"On this side of the dining-room," pursued Mrs. Bates, "is going to be a sort of alcove--Jane, dear, just push me over that salt and pepper. There!" She planted the two bottles in her alcove; "that's the tank for tea, and this is the tank for coffee. Practical, don't you think?"--to Bingham.

"First-rate. And I suppose you have a screen that you can put in front."

"Precisely." She laid a tiny spoon across her alcove. "Hardwood floors down-stairs, throughout. Up-stairs, bedrooms for fifty girls, and each one shall have a closet, if possible. We begin the foundations in five or six weeks--as soon as the frost is out."

Susan Bates cleared a larger space, and appropriated more knives and forks and spoons, and went on in a lower tone for Marshall's ear alone. Jane strained to catch her words. She, saw her father blush once, slightly, and then smile, as if partly flustered--as Jane herself phrased it.

"What a dear good old sentimental soul she is!" thought the girl. "I'll bet a cent she is asking pa to put up a dormitory for boys on the other side of the campus!"

Mrs. Bates presently carried Jane and her mother into the library, leaving the men behind to contemplate a litter of disordered wineglasses and dishevelled napkins, and to smoke themselves out, in the course of half an hour, to the women.

Mrs. Bates's talk, here as heretofore, was frankly personal. On a previous occasion she had talked to Rosy's mother about Rosy; now she exacted that Rosy's mother should talk to her about her own boy Billy.

"The best boy in the world; his father says he's making a splendid business man." She took a cabinet photograph from over the fireplace. "There; this is the latest, but it doesn't do him any kind of justice."

"Well, he's got a real good face," said Eliza Marshall.

"And a real good-looking face, too," rejoined his mother, quickly. "Jane, dear, run up to my room and get the one before this--that's something like; second drawer on the left. And stop eying those books; you can't get at them with anything less than a cold-chisel!

"But why should you depend on pictures?" Mrs. Bates observed, presently. "See the boy yourself. Go down-stairs next time he calls. Oh, he will call again, I assure you," concluded Susan Bates, archly.

"Tell him to inquire for ma, and send in a card for her, too," whispered Jane. "Rosy's getting awfully sticky."

"'Sticky'?"

"Yes; fussy, stiff, critical--that's what it means, as near as I can make out. It's a word Dick brought home from London."

"H'm," said Susan Bates, "I'll remember it."

The men, meanwhile, sat round the dining-room table. Marshall smoked with the others and tried to forget his boutonniere--the first he had ever worn.

"I shall make them very small and unobtrusive," Susan Bates had said; "only a dozen violets." Marshall noticed that Bates had put his flowers into his right-hand button-hole, and Bingham his into his left. Jane saw her father hesitate; finally he imitated Bates. "Well, that's cutting it pretty fine," thought the girl; "I wonder if there is a right or wrong way. But think of pa with any button-hole bouquet at all! We shall budge him yet!" She smiled; she knew the forces were all arrayed against him to-night.

"What this town needs more than anything else," Bingham was saying, "is a big assembly hall--one with a capacity of ten thousand, say. Something not too fine--we've got that already; and something not too rough--we've had that in plenty. A hall suitable for conventions, for promenade concerts, for mass-meetings, for horse shows--in short, something after the fashion of that magnificent thing in New York."

"The Madison Square Garden?" asked Bates. "You're perfectly right."

"Now that Garden," pursued Bingham, "is not exactly a paying investment--wasn't meant to be. The last time I was down East--"

"Yes--"

--"some fellows there quoted it to me as an evidence of public spirit--the spirit that we here suppose not to exist in New York at all. The men who put it up could easily have got more on their money; but there it stands, one of the most useful and beneficent features of the whole city."

"We ought to have one here," declared Bates.

"And I should like to build it," declared Bingham. "The man who would give such a thing to Chicago, or who would even take the headship of it and make a suitable contribution, would be doing as much for himself and for the town as any one man well could."

"But don't look at me," said Bates. "My wife has drained me: dry--you know about her dormitory and all her other schemes. Look at--well, look at Marshall. What is Marshall doing for the good of the city?"

Marshall lowered his eyes and fingered the broad foot of an empty wineglass. He sat between two of the great powers of the town, and he had never felt smaller. He wondered whether he had deserved his success; he wondered if he himself had really made it. After all, he had come on the ground before competition had fairly set in. He had done nothing by force or by audacity; he had been slow, cautious, even timorous, and he confessed inwardly that there were men in his own employ--men on a mere salary--who were cleverer, readier, more resourceful than he--men who, in a fair field and on even terms, could have distanced him completely. He gave the wineglass another turn or two, and did not lift his eyes.

He heard Bingham's voice again. It was declaring that in the history of every great mercantile city there was a single short period--a passing moment, almost--on which the citizen who wished to impress himself upon the community and to imbed himself in the local annals must seize. Marshall heard him instancing the Fuggers, of Augsburg, and the Loredani and Morosini, of Venice, and the Medici and Tornabuoni, of Florence, and many other names alien and all unfamiliar--merchants, most of them, it seemed, who had perpetuated their name and fame by improving the precise moment when their town, like plaster-of-Paris, was taking its "set."

"Make your impression while you may," concluded Bingham. "This is the time--this very year. The man who makes his mark here to-day will enjoy a fame which will spread as the fame of the city spreads and its power and prosperity increases. You know what we are destined to be--a hundred times greater than we are to-day. Fasten your name on the town, and your name will grow as the town itself does."

Marshall drove home thoughtfully in the new carriage, with the new horses, and August in his new cape-coat. Eliza Marshall, who had sat gingerly upon the edge of her seat in driving out, now leaned back at her ease when returning; it seemed that, with a little practice, she might easily become habituated to luxury. As she re-entered her old familiar parlor, she almost gave a gulp of mortification over its plainness and shabbiness; for the first time in years she had given herself a chance to know it for what it was.

"There, now," Jane declared loudly, "you've both seen what money and brains can do. Well, haven't we got money? Haven't we got brains? Is there any reason why we shouldn't be known, and looked up to, and respected?" And at breakfast next morning she opened out upon her father once more. Her lunch-room was now, thanks to her solicitings and her concert, in full running order, and moving on to a marked success. To-day she was rising to a more ambitious plane. Not a college building, not an assembly-hall; no, during the watches of the night she had risen to the conception of a working-girls' home. Her father had been listening to the mellow and flowing hautboy of Susan Bates, and to the deep diapason of Tom Bingham; but his daughter had now pulled out the coupler and was screaming shrilly above all the other voices of the organ. He felt almost deafened, stunned.

The "second girl" came in, frightened. "What is it?" asked Eliza Marshall.

"August is in the kitchen, with his face all cut and bleeding." Jane left her father. "Let me go out and see what it is." It was another chapter in the Van Horn matter. Roger, having become more familiar with police-court methods, had been pushing things with greater vigor and effect. During the past night two or three ruffians had broken into the stable, had shattered the windows of the new carriage and defaced its panels, and had beaten the coachman.

"There!" cried Rosy. "How much longer have we got to live down here among all these savages and hoodlums?"

Eliza Marshall made no reply, and Rosy felt that this in itself was to have gained a point.