Under the Skylights by Henry Blake Fuller
Dr. Gowdy and the Squash
An hour later the Doctor, looking out of his study window, saw a buggy drive up and stop at his carriage-block. It contained a rustic-looking young man, dressed in new and showy garments that had the cachet of the department store, and a young woman brave in such finery as young women wear when approaching the most important hour of their lives. Instinctively the Doctor reached for his prayer-book, an inspired volume that had a way of opening almost automatically at the marriage service.
But only the young man alighted. He came up the front walk with an expression of fell determination about his firm-set mouth. The young woman, holding the reins, frowned at Dr. Gowdy's house-front--in marked repugnance and indignation.
Jared had come to tell Dr. Gowdy what he thought of him--their first and only meeting. Dr. Gowdy at a distance had impressed him as an abstract moral force, but Dr. Gowdy close at hand was a mere man like himself. Jared pushed aside all deference and spoke his mind.
"You set me up an inch," said Jared hardily, "and then you went to work to take me down an ell. You've tried to harm me all you could; you've tried to ruin me. But it couldn't be done. Let me tell you this: I've sold seventeen hundred dollars' worth of my work here, and the first of the month I'm going East with a lot more of it. A man with money in his pocket can get his rights," said Jared truculently.
Dr. Gowdy, to whom Jared too had been an abstraction--an abstraction compact of bumptious heresy as regarded art and of crass ignorance as regarded life in general--finally realized him now as a human being, faulty and ill-regulated, indeed, but not altogether unlikeable, and by no means lacking in a sort of rude capacity. He experienced, not for the first time, the alleviating quality resident sometimes in personal presence, even the presence of an antagonist.
But Jared had no sense of this. "You've made fun of me," he went on; "you've made me ridiculous in my own home. They're all laughin' at me down there. All but her"--with an awkward gesture toward Melissa, visible through the front window. "She's stuck to me right along. She believed in me from the beginning. It was her gave me that book of yours----"
"That book, that book!" groaned Dr. Gowdy. Alas for the refining and ennobling influences of art! Threatened and hectored in his own house by a loutish, daubing plough-boy!
"You've interfered with my success; you've taken money out of my pocket. Do you want to know what I'm goin' to do? I'm goin' to sue you, that's what! Her father is our county attorney, and he'll help me see that I get my rights!"
"Sue me? Do, you poor ignorant young cub!" cried the Doctor. "I've just had one lawsuit to-day, and what I want more than anything else is another!"
Jared glowered at him heavily--a look that was not without its effect on the Doctor. Jared knew nothing of the complexities and delays and expenses and uncertainties of the law, but he had already taught Dr. Gowdy that the overbearing power of sheer ignorance was not to be despised.
"I may be a poor ignorant young cub," he returned, "but, for all that, I know how to take care of myself. And of another too--that right will be mine within half an hour." A second slight gesture toward the window. Dr. Gowdy's accustomed ear recognised the confident tone of the bridegroom.
"Now, see here," said he, with a sudden lurch into what seemed an unceremonious frankness. "Let me make amends." For there was a positive note in Jared that responded to the positive strain within himself. Jared was more likeable than Mr. Kahn, and better worthy of cautious heed as an antagonist. Why, indeed, should he be further antagonized at all?
"Yes, let me make amends," said the Doctor. "Let me"--here the prayer-book opened almost of its own accord--"let me--marry you."
Jared's eyes blazed. "Do you think that Melissa Crabb would----"
"Yes, I do," said the Doctor.
"We're going to Mr. Shears, two blocks down the street." said Jared imperviously.
"You're going to stop here," said the Doctor.
The force of personal relation prevailed--as it almost always does when given a chance. Jared yielded; Melissa acquiesced. She detached her frown from the Doctor's house-front, climbed down out of the buggy, accompanied Jared and the Doctor indoors, and he made them one forthwith.
The Doctor's performance of the marriage ceremony was famous--the town was full of people who would never let anybody but Dr. Gowdy marry them. To those who knew, Mr. Shears was nowhere. The Doctor's method was a wonderful blend of gravity and of intimacy; he made you feel that you were the one man and woman in the world--the world summed up, indeed, in a single pair--and that you were going through a ceremony just a shade more solemn than any other man or woman had ever gone through before. His voice would be shot through with little tremors that showed his sincerity and his individual interest--briefly, Jared and Melissa had no cause to regret Mr. Shears.
The Doctor kissed the bride in hearty, fatherly fashion--Henrietta kissed her too--and refused the fee Jared offered him.
"No," he said; "I've cost you too much already."
Jared wrung the Doctor's hand, and wondered that any mere man could fill his heart with such a tremor and such a glow.
"I'm going to see you again before you leave for the East?" asked the Doctor.
"Well, I have two weeks, at three hundred a week, with the Gayety Theayter," said Jared. "I put the finishing-touches to a picture every night in full view of the audience, and frame it with my own hands."
"Good-bye here, then," said the Doctor.