ENTERTAINING SHORT STORIES.

Backgrounds

Grace Ellery Channing July 1 1907
ENTERTAINING SHORT STORIES.

Backgrounds

Grace Ellery Channing July 1 1907

Backgrounds

Grace Ellery Channing

in Harper’s^Magaz ne

IT had always been understood that Cordelia was to write. The pen was a kind of legacy in her family, a Fletcher and a writer being almost synonymous. The understanding had been in a measure unconsciously expressed at the haptismal font, when she received the name of that ancestress who had shared with several other ladies the privilege of denomination as “The Tenth Muse,” a few centuries before. The way of escape which a brother might have opened to Cordelia was denied her; she had no brother; but there was nothing in Cordelia’s own temperament which implied a wish to escape. In a New England college town a girl takes as naturally to the higher mathematics or the higher thought as in Spain to flirtation, and Cordelia was eminently the product of her environment. Neither had her family any of the prejudices which would have made them prefer an illustrious son to an illustrious daughter, and from the first Cordelia’s career was accepted with as much seriousness as Cordelia’s brother’s could have been.

Even Cordelia’s beauty was of a Muse-like kind, which she accentuated very slightly and quite innocently by

her manner of dress and the fashion of coiling her fine hair. She had that gift of toilette which does not unfailingly accompany the literary temperament. In her fingers a mere hat became a crown, and the twist of a ribbon an accent arresting to a painter's eye.

“It is the artistic temperament in Cordelia,” said her mother, almost excusingly.

Everything that is tacitly recognized under the head of an “advantage” was secured for her by the loving assiduity of her parents ; she was sent to Bryn Mawr when the time came, as her brother would have been sent to Harvard; the New England professor stretching without demur his slender salary to cover the expenses which he readily apprehended as essential to the culture of a writer’s mind. Cordelia was the child of his later years ; he was beginning to grow less strong and he looked forward with a sunset hope to his daughter's career.

At college Cordelia was a success, liked by her instructors for her studious gravity of attention in class, and adored by the girls for her skill in millinery, combined with an admirable

amiability. Very few hat^ in her particular set failed to receive a transfiguring touch from her fingers during the term. In truth, it was a gift Cordelia herself thought too slightly of to begrudge its exercise.

In her last year at college her father began to fail. A European vacation was suggested by his medical advisers. and even hesitatingly considered by Mrs. Fletcher.

“I do not see my way,” answered Professor Fletcher, with mild dignity. “We cannot break Cordelia’s course at this moment ; our daughter's career, of course, takes precedence of everything with us.”

Mrs. Fletcher assented. When Cordelia came home from college—then, it was understood, she would begin to write. Her mother already spoke with a pride only tempered by long association with careers, oí Cordelia’s. Until then sacrifices were necessary ; after that all would be simplified.

It was thus they explained to themselves the presence of Dick Kent beneath their roof. Dick was a New Hampshire boy who had worked his way through college, eking out a small tutorship by a subordinate post on a minor newspaper. He was an avid student of history, which had naturally attracted him to the gentle occupant of that particular chair, and his board money had been a distinct help. Neither was there anything unbecoming in this form of hospitality to one “in college circles.”

“Our daughter also writes,” Mrs. Fletcher had said, in receiving him into the family, and Dick had inquired with characteristic directness :

“What has she written?”

“She has not published yet,” Mrs. Fletcher had replied, with a gentle dignity which touched the young man. “She is completing her college course.”

"Oh !” said Dick, gently, in his turn.

Subsequently he heard so much about Cordelia’s home coming as to arouse a certain interest in that event. And now Cordelia was come home. He raised his eyes across the supper table (in college circles one still supped) with distinct curiosity.

“Somehow,” he thought, “I didn't expect her to be like that,” and he looked more than once.

After supper they strolled on the lawn.

“What makes you want to write?” asked Dick.

Cordelia considered him a quiet minute. “What makes you?” she replied.

Dick laughed. “Well—I have a living to earn—”

“So have I,” said Cordelia, sedately.

“And I rather tumbled into it,” Dick explained, “back home. I applied for a job at horseshoeing and at typesetting, and I got the typesetting ; then I scoured up ads. for a little country sheet—and in the city I did reporting. I suppose I must have a kind of bent that way—and a fellow must do something.”

“So must a girl,” said Cordelia.

Dick considered the moon-maiden a moment from a new point of view. “What do you mean to write?” he asked.

“Cordelia colored with a fine displeasure. “I would rather not talk about it, if. you please,” she said coldly.

She knew very well what she meant to write—and it was neither advertisements nor reporting.

“Don’t you think”—she spoke deliberately—“all that -miscellaneous kind of work injures one’s style?”

“Well, you see,” Dick made cheerful answer, “I haven’t any style to injure as yet—never had time to cultivate one. Maybe when I’m fifty I shall be able to give my mind to it; the next ten or fifteen years, I expect, I’ll have to thank my stars for a chance to write any old way.”

Cordelia looked a little gravely at the young man.

“You must care something for literature itself” she said. “Haven't you any literary aim or intention?”

Dick hurled a thoughtful pebble or two.

“Yes, I suppose I must,” he admitted, “and—well, I don’t know whether you would call it literary or not. but I'd like to write a little live history.

Maybe I shall get around to that, too, by and by; I keep on hammering at it right along.” He looked at Cordelia gravely. “You know—I admire your father’s work so much ; I think I admire him more than any one I ever saw ; if I can ever do half such good work—”

Cordelia nodded; she, too, admired her father’s work—within limits.

The young man looked at Cordelia’s reposeful figure in the moonlight; her hands were clasped lightly before her.

“You ought to write poems” he said.

Cordelia colored again. She could not tell him it was one of the things she intended to do.

Cordelia’s home coming grew wonderfully to be a natural thing, so that Dick marvelled how the house could ever have appeared natural before. She took, without assumption, but by easy right, the first place in the circle. What Cordelia thought was listened to respectfully by them all. Dick was often abashed by the fine acuteness of her criticisms, but Cordelia was not bashful of criticism. Her quiet equality with the great and illustrious dead filled him with mild amaze, while her quiet equality with the scarcely less illustrious living, who in the natural order of university life visited her distinguished father’s home, filled him with boundless envy. He himself had all the halting diffidence of untried and unproved youth, but Cordelia bore herself as one of them. It was true she had not yet written her book, but she was going to, and with Cordelia intention was accomplishment. Thus for she had done always exactly what she set out to do. Dick listened dumbly while the celebrated man of letters, imported all the way from England to lecture at the university, sat respectfully receiving Cordelia’s views upon his own particular specialty.

“I liked so much that little story of yours in the last Millennium Magazine,” said Cordelia, graciously. “It was so subtle and so true.”

The Eminent murmured a humble word of thanks. He had never thought of the tale as a slight thing before— rather as compressed magnitudes ; but

the praise of this young person put him right. Cordelia was always infinitely more critical than the critics —but she was always Cordelia—and therefore charming.

Except for these stray stars of literature, life went on as quietly as might be. Cordelia had early elected to spend her mornings in her rooms—sometimes she even had her cofifee sent up ; it was understood at such times that she was writing. But there remained the balance of the evenings and the long afternoons under the college elms or on the river ; and of course in the end there was the inevitable—with its inevitable sequence.

“At least,” pleaded Dick, “give me some reason.”

“I don't want to marry at all,” said Cordelia—“certainly not for a long time.”

“But why?” persisted he.

“Because there are other things I mean to do,” said Cordelia.

She did not add “And, anyway, you are not the kind of man I mean to marry” ; but Dick laid down his oars and gazed at her forlornly.

“I know,” he said, “you ought to marry an awfully eminent and distinguished man, and there’s no danger I shall ever be that; but—Cordelia— I'm doing a lot better with the Comet than you know, truly ; and then there's this about it—an awfully eminent and distinguished person might not be half so proud of your career as I should be.”

There was something immensely attractive about the stoop-shouldered, keen-eyed, clever young fellow, a kind of quick, manly intuition which Cordelia could not help feeling and liking. For a moment she swayed irresistibly towards it, then she remembered.

“No,” she said firmly, “and please don’t ask me again.”

Dick took up his oars.

“All right.” he answered, setting his lips a little. A few days later he left, on a working vacation job for his paper.

The house was quieter than ever; but quiet as it was, the family united to make hedges and shelters of a

deeper quietude about Cordelia's working hours.

“Don’t disturb Miss Cordelia for anything—she is working,” was the charge to the one maid; and, “Don't trouble about the dusting, dear— I can do that,” to Cordelia herself.

“Your mother will help me,” the Professor would gently repudiate Cordelia’s perfunctory offers. “Keep the freshness of the morning—and your strength—for your work.”

So Cordelia shut herself in her room, or sat in the shade of the large trees, or wandered down by the river bank, stylographic pen and manuscript book in hand, for hours together. She got countless volumes from the library and read them diligently; she had always been a great reader, like all the family, but now her tables and chairs were formidable with their load of learning.

As the Summer wore on she began to look and feel fagged.

“It will be easier to work in the cool weather,” she told herself, combating a certain languor in her labors.

These formed, at any rate, an admirable pretext for the declining of unwelcome invitations (and most of the invitations were unwelcome), and reared a fine barrier of defence against social intrusions—and these intrusions were numberless. The society of Hillbrook did not interest Cordelia in the least; she found it restricted, provincial, monotonous.

“I am afraid you work too assiduously, my dear,” said her father, laying a fond hand on her shoulder. “Remember—Ars longa; the best fruits ripen slowly; you will gain nothing by exhausting yourself,” and the patient scholar sighed a little.

Cordelia’s family delicately respected the reserve which surrounded her work. They knew that she was writing, and that when she was ready to impart the finished result she would do so; meanwhile they would have thought it as indelicate to inquire too curiously into the incomplete processes of mental creation as into other incomplete processes of creation. They were of the stock which respects

books, and they also respected Cordelia.

But the narrow social circles of Hillbrook knew no such reserves. It was one reason Cordelia disliked going anywhere. She was always introduced as “Miss Fletcher—the writer, you know,” and some one was invariably ready to ask, “What are you writing now ?”or,“When will your book be ready to publish?”—questions which, annoying to begin with, as personal intrusions, ended by becoming the exasperating pressures on a sore nerve.

For the work was not going well ; Cordelia, only too good a critic, knew it perfectly. The Winter did not bring with its bracing atmosphere that impetus to production which Cordelia had confidently expected ; she began to feel that perhaps it lay instead with the Spring—with the renewing of all things. A sense of obliged nobility made the delay heavier to her; she appreciated both her family’s sacrifices and their delicate attitude of confidence, and—like generous creditors —they weighed the more on her New England conscience. She fell into the habit of sitting for hours before her perfectly appointed desk, biting her penholder, or setting down what she herself knew was aimless, lacking point and force. To one who had spoken always with calm confidence of her “work,” it was astonishing to find that inspiration did not come of itself when she was ready for it—that after spending her whole life in preparation, she was still somehow unprepared. Obviously there must be an explanation, and she sought and found it—in her environment.

She laid the discovery with sincere reluctance before her parents.

“I am afraid I shall have to go away for a time. It is a novel which I am writing, and I must have the right background—the suitable types. There is nothing here at Hillbrook.”

Her parents had listened with sympathetic attention ; now the Professor nodded silently, and Mrs. Fletcher spoke, repressing a slight sigh.

“Of course you must have what is necessary—you must go where you can get it. I had thought,” she added,

with faint regret, “that this would be such sa nice, quiet place for you to write in—when you had finished college.”

“Oh, it’s too quiet!”—the accumulated nervous intensity of months was in Cordelia’s tone. “A writer—a writer of fiction at least—needs stimulus—variety. Of course, if I wrote history, like father—”

“Of course—of course,” broke in the Professor, gently. “I have been able to get on very nicely here; but history is one thing, romance another.”

“What I need,” said Cordelia, gravely, “are types—and backgrounds; life is my material—and there is nothing here.”

“Ah, yes—life—life—

* Tis life of which our veins are scant, Life—life for which our bosoms pant, More life and fuller, that we want !’ "

murmured the Professor. “I understand nothing of these matters, my dear,” he added, pushing the thin, silvering hair from his fine brow, “but of course the one essential is that you should have what you require for the best results of your talent. We should not, certainly, ask a fossilhunter to live where there were no fossils, nor”—he smiled with gentle glint of humor—“ought we to ask the romancer to dwell where there is nothing else. What have you thought of, my dear?”

What Cordelia had thought of was —Europe. A brief three months, she was satisfied, would give her the needed material and background, after which she could come quietly home and work up the book. She had a very tiny income from her grandmother’s estate, and a perfect conviction that she could eke this out by newspaper correspondence—not with the obscure Cqmet, but with one of the large dailies.

“I don’t question your ability, my child,” replied the Professor, “but I have always understood those positions are oversupplied—and there are the royalties from my new history of the Babylonians; they could not be better invested.”

“But you need them yourself, father !” exclaimed Cordelia.

“You shall pay me back later on from your book, my dear,” answered Professor Fletcher, patting her hand.

On this basis alone Cordelia felt she could bring herself to accept this new proof of her parents’ tenderness. But on this basis she felt honorably safe to do so. Her spirits soared again; the confidence which was her birthright returned to her; she spoke once more, and with a shade more hauteur, of her work.

“It is not a pleasure trip,” she said to the girls who envied her with the gushing spontaneity of enthusiastic youth. “I am going to work.”

And she believed it. All the despondency of the Winter had vanished. Over there she would be able to write ; over there were types ; over there were backgrounds, material, everything which was lacking over here ; over there was an atmosphere and a life which had been tried by the test of the centuries and found perfect by all writing mankind.

“I wish you luck,” said Dick, returned again to the Comet and the tutorship, a little older and thinner, and a trifle hungry-eyed.”

“Thank you,” answered Cordelia, superbly, “but you see I don’t believe in it.”

If Europe was anything of a disappointment to Cordelia, she kept it to herself. Her letters came regularly to Hillbrook. She had found some splendid types, she wrote, but not yet the right background. She had heard,

however, of a little village of B-in

Switzerland, where she should shut herself up and write hard. It would be very close work to accomplish all she had outlined, in three months. She had bought a typewriting machine. A

little later she wrote that B-, after

all, not furnishing the desired background, she had decided merely to study the people this Summer and then settle down in one of the old German cities for the Winter, and work. It would be far wiser to finish the book in the same atmosphere, and then return in the Spring—always if the dear people at home could spare

her? The work was coming on well, but she could not hurry it, and it took longer than she had expected because here was so much material to assimulate.

“Stay by all means,” her mother wrote back by return mail. We miss you, and your father is a little feebler, but we both wish you to stay wherever it is most important for your work. When this book is finished we shall have you again, and your letters are our delight.” She added in postscript, “Mr. Kent is most kind in helping your father with his Merovingian history.”

In the Summer Cordelia came home with the book. It was not a very large book, and did not meet with the immediate success she had anticipated for it. In refusing it the successive publishers somehow conveyed the impression that its only fault lay in its great excellence—it was too good for the public—and they implied that pearl-casting was a form of diversion only adapted to the independent rich who published at their own expense.

“It is, I believe, the usual experience of the young writer,” said the Professor, who had read Cordelia’s book with the humility of one approaching a foreign art, yet finding its medium satisfactory. “I had the same trouble with my first history of the Assyrian tribes.”

“To have a book refused because of its superiority seems to me more than a success,” said Cordelia’s mother, warmly. “It is beautifully written.”

It was, indeed, perhaps a little too beautifully written ; Cordelia, finely critical as ever, came to feel that the publishers might be right. The book was too esoteric for the ordinary mind. She thought so in the first months at least; as time went on she grew restless and less assured.

“I should have chosen a newer background” she decided, “and the story lacks development; I did it too hastily”

This was the modesty which accompanies great talent, Mrs. Fletcher felt, but some impulse led her to say:

“Why not show it to Mr. Kent?”

Cordelia looked displeased. Dick was no longer in Hillbrook; he had accepted the assistant editorship of a larger paper in New York.

“Mr. Kent is the last person I should think of going to for a literary judgment” she answered.

“He is said to be very clever,” said Mrs. Fletcher, “and he is so fond of your father.”

“Clever journalism is one thing; literature is quite another,” said Cordelia.

She walked away to her room, distinctly annoyed ; but once there, obeying an old habit, she sat down and faced herself in the mirror above the dressing table. In reality she was very unhappy. Not because a few publishers had destroyed her belief in herself, but because anything short of instant, brilliant, and decisive successes was not associated with her plan of life or her idea of herself. She was not in the least a fool, and it was all the more disconcerting to find that she was still less a prodigy; that all her criticism of others’ style had not yet produced of her own more compellingly superior. For Cordelia acknowledged to herself that the book lacked something vital. She had the resolution to bury the whole thing in her trunk, and this was not the trunk which she carried to Europe on her second trip.

It was in the third year of this that she met Richard Kent once more. Richard, still in the mountain costume in which he had arrived, was walking up and down with the friend he had come to meet, on the hotel verandah bordering the lake. Beyond rose the pale sunset line of peaks they were planning to attempt, and against one of these, like a well-relieved cameo, Dick’s observant eye caught the outline of a woman’s profile. Something familiar in the unusual grace of it arrested his glance.

“I ought to know that head” he said.

“That is Miss Fletcher — the writer,” responded his friend.

“Oh!” said Dick. After a moment he added: “What does she write?”

“Blessed if I know—but I was told

she does write. Nice girl—but somehow not very responsive.”

“*H-m !” said Dick, musingly. A few minutes later he walked up to her and lifted his Tyrolian hat.

“May I reintroduce myself?" He stood looking curiously down at the cameolike face ; it was a good deal older, and had the slightly burnt-up look of the self-consumer.

Cordelia colored with pleasure. Dick was not only a successful journalist, he was also a piece of home ; and they exchanged home news with the zest of absentees.

“I saw a nice little letter of yours in the Comet,” said Dick, presently. “So of course I knew you were abroad somewhere.”

“I write for it occasionally,” replied Cordelia, with a slight shrug as if this were the least of her output.

“Oh!” said Dick. He had grown very square and carried his head thrust lightly forward, with an air of quiet alertness. The old strength and directness of manner had become more marked.

“What have you been doing all these years since we met ?”

“What have you been doing, rather ?” Cordelia evaded him.

“I ? Oh, a little of everything— newspapers — politics — traveling — war correspondence—taking life pretty much as it came.” He did not say “writing,” she noticed, but bent suddenly a keen glance upon her. “What in the world brought you to this out-of-the-way place ?”

“I came to study types,” said Cordelia.

Dick flashed a new glance at her.

“That’s droll—I came to get away from them—to see if I couldn’t walk myself tired and stop thinking about people everlastingly. But it’s no good,” He shrugged his shoulders. “One gets restless for the grind ; I shall be rushing off again in a day or two.”

He did not rush off, however. To his own surprise, the old charm held —it was still there in Cordelia, overlain with something else which gave it a curious poignancy. At times her eyes had a look of dumb sadness

which went to Dick's heart. He divined its presence under the shadow of the drooping hat she wore, when, one morning, between long strokes of his oars and after many glances ar the eloquent outline, he spoke suddenly.

“Why didn't you trim hats for a business ?”

Cordelia sat bolt upright; the fire in her eves burned away the moisture.

“Why don't you make waistcoats?" she asked.

Dick turned a little white ; he felt sick with the repercussion of the blow he had dealt.

“My dear—Cordelia—I didn't mean that ! I only meant you are the only woman in the world who knows how to make a picture of herself; the rest are such nightmares ! I was forever staring in the old days, and it’s just the same now. Besides”—he rebounded with the masculine instinct for defence—“why isn't it an honorable and artistic industry ?”

“It may be—but it doesn’t happen to be mine,” said Cordelia.

It was on the man’s lips to say with some exasperation, “What does., then?” but he looked at her, and instead a vast wave of tenderness swept over him.

He laid down the oars, not without a grim smile of remembered coincidence, and spoke determinedly.

“Cordelia—give it up ! Marry me !"

“I shall never ‘give it up’—as you put it,” said Cordelia, in a hard voice.

“Well, then—marry me without giving it up,” said Dick.

“That would be the same thing."

“Nonsense—if you’ve any gift at all. it wouldn’t,” said the man. and removed by ten thousand spaces his last chance.

“It is absolutely no use to ask me.” Cordelia sat very erect and white. “I have chosen my life—and I beg that you never will ask me again.”

“All right,” answered Dick, taking up the oars with a still grimmer smile for memory, which yet had something inextinguishably sweet in it —like the glance he cast at the rigid figure in the bow.

That night he left.

“Poor little soul—at least I will take myself out of her sight,” had been his way of putting it.

Cordelia herself left the Swiss valley soon after. There were very few interesting people there; there were, for that matter, very few interesting people anywhere, she began to feel. Life itself was only moderately interesting, and the aloofness which had always been a characteristic began to become a dominant trait. It was as if she moved through a world of which she was in no vital sense a part. A vague restlessness drove her home to Hillbrook, and back again to Europe.

It was understood by them all, in the deep and mutual tenderness of the home circle, that Hillbrook could offer nothing to detain her. That Cordelia’s genius should take long to ripen, and require many foreign suns and vivifying streams from alien sources, was received by Cordelia’s parents with the same simple acceptance which had greeted Cordelia herself when she burst upon their world some thirty odd years before—its crowning miracle. And to Professor Fletcher there was an always new charm in hearing from his daughter’s lips of those lands —dear to his Merovingian or Muscovitish divinities—which he himself had seen but with the spiritual vision. He had grown older and frailer in his too assiduous scholar’s application, and his wife—never far from his side —had aged gently with him. Time had brought various honors to the modest student, valued transiently for the gratification they might give Cordelia (who indeed found herself more and more widely introduced as the daughter of the historian) and as quickly forgotten. Perhaps nothing among them all had pleased him more than the brilliant review of his lifework written by his erstwhile boarder and disciple, Richard Kent, now editor of a paper which represented the leading literary judgment of the day.

In these years of battledore and shuttlecock across two continents Cordelia conceived herself as working, and she did, in fact, produce a second thin volume, which lay perdu ; she had

not yet brought herself to submit it to the crude test of publication. Partly this was because her own critical faculty had waxed so exacting that in the matter of matching types and appropriate backgrounds she was herself never content. Life had become a more and more consuming chase after material, the greater part of which she disdainfully rejected after securing, amazed at the poverty of the universe.

It was on her third—or possibly her fourth—visit abroad that she again met Richard. This time it was in a fashionable Kurhaus, and he came to her in the promenade hour where she sat overlooking the crowd.

“Still studying types?” he said. “Well, it’s a prize location.”

“I think the people are extremely uninteresting and vulgar,” said Cordelia, in reply, drawing herself up slightly. “I am merely using the background.”

“Oh !” Dick responded. He continued to saunted at her side and was pleasantly attentive during the few days of his stay, but he did not again refer to professional topics—and he did not again ask her to marry him. Cordelia was not blind to either omission.

Then suddenly he went away.

“It is really true that Mr. Kent has gone?” asked a frank American girl, rushing up to Cordelia on the morning after the event. . She was a nice— though pompadour—girl who had hardly spoken ten words to Cordelia before, but the latter had been aware of her ingenuously envious glance following Richard and her about. (“Probably she knows that I write,” Cordelia had thought, and accorded her a tempered grace of recognition daily). “Oh—and I was just dying to speak to him about his book! I’ve hardly dared open my mouth before, but now—I feel as if I could say anything and he would understand it all. I sent for it just as soon as he came, and I’ve sat up all night reading it. What—hadn’t you heard—why, it’s the book of the yeár—it’s in the—1 don’t know how many thousandth— and. oh, it’s wonderful—so true—so

deep—so pathetic—so brave—so just like life ! I wanted to tell him what I felt about it. It—it makes you feel as if you wanted to go home somehow !” wound up the young thing, and to Cordelia’s amazement there were tears in the blue eyes. “You take my copy and read it,” said the girl, thrusting it into Cordelia’s irresponsive hand.

It closed upon it, and Cordelia turned abruptly away. With that lifelong habit she had never been able to outgrow she went up to her room, and with that other instinct as old as herself, sat down before the image in the glass.

Dick had never mentioned his book.

Fine lines were coming about the eyes and lips—she saw them for the first time ; the whole face was hardening, setting ; it had still its old distinction, but the charm was fading fast.

Dick had not again asked her to marry him.

Cordelia looked middle-aged as she took up the book. The girl had sat up all night; Cordelia sat there all day. The lunch hour went by unheeded as she sat there turning one page after another.

It was only the story of a poor professor’s life in a small university town —but it was the whole cosmos of the humdrum streets and houses, but the perspective was that of a race. The types were plain men and women, but they dealt with love and death and work, and in their midst the figure of the toiling selfless scholar waxed heroic. The hearts of women, the

thoughts of men, were in it. When Cordelia laid down the book, she laid her head down on it and sobbed. Dick had written his “living history !” The proof of it was in Cordelia’s arms, stretched towards a gentle, unseen figure, and her cry:

“O father—father !”

Why had she left him! The little town had been large enough for these two men—these two great men, as she called them to herself in a passion of bursting pride ; and she thought of her own withered, self-seeking years, and covered her face.

Dick had not mentioned his book to her!

She remembered what the girl had said, “It makes you want to go home!” and she stood up and faced the quivering image in the glass. “I will go home,” she said, “and trim hats !”

Then she covered her face again. Dick had not again asked her to marry him.

In that moment Cordelia believed herself to have reached the acme of suffering. She was to learn better.

A knock at the door drew her up to an instinctive pretence of the old lofty composure. The boy who brought in the yellow envelope was the last person who ever beheld quite that old Cordelia. Before his very eyes she shuddered and shrank into another, under the blow of the message :

“Your father died this morning at six o’clock.”