Man and Wife
A Story of Canadian Life
C. W. STEPHENS
MARY Campbell, returning from a walk, was rather puzzled to see an unusually large crowd collected near the front of the church. She would have passed on, however, had not the sound of her father’s name, falling from the lips of a man standing on a platform, about which the people clustered, caused her to pause.
She knew instinctively what it was that the loud-voiced official was about to announce, and a sense almost of shame prompted her to hurry on. But something else was stronger, the pride that showed in the courageous lift of her head, kept her from obeying the impulse.
It was thus that Hugh Lyttleton saw her.
Seated in his car by the curb, he could see her face in profile. It was a face of unusual charm and distinction. The features, as he saw them in outline, were finely formed, with sufficient irregularity to give to her uniqueness, individuality. The nose was delicately shaped, the lips charmingly curved, neither too full nor too severe, the chin daintily firm and rounded. In the rather pale cheek was the faintest touch of wild-rose pink, due to the emotion of the moment. Her lips were firmly closed, as if expressive of courageous resolve under the scrutiny of many eyes. Her hair was of unusual ashy-gold tint that harmonized exquisitely with the rest of the girl’s rare delightsomeness. There were pretty women in the waiting crowd—for the FrenchCanadian woman, three centuries from France, has not lost the Frenchwoman’s trick of smart coquettishness in dress—but this was a woman apart.
Lyttleton’s eyes revealed his frank admiration. Perhaps he was moved more, at the moment, by her proud courage than by her beauty of face and form. He was an unusual man, a full inch over six feet, wideshouldered, with determined, aggressive, good-looking face, his brown hair and moustache close cropped, his eyes steel-blue. He looked what he was, a successful man, of real power, fully conscious of his own abilities and accomplishments. At twenty-three he had been a pitman in the local mines, to-day he was a millionaire owner and in his thirty-fifth year. He had started with less than nothing—a thousand dollar debt, as a matter of fact, and he had made his wealth by clear vision, hard fighting and a certain indomitable will. Men said he was lucky. It was true. When opportunity had come tapping at the doors of himself and his fellows, with that soft tap of hers, at her inconvenient hours, they slumbered and slept; he was at the latch in a jump, lamp trimmed, filled, burning, in hi3 hand, and out into the dark road to meet the bridegroom of his burning desire. That was his luck.
He was a man of flawless courage, and he could see and admire it in a kindred spirit, friend or enemy. There had been many to oppose him, none more virulently than the father of this girl. Lyttleton had sworn, ten years before, in the heat of youth’s resentment at injustice, that he would break Campbell before he had finished with him. It had seemed boyish rage and swagger at the time. Campbell was rich, strongly entrenched, and the youngster struggling to keep his feet; but the youngster had kept faith with himself, his word, and Campbell. This scene, outside the church doors, was the final act of the play.
the platform a bailiff droned away in French the verbiage of his long document. It set forth that, by virtue of a judgment obtained against Robert Campbell in some suit at law, seizure had been made of his mine, mill, lands, house, goods and chattels, and that on a day, then and there specified, the properties would be sold by public auction.
Of the thousand people who stood before the church listening, none but sympathized with the girl, Mary Campbell, except perhaps Lyttleton, and his mind was too full of admiration. Pity made little appeal to him. It was usually an inexpensive sentiment that people indulged in to save their pockets. On the other hand, while people imagined that he was enjoying a dramatic triumph, he had no thought of it. He had happened to drive along when the bailiff began to read. Lyttleton’s hatred had died out long ago, though his resolve had lived. He was too big a man to waste time and thought gloating over a man who was down and out, and therefore no fit antagonist of his strength or subject of his thought.
The reading at last done, the folk moved off, talking with many nods and wise shakes of the head of the collapse of the “aristocrat.” Mary had vanished with the rest, responding smilingly to the respectful greetings of a warm-hearted, kindly people.
“Ah! but it is sad! It is indeed sad!” The diminutive, but very obviously important notary Chaput stopped at the door of Lyttleton’s car, his most funereal air upon him. “But so it goes, from the silken shoe to the sabot. Yesterday—the day before —and stiil before that—the Campbells were everything. To-day—Pouf I Where are they?”
“Where they ought to be. Where you and I would be if we couldn’t pay our bills. When they made you a notary, Chaput, they spoiled a first-class undertaker,” grinned Lyttleton. “Jump in and I’ll deliver you into Madame’s care.”
“But still it is sad,” insisted the little man, snuggling into the cushions of the car. “Fine gentlemen— for the fishing and the hunting and the grand entertainment—but no business blood in them.”
“Well, they’ll have plenty time for the fishing, hunting, and the grand entertainment,” mimicked Lyttleton.
“But it is one grand triumph for you, Monsieur Lyttleton. If I could offer my congratulations I would do so, but it is too sad. Monsieur Campbell is my very good friend, and Madame—so distinguished, and
Mademoiselle Mary—charming, adorable! Still Monsieur Robert hurled upon you the challenge—à l’outrance, as you say, to a finish, and here behold is the tragic end. It is sad! Of an infinite sadness.”
“All right, have it your own way,” laughed Lyttleton, “and there is Madame, waiting to pull your ears for keeping dinner waiting.” “Ah, nonl” replied the sprightly little man. “She waits to give the welcome. You are an unhappy single man—you do not understand. But you will stay dinner? Madame has the vol au vent, your favorite dish, and she will be delighted. The vol auvent, Monsieur Hugh!”
“I wish I could,” replied Lyttleton. “But I have business to attend to at once. Thanks all the same. Give my compliments to Madame, and tell her that thought of the vol au vent will, make my mouth water all day. And by the way, Chaput, keep to-morrow clear from three to four. I have quite a bit of business for you to attend to.” . -
“Merci, Monsieur!” and the little man bowed. “The hours is yours.” He stood on the steps watching the departure of his best client, and then rushed indoors to Madame’s embrace and the vol au vent.
TOURING the two years following Mary Campbell’s return from college, Hugh Lyttleton had seen her frequently in the streets of the little town. He had never spoken to her. Sometimes he doubted if she had ever seen him. She passed him on the streets as if he did not exist. Campbell was not a silent man over his woes and Lyttleton knew that the etching of himself, under the vindictive stylus of his enemy, would be unflattering, and deep bitten.
The first time Hugh had seen Mary Campbell he had not thought her pretty, or even attractive. She was too pale, distant, serious. Later his artistic sense underwent a great change. He thought her the most exquisite feminine creature he had ever looked upon. It was not her unusual beauty, her grace, her charmingly distinctive refinement, subtle as the fragrance of rare attar. What it was he did not know. It was hauntingly elusive, inescapable, indefinable. Sometimes he denied to himself that he was in love with this girl whose indifference was more than disdain, to whom he, his success, his money, were matters of no' moment whatever. Hé doubted if she even hated him. He had been in love, after a fashion, with girls before, but this emotion was different.
There was little of sense appeal in it, and yet it dominated his every faculty. He knew that slhe, certainly, regarded him as the author of the misfortunes of her family, that, so far as she personally was concerned, his money would be of no weight in her judgment of him. Probably she, being “aristocrat,” despised the humble stock from which he sprang. She belonged to a people who had maintained old-world distinctions regarding birth, blood, lineage, in much of their ancient rigidity.
AFTER he left Chaput, he drove through the town, up the steep hillside, to the mine« he owned, now wrapped in Sabbatic stillness. He let himself into his office, locked the door after him, entered his private room, and sat down before the closed desk. - His
thought was of the girl who had stood near his car, watching, listening to the droning voice of the bailiff as he read what must have been to her the death warrant of her people and her pride. He saw the glow in her cheek, the tightening of the lips, the faint rise and fall of the bosom, and he knew that he desired this girl, as he had never desired money, as he had never desired to break her father, as he had never sought mastery over men—the three great ambitions in his life. She filled the whole of his world, a rare, unique, priceless jewel. He told himself that he must win her even if her feeling for him could not be changed. Lyttleton knew that his case was well nigh desperate. But there seemed-to him one ray of hope. There had ever been in her a touching devotion to her people. He thought he knew the barb that pressed deepest into her heart this gay summer day.
The afternoon was half gone when he finished his deliberations. He left the office, locked the door behind him, and drove down to the hotel. Dinner had been kept for him, but he brusquely declined it, went up to his rooms and changed his clothes. Standing a moment at the window he saw Mr. and Mrs. Campbell drive by in their little phaeton. Then he went downstairs and jumped again into his waiting car. It was remarked by the row of men, smoking and gossiping on the veranda, that Lyttleton must have great things on his mind, this day of his triumph, for he spoke to none, and appeared as if he saw none.
SAVE for a maidservant Mary Campbell was alone in the house. Luncheon had been, as all family gatherings were, these days, a dreary, spiritless function. Every few minutes her father would rise from the table, go out aimlessly, and then return moody and brooding. Her mother, a sweet-faced, dignified woman, showed in her face the care and distress that she rarely gave expression to. The coming of the bailiff, during the past week, had been a humiliation, the like of which neither woman had ever dreamed to be within the range of possibilities. He had gone over the house, listing and appraising the various articles of furniture, that were to their owners almost as the fittings of a shrine. When her father after lunch had proposed to drive Mrs. Campbell out to call on old friends, Mary was glad. Anything was better than this brooding within the house. If things were as bad as she feared they were, the ruin was irretrievable. In his optimistic moods—for he alternated swiftly between pitiable pessimism and incurable optimism—her father prophesied that he would get clear of the rocks still, but she and her mother knew, by this time, the worth of these hopeful dreamings.
After they had gone she went into the morning room with a book.
The tall French windows were wide open. Across the drive, a succession of green lawns terraced the slope to the boathouse and lake.
Flowers bloomed everywhere in the glory of July. The room, facing east, was, like all the apartments of the house, spacious, wainscoted in dark oak, with open fireplace framed in finely cut stone, and tiled with the artistic workmanship of old Dutch potters. Mary' thought of this handsome old room, furnished with the elaborate luxury of a past day, in the occupancy of some French-Canadian farmer, whose tastes would almost certainly run to severely' practical things, of the pieces of furniture and the books, each like a treasured old friend, peddled off by an auctioneer whose specialty was cattle. There was the future to think about. As yet they had made no plans. She did not know what they could do. For herself it did not matter much. She could make her own way in the world, but her father was past work; indeed he had never worked.
Away from the town that had been the home of his people for a hundred years, he would be like a tree transplanted in maturity. To remain in the place would be to be ceaselessly reminded of the height from which he had fallen.
CHE was aroused by the clamor of the front door ^ bell. The maid had gone upstairs to dress, so she answered the summons herself. The man she knew to be Lyttleton stood at the door.
“I am sorry,” she said. “My father is out.”
“Yes, I know,” he answered. “It is you I wished to see, Miss Campbell. My* name is Lyttleton.”
She led the way to the morning-room. Probably' he had come to see the house, or speak of the sale. Perhaps he wished to buy the place. It would be in keeping with all she had heard of him. He might have chosen another day for his projects and affairs. Still it would be better for her to meet him than her father.
Hugh Lyttleton had never seen anything like the room before. He had been reared in a bare farm kitchen, and had lived since in bare lodgings or the dull dreariness of country' hotel apartments. Here was a different atmosphere. Everything spoke of woman’s spirit, nature, refinement. None could better appreciate it than this keen man of the new' world, who had good blood in him, and sound ancestry back of the years of farmhouse poverty'. The Lyttletons had traditions. They belonged to those who had gone back, but in Hugh had come again. Through the open
windows he gazed an instant, charmed by the exquisite peep of green sw'ard, flower brilliance, lordly oaks in the full beauty of their foliage, and, through the branches, glimpses of the blue water of the lake.
Then he swiftly turned his back on it all, and sat. facing her. In the setting of her beautiful home, she was even more desirable than as he had before seen her, cool, self-possessed, a girl of rare charm and refinement. He felt his bigness to be rough and coarse in contrast with her.
“I w'onder if you would listen to me for ten minutes. Miss Campbell?” he asked. “It is, I know, rather unusual, but I w'ant to talk about myself, about—well, things in general, and about you.”
She looked at him with clear, frank eyes, that, he thought, were not altogether unfriendly. That she did not like him was natural, inevitable. He was the malicious enemy, the presumptuous, successful upstart w'ho had thrust himself into her world, with disastrous results to her people and herself. She must regard him as some patrician Roman maiden must have looked upon Goth or Vandal. Yet, he thought, she was a just woman, W'ho would listen to reason rather than the calumnies of prejudice.
“I don’t know W'hy, but I feel that I can talk to you, as I couldn’t to the average woman, considering my relations with your family,” he continued. “Naturally you think of me, if you think of me at all, as an enemy', the cause of all this trouble, Those who listened to that bailiff this morning, imagined, I suppose, that I rejoice over what has happened. I don’t think I am glad about it, although it marks the accomplishment of what I set out to do ten y’ears ago. When I have to fight, I w'ant to win, but it gives me no pleasure to know, after the fight is done, that my adversary suffers. Let me tell you what it means to me. I am thirty-five years old. My people all their days were beggarly poor, though they were as proud and independent as any who walk the earth. What I saw in their lives made me ambitious for something better. At fifteen I wras a pitman in the Williams pits here.
“At twenty-three I saw' an open* ing, a chance to be my own master, and get what I wanted — money'. The mines here, belonging to your father and the Williams people, were not being w’orked, but toyed with by amateurs, gentry' who knew’ nothing about real business. There was the open door, and I went in. Everybody said I was an arrogant, conceited, presumptuous fool for wanting to do what others had no desire to try. That’s what they said when I left the farm. Had I listened to my' neighbors I w'ould have been scratching a few acres of farm land for bread and a covering roof to-day. They said what I was striving after was impossible.
I have come to this conclusion, Miss Campbell, that of all the soft, cowardly things in this world, when you come right up against them, fighting bent, the w'orst are these braggart, impossibilities.”
T N spite of herself, the girl was im■* pressed by the fighting force of the man. She did not wonder that her father and the Williams people had been swept aside by the boundloss energy there was in him.
“I had nothing to help me but a strong body, a fair brain, and a resolution to let no chance by, if I could help it. I couldn't get a dollar from a bank. The managers would look at me, wise as Rockefeller and Morgan rolled into one, if I mentioned money. I’ve had them hold a cheque of mine, because the account was shy a quarter on the sum called for, til! I could hustio the twenty-five cents down. All the knowing folks would meet in the hotel to grin, with a glass of gin in their hands, over the fool exhibition I was making of myself, and they prayed as often as Daniel did, with their windows open toward Jerusalem, that
the Lord would smite me hard for the correction of my sinful pride.
“It was all right, in a way. Little folk are bound to have little ways. You can’t expect a giant stride from a pygmy. There were some with whom I had to reckon. Those already in the business boasted openly they would break me, crowd me off my little, narrow plank. It was all right if they had fought me squarely, but they did not. If I wanted a ton of coal, a box of dynamite, tools, the merchant shook his head. If he sold to me, he would lose the big men’s business. I was boycotted, on the black-list, even my pitmen would not trust me overnight; I had to pay their wages every day. They had been warned that I was likely to smash up any minute, and they had better watch me. I can laugh at it all now—and it was good for me then. When I butted into the market I knew and expected a fight, but I was expecting a goodnatured tussle, and was bent on taking punishment, and giving -what I could, in a fair spirit. But this rough-work put the needed bit of devil into me. I went at my task just about twice as hard as before, because I made up my mind that if breaking was to be done, I would not, if I could help it be the one to be broken. I had a rough time for two or three vears, and then I saw that I was gaining. There was room for my feet; I could move more easily. Tradesmen began to come seeking my orders, and the little man back of the bank counter began to smile when I hove in sight. He revealed a wanted to use in shaking, and I was Mr. Lyttleton instead cf ‘conceited Hughie.’ The pitmen came round and said, that if it suited me, they would like to be paid every fortnight, as in the other pits. It is a small world, Miss Campbell, with a lot of small people in it, sometimes as it is with small folks, a bully of a world. It runs, licking its lips and fawning on the boy that has just got a basket from home. When the rival firms boasted about breaking me, I ought to have kept quiet, instead of imitating them, but I was young, hotblooded, and threatened back.
I would break them, and I set out after them to make my word good.”
She leaned forward a litt’e, her arms on the arms of the chair, her hands loosely clasped. The man interested her—interested her immensely.
She belonged to a people to whom self-repression was one of the cardinal virtues, in whose sight and ears egotism was the supreme vulgarity.
What the man said grated on her ears. His achievements should be left to speak for him.
His anxiety to explain his motives was the surest sign of their meanness. His desire to clothe them in heroic trappings cheap, tawdry, bombastic. Yet he had power, it radiated from him. Men such as he would smash through a world of men, not only because of the strength in them, but because they would not scruple to use weapons a fine nature would disdain. She thought of the old simile of a sooty chimneysweeper making his way through a crowd. His was the subtlest egotism, masked behind apparent frankness and candor. The imputations on her father and his associates, the Williams’, displeased, disgusted her. She wondered if in his mind loyalty to one’s own people counted for anything.
Her eyes met his without giving. There was the consciousness of more than equality—superiority—in them, that banished the sex sense with its traditions. She could not understand why he had come, unless that he might emphasize his triumph in an originally dramatic way.
“I should imagine that few
men so completely accomplish their purposes,” she said.
His eyes passed from her and ranged the room swiftly, as if scarcely conscious-cf the sting of indifference in her reply.
“This is a wonderful house, Miss Campbell,” he said, as if he were commenting upon a show place. “I have never been inside a real home before. But where father and son, mother and daughter, have succeeded each other, carrying on the legends of home, inheritors of one spirit, each adding his or her bit of beauty or color to the great tapestry—it is, as here, wonderful. Not the building, the furnishing, but the living, moving, breathing spirit. One understands why old houses have their tales of ghosts. I know what it must mean to lose such a home as this. Like driving the souls of the dead from their abodes, dividing flesh and spirit, breaking a precious jar of sweet odors, scattering their fragrance on the winds.”
The man had insight and sensibility. This was no recited speech, no outpouring of platitude, but the unpremeditated utterance of thought closely akin to her own.
“Such homes are lost daily,” she answered. “The old die, the new are born.” If sympathy had brought him, and he was trying to express it, he might carry it off with him.
“True,” he said. “But philosophy never lessened much the sting of loss, nor made deathbefore one’s time a thing to be coveted.”
“No,” she answered, “but it teaches that neither failure nor conspicuous success is the supreme thing it is imagined to be.”
There was a glimmer of humor in his blue eyes. Her rapier was swift and sharp.
“Yet only failures damn success and find virtue among the ruins of what they had hoped to be,” he smiled.
‘Did you come' to discuss the philosophy of success and failure?” she asked, having no desire to prolong an interview that was becoming wearisome.
“No,” he replied, and then hesitated. “7 came to ask you to marry me, Miss Campbell.”
'T'HE unexpectedness of his declaration startled her out of her cool calm. A faint flush deepened in her cheeks. She clasped her hands more tightly. In her eyes flamed the light of anger. Her lips trembled as she rose to her feet, the red glow dying out of her face, leaving it white in indignant pride.
“Will you be patient and listen to me a little longer?” he asked. “I know it must seem foolish, presumptuous, perhaps impertinent to you. I have never spoken to you before, but I have thought so much about you that it does not seem so strange, though very wonderful, to me as it must to you. Let me tell you, very respectfully, what is in my mind, and then you may bid me go. I am not going to hurt you by speaking of love to you. In fact, I do not even know that I do love you. I do not understand myself. Whether the mystery is love or not I cannot say. This I do know, I covet you more than I ever wanted anything in this life—I want your thought, your friendship, and perhaps one day, your love. You are more to me than all I thought were greatest—money, revenge, mastery. I would give up all, and take poverty, defeat, subjection, and count them victory, if I had you. It may sound madness, exaggeration, to you. But it is true, and I do not understand it. It is not of to-day, or yesterday. I would walk out into the world this moment, stripped of all that life has given me, if I had you with me, and I would count myself victor.”
She stood, her hand resting on the back of the chair, her eyes meeting his equally. The pride and anger remained, but with them something of respect for the man’s frankness and sincerity. There was dignity, in his bearing—he had risen as she stood—respect in his word, worshipful honor in his spirit. No word fell from her lips. She waited, more from curiosity and interest, than from any other motive.
“I know you have no care for me. Love, of course, is out of the question. You know little of me, and what you do know is all against me. But, I would rather have your antagonism than your indifference. Your bitterness would be sweeter to me than the sweetness of another woman. If you did marry me, all I ask is that you come with me to the church, and become my wife before the world. I would bring you back from the church doors and leave you here, unmolested by me until such time as you might bid me come. If you never sent for me, I would never come.
“Your troubles would be mine, your enemies mine, your happiness mine, if you consented. Your father’s name and honor in the business world would be saved. Every creditor of his would get a hundred cents on every dollar. This house and all it contains would be taken out of the sheriff’s hands at once, to be yours absolutely. You would receive D'om me as your own, free from my control or interference, what I should wish my wife to have—wealth sufficient to dispose of the matter of money once and finally.” , .
Continued on page 79
Man and Wife
Continued from paye 24
“You are disposed to be a somewhat extravagant purchaser, are you not, Mr. Lyttleton?” and her lips curved with smiling scorn.
“The man in the Bible sold all he had to buy the pearl of great price,” he answered. “I am not buying, though— I wish to help you, be your friend. It sounds like trying to buy, to bribe, but I do not mean it in that way. I want to point out to you what I would and could do, and, as I see it, the only wayin which you would let me do these things.”
“Now let me see.” And there was bitterness in her face. “You will take me to church, and we shall make absurd promises that neither of us would think j of fulfilling. I should have to take your | name, I suppose? Then you would go through the business world announcing that you had bought Mr. Campbell’s daughter, and were now paying for her —so much here, so much there. I ' should live in a house purchased with your money, wear clothes, eat food, paid for by you, and have so much money that I could spend without any account-
ing. You say you will not trouble me, but now and again we should have to appear together, I suppose, in public, that the trade might not appear to be too gross. What a subject for novel or play—having broken the father, the victor buys the daughter to grace his triumph! Have yo.u no fear I might slip out of my part of the bargain? The thin chain of marriage is snapped so easily in these days—as easily as a thread ‘Until death us do part.’ Nowadays we take that to mean the death there is in boredom, dulness, hunger for change. You are not in the least the shrewd bargainer I imagined you to be.”
“You shall not laugh my offer away,” he answered, his blue eyes answering the fire in hers. “Why should it be ridiculous? I am of as good blood as you. My family slipped back in the direction in which yours is tending. My name is clean, there is no blot on my honor. Is it dishonor to have succeeded where others have failed? You think me a vain, empty boaster. Then I will boast. Last year I made a quarter of a million dollars by effort of hand and eye and brain. I made it in the same field in which your friends were being driven back, whipped by the adversary that was yielding fortune to me. In ten years I have climbed from nothing to the ownership of property worth to-day two million dollars, while those who were strongly entrenched, and had everything in their favor, were routed. If I had been a man moving in your own social circle, with the power and success I have achieved, would you have regarded my offer to marry you a subject for humor and contempt?
“Of those who know me none take me for a fool, and you shall not. What wrong have I done you? Is it a crime to love a woman, to lay at her feet all one has, to seek to save her sorrow? Send me away, but it shall be in the honor due me.”
HER face crimsoned, and her figure swayed a little as if she were overborne by his assertive vigor.
’‘I ask your pardon, Mr. Lyttleton,” she said. “It is I who deserve contempt. You must see the impossibility of what you ask. I have nothing to give you— nothing—nothing. I do not know you, I do not like you, and I have some selfrespect left to me. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that without liking or love there is no marriage, let the church call it what it may.”
“As you say, you do not know me— then one could not expect you to like me,” he smiled. “You shall live your own life—we will frankly call it, between ourselves, a compact of friendship. On my faith as a man I will ask nothing of you, not as much as the touch of your hand. I will start again, with nothing, and seek fortune—to win my wife. Do not answer now, Miss Campbell. The thought is startling. I want you to consider it broadly. Talk it over with your friends, if you wish.” She hesitated a few moments, then looked up. She owed him something for her treatment of him.
“It is the height of folly,” she said. “Still I will take time over what might better be said now. Can you call at this hour to-morrow?”
“T HAD a caller while you were out,” A she said to her father and mother when they returned from their drive. “Hugh Lyttleton was here.”
“Lyttleton!” her father exclaimed. “After buying the place, I suppose?” “Not exactly as you think,” she said. “He came to ask me to marry him.” “His damned impertinence!” And Campbell’s ruddy face grew still redder.
“That is what 1 suggested, in other terms,” she laughed. “He is coming again to-morrow for his answer.”
“Why to-morrow?” he asked. “Wasn’t to-day good enough?”
“He didn’t appear to think so,” she said drily. “I don’t wonder he made money. He is the most persistent, determined man I ever met. I hate him
for what he is, what he has done, and what he thinks is within his reach, but he is a man of immense power.”
“Why did you listen to him? You should have had him shown to the door at once,” he fumed.
“I don’t know. It was startling, amusing, interesting as a study in egotism, and then—I assure you, impressive.” She laughed. “It was the most mercenary of propositions, and— well, the most wonderful tribute the most exacting woman could desire. He offered, if I married him, to bring me back from the church here, never to molest me, or even seen me unless I sent for him. It would be a compact of friendship, he said. He would pay your firm debts, father, buy and give me the house, provide for me at once with a life competence, so that the question of money would be disposed of once and for all. I know he would keep his word absolutely. He is the kind of man who never lies nor beats round the bush. So much is due him. If I did marry him he would give me what he would call a square deal, and much more than that.”
“But, Mary, you do not contemplate such a step as possible?” her mother asked.
“It seemed the most ridiculous thing on earth up to the time he left, and then, do you know, I began to rock a little.” She laughed. “I think the love marriage is usually the flimsiest of all marriages, and he put the marriage of convenience in a very agreeable light. .All the benefits and none of the disadvantages would be mine. He would not expect me even to make a pretence of affection—and he has two million dollars. Love often vanishes with the honeymoon, but two millions go far, especially as he is adding to them industriously every year. He made a quarter of a million last year. I suppose I am a fool even to hesitate.”
“I wish you would not talk in that flippant, cynical way,” her mother rebuked. “The suggestion to me is horrible. It is unjust, as well to the man.”
“I don’t think so,” Mary replied. “He gets all he bargains for—but do not be alarmed, mother. It would be mighty pleasant to have the money, and to know we should never have that kind of trouble again, but—the price, small as it seems, is yet too heavy.”
UTHEN dinner was over she went out * » on the lake with her father. He had been very silent during dinner, and said little to her until they were well out on the lake. Then he shut off the motor, and let the boat drift, giving his attention to his cigar. Mary had a book, whose leaves she turned idly. She saw her father’s eyes turn wistfully toward the house they had left. To lose that would be more to him than his business and the mine. The furrowed brow spoke of care, anxiety, apprehension. After a lifetime in one place the world appears a wilderness.
Suddenly his brow cleared, he seemed to cast off the burden from his shoulders.
“The news about Lyttleton’s coming startled me,” he said suddenly. “Perhaps we ought not to look on it too severely. He has been an enemy, but a man who comes in the time of your need, and offers aid, can’t be all bad.”
“No, he impressed me the other way,” she said. “Is it true you people tried to stamp him out when he started? That the tradesmen were warned that if they sold to him, the big men would boycott him?”
“I guess that was not far wrong,” he admitted. “You see we had the monopoly and resented a new man coming in, especially as he had been just one of Williams' pitmen. We certainly jammed him as tight as we could but we couldn’t manage to put him out. He was younger, always at it, and—I’ll give him his due, wonderfully clever. I had no idea he thought of you, Mary. It was a great offer he made you. If everything had been right other ways.”
“What ways?” she asked, her face quiet and gTave.
“If he had been a gentleman,” he replied.
“That did not strike me as his defect,” she said.
“Of course the Lyttletons are good stock. The grandfather was a drinking man, and muddled things away, but, well you know, he worked in the gang—young Hugh I mean—like a common Austrian or Pole.”
“One has to admit,” he went on, “that Lyttleton is a comer in the big sense. Ten years from now folks won’t care what his father and mother were— though they were clean, decent folk— they will know' what he is. A man who has a couple of millions at thirty-five, with a bit of luck is going to be quite a figure. I guess, anyway, he will buy the house and all that goes with it, and there will be no trouble for him to get a wife to look after it for him. It will be hard to have to leave. Your mother says little, but it’s killing her, Mary, just killing her. I dread the day—and it is very near now, when we’ll have to go out, God knows where, to find shelter.
“I have been a fool—idle, wasteful, careless. Nobody knows better than I. None can lay the scourge on harder. I was a fool every way. There was Lyttleton who could have come in with me, and made me, but I picked the Williams crowd. Made young Jack Williams my manager because he was what was called a gentleman, and Hugh an ordinary workman. What happened? Williams thought he could stack up against the new-comer. It was like a child against a grown man. Lyttleton ran him off his feet, hit him when and where he liked, and then pitched him into a corner out of the way, as if of no more value. I’d be more content to see you the wife of the winner than that of any man I know, because he’ll never fail you, and will always be to you better than his word. But there, don’t let me instruct you. Do wTiat you think is right. You are the one to decide, but make your choice with your eyes wide open. No doubt we look on the gloomy side of things just now, and matters will be more tolerable, at the worst, than we anticipate. So think w'ell in your own interest about what Lyttleton offers.”
THEY went ashore presently. Reaching home, she went at once to her loom, and sat there long in the darkness, looking out of the window. It was late before she slept, and she rose early. She avoided her mother and father as much as possible during the morning, and was in her room when the maid came up to announce that Mr. Lyttleton was awaiting her in the morning room. He rose to greet her as she opened and closed the door.
“I have thought matters out, broadly, as you wished,” she said. “In my own eyes my decision seems mean and despicable—but I am going to accept your offer. You will not expect me to speak of my reasons for this, nor will you look for me to humiliate myself by pointing out again my ungenerosity. I have no right to take, unless I am willing to give. I cannot give, and yet I am taking. You understand this? If there is anything you wish to change in your offer, please tell me. now.”
“I understand perfectly,” he replied. “I will keep my word to the letter. Perhaps you would not care for any announcement—any unnecessary publicity?”
“We will announce it to-day,” she answered. “You would wish the marriage to take place soon?”
“Yes, the sooner the better,” he told her. “1 will procure the special license. You would prefer a private ceremony?”
“No, public, in the church. It is little enough I am giving,” she replied. His face expressed his gladness.
“Remember, Miss Campbell—” he began.
“Mary, please,” she said, the shadow of a smile on her face.
“I will keep faith with you in letter and spirit,” he told her.
“I know you will,” she replied with calm frankness.
“I believe you will live to be made glad of this day,” he said.
“It will be pleasanter if neither of us regrets it,” she responded with what seemed chillest politeness.
She accompanied him to the door and there they parted. She did not even offer her hand. Two persons separating after the most casual bargainmaking would have been more cordial.
“I have promised to marry Hugh Lyttleton,” she said, entering the room in which her mother and father sat. Before they could respond to the announcement she went up to her room.
SHE was not sorry she had struck the bargain. The world would say that she had been the most fortunate of women. A vast weight had been lifted from her mind. Never again would her father know anxious care. His name would be kept in clean honor. The house and all it signified to all of them had been saved. The horrible humiliations of poverty, feit most bitterly by those who have known comfort and luxury, belonged to the past. Yet she felt soiled, humbled. She had lost something—her independence of soul, her pride. From a woman of free will she had stepped down to be a bargainer, selling herself for money, place, comfort, and not even giving what the honest woman gives in trade
She thought no better of Lyttleton for his big generosity, rather the worse. He had tempted, laid the bait skilfully for herself, her father. No matter what he had thought of her before, she must seem a cheap, humbled creature in his eyes. Conqueror indeed he was, for hellast possession, her pride, he had stripped from her. He had made his own terms; they were not hers. She had sold in the best market, getting all and giving as little as possible. That was sound business.
At dinner in the evening her mother was unusually silent, her father exuberant. The strain he had been under had been severe to a man of his pride.
“You should hat^e asked Lyttleton to stay for dinner,” he said.
“It never occurred to me,” Mary replied. '
He insisted on going down to the cellars and bringing up a bottle of rare old wine. She remembered that it had been among the articles listed by the sheriff’s man. He drank to the health of the plighted pair, and was with difficulty dissuaded from going to the telephone and calling up Hugh to tell him what he had done.
GREATER than the sensation caused by the downfall of the Campbells was that occasioned by their swift recovery. Mary’s telephone was *busy all the next morning. The Williams family swept down solidly before ten o’clock to reproach her for the secrecy with which she had surrounded her charming romance. She was a wonderfully lucky girl, for Lyttleton had millions, and, it was said in town—they had heard it—that he was positively in the seventh heaven of delight. She would be able to do anything now. Of course she would not stay in a poky little backwoods town, but would have a town house, and—-was she not the fortunate girl? And at such a crucial stage of their unhappy fortunes.
It was part of the burden that Mary had to listen smilingly to the verbose enthusiasm. They deemed it necessary to speak flatteringly of Hugh, whom, she knew, they hated with all the maliciousness of which they were capable. It was never suggested, or implied in their congratulations, that it was a match of esteem, love. All that they said reeked of money. Srie was looked upon as a bought woman, who had fetched a handsome price in the market, having land-ed a millionaire who had taken a fancy to her. Her father, to her great indignation, had not been able to keep to himself the detail^ of Hugh’s monetary aid, but had discussed them at the Williams’ house the pi-evious evening.
Still, it did not matter, everybody would know how it was. When she went into town, later in the day, she perceived how greatly the world had changed.
She was no longer the broken man’si daughter, but the fiancee of the millionaire, the con so i-t-to-be of the king. Like mists before the noon sun her troubles vanished. Tradesmen, who had been cool as to the Campbell patronage, were eager to heed her slightest wish. Some, whom she knew in the friendly intimacy of a small community, congratulated her on her fortune. They spoke, almost with bated breath, of the power and greatness of the man who was to be her husband.
It was always the same—the fortune was hers, she was the one to whom the great benefits had come. Her sensitive ear fancied that she could catch a suggestion of wonder that he had fixed his mind on her.
There was only one man in the town whose opinion she really valued. This was an old doctor, who had a small estate on the outskirts of the camp district, and occupied his wealthy leisure in scientific research.
She met the fid gentleman in the main street of the town, that morning. He stopped his pony chaise, and got down, with his wife, to greet her. She had rather feared his criticism, for he was very direct and blunt.
“So the big man has picked the right girl,” he said. She colored with pleasure, not because he praised Hugh, but because he suggested that the bargain was not all on one side.
“You are sure?” she laughed.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “Perhaps, even you, do not see it yet. There is the glamor, eh, Mary!” Her eyes met his, and she knew he read her mind. “You will see and know it. Better the enthusiasm that comes later, when you understand how fully you have obtained it.
“I suppose it was a little startling?” And his kindly eyes searched her face. “I understand—I understand—but it was no mistake. You will find out. It was no sacrifice. It is one of the occasions when the clei’k of the marriage bureau shows glimmerings of wit. My dear—you have got a man. If he hadn’t a dollar you’d be in luck. And I have been impressing upon him that he has got a woman, better than he is—but he knew it beforehand. Forget the money part—you know what I mean—get rid of the notion that the money makes the transaction a bargain. Give yourself and your man a square deal. It’s a perfect match—a perfect match.”
She took the strangest comfort in his words. It was dawning on her that the man she, in her little world, had regarded as an upstart, who had blundered or. great money, was a figure in the bigger world, among men who knew.
“A square deal!” She wondered what Dr. Welch would say if he knew the terms of the deal. Did he know? Perhaps he had heard, and had spoken to her from knowledge.
IT/TTH his swift promptnessHugh ' * cleared up her father’s business affairs, without appeai'ing in them at all. Chaput managed everything.
It was he who negotiated the sale of the house and furnishings with Campbell, the sheriff, and the creditors, and sent the deed of it to Mary. From first to last the name of Lyttleton never appeared in any of. the arrangements.
The Saturday before her marriage she received an intimation from a bank in a distant town that a sum of money had been deposited to her credit. It was sufficient to provide her with an independent competency for the rest of her life. She remonstrated with him on account of its extravagant largeness.
“Money need never come between us again,” he replied.
With one swift stroke he accomplished every transaction that necessitated the payment of money. Thereafter—after their marriage—the fact that he was a man of wealth was buried. Still it was not hidden from her. It remained the one great fact dominating all. She wondered-—had there been no trouble— whether he ever would have sought to know her. She knew that she would not have listened to him. It was the need—the horrible need of her people— that had driven her, and, no matter how great the generosity, even the love he
did not understand and yet professed for her, she must be in his eyes something bought, something that had given in exchange with pitiful miserliness. She would, in sheer independence of soul, with all her dislike, have gone to him and insisted that she be allowed to pay the full price the transaction called for honorably, but — the terms had been his not hers, she had not dictated, but had merely accepted. How did she know that he had not asked for all he desired of her? He had not offered her a home with him. She was glad he had not. It would be time enough to really reproach herself when he came and asked for her. She would then pay, she told herself.
Perhaps, at the root of all her dissatisfaction, was the thought that he had been so easily content. A great love would have made its lawful demands, not because they were lawful but because of the love. He would not come, according to his bargain, except she bid him, would not take unless she offered. She was in a difficult position, one in which the burden was laid upon her.
IN the early morning of a summer day, the wedding took place. Througn the scented lanes she drove from the festal house to church with her father. Lyttleton awaited her at the chancel step as she came up the aisle in radiant white. For an instant she looked up at him, an almost questioning expression on her face, then stood by his side. She spoke the great promises, of which she had spoken so lightly, in a clear voice, laid her hand in his with confidence, outheld it to receive the ring upon her slim white finger. Sentimental folk commented on the fact that he had omitted to kiss his bride, after the country fashion. Perhaps that was one of the new fool fashions of upper folks.
Together they walked down the flower-strewn aisle and path, her hand on his arm, she palely sweet and gracious, he fit mate for so charming a woman. Smilingly she responded to the frankly spoken wishes of the throng that crowded the church and yard.
Yet it was a queer wedding, people said. No great party in the house, no dancing the night through, no honeymoon. He took her back to her father’s house and came away in the afternoon. Folk said that the mines called for his special attention, but he must be a queer kind of man to let business stand between him and so fair a bride on their wedding day.
Then it was gossiped that it was only a sham marriage, that he had wanted her, and she had wanted his money for her father. That they had driven a clever bargain with him, for he was crazy about her, and had fooled him. They had got his money and she never meant to live with him. That was their pride. His money was all right, but they had no opinion of him. People, like the Williams’, laughed and said that here was the one case in which the smart man had been outwitted. Mary Campbell thought no more of him than if he were the veriest wayside beggar. A fine bridegroom who had to part from his wife on their wedding day, without even a lip salute!
To keep up appearances he sometimes called at the house on Sunday morning, took her to church and brought her back home, staying GO lunch with the family. Thei'e was no pretence of loverliness in their meetings. Those who happened to be guests at the house on these occasions said they played their parts with much skill. He was very attentive to her, she pleasant and friendly to him— very nice and courteous, but not a bit like lovers or man and wife. This was true enough. He asked nothing of her, she gave nothing. They never spoke of personal matters. She was greatly interested in his mines and big business projects. Once she drove out with him to look over his developing pits and mills, and gradually she came to know something of the scope and absorbing interest of his affairs, for he had business relations outside the little mining town.
So this strange pair spent the few hours in the week that they gave to each other (as some concession to public opinion) in discussing business. She was
clever, grasped business problems firmly, and was frankly gratified by his assumption that she was really intelligent.
THEY had been married several months when, driving down to the house one Sunday afternoon, he found the Williams family there. He came indoors and stayed a little while, presently making an excuse for early leaving.
“I wish you would not go, Hugh,” Mary said to him, accompanying him to the door. It was the first time she had ever expressed a wish of the kind. “Then I will stay,” he replied.
“I wish you would not do everything I ask—just in that way, Hugh,” she said, with something of impatience in her smile.
“Very well, if that is not doing precisely the thing you complain of,” he laughed. “But really, Mary, with all due respect to your friends, I can’t stand that particular mob. I like to have you all to myself when I come. It is not a great deal I see of you.”
“That is a very pretty little compliment,” she smiled.
“I don’t pay you compliments, I just tell the plain truth.”
“And that is still more gallant,” she replied. “I’ll try to plan things better in future. Never mind if you don’t care to stay to-day. 1 quite understand. If vou were not too busy—” then she hesitated.
“And if I were not?” he inquired.
“I mean to-morrow,” she said.
“I am not a bit busy.”
“How do you know you won’t be?” she laughed. “I wonder if you would like to take me out for a drive, just — just the two of us. The Williams’ will make remarks about your leaving to-day, and we could make a kind of counter-demonstration to-morrow. It would be quite a sensation, Hugh and Mary Lyttleton taking a drive together.”
“Wouldn’t it?” he replied. “I will come at two.”
“The whole afternoon, and you will have dinner with us in the evening?” she asked.
HIS car was in the garage at the farther end of the grounds, and she walked with him over the.lawn, toward it. He had never seen her so bright and sunny. She did a thing that had never happened before—she slipped her hand within his arm. A flush of pleasure passed over his face, as her fingers pressed his arm ever so lightly. The visitors were watching them from one of the windows.
“There is some good in the Williams crowd after all,” he laughed down on her.
“I don’t think that is as nice as some . of the other things you said,” she replied. “May I not be allowed credit for a little impulse of my own when I want to be agreeable?”
“I am an ungrateful brute,” he said penitently, holding her hand more closely.
“What do you do with yourself, I wonder, on these long, dull, Sunday afternoons and evenings when you are driven away from me, or — grow tired?” she asked. There was bright mischief in her eyes.
“Sit, smoke, think, dream,” he answered.
“About the ali-engrossing business, I suppose?”
“Yes, the all-engrossing business.”
“It must be dull.”
“Fearfully dull,” he agreed. “There’s the wall, and one picture upon it, and I weave fancies and dreams about it.”
“It must be dreadfully dull,” she laughed. “Just a picture on a big drear wall.”
“It serves till the better day comes,” he told her, and he pressed her hand again.
“Be careful, Hugh,” she rebuked him. “They are watching our every moment, and you will be accused of flirting most outrageously vvith your wife, to the public scandal. Wc have a great reputation for decorum to maintain.”
SHE watched him drive away. At the gate he waved his hand. She had another of her little impulses, for she put her hand to her lips and wafted him a kiss. If the Williams people were
looking for connubial scandal they t should have good measure.
Alice Williams, a girl of about Mary’s own age, came out to meet her as she neared the house.
“Too bad, Mary, that Mr. Lyttleton had to leave so soon. I am afraid our being here broke up a nice little domestic afternoon,” she said.
“Hugh has a good deal of business on his hands,” Mary replied.
“Yes, it seems all business. If he were my husband I think I should be much more exacting,” said Alice. “You are the queerest married couple. No honeymoon, no home of your own, you do not live together. Sometimes one would think you had made a sort of business partnership and then, at others, you look like two beginning lovers, a little unhandy at love, but quite charmingly so.”
“When you get married, Alice, and inquisitive little girls come along, as they always do, and want the benefit of experience, just tell them to be nice and good, and wait patiently for the only experience that counts — their own,” Mary replied with smiling decisiveness.
“That’s about all from me, I guess,” the girl laughed. “But I am quite frankly curious about you two. Jack swears it is all make-believe, a trade — of course quite a fair and legitimate one—between a man who wanted a girl he admired, and a girl who knew which side her bread was buttered. I say that you are crazily in love with each other and don't know it. You want to come.together and can’t find a bridge over. Mind some nice, aggressive woman does not snap your man from under your nose. The world is full of ravenous women, seeking anything desirable, in the man way, whom they may devour, with an especially savage hunger for one who is young, good-looking, and a millionaire. I would not have a husband of mine going off to dingy mine offices, or hotel rooms, for his Sunday evenings. I’d make his world a bit more attractive for him. Here is Jack coming out to sigh over you, I think I had better stay and chaperon you.”
MARY got rid of both by declining to join them in a trip over the lake. When the whole household had gone off in the launch she went into the morning room, and began to think again of the interview with her husband that first afternoon. The marriage, she realized, had been a tremendous experiment to make. Whether it was to be the success Dr. Welch had prophesied or a failure she did not yet know. Hugh came very rarely to the house. She was sure he could come more frequently, if he wished. Sometimes she wondered if he had grown tired of the one-sided bargain—if his care for her had been the outcome of impulsive chivalry, a passing liking, that had worn threadbare by time and neglect. Love lives by what it feeds on.
' It struck her that two or three hours on Sunday afternoon, talking about mines and money-making, must be starvation diet. She was much of a puzzle to herself. He was winning his way with her, she confessed. The time had been when she hated him, but that had long since passed. She explained to herself that it was impossible not to like a person who gave one everything one wanted. That was merest gratitude.
If Hugh had called her up at this moment, and said: “Mary, I want you
to come up to the mine house here, and live with me, cook my dinners, wash my clothes, be my real wife,” she would have been on the road to obedience as fast as she could jump. That was his due, and — she wanted to give him even a little more than his strict due.
To be continued
I have taken the mnga^ine several years and like it better all the time. I like it better because it U better and I feel I cannot, afford to mis» a single number. I atn reading both short and continued stories a'nd find them first class—excellent. To sit down with such a journal as MACLEAN'S MAGAZINE after a hard day’s work is rest Indeed.
C. E. B.