A Poor Wise Man mixes romantic fiction with political analysis. This engrossing story begins, "The city turned its dreariest aspect toward the railway on blackened walls, irregular and ill-paved streets, gloomy warehouses, and over all a gray, smoke-laden atmosphere which gave it mystery and often beauty. Sometimes the softened towers of the great steel bridges rose above the river mist like fairy towers suspended between Heaven and earth. And again the sun tipped the surrounding hills with gold, while the city lay buried in its smoke shroud, and white ghosts of river boats moved spectrally along.
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A POOR WISE MAN
by Mary Rinehart
Published 2018 by Blackmore Dennett
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
The city turned its dreariest aspect toward the railway on blackened walls, irregular and ill-paved streets, gloomy warehouses, and over all a gray, smoke-laden atmosphere which gave it mystery and often beauty. Sometimes the softened towers of the great steel bridges rose above the river mist like fairy towers suspended between Heaven and earth. And again the sun tipped the surrounding hills with gold, while the city lay buried in its smoke shroud, and white ghosts of river boats moved spectrally along.
Sometimes it was ugly, sometimes beautiful, but always the city was powerful, significant, important. It was a vast melting pot. Through its gates came alike the hopeful and the hopeless, the dreamers and those who would destroy those dreams. From all over the world there came men who sought a chance to labor. They came in groups, anxious and dumb, carrying with them their pathetic bundles, and shepherded by men with cunning eyes.
Raw material, for the crucible of the city, as potentially powerful as the iron ore which entered the city by the same gate.
The city took them in, gave them sanctuary, and forgot them. But the shepherds with the cunning eyes remembered.
Lily Cardew, standing in the train shed one morning early in March, watched such a line go by. She watched it with interest. She had developed a new interest in people during the year she had been away. She had seen, in the army camp, similar shuffling lines of men, transformed in a few hours into ranks of uniformed soldiers, beginning already to be actuated by the same motive. These aliens, going by, would become citizens. Very soon now they would appear on the streets in new American clothes of extraordinary cut and color, their hair cut with clippers almost to the crown, and surmounted by derby hats always a size too small.
Lily smiled, and looked out for her mother. She was suddenly unaccountably glad to be back again. She liked the smoke and the noise, the movement, the sense of things doing. And the sight of her mother, small, faultlessly tailored, wearing a great bunch of violets, and incongruous in that work-a-day atmosphere, set her smiling again.
How familiar it all was! And heavens, how young she looked! The limousine was at the curb, and a footman as immaculately turned out as her mother stood with a folded rug over his arm. On the seat inside lay a purple box. Lily had known it would be there. They would be ostensibly from her father, because he had not been able to meet her, but she knew quite well that Grace Cardew had stopped at the florist's on her way downtown and bought them.
A little surge of affection for her mother warmed the girl's eyes. The small attentions which in the Cardew household took the place of loving demonstrations had always touched her. As a family the Cardews were rather loosely knitted together, but there was something very lovable about her mother.
Grace Cardew kissed her, and then held her off and looked at her.
“Mercy, Lily!” she said, “you look as old as I do.”
“Older, I hope,” Lily retorted. “What a marvel you are, Grace dear.” Now and then she called her mother “Grace.” It was by way of being a small joke between them, but limited to their moments alone. Once old Anthony, her grandfather, had overheard her, and there had been rather a row about it.
“I feel horribly old, but I didn't think I looked it.”
They got into the car and Grace held out the box to her. “From your father, dear. He wanted so to come, but things are dreadful at the mill. I suppose you've seen the papers.” Lily opened the box, and smiled at her mother.
“Yes, I know. But why the subterfuge about the flowers, mother dear? Honestly, did he send them, or did you get them? But never mind about that; I know he's worried, and you're sweet to do it. Have you broken the news to grandfather that the last of the Cardews is coming home?”
“He sent you all sorts of messages, and he'll see you at dinner.”
Lily laughed out at that.
“You darling!” she said. “You know perfectly well that I am nothing in grandfather's young life, but the Cardew women all have what he likes to call savoir faire. What would they do, father and grandfather, if you didn't go through life smoothing things for them?”
Grace looked rather stiffly ahead. This young daughter of hers, with her directness and her smiling ignoring of the small subterfuges of life, rather frightened her. The terrible honesty of youth! All these years of ironing the wrinkles out of life, of smoothing the difficulties between old Anthony and Howard, and now a third generation to contend with. A pitilessly frank and unconsciously cruel generation. She turned and eyed Lily uneasily.
“You look tired,” she said, “and you need attention. I wish you had let me send Castle to you.”
But she thought that lily was even lovelier than she had remembered her. Lovely rather than beautiful, perhaps. Her face was less childish than when she had gone away; there was, in certain of her expressions, an almost alarming maturity. But perhaps that was fatigue.
“I couldn't have had Castle, mother. I didn't need anything. I've been very happy, really, and very busy.”
“You have been very vague lately about your work.”
Lily faced her mother squarely.
“I didn't think you'd much like having me do it, and I thought it would drive grandfather crazy.”
“I thought you were in a canteen.”
“Not lately. I've been looking after girls who had followed soldiers to camps. Some of them were going to have babies, too. It was rather awful. We married quite a lot of them, however.”
The curious reserve that so often exists between mother and daughter held Grace Cardew dumb. She nodded, but her eyes had slightly hardened. So this was what war had done to her. She had had no son, and had thanked God for it during the war, although old Anthony had hated her all her married life for it. But she had given her daughter, her clear-eyed daughter, and they had shown her the dregs of life.
Her thoughts went back over the years. To Lily as a child, with Mademoiselle always at her elbow, and life painted as a thing of beauty. Love, marriage and birth were divine accidents. Death was a quiet sleep, with heaven just beyond, a sleep which came only to age, which had wearied and would rest. Then she remembered the day when Elinor Cardew, poor unhappy Elinor, had fled back to Anthony's roof to have a baby, and after a few rapturous weeks for Lily the baby had died.
“But the baby isn't old,” Lily had persisted, standing in front of her mother with angry, accusing eyes.
Grace was not an imaginative woman, but she turned it rather neatly, as she told Howard later.
“It was such a nice baby,” she said, feeling for an idea. “I think probably God was lonely without it, and sent an angel for it again.”
“But it is still upstairs,” Lily had insisted. She had had a curious instinct for truth, even then. But there Grace's imagination had failed her, and she sent for Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle was a good Catholic, and very clear in her own mind, but what she left in Lily's brain was a confused conviction that every person was two persons, a body and a soul. Death was simply a split-up, then. One part of you, the part that bathed every morning and had its toe-nails cut, and went to dancing school in a white frock and thin black silk stockings and carriage boots over pumps, that part was buried and would only came up again at the Resurrection. But the other part was all the time very happy, and mostly singing.
Lily did not like to sing.
Then there was the matter of tears. People only cried when they hurt themselves. She had been told that again and again when she threatened tears over her music lesson. But when Aunt Elinor had gone away she had found Mademoiselle, the deadly antagonist of tears, weeping. And here again Grace remembered the child's wide, insistent eyes.
“She is sorry for Aunt Elinor.”
“Because her baby's gone to God? She ought to be glad, oughtn't she?”
“Not that;” said Grace, and had brought a box of chocolates and given her one, although they were not permitted save one after each meal.
Then Lily had gone away to school. How carefully the school had been selected! When she came back, however, there had been no more questions, and Grace had sighed with relief. That bad time was over, anyhow. But Lily was rather difficult those days. She seemed, in some vague way, resentful. Her mother found her, now and then, in a frowning, half-defiant mood. And once, when Mademoiselle had ventured some jesting remark about young Alston Denslow, she was stupefied to see the girl march out of the room, her chin high, not to be seen again for hours.
Grace's mind was sub-consciously remembering those things even when she spoke.
“I didn't know you were having to learn about that side of life,” she said, after a brief silence.
“That side of life is life, mother,” Lily said gravely. But Grace did not reply to that. It was characteristic of her to follow her own line of thought.
“I wish you wouldn't tell your grandfather. You know he feels strongly about some things. And he hasn't forgiven me yet for letting you go.”
Rather diffidently Lily put her hand on her mother's. She gave her rare caresses shyly, with averted eyes, and she was always more diffident with her mother than with her father. Such spontaneous bursts of affection as she sometimes showed had been lavished on Mademoiselle. It was Mademoiselle she had hugged rapturously on her small feast days, Mademoiselle who never demanded affection, and so received it.
“Poor mother!” she said, “I have made it hard for you, haven't I? Is he as bad as ever?”
She had not pinned on the violets, but sat holding them in her hands, now and then taking a luxurious sniff. She did not seem to expect a reply. Between Grace and herself it was quite understood that old Anthony Cardew was always as bad as could be.
“There is some sort of trouble at the mill. Your father is worried.”
And this time it was Lily who did not reply. She said, inconsequentially:
“We're saved, and it's all over. But sometimes I wonder if we were worth saving. It all seems such a mess, doesn't it?” She glanced out. They were drawing up before the house, and she looked at her mother whimsically.
“The last of the Cardews returning from the wars!” she said. “Only she is unfortunately a she, and she hasn't been any nearer the war than the State of Ohio.”
Her voice was gay enough, but she had a quick vision of the grim old house had she been the son they had wanted to carry on the name, returning from France.
The Cardews had fighting traditions. They had fought in every war from the Revolution on. There had been a Cardew in Mexico in '48, and in that upper suite of rooms to which her grandfather had retired in wrath on his son's marriage, she remembered her sense of awe as a child on seeing on the wall the sword he had worn in the Civil War. He was a small man, and the scabbard was badly worn at the end, mute testimony to the long forced marches of his youth. Her father had gone to Cuba in '98, and had almost died of typhoid fever there, contracted in the marshes of Florida.
Yes, they had been a fighting family. And now—
Her mother was determinedly gay. There were flowers in the dark old hall, and Grayson, the butler, evidently waiting inside the door, greeted her with the familiarity of the old servant who had slipped her sweets from the pantry after dinner parties in her little-girl years.
“Welcome home, Miss Lily,” he said.
Mademoiselle was lurking on the stairway, in a new lace collar over her old black dress. Lily recognized in the collar a great occasion, for Mademoiselle was French and thrifty. Suddenly a wave of warmth and gladness flooded her. This was home. Dear, familiar home. She had come back. She was the only young thing in the house. She would bring them gladness and youth. She would try to make them happy. Always before she had taken, but now she meant to give.
Not that she formulated such a thought. It was an emotion, rather. She ran up the stairs and hugged Mademoiselle wildly.
“You darling old thing!” she cried. She lapsed into French. “I saw the collar at once. And think, it is over! It is finished. And all your nice French relatives are sitting on the boulevards in the sun, and sipping their little glasses of wine, and rising and bowing when a pretty girl passes. Is it not so?”
“It is so, God and the saints be praised!” said Mademoiselle, huskily.
Grace Cardew followed them up the staircase. Her French was negligible, and she felt again, as in days gone by, shut from the little world of two which held her daughter and governess. Old Anthony's doing, that. He had never forgiven his son his plebeian marriage, and an early conversation returned to her. It was on Lily's first birthday and he had made one of his rare visits to the nursery. He had brought with him a pearl in a velvet case.
“All our women have their own pearls,” he had said. “She will have her grandmother's also when she marries. I shall give her one the first year, two the second, and so on.” He had stood looking down at the child critically. “She's a Cardew,” he said at last. “Which means that she will be obstinate and self-willed.” He had paused there, but Grace had not refuted the statement. He had grinned. “As you know,” he added. “Is she talking yet?”
“A word or two,” Grace had said, with no more warmth in her tone than was in his.
“Very well. Get her a French governess. She ought to speak French before she does English. It is one of the accomplishments of a lady. Get a good woman, and for heaven's sake arrange to serve her breakfast in her room. I don't want to have to be pleasant to any chattering French woman at eight in the morning.”
“No, you wouldn't,” Grace had said.
Anthony had stamped out, but in the hall he smiled grimly. He did not like Howard's wife, but she was not afraid of him. He respected her for that. He took good care to see that the Frenchwoman was found, and at dinner, the only meal he took with the family, he would now and then send for the governess and Lily to come in for dessert. That, of course, was later on, when the child was nearly ten. Then would follow a three-cornered conversation in rapid French, Howard and Anthony and Lily, with Mademoiselle joining in timidly, and with Grace, at the side of the table, pretending to eat and feeling cut off, in a middle-class world of her own, at the side of the table. Anthony Cardew had retained the head of his table, and he had never asked her to take his dead wife's place.
After a time Grace realized the consummate cruelty of those hours, the fact that Lily was sent for, not only because the old man cared to see her, but to make Grace feel the outsider that she was. She made desperate efforts to conquer the hated language, but her accent was atrocious. Anthony would correct her suavely, and Lily would laugh in childish, unthinking mirth. She gave it up at last.
She never told Howard about it. He had his own difficulties with his father, and she would not add to them. She managed the house, checked over the bills and sent them to the office, put up a cheerful and courageous front, and after a time sheathed herself in an armor of smiling indifference. But she thanked heaven when the time came to send Lily away to school. The effort of concealing the armed neutrality between Anthony and herself was growing more wearing. The girl was observant. And Anthony had been right, she was a Cardew. She would have fought her grandfather out on it, defied him, accused him, hated him. And Grace wanted peace.
Once again as she followed Lily and Mademoiselle up the stairs she felt the barrier of language, and back of it the Cardew pride and traditions that somehow cut her off.
But in Lily's rooms she was her sane and cheerful self again. Inside the doorway the girl was standing, her eyes traveling over her little domain ecstatically.
“How lovely of you not to change a thing, mother!” she said. “I was so afraid—I know how you hate my stuff. But I might have known you wouldn't. All the time I've been away, sleeping in a dormitory, and taking turns at the bath, I have thought of my own little place.” She wandered around, touching her familiar possessions with caressing hands. “I've a good notion,” she declared, “to go to bed immediately, just for the pleasure of lying in linen sheets again.” Suddenly she turned to her mother. “I'm afraid you'll find I've made some queer friends, mother.”
“What do you mean by 'queer'?”
“People no proper Cardew would care to know.” She smiled. “Where's Ellen? I want to tell her I met somebody she knows out there, the nicest sort of a boy.” She went to the doorway and called lustily: “Ellen! Ellen!” The rustling of starched skirts answered her from down the corridor.
“I wish you wouldn't call, dear.” Grace looked anxious. “You know how your grandfather—there's a bell for Ellen.”
“What we need around here,” said Lily, cheerfully, “is a little more calling. And if grandfather thinks it is unbefitting the family dignity he can put cotton in his ears. Come in, Ellen. Ellen, do you know that I met Willy Cameron in the camp?”
“Willy!” squealed Ellen. “You met Willy? Isn't he a fine boy, Miss Lily?”
“He's wonderful,” said Lily. “I went to the movies with him every Friday night.” She turned to her mother. “You would like him, mother. He couldn't get into the army. He is a little bit lame. And—” she surveyed Grace with amused eyes, “you needn't think what you are thinking. He is tall and thin and not at all good-looking. Is he, Ellen?”
“He is a very fine young man,” Ellen said rather stiffly. “He's very highly thought of in the town I come from. His father was a doctor, and his buggy used to go around day, and night. When he found they wouldn't take him as a soldier he was like to break his heart.”
“Lame?” Grace repeated, ignoring Ellen.
“Just a little. You forget all about it when you know him. Don't you, Ellen?”
But at Grace's tone Ellen had remembered. She stiffened, and became again a housemaid in the Anthony Cardew house, a self-effacing, rubber-heeled, pink-uniformed lower servant. She glanced at Mrs. Cardew, whose eyebrows were slightly raised.
“Thank you, miss,” she said. And went out, leaving Lily rather chilled and openly perplexed.
“Well!” she said. Then she glanced at her mother. “I do believe you are a little shocked, mother, because Ellen and I have a mutual friend in Mr. William Wallace Cameron! Well, if you want the exact truth, he hadn't an atom of use for me until he heard about Ellen.” She put an arm around Grace's shoulders. “Brace up, dear,” she said, smilingly. “Don't you cry. I'll be a Cardew bye-and-bye.”
“Did you really go to the moving pictures with him?” Grace asked, rather unhappily. She had never been inside a moving picture theater. To her they meant something a step above the corner saloon, and a degree below the burlesque houses. They were constituted of bad air and unchaperoned young women accompanied by youths who dangled cigarettes from a lower lip, all obviously of the lower class, including the cigarette; and of other women, sometimes drab, dragged of breast and carrying children who should have been in bed hours before; or still others, wandering in pairs, young, painted and predatory. She was not imaginative, or she could not have lived so long in Anthony Cardew's house. She never saw, in the long line waiting outside even the meanest of the little theaters that had invaded the once sacred vicinity of the Cardew house, the cry of every human heart for escape from the sordid, the lure of romance, the call of adventure and the open road.
“I can't believe it,” she added.
Lily made a little gesture of half-amused despair.
“Dearest,” she said, “I did. And I liked it. Mother, things have changed a lot in twenty years. Sometimes I think that here, in this house, you don't realize that—” she struggled for a phrase—“that things have changed,” she ended, lamely. “The social order, and that sort of thing. You know. Caste.” She hesitated. She was young and inarticulate, and when she saw Grace's face, somewhat frightened. But she was not old Anthony's granddaughter for nothing. “This idea of being a Cardew,” she went on, “that's ridiculous, you know. I'm only half Cardew, anyhow. The rest is you, dear, and it's got being a Cardew beaten by quite a lot.”
Mademoiselle was deftly opening the girl's dressing case, but she paused now and turned. It was to Grace that she spoke, however.
“They come home like that, all of them,” she said. “In France also. But in time they see the wisdom of the old order, and return. It is one of the fruits of war.”
Grace hardly heard her.
“Lily,” she asked, “you are not in love with this Cameron person, are you?”
But Lily's easy laugh reassured her.
“No, indeed,” she said. “I am not. I shall probably marry beneath me, as you would call it, but not William Wallace Cameron. For one thing, he wouldn't have grandfather in his family.”
Some time later Mademoiselle tapped at Grace's door, and entered. Grace was reclining on a chaise longue, towels tucked about her neck and over her pillows, while Castle, her elderly English maid, was applying ice in a soft cloth to her face. Grace sat up. The towel, pinned around her hair like a coif, gave a placid, almost nun-like appearance to her still lovely face.
“Well?” she demanded. “Go out for a minute, Castle.”
Mademoiselle waited until the maid had gone.
“I have spoken to Ellen,” she said, her voice cautious. “A young man who does not care for women, a clerk in a country pharmacy. What is that, Mrs. Cardew?”
“It would be so dreadful, Mademoiselle. Her grandfather—”
“But not handsome,” insisted Mademoiselle, “and lame! Also, I know the child. She is not in love. When that comes to her we shall know it.”
Grace lay back, relieved, but not entirely comforted.
“She is changed, isn't she, Mademoiselle?”
Mademoiselle shrugged her shoulders.
“A phase,” she said. She had got the word from old Anthony, who regarded any mental attitude that did not conform with his own as a condition that would pass. “A phase, only. Now that she is back among familiar things, she will become again a daughter of the house.”
“Then you think this talk about marrying beneath her—”
“She 'as had liberty,” said Mademoiselle, who sometimes lost an aspirate. “It is like wine to the young. It intoxicates. But it, too, passes. In my country—”
But Grace had, for a number of years, heard a great deal of Mademoiselle's country. She settled herself on her pillows.
“Call Castle, please,” she said. “And—do warn her not to voice those ideas of hers to her grandfather. In a country pharmacy, you say?”
“And lame, and not fond of women,” corroborated Mademoiselle. “Ca ne pourrait pas etre mieux, n'est-ce pas?”
Shortly after the Civil War Anthony Cardew had left Pittsburgh and spent a year in finding a location for the investment of his small capital. That was in the very beginning of the epoch of steel. The iron business had already laid the foundations of its future greatness, but steel was still in its infancy.
Anthony's father had been an iron-master in a small way, with a monthly pay-roll of a few hundred dollars, and an abiding faith in the future of iron. But he had never dreamed of steel. But “sixty-five” saw the first steel rail rolled in America, and Anthony Cardew began to dream. He went to Chicago first, and from there to Michigan, to see the first successful Bessemer converter. When he started east again he knew what he was to make his life work.
He was very young and his capital was small. But he had an abiding faith in the new industry. Not that he dreamed then of floating steel battleships. But he did foresee steel in new and various uses. Later on he was experimenting with steel cable at the very time Roebling made it a commercial possibility, and with it the modern suspension bridge and the elevator. He never quite forgave Roebling. That failure of his, the difference only of a month or so, was one of the few disappointments of his prosperous, self-centered, orderly life. That, and Howard's marriage. And, at the height of his prosperity, the realization that Howard's middle-class wife would never bear a son.
The city he chose was a small city then, yet it already showed signs of approaching greatness. On the east side, across the river, he built his first plant, a small one, with the blast heated by passing through cast iron pipes, with the furnaceman testing the temperature with strips of lead and zinc, and the skip hoist a patient mule.
He had ore within easy hauling distance, and he had fuel, and he had, as time went on, a rapidly increasing market. Labor was cheap and plentiful, too, and being American-born, was willing and intelligent. Perhaps Anthony Cardew's sins of later years were due to a vast impatience that the labor of the early seventies was no longer to be had.
The Cardew fortune began in the seventies. Up to that time there was a struggle, but in the seventies Anthony did two things. He went to England to see the furnaces there, and brought home a wife, a timid, tall Englishwoman of irreproachable birth, who remained always an alien in the crude, busy new city. And he built himself a house, a brick house in lower East Avenue, a house rather like his tall, quiet wife, and run on English lines. He soon became the leading citizen. He was one of the committee to welcome the Prince of Wales to the city, and from the very beginning he took his place in the social life.
He found it very raw at times, crude and new. He himself lived with dignity and elegant simplicity. He gave now and then lengthy, ponderous dinners, making out the lists himself, and handing them over to his timid English wife in much the manner in which he gave the wine list and the key to the wine cellar to the butler. And, at the head of his table, he let other men talk and listened. They talked, those industrial pioneers, especially after the women had gone. They saw the city the center of great business and great railroads. They talked of its coal, its river, and the great oil fields not far away which were then in their infancy. All of them dreamed a dream, saw a vision. But not all of them lived to see their dream come true.
Old Anthony lived to see it.
In the late eighties, his wife having been by that time decorously interred in one of the first great mausoleums west of the mountains, Anthony Cardew found himself already wealthy. He owned oil wells and coal mines. His mines supplied his coke ovens with coal, and his own river boats, as well as railroads in which he was a director, carried his steel.
He labored ably and well, and not for wealth alone. He was one of a group of big-visioned men who saw that a nation was only as great as its industries. It was only in his later years that he loved power for the sake of power, and when, having outlived his generation, he had developed a rigidity of mind that made him view the forced compromises of the new regime as pusillanimous.
He considered his son Howard's quiet strength weakness. “You have no stamina,” he would say. “You have no moral fiber. For God's sake, make a stand, you fellows, and stick to it.”
He had not mellowed with age. He viewed with endless bitterness the passing of his own day and generation, and the rise to power of younger men; with their “shilly-shallying,” he would say. He was an aristocrat, an autocrat, and a survival. He tied Howard's hands in the management of the now vast mills, and then blamed him for the results.
But he had been a great man.
He had had two children, a boy and a girl. The girl had been the tragedy of his middle years, and Howard had been his hope.
On the heights outside the city and overlooking the river he owned a farm, and now and then, on Sunday afternoons in the eighties, he drove out there, with Howard sitting beside him, a rangy boy in his teens, in the victoria which Anthony considered the proper vehicle for Sunday afternoons. The farmhouse was in a hollow, but always on those excursions Anthony, fastidiously dressed, picking his way half-irritably through briars and cornfields, would go to the edge of the cliffs and stand there, looking down. Below was the muddy river, sluggish always, but a thing of terror in spring freshets. And across was the east side, already a sordid place, its steel mills belching black smoke that killed the green of the hillsides, its furnaces dwarfed by distance and height, its rows of unpainted wooden structures which housed the mill laborers.
Howard would go with him, but Howard dreamed no dreams. He was a sturdy, dependable, unimaginative boy, watching the squirrels or flinging stones over the palisades. Life for Howard was already a thing determined. He would go to college, and then he would come back and go into the mill offices. In time, he would take his father's place. He meant to do it well and honestly. He had but to follow. Anthony had broken the trail, only by that time it was no longer a trail, but a broad and easy way.
Only once or twice did Anthony Cardew give voice to his dreams. Once he said: “I'll build a house out here some of these days. Good location. Growth of the city is bound to be in this direction.”
What he did not say was that to be there, on that hill, overlooking his activities, his very own, the things he had builded with such labor, gave him a sense of power. “This below,” he felt, with more of pride than arrogance, “this is mine. I have done it. I, Anthony Cardew.”
He felt, looking down, the pride of an artist in his picture, of a sculptor who, secure from curious eyes, draws the sheet from the still moist clay of his modeling, and now from this angle, now from that, studies, criticizes, and exults.
But Anthony Cardew never built his house on the cliff. Time was to come when great houses stood there, like vast forts, overlooking, almost menacing, the valley beneath. For, until the nineties, although the city distended in all directions, huge, ugly, powerful, infinitely rich, and while in the direction of Anthony's farm the growth was real and rapid, it was the plain people who lined its rapidly extending avenues with their two-story brick houses; little homes of infinite tenderness and quiet, along tree-lined streets, where the children played on the cobble-stones, and at night the horse cars, and later the cable system, brought home tired clerks and storekeepers to small havens, already growing dingy from the smoke of the distant mills.
Anthony Cardew did not like the plain people. Yet in the end, it was the plain people, those who neither labored with their hands nor lived by the labor of others—it was the plain people who vanquished him. Vanquished him and tried to protect him. But could not. A smallish man, hard and wiry, he neither saved himself nor saved others. He had one fetish, power. And one pride, his line. The Cardews were iron masters. Howard would be an iron master, and Howard's son.
But Howard never had a son.
All through her teens Lily had wondered about the mystery concerning her Aunt Elinor. There was an oil portrait of her in the library, and one of the first things she had been taught was not to speak of it.
Now and then, at intervals of years, Aunt Elinor came back. Her mother and father would look worried, and Aunt Elinor herself would stay in her rooms, and seldom appeared at meals. Never at dinner. As a child Lily used to think she had two Aunt Elinors, one the young girl in the gilt frame, and the other the quiet, soft-voiced person who slipped around the upper corridors like a ghost.
But she was not to speak of either of them to her grandfather.
Lily was not born in the house on lower East Avenue.
In the late eighties Anthony built himself a home, not on the farm, but in a new residence portion of the city. The old common, grazing ground of family cows, dump and general eye-sore, had become a park by that time, still only a potentially beautiful thing, with the trees that were to be its later glory only thin young shoots, and on the streets that faced it the wealthy of the city built their homes, brick houses of square solidity, flush with brick pavements, which were carefully reddened on Saturday mornings. Beyond the pavements were cobble-stoned streets. Anthony Cardew was the first man in the city to have a rubber-tired carriage. The story of Anthony Cardew's new home is the story of Elinor's tragedy. Nor did it stop there. It carried on to the third generation, to Lily Cardew, and in the end it involved the city itself. Because of the ruin of one small home all homes were threatened. One small house, and one undying hatred.
Yet the matter was small in itself. An Irishman named Doyle owned the site Anthony coveted. After years of struggle his small grocery had begun to put him on his feet, and now the new development of the neighborhood added to his prosperity. He was a dried-up, sentimental little man, with two loves, his wife's memory and his wife's garden, which he still tended religiously between customers; and one ambition, his son. With the change from common to park, and the improvement in the neighborhood, he began to flourish, and he, too, like Anthony, dreamed a dream. He would make his son a gentleman, and he would get a shop assistant and a horse and wagon. Poverty was still his lot, but there were good times coming. He saved carefully, and sent Jim Doyle away to college.
He would not sell to Anthony. When he said he could not sell his wife's garden, Anthony's agents reported him either mad or deeply scheming. They kept after him, offering much more than the land was worth. Doyle began by being pugnacious, but in the end he took to brooding.
“He'll get me yet,” he would mutter, standing among the white phlox of his little back garden. “He'll get me. He never quits.”
Anthony Cardew waited a year. Then he had the frame building condemned as unsafe, and Doyle gave in. Anthony built his house. He put a brick stable where the garden had been, and the night watchman for the property complained that a little man, with wild eyes, often spent half the night standing across the street, quite still, staring over. If Anthony gave Doyle a thought, it was that progress and growth had their inevitable victims. But on the first night of Anthony's occupancy of his new house Doyle shot himself beside the stable, where a few stalks of white phlox had survived the building operations.
It never reached the newspapers, nor did a stable-boy's story of hearing the dying man curse Anthony and all his works. But nevertheless the story of the Doyle curse on Anthony Cardew spread. Anthony heard it, and forgot it. But two days later he was dragged from his carriage by young Jim Doyle, returned for the older Doyle's funeral, and beaten insensible with the stick of his own carriage whip.
Young Doyle did not run away. He stood by, a defiant figure full of hatred, watching Anthony on the cobbles, as though he wanted to see him revive and suffer.
“I didn't do it to revenge my father,” he said at the trial. “He was nothing to me—I did it to show old Cardew that he couldn't get away with it. I'd do it again, too.”
Any sentiment in his favor died at that, and he was given five years in the penitentiary. He was a demoralizing influence there, already a socialist with anarchical tendencies, and with the gift of influencing men. A fluent, sneering youth, who lashed the guards to fury with his unctuous, diabolical tongue.
The penitentiary had not been moved then. It stood in the park, a grim gray thing of stone. Elinor Cardew, a lonely girl always, used to stand in a window of the new house and watch the walls. Inside there were men who were shut away from all that greenery around them. Men who could look up at the sky, or down at the ground, but never out and across, as she could.
She was always hoping some of them would get away. She hated the sentries, rifle on shoulder, who walked their monotonous beats, back and forward, along the top of the wall.
Anthony's house was square and substantial, with high ceilings. It was paneled with walnut and furnished in walnut, in those days. Its tables and bureaus were of walnut, with cold white marble tops. And in the parlor was a square walnut piano, which Elinor hated because she had to sit there three hours each day, slipping on the top of the horsehair-covered stool, to practice. In cold weather her German governess sat in the frigid room, with a shawl and mittens, waiting until the onyx clock on the mantel-piece showed that the three hours were over.
Elinor had never heard the story of old Michael Doyle, or of his son Jim. But one night—she was seventeen then, and Jim Doyle had served three years of his sentence—sitting at dinner with her father, she said:
“Some convicts escaped from the penitentiary today, father.”
“Don't believe it,” said Anthony Cardew. “Nothing about it in the newspapers.”
“Fraulein saw the hole.”
Elinor had had an Alsatian governess. That was one reason why Elinor's niece had a French one.
“Hole? What do you mean by hole?”
Elinor shrank back a little. She had not minded dining with her father when Howard was at home, but Howard was at college. Howard had a way of good-naturedly ignoring his father's asperities, but Elinor was a suppressed, shy little thing, romantic, aloof, and filled with undesired affections. “She said a hole,” she affirmed, diffidently. “She says they dug a tunnel and got out. Last night.”
“Very probably,” said Anthony Cardew. And he repeated, thoughtfully, “Very probably.”
He did not hear Elinor when she quietly pushed back her chair and said “good-night.” He was sitting at the table, tapping on the cloth with finger-tips that were slightly cold. That evening Anthony Cardew had a visit from the police, and considerable fiery talk took place in his library. As a result there was a shake-up in city politics, and a change in the penitentiary management, for Anthony Cardew had a heavy hand and a bitter memory. And a little cloud on his horizon grew and finally settled down over his life, turning it gray. Jim Doyle was among those who had escaped. For three months Anthony was followed wherever he went by detectives, and his house was watched at night. But he was a brave man, and the espionage grew hateful. Besides, each day added to his sense of security. There came a time when he impatiently dismissed the police, and took up life again as before.
Then one day he received a note, in a plain white envelope. It said: “There are worse things than death.” And it was signed: “J. Doyle.”
Doyle was not recaptured. Anthony had iron gratings put on the lower windows of his house after that, and he hired a special watchman. But nothing happened, and at last he began to forget. He was building the new furnaces up the river by that time. The era of structural steel for tall buildings was beginning, and he bought the rights of a process for making cement out of his furnace slag. He was achieving great wealth, although he did not change his scale of living.
Now and then Fraulein braved the terrors of the library, small neatly-written lists in her hands. Miss Elinor needed this or that. He would check up the lists, sign his name to them, and Elinor and Fraulein would have a shopping excursion. He never gave Elinor money.
On one of the lists one day he found the word, added in Elinor's hand: “Horse.”
“Horse?” he said, scowling up at Fraulein. “There are six horses in the stable now.”
“Miss Elinor thought—a riding horse—”
“Nonsense!” Then he thought a moment. There came back to him a picture of those English gentlewomen from among whom he had selected his wife, quiet-voiced, hard-riding, high-colored girls, who could hunt all day and dance all night. Elinor was a pale little thing. Besides, every gentlewoman should ride.
“She can't ride around here.”
“Miss Elinor thought—there are bridle paths near the riding academy.”
It was odd, but at that moment Anthony Cardew had an odd sort of vision. He saw the little grocer lying stark and huddled among the phlox by the stable, and the group of men that stooped over him.
“I'll think about it,” was his answer.
But within a few days Elinor was the owner of a quiet mare, stabled at the academy, and was riding each day in the tan bark ring between its white-washed fences, while a mechanical piano gave an air of festivity to what was otherwise rather a solemn business.
Within a week of that time the riding academy had a new instructor, a tall, thin young man, looking older than he was, with heavy dark hair and a manner of repressed insolence. A man, the grooms said among themselves, of furious temper and cold eyes.
And in less than four months Elinor Cardew ran away from home and was married to Jim Doyle. Anthony received two letters from a distant city, a long, ecstatic but terrified one from his daughter, and one line on a slip of paper from her husband. The one line read: “I always pay my debts.”
Anthony made a new will, leaving Howard everything, and had Elinor's rooms closed. Fraulein went away, weeping bitterly, and time went on. Now and then Anthony heard indirectly from Doyle. He taught in a boys' school for a time, and was dismissed for his radical views. He did brilliant editorial work on a Chicago newspaper, but now and then he intruded his slant-eyed personal views, and in the end he lost his position. Then he joined the Socialist party, and was making speeches containing radical statements that made the police of various cities watchful. But he managed to keep within the letter of the law.
Howard Cardew married when Elinor had been gone less than a year. Married the daughter of a small hotel-keeper in his college town, a pretty, soft-voiced girl, intelligent and gentle, and because Howard was all old Anthony had left, he took her into his home. But for many years he did not forgive her. He had one hope, that she would give Howard a son to carry on the line. Perhaps the happiest months of Grace Cardew's married life were those before Lily was born, when her delicate health was safeguarded in every way by her grim father-in-law. But Grace bore a girl child, and very nearly died in the bearing. Anthony Cardew would never have a grandson.
He was deeply resentful. The proud fabric of his own weaving would descend in the fullness of time to a woman. And Howard himself—old Anthony was pitilessly hard in his judgments—Howard was not a strong man. A good man. A good son, better than he deserved. But amiable, kindly, without force.
Once the cloud had lifted, and only once. Elinor had come home to have a child. She came at night, a shabby, worn young woman, with great eyes in a chalk-white face, and Grayson had not recognized her at first. He got her some port from the dining-room before he let her go into the library, and stood outside the door, his usually impassive face working, during the interview which followed. Probably that was Grayson's big hour, for if Anthony turned her out he intended to go in himself, and fight for the woman he had petted as a child.
But Anthony had not turned her out. He took one comprehensive glance at her thin face and distorted figure. Then he said:
“So this is the way you come back.”
“He drove me out,” she said dully. “He sent me here. He knew I had no place else to go. He knew you wouldn't want me. It's revenge, I suppose. I'm so tired, father.”
Yes, it was revenge, surely. To send back to him this soiled and broken woman, bearing the mark he had put upon her—that was deviltry, thought out and shrewdly executed. During the next hour Anthony Cardew suffered, and made Elinor suffer, too. But at the end of that time he found himself confronting a curious situation. Elinor, ashamed, humbled, was not contrite. It began to dawn on Anthony that Jim Doyle's revenge was not finished. For—Elinor loved the man.
She both hated him and loved him. And that leering Irish devil knew it.
He sent for Grace, finally, and Elinor was established in the house. Grace and little Lily's governess had themselves bathed her and put her to bed, and Mademoiselle had smuggled out of the house the garments Elinor had worn into it. Grace had gone in the motor—one of the first in the city—and had sent back all sorts of lovely garments for Elinor to wear, and quantities of fine materials to be made into tiny garments. Grace was a practical woman, and she disliked the brooding look in Elinor's eyes.
“Do you know,” she said to Howard that night, “I believe she is quite mad about him still.”
“He ought to be drawn and quartered,” said Howard, savagely.
Anthony Cardew gave Elinor sanctuary, but he refused to see her again. Except once.
“Then, if it is a boy, you want me to leave him with you?” she asked, bending over her sewing.
“Leave him with me! Do you mean that you intend to go back to that blackguard?”
“He is my husband. He isn't always cruel.”
“Good God!” shouted Anthony. “How did I ever happen to have such a craven creature for a daughter?”
“Anyhow,” said Elinor, “it will be his child, father.”
“When he turned you out, like any drab of the streets!” bellowed old Anthony. “He never cared for you. He married you to revenge himself on me. He sent you back here for the same reason. He'll take your child, and break its spirit and ruin its body, for the same reason. The man's a maniac.”
But again, as on the night she came, he found himself helpless against Elinor's quiet impassivity. He knew that, let Jim Doyle so much as raise a beckoning finger, and she would go to him. He did not realize that Elinor had inherited from her quiet mother the dog-like quality of love in spite of cruelty. To Howard he stormed. He considered Elinor's infatuation indecent. She was not a Cardew. The Cardew women had some pride. And Howard, his handsome figure draped negligently against the library mantel, would puzzle over it, too.
“I'm blessed if I understand it,” he would say.
Elinor's child had been a boy, and old Anthony found some balm in Gilead. Jim Doyle had not raised a finger to beckon, and if he knew of his son, he made no sign. Anthony still ignored Elinor, but he saw in her child the third generation of Cardews. Lily he had never counted. He took steps to give the child the Cardew name, and the fact was announced in the newspapers. Then one day Elinor went out, and did not come back. It was something Anthony Cardew had not counted on, that a woman could love a man more than her child.
“I simply had to do it, father,” she wrote. “You won't understand, of course. I love him, father. Terribly. And he loves me in his way, even when he is unfaithful to me. I know he has been that. Perhaps if you had wanted me at home it would have been different. But it kills me to leave the baby. The only reason I can bring myself to do it is that, the way things are, I cannot give him the things he ought to have. And Jim does not seem to want him. He has never seen him, for one thing. Besides—I am being honest—I don't think the atmosphere of the way we live would be good for a boy.”
There was a letter to Grace, too, a wild hysterical document, filled with instructions for the baby's care. A wet nurse, for one thing. Grace read it with tears in her eyes, but Anthony saw in it only the ravings of a weak and unbalanced woman.
He never forgave Elinor, and once more the little grocer's curse thwarted his ambitions. For, deprived of its mother's milk, the baby died. Old Anthony sometimes wondered if that, too, had been calculated, a part of the Doyle revenge.
While Grace rested that afternoon of Lily's return, Lily ranged over the house. In twenty odd years the neighborhood had changed, and only a handful of the old families remained. Many of the other large houses were prostituted to base uses. Dingy curtains hung at their windows, dingy because of the smoke from the great furnaces and railroads. The old Osgood residence, nearby, had been turned into apartments, with bottles of milk and paper bags on its fire-escapes, and a pharmacy on the street floor. The Methodist Church, following its congregation to the vicinity of old Anthony's farm, which was now cut up into city lots, had abandoned the building, and it had become a garage. The penitentiary had been moved outside the city limits, and near its old site was a small cement-lined lake, the cheerful rendezvous in summer of bathing children and thirsty dogs.
Lily was idle, for the first time in months. She wandered about, even penetrating to those upper rooms sacred to her grandfather, to which he had retired on Howard's marriage. How strangely commonplace they were now, in the full light of day, and yet, when he was in them, the doors closed and only Burton, his valet, in attendance, how mysterious they became!
Increasingly, in later years, Lily had felt and resented the domination of the old man. She resented her father's acquiescence in that domination, her mother's good-humored tolerance of it. She herself had accepted it, although unwillingly, but she knew, rather vaguely, that the Lily Cardew who had gone away to the camp and the Lily Cardew who stood that day before her grandfather's throne-like chair under its lamp, were two entirely different people.
She was uneasy rather than defiant. She meant to keep the peace. She had been brought up to the theory that no price was too great to pay for peace. But she wondered, as she stood there, if that were entirely true. She remembered something Willy Cameron had said about that very thing.
“What's wrong with your grandfather,” he had said, truculently, and waving his pipe, “is that everybody gets down and lets him walk on them. If everybody lets a man use them as doormats, you can't blame him for wiping his feet on them. Tell him that sometime, and see what happens.”
“Tell him yourself!” said Lily.
He had smiled cheerfully. He had an engaging sort of smile.
“Maybe I will,” he said. “I am a rising young man, and my voice may some day be heard in the land. Sometimes I feel the elements of greatness in me, sweet child. You haven't happened to notice it yourself, have you?”
He had gazed at her with solemn anxiety through the smoke of his pipe, and had grinned when she remained silent.
Lily drew a long breath. All that delightful fooling was over; the hard work was over. The nights were gone when they would wander like children across the parade grounds, or past the bayonet school, with its rows of tripods upholding imitation enemies made of sacks stuffed with hay, and showing signs of mortal injury with their greasy entrails protruding. Gone, too, were the hours when Willy sank into the lowest abyss of depression over his failure to be a fighting man.
“But you are doing your best for your country,” she would say.
“I'm not fighting for it, or getting smashed up for it. I don't want to be a hero, but I'd like to have had one good bang at them before I quit.”
Once she had found him in the hut, with his head on a table. He said he had a toothache.
Well, that was all over. She was back in her grandfather's house, and—
“He'll get me too, probably,” she reflected, as she went down the stairs, “just as he's got all the others.”
Mademoiselle was in Lily's small sitting room, while Castle was unpacking under her supervision. The sight of her uniforms made Lily suddenly restless.
“How you could wear these things!” cried Mademoiselle. “You, who have always dressed like a princess!”
“I liked them,” said Lily, briefly. “Mademoiselle, what am I going to do with myself, now?”
“Do?” Mademoiselle smiled. “Play, as you deserve, Cherie. Dance, and meet nice young men. You are to make your debut this fall. Then a very charming young man, and marriage.”
“Oh!” said Lily, rather blankly. “I've got to come out, have I? I'd forgotten people did such things. Please run along and do something else, Castle. I'll unpack.”
“That is very bad for discipline,” Mademoiselle objected when the maid had gone. “And it is not necessary for Mr. Anthony Cardew's granddaughter.”
“It's awfully necessary for her,” Lily observed, cheerfully. “I've been buttoning my own shoes for some time, and I haven't developed a spinal curvature yet.” She kissed Mademoiselle's perplexed face lightly. “Don't get to worrying about me,” she added. “I'll shake down in time, and be just as useless as ever. But I wish you'd lend me your sewing basket.”
“Why?” asked Mademoiselle, suspiciously.
“Because I am possessed with a mad desire to sew on some buttons.”
A little later Lily looked up from her rather awkward but industrious labors with a needle, and fixed her keen young eyes on Mademoiselle.
“Is there any news about Aunt Elinor?” she asked.
“She is with him,” said Mademoiselle, shortly. “They are here now, in the city. How he dared to come back!”
“Does mother see her?”
“No. Certainly not.”
“Why 'certainly' not? He is Aunt Elinor's husband. She isn't doing anything wicked.”
“A woman who would leave a home like this,” said Mademoiselle, “and a distinguished family. Position. Wealth. For a brute who beats her. And desert her child also!”
“Does he really beat her? I don't quite believe that, Mademoiselle.”
“It is not a subject for a young girl.”
“Because really,” Lily went on, “there is something awfully big about a woman who will stick to one man like that. I am quite sure I would bite a man who struck me, but—suppose I loved him terribly—” her voice trailed off. “You see, dear, I have seen a lot of brutality lately. An army camp isn't a Sunday school picnic. And I like strong men, even if they are brutal sometimes.”
Mademoiselle carefully cut a thread.
“This—you were speaking to Ellen of a young man. Is he a—what you term brutal?”
Suddenly Lily laughed.
“You poor dear!” she said. “And mother, too, of course! You're afraid I'm in love with Willy Cameron. Don't you know that if I were, I'd probably never even mention his name?”
“But is he brutal?” persisted Mademoiselle.
“I'll tell you about him. He is a thin, blond young man, tall and a bit lame. He has curly hair, and he puts pomade on it to take the curl out. He is frightfully sensitive about not getting in the army, and he is perfectly sweet and kind, and as brutal as a June breeze. You'd better tell mother. And you can tell her he isn't in love with me, or I with him. You see, I represent what he would call the monied aristocracy of America, and he has the most fearful ideas about us.”
“An anarchist, then?” asked. Mademoiselle, extremely comforted.
“Not at all. He says he belongs to the plain people. The people in between. He is rather oratorical about them. He calls them the backbone of the country.”
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