Project Gutenberg's Pray You, Sir, Whose Daughter?, by Helen H. Gardener

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Title: Pray You, Sir, Whose Daughter?

Author: Helen H. Gardener

Release Date: March 16, 2013 [EBook #37355]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by David Widger


By Helen H. Gardener

R. F. Fenno & Company

9 and 11 East 16th Street

New York


I saw a woman sleeping. In her sleep she dreampt Life stood before her, and held in each hand a gift—in the one Love, in the other Freedom. And she said to the woman, "Choose!"

And the woman waited long; and she said: "Freedom!" And Life said, "Thou hast well chosen. If thou hadst said, 'Love,' I would have given thee that thou didst ask for; and I would have gone from thee, and returned to thee no more. Now, the day will come when I shall return. In that day I shall bear both gifts in one hand." I heard the woman laugh in her sleep.

Olive Schreener's Dreams.


With the love and admiration of the Author,

To Her Husband

Who is ever at once her first, most severe, and most sympathetic critic, whose encouragement and interest in her work never flags; whose abiding belief in human rights, without sex limitations, and in equality of opportunity leaves scant room in his great soul to harbor patience with sex domination in a land which boasts of freedom for all, and embodies its symbol of Liberty in the form of the only legally disqualified and unrepresented class to be found upon its shores.




















In the following story the writer shows us what poverty and dependence are in their revolting outward aspects, as well as in their crippling effects on all the tender sentiments of the human soul. Whilst the many suffer for want of the decencies of life, the few have no knowledge of such conditions.

They require the poor to keep clean, where water by landlords is considered a luxury; to keep their garments whole, where they have naught but rags to stitch together, twice and thrice worn threadbare. The improvidence of the poor as a valid excuse for ignorance, poverty, and vice, is as inadequate as is the providence of the rich, for their virtue, luxury, and power. The artificial conditions of society are based on false theories of government, religion, and morals, and not upon the decrees of a God.

In this little volume we have a picture, too, of what the world would call a happy family, in which a naturally strong, honest woman is shrivelled into a mere echo of her husband, and the popular sentiment of the class to which she belongs. The daughter having been educated in a college with young men, and tasted of the tree of knowledge, and, like the Gods, knowing good and evil, can no longer square her life by opinions she has outgrown; hence with her parents there is friction, struggle, open revolt, though conscientious and respectful withal.

Three girls belonging to different classes in society; each illustrates the false philosophy on which woman's character is based, and each in a different way, in the supreme moment of her life, shows the necessity of self-reliance and self-support.

As the wrongs of society can be more deeply impressed on a large class of readers in the form of fiction than by essays, sermons, or the facts of science, I hail with pleasure all such attempts by the young writers of our day. The slave has had his novelist and poet, the farmer his, the victims of ignorance and poverty theirs, but up to this time the refinements of cruelty suffered by intelligent, educated women, have never been painted in glowing colors, so that the living picture could be seen and understood. It is easy to rouse attention to the grosser forms of suffering and injustice, but the humiliations of spirit are not so easily described and appreciated.

A class of earnest reformers have, for the last fifty years, in the press, the pulpit, and on the platform, with essays, speeches, and constitutional arguments before legislative assemblies, demanded the complete emancipation of women from the political, religious, and social bondage she now endures; but as yet few see clearly the need of larger freedom, and the many maintain a stolid indifference to the demand.

I have long waited and watched for some woman to arise to do for her sex what Mrs. Stowe did for the black race in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a book that did more to rouse the national conscience than all the glowing appeals and constitutional arguments that agitated our people during half a century. If, from an objective point of view, a writer could thus eloquently portray the sorrows of a subject race, how much more graphically should some woman describe the degradation of sex.

In Helen Gardener's stories, I see the promise, in the near future, of such a work of fiction, that shall paint the awful facts of woman's position in living colors that all must see and feel. The civil and canon law, state and church alike, make the mothers of the race a helpless, ostracised class, pariahs of a corrupt civilization. In view of woman's multiplied wrongs, my heart oft echoes the Russian poet who said: "God has forgotten where he hid the key to woman's emancipation." Those who know the sad facts of woman's life, so carefully veiled from society at large, will not consider the pictures in this story overdrawn.

The shallow and thoughtless may know nothing of their existence, while the helpless victims, not being able to trace the causes of their misery, are in no position to state their wrongs themselves.

Nevertheless all the author describes in this sad story, and worse still, is realized in everyday life, and the dark shadows dim the sunshine in every household.

The apathy of the public to the wrongs of woman is clearly seen at this hour, in propositions now under consideration in the Legislature of New York. Though two infamous bills have been laid before select committees, one to legalize prostitution, and one to lower the age of consent, the people have been alike ignorant and indifferent to these measures. When it was proposed to take a fragment of Central Park for a race course, a great public meeting of protest was called at once, and hundreds of men hastened to Albany to defeat the measure.

But the proposed invasion of the personal rights of woman, and the wholesale desecration of childhood has scarce created a ripple on the surface of society. The many do not know what laws their rulers are making, and the few do not care, so long as they do not feel the iron teeth of the law in their own flesh. Not one father in the House or Senate would willingly have his wife, sister, or daughter subject to these infamous bills proposed for the daughters of the people. Alas! for the degradation of sex, even in this republic. When one may barter away all that is precious to pure and innocent childhood at the age of ten years, you may as well talk of a girl's safety with wild beasts in the tangled forests of Africa, as in the present civilizations of England and America, the leading nations on the globe.

Some critics say that every one knows and condemns these facts in our social life, and that we do not need fiction to intensify the public disgust. Others say, Why call the attention of the young and the innocent to the existence of evils they should never know. The majority of people do not watch legislative proceedings.

To keep our sons and daughters innocent, we must warn them of the dangers that beset their path on every side.

Ignorance under no circumstances ensures safety. Honor protected by knowledge, is safer than innocence protected by ignorance.

A few brave women are laboring to-day to secure for their less capable, less thoughtful, less imaginative sisters, a recognition of a true womanhood based on individual rights. There is just one remedy for the social complications based on sex, and that is equality for woman in every relation in life.

Men must learn to respect her as an equal factor in civilization, and she must learn to respect herself as mother of the race. Womanhood is the great primal fact of her existence; marriage and maternity, its incidents.

This story shows that the very traits of character which society (whose opinions are made and modified by men) considers most important and charming in woman to ensure her success in social life, are the very traits that ultimately lead to her failure.

Self-effacement, self-distrust, dependence and desire to please, compliance, deference to the judgment and will of another, are what make young women, in the opinion of these believers in sex domination, most agreeable; but these are the very traits that lead to her ruin.

The danger of such training is well illustrated in the sad end of Ettie Berton. When the trials and temptations of life come, then each one must decide for herself, and hold in her own hands the reins of action. Educated women of the passing generation chafe under the old order of things, but, like Mrs. Foster in the present volume, are not strong enough to swim up stream. But girls like Gertrude, who in the college curriculum have measured their powers and capacities with strong young men and found themselves their equals, have outgrown this superstition of divinely ordained sex domination. The divine rights of kings, nobles, popes, and bishops have long been questioned, and now that of sex is under consideration and from the signs of the times, with all other forms of class and caste, it is destined soon to pass away.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton



To say that Mrs. Foster was cruel, that she lacked sympathy with the unfortunate, or that she was selfish, would be to state only the dark half of a truism that has a wider application than class or sex could give it; a truism whose boundary lines, indeed, are set by nothing short of the ignorance of human beings hedged in by prejudice and handicapped by lack of imagination. So when she sat, with dainty folded hands whose jeweled softness found fitting background on the crimson velvet of her trailing gown, and announced that she could endure everything associated with, and felt deep sympathy for, the poor if it were not for the besetting sin of uncleanliness that found its home almost invariably where poverty dwelt, it would be unjust to pronounce her hard-hearted or base.

"It is all nonsense to say that the poor need be so dirty," she announced, as she held her splendid feather fan in one hand and caressed the dainty tips of the white plumes with the tips of fingers only less dainty and white.

"I have rarely ever seen a really poor man, woman, or child who was at the same time really clean looking in person, and as to clothes—"

She broke off with an impatient and disgusted little shrug, as if to say—what was quite true—that even the touch of properly descriptive words held for her more soilure than she cared to bear contact with.

John Martin laughed. Then he essayed to banter his hostess, addressing his remarks meanwhile to her daughter.

"One could not imagine your mamma a victim of poverty and hunger, much less of dirt, Miss Gertrude," he began slowly; "but even that sumptuous velvet gown of hers would grow to look more or less—let us say—rusty, in time, I fear, if it were the only costume she possessed, and she were obliged to eat, cook, wash, iron, sew, and market in it."

The two ladies laughed merrily at the droll suggestion, and Miss Gertrude pursed up her lips and developed a decided squint in her eyes as she turned them upon the folds of her mother's robe. Then she took up Mr. Martin's description where the laugh had broken in upon it.

"Too true, too true," she drawled; "and if she dusted the furniture a week or so with that fan, I'm afraid it would lose more or less of its—gloss. Mamma quite prides herself upon the delicate peach-fuzz-bloom, so to speak, of those feathers. Just look at them!" The girl reached over and took the fan from her mother's lap. She spread the fine plumes to their fullest capacity, and held them under the rays of the brass lamp that stood near their guest. Then she made a flourish with it in the direction of the music stand, as if she were intent upon whisking the last speck of dust from the sheets of Tannhauser that lay on its top A little cry of alarm and protest escaped Mrs. Foster's lips and she stretched oat her hand to rescue the beloved fan.

"Gertrude! how can you?" She settled back comfortably against the cushions of the low divan with her rescued treasure once more waving in gentle gracefulness before her.

"Oh, no," she protested. "Of course one could not work or live constantly in one or two gowns and look fresh, but one could look and be clean and—and whole. A patch is not pretty I admit, but it is a decided improvement upon a bare elbow."

"I don't agree with you at all," smiled her guest; "I don't believe I ever saw a patch in all my life that would be an improvement upon—upon—" He glanced at the lovely round white arms before him, and all three laughed. Mrs. Foster thought of how many Russian baths and massage treatments had tended to give the exquisite curve and tint to her arm.

"Then beside," smiled Mr. Martin, "a rent or hole may be an immediate accident, liable to happen to the best of us. A patch looks like premeditated poverty." Gertrude laughed brightly, but her mother did not appear to have heard. She reverted to the previous insinuation.

"Oh, well; that is not fair! You know what I mean. I'm talking of elbows that burst or wear out—not about those that never were intended to be in. Then, besides, it is not the elbow I object to; it is the hole one sees it through. It tells a tale of shiftlessness and personal untidiness that saps all sympathy for the poverty that compelled the long wearing of the garment."

"Why, my dear Mrs. Foster," said Martin, slowly, "I wonder if you have any idea of a grade of poverty that simply can't be either whole or clean. Did—?"

"I'll give up the whole, but I won't give in on the clean. I can easily see how a woman could be too tired, too ill, or too busy to mend a garment; I can fancy her not knowing how to sew, or not having thread, needles, and patches; but, surely, surely, Mr. Martin, no one living is too poor to keep clean. Water is free, and it doesn't take long to take a bath. Besides—"

Gertrude looked at her mother with a smile. Then she said with her sarcastic little drawl again:—

"Russian, or Turkish?"

"Well, but fun' and nonsense aside, Gertrude," said her mother, "a plain hot bath at home would make a new creature out of half the wretches one sees or reads of, and—"

"Porcelain lined bath-tub, hot and cold water furnished at all hours. Bath-room adjoining each sleeping apartment," laughed Mr. Martin. "What a delightful idea you have of abject poverty, Mrs. Foster. I do wish Fred could have heard that last remark of yours. I went with his clerk one day to collect rents down in Mulberry Street. He had the collection of the rents for the Feedour estate on his hands—"

"What's that about the rents of the Feedour estate?" inquired the head of the house, extending his hand to their guest as he entered. Mrs. Foster put out her hand and her husband touched the tips of her fingers to his lips, while Gertrude slipped her arm through her father's and drew him to a seat beside her. Her eyes were dancing, and she showed a double row of the whitest of teeth.

"Oh, Mr. Martin was just explaining to mamma how your clerk collects rent for the porcelain bath-tubs in the Feedour property down in Mulberry Street. Mamma thinks that bath-rooms should be free—hot and cold water, and all convenient appointments."

Fred Foster looked at their guest for a moment, and then both men burst into a hearty laugh.

"I don't see anything to laugh at," protested Mrs. Foster. "Unless you are guying me for thinking Mr. Martin in earnest about the tubs being rented. I suppose, of course, the bath-rooms go with the apartments, and one rent covers the whole of it. In which case, I still insist that there is no reason why the poor can't be clean, and if they have only one suit of clothes, they can wash them out at night and have them dry next morning."

The men laughed again.

"Gertrude, has your mamma read her essay yet before the Ladies' Artistic and Ethical Club on the 'Self-Inflicted Sorrows of the Poor?'" asked Mr. Foster, pinching his daughter's chin, and allowing a chuckle of humorous derision to escape him as he glanced at their guest.

"No," said the girl, a trifle uneasily; "Lizzie Feedour read last time. Mamma's is next, and she has read her paper to me. It is just as good as it can be. Better than half the essays used to be at college, not excepting Mr. Holt's prize thesis on economics. I wish the poor people could hear it. She speaks very kindly of their faults even while criticising them. You—"

"Don't visit the tenement houses of the Feedour estate, dear, until after you read your paper to the club," laughed her husband, "or your essay won't take half so well. College theses and cold facts are not likely to be more than third cousins; eh, Martin? I'm sure the part on cleanliness would be easier for her to manage in discussion before she visited the Spillini family, for example."

"Which one is that, Fred?" asked Mr. Foster.

Martin, a droll twinkle in his eye. "The family of eight, with Irish mother and Italian father, who live in one room and take boarders?"

There was a little explosive "oh" of protest from Gertrude, while her mother laughed delightedly.

"Mr. Martin, you are so perfectly absurd. Why didn't you say that the room was only ten by fifteen feet and had but one window!"

"Because I don't think it is quite so big as that, and there is no outside window at all," said he, quite gravely. "And their only bath-tub for the entire crowd is a small tin basin also used to wash dishes in."

"W-h-a-t!" exclaimed Mrs. Foster, as if she were beginning to suspect their guest's sanity, for she recognized that his mood had changed from one of banter.

The portière was drawn aside, and other guests announced. As Mrs. Foster swept forward to meet them, Gertrude grasped her father's arm and looked into his eyes with something very like terror in her own. "Papa," she said hastily, in an intense undertone; "Papa, is he in earnest? Do the Feedour girls collect rent from such awful poverty as that? Do eight human beings eat and sleep—live—in one room anywhere in a Christian country? Does—?"

Her father took both of her hands in his own for a moment and looked steadily into her face.

"Hundreds of them, darling," he said, gently. "Don't stare at Miss Feedour that way. Go speak to her. She is looking toward us, and your mother has left her with Martin quite long enough. He is in an ugly humor to-night. Go—no, come," he said, slipping her hand in his arm and drawing her forward through the long rooms to where the group of guests were greeting each other with that easy familiarity which told of frequent intercourse and community of interests and social information.


Two hours later Gertrude found herself near a low window seat upon which sat John Martin. She could not remember when he had not been her father's closest friend, and she had no idea why his moods had changed so of late. He was much less free and fatherly with her. She wondered now if he despised her because she knew so little of the real woes of a real world about her, while she, in common with those of her station, sighed so heavily over the needs of a more distant or less repulsive human swarm.

"Will you take me to see the Spillini family some day soon, Mr. Martin," she asked, seating herself by his side. "Papa said that you were telling the truth—were not joking as I thought at first."

Her eyes were following the graceful movements of Lizzie Feedour, as that young lady turned the leaves of a handsome volume that lay on the table before her, and a gentleman with whom she was discussing its merits and defects.

"I don't believe the call would be a pleasure on either side," said Mr. Martin, brusquely, "unless we sent word the day before and had some of the family moved out and a chair taken in."

The girl turned her eyes slowly upon him, but she did not speak. The color began to climb into his face and dye the very roots of his hair. She wondered why. Her own face was rather paler than usual and her eyes were very serious.

"You don't want to take me," she said. "I wonder why men always try to keep girls from knowing things—from learning of the world as it is—and then blame them for their ignorance! You naturally think I am a very silly, light girl, but—"

A great panic overtook John Martin's heart. He could hardly keep back the tears. He felt the blood rush to his face again, but he did not know just what he said.

"I do not—I do not! You are—I—I—should hate to be the one to introduce you to such a view of life. I was an old fool to talk as I did this evening. I—"

"Oh, that is it!" exclaimed Gertrude, relieved. "You found me ignorant, and content because I was ignorant, and you regret that you have struck a chord—a serious chord—where only make-believe or merry ones were ever struck between us before."

John Martin fidgeted.

"No, it is not that I would like to strike the first serious chord for you—in your heart, Gertrude."

He had called her Gertrude for years. Indeed the Miss upon his lips was of very recent date, but there was a meaning in the name just now as he spoke it that gave the girl a distinct shock. She felt that he was covering retreat in one direction by a mendacious advance in another. She arose suddenly.

"Lizzie Feedour is looking her best tonight," she said. "She grows handsomer every day."

She had moved forward a step, but he caught the hand that hung by her side. She faced him with a look of mingled protest and surprise in her face; but when her eyes met his, she understood.

"Gertrude, darling!" was all he could say. This time the blood dyed her face and a mist blinded her for a moment. She remembered feeling glad that her back was turned to everyone but him, and that the window drapery hid his face from the others, for the intensity of appeal touched with the faintest shimmer of happiness and hope told so plain a story that she felt, rather than thought, how absurd it would look to anyone else. She did not realize why it seemed less absurd to her. She drew her hand away and the color died out of his face. Her own was burning. She had turned to leave the room when his disappointed face swam before her eyes again. She put out her hand quickly as if bidding him good-night and drew him toward the door. He moved beside her as in a dream.

"After you take me to see the Spillini family," she said, trying to appear natural to any eyes that might be upon her, "we—I—" They had reached the portière. She drew it aside and he stepped beyond.

"There is no companionship between two people who look upon life so unequally. Those who know all about the world that contains the Spillini family and those who know nothing of such a world are very far apart in thought and in development There is no mental comradeship. I feel very far from my father to-night for the first time—mamma and I. I have looked at her all the evening in wonder—and at him. I wonder how they have contrived to live so far apart. How could he help sharing his views and knowledge of life with her, if he thinks her and wishes her to be his real companion and comrade. I could not live that way."

She seemed to have forgotten the newer, nearer question, in contemplating the problem that had startled her earlier in the evening. John Martin thought it was all a bit of kind-hearted acting to cover his retreat. He dropped her hand. A man-servant was holding his coat. He thrust his arms in and took his hat.

"Will you take me to see the Spillini family tomorrow?" asked a soft voice from the portière. A great wave of joy rushed over John Martin. He did not know why.

"Yes," he said, in a tone that was so distinctly happy that the man-servant stared. The folds of the portière fell together and John Martin passed out onto Fifth Avenue, in an ecstasy.

He is willing to share his knowledge of life with me—of life as he sees and knows it—she thought, as she lay awake that night. He does not wish to live on one plane and have me live on another. That looks like real love. Poor mamma! Poor papa! How far apart they are. To him life is a real thing. He knows its meaning and what it holds. She only knows a shell that is furbished up and polished to attract the eye of children. It is as if he were reading a book to her in a language he understood and she did not. The sound would be its entire message to her, while he gathered in and kept to himself all the meaning of the words—the force of the thoughts. How can they bear such isolation. How can they? she thought with a new feeling of passionate protest that mingled with her dreams.


Sure an' I'd like to die meself if dyin' wasn't so costly," remarked Mrs. Spillini, as she gazed with tear-stained eyes at the little body that occupied the only chair in the dismal room. "Do the best we kin, buryin' the baby is goin' to cost more than we made all winter out o' all three boarders. Havin' the baby cost a dreadful lot altogether, an' now it's dyin's a dreadful pull agin."

Gertrude Foster opened her Russian leather purse and Mrs. Spillini's eyes brightened shrewdly. There was no need for the hesitancy and choice of words that gave the young girl so much care and pain. Familiarity with all the mean and gross of life from childhood until one is the mother of six living and four dead children, does not leave the finest edge of sentiment and pride upon the poverty-cursed victims of fate.

"If you would allow me to leave a mere trifle of money for you to use for the baby, I don't—it is only—" began Gertrude; but the ready hand had reached out for the money and a quick "Thanky mum; much obliged" had ended the transaction.

"I shall not tell mamma that", thought Gertrude, and she did not look at John Martin. It was her first glimpse into a grade of life to which all things, even birth and death, take on a strictly commercial aspect; where not only the edge of sentiment is dulled by dire necessity, but where the sentiment itself is buried utterly beneath the incrustations of an ignorance that is too dumb and abject to learn, and a poverty that is too insistent to recognize its own ignorance and degradation.

"Won't you set down?" inquired Mrs. Spillini, as with a sudden movement she slid the small corpse onto the floor under the edge of the table. "I'd a' ast you before, but—"

"O, don't!" exclaimed the girl; but before her natural impulse to stoop and gather up the small bundle had found action possible, John Martin had placed it on the table.

"Oh, Lord; don't!" exclaimed the woman, in sudden dismay. "The boarders'd kick if they was to see it there. Boarders is different from the family. We could ate affen the table afther, but boarders—boarders'd kick."

"Could—do you think of anything else we could do for you?" inquired Gertrude, faintly, as she held open the door and tried to think she was not dizzy and sick from the dreadful, polluted air, and the shock of the revelation, with all that it implied, before her.

Four dirty faces, and as many ragged bodies, were too close to her for comfort. There was a vile stew cooking on the stove. The air was heavy and foul with it Gertrude distinctly felt the greasy moisture on her kid gloves as they touched each other.

"No, I don't know's they's anything more you can do," replied the passive, hopeless wreck of what it was almost sacrilege to call womanhood. "I don't know's they's anything more you could do unless you could let the boarders come in now. They ain't got but a little over ten minutes to eat in an' dinner's ready," she replied, as she lifted the pot of steaming stuff into the middle of the table and laid two tin plates, a large knife and a bunch of iron forks and spoons beside it.

"Turn that chair to the wall," she added sharply to one of the children, who hastened to obey the command. "They'll all have to stand up to it this time. I ain't a goin' to shift that baby round no more till it's buried, now that I kin bury it. Take this side of the table, Pete. I don't feel like eatin.' You kin have my place 'n the ole man ain't here. Let go of that tin cup, you trillin' young one. All the coffee they is, is in that. Have a drink, Mike?" she asked, passing the coveted cup to the second boarder. Gertrude was half-way down the dark hallway, and John Martin held her arm firmly lest she step into some unseen trap or broken place in the floor.

When they reached the street door she turned to him with wide eyes.

"Great God," she moaned, "and people go to church and pray and thank God—and collect rent from such as they! Men offer premiums to mothers and fathers for large families of children—to be brought up like that? In a world where that is possible! Oh, I think it is wicked, wicked, wicked, to allow it—any of it—all of it! How can you?"

John Martin looked hopeless and helpless.

"I don't," he said, in pathetic self-defense, feeling somehow that the blame was personal.

"Oh, I don't mean you!" she exclaimed, almost impatiently. "I mean all who know it—who have known and understood it all along. How could men allow it? How dared they? And to think of encouraging such people to marry—to bring into a life like that such swarms of helpless children. Oh, the sin and shame and outrage of it!"

John Martin was dazed that she should look upon it as she did. He was surprised that she spoke so openly. He did not fully comprehend the power and force of real conviction and feeling overtaken in a sincere and fearlessly frank nature by such a knowledge for the first time.

"I should not have brought you here," he said, feebly, as they entered the waiting carriage which her mother had insisted she should take if she would go "slumming," as she had expressed it.

She turned an indignant face upon him.

"Why?" she demanded.

He tried to say something about a shock to her nerves, and such sights and knowledge being not for women.

"I had begun to feel that he respected me—believed in me—wanted, in truth and not merely in name, to share life with me," she thought, "but he does not: it is all a sham. He wants someone who shall not share life with him—not even his mental life."

"You would come here with papa, would you not?" she asked, presently. "You would talk over, look at, think of the problems of life with him,"—her voice began to tremble.

"Certainly," he said, "but that is different. It—"

"Yes, it is different; quite different. You love papa, and it would be a pain to you to keep your mental books locked up from him. You respect papa, and you would not be able to live a life of pretense with him. You—"

"Gertrude! Oh, darling! I love you. I love you. You know that," he said, grasp ing both her hands and covering them with kisses. She snatched them away, and covered her face with them to hide the tears which were a surprise and shock to herself.

"I should not have taken her there," he thought. "I'm a great fool."

He did not at all comprehend the girl's point of view, and she resented his. He could not imagine why, and her twenty years of inexperience in handling such a view of life as had suddenly grown up within her, made her unable to express quite fully why she did resent his assumption that she should not be allowed to use her heart or brain beyond the limits set for their exercise by conventional theory. She could not express in words why she felt insulted and outraged in her self-respect that he should assume that life was and should be led by her, upon a distinctly different and narrower plane than his own. She knew that she could not accept his explanation, that it was his intense love that wished to shield her from knowledge of all that was ugly—of all the deeper and sadder meanings of human experience; but she felt unequal to making him understand by any words at her command how far from her idea of an exalted love such an assumption was.

That he should sincerely believe that as a matter of course much that was and should be quite common in his own life should be kept from, covered up, blurred into indistinction to her, came to her with a shock too sudden and heavy for words. She had built an exalted ideal of absolute mental companionship between those who loved. She had always thought that one day she should pass through the portals of some vast building by the side of a husband to whom all within was new as it would be to her. She had fancied that neither spoke; that both read the tablets of architecture—and of human legend on every face—so nearly alike that by a glance of the eye she could say to him, "I know what you are thinking of all this. It stirs such or such a memory. It strikes the chord that holds these thoughts or those." But she read as plainly now that this man who thought he loved her, whom she had grown to feel she might one day love, had no such conception of a union of lives. To him marriage would mean a physical possession of a toy more or less valuable, more or less to be cherished or to be set under a glass case, whenever his real life, his real thoughts, his deeper self were stirred. These were to be kept for men—his mentally developed equals. She understood full well that if she could have said this to him he would have been shocked, would have resented such a contemptuous interpretation of what he truly believed to be a wholly respectful love, offered upon wholly respectful terms. But to her, it seemed the mere tossing down of a filbert to a pretty kitten, that it might amuse him for a few moments with its graceful antics. When he tired of the kitten, or bethought him of the serious duties of life, he could turn the key and count on finding the amusing little creature to play with again next day in case he cared to relax himself with a sight of its gambols. She resented such a view of the value of her life. She was humiliated and indignant. The perfectly apparent lack of comprehension on his part of any lapse of respect in attitude toward her, the entire unconsciousness of the insult to her whole nature, in his assumption of a divine right of individual growth and development to which she had no claim, stung her beyond all power of speech. The very fact that he had no comprehension of the affront himself, added to it its utterly hopeless feature. The love of a man offered on such terms is an insult, she said, over and over to herself; but aloud she said nothing.

She had heard, vaguely, through her tumult of feeling, his terms of endearment, his appeals to her tenderness and—alas! unfortunately for him—his apologies for having taken her to such a place. She became distinctly aware of these latter first and it steadied her. They had reached Washington Square.

"Yes, that revelation in Mulberry Street was a horrible shock to me," she said, looking at him for the first time since they had entered the carriage; "but, do you know, I think there are more shocking things than even that done in the name of love every day—things as heartless and offensively uncomprehending of what is fine and true in life as that wretched woman's conduct with the lifeless form of her baby."

He recognized a hard ring in her voice, but her eyes looked kind and gentle.

"How do you mean?" he asked, touching her hand as it lay on her empty purse in her lap.

"I don't believe I could ever make you understand what I mean, we are so hopelessly far apart," she said, a little sadly. "That an explanation is necessary—that is the hopeless part. That that poor woman did not comprehend that her conduct and callousness were shocking—that was the hopeless part. To make you understand what I mean would be like making her understand all the hundreds of awful things that her conduct meant to us. If it is not in one's nature to comprehend without words, then words are useless."

His vehement protests stirred her sympathy again.

"You say that love brings people near together. Do you know I am beginning to think that nothing could be a greater calamity than that? Drawn together by a love that rests on a physical basis for those who refuse to allow it root in a common sympathy and a community of thought it must fail sooner or later. A humbled acceptance of the crumbs of her husband's life, or a resentful endurance of it, may result from the accursed faithfulness or the pitiful dependence of wives, but surely—surely no greater calamity could befall her and no worse fate lie in wait for him."

Her lover stared at her, pained and puzzled. When they reached her door he grasped her hand.

"I thought you loved me last night, and I went away in an ecstasy of hope. Today—"

"Perhaps I do love you," she said; "but I do not respect you, because you do not respect me." He made a quick sound of dissent, but she checked him. "You do not respect womanhood; you only patronize women—you only patronize me. I could not give you a right to do that for life. Good-bye. Don't come in this time. Wait. Let us both think."

"Let us both think," he repeated, as he started down the street. "Think! Think what? I had no idea that Gertrude would be so utterly unreasonable. It is a girl's whim. She'll get over it, but it is deucedly uncomfortable while it lasts."

"Mamma," said Gertrude, when she reached her mother's pretty room on the third floor. "Mamma, do you suppose if a girl really and truly loved a man that she would stop to think whether he had a high or a low estimate of womanhood?"

The girl's mother looked up startled. She was quite familiar with what she had always termed the "superhumanly aged remarks" of her daughter, but the new turn they had taken surprised her.

"I don't believe she would, Gertrude. Why? Are you imagining yourself in love with some man who is not chivalrous toward women?" Mrs. Foster smiled at the mere idea of her daughter caring much for any man. She thought she had observed her too closely to make a mistake in the matter.

Gertrude evaded the first question.

"I once heard a very brilliant man say—what I did not then understand—that chivalry was always the prelude to imposition. I believe I don't care very especially for chivalry. Fair play is better, don't you think so?" She did not pause for a reply, but began taking off her long gloves.

"Which would you like best from papa, flattery or square-toed, honest truth?"

Her mother laughed.

"Gertrude, you are perfectly ridiculous. The institution of marriage, as now established, wouldn't hang together ten minutes if your square-toed, honest truth, as you call it, were to be tried between husbands and wives. Most wives are frightened nearly to death for fear they will become acquainted with the truth some day. They don't want it. They were not—built for it." Gertrude began to move about the room impatiently. Her mother smiled at her and went on: "Don't you look at it that way? No? Well, you are young yet. Wait until you've been married three years—"

The girl turned upon her with an indignant face. Then suddenly she threw her arms about her mother's neck.

"Poor mamma, poor mamma," she said. "Didn't you find out for three years after? How did you bear it? I should have committed suicide. I—"

"Oh, no you wouldn't!" said her mother, with a bitter little inflection. "They all talk that way. Girls all feel so, if they know enough to feel at all—to think at all. They rage and wear out their nerves—as you are doing now, heaven knows why—and the beloved husband calls a doctor and buys sweets and travels with the precious invalid, and never once suspects that he is at the bottom of the whole trouble. It never dawns upon him that what she is dying for is a real and loyal companionship, such as she had fondly dreamed of, and not at all for sea air. It doesn't enter his mind that she feels humiliated because she knows that a great part of his life is a sealed book to her, and that he wishes to keep it so."

She paused, and her daughter stroked her cheek. This was indeed a revelation to the girl. She had been wholly deceived by her mother's gay manner all these years. She was taking herself sharply to task now.

"But by and by when she succeeds in killing all her self-respect; when she makes up her mind that the case is hopeless, and that she must expect absolutely no frankness in life beyond the limits of conventional usage prescribed for purblind babies; after she arrives at the point where she discovers that her happiness is a pretty fiction built on air foundation—well, daughter, after that she—she strives to murder all that is in her beyond and above the petty simpleton she passes for—and she succeeds fairly well, doesn't she?"

There was a cynical smile on her lips, and she made an elaborate bow to her daughter.

"Oh, mamma, I beg your pardon!" exclaimed the girl, almost frightened. "I truly beg your pardon! If—you—I—"

Her mother looked steadily out of the window. Then she said, slowly, "How did you come to find all this out before you were married, child? Have I not done a mother's duty by you in keeping you in ignorance, so far as I could, of all the struggles and facts of life—of—"

The bitter tone was in her voice again. Gertrude was hurt by it, it was so full of self-reproach mingled with self-contempt. She slipped her arm about her mother's waist.

"Don't, mamma," she said. "Don't blame yourself like that. I'm sure you have always done the best possible—the—"

Her mother laughed, but the note was not pleasant.

"Yes, I always did the lady-like thing,—nothing. I floated with the tide. Take my advice, daughter,—float. If you don't, you'll only tire yourself trying to swim against a tide that is too strong for you and—and nothing will come of it. Nothing at all." The girl began to protest with the self-confidence of youth, but her mother went on. She had taken the bit in her teeth to-day and meant to run the whole race.

"Do you suppose I did not know about the Spillini family? About the thousands of Spillini families? Do you suppose I did not know that the rent of ten such families—their whole earnings for a year—would be spent on—on a pretty inlaid prayer-book like this?" She tapped the jeweled cross and turned it over on her lap. The girl's eyes were wide and almost fear-filled as she studied her handsome care-free mother in her new mood.

"Did you really suppose I did not know that this gem on the top of the cross is dyed with the life-blood of some poor wretch, and that this one represents the price of the honor of a starving girl?" She shivered, and the girl drew back. "Did you fancy me as ignorant and as—happy—as I have talked? Don't you know that it is the sole duty of a well-bred woman to be ignorant—and happy? Otherwise she is morbid!" She pronounced the word affectedly, and then laughed a bitter little laugh.

"Don't, mamma," said the girl, again. "I quite understand now, quite—" She laid her head on her mother's bosom and was silent. Presently she felt a tear drop on her hair. She put her hand up to her mother's cheek and stroked it.

"The game went against you, didn't it, mamma?" she said softly. "And you were not to blame." She felt a little shiver run over her mother's frame and a sob crushed back bravely that hurt her like a knife. Presently two hands lifted the girl's face.

"You don't despise me, daughter? In my position the price of a woman's peace is the price of her own self-respect. I did not lose the game. I gave it up!"

Gertrude kissed her on eyes and lips. "Poor mamma, poor mamma," she said softly, "I wonder if I shall do the same!" For the first time since she entered the room, the daughter appeared to appeal for, rather than to offer, sympathy and strength. Her mother was quick to respond.

"If you never learn to love anyone very much, daughter, you may hope to keep your self-respect. If you do you will sell it all—for his. And—and—"

"Lose both at last?" asked the girl, hoarsely. Katherine Foster closed her eyes for a moment to shut out her daughter's face.

"Will you ever have had his?" she asked, with her eyes still closed. "Do men ever truly respect their dupes or their inferiors? Do you truly respect anyone to whom you are willing to deny truth, honor, dignity? Is it respect, or only a tender, pitying love we offer an intellectual cripple—one whose mental life we know to be, and desire to keep, distinctly below our own? Do—" She opened her eyes and they rested on an onyx clock. She laughed. "Come, daughter," she said, "it is time to dress for the Historical Club's annual dinner. You know I am one of the guests of honor to-day. They honor me so truly that I am not permitted to join the club or be ranked as a useful member at all. My work they accept—flatter me by praising in a lofty way; but I can have no status with them as an historian—I am a woman!"

Gertrude sprang to her feet. Her eyes flashed fire.

"Don't go! I wouldn't allow them to—" The door opened softly. Mr. Foster's face appeared.

"Why, dearie, aren't you ready for the Historical Club? I wouldn't have you late for anything. You know I, as the vice-president, am to respond to the toast on, 'Woman: the highest creation, and God's dearest gift to mankind.' It wouldn't look well if you were not there."

"No, dear," she said, without glancing at Gertrude. "It would not look well. I'll be ready in a minute. Will you help me, Gertrude?"

"Yes," said the girl, and her deft fingers flew at the task. When the door closed behind her mother and the carriage rolled away, she threw herself face down on the bed and ground her teeth. "Shall I float, or try to swim up stream?" she said, to herself. "Will either one pay for what it will cost? Shall—"

"Miss Gertrude, dinner is served," said the maid; and she went to the table alone.

"To think that a visit to the Spillini family should have led to all this," she thought, and felt that life, as it had been, was over for her.

Aloud she said:—

"James, the berries, please, and then you may go."

And James told Susan that in his opinion the man that got Miss Gertrude was going to get the sweetest, simplest, yieldingest girl he ever saw except one, and Susan vowed she could not guess who that one was.

But apparently James did not wholly believe her, for he essayed to sportively poke her under the chin with an index finger that very evidently had seen better days prior to having come into violent contact with a base-ball, which, having a mind and a curve of its own, had incidentally imparted an eccentric crook to the unfortunate member.

"Don't you dast t'touch me with that old pot-hook, er I'll scream," exclaimed Susan, dodging the caress. "I don't see no sense in a feller gettin' hisself all broke up that a way," and Susan, from the opposite side of the butler's table, glanced admiringly at her own shapely hand, albeit the wrist might have impressed fastidious taste as of too robust proportions, and the fingers have suggested less of flexibility than is desirable.

But to James the hand was perfect, and Susan, feeling her power, did not scruple to use it with brutal directness. She had that shivering dislike for deformity which, is possessed by the physically perfect, and she took it as a private grievance that James should have taken the liberty to break one of his fingers without her knowledge and consent. Until he had met her, James had carried his distorted member as a badge of honor. No warrior had worn more proudly his battle scars. For, to James, to be a catcher in a base-ball club was honor enough for one man, and he had never dreamed of a loftier ambition. He had grown to keep that mutilated finger ever to the fore as a retired general might carry an empty sleeve. It gave distinction and told of brave and lofty achievement, so James thought.

Susan had modified his pride in the dislocated digit, but he had not yet learned to keep it always in the background. It had several times before interfered with his love-making, and James was humble.

"Oh, now, Susie, don't you be so hard on that there old base-ball finger! I didn't know it was a-going to touch your lovely dimple," and he held the offending member behind his back, as he slowly circled around the table towards the haughty Susan. "By gum! I b'lieve I left a mark on your chin. Lemme see." She thought she understood the ruse, but when he kissed her she pretended deep indignation and flounced out of the room, but the look on her face caused James to drop his left eyelid over a twinkling orb and shake his sides with satisfaction as he removed the dishes after Miss Gertrude had withdrawn from the dining-room.


The visit to the Spillini family had, indeed, led to strange complications and far-reaching results. No one who had known young Seldon Avery and his social life would ever have suspected him, or any member of his set, of a desire to take part in what, by their club friends or favorite reviews, was usually alluded to as the "dirty pool of politics." For the past decade political advancement, at least in New York, had grown to be looked upon by many as a mere matter of purchase and sale, and as quite beneath the dignity of the more refined and cultured men. It had been heralded as a vast joke, therefore, when young Selden Avery, the representative of one of the most cultured families and the honored son of an honored ancestry, had suddenly announced himself as a candidate for the Assembly. His club friends guyed him unmercifully. "We never did believe that you were half as good as you pretended to be, Avery," said one of them, the first time he appeared at the club after his nomination, "but I don't believe a man of us ever suspected you of the depths of depravity that this implies. What ever did put such a ridiculous idea into such a level and self-respecting head? Out with it!"

Banter of this nature met him on every hand. He realized more fully than ever how changed the point of view had grown to be from the historical days of Washington or even of Lincoln. He recalled the time when in his own boyhood his honored father had served in the Legislature of his native state, and had not felt it other than a crowning distinction. Nor had it been so looked upon then by his associates.

Nevertheless the constant jokes and gibes, which held something of a real sting, had become so frequent that, young Avery felt like resenting his friends' humorous thrusts.

"I can't see that I need be ashamed to follow in the footsteps of my father," he said, a little hotly. "Some of the noblest of men—those upon whom the history of this country depends for lustre—held seats in the Assembly, and helped shape the laws of their states. I don't see why I need apologize for a desire to do the same."

"It used to be an association of gentlemen up at the state capital, my boy. Today it is—Lord! you know what it is, I guess. But if you don't, just peruse this sacred volume," laughed his friend, sarcastically, producing a small pamphlet.

"Looks to me as if you'd be rather out of your element with your colleagues. 'M-m-m! Yes, here is the list. Hunted this up after I heard you were going to stand for your district."

The English form of expression was no affectation, for the speaker was far more familiar with political nomenclature abroad than at home. He would have felt it an honor to a man to be called upon to "stand" for his constituency in London, but to "run" for it in New York was far less dignified. Standing gave an idea of repose; running was vulgar. Then, too, the State Legislature did not bear the proportionate relationship to Congress that the Commons did to Parliament, and it was always in connection with that latter body that he had associated the term.

"Let me see. One, two, three, four, 'teen 'steen—yes, I thought I was right! Just exactly nineteen of your nearest colleagues are saloon keepers. One used to keep that disorderly house on Prince Street, four are butchers, one was returned because he had won fame as a base-ballist and—but why go further? Here, Martin, I'm trying to convince Avery that it will be a trifle trying on his nerves to hobnob with the new set he's making for. Don't you think it is rather an anti-climax from the Union to the lower house at Albany? Ye gods!" and he laughed, half in scorn and half in real amusement.

John Martin had extended his hand for the small pamphlet of statistics. He ran his eye over the list, and then turned an amused face upon Avery.

"Think you'll like it?" he asked, dryly. "Or are you taking it as my French friend here says his countrymen take heaven?"

"How's that?" queried Avery, smiling. "In broken doses—or not at all?"

The French gentleman stood with that poise which belongs to the successful man. He glanced from one to the other and spread his hands to either side.

"All Frenchmen desire to go to ze heaven, zhentlemen. Why? Ah, zere air two at-traczions which to effrey French zhentle-man air irresisteble. Ze angels—zey air women—and I suppose zat ze God weal also be an attraction. Ees eet not so?"

Every one in the group laughed and he went on gravely on.

"I zink zat eet ees true—ees eet not?—zat loafly woman will always be vara much ob-searved even in ze heaven eef we zhentlemen are zere. Eef?" He cast up the comers of his eyes, and made another elaborate movement of his hands.

The others all laughed again.

"Yes, zhentlemen, ze true Frenchman cares for two zings: a new sensation—someings zey haf not before experienced,—and zat ees God; and for zat which zey haf obsearved, but of which zey can naavear obsearve enough—loafly woman!"

The explosion of laughter that greeted this sally brought about them a number of other gentlemen, and the talk drifted into different channels. Presently young Avery glanced at his watch and started, with rather a sore heart toward the door. He remembered that he had promised the managers of his campaign that he would be seen that evening at a certain open-air garden frequented by the humbler portion of his constituency. He concluded to go alone the first time that he might the better observe without attracting too much attention. This plan was thought wise to enable him to meet the exigencies of the coming campaign when he should be called upon to speak to this element of this supporters.

Once outside the club house, he took a card from his pocket and glanced at the directions he had jotted upon it.

"I'll walk across to the elevated," he thought, "and make my connection for Grady's place that way. It will save time and look more democratic."


The infinite pathos of life was never better illustrated, perhaps, than in the merrymaking that night at Grady's Pavilion. The easy camaradarie between conscious and unconscious vice; the so-evident struggle the young girls had made to be beautiful and stylish, and the ghastly result of their cheap and incongruous finery; their ignorant acceptance of leers that meant to them honest admiration or affection, and to others meant far different things; their jolly, thoughtless, eager effort to get something joyful out of their narrow lives; the brilliant tints in which they saw the future, and the ghastly light in which it stood revealed to older and more experienced eyes, would have combined to depress a heart less tender and a vision less clear than could have been attributed to Selden Avery. Not that Grady's Pavilion was a bad place.

Many of the girls present would not have been there had it been known as anything short of quite respectable; but it was a free and easy place, where vice meets ignorance without having first made an appointment, where opportunity shakes the ungloved hand of youth and leaves a stain upon the tender palm too deep and dark for future tears to wash away.

"I wonder if I am growing morbid," mused Avery, as he sighed for the third time while looking at the face of a girl not over eighteen years old, but already marked by lines that told of a vaguely dawning comprehension of what the future held for her. Her round-eyed companion, a girl with a childish mind and face, sat beside her, but all the world was bright to her. Life held a prince, a fortune and a career which would be hers one day. She had only to wait, look pretty, and be ready when the apple of fortune fell. Her part was to hold out a pretty apron to break its descent.

"Oh, the infinite pathos of youth!" muttered Avery, feeling himself very old with his thirty years of wider experience as his eyes turned from one girl to the other. "It is hard to tell which is the sadder sight; the disillusioned one or the one who will be even more roughly awakened to-morrow."

His heart ached whenever he studied the face of a young girl. "There is nothing so sad in all the wretched world," he sometimes said, "as the birth of a girl in this grade of life. I am not sure that the nations we look upon as barbarous because they strangle the little things before they are able to think—I am not at all sure that they are not more civilized than we after all. We only maim them with ignorance and utter dependence, and then turn them out into a life where either of these alone is an incalculable curse, and the combination is as fatal as fire in a field of ripened grain."

The younger girl was looking at him. Her wide expectant eyes rested on his face with a frankness and interest that touched his mood anew.

"Poor little thing," he said, half aloud; "if I were to see her bound hand and foot and cast into a den of wolves, I might hope to rescue her; but from this, for such as she there is absolutely no escape. How dare people bring into the world those who must suffer?"

"Huh?" said a voice beside him. He had spoken in a semi-audible tone, and his neighbor had responded after his habitual fashion, to what he looked upon as an overture to conversation.

"I did not intend to speak aloud," said Avery, turning to glance at the man beside him; "but I was just wondering how people dared to have children—girls particularly."

The man beside him turned his full face upon him and examined him critically from head to foot. Then he laughed. It was the first time he had ever heard it hinted that it was not a wholly commendable thing to bring as many children into the world as nature would permit. His first thought had been that Avery was insane, but after looking at him he decided that he was only a grim joker.

"I reckon they don't spend no great deal of time prayin' over the subject," he said, laughing again. Then he crossed his legs and added, "an' I don't suppose they get any telegrams tellin' them they're goin' to be girls, neither. If they did, a good many men would lick the boy that brought the despatch, for God knows most of us would a dam sight ruther have boys."

The laugh had died out of his voice, and there was a ring of disappointment and aggrieved trouble in it. Selden Avery shifted his position.

"I was not looking at it from the point of view of the parents of unwelcome girls," he said, presently, "but from the outlook of the girls of unwelcome parents. The reckoning from that side looks to me a good deal longer than the other." His voice was pleasant, but his eyes looked perplexed and determined. His neighbor began to readjust his opinion of Avery's sanity, and moved his chair a little farther away before he spoke.

"Got any children of your own?" he inquired, succinctly. Avery shook his head. The man drew down the comers of his mouth in a contemptuous grimace. "I thought not. If you had, you'd take it a dam sight easier. Children are an ungrateful lot. They're never satisfied—or next to never. They think you're made for their comfort instead of their bein' for yours. I've got nine, and I know what I'm talkin' about. If you've got any sympathy to throw away don't waste it on children. Parents, in these days of degenerate youngsters, are passin' around the hat for sympathy. In my day it was just the other way. If one of the young ones went wrong, people pitied the father and blamed the child. Now-a-days they blame the father and weep over the young one that makes the mischief. It makes me mad."

He shut his teeth with a suddenness that suggested a snap, and flashed a defiant look about the room.

Avery glanced at his heavy, stubborn face, and decided not to reply. He was in no mood for controversy. And what good could it do, he said to himself, to argue with a mere lump of selfish egotism?

"That is an unusually pretty girl over by the piano," he said, in a tone of mild indifference which he hoped would serve as a period to the conversation.

"She's Tom Berton's girl," was the quick reply. "Berton's up to Albany most o' the time, with me. I represent our district. She's a nice little thing. She'll do anything you ask her to. I never see her equal for that. It's easier for her to do your way than it is to do her own. She likes to; so everybody likes her. I wish I had one like her; but my girls are as stubborn as mules. They won't drive, and they won't lead, and they'd ruther kick than eat. I don't know where they got it. Their mother wasn't half so bad that way, and the Lord knows it ain't in my family. The girl she's with is one o' mine. She looks like she could eat tenpenny nails. She might be just as pretty an' just as much liked as Ettie Berton, but she ain't. She's always growlin' about somethin'. I'll bet a dollar she'll growl about this when we get home. Ettie will think it was splendid. She'd have a good time at a funeral; but that girl of mine 'll get me to spend a dollar to come here and then she'll go home dissatisfied. It won't be up to what she expected.

"Things never are. She's always lookin' to find things some other way. Now, what would you do with a girl like that?" he asked suddenly. Then without waiting for a reply, he added, "I give her a good tongue lashin', an' as she always knows it's comin', she's got so she don't kick quite so much as she used to, but she just sets an' looks sullen like that. It makes me so mad I could—"

He did not finish his remark, but got up and strolled away without the formality of an adieu.

Avery watched his possible future colleague until he was lost in the crowd, and then he walked deliberately over to where the two girls stood.

"I have been talking with your father," he said, smiling and bowing to the older girl, "and although he did not say that I might come and talk to you, he told me who you were, and I think he would not object."

"Oh, no; he wouldn't object," said the younger girl, eagerly. "Would he, Fan? Everybody talks here. He told me so before we came. It's the first time we've been; but he's been before. I think it's splendid, don't you?"

The older girl had not spoken. She was looking at Selden Avery with half suppressed interest and embryonic suspicion. She still knew too little of life to have formed even a clearly defined doubt as to him or his intentions in speaking to them. She was less happy than she had expected to be when she dressed to come with her ever-dawning hope for a real pleasure. She thought there must be something wrong with her because things never seemed to come up to her expectations. She supposed this must be "society," and that when she got used to it, she would enjoy it more. But somehow she had wanted to resent it the first time a man spoke to her, and then, afterward, she was glad she did not, for he had danced with Ettie twice, and Ettie had said it was a lovely dance. She had made up her mind to accept the next offer she had, but when it came, the eyes of the man were so beady-black, and the odor of bay rum radiated so insistently from him that she declined. She hated bay rum because the worst scolding her father ever gave her was when she had emptied his cherished bottle upon her own head. The odor always brought back the heart-ache and resentment of that day, and so she did not think she cared to dance just then.

Selden Avery looked at Ettie. He did not want to tell her what he did think and he had not the heart to dampen her ardor, so he simply smiled, and said:

"It is my first visit here, too; and I don't know a soul. I noticed you two young ladies a while ago, and spoke of you to the gentleman next to me and it chanced to be your father"—he turned to the older girl again—"so that was what gave me courage to come over here. If I had thought of it before he left me, I'd have asked him to introduce me, but I'm rather slow to think. My name is Selden Avery."

"Did father tell you mine?" she asked, looking at him steadily, with eyes that held floating ends of thoughts that were never formed in full.

"No, he didn't," replied Avery, laughing a little. "He told me yours, though," turning to the merry child at his side. "Ettie Berton, Tom Berton's daughter."

Ettie laughed, and clapped her hands together twice.

"Got it right the first time! But what did he give me away for and not her? She is Francis King. That is, her father's name's King, but she is so awfully particular about things and so hard to suit she ought to be named Queen, I tell her, so I call her Queen Fan mostly." There was a little laugh all around, and Avery said:—

"Very good, very good, indeed;" but Francis looked uncomfortable and so he changed the subject. Presently she looked at him and asked:—

"Do you think things are ever like they are in books? Do you think this is? She waved her hand toward the music and the lights. In the books I have read—and the story papers—it all seems nicer than this and—and different. It is because I say that, that they all make fun of me and call me Queen Fan, and father says—" she paused, and a cold light gathered in her eyes. "He don't like it, so I don't say it much, now. He says it's all put on; but it ain't Everything does seem to turn out so different from what you expected—from the way you read about. I've not felt like I thought maybe I should to-night because—because—" she stopped again.

"Because why?" asked Avery, laughing a little. "Because I'm not a bit like the usual story-book prince you ought to have met and—?"

She smiled, and Ettie made a droll little grimace.

"No, it wasn't that at all. I've been thinking most all evening that it wasn't worth—that—"

"Oh, she's worried," put in Ettie, "because she got her father to spend a dollar to bring her. She's afraid he'll throw it up to her afterward, and she thinks it won't pay for that, so it spoils the whole thing before he does it—just being afraid he will. But I tell her he won't, this time. I—" Francis' eyes had filled with tears of mortification, and Avery pretended not to have heard. He affected a deep interest in the music.

"Do you know what it is they are playing now?" he asked, with his eyes fixed upon the musicians. "I thought at first that it was going to be—No, it is—Ton my word I can't recall it, and I ought to know what it is, too. The first time I ever heard it, I remember—"

He turned toward where Francis had stood, but she was gone. "Why, what has become of Miss King?" he asked of the other girl. Ettie looked all about, laughed and wondered and chattered as gaily as a bird.

"I expect she's gone home. She's the queerest you ever saw. I guess she didn't want me to say that about her pa. But it'll make him madder than anything if she has gone that way. He won't like it at all—an' I can't blame him. What's the use to be so different from other folks?" she inquired, sagely, and then she added, laughing: "I don't know as she is so different, either. We all hate things, but we pretend we don't. Don't you think it's better to pretend to like things, whether you do or not?"

"No," replied Avery, beginning to look with surprise upon this small philosopher who had no conception of the worldly wisdom of her own philosophy.

"I do," she said, laughing again. "It goes down better. Everybody likes you better. I've found that out already, and so I pretend to like everything. Of course I do like some of 'em, and some I don't, but it's just as easy to say you like 'em all." She laughed again, and kept time with her toe on the floor.

"Just what don't you like?" asked Avery, smiling. "Won't you tell me, truly? I won't tell any one, and I'd like to be sure of one thing you object to—on principle."

"Well, tob—Do you smoke?" she asked.

He shook his head, and pursed up his lips negatively.

"I thought not," she said, gaily. "You look like you didn't. Well, I hate—hate—hate—hate smoke. When I go on a ferry-boat, and the air is so nice and cool and different from at home, and seems so clean, I just love it, and then—"

"Some one sits near you and smokes," put in Avery, consolingly.

"Yes, they do; and I just most pray that he'll fall over and get drownded—but he never does; and if he asks me if I object to smoke, I say, 'Oh! not at all!' and then he thinks I'm such a nice, sensible girl. Fan tells 'em right out that she don't like it. It makes her deadly sick, and the boys all hate her for it. Her father says it's da—— I was going to say his cuss word, but I guess I won't. Anyhow, he says it's all nonsense and put on. I guess I better go. There is her father looking for us. Poor Fan'll catch it when we get home! Good-night. I've had a lovely time, haven't you?" She waved her hand. Then she retraced the step she had taken. "Don't tell that I don't like tobacco," she said, and started away laughing. He followed her a few steps.

"How is any fellow to know what you really do like?" he asked, smiling, "if you do that way?"

"Fan says nobody wants to know," she said, slyly. "She says they want to know that I like what they want me to like, and think what they think I think." She laughed again. "And of course I do," she added, and bowed in mock submission. "Now, Fan don't. That's where she misses it; and if she don't—reform," she said, lowering her voice, as she neared that young lady's father, "she is going to see trouble that is trouble. I'll bet a cent on it. Don't you?" she asked, as she bestowed a bright smile upon Mr. King.

"Yes," said Avery, and lifting his hat, turned on his heel and was lost in the crowd.

"Where's Fan?" inquired that young lady's father in a tone which indicated that, as a matter of course, she was up to some devilment again.

"She got a headache and went home quite a while ago," said that young lady's loyal little friend. "She enjoyed it quite a lot till she did get a headache." As they neared the street where both lived, Ettie said: "That man talked to her, and I think she liked him."

"Humph!" said Mr. King. "I wouldn't be surprised. She'd be likely to take to a lunatic. I thought he was about the damnedest fool I ever saw; didn't you?"

"Yes," said Ettie, laughing, "and I liked him for it."

Mr. King burst into a roar of laughter. "Of course you did! You'd like the devil. You're that easy to please. I wish to the Lord Fan was," and with a hearty "goodnight," he left her at her father's door, and crossed the street.

Once outside the garden, Avery drew from his pocket the little pamphlet which his club friend had given him, and ran his finger down the list.

"King, member the—ah, ha! one end of his ward joins mine! 'M-m-m; yes, I see. He is one of the butchers. I suspected as much. Let me see; yes, he votes my ticket, too. If I'm elected we'll be comrades-in-arms, so to speak I suppose I ought to have told him who I was; but if I'm elected he'll find out soon enough, and if I'm beaten—well, I can't say that I'm anxious to extend the acquaintance." He replaced the book in his pocket as the guard called out, 'Thirty-Fourth Street! 'strain for Arlem!' and left the train, musing as he strolled along. "Yes, Gertrude was quite right—quite. We fortunate ones have no right to allow all this sort of thing to go on. We have no right to leave it entirely to such men as that to make the laws. I don't care if the fellows up at the club do guy me. Gertrude—" He drew from his breast-pocket a little note, and read it for the tenth time.

"I am so gratified to hear that you have accepted the nomination," it said. "You have the time, and mental and moral equipment to give to the work Were I a man, I should not sleep o' nights until some way was devised to prevent all the terrible poverty and ignorance and brutishness we were talking about the other day. I went to see that Spillini family again. I was afraid to go alone, so I took with me two girls who are in a sewing class, which is, just now a fad at our Church Guild. I thought their experience with poverty would enable them to think of a way to get at this case; but it did not. They appeared to think it was all right It seems to me that ignorance and poverty leave no room for thought, or even for much feeling. It hurt me like a knife to have those girls laugh over it after we came out; at least, one of them laughed, and the other seemed scornful, It is not fair to expect more of them, I know, for we expect so little of ourselves. It is thinking of all this that makes me write to tell you how glad I am that you are to represent your district in Albany. Such men are needed, for I know you will work for the poor with the skill of a trained intellect and a sympathetic heart. I am so glad. Sincerely your friend, Gertrude Foster."

Mr. Avery replaced the note in his pocket, and smiled contentedly. "I don't care a great deal what the fellows at the club say," he repeated. "I'm satisfied, if Gertrude—" He had spoken the last few words almost audibly, and the name startled him. He realized for the first time that he had fallen into the habit of thinking of her as Gertrude, and it suddenly flashed upon him that Miss Foster might be a good deal surprised by that fact if she knew it. He fell to wondering if she would also be annoyed. There was a tinge of anxiety in the speculation. Then it occurred to him that the sewing class of the Guild might give an outlet and a chance for a bit of pleasure to that strange girl he had seen at Grady's Pavilion, and he made a little memorandum, and decided to call upon Gertrude and suggest it to her. He fell asleep that night and dreamed of Gertrude Foster, holding out a helping hand to a strange, tall girl, with dissatisfied eyes, and that Ettie Berton was laughing gaily and making everybody comfortable, by asserting that she liked everything exactly as she found it.


The next evening Avery called upon Gertrude to thank her for her letter, and, incidentally, to tell her of the experience at Grady's Pavilion, and bespeak the good office of the Guild for those two human pawns, who had, somehow, weighed upon his heart.

Avery was not a Churchman himself, but he felt very sure that any Guild which would throw Gertrude Foster's influence about less fortunate girls, would be good, so he gave very little thought to the phase of it which was not wholly related to the personality of the young woman in whose eyes he had grown to feel he must appear well and worthy, if he retained his self-respect. This bar of judgment had come, by unconscious degrees, to be the one before which he tried his own cases for and against himself.

"Would Gertrude like it if she should know? Would I dislike to have her know that I did this or felt that?" was now so constantly a part of his mental processes, that he had become quite familiar with her verdicts, which were most often passed—from his point of view, and in his own mind—without the knowledge of the girl herself.

He had never talked of love to her, except in the general and impersonal fashion of young creatures who are wont to eagerly discuss the profound perplexities of life without having come face to face with one of them. One day they had talked of love in a cottage. The conversation had been started by the discussion of a new novel they had just read, and Avery told her of a strange fellow whom he knew, who had married against the wishes of his father, and had been disinherited.

"He lost his grip, somehow," said Avery, "and went from one disaster into another. First he lost his place, and the little salary they had to live on was stopped. It was no fault of his. It had been in due course of a business change in the firm he worked for. He got another, but not so good a situation, but the little debts that had run up while he was idle were a constant drag on him. He never seemed able to catch up. Then his wife's health failed. She needed a change of climate, rare and delicate food, a quiet mind relieved of anxiety, but he could not give her these. His own nerves gave way under the strain, and at last sickness overtook him, and he had to appeal to me for a loan."

It was the letter which his friend had written when in that desperate frame of mind, which Avery read to Gertrude the day they had discussed the novel together. It was a strange, desperate letter, and it had greatly stirred Gertrude. One passage in it had rather shocked her. It was this: "When a fellow is young, and knows little enough of life to accept the fictions of fiction as guides, he talks or thinks about it as 'love in a cottage.' After he has tried it a while, and suffered in heart and soul because of his love of those whom he must see day after day handicapped in mind and wrecked in body for the need of larger means, he begins to speak of it mournfully as 'poverty with love' But when that awful day comes, when sickness or misfortune develops before his helpless gaze all the horrors of dependence and agony of mind that the future outlook shows him, then it is that the fitting description comes, and he feels like painting above the door he dreads to enter—'hell at home.' Without the love there would be no home; without the poverty no hell. Neither lightens the burdens of the other. Each multiplies all that is terrible in both."

Gertrude had listened to the letter with a sad heart. When she did not speak, Avery felt that he should modify some of its terms if he would be fair to his absent acquaintance.

"Of course he would have worded it a little differently if he had known that any one else would read it. He was desperate. He had gone through such a succession of disasters. If anything was going to fall it seemed as if he was sure to be under it, so I don't much wonder at his language after—"

"I don't wonder at it at all," said Gertrude, looking steadily into the fire. "What seems wonderful, is the facts which his words portray. I can see that they are facts; but what I cannot see is—is—"

"How he could express them so raspingly—so—?" began Avery, but she turned to him quite frankly surprised.

"Oh, no! Not that. But how can it be right that it should be so? And if it is not right, why do not you men who have the power, do something to straighten things out? Is this sort of suffering absolutely necessary in the world?"

It was this talk and its suggestions which had led Avery to first take seriously into consideration the proposition that he run for a seat in the Assembly. It seemed to him that men like himself, who had both leisure and convictions, might do some good work there, and he began to realize that the law-making of the state was left, for the most part, in very dangerous hands, and that a law once passed must inevitably help to crystallize public opinion in such a way as to retard freer or better action.

"To think of allowing that class of men to set the standards about which public opinion forms and rallies!" he thought, as the professional politician arose before him, and his mind was made up. He would be a candidate. So the night after his experience at Grady's Pavilion he had another puzzle to lay before Gertrude. When he entered the hallway he was sorry to hear voices in the drawing-room. He had hoped to find Gertrude and her mother alone. His first impulse was to leave his card and call at another time, but the servant recognizing his hesitation, ventured a bit of information.

"Excuse me, Mr. Avery, but I don't think they will be here long. It's a couple of—They—"

"Thank you, James. Are they not friends of Miss Gertrude?"

James smiled in a manner which displayed a large capacity for pity.

"Well, sir, I shouldn't say they was exactly friends. No, sir, ner yet callers, sir. They're some of them Guilders."

Avery could not guess what Gertrude would have gilders in the drawing-room for at that hour, but decided to enter. "Mr. Avery;" said James, in his most formal and perfunctory fashion, as he drew back the portière and announced the new arrival No one would have dreamed from the stolid front presented by the liveried functionary, that he had just exchanged confidences with the guest.

"Let me introduce my friends to you, Mr. Avery," began Gertrude, and two figures arose, and from one came a gay little laugh, a mock courtesy, and "Law me! It's him! Well, if this don't beat the Dutch!"

She extended her hand to him and laughed again. "We didn't shake hands last night, but now's we're regul'rly interduced I guess we will," she added.

Avery took her hand, and then offered his to her companion, and bowed and smiled again.

"Really, I shall begin to grow superstitious," he said, in an explanatory tone to Gertrude. "I came here to-night to see if I could arrange to have you three young ladies meet; to learn if there was a chance at the Guild to—"

"Oh," smiled Gertrude, beginning to grasp the situation. "How very nice! But these two are my star girls at the Guild now. We were just arranging some work for next week, but—"

"Yas, she wants to go down to that Spillini hole agin," broke in Ettie Berton, and Francis King glanced suspiciously from Gertrude to Avery. She wondered just what these two were thinking. She felt very uncomfortable and wished that he had not come in. She had not spoken since Avery entered, and he realized her discomfort.

"You treated us pretty shabbily last night, Miss King," he said, smiling, and then he turned to Gertrude. "She left me in the middle of a remark. We met at Grady's Pavilion, and if I'm elected, I learn that the fathers of both of these young ladies will be my companions-in-arms in the Assembly. They—!" In spite of herself, Gertrude's face showed her surprise, but Ettie Berton broke in with a gay laugh.

"Are you in politics? Law me! I'd never a believed it. I don't see how you're agoin' to get on unless you get a—"

She realized that her remark was going to indicate a belief in certain incapacity in him, and she took another cue.

"My pa says nobody hardly can't get on in politics by himself. You see my pa is a sort of a starter for Fan's pa in politics, 're else he'd never got on in the world. Fan's pa backs him, and he starts things that her pa wants started."

Francis moved uneasily, and Gertrude said: "That is natural enough since they were friends here, and, I think you told me, were in business together, didn't you?"

Ettie laughed, and clapped her hands gaily. "That's good! In business together! Oh, Lord, I'll tell pa that. He'll roar. Why, pa is a prerofessional starter. He ain't in business with no particular one only jest while the startin's done."

The girl appeared to think that Avery and Gertrude were quite familiar with professional starters, and she rattled on gaily.

"I thought I'd die the time he started them butcher shops for Fan's pa, though. He hadn't never learnt the difference between a rib roast 'n a soup bone, 'n he had to keep a printed paper hung up inside o' the ice chest so's he'd know which kind of a piece he got out to sell; but he talked so nice an' smooth all the time he was a gettin' it out, an' tole each customer that the piece they asked fer was the 'choicest part of the animal,' but that mighty few folks had sense enough to know it—oh, it was funny! I used to get where I could hear him, and jest die a laughin'. He'd sell the best in the shop for ten cents a pound, an' he'd cut it which ever way they ast him to, an' make heavy weight. His price list was a holy show, but he jest scooped in all the trade around there in no time, an' the other shops had to move. Then you ought t' a seen Fan's pa come in there an' brace things up! Whew!" She laughed delightedly, and Francis's face flushed.

"He braced prices up so stiff that some o' the customers left, but most of 'em stayed rather'n hunt up a new place to start books in. Pa, he'd started credit books with all of 'em.

"Pa, he was in the back room the first day Fan's pa and the new clerk took the shop, after pa got it good'n started. Him an' me most died laughin' at the kickin' o' the people. Every last one of 'em ast fer pa to wait on 'em, but Fan's pa he told 'em that he'd bankrupted hisself and had t' sell out to him. Pa said he wisht he had somethin' to bankrupt on. But, law, he'll never make no money. He ain't built that way. He's a tip top perfessional starter tho', ain't he, Fan?" she concluded with a gleeful reminiscent grimace at her friend. Francis shifted her position awkwardly, and tried to feel that everything was quite as it should be in good society, and Gertrude made a little attempt to divert the conversation to affairs of the Guild, but Ettie Berton, who appeared to look upon her father as a huge joke, and to feel herself most at home in discussing him, broke in again:—

"But the time he started the 'Stable fer Business Horses,' was the funniest yet," and she laughed until her eyes filled with tears, and she dried them with the lower part of the palms of her hands, rubbing them red.

"The boss told him not to take anything but business horses. What he meant was, to be sure not to let in any fancy high-steppers, fer fear they'd get hurt or sick, an' he'd have trouble about 'em Well, pa didn't understand at first, an' he wouldn't take no mules, an' most all the business horses around there was mules, an' when drivers'd ask him why he wouldn't feed 'em 'er take 'em in, he jest had t' fix up the funniest stories y' ever heard. He tole one man that he hadn't laid in the kind o' feed mules eat, n' the man told him he was the biggest fool to talk he ever see. The mule-man he—"

Francis King had arisen, and started awkwardly toward Gertrude, with her hand extended.

"I think we ought to go," she said, uneasily, her large eyes burning with mortification, and an oppressed sense of being at a disadvantage.

"So soon?" said Gertrude, smiling as she took her hand, and laid her other arm about the shoulders of Ettie, who had hastened to place herself in the group. "I was so entertained that I did not realize that perhaps you ought to go before it grows late—oh," glancing at a tiny watch in her bracelet, "it is late—too late for you to go way down there alone. I will send James, or—"

"Allow me the pleasure, will you not?" asked Avery, bowing first to Gertrude, and then toward Francis, and Gertrude said:—

"Oh, thank you, if—" but Ettie clapped her hands in glee.

"Well, that's too rich! Just as if we didn't go around by ourselves all the time, and—Lord! pa says if anybody carries me off he'd only go as far as the lamp-post, and drop me as soon as the light struck me! Now Fan's pretty, but—" she laughed, and made clawing movements in the air. "Nobody'll get away with Queen Fan's long's she's got finger-nails 'n teeth." She snapped her pretty little white teeth together with mock viciousness, and laughed again. "I'd just pity the fellow that tried any tomfoolery with Queen Fan. He'd wish he'd died young!"

They all laughed a bit at this sally, and Avery said he did not want Miss King to be forced to extremities in self-protection while he was able to relieve her of the necessity.

When James closed the door behind the laughing group, he glanced at Miss Gertrude to see what she thought of it, but he remarked to Susan later on, that "Miss Gertrude looked as if she was born 'n brought up that way herself. She didn't show no amusement ner no sarcasm in her face. An' as fer Mr. Avery, it was nothing short of astonishing, to see him offer his arms to those two Guilders as they started down the avenue."

And Susan ventured it as her present belief, that if Gertrude's father once caught any of her Guilders around, he'd "make short work of the whole business. She ought't be ashamed o' herself, so she ought. Ketch me, if I was in her shoes, a consortin' with—"

"Anybody but me, Susie," put in the devoted James; but alas, for him, the stiff, unyielding hooked joint of his injured finger came first in contact with the wrist of the fair Susan as he essayed to clasp her hand, and she evaded the grasp and flung out of the room with a shiver. "Keep that old twisted base-ball bat off o' me! I—"

"Oh, Susie!" said James, dolefully, to himself, as he slowly surrounded the offending member with the folds of his handkerchief, which gave it the appearance of being in hospital. "Oh, Susie! how kin you?"

When John Martin, on his way, intending to drop in for the last act of the opera, passed Gertrude's door just in time to see Avery and the two girls come down the steps, his lip curled a bit, and his heart performed that strange feat which loving hearts have achieved in all the ages past, in spite of reason and of natural impulses of kindness. It took on a distinctly hard feeling towards Avery, and this feeling was not unmixed with resentment. "How dare he take girls like that to her house? I was a fool to take her to the Spillinis, but I'd never be idiot enough to take that type of girl to her house. Avery's political freak has dulled his sense of propriety."

Mr. Martin wondered vaguely if he ought not to say something to Gertrude's father, and then he thought it might possibly be better to touch lightly upon it himself in talking to her.

He had heard some gossip at the opera and in the club, which indicated that society did not approve altogether of some of the things Gertrude had recently said and done; but that it smiled approvingly at what it believed to be as good as an engagement between the young lady and Selden Avery. Martin ground his teeth now as he thought of it, and glanced again at the retreating forms of Avery and the two girls.

"It was that visit to the Spillinis, and the revelation of life which it gave her, that is to blame for it all," he groaned. "I was an accursed fool—an accursed fool!"

That night Gertrude lay thinking how charmingly Selden Avery had met the situation, and how well he had helped carry it off with Ettie and Francis. "He seemed to look at it all just as I do," she thought. I felt that I knew just what he was thinking, and he certainly guessed that I wanted him to see them home, exactly as if they had been girls of our own set. "Poor little Ettie! I wonder what we can do with, or for, such as she? She is so hopelessly—happy and ignorant." Then she fell asleep, and dreamed of rescuing Ettie from the fangs a maddened dog, and Francis stood by and looked scornfully at Gertrude's lacerated hands, and then pointed to her little friend's mangled body and the smile upon her dead lips.

"She never knew what hurt her, and she teased the dog to begin with," she said. "You are maimed for life, and may go mad, just trying to help her—and she never knew and she never cared." Gertrude's dreamed had strayed and wandered into vagaries without form or outline, and in the morning nothing of it was left but an unreasonably heavy heart, and a restless desire to do—she knew not what.


When Avery took his seat in the Assembly he learned that Ettie Berton's father had been true to his calling. He still might be described as a professional starter. Any bill which was in need of some one to either introduce or offer a speech in its favor, found in John Berton an ever-ready champion.

Not that he either understood or believed in all the bills he presented or advocated. Belief and understanding were not for sale; nor, indeed, were they always very much within his own grasp. He was in the Legislature to promote, or start, such measures as stood in need of his peculiar abilities. This was very soon understood, and many a bill which other men feared or hesitated to present found its way to him and through him to a reading. For a while Avery watched this process with amusement. He wrote to Gertrude, from time to time, some very humorous letters about it; but finally, one day a letter came which so bitterly denounced both King and Berton, that Gertrude wondered what could have wrought the sudden change.

"He has introduced a bill which is now before my committee," he wrote, "that passes all belief. It is infamous beyond words to express, and, to my dismay, it finds many advocates beside King and Berton. That a conscienceless embruted inmate of an opium dive in Mott Street might acknowledge to himself in the dark, and when he was alone, that he could advocate such a measure, seems to me possible; but men who are in one sense reputable, who—many of them—look upon themselves as respectable; men who are fathers of girls and brothers of women, could even consider such a bill, I would not have believed possible, and yet, I am ashamed to say that I learn now for the first time, that our state is not the only one where similar measures have not only found advocates, but where there were enough moral lepers with voting power to establish such legislation. It makes me heartsick and desperate. I am ashamed of the human race. I am doubly ashamed that it is to my sex such infamous laws are due.

"You were right, my dear Miss Gertrude; you were right. It is outrageous that we allow mere conscienceless politicians to legislate for respectable people, and yet my position here is neither pleasant, nor will it, I fear, be half so profitable as you hope—as I hoped, before I came and learned all I now know. But, believe me, I shall vote on every bill and make every speech, with your face before me, and as if I were making that particular law to apply particularly to you."

Gertrude smiled as she re-read that part of his letter.

She wondered what awful bill Ettie's father had presented. She had never before thought that a legislator might strive to enact worse laws than he already found in the statute books. She had thought most of the trouble was that they did not take the time and energy to repeal old, bad laws that had come to us from an ignorant or brutal past.

It struck her as a good idea, that a man should never vote on a measure that he did not feel he was making a rule of action to apply to the woman for whom he cared most; she knew now that she was that woman for Selden Avery. He had told her that the night he came to bring the news that he was elected. It had been told in a strangely simple way.

Her father and mother had laughingly congratulated him upon his election, and Mr. Poster had added, banteringly: "If one may congratulate a man upon taking a descent like that."

Gertrude had held one of her father's hands in her own, and tried by gentle pressure to check him. Her father laughed, and added: "The little woman here is trying to head me off. She appears to think—"

"Papa," said Gertrude, extending her other hand to Avery, "I do think that Mr. Avery is to be congratulated that he has the splendid courage to try to do something distinctly useful for other people, than simply for the few of us who are outside or above most of the horrors of life. I do—" Avery suddenly lifted her hand to his lips, and his eyes told the rest. "Mr. Foster," he said, still holding the girl's hand, and blushing painfully, "there can never be but one horror in the world too awful for me to face, and that would be to lose the full respect and confidence of your daughter. I know I have those now, and for the rest —" He glanced again at Gertrude. She was pale, and she was looking with an appeal in her eyes to her mother.

Mrs. Foster moved a step nearer, and put her arm about the girl. "For the rest, Mr. Avery, for the rest—later on, later on," she said, kindly. "Gertrude has traveled very fast these past few months, but she is her mother's girl yet." Then she smiled kindly, and added: "Gertrude has set a terrible standard for the man she will care for. I tremble for him and I tremble for her."

"Tut, tut," said her father, "there are no standards in love—none whatever. Love has its own way, and standards crumble—"

"In the past, perhaps. But in the future—" began his wife.

"In the future," said Gertrude, as she drew nearer to her mother, "in the future they may not need to crumble, because,—because—" Her eyes met Avery's, and fell. She saw that his muscles were tense, and his face was unhappy.

"Because men will be great enough and true enough to rise to the ideals, and not need to crumble the ideals to bring them to their level."

Avery bent forward and grasped her hand that was within her mother's.

"Thank you," he said, tremulously. "Thank you, oh, darling! and the rest can wait," he said, to Mrs. Poster, and dropping both hands, he left the room and the house.

Gertrude ran up-stairs and locked her door.

Mr. Foster turned to his wife with a half amused, half vexed face. "Well, this is a pretty kettle of fish. What's to become of Martin, I'd like to know?"

"John Martin has never had a ghost of a chance at any time—never," said his wife, slowly trailing her gown over the rug, and dragging with it a small stand that had caught its carved claw in the lace. It toppled and fell with a crash. The beautiful vase it had held was in fragments. "Oh, Katharine!" exclaimed her husband, springing forward to disengage her lace. "Oh, it is too bad, isn't it?"

And Katherine Foster burst into tears, and with her arms suddenly thrown about her husband's neck she sobbed: "Oh, yes, it is too bad! It is too bad!" But it did not seem possible to her husband that the broken vase could have so affected her, and surely no better match could be asked for Gertrude. It could not be that. He was deeply perplexed, and Katherine Foster, with a searching look in her face, kissed him sadly as one might kiss the dead, and went to her daughter's room.

She tapped lightly and then said, "It is I, daughter."

The girl opened the door and as quickly closed and locked it. Instantly their arms were around each other and both were close to tears.

"Don't try to talk, darling," whispered Mrs. Foster, as they sat down upon the couch. "Don't try to talk. I understand better than you do yet, and oh, Gertrude, your mother loves you!"

"Yes, mamma," said the girl, hoarsely. "Dear little mamma—poor little mamma, we all love you;" and Mrs. Foster sighed.


The day Gertrude received Avery's letter about bill number 408, she asked her father what the bill was about. He looked at her in surprise, and then at his wife. "I don't know anything about it, child," he said; "Why?"

Gertrude drew from her pocket Avery's letter and read that part of it. Her father's face clouded.

"What business has he to worry you with his dirty political work? I infer from what he says that it is a bill that I've only heard mentioned once or twice. The sort of thing they do in secret sessions and keep from the newspapers in the main. That is, they are only barely named in the paper and under a number or heading which people don't understand. I'm disgusted with Avery—perfectly!" Gertrude was surprised, but with that ignorance and absolute sincerity of youth, she appealed to her mother.

"Mamma, do you see any reason why, from that letter, papa should be vexed with Mr. Avery? It seemed to me to have just the right tone; but I am sorry he did not tell me just what the bill is."

"You let me catch him telling you, if it's what I think it is," retorted her father, rather hotly. "It's not fit for your ears. Good women have no business with such knowledge and—"

Mrs. Foster held up a warning finger to her daughter, but the girl had not been convinced.

"Don't good men know such things, papa? Don't such bills deal with people in a way which will touch women, too? I can't see why you put it that way. If a bill is to be passed into a law, and it is of so vile a nature as you say and as this letter indicates, in whose interest is it to be silent or ignorant? Do you want such a bill passed? Would mamma or I?"

Her father laughed, and rose from the table. "It is in the interest of nothing good. No, I should say if you or your mother, or any other respectable mother at all, were in the Legislature, no such bill would have a ghost of a chance; but—"

Gertrude's eyes were fixed upon her father. They were very wide open and perplexed.

"Then it can be only in the interest of the vilest and lowest of the race that good men keep silent, and prefer to have good women ignorant and helpless in such—" she began; but her father turned at the door and said, nervously and almost sharply, "Gertrude, if Avery has no more sense than to start you thinking about such things, I advise you to cut his acquaintance. Such topics are not fit for women; I am perfectly disgusted with—"

As he was passing out of the dining-room, John Martin entered the street door and faced him. "Hello, Martin! Glad to see you! The ladies are still at luncheon; won't you come right in here and join them in a cup of chocolate?"

He was heartily glad of the interruption, and felt that it was very timely indeed that Mr. Martin had dropped in.

"No, I can't take off my top-coat. Get yours. I want you to join me in a spin in the park. I've got that new filly outside." Mr. Foster ran up-stairs to get ready for the drive, and the ladies insisted that a cup of hot chocolate was the very thing to prepare Mr. Martin for the nipping air. He was a trifle ill at ease. He wanted to speak of Selden Avery, and he feared if he did so that he would say the wrong thing. He had come to-day, partly to have a talk with his friend Foster about certain gossip he had heard. Fate took the reins.

In rising, Gertrude had dropped Avery's letter. John Martin was the first to see it. He laughingly offered it to her with the query: "Do you sow your love letters about that way, Miss Gertrude?"

"Gertrude's love letters take the form of political speeches just now, and bills and committee reports and the like," laughed her mother. "Her father was just showing his teeth over that one, He thinks women have no—"

"Mr. Martin, tell me truly," broke in the girl, "tell me truly, don't you think that we are all equally interested in having only good laws made? And don't you think if a proposed measure is too bad for good women even to be told what it is, that it is bad enough for all good people to protest against?"

"How are they going to protest if they don't know what it is?" laughed Martin. "Well, Miss Gertrude, I believe that is the first time I ever suspected you to be of Celtic blood. But what dreadful measure is Avery advocating now?" he smiled. "Really, I shouldn't have believed it of Avery!"

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Poster, entering with his top-coat buttoned to the chin, and his driving-hat in hand. Gertrude still held the letter. "No, nor should I have believed it of Avery. It was an outrageous thing for him to do. What business has Gertrude or Katherine with his disgusting old bills. Just before you came in I advised Gertrude to cut him entirely, and—"

Mrs. Foster was trying to indicate to her husband that he was off the track, and that Mr. Martin did not understand him; but he had the bit in his teeth and went on. "You agree with me now, don't you? What do you think of his mentioning such things to Gertrude?" He reached over and took the letter from his daughter's hand, and read a part of the obnoxious paragraph.

John Martin's face was a study. He glanced at the two ladies, and then fixed his eyes upon Gertrude's father.

"Good Gad!" he said, slowly and almost below his breath. "If I were in your place I should shoot him. The infamous—" He checked himself, and the two men withdrew. Gertrude and her mother waved at them from the window, and then the girl said: "I intend to know what that bill is. What right have men to make laws that they themselves believe are too infamous for good women even to know about? Don't you believe if all laws or bills had to be openly discussed before and with women, it would be better, mamma? I do."

Her mother's cheek was against the cold glass of the window. She was watching the receding forms. Presently she turned slowly to her daughter and said, in a trembling tone:—

"Such bills as this one," she drew a small printed slip from her bosom and handed it to Gertrude, "such bills as that would never be dreamed of by men if they knew they must pass the discussion of a pure girl or a mother—never! Their only chance is secret session, and the fact that even men like your—like Mr. Martin and—and—" she was going to say "your father," but the girl pressed her hand and she did not. "That even such as they—for what reason heaven only knows—think they are serving the best interests of the women they love by a silence which fosters and breeds just such measures as—"

Gertrude was reading the queer, blind phraseology of the bill. Katherine had watched her daughter's face as she talked, and now the girl's lips were moving and she read audibly: "be, and is hereby enacted, that henceforth the legal age in the state of New York whereat a female may give consent to the violation of her own person shall be reduced to ten years."

Gertrude dropped the paper in her lap and looked up like a frightened, hunted creature. "Great God!" she exclaimed, with an intensity born of a sudden revelation. "Great God! and they call themselves men! And other men keep silence—furnish all the soil and nurture for infamy like that! Those who keep silence are as guilty as the rest! Those who try to prevent women from knowing—oh, mamma!" Her eyes were intense. She sprang to her feet; "and John Martin, who thinks he loves me is one of those men! Knowing such a bill as that is pending, his indignation is aroused, not at the bill, not at the men who try to smuggle it through, not at the awful thing it implies, but that so strict a silence is not kept that such as we may not know of it! He blames Selden Avery for coming to me—to us—with his splendid chivalry, and sharing with us his horror, making us the confidants of that inner conscience which sees, in the intended victims of this awful bill, his little sisters and yours and mine!" There were indignant tears in her eyes. She closed them, and her white lips were drawn tense. Presently she asked, without opening her eyes: "Mamma, do you suppose if you, instead of Mr. Avery, were chairman of that committee, that such a bill as that would ever have been presented? Do you suppose, if any mother on earth held the veto power, that such a bill would ever disgrace a statute book? Are there enough men, even of a class who generally go to the Legislature, who, in spite of their fatherhood, in spite of the fact that they have little sisters, are such beasts as to pass a bill like that? A ten-year-old girl! A mere baby! And—oh, mamma! it is too hideous to believe, even of—such a bill could never pass. Never on earth! Surely, Ettie Berton, poor little thing, has the only father living who is capable of that!"

Mrs. Foster opened her lips to say that several states already had the law, and that one had placed the age at seven; but she checked herself. Her daughter's excitement was so great, she decided to wait. The experience of the past few months had awakened the fire in the nature of this strong daughter of hers. She had seen the cool, steady, previously indifferent, well-poised girl stirred to the very depths of her nature over the awful conditions of poverty, ignorance, and vice she had, for the first time, learned to know. Gertrude had become a regular student of some of the problems of life, and she had carried her studies into practical investigation. It had grown to be no new thing for her to take Francis, or Ettie, or both, when she went on these errands, and the study of their points of view—of the effect of it all upon their ignorance-soaked minds, had been one of the most touching things to her. Their imaginations were so stunted—so embryonic, so undeveloped that they saw no better way. To them, ignorance, poverty, squalor, and vice were a necessary part of life. Wealth, comfort, happiness, ambition were, naturally and rightly, perquisites, some way, some how, of the few.

"God rules, and all is as he wishes it or it would not be that way," sagely remarked Francis King, one day. It had startled Gertrude. Her philosophy, her observation, her reason, and her religion were in a state of conflict just then. She had alway supposed that she was an Episcopalian with all that this implied. She was beginning to doubt it at times.

Mrs. Foster looked at her daughter now, as she sat there flushed and excited. She wondered what would come of it all. She had always studied this daughter of hers, and tried to follow the girl's moods. Now she thought she would cut across them.

"Gertrude, you may put that bill with your letter. Mr. Avery mailed it to me. Of course he meant that I should show it to you if I thought best. I did think best, but now—but—I don't want you to excite yourself too—" She broke off suddenly. Her daughter's eyes were upon her in surprise. Mrs. Foster laughed a little nervously, and kissed the girl's hand as it lay in her own. "It seems rather droll for your gay little mother to caution you against losing control of yourself, doesn't it?" she asked. "You who were always all balance wheel, as your father says. But—"

"Mamma, don't you think Mr. Avery did perfectly right to send me that letter and this to you?" broke in Gertrude, as if she had not heard the admonition of her mother, and had followed her own thoughts from some more distant point.

"Perfectly," said her mother. "He was evidently deeply disturbed by the bill. He felt that you were, and should be, his confidant. He simply did not dream of hiding it from you, I believe. It was the spontaneous act of one who so loves you that his whole life—all of that which moves him greatly—must, as a matter of course, be open to you. I thought that all out when the bill came addressed to me. He—" The girl kissed her in silence.

"You have such splendid self-respect, Gertrude. Most of us—most women—have none. We do not expect, do not demand, the least respect that is real from men. They have no respect for our opinions, and so upon all the real and important things of life, they hold out to us the sham of silence as more respectful than candor. And we—most of us—are weak enough to say we like it. Most of us—"

Gertrude slipped down upon a cushion at the feet of her mother, and put her young, strong arms about the supple waist. She had of late read from time to time so much of the unrest and scorn back of the gay and compliant face of her mother. "Mamma, my real mamma," she said, softly, "I

"Men of your father's generation did not want mental comrades in their wives, Gertrude. They—"

"A telegram, Miss Gertrude," said James, drawing aside the portiere.

"The bill has been rushed through. Passed. Nineteen majority. Avery." Gertrude read it and handed it to her mother, and both women sat as if stunned by a blow.


At the close of the Legislature, John Berton, professional starter, and his friend and ally, the father of Francis King, had returned to the city. Francis had grown, so her father thought, more handsome and less agreeable than ever. Her eyes were more dissatisfied, and she was, if possible, less pliant. She and Ettie Berton were working now in a store, and Francis said that she did not like it at all. The money she liked. It helped her to dress more as she wished, and then it had always cut Francis to the quick to be compelled to ask her father for money whenever she needed it, even for car fare.

She had lied a good many times. Her whole nature rebelled against lying, but even this was easier to her than the status of dependence and beggary, so she had lied often about the price of shoes, or of a hat or dress, that there might be a trifle left over as a margin for her use in other ways. Her father was not unusually hard with her about money, only that he demanded a strict accounting before he gave it to her.

"What in thunder do you want of money?" he would ask, more as a matter of habit than anything else. "How much 'll it take? Humph! Well, I guess you'll have to have it, but—" and so the ungracious manner of giving angered and humiliated her.

"Pa, give me ten cents; I want it fer car fare. Thanks. Now fork over six dollars; I got to get a dress after the car gets me to the store," was Ettie Berton's method. Her father would pretend not to have the money, and she would laugh and proceed to rifle his pockets. The scuffle would usually end in the girl getting more than she asked for, and was no unpleasant experience to her, and it appeared to amuse her father greatly. It was not, therefore, the same motive which actuated the two when they decided to try their fortunes as shop girls. The desire to be with Francis, to be where others were, for the sight and touch of the pretty things, for new faces and for mild excitement, were moving causes with Ettie Berton. The money she liked, too; but if she could have had the place without the money or the money without the place, her choice would have been soon made. She would stay at the store. That she was a general favorite was a matter of course. She would do anything for the other girls, and the floorwalkers and clerks found her always obedient and gaily willing to accept extra burdens or to change places. For some time past, however, she had been on a different floor from the one where Francis presided over a trimming counter, and the girls saw little of each other, except on their way to and from the store.

At last this changed too, for Francis was obliged to remain to see that the stock of her department was properly put away. At first Ettie waited for her, but later on she had fallen into the habit of going with a child nearer her own age, a little cash girl. Ettie was barely fourteen, and her new friend a year or two younger. At last Francis King found that the motherless child had invited her new friends home with her, and had gone with them to their homes.

As spring came on, Ettie went one Sunday to Coney Island, and did not tell Francis until afterward. She said that she had had a lovely time, hut she appeared rather disinclined to talk about it. At the Guild one Wednesday evening, after the class began again in the fall, Francis King told Gertrude this, and asked her advice. She said: "It's none o' my business, and she don't like me much any more, but I thought maybe I had ought to tell you, for—for—since I been in the store, I've learnt a good deal about—about things; an' Ettie she don't seem to learn much of anything."

"Is Ettie still living at her cousin's?" asked Gertrude.

"Yes," said Francis, scornfully, "but she 'bout as well be livin' by herself. Her cousin's always just gaddin' 'round tryin' t' get married. I never did see such an awful fool. Before Et's pa went to the Legislature, we all did think he was goin' t' marry her, but now—"

"Legislative honors have turned his head, have they?" smiled Gertrude, intent on her own thoughts in another direction. She was not, therefore, prepared for the sudden fling of temper in the strange girl beside her. "Yes, it has; 'n if it don't turn some other way before long, I'll break his neck for him. I ain't marryin' a widower if I do like Ettie."

In spite of herself, Gertrude started a little. She looked at Francis quite steadily for a moment, and then said: "Could you and Ettie come to my house and spend the day next Sunday? I'm glad you told me of Ettie's—of—about the change in her manner toward you."

"Don't let on that I told you anything," said Francis, as they parted.

Since they had been in the store they had not gone regularly to the weekly evening Guild meetings, and Gertrude had seen less of them. She was surprised, however, on the following Sunday, to see the strange, mysterious change in Ettie. A part of her frank, open, childish manner was gone, and yet nothing more mature had taken its place. There would be flashes of her usual manner, but long silences, quite foreign to the child, would follow. At the dinner table she grew deadly ill, and had to be taken up stairs. Gertrude tucked a soft cover about her on the couch in her own room, and gave her smelling salts and a trifle of wine. The child drank the wine but began to cry.

"Oh, don't cry, Ettie," said Gertrude, stroking her hair gently. "You'll be over it in a little while. I think our dining-room is much warmer than yours, and it was very hot to-day. Then your trying to eat the olives when you don't like them, might easily make you sick. You'll be all right after a little I'm sure. Don't cry."

"That's the same kind of wine I had that day at Coney Island," she said, and Gertrude thought how irrelevant the remark was, and how purely of physical origin were the tears of such a child.

"Would you like a little more?" asked Gertrude, smiling.

Ettie shivered, and closed her eyes.

"No; I don't like it. I guess it ain't polite to say so, but—Oh, of course maybe I'd like it if I was well, but it made me sick that time, an' so I don't like it now when I am sick." She laughed in a childish way, and then she drew Gertrude's face down near her own. "Say, I'll tell you the solemn truth. It made me tight that day. He told me so afterwards, n' I guess it did."

Here was a revelation, indeed. Gertrude stroked the fluffy hair, gently. She was trying to think of just the right thing to say. It was growing dark in the room. Ettie reached up again and drew Gertrude's face down. "Say," she whispered, "you won't be mad at me for that, will you? He told me I wasn't to blab to anybody; but it always seems as if you wouldn't be mad at me, and"—she began to weep again.

"Don't cry," said Gertrude, again, gently. "Of course I am not angry with you. I am sorry it happened, but—Ettie, who is he?" Ettie sobbed on, and held her arms close about Gertrude's neck. Again the older girl said, with lips close to the child's ear:

"Don't you think it would be better to tell me who 'he' is? Is he so young as to not know better than to advise you that way, dear?"

"He's forty," sobbed Ettie, "an' he's rich, an' he's got a girl of his own as big as me. I saw her one day in the store. He's the cashier."

Gertrude shivered, and the child felt the movement.

"Don't you ever, ever tell," she panted, "or he'll kill me—and so would pa."

"Oh, he would, would he?" exclaimed Francis, who had stolen silently into the room and had stood unobserved in the darkness. "The cashier! the mean devil! I always hated his beady eyes, and he tried his games on me! But I'll kill him before he shall go—do you any real harm, Ettie! I will! I will! Why didn't you tell me? I watched for a while and then I thought—I thought he had given it up. Oh, Ettie, Ettie!" The tall form of the girl seemed to rise even higher in the darkness, and one could feel the fire of her great eyes. Her hands were clenched and her muscles tense.

Ettie was sobbing anew, and Gertrude, holding her hand, was stroking the moist forehead and trying to quiet her.

"Oh, Fan! Oh, Fan! I didn't want you to know," sobbed the child, with pauses between her words. "He said nobody needn't ever know if I'd do just's he told me. He said—but when pa came home I was so scared, an' I'm sick most all the time, an'—an', oh, if I wasn't so awful afraid to die I'd wisht I was dead!"

"Dead!" gasped Francis, grasping Ettie's wrist and pulling her hand from her face in a frenzy of the new light that was dawning upon her half-dazed but intensely stimulated mental faculties. She half pulled the smaller girl to her feet.

"Dead! Ettie Berton, you tell me the God's truth or I'll tear him to pieces right in the store. You tell me the God's truth! has he—done anything awful to you?" A young tiger could not have seemed more savage, and Ettie clung with her other arm to Gertrude.

"No! No! No!" she shrieked, and struggled to free herself from the clutch upon her wrist. Then with the pathetic superstition and ignorance of her type: "Cross my heart I Hope I may die!" she added, and as Francis relaxed her grasp upon the wrist, Ettie fell in an unconscious little heap upon the floor.

Francis was upon her knees beside her in an instant, and Gertrude was about to ring for a light and for her mother when Francis moaned: "Oh, send for a doctor, quick. Send for a doctor! She was lying and she crossed her heart. She will die! She will die!"


But Ettie Berton did not die. Perhaps it would have been quite as well for her if she had died before the impotent and frantic rage of her father had still further darkened the pathetically appealing, love-hungry little heart, whose every beat had been a throbbing, eager desire to be liked, to please, to acquiesce; to the end that she should escape blame, that she might sail on the smooth and pleasant sea of general praise and approval.

Alas, the temperament which had brought her the dangerous stimulus of praise, for self-effacement, had joined hands with opportunity to wreck the child's life—and no one was more bitter in his denunciation than her father's friend and her aforetime admirer—Representative King. "If she was a daughter o' mine I'd kill her," he repeated to his own household day after day. "She sh'd never darken my door agin. That's mighty certain. It made me mad the other day to hear Berton talk about takin' her back home. The old fool! What does he want of her? An' what kind of an example that I'd like t' know t' set t' decent girls? I told him right then an' there if he let his soft heart do him that a'way I was done with him for good an' all, n' if I ketch you a goin' up there t' see her agin, you can just stay away from here, that's all!" This last had been to Francis, and Francis had shut her teeth together very hard, and the glitter in her eyes might have indicated to a wiser man that it was not chiefly because of his presence there that this daughter cared to return to her home after her clandestine visits to Ettie Berton. A wiser man, too, might have guessed that the prohibition would not prohibit, and that poor little Ettie Berton would not be deserted by her loyal friend because of his displeasure.

"I have told her that she may live with us by and by," said Gertrude to Seldon Avery one afternoon; "but that is no solution of the problem. And besides it is her father's duty to care for her and to do it without hurting the child's feelings, too. Can't you go to him and have a talk with him? You say he seems a kind-hearted, well-meaning, easily-led man. Beside, he has no right to blame her. He has done more than any one else in this state to make the path of the cashier easy and smooth. If it were not for poor little Ettie I should be heartily glad of it all—of the lesson for him. Can't you go to him and to that Mr. King and make them see the infamy of their work, and force them to undo it? Can't you? Is there no way?"

Avery had gone. He argued in vain. "Why do you blame the cashier," he had said to Berton. "He has committed no legal offence. Our laws say he has done no wrong. Then why blame him? Why blame Ettie? She is a mere yielding, impulsive child, and, surely, if he has done no wrong she has not. If—"

"Now look a-here, Mr. Avery," said John Berton, hotly, "I know what you're a-hittin' at an' you can jest save your breath. I didn't help pass that law t' apply to my girl, n' you know it damned well. I ain't in no mood just now t' have you throw it up to me that she was about the first one it ketched, neather. How was I a-goin' to know that? That there bill wasn't intended t' apply t' my girl, I tell you. An' then she hadn't ought to a said she went with him willin'ly, either. If she hadn't a said that we could a peppered him, but as it is he's all right, an—"

"That is what the law contemplates, isn't it?—for other girls, of course, not for yours," began Avery, whose natural impulses of kindness and generosity he was holding back.

"Now you hold on!" exclaimed Berton, feebly groping about for a reply. "You know I never got up that bill. You know mighty well the man that got it up an' come there an' lobbied for it, was one o' your own kind—a silk stocking.

"You know I only started it 'n' sort o' fathered it for him. I ain't no more to blame than the others. Go 'n talk t' them. I've had my dose. Go 'n talk t' King. He says yet that it's a mighty good bill—but I ain't so damned certain as I was. It don't look 's reasonable t' me's it did last session." Avery left him, in the hope that a little later on he would conclude that his present attitude toward his daughter might undergo like modification, with advantage to all concerned. It was early in the evening, and Avery concluded to step into a workingman's club on his way to his lodgings. He had no sooner entered the door, than someone recognized him as the candidate of a year ago. There was an immediate demand that he give them a speech. He had had no thought of speaking, but the opening tempted him, and the hand clapping was indent. The chairman introduced him as "the only kid-glove member in the last Legislature who didn't sell his soul, to monopoly, and put a mortgage on his heavenly home at the behest of Wall Street."

The applause which met this sally was long sustained, and the laughter, while hearty, was not altogether pleasant of tone. Avery stood until there was silence. Then he began with a quiet smile.

"Mr. Chairman and gentlemen." He paused, and looked over the room again. "I beg your pardon. I am accustomed to face men only. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen." There was a ripple of laughter over the room. "Let me say how glad I am to make that amendment, and how glad I shall be, for one, when I am able to make it in the body to which I have the honor to belong—the Legislature." Some one said: "ah, there," but he did not pause. "You labor men have taken the right view of it in this club. There is not a question, not one, in all the domain of labor or legislation which does not strike at woman's welfare as vitally as it does at man's; not one." There was feeble applause. "But I will go further. I will say, there is not only not an economic question which is not as vital to her, but it is far more vital than it is to man. The very fact of her present legal status rests upon the other awful fact of her absolute financial dependence upon men." Someone laughed, and Avery fired up. "This one fact has made sex maniacs of men, and peopled this world with criminals, lunatics, and liars! This one fact! This one fact!"

His intensity had at last forced silence, and quieted those members who were at first inclined to take as a gallant joke his opening remarks. "Let me take a text, for what I want to say to you on the economic question, from the Bible.

"Oh, give us a rest!"

"Suffer little children!"

"Remember the Sabbath day!" and like derisive calls, mingled with a laugh and distinct hisses. The gavel beat in vain; Avery waited. At last there was silence, and he said: "I was not joking. The fact that you all know me as a freethinker misled you; but although I did say that I wished to take as a sort of text a passage from the Bible, I was in earnest. This is the text: 'The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty.' Again there was a laugh, with a different ring to it, and clapping of hands.

"I think that I may assume," he went on, "that no audience before which I am likely to appear, will suspect me of accepting the Bible as altogether admirable. Some of the prophets and holy men of old, as I read of their doings in the scriptures, always impress me as having been long overdue at the penitentiary."

There was laughter and applause at this sally, and the intangible something which emanates from an audience which tells a speaker that he now has a mental grasp upon his hearers, made itself felt. The slight air of resentment which arose when he had said that he should refer for his authority to the Bible subsided, and he went on.

"But notwithstanding these facts and opinions, one sometimes finds in the Bible things that are true. Sometimes they are not only true, but they are also good. Again they are good in fact, in sentiment, and in diction. Now when this sort of conjunction occurs, I am strongly moved to drop for the time such differences as I may have with other portions and sentiments, and give due credit where credit is due.

"Therefore, when I find in the tenth chapter of Proverbs this: 'The rich man's wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty,' I shake hands with the author, and travel with him for this trip at least. The prophet does not say that their destruction is ignorance, or vice, or sin, or any of the ordinary blossoms of poverty which it is the fashion to refer to as its root. He tells us the truth—the destruction of the poor is their poverty.

"And who are the poor? Are they not those who, in spite of their labor, their worth, and their value to the state as good citizens are still dependent upon the good-will—the charity, I had almost said—of someone else who has power over the very food they have earned a hundred times over, and the miserable rags they are allowed to wear instead of the broadcloth they have earned? Are they not those who, because of economic conditions, are suppliants where they should be sovereign citizens, dependents where they should be free and independent and self-respecting persons?"

"Right you are!" "Drive it home!" came with the applause from the audience.

"Are they not those who must obey oppressive laws made by those who legislate against the helpless and in favor of the powerful? Are they not those whose voices are silenced by subjection, whose wishes and needs are trampled beneath the feet of the controlling class?"

The applause was ready now and instant. Avery paused. There was silence. "And who are these?" he asked, and paused again.

"What class of people more than any other—more than all others—fits and fills each and every one of these queries?" "Laboring men!" shouted several. "All of us!" "No," said Avery, "you are wrong. To all of you—to all so-called laboring men they do apply; but more than to these, in more insidious ways, do they apply to laboring women. To all women, in fact; for no matter how poor a man is, his wife and daughters are poorer; no matter how much of a dependent he is, the woman is more so, for she is the dependent of a dependent, the serf of a slave, the chattel of a chattel! The suppliant, not only for work and wage, but the suppliant at the hands of sex power for equality with even the man who is under the feet and the tyranny of wealth. They share together that tyranny and poverty, but he thrusts upon her alone the added outrage of sex subjugation and legal disability." He paused, and held up his hand. Then he said, slowly, making each word stand alone:—

"And I tell you, gentlemen, with my one term's experience in the Legislature and what it has taught me—I tell you that there is no outrage which wealth and power can commit upon man that it cannot and does not commit doubly upon woman! There is no cruelty upon all this cruel earth half so terrible as the tyranny of sex! And again, I tell you that to woman every man is a capitalist in wealth and in power, and I reiterate:—the destruction of the poor is their poverty. It has been doubly woman's destruction. Her absolute financial dependence upon men has given him the power and—alas, that I should be compelled to say it!—the will, to deny her all that is best and loftiest in life, and even to crush out of her the love of liberty and the dignity of character which cares for the better things. Look at her education! Look at the disgraceful 'annexes' and side shifts which are made to prevent our sisters from acquiring even the same, or as good, an education as we claim for ourselves. Look—" He paused and lowered his voice. "Look at the awful, the horrible, the beastly laws we pass for women, while we carefully keep them in a position where they cannot legislate for themselves. Do you know there is no law in any state—and no legislature would dare try to pass one—which would bind a ten-year-old boy to any contract which he might have been led, driven, or coaxed into, or have voluntarily made, if that contract should henceforth deprive him of all that gives to him the comforts, joys, or decencies of life! All men hold that such a boy is not old enough to make such a contract. That any one older than he, who leads him into a crime or misdemeanor, or the transfer of property, or his personal rights and liberty, is guilty of legal offence. The boy is without blame, and his contract is absolutely void—illegal. But in more than one state we hold that a little girl of ten may make the most fatal contract ever made by or for woman, and that she is old enough to be held legally responsible for her act and for her judgment. The one who leads her into it, though he be forty, fifty, or sixty years old, is guiltless before the law. I tell you, gentlemen, there is no crime possible to humanity that is as black as that infamous law, sought to be re-enacted by our own state at this very time, and which has already passed one house!" He explained, as delicately as he could, the full scope and meaning of the bill. Surprise, consternation, swept over the room. Men, a few of whom had heard of the bill before, but had given it scant attention, saw a horror and disgust in the eyes of the women which aroused for the first time in their minds, a flickering sense of the enormity of such a measure. No one present was willing that any woman should believe him guilty of approving such legislation, and yet Avery impressed anew upon them that the bill had passed one house with a good majority. On his way out of the room, a tall girl stepped to his side.

For the moment he had not recognized her. It was Francis King. She looked straight at him.

"Did my father vote for that bill?" she asked, without a prelude of greeting. Avery hesitated.

"Oh, is it you, Miss King?" he asked, "I did not see you before. Do you come here often?"

"Not very," she said, still looking at him, and with fire gathering in her eyes. "Did my father vote for that bill?" she repeated.

"Ah—I—to tell you the truth," began Avery, but she put out her hand and caught firm hold of his arm.

"Did my father vote for that bill?" she insisted, and Avery said: —"Yes, I'm sorry to say, he did, Miss King; but—so many did, you know. The fact is—"

Her fingers grasped his arm like a vice, and her lips were drawn. "Did Ettie's pa?" she demanded.

Avery saw the drift of her thought.

"God forgive him! yes," he said, and his own eyes grew troubled and sympathetic.

"God may forgave him if he's a mind to," exclaimed Francis, "but I don't want no such God around me, if he does. Any God that wants to forgive men for such work as that ain't fit to associate with no other kind of folks but such men; but I don't mean to allow a good little girl like Ettie to live in the same house with a beast if I know it. She shan't go home again now, not if her pa begs on his knees. He ain't fit to wipe her shoes. 'N my pa!" she exclaimed, scornfully. "My pa talkin' about Ettie being bad, and settin' bad examples for decent girls! Him a talkin'! Him livin' in the same house with my little sister 'n me! Him!" The girl was wrought to a frenzy of scorn, and contempt, and anger. They had passed out with the rest into the street.

"Shall I walk home with you?" asked Avery. "Are you alone?"

"Yes, I'm alone," she said, with a little dry sob. "I'm alone, an' I ain't goin' home any more. Not while he lives there. It's no decent place for a girl—living in the house with a man like that. I ain't goin' home. I'm goin' to—" It rushed over her brain that she had no other place to go. She held her purse in her hand; it had only two dollars and a few cents in it. She had bought her new dress with the rest. Her step faltered, but her eyes were as fiery and as hard as ever.

"You'd better go home," said Avery, softly. "It will only be the harder for you, if you don't. I'm sorry—"

She turned on him like a tigress. They were in Union Square now. "Even you think it is all right for good girls to be under the control and live with men like that! Even you think I ought to go home, an' let him boss me an' make rules fer me, an' me pretend to like it an believe as he does, an' look up to him, an' think his way's right an' best! Even you!"

"No, no," said Avery, softly. "You must be fair, Miss King. I don't think it's right; but—but—I said it was best just now, for—what else can you do?" The girl was facing him as they stood near the fountain in the middle of the square.

"That's just what I was meaning to show to-night when I said what I did to the club, of the financial dependence of women; it is their destruction; it destroys their self-respect; it forces them to accept a moral companionship which they'd scorn if they dared; it forces them to seem to condone and uphold such things themselves; it forces them to be the companions and subordinates of degraded moral natures, that hold wives and daughters to a code which they will not apply to themselves, and which they seek to make void for other wives and daughters; it—" "You told me to go home," she said, stubbornly. "I'm not goin'! I make money enough to live on. I always spent it on—on things to wear; but—but I can live on it, an' I'm goin' to. I ain't goin' to live in the house with no such a man. He ain't fit to live with. I won't tell ma an' the girls—yet; not till—"

She paused, and peered toward the clock in the face of the great stone building across the street. "Do you think it's too late fer me t' talk a minute with Miss Gertrude?" she asked, with her direct gaze, again. "She'd let me stay there one night, I guess, n' she'd tell me—I c'd talk to her some."

"If you won't go home," he said, slowly, "I suppose it would be best for you to go there, but—it is rather late. Go home for to-night, Miss Francis! I wish you would. Think it over to-night, please. Let me take you home to-night. Go to Miss Gertrude to-morrow, and talk it over." His tone had grown gentle and more tender than he knew. He took the hand she had placed on his arm in his own, and tried to turn toward her street. She held stubbornly back. "For my sake, to please me—because I think it is best—won't you go home to-night?" She looked at him again, and a haze came in her eyes. She did not trust herself to speak, but she turned toward her own street, and they walked silently down the square. His hand still held her own as it lay on his arm.

"Thank you," he said, and pressed her fingers more firmly for an instant and then released them. He had taken his glove off in the hall and had not replaced it. When they reached the door of her father's house, she suddenly grasped his ungloved hand and kissed it, and ran sobbing up the steps and into the house without a word.

"Poor girl," thought Avery, "she is not herself to-night. She has never respected nor loved her father much, but this was a phase of his nature she had not suspected before. Poor child! I hope Gertrude—" and in the selfishness of the love he bore for Gertrude, he allowed his thoughts to wander, and it did not enter his mind to place anything deeper than a mere emotional significance upon the conduct of the intense, tall, dark-eyed girl who had just left him.

He did not dream that at that moment she lay face down on her bed sobbing as if her heart would break, and yet, that a strange little flutter of happiness touched her heart as she held her gloved hand against her flushed cheek or kissed it in the darkness. It was the hand Avery had held so long within his own, as it lay upon his arm. At last the girl drew the glove off, and going to her drawer, took out her finest handkerchief and lay the glove within, wrapping it softly and carefully. She was breathing hard, and her face was set and pained. At two o'clock she had fallen asleep, and under her tear-stained cheek there was a glove folded in a bit of soft cambric. Poor Francis King! The world is a sorry place for such as you, and even those who would be your best friends often deal the deadliest wounds. Poor Francis King! Has life nothing to offer you but a worn glove and a tear-stained bit of cambric? Is it true? Need it be true? Is there no better way? Have we built your house with but one door, and with no window? Smile at the fancies of your sleep, child; to-morrow will bring memory, reality, and tears. You are a woman now. Yesterday you were but an unformed, strong-willed girl. Poor Francis King! sleep late to-morrow, and dream happily if you can. Poor Francis King, to-morrow is very near!


Gertrude!" called out her mother to the girl, as she passed the library door. "Gertrude! come in, your father and I wish to talk with you."

"Committee meeting?" laughed Gertrude, as she took a seat beside her father. It had grown to be rather a joke in the family to speak of Mr. Avery's calls as committee meetings, and Mr. Foster had tried vainly to tease his daughter about it.

"In my time," he would say, "we did not go a courting to get advice. we went for kisses. I never discussed any more profound topic with my sweetheart than love—and perhaps poetry and music. Sometimes, as I sit and listen to you two, I can't half believe that you are lovers. It's so perfectly absurd. You talk about everything on earth. It's a deal more like—why I should have looked upon that sort of thing as a species of committee meeting, in my day."

Gertrude had laughed and said something about thinking that love ought to enter into and run through all the interests of life, and not be held merely as a thing apart. All women had a life to live. All would not have the love. So the first problem was one of life and its work. The love was only a phase of this. But her father had gone on laughing at her about her queer love-making.

"Committee meeting?" asked she, again, as she glanced at her father, smiling dryly. Her mother answered first.

"Yes—no—partly. Your father wanted to speak to you about—he thinks you should not be seen with, or have those girls—You tell her yourself, dear," she said, appealing to her husband. Mr. Foster was fidgeting about in his chair; he had not felt comfortable before. He was less so now, for Gertrude had turned her face full upon him, and her hand was on his sleeve.

"'Well, there's nothing to tell, Gertrude," he said. "I guess you can understand it without a scene. I simply don't want to see those girls—that King girl and her friend—about here any more. It won't do. It simply won't do at all. You'll be talked about. Of course, I know it is all very kind of you, and all that, and that you don't mean any harm; but men always have drawn, and they always will draw, unpleasant conclusions. They may sympathize with that sort of girls, but they simply won't stand having their own women folks associate with them. The test of the respectability of a woman, is whether a man of position will marry her or not. A man's respectable if he's out of jail. A woman if she is marriageable or married. Now, unfortunately, that little Berton girl is neither the one nor the other, and its going to make talk if you are seen with her again. She must stay away from here, too."

There had come a most unusual tone of protest into his voice as he went on, but he had looked steadily at a carved paper knife, which he held in his hand, and with which he cut imaginary leaves upon the table. There was a painful silence. Gertrude thought she did not remember having ever before heard her father speak so sharply. She glanced at her mother, but Katherine Foster had evidently made up her mind to leave this matter entirely in the hands of her husband.

"Do you mean, papa, that you wish me to tell that child, Ettie Berton, not to come here any more, and that I must not befriend her?" asked Gertrude, in an unsteady voice.

"Befriend her all you've a mind to," responded her father, heartily. "Certainly. Of course. But don't have her come here, and don't you be seen with her, nor the other one again. You can send James or Susan —better not send Susan though—send James with money or anything you want to give her. Your mother tells me you are paying the Berton girl's board. That's all right if you want to, but—your mother has told me the whole outrageous story, and that cashier ought to be shot, but—"

"But instead of helping make the public opinion which would make him less, and Ettie more, respectable, you ask me to help along the present infamous order of things! Oh, papa! don't ask that of me! I have never willingly done anything in my life that I knew you disapproved. Don't ask me to help crush that child now, for I cannot. I cannot desert her now. Don't ask that of me, papa. Why do men—even you good men—make it so hard, so almost impossible for women to be kind to each other? What has Ettie done that such as we should hold her to account. She is a mere child. Fourteen years old in fact, but not over ten in feeling or judgment. She has been deceived by one who fully understood. She did not. And yet even you ask me to hold her responsible! Oh, papa, don't!" She slipped onto her father's knee and took his face in her hands and kissed his forehead. She had never in her life stood against her father or seemed to criticise him before. It hurt her and it vexed him. A little frown came on his face. "Katherine," he said, turning to his wife, "I wish you'd make Gertrude understand this thing rationally. You always have." Mrs. Foster glanced at her daughter and then at her husband. She smiled.

"I always have, what dear?" she asked.

"Understood these things as I do—as everyone does," said her husband. "You never took these freaks that Gertrude is growing into, and—"

The daughter winced and sat far back on her father's knee. Her mother did not miss the action. She smiled at the girl, but her voice was steady, and less light than usual.

"No, I never took freaks, as you say, but what I thought of things, or how I may or may not have understood them, dear, no one ever inquired, no one ever cared to know. That I acted like other people, and acquiesced in established opinions, went without saying. That was expected of me. That I did. Gertrude belongs to another generation, dear. She cannot be so colorless as we women of my time—"

Her husband laughed.

"Colorless, is good, by Jove! You colorless indeed!" He looked admiringly at his wife. "Why, Katherine, you have more color and more sense now than any half dozen girls of this generation. Colorless indeed!" Mrs. Foster smiled. "Don't you think my cheerful, easy reflection of your own shades of thought or mind have always passed current as my own? Sometimes I fancy that is true, and that—it is easier and—pleasanter all around. But—" she paused. "It was not my color, my thought, my opinions, myself. It was an echo, dear; a pleasant echo of yourself which has so charmed you. It was not I."

Gertrude felt uneasy, and as if she were lifting a curtain which had been long drawn. Her father turned his face towards her and then toward her mother.

"In God's name what does all this mean?" he asked. "Are you, the most level-headed woman in the world, intending to uphold Gertrude in this—suicidal policy—her—this—absurd nonsense about that girl?"

Gertrude's eyes widened. She slowly arose from his knee. The revelation as to her father's mental outlook was, to her more sensitive and developed nature, much what the one had been to Francis King that night at the club.

"Oh, papa," she said softly. "I am so sorry for—so sorry—for us all. We seem so far apart, and—"

"John Martin agrees with me perfectly," said her father, hotly. "I talked with him to-day. He—"

Gertrude glanced at her mother, and there was a definite curl upon her lip. "Mr. Martin," she said slowly, "is not a conscience for me. He and I are leagues apart, papa. We—"

"More's the pity," said her father, as he arose from his chair. He moved toward the door.

"I've said my say, Gertrude. It's perfectly incomprehensible to me what you two are aiming at. But what I know is this: you must do my way in this particular case, think whatever you please. You know very well I would not ask it except for your own good. I don't like to interfere with your plans, but—you must give that girl up." He spoke kindly, but Gertrude and her mother sat silent long after he had gone. The twilight had passed into darkness. Presently Katherine's voice broke the silence:—

"Shall you float with the tide, daughter, or shall you try to swim up stream?" She was thinking of the first talk they had ever had on these subjects, nearly two years ago now, but the girl recognized the old question. She stood up slowly and then with quick steps came to her mother's side.

"Don't try to swim with me, mamma. It only makes it harder for me to see you hurt in the struggle. Don't try to help me any more when the eddies come. Float, mamma; I shall swim. I shall! I shall! And while my head is above the waves that poor little girl shall not sink."

She was stroking Katherine's hair, and her mother's hand drew her own down to a soft cheek.

"Am I right, mother?" she asked, softly. "If you say I am right, it is enough. My heart will ache to seem to papa to do wrong, but I can bear it better than I could bear my own self-contempt. Am I right, mamma?"

Her mother drew her hand to her lips, and then with a quick action she threw both arms about the girl and whispered in her ear: "I shall go back to the old way. Swim if you can, daughter. You are right. If only you are strong enough. That is the question. If only you are strong enough. I am not. I shall remain in the old way." There was a steadiness and calm in her voice which matched oddly enough with the fire in her eyes and the flush on her cheeks.

"Little mother, little mother," murmured Gertrude, softly, as she stroked her mother's hand. Then she kissed her and left the room. "With her splendid spirit, that she should be broken on the wheel!" the girl said aloud to herself, when she had reached her own room. She did not light the gas, but sat by the window watching the passers-by in the street.

"Why should papa have sent me to college," she was thinking, "where I matched my brains and thoughts with men, if I was to stifle them later on, and subordinate them to brains I found no better than my own? Why should my conscience be developed, if it must not be used; if I must use as my guide the conscience of another? Why should I have a separate and distinct nature in all things, if I may use only that part of it which conforms to those who have not the same in type or kind? I will do what seems right to myself. I shall not desert—"

She laid her cheek in her hand and sighed. A new train of thought was rising. It had never come to her before.

"It is my father's money. He says I may send it, but I may not—it is my father's money. He has the right to say how it may be used, and—and—" (the blood was coming into her face) "I have nothing but what he gives me. He wants a pleasant home; he pays for it. Susan and James, and the rest, he hires to conduct the labor of the house. If they do not do it to please him—if they are not willing to—they have no right to stay, and then to complain. For his social life at home he has mamma and me. If he wants—" She was walking up and down the room now. "Have we a right to dictate? We have our places in his home. We are not paid wages like James and Susan, but—but—we are given what we have; we are dependent. He has never refused us anything—any sum we wanted—but he can. It is in his power, and really we do not know but that he should. Perhaps we spend too much. We do not know. What can he afford? I do not know. What can I afford?" She spread her hands out before her, palms up, in the darkness. She could see them by the flicker of the electric light in the street.

"They are empty," she said, aloud, "and they are untrained, and they are helpless. They are a pauper's hands." She smiled a little at the conceit, and then, slowly: "It sounds absurd, almost funny, but it is true. A pauper in lace and gold! I am over twenty-two. I am as much a dependent and a pauper as if I were in a poorhouse. Love and kindness save me! They have not saved Ettie, nor Francis. When the day came they were compelled to yield utterly, or go. They can work, and I? I am a dependent. Have I a right to stand against the will and pleasure of my father, when by doing so I compel him to seem to sustain and support that which he disapproves? Have I a right to do that?"

She was standing close to the window now, and she put her hot face against the glass. "The problem is easy enough, if all think alike—if one does not think at all; but now? I cannot follow my own conscience and my father's too. We do not think alike. Is it right that I should, to buy his approval and smiles, violate my own mind, and brain, and heart? But is it right for me to violate his sense of what is right, while I live upon the lavish and loving bounty which he provides?" And so, with her developed conscience, and reason, and individuality, Gertrude had come to face the same problem, which, in its more brutal form, had resulted so sorrowfully for the two girls whom she had hoped to befriend. The ultimate question of individual domination of one by another, with the purse as the final appeal—and even this strong and fortunate girl wavered. "Shall I swim, after all? Have I the right to try?" she asked herself.


When Francis King told Mr. Avery that she could and would leave her father's home and live upon the money she earned, and had heretofore looked upon as merely a resource to save her pride, she did not take into consideration certain very important facts, not the least of which was, perhaps, that her presence at the store was not wholly a pleasant thing for the cashier to contemplate under existing circumstances.

Francis King was not a diplomat. The cashier was not a martyr. These two facts, added to the girl's scornful eyes, rendered the position in the trimming department far less secure than she had grown to believe.

So when she came to the little room which Gertrude Foster had provided as a temporary home for Ettie Berton, she felt that she came as a help and protector and not at all as a possible encumbrance.

"I've had a terrible blow-out with pa," she said, bitterly. "I can't go home any more if I wanted to—and I don't want to. I told him what I thought of him, and of your—and of the kind of men that make mean laws they are ashamed to have their own folks know about and live by. He was awful mad. He said laws was none o' my business, and he guessed men knew best what was right an' good for women."

"Of course they do," said Ettie with her ever ready acquiescence. "I reckon you didn't want t' deny that, did you Fan? You 'n your pa must a' shook hands for once anyhow," she laughed. "How'd it feel? Didn't you like agreein' with him once?" Francis looked at the child—this pitiful illustration of the theory of yielding acquiescence; this legitimate blossom of the tree of ignorance and soft-hearted dependence; this poor little dwarf of individuality; this helpless echo of masculine measures, methods, and morals—and wondered vaguely why it was that the more helpless the victim, the more complete her disaster, the more certain was she to accept, believe in, and support the very cause and root of her undoing.

Francis King's own mental processes were too disjointed and ill-formulated to enable her to express the half-formed thoughts that came to her. Her heart ached for her little friend to whom to-day was always welcome, and to whom to-morrow never appeared a possibility other than that it would be sunshiny, and warm, and comfortable.

Francis saw a certain to-morrow which should come to Ettie, far more clearly than did the child herself, and seeing, sighed. Her impulse was to argue the case hotly with Ettie, as she had done with her father; but she looked at her face again, and then, as a sort of safety-valve for her own emotion, succinctly said: "Ettie Berton, you are the biggest fool I ever saw."

Ettie clapped her hands.

"Right you are, says Moses!" she exclaimed, laughing gleefully, "and you like me for it. Folks with sense like fools. Sense makes people so awful uncomfortable. Say, where'd you get that bird on your hat? Out 'o stock? Did that old mean thing make you pay full price? Goodness! how I do wish I could go back t' store!"

"Ettie, how'd you like for me to come here an live with you? Do you 'spose Miss Gertrude would care?"

"Hurrah for Cleveland!" exclaimed Ettie, springing to her feet and throwing her arms about Francis. "Hurrah for Grant! Gracious, but I'm glad! I'm just so lonesome I had to make my teeth ache for company," she rattled on. "Miss Gertrude 'll be glad, too. She said she wisht I had somebody 't take care of me. But, gracious! I don't need that. They ain't nothing to do but just set still n' wait. It's the waitin' now that makes me so lonesome. I want t' hurry 'n get back t' the store, 'n—"

She noticed Francis's look of surprise, not unmixed with frank scorn; but she did not rightly interpret it.

"My place ain't gone is it, Fan?" she asked, in real alarm. "He said he'd keep it for me."

"Ettie Berton, you are the biggest fool I ever saw," said Francis, again, this time with a touch of hopelessness and pathos in her voice, and at that moment there was a rap at the door. It was one of the cash girls from the store. She handed Francis a note, and while Ettie and the visitor talked gaily of the store, Francis read and covered her pale face with her trembling hands. She was discharged "owing to certain necessary changes to be made in the trimming department." She went and stood by the window with her back to the two girls. She understood the matter perfectly, and she did not dare trust herself to speak. It could not be helped, she thought, and why let Ettie know that she had brought this disaster upon her friend, also. Francis was trying to think. She was raging within herself. Then it came to her that she had boldly asserted that she would help protect and support Ettie. Now she was penniless, helpless, and homeless herself. There were but two faces that stood out before her as the faces of those to whom she could go for help and counsel, and she was afraid to go to even these. She was ashamed, humiliated, uncertain.

She supposed that Gertrude Foster could help her if she would. She had that vague miscomprehension of facts which makes the less fortunate look upon the daughters of wealth and luxury and love as possessed of a magic wand which they need but stretch forth to compass any end. She did not dream that at that very moment Gertrude Foster was revolving exactly the same problem in her own mind, and reaching out vainly for a solution. "What shall I do? what ought I to do? what can I do?" were questions as real and immediate to Gertrude, in the new phase of life and thought which had come to her, as they were to Francis in her extremity. It is true that the greater part of the problem in Francis's mind dealt with the physical needs of herself and her little friend, and with her own proud and fierce anger toward her father and the cashier. It is also true that these features touched Gertrude but lightly; but the highest ideals, beliefs, aspirations, and love of her soul were in conflict within her, and the basis of the conflict was the same with both girls. Each had, in following the best that was within herself, come into violent contact with established prejudice and prerogative, and each was beating her wings, the one against the bars of a gilded cage draped lovingly in silken threads, and the other was feeling her helplessness where iron and wrath unite to hold their prey.

The other face that arose before Francis brought the blood back to her face. She had not seen him since she had kissed his hand that night, and she wondered what he thought of her. She felt ashamed to go to him for help. She had talked so confidently to him that night of her own powers, and of her determination that Ettie should not again live under the same roof, and be subject to the will of the father whom she insisted was a disgrace to the child. "I reckon he could get me another place to work—in a store," she thought. "But—" She shook her head, and a fierce light came into her eyes. She had learned enough to know that a girl who had left home under the wrath of her father, would best not appeal for a situation under the protection and recommendation of a young gentleman not of her own caste or condition in life. She thought of all this and of what it implied, and it seemed to her that her heart would burst with shame and rage.

Was she not a human being? Were there not more reasons than one why another human unit should be kind to her and help her? If she were a boy all this shame would be lifted from her shoulders, all these suspicions and repression and artificial barriers would be gone. She wondered if she could not get a suit of men's clothes, and so solve the whole trouble. No one would then question her own right of individual and independent action or thought. No one would then think it commendable for her to be a useless atom, subordinating her whole individuality to one man, to whose mental and moral tone she must bend her own, until such time as he should turn her over to some other human entity, whereupon she would be required to readjust all her mental and moral belongings to accommodate the new master. How comfortable it would be, she thought, to go right on year after year, growing into and out of herself. Expanding her own nature, and finding the woman of to-morrow the outcome of the girl of yesterday. She had once heard a teacher explain about the chameleon with its capacity to adjust itself to and take on the color of other objects. It floated into her mind that girls were expected to be like chameleons. Instead of being John King's daughter, with, of course, John King's ideas, status and aspirations, or William Jones's wife—now metamorphosed into a tepid reflex of William Jones himself—she thought how pleasant it would be to continue to be Francis King, and not feel afraid to say so. The idea fascinated her. Yes, she would get a suit of men's clothes, and henceforth have and feel the dignity of individual responsibility and development. She slipped out of the room and into the street. She thought she would order the clothes as if "for a brother just my size." She could pay for a cheap suit. She paused in front of a shop window, and the sight of her own face in a glass startled her. She groaned aloud. She knew as she looked that she was too handsome to pass for a man. It was a woman's face. Then, too, how could she live with and care for Ettie? "No, I'll have to go to them for help," she said, desperately to herself, and turning, faced Selden Avery coming across the street. The color flew into her face, but she saw at a glance that he did not think of their last meeting—or, at least, not of its ending. "I was just wishing I could see you and Miss Gertrude," she said, bluntly, her courage coming back when he paused, recognizing that she wished to speak further with him than a mere greeting.

"Were you?" he said, smiling. "Our thoughts were half-way the same then, for I was wishing to see her, too."

She thought how pleasant and soft his voice was, and she tried to modify the tones of her own.

"I was goin't' ask you—her—what to do about—about something," she said, falteringly.

"So was I," he smiled back, showing his perfect teeth. "She will have to be very, very wise to advise us both, will she not? Shall we go to her now? And together? Perhaps our united wisdom may solve both your problem and mine. Three people ought to be three times as wise as one, oughtn't they?"


When Gertrude came forward to meet Selden Avery and Francis King, she felt the disapproving eyes of her father fixed upon her. It was a new and a painful sensation. It made her greeting less free and frank than usual, and both Avery and Francis felt without being able to analyze it.

"She don't like me to be with him," thought Francis, and felt humiliated and hurt.

"Surely Gertrude cannot doubt me," was Avery's mental comment, and a sore spot in his heart, left by a comment made at the club touching Gertrude's friendship for this same tall, fiery girl at his side, made itself felt again. John Martin exchanged glances with Gertrude's father. Avery saw, and seeing, resented what he believed to be its meaning.

The three men bowed rather stiffly to each other. Francis felt that she was, somehow, to blame. She wished that she had not come. She longed to go, but did not know what to say nor how to start. The situation was awkward for all. Gertrude wished for and yet dreaded the entrance of her mother.

Avery felt ashamed to explain, but he began as if speaking to Gertrude and ended with a look of challenge at the two men facing him. "I chanced to meet Miss King in the street and as both of us stood in need of advice from you," he was trying to smile unconcernedly, "we came up the avenue together."

There was a distinct look of displeasure and disapproval upon Mr. Foster's face, while John Martin took scant pains to conceal his disgust. He, also, had heard, and repeated, the club gossip to Gertrude's father.

"If good advice is what you want particularly," said Mr. Foster, slowly, "I don't know but that I might accommodate you. I hardly think Gertrude is in a position to—to—"

The bell rang sharply and in an instant the little cash girl from the store rushed in gasping for breath.

"Come quick! quick! Ettie is killed! She fell down stairs and then—oh, something awful happened! I don't know what it was. The doctor is there. He sent me here, 'cause Ettie cried and called for you!" She was looking at Gertrude, who started toward the door.

"Go back and tell the doctor that Miss Foster cannot come," said her father, rising.

"Certainly not, I should hope," remarked John Martin under his breath; "the most preposterous idea!" Gertrude paused. She was looking at her father with appeal in her face. Then her eyes fell upon the tense lips and piercing gaze of Francis King who, half way to the street door, had turned and was looking first from one to the other.

"Papa," said Gertrude, "don't say that. I must go. It is right that I should, and I must." Then with outstretched hands, "I want to go, papa! I need to. Don't—"

"You will do nothing of the kind, Gertrude. It is outrageous. What business have you got with that kind of girls? I asked you to stop having them come here, and I told you to let them alone. I am perfectly disgusted with Avery, here, for—" He had thought Francis was gone. The drapery where she had turned to hear what Gertrude would say hid her from him. "With that kind of girls!" was ringing in her ears. "I hope when you are married that is not the sort of society he is going to surround you with. It—" Avery saw for the first time what the trouble was. He stepped quickly to Gertrude's side and slipped one arm about her. Then he took the hand she still held toward her father.

"My wife shall have her own choice. She is as capable as I to choose. I shall not interfere. She shall not find me a master, but a comrade. Gertrude is her own judge and my adviser. That is all I ask, and it is all I assume for myself as her husband—when that time comes," he added, with her hand to his lips.

Mrs. Foster entered attired for the street. The unhappy face of Francis King with wide eyes staring at Gertrude met her gaze. She had heard what went before. "Get your hat, Gertrude," she said. "I will go with you. It might take too long to get a carriage. Francis, come with me; Gertrude will follow us. Come with her, my son," she said, to Selden Avery, and a spasm of happiness swept over his face. She had never called him that before. He stooped and kissed her, and there were tears in the young man's eyes as Mrs. Foster led Francis King away.

"I suppose it was all my fault to begin with," said John Martin, when the door had closed behind them. "It all started from that visit to the Spillinis. The only way to keep the girls of this age in—" he was going to say "in their place," but he changed to 'where they belong,' "is not to let them find out the facts of life. Charity and religion did well enough to appease the consciences of women before they had colleges, and all that. I didn't tell you so at the time, but I always did think it was a mistake to send Gertrude to a college where she could measure her wits with men. She'll never give it up. She don't know where to stop."

Mr. Foster lighted a cigar—a thing he seldom did in the drawing-room. He handed one to John Martin.

"I guess you're right, John," he said, slowly. "She can't seem to see that graduation day ended all that. It was Katherine's idea, sending her there, though. I wanted her to go to Vassar or some girl's school like that. I don't know what to make of Katherine lately; when I come to think of it, I don't know what to make of her all along. She seems to have laid this plan from the first, college and all; but I never saw it. Sometimes I'm afraid—sometimes I almost think—" He tapped his forehead and shook his head, and John Martin nodded contemplatively, and said: "I shouldn't wonder if you are right, Fred. Too much study is a dangerous thing for women. The structure of their brains won't stand it. It is sad, very sad;" and they smoked in sympathetic silence, while James had hastened below stairs to assure Susan that he thought he'd catch himself allowing his sweetheart or wife to demean herself and disgrace him by having anything to do with a person in the position of Ettie Berton. And Susan had little doubt that James was quite right, albeit Susan felt moderately sure that in a contest of wits—after the happy day—she could be depended upon to get her own way by hook or by crook, and Susan had no vast fund of scruple to allay as to method or motive. Deception was not wholly out of Susan's line. Its necessity did not disturb her slumbers.


Some one had sent for Ettie's father. They told him that she was dying, and he had come at once. Mr. King had gone with him. The latter gentleman did not much approve of his colleague's soft-heartedness in going. He did not know where his own daughter was, and he did not care. She had faced him in her fiery way, and angered him beyond endurance the morning after she had learned of the awful bill which he had not really originated, but which he had induced Mr. Berton to present, at the earnest behest of a social lion whose wont it was to roar mightily in the interest of virtue, but who was at the present moment engaged in lobbying vigorously in the interest of vice.

When Francis entered the sick-room with Mrs. Foster, and found the two men there, she gave one glance at the pallid, unconscious figure on the bed, and then demanded, fiercely: "Where is the cashier? Why didn't you bring him and—and the rest of you who help make laws to keep him where he is, an'—an' to put Ettie where she is? Why didn't y' bring all of your kind that helped along the job?"

Mrs. Foster had been bending over the child on the bed. She turned.

"Don't, Francis," she said, trying to draw the girl away. She was standing before the two men, who were near the window. "Don't, Francis. That can do no good. They did not intend—" "No'm," began Berton, awkwardly; "no'm, I didn't once think o' my girl, n—" He glanced uneasily at his colleague and then at the face on the bed.

"Or you would never have wanted such a law passed, I am sure," said Katherine.

"No'm, I wouldn't," he said, doggedly, not looking at his colleague.

"Don't tell me!" exclaimed Francis. "You don't none of you care for her. He only cares because it is his girl an' disgraces him. What did he do? Care for her? No, he drove her off. That shows who he's a-carin' for. He ain't sorry because it hurts or murders her. He never tried to make it easy for her an' say he was a lot more to blame an'—an'—a big sight worse every way than she was. He's a-howling now about bein' sorry; but he's only sorry for himself. He'd a let her starve—an' so'd he," she said, pointing to her father. She was trembling with rage and excitement. "I hope there is a hell! I jest hope there is! I'll be willin' to go to it myself jest t' see—"

The door opened softly and Gertrude entered, and behind her stood Selden Avery.

"That kind of girls" floated anew into Francis's brain, and the sting of the words she had heard Gertrude's father utter drove her on. "I wish to God, every man that ever lived could be torn to pieces an'—an' put under Ettie's feet. They wouldn't be fit for her to walk on—none of 'em! She never did no harm on purpose ner when she understood; an' men—men jest love to be mean!"

She felt the utter inadequacy of her words, and a great wave of feeling and a sense of baffled resentment swept over her, and she burst into tears. Gertrude tried to draw her out of the room. At the door she sobbed: "Even her father's jest like the rest, only—only he says it easier. He—"

"Francis, Francis," said Gertrude, almost sternly, when they were outside the sickroom. "You must not act so. It does no good, and—and you are partly wrong, besides. If—"

"I didn't mean him," said the girl, with her handkerchief to her eyes. "I didn't mean him. I know what he thinks about it. I heard him talk one night at the club. He talked square, an' I reckon he is square. But I wouldn't take no chances. I wouldn't marry the Angel Gabriel an' give him a chance to lord it over me!"

Gertrude smiled in spite of herself, and glanced within through the open door. There was a movement towards where the sick girl lay. "If you go in, you must be quiet," she said to Francis, and entered. Ettie had been stirring uneasily. She opened her great blue eyes, and when she saw the faces about her, began to sob aloud.

"Don't let pa scold me. I'll do his way. I'll do—anything anybody wants. I like to. The store—" She gave a great shriek of agony. She had tried to move and fell back in a convulsion. She was only partly conscious of her suffering, but the sight was terrible enough to sympathetic hearts, and there was but one pair of dry eyes in the room. The same beady, stern, hard glitter held its place in the eyes of Mr. King.

"Serves her right," he was thinking. "And a mighty good lesson. Bringin' disgrace on a good man's name!"

The tenacity with which Mr. King adhered to the belief in, and solicitude for, a good name, would have been touching had it not been noticeable to the least observant that his theory was, that the custody of that desirable belonging was vested entirely in the female members of a family. Nothing short of the most austere morals could preserve the family 'scutcheon if he was contemplating one side. Nothing short of a long-continued, open, varied, and obtrusive dishonesty and profligacy of a male member could even dull its lustre. It was a comfortable code for a part of its adherents.

Had his poor, colorless, inane wife ever dared to deviate from the beaten path of social observance, Mr. King would have talked about and felt that "his honor" was tarnished. Were he to follow far less strictly the code, he would not only be sure that his own honor was intact, but if any one were to suggest to him the contrary, or that he was compromising her honor, he would have looked upon that person as lacking in what he was pleased to call "common horse-sense." He was in no manner a hypocrite. His sincerity was undoubted. He followed the beaten track. Was it not the masculine reason and logic of the ages, and was not that final? Was not all other reason and logic merely a spurious emotionalism? morbid? unwholesome? irrational?

No one would gainsay that unless it were a lunatic or a woman, which was much the same thing—and since the opinion of neither of these was valuable, why discuss or waste time with them? That was Mr. King's point of view, and he was of the opinion that he had a pretty good voting majority with him, and a voting majority was the measure of value and ethics with Representative King—when the voting majority was on his side.

When the last awful agony came to poor little Ettie Berton, and she yielded up, in pathetic terror and reluctant despair, the life which had been moulded for her with such a result almost as inevitable as the death itself, a wave of tenderness and remorse swept over her father. He buried his face in the pillow beside the poor, pretty, weak, white face that would win favor and praise by its cheerful ready acquiescence no more, and wept aloud. This impressed Representative King as reasonable enough, under all the circumstances, but when Ettie's father intimated later to Francis that he had been to blame, and that, perhaps, after all, Ettie was only the legitimate result of her training and the social and legal conditions which he had helped to make and sustain, Representative King curled his lip scornfully and remarked that in his opinion Tom Berton never could be relied on to be anything but a damned fool? In the long run. He was a splendid "starter." Always opened up well in any line; but unless someone else held the reins after that the devil would be to pay and no mistake.

Francis heard; and, hearing, shut tight her lips and with her tear-swollen eyes upon the face of her dead friend, swore anew that to be disgraced by the presence of a father like that was more than she could bear. She could work or she could die; but there was nothing on this earth, she felt, that would be so impossible, so disgraceful, as for her to ever again acknowledge his authority as her guide.

"Come home with me to-night, Francis," said Mrs. Foster. "We will think of a plan—"

"I'm goin' to stay right here," said the girl, with a sob and a shiver; for she had all the horror and fear of the dead that is common to her type and her inexperience. "I'm goin' to stay right here. I can't go home, an' I'm discharged at the store. Ettie told me her rent was paid for this month. I'll take her place here an'—an' try to find another place to work."

Mrs. Foster realized that to stay in that room would fill the girl with terror, but she felt, too, that she understood why Francis would not go home with her. "That kind of girls" from Mr. Foster's lips had stung this fierce, sensitive creature to the quick. A week ago she would have been glad indeed to accept Katherine Foster's offer. Now she would prefer even this chamber of death, where the odors made her ill, and the thoughts and imaginings would insure to her sleepless nights of unreasoning fear. Her father did not ask her to go home. Representative King believed in representing. Was not his family a unit? And was he not the figure which stood for it? It had never been his custom to ask the members of his household to do things. He told them that he wanted certain lines of action fallowed. That was enough. The thought and the will of that ideal unit, "the family," vested in the person of Mr. King and he proposed to represent it in all things.

If by any perverse and unaccountable mental process there was developed a personality other than and different from his own, Representative King did not propose to be disturbed in his home-life—as he persisted in calling the portion of his existence where he was able to hold the iron hand of power ever upon the throat of submission—to the extent of having such unseemly personality near him.

In her present mood he did not want Francis at home. Representative King was a staunch advocate of harmony and unity in the family life. He was of opinion that where timidity and dependence say "yes" to all that power suggests, that there dwelt unity and harmony. That is to say, he held to this idea where it touched the sexes and their relation to each other in what he designated an ideal domestic life. In all other relations he held far otherwise—unless he chanced to be on the side of power and had a fair voting majority. Representative King was an enthusiastic admirer of submission—for other people. He thought that there was nothing like self-denial to develop the character and beauty of a nature. It is true that his scorn was deep when he contemplated the fact that John Berton "had no head of his own," but then, John Berton was a man, and a man ought to have some self-respect. He ought to develop his powers and come to something definite. A definite woman was a horror. Her attractiveness depended upon her vagueness, so Representative King thought; and if a large voting majority was not with him in open expression, he felt reasonably sure that he could depend upon them in secret session, so to speak. Representative King was not a linguist, but he could read between the social and legal lines very cleverly indeed, and finer lines of thought than these were not for Representative King.

And so he did not ask Francis to go home. "When she gets ready to go my way and says so, she can come," he thought.

"When that dress gets shabby and she's a little hungry, she'll conclude that my way is good enough for her." He smiled at the vision of the future "unity and harmony" which should thus be ushered into his home by means of a little judiciously applied discipline, and Francis took her dead friend's place as a lodger and tried to think, between her spasms of loneliness and fears, what she should do on the morrow.


Francis told me once at the Guild that she can make delicious bread and pastry," said Gertrude, as they drove home. "I wonder if we could not start her in a little shop of her own. She has the energy and vim to build herself a business. I doubt if she will every marry—with her experience one can hardly wonder—and there is a long life before her. Her salvation will be work; a career, success."

"A career in a pastry shop seems droll enough," smiled her mother, "but—"

"I think I might influence the club to take a good deal of her stuff. We've a miserable pastry cook now," said Avery. "That would help her to get a start, and the start is always the hard part, I suppose, in a thing like that."

"That would be a splendid chance. If the members liked her things, perhaps they would get their wives to patronize her, too," said Gertrude, gaily. "I'm so glad you thought of that, but then you always think of the right thing," she added, tenderly. They all three laughed a little, and Avery slipped his arm about her.

"Do I?" he asked in a voice tremulous with happiness. "Do I, Darling? I'm so glad you said that, for I've just been thinking that—that I don't want to go back to Albany without you, and—and the new session begins in ten weeks. Darling, will you go with me? May she, my mother?" he asked, catching Mrs. Foster's hand in his own. The two young people were facing her. She sat alone on the back seat of the closed carriage. The street lights were beginning to blossom and flicker. The rays fell upon the mother's face as they drove. Her eyes were closed, and tears were on her cheeks.

"Forgive me, mother," said Avery, tenderly. "Forgive me! You have gone through so much to-day. I should have waited; but—but I love her so. I need her so—I need her to help me think right. Can you understand?"

Mrs. Foster moved to one side and held out both arms to her daughter.

"Sit by me," she said, huskily, and Gertrude gathered her in her young, strong arms.

"Can I understand?" half sobbed Katherine from her daughter's shoulder. "Can I understand? Oh, I do! I do! and I am so happy for you both; but she—she is my daughter, and it is so hard to let her go—even to you! It is so hard!"

Gertrude could not speak. She tried to look at her lover, but tears filled her eyes. She was holding her mother's hand to her lips.

"Dear little mamma," she whispered; "dear little mamma, I shall never go if it makes you unhappy—never, if it breaks my heart. But mamma, I love you more because I love him; and—"

"I know, I know," said Katherine, trying to struggle out of her heartache which held back and beyond itself a tender joy for these two. "But love is so selfish. I am glad. I am glad for you both—but—oh, my daughter, I love you, I love you!" she said, and choked down a sob to smile in the girl's eyes.

Mr. Foster was waiting for them in the library. They were late. He had been thinking.

"Well, I'm tremendously glad you're back," he said brightly, kissing his wife, and then he took Gertrude in his arms. "Sweetheart," he said, smiling down into her eyes, "if I seemed harsh to-day, I'm sorry. I only did it because I thought it was for your own good. You know that."

"Why, papa," she said, with her cheek against his own; "of course I know. Of course I understand. We all did. You don't mind if we did not see your way? You—"

"The girl is dead, dear," said Mrs. Foster, touching her husband's arm, "and—let us not talk of that now, to—to these, our children. They want your—they want to ask—they are going to be married in ten weeks?"

"The dickens!" exclaimed her father, and held Gertrude at arm's length. "Is that so, Sweetheart?" There was a twinkle in his eyes, and he lifted her chin with one finger and then kissed her. "The dickens! Well, all I've got to say is, I'm sorry for old Martin and the rest of us," and he grasped Selden Avery's hand. "I hope you'll give up that legislative foolishness pretty soon and come back to town and live with civilized people in a civilized way. It'll be horribly lonely in New York without Gertrude, but—oh, well, its nature's way. We're all a lot of robbers. I stole this little woman away from her father, and I'm an unrepentent thief yet, am I not?" and he kissed his wife with the air of a man who feels that life is well worth living, no matter what its penalties, so long as she might be not the least of them.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Pray You, Sir, Whose Daughter?, by
Helen H. Gardener


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