was all as plain to the frenzied

If Floyd-Rosney’s temper were less imperious, if he had had less
confidence in the dictates of his will, which he misconstrued as his
matured judgment, he could not have so signally disregarded the feelings
of others; if only in obedience to the dictates of policy, he could not
have been so oblivious of the possibility of adverse action,
successfully exploited.

Maddened by his wife’s revolt against his plans, futile though he deemed
it, he would not await her return from the nursery whither she had
hurried to verify his words. He burned with rage under the lash of her
fiery denunciation–“Brute!–Fiend!” How dared she! He wondered that he
had not beaten her with his clenched fists! He had some fear of being
betrayed into violence, some doubt of his own self-restraint that
induced him to rush forth into the street and evade her frenzied
jeremiad when she found the child was indeed gone.

What a fool of a woman was this, he was arguing before the banging of
the front door behind him had ceased to resound along the street. What
other one would turn down such a beautiful opportunity! As to leaving
the child–why, it would have been to any except the perverse vixen he
had married one of the special advantages of the outing–to be free for
a time of domestic cares, of maternal duties. Had he not over and over
heard women of her station congratulate themselves on a “vacation”–the
children loaded off on somebody, Heaven knows whom, or where, a matter
of minor importance. It was absolutely fantastic, the idea of dragging a
child of Edward’s age around Europe and the Orient for a year’s travel.
The very care of him, the necessary solicitude involved at every move,
would destroy all possibility of pleasure. The mere item of infantile
disorders was enough in itself to nullify the prospect. And he might die
of some of these maladies in a foreign country, deprived of his father’s
supervision and experience in the ways of the world.

Floyd-Rosney’s contention in the matter seemed to him eminently right
and rational. It was desirable that she should not testify in the suit,
he could not leave at this crisis, and she could not well take the child
with her. He would not risk his son and heir to the emergencies, the
vicissitudes of a year of foreign travel under the guidance merely of an
inexperienced and careless woman. Paula herself was like a child. He had
kept her so. Everything had been done for her. In any unforeseen,
disastrous chance she would be utterly helpless to take judicious action
and to protect the child from injury.

Floyd-Rosney was not more willing to be separated from the boy than the
mother herself. He had, indeed, no unselfish love for the child, but his
son’s beauty and promise flattered his vanity; the boy would be a credit
to his name. His prospects were so brilliant that in twenty years there
would be no young man in the Mississippi Valley who could vie with him
in fortune and position. Floyd-Rosney had gloated on the future of his
son. He was glad, he often said, that he was himself a young man, for he
would be but in the prime of life when Edward would come to his
majority. No dependent station would be his–to eat from his father’s
hand like a fawning pet. With an altruistic consideration,
uncharacteristic of him, the father had made already certain investments
in his son’s name, and these, though limited in character, by a lucky
stroke had doubled again and again, till he was wont to say proudly that
his son was the only capitalist he knew who had an absolutely safe
investment paying twenty per cent. He had a sort of respect for the boy,
as representing much money and many inchoate values. His infancy must be
carefully tended, his education liberal and sedulously supervised, and
when he should go into the world, representing his father’s name and
fortune, he should be worthy of both. Turn him over to Paula, in his
tender callowness, to be dragged about from post to pillar for her
behoof–he would not endure the idea.

As the cool air chilled his temper and the swift walk and change of
scene gave the current of his thoughts a new trend he began to be more
tolerant of her attitude in the matter. The truth was, he said to
himself, they each loved the child too dearly, were too solicitous for
his well being, to be willing to be separated from him, and, but for the
peculiar circumstances of this lawsuit, he would never have proposed it.
It was, however, necessary, absolutely necessary, and he would take
measures to induce Paula to depart on this delightful journey without
making public her disinclination. He had taken her, perhaps, too
abruptly by surprise. She was overcome with frenzy to discover that the
child was actually gone!–he should overlook her hasty words–though to
his temperament this was impossible, and he knew it; they were burned
indelibly into his consciousness. Never before, in all his pompous,
prosperous life had he been so addressed. But he would make an
effort–one more effort to persuade her; with a resolute fling he turned
to retrace his way, coming into the broad and splendid avenue on which
his palatial home fronted, he walked up the street as she was walking
down the opposite side.

He let himself in with his latch-key, closing the door softly behind
him. The great hall and the lighted rooms with their rich furnishings,
glimpsed through the open doors, looked strangely desolate. For one
moment silence–absolute, intense. Then a grotesque, unbecoming
intrusion on the ornate elegance–a burst of distant, uncultured
laughter from below stairs, and a clatter of dishes. Floyd-Rosney was
something of an epicure, and it was a good dinner that went down
untouched. The master of the house frowned heavily. He lifted his head,
minded to ring a bell and administer reproof. Then he reflected that it
well accorded with his interests that he should be supposed to be out of
the house while the interview with his wife was in progress. She had a
way of late of raising her voice in a keen protest that advertised
domestic discordances to all within earshot. “Let the servants carouse
and gorge their dinner; I’ll settle them afterward!” he said to himself
grimly, as he noiselessly ascended the stairs.

Once more silence–he could not hear even his own footfall. He had a
vague sense of solitude, of uninhabited purlieus. With a sudden rush of
haste he pushed open the door of the nursery, flaring with lights, but
vacant, and strode through to his wife’s room, to find it vacant, too.
He stood for a moment, mystified, anger in his eyes, but dismay, fear,
doubt clutching at his heart. What did this mean? He went hastily from
one to another of the suite of luxurious rooms devoted to her especial
use, but in none save one was any token of her recent presence. He stood
staring at the disarray. There was the gown of lavender gauze that she
had donned for the opera, lying on a chair, while the silk slip that it
had covered lay huddled on the floor. The slippers, hastily thrust off,
tripped his unwary step as he advanced into the room. On the dressing
table, glittering with a hundred articles of toilet luxury, lay the two
strings of costly pearls “where anyone might have stolen them”; he
mechanically reproved her lack of precaution. He strove to reassure
himself, to contend against a surging sense of calamity. What did this
signify? Only that the festivity of the evening relinquished she had
laid aside her gala attire. Her absence–it was early–she might have
gone out with some visitor; she might have cared to make some special
call, so seldom did they have an evening unoccupied. Despite the
incongruity of the idea with the recollection of her pale, drawn,
agonized face, the frenzy of her grief and rage, he took down the
receiver of the telephone and called up Hildegarde Dean. The moment the
connection was completed he regretted his folly. Over the wire came the
vibrations of a string-orchestra, and he recalled having noticed in the
society columns of the papers that Miss Dean was entertaining with a
dinner dance to compliment a former schoolmate. He had lost his poise
sufficiently, nevertheless, to make the query, “Is Mrs. Floyd-Rosney
there?” and had the satisfaction to be answered by the butler, in the
pomp and pride of the occasion: “No, sah. Dis entertainment is
exclusively for unmarried people.”

“The devil it is!” Floyd-Rosney exclaimed, after, however, cautiously
releasing the receiver.

His fuming humor was heightened by this _contretemps_, although a great
and growing dismay was vaguely shadowed in his eyes, like a thought in
the back of the mind, so to speak, too unaccustomed, too preposterous,
to find ready expression. He endeavored to calm himself, although he
lost no time in prosecuting his investigations. With a hasty hand he
touched the electric bell for his wife’s maid and impatiently awaited
the response. To his surprise it was not prompt. He stood amidst his
incongruous surroundings of gowns, and jewels, and slippers, and laces,
and revolving panels of mirrors, frowning heavily. How did it chance
that her service should be so dilatory? He placed his forefinger on the
button and held it there, and the jangling was still resounding below
stairs when the door slowly opened and the maid, with an air of
affronted inquiry, presented herself. Her face changed abruptly as she
perceived the master of the house, albeit it was like pulling a cloak of
bland superserviceableness over her lineaments of impudent protest.

“What do you mean by being so slow to answer this bell?” he thundered,
his angry eyes contemptuously regarding her.

“I came as soon as I heard it, sir. I think there must be something
wrong with the annunciator.”

“What do you mean by leaving your mistress’s gowns lying around, and her
room in this disorder?”

The girl’s beady eyes traveled in bewilderment from one article to
another of the turmoil of toilet accessories scattered about the
apartment. She had looked for a moment as if she would fire up at the
phrase “your mistress,” and she said with a slight emphasis on the

“I didn’t know that Mrs. Floyd-Rosney had changed.”

“Where has she gone?”

Once more a dull and genuine bewilderment on the maid’s face.

“I am sure, sir, I don’t know–she didn’t ring for me.”

“I reckon you didn’t answer the bell,” Floyd-Rosney sneered. “She
couldn’t wait forever. She hasn’t my patience.”

The girl glowered at his back, but, mindful of the mirrors, forbore the
grimace so grateful in moments of disaffection to her type.

Floyd-Rosney was speaking through the house telephone.

“Have the limousine at the door–yes–immediately.”

The ready response of the chauffeur came over the wire.

“Now see what gown she wore, so that I can guess where to send for her.
A nice business this is–that Mrs. Floyd-Rosney can’t get hold of her
maid to change her dress and leave a message. I don’t doubt there is a
note somewhere, if I could find it.”

He affected to toss over the _mélange_ on the dressing-table. He even
looked at the evening paper lying on the foot-rest, which she had read
while her hair was being dressed for the opera.

As he did so an item of personal mention caught his attention. Mr.
Randal Ducie was in the city, doubtless in connection with the gathering
of planters to consult with the Levee Commission in regard to river
protection. A meeting would be held this evening at the Adelantado

This was the most natural thing in the world. Half the planters in the
river bottom were in active coöperation seeking to influence the Levee
Commission, or the State Legislature, or the Federal Government to take
some adequate measures to prevent the inundation of their cotton lands
by a general overflow of the great Mississippi River, according to the
several prepossessions relative to the proper plans, and means, and
agency to that end.

But as he read the haphazard words of the paragraph the blood flared
fiercely in Floyd-Rosney’s face; a fire glowed in his eyes, hot and
furious; his hand was trembling; his breath came quick. And he was well
nigh helpless even to conjecture if his wife’s absence had aught of
connection with this ill-starred appearance of the lover of her
girlhood. He–Edward Floyd-Rosney, baffled, hoodwinked, set at naught!
Could this thing be!

For one moment, for one brief moment, he upbraided himself. But for his
tyranny in sending off the child without her consent, without even
consulting her, but for his determination that, willing or no, she
should expatriate herself for a year, and, with neither husband nor
child, tour a foreign country in company of his selection they might
already be seated in their box at the opera, rapt by the concord of
sweet sounds in the midst of the most elegant and refined presentment of
their world, at peace with each other and in no danger of damaging and
humiliating revelations of domestic discord.

He heard the puffing of the limousine at the curb below the windows, and
he turned to the maid.

“I can find no scrape of a pen–no note here. Do you know what gown she

The girl had made a terrifying discovery. As she fingered the skirts
hanging in the wardrobe, for she had thought first of the demi-toilette
of usual evening wear, she was reflecting on the gossip below stairs,
where it was believed that Mrs. Floyd-Rosney had not known of the
departure of her little son till he was out of the house, and where it
was surmised she would be all “tore up” when she should discover his
absence–so much she made of the boy. Aunt Dorothy had been given
permission to spend the night with her granddaughter who lived on the
opposite side of the river, a favorite excursion with the ancient
colored retainer. She was not popular with the coterie below stairs,
and, being prone to report what went amiss, would certainly have
notified her young mistress if any attempt had been made to spirit away
the child while in her charge. The maid had found naught missing from
among the dresses most likely to be worn on any ordinary occasion in the
evening, and she was turning away reluctantly to examine the boxes in
the closet where were stored those gowns of grander pretension,
designed for functions of special note. She had a discontented frown on
her face, for they were enveloped, piece by piece, in many layers of
tissue paper; she could not ascertain what was there and what was gone,
from the wrappers, save by actual investigation; among them were sachets
of delicate perfumes that must not be mixed; they had trains and
draperies difficult to fold, and berthas and sashes that must be laid in
the same creases as before–a job requiring hours of work, and useless,
for no gown of this sort could have been worn without assistance in
dressing, and for an occasion long heralded. As she closed the wardrobe
with a pettish jerk it started open the other door, and she paused with
an aghast look on her face. She was afraid of Mr. Floyd-Rosney when he
was angry.

“She has worn her coat-suit of taupe broadcloth,” she said in a bated
voice, and with a wincing, deprecatory glance at him, “and the hat to

Floyd-Rosney received this information in silence. Then–“Why do you
look like that, you fool?” he thundered.

“’C–c–cause,” stuttered the girl, “she has taken her suit-case–it was
always kept on the shelf here, packed with fresh lingerie, so she might
be ready for them quick little auto trips you like to go on so often,
and her walking boots is gone”–holding up a pair of boot-trees,–“and,”
opening a glove box, “the suède taupe gloves is gone.” Her courage
asserted itself; her temper flared up. “And it seems to me, Mr.
Floyd-Rosney, that if there’s any fool here, ’taint me!”

“You will be paid your wages to-morrow,” foamed Floyd-Rosney, dashing
from the room. “Clear out of the house.”

“Just as well,” the girl said to the gaping servants downstairs, who
remonstrated with her for her sharp tongue, reproaching her with
throwing away a good place, liberal wages and liberal fare. “Just as
well. If there’s to be no lady there’s no use for a lady’s maid.”

“To the Union Station,” Floyd-Rosney hissed forth as he flung himself
into the limousine. In the transit thither he took counsel within
himself. Where could Paula be going?–Only on some fantastic quest for
her child. He ran over, in his mind, any hint that he might have let
drop as to the locality where he had bestowed him, and she, putting two
and two together, had fancied she had discovered the place. If, by any
coincidence, she had hit upon the boy’s domicile, he told himself, he
would make no protest; he would let her have her way; he would give the
world for all to be between them as it was this afternoon. As to the
lawsuit–let come what might! If only he could intercept her in this mad
enterprise; if he could reach her before she took the train! He called
through the speaking tube to the chauffeur to go faster.

“Never mind the speed limit–do all you know how!”

Presently the great vehicle slowed up, panting and sizzling as if winded
in the race. He sprang out before it had ceased to move and rushed up
the stairs, patrolling the various apartments, the ladies’ waiting room,
the refreshment room–he remembered that she could have had no
dinner–the general ante-room, with its crowd of the traveling public.
He was a notable figure, with his splendid appearance, his fur-lined
overcoat, his frowning, intent brow, his long, swift stride.

All in vain–she was not there. The clamor of the train that was making
ready for departure struck his absorbed attention. The place was full of
the odor of the bituminous smoke from the locomotive; he heard the
panting of the steam exhaust.

Floyd-Rosney rushed down the stairs and into the great shed which
seemed, with its high vaulted roof, clouded with smoke dull and dim,
despite the glare here and there of electric lights. He was stopped in
the crowd at the gate. He had no ticket–money could not buy it here. He
explained hastily that he wished to see a friend off. The regulations
were stringent, the functionary obdurate; the crowd streaming through
the gate disposed to stare, and a burly policeman, lounging about,
regarded the insistent swell with an inimical glare. For there are those
dressed like swells that are far from that puffed-up estate.

The suggestion calmed Floyd-Rosney for the nonce. It needed but this, he
felt, to complete his folly–to involve himself in a futile fracas with
a gateman and a cop. Moreover, he had no justification in fancying that
Paula was likely to take a train–in fact, and he smiled grimly, she
would not have the cash to buy a ticket. The whole theory that she might
quit the city was a baseless fabrication of his fears, of the disorder
of his ideas induced by the vexatious and unexpected _contretemps_.
Doubtless, by this time she had returned from the stroll or the call, or
whatever device she had adopted to quiet her spirit and divert her mind,
he argued–he himself had found refreshment in a brisk walk in the
night air–and was now sitting before the fire at home, awaiting his
coming, possibly willing to discuss the matter in a more amicable frame
of mind.

He was about to turn aside when suddenly down the line of rails within
the shed and between the train standing still and the one beginning to
move, the metallic clangor of its bell insistently jarring the air, he
saw the figure of Paula, visible in the glare of the headlight of the
locomotive beside her. Every detail was as distinct, as illuminated as
in the portrayal of a magic lantern–her taupe gown, her hat with a
plume of the same shade, her face flushed, laughing and eager. A man was
assisting her to mount the platform of the coach and in him Floyd-Rosney
was sure he recognized Randal Ducie, whose arrival in the city he had
noted in the evening paper. The whole maneuver of boarding the
train,–the placing of the stool by the porter, Paula’s failure to reach
from it to the step of the car, the swift muscular effort by which Ducie
seized her, swung her to the platform, and then sprang upon it
himself,–was all as plain to the frenzied man watching the vanishing
train from between the palings of the gate as if the scene had been
enacted within ten feet of him.

Paula reached her destination early the next morning. She had not slept
during the night and as soon as the light began to dawn she raised the
blind at her window and lay in her berth looking out drearily at the
face of the country, growing constantly more familiar, but yet dimly
descried and colorless as a scene in sepia, with the lagging night still
clinging to the earth. Belts of white vapor lay in every depression; the
forests along the horizon made a dark circumference for the whole; the
stars were wan and sad of aspect and faded from the sky, one by one, as
the eye dwelt upon them. The characteristic features of the swamp region
had vanished. In many places the land was deeply gullied, showing as the
day waxed a richly tinted red clay that made the somber landscape glow.
Everywhere were the hedges of the evergreen Cherokee rose, defining the
borders of fields, often untrimmed and encroaching in a great green
billow on spaces unmeet for a mere boundary mark. The trees were huge;
gigantic oaks and the spreading black-gum; and she was ready, her hat
on, her wrap and furs adjusted, looking out eagerly at these dense bosky
growths when the red wintry sun began to cast long shafts of quiet dull
sheen adown their aisles, showing the white rime on the rough bark of
the boughs, or among the russet leaves, still persistently clinging.
More than once the conductor came in to consult her as to the precise
point of stoppage, and, when a long warning whistle set the echoes astir
in the quiet matutinal atmosphere and the train began to slow down, she
was alertly on her feet.

“You are sure of the place, ma’am?” said the conductor, helping her
descend the step; he was new to the road, and there seemed to him
nothing here but woods.

She reassured him as she lightly ran down the steep incline, and then
she stood for a moment, mechanically watching the train, epitome of the
world, sweeping away and leaving her here, the dense forest before her,
the smoke flaunting backward, the sun emblazoning its convolutions, the
wondering faces of the passengers at the windows.

She remembered the time when this wonder would have nettled her. She had
wanted a station platform built here, but her uncle had utilitarian
theories, and, somehow, “never got round to it,” as he was wont to
phrase it. So seldom, indeed, they boarded the train, so seldom it
brought a visitor, that it seemed to him the least and last needed
appurtenance of the plantation. She wondered if the stoppage had been
not noted at the house. The woods were silent, as with mystery, as she
took her way through “the grove.” The frost lay white on the grass, and
there was even a glint of ice in the water lurking in the ruts of a
wagon wheel in the road. She walked on these frozen edges after a
fashion learned long ago to keep her feet dainty when not so expensively
shod as now. Suddenly she heard the deep baying of a hound.

“Oh, old Hero!” she exclaimed pettishly. “He will tell them all I have

For she had wished to slip in unobserved. The humiliation of her return
in this wise seemed less when the kindly old roof should be above her
head. But the dog met her, fierce and furious, at the fence of the door
yard–how she had hated that fence; she had wanted the grove and yard
thrown together like some fine park. As the old retainer recognized her
the complication of his barks which he could not forego, in view of her
capacity as stranger, with his wheezes and whines of ecstasy, as
greeting to an old friend, while he leaped and gamboled about her,
brought her uncle and aunt, every chick and child, the servants from the
outhouses, and all the dogs on the place to make cheerful acclaim of

So long had it been since she had heard this hearty, genuine note of
disinterested affection that it came like balm to her lacerated heart,
and suddenly there seemed no more need for pride, for dissimulation, for
self-restraint. She broke down and burst into a flood of tears, the
group lachrymose in sympathy and wiping their eyes.

She had planned throughout the night how best and when to tell her
story, but it was disclosed without preface or method, before she had
been in the house ten minutes, her aunt cautiously closing the door of
the sitting-room the instant Mr. Floyd-Rosney’s name was mentioned and
her uncle looking very grave.

“You were quite right in coming at once to us, my dear,” he said kindly.
“Be sure you shall not be shipped out of the country.”

He was a tall, heavy man, somewhat spare and angular, and his large
well-formed features expressed both shrewdness and kindness. He had
abundant grizzled hair and his keen gray eyes were deeply set under
thick dark eyebrows. He was a fair-minded man one could see at a glance,
a thoroughly reliable man in every relation of life, a gentleman of the
old school.

“Some arrangement will surely be made about the baby; I shall love to
see the little fellow again. Set your heart at rest. I will communicate
at once with Mr. Floyd-Rosney, as your nearest relative, standing in
_loco parentis_.”

“And give me some breakfast,” said Paula, lapsing into the old childish
whine of a spoiled household pet. “I have had nothing to eat since
yesterday at lunch.”

The husband and wife exchanged a glance over her head.

“And before I forget it—-” she raised herself to an upright position
and took from her bag the twenty dollar bill. “Please write and return
this to old Colonel Kenwynton. I should be ashamed to sign my name to
such a letter. He _would_ lend it to me–though I didn’t need it after
he and Adrian Ducie–Randal Ducie’s brother–had lent me the money to
buy my ticket.”

Mrs. Majoribanks was a stern-faced woman with rigid ideas of the
acceptable in conduct. Her dark hair, definitely streaked with gray,
banded smoothly along her high forehead, her serious, compelling, gray
eyes, the extreme neatness and accuracy of adjustment of her dress, her
precise method of enunciation, intimated an uncompromising personality,
possessing high ideals religiously followed,–somewhat narrow of view,
perhaps, and severe of judgment, but unfalteringly, immovably upright.

“But, Paula, why didn’t you buy your own ticket with your own money? To
allow another to buy it was inappropriate.”

“I had no money,” Paula explained humbly. “Mr. Floyd-Rosney lets me buy
anything I want on account, but he never gives me any money to spend as
I like.” Once more the husband and wife looked significantly at each
other. All that they possessed was his, but the privileges of ownership
were exercised in common, the expenditures a matter of mutual confidence
and agreement, and it may be doubted if he ever took a step in business
affairs without consultation with her.

The spare, sober decorum of the aspect of the house appealed to Paula in
her present state of mind, her taste for magnificence glutted, and she
remembered, with a sort of wonder, her intolerance of the stiff old
furniture of the sitting-room covered with hair-cloth; the crimson
brocade, well frayed, of the parlor glimpsed through the open door, with
the old-fashioned lambrequins at the windows and carefully mended lace
curtains, and the family portraits in oil on the walls; the linoleum on
the floor of the hall that had been there seeming indestructible since
she could remember; the barometer hanging over the long sofa; the
grandfather’s clock in the corner, still allotting the hours, however
lives might wax or wane; the dining-room, with the burly sideboard and
the peacock fly-brush, and the white-jacketed waiter, and the brisk
little darkey that ran in and out with the relays of hot buttered
waffles. It all seemed so sane, so simple, so safe. Here and there,
conspicuously placed, were gifts which she and Mr. Floyd-Rosney had
made, ostentatiously handsome. She thought them curiously out of accord
with the tone of the place, and, oddly enough, she felt ashamed of them.

She asked herself how and why had such an obsession as had possessed her
ever come to her–the hankering for the empty life of show, and fashion,
and wealth. Had she not had every reasonable wish gratified, enjoyed
every advantage of a solid and careful education, had every social
opportunity in a circle, limited, certainly, but characterized by
refinement, and dignity, and seemliness, that was the gentility of long
traditions of gentlefolks–not pretty manners, picked up the day before
yesterday. She had come back to it now–her wings clipped, her feathers

She could not enter into the old home life as of yore–it seemed
strangely alien, though so familiar. She would look vaguely at her young
cousins, each altered and much more mature in the five years that had
passed since she was an inmate of the household–well grown, handsome,
intelligent boys they were, instead of the romping children she had
left. They spent the mornings with a tutor who came from the neighboring
town to read with them, and the eldest was much given to argument with
his father, insisting vivaciously on his theories of government, of
religion, of politics, of the proper method of construing certain Latin
verses; the two younger were absorbed in their dogs, their rabbits,
their games–the multitudinous little interests of people of their age,
so momentous to them. Always their world was home–she wondered what
the real world would seem to them when they should emerge into it, what
the theories of government, the phrasing of Latin verses, the home
absorptions would prove as preparation for life as she knew it.
Certainly they did not formulate it. She said to herself that a more
secluded existence could hardly be matched outside a monastery. She did
not believe any of the three had ever seen a game of football or
baseball; the life of cities, of travel, of association with their
fellows was as a sealed book to them. In their minds Ingleside was a
realm; their father was their comrade; their mother was the court of
last resort.

But Paula’s absorbed thoughts refused all but the slightest speculation
upon the subject of their future and she could urge herself to only the
shadow of interest in her aunt’s pursuits and absorptions. Even the room
of her girlhood–she could not enter there, she could not sleep there,
for dreams–dreams–dreams! They might have there faculties of
visualization or unseen they could stab her unaware. Never again should
her spirit encounter these immaterial essences. She asked her aunt to
give her her grandmother’s room. It was small comfort in laying her head
on that pillow which had never known a selfish thought, an unsanctified
desire, to feel the difference, the distance. But here all good
influences abode, and she was consoled in a sort for the unappreciated
affliction of that saintly death, to whisper into the downy depth–“I
have come back–scourged–scourged!”

How she remembered that that good grandmother had so grievously
deprecated the course toward Randal Ducie; that she had declared the
greatest of all disasters is a marriage without love, and that a promise
is a promise; many times she shook her head, and shed some shy, shy
tears over Randal’s dismissal, though Paula wrote the letter in a frenzy
of careless energy, without erasing a word or troubling to take a copy.

She would note with a sort of apologetic affection the details of this
familiar room that she had early learned to stigmatize as old-fashioned,
and in her schoolgirl phrase “tacky”–the chintz curtains with their big
flowers; the hair-cloth covered rocking chairs; the four-poster mahogany
bedstead with its heavily corniced tester, the red cloth goffered to the
center to focus in a big gilt star; the mahogany bureau, so tall that
the mirror made good headway to the ceiling; the floriated Brussels
carpet so antique of pattern that she used to say she believed it was
manufactured before the flood and so staunch of web that it was destined
to last till doomsday; the little work-table, with its drawers still
filled with spools, and buttons, and reels of embroidery silk, and balls
of wool for knitting and crochet–doubtless some piece of her
grandmother’s beautiful handiwork still lay where her busy fingers had
placed it, with the needle yet in the stitch.

The rose curtained window gave on no smiling scene–it was one of the
few outlooks from the house that was not of bosky presentment. But the
grove had ceased ere these precincts were reached and the view was of a
dull bit of pasture and beyond a dreary stretch of cornfields, in which
the stalks still stood, stripped of the ears, pallid with frost and
writhen into fantastic postures by wind and weather. It was but a
dreary landscape, trembling under slanting lines of rain, and later of
sleet, for the halcyon weather had vanished at last, and winter had come
in earnest. A mist hung much of the time between the earth and a leaden
sky, and the woods that lay along the low horizon were barely glimpsed
as a dull, indistinct smudge.

Nothing, she said to herself, could ever rehabilitate the universe for
her. This crisis was so comprehensive, so significant. She clenched her
hands when she reviewed the past few years with a nervous fury so
intense that the nails marked the palms. Her memories and her
self-reproach seared her consciousness like hot iron. Whelmed in the
luxury of wealth, proud of her preëminence of station, sharing as far as
might be her husband’s domineering assumptions toward others, cravenly
submitting when his humor required her, too, to crook the knee, she had
subverted her every opinion, her inmost convictions, to theories of life
she would once have despised, to estimate as of paramount value the
things she had been taught to hold as dross. She had cast aside all her
standards of intrinsic worth. Sometimes she would spring from sleep and
walk the floor, the red glow of the embers on the wall, the shadows
glooming about her, the events of those tumultuous years, in the fierce
white light of actuality rather than the glimpses of memories, deploying
before her. Resist his influence—-? She had flattered, she had
surrounded him with an atmosphere of adulation. She had loved so much
his possessions and her realized ambitions that she had imbibed the
theory that she had loved him. True, she had admired him–his impressive
presence, his domineering habit of mind, his expensive culture, his
discrimination in matters of art and music, the cringing attitude toward
him of his employees, his humble friends, and now and then a man on his
own plane, unable to sustain his individuality before that coercive
influence. Bring tribute–bring tribute! In every relation of life that
fiat went forth. And she had permitted herself to believe that her
craven acquiescence in this demand was–love! And, doubtless, the
tyrant, unabashed by the glaring improbability, had believed it too.

The phases of fashionable life are never so minimized as in the presence
of some great and grave actuality of human experience–she looked back
upon them now with a disgusted wonder and an averse contempt. The world
for which she had longed in her quiet rural home, which had opened its
doors so unexpectedly, so beatifically, to her trembling entrance,
seemed to her now full of dull and commonplace people, all eagerly
pursuing some sordid scheme of advancement, regardful of their fellows
only to envy values which they do not share, to cringe before
consequence and station which only belittle them, to pull down, if
occasion permit, those who are on the up-grade, to alternately court and
decry their superiors, and to revile and baffle the humble. And for a
share in this world, this outlook, this atmosphere, she had bartered her
happiness, had destroyed her identity, as nearly as she might, had
achieved the lot of a lifelong victim to intolerable tyranny.

In all her beclouded spiritual sky there had glowed the radiance of one
single star, one pure and genuine emotion, her maternal love, bought by
no price, asking naught, giving in an ecstasy of self-abnegation that
made sacrifice a luxury and suffering a joy.

And now this light of her life was obscured by dense clouds, and who
could say how and when it would emerge.

The change of place, the sense of escape acted in some sort as a
respite, but there was possible no surcease of anguished solicitude. Her
uncle began almost immediately the concoction of a letter to Mr.
Floyd-Rosney, which should be a triumph of epistolary art to accomplish
its ends. He desired to remonstrate against the enforced expatriation of
Mrs. Floyd-Rosney, to insist on the propriety of restoring her son to
her care, and to condemn the cruelty of the separation, all expressed in
such soft choice locutions as to give no offense to the gusty temper of
her husband and to make no reflections on the justice of his conduct. He
wished to take a tone of authority and seniority as being the nearest
and eldest relative of Mrs. Floyd-Rosney, and thus entitled to offer his
views and advice in her behalf, yet to avoid seeming intrusive and
guilty of interference between husband and wife.

As he wrote at his desk in the sitting-room, his intent grizzled head
bent over the repeated drafts of this effort, Paula, passing in the hall
without, catching a glimpse of his occupation, had space in her
multifarious anguish for a sense of deep humiliation that this should be
going forward in her interest. How she had flaunted the achievement of
her great marriage in this her simple home, in the teeth of their
misgivings, their covert reservations, their deprecation of her
treatment of Randal Ducie. She had piqued herself on the fact that not
many girls so placed, so far from the madding crowd, could have made
such a ten-strike in the matrimonial game. Her standards were not
theirs; her life was regulated on a plane which did not conform to their
ideals, but as time went on they had ventured to hope for the best, and
when Geoffrey Majoribanks had been asked occasionally if his niece had
not made a very rich marriage he would add “and a very happy one.” This
he had believed, although in view of Floyd-Rosney’s imperious
temperament and the process of his wife’s evident subjugation, it must
seem that the wish had constrained his credulity. Now the illusion was
dispelled, the bubble had burst, and it devolved upon him to patch up
from its immaterial constituent elements some semblance of conjugal
reconciliation and the possibility of a degree of happiness in the

He was a ready scribe, as were most men of his day, and had a neat gift
of expression. But he called for help continually in this instance, now
from his wife, and throwing ceremony to the winds, in view of the
importance of the missive, once his hearty, resonant voice summoned the
party most in interest, Paula herself.

“Our object is to get the child restored to your care and to compass a
cessation of this insistence that you shall go abroad,–not to win in an
argument. Now do you think this phrasing could offend Mr. Floyd-Rosney,
or wound his feelings?”

Paula, standing tall, pale, listless, beside the desk, leaning on one
hand among the litter of discarded papers of the voluminous epistle,
looked down into his anxious, upturned face, beneath his tousled,
grizzled hair, pitying the limitations of his perceptions.

“Any phrasing will offend Mr. Floyd-Rosney if he wishes to be offended,”
she replied languidly, “and he has no feelings to wound.”

She went slowly out of the room, leaving him meditatively biting the
handle of his pen.

The letter bade fair to become a permanent occupation. He worked at it
late at night and all the forenoon of the next day, and when, at the two
o’clock dinner, his wife suggested that he should take Paula out for a
drive about the country,–she would be interested in seeing how little
it had changed since she was a resident here–he shook his head doggedly
over the big turkey that he was deftly carving.

“No,–no,” he said, “I must get back to that–that document. You and one
of the boys can take her to drive.”

The “document” was duly finished at last and duly mailed. Then
expectation held the household to fever heat. The return mail brought
nothing; the next post was not more significant; nor the next; nor the
next. A breathless suspense supervened.

One Monday morning Major Majoribanks came into the sitting-room with a
sheaf of newspapers in his trembling hand, a ghastly white face and eyes
of living fire. He could not speak; he could scarcely control his
muscles sufficiently to open a journal and point with a shaking finger
to a column with great headlines. He placed the newspaper in the hands
of his wife, who was alone in the room, then he went softly to the door,
closed it, and sank down in an armchair, gasping for breath. His wife,
too, turned pale as she read, but her hand was steady.

Mr. Edward Floyd-Rosney, the paper recited, to the great amazement of
the city, had brought suit against his wife for divorce. The allegations
of the bill set forth that she had fled from her home with Randal Ducie,
who was named as co-respondent, and the husband made oath that in
seeking to intercept and reclaim her, following her to the station as
soon as he discovered her absence, he had witnessed her departure in
company with Randal Ducie just as the train moved out of the shed.

Major Majoribanks presently hirpled, for he could scarcely walk, across
the room, and laid his finger on another column in a different portion
of the paper, and treating of milder sensations.

“I didn’t need this to prove that–that–a base lie—-” his stiff lips
enunciated with difficulty.

This paragraph treated of the current cotton interests, giving extracts
from an address made by Randal Ducie in New Orleans at a banquet of an
association interested in levee protection, on the evening and also at
the hour when he was represented in Floyd-Rosney’s bill as fleeing with
his neighbor’s wife in a city five hundred miles distant. He had made
himself conspicuous as an advocate of certain methods of levee
protection, and his views were both ardently upheld and rancorously
contested even at the festive board. The occasion was thus less
harmonious than such meetings should be, and the local papers had much
“write-up” besides the menu and the toasts, in the views of various
planters and several engineer officers, guests of the occasion, lending
themselves to a spirited discussion of Randal Ducie’s recommendations.

Colonel Kenwynton, now at his home on his plantation on the bayou, also
gazed with starting eyes and dumfounded amazement at the excerpt from
the legal proceedings, within his own knowledge so palpably false. He
read it aloud under the kerosene lamp to Hugh Treherne on the other side
of the old-fashioned marble-topped center table.

“What do you think of that, sir?” and the Colonel gave the newspaper a
resounding blow.

Treherne smiled significantly.

“I am impressed all the time, Colonel, with the insanity of the people
outside the asylum in comparison with the patients under treatment.”

“Good God, sir,” cried the Colonel in great excitement, “this is a
shotgun business, and Floyd-Rosney is the man of all others to brazen it
out on a plea of the ‘unwritten law.’ He will shoot one or the other of
the Ducies on sight, and they are as much alike as two black-eyed
peas,–they really ought to wear wigs,–he is as likely to pot one as
the other. And the poor lady! My heart bleeds for her. I must clear this
matter up,” concluded the all-powerful. “I will send a communication to
the newspapers.”

Now Colonel Kenwynton had, in his own opinion, the pen of a ready
writer. It was not his habit to mince phrases or to revise. He wrote a
swift, legible hand, for he was a relic of an age when gentlemen prided
themselves on an elegant penmanship, in the days when the typewriter was
not. He had no sort of fear of offending Floyd-Rosney, nor care for
wounding his feelings. He recited in great detail the facts of Mrs.
Floyd-Rosney’s entrance into the Adelantado Hotel, her disclosure of her
husband’s desire that she should tour the Orient with the Hardingtons,
who had already acquainted the writer that she was to be of their party,
and her grief because of her separation from her child, who had been
secretly removed from her home as a preparation for her departure. Now
and then the Colonel cast his eyes upward for inspiration and waved his
pen at arm’s length.

“Not too much hot shot, Colonel,” remonstrated Hugh Treherne, a little
uneasy at these demonstrations.

“Attend to your own guns, sir,” retorted the Colonel.

With no regard for the awkwardness of the incident, he stated that the
poor lady, although the wife of a millionaire, had not command of ten
dollars in the world with which to defray the expenses of her journey to
the home of her youth, and to her uncle who stood in the relation of a
father to her, for his advice and protection against being shipped out
of the country.

“It is my firm belief,” and the Colonel liked the words so well he read
them aloud to his comrade, “that we do not live in Turkey, that the
honored wives of our Southland do not occupy the position of inmates of
a harem, and I could not regard Mrs. Floyd-Rosney as the favorite of a
sultan. Therefore it afforded Mr. Adrian Ducie and me great pleasure to
advance the money for her tickets to the home of her uncle, Major
Majoribanks, and to see her on the train.” He explained, at great
length, that the departure of the train was so imminent and immediate
that Adrian Ducie bought tickets to the first station for himself and
Colonel Kenwynton, in order that they might not be detained by any
question at the gate, and, at the moment of boarding the cars, Mr.
Floyd-Rosney, “hunting down the persecuted fugitive,” had mistaken
Adrian Ducie for his brother, Randal Ducie, who at this moment was in
New Orleans, making an address to the Mississippi River Association,
giving them the benefit of his very enlightened views, which the whole
country would do well to study and adopt, thereby saving many thousands
of dollars to the cotton planters of the jeopardized delta.

Restraining himself with difficulty from pursuing this attractive
subject, Colonel Kenwynton explained that while Randal Ducie was an old
acquaintance of Mrs. Floyd-Rosney’s, Adrian Ducie was a stranger to her,
and had met her only on one previous occasion. The undersigned and
Adrian Ducie had accompanied the poor lady so far as the first station,
and taking farewell of her they had returned to town in the interurban
electric. He furthermore informed the public that in view of some
possible unforeseen emergency he had taken the liberty of pressing upon
this poor lady, absolutely unprovided with money for her necessities, a
twenty dollar bill, to be returned at her pleasure, and had since
received a letter from her uncle, inclosing that sum, and thanking him
for his consideration. At the home of this uncle–the home of her
girlhood–she was now domiciled with him and her aunt, who was formerly
the charming Miss Azalia Thornton, whom many elder members of society
would well remember.

The Colonel was enjoying himself famously, and now and again Hugh
Treherne looked anxiously over the top of the newspaper at him as he
tossed the multiplying pages across his left hand, and took a fresh

The Colonel, with keen gusto, then entered on the subject of
Floyd-Rosney, whom he handled without gloves. There ought to be some
adequate criminal procedure, he argued, for a man who had offered such
an indignity to the wife of his bosom as this. If an equivalent insult
could have been tendered to a man Mr. Floyd-Rosney would have been shot
down in his tracks–or, at the least, have been made to pay roundly for
his brutality. But the wife, whom he has sworn to love, honor, and
cherish, is defenseless against his hasty, groundless conclusions. She
can only meekly prove her innocence of a guilt that it is like the
torments of hell-fire to name in connection with her. Colonel Kenwynton
solemnly commended to our lawmakers the consideration of this subject of
a penalty of unfounded marital charges. The converse of the proposition
never occurred to him. In his philosophy the women were welcome to say
what they liked about the men.

If, he maintained, the gentleman accompanying Mrs. Floyd-Rosney had been
Randal Ducie instead of his brother, the circumstance would have
signified naught with a lady of Mrs. Floyd-Rosney’s character, which the
good people of this city would uphold against her husband even backed
by all his filthy lucre. But Randal Ducie was in New Orleans making an
address on levee conditions, on which subject his brother Adrian was
peculiarly uninformed, and it did seem to Colonel Kenwynton that almost
any man would have learned more from sheer observation, even though he
had been absent from the country for the past six years. He was now in
Memphis, where, being singularly like his twin brother, he was mistaken
for Randal Ducie, well known here, and his arrival thus chronicled in
the papers. Adrian Ducie was not widely acquainted in Memphis, having
spent the last six years in the south of France, where he was interested
in silk manufacture.

If Mr. Floyd-Rosney’s course, declared the Colonel, pursuing the
subject, in forcing a ghastly round of pleasure on his wife, sighing for
her absent child, was typical of his domestic methods, his wife was a
martyr. When she would insist on having her child restored to her arms
one could imagine his saying–“Go to, woman, where is your pug!” Colonel
Kenwynton ardently hoped that the pressure of public opinion would force
Mr. Floyd-Rosney to disregard no longer the holy claims of motherhood,
and give back this child to the aching arms of his wife. The heart of
every man that ever had a mother was fired in revolt against him,
despite his wealth, that cannot buy sycophancy, and abject acquiescence
and pusillanimous silence from us.

The Colonel admired the rolling periods of his production so much that
he read aloud with relish the whole effort from the beginning.

“What do you think of it, Hugh?” he demanded.

“I think the paper won’t publish it,” said Hugh Treherne.

The paper, however, did publish it. The position of Floyd-Rosney in the
affair, as the incontestable facts began to be elicited, took on so
sorry an aspect that he was hardly in case to bring an action for libel,
and the Colonel’s letter was good for the sale of a double edition.
People read it with raised eyebrows and deprecation, and several said
the Colonel was a dangerous man and ought to have his hands tied behind
him. But the plain truth, so plainly set forth, the old traditions which
he had invoked, which they had all imbibed more or less, went far to
reinstating Mrs. Floyd-Rosney’s position, and to exhibit her husband’s
character in a most damaged and disastrous disparagement. He was advised
by his counsel, who were disconcerted in the last extreme by being
connected in so disreputable a proceeding, that the only course open to
policy and prudence and the prospect of conserving any place in public
esteem, was to retract absolutely and immediately, frankly confessing a
mistake of identity, and to restore the child to the custody of his

“Even that won’t mend the matter,” said Mr. Stacey–his face corrugated
with lines unknown to his placid sharpness when he and his firm had no
personal concern. He had nerves for his own interest, though not an
altruistic quiver for his client.

“All the world thinks,” he continued, “that you are as jealous as a
Turk, and that will add a sensational interest to the Duciehurst suit,
of a kind that I despise”–he actually looked pained–“when it is
developed that your wife found and restored the Ducie papers. I wish
you had taken my advice; I wish you had taken my advice.”

And Floyd-Rosney said never a word.

He had come to be more plastic to counsel than of yore, and in a few
days thereafter the train made its infrequent stoppage at Ingleside, and
deposited Mrs. Floyd-Rosney’s favorite old colored servant and her
little charge, who sturdily trudged through the grove of great
trees–vast, indeed, to his eyes–and suddenly appeared in the hall
before his mother, with a tale of wonder relating to the bears, which he
believed might be skulking about among the giant oaks.