She began to cast about as to how she could conform
her protestations and her principles to acceptance.
It was not her principles that drove out these
thoughts, but a sudden return of jealousy. " Let that
woman have him?" cried she. " Never! I'd die first.
. . . God would never forgive me for such a sin."
That was it; God would not permit her to go into
partnership with adultery. " For the sake of his soul,
I must make him give her up. Yes, I'll make him give
her up. I'll show him whether a wife has rights or not.
Riches swell men with pride and power, and they for
get God and their duty."
There she remembered how she had been brought
up, how just was his reminder that they were taught
that divorce was as sacred as marriage, was a bulwark
of morality, of the home the real home that did not
rest upon mere sexual fidelity but upon the deeper
fidelity to the spirit of marriage. She thrust back
these ideas, helpful though they were to her longing
to be free and rich and comfortable. " I've learned
better," she told herself. " It's only among the trashy
and the sinful that divorce is tolerated." And yield
ing to the low-spirited mood which always closed in
soon after a meal, she fell to picturing herself the
lonely, discarded wife and mother, victim of a heartless
husband who was treating her like a rifled honeycomb.
She burst into tears and rang the bell for Katy.
" Send Charley to me," she sobbed.
MOTHER AND SON
CHARLEY had to be roused from a sound sleep. He
was at a dance the night before, had not got home until
five. At his mother's summons, delivered hysterically by
Katy, he thrust his feet into bath slippers, swathed
himself in a blue silk robe, and hurried along the hall
to her sitting room. " What is it, mother ? " he cried.
She made no answer, but continued to sob heartbrokenly.
" Shall I send for the doctor? " He glanced at the
tray, still on the table before her. " You know you
oughtn't to take cream in your coffee," he reproached.
" The doctor warned us it makes blisters on the liver."
" Shut the door, Charley," she sobbed.
Your father" she moaned. " O my God ! "
"Father! Is he hurt? "
"O God! No no! If it were merely that!
Charley, your father wants to marry a low woman."
The boy started back in horror. " Mother ! " he ex
claimed. " Who handed you that pipe dream ? It's
false. Why, father wouldn't do such a rotten thing ! "
" I knew my children would stand by me ! "
" But it isn't true, mother. He's been lied about."
" He told me himself in that very chair not half
an hour ago."
Charley stared stupidly at the vacant chair. " Im-
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
possible!" he muttered. "Not father!" And he
seated himself in it.
" Yes, your father. Go to him. Tell him what you
think of him!"
" You didn't understand him, mother."
"O God!" wailed Sophy. "Is my boy against
me? I tell you, Charley, he ordered me to divorce him,
to free him so he could marry that Raeburn woman."
" Juliet Raeburn ! " exclaimed the boy, leaping to his
feet. " Mother, what are you talking about ? "
" He came here and insulted me, his wife, your
Up boiled the boy's young blood, into his mind
flashed a score of trifling incidents of that stay in the
woods, incidents now saturated, rank, with sinister
meaning. Without a word he darted out and down to
the library. He did not pause to knock, but burst in.
Murdock was at his table in the center of the room,
writing. The long French windows were open and the
light and air, sweeping round his strong figure, seemed
to encircle it with an impassable barrier. Before his
father glanced up, the boy was beginning to hang back.
" Well ? " said Murdock, in his even, friendly yet
" Is it true, father ? what mother's been telling
me? " stammered Charley.
" No doubt," replied Murdock, with no change of
tone or expression. He kept his eyes on the boy, but
dipped his pen in the ink and poised it above the paper.
The boy flushed, hesitated, half turned away. Then,
catching fire again from his outraged mother, he forgot
his awe and cried : " You sha'n't dishonor my mother
and my sister ! "
Just the hint of a flush came into Murdock's cheeks.
MOTHER 'AND SON
His tone was even but like the smooth surface of a
white hot, molten lake as he said : " You are making a
fool of yourself. She is your mother, but I am your
father. She and I are wife and husband and no one
will interfere in our affairs. Close the door after you."
And his pen resumed its rapid course along the sheet.
The boy could no more have disobeyed or have
spoken again than if he, bound and gagged, were being
carried from the room. In the hall outside, he wiped
the streaming sweat from his face, dropped weakly on
the lowest step of the front stairway. In at the open
front doors came Norma, whistling and swinging her
hat by its long ribbons. The morning was intoxicat-
ingly fine, and her spirits were soaring and darting like
a lark drenched and drunk with sunshine. " Hello,
Charley boy," she cried, kissing the top of his bent head
and slapping him on the back. " Walking in your
sleep ? Mother up yet ? "
Her brother drew her down beside him. Though
there were no servants in sight, he whispered in her ear :
" Mother and father are going to get a divorce."
To his amazement, the news gave her no shock of
surprise. " So it's come at last ! " she exclaimed, be
fore she realized what she was saying.
Charley stared at her. " How did you find out ? " he
cried, after a prolonged stare at her.
But she had recovered herself; she now looked, and
felt, as overwhelmed as he. Instinctively she, under
standing feminine human nature, began to sympathize
with her father, just as her brother, understanding mas
culine human nature better than feminine, took sides
with his mother.
" Do you know about Juliet Raeburn, too ? "
" Juliet Raeburn ! " But even as Norma exclaimed,
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
she understood. " O Charley ! " she cried, " and I
thought her a good woman ! "
" So she is," maintained Charley. " He hasn't got
her yet. I'll bet she doesn't dream of this."
" Perhaps not," conceded Norma, in confusion. She
remembered that she had decided it was best not to tell
Charley or their mother about the meeting and the dis
covery at Dangerfield's. " Why," thought she, amazed
at the revelation of herself to herself, " I must have felt
then that this was coming ! "
" You must talk to father," Charley was saying.
" He'll listen to you."
Norma slowly shook her head.
"Aren't you going to do anything?" demanded
Charley. " I tell you, Norma, this thing must be
" But we mustn't say anything to either of them
directly." She hesitated, then went on : " Marriage has
already taught me that nobody can judge between hus
band and wife. Nobody can know but just their two
" It's all his fault," protested Charley, with almost
hysterical energy. " At least, we know enough to know
he's got no cause of any kind. Why, she's always at
home, and she never spoke a really harsh word to him.
The truth is, he has gotten the swollen head through
being lucky in business, and has grown away from us."
" Don't say those things to mother, please," en
treated Norma. " You'd only encourage her to make
" But the disgrace ! The disgrace ! "
" Nobody can disgrace you but yourself," was her
Her brother eyed her disapprovingly. " Just like a
MOTHER AND SON
woman ! Women never do care anything about each
other's sufferings. Not even your own mother's sor
row moves you."
" Perhaps I understand her better than you do," re
plied Norma absently.
" Well anyhow, all I know is it's got to be
stopped ! "
" You go and get dressed," said his sister. " I'll
Mrs. Murdock had by this time somewhat composed
herself. When she saw it was not Charley but Norma
entering she refrained from bursting out afresh. Un
less a woman is far more studied or far less sensible
than was Sophy, she does not raise to another woman
the suspiciously clamorous conventional appeals for sym
pathy. Norma went straight to her and kissed her.
" Charley has told me," she said.
Charley had not noted his mother's dishevelment,
but no detail of it escaped Norma ; woman, looking at
woman, is always scrutinizing. Besides Norma, whirled
in so many respects to the opposite extreme from Sophy
by the warning example of physical and mental slothful-
ness, was so particular about her person that she
changed never less than twice a day throughout. As sbe
kissed her mother, she held her breath that she might
avoid at least the worst of the odor from the stale, musty,
" If I hadn't been so devoted to my household, I'd
have seen it coming," said Sophy. " All the men act
that way nowadays." Her lip quivered. " It's the curse
of riches. If we'd 'a' been poor, your father would have
stayed on, a hard-working, steady family man, appre
ciating his home and his wife and children."
" A good many poor people act the same way," sug-
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
gested Norma. " It seems to me, more poor people do
it than rich. The rich are more conventional, more
afraid of public opinion."
" So you're turning against me ! " cried Sophy. " I
might have known. The daughter always sides against
" Why, mother ! " exclaimed Norma. " What did I
say to make you think that ? "
" Weren't you beginning to urge excuses for your
father? Have you opened your lips for a single word
against him? "
" I love him, mother, and I love you. I couldn't say
anything against either of you."
" Not when he shows he's become a wicked man, and
tries to cast your mother off ! " And Sophy began to
weep. " My daughter may turn against me, but no one
else in all the world will. Everybody'll despise him and
sympathize with me."
Norma, knowing the shallowness of feminine tears
and having before her very eyes as well as in painful
memory what seemed to her sufficient reasons why her
mother did not charm, felt her heart going out to her
father. She reproached herself, but she could not help
it. " And, really, with such eyes and teeth and so much
naturally lovely hair mother could be beautiful if she'd
only brace up." Aloud she said gently : " You wrong)
j me, mother. I'd never take sides against you. I'll take
no side at all. I'll keep on loving you and father, and
believing the best of both of you."
" You'd better be careful, miss ! " cried Sophy. " If
your father and I do part, I'll have half the property,
and he'll have another woman. I can't believe he'll be
fool enough to take her to church and give her the right
to pick his pockets. Still, she'll likely get most of it.
MOTHER AND SON
You don't seem to know which side your bread's but
Norma's heart ached and she hung her head in
shame. Presently she said timidly : " Would you mind,
mother, if I went to see father ? I'm not going to speak
to him about this, unless he mentions it first. And if I
do say anything, it'll be to try to bring him to you."
Sophy, with no more power to persist in anger than
in any other exertion, seized gratefully upon this offer.
" I know none of my children would act any way but
honorable," said she. " They've been too well brought
up." And now she wept again. " When I think how
I carried and bore and watched over his children O
my God ! Why hast Thou punished 'me ? "
Norma knelt beside her mother. " Mother dear,"
she pleaded softly, " if father is what you say,
wouldn't you be better off without him? Wouldn't he
be only a torment to you ? "
" I've thought of that," conceded Sophy, trapped
into candor. Then, remembering her pose and her
principles, she pushed her daughter away and burst out
again : " How dare you suggest such a thing, Norma
Murdock! He's my husband! He's mine I And have
you no sense of shame ? Don't you care anything about
scandal? You talk like those trash along the river front
that are always getting into the divorce courts."
" I was only trying to imagine what I'd do in the
" You wait till Joe goes off after another woman ;
then we'll see what you'll do ! "
" I'm sorry I said that," apologized Norma, not be
cause she was in the least affected by a suggestion so
preposterous, but to stay the storm.
" Oh, that woman, that woman ! " Sophy was pa-
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
cing the floor, her face distorted with fury. " I'll drag
her down. I'll disgrace her. I'll have her thrown into
Rage, even the most righteous, cannot but affect
the spectator painfully. Norma had been by years of
daily sight used to thinking of her father and mother
as related only through their children, had been forced
in spite of herself to see that her mother was far from
the dawning day's more enlightened ideal of womanhood,
was of the older generation's less exacting type, while
her father had kept pace with the world's swift develop
ment. Nor could she, though by no means the most crit
ical of daughters, deny that her mother had refused, re
sisted even, the best possible opportunities to progress
and develop. Yet Norma was no partisan to her father ;
his abrupt and rude proposal shocked her more and
more profoundly, as she reflected on it. " He'd never
be doing this if he hadn't been infatuated and edged on
by another woman," she said to herself. Women, what
ever they may say for men's benefit, all share in the
feminine delusion of sex vanity that the woman alone is
responsible for the ensnared male; Norma felt that her
mother's characterization of Juliet Raeburn was hardly
exaggerated. " Only a bad woman," thought she,
** ever so much as looks at another woman's husband."
Yes, her mother was right ; this woman was entrapping
her father for his money only. But how could he, the
strong, the noble, permit himself to be dragged into
an intrigue? That mystery shook her faith in all men,
strengthened her honeymoon-born suspicion that love, as
men understood and felt it, was a vastly different emo
tion from what she had been thinking, was coarser, less
elevated and elevating, was perhaps degrading. First,
Joe ; now, her own father " I feel as if I were on the
MOTHER AND SON
verge of some horrible discovery," she thought, sick at
Sophy's ravings were gradually subsiding, as Norma
sat dumb, lost in the black fog of her own thoughts, and
so gave her no fresh fuel. " Your turn'll come," her
mother was now saying to her. " You won't be new
and fresh forever. A few years, and you'll look back
on to-day, on your heartlessness, and be ashamed of it."
A shudder of disgust went through Norma. If that
were love, all of love, then she would despise the man
who felt it, would feel abased by having inspired and
submitted to it. Charley now came in, swelling and
swaggering. " I've been thinking it over, mother," he
at once began. " And it seems to me, if he wants to go,
the best thing for us to do is to make him get out quick.
I can never again feel toward him as a fellow should feel
toward his father. And you must despise him. Every
time you looked at him, you'd think of the vile thoughts
going on in his head."
" He's been led away by that low woman," insisted
Sophy, dismayed by the defection of her one sure ally.
" Don't you believe it, mother," said Charley author
itatively, in his innocence of the workings of woman na
ture. " I was out there in the woods with them, and the
very minute she found out he was a married man, she
froze up. And before that, she positively kept out of his
way out of our way, I mean. We had to force ourselves
on her, almost. I tell you, it's his fault nobody else's."
" You don't understand women, you little fool," re
torted his mother angrily. " That was part of her cun
ning. Women can always make idiots of the men if they
Charley was forced to abandon that point, though
unconvinced. " Anyhow if if he wants to go, whyj
OLD WIVES FOB NEW
let him! Good riddance! He's never been much in
this house, anyhow always thinking about his business
shut up in the library in the evenings. No, he'll not
Sophy and her daughter glanced furtively at each
other; both reddened, as each thus surprised the other
in the same thought that the house itself, its luxury,
all the luxury which had enswathed them, all the money
which had been promptly supplied to gratify their
smallest material fancy, to provide education for the
children, and the social environment that was regarded
as the best all, all had been supplied by the man whom
this boy was now saying " never amounted to much in
this house." In the strained silence Charley had time to
reflect, saw his own blunder.
" Of course, he has provided for us," he hastened to
add. " But the law and public opinion would have com
pelled him to do that, if he had tried to get out of it."
" Indeed it would ! " exclaimed Sophy, with a tri a
umphant look at her daughter. " You can't even put
forward that excuse for him."
" Has Norma been trying to excuse him ? " cried her
brother, turning on his sister with a frown. He now felt
himself the head of the family and the arbiter of its
"No, I haven't," retorted Norma hotly. "But
mother is trying to make out that I have, because I can't
forget he's my father." Her indignation swelled.
" Yes, he is my father, and since you force me to say it,
mother, I can't but feel that if you had done your
share, this would never have occurred."
The instant the words, so useless, so unwise, were
out, she repented them. Her mother and her brother
trained upon her the lowering look for the traitor.,
MOTHER AND SON
" Turned against your own mother ! " sneered Charley.
" Shame on you, Norma ! Shame ! "
" Instead of trying to make matters worse between
father and mother, hadn't you better try to heal the
" Matters couldn't be worse. Father has forfeited
all claim on us," retorted her brother loftily. " If you
had real good sense, you'd see it's impossible for matters
ever to be again as they were. All mother can do is
what she's going to do refuse to get a divorce from
him. He can't get one from her. So there'll be no
public scandal, and things'll go on just as they are he
an outcast from us."
All at once it burst upon Norma what it was they
were thus frankly discussing the rending apart of the
bonds that are the sacredest, the destruction of the
home. And they were dissecting the situation, not with
aching, mourning hearts, but with anger and recrimina
tion and mental reservations of repulsive materialism.
She hid her face in her hands. " Oh," she moaned,
" this is frightful. Frightful ! " Yes, the foundations
of their family life must have been flimsy and rotten,
thus easily to give way. And again her sympathy went
out to her father. " He's going because he can't stand
it any longer. If it hadn't been Juliet Raeburn, it'd
have been some other woman, sooner or later. And
maybe she, bad though she must be, will give him
something better than he's been getting here." And
now she pressed hard against the door of her mind to
keep back the thoughts that were trooping in, their
ugly disloyal faces smirking thoughts of how her
mother had degenerated in mind and in looks ever since
she could remember; thoughts of the confusion and
slovenliness and wastefulness of her mother's housekeep-
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
ing ; pictures of her father again and again starting an
outburst of exasperated protest and suppressing his
anger and going away that he might not be tempted
to set a bad example to the children. And there, before
her eyes, sat her mother, her own self's arch accuser
her mother, slovenly in dress, indifferent to all that must
be incessantly seen to if intimate life is not to degen
erate toward the sty and the den. Norma, saying in
a suffocating voice, as excuse for leaving, " I'll be
back," fled the room.
" I hate myself ! I hate myself ! " she muttered.
"Mother'd not have been like that if lie had done his
best to keep her what a wife should be. It's his fault,
for he has the better mind and the stronger character.
He hasn't done his duty as a man, and, like a coward,
he's skulking from the consequences." Yet was it just
deeply to blame him? He had had his own part, the
living, to look after. She had let him outgrow her, was
bitter because he, too, was not a rotter. In flying from
her wasn't he only human? ... It was all appalling and
repulsive to her and most repulsive was her own dis
loyal self, criticising her parents. Of the many penal
ties for having a thinking mind, not the least heavy is
its refusal to bow to illusions, however satisfying, how
FATHER AND DAUGHTER
RUSHING forth in flight from herself, she sought in
stinctively the little summer pavilion, overhanging the
river and the valley. Not until she was in its very en
trance did she see that some one was there before her
her father, his hands clasped behind his back, his erect
figure rigid, his gaze fixed upon the horizon. At the
sound of her foot upon the threshold, he slowly turned.
!At sight of her his expression changed to one that smote
upon her heart. She had inherited many of his mental
characteristics, but physically she was her mother at
seventeen ; and before him there rose a vision, shaken
wholly free from the dust of long years of oblivion and
bright and distinct as at its first appearance the vision
of Sophy advancing through the tall grass of the
meadow, her flowerlike face radiant with the light that
streams upon the beautiful human countenance only in
life's morning. The other hours of a life even down to
evening's dusk may have each its own kind of charm;
but none is so altogether lovely as that first full morn
ing hour when day closes the dark door of night be
hind her and stands forth with the dew sparkling in
" Father ! " murmured Norma, half stretching out
her arms to him.
The look of pain shifted and his face became immo-
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
bile again. If his wife had been dead, that vision of
her youth would have lingered, might perhaps have be
come a permanent fixed illusion with him for we usu
ally remember the dead at their best. But Sophy was
a living fact; and to remember what she had been was
to shrink the more coldly from what she was, as the
falseness of a found-out friend is aggravated by the
recollection of the feelings he once inspired in us. Death
alone can expiate a violated ideal.
" Father ! " Norma repeated appealingly.
His face softened again. A slight smile, amused,
cynical, hovered over the sternness of his eyes and lips.
" You have seen your mother," he said, seating himself,
" And your brother."
A long pause ; then he : " I count on your good sense
to keep you from doing or saying things that will en
courage your mother in hysterics for the benefit of
others. I have not acted without reflection. What she
and I are about to do is the best possible course for us
both, is as necessary to her comfort as to my happiness.
We both realize that the present conditions are intoler
able. There is but the one solution. Fortunately, it is
complete and entirely satisfactory. If you came, as
Charley did, to discuss the matter with me, I wish to
tell you discussion is useless."
" It's none of our business, father." Wistfully,
" If only there were some way to avoid the the gossip
" That rests with your mother."
" Won't you see her again, father ? Won't you tallc
with her again ? " -
He reflected before inquiring, "Why do you ast it?, "
FATHER AND DAUGHTER
" Because I think It was nothing she said, sim
ply an instinct that she'll talk more calmly now now
she has had a chance to to get used to the idea."
He reflected again. " I'll be in the library the rest
of the day. There's a good deal of straightening out
of papers to be done. If she wishes to see me, I'll go
There was no sign of dread of the strain of an in
terview. Evidently he felt that he was simply con
ducting a business negotiation with some one in whom
he had no personal interest. Norma saw this ; but it
gave her no shock, no sense that her father was hard.
Instead, it somehow justified him; how could he, so
generous, so responsive to her own love for him, feel
thus toward his wife unless there were reason for it?
It seemed to her he, the strong and the clear-sighted,
was simply brushing aside the cobwebs of conven
tion from the affair, the misleading veilings of what
conventionality prescribed as the " proper " thoughts