He was hopeful, yet afraid, too, that they would ob
serve the change in him. There was no reason for se
crecy. To love the daughter of prosperous Joel Baker,
owner of many hundred acres, and so shrewd a manager
and so good a worker of his wife and sons and daughters
and outside help, both male and female, that he was
renter of many hundreds more to love Sophy Baker
would not rouse opposition at his uncle's or at home in
Indianapolis. He was proud of his new and mighty sen
sations, of his discovery that there was in matter a soul,
tangible, alive, no vague unreality like the soul that was
part of religion. But somehow he could not talk of these
things, though he was bursting with them ; they seemed
the secrets of a sacred order of which he had taken the
At sight of his cousin Ellen, carrying a huge glass
pitcher of milk to the table to set it between a vast plat
ter of corn bread and a vaster platter heaped high with
fried chicken at sight of her, similar in figure and in
coloring to the w r onderf ul being who had evoked the reso
lute, passionate spirit of manhood within him, he felt
the blood rush to his heart, then in mad torrent to his
brain. On his face was again the sweet sting of her soft
hesitating kisses. He looked round, fearful lest he had
been observed. But the men his uncle with a great
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
beard like a prophet's, his big, hulking, husky cousins,
and the eighteen slouching, awkward harvest hands
had eyes for the table only. The women his aunt,
with the sweet, tired face and the air of refinement that
made his uncle still in awe of her after thirty years of
the most practical married life, the four handsome,
hearty girls who were his cousins, and the three women
from neighboring farms called in to help the women
were too intent upon the wants of those twenty-one vast
appetities to note the faint outward signs of enormous
inward perturbation in " that youngest boy of Joe Mur-
dock's Joe that went away to Indianapolis and got
Next to work, there is no inspirer of appetite like the
example of a horde of hungry workers. The bees were
still busy among the grapes overhead ; a wasp or a mud-
dauber flew in and darted out, now and then ; the even
ing song of the birds filtered down through the broad
leaves of the vines like the voice of the wine locked
away in the round, ripe, rich blue grapes. But none
of those ravenously hungry eaters spoke; wrestling
with the great emotions, the great appetites, man is
When all had eaten until they could eat no more, his
uncle coughed loudly and stood. They knew the mean
ing of that signal and pushed back their chairs and
stood also. Then the old farmer said grace, ending with
a tremendous amen that made the birds whose nests were
in the eaves just above the arbor dart from home and
flap away with cries of alarm. In those regions and in
those days, endless were the developments of individual
ity about its one opportunity religion. Everyone else
said grace before meals ; his uncle insisted that after the
meal was the proper, the only time, that it was insincere,
not to say impious, to give thanks in advance of the
benefit. While grace was saying, the young man's
eyes had been roving. Through a break in the leafy wall
he saw a house far away across the valleys. It was white
like his uncle's, and almost as large. The setting sun
was reflecting from its windows in a glory of rosy golden
" Whose house is that on the crest of the second
hill to the east?" he asked his cousin Amanda, in the
pause after his uncle's thunderous amen.
* Joel Baker's. He's an old crank. But you ought
to see his daughter Sophy. My, she's a beauty. She
knows it, and she's got a selfish disposition and an empty
head, and is as lazy as the law allows. But the men
don't mind that."
" To hear you, I'd think she'd stole your beau," said
young Murdock shrewdly.
Amanda laughed disagreeably. " How'd you guess,
Charles ? " Then, with a shrug of her fine shoulders,
" I didn't really care for him or you can bet she'd not
have got him away. And what I said was so, even if it
was spiteful. It takes a mighty foolish woman to lie
about another woman to a man. What's the use lying,
when there's always so much to tell that's true? Wait
till you see her. She's not a bit your style. She don't
know a thing, except how to stir up the boys."
A sharp, shooting pang of jealousy. He watched
those flaming windows till they grew dark, watched the
house till it faded into the black of the night. And all
the time he was seeing her as plainly as if she were be
fore his eyes, was feeling her as thrillingly as if her
bosom were fluttering against his chest like the soft
smooth wings of a white bird, soft yet firm white wings,
crimson at their arches.
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
The night was hot and close ; yet the sky was clear,
and he thought he had never seen so many stars. In
stead of going to bed, he crept down the stairs and
out by the unlocked back door. On cots under the wood
shed near the house the harvest hands were sleeping
noisily. He went through the garden gate and across
the potato patch, and the melon patch, and through the
orchard keeping due east, where he knew her house
was. He skirted the dark wood of the first hollow, fol
lowed the road to the brickkilns until he came to the
bridge over the creek above the fall.
" Yes, that was what I came for," he said to himself,
turning aside to go along the bank of the creek. The
trees were thick overhead now, and the air was moist
and cool. There was something beautiful and friendly
in the shapes that seemed to peer from the deep dusk on
either side the dusk not so deep that he could not
clearly make out the creek foaming along as if practic
ing for the joyous abandon of its approaching tumble
of half a hundred feet. He descended, moss under his
feet, thickets of fern about him. Soon he was at the
pool beneath the falls, the pool into which the creek
leaped with a musical shout that drowned every other
sound. He was seeking the ledge where one could stand
and be showered and drenched by full half the mass of
falling water. He had just reached the outer edge of
the long flat stone, was still several yards away from
even the spray of the waterfall, when he drew back with
a sharp exclamation. Some one was there before him.
It was so dark that at first he could see only a sway
ing elusive outline. As his eyes strained and stretched
to take in every particle of the light, he saw, as in a
clouded mirror, the whole figure. " Sophy ! " he ex
claimed under his breath.
His eyes devoured that misty vision of a water sprite,
free and fair and unearthly, the spirit of the cascade.
Then he came to himself ; and, white and shaking, as if he
had seen a ghost, he fled up the road he had descended.
When he reached the bridge again, he sat on its rail and
waited, the noise of his rushing blood mingled with the
noise of the rushing water. After a long time, when
the moon was sailing high above the treetops, was shin
ing full upon him, he saw a movement at the entrance
to the path. He stood, turned so that his face was clear
in the moonlight. Her figure advanced out of the dark
ness. He went forward.
"Is it you, Sophy?"
" Oh ! " she exclaimed, her hand on her heart. " I
thought I was dreaming or that that you had died
and had come to say good-by." She clung to him, sob
" What are you doing here ? " he asked.
" I was down to the fall," she explained. " It was so
hot, and I couldn't sleep. I don't know what's the mat
ter with me. I feel so queer. I'm happy and sad, both
at once. I sing a while, then I burst out crying and
I'm sad as I sing and happy as I cry."
She was gazing up at him, a wistful look in her azure
eyes that shone in such splendor in the moonlight. He
pushed off the cap that bound her hair. A shower of
silvery gold suddenly enveloped her shoulders. " Oh,
Sophy ! Sophy ! I love you ! " he cried, and he buried his
face in her hair, and through its soft veil kissed her cool,
" I love you," she echoed softly. And she kissed him
" Will you marry me, Sophy ? "
" Why, of course," she answered. " What else can
OLD WIVES FOR 'NEW
we do but get married? I couldn't think of anything
but being your wife."
The word " wife " thrilled him so that he trembled
from head to foot. Oh, youth of fire and passion, youth
that has the strength and the courage and the innocence
to feel ! " My wife," he said, and repeated, " My wife."
That word meant all this beauty his, forever his, forever
to shine clear and bright as a sunset planet upon his life,
forever to burn in his veins, inspiring him to do and
dare everything, anything, to fulfill all the audacities of
" I felt it'd be that way as soon as I heard of you,'*
she went on. " My sister saw you the day you came,
and she said you were different from the boys round
here. And I thought you were the one I was waiting for.
Often, the last year or two, I've waked up with a start
because in a dream somebody had called ' Sophy, I love
you ! ' and kissed me. But I never could make out what
he looked like. It was you I know it was. I went to
sleep as soon as ever I got into bed to-night. And it
was you, plain as now, that woke me up."
"With a kiss?"
" With a kiss."
" Like this? " And their lips met.
They drew apart, hot yet shivering. " Sophy !
Sophy ! " he murmured.
" I was afraid, when I saw you at first to-day," she
went on. " You looked so so smart as if you were
full of the big books they say you read all the time.
Then there's a spark comes in your eyes when you look
at me Yes, I see it plain. It's like a little a little
star only it seems to burn out at me burn into me.
I saw it the first time you looked at me up there in the
meadow, and I didn't feel a bit afraid. I don't need to
know anything. You know enough for us both, don't
" You know how to make me I burn whenever I
look at you, Sophy. And I feel so bold, and so afraid,
" When I stood out under the water to-night down
there and it came tumbling down on me and seemed
to take hold of me everywhere It was like you. It
was fierce, but soft, too. And I called out your name."
" Just as the moon rose? "
She glanced quickly at him, hid her face in her
He drew her closer to him. " Aren't you mine, So
phy all mine ? "
In the dusk before dawn he went with her to the
gate at the end of the grove of cedars before her father's
house. In the shadow of the great lilac bushes there,
they lingered until the loud, hoarse salute of the roos
ters to the new day startled them apart, sent her hurry
ing into the house, sent him off toward home, marching
proudly erect. To those born with that in them which
had looked from his eyes since babyhood, life is no net
work of casual paths ; it is a definite road along which
they press steadily from purpose to purpose. He had
entered its first stretch ; he had his first purpose ; he had
begun to live.
EVERY American city and large town now has its
newly built district, where live the families thrust up
into affluence because their bread winners had the sagac
ity or the slyness to be among the lions in the divid
ing of the last quarter century's unwieldy riches through
the sudden development of the sciences and the swift mul
tiplying of the population. In middle western Saint
Christopher " Saint X," as it is always called to save
breath and time this newly built district for the newly
rich is on the bluffs that in winter frown and in summer
smile down upon the city. Parts of it the Whitney
castle at Point Helen, for example, or the vast rambling
Eyrie of John Dumont are grandiose, indeed. Most
of it is the more or less luxurious country places of
families of smaller incomes or of less advanced " culture."
It is one of these a square, brick house trimmed
with Indiana limestone that we enter just as the wait
ress parlor maid, capless and with none too clean apron
over none too fresh black dress, sends the tintinnabula
tions of the dinner bell resounding out upon the verandas
and up the well through which the front stairway
ascends. As the sound dies away a boy, in fashionable
summer dinner suit of gray well off the black, rises from
a hammock on the front veranda. He leans upon the
railing, looks down the grassy slope toward the there
not-distant edge of the bluffs toward a summer house
where a girl a year or so older than he sits gazing out
over the river, absorbed in evening dreams.
" Norma ! . . . Norma ! . . . Nor-ma ! . . . Norma Mur-
The girl sighs, rises, turns. None could deny her
beauty; the critical would add the unpleasant but un
deniable truth that it was of the sort likely soon to be
eclipsed behind the homeliness of fat unless guarded as
carefully and intelligently as one must guard any other
of the winged treasures of life. But, standing there in
the seductive glory of her just seventeen years, she was
exquisite. " What is it, Charley ? " she called.
" Dinner ! Stop dreaming about Joe Degarmo, and
come in and feed ! "
She colored, laughed, gathered in the trailing skirt
she was not yet expert at managing, came running up the
path and her run was not the awkward, cowlike gait
of the old-fashioned girl who never ran when she could
walk and never walked when she could ride; it was, on
the contrary, as graceful a dash as her handsome athletic
brother could make. When she stood beside him in the
broad entrance, he surveyed her with patronizing ap
proval. " Gad, Norma," said he, " it does you good to
be in love. You certainly are about the prettiest ever.
You're a dead ringer for the picture of mother when she
was your age."
As he made this remark the door to the left opened
and there appeared a youngish man in an unassuming
business suit. There was a sprinkle of gray in his
rather fair, slightly waving hair, quite a streak of it at
his left temple ; it strengthened the impression of youth
because it framed an unwrinkled face and clear and
ardent eyes. In the mouth its firmness, its lines of will
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
and achievement experience was more distinctly hinted.
A typical American face resourceful, courageous, self-
reliant ; the relentless pursuit of the fixed purpose, miti
gated by kindliness and the saving sense of humor.
" Isn't she, father? " said the boy, appealing to him.
The boy was evidently the son of the man a superficial
copy of a masterly original.
Murdock came out of his abstraction, looked at his
daughter with a fascinating lighting up of the keen
gray eyes that made him seem even younger. " Isn't
she what? "
" Like that picture of mother taken at her age."
The smile vanished; he scanned his daughter, face
and form, narrowly, anxiously. " Very," replied he
curtly and coldly. Then as the two stared at him and
at each other in astonishment, he added in his ordinary
calm, rather indolent voice, " Where's your mother? "
" Here I am," came from the head of the stairs in a
slow, plaintive tone with a note of vague discontent in 1
it, but withal musical, sweet, youthful.
There descended toward them a woman whose appear
ance was a somehow irritating disappointment of the
expectations raised by the voice. She was young, was
in a way handsome even. But there was an unyouthful
breadth to her cheeks, to her bosom, to her arms and hips,
a distinctly elderly caution and ponderousness of step.
It was instantly apparent that this was because feet and
ankles were far too small for body. In fact, her feet
and her hands, her wrists and ankles, slender, delicate,
in themselves most attractive, had a suggestion of ab
normality, so out of proportion to her body were they.
It was unpleasant, almost painful, to recognize this
portly and sedate person, in rustling, much-trimmed
black silk, as the lithe embodiment of youth and love who
flitted through the odorous shadows of Joel Baker's
lilacs. The lines of grace and symmetry were still there,
though woefully obscured; and in a setting of features
less heavy the eyes, young and soft and azure, would still
have been glorious. It being particularly difficult for
a " sizable " woman to array herself becomingly, Mrs.
Murdock, slowly descending, looked more bulky than she
really was, and uncomfortable and dressed up, to boot.
The beaded trimming about her shoulders seemed to
stoop them; the heavy, rich black silk was of the kind
that makes the dresses that will stand alone, the kind that
used to be regarded as the last word upon elegance, the
necessary " best dress " of the married woman of the
prosperous class. Her abundant hair was primly sleeked
and gathered in a heavy shiny roll at the back of her
head. In the contrast between her appearance her
dress, air, look out of the eyes and that of the other
three members of the family, there was at once a con
tinuation and an explanation of the queer commingling
of old-fashioned farmhouse crudity and new-fashioned
costly luxury that met the eye on every side within the
The impatient children rushed on into the dining
room with its country painter's frescoings and its costly
rosewood furniture. Murdock waited at the foot of the
stairway. If there had chanced to be with him some man
friend who had not seen Sophy since her wedding day
and had never happened to note how often the charms of
a bride hardly outwear her trousseau, he would have
found it difficult to believe Murdock's expression of sim
ple waiting not a veil for chagrin, perhaps anger. How
ever gradual these changes might have been, how could
even a husband's partial eyes readjust to them without
acute distress, recurring each time he saw again? No
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
more years had elapsed for the one than for the other.
If her life had been by chance hard, had not his life
been one of incessant toil? Why then the changes in
him all for the better, the changes in her all the other
When her slow pace had brought her almost down,
he said: " How are you this evening, Sophy? Better? "
" The headache a little better," replied she. " But
the neuralgia's worse. Nobody ever will know what I'm
suffering. But then I'm used to it. Women were made
to suffer, I suppose."
" You certainly have had a hard time ever since the
beginning of last winter." His manner perhaps sug
gested that his was the somewhat mechanical sympathy
of those whose sympathy has been heavily overdrafted.
" Last winter ! " cried she angrily. " You know
very well I've never had a single really comfortable day
since Charley was born I might say since Norma. But
then what can a woman expect? How can a man appre
ciate what she goes through in carrying children and
bringing them into the world? "
Murdock seemed as abashed by this the thousandth
reminder, at least, of the horrors of maternity as he had
been the first time it had put him down ; for, the woman
who uses this weapon always contrives to poison its barbs
with the intimation that the man was wholly, deliberately
and wickedly to blame for those horrors, and could hardly
atone by lifelong contrition on his knees.
Sophy was of those classified by the casual as " good-
natured " because of the widespread delusion about the
relationship between girth and good nature. Indeed,
until the previous winter she had not been bad-tempered.
But then the long gathering punishment for her indolent
and self-indulgent mode of life had tardily begun ; and
now the drooping corners of her mouth and the line of
temper above her straight delicate nose were surer indi
cations of her character than her generous expanses
or even than the sweet, low voice with its note of plain
A woman of the familiar type familiarly known as
" settled." Plainly, she regarded her life as past its
climax ; and the stage of physical and mental deteriora
tion, indicated in slovenly corpulence, in carelessness of
toilet, in stale, monotonous expression of eyes, proclaimed
that she had been of this mind for some time, several
years at least. Indeed, she bore suspicious resemblance
to those not rare women to whom the matrimonial altar
is the topmost tip of feminine ambition, is the high-water
mark up to which the tide of feminine life flows ever
fuller and beyond which it abruptly ebbs. To glance
from her to her husband was to have the impulse to com
miserate them both and to wonder. For, it was as ob
vious as her having ceased to live and having begun a
long placid death of the dry rot that the man to whom
she was married stood just at the beginning of the age
The conquests of active life, peace no less than war,
rest chiefly upon youth's cardinal quality, audacity, and
little upon intellect. The intellectual achievements, the
consolidating of what youth's daring has won into solid
structure of power, do not begin until forty or there
abouts ; for then the mind enters its period of greatest
dexterity and strength, the judgment is formed, the am
bitions and appetites are at their most clamorous. With
a yokemate who was not a helpmate, with a partner
who was not a companion, with a wife who could neither
appeal to nor appease the gorgeously imaginative pas
sions that flamed for Sophy, slim sprite of the fields
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
and the waters, Charles Murdock was entering life's
As soon as this family of four was at table, the boy
began upon his sister again : " And Joe old enough to
be your father ! "
" I want a husband," retorted the girl, " not a child
to raise. I can't bear little boys except you, Charley.
They're so silly and ignorant."
" What an unnatural child you are, Norma ! " rebuked
her mother. " Wherever did you get such ideas ? And
you with your first long skirt I let you have that only
because it didn't seem proper for a girl in short dresses
to be engaged. But young people ought to be young.
When your father and I were young we didn't act like
" Why, father's still young," cried Charles Junior,
with the brutality of the tactless boy.
A flush overspread the faces of both the husband and
the wife. The husband hung his head in apologetic
silence ; the wife burst out : " You know your father's
several years older than I am." As she spoke she
glanced at him and felt moved to add still more crossly :
" Oh, I admit I don't look young any more. That's the
curse of being a woman. The woman has all the heavy
burden of care and suffering and anxiety, and it wears
her out." Her eyes flared somberly at her husband ; his
expression of discomfort deepened.
" Pity about you, mother," teased her son.
" Charles ! " exclaimed Sophy in sharp appeal to
her husband. " Do you sit silent and let your son talk
this way to his mother? "
Murdock came out of pretended abstraction. " What
was it, Sophy?" asked he. "I didn't hear. I was
thinking about business matters."
" Of course ! " said Mrs. Murdock, in resigned dis
gust. " It seems to me a man might leave his business
when he comes home to his family. It sets the chil
dren such a bad example. No wonder they fail in proper
respect to me."
" I'm very sorry." Murdock's tone was contrite,
out of all proportion to the apparent seriousness of the
incident; Sophy and the children were astonished and
" We were talking about Joe Degarmo," explained
Charley to Charles. " I was telling Norma she ought
to be ashamed of herself to get engaged to a man who
looks older than you do."
" There you go again ! " cried his mother. " Will
you stop him, or won't you, father? "
At the word " father " Norma and the boy burst
out laughing. " It does sound queer especially just
now for you to call the governor by such a venerable
name," said the boy. " Why, Norma'll have to call her
Sophy tossed her head and pursed her lips. " I've
been opposed to this engagement from the first," declared
she. " It's indecent yes, indecent. A husband and
a wife should be near an age, and should get old
" Stay young together," suggested Norma dreamily.
" No ! " retorted her mother. " It isn't proper for
the heads of a family to act and look like children."
Norma's lips closed firmly to press back the eager
retort. Sophy went on : "I don't know what the
world's coming to. Everything your father and I were
brought up to respect is being laughed at and despised.
They call it improvement, but I say it's the road to