ruin. What's this, Mary ? Washington pie? Oh, dear !
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
Didn't I tell you to tell the cook not to have these things
any more? They're so fattening" crossly "and she
knows I can't resist."
Mrs. Murdock helped herself liberally to the Wash
ington pie, her eyes eager, her mouth petulant. Char
ley winked at his sister; she frowned at him. Both
glanced at their father. He was gazing at his wife,
and he continued to gaze as she ate the Washington pie
in silence and content. His expression was so strange
a mixture of amusement and some other emotion, not
definable but quite different, that Norma, the observant,
felt a queer sensation at the heart. Presently he lowered
his eyes and resumed his usual abstraction.
Charley happened to observe the waitress. As soon
as she withdrew he said : " Lizzie's serving without her
cap again. And she looks mussy and frowzy."
" You'd better mind your own business, young
man," retorted his mother. " How can I see to every
little thing when I'm nearly crazy with pain ? "
" I wasn't thinking of you, mother," protested Char
ley. " I was blaming the housekeeper."
" Mrs. Theron has been busy waiting on me."
" She's n. g.," insisted the boy. " I've been home
only three days, but I've found that out. The house
is almost as bad as before you hired her."
" I never heard of such impudence ! " cried Sophy.
" Next thing you'll be criticising the food, and "
" It is pretty bum," said he. " Ain't it, Norma? "
" Do shut up ! " exclaimed Norma.
" Everybody, except my own family," pursued
Sophy, " admits I'm about the best housekeeper in
Saint X. Mrs. Theron does what I tell her to do. As
she often says, she never began to learn how to keep
house till she came here and saw how I did it."
" She's a worthless old toady."
" If you can't behave yourself," interrupted Mur-
dock sternly, " you'll have to leave the dining room.
We've had nothing but bickerings at this table since
you came home."
" Please don't correct the boy so harshly," said
Sophy plaintively. " Never rebuke temper in tem
per, mother used to say."
A long silence; then Charley asked Norma,
" When does Joe get back? "
" To-morrow, I think," replied she.
" Do have some of the pie, Norma," urged he.
" Don't be afraid of your precious complexion."
" No, thank you."
" Well, I will or mother'll take it all." And he
laughed alone and boisterously at his joke. Sophy
bridled, but did not again call upon her husband.
After dinner he immediately withdrew to the li
brary. In a few minutes Norma came seeking him,
found him at the farthest of the three long French
windows giving on the veranda and commanding a
wide sweep of hillls and valleys and sinuous river. At
the sound of her rustling, he turned, a frown added
to his sternness or rather somberness from his inter
rupted thoughts. Her timidity he was in the mood
to note everything sent a sharp pang through him.
"Why do you look at me like that?" he said, direct
and unconsciously peremptory.
She shrank not so much through actual fear, for she
was not afraid of him, as through that feeling of diffi
dence which men long accustomed to successful sway over
their fellows cannot but inspire, even in each other.
" I beg your pardon," he exclaimed. " I I "
He could not explain; so he added: "Please tell me
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
why you looked at me like " He was smiling now
that winning, youthful smile of his.
" Like what ? " asked Norma, confused by this
" As if you were afraid I'd eat you alive." And
he laughed boyishly.
" You you always make everybody feel afraid
like a a " She glanced up at him, her eyes wa
vering between his haughty but graceful rather than
harsh Roman nose and his thick, clean and vital-looking
fair hair, one lock of which hung stubbornly down
upon his brow. She burst into smiles " a lion that's
condescending to be sociable, but may change his mind
at any moment."
He reflected her amusement, not wholly losing his
first expression of wistfulness. " But I never did
change my mind, did I ? "
" No and I know you won't. But Somehow
Well, you make people look to their ps and qs. Oh,
I like it," she hastened to explain. " As Joe says, it's
your mark of superiority the sign you belong to the
aristocracy of men. And they all say you were that
way, even as a boy."
A sad satirical smile played over his features. He
was remembering that, even as a boy, he had never had
real friends, equal friends, only followers. He could
not see that he had ever done anything, as boy or
man, to make his fellows afraid, to put himself aloof
and, indeed, he had not. His thoughts came back
to his daughter. " Well what do you want ? " in
quired he, good-humoredly.
She stood beside him in the window and looked up
at him remorsefully. " I never do come except when
I want something, do I? "
" Naturally not," replied he. And he excused her
to herself, and to himself, with " A busy man soon
gets everyone into the habit of letting him alone when
they've no business with him."
He saw that she was turning on her finger a ring
set with two huge stones, a diamond and a pearl. " Is
there nothing in the world but business ? " she asked
softly, her eyes down and upon her ring.
His expression of sadness deepened. He stood in
one of his frequent attitudes hands crossed behind his
back, head a little to one side and forward, eyes pierc
ing into the horizon, lips slightly compressed, the pow
erful muscles of his jaw contracting nervously. After
a heavy silence, he made an impatient gesture, like a
man exorcising a phantom or phantoms of folly.
" What did you want ? " he repeated. " Was it about
the Dumont place? "
" Yes," she confessed, with evident nervousness.
" You wish me to buy it? "
" What does your mother say? "
That released Norma's tongue. "She says she's too
far along to undertake the care of such a great place.
That's perfectly ridiculous. Why, she's younger than
Joe and the same age as Mrs. Berkeley, who's al
ways being taken for twenty-five. Yet she says she
belongs to a different generation from what we do.
She says in her day it wasn't respectable not to settle
down. She seems to think it's a crime for a woman to
have her looks or her figure five years after she's mar
A queer look flitted across Murdock's face, and fled.
Norma, feeling she had said too much, ended with,
" I don't think we ought to encourage her to give in
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
to age before it has hardly so much as glanced in her
Murdock abruptly changed the subject. "When
do you and Joe marry ? "
" Not for ages ! Not for eighteen months, at least.
I must come out first. And I did so want to have the
Dumont house to come out in. The caretaker let me
look it over the other day. There are six rooms on
the ground floor that can be thrown into one, practi
" I'll get the house, if Mrs. Scarborough will let
me have it at a reasonable figure," interrupted Mur
dock. " And when you and Joe marry if he doesn't
die of old age before the eighteen months the 'ages'
are up why, I'll give it to you as a wedding present.
Does that content you ? "
She turned impulsively and, her face radiant, was
about to throw herself into his arms. Never had he
seen her so startlingly like the picture of her mother
as bride. Murdock drew back. " Norma ! " he cried
sharply, in his eyes the terror of one who sees the
ghosts that none disputes the ghosts from the graves
he clasped her hands. " What is it? " she gasped.
"What did I do?"
He shook his head impatiently. " Nothing noth
ing," he said. And he put a hand on each of her
shoulders, gazed into her eyes with a tenderness and
pity that moved her almost to tears. " You're very
fond of Joe ? " he asked.
" I love him," she replied simply.
Murdock kissed her. She thought there were tears
in his eyes. " Tell your mother you'll take care of
the new house now, and relieve her of it altogether
when you marry." He kissed her again, his expression
sad and cynical and tender. " Be happy, child. Youth
is brief and joy is fleet." Then, repentantly, " I was
only joking. Of course you you and Joe will be
happy ages ! "
He turned away, thus indicating that she was free
to go and that he expected her to go. But she lin
gered. " What's the matter, father ? " she inquired.
" Has anything gone wrong? "
" Nothing," he assured her. " The contrary. To
day Berkeley and I completed the sale of the works,
and for the first time in my life I'm free ! " He
laughed, straightening his shoulders as if he liked to
remind himself that the harness was no longer binding
" I'm so glad ! " cried the girl. " Now you can
" So I can," said he with light irony. " I've been
in here all afternoon, thinking about it." The ab
stracted look came into his eyes. " Thinking ! I've
done precious little of it during these years of work
precious little. I've really had no time until to-day.
This afternoon I've been feeling as strange as a man
who has been doing a long sentence in the ' pen ' and
is out in the free air again." He glanced at Norma's
sympathetic, puzzled face. " I'm half inclined to go
back to the * pen ' and ask them to lock me up
again. There seems to be no place for me in the life
" I think I understand," said Norma reflectively.
" I hope you don't," replied he, with a queer laugh.
" Now run along."
When she had kissed him and was gone, he lit a
cigar and seated himself on the veranda and resumed
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
his thinking his survey of past, present, future.
All those years he had been doing with all his might
the task he had set for himself as soon as he discovered
that to live, in any true sense of the word, one must
be financially secure, independent. And now he had
completed his task, had earned his independence, his
freedom, had come out of the " pen." And, lo ! his
children were grown one of them about to marry
the other no longer at home, except for little stops be
tween visits during the brief school vacation and his
wife Well, she was a wife and what else was
there ? Either he must go back to the " pen " or make
a wholly new life for himself. What kind of a new life ?
The only kind he had had a chance to learn about
was that life of the " pen." Was there no other ? Was
there in all the world nothing to satisfy the longings
that were beginning to stir and to sprout within him?
Must he go back to his dreary, sordid task, his dollar-
chasing? " There must be something else something
worth while. What I need is a teacher, a helper." . . .
And he was all alone except Sophy. He did not even
think of her, so preposterous was the idea of appealing
to her to aid him in such a matter as discovering how
to use his powers to some purpose.
An hour two hours nearly three passed, he ob
livious of his surroundings. He was startled by
Sophy's voice, peevishly plaintive now : " Charles,
aren't you ever coming to bed?"
He glanced up like a rudely awakened sleeper. His
wife's form seemed to fill the doorway, and the beams
of the early setting moon upon her face revealed no
trace of the romantic beauty that had been hers. She
looked enormous in her loose white nightgown with a
kimono flung askew over it enormous and shapeless.
" You'd better have been in bed than sleeping in
your chair," she went on, frowning and fretful, and
accusing him of her own pet weakness. Indulgence
in it had just upset her temper and given her a slight
headache and set the neuralgia faintly to threatening.
He looked away. " She has sacrificed herself to
her children," he muttered in self-reproach at his
thoughts during the past hour, at their savagely crit
ical climax on sight of her. But the perverse voice
within him retorted, " Not so ! She has sacrificed her
beauty and your love to her indolence." He knew that
to blame a human being for not being different was
much like blaming an apple tree for not being a rose
bush ; so, he retorted upon his insurgent self : " Still,
she couldn't help it." Yet, by that same rule, how
could he blame himself for not being able to accept her
as she was, for not being, like her, " settled " ?
" The trouble with me," he reflected, " is that I'm
out of work. I must get in harness again. I must
" Do come to bed ! " railed Sophy, who had been
regarding him sourly. " You know how the lights
" Beg your pardon," apologized he, with an eager
and embroidered courtesy that disconcerted her.
He rose and followed her upstairs. Soon they were
asleep side by side as peaceful a picture of domestic
unity as the moon saw in its tour of the round world.
"WHAT ELSE is THERE ?'*
MTJRDOCK was off early next morning for New
York to join Tom Berkeley and sign the final papers
and receive the checks and securities. This business
was a matter of a few hours. But, instead of going
straightway home as he intended when he left, he lin
gered in New York.
"Why rush back?" said Tom. "You forget
you're free now. There's nothing to go back to."
" That's a fact," agreed Murdock.
" Except, of course, the family."
" Of course," said Murdock, with unnecessary;
haste and emphasis.
" And I don't think," Tom went on, " that your
family bothers you much more than mine does me. As
my wife often says she's mighty shrewd As she
often says, American men are a race of bachelors. It's
amusing to hear foreigners and these scrubby half-
males that do the scribbling talk about this country
as the paradise of women, as the place where the women
run everything. We do let the women run the chil
dren and the culture and the frivolous end of the
game. But when it comes to things worth while, the
women aren't in it. When I talk to my wife about
business or politics, it's just as if I was alone and
talking to myself to get a line on what I ought to do.
"WHAT ELSE IS THERE?"
She don't know the a b c's of practical affairs. That's
as it should be."
Murdock made no comment. If he had spoken, it
would have been simply to assent.
" The respectable women," proceeded Berkeley,
like a man feeling his way with another, " are the
steady round of the three plain square meals. The
others are the occasional banquet with French cooking
and several kinds of wine."
Murdock saw that Tom was breaking ground for
an attempt to induce him to join in the extremely un
conventional relaxations of which he had observed his
elderly ex-partner was becoming increasingly fond,
and in which he was indulging with rapidly accelera
ting boldness. As he had no intention, or inclination,
to enter this new partnership, he cut Tom off with
a curt, " Women don't interest me. I've forgotten
how to play games, and I'm too old and too tired to
" Well," said Tom, by way of dismissing the sub
ject for the time, " a man of leisure a gentleman
has got to pass the days and the evenings somehow.
Maybe, you'll find out that you aren't older than you
look, and aren't tired at all."
Indeed, while he was uttering the words, Murdock
was thinking how false they sounded. In that casual
way in which he observed matters not directly con
nected with his career, he had seen that his wife was
losing her youth; and he assumed that he himself was
" getting on," also. And all this had seemed natural
and proper because most of the people round about,
following the traditional unenlightened, unthinking
ways that lead to premature decrepitude, physical and
mental, were aging even more rapidly. But what
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
Charley and Norma said, coming just when he was in
the frame of mind to hear and to note, seemed to have
set him off in a new direction. He was watching un
easily, yet with growing fascination, the spring of
youth, of interest in the pleasures of youth, bubbling
up within him, now that the weight of business care
had been removed from its source. He was making
dutiful efforts to suppress it, like a monk who fights
against being a man. But his efforts only seemed to
demonstrate how futile his struggle was. On came the
spring sparkling flooding overflowing fields so
long fallow that he had thought them desert.
Perhaps the first symptom at any rate the first
that definitely disquieted him was finding his own eyes
following Berkeley's wandering glances at the expen
sive looking women who are seen in New York ever
more boldly and in ever-increasing numbers, in public
places. When he was a boy that sort of women were
a sorry lot of stealthy creatures, rarely seen in the
streets, visited only in secrecy; they were ignorant,
could appeal only to appetite in its coarsest, crudest
form, seldom saw respectable men not under the in
fluence of drink. Now
" How clean and neat these women are," said Mur-
dock to Tom, without suspecting his own deep hidden
train of thought.
" Very different from the respectable domestic
frumps, ain't they? " replied Tom, with no intent to
stab; for he saw Sophy rarely and only when she was
got up for company.
Murdock flushed, glanced quickly at Berkeley, was
These luxurious, elegant, expert women seemed to
have command of all the arts that appeal to the lighter
"WHAT ELSE IS THERE?"
side of man's nature. They were like fine wines could
be taken in whatever quantity the whim of desire hap
pened at the moment to demand as a gentle, exhil
arating stimulant, or as provokers and panders to the
frenzy of the debauch. They looked as if with them
the whole gamut of sensation could be run from the
most delicate subtle sensuousness refined as indulgence
in a taste for flowers or art or poetry, down and down,
and yet down. But his intelligence, aided by closer ob
servation of them, as they disported themselves in his
neighborhood, showed him that their range was limited,
very limited, would satisfy only the moods of such coarse
and undiscriminating tastes as those of his friend Berke
ley. After the first glance, at the second glance, he
penetrated their shallow shimmer, and they ceased more
than casually to attract him. But they had by no means
been uneifectual. They had moved him to wonder
vaguely whether there might not be a woman who could
tempt him a woman who did contain the whole gamut,
the appeal to every mood, a woman who was the sum of
all the delights, the woman he had dreamed as a boy.
And he admitted there might be such a one but not
He made another discovery that had immediate
and obvious results.
The Puritan idea as to sobriety of dress soon
lost its influence over woman. It interfered too seri
ously with her chief business, the winning of the male;
it cut too savagely into profits and possibilities of
profit in sundry and divers industries. But this idea
has not yet lost its hold upon the other sex, has been
vigorously assailed only within a very few years, at
least in America. Murdock had always accepted and
acted upon it, without giving the matter any thought
OLD WIVES FOE NEW
whatever. He inherited from his mother an unpuri-
tanic instinct for neatness and cleanness and against
that profound slovenliness which is hid beneath a sur
face shine. He adopted the custom of bathing every
day as soon as he heard of it, and he put bathrooms
into his house long before New York took up cleanli
ness as a fad. Also he gradually developed a sensi
tiveness about his linen and underclothing. But in
outward dress he conformed to the custom established
around him. Two years before, he took a valet, but
only because he happened to observe how much time
Berkeley's valet saved his master, and how much petty
annoyance. He ignored his valet's hints as to the
meagerness of his wardrobe; he assumed he had quite
as many and as good clothes as a sober, hard-work
ing, serious man of affairs could afford.
Now, however, he began to observe the rapid revo
lution in man's dress that came in America with the
sudden development of wealth and leisure. He saw
that all the Eastern men of his acquaintance, men as
important in affairs as he, men of far greater impor
tance, were most particular in dress that they gave
it more attention and spent more money on it than the
average woman of the prosperous classes out West.
He saw that not only was it not regarded as effemin
ate to be well dressed throughout, but also it was re
garded as a mark of crudeness, of vulgarity even, to
be badly or carelessly dressed. A few years before,
there had not been in New York's fashionable district
half a dozen shops for finery for men; now he saw al
most as many shops offering men's luxuries as shops
offering luxuries for women. And up rose within him
the progressive man's desire to keep abreast of the
times, to dress like the men of his time, not like those
"WHAT ELSE IS THERE?"
of the more provincial, more Puritanic era from
which New York had shaken itself free. He began to
shop to investigate, to discover, to order. The far
ther he went, the more interested he became, and the
more eager to surround himself with the attractive
comforts of which he, through inattention and igno
rance, had been depriving himself.
Education in these matters came as easily to Mur-
dock as one recalls a disused language one has once
known well. If he had thought about it and had been
of those who love fanciful explanations for common
place phenomena, he would have suspected himself of
having had royal ancestors, or of being a reincarna
tion of some classic voluptuary. But he was, in fact,
hardly conscious of what he was doing. It was his
habit to decide a course of action almost by intuition,
apparently, and to pursue it to its goal without argu
ment or reflection or deflection. He imagined he was
simply making rather extensive purchases to supply
too long neglected personal needs. In reality, he was
definitely breaking with his whole past. For, of those
external forces that combine to make us what we are,
dress is one of the most potent. It determines the
character of our associations, determines the influences
that shall chiefly surround and press upon us. It is
a covering for our ideas no less than for our bodies.
True, in changing his appearance Charles Murdock
was merely giving frank expression to his real per
sonality, which had all those years been latent and un
suspected even by himself. But it is also true that if
he had not thus given expression to it, given it a taste
of freedom from its lifelong Puritanic restraints, he
might easily have remained until the end what he
had so long seemed to be, and had always honestly
OLD WIVES FOR NEW
believed himself to be. Rarely, indeed, are our acts
that seem crucial and decisive really of any great
importance; and how often do the seeming trivialities
work the profound changes. Causes, the real causes,
must be sought with the microscope, not with the tele
The morning of his last day in New York he hesi
tated before the glass when he finished shaving. Then,
with color in his cheeks and embarrassed self-mockery
in his eyes, he lathered the mustache he had worn for
twenty years. A few strokes of the razor; the face
before him transformed. He gazed long at it, not in
vanity, though vanity would have been excusable, but
with a mingling of wonder, pleasure and dread. He
went to the handsome new leather traveling box on
the trunk rests at the foot of the bed. He lifted the
cover and from a pocket in its lining took a folded
photograph case the pictures of his wife and
their two children. He opened the case, stood it up
on the dressing table before him, studied the face of
The photographs must have been taken full five
years before, for the boy and the girl there were not in
their teens. But as early as the birth of the first baby
Sophy had discarded the enchantment that captured
him. The vanity of clothes and jewels she retained,
and, to the limit of her small knowledge and timid
ideas of spending money, fostered. That cost her no
effort; she had only to buy, the dealers even sparing
her the exertion of choosing. But at the behest of in
dolence and self-indulgence she put out the eyes of her
vanity of personal appearance. Why strive to keep
contour and waist and youthful bust and hip measure,
when those carnalities had served their whole purpose,
"WHAT ELSE IS THERE?"
when the only man she needed to please was solemnly
pledged to be permanently pleased under the seal of
the marriage vows?
Guiltily Murdock folded the case and put it away.