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The bent twig



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EACH DAY



THE BENT TWIG



BY THE SAME AUTHOR



HILLSBORO PEOPLE

THE SQUIRREL-CAGE

GUNHILD

MOTHERS AND CHILDREN

A MONTESSORI MOTHER



HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
Publishers New York



THE BENT TWIG



BY



DOROTHY CANFIELD




NEW YORK

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY

1916



THE NEW YORIT

PUBLIC LIBRARY



ASTOR LENOX AND

TiLDEN FOUNDATIONS

O i



COPYRIGHT, 1915,

BY
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY



Published October, 1915

Reprinted

November, Qecpmber, 1915 i
April, May, July (t\vice), Au^usc.



< i






PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



F



CONTENTS

BOOK I

IN ARCADIA

CHAPTER PAGE

I SYLVIA'S HOME 3

II THE MARSHALLS' FRIENDS 12

III BROTHER AND SISTER 26

IV EVERY ONE'S OPINION OF EVERY ONE ELSE . . 38
V SOMETHING ABOUT HUSBANDS 44

VI THE SIGHTS OF LA CHANCE 53

VII " WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT ..." 70

VIII SABOTAGE 92

IX THE END OF CHILDHOOD 103

BOOK II;

/J FAL$E ST ART 'W' ATHENS

X SYLVIA'S FIHSO; .GLXMP-SE 'OF MODERN CIVILIZATION . 113

XI ARNOLD'S '.FuxoftE-' Is- CAS a ALLY DECIDED . . .123

XII ONE MAN s ME,-.T . , . 131

XIII AN INSTRUMENT IN TUNL 138

XIV HIGHER EDUCATION 145

XV MRS. DRAPER BLOWS THE COALS . . . . . 153

XVI PLAYING WITH MATCHES .- 165

XVII MRS. MARSHALL STICKS TO HER PRINCIPLES . .179

XVIII SYLVIA SKATES MERRILY ON THIN ICE . . . . 192

XIX As A BIRD OUT OF A SNARE 206

XX " BLOW, WIND; SWELL, BILLOW; AND SWIM, BARK! " 217

XXI SOME YEARS DURING WHICH NOTHING HAPPENS . 232

BOOK III
IN CAPUA AT LAST

XXII A GRATEFUL CARTHAGINIAN 237

XXIII MORE TALK BETWEEN YOUNG MODERNS . . . 250



v



/t O V o Q I I



VI

CHAPTER
XXIV

XXV

XXVI

XXVII

XXVIII

XXIX

XXX

XXXI

XXXII

XXXIII

XXXIV

XXXV

XXXVI

XXXVII



XXXVIII
XXXIX



XL

XLI
XLII



XLIII
XLIV

XLV

XLVI
XLVII



Contents

ANOTHER BRAND OF MODERN TALK ....

NOTHING IN THE LEAST MODERN

MOLLY IN HER ELEMENT

BETWEEN WINDWARD AND HEMLOCK MOUNTAINS .
SYLVIA ASKS HERSELF "WHY NOT?" ....

A HYPOTHETICAL LIVELIHOOD

ARNOLD CONTINUES TO DODGE THE RENAISSANCE .

SYLVIA MEETS WITH PITY

MUCH ADO ...

" WHOM GOD HATH JOINED ..."

SYLVIA TELLS THE TRUTH

" A MILESTONE PASSED, THE ROAD SEEMS CLEAR " .
THE ROAD Is NOT so CLEAR

"... His wife and children perceiving it, began
to cry after him to return; but the man put his
fingers in his ears and ran on, crying, ' Life!
Life Eternal!'" ..... f .-,,,
SYLVIA COMES .Id THE WICKET. GATE
SYLVIA DRIFTS WITH .THE MAJORITY, . .



t C t ,



< -

.1 II



BOOK IV
THE STRAIT PAfti Li
A CALL FROM HOME ........

HOME AGAIN *

" Strange that we creatures of the petty ways,
Poor prisoners behind these fleshly bars,
Can sometimes think us thoughts with God ablaze,
Touching the fringes of the outer stars " .

" Call now; is there any that will answer theef .
"A bruised reed will He not break, and a dimly
burning wick will He not quench"

" That our soul may swim

We sink our heart down, bubbling, under wave " .

A LONG TALK WITH ARNOLD ......

". .AND ALL THE TRUMPETS SOUNDED!"



273
284

301
312
322

333
341
354
364
3/0

384

392



400
409
418



440



448
451

457-

461
466
479



THE BENT TWIG



BOOK I
IN ARCADIA

CHAPTER I
SYLVIA'S HOME



LIKE most happy childhoods, Sylvia's early years lay back
of her in a long, cheerful procession of featureless days the
outlines of which were blurred into one shimmering glow
by the very radiance of their sunshine. Here and there
she remembered patches, sensations, pictures, scents-
Mother holding baby sister up for her to kiss, and the fra-
grance of the baby powder the pine-trees near the house
chanting loudly in an autumn wind her father's alert face,
intent on the toy water-wheel he was setting for her in the
little creek in their field the beautiful sheen of the pink silk
dress Aunt Victoria had sent her the look of her mother's
steady, grave eyes when she was so sick the leathery smell
of the books in the University Library one day when she
followed her father there the sound of the rain patterino-
on the low, slanting roof of her bedroom these were the
occasional clearly outlined, bright-colored illuminations
wrought on the burnished gold of her sunny little life
But from her seventh birthday her memories began to have
perspective, continuity. She remembered an occasional
whole scene, a whole afternoon, just as it happened.

he first of these must have marked the passing of some

unrecognized mental milestone, for there was nothing about

to set it apart from any one of a hundred afternoons. It

may have been the first time she looked at what was about

her, and saw it.



3



4 The Bent Twig

Mother was putting the baby to bed for his nap not the
baby-sister she was a big girl of five by this time, but
another baby, a little year-old brother, with blue eyes and
yellow hair, instead of brown eyes and hair like his two
sisters'. And when Mother stooped over the little bed, her
white fichu fell forward and Sylvia leaned to hold it back
from the baby's face, a bit of thoughtfulness which had a
rich reward in a smile of thanks from Mother. That was
what began the remembered afternoon. Mother's smiles
were golden coin, not squandered on every occasion. Then,
she and Mother and Judith tiptoed out of the bedroom into
Mother's room and there stood Father, with his University
clothes on and yet his hair rather rumpled up, as though
he had been teaching very hard. He had a pile of papers
in his hand and he said, " Barbara, are you awfully busy
just now? '

Mother said, Oh no, she wasn't at all. (She never was
busy when Father asked her to do something, although
Sylvia could not remember ever once having seen her sit
and do nothing, no, not even for a minute!) Then Father
said, " Well, if you could run over these, I'd have time to
have some ball with the seminar after they're dismissed.
These are the papers the Freshmen handed in for that
Economics quiz." Mother said, " Sure she could," or the
equivalent of that, and Father thanked her, turned Judith
upside-down and right-side-up again so quick that she didn't
know what had happened, and left them all laughing as
they usually were when Father ran down from the study
for something.

So Sylvia and Judith, quite used to this procedure, sat
down on the floor with a book to keep them quiet until
Mother should be through. Neither of them could read,
although Sylvia was beginning to learn, but they had been
told the stories so many times that they knew them from
the pictures. The book they looked at that day had the
story of the people who had rowed a great boat across the
water to get a gold sheepskin, and Sylvia told it to Judith,
word for word, as Father always told it. She glanced up



Sylvia's Home

at Mother from time to time to make sure she was getting it
right; and ever afterwards the mention of the Argonauts
brought up before Sylvia's eyes the picture of her mother
that day, sitting very straight, her strong brown fingers
making an occasional mark on the papers, as she turned
them over with a crisp rustle, her quiet face bent, in a calm
fixity of attention, over the pages.

Before they knew it, the work was done, Father had come
for the papers, and showed Sylvia one more twist in the
acrobatic stunt they were learning together. She could
already take his hands and run up to his shoulders in one
squirrel-like dash; but she was to learn the reverse and
come down on the other side, and she still got tangled up
with which foot to put first. So they practised whenever
they had, as now, a minute or two to spare.

Then Judith was set to play with her blocks like the baby
she still was, while Sylvia and Mother had a lesson in read-
Sylvia could remember the very sound of Mother's
:lear voice as she corrected a mistake. They were reading
a story about what happened to a drop of water that fell
into. the brook in their field; how, watering the thirsty
cornfields as it flowed, the brook ran down to the river
near La Chance, where it worked ever so many mills and
factories and things. Then on through bigger and bi^ r
rivers until it reached the Mississippi, where boats rode on
ts back; and so on down to the ocean. And there, after
resting a while, it was pumped up by the sun and' made
into a cloud, and the wind blew it back over the land and

Vn! eir , field again ' where {t fdl into the br o k and said,
Why, how-de-do, Sylvia you still here ? "

Father had written the story, and Mother had copied it
out on the typewriter so it would be easy for Sylvia to read

After they had finished she remembered looking out of

the window and watching the big white clouds drift across

the pale bright April sky. They were full of hundreds of

-rops of water, she thought, that were going to fall into

adreds of other brooks, and then travel and work till they
reached the sea, and then rest for a while and begin all



6 The Bent Twig

over again. Her dark eyes grew very wide as she watched
the endless procession of white mountains move across the
great arch of the sky. Her imagination was stirred almost
painfully, her mind expanding with the effort to take in the
new conception of size, of great numbers, of the small place
of her own brook, her own field in the hugeness of the world.
And yet it was an ordered hugeness full of comforting sim-
ilarity! Now, no matter where she might go, or what
brooks she might see, she would know that they were all of
one family, that the same things happened to them all, that
every one ended in the ocean. Something she had read
on a piece of paper made her see the familiar home field
with the yellow water of the little creek, as a part of the
whole world. It was very strange. She tried to tell Mother
something of what was in her mind, but, though Mother
listened in a sympathetic silence, it was evident that she
could make nothing out of the incoherent account. Sylvia
thought that she would try to tell Father, the next chance
she had. Even at seven, although she loved her mother pas-
sionately and jealously, she was aware that her father's
mind was more like her own. He understood some things
that Mother didn't, although Mother was always, always
right, and Father wasn't. She fell into silence again, stand-
ing by her mother's knee, staring out of the window and
watching the clouds move steadily across the sky doing their
share of the world's work for all they looked so soft and
lazy. Her mother did not break in on this meditative con-
templation. She took up her sewing-basket and began
busily to sew buttons on a small pair of half-finished night-
drawers. The sobered child beside her, gazing up at the blue-
and-white infinity of the sky, heard faintly and distantly,
for the first time in her life, the whirring reverberations of
the great mystic wheel of change and motion and life.

Then, all at once, there was a scraping of chairs overhead
in Father's study, a clattering on the stairs, and the sound
of a great many voices. The Saturday seminar was over.
The door below opened, and the students came out, Father
at the head, very tall, very straight, his ruddy hair shining



Sylvia's Home 7

in the late afternoon sun, his shirt-sleeves rolled up over
his arms, and a baseball in his hand. Come on, folks/'
Sylvia heard him call, as he had so many times before

Le s have a couple of innings before you go!" Sylvia
must have seen the picture a hundred times before but that
was the first time it impressed itself on her, the 'close-cut
grass of their yard as lustrous as enamel, the big pine-trees
standing high, the scattered players, laughing and running
about the young men casting off their coats and hats the de-
tached fielders running long-legged to their places. At the
first sound of the voices, Judith, always alert, never wasting
time in reveries, had scampered down the stairs and out in the
midst of the stir-about. Judith was sure to be in the middle
of whatever was going on. She had attached herself to
young Professor Saunders, a special favorite of the children
and now was dragging him from the field to play horse with
Father looked up to the window where Sylvia and
Mother sat, and called : " Come on, Barbara ! Come on and
amuse Judith. She won't let Saunders pitch."

Mother nodded, ran downstairs, coaxed Judith over be-
yond first base to play catch with a soft rubber ball ; and Syl-
via, carried away by the cheerful excitement, hopped about
everywhere at once, screaming encouragement to the base
runners, picking up foul balls, and sending them with
proud importance back to the pitcher.

So they all played and shouted and ran and laughed

In" M J n % 1 ? ale " g lden Spring aftern on stood still,'
until Mother held up her finger and stopped the game!

. J wl y 'if Wake ! She Said ' and Father went bounding
When he came back with the downy pink morsel
everybody gathered around to see it and exclaim over the
tiny fat hands and hungry little rosebud mouth " He's

' " WantS his SU PP er > Pr little



> >

J ? e , d , esn * want a lot of P e P le staring at him do
you, Buddy-baby?" She snatched him out of Father's
arms and went off with him, holding him high over her
shoulders so that the sunshine shone on his yellow hair, and
made a circle of gold around his flushed, sleepy face. Then



8 The Bent Twig

everybody picked up books and wraps and note-books and
said " Good-by, ' Perfessor! ' and went off

Father and Sylvia and Judith went out in the garden to
the hotbed to pick the lettuce for supper and then
In the kitchen to get things ready. When Mother _ was
through giving Buddy his supper and came hurrying in t
S Sylvia was proud that they had nearly everything
done-all but the omelet. Father had made cocoa and
creamed potatoes-nobody in the world could make creamed
potatoes as good as his-and Sylvia and Judith had between
them, somewhat wranglingly, made the toast and set the
table. Sylvia was sure that Judith was really too little
be allowed to help, but Father insisted that she should
for he said, with a turn in his voice that made Sylvia aware
he was laughing at her, " You only learned through trying,
all those many years ago when you were Judith s age

Mother put on one of her big gingham aprons and mad-
the omelet, and they sat down to the table out on
veranda as they always did in warm weather. In La Chance
it begins to be warm enough for outdoor life in April.
Although it was still bright daylight for ever so long after
the sun had set, the moon came and looked at them palely
over the tops of the trees.

After supper they jumped up to 'race through the
dishes," as the family catchword ran. They tried to
their record every evening and it was always a lively occa-
sion, with Mother washing like lightning, and
hurrying to keep up, Sylvia running back and forth to put
things away, and Judith bothering 'round, handing out dry
dish towels, and putting away the silver. She was allowec
to handle that because she couldn't break it. Mother and
Judith worked in a swift silence, but a great deal of talking
and laughing went on between Sylvia and her father, while
Buddy, from his high-chair where he was watching th
others occasionally broke out in a loud, high crow of delight.
They did it all, even to washing and hanging out the d
towels, in eleven and a half minutes that evening, Sylvia
remembered.



. Sylvia's Home 9

Then she and Judith went to sit on the porch on the
little bench Mother had made them. They tried to see who
could catch the first glimpse of the evening star every even-
ing. Mother was putting Buddy to bed and Father was
starting the breakfast cereal cooking on the stove. After
a while he went into the living-room and began to play
something on the piano, something full of deep, swaying
chords that lifted Sylvia's heart up and down as though she
were floating on the water. The air was full of the moist
fragrance of spring. When the music held its breath for
a moment you could hear the bedtime note of sleepy birds
in the oaks. Judith, who did not care much for music,
began to get sleepy and leaned all her soft, warm weight
against her big sister. Sylvia for the first time in her life
was consciously aware of being very happy. When, some
time later, the evening star shone out through the' trees,
she drew a long breath. " See, Judith," she cried softly
and began to recite,

" Star-light, star-bright,
First star I've seen tonight "

She stopped short it was Aunt Victoria who had taught
her that poem, the last time she had come to see them, a
year ago, the time when she had brought Sylvia the pink
silk dress, the only dress-up dress with lace and ribbons
on it Sylvia had had up to that time. As suddenly as the
evening star had shone out, another radiant vision flashed
across Sylvia's mind, Aunt Victoria, magnificent in her
lacy dress, her golden hair shining under the taut silk of
her parasol, her white, soft fingers gleaming with rings,
her air of being a condescending goddess, visiting
mortals . . .

^ After a time Mother stepped out on the porch and said,
' Oh, quick, children, wish on the shooting star."

Judith had dropped asleep like a little kitten tired of play,
and Sylvia looked at her mother blankly. " I didn't see* anv
shooting star," she said.



I0 The Bent Twig

Mother was surprised. "Why, your face was pointed
right up at the spot."

" I didn't see it," repeated Sylvia. ( t

Mother fixed her keen dark eyes on Sylvia. What s
the matter?" she asked in her voice that always re-
quired an answer. Sylvia wriggled uncomfortably,
was a nature which suffers under the categorical question ;
but her mother's was one which presses them home.
" What's the matter with you? " she said again.

Sylvia turned a clouded face to her mother. ( I was
wondering why it's not nice to be idyllic."

" What? " asked her mother, quite at a loss. Sylvia was
having one of her unaccountable notions.

Sylvia went to lean on her mother's knee, looking with
troubled eyes up into the kind, attentive, uncomprehending
face. " Why, the last time Aunt Victoria was here that
long time ago when they were all out playing ball she
looked round and round at everything at your dress and
mine and the furniture you know the the uncomfort-
able way she does sometimes and she said, ' Well, Sylvia
nobody can say that your parents aren't leading you a
very idyllic life/

Mother laughed out. Her rare laugh was too sudden
and loud to be very musical, but it was immensely infectious,
like a man's hearty mirth. " I didn't hear her say it but
I can imagine that she did. Well, what of it? What if

she did ? "

For once Sylvia did not respond to another's mood. She
continued anxiously, " Well, it means something perfectly
horrid, doesn't it?"

Mother was still laughing. ' No, no, child, what in the
world makes you think that ? '

" Oh, if you'd heard Aunt Victoria say it! " cried Sylvia
with conviction. Father came out on the veranda, saying to
Mother, " Isn't that crescendo superb? ' To Sylvia he said,
as though sure of her comprehension, ' Didn't you like
the ending, dear where it sounded like the Argonauts all
striking the oars into the water at once and shouting? '



Sylvia's Home n

Sylvia had been taught above everything to tell the truth.
Moreover (perhaps a stronger reason for frankness),
Mother was there, who would know whether she told the
truth or not. " I didn't hear the end."

Father looked quickly from Sylvia's face to her mother's.
" What's the matter ? " he asked.

' Sylvia was so concerned because her Aunt Victoria had
called our life idyllic that she couldn't think of anything
else," explained Mother briefly, still smiling. Father did
not smile. He sat down by Sylvia and had her repeat to him
what she had said to her mother. When she had finished
he looked grave and said : " You mustn't mind what your
Aunt Victoria says, dear. Her ideas are very different
from ours."

Sylvia's mother cried out, " Why, a child of Sylvia's age
couldn't have taken in the significance of "

' I'm afraid," said Father, " that Sylvia's very quick to
take in such a significance."

Sylvia remained silent, uncomfortable at being discussed,
vaguely ashamed of herself, but comforted that Father had
not laughed, had understood. As happened so frequently,
it was Father who understood and Mother who did the
right thing. She suddenly made an enigmatic, emphatic ex-
clamation, " Goodness gracious!" and reaching out her long
arms, pulled Sylvia up on her lap, holding her close. The
last thought of that remembered time for Sylvia was that
Mother's arms were very strong, and her breast very soft.
The little girl laid her head down on it with a contented
sigh, watching the slow, silent procession of the stars.



CHAPTER II
THE MARSHALLS' FRIENDS

ANY one of the more sophisticated members of the faculty
of the State University at La Chance would have stated
without hesitation that the Marshalls had not the slightest
part in the social activities of the University ; but no one
could have called their life either isolated or solitary.
Sylvia, in her memories of childhood, always heard the low,
brown house ringing with music or echoing to the laughter
and talk of many voices. To begin with, a good many of
Professor Marshall's students came and went familiarly
through the plainly furnished rooms, although there was, of
course, in each year's class, a little circle of young people
with a taste for social distinctions who held aloof from the
very unselect and heterogeneous gatherings at the Marshall
house.

These young aristocrats were, for the most part, students
from the town itself, from La Chance's " best families," who
through parental tyranny or temporary financial depression
were not allowed to go East to a well-known college with
a sizable matriculation fee, but were forced to endure four
years of the promiscuous, swarming, gratuitous education
of the State University. All these august victims of family
despotism associated as little as possible with the common
rabble of their fellow-students, and accepted invitations
only from such faculty families as were recognized by the
inner circle of the town society.

The Marshalls were not among this select circle. Indeed,
no faculty family was farther from it. Every detail of
the Marshalls' life was in contradiction not only to the
standards and ideals of the exclusive " town set," but to
those of their own colleagues. They did not live in the

12



The Marshall Friends 13

right part of town. They did not live in the right sort of a
house. They did not live in the right sort of a way. And
consequently, although no family had more visitors, they
were not the right sort of visitors.

This was, of course, not apparent to the children for a
good many years. Home was home, as it is to children.
It did not seem strange to them that instead of living in
a small rented house on a closely built-up street near the
campus in the section of the city occupied by the other
faculty families, they lived in a rambling, large-roomed old
farmhouse with five acres of land around it, on the edge of
the West Side. They did not know how heartily this land-
owning stability was condemned as folly by the rent-pay-
ing professors, perching on the bough with calculated
impermanence so that they might be free to accept at any
moment the always anticipated call to a larger salary. They
did not know, not even Sylvia, for many years, that the
West Side was the quite unfashionable part of town. It
did not seem strange to them to see their father sweeping
his third-floor study with his own hands, and they were
quite used to a family routine which included housework
for every one of them. Indeed, a certain amount of this



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