Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

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[Illustration: Paul stood by her, looking down into her eyes, bending
over her, smiling, pressing, confident, masterful. (Page 96)]

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With Illustrations By

New York

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Copyright, 1911, 1912,

Copyright, 1912,

Published March, 1912

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I An American Family 3
II American Beauties 12
III Picking up the Threads 22
IV The Dawn 32
V The Day Begins 42
VI Lydia's Godfather 55
VII Outside the Labyrinth 61
VIII The Shadow of the Coming Event 78
IX Father and Daughter 88
X Casus Belli 99



XI What is Best for Lydia 115
XII A Sop to the Wolves 122
XIII Lydia Decides in Perfect Freedom 131
XIV Mid-Season Nerves 139
XV A Half-Hour's Liberty 154
XVI Engaged to be Married 165
XVII Card-Dealing and Patent Candles 177



XVIII Two Sides to the Question 193
XIX Lydia's New Motto 207
XX An Evening's Entertainment 215
XXI An Element of Solidity 226
XXII The Voices in the Wood 233
XXIII For Ariadne's Sake 244
XXIV "Through Pity and Terror Effecting a
Purification of the Heart" 261
XXV A Black Mile-stone 270
XXVI A Hint from Childhood 277
XXVII Lydia Reaches Her Goal and has Her Talk with Her Husband 289
XXVIII "The American Man" 307
XXIX ".........In Tragic Life, God Wot, No Villain Need be.
Passions Spin the Plot" 318
XXX Tribute to the Minotaur 328



XXXI Protection from the Minotaur 337
XXXII As Ariadne Saw It 342
XXXIII What is Best for the Children? 351
XXXIV Through the Long Night 359
XXXV The Swaying Balance 365
XXXVI Another Day Begins 369

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Paul stood by her, looking down into her eyes,
bending over her, smiling, pressing, confident,
masterful (Page 96) Frontispiece


"You say beautiful things!" he replied quietly. "My
rough quarters are glorified for me" 69

"No, no; I can't - see him - I can't stand any more - " 137

"I see everything now," she went on. "He could not stop." 272

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The house of the Emery family was a singularly good example of the
capacity of wood and plaster and brick to acquire personality. It was
the physical symbol of its owners' position in life; it was the history
of their career, written down for all to see, and as such they felt in
it the most justifiable pride. When Mr. and Mrs. Emery, directly after
their wedding in a small Central New York village, had gone West to Ohio
they had spent their tiny capital in building a small story-and-a-half
cottage, ornamented with the jig-saw work and fancy turning popular in
1872, and this had been the nucleus of their present rambling,
picturesque, many-roomed home. Every step in the long series of changes
which had led from its first state to its last had a profound and
gratifying significance for the Emerys, and its final condition,
prosperous, modern, sophisticated, with the right kind of woodwork in
every room that showed, with the latest, most unobtrusively artistic
effects in decoration, represented their culminating well-earned
position in the inner circle of the best society of Endbury.

Moreover, they felt that just as the house had been attained with
effort, self-denial and careful calculations, yet still without
incurring debt, so their social position had been secured by unremitting
diligence and care, but with no loss of self-respect or even of dignity.
They were honestly proud both of their house and of their list of
acquaintances and saw no reason to regard them as less worthy
achievements of an industrious life than their four creditable grown-up
children or Judge Emery's honorable reputation at the bar. In their
youth they had conceived of certain things as worth attaining. They had
worked hard for these things and their unabashed pleasure in possessing
them had the vivid and substantial quality which comes from a keen
memory of battles with a world none too ready to grant human desires.

The two older children, George and Marietta, could remember those early
struggling days with almost as fresh an emotion as that of their
parents. Indeed, Marietta, now a competent, sharp-eyed matron of
thirty-two, could not see the most innocuous colored lithograph without
an uncontrollable wave of bitterness, so present to her mind was the
period when they painfully groped their way out of chromos.

The date of that epoch coincided with the date of their first
acquaintance with the Hollisters. The Hollisters were Endbury's First
Family; literally so, for they had come up from their farm in Kentucky
to settle in Endbury when it was but a frontier post. It was a part of
their superiority over other families that their traditions took
cognizance of the time when great stumps from the primeval forest stood
in what was now Endbury's public square, the hub of interurban trolley
traffic, whence the big, noisy cars started for their infinitely
radiating journeys over the flat, fertile country about the little city.
The particular Mrs. Hollister who, at the time the Emerys began to
pierce the upper crust, was the leader of Endbury society, had discarded
chromos as much as five years before. Mrs. Emery and Marietta, newly
admitted to the honor of her acquaintance, wondered to themselves at the
cold monotony of her black and white engravings. The artlessness of this
wonder struck shame to their hearts when they chanced to learn that the
lady had repaid it with a worldly-wise amusement at their own
highly-colored waterfalls and snow-capped mountain-peaks. Marietta
could recall as piercingly as if it were yesterday, in how crestfallen a
chagrin she and her mother had gazed at their parlor after this
incident, their disillusioned eyes open for the first time to the
futility of its claim to sophistication. As for the incident that had
led to the permanent retiring from their table of the monumental
salt-and-pepper "caster" which had been one of their most prized wedding
presents, the Emerys refused to allow themselves to remember it, so
intolerably did it spell humiliation.

Even the oldest son, prosperous, well-established manufacturer that he
was, could not recall without a shudder his first dinner-party. A branch
of the Hollisters had moved next door to the Emerys and, to Mrs. Emery's
great satisfaction, an easy neighborly acquaintance had sprung up
between the two families. Secure in this familiarity, and not
distinguishing the immense difference between a chance invitation to
drop in to dinner and a formal invitation to dine, the young
business-man had almost forgotten the date for which he had been bidden.
Remembering it with a start, he had gone straight from his office to the
house of his hosts, supposing that he would be able, as he had done many
times before, to wash his face and hands in the bath-room and brush his
hair in the room of the son of the house.

The sight of a black man in evening dress, who opened the door to him
instead of the usual maid, sent a vague apprehension through his
preoccupied mind, but it was not until he found himself in the room set
apart for the masculine guests and saw everyone arrayed in
"swallow-tails," as he thought of them, that he realized what he had
done. The emotion of the moment was one that made a mark on his life.

He had an instant's wild notion of making some excuse to go home and
dress, for his plight was by no means due to necessity. He had a correct
outfit of evening clothes, bought at the urgent command of his mother,
which he had worn several times at public dinners given by the city
Board of Trade and once at a dancing party at the home of the head of
his firm. However, the hard sense which made him successful in his
business kept him from a final absurdity now. He had been seen, and he
decided grimly that he would be, on the whole, a shade more laughable if
he appeared later in a changed costume.

He was twenty-one years old at that time; he considered himself a man
grown. He had been in business for five years and his foot was already
set firmly on the ladder of commercial success on which he was to mount
high, but not for nothing had he felt about him all his life the
inextinguishable desire of his family to outgrow rusticity. He chided
himself for unmanly pettiness, but the fact remained that throughout the
interminable evening the sight of his gray striped trousers or colored
cuffs affected him to a chagrin that was like a wave of physical nausea.
Four years later he had married a handsome young lady from among the
Hollister connections, and, moving away to Cleveland, where no memory of
his antecedents could handicap him, had begun a new social career as
eminently successful as his rapid commercial expansion. He forced
himself sometimes to think of that long-past evening as one presses on a
scar to learn how much soreness is left in an old wound, and he smiled
at the little tragedy of egotism it had been to him. But it was a wry

A brighter recollection to all the Emerys was the justly complacent and
satisfied remembrance of the house grounds during the first really
successful social event they had achieved. It was a lawn-fĂȘte, given for
the benefit of St. Luke's church, which Mrs. Emery and Marietta had
recently joined. Socially, it was the first fruits of their conversion
from Congregationalism. The weather was fine, the roses were out, the
very best people were there, the bazaar was profitable, and the dowager
of the Hollister matrons had spoken warm words of admiration of the
competent way in which the occasion had been managed to Mrs. Emery,
smiling and flushed in an indomitably self-respecting pleasure. The
older Emerys still sometimes spoke of that afternoon and evening as
parents remember the hour when their baby first walked alone, with
something of the same mixture of pride in the later achievements of the
child and of tenderness for its early weakness.

The youngest of the Emerys, many years the junior of her brothers and
sister, knew nothing at all of the anxious bitter-sweet of these early
endeavors for sophistication. By the time she came to conscious,
individual life the summit had been virtually reached. It is not to be
denied that Lydia had witnessed several abrupt changes in the family
ideal of household decoration or of entertaining, but since they were
exactly contemporaneous with similar changes on the part of the
Hollisters and other people in their circle, these revolutions of taste
brought with them no sense of humiliation. Such, for instance, was the
substitution for carpets of hardwood floors and rugs as oriental as the
purse would allow. Lydia could remember gorgeously flowered carpets on
every Emery floor, but since they also covered all the prosperous floors
in town at the same time, it was not more painful to have found them
attractive than to have worn immensely large sleeves or preposterously
blousing shirt waists, to have ridden bicycles, or read E. P. Roe, or
anything else that everybody used to do and did no more. She could
remember, also, when charades and book-parties were considered amusing
pastimes for grown-ups, but in passing beyond these primitive tastes the
Emerys had been well abreast of their contemporaries. The last charade
party had not been held in _their_ parlors, they congratulated

A philosophic observer who had known the history of Mrs. Emery's life
might have found something pathetic in her pleasure at Lydia's
light-hearted jesting at the funny old things people used to think
pretty and the absurd pursuits they used to think entertaining. It was
to her a symbol that her daughter had escaped what had caused her so
much suffering, the uneasy, self-distrusting dread lest she might still
be finding pretty things that up-to-date people thought grotesque; lest
suddenly what she had toiled so painfully to obtain should somehow turn
out to be not the "right thing" after all. Marietta did not recall more
vividly than did her mother the trying period that had elapsed between
their new enlightenment on the subject of chromos and the day when an
unexpected large fee from a client of Mr. Emery (not yet Judge) enabled
them to hang their Protestant walls with engravings of pagan gods and
Roman Catholic saints. For their problem had never been the simple one
of merely discovering the right thing. There had always been added to it
the complication of securing the right thing out of an income by no
means limitless. The head of the household had enjoyed the success that
might have been predicted from his whole-souled absorption in his
profession, but Judge Emery came of old-fashioned rural stock with
inelastic ideas of honesty, and though he was more than willing to toil
early and late to supply funds for his family and satisfy whatever form
of ambition his women-folk might decree to be the best one, he was not
willing to take advantage of the perquisites of his position, and never,
as the phrase in the town ran, "made on the side." Of his temptations
and of his stout resistance to them, his wife and children knew no more,
naturally, than of any of the other details of his professional life,
which, according to the custom of their circle, were as remote and
hidden from them as if he had departed each morning after his hearty
early breakfast into another planet; but his wife was proud of the
integrity which she divined in her husband and, as she often declared
roundly to Marietta, would not have exchanged his good name for a much
larger income.

Indeed, the acridity which for Marietta lingered about the recollection
of their efforts to make themselves over did not exist in the more amply
satisfied mind of her mother. The difference showed itself visibly in
the contrast between the daughter's face, stamped with a certain tired,
unflagging intensity of endeavor, and the freshness of the older woman.
At thirty-two, Marietta looked, perhaps, no older than her age, but
obviously more worn by the strain of life than her mother at fifty-six.
Sometimes, as she noted in her mirror the sharp lines of a fatigue that
was almost bitterness, she experienced a certain unnerving uncertainty,
a total lack of zest for what she so eagerly struggled to attain, and
she envied her mother's single-minded satisfaction in getting what she

Mrs. Emery had enjoyed the warfare of her life heartily; the victories
for their own sake, the defeats because they had spurred her on to fresh
and finally successful efforts, and the remembrance of both was sweet to
her. She loved her husband for himself and for what he had been able to
give her, and she loved her children ardently, although she had been
sorely vexed by her second son's unfortunate marriage. He had always
been a discordant note in the family concert, the veiled, unconscious,
uneasy skepticism of Marietta bursting out openly in Henry as a
careless, laughing cynicism, excessively disconcerting to his mother.
She sometimes thought he had married the grocer's daughter out of
"contrariness." The irritation which surrounded that event, and the play
of cross-purposes and discord which had filled the period until the
misguided young people had voluntarily exiled themselves to the Far
West, remained more of a sore spot in Mrs. Emery's mind than any blow
given or taken in her lifelong campaign for distinction. She admitted
frankly to herself that it was a relief that Harry was no longer near
her, although her mother's heart ached for the Harry he had seemed to
her before his rebellion. She fancied that she would enjoy him as of old
if the litter of inconvenient persons and facts lying between them could
but be cleared away; with a voluntary blindness not uncommon in parents,
refusing to recognize that these superficial differences were only the
outward expression of a fundamental alienation within. At all events, it
was futile to speculate about the matter, since the width of the
continent and her son's intense distaste for letter-writing separated
them. She had come, therefore, to turn all her attention and proud
affection on her youngest child.

It seemed to her sometimes that Lydia had been granted her by a
merciful Providence in order that she might make that "fresh start all
over again" which is the never-realized ideal of erring humanity.
Marietta had been a young lady fourteen years before, and fourteen years
meant much - meant everything to people who progressed as fast as the
Emerys. Uncertain of themselves, they had not ventured to launch
Marietta boldly upon the waves of a society the chart of which was so
new to them. She had no coming-out party. She simply put on long skirts,
coiled her black hair on top of her head, and began going to evening
parties with a few young men who were amused by the tart briskness of
her tongue and attracted by the comeliness of her healthful youth. She
had married the first man who proposed to her - a young insurance agent.
Since then they had lived in a very comfortable, middling state of
harmony, apparently on about the same social scale as Marietta's
parents. That this feat was accomplished on a much smaller income was
due to Marietta's unrivaled instinct and trained capacity for keeping up

All this history had been creditable, but nothing more; and Mrs. Emery
often looked at her elder daughter with compunction for her own earlier
ignorance and helplessness. She could have done so much more for
Marietta if she had only known how. Mrs. Mortimer was, however, a rather
prickly personality with whom to attempt to sympathize, and in general
her mother felt the usual -in-law conclusion about her daughter's life:
that Marietta could undoubtedly have done better than to marry her
industrious, negligible husband, but that, on the whole, she might have
done worse; and it was much to be hoped that her little boy would
resemble the Emerys and not the Mortimers.

No such philosophical calm restrained her emotions about Lydia. She was
in positive beauty and charm all that poor Marietta had not been, and
she was to have in the way of backing and management all that poor
Marietta had lacked. It seemed to Mrs. Emery that her whole life had
been devoted to learning what to do and what not to do for Lydia. As the
time of action drew nearer she nerved herself for the campaign with a
finely confident feeling that she knew every inch of the ground. Her
expectancy grew more and more tense as her eagerness rose. During the
long year that Lydia was in Europe, receiving a final gloss, even higher
than that imparted by the expensive and exclusive girls' school where
she had spent the years between fourteen and eighteen, Mrs. Emery laid
her plans and arranged her life with a fervent devotion to one end - the
success of Lydia's first season in society. Every room in the house
seemed to her vision to stand in a bright vacancy awaiting the arrival
of the débutante.



On the morning of Lydia's long-expected return, as Mrs. Emery moved
restlessly about the large double parlors opening out on a veranda where
the vines were already golden in the September sunlight, it seemed to
her that the very walls were blank in hushed eagerness and that the
chairs and tables turned faces like hers, tired with patience, toward
the open door. She had not realized until the long separation was almost
over how unendurably she had missed her baby girl, as she still thought
of the tall girl of nineteen. She could not wait the few hours that were
left. Her fortitude had given way just too soon. She must have the dear
child now, now, in her arms.

She moved absently a spray of goldenrod which hid a Fra Angelico angel
over the mantel and noted with dramatic self-pity that her hand was
trembling. She sat down suddenly, and lost herself in a vain attempt to
recall the well-beloved sound of Lydia's fresh young voice. A knot came
in her throat, and she covered her face with her large, white,
carefully-manicured hands.

Marietta came in briskly a few moments later, bringing a bouquet of
asters from her own garden. She was dressed, as always, with a severe
reticence in color and line which, though due to her extreme need for
economy, nevertheless gave to the rather spare outlines of her tall
figure a distinction, admired by Endbury under the name of stylishness.
Her rapid step had carried her half-way across the wide room before she
saw to her surprise that her mother, usually so self-contained, was
giving way to an inexplicable emotion.

"Good gracious, Mother!" she began in the energetic fashion which was
apt to make her most neutral remarks sound combative.

Mrs. Emery dried her eyes with a gesture of protest, adjusted her gray
pompadour deftly, and cut off her daughter's remonstrance, "Oh, you
needn't tell me I'm foolish, Marietta. I know it. I just suddenly got so
impatient it didn't seem as though I could wait another minute!"

The younger woman accepted this explanation of the tears with a murmured
sound of somewhat enigmatic intonation. Her thin dark face settled into
a repose that had a little grimness in it. She began putting the flowers
into a vase that stood between the reproduction of a Giotto Madonna and
a Japanese devil-hunt, both results of the study of art taken up during
the past winter by her mother's favorite woman's club. Mrs. Emery
watched the process in the contemplative relief which follows an

Online LibraryDorothy Canfield FisherThe squirrel-cage → online text (page 1 of 29)