Copyright
Meredith Nicholson.

Broken barriers online

. (page 1 of 27)
Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 1 of 27)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


BY MEREDITH NICHOLSON

BROKEN BARRIERS

BEST LAID SCHEMES

THE MAN IN THE STREET

BLACKSHEEP ! BLACKSHEEP !

LADY LARKSPUR

THE MADNESS OF MAT

THE VALLET OF DEMOCRACY



CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



BROKEN BARRIERS



BROKEN BARRIERS



BY



MEREDITH NICHOLSON



NEW YORK

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
1922



COPYRIGHT, 1922. BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS



COPYRIGHT, mi. 1922, BY THE INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE CO.



Printed in the United States of America



Published September, 1922




TO
RAY LONG

WITH AFFECTIONATE REGARD

AND IN TOKEN OF

THE OLD HOOSIER FELLOWSHIP
OF MONTGOMERY AND BOONB



BROKEN BARRIERS



BROKEN BARRIERS

CHAPTER ONE



As the train sped through the night Grace Durland
decided that after all it didn't matter so much!

She had parted tearfully from the girls at the
sorority house and equally poignant had been the good-
byes to her friends among the faculty; but now that
it was all over she was surprised and a little mystified
that she had so quickly recovered from her disap-
pointment. Bitterness had welled in her heart at the
first reading of her mother's letter calling her home.
Her brother Roy, always the favored one, was to re-
main at the University to finish the law course, for
which he had shown neither aptitude nor zeal, and
this hurt a little. And they might have warned her
of the impending crisis in the family fortunes be-
fore she left home to begin the fall term, only a
month earlier.

But her resentment had passed. The spirit of
adventure beat in her breast with strong insistent
wing. With the fatalism of imaginative youth she
was already assuring herself that some force beyond
her control had caught her up and was bearing her
on irresistibly.

She lay back at ease in her seat in the day
coach, grateful that there were no acquaintances on
the train to interrupt her reveries. She was twenty-

i



2 BROKEN BARRIERS

one, tall, slightly above medium height and bore
every mark of sound health and wholesome living
a fair representative of the self-reliant American girls
visible on the campus of all Mid-Western colleges.
The excitement of her hasty packing and leave-taking
had left a glow in her olive cheecks. Her hair, where
it showed under her sport hat, was lustrous black;
her eyes were brown, though in shadow they changed
to jade, variable, interesting eyes they were, that
arrested attention by their quick play of emotion.
They expressed her alert intelligence, her frank curios-
ity, her sympathetic and responsive nature.

When the train reached Indianapolis she left her
trunk check with the transfer agent and boarded a
street car. At Washington street, she transferred to
the trolley line that ran down New York street, where
the Durland home faced Military Park. New York
street between the old canal and the western end of
the park had once been a fashionable quarter of the
town, and the old houses still stood though their
glory of the Civil War time and the years immediately
succeeding had departed. The Durlands lived in a big
square brick house, set well back in a yard that rose
a little above the street. The native forest trees in
the lots all along the block added to the impression
of age imparted by the houses themselves. Under the
branches of the big walnut in the Durland front yard
the neighborhood children of Grace's generation had
gathered to play. The tree was identified with her
earliest recollections; it had symbolized the stability
of the home itself.

She pushed open the iron gate and hurried up the
brick walk. Her ring brought her mother to the
door, clutching a newspaper.

"Why, Grace! I had no idea "



BROKEN BARRIERS 3

She caught the girl in her arms, then held her away,
looked into her eyes and kissed her.

"I'm so sorry, dear! I know what it means to you.
It's a terrible disappointment to all of us."
"Oh, I understand everything, mother."
"But I didn't expect you so soon. I don't see how
you managed it. I thought you'd probably wait till
Saturday."

"Oh, I couldn't have done that, mother."
"How's Roy? He didn't write at all last week."
"He's flourishing and sent his love to everybody.
He promises to work harder than ever now."

"I'm sure he will. I know he was sorry to see you
leave; he'd know what a wrench it would be for
you."

They had been talking in the hall, with Grace's
suitcase and tennis racket lying on the floor where
she had dropped them. She pushed them out of the
way at the foot of the old-fashioned stair that rose
steeply just inside the door.

"Don't bother about your things now, Grace. Your
father's in the sitting room and Ethel's up in the
spare room sewing. Have you had your supper?
There's some cold baked chicken in the ice-box and
I can make you some hot tea."

"Oh, I had supper before I left, mother."
Mrs. Durland lifted her head and called her older
daughter's name and from some remote place Ethel
answered. Mrs. Durland was as dark as Grace, but
cast in a larger mold, and while there were points of
resemblance in their faces there was a masculine vigor
in the mother that the girl lacked. Mrs. Durland's
iron gray hair was brushed back smoothly from her
low broad forehead. She wore an authoritative air,
suggesting at once managerial capacity; a woman,



4 BROKEN BARRIERS

one would say, strongly independent in her thinking;
self-assertive and obstinate, but of kind and generous
impulses.

Grace was already in the sitting room, where she
tip-toed up behind her father, who was absorbed in a
book that he read as it lay on the table before him.
His bent shoulders suggested that this was his habitual
manner of managing a book. Grace passed her hands
over his thick shock of disordered hair and patted his
cheek; then bent and laid her face against his.

"Well, here I am, daddy!"

"Not home, Grace!" he exclaimed looking up at
her bewilderedly. "They didn't tell me you were
coming."

"I'm a surprise! Nobody knew I was coming to-
night!"

"Well, well; I didn't know there was a train at this
hour. It's nice to see you, Grace."

He turned to the open volume with an absent con-
fused air, as though uncertain whether anything
further was expected of him, then pushed his chair
back from the table. Mrs. Durland had come in,
followed quickly by Ethel carrying a work-basket
and a blouse that she had been at work on when in-
terrupted by the announcement of her sister's ar-
rival.

Ethel was twenty-seven, an indefinite blonde, and
not so tall as Grace. Her mother said that she was a
Durland, specifically like one of her husband's sisters
in Ohio, a person for whom Mrs. Durland had never
evinced any great liking. Mrs. Durland was a Mor-
ley and the Morleys were a different stock, with the
Kentucky background so precious in the eyes of many
Indianians. Mrs. Durland's father had been a
lawyer of small attainments in a southern Indiana



BROKEN BARRIERS 5

county, but it was in her grandfather Josiah B. Mor-
ley, who sat in the Constitutional Convention of 1851,
and was later a speaker of the Indiana house of rep-
resentatives, that her pride concentrated. She had
married Durland in Rangerton, where as a young
man he had begun with Isaac Cummings the manu-
facture of a few mechanical specialties, removing
shortly to Indianapolis with a number of Durland's
inventions and Cummings's small capital as the
foundation of their fortune.

"Things have changed some since you left, Grace.
And I'm sorry you had to quit school," Durland was
saying, while Ethel, having greeted her sister, sat
down by the smoldering coal fire and resumed her
sewing.

"It's all right, father," said Grace, who had taken
off her hat and coat. "I came back as soon as I got
the news so you and mother would know it's all
right with me. We're all going to put up a cheerful
front, no matter what happens."

"Of course we've all got to do that," murmured
Ethel without looking up.

"It's hard on you children," said Durland. "It's
all my fault; I've got nobody to blame but myself,
Grace. Cummings always seemed willing for me to
go on as I did for twenty years, trying to improve
on the old patents and develop new ideas. But ideas
don't come as fast as they used to. I guess he
thought he'd got everything I was ever likely to have
to offer."

"It was certainly unkind, after all the years you'd
' been together. But I don't believe for a minute your
work's done. You'll strike something bigger than
any of your old inventions."

"That's what I've been telling father," said Ethel.



6 BROKEN BARRIERS

"A man who's spent years inventing things is likely
to find something big any time. Of course, without
the shop father can't work as well, but he's going to
have a shop of his own."

"Oh, that's fine, father!" exclaimed Grace. "Where
is the new place going to be?"

"It's not much of a place," Durland answered
apologetically. "I rented a little room in the Billings
Power Building and am going to run a pattern and
model shop. I hope to get enough work right away
to pay the rent.

"I'm sure you will. Everybody who knows any-
thing about the machinery business knows you're the
inventor of the only good things Cummings-Durland
make."

"They've changed the name of the company now,"
Ethel remarked. "They've cut father's name out."

"They changed the name in reorganizing the com-
pany," Durland explained patiently hi his colorless
tone. "I had some loans the bank wouldn't carry any
longer; stock I put up as collateral had to be sold and
Cummings bought it."

"A man who will do a thing like that will be pun-
ished for it; he won't prosper," said Ethel in a
curious, strained voice.

Durland frowned at his older daughter. Evidently
her remark was distasteful to him; he found no con-
solation in the prediction that unseen powers would
punish Cummings for his perfidy.

"I'd probably have done the same thing if I'd been
in his place. Everything he turned down my new
ideas, I mean proved to be no good when I put
my own money into 'em on the side. You've got
to be fair about it."

It was clear that he set great store by the new shop.



BROKEN BARRIERS 7

The fact that he still had a place to work preserved
his self-respect. With a place in which to continue
his experiments he was not utterly condemned to the
scrap heap. He lifted his head and his jaws tightened.
Grace noted with pity these manifestations of a re-
surgence of his courage. His laborious life, his few
interests outside the shop or more accurately the
private laboratory he had maintaned for years in a
corner of the Cummings-Durland plant; his evenings
at home poring over scientific books and periodicals;
his mild unquestioning assent to everything his wife
proposed with reference to family affairs, all had their
pathos. She had always been aware that he had a
fondness for her that was not shared by Roy and
Ethel. Grace imagined that it was a disappointment
to her father that Roy had not manifested a mechan-
ical bent. In his gentle, unassertive fashion, Durland
had tried to curb the lad's proneness to seek amuse-
ment, to skimp his lessons this in Roy's high school
days; but Mrs. Durland had always been quick to
defend Roy; in her eyes he could do no wrong.

Ethel and her father were almost equally out of
sympathy. Ethel was intensely religious, zealous in
attendance upon a down-town church, a teacher in
its Sunday school and active in its young people's
society. While Mrs. Durland had long been a mem-
ber of a West End church she was not particularly
religious; she believed there was good in all churches;
but she was proud of Ethel's prominence in a church
whose membership was recruited largely from the
prosperous. Ethel was on important committees and
she was now and then a delegate to conventions of
church workers in other cities; the pastor called upon
her frequently and she had been asked to dinner at
the houses of wealthy members of the congregation,



8 BROKEN BARRIERS

though usually some church business inspired the in-
vitation. In a day when the frivolity of the new gen-
eration was a subject of general lamentation, Ethel
could be pointed to as a pattern of sobriety and recti-
tude. Durland had ceased going to church shortly
after his marriage and his wife had accounted to his
children for his apostacy on the ground of his scien-
tific learnings. He never discussed religion; indeed,
he rarely debated any question that rose in the fam-
ily.

Mrs. Durland came bustling in carrying an apron
which she was hemstitching and the talk at once be-
came more animated.

"The Cummings are in their new house on Wash-
ington Boulevard, Grace. They've left the house on
Meridian they bought when they moved away from
here. They haven't sold their place; they've leased it
for ninety-nine years to an automobile company.
We're the only people on this block who were here
when your father bought this house."

Ethel and her mother engaged in a long discussion
of the Cummings family, not neglecting to abuse Isaac
Cummings for his ungenerous conduct in dropping
Durland from the business. Meanwhile Durland
crossed and recrossed his short thin legs to express
his impatience or disapproval. Nothing interested him
less than the Cummings family history; and his elim-
ination from the old company was a closed incident.

"Bob Cummings's wife is certainly a pretty
woman," continued Ethel. "She's very popular, too.
You see her name nearly every day in the society
column. Bob was always so quiet; I wonder how he
likes being dragged about so much."

"I shall always think," remarked Mrs. Durland ex-
pansively, "that if the Cummings hadn't moved away



BROKEN BARRIERS 9

when they did Bob and Grace might well, I always
thought he liked you particularly, Grace, and you
were fond of him. Of course, he's five years older,
but when you were still in high school and he was in
Yale he always came to see you and took you places
when he was home. But when they moved away
everything changed."

"Oh, that didn't amount to anything, mother,"
Grace replied carelessly. "He was always shy as a
boy and I suppose he still is. After they moved away
he didn't know the girls out there so he hung on to
me for a while. He just used me to cover up his
diffidence among strange young people at country
club dances, and other places where he didn't know
many people. When he got acquainted out there he
didn't need me any more."

"It would be like Hetty Cummings to tell him he'd
better cut his West End friends," said Mrs. Durland
tartly. "Even back in Rangerton she was always
setting up to be better than most folks. It must have
been in their minds when they moved away that they
were going to force your father out of the business
and burn all the old bridges."

"The canal bridge," remarked Grace with a little
laugh which the others ignored.

"Now, Allie," said Durland in mild protest, "they
didn't force me out. It was losing my stock in the
company that put me out."

"It was merciless," said Ethel, her voice rising,
"Cummings took advantage of you. He always knew
you were not a business man. Everything he's got
came through your genius."

"I guess he thought my genius was worn out, and
he may be right about it," said Durland.

"Don't be so foolish, daddy," said Grace gently.



10 BROKEN BARRIERS

"Any day you may have an inspiration that will be
worth a lot of money."

"It's always possible, of course," said Mrs. Durland
with a little sigh susceptible of the interpretation that
she had no great confidence in her husband's further
inspirations. "Ethel," she continued, "tell Grace
about your work."

"Yes, please do, sis," said Grace.

"Well, I've just begun," Ethel replied primly. "I
don't know much about it myself. I'm in the Gregg
and Burley company; they're one of the biggest in-
surance agencies in town. Mr. Burley's been ever so
nice to me. His little girl's in my Sunday-school class.
Mrs. Burley asked me to a birthday party they had
for Louise last summer, so I really feel that I know
the family. I'm handling the telephone calls and doing
other little things till I get the run of the office. I've
started at eighteen a week but Mr. Burley says they'll
raise me just as soon as I'm worth more. There are
six other girls in the office and one who's been there
ten years get fifty a week and I don't see how they
ever could get along without her. She knows more
about the details of the business than the members of
the firm."

"That sounds good," said Grace warmly. "I sup-
pose there are women in business here who make large
salaries, far more than high school teachers or teachers
in colleges."

"I never thought my girls would have to battle for
their bread," said Mrs. Durland. "I've always clung
to the old-fashioned idea that girls should stay with
their mothers till they married. Of course thou-
sands of splendid girls are at work in every kind of
business, but it's hard for me to get used to it."

"I don't see why women shouldn't work if they need
to or want to," said Grace, "I think that's one of the



BROKEN BARRIERS 11

things that's settled; women can do anything they
please these days."

"I can't bring myself to see it," Mrs. Durland re-
plied, "I remember that it seemed queer when my
father employed a woman stenographer in his office."

"Well, times have changed, mother," Grace re-
marked. "I have an idea that I can sell things; I
read an article in a magazine about the psychology
of salesmanship, and I have a strong hunch that that
would be a good field for me. The big stores must
be taking on more help at this season. I think I'll see
what the chances are."

"Grace, surely you're not in earnest!" cried Mrs.
Durland. "Of course we will need your help, but it
would be a lot better, considering your education, for
you to take up teaching or go into an office as Ethel's
doing. It's so much more in keeping with your bring-
ing up. It would break my heart to see you behind
a counter!"

Durland shifted uncomfortably in his chair as the
matter was discussed. For years he had lived his own
life, his thoughts centered constantly upon mechanical
projects. He was now confronted by the fact that as
the result of his intense preoccupation with tools,
metals and wood and his inattention and incapacity in
business he was hardly a factor in family affairs. He
listened almost as though he were a stranger in a
strange house, his guilt heavy upon him. He started
when Grace addressed him directly.

"Well, daddy, don't you think I'm right about try~
ing my arts of persuasion as a saleslady? I've always
loved that wordl I think it would be fascinating."

"You make it sound interesting," said Durland cau-
tiously, after a timid glance at his wife. "I want you
to know it hurts me to think that you girls have got
to go to work. But as long as it can't be helped I want



12 BROKEN BARRIERS

you to do the best you can for yourselves. You ought
to be sure you get into something where you'll have a
chance to forward yourself."

"Yes, daddy," said Grace kindly. "I want to make
my time count. If I'm going to be a business woman
I mean to play the game for all I'm worth."

"I simply couldn't be reconciled to having you in
a store," said Mrs. Durland. "An office would be
much more dignified."

"I guess Grace can take care of herself," Durland
ventured.

"Of course!" replied Mrs. Durland quickly, "we
can trust our girls anywhere. I was only thinking
of the annoyances. I've seen girls humiliated by floor-
walkers right before customers, and it always makes
me boil. And I'm ashamed to say there are women
who are perfectly hateful to the clerks who wait on
them."

"Well, who's afraid!" said Grace cheerfully. "School
teachers have a hard time too, with principals and
supervisors pecking at them all the time. Now that
I'm going out into the world I'm not going to ask any
special favors because I'm a woman. The day for
that's all passed."

"And it's a pity it's so!" declared Mrs. Durland.

"Oh, mother, I'm for taking the world as I find it!"
She glanced laughingly at her father who smiled
at her approvingly. In his undemonstrative way he
was relieved that Grace was meeting the family
misfortunes so bravely. His courage was strength-
ened by her very presence in the house. Prematurely
aged as he was, he rejoiced in her youth, her radiant
vitality, her good humor and high spirits. He fol-
lowed her with admiring eyes as she moved about the
room. She bent for a moment over the book he had
been reading, asked questions about it, drawing him



BROKEN BARRIERS 13

out as to its nature and merits. He was as happy as
a boy when a sympathetic grown-up manifests an in-
telligent interest in his toys.

"I hope you won't be in too much of a hurry about
going to work, Grace," said Mrs. Durland. "It's a
serious matter for you and all of us. Perhaps Ethel
could make some suggestions. Some of her church
friends might be able to help you."

"I shall be glad to do anything I can," Ethel mur-
mured without looking up from her sewing.

"Oh, thanks; I'll certainly call gp you if I see any
place where you can help. I've been thinking about it
ever since I got mother's letter, and I believe I'll call
up Irene Kirby right now and make an appointment
to see her tomorrojv.^ She's been in Shipley's ever
since she left high school."

"Now, Grace, please don't do that," protested Mrs.
Durland, "you must take time to consider your future.
Irene's people are very ordinary and I never liked
your intimacy with her when you went to school to-
gether."

"Why, mother, Irene's one of the finest girls I ever
knew! She was a good student in high school and
certainly behaved herself. She can tell me all about
Shipley's and the chances of getting in there."

"I don't like it at all, Grace," replied Mrs. Durland.
"It's bad enough having my daughters going down
town to work but I'd hate having you ask favors
of a girl l^ke Irene Kirby. I don't see why you can't
wait a little and let Ethel help you find something
more suitable."

"But it won't do any harm to see Irene and talk
to her."

They heard her voice at the telephone in the hall
and caught scraps of her lively talk with Irene.

"Grace is so headstrong," Mrs. Durland sighed.



14 BROKEN BARRIERS

"And you never can tell how any thing's going to strike
her. I'm always amazed at her inconsistencies. She's
the last girl in the world you'd think would want
to work in a department store. She isn't that type at
all. Stephen, I wish you'd put your foot down."

Durland looked at his wife blankly, trying to recall
any other instance where he had been asked to put
his foot down. If he had been a man of mirth he
might have laughed.

"Grace ain't going to do anything foolish; you can
trust Grace," he said.

"What did Irene say?" asked Ethel when Grace
came back from the telephone.

"Oh, I am going to have lunch with her tomorrow
at the store and she'll tell me everything," said Grace
carelessly. "Well, daddy, it's about time for the
regular evening apple."

There was a plate of apples on the table with a knife
beside it, and Durland, pleased that she remembered
his habit of eating an apple before going to bed, took
one she chose for him and peeled it with care, tossing
the unbroken peeling into the grate.



II



As Grace and her mother washed the dishes and
made the beds the next morning Mrs. Durland re-
curred to the ill fortune that had brought Grace home
from the university. Repetition was a habit with her,
and she explained again and with more detail the man-
ner in which Cummings had thrust her husband out
of Cummings-Durland. She praised the spirit in which
Ethel had met the situation all this as a prelude to
another plea that Grace should plan her future with



BROKEN BARRIERS 15

care and not take the first employment that offered.
One of these days the right man would come along
and she would marry; Mrs. Durland hoped that both
her daughters would marry good men and keep up the
traditions of the American home.

"Oh, I've never felt that I'd marry," Grace re-
plied. "The reason I went to college was to fit my-
self to be something in the world; and now that I've
got to begin over again I'm going to experiment a
little. I may try a lot of things before I find some-
thing that suits me."

"Well, Grace, you know I've done the best I could
for all you children. When my time comes to go I
want to know that you are all happy and well placed
in life."

"Yes, mother; you've been wonderful to all of us.
And I want you to be sure I'm not bitter about any-
thing. You and father have always done the best
you could for us."



Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 1 of 27)