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kissed it.

"That's the way it has to be everything or noth-
ing. I never loved any one before."

"I'm so glad! I was afraid to ask you that. I had
even thought there might be some one else some
younger man "

"Stop! We're not going to talk of ages," she
laughed, with a quick gesture laying her hand for a
moment against his lips. "It must be understood
right now that you're not a day over twenty-five."

"You're going to spoil me! And you don't know
how much I want to be spoiled."

"You poor dear! I'm going to love petting and
spoiling you!"

Instantly it occurred to her that the other woman,
the unknown wife of her frequent conjecture, had
neither petted nor spoiled him and that this accounted
for his eagerness for a new experience. A cloud
crossed the bright heaven of her happiness. His wife
was not to be relegated to oblivion merely because he
had found another object for his affections. The wife
had a very real existence in Grace's imagination; to
Trenton's lightly limned sketch the girl had added a
line here and there until she fancied she possessed
a very true portrait of Mrs. Trenton. Somewhere
there existed a Mrs. Ward Trenton, who wrote books
and lectured and otherwise advertised herself as a
vital being.

"Dear little girl!" said Trenton tenderly. "You
are all the world to me. Do you understand?"

"I must believe that," she said.

"There's nothing I can offer you now neither a


home nor the protection of my name. It's got to
be just love that's our tie. I'm not going to deceive
you about that."

"Yes, I understand what it means," she answered.

"You must believe that I'll do the best I can to
make you happy. Love that doesn't bring happiness
is an empty and worthless thing. You don't know
how much I count on you. I'm laying a burden on
you; I'm clutching at you for all the things I've missed
out of my life."

"Yes; I know dear."

"There's something not fair about it about cast-
ing myself upon you as I'm doing," he said doggedly.

"I'm proud that you want me! I want to fill your
heart and your life."

"You can; you do even now! But first of all I
want you to be sure sure of yourself, dear. There
must be no regrets afterward. I can't see you again
before I go, but I'll write."

"I shall miss you so! You will write to me!" she
cried, feeling already the loneliness of the days of his
impending absence. His calmness was disconcerting
but she readily forgave this as she would have for-
given him anything. He was thinking of the long
future no doubt, planning ways of seeing her.

"Promise me you'll consider everything."

"It's enough that we love each other!" she replied

"You're not a child but a woman, able to see it all
in every light. You must be very sure that you care;
that you do love me."

"I'm very sure, dear," she said, not a little dis-
turbed by his solicitude, fearing that he himself might
now be a prey to misgivings.


"You can write to me at the addresses I'll send.
And then wire me when you're quite sure not till

"Yes; I'll do as you say. But tell me again that
you love me! I shall be so lonely without you!"

"With all my heart I love you. I wish we need
never part again. Some day that will be. Some day
I can have you with me always! But now "

The sentence died on his lips. What could be now
he did not say, shrank from saying perhaps. It was
not for her to express in words what could be now.
She felt a sudden strong impulse to speak of his wife;
to ask him whether he did not still care for her. But
it was in her heart, the battleground of many and
confused emotions, to give him the benefit of every
doubt. Her forces of defense had mutinied and left
her powerless even to question him. The joy of the
knowledge that he loved her and that she returned
his love thrilled her like the song of triumphant

Her heart was throbbing as they passed through
the Durland gate. At the door he took her in his

"My dearest! I wouldn't lie to you; I love you
with all my heart. You will write me; and don't
forget the telegram. I shall come flying at the first
possible moment after I get that. And don't trouble
about anything. I want you to say you trust me
and are sure of me."

His kisses smothered her replies.

"Promise to be careful of yourself, dear. I should
die without you ! "

There were tears in her eyes as she fumbled for
her latch key. She watched him as he struck out
with a long stride toward the city. She thought


that he looked back and waved his hand out of the
shadows just as she opened the door.


It was long before she slept but she rose obedient
to the summons of the alarm clock and assisted as
usual in the preparation of breakfast. At the table
her silence and preoccupation caused her mother to
scrutinize her closely.

"You don't seem quite like yourself, Grace. Don't
you feel well?"

"Oh, there's nothing at all the matter. I had a
hard day at the store yesterday."

"Maybe you ate something for supper that didn't
agree with you."

Grace read into this suggestion a hint that her
mother and sister were not without their curiosity as
to where she had dined and the manner in which she
had spent the remainder of the evening. They had
been accepting so meekly her silence as to her eve-
nings away from home that it occurred to Grace
that it would serve to allay suspicion if she told occa-
sionally just what she had been doing.

"I had dinner at the Sycamore with an acquaintance
< a man from out of town and we went to the con-
cert. The music was perfectly wonderful. And then
we walked home. Nothing terribly exciting in that!"

"I thought I heard voices at the door just before
you came in," said Mrs. Durland with an effort at in-
difference that was only partly successful.

"Very likely you did, mamma. Mr. Trenton and I
walked home; it seemed a pity to ride when the night
was so fine and there was all that music still ringing
in our ears."


She was pleased with her own audacity and smiled
as she saw Ethel and her mother exchange glances.
But having ventured so far it would be necessary
now to explain how she had met Trenton and she was
prepared with a small lie with which to fortify the
truth when she saw that something more was expected.

"Mr. Trenton, did you say, Grace?" inquired Mrs.
Durland as though not sure she had heard aright.

"Yes, mother; Mr. Ward Trenton, of Pittsburgh.
I knew his niece very well at the University, and as
he comes here now and then Mabel wrote and asked
him to look me up. He's ever so nice. He's been
everywhere and talks wonderfully. He's a mechani-
cal engineer and rated very high, isn't he, daddy?"

Trenton's name had impinged upon Durland's con-
sciousness and he put down the morning newspaper
to which he had been referring from time to time dur-
ing the consumption of his breakfast.

"Ward Trenton? Yes, he's one of the ablest engi-
neers in the country. Did you say he'd been in town,

"Yes, he comes here now and then. I had dinner
with him last night at the Sycamore and we went to
the concert. I meant to tell you about him. He
knows of you; he says he's always stumbling into you
in the patent office records."

"Did Trenton say that?" asked Durland, greatly

"Yes; he spoke of you in the kindest way, father."

"You don't say! I wouldn't have thought he'd ever
heard of me. He's in touch with all the big industrial
concerns of the country," said Durland. "I guess
there is hardly a man whose word is worth more than
Trenton's. I read just the other day, in one of the
trade journals, an address he made somewhere on shop


efficiency. His opinions are quoted a good deal; he
knows what he's talking about."

Her father's manifestation of interest in a man so
eminent in his own field did not prevent Ethel from
taking advantage of Grace's unexpected frankness
to ask:

"Was it Mr. Trenton you were with at the theatre
a few nights ago? One of the girls in the office said
she saw you there with a very distinguished looking

"The very same!" Grace replied promptly. "You
know Mr. Trenton is awful keen about Mabel, so
when she wrote him that I was at Shipley's he came
in to see me."

Having gone so far with the imaginary niece she
thought it best to endow her with a full name.

"Mabel Conwell is awfully nice, though you
wouldn't exactly call her pretty."

"Does she live here?" asked Mrs. Durland.

"Oh, no! Her home's in Jeffersonville or New Al-
bany, I forget which. It's one of those Ohio river

"It was certainly kind of her to have Mr. Trenton
look you up," said Mrs. Durland. "But I wish you'd
asked him to the house. It doesn't seem just right
for you to be going out with a man your family
doesn't know. I'm not saying, dear, that there's any
impropriety; only I think it would give him a better
impression of all of us if we met him."

"Oh, I meant to bring him up but he's so terribly
busy. He works everywhere he goes right up to the
last minute. And it was much simpler to meet him at
the Sycamore."

"He's married, is he not?" asked Ethel.

"Oh, yes!" said Grace, heartily regretting now that


she had opened the way for this question. "His wife
is Mary Graham Trenton who write and lectures."

"That woman," exclaimed Mrs. Durland, plainly
horrified. "She is one of the most dangerous of all
the foes of decency in this country 1 Last spring we
had a discussion of her ideas in the West End Club.
I hadn't known how utterly without shame a woman
could be till one of our members wrote a paper about

"I've heard that she's very wealthy," interposed
Ethel hi a tone which suggested that, no matter how
utterly destructive of public morals Mrs. Trenton's
ideas might be, as a rich woman she was not wholly
beyond the pale. "It's all the more remarkable that
she's opposed to marriage and nearly everything else,
or pretends to be, when she belongs to one of the
oldest American families and inherited her wealth."

"I don't know that Mr. Trenton accepts her ideas,"
said Grace. "He hasn't discussed them with me. He
seemed rather amused when I told him I'd read her
'Clues to a New Social Order'."

"You haven't read that awful thing?" cried Mrs.

"Why, certainly, mother; I read it last winter. It's
not so awfully shocking; I suppose there are a good
many people who believe as Mrs. Trenton does."

"How can you speak so, Grace! What would be-
come of the home and the family if such ideas pre-
vailed? That woman's positively opposed to mar-

"Oh, I don't believe it's as bad as that! I think
it's more her idea that where marriages are unhappy
it's cruel to make people live together. But, you
needn't be afraid that Mr. Trenton's trying to con-
vert me to his wife's notions. I don't believe he is


terribly tickled to have her gallivanting over the coun-
try lecturing."

"You can't be too careful, you know, Grace, about
letting a married man pay you attentions. People
are bound to talk. And Mrs. Trenton, being known
for her loose ideas on marriage, naturally causes
people to look twice at her husband."

"And at any woman her husband pays attention
to," Ethel added.

"Of course I'm careful what I do," replied Grace.
"Mr. Trenton is a perfect gentleman in every way
and just as kind and considerate as can be. He gave
me two of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent. You
certainly can't object to my knowing a man like that."

"No, dear," replied Mrs. Durland, "except that it
seems strange for a daughter of mine to be meeting
a married man and having dinner with him and going
to the theatre when I don't know him at all."

Durland had lingered, pretending to be looking for
something in the paper but really prepared to sup-
port Grace in the event that his wife and Ethel showed
a disposition to carry their criticisms further.

"I suppose we have to put up with such things,"
said Ethel, "but that doesn't make them right. I
hope, Grace, you won't let your independence carry
you too far."

"Well, Mr. Trenton has passed on and I don't know
when he'll turn up here again, so you needn't worry."

"It's fine you can know a man like Trenton," Dur-
land ventured from the hall door.

"Here's an idea!" cried Grace, springing after him
to hold his overcoat, "the next time Mr. Trenton
comes to town I'll try to have you meet him."

"I think some of us ought to meet him," said Mrs.
Durland, who had begun to clear the table.


"By all means," Ethel affirmed. "I think the fam-
ily dignity calls for at least that!"

"Yes, we must preserve the family dignity at any
hazard," Grace retorted.

Having buttoned her father into his coat she
snatched his hat and planted it at a rakish angle on
his head. He submitted good naturedly, pleased as
he always was by her attentions.

"You bring Trenton down sometime, Grace. I've
some old junk I'd be glad to show him," he said,
glancing furtively at his wife.

"Grand! Between us we ought to be able to put
something over on him."

She flung her arm across his shoulder and walked
with him to the front door.

No highly developed talent for mind reading was
necessary to an understanding of the mental opera-
tions of Mrs. Durland and Ethel in matters pertaining
to the father and younger daughter. When Grace
entered the kitchen she knew that she had interrupted
a conference bearing upon her acquaintance with
Trenton. Her mother and Ethel would study the mat-
ter in all its aspects. She derived a cynical satisfaction
from the knowledge that her apparent frankness was
probably causing them more anxiety than an evasion
or a downright lie.


Grace's thoughts raced madly in the days that fol-
lowed. She saw herself in new aspects, dramatized
herself in new and fascinating situations. She was like
a child peering into a succession of alluring skop win-


dows, the nature and value of whose strange wares
it only imperfectly understands. Life was disclos-
ing itself, opening long vistas before her. As to men
she now believed that she knew a great deal. Con-
fident that she loved Trenton and without regret that
she had confessed her love she did not question her
happiness. She lived in a paradise whose walls were
fashioned of the stuff that dreams are made of. It
pleased her to think of herself as a figure of romance
and she got from the public library several novels in
which young women, imaginably like herself, had given
their all for love. She was satisfied that her own case
was far more justifiable than those of these heroines.

Her heart was filled with kindness toward all the
world. On the day that brought her Trenton's first
letter she went to her father's new shop in the Power
Building carrying lunch for two from a cafeteria. Her
father's silence in his hours at home, his absorption
in his scientific books, had for her an increasing
pathos. Mrs. Durland referred not infrequently to
the fallen estate of the family in terms well calculated
to wound him from the very tone of helpless resigna-
tion in which they were uttered.

Durland pushed his hat back on his head and stared
as Grace appeared in the door of his little shop.

"What's the matter, Grace? Anything happened?"
he asked with his bewildered air.

"Not a thing, daddy. I just thought I'd come
around and have lunch; so here's sandwiches for two."

"I never eat lunch," he said, turning reluctantly
from the bench at which he had been at work.

"Well, you're going to today!"

Over his protests she cleared a space on the bench
and laid out the contents of her package sandwiches,
cakes and apples. She dusted off a chair for him


and then swung herself on to the bench within easy
reach of the food. She ignored his warning that there
was grease on the bench and flung him a paper nap-

"The banquet's begun! Now proceed and tell me
how every little thing's a going."

"Just about the same, Grace. I'm working on an
idea or two. Not sure yet just what I've got, but
I think maybe I'm on to something that'll turn out

"You're bound to, daddy! You work so hard!"

"Cummings may have scrapped me too soon," he
muttered and looked at her with an ironic grin and
a fanatical gleam in his eyes that caused her to wonder
for a moment whether from his lonely brooding he
might not be going mad.

A man came in to see about some patterns he had
ordered. They were not ready and even while Dur-
land expressed his regret at the delay Grace saw that
his thoughts were still upon his inventions. The cus-
tomer manifested impatience, remarking angrily as
he left that if his work wasn't ready the next day
he would take it elsewhere.

"Really, daddy, you oughtn't to keep people wait-
ing when you take their jobs. If you'll only build
up this pattern and model business you can make a
good thing of it."

"You're right, Grace. But I can't keep my mind
off my own work. I know all the weaknesses of my
old things that Cummings is making. I'm going to
put him out of business!"

"That's all right, but you mustn't take jobs for
other people unless you mean to do them right away.
This place is in an awful mess!"

As she began straightening up a litter of papers on


one end of the bench a bill for the rent of the room
caught her eye.

"Don't look at these things, Grace!" he pleaded, as
he tried to snatch the bill. "I'll be able to pay that in
a day or two. I got a check coming for a model and
it'll cover the rent."

Her questioning elicited the information that the
check had been expected for several weeks and that
the man for whom the model had been made left
town without leaving his address.

"It seems pretty uncertain, daddy, and this rent's
three weeks over due. I have a little money in the
trust company and I'll send my check for it."

"I don't like taking your money, Grace," he said
as she thrust the bill into her purse.

"Don't you worry about that. I'd be ashamed if I
didn't help you when you've always been so good to

"I don't see where I've done much for you. I
never expected you girls would have to work. You
know I'm sorry, Grace!"

"Well, I'm perfectly happy, so don't you worry."

She took his old-fashioned watch from his pocket
and noted the time.

"I've got to skip."

"Nice of you to come round, Grace; but you're al-
ways good to me. By the way, I guess you'd better
not tell your mother about the rent. She wouldn't
like my taking your money."

"Then we won't say a word!" She whispered,
touched by his fear of her mother's criticisms. She
flung her arms about him and hugged him till he cried
for mercy.

Her savings account was further depleted the next
Saturday. She was surprised to find Roy waiting for
her when she left the department at her lunch hour.


"No, sis; I didn't write I was coming. I've got to
go back on the first train."

"But of course you'll see mother!"

"Well, I thought I might call her up," ke said

"Call her up!" Grace repeated sharply. "If you're
not going out home don't call her! She'd never for-
give you. Come and have lunch with me so we can

Roy Durland was tall and fair, a handsome young
fellow, though his face might have been thought too
delicate, a trifle too feminine. One would have known
that as a child he had been pointed out as a very
pretty boy.

"I hate like thunder bothering you, sis," he began
when they were seated in the lunch room. "But I'm
up against it hard. Harry Sayles and I got a car from
Thornton's garage the other night and took a couple
of girls out for a ride. It was Harry's party, he was
going to pay for the machine. Well, we were letting
'er go a pretty good clip, I guess, when something went
wrong with the steering gear and we ran smash into
a barn and mussed things up considerable. Harry and
Freda Barnes were on the front seat and got cut up a
little. We had to wake up a farmer and telephone to
Thornton to send out for us. Thornton wants fifty
dollars to cover his damage and of course I've got to
stand half of it; that's only square. He's pretty ugly
about it and says if we don't come through with the
money hell take it up with the college people. Now
I know, Grace, "

"Yes, you know you have no business going on joy
rides, particularly with a boy like Harry Sayles who's
always in nasty scrapes 1 Who's Freda Barnes? I
don't remember a student of that name."

"Well, she isn't exactly a student," Roy replied,


nervously buttering a piece of bread, "but she's a
perfectly nice girl. She works in Singleton's store."

"That's one girl; who was the other?"

"Sadie Den ton; you must remember her; she was
cashier in Fulton's for a while."

"No; I never heard of her," said Grace eyeing him
coldly. "You know plenty of nice girls on the campus
and plenty of decent, self-respecting boys. There's
not the slightest excuse for you. I suppose Harry pro-
vided the whiskey. There was whiskey of course.
Come, out with the truth about it!"

"Well," Roy admitted shamefacedly, "we did have
a bottle but we didn't drink enough of it to make any
difference. Really, Grace, it was an accident; no one
could have helped it."

"I'm not so sure of that. I understand now why
you didn't want to show yourself at home. The day
I left college you promised to behave yourself and
put in your best licks on your work and already you're
mixed up in a nasty scrape. It would break mother's
heart if she knew it. Mother's crazy about you; she'd
sacrifice all the rest of us for you, and you evidently
don't appreciate it at alll"

"I understand all that, sis. I told you I'd be glad
to quit and let you stay on and finish. My hanging
on in the law school is all a mistake."

"Well, don't whimper! It's too late to weaken now.
You were old enough to know what you were doing
when you took up the law. It begins to look as though
you simply wanted to hang on at the university to loaf
and have a good time. You don't deserve any pity for
getting into a mess like this. I suppose the story's all
over the campus."

"I don't think so," he answered quickly, with hope


lighting his eyes. "Thornton promised to keep his
mouth shut if we'd pay his bill. And Harry and the
girls won't talk."

"I imagine not! And you're letting me into the
secret merely in the hope of getting twenty-five dollars
out of me."

"Don't be so hard on me, Grace! I know I'm a
fool and haven't sense enough to say no when anybody
asks me to do things like that. But if you'll help me
out this time I swear never to bother you again."

"All right, Roy. I haven't the money here but I'll
walk over to the trust company with you and get it.
But be sure this doesn't happen again. I don't want
to rub it in but it may help you to keep straight if I
tell you that it's just about all we can do to get by at
home. Father is earning nothing; the family's clean
busted. Mother's pinching and denying herself to be
ready to give you a start when you leave the law
school. I'm not complaining; I'm only telling you this
because I don't think you mean to make it any harder
for the rest of us than you can."

"It's all a silly mistake," he said dully, "this trying
to make a lawyer of me. I've a good notion to have it
out with mother now and tell her I've come home to

"If you do you're the rankest kind of quitter! You
could have refused to take up the law when you
graduated from college, but now that you have only
a few more months you've simply got to make good.
Mother would die of humiliation if you stopped.
Come along; we've got to step lively."

"Now, Roy," she said as she gave him the money at
the teller's window: "Please behave yourself I"

He left her at the store, repeating his promises that


he would never again ask her for money and assuring
her that he would make the most of his time for the
remainder of the year.

She had dealt with him more severely than it was
in her heart to do and she was a little sorry that she
hadn't shown more tolerance for his misadventure.
Fairly considered, his joy-riding with undesirable com-
panions was hardly more censurable than her partici-
pation in Kemp's party at The Shack, a matter as to
which her conscience was still at times a little tender.


Trenton wrote every day, letters in which there was
no attempt to disguise his love for her. He hadn't
warned her against keeping his letters but she
destroyed each one after writing her reply. These

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 12 of 27)