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answers were little more than notes which she wrote
and rewrote in trepidation lest she say too much or too
little. Now that he had declared himself and was
reiterating daily his complete absorption in her as to
everything that affected his future she could afford to
risk certain reserves and coynesses. But she did love
him; she had positively settled this question. It was
a tremendous thing that had happened to her, the
realization of a great love, love awakened at a first
meeting and endowed with all the charm of romance
and the felicity of clandestine adventure. In one of
her notes, written with her door locked her family
imagined her to be zealously devoting herself to her
French studies she wrote:

It is all like a dream. I never cease to marvel that
you should care for me. . . . Every note you
send me is a happy surprise. If one failed to come I


think I should die. . . . You wanted me to take
time to think. That is like my good and true knight.

But I want you to consider too, everything

Your world is so much bigger than mine. Any day
you may meet some one so much finer than I am, so
much worthier of your love. ... I like to think
that it all had to be just as it has been, you and I
wandering toward each other, guided and urged on
by destiny.

To her intimations that he might have regrets he re-
plied in his next message with every assurance that he,
too, shared her feeling that their meeting had been
predestined of all time. Now and then in his life, he
wrote, he had felt the hand of a directing and benefi-
cent fate. She wondered how he would have re-
plied to a direct question as to the forces that had
combined to bring about his marriage to the woman
he had no doubt loved at some time, but she refrained.
In Grace's thoughts, Mrs. Ward Trenton, the Mary
Graham Trenton who sought clues to social problems
and moved restlessly about the country proclaiming
revolutionary ideas, was receding further and further
toward a vanishing point.

At the end of a week she became restless, eager for
Trenton's return. She several times considered tele-
graphing him to make haste, but after going once to
the telegraph office at her lunch hour and writing the
message she tore it up. He had asked her to wire
whenever she was sure; the mere sending of a telegram
would commit her irrevocably. It was not so easy as
she had imagined to write the words which meant that
after pondering the matter with the gravity it de-
manded she was ready to enter into a relationship with
him which would have no honest status, no protec-


tion, but would be just such an arrangement as Irene
maintained with Kemp.

Irene, aware of Trenton's daily letters, now re-
frained from giving her further encouragement to the
affair. On the other hand she seemed disposed to
counsel caution.

"Some days you seem as cheerful as a spring robin
and then again you don't seem so chipper. You don't
want to take your love affairs so hard!"

"Oh, we're just having a little flirtation, that's all,"
said Grace carelessly.

"That's not the way you're acting! You're terribly
intense, Grace. I knew you had temperament, but I
didn't know you had so much. But I'll say this for
Ward, that he's a fine, manly fellow, frankly a much
finer type than Tommy Kemp. Tommy's a sport and
Ward isn't. Ward really has ideals, but such as
Tommy has don't worry him much."

This left Grace, again a prey to doubts, wondering
whether after all Trenton was so utterly different from
Kemp. Intellectually he was a higher type than
Tommy Kemp, but when it came to morals he was
not a bit better.

Grace had not yet wholly escaped from the effect of
Dr. Ridgely's sermon, with its warning against the
too-readily-found excuse for wrong-doing. She con-
tinued to observe carefully her associates in Shipley's
and other business girls she became acquainted with,
and she had no reason for suspecting that by far the
greater number were not high-minded young women
who met cheerily all the circumstances of their lives.
She found herself stumbling uncomfortably over the


excuses she made for herself. Other girls forced to
labor and blessed with equal charm and wit did not
find it necessary "to play around with married men"
as the phrase went, or encourage the attentions of
young unmarried men who were not likely to show
them every respect. There were societies and asso-
ciations whose purpose was to safeguard young
womanhood; some of her new acquaintances were
members of such organizations. She accepted invita-
tions to go for lunch or supper to several of these,
but thought them dull.

Finding that Grace hadn't attempted to enlist Miss
Reynolds in the girl's club of Dr. Ridgley's church,
Ethel Durland had sent the pastor himself to invite
that lady to one of the meetings.

"I hope you will come Tuesday night," said Ethel,
when she reported this to Grace. "We want Miss
Reynolds to see the scope of our work and your being
there will be a help. Maybe you'd ask some of the
girls in Shipley's? We want to have a record at-
tendance. And we want the girls to bring their young
men friends with them. It's our idea that the girls
should feel that the church is like another home."

The attempt to establish a new high record of at-
tendance brought twenty-five girls and four young
men to the church parlors. Three of the young women
were from Shipley's and they had gone at Grace's earn-
est solicitation; four were Servians, employed in a
garment factory, and they were convoyed by young
men of their own race.

"I wish you'd be specially nice to those Servian
girls," Ethel remarked to Grace. "It wasn't easy to
get them to come, but they brought their beaux with
them. We must be sure they have a good time."

The beaux did not seem to relish the hopeless min-


ority of their sex. The meeting was opened formally
by Ethel as chairman of the entertainment com-
mittee. She introduced Dr. Ridgely, who expressed
the hope that the club would develop into one of the
strongest agencies of the church. He referred to re-
ligion only indirectly. Grace was again impressed by
his sincerity; and he was tactful and gracious in his
effort to put the visitors at ease. He would not
linger, he said, as a reminder that they were in a
church; the evening was theirs and he wanted the
club to manage its own affairs and define its own
policy to meet the tastes and needs of the members.
No one of any shade of religious faith could- have
taken offense from anything he said or feared that
the pastor wished to use the club for proselyting pur-
poses. However, when he had left, Ethel Durland ex-
tended an invitation to those present who were not
already enrolled in the Sunday school to become
affiliated, and urged attendance upon the regular
church services.

"How tactless! Why couldn't she let well enough
alone!" whispered Miss Reynolds to Grace. "Dr.
Ridgely knows better than that."

"My sister has a strong sense of duty," Grace an-
swered. "She couldn't bear to let the opportunity
go by."

"She might have waited at least till they'd got
their refreshments," Miss Reynolds retorted.

A young lady elocutionist who had volunteered her
services recited a number of poems after Ethel had
prepared the way with a few words on the new move-
ment in poetry. The audience manifested no great in-
terest in the movement and seemed utterly mystified
by the poems offered. However, Ethel now announced


that the formal exercises were concluded and that they
would repair to the basement where there would
be dancing. Ethel, who did not dance herself and
thought it a wicked form of amusement, had yielded
reluctantly to the suggestion of the other members of
the committee that dancing be included in the pro-
gramme. Dr. Ridgely had given his approval on the
ground that young people were bound to dance some-
where and as there was so much criticism of the pre-
vailing fashion in dancing he thought it highly desir-
able to provide the amusement under auspices cal-
culated to discourage the objectionable features com-
plained of in the public dance halls.

"Well, where are all the young men?" inquired Miss
Reynolds as she stood beside Grace in the basement.
"Those four Servians look frightened to death and
girls don't enjoy dancing with each other. If the
church is going to do this thing, why don't they do it
right? You'd think the committee would have got
some young men here if they'd had to ask the police to
drag them in."

The music was provided by two negroes, one of
whom played the piano and the other the drum. As
Twentieth Century dance music it was not of a high
order. The musicians, duly admonished by the Chair-
man of the entertainment committee, were subduing
their performance in the attempt to adjust it to the
unfamiliar and sobering environment. And the room
itself was not a particularly inspiring place for social
entertaining. A map of the Holy Land and several
enlarged photographs of early members of the church
were the only adornments of the plaster wall, and
the chairs were of that unsteady, collapsible type that
suggest funerals and give the sitter a feeling of un-


dergoing penance for grievous sins. The low ceiling
was supported by iron pillars that added nothing to
the pleasure of dancing.

A number of girls began dancing together and after
some persuasion Grace succeeded in getting the four
couples of Servians on the floor. The young men
danced with something of a ceremonial air as though,
finding themselves in an alien atmosphere, they wished
fitly to represent the dignity and pride of their race.
Grace picked out several young girls who were hud-
dled helplessly in a corner and danced with them and
then seized upon the young men and introduced them
in the hope of breaking the racial deadlock. The
young fellows proved to be painfully shy when
confronted by the necessity of dancing with girls they
had never seen before. Nevertheless Grace's efforts
resulted in putting some life and animation into the
party. It had been said of her in college that she had
the knack of making things go and it struck her sud-
denly that something might be done to inject some
spirit and novelty into the occasion by asking the
Servians to give their folk dances. One of the Servian
girls undertook to instruct the negroes in the rhythms
required for the folk dances and the young woman's
vivacity and the negroes' good natured eagerness to
meet her wishes evoked much merriment. The dances
were given with spirit in a circle formed by the rest
of the company, who warmly applauded the quaint

"I always wanted to try these folk dances myself!"
cried Grace appealing to the tallest of the young men.
"Won't you teach me?"

He would be honored, he said, and the girl with whom
he had been dancing went to the piano. Grace quickly
proved herself an apt and enthusiastic pupil. When


she had learned the postures and steps of one of the
group dances her instructor took her as his partner and
she went through with it without an error. Others of
the American girls now began trying the steps with
the Servian young men and women, who entered zest-
fully into the work of teaching them. The result was
the breaking down of restraint and by the time the re-
freshments were served the room presented a scene
of gaiety and good fellowship.

"You have a genius for that kind of thing, my dear;
you managed that beautifully," said Miss Reynolds to
Grace as they assisted in pouring chocolate and pass-
ing sandwiches. "You saved the evening! Dear me!
There's something wrong with this. As an effort to
interest young people in the church this club can't
say much for itself. Girls won't go where there are
no young men; I imagine young men are not easy to
lure into church parlors to hear poetry read to them,
particularly poetry that doesn't mean anything. And
this cellar and the piano and drum can't compete with
a big dance hall and a real jazz band. This has been
going on about like this for several years, but without
as many girls as came tonight. I don't know what
could be done, but this doesn't seem worth while."

"I don't know the answer either," said Grace, who,
more or less consciously, was observing this attempt
to do something for working girls with reference to
her own problems. Her reading had made her familiar
with the efforts of church organizations to meet the
social needs of the changing times. It seemed to her
that these all presupposed a degree of aspiration in
the class sought to be helped. And knowing herself
to have enjoyed probably the best opportunities as to
education of any girl in the room she was troubled,
knowing how feeble was her hold on such ideals of


conduct as only a little while ago she had believed
herself to possess.

"Maybe," said Miss Reynolds, those people are
right who say we're running too much to organiza-
tions. We start a club like this and stick it in a
church basement and are terribly pleased with our-
selves. These girls are all good girls; naughty girls
wouldn't come; they can have a better time some-
where else. And they're just the ones we've got to
reach. Am I right about that?"

"I think you are," replied Grace, wondering what
Miss Reynolds would say if she could read her
thoughts. To drop Trenton while it was still possible
would make it necessary to reconcile herself to the
acceptance of just such pleasures as Ethel thought
sufficient social stimulus for girls who worked for a

"Why don't the church members come to these
meetings?" Miss Reynolds demanded, "or send their
sons and daughters? The minister of this church has
sense and I'll wager he sees that side of it. A miser-
able thing like this only strengthens class feeling. I
don't believe there's any way of making such a club
go. The church is put in the position of tagging the
rich and the poor so nobody can mistake one for the
other. I think I'll spend my time and money on in-
dividual cases find a few young people who really
need help and concentrate on them!"

At eleven o'clock the musicians left and the en-
tertainment came to an end.

"I'm so grateful to you, Grace, for helping; this is
the best meeting we've ever had," said Ethel after
she had pressed a folder describing the church's activ-
ities upon the last of the company. "Don't you think
our work well worth while, Miss Reynolds?"


"I was greatly interested," Miss Reynolds replied

She took Grace and Ethel home in her car but did
not encourage Ethel's attempt to discuss the evening.
However, in bidding Ethel good-night she said she
would send her a check for one hundred dollars for
the girls' club.

"Your work is important, Miss Durland; I sym-
pathize with the purpose; but I don't think you've got
quite the right plan. But I confess that I have no
suggestion worth offering. I realize that it's not easy
to solve these problems."


Grace was not happy! Much as she tried to avoid
the flat conclusion, die best she could do was to twist
it into a question. Love was a worthless thing if its
effect was merely to torture, to inflict pain. She had
told Trenton that she loved him and had virtually
agreed to accept him on his own terms. Why, as the
days passed, was she still doubting, questioning, chal-
lenging her love for him?

At the end of a rainy day that had been full of)
exasperations Grace left the store to take the trolley
home. The rain had turned to sleet that beat spite-
fully upon her umbrella and the sidewalks were a
mass of slush. She was dreading the passage home
in the crowded car and the evening spent in her room,
thinking of Trenton, fashioning her daily letter. She
had begun to hate her room where every object seemed
to be an animate, malevolent embodiment of some
evil thought. She had half decided to persuade her
father to brave the weather and return down town


after supper to go to a picture show when, turning the
corner, she heard her name called.

"Hello, there, Grace!"

"Why, Bob, is it you?" she cried peering out at
Cummings from under her umbrella.

He took her umbrella and fell into step with her.

"Don't look so scared; of course it's I. Frankly
this isn't just chance alone; I've been lying in am-
bush 1"

"This will never dol" she cried, but in spite of
herself she was unable to throw any resentment into
her tone.

"I've got a grand idea!" he said. "I'm playing
hooky tonight. Evelyn called me up this afternoon
to ask if I'd go to dine with an uncle of hers who's
having a birthday. These family parties are bad
enough at Christmas and Thanksgiving but when they
begin ringing in birthdays I buck. So I told Evelyn
I was too tired to go and that I had a business en-
gagement anyhow, and would get my dinner down

"Do you realize that I'm getting wet? You beat it
for your family party; I'm going home."

"Please, Grace, don't desert me!" he replied coax-
ingly. "Let's have a cozy supper together and I'll
get you home early."

"I told you I'd never see you again!" she said in-
dignantly. "You have no excuse for waylaying me
like this. It's unpardonable!"

"Don't be so cruel!" he pleaded. "I'll be awfully
nice honestly I will! You won't have a thing to be
sorry for."

Firm as her resolution had been not to see him
again she was weighing the relief it would be to avoid
going home against the danger of encouraging him.


"Where are your manners, sir? You haven't even
offered to drive me home."

"God pity us homeless children in the great city to-
night!" he cried, aware that she was relenting. "My
car's parked yonder by the Sycamore Tavern. The
night invites the adventurous spirit. We'll dare the
elements and ride hard and fast like king's mes-

"Will you keep that up just that way pretending
we're two kids cutting up, as we used to do?"

"Of course, Grace; you may count on it."

"Well, I'm tired and bored with myself, and was
dreading the ride home I'll go! But whither?"

"To McGovern's house of refreshment at the border
of a greenwood, known to Robin Hood in olden
times!" cried Cummings, elated by her consent.
"We'll stop at the Sycamore and I'll telephone the
varlet to make the coffee hot."

"I supped there once, years agone! But the crowd
was large and boisterous," she replied, now entering
fully into the spirit of the proposed adventure. Their
attempt at archaic speech recalled their youthful de-
light in the Arthurian legends in days when their world
was enfolded in a golden haze of romance.

It was impossible to think of Cummings otherwise
than as a boy, and a foolish boy, but amusing when
the humor was on him as now, and to have supper
with him would work injury to no one.

While he talked to McGovern she went into a booth
and explained to her mother that she wouldn't be
home for supper, saying that she was going to a
movie with a girl friend.

"All set?" asked Cummings. "That's fine. We'll
move right along. You'll be in early; that's a cinch.
Evelyn's sure to be home by ten and I'll be practising


Chopin furiously when she gets back from her uncle's.
Mac wasn't keen about taking us in as he shuts down
at the first frost. But that's all the better; nobody
else would think of going there on such a night!"

They were planning with much absurd detail the
strategy of their approach to a beleagured capital when
they reached McGovern's and were warmly welcomed
by the proprietor.

"It gets mighty lonesome out here in the winter," he
said. "The missus thought you'd like having supper
right here in the living room so you could sort o'
chum with the fire."

"That's a heavenly idea," said Grace, eyeing th'i
table with covers laid for two. Mrs. McGovern, a
stout woman whose face shone with good nature, ap-
peared and bade her husband help bring in the dishes.
Whereupon Cummings and Grace rushed to the
kitchen to assist and filed in behind him, bearing serv-
ing dishes and singing a song they had learned in their

It's over the river to feed the sheep,

It's over the river to Charlie;
It's over the river to feed the sheep

And measure out the barley!"


The wind whined in the chimney and somewhere a
shutter banged spitefully.

"That's the only touch we needed to make a perfect
evening!" said Grace, her cheeks glowing. "I expect
to hear a stage coach come tearing into the yard any
minute pursued by highwaymen. How did you ever
come to think of McGovern's?"


"Just one of my little happy thoughts! Now that
we've found the way there's no reason why we can't
repeat," said Cummings.

"There you go! This doesn't establish a precedent;
it belongs to those experiences it's better never to try
again. But, it's certainly jolly so far as we've gone.
What if somebody should come prancing in?"

"It's not a good night for prancing. McGovern
said there hadn't been a soul here for a week. That's
why he let us come, I suppose."

"I can think of certain persons who wouldn't add
much to the joy of this particular party," said Grace

"A little danger adds to the fun! You seem to for-
get that I thought it all up; I'm ready to go right on
round the world!"

"Yes, you are!" she retorted teasingly. "It sounds
awful but sometimes I think it's cowardice that keeps
most of us good! If you were a philosopher I'd ask
your opinion on that subject but I see you haven't a
ghost of an idea!"

He frowned. There had always been a serious side
to Grace. In her high school days she was constantly
dipping into books that were beyond her, treatises
on social science and the like that only depressed him.
He didn't know, of course, how eagerly she had caught
at the opportunity of spending the evening with him
merely to enjoy a few hours freedom from the turmoil
of her own soul. It interested her for a moment to
sound him as to whether by any chance he was con-
scious of the general transformation of things or knew
that their visit to McGovern's in itself had a signifi-
cance; but he was a dreamer who responded only to
the harmonies of life and avoided all its discords. He
was caught up in the whirligig of apparently changing


conditions just as she knew herself to be. Were they
really breaking down the old barriers? Or was the
world, aided by gasoline and jazz, moving so rapidly
that in the mad rush it required a more alert eye to
discern the danger signs?

The fact that she was eating supper with another
woman's husband in a place frankly chosen for its
isolation interested her, as so many social phenomena
had interested her since she left the University.

"Oh, thunder!" he said with a shrug. "There's no
use in our worrying. Let the old folks do that. I
guess we've all got a right to be happy and tastes differ
as to what happiness is. That's all."

This, of course, wasn't all, but she refrained from
saying so. A look came into his eyes that warned her
to have a care. She must guard herself from an at-
tempt on his part, which she saw was impending, to
take advantage of the hour to make love to her.

"Grace," he resumed, "every time I get blue it's
you I want to see."

"Tush, tush! I'd never have come if I'd thought
you were going to be foolish. Don't you get the
notion into your silly head that you can run to me
every time you get down in the mouth. There's no
reason why I should hold your hand when you're sor-
rowful; I don't want the job!"

She was eating with an honest appetite that dis-
couraged his hope of interesting her in sentiment.

"Wow ! I thought you'd jump at the offer ! "

"Have another biscuit! I want to laugh! How
silly this is, Bob! I supposed you brought me out
here to show me a good time and we're almost at the
point of quarreling."

"Now, Grace, we'll never do that! I didn't think


you'd mind the compliment 1 But," dolefully, "I sup-
pose you get so many!"

He became tractable, obedient, anxious to please
her. She knew that she could do with him very much
as she pleased; but there was no satisfaction in the
exercise of her power over so unstable a character.
She was sorry for him, much as she would have been
sorry for a child who never quite learned his lessons;
and there were lessons Bob Cummings would never

After they had eaten their dessert they started the
victrola and danced, and Bob was again the good play-
fellow. They began burlesquing classic dances, and

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 13 of 27)