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tense in your different ways as you and Ward, you're
likely to hurt each other terribly. I've been awfully
careful what I've said to you, Grace, about well
about going the limit with Ward. But I can see you're
not just throwing yourself at his head. And Ward,
if I know him, is not going to expect you to."

"Oh, he's fine!" said Grace, averting her eyes. "No
one could be finer, but "

"Yes, my dear; there's that but we always bring up
against! I won't say a word about Tommy and me.
Of course I never loved Tommy but I thought he was
a good fellow and on the level; and it was exciting
while it lasted. That's what catches a lot of girls who
go in for such little affairs as mine with Tommy. It's


the excitement of doing something they know's dead
wrong and bound to end in a smash-up."

As Grace was eating little and seemed dispirited,
Irene recurred to Trenton.

"Ward would never be satisfied just to play around
with a girl, knowing that whenever he got tired he'd
chuck her and pick up another. I'm saying this be-
cause I know he fell for you hard that very first night
you met; it was a clear case of love at first sight with
you two. I'm not just kidding you; you know as well
as I do you're different from other girls. You've got
brains and poise. Not that you weren't always a lot
of fun and a good pal, I never knew a girl who was
as much fun to play with. But you've always kept
your self-respect and held your head high. Ward likes
that in you because he's that sort himself."

"I wish I could believe you're right but, Irene,
sometimes I don't feel I know myself at all I When
I quit college I was full of self-conceit and thought
I had a strong grip on myself. I was going to test
out life find out everything in my own way. But
there are times when I get scared. I thought it would
be fun to drift along for awhile, just trying myself
out and I was sure I could stop whenever I pleased
and settle on something. But I'm not doing itl
What's the matter with me anyhow?" she demanded

"You're in love! Don't you think I haven't been
watching the awful symptoms. You've got a real
case I "

"Do you really mean that? Would you really
know?" asked Grace eagerly.

"Would I know? I could see it with my eyes shut.
And I can see it's troubling you. These are things
we've all got to settle for ourselves, my dear. And
from what I know of Ward I'll wager he's taking it


just as hard as you are. He's married and he knows
just what the whole thing means. I'd be disappointed
in him if he didn't give you a good chance to drop
him now even though he suffered terribly. And he's
of the kind who do suffer all right."

"It might be better," said Grace soberly, "if I didn't
see him again!"

"You're going to be unhappy if you do that. You'd
both be unhappy. Of course, there's his wife. He'd
be likely to think of her pride and dignity, chivalry
and all that sort of stuff. And if he got a divorce!
and married you the whole business might be unpleas-
ant. You're not the sort of girl who could go through
a thing like that without suffering terribly. It's some-
thing for you to think about, my dearl"

In spite of her trouble with Kemp, Irene was eat-
ing a substantial luncheon. There were times when
Grace felt an aversion for Irene. The most sacred
relationships of life the girl treated with a cold cynic-
ism that affected Grace disagreeably. She was ponder-
ing the sordidness of Irene's liason with Kemp. The
lofty condescension with which Irene spoke of him
amused Grace only mildly.

"Wouldn't it be grand," Irene continued, "to be
made love to I mean by some one who really knew
howl Somebody who'd approach you as though you
were a queen and stand in terrible awe of you! The
trouble with all us women nowadays is that we're
too easy. The next time a man shows any symptoms
of being interested in me I'm going to be the coy
little girl, I can tell you! Oh, I'm not thinking of
Tommy" her lip curled "I mean where the man
really respects you first of all. I tell you, Grace, I'm
pretty well fed up on this new woman stuff. Believe
me, I'm staying home with mother these nights knit-
ting a sweater for father, and Sunday I'm going to


put on a big apron and bake a cake honest, I am!
Women do better as a domestic animal like the com-
mon or fireside cat."

"You don't really think that!" Grace exclaimed.

"Oh, I know Grace, you're all for our glorious in-
dependence and righting in the ranks shoulder to
shoulder with the men. But the trouble is we can't
fight with them; we're fighting against them every
hour of the day! My dear, there's a curse on us
the curse of sex! There's absolutely no ducking it.
You may talk all you like about equality and how
men and women meet in business and the woman is
the equal of the man. All right! She may have just
as good a head as the man she's dealing with but if
she still has home-grown teeth and her face isn't pain-
ful to look at sex is all mixed up in the figures. You
can't get away from it."

"But, Irene 1"

"Oh, I saw you sell a woman a coat yesterday
that old girl from up in the bushes whose husband
came along to keep her from blowing his bank roll,
and it was the man you sold that rag to, not the
woman. Sex! You're a pretty girl, you know, and he
spent twice what he'd let her blow on herself if it
hadn't been for your blandishments. And when I
go down to New York on a buying jaunt the polite
gentlemen in our line buy me expensive dinners
and take me in swift taxies to the theatre and
to supper and to snappy dance places afterwards.
That's sex! If the store sends a man down there
the same birds buy him a quick lunch and that's all.
But a woman's different! Sex, my dear, sex!"

"Oh, it's not as bad as that!" Grace protested. "I
want to be considered as a human being first and
as a woman afterwards. I don't mind saying that
there have been times lately when I've wished I could


see things as mother does, but I can't. There's no
use trying to live backwards. I just couldn't stay
in a house all the time and cook and sew and darn
for a husband; I'd go crazy 1"

"Well, the home life listens good to me right now!"
replied Irene with a sigh. "No; this is my turn
to pay the check. By the way, did you notice that
woman I waited on this morning the dish-face with
too much paint and pearl earrings as big as your
fist well," she broke off abruptly "here's a happy
surprise! If I'm not mistaken here's the tall syca-
more of Raccoon Creek!"

"What on earth are you talking about a raccoon
with pearl earrings?"

"No; a certain party just coming in the door.
Looks like your old college chum who took you to the
football game."

Grace turned to find John Moore bearing down
upon their table.

"You will excuse me, won't you?" he exclaimed radi-
antly as he shook hands. "Oh, I remember Miss
Kirby; ashamed of myself if I didn't. Well, Grace,
they told me you were up here at lunch so I thought
I'd take a chance. Hope you've got a minute. I came
to town on particular business. Sold an Airedale pup
and brought him up to make special delivery."

"You have a kennel, Mr. Moore?" asked Irene.
"I adore Airedales."

"I'll say it's a kennel!" John answered as he drew
a chair from an adjoining table and seated himself.
"Grace knows the place; an old barn, one of the pro-
fessors let's me use for taking care of his furnace.
I'm selling off my pups now before I move to the
great city. I'll be lonesome without a dog when
I come up after Christmas. When I went West last


summer as an honest farm hand I had to leave my
dogs for a darky to look after and I certainly did
miss them. But I've got twenty-five dollars apiece for
them," he concluded, with a frank appeal for their

He gave Grace the latest news of the university,
explaining his items for Irene's enlightenment. When
Grace asked him about particular girls he pro-
tested that he had never heard of their existence. Grace
was just kidding him, he said.

"The fact is, Miss Kirby, since Grace left the
campus I haven't seen any girls."

"I can well believe it," Irene replied. "With Grace
gone there's nothing left of the picture but the frame.
She's one in a million. You'll look a long time be-
fore you find another girl like Grace Durland."

"You've said something!" John affirmed, and pre-
tending that Grace was not present he and Irene en-
gaged in a lively discussion of Grace's merits. With
Irene this was of course only a device for flirting
with John. John understood perfectly that she was
flirting with him. As this went on John and Irene
were taking careful note of each other. Two natures
could not have been more truly antipodal. Grace was
amused to see them at such pains to please each other.
She interrupted them occasionally with a question as to
some virtue attributed to her, which they feigned not
to hear but answered indirectly.

He was already preparing for his removal to the
city and wore a new suit and hat and carried a pair of
tan gloves which obviously had not been worn. He
struck his hat with them occasionally as he talked.
John had always been quick to note little tricks of
manner and speech and when they pleased him he


frankly adopted them. His manner of playing with
his gloves was imitated from a young instructor at
the university who carried gloves with him every-
where, even into the class room, where he played
with them as he heard recitations. John in his new
raiment looked less like a countryman than Grace
had thought possible. She recalled what a cynical
senior had once said of him that above the collar
he looked like a signer of the Declaration of Inde-
pendence but that the rest of him was strongly sug-
gestive of the barnyard. His eyes missed nothing;
he was too eager to get ahead in the world not to
study his own imperfections and overcome them.
Having impressed John with the idea that for the
few minutes they spent together he was the only speci-
men of the male species in the world, Irene languidly
glanced at her watch.

"Only ten minutes to get back, Grace. I'll keep
the wheels of commerce turning while you talk to
Mr. Moore. Do forgive me, old things, for keeping
you waiting."

As she gathered up her purse and vanity box Moore
protested that he and Grace had nothing to say to
each other which she might not hear.

"Oh, don't try that on mel" Irene replied, looking
from one to the other meaningfully.

"If you leave us alone John will begin talking
poetry," said Grace. "Please wait, I don't feel a bit
like poetry today 1"

"There, Miss Kirby; you see Grace doesn't want
to be alone with me! I'll tell you what! I'm stay-
ing in town tonight and it would be fine if we could all
go to a show together. There's a picture I've read
about 'Mother Earth,' they call it; said to give a
fine idea of pioneer life. I guess we owe it to the


folks who drove out the Indians and cleaned up the
varmints to show 'em a little respect, and they say
that picture's a humdinger. If you don't like the
notion and there's some other show "

His eyes were bright with expectancy as he awaited
their decision.

"You see," he added with a broad smile, "now that
I've sold my last pup and paid my debts I feel a little
like celebrating."

"Thank you ever so much, Mr. Moore," said Irene,
"but really, I "

"Why, of course you can go, Irene," exclaimed
Grace, who had not missed Irene's look of consterna-
tion when John suggested spending an evening view-
ing a movie illustrative of the sacrifices of the
pioneers. However, Irene had quickly recovered from
the shock and seemed to be seriously considering
John's invitation.

"I'll be glad to go, thank you, John; but of course
we must have Irene!"

"Certainly, we want Miss Kirby," John declared.

"But if you hadn't seen me here, Mr. Moore, you'd
never have thought of asking me. You know you

"Honestly, I thought of it before I came into the
store! Ever since that day you were so nice about
letting Grace off to go to the game I've had a feeling
I'd like to show you some trifling attention. I'll take
it as another favor if you'll go."

"Oh, if you put it that way, Mr. Moore, of course
I accept," said Irene. "I must skip; you stay, Grace,
and arrange the little details."

"It's mighty nice of Miss Kirby to go," John re-
marked as he resumed his seat after bowing Irene
from the table. "And it must make things a lot easier


for you to have a fine girl like that to work with. You
can tell she knows her business. I guess nothing's go-
ing to rattle her much!"

"What are you trying to do, John; make me jeal-
ous?" laughed Grace.

"Now Grace, you know "

What would John think, Grace wondered John of
the high ideals and aspirations, if he knew that it was
only because Irene had broken with a man whose mis-
tress she had been and in consequence was disposed to
take refuge in things wholly foreign to her nature and
experience, that she had accepted an invitation to
attend a picture show that celebrated the joys and
sorrows of the pioneers!

It was settled that John should go home with her
for supper and that they would meet Irene in the
lobby of the theatre. Grace took occasion to caution
John against mentioning Irene at home. Her mother
and Ethel didn't like Irene, she explained.

"I don't see but she's a pretty fine girl," John re-
plied. "And it makes a hit with me that she's such a
good friend of yours."

"Of course I'm not going," said Irene when Grace
went back to her department. "I supposed you under-
stood that."

"I certainly didn't. John wanted you or he wouldn't
have asked you. You know what you were saying
about sex! Here's a chance to prove you can forget
it. Let's assume John's taking us to a movie merely
because we're charming and amusing persons; just
as he might take a couple of young men."

"Well I don't care anything about going to a show
right now when I'm wearing mourning for myself, but
I'd just like to sit near that suitor of yours for an
hour or two. He does me good."


This was not like Irene, and Grace discounted heav-
ily her friend's admiration for John. It was merely
that Irene was contrasting John with Kemp, in much
the same spirit that she had praised Trenton at the
lunch table.

"If he knew me for what I am he'd probably run
like a scared rabbit," said Irene, slipping a tape-line
through her fingers. "I felt myself an awful fraud all
the time I talked to him."

"You can always rely on John to think the best of
everybody and everything," Grace replied. "He's a
mighty satisfactory sort of person. If I ever got into
trouble I know John would stand by me."

"I believe you're right," Irene returned. "A man
with eyes like his is bound to be mighty square. But
when I sat there kidding him about you I did feel aw-
fully guilty and ashamed of myself. I was afraid
those eyes might see too much!"

"Come out of the dark!" exclaimed Grace. "We'd
better go to work. John's going home to supper with
me and we'll meet you in the Pendennis lobby at a
quarter before eight."


The afternoon passed and still no letter from Tren-
ton. Grace was glad that she had not told Irene
how far Trenton had gone in declaring himself. Not
even Irene should know how much she cared for Tren-
ton. She indulged in the luxury of self-pity, picturing
herself going through life with the remembrance of him
like a wound in her heart that would never heal. And
after summoning her courage to meet such a situation
she was swept with a great tenderness as she thought


of him, remembering the touch of his hand, his kiss
on her lips.

When she called up her mother to say that she was
bringing John home Mrs. Durland reminded her that
this was the night Ethel had asked Mr. Haley to sup-
per. Grace had been fully informed as to Mr. Haley's
acceptance of Ethel's invitation but in her confused
state of mind she had forgotten it. Haley was Ethel's
discovery and Grace had several times encountered
him in the Durland parlor. Recently Ethel had been
referring to the young man a little self-consciously by
his first name. Osgood Haley was twenty-seven, a
well appearing young man, who was a city salesman
for a wholesale grocery firm. Mrs. Durland had satis-
fied herself by inquiries of an acquaintance in the town
in which Haley had originated that he was of good
family and he was thereupon made to feel at home in
the Durland household.

Ethel had met him in her Sunday school where
within a few weeks after taking a class of boys he had
doubled its membership. It was his personality, Ethel
said; and beyond question Haley had a great deal of
personality. Among other items of Haley's biography
Ethel had acquainted the family with the fact that
his interest in religion was due to the influence of a
girl to whom he had been engaged but who died only
a short time before the day appointed for their wed-
ding. Ethel made a great deal of this. Haley's devo-
tion to the memory of the girl he had loved was very
beautiful as Ethel described it, and Mrs. Durland said
that such devotion was rare in these times.

Haley had brought to perfection a manner that not
only had proved its efficacy in selling groceries but was
equally impressive in the parlor. When he shook
a hand he clung to it while he smiled into the face of


its owner and uttered one of a number of cheerful re-
marks from a list with which he was fortified. These
were applied with good judgment and went far to-
ward convincing the person greeted that Mr. Haley
was the possessor of some secret of happiness which
he benevolently desired to communicate to all man-

Ethel having gone home early to prepare some spe-
cial dishes for her guest, came in flushed from the
kitchen just as Haley arrived with Grace and John,
who had met him on the street car. Mr. Durland had
meekly submitted to investiture in a white shirt in
honor of the occasion. He had confused Haley with
a young man from Rangerton who sometimes visited
the family. When he had been set straight on this
point they went to the table where the talk opened

Haley needed no encouragement to talk; he was a
born talker. He was abundantly supplied with anec-
dotes, drawn from his experience as a saleman, which
proved that a cheery and optimistic spirit will over-
come all obstacles. John provoked him to renewed
efforts by insisting that theoretically the position of
the pessimist is sound. Haley would have none of this.
He had found, he declared, that hope is infectious and
he derived the liveliest satisfaction from his success in
overcoming the prejudice and reluctance of difficult

"You two boys make a splendid team," remarked
Mrs. Durland. "I suppose you don't know many people
here, John."

"Only frat brothers and boys who've graduated
from the University since I've been there. There's
quite a bunch of them, too, for I've been plugging
around the sacred groves of academe a long time."


"I suppose you'll be so busy when you move to town
you'll have to limit your social life," said Ethel. "But
we all need outside interests. Osgood has been here a
year but it was some time before he found just what
he needed."

Haley rose to this promptly by saying that being
received in a home like the Durland's was the pleas-
antest thing that had ever happened to him.

"Oh course, John," Ethel continued, "you will find
a church connection helpful. I hope you will hear
Dr. Ridgley before handing in your letter anywhere

"By all means," said Haley. "I tried several
churches before I finally settled on Dr. Ridgley's.
He's helped me over a lot of hard places just by a word
or two. It just occurs to me, Ethel, that John," (Haley
was already calling Moore by his first name) "would
enjoy Mr. Forman's bible class. They're all business
and professional men and Mr. Forman is a thorough
Bible student. If I didn't enjoy my boys so much
I'd certainly never miss a Sunday morning with Mr.

"You see, John, we're trying to fix everything up
for you," said Mrs. Durland, turning a sympathetic
glance upon Moore.

Grace was unable to recall that she had ever heard
John speak of churches, though in their walks about
Bloomington he had discussed religion in general terms.
She doubted whether, with his many engrossing em-
ployments, he had been a diligent church-goer.

"Don't let them crowd you, John," she said, see-
ing that he hesitated to commit himself.

"I'm not a church member," he said diffidently. "I
suppose I'm hardly what you'd call a believer; at least
I don't believe all you're supposed to believe if you


subscribe to a creed. I hope I'm not shocking you
folks but it always seems to me there's something
stifling about a church. When I was a boy on the
home farm and all the neighbors met at the country
church every Sunday, I always hated to go in; it
seemed a lot cheerfuller outside. I suppose if I got
right down to it I'd say I believe in a great power
that I haven't any name for, that moves the world.
It's bigger than any church, and it works in all of us
whether we go to church or not. I suppose if you
got down to bed rock you'd call me an agnostic. But
I'm strong for whatever any church does to help people
live right. When it comes to believing a lot of things
I can't square with reason I just can't do it."

"That's about my own idea," ventured Mr. Dur-
land, who had been bending over his plate with his
usual stolid silence.

"We're not so far apart, John," said Mrs. Durland,
anxious to avert the deliverance which she saw from
the tense look in Ethel's face was imminent. "We
all see things differently these days and I think it
better not to discuss the subject. It's far too per-

"I don't see how you can say such a thing, mother,"
said Ethel, with painstaking enunciation. "I think it
our solemn duty to discuss matters that affect our
souls. If there ever comes a time when I can't believe
in God I want to die! I don't see how any one can
live without the hope of a better world than this.
Without that nothing would be worth while."

"Please don't think I want to destroy anyone's
faith," John replied. "But for myself I try to keep
tight hold of the idea that it's a part of our job to make
that better world right here. And if we do that and
there is a better place after death I don't believe any-


body's going to be kept out of it for not believing
what he can't."

"John," began Haley with a deprecatory smile,
"that's exactly where I used to stand! You don't need
to feel discouraged about your doubts. If we just
will to believe we can overcome everything. That's
the truth, isn't it, Ethel?"

Ethel promptly affirmed his statement, and Mrs.
Durland softened the affirmation out of deference for
John's feelings.

"I think I agree with John," said Grace; "I'd like
to believe a lot of things the church teaches but I
can't; I'm always stumbling over some doubt."

"I didn't know you called yourself an agnostic," said
Ethel severely.

"I don't know that it's necessary to classify myself,"
Grace replied coldly.

Haley volunteered to lend John certain books which
he had found helpful in overcoming his own doubts.
John listened attentively as Haley named them and
replied that he had read them and when Mr. Durland
asked John if he had read "The Age of Reason," Mrs.
Durland thwarted Ethel's attempt to denounce that
work by remarking that she thought they could all
agree that every effort to promote peace and happiness
in the world was worthy of encouragement.

"You've said something there, Mrs. Durland," said
John soberly. "I'm strong for that."

"I guess that leaves us nothing to quarrel about af-
ter all," said Haley, beaming with tolerance.

Ethel resented her mother's interference with the
religious discussion just when she was ready to sweep
away all agnostic literature with a quotation. And
she was displeased to find John again exchang-
ing stories with Haley. She had counted much on the


beneficient exercise of John's influence on Grace after
he settled in Indianapolis. Her father was hopeless
where religion was concerned and she had no sympathy
with her mother's oft-reiterated opinion that there
was something good in all churches. Her indignation
increased as good cheer again prevailed at the table.
She waited till a lull in the story-telling gave her an

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 15 of 27)