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opportunity to ask John, with an air of the utmost
guilelessness, the proportion of women to men in the
University. John answered and called upon Grace
to verify his figures. Grace, familiar with Ethel's
mental processes, groped for the motive behind the
question. Her curiosity as to what her sister was driv-
ing at was quickly satisfied.

"I was just wondering, that's all," remarked Ethel
carelessly. "I suppose I might have got the figures
from the catalogue. Oh, by the way, John, Grace
has spoken of so many of her friends in college I feel
that I almost know them. Just the other day she was
speaking of a Miss Conwell Mabel, wasn't it, Grace?
who must be a very interesting girl. She had her
uncle look Grace up when he was here recently."

"Conwell?" repeated John, looking inquiringly at
Grace, who sat directly opposite him. "Do I know
a Miss Conwell?" he asked and catching a hint from
Grace's eyes that something was amiss he added,
"There's such a lot of girls down there I get 'em all
mixed up."

"She's from Jeffersonville, you said, didn't you,
Grace?" asked Ethel.

"Jeffersonville or New Albany," Grace answered,
"I'm always confusing those towns."

John was now aware that Grace was telegraphing for

"Oh, yes;" he exclaimed, "I remember Miss Con-


well. "I'd got the name wrong; I thought it was Con-
way. I run into her occasionally at the library."

"She doesn't seem to be in the catalogue," Ethel
persisted, "but that may be because they don't know
where she comes from."

Haley laughed boisterously at this. John, detecting
a tinge of spite in Ethel's pursuit of a matter that
apparently was of no importance, answered that he
thought Miss Conwell hadn't taken up her work till
after the fall term opened, which probably accounted
for the absence of her name from the catalogue.

"She is a special, isn't she, Grace?" he asked.

"Yes; in English," Grace answered, with a defiant
look at her sister.

"That's the girl who's related to Mr. Trenton?"
asked Durland, vaguely conscious that Grace was un-
der fire. "I thought that was the name. Trenton,"
he explained to Moore, "is a famous engineer. I guess
there's nobody stands higher in his line."

"He's the husband of that Mary Graham Trenton
who writes horrible books," announced Ethel.

"That's got nothing to do with Trenton's standing
as an engineer," Durland replied doggedly.

"I guess no man has to stand for his wife's opinions
these days," said John conciliatingly.

"Of course I don't know what Mr. Trenton's views
are on the subjects his wife writes about," said Ethel.
"But Grace probably knows."

"You couldn't expect me to violate Mr. Trenton's
confidence," Grace replied.

Fortunately the meal was concluded and Mrs. Dur-
land rose from the table.

"I'm awfully sorry, John," said Grace, when they
reached the street. "There's no reason why Ethel
should show her spite at me when we have company.


She thought with you there it would be easy to catch
me in a lie. It was a nasty trick; but it was splendid
of you to help me out."

"You don't need to thank me for that," said John.
"Ethel was sore at me for being a heathen and she
thought she'd pot us both with one shot. And I guess
she did," he ended with a chuckle. "It would be easy
for her to prove that there's no Mabel Conwell at the
University. But why make so much fuss about it?"

"It's just her way of nosing into other people's
affairs. If she hadn't been so nasty about Mr. Tren-
ton in the first place I wouldn't have had to lie."

"It's too bad Ethel's got that spirit. It must be
hard living with such a person."

Irene was waiting for them when they reached the
Pendennis. Grace noted that her friend wore her sim-
plest gown and hat, perhaps as an outward sign of
the chastened mood in which Kemp's passing had left
her. John sat between them and their enjoyment of
the picture was enhanced by his droll comments.

"It's me for the simple life," said Irene at the end.
"I'll dream of myself as that girl in the sunbonnet
going down the lane with the jug of buttermilk for
the harvest hands."

"The dream's as near as you'll ever come to itl"
said Grace. "I can see you on a farml"

"I'd be an ideal farmer's wife, wouldn't I, Mr.
Moore? I've certainly got enough sense to feed the

"When you weren't doing that you could feed the
mortgage," John replied. "Let's see, which one of
you girls am I going to take home first?"

They went into a confectioner's for a hot chocolate
and to discuss this momentous question. Irene lived
in the East End, much farther from the theatre than


Grace. Grace insisted that if he took her home first
she would think it because he wanted to spend more
time with Irene.

"That would be perfectly satisfactory to me!" said
Irene demurely.

"I don't know that I'd hate it so much myself,"
John replied.

"Do you ever use a taxi, Mr. Moore?" Irene asked.

"Not on the price of one Airedale!"

When he suggested seriously that the whole matter
would be greatly simplified by taking a taxi Irene
would not hear of it. She hadn't meant to hint; she
was just joking. They continued their teasing until
they reached a corner where Grace settled the matter.

"Irene wins!" she cried and before they knew what
she was about she boarded her car and was waving
to them derisively from the platform.


During the preparation of breakfast the next morn-
ing Ethel apologized for her conduct at the supper

"I didn't mean to speak of that matter at all, Grace.
It's none of my business how you met Mr. Trenton.
I don't want there to be any hard feeling between us.
I realize that we look at things differently and I want
you to know that before Osgood left last night I made
it all right with him. I told him it was just a joke
between you and me about Miss Conwell. I wouldn't
want him to think we spend our time quarreling."

"I hope he thought it was funny," Grace returned.
"I don't mind telling you that there's no such person
as Miss Conwell. John backed me up just because
he resented the way you were ragging me. He knew


perfectly well there's no Mabel Conwell at the Uni-

* Mrs. Durland entered the kitchen in time to catch
this last remark.

"I hope you know, Grace, that neither Ethel nor I
have any wish to question you about your friends.
I scolded Ethel for asking you about Miss Conwell
before company. I'm sure she's sorry."

"I've apologized to Grace, mother," said Ethel

"We assume, Grace," said Mrs. Durland, "that you
mean to hold fast to the ideals we've tried to teach
you at home. We trust you, dear; you know that.
You know all the dangers that a young girl's exposed
to and I believe you mean to make something fine and
beautiful of your life. I expect that of both you girls."

"I don't like being pecked at and quizzed," Grace
replied. "I'll attend to the bacon, Ethel; you needn't
bother about it."

"I hope you and John had a pleasant evening," said
Mrs. Durland.

"Yes; it's a very good picture. We all enjoyed it.
Irene went with us."

"Irene Kirby went with you and John to the pic-
ture show! " exclaimed Mrs. Durland. "I don't believe
you said Irene was going."

"Grace naturally wouldn't mention it," said Ethel,
lifting the lid of the coffee pot and closing it with a
spiteful snap.

"Now, dear, let's think the best we can of everyone,"
said Mrs. Durland. She had with difficulty persuaded
Ethel to apologize to Grace for questioning her about
the imaginary Miss Conwell and it seemed for an in-
stant that her efforts to promote harmony were to fail,
now that Grace had mentioned Irene.


"Oh, it happened by accident!" Grace explained.
"Irene and I were lunching together at the store
and John strolled in looking for me. And he was
polite enough to include Irene in his invitation."

"I'd hardly expect her to do anything as tame as
going to a picture show," said Ethel.

"Well, as I've said before, Irene isn't as bad as you
paint her. You probably wouldn't think she'd waste
time on John, but they get on famously."

"John isn't quite what I thought he was," said
Ethel, ignoring her mother's signal for silence.

"That's because he wouldn't let you choose a church
for him," said Grace, gingerly drawing a pan of corn
muffins from the oven. "John lives his religion, which
is a lot better than parading it all the time."

"Now, Grace, Ethel didn't mean to reflect on John,"
Mrs. Durland hastened to explain.

"It may give you a better impression of John to
know he's been very kind to Roy," said Grace.

"How's that, Grace?" asked Mrs. Durland quickly.
"I didn't get a chance to ask John about Roy."

"John wouldn't have told you he'd been helping Roy
even if you'd asked him. John doesn't advertise his
good works. But I had a letter from one of the girls
the other day and she was teasing me about John.
She said he must be seriously interested in me for he'd
been coaching Roy in his law work. I call it perfectly
splendid of John when he has so much to do."

"It's certainly kind of John," said her mother, "I
wish you'd told me so I could have thanked him. But
I didn't suppose Roy needed coaching. He's working
very hard; he's sent just scraps of letters all winter
and gives as his excuse that he's too busy to write."

"We've all got to begin thinking about what Roy
will do after he's graduated," said Ethel. "I've talked


to some of the lawyers who come into our office and
they all say he'd better go into an office as clerk until
he gets started. A young man can't just hang out
his shingle and expect business to come to him."

"It's too bad your father isn't in a position to help
Roy," sighed Mrs. Durland.

"Why not let Roy make some suggestions himself
about what he wants to do," said Grace. "He's got to
learn self-reliance sometime. John Moore hadn't any-
body to boost him and he's already found a place in
one of the best offices in town."

"But Roy's case is very different," replied Mrs. Dur-
land, instantly on the defensive. "John's older for
one thing and the hard work he's done to get his edu-
cation naturally arouses sympathy. I want us all to
make Roy feel our confidence in him. I'm getting anx-
ious to have him home. He's going to be a great com-
fort to me and it will be fine for you girls to have your
brother back. You can both of you do a lot for him.
And, Grace, he can help you solve many of your prob-
lems, socially I mean."

"I shall want Roy to know all my friends," said
Ethel. "Since I've been with Gregg and Burley I've
made a good many acquaintances among men who
are in a position to help Roy."

"Roy's fine social side is bound to be a help to
him in his profession," said Mrs. Durland. "He's
always been a friendly boy."

"Yes, mother," Grace replied. "Roy certainly has
a way of making friends."

She refrained from saying that these friends were
not always wisely chosen. She dreaded the time when
he would finish at the University and begin his efforts
to establish a law practice. A good many young men
of the best type of ambitious student had confided in


her as to their plans for the future and she thought she
knew pretty well the qualities essential to success.
Roy was blessed with neither initiative nor industry,
s,nd she knew as her mother and Ethel did not, the
happy-go-lucky fashion in which he had played
through his college course, and his rebellion against
undertaking the law. It was quite like him to lean
upon John Moore. He must be doing badly or John
would not have volunteered to aid him.

As they ate breakfast, with Mr. Durland dividing
attention between his food and his newspaper, Mrs.
Durland's usual attempt to create an atmosphere of
cheer for the day struck Grace as pathetic in its f utlity.
Hearing her father's voice she roused herself to find
that her mother had asked him to look in the market
reports for the quotations on turkeys. Christmas was
approaching and Roy would be home; and Mrs. Dur-
land was speculating as to whether a turkey for the
Christmas dinner would be too serious a strain on the
family budget. Durland shifted uneasily in his chair
as his wife recalled that they had never been without a
Christmas turkey since they were married. Grace
noting the fleeting pain in her father's patient eyes,
hastened to say that beyond question the turkey would
be forthcoming. It was a relief to be out of the house,
walking to the car with her father who was laden as
usual with his notebooks and drawings.


"WHAT'S the difference, lady?

The remark she had heard the salesgirl make to the
critical shopper was often in Grace's mind. What did
anything really matter! But the aisles at Shipley's
were crowded with importunate holiday shoppers, and
she was able to forget herself in her work. She had
been complimented by the superintendent of the store;
she was already one of the most successful saleswomen
in her department. She had earned as high as fifty
dollars a week, not a contemptible sum, even if to earn
it she had become Number Eighteen at Shipley's !

Four days passed and still no word from Trenton.
On two nights Grace cried herself to sleep in a con-
fusion of emotions loneliness, fear that some evil had
befallen him, mortification that she had listened to his
protestations of love, and hope that he would yet ex-
plain himself. Her repeated efforts to shut him out of
her mind failed miserably. She had not known until
his communications ceased how much she counted on
him, or how completely he had captivated her imag-

As she waited for a customer to decide upon a wrap
her gaze fell upon a young woman whom she recog-
nized, after a bewildered moment of uncertainty, as
Mrs. Bob Cummings.

Briskly summing up the arguments in favor of the
garment her customer was considering, Grace was dis-
agreeably conscious that Evelyn appeared to be wait-
ing for an opportunity to speak to her. Grace an-
swered perfunctorily the last question of her customer
and made out the charge slip. As she concluded the



transaction and bade her customer good morning
Evelyn crossed the room.

"Please pardon me, Miss Durland!" she began, half
extending and then withdrawing her hand.

"Is there something I can show you?" asked Grace
in her most business-like tone.

"Not a thing, Miss Durland," said Evelyn and
smiled ingratiatingly. "You are terribly busy I know,
but there's something I want to say to you; it will
take only a minute. I'm sorry I was so rude the other
night; may I apologize?"

"That's quite unnecessary," said Grace coldly, and
was instantly vexed that she had thought of no better
response. Evelyn, embarrassed for a moment, smiled
again. She was much prettier than Grace had thought
her at McGovern's.

"It was all so ridiculous!" said Evelyn, now per-
fectly composed. "Bob's such a baby! I didn't mind
at all your going out to supper with him. What I
did mind was his acting like an idiot when I walked
in on you. Jimmie was just as idiotic the idea of ex-
plaining anything! And then Bob must try to ex-
plain! That bored me just as it bored you. Of
course I wasn't going to let him explain! But I'm
sorry I lost my temper and spoke to you as I did.
Won't you forgive me?"

"If there's any forgiving to be done let's both do
it!" said Grace; and they smiled at each other.

"Men are such fools!" exclaimed Evelyn, as though
greatly relishing the statement. "Nothing ever pleased
me more than the way you made Bob take you home.
And then he came back to McGovern's and com-
plained actually complained to me! that you had
given him the slip! He did that really he did! Can
you imagine it?"


Her mirth over the affair had communicated itself
to Grace. It hadn't occurred to her that Bob might
have returned to McGovern's when she left him.

"Bob is so obvious!" Evelyn continued. "He's just
got to have sympathy. Really, he wanted me to sym-
pathize with him because you shook him in the road!
Jimmy and I teased him till he cried for mercy. Bob's
a dear boy but he needs just the jar you gave him.
You were perfect! And you won't think the worse
of me will you, for losing my temper?"

"Certainly not!" said Grace, "I've known Bob so
long " '

"Yes; the moment Jimmy spoke your name I knew
all about you, and understood everything. He wanted
sympathy and being a sentimental person he sought
you out of the score of old friendship. Just like him!
Selfish is no name for him! But to think he was afraid
of me! He gave himself away terribly! He's so meek
now it's positively pathetic!"

To be laughing over Bob's frailities with Bob's wife
was something that hadn't figured in Grace's calcula-
tions. The superintendent, on his way through the
department, frowned to see Number Eighteen neglect-
ing her duties to chat with a caller, but recognizing
Mrs. Cummings he asked deferentially whether she
was finding what she wanted.

"Miss Durland is taking excellent care of me,"
Evelyn replied. "I'm violating all the rules, I sup-
pose," she said when the man had passed on. "If they
scold you let me know and I'll speak to Mr. Shipley
about it. Just one thing more! Bob has told me
about your father and the way Mr. Cummings, senior,
treated him. It wasn't fair; Bob says that. I'd like
you to know I'm sorry "

"It was all in the way of business," said Grace.


"I have no feeling about it; I'm only sorry for my
father and mother. It was a blow they hadn't ex-

"It wasn't nice/' said Evelyn decisively. "I wish
we could really become acquainted. I'm going to ask
you up for dinner soon please don't say no! There
are some young people I'd like you to meet. Good-
bye and thank you ever so much."


Grace turned to a waiting customer with a kindlier
feeling for all the world. She was uncertain whether
in like circumstances she would have been capable of
the kindness and generosity Evelyn had manifested.
It pleased her to believe that her education in the ways
of the changing, baffling world was progressing.

Evelyn Cummings was evidently a young woman
without illusions; she knew exactly how to manage a
temperamental husband. Marriage, as Grace viewed
it with the three different illustrations afforded by
Kemp, Trenton and Cummings, was of the realm of
insubstantial things. Even the spectacle offered in her
own home by her father and mother, between whom
disappointment and adversity had reared a wall no
less grim because of their steadfast loyalty, was hardly
convincing on the other side of the picture. Stephen
Durland and his wife were held together by habit, by
a deeply implanted sense of duty to their children.
Grace could not remember when her father had kissed
her mother, or in any way manifested any affection
for her. And yet in the beginning they must have
loved each other. She wondered whether it was always
like that!

She had given up all hope of hearing again from


Trenton when on the tenth day she received a note
postmarked New York, that set her heart fluttering.

My Dear Little Girl:

What must you think of mel I think pretty poorly
of myself, I can tell you. Picked up a cold on my way
East. Pretended it didn't amount to anything;
motored down into New Jersey for a week-end with
some old friends. Got chilled on the drive; pneumonia
almost. My host was afraid I'd die on his hands and
made a frightful row couple of doctors, nurse and
all the other frills. ... I had no way of letting
you know. Found your letter when I came into town
this morning. I'm away behind on my jobs. . . .
The great thing is that I want to see you and look
into those dear, dark eyes again. . . . One day
at twilight down there in the country, I thought of
you so intently that I really brought you into the
room! The nurse was sitting beside the bed, then
suddenly you were there, your dark head clearly out-
lined in the dusk. You lifted your hand to touch your
hair that's a pretty trick you have! You have so
many dear ways and you smiled another sweet way
you have! the smile coming slowly, like a dawn, un-
til it brightened all the world. The illusion was so
perfect that it wasn't an illusion at all, but really you!
I was terribly indignant at the nurse when she turned
on the light and I lost you. . . . The doctor says
I may travel in three or four days and my thoughts
carry me in only one direction. You haven't sent me
the telegram I hoped for; never mind about that.
Please wire me that you are well. And if you put in
a word to say that you want to see me I shall be the
happiest man alive. Be assured of my love always.

He hadn't forgotten her; he really cared! She
moved with a quicker step; her work had never gone
so smoothly. While she had been doubting him, try-
ing to put him out of her heart he had been ill. She
was unsparing in self-accusation for what now seemed


the basest disloyalty. She tried to picture the room
to which his longing had summoned her. Those lines
in his letter moved her deeply and set her to speculat-
ing whether such a thing might not be possible in the
case of two beings who loved each other greatly.

There was no intimation in the letter that his wife
had been with him in his illness. Grace grew bitter
as she thought of Mrs. Trenton, who was probably
roaming the world preaching a new social order
to the neglect of her husband. In countenancing
Trenton as a lover Grace found Mrs. Trenton's con-
duct her most consoling justification. It came down
to this, that if Ward Trenton's wife failed in her
marital obligations there was no justice in forbidding
him to seek happiness elsewhere.

This view was in fact advanced in Mary Graham
Trenton's "Clues to a New Social Order." It seemed
a fair assumption that Mrs. Trenton wouldn't ad-
vocate ideas for all mankind that she wouldn't tolerate
in her own husband.

At her lunch hour Grace went to the telegraph office
and sent this message:

"Greatly troubled by your illness. Please take good
care of yourself. You may be sure I shall be glad to
see you."

"Straight telegram, paid," the clerk repeated per-
functorily, and swept the message under the counter.
The sending of the telegram gave Grace a gratifying
sense of kinship with the larger world which Trenton's
love had revealed to her. She found happiness all the
afternoon in wondering just what he would be doing
and how he would look when the message reached
him. She wrote that night the longest letter she had
yet written him. She thought often of what Irene
had said about wanting to be loved. To be loved, in


the great way that Miss Reynolds had said was the
only way that counted, this had become the great
desire of her heart. Old restraints and inherited moral
inhibitions still resisted her impulse to fashion her
life and give herself as she pleased. She meant to be
very sure of Trenton and even more sure of her own
heart before committing herself further. She was not,
she kept assuring herself, an ordinary or common type.
She dropped into her letter several literary allusions
and a few French phrases with a school girl's pride
in her erudition. There were times when Grace was
very young!

Trenton's next letter reported his complete recovery.
He was working hard to make up for lost time, but
would leave for the West as soon as possible and hoped
to spend Christmas in Indianapolis. Incidentally he
had business there in which she might be able to assist
him. This was further explained in a typewritten en-
closure which he asked her to deliver to her father.
He warned her that the inquiry might lead to nothing,
but there were certain patents held in Stephen Dur-
land's name which he wished to investigate.

"The name Durland," he wrote, "gave me a dis-
tinctly pleasant shock when the memorandum turned
up on my desk in the routine of the office. There may
be a place where I can use some of your father's
ideas; but in this business we're all pessimists. I ap-
point you my agent and representative on the spot.
Don't let your father dispose of any of the patents
described in my letter till we can have an interview."

She made the noon hour the occasion for one of
her picnic lunches with her father in his work shop.

He looked up from a model he was tinkering and
greeted her with his usual, "That you, Grace?"

"Very much Grace!" she answered, tossing her


packages on the bench. "What are you on today

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 16 of 27)