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fault if he found in another the love and the compan-
ionship she had denied or was incapable of giving


The Twentieth Century Club had made the occasion
a guest night and the hall was well filled when Miss
Reynolds's party arrived. Places had been reserved
for them near the platform but Grace slipped into a
seat by the door with Atwood and Grayling.

"Thank you for this!" exclaimed Atwood. "I al-
ways sleep at lectures and I won't be so conspicuous
back here."

Mrs. Trenton, introduced by the president as one of
the foremost women of her time, laid a sheaf of notes
on the reading desk and began her address. Her sub-
ject was "Woman's New Freedom," and she sum-
marized the long struggle for suffrage before indicat-
ing the questions to which women should now devote
themselves to complete their victory. She recited the
familiar arguments against child labor and thought


existing laws should be extended and strengthened;
and she pleaded for equal pay for equal work for
women. She advocated uniform marriage and divorce
laws on a basis of the widest freedom. There was no
slavery so hideous as that of marriages where the tie
becomes irksome. She favored birth control on the
ground that a woman is entitled to be the judge of her
fitness and ability to bear and raise children. She
advocated state maternity hospitals with provision for
the care of all children by the state where parents
lack the means or the intelligence to rear them. She
was not a socialist, she protested, though there were
many socialistic ideas which she believed could profit-
ably be adopted under the present form of govern-
ment. Her "Clues to a New Social Order," she ex-
plained, contemplated the fullest recognition of the
rights of the individual. She expressed her impatience
of the multiplication of laws to make mankind better ;
the widest liberty was essential to all progress.

Grace had listened with the strictest attention.
Once or twice Grayling whispered some comment and
Atwood, deeply bored, inquired midway of the address
whether the first inning wasn't nearly over. At the
conclusion the president, following the club's custom,
said that Mrs. Trenton would be glad to answer any
questions, but the only person who took advantage of
the invitation was an elderly gentleman who asked
Mrs. Trenton whether she didn't think the Eighteenth
Amendment marked a great moral advance for the

"On the contrary, a decided retreat," Mrs. Trenton
replied, so incisively that the meeting closed amid gen-
eral laughter.

"Was it the event of a life-time?" Atwood asked


"Old stuff! Miss Durland could have taken the
lady's material and made a better story of it."

"A doubtful compliment!" said Grace. "Come
along; we must say good-night to Miss Reynolds."

They went forward to where the other guests stood
waiting while the club president introduced to Mrs.
Trenton such of the members as wished to meet her.

"Don't forget that I'm taking you home," said At-
wood. "That's my reward for coming."

Grace had hoped to avoid speaking to Mrs. Trenton
again but as Miss Reynolds's other guests were bid-
ding her good-night she couldn't very well escape it.

"Ah, you stayed to the bitter end!" Mrs. Trenton
exclaimed with a forced brightening of her face. The
hand she gave Grace was cold, and the look of weari-
ness in her eyes was intensified. "I wish we might
have you as a convert. No hope, I suppose?"

She turned away with a smile to greet the next in

"It wasn't so shocking after all," remarked Miss
Reynolds, as Grace bade her good-night. "I'll always
remember this, Grace. You helped a lot you'd have
helped a lot even if you hadn't said a word! I was so
proud of you, dear."

When she reached home Grace found her mother
and Ethel waiting up for her and she sat down in the
living room to recount the events of the evening.
Mrs. Trenton, she said, was not so terrible; she dis-
missed her lightly and concentrated upon the other
guests at the dinner. She was at pains to give the
impression that she had thoroughly enjoyed herself,
particularly her meeting with Professor Grayling. The
fact, carelessly mentioned, that Jimmie Atwood had
brought her home immediately obscured everything
else. Mrs. Durland wished to be sure that Jimmie


was the son of the George Rogers Atwood who had
made a fortune in the stove business; Ethel thought
he was only a nephew and that Jimmie's father
operated coal mines somewhere near Terre Haute.
Grace, unable to assist in determining this momentous
matter, left them and sought the seclusion of her room.
As she closed the door she was oppressed by an
overmastering fatigue; she felt that innumerable,
mocking, menancing hands were plucking at her. The
jealousy that had assailed her fitfully all evening now
tore at her heart. A vast loneliness, as of some bleak
unhorizoned waste, settled upon her. She locked her
door and spread out on her dressing table the sheets of
Trenton's last letter, which had reached her that
morning, and read them over as she brushed her hair.

. . . and there is no hour in which I do not think
of you. The thought of you is like a prayer in my
heart. You have touched the best in me. I rebel
against the fate that keeps me from you. Sometimes
it becomes intolerable I want you so much, now
just to see your .face, to look into your eyes, to touch
your hand. You are the flower of all the world, I
think, and quick upon that comes a sense that you
have greatness in you; that you are stronger than I
am possess a truer and broader sense of the meaning
of life. . .

Her deep sigh as she finished became a sob and
she laid her head upon her arms and the tears came.
It was possible that he had written just such letters
to the woman who was still his wife; that once he
had found in her this same exaltation.

But these thoughts she fought and conquered. As
she moved slowly about her room with its dingy old-
fashioned furniture, its odds and ends of memorabilia
her high school diploma, framed; a University pen-


nant hung over the mahogany bed, she slipped back
into her youth and her heart went out to Trenton with
a child-like faith and confidence. The remembrance
of him as he had held her and kissed her; his tender-
ness, the wistfulness with which he regarded her at
times, his fine considerateness, the utter lack of any-
thing common or coarse in him these memories
wrought peace in her heart.

Ready for bed, she huddled inside the window
draperies before opening her window, gazing up at the
stars. The same bright orbs shone over him, where-
ever he was. Perhaps at that very moment, he, in
the manner of lovers from time immemorial, was
invoking their council as he thought of her.

"I love you! I love you, dear!" she whispered and
repeated the words, finding in them strength and

She unlocked the door and got into bed just as her
mother entered.

"Are you all right, Grace?" Mrs. Durland asked.
She stooped and picked up Grace's party slippers from,
the middle of the floor and put them away in the

"Yes, I'm fine, mother," Grace answered. "Please
don't bother about my things. I'll straighten up in the

"All right, dear," said Mrs. Durland. "I'll put your
dress on a hanger in the sewing room and press the
skirt out tomorrow. It's mussed a little, I noticed."

With the gown over her arm she walked to the bed.

"Are you happy, dear?" she asked, laying her hand
for a moment on the girl's forehead.

"Yes, mother. Thank you so much for coming in!"


With an access of emotion she sat up and flung her
arms about her mother's neck and kissed her.

"You are happy, Grace?" Mrs. Durland repeated

"Yes, mother; very happy."

THE morning paper's account of Mrs. Trenton's lec-
ture came in for discussion at the breakfast table and
Mrs. Durland read aloud the society column's report
of Miss Reynolds's dinner. The names of the guests
were not given, an omission which Mrs. Durland
thought singular, but which evoked from Ethel the
comment that the people who had countenanced Mrs.
Trenton merely to please Miss Reynolds probably
had asked to have their names suppressed. Durland,
deprived of his paper, which Mrs. Durland and Ethel
were clinging to in violation of his long-established
rights, asked Grace whether Trenton was in town.

"Mrs. Trenton said she had hoped to see him here,
but I don't know anything about it, daddy," she re-
plied carelessly, though the possibility of Trenton's
coming to Indianapolis in response to his wife's sum-
mons was now uppermost in her thoughts.

She eagerly opened the letter from him which
awaited her at the store. It was a hasty lead-pencil
scrawl and said that he was leaving that night for
Indianapolis to see Mrs. Trenton, who was lecturing
there and had asked for a meeting. The summons was
most inopportune as his work in Syracuse was not
completed and it would be necessary for him to return
as quickly as possible. "But I'll see you, of course,
if only for a moment," he concluded.

The note served only to revive with keener malev-
olence the jealousy that she had vanquished the



previous night. Trenton had never written so
brusquely before; perhaps his wife's demand for an
interview had alarmed him. She stabbed herself with
the thought that this woman had the right to demand
interviews with him whenever she pleased.

In the search for consolation she asked Irene to go
to lunch with her. To her relief, Irene, having al-
ready formed at long range her opinion of Mrs. Tren-
ton, asked only a few questions about the dinner.

"Having seen Mary you will understand Ward bet-
ter," Irene remarked, after her curiosity had been sat-
isfied as to what the women wore and she had sug-
gested that the meeting with Atwood under Miss Rey-
nolds's roof might lead to something.

"Ward's coming here to see her; he may be in town
now," said Grace, not in the least interested in At-
wood. "She told us at dinner she hadn't seen her
husband for she didn't know how long and had been
wiring to try to locate him. What do you make of
that, Irene? Do you suppose "

"I'd suppose nothing! You can't tell what women
of that sort think or what they'll do. But you can be
pretty sure they'll do something foolish every chance
they get. Don't you worry about her; you can trust
Ward to take care of you no matter what her ladyship
knows or guesses about him. If Ward loves you as I
think he does he'll go clear down the line for you."

"Do you think that, do you really mean that,"
asked Grace tremulously.

"Of course I mean it! Look here, my dear! See-
ing that woman has made you nervous. If you'd
asked my advice in advance I'd have told you not to
go. But now that you went and gone and done it the
sooner you forget the whole business the better."

"Irene, I simply had to go! I was simply dying


of curiosity and jealousy. Can't you understand that?
You needn't tell me I ought to be ashamed of myself
for going; I know well enough I ought to be."

"Cut it out, old dear! I'd probably have done the
same thing myself if I'd been in your place. Why,
Grace, the first time Mrs. Kemp appeared on my floor
after I began playing around with Tommy, I nearly
broke my neck to wait on her. You ought to feel bet-
ter now you've seen the woman. I heard some of our
valued customers talking about the lecture this morn-
ing and they all knocked. It's her money they listen
to, not her ideas. She's no rival of yours, my dear.
But, speaking of rivals, I've been keeping something
from you. Good old John Moore has called on me
twice lately and I went to a movie with him Saturday
night. Honest, I did! Don't faint, but I actually
broke a date with Tommy to see a picture with your
old college chum! Go on and scold me!"

"Why, Irene, I'm awfully pleased. John liked you
from the first time you met."

"Well, he oughtn't to! Really it would be a lot bet-
ter if you'd warn him against me. He's so square him-
self that he refuses to believe anything mean of any-
body; and if he should fall in love with me or worse
if I'd get a case on him "

She shook her head and compressed her lips to in-
dicate the dire possibilities of either predicament.

"Why not?" Grace demanded.

"Don't be silly; you know why not," Irene replied.
"He thinks I'm straight and you know I'm well, you
know what you know. And I just wouldn't fool that
man! If I did I'd be punished for it and I'd deserve
to be."

"Why, Irene!" exclaimed Grace. "I believe you're
already in love with him."


"Well, hardly that," Irene replied reflectively, "but
I've got one of the symptoms. I'm going to quit my
evil ways and chuck Tommy! Old sackcloth and
ashes stuff! I ought to have let him go when we had
the row about that girl in Chicago. You know, Grace,
we're always hearing about the influence of a good
woman, but, my dear, it's nothing to what a good man
can do! I suppose," she went on in her large phil-
osophic manner, "it's because really fine men are so
scarce that when you do spot one you just naturally
feel like prostrating yourself in the dust before him.
When I began lotus-eating with Tommy I thought I'd
never weary of the food, but John's given me an ap-
petite for corn bread and cabbage! Just what will
you take for your interest in John?"

"I never could have loved John and he's never
thought of me in that way," Grace replied seriously.
"But, Irene, for his friendship I wouldn't take a
million dollars."

"Of course you wouldn't! And just for his respect
and confidence, I'd "

Grace marvelled to see tears in Irene's eyes.

The hour spent with Irene served at least to change
the current of Grace's thoughts. There were other girl
friends for whom she had a warm liking but Irene
continued to hold first place in her affections. The
girl's poise and serenity, her flashes of wisdom, made
her increasingly fascinating. And there was a charm
in her very unaccountableness. That the luxury-lov-
ing Irene, who had so recently spoken of marriage as
only a means of attaining comfort and ease, should
tolerate the attentions of a young countryman who
stood at the threshold of one of the most difficult pro-
fessions was all but incredible. But this was no more


puzzling than the attraction John apparently found in


By the middle of the afternoon Grace was again
enmeshed in a network of doubt and apprehension.
Trenton was making a journey for the express pur-
pose of meeting his wife; he had probably reached
Indianapolis at noon and gone at once to Miss Rey-
nolds's to see her. Grace's imagination was playing
cruel tricks upon her; she pictured the meeting be-
tween Trenton and his wife in a hundred ways. He
would kiss her, perhaps take her into his arms; and
after their long separation it was possible that both
might experience a reawakening of the early passion
that had died in them. Grace, seeking the lowest
depths of humility, knew herself only as Number
Eighteen at Shipley's, a girl to be played with and
cast aside by another woman's husband whenever it
pleased him to be done with her. In her self-abase-
ment she recalled Irene's oft-reiterated declaration
about Kemp, that she admired his brains and was
fond of him but never deceived herself with the idea
that she loved him. This was the wiser way. Grace
lashed herself pitilessly for her folly in giving her love
so unreservedly when the result could bring nothing
but unhappiness. Her love and trust wavered like
sunlight struggling to penetrate a field of cloud.

She was standing near the entrance to the ready-to-
wear department, inattentive and listless, when the
rattle of the elevator door roused her and Trenton
stepped out. At the sight of him the blood rushed to
her heart till it seemed for a moment that she would
die of joy at the sight of him.


He saw her at once and walked quickly toward her.
He had never before seemed so handsome and dis-
tinguished. His step had the elasticity of youth, and
there was a happy light in his eyes as he took her
hand. This was the first time he had sought her at
Shipley's and she assumed that his coming meant that
he had siezed the only possible moment to see her.

"We can't talk here, of course; I've got Kemp's
car and I can explain things as we ride," he said.
"Can you get excused for the rest of the day?"

Miss Boardman, busily marking price tags, gave
the permission with an absent-minded nod and Grace
hurried back to report that she was free and would get
her wraps and meet him at the main entrance.

When they were in Kemp's limousine Trenton
ordered Craig to drive straight north, without men-
tioning a destination. There was no hint of trouble
in his clear steady eyes. His air of perfect self-con-
fidence, of knowing exactly what he was about, restored
her faith. She loved him and she was proud that she
loved him.

"Please don't be frightened!" he began, clasping
her hand when they were clear of the down-town
traffic. "I've just seen Mrs. Trenton. She wired me
for an appointment to discuss some of her personal
business matters. As she's going further West lectur-
ing it was as convenient to see her here as anywhere
else. So I came here and have already seen her at
Miss Reynolds's. It took some time to go over her
investments and explain some changes I had made in
them. When that was finished she suddenly asked
about that letter I wrote to her last fall from St.
Louis. That settled the question as to whether she
ever got it."

"Yes, I remember," Grace replied faintly.


In spite of his cheerfulness she was sure that he was
leading up to some disagreeable disclosure and invol-
untarily she drew away her hand.

"It's all right, dear," he went on reassuringly. "She
said she knew we'd been drifting further apart for
a long time and that she wasn't surprised by my
letter. She hadn't acknowledged it because she was
waiting for a chance to see me to talk it out. She
seemed rather amused. She has a way of being
amused at things. And now don't jump!" he caught
her hand and clasped it tight. "She was always a
woman of surprises she said she wanted to see the
girl I had mentioned but not in a disagreeable way
at all. If you knew her you'd understand."

"That's it I do understand," Grace replied slowly.
"I was at the dinner Miss Reynolds gave for her last
night. I ought to have asked you if it was all right
to go but I was afraid you'd say no and and I
had to see her." Her voice broke in a sob, but lifting
her head she hurried on. "I was jealous terribly
jealous and something tells me that that we are
near the end."

"Please, dear; don't give way to foolish fears!" he
implored. "I'm glad you went to the dinner; that was
all right and I want to hear all about it later. Hav-
ing seen Mrs. Trenton you ought to know that her
request is quite characteristic. Don't you see that
she's curious about you, just as you were about her!
I really think she means to be kind to me. It's un-
usual of course, but Mrs. Trenton is a very unusual
woman ! "

Grace looked at him in a kind of dumb wonder.

"You you told her my name " she faltered.

"No; certainly not! You weren't mentioned. I
think she assumed that the girl I wrote her about


lived in St. Louis. She was rather taken aback when
I said she lived here."

"And you told her you'd produce me exhibit me
for her criticism? Ward, what can you be thinking
of; what can you think of me to ask such a thing? I
suppose you told her everything?"

"Why Grace, this isn't like you! You're taking it all
too seriously. Mrs. Trenton has no cause to think
anything except that I've met you and fallen in love
with you. You must be reasonable, dear," he went on
patiently. "She knows nothing and has no right to
assume what we'd rather she didn't. It's just a
whim of hers. If I thought she wouldn't treat you
as one lady should treat another I wouldn't ask you
to go. It will be the most formal call no chance for
anything unpleasant, even if she wanted to be dis-

"She could be very disagreeable. I didn't like her;
I didn't like her at all! It seems to me sheer folly
to put myself in her way unnecessarily."

"I tell you it will be all right!" he protested. "She
will be surprised, of course, to find that she has already
met you. You know I wouldn't cause you the slightest
embarrassment or pain for the world."

For a moment she pondered, her confidence in him
and her wish to accede to his wishes struggling against
suspicion and jealousy.

"You're sure this isn't a trick a trap!" she asked.

"Of course not, dear! How can you think such a
thing? Mrs. Trenton really has a sense of humor;
and she's a woman of the world. Besides she has no
ground whatever for attacking you; I can't imagine
her doing that in any circumstances. I'm just meeting
her wish to see a girl I told her I admire. But
I count more than I dare say on the result. I want


to give her a chance to practice what she preaches!"
"Well," said Grace, searching his eyes with a long

gaze, "I'll go since you insist, but I think it's foolish.

It's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of! But

she can't do more than murder me."

"She can't do more than approve of you!" he cried

and ordered Craig to drive to Miss Reynolds's.


Mrs. Trenton was immediately visible, writing at a
small table in the living room, when they were ushered
into the reception parlor. She wore a pair of shell-
rimmed library glasses, and it occurred to Grace that
the blank stare that had been so disconcerting the
previous night was probably attributable to some de-
fect of vision. She did not lift her head when the maid
spoke to her but nodded and went on writing for sev-
eral minutes. Then she laid aside the glasses and
walked unhurriedly to the door.

"Ah, Ward, back again!"

"I believe you've met Miss Durland, May," said

"Yes; of course," she replied with a smile of recog-
nition that faded instantly. "It's nice of you to come,
Miss Durland. I didn't know last night that you were
acquainted with Mr. Trenton. Dear Miss Reynolds
didn't mention it or I should, of course "

She broke off in her odd way, her gaze wandering.
Her indifference was an achievement in itself, a mas-
terly thing. She wore a blue house gown of an ex-
quisite simplicity. A string of crystal beads hung
about her neck and she put her hand to them
frequently as though to make sure they were there.
As she sank into a chair her long figure relaxed into


graceful lines. She was much more composed than at
the dinner, with a languorous composure that might
have been donned for the occasion like a garment.
She reminded Grace of those portraits of women done
by fashionable painters which satisfy the artistic sense
without conveying a sense of reality.

"You forget, May, that I haven't met Miss Rey-
nolds," Trenton remarked to her; but she ignored him.

"You are what do you say a Hoosier, Miss Dur-
land?" she asked, her gaze falling as if by chance
upon Grace.

"Oh, yes, I'm a native." Grace answered with
a faint smile; but her courage was ebbing. She hated
Mrs. Trenton. She tried to think of something amus-
ing to add to her confession that she was a native
Indianian but the atmosphere of the room was not
conducive to brilliancy. To make conversation Tren-
ton reminded his wife that they had once met a
certain senator from Indiana at White Sulphur

A "yes" charged with all the apathy that can be
conveyed by the rising inflexion, was the only reply
that was evoked by this attempt to link Indiana to
large affairs of state. Trenton asked Grace whether
Indiana had ever produced more than one president,
and she tried to ease her discomfiture by replying
that the state had rather specialized in vice-presidents.

"Oh, that!" remarked Mrs. Trenton. "How very
droll! I suppose the Indiana school teacher has a
frightful time instilling in the young Hoosier mind the
names of all your vice-presidents. Do they pay
teachers well in Indiana?"

"Not so well as farther West, I believe," Grace
answered; "but I know little about it."


"That's the next thing I'm going to take up. I'm
having data collected now," Mrs. Trenton said with
more spirit than she had before manifested.

"That's fine, May," said Trenton cordially. "That's
a work worth doing."

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Online LibraryMeredith NicholsonBroken barriers → online text (page 22 of 27)