Susan Glaspell.

The Visioning online

. (page 14 of 26)
Online LibrarySusan GlaspellThe Visioning → online text (page 14 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


had never thought of taking their own lives, had not scorned to look upon
marriages as advantageous.

Nor, for that matter, had Katie herself.

Ann's superior attitude toward marriage turned Katie to religion. As the
niece of a bishop she was moved to set Ann right on things within a
bishop's domain. And underlying that was an impulse to set her right
with herself.

"Ann," she said, "if somebody said to you, 'I starve you in the name of
Katie Jones,' wouldn't you say, 'Oh no you don't. Starve me if you want
to, but don't tell me you do it in the name of Katie Jones. She doesn't
want people starved!'"

"I could say that," said Ann, "because I know you, and know you don't
want people starved. But if I'd never heard anything about you except
that I was to be starved in your name - "

"I should think even so you might question. Didn't it ever occur to you
that God had more to do with your Something Somewhere than He did with
things done in His name in Centralia?"

"Why, Katie, how strange you should think of that. For I thought of
it - but I supposed it was the most wicked thought of all."

"How strange it would be," said Katie, "if He had more to do with the
'call' than with the God-fearing things you were called from."

For an instant Ann's face lighted up. But it hardened. "Well, if He had,"
she said, "it seems He might have stood by me a little better after I was
'called.'"

Katie had no reply for that, so she turned to her uncle, the Bishop.

"Well there's one place where you're wrong, Ann; and that is that
religion is incompatible with the love of dogs. You know my uncle - my
mother's brother - is a bishop. I don't know just how well uncle
understands God, but if he understands Him as well as he does dogs then
he must be well fitted for his office. I don't think in his heart uncle
would have any respect for any person - no matter how religious - or even
how much they subscribed - who wouldn't appreciate the tragedy of losing
one's dog. Uncle has a splendid dog - a Great Dane; they're real chums. He
often reads his sermons to Caesar. He says Caesar can stay awake under
them longer than some of the congregation. I once shocked, but I think
secretly delighted uncle, by saying that he rendered to Caesar the
things that were Caesar's and to God what Caesar left. Well, one dreadful
day someone stole Caesar. They took him out of town, but Caesar got away
and made a return that has gone down into dog history. Poor uncle had
been all broken up about it for three days. He was to preach that
morning. My heart ached for him as he stood there at his study window
looking down the street when it was time to go. I knew what he was hoping
for - the way you go on hoping against hope when your dog's lost. And then
after uncle had gone, and just as I was ready to start myself, I heard
the great deep bark of mighty Caesar! You may know I was wild about
it - and crazy to get the news to uncle. I hurried over to church, but
service had begun. But because I was bursting to tell it, and because I
appreciated something of what it would mean to talk about the goodness of
God when you weren't feeling that way, I wrote a little note and sent it
up. I suppose the people who saw it passed into the chancel in dignified
fashion thought it was something of ecclesiastical weight. What it said
was, 'Hallelujah - he's back - safe and sound. K - .'

"It was great fun to watch uncle - he's very dignified in his official
capacity. He frowned as it was handed him, as if not liking the
intrusion into holy routine. He did not open it at once but sat there
holding it rebukingly - me chuckling down in the family pew. Then he
adjusted his glasses and opened it - ponderously. I wish you could have
seen his face! One of our friends said he supposed it read, 'Will give
fifty thousand.' He quickly recalled his robes and suppressed his grin,
contenting himself with a beatific expression which must have been very
uplifting to the congregation. I think I never saw uncle look so
spiritual. And I know I never heard him preach as feelingly. When he
came to the place about when sorrow has been upon the heart, and seemed
more than the heart could bear, but when the weight is lifted, as the
loving Father so often does mercifully lift it - oh I tell you there were
tears in more eyes than uncle's. I had my suspicions, and that night I
asked, 'Uncle, did you preach the sermon you meant to preach this
morning?' And uncle - if he weren't a bishop I would say he winked at
me - replied, 'No, dear little shark. I had meant to preach the one about
man yearning for Heaven because earth is a vale of tears.' I'm just
telling you this yarn, Ann, to make you see that religion doesn't
necessarily rule out the love of dogs."

"It's a nice story, and I'm glad you told me," replied Ann. "Only my
father would say that your uncle had no religion."

Katie laughed. "A remark which has not gone unremarked. Certainly he
hasn't enough to let it harden his heart. As I am beginning to think
about things now it seems to me uncle might stand for more vital things
than he does, but for all that I believe he can love God the more for
loving Caesar so well."

They were quiet for a time, thinking of Ann's father and Katie's uncle;
the love of God and the love of dogs and the love of man. Many things.
Then Ann said: "Naturally you and I don't look at it the same way. I
see you were brought up on a pleasant kind of religion. The kind that
doesn't matter."

That phrase started the electric batteries within Katie and the batteries
got so active she had to go for a walk.

In the course of the walk she stopped at the shops to see Wayne. She
wanted to know if he would let Worth go into the country for a week with
Ann. An old servant of theirs - a woman who had been friend as well as
servant to Katie's mother - lived on a farm about ten miles up the river
and it had been planned that Worth - and Katie, too, if she would - go up
there for a week or more during the summer. It seemed just the thing for
Ann. It would get her away from Captain Prescott and his mother, and from
Major Darrett, who was coming in a few days. Katie believed Ann would
like to be away from them all for about a week, and get her bearings
anew. And Katie herself would like to be alone for a time and get her
bearings, too, and make some plans. In one way or other she was going to
help Ann find her real Something Somewhere. Perhaps she would take her to
Europe. But until things settled down, as Katie vaguely put it, she
thought it just the thing for Ann to have the little trip with Worth.

Wayne listened gravely, but did not object. He was quiet, and, Katie
thought, not well. She suggested that working so steadily during the hot
weather was not good for him.

He laughed shortly and pointed through the open door to the shops where
long rows of men were working at forges - perspiration streaming down
their faces.

But instead of alluding to them he asked abruptly: "How is she today?"

"Tired," said Katie. "She didn't sleep well last night."

Something in the way he was looking at her brought to Katie acute
realization of how much she cared for Wayne. He was her big brother. She
had always been his little sister. They were not giving to thinking of it
that way - certainly not speaking of it - but the tenderness of the
relationship was there. Consciousness of it came now as she seemed to
read in Wayne's look that she hurt him in withholding her confidence, in
not having felt it possible to trust even him.

She broke under that look. "Wayne dear," she said unevenly, "I don't deny
there is something to tell. I'd like to tell you, if I could. If ever I
can, I will."

His reply was only to dismiss it with a curt little nod.

But Katie knew that did not necessarily mean that he was feeling curt.

She was drawn back to the open door from which she could see the long
double line of men working steadily at the forges.

"What are those men doing?" she asked.

"Forging one of the parts of a rifle," he replied.

It recalled what the man who mended the boats had said of the saddles:
that the first war those saddles would see would be the war over the
manufacture of them. Would he go so far as to say the first use for the
rifles - ?

Surely not. He must have been speaking figuratively.

But something in the might of the thing - the long lines of men at work on
rifles to be used in a possible war - made the industrial side of it seem
more vital and more interesting than the military phase. This was here.
This was real. There was practically no military life at the Arsenal - not
military life in the sense one found it at the cavalry post. That had
made it seem, from a military standpoint, uninteresting. But here was the
real life - over in what the women of the quarter vaguely called "the
shops," and dismissed as disposed of by the term.

Suddenly she wondered what all those men thought about God. Whether
either the hard blighting religion of Ann's father, or the aesthetic
comfortable religion of her uncle "mattered" much to them?

Were the things which "mattered" forging a religion of their own?

But just what were those things that mattered?

A young man had entered and was speaking to Wayne. After a second's
hesitation Wayne introduced him to Katie as Mr. Ferguson, who was
helping him.

He had an open, intelligent face - this young mechanic. He did not seem
overwhelmed at being presented to Captain Jones' sister, but merely
replied pleasantly to her greeting and was turning away.

But Katie was not going to let him get away. If she could help it, Katie
was not going to let any one get away who she thought could tell her
anything about the things which were perplexing her - all those things
pressing closer and closer upon her.

"Do many of these men go to church?" she asked.

He appeared startled. Katie's gown did not suggest a possible tract
concealed about it.

"Why yes, some of them," he laughed. "I don't think the majority
of them do."

Then she came right out with it. "What would you say they look upon as
the most important thing in life?"

He looked startled again, but in more interested way. "Higher wages and
shorter hours," he said.

"Are you a socialist?" she demanded.

It came so unexpectedly and so bluntly that it confused him. "Why,
Katie," laughed her brother, "what do you mean by coming over here and
interviewing men on their politics?"

"What made you think I was a socialist?" asked Ferguson.

"Because you had such a quick answer to such a big question, and seemed
so sure of yourself. I'm reading a book about socialists. They don't seem
to think there is a particle of doubt they could put the world to rights,
and things are so intricate - so confused - I don't see how they can be so
sure they're saying the final word."

"I don't know that they claim to be saying the final word, but they do
know they could take away much of the confusion."

Katie was thinking of the story she had heard the night before. "Do you
think socialism's going to remove all the suffering from the world? Reach
all the aches and fill all the empty places? Get right into the inner
things that are the matter and bring peace and good will and loving
kindness everywhere?"

She had spoken impetuously, and paused with an embarrassed laugh. The
young mechanic was looking at her gravely, but his look was less strange
than Wayne's.

"I don't think they'd go that far, Miss Jones. But they do know that
there's a lot of needless misery they could wipe out."

"They're out and out materialists, aren't they? Everything's
economic - the economic basis for everything in creation. They seem very
cocksure that getting that the way they want it would usher in the
millennium. You said the most important thing in life to these men was
higher wages and shorter hours. I don't blame them for wanting them - I
hope they get them - but I don't know that I see it as very promising that
they regard it as the most important thing in life. To do less and get
more is not what you'd call a spiritual aspiration, is it?" she laughed.
"This is what I mean - it's not the end, is it?"

"Socialists wouldn't call it the end. But it's got to be the end until it
can become the means."

"Yes, but if you get in the habit of looking at it as an end, will there
be anything left for it to be a means to?"

"Why yes, those spiritual aspirations you mention."

"Unless by that time the world's such an economic machine it doesn't want
spiritual aspirations."

"Well Heaven help the working man that's got them in the present economic
machine," said Ferguson a little impatiently.

She, too, moved impatiently. "Oh I don't know a thing about it. It's
absurd for me to be talking about it."

"Why I don't think it's at all absurd, only I don't think you see the
thing clear to the end, and I wish you could talk to somebody who sees
farther than I do. I'm new to it myself. Now there's a man doing a lot of
boat repairing up here above the Island. I wish you could talk to him.
He'd know just what you mean, and just how to meet you."

"Oh, would he?" said Katie. "What's his name?"

"Mann. Alan Mann."

"Why, Katie," laughed Wayne, "it must be that he's that same mythical
creature known as the man who mends the boats."

"Yes," said Katie, "I fancy he's the very same mythical creature."

"My little boy talks about him," Wayne explained.

"Yes, he's the same one. I've seen him talking to your little boy and one
of the soldiers. He's a queer genius."

"In what way is he a queer genius?" asked Katie.

"Why - I don't know. He's always got a way of looking at a thing that you
hadn't seen yourself." He looked up with a little smile from the tool he
was trying to adjust. "I'd like to have you tell him you were worrying
about socialism hurting spiritual aspirations."

"Would he annihilate me?"

"No, he wouldn't want to annihilate you, if he thought you were trying to
find out about things. He'd guide you."

"Oh - so he's a guide, is he? Is he a spiritual or an economic guide?"
she laughed.

"I think he might combine them," he replied, laughing too.

"He must be remarkable," said Kate.

"He is remarkable, Miss Jones," gravely replied the admirer of the man
who mended the boats. "I wish you could have heard him talking to a crowd
of men last Sunday."

"Dear me - is he a public speaker?"

"Yes - in a way. And he writes things."

Katie wanted to ask what things, but they were cut short by the entrance
of Captain Prescott. It was curious how his entrance did cut them short.
She smiled to herself, wondering what he would have thought of the
conversation.

He followed her to the door and inquired for Miss Forrest. His manner was
constrained, but his eyes were begging for an explanation. He looked
unhappy, and Katie hurried away from him. It seemed she could not bear to
have any more unhappiness come pressing against her, even the
unhappiness she was confident would pass away.

In her mood of that day it seemed to Katie that the affairs of the world
were too involved for any one to have a solution for them. Life surged in
too fiercely - too uncontrollably - to be contained within a formula.

As she continued her walk, winding in and out of the wooded paths, awe
spread its great wings about her at thought of the complexity and the
fathomlessness of the relationships of life. She had but a little peep
into them, but that peep held the suggestion of limitlessness.

Because a lonely girl in a barren little town in Indiana had dreamed
dreams which life would not deliver to her, life now was beating in upon
Katie Jones. Because Ann had been foiled in her quest for happiness,
sobering shadows were falling across the sunny path along which Katie had
tripped. Did life thwarted in one place take it out in another? Because
Ann could not find joy was it to be that Katie could not have peace? Had
Ann's yearning for love been the breath blowing to flame Katie's yearning
for understanding? Because Ann could not dream her way to realities did
it mean that Katie must fight her way to them?

They were such big things - such resistless things - these wild new things
which were sweeping in upon her. With the emotion of the world surging in
and out like that how could any one claim to have a solution for the
whole question of living?

She seemed passing into a country too big and too dark for her of the
sunny paths. She needed a guide. She grew lonely at thought of how badly
she needed her guide.

She turned for comfort to thought of the things she would do for Ann. She
would pay it back in revealing to Ann the beauty of the world. She would
assume the responsibility of the Something Somewhere. Perhaps in
fulfilling a dream she would find a key to reality.

She found pleasure in the vision of Ann in the old world cathedrals. How
wisely they had builded - builders of those old cathedrals - in expressing
religion through beauty. At peace in the beauty of form, might Ann not
find an inner beauty? She believed Ann's nature to be an intensely
religious one. How might Ann's soul not flower when she at last saw God
as a God of beauty?

Thus she soothed herself in building a future for Ann. Sought to appease
those surgings of life with promise that Ann should at last find the
loveliness of life.

But in the end it led to a terrifying vision. A vision of thousands upon
thousands of other dreamers of dreams whose soul stuff might be slowly
ebbing away in long dreary days of putting suspenders in boxes. Of
thousands of other girls who might be growing faint in operating the
wires for life. Oh, she had power to fill Ann's life - but would that have
power to still for her the mocking whispers from the dreams which had
died slow deaths in all the other barren lives? Even though she took Ann
from the crowd to a far green hill of happiness, would not Katie herself
see from that far green hill all the other girls "called" to life, going
forth as pilgrims with the lovely love-longing in their hearts only to
find life waiting to seize them for the work of the woman who wore the
white furs?

A sob shook Katie. The woe of the world seemed surging just beneath
her - rising so high that it threatened to suck her in.

But because she was a fighter she mastered the sob and vowed that rather
than be sucked in to the woe of the world she would find out about the
world. Certainly she would sit apart no longer. She would study. She
would see. She would live.

Life had become a sterner and a bigger thing. She would meet it in
a sterner and bigger way. To understand! That was the greatest
thing in life.

That passion to understand grew big within her. How could she hope to go
laughing through a world which sobbed? How turn from life when she saw
life suffering? Why she could not even turn from a little bird which she
saw suffering!

There was a noble wistfulness in her longing to talk again with the man
who mended the boats.




CHAPTER XXIII


In temporary relaxation from the stress of that mood she was glad to see
her friend Major Darrett.

He did not suggest the woe of the world. Because the big new things had
become - for the moment, at least - too much for her, there was rest in the
shelter of the small familiar things.

So much of the unknown had been beating against her that she was glad for
a little laughing respite in the known.

He stood for a world she knew how to deal with. In that he seemed to
offer shelter; not that he would be able to do it for long.

He always roused a particular imp in Katie which wanted to be
flirtatious. She found now, with a certain relief, that the grave things
of life had not exterminated that imp. She would scarcely have felt
acquainted with herself had it perished.

And because she was so pleased to find it alive she let it grow very
live indeed.

Ann and Worth had been gone for five days. Ann had seemed to like the
idea of going. She said she would be glad to be alone for a time and
"rest up," as she vaguely put it. Katie told her that when she came back
they would make some plans; and she told her she was not to worry about
things; that everything was going to be all right.

Ann received it with childlike trust. She seemed to think that it was
all in Katie's hands, to accept with a child's literalness that Katie
would not let the old things come back, that she would "shut the door in
their face."

Other things were in Katie's hands that day: preparations for a big
dinner they were giving that night.

It was for some cavalry people who were stopping there. And in addition
to the cavalry officers and their wives there was a staff officer from
Washington who was valuable to Wayne just then. Katie was anxious that
the dinner be a success. She was glad Major Darrett was there. He went a
long way toward assuring its success.

And Zelda Fraser was with the party. Katie had seen her for a moment that
morning, and would see her again at night. She was stopping with Caroline
Osborne, whom she had known at school.

Zelda did not suggest the woe of the world. Neither did she suggest the
dreams of the world.

It was early in the afternoon and the Major and Katie were having
a conference. He was acquainted with the palate of the visiting
staff officer, and was assuring Katie that she was on the way to
his good graces.

They had gone into the library, where Katie was arranging flowers. He
offered a suggestion there, too. He had an intuitive knowledge of such
things, seemed to be guided by inner promptings as to which bowl should
hold the lavender sweet peas and which the pink ones.

Though Katie disputed his judgment, glad to be on ground where she could
dispute with assurance. They argued it hotly, as if sweet peas were the
most vital things in the world. It was good to be venting all one's
feeling on things so tangible and knowable as sweet peas.

Her dinner safe in the hands of experts, Katie made herself comfortable
and told her friend the Major that she wished now to be put in a
brilliant mood. That a brilliant mood was the one thing the skilled
laborers in possession of her house could not furnish.

He gallantly defied any laborer in the world to be so skilled as to get
Katie out of a brilliant mood.

She told him that was silly, that she had grown very stupid.

He challenged her to prove it.

Katie felt very much at home with him; not merely at home with him the
individual, but comfortably at home with the things he represented. It
gave her a nice homelike feeling to be flirting with him.

And flirting with him herself, she grew interested in all those others
who had flirted with him - she knew they were legion. She seemed to see
them off there in the background - a lovely group of spoiled darlings. She
did not suppose many of them were much the worse for having flirted with
Major Darrett. Suddenly she laughed and told him she regarded him as one
of the great educators of the age. He wanted to know in what way he was
a great educator. Katie would not tell him. There ensued a gay discussion
from which she emerged feeling as if she had had a cocktail.

And looking that way; looking, at least so he seemed to think, from the
manner in which he leaned forward regarding her - most attractive, her
cheeks so pink, her eyes dancing a little dance of defiance at him, and
on her lips a mocking little smile, more sophisticated than any smile he
had ever seen before on Katie's lips. "Katie of the laughing eyes" - he
had once called her. She was leaning back lazily, a suggestion of
insolence in her assurance. As she leaned back that way he marked the
lines of her figure as he had never marked them before. He had previously
thought of Katie as a good build for golf. Now that did not seem to
express the whole of it - and Katie seemed to know it would not express
the whole of it. And in summarizing Katie as having a good build for golf
he had not properly appraised Katie's foot. It was thrust out now from
her very short skirt as if Katie were quite willing he should know it for
a lovely foot. And her arm, which was hanging down from the side of the
chair, seemed conscious of being something more than a good arm for golf.

She looked so like a child, and yet so lurkingly like a woman. It gave
him a new sense of Katie. It blew the warm breath of life over an idea he
had had when he came there.

He had just come from Zelda Fraser, having had luncheon at the
Osbornes'. He had once thought Zelda stimulating. Now she did not seem
at all stimulating in comparison with Katie. She was too obvious. That
lurking something in Katie's eyes, that mysterious smile she had, made


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibrarySusan GlaspellThe Visioning → online text (page 14 of 26)