скачать книгу бесплатно
"Come in, Bell," said Alice. "What is it?"
"The juggler, Mrs. MacBirney; his assistanthas telephoned they've missed their train."
"Oh, Bell!" exclaimed his mistress inindignant protest. "Don't tell me that."
"And it's the last out, till ten-thirty o'clock."
Alice's face fell. "That ends my evening.Isn't it too exasperating. Stupid jugglers!"
Kimberly intervened. "What train did hemiss, Bell?"
"The seven-ten, sir, from town."
"Why don't you call up the division superintendentand ask his office to stop the eight-ten?"
Bell looked at his mistress. "I might do that, sir."
"Oh, can you?" cried Alice.
"You ought to have done it without being told,Bell," observed Kimberly. "You've done suchthings before."
"Might I use your name, sir?"
"Use whatever is necessary to get him. Andask them to hunt up the juggler in thewaiting-room and put him aboard. Who is he?"
"A China boy, sir, I understand."
"In that case, they could not miss him."
The butler left the room. "Do you think theywill do it?" asked Alice anxiously.
"Don't give it further thought. We could gethim out on a special if necessary."
Voices came from the front room. Alicestarted forward. "There are guests."
"By-the-way," added Kimberly, pointing to thecard on his cover and that on his brother's, "youdon't mind my correcting this mistake, do you?"
Alice looked very frankly at him, for the successof the dinner was keenly on her mind. "You willbe of more assistance, Mr. Kimberly, if you willnot make any change. Mrs. Nelson and Mrs. Morganare my difficulties and I hoped you wouldsolve them for me."
"By all means."
Dolly's voice was heard in the hall. "Where areyou, Alice? Here are the McCreas, from town, and Doctor Hamilton."
They sat down fourteen at the table-theKimberlys, De Castros, Nelsons, McCreas, Hamilton,Miss Venable, and Dora Morgan.
Alice was playing to the enemy and meant todemonstrate to the Nelson coterie that she neededno assistance from them to establish herself as ahostess at Second Lake. If she wished, on thisoccasion, for a great success it was hers. Thedinner was good, and the moment that Nelsonhad assured himself of this he begangood-naturedly to help things on.
A remark from some one about the gulf betweenlaw and justice gave him a chance. "Whyassociate the two at all?" he asked lazily. "Law isstrictly a game of the wits. It is played under theconvention of an appeal to justice, but justice isinvoked merely to satisfy the imagination. Ifpeople understood this there would be nocomplaint about a gulf between the two. We imaginejustice; we get law. Similarly, we imagine heaven;we get-what we deserve. If the imagination besatisfied, man will endure the sweat of Sisyphus; most of us suffer it in this world, anyway. Lawand justice are like chemical incompatibles andthere must be a gulf between them. And law isno better and no worse than other conventionsof society.Who that studies human governmentin any form has ever been able to regard itotherwise than with contempt?"
"Certainly," interposed Fritzie Venable, withformal irony. "No one that takes care of theKimberly interests at Washington."
"The Kimberly interests at Washington,"returned Nelson with complaisance, "are so wellbehaved that they take care of themselves."
"Then I don't see what contempt you shouldhave for this government," retorted Fritzie vigorously.
"Only that it affords him no adequate exercisefor his ingenuity," suggested Arthur De Castro.
"I don't care," protested Fritzie; "I am anAmerican and I won't have our government abused.I believe in sticking to your own."
"Well, if we haven't stuck to our own, I shouldlike to know who has?" observed Charles Kimberlybenevolently. "We've stuck for fifty yearsto our tariff builders, as Mustard would to a stot.MacBirney's farmers are doing the work for usnow," he continued. "Our beet growers guardthe sugar schedule at Washington. Thesewonderful Western States; lowest in illiteracy, highestin political sagacity! It is really a shame to takethe money."
"I don't see how you conscientiously can takeit," declared Hamilton, appealing to Robert Kimberly.
"I do it by educating my conscience, Doctor,"responded Robert Kimberly. "Every one thattakes the trouble to inquire knows I am a freetrader. I abstain from the Reform Club, butthat is out of deference to my partners. Icontribute to both campaign funds; to the one forour shareholders, to the other for my conscience; for as I say, personally I am a free trader."
"And a tariff beneficiary," added Arthur De Castro.
"Why not, Arthur? Wasn't it Disraeli whosaid sensible men are all of one religion? Hemight better have said, sensible men are all of onepolitics. It is true, we are tariff beneficiaries, butthis country is doing business under a protectivetheory. We are engaged, as we were long beforethere was a tariff, in what is now a protectedindustry. We can't change our business becausethe government changes its economic policy.
"And if anybody is to have protection here,Arthur, why shouldn't we? Who has a betterright to it? Our warrants of occupation wereextorted from the Iroquois. We fought the Indian,we fought the French, we fought the English-"
"Was there anybody you didn't fight?"
"We put up our credit in Paris and Amsterdamfor the colonies and for the Federal Governmentwhen the colonies and the Federal Governmenthad none. Then along comes a little coterie ofsteel men in our own day," Kimberly tossed hishead with disdainful impatience, "who make thetoil of a hundred years look like a farce-out-HerodHerod in protection and pile up hundredsof millions while we are up to our armpits inmolasses trying to grind out a mere living.Protection! We don't get half enough. Who has anybetter sanction for exercising that airy, invisiblepressure of a tariff tax?" he demanded, liftinga glass of wine to the light.
"Picturesque old pirate," murmured Hamilton.
"And he needs the money," commented DeCastro. "Why quarrel with him?"
"I am sure you will all pledge the sugar business,"continued Kimberly, raising a refilled glassblandly, "and join me in welcoming anybody thatwants to go into it. This is a free country, gentlemen."
"What do you use on competitors, the rack and dungeon?"
"Nothing that savors of them."
"But you take care of competition," persistedHamilton.
"Certainly we do," interposed McCrea, quicklyand frankly. "But without unnecessary cruelty,as Mr. Robert Kimberly puts it. No man thatever fought the company and had horse-sense hasever starved to death. We can use such a man'stalents better than he can, and very often hecomes into camp and becomes our teacher; thathas happened. Our system of combination hasbrought comforts and luxuries into thousands ofhomes that never would have known them underthe waste of competition. Hundreds and thousandsof men have profited by uniting their effortswith ours. And no man that wasn't a businesslunatic has ever been the worse for anything we'vedone."
"Your husband talks well, Mrs. McCrea,"said Robert Kimberly, to a quiet little womannear him.
"He has had able teachers," laughed Mrs. McCrea.
"No, it is because he believes in himself. It'sa great thing to be able to believe in yourself."
"Far from it."
"You've made a good many others believe in you."
"Not always for their own best interests, I'mafraid."
"Yes, I know," Dolly was saying to those ofthe women who were listening to her, "the weightof authority is against me. But I have alwaysheld, and hold yet, that a simple thing, such aslapis-lazuli, is best set in gold-much better thanin silver. Talk with Castellani about itsometime, or Viola."
"Yes, and they'll tell you silver, every time,"interrupted Fritzie vigorously.
Dolly waved her hand as if to dismiss controversy.
"Gold is so common," objected Lottie Nelson.
"Not more so than lapis," retorted Dolly.
"But isn't that the glory of gold," suggestedRobert, "that it is common? It has the seal ofapproval of mankind; what higher sanction do youwant? You are always safe in resting with thatapproval. I believe in common things-pearls forexample and rubies. I am just common enoughto like them."
Bell, passing behind his mistress, spoke in herear. Alice's face lighted and she caughtKimberly's eye. "He is here," she nodded laughinglyacross the table.
The juggler had come and as the dessert wasbeing served he followed a butler into the roomin his native robes and assumed his place as oneof Bell's assistants. The Chinaman was handsomeand of great size and strength. Alice onlyhinted to her guests what awkwardness might belooked for from the new footman, and the jugglersmiling in Oriental silence began to cajole thesenses of his spectators.
After he had amused them with trifles he floateda gossamer veil of yellow silk over a huge glassbowl filled with fruit from a serving table. Withthis in his hands he hastened to the fireplace atthe end of the room and turning heaved the bowlswiftly toward the ceiling, catching it in his armsas it descended filled with quivering goldfishswimming in water of crystal clearness.
He took oranges from the side tables and, splittingthem, released song-birds into the air. Theguests tossed fruit at him, and from apples andpomegranates he cut favors for them-jewelledstick-pins, belt agraffes and Florentinebonboni?res. When the evening was over Alice thankedher guests for their compliments. Lottie Nelson'swords in particular left a flush of triumph inAlice's cheeks and she looked so happy thatKimberly paused before he spoke.
"Well?" said Alice questioningly. And then: "If you have had a good time, don't be afraid tosay so."
He looked at her as if pleased at her fervor."Are you a little bit sorry?" he asked quizzically.
Her brows rose with a pretty assumption ofignorance. "I have nothing to be sorry for."
"Then I suppose I must have."
She dropped her eyes for a moment to hersandalwood fan. "Of course, you will decide that."
"I presume," he continued, taking the fanwithout apology from her hands, "I may comeover when you are not at home and look at yourportrait?"
"I am sure you don't realize how silly thatsounds. I hear you have a new picture," sheadded, looking up.
"It is to be hung next week. MacBirney is tobring you over to see it. Are you sorry I came?"
"Oh, is that what you meant? Why, such aquestion! You saved my evening."
"But are you sorry?"
"I shouldn't say so if I were, should I?"
"No, but answer, anyway."
Her expression of vexation was pleasing. "Howobstinate! No, then. And you saved my evening besides."
"You must take me as I am."
"You cannot, I know, be less than you should be."
"How about you?"
She drew herself up the least bit. "I hope nofriend of mine would wish me anything less."
"We are both then to be all we should be."
"Don't you think I am very patient?" shedemanded impatiently.
"You are. We are both to be, aren't we?"
She did not conceal her annoyance. "I sincerelytrust so," she said coldly. "But there is alimit to all things."
He held out his hand. "Thank you for a delightfulevening."
The new picture at The Towers made atopic of interest among Kimberly's friends, but Alice found excuses for not going to see ituntil MacBirney would brook no further delays.They drove over one afternoon and found DoctorHamilton and Imogene in the library. RobertKimberly came downstairs with Charles andgreeted the MacBirneys. Tea was broughtpresently and Kimberly asked Alice to pour it.
"I haven't seen you since your dinner," said he, sitting down after a time by Alice. "You wereindisposed the day I called. Imogene tells me youintend spending the winter in town."
"Mr. MacBirney wants to."
"I hoped you would winter in the country."
"I like the country, but Mr. MacBirney likesthe town. I shall enjoy it, too. You know weare really country folk and haven't had as muchtown life as you have."
The others started for the east room. "Come,"said Dolly, beckoning Alice, "you want to see theRubens."
The new picture was hung as a panel betweena smaller Rubens and an unknown head of theVirgin, in the manner of Botticelli. Kimberlyseated Alice apart from the others and stood behind her.
"You have been in this room before?" he saidquestioningly.
"Once before. It is very much richer now." Sheindicated the new picture as she spoke, alarge canvas of the Crucifixion. "There are twotitles for it," explained Kimberly, "a Latin anda Dutch. I like the Dutch best: 'The NinthHour.' This picture doesn't appeal so much tomy friends as it has appealed to me. But seewhat this master magician has chosen here; thesupreme moment of the Crucifixion."
Those with them were chatting apart. Alicesat in silence while Kimberly spoke and whenhe had done they were silent together. "Ihope you are going to like it," he said after a pause.
MacBirney asked a question, and Kimberlywalked to where he was seated. When he cameback he seemed unable to wait longer for Alice'scomment. "What is the verdict?"
"Nothing I have ever seen of Rubens's leavesme unmoved," she answered. "This is almostoverwhelming, terrible."
"Mrs. MacBirney likes my 'Crucifixion,' Dolly,"observed Kimberly after another silence.
"Oh, you needn't quote Alice," exclaimed Dollyfrom a window seat. "So do I like it. All Isaid was, that it is a sin to pay so much for apicture."
"No price is too great for a great inspiration.See," he pointed for Alice to the face of a Romansoldier cowering in the foreground of the canvas."There is one man's face. Hamilton has studieda good many pictures and watched unnumberedfaces in every expression of suffering. He hastold me that, so far as he knows pictures, theemotion of fear has never been depicted on thehuman countenance except in that face. As a greatsurgeon, of a very wide experience, he may be saidto know what fear pictured on a human faceshould be. And there it is before us. Conceivewhat a triumph for that man to have achievedthis, so far from us in the dead centuries, and yetso near to us in this magic of his skill. Observewhat a background he has chosen to depict itfrom-Jerusalem, bathed in the uncanny, terrifyinglight that accompanies a convulsion of nature.The earth rent, the dead issuing from their graves, nature prostrate, and everywhere-brooding overeverything, but stamped most of all on this oneguilty face-fear. How it all builds up the agonyof that death sweat on the cross! By Heaven,it is tremendous! And Dolly says it is a sin tospend so much money for it. Brother Francisdoesn't agree with her; I found him in here earlyone morning saying his prayers to it."
"Before it," said Alice instantly.
"I thought that no mean tribute. Frankly, doyou think me extravagant?"
"Did you really pay the price named in thenewspapers?"
"It does take one's breath away-at least, ittook mine."
"I have wanted this picture for years. Hamiltonmade one trip over with me to look at it-hetold me of it first. Then I had to wait all theseyears for the opportunity to acquire it."
His eyes were fixed on the picture. "It musthave taken patience to paint it. But patiencegives us everything in this life." Alice was silent."You don't agree with me?"
"How do you know that?"
"I feel it; the air is thick with your dissent.But, Alice, I am right and you are wrong."
Her name coming so suddenly and for the firsttime from his lips astonished her. Her heartsent its blood in protest to her very ears. In aroom with other people nothing could be said.But she rose and turning from Kimberly calledto her husband, asking if he were ready.
"Before you go I have a favor to ask," saidKimberly, intervening, and Kimberly's petitionshad always something of the color of command."I told you," he said, speaking to Alice, "of mymother's portrait. It is upstairs; will you comesee it?"
"I should like very much to see it. Come,Walter," she held out her hand for her husband."Mr. Kimberly wants us to see his mother's portrait."
Kimberly made no comment, but the mannerwith which he paused, waiting for MacBirney tojoin them, sufficiently indicated that he wasconscious of waiting. When MacBirney noticed hisattitude he moved from those he was with muchmore quickly than he would have done at hiswife's behest. Dolly came with MacBirney andthe four walked upstairs. Kimberly's roomsopened to the south. There were five in theapartment and while Kimberly excused himself totake MacBirney in for a moment to speak to hisuncle, Dolly took Alice through Kimberly's suite.
"These rooms are charming!" exclaimed Alice, when the men came in to them. "You must seethem, Walter. The breakfast room is dear."
They were standing in the library, which servedas a writing room and a conference room. It wasfinished in oak and on the east the breakfast roomopened, in white and green.
Alice took her husband's arm. "See, Walter,"she said passing through the open door; "isn'tthis darling? These tones must be restful to waketo!"
"I had lunch here once," announced MacBirneyin his choppy way. "With you and your brotherand McCrea," he added, turning to Kimberly.
"You never said a word to me about seeingsuch a pretty place," remarked his wife.
"You've been in the west room?" asked Kimberly.
"Yes, Alice sang for me while you were withUncle John," responded Dolly.
"I thought I heard music," remarked Kimberly, looking at Alice. "What did you sing?"
"I only hummed an old air."
Kimberly tried to get her to go back to the pianobut could not. "I miss music keenly," he said,"I wish I could make a contract with you tosing here every day."
"You would be in very good company,"interposed Dolly. "Some famous artistes havesung at that piano. Robert," she added, as thetwo women walked toward his dressing-room,"has everything here but what he ought tohave-a wife. When mother lived, The Towers wasmore than a habitation-it was a home."
In his bedroom, Kimberly indicated a portraitabove the fireplace. "This is my mother," hesaid to Alice. "Sit down for just a moment-Iwant you to like her."
"I like her very much, already," returned Alice."But I should like to sit a moment to enjoythe portrait. I wish I could have known your mother."
"This room I fancy best of them all," Dolly wassaying to MacBirney as they walked on. "Allof this wall panelling and ceiling was made fromone mahogany log brought up from SantoDomingo many years ago with a cargo of sugar."
Kimberly, sitting with Alice before his mother'spicture, showed a self-consciousness he did notoften betray, a solicitude, seemingly, that Aliceshould agree with his own estimate of his mother."She was the most tender, kindly woman in theworld," he said after a moment.
"Such a mother ought to be an inspiration toyou for everything high and good, Mr. Kimberly."
"Yet I have never reached anything high and good."
"Sometime you will."
He looked at her curiously. "Do you reallythink that?"
"Yes, I do. And thank you for letting me seeyour mother."
"If you only could have met her!" There wasan intensity of regret in his words. "It was atragedy for such a woman to die young. I havelong wanted you to see her portrait; youconstantly make me think of her, Alice."
She turned calmly and frankly. "It is mostkind of you to say that, Mr. Kimberly. So kindthat I am going to be bold enough to ask afavor."
"I know what you are going to ask, but I wishyou wouldn't. I want very much to do what youare about to ask me not to do-"
"It is almost nothing-only not to call me Alice."
"There is no use my asking a favor, is there?" Heturned with almost a boyish humor in hismanner. His mother's eyes seemed to look ather in his eyes as he spoke.
"Not, Mr. Kimberly, this time. I want you tooblige me."
"You are afraid of me." There was noresentment in the words; nothing beyond a regret.
Her answer was low but neither weak nor confused."Is it quite generous, Mr. Kimberly-here?"
"No," he answered in the same even voice, "itis not. Unhappily, there are times whengenerosity is weakness. I've been trying ever since Ihave known you to think of you just as I think ofmyself. I believe I have tried to give you a littlethe best of it-yet a selfish man can't always besure of doing that."
"I trust you think of me," she responded,"only as one of the least important among yourfriends."
"You are afraid of me. And yet I want yourconfidence above everything in this world-and Imust in some way deserve and win it."
"I do wish you would not say these things. Ihave to try very hard not to dislike you exceedinglywhen you speak in this way."
"You do dislike me exceedingly when I speakin this way. I know it perfectly."
If her voice trembled the least bit it was withindignation. "I sometimes ask myself whether Ishould suffer it even for my husband's sake.You will force me to do something unpleasant, I fear."
"I never will force you to do anything. I dowant to call you Alice. But don't hate me for that."
She heard with relief Dolly talking to herhusband in the doorway. "It was almost three yearsbefore Imogene saw Charles again," Alice heardDolly say, "and, would you believe it, he beganexactly where he left off. After that Imogenedecided it was of no use. So, she is Mrs. Kimberly!"
скачать книгу бесплатно