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Dolly proved a good prophet concerningMacBirney's course in the circumstances. MacBirney, desirous of playing at once to the lakepublic in the affair of his domestic difficulties, madeunexceptional allowances for his wife'smaintenance. Yet at every dollar that came to herfrom his abundance she felt humiliated. Sheknew now why she had endured so much at hishands for so long; it was because she had realizedher utter dependence on him and that her dreamsof self-support were likely, if she had ever actedon them, to end in very bitter realities.
At the first sign of hot weather, Charles andImogene put to sea with a party for a coastingcruise; Dolly sailed for the continent to bringGrace back with her. Robert Kimberly unwillingto leave for any extended period would notlet Alice desert him; accordingly, Fritzie wassent for and came over to stay with her. Thelake country made a delightful roaming placeand Alice was shown by Kimberly's confidenceshow close she was to him.
He confided to her the journal of the day, whatever it might be. Nothing was held back. Hissuccesses, failures, and worries all came to her atnight. He often asked her for advice upon hisaffairs and her wonder grew as the inwardnessof the monetary world in which he moved stoodrevealed to her. She spoke of it one day.
"To be sought after as you are-to have somany men running out here to find you; to beconsulted by so many-"
Kimberly interrupted her. "Do you knowwhy they seek me? Because I make money forthem, Alice. They would run after anybodythat could make them money. But they arewolves and if I lost for them they would try totear me to pieces. No man is so alone as theman the public follows for a day even while it hatesor fears him. And the man the bankers like is theman that can make money for them; their friendshipis as cold and thin as autumn ice."
"But even then, to have the ability for makingmoney and doing magnificent things; to be ableto succeed where so many men fail-it seems sowonderful to me."
"Don't cherish any illusions about it. Everyonethat makes money must be guilty of a thousandcold-blooded things, a thousand sharp turns, athousand cruelties; it's a game of cruelties.Fortunately, I'm not a brilliant success in that line, anyway; people merely think I am. The idealmoney-maker always is and always will be a manwithout a temper, without a heart, and with aninfusion, in our day, of hypocrisy. He takesrefuge in hypocrisy because the public hates himand he is forced to do it to keep from hatinghimself. When public opinion gets too strong forhim he plays to it. When it isn't too strong, heplays to himself. I can't do that; I have toomuch vanity to play to anybody. And therecollection of a single defeat rankles above thememory of a thousand victories. This is allwrong-far, far from the ideal of money getting; in fact,I'm not a professional in the game at all-merelyan amateur. A very successful man should neverbe trusted anyway."
"Because success comes first with him.Itcomes before friendship and he will sacrifice youto success without a pang."
She looked at him with laughing interest."What is it?" he asked changing his tone.
"I was thinking of how I am impressed sometimesby the most unexpected things. You couldnever imagine what most put me in awe of youbefore I met you."
"There must have been a severe revulsion offeeling when you did meet me," suggested Kimberly.
"We were going up the river in your yacht andMr. McCrea was showing us the refineries. Allthat I then knew of you was what I had read innewspapers about calculating and cold-bloodedtrust magnates. Mr. McCrea was pointing outthe different plants as we went along."
"The river is very pretty at the Narrows."
"First, we passed the independent houses.They kept getting bigger and bigger until I couldn'timagine anything to overshadow them and Ibegan to get frightened and wonder what yourrefineries would be like. Then, just as we turned atthe island, Mr. McCrea pointed out a perfectlyhuge cluster of buildings and said those were theKimberly plants. Really, they took my breathaway. And in the midst of them rose thatenormous oblong chimney-stack. A soft, lazy columnof smoke hovered over it-such as hovers overVesuvius." She smiled at the remembrance."But the repose and size of that chimney seemedto me like the strength of the pyramids. Whenwe steamed nearer I could read, near the top, the great terra-cotta plaque: KIMBERLYS ANDCOMPANY. Then I thought: Oh, what atremendous personage Mr. Robert Kimberly must be!"
"The chimney is yours."
"Oh, no, keep it, pray-but it really did put mewondering just what you were like."
"It must have been an inspiration that mademe build that chimney. The directors thought Iwould embarrass the company before we got thefoundations in. I didn't know then whom I wasbuilding it for, but I know now; and if you gota single thrill out of it the expenditure is justified.And I think mention of the thrill should go into thedirectors' minutes on the page where they objectedto the bill-we will see about that. But you neverexpected at that moment to own the chimney, did you? You shall. I will have the trusteesrelease it from the general mortgage and conveyit to you."
"And speaking of Vesuvius, you never dreamedof a volcano lying in wait for you beneath thelazy smoke of that chimney, did you? And thatbefore very long you would not alone own thechimney but would be carrying the volcano aroundin your vanity bag?"
One afternoon in the early autumn Kimberlycame to Cedar Lodge a little later than usualand asked Alice, as he often did, to walk to thelake. He started down the path with somethingmore than his ordinary decision and inclined fora time to reticence. They stopped at a benchnear an elm overlooking the water. "You havebeen in town to-day," said Alice.
"Yes; a conference this morning on the market.Something extraordinary happened."
"In the market?"
"Market conditions are bad enough, but thiswas something personal."
"Tell me about it."
"MacBirney was present at the conference.After the meeting he came to the head of the tablewhere I was talking with McCrea-and sat down.When McCrea joined the others in thelunchroom, MacBirney said he wanted to speak tome a moment. I told him to go ahead.
"He began at once about his differences withyou. His talk puzzled me. I was on thedefensive, naturally. But as far as I could see, hedesigned no attack on me; and of you he couldutter nothing but praise-it was rather trying tolisten to. I could not fathom his purpose in bringingthe matter before me in this singular way, buthe ended with an appeal-"
"He asked me to bring a message to you. Itold him I would deliver any message entrustedto me. He wants you to know that he is verysorry for what has taken place. He admits thathe has been in the wrong-"
"It is too late!" Alice in her emotion rose toher feet.
"And he asks you, through me," Kimberly spokeunder a strain he did not wholly conceal, "if hemay come back and let the past bury itself."
"It is too late."
"He said," Kimberly rose and faced Alice,"there had been differences about religion-"
"Ask him," she returned evenly, "whether Iever sought to interfere with his religious views orpractices."
"These, he promises, shall not come betweenyou again."
"Wretched man! His words are not theslightest guarantee of his conduct."
Kimberly took his hat from his head and wipedhis forehead. "This was the message, Alice;is he to come back to you?"
"Whatever becomes of me, I never will liveagain with him."
"That is irrevocable?"
"I have kept my word-that you should havehis message as straight as I could carry it."
"I believe you have. He certainly could not, whatever his intentions, have paid you a highertribute than to entrust you with one for me."
"Then he does not and never can stand betweenyou and me, Alice?"
"He never can."
The expression of his eyes would have frightenedher at a moment less intense. Slightly paler thanshe had been a year earlier and showing in hermanner rather than in her face only indefinabletraces of the trouble she had been through, Alicebrought each day to Kimberly an attraction thatrenewed itself unfailingly.
He looked now upon her eyes-he was alwaysasking whether they were blue or gray-and uponher brown hair, as it framed her white forehead. Helooked with tender fondness on the delicate cheeksthat made not alone a setting for her frank eyesbut for him added to the appeal of her lips. He satdown again, catching her hand to bring her close.
"Come," he urged, relaxing from his intensity,"sit down. By Heaven, I have suffered to-day!But who wouldn't suffer for you? Who but forthe love of woman would bear the cares andburdens of this world?"
Alice smiled oddly. "We have to bear them, you know, for the love of man." She sat down onthe bench beside him. "Tell me, how have yousuffered to-day?"
"Do you want to know?"
"Of course, I want to know. Don't you alwayswant to know how I have suffered? Though Iused to think," she added, as if moved byunpleasant recollections, "that nobody cares when awoman suffers."
"The man that loves her cares. It is one oflove's attributes. It makes a woman's sorrow andpain his, just as her joy and happiness are his.Pleasure and pain are twins, anyway, and youcannot separate them. Alice!" He looked suddenlyat her. "You love me, don't you?"
Her face crimsoned, for she realized he was benton making her answer.
"Let us talk about something else, Robert."
He repeated his question.
"Don't make me put it into words yet, Robert,"she said at last. "You have so long known theanswer-and know that I still speak as his wife. DoI love you?" She covered her face with her hands.
"Alice!" His appeal drew her eyes back tohis. They looked speechless at each other. Themoment was too much. Instinctively she sprangin fear to her feet, but only to find herself caughtwithin his arm and to feel his burning lips on herlips. She fought his embrace in half-deliriousreproach. Then her eyes submitted to his pleadingand their lips met with her soft, plunging pulsebeating swiftly upon his heart.
It was only for an instant. She pushed himaway. "I have answered you. You must spareme now or I shall sink with shame."
"But you are mine," he persisted, "all mine."
She led him up the path toward the house.
"Sometimes I am afraid I shall swallow you up,as the sea swallows up the ship, in a storm ofpassion."
"Oh no, you will not."
"Because I am helpless. Was there more toyour story?"
"You know then I haven't told it all."
"Tell me the rest."
"When he had finished, I told him I, too, hadsomething to say. 'I shall deliver your messageto Alice,' I said. 'But it is only fair to say to youI mean to make her my wife if she will accept me, and her choice will lie between you and me, MacBirney.'
"You should have seen his amazement. Thenhe collected himself for a stab-and I tried not tolet him see that it went deep. 'Whatever theoutcome,' he said, 'she will never marry you.'
"'You must recollect you have not been in herconfidence for some time,' I retorted. He seemedin no way disconcerted and ended by disconcertingme. 'Remember what I tell you, Mr. Kimberly,'he repeated, 'you will find me a good prophet.She is a Catholic and will never marry you or anyother man while I live.'
"'You may be right,' I replied. 'But if Alicemarries me she will never live to regret it for onemoment on account of her religion. I have noreligion myself, except her. She is my religion, she alone and her happiness. You seem toinvoke her religion against me. What right haveyou to do this? Have you helped her in itspractice? Have you kept the promises you madewhen you married a Catholic wife? Or have youmade her life a hell on earth because she tried topractise her religion, as you promised she shouldbe free to do? Is she a better Catholic becauseshe believed in you, or a worse because to live inpeace with you she was forced to abandon thepractice of her religion? These are questionsfor you to think over, MacBirney. I will giveher your message-'
"'Give her my message,' he sneered. 'Youwould be likely to!'
"'Stop!' I said. 'My word, MacBirney, isgood. Friend and foe of mine will tell you that.Even my enemies accept my word. But if I couldbring myself to deceive those that trust me I wouldchoose enemies to prey upon before I chose friends.I could deceive my own partners. I could playfalse to my own brother-all this I could do andmore. But if I could practise deceits a thousandtimes viler than these, I could not, so help meGod, lie to a trusting girl that I had asked to bemy wife and the mother of my children! Whateverelse of baseness I stooped to, that word shouldbe forever good!'
"Alice, I struck the table a blow that madethe inkstands jump. My eye-glasses went with acrash. Nelson and McCrea came running in;MacBirney turned white. He tried to stretch hislips in a smile; it was ghastly. Everybody waslooking at me. I got up without a word to anyone and left the room."
Alice caught his sleeve. "Robert, I am proudof you! How much better you struck than youknew! Oh," she cried, "how could I help loving you?"
"Do you love me?"
"I would give my life for you."
"Don't give it for me; keep it for me. Youwill marry me; won't you? What did the curmean by saying what he did, Alice?"
"He meant to taunt me; to remind me of howlong I tried to live in some measure up to thereligion that he used every means to drive mefrom-and did drive me from."
"We will restore all that."
"He meant I must come to you without itsblessing."
He looked suddenly and keenly at her. "Shouldyou be happier with its blessing?"
"But should you?"
She gazed away. "It is a happiness I have lost."
"Then you shall have it again."
"I will trust to God for some escape from mydifficulties. What else can I do? My husband!"she exclaimed bitterly-"generous man to remindme of religion!"
Kimberly spoke with a quick resolve. "I amgoing to look into this matter of where you standas a wife. I am going to know why you can'thave a chance to live your life with me. If Igive you back what he has robbed you of, ourhappiness will be doubled."
When Kimberly reached The Towers it wasdusk. Brother Francis was walking onthe terrace. Kimberly joined him. "How isUncle John to-day, Francis?"
"Always the same. It is an astonishing vitalityin your family, Robert."
"They need all they have."
"But all that need strength do not have it.How is your market to-day?"
"Bad," muttered Kimberly absently.
"I am sorry that you are worried."
"More than the market worries me, Francis.But the market is getting worse and worse. Wemet again to-day and reduced prices. Theoutsiders are cutting. We retaliate to protect ourcustomers. When we cut, the cut is universal.Their warfare is guerilla. They are here to-day, there to-morrow."
"I have thought of what you said last night.Cutting you say, has failed. Try something else.To-morrow advance all of your standard brandsone quarter. Be bold; cut with your own outsiderefineries. The profit from the one hand paysthe cost of the war on the other."
Kimberly stopped. "How childish of you towaste your life in a shabby black gown, nursingpeople! Absolutely childish! If you will go intothe sugar business, I tell you again, Francis, Iwill pay you twenty thousand dollars a year forten years and set aside as much more preferredstock for you."
"You are a merchant. You could make aname for yourself. The world would respect you.There are enough to do the nursing, and too fewbrains in the sugar business. To-night I willgive the orders and the advance shall be madewhen the market opens."
"But your directors?"
"We will direct the directors. They have hadtwo months to figure how to fight the scalpers; you show me in twenty-four hours. Some monkswere in to see me this morning; I was too busy.They told my secretary they were building anasylum for old men. I told him to say, not adollar for old men; to come to me when theywere building an asylum for old women. Whatdo you say to my offer, Francis?"
"What do I say? Ah, Robert, although youare a very big paymaster, I am working for aPaymaster much bigger than you. What do I say?I say to you, give up this sugar business and comewith me to the nursing. I will give you rags inplace of riches, fasting in place of fine dinners, toil in place of repose, but my Paymaster-Hewill reward you there for all you endure here."
"Always deferred dividends. Besides, I shouldmake a poor nurse, Francis, and you would makea good sugar man. And you seem to imply I ama bad man in the sugar business. I am not; Iam a very excellent man, but you don't seem toknow it."
"I hope so; I hope you are. God has givenyou splendid talents-he has given you morereason, more heart, more judgment than he has givento these men around you. If you waste, you arein danger of the greater punishment."
"But I don't waste. I build up. What can aman do in this world without power? He musthave the sinews of empire to make himself felt.Francis, what would Cromwell, Frederick,Napoleon have been without power?"
"Ah! These are your heroes; they are notmine. I give glory to no man that overcomes byforce, violence, and worse-fraud, broken faith, misrule, falsehood. What is more detestablethan the triumph of mere brains? Your heroes,do they not tax, extort, pillage, slaughter, andburn for their own glory? Do they not ride overlaw, morality, and justice, your world's heroes?They are not my heroes. When men shrink atnothing to gain their success-what shall we say ofthem? But to hold law, morality, and justiceinviolable; to conquer strength but only byweakness, to vanquish with pity, to crush withmercy-that alone is moving greatness."
"Where do you find it?" demanded Kimberly sharply.
"Never where you look for your heroes; oftenwhere I look for mine-among the saints of God.Not in men of bronze but in men of clay. It isonly Christ who puts the souls of heroes intohearts of flesh and blood."
"But you have, along with your saints, somevery foolish rules in your church, Francis. Takethe case of Mrs. MacBirney. There is a womanwho has done evil to no one and good to every one.She finds herself married to a man who thenceforthdevotes himself to but one object in life-thepiling up of money. She is forgotten andneglected. That is not the worst; he, with noreligion of his own, makes it his business to harassand worry her in the practice of hers. He is filledwith insane jealousies, and moved by equallyinsane hatreds of whatever she desires. I comeinto their lives. I see this proud and unhappywoman struggling to keep her trials hidden. Ibreak down the barriers of her reserve-not easily, not without being repulsed and humiliated as Inever before have been by a woman-and at lastmake her, unwillingly, tell me the truth.Meantime her husband, after a scene-of which I havenever yet learned the real facts-has left her.I say such a woman has the right to free herselffrom a brute such as this; your church says 'no.'"
"Robert, I see what you are coming to. Butdo not make the case harder than it is. She mayfree herself from him if she cannot live in peacewith him; she may leave him under intolerableconditions. But not marry again."
"Precisely. And I offer her my devotion anda home and only ask to make her truly my wifeand restore to her the religion he has robbed herof. And this very religion that he has trampledon and throttled, what does it say? 'No.'"
"You state a hard case. Your reasoning is veryplausible; you plead for the individual. Thereis no law, human or divine, against which theindividual might not show a case of hardship. Thelaw that you find a hardship protects society.But to-day, society is nothing, the individualeverything. And while society perishes we praise thetolerant anarchism that destroys it."
"Francis, you invoke cruelty. What do I carefor society? What has society done for me?"
"No, I invoke responsibility, which none of uscan forever escape. You seek remarriage. Yourcare is for the body; but there is also the soul."
"Your law is intolerant."
"Yours is fatal. How often have you said tome-for you have seen it, as all thoughtful men seeit-that woman is sinking every day from the highestate to which marriage once lifted her. Andthe law that safeguards this marriage and againstwhich you protest is the law of God. I cannotapologize for it if I would; I would not if I could.Think what you do when you break down thebarrier that He has placed about a woman. It isnot alone that the Giver of this law died a shamefuldeath for the souls of men. You do not believethat Christ was God, and Calvary means nothing to you.
"But, Robert, to place woman in that highposition, millions of men like you and me, menwith the same instincts, the same appetites, thesame passions as yours and mine, have crucifiedtheir desires, curbed their appetites, and masteredtheir passions-and this sacrifice has been goingon for nineteen hundred years and goes on aboutus every day. Who realizes it?
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