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MARK LEE LUTHER
COLE BOOK CO.,
69 Whitehall St.,
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO
MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED
LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.
From that dear shelter she, too, foresaw a kindlier tuture.
MARK LEE LUTHER
Author of " The Henchman" " The Mastery"
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
ROSE CECIL O'NEILL
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
All rigbtt reserved
BY INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE COMPANY.
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1907.
J. 8. Cashing Co. Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
E. M. R.
" From that dear shelter she, too, foresaw a kindlier future "
" ' A dimple will be a great handicap in my life ' " . . 40
"And, among them, Jean" ..... 56
"'Do you know each other?' " . . . . .178
" Her knight of the forest stood before her " . . .196
"She was scoring" ....... 254
THE girl heard the key rasp in the lock and the
door open, but she did not turn.
"When I enter the room, rise," directed an even
The new inmate obeyed disdainfully. The super-
intendent, a middle-aged woman of precise bearing
and crisp accent, took possession of the one chair,
and flattened a note-book across an angular knee.
"Is Jean Fanshaw your full name ?" she began.
"I'm called Jack/'
"Jack!" The descending pencil paused disap-
provingly in mid-air. "You were committed to
the refuge as Jean."
" Everybody calls me Jack," persisted the girl
" Does your mother ? "
Her face clouded. "No," she admitted; "but
my father did. He began it, and I like it. Why
isn't it as good as Jean ? Both come from John."
"It is not womanly," said Miss Blair, as one
having authority. "Women of refinement don't
adopt men's names."
2 THE CRUCIBLE
"How about George Eliot?" Jean promptly
countered. "And that other George the French
The superintendent battled to mask her astonish-
ment. Case-hardened by a dozen years^ close con-
tact with moral perverts, budding criminals, and
the half-insane, she plumed herself that she was
not easily taken off her guard. But the unexpected
had befallen. The newcomer had given her a sen-
sation, and moreover she knew it. Jean Fanshaw's
dark eyes exulted insolently in her victory.
Miss Blair took formal refuge in her notes.
"Birthplace?" she continued.
"Seventeen, two months ago September tenth."
The official jotted "American" under the heading
of nationality, and said,
"Where were your parents born ?"
"Father hailed from the South from Virginia."
Her face lighted curiously. "His people once
"And your mother?"
The girl's interest in her ancestry flagged. "Pure
Shawnee Springs." She flung off the characteriza-
tion with scorn. "Pure, unadulterated Shawnee
But the superintendent was now on the alert for
the unexpected. "I want plain answers," she ad-
monished. " What has been your religious training ? "
THE CRUCIBLE 3
"Mixed. Father was an Episcopalian, I think,
but he wasn't much of a churchgoer; he preferred
the woods. Mother's a Baptist."
"I don't know what I am. I guess God isn't
interested in my case."
The official retreated upon her final routine
"I was in my last year at high school when"
her cheek flamed "when this happened.'*
Miss Blair construed the flush as a hopeful
sign. " You may sit down, Jean," she said, indi-
cating the narrow iron bed. "Let me see your
The girl handed over the task work which had
made isolation doubly odious.
The superintendent pursed her thin lips.
"Have you never set up a stocking before?" she
"Can you sew?"
"No, Miss Blair,' would be more courteous.
Have you been taught any form of housework
Jean looked her fathomless contempt. "We kept
help for such drudgery," she explained briefly.
4 THE CRUCIBLE
"You must learn, then. They are things which
every woman should know."
"I don't care to learn the things every woman
should know. I hate women's work. I hate women,
too, and their namby-pamby ways. I'd give ten
years of my life to be a man."
Her listener contrasted Jean Fanshaw's person
with her ideas. Even the flesh-mortifying, blue-
and-white-check uniform of the refuge became the
girl. Immature in outline, she was opulent in
promise. Her features held no hint of masculinity;
the mouth, chin, eyes above all, the defiant eyes
were hopelessly feminine. Miss Blair's own pale
glance returned again and again upon those eyes.
They made her think of pools which forest leaves
have dyed. The brows were brown, too, and deli-
cately lined, but the thick rope of hair, which fell
quite to the girl's hips, was fair. The other woman
touched the splendid braid covetously.
"You can't escapeyour sex," she said. "Don't try."
"But I wasn't meant for a girl. They didn't
want one when I was born. They'd had one girl,
my sister Amelia, and they counted on a boy. They
felt sure of it. Why, they'd even picked out his
name. It was to be John, after my father. Then
"Nature knew best."
Jean gave a mirthless laugh. "Nature made a
botch," she retorted. "What business has a boy
with the body of a girl ?"
THE CRUCIBLE 5
The superintendent lost patience. "You must
rid yourself of this nonsense," she declared firmly,
and said again, "You can't escape your sex."
"I will if I can."
" Because this is a man's world. Because I mean
to do the things men do."
" For some little time to come you'll occupy your-
self with the things women do."
Jean's long fingers clenched at the reminder.
The hot color flooded back. "Oh, the shame of
it!" she cried passionately. "The wicked injus-
tice of it!"
"You did wrong. This is your punishment."
" My punishment !" flashed the girl. "My pun-
ishment! Could they punish me in no other way
than this ? Am I a Stella Wilkes, a common creature
of the streets, who "
The superintendent raised her hand. "Don't go
into that," she warned peremptorily. "If you knew
Stella Wilkes in Shawnee Springs "
"I know her!"
" Don't interrupt me. I repeat, if you know any-
thing of Stella's record, keep it to yourself. A girl
turns over a new leaf when she enters here. Her
past is behind her. And let me caution you per-
sonally not to speak of your life to any one but my-
self. Remember that. Make confidences to no one
not even the matrons to no one except me."
Jean searched the enigmatic face hungrily. "I
6 THE CRUCIBLE
doubt if you'd care to listen," she stated simply; "or
whether, if you did listen, you'd believe!"
Something in her tone penetrated Miss Blair's
official crust. "My dear!" she protested.
The girl was silent a moment. Then, point-
blank, "Do you think a mother can hate her
child ?" she asked.
The superintendent, by virtue of her office, felt
constrained to take up the cudgels for humanity.
"Of course not," she responded.
"My mother hates me sometimes."
"At other times it's only dislike," Jean went on
impassively. "It's always been so. Dad got over
the fact that I was a girl. He said he would call me
his boy, anyhow. That's where the 'Jack' came
from. But mother she was different. I dare say
if I'd been all girl, like Amelia, she could have stood
me. She was forever holding up Amelia as a pat-
tern. Amelia would get a hundred per cent, in that
quiz you put me through. Amelia can sew; Amelia
can embroider; Amelia can make tea-biscuit and
"And what were you doing while your sister was
improving her opportunities ?"
"Improving mine," came back Jean, with con-
viction. "Why didn't you ask me if I could swim,
and box, and shoot, and hold my own with a gamy
pickerel or trout ?"
"Did your father teach you those things ?"
THE CRUCIBLE 7
"Some of them."
"And to affect mannish clothes, and smoke
cigarettes with your feet on the table ?"
Jean flaunted an unregenerate grin. "You've
heard more than you let on, I guess. But you
wouldn't have asked that last question if you'd
known him. He wasn't that sort. I did those
things after after he went. I didn't really care
for the cigarettes; I mainly wanted to shock that
sheep, Amelia. Besides, I only smoked in my own
room. I had a bully room all posters and foils
and guns. That reminds me," she added, with a
quick change of tone. "That woman who comes in
here the matron took something of mine. I
want it back."
"What was it?"
"A little clay bust my father made."
"Was he a sculptor?"
"No, a druggist; but he could model. You'll
make her give it back?"
"Is it the likeness of a man?"
"Yes, of dad."
"The matron was right. We allow no men's pic-
tures in the girls' rooms, and the rule would apply
Incredulity, resentment, impotent anger drove in
rapid sequence across the too mobile face. "But
it's dad!" she cried. "Why, he did it for me! I
never had a picture. Don't keep it from me; it's
8 THE CRUCIBLE
The official shook her head in stanch conviction
of the sacredness of red tape. "The rule is for
everybody. Furthermore, you must not refer to
men in your letters home. If you make such refer-
ences, they will be erased. Nor will they be per-
mitted in any letter you may receive from your
"You'll read my letters?"
Jean silently digested this fresh indignity. "Then
I'll never write," she declared.
Miss Blair waived discussion. "Never mind about
the rules now, my girl," she returned, not unkindly.
"You will appreciate the reasons for them in time.
Go on with your story. Tell me more of your home
"It wasn't a home at least, not for me. I
didn't fit into it anywhere after dad went. Mother
couldn't understand me. She said I took after
the Fanshaws, not her folks, the Tuttles. Thank
heaven for that! I never understood her, it's
certain. When she wasn't flint, she was mush.
Her softness was all for Amelia, though. They were
hand and glove in everything, and always lined up
together in our family rows. I think that was at the
bottom of half the trouble. If mother'd only let us
girls scrap things out by ourselves, we'd have rubbed
along somehow, and probably been better friends.
But she couldn't do it. She had to take a hand for
Saint Amelia, as a matter of course. I can't re-
THE CRUCIBLE 9
member when it wasn't so, from the days when we
fought over our toys till the last big rumpus of
"And that last affair?" prompted her inquisitor.
"What led to it?"
"A box social."
"A box social!"
"Never heard of one ? You're not country-bred, I
guess. Shawnee Springs pretends to be awfully citi-
fied when the summer cottagers are in town, but
it's rural enough the rest of the year. Box socials
are all the rage. You see, the girls all bring boxes,
packed with supper for two, which are auctioned off
to the highest bidder. The fellows aren't supposed
to know whose box they're buying. Anyhow, that's
the theory. I thought it ought to be the practice,
too, and when I found that Amelia had fixed things
beforehand with Harry Fargo, I planned a little sur-
prise by changing the wrapper. Harry bid in the
box she signalled him to buy, and drew his own
little sister for a partner. The man who bought
Amelia's was a bald-headed old widower she couldn't
bear. It wasn't much of a joke, I dare say, and
Amelia couldn't see the point of it at all. She told
me she hated me, right before Harry Fargo himself,
and after we came home she followed me up to my
room to say it again."
An unofficial smile tempered Miss Blair's aus-
terity. "But go on," she said, with an access of for-
mality by way of atonement for her lapse.
io THE CRUCIBLE
Jean's own quick-changing eyes gleamed over the
memory of Amelia's undoing, but it was for an in-
stant only. "It was a dear joke for me," she con-
tinued soberly. "Amelia was sore. She had a nasty
way of saying things, for all her angel-food, and she
hadn't lost her voice that night, I can assure you.
I said I was sorry for playing her the trick, but
she kept harping on it like a phonograph, and one
of our regular shindies followed. It would have
ended in talk, like all the rest, if mother hadn't
chimed in, but when they both tuned up with the
same old song about my being a hoiden and a family
disgrace, why, I got mad myself, and told them to
clear out. When they didn't budge, I grabbed a
Cuban machete that a Rough Rider friend had given
me, and went for them."
"What did you mean to do ?"
"Only frighten them. I never knew till afterward
that I'd really pinked Amelia's arm. Of course, I
didn't mean to do anything like that. I swear it."
"Then mother lost her head completely. She
tore shrieking downstairs, Amelia after her, and both
of them took to the street. First I knew, in came
the officer. The rest seems a kind of nightmare to
me the arrest, the station-house cell, the blunder-
ing old fool of a magistrate who sent me here. He
said he'd had his eye on me for a long time, and that
I was incorrigible. Incorrigible ! What did he know
about it ? He couldn't even pronounce the word !
THE CRUCIBLE 11
What business has such a man with power to spoil
a girl's life ! He was only a seedy failure as a law-
yer, and got his job through politics. That's what
sent me here politics ! Mother never intended
matters to go this far. I know she didn't, though
she doesn't admit it. She wanted to frighten me,
but things slipped out of her hands. Think of it !
Three years among the Stella Wilkeses for a joke !
My God, I can't believe it ! I must be dreaming
The superintendent ransacked her stock of homi-
lies for an adequate response, but nothing suggested
itself. Jean Fanshaw's case refused to fit the routine
pigeonholes. She could only remind the girl that it
lay with herself to decide whether she would serve
out her full term.
"It is possible to earn your parole in a year and a
half, remember," she charged, rising. "Bear that
constantly in mind."
Jean seemed not to hear. "The shame of it!"
she repeated numbly. "The disgrace of it! I shall
never live it down."
She brooded long at her window when her visitor
had gone, her wrongs rankling afresh from their
rehearsal. The two weeks' isolation had begun to
tell upon the nerves which she had prided herself
were of stoic fibre. Human companionship she did
not want. She had not welcomed the superinten-
dent's coming, nor the physician's before her; and, if
contempt might slay, the drear files of her fellow-
12 THE CRUCIBLE
inmates which traversed the snow-bound paths below
would have withered in their tracks. It was the open
she craved, and the daily walks under the close sur-
veillance of a taciturn matron had but whetted her
She had conned the desolate prospect till she
felt she knew its every hateful inch. Yonder, at
the head of the long quadrangle, was the admin-
istration building, whither Miss Blair had taken her
precise way. Flanking the court, ran the red brick
cottages each a replica of its unlovely neighbor,
offspring all of a single architectural indiscretion
one of which she supposed incuriously would
house her in the lost years of her durance. Quite
at the end, closing the group, loomed the prison,
gaunt, iron-barred, sinister in the gathering dusk.
This last structure had come almost to seem a sen-
sate creature, a grotesque, sprawling monster, with
half-human lineaments which nightfall blurred and
modelled. Now, as she watched, the central door,
that formed its mouth, gaped wide and emitted
one of the double files of erring femininity which
were continually passing and repassing. She knew
that there were degrees of badness here, and rea-
soned that these from the monster's jaws must be
the more refractory, but they appeared to her no
worse than the others. Indeed, as looks went, they
were, on the whole, superior. She felt no pity for
them, only measureless disgust disgust for the
brazen and the dispirited alike; all were despicable.
THE CRUCIBLE 13
Her pity was for herself that she must breathe the
Hitherto she had not separated them one from the
other. This time, however, she passed them in
review the hard, the vicious, the frankly animal,
the merely weak; till, coming last of all upon a bru-
nette face of garish good looks, she shrank abruptly
from the window. For the first time since her
arrival she glimpsed the girl whose name had been a
byword in Shawnee Springs, the being who at once
symbolized and made concrete to Jean the bald,
terrible fact of her degradation. Till now she had
gone through all things dry-eyed manfully, as
she would have chosen to say but the sight of
Stella Wilkes plumbed emotional deeps in the
womanhood she would have forsworn, and she flung
herself, sobbing, upon her bed.
So the little secretary found her. Miss Archer
was born under a more benignant star than her
superior, and habitually tried in such quiet ways as
a wise grand vizier may to leaven the ruling autoc-
racy with kindness. She told Jean that she had come
to transfer her to the regular routine, bade her bathe
her eyes, and made cheerful talk while she collected
her few possessions. They crossed the quadrangle
in the wintry dusk, turning in at a cottage near the
prison just as Jean was gripped by the fear that the
monster itself would engulf her.
At the door-sill she felt a hand slip into hers.
"Be willing, dearie, and seem as cheerful as you
can," counseled her guide. "I'm anxious to have
you make a good first impression here in Cottage
No. 6. It's immensely important that you stand well
with your matron. Everything depends upon it."
Jean melted before her friendliness.
"I wish I could be under you," she said impul-
sively. "This place wouldn't seem what it is."
She framed this wish anew when she faced the
matron herself in the bleak cleanliness of the hall.
This person was a variant of the superintendent's
impersonal type and a slavish plagiarist of her
THE CRUCIBLE 15
mannerisms. A bundle of prejudices, she believed
herself dowered with superhuman impartiality; and
now, in muddle-headed pursuit of this notion, she
promptly decided that an offender so plainly superior
to the average ought in the fitness of things to receive
less consideration than the average. Jean accord-
ingly went smarting to her room.
Happily she was given little time to think about it.
The incessant round which, day in and day out, was
to fill her waking hours, caught her into its mechan-
ism. A querulous bell tapped somewhere, her door,
in common with every one in the corridor, was un-
locked, and she merged with a uniformed file which,
without words, shuffled down two flights of stairs
and ranged itself about the tables of a desolate din-
ing-hall. Whereupon the matron, who had taken
her station at a small table laid for herself and
another black-garbed official, raised her thin voice
"The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord !"
An unintelligible mumbling followed, which by
dint of strained listening at many ensuing meals
Jean finally translated,
"And Thou givest them their meat in due season."
Thirty odd chairs forthwith scraped the bare floor.
Thirty odd appetites attacked the food heaped in
coarse earthenware upon the oilcloth. Jean fasted.
Hash she despised; macaroni stood scarcely higher
in her regard; while tea was an essentially feminine
beverage which of principle she had long eschewed.
16 THE CRUCIBLE
This eliminated everything save bread, and it
chanced that her share of this staple was of the
maiden baking of a young person whose talents till
lately had been exclusively devoted to picking
Jean surveyed the room. It shared the naked
dreariness of the corridors; not a picture enlivened its
terra-cotta wastes of wall. Another long table,
twin in all respects to her own, occupied with hers
the greater part of the floor space; but there re-
mained room near the door for two smaller tables,
the matron's, which she had remarked on entering,
and one occupied by five favorites of fortune, whose
uniform, though similar to the general in color, re-
sembled a trained nurse's in its striping, and was
further distinguished by white collars and cuffs.
This table, like the matron's, was covered with a
white cloth and boasted a small jardiniere of ferns.
The matron's voice was again heard.
"You may talk now, girls," she announced.
A score of tongues were instantly loosed. The
newcomer was astounded. How had they the heart
to speak ? It was strange table-talk, curiously
limited in range, straying little beyond the narrow
confines of the reformatory world. A girl opposite
said: "One year and five months more!" and set
afoot a spirited comparison which crisscrossed the
board from end to end and reached its climax in the
enviable lot of her whose release was due in thirty-
THE CRUCIBLE 17
seven days, jean observed that the head of the first
speaker was lop-sided; its neighbor was narrow in
the forehead; a third, two places beyond, had
peculiar teeth. Nearly all, in fact, were stamped
with some queerness, either natural or artificially
imposed by an institutional regime wherein the
graces of the toilet had no function.
The gossip took another tack, originating this time
in some trivial happening in the gymnasium. Jean
listened closely at a mention of basket-ball, but lost
all interest when the talk veered fitfully to the sew-
"Ain't you hungry ?" said a voice at her side.
Jean rounded upon a girl perhaps a year her senior.
Her tones were gentle, with a certain lisping appeal,
and her face, if not strong, was neither abnormal nor
coarse. Outside a refuge uniform she would readily
pass as pretty.
"I couldn't stomach it myself, at the start," she
went on, without waiting for an answer, "but I got
used to it. We all do. Why, the days I work in the
laundry I'm half starved."
"They make you do laundry work!"
"Sure. We all take a turn. Everything on the
place is done by the girls, you know washing,
cooking, tailoring, gardening, and a lot besides."
Her auditor relapsed into gloomy silence, a new
horror added to her plight. At home, even the fac-
totum they styled the hired girl had been exempt
i8 THE CRUCIBLE
from washing. A strapping negress had come in
Mondays for that.
"I'm next door to you upstairs," pursued the new
acquaintance, in her deprecating way. "My name
is Amy Jeffries. What's yours ? "
She gave it after a moment's debate. The old
beloved "Jack" was at the tip of her tongue, but she
suddenly thought better of it. After all, "Jean"
would answer for this place. She regretted that in
lieu of Fanshaw she could not use Jones, or Smith,
or master stroke of irony the abominated Tuttle.
"Jean Fanshaw's a nice name," commented Amy
Dreading further catechising, Jean struck in with
a question of her own.
"Why have those girls over there a better uniform
and a table to themselves?" she demanded.
"They're high grade."
"What does that mean?"
"Six months without a mark." Amy Jeffries
cast a look of envy upon the group at the side table.
"I'd like awfully to be high grade. It must seem
like living again to sit down to a tablecloth. I should
like the cuffs and collars, too. I just love dress.
When I leave here I think I'll go into a dressmaking
establishment, or a milliner's."
Jean was reminded of something.
"Tell me how I can get out of here in a year and
a half," she requested. "Somebody said it could be
THE CRUCIBLE 19
Amy smiled wanly.
"I wanted to know, too, when I was green.
I could just see the guard holding the gate open
as I sailed off the grounds ! It was a beautiful
"Why couldn't you do it?"
"Marks," said Amy sententiously. "Parole in
eighteen months means a perfect record right from
the beginning. I thought I'd try for it, but, mercy,
I've never even made high grade ! Once I came
within six weeks of it, but I let a dress go down to the
laundry with a pin in it."
"They mark for a little thing like that?"
"My stars, yes! For less than that buttons
off, wrong apron in the recreation-room, and so on.
I got my first mark for wearing my hair 'pomp.'
They wont't stand for it here. They want to make us
as hideous as they can."
A lull threw the remarks of the girl with peculiar
teeth into unsought prominence.
"Jim was a swell-looker," she was saying, "and a
good spender when he was flush, but I used to tell
"Delia !" The matron was on her feet leveling a
rebuking finger at Jim's biographer. "You know
better. Leave the room at once. All talking will
The culprit scuffed sulkily out, and no further word
was uttered till the end of the meal, when at a signal
all rose and the matron observed in pontifical tones,
20 THE CRUCIBLE
"Thou openest Thy hand!"
On this occasion Jean caught the response without
difficulty. The words, "And Thou fillest all things
living with plenteousness," seemed to emanate
chiefly from the high-grade table, with a faint echo
on the part of Amy Jeffries, in whom the ambition to
eat from a cloth still persisted. At "plenteousness"
one bold spirit snickered.
The file tramped up the two flights by which it had
come, and scattered to its rooms. For twenty
minutes Jean sat in darkness and dejection. Then
the fretful bell clamored again, the doors yawned as
before, the silent ranks re-formed, and the march
below stairs was repeated. Their destination proved
to be the recreation-room. In a dwelling this cham-
ber would have been shunned. Here, compared
with such other parts of the cottage as Jean had
seen, it seemed blithesome. Potted geraniums made
grateful oases of the window-sills. An innocuous
print or two hung upon the walls.
As the girls found seats, the matron handed Jean
"You will be allowed to answer it next week,"
she said. "All letter-writing is done upon the third
Friday of the month."
The girl took the missive with burning face. The
envelope was already slit. The letter itself had
undergone inspection, and five whole lines had been
expunged. But her anger at this tampering lost
itself in the unspeakable bitterness which jaundiced
THE CRUCIBLE 21
her to the soul as she read. Better that they had
blotted every syllable.
JEAN : I hope this will find you reconciled to your cross, and
resolved to lead a different life. After talking over this great
affliction with our pastor, and taking it to the Throne of Grace
in prayer, I have come to feel that His hand guides us in this, as
in all things. I cannot understand why I have been so chastened,
but I bow to the rod. If your father were alive, I should con-
sider it a judgment upon him for his lax principles in religious
matters. I never could comprehend his frivolous indifference.
I am sure I spared no effort to bring him to a realizing sense of
Amelia takes the same view that I do of all that has happened.
She has not felt like going out, poor sensitive child, but . . .
(The hand of the censor lay heavy here. Jean readily inferred,
however, that Amelia's retirement had its solace.) The first
storm of the winter came yesterday. Snow is six inches deep on
a level, and eggs are high.
Your devoted mother,
The matron was reading aloud from a novel which
her audience found absorbing. Jean could give it
no heed. What were the imaginary woes of Oliver
Twist beside her actualities !
The hands of a bland-faced clock crept round to
bedtime. The reader marked her place, and, after
a moment's pause, began the first line of a familiar
hymn. Jean hated hymn-singing out of church.
It had depressed her even as a child, while later it
evoked choking memories of her father's funeral.
So she set her teeth till they made an end of it.
Suggestive also of her father and of vesper services
22 THE CRUCIBLE
to which they had sometimes gone together, after a
Sunday in the fields, were the words presently re-
peated by the forlorn figures kneeling about her;
but she heard them with mute lips and in passionate
protest against their personal application. These
tawdry creatures might confess that they had erred
and strayed like lost sheep, if they would. She
was not of their flock. The things she had left
undone did not prick her conscience. The things
which she ought not to have done were dwarfed to
peccadillos by the vast disproportion of their pun-
LIFE in a reformatory is an ordeal at its doubtful
best. It approximated its noxious worst under the
martinet whom Cottage No. 6 styled "the Holy
Terror." The absolutism of the superintendent was
at least founded on a sense of duty; her imitator's
was based upon whim. Jean's chimera of parole
after eighteen months was promptly dissipated.
Disciplined at the outset for breaking a rule of which
she was not aware, her obedience became thence-
forth a captive's. Scrubwoman, laundress, seam-
stress, kitchen-drudge all roles in which fate, as
embodied in the matron, cast her were one in their
odiousness. She slurred their doing where she
could, and scorned all such meek spirits as curried
favor by trying their best. At times only the fear
of the prison deterred her from open mutiny.
She learned presently that there was an inferno
lower even than the prison. One day, while clear-
ing paths after a heavy snowfall, she saw a girl
dragged past, handcuffed and struggling, her head
muffled in the brown refuge shawl, but audibly and
fluently blasphemous notwithstanding. Jean recog-
nized Stella Wilkes.
Amy, who was working near, said in furtive under-
24 THE CRUCIBLE
"I heard she'd cut loose again. She'll get all
that's coming to her this time."
Jean eyed the nearest black-clad watcher before
"But she's in prison, anyhow," she commented,
with Amy's trick of the motionless lips. "She can't
get much worse than she has already."
" Can't she, though ! It's the guardhouse this trip."
Jean questioned and Amy answered till the
matron's approach stopped communication. It was
a lurid saga of the days before the state abolished
corporal punishment, handed down with fresh em-
bellishments from girl to girl. The air was full of
such bizarre folk-lore, she discovered tales of
superintendents who failed to govern; of matrons,
wise and foolish ; of delirious riots and hairbreadth
escapes. Amy Jeffries was always the channel
which conveyed these legends to Jean's willing
From all others Jean held herself aloof. Amy
alone seemed a victim of injustice like herself. Jean
invited no confidences, and made none; but bit by
bit, as the winter passed, the story of this pretty
moth, whose world, more than her pleasure-loving
self, seemed out of joint, pieced itself together.
It was a common story, too hackneyed to detail,
though it signified the quintessence of tragedy to its
narrator. Of itself, it struck no kindred chord in
Jean. It passions, its temptations, its sin were
without glamour or reason; but she divined that
THE CRUCIBLE 25
nature, rather than Amy, had wrought this coil, and
that, after the fashion of a topsy-turvy universe,
one was again expiating the lapse of two.
The coming of spring at once brightened and
embittered Jean's lot. Outdoor work was no hard-
ship. She knew the times and seasons of all grow-
ing things; which soil was fattest; when plowshare,
harrow, spade, and hoe should do their appointed
parts; when the strawberry-beds should be stripped
of their winter coverlets; when potatoes, shorn of
their pallid cellar sprouts, should be quartered and
dropped; when peas and green corn should be sown;
when the drooping tomato plants should be set out
and fostered; and she entered upon this dear toil
with a zest which nothing indoors had inspired.
But she knew also and here was the pang
precisely what was transpiring out there in the forest
which all but touched the refuge boundary. With
a heartache she visualized the stir of shy life in pond
and field and tree-top; caught in memory the scent
of the first arbutus; spied out the earliest violet;
beheld jack-in-the-pulpit unbar his shutter; saw
the mandrake bear its apple, the ferns uncurl, the
The call of the woods rang most insistent when she
lay in her iron cot at twilight, for bedtime still came
as in the early nights of winter, at an hour when the
play of the outside world had just begun. She could
see the bit of forest from her narrow window,
and in fancy made innumerable forays into its
26 THE CRUCIBLE
captivating depths with rod or gun. It was these
imaginary outings, ending always behind locks and
bars, which first set her thoughts coursing upon the
idea of escape.
There were precedents galore. The undercurrent
of reformatory gossip was rich in these picaresque
adventures. But cleverly planned as some of them
had been, daringly executed as were others, all save
one ended in commonplace recapture. The excep-
tion enchained Jean's interest. Amy Jeffries had
rehearsed the tale one day when the gardener, con-
cerned with the ravages of an insect invasion of the
distant currant bushes, left the lettuce-weeding squad
"I never knew Sophie Powell," Amy prefaced;
"she skipped before I came. But they say she was
something on your style haughty-like and good
at throwing a bluff. I heard that the men down at
the gatehouse nicknamed her the ' Empress-out-of-a-
job.' What she was sent here for, I can't say. She
was as close-mouthed as you. Mind you, I'm not
criticising. It's risky business, swapping life his-
tories here. You're the only girl that's heard my
story. If you never feel like telling me yours, all
right. If you do, why, all right, too. I didn't
mention names, and you needn't either. I wonder
if be would do as much for me !"
Jean checkmated Amy's maneuver without cere-
" I've no man's name to hide," she returned bluntly.
THE CRUCIBLE 27
"But never mind that. It's Sophie Powell I want
to hear about."
Amy took no offense.
"My," she laughed admiringly; "you are a
riddle ! Well, as I say, Sophie had a way with her,
and knew how to play her cards. She got high grade
within a year, and worked her matron for special
privileges. The matron let her have the run of her
room a good deal, for Sophie knew to a T just how
she liked everything kept; and she wasn't over
particular about locking Sophie's door, which was
handy to her own. One spring night, earlier than
this, I guess, for it was still dark at supper, she played
up sick. She timed her spasm for an hour when the
doctor was generally busy at the hospital, and let the
matron fuss round with hot-water bags till the supper
bell rang. Then the matron went downstairs, leav-
ing the door open to give poor Sophie more air. As
soon as she heard the dishes rattle, the invalid got
busy. She hopped in next door, pinched the matron's
best black skirt and a swell white silk shirt waist she
kept for special, grabbed a hat and veil and a long
cloak out of the wardrobe and the big bunch of
house-keys from a hiding-place she'd spotted, tip-
toed downstairs and let herself out of the front door."
Jean drew a long breath.
"But the guards?" she put in.
"She only ran into one the easy mark at the
28 THE CRUCIBLE
"Sure. Sophie didn't propose to muss her new
clothes climbing a ten-foot fence. She marched
over to the gatehouse, bold as brass, handed in her
keys as she'd seen the matrons do, and was out in no
time. Why, the guard even tipped his hat so he
said before they fired him. That was the most
comical thing about it all."
Jean threw a glance over her shoulder. The
gardener was still beyond earshot.
" Go on," she said eagerly. " How did she manage
outside ? That's the part I want to hear."
"Then came smoother work still. Sophie hadn't
a cent she missed the matron's purse in her
hurry but she had her nerve along. She streaked
it over into town, and asked her way to the priest
who comes out here twice a month for confession.
She banked on his not remembering her, for she
wasn't one of his girls; and he didn't. His sight
was poor, anyhow. Well, she told him she was a
Catholic and a stranger in town, looking for work,
and that she'd just had a telegram from home saying
her mother was dying. She pumped up the tears in
good style, and put it up to him to ante the car fare
if he didn't want her heart to break. It didn't
Jean absently fashioned the moist earth beneath
her fingers into the semblance of a priest's face, which
she instantly obliterated when it stirred Amy's
"Why couldn't they trace her?" she asked.
THE CRUCIBLE 29
"Because she was too cute to stick to her train.
She must have jumped the express when they slowed
up for their first stop."
The fugitive bulked large in Jean's meditations.
It occurred to her that possibly the needless rigor of
her own treatment in Cottage No. 6 might originate
in her chance resemblance to Sophie Powell. She
wondered how it fared with the girl; whether she
had had to make her way unbefriended; to what she
had turned her hand. Was she perhaps living a
blameless life, respected, loved, in all ways another
personality, yet forever hag-ridden with the fear of
recapture ? She did not debate whether such free-
dom were worth its cost, for just then the pungent
invitation of the woods was borne to her across the
A bit of refuse crystallized her resolve. She spied
it toward the end of her day's toil a large rusty
nail half protruding from the loam and knew it
instantly for the tool which should compass her
release. Her mind acted on its hint with extraordi-
nary lucidity, and her fingers were scarcely less
nimble. Not even Amy at her side saw her slip the
treasure trove into the concealing masses of her
hair. From that moment till the bolts were shot
upon her for the night she was absorbed in her plans.
To duplicate Sophie Powell's exploit was, of
course, out of the question. Her own door was never
left unlocked; the Holy Terror's graceless clothes,
for all practical uses, might as well hang in another
30 THE CRUCIBLE
planet; while even were these impossibilities sur-
mounted, she could scarcely hope to hoodwink the
men at the gate. She must secure a disguise some-
how, but she cheerfully left that detail to chance.
To escape was the main thing, and if by a rusty nail
she might cross that bridge, surely she need borrow
no trouble lest her wits desert her afterward.
A tedious-toned clock over in the town struck
twelve before she dared begin her attempt. The
watchman had just gone beneath her window on his
hourly round, and with the cessation of his slow pace
upon the gravel the peace of midnight overlay
everything. For almost two hours thereafter Jean
labored with her rude implement at the staples which
held the woven-wire barrier before her window.
The first staple came hardest, but she had pried it
loose by the time the watch repassed. In a half-hour
more she had freed enough of the netting to serve
her end, but she deferred the great moment till the
man should again have come and gone. It was a
difficult wait, centuries long, and anxiety began to
cheat and befool her reason. She questioned whether
she had not lost count of time. Suppose she had
let him come upon her unheeded ! Suppose he
had caught some hint of her employment ! Sup-
pose he were even now lurking, spider-like, in the
Then the clock struck twice in its deliberative way,
the measured footfall recurred, and her brain cleared.
Five minutes later she bent back the netting and
THE CRUCIBLE 31
calculated the distance to the ground. She judged
it some sixteen or eighteen feet, all told, or a sheer
drop of more than half that space as she would
hang by her finger-tips. There could be no leaving
a telltale rope of bedclothes to dangle. Such folly
would set the telephone wires humming within the
hour. She must drop, and drop with good judgment;
since the grass plot, which she counted upon to
break her fall, gave place directly below to an area,
grated over to be sure, but undesirable footing not-
She tossed her brown shawl to the ground first, and
noted, with some oddly detached segment of her
mind, that it spread itself on the sward in the shape
of a huge bat. A romping girlhood steadying her
nerves, she let herself cautiously over the sill, and
for an instant hung motionless, her eyes below.
Then, gathering momentum from a double swing,
she suddenly relaxed her hold, cleared the danger-
point, and alighted, uninjured and almost without
sound, upon the springing turf.
For a moment Jean crouched listening where she
fell. No sound issuing from within, she caught up
her shawl and stole quickly toward the point where
she planned to scale the high fence which still shut
her from freedom. There was no moon, but the
night was luminous with starshine, and she hugged
the shadows of the cottages. These buildings shoul-
dered one another closely in most part, but she came
presently to a gap in the friendly obscurity where a
site awaited a structure for which the state had
vouchsafed no funds. It was bare of any sort of
screen whatever, and lay in full range not only of the
quadrangle, which it broke, but of the gatehouse
Nor was this all. Drifting round the last shelter-
ing corner came the reek of a pipe. Jean's heart
sank. After all, the trap ! Then second thought
told her that a foe in ambush would not smoke, and
she gathered courage to reconnoiter. Across the
quadrangle she made out the motionless figure of the
watch. He was plainly without suspicion. He had
completed his circuit and was lounging against a
hydrant, his idle gaze upon the stars.
So for cycling ages he sat. Yet but a quarter of
THE CRUCIBLE 33
an hour had lapsed when the man knocked the ashes
from his pipe, yawned audibly, and turned upon his
heel. The instant the door of the gatehouse swal-
lowed him, Jean sped like a phantom across the open
ground, skirted the hospital, the tool-sheds, and the
hotbeds, and plunged into the recesses of the garden.
All else was simple. The high fence had no terrors;
her scaling-ladder was a piece of board. The asperi-
ties of the barbed wire she softened with her shawl.
When the town clock brought forth its next languid
announcement she heard it without a tremor. She
was resting on a mossy slope a mile or more away.
She made but a brief halt, for the East, toward
which she set her face, was already paling. It was
no blind flight. She struck for the hills deliberately,
since behind the hills ran the boundary of another
commonwealth. All fellow-runaways, whose stories
she knew, had foolishly held to the railroad or other
main traveled ways, and, barring the brilliant So-
phie, had for that very reason come early to disaster.
Jean reasoned that they were in all likelihood city
girls whom the woods terrified. Their stupidity was
incredible. To fear what they should love ! She
took great breaths of the cool fragrance. She could
not get her fill of it.
Nevertheless, it was not yet her purpose to quit the
tilled countryside utterly. She hoped first to compel
clothing from it somehow clothing, and then food,
of which she began to feel the need. The fact that
she must probably come unlawfully by these neces-
34 THE CRUCIBLE
saries gave her slight compunction. In some rose-
colored, prosperous future she could make anony-
mous amends. She haunted the outskirts of three
several farmhouses, but without success. At none
of them had garments of any kind been left outdoors
over night. Some impossible rags fluttered from a
scarecrow in a field of young corn; that was all.
Things edible, too, were as carefully housed. Near
the last place she found a spring with a tin cup be-
side it. She drank long, and took the cup away
It was too light now for foraging, and Jean took
up her eastward march, avoiding the highways and
resorting to hedgerows, stone walls, or briers where
the woods failed. As the day grew she saw farm-
hands pass to their work, and once, in the far dis-
tance, she caught the seductive glitter of a dinner pail.
She was ravenous from her long fast, and nibbled at
one or two palatable wild roots which she knew of old.
They seemed savorless to-day, almost sickening in
fact; and her fancy dwelt covetously upon the re-
sources of orchard, garden, and field, that the next
month but one would lavish. Nevertheless, she har-
bored no regret that she had taken time somewhat
too eagerly by the forelock.
Noon found her beside a lake well up among the
hills. She knew the region by hearsay. People
came here in hot weather, she remembered. Some-
where alongshore should stand log-camps of a species
which urban souls fondly thought pioneer, but which
THE CRUCIBLE 35
snugly neighbored a summer hotel where ice, news-
papers, scandal, and like benefits of civilization could
be had. These play houses were as yet tenantless,
of course and foodless; but the chance of finding
some cast-off garment, possibly too antiquated for
a departing summer girl, but precious beyond cloth
of gold to a fugitive in blue-and-white check, buoyed
Jean's spirits and lent fresh energy to her muscles.
Equipped with another dress, be its style and color
what they might, she felt that she could cope fear-
lessly with fate.
She had followed the vagrant shore-line for per-
haps a mile when two things, assailing her senses
simultaneously, brought her to an abrupt halt. One
was the smell of frying bacon; the other was a bari-
tone voice which broke suddenly into the chorus of
a rollicking popular air. Jean wheeled for flight,
but, beguiled by the bacon which just then wafted
a fresh appeal, she turned, cautiously parted the
undergrowth, and beheld a young man swaying in
a hammock slung between two birch trees. He held
in his lap a book into which he dipped infrequently,
singing meanwhile; and his attention was further
divided between the crackling spider and a fishing-
rod propped in a forked stick at the water's edge.
Jean viewed his methods with disapproval. It was
neither the way to read, sing, fry bacon, nor yet
Possibly some such idea suggested itself to this
over versatile person, for he presently rolled out of the
36 THE CRUCIBLE
hammock and centered his talents upon the line,
which he began to reel in as if the mechanism were
an amusing novelty. The stern critic in the back-
ground perceived the hand of an amateur in the re-
baiting, and predicted sorrier bungling still when he
should essay the cast. Her gloomiest forebodings,
however, fell far short of the amazing event. She
expected the recklessly whirling lead to shoot some-
where into the foliage, but nothing prepared her for
its sure descent upon herself. There was no dis-
entangling that outlandish collection of hooks at
short notice, and she did not try. But neither could
she break the line. The bushes separated while she
struggled, and a vast silence befell.
Jean straightened slowly.
"You're a prize angler," she said.
The young fellow's bewilderment gave way to an
"I quite agree with you," he admitted. "I ought
to have a blue ribbon, or a pewter mug, or whatever
they give the duffer who lands the biggest catch.
Let me help you with those hooks. I hope they
haven't torn your dress ?"
Then the blue-and-white check drew him. The
girl's eyes had held him first; next, her brows; after-
ward, her contrasting hair. The uniform compelled
his gaze to significant details the shawl, the
coarse shoes, the fallen cup.
Jean flushed under his scrutiny, and brusquely
declined his help.
THE CRUCIBLE 37
"No, but let me," he urged, and so humbly that
"I know more about these things than you do,"
she said. "Do you know you're trying several kinds
of fishing with one line ?"
"Oh, yes," he smiled. "You see I haven't a no-
tion what sort of fish frequent these waters, and fish
vary a lot in their tastes. Some prefer worms, some
have a cannibal appetite for minnows, and some, I
believe, like a little bunch of colored feathers, which
can't be very nourishing, I must say. I couldn't
make up my mind which bait to use, and so I spread
a kind of lunch-counter for all comers."
This was too much for Jean's gravity. The fisher-
man was unruffled by her laughter. In fact, he
laughed with her.
"Is it so preposterous as all that?" he asked.
"I didn't know but I'd hit on something new.
This tackle doesn't belong to me; it's the other
Jean's glance shot past him. The man saw and
"We planned to camp together," he explained,
"but a telegram overtook him on the train. It was
highly inconsiderate in a mere great-grandmother to
pick out just this time for her funeral. I look for
him to-morrow or the day after."
Jean freed her dress at length and searched for her
belongings. The young man stooped also. He was
too late for the shawl, but gravely restored the tin
38 THE CRUCIBLE
cup. She thanked him, as gravely, and after a little
pause added :
"The least you can do is to say nothing."
"About seeing you ?"
"You're from the other side of the county?"
"From the- ' he hesitated.
"From the House of Refuge," stated Jean, look-
ing him squarely in the face.
His own gaze was as direct.
"But not that sort," he commented softly, as if
thinking aloud " not that sort."
Jean, boy-like, offered her hand.
"Thank you," she said simply. "You're quite
right. That's exactly why I'm running away.
"Don't go !" He detained her hand, his face full
of sympathy and perplexity. "I can't begin to tell
you how sorry I am. It would be hard lines for a
fellow, but when I see a girl " his eyes added :
"And such a girl!" "roaming the country like a
a homeless "
"Hobo?" supplied Jean.
He reddened guiltily.
"Hang it all !" he ended, "I can't stand it. You
hit the nail on the head when you told me that the
least I can do is to say nothing. But I trust that
isn't all I can do. I want to help."
The girl's eyes misted.
THE CRUCIBLE 39
"You have helped, you believe in me."
"Who wouldn't!" His bearing challenged the
"Several people. My family, for instance; most
of the officials back there at the refuge. But never
"No," agreed her new champion. "Never mind
that. Let's face the future, the practicalities."
Jean complied with despatch.
"Your bacon is burning," she announced.
He led the way to his camp, and together they sur-
veyed the charred ruin in the spider. Jean could
have devoured it as it lay.
"And it's my first warm meal," lamented the
camper tragically "my first warm meal after five
days of canned stuff! The other fellow was to be
cook as well as fisherman."
Jean promptly mastered the situation.
"Clean that spider while I slice more bacon," she
directed, rolling up her sleeves. "If you have po-
tatoes, wash about a dozen."
The victim of a canned diet flung himself blithely
into the work, but halted suddenly, halfway to the
water, and brandished the spider in air.
"Not a mouthful unless you'll eat too?" he
Jean gave a happy laugh.
"Perhaps I can be pressed," she conceded.
With a facility which would have amazed the ref-
uge, and with a secret pride in her new knowledge
40 THE CRUCIBLE
which she had little dreamed she could come to feel,
Jean set the bacon and potatoes frying, evolved a plate
of sandwiches from soda crackers and a tin of sar-
dines, discovered a jar of olives which their owner
had forgotten, and arranged the whole upon a box-
cover laid with a napkin. Nor was this the sum of
the miracle. She even garnished the meat with a
handful of water-cress which she spied and bade
her admiring host gather in a neighboring brook.
They said little during the meal, for both were fam-
ished; but while they washed the dishes together by
the shore Jean, under questioning, sketched the story
of her flight. Her listener's ejaculations gained
steadily in vigor, till ultimately, moved by a startling
thought, he dropped the plate he was polishing.
"Look here!" he cried. "Have you had a wink
of sleep ?"
"I got in an hour about the middle of the fore-
"One hour out of thirty!"
"It was enough."
"I'll sling the hammock anywhere you say."
"I was never more wide awake. There are too
many things to think out and plan."
"Take the hammock, anyhow," he urged. "You
can plan and rest, too."
She let herself be so far persuaded, and he brought
pillows from the tent. As she let herself relax, she
first realized how weary she had become, and closed
her eyes that she might taste the full luxury of rest.
THE CRUCIBLE 41
The rhythmic chuckle of the little brook where the
watercress grew was ineffably soothing. It seemed
almost articulate, an elfish voice to which the small
waves, lapping the shore, played a delicate accom-
paniment. She dreamily fitted words to its chant,
and presently, still smiling at the conceit, strayed
quite into the delectable land where water-sprites are
real, and beautiful impossibilities matter of fact.
The shadows had lengthened when she woke. Her
companion sat with his back to a tree trunk as be-
fore, but she perceived that he had stretched a bit
of canvas to screen her from the slanting sun.
"It was best all round," he said, as she sprang up
reproachfully. " It did you good and gave me leisure
to think. I felt sorrier than ever while you lay there,
smiling and dimpling in your sleep, like a child."
"I despise that dimple," avowed Jean, disgustedly.
"You despise it!'*
"It's so so feminine."
"Of course it is; that is no reason for abusing it."
"I think it's a mighty good reason. A dimple
will be a great handicap in my life."
"Great Jupiter!" said the young man softly.
" Why, some girls I know would give But we can't
discuss dimples, just now, can we ? What I began
to say, before you took my breath away, was that I
think I've solved the clothes problem. You know
there's a town about ten miles to the north the
county seat and it occurs to me that if I set out
to-night, I can be back here early in the morning
42 THE CRUCIBLE
with everything you'll need. I don't believe they'll
suspect me, even if they have happened to read that
a refuge girl has escaped. I can buy the skirt in one
store, the hat in another, and so on, pretending
they're for my sister or my wife."
Jean's refractory dimple deepened.
"Make it your mother," she advised. "Wives
and sisters prefer to do their own shopping."
"Very well, then. If you will jot down the meas-
urements and other technicalities, I'll manage it some-
how. ^\.s for money," he added, perceiving her falter,
"I will take care of that, too, if you'll allow me.
You will naturally need a loan."
Jean swallowed a lump.
"You're a brick," she said huskily. "I'll pay you
back with the first money I earn."
The brick received her praise with a change of
color appropriate to his title.
"Any fellow would be be glad to help, you
know," he stammered. "And you needn't feel that
you must hurry to pay up, either. Wait until you're
well settled among your friends."
"My friends! I have none."
"No friends!" He stared blankly. "Of course
I realized that you could hardly go back home, but
I took it for granted that there must be some place
He sat down abruptly, bewildered with the com-
plexities which beset an apparently simple situation.
THE CRUCIBLE 43
Jean herself began to entertain some misgiving. For
the moment his opinion epitomized the world's.
"Where do you mean to go ?" he asked.
"Across the state line first; then to New York."
"Yes; to find work. Why do you stare as if I'd
"I'm from New York."
"Are you?" She brightened wonderfully. "Then
you can tell me where to find work. I'm willing to
do anything at the start, but by and by I want to get
into some good business. Women are succeeding in
business on all sides nowadays. Why do you look
so hopeless ? Don't you think I can get on ?"
" How can I answer you ! If there were only some
woman to whom I might take you. I've a sister,
"But she wouldn't understand ?"
"No, she wouldn't understand. Neither do you
understand," he went on anxiously. "To be a
stranger in New York, homeless, friendless, without
work, the shadow of that place over there dogging
your steps ; with you what you are trustful, un-
suspicious, open as sunlight Oh, I daren't advise
you. I don't dare."
Jean was awed, but not downcast.
"I'll risk it," she replied stoutly.
Twice he opened his lips to speak, but rose instead
and paced among the trees. Finally he confronted
44 THE CRUCIBLE
"Why not go back?" he asked.
Jean widened her eyes upon him.
"Go back! Go back to the refuge?"
"Yes. Why not go back and see it through?
No, no," he entreated, as her lip curled. "Don't
think I'm trying to squirm out of my offer. That
stands. It's you I'm considering. Remember that
no matter how much you may make of yourself those
people over there will have the power to take it from
you. Should you marry "
"I shall never marry."
"Should you marry ah! you will they can
shame you and the man whose name you bear. Could
you stand that ? After all, isn't the other way better ?
Wouldn't a clean slate be worth its price ?"
She shook her head.
"You don't realize what you ask. I can't go back.
I can't. You don't know."
"I suppose I don't," he admitted.
"I'd rather run the risk the risk of their finding
me, the risk, whatever it is, of New York. As for
friends " she smiled upon him radiantly "well,
I'll have you."
"Yes," he promised. "You'll have me."
He accepted her decision, and at once made ready
for his tramp across the hills. At parting he re-
minded her that to him she was still nameless.
"I'm not sure myself," she laughed. "I'll need
a new name in New York!"
THE CRUCIBLE 45
"Well, then Jack."
"To offset the dimple, I suppose. Is it short for
"No; just Jack."
Jean's knight errant looked back once before the
tree-boles shut her wholly away. She had dropped
upon a log and was facing the blue reach of the lake.
This was about six o'clock in the evening. At nine
she had not shifted her position. It was perhaps an
hour later when she sprang up abruptly, lit a candle
which he had shown her in arranging for the night,
and hunting out a pencil and paper, wrote a hurried
note which she pinned to the tent-flap.
There were but two lines in all. The first thanked
him. The second ran :
"I've gone back to see it through."
THE refuge, considered officially, was impressed.
That any fugitive, let alone one who had outwitted
pursuit, should freely present herself at the gate-
house, spiced its drab annals with originality. Jean
Fanshaw, no less than Sophie Powell, had achieved
distinction. The refuge dissembled its emotion,
however. An escape was an escape, with draconic
penalties no more to be stayed than the march of a
glacier or the changes of the moon.
But even the refuge from the vantage-point of a
supposed ventilator reached by a secret stair dis-
cerned that the prisoner of the guardhouse was un-
accountably not the rebel of Cottage No. 6. The
girl who dropped from the window would have found
this duress maddening. Four brick walls were its
horizon; its furnishing was a mattress thrust through
a grudging door at night and withdrawn when the
dim glow, filtering through a ground-glass disk in the
ceiling, heralded the return of another day. It was
always twilight within, for the occupations of a guard-
house require little light. Text-books, no other
print, were sometimes permitted, but even these arid
pastimes were not for Jean ; the school taught noth-
ing she had not mastered. Her resources were two :
THE CRUCIBLE 47
she might knit or she might think. She usually
chose the latter.
Another thing puzzled the refuge still considered
officially. It was no novelty for a song to rise to the
pseudo-ventilator (inmates so punished often sang
out of bravado when first confined), but it was quite
unprecedented for a girl with no couch but the floor,
no outlook save the walls, no employment except
knitting, companioned solely by her thoughts, to
croon the words of a rollicking popular air as if she
Jean, too, wondered unceasingly. Why had her
old ideas of life cheapened ? Save one chance
stranger, men had met her on the footing of boyish
good-fellowship which she required of them : why
should this no longer seem wholly desirable ? Why
had she relished a chivalrous insistence on her sex ?
Why had she taken pride in the practice of a menial
feminine art ? Why had all things womanly shifted
value ? Why, above all, did she feel no regret that
these things should be ? Yet content was scarcely
the word for her frame of mind. Her thoughts were
a yeasty ferment out of which the unknown youth
of the forest, whose very name was a mystery, began
presently to emerge as an ideal figure. And this ideal
man had on his part a conception of ideal woman-
hood ! Here was the germinal truth at last.
While she pondered, two solitary weeks which by
popular account should have been unspeakable,
slipped magically away. She dreaded their end, for
48 THE CRUCIBLE
she knew that in the adamantine scheme of things
six months of prison life, at very least, awaited her.
Even to the average refuge girl the prison signified
degradation; to Jean it also spelled Stella Wilkes.
The abhorred contact did not begin at once, however,
since it fell out that in runaway cases the powers
were wont to decree yet another fortnight of isolation
following the transfer from the guardhouse. But
isolation in the prison was a relative term. The build-
ing's sights could be shut away; its sounds penetrated
Such sounds ! One of them broke Jean's light
slumber her first night under the prison roof. It was
a strand in the woof of her dreams at first, a monoto-
nous, tuneless plaint, strangely exotic, like nothing
earthly except the wailing of savage women who
mourn their dead. She lay half awake for an in-
terval, the weird chant clutching at her heart. Then,
as it rose, waxing shriller with each repetition, she sat
bolt upright with hair prickling and flesh acreep.
It was a menace to the living, not a requiem; a
virulent explicit curse.
"The matron to hell ! The matron to hell ! The
matron to hell !"
The prison stirred.
"The matron to hell ! The matron to hell ! The
matron to hell !"
Here a woman laughed; there one began softly
to echo the cry; cell warily hailed cell.
"The matron to hell ! The matron to hell ! The
matron to hell !"
THE CRUCIBLE 49
The pulsing hate of it now filled the corridors.
A door opened somewhere, and a metallic footfall
began to echo briskly from iron stairs.
"Is it mesilf ye're wantin', darlin' ?" called a
fat-throated voice. "I'll not keep ye waitin'. With
ye in a jiffy !"
There was a sound of shooting bolts, a brief scuffle,
the click of handcuffs, and a ragged retreat. Pres-
ently a door slammed, and the matron's steps alone
retraced the lower corridors. Far in the distance,
muffled by intervening walls, its two emphatic words
only audible, the eerie defiance still rose and untir-
ingly persisted until it again entered the fabric of
Jean Fanshaw's dreams.
That cry somehow struck the dominant note of
the prison. Its bitterness, its mental squalor, its
agonizing repression, its smouldering revolt, all
focussed in that hysterical outburst against constituted
authority. Jean heard it again and again in the en-
suing months, and in each instance it broke the still-
ness of night. The second time it startled, but did
not frighten. The third she thrilled to its message,
knowing it at last for her own fiery heartache made
articulate. But this was afterward.
In the beginning Stella Wilkes overshadowed their
background. She and Jean had had a grammar-
school acquaintance in the days before respect-
ability and the Wilkes girl as Shawnee Springs
knew her parted company; and it was to this
period of democratic equality and relative innocence
50 THE CRUCIBLE
to which Stella chose sentimentally to revert when she
first found a chance to speak.
"Can't say I feel a day older than I did then,"
she went on, sociably. "Do I look it?"
Jean made some answer. Stella indeed seemed
no different; looking a mature woman at sixteen,
she had simply marked time since. A mole, oddly
placed near one corner of her mouth where another
girl would dimple, still fascinated by its unexpected-
ness. Stella noticed this and laughed.
"Remember how all you little kids used to rubber
at my mole?" she said. "It made me mad. I don't
care now when people stare, but I wish it was on
my neck. 'Moles on the neck, money by the peck,'
you know. Queer, ain't it, that two of us from the
old West Street school should strike this joint to-
gether ? It's just the same as if we'd gone away to
college I don't think ! Any Shawnee Springs
news to tell ?"
"No," Jean answered, stonily.
Stella saw that her advances were unwelcome, and
her mood veered.
"That's your game, is it?" She thrust her hard
face closer. "So I ain't in your class, my lady -
you that was so keen for the boys ! You give me a
pain. As if near the whole kit of us wasn't pinched
for the same reason. Go tell the marines you're any
better than the rest !"
It was Jean's first sharp conception of the brutal
truth that the stigma of the reformatory was all-
THE CRUCIBLE 51
embracing. The world presently emphasized the
stern lesson. True to her word on learning of the
censorship, she had never written home; but her
mother's letters, formal and mutilated as they were,
had nevertheless meant more to her than she realized
until her degradation to the prison lopped this privi-
lege too away. The cumulative effect of Mrs. Fan-
shaw's correspondence, when finally read, was not
tonic. Despite the censor, Jean gathered that
Shawnee Springs now linked her name with Stella
Wilkes's. A refuge girl was a refuge girl; degrees
and shadings of misconduct lost themselves in the
murky sameness of the stain. Her grateful wonder
grew that her champion of the forest had had the
insight to distinguish. His quixotic young faith
and a heartening word now and then from Miss
Archer, when some infrequent errand brought the
little secretary near, between them redeemed humanity.
A torrid summer dragged into an autumn scarcely
less enervating. The kitchen-gardens were arid;
the grass-plots sere; the scant wisps of ivy wherewith
Miss Archer, unsanctioned by the state, had at-
tempted to soften the more glaring shortcomings of
the architect, hung dead beyond all hope of resur-
rection ; and the endless reaches of brick wall, soaked
in sunshine by day, reeked like huge ovens the live-
long night. The officials' tempers grew short, their
decisions arbitrary beyond common; obedience be-
came daily more difficult; riot, full-charged, awaited
only its galvanizing spark.
52 THE CRUCIBLE
This the prison contributed. Conditions were
always hardest here, and the rage they fostered had
gathered itself into an ominous hatred of the matron.
Nor was this wholly due to her chance embodiment
of law. That carried weight, of course, but the prime
factor in her unpopularity was a stolid cynicism im-
planted by some years' prior service in a metropolitan
police station. Joined to a temperament like the
superintendent's, this could have been endured, though
detested ; but the former matron of a " sunrise court "
mixed her doubt with a lumbering joviality against
which sincerity beat itself in vain. Her smile was a
goad; her laugh a stinging blow.
The revolt turned upon an old grievance. Break-
fast was a scant meal in the prison, and the laundry
squad, upon which the severest toil fell, had for
months clamored for a mid-forenoon luncheon. This
request was reasonable, but an intricate knot of red
tape, understood clearly by nobody, had balked its
granting, and the matron accordingly reaped a whirl-
wind which others had sown. All the week it threat-
ened. On Monday perhaps half the workers in the
laundry, headed by Stella Wilkes, repeated the old
demand, and were sent about their business with
"Lunch, is it!" drawled the matron, with her
maddening grin. "Sure it's Vassar College, or Bryn
Mawr maybe, these swells think they're attendin' !
How triggynomtry, an' dead languidges, an' the
pianoforty do tire the brain ! Wouldn't you find a
THE CRUCIBLE 53
club sandwich tasty, young ladies ? Or a paddy-de-
foy-grass, now? Back to your tubs!"
Jean took no part in the demonstration, and as
the Wilkes girl returned to her work she cursed her
for a chicken-hearted coward. Since the day of her
rebuff she had worn her enmity like a chip upon
her shoulder. Jean met this, as she now met every-
thing, with apathy. Stella, her unlovely associates
bending over the steaming tubs, the nagging matron
one and all had their being in an unreal world,
a nightmare country, which must be stoically endured
until the awakening. The tomboy had become a
With this detachment she incuriously watched the
rising storm. From Tuesday to Thursday the unrest
spent itself in note-writing, a diversion, following
Rabelaisian models in style, which was, of course,
forbidden. The contraband pencils found ingenious
hiding-places, however, and the notes themselves
a lively circulation. One of these missives, written
by Stella and mailed with a scuttleful of fresh coal
in the laundry stove, fell under Jean's eye Thursday
afternoon. It was intended for another, but some
delay had bungled its delivery, and the flames un-
folded it and betrayed its secret. Stella saw and
"If you blab, I'll kill you," she threatened hoarsely.
Jean shrugged her away. She attached no weight
to the scrawl's ungrammatical hints of violence.
54 THE CRUCIBLE
Such vaporings were as common as they were idle.
Nor was she moved when, on Friday, during recreation,
the matron's alertness checked, though it failed truly
to appraise, a catlike dart of Stella's to the rear.
She did not escape, however, a certain sympathetic
share in the tension which set the last day of the
week apart from other days. The nerves of a re-
formatory are high-pitched. To be always dumb
unless bidden to speak, forever aware of a spying eye,
eternally the slave of Yea and Nay such is the
common lot. Double the feeling of repression, and
you get the prison and hysteria. From the rising-
bell, Saturday, till she slept again, Jean's senses were
played upon by vague malign influences. All felt
them. If sleeve brushed sleeve, a scowl followed;
muttered curses sped the passing of every dish at
meals; and in the stifling night some one raised the
heart-clutching chant against the matron. This
was the time Jean hailed it for her own.
Sunday brought no relief. The piping heat held
unabated ; hard work, the week-day safety-valve, was
lacking. Only the matron could muster a smile.
That smile ! The prison file, passing, chapel bound,
in Sunday review, felt the heat hotter and life more
bitter because of it. The eyes of one girl blinked
nervously; the fingers of a second spread clawlike,
then clenched; the jaws of another set. If that
woman laughed ! The quadrangle peopled rapidly.
Every building spun its blue-gray thread into the
paths. The earliest comers were quite at the chapel
THE CRUCIBLE 55
steps when the prison girls, issuing from their frown-
ing archway last, swung reluctantly into the treeless
glare. Their smiling matron stood just within the
shadow, looking exasperatingly cool in her white
linen, and outrageously at peace with herself and her
smug, well-ordered world. Then, abruptly, some
trifle perhaps a missing button, possibly a curl
where should be puritanic simplicity, nothing more
significant loosed her sarcasm, her laugh and
A cry, different from the midnight defiance, yet
as terrible, burst from one of the prison girls. Shrill,
bird-like, prolonged, it was such a sound as the tor-
tured captive at the stake may have heard from the
encircling squaws. It was well known in the refuge;
decade had bequeathed it to decade; and it was
always the signal of mutiny. As throat after throat
took it up, the commands of the matrons became
mere angry pantomime. Rank upon rank melted
in confusion, and the mob, lusting for violence,
awaited only its directing fury.
A leader rose. Stella had secretly fomented this
outbreak; it was her storm to ride openly if she
dared. Yet it was scarcely a question of daring.
This was her supreme hour, hers by right of might;
and had another seized the lead she would have
crushed her. With black locks tumbled, eyes kindled,
cheeks afire, wanting only the scarlet gear of anarchy
to cap her likeness to those women of other speech
who braved barricades like men, she rallied disorder
56 THE CRUCIBLE
about her as the fiercer flame draws the less. Her
following flocked from every quarter of the quad-
rangle high-grade girls, girls but just clear of the
guardhouse; the mature in years, the tender; the
froward, the meek; spawn of the tenements, way-
ward from the farm; beggars, vagrants, drunkards,
felons, wantons, thieves. Hysteria answering to
hysteria, madness to madness, like filings to the
magnet they came, and, among them, Jean.
And, among them, Jean.
STELLA hailed the recruit with shrill satisfaction,
clutched her by the arm lest her allegiance falter,
and beckoned on her amazons.
"Smash the prison first," she screamed. "We'll
Back into the grim archway they swept, a frenzied,
yelling horde, and flung themselves into a fury of
destruction. The window-panes crashed first; then
followed fusillades of crockery from dining-room
and kitchen. Nothing breakable survived; where
glass failed, they demolished furniture; lacking
wood, they fell upon the plumbing.
Treading close in Stella's vandal wake, Jean laid
waste right and left with hands which she hazily
perceived were but mere automata under another
unknown self's control. She was a dual being, think-
ing one thing, doing its opposite. The active per-
sonality disquieted yet fascinated the critical real
self, and she realized, half dismayed, that if Stella
Wilkes should waver in her leadership, the mad,
alien Jean Fanshaw would in all likelihood leap to
But Stella harbored no thought of abdication. Her
reign had just begun. What was the too brief in-
58 THE CRUCIBLE
terval which had sufficed to wreck the hated prison !
There was as good pillage in the cottages, she
reminded them; better still in the administration
buildings and the chapel. The chapel now ! What
splendid atrocities they could wreak upon the big
organ ! And after the chapel, why not storm the
gatehouse ? What were a handful of guards ! The
gatehouse and liberty ! Fired with this dream of
conquest, the mob armed itself with scraps of
wreckage and trooped back to the entrance to
confront a thorough surprise. Bolted doors blocked
their triumphal progress bolted doors and the
matron, calm, resolute, unarmed, and absolutely alone.
The quadrangle, too, had had its happenings.
With the superintendent absent, her assistant ill,
and the few male guards at the gatehouse but mere
creatures of routine, wholly incapable of the general-
ship which the crisis demanded, the outbreak could
scarcely have been more effectively timed; yet order
somehow issued from confusion. Officials acting
separately bundled such of their charges as had not
yielded to hysteria into the cottages, and hurried
back to cope with the open mutiny. With this the
prison matron demanded the right to deal. It had
flamed out in her special province; it was hers to
quench if her authority was to mean anything there-
after; and she stubbornly declined aid. Not even
the guards might enter with her; she would meet the
The rioters faced the lonely figure stupidly. Their
THE CRUCIBLE 59
clamor sank to whispers, then silence. Their eyes
blinked and shifted under the cold survey which
passed deliberately from girl to girl, missing none,
Suddenly the matron levelled a finger at a weak-
jawed offender in the van.
"Drop that stick!" she commanded.
The culprit sheepishly complied.
"You too!" She indicated the next, and was
again obeyed. In the rear some one whispered.
"Stella Wilkes, come here."
Habit swayed the girl a step forward before she
realized that she was tamely submitting, but she
caught herself up with an oath, and returned stare
The matron's voice sharpened.
"Stella," she repeated, "come here."
The rebel's grip upon her cudgel tightened.
" Come yourself," she retorted. " Come if you dast ! "
The matron dared. Force rather than psychology
had ruled the police station of her schooling, and with
the loss of her temper she reverted instinctively to its
crude argument. A rush, a glint of handcuffs
hitherto concealed, a violent brief struggle, a blow,
a heavy fall such were the kaleidoscopic details of
a battle whose whole nobody saw perfectly, but
from which Stella, the mob incarnate, emerged un-
mistakably a victor. Moblike, she was also merci-
less, and continued to rain blows which the half-
stunned woman at her feet had power neither to
60 THE CRUCIBLE
return nor fend. One of them drew blood, a scarlet
thread, which by fantastic approaches and doublings
traversed the matron's now pallid cheek and stained
the whiteness of her dress.
It was then Jean woke. She was no longer among
the foremost. Separated from Stella in the sack of
the upper floors, she had fallen late upon a mirror
of the matron's, miraculously preserved till her com-
ing, and had busied herself with its joyous ruin till
the others had surged below and the rencounter at
the door had begun. With her first idle moment
apart from the common folly she experienced reac-
tion; one glimpse of the scene below effected a cure.
She loved the vanquished as little as the victor, but
her every instinct for fair play and decency cried out
against the wanton blows, and drove her hotly through
the press to the dazed woman's side.
The surprise of the attack, more than its strength,
disconcerted Stella, and Jean had pulled the matron
to her feet before retaliation was possible. Nimble
wits likewise counted most in the immediate sequel.
Quite in the moment of her charge Jean spied a coil
of fire-hose, which, used not half an hour ago for the
sake of coolness, lay still connected with its hydrant,
and its possibilities flashed instantly upon her. Be-
fore the ringleader's slow brain could divine her pur-
pose she had thrust the nozzle into the matron's fin-
gers and sprung to release the flood. Stella saw
the advantages of this neglected weapon now, and
plunged to capture it, but a stream as thick as a
THE CRUCIBLE 61
man's wrist took her squarely in the face with the
pent energy of a long descent from the hills, and
brought her gasping to her knees. Before she
fairly caught her breath she was handcuffed
and helpless, and the matron, all bustle and re-
source with the turning of the tide, was issuing
crisp orders to as drenched, frightened, and abjectly
obedient a band of rebels as ever made uncondi-
To her real conqueror Stella at least made full and
volcanic acknowledgment. The guardhouse alone
stemmed the sulphurous eruption which she poured
out upon Jean's past, present, and future; and the
girls who heard shivered thankfully that another
than themselves must drag out existence under the
blighting fear of such a requital. The official atti-
tude was more dispassionate. Barring now and
again a puzzled glance, as at some insoluble riddle,
the matron in no wise singled her preserver from the
common run of mutineers to whom she meted out
added rigors and penalties for their offence. Far
from hastening her return to cottage life by her service
in the cause of law and order, Jean learned that she
had narrowly escaped doubling her prison term, and
that the fact that the good in her conduct had been
allowed to weigh over against the evil was deemed
a piece of extraordinary clemency.
Yet even if that brief reign of unreason had added
a half-year of prison to the six months which a brief
interval would round, its lesson would not have been
62 THE CRUCIBLE
dear-bought; for, as she had returned richer by a
new conception of her womanhood from the flight
of which the prison was the price, so now she wrung
sanity from her yielding to madness. It terrified her
that she could for one moment have become like
these weak pawns in an incomprehensible game,
and the recoil intrenched her in a fastness of self-
control such as her girlhood had never conceived.
Happily there came also at this time another influ-
ence no less wholesome and far-reaching.
One morning of early winter she quitted the prison
in charge of a clerk from the superintendent's office,
who led the way to Cottage No. 6. Jean's heart
sank as they crossed the threshold. In the optimism
born of new resolutions she had hoped for a different
lot. What availed new resolutions here ! But she
was no sooner within than she was conscious of a
changed atmosphere. Bare as they were, the corri-
dors seemed less institutional; the recreation hall,
glimpsed in passing, smiled an almost animate greet-
ing; while th^ room in which she was told to await
the cottage matron's leisure resembled the room it
had been in nothing save its four walls. Amy Jef-
fries, dusting the window-seat as if she enjoyed it, was
"Howdy!" she called. "Welcome home."
Jean lifted a warning finger.
"Somebody will hear," she cautioned. "Where
will be your high grade then ?"
Amy grinned broadly.
THE CRUCIBLE 63
"Noticed it, did you ?" She pivoted complacently
before a mirror. "Don't I look for all the world
like a trained nurse ? Can't you just see me doing
the wedding march with the grateful millionnaire
I've pulled through typhoid ! Glory, but I am
tickled to get out of checks !"
Jean was vexed at her folly.
"You'll get into them again mighty quick if she
hears," she whispered. "Don't be a fool."
"She!" Amy turned to stare. "Well, if you're
not in from the backwoods ! You don't mean to say
you haven't heard that the Holy Terror is gone?"
"Gone ? You mean "
"I mean g-o-n-e, gone cleared out, skipped,
skedaddled. Can't you understand plain English ?
I thought everybody knew. She left a week ago to
"Ain't it the limit ? Fancy that with a husband !"
Jean tried, but failed. Stupendous as it was, this
marvel paled in interest beside the fact that Cottage
No. 6 had lost its martinet. Small wonder the house
"And the new matron is different?" she said.
"Different! Dif- Amy became incoherent
with amusement. "Say, but you folks in the jug
have been exclusive since the riot ! You shouldn't
be, really you shouldn't. You miss so many things,
you know. There was the Astor ball, and the
Vanderbilt dinner, and the swellest little supper at
Sherry's I've gone to this seas "
64 THE CRUCIBLE
All Amy's members were pinchable. Jean nipped
"Has something happened, or hasn't there?"
"Would I be talking here like a human being, not
a jailbird, if something corking hadn't happened ?"
She had a table between them now. "Why, I
wouldn't be high grade at all. There's been a new
deal in No. 6 with a vengeance. You couldn't guess
who's matron if I gave you all day."
Jean's face went suddenly radiant.
"Not Miss Archer!"
"You smart thing," said Amy, crestfallen.
"Then it's true! It's really true?" The news
was too wonderful for credence. "I can't make it
"Neither can I. Why, she's even come over here
at a smaller salary. Ain't that a puzzler ? I know
because I heard her talking it over with the Supe
the Terror had chased me up to the offices on an
errand; and you can bet I listened when I caught
on that there was something coming for No. 6. As
near as I can figure it out, the riot's at the bottom of
it, but just why that should make Miss Archer throw
up a better job and better pay to camp down here
beats little Amy. I'm no rapping medium."
Where Amy failed, Jean, with the clairvoyance of
a finer nature, presently divined the truth. It
flashed upon her at the end of an hour alone with the
little matron, a wonderful, inspiring hour which
THE CRUCIBLE 65
she came to look back upon as crucial a forking
of the ways where to have chosen wrongly would
have meant to miss life's best. Yet she could never
take it apart; its texture was gossamer. It helped
nothing to recall that the talk had sprung first from
one or another of the room's inanimate objects
some cast, book, picture, or bit of pottery whose
sum mirrored Miss Archer's personality; yet one of
them had surely been the key to a Garden of the
Spirit where common things underwent magical
transformations. The vague longings and aspira-
tions which the forest meeting had sown, seemed
rank, uncertain growths no longer; precious, rather,
and infinitely desirable.
Jean drew a long breath when they separated.
"At first I could not understand why you came,"
she said ; " but it's plain now. It was to help to
help girls like me."
IT was during the second spring that Mrs. Fan-
shaw came. Because of the little matron Jean had
finally broken her resolve to write no letters home,
whereupon her mother accepted the change as a
sign of repentance which, after a seemly interval,
she decided to encourage with her presence. Jean
was keenly expectant of the promised visit. With
the shifting of her whole point of view she now
blamed herself for many of the things, so petty taken
one by one, so serious in gross, which had made her
home life what it was; and out of the reaction there
welled an unguessed tenderness for her mother, shy
of written expression, but eager to confess itself in
The official who brought Jean to the waiting-room
and remained near during the interview need not
have turned a tactful back upon their meeting for
Mrs. Fanshaw's sake. That lady was as composed
as the best usage of Shawnee Springs's truly genteel
could dictate under circumstances so untoward.
Her features reflected the most decorous blend of
pious resignation and parental compassion when the
slender blue-and-white figure flung itself from the
doorway into her arms, and she permitted the peni-
THE CRUCIBLE 67
tent to remain upon the bosom of her best alpaca for
an appreciable space of time with full knowledge that
a waterfall of lace, divers silken bows, and a long gold
chain were lamentably crushed by the impact.
"Concentrate, child," she admonished firmly.
" How often I've told you to aim at self-control at all
Jean clung to her in a passion of homesickness,
"Mother! Mother!" she repeated.
Mrs. Fanshaw detached herself, repaired the
ravages, and turned a critical eye upon her daughter.
"What a fright they've made of you !" she sighed.
"The color of that dress is becoming enough, but
the pattern ! What haveyou been doingtoyourhair ?"
"My hair?" Jean fingered her braid vaguely.
"Oh! You mean at the front? It must be plain,
"And your hands! You never kept them like
Amelia's, but now why, they might be a day-
"They are," said Jean.
But Mrs. Fanshaw's interest had fluttered elsewhere.
"I can't be too thankful that I spared Amelia this
ordeal," she went on. "Amelia was anxious to come.
She said she felt it was her duty, but I refused.
She is so sensitive she could not have borne it. To
see her own sister in such clothes and in such sur-
roundings would have made an indelible impression."
Jean now had herself only too well in hand.
68 THE CRUCIBLE
"I dare say the refuge might tarnish Amelia's
girlish bloom," she retorted dryly. "I hope you'll
feel no bad effects yourself, mother."
"I'm positive I shall," replied Mrs. Fanshaw,
seriously. "My nerves are in a state already. But
let that pass. Whatever the cost, I should have
come long ago if your behavior had been always
what it should. I could not come while you hardened
your heart against God's will. Your stubbornness
in the beginning they wrote me fully, Jean ;
your unwomanly attempt to run away; that shock-
ing riot, all showed '
"That's past, mother."
"Past, yes; but not forgotten. Shawnee Springs
never forgets anything. Your escape was in the
papers. I wrote you all that."
"They never let me know. Not in the home
papers, the county papers?"
"No." Mrs. Fanshaw drew herself up. "Con-
sideration for me prevented that outrage. The edi-
tors preserved the same delicate silence that they
kept when you were arrested. But you don't seem
to remember that city dailies are read in Shawnee
Springs. One vile sheet even printed your picture."
The girl's face crimsoned painfully.
" Oh ! " she cried sharply. " How could they !
Where could they get it?"
Her mother hesitated.
"Amelia was in a way responsible," she admitted.
"She was naturally anxious at your disappearance,
THE CRUCIBLE 69
and when a nice-mannered young man called and
said that if he had your description he could help in
the search, the dear girl received him with open
arms. How could she know he was a reporter!"
"She gave that man my picture!"
"Like a trusting child. Amelia has felt all our
trouble so keenly. For weeks after you were sent
away she could scarcely look one of her set in the
face. She said she felt like a refuge girl herself.
I had to appeal to our pastor to make her see that
neither of us was to blame. She shrank from the
world even then, but the world came to her."
"Meaning Harry Fargo ?" queried Jean, emerging
suddenly from the gloom induced by Amelia's im-
"Harry was particularly sweet," admitted Mrs.
Fanshaw, archly. "In fact, he has become a son to
me in everything but name. If Amelia would only
but I mustn't gossip."
Jean smiled without mirth.
"I think she'll land him," she encouraged.
Her mother frowned.
"What a common expression!" she rebuked. "I
thought at first I noticed an improvement in your
language. Your voice is certainly better much
lower. It's the prison discipline, I presume. But
speaking of Harry, I really think we may regard it as,
well, reasonably sure. I must say I'm pleased.
Harry is so eligible."
Jean silently reviewed young Mr. Fargo's points;
70 THE CRUCIBLE
athlete second to none in the gymnasium of the local
Y. M. C. A. ; gifted with a tenor voice particularly
effective at church festivals in ballads of tee-total
sentiment; heir presumptive to a mineral spring, a
retail coal business, and a seat in the directorate of
the First National Bank; clearly destined, in fine,
to bloom one of the solid men of his community.
Joined to these virtues, present and prospective, he
seemed sincerely, if not ardently, fond of Amelia,
and Jean with her whole heart wished her sister's
long-drawn-out wooing godspeed.
Perhaps she couched this less happily than she
might. At all events, Mrs. Fanshaw took warm-
offence at some allusion to the suitor's leisured siege.
"Under the circumstances," she remarked se-
verely, "it's a wonder his attentions have continued
at all. No eligible young man in Shawnee Springs
can be expected to want a sister-in-law whose name
everybody mentions in the same breath with Stella
Wilkes's, and you know the Fargo family is as proud
as Lucifer. I don't see that they have any call to
set themselves up as they do the Tuttles were
landowners in the county twenty years before a
Fargo was heard of; but there is certainly some
excuse for their standing off about Amelia. You
don't seem to appreciate how painful her situation
has been. People were only just pitching on some-
thing else to talk about after you went, when you
stirred the scandal up again by running away. That
nearly spoiled everything. I had it on the best of
THE CRUCIBLE 71
authority Mrs. Fargo's dressmaker is mine now
that Harry and his father actually came to words.
Then, to cap the climax, we'd no sooner settled down
in peace than the vulgar riot happened. Nobody
knew positively whether you were implicated, but
they naturally judged you were, and of course I
couldn't conscientiously deny it when they asked
me point blank. It has been terrible ter-
Jean was swept away upon the flood of egotism.
She forgot that she too had a point of view. Their
wrongs were the great wrongs.
"Fm sorry," she said humbly. "It's true I didn't
realize. I don't want to stand in Amelia's way.
You won't have reason to complain again while I
"I don't expect I shall. I can't conceive of
another thing you could be up to, even if your dis-
position to consider our feelings a little should
change. If they'll only marry before your term
Jean's lips tightened.
"There's almost a year and a half yet," she said
grimly. "Surely that's time enough."
"It would be for anybody but a Fargo," sighed her
mother. "They're slow at everything. We can
only hope and wait. It's been very hard."
"I'll try not to make it more so afterward," Jean
returned. "I suppose I must go back to the Springs
at first. When a girl goes out they take her
72 THE CRUCIBLE
home. But I'll not stay. I'll go away at once."
" Go away ! There are none of the relatives you
can visit. The Tuttles all feel the disgrace as if it
were their own. As for your father's folks -
"I don't mean to visit. I mean to work to
Mrs. Fanshaw focussed her parochial mind upon
this outlandish suggestion, assuming, as was her
habit with novel impressions, an air of truculent
"Perhaps you still think you can gallivant about
the country like a man?" she remarked.
"No. I've got over that. I shall find some
"You mean you'll cook, scrub, do the servant's
drudgery you've learned here ? That would be a
nice tale to go the rounds of the Springs !"
"I would cook or scrub if I had to, but I've been
taught other things. One of the girls who's leaving
this fall her name is Amy Jeffries knew no
more about earning a living than I when she came
here, but she has an eight-dollar-a-week place wait-
ing for her in New York. She's going with a ready-
made cloak firm. It was Miss Archer who got her
the place, and she says when the time comes she can
probably do as well by me."
"New York!" Mrs. Fanshaw shied with rural
timidity from the fascinating name. "You in New
York ! I must get Amelia's opinion. What if it
should prove a way out!"
THE CRUCIBLE 73
During the remainder of the call the talk strayed
mainly in a maze of Shawnee Springs gossip which
Jean followed in a lethargy beneath which throbbed
an ache. She had grown to value her home, not for
what it had been, but for what it might be, and to
realize that it was beyond doubt the more a home
without her, cut deep. Mrs. Fanshaw had ampu-
tated an ideal.
It in no way eased the smart to feel that her mother
intended no downright brutality. Indeed, as Jean
did her the justice to perceive, she tried in her clumsy
way to be kind. She reverted again to the agreeable
change in the girl's voice, approved her quieter
manner, and, looking closer, even discerned a neat-
ness in general upon which she bestowed measured
praise. It was in the midst of these final note-tak-
ings that she detected her daughter in a vain attempt
to conceal some object in the folds of a pocketless
"What are you doing?" she demanded in abrupt
suspicion. "What are you hiding from me?"
The girl started.
"Nothing," she said evasively.
"Nothing! You were always truthful at least."
"I mean nothing important."
Mrs. Fanshaw laid a firm grasp upon the shrink-
ing hand, and dragged its secret to light.
"Embroidery!" she exclaimed.
Jean's cheeks were poppies.
"Yes," she faltered.
74 THE CRUCIBLE
"Whose is it?"
The reluctant monosyllables whipped Mrs. Fan-
shaw's curiosity wide awake.
"No more nonsense," she charged. "Tell me
at once who gave you this."
"Nobody," confessed Jean faintly. "I I made
"You!" A pair of glasses, black-rimmed and
formidable, bore instantly upon the marvel and
searched it stitch by stitch.
Jean waited breathless. Wrought with infinite
labor not of the hands alone, the little piece of needle-
work was absurdly freighted with meaning. In the
old days she had loathed such employment as ar-
dently as her sister loved it, but of late she had set
herself doggedly to learn the art, since it seemed to
her that this more than anything else would typify
her new outlook, her return to sex. As such a
symbol she had brought her handiwork into the
visitors' room. As such, before their meeting, she
had hoped her mother might interpret it. Even
now, bereft of illusions as she was, she still hoped
something, she knew not what.
In fairness to Mrs. Fanshaw it should be recorded
that she apparently grasped some hint of this.
Relatively speaking, her smile was encouraging.
Viewed from her own standpoint, she all but scaled
the top note of praise when, extending the em-
broidery at last, she said,
THE CRUCIBLE 75
"It is almost as good as Amelia's."
The new Jean was still no candidate for sainthood.
White to the lips with anger, she caught the emblem
of her regeneration from Mrs. Fanshaw's profaning
hand and tore it to little strips.
THENCEFORWARD Jean dreaded nothing so much
as any return to Shawnee Springs whatsoever.
Here, for once, she found herself in perfect accord
with her mother, for, as the time of her release drew
near, young Mr. Fargo's sauntering courtship took
a sudden spurt, not clearly explicable to himself,
whose prime and bewildering result was the fixing
of his wedding day.
Dear Amelia naturally longed for her sister's
presence at the culmination of her happiness (so
Mrs. Fanshaw put it), but there were the Fargos to
consider they were not cordial, by the way -
and if the refuge authorities made no objection, would
it not perhaps be better if she met the official having
Jean in charge at some intermediate point, from
which she could proceed at once to her new calling ?
Jean, she was convinced, would understand.
Jean understood very well, but was thankful.
She would rather serve another month in the refuge
than be an unwelcome guest at Amelia's marriage.
In truth, had she been put to a choice, she would
have elected further confinement to her mother's
roof in any case. She thought of the reformatory,
not Shawnee Springs, as home, and this in a sense
THE CRUCIBLE 77
which embraced more than Miss Archer and the
transformed Cottage No. 6. She loathed the life no
less than in the beginning, but time had knit her to
its every phase. The cowed, drab ranks had long
since ceased to seem alien. Their deprivations, their
meager privileges, their rights, their wrongs, their
sorrows, their spectral gayeties, all were hers. She
had thought to dart from the gatehouse like a wild
thing from a trap. In reality she paused to look back
with a lump in her throat.
Yet it was a blithe world outside, the fog and gloom
of a November rain notwithstanding. Even the
wet glisten of the mire seemed cheery. A hundred
trivialities, unheeded by her companion, absorbed her
unjaded eyes. The red and green liquids of a drug-
gist's window lured her as in childhood; then the
glitter of a toy-shop enticed, or the ruddy invitation
-of a forge. Station and train were each a mine of
entertainment. The ticket-buying was an event of
the first magnitude; the slot-machines, the time-
tables, the news-stands, the advertisements, all the
prosaic human spectacle had the freshness of novelty.
She noted that women's sleeves had a fullness of
which the little tailor-shop in the refuge was but
dimly aware; that men's hats curled closer at the
brim; that the trainmen wore a different uniform;
that one rural depot or another had received a coat
Mrs. Fanshaw was in waiting.
"There's a train back to the Springs in twenty
78 THE CRUCIBLE
minutes," she announced briskly, after a preoccu-
pied dab at Jean's cheek, "and under the circum-
stances" -she was always under circumstances
"I know you won't mind if I take it instead of wait-
ing till your own goes out. What with presents
arriving, the dressmaker, and the snobbish behavior
of Harry's family, I expect as it is to find Amelia
on the edge of nervous prostration. Every minute
is precious, we're so rushed. In fact, I could not
find time to pack a single stitch for you to take to
New York. Anyhow, I understood from your last
letter that the refuge would fit you out with the
necessaries, which is certainly a help at this time
when I'm paying out right and left for Amelia.
Why," she wound up suddenly, "your suit is actually
"Yes," said Jean.
"Excellent material, too," commented Mrs. Fan-
shaw, fingering the texture. "Does every girl fare
"The low-grade girls get no jackets, only capes;
and their material isn't so good."
"Then you're high grade ! You never wrote me."
" I did not think it would interest Shawnee Springs."
Mrs. Fanshaw looked aggrieved.
"You are a strange child," she complained; "so
secretive, so self-centered. I suppose your suit was
made in the refuge ?"
"By one of the inmates?"
THE CRUCIBLE 79
"By one of the inmates myself."
" Strange child ! " said her mother again. " Strange
Linked by nothing save a distasteful past, they sat
together for an interval in constrained silence. Even
at their friendliest, mother and daughter had lacked
conversational small change. Presently Mrs. Fan-
shaw's roving eye encountered the dial of a train-
indicator and brightened.
"The Shawnee Springs accommodation is on time
for once," she announced.
Jean responded with sincerity that she was glad.
That her own train was as plainly registered an hour
late, with the equally obvious consequence that she
must arrive after nightfall in a strange city, was
Mrs. Fanshaw opened her hand-bag.
" Here is the price of your ticket to New York,"
she said, counting out the exact fare. "You had
better buy it at once."
Jean did so. When she returned from the ticket-
office her mother was smoothing the creases from a
"Did they supply you with any money ?" she asked
"With two dollars."
"Is that all?"
"They paid my fare here."
"How niggardly in a great state ! I can spare you
so little myself. But you will begin work at once ?"
8o THE CRUCIBLE
"Then ten dollars ought to answer until you draw
your first earnings, if you are not extravagant."
"I shan't stop at the Waldorf," promised Jean,
grimly. She took the bill, as she had taken the money
for the ticket, without thanks, saying only, "I will
pay it back."
Another blank silence fell. Mrs. Fanshaw stirred
"I hope that Jeffries girl can be depended on to
meet you," she presently remarked.
"I think she can."
"It's certainly a convenience to know somebody
at the start, but I don't feel that she is a very desirable
associate, whatever Miss Archer thinks. You can
drop her later, of course, whenever it seems best."
Mrs. Fanshaw jumped at the vehemence of the
"How abrupt you are! What I mean to say is
that you will hardly want to keep up these reforma-
tory acquaintances. If I were you I should make
it a rule to recognize none of them you can by hook
or crook avoid. Possibly this girl is superior to most
of her class. I don't think you ever mentioned just
why she was sent to the refuge ?"
Jean's eyes discharged an angry spark.
"You're quite right," she retorted. "I never
Mrs. Fanshaw was still waiting in becoming
THE CRUCIBLE 81
patience for Jean to repair this omission when her
train was announced. They rose and faced each
"Well, good-by," said the elder woman, present-
ing her cheek.
"Well, good-by," said Jean.
She watched her mother into a car, and through
successive windows traced her bustling progress to a
seat. Mrs. Fanshaw found no leisure for a last
glance outward, and Jean, by aid of certain sharply
etched memories, divined that she was absorbed in
repelling seatmates. So occupied, she vanished.
Jean could have cried with ease, but sternly denied
herself the luxury. She yet retained something of
her old boy-like intolerance of the tear-duct, though
the refuge, acquainting her with nerves, had dulled
the confident edge of her scorn. Tears, she now
perceived, like tea, had uses for women other than
Happily life's common things still wore a bloom
of surpassing freshness for her cloistered eye. This
second station, like yet unlike the first; the tardy
train, thundering importantly in at last; the stirring
flight into the unknown, each served its diverting
turn. As dusk settled, the landscape became in-
creasingly littered with signs trumpeting the virtues
of breakfast foods, women's wear, or plays current
in the metropolitan theatres ; while the villages grew
smarter in pavement and lighting till she mistook
one or two for near suburbs of the great city itself.
82 THE CRUCIBLE
Then the open spaces grew rare. Did the semblance
of a field survive, it was gridironed by streets of the
future or sprawled upon by huge factories, formless
leviathans of a thousand gleaming eyes. Town
linked itself to town.
When they had run for a long time within what
she knew must be the limits of the city itself, a brake-
man mouthed some unintelligible remark from the
door, and the train came to a stop. Jean caught
up her bag, but observing that a drummer of flirta-
tious propensities, who for an hour past had shared
her seat, made no move, was left in doubt.
"Isn't this New York?" she asked.
Her seatmate surveyed her facetiously.
"Some of it," he said. "Want any particular
part of the village ?"
"The main station," blushed the provincial.
"You mean the Grand Central. Sit tight then.
This is only a' Hundred-and-twenty-fifth Street
Harlem, you know, where the goat joke flourishes.
Never saw a billy there myself, and I boarded a year
on Lenox Avenue, too."
Jean turned from a disquisition on boarding-houses
to the car-window. In its night-time glitter of elec-
tricity the street which he dismissed with a careless
numeral quite fulfilled her rural notion of Broadway.
If these were but the outposts, what was the thing
They shot a tunnel presently, which the drummer
berated in terms long since made familiar by the
THE CRUCIBLE 83
newspapers, threaded a maze of block-signals and
switch-lights, and halted at last in an enormous
cavern of a place which she needed no hint from her
now too friendly neighbor to assure her was truly
The drummer urged his escort, but she eluded him
in leaving the car and hurried on in the press. Near-
ing the gate, however, her pace slackened. The big-
ness of the train-shed confused her, and she was
daunted by the clamor of hackmen and street-cars
which penetrated from without. Amy had written
that she would meet her if she could leave her work,
but Jean could spy her nowhere in the waiting
crowd banked in the white glare of the arc-lights
beyond the barrier. They were unfamiliar to the
last pallid urban face.
She had gone slowly down the human aisle and
was wavering on the outskirts, uncertain whether to
wait longer or adventure for herself, when the
drummer reappeared at her elbow.
"Didn't your party show up?" he said. "I call
that a mean trick. You had better let me help you
out, after all. You look like a girl with sand.
What say we give 'em a lesson ? We can have supper
at a nice, quiet little place I know up the street,
take in a show afterward, and then when we're
good and ready hunt up your slow-coach friends.
Is it a go ?"
She looked every way but toward him, saw a
policeman, and aimed forthwith for the shelter of
84 THE CRUCIBLE
his uniform. Halfway she felt her hand seized,
turned hotly, expecting the drummer, and plumped
joyfully into the arms of a young person of fashion
who greeted her with an ecstatic hug.
"Amy! I was never so glad to see you!"
The girl emerged from the embrace, panting.
"I really think you are," she said. "Sorry to
keep you waiting. There was a block on the 'L.'
What was that fellow saying to you ?"
When Jean had told her she peered eagerly into
"I find blond hair lets you in for a lot of that,"
she commented. "He was a traveling man, you
"I think so."
"Sort of sandy, with a reddish mustache ? I could
only see his back."
" Sandy ? I'm not sure. I avoided looking at him."
Amy was silent while they passed to the street,
and continued to scan the faces about her. When
they had wormed into a street-car packed with
standing women and seated men she spoke again of
"Did he say what line of goods he was carrying ?"
"No," Jean answered indifferently. The spec-
tacle of the pavement without had already ousted the
drummer from her thoughts.
"Or where he lived?"
"Where he lived?" She turned now and saw
THE CRUCIBLE 85
that the girl's eyes were very bright. "He men-
tioned that he had boarded here somewhere
Harlem, was it ?"
"Harlem!" Amy's pink cheeks turned rose-red.
"And did he have a scar, a little white scar, near his
"I didn't notice/'
"I wish you had."
Jean eyed her narrowly.
"I wish I had, too, if it matters so much," she
Amy donned a mask of transparent indifference.
"Of course it doesn't matter," she said. "At first
I thought it might be somebody I used to know."
THEY alighted at a kind of wooded island, girt by
trolley lines and crisscrossed by many paths, along
one of which they struck. Although it was No-
vember, the benches by the way frequently held
slouching forms, sodden men or unkempt women, at
whom none glanced save a fat policeman. Neigh-
boring electric signs lit the lower end of the little
park brilliantly, and here, cheek by jowl with restau-
rant, vaudeville, and saloon, Jean suddenly spied an
august figure with which school-history woodcuts
had made her familiar from pinafores.
"Why, this is Union Square!" she cried tri-
umphantly. "I know it by Washington's statue
over there. And this street we're coming to must be
"You're not so slow," said Amy, halting at the
curb. "Here's another chance to show your speed.
Mind you step lively when I see a chance." In the
same breath she dragged her charge into a narrowing
gap between two street-cars, dodged a truck, circled
a push-cart, and issued miraculously, safe and
sound, upon the farther side.
They traversed now a street of entrancing shop-
windows over which Jean exclaimed, but which Amy
THE CRUCIBLE 87
in her sophistication dismissed with the brief com-
ment that the real thing was elsewhere. With the
same careless unconcern she dropped, "This is Fifth
Avenue," at their next crossing; but she immediately
discounted Jean's awe by adding, "Not the swell
section, you know," and hurried from its unworthy
precincts toward an avenue which the elevated rail-
road bestrode. This, too, was wonderfully curious,
with its countless little shops and stalls, but Amy
allowed her a mere taste of it only and whipped
round a corner into a dimly lit street of dwellings,
each with a scrap of a dooryard tucked behind an
As they mounted the high steps of one of these
houses, Jean remarked with due respect that it was
unmistakably a brownstone front a species of met-
ropolitan grandeur upon which untravelled Shawnee
Springs often speculated vaguely; though its dilapi-
dation, obvious even by night, helped to put her at her
ease. A placard inscribed, "Furnished Rooms and
Board," held a prominent station in one of the base-
ment windows, which was further adorned with a
strange symbol upon red pasteboard, explained by
Amy, while they waited, as a mute appeal to a certain
haughty city official whose business was the collection
"The landlady's name is St. Aubyn," Amy further
imparted; "or at any rate that's what she goes by.
She's the grass-widow of an actor. Some people say
her real name is Haggerty, but that needn't bother
88 THE CRUCIBLE
us. We can't afford to be finicky, or at least I can't."
"Nor I," agreed Jean.
Mrs. St. Aubyn, who at this juncture opened the
door in person, looked a weary-eyed woman of fifty-
odd, in whose face still lingered some melancholy
vestiges of charm. She greeted, without enthusiasm,
Amy's buoyant announcement that she had brought
her a new boarder, saying that, although she had no
complaint to make of Miss Jeffries and supposed she
should get on equally well with her friend, on the
whole she preferred men.
"They all do," cried Amy, in mock dudgeon.
" Every blessed boarding-house in New York prefers
The actor's grass-widow did not question this sweep-
ing statement, evidently deeming it a truism which
needed neither explanation nor defence, but went
on to say that inasmuch as Miss Jeffries already
knew the rooms and prices, and^since she herself was
dog-tired, and the turnips were burning, and the
cream-puffs had not come, and one could not trust
the best of servants beyond one's nose, she would
leave them to themselves, all of which she delivered
with dwindling breath, backing meanwhile toward
the basement stair, till voice and speaker vanished
" Don't mind her little ways," consoled Amy, lead-
ing the way upward. "She is really tickled to death
to see you. The elevator's out of order," she added
facetiously, " but I'm on the first floor counting
THE CRUCIBLE 89
from the roof down. A good place it is, too, on hot
summer nights when breezes are scarce."
She showed the narrow rear hall-bedroom she now
occupied; a rather bigger cell, deriving its ventila-
tion solely from a skylight, which Jean might have at
the same price; and, finally, in enviable contrast, a
really spacious chamber at the front, possessing no
less than three windows, dormers, it was true, yet
windows, a generous closet, and a steam-radiator,
all within their united means did they care to room
together. Amy tried to state the case dispassionately,
but she could not weigh the advantages of three dor-
mers, a full-grown closet, and a steam-radiator with
perfect calm, and after one glance, not at these per-
suasive features, but Amy's, Jean promptly voted for
the joint arrangement.
Amy hugged her rapturously.
"If you only knew how I've wanted it!" she ex-
claimed. "You can't possibly do better for your
money than here. Take my word for it, I've tramped
everywhere to see. It has a lot of good points. For
one thing, you'll be within walking distance of a
warm lunch that won't cost extra, and that's a big
item, I can tell you. Besides, you'll meet nice peo-
ple. A dentist has the second floor front who's a
regular swell, but real sociable, and in the hall-bed-
room, third floor back, there's an old man who works
in the Astor Library. He knows so much, I'm almost
afraid to talk to him. Why, they say he had a col-
lege education ! Then, there's a girl who type-
9 o THE CRUCIBLE
writes for a law firm down in Nassau Street she's
on our floor; another who's a manicure; and a quiet
old couple that used to have money, but lost it in
Wall Street. All those are permanents. There are
two others, a man and his wife, who may go any
time because they belong to the profession."
"Which ?" asked Jean, innocently.
"Why, the stage. Mrs. St. Aubyn always calls
it 'the profession.' She gets actors off and on who
are waiting for engagements. She must have known
a stack of them once."
Jean shrank from the thought of dining with this
array of fashion, learning, and talent, particularly
when she discovered that one long table held them
all; but nothing could have been less formal than the
meal. The prodigy of learning from the Astor, who,
by virtue of intellect or seniority, sat at the head of
the board in pleasing domestic balance to Mrs. St.
Aubyn at the foot, chatted amiably with Jean and
Amy, quite like a person of ordinary attainments.
The stenographer exchanged ideas upon winter styles
with the wife of the shorn lamb of Wall Street, who,
on his part, forgot his losses in a four-sided discussion,
with the manicure and the professional birds of pas-
sage, of the President's latest speech, a document
which it tardily developed none of them had
Mrs. St. Aubyn's conversation dealt mainly with
the food, and was aimed at the maid, whose blunders
were apparently legion, but even she found leisure,
THE CRUCIBLE 91
as did every person in the room, for a quip with the
jocund ruling spirit of the feast, Dr. Paul Bartlett.
Coming last, the dentist instantly leavened the whole
lump. He drew gems of dramatic criticism from
the players, got the bookworm's opinion of a popular
novel, inquired the day's happenings on 'Change'
from the shorn lamb, discussed a murder trial with
the legal stenographer, the outrageous rise in price
of coal with Mrs. St. Aubyn, and the growing ex-
travagance of women's sleeves with Amy and the
manicure, all between the soup and fish. In fine,
as Mrs. St. Aubyn loudly whispered to Jean in leav-
ing the dining room, he was the life of the occasion.
Whether he heard this or not, Doctor Bartlett re-
doubled his efforts, if they were efforts, when after
eddying uncertainly about the newel post of the
main hall the company finally drifted into the draw-
This was not a blithesome apartment. It ran
extraordinarily to length and height, Jean thought,
rather to the scamping of its third dimension, and
was decorated after the dreary fashion of the decade
immediately succeeding the Civil War. Its wood-
work was black walnut, its chandelier a writhing
mass of tortured metal, its mantelpiece a marble
sepulchre. A bedizened family Bible of some thirty
pounds avoirdupois, lying upon a stand ill designed
to bear its weight, blocked one window, while a
Rogers group, similarly supported, filled the other.
The pictures were sadly allegorical save one, a large
92 THE CRUCIBLE
engraving entitled "The Trial of Effie Deans."
Yet, despite these handicaps, the dentist contrived
to give the room an air of cheer. Spying a deck of
cards upon the entablature of the mausoleum, he
performed a mystifying trick, which he followed with
fortunes, told as cleverly as a gypsy's, and with feats
of sleight of hand. Then, dropping to the piano-
stool, he coaxed from the venerable instrument a two-
step which set everybody's feet beating time; passed
from this to a "coon song" one could easily imagine
was sung by a negro; and, finally, chief marvel of all,
he succeeded in luring everybody except Jean into
joining the chorus of the latest popular air. In the
midst of all these things he narrated most amusing
little stories, mainly of dentists' offices, punctuated
with dental oaths and imprecations like "Holy
Molars" and "Suffering Bicuspid," which sounded
comically profane without being so.
The girls discussed him animatedly from their pil-
lows in the wonderful room of three dormers.
"Didn't I tell you he was sociable?" Amy de-
manded. "Can't he sing simply dandy ? And isn't
Jean gave a general assent. She liked the young
fellow's breeziness. She liked his cleanliness, too,
and remarked upon it.
"I noticed it first of all," she said.
"Yes, and what's better," added Amy, "you'll
never see him look any different. He says soap
and water mean dollars in his business. That's one
THE CRUCIBLE 93
reason why he's so run after at the parlors. None
of the other dentists there seem to care."
"Then he hasn't an office of his own?"
"Not yet. He works in a Painless Dental Parlor
over on Sixth Avenue. You'll know the place by a
tall darky in uniform they keep at the foot of the stairs
to hand out circulars."
"Do you suppose he thought it strange that I
didn't sing with the rest?" Jean asked anxiously.
"He looked round twice."
"I shouldn't wonder. He couldn't guess, natu-
rally, that you've had a steady diet of hymns for three
years. Still, that song is only just out, and half of us
didn't know the words."
"Did I do anything else queer?"
"Well, you tried hard to pass dishes down the line,
instead of letting the maid do it, and you looked side-
ways a good deal without turning your head. I don't
think of anything else just now unless it's that you're
as nervous as a cat. Miss Archer did her best to
make us girls act like other human beings, but she
didn't run the whole refuge, more's the pity. I've
got a stack of things to thank her for. Do you notice
I don't say 'ain't' any more?"
"She broke me of that. She said I'd find it paid
to speak good English, and I have. Already it's
meant dollars to me, just like the doctor's soap and
Jean wondered how grammatical accuracy could
94 THE CRUCIBLE
further the making of cloaks, but Amy had suddenly
become too drowsy to explain. Rest came less easily
to the newcomer. The muffled roar of the elevated
railroad, heeded by the urban ear no more than the
beat of surf, teased her excited senses to insomnia.
Oblivion came abruptly when she despaired of sleep
at all, and then, as quickly, morning, with Amy
shaking her awake. The light from the three dormers
was still uncertain and the air chill, for though the
prized radiator clanked and whistled prodigiously,
it emitted no warmth.
Jean sprang up hurriedly.
"Am I late?"
"No; early. I thought you'd better get down to
Meyer & Schwarzschild's a little before time the first
day. You'll have to wear your street-suit there, of
course, but you need another skirt and a big apron for
work. Just use these I've laid out as long as you like."
"But you'll need them yourself."
Amy smiled mysteriously.
"No, I shan't," she returned, shaking down a
smart black skirt over a petticoat which gave forth
the unmistakable rustle of silk. "In fact, this is
my work-dress or one of them." She revolved
slowly before the glass a moment, relishing Jean's
astonishment, then went on: "I'll have to own up
now. The cat was almost out of the bag last night.
I didn't want to tell you till this morning. I thought
it might discourage you. I'm not with Meyer &
Schwarzschild any more."
THE CRUCIBLE 95
"You've left the cloak firm!" Jean was taken
aback, but tried to hide her disappointment. "I'm
glad you've done better," glancing again at Amy's
magnificence; "it's easy to see you have."
"Well, I guess! I'm a cloak-model in one of the
biggest department stores in the United States."
"A cloak-model!" The term suggested only a
wax-faced dummy to Jean. "What do you do?"
"Walk up and down before the millionnaires' wives,
and make the pudgy old things think they'll look as
well as I do if they buy the garment. But they
never do look as well. I got the place through a
buyer who came to Meyer & Schwarzschild's once
in a while. He saw that I have style and a good
figure, and don't say 'ain't' he really mentioned
that ! and told the cloak department that I was the
girl they were looking for. Sounds easy, doesn't it ?"
It sounded anything but easy to Jean.
"And you like it ?" she said. "But I needn't ask
" Don't I ! Maybe it doesn't give you thrills to
parade up and down with a three-hundred-dollar
evening wrap on your back ! But cheer up," she
added quickly, reading Jean's face. "I'm going
down to Meyer & Schwarzschild's with you this
morning and give you a rousing send-off."
THE section of Broadway to which Amy piloted
Jean, showing her all the short cuts which would
save precious time at lunch hour, seemed wholly
given over to wholesale establishments with signs
bearing Hebrew names.
"Yes; this is Main Street of the New Jerusalem,
all right," she assented to Jean's comment; "but
you'll find there are Jews and Jews in the clothing
trade. I'd hate to work for some of the chosen people
I've seen, but you'd have to hunt a long time to find
a more well-meaning man than old Mr. Meyer. I
only hope he'll be down this morning."
Other workers, chiefly women and girls, crowded
into the rough freight elevator by which they ascended,
and one or two who got off with them at Meyer &
Schwarzschild's loft greeted Amy by name. They
inventoried her finery minutely, Jean saw, and nudg-
ing one another, arched significant brows when her
back was turned. On her part, Amy took little no-
tice of them, and, without introducing Jean, swept
by toward the flimsy partition of wood and ground
glass which shut the workrooms from the counting-
room, brushed aside an office boy, who demanded her
business, and knocked at a half-open door lettered,
"Jacob Meyer, Sr."
THE CRUCIBLE 97
The head of the firm, who bade them enter, was
a very old man with a patriarchal beard. He smiled
benignantly, recognized Amy after a moment's hesi-
tation, asked about her new position, and patted
her on the shoulder when she told him he must be
as good to Miss Fanshaw as he had been to her.
Turning to Jean, he said that Miss Archer had never
sent them a poor worker.
"I have the highest opinion of Miss Archer," he
added, with the air of a presiding officer who relished
the taste of his own periods. "Her charity knows
neither Jew nor Gentile. I met her first here in
New York when some of us were trying a philan-
thropic experiment in the so-called Ghetto. It pre-
sented grave difficulties, very grave difficulties, and it
is hardly too much to say, in fact, I have no
hesitation in saying, that Miss Archer saved
the day. I recall one most signal instance of her
He would have rambled on willingly, but Amy cut
in with the statement that she must be off, squeezed
Jean's hand encouragingly, and whisked out forth-
with. Her abrupt exit seemed to disorder the de-
liberate clockwork of old Mr. Meyer's thoughts, for
he sat some little time staring at a letter-file with his
mouth ajar, till, recollecting himself at last, he brought
forth, "As I was saying, my dear, I trust you'll like
our ways," which Jean was certain he had not said
at all, and thereupon led her to the door of one of
the workrooms and turned her over to its forewoman,
98 THE CRUCIBLE
a stout Jewess with oily black hair combed low to
disguise her too prominent ears.
Work had begun, and the place was deafening with
the whir of some thirty-odd close-ranked machines
which, their ends almost touching, filled all the
floor save the narrowest of aisles, where stood the
chairs of the operators. To one of these sewing-
machines and a huge pile of unstitched sleeves Jean
was assigned. The task itself was simple, after the
sound training of the refuge school, but the conditions
under which she worked told heavily against her
efficiency. The din was incessant, the light poor,
the low-ceiled room crowded beyond its air-space,
and the floor none too clean. As the morning drew
on, the atmosphere became steadily worse. Now
and then the forewoman would open a window,
she stood mainly by a door herself, turning and turn-
ing a showy ring upon her fat index ringer, but the
relatively purer air thus admitted reached only the
girls who worked nearest, of whom Jean was not one,
and these soon shivered and complained of drafts.
By the time the hands of a dingy clock marked ten,
her head was throbbing violently and her spine
seemed one prolonged ache. Her neighbors, except
a thin-cheeked woman who stopped now and again to
cough, turned off their stints with the regularity of
long habit, straightening only to seize fresh supplies
for their insatiable machines. At twelve o'clock,
when whistles blew from all quarters and the other
employees, dropping work as it stood, scrambled for
THE CRUCIBLE 99
lunch-boxes or wraps, Jean relaxed in her chair,
too jaded to rise. Food was out of the question,
even the look of the pickle-scented luncheons which
some of the cloak-makers opened made her ill,
but she presently dragged herself outdoors, and strik-
ing down a cross street, at whose farther end she
could see trees, came to a little park distinguished by
a marble arch, where she wandered aimlessly till
she judged it time to return.
The streets she retraced were now thronged with
masculine wage-earners lounging and smoking in the
doorways of their various places of employment.
All paid her the tribute of a stare, and some made
audible comments on her hair or eyes, or what they
termed her shape. Her own doorway was also
crowded. These idlers were, for the most part, girls
from the many garment-manufactories of one sort
and another which the great building housed; but a
man stood here and there, either the leader or the butt
of some horse-play. One of the young women who
had scrutinized Amy in the elevator nodded to her
and seemed about to speak, but Jean felt too heart-
sick for words, and returned at once to her appointed
corner in the hive, where, although it still lacked
something of one o'clock, she again sat down to her
machine. The air was better, for the windows had
been thrown open during the noon-hour, but the room
was in consequence very chill, and her fellow-workers,
now drifting back in twos and threes, grumbled as
they came. Among them was the girl who had
ioo THE CRUCIBLE
greeted her below, and looking at her with more in-
terest Jean read kindness in her freckled face. Their
eyes met again, with a half-smile, and the girl edged
down the narrow lane for a moment's gossip.
"You'll find it better to take a bite of lunch, even
if you don't hanker for it," she observed.
"How do you know I haven't ?" Jean asked.
"That's easy. For one reason, I seen you walkin'
in Washington Square. For another, a green hand
here don't never want lunch. Not used to this kind
of thing, are you ?"
"To the work, yes; not the noise, the bad air."
"Where'd you work last?"
"In a small town," she eluded.
"That's different. You don't have the sweat-shop
in the country, I guess."
"Sweat-shop !" Jean had heard that sinister term
before. "Is that what they call Meyer & Schwarz-
The girl laughed at her simplicity.
"I call it one," she rejoined, "even if it is on Broad-
way. Don't low wages and dirt and bad air and dis-
ease make a sweat-shop ?"
"Disease ! What do you mean ?"
"Well, consumption, for instance. It isn't bron-
chitis, as she thinks, that ails the woman next machine
to you. I could tell you other things, but what's
the use ! You won't stop here any longer than I
will, and that's just long enough to find a better
THE CRUCIBLE 101
The afternoon lapsed somehow. Once, a youngish,
overdressed man with blustering manners and thick,
bright-red lips came into their workroom and told
the forewoman that a certain order must be rushed.
He idled near Jean's machine for an interval, under
pretence of examining her work, but he mainly looked
her in the face. As he passed down the aisles, he
touched this girl and that familiarly. Those so
favored were without exception pretty, and they
usually simpered under his attentions, though one or
two grimaced afterward. When he had gone, Jean's
thin-cheeked neighbor told her between coughs that
this was the younger Meyer.
She met him again when she passed the offices in
leaving for the night, and he again stared fixedly,
wearing his repulsive, scarlet smile. She jumped at
the conclusion that old Mr. Meyer had mentioned
that she came from a reformatory, and hurried by
with burning cheeks. The night air refreshed her
a little, but the way home seemed endless, and the
three flights from Mrs. St. Aubyn's door to the dor-
mered bedroom were appalling in prospect. She
entered faint with hunger and fagged with a thor-
oughness she had not known since the earlier days in
the refuge laundry.
Amy sprang up from a novel.
"Don't say a word," she charged. "I suspicioned
how it would be when you didn't show up for lunch.
Not that I expected you, though. I'd have bet a
pound of chocolates you wouldn't come."
io2 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean was content to say nothing and let herself be
mothered. Amy showed no trace of fatigue. She
had changed her black blouse for a white one of some
soft fabric, and looked as fresh and pink-cheeked as
if she had idled the livelong day.
"Now for the pick-me-up," she said briskly, after
making Jean snug among the pillows; and what
with a tiny kettle and a spirit-lamp, some sugar
which she rummaged from a bureau drawer, and a
little milk from the natural refrigerator of the window-
sill, she concocted in no time a really savory cup of
Then, only, Jean found voice.
"Did you know all the time," she demanded, "that
Meyer & Schwarzschild's is no better than a sweat-
"I worked there a year," Amy returned senten-
tiously. "I'm not saying it was as bad all along as
now. It was as decent as any at first, and I hear that
even now the room where the cutters work is pretty
" Does Miss Archer know ? But that's impossible."
"Of course she doesn't. And, though you mayn't
believe it, old Mr. Meyer doesn't know either. You
saw what he is ! It's only hospitals and orphan
asylums he thinks about. He totters down to busi-
ness for about an hour a week, and if he ever pokes
his dear old nose into one of the workrooms, it's early
in the morning before the air gets so thick you could
THE CRUCIBLE 103
" But his partner Schwarzschild ? Where is he ?"
"Dead. They keep the name because the firm
is an old one. It's all Meyer now, and that doesn't
mean Jacob Meyer, Sr., but Jake. You probably
saw Jake. He has tomato-colored lips and an
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"How could I ? Everything was settled before I
knew you were going there. Anyhow, it's a living
while you are hunting something better. I'm in
hopes to get you in where I am. I spoke to a floor-
walker I know to-day. My department is full, but
they'll probably need more help downstairs for the
"That would be merely temporary."
"Most every place is temporary till they size you
up. If you're what they want, they'll keep you on
after the holidays, never fear. You may have to
take less money to begin with than you get now, but
it will be easier earned. Any old thing is better than
Jake Meyer's joint, / think."
This hope carried Jean through the three ensuing
days. The conditions at the cloak-factory were at no
time better in fact, once or twice, when it rained
and the girls came with damp clothing, they were
worse; but she omitted no more meals, and after
the second day accustomed herself to the steady
treadmill of the machine.
At luncheon, Friday, Amy had news.
104 THE CRUCIBLE
"Come up to the store after you stop work to-
night," she directed. " Beginning to-day, we keep
open longer. Take the elevator to the fourth floor."
"There's a place for me ?"
"I'm not saying that. I spoke to my friend, the
floor-walker, again he's in the toy department
and he told me to bring you round."
Jean found the vast establishment easily. The
difficulty would have been to miss it. Pushing her
way through the holiday shoppers crowding the im-
mense ground-floor, she wormed into an elevator,
got out as Amy bade, and, after devious wanderings
in a wonderful garden of millinery, came finally upon
her friend's special province and Amy herself.
Or was it Amy ? She looked twice before deciding.
It was not so much the costly garment, a thing of
silks, embroideries, and laces, which effected the trans-
formation, Jean expected something of the kind,
as it was the actress in Amy herself, which im-
pelled her to play the part the costume implied. With
eyes sparkling, cheeks flushed, shoulders erect, she
was not Amy Jeffries, cloak-model, but a child of
luxury apparelled for the opera or the ball.
"Did she buy it ?" Jean asked, when, free at last,
Amy perceived her waiting and came to her.
Amy sighed dolefully.
"Yes; it's gone," she said. "You can't imagine
how I hate to lose it. It had come to seem like my
Jean could not conceive Amy in an occupation more
THE CRUCIBLE 105
congenial, and wished heartily that as enviable a
fortune might fall to her.
"It seems easy work," she said. "What do they
require of a cloak-model?"
"A thirty-six inch bust, at least, for a starter. Did
I ever tell you that they call us by our bust meas-
ures ? We never hear our own names. I'm Thirty-
six; that big girl with the red hair is Thirty-eight;
and so it goes. Then you must have good propor-
tions and a stylish carriage, and be attractive gen-
erally," she added, naively regarding her trim reflec-
tion in the nearest pier-glass.
At this point "Thirty-eight" approached, and Amy
introduced her, saying :
"My friend here thinks she'd like to be a cloak-
model. 'Tisn't all roses, is it?"
The red-haired girl gave the indulgent smile of
"Wholesale or retail, it's harder than it looks,"
she declared. "I don't mean displaying gowns so
much as the side issues. Why, the amount of diet-
ing, lacing, and French heels some models put up
with to keep in form is something awful. Give me
the retail trade, though. I'd rather deal with shop-
ping cranks than buyers."
"I suppose some of the buyers are fresh," Amy de-
" Some ! Better say one out of every two," retorted
Thirty-eight, tersely. "I know what I'm talking
about. I was a display model in wholesale houses
io6 THE CRUCIBLE
for three years showing evening costumes, too !
Oh, I know buyers ! A decent girl simply has to
make herself a dummy, that's all. She can't afford
to have eyes and ears and feelings."
It was now quite the closing hour, and Amy con-
ducted Jean to a lower floor which looked like Kriss
Kringle's own kingdom. They came upon the floor-
walker, frowning portentously at an atom of a cash-
girl who had stopped to play with a toy which she
should have had wrapped immediately for a subur-
ban customer; but he smoothed his wrinkled front
at sight of Amy, with whom he seemed on excellent
terms. Jean looked for a rigid inquiry into her
qualifications, but after some mention of a reference,
which Amy forestalled by glibly offering her own, Mr.
Rose merely told her to report for trial Monday, at
six dollars a week, remarking in the same breath that
she had a heart-breaking pair of eyes.
Jean was puzzled.
"Do they take on everybody with no more cere-
mony than that ?" she asked, as they made their way
out. "It seems a slack way of doing things."
Amy laughed gayly.
"Not much! In some stores most, I guess
the superintendent does the hiring. I had to face
the manager of my department. You would have
had to see the manager down here, probably, if he
wasn't sick. I knew this when I struck Rosey-
posy for the place. He took you as a personal favor
to me, or that's what he said, for he's rushing me a bit.
THE CRUCIBLE 107
For my part, I think your heart-breaking eyes did it.
You don't seem to realize it, but you're a mighty
handsome girl. I didn't half appreciate it when you
wore the refuge uniform. Don't blush ! You'll get
used to it. Trust the men to tell you. Anyhow,
you've got your chance and can snap your fingers at
Meyer & Schwarzschild."
"I'll tell them to-morrow morning."
"Better wait till to-morrow night after you've
drawn your pay," counselled Amy, sagely. "Then you
needn't listen to any more back talk than you please."
Jean followed this advice, giving the forewoman
notice only when she turned from the cashier's win-
dow with her hard-earned wage safe in her grasp.
The Jewess bridled, her fat shoulders quivering.
"Place not good enough?" she queried tartly.
"I've a better one."
"With another cloak firm ?"
"No; with a department store."
The forewoman smiled sarcastically.
"Don't you fool yourself that you'll be better off.
Mr. Meyer! Mr. Meyer!" she called, raising her
voice as the son of the house made his appearance in
a doorway. "Here's another girl what's got the
Jean shrank from further explanations, particularly
with young Meyer, but he bustled up at once and put
the same questions as the forewoman.
"Which store is it ?" he continued.
She told him, and wondered why he smirked.
io8 THE CRUCIBLE
"Does Amy Jeffries work there still?" he said.
"Seems to be prospering ? Wears good clothes ?"
Young Meyer leered again.
"Come round when you're sick of it," he invited.
"Tell Amy, too. You're both good cloak-makers."
She turned from his satyr-face, vaguely disquieted.
His whole manner was an evil innuendo. The girl with
the freckles, who had called the place a sweat-shop,
went down with her in the freight-elevator and walked
beside her for a block, when they gained the street.
"I heard Jake chewin' the rag up there," she said.
"Why didn't you cuff his ears ? Anybody 'd know
to look at you that no buyer got you your position."
"What are you talking about?"
"You didn't catch on to what he was hintin' ?"
The girl gave an incredulous exclamation.
"And maybe you don't know either how Amy
Jeffries got her place ?" she added.
"She said a buyer for the firm saw her at Meyer
& Schwarzschild's and liked her looks."
"That's straight," grinned the sceptic.
Jean shook her impatiently by the arm.
" What isn't straight ?" she demanded. "You are the
one hinting now. What do you mean ? Out with it !"
But the girl squirmed out of her grasp and darted
"Ask Amy," she called.
JEAN meant to probe the mystery at the first
possible moment, but her resolve weakened in Amy's
presence. If the girl's light-heartedness did not of
itself quiet suspicion, it at least disarmed it, while
her unselfish joy at Jean's release from the thraldom
of Meyer & Schwarzschild alone made the questions
Jean had thought to put seem churlish and ungrate-
ful. Moreover, Amy was full of a plan for the even-
"I knew it was coming," she exulted. "Any-
body with a pair of eyes could see by the way he's
picked you out to talk to every night that you've
got him going. He came to me first to ask if I thought
you'd come, and when I accepted for both, he hustled
right out to get the tickets."
"What tickets?" She did not ask who was the
purchaser; she, too, had eyes.
"Tickets for the theatre a vaudeville show."
Jean's face lit.
"Vaudeville! I've often wondered what it was
"You're not telling me you've never seen a vaude-
ville show ?"
no THE CRUCIBLE
"Never. Nothing worth seeing ever came to
Shawnee Springs. Ought we to go ?"
"Do you mean, is it respectable? Sure! One
of the best in the city."
"I don't mean that. Ought we to go in this way ?
I don't know him."
"Well, I do," rejoined Amy, decisively; "and if
there's a nicer fellow between High Bridge and the
Battery, I'll miss my guess. Of course, if you want
to scare up a headache and back out, why, you can.
I'm going, anyway, and I reckon the extra ticket
won't go a-begging. The stenographer or the mani-
cure would jump at the chance."
"Would he be offended?"
"Awfully. Why, he only asked me because he
wanted you ! Next time it will be you alone."
Jean needed little coaxing. She wanted exceed-
ingly to see a New York theater, and she really liked
the breezy young dentist. It had surprised her in
their evening talks to find how much they had in
common. He, too, had spent his youth in a country
town, and, though he had migrated first to a smaller
city to study for his profession, his early impressions
of New York coincided very closely with her own.
She later discovered the same community of interest
with nearly every one so reared, but it now chanced
that none other of Mrs. St. Aubyn's boarders
or, as she preferred to call them, guests were
country-bred, and Paul Bartlett got the credit of a
readier sympathy accordingly. Thus, to-night, he
THE CRUCIBLE in
did not share Amy's rather too frequently expressed
wonder that Jean had never witnessed a vaudeville
"Never saw anything nearer to it than a minstrel
show myself, up to the time I went away to dental
college," he confessed frankly, as they set out. "We
only got 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' and 'East Lynne'
troupes in our burg. Say, but they were a rocky
aggregation ! I could see that even then."
This also struck Jean as a notable coincidence.
"It seems as if you were describing the Springs,"
she said. " But we did get a circus or two."
" Then your town beat mine," Paul laughed. " We
had to jog over to the county seat for Barnum's.
Otherwise they seem to have been cut off the same
piece of homespun. I'll bet you even had box
Jean's face suddenly lost its animation.
"Yes," she answered.
"Just about the limit, weren't they? I wonder
Newport doesn't take 'em up. They're foolish
enough. Yet I thought they were great sport once.
I used to try to change the boxes when I suspected
that some love-sick pair were scheming to beat the
game. Maybe you've done that, too?"
"Yes," Jean assented again unsteadily.
She was infuriated with herself for her involuntary
change of manner and burning face, neither of which,
she feared, had escaped his quick eye. It galled her
thoroughgoing honesty to be forever on her guard
ii2 THE CRUCIBLE
against disclosing her refuge history, yet there
seemed no help for it. Unjust though it was, the
stigma was as actual for her as for the guiltiest, and
cloak it she must.
If the dentist noticed anything amiss, he was tact-
ful and launched into an exchange of nonsense with
Amy which lasted quite to the theater's garish door.
Once within, Jean forgot that she had a past which
might not be fearlessly bared for any eye. Amy
squeezed her arm happily as they passed directly
into the body of the house instead of mounting the
stairs familiar to her feet when she paid her own way ;
and to the squeeze she added a look of transport and
awe when, following the usher, they skirted the or-
chestra and entered a narrow passage near the stage.
"We've got box seats!" she whispered huskily.
"They couldn't have cost him less than a dollar
Jean had a moment of timidity begotten of a vivid
recollection of two cramped pigeon-roosts, always
untenanted, which flanked the advertisement-littered
drop-curtain of the Shawnee Springs Grand Opera
House, but was speedily reassured to find that she
need endure no such lonely distinction here. These
boxes were many, and they held many, their own
being shared by half a dozen persons besides them-
selves, while the hangings were so disposed that she
could be as secluded as she pleased, yet miss nothing
of the play.
The play ! It was a series of plays, with endless
THE CRUCIBLE 113
other wonderful things, too. Nothing that she had
conceived resembled this ever-shifting spectacle of
laughter and tears. For there were tears real
ones ! Jean had often jeered at girls who cried over
novels, while those whom a play, or at least the Shaw-
nee Springs brand of drama, could move to tears, were
even less comprehensible; yet to-night, when a simple
little piece dealing merely with an unhappy man and
wife who, resolved to go their separate ways, callously
divided their poor belongings until they reached a
dead baby's shoes, ran its course, she found her
breath short and her cheeks wet. She was at first
rather ashamed of this weakness, attributing it to
her refuge nerves, but she presently heard Amy sob,
and, looking round, perceived handkerchiefs flutter-
ing throughout the darkened house. Paul, on her
other side, hemmed once or twice, and she supposed
him disgusted with all this ado over a baby who
never existed, but when the lights went up suddenly
she discovered that his eyes were moist, too.
She liked this trait in Paul. She was glad, further-
more, that he did not scofF afterward, as did some
men whom the acting had moved. It seemed to her
a wholesome sign that he had the courage of his
sympathies ; one could probably rely upon that type
of man. His mental alertness also impressed her
anew. For him none of the quips of the Irish or
German comedians were recondite, and he could
explain in a nutshell the most bewildering feats of
the Japanese adepts at sleight of hand. She won-
ii4 THE CRUCIBLE
dered not a little at this special knowledge, and when
they left the theatre he told her that it had been his
chief boyish ambition to become a magician.
"I drummed up subscriptions, collected bones, old
iron, and rubber for the tinman, peddled anything
under the canopy that folks would buy, all for the
sake of a little cash to get books and apparatus," he
confessed. "Once, when I was about smart sixteen,
I gave an exhibition, part magic lantern, part magic
tommyrot. I hired the village hall, mind you.
What cheek I had those days!"
Jean was keenly interested. This, too, reminded
her of the Springs and her own irrevocable playtime.
"Did people turn out?" she asked.
"Did they! I cleared twelve dollars."
"My!" jeered Amy. "I suppose you bought an
"No; they hadn't been invented yet." Returned
again to Jean. "Guess what I did buy!"
"Just as quick as I could get a money-order," he
laughed. "You're something of a wizard yourself.
You must have been a boy once upon a time."
"Yes," said Jean; "I was."
When they reached the street Paul suggested
oysters, and after a faint demurrer from Jean, which
a secret pinch from Amy abruptly quenched, he led
the way to a restaurant. The establishment he
chose had a German name, and was fitted up in a
manner which Jean took to be German also. The
THE CRUCIBLE 115
chairs and tables were of a heavy medieval design,
and matched the high paneling which surrounded
the room and terminated in a shelf bearing a curious
array of mugs and flagons. From a small dais in
one corner an orchestra, made up of a zither, two
mandolins, and a guitar, discoursed a wiry yet not
unpleasant music which seemed, on the whole, less
Teuton than American, of a most unclassical bounce
and joyousness. Paul apologized for this flaw in
an otherwise harmonious scheme, explaining that
the American patrons outnumbered the German,
but Amy patriotically declared that ragtime was
better than foreign music any day, and pronounced
the entire place as cute as it could be, which really
left nothing else to be said.
Everybody was drinking beer with his food, or,
speaking more accurately, eating a little food with
his beer, and Paul ordered two or three bottles of
the exceedingly dark variety most in vogue, which
he and Amy consumed. Amy rallied Jean upon her
abstinence, and asked if she had signed the pledge;
but Paul seemed to respect her scruples.
"Felt the same way myself once," he said.
"Whenever the good old scandal specialists up our
way saw a fellow slide into the hotel on a hot day
for a glass of lager, they thought he was piking
straight for the eternal bonfire. Naturally the boys
punished a lot of stuff they didn't want, just to live up
to their reputations. It's some different down here."
"I should say so," agreed Amy, boisterously.
ii6 THE CRUCIBLE
"Why, my stepfather began to send me out for beer
almost as soon as I could walk. The idea of its
hurting anybody ! I don't believe I'd feel it if I
drank a keg."
Paul did not seem as impressed by this statement
as were an after-theater party at an adjoining table,
and embraced a quiet opportunity to move an un-
finished bottle out of her enthusiastic reach. Jean
glowed under the scrutiny of the supper-party
opposite, and, exchanging a look with Paul, rose
presently to go. Amy objected eloquently, pointing
out that it still wanted half an hour of midnight and
that department stores did no business Sundays,
together with sundry arguments as trenchant, which
plainly carried weight with the attentive tables
roundabout, but failed to convince her companions.
Near the door she fell in with an unexpected ally
in the person of Mr. Rose, who listened to her pro-
tests quite as sympathetically as if they had not al-
ready reached him across the room, and promptly
invited them all to what he termed a nightcap with
himself. Jean declined civilly, and Amy, though
sore tempted, followed her example. Once outside,
however, she asserted her perfect independence by
walking off with Mr. Rose on his remarking easily
that he would stroll their way.
"Aching incisors!" ejaculated the dentist, grimly
watching them forge ahead. "Where did I get the
foolish idea that I was her escort ? Who is that
THE CRUCIBLE 117
"An employee in our store."
"Oh!" said Paul. "Clerk?"
"No; a floor-walker."
"Oh !" he said again, with a change of intonation
which Jean detected. "In her department?"
"No; in mine."
Amy's laugh came back shrilly through the now
sparsely frequented street.
"I shouldn't have ordered so much beer," admitted
the man. "It was too heavy for her, even if her
stepfather but let's cut that out!"
Jean herself thought that this passage from the Jef-
fries family history might better be left undiscussed.
She quickened their pace till they were close upon
Amy's too buoyant heels, and so continued to their
Amy was full of regrets that she could not at this
hour with propriety ask Mr. Rose into Mrs. St.
Aubyn's drawing-room, and as Paul inhospitably
neglected to offer his quarters, the floor-walker, with
unflagging cordiality and self-possession, took him-
"I don't cotton to Mr. Rose," said the dentist,
in a voice too low for Amy, who was already mount-
ing the stairs. "I hope you don't."
"I don't know him."
"You don't want to know him, take my word for
it. This isn't sour grapes because he butted in, mind
you. If you knew the city, I wouldn't say a word."
ii8 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean bent a frank gaze upon him under the dim
hall light. Paul met it to her satisfaction.
"Thank you for to-night," she said, giving him
her hand. "Thank you for all of it; for the theater
and the supper and for this."
Explanations with Amy were impossible now, but
the following morning, which the girls spent luxu-
riously in bed, proved auspicious. Amy's waking
mood was contrite. She owned of her own engaging
accord that she had made a goose of herself in the
restaurant, suggesting by way of defence that her
stepfather must have favored quite another kind of
beer. She as frankly conceded that the Rose episode
was indefensible, and promised ample apologies to
"He'll understand how it was," she said. "Paul's
not a Jake Meyer."
"Will Mr. Rose understand?" asked Jean,
Amy shot her a sidelong glance.
"He's not well, a Paul Bartlett."
"He isn't a Jake Meyer, either, if that's what you
mean," retorted Amy, rising on her elbow. "I
like Rosey and make no bones of telling you. What
have you got at the back of your big brown eyes
there ? Somebody has been stuffing you, I guess.
Was it some kind friend at Meyer & Schwarzschild's ?
What did they say about Rosey and me.?"
"Nothing," answered Jean, suspicious of her
THE CRUCIBLE 119
warmth ; but now told her plainly whom and what
they had mentioned.
Amy listened without surprise.
"There was bound to be some gossip," she com-
mented, at length. "I counted on it."
"You counted on it!'*
"Certainly. Jake knew the buyer's record from
A to Z, and there were others."
Jean had a moment's giddiness, and shrank from
"Did you?" she faltered.
"Of course. Do you suppose I couldn't read him
like a book after all I've been through ?"
"Yet you went just the same! You "
" I trusted to luck, and for once luck was with me.
He had a big offer from a Chicago firm, and left town
the very day I went into the cloak department. Oh,
you needn't stare," she added, with a touch of
passion. "The world hasn't been any too kind to
me, and I'm learning to beat it at its own selfish
game. Don't let it worry you."
"I can't help it."
"Then you're silly. I'm not as soft as I look.
Besides, you'll find yourself pretty busy paddling
your own canoe."
Jean fell into a brooding silence. The new life
was incredibly complex. It held possibilities before
which imagination flinched. A picture, recalled
again and again with extraordinary vividness, flashed
once more before her. She saw a camp among
120 THE CRUCIBLE
birches bordering a pellucid lake; a boyish, pacing
figure; a straightforward, troubled face confronting
her own. She evoked a voice, "To be a stranger
in New York, homeless, friendless, without work,
the shadow of that place over there dogging your
steps. ..." Every syllable, every intonation, was
ineffaceable. Where was he now, that flawless
young knight of the enchanted forest, who had stayed
her folly and changed the current of her life ? He
had promised to befriend her when, against his
counsel, she had thought to dare this unknown
world. Would he still have faith, should they meet ?
Amy's laugh caught her back to the room of three
"You looked a million miles away," she said.
"If you were another sort of girl, I'd say you were
dreaming of your best fellow. What ! Blushes !
Then you were? Was it Paul?"
"Paul!" Jean repelled the suggestion with a
pillow. "Take that!"
They said no more of the buyer he was luckily
out of the reckoning; and although Jean deemed the
dentist a wiser judge of men in general, and of floor-
walkers in particular, than Amy, she decided for the
present to side with neither, but try to weigh Mr.
Rose for herself. If Amy was skimming thin ice,
she was at least a practiced skater, with the chasten-
ing memory of a serious splash. Moreover, to recur to
Amy's metaphor, she had a canoe of her own to paddle,
as she was roughly reminded that same afternoon.
IT happened at dusk while they were returning
from Central Park, which Amy had selected as
a primary lesson in Jean's civic education. They
were homing by way of Broadway, and were well
back into the theatrical section, when Jean's guide
gripped her abruptly by the arm, dragged her into
the nearest doorway, and hurried her half up the
dark flight of stairs to which it led. Even here she
enjoined silence, pointing for explanation to the
square of pavement framed by the doorway, into
which an instant later loitered the bedizened key to
the riddle Stella Wilkes.
There was no mistaking her. For an interminable
interval she lingered, watchful of the street, so dis-
tinct under the electrics that they could even make
out her mole. Then, aimlessly as she had come, she
drifted out again and away.
"Thank my stars I saw her first that time!"
gasped Amy, still fearfully intent upon the lighted
"You knew she was in New York ?"
"Yes. I've seen her before. She came up to me
one night looking even worse than now. She was
more painted, and her eyes were like burned holes.
122 THE CRUCIBLE
She said she was broke, but had the promise of a
place. It was to sing in some gin-mill, I think.
She can sing, you know. Remember how she'd
let her voice go in chapel, just to show off? I
loaned her a dollar to get rid of her. I was afraid
somebody I knew might see us together. I think
she saw I was afraid."
"You shouldn't have let her see; it gives her a
hold on you. I shan't dodge."
Jean began consistently to descend, but Amy
caught her back.
"Wait," she pleaded. "Do wait a little longer.
Wait for my sake, if you don't care yourself. But
you'd better fight shy of her, too, I can tell you. She
hasn't forgotten the prison riot. She mentioned it
the night I saw her, and said she'd get plenty square
with you yet."
Tricked by her uncertain nerves, Jean came under
the sway of Amy's panic. They lurked cowering in
the hallway till sure of a clear coast; then, darting
forth, hurried round the first corner to a quieter
thoroughfare which Stella would be less apt to haunt.
Here, too, they continually saw her in imagination,
and sought other doorways and rounded other corners
for safety. Fear tracked them home, plucked at them
in their own street, mounted their own steps, entered
their own door, and abode with them thereafter.
Nor, for one of them at least, did the crowded weeks
next following bring forgetfulness or reassurance.
Jean was ever expecting the dreaded face to leer at
THE CRUCIBLE 123
her from the blurred horde which swam daily by
the little island in the toy department, where she
sold children's games. While she elucidated the
mysteries of parchesi or dissected maps to some
distraught mother of six, another part of the restless
mechanism of her brain was painting Stella to the
life. She pictured the outcast's vindictive joy at
running her down, heard her mouth the unspeakable
for all who would lend an ear. And who would
not ! She quailed in fancy before the gaping audi-
ence the curious shoppers, the round-eyed cash-
girls, the smirking clerks, Mr. Rose, the floor-walker.
Once, issuing from such a dream, she found her-
self face to face with Mr. Rose, who had come un-
noticed to her counter, and so clear-cut was the vision,
she merged the unreal with the real and blenched at
"Not taking morphine lunches, are you?" he
asked, leaning solicitously over the counter.
She stared hazily till he repeated his question.
"Morphine lunches! What are they?"
The man enacted the pantomime of applying a
hypodermic syringe to his arm.
"So," he said. "Some of the girls who can't
lunch at home get into the way of it. Bad thing
"Why should you suspect me of such a thing?"
demanded Jean, indignantly. "Do I look like a
"No offence intended. Noticed a queer look in
124 THE CRUCIBLE
your eyes, that's all. Stunning eyes ! I'd hate to
see 'em full of dope. Perfectly friendly interest,
She welcomed the fretful interruption of a customer,
but the woman was only returning some article, not
buying, and the transaction required the floor-
walker's sanction. When the shopper had gone her
way, he leaned to Jean again.
"If it's worry about holding your place after the
holidays," he said, "why, you can't quit it too soon.
We've watched your work, and it's all right. The
forelady says you've learned the stock quicker than
any green clerk she's had in a dog's age, and you
know she's particular. Whoever else goes, you stick."
Jean gave a long breath of thankfulness, but she
was not too happy to be practical.
"And the pay?" she asked.
"The same for the present. You're still a be-
ginner, you know."
" It is very little. The girl who had my place left
because she could not live on it, I hear."
Mr. Rose tapped his prominent teeth with a pencil.
"She said something of the kind to me," he
admitted. "She was unreasonable very. What
could she expect of six dollars ?"
The handsome saleswoman at the dolls' furniture
counter was intoning, "Oh, Mr. Rose! Oh, Mr.
Rose ! " with increasing petulance, and the floor-
walker sped to her, leaving his cryptic utterance
unexplained. Jean asked a fellow-clerk more about
THE CRUCIBLE 125
her predecessor, and learned that as she lived some-
where in the Bronx, both carfare and lunches had
been serious items. These, fortunately, she herself
need not consider. It was half the battle to feel
permanent. She could shift somehow on het present
wage till promotion came.
There was, moreover, a certain compensation in
feeling herself a factor in this great establishment
which everybody knew who had heard of New York
at all. It was a show place of the metropolis, one
of the seventy times seven wonders of the New World.
Its floor space was reckoned in acres, its roof housed
a whole city block, its capital represented millions,
its wares the habitable globe. Nothing essential
to human life seemed to be lacking. There were
scales for your exalted babyship's earthly advent;
patent foods, healing drugs, mechanical playthings
for your childish wants or ills; text-books for your
growing mind; fine feathers for your expanding
social wings; the trousseau for your marriage;
furnishings from cellar to attic for your first house-
keeping; a bank for your savings; fittings for your
office ; the postal service, the telegraph, the telephone,
lest business suffer while you shop; bronzes, carv-
ings, automobiles, steam yachts, old wines, old books,
old masters for your topping prosperity; comforts
innumerable oculists, dentists, discreet photog-
raphers, what not for your lean and slippered
decline ; and, yes, even the sad few vanities you may
take with you to your quiet grave.
126 THE CRUCIBLE
It drew rich and poor alike these days, and sooner or
later the toy department gathered them in. Though
Stella came not, there were many of familiar aspect
who did. Hardly a day passed without its greeting
from some one Jean knew. Mrs. St. Aubyn came
shopping on account of an incredible grandchild
she must remember; the bookworm for the cogent
reason that a cherubic niece brought him ; the birds
of passage to celebrate an engagement obtained at
last; the shorn lambs of Wall Street to revive fading
memories of a full pocketbook; the stenographer
and the manicure since they were women; the den-
tist because of Jean.
It was impossible to mistake Paul's reason. Her
fellow-clerks hinted it, Mr. Rose reenforced their
opinion with his own, Amy added embroidered com-
ment, and finally Paul told her explicitly himself.
On the first evening, when he appeared at her coun-
ter near the closing hour, he bought a game. At his
second call, a week later, he examined at length,
but did not purchase. The third time he said that
he had happened by; the fourth he cast subterfuge
to the winds and avowed frankly that he came to
walk home with her.
"Fact is, I'm lonesome," he explained, when they
reached the street. "Till you came I never got a
chance to talk to the right sort of girl except in the
operating chair, and that didn't cut much ice, for it
was always about teeth. Hope you don't mind my
dropping round for you once in a while after office
THE CRUCIBLE 127
hours ? It will keep these street-corner mashers
away from you and do a lot toward civilizing me."
Jean accepted his companionship as frankly as it
was tendered. There was nothing loverlike about
Paul's attitude. He was precisely the same whether
they walked alone or whether, as frequently hap-
pened, Amy came down with her to the employees'
entrance, where Jean had suggested that they meet.
His escort was doubly welcome during the last week
before Christmas when the great store kept open even-
ings, and the shopping quarter held its nightly jam.
Then, perhaps a fortnight after the holidays, she
overheard a conversation.
It was not about herself, nor among girls she
knew, nor indeed in her department; merely a scrap
of waspish dispute between two young persons of free
speech who supposed themselves in sole possession of
the cloak-room. Black Eyes remarked that she knew
very well what Blue Eyes was. She didn't belong
there; her place was the East Side. Whereupon
Blue Eyes elegantly retorted that unless Black Eyes
shut her mouth, she would smash her ugly face in.
This was evidently purely rhetorical, for when Black
Eyes waxed yet more personal, pointing out the incon-
sistent relation of fifteen-dollar picture hats to six
dollars a week, with pertinent reference to a bald
floor-walker from the carpet department who waited
for Blue Eyes every night, the only act of violence was
the slamming of a door which covered Blue Eyes's
128 THE CRUCIBLE
That evening Jean told the dentist he must come
"Suffering bicuspid!" he gasped. "What have
/ done ?" This despite her tactful best to assure him
that he had done nothing at all.
It seemed enormously difficult of explanation at
first, but when she suggested that she found the de-
partment store not unlike a small town for gossip, he
"Who has been talking?" he demanded. "If it
was that pup of a floor-walker "
"It wasn't. So far as I know, not a soul has men-
tioned my name. It's because they mustn't talk, that
Paul squared a by no means puny pair of shoulders.
"Let me catch 'em at it!" he said.
She was more watchful of her fellow-clerks there-
after. A few girls she doubted, but striking an aver-
age, they seemed as a class honest, hard-working,
and monotonously commonplace, with their loftiest
ambitions centered upon tawdry and impracticable
clothes. If a girl dressed better than her wage
warranted, as many did, it usually developed that she
lived with her parents or with other relations who gave
her cheap board. These lucky beings had also a
social existence denied to the wholly self-supporting,
of which Jean obtained a perhaps typical glimpse
through a vivacious little rattlepate at the adjoining
mechanical-toy counter, with whom friendly overtures
between customers led to the discovery that they were
THE CRUCIBLE 129
neighbors, and to a call at the three dormers. This
courtesy Jean in due course returned one evening, at
the paternal flat over an Eighth Avenue grocery,
where "Flo," as she petitioned to be called, rejoiced
in the exclusive possession of a small bedroom ven-
tilated, though scarcely illumined, by an air-shaft.
" Mother gave me this room to myself when I began
to bring in money," she explained. "I only have to
hand over two dollars a week. What's left I spend
just as I please. Father says I buy more clothes
than the rest of the family put together, and he
nearly threw a fit once when I paid twelve dollars
for a lace hat trimmed with imported flowers; but
all the same he doesn't like to see any of the girls I
go with look better than I do. Our crowd is great
for dress. How do you like my cozy corner ? I
think these wire racks for photographs are sweet,
don't you ? I have such a stack of fellows' pictures !
I wonder if you know any of them. The man in the
dress suit is Willy Larkin he's in the gents' fur-
nishing department. I put him next to Dan Evans
you know Dan, don't you ? because they're
so tearing jealous of each other. If Dan takes me to
a Sousa concert one night, Willy can't rest till he has
spread himself on vaudeville or some exciting play.
They almost came to blows over a two-step I prom-
ised both of them at the subscription hop our dancing
club gave New Year's. That tintype you're look-
ing at is one Charlie Simmons and I had taken at
Glen Island last year. Goodness ! Don't hold my
130 THE CRUCIBLE
face to the light. I'm a fright in a bathing-suit. I
do love bathing, though, but I think salt water is
packs more fun. Last summer I had enough saved
for a whole week at a dandy beach near Far Rock-
away. There was a grand dancing pavilion, and some-
times you could hear the waves above the band. I
just love the sea !"
Jean was not envious, but the girl's chatter made
her own existence outside the store seem humdrum.
Mrs. St. Aubyn's circle was more narrow than had at
first appeared. After a few dinners, it was obvious
that the landlady's talk was nearly always confined
to the food and servants, as the librarian's was limited
to the weather, the shorn lambs' to things financial,
and the stenographer's, the manicure's, and Amy's
to feminine styles, while the birds of passage, whose
side-lights upon the Profession had been diverting,
were now lamentably displaced by an insurance agent
who dwelt overmuch upon the uncertainty of human
life. It had to be admitted, also, that Paul himself
talked shop with frequency. His stories, like his
droll ejaculations, were apt to smack of the office ;
and he had a habit of carrying gold crowns or speci-
mens of bridgework in his pockets, which, though no
doubt works of art of their kind, were yet often dis-
concerting when shown in mixed company. At such
times especially, Jean would evoke that knightlier
figure, who shone so faultless in perspective, and in
fancy put him in Paul's place.
She perceived the dentist's foibles, however, with-
THE CRUCIBLE 131
out liking the essential man one whit the less, and,
in the absence of the Ideal, frequently took Sunday
trolley trips with him in lieu of the tabooed walks
from the store ; but the fear of meeting Stella made her
decline his invitations to the theater and kept her
from the streets at night. Paul took these self-
denials for maiden scruples beyond his masculine
comprehension, and was edified rather than of-
fended; but he was at first puzzled and then hurt,
when, as spring drew on, the outings also ceased.
Jean was evasive when questioned, while Amy looked
knowing, but was too loyal to explain. The stenog-
rapher or the manicure or, for that matter, any normal
woman could, if asked, have told him that Jean was
merely ashamed of her clothes.
It was largely because Paul misunderstood that
Jean resolved no longer to wait passively for pro-
motion. Six dollars a week had their limitations,
since five went always to Mrs. St. Aubyn for board.
Yet, out of that scant margin of a sixth, she had
somehow scraped together enough to replace what
she had used of Mrs. Fanshaw's grudging contribu-
tion, the whole of which she despatched to Shawnee
Springs in a glow of wrathful satisfaction that cheered
her for many days. Nevertheless, the want of it
pinched her shrewdly. Those ten dollars would have
helped spare the refuge suit, which, fortunately
black, did duty seven days in the week and looked it,
too, now that the mild days began to outnumber the
raw, and other girls bloomed in premature spring
132 THE CRUCIBLE
finery. Many of the bargains which the great store
was forever advertising would have aided in little
ways, but the management was opposed to its em-
ployees' profiting by these chances.
During the continued ill health of the department
manager, Mr. Rose still wielded an extended au-
thority, and to him, accordingly, Jean made her
appeal, overtaking him on his way to the offices one
evening when the immense staff was everywhere
hurrying from the building. The carpet and up-
holstery department, where they talked, was ever a
place of mufHed quiet, even with business at high tide,
and, save for an occasional night-watchman, they
seemed isolated now. Rose heard her out, lounging
with feline complacency upon a soft-hued heap of
Oriental rugs, while his eyes roamed her eager face
with candid approval.
Jean saw with anger that he no longer attended.
"You are not listening," she reproached. "Can't
you appreciate what this means to me ? Look at
my shoes ! They're all I have. Look at this suit !
It's my only one. I've saved no money to buy other
clothes it's impossible. You say I'm efficient
pay me living wages, then. I can't live on what you
give me. I've tried and I've failed failed like the
girl before me."
The floor-walker slid smiling from the rug pile.
"She was inconceivably plain," he said; "but
you " He spread his white hands in futile search
THE CRUCIBLE 133
"Never mind my looks, Mr. Rose," Jean struck in
curtly. "I am talking business."
"So am I, my dear. I'm pointing out your re-
She did not take his meaning fully, his leer not-
withstanding, and he drew his own interpretation
of her silence.
"You know we don't lack for applicants here," he
continued. "There are a dozen girls waiting to
jump into your shoes. We expect our low-paid girls
to have additional means of support. Some of them
have families ; others but you're no fool. There
are plenty of men who'd be glad to help you out.
Why don't you arrange things with that young den-
tist ? Or" his smile grew more saccharine "if
that affair is off, perhaps I "
Then something transpired which he never clearly
understood. It was plain enough to Jean. In the
twinkling of an eye she was again an athletic box-
ing tomboy, answering to the name of Jack, before
whose scientific "right" Mr. Rose dropped with
crumpled petals to the floor.
JEAN stood over him an instant, her anger still at
white heat, but the floor-walker had had enough of
argument and only groveled cursing where he fell.
Leaving him without a word, she swept by a grinning
night-watchman and turned in at the adjacent offices,
whither Rose himself was bound. She had learned
the ways of the place sufficiently by now to know that
members of the firm often lingered here after the
army which served them had gone, and she was
determined that her own story should reach them
first. But the office of the head of the firm was
dark, and the consequential voice which answered
her knock at the door of a junior partner, where a
light still shone, proved to be that of a belated
As she turned uncertainly away, Rose, nursing a
swelling eye, again confronted her.
"Thought you'd take it to headquarters, did you ?"
he said. "I advise you to drop it right here."
He recoiled as she advanced, and warded an im-
aginary blow, but she only passed him by contemptu-
"Are you going to drop it ?" he asked, following to
THE CRUCIBLE 135
the stairs. "I don't want to see you get into trouble,
for all your nasty temper. I'm willing to overlook
your striking me."
His persistence only fixed her resolution to expose
him, and she hurried on without reply.
"Two can play at that game," he warned over the
In the street she paused irresolutely. The man
would, of course, protect himself if he could, and her
own story should reach some member of the firm to-
night. If she waited till morning, Rose could easily
forestall her. Yet she had become too sophisticated
not to shrink from the idea of trying to take her griev-
ance into one of those men's homes. Only the other
day she had picked up a trashy paper containing a
shop-girl story, warmly praised by Amy, which nar-
rated an incident of the kind. The son and heir of
a merchant prince so the author styled him -
had cruelly wronged the beautiful shop-girl, who,
after harrowing sorrows, took her courage in her
hands and braved the ancestral hall. She gained
an entrance somehow (details were scanty here) and
confronted the base son and heir at the climax of a
grand ball at which the upper ten and other numerals
were assembled to do honor to his chosen bride.
Jean had seen the absurdity of the picture as Amy
could not. Things did not fall out this wise in real
life. The beautiful shop-girl would never have
gotten by the merchant prince's presumably well-
trained servants, even if she had eluded the specially
136 THE CRUCIBLE
detailed policeman at the awning, and Jean judged
that her own chances would be as slender.
Nevertheless, there seemed to be nothing left her
but to try. She consulted a directory in the next
drugstore and copied out the home addresses of the
several members of the firm. One of the junior
partners seemed to live nearest, though not within
walking distance, and at this address she finally
arrived at an hour when, judging Fifth Avenue by
Mrs. St. Aubyn's, she feared she would find her em-
ployer at dinner. She recognized the house as one
which Amy had pointed out with an air of proprietor-
ship on their first Sunday walk, and she reflected
with misgiving that it was a really plausible setting
for the drama of the beautiful shop-girl, did such
An elderly butler convinced her that this was her
own drama. He was not unbearably haughty, a
vast quantity of polite fiction to the contrary; and if
he scorned her clothes, he did not let the fact appear.
His manner even suggested decorous regret that the
master of the house was not at home. Jean went
down the steps, wondering whether this were an ar-
tistic lie, but, happily for the servant's reputation,
an electric cab at this moment drew up at the curb and
dropped the man she sought. She recognized him
at once, for of all the firm he had the most striking
presence, looking very like the more jovial portraits
of Henry VIII. Unlike the Tudor king, however,
he was said to be happily married and of domestic
THE CRUCIBLE 137
tastes. He paused, giving her a keen look, when he
perceived that she meant to accost him.
"I just asked for you," Jean said. "I wanted to
speak to you about something at the store."
"You are one of our employees ?"
"Yes. I am a salesgirl in the toy department.
I wish to make a serious complaint."
"A complaint? Your own department is the
proper channel for that."
"I cannot ask the man to judge himself " returned
He gave her another sharp look.
" Oh," he said, with a change of tone. " Come in."
Then, to the elderly butler, who during this interval
had held the door ajar with an air of not listening,
Jean seemed to recall that the beautiful shop-
girl had encountered a "study," which could have
been no more luxurious than this. She queried,
while she waited, what the library and more preten-
tious apartments could be like. The room seemed
to her of regal splendor. It was paneled and cross-
beamed, and a fireplace in keeping with the archi-
tecture well-nigh filled one end wall. The light
fell from a wonderful affair of opalescent glass
which gave new tones to the oriental fabrics under-
foot and added richness to the lavishly employed
mahogany. No other wood had been permitted
here. It glowed dully from beam, panel, and cornice ;
from the mantel, the bookshelves, the carved cabi-
138 THE CRUCIBLE
net concealing a safe; from the massive, griffin-
legged desk at which the owner of it all, as florid as
his taste, presently took his seat.
"Now, then," he said, "tell me explicitly what you
She omitted nothing. Her listener followed her
closely and once, when she gave Rose's version of the
firm's policy, he shook his head dissentingly, but
whether in disbelief of herself or in condemnation of
the floor-walker, she could not guess.
"This is a grave accusation," he said, when she
had done. "It involves not only Mr. Rose, who,
let me say, has always been most efficient, but the
good name of the whole establishment."
"That is one reason why I came."
"Of the whole establishment," repeated the junior
partner, as if she had not spoken. "Was there a
third party present?"
"There was a watchman near by, but he couldn't
have heard what was said."
"You are quite sure you did not misunderstand
"And were not prejudiced against him in advance ?
Floor-walkers as a class have often been maligned."
Jean reflected carefully.
"I can't say no to that," she owned frankly. "A
friend had a poor opinion of him and said so before
I began work, but J tried not to let that influence
THE CRUCIBLE 139
"But it did?"
"A little, perhaps. I admit I've never liked him."
For a time the big man under the drop-light trifled
absently with a paper-knife.
"We'll take this matter up, of course," he said
presently. "If we need a housecleaning, we'll
have it; but I can't believe that things are radically at
fault. No department store in the city is more con-
siderate of its people. We were among the first to
close Saturday afternoons in midsummer; we offer
liberal inducements for special energy during the
holidays; we have provided exceedingly attractive
lunch-rooms; we even hope, when trade conditions
permit, to introduce a form of profit sharing. What
more can we do ?"
Jean supposed his rhetorical query personal.
"You might pay better wages," she suggested.
"Then things like this wouldn't happen."
For the fraction of a second King Henry wore one
of his less amiable expressions. It suggested behead-
ing or long confinement in the Tower. Then, imme-
diately, it was glossed by modernity.
"There you trench upon economic grounds," he
rejoined heavily. "I wish we might inaugurate a
lecture course for our employees, to elucidate the
principles which govern a great business. The law
of supply and demand, the press of competition, the
necessity for costly advertising, these and countless
other considerations, which we at the helm appreciate,
never enter the shop-girl's head."
140 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean was overborne by these impressive phrases.
They had never entered her head, certainly, and she
was not altogether sure why they should.
"We only ask a living," she said.
"But you shouldn't. We want the girl who asks
pin-money, the girl who lives with her family. Have
you no family yourself, by the way ?"
"My mother is living."
"Is she dependent upon you in any way ?"
"Is she able to provide for you ?"
"Then why doesn't she ?"
Jean's eyes snapped.
"Because I won't let her."
Her listener shrugged.
"The modern woman!" he lamented. "But
this is beside the question. We pay as others pay.
If a girl thinks it insufficient, let her find other
work. So far, I uphold Mr. Rose. His further ad-
vice as you report it is another matter. As I
have said, we will take it up."
He touched a bell and rose, and Jean followed the
elderly servant to the door. The impetus which
had brought her here had subsided into great weari-
ness of body and spirit, but she went down the
avenue not ill satisfied. She had had her hearing.
She had spoken, not for herself alone, but in a meas-
ure for others. Moreover, the man's bluff candor
seemed an earnest that justice would be done. Pre-
THE CRUCIBLE 141
cisely what form justice would take, she did not
Near her own door she met Paul on anxious
lookout for her.
"I was beginning to imagine a fine bunch of
horrors," he said. "Amy hadn't a ghost of a notion
what was up."
"I did not tell Amy I should be late," Jean
replied. She offered no explanations, but Paul's
concern was grateful after what she had under-
gone, and she added, "I'm sorry you worried."
He eyed her narrowly, pausing an instant at the
"Any need for a man of my build ?" he inquired.
"Why do you ask that?"
"Because I think you're in trouble. If I can
"No, no," she returned hastily. " But thank you."
"Something has happened?"
"Yes; at the store. I can't very well explain it."
"Oh," said Paul, as if explanations were needless.
"I'm not so sure I couldn't be useful."
She felt that he divined something of what had
transpired, his knowledge of the floor-walker being
perhaps fuller than her own, but he said no more.
Jean was singularly comforted by his attitude, espe-
cially since Amy's, as presently defined, left much
to be desired. She seemed less amazed at Rose's
behavior than at Jean's active resentment.
"I wouldn't have struck him," she said.
I 4 2 THE CRUCIBLE
"What would you have done?"
"I I don't know. At any rate, not that. A
girl has to put up with a lot."
"I presume you wouldn't have reported him,
either?" Jean flung out bitterly.
"No; I didn't I mean I wouldn't."
" I think you meant just what you said first, Amy,"
she cried. "Has he told you the same thing ?"
"N-no," she began; "that is"
"And you did nothing?"
"I didn't dare do anything. I don't see how you
dared. It's too big a risk."
"I would have risked more in keeping quiet. I
simply had to take it higher up."
"But you said Mr. Rose offered to let it drop,"
Amy timidly reminded. "You could have done
"That!" She had no words to voice her
They went to bed and rose again in an atmosphere
of constraint, and Jean walked to her day's work
alone. She dreaded meeting Rose, and apprehended
another interview with the junior partner, an ordeal
which wore a more forbidding aspect by day. But
neither happened. The floor-walker did not appear
in the toy department at all, though some one had
THE CRUCIBLE 143
seen him enter the building. It was rumored that
he was ill.
Toward the end of the afternoon Jean noticed
that she had become an object of some interest to
the forewoman, and wondered hopefully if this
influential personage had marked her for promotion.
Her pay-envelope, for it was Saturday, shortly fur-
nished a clew to the mystery in the shape of a neat slip
informing her that her services were no longer
"I'm to answer questions if you have any," the
forewoman told her, shortly; "but I guess you
The girl turned a chalky face upon her.
"But I don't"
"Then you're slower than I thought. The firm
has looked you up, that's all."
Jean realized the monstrous injustice of it but
"I don't see," she faltered.
"Bosh !" cut in the woman, impatiently. "Don't
try to flimflam me. Lord knows what kind of game
you were working, but you had more nerve than
sense. You might have guessed when you tried to
put your bare word against Mr. Rose's that they'd
make it their business to find out just what your word
was worth. Your last employer told them."
"Told them what?" blazed Jean.
"What do you suppose ? That you'd done time in
a reformatory, of course."
IN her dark hour came Paul.
"I know," he said, hunting her out in the corner
of the melancholy drawing-room where she sat
Sunday afternoon with absent eyes upon "The
Trial of Effie Deans." "Some of it I guessed, and a
little more filtered from Amy via Mrs. St. Aubyn, but
I got the finishing touch from a man in the store."
"The store!" Jean had a moment of acute dis-
may ; she would fain leave Paul his illusions. "What
"A chap in the drug department I do work for
now and then. He turned up at the parlors this
morning. We're open Sundays from 'leven to one,
Then, the refuge spectre had followed here ! She
could not look him in the face. But Paul's next
"He didn't mention names, but I put two and two
together quick enough when he told me that one of
their new girls knocked out a fresh floor-walker the
other night. I was proud I knew you."
"Did he know of my my discharge ?"
THE CRUCIBLE 145
"You didn't mention it yourself?" Jean faltered.
"Or my name ?"
Paul's look was sad.
"That's a shade lower down than I think I've got,"
he observed loftily. "A man who'd lug in a lady
friend's name under such circumstances wouldn't
stop at the few trifles that still feaze me. He
why, he'd even gold-crown an anterior tooth!"
She hastened to mollify him, relieved beyond
measure that his chance informant knew nothing
of the real reason for her dismissal. Amy could be
trusted to conceal it for her own sake. Then Paul
stirred her anxiety afresh with a request.
"I want to polish off Mr. Rose," he said, doubling
his fist suggestively. "You made a good beginning,
but the pup needs a thorough job. I know where he
boards he told me that night he butted in; and
if you'll just let me call round as a friend of yours "
"No, no. Promise me you won't!"
" But he needs it," argued the dentist, plaintively.
"I'd also like, if it could be managed, to say a few
things to the head of the firm."
"Indeed you mustn't," cried Jean. "Promise
me you'll say nothing about it in any way !"
"Can't I even tell Rose what I think?"
"Never. I've got to accept this thing and make
a new start. I must forget it, not brood over it.
You mustn't thrash him, you mustn't tell him what
you think above all, you mustn't go to the firm.
Promise me you won't!"
I 4 6 THE CRUCIBLE
"All right," he assented, manifestly puzzled. "A
girl looks at things differently. I've got another
proposition, though, which I hope you won't veto.
Any prejudice against dentists, present company
"No," smiled Jean.
"Some folks have, you know. Can't understand
it myself. Why isn't it as high-toned to doctor teeth
as it is to specialize an inch higher up, say, on the
nose ? Yet socially the nose-specialist gets the glad
hand in places where the dentist couldn't break in
with a Krupp gun. It makes me hot. But enough
said along that line just now. What I started in to
tell you is that there's an opening at the parlors."
"For me a girl?"
" For a girl ? " Paul pretended to weigh this handi-
cap gravely. "Of course, a lady assistant is generally
a man, but still "
Jean was unfamiliar with this adjunct of modern
"What must she do?" she asked.
" Be a lady and assist. That sums it all up. Some
old fogies would specify thirty summers and a homely
face, but I believe in a cheery office straight through.
We've been looking round for the right party lately
the girl who has the berth now is going to be married ;
but it never occurred to me to offer it to you until
to-day. It would mean eight dollars a week right
at the start, and a raise just as soon as they appreciate
what an air you give the whole place. There'd be
THE CRUCIBLE 147
more still in it if you liked the work well enough to
"Branch out? In what way?"
"Operating-room. At first you'll act as secretary
and cashier, receive patients, and see that the hulk
of a janitor keeps the parlors neat. Then, if you get
on as I think you will, you'll very likely have an
assistant yourself, and put in most of your time
elsewhere. A clever girl can be no end of help in
the operating-room. Say, for instance, I'm doing
a contour filling, which, let me tell you, needs an
eagle-eye and the patience of a mule. Well, while
I pack and figure how to do an artistic job, you
anneal gold and pass it to me in the cavity. See
what I mean ? One bright little woman we had for
a while drew thirty-five a week, but she was a trained
Jean had doubts of her usefulness amid these
technicalities, but the office work sounded simple,
and she caught thankfully at the chance.
The dentist waved aside her gratitude.
"I'm simply doing a good stroke of business for
the Acme Painless Dental Company," he said. "I'll
tell Grimes in the morning that I've located the right
party, Grimes is the company, by the way, the
whole painless ranch, and you can drop in later
and cinch the deal."
Jean's thoughts took a leap ahead to ways and
means, and she drew a worn shoe farther beneath
i 4 * THE CRUCIBLE
"You're sure I'll do?" she hesitated.
"You! I only wish you could see some of the
procession who've answered our ad." Then, al-
most as if he read her mind, he added with unwonted
bashfulness: "If I were in your place, I'd borrow
Amy's black feather boa for your first call. It suits
you right down to the ground."
She took the hint laughingly. There were more
things than the boa to be borrowed for the conquest
of Grimes. She was touched by Paul's transparent
diplomacy, and glad that in his slow man's way he
had at last perceived why their outings had ceased.
So, by grace of Paul and Amy, it fell out before
another week elapsed that the affianced lady assist-
ant of the Acme Painless Dental Company left
to prepare for her bridal, and Jean reigned in her
The company's outworks on Sixth Avenue were
a resplendent negro and a monumental show-case,
both filled with glittering specimens of the painless
marvels accomplished within. The African wore a
uniform of green and gold, and all day forced adver-
tisements into the unwilling hands of passers-by,
chanting meanwhile the full style and title of the
establishment in a voice which soared easily above
the roar of the elevated trains overhead. Passing
this personage, you mounted a staircase whose every
step besought you to remember the precise where-
abouts of the parlors, while yet other placards of like
import made clear the way at the top and throughout
THE CRUCIBLE 149
the unmistakable corridor leading to the true and
only Acme Painless Dental Company's door.
Entering here to the trill of an electric bell, you came
full upon the central office, or, as the leaflets read, the
elegant parlor, from which the operating-rooms led
on every hand. In character this apartment was
broadly eclectic. Jean's special nook, with its
telephone, cash-register, and smart roll-top desk,
was contemporary to the minute; yet in the corner
diagonally opposed, a suit of stage armor jauntily
bade the waiting patient think upon knights, jousts,
and the swashbuckling Middle Ages. In still another
quarter a languorous slave girl of scanty raiment, but
abundant bangles, postured upon a teak-wood
tabouret, backed by way of further realism with
Bagdad hangings and a palm of the convenient
species which no frost blights and an occasional
whisk of the duster always rejuvenates. The chairs
were frankly Grand Rapids and built for wear,
though the proprietor's avowed taste ran to a style
he called "Lewis Quince"; and the gilt he might not
employ here he lavished upon the frames of his pic-
tures, which, nearly without exception, were night-
scenes wherein shimmering castle windows or the
gibbous moon were cunningly inlaid in mother-of-
pearl. In the midst of all this, now pacifying the
waiting with vain promises of speedy relief, now
pottering off into this room or that in as futile attempts
to make each of several sufferers believe his blunder-
ing services exclusive big, easy-going, slovenly,
yet popular moved Grimes.
150 THE CRUCIBLE
Of the operating-rooms, which by no means
approached the splendor of the parlor, the next best
to Grimes's own was Paul Bartlett's, for Paul was
a person of importance here. Of the four assistant
dentists, he was at once the best equipped and the
best paid, receiving a commission over and above
his regular thirty-five dollars a week. The more
discriminating of the place's queer constituency coolly
passed Grimes by in Paul's favor, but the elder man
was not offended. A month or so after Jean's
coming he even offered his clever helper a partner-
ship, which Paul unhesitatingly declined. He was
ambitious for an office of his own, when his capital
should permit, and he planned it along lines which
would have fatigued his slipshod employer to con-
"It's all too beastly bad," he told Jean, in answer
to her query why he did not accept Grimes's offer
and insist on reform. "You'd simply have to burn
the shop from laboratory to door-mat. To advertise
as he does is against the code of dental ethics, and his
practice ought to be jumped on by the board of
health. Look at this junk!" he added, shaking an
indignant fist under the nose of the slave girl. " Lord
knows how many good dollars it cost, and yet we
haven't got more than one decent set of instruments
in the whole shebang. I reach for a spatula or a
plugger that I've laid down two minutes before, and
I find it's been packed off by old Grimes to use on
another patient. As for sterilizing faugh ! You
THE CRUCIBLE 151
could catch anything here. How he's shaved through
so far without a damage suit euchres me."
"Yet I like him," said Jean.
"So do I. So does everybody. And he's getting
rich on the strength of it."
"I'm getting rich on the strength of it, too," Jean
laughed. "Next week I shall really be able to put
money in the bank."
Better paid, better dressed, with easy work and
not infrequent leisure to read, she felt that at last
she had begun to live. Her position long retained a
flavor of novelty, for the dental company's patrons
were infinitely various and furnished endless topics
of interest to herself and Paul. They usually went
to and from Mrs. St. Aubyn's together, and as the
summer excursion season drew on, their Sunday
pleasurings began to flourish afresh. Sometimes
Amy joined them, but more often she made labored
excuses, and they went alone. Jean thought her
more secretive and reserved than of old, and Paul,
too, remarked a change.
"How did you two get chummy?" he asked
abruptly, after one of Amy's declinations. "You're
not at all alike."
"Chums are usually different, aren't they?" Jean
said, her skin beginning to prickle.
"Not so much as you two. You're a lady and she
well, she isn't. Known her some time?"
"Where did you meet ? You were certainly green
152 THE CRUCIBLE
to the city when you struck our house. Amy's
an East Sider Simon-pure."
"It was in the country. Amy stayed in the coun-
"No, no. Another place."
"Was that where you knew Miss Archer?"
Jean turned a sick face upon him, but Paul's
own countenance was without guile.
"I've overheard you and Amy mention her once
or twice," he explained.
"Yes," she stammered. "We both knew her
"Out of breath ?" he said, still too observant. "I
thought we were taking our usual gait."
She blamed the heat and led him to speak of other
things, but the day was spoiled. She debated
seriously whether it were not wise to make a clean
breast of her refuge history, but Paul's belief in her
unworldliness had its sweetness, and the fit chance
to dispel his illusion somehow had not come when
Stella, for weeks almost forgotten, so involved the coil
that frankness was impossible.
MOTLEY as were the dental company's patrons,
Jean never entertained the possibility of Stella's
crossing the threshold, till her coming was an accom-
plished fact. Luckily she happened to be elsewhere
in the office when the bell warned her that some one
had entered, and she was able, accordingly, to sight
the caller with her admiring gaze fixed upon the
slave girl. Her own retreat was instant and blind,
and by a spiteful chance took her full tilt into the
arms of Paul.
"What's up?" he demanded, holding her fast.
"What's happened to you?"
She was dumb before his questions. He noticed
her pallor and helped her into the nearest operating-
"There is a patient waiting," she got out at last.
"You're the first patient," he said; and brought
smelling-salts, which he administered with a liberal
hand. "You girls eat a roll for breakfast and a
chocolate caramel for lunch, and then wonder why
She finally persuaded him to leave her on her
promising that she would not stir till his return, and
he went in her stead to receive Stella, whom he
154 THE CRUCIBLE
brought to a room so near that almost every word
was audible. Stella had evidently visited the par-
lors before. She addressed Paul familiarly as
"Doc," spoke of other work he had done for her, and
lingered to make conversation after he had fixed an
appointment. The dentist's responses were cool and
perfunctory, and in leaving she chaffed him on having
lost his old-time sociability.
He returned with a red face to find Jean outwardly
"Better?" he said awkwardly.
Paul fidgeted with the mechanism of the chair.
"As long as you're O.K. now," he went on, "I'm
not sorry you missed that party. That's the worst
of Grimes. He caters to all sorts. You heard her
talk, I suppose ?"
He furtively studied her face. " I hope you don't
think we're as friendly as she made out?"
Paul looked greatly relieved.
"I bank a lot on what you think," he said. "You're
the kind of girl who makes a fellow want to toe the
"Don't," she entreated, writhing under his praise.
"You rate me too high."
"Too high!" He laughed excitedly and caught
her hand when she moved to go. "You didn't mind
my telling you?" Then, without awaiting a reply,
THE CRUCIBLE 155
he blurted : "There's a heap more to say. I want to
take you out of all this away from such riffraff
as the girl you didn't see; I want I want you,
She tried to speak, but he read refusal in her
troubled eyes and cut her short.
" Don't answer now," he begged. " I didn't expect
to tell you this so soon. I don't expect you to say yes
straight off. I'm not good enough for you, Lord
knows, but nobody could care more. Promise me
you'll think it over. Promise me that, anyhow."
She would have promised anything to escape.
Again at her desk, she strove to think things out, but
from the whirl of her thoughts only one fixed pur-
pose emerged : she must know the day and hour of
Stella's intended return, for this detail had escaped
her. Making some excuse, therefore, when Paul
came for her at closing time, she watched him to the
street and then hurried to search his operating-room
for the little red-covered book in which his personal
appointments were kept. It was not in its usual
place, however, nor in his office-coat behind the door,
nor in any possible drawer of the cabinet. He had
evidently slipped it into some pocket of the suit he
She dragged home in miserable anxiety, pinning
all her hopes on obtaining a glance at the book while
the dentist was at dinner; but this plan failed her,
too, since that night, contrary to his custom, Paul
made no change in his dress. The book was in his
156 THE CRUCIBLE
possession. Of this she was certain, for a corner of
its red binding gleamed evilly at her from beneath
his coat. Once, in an after-dinner comparison of
biceps, which the insurance agent inaugurated in the
hall, the thing actually fell to the floor at her feet,
only to be noted by a watchful chorus before she
might even think of advancing a casual ruffle. She
devised a score of pretexts for asking Paul to let her
see it, any one of which would have passed muster
before his enamored eyes, but she dismissed each as
too flimsy and open to suspicion; and so, before a
safe course suggested itself, the evening was gone,
and she climbed her three flights to spend hours in
horrid wakefulness succeeded by even more merciless
Fate was kinder on the morrow. Paul laid the
appointment-book upon an open shelf of his cabinet
in the course of the forenoon, and she seized a
moment when he was scouring the establishment for
one of his ever-vagrant instruments, to wrest its
secret at last. She found the record easily. It was
among the engagements for that very day: "Miss
Wilkes, 11-11.30." The little clock on the cabinet
indicated ten minutes of eleven now !
She evaded Paul, who was returning, caught up
her hat, and telling Grimes that she was too ill to
work that day which the big incompetent sym-
pathetically assured her he could see for himself
fled in panic to the stairs only to behold Stella's
nodding plumes already rounding the sample show-
THE CRUCIBLE 157
case below. Fortunately she was mounting with
head down, and it took Jean but an instant to dart
for the staircase to the floor above, from whose
landing, breathless, lax-muscled, yet safe, she fol-
lowed Stella's rustling progress to the dental com-
pany's door. When she cautiously descended, the
hall reeked with a musky perfume from which she
recoiled as from a physical nearness to the woman
Luncheon brought Paul and questions which she
answered, as she could, from behind her closed door.
He had no suspicion of the real cause of her sudden
leaving, ascribing her indisposition, as yesterday,
to insufficient nourishment, and joined his imagina-
tion to Mrs. St. Aubyn's, and that of the proprietor
of a neighboring delicatessen shop, in the heaping
of a tray whose every mouthful choked. It tortured
her to brazen out this deception, but unaided she
could see no other way, and advisers there were
none. She might have confided in Amy, had the need
arisen earlier; but Amy was become a creature of
strange reserves and silences.
She left her room at evening and braved the galling
solicitude of the dining room. Mrs. St. Aubyn was
for extracting her precise symptoms, and led a dis-
cussion of favorite remedies, to which nearly all
contributed some special lore, from the librarian,
who swore by a newspaper cholera mixture, to the
bankrupt, whose panacea was Adirondack air. Paul
refrained from the talk, perceiving that Jean wished
158 THE CRUCIBLE
nothing so much as to be let alone. He was more
silent than she had ever known him at table, and she
twice surprised him in a brown study, of which Amy
was seemingly the subject. Dinner over, he brought
about a tete-a-tete in an upper hall, a meeting made
easy by the boarders' summer custom of blocking
the front steps in a domestic group, of which Mrs.
St. Aubyn, watchful of other clusters obviously less
presentable, was the complacent apex.
"I didn't trot out a remedy downstairs," he said,
"but I've got one all the same. It's a vacation."
" But - ' Jean began.
"No 'buts' in order. I've got the floor. It's a
vacation you need, and it's a vacation you'll have.
Grimes has arranged everything. You're to have a
week off, beginning to-morrow, and your pay will
go on same as ever."
"This is your doing."
"No," he disclaimed; "it's Grimes's. I only told
him it would do you more good now than in August.
It was due you anyhow."
"But I'm not sick," she protested. "I can't let
you think I am. It's not right to deceive "
"The question now before the house," Paul calmly
interposed, "is, Where do you want to spend it?
How about Shawnee Springs?"
"Thought not. You never mention the Springs
as though you pined to get back. Ever try Ocean
Grove, where the Methodists round up ? "
THE CRUCIBLE 159
"Then why don't you ? There's more fun in the
place than you'd think. They can't spoil the ocean,
and Asbury Park is just a stone's throw away when-
ever the hymns get on your nerves. I mention
Ocean Grove, because Mrs. St. Aubyn's sister has a
boarding-house there Marlborough Villa, she calls
it where she'll take you cheap, coming now before
the rush. I'll run down Sunday and see how you're
He had an answer for every objection, and in the
end Jean let herself be persuaded, although to yield
here seemed to imply a tacit assent to other things
she was wofully unready to meet. The future
stretched away, a jungle of complexity. Perhaps the
sea, the real sea she had never beheld, for Coney
Island did not count, would help her think it out.
Early the following morning the dentist saw her
aboard the boat.
"You'll not mind if I come down ?" he asked.
She smiled "No" a little wanly, but he went away
content. Sunday would be crucial, she foresaw. He
would press for his answer then, and she Per-
haps the salt breeze would shred these mists.
But neither the breeze, full of the odor of sanctity,
which cooled encamped Methodism, nor the secular,
yet not flagrantly sinful, atmosphere of the twin
watering-place, had aided much when the week-end
brought Paul to solve the riddle for himself.
Many things allied in his favor. In the first place,
160 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean was unfeignedlv glad to see him, as the agitated
J O , O O
veranda rockers of Marlborough Villa bore witness.
In a world which she had too often found callous,
Paul Bartlett, for one, had proved himself a practical
friend. She felt a distinct pride in him, too, as he
withstood the brunt of the veranda fire; a pardon-
able elation that, in a social scheme overwhelmingly
feminine, she led captive so presentable a male.
Again, Paul was tactful in following up his wel-
come. His only concern Saturday evening, and
throughout Sunday till almost the end, was seemingly
to give her pleasure. Sometimes she played the
cicerone to her own discoveries : now a model of
Jerusalem, its Lilliputian streets littered with the
peanut shucks of appreciative childhood; the pavilion
where free concerts were best; the bathing-beach
where the discreetly clothed crowd was most divert-
ing; or a little lake, remote from the merry-go-
rounds and catch-penny shows, which she secretly
preferred to all. Or Paul would display the results
of his past researches. He knew an alley in one of
the great hotels, where she had from him her first
lesson in the ancient game of bowls ; a catering es-
tablishment whose list of creams and ices exceeded
imagination ; and a drive Sunday morning this
past opulent dwellings, whose tenants they com-
miserated, to an old riverside tavern overhung by
Sundown found them watching the trampling surf
from the ramparts of their own sand-castle, which
THE CRUCIBLE 161
Paul, guided by her superior knowledge of things
mediaeval, had reared. The transition from sand-
castles to air-castles was easy, and presently the man
was mapping his future.
" Grimes wants me to renew our contract," he said.
"It runs out October first, you know. But I think
it's up to me to be my own boss. I've got what I
needed from the dental company practical expe-
rience. If I stay on, I may pick up some things I
don't need, just as the other fellows finally drop into
old Grimey's shiftless ways. I don't want to take
any of his smudge into my office. He can keep his
gilt gimcracks and his slave girl and his bogus armor.
A plain reception-room, but cheerful, I say; and an
operating-room that's brighter still. Canary or two,
maybe ; plants real plants and fittings strictly
up to date. Electricity everywhere, chair best in
the market, instruments the finest money will buy,
but out of sight. No chamber of horrors for me !
As for location, give me Harlem. I know a stack of
folks there, and I like Harlem ways. I've even looked
up offices, and I know one on a 'Hundred-and-twenty-
fifth Street that just fills the bill. Well, that's part
of the programme."
Jean was roused from visions of her own.
"I know you'll succeed," she said.
"That's part of the programme," he repeated; then,
less confidently: "The other part includes a snug
little flat just round the corner, where a fellow can
easily run in for lunch. I don't mean a bachelor's
i6z THE CRUCIBLE
hall. I mean a bona-fide home, with a wife in it
a wife named Jean!"
He was a likable figure clean-cut, earnest,
manly as he waited in the dusk, and the home he
offered had its appeal. Marriage would solve many
problems. She would be free of the grinding struggle
for a livelihood, which the stigma of the refuge made
dangerous. She would be free of the fear of such
vengeance as Stella could wreak. If the need arose,
it would be a simple matter, once they were married,
to tell Paul the truth of things. His love would make
light of it. As for her love But what was
love ? Where in life did one meet the rose-colored
dream of fiction ? Love was intensified liking, and
Paul, as has been recorded, was a likable figure
clean-cut, earnest, manly as he waited in the dusk.
Yet, even then, recurred a still undimmed picture
wherein, against a background of forest birches,
there shone an indubitable hero of romance.
JEAN shrank from the congratulations of the board-
ing-house and the office, and they decided at the out-
set to keep their engagement to themselves.
"Not barring your mother, of course," Paul
amended. "To play strictly according to Hoyle, I
expect I ought to drop her a line. What do you
"It won't be necessary," Jean said.
The dentist sighed thankfully.
"Glad to hear it. The chances are she'd say no,
straight off the bat, if I did. Letter-writing isn't my
long suit. What will you say about a proposition
like me, anyhow?"
"Nothing? Least said the better, eh?"
"I mean I'm not going to write."
"Not at all?"
"Not till we are married. I will write home then."
Paul whistled meditatively.
"Mind telling why?" he queried. "Can't say
that this play seems according to Hoyle, either."
Jean's real reason was rooted in a fear that Mrs.
Fanshaw's erratic conscience might be capable of a
motherly epistle to Paul, setting forth the refuge his-
164 THE CRUCIBLE
tory. So she answered that she and her family
were not in sympathy, and was overjoyed to find that
Paul thought her excuse valid.
"I know just how you feel," he said. "My gov-
ernor and I could never hit it off. But about writing
your mother: we'll need her consent, you know.
You're still under twenty-one."
"I come of age September tenth."
"But we want to be married the third week in
"We can't," said Jean; and that was the end of it.
This postponement notwithstanding, it seemed to
her that she fairly tobogganed toward her marriage.
Even before her return to work, Paul notified Grimes
of his intention to shift for himself after October and
leased the office of which he had told her. With the
same energy, of which he gratefully assured her she
was the dynamo, he promptly had her hunting Har-
lem for the little flat, just around the corner, of his
imaginings. For so modest a thing, this proved
singularly elusive, and it took a month of Sundays,
besides unreckoned week-day explorations, before
they lit finally upon what they wanted, in a building
so new that the plumbers and paper-hangers still
overran its upper floors.
The "Lorna Doone" was an apartment house.
The prospectus said so; the elevator and the hall
service proved it. Mere flats have stairs and ghostly
front doors which unseen hands unlock. Mere flats
have also at times an old-fashioned roominess which
THE CRUCIBLE 165
apartments usually lack; but as Paul, out of a now
ripe experience with agents and janitors, justly re-
marked, they have no tone. This essential attribute
- the agents and janitors agreed that it was essen-
tial seemed to him to exhale from the Lorna
Doone with a certainty not evident in many higher-
priced buildings whose entrances boasted far less
onyx paneling and mosaic. Besides tone or, more
correctly perhaps, as a constituent of tone, this edifice
had location, which Jean was surprised to learn was
a thing to be considered even in this happily unfash-
There was Harlem and Harlem, it appeared;
and taught partly by Paul, partly by the real estate
brokers, she became adept in the subtle distinctions
between streets which seemingly differed only in their
numerals. For example, there was a quarter, the
quarter to be accurate, once called Harlem Heights,
which now in the full-blown pride of its cathedral,
its university, and its hero's mausoleum, haughtily
declared itself not Harlem at all. They had scaled
this favored region in their quest, admired its parks,
watched the Hudson from its airy windows, and hoped
vainly to find some nook their purse might com-
mand ; but they had to turn their steps from it at last.
This glimpse of the unattainable was a strong, if not
controlling, factor in their final choice.
"We can't be hermits and live in a hole," Paul
argued. "I know a big bunch of people here al-
ready, and we'll soon know more. We've got to
i66 THE CRUCIBLE
hold up our end. Nice name we'd get in our club
if we didn't entertain once in a while like the rest."
"Our club!" she echoed. "We're to join a club ?"
"Sure. Bowling club, I mean. Everybody bowls
in Harlem. We must think about the office, too.
It's the women who make or break a dentist's prac-
tice, and sooner or later they find out how he lives
and the kind of company he keeps."
After a reflective silence he frightened her by ask-
ing abruptly whether she remembered a loud girl
who had come to the dental parlors for an appoint-
ment the day of her first illness.
"The chatty party who thought I wasn't sociable,"
he particularized. "Her name's Wilkes."
"Well, she came back," pursued the dentist,
slowly. " I filled a tooth for her the next morning.
She had a good deal to say."
She brought herself to look at him. If the past
must be faced now, she would meet it like the honest
girl she was. But Paul's manner was not accusing,
and when he spoke again, it was of neither Stella nor
"How much does Amy get a week ?" he asked.
She told him, and he nodded as over a point proved.
"Would it surprise you to hear that she draws
five dollars less ? That does surprise you, doesn't
" How do you know ? "
"My drug-department patient told me long ago.
THE CRUCIBLE 167
I didn't think much about it at the time, for some girls
dress well on mighty little; but when well, the
long and short of it is, that Wilkes woman knows
Jean pulled herself together somehow. Amy's de-
fense was for the moment her own.
"Need that condemn Amy?" she said.
"Of course not," returned Paul judiciously. "It
might happen to you, or anybody. Perhaps she
says she knows me. It's the way she came to know
her that counts. The Wilkes girl got very confiden-
tial when I left her mouth free. She had tanked up
with firewater for the occasion, and it oiled her tongue.
I didn't pay much attention until Amy Jeffries's name
slipped out, but I listened after that. I thought it
was due you."
"And she said ?"
"She said a lot I won't rehash, but it all boils down
to the fact that they both graduated from the same
She must tell him now! White-faced, miserable,
she nerved herself to speak.
"Paul!" she appealed.
He was instantly all concern for her distress.
"Don't take it so hard," he begged. "She isn't
"You don't understand. I I knew."
"You knew what ?"
"About the reformatory. I once told you I
met Amy in the country."
i68 THE CRUCIBLE
"Well," the confession came haltingly, "it was the
refuge I meant. I met her at the refuge."
She waited with eyes averted for the question which
should bare all. Instead, she suddenly felt Paul's
caress and faced him to meet a smile.
"You are a trump!" he ejaculated. "To know
all the while and never give her away !"
He had not understood ! Trembling like a re-
prieved criminal, she heard him go on to complete his
" I was going to ask you to let Amy slide after we
were married," he said, "but if you believe in her this
much, I reckon she's worth helping. I don't suppose
all refuge girls are of the Wilkes stripe."
The crisis past, she half regretted that she could
not have screwed her courage to the point of a full
confession, but this feeling was transitory. Paul
rested content with his own explanations and talked
of little else than their flat, and she, too, presently
found their home-building absorbing.
A more minute inspection of the Lorna Doone,
after the signing of the lease, revealed that the outer
splendor had its inner penalties.
"Looks like a case of rob Paul to pay Peter, this
trip," said the dentist. "Peter is the owner's first
name, you know. The woodwork is cheap, the bath-
tubs are seconds, and the closets, as you say, aren't
worth mentioning. I'll gamble the building laws
have been dodged from subcellar to cornice. I hear
THE CRUCIBLE 169
he has run up a dozen like it, and every blessed one
on spec. That's why we're getting six weeks' rent
free. It's anything to fill the house and hook some
sucker who hankers for an investment and never
suspects the leases don't amount to shucks."
"Ours doesn't. Why, the man as much as told
me to clear out when the building changes hands, if
Jean looked round the bright little toy of a kitchen
where they stood.
"I shan't want to leave," she said. "It already
seems like home."
It seemed more and more a home as their prepara-
tions went forward. They were not supposed to
enter into formal possession till late in August, but
the complaisant owner gave Paul a key some weeks
before and made no objection to their moving in any-
thing they pleased. So it fell out that their modest
six-rooms-and-bath in the Lorna Doone became in a
way a sanctuary to which they went evenings when
they could, and made beautiful according to their
It was a precious experience. Such wise planning
it involved ! Such ardent scanning of advertisements,
such sweet toil of shopping, such rich rewards in mid-
summer bargains ! They did not appreciate the
magnitude of their needs till an out-of-the-way store,
which fashion never patronized, put them concretely
before their eyes in a window display. In successive
170 THE CRUCIBLE
show-windows, each as large as any of their rooms
at the Lorna Doone, this enterprising firm had de-
ployed a whole furnished flat. Furthermore, they
had peopled it. In the parlor, which one saw first,
a waxen lady in a yellow tea-gown sat embroidering
by the gas-log, while over against her lounged a waxen
gentleman in velvet smoking-jacket and slippers
a most inviting domestic picture, even though its at-
mosphere was somewhat cluttered with price-
"That's you and me," said Paul, tenderly ungram-
Jean was less romantically preoccupied.
"I'd quite forgotten curtains," she mused.
"They'll take a pretty penny."
Thereupon the dentist discovered things which he
"We must have a bookcase," he said. "That
combination case and desk certainly looks swell.
What say to one like it ?"
"Have you any books?"
"I should smile. I've got together the best little
dental library you can buy."
"Then you'll keep it at your office," decided Jean,
promptly. "When we have a library about some-
thing besides teeth, we'll think about a case."
The shopkeeper's imaginative realism extended
also to the other rooms. Real fruit adorned the din-
ing room buffet; the neat kitchen was tenanted by a
maid in uniform, whom they dubbed "Marie" and
THE CRUCIBLE 171
agreed that they could do without; while in one of
the bedrooms they came upon a crib whose occupant
they studiously refrained to classify.
"But for kitchenware," said Paul, abruptly, "the
five-and-ten-cent stores have this place beaten to a
With this, then, as a working model, to which Paul
was ever returning for inspiration, they made their
purchases. It was, of course, his money in the
main which they expended, but Jean also drew gen-
erously on her small hoard. They vied with each
other in planning little surprises. Now the dentist
would open some drawer and chance upon a kit of
tools for the household carpentering, in which his
mechanical genius reveled; or Jean would find her
kitchen the richer for some new-fangled ice-cream
freezer, coffee-machine, or dish-washer which, in
Paul's unvarying phrase, "practically ran itself."
They derived infinite amusement also from the
placing and replacing of their belongings a far
knottier problem than any one save the initiate may
conceive, since the wall spaces of flats, as all flat-
dwellers know, are ingeniously designed to fit noth-
ing which the upholsterer and the cabinet-maker
produce. Luckily they discovered this profound
law early in their buying, though not before Paul,
adventuring alone among the " antique " shops of
Fourth Avenue, fell victim to an irresistible bargain in
the shape of a colonial sideboard which, joining forces
with an equally ponderous bargain of a table, block-
172 THE CRUCIBLE
aded their little dining room almost to the exclusion
Half the zest of all this lay in its secrecy; for al-
though the boarding-house suspected a love-affair, -
and broadly hinted its suspicions, it innocently
supposed their frequent evenings out were spent at
the theaters. Quite another theory prevailed at the
Lorna Doone, however, as Jean learned to her dis-
may one Sunday when she was addressed as "Mrs.
Bartlett" by the portly owner, whom they passed in
the entrance hall.
"Oh, they've all along taken it for granted we're
married," said Paul, carelessly. "I thought it was
too good a joke to spoil."
Jean did not see its humor.
"We must explain," she said.
"And be grinned at for a bride and groom !
What's the use ? It will be true enough two weeks
She privily decided that she would undeceive the
owner at the first opportunity, but the chance to
speak had not presented itself when far graver hap-
penings brushed it from her thoughts as utterly as if
it had never been.
AMY had, in fairness, to be told as August waned.
To Jean's suggestion that very likely either the
stenographer or the manicure would be glad to share
the room of the three dormers, she replied that she
could easily afford to keep it on by herself while she
" It won't be for long," she vouchsafed airily. " In
fact, I'm going to be married myself."
Jean's arms went round her instantly, the restraint
of months forgotten.
"And you've never breathed a word!" she re-
"No more have you," retorted Amy, glacial under
" I know, I know. But you have seemed so differ-
ent. You have kept to yourself, and I thought "
"You thought I wasn't straight," Amy took her up
bitterly as Jean hesitated. "I knew mighty well
what was in your mind every time I got a new shirt-
waist or a hat."
"You weren't frank with me."
"I couldn't be."
"I don't see why."
"Because," she wavered, melted now, "because
you are you, so strait-laced and and strong. I've
174 THE CRUCIBLE
always been afraid to tell you just how things stood."
"Afraid, Amy ? Afraid of me !" Jean felt keenly
self-reproachful. "I am horribly sorry. Heaven
knows I haven't meant to be unkind. I've found my
own way too hard to want to make things worse for
anybody else, you above all. You believe me, don't
"Then be your old self, the Amy who made friends
with me in Cottage No. 6. Who is he ? Any one I
"You've met him."
"I have! Where?"
Amy's color rose.
"Remember the night you struck New York?"
"And the traveling man who jollied you ?"
"Well," she faltered, "he's the one. His name is
Jean was too staggered for a prompt response, but
Amy was still toiling among her explanations.
"You mustn't think anything of his nonsense that
night," she went on. " It was only Fred's way. He's
a born flirt. You couldn't help liking him, Jean, if
you knew him."
Jean met her wistful appeal for sympathy, woman-
wise. Words were impossible at first. By and by,
when she could trust herself to speak, she wished
THE CRUCIBLE 175
"Does he know ?" she added.
Amy's fair skin went a shade rosier.
" My record, you mean ? Nobody knows it better.
Don't you don't you catch on, Jean ? He was the
- the man !"
"He! You've taken up with him again! The
man who saw your stepfather send you to the refuge
and never lifted a finger "
"Who let his child"
"Stop, I tell you!" She barred Jean's lips pas-
sionately. "You see! Is it any wonder I couldn't
bear to tell you ? I wish to God I'd never said a
Jean stared blankly at this lamb turned lioness.
"Forgive me," she begged. "Perhaps I don't
"Understand! You!" She laughed hysterically.
"Yet you're going to be married ! If you loved Paul
Bartlett, you'd understand."
"You must not say that."
"Then don't say things that hurt me. Under-
stand ! If you did, you would know that it would
make no difference if he was rotten clear through.
But he's not. Fred never knew about the baby. He
cried when he heard cross my heart, he did. He
said if he'd known but what's the use of digging
up the past ! He is trying to make up for it now.
He's been trying ever since we ran across each other
again. It was in the cloak department he caught sight
i 7 6 THE CRUCIBLE
of me," she digressed with a pale smile. "I was
wearing a white broadcloth, sable-trimmed evening
wrap, and maybe he didn't stare ! He couldn't
do enough for me. That's where the new clothes
came from. I could have had money if I'd wanted it
money to burn, for he makes a lot; but I wouldn't
touch it. It would have looked oh, you see for
yourself I could not take money. You don't sell
love, real love, and God knows mine is real ! I've
never stopped loving him. I never can."
She, too, it appeared when she grew more calm,
aspired to be mistress of a flat.
"Though not at the start," she continued. "Fred
wants to board at first. He says I've had work
enough for one while. I said I shouldn't mind that
kind of work, but he is dead set on boarding, till I've
had a good long rest. Fred can be terrible firm.
But by and by we're to keep house, and you'll be
able to tell me just what to do and buy. You will,
won't you, Jean?" she ended anxiously. "You'll
stick by me ?"
"Yes," Jean promised.
"And you'll come to see me afterward? Say
"Yes, I'll come."
"And you won't let Fred suspect that you've heard
about about everything ? I want him to see that
I know a girl like you. I've talked to him about
you, but I've never let on that you're a refuge girl
yourself. Promise me you will be nice to him!"
THE CRUCIBLE 177
Amy kissed her fervently.
"This makes me awful happy," she sighed. "I
think a heap of you, Jean. Honest, I do. You
come next to Fred."
As a proof of her affection she presently bought a
wedding gift of a pair of silver candelabra which she
could ill afford, and which Jean accepted only because
she must. These went to flank Grimes's gift for he
was party to the secret now a glittering timepiece
for their mantel, densely infested with writhing yet
cheerful Cupids, after the reputed manner of his ad-
mired " Lewis Quince." Mrs. St. Aubyn's contribu-
tion was a framed galaxy of American poets : Bryant,
Emerson, Longfellow, Whittier, Lowell, Holmes,
and Walt Whitman, the last looking rakishly jocular
at the Brahminical company in which he found him-
self thus canonized.
Everything was finally in place at the Lorna
Doone, and with the actual beginning of their lease-
hold Paul moved his personal chattels from Mrs.
St. Aubyn's to the flat, and slept there nights. This
was the twenty-fifth of August. A week later Jean
climbed the Acme Painless Dental Company's sign-
littered stairway for her last day's service. She was
a little late, owing to a fire which had impeded traffic
in a near-by block, and the morning's activity at the
parlors was already under way. She busied herself
first, as usual, at her desk, sorting the mail which the
postman had just left. In addition to the office
178 THE CRUCIBLE
mail there were personal letters for Grimes and the
various members of the staff, which she presently be-
gan to distribute, reaching Paul's operating-room last
The dentist was at work, but he glanced up when
she entered and sent her a loverlike look over his
patient's head. No creature with eyes and a rea-
soning brain could have misread it, and the occupant
of the chair, who had both, squirmed to view its ob-
ject; but Paul threw in a strategic "Wider, please,"
and held the unwilling head firmly to the front.
"Chuck them anywhere, Jean," he directed, his
glance dropping to her hand.
Her obedience was literal; the next instant the
letters strewed the rug at his feet. With the enun-
ciation of the name, the patient twisted suddenly
from Paul's grasp, and Jean found herself staring full
into the malignant eyes of Stella Wilkes.
Paul first found voice.
"We'll go on, Miss Wilkes," he said, his gaze still
intent upon the tragic mask, which was Jean.
Stella waved him aside.
"Hold your horses, Doc," she rejoined coolly.
"I've met an old friend."
"Do you know each other?" It was to Jean he
put the question.
Stella answered for her.
"Do I know Jean Fanshaw!" Sure of how
matters stood between these two, sure also of her
own role in the drama, she sprang from the chair
THE CRUCIBLE 179
and bestowed a Judas kiss upon Jean's frozen cheek.
"Do I know her! Why we're regular old pals!"
Freed somehow from that loathsome touch, Jean
stumbled to her desk. Patients came and went, the
routine of the office ran its course; her share in the
mechanism got itself mechanically performed; yet,
whether she sped or welcomed, plied the cash-register,
receipted bills, or soothed a nervous child, some spite-
ful goblin at the back of her brain was ever whispering
the shameful tale which Stella was pouring out in that
inner room. Those lies would be past Paul's for-
getting, perhaps even past his forgiving, say what she
might in defense. His look at Stella's kiss had been
ghastly. What was he thinking now !
Then, when her agony of suspense seemed bear-
able no longer, came Stella, her pretense of friendship
abandoned, her real vengeful self to the fore.
"I guess we're square," she bent to whisper, her
face almost touching Jean's. "I guess we're
She vanished like the creature of nightmare she
was, but the nightmare remained. Paul would de-
mand his reckoning now. He would come and stand
over her with his accusing face and ask her what this
horror meant. She could not go to him, she felt, or
at least unless he sent. But throughout that endless
forenoon the dentist kept to his office, though twice
there were intervals when she knew him to be alone.
Her lunch hour and his came at last. She
lingered, but still Paul delayed. At last, driven by
180 THE CRUCIBLE
an imperative craving to be done with it, she hurried
to his room and found it empty. Grimes told her
that he had seen Paul leave the place by a side door.
The news was a dagger-thrust in her pride. Of a
surety, now, he must seek her.
Between five o'clock and six, a dull hour, he came,
woebegone and conciliatory.
"For God's sake, clear this up," he begged.
"Haven't you anything to say ?"
"A great deal, Paul. But first tell me what that
woman said about me."
"But what else?"
"Nothing!" The thing was incredible.
"Only that you'd probably be glad to explain
At that half her burden fell. Stella's cunning had
overreached itself. She had thought to rack her vic-
tim most by forcing her to betray herself, but she had
reasoned from the false premise that Jean had a
truly shameful past to conceal.
"Glad," she repeated. "Yes, I am glad. I should
have told you some day, Paul. It's a long story."
The door opened to admit a caller with a swollen
"To-night, then ?" said the dentist, hurriedly.
"Yes," she assented. "I will tell you to-night."
"At the flat?"
"Yes; at the flat."
THE CRUCIBLE 181
Spurred on by her unrest, she reached the Lorna
Doone before Paul had returned from his evening
meal, and found the flat in darkness. She was re-
lieved that this was so. It would give her a quiet
interval in which to turn over what she meant to say.
She entered the little parlor and seated herself in an
open window where a shy midsummer-night's breeze,
astray from river or sound, stole gently in and out
and fingered her hair. It was wonderfully peaceful
for a city. The sounds from below the footsteps
on the pavement, the cries of children at play under
the young elms lining the avenue, the jests of the
cigar-store loungers, the chatter of the girls thronging
the soda-fountain at the corner druggist's, the jingle
of bicycle bells, the beat of hoofs, the honk of occa-
sional automobiles, even the strains of a hurdy-
gurdy out-Heroding Sousa one and all ascended,
mellowed by distance to something not unmusical
and cheerily human. She realized, as she listened,
that the city, not the country, this city, this very
corner, this hearth which she and Paul had pre-
pared, was at last and truly home.
Presently she heard Paul's latch-key in the lock
and his step in the dark corridor.
"You here?" he called tonelessly. "Better have
a light, hadn't we ?"
" It is cooler without," she answered. Even though
her explanations need not fear the light, she thought
obscurity might ease their telling.
With no other greeting, the dentist passed to the
i8 2 . THE CRUCIBLE
window opposite hers, slouched wearily into a chair,
and waited in silence for her to begin.
Jean told her story in its fullness : her tomboy girl-
hood, the hateful family jars, the last quarrel with
Amelia, her sentence to the refuge, her escape, return,
riot-madness, and release, and the inner significance
of her late struggle for a living against too heavy odds.
She told it so honestly, so plainly, that she thought
no sane being could misunderstand; yet, vaguely
at first, with fatal clearness as, ending, she strained
her eyes toward the dour shadowy figure opposite,
she perceived that she had to deal with doubt.
"Do you think I am holding something back?"
she faltered, after a long silence. "Must I swear
that I've told you the whole truth ?"
The man stirred in his place at last.
"I guess an affidavit won't be necessary," he re-
She endured another silence impatiently, then rose
proudly to her feet.
"I'll say it for you," she flashed. "This frees
you of any promises to me, Paul. You are as free as
if you had never made them. Go your own way :
I'll go mine. It it can't be harder than the one
I've come. Good-by."
He roused himself as she made to leave.
"Hold on, Jean," he said, coming closer. "I
guess we can compromise this thing somehow."
"Compromise! I have nothing to compromise."
" Haven't you ? " He laughed harshly. " I should
THE CRUCIBLE 183
say but let that pass. Of course, after what's
turned up, you can't expect a fellow to be so keen to
" I've told you that you are free," she interrupted.
" But I don't want to be free altogether. We
could be pretty snug here, Jean. The parson's
rigmarole doesn't cut much ice with me, and I don't
see that it need with you. They think downstairs
we're married. That part's dead easy. As for
Grimes and the rest "
She had no impulse to strike him as she had the
floor-walker. Waiting in his folly for an answer, the
man heard only her stumbling flight along the corri-
dor and the jar of a closing door.
YET, an hour later, Paul came seeking her at Mrs.
St. Aubyn's, and, failing, returned in the morning
before she breakfasted. Unsuccessful a second
time, and then a third, he wrote twice, imploring her
not to judge him by a moment's madness.
Jean made no reply. Moved by the eloquent
memory' of Paul's many kindnesses and with the
charity she hoped of others for herself, she did him the
justice to believe him better than his lowest impulse.
But while she was willing to grant that the Paul who,
in the first shock of her revelation, thought all the
world rotten, was not the real Paul, she would not
have been the woman she was, had his offense failed
to bar him from her life. Her decision was instinc-
tive and instant, requiring no travail of spirit, though
she could not escape subsequent heart-searchings
whether she had unwittingly laid herself open to
humiliation and a scorching shame that the dentist,
or any man, could even for a moment have held her
Necessity turned her thoughts outward. The mar-
riage plans had all but devoured her savings, and
while she was clothed better than ever before, she
lacked ready money for even a fortnight's board.
THE CRUCIBLE 185
Immediate employment was essential, yet, when can-
vassed, the things to which she might turn her hand
were alarmingly few. After her experience with
Meyer & Schwarzschild, she was loath to go back to
her refuge-taught trade except as a last resort, while
department-store life, as she had found it, seemed
scarcely less repellent. At the outset it was her hope
to secure somewhere a position like her last, but the
advertisements yielded the name of only one dentist
in need of an assistant, and this man had filled his
vacancy before she applied. Thereafter she roamed
the high seas of "Help Wanted: Female" without
chart or compass.
The newspapers teemed with offers of work for
women's hands. The caption "Domestic Service"
of course removed a host of them from consideration,
and the demand for stenographers, manicures, and
like specialized wage-earners disposed of many others ;
but, these aside, opportunity still seemed to beckon
from infinite directions. Thus, the paper-box in-
dustry clamored for girls to seam, strip, glue, turn
in, top-label, close, and tie; the milliners wanted
trimmers, improvers, frame-makers, and workers in
plumage and artificial flowers; the manufacturers
of shirt-waists and infants' wear called for feminine
fingers to hemstitch, shirr, tuck, and press; deft
needles might turn their skill toward every conceiv-
able object from theatrical spangles to gas-mantles;
nimble hands might dip chocolates, stamp decorated
tin, gold-lay books, sort corks, tip silk umbrellas,
1 86 THE CRUCIBLE
curl ostrich feathers, fold circulars, and pack every-
thing from Bibles to Turkish cigarettes.
But this prodigious demand, at first sight so promis-
ing, proved on close inspection to be limited. Be-
ginners were either not wanted at all or, if taken on
trial, were expected to subsist on charity or air.
Experience was the great requisite. Day after day
Jean toiled up murky staircases to confront this stum-
bling-block; day after day her resources dwindled.
Amy was keenly sympathetic and pored over the
eye-straining advertisement columns as persistently
as Jean herself.
"How's this?" she inquired, glancing up hope-
fully from one of these quests. ' ' Wanted : Girl or
woman to interest herself in caring for the feeble-
"I tried that yesterday."
"They only offered a home."
" And with idiots ! They must be dotty themselves."
Then Jean, ranging another column, thought that
she detected a glimmer of hope.
"Listen," she said. "'Wanted: Girl to pose for
society illustrations.' Do you think there is any-
thing in this ?"
" Too much," returned Amy, sententiously . " Don't
answer model ads. It isn't models those fellows want
any more than they are artists. Real artists don't
need to advertise. They can get all the models they
want without it. I never thought to mention posing.
THE CRUCIBLE 187
Why don't you try it ? You have got the looks, and
it's perfectly respectable."
"Is it?" rejoined Jean, dubiously. "I thought
this advertisement sounded all right because it says
"It's just as proper to pose nude, if that's what
you're thinking about. I know the nicest kind of a
girl who does. Her mother is paralyzed. But
that's only one branch of the business, and it's all
respectable. Why, you'll find art students themselves
doing it to help along with their expenses. I know
what I'm talking about, because I've posed."
"Just a little. It was for an artist who boarded
here a while before you came. He moved uptown
when he began to get on, and now you see his pictures
in all the magazines. I was a senator's daughter
in one set of drawings and a golf-girl in a poster.
It's easy work as soon as your muscles get broken in,
and it stands you in fifty cents an hour at least.
The girl I told you of sometimes makes twenty-five
or thirty dollars a week, but she poses for life classes ;
they're in the schools, you know. I made up my
mind to go into it once."
"Why didn't you?"
Amy laid a derisive finger on her tip-tilted nose.
"Here's why/' she laughed. "It was this way:
The artist who used to board here told me of another
man who paid three or four models regular salaries.
He did pictures about Greeks and Romans, and all
1 88 THE CRUCIBLE
those girls had to do, I heard, was to loaf round in
pretty clothes, and once in awhile be painted. I went
up there one day and it certainly was a lovely place,
just like a house in a novel I'd read called 'The Last
Days of Pompey-eye.' A girl was posing when I
came, and, if you'll believe me, that man had rigged
up a wind-machine that blew her clothes about just
as though she was running a race. Well, I didn't
stay long. The artist he was seventy-five or
eighty, I should say, and grumpy turned me side-
ways, took one look at my nose, and said I was too
old, nineteen hundred years too old ! He thought he
was funny. Somebody told me afterward that he
was a has-been and couldn't sell his pictures any
With the idea that posing might answer as a stop-
gap until she found some other means of support,
Jean forthwith visited an agency whose address Amy
furnished. She found the proprietor of this enterprise
a jerky little man with a disquieting pair of black eyes
which thoroughly inventoried her every feature,
movement, and detail of dress.
"Chorus, front row, show-girl, or church choir?"
he demanded briskly.
" I thought this was a model agency," Jean said ;
"I wish to try posing if "
"Right shop. What line, please?"
"You don't follow me. Fashion-plate, illustrat-
ing, lithography, or commercial photography. "
THE CRUCIBLE 189
"I'm not sure," she hesitated, bewildered by this
unexpected broadening of the field. "What can I
The little man waved his arms spasmodically.
"Might as well ask me what the weather'll be next
Fourth of July," he sputtered. "See that horse
there?" pointing out of his window at a much-
blanketed thoroughbred on its way to the smith's.
" How fast can he trot ? You don't know ! Of course
you don't. How much can you earn ? I don't
know. Of course I don't. You see my point ?
Same case exactly. Illustrators pay all the way
from half a dollar to a dollar and a half an hour.
Camera-models make from one dollar to three. And
there you are."
"I've had no experience."
" That's plain enough. Sticks out like a sore thumb.
But you don't need any. Fact, you don't. That's
the beauty of the business. Appearance and gump-
tion, they're the cards to hold. You've got appear-
ance. A girl has to have the looks, or I don't touch
her fee. Fair all round, you see. If a girl's face or
get-up is against her, I've no business taking her
money. If an illustrator says, 'Send me up a model
who looks so and so/ that's just the article he gets.
First-class models, first-class illustrators, there's
"I need work at once," Jean stated. "What is
" Prime. You ought to fill the bill for a man who
igo THE CRUCIBLE
'phoned not two minutes before you walked through
the door. High-class artist, known everywhere,
liberal pay. There needn't have been any delay
whatever, if you'd thought to bring your father or
Jean's rising spirits dropped dismally at this re-
"My father is dead," she explained. "My
mother lives in the country."
"Then get her consent in writing. Means time, of
course, and time's money, but it can't be helped."
"Is it absolutely necessary ? "
"You'll have to have it to do business with me,"
replied the agent, beginning to shuffle among his
"But my mother knows I am trying to earn a
living," she argued. " Besides, I'm nearly of age.
I shall be twenty-one next week."
"Drop in when you get your letter," directed the
little man, inflexibly. "Minor or not, I make it a
rule to have parents' consent. Troubles enough in
my line without papa and mamma. Good day."
Outside the door Jean decided upon independent
action. This last resource was at once too attractive
and too near to be relinquished lightly. The idea
of obtaining Mrs. Fanshaw's consent was prepos-
terous, even if she could bring herself to ask it the
term "artist's model" conveyed only scandalous sug-
gestions to Shawnee Springs; but there was noth-
ing to prevent her hunting employment from studio
THE CRUCIBLE 191
to studio. Amy had mentioned the address of the
illustrator whom success had translated from Mrs.
St. Aubyn's world, and to him Jean determined
to apply first.
Her errand brought her to one of the innumerable
streets from which wealth and fashion are ever in
retreat before a vanguard of the crafts of which
wealth and fashion are the legitimate quarry, and to
a commercialized brownstone dwelling with a mo-
diste established in its basement, a picture-dealer
tenanting its drawing-room, and a mixed population
of artists, architects, and musicians tucked away
elsewhere between first story and roof. She found
the studio of Amy's acquaintance readily, and obey-
ing a muffled call, which answered her knock, pushed
open the door of an antechamber that had obviously
once done service as a hall-bedroom. Here she
hesitated. The one door other than that by which
she entered led apparently into the intimacies of the
artist's domestic life, for the counterpane of a white
iron bed, distinctly visible from her station, outlined
a woman's recumbent form.
"In here, please," called the voice. "I'm trying
to finish while the light holds."
On the threshold Jean had to smile at her own un-
sophistication. The supposed bedroom was a detail
of the studio proper, the supposed wife a model
impersonating a hospital patient who held the centre
of interest in a gouache drawing, to which the illus-
trator was adding a few last touches by way of accent.
i 9 2 THE CRUCIBLE
" I see you don't need a model," Jean said, with a
smile inclusive of the girl in the bed.
He scrutinized her impersonally, transferred a
brush from mouth to hand, and caught up a bundle
"No," he decided, more to himself than Jean.
"It's another petite heroine, drat her! But I'd be
glad to have you leave your name and address,"
he added, indicating a paint-smeared memorandum
book which lay amidst the brushes, ink-saucers, and
color-tubes littering a small table at elbow. "I
may need your type any day."
Jean complied, thanked him, and turned to go.
"Try MacGregor, top floor Malcolm Mac-
Gregor," he suggested. "Tell him I said to have a
look at your eyes."
Much encouraged, she mounted two more flights,
knocked, and, as before, let herself in at an uncere-
monious hail. This time, however, she passed
directly from hall to studio, coming at once into an
atmosphere startling in its contrast to the life she left
behind. MacGregor's Oasis, one of the illustrator's
friends called it, and the phrase fitted happily. The
rack of wonderfully chased small arms and long Arab
flintlocks; the bright spot of color made upon the
neutral background of the wall by some strange
musical instrument or Tripolitan fan; the curious
jugs, gourds, and leathern buckets of caravan house-
keeping; the careless heaps of oriental stuffs and
garments from which, among the soberer folds of a
THE CRUCIBLE 193
barracan or camel's-hair jellaba, one caught the
red gleam of a fez or the yellow glow of a vest wrought
with intricate embroideries; the tropical sun-helmet,
MacGregor' s own, its green lining bleached by
the reflected light of Sahara sand; the antelope
antlers above the lintel; the Soudanese leopard skins
under foot these and their like, in bewildering
number and variety, recalled the charm and mystery
of the African desert which this man knew, loved,
and painted superlatively.
MacGregor himself, whom she found at his easel,
was, despite his name, not Scotch, but American,
with seven generations of New England ancestors
behind him. Tall, thin-featured, alert, and appar-
ently in his late thirties, he had the quizzical, shrewdly
humorous eye which passes for and possibly does
express the Connecticut Yankee's outlook upon life.
In nothing did he suggest the artist.
" I'll be through here in no time, if you'll take a
chair," he said, when Jean had repeated the other
Her wait was fruitful, for it emphasized most
graphically the dictum of the agent that gumption
was fundamental in the successful model's equipment.
The man now posing for MacGregor in the character
of an aged Arab leading a caravan down a rocky
defile, was mounted upon nothing more spirited
than an ingenious arrangement of packing-cases,
but he bestrode his saddle as if he rode in truth the
barb which the canvas depicted. He dismounted
I 9 4 THE CRUCIBLE
presently and disappeared in an adjacent alcove
from which he shortly issued a commonplace young
man in commonplace occidental garb, [who pocketed
his day's wage and went whistling down the stairs.
MacGregor turned to Jean.
"I do want a model," he said. "I want one bad.
By rights I should be painting over yonder," his
gesture broadly signified Africa, " but my market,
the devil take it ! is here. So I'm hunting a model.
I have had plenty come who look the part (which
you don't) even Arabs from a Wild West show; but
I've yet to strike one who has any more imagination
than a rabbit. I tell you this frankly because it's
easy to see you're not the average model. That is
why I asked you to wait. The model I'm looking
for must work under certain of the Arab woman's
restrictions. Out there" his hand again swept
the Dark Continent "you never see her face, as
you probably know. You glimpse her eyes, if
they're not veiled; you try to read their story. If
even the eyes are hidden, you find yourself attempt-
ing to read the draperies. Do you grasp my diffi-
culty ? I want some one who can express emo-
tions not only with the eyes, but without them.
Now you," he ended, with a note of enthusiasm,
"you have the eyes. Don't tell me you haven't the
"I won't if I can help it," she assured him.
He caught up a costume which lay upon a low
THE CRUCIBLE 195
divan, and ransacked a heap of unframed canvases
that leaned backs outward against the wall.
"This sketch will give you a notion how the dress
goes," he said, and carried his armful into the alcove.
When she reentered the studio, MacGregor was
arranging a screen of a pattern Jean had never seen.
"It was made from an old lattice," he explained,
placing a chair for her behind it. "I picked it up
in Kairwan. This little door swings in its original
position. You are looking now from a window
a little more than ajar, so from which generations
of women, dressed as you are dressed, have watched
an Arab street."
He passed round to the front of the screen and
studied her intently.
"Eyes about there," he said, indicating a rose-
water jar upon a low shelf. "Expression," he
paused thoughtfully. "How shall I tell you what I
want you to suggest from the lattice ? Don't think
of those women of the Orient. You can't truly con-
ceive their life. Think of something nearer home.
Imagine yourself in a convent no, that won't do
at all. Imagine yourself a prisoner, an innocent
prisoner, peering through your grating at the world,
"Wait," said Jean.
She threw herself into his conception, closed her
mental vision upon the studio and its trophies,
erased the bustling city from her thoughts. She
was again a resentful inmate of Cottage No. 6, lying
196 THE CRUCIBLE
in her cell-like room at twilight, while the woods called
to her with a hundred tongues. There were flowers
in the sheltered places; arbutus, violets
"You've got it!" MacGregor's exultant voice
brought her back. "You've got it! We'll go to
work to-morrow at nine."
"No admission, Mac?" asked a man's voice from
the doorway. "I gave the regulation knock, but
you seemed ' He stopped and gazed hard into
the eyes which met his with answering wonder from
"I've found her, Atwood," MacGregor hailed
him jubilantly. "I've found her at last."
The newcomer took an uncertain step forward,
halted again, then strode suddenly toward the screen.
"I think I have, too," he said, at the little window
now. "It's Jack, isn't it?"
Her knight of the forest stood before her.
AND Jean ?
It was as if she still dwelt in fancy in that unfor-
gettable past. She had burst her bars ; she had come,
a fugitive, to the birch-edged shore of a lonely lake;
her knight of the forest stood before her.
The astonished MacGregor, having waited a decent
interval for some rational clew to the situation, re-
called his own existence by the simple expedient of
folding the screen.
"Step inside, won't you?" he invited with a dry
grin. "You may take cold at the window."
Atwood turned an illumined face.
"It's been years since we met," he explained.
"I was not sure at first the costume, the place."
MacGregor's eye lingered upon him in humorous
" Perhaps you'll see your way in time to introduce
me," he suggested. "This has been a business
session, so far. We hadn't come to names."
The younger man floundered, glowing healthily,
but Jean retained her wits.
"Miss Fanshaw," she supplied promptly. "I
should have mentioned it before."
She vanished into the alcove, questioned her
unfamiliar image in the little mirror, and began to
198 THE CRUCIBLE
resume her street-dress with fingers not under perfect
control. There came an indistinct murmur of talk
from the studio in which MacGregor' s incisive tones
predominated. His companion's responses were
few and low. When she reentered, Atwood stood
waiting by the outer door.
"At nine, then," reminded MacGregor. "So-
long, Craig, if you must go."
"So-long," answered the other, absently.
On the stair they faced each other with the wonder
of their meeting still upon them.
"You are not a professional model," he said; "I
should have come across you before, if you were."
"You have seen me get my first engagement."
"And with MacGregor ! Was it chance ?"
"Jove!" he ejaculated. "It might have been
myself. Yet it's strange enough as it is. Mac-
Gregor in there was the chap I was to camp with,
you remember? The man whose grandmother "
"Great-grandmother, wasn't it?" she smiled.
"You do remember!"
A silence fell upon them for a little moment and
they assayed each other shyly, he keenly aware of the
fuller curves which had made a woman of her, she
searching rather for reminders of the youth whose
image had gone back with her through the gate-
house into bondage. He was more grave, as became
a man now looking back upon his golden twenties,
with thoughtful lines about the eyes, and a clearer
THE CRUCIBLE 199
demarcation of the jaw, which was, as of old, shaven,
and pale with the pallor of a dweller in cities. The
mouth was the mouth of the youth, sensitive, un-
spoiled; and the direct eyes had lost nothing of their
friendliness, though she divined that he weighed her,
questioning what manner of woman she had become.
"You went back," he broke the pause, "you went
back to that inferno because of what I said. You
saw it through. Plucky Jack!"
"Jean," she corrected.
"Jack was another girl, a girl I hope I've out-
"Don't say that," he protested. "I knew her.
But this Jean of the staircase '
"Well?" she challenged, avid for his mature
"Makes me wonder," he completed, "whether I've
not been outgrown, too."
It was not a satisfying answer. She remembered
that growth may be other than benign.
"You!" she said.
"Why not? I was young, preposterously young.
Had I been older, I should never have dared meddle
with your life."
"Meddle ! " she repeated, his self-reproach rang so
true; "you gave me the wisest advice such a girl
could receive. That girl could not appreciate how
wise it was, but this one does and thanks you from
the bottom of her heart."
200 THE CRUCIBLE
Atwood drew a long breath.
"You can say that!" he exclaimed. "You knew
what it meant to return; I did not. Since I have
realized the truth, the thought of my folly has
given me no peace. I imagined God knows
what I haven't imagined ! To see you here, as you
are; to have you thank me, when I thought I de-
served your undying hate, is like a reprieve."
Jean's face went radiant. "Yet you say you
knew her ! "
Their eyes met an instant; then they laughed
"You're right," he acknowledged. "It seems I
don't know either of you. But we can't talk here,
can we ? We need He paused, then, " Give
me this day," he entreated. "We're not strangers.
Say you will !"
As they issued upon the pavement, the driver of a
passing cab raised an interrogative whip. Atwood
nodded, and a moment afterward they had edged into
the traffic of one of the avenues and were rolling north-
ward. To Jean, reveling silently in her first hansom,
it seemed that they had scarcely started before they
turned in at one of the entrances of Central Park,
and for a time followed perforce the flashing afternoon
parade before striking into a less frequented roadway,
where they dismounted. Atwood, too, had said noth-
ing amidst the jingling ostentation of the avenue and
main-traveled drives, and he was silent now as they
forsook the asphalt walks for quiet paths, where their
THE CRUCIBLE 201
feet trod the good earth, and the odor of leaf mold
Presently he halted.
"Will you shut your eyes for a little way?" he
asked. "It's my whim."
She assented, and they went forward slowly, her
hand upon his sleeve. She felt the path drop, by
gentle slopes at first, then with sharp turns past jut-
ting rocks, where there seemed no path at all. Her
sense of direction failed her, and with it went her recol-
lection of the city's nearness. The immediate sounds
were all sylvan. She heard the call of a cat-bird, the
bark of a squirrel, the laughing whimper of a brook
among stones, which she guessed, if her ear had not
lost its woodcraft, merged its peevish identity in
some neighboring lake or pool.
"Now," said her guide, pausing.
She looked, started, and rounded swiftly upon At-
wood to find him beaming at her instant comprehen-
"It might be the very same !" she exclaimed.
"Mightn't it? The birches, the shore-line "
"And the stream, even the little stream ! Could I
find watercress there, I wonder ?"
The man laughed.
"Ah, it is real to you ! I, too, forgot New York
when I first stumbled on it. I even looked for water-
cress. But it knows no such purity, poor little brook !
I've had to pretend with it, as I've pretended with
the lake. The landscape-gardener was a clever fel-
202 THE CRUCIBLE
low. He makes you believe there are distances out
there winding channels, unplumbed depths; he
cheats you into thinking you have a forest at your
back. Sometimes he has almost persuaded me to
cast a clumsy line into that thicket yonder."
Jean's look returned to him quickly. He was
smiling, but with an undercurrent of gravity.
"You know it well," she said.
"I ought. It was here, the summer after we met,
that I came to realize something of what I had asked
you to do. I began to study refuges. I went to
such as I could, boys' places, mainly; I even tried
to get sight or word of you. Somehow, though, I
never came at the right official, and it seemed that
men weren't welcome. I learned a few things, how-
ever. I grubbed among reports; I found out
what your daily life was like, what your compan-
ions must be, and once I saw a newspaper ac-
count of a riot. But of you I heard nothing. How
could I ? I did not even know your name I,
your judge !"
The girl moved toward the border of the lake and
for a space stood looking dreamily into its tranquil
counterfeit of changing foliage and September sky.
To the miracle of their meeting was added the reve-
lation that even as he had rilled her thoughts in the
dark days, so had she possessed his.
"Will you sit here?" he asked, again beside her.
"I want to hear the whole story the story which
began back among the other birches."
THE CRUCIBLE 203
"It began farther back than there."
"Not for me."
" But it should. If you thought about me at all,
you must have wondered how I came to be in a refuge
"I wondered, yes; but I never really cared. I
could see with my own eyes what you were."
She searched his face with the skepticism which the
world had taught, then, with a swift intake of breath,
looked believing away.
"We must begin at the beginning," she said.
She told him her story as she had told it to the den-
tist that hideous night of explanations at the Lorna
Doone, but where Paul's black silence had stifled her,
lamed her speech, made her almost doubt herself,
this listener's faith leaped before her words, bridged
the difficult places where she faltered, spread the
cloak of chivalry in the miry way. Yet, with all
his sympathy, it hurt her, so senseless always seemed
the reckoning for her follies, so poignant were her
regrets, and once, when she began to speak of Stella
and the riot, he stopped her.
"Don't go on," he begged. "I see what it costs
"I'd rather you heard it all," she replied. "It's
Nevertheless, she did not tell him all. She could
speak of Stella, of Amy, of young Meyer, of the floor-
walker, but no word of Paul passed her lips. She let
Atwood infer that the stigma of the refuge had driven
204 THE CRUCIBLE
her from Grimes's employ, as it had thrust her from
the department store. The whole chain of circum-
stances which the dentist's name connoted had be-
come suddenly as inexplicable to herself as to this
transcendent hero of a perfect day.
The sun was low when she made an end, and the
long-drawn shadows of the birches in the lake turned
their thoughts again to that other sundown.
"You were a lonely little figure as I looked back,"
he said. "I took that picture with me through the
hills, and it remained my sharpest memory. It was
a sad memory, a mute reproach, like the poor things
I bought for you to wear/'
"Then you did get them!" she cried, her dress
instinct astir. "What were they like?"
"I will show them to you some day."
"You've kept them? I must pay my debt."
He shook his head. "They're not for sale. You
shall see them when you come to my studio."
"You are an artist, too?"
"I paint," he replied simply. "When you are not
busy with MacGregor, you will find work with me.
We'll arrange that among us. Old Mac little dreams
"It is a secret?"
"With me, at any rate. I've never told. You
see" he looked away with a sudden diffidence
almost boyish ; then back again with a temerity that
was boyish, too "you see, I was jealous of my
memories. I wanted to keep them wholly to myself.
THE CRUCIBLE 205
Our meeting was how shall I say it ? a kind of
idyl. And you have you told ?"
"Was it partly for my reason ?"
"Yes," she answered; "partly for your reason."
"But those clothes," he said, after a moment,
"you'll smile when you see them. I've tried many a
time to imagine you wearing them, braving the world
as you planned so stoutly. Perhaps it would have
been no harder than the other way. Perhaps
but that's over with, thank heaven ! You've earned
your freedom and have a brighter lot than a fugitive's
to face. I don't mean a model's life. That will be
temporary. There's something in you, something
fine that only needs its chance. I can't tell you how
I know this any more than I can tell you what it is,
but I believe in it as I believe in my own existence.
I know it's true, as true as the fact that we stand here
face to face."
By some necromancy of the mind he mirrored back
her own vague hopes.
" But I am a woman," she said, eager for more.
"So much the better. You live in woman's day.
But don't forget that you have given me a part of it,"
he added, as she rose. "My own particular solar
day isn't ended yet. When we first met, you had me
to luncheon, or was it breakfast ? I'm going to re-
turn the courtesy."
"You couldn't be more appropriately dressed for
206 THE CRUCIBLE
a park restaurant," he cut in, pursuing her glance.
"They'll serve us under an arbor where the wistaria
blooms in May. We'll have to pretend about the
wistaria, but it ought to be easy. The great pretense
has come true."
SHE learned from MacGregor what Atwood's
modest "I paint" signified.
"He is an illustrator who illustrates," he told her
their first day, while they worked. " I mean
left arm a trifle higher, please; you've shifted the
pose I mean he gets into the skin of a writer's
characters, when they have any. If they're mere
abstractions, he creates blood, bones, and epidermis
for them outright. Rarer thing than you imagine,
I dare say, in spite of the newspaper jokes. You can
count the men on one hand who do it here in New
York, and to my mind Craig deserves the index fin-
ger. He'd find a soul for a rag doll. But I'm only
telling you what any top-notch magazine you pick up
says more forcibly."
Jean cloaked her ignorance in silence and put her
trust in MacGregor's enthusiasm for further light.
After an industrious interval it came.
" But that isn't all," he added, tilting back to study
his canvas through half-shut eyes. "The public
doesn't know Atwood's true metier. He's bigger
than they think. I'll show you something in a
minute. It's time for rest."
He lingered for a brush stroke, which at one sweep
ao8 THE CRUCIBLE
filled a languid fold of drapery with action, and then
crossed the studio to the stack of unfinished work
beside the wall.
"Wait," he warned, placing a canvas in the trial
frame and wheeling an easel tentatively. "It's
in the rough, but we can give it light and a setting.
Now look. That's what I call portraiture."
Even her unschooled eye perceived its strength.
It was MacGregor who looked out at her, MacGregor
as she herself had twice seen him that day with his
working fit upon him, New York forgotten, Africa
filling every thought.
"And Mr. Atwood did it?"
"Nobody else. He sat over there in that corner,
while I worked in mine, and painted what he saw."
"It's a wonderful likeness."
" Likeness ! " MacGregor shook the poor word
contemptuously. "Likeness! Child, it's divina-
He dismissed her early in the afternoon, for it
was raining fitfully and the light was uncertain, and
on leaving she turned her steps toward the Astor
Library, intent on a purpose inspired by Mac-
Gregor's talk. She had some acquaintance with the
lending libraries, but none with this sedate edifice
whose size and gloom oppressed her as she looked
vainly about for her elderly fellow-boarder who spent
his life somewhere amidst its dinginess. In this
quandary, she was spied by a mannered attendant
whose young face, framed in obsolete side-whiskers,
THE CRUCIBLE 209
reminded her of certain middle-Victorian bucks of
Thackeray's whom she had come to know during
spare moments at the dental parlors. This guide
led her into a large reading-room where he assured her
ladies were welcome, despite the frowns of the pre-
dominant sex whose peace they ruffled, and found her
the two or three illustrated periodicals she named.
Without exception these contained Atwood's work,
a fact which impressed her tremendously; and with-
out exception they bore testimony to his superiority
as emphatically as MacGregor. She pored over these
drawings one by one, weighing them much as she
weighed his spoken thought, and judging them, no
less than his speech, most candid mirrors of his
personality. In what this personality's appeal con-
sisted, she had neither the detachment nor the wish to
define; she could only uncritically feel its sincerity,
its romance, and its power.
She craved a fuller knowledge, however, than these
mute witnesses could give, and the desire presently
drew her back into the high-vaulted chamber where
the library's activities seemed to focus; and here,
bewildered by the riches of the card catalogue, she
was luckily seen by the quiet old man who lent his
dignity to the head of Mrs. St. Aubyn's table. He
smiled gently upon her over his spectacles, pondering
the motive behind her request as he had speculated
about the motives of thousands before her, and in-
stantly, out of a head whose store she felt that she
had scantily appreciated, produced half a dozen likely
210 THE CRUCIBLE
references which he straightway bade a precocious
small boy to track to their fastnesses in some myste-
rious region he called the stacks; himself, meanwhile,
with a faded gallantry, escorting her to a desk in a
scholarly retreat where only feminine glances ques-
tioned her coming.
So ensconced, she came upon the facts she sought in
a bound volume of a journal devoted chiefly to the
fine arts. She learned here that her knight errant's
full name was Francis Craig Atwood, that New York
claimed the honor of his birthplace, and that he was a
trifle less than ten years older than herself. There
followed a list of his schools, which ended with Ju-
lien's Academy in Paris, where it appeared he had
gone the autumn after their meeting, and had ex-
hibited canvases at the Salons of two successive years.
His return to America and his instant recognition
coincided closely with her own coming to New York.
The concluding analysis of his work bristled with
technicalities, but she read into it the qualities which
she perceived or imagined in the man, and, staring
into the dusty alcove over against her seat, lost her-
self in a brown study of what such success as this
probably meant to him. Newspaper paragraphs
about his comings and goings, she supposed, many
sketches like this under her hand, social opportuni-
ties of course, the flattery of women, friendships
with the clever and the rich. It rather daunted her
to find him a celebrity, and at this pass nothing could
have so routed her self-possession as to discover that
THE CRUCIBLE 211
a man, of whose nearness at an adjacent bookcase
she had been vaguely aware, was no other than At-
"Thank you," he laughed, with a wave of the hand
toward the telltale page. " But there's better reading
in the library."
Jean clapped to the offending volume and blushed
"You must think me very silly," she stammered.
"Mr. MacGregor praised your work, showed me the
"Of course he did. You have discovered Mac's
weakness and his dangerous charm. He believes
all his friends are geniuses. You'll grow as conceited
as the rest of us in time."
"And have the other conceited friends done work
like yours and said nothing about it?" she asked.
"A thousand times better. You've no idea what
a clever lot of men and women Mac knows." He
rapidly instanced several artists, sculptors, and writers
of prominence, adding : " But you will see them all
at The Oasis sooner or later. You've probably no-
ticed that Mac is one of those rareties who can talk
while they work. What would hinder most people,
only stimulates him. And it stimulates the other
fellow, too. I always drop in on him for a tonic
when my own stuff lags. I was there this afternoon,
in fact, though for another reason. I wanted to
see you. It must have been telepathy that brought
me down here; I thought it was 'The Gadzooks* !"
ai2 THE CRUCIBLE
'The Gadzooks, '" she puzzled.
"Merely my slang for the Revolutionary romance,"
he explained. "I'm illustrating still another one,
and ran in here to resolve my doubts about bag-wigs.
My novelist seems to have invented a new variety.
But about you : if you don't mind the weather, and
have nothing better to do, I should like to take you
over to a Fifth Avenue picture dealer's to see a so-
called Velasquez that's come into the market."
Jean absorbed more than the true rank and value
of Velasquez's portraiture. Wet or dry, the weather
was irreproachable. Did it rain, there were yet other
picture dealers' secluded galleries where one might
loiter luxuriously; while for the intervals of sunshine
the no less fascinating shop-windows awaited, each a
glimpse into the wonderland of Europe, which her
guide seemed to know so well. They even discussed
going on to the Metropolitan to look in at a Frans
Hals and a Rembrandt, which the talk of Velasquez
suggested, but Atwood's absurd watch, corroborated
by several equally ridiculous clocks of the neighbor-
hood, said plainly that it was well past closing time
at the museum and indeed quite the day's end here
among the shops.
He was loath to let her go.
"It's been like a too short trip abroad," he said.
"I hate to book for home just yet. Why can't we
dine as we did last night ?"
She shook her head.
"Yesterday was an occasion."
THE CRUCIBLE 213
"Say Italy?" he persisted. "We've skimmed
England, France, the Low Countries; why not Italy ?
I know a little place that's as Italian as Naples. You
would never guess its existence. It looks like every
other brownstone horror outside, with not a hint of
its real business, for they say old Gaetano Sanfratello
has no license. He looks you over through the base-
ment grating, and, if you're found worthy, leads you
through a tunnel of a hallway into the most wonder-
ful kitchen you ever saw. It's as clean as clean and
is a regular treasure-house of shining copper. Then
you'll find yourself out in what prosaic New York calls
a back yard, but which, in fact, is a trattoria in the
kingdom of Victor Emmanuel, whose lithograph you
will see above the door. There are clusters of ripen-
ing grapes in the trellis overhead, and Chianti or
Capri antico real Capri on the cloth below;
and they'll serve you such artichoke soups, cheese
souffles, and reincarnations of the chestnut, as the
gods eat ! And Gaetano's pretty daughter will wait
upon us and sing 'Bella Napoli,' and perhaps, if
we're in great luck, she'll let us have a peep at her
bambino which she keeps swaddled precisely like
the one in that copy of Luca della Robbia you are
staring at this minute. Aren't you tempted?"
She was, but resisted successfully; and when he
saw that she was inflexible, he walked with her to her
own street, planning other holidays of a future which
should know no shadows.
"You must forget that gray time you've left be-
214 THE CRUCIBLE
hind you," he declared. "Call this your real begin-
ning your rebirth, your renaissance."
So in truth it was. The weeks following were
weeks of rapid growth and ripening, which, Atwood's
influence admitted, yet found their compelling force
in the girl's own will. The ambition to do her ut-
most for MacGregor, to learn what books could teach
of the life he knew by living, took her back repeatedly
to the library; then other suggestions of the studio,
which, even at its narrowest, was a school of curious
knowledge about common things that few, save the
artist, seemed to see as they were. Who but he, for
instance, stopped to consider that sunlight filtering
through leaves fell in circles ; that shadows were vio-
let, not black; that tobacco smoke from the mouth
was of another color than the graceful spiral which
rose from the tip of a cigarette ? But this field opened
into innumerable others in the wide domain where
her two friends plied their differing talents; while
these, in turn, marched with the boundaries of others
still, whose only limits were Humanity's. Life itself
set the true horizon to MacGregor's Oasis.
Among MacGregor's intimates who shared the
secret of a knock which admitted them at all hours,
but who, busy men themselves, came oftenest after
the north light failed, was a sculptor named Karl
Richter. This man's specialty was the American
Indian, but he also had known the Arab at first-
hand, and Africa in one or another of its myriad
phases was ever the topic when he and MacGregor
THE CRUCIBLE 215
foregathered. Listening to their talk, Jean came to
visualize the bronze-skinned folk, the vivid market-
places, the wild music of hautboys and tom-toms,
the gardens of fig and olive and orange and palm,
the waysides thicketed with bamboo, tamarisk, or
scarlet geranium, and the desert, above all, the
mysterious, terrible, beautiful desert, as things
which her own senses had known. It chanced one
day that they spoke of camels and, as often, began to
argue ; and that Richter, to prove his point, whipped
from his pocket a lump of modeling wax, which,
under his wonderful fingers, became in a twinkling
a striking counterfeit of the beast itself. It could not
have been more than an inch in height, but it was
a very camel, stubborn, complaining, alive. Mac-
Gregor confuted, the sculptor annihilated the little
animal with a careless pinch, tossed the wax aside,
and soon after went his way.
Dissatisfied with his work, MacGregor presently
caught his canvas from the easel, and, laying it prone
upon the floor, began by shifting strips of card-
board to hunt the truer composition. Jean, left to
herself, took up the discarded wax, tried vainly to
coax back the vanished camel, and then amused
herself with a conception of her own. So absorbed
did she become that MacGregor finished his experi-
ments unheeded, and, receiving no answer to a ques-
tion, still unregarded came and peered over her
"Great Jupiter Pluvius !" he exclaimed.
216 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean whirled about.
"How you startled me!" she said.
" It's nothing to the way you've startled me. Where
did you see that head you've modeled ?"
"Oh, this?" She tried to put the wax away.
"It's nothing only a baby in our block."
MacGregor pounced upon the model and bore it
to the light.
"Nothing! Merely a study from life, that's all!
Just a trifle thrown off in your odd moments!"
He turned the little head round and round, showering
exclamations. "Who taught you?" he demanded,
striding back. "Somebody had a finger in it besides
you. There are lines here that can't be purely intui-
"I used to watch my father."
"Was he a sculptor?"
" He might have been, if he'd had the chance. But
he had to work at other things, and he married "
"I know, I know," MacGregor groaned. "Love
in a cottage and to hell with art ! But he couldn't
keep his thoughts or his hands from it. He modeled
when he could ?"
Jean nodded dreamily.
"Sundays, mainly," she answered. "We used to
go into the country together. He found a bed of good
clay near a creek where the mint grew. I can never
smell mint without remembering. I couldn't go
back there after he died."
MacGregor gave her a sidelong glance, hemmed,
THE CRUCIBLE 217
made an unnecessary trip across the studio, and kicked
a fallen burnous violently.
"But you went on modeling?" he asked, return-
"Yes by and by. Then, later, I stopped."
"I I hadn't the clay ?" she evaded.
MacGregor brooded over her handiwork a moment
longer, then squared his jaw.
"You'll have the 'clay' hereafter," he said.
AT the outset she was rather skeptical of his faith
in her. Had not Atwood said that MacGregor saw
genius in all his friends ? But the younger man now
hailed him a most discerning judge.
"It's the something I divined," he declared jubi-
lantly, "the gold-bearing vein I believed in, but
hadn't the luck to unearth. Now to develop it !
What does Mac advise ?"
"One of the art schools," said Jean. "I can go
evenings, it seems."
"And work days ! It's a stiff programme you plan."
"But the school won't mean work," she declared.
"Then, too, the posing comes far easier than it did.
Mr. MacGregor says my muscles are almost as steady
as a professional's."
"So he tells me. I'm going to insist on sharing
your time. He has monopolized you long enough."
MacGregor's monopoly did not cease at once, how-
ever. His first step on discovering Jean's talent was
to enlist Richter's expert criticism and counsel with
the practical outcome that the sculptor's door swung
open to her in the daylight hours when MacGregor
worked with male models. The clay-modeling-room
at the art school was a wonderful place. Its casts, its
THE CRUCIBLE 219
tools, its methods, were a revelation after the crude
shifts with which her father had had to content him-
self; but Richter' s studio transcended it as a uni-
versity transcends a kindergarten. Here were con-
ceived ideas which found perpetuity in bronze !
Studio and sculptor were each unique. A little
man of crippled frame, Karl Richter delighted in the
muscular and the colossal and walked a pigmy
amidst his own creations. Michael Angelo was his
god; but his manner was his own, and the Indians
and cow-boys he loved best to express were remote
enough from the great Florentine's subjects to acquit
him of imitation. His frail physique notwithstand-
ing, he had been at pains to see for himself the primi-
tive life he adored, and the idler who coined "The
Oasis" dubbed the sculptor's place "The Wigwam,"
and spread a facetious tale that Richter went about
his work in blanket and moccasins, and habitually
smoked a calumet which had once belonged to Sit-
ting Bull. Richter never denied this myth, which
by now had received the sanction of print, and took
huge satisfaction in the crestfallen glances unknown
callers gave his conventional dress. However, the
studio itself, a transformed stable, was sufficiently
picturesque. It overflowed with spoils from ranch
and tepee, and, thanks to the Wild West show which
furnished MacGregor occasional Arabs, sometimes
sheltered genuine, if sophisticated, red men.
About this time Jean left Mrs. St. Aubyn's, whose
neighborhood Paul, after dejected silence, had again
220 THE CRUCIBLE
begun to haunt. She had thus far eluded him, but
meet they must, she felt, if she remained; and with
Amy's abrupt departure, which now came to pass,
she changed to a boarding-house of Atwood's recom-
mending in Irving Place.
" There are no signs of the trade about it, fashionable
or unfashionable," he said. "It's just a homelike
place, neither too large nor too small, where you will
see mainly art students. Many of them, like you,
are making their own way, and all of them are dead
in earnest. All the illustrators know Mrs. Saunders.
Half of us have lived under her roof some time or
He smiled at her tone.
"I wasn't born with a golden spoon, you know.
Some New Yorkers aren't. I inherited a little
money, but I'm not a plutocrat yet, even if editors
do smile upon me. Julie and I thoroughly mastered
the gentle art of scrimping at one time. Have I
ever mentioned my sister, Mrs, Van Ostade?"
"You spoke of her the day I saw you first."
"At the birches?" he returned, surprised.
"You said she would not understand."
His eyes sobered.
"I remember," he said. "And it was true.
Neither would she understand now, I fear. She has
been both wedded and widowed since. You'll see
her at the studio yet, if MacGregor ever lets us begin
work together. She surprises me there when she
THE CRUCIBLE 221
thinks I am neglecting my duties as a social being.
Julie has all the zeal of a proselyte in her missionary
labors for society," he added laughingly. "She
married into one of the old Dutch families."
Jean found that a tradition of Mrs. Van Ostade's
residence in Irving Place still lingered there. She
was spoken of as Craig Atwood's sister, the clever girl
who had jockied for position, on nothing a year, by
cultivating fashionable charities. Settlement work,
it appeared, had been the fulcrum for her lever. No
one here, however, had known her personally, save
Mrs. Saunders, who was a paragon of reticence when
gossip was afield. Indeed, a dearth of gossip, in the
invidious sense of the word, was a negative virtue
to which her whole establishment might lay claim.
Mainly art students, as Atwood had predicted, the
sharpest personalities of Jean's new acquaintances
dealt with the vagaries of masters whom they fur-
tively admired and not seldom aped. Thus the life-
class girl would furrow her pretty forehead over the
drawing of a beginner at antique with the precise
"Ha!" and "Not half bad!" of the distinguished
artist and critic who twice a week set her own heart
palpitating with his crisp condemnation or praise.
Illustrating, painting, sculpture, architecture, deco-
rative design, whatever their individual choice, life
for each had its center in the particular school of his
or her adhesion. Art always Art was the be-
ginning and end of their table-talk, and even the two
young men who had other interests, a lawyer and a
222 THE CRUCIBLE
playwright, both embryonic, spoke the language of
the studios. To this community of interest was
added the discovery that all derived from country
stock. Half a dozen states had their nominal alle-
giance, and not even Mrs. Saunders, who seemed
as metropolitan as the City Hall, could boast New
York as her birthplace. They brimmed with a fine
youthful confidence in their ability to wrest success
from this alien land of promise, which charged their
atmosphere electrically and spurred Jean's already
abundant energy to tireless endeavor. Her days
were all too short, and Atwood, whose invitations she
repeatedly refused for her art's sake, began to caution
her against overwork.
" Philosophic frivolity, as my sister calls it, has its
uses," he said. "I usually agree with her social
preachments, even if I don't observe them very faith-
fully. You must know Julie. I'll ask her to call."
Whether he did so or not, Jean was unaware. At
all events, Mrs. Van Ostade did not renew her ac-
quaintance with Irving Place, nor did Atwood broach
the subject again. If the social columns might be
believed, the lady was amply preoccupied with philo-
sophic frivolity. MacGregor presently turned a
searching light upon her personality.
"Notice that bit of impertinent detail, the unneces-
sary jewel ?" he queried, stabbing with his pipe-stem
at one of Atwood's drawings which a premature
Christmas magazine had reproduced in color.
"Craig never did it."
THE CRUCIBLE 223
"Then who did ?" Jean asked.
"Does she draw?"
"By proxy. I mean she suggested this as she has
suggested every false, vitiating note that's crept into
his work. Left to himself, Craig never paints the lily.
But he defers to her as a younger brother often will
to a sister who has mothered or stepmothered him.
It was probably a good thing once I admit she
has brains and push; but now it's time the coddling
stopped. It did let up for a while when she went over
to the Dutch she was too busy to bother with him ;
but with her husband underground and Craig com-
ing on, it has begun again. Artistically she's his
evil genius. Of course he can't see it, or won't.
I've done my level best to beat it into him."
"You have told him!"
" Certainly ; and her too. I have known them both
for years. What are you grinning at?"
"Your candor. What did he say?"
"Same old rot I'm always hearing," he grumbled.
"Called me a woman-hater. What do you think?"
challenging her abruptly. "You've seen me at close
quarters for some time. Do I strike you as that sort
of man ? I want your unvarnished opinion."
Jean answered him with his own frankness.
"A woman-hater?" she repeated. "Never. I
think you are" she searched for the word "a
224 THE CRUCIBLE
MacGregor grimly assured himself that no sarcasm
"Expound," he directed.
"I mean it seems to me you rate Woman so high
that mere women can't realize your ideal."
"Humph !" he commented ungraciously. "Where
did you learn to turn cheap epigrams ? Probably
it's an echo of something you've read."
He addressed her variously as Miss Epigrams,
Lady Blessington, and Madame de Stael as the work
went forward, always with profound gravity, until
finally, when he saw her color rise to his teasing, he
gave his full-lunged laugh and confessed.
"All the same, you're right, Miss Epigrams.
That's one reason why I'm still unattached. It's
also why I haven't cared to see Craig take the only
sure cure. A wife would teach his sister her place,
if she had the right metal." He chuckled at the
vision his words conjured. "But it would be a
It was spring before Jean herself saw Mrs. Van
Ostade. She had posed for Atwood frequently after
Christmas, but had chanced always to be either with
MacGregor or Richter when his sister visited the
studio, until the April afternoon when Julie's knock
interrupted an overdue illustration which Atwood
was toiling mightily to finish. He frowned at the
summons and answered it without putting down the
maul-stick, palette, and brushes with which his
hands were cumbered; but his "You, Julie!" at the
THE CRUCIBLE 225
door hinted no impatience, nor his returning step
aught but infinite leisure as he issued with his dark-
eyed, dark-haired, dark-skinned caller from behind
"Those stairs !" sighed the lady. Then, observing
Jean, she subjected her to a drastic ordeal by lorgnon,
which, raking her from face to gown, where the in-
quisition lingered, returned with added intensity
upon her face.
Hot plowshares could have been no more fiery for
poor Jean, who, sufficiently aglow with the knowledge
that the dress upon her back was a piece of Mrs.
Van Ostade's evening finery abandoned to the uses
of the studio, found herself tormented by the certainty
that somewhere in her vulnerable past she and this
sister of Craig Atwood's had met before.
A sympathetic reflection of her embarrassment lit
the man's face.
"This is Miss Fanshaw," he interposed, "herself
an artist. You have heard me speak of her, Julie."
The lorgnon dropped and the two women exchanged
a bow perceptible to the naked eye.
"I know the face," stated Mrs. Van Ostade, with
an impersonal air of classifying scientific phenomena.
"Where did I see it?"
Jean now recalled this elusive detail most vividly,
but she kept her head.
"Probably in Mr. Atwood's work," she suggested
"Of course," seconded Atwood, keen to end the
226 THE CRUCIBLE
incident. "You will find Miss Fanshaw in half my
"The living face has no pictorial associations what-
ever," retorted his sister, with decision. " I shall re-
member in time. But go on with your work, Craig.
I did not come to disturb you merely to bring a
piece of news which I'll tell you as soon as I get my
Atwood placed a chair and, returning to his easel,
made a show of work which Jean's trained eye knew
for his usual polite pretense with visitors who assumed
themselves no hindrance; while Mrs. Van Ostade,
throwing back her furs, relegated the model to the
ranks of the inanimate studio properties, of which
her leisured survey now took stock.
"Those stairs!" she said again, pursuing her
breath by the unique method of lavishing more.
" Really, Craig, you couldn't have pitched on a more
"We thought it a miracle for the money once," he
reminded. "I dare say I could find a more conven-
ient workshop in one of the new office-buildings, but
then I shouldn't have my open fire."
"You could have it at the Copley Studios, and
modern comforts, too."
"Up there!" he scoffed. "I don't belong in the
pink-tea circle, Julie."
Mrs. Van Ostade refused to smile with him.
"The location counts," she insisted.
"With some people."
THE CRUCIBLE 227
"With the helpful people. I've thought it over
carefully; I've used my eyes and ears. The studio
unquestionably carries weight. It ought to be some-
thing more than a workshop, as you call it. It should
have atmosphere. Even our friend down the street
has achieved that. Barbaric as it is, MacGregor's
studio has a distinct artistic unity."
"Mac's place reflects his work. So does mine."
"Yours! It's a jumble of everything, a junk-
"Of course it is," he laughed. "I've ransacked
two-thirds of these treasures from the Ghetto. But
even junk-shops have atmosphere a musty one
and so, it logically follows, must my studio."
She indulged his trifling with a divine patience.
"Could you receive Mrs. Joyce-Reeves in such a
place?" she queried sweetly.
"Certainly; if any possible errand could bring that
high and mighty personage over the door-sill."
"There is a possible reason."
Her tone drew him round. Jean, forgotten by
both, discerned that he also attached a significance
to the hypothetical visit. She was at a loss to account
for this, Mrs. Joyce-Reeves's prominence in the social
world of New York notwithstanding.
"Is this your news, Julie ?" he demanded.
His sister savored his quickened interest a moment.
"Part of it," she replied. "She saw your dry-
point of me at Mrs. Quentin Van Ostade's the other
228 THE CRUCIBLE
"The dry-point!" he deprecated. "It was only
" So I told her. She asked if you do anything in the
way of portraiture in oil, and of course I answered
"Well, haven't you?"
"Trash, yes; cart-loads of it."
" Perhaps you call your portrait of Malcolm Mac-
Gregor trash ? Mrs. Joyce-Reeves did not."
" She saw it!"
"I dropped casually that it had been hung with
the Fifth Avenue exhibition of MacGregor's African
studies, and she took the address. That was day
before yesterday. This afternoon I met her again
met her leaving the gallery."
"Well ?" jogged Atwood, impatiently.
"She told me she had bought two of MacGregor's
things," continued Mrs. Van Ostade, not to be hur-
ried. "She took a desert nocturne and that queer
veiled woman at a window you remember?"
"Do I!" He spun about. "You heard that,
Jean ? Mrs. Joyce-Reeves has bought 'The Lattice' !
Miss Fanshaw posed for it, Julie."
"Indeed !" The lorgnon, again unsheathed at the
intimate " Jean," once more took cognizance of that
young person's existence. "I don't care for it. But,
what is more important, Mrs. Joyce-Reeves mentioned
THE CRUCIBLE 229
"And this time asked for your address."
"Jove! You think"
"I'm positive she'll give you a commission."
"Jove!" he exclaimed again, "what a chance!"
and paced the studio. "Yet she may. It's her
whim to pose as a discoverer. What a chance !
What a colossal chance ! It would mean what
wouldn't it mean?" He stopped excitedly before
the escritoire where Jean sat waiting to resume her
interrupted impersonation of a note-writing debu-
tante. "It would take nerve, no end of it. She's
been painted by Sargent, Chartran, Zorn all the
big guns. A fellow would have to find a phase they'd
missed. But if he could ! You can't conceive her
influence, Jean. If she buys a man's pictures, all
the little fish in her pond tumble over one another to
buy them, too. That's not the main issue, however,
though I don't blink its importance. The oppor-
tunity to paint her, to search out the woman behind
that's the big thing. I have a theory. I met her
once she'd bought an original of mine, thanks
again to Julie and something she let fall makes
me think but I'm talking as if I had the commis-
sion in my hands."
Jean scarcely heard. Sympathize with him as she
might, Julie Van Ostade's face, from the moment
Atwood's talk ceased to be hers exclusively, absorbed
"Craig," broke in his sister, crisply, "my furs."
He touched earth blankly.
230 THE CRUCIBLE
"Not going, Julie ?"
"My furs," she repeated.
"But I haven't begun to thank you," he said,
"Is not that also premature?" She rustled ma-
jestically toward the door, which he sprang before her
to open. The girl was but a lay figure in her path.
Then the door closed and Atwood, wearing a look
of bewilderment, came slowly up the studio to meet
still another problem in feminine psychology in the
now thoroughly outraged Jean.
"Why did you introduce me?" she demanded
bitterly. "Why couldn't you let me remain a com-
mon model to her ? I am a common model in her
eyes common in every sense. I remember well
enough where she saw me, and she'll remember, too,
"Jean! Jean!" He came to her in distress.
" It was a drinking-place, and the girl with me had
drunk too much. We amused your sister's theater-
party immensely. They were probably slumming
seeing low life !"
He drew a calmer account from her presently.
"I know the place," he said. "It had rather a
vogue before people found out that it was only sham-
German, after all. It's a perfectly respectable raths-
keller. You went with some gentleman, of course ?"
Jean's passion for confession flagged.
"With a friend of Amy's from the boarding-house,"
she answered briefly.
THE CRUCIBLE 231
Atwood gave a relieved laugh.
"You have made a mountain of a mole-hill," he
told her; '"but I'm glad you mentioned the circum-
stances. I'll explain to Julie, if she ever thinks of
it again. Don't misjudge her, Jean. I admit she's
unsympathetic at first sight, even brusque ; but there's
another side, believe me. You saw how devoted she
is to my interests."
She had indeed seen, and the knowledge rankled.
"You should not have introduced me, made me
share your talk," she said. "You meant a kindness,
but it was no kindness; it was a humiliation, a "
Then the tension snapped and her head went down
between her arms.
" Kindness ! " He swept her stormily to himself.
" Kindness, Jean ! Can't you see why I wanted you
to share it with me ? Can't you see that I want you
to share everything ? I love you, Jean."
For a long moment she yielded; the next she had
slipped from him and the escritoire was between
"Don't," she forbade. "You must not say these
things to me."
"I can't marry you."
"Can't ! Yet a moment ago "
"I can't marry you," she repeated breathlessly.
" But your kiss -
"Was a lie pity what you like. I was un-
strung. I I don't love you."
232 THE CRUCIBLE
He searched her face for a perplexed instant.
"Jean," he commanded; "look at me!"
She faced him.
"Now tell me that again straight in the eyes."
" Don't," she entreated.
"You heard me."
" I want to hear it again on your honor ! " He
"I I refuse."
He strode toward her in triumph.
"You can't," he cried. "The kiss was no lie. It
was the truth, the sacred truth ! What unselfish
madness made you try to deceive me ?"
"Remember your career," she protested; "your
sister's world, which is your world, too."
But the time for reasoning was past.
WHAT passed forthwith between brother and sis-
ter Jean neither heard nor particularly conjectured.
Ways, means, and motives were for the time being
eclipsed by the tremendous fact that Julie called.
That she acquitted herself of this formality at an hour
when the slightest possible knowledge of the girl's
habits would argue her absence from Irving Place,
roused in Jean only a vast relief. The mute paste-
board was itself sufficiently formidable.
She was even more relieved that through some
mischance, for which Atwood, who went with her,
taxed himself, her return call found Julie out. Visit-
ing-cards she had none, their urgent need having
hitherto never presented itself; but Atwood helped
her pretend before the rather overpowering servant
that she had forgotten them, and, scribbling her name
upon one of his own, bore her off for an evening at the
Here, for the space of a week, matters rested, only
to hatch a fresh embarrassment in the end, beside
which calls were trivialities. This was no less than
an invitation to dine, and to dine, not with Mrs.
Van Ostade and Atwood merely, but as one of a more
234 THE CRUCIBLE
or less formal company so Craig enlightened her
of the clever or socially significant.
Jean heard these depressing explanations with a
"I can't go," she protested quickly. "Don't ask
"Can't!" he repeated. "Why not?"
"You know why. They're different, these peo-
ple as different from me as if I were Chinese."
"It's the truth. Perhaps later, when I've studied
more, seen more, I can meet them and not shame
"Shame me, Jean! If you realized how proud I
"Then don't put me in a position where you may
feel anything but proud. Don't make me go."
He reasoned with her laughingly, but without real
understanding of her reluctance.
" Besides," he concluded, "you can't decline. The
dinner is really for you."
Her cup of misery brimmed over.
"In a way, it's in honor of our engagement, even
though it isn't known."
"Your sister wrote nothing of this."
"But she told me. She said she wanted you to
meet some of our friends. Don't be afraid of them,
Jean. You're as clever as any of them, while in looks
not a woman Julie knows can hold a candle to you."
THE CRUCIBLE 235
" But their clothes ! Don't you see it's impossible ?
I've absolutely nothing to wear."
The man flicked this thistle-down airily away.
"Dowds, half of 'em, Julie's crowd," he declared.
"You don't need anything elaborate. Just wear
some simple gown that doesn't hide your neck. Sim-
ple things tell."
"And cost," she added, smiling ruefully at his neb-
ulous solution. "I have never owned a dinner-
gown in my life."
Atwood had an inspiration.
"Why, the studio is full of them," he cried.
"Your sister's every one. Could I wear one
of her dresses to her dinner?"
"Hardly. What inferior intellects men have!
But is there any objection to your wearing one of my
gowns ? None of the properties fit the scheme of
illustrations I've planned for that last novel, and I've
decided to have one or two things made. Now, if you'll
choose the material and bother with the fittings "
Jean's laugh riddled this improvisation.
"I'll go if I must," she promised, "but I'll wear
my own clothes. After all, I know something about
Nevertheless, the dress problem was serious when
she came to marshal her resources, and she still
vacillated in a choice of evils, when Amy happened
in with a fresh point of view and an authoritative
knowledge of the latest mode, which cleared the
236 THE CRUCIBLE
"Put those away," she ordered, dismissing with
a glance the alternatives arrayed despairingly on the
bed. "Wear white or a color, and you'll have every
old cat there rubbering to see how it's made. Where's
your black net ?"
"Here," said Jean, producing it without enthu-
siasm. "It's hopeless."
"It is a sight by daylight," agreed Amy, candidly.
"That cheap quality always gets brown and rusty.
But under gas it will never show. Cut those sleeves
off at the elbow and edge them with lace. The forty-
nine-cent kind will do, and you'll only need two yards."
Jean's spirits rebounded under this practical en-
"I might turn in the neck about so much," she sug-
gested, indicating an angle by no means extravagant.
Amy snatched the garment away.
"Scissors!" she commanded decisively. "This
yoke is coming out altogether. Can't you see, Jean
Fanshaw, that if you give your shoulders a chance,
people won't think twice about your dress ? I'd
just give millions for your shoulders. The black
will set them off as nothing else could. If you want
a dash of color, I don't know anything smarter than
a spray of pink-satin roses. Fred thinks I twist them
up almost like real."
Jean evaded the artificial flowers with tact, but
otherwise let herself be guided by Amy, under whose
fingers the transformation of the black net went for-
THE CRUCIBLE 237
" It's a treat to have something to do," Amy avowed,
declining aid. "I get awful lonesome over at our
boarding-place. You never have time any more to
run in, and, excepting Saturday afternoon and Sun-
day, I don't see anything of Fred. This is his
busiest time, he says. Fred's a crackerjack sales-
man. Last month he sent in more orders than any
man the firm ever put on the road. He just seems to
hypnotize customers, same as he did me. I know
you would like him, too, Jean, if you would ever come
over while he's home. He spoke about that very
thing the other day. He said it looked as if you were
trying to dodge him. He wanted me to ask you to
go down to the Coney Island opening last Saturday,
but I was afraid you'd say no and hurt his feelings,
so I told him you were sure to be at your art school.
I was glad afterward you didn't come, for we met
The name failed to stir Jean as of old.
"I don't fear Stella now," she said.
"I do," Amy rejoined. "It gives me the creeps
to be anywhere near her. Fred says he can't see why.
Men are queer that way. She came up to us on the
Iron Pier, where we were having beer and sandwiches,
and in spite of all my hints, he asked her to have
something, too. She told us she was singing in one
of the music-halls down there, and nothing would do
Fred but we must go that night and see what her voice
was like. She spotted us down in the crowd and
waved her hand at us as bold as you please. I was
238 THE CRUCIBLE
so mad ! Fred didn't care. He thought she had a
bully voice. It did sound first-rate in 'coon songs,'
and I really had to laugh myself at some of her antics
when she danced a cake-walk. Wouldn't it be a
queer thing if she got to be well known ? Fred says
there's no reason why she shouldn't earn big money,
and he's a dandy judge of acting. You ought to hear
him spout some of the speeches from 'Monte Cristo.'
We always go to a show Saturday nights, when he's
home, and generally Sundays to sacred concerts
and actors' benefits. I wouldn't go Sundays if the
rest of the week wasn't so dull. If I only had a flat,
it would help pass the time away. I tease Fred for
one all the time. Maybe I can pretty soon. He's
to have Long Island and North Jersey for his terri-
tory, and that will bring him home oftener nights.
Haven't you a better drop-skirt than this?"
"Drop-skirt?" The transition caught Jean day-
dreaming over a contrast between Amy's drummer
and an illustrator not unknown to fame.
"This one is so scant it spoils the whole dress,"
explained the critic. "I always said so."
"I know; but it's the best I have. Does it matter
so much ? "
" Matter ! " Amy mourned over the offending detail
with artistic concern. "There's nothing I'm so
particular about. A drop-skirt like this would
spoil a Paquin gown, or a Redfern, let alone a -
" Rusty black net ? " Jean prompted. " Aren't you
THE CRUCIBLE 239
forgetting my wonderful shoulders ? Nobody is to
look at anything else, you know !"
Amy ignored the implication.
"It won't be so funny if they do," she reproved.
"I do wish I had something to lend you, but since I
left the store, I never wear black. Fred likes lively
colors. Isn't there anything at the studio you could
There was, though Jean forbore to mention it. As
certain as her need, was the knowledge that from the
third right-hand hook of the studio wardrobe de-
pended its easy satisfaction. She had told Atwood
with almost rebuking emphasis that she must wear
her own clothes, but in the befogging nervousness
which the bugaboo of the dinner wrought, the tempta-
tion to make use of at least this discarded trifle of
Mrs. Van Ostade's plenty assailed her with waxing
strength, till success or failure seemed to hang on her
decision. The garment had its individuality, like
most things belonging to Julie, who, Atwood said,
had her own notions of design; but Jean told herself
that it need not be flaunted.
To assure herself whether, after all, she might not
be overrating its importance, she wore the silken lure
home under her street-dress the evening of the dinner.
This candid course was most efficacious. In the
light of the miracle it worked, consistency troubled
her no more than Amy. Its influence transcended the
material; it fortified her courage; and when at last
the admiring maid brought word that a gentleman
240 THE CRUCIBLE
waited below, she gave a final glance mirrorward,
which was almost optimistic, and went down for
Craig's verdict with starry eyes.
No faintest premonition prepared her to confront
in the dim-lit room, not Craig, but Paul.
The dentist took an uncertain step toward her.
"I had to come, Jean," he said defensively.
"There hasn't been a more miserable cuss in the city.
I Then, seeing her clearly under the flare
of the gas-burner nearest the door, which her hand
sought instantly, he stood a moment, wide-eyed and
mute, in fascinated survey of her unwonted garb.
No tribute to its effectiveness could be more sincere.
As if it spoke for her like a symbol, answering a ques-
tion he could no longer put, he made a simple ges-
ture of renunciation, the pathos and dignity of which
sounded the very well-springs of her pity. " Excuse
me for butting in," he added. " I can see now it was
Jean put out her hand. The mystery of her dead
affection she could not call it love for this man
was never more baffling. The woman she was seemed
as far removed from her who pledged herself to Paul,
as that girl in turn was remote from the mutinous rebel
of Cottage No. 6 ; but the dentist's gesture, his words,
his shabbiness so different from the half-dandified
neatness of old touched her where a direct ap-
peal to their common past would have found her
"It was no use in the way you mean, Paul," she
THE CRUCIBLE 241
said gently. "But sit down. I am sorry if you have
Whereupon an inconceivably subdued Paul Bart-
lett sat down beside her and with a gush of mingled
self-pity and remorse poured the tale of his manifold
sorrows into an absorbed and her wrongs, her sex
considered sympathetic ear. Life had fared ill
with the dentist. He had not been able, he said, to
swing the enterprise of the new office quite as he had
hoped. The location was all right, the equipment
was all right, but for some reason, perhaps the elec-
tion-time flurry, perhaps because he himself may not
have pushed things as he did when feeling quite up
to par, patients had not flocked his way. The hell
he had been through ! To know there wasn't a
more up-to-date office in Harlem, not one that paid a
stiffer rent, and yet, for a month, six weeks, two
months, to see almost nobody drift in except "shop-
pers" Jean would remember their sort! who
haggled over dinkey little jobs such as amalgam fill-
ings, or beat him down on a cheap plate to a figure
that hardly paid a man to fire up his vulcanizer
well, he'd sooner handle a pick and shovel than go
through that again.
"But it's better now ?" she asked.
"Shouldn't have]showed my face here if it wasn't,"
Paul retorted, with a flicker of his old spirit. "The
luck changed just when I'd about decided to go back
to Grimes. Yes, I'm doing so-so. Nothing record-
breaking, but I'm out of debt."
242 THE CRUCIBLE
"I'm very glad."
"Thanks," he said gratefully. "You've no call
to be, God knows ! When I think but what's
the good ? I've thought till I'm half crazy. Just to
look into the little place at the Lorna Doone queers
a whole week for me. It stands about as it did, Jean.
All the time the pinch was hardest, I had to carry the
flat, too empty. I couldn't live there, and nobody
else wanted it. I missed my chance to clear out when
the building changed hands I tumbled just too
late, not being on the spot. The new owners would
make trouble, and I've had trouble enough. I just
cant sell the things leastways some of them
and I thought perhaps you they're really yours,
you know perhaps you No ? Well, I don't
blame you. If folks were only living there, I guess
I'd feel different. I would sublet for a song."
Amy's consuming desire flashed into Jean's mind
to relieve a situation too tense for long endurance, and
Paul thankfully made note of the drummer's address.
This mechanical act seemed to put a period to their
meeting and both rose; but although they shook
hands again, and exchanged commonplaces concern-
ing neither knew what, the man continued to imprison
her fingers in an awkward solemnity which, more
sharply than words, conveyed his sense of a bitter,
yet just, finality.
So occupied, Atwood's hurried entrance found
"I'm late, very late," he said from the hall, at first
THE CRUCIBLE 243
seeing only Jean; "but the cab-horse looks prom-
ising, and the driver says I beg your pardon!"
Acutely conscious of a burning flush, which Paul's
red-hot confusion answered like an afterglow, Jean
made the presentation.
" Bartlett not Barclay," Paul corrected Atwood's
murmured greeting, with the footless particularity
of the embarrassed.
" I beg your pardon," said Atwood again.
"Often mixed, those two names, Bartlett and Bar-
clay," babbled the dentist, with desperate stage
laughter. " Half the people who come to my office
call me Barclay. Feel sometimes as if it must be
Barclay after all. Dare say Barclay is as good a
name that is "
Jean stilled the parrot cry with an apology for run-
ning off, and the trio passed down the steps together.
Atwood glanced back curiously as they whipped
"Who is Mr. Bartlett not Barclay ?" he smiled.
"A dentist I knew when I worked for the Acme
Company," she answered, and then, with a generous
impulse added, " He was very kind to me once when
I needed kindness."
"So?" Atwood's interest livened. "Then I have
double reason not to forget his name. I don't dare
picture what Julie's thinking," he went on, peering
at a jeweller's street-clock. "We're undeniably
late. But I have the best excuse in the world.
244 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean tried, but found her wits distraught between
the scene just past and the trial to come.
"No; tell me," she entreated.
He drew a full exultant breath.
"It's the Joyce-Reeves commission," he said. "I
received the order to-night."
THEY were not unpardonably late, yet were tardy
enough to render their coming conspicuous to what
seemed to Jean an ultramodish company which peo-
pled not only Mrs. Van Ostade's drawing-room, but
the connecting music-room and library as well.
Julie, her dark good looks set off by yellow, met
them with observant eyes, nodded "Yes, Craig; I
know" to Atwood's great news, murmured a conven-
tional word of regret to Jean that both their calls
should have been fruitless, made two or three intro-
ductions to those who chanced nearest, and with the
lift of an eyelid set in motion the mechanism of a
statuesque butler; whereupon Jean found herself
hazily translated to her place at table between a blond
giant, who took her in, and a shadowy-eyed person
with a pointed beard, who languidly quoted some-
thing resembling poetry about what he called the
tinted symphony of Mrs. Van Ostade's candle-light.
"How clever!" said Jean, at a venture, and wel-
comed the voice of her less ethereal neighbor.
"Corking race," remarked the giant, beaming at
her over the rim of his cocktail.
This was concrete, if indefinite.
246 THE CRUCIBLE
"Yesterday France. Wonderful! Gummiest
kind of course two days' hard rainfall, you know.
I've been saying 'I told you so' all day. Didn't
surprise me in the least. I knew her, d'ye see, I
Jean looked as intelligent as she could, and hoped
for a clew. The big man checked his elliptical re-
marks altogether, however, and, still beaming,
awaited her profound response.
"Is, she French?" she hazarded, jumping at an
"But it was a man won. The sporting duchess,
you mean, drew out."
"I'm speaking of the horse," Jean struggled.
"Horse! What horse?" ejaculated the giant.
"I'm talking automobiles."
She judged frankness best.
"There is nothing for it but to confess," she said.
"I know nothing about automobiles. I never set
foot in one in my life."
Her companion wagged a large reproachful finger.
"Don't string me," he begged. "Didn't Julie
Van Ostade put you up to this ? I know I'm auto-
mad and an easy mark, but Jove ! I believe you're
serious. Why, it's it's incredible ! Just think
a bit. You must have been in one of those piffling
"Well, then, a cab an electric cab ?"
"Not even a 'bus."
THE CRUCIBLE 247
He shook his head solemnly and besought the atten-
tion of the petite guest in mauve on his left.
"What do you think?" Jean heard him begin.
"Miss Fanshaw here
Then the shadowy-eyed seized his chance.
"I hail a kindred spirit," he confided softly. "To
me the automobile is the most hideous, blatant fact
of a prosaic age. Its coarsening pleasures are for
the few; its brutal sins against life's meager poetry
touch the unprivileged millions."
"Rot !" cut in the giant, whose hearing was excel-
lent. "The motor is everybody's servant. As for
poetry, man alive ! you would never talk such drool
again if you could see a road-race as the man in the
car sees it. Poetry! It's an epic!" Wherewith he
launched into terse description, jerky like the voice of
his machine and bestrewn with weird technicalities,
but stirring and roughly eloquent of a full-blooded
joy in life.
While the battle raged over her for the man with
the pointed beard showed unexpected mettle
Jean evolved a working theory as to the uses of un-
familiar forks and crystal, and took stock of her
other fellow-guests. It was now, with a start of
pleasure, that she first met the eye of MacGregor,
whom she had overlooked in the hurry of their late
arrival. His smile was encouraging, as if he divined
her difficulties, and she took a comfort in his presence,
which Atwood's, for once, failed to inspire.
Craig seemed vastly remote. He was in high
248 THE CRUCIBLE
spirits and talking eagerly to an odd-looking girl with
a remarkable pallor that brought out the vivid scarlet
of her little mouth and the no less striking luster of
her raven hair, which she wore low over the ears after
a fashion Jean associated with something literary
or theatrical. She caught a word or two of their
conversation, and it overshot her head, though the
talk at MacGregor's Oasis had acquainted her with
certain labels for uncertain quantities known as
Nietzsche and George Bernard Shaw. She perceived
a sophisticated corner of Atwood's mind, hitherto un-
suspected, so deceptive was his boyish manner; and
the anaemic girl, juggling the Superman with offhand
ease, became clothed with piquant interest. She
wondered who she was, what Atwood saw in her,
and whether they knew each other well.
Of his own accord her neighbor with the beard
"Pictorial, isn't she?" he said. " Preraphaelite,
almost, as to features ; hair Cleo de Merode. I hope
Mrs. Van Ostade pulls the match off. They're
so well suited ; clever, both of them, and in different
ways. Then, her money. That is a consideration."
"Is it?" groped Jean.
" Rather ! Wealthy in her own name, you know,
and virtually sure of her uncle's fortune. They're
very soundly invested, the Hepworth millions. But
it's the psychological phase of it that interests me.
I'm curious to see what effect she'll have upon his
work. For the artistic temperament marriage is
twice a lottery. I've never dared risk it myself."
THE CRUCIBLE 249
His tone offered confidences, but Jean found his
celibacy of slight interest beside Miss Hepworth's.
She was conscious that he was permitting her glimpses
into the lone sanctities of what he termed his priest-
hood, as she was aware of a whir and rush of mo-
tor-maniacal anecdote on her other side, and of a
ceaseless coming and going of courses amidst the gen-
erally pervasive fog of conversation. She made the
automatic responses which seemed all her immediate
fellow-guests required of her, and masked her face
with a smile, into which she threw more spontaneity
after the bearded one said it suggested Mona Lisa's
and belied her glorious youth.
"For she is 'older than the rocks among which she
sits,'" he quoted. "You remember Pater's famous
Jean knew neither quotation nor writer, but she
was familiar with Leonardo's picture and turned the
personality with a neutral question, which served the
man as a spring-board for fresh verbal acrobatics,
amusing to him and restful for her. He was shrewder
than she had thought. In truth, she felt both young
and old; young, if this dismal futility could be the
flower of much living; old, if by chance it should be,
as she questioned, merely puerile.
She sighed for the dinner's end, but when it came
and the women, following a custom she had read
about without dreaming she should yet encounter it,
left the men behind, she sighed to be back with her
loquacious seat-mates, talk what jargon they would.
250 THE CRUCIBLE
Her sex imposed no conversational burden upon any
one here. She fitted naturally into none of the little
clusters into which the rustling file dissolved; and,
after some aimless coasting among these groups where
women to whom she had been presented smiled upon
her vaguely and chattered of intimacies and happen-
ings peculiarly their own, she cut adrift altogether
and grounded with feigned absorption by a cabinet
of Chinese lacquer. If Julie meant her kindness, she
told a remarkable golden dragon, this was the time
to show it, but her hostess remained invisible, and
the dragon's gaze, though sympathetic, seemed pres-
ently to suggest that the social possibilities of lacquer
had their limits. In this crisis, she made a lucky
find of a portfolio of Craig's sketches, none of which
she had ever seen.
While turning these drawings, she was approached
by some one, and, looking up with the expectation of
seeing Mrs. Van Ostade, met instead the gaze of a
very old and excessively wrinkled lady, who, without
tedious formalities, calmly possessed herself of the
sketch Jean had in hand.
"They're amazingly deft," she said, after a mo-
ment. "Even the academic things have their
charm. Take this charcoal, for instance," she went
on, selecting another drawing. "It's not the stereo-
typed Julien study in the least. They couldn't
extinguish the boy's individuality. Somewhere here
there is another still better."
"You mean this, don't you ?" Jean asked, delving
THE CRUCIBLE 251
into the portfolio for a bold rendering of a human
"Ha!" said the old lady, staring. "Of course I
do. But what made you think so ?"
"It was the only one of the Julien studies you could
mean," returned Jean, promptly. "He did not draw
like this till the year he exhibited."
The explosive "Ha!" was repeated, and the girl
felt herself thoroughly assayed by the shrewd old
"You are a close student of Mr. Atwood, my dear,"
came dryly. "Perhaps you are a critic of con-
temporary art ?"
Jean reddened, but, surprising the twinkle behind
the sarcasm, laughed.
"Is it probable?" she asked.
"It's possible. Half the celebrities I meet seem
young enough to be my grandchildren. But you are
telling me nothing. Are you one of Julie Van Os-
tade's discoveries ? She collects geniuses, you know.
What is your name ?"
Jean told her.
"It means nothing, you see," she smiled. "I am
only a student."
"Are you! But you look original. Where are
you at work ? I hope you don't mind my questions ?
I'm an inquisitive old person."
Jean named her school and mentioned Richter.
252 THE CRUCIBLE
" But I have accomplished nothing yet," she added.
"Ha!" said the old lady. "Then it's time you
did. I shall ask Richter about it. If I forget your
name, I'll describe your eyes. There is something
singularly familiar about your eyes."
The men and Mrs. Van Ostade made a simultane-
ous entrance, and the latter at once bore down on
" Peroni will sing," she announced with a note of
triumph. "He volunteered as a mark of respect to
"Really !" The octogenarian's smile was extraor-
dinarily expressive. "Yet they call him merce-
The opening bar of an accompaniment issued from
the music-room, and Jean joined the drift toward the
piano. She wondered who this sprightly personage
might be for whom the spoiled tenor volunteered,
and then, in the magic of his voice, forgot to wonder.
In the babel following the hush, MacGregor leaned
over her chair.
"So the irrepressible conflict is on?" he greeted
Jean's welcome was whole-hearted.
"Craig has told you ?" she said softly.
"Yesterday. I wish you both all the usual things.
I ought to have seen it from the first, I suppose, but
as a matter of fact I did not. Certainly I never fig-
ured you in the lists when I spoke of the battle royal.
Any war news ?"
THE CRUCIBLE 253
"We have exchanged calls without meeting."
"Next came the dinner-invitation. Not exactly
a war measure, should you say ?"
"Knowing Julie, yes. I should call it the first
Jean perceived his military metaphor was but a
thin disguise for a serious opinion.
"And the victor?" she said.
"I don't feel especially victorious," she said, a little
wistfully. "What makes you think the battle is on ?
Oh, but we must not talk this way here," she imme-
diately added. "We've eaten her salt."
"What if the salt is an ambush?" queried Mac-
Gregor. " Besides, I never pretended to be a gentle-
man. Look over this menagerie carefully, guileless
child ! Do you suppose Julie usually selects her
dinner-guests after this grab-bag fashion ? Not to
my knowledge. She loathes big dinners, so she has
told me. It's her study and pride to bring together
people of like tastes. The seating of a dinner-party
is to her like a nice problem at chess. Do you think
it a mere chance shuffle that settled your destiny at
table ? Do you know one automobile from another ?"
"Of course not. And half the time you hadn't a
glimmer of a notion what the decadent poet with the
Vandyck beard was driving at?"
"More than half."
254 THE CRUCIBLE
"Neither should I. A steady diet of the hash he
serves up to women's clubs would land me in a padded
cell. But perhaps the general talk amused you ?"
"I could not make much of it," she admitted.
"Sensible girl ! Neither could most of the talkers.
But here was where you scored a point you
looked as if you did. The minor poet and the motor-
maniac couldn't wait their turns to bore you. Then,
point number two, your gown. Logically, it's point
number one, and a big point, too. I happened to be
watching Julie when you arrived. Yes ; you scored."
Jean caught gratefully at the tribute. She remem-
bered that Craig had been too preoccupied with the
Joyce-Reeves commission to notice her dress, and
wondered whether the pictorial girl's aesthetic draper-
ies had drawn his praise. She was shy of mentioning
Miss Hepworth to MacGregor; he might think her
jealous. Nor did he speak her name, though Craig
and his dinner-partner, again in animated converse,
were in plain view from their own station. Jean
guessed that he trusted her instinct to light readily
on the significance of this factor in Mrs. Van Ostade's
" Lastly," he enumerated," you bagged Mrs. Joyce-
"What! The woman who talked to me about
"You're surprised to find her here ? So was Julie.
She invited herself. Julie met her somewhere this
afternoon and mentioned that she was giving a dinner.
She was scoring.
THE CRUCIBLE 255
Mrs. Joyce-Reeves asked questions you discovered
that trait of hers, probably and said she'd be punc-
tual. Quite royal, isn't she ? She is strong enough
to be as eccentric as she pleases. So Craig was your
topic ? Then she had your secret out of you, mark
my word. How did you fall in with her ?"
"She came to me while I was turning over some of
" Pretending to enjoy yourself, but really feeling as
lonesome as Robinson Crusoe ?"
"That is very likely why she spoke to you. She
does that sort of thing, they say. It's one of her curi-
ous eccentricities. I think your motor-maniac is
edging this way," he added. "Yes, and your poet,
too. Can it be that you are going to score again!"
With the three men grouped about her chair,
Jean had an intoxicating suspicion that she was scor-
ing, provided MacGregor's embattled theory held;
and when Mrs. Van Ostade herself entered the scene
just as the blond giant, under fire from the Vandyck
beard, was begging her to set a day for her initiation
into the joys of motoring, a certain rigidity in Julie's
smile convinced her that MacGregor was right. At-
wood's opportune arrival in his sister's wake charged
the situation, she felt, with the last requisite of drama.
But Mrs. Van Ostade's eye was restless, however stac-
cato her smile, and Jean, conscious, though no longer
unhappy under its regard, reflected that even without
its terrible lorgnon it had its power. Then, even as
256 THE CRUCIBLE
she framed the thought, she beheld its sudden con-
centration, tracked its cause, and caught its glittering
rebound from the nether edge of her too tempestuous
petticoat. For an instant the brown eyes braved the
black, then struck their colors, conquered.
Without a word Julie Van Ostade had shouted,
"Cast-off clothes !" louder than the raucous dealers
of the curb.
Luckily, the ghastly business was not prolonged.
The leave-takings began at once, and Jean passed out
among the first. Some hitch in the carriage arrange-
ments delayed her a moment in the vestibule, how-
ever, and MacGregor came by.
"Did something happen back there?" he asked
bluntly. "I don't think the others noticed anything;
I didn't grasp anything tangible myself; but still
are the honors doubtful, after all ? "
Jean shook her head.
"No," she answered grimly; "not doubtful in the
least. She won."
Then Craig put her in the coupe, and asked if
it had not been a jolly evening.
"It was a mixed crowd for Julie," he said, "but it
seems she wanted to show you all sorts. You see
how absurd it was to dread coming. Every time I laid
eyes on you, you were holding your own. Virginia
Hepworth asked who you were. Did you notice her ?
I want you to know her. You mightn't think it
at first blush, but she's very stimulating; at least
I always find her so. We had a famous powwow.
THE CRUCIBLE 257
I should like to paint her sometime against a sumptu-
ous background. What did you think of her hair ?"
Jean's response was incoherent. Then an illu-
minated turning brought her face sharply from the
"Jean!" he cried. "What is it? What's
" Myself. We had best face it face it now ;
better now than later. I am only a drag upon you, a
handicap not the kind of woman you should
marry. You must marry a stim stim stimulus."
Atwood drew her into his arms.
"And so I shall," he answered, "so I shall the first
minute she'll let me. To-night even ! Do you
understand me, Jean ? Why shouldn't it be to-
night ? What do you say?"
Jean said nothing. What folly she had uttered !
Give him up ! His mere touch exorcised that mad-
ness. All the primitive woman in her revolted from
the sacrifice. He was hers hers ! Could that
pale creature love him as she loved him ? Could
Julie love him as she loved him ? Julie ! A gust of
passion shook her; part anger with herself for the
weakness to which she had stooped, part hot resent-
ment against this superior being who set traps for her
inexperience. For it was a trap, that dinner ! Mac-
Gregor was wholly right. There was war between
them ; the night had witnessed a battle. What was
it all but a manoeuvre to humble her before her lover,
prove her unfitness, alienate his love ?
258 THE CRUCIBLE
Then Craig's words took on a meaning.
"I'm in earnest," he was saying. "It isn't a spur-
of-the-moment idea. These three days I've had it in
mind to ask you to slip off with me quietly and with-
out fuss. We've never been conventional, you and I.
Why should we begin now ? Nothing could be
simpler. It is early yet little more than ten o'clock.
I'll drop you in Irving Place long enough for you to
change your dress and pack a bag. Meanwhile I
can pick up my own and make sure of the clergyman.
That part is easy, too. I'll ask a friend of mine who
lives not five blocks off. His wife and sister will be
our witnesses. Then the midnight train for Boston
and a honeymoon in some coast village."
"But the portrait ?" she wavered.
"The best of reasons. The sensible thing is to
marry before I begin work. Don't hunt for reasons
against it, dear. None of them count. It's our wed-
ding, not Mrs. Grundy's. We'll let her know by one
of the morning papers, if there's time to give notice
on our way to the train. Julie I'll wire."
A blithe vision of Julie digesting her telegram flitted
across Jean's imagination with an irresistible appeal.
"I'll need half an hour, Craig," she said, as the
JULIE'S congratulations reached them three days
later at the decayed seaport, an hour's run out of
Boston, which they had chosen at laughing haphazard
in their flight. It was a skillful piece of literature.
Ostensibly for both, its real message was for the errant
Craig. There were delicate allusions to their close
companionship of years, so precious to her. To him,
a man, it had of course meant less. A woman's devo-
tion but she would not weary him with protesta-
tions. What she had been, she would always be.
She bore him no unkindness for shutting her out at
the momentous hour; she knew marriage would raise
no future barrier. That was all.
" Dear old Julie ! " said Atwood. " It did cut her/'
He smoked for a pensive interval, gazing out from
their balcony over the rotting hulks of a vanished
trade. "She's been my right hand almost," he went
on presently. "Not many endearments between us
- surface tendernesses. Some people think her
hard, but she's as stanch as stanch. Did I tell you
how she nursed me through typhoid ?"
"That showed! Or take our Irving Place days.
Many a play or concert she gave up for me and
260 THE CRUCIBLE
gowns ! She believed in me from the first. I can't
forget that. What nonsense to talk of marriage shut-
ting her out ! We must not let her feel that way,
"No," said the wife ; for to such chanty toward the
beaten enemy had she already come.
Indeed, her happiness had softened her to a point
where she questioned whether MacGregor did Julie
complete justice. He was a man of strong prejudices,
set, dogmatic; even, she suspected, a man with a
grievance, for Craig now told her that something in
the nature of an engagement had once existed be-
tween his sister and his friend. Might not Atwood's
insight be the truer ? She began to put herself in
Julie's place, and then, without much difficulty,
saw herself acting Julie's part. Ambitious for Craig,
scheming for him always, self-sacrificing if need arose,
why should she not resent his marriage to a nobody
whom she knew only as a model ?
This flooding charity likewise embraced Mrs. Fan-
shaw. Her mother's chronicles of the small beer of
Shawnee Springs had continued with the punctuality
of tides. The weekly letter seemed to present itself
to her mind as an imperative duty, like the Wednes-
day prayer-meeting, Saturday's cleaning, or church-
going Sunday. Duty bulked less prominently in
Jean's view of it, but she had answered, desultorily
at first, and then by habit, almost with her mother's
regularity. Yet she had told little of her life. The
changes from cloak-factory to department store, from
THE CRUCIBLE 261
store to the Acme Company, and from the dental
office to the studio had been briefly announced, but
despite questions, never lengthily explained. Now
she felt the need for confidence. Feelings quickened
in her which she supposed atrophied, and under their
impulsion she wrote her mother for the first time the
true history of her flight from the refuge and traced
the romance there begun to its miraculous flower.
A second note from Mrs. Van Ostade, received two
days later, voiced in the friendliest way her accept-
ance of things as they were. She wondered whether
they had formulated any plans for living ? Craig's
bachelor quarters, she pointed out, were scarcely
adaptable for housekeeping, and surely they would not
care for hotel life or furnished apartments ? What
they did want, she assumed, was an apartment of
their own; that is, eventually. But, again, did they
at this time of such critical importance in Craig's
work, want the exhausting labor of house-hunting ?
Her suggestion she was diffident, but oh, not luke-
warm, in broaching it was that for the time being
they make the freest use of her much too spacious
home. Craig knew how burdensome the East
Fifty-third Street place had seemed to her since
Mr. Van Ostade's death; he would remember how
often she had urged his sharing it. Well, why not
now ? It need be only temporary, if they wished ;
merely for the critical present. It could easily be
arranged from a financial point of view. When had
he and she ever quarreled over money ! And the
262 THE CRUCIBLE
domestic problem was as simple. Wouldn't they con-
sider it ? She meant literally consider, not decide.
They could decide on the spot, for come to her they
must on their return. She claimed that of them at
least. They should be her guests first; then but
no more of that now.
They read the letter shoulder to shoulder; and so,
without speaking, sat for a long moment after they
reached the end.
"Well ?" he said at last, with a vain reading of the
"Bully of her, isn't it?"
"And practical," he added; "more practical than
our air-castles, I dare say."
A quick fear caught at her throat.
"Could you give them up, Craig?"
"Give them up!" he exclaimed. "Give up the
air-castles that we've planned while drifting in the
bay, roaming the fields, watching the sunset from this
dear window ? Never ! We'll have our own home
yet. But it does mean time, as Julie says, and this
is a critical period in my affairs. I feel it strongly."
"It would be practical," he said again thought-
fully. "We must admit it, Jean. How Julie seems
to set her heart upon it ! We owe her some repara-
tion, I suppose. We might at least, till the portrait
is under way ? Oh, but you must decide this point."
THE CRUCIBLE 263
"No," she answered. "Your work must decide.
But need we worry over it now?"
"Indeed, we'll not," he declared. "When we
reach town will be soon enough, as Julie says. Come
out for a row."
The end of the honeymoon came sooner than they
thought. A third missive from Julie, laid before them
at breakfast, asked when she might look for them,
and added that Mrs. Joyce-Reeves also wished en-
lightenment, as she should soon be leaving town.
Jean herself had urged a prompt return for the por-
trait's sake, but it seemingly needed his sister's spur
to prick Craig to action. Time-tables immediately
absorbed him. Noon saw them in Boston and the
evening in New York, where a week to a day, al-
most to an hour, from the fateful dinner, they passed
again through Mrs. Van Ostade's door.
Throughout the homeward journey Jean had
shrunk from this moment, and, though he said
nothing, she divined that Craig himself dreaded fac-
ing Julie. But the actual meeting held no terrors.
Mrs. Van Ostade greeted them cordially and at once
led the way to the suite of rooms set apart for their use.
"This is your particular corner," she said at the
threshold, "but the whole house, remember, is
"My books!" exclaimed Atwood, bringing up
in the little living room, the charm of which won Jean
instantly. " My old French prints ! Have you
moved me bag and baggage, Julie ?"
264 THE CRUCIBLE
" I did send to your rooms for a few things to make
you comfortable. I think you'll find the essentials.
Had I dared," she added, turning smilingly on
Jean, "I should have laid hands on your belongings,
They came upon discovery after discovery as they
traversed the successive rooms. Julie's deft touch
showed itself everywhere. Flowers met them on
every hand, and a great bowl of bride's roses lavished
its fragrance from Jean's own dressing-table. Her
face went down among their petals.
"You don't mind ?" murmured Julie at her side.
"I wanted to do something, belated as it seems."
Atwood caught up one of the dainty trifles with
which the dressing-table was strewn.
"See, Jean!" he called. "They're yours. This
is your monogram."
The remorseful lump in the girl's throat stifled
"You don't mind ?" Julie repeated.
Jean's response was mute, but convincing. At-
wood went out precipitately and closed the door
upon his retreat.
Nor did Mrs. Van Ostade's thoughtfulness stop
at their welcome, or yet at the almost imperceptible
point where, the portrait deciding, their status as
guests changed to a relation less transient. It con-
cerned itself with the revision of Jean's wardrobe,
with the more efFective dressing of her hair, with the
minutiae of calls and social usages, intricate beyond
THE CRUCIBLE 265
her previous conception, but not lacking rime and
reason in her altered life.
Jean had no galling sense of pupilage the thing
was too delicately done. Often Julie's lessons took
the sugar-coated form of a gentle conspiracy against
Craig, who, his sister confided, had in some respects
lapsed into a bohemianism which needed its correc-
tive. A portrait-painter, she reasoned, must defer
to society more than other artists. It was an essen-
tial part of his work to acquaint himself sympatheti-
cally with the ways of the leisured class who made
his profession commercially possible. Mrs. Joyce-
Reeves furnished a concrete illustration. Even if
the studio stairs had not proved too great an obstacle
for her years, how enormously more to Craig's ad-
vantage it was that he could paint her here ! Com-
ing to this house, his sitter entered no alien environ-
ment. She retained her atmosphere.
"I make it a point to serve tea at their afternoon
sittings," she added. "And I try to chat with her
whenever I can. It draws her out, lets Craig see her
as she really is, makes up for his lack of knowledge
of her individuality."
Plastic as she was under coaching, Jean nursed
a healthy doubt of the wisdom of Mrs. Van Ostade's
constant presence in the billiard-room over the ex-
tension, which Atwood had chosen for the work be-
cause of its excellent north light. When had he so
changed that the chatter of a third person helped
him to paint ?
2 66 THE CRUCIBLE
Moreover, Craig was openly dissatisfied.
"I'm only marking time," he fretted, as he and
Jean sat together before the canvas after Mrs. Joyce-
Reeves's third sitting. "All my preconceived notions
were merely blind scents. I'm not getting at the
"Yet it's wonderfully like her," she encouraged,
studying the strong, mocking old face.
"So are her photographs! Is that portraiture?
Look at their stuff," he cried, catching a handful of
unmounted prints from a drawer. "See what Hunt-
ington did with her girlhood ! See Millais's woman
of thirty ! Look at Zorn's great portrait ! Take
"But none of them have painted her old age," she
reminded. "You have that advantage."
" And what have I got out of it ? Wrinkles ! "
Crossing Madison Square a day or two later, Jean
met MacGregor. He had congratulated them
promptly by letter and sent them one of his desert
studies which he knew for a favorite; but she had
not come face to face with him since her marriage.
She wanted to speak to him, for an unfulfilled pen-
ance hung over her, and almost her first word was a
confession of her feeling that she had done Julie an
He listened with a caustic stare.
"Buried the hatchet?" he remarked.
"If there ever was a hatchet. I'm not so sure
there was. I think we both misjudged her."
THE CRUCIBLE . 267
"Both, eh !" snorted MacGregor, huffily. "I dare
say. After all, I'm a raw young thing with no expe-
"No; seriously," Jean laughed.
He changed the topic.
"Is the portrait coming on?" he asked.
"Craig is despondent."
"Good thing!" he ejaculated. "Stimulates the
gray matter." His face went awry, however, when
she mentioned Julie's theory and practice. "So
it's the tea-drinking Mrs. Joyce-Reeves our mighty
painter thinks most important," he broke out acidly,
after violent bottling of comment more pungent.
"Fine! What insight ! What originality !"
Jean's eyes snapped loyally.
"Don't be disagreeable," she retorted. "You
know Craig doesn't think anything of the kind."
They separated with scant courtesy, but she had
not quitted the park before MacGregor's tall figure
again towered over her.
" Enlighten the brute a little further," he said with
elaborate meekness. "What is to become of your
work ? Richter says you haven't darkened his door
since your marriage."
"Four whole weeks!"
"Oh, jeer away," he grumbled. "Honeymoon or
not, it's too long."
"I must think of Craig's interests first."
MacGregor lifted his hat.
"Your father also dabbled in clay and matri-
268 THE CRUCIBLE
mony, I believe," he said, and left her definitely to
She admitted the justice of his reminder when her
cheek cooled, and, turning into a cross-town street,
set a straight course for Richter's. The swathed
model of a colossal group called "Agriculture,"
which he had in hand for a Western exposition, hid
the sculptor as she pushed open the door of the big
studio, and when she finally came upon the little man
it was to discover Mrs. Joyce-Reeves beside him in
close examination of an uncovered bit of foreground
where a child tumbled in joyous, intimate communion
with the soil.
They broke out laughing at sight of Jean.
"I told you I should ask Richter," declared the
old lady, briskly. "His answer was to show me
Jean flushed at this indirect praise from the
"Mr. Richter let me have a hand in it," she said.
"A hand ! He told me he should have had to leave
the figure out altogether if you had not experimented
with the janitor's baby."
The sculptor was now blushing, too.
"He did not tell me," Jean laughed.
"Why didn't you?" demanded Mrs. Joyce-
Reeves, abruptly. "Why didn't you encourage the
"I think praise should be handled gingerly," he
THE CRUCIBLE 269
"Is it such moral dynamite ? I don't believe it."
She beamed her approval of Jean's physical endow-
ments as well, lingering in particular upon her eyes.
Suddenly she gave a little cluck of surprise, whipped
out a handkerchief, and laid it unceremoniously
across the girl's lower face.
"Do you know Malcolm MacGregor ?" she de-
manded. "Yes ? Then I'm the owner of your por-
trait. It's called 'The Lattice.' Atwood's wife,
MacGregor's inspiration, Richter's collaborator
my dear, you are very wonderful. Shall I take you
home ? I've promised your husband a sitting."
Jean said she must remain and work. She had
thought only to run in and appease Richter, but be-
tween his grudging praise and MacGregor's goad,
she found her fingers itching for the neglected tools ;
and she was into her comprehensive studio-apron
before Mrs. Joyce-Reeves's electric brougham had
purred halfway down the block. The sculptor
squandered no more compliments that day, however.
Indeed, he swerved heavily to the opposite extreme,
but Jean dreamed audacious dreams over the peni-
tential copying of a battered antique, and the after-
noon was far gone when she reluctantly stopped
Leaving Richter's door, she beheld her husband
swinging gayly down the street. He waved to her
boyishly and quickened his step.
"Good news ?" she queried.
"The very best," he said, seizing both her hands,
270 THE CRUCIBLE
to the lively edification of two nursemaids, a police-
man, and the driver of a passing dray. "I've got
my interpretation, Jean ! Got it at last ! And it
came through you !"
For some reason, he told her, Mrs. Joyce-Reeves
had arrived earlier than her appointment. Julie
was out, but luckily she caught him, and so an hour
of vast significance tamely began. By and by his
sitter mentioned Jean, her work, and Richter's
opinions, and plied him with kindly inquisitive ques-
tions about their love affair and elopement, till all
in a lightning flash it came to him that here, peep-
ing from behind the worldly old mask which every-
body knew, was another, unguessed Mrs. Joyce-
Reeves with a schoolgirl's appetite for romance.
"And that is what I want to paint," he declared.
"Cynic on the surface, romanticist at heart."
The way home was too ridiculously short, and they
pieced it out with park and shop-window saunterings.
The future was big with promise. Both should
wear the bays.
"For something she dropped set me thinking," At-
wood said. "She sees, like all of us, that children
are your forte, and she thinks that in this day of child
study, your talent can't fail to make its mark. The
janitor's baby seems to have swept her ofF her feet.
She said the janitors, proud race though they be,
must not be allowed to monopolize your time. Then
she spoke of her great-grandchild, and I think there's
something in the wind."
THE CRUCIBLE 271
Jean trifled with the intoxicating possibilities for
a dozen paces.
"Oh," she said finally, as if shaking herself awake,
"Richter would never consent to my trying such
They composed their frivolous faces under the
solemn regard of Julie's butler, who told Jean that a
caller awaited her in the library.
"A lady from out of town," he added.
Jean wondered, "Why the library?" and, then,
advancing, wondered again as a silvery tinkle reached
her ears; but the chief marvel of all was the spec-
tacle of Julie Van Ostade and Mrs. Fanshaw in
amicable, even intimate, converse over afternoon
SURPRISE held her at the threshold an instant,
whereupon a rare, beaming, even effusive, Mrs. Fan-
shaw, whom Jean's memories linked with calls from
the minister, bore down on her, two steps to her one,
and engulfed her in a prolonged embrace. Then,
holding her daughter at arm's length in swift appraise-
ment of her dress and urban air,
"Death brought me," she explained.
"Your great-aunt Martha Tuttle died last Friday
at brother Andrew's in Paterson," she announced
in lugubrious tones with which her blithe visage could
not instantly be brought in harmony. "I am on
my way home from the funeral."
"I've been trying to persuade your mother to break
her journey here for a few days," Julie contributed,
with a fugitive smile; "but she says she must hurry
"Amelia expects her little stranger any time now,"
murmured Mrs. Fanshaw, chastely. "But I will
stop overnight, perhaps part of to-morrow, thanking
you kindly, Mrs. Van Ostade."
"Pray don't," deprecated Julie, moving toward
THE CRUCIBLE 273
the door. "This is Jean's home, you know. Un-
fortunately, I'm dining out this evening."
Jean learned of Mrs. Fanshaw's haste and Julie's
engagement with equal relief. She felt no snobbish
shame for her mother's rusticity, but she did fear her
babbling tongue, and her first word on Julie's with-
drawal was one of caution.
"Not a syllable about the refuge here," she charged.
"Neither Craig nor I wish Mrs. Van Ostade to know.
The visitor's eyes widened.
"Oh," she observed slowly, "I don't see "
"We see," Jean cut her short. "You must respect
my wishes in this."
"All right," assented Mrs. Fanshaw, with amazing
meekness. "Is your husband on the premises?"
"You will meet him soon," she replied, thinking it
expedient that Julie or herself should first give At-
wood some hint of what lay in store.
" He is really quite well known, isn't he ? I've
taken more notice of magazine pictures since I heard
I had another son-in-law. I hope he's not wild.
They tell of such goings-on among artists and models.
I seem to recollect, though, they were French."
"Craig is a gentleman."
"I'm bound to say his sister is a lady," Mrs. Fan-
shaw replied to this laconic statement. "Is she any
connection of that Mrs. Quentin Van Ostade the
papers mention so much?"
(< Julie is her daughter-in-law."
274 THE CRUCIBLE
"You don't tell me!" She was impressed to the
verge of awe. "Why, that makes you sister-in-law
to Mrs. Quentin Van Ostade's son !"
"He is dead."
"Dead !" Her face paid the late Mr. Van Ostade
the fleeting tribute of a shadow. "What a pity!
But I presume his mother still sees something of his
widow ? "
"And comes here sometimes ?"
Mrs. Fanshaw resurveyed her surroundings as if
they had taken on historic interest.
"You've seen her?"
"I mean, really met her been introduced ?"
"Yes," Jean admitted, without humility.
Her mother eyed her with respectful interest.
"I hope you'll keep your head, Jean," she ad-
monished solemnly. "This is a great come-up in the
world for you."
An impish impulse took shape in Jean's brain, and,
under cover of showing the house, she guided Mrs.
Fanshaw by edifying stages to Craig's temporary
studio and the great work.
"A portrait he's doing!" she dropped care-
Her mother as carelessly bestowed a brief glance
upon the canvas.
"What a wrinkled old woman," she commented,
THE CRUCIBLE 275
turning away. "But I suppose it is the money
your husband is thinking of?"
"What will he get for it?"
Jean pondered demurely.
"It is hard to say. Perhaps a thousand, perhaps
two thousand dollars."
"What !" She wheeled upon the portrait. "Why,
who is the woman ?"
The effect was as dramatic as Jean's unfilial fancy
"The Mrs. Joyce-Reeves of Fifth Avenue and
Newport ? "
"And of Lenox, Aiken, and Ormond yes."
Mrs. Fanshaw's attitude toward the portrait be-
came reverential. Here was hallowed ground !
"Have you met her, too ?" she asked finally, with
the realization that even her child might share the
"You have talked with her ?"
"Only this afternoon."
"She was here to-day, for a sitting, but I ran across
her at Mr. Richter's studio."
"That is where you go to "
"To model; yes." Then, with great calm, "Mrs.
Joyce-Reeves admires my work."
A chastened, pensive, almost deferential, being,
276 THE CRUCIBLE
who from time to time stole puzzled glances at her
ugly duckling turned swan, let herself be shown to her
room and smartened for dinner, to which she de-
scended at what seemed to her robust appetite an
unconscionably late hour. Here the fame of her son-
in-law and the even more disconcerting attentions
of the butler combined to make her subjugation
Sweet as was her victory, however, Jean had no
wish to see her mother ill at ease, and she rejoiced
when Craig exerted himself to entertain this visitor
whose subdued, almost shy, manner was so bewilder-
ingly at variance with the forbidding image his fancy
had set up. Moreover, he succeeded. If Mrs.
Fanshaw's parochial outlook dulled the edge of his
choicer quips and anecdotes, his boyish charm, at
least, required no footnotes; and before the dinner
ended she was bearing her gustful share in the con-
versation with such largess of detail that a far less
imaginative listener than he might reconstruct there-
from the whole social and economic fabric of Shawnee
To Jean, who in dark moments had longed to for-
get it utterly, the narrow little town recurred with
sharp, unlovely lines. Forget it ! She could as easily
forget that this was her mother. Flout it as she would,
it yet stood closer to her than any spot on earth. Its
censure and its respect were neither despicable; her
rehabilitation in its purblind eyes was a thing de-
sirable above all other ambitions. Then, presently,
THE CRUCIBLE 277
in this hour when she craved such justification deep-
est, its possibility, even its certainty, came to her.
She had slipped away to answer one of the more im-
perative letters which Craig's detestation of affairs
left to her, and as she mused a moment over her fin-
ished task, the drift of Mrs. Fanshaw's monologue in
the room beyond penetrated her revery.
She was talking, as Jean had heard her talk times
innumerable, with endless variations upon a single
theme. But the burden of her laud was no longer
Amelia ! Now it was Jean her childish spirit,
her school-time precocity, her early love of shaping
things in clay, her promise, her beauty, her future
Jean, always Jean ! And as the girl at the desk
drank it in thirstily, she foresaw the end. Signs
there had been already that Amelia was wavering
on her pedestal her husband and her husband's
family, the proud Fargos, had impaired her saint-
hood; and now in the tireless, fatuous, sweet re-
frain, Jean read her own elevation to the vacant niche.
Hot tears blinded her. It might not be her noblest
compensation ; but it was the dearest.
If Mrs. Fanshaw's coming marked the dawn of
another day in Jean's spirit, its effect on her external
welfare was less happy. Her relations with Julie
were beyond question altered, though precisely where
the difference lay was not easy to detect. Intuition,
rather than any overt act or word of Mrs. Van Os-
tade's, told her this, for their surface intercourse
went on much as before; but, elusive and volatile
278 THE CRUCIBLE
as this changed atmosphere was, she nevertheless
knew it for something real, alert, and vaguely hostile.
Yet this aloofness, if aloofness it could be called, was
so bound up in Julie's propaganda on behalf of Craig's
career that Jean took it for a not unnatural jealousy.
Atwood fed the flame with repeated acknowledg-
ments of his wife's share in solving his riddle, the
fervor of which leaped from bud to bloom with tropic
extravagance as the portrait went rapidly forward
and the judgment of MacGregor and other experts
assured him of its strength. His sister, Jean noted,
always took these outbursts in silence. The portrait
expressed a Mrs. Joyce-Reeves with whom she was
unfamiliar, either over the tea-cups or elsewhere, but
she had the breadth to recognize its bigness and set
her restless energy to work to exploit it with all her
Of her methods Jean perhaps saw more than Mrs.
Van Ostade supposed. For a fortnight Atwood let
the nearly finished portrait cool, as he said, and busied
himself at his regular studio with such illustrative
work as he was still under contract to deliver. This
was Julie's opportunity. That Atwood was painting
Mrs. Joyce-Reeves was no secret a discreet para-
graph or two had sown the seed of publicity in fertile
ground ; and Julie furthermore let it leak out among
those it might interest that the sittings took place
beneath her roof. Skillful playing of influential
callers who rose eagerly to allusions to the opinions
of the critics Mr. Malcolm MacGregor, for exam-
THE CRUCIBLE 279
pie would lead usually, in strictest confidence, to a
stolen view of the masterpiece. By such devices
and others it came to pass that Atwood, happily
ignorant of the wire-pulling which loosed the falling
manna, found himself commissioned to paint three
more persons of consequence so soon as his engage-
ments to Mrs. Joyce-Reeves and the publishers
Craig ascribed it all to society's proneness to follow
"But I never gauged Mrs. Joyce-Reeves's true
power, the magic of her mere name," he said re-
peatedly. "Three orders on the bare gossip that
she has given me sittings !"
Julie begged Jean not to undeceive him.
"At least not yet," she qualified. "He is quixotic
enough to throw his chance away, if he thought I
used a little business common sense to make his art
pay. I've never dared let him know the labor it cost
to interest Mrs. Joyce-Reeves. Not that it was ille-
gitimate or in any way underhanded. All this is as
legitimate as the social pressure a clever architect
brings to bear, and nobody thinks of censuring.
But illusions are precious to Craig; they feed his
inspiration. So I say, let him enjoy them while he
can. Let him think commissions drop from the
Jean doubted the truth of this estimate of Craig,
but she did full justice to Mrs. Van Ostade's motives
and to the signal success of her campaign which, for
2 8o THE CRUCIBLE
all she knew of such matters, might be, as Julie said,
legitimate, and at this time even vitally important.
The necessity for a change of studio, which now re-
curred, seemed logical, too.
"You now see for yourself, Craig, how unsuited
to portrait work your old quarters are," Julie argued.
"Virginia Hepworth won't mind coming here
she is next, you know; but you can't go on this way
indefinitely. Of course, it's possible that you may
find it desirable to take a temporary studio at New-
port for the summer; but in the fall people will ex-
pect a city studio worthy of your reputation."
Atwood was tractable.
"We must have a look around," he assented.
"I have looked around," announced his sister;
"and I've found something you couldn't possibly
better. It has every convenience a splendid work-
room, a large reception-room, a dressing-room, and
an extra chamber which would be useful for the
caterer when you receive. It will require very little
redecorating, though they're willing to do it through-
out, if we like."
"That sounds like the Copley Studios."
" Must it be the pink-tea district, after all, Julie ?
Boy in buttons at the door, velvet-coated poseur
Artist with a capital A in the holy of holies.
What will old Mac say ! Jean, what do you
THE CRUCIBLE 281
She felt Julie's compelling eye upon her, and re-
sented its domination; but she saw no choice of ways.
"The velvet jacket isn't compulsory, is it?" she
said lightly. "Why not look at the studio ?"
"I'll drop in the first time I am near," he agreed.
"I ventured to make an appointment," she said.
"They only show it by special permission of the
owners, the Peter Y. Satterlee Company. Mr.
Satterlee himself offered to be at the building at
twelve o'clock to-morrow, if that hour will suit.
To deal with him in person would be an advantage."
"Would it?" responded Craig, hazily. "Very
well. Can you go, Jean?"
"If you want me," she returned, feeling outside
"Of course. I count on you and Julie to browbeat
the real-estate shark into reducing the summer's
rent. All I shall be good for is to tell you whether
there is a practicable north light."
Jean came late. Richter had abruptly taken her
off the spirit-mortifying antique to aid him with one
of his lesser studies for the Western exposition, and
the forenoon had been absorbing. To watch Richter
model was much; to help him a heaven-sent boon to
be exercised in fear and trembling and exceeding
joy. The stroke of twelve, which should have found
her with Craig, saw her but leaving Richter's door.
The distance was short, however, and at a quarter
past the hour the overupholstered elevator of the
282 THE CRUCIBLE
Copley Studios bore her without vulgar haste
It was all vastly different from Craig's unfashion-
able top-story back, a mile or more down-town.
No shabby street confronted this temple of the fine
arts; its benign facade overlooked a trim park and
the vehicles of elegant leisure. No base odor of
cabbage or garlic rose from the nether lair of its
janitor; no plebeian tailor or dressmaker debased the
tone of its lower floors. Its courts were of marble,
and its flunkies had supple spines.
The door to which Jean was directed stood ajar,
and she let herself in to encounter other mighty
differences. The entrance to the down-town studio
precipitated the caller squarely into the travail of
artistic production, but the architect who planned the
Copley Studios had interposed a little hall with a
stained-glass window-nook and a reception-room
of creamy empire fittings between genius and its
From the studio proper issued Julie's level tones,
presumably in discussion with Peter Y. Satterlee,
for Jean heard Craig's meditative whistle in another
direction. Following a small passage, she came
upon him studying the convolutions of a nervous jet
of steam which found vent among the myriad chim-
neys of the nearer outlook.
"Will it do?" she smiled.
"Splendidly almost too splendidly. Julie and
the magnificent Satterlee are settling terms, I be-
THE CRUCIBLE 283
lieve. Behold your studio, sculptress mine!" he
added with a grandiloquent gesture. "This is the
extra chamber of Julie's rhapsodies, otherwise a bach-
elor's bedroom about to be dedicated to nobler ends.
Notice your view, Jean ! New York, the Hudson,
Jersey's hills, and the promise of sunsets beyond com-
pare ! And look here" descending to practicality
-"running water handy and my workshop next.
We shall virtually work side by side."
He pushed open the connecting door, and they
entered the studio. Julie and a globular man in
superfine raiment stood like ill-balanced caryatids
in support of either end of the mantelpiece.
"I agree to everything," he was saying. "The
leases shall be ready to-morrow."
The voice signaled some cell in lean's brain. The
face, which he turned immediately upon her, gave
memory its instant clew, and she felt her skin go
hot and cold under Peter Y. Satterlee's earnest gaze.
"Have you a double, Mrs. Atwood?" he asked,
after a moment's idle discussion of the studio.
She tried to face him calmly.
"A double? I think not."
"Why?" demanded Julie.
Satterlee pursued his investigations with madden-
"It's a most extraordinary resemblance, particu-
larly as to eyes," he said. "There was a young
woman, a dentist's wife, living in a Harlem apart-
ment of ours the Lorna Doone, it was who
284 THE CRUCIBLE
might be Mrs. Atwood's twin. You didn't marry a
widow, sir?" he broke off jocularly.
Atwood laughingly shook his head.
"How curious !" he exclaimed. "What was her
"There you have me," admitted the agent, after
brain-fagging efforts. "I can't recollect. I sold
the property very soon."
RID of them all, Jean was tormented by a host of
replies and courses of action, any one of which, she
believed, would have blunted the edge of Julie's sus-
picion. For she was suspicious ! There could be no
doubt of it. To Craig she longed to offer some ex-
planation, but her love bade her reject anything short
of the whole truth, even as it told her that the whole
truth was impossible. Every hour of her wedded
happiness heaped proof on proof of the joy he took
in the belief that he alone had filled her heart. And
was he not right ? Had not his dear image persisted
canonized, enshrined, worshiped since their
forest meeting! Paul had never displaced it. In
truth, it had shone the brighter because of Paul.
But how put this holy mystery in words !
She took refuge in an opportunism not unlike
Amy's. Did not time and chance rule the world !
Yet her peace of mind was fitful, and she shunned
the Copley Studios with a fear which hearkened to no
argument. It was useless to remind herself that
Satterlee was a man of many interests. Her imagina-
tion always figured him as haunting the room where
she had come upon him. There he waited, a ro-
tund bomb by the mantelpiece, with the explosive
286 THE CRUCIBLE
"Bartlett" in his subconsciousness ready to destroy
her the instant her face should at last apply the fatal
spark. So it fell out that, pleading her own work
whenever Craig, himself absorbed in the Hepworth
portrait, asked her opinion of his sister's ideas, the
new studio's furnishing went forward without her and
in unhampered accord with Julie's ambitious plans.
How far-reaching these plans were she first ade-
quately perceived through MacGregor, whose card
came up to her one evening when both Atwood and
Mrs. Van Ostade were out.
" I counted on finding you alone," he owned with
characteristic bluntness. "Craig has gone to the
Salmagundi doings, of course, I'm due there later;
while I happen to know that Julie is dining with her
mother-in-law. I met Julie this afternoon at the
"Then you saw Craig's new quarters?"
"Yes. Have you seen them ?"
"Why do you ask that question ?"
"I gathered that you hadn't."
" I went there the day Craig took the place."
"And have not returned ! Why?"
"I am working hard with Richter."
"So he tells me. Don't overwork. Art isn't
"Aren't you inconsistent?" she laughed.
"Lord, yes! Consistently inconsistent. Life
would lose half its sparkle, if I weren't. But the
new studio; you should have a look in; it would
THE CRUCIBLE 287
interest you. I don't often trouble the pink-tea dis-
trict, but an errand took me into the Copley building
to-day just as Julie entered, and she offered to show
His meditations became irksome.
"Well?" Jean prompted.
"Julie should have been a stage-manager," he
said. "Her scenic instinct is remarkable. She
sees Craig's place peopled with a fashionable por-
trait-painter's clientele, and has set her properties
accordingly. His Italian finds, his tapestries, his
old furniture, his Pompeian bronzes, the new grand
piano, and the various other newnesses, all present
themselves as background for society drama. I take
off" my hat to her. She, too, is an artist, an artist of
imagination. It is all perfectly done. Nothing lacks
but the fashionable portrait-painter."
"And the drama ?" Jean suggested.
"Oh, that is being looked after. She plans a
house-warming of some sort. You haven't been
"Neither has Craig, I dare say. Perhaps the idea
only took shape while she talked with me. I can't
give you the technical name of the function, but it
will be worthy of the manager's reputation. The
scheme is to get Mrs. Joyce-Reeves's portrait, Miss
Hepworth's, and mine yes, mine ! before as
many as possible of the opulent beings who itch to
hand their empty faces down to posterity. By the
way, I want to see the Hepworth portrait."
288 THE CRUCIBLE
She took him to the billiard-room and brought the
unfinished picture to the easel. MacGregor turned
off a warring light, chose a view-point, bestrode a
chair, and lapsed into a long silence. Jean tried
to read his rugged face, but finding it inscrutable,
herself studied the canvas. Fuller knowledge of
Craig's sitter had failed to reveal the qualities of mind
he found so stimulating; but now, confronting the
immobile counterfeit, she hit with disturbing cer-
tainty upon the truth that Virginia Hepworth's
appeal was physical, and to men as men.
A moment afterward MacGregor confirmed her
"I don't know her any better," he said. "Out-
wardly she is the same neurotic creature I've seen all
along. Apathetic with other women, she stirs to life
and takes her tints from the particular male with
whom she chances to be. Craig has missed an op-
portunity to dissect a chameleon."
"You think it's a failure !"
"Psychologically, I do; technically, no. In color,
texture, it is masterly. Don't distress yourself about
its success; it will be only too successful. I think
it will even have the bad luck to be popular."
Jean's loyalty rose to do battle.
"It's to Craig's credit that he could not see her
truly," she retorted. "If she takes her tints from the
man with whom she talks, then he has painted into
her something of himself, something fine. But
wasn't it hers for the moment ? Why, then, shouldn't
he show her at her best, not her worst ?"
THE CRUCIBLE 289
MacGregor laughed immoderately.
"That is stanch and wifely and nonsensical. It is
not a portrait-painter's business to supply the virtues
or the vices. His palette ought to contain neither
mud nor whitewash. It is his duty to see things as
" But how can you expect Craig to see Miss Hep-
worth as she is ? He's not "
" Middle-aged, like myself," suggested MacGregor,
as she hesitated. "Say it ! It makes your fling con-
crete, personal, feminine."
Jean's wrath cooled in a smile.
"I was going to add, cynical," she said. "Is that
a personality ?"
"It's wide of the mark, whatever we call it. I'm
no cynic. If I were, I should merely stand by and
laugh, not interfere."
"Don't put it that way."
"It amounts to interference. I can't cheat you,
and I don't fool myself into thinking my talk about
Craig's work is impersonal. Neither is what I say
about Julie impersonal. Of course you've heard
that she jilted me for Van Ostade ? Eh ? I thought
so. Don't think you must say you're sorry," he
protested hastily, as her lips parted. " I'm not sorry.
I'm thankful for my escape. That sounds bitter to
you. Perhaps I am bitter, but the bitterness is for
myself, not her; and it doesn't sway my judgment
of her influence upon Craig by a hair's breadth. He
thinks it does, naturally, and he discounts my warn-
290 THE CRUCIBLE
ings. But I know, and you will know, if you don't
see it yet, that he must shake her off. Otherwise he's
Jean kindled from his fiery earnestness.
"What must I do?" she asked. "Do you think
the new studio is a mistake?"
"No; I don't say it is. Craig had to come up-
town. I'm not maintaining, either, that he can't
paint under such conditions. Some men they stimu-
late. It isn't the studio; it's the commercial cam-
paign it stands for which makes my gorge rise.
Mind you, I don't censure Craig for not grasping
Miss Hepworth in character. His youth is respon-
sible for that fluke. But if he listens to Julie, he'll
soon be painting everybody at their best moments.
He'll take orders like a factory yes ; and execute
thern like a factory shallow, slap-dash, character-
less vanities all of a mould, which fools will buy
and the future ignore. There is no lost soul so tor-
tured as the fashionable portrait-painter who has
once known honest work. You must save Craig
from such a fate. Don't think he is too strong to suc-
cumb. I've seen men with as much promise as his
go under. Help him keep his feeling fresh. See
that he has time to linger over and search out each
subject. Make him paint even the mediocrities as
"How shall I begin?"
"Throw Julie overboard," answered MacGregor,
instantly. "I did not come here to mince words.
THE CRUCIBLE 291
I want to bring this home to you before I leave the
country. I sail for Africa day after to-morrow."
"Yes. This is good-by. A magazine has made
me an offer I can't afford to refuse."
She was oppressed by a great loneliness.
"Then I must fight it out single-handed," she said.
"You would fight single-handed if I were here, I'm
afraid. Nobody can help you much. The most I
can do is to try to convince you that you must fight.
You must show Julie her place, and show her soon.
Don't be soft-hearted about it. She's not soft, trust
my word. You are dealing with an enemy under-
stand it clearly. She is an enemy and a clever one.
Julie could not prevent your marriage, but she may
She paled at the conviction of his tone.
"I can't believe it!"
"Can't you? I tell you the process of alienation
has begun. Doesn't Craig think you indifferent about
the studio ?"
"Perhaps. I had reasons "
"Chuck them away."
"And he knows I've been busy with Richter.
Craig himself is lukewarm about the studio."
"You must not be. It may be your battle-ground.
I don't say it will; but it may be, and it behooves
you to look after your defences." He glowered at
the painted face a moment, then: "You may know
that the Chameleon was Julie's own choice for sister-
292 THE CRUCIBLE
in-law. Yes ? It's a fact worth thinking over.
Good-by, Jean, and good luck ! I haven't been
agreeable, but I've spoken as a friend. You feel
that, I hope ?"
"Yes," she answered unsteadily; "and thank
MacGregor winced as her voice broke.
"Buck up, buck up!" he charged. "You'll win
out, sure ! "
She brooded over his words till Atwood's return,
but without seeing her way, and a restless night sug-
gested only courses too fantastic for the light of day.
She could not repeat MacGregor's warnings to Craig,
nor could she voice them as her own ; while to attack
Julie openly seemed maddest of all. She could only
drift and bide a time to assert herself with dignity.
Such a chance seemed to offer at luncheon when
Mrs. Van Ostade asked Craig for suggestions regard-
ing the decoration of the small room off the main
"It has never been done up, you know," she con-
tinued. "The last tenant did not occupy it at all.
We shall need it, however, and I think it should be
put in order at once. I'll use my own discretion, if
you don't want to be bothered."
" But that is Jean's affair," he said.
Julie's eyebrows arched.
"She and I settled it in the beginning that she
should have that room for her work.' 3
THE CRUCIBLE 293
His sister drew her knife through an inoffensive
chop with bloodthirsty vehemence.
"Indeed!" she returned.
"I will look after its decoration," put in Jean,
Mrs. Van Ostade's dusky skin shadowed with the
dull red which marked her infrequent flush.
"It must be in harmony with the other rooms,"
she said sharply. "At times it will be necessary to
throw everything open."
"And it should be done immediately. In fact,
Mr. Satterlee promised to look in at the studio about
it at five o'clock to-day."
Jean was staggered, but she could not hesitate.
"I will meet Mr. Satterlee," she answered.
Julie's thin lips parted in a travesty of a smile.
"You are sure it would be agreeable ?" she asked.
Atwood lifted his eyes at her tone.
"Agreeable, Julie ?" he said. "Why do you give
the word that twist ? Why shouldn't it be agree-
Jean felt like an animal in a trap, but she faced
Mrs. Van Ostade with head erect and unflinching
"Yes; why?" she demanded.
Julie seemed to weigh a reply which prudent second
thought bade her check.
"How tragic you two have suddenly become,"
she drawled. "Isn't it possible that the exacting
294 THE CRUCIBLE
Richter may have a prior claim ? I am only too happy
that Jean can find time to revisit the studio and
meet Mr. Satterlee. I hope, Craig, you will be
Atwood looked frankly distressed over the rancor-
ous turn the discussion had taken.
"If you'll wait for me, Jean," he said, "we will
walk over together. Miss Hepworth is to give me
a sitting at three."
Jean went heavy-hearted to her room and flung
herself down to wonder dully how it would end.
Drowsiness overtook her in these unprofitable ques-
tionings, and, spent with her wearing night, she fell
into a deep slumber which shut out all thought till
a knock called her back to face reality smugly em-
bodied in a servant with a card-tray.
Paul ! The bit of pasteboard fluttered to the
floor. What brought him here ? Then, perceiving
a gleam of human curiosity light the face of the au-
tomaton with the tray, she gripped her self-control
and bade the man tell Bartlett that she would see
"It's Amy," explained the dentist, rising from a
respectful survey of Mrs. Van Ostade's drawing-
room. "Nothing will do her but that you must come
up to the flat. It isn't a thing I could 'phone or I
wouldn't have broken in on you like this, let alone
hustling down here between appointments and maybe
missing other patients."
"But what is it?"
THE CRUCIBLE 295
"The drummer. Amy thinks he means to shake
her, and she's gone all to pieces. I ran in there to
ask for the rent, which is 'way behind, and found her
all in a heap. It was no place for P.B. Amy needs
another woman and needs her bad ; and it seems to be
up to you. I know it's tough, asking you to go back
to the Lorna Doone where every stick of furniture "
"I'll go," she interrupted. "If Amy didn't need
me, I know you would not have come."
" I'm afraid I can't wait to ride up with you," Paul
apologized. "You see, I'm only here between ap-
pointments, and "
"I understand. Besides, I must see Mr. Atwood
She mounted hurriedly to the billiard-room where
Craig must still be at work, but hesitated on the
threshold. The door was half open, and, unseen
herself, she saw both painter and sitter. Virginia
Hepworth had dropped her pose and had come behind
Craig's chair. Neither spoke, though his brush was
idle. They merely faced the canvas in a silence, the
long-standing intimacy of which stabbed Jean with a
jealous pang and sent her away with her message
She trusted Craig, but she could not trust herself,
and deemed it the part of wisdom to leave word
with the dispassionate butler that a friend's sickness
would prevent her going to the studio.
JEAN entered the Lorna Doone with a sense of
having known the place in some former life. Its
braggart onyx, its rugs, its palms, all the veneer
which went to make for "tone" that fetich of the
dentist greeted her with a luster scarcely dimmed ;
the negro hall-boy flashed a toothful smile of recogni-
tion; and even a scratch, which their moving had
left on the green denim by the flat door, had its keen
It was a relief to lay eyes upon Amy, who had no
close relationship to this dead yet risen past. Amy,
poor wight, seemed related to nothing familiar.
Easily flooding tears, which gushed afresh at sight
of Jean, had washed her prettiness away.
"I knew you'd come," she whispered, clinging
desperately. "Paul thought it was no use to ask,
but I made him go. You're not mad at me, Jean,
for sending ? I've nobody else not a soul."
Jean soothed her as she would a child, and lead-
ing her into a bedroom close at hand, made her lie
down. No sooner did her head touch the pillow,
however, than she struggled up again.
"I can't lie still," she pleaded. "Don't make me
lie still. I tossed here all night. I can't rest, I must
THE CRUCIBLE 297
talk. I want you to know what's happened. I want
you to tell me what to do. I must do something.
It can't go on. I'll lose my mind. I'll die."
Jean drew the woebegone figure to her.
"Tell me, Amy," she said gently. "Perhaps it
isn't as black as it seems."
Amy rocked herself disconsolately.
"It's blacker than it seems," she lamented. "Oh,
if I'd never taken the flat ! Fred never wanted
me to do it. I've only myself to thank. I didn't
know when I was well ofF."
"But what has the flat to do with your trouble ?"
" Everything. I thought it would be heaven to keep
house, my own house, but it's been a hell. Fred
said we couldn't afford a girl, though I never saw why,
for he's done splendid in his new territory. And he
didn't like my cooking! I only learned the plain
things at the refuge, you know, and he's been pam-
pered, living so much at hotels. Somehow I never
can do things his way. Traveling men think a lot
of their stomachs, and Fred is more particular than
Jean began to comprehend the sordid little tragedy.
"But you'll learn," she comforted. "Make Fred
buy you a first-class cook-book. Try the recipes
by yourself till you succeed. Don't feed him on the
"I did try by myself. I practiced on a Welsh
rabbit, and I thought I had it down fine. So I sur-
prised him one night after the theater when he
298 THE CRUCIBLE
came home hungry. He said it wasn't fit for a h-h-
Jean's indignation boiled over.
"It was a thousand times too good for him," she
"Don't," begged Amy. "I didn't blame him after
I tasted it. The thing I do blame him for and can't
bear is the way he criticises my looks. I can't always
look pretty and do my work. Fred seems to think I
ought, and is always holding up Stella to me without
stopping to remember that she has nothing to do but
sing and change her clothes."
"Stella! Do you let Stella Wilkes come here?"
"Fred made me ask her. She's got a flat herself
just a common sort of a place that she rents fur-
nished, with two chorus-girls. She's making money
now. She left the Coney Island beer-hall for one of
those cheap Fourteenth Street theaters. Fred says
she's bound to make a hit. He's crazy about her,"
her voice rose to a wail, "just crazy !"
Jean held the shaking form closer.
"Aren't you mistaken ?" she said, without convic-
"Mistaken!" The girl wrenched herself erect.
"Last night I saw her in his arms."
" I saw them here in my own house ! Stella
was here when Fred came home from Newark
I guess she knew he was coming and he made her
take off her things and stay to supper. It wasn't
THE CRUCIBLE 299
a good supper. The gas-range wouldn't work, and
I'd forgotten to put Fred's beer in the ice-box. I
was hot and cross from standing over the fire, and
hadn't a minute to do my hair. I saw Fred looking
from me to Stella, who was dressed to kill, and I
knew what he thought. I could have cried right
there. I don't know how I got through the meal, but
it ended somehow, and they went off into the parlor,
leaving me to clear away the things. I washed the
dishes up, for, company or not, I hate to let them
stand over until morning; and then fixed myself a
little to go where they were. I must have got
through sooner than they expected. I saw him kiss
her as plain as I see you."
"Did they know you saw them ?"
"I let them know," rejoined Amy, with a heart-
breaking laugh. "I'll bet her ears burn yet. I
ordered her out of the house, and she went, double-
The light died out of Amy's face.
"Fred went, too," she said numbly. "I haven't
seen him since. I'll never see him again, I guess.
I'm the most miserable girl alive ! What shall I do ?
What shall I do?"
"Divorce the scoundrel," counseled Jean,
promptly. "I'll take care of the lawyer. I'll em-
ploy detectives, too, if you need more evidence, as I
suppose you will. He must be made to pay alimony.
But you've nothing to fear, even if you don't get a
300 THE CRUCIBLE
cent. You earned your living once; you can do it
again. Be rid of him at once."
Amy turned her face away.
"You don't know," she moaned.
"What is it I don't know?"
"The truth the real truth."
"You mean you still care for him ?"
" I do care for him I always shall but that's
not what I mean. I can't divorce Fred. I'm not
not his wife."
Jean sprang to her feet.
"You're not married !"
A spasm of anguish racked the shrinking form.
"Not not yet."
Jean stood in rigid dismay, striving to read this
"Not yet," she repeated slowly. "Did you be-
lieve, Amy, could you believe, he ever meant to deal
honestly with you ?"
"Yes!" The girl turned passionately. "Yes,
yes, a thousand times yes ! He couldn't at first. His
wife had divorced him, and he wasn't allowed to
remarry for three years. The time wasn't up when
we met again; it wasn't up when we began to live
together. It seemed so long to wait. I trusted him.
I loved him."
" But now ? He is free now ?"
"And does nothing!"
"We we put it off."
THE CRUCIBLE 301
"You mean, he put it off. Amy! Amy! Can't
you realize that he is worthless ? Can't you under-
stand that you must root him out of your life ? Face
this like a brave woman. I'll help you make a fresh
start. Be independent. Cut yourself off from him
completely. Do it now now ! "
Amy's haggard eyes were unresponsive.
"It's too late."
"It's too late. I can't cut myself off from him.
Jean ! " Her voice quavered to shrill intensity.
"Jean ! Don't you don't you see!"
Jean saw and was answered, and her womanhood
bade her sweep the weakling to her breast.
"I've kept it from him," wept Amy. "He hates
children about. I did not dare tell him."
"I dare," cried Jean, like a trumpet-call. "And I
Her assurance quieted the girl like an anodyne,
and presently she slept. Sundown, twilight, and
night succeeded. The watcher's muscles grew
cramped, but whenever she sought to loose the
sleeper's clasp, Amy whimpered like a feverish child,
and so she sat compassionately on aiding nature's
healing work. Meanwhile she tried to frame her
appeal to the drummer. How or when she should
reach him she knew not; Amy must bring about a
meeting. She did not believe that he had definitely
deserted his victim. His sample-cases in the hall,
his innumerable pipes, his clothing strewn about the
302 THE CRUCIBLE
bedroom, all argued a return. She longed that he
might come now while her wrath burned hottest and
she might scorch him to a sense of his infamy. It
could be done. She was confident that she could stir
him somehow. Surely, he was not all beast. Some-
where underneath the selfish hide lurked a torpid
microscopic soul, some germ of pity, some spark of
Then Amy awoke, refreshed, heartened, yet still
spineless, clinging, and dependent; and Jean threw
herself into the task of cheering this mockery of a
home. She made Amy bathe her dreadful eyes, ar-
range her hair, don a dress the drummer liked;
and then set her ordering the neglected flat, while she
herself conjured up a meal from the unpromising
materials which a search of the larder disclosed. The
little kitchen was haunted with ghosts of her other
life. The dentist's astonishing ice-cream freezer
and the patent dish-washer stared her in the face,
and her hunt for the tea-canister revealed the kit of
tools she had bought to surprise him. Not a utensil
hung here which was not of their choosing.
And so it was with the other rooms. When she
came to lay the cloth, its grape-vine pattern greeted
her like a forgotten acquaintance; the colonial side-
board and the massive table, as formerly, united to
resist invasion of their tiny stronghold. The silver
candelabra, restored to the giver, still flanked Grimes's
Louis XV clock upon the mantelpiece; the galaxy
of American poets hung where she had appointed.
THE CRUCIBLE 303
The Jean who had done these things, lived this exist-
ence, was a distant, shadowy personality, and the
feat of making her intelligible to another seemed
more than ever impossible. She rejoiced that she
had locked this chapter from Craig. Her present
self was her real self, the Jean he idealized, the real
The belated supper braced Amy's mood. She
became apologetic for the drummer and sanguine
of the future.
"Don't be harsh with Fred," she entreated.
"Tell him the truth, but don't hurt his pride.
Fred is so proud. He's the proudest man I ever
knew. Besides, I'm every bit as much to blame.
Stroke him the right way, and he'll do almost any-
thing you want. I could have managed him, if I'd
been well. He means all right. He'll do right, too.
I wish I wish you could see us married, Jean. If
he would only come now, we could get a minister in
and have it over to-night."
Jean hoped as fervently as Amy for the drummer's
coming, and in this hope lingered till she could wait
"Go to bed," she charged. "Sitting up won't
hurry him home. If he comes, don't weep,
don't reproach him, don't plead with him, don't
- above all don't apologize. Keep him guess-
ing for once, and leave the talking to me. Find
out in some way where I can see him. If he will be
home to-morrow evening, I'll come here; if there's
3 o 4 THE CRUCIBLE
a chance of catching him earlier at the office of his
firm, let me know and I'll go there. Meanwhile say
nothing, but look your best."
Amy promised all things, and Jean hurried out,
horrified at the lateness of the hour. The long
downtown journey at this hour daunted her till she
shook off the atmosphere of the Lorna Doone suffi-
ciently to recall that penny-saving was no more
a vital factor in her life. Cabs were not wont to
stalk custom in this neighborhood, however, and even
a search of the nearest cross-street, where business pre-
dominated, was fruitless. As she hesitated, scouring
the scene, the attentions of a group of corner loafers
became pointed, and, believing one of them about to
accost her, she darted down a convenient stair of the
subway and boarded a train which was just about
to depart. She rode past two stations before she
discovered that in her haste she had entered from an
Dismounting, she began a wait in the whited suffo-
cating cavern, which seemed endless. Under the
hard glitter of the arc lights the raw flamboyant ad-
vertisements of soaps, whiskies, hair tonics, liver pills,
and department-store specials became a physical
pain. The voices of the ticket-choppers, gossiping
across the tracks of the President whom they called
by a diminutive of his first name, were like the drone
of monster flies in a bottle. Then the green and yel-
low eyes of her dilatory train gleamed far down the
tunnel, and the rails quickened and murmured under
THE CRUCIBLE 305
its onset. This show of speed was delusive, however.
They halted leisurely at platforms where no one got
off or on, and loitered mysteriously in the bowels
of the earth where were no stations whatsoever.
The system seemed hopelessly out of joint and the
handful of passengers sighed or swore, according to
sex, and tried with grotesque noddings to nap
through the tedious delays. Then more waits and
more stations succeeded, and the ranks of the suffer-
ers thinned until only Jean and a red-nosed woman,
who smelled of gin and thirsted for conversation, were
At last came release, and, spurred forward by the
waxing friendliness of the red-nose, who also alighted,
she hurried to the surface. The remaining distance
was short, and in five minutes she was rummaging
her shopping-bag for a latch-key. The servants
were of course abed. Not a light was visible. All
the house apparently slumbered in after-midnight
peace. She experienced a burglarious sense of ad-
venture in fitting her key to the lock, and a guilty
start when the heavy door escaped her fingers and
shut with a resounding slam. At the same instant
a light streamed from the library at the farther end
of the hall, disclosing Julie haughtily erect in the
opening, and Craig's stricken face just behind.
" IT is I, Craig," Jean called. " Surely you haven't
The man groaned.
"Worried!" he cried. "What does it all mean,
He would have come out to her, but Julie laid a
restraining hand on his sleeve, saying,
"Keep yourself in hand, Craig dear."
Jean moved quickly down the hall and confronted
"What is this mystery?" she demanded. "Did
not the servant deliver my message?"
Mrs. Van Ostade signed for her to enter the library.
She passed in with a bewildered look at Atwood,
who walked uncertainly to the fireplace and stood
gazing down into its lifeless grate. His sister shut the
door and put her back against it.
"Didn't you receive my message?" Jean again
addressed Craig. "Miss Hepworth was with you,
and I disliked to interrupt. There was no time for
a note. I left too hurriedly."
"With whom ?" The question was Julie's and was
delivered like a blow.
Jean faced her.
THE CRUCIBLE 307
"I went alone/* she replied quietly. "Does it
Mrs. Van Ostade flung out an imperious finger.
"Read that card beside you on the desk," she
directed. " ' Paul Bartlett, D.D.S. Crown and bridge
work a specialty.' Do you deny meeting that person
"Certainly not. He brought word that a sick
friend needed me, and left immediately afterward."
"And you have not seen him since?"
"No." Her denial rang out emphatically.
"Craig," she appealed, "what is the meaning of this
catechism ? I have been with Amy ever since I left
the house. She is in great trouble. It is a terrible
"It is indeed," struck in Julie. "Do you swallow
it, Craig ? Can anybody ! Perhaps now you will
begin to use the reasoning powers which your infatua-
tion for this adventuress has clouded. How could
you ever have trusted her ! Wasn't the bare fact of
the reformatory enough ?"
"Craig!" Appeal, reproach, anguish, all blended
in that bitter cry.
Atwood disclaimed responsibility with a gesture.
"Your mother," he said.
"Yes; your mother," Julie echoed. "Before she
sat ten minutes in this room she had told all she
knew do you understand me? all she knew!
I was your friend till then. I don't pretend I was
not cut to the heart by Craig's mad marriage. I
308 THE CRUCIBLE
would have given my right hand to prevent it. Hadn't
I seen you before you ever entered his studio ?
Didn't I know how vulgar your associates were ?
Perhaps your 'Amy' was the drunken little fool
who created a scene in the restaurant where I made
your acquaintance ? But I tried to put that out of
mind when I accepted the marriage. I took you into
my own home ; I hoped to school you to fill your new
place in life worthily."
"And have I not?" Jean interpolated proudly.
"Have I shamed you or him ?"
Julie scorned reply.
" But I knew nothing of the refuge story," she railed
on. "I never suspected the awful truth when you
evaded every question I asked about your girlhood.
I knew your past had been common; I could not
dream it had also been criminal."
"Julie!" Atwood entreated.
"The time has come for plain dealing," she an-
swered him. "You will live to thank me for open-
ing your eyes."
Jean took a step nearer her accuser.
"Let her go on," she challenged contemptuously.
"She only distorts what I have told you already."
Julie's dark face grew thunderous.
"Do I !" she retorted. "Let us see. What have
you told Craig of this man Bartlett ? What have you
told him of the flat at the Lorna Doone ? Where are
your glib answers now ? Can you suppose that, know-
ing your history, I would suspect nothing when Sat-
THE CRUCIBLE 309
terlee put you out of countenance at the Copley
Studios ? A double, indeed ! From that moment
you avoided the place. From that moment every
shift of yours strengthened my belief that I had
stumbled on one more murky chapter of your life.
Satterlee's memory improved; he recalled your twin's
name. Thereafter my investigations were child's
play. Can you, dare you, deny that you were known
at the Lorna Doone as Bartlett's wife?"
Jean's face grew pale ; Craig's, her agonized glance
perceived, was whiter still.
"It was a mistake," she answered. "They
"Ah!" Julie's cry was long-drawn, triumphant.
"Do you hear, Craig? She admits that she was
known as Mrs. Bartlett. My poor brother ! By her
own confession you have married either a discarded
mistress or a bigamist!"
Jean's brain whirled. That passion could put
such a monstrous construction on her conduct, passed
"Lies !" she gasped.
"Prove them false !"
"Lies, cruel lies !"
Atwood sprang to her side.
"I could not believe them, Jean," he cried. "You
are too honest, too pure '
" Prove them false !" Julie challenged again.
Jean turned her back upon her.
"This is between you and me, Craig," she pleaded,
310 THE CRUCIBLE
struggling for self-control. " I am the honest woman
you have always believed me. I have concealed noth-
ing shameful. My only thought was to spare you
pain. You shall know now, everything; but it is
a story for your ears alone. It concerns us only,
dear, our happiness, our love."
He cast a look of entreaty at Julie, who met it
with an acid smile.
"You are wax in her hands," she taunted. "She
can cajole you into thinking black is white."
"No, no," he protested. "You are unjust to her,
Julie. I know her as you cannot. She is the soul of
Jean's heart leaped at his words.
"God bless you for that!" she exclaimed. "Let
her hear, then ! Why should I fear her now?"
The dentist's attentions at the boarding-house,
their walks and theater-goings, his help when the
department store cast her out, their engagement, the
taking and furnishing of a flat, the apparition of Stella,
the confession and the crash all she touched upon
without false shame, without attempt to gloss her free
agency and responsibility. She dealt gently with
Paul, magnifying his virtues, palliating his great fault,
bearing witness to the sincerity of his remorse. But
Craig she could not spare, pity him as she might.
She saw his drawn face wince as if under bodily pain,
and before she ended he was groping for a chair. She
perceived, as she had feared, that an ideal was gone
from him, perhaps the dearest ideal of all; yet she
THE CRUCIBLE 311
did not realize what a blow she had struck this
stunned, flaccid figure with averted head, till, break-
ing the long silence which oppressed the room when
she had done, he asked,
"Did you love this man, Jean ?"
She weighed her answer painfully.
"Not as we know love, Craig," she said.
"You would have sold yourself for a home for
a flat in the Lorna Doone ! Where was your re-
membrance of the birches then ?"
She forgave the words in pity for the pain which
begot them. She forgot Julie. Nothing in life
mattered, if love were lost. A great devouring fear
lest he slip from her drove her forward and flung her
kneeling at his side.
"You were with me always, Craig, always," she
said brokenly. " Is it too hard to believe ? If you
try to paint an ideal and the picture falls short, does
that make your ideal less dear ? What hope had I
ever to meet you again ? How could I dream that
I stood for more in your thoughts than a heedless
fugitive of whom you were well rid ? You could not
know that you had given me courage for the guard-
house and the prison; made me strive to become the
girl you thought me; changed the whole trend of my
foolish life ! How then have I been unfaithful ? Was
it treachery to you, whom I never looked to see again,
that when a good man yes ; at heart, Paul is a
good man offered me a way of escape I should
take it ? You ask me if I would have sold myself
3 i2 THE CRUCIBLE
for a home, for that poor little flat in the Lorna Doone
whose cheapness I never appreciated till to-night I
answer no. I know now that I did not love him;
but I did not know it then. It was left for you to
He made no response when she ceased. His
hands lay nerveless under hers; his eyes still brooded
on the fireless hearth. So for a hundred heart-beats
they remained together.
"You believe me, Craig?"
"Yes," he wrenched forth at last.
Jean slowly withdrew her hands.
"But you cannot wholly forgive ?"
He had no answer.
"I can say no more," she added, rising; and came
again face to face with Julie, who made way for her
at the door. "I leave your house to-morrow, Mrs.
Van Ostade. If I could, I would go to-night."
Free of gnawing secrecies at last ! The thought
brought a specious sense of peace. Julie's yoke
broken ! Her step on the stair grew buoyant. The
battle desired by MacGregor had been fought.
Precipitated by causes with which neither had reck-
oned, waged with a fierce heat alien to art, Craig's
emancipation had nevertheless been at stake. The
break had come, and it was beyond remedy. He
must cleave to his wife.
Too excited for sleep, she began at once her prepa-
rations for quitting Julie's hateful roof, and one after
another overcame the obstacles which packing in the
THE CRUCIBLE 313
small hours entailed. Each overflowing chair, every
yawning door and drawer, testified the increased com-
plexity of her life and the bigness of her task. The
bride of a single dinner-dress had become under
Craig's lavish generosity the mistress of great pos-
sessions. There were gowns of many uses and many
hues; hats and blouses in extravagant number;
shoes a little regiment of shoes aligned neatly in
their trees; costly trifles for her desk; books and pic-
tures in breath-taking profusion.
She now remembered that her one trunk, with
Craig's many upon which she depended, was stored
on the top floor, and she debated whether to wake one
of the servants or await her husband's help. In the
end she did neither. She disliked Mrs. Van Ostade's
servants, one and all, suspecting them of tale-bearing,
and after a vain wait for Craig, who still lingered
below, she went about the business for herself. It
was a difficult matter to accomplish without rousing
the house, and when, after much travail of mind and
disused muscle, she effected the transfer of her own
trunk, she was tempted to do what she could with it
and let her other belongings follow as they might.
This course, also, she rejected. Nothing except a
complete evacuation would satisfy, and she craved
the joy of leaving Julie's bridal gift conspicuously un-
By three o'clock all was done, and as she flung her-
self wearily upon her bed she heard Craig's leaden
step mount the stair. He entered their living-room,
which, save for one or two small articles he would
scarcely miss, she had not dismantled, switched on
the electricity, and after a pause closed the door of
the dressing-room connecting with the darkened
chamber where she lay. Jean heard him light a cigar-
ette and drop heavily into a chair, which he abandoned
almost at once to pace the floor. The sound of his
pacing went on and on, varied only by the scrape of
matches as he lit cigarette after cigarette, the pene-
trating oriental scent of which began in time to seep
into her own room and infect her with his unrest.
She took alarm to find him so implacable. Did his
sister sway him still ? Had Julie poisoned the truth
with the acid of her hate ? Might she lose him after
all ? She could scarcely keep herself from calling
his name. And the monotonous footfall went on
and on, on and on, trampling her heart, grinding its
iteration into her sick brain. Then, when it seemed
endurable no longer, it became a sedative, and she
slept to dream that she was a new inmate of Cottage
No. 6, with a tyrannous, vindictive matron whose face
was the face of Julie Van Ostade.
She stirred with the day and lay with shut eyes,
tasting the blissful reality of familiar things. This
was no cell-like room, no refuge pallet. She had
only to stretch out her hand thus to the bed
beside her own, and touch ? Nothing ! Craig's
bed stood precisely as the maid had prepared it for
his coming. Was he pacing yet ? She listened, but
no sound came. Creeping to the living-room door
THE CRUCIBLE 315
she listened again ; then turned the knob. Empty !
The untouched pillows of the divan, the overflowing
ash-tray, the lingering haze, bespoke an all-night vigil.
He had not only let the sun go down upon his wrath,
he had watched it rise again ! An answering glow
kindled in her bruised pride.
Left rudderless by his silence, she cast about eagerly
for some new plan of action while she dressed. Last
night she had meant to order her things sent to the
studio until they could plan the future, but that course
seemed feasible no longer. She searched her pocket-
book for funds and found only tickets for a popular
comedy. She smiled upon them grimly. Comedy,
forsooth ! Here was more comic stuff the scream-
ing farce of woman's lot ! Flouted, she had no choice
but to fold her hands and wait while the dominant
male in his wisdom decided her destiny.
At her accustomed hour she touched the bell for
her coffee, and with sharpened observation saw at
once that, unlike other days, the tray held but a
"Mr. Atwood breakfasted downstairs?" she said
The maid's eyes roved the dissipated scene of At-
wood's reflections and lit upon a strapped trunk
which Jean had for convenience pulled into the dress-
"Yes," she answered. "Mr. Craig came down
"Did he go out?"
3i6 THE CRUCIBLE
"More than an hour ago."
Jean let the coffee go cold and crumbled her toast
untasted. How could she endure this passivity !
Must she forever be the spectator ? Amidst these
drab reveries her eyes rested for some minutes upon
the topmost of the morning papers, which the maid
had brought as usual with the breakfast, before one
of its by no means modest head-lines resolved itself
into the words,
MURDERED IN CENTRAL PARK
Then a familiar name and a familiar address leaped
from the context, and she seized breathlessly upon
the brief double-leaded paragraph and read it twice
from end to end.
"The northern extremity of Central Park," ran
the account, "became last night the scene of a tragedy
which its loneliness and insufficient lighting have long
invited. Shortly after midnight the body of Frederic
Chapman, a commercial traveler in the employ of
Webster, Cassell & Co., residing in the Lorna Doone
apartments, not ten blocks from the spot where he
met his death, was found with a bullet through the
heart. Up to the time of going to press, no trace
of the murderer or weapon had been discovered,
although the physician summoned by Officer Burns,
who came upon the body in his regular rounds, was
of the opinion that life had been extinct less than
an hour. Both precinct and central office detectives
THE CRUCIBLE 317
are at work upon the case. Mr. Chapman leaves
a young widow, who is prostrated by the blow."
Jean sprang to her feet, her own woes forgotten in
her horrified perception of Amy's dire need. Tearing
out the paragraph, she penciled across its head-lines,
"I have gone to her," and enclosing it in an envelope
addressed to Atwood, set it conspicuously on his
EARLY as she reached the Lorna Doone, Jean
found others before her, drawn by the morbid lure
of sudden death. The hawkers of "extras" already
filled the street with their cries; open-mouthed
children swarmed about the entrance of the apart-
ment-house as if this, not the park, were the historic
ground; while Amy's narrow hall was choked with
reporters, amidst whom Amy herself, colorless, bright-
eyed, babbled wearilessly of the drummer's virtues.
"He was the best salesman they ever had," she
was saying. " Put that in the paper, won't you ?
In another year he'd most likely have had an interest
in the business. They couldn't get along without
him, they said. He was the best salesman they ever
had. People just had to buy when Fred called. He
seemed to hypnotize customers. One man -
and she rambled into the story of a conquest, begin-
ning nowhere and ending in fatuity with the unceasing
refrain, "He was the best salesman they ever had."
The sight of Jean shunted her from this theme to
self-pity. She clung to her hysterically, declaring
she was her only friend and calling upon the reporters
to witness what a friend she was ! They had, of
course, heard of Francis Craig Atwood, the great art-
ist ? This was his wife her old friend, her only
THE CRUCIBLE 319
friend. Jean urged her gently toward the bedroom,
and, shutting the door upon her, turned and asked the
pressmen to go. They assented and left immediately,
save one of boyish face who delayed some minutes
for sympathetic comment on the tragedy.
"I'm only a cub reporter, Mrs. Atwood," he added,
"and I have to take back something. That's the
rule in our office get the story or get out. Poor
Mrs. Chapman was too upset to give me anything of
value. Perhaps you'd be willing to help me make
"I know nothing but what the papers have told,"
"I don't mean the shooting merely a fact or
two about Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, whom you know
so well. When were they married ?"
"I can't tell you," she said hastily. "I I was
" But approximately ? I don't want the dates.
She looks a bride, and you know the public is inter-
ested in brides. They haven't lived here long, I
"No; not long," she assented, thankful for the
loophole; "a few weeks."
"This was their first home ?"
"Practically. They boarded for a time. Excuse
me now, please. You must see how much she needs
"She is lucky to have you, Mrs. Atwood. Girl-
hood friends, I presume?"
320 THE CRUCIBLE
"Yes, yes. Go now, please."
She turned him out at last and paused an instant
to brace her nerves before joining Amy. At the far
end of the hall the parlor door stood ajar, and she
saw with a shiver that the shades were down. Then
Amy peered from the bedroom in search of her, a
grief-stricken figure with wringing hands.
"Don't keep me in here," she moaned. "Let me
walk, walk." And she moved toward the darkened
"Not there!" Jean cried, preventing her. "Not
Amy stared an instant and then uttered a laugh
more terrible than tears.
" He is not in the parlor," she replied. " They took
him to an undertaker's. There's a man I forgot
to tell you there's a man from the undertaker's
here now. He wants clothes, black clothes. He's
in the spare room, hunting. I I couldn't touch
them. I told him to look for himself. You help
him, Jean. I couldn't touch Fred's things. It
seemed oh, I just couldn't !"
Jean let her wander where she would, and opened
the guest-room door. A heavy-jowled man pivoted
about at her entrance and stuffed a handful of letters
into a pocket of one of the dead drummer's coats.
The garment was not black.
"What are you doing there?" she demanded.
"That coat might answer for a horse-race, not a
THE CRUCIBLE 321
The man had a glib answer ready.
"I took it down to look behind," he said. "The
letters fell out.'*
She doubted his word and, walking to the closet,
made a selection from the more sober wear.
"Take these," she ordered.
He thanked her, gathered the clothing together,
and left the room ; and she heard the hall door close
after him while she lingered a moment to replace the
things his rummaging had disturbed. Coming out
herself, the first object to meet her eye was a telltale
bit of cloth protruding from the umbrella-rack, into
which, she promptly discovered, the supposed under-
taker's assistant had stuffed every article she had
given him. The sight unnerved her, and she sought
Amy in the parlor and told her what she had seen.
"Don't let people in here," she warned. "The
man was, of course, a reporter. No experienced de-
tective would have left the clothes behind."
Amy plucked at her throat as if stifled.
"What did he w-want?" she chattered. "What
did he want ?"
" You think so ? " whispered the girl, ghastly white.
"You think so ? You don't suppose he came because
because he suspects "
"Suspects whom ?"
"Me !" she wailed, her cry trembling to a shriek.
"Me! Me! Me! I did it, Jean. I shot him. I
killed Fred. I'm the one. I "
322 THE CRUCIBLE
Jean clapped a hand over her mouth.
" Hush ! " she implored. " You're mad ! "
Amy tore herself free and dropped huddled to the
"I'm not mad. I wish I were. They'd only lock
me up, if I were mad. Now they'll kill me, too."
Jean shook her roughly.
"Stop!" she commanded. "Some one might
overhear and believe you. Don't say such things.
Amy threw back her head with a repetition of her
"You don't believe me!" she cried. "I'll make
you believe me. Listen: He came home last night
after you left. You hadn't been gone ten minutes
when he came. He'd been drinking, but he was good-
natured, and I thought I would speak to him myself.
It didn't seem as if I could wait for you to speak to
him, Jean. I thought I could manage it he was
so good-natured and so I asked him to make me
an honest woman. I never mentioned the baby -
then ! And I wasn't cross or mean with him. I
asked him as nice as I knew how. But he wouldn't
listen it was the drink in him and he struck me.
Fred never struck me before in his life. He was
always such a gentleman. It was the drink in him
made him strike me. After that I went into the bed-
room and cried, and I heard him go to the sideboard
and pour out more whisky. He did it twice. By
and by he came into the hall and took his hat, and
THE CRUCIBLE 323
I called to him and asked him not to go out again.
I said I was sorry for bothering him ; but he went out
just the same. Then I followed. I knew, I don't
know how, but I knew he was going to Stella's,
and it didn't seem, after all I'd been through, I could
stand for it. Sure enough, he turned down the
avenue toward that flat of hers I told you about, with
me after him keeping on the other side. I lagged
behind a little when he reached Stella's street, for it
was lighter by her door than on the avenue, and when
I got around the corner he wasn't anywhere to be
seen, and I knew for certain he'd gone in at her num-
ber. I'd been trembling all over up to then, but now
I felt bold as a lion, I was so mad, and I marched
straight up to the house myself. I decided I wouldn't
ring her bell it's just one of those common flat-
houses without an elevator but somebody else's,
and then, after the catch was pulled, go up and take
them by surprise.
"I was half running when I came to the steps,
and before I could stop myself, or hide, or do anything,
I banged right into Fred, who hadn't been able to
get in at all and was coming away. His face was
terrible when he saw who it was, but I wasn't afraid
of him any more and told him he'd got to hear some-
thing now that would bring him to his senses, if any-
thing could. He saw I meant business and said, 'Oh,
well, spit it out!' But just then some people came
along and walked close behind us all the way to the
corner. The avenue was full of people, too, for the
324 THE CRUCIBLE
show at that little concert-hall near the park entrance
was just over, so we crossed into the park to be by
ourselves. We were quite a way in before I spoke,
for I was thinking what to say, and finally when Fred
said he wasn't going a step farther, I up and told him
about the baby. He said that was a likely story and
started to pull away, and then then I took out the
pistol. It was Fred's six-shooter; he'd kept it in
the top bureau drawer ever since the last scare about
burglars, and I caught it up when I followed him out.
I didn't mean it for him. I only meant to shoot my-
self, if he wouldn't do right by me when he'd heard the
truth. But he thought I wanted to kill him, and he
grabbed hold of my arm to get it away. Then,
somehow, all of a sudden it was done, and there he
was lying across the path with his head in the grass.
I don't know how long I stood there, or why I didn't
kill myself. I ought to have shot myself right there.
But I only stood, numb-like, till all at once I got
frightened and began to run. I ran along by the
lake and threw the revolver in the water, and went out
of the park by another entrance and came back here.
Nobody saw me go out; nobody saw me come in.
The elevator boy goes home at twelve o'clock. I
guess you believe me now, don't you ?"
Jean froze before the horror of it. While she
mechanically soothed the hapless creature who, her
secret out, had relapsed into ungovernable hysteria
wherein Fred's praises alternated with shuddering
terror of the future, her own thoughts crowded in a
THE CRUCIBLE 325
disorder almost as chaotic. She faced a crime, and
yet no crime. Must she bid Amy give herself up to
the law ? Must this frail girl undergo the torture of
imprisonment and trial for having served as little
more than the passive tool of circumstance ? If they
held their peace, the mystery might never be cleared.
Would justice suffer greatly by such silence ? But
Amy would suffer ! The fear of discovery the fear
Jean herself knew so well would dog her to her
grave. To trust the law was the frank course, but
would the law blind, clumsy, fallible Law whose
heavy hand had all but spoiled her own life would
the law believe Amy had gone out, carrying a weapon,
without intent to do murder ? The dilemma was too
The door-bell bored itself into her consciousness,
and she went out to confront more reporters.
"Mrs. Chapman is too ill to see you," she said
" But it's you we want to see," returned one, whose
face she recalled from the earlier invasion. "There
are new developments, and we'd like to have your
comment. It's of public interest, Mrs. Atwood."
Her anger flamed out against them.
"What have I to do with your public?" she de-
manded. " I have nothing to say to it."
" But you consented to an interview this morning,"
rejoined the spokesman for the group. "Why do
you object to another?"
"I consented to an interview !"
326 THE CRUCIBLE
"Here you are," he said, producing one of the more
sensational newspapers. "'The beautiful wife of
the well-known illustrator, Francis Craig Atwood,
has been with the heart-broken little bride since
early morning. Mrs. Atwood and Mrs. Chapman
were schoolgirl chums whose friendship has endured
to be a solace in this crushing hour. Mrs. Atwood
brokenly expressed her horror at the catastrophe
and added one or two touching details concerning the
Chapmans' ideal married life. Their wedding -
Jean seized the cub reporter's " story " and read
it for herself. The drummer shone a paragon of re-
finement in the light of her friendship and Craig's, for
Atwood was not neglected; two paragraphs, indeed,
were given over to a resume of his artistic career.
Tears of mortification sprang to her eyes.
"What an outrage!" she exclaimed. "Mr. At-
wood has never seen these people, never set foot in
this building ! I myself met this unfortunate man
but once in my life ! "
The group pricked up its ears.
"We shall be very glad to publish your denial,"
assured the spokesman.
"Oh, don't publish anything," she cried. "Drop
us out of it altogether, I beg of you !"
" But in the light of the new developments, it would
be only just to you and Mr. Atwood," he persisted.
"What developments ?"
"The revelations concerning Chapman's er
irregular mode of life. His former wife she lives
THE CRUCIBLE 327
in Jersey City has laid certain information before
the police. She seems to care for him still, after a
fashion. She only heard this morning of his remar-
riage, though she met and talked with him day before
Jean's hand sought the wall.
"What does she know?"
"The police won't disclose. But they say her
information, taken with another clew that's come into
their hands, will lead shortly to an arrest. Shall we
publish the denial, Mrs. Atwood ?"
"Yes," she answered; "yes."
As she closed the door, Amy tottered down the
"I heard!" she gasped. "I heard all they said.
The police the police will come next ! They've
found out I'm not Fred's wife. I'll be shamed
before everybody. They'll suspect me first of all.
They'll find out everything. You heard what they
said about a clew ? When they get hold of a clew, they
get everything ! They'll take me to the Tombs
the Tombs! Hark!"
The fretful bell rang again.
"The police!" chattered Amy. "The police!"
The same fear gripped Jean, but she mustered
strength to push the girl into the bedroom and shut
the door; and then, with sinking knees, went to
answer the summons.
No uniformed agent of pursuing justice confronted
her; only the face of him she loved best; and the
great uplifting wave of relief cast her breathless in
"Come away," he begged, his answering clasp the
witness and the seal of their reconciliation. "Come
" Craig ! " she whispered. " Craig ! "
"I only just learned where you were. A reporter
came to the studio, showed me his paper "
"Falsehoods ! They perverted my words "
" I knew, I knew. I'm the one to blame, not you.
If I'd gone home, stayed home, you would never
have come here. Forgive me, Jean. I've been a
"Hush," she said, laying a hand upon his lips.
"We were both wrong. But I must have come to
Amy. After what she told me last night, there was
no choice. You'll understand when I explain. It's
" But come away first. Don't give anyone a chance
to ferret out your life, Jean. Why should you stay
here now ? "
A low, convulsive moan issued from the bedroom.
Jean sprang to the door.
THE CRUCIBLE 329
"Amy!" she called. "Don't be frightened. It's
only Craig. Do you hear me ? It was Craig who
rang. I'll come to you soon."
Atwood followed to the little parlor.
"You see ?" she said.
"But there must be some one else, some other
"There is no one who knows what I know. You
must hear it, too, Craig. It's more than I can face
alone. You must think for me, help me." And
she poured the whole petrifying truth into his ears.
"She must give herself up," he said, at last.
"But " And the dilemma of moral and legal
guilt plagued her again.
He brushed her tender casuistry aside.
"The law must deal with such doubts," he an-
swered. "We must help her face it, help her see that
delay only counts against her. She must tell her
story before they come at the facts without her."
"She believes they suspect already. They've
found out something about that wretched man's life,
the reporters don't say what, and she lies in
that room shaking with terror at every ring of the
bell. We thought you were the police."
"We must help her face it," he repeated. "I will
drive her to police headquarters."
"Not you, Craig. You must not. The papers
shall not drag you into this again. I will go with
" Isn't your name mine ? You see it makes no
330 THE CRUCIBLE
difference. I'll not allow you to go through this
alone. I've let you meet too much alone. We'll
talk to Amy together, if you think best."
Jean's glance fell on Grimes's gilt clock.
"Amy has tasted nothing, and it's nearly noon,"
she said. "I must make coffee or something to give
her strength. Wait till she has eaten."
She started for the kitchen, but brought up, white-
faced, at the recurring summons of the bell. Their
eyes met in panic. Were they too late ? The ring
was repeated while they questioned. Jean took a
faltering step toward the door, listening for an out-
burst from the bedroom; but Amy seemed not to
hear. Craig stepped before her into the hall.
"Let me answer it," he said.
Then, before either could act, a key explored the
lock, and Paul Bartlett's anxious face peered through
the opening. He started at sight of them, but came
forward with an ejaculation of relief.
"I remembered I had a key," he explained. "It
was so still I thought something had gone wrong.
Jean signed toward the bedroom, and the three
tiptoed into the parlor and shut the door. An awk-
ward silence rested upon them for an instant. Jean's
thoughts raced back to her last meeting with the den-
tist in this room, and she knew that Paul could be
scarcely less the prey of his memories. Atwood him-
self, divining something of what such a reunion meant,
was stricken with a share of their embarrassment.
THE CRUCIBLE 331
Paul pulled himself together first.
"I came to help Amy, if I could," he said to Jean;
"and also to see you. I've read the papers, and I
thought" - he hesitated lamely "I thought some-
body ought to take your place. It's not pleasant to
be dragged into a murder case not pleasant for a
lady, I mean," he corrected himself hastily. "/
don't mind. Mrs. St. Aubyn won't mind, either.
I've 'phoned her she always liked Amy, you know
and she's coming soon. You needn't wait. You
mustn't be expected to to oh, for God's sake,
sir," he broke off, wheeling desperately upon Atwood,
"take your wife away !"
Jean's eyes blurred with sudden tears, which fell
unrestrained when Craig's chivalry met the dentist's
"Now / know you for the true man Jean has
praised," he said, gripping Paul's hand. "But I
can't take her away. She has a responsibility we
both have a responsibility it's impossible to shirk.
Tell him, Jean!"
The dentist squared his shoulders in the old way,
when she ceased.
"I'll see that Amy reaches headquarters," he said
doggedly. "Neither of you need go. There isn't
the slightest necessity. I'm her old friend, the lessee
of this flat : who would be more likely to act for her ?
You convince her that she must toe the mark I
can't undertake that part; and then, the sooner you
leave, the better."
332 THE CRUCIBLE .
Atwood turned irresolutely toward the window
and threw up the shade as if his physical being craved
light. Jean met the straightforward eyes.
"Why should you shoulder it, Paul ?"
Bartlett shot a look at Atwood, who nervously
drummed the pane, his gaze fixed outward ; and then,
with a sweeping gesture, invoked the silent argu-
ment of the room.
"I guess you know," he added simply.
Her face softened with ineffable tenderness.
"I'll tell Amy you are here," she said.
The men heard her pass down the hall and knock;
wait, knock again, calling Amy's name; wait once
more ; and then return.
"Shall we let her sleep while she can ?" she whis-
pered. "It's a hideous thing that she must meet."
Atwood's look questioned the dentist, whose reply
was to brush by them both and assault Amy's door.
" Amy ! " he shouted. " Amy ! "
They held their breath. Back in the parlor the
gilt clock ticked like a midsummer mad insect; the
cries of newsboys rose muffled from the street ; even
a drip of water sounded from some leaky kitchen
tap ; but from the bedroom came nothing.
Jean tried the knob.
The dentist laid his shoulder to the woodwork,
put forth his strength, and the door burst in with an
impetus that carried him headlong; but before either
could follow he had recovered himself and turned to
block the way.
THE CRUCIBLE 333
"Keep back, Jean," he commanded sharply.
Their suspense was brief. Almost immediately
he came out, closed the door gently after him, and
held up a red-labeled vial.
"Carbolic acid !" he said hoarsely.
Jean uttered a sharp cry.
"A doctor!" she exclaimed.
Paul shook his head.
"I am doctor enough to know death. Atwood,
get your wife away."
"But now " Jean resisted.
"Go, go!" he commanded, driving them before
him. "Mrs. St. Aubyn will do what a woman can.
I will attend to the police. You left for rest, believ-
ing her asleep. I suspected suicide, and broke
down the door. That's our story. Go while you
They went out as in a dream, striking away at
random when they issued on the street, seeking only
to shun the still idling curious, grateful beyond words
for release, avid for the pure, vital air. Presently,
in some quarter, they knew not where, a cab-driver
hailed them, and they passively entered his hansom
and as passively sat dependent on his superior will.
"Where to ?" asked the man, impatiently.
Atwood shook himself awake. "The Copley
Studios," he answered. " Do you know the building ?
The closing trap clipped his directions, and they
334 THE CRUCIBLE
drove away. They gave no heed to their course till,
passing a park entrance, they came full upon a knot
of urchins and nursemaids clustered between lake
"That's where the Chapman murder took place,'*
volunteered the driver.
Jean shut her eyes.
"This way of all ways !"
"It is behind us now," Craig comforted. "It's all
behind us now."
Neither spoke again till they reached the studio,
and a porter announced the arrival of several trunks.
"They're yours, Jean," Atwood said. "I ordered
them sent here when Julie telephoned for instructions.
I realize that there is no going back. She admits
that she did you a wrong she will tell you so her-
self; but that doesn't alter matters. We must
live our own lives. To-night we'll go away for a
time. In the mountains or by the sea, whichever
you will, we'll plan for the future. It's time the air-
castles were made real."
He ordered a luncheon from a neighboring restau-
rant, forced her to eat, and then to rest. She said
that sleep was impossible, and that she must repack
against their journey; but her eyelids grew heavy
even while she protested, and she was just drowsily
aware that he threw over her some studio drapery
which emitted a spicy oriental scent.
It was a dreamless sleep until just before she
woke, when she shivered again under the obsession
THE CRUCIBLE 335
of Amy's door-bell. The studio furnishings delivered
her from the delusion, but a bell rang on. Where
was Craig ? Then her eye fell upon a scrawl, trans-
fixed to her pillow by a hatpin, which told her that
he had gone to arrange for their departure; and she
roused herself to answer the door. Here, for an in-
stant, the dream seemed still to haunt, for the caller
who greeted her was the reporter of the morning who
had taken her denial.
"I'm right sorry to bother you again, Mrs. At-
wood," he apologized. "I'm looking for your hus-
"Mr. Atwood is out."
"Could I see him later, perhaps ? It's about five-
thirty now. Would six o'clock suit ?"
"Why do you annoy him?" she asked wearily.
" I told you that he has nothing to do with this awful
"The public thinks he has, and in a way, through
your knowing Mrs. Chapman, it's true. Anyhow,
I'm authorized to make him a proposition with dollars
in it. Our Sunday editor is willing to let him name
his own figure for a column interview and a sketch
of the Wilkes girl, in any medium he likes, which he
can knock off from our own photographs. We got
some rattling good snap-shots just as she was taken
Jean stared blankly into his enthusiastic face.
"Taken into custody?" she said. "The Wilkes
girl ! You mean on suspicion of murder !"
336 THE CRUCIBLE
"Haven't you seen the afternoon editions ?" cried
the man, incredulously. "You don't say you haven't
heard about the new figure in the case, the Fourteenth
Street music-hall favorite, Stella Wilkes ! It was
Chapman's divorced wife who put the police on the
scent. She'd spotted them together, and the janitor
of the Wilkes girl's flat-house identified Chapman as
a man who'd been running there after her. Of course
by itself, that's no evidence of guilt; but they've un-
earthed more than that. One of the clever men of
our staff got hold of a letter which the girl wrote
Chapman. The police are holding it back, but it's a
threat of some kind, and strong enough to warrant
them gathering her in for the grand jury's considera-
tion. But let me send up a hallboy with the latest.
I'll try again at six for Mr. Atwood."
Stella ! Stella accused of the murder ! She pressed
her hands to her dizzy head and groped back to the
studio. Could fate devise a more ironic jest ! Stella,
wrecker of Amy's happiness, herself dragged down !
Then, her brain clearing, her personal responsibility
overwhelmed her. She alone had received Amy's
confession. She alone could vouch for Stella's inno-
cence. She must dip her hands again into this de-
filing pitch, endure more publicity, risk exposure,
humiliate Craig ! And for Stella byword of Shaw-
nee Springs, fiend who had made the refuge twice a
hell, terror of her struggle to live the dark past down
of all human creatures, Stella Wilkes !
But it must be done. She made herself ready for
THE CRUCIBLE 337
the street with benumbed fingers, till the thought of
Craig again arrested her. Should she wait for him ?
He entered as she hesitated.
"Rested, Jean?" he called cheerily, delaying a
moment in the hall. "Here are your papers. The
boy said you wanted them." Then, from the thresh-
old, "You're ill !"
She caught one of the newspapers from him and
struck it open. Its head-lines shouted confirmation
of the reporter's words.
"'Footlight favorite . . . damaging letter . . .
journalistic enterprise,'" he repeated.
"You see what it means ?"
"Wait, wait !" He read on feverishly to the end.
Jean gave a last mechanical touch to her veil.
"I am going down to police headquarters to tell
what I know, Craig."
"No," he cried. "You must not mix in this again.
You shall not. There is some better way. We
must think it out. There is Bartlett he knows !"
"I think he'd be willing no; that's folly. We
can't ask the man to perjure himself. We must hit
on something else. You must not be the one. Think
what it might mean!"
"They would dig up the past all your acquaint-
ance with Amy. The Wilkes creature's tongue
could never be stopped. She doesn't know now that
338 THE CRUCIBLE
Mrs. Atwood means Jean Fanshaw. She must not
know. Take no rash step. We must wait, tempo-
"Temporize with an innocent person accused of
"They don't accuse her yet formally. She is
held detained whatever the lawyer's jargon is.
She isn't convicted. She never will be. They can't
convict her on one letter. I doubt if they'll indict
her. Why, she may prove an alibi at once ! Wait,
Jean, wait! She's merely under suspicion of-
" Murder!" She stripped away his sophistries
with a word. "Isn't that enough? What of her
feelings while we wait ? Is it nothing to be sus-
pected of killing a man ?"
"What is her reputation now? Unspeakable!"
" More reason that we make it no worse. No, no,
Craig; I must do this thing at any cost."
He threw out his hands in impassioned appeal.
"Any cost! Any cost!" he cried. "Do you
realize what you're saying ? Will you let her rag of
a reputation weigh against your own, against the
position you've fought for, against my good name ?
If you won't spare yourself, spare me!"
" Craig ! " she implored, " be just ! "
"I am only asking you to wait. A night may
change everything. It can't make her name blacker;
it may save you."
"Suppose it changes nothing; suppose no alibi
is proved; suppose they do indict! How would my
THE CRUCIBLE 339
delay look then ? Can't you see that my way is the
only way ? Don't think I'm not counting the cost."
Her voice wavered and she shut her eyes against his
unnerving face which seemed to have shed its boyish-
ness forever, against this room which everywhere be-
spoke the future she jeopardized. "I do! I do !
But we must go go at once."
His face set sternly.
"I refuse. This morning, when we had no way
to turn, I was ready to stand by you. But now
now I wash my hands of it all. If you go "
Her face turned ashen.
"If I go ?" she repeated.
"You go alone."
He dashed a distracted hand across his forehead
and turned away without answer.
"Yet I must go," she said.
Before her blind fingers found the outer door, he
was again beside her.
"You're right," he owned. "Forgive me, Jean.
We'll see it through."
Their ride in the twilight seemed an excursion in
eternity. Home-going New York met them in
obstructive millions. Apparently they alone sought
the lower city. From zone to zone they descended -
luxury, shabby gentility, squalor succeeding in turn
340 THE CRUCIBLE
till their destination loomed a dread tangible reality.
It was fittingly seated here, Jean felt, where life's
dregs drifted uppermost, sin was a commonplace,
arrest a diversion. Would not such as these glory in
the deed she found so hard ? Would not the brain
beneath that "picture" hat, the sable plumes of
which jaunty, insolent, triumphant floated the
center of a sidewalk throng, envy her the publicity
from which she shrank ? Then, as the ribald crowd
passed and the garish blaze of a concert-saloon lit the
woman's face, she threw herself back in the shadow
with a sharp cry.
"Look, Craig! Look!"
Atwood craned from the cab, which a dray had
blocked, but saw only agitated backs as the saloon
swallowed up the pavement idol.
A policeman grinned sociably from the curb.
"Stella Wilkes," he explained. "Chesty, ain't
she ? She was pretty wilted, though, when they ran
her in. I saw her come."
Craig's hand convulsively gripped Jean's.
"They've let her go?" he questioned. "She's
"Sure an' callin' on her friends. Hadn't you
heard ? Mrs. Chapman left a note ownin' up. If
they'd found it sooner, this party would have had a
pleasanter afternoon. Still, I guess she's plenty
satisfied. They say a vaudeville house has offered
her five hundred a week. She'd better cinch the
deal to-night. It will all be forgotten to-morrow."
THE CRUCIBLE 34!
Atwood strained the white-faced figure to his
"You heard him, Jean? He's right. It will
be forgotten to-morrow."
From that dear shelter she, too, foresaw a kindlier
"To-morrow," she echoed.
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