PS 3500 A6 A52
... ;..:. r PRN A. SAN DIEG
3 1822 01096 1415
OF AN AMBITIOUS
HERBERT S. STONE & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY
HERBERT S, STONE & COMPANY
STROMBERG, ALLEN & CO.
They call me the most successful mother in
New York. This summer, with my tall Jane in
her honeymoon, I am left alone, and I am
taking a holiday in the house where I was born,
in West Virginia in the hills. As I walk
through the fields, poor, grown up in ragweed
and the white boneset that I used to gather for
"bitters" when I was a child, and realize that I
am the mother-in-law of an Ambassador, an
Earl with old Elizabethan houses mellowing in
the English sunshine, a brilliant New York
lawyer who may become anything and is now
rich and well born and one of the greatest of
American heiresses, my sense of humor is
I am on the sunny side of fifty. Once I
walked barefoot in the furrows of the very field
where I am writing this, and dropped potatoes
before my father's hoe! Sometimes in these
late years when I have read the newspaper
accounts of my "old Virginia family," it was
hard to keep my face straight. But I did.
In this world the successful always keep their
faces straight. I have heard people who have
not the power to do so at the important
moment, bitterly declare that success comes
only to those who lack a sense of humor. It
sometimes comes to those lacking that best
sense, that complement of the other five, but
rarely. The true secret of power is to see your
actions in every light and then to choose the
point of view which you will stand by and from
which you will cause others to see you.
Success does not consist altogether in seeing,
but in being seen.
But I will confess that I never encouraged a
sense of humor in my girls. They never knew
that we and our pretensions were altogether
comical. They were real inasmuch as they
believed in themselves at least while they
were very young. Sometimes I have wanted a
confidant until I ached. I have wanted to go
to some level-headed, "broad-minded" person
and tell the story and laugh.
I have read a clever story now and then in
which an Abbe figured. I have 'always had an
ideal of an Abbe in my mind. If I had ever
run across him I should have become a convert
to Rome 'for no reason on earth except that I
wanted a confidant. I could have been happy
if my lot had been thrown with that Father
Forbes, of whom Harold Frederic gave a bril-
liant picture in Theron Ware. I am sure we
should have been the best of friends.
Having now no children of my own to settle,
I would throw out as a hint to other mothers
that there is a wonderful career for a poor,
clever, ambitious boy in the Church. If my
own boy had not early shown that the way of the
world was his way, I should have put him there.
The idle class in America is made up of
women, and of men who think along feminine
lines. They want a confidant. The woman
does not dare make one of her husband. In
the first place, he would refuse to understand,
or he would be worried to death over a "hys
terical wife" if he did understand. The priest
or the clergyman who can fill this want is a
"made" man. He must be a celibate. Some
women find a confidant in a judiciously selected
It is in the final and complete lack of an
"other self," as the sentimental old maids say,
that I am writing this. And then, I wish to
see how the story looks when it is all finished.
It will give me exactly the same sort of pleas
ure that one has in looking at her own photo
graph. I want to see how I look to my own
I here disclaim any idea of making a moral
story, or a sentimental story, or any sort of
story save a true story. If I neglect sometimes
to write down the good in people and call
attention to the bad that, too, is part of the
portrait I am making of myself. What I see
reveals my character also. 1 should be a fool
to "fake" the story of my struggles to present
a more pleasing picture, to paint a portrait of
myself after the manner of Chartran. I believe
in truly good people, but I do not hold as an
article of that belief that they are the only
happy people. The successful are the happy
they and those who haven't the power to real
ize that they are unhappy. I should not
"rather be good than be happy." Would
you? I am happy; and in this narrative I
have not hidden my faults nor tried to explain
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes said that any
one could write one interesting novel by tell
ing the plain unvarnished tale of his own life.
This narrative is made after that formula, and
I can only hope that he told the truth, for I
might say with Montaigne, "All the world
knows me in my book."
My father was the son of a hard-shell Bap
tist preacher who wandered up and down the
Ohio River preaching from a flat-boat. My
grandmother was reported to be the daughter
of a Kentucky farmer somewhere near Mays-
ville, who was fascinated by my grandfather's
tongue, and eloped with him. She died when
my father was born, and he, a physically weak
little creature, was brought up in careless fash
ion among the people of the country who
listened while my grandfather preached and
took him home to dinner. I have sometimes
thought that my grandfather, educated and in
another environment, might have been that
priest of whom I have dreamed.
My father never spoke of this period of his
life to me, but he talked to my mother, and she
has told me something of it.
He had no education whatever, as education
is known to-day. He learned to read and
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write, and, a little later when he began to
"trade," to keep rude accounts. I believe it
was horses at first, and then anything, until he
had acquired the farm here.
I have often thought that had my father mar
ried an ambitious woman, or even an ordinarily
"smart" woman, he would have reached out
into the world and become a man of substance
and it may be wealth. But my mother was
simply a rather stupid, pretty daughter of a
farmer. It is from her that the Countess of
Truesdale, who is my youngest daughter, in
herits her delicate blonde beauty, which causes
the English aristocracy to look heavy and
Northern people, and even southern people
of the present generation, have no idea of the
position of the southern farmers of the non-
slave-holding class before the Civil War. They
were more surely outcasts than the negroes
themselves. In the Virginia and Tennessee
mountains 'their position was less noticeable
than in the great plantation countries, but even
there, "the quality" was a caste apart.
It was to these outcasts that my father
nelonged. My mother's people, by virtue of
a dozen slaves (one family of negroes) were a
A Mother it
little higher in the social scale, and notwith
standing the fact that my father was infinitely
their superior in every possible way, my
mother's people held themselves aloof. This
attitude was very convenient to me later, as it
freed me from the clog of their presence and
blood claims. I have noticed this often in
other families. Unless relatives are very good,
a distinct advantage anywhere, they hamper.
As Mr. Kipling says, "He travels fastest who
I was born just before the Civil War, and was
old enough as it passed away to see that my
father's sympathies were with "the Union,"
and my mother's with "the Rebels." I was
taught by my father to sing: "Hang Jeff Davis
on a Sour Apple Tree," and I knew that my
mother treasured in the first place in her
"album" a photograph of Wilkes Booth. I
have that photograph still. It is part of our
"local color," as southerners.
But they did not quarrel. My father did as
he pleased, and my mother resented nothing
that was done by anybody.
After the war the schools in our part of the
country were improved, and by the time I was
old enough to attend school, there were two
12 The Highroad
sessions a year, making in all seven months,
and I was sent there.
The school house was of logs heated by a
big iron stove in which wood was burned, and
the teachers who came to us were the rawest of
men, some of them men who had served in the
war, and were seeking a way to fortune through
the new state of West Virginia.
When I was fifteen the man who became my
husband came to the Bethel school. He was
then a lank, shy, red-haired young man from
Pennsylvania, with what my father called a
"wonderful head fer figgers."
After the school term was over for that year
he stayed and opened a country store, giving
groceries to the farmers for produce. They
brought their crops and then their pork to him
in exchange for coffee and tea and sugar, dry
goods and "town-cured" hams. Then in the
spring and early summer they would buy their
own pork back at a slight increase in price,
giving a lien on the coming crop. This
method brought profits of about seventy-five
per cent, but our customers did not discover it.
It was that sense of seeing something which
those about us did not see that first drew us
apart from our neighbors, and caused us to look
A Mother 13
upon ourselves as aloof from them. It was
that more than our prosperity. We sometimes
talked of the people and my husband wondered
why the public <=chools did not teach them
more. We finally came to the conclusion that
they are not really taught anything but surface
book-knowledge. They can add, multiply and
subtract figures but not facts. There appears
to be a wall between their learning, such as it
is, and their actual living. The relation
between the two, which is education, is un
known to them.
My husband in those early days talked to
me of everything. There was one man who
amused us very much. He had a piece of what
is known as wild land, covered with heavy
walnut timber. This was before the day of
lumber companies in West Virginia. As he
could produce nothing on his land (so he said)
he wanted to sell it. My husband, in bargain
ing, said that the land certainly could not be
worth much to anybody, and the man finally
accepted the offer that was made for it. Then
my husband employed the late owner and his
two sons to clear the land. The timber taken
off more than paid for the labor and for the
land, leaving my husband with the great tract
14 The Highroad
of new land absolutely free of any cost what
ever. Neither the man nor his sons saw any
thing unusual in the transaction.
By this perfectly legitimate method of carry
ing on his business, it was not long before my
husband owned large tracts of land. He was
doing a banking and loan business in a small
way, although his customers had no idea of it,
nor do I believe had he.
New York is always wondering at the coun
trymen who come into the "street" and man
age it "without previous experience." As
a matter of fact, there are hundreds of men all
over this country who are playing Wall Street's
tricks every day of their lives, and never know
it. When they discover it they come to town.
The games have a different name in the
Undoubtedly had my husband lived, my boy
and girls would have been very rich, and it
would not have been necessary for me to make
the efforts through which I struggled for so
many years. But I cannot call them anything
but happy years. I was like a strong man shoot
ing rapids. I might go to pieces any minute, but
then it was all exhilarating sport, and if I
came out into clear, deep water, it would be a
A Mother 15
haven. I touched bottom and I touched rocks.
Sometimes my boat swung in an eddy. Once
it was all but capsized. A cold chill goes over
me when I remember! I never expected to
get out alive socially alive, that is.
My two eldest girls, Lucile and Genevieve,
are nearly the same age as nearly as they can
be. Robert, my boy, is more than a year older.
They belong to my more or less romantic
period when I was beginning to read books.
I called novels books, and I never thought of
trying to read anything else.
I cannot read novels now, but in those days I
read Augusta J. Evans, Sir Walter Scott some
times (I found him too remote, although inter
esting at times), Disraeli, G. P. R. James, and
any other book which told of people of wealth
and position. They were text books to me. I
have sometimes wondered why I did not find
"Vanity Fair" a great book. I always thought
Becky Sharp a fool. Clever people hold their
own. They make the world respect them, and
they are seldom found out. I had no advantages
of education, not even Dr. Johnson's Diction
ary, but I could teach Becky Sharp things
that neither she nor her creator ever dreamed
of. Of all of them I liked Disraeli best. He
1 6 The Highroad
wrote of high life that he had actually seen.
For every crumb of information concerning it
I was eager and hungering.
At the time the children were born we were
living on the farm in a house my husband built
soon after our marriage. It had four rooms
and a kitchen. There was a wash house out
side. I "did my own work," as they say in
the country, with a deaf and dumb woman who
was a sort of dependent of my father's to come
in and do the washing. I made my children's
clothes on the sewing machine that my hus
band gave me on our first wedding anniversary,
and as a matter of course my own clothes.
Our sitting-room had an ingrain carpet on
the floor, a rug with a lion in plush in the cen
ter, a "set" of cane-seated chairs with a rocker,
a coal stove. A Lady Washington's reception
engraving (considered very grand), a "what
not" with some vases and shells, and a bracket
or two decorated the walls. We called it the
My own bed-room was our real sitting-room.
Here was a thick, and I know now, a beauti
ful rag carpet, white curtains, an open fire,
my sewing-machine, my bed, the trundle bed
and the crib.
A Mother 17
We had besides a "spare room" for chance
visitors, a dining-room and the kitchen. A
bath-room? There isn't a West Virginia farm
er's family in this year 1904 that bathes every
day. Not one, unless it is some "crank" who
is considered crazy by his neighbors. There
are not a dozen bath-rooms outside of the
A few years ago, I went back there to attend
to some business, and an acquaintance of mine
in Fowlersburg took me to see her daughter's
new house, a modern "Queen Anne," not yet
completed. Fowlersburg is now a town of
fifteen thousand inhabitants.
"Here," said my friend, "is the place the
book said" (it was a house out of a builder's
book) "to put a bath-room. But Mamie said
she would rather have a sewing-room. In the
summer time they could take their Saturday
baths in the wash-house, and in the winter they
wouldn't need them."
And Mamie was a good girl and a good
I have kept my friendship for a few of the old
people in Fowlersburg, particularly those of
the old families. Of course my children have
never been there since early childhood. The
1 8 The Highroad
ideals they have concerning the place and the
people are perfectly beautiful. Let me beg all
mothers who wish to be successful, never by
any chance to wreck a child's ideals. If they
once truly know, what they are talking about
they must be geniuses to make other people
see the ideal. I myself am something of a
genius, but I never brought one into the world.
My children thought they always told the
truth. At least all but one, and her lapses
could hardly be called keeping up an ideal.
Early Days in Fowlersburg 19
Early Days in Fowlersburg
I like to linger on the days when I was learn
ing, and day by day coming out of the general
into the special.
The town is interesting to me as the scene
of my earliest attempts to live after the fash
ion of the world to which I longed to belong.
I wanted to be a part of it.
I often think of the crowds of humanity and
of how few of us there are who do more than
jostle along and elbow our neighbors. When
Shakespeare says, "All the world's a stage and
all the men and women merely players," he is
not exactly right. There is a stage, but only
a few of us are the players. The rest make up
the gaping audience. Sometimes a clown or a
columbine sets up a booth at the street corner,
but they are the tawdry "notorious. " Some of
us are artists and play on the world's stage,
strutting to heroics (too often) in the glare of
limelight. We know that there is a place, often
dingy and dark and unpleasant, where we put
aside our splendors and sit down to solitude.
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It is our solace there to believe that the audience
at least thinks us real.
How many of us realize that the visible
world about us is no measure of what is, but
merely of what we are capable of seeing and
understanding? Ghosts may walk for aught we
know. Our poor little five senses are inade
quate for our best uses, nature's grudging dole
to us, mere pitiful tools to enable us to exist
and work for that vague end she has in view so
far beyond the limits of our vision.
Your real novelist has something like second
sight. He sees the realities behind the trivial
little happenings which divert the common
place minds. Life is a sleight-of-hand magi
cian who plays her tricks while she fastens your
attention somewhere else than on her object.
The novelist, like Balzac or Hardy, smiles
grimly and points out the machinery.
I had from the beginning the wish to be one
of those who played. I am not a remarkable
woman to look at. I have always tried not to
be. In those early years in Fowlersburg it was
my ambition to win a solid foundation of re
spect and a place. I did not want one woman
ever to remember that her husband's eyes had
rested upon me with the sort of admiration that
Early Days in Fowlersburg 21
all women love for themselves and hate for
another; but I wanted to be known.
When we decided to leave the farm and go
into town to live, I thought the matter over
very carefully. My husband said that he
wanted to go because he intended to open a
general store there to dispose of the country
produce that came in. By this time he had a
chain of country stores through what are
known as the "back counties" in West Vir
ginia. And he also wanted to send the chil
dren to school as they grew a little larger.
"Give them advantages," he said.
Lucile and Genevieve were five and six,
Robert was seven, and Jane a baby.
I lay awake a good many nights turning over
in my mind this change of residence. I knew
absolutely nobody in Fowlersburg. It was this
which finally caused me to go there this, and
the fact that I was little hampered by relatives.
My father had no kinfolk that I knew. My
mother had plenty, but they were, like her,
quiet, shy people, who bothered nobody, and
least of all my father's family. In these days
my father and mother had acquired a taste
which made them happy and contented alone.
The old New York Ledger was then edited by
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Robert Bonner, who published every week
installments of novels by Mrs. E. D. E. N. South-
worth, Mrs. Harriet Lewis and other romance
writers of that school. Four of these stories
were published weekly. Besides, there were
editorials by Henry Ward Beecher and James
Parton, a correspondence column, and some
short stories. It is impossible to tell this
generation anything about the fascination of
the old New York Ledger.
My father and mother found sufficient amuse
ment in keeping four intricate plots in their
heads from week to week. I believe that not
half as many farmer's wives went to the insane
asylum in the days of the Ledger.
I remember once going up home (my father's
house was always "home") and finding father
churning, with half the Ledger in one hand
while he worked the dasher up and down with
the other, and mother kneading bread, with the
other half of the paper propped up behind the
bread board. They always cut it in two when
it came, and drew straws which should have the
part containing Mrs. Southworth's story.
When they had finished it I borrowed it and
read it myself.
I did not tell my husband why I hesitated
Early Days in Fowlersburg 23
about going to Fowlersburg. There are some
things a man cannot understand. I told him
that I loved the country and my little home
which was true. I had my work and my dreams.
I hardly know whether it was in the Ledger
or in some of the English novels in cheap edi
tions that I was beginning to get my hands on,
that I learned that a "tradesman" was not a
social personage. To me a tradesman meant
one thing: a storekeeper. I was trying to fig
ure out some way in which we could slip away
from that odium. Naturally I did not tell my
Finally, one night, I had an idea. It was
never my way to give my husband a joggle,
waken him out of a sound sleep and expect
him to discuss matters. He was a good hus
band, but I doubt if there is any man suffi
ciently perfect to enjoy that. But I felt that I
must talk about it now. I arose from my bed,
put on a pair of knitted slippers and a blue
quilted dressing gown which I kept for slight
illnesses, lighted the lamp and sat down by the
fire. By this time, naturally, my husband was
"What is it, Mary?" he asked anxiously.
"Are you sick?"
24 The Highroad
"I have a suffocating feeling, " I said. "It
hurt me to lie down."
By this time he was over the side of the bed
inquiring if I wanted the doctor. I was seldom
ill, and it frightened him thoroughly awake.
I said I was not ill. It was but a passing
unhappiness, and he must go to sleep. In the
effort to keep me from thinking I was ill, he
began to talk and in five minutes I was mak
ing my suggestions. He was in the humor to
agree with me on any subject. Like all men
whose whole happiness lies in their homes, a
fear of illness in the wife is potent. Silly
women, learning that, wear it out.
In an hour we had agreed that instead of
having a general retail store in Fowlersburg,
we were to have a wholesale house, principally
for tobacco, barrel staves and "ties" (the
blocks of wood on which railroads are laid).
I proved to my husband that his brain was so
great that he should use it in making other
men do the petty detail of work.
When we went back to bed my suffocation
was gone and my husband had a new set of
ideas and a warm glow at his heart because his
wife understood him.
There was one point upon which I was firm.
Early Days in Fowlersburg 25
My husband wanted to build a new house in
town. He told me he could now afford a home
which would cost five thousand dollars, and he
had talked to Mr. Gallison, the chief carpenter
in Fowlersburg who built all its houses, about
making a plan. But I begged that just now
he would not take five thousand dollars from
his capital. With his cleverness that five thou
sand dollars would increase faster than it would
in real estate.
The fact was, I knew that when a man buys
a home or builds one, he is reluctant to move.
I meant to know the town before I settled in
one spot for a long term of years.
In going to Fowlersburg there was another
question the Church. My people naturally
went to the Baptist church when they went
anywhere. There was, however, no Baptist
church in our neighborhood. Once a month
there was preaching in the school house by a
Methodist circuit rider. My parents had all
the scorn for "sprinklers" that a Scotch Pres
byterian has fora "Romanist." My husband's
family in Pennsylvania had been Dunkards,
but he kept no traces of it nor ever mentioned
When I was twelve years old, my grand-
26 The Highroad
father, who died the following year, took me
two counties away to a Baptist Association.
This is something like a Methodist Conference.
Delegates are sent from all the churches round
about, and as many other people come as wish
to have a change of scene. The people in the
place where the Association meets entertain
them. I believe they still hold these meet
ings, and I fancy in some parts of this my
native state, the entertainment is as crude now
as it was then.
In this place where my grandfather and I
went, there was but one house large enough to
hold many guests, and it consisted chiefly of
one big room and an enormous "porch." We
ate on the "porch" and we all slept in that one
big room. The farmer's wife, who must have
been a very clever woman, sewed all her sheets
and her neighbor's sheets together until she
made one as big as the room. She had straw
brought and put down on the floor a foot deep,
then she made one enormous bed. The sleep
ers lay in tiers. Have you ever seen the paint
ing called "The Conquerors"? It represents
the great captains of the world riding through
Inferno, their way bordered by rows of the
dead slain on victorious fields. It was in such
Early Days in Fowlersburg 27
tiers that we slept on Mrs. Daggett's floor. In
the center of each row a man and his wife
would lie side by side. From his other side
would go out a row of men, from hers a row of
women. I didn't like it. After we were all
settled one night, I called out to my grand
"Grandpap, were they sleeping like this
when Ruth got up and lay at the feet of Boaz?"
He reached over two ladies and a husband
and slapped me.
I had read of nothing like this in mysteries,
and I imbibed the idea that Baptists were vul
gar. As I grew a little older I knew that all
"dissenters" were outcasts. What a dissenter
was I didn't know only that he was something
that did not belong to the Established Church.
I thought we had an Establishment in Amer
ica, and I believed it to be a sect. Naturally
when I found we had nothing of the kind, my
impulse was toward the Episcopalian church.
A church is a club that any man can force his
way into. But I was cautious, I did not want
to make any mistakes.
We went to Fowlersburg presently, taking a
little house on the one central street. My
husband had begun his business, and already
28 ^he Highroad
knew all the business men. As he was pros
perous and a little better educated than most
of the men there, he became very speedily a
leading citizen. The town was small then, with
one paved sidewalk and about three thousand
Socially it was fit for Mr. Thomas Hardy's
consideration. The leading family was named
Jones. Its founder was still alive; he was
the illegitimate son of a roystering blade
who was said to have had sons enough on the
right and left hands in his congressional dis
trict to send him to Congress when he was
fifty. He use'd to acknowledge any that were
brought to his notice, provided they were
good looking or "smart." He always declared
that he had brought no "lunk heads" into the
The Fowlersburg Jones was acknowleged,
and as his mother died at his birth he was
adopted by his father's wife. Now and then
the story of a woman's doing such a thing is
told as though it were the unique act of self-
sacrifice. In fact it happened hundreds of
times before our civilization became so com
plex. Mrs. Benjamin Franklin adopted her
husband's illegitimate son. It is an American
Early Days in Fowlersburg 29
habit to furnish the generations behind with
the same set of ideas that controls this one.
It is folly to say that an American woman will
do that thing to-day, although I have heard
men call it "a womanly thing to do."
This man at this time was very old and had
a large family of children and grandchildren.
He had been educated, studied law, and had
educated his children. They seemed to have
a conviction that nobody knew of old Colonel
(of militia) Jones's parentage. Heaven knows!
They may not have known it themselves. If
they did they had unusually thick skins. I
have always much admired the idea of the old
Colonel, coming back to the very county in
which he was born to make his fight against his
birth. The story couldn't follow him, because
he met it on its own doorstep. But his family
made itself an object of ridicule by the high
and mighty airs affected. And yet, such is the
power of assurance and audacity, it became
the leading family of the town, although there
were people there of gentle birth.
The story of that one family would fill this
book many times. Old Colonel Jones married
a farmer's daughter, who was clever, and her
sons were clever men; yet it is a curious
30 tfhe Highroad
study to see how the original pair, the royster-
ing grandfather and the weak farm girl have
marked the generations. One of them caused
me a bad half hour years ago by- suddenly
claiming my acquaintance. She was yellow
wigged and painted and perfumed and dia
monded. There is a grandson in the peniten
tiary, they tell me now. After all, there is
something in having your blood honest.
There was another family, very intimate with
this one in a surface fashion, that was equally
amusing to the lover of comedy. Do not
imagine that my sense of humor was suffi
ciently cultivated in those days to appreciate
the situation at its true value. It took years
and experience for me to get my glass adjusted.
But it was there all the time for the seeing eye.
The name of this second family was Lossing,
and it was what my father would have
called "chief cook and bottle washer" (to
think of the grandfather of my girls saying a
vulgar thing like that!), in the Episcopal
church. This made another example of the
power of assurance.
Then there were two women, sisters they
said, and the meek little husband of one of
them who kept books while his womenkind
Early Days in Fowlersburg 31
taught music and disseminated gossip. He
was a bookkeeper for my husband for a time, a
position which he lost very suddenly after I
had heard the reading of my character which
the music teacher gave. Poor things! Fow
lersburg made the appalling discovery one day
that instead of being Berlin Protestants as they
were supposed to be, German born, they were
Baltimore Jews who had dropped their religion
as unprofitable. Never shall I forget the pall
which fell that day upon the church which they
had deceived. I shared in it, for I naturally
became an Episcopalian.
32 'The Highroad
We 'Take a House
According to Mr. Herbert Spencer, each of
us is the result of environment. I suppose I
am one of the exceptions which proves the rule.
Otherwise, I should give a careful study of
Fowlersburg society at this time that the stu
dents of human nature (myself included), for
whose pleasure and enlightenment this history
is written, might see the forces which created
me. These people taught me little except what
I used to look at the women who had grown
old in contentment in Fowlersburg and won
der. They were, some of them, women of
beauty, with small but certain incomes, with
fairly good families. They had a chance I
had never had, and yet they had been content
to live all their lives in a little round of gossip
and housekeeping. They felt satisfied when
their daughters married the first young man
who presented himself. Of course I had done
the same thing, but I had no choice and
looked far beyond for my own children.
We Take a House 33
My ignorance was such in those days that I
actually expected the people who made up the
little society in Fowlersburg to live like the
people in my English novels. These novels
were my text-books and my only ones. Natu
rally, I tried to form my own simple household
upon their models. It was a little while before
I realized how different it was from the ways
of other people and how fortunate for me.
They, dear simple souls, could not conceive of
anybody doing anything, particularly anything
so simple as the ordering of a household in any
other manner than the manner in which she
had been brought up.
I had two servants now one was a nurse for
the children and the other the general servant
that was customary in the town. The wages of
a "girl," as this general servant was called,
ranged from a dollar and a quarter to two dol
lars a week. I didn't know that. I had never
had a servant, but only a woman to work by
the day. I had given her fifty cents a day.
Naturally I concluded that this was the proper
wage. My husband paid his men by the month.
I consequently told the first servant who applied
that I paid fifteen dollars a month. This may
sound most trivial, but I discovered later that
34 The Highroad
no circus which came to Fowlersburg with bands
and posters and parades ever so successfully
advertised as I did by that simple statement.
This move might have made me most un
popular except that I was following my text
books. I asked for a recommendation from
the last mistress and I would not take a servant
without it. This effectually prevented my com
mitting that unpardonable sin, known in Fow
lersburg as "coaxing off other people's girls."
I finally by this means secured two sisters,
the daughters of a respectable farmer. In
deed, they were of about the same origin as my
own, a fact which I did not then acknowledge
even to myself. I knew how to cook, and with
the aid of a cook book I managed to teach the
really intelligent elder girl ways which not only
filled her with awe but sent her about proudly
proclaiming that she didn't live with "common
I had of course supposed that society in
Fowlersburg, which seemed to me then like a
metropolis, ate its dinners in the evening
according to my English novel standards. I
didn't quite dare ask my husband to do that.
But as a country breakfast, dinner and supper
are almost identical in constituents, I had no
We Take a House 35
difficulty. The servants simply called the
dinner "luncheon," and the supper "dinner."
My husband thought (if the innovation gave
his busy brain a thought at all) that it was the
servants' peculiarity instead of mine.
It was the same with another thing which
seems too trivial to mention, and yet its prac
tice made a difference. That was the "Papa"
and "Mamma" by which my children ad
dressed us. I had said "Pap" and "Mother,"
but I had the children say Father and Mother,
because the French Papa and Mamma would
have been impossible of pronunciation to me in
my country home. With the coming of the
new servants the change was easy. They un
consciously taught the children what I told
them to say. Does this seem too trivial?
Believe me, it is of trifles that life, or at any
rate, social life is made.
At this time we had a regular income of
about seven thousand dollars a year but we
spent about twenty-five hundred and were rich.
How I struggled over that little house in
which we lived! We went into the house at
the period of black wall paper and shaded
rooms. I wonder if the memory of anyone else
goes back to that time. I believe they called
36 'The Highroad
it Morris paper, and it was supposed to have
something to do with sunflowers and aestheti-
cism. Living in the country and on old fash
ioned English novels, this movement escaped
me. I had not even a friend to tell me of it.
I never read a newspaper, seldom a magazine.
I could only follow the lines of the English
"cottages" I read of, and work in chintz.
"The ladies' morning room" was always chintz
with "bunches of roses" in my novels.
Entering now into a place where I could let
myself "go," I also had a morning room, and
it was done in chintz with bunches of roses.
In some of the early reprints of English
books, were copied the good English illustra
tions by men like Frederick Leighton and Fred
Walker. When these represented interiors I
pinned my faith to them. Low book shelves,
wicker chairs and a tea table, wide couches
with chintz flounces, draped dressing tables
I had them all.
Nobody will ever know the bitterness of my
mortification at discovering, when I went to
return my visits, that I was all out of fashion,
that I ought to have had black wall paper and
a dark carpet, and dingy curtains. But I had
the chintz and wicker and I couldn't afford to
We Take a House 37
change them, so I made the best of them.
Like anything else you make the best of, other
people came in a little time, to copying them
and envying me the possession of them. They,
too, most of them, had read an English novel or
two (there seemed to be nothing else to read in
those days), and "morning room" and "draw
ing-room" finished in chintz sounded as ele
gant to them as the "lark rising to meet the
sun" sounded poetic when they read it in
newspaper verses. That every room in my
little cottage was morning room and afternoon
room, too, was as unsuspected by them as that
America has no lark.
Again 1 must call attention to that curious
lack of application by the majority of peo
ple of what they know. My new acquaint
ances looked upon me as a superior sort of per
son because I had possessions of which they had
read. Even the fact that my children wore
white pinafores like those in English illustra
tions and had their pretty fair hair brushed down
their backs, made them in a sense superior.
There was not a woman in the town who could
not have done what I did, who had not my
information. What she lacked was the con
nection between information and action.
38 The Highroad
I shall never forget the sensation when I
gave some callers afternoon tea, from my
"drawing-room" tea table. My servants told
me how they heard of it everywhere and people
wanted to know if' it was a regular meal and if
we had anything after it. That was long before
the day of wrought-iron tea kettles and the
souvenir spoons which became in 1888 as gen
eral as upright pianos.
But these things were not funny to me in
those days. I was blundering along after the
only model I had. I knew these village
women to be far above me in breeding, educa
tion, everything. I was humble before them.
I had come there believing that "society" in
one place was exactly like society in another,
and I was trying my best to take my place
by behaving as nearly like a respectable
English duchess as circumstances would per
mit. I even had the conscience of the good
Duchess in those days. I used to search my
soul and dream of the higher life. Oh, how
the comedy of it has come like a sharp scent in
my nostrils since, half a pleasure and half a
pain, poor ignorant me truckling to the
Joneses and the Mendals!
I Become the Head of the Family 39
/ Become the Head of the Family
I wish that I could keep this narrative in
Fowlersburg a little longer. There were so
many people there that I should enjoy writing
about telling even to myself, if this story is
never read by another what I saw below the
surface they believed themselves to present to
There was Mr. Bliss, the clergyman. He
was, I heard later, the son of a Methodist book
agent up in Pennsylvania somewhere. He had
infinite tact and a "beautiful manner." Some
times he took afternoon tea with me and talked
about the age of confirmation, or neatly demol
ished heresy. He was as easy in his acquired
theology as I in my own new manners. We
each had the air of inheritors. We played the
game as solemnly as two children who are
We lived in Fowlersburg for seven years. I
have heard since, many times, in many a
roundabout way, that the people in the town
who knew me "cannot understand" my sue-
4O 'xbe Highroad
cess. They call it luck. They remind them
selves and each other what an "ordinary, quiet,
plain little woman" I was. They give my
children credit for having developed a wonder
ful talent for social conquest, and they speak
of the remarkable influence of a foreign educa
tion and the opportunities for meeting men of
title and fortune in the old world. I believe
myself to be responsible for the breaking up of
several respectable and ambitious Fowlersburg
families whose fathers toil at law office or
"store" while the wives and children live in
pensions in Rome or Paris waiting for my
"luck." It is pitiful, isn't it?
They have no sort of conception that to be a
"plain, quiet little woman" was my success in
My husband died.
His death came after one of the journeys 10
the hills he had been taking very frequently
lately, and the typhoid pneumonia, which
strikes so swiftly in West Virginia, had waited
for a moment of extra fatigue in his hard-work
ing life to find him defenseless.
It is the custom in West Virginia to bury the
dead within thirty-six hours but I couldn't.
By delaying the funeral four days, I uncon-
I Become the Head of the Family 41
sciously added another instance to my record
of doing everything "in style" (as they said).
They all knew that in the east (everything
beyond Harper's Ferry is "the east") they
My husband had been caught by death at an
unlucky moment. He had made moves which
he alone understood for his methods of doing
business had become swift, and it was impos
sible to consult me on every transaction. He
had purchased wild land. He had planned to
build railroads through the back counties of
West Virginia where there was then not a
church nor a school house, and where the in
habitants were as wild as the Scotch in the days
of James I.
Mark Twain has accused Sir Walter Scott of
creating the southern feuds by setting up a
false idea of chivalry a generation or two ago,
which has degenerated with the people. He
leaves out of consideration the fact that these
people are the actual descendants of the blood
of which Walter Scott wrote. They have de
generated in some instances, and in some have
remained simply stationary, giving the appear
ance of degeneration in the light of the present
42 The Highroad
I have heard old border ballads sung at a
back county "play party' ' where they danced to
the tunes they sang themselves instead of to a
fiddle. They called the dances "plays. " One
of the popular ones is called "Over the Water
to Charlie." They have not the faintest idea
that such a person as Charlie Stuart ever lived,
but the children know the song even to-day.
Like Queen Victoria, I date my later life
from the beginning of my widowhood. It was
an event that had never entered into our calcu
lations. My husband was so strong, so certain.
When in those early days I looked forward, it
was to becoming the great lady of West Vir
ginia. After a while we should have a place
somewhere in the mountains, a great game
preserve, and we should be the important
people, spending our winters in Washington.
I am sure that had I kept a diary then and
recorded my day dreams, I should find on turn
ing the leaves that I had destined one of my
girls for a President's wife, and one for a Sen
ator's wife. My boy was to have been a Sen
ator himself. That was before the days when it
came to be so generally understood that a
Senatorship is sometimes for sale. Now I
know that my husband would probably have
I Become the Head of the Family 43
had one had he lived, and 1 suppose in that
case Fowlersburg would have pointed him out
as another wonderful genius with a poor idiot
for a wife.
These plans were too great for my carrying
out, although everything was left to me. My
husband trusted me. As for the executors of
my husband's will, one a bank cashier named
Less, and the other one an honest conservative
old lawyer who had once been the governor of
the state, they gave me to understand that they
feared that my husband's illness had been corn
ing on for some time and that his brain had
been affected, judging by his investments.
They told me that I could count upon noth
ing from these wild lands. It was impossible
to sell them at any price.
This worthless land became my most valu
able asset. Everything depends upon the use
to which you put a thing. The Kohinoor would
not save a man from starving if nobody knew he
owned it, while one could live for a long time
on a few paste diamonds that people believed
to be real.
After my husband was buried I insisted upon
having the stores sold and everything put into
safe securities, so that I knew my income ex-
44 2^<? Highroad
actly. I found that I had from that source
thirty-two hundred dollars a year. That was
all. I had expected to have at the very least
twelve thousand; and had not the wild lands
and certain railroad concessions (if that is what
they are called) been purchased, I should have
had that. Outside of this income was the life
insurance policy for forty thousand dollars, for
my sole benefit.
In the early days I made my plans. * would
go abroad and educate the children.
I could cry now at the pathos of my belief in
the things I read. One of these that was re
peated so often that I never thought of ques
tioning it, was that living on "the continent"
was cheap. Whenever my English families in
the novels became hard up, they always went
to the cheap places abroad to economize. I
have never discovered any place on the globe
any cheaper than Fowlersburg, West Virginia.
They say there are some villages in Virginia
and Georgia that are cheaper, places where you
can buy a broiler for ten cents, and have a
large washing done for twenty-five. In Fowlers-
burg a day's washing cost fifty cents in those
days. I believe they ask seventy-five in these.
We had never built a house, so I sold my
I Become the Head of the Family 45
furniture and we went away to Baltimore,
where we took a small steamer for Bremen.
My forty thousand dollars added another fif
teen hundred a year to my income for the pres
ent. I made up my mind, however, that when
the time came the forty thousand dollars should
be spent to launch my girls.
46 The Highroad
Seek a Wider Life
Ignorance is the most foolish thing in this
world, but the proverb maker who said, "A
little knowledge is a dangerous thing" was a
genius. We are a good deal like bread. As raw
dough we are promising. Until we get so old
that we sour, we may be manipulated into good
loaves at any time; but put us in the oven,
take us out half-baked and allow us to cool in
that state and we are done for. As for me,
I was below the "little knowledge" state. I
had been only near enough to the fire to rise a
If we had gone to Europe by way of a
Cunarder, with its crowds of travelers, I doubt
if we should have reached my destination at
all. I think I should have developed an ill
ness which would have brought us back to
Fowlersburg. But on the little ship that took
us out in late August was a German scientific
man from Jena. I had not so much as a maid
with me, only four children, ranging from eight
to sixteen years. Fortunately, they were as
We Seek a Wider Life 47
healthy as little animals and none of us was at
There were but five passengers besides our
selves, and the four were ill the first days,
allowing Dr. Helmholz to become friends
with us. It was he who told me bluntly that
Germany was not the place for us, but Lau
sanne; it was he who made out the lessons for
the children; it was he who told me that places
like Lausanne were filled with ignorant Eng
lish, of the stupidest class "to be let alone."
(How I have blessed him since for keeping me
out of the middle-class, although that was so
far from his object!) He finally gave me a let
ter to a man who "might give me some advice
for my boy," and headed me for Lausanne.
The "advice," when I reached it, was from
a man whose original home had been in Hun
gary. He was a nobleman who had resigned
his titles and given himself up to scientific
pursuits in a villa on Lake Geneva. He had a
wife somewhere. Dr. Helmholz knew him
only as a learned man, and had no thought of
his position otherwise. That he knew man as
well as his origin was a matter of no moment
Monsieur Prolmann, as he was known.
48 The Highroad
became, most inconspicuously, my friend. He
was a man of fifty-five, who sometimes enter
tained distinguished guests. The English and
Americans who gossiped in the pensions around
Lausanne and Geneva hardly knew his name.
His life was lived in the beautiful walled gar
den where presently my children played.
Instead of settling in a pension, as had been
my intention, I took a tiny cottage, on his
advice. Being in heavy mourning, I did not
visit at all which was fortunate, as I made
a reputation for reserve which was most use
ful. The woman who was the social arbiter
of Lausanne in those days is the mother-in-law
of the steward of my youngest son-in-law's
Devon estates. It would be rather awkward if
we had ever been on visiting terms and she
could speak of Jane's childhood as one of its
The next year my girls went to Paris to a
famous convent, and it was my only regret that
they had not gone earlier. A girl should come
out at seventeen. The "new woman" may talk
nonsense and higher education and all that sort
of thing, but the fact remains that between
sixteen and twenty-two, a well-brought-up girl
has her best chances to marry. Men of sense
We Seek a Wider Life 49
want to marry a girl of that age. They want
to teach her what to know. If I were a man
there is nothing on earth that would induce me
to marry a girl past twenty-one. A widow
perhaps. She has been taught by another man.
But the majority of women are bad teachers for
their sex. I can give one instance. A mother
almost invariably tells her daughter (when she
begins to see that she is going to need advice)
that indifference is the way to a man's heart.
Nothing was ever so utterly absurd. A man is
a human being, and it is the law of human na
ture that we should like those who like us. A
man craves sympathy, understanding, sweet
ness, trustfulness. Naturally he despises a
fool, or what he is capable of recognizing as a
fool. We instinctively admire ourselves, be
cause we try to be, and we flatter ourselves we
succeed in appearing to be, the thing we admire.
When another finds us admirable we at once
pay tribute to his sense and taste.
My eldest girl would not be ready for society
for two years. In Continental society of the
best class, it is necessary for a woman not only
to speak French, but to speak it elegantly.
The suppressed smiles I have seen on the faces
of foreigners when some American women
50 'The Highroad
attempted French, have made me ashamed.
Many of them speak fluently and confidently
servant's French. They have had nurse maids
in their childhood and dressing maids after
wards, who have all described themselves as
In most cases the servants are from the prov
inces. In all cases they speak a tongue impos
sible to an educated Frenchman. As well
might a French lady enter a New York draw
ing-room and chatter "h'aints" and "his'ns"
The nuns in the convent where I sent my
little girls were ladies not very clever ladies,
some of them, but bound by the cast-iron
mould of their religious and social order. I
have heard Americans say that they feared that
their girls might become Catholics, and have
hesitated at this convent on that account.
A nun who educates girls never teaches them
anything which will interfere with a marriage
to anybody except a cad.
Monsieur Prolmann, kind in those early
days, with the grave kindness of a great man
whose word I little dreamed of disputing, had
given Robert his own secretary for some
studies. For others he went to a private school
We Seek a Wider Life 51
where German boys come for French. Prol-
mann had suggested a lady he knew of in
Geneva as a governess for the girls. I found
that my little income was stretched by my ex
penses, living even in this way.
The first summer we made an excursion to
the Italian lakes, taking the governess with us.
Quite by chance we encountered Mr. Prolmann
in the little hotel where we were stopping. I
do not know why a chance encounter like this
seems to give an intimate air to a casual
acquaintance, but we all know that it does. I
had allowed the children to play in the great
garden of his home on the lake, had my
self once or twice had tea on the terrace with
the children and governess, and had once gone
in informally after dinner to hear a great pian
ist who was staying at the villa. I had learned
many things from Prolmann, many that I felt
sure he was unconscious of having taught me.
I had spent that first winter in a feverish
study of French and I had succeeded in at least
speaking carefully and grammatically. One
can make few mistakes in conduct when one
does nothing, but still I followed suggestions.
This night, after our meeting in Italy, the
moon had come up gloriously, and the elderly
52 'The Highroad
governess and the dry middle-aged secretary
had taken the children for a walk to a famous
view. It was early and Prolmann and I sat on
a balcony of the hotel. I had found crepe a
trifle heavy for travel, and I had on a thin
gown of black gauze and a little white cloak
belonging to Lucile.
Suddenly Prolmann spoke. I had been con
scious for some time that he was looking at
me, instead of the ripple of the moon on the
lake with a scrap of a chateau showing be
yond, the whole looking quite like the painted
views with mother-of-pearl high lights which
one sees on old fashioned work boxes.
He was a most distinguished-looking man,
with thin white hair and waxed moustache,
thick black eyebrows accenting the pale lined
face of an ascetic. It was the first time I ever
had sat alone in the evening with any man ex
cept my husband and seldom with him. He,
dead a year now, had usually gone to his
office or to bed immediately after the evening
meal, leaving me alone. And in any case he
was by no means a romantic figure. He wore
a chin beard. I am a creature of imagination,
and I suppose it was because it was the first
time that I so well remember every detail of
We Seek a Wider Life 53
that evening over the lake. I even remember
that the chair in which I sat was a Moorish one
made of rushes which gave me a long slender
look, like a tall willowy woman. I admired
myself in it as though I were somebody
"You are very young to be the mother of two
tall daughters," Prolmann said. He waited as
though he expected me to speak and then he
went on: "It will be a pleasant but an arduous
task to put them into the world they should
"It is concerning their lives that I need
advice," I said.
Prolmann leaned over and took my hand in
a fatherly fashion. "It is wrong for so young
and so attractive a woman to lack an adviser.
I am going to ask that I may put my expe
rience at your disposal. Had you always lived
in this country, I should doubtless have been
your husband's friend. (I wondered even then
if Prolmann believed that. The thought
causes me to smile now.) I should probably
have been god-father to your children. Allow
me to take that position which distance denied
me." He was still holding my hand, and
pressing it gently. Then he said softly: "I
54 The Highroad
might have been god-father and guardian to
I did not speak for a minute. I have always
found that silence needs no explanation. I
had two replies and I wished to choose between
them. The first was a light sentence saying
that careful parents did not choose children for
god-parents, and as he must have been a child
when I was christened, he could not have been
mine. That would have done for some men
most men. They like to be called young when
youth has past, however bold the flattery. But
not this one. I chose my second.
"Oh, that you had!" I said softly. "You
would have saved me so much."
And my sense of humor did not twitch a
muscle of my face. But imagine, if you will,
this finished worldling, this scientist, this
courtier, as the god-father of my parents' child
in the wilds of West Virginia! Yet actually,
there in the moonlight, lying in the Moorish
chair, I felt my part of an interesting young
widow who had suffered.
In his role of adviser, Prolmann suggested
sending the girls to the great Parisian convent.
I told him frankly that to do so would make
serious inroads upon my capital, as the school
We Seek a Wider Life 55
was a very expensive one. My income was a
little over four thousand dollars. The convent
would demand a thousand apiece for the girls.
But even to Prolmann I did not betray any
thing. It was at this time that I began to make
an asset of the wild land.
I told him that our estates were unremunera-
tive and that sentiment would not allow me to
sell them. They comprised an area that was
astounding in acre numbers. Considering how
the ownership of the utterly worthless land put
me into the class of great land owners in
Europe, I have often wondered why such a pos
session has not been oftener used by clever
Americans with small capital. There are miles
of desert lands in Arizona and California that
would sound just as well as the most cultivated
farms and a clever person can always let in
formation get about. In Europe, where every
decent American and some indecent ones
are sized up and labelled, a little matter of a
hundred thousand acres looks just as well as
the title of an Italian prince looks over here.
I think those acres impressed even Prolmann.
He looked at me gravely and then puffed his
"Those prices at the convent are for the
56 'The Highroad
bourgeoisie and foreigners only; not for my
He went up to Paris and arranged matters.
A little later I thought it probable that he paid
the bills out of his own pocket. If he did,
that was his own lookout. He could never
know that I suspected it. Consequently we
were in exactly the same position as though it
were influence instead of money that he used.
I was enabled to send the girls to the con
vent for one thousand dollars payment for the
three. I took a lease of my little house in
Lausanne for another year, and settled down
The house had been altered for an American
invalid who came to Lausanne to be near the
famous Dr. Roux, and it was actually comfort
able. An open fire and a bath-room were its
distinguishing features. Ah! I enjoyed that
In some subtle way I seemed to be more of a
girl than I had ever been in my life. Girlhood
is a matter of education with many. Some
have it by genius, but the majority of the
female young of the human species are simply
raw, unripe women who need to be as carefully
looked after as other unripe fruit. Unfortu-
We Seek a Wider Life 57
nately a good many are of such a poor species,
or are so stung by insects or spoiled by wind
and rain and handling, that the proportion of
well-flavored, handsome, sweet women is
I was a widow with four children, but when
the girls were safely in the convent, and Rob
ert was away with his tutors, I was as- free as
air and my nature seemed to be awakening.
I arose in the mornings and put aside my
curtains for a view of the beautiful mountains.
I had my coffee in bed in the French fashion
with an end of delicious French bread and
sweet, saltless butter. After that, I supposed
(in my tale of the day) I went for a walk; in
reality I generally threw myself on a broad
couch before my open fire and read the French
books Prolmann sent me as well as some I
purchased myself. Prolmann would have dis
approved of some of my literature I am afraid.
I remember his saying once that a woman
might do almost anything, but that she must
never hear or speak a word that was not deli
My little cottage adjoined Prolmann's gar
den, so that his visits to me were not the sub
ject of comment to the little band of big-footed,
58 The Highroad
badly-dressed English and their American
imitators, who called themselves the "English
Colony." My servants even had been supplied
Every day he came and had dejeuner with
me Robert had his luncheon with the tutor in
the villa above and we talked about every
thing in the universe. I wonder if I can ever
explain how I felt toward him. He was the
first man who is what the world calls a gentle
man, that I had ever known in my life.
The training, the understanding of civiliza
tion, society and the rules of comfortable liv
ing which are crystallized into the gentleman
create a charm which can never die. It is all
the more potent to one unaccustomed to it.
Even Prolmann' s manners at the table were
charming to me.
I have since discovered that not all gentle
men on the continent of Europe know how to
eat even though they be most accomplished in
recognizing what to eat. I have seen a Grand
Duke whose table manners would disgrace a
motherless school boy in West Virginia and
the majority of his friends did not know it.
In West Virginia we sat down to the table
for the primary purpose of obtaining nourish-
We Seek a Wider Life 59
ment and our whole attention was directed
toward that end. Our food was good, but it
had no more "rhythm," as Prolmann would
have said, than the hay and oats in the horses'
mangers. I was learning now that each dish
should complement the other; that a meal was
a composition intended to appeal to two senses
besides that of taste. We thought in West Vir
ginia, that a "course dinner" was "stylish"
simply as a certain cut of skirt might be styl
ish, but I learned now that the element of har
mony in dining would prevent serving all the
dishes at once, as it would prevent all the keys
on a piano being played at once, or all the
instruments in an orchestra.
To be put into a gay humor, to be awakened
to the zest of life, and to share your joy and
play it in talk against the moods of others, is
the art of dining as Prolmann taught it; other
wise it were best to feed alone.
Sometimes in the early days of our success I
used to wonder what I should have been with
out Prolmann, and I shuddered, thinking of
myself as one of the poor, silly mothers who
drag their girls about Europe and expect them
to make chance acquaintances of Dukes as
described in the novels. They imagine that
60 'fbe Highroad
the aristocracy of Europe marries after that
loose fashion. Sometimes it does, but not the
daughters of those mothers. In the rare cases
where it happens the daughters do their own
fishing. We see it over and over again; we
read of it every day in the newspapers. The
popular comment upon the Marquis who mar
ries a music-hall singer is "Fool" ! Not at all..
All men are exactly like that, only they have
not run against the attractive bait and the ex
Now I know there was no real need for my
shudders. If I had not learned Prolmann's
lesson I should have learned another. That,
however, does not lessen my gratitude to him.
There was one object lesson that came to
me under his auspices, which I very probably
never should have seen otherwise.
He told me one day that he was expecting
some visitors. It was late in the winter and
fashionable people were on their way to the
South, to Cape Martin after the Queen, to Pau
and Nice. Prolmann never spoke of men and
women with adjectives which defined their sta
tions in life. He had never found it necessary.
But I classified in my own mind. So it was
with a real thrill in my provincial heart, which
We Seek a Wider Life 61
has always kept the habit of thrilling notwith
standing the contempt of my head, that I dis
covered that his cousin and old playmate from
England was the famous Duchess of Belcourt
whose photograph, wearing her necklace of
pearls the size of cherries, I had long admired.
I was asked to the villa to luncheon on one of
the two days she spent with Prolmann, and my
girls' old governess was pressed into duty as
my companion. Actually, until Prolmann tact
fully suggested her in that capacity, I had no
idea that I stood in need of such an appendage.
I found the Duchess walking on the terrace
with Prolmann and another man, a tall,
stooped, slovenly creature with tired, bored
eyes. The Duchess wore a dress of cheviot,
badly made to my eyes, and her lined, dis
agreeable face was smeared (there is no other
word for it) with cosmetics, over which a
veil was tightly drawn. Her figure was laced
in, but with the thickness finding its distorted
way into evidence. I think she was utterly
indifferent to my presence, and I doubt if she
had any clear idea who I was. But the man
with her remembered me in after years when
he was her husband and a little more tired, a
little more bored than in those days.
62 The Highroad
When I joined them, Prolmann coming for
ward to meet me, she was lecturing him upon
some appointments he had made and some
policy pursued not to her liking, for he was a
Cabinet Minister of England, and she was an
English Duchess who was supposed by an ad
miring country to be his adviser, one of those
women behind the throne of which even Peck-
sniffian England boasts.
They were traveling together as they often
had done in the twenty years since they had
At luncheon she paid no attention to me, but
kept on with her talk of people and events and
theories concerning which I knew nothing.
Lord Hastings now and then spoke to Prol
mann or to me, always upon subjects far from
the line of thought carried on by the Duchess.
She called him by his Christian name, and
seemed to me to speak at times almost with
rudeness. She looked years his senior, as I
afterwards discovered she was. I knew the
story of their devotion to each other. I had
read it as one reads the chronicles of royalties,
and I had to pinch myself to realize that I was
sitting here facing two people who figured to
those who saw them from afar as a sort of mod-
We Seek a Wider Life 63
ern Abelard and Heloise. Could these be
they? As I looked at the heavy old face of
the woman, with the untidy masses of dyed and
false hair above it, the eyebrows marked on
above contemptuous old eyes, and at the man
the ancestral legislator, I almost laughed aloud.
I went frantically back over my opinion of my
own belongings, and for at least a moment,
revised them. My husband had been some
thing like this man, beard and all, only more
intelligent. The woman, in Fowlersburg,
West Virginia, would have been considered a
type of cheap lodging-house keeper. And
then I lashed myself for a fool. Was I to go
through life with the standards of Fowlers-
burg? That was provincialism with a ven
This was a great party leader of the greatest
nation on earth. What was I? I, without
traditions, who knew nothing whose eyes
were blind, who had not the key of under
standing to enter in and judge. The glamour
of their great position took me. At least if it
did not entirely take me, it was no fault of my
volition. This friendship I told myself, was
historic. It was of consequence to the nation.
"Nice customs to great natures bow," I found
64 The Highroad
myself saying. And then that envy of the
world I was born outside of, came to me.
What must it mean to be in that rare world
above the laws of conventionality, laws,
which I saw in that hour, are created by those
above them that those beneath may stand solid
and uphold the structure upon which the great
I tried to express something of this to Prol-
mann the day after they left. We sat at
dejeuner in my sunny little sitting-room, with
the white-topped Swiss mountains outside.
He gave one of his unusual smiles, which was
like a breaking up of his face, so much of the
humorous man of the world did it show behind
the impassive mask which he usually carried
like a blank wall against curiosity. Prol-
mann's teeth were beautiful, and I realized at
times like these that at some time, some
woman might have passionately loved that
man behind. It was with my reason I knew
this, however. He never struck the hour of
my heart. Now he leaned over my little round
table, glistening with the beautiful light silver
and glass, most of which he had given to me.
"Catherine is my cousin. We are friends
from youth. A shrewder bargainer and a less
We Seek a Wider Life 65
intelligent human being never lived. Poor
"But," I said, "She seems such a remark
able help to him. She has such a knowledge
"She has not even the wit to repeat to him
what she has heard him say. Most women
know as much as that."
"But ?" I stammered over my next ques
. "But why does he still attach himself?
Because he would be cut if he did not.
Because he wants to continue in office. He
would not be forgiven if he dropped away.
In this world a man must be true to some
thing." He hesitated a moment and the smile
faded. "They allow more latitude to a
woman. Hastings is paying a debt of honor
contracted twenty years ago and he must pay it
until the Duke of Belcourt is dead. Then he
will be free."
I suppose my eyes were puzzled.
"Then he may marry her and go his own
way. ' '
In that winter I used to walk as high up on
the mountains as I dared to go. It seemed to
me that I could not breathe as long as there was
66 The Highroad
anything above me. I must climb even into
dangerous places. It was with delight that I
realized my own sure-footedness, my coolness
The following summer Prolmann told me
that he was growing old (as a matter of fact he
was younger in every way than when I had first
known him), and that his physician had ordered
him to take a long yachting trip to Norway and
the Hebrides. He asked that, in the capacity
of his god-daughter, I would come with him.
Robert would go for a tour with the secretary,
and I, with a new maid (my old one was sub
ject to seasickness), went. This plan was car
ried out for another summer, and then I found
myself a little bored.
Prolmann had taught me much which I de
sired to use. What was the need of longer
spending my days in idle dreaming and in as
idle practicing upon my teacher? And I was
a little bored. I exulted in the feeling when I
discovered it in myself. This wonderful, bril
liant man of the world had brought me to the
stage where he could teach me nothing more,
and he bored me.
One day near the end of our second summer,
he told me that he was negotiating with his
We Seek a Wider Life 67
wife's people for a divorce. I thought rapidly.
Undoubtedly a marriage with Prolmann would
give me a large fortune, but was it worth
while? Would I not be considered somewhat
in the light of an adventuress?
An unknown woman is always considered to
have been an adventuress when she marries a
conspicuous man. And while Prolmann had
discarded his title and was living in retire
ment, any act of his, such as a marriage fol
lowing a divorce, would bring up his whole
history and mine. And he bored me.
I told him that to me divorce seems the
violation of a sacrament, and I begged him for
the sake of his soul to reconsider the matter.
The next remark he made was wide of the
subject, and that autumn I went to Paris to be
near the girls and prepare the way for Lucile's
debut into the world. He gave me many let
ters and the arrangement at the convent went
on as before. We carried on a correspondence
of a semi-formal character with long lapses.
I was foolish to let Prolmann get away from
me then. His arm would have saved me much
in the succeeding years, but it was the first time
I had ever been truly bored and I was fasci
nated by the experience and inclined to in-
68 'The Highroad
dulge it. I had practically saved two years'
income also, and my "god-father" had pre
sented me with some magnificent jewels.
He showed his spirit by sending each of the
elder girls a pearl necklace on her marriage
and keepi'ng an eye on Robert's early educa
In Paris 69
My first idea in going to Paris was to stay a
while in the convent where my girls were. But
I thought better of that. I did not want the
nuns to be too explicit concerning the cost of
their charges. They were paid through my
bankers in Paris, and I had nothing to do
I could not go to a pension. I had learned
by this time how it marked a woman, gave
her undesirable acquaintances, and was alto
gether the wrong road to the goal I had set out
to reach. I lived at a quiet little hotel with
my maid for a week, and then set about reap
ing the harvest of the letters Prolmann had
given me. I had no scruples whatever in
opening them, but they told me nothing.
They were of the most formal description.
But my first visitor gave me a clue to what
Prolmann had sent out privately.
She was a Viennese, an old woman with a
sad face, more like an old hound's than any-
7o 'The Highroad
thing else I can think of. The old-fashioned
way in which she wore her hair carried out the
idea. The mouse-colored wings on her cheeks
were like a hound's ears. But in the lobes of
her ears were beautiful rubies of enormous
value, and on the delicate old hands, encased in
lace mitts, were stones in dim, worn, deep set
tings that made the flashy shallow diamonds
we see nowadays seem like vulgar paste. Her
gown was made with an overskirt and her bon
net had wide strings.
She rose and bowed stiffly when I entered,
and said in beautiful French:
"It gives me pleasure to welcome the
daughter of my cousin's old friend to Paris."
For an instant I was bewildered, and later I
was confused as I realized that the old brown
eyes that looked out so pathetically had seen
my hesitation. The "cousin" was Prolmann
and he had claimed me as the daughter of an
old friend. He was a man of spirit.
"I, too, am suffering from an unproductive
estate," she said.
I flushed. It seemed to me that Prolmann
need not have flaunted my poverty all at once.
But I have learned since then that the great of
the world hasten to speak of their limitation of
In Paris 71
fortune that nothing may be expected of them
which they cannot perform.
In a moment I was matching fortunes with
this old lady, telling her of the hundreds of
thousands of acres which were "tied up" until
my children were all of age. Actually as the
years went by I came to believe in these acres
as a fortune. Who knows? It may be true
that there is nothing in the world but what we
ourselves create, that everything is in our own
minds. We all, who think, have had expe
riences which would seem to corroborate such
Madame Vestrine was a distant cousin of
Prolmann. A Hungarian by birth, who had
passed a brilliant youth at many courts with
her father, a famous diplomatist. She had
married against her father's will, making a
marriage, which she told me with entire sim
plicity had been most disastrous. She had
one child, a son, who was content to let the
world slip by while he lived on his Hungarian
estates, forever out of the world. I gathered
from Madame that she considered him also in
the light of a disaster. She hoped that my son
would not so disappoint me.
I had left Robert in Lausanne to be prepared
72 The Highroad
for college. It was Prolmann's advice that he
should go back to America to college. A man
should be educated in his own country, he said.
In no other way could he understand his people.
Madame Vestrine invited me to her house,
or rather her apartment in the Rue Miromesnil,
the following Thursday, when she would have
some of her old friends between the hours of
four and six.
I'went, and here it maybe interesting to tell
of the manage of this old aristocrat, whose birth
gave her access to the Vienna court circle, and
who, I learned later, had been one of the great
ladies who had snubbed the young Empress
and added so much to the misery of her un
happy life. One could not understand so sim
ple and kind a creature hurting any one at
first. Later I came to see that presumption
was the one thing which found her inflexible.
It was always more or less a source of amuse
ment to me that she did not always recognize
it. She knew the ways of her caste, as all true
aristocrats, but what she did not know were the
ways of the casteless.
Sooner or later some queer people found
their way into her little salon, and it was I who
weeded them out.
In Paris 73
This first afternoon, I was a trifle early, and
1 discovered Madame talking to a curious pop-
eyed Belgian, who was quite frankly relating
an anecdote concerning the supposed claimant
of the Bonapartist party. It was not a pleasant
"The worst of it was," the Belgian said, "it
took place before his innocent children. The
man is impossible."
And then I made one of my early blunders.
"His children?" I asked, as innocently as
one of them. "I did not know that the Prince
"Nor is he," was the reply. "Not even
morganatically, I believe. He has put his
children in a very unpleasant position and
there was no necessity for it. It is impossible
to vitiate the blood of the Bonapartes."
This gentleman's card was on a table near
me and I saw it then and many times later.
His name was followed by the Roman numbers
IV. They puzzled me then, but later I learned
that an ancestor of his had been a friend of
Henry IV. of France. The reason of the
friendship would have supplied Mr. Stanley
Weyman's readers with a long novel, had he
ever had as free access to it as he had to
74 The Highroad
Sully's diary, out of which his best tales are
made. It was a gay mixture of intrigue, com
edy, farce and tragedy. It smelled of blood
and musk and garlic after the fashion of all
intimate things of Navarre. When it was over
and I suppose the lady was done with and
safely out of the way (married to the friend after
the fashion of the day, for aught I know),
Henry in his love and gratitude gave part of
his name to the friend, and his children wear it
to this day.
I could but think how surprised Henry would
be to see that the strain hadn't lasted better.
But then there are the Bourbons!
The apartment of Madame Vestrine might
have been a little corner of one of the new
apartment houses in New York, except that
the conveniences were lacking. It consisted
of a tiny salon, two bed-rooms, and in the
place where a bath would be in New York was
a tiny kitchen. The antiquated maid slept in
The walls of the salon were covered by
splendid tapestry woven in the Louvre before
the days of the Gobelins. Gold threads as
brilliant as if of to-day enriched the soft,
old colors. Lace fit for a museum draped the
In Paris 75
mantle, on which stood alone an alabaster
bust of Marie Antoinette, given as a souvenir
to Madame Vestrine's great-grandmother, who
had been the Queen's maid of honor before her
marriage to Louis.
On top of a writing-desk painted by some
romanticist in garlands and fetes and varnished
by the Martins, stood an old miniature, waxy,
yellow, faded, of a young woman, that I knew
must have been Madame in her youth.
In half an hour the place was crowded to
suffocation and we were given some dry sweet
cakes and a glass of wine.
There were few young people. Here and
there was a young girl with her mother, but
these did not stay long. They were chiefly the
old-fashioned sort of young French girls. One
I recognized as a girl I had seen at the convent,
and I ventured to speak to her. She scarcely
lifted her eyes from the floor and said only
"Out," and "Non."
Her mother gave me a half-suspicious glance
and before my face walked the two or three
steps to Madame Vestrine and asked her quite
audibly who I was. I heard Prolmann's name,
and the Marquise (I discovered she was that)
came back and greeted me very affably.
76 The Highroad
"Do you know Madame 's daughter?"
she asked her child.
The girl gave her a quick upward look from
her black eyes, and then satisfied of the correct
When I asked Lucile concerning this girl,
she said carelessly, "Oh, Lili! She is Gene-
vieve's friend. They are inseparable and they
plan all the mischief in the convent. She is a
petit (liable, that Lili! I tried to keep her away
from Genevieve, but there is no parting them."
Lucile, I was beginning to see, had some of
the elements of a prig. That makes a girl easy
to manage in some ways, but difficult in others,
and it is nearly always accompanied by a bit
"She has a beautiful mother," I said.
I repeated the story of the beauty of the
Marquise to Genevieve, sure that it would
reach the ears of her friend and certain also
that Lili would place the remark in her turn
where it would do the most good. The Mar
quise's beauty had reached that stage where
she would like to have it corroborated.
You can buy almost anything in Paris, and
when I went about furnishing my own apart-
In Paris 77
ment I used a hint that Madame Vestrine's
room had given me.
I could not afford to have so tiny a place.
I was not great enough to suffocate people,
nor could I hang priceless tapestries and lace
on the walls. I found an apartment in the
rue Marbeuf, and was about to take it when I
discovered that I had alighted in the midst of
the American Colony. I fled as from a pesti
lence. At last, Madame Vestrine came to my
rescue and established me on the second floor
of a walled house in the Faubourg St. Germain.
There were four rooms besides the kitchen and
a hole under the roof for my servant.
There was a little graveled court where a car
riage could drive in, and altogether it was
gloomy and correct. I was obliged to take a
lease for two years, and then I was allowed to
put in a bath-room (at a ridiculous expense)
on the condition that when I left I was to tear
out all the pipes and leave the walls as I found
Madame Vestrine tried to persuade me to
give up the mad project of a bath. She ex
plained to me that the weekly bath could be
brought in from the street (linen, soap and all)
foi three francs fifty. But I explained that I
7 8 ^he Highroad
wanted my daughter to preserve her complex
ion and the doctor had said daily baths
would do it. She bowed to that.
"I have heard," she said in her tired, meek
way, "that some of the Americans and the
actresses use baths of milk. Certainly it pays
to keep the complexion."
I made up my mind that as I could not fur
nish my rooms magnificently, I would do the
next best thing and furnish "temporarily"
never forgetting that I was an American of
the colonial school.
I went to chintz and comfortable chairs and
soft rugs for my foundation. I have discov
ered that Frenchmen like comfort as well as
anybody. I have sometimes thought that it is
for this reason that they so often seek the
society of the half-world tired of formal
chairs at home.
Then, in the old shops, and later at Hotel
Druot, I bought anything that antedated 1865,
candlesticks, some pictures, china, a minia
ture or two all English. I even purchased a
number of old English books. These were
my treasures which were supposed to have fol
lowed me from America. I even allowed
Lucile to think so.
In Paris 79
My mother died the last year I was in Lau
sanne, and my father wrote me a letter and
sent me a crayon portrait he had had "en
larged" from an old photograph. It was a
dreadful thing, but it could not quite destroy
my mother's maiden prettiness and gentleness
I took the paper out of the hideous plaster
and gilt frame in which it arrived and I care
fully wiped out all of the drawing except the
face, and that I smirched. Then I took it to a
clever young artist in Paris, and told him that
my only portrait of my mother had been de
stroyed. I asked him to paint a portrait from
this remnant. I brought to him an old-fash
ioned silk gown, a lace fichu smelling of rose
leaves, and a tiny satin shoe, all of which I
purchased in a shop on the hill leading up to
Montmartre. I told him that these were
hers, "showing the delicate character of my
mother, which I knew that his art could repro
He created a lovely creature sitting meekly
behind the frame, which made Lucile start and
cry out when she saw it: "Grandmamma!"
I told her that her grandfather had sent me
the picture. She looked at it a Long time, and
8o The Highroad
then turned to me with something almost
pathetic in her face and voice.
"I am so glad he did. I never understood
before I think I must have dreamed things."
I never asked what she had dreamed. I
knew that she could remember the simple
country life of my parents. I had glorified it
for her by showing her this vision of her grand
mother's youth which was not the less true to
her that it was altogether false to fact.
I Bring Lucile into View 81
/ Bring Lucile into View
Lucile was at this time eighteen years old,
and, if the truth be told, a perfectly common
place girl. Her only gleam of beauty was in
the red shade her hair had caught from her
father's, but that was not a real point. Her
features were small, her teeth fairly good, her
figure was acceptable. Had she been left in our
native land and town she would have been
conservatively happy with never a longing.
She would have belonged to a literary club
where the members sewed on commonplace
"art work," while one of them read good litera
ture something "solid," and watched the
clock for tea time.
I went to a meeting of one of those clubs in
Fowlersburg not long after Lucile's marriage.
I was being entertained with some awe, which
I could see was not a little mixed with wonder.
They all looked hard at me as if to discover
my "trick," and I think they were disappointed
that I did not talk about Lucile and her hus-
82 'The Highroad
band. They all remembered (to me) what a
beautiful, interesting child she had been, and
some of them, hoped to see her if they ever
went to London or Ludovika, where her hus
band resides as Ambassador. I hoped they
might, but I doubted it. Lucile is not demo
cratic. The wife of the new clergyman of
Fowlersburg was president of the club. She
was a large woman, reconciled to her figure
because it resembled that of the late Queen
Victoria. She came from eastern Virginia,
the offspring of an English tobacco merchant
of before the war and a Richmond woman.
On the English side she was more than cordial
to me as the mother-in-law of one of England's
famous men and a Lord. On the Richmond
side she was a little resentful that any Fowlers-
burg woman from the looked-down-upon West
Virginia should have achieved such glory.
But she could and she did assert her English
parentage. She finally said that a monarchy
was the only proper form of government. As
nobody else seemed likely to deny this asser
tion, and as I myself thank the Fates hourly
that I was born in a republic where I would
alone have been a possibility, I asked her,
I Bring Lucile into View 83
"Because," answered she, "Heaven is a
Now that is exactly the kind of logic
which would have appealed to Lucile. I
wanted to tell those good souls how she would
have enjoyed herself with them, but I feared
they would consider that I was boasting of her
intellectuality, and I wished to leave no cor
ners for comment to hang upon.
Lucile's feet and hands, her neck and waist
were what the shops call "stock sizes," as well
as her mind and manners.
Many mothers would have considered her
hopeless but I knew better. The majority of
the world is itself commonplace and resentful
of anything out of the ordinary.
Nobody knows how I dreaded the coming of
Lucile, because I knew that she would bore
me. I had grown accustomed in these years
to my own society. I made plans and dreamed
dreams all day long, dreams and plans for my
children, but they were like counters to me.
I suppose at heart I am an extremely selfish
woman. I want everybody around me to be
contented, gratified in every sense, from appe
tite to vanity (vanity is the unnamed sense),
but I am conscious that it is because unhappi-
84 The Highroad
ness jars and disturbs me. It is my instinct to
make people near me happy as it is my instinct
to keep my house clean. It is more comfort
able. I wonder how many people are like me,
and if they were to speak the truth would say
that a million Chinese might be tortured
without causing them a moment's pain, so the
sufferers were welh out of sight and hearing?
When the convent gate opened, I took up
my Stendhal, my Gautier, my Maupassant and
their companions and locked them away.
That was before I knew that Lucile would
never have read them in any case. Her favor
ite author was Mrs. Humphry Ward, after she
began to read at all, which was not until she
was safely married. Before that she looked at
the pictures in the English and American peri
odicals. She had a natural taste for The Ladies'
Pictorial and The Century.
I had a pretty salon by the time she came to
me, with an open fire, many shaded candles
and plenty of fresh flowers. We had a dress
ing maid in common, who slept out of the
house. This woman was rather high priced,
but she was most useful. She could do any
thing from trimming a hat to making a plau
sible excuse, and her manner toward Lucile was
I Bring Lucile into View 85
that of an old servant to a young princess.
She gave an air to her charge.
I hesitated a long time about the gowning of
Lucile. (I wonder if these details are tedious.
I know they would not have been to me in the
days when I was seeking information. I am
trying to make this book as practical as a cook
This was all gone over and arranged before
she left the convent. For myself, I adore the
garments of Paquin and Walles and Callot, but
I have seldom had one. They are a little en
Evidence. I know that American girls gowned
by these people have achieved coronets, but
they were rich girls, not poor girls whose
mothers were feeling their way.
I never saw a well-bred French girl in one of
those beautiful toilets, I might say if I were
"making up," but the fact is I have seen well-
bred French girls in all sorts of horrors. They
were never models for my original spirit. I
made up my mind that Lucile should be a
"type," and I chose that of 1830. It was I
who made that radical change in the fashions
which came about when the designs became
known because Lucile was wearing them.
Of course there was no "coming out" or
86 The Highroad
anything of that sort. I had made a few
friends, for Prolmann's letters had given
people to understand that I was one of them,
and they speedily discovered that I was not
like the usual American in Paris. Lili's
mother had become almost an intimate, and
she took me under her wing and allowed me
to share some of her expenses, although she
was a rich woman. Had I been childless, I
think that I myself might have had something
of a career at this time. Once I was tempted
to leave Lucile in the convent another year,
but I thoroughly comprehend the folly of that.
She must come out young and fresh, before
time and convent habits had made her into an
old child. And then, to be truly successful in
my role 'of mother, it must be the only one in
which I was known.
I succeeded in a little while in making Ma
dame Vestrine' our every-day companion, as I
am sure Prolmann intended. It was cheaper
for her to dine with us than at home, and still
more amusing for her to have us included in
invitations where we supplied the carriage.
And here, riding as I believed upon the wave
of social success, I made the first of my serious
I Feel My Way 87
/ Feel My Way
The set in which the Marquise de Malpierre
(Lili's mother) disported herself was a gay one.
I have heard Americans speak of exclusive
French society as "stupid," "formal." Noth
ing could be farther from the truth, except the
middle class English belief that all French
great ladies have lovers.
As a matter of fact there are very few lovers
in the world. The connections between men
and women are generally those of mutual
interest of one sort and another. "Love" as
the world knows it, is confined to the awaken
ing to maturity in children and to some circum
stances or temperaments which are a little
abnormal. Habit can so delicately replace
love that nobody discovers the difference until
some crisis comes. These French women have
men friends to whom they talk freely and from
whom they hear much, but they give them
nothing but talk. They are the finished flowers
of modernity, they understand their own tem
peraments and they understand the men about
88 The Highroad
them. And they have a lucid mother tongue
in which they can tell them so without offense.
After the weather became warm and all
Paris went away to the country, I longed for
my little house at Lausanne.
At this opportune moment came an invita
tion from the Marquise for me to spend some
time with her at Varriere, her chateau in Nor
mandy. She expressly asked that Genevieve
should come also as Lili was heart-broken at
leaving her. I hardly knew what to do.
There were Robert and Jane to consider.
I wrote to Prolmann and asked if the little
house in Lausanne could be rented for the
The answer was so long in coming that I had
an unpleasant feeling that I had received my
just deserts, but it finally reached me, post
marked Vienna. It was the letter of a sick old
man. He told me that his own villa was
empty, he should nevr return to it, and he
offered it to me for as long as I chose. The
housekeeper was there as caretaker.
I made a flying trip to Lausanne and in
stalled Madame Vestrine with the two younger
children and Genevieve. Then I begged the
Marquise to allow Lili to join them there.
I Feel My Way 89
Madame Vestrine would have some visits to
make, but she was very glad of the villa.
I discovered a governess for the children, a
woman well recommended, as I believed that
Madame Vestrine would regard the children
simply as drawbacks to her enjoyment. In
that I was mistaken. She had grown old
enough to enjoy their society. Robert became
her darling, and I consider much of his success
in life due to her influence. Having seen the
necessity of making a boy properly worldly in
his youth, she impressed upon him, as she had
neglected to impress upon her son, the value
of living in the world.
The Marquise and her mother welcomed
Lili's departure. A grown girl who is not
entirely ready for society and marriage is an
The house party at Varriere was made up of
relatives and friends of the family, of whom
the most important to me was Comte Julien
Malpierre, the brother-in-law of my hostess.
During the winter I had decided that this
was the son-in-law that I coveted.
The husband of the Marquise was a heavy,
handsome man, who ate a great deal, talked a
little, and spent most of his time on board a
9O 'The Highroad
yacht, where his companion was said to be a
very plain intellectual French woman, the
daughter of the physician in the village near
Varriere. The connection had lasted for
twelve years and nobody paid the slightest
attention to it. When anybody in the chateau
had a slight ailment, the doctor was called in
and was treated with respect. The Marquise
seemed to be unaware that he had a daughter.
The men of the Malpierre family were con
tradictions of the preconceived Frenchmen,
being pure types of the blonde Franks who
conquered the Gauls. They were tall, broad-
shouldered and full of vitality. They delighted
in all sorts of sport, and were like handsome
Englishmen with the addition of ideal man
ners. The Marquis talked with a deep rumble
in his voice which reminded me of the bumble
bees swinging home over the red clover in
The Marquise's mother, a faded old doll
over-dressed, adored him. He seemed to be a
general favorite and there was mourning when
he and his companion went off to the North
His going left Julien as master of the house.
I used to look at him and think that I could be
I Feel My Way 91
as silly over him as the Marquise's mother over
Everything seemed to be going the way I
desired it should. The Count treated me
with a deference which caused the other
guests to realize the situation was as I would
have it, even before I became aware that my
hopes were not in vain.
Lucile was a lovely product of my artistic
eye and the Paris dressmakers and her own
adaptability to the conditions surrounding her.
Any young thing cared for and at ease is
pretty. We had accented the red in her hair
by a wash which left it transparent, and every
night Emelie, our maid, spent an hour over
her complexion. My jewel wasn't of the first
water, but it made a brave showing in my
The gaieties consisted of coaching (automo-
biling was not yet in fashion), yachting (before
the Marquis departed), dancing and theatricals.
There were several other chateaux near by, and
when our large party was not making an occa
sion, the others were.
The young French girl who is conspicuous
and is not yet married, what somebody has
called the " ' demi-vierge ," was just coming into
92 'The Highroad
vogue then, and there was more than one
about. But Frenchmen are not interested in
her as a possible wife unless she is an heiress
even now. Lili was destined to be one of these
a little later: the sort of French girl who has
plenty to talk about, and who goes in for
everything. But Lucile, even with her Ameri
can blood, had none of this. She had proved to
me that she was no fool, however, and that she
had a good serviceable working mind. My
grandfather used to talk a good deal about
horse sense, and Lucile has it. Her practical
turn has always been fairly well hidden, but it
is the framework on which her whole life is
built. And where is there a safer?
A good many people were constantly coming
and going at the chateau, and we had a succes
sion of visits.
Among others, came the Due and the
Duchesse de B . The Duchess I had long
wanted to meet, for she, too, was the product
of audacity. I had thought that we might be
friends. I saw later what a mistake that would
have been. Each of us needed to be rock
bound, to be bolstered by the solidest pillars of
society. We could only injure each other.
But I was learning then.
I Feel My Way 93
The B 's had a chateau about fifteen miles
away, where they were said by the American
journals to live like two turtle doves. Little
as I even then believed the American journals,
I did believe that. The Duke had married the
Duchess practically with no dot at all because
he was in love with her, they said. The Amer
ican journals had been in the habit of printing
her entire family history (with photographs)
every time her name was mentioned. She was a
daughter of a United States Senator, who should
have come from Utah, but chose another state.
He had lived a respectable life in a country
village until he was the husband of a New Eng
land wife, and the father of several children,
when he suddenly took a fancy to elope with
the village school teacher. Being a loving
father, he took one of the children along.
That always seemed to me a particularly pleas
He deserted the school teacher presently,
changed his name and took up with another
lady whose father (he was practicing law now)
he was defending on a charge of stealing.
After some years and the birth of the
Duchess, they went through the formality of a
marriage, and lived happily (the story ran)
94 The Highroad
until he was nominated for the United States
Senate. Then the discarded school teacher
told the whole story. And here comes the
marvel. He didn't deny it. He reconciled
his two families. The western state cheered
him and the legislature elected him as the re
markable man he was but "stuck-up" Wash
ington would have none of his daughter. So
she went to France and married into one of its
oldest families. How she did it, I do not
know; but after knowing her husband, I think
almost anybody might have done it.
They arrived at the chateau in their own car
riage an hour before dinner. The Duchess
with her maid went immediately to her apart
ment and the Duke joined us where we sat
after the teacups had been taken away.
I had been talking to Lady Flora Hastings,
whom I knew to be the daughter of a hundred
earls, but found as uppish and pretentious
as though her mother had been a housemaid.
As I had no English friends, and as Prolmann's
influence would hardly reach so far, I was try
ing not to neglect my opportunities, but Lady
Flora was giving me as disagreeable a time as
possible while allowing me to understand that
I was probably wasting my time.
I Feel My Way 95
Now there is some demon of tenacity in me
which makes me hold on. I dislike being
snubbed. I am in reality very thin skinned,
I cringe from blows, but I simply cannot
leave a field unwon. Had Lady Flora been
fairly decent to me I should have forgiven her,
but she challenged my powers. Sooner or
later everybody will show you their weaknesses
if you stand and wait, and after they have
When the Due de B entered the room
(a pale thin man with a dry, precise manner)
Lady Flora gave a start as though she would
rise to her feet, and then with a flush strug
gling under her cosmetics, she settled back
into her cushions again and actually began
talking to me in an amiable manner.
It is an open secret in England that the
Duchess of Strood in "The Gay Lord Quex,"
was taken direct from Lady Flora, so she may
be better understood by those who have seen
or read that brilliant play. Mr. Pinero husked
her, as it were, just as Mr. Sargent husks a per
sonality when he paints it.
The shell was beginning to crack a little for
me, giving me a glimpse of the woman under
neath. I took myself out of the way and the
g6 The Highroad
Duke and his old acquaintance had a little talk
together quite naturally.
It was all natural except that Lady Flora
seemed never to have met the Duchesse de
B , and even while they were inmates of
the same house declined the honor seemingly,
for the Marquise never found them together.
The Duchesse de B was almost as artificial
as Lady Flora, although of a very different style.
She was undeniably pretty, but it was the pret-
tiness of Queen Alexandra: the sort the pho
tographer has no need to retouch. Her hair,
arranged in such fashion as to give a similitude
of abundance, was tinted a chestnut, the skin
of the face and shoulders was as carefully
cured as a choice bit of superfine leather.
She was not old, she was comparatively young,
but she had gone into the business of preserv
ing herself while she was at her best.
"Ah, my lady," I said to myself, "you are
She was near me before we went into the
great dining-room, and the Marquise men
tioned our names to each other and said that we
The Duchess turned at once toward me. I
know that with her sharp intuitions she knew
I Feel My Way 97
me and my little pretences. Probably with
her father's means of discovery she knew all
about my "estates." A woman going about
Europe with great estates "entangled" would
interest a countrywoman like the Duchesse
de B .
"You are a Virginian, I believe," she said in
a voice like honey. "Then you must know
Mrs. Carey Page."
Evidently the Duchess thought I was too
poor an antagonist even to play with. Mrs.
Carey Page was the cousin to everybody in
Virginia. She lived in Washington half the
year, where she chaperoned those girls who
had old families and pretty faces. Mrs. Carey
Page knew everybody. I had learned this
from the Cincinnati Enquirer, which was sent to
me by my father as a sweet reminder of home
I was only to stammer a bit and be smiled
at the Duchess evidently believed. Oh, no!
"Mrs. Carey Page is my dear cousin," I said
suavely. "Have I ever met you at her home
"Probably," the Duchess said, still in her
And then we looked into each other's eyes
98 'The Highroad
with the deep seriousness of two cats facing
each other on a disputed boundary fence.
We retired with dignity, and the Duchess
came my way no more. The amusing part
came after Lucile's marriage, when we were
in New York.
Poor old Mrs. Carey Page with her frumpy,
frowsy "Southern Set" heard that I was her
cousin, and I was beset with letters from her,
written on perfumed paper and sealed with a
Every now and then, even to this day, a girl
who sings or recites begs to appear in my
drawing-room, and says that she, too, is a
"cousin of Mrs. Carey Page."
I Am Asked for My Daughter's Hand 99
/ Am Asked for My Daughter s Rand
One afternoon I took a book (that looking
glass of human nature, Rouge et Noir) and went
into the old garden of the chateau. It was the
hour when every one had retired for a siesta or
for the particular form of work which they
carefully concealed from their friends, be it
beautifying their persons or keeping accounts.
It usually goes by the name of "writing let
The old garden of the chateau was one of the
things I envied with all my heart and soul.
Sometimes the longing to have it mine, to have
grown up with old marble satyrs and nymphs
grinning and simpering behind the bushes,
with old yellow marble seats on which my
ancestors had sat for my every-day compan
ions, sickened me so that I could not stay
there. Whatever the world might give me,
whatever my wits might acquire for me, I could
never, never have that.
I know that this feeling is impossible to the
healthy and sensible.
zoo tfhe Highroad
Probably Mr. William D. Howells could dis
miss me in a clever sentence about sentimental
ists, but the sickness was as real as any realist's
My only pleasure was to sit and dream of the
time when my children's children might have
places like this. I revelled in the thought of
Lucile's little boys and girls playing perhaps
over these very formal paths, and talking about
their great grandfather who was a great and
gentle nobleman. Good birth brings a tran
quillity of spirit that is a precious heritage. It
is worth a millionaire's purchase for his de
The Count came down one of these paths
and after a bow and a question seated himself
I said to him some flattering things sug
gested by my reveries, although it may readily
be imagined that I kept the core of them in
my own heart.
"It is a beautiful old place," he said. "We
all love it. I wish there were more money to
keep it up."
"But I thought " I said before I reflected.
"That my sister-in-law, the Marquise was
very rich? That is true, but she has no son.
1 Am Asked for My Daughter's Hand 101
It is a tradition that Verriere shall go with the
title. Naturally my brother and sister will
enrich their own daughter with their fortune.
I shall doubtless, or my children, come into
"I am sure," I said, "that there could be no
prouder task for a woman than to make this
place beautiful for her son."
The Count took my hand and kissed it in
quite the old manner. I had a rush of maternal
affection for him. He was handsome and he
There was a pause, during which we each felt
that we were drawing long breaths.
"Madame, lam sure that you will not mis
understand me when I say that I hope that it
will be the children of your beautiful daughter
who will inherit Verriere."
For an instant my cheeks burned. There
are some things which we Americans never
say. I wonder why. I suppose I would be
told that it comes from Puritanism in the early
settlers. But those Puritans were English, and
they were hard-headed, simple folk who had
large families and wrote down some curious
things in their diaries. As for the Virginians,
they were of a notoriously easy manner of
IO2 T'he Highroad
speech, yet their descendants consider it in
delicate to mention posterity. Not only con
sider it, but feel it, indelicate. I had that
instant been thinking of Lucile's children until
I could almost feel their soft little hands, but
when Julien spoke I was almost resentful. It
hurried my words.
"I suppose," I said, "you are making a pro
posal for the hand of Lucile. "
"I am, Madame, on one condition. It is
best to be frank, is it not? It is necessary that
the bride who comes to Verriere shall be rich.
However much I love your daughter I should
be false to my race, to the trust of my ances
tors, if for my own selfish happiness during a
few years, I condemned my children to pov
erty. Were I so reckless I should not be
worthy to be the husband of your daughter.
Is it not so?"
His manner was winning, and his argument
"I am of the old families of France, Ma
dame. There are too few of us now. I am, as
my ancestors have been for two hundred years,
an agnostic. We are nominally Catholics
because it is necessary that the lower classes
shall have an example. But to me my im-
I Am Asked for My Daughter's Hand 103
mortality means the immortality of my race.
I shall live again in my line, and I want them
to be people of the great world still holding
their lands and their peasants unto many
"You do my child a great honor."
"I love her. I want her for my wife. It has
always been my hope to be able to marry a
wife who would be not only the mother of my
sons, but my beloved. I am not like my
brother ' He threw out his hands in
more or less contempt.
"Let me think," I said, and we sat there in
the vine-hooded recess, the little stupid lizards
running over the hot stones, and a cicada call
ing out its news of coming autumn. There was
a lattice behind us matted with vines, and a
seat quite hidden from ours on the other side.
The way up to this seat was over the sod, and
therefore noiseless. It was with a start that I
heard voices coming from there. I put out my
hand involuntarily and touched that of Julien,
and made to rise. He held me and smiled.
Evidently they had stopped but to pick a rose
from the climber.
It was Lady Flora and the Due de B .
"This old garden is so neglected, that I am
IO4 The Highroad
sure they will not mind our having a great
bunch. They will look so lovely on my white
gown at dinner."
Now surely that conversation sounded inno
cent enough, and as though en passant. It
seemed a pity for the Count and me to break
up our tete-a-tete at this stage. Smiling at
each other, we sat quite still.
"Oh, Henri!" were the next words, "How
can we bear it!"
"It must be borne. There is no other way."
I could see in my mental vision the dry little
shrug which went with the words.
"Oh, Henri, how can you say so? We are
both miserable. You with that American, and
I with a man old enough to be my grandfather.
Why should love and our own lives be denied
"Because, my dear Flora," the Duke said,
"we are not in a position to elope. We must
make the most of it as it is. We see each
"But how, how?" she interrupted passion
ately. "Like this, where I cannot even "
"But, my dear, you are "
At this I arose, but Julien drew me oack to
I Am Asked for My Daughter's Hand 105
"Impossible!" his lips framed
I looked a scarlet protest, but really I could
not clatter out over the stone walk and let
them know we had heard. If it had been only
I but Julien was in the place of a host to
them. It would not do.
I put my fingers up to my ears and sat side-
wise so that Julien might not see that the tips
of them did not very seriously impair my hear,
Lady Flora had not oeen kind enough to me
for me to wish to spare her, for one thing.
For another, I had never heard a real conver
sation of this sort and I was curious about it.
I wanted to know if they talked like the people
in novels. Lady Flora did. It was because
she did it so often to so many men that Mr.
Pinero caught her and made her into a type.
But of course in reality she lacked some of
the smartness of silliness with which the play
wright endowed her.
"What is this?' she asked. "I want again
the happiness of the old days in Ajaccio. I
want the rest of my life to be spent with you,
only with you in some spot sunshiny with our
"On what?" asked the Duke.
io6 The Highroad
"Had you married nobody, or even a wife
with money, it could be done."
The utterly commonplace tone of this remark
of Lady Flora's following the high-flown non
sense of the other, almost made me smile
before I realized that Julien did not know that
I could hear.
They kept at it for half an hour, while we
sat there afraid to move. Lady Flora seemed
to be always urging the Duke to a divorce, to
desert his wife and come to England to do
anything so that she could be near him. To
her overtures he was cynical sometimes, polite
sometimes, and negative always. I fairly
gloated over that. He was almost snubbing.
After they had gone away, Julien took my
hands gently from my ears. I afterwards
found it extremely useful not to have heard
that conversation. Had Julien known that I
had done so he must have wondered at my sub
sequent conduct. If silence is the goddess of
the lucky, deafness is her cup-bearer.
"I feared I should recognize their voices," I
"It was that of a man who feels that he has
given his wife more than he receives. It is
I Am Asked for My Daughter's Hand 107
right that a husband and wife should be equal
at least in France. A woman is foolish who
puts herself in the position of a dependent/'
I looked over the garden again, but the little
children of Lucile were not there any more
They had faded away like the rainbows we see
sometimes in reflections from quite common
bits of glass Already I was laughing at my
self for thinking that I could do it. And sup
pose I could? Would it be worth while?
"Let me tell you this to-morrow," I said.
"I am a little upset now. I am glad you have
been so frank with me. It is a strange idea to
an American parent, but you are right I am
quite sure you are right."
"Then you will tell me now that I may be
sure of speaking to Lucile to-morrow?" He
was holding my hand as we stood by the little
"Oh," I laughed, "almost sure. I would like
first to tell you exactly her fortune. And do
you not want the family lawyers to verify it?"
"Why," he asked practically, "should you
deceive us? The family will ask that but that
need be only a last formality. I want to speak
to my lovely Lucile, my pretty white flower,
my dainty little bit by Nattier."
io8 'The Highroad
He was quite the poet and lover.
I went into the house and I was wondering
how sure I was of Lucile and an idea that
was growing in my mind began to fill it. I felt
as wise as old Talleyrand.
Lucile's Mind 109
Lucile s Mind
I had a task before me and I hardly knew
how to carry it out. I sat down before my
open window and looked across the country
which had suddenly ceased to be interesting to
me. Only a few hours before, it had been
almost my future home. My grandchildren
were to play and ride and perform the tasks of
life here, on this soil, in this air. In time they
would become part of it. In a thousand years,
I had thought, the lump of West Virginia clay
that was I, would be in thousands of French
men leavening them, I had hoped. The his
tory of France would be different because I had
been. Napoleon could say no more.
And now, thank heaven, I know where to
draw out of the game! But what was I to say
to Lucile? I intended, of course, that she
should refuse Julien. Nothing less would
leave the child her assurance. To be given up
and never to be told the reason might be
a tonic to some strong characters, but not to
Lucile. She was practical and not particularly
no I'he Highroad
sensitive, but she was not a Damascus blade. I
knew her limitations.
At first I thought of telling her the truth,
but she would never be the same again if she
once knew that she was pretending that I was
pretending. It might, too, make a difficulty
in the future. I brushed my hair and thought.
Anyway, I need do nothing to-night.
But I did.
We went down to dinner and ate the daily
French dishes, which are stale and stupid
enough. The English have given the French
a reputation for being wonderful cooks
because they know how to make bread and
mayonnaise, and have the wit to keep fresh
olive oil in the house. In reality French cook
ing is only really fine when it is done for
Americans. The French are too economical
in their kitchens.
The talk was smarter than usual. The
Count in particular was brilliant of eye and
ready of tongue. Lady Flora was full of the
sort of mildly vicious epigram which she had
learned from the various men she had known
not wisely, but too well. You can always see
how men regard a fool by the reflections of
them the fool gives out.
Lucile's Mind 1 1 1
"I heard some one say once," Lady Flora
said, "that a diplomatist did not need to know
the secret of his adversary. He need only
pretend that he knew it. Everybody has
"Do you think, then," I asked, "that it is
fair to use a knowledge of another's secret for
your own end?"
"In diplomacy, as in love and war, all is
fair," she said with an air of being original and
Two hours later I sat beside Lady Flora on
the sofa where fehe had spread her white lace
gown, and I wasted little time coming to my
"I expect to bring my daughter to England
next season." I spoke as though I were sure
that this was the piece of information she had
been waiting for.
She put up her lorgnette and looked at me.
It was a beautiful jewel. The handle was a
stem of roses worked in diamonds, emeralds
and rubies. I took time thoroughly to exam
"I wonder," I said, "if I shall meet the
Due de B there. I hear that he is an old
friend &*, v ur husband."
H2 The Highroad
"My husband," she began, and she put
down the lorgnette.
"You must sometimes find it very lonely
with no young people near you. I suppose it is
for that reason you are away from England so
My tone was full of sympathy. I took the
lorgnette out of her hand in a quite familiar
fashion. We were like two dear friends chat
ting there together on the tete-a-tete. It was a
long conversation and most impersonal. I
spoke more freely to Lady Flora than to any
one I had known since Prolmann. I told her
how I pitied women whose husbands were jeal
ous and disagreeable, and how I would always
stand by my friends. A woman who was tied
for life to a man like that had enough to bear
without the censoriousness of the world. I
kept moralizing. It happened that few women
were happy enough to spend their lives in
some of the earth's sunny spots with those
they loved. I was almost eloquent over that.
Lady Flora became a little pale, but she was
agreeable, and we arrived at something like a
sudden intimacy, which culminated in an invi
tation to Lucile and me for a house party in
Scotland that autumn at Lady Flora's magnifi-
Lucile's Mind 113
cent place. "I suppose," she said, "I must
ask Comte Julien also."
"I do not know," I answered frankly, "Lu-
cile has the American girl's privilege; I shall
not try to influence her in any way. And,
from all I hear, I doubt the advisability of
American girls marrying Frenchmen. And
the Frenchmen, too, would be happier with
women more like themselves."
Actually the woman was so stupendously silly
that she brightened at that as though I had
paid her a compliment. She had been thor
oughly frightened when she understood that I
knew her intrigue. I could see her moistening
her lips, and she had at once begun to placate
me, to take me into her circle, to make herself
too valuable to me to be ruined by me. She
was even weaker and sillier than I had thought
her; but she loved to hear the suggestion that
de B would be happier with a woman of
his own sort. She wanted somebody to notice
(what was not entirely true) that he was un
happy with his wife. She did not quite believe
de B .
After Lucile had gone to her room I followed
her in my negligee, and discovered her on her
knees saying her prayers. I have often won-
H4 The Highroad
dered how long a modern woman keeps up that
habit. It is one that was never taught to me.
Am I vulgar as I laugh at the remembrance
that my childish nightly formality was washing
my bare feet? I gave that up when I began to
I waited respectfully until the praying was
over, and Lucile, looking very demure and pretty
in her lace-trimmed gown with her reddish hair
in two smooth braids, was between the sheets.
"Is it anything, Mamma?" she asked.
"Didn't you like the way my hair was done?
The Duchess's maid taught it to Emelie."
"I think you will never care to have it
dressed so again, when I tell you what I have
come to say," I said gravely.
Lucile sat up.
"What is it?"
"My dear," I said as I took her hand. "I
have tried to keep all knowledge of the evil of
the world from you, but unhappily it cannot be
altogether shut out of any life."
Lucile did not look frightened, but puzzled,
and then her face cleared.
"Isn't the Duchess altogether comme ilfauf?"
she asked, "Do you know, Mamma, I thought
Lucile's Mind 115
It was my turn to gasp.
"To begin with they told stories about her
at the convent. You know she was educated
there. Girls said their aunts and sisters had
said that in their day she was always toadying
to girls who were a little silly and would invite
her home with them. They said her mother
was quite uneducated, and used to pick at her
Oh these innocent children of ours!
"Was that all?" I asked meekly.
"No," said Lucile, "of course, Mamma, I
should speak of this only to you. They said
she got herself called 'the rich American' and
in that way made some friends and came to
know the Duke, and he was attracted by her
had had" Lucile looked away and blushed
"kissed her, and not like a lady at all you
"You wouldn't care to be married like
"No, oh, no!" she said with horror. "Of
course one would like to care a great deal for
the man one married, but to have him care for
you like that oh, that is so disrespectful. I
like everything comme il fout" Lucile fin
n6 The Highroad
"And you certainly would not wish to marry
a man who had that sort of "caring" for an
"Then, my dear, I must tell you some
thing. I have discovered that the Count
has been attracted by the Duchess. It is
a thing no young girl should know, but I tell
you because before discovering it, I had told
Julien that he might propose for your hand..
Of course you will not tell him that you know
Lucile looked positively ugly. Her nostrils
flared flat, and her complexion became a dull
red. I held my breath. What blood had I
called out? What was there back behind us
that made a woman look like that? Presently
the blood went back.
"I'll not tell him," she said. "Do you
think I would let him know that I knew my
self the rival of an old married flirt? And
what can you expect? Her mother "
Lucile threw out her hands in an expressive
What do girls speak of as they pace the
peaceful garden walks in their sheltered
Lucile's Mind 117
"My dear," I said, "the Count is our host.
You will remember les convenances?"
"I am an American. I do not care for him.
An American can always say that." And then
she turned over in bed.
I drew a long sigh of relief.
n8 The Highroad
A Glimpse of England
I actually do not know in what terms Lucile
refused to become the wife of Julien. I only
know that I felt I could trust her to make her
refusal graceful and as the result of her own
wish. When it was over, I spoke to Julien in a
shocked and sorry way. I think there were
tears in my eyes. I did feel it. I had wanted
him, and I had wanted that beautiful and
charming place for mine. We were sympatica,
Julien and I, and it was with a nervous heart
ache that I relinquished him. It was not so
much to Lucile. Talk, you romancers, as
much as you like. Love is not paramount in
the heart of the average girl. Her pride had
been wounded and she was angry, but the con
vent years had given her a peaceful mask.
She seemed distressed in a well-bred way dis
tressed that she could not love the man who
loved her. It was admirable. And I? I lay
awake at night almost knowing what hysterics
meant in my balancing between tears over the
A Glimpse of England 119
lost opportunity and laughter over the comedy
of it all.
Julien behaved admirably but I saw that we
must go. The Marquise could not understand
us, and she said so. She felt that I was giving
Lucile too free a rein. It frightened her. She
said she thought she must bring Lili home. If
the American ideas permeated my entire fam
ily, there would be no means of judging to
what extent Lili was already contaminated by
them. I sorrowfully agreed with her. I was
not in a position to make enemies anywhere,
but I mentioned that Madame Vestrine was not
an American, and as having Lili at home would
have seriously put her out, the child was
allowed to remain, thus giving me a continued
hold upon the family. I could see by the
shrewdness in the Marquise's eyes that she was
holding me also. Genevieve might be more
amenable to reason, and after the American
fashion, one girl would be as great an heiress
as the other.
I could see the curiosity all about us when
we took our departure for Homburg. Those
of the party who had been inclined to think us
nobodies had changed their minds. To refuse
the Count was a thing that only those sure
I2O 'The Highroad
of themselves could afford. After all my
defeat became triumph.
We went to Homburg because Lady Hastings
was going there. Being two women alone, we
did not go to the great hotel where the then
Prince of Wales stayed, except for a day and
night. He had already arrived and Homburg
was filling up with the few friends who accom
panied him and the many who wished to
appear to have done so. Besides, there were
A number of years ago, a certain cousin of
Queen Victoria was a gay young soldier. It was
hard to realize it that autumn at Homburg, for
his lined, wrinkled, rather foolish old face had
little suggestion of either beauty or gallantry.
It is probable that had he not been surrounded
by the glamour of royalty he would have been
like dozens of his race, only a thick-headed,
thick-skinned, middle class young man in that
long ago. But he was the grandson of that
puissant king, whom our ancestors derided,
George the Third. At any rate he had all the
privileges of gallantry and bravery and beauty,
and he fell in love with a rather heavy young
actress in a minor role at one of the London
theaters. She almost died with delight. Vic-
A Glimpse of England 121
toria had not been long enough on the throne
then for the traditiori of the splendor of being
a king's favorite to have died away. Of course
the young soldier wasn't a king, but he was
near enough for a poor young actress. He had
a suite of rooms in the old St. James palace,
where his widowed mother also lived, and with
the delicacy which has always distinguished his
race he took the actress there. Nobody
thought much of it. William had made Lon
don pretty well acquainted with the train of
ladies whom he honored with his attentions,
and George the Fourth had preceded him.
Even Queen Victoria probably considered it a
necessary whiling away of the Royal Duke's
time until some princess came out of the school
room. It was just as her own father had spent
his time before it became necessary to marry.
But one day the Duke's mother wanted to go
to drive, and the actress had taken her car
riage. She sent for her son and she said things
that hurt his feelings. He went out and told
everybody about it, and drank a great deal,
and then he went up to talk to the actress.
She told him that he could make it all right by
allowing her to call herself Mrs. Fitz and going
through a marriage ceremony. Of course it
122 'The Highroad
would not be legal because he was a royalty,
but it would serve. "So by this time," old Gen
eral Steyn who told me the story said, "the
Duke being oblivious to all except the fact that
he wanted his boots off and peace, the lady,
who had prepared for just this, married him."
The strong-minded lady kept him married.
She was the man of the family and even defied
the Queen herself, when that stern moralist
wished to break up her rapidly increasing
home circle. The son of the actress was a
colonel in the English army, and he followed
royalty about and gave some Americans a taste
of the bliss of shaking his hand and pour
ing wine for the great-grandson of a king.
They seemed to find it thrilling that season at
Homburg, although the king was a poor old
lunatic and the great-grandson was ill-born.
One can see photographs of Americans taken
with the Royal Duke's son, at the Homburg
photographer's even now. They probably send
them home as a proof that they are in the really
smart English set. The colonel's wife massages
faces on Bond Street in London now, I believe.
Poor funny old English royalty! It always
has been funny since the Stuarts left, and
nobody knows it better than some of the
A Glimpse of England 123
English nobles. But I didn't know it when I
reached Homburg that autumn. When we
went into the hotel I saw a man in scarlet liv
ery standing by a little table on which lay H.
R. H.'s Visitor's Book. He had been keeping
it since early spring in Copenhagen. It must
be confessed that the names in it were not all
distinguished; one or two weic frankly Jewish.
Sometimes an old friend had written a line or
two. I looked at it, hesitated as though I
would write my name, and then decided not,
for the benefit of the servant. But I have writ
ten my name since on bits of paper which are
actually read by the Royalties themselves.
When I saw the Americans at Homburg, I
almost ran. Many of them were people of
position in New York. There was one woman,
who had endured there in the long ago some
thing almost like bellehood. Her father had
been a famous hotelkeeper. She had married an
Englishman of good family, not very well off,
and they were among those who are asked
about to be amusing, but whose real position is
one which the newspaper writers who keep her
photographs before the public could never
understand. She is an "American," and that
is practically her entire distinction.
124 We Highroad
But how ignorant I was of all this then! I
felt that these people could annihilate me,
could tear my pretensions to flimsy rags which
would never cover me. So they could, if they
had known enough. My very shakiness kept
me well balanced Like a tight-rope walker,
I could not afford to make the slightest blun
der. Consequently Lucile and I were hardly
seen until Lady Flora arrived. Then we went
over to the hotel and lunched with her on the
"It is not quite the thing to do, ' Lady Flora
said shrugging her shoulders, "'but I can do it.
I like to see the people when I come to a place
"I hope," I said almost timidly, "that
people will not hear that Lucile has just re
fused Comte Julien Malpierre. It would sur
round us with gossip, make us conspicuous. It
would be very unfortunate."
Lady Flora opened her mouth as though to
speak. I saw a gleam of relief in her eyes.
At last her stupid brain had caught an excuse
for having us. If we were a bad bargain, she
did not want her world to discover it. After
all we were presentable.
A dozen men and one or two women came
A Glimpse ^England 125
up to speak to Lady Flora. Sometimes she
introduced one or two shortly, English man
ners not requiring that she should do so. But
I could hear quite audible inquiries concerning
us, and Lady Flora's invariable answer that
we were "some of those Americans who had
lived in Europe for a generation or two, inter
married and all that, ye know. Some connec
tions of old Madame Vestrine's. Millionaires.
They have just refused Julien Malpierre."
"Evidently tired of the continentals," one
astute gentleman said. "That shows good
Now when a family has rejected a particu
larly good match, it seems to show that they
have a treasure that they are in no hurry about
disposing of. Lucile was talked about at once,
examined, criticized. She looked like a piece
of Dresden china because she was artistically
complete, but everybody agreed that there
was nothing so tremendously wonderful about
her personally, so it must be the fortune that
made her so valuable.
A fortune is more valuable any time than
a delightful personality, whatever novelists
may say. Why do we value the personality of
another? Simply and only for the pleasure it
126 I'be Highroad
can give us. A great deal of money without
any drawbacks can give more pleasure than
anything else. Beauty has no place in the
running against it. Of course, a monstrosity
and a fool are drawbacks which no money can
really overcome, but Lucile was neither of
Our manner was good, and within a week I
was serenely unconscious of Americans. We
moved in that charmed set which had hardly
been touched by America in those days. We
were, according to Lady Flora, people who
had lived abroad for a generation or two. I
even spoke to one of the great whom I came
to know, of my "Godfather" Prolmann, giving
him his discarded title; and I did laugh a little
when I ventured to tell of the summers I had
spent on his yacht. I found one old nobleman
very much interested when he heard that Ma
dame Vestrine was with my other children at
Lausanne. He had known her as a girl in Vienna
when he was a young attache* there.
Actually, within two weeks people were
wondering a little why a person of so much
importance as I should be about with Lady
Flora Hastings. Lady Flora was fashionable,
but hardly the friend one would have expected
A Glimpse of England 127
a woman of my evident character and position
to have chosen. It was finally put down to
Lucile's youthful taste. But I clung to Lady
Flora. Nothing better was in sight. We
might have done a great deal for ourselves now
had we really had the fortune, but a few pitiful
hundreds of pounds a years was all we had for
I had not yet seen Lady Flora's husband, but
I knew that he was old, and I gathered from
Lady Flora's conversation that he was a man
with many interests separate from hers. She
spoke of him as being jealous, but that, I
already knew, was the purest fiction. One of
the most amusing things in my amusing life
has been the contemplation of the casual liar.
Somebody has said that a liar needs a long
memory. More than anything else, a liar needs
to be a thorough artist in human nature. The
common liar takes a character built on firm
lines, and gives to it an attribute or an act
which would be as impossible to that particular
person as song would be to a crow.
I gathered a fairly correct idea of Mr. Her
bert (he had no title) from his wife, and during
all our stay in Homburg I was carefully learn
ing the way into his regard. He was old
128 The Highroad
according to Lady Flora, almost seventy.
Whether or not that is age depends upon cir
We did not meet the Great Personage who
has made the Homburg of to-day. We were
not conspicuous enough for that, although I
suppose we are the only Americans above the
tourist class who ever went to Homburg who
did not come home and give that as one of
Homburg is a hot, not very pretty, little
place, and there was none of the gay, romantic
air which always surrounds a Latin resort. We
made some good acquaintances, and before
Lucile became in any sense an old story I sent
her and Emelie, our old maid, over to Lau
sanne, and I went to London. There were
some things I wanted to arrange.
If there is a more forlorn and lonely place
on earth than London in August, I do not
know where it can be. The pavements are
torn up, the streets small, the people hide
ous. There is never, never, a time when Paris
is not delightful. In the summer in the dullest
days, if you are the possessor of but a handful
of copper sous, you may take one of the little
boats and go up the Seine and be amused all
A Glimpse of England 129
the way. A little vine-clad balcony at a river
restaurant will be like a scene in a theater.
A girl in a white frock with a red hat will lean
over a table to talk to a young man. The
French are artists from the highest to the
lowest. If I am ever an outcast, with not a
soul to speak to in all the world, I shall go to
Paris, and be comparatively happy in the con
templation of joyous, cynical, artistic life.
But London is as stodgy as her putty-like
I went to a boarding-house near Kensington
Gardens because I wanted to save every
penny. I wish I could stop long enough to
describe that manage. The landlady deserves
a long character study. She was the widow of
a fishmonger "in the city," she always said,
and she had an imagination that was truly re
markable. She attended auctions, and her
house was filled with plunder of the most re
markable description. She declared that this
was made up of heirlooms from her uncle, who
had died in India and left a great fortune which
she had been cheated out of. Her pretences
were so transparent that they hurt me. After
all she was something like me. I wondered if
people could see through me as easily.
130 I'he Highroad
There was an old couple who had lived in
Canada for some years and thought it the
America of to-day, there were too an Arme
nian, who was devoted to the cause of his people
(we heard a good deal of Armenia in those
days), and a negro from the French Islands
who was studying in London at the expense
of his government.
I laughed at myself as I sat by this colored
man every day at dinner, and realized that I
had no feeling of repulsion for him at all. We
conversed quite amiably. And yet even in
Fowlersburg I should have left a table in hor
ror at the thought of eating with a negro.
Here of course I said nothing about my na
tionality; I was a simple meek little woman,
and I think they believed me a governess out
One day I put on my most governess-like air
and went down to the office of one of the big
illustrated weeklies. This was long, long before
the day of the exploiting of women through
the press, as we now know it in America. In
those days it was only royal or criminal women's
faces which were common in print. I fancy
sometimes that that is one of the things which
the world owes to me.
A Glimpse of England 131
I took with me a large and most beautiful
picture of Lucile, which had been made by a
young Parisian photographer who has since
become famous. It gave her all the charms
she lacked and accented those she pos
sessed. I represented to that weekly news
paper editor that I should like to supply
him now and then with society notes. I
offered my wares very cheap. I had here
a photograph of Mademoiselle Lucile, the
god-daughter of all of Prolmann's titles, a
great heiress, whose father had been an
American, and who had recently rejected
Comte Julien Malpierre
The editor of the paper almost laughed in
my face. It seems that he had a correspond
ent at Homburg who had casually mentioned
the Malpierre story. He said he knew it
all. He gave me ten shillings for the photo
When I saw the stupendous, amazing story
of our wealth and glory which accompanied its
publication I was frightened. Lucile was said
to have half a million acres in the "fertile
tobacco lands of Virginia." She was an
I dreaded a contradiction from Fowlersburg.
13 2 'The Highroad
But I doubt much if a copy of the English
paper ever reached there, and if it had, the in
habitants were of the order of mind that
believes what it sees in print even when it is
known to be untrue.
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings 133
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings
The photograph of Lucile made a mild sen
sation. In launching a young girl advertising
of the right sort undeniably is of advantage.
Those who cannot get into the newspapers
or have better ways of reaching the public
they wish to impress argue differently, but I
know of what I speak. As a matter of course,
for a woman who is a nobody to have her pic
ture labelled "society woman" in the columns
of the yellow journals means nothing. It is
sometimes a distinct disadvantage to a woman
who is hovering on the outer edge of the inner
set. And a bad picture, one which shows her
in an unattractive fashion, is worse than none
at all. But advertising of the right sort pays.
After all what is fashion? It exists entirely in
the minds of the world. If the world agrees
that you are famous or fashionable, you are so,
and most decidedly if it ignores you you are
not. You can become that intangible thing
fashionable only by impressing the public in
134 tte Highroad
one way or another. It is surprising to me
that the use of personal photographs was so
long in coming. It was very lucky for Lucile
that it was so, as to-day or even a year or two
after my experiment, her picture would have
been lost in the crowd of "beauties" that
adorned the pages of all the weeklies and the
cheap monthlies. Naturally when I saw the
picture I was indignant to all my friends, thus
calling their attention to it. To the Mal-
pierres I was fairly humble, and I begged them
to believe that neither Lucile nor I had had the
bad taste to mention the affair. It was at
Breck Castle that I saw the effect of it. We
were regarded with curiosity. There was no
quiet slipping-in for us.
Mr. Herbert having married late in life (and
a fool) considered all women poor creatures,
and he rather enjoyed what he considered the
fact. It took them out of the realm of serious
things with claims to being considered seri
ously. He went about his affairs almost as
though his wife had no existence. She was
indulged in every way, but she knew that if she
gave him any cause, his treatment of her would
be absolutely free from sentiment. She lived in
a sort of nervous terror that some day he might
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings 135
find a pretext to divorce her, because she had
not fulfilled expectations in providing him with
an heir. He hated his cousin's son who would
succeed him, while believing firmly in primo
geniture and the rights of the family name.
This fear of a divorce actually seemed at times
to drive Lady Flora into doing questionable
things. I suppose the great danger she ran
fascinated her, just as physical danger some
Mr. Herbert and I became friends after a
fashion. I am a very conservative, modest,
unassuming woman who can take a fairly intel
ligent interest in almost anything; consequently
I always get along with men. There is noth
ing about me to dislike. I ask nothing of them
and I make them comfortable when they are
It was at Breck Castle that we met Lord
Lord Horton was at this time under a tem-
f porary cloud politically and he had leisure to
go a-visitingas it were, something he had had
little time to do during the years he was mak
ing the reputation which brought him his Vic
He often stayed at great houses during those
136 The Highroad
years, but I doubt if he had ever gone any
where in all his life except for some other pur
pose than that of enjoying himself. It was not
altogether pleasure that brought him to Breck
There had always been titles and money in
the Horton family, but this one, a younger son,
had earned his own by way of a political
career, beginning as secretary to an austere
statesman. Poor Horton! He had had a dull
life of it! And the saddest part of it is, he
never knew it. He always typifies middle
class England to me. It is quite a mistake to
imagine that the English people of title are all
By no means. There have never been many
families in Britain who were truly of the haut,
in spirit or tastes. The present royal family is
most distressingly middle class. Queen Alex
andra's favorite amusement is copying por
traits of her family on teacups very badly
and taking photographs of her daughters (very
bad) with their heads on their husbands'
They have a portrait of Horton's mother at
Rutherford, done about 1870, when she was in
the forties. She wears a headdress and a look
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings 137
of extreme virtue. I know that they had
boiled mutton, brussels sprouts and rice pud
ding for dinner five times a week, followed by
a supper of spiced meats, cheese, whiskey and
water. It is easy to tell what they did, so
many of Horton's kin are now doing the same
thing every day.
I can imagine poor Horton's youth. He is
fifty. I know that at Eton he was a serious
lad, who pointed out to his fag that obedi
ence was a duty, and would have said his
prayers in the face of the whole school. At
Oxford he was called a "serious and promising
young man," who scorned frivolities. It is a
certainty that frivolities never sought him out,
for a less amusing person never lived. What
a number of people scorn the lives they could
never have lived!
The general company at Breck was a gay
one. It is only people of position who can
afford to be truly gay and let such wit as they
have show itself. They are like artists who
know their technique thoroughly and can
afford to paint in bold dashes I do not
know in all the social world anything more
pitiable than the poor imitators of society.
In England particularly they make a sad and
138 The Highroad
woeful band, waiting to see what "they" will
It settled down into a cold and rainy autumn.
Mr. Herbert had once let Breck to an Ameri
can family and they had fitted it with steam.
He declared that he never would have thought
of it himself, but that it doubled the value of
the property to him.
In these days, sometimes too bad even for
shooting, with long evenings in the house,
Lucile shone. She was not forward, but she
was always good tempered, always prettily
dressed, always ready for any amusement, and
best of all always comme ilfatit. How I con
gratulated myself that I had arranged it that
she should reject Julien! There is nothing
truer than that the world is inclined to accept
us at our own valuation. Lucile felt herself of
value, and a princess royal could not have
taken homage and consideration more as a
matter of course.
I mentioned one day that I had found a
trunk among those which had come 'with us
which I supposed in France. It contained
Lucile's costume worn in the little play that
had been given at Verriere. I took a stupid
day, when everybody was yawning and the
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings 139
men were aimlessly knocking billiard balls
about, to tell of the stupidity of my maid in
bringing this trunk. As I had anticipated, the
news was received with interest. "Yes, the
manuscript copy of the play was there also."
In an hour we had the play-book down and
were giving out the parts. As I had seen the
play at Verriere I was called upon as an
authority, and to the amazement of everybody
I gave to Lord Horton the part which had
been taken at Verriere by Julien. Of course
Lucile played the companion part to it.
At first Horton hesitated in accepting it,
although I could see that he was tremendously
flattered. It had been a pure piece of audacity
on my part, but I believed then, and I believe
now, that there is not a soul on earth, however
stupid and unsocial it may be, who does not in
day dreams see itself shining as a social light.
Flattery is potent just because we believe our
selves the real standard of excellence. We
know that there are people handsomer and
cleverer, according to the world's standard,
but that standard is movable, and a truly en
lightened world would come around to see in
us the model. Of course we know we lapse,
but we could be everything if we wished, and we
140 The Highroad
should be, we say to ourselves, if the world
were taking notice.
As I had shown no sort of preference for
Lord Horton's society, and as I was frank and
sincere in all my other assignments, the rest of
the party, after a clack of wonder, conceded
that I knew my business and tried to see in
Horton the characteristics I assured them he
possessed, which were revealed in the dialogue
and action of the little play. For one thing,
it was in French, and that necessarily was a lan
guage with which he was entirely conversant.
I concluded that those delicate lover-like
speeches which he must make to Lucile would
be easier for him to say in French, for I
guessed that lover-like speeches were not at
home on Horton's tongue, which made me all
the more certain that I had found in him one
who would make a good husband. The foun
dation virtues of a good husband do not in
After the play Horton followed Lucile
about, fascinated as I had felt sure he would
Once when I was a little child a traveling
preacher visited my grandfather. He was an
uneducated man, but with an unusually original
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings 141
mind. According to his faith he continually
tried to convert me. I liked him very much
and spoke to him with entire freedom. I told
him that I couldn't cry over my sins, which he
invited me to do, because I hadn't any. I
couldn't think of any sins then but lying and
stealing. I couldn't steal, because I never saw
anything on the farm which I couldn't have if
I wanted it, and why should I lie when my
father and mother allowed me to do exactly as
The preacher assured me that we were all
sinners and told me a story of a child who
was in my "state. " She was told to pray every
night, "Lord, show me that I am a miserable
sinner," and in a few short weeks she was
"crying at the mercy seat. " That story made
a profound impression upon me. I carefully
refrained from making such a prayer because I
had no desire to "cry at the mercy seat," but
I thought about it and I reasoned out in my
little mind that she told herself she was a sin
ner until she believed she was one, and in doing
so I unconsciously touched a point in mental
science on which much is built.
After Horton had rehearsed lines telling
Lucile she was a paragon of beauty and virtue
142 The Highroad
and that he loved her, his mind began to accept
it as a fact. He could not do it mechanically
as another accustomed to the trick would have
done. His mind was not adjusted to the say
ing of lover-like things which he did not mean.
I was not at all surprised when Horton came
to me and told me that he had asked Lucile to
marry him and as was natural had been re
ferred to me.
I became agitated at once, and a good deal
of it was real. Horton was not only charmed
by Lucile's youth and sweetness, but he felt
that he was making a brilliant match from a
financial point of view.
No need to undeceive him now. If we got
him to the shadow of the church he would not
face back. He was English. He might sulk
a little and even say some plain impolite
things, but he would not desert Lucile and
make a scandal when he discovered that she
was practically penniless.
I asked him if he loved my daughter or if
he were taken by the charm of simple girlhood,
and then he told me some things which sur
prised me. He said that Lucile was much
more than a simple child. She thought deeply
upon serious subjects. I discovered later that
We Visit Lady Flora Hastings 143
the nuns at the convent in Paris prepare the
girls for this sort of emergency. Many of the
girls educated at that convent are expected to
marry statesmen, and they are given a thin
wash of general information, or what looks like
information. They have a patter of phrases,
which they can use for the amazement of a
Horton told me seriously that he expected
Lucile to be a "helpmeet" to him, and that he
had dared ask her to marry him because her
mind was so mature.
Considering all things, Horton was a much
better husband for Lucile than Julien would
have ever been. But when was a "better"
thing too attractive? Lucile, now that girl
hood is gone, is a cold practical woman. I
am always wondering what she might have
been, and all my life I shall miss Julien Mal-
pierre and my vision of French history. Yet
Horton is a faithful and I believe an admiring
144 c Tb e Highroad
The Settling of Lucile
We Americans acquire some curious ideas of
England from books. Among others, is a
belief that in winter London is practically
deserted by everything that could be called
society. "The season" in early summer was
supposed by me to constitute the only time
when anybody above the middle class was seen
in London. Really nowadays those of the
aristocracy who can afford it keep their town
house open the greater part of the year.
Now that Lucile was engaged my first im
pulse was to go back to Paris for the winter,
let her marry there, and save the expense of a
London establishment. But this plan had dis
advantages. In the first place, the Malpierres
were the best people I knew in Paris, and they
could hardly be expected to take a great inter
est in Lucile's marriage. I even doubted if
they would come in from the country for it.
I could not drive Lady Flora to the point of
rebellion by insisting that she should give Lucile
Settling of Lucile 145
her wedding. There was nothing for it but to
take a furnished house in Mayfair by dipping
into my reserve fund. I considered this from
every side and then took a good house while I
was about it. Genevieve was now ready for
the world. With her sister well married she
would of course have a tremendous advan
tage and would stay with her a great deal of
the time. If necessary, I would even go into
debt a little to get my second daughter settled.
I looked at the jewels Prolmann had given me.
At the worst I could do something with them.
If I could marry Genevieve well and quickly,
the two girls could take care of Jane.
In watching families I have noticed that the
first marriage usually settles the status of a
family of girls. If the first marries badly or
rests a long time in the family nest, it has a
bad effect upon the prospects of the rest. Men
are apt to wonder if there is something wrong
that has warned off other men. They grow
suspicious. And whatever we women say,
men believe that an unmarried woman has
lacked opportunities, and justly so gener
If it can be avoided it is not well to show
two marriageable daughters at the same time.
146 'The Highroad
Two hot-house peaches are not so rare as one
hot-house peach. I know that to say this is in
very bad taste. The romantic and those who
take what they call a "serious" view of mar
riage will call it a vulgar and deplorable state
ment. Oh, I know the patter of the romantic
and the "serious."
Many, many times have I said, and saying,
believed, the most beautiful and conventional
things concerning the relations of men and
women. But here I am allowing myself the
privilege of telling the truth. I have discov
ered that a man's nature changes not at all in
acquiring a wife unless, perchance, he has a
very undisciplined "nature. In that case he
will make a very bad husband.
I considered myself a model of diplomacy
when I was able to secure Lili de Malpierre as
one of Lucile's bridesmaids. Lili's mother
was a clever woman in some ways. She
believed the story of our fortune, and believ
ing saw in Genevieve a more desirable heiress
than Lucile, for Lucile had not an elder sister
who was the wife of an English Lord. Then
too the Marquise was progressive. France is
a republic, and say what you will, a title in a
republic has not the same value as in a mon-
'The Settling of Lucile 147
archy. Who could say what advantage Lili
might not derive from visits to England? The
Marquise could trust me to ward off the inel
igible. Added to this were the facts of the
independent nature of Lili which makes her
to-day one of the most conspicuous women in
France, her fondness for Genevieve, and her
determination to come.
Lucile's wedding was a fairly brilliant one.
The bad half-hour with Horton was over. I
actually made him see Lucile as a rich girl to
the end, and we went as formally about settling
part of those wild West Virginia lands upon
her and her children as though they had been
located in Kent and Surrey. Lucile has two
nice little boys, and I am fond of them, but
they do not laugh up into my eyes as Julien
Malpierre's children would have laughed.
Had I only known, had I only dreamed of the
future, I might have managed some way. I
comfort myself with the reflection that it would
not have been best for Lucile. She is the
proper wife for Horton. She likes her life,
but I want my darling little French grand
children playing about the yellow and green
old marbles at Verriere.
It was at the time of Lucile's wedding that I
148 The Highroad
first came into contact with the Kensington
Palace crowd, and some others.
Kensington Palace and Hampton Court are a
sort of royal alms houses, places to keep poor
relations and the widows and orphans of those
who have a claim of some sort upon the royal
family. The late Queen was born at Kensing
ton when her parents were very poor relations,
and so I believe was the present Princess of
Wales. At any rate, the family of the Prin
cess May lived there and it was there that the
famous auction took place which scattered so
many of the royal heirlooms. A red flag was
hung out of the palace window and the Tecks
were "sold up" that tradesmen might be paid.
And I suppose the sons and daughters of these
same tradesmen tremble and shed tears when
they see "royalty, " like the rest of their
kind, and see nothing humorous in the situa
I have a work-table, once the property of
Queen Adelaide, which came from that sale.
There are some frumpy old ladies living in
Kensington Palace who are not above taking
in "paying guests." These are often Ameri
cans, who pay handsomely for the introductions
that come their way through their hostesses.
'The Settling of Lucile 149
As Lord Horton was not to be ignored as a
political factor and as his family itself was
entitled to recognition, we of course had a
sprig of royalty at the wedding. But Horton
had besides a second cousin who lived in Ken
sington Palace, so we were thoroughly adver
tised in that abode of court gossip.
A bishop's widow, resident there at that
time, had a California girl as her guest, and
she arranged with Horton's cousin that her
American should receive an invitation to
I should have had a fellow feeling for that
American girl, and have done what I could to
give her a lift. Up to that time the only intro
ductions she had achieved were to the Princess
Christian and Miss Marie Corelli. But I had
long ago made up my mind that I could not
stand one grain of handicap. Good-nature, a
fellow feeling, kindness of any sort were ex
pensive luxuries which it was impossible for me
to afford. And I rather enjoyed snubbing that
girl. My mind ran ahead. I saw the possi
bility of her name being cabled to America as
one of the Americans at the wedding, and I
knew she was a nobody or she would not be
where she was. I declined to give any reason
150 The Highroad
for refusing the invitation, but I refused it,
even in the face of a demand for it from Hor-
"Poor Lucia (the cousin) had promised this
invitation," Horton's mother said. "Poor
Mrs. Beamish (the bishop's widow) must live,
and if she cannot secure good invitations for
her guest she will leave her. As it is, they
have had no desserts but milk puddings for two
years. Of course you rich Americans do not
But I smiled and declined to be moved even
by milk puddings. I wondered what Horton's
mother would have thought could she have
known that "dessert" was almost unknown to
So Lady Caulfield (Horton is a younger son
of Baron Caulfield), unable to realize that I
could refuse her anything except for some very
good reason, took the usual Victorian idea that
the girl's character was not good, and pro
ceeded to drop a word at Kensington Palace
which sent her home ruined so far as England
But there were some Americans at the
wedding. They were New Yorkers with
whose family history I am sure I was just a
"The Settling of Lucile 1 5 1
trifle better acquainted than they were. They
belonged to the rich new set which was just at
that time coming into some vogue. In that
day the old Knickerbocker families still con
sidered that they led New York society.
What a little while ago that was! I confess
that I was green enough then to ignore the
certain rise into prominence of the tremen
dously wealthy. Had I been able to do so, or
had it been demanded of me, I should very
readily have put myself on the side of the old
families. Fortunately I had not to choose.
I realized that to know Americans at all, I
must be introduced somehow. It was very
easy, going about London as the mother of
Lord Horton's fiancee, to make what acquaint
ances I chose there. Everybody by this time
accepted us as enormously rich people who had
lived abroad for generations; Lady Hastings
had arranged that. Lucile and I had week's
ends at the best country houses, and many din
ners and evening parties in London.
It was in the midst of all these festivities
that I heard of my father's death. Poor
father! A pang struck my heart as I thought
of his loneliness. I had not even written often.
There was so little to say to him. After
152 *fbe Highroad
mother died he had lived on the farm all alone,
even doing his own cooking. He had not a
relative in the world that he knew, and he and
mother's family were not friends. The lawyers
who had charge of my property wrote after the
funeral sending the letter to the bankers.
For a little while the vision of good-tem
pered, indulgent "pappy" sent me into hys
terical sobs. They had found him one day
where he had fallen by the stove, with some
cornmeal mush in a pan beside him. He had
been dead a day. <
For a little while I was unreasonable. It
seemed my fault. I was sure that the gossip
of Fowlersburg would say that it was my fault!
But when I saw that he had left me almost
fifty thousand dollars in this farm and in
money, I knew that he would simply be called
The question now was what I was to do
about the wedding. It seemed best to let it go
on. Later I could say that father had known
of it, had spoken of his illness, and begged
that nothing should stop it. I was sick with
remorse, I knew that I should have gone to
him had I known. It hurt me with a real
physical pain. If I had had only myself to
'The Settling of Lucile 153
think of how differently I should have behaved.
Madame Vestrine and the children did not
come over until the last minute.
Lucile's wedding dress was made with a
simple long satin train covered by a magnifi
cent web of a lace veil as its chief feature.
That veil was hired from a French house, and
it figured in the descriptions as an heirloom.
I believe that Lucile thought that it was an
heirloom. She asked me where I had kept it
all these years. I told her that her grand
father had sent it to me with her grandmother's
portrait, and I gave her the idea that it had
belonged to her grandmother. Why not? If I
could not produce it again it could easily be
stolen as the annals of the family ran on.
The wedding was beautiful. It was Decem
ber, just a little before Christmas, but the air
was crisp and the sun bright, for London.
"St. George's, Hanover Square!" How many,
many times had I read those words in my
English novels in the old days! How many
times had I thrilled at the thought of being
the heroine who was married there! And here
was my daughter being married in St.
George's, Hanover Square, to an English
154 The Highroad
Who shall say that we do not create condi
tions by thinking and dreaming of them? Cer
tain it is, and I defy any to deny it, that had I
never seen a copy of the old New York Ledger
away back in the beginning, and followed it
up by Harper's cheap editions and "Seasides,"
my daughter would never have stood at the
altar in St. George's and promised to love,
honor and obey a Lord.
I wonder what conventional mothers think
about when their daughters marry. I wish I
could have another life in which to feel the
reality of conventional living, conventional
thinking. As it is, I have never had anything
but the shadow. Behind the active me is
always the woman who must plan and move
the springs by which I move. I can no more
"let myself go" than an actress on the stage
can be natural. To be natural is not art in her
case, nor in mine. It would bring the play to
I am always letting my imagination tell me
how the woman that I seem to be would feel
under certain circumstances, and then I try to
act as though I felt like that.
At Lucile's wedding I was not tearful, but I
was very serious and a little wistful. Mr.
'The Settling of Lucile 155
Herbert gave the bride away. The papers all
announced that "until the last moment" it had
been expected that Prolmann (by his titles)
would perform that office, bul illness had pre
vented. As a matter of fact I wrote to Prol
mann and told him that Lucile had asked that
he would come. But he declined, and sent the
I thought once of having the American Min
ister. The Minister at that time was a man
whose father had been a great American, but
he had had no training in social usages.
Everybody used him for any purpose, and it
would have been no trouble at all to secure
him as an assistant at Lucile's wedding. But
I wisely decided that he could be no advan
tage like most things easily acquired.
As I saw Lucile come down from the altar
on her husband's arm, I had a touch of what
we call sentiment. Had it been possible I
should have put my head down and cried like
a child. But I knew better. I was acting the
better bred mother. And all through the after
ceremonies, the breakfast and the going away,
I was thinking, thinking, "Will Lucile begin
How thankful I was that the child had noth-
156 The Highroad
ing to reveal, for she knew nothing. She
could be natural, I said to myself. And then
I wondered. Had she forgotten Julien, or did
his big figure and sweet heavy voice seem alive
about her? After all she was a woman now
and must take up and bear a woman's burden
which must always be borne in silence and
secrecy if she is a successful woman.
My Second Daughter 1157
My Second Daughter
It was after Lucile had gone away to Italy
with her husband that I was invited to take
Genevieve and Lili to a week's end in the
country to meet the then Prince of Wales and
his wife and daughters. We were asked at the
very last minute and I never knew exactly why.
The Prince was in the habit of naming the
guests he wished to meet, and it was in those
days his one sincere hope that he might find
somebody who would amuse him. Now I was
not, am not, and never shall be amusing. I
never said a witty or a clever thing in my
life. I am not beautiful, nor particularly well
dressed. I confess that I did not want to go
to that house party. We could not afford to
keep up in any way with the people who made
the so-called "Prince of Wales Set," nor I
confess did I court the position of belonging
There has been now and then a strange idea
in America that there exists an English set
158 The Highroad
that did not care to be friends with the King
when he was Prince of Wales. There never
was an Englishman nor an Englishwoman who
did not always remember that here was the
country's future king, of necessity the very
head of English society.
The strange idea came in some manner from
the Duke of Richmond's action in once declin
ing to entertain the Royal party at Goodwood.
I am in no position to know the facts of that
affair nor is any one else who is at all likely to
tell them; but the family history of the Duke
of Richmond does not make it likely that he
would slight a king. Nor has he ever done so,
the English people are very sure.
I was nervous over this visit, and I took my
self to task because of it. What was the use
of all my work, my ambition, my contriving, if
I could not meet the realization of my hopes,
fill the role to which I aspired? I always look
with contempt upon the women and men who
"do not care for society." They are adver
tising themselves as poor things, lacking in
some vital nerve, some sense of equality with
their kind, for we never shun the places where
we are comfortable and pur vanity is soothed.
Nature is inexorable, and an understanding of
My Second Daughter 159
her methods is philosophy. The man who
falls out of the race for any reason is simply
making way for one stronger than he, one more
to nature's mind, and is illustrating the rule of
the survival of the fittest.
The recluse does not realize that he is simply
a discarded building-stone in the structure of
civilization, who puts himself out of the way,
not by free will, but according to a law,
because his weaknesses make him useless.
I discovered that the visiting with Royalty
was very simple. The Royalties often did not
appear until noon and some days not then.
It was at dinner and in the evening that the
other guests most often saw them, and each
evening only a few of us were brought into
actual contact with them.
They were very simple and unostentatious,
and the Princesses seemed almost anxious to
please, which is natural, as royalty exists in
England by sufferance. The then Princess of
Wales reminded me, in her evening dress, of a
mechanical doll. She has a high, affected,
musical voice, a stiff figure, a painted face,
and a very well made, light-brown wig. She
sat on a sofa in the center of one of the draw
ing-rooms, and said pleasant things. Her large
160 The Highroad
and truly beautiful eyes give the only expres
sion to a face from which every line has been
eliminated by stretching the skin. A frown is
a physical impossibility to her, which sounds
like the story of a gift to a princess from a fairy
godmother instead a "plastic surgeon." Roy
alty comes too near to us in these days. Who
knows? that long-ago princess who couldn't
laugh, and inspired so many romantic folk-tales
of poor young adventurers who broke the curse
and ascended the throne, may have had a sim
ple paralysis of the facial muscles!
They have some pathetic reserves, these
poor figureheads. One day our hostess
brought out an album to show the Princess of
Wales. It was silver bound and carefully
locked. It contained "private photographs"
of the royal family. In other days, when his
sovereign wished to compliment a subject, he
sent for the best painter in the country and
ordered a portrait for his friend. The walls of
this very house held portraits of sovereigns
from Queen Elizabeth down to the end of the
Stuart line. In those days a good portrait cost
about ten pounds. Nowadays, except in rare
instances, the best Victoria's family can do is
to offer a "private photograph," one which the
My Second Daughter 161
public has not been allowed to see. The
young princesses were tremendously amused by
this collection and spent a whole evening over
it; but the Princess of Wales, to the visible
annoyance of her hostess, slipped out two or
three of her own old photographs. "You will
give me these, will you not?" she said sweetly.
"I have no duplicates." I did not see them,
but I heard two women laughing a little later;
"They had looped-up skirts and showed her
feet. She has destroyed almost all of them.
They are awful."
"The Princess should have busts made of
herself, like those of the ancient Roman
ladies," Colonel Cameron said to them.
"They had a sort of marble wig that could be
changed with the fashions."
"A very good idea, but you made it up in
this instant," one of the women said.
"I did not. I saw them in the British
"I have never been there," one of the
women said smartly, "I never have occasion
for clandestine interviews. I shall keep a
watch on any friend of mine who knows about
those Roman ladies."
This Colonel Cameron was a close friend of
1 62 'The Highroad
the Prince, and a man whose vicinity I found
We were presented to the Prince the first
evening. He said some polite things to us and
graciously remembered Lili's parents. I think
he was disappointed in me. I was so common
place. He had looked at me with some curi
osity, and said rather bluntly that he was
surprised to see Horton's mother-in-law so
young. He asked me a question or two about
Prolmann, showing that he had heard our so-
called history. Prolmann had entertained him
once on his Hungarian estate long years
The Prince found the girls more amusing,
although generally girls bore him after he has
given them a little of that patronizing advice
which, like all men of his type, he prefaces
with "My dear." The Prince at this time had
the boldest eyes I ever saw. He is a short,
stout man, with a thick German tongue in
speaking, and it must be confessed in eating
also. Genevieve made me nervous. Had
Genevieve been brought up differently, she
would have made a most attractive milliners'
saleswoman. I never deceive myself, and she
always reminds me of a superior sort of shop
My Second Daughter 163
girl. She has the same haughty manner, style
in dress and undercurrent of blague. Her
waist (that was before the day of "straight
fronts") was seventeen inches around, and her
shoulders were forty. Naturally, her dress was
as simple as white muslin could be made, and
her slippers were even bowless, but she looked
like . a fashion-plate, or an illustration by
Before I had been in that house twenty-four
hours I knew that between her and Lili I
should have my hands full.
I have no idea what they talked about to the
men who found their society so absorbing; I
only know that the subject was obviously
changed whenever I came within hearing dis
tance. It was Colonel Cameron who fright
ened me. He was the middle-aged heir to a
Dukedom, a man who had married an heiress
when he was barely twenty-one, and had since
used his opportunities. He followed Gene-
vieve about from morning until night, but in
such a way that I could formulate no objec
tions, even to Genevieve. This was not the
society, nor were mine the methods which said,
"Beware of a married man." If Genevieve
could not be trusted to think of a man except
164 I'be Highroad
as a possible husband, it were better to send
her back to West Virginia, where they are still
in that era.
But I was afraid. I did not want my peach
handled, although this one had not the reti
cence and bloom of innocence which had made
Lucile's charm. As for Lili, she was past my
control altogether. She smoked cigarettes
openly at tea time, and discussed Anatole
France's latest novel with the old Duchess of
Lawrence. She ridiculed his knowledge of real
French society, calmly contradicting the
Duchess when her argument demanded.
"I have not visited in France for twenty
years," the Duchess said. "I remember your
grandfather. A charming man."
"Society has changed since then," Lili said,
putting one slender arm behind her head and
lolling in the deep velvet chair she had chosen.
One might have imagined from her assurance
that she had known all about the life of that
day, instead of being unborn. "Even in the
old nobility there is a respect for money, which
we have learned from you money-mad English.
Papa married for money, you know, and I can
not say I am sorry. It saves me the annoyance
of doing so."
My Second Daughter 165
"And you, I suppose, you young girl of the
convent, will marry for love?" the Duchess
asked with some sarcasm.
"I shall not marry at all," Lili said non
Now these new ideas might do for Lili, but
I could not afford them for Genevieve, and as
soon as we were again in London, I arranged
for Lili's return to her mother. She and Gene
vieve arranged, I vaguely understood, finally
to have an establishment in Paris where they
were to live together in the utmost freedom,
entertaining what they called "interesting
people," who were, so far as I made out, any
body who had been talked about. Poor young
fools! They were grievously disappointed that
the Prince was only a fat, bold-eyed, oldish
man. I think he had stood high on their list
before that visit.
There was nothing subtle about Genevieve.
All her goods were in the window. She morti
fied me. Much prettier and showier than
Lucile, I could make no effects with her. She
would never attract a conservative Englishman
like Horton. I had cherished some hope that the
rather fast stupid young eldest son of some
noble family might be taken by her as he
1 66 'The Highroad
might have been taken as so many of them
are by a music hall singer or an actress. And
I found that they were attracted at first by that
curious atmosphere of sex which women like
Genevieve throw -about them, but they were
stupid in her eyes, and she would have none
of them. She wanted the hero of a French
novel, and the nearest approach to it that she
had seen was Colonel Cameron. His face
was pale, his eyes brilliant, and his upcurled
and pointed mustache showed large sound
His wife and the Duchess of Lawrence left
cards when we were all returned to town. The
Duchess of Lawrence had spent the early
years of her married life going about from one
court to another, while her husband went in the
other direction. And then, tired out, they had
come home in middle age to discover, seem
ingly to their surprise, that their youth was
gone and there was no heir except the son of
"All of us are prone to overlook some de
tail," the Duke is said to have remarked to a
friend. "And, come to think of it, I believe
I'd as soon an enemy inherited my debts."
Cameron had married an heiress who wanted
My Second Daughter 167
to be a Duchess. He awaited the title with
equanimity, going his devious ways, very sure
that so long as he was a prospective duke his
wife would never divorce him.
A month later, a little after the New Year, I
went to Genevieve's bed-room after she was
supposed to have gone to bed. It was not a
habit of mine, but that evening we had been
rather dull at home and had retired early. I
remembered something I wanted to say to her
concerning our plans for the next day.
Jane and Robert had gone back to school. I
would have kept Jane in London, but the rates
which I paid at Paris in the beginning still
held, and necessarily I could get nothing as
advantageous in England.
Robert was a manly boy now, not too tall,
but broad and square, with a clean, frank,
well-bred face. He had naturally courteous
manners. Madame Vestrine was in love with
the boy, and decided to spend the winter in
Switzerland to be near him.
Genevieve and I were alone in the London
When I opened Genevieve's door I saw that
she was not there. The bed was untouched,
and a wrap or two was thrown hastily aside as
1 68 The Highroad
though she had tried two or three before she
had found one to her mind.
I had met with some difficulty in opening the
door, as it was locked. It was only after I had
knocked and called and felt my heart stand
still at no response that I remembered the
housekeeper's keys (I was the housekeeper
here now) and opened the door with one from
Genevieve had very plainly gone out. No
body will ever know what I felt then. I have
no ability to express the feeling that went
over me. I hardly expected her to return, and
except for the wreck and ruin it would have
been for all of us, I would have wished that
she might never come back. Could I have
wished her dead and buried, how gladly I
would have done so. How I despised her, and
how I pitied her! I remembered her as a little
chubby red and white baby whose gay laugh
and romping ways made her her father's dar
ling. How little she knew! what a fool she
I knew that she had gone out with Cameron.
A sudden thought sent me to the box where
we kept the latch key. It was gone. Then
she intended to come back.
My Second Daughter 169
I detest scenes, and I do not know how to
manage them. I went into my own room, put
the door ajar and waited for my child to come
She came in, stealing up the stairs in the
dark, and slipped into the corridor which led
to her own apartments. The door of her bed
room was locked as she had left it. I heard it
close and then I went to bed.
The next morning I engaged passage from
Liverpool for the following week. I told
Genevieve that I was going to put Robert in an
American college next year, and thought it
well to have him prepare for his entrance the
next autumn. He came hastily from Switzer
land, and we started for New York.
170 'The Highroad
We Return to America
I came up New York bay with mixed emo
tions. If I had made my way in England and
France, I kept reminding myself, I should
have no difficulty in conquering here. But
underneath the bravado by which I endeavored
to keep up my own spirit was an undercurrent
of doubt. Here Prolmann could only be a
serious disadvantage; here I was practically
stripped of my wonderful estates in Virginia,
but here, I said to myself, I was Lady Hor-
ton's mother. The Americans I had met in
London had let me see that that was fairly
potent, at least over there. But what would it
do for me here? I knew that there were
people who had been graciously received even
by Victoria who were not received in the New
York set for which I was ambitious. I could
not imagine, either, that the mother of the
Duchesse de B was received in New York.
And I had almost no money.
We went at once to a small hotel on Union
We Return to America , 171
Square, which we had heard of as the stopping-
place of some English people. And even
there we could not afford to stay long. We
must get something "quieter" which would
yet have the appearance of choice instead of
It was a terrible March day when we landed.
The dirt in the unclean streets was blowing in
clouds. The sharp clear air was as unbecoming
as the light from a hospital window. I looked
at my children, and my boy seemed raw and
commonplace and my girl entirely vulgar.
It was one of the few times in my life when
I lost heart, when the struggle seemed impos
sible. All my plans turned tawdry and trans
parent. How I wanted help! How I wanted
to turn to my children and say, "Help me! I
am doing everything I can for you. We must
work together to keep up appearances, to be
able to go along at all." But my common
sense told me the absurd folly of that. If
either of them had known that keeping up ap
pearances was what we were doing they would
have lost the ability to do it.
They did know, of course, that our income
was limited and that they could not spend
much money, but their training had taught
1 72 fhe Highroad
them that it was no disgrace, simply a tem
porary inconvenience in their case, not to be
spoken of purely for financial reasons.
I had come to America before I desired to,
absolutely forced here by Genevieve. Later
we might have come as guests on somebody's
yacht and made our first appearance at New
port. I thought of all these things. I wished
that I had put Genevieve back into the con
vent while I brought Robert over. I wished
that I had done everything but what I had
done. Dozens of times I have dreamed of
finding myself at entertainments in my night
clothes. Well, that March morning in New
York I had exactly the same feeling. How I
wished I had stayed in Europe!
Robert was polite and Genevieve was sullen.
She sneered at the hotel, she sneered at the
profusion of American food. She listened with
contemptuous ears to the American voices in
the hotel dining-room, and viewed with dis
dainful eyes the garments upon the speakers.
I must confess that the voices distressed me.
For the first time I understood what foreigners
mean by our nasal voices.
We walked up Fifth Avenue the second day,
the dirt whirling into our faces, and then we
We Return to America 173
crossed over into famous Broadway. I wonder
if there is anybody else who remembers the
Fifth Avenue and Broadway of only a few
years ago? To us, aliens, without a tie in
America, setting our feet for the first time in
New York, it seemed on the surface ridiculous
to have come. And had I lived only from day
to day, taking what came to me, had I been the
woman I was when I went to Europe, I should
have turned and left it, so little did it seem
worth while. And yet I knew that this was
America, and we were Americans. Never
could our position be sound before the world
until this was conquered. A nobody in his own
land is a nobody in all the world. And my
boy must make his own life. If he were to
marry a rich wife and achieve riches in that
way, which I confess was the best I hoped for,
it must be an American wife. No rich woman
of any position in any other country would
consider him for an instant. But to do that
he must have some place in the world, some
thing to stand upon. I had given his career a
good deal of thought. The church and medi
cine were the only professions which I thought
possible for him. I laughed at my own
thoughts sometimes as I lay in my bed at
174 The Highroad
night. I imagined myself as the tactful mother
of a parish, hunting through old books for ser
mons to rewrite. Robert could have written an
average sermon, neat and didactic, but that
never would have satisfied me. Still I feared I
should have trouble to induce him to let me
lead him into the church. I was sure as I
looked into his handsome sunny face, unaggres-
sive, agreeable, a little slow, much like my
mother's, that he would make a successful
physician. He would bolster up his patients'
spirits, -employ a good nurse, and let nature
alone. But he shrugged his shoulders over its
disagreeable features, and sweetly asked to be
given other work to do.
"My son," I asked, "what do you want to
He laughed easily and bowed in a little
foreign fashion that he had learned from Prol-
"My dear mamma," he said in French, "I
would be a duke."
"But, alas," I returned, "I am not a fairy
To my amazement his frank eyes took on a
suddenly shrewd expression. He looked at
me with almost a beam of real intelligence, of
We Return to America 175
understanding. "That is not so sure," he
For an instant fright possessed me. Was it
possible that he knew, could see, could under
stand all I had done? Had that beam rested in
his eyes an instant longer, perhaps I should
have broken down the wall between us. But a
second later it had disappeared and I could not
convince myself that it had ever been there.
"You have always indulged us in our de
sires," he said in a commonplace polite
I took him over to Boston and put him
under a tutor to prepare for Harvard the next
year. I found that he could enter as a sopho
more, and that he was unusually well grounded,
particularly in languages. I left him then,
having given no sign that he was preparing to
be anything but a duke.
ij6 'The Highroad
We Look About Us.
New York had no literature, as England and
France have, to teach me the habits and ways
of the people with whom I wished to associate.
Of course New York supposed itself then, and
supposes itself now, to be exactly like London.
But this is not altogether true. There has
never been a novelist who has thoroughly pic
tured American society, so that you may use
the record for a guide-book to find your way
There are one or two women who belong to
what is known as society who write, but they
color their narratives with personal feeling.
Most of the stories of society are written by
young men and women whose imagination is
whetted by the sight of carriages on Fifth
Avenue and the possession of an admission
ticket to the horse show. Sometimes they secure
an opportunity to see the inside of a million
aire's house, for most of them are reporters on
the papers. As smart society is fundamentally
We Look About Us 177
like any other, human nature being exactly the
same everywhere, they cannot make tremen
dous mistakes except in detail. People eat,
sleep, quarrel, make up, lie and cry, whether
they are Esquimaux or Americans, and they are
moved by ambition, envy, spite, avarice or
passion on Central Park East and Henry Street.
But few of these stories had been written
then. Mrs. Burton Harrison and Mr. Edgar
Fawcett were about all I had. I have often
wondered if Mrs. Harrison ever suspected that
the great vogue of her "Anglomaniacs" was
due to the desire on the part of outsiders to
know about the "real thing." Mr. Clyde
Fitch, even, had not risen to show that the
"smart set" is made of paper. I believe the
out-of-town people who make up the greater
part of our theater audiences believe Mr. Fitch
to know all about the people he depicts. He
probably does, but they are not New York's
society people at all. Nor is Mr. Richard
Harding Davis in a position to tell us how to
behave in the houses of smartness. As with
the rest of them, the jargon of the class that
seems only seems to be living simply for
amusement is not my mother tongue; but I
have gone a little below the skin of "society"
1 78 The Highroad
in New York. I have a son-in-law, whom I
know well, who was born in that class. I have
a daughter-in-law who is an amiable, rather
domestic woman, -who has known no other
class and who has never discovered that her
husband is a parvenu. And I have learned the
rules with the care with which one studies a
Yellow journals to the contrary, the "so
ciety" class of New York is not made up of
butterflies entirely. The flower garden of
pleasure attracts butterflies, but they only live
a few days at the best, and they never truly
play the game. No, it isn't all amusement.
It is the eternal struggle to have the best.
Philosophers, men who sit in college li
braries, novelists who were brought up on
Ohio farms, descendants of Puritan families
that failed to take and keep the lead in the
colony, the editorial writer who wants to sell
the workingman his penny paper, and the sheep
who follow the last speaker, may cry out at the
thought of the society man or woman having or
seeking for the best. When you ask those teach
ers what the best is, they give you answers ac
cording to their minds. But what are they all
struggling for? To be free to go where they
We Look About Us 179
please, to see what the world has to offer, and
to reach out their hands and take what they
want of it. They all agree that that is what
they want. (Maeterlinck has shown us how low
our ideals are, how selfish, compared even with
the bees, but it does not make us less selfish to
deny the fact.) Who gets that opportunity
except the people who make and keep money,
the people whose manners are polished until
they do not offend, who have a free masonry
of fair play in social intercourse? Whatever
lies are told, those are the necessities of a per
manent social position.
Some of the "sociologists" will indignantly
deny that this is what they want. They say that
they want to "uplift mankind." To what do
they want to lift him? To what does he want
to be lifted? I will tell you, because he can
only feel. To be free to go where he pleases,
to see what the world has to offer and to reach
out his hand and take what he wants of it.
The clever ones learn that it can come only
through wealth and civilization, through so
ciety. How many heads of the families who
make the real "smart set" in New York are
not superior men?
Suppose they do play. How many of the
180 The Highroad
great middle class would love to break the
stupid monotony of their lives by playing if
they only knew how! Did you ever see a man
or woman, who was not a fool, who did not
respond to gaiety? If you think the "smart
set" is all play you are much mistaken, and
show that you have only seen it from the out
It, too, has its fools, its wickedness, its
absurdities, being purely human.
It was with one of its women, a woman born
in it, whose nature was sweet but inclined to
folly, that my lot was cast for a little.
I spent some time looking for an apartment.
A hotel was too expensive. And of course a
boarding-house, where we should be obliged to
meet all sorts of curiosities and become known
to them, was quite out of the question.
I finally discovered an apartment house
which had all of my requirements. It was in a
quiet street, was owned by a woman who had
imbibed some of the "art ideas" which had
been gradually making their way in America
since the "Centennial Year," and had con
verted her old home into apartments. She had
succeeded in turning out something which to
the American idea was "French," although I
We Look About Us 181
never saw anything in France like it. The old-
fashioned brownstone steps had been taken
away and a portico built over the basement
door, which became the rez-de-chauss^e. The
strip in front was asphalted, and a high iron
fence separated it from the street. Balconies
and latticed bow windows were thrown out at
the front and back of the house and the walls
of the rooms wainscoted. Open fire-places
with brass fittings and high colonial mantle-
pieces were put in as a compensation for dark
middle rooms and tin bath-tubs.
I was fortunate in securing a furnished apart
ment here, which we made tasteful by the dra
peries and knick-knacks we had brought with
us. We paid one hundred and thirty dollars a
month for it.
I was actually so ignorant of New York ways
that I did not know how foolish I was to rent a
furnished apartment in April. To my mind
New York was in the north and consequently
cool, and I did not realize that the whole
world of people whom I wished to know was
already away or going. I discovered this after
I had settled and sent my cards to the Ameri
cans I knew. Not one of them was in town.
There was not so much to amuse one in New
1 82 'The Highroad
York as there is now. There were not so many
theaters and those that were open were not lively.
When 1 look back upon the audiences of those
days it is with a smile. Every woman wore a
hat, and she was not far from the black silk
era. One of the pretty evening frocks which
are so common in our audiences now would
have created a sensation and usurped the atten
tion usually given to the stage.
We found it terribly dull, and Genevieve
was at no .pains to conceal her disgust. I think
that I was in danger of losing all hold of her
at this time. She would have been quite
capable of finding the money in some fashion
and buying a ticket back to England had a
diversion not arrived.
I came home one day, warm, tired, fancying
that my judgment was a thing of the past; it
had seemed to desert me lately. I wondered if
I could touch Genevieve's heart by letting her
see that I loved her. It seemed to me that
here was the place for me to "show my heart."
In a novel she would have found me some day
with "a look in my eyes" which would have
"broken down reserves" between us. We
should have been mother and child. Her
heart would have softened to me.
We Look About Us 183
Those are -the climaxes of imaginary stories.
The magazines teem with them. I wonder if
the people who write them ever knew people
like that. I used sometimes to think that I
might do that if it ever seemed expedient
until I saw Genevieve again. It was in me to
pretend to be sentimental, but I realized when
I faced her that never for an instant was it in
I came home this afternoon and wearily
climbed the narrow gas-lighted stairs that led
to our apartment. The art burlap on the wall
and the thoroughly original treatment of the
niche on the turn of the stairs which marks
every old New York house, did not compensate
me for an elevator this day. I was physically
and mentally tired and realized that we had
spent too much money. We had spent so
much that it was going to be impossible for us
to go away properly for the summer without
danger to our capital. What a bad manager I
had shown myself! All at once a thought
struck me. Had I passed the climax of my
powers? With chills running over my shoul
ders and tingling along the backs of my hands,
I remembered my kinfolk. My mother was an
old woman at thirty-five. All ill-bred things
184 The Highroad
grow old early. It is a law. It is the sure
mark of inferiority. And as we grow old we
return to our race to its characteristics.
Was I going to become one of those silent,
wizened women, going through the tread-mill
of existence, never thinking, marching to the
end of life in a tired indifference? My aunts, my
mother's sisters, and my cousins passed before
me. I felt for that moment as Dryope must
have felt when she knew herself turning into a
tree, the bark growing stiff about her; only
instead of weeping I wanted to shriek a pro
test, to push the enlacing bark aside. With an
effort of will I ceased to plod wearily up the
stairs and went up like a girl, bounding into
the "hall" of our apartment (which was a con
verted hall bed-room).
I had put on a pretty little pearl gown that
morning and a toque of violets, and as it was
the day of dowdy street dressing in New York,
had felt myself ridiculous in my simple Paris
frock as I saw the looks of the fat women I
passed. But I met a different glance now.
As I entered two young men arose. They
had been sitting together on a couch facing
Genevieve, the lattices of the bay-window
behind them. One of them was so magnifi-
We Look About Us 185
cent that he left the other colorless and insig
When I think of the good-looking men I have
known in my life, my mind always goes back
to Chester Ward as not only the handsomest
man but the most absolutely beautiful human
being I ever saw. His mother told me once
that she had heard the old tale of ./Esop's wife
and had marked her child with beauty, and she
showed me the engraving which she had kept
ever facing her eyes before Chester's birth.
It was a banal portrait of Wilkes Booth! But
surely the gods themselves had waited on the
marking of Chester. He had the form of
Apollo and the ox eyes of Juno.
I knew him at once, although when I had
last seen him he was a lank, curly-haired boy,
bringing in wood and water for his mother,
who had lived next door to us in Fowlersburg.
In my surprise at seeing him and asking how
he had found us I almost forgot the small
square clever-eyed young man who waited
politely by his side.
He was presently introduced to me as Mr.
Babcock, a college friend of Chester's whom
he had met in New York only that day. Ches
ter, he told me, was living in Washington,
1 86 'The Highroad
where he was practicing law. He was over in
New York for a week and had taken the occa
sion to call upon us, as he had heard from
Fowlersburg that we were living here. Ches
ter talked staccato in a charming voice:
"I suppose you will be going down soon.
They are going to put a railroad through your
place, they tell me. Property is advancing in
price around Fowlersburg. You will be sell
ing your farm for town lots in a few years.
Mother talks about you all the time. She told
me, if I saw you, to be sure and tell you to
come down and spend the whole summer with
her, and you could talk over old times."
Of course I said that I would never sell the
old place, town lots or no town lots. The
town has never grown out in this direction, so
I have kept that promise, but the prospect of it
at that moment put new life into me.
Babcock, whose eyes were fastened on Gene-
vieve, let us talk on, but I could see my
daughter casting backward glances toward the
wonderful young man whose magnetic pres
ence and caressing voice seemed to fill the
Through all the Fowlersburg gossip, the
story of how this or that girl had married, of
We Look About Us 187
how the tale of Lucile's marriage had fairly
awakened the town, my mind was working.
Was this beautiful creature available as a hus
band for Genevieve? I knew that his family
was among the best in the state. They were
not rich, but if he were a lawyer in Washing
ton he might make money. He bore every
sign of prosperity, and not one of struggle.
And then the young man with him, I knew by
his name to belong to a famous New York
I turned to Mr. Baocock presently and told
him that I thought that I had met his cousin,
Mrs. Dodds, in London.
I had hesitated over this at first. I was
making a complete chain by which ail my pre
tensions could be exposed to New York, If
Chester wished, he could tell the story of our
pretensions to this young man. But something
very tangible told me that Chester would do
nothing of the sort.
I, Lady Horton's mother, was very useful to
him. It is one thing to belong to an old We,st
Virginia family, and another to reach New
York society. And in Chester's eyes we had
always been unusual people. He had seen the
wicker chairs and chintz roses, those wonders
1 88 The Highroad
of his day. From the way he accented the old
friendship for his mother, and led the talk to
France and England, I could see that he had
brought Babcock to us that we might impress
him; and so ungrateful was I, that that one
thing decided me that Chester would not do.
He did not ring sound.
It was luncheon time presently, and we in
sisted that the young men should stay for a
"Old-fashioned West Virginia manner," I
said to Babcock, and we all took the remark
We had the French servant I had brought
with me, and I knew that the soup pot was full,
as always, and that a salad, a bottle of wine
and informality would go a great way with
They, in their turn, asked us to go out to
dinner with them at Delmonico's that even
As we went down the stairs in the evening's
dusk, we passed our upstairs neighbor, who
had already begun to excite my curiosity. She
looked at Chester with frank admiration, but
she nodded with a smile which lowered her
eyelids and drew up one side of her mouth
We Look About Us 189
whimsically when she saw Babcock. He
greeted her with formality.
Chester walked along for a moment in
"Wasn't that Mrs. Wallingford?" he asked.
"I think that is her name."
"Do you mean to say you never heard of
"Never. There is no need to pretend that
I know New York. I do not."
"Ever see the great William B. about
"Large man with a slight limp."
"Oh, you mean I thought isn't that her
"He is here then!"
"What do you mean?" I asked impatiently.
"I'll come around some day and tell you,"
"She seemed to take an interest in you," I
said, "but I suppose you are accustomed to
"I don't believe I care to encourage any
interest on the part of Mrs. Wallingford. Wil
liam B. is said to stop at nothing. I might find
myself dead some evening."
190 The Highroad
He walked along with me for a moment and
then he laughed again. "I have just treated
myself to Burton's Arabian Nights," he said.
"A wonderful book which ladies of course
"It contains a good deal of human nature
which is western as well as eastern," I said
"Oh you have ?" Chester began.
"I was speaking of the usual edition. The
Burton, of course, never gets into general cir
culation," I said.
"Conversational or otherwise?" Chester ven
But Mr. Babcock asked me a question and I
made no reply.
My Neighbor 191
Babcock had fallen in love with Genevieve.
It was one of those passions which astonish us
when they come to sober clever men and
seemingly change every taste and habit of
their lives. We have all seen men in the thrall
of such a fascination.
The women of the Babcock family had been
generally pretty and always commonplace,
well born and bred, and doing in the appointed
time the things which were expected of them.
Genevieve's caprice, her foreign education,
her cheap cynicism played upon Elwin Bab-
cock's nerves. She was a bit of gaudy color,
and he had lived in a family life which was
colorless. He had not gone into Bohemian
society because that was outside his taste. He
was ambitious to make a name for himself at
the bar. He and Chester had fallen together
at college because Chester lacked the means to
keep up with the fast set. They had met on
192 be Highroad
the common ground of athletics; for while
Babcock was small, he was sturdy and a cap
ital football player, with the virtues and the
hardness of that particular pastime, as one
could figure out by looking at him.
I went frankly about ascertaining his for
tune, by going to an agency which put me in
possession of the bare facts. He had fifteen
thousand dollars a year income from his grand
father, would have more when his mother died,
and was making between four and five thousand
dollars a year as the law partner of a relative.
Twenty thousand dollars a year was a better
income in New York then than it is now, and
he belonged to the best people in the town.
I wanted Genevieve off my hands. I was
afraid for her. I wondered if she would marry
Babcock and I did not dare to ask her,
although no motives of delicacy hindered me,
as with Lucile.
I had thought of my children always as
pieces on my chess-board that could be moved
about as I wished, but here was one that I
could not count upon one who might ruin
Two days after the two young men called,
Genevieve spent the whole afternoon out.
My Neighbor 193
When she came in I asked her where she had
"To walk," she said, shortly.
"I do not wish you to go out alone, my
dear," I said gently.
"This is not Paris nor yet London," she
returned indifferently. "When are we going
away for the summer? It is suffocating here
I had been awaiting this moment and I was
actually afraid to say outright that it was im
possible for us to go at all. Indeed, I began
to think it might be possible. I used to won
der what people meant when they talked about
the influence of a strong will. I never remem
bered having been influenced by a strong will,
but Genevieve taught me that in the case of a
daughter it is worked like a species of black
mail. If I did not do what she wished, she
would most certainly do something I did not
I had had every drawer and box which be
longed to Genevieve fitted with keys of my
own, and I went through them for letters every
time she went out. I had discovered nothing
from London, and from her attitude I con
cluded that the affair I had nipped in the bud
194 *rbe Highroad
had been merely a passing amusement on both
sides. I found a locket with some diamonds
on the outside, but nothing within.
"They say," Genevieve went on, "that a
cottage at Newport is the best thing over here."
"We cannot afford that."
"You might send for old Prolmann and get
him to take one." She did not look at me,
but sprinkled paprika on her salad with an
My heart stopped beating for a moment and
then went heavily on. I had control of my
voice by the second beat.
"He would doubtless do that to give his old
friends pleasure, but he is very ill. You know
he could not come to Lucile's wedding." And
I looked straight into her insolent face.
The question of the summer was settled
before long. Mrs. Dodds was going to Paris
for a week or two, to come back on a yacht
which her husband had leased from an English
man. To please her cousin Elwin and to meet
the Malpierres and have Lady Horton's sister
as a guest, she asked to take Genevieve with
her, and bring her back for the Newport
season in August. It is expensive to stay with
people of wealth like the Dodds, but there was
My Neighbor 195
nothing else to do. Mr. Dodds was one of
the new rich men who had married rather late
in life into an old family. Robert and I would
stay in the New York apartment and nobody
would know the difference. But naturally we
did not speak of that to Mrs. Dodds in all the
hurry of her departure.
It was Mrs. Dodds who introduced me to
Mrs. Wallingford. We met in the big square
hall which had been the basement dining-room
of the old house from which our apartment
house had been converted.
The two ladies greeted each other with a half
indifferent smile which lifted the corner of her
soft mouth on the part of my fellow tenant,
and something like embarrassment in the man
ner of Mrs. Dodds. We were going for a drive
in Central Park in the Dodds's carriage.
When we were seated in the victoria Mrs.
Dodds said almost apologetically, "I went to
school with Lily Mainwaring and she was
always an agreeable girl, Her marriage was
most unfortunate. Of course I never knew
the facts," she added hastily. "My husband
will never have her at the house even for the
largest affairs. He does not feel that the old
family ties hold." Mrs. Dodds waited for
196 'The Highroad
questions. She evidently had an impression
that as she had introduced me to my neighbor
she must tell me all about her. The introduc
tion had been part of the embarrassment of the
moment of meeting, something that her con
fusion had not known how to avoid. "Her
husband is dead. He spent all of her fortune,
and it is said" more hesitation "that he
borrowed a great deal from her friends."
"Surely she was not to blame for that," I
"She was to blame for even marrying the
man in the first place. She was at school in
Paris when she met him. He was an officer in
the English army, and a great deal older and
"Yes. Imagine a girl ever thinking of a
married man!" I saw that I must give Gene-
vieve a word of warning for this visit with
Mrs. Dodds. She might listen to advice con
cerning a thing which was going to affect her
pleasure, as Mrs. Dodds's displeasure could
"I cannot," I said.
"Well, maybe she didn't. It may have been
only himself. At any rate, he went back to
My Neighbor 197
England, persuaded his wife to get a divorce
or made her do so, changed his name, and
came over here and married Lily Mainwaring.
People accepted him before they knew all the
story and it is very difficult to drop people
after they have been taken up. Then he
spent her money, and well, entertained a
good deal." She stopped.
"Isn't her father living?" I asked inno
cently, and then before Mrs. Dodds could
answer, I went on, "I see him going up every
day almost. A tall old man with a limp."
Mrs. Dodds's face expressed excitement
but she was not a gossip. "That is Mr. Wil
liam B. Clancy. He is he was an old friend
of her husband. But you must be mistaken
in thinking that he goes up there every day?"
There was a distinct interrogation at the end
of the sentence.
"I doubtless am," I laughed. "See how
one may hypnotize oneself, and what human
testimony is worth. I thought he was her
father, and when I saw him once or twice, I
imagined he came every day." She looked at
me keenly. I knew that he came almost every
day, that he stayed to dinner often, that a
caterer's man came at seven o'clock with the
198 'The Highroad
elaborate meal and stayed to see that it was
sent into the dining-room. One hears a great
deal in the shaft of a dumb waiter. But there
is an old proverb which says that "Silence is
the god of the lucky."
My Neighbor's Ways 199
My Neighbor's Ways
After Genevieve had sailed away with advice
as plain as I could give, I went up to Cam
bridge and Robert came home with me.
I found him much more agreeable than I had
expected. Prolmann and his secretary and
Madame Vestrine had done wonders for the
boy. He was still a boy, of course. In that
lay his charm.
There were no complaints from him when
the smothering heat of July came upon us.
Some days we would take the boat to Long
Branch, on others we would go up to the casino
in the park or to Claremont for dinner. But our
own little cold dinners in the negligee of home
and in the half dusk were more comfortable.
I grew fond of Robert then. He had a sweet
nature too sweet a nature, I felt sure, to make
his way in the rough and tumble of the financial
world. And yet he had no real mind for a
profession. I thought a good deal of Robert's
It was in July that we became friends with
2oo The Highroad
Mrs. Wallingford. For some days I had not
seen "the Great William B." limping up the
stairs, nor had I heard the sounds of gay
laughter and the popping of champagne corks.
One morning I read in my Herald that Mr.
Clancy had gone west upon an important rail
road matter. He would go on to the north
west and be gone a month. I was sure from
the sounds above that Mrs. Wallingford was
still in the house. Tire caterer came as usual,
but with no such elaboration of equipment. I
could open the door of the dumb waiter and
see what went up, as well as the champagne
bottles and pati terrines that came down in the
mornings. Sometimes there had been broken
china and glasses after a particularly lively
Mrs. Wallingford seemed to have few
women visitors and most of them came in the
morning. In the evenings and afternoons of
the first month we came, there had been three
constant visitors. Usually they came sep
arately, but sometimes they happened in
together. They almost never all dined there,
but sometimes I heard all three voices at sup
per. There was a delightful big bow window
in each back room of the apartments. I used
My Neighbor's Ways 201
this room for my bed-room, but evidently Mrs.
Wallingford used hers for a dining-room, for I
could hear the sounds of supper in the window
on warm spring nights. I could hear very few
words, but enough to know that the big, ath
letic, highly-colored clergyman who was so
often a guest, was not leading Mrs. Walling
ford and her friends in prayer.
This clergyman I once went to hear preach
later, simply to become accustomed to the
cadences of his powerful voice. I sat in a pew
in his well-filled church and heard him preach
practical life. His text was from Habakkuk:
"Woe is him that giveth his neighbor drink,
that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him
His congregation was made up of all sorts of
people, as the pews were free and he had ad
mirers in all classes, but I doubt if any of them
enjoyed that sermon as much as I did.
Church had grown to be a habit with me, and
it was not until the next autumn that I discov
ered that Mr. Bliss Mr. Bliss of Fowlers-
burg had charge of the most fashionable
church in New York. When I heard it I
laughed, and I made one comment to myself:
"You cannot keep us down!"
2O2 'The Highroad
It came to my ears later that Mr. Bliss was
now exercising his tact toward a very rich,
very stupid man, whose temper had been
soured by the social successes of a sister-in-
law who was then in the act of leading the
family into the giddy heights of "society."
This sister-in-law, as a matter of fact, created
the "new" society in New York, the society
which is founded upon money. She had a
sense of humor and no bump of reverence.
When her heavy brother-in-law asked for rever
ence, as the head of the family, she gave him
the sort of laughter which he furiously likened
to the crackling of thorns under a pot. She
asked "society" to go to the great house he
had built and see how funny he and his wife
were. She entertained guests with stories of
the economies of a man whose income was
three millions a year.
Mr. Bliss soothed the baited one's sore
nerves by showing him how he could distance
her by becoming a great philanthropist. Inci
dentally, Mr. Bliss became his almoner and a
part of his church. Mr. Bliss had first been a
mission worker in New York. He left Fow-
lersburg because in a moment of a return to
nature he married the paid organist. I went
My Neighbor's Ways 203
to Mr. Bliss' church. He welcomed me with
solemn joy. I was the mother-in-law of Lord
Horton. Like Chester, he needed friends of
his youth who were presentable in his new
field of action.
This story has no coherence, I see. I digress
like any other old woman.
The third friend of Mrs. Wallingford was a
mystery to me for a long time. I should
never have dreamed of asking questions of the
janitress, and it would have done no good had
I done so, as Mrs. Wallingford' s visitors were
more than freehanded. But one day I saw his
picture in the Herald and recognized it, with a
tingling shock. He was one of the greatest of
financiers, a man whose projects were world
wide greater even than "the great William
B." He was a thin, spare, active-looking
man, with brilliant eyes set very close to
gether. I studied his face with curiosity.
These men made Mrs. Wallingford very inter
esting to me.
My admiration for her was acute at first, and
then what a fool she was to risk her reputa
tion! Both of these men were married. So
was the clergyman, but I left him out. What
was she doing? What was she going to do?
2O4 Tbe Highroad
The situation lay there before me like a puz
zle, and the great question finally became,
what was I going to do? To let this situation
alone was impossible. I needed too much.
Do not imagine that I put it to myself like
that. But rich men, men who juggled with
the finances of the world, were valuable friends,
if one knew how to use them. That Mrs. Wal-
lingford did not know.
The hall of the apartment house was simply
the old basement front room. (The janitress
pigged along in a room or two behind.) It had
been made pretty with stained glass, an open
fire-place and soft couches. It was an easy
place to linger for a moment before mounting
the stairs, and one day I was there waiting
for Robert to come downstairs, when Mrs.
Wallingford came in. She looked pale from
the heat and sat down hastily, almost strug
gling for breath. Robert came down the stairs
and faced her, as she sat there pale and ex
hausted. He gave a soft little exclamation of
concern at the sight of her suffering, and tak
ing up a palm leaf fan, which lay on the table,
began fanning her.
"May I get you a glass of water, some
wine anything?" he asked. His manner was
My Neighbor's Ways 205'
perfect. He had never seen her before. She
looked at him gratefully with her pretty, one
sided smile which showed a dimple in her
cheek. . She was almost as old as I, but there
was an indefinable girlishness about her, some
thing sweet, appealing, tender.
I joined my solicitude to Robert's. She
assured us that it was a momentary faintness
due to the heat. She had not been well of late.
She ought to get out of town.
Robert (whom I had introduced as my son)
went upstairs with her.
The next morning I mounted to her apart
ment to ask about her health. I found her in
a bed-room which should have been preserved
in a museum as typical.
She had taken the dark middle room just
back of the "parlor" as her bed-room. The
bed was on a dais which jutted out into the
room, the head coming against the wall. At
first in the dim rose-shaded lights this bed
looked like something very handsome, and
then I saw what it was. An old-fashioned four
poster bedstead had been painted old ivory
color and set against the wall. Between the
posts at the head had been hung a high relief
of Delia Robbia's singing boys in plaster with
206 fbe Highroad
an ivory finish. From the ceiling swung a
canopy of rose-colored tarlatan in full folds,
enveloping the bed and the dais. The walls of
the room had first been covered with pink and
then hung in full folds of the tarlatan. Folds
of the thin stuff draped the dressing-table,
which glittered with ivory and gold. A cheval
glass, and a six-fold screen of mirrors, set in
gilt garlands, enlarged the room and reflected
all this soft rosiness, which was full of the
scent of orris and carnation, making a peculiar,
pungent combination which took my nerves.
Hot as it was, there were a half dozen candles
lighted under pink shades. Mrs. Wallingford
lay on the wide bed in a nightgown (if you
could imagine so wonderful a creation as made
for darkness) which showed her neck and arms.
Across her feet was a spread of lace lined with
pink, each fold as exact as though it had been
drawn by a rule and compass. She did not
seem to be reading. There was no light suffi
cient for reading. She was simply lying there
like a great white rose in her pink nest. Even
the lace handkerchief in her hand seemed to
be arranged as part of the picture.
She was most agreeable, almost cordial in a
languid way. And with a childish naivett she
My Neighbor's Ways 207
asked about Robert, and told me to ask him
to come and see her.
"He was so kind," she said.
As I went downstairs I met Van Nest, the
great financier, with his bright eyes glancing at
me curiously, coming up the stairs. I did not
wonder how long Mrs. Wallingford kept him
waiting, he, whose time was so precious, while
she dressed for a visitor.
208 'The Highroad
/ Plant a Seed
In the days which followed, we came to
know Mrs. Wallingford very well, and I think
she felt that we were a godsend to her indolent
life. She of course knew something of us, or
thought she did, and like all women in her
position, she may then have dreamed of hav
ing some friends who might make her inde
pendent of the society which was bit by bit
drawing away from her.
She was almost simple-minded, disarmingly
so, almost lovable in her ingenuousness,
although love for her was inhibited in me by
the contempt with which she filled me. She
seemed to have no will-power at all, no re
serves except the reserve of indolence. She
gave of herself out of her sweetness, as a
flower gives perfume. It was a sensuous per
fume, something that troubled. I could recon
struct her marriage. I could picture to myself
that young girl who met the admiration of
everybody with kindness and who had no
I Plant a Seed 209
hardness anywhere with which to rebuff. The
older man had simply taken what she had no
power to refuse and history was doubtless
Nature is never more blandly oblivious of
our frantic civilization than in a woman like
this. Is she a weed or a flower? What is a
flower except a weed that appeals to some one
of our senses. Our scheme of civilization is
utilitarian, founded on the inheritance of
property, and this woman will never keep in
line. The women who do are quite right in
condemning her, in pushing her out of the way.
I knew that Mrs. Wallingford had no money.
Every one possessed that bit of information,
and yet she spent money lavishly. She seemed
to have no idea of its value. I saw very soon
that the expenditures of the little apartment
would serve to keep up a house. I doubt not,
in fact I know, that the portfolio in her gay
little Louis XV. desk grew packages of pink
bank notes, that her debts were paid by a
"secretary." She gave ways and means no
thought at all. She rested upon life as tran
quilly as she rested on her rosy bed.
It was through an accident that I met Mr.
2io 'The Highroad
I too was a little bored. New York was
very dreary and depressing, and sometimes
when the silence above told me that my neigh
bor was alone, I would go up in the evening
with Robert. The boy must have some one
upon whom to practice his social graces, and
Mrs. Wallingford was thirty-five.
One evening we had gone upstairs about
nine. We found the lattices of the drawing-
room wide open to catch the air, the pink-
shaded candles few and dim, and Mrs.
Wallingford a fluff of white lace lying idly in
a long chair. We came in without disturbing
her, and sat and talked of the heat, of the
nothings which make up so much of social con
verse that it seems wonderful that we should
take the trouble to speak.
Robert told her of some old French songs
which Madame Vestrine had given him, and he
went downstairs and brought them up. They
lighted the candles at the piano and tried them
over, the quaint music, written for a spinnet,
the sentimental old words sounding strange in
their full rich voices with the piano.
Mrs. Wallingford's maid opened the door
and a man came in. Mrs. Wallingford turned
her face over her shoulder, smiled, and with-
I Plant a Seed 211
out other greeting mentioned Van Nest's
name and mine, and went on with her song.
No proof of intimacy could have been more
He sat down beside me in the window and
presently we talked. After the song was fin
ished Mrs. Wallingford came over with Robert,
and I would have gone, but they begged us to
stay and I found in Van Nest an attitude
which puzzled me then. He seemed glad that
we were there and he wanted to keep us. He
spoke to me frankly of Mrs. Wallingford' s
loneliness, and showed that he knew that we
had lightened it. He said that she would not
go away. And there was that in his voice,
gratified vanity, whatever it may be, which
gave me to understand that she would not go
while he remained.
It was late when we left them, and I would
have given anything to have sat downstairs
and gone over that affair with some intelligent
human being. When Henry and William
James gossip, how delightful they must find it!
We saw as much of Van Nest during the
next ten days as though he had been a friend.
My "ignorance" of New York stood me here.
I knew nothing from gossip, of course; how
212 The Highroad
could I? And I am sure that in Van Nest's
eyes I was too innocent, too stupid, to see any
thing for myself. It has been my lot to under
stand why men like fools of women. They
have shown it to me, because they have so
often done me the honor to consider me half-
fool. Men love to talk, to pose before a mirror,
as it were, and they want the mirror to be shal
low and really to hold no permanent reflections.
They do the posing for their own pleasure and
want to leave no records.
Here and now, as many other times, I ached
to be my own self. How I wanted to show
myself that I understood this man, whose
mind was considered so great that kings and
emperors had sought his society that they
might learn some of his secrets for their
people. Truly to interest is so easy that I
wonder why any woman is uninteresting, if that
is her chief care. All that is necessary is to
know what is in the mind of a man at the
moment and throw a new light on it, or play
with it, so that he has a chance to bring it out
into the open. Nobody on this earth cares for
any truly new thing that has not a vital asso
ciation with (not the present) his personal pres
ent. Wit only reaches its point when it is a
I Plant a Seed 213
new light upon what we already love or hate.
And what trivial things were in the mind of
this "great" man! It did not take me long to
realize that his greatness consisted simply in
seeing the world small. It was as though he
had a world in miniature before his eyes, like a
living map like a game. Here was a line of
steamships, and here a railroad, so much corn
grew in this section, the population yonder
consumed so much. Some other man who
owned something which this man wanted had
no map, and was like a blind man going over a
path which he vaguely knew from having been
led over it by some predecessor. It was easy
for the man with the map in his head to be
wilder that blind man, put him in a new path,
alter his goal, and take his business.
But something which this man with the vi
sion of the earth did not see small was himself.
I could see how all at once in his later years
there had come to him a ,sudden feeling of
fright that there was something he had
missed. It was something that all the poets,
the painters, the historians even, had agreed
was the greatest thing in the whole universe,
the thing which gave savor to everything else.
And he, like thousands of other men married
214 The Highroad
in their youth, had never felt it. I could imag
ine how Mrs. Wallingford's one-sided smile,
her tender eyes, her air of "I am kind, let me
love you I ant kind," had first made him believe
that this was still possible for him. It was
something that she could not help, for which
she was in no sense morally responsible, if
after all, anybody is morally responsible for
anything. Why is a too soft heart, a desire to
be held and protected and sheltered, different
from a soft complexion? Do we create our
selves? In his very dignified Gifford lectures,
Prof. William James of Harvard tells of a
woman who said she "loved to cuddle up to
God." To some women the understanding of
God is not given, although the instinct to
"cuddle" is there.
I saw much in this week, and the chief thing
was that I must get away. I was growing too
intimate with the great Van Nest; and the
thought that I, with my ambitions, should be
flying from that possibility gave me smiles.
But I was on the wrong road, and if I went
farther I should be hopelessly lost. Mrs. Wal-
lingford would not do. I suppose had I at this
time ventured one hint to Van Nest he would
have given me a "tip" on the market or even
1 Plant a Seed 2 15
made some investments for me and despised
me forever after. As I have clearly seen many
times, money may be purchased too dearly.
The bare possibility of money is so often the
lure which ruins. But then ^Esop, who pic
tured most things, gave us that too in the long
ago in his dog and stream story.
One evening Mrs. Wallingford brought Mr.
Van Nest downstairs to us, and he asked Rob
ert and me to go off for a cruise in his yacht
with Mrs. Wallingford.
I thank God for presence of mind. I pro
duced a telegram calling me to West Virginia
the next day, but there was no reason why
Robert should not go. I had many thoughts
over the situation. I had waited late at night
for Robert to come bright-eyed down the
stairs. The boy was not a fool and he had
attracted Mrs. Wallingford in a way which had
probably never come to her before. I let my
fancy go as to the effect this sudden intimacy
of theirs, the woman whose ties seemed to be
so many and the boy whose ties were all to
make, would have upon those who claimed
her attention. In the necessities of the case
there could be no violence of any sort. If
Robert was to be eliminated it would most
216 The Highroad
naturally be by that method known as kicking
him upstairs to bed. His reluctance to be
take himself to innocuous rest would doubtless
measure the distance to which he was elevated.
Two days after my talk with Mr. Van Nest, I
went down to Fowlersburg, leaving Robert
We sat in the window the last evening, my
only son and I, and talked of many things of
the letters from Lucile, of little Jane at school,
of Madame Vestrine.
"I am gratified that you had the association
with a woman of the world," I said to him.
"She made me see life a little more broadly,"
"She had been disappointed in her own
"I think," Robert said hesitatingly, lighting
a new cigarette, "that he was what she should
have expected. She married a man she should
never have married for love, so called. Her
son was born of that union."
I sat there gasping. I think I almost blushed
at these words from the boy.
"What could she expect except a lapse from
the highest civilization? a return to nature?"
"I am beginning to think," I allowed my-
I Plant a Seed 217
self to say, "that the rule does not hold good.
I married your father for love."
"But, would you if he had been a laborer
on your father's farm?"
Truly, I felt that in my son Robert there
might not be great force, the great energy
which is but another name for righting instinct,
but there was more insight than in most. I
might even, in time, take him into my confi
dence. As a matter of fact I never have.
Our manner to each other is, however, one of
218 The Highroad
My visit to Fowlersburg interested and
amused me more than any experience I had
ever had in my life. Now it was that I thor
oughly realized what an education the passing
years had been to me, what new vision and
understanding was mine. How sorry I felt for
those who, seeing, saw not. When I left Fow
lersburg I had had nothing real with which to
compare people. I valued them wrongly,
sometimes too high and sometimes too low.
Here on one little canvas was the drama of
life, all within one's vision, not partly hid
den as in larger places. I do not wonder that
it is the men from small towns who go to cities
and control them. It is a simple problem as
soon as they learn, as Van Nest had learned,
that great concerns follow exactly the same
laws as small ones. Society is necessarily
much the same everywhere, being made up of
individuals of the human family. Again, here
in Fowlersburg I thought how little the ma-
jority of the world sees. When I went out to
"tea" (it was "supper" when they were not
entertaining) or to the various forms of enter
tainment to which they invited me, almost
every one expressed surprise that I did not
find it dull in Fowlersburg. "Why?" I some
"Oh, but you must miss society. Although,"
they would often add, "I suppose you realize
its hollowness." (I wonder who was the first
person to call society "hollow.") "But even
so," they would go on, "there are all the ad
vantages of music and the drama."
And I used to answer politely, and look at
the speaker and fairly ache to tell her that she
was a character in a drama, that the stage could
never produce anything so interesting.
Isn't it strange that people will die of ennui
in the midst of a life and people that would
thrill them with interest if it were shown to
them through the eyes of another?
Fowlersburg fairly reeked with characters
and they lived stories, too, which are worthy
of an artist in narrative. One woman down
there possessed my mind. Often I have seen a
landscape which for an instant developed itself
through an atmosphere which made my. heart
220 'The Highroad
ache because I was not Corot that I might
record the fleeting Mona Lisa smile of mys
terious nature. So Mrs. Cavendish tormented
me. She was old, old in body, and her spirit
was young and hated her old body and tried to
hide it. She came to "tea" with us one even
ing when Mrs. Ward had invited a number of
her old friends, and she sat there gay of voice,
youthfully dressed, wigged, scattering the wit
ticisms, the theories of life, the anecdotes that
she had taken from years of reading but which
her audience accepted as original, her poor,
lined, parchment-like old face covered by a
heavy veil hanging from a "picture hat,"
which she lifted for each mouthful of food. Is
there anything in fiction, in drama, if you will,
stranger than this woman? How Thackeray
would have loved her!
Mrs. Ward came to take me home with her
the day I reached the town, which I had found
greatly changed. The hotel was a new one,
rejoicing in its modern improvements of
fringed napkins, blue glass finger-bowls and
red brussels carpets. The food in that land of
plenty was tough or canned, and to me, a little
dainty about what I ate in these latter years
since the flavor of the pickled pork which was
my husband's favorite dish had gone from my
palate, it was impossible. When my old
acquaintance came to see me, I rejoiced at the
prospect of being asked out to supper, and my
joy shone in my face.
Mrs. Ward was noticeably nervous. She had
put on her best dress, which was a black gros-
grain silk trimmed with jet, and a new pair of
shoes. The yellow soles of those new shoes,
and the tight strings to the black lace bonnet
which sat, narrow and assertive, on the tightly
crimped hair above the pretty forehead, gave
me my first hint of what an important person I
had grown to be in Fowlersburg.
"Chester said he had seen you in New York,
and that you were just like old times" she
held me away from her and looked at me with
real affection. "I couldn't believe that you'd
come back just the same old neighbor that
used to pass cake over the fence." I had for
gotten the cake-passing episode because it was
never a habit of mine, but it had evidently
become part of my history since my daughter
had married a lord, and I was ready enough to
accept it. Mrs. Ward belonged to one of the
real old blue-blood families of the state.
Quite unconsciously she was taking me into an
222 I'be Highroad
intimacy which, with all the respect we had
had in Fowlersburg in those old days I had
never enjoyed. I had never been really one of
"And now," she went on, "if you can put up
with us, won't you bring your trunk and come
up and stay? Now Chester has gone, I'm all
alone. Sometimes it seems to me I can't
"I should think," I ventured later, when I
had put on my bonnet (I had put on mourning
for my father down here) and gone home with
her, "that you would go to Washington and
make a home for Chester."
"I would in a minute, but he doesn't think
it best. You know his friends are 'all very
wealthy people, and he has to make as good a
show as anybody. If you do not, Chester
says, people will think you are nobody, and if
that happens he never will get any business,
The refrain to every sentence was, "Chester
says." Chester was the heart of her life, and
like many another mother she sat at home
and economized that her son should have "his
chance." I wondered what my children would
have done had that been my ideal of duty. I
suppose the sort of teachers of ethics who
preach in pulpits or newspaper editorials would
assure me that they would have made good
Americans, that the iron of self-reliance would
have developed in them as it had in their
father and in me, that I had dwarfed their lives
by having miserable snobbish ideals myself
and educating them, forcing them, into false
positions. That may be, but unfortunately I
notice that the young men and women, and
even the older ones, who were educated in all
of these strong American ideals consider the
finest flower of their success an admission into
the society where my children live, of which
they are a part. Lucile, my good narrow
Lucile, who in her natural environment would
have read papers on "The Influence of Byzan
tine Architecture on Russia," to Fowlersburg
women who have never seen a Russian in their
lives, is a figure of importance even in her own
world of English political and social life, just
as she would have been in the small world of
Fowlersburg; the big world of England being
made up of precisely the same sort of people
with a different education.
This is not a oopular theory, it is simply the
224 fbe Highroad
I grew very fond of Mrs. Ward. I was not
only approved by Chester, but I was a constaat
source of pride to her. She took excited
pleasure from reading in the grimy little even
ing paper which was thrown over the fence at
supper time every day, that the mother of
Lady Horton, who was an attractive addition
to the English peerage, was the guest of Mrs.
Sarah Canfield Ward of Tenth Street. There
followed the usual spread-eagle account of
Lucile's beauty and accomplishments which
made her "the pride of royalty," the paper
Mrs. Ward used to sit up half the summer
nights to ask me questions concerning the
habits of the Queen of England and her fam
ily. To my amazement I discovered that there
was not a sixteenth cousin of a royalty in
Europe whose history was unknown to my
hostess. She had had a Virginia uncle who
was a traveled young man, and in his youth
had once come across that adventurer who
eloped with the Prince Consort's mother, and
after her death carried her embalmed body
about Europe in his luggage until Queen Vic
toria persuaded him to bury it. Mrs. Ward
enjoyed scandals, but her kindness of heart
prevented her from believing or repeating the
stories of laxity which are always rife in a town
like Fowlersburg, where the people grow into a
liking for coarse intellectual flavors through a
lack of education in the finer. Few of those
who repeat scandals concerning their friends
believe the stories. They go on receiving and
visiting, in these small towns, ladies concern
ing whom tales are told, whose shocking coarse
ness is the invention of the lowest minds.
Mrs. Ward, a little sentimental, truly sweet,
would have none of this; but undoubtedly she
revelled in the "romances" of royalty, and she
listened breathless to the story of the Duchess
of Belcourt. I had actually seen this heroine
I had a pleasant summer down there and I
grew very, very fond of Mrs. Ward. Chester
made a flying visit home, and would have given
me some of the attentions due a young woman,
but I grew suddenly old and almost frumpy
during his stay, and closer than ever to his
mother. I could not afford to have the one
servant in the house carrying tales of "Chester
Ward and the widow." I was a quiet, black-
clad, head-achey little figure during his stay,
which was not long.
226 The Highroad
It was during this visit that my trustees
kindly offered to relieve me of my "wild
lands." But a word front Mr. Van Nest had
fallen on my ear, and something of his way of
looking at this earth we live on had been for an
instant possible to me. "West Virginia," Van
Nest had said, "is the most interesting and
curious state in this Union. It is practically a
virgin state, rich in mineral as anyone of the
western states, and right here at the markets
for its coal and iron." At any rate I could
add this opinion to my assets.
I gently, timidly, mentioned this (quite as
an original opinion) to Mr. Less, and was met
with a slight lifting of the eyebrows and a
"There is, I believe, coal on the land, is
there not?" This was pure guess work upon
my part, from Mr. Van Nest's remarks.
"It may be a little," Mr. Less said, "but it
is quite undeveloped and far from markets.
There is no possible chance of the Pennsyl
vania coal fields allowing West Virginia coal to
take any place for another hundred years, and
by that time your land will be eaten up by
taxes. You had much better give it away. I
advise you to take any offer for it."
"But," I said, more and more tirmdly, "my
husband must have had some reason for buy
ing it, and I think I should keep it for the chil
dren. " Then I met with some of that bullying
which, had I been really the weak, gentle,
almost tearful little woman I seemed, would
have certainly been successful. Less assured
me that as an executor of my husband's will
he must insist upon my taking his advice.
"Your children will never forgive you. You
have a duty to perform toward them. When
your husband left you everything, he left it as
a trust, with me as adviser to you."
"He must have wanted the children to have
it," I said obstinately. Mr. Less even sent the
clergyman to remonstrate with me, and Mrs.
Ward, through a sense of duty, told me that
Mrs. Less had told her that my obstinacy had
caused Mr. Less sleepless nights. But even
for him I could not give up my "estates," and
his "sleepless nights" made me certain of
what I had begun to suspect that somewhere
in the future there might be something.
I slipped through that summer enjoying the
social spectacle of Fowlersburg and as always,
everywhere, learning, learning. Somebody
has said somewhere, that there is no book so
228 The Highroad
stupid, so banal, that it does not contain some
scraps of information. Surely there is no com
munity of people which is not teeming with
illustrations of success and failure and the
roots thereof. Psychology is the most inter
esting study in the world, and now that I have
time I shall search out its rules as formulated
by the wise. But there are no new examples to
present to me; I have seen them all.
Robert did not write me full letters, merely
notes from here and there. He spent much of
his time on the yacht of Van Nest.
By the papers I saw that "the great William
B. Clancy" was again in the social world, enter
taining magnificently at Newport. Mrs. Wall-
ingford never went to Newport, though some
times to Narragansett; but wherever she went
Robert was in her train. That he did not get
into the newspapers was to me an evidence of
infinite tact. Every Sunday's edition I took
up with the fear of seeing his frank smiling
face looking out in a "half-tone."
It was not long before Genevieve appeared
in the accounts of Newport. She had spent a
great deal more money than we could afford,
while in Paris, and the results seemed to be
showing at Newport. How I prayed that one
of the young or old millionaires would take
her off my hands! She seemed to be having a
success with what was in those days known as
"the Brass Band" set. Genevieve was past-
mistress of the art of insolence, and in that
company there were plenty of glass houses.
This caused her to "get along," but it did not
marry her off. In any set a man wants some
thing more intimate than a battering ram for a
wife. When one like Genevieve is chosen it is
usually because she has been idealized. No
man ever really knows a woman even after he
marries her. It is not because she is difficult
to understand, or indeed different from a man
of the same type. It is simply that he must
see her through the film of sex.
To most people Genevieve was antagonistic.
Underneath even her best manners men felt her
contempt for them, the contempt born of a
friendship for Lili, a contempt that I knew was
in the beginning born of me, but which I had
almost always succeeded in hiding even from
myself. Through Genevieve's short letters
there was always a strain which "rubbed me
the wrong way." I was angry that even I was
shown her unpleasantness. A woman of wis
dom, a safe woman, hides her worst traits.
230 'The Highroad
Sometimes I answered these letters in a man
ner which made my cheeks burn as I put the
words on paper. And then I destroyed what
I had written. I did not intend to have any
thing in my family save sweet peace.
How I writhed under Genevieve's vulgarity!
All the more because some of it came to her
through me. We talk a great deal of mother-
love. It is truly the passion of my life. What
have I lived for, save my children? They are
my immortality. They have in them Me with
a new start. And yet how well I understand a
cruel parent! It is their own sins, their own
vices, their own tendencies born again, that
they are crushing. How I pitied and hated
Genevieve's ignorance! Pity is the feeling to
give those who are called "bad." These
"New Thought" people have stumbled into a
truth or two. "Goodness" means nothing ex
cept the element of growth, the thing which is
"good" for us, for our bodies, our minds, our
general happiness, and "bad" is degeneration,
decay. That is why codes of morals are
different in different civilizations. Polygamy
was right and "blessed of God" when a vast
new land must be peopled, but when we are
confronted with, a greater population than the
Fowlers burg 231
earth can comfortably feed nothing can be so
"bad." The "bad" in this world those who
grow ugly with sin are those who do not know
how to extract the sweetness from the world,
to live in harmony with their place and time.
For Genevieve personally I could be said to
have no love, for myself I had a great deal,
and I sacrificed much that her way should be
easy. I kept up a constant correspondence
with Mrs. Dodds, and I asked Lucile to write
to her also. I wished to surround Genevieve,
to soften by the cushions of our convention
ality, our correctness, the angularities of her
nature. She must not be just for self, but also
for Lucile and me.
And while I was bolstering Genevieve, her
triumphs at Newport were assisting me. I
smiled sometimes at the flattering attentions
given me by the young girls in Fowlersburg.
Each of them saw herself, in fancy, sharing
our life in New York. They were insistent
that I should bring Genevieve down and allow
them to give her a "good time."
It was in the middle of August that Mrs.
Van Nest died and I saw by the papers that
Mr. Van Nest had taken his two daughters
and gone abroad.
232 I'be Highroad
Mrs. Wallingford went somewhere on the
Maine coast, and when next I heard from
Robert the letter was written at her cottage
I Add to My Income 233
/ Add to My Income
There seemed to be nothing for me to do but
to take a house in New York. The apartment
had been a blunder. Mrs. Wallingford was an
acquaintance I could not afford to have, nor
could we afford to be hidden in an apartment.
Our vintage required the bush.
After infinite worry and trouble I found a
house on Gramercy Park. It was too large,
too expensive, but I would risk one year of it.
I was forced into it. Genevieve drove me.
She fancied that it was entirely by her brutal
will and I was indifferent concerning her
thought. I wanted to do what I could for her
ultimate happiness, that she might be at least
no disadvantage to the rest of us. To do the
best for her was instinct with me simply
because she was my child. It had nothing to
do with my heart or head. It was primitive.
I was terribly anxious now about money.
Some nights my fears caused me to see myself
building a fire of my last possessions, this
234 The Highroad
using of money like millionaires when we had
almost nothing. I determined that when we
reached the bottom of the forty thousand dol
lars of life insurance which my husband had
left me I would stop. And then what would
But the problem of finding a larger income
somewhere, somehow, was ever before me.
If I had been left alone I should probably have
made a fair business woman, but my mind was
developed in another direction. My income
must come from something which I could do
secretly. Those advertisements in the news
papers offering ladies "occupation at home"
must have been started by a student of social
conditions, but I was not sufficiently stupid as
to try that avenue to fortune.
The time I chose to come to New York
marked some sharp changes. For example,
what is known as "yellow journalism" was first
sufficiently conspicuous among intelligent
people to acquire the name. All sorts of
replies have been made to the question as to
why it was named "yellow." It really came
from an editorial by Charles Dudley Warner,
\n Harper's, I think. He wrote apropos of "The
Yellow Book" which was then new and said
I Add to My Income 235
that literature was "getting the yellows" like
a sick peach-tree. But did you ever stop and
think that there is some nerve-irritating force
which flows from the color yellow? I wonder
if the critic who will grow sarcastic over that
statement doubts that red inflames the bovine
nature? The French, those experts in the
study of nerves, first discovered its peculiar
quality, and put yellow outside their novels as
a cryer of the wares within. It was at this
time that a publisher brought out a cheap
magazine in yellow yellow outside and men
tal spoon-food within and promptly discov
ered how many ignorant people there were in
America who were pathetically in need of pre-
digested information upon all subjects. The
yellow called them and they rejoiced at finding
"easy reading" within. I speak of this phase
of New York life because I used it.
That picture of Lucile which had appeared
in England had taught me something; in the
first place, how easy it is to get into print, and
in the second place, that here was a powerful
weapon if one knew how to make it serve.
But then all phenomena are but tools to the
After we were settled in Gramercy Park, I
236 T'be Highroad
went to a branch post-office and secured a box
in the name of "Mary Clay. ' I wrote a meek
little letter to the editor of the newest of the
sensational journals and told him that I had
many opportunities for hearing the stories of
"society" both in New York and Europe and
that I should be very glad to sell this informa
tion to him secretly. My first idea was to place
my own name continually before the public in
the best manner. We are like wax, all of us,
ready for impressions. If we repeatedly hear
a thing, we end by believing it. They say now
that there is a physical reason for it, that every
thought makes a little channel in the brain like
a crease in a sheet of once-folded paper. If
the same thought runs along its channel many
times it ends by changing the very structure of
the brain. I wanted to be a part of the world's
idea of fashionable life.
I found the pursuit of newspaper writing not
only informing to the public upon my own
standing, but profitable and exquisitely amus
ing. Out of pure caprice I made and unmade.
My "stories" became so popular presently
that they were to be found almost every Sun
day occupying a full page in the paper I had
chosen. Sometimes the photographs were
I Add to My Income 237
genuine and sometimes not, the stories cor
responding. As Mr. Whistler has suggested,
nature is inartistic and must be dressed up a
little. I made the heroes and heroines of my
tales better, and I made them worse as the
exigencies demanded, and many a girl has
headed into fame as an heiress and a beauty
because I could put my hands on a handsome
photograph of her. As I am not the only
shrewd American woman, this idea fell into
the minds of many others.
About this time the new magazine, whose
editor was entirely untrammeled by traditions
of any sort, and who was unable to see why a
monthly magazine should be less frivolous and
enlivening than a daily, began to publish a
department called, 'The American Beauty,"
and I was one of its most useful contributors.
They used to pay me five or ten dollars apiece
for those photographs, according to their
rarity. Alas! How few of them were rare!
Photographs and cheques "for my trouble,"
came upon me in an avalanche. The originals
protested to their friends, sometimes even to
me in my own person, when the very photo
graph they had pressed upon "Mary Clay" was
published. And they used to say very unkind
238 tfbe Highroad
things about the owner of the magazine for his
impertinence in presenting their faces to the
The Sunday newspapers published almost
anything I sent. What did they care for the
truth or falsity of a story, so it was sensational
When I could get no American photographs
I bought them from foreign photographers by
many devious ways. Naturally, that there
might be no libel suits, the American stories
were fairly innocuous, vulgar to the last de
gree but not libellous. But the royalty and
nobility of Europe could have any sort of
story told of them, limited only by my imagina
tion. And when, after one of my tales about
royalty that touched the English common
people on the raw, the very heir of the throne
changed his plans and went to visit the family
concerning whom the story was told, I grew
reckless with my new power, and took a seri
ous chance. I saw in a foreign paper that a
certain well-known peeress was about to add a
new bulwark to her husband's family. In an
other part of the paper was a notice of that
Vienna physician who announced his power to
change the sex of infants before their birth. I
I Add to My Income -239
wrote a rapid account of this peeress' desire to
have a son, and said that the doctor had sent a
young assistant to England to prepare the food
of the mother. I sent this story to my former
maid in Paris and asked her to mail it there. I
gave a Paris address. The paper published
the story, and the peeress, luckily, gave birth
to a boy. The story was reprinted in almost
every newspaper in the world, and the czar of
Russia sent for the Vienna doctor! And I
alone of all the world could laugh/
I was and am ashamed of the newspaper
connection. It was tawdry and cheap and
undignified. I despised myself when I did
that work, and I come so near despising my
self when I tell of it, that it is with an
effort that I write it down. It is as though
I were painting my own portrait in oils and
found myself compelled to put in some vul
garity of feature or expression. My only
excuse is (if I made excuses, which I do not)
that I needed the social help of newspaper
notice at first and after that the money that was
paid for my articles. I earned in this way
what would have been the yearly income upon
almost thirty thousand dollars; for the yellow
journals and magazines paid very handsomely
240 The Highroad
for pictures and gossip in those days, before
everybody went into the business of supplying
I even sometimes wrote book reviews.
Everybody has some vanities. I think I know
a good book when I read it, and I think I can
tell why it is good. But I wrote only one
good review for my papers. After that I con
fined myself to personal anecdotes of the
authors. The authors themselves are gener
ally happy to give an "illustrated interview" to
anybody and to have photographs made of
themselves and their most intimate surround
ings. I did none of this interviewing. I sug
gested authors and poses to the papers and
then rewrote the interviews. I am sure that
many novels owed much to my artistic
Naturally, I immediately saw a field here for
myself. I would write a novel and advertise it
by sensational 'articles. I fairly shivered with
nervous delight as I thought of it. I felt as a
scientific man must feel when he sees approach
ing a beautiful but unexpected end of an ex
periment. But like the scientific man more
often than not, I had made a slight error in my
I Add to My Income 241
Primarily, of course, I had no message for
the world which pushed me toward pen and
ink. After the fact, authors who really say
anything are always supplied by their solemn
admirers with a preconceived plan to add to
the world's knowledge. I have never discov
ered any of these. All artists produce their
wares for money. That rule has been so gen
eral that the few exceptions merely prove it
and these exceptions are generally working for
fame and doing mediocre work because it is
affected work, "over the heads of the people."
To do a thing professionally means to do it for
the criticism of buyers. But after I had the
idea, I went to my store of understanding and
I took of my best material to make my book.
I would write a real book. I had no beauties
of style, but I had seen, and I knew that the
coherent mind cannot express itself inco
herently. What I knew I could say. I had
wanted a real story of New York. Why
should I not write one? I remembered Flau
bert and Balzac. I will follow in the wake of
these great ones, thought I.
As I look back, I enjoyed something in those
months that should have warned me even then.
When I closed my door and sat down at my
242 T'he Highroad
desk, I ceased to act. I became myself. I
wrote down not the expedient thing, but what
I actually knew.
My book was the story of Mrs. Wallingford.
I loved every page of the manuscript because
on every page was something I knew to be
true. And 1 even descended to the sentimen
tality of dreams. "Mary Clay" would not
only advertise it, but the great critics must
understand it and some day I might even
claim it as my own.
, Ah, but I was inexperienced! I believed
that the first publisher who saw it must 'take it.
He must recognize that here was a study of
a present condition of our civilization, a
pound of real living flesh cut from the social
After all my experience of men, after all my
experience of the world, I still had that rag of
superstition that publishers and juries are
different from other people, and I, believing
myself intelligent, expected understanding.
But publishers are only Oh, Unenlightened
Ones! a collection of business men whose
constant effort it is to supply the public with
what they know they want. To look at a new
thing and choose it, guessing that the public
I Add to My Income 243
will want it, is the part of the psychologist, the
genius, or the bankrupt.
I sent my story to a publisher who kept it
seven weeks. Then I wrote a note and asked
about it. He returned it. The enclosed let
ter said that it was original and clever, but
there was not enough story. Mrs. Walling-
ford neither married nor died, and she was
hardly sufficiently young to make a heroine.
If I could introduce a sweet young girl as a
contrast, make the young girl the heroine and
show her against the shadowed background of
Mrs. Wallingford, I might have a story.
The next publisher said that it was "clever."
(They all know that useful word.) But it was
not moral. The better class of American
people would not stand a book in which im
morality was not used as a lesson. They could
see no lesson in the story of Mrs. Wallingford.
She did not suffer. She pointed no moral.
Then it was that I discovered that to the
average human being and a publisher who
has not at least half his brain in sympathy
with the average could not make a living
physical well-being and a fair place in society is
success. That a fine nature goes astray through
circumstances and loses its fineness is no tra-
244 fbe Highroad
gedy to the public so long as the body is
clothed and fed and of fairly good repute.
This publisher said that he thought the story
would work harm. It might have a sort of
success but it could not be permanent.
I was growing meek now, and I studied the
publishers. There was then a new publishing
house made up of young men, one of whom
had a reputation as a critic. They had pub
lished a number of commonplace books, but
one of late whose vulgarity was startling. It
was so bad in every way that the critics had
hardly touched it, but it was selling because
the author did not know it was vulgar, and
consequently gave his readers no clue. They
read as ingenuously as he wrote. Here,
thought I, is a publisher who cannot say that
this book is immoral. At least he cannot
object to it upon that account. And this critic
who is in the firm, this man who knows, surely
he can see what Mrs. Wallingford means. He
can see that she is no more immoral than life
itself, because she is actually true to life.
That she is a reality is a pity, and that she is
to be pitied. That she does not suffer that
she has no tears for herself is the core of the
tragedy. Surely he can see.
I Add to My Income 245
He did. He wrote me that they would
accept the book, but that my "frank treatment
of the relation between the sexes would cut my
book off from a market that it would reach if
more heed were paid to the American point of
view." And they must ask me to omit those
passages that would thus give offense. I was
impatient for publication now, and I agreed.
They returned the manuscript with the objec
tionable passages marked. I am wondering
still what principle the editor used in making
his corrections. Then and there I saw how
absurd a task he had given himself and I saw
how many a promising book becomes inco
herent. Suppose an art critic, a good one,
were to object to a picture, say one of Ru
bens' or Sargent's, because it had lines of bru
tality. What would the world say if the critic
undertook to paint out the objectionable lines
and shadows? And yet this same thing is
done in publishing houses every day.
I smoothed over the rough places, and let
the manuscript go back to them. The book
was accepted and was to be brought out in a
month. The only reason a contract had not
been signed was because I was wondering how
I was to sign it. And then one day I had a
246 The Highroad
humble letter from the firm asking me to allow
them to return the manuscript. They had de
cided after all that it was not the sort of book
My curiosity simply my insatiable curiosity
to understand motives caused me to risk a visit
to that publishing house. I presented myself
as the friend of the author, not giving my
name, and asked for an explanation. I discov
ered that the business man of the firm had
finally read the book and declined it. The
critic, whom I saw, paid the tale compliments,
and every compliment he paid it damned it in
my own eyes. He thought it a remarkable
book. But he gently told me that it was too
much like life. In it I was being natural
real and the world no more wants the naked
truth than it wants uncooked food. The busi
ness man was a citizen of the world as he found
it, he hinted.
I saw life like that, too, I remembered, ex
cept for a curious blunder now and then. This
had been one of my blunders. I took the
manuscript home and reread it, and I laughed
aloud. 1 reminded myself of that ridiculous
creature who thinks she can do anything by
intuition. Judge Grant has since shown her
I Add to My Income 247
in Selma White. My theme was good enough,
and it was true, but the trouble was that I had
not had the technical ability to do an original
thing and do it well. How many people have?
How many novels, readable novels, do you
know that are not built on conventional lines?
The unconventional ones are generally so
badly made that they fall to pieces. And
after all, isn't conventionality morality? Most
people are unable to distinguish between them.
As Robert Louis Stevenson reminded us, "Man
lives not by bread alone, but mostly by catch
I took the manuscript over which I had
dreamed, into which I had put what I knew of
life, and laid it away. I had put what I knew
of life into it of a certainty, but I had put it in
so that it was unable to express itself to others.
And with experience, I set about producing
a book which the public would want which a
publisher, a piece of the public, would want.
Mr. Stanley Weyman had discovered Sully's
Memoirs not long before this and was making
historical novels fashionable. Mr. Anthony
Hope had a moment's inspiration and put a
modern Englishman into a setting of romance.
I did not wish to be too obvious, and yet I had
248 The Highroad
learned to build my next house by an approved
plan. If I had not the skill to be original, I
must find a type to imitate. And then an
idea came to me. Suppose I were to take a
well-known writer's style, even some of his
well-known stock incidents (they all have
them) and make an anonymous story which
would seem to be too intimate a revelation of
a woman's heart (it must be a woman, people
have no sympathy with a man with a "heart"
unless he be a poet) to allow her to sign her
name to it. I could probably gather about my
"heart experience" all of the author's readers,
and some others. The anonymity, with my
newspaper advertising, my scientific probing of
the authorship, would attract attention. I
spent days hunting for a writer who might have
a "heart experience," and at last I discovered
her. It was a painful, intimate story, but one
which was known to many, one upon which
she had always kept a dignified silence. I
bought every one of her books and studied
them carefully and then I blocked out my tale
her tale and wrote it in a high key. It was
eminently respectable, and yet there was a
suggestion all through it that the conventions
might be broken. Sometimes when I finished
I Add to My Income 249
a page that raved like a respectable Zaza, I
almost felt as though I meant it, as though
those sad, sad experiences had been mine.
Some astute critics have questioned since if the
story was real. Here and there they have
caught a gleam of humorous exaggeration; but
never the buying public.
The story was accepted at once by one of the
great magazines which was seeking some way
to keep even with the more vulgar journals, and
coming under such auspices the art was ac
cepted as good art. I saw to it that public
curiosity was whetted by full pages in the Sun
day papers, and the author's sorrows were
presently discussed by the ladies' reading club
in Fowlersburg. Many things, however, hap
pened before that came to pass.
250 I'he Highroad
W 'e See Something of New York Society
I had sublet my little apartment, and I had
allowed my acquaintance with Mrs. Wallingford
to become more and more formal, although Rob
ert kept it up, I felt sure. I am also sure she
never missed me and hardly had an idea that
I had dropped her, although she had enjoyed
my society. Her hold on women friends was
lax and indolent. I had reason to believe that
Robert saw her frequently.
Through Mrs. Dodds and other introduc
tions, we began to go out more and more. My
first move after I was settled in New York had
been to unite myself with Mr. Bliss' church,
and to take Genevieve there with me when I
could. Mr. Bliss was excessively proud of our
old friendship, and spoke of me often to the
members of his fashionable congregation. I was
always at his church on Sunday mornings, listen
ing with an approving intelligence to ideas which
I often recognized. Sometimes they were my
own; but oftener they were Stendhal's or
Something 0/*New York Society 251
Kenan's or Tourguenieff's, first made into a ra
gout by me, and rechaufft by Mr. Bliss.
Itwas very seldom that I could take Genevieve
with me. I could influence her in no ways except
the most primitive. She was headstrong and
unreasonable to the point of maliciousness, it
would seem, but rather, it was to the point of
ignorance. A cigarette, a French novel of the
most abominable type were her Sunday morn
ing relaxations. Sometimes I comforted my
self with the reflection that she felt the
antagonism for me which I felt for her, and
that with the folly of youth and ignorance she
was flaunting her worst self before me, out of
a silly desire to hurt and annoy me. Surely
she had not behaved like this with Mrs. Dodds.
When I saw that the friendship between them,
while not intense, was not broken, I knew that
at least Genevieve knew how not to be entirely
impossible. I discovered, too, that Mrs.
Dodds had been wonderfully impressed, as are
all Americans, by our titled friends, and
probably Genevieve owed some toleration to
that. Is it not quaint that the world, literally
the whole world will call a man by a certain
name and then grow cold with awe before him
because he is known by it? "Duke," "Lord,"
252 The Highroad
"Prince" what are they, anyway? Simply a
gift from the tongues of the people.
It is a part of human nature to make a god
of some sort and worship it. If a people has
nothing better it will take the mud from under
its feet and fashion it into something to bow
before. But all the time, underneath, we all
know that when we get ready to cry out alto
gether that the fetich is merely clay, the
godship will disappear. Who cares now for
the thunders of mighty Jupiter? One can blas
pheme only the God that is behind the high
altar of to-day. You may spit upon yester
day's god unrebuked.
Lucile had been gracious enough, but not
too ready, to her sister's new acquaintance,
and Mrs. Dodds had been impressed.
I discovered that there were just now two
women whom it was necessary to know, to
bring to my house, before I was firmly estab
lished in New York society.
One, Mrs. Etten, was a woman of enormous
wealth who had climbed up to her present
place over old prejudices and who was insolent
with the power that had come to her. She was
vulgar in her appearance, with a short un
graceful body and an animal-like nose. Her
Something of New York^ Society 253
hair was dyed a shade of dark red to hide the
gray that had begun to appear in it, and she
The other woman was the sister of William
B. Clancy, married to a man her equal in
wealth and with children who had married into
the old and influential families in Boston and
Philadelphia as well as New York, and one
daughter still with her. Mrs. Thomas was a
woman not unlike the late Queen Victoria,
not very clever, obstinate, sure of herself,
vain, and conventional. She was, I plainly
saw, invincible because invulnerable. She
utterly ignored us seemingly never seeing us.
Genevieve was of a type which she had plainly
shown many times was distasteful to her. And
although I was the last person to blame her for
that, it made my task infinitely harder.
Mrs. Etten was easy to approach, because
she had in her daily existence what she
believed to be a secret. She was something
like Lady Flora Hastings, with a difference of
less breeding. Feeling insecure (it was that
psychologist of forty-two years before the birth
of Christ, Publius Syrus, who wrote down: "A
guilty conscience never feels secure"), she
was ready to give way anywhere.
254 be Highroad
Character is destiny, and it did not require
a seer to see that Mrs. Etten was not solid in
her place. I had, by chance, the opportunity
to precipitate the scandal which came upon her
a few years later, but I did not take it. Why
should I ? I have no time to waste upon idle
spite, no time to cease rolling my stone up hill
to cast down another. She was to me already
off the board and one for whose favor I cared
not at all.
With Mr. Clancy's sister it was different. I
must have her acquaintance at least.
To be seen at her house was to have a sort
of cachet of social respectability. I never was
quite able to discover why she, in all New
York, had this dignity, but so long as every
one agreed that it was hers, it was. Notwith
standing she knew all about Lucile's position
in London, we were not asked to her house at
once. And as the winter went on I began to
fear that we were, through Genevieve's folly at
Newport, I felt sure, to rest just on the edge of
what is known as real New York society.
That was a situation which I felt that I could
Studio receptions were just becoming fash
ionable, and there was talk of "American art."
Something o/*New York Society 255
American art just then consisted in taking up
some portrait painter who was socially eligible
and having him make pretty presentments of
ladies in evening dress. The sitters generally
selected the gowns and poses, and patronized
the artists. It has always been so. Romney
and Sir Joshua Reynolds went through the
same experience. In the studio of Romney all
the sitters insisted on looking like Emma, and
Sir Joshua plaintively complained that after he
painted Nellie Farren all the duchesses desired
to be portrayed with roguish eyes.
I had an idea. I wrote to the young artist
in Paris who had painted my mother's portrait
from that old crayon, and told him that I
thought there was a field for him in New York.
I might be mistaken, but I thought that here
was something I could add to my forces.
He came, and painted Genevieve, and he did
for her exactly what he had done for my
mother's picture. He idealized her. He
kept, in some intangible way, that physical
force which was her only possession, but he
seemed by some necromancy (the beautiful
necromancy of his art!) to make it into a
classic thing. The Helens, the Cleopatras,
not of reality, but of tradition, might have had
256 The Highroad
an allure such as this. He painted Mrs.
Dodds, and me. I let him have his way with
my portrait, because I was curious to see what
he would do with it. He painted me in a plain
white satin gown, sitting on a marble seat,
something like those in the garden atVerriere.
That portrait has never had a frame, and it
reposes in swathings in the house here in West
Virginia. I think it is the woman who sits
there on that bench who incited this narrative.
No one has seen it except the artist and my
self. And yet it represents a much more
beautiful and intelligent woman than I ever
After it was finished, I asked for it, and sug
gested that the artist do something for exhibi
tion. Tears came into his eyes. "It is the great
est thing I shall ever do," he said. "And it will
delight me if posterity says so." I returned:
"But I want something for New York. Do
not mistake New York of to-day for the voice
I appeared on a canvas at his exhibition in a
violet velvet gown, and the portrait was chiefly
gown, a sublimated still-life.
One of the old magazines reproduced the
portraits with an article upon the talented
Something of New York Society 257
artist. The editor of the magazine was of the
class which was just then scorning "The
American Beauty" department of the cheap
magazine, and loudly deploring the "vitiating
of taste," the "lowering of the standards" of
the public, as exhibited by its popularity.
But as no magazine was ever published for
any other purpose than to produce a revenue,
the "popular" methods were grasped at, and
the editor waS glad of an excuse to reproduce
the portraits of "society" under the pretence
of art. My artist was really so clever that the
women who wished to appear at their best em
ployed him, and my portrait appeared facing
that of Mrs. Thomas.
Another one of my advantages came in my
Americans, generally, have never cared much
about dinner giving for two reasons: a dinner is
almost as expensive as a dancing party, and at
that time very few of even the wealthiest
people had servants who were able to carry a
dinner to a triumphant conclusion. It has
been within a comparatively short time that
the brisk short menu has taken the place of
that old, strained, elaborate dinner which no
body but Mr. Ward McAllister ever enjoyed.
258 The Highroad
Certainly not a hostess who sat in fear and
trembling of what the next course might bring
The second reason for not enjoying a dinner
was that they didn't know what to talk
about. For all our present-day smartness,
American society is not so very far from the
Christmas and Thanksgiving turkey feasts
where husbands went out with their wives.
And neither is England! Old people in Eng
land have told me of the dinners at Windsor
Castle in the Queen's youth that were as bour
geois as anything social New York was show
ing. The Queen, in those days, used to sit at
a table after dinner and play solitaire, and it
was considered sufficient entertainment to her
guests to see her do it.
It was no wonder that Mr. McAllister be
came a sort of social mentor in New York.
He came from a part of the country where
gaiety at least was considered well bred, and
they had been entertaining in some fashion
ever since they had four walls.
In France and in England I had learned to
dine and so had Genevieve. She had the
technique of the game. The things she said
might be a trifle impertinent, but she talked,
Something of New York Society 259
and she did not devote herself to the man who
took her out. And I knew, thanks to Prol-
mann, how to give a dinner. I never learned
how not to, for I had gone from Fowlersburg
to Prolmann. It was I who first threw aside
the half-dozen silly wines, and clung to cham
pagne after the soup, and it was I who banished
pastry trash. When I came, chicken salad was
still a dinner dish in New York. And it was at
my house in Gramercy Park that an opera singer
first sang after one of my dinners, and after
another two distinguished French actors gave
a little dialogue. The opera singer I had
known a long time. He had been a guest on
Prolmann' s yacht one year. The French ac
tors had met a ba dseason in America and were
willing to advertise themselves. It is impos
sible to get even "coon" songs on those terms
now, but that sort of entertaining was new
then and it created a sensation which my
newspaper made much of. I was supposed to
have paid all of these artists incredible sums.
How I should have loved to have done so!
Mean economies never appealed to me. It
has always been my wish to pay more for a
thing than it is worth, because I despise an
160 The Highroad
I acquired a reputation for having an in
comparable chef whom I had brought from
abroad (such was the rarity of delicious,
hot, appetizing courses quickly following each
other), and for an atmosphere of smartness.
The last came from the fact that my son, my
daughter and myself knew what sort of con
versation to serve with the food. And it became
a house to which men, business men, did not
have to be dragged in chains, because they
were well fed and amused.
There was one mistake I almost made about
this time. I had thought that I might bring into
New York the English and French fashion of
entertaining celebrities, literary, political or
scientific. Fortunately, before I had the op
portunity to meet them I learned what a mistake
it would have been. To belong to the
"Literary Set" in New York is to be hopeless
to be forever cut off even from Mrs. Thomas'
largest balls. And, anyway, even in Eng
land and France, literature is indulged in sel
dom. Most writers are impossible. Their
energies have gone into another channel than
that of what I might call bodily expres
sion. They do not know how to dress, they
are seldom pretty to look at, and I have met
Something of New York Society 261
very few who have any idea of conversation.
They despise "society" because it makes them
uncomfortable. It doesn't seem worth while
to them; they have no key to its meanings.
For life and literature are reality and arti
ficiality. Art to be art must be a symbol. But
that is something it takes experience to dis
Bit by bit I crept into the eye of the world.
There was never a moment when I could have
been said to "push." I suppose when a
mushroom pushes up a paving stone, the slab
considers that it lifted itself out of politeness
to a thing so tender and helpless.
I saw as little of Genevieve as she could
arrange, but one day she came to me of her
own accord. It was almost the first time she
had done such a thing since she had left the
convent since her intimacy with Lili.
"Do you know that Bob is being talked
about with Mrs. Wallingford ?" she asked
"I am sure you are mistaken," I answered
gently. "How absurd a story! Mrs. Walling
ford is old enough to be Robert's mother."
"Baby-snatching is not unknown even in
New York. They say she is infatuated with
262 'The Highroad
him and is throwing off even Clancy on his
account, that she intends to marry Bob."
"I shall believe no such ridiculous tale."
And I took up my book again.
"Cela rriest tgal!" Genevieve said, and then
she turned to me swiftly, "I suppose the young
fool knows that he hasn't a penny?"
"That is a fact you must all know," I said,
and we looked at each other squarely in the
face for a fraction of a second, curtains up.
Then I went on. "Of course what I have is
yours, and in time will be valuable. But Mr.
Less, who was one of our executors, tells me
that it may be many many years before our
coal lands will be valuable."
"I thought it was tobacco," the girl sneered.
"It used to be tobacco."
"It was always coal," I said patiently.
After Christmas my boy came to me and told
me that he did not care to go back to college.
He said he wanted to go into business.
"But where? How?" I asked.
"I do not know. But college here seems
young after Europe. I do not feel like a boy,
and many of the studies there seem absurd to
me. I have already read, for my own enter
tainment, many of the books they study, and I
Something o/'New York Society 263
have read a good many of the books our lec
tures are made out of. I am making good
friends and all that sort of thing but I am not
preparing for the life I want and we cannot
This was the time to ask if he wanted to take
up new responsibilities, but I did not. Some
how I understood Robert. He soothed my
nerves as no other child of mine ever did. In
some vague way I felt that he was to be trusted
with his own destiny. And I trusted my own
instincts. Given certain premises, certain
results are bound to follow. This is no hap
I did not mention the story Genevieve had
told me to him, but she did. He met it with a
laugh, and a "Who knows? Mrs. Wallingford
is a charming woman, but she wouldn't look at
a chap like me."
"If she did," said my daughter, "you would
both starve to death. You couldn't very well
p live on a fire-escape even if it were twined with
One morning soon after, I heard Gene
vieve say that she had received a message from
Mrs. Dodds and was going to join her for a
restaurant dinner. She drove away in the han-
264 The Highroad
som she had sent for, looking very sophisti
cated and like a fashion-plate in her black cloth
gown with an enormous bunch of violets pinned
to the plain corsage. It went through my
mind idly that the violets must have come
from somewhere, because it was quite outside
of character for Genevieve to buy flowers.
Heredity is a curious thing. Genevieve was
masterful in many ways, but she had some
small, mean economies, and she was intensely
practical. She saw no reason for having a
fresh napkin at every meal, nor a fresh towel
at every bath. Nor was it possible for me to
insist upon a bath for her every morning.
They had not demanded that at her convent,
and there was no inherent daintiness in her
that required it. But Genevieve was in the
back of my mind now.
Robert and I sat down to dinner alone, and
I let him talk on in his gentle well-bred way
of the new pictures at Durand-Ruel's, of the
dozens of light scraps of nonsense which he
heard, heaven knows how, for he went out
very little and belonged to no clubs. He had
devoted himself almost exclusively to Mrs.
We took our coffee cups and went into the
Something of New York Society 265
library and I enjoyed the pleasure of look
ing at the light falling on his handsome blonde
head with its good contour, its carriage of assur
ance. I was at work on the story of Mrs.
Wallingford then, and I wanted to talk to him
about it but that 1 did not dare.
Suddenly he stopped stirring his coffee and
put it down untasted.
"How about Genevieve and Babcock?" he
asked abruptly. "Does he truly want to
"I do not know," I said. "It may be; it
doubtless is one of those affairs in which a man
will do anything to gain a woman, but if he
fails he will pretend to himself that he never
was truly in earnest. He isn't a continental.
He is very much American New Yorker. He
will never tell me he wants to marry Genevieve
until he has told her and it is all arranged. I
do not believe either that Babcock cares to be
"Where is Genevieve?"
"With Mrs. Dodds."
"Do you mind telephoning up there and dis
covering if she is?"
I sat up straight in my chair. "What do
266 'The Highroad
"I mean that I saw Ward in town this after
noon, and he avoided me."
"Why should he?"
"That's it, why should he?"
"Robert," I said, "you do not mean to in
sinuate that Genevieve and Chester Ward
would meet anywhere? Why should they?
Chester can come here."
"He may not care to."
Robert shrugged his shoulders. "I am sure
I do not know. But I imagine that a man and
woman like Genevieve and Ward would be
"What do you mean?"
"I hardly know what I mean, but when he is
here you plainly show that you do not care to
leave those two together, and it seems to me
that they like to be together."
"Why shouldn't they say so? I should
rather that they married each other I suppose
it will come to that than to meet like this."
"I am not at all sure that they want to marry
each other. Does Genevieve seem to you the
sort of girl to whom marriage, particularly mar
riage to a man like Ward, would appeal? Can
you imagine Genevieve living in a Washington
Something tf/'New York Society 267
third-class hotel with two or three children, or
down in West Virginia?"
"But Chester is getting along in the world"
I stopped. What was the use of arguing with
Robert concerning his sister. I went to the
telephone and asked to speak with Mrs.
Dodds. She had gone to Lakewood that
morning, one of her servants replied.
I hesitated at the telephone, wondering
whether or not to tell Robert. Could it do
any good to ruin all his faith in his sister?
Would he be clever enough to stick to her even
though he knew that she was what? A liar
When I came back into the library Rob
ert was walking up and down, his hands in his
pockets. The expanse of white in his even
ing dress was very becoming to him.
"My dear," I said, "I fear that you are in a
"You are generalizing going too readily
from the special example you happen to
"Was she with Mrs. Dodds?"
"Certainly," I answered.
"I beg her pardon," he said.
268 'The Highroad
I debated also whether or not I should tell
Genevieve what I knew. I hated the thought
of it. But here was something we could not
run away from. As a matter of fact running
away is always useless. A character cannot
be run away from. We carry the weaknesses
which make new failings along with us.
Genevieve came in after eleven o'clock, and
I followed her into her bed-room. I knew
that anywhere else she would leave me. I
opened the conversation at once. She was a
little flushed, her violets faded and sagging
from her corsage, shadows under her eyes. I
wonder how many mothers have faced that
aspect in a daughter.
"I allowed Robert to believe that. you were
with Mrs. Dodds, " I said. She started and
then she laughed.
"That was good of you if it made any sort
"If you want to see Chester Ward, why do
you not see him here?"
She sat down, crossed her knees, scratched a
match on the sole of her shoe and lighted a
"Because I wanted to dine out with him,
without discussion, I suppose."
Something 0/~New York Society 269
"And why do you suppose "
"Oh, pshaw, what's the use! Chester and I
suit each other. You do not want him here;
you show it plainly. He isn't the sort you
want around." 1 could feel myself growing
"Do you want to marry him?"
"Ah that's a different thing. I am not sure
that I care to marry anybody."
"But" I spoke as reasonably and calmly as
I could "it is necessary that you should
marry. It is not a pleasant thing to call your
attention to that necessity, but then marriage
is the natural, the happiest destiny for a
Genevieve looked at me oddly through the
smoke that wreathed her face.
"Do not believe it. Not one woman in a
million wants to be married wants a husband.
She marries for freedom and I fancy you
have heard the other theories on the subject."
She leaned down and unfastened her shoes,
kicking them off, and showing her well-shaped
foot in its open-work stocking.
"Genevieve," I said gravely, "we are poor,
and it is necessary for us to understand each
other. I cannot let you make a wreck of vour
ijo 'The Highroad
life. If you do not care for a conventional life
let us give up trying. If you want to marry
Chester Ward if it is your ambition to spend
the rest of your life in boarding-houses with
him, marry him and be done with it. I shall
send for him to-morrow and tell him so."
To my amazement, Genevieve sprang up,
her face scarlet. "That you shall not do. I
will not be flung at any man's head. We are
not in France."
'Oh, then," I said, "he has not done you
the honor to ask you to marry him? It is for
that reason he does not come here. I think
there is all the more reason for my seeing
"I tell you, if you speak to Chester Ward
about me I shall leave this house, and you
will be sorry the last day you live."
"You have given me reason for being that
already," I said. I am sure I was not wise.
There must have been a way to approach my
child. But I did not know it. I was astounded
at the turn affairs had taken, and running
through my mind was a wonder at Chester.
Genevieve became a poorer thing than I had
thought her, when he did not want to marry
Something 0/"New York Society 271
I wrote to Chester the next day; I asked him
over to dinner. He came, and watching them,
I could but believe that these two felt a strong
attraction for one another. Genevieve was un
like herself. I could see that she wanted to
keep me away from him. And continually
between them were those glances, those move
ments which betray the closest intimacy.
It was with dismay that I realized our situa
tion. What possibility had I of extricating
ourselves? There is no combination of circum
stances which can ruin a human being unless
they have their inception in his own person
ality. Genevieve was, practically speaking,
my own personality. It was for her I worked.
Her success was mine; her failure and dis
grace were my failure and disgrace. I suppose
I hated her as a drunkard hates his uncontrol
lable vice. And yet I must save her.
272 'The Highroad
/ Make a Discovery
Chester's attitude toward Genevieve puzzled
me. I know that there are some men who
have so little respect for themselves that when
a woman begins to admire or love one of them,
he immediately despises her, considers her of
poor taste and judgment for setting up in her
heart what he knows to be so poor a thing.
But after seeing Genevieve and Chester to
gether I could not believe that this was true of
him. There was something else. Chester
seemed to be fond of Genevieve, to have an
affection, a friendship for her. There is a
reason for every departure from the normal,
the usual. A brook does not alter its current
unless there is an obstruction in the way. If
one could only know, how often we should
change our feelings toward some sinner! A
little sin away back in the beginning may change
the current of a life.
There was, too, something apologetic in
Chester's attitude toward me. And Genevieve
loved him I could see that she did. Whatever
I Make a Discovery 273
her flippancy of speech might be, I saw that
here, if ever, was the solvent for her hard
nature; because it is the truth that our own
feelings, our own emotions are what, save us or
undo us. The inspirers of our moods have
little to do with it. Hate is as corrosive to the
spirit when the object is bad as when it is good.
Love true affection when by chance it is
found, expands even such a nature as Gene-
I felt sure, too, that Genevieve had not told
Chester of my discovery. Her reluctance to
do so, the difficulty she must have found in
doing so, was the first womanly trait I had
ever seen in her.
But, how long would it last even though the
obstacle could be removed? And what was
that which made them hide their affection
instead of flaunting it? Genevieve was surely
not so worldly wise.
Naturally, in this crisis (and it was a crisis
I had spent money which I could not afford; I
was handicapping us for all time) I thought of
the newspaper as a weapon. I had something
to work upon in Genevieve's affection for
Chester. It was necessary to kill that if I
could. It was a luxury we could not afford.
274 Tbe Highroad
I sighed sometimes with sorrow for her, and
sometimes with relief that she had had it.
Kill it once, and the barren soil of her heart
would never grow love again. Love was, I
reasoned, with a woman like her, but a short
lived thing at best, and it would die, as it dies
in many a woman after her life is ruined.
This is the wrong view to take, of course, but it
is so full of reason that at least one great
philosopher reduced it to rule and formula.
People who read novels are seldom acquainted
with the writings of Schopenhauer, but I think
some of the great novelists must have had great
respect for his theories. Reason is so seldom
My first idea was very crude. I would write
a newspaper article about Chester, connecting
his name with that of another woman. Gene-
vieve was of the cheap temperament that is
easily inflamed and would be full of jealousy.
And then, rejecting that, I saw presently
what to do. I wrote a letter to one of the
newspapers and told them that Chester Ward
of Washington, "a club and society man,"
the nephew and cousin of various distinguished
Virginians, was secretly meeting a well-known
Washington woman of international reputation.
I Make a Discovery 275
There was "a story in it," which I was pre
pared to write, if their clever young men in
Washington would substantiate my "tip." I
signed this "Mary Clay," and as I had given
them so much "good stuff," they were very
glad to do this. They were to watch his apart
ments, bribe servants, find out the last detail
of his life by any means.
For ten days I heard nothing. I concluded
that I had been mistaken, that there was noth
ing tangible to discover. And then the story
Since then I have ceased to be astonished.
I have discovered that you may take almost
any human being and after you have watched
him for days you will find something eccentric
enough to make anewspaper story by judicious
patching here and there.
Here was poor foolish Chester's wrecked
life spread out before me.
According to the newspaper's lurid-seeing
young men in Washington, Chester was keep
ing a gambling-house. As a matter of fact,
young men met at his rooms for very high
play, and cases of wine were sent there for
And Chester had married a chorus girl from
2j6 'The Highroad
comic opera circles during his first year in
Washington, and when she was "off the road,"
she sometimes assisted in receiving the guests.
No wonder he could not marry Genevieve!
Nobody knew that the girl was his wife. The
paper's young men discovered that.
When I took those facts and made them in
a page shocker for a sensational Sunday paper,
I trembled as with a chill. My pen would
hardly travel across the sheet of white paper.
When Robert was a baby, he looked at the
primer words they were trying to teach him,
and said, "Writing is just pictures of the words
we say." The writing I put into that story
seemed alive, seemed to look up at me with
suggestions of horror.
I thought of Mrs. Ward, and of her sweet
ness and kindness. She would never say an
unkind word of any one, not even a dissi
pated son of royalty. As I wrote a picture came
before me of a summer night in Fowlersburg
last year. I sat in the unlighted window in
Chester's bed-room the evening after he had
left, and his mother lay on the narrow white
bed where he had slept through all his boy
hood. The moon was full, flooding the quiet
street outside, and the yellow honeysuckle that
I Make a Discovery
covered the porches filled the air with a senti
mental, old-fashioned sweetness. A half dozen
negro boys came by and stopped at the street
corner to sing, as they are wont to do in the
southern towns. Their plaintive boyish voices
went through the lament of "Massy's in th'
col', col' groun'." When they went away I
found Mrs. Ward weeping as one weeps with a
"I am very much alone" sne said, her usually
cheerful voice broken. "I have only Chester,
but he is so good. It is compensation for
loneliness; it keeps me happy to think of the
full happy life he is having. Some women
have sorrow with their boys."
Could I do it? I said to myself that I could
not even as my hand went across the paper,
making shameful a story of weakness.
At heart I am a sentimentalist, but I did not
dare sacrifice my child to save hers. Why
There was this one chance of saving mine
from a present peril, but all my hopes seemed
tumbling about me even as I wrote. What can
one do with stupidity?
27 8 'The Highroad
A Business Interview
I was terrified, and yet there was something,
some sense of tranquillity, deep below my sur
face disturbance which told me that the day
was not lost. What is that sustaining force
which holds some of us fast to a course of con
duct even when it seems hopeless? Is it our
reliance upon the universal plan? It is we to
whom the day finally turns always People
say "a fool for luck." Have you ever seen a
lucky fool? I never have.
Sunday morning brought the story of Ches
ter's marriage in naked type, with his picture
and that of his wife in the center of the page
surrounded by the emblems of chance. The
hideousness of it nauseated me. I hid the
paper away at first, and then I allowed it to
be carried up to Genevieve with the rest of
her Sunday morning literature. What it meant
to her I shall never know. She came down
stairs dressed for the street and went out, only
coming in to dress and go to a dinner. There is
a wall between my child and me which can
A Business Interview 279
never be pierced; I have no insight into a na
ture such as hers. I cannot think her thoughts.
Sometimes when I have been in the midst of
despising a personality, a wave of humility
has swept over me, and I wonder. I try to
have a clear vision, to be honest, to see the
real. But I must see through my eyes with my
brain and nerves. I have so often verified my
judgment of people that I have grown to
accept it. Like everybody else I admire my
own point of view my own opinions. There
is no mind which deserves the name which
does not; for if we did not like our own opin
ions we should change them and get another
set. But after all, understanding is much a
thing of tranquil nerves. There is some aura,
some vibration, some electrical force, perhaps,
from one person we each know, which dis
turbs us. When that comes it dazzles our vi
sion, and we love or hate for the same reason
that we love or hate at any time; for that we
are supremely comfortable or supremely un
comfortable. Some unfortunates cannot dis
tinguish the difference between the two states.
My daughter Genevieve made me supremely
uncomfortable. I could not penetrate her
mind because I was turned back at its very
280 'The Highroad
portals. She was all outside to me. I pene
trated her nature as I might have peeled an
onion, finding always an outer skin.
The next day found me undecided I
seemed waiting. I looked at Robert and won
dered if he, too, was to disappoint me. Sup
pose my judgment of him were wrong and he
was after all only a young man whose fancy
was taken by an older woman? Suppose all my
plans should come to the cheap end of my son
being the husband of a woman like Mrs. Wal-
lingford. And my daughter I shuddered to
think of my daughter's possibilities.
For two days she was hardly in the house.
Whether or not she saw Chester Ward in that
interval I never knew.
On Wednesday morning she came to me.
There was a hard look in her eyes and around
the corners of her mouth, and she was deadly
"I want to go to Europe leave here," she
said. She seated herself on a small chair by
my desk, and made her request as one might
ask possibilities of a lawyer.
"My dear," I began. She brought her
tight fist in its walking glove down upon the
corner of my desk with force.
A Business Interview 281
"Don't 'my dear' me!" she said furiously.
"You hold the family money. I want enough
to take me to Paris."
"And what will you do there?"
She looked at me for a moment with some
thing like malice trying to break through the
tragedy in her face. "Enjoy myself," she said
"Genevieve," I said, "as soon as I can I
will dispose of this house and we shall go.
But there is no money to-day."
"You can always get whatever you want.
Get it," she said.
A few moments later I heard her go out. I
sat in my own room and my thoughts were not
An hour afterward Emelie came in with a
card. I read the neat unostentatious script as
though "Mr. William B. Clancy" called upon
me once a week. It was only at the drawing-
room door that fear came.
I found him sitting in the easiest chair in
the room, a pair of eyeglasses, which were on
a black ribbon around his neck, held in a hand
which was too dainty and long-fingered for a
man of his bulk. That imaginative hand was
a traitor which told secrets.
282 'The Highroad
When I entered, slipping in, he arose and
balanced himself so that his lameness was not
"I shall ask you to pardon my unannounced
visit," he said with ceremony, "I hope my
reasons for coming may be my excuse."
I shivered. Could it be possible his repu
tation for boldness was unparalleled that he
was going actually to speak of Mrs. Walling-
ford? Was he going to threaten? There are
some things that seem almost romantic as long
as they are covered in roses, but held up to
view, defined in words, they become ghastly,
miserable. I drew into a shell of reserve, I
shrunk, I was a timid little woman. I made
him no reply, but simply a little bow with what
Prolmann once called my "pathetic smile."
"You have, I understand, large tracts of
West Virginia coal land," he said abruptly,
"and a railroad concession leading to it."
I almost laughed in my relief. "I have a
large tract of land which I believe contains
"It is a well-founded belief. Do you wish
to sell it?"
"I do not."
"Good I" he said. "I had heard that you
A Business Interview 283
desired to hold it, and in any case I should
have advised you to do so. The property will
be very valuable when it is developed. A
syndicate, of which I am a member, is about to
open up that part of West Virginia, although
the project has not yet been made public. It
is for that reason that I have asked to speak to
you personally. I felt that we could rely upon
"You can," I said, and as I said it I realized
that this- man's agents had sifted my story
from beginning to end. And I exulted in it.
At any rate, here was one person who did not
believe me altogether a fool. Tears of self-
pity tried to find their way to my eyes, while I
despised myself that I was so feminine a thing.
"We wished to propose an arrangement by
which we could take over your property and
develop it upon a basis of profits. The coun
try is greatly depressed now, but this condition
cannot last. The pendulum goes so far in one
direction and then comes back again. When
the moment comes it will have an enormous
impetus, and it is rational to prepare for it."
"What do you propose?" I asked. To the
bottom of my consciousness I was disturbed.
Why? Why was this man going so far from
284 The Highroad
his usual methods? Nothing gives me such
impatience as a lack of understanding. When
I have read the fairy stories of people who had
three wishes, or even one wish, magically
gratified, it has always been a wonder to me
that nobody ever begged for perfect under
standing. Think what it would be to know!
Could it be that he was bribing me to take
Robert away putting me upon my honor?
It was to Robert that I had expected advances
to be made, and never anything like this.
I know that those who are instructed in life
by sentimental novels will say that naturally
Mr. Clancy would lose interest in Mrs. Wal-
lingford when she showed that she no longer
cared for him, that she was infatuated with a
boy which only goes to show how little histor
ical novelists know their history. It was Mrs.
Wallingford that he was fighting for, that he
was using his diplomacy, his power, to bring
back to himself, I felt sure.
He gave me a plan for the development of
the property. He would pay me a percentage
upon all the coal taken out, and would agree
to take out so many tons a year for a term of
fifty years. I hardly heard what he said. I
was waiting for what came at last.
A Business Interview 285
"I suppose you would like to have an agent
of your own upon the premises?"
"Yes," I said.
"Your son? Has he finished college?"
"If you will ask him to call upon me, I
should be -glad to talk the matter over with
him. The development of that property is a
great opportunity for a young man."
"Yes," I said.
I bowed to him in his formal departure, and
sat down with my head in my hands. I was
not ready to comprehend.
When Robert came in I sent for him at once.
I felt that the bargain was not concluded until
he had given his consent to go. I saw that he
held an evening paper in his hand, with a look
of gravity in his face, but after I had spoken
for a moment he put down the paper and rang
"Bring me a carafe of water and some
whiskey," he said to Emelie. I looked at
him astonished. He, who hardly touched a
glass of claret at dinner.
"It is not for me," he said when it came.
"It is for you. You have looked like death
286 The Highroad
But I pushed the stuff away with disgust. I
loathe the sight of it.
"Do you not think it would be well to go
down there and develop the property?" I
asked after I had told the story.
Robert poured out some whiskey and drank
it, and smiled at me.
"Genevieve wants to go to Europe," I
"I wonder," he said gaily, "if Clancy would
put me up at the Union Club."
"There is a long waiting-list there," I said
stupidly. I wondered if the boy were a fool,
"And, I wonder, my dear mother, if he will
not ask us to dinner."
"But it is a question of your going to West
Virginia. I will go down with you and" my
mind was working slowly "stay with Mrs.
Robert reached for the paper he had brought
"It would be too bad to bury oneself in West
Virginia when one may enjoy the advantages
of New York." He smiled at me. "I hear
that Mr. Van Nest is coming home."
"But," -1 tried to expostulate.
A Business Interview 287
Robert looked at me suddenly with a flash of
understanding in his face that I had seen there
"You think Clancy is giving you money.
Mother, that property is worth millions. It is
necessary to their plans. Father must have
been a prophet to see so far ahead. Let me
arrange the details of the working of the prop
erty. We shall all be millionaires, and I do
not believe you want to go to West Virginia.
Mrs. Ward killed herself yesterday on account
of that story about Chester."
And then, for the first time in my life, I lost
control of my senses and fainted dead away
288 The Highroad
The rest of the story is entirely commonplace.
We were really rich. No more lies, no more
mean ways. I took Genevieve abroad, and
Babcock followed and married her. It has
been as happy as most marriages. Robert
stayed behind and managed our affairs, and
married Mr. Clancy's niece, Mrs. Thomas'
daughter. A month later Mr. Van Nest mar
ried Mrs. Wallingford, with the result that one
of his daughters never spoke to him again, but
all the rest of society remembered that it had
always loved her. What comedy was played
before these things came about, only Robert
Jane, young, an heiress, brought up abroad,
with the best connections, naturally married
into the nobility. She needed none of my
Chester Ward divorced his wife, and, seem
ingly without the least difficulty, married a
western girl with great wealth. They were at
We Arrive 289
Kiel on their yacht this summer, enjoying the
usual Imperial attentions.
And as I sit here, there is just one thing
that my heart aches over. The money was
there all the time! Lucile might have married
Julien, and those little French children might
have played among the old marbles atVerriere.
There was where my faith and heart failed me,
and I can never forgive myself.
You may not be able to forgive me else
where. My road has not always been flower-
strewn, nor always free from mud. But I am
Some of you will put down this page with
expressions of disgust, and yet, you have fol
lowed me! The best proof that I am not alto
gether alien to you is the fact that we are here
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