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Full text of "Mere man"

T^ T V 

Edu)m 

Bateman 

Morris 



I I'i ,' '' '! 




THE LAST FADING BANNER OF THE DAY 



MERE MAN 

'By 
EDWIN BATEMAN MORRIS 



Author of "Blue Anchor Inn," 
"The Millionaire," etc. 



Illustrated by Ralph L. Boyer 



THE PENN PUBLISHING 

COMPANY PHILADELPHIA 

1914 



COPYRIGHT 
1914 BY 
THE PENN 
PUBLISHING 
COMPANY 




Merc Man 



Illustrations 



PAGE 



THE LAST FADING BANNER OF THE DAY . Frontispiece 
HE LOOKED OVER THE WALL ... 42 

" ARE You IN LOVE ? " 124 

SHE THOUGHT ONLY OF HIM . 202 



Mere Man 



Mere Man 



CHAPTER I 

MISS JANE HOWELL was conversing. 
It is a pity to begin a perfectly well- 
meaning story with a bit of tautology like that, 
but it is unavoidable. Miss Howell was always 
conversing. Talking, with her, was a condition, 
a state of mind, a physical function, like the 
beating of her heart or the circulation of her 
blood. As a conversationalist, she was thor- 
ough. Nothing was left to chance. She left 
no yearning listener hanging helpless over an 
abyss of doubt. 

If she mentioned casually that her father had 
once been postmaster in the little town of Judas 
Iscariot, Arizona, she did not leave that bare, 
barren fact to rest on the unsatisfied mind, for- 

9 



MERE MAN 

ever a thorn and a matter of uncertainty. Her 
frank nature led her to tell why he was the 
postmaster of that particular town, and what 
he said on the day of his appointment, and 
what his wife said and his brothers and his 
sisters and his aunts and his cousin in Pennsyl- 
vania. In the end the story she was telling 
was a complete work of reference, and if prop- 
erly edited and printed would have consisted 
of about two lines of text per page and the re- 
mainder of exhaustive foot-notes. The word 
exhaustive is used advisedly. 

Such conversation required concentration. 
The chime of plates at Mrs. Prouty's boarding- 
house, the manceuvers of the vegetable dishes 
marching and countermarching and crisscross- 
ing over the table, passed by nimble hands 
grown used to such legerdemain, disturbed 
Miss Howell not in the least. Her mind was 
on the seriousness of her task. She was ob- 
livious to such small things. 

" Tea or milk, Miss Howell ? " demanded 

Mrs. Prouty, wedging in the question at the 

10 



MERE MAN 

point of the former lady's remarks where there 
should have been a comma. 

" Coffee, please," Miss Howell replies, feeling 
herself addressed, not pausing an instant. Her 
story marches on. 

" And no one," she said, " supposed they 
would do it. People have talked about it, cer- 
tainly, just as they have talked about breaking 
windows and burning houses and pouring ink 
in the letter boxes. Though what I can't un- 
derstand is why the women don't get caught 
doing such daring things as they do in Eng- 
land. Some people say that is a proof of the 
superior intelligence of women over " 

" Now, Miss Howell," observed young Mr. 
Derry, " you are talking woman's suffrage, I 
know. Don't try to pretend you are not." 

The lady laughed in the helpless way she 
had when she felt she was being teased. But 
the gulf between earnestness and frivolity was 
one she could not leap across at so short notice. 

" Of course I'm talking woman's suffrage," 

she exclaimed, stoutly. " What else should I 

ii 



MERE MAN 

talk about to-day ? Why, a friend I met on 
the street said there were three thousand 
women outside the hall who couldn't get in. 
You know this was the final day of the Equal 
Suffrage Convention. Of course you read 
about it in the papers. And what happened 
this afternoon is going to revolutionize every- 
thing. The action of the militants in England 
doesn't compare with it in effectiveness. I 
really think the women have solved the ques- 
tion at last." 

" I'm all impatience," cried Mr. Derry. 
" What did they do ? Willy, urge the potatoes 
this way, please." 

"This friend of mine says who was there 
right in the hall" she began, by way of reply 
" that the principal speaker of the afternoon, 
this Mrs. now what is her name ? I thought 
I had it right on the tip of my tongue." She 
waved her hand up and down helplessly. 
"You know, the woman who helped in the 
shirt-waist strike. It seems to me her name 
began with B. Oh, pshaw 1 " 

12 



MERE MAN 

" Never mind the name," suggested Mrs. 
Prouty, wisely. " We are all waiting to hear 
your story." 

" I almost had it then. It is a short name." 

" Brown ? " suggested Mr. Derry, at random. 

" No." 

" Barker ? " offered some one. 

Miss Howell smiled. 

" Barker," she cried, elated at having run 
this fact to earth. " Now let me see. Where 
was I? Oh, yes. Well, this friend of mine 
said that Mrs. Barker made a very impressive 
speech. She is absolutely beautiful and wears 
the most expensive clothes, and, when she talks, 
every one goes wild. She had on a blue net 
dress over crepe de chine with real lace at the 
wrist and throat, and only one piece of jewelry, 
an amethyst pin set in diamonds. She is the 
one who advocates that all women in the 
country refuse to marry until the men grant 
them the ballot. She says that will bring 
them to terms quicker than anything else. 
And she proposes to tour the country from now 

13 



MERE MAN 

on getting as many women as possible to sign 
the pledge of celibacy refusing absolutely to 
marry any man." 

" Yes," said Mr. Derry, patiently, " and what 
happened this afternoon ? " 

"She started her crusade," cried Miss Howell, 
" and three hundred Washington women signed 
their names ! " 

Mr. Derry held his head in his hands. 

" What chance is there for me ? " he moaned. 

A girl entered the room and drew out the 
chair between the two speakers. 

"What's the matter?" she asked, adjusting 
the already faultless lace that hung below her 
throat. 

Miss Howell reached out her hand and laid it 
on the girl's arm. 

" I was telling them about the action of the 
convention this afternoon." 

The newcomer nodded. 

" You know about it ? " cried the other, 
eagerly. 

" Yes, I was there." 

14 



MERE MAN 

A gentleman across the table who was called 
the " Colonel " cleared his throat. 

" Miss Carver," he said, addressing the new- 
comer, " I have listened with great attention to 
Miss Howell's statement as to the action of the 
convention, and I want to ask you frankly, as a 
woman of reason, what you think of such a 
thing ? " 

"Am I a woman of reason?" asked the girl. 

" Of course you are," asserted the Colonel, 
warmly. 

" And of infinite beauty," observed Mr. Derry, 
industriously stirring his coffee. 

The girl gazed at the back of the young 
man's averted head. She laughed outright. 

" That frivolous young man," said the 
Colonel, " has unwittingly stumbled upon the 
very line of argument I wish to pursue. I 
maintain that those three hundred women who 
refused to marry until women are allowed to 
vote are three hundred women who could not 
get married if they wanted to. A handsome, 
bright young woman like you if you will 

15 



MERE MAN 

excuse an old man for saying so who could 
have her choice of any one in the whole 
United States, wouldn't have signed that 
paper." 

The color deepened on Miss Carver's face. 

" In a moment, Colonel," she said, " I am 
going to blush with confusion." 

" The Colonel is right," asserted Derry ; " it's 
just a lot of the old standbys who have been on 
hand for the past forty years that agreed not to 
get married. Of course they agreed. They 
had to. The idea had been wished on them 
years ago." 

Miss Carver bent over her plate and smiled. 

" I should like your frank and unbiased 
opinion, Miss Carver," pursued the Colonel. 
" I know you have said you favored woman's 
suffrage. But do you honestly think that any 
young, beautiful woman with a chance to get 
married would have signed that paper ? " 

" I'd like to hear your opinion on that too," 
exclaimed the young man beside her. 

" Come now," cried the Colonel. 
16 



MERE MAN 

Miss Carver looked up, and her eyes shone 
mischievously. 

" I'm embarrassed at having to say this," she 
observed, " but did you say I was ahem 
young and beautiful and probably marriage- 
able ? " 

" I most certainly did," asseverated the 
Colonel. 

" Well," she said, " I signed the paper." 



CHAPTER II 

IN the third floor rear room of Mrs. Prouty's 
boarding-house, which Deborah Carver oc- 
cupied but which Miss Howell, abiding theoret- 
ically in the room adjoining, used as an overflow 
for herself, her clothes and her conversation, the 
latter was making preparations to go out. If 
Deborah Carver had intended to go out on that 
mild September evening, she would simply 
have put on her hat, taken her gloves and de- 
parted. But not so Miss Howell. She had 
spent half an hour already trying the effect of 
several different waists upon herself, each change 
of scene requiring a complete removal and 
substitution of more of the beribboned and 
belaced strata that lay underneath. She was 
not really satisfied now, for the last shirt-waist 
showed the mark of the iron in an obscure 

place ; but there was no time to change again, 

18 



MERE MAN 

and seizing her white lisle gloves, she left the 
room. Deborah, reading in a big comfortable 
chair, smiled and wondered if she had really gone. 
She returned almost immediately, completely out 
of breath from running up the stairs, saying that 
she had forgotten to put on suitable evening 
shoes. And then, after she had returned once 
more, because both the gloves she had were for 
the right hand, and again for an umbrella, be- 
cause the paper had said there might be rain 
that night or the next day, she was finally 
gone. 

Deborah stretched out her arms lazily, and 
throwing her book on the bed walked to the 
window where she could look out over the vista 
of other people's back yards, commanded ap- 
parently by a myriad of other third floor back 
windows, where she knew lived workers in the 
hive like herself. But no face appeared any- 
where. The still, hot night had driven them 
all out to their separate diversions to the cool 
joy of the open street cars, or to the hot, but 
exciting interior of the stock company theatre, 

19 



MERE MAN 

or to the dance halls. It seemed as if she were 
the only human looking out upon that hollow 
square of houses. The air in her room was hot 
and still. With the falling of the dusk, the ex- 
citement of the day had left her, and in its place 
hung about her a slight, intangible melancholy, 
such as comes to any one who suddenly realizes 
she is twenty-six. 

When one is ten, twenty-six seems like a ripe 
old age ; when one is fifteen it seems like a point 
when one's destination in life will have been 
decided on, when the ship will have left port 
under full steam with the course plotted on the 
chart. If one is to be married, it will have been 
done by then. If she is to succeed in some fine 
pursuit that is to enrich the world, the indica- 
tion of that success will have begun to appear. 
But, for Deborah, twenty-six had come and 
passed, and neither of these things had hap- 
pened. Her ship still lay at the dock. 

She turned away from the window, where the 
clatter of dishes and the odor of kitchen rose 

from below. She wondered if moving the trap- 

20 



MERE MAN 

door in the ceiling of the room would afford an 
outlet for the heated, heavy air that surrounded 
her. She attempted to dislodge it with a cur- 
tain pole, and this proving ineffectual, she de- 
corously closed the door and presently the 
bureau was surprised to find a pair of white 
shod feet resting where the pincushion ought 
to have been. From this point of vantage she 
was able to reach the wooden trap and slide it 
back from its position. Above, all was dark 
and exuded the heat of a bake-oven. But the 
spirit of adventure was upon her. 

Of course, no dignified, aged woman of 
twenty-six should have done it. It was an 
anachronism. It was the thing she would have 
done twelve years ago and been spanked as 
a result for being a tomboy, no doubt. She 
smiled as she thought of it. At least there was 
no one to spank her now. She caught hold of 
the sides of the opening and her strong young 
arms drew her up into the cavern. What must 
Mrs. Prouty have thought had she appeared 

then and seen the two feet of an angel, clad in 

21 



MERE MAN 

pumps and silk stockings, disappearing heaven- 
ward from the third floor back room just like 
Mr. Forbes Robertson in the play ! 

But no Mrs. Prouty or other deputy Nemesis 
appeared. It was dusty in the regions above, 
and not very beneficial to white summer clothes. 
But a short ladder led upward, at the top of 
which was another trap, fastened with a rusty 
hook. And when that was finally forced open, 
there was the moon shining in the sky. 

She stepped out on the pebbly roof. It was 
an enchanted garden she stood in. Two long 
lines of brick parapet bounded her in, like 
parterres of closely trimmed hedge. The heads 
of the sidewalk trees protruded above it and 
sometimes lapped over, their leaves rustling in 
a pastoral whisper. The moon shone pleas- 
antly in the sky above. In the distance the 
search-light from a hotel roof-garden rested on 
the obelisk of the Monument. Turning to the 
other side she saw far off the great dome of the 
Capitol a silver thimble in the moonlight. 

She might have been some pre-Renaissance 

22 



MERE MAN 

Roman duchess leaning on the white marble 
balustrade of her formal garden. 

All this suggested a metaphor to her. She 
had once been asked to make a street corner 
speech in favor of woman suffrage, and she had 
refused, partly because she had no very con- 
vincing public argument and partly because, as 
she had said laughing, she "was not man 
enough." She thought now if she ever had to 
make that speech, she might compare her 
room, stuffy, hot, and shut-in to the condition 
of the voteless woman and her emergence out 
into the free, pure air with the glory of the soft 
night about her to the bursting forth of woman 
from her cell and chains of bondage she 
smiled as she thought of those well-worn 
phrases into freedom and power and her 
rightful prerogative. 

Of course she could make a speech if she 
wanted to. The suffrage held out no apparent 
advantages to her personally. She had no 
selfish interest in it. Its appeal was an ethical 

one that roused her enthusiasm. The propa- 

23 



MERE MAN 

ganda was an uplifting effort for the whole 
body of women. She could not help compar- 
ing it to great movements like the Reformation 
and the Renaissance and when she put her 
determined shoulder to the wheel, she felt that 
she was revolving it in a way to make history 
to accomplish something lasting and worth 
while. It seemed as if this were a new Re- 
naissance an awakening of woman a burst- 
ing forth out of mediaeval darkness into light. 

She was willing to devote her life, now passed 
the mark where she should have picked out her 
sphere of usefulness, to such a deserving cause ; 
to march to the crusades, carrying a spear that 
should help in the beginning of a new era for 
woman. Her enthusiasm and her conscience, 
stung by what her body had not accomplished, 
drove her on. Following the dictates of the 
latter, with the fortitude of Spartan women, she 
had offered up the thing most dear to her, and 
taken a vow of celibacy. She, Deborah Carver, 
had doomed herself to be an old maid for a 
principle. 

24 



MERE MAN 

She laughed and looked over the parapet 
into the lighted room of a wing below her 
where a dark-haired young man, in his third 
floor room, bent over his desk. That young 
man, whoever he might be, and every other 
man, henceforth had no interest for her. She 
might lean over the parapet as she did now, 
and look at him, like Moses viewing the prom- 
ised land, but she must not endeavor to possess 
him. He seemed to be a nice person. She 
was interested in the slim fingers which held 
the papers he read. His room was furnished 
more luxuriously than most third floor rooms. 
The flat-topped desk in the middle of the room 
where he sat was of mahogany. A brass drop 
light with a garnet shade sat on the desk. The 
rug caught the light like a real oriental rug, 
and the pictures and hangings on the walls 
spoke of a height of ease and comfort to which 
the average boarding house did not aspire. 
She gazed at the Promised Land with much 
interest, speculating idly as to what he might 
be doing, until presently the Promised Land 

25 



MERE MAN 

rose, slapped his hat on his head and turned 
out the light. She was alone then on her 
broad white roof with the moon and the stars. 

She had always felt that one day she should 
be married. Her instincts and emotions all led 
her that way. Her life in her school brought 
her always in contact with children, whom she 
understood and guarded and sympathized with 
by virtue of some instinct within her. She had 
the hovering wings of a mother. Yet she had 
seen no man whom she would marry. 

She often found herself being terribly excited 
over Bobby Mitchell for five minutes at a 
time. But then she realized he was pursuing 
her and saw love and devotion in his eyes and 
immediately became bored. She liked his 
automobile, for that made her go fast and pro- 
vided her with excitement. But the man who 
was to possess her must control her with an 
iron hand. He must be a man to whom, when 
she was tired of struggling to arrange her life, 
she could turn over the reins and let him drive. 

Whereas she controlled Bobby Mitchell and 

26 



MERE MAN 

he was merely typical of them all with more 
ease than Bobby controlled the big car which 
responded immediately to his touch on the 
lever. 

She heard the newsboys on the street below 
crying an extra paper, and when she descended 
from her roof she purchased one. It contained 
a list of the women who had signed the celibacy 
pact. There was her own name near the top. 
She snipped it out with her scissors and impaled 
it upon her pincushion. 

" Lest we forget," she said, smiling, and un- 
did the fastening at her throat. 



27 



CHAPTER III 

nice, hot sun caressed the street until 
the weary asphalt sank under your feet. 
Deborah walked along in the narrow shade of 
the buildings, aimlessly gazing into their show 
windows. Her work over for the day there re- 
mained no place to go but her room at Mrs. 
Prouty's a place which she religiously avoided 
when it was not absolutely necessary for her to 
go there. People, when their work is over, like 
to go home and find comfort and cheer in sur- 
roundings that are familiar to them. But if 
you have to climb two flights of stairs to get to 
your home, and it is only twelve feet by fifteen 
when you arrive, and has the same dejected 
appearance that it had when you left, it holds 
out few inducements. Deborah did not go 
home. 

Filled with notions of clothes for the fall, she 

slipped with easy nonchalance into an ornate 

28 



MERE MAN 

shop and wandered about until she found long 
glass cases in which were expensive gowns 
" creations," they called them in that store 
fashioned out of bewilderingly soft and costly 
fabrics which were draped and turned and 
tortured into the very newest designs. It 
was an education to any one who in a few 
weeks would have to make her own fall 
dresses both of them. She looked these over 
carefully and made copious mental notes. But 
one of the duchesses of the place, observing the 
desecration of the hallowed spot where stood 
only those with money in their purses who came 
to purchase, bore down upon her with haughty 
disdain. 

" Did you wish to see something ? " she said, 
loftily. 

Deborah looked clear through the disdain. 
She smiled pleasantly. 

" That smoke-colored one does it hook up 
the back ? " 

" I don't know. Were you looking for an 

evening dress ? " 

29 



MERE MAN 

The other laughed a soft, low laugh. 

" Not I," she said, turning to the girl. " But 
wouldn't you like to have one like that made of 
challis ? The material wouldn't cost more than 
three dollars." 

Deborah was thoroughly interested in her 
scheme. The salesgirl's face lit up for a mo- 
ment at the idea. That small second of warmth 
volatilized her aloofness and it floated off into 
thin air. After that it was impossible to climb 
back into the strategic position she had occupied 
before. 

" I think I'll do it for myself," she said. She 
looked about her guardedly. " Would you like 
to see the dress ? " 

" Of course I should like to see it." 

The dress, rustling with tissue paper, came 
down from its place, and the two alert vivisec- 
tionists noted its anatomy and physiology. In 
the course of this the sales duchess, recognizing 
a certain unmistakable humanity in Deborah, 
was divulging the fact that it was only two 
weeks before the such and such dance, for which 

30 



MERE MAN 

she must have a dress. And, never doubting her 
companion's interest in the matter, she spoke of 
men with a sparkle in her eyes of one in the 
midst of the game. When Deborah caught 
that look of enthusiasm, accustomed and 
hardened as she was to the confidences of chance 
people, a lump of lead seemed to drop, uninvited 
and unexpected, into her heart. For that was 
the enthusiasm that was now denied to her. 
Her interest in the dresses soon waned. 
Presently she gathered up her bag and gloves 
and, thanking the girl, went out into the street 
again. 

The lump of lead was still in the same place. 
She decided to walk to the headquarters of the 
Equal Suffrage Association and leave it there if 
possible. Mrs. Dobson, secretary of the associa- 
tion and chairman of a thousand committees 
and sub-committees, bounced up from her desk 
and embraced her when she entered. Deborah 
adjusted her hat and attire. 

" Sit down," cried Mrs. Dobson. 

Mrs. Dobson herself never sat down. Some- 



MERE MAN 

times she perched for an instant on the edge 
of her swivel chair. But most of the time she 
was darting about like the squirrels in the park. 

" My dear, I am so glad you are with us," 
she said, running her nimble fingers over a 
card-catalogue drawer and pulling out a card. 

" I think it's my duty I think it is every 
one's duty to help in every way possible," 
Deborah replied, stoutly. 

Mrs. Dobson pounced on the fountain pen 
that lay on her desk. 

" It's the example that counts," she exclaimed, 
adding some notation on her card. " It's the 
example of noble self-sacrifice. That's the 
spirit that is going to win." 

She held her pen in her mouth and ran through 
another card index, descending upon the proper 
card and tattooing it with more hieroglyphics 
which only she could read. 

" What's that card index for ? " demanded the 
girl. 

" Congressional. We have all the congress- 
men written up, showing just where they stand 

32 



MERE MAN 

on the question." She pulled out a card. 
" There is the man to beware of," she com- 
mented. " He is our most astute foe." 

" John Marshall Lea." 

" The same," she repeated, tartly. " Remem- 
ber that name as of the Black Douglas. He 
has done more to block legislation favorable to 
us than any five other men in the House. He 
is the man who is going to oppose most bitterly 
the bill for an equal suffrage amendment in the 
House of Representatives when we bring the 
question before a committee of the House in 
November. If I can beat him I shall consider 
that I have gone a long way toward winning 
the whole fight." 

"Very well, Mother Dobson." The girl 
laughed. " Do you realize you've wasted a 
whole minute of your precious time standing 
still?" 

" Bless me, so I have." She looked at the 
clock and took the receiver off the hook of her 
telephone. " Don't go. I can talk to you and 
telephone at the same time." 

33 



MERE MAN 

" I believe you could," observed Deborah. 

" Remember," cried Mrs. Dobson, " we are 
going to ask you to make some speeches for us 
soon." 

A chill crept gently over Deborah. She saw 
herself standing on a soap-box, rising to ad- 
dress a roaring, turbulent, out-of-doors crowd. 
Could she bring herself to do it ? She thought 
she would infinitely prefer to stand in front of 
the Capitol in a pillory. Her impulse was to 
tell Mrs. Dobson so and warn that lady not to 
count upon her. But she did nothing of the 
sort. She sat with her hands calmly folded 
before her, telling herself that all great move- 
ments must be accomplished by a series of 
sacrifices, and that she would not be the one to 
refuse when her turn came. And all she said 
was, " Very well, Mrs. Dobson," quite calmly 
and pleasantly. 

She did not leave all her low spirits behind 
her as she had hoped. And when dusk fell 
again, she was once more sitting in her room 
full of the realization that she was twenty-six 

34 



MERE MAN 

and trying to forget the idea by reading a 
funny story. But who can forget so far-reach- 
ing a calamity as that in a mere story ? As it 
grew too dark to read, she let the book fall idly 
into her lap and watched the scarlet moon rise 
over the housetops, silhouetting the chimneys 
and dormers and the wooden rails of the apart- 
ment house porches. A soft after-glow spread 
like a rose haze over all that open square, 
transforming with a magic touch the box-clut- 
tered yards, and turning the whole scene, sordid 
with its kitchens and scullery maids, into a soft 
evening picture. She leaned against the 
window frame and watched the light gently 
fade. She wondered what that scene looked 
like from her roof, and gazed speculatively at 
the trap in the ceiling. A trap it was indeed. 
The lure of it held her lightly in its grasp. It 
was like Aladdin's lamp to her. She had but 
to touch it, and she was wafted away from her 
fifteen-dollar room to priceless Elysian fields. 
The door softly closed, two shoes left their im- 
press on the bureau scarf, and, with the rustle 

35 



MERE MAN 

of no wings, a white clad angel had disap- 
peared heavenward. 

To guide her in her return through the dark 
attic, she had brought her tiny electric flash- 
light. Virgil, or one of those old fellows who 
knew nothing about attics, said " Facilis est 
descensus in Averno," but the descent from 
the roof into the darkness of this particular 
Averno was anything but easy. So she 
slipped the little nickel thing into her belt. 
She stepped out on the roof, and went to the 
parapet wall. 

In the west, behind the square jagged sky- 
line, shone a narrow ribbon of deep red drawn 
across the heavy purple of the sky. That was 
the last fading banner of the day. The city 
had given itself over to night. Haphazard 
squares of light appeared on the distant office 
buildings. Restless electric signs told their 
story over and over again. She saw the mov- 
ing picture theatre at the street corner, blaz- 
ingly alight, receive its throng of people like an 
ant-hill. But on the roof there was almost no 

36 



MERE MAN 

sign of artificial night. The moon shone in 
pastoral quiet. The trees hanging over the 
parapet wall were like willows hanging over 
the banks of a stream. And in the midst of 
their thick foliage she imagined she could see 
the figure of a lurking man, just as one does in 
country fields at night, when all around villain- 
ous pine trees lie in wait to murder one and 
steal his purse. 

She gazed over the top of the rear wall at 
the window where she had seen the man the 
night before, but all was dark there. The 
moon shone in on the floor, illuminating a 
small square of the Eastern rug, but no other 
thing was visible. She walked along the 
length of the roof, stepping over the ridges of 
brick wall that protruded above its level, in 
accordance with the fire regulations, at the line 
of demarkation of each house. She gazed 
down into unfamiliar side yards, into window- 
boxes filled with ferns, into rooms where people 
were surreptitiously cooking things over the gas 
burners, and into a window by which a woman 

37 



MERE MAN 

sat shame on her in this modern day rock- 
ing her baby to sleep. 

And as Deborah turned back by the thick 
foliage where she had thought she saw the 
figure of a man she started and stood still. 

The imaginary figure of a man was holding 
a lighted cigarette 1 



CHAPTER IV 

DEBORAH was properly frightened. The 
surprise of it made her suddenly weak at 
the knees. She felt as she did in dreams when 
she was half-way up the stairs with a murder- 
ous robber pursuing her, and her feet refused 
to move. But only for an instant. Then she 
turned for the trap-door, miles away. All 
would have been well had not the nickel-plated 
electric flash-light notoriously undependable ! 
slipped from her belt and fallen on the roof. 
That spoiled everything. She could not hope 
to clamber safely down the steep, dark ladder 
to her home with this fleet-footed man pursu- 
ing her. She stooped to recover her light. 
But it had fallen in the shadow of a projecting 
ridge of brick wall and would not be found. 
She heard the footsteps approaching. Then 
she straightened up, her eyes flashing a tower 

39 



MERE MAN 

of strength and independence. The man was 
upon her. She could hear her heart beating. 
He raised his hand. " Will he strike me ? " she 
thought, dully. But he only took off his hat. 
He spoke. His voice was suave and dignified. 

" I must apologize," he said, gravely. " I 
know I frightened you, but I really did not see 
you in time to give you warning of my pres- 
ence." 

Deborah murmured something in reply. 

"You have lost your your powder-puff," 
said the man, still with the same gravity. 

" It was an electric flash-light," she informed 
him. 

He bent over and scanned the pebbled sur- 
face of the roof. 

" Naturally," he replied, whimsically. " Part 
of the regular equipment of the wise virgin of 
biblical times." 

He spoke in a pleasant, easy, bantering tone, 
and yet with a very dignified courtesy, as 
though he were endeavoring to tacitly reassure 

her of his thorough harmlessness. 

40 



MERE MAN 

Presently his hand struck the trinket, and he 
stood up abruptly holding it behind him. 

" Those pebbles run into a fellow's knees like 
fun," he exclaimed. " I shan't be able to say 
my prayers for a week. Would you be able to 
identify this article?" 

" Certainly. It is nickel-plated." 

" Yes. Proceed." 

" By pressing a button at the side of it, it 
lights." 

He fumbled with it, and suddenly as his 
finger touched the proper spot, a beam of white 
light shot across the roof. 

" Your description is astoundingly exact," he 
said. " Without a doubt the jeweled thing is 
yours." 

He handed it to her. 

" I am exceedingly obliged," she assured him. 

He bowed. She noticed in the moonlight 
that his fingers were long and slender. His 
hair was brown. 

" Oh," she cried, naively, " you are the man 
with the red lamp-shade." 



MERE MAN 

" The very man," he said. " I have inad- 
vertently forgotten to bring it with me to-night. 
But it is fragile and apt to be broken climbing 
up steep ladders." 

She smiled. 

" The man with the red shade," he repeated. 
" A truly romantic soul. How did you know 
of my existence?" he asked, abruptly. 

" Last night," she confessed, " I peeped into 
your room." 

He laughed. 

" From that spot over there," she said, point- 
ing, " it is possible to see." 

" By all means let's go there then," he ex- 
claimed. " I should see myself as others see me." 

He looked over the wall. 

" An absolute blank I " he cried. " Ah, my- 
self ! " he observed, apostrophizing the dark 
window. " I have discovered you. Nothing 
at all ! " 

She leaned on the wall. 

" Do you believe that about yourself ? " she 

asked, curiously. 

42 




HE LOOKED OVER THE WALL 



MERE MAN 

" Not at all," he affirmed, stoutly. 

He turned his back on his room and thrust- 
ing his hands in his pockets, leaned with his 
elbows on the wall. 

" In considering yourself," he said, with a 
pleasant air of thinking aloud, " you must for- 
get that you have a sense of humor. Of course 
you are ridiculously inadequate. Everybody 
is. But take yourself seriously. Have confi- 
dence in your ability to accomplish the impos- 
sible." He thumped himself on the chest. 
" That's the way I give myself courage," he 
said, thoughtfully. 

" You have almost the air of an orator," she 
murmured, presently. 

He smiled. 

" I hope you will excuse me." 

She turned away from the wall. 

" It is getting late, I am afraid," she said. 

He stood beside her. 

"May I escort you to your trap-door; or 
shall I call a cab?" 

She looked about her thoughtfully. 
43 



MERE MAN 

" It's such a fine night," she said. " Suppose 
we walk." 

At the door leading down to the depths of 
her own house she paused. 

"You were speaking of speeches," she ob- 
served. " Would you make a speech ? If you 
were I?" 

" Right now. Of course. Stand on the closed 
trap-door, and I will sit cross-legged before you." 

" No, no," she said, smiling. " At some fu- 
ture date. A public speech." 

" If I wanted to." 

" But I shouldn't know how." 

He looked at her quizzically. 

" The old manner is best," he exclaimed. 
"Hair brushed abruptly back from the fore- 
head as in the portraits of Webster. The left 
hand should be thrust under the skirts of the 
coat do women wear coats in making 
speeches? Of course they do. The right 
hand toying with the fob of one's watch, ex- 
cept when gesticulating. And refer to the 
sanctity of the hearth." 

44 



MERE MAN 

" You are not serious," she said. 

"No," he replied, instantly grave. "I am 
not. About the speech, you are the only one 
who can tell." 

She held out her hand to him. 

" Good-night," she said, " and thank you." 

He bowed over her hand. 

" You must let me light you down the first 
stage of your journey," he observed, taking her 
light and illuminating the ladder to the attic. 

She permitted him to do this. She reached 
up for the light, smiling. 

" Now please run. You must not view this 
next contortion." 

" I run," he said. 



45 



CHAPTER V 

THE first cold days of October had come. 
Football colors decked the town. The 
white and yellow badges of the Suffragists ap- 
peared here and there on the streets. Speech- 
making for " The Cause " had begun on the 
broad avenue that connects the White House 
with the Capitol, or, more correctly, that sep- 
arates the two. Deborah Carver was ap- 
proached seriously for this purpose. 

"You must," announced Mrs. Dobson, 
"really you must. It is your duty. Good 
looks hold attention. We need you." 

She threw down the telephone book she was 
consulting, and, seized with a galvanic impulse, 
strode across the room and caught the girl by 
the lapels of her coat. 

" I'll hold you right here," she said, " until 
you say yes." 

Deborah looked at the whirlwind lady. In 
46 



MERE MAN 

spite of the terror in her heart a disturbing ex- 
citement seized her. 

" But what could I talk about ? " she asked, 
breathlessly. 

" About the eternal stars, if you like. Only 
talk." 

" But I must say something." 

The old lady released her and darted over to 
her chair, perching momentarily on the edge of it. 

"Talk of this iniquitous Lea," she cried. 
" Speak of these fat, waddling congressmen, 
with moist hands and moist collars and celluloid 
cuffs." 

There was no inspiration in this. 

" Is that the sort of person he is ? " she asked, 
dully. 

" Aren't they all that way all those that op- 
pose us, I mean?" she added, smiling. She 
pulled down her gold-rimmed spectacles from 
the place where they rested against her gray- 
black hair. 

" Listen I " she cried, taking a book from the 
shelf behind her. "Saturday the twelfth, six 

47 



MERE MAN 

thirty o'clock. What could be fairer ? " She 
wrote a hasty scrawl on the book. " See Mrs. 
Devine. She arranges these things." 

Deborah drew in her breath sharply, as 
though she had plunged into cold water. But 
an enthusiasm, a realization of new responsi- 
bility, and a youthful appreciation of action 
brought a flush to her face. 

" I'm game 1 " she said, steadily. " I sup- 
pose no one likes to make these speeches." 

Mrs. Dobson reached for her telephone and 
gave a number. 

41 Like it ! " she cried. " They hate it. They 
do it because they think it is their duty. 
They're martyrs, bless their souls! Mrs. 
Devine," she said on the telephone, " Deborah 
Carver will speak at one of your street corner 
meetings next Saturday." 

And thus was her doom sealed. 

" Mrs. Devine is a feather-head," volunteered 
Mrs. Dobson, " but she has a large automobile 
and infinite leisure. She is the most valuable 

bit of machinery of my office." 

48 



MERE MAN 

Deborah dated her life, following this inter- 
view, up to Saturday the twelfth of October. 
There was no beyond. Sunday morning had 
that same dim, shadowy inconsequence to her 
that it would have had if on Saturday night 
she were going to be merely hanged instead of 
to make the street corner speech. 

Saturday at noon, Mrs. Devine sent Robert, 
her chauffeur, in the machine for Deborah, to 
bring her to lunch. Mrs. Devine was not there 
when she arrived, but the maid said she would 
return shortly. She sat in the library playing 
with the little Pomeranian and wishing it were 
midnight and the day were over. In spite of 
the fact that the fire of battle was in her, she 
could not help shrinking from this un- 
known conflict. She knew exactly the ideas 
she would talk about, and she knew that she 
could have made her speech very readily to an 
audience of quiet people in that library where 
she sat. But what sort of people were these to 
be to whom she was to speak ? 

Mrs. Devine rustled in. 
49 



MERE MAN 

" Oh, my dear, not that solemn expression. 
Be blithe, be blithe ! See the spirit of Chris- 
tobel here. Christobel, do you believe in 
Woman's Suffrage ? " 

Christobel crawled under a table. 

" Christobel 1 At once ! Attend to me ! 
Do you believe in Woman's Suffrage ? " 

The dog, seeing the futility of it, emerged, 
stood up on his hind feet, waved the front ones 
in the air and barked vigorously. 

" See," exclaimed his mistress, " how the 
movement has spread." 

" How did you happen to be a suffragist, 
Mrs. Devine?" Deborah asked, feeling she 
must say something. 

"First I started taking cold baths and then 
I got to sleeping out-of-doors, and after that I 
just naturally drifted into the other. Come out 
to lunch, won't you ? 

" You see," she pattered on, "all these things 
are the things women are doing now. I want 
to be modern. This idea of the woman's intel- 
lect being equal to the man's appeals to me. 

50 



MERE MAN 

I have gone so far now that I don't grant man 
or masculinity superiority in anything. I 
feel that my mind is the equal of any one's. 
Don't you feel that way ? " 

"Oh, I 1" exclaimed Deborah, with a 

start. " I have always thought that. I have 
never believed any one was wiser or more re- 
sourceful than I. That is a sin of mine." 

" Really ! Now I don't go so far as that 
at all. When a sturdy, strong-willed person 
like Mrs. Dobson tells me to do a thing, I just 
do it. I could never struggle against her." 

"Yes," said Deborah, politely. "When I 
find a man a person, I mean who makes me 
feel like that," she added presently, " I shall 
have come to an epoch in my life." 

At six o'clock the lighted streets were crowded 
with people. There had been a football game, 
and victorious students surged along the side- 
walks. Saturday night crowds with money in 
their purses mingled with them. As Mrs. 
Devine's automobile, with four ardent suffra- 
gists and Deborah sped along the street, 



MERE MAN 

Deborah steeled her heart. She was not 
ardent. She was determined. She sat back 
in the corner of her seat, her hands folded in 
her lap, and watched with a faint smile the 
carnival concourse of people. Presently she 
raised two fingers and touched the velvet rim 
of her hat. 

" What was that for? " asked Mrs. Devine. 

" Morituri salutamus," murmured Deborah. 

" That's Latin, isn't it ? " 

" Every word of it. It means ' In God we 
trust.' " 

An iron-jawed woman sitting by her, who 
was also to make a speech, raised herself from 
her apathy. 

"No need for the gladiatorial spirit," she 
said, without expression. " Just talk. The one 
rule to be remembered in a street corner 
speech is don't look at any particular in- 
dividual. Talk to the lamp-post behind the 
crowd." 

Deborah remembered this when they set her 
down on the sidewalk. Mrs. Devine's scheme 

52 



MERE MAN 

was to have three, or perhaps four meetings, a 
block apart, all occurring at once. The idea of 
the whole performance was first of all to attract 
attention. Mrs. Dobson's strategy was not so 
much to convince people by the force of the 
arguments of her speakers, as to advertise the 
movement, to let the public know there was 
activity. Therefore she had said to Deborah, 
"Just talk." 

Deborah was left at a street corner with a 
supporter bearing an explanatory banner in 
the midst of a strenuous jostling crowd. The 
machine had been standing by the curb for fully 
five minutes before she alighted, and she had 
sat calmly in her seat as though she were not 
at all a part of the thing that was to come. A 
great phalanx of students, flushed with victory, 
had paused at the brink of the fountain in the 
parking, disgorged from its midst two freshmen 
of their beloved alma mater and driven them, 
trembling but elated at the distinction accorded 
them, across the shallow water of the basin. 
The crowd of citizens gathered about had 

53 



MERE MAN 

laughed indulgently at this sacrifice to the 
goddess of good fortune. When the freshmen, 
grown twelve months in importance, had stepped 
out of the water and the phalanx, thirsting for 
something bizarre enough to satisfy its jaded 
appetite, had swept by, but while the crowd 
still remained, the iron-jawed woman had thrown 
open the door. 

" This is the psychological moment," she 
said. 

Deborah nodded. When the door of the 
automobile swung shut again, it might have 
been the iron clang of the gate shutting her in 
the lion's den. But she had now a Daniel's 
self-possession. When the machine drove off 
she did not regret it. The joy of action was 
upon her. She stood up on her box and cried, 
with just the ease and egotism the situation 
needed : 

" Look at me ! " 

And they all looked. She had absolute con- 
fidence in the power of her own personality ; 
and in the second of silence that followed those 

54 



MERE MAN 

three words, she caught their attention and held 
it in the hollow of her hand. Their curiosity 
was aroused. Their interest in the trim girl 
standing there a picturesque, slender goddess, 
her hands held to her sides, her chin tilted 
upward made them wait to hear what she 
would say. She was keen enough to see then 
that the starting point of her speech must be 
the idea that was already in their minds, and 
when she spoke she spoke of the freshmen who 
had just been made to walk through the basin 
of the fountain. Her voice carried across the 
crowd. She spoke in short sentences. Once 
she made them laugh. Then she deftly drew 
a parallel between the students forced to wade 
in the fountain against their will while the world 
looked on and approved, and woman wading 
in the muddy waters of Inferiority. It was a 
crude metaphor, hastily thrown together, but 
admirably suited for this open-air gathering, 
where ideas had to be delivered in bulk. 

She felt she was making an impression. 
Here and there she was conscious of eyes look- 

55 



MERE MAN 

ing intently upon her. Near by, on her left, was 
some one who seemed to have jostled his way 
through the crowd, whose eyes she felt did not 
leave her ; but, following the warning of the iron- 
jawed woman, she looked at no one. Her 
speech would have been a tremendous success 
had it not happened that, at the very climax of 
it, the phalanx of students, roaring like an angry 
Roman mob, returned and burst, a human 
battering-ram, through the midst of the crowd. 
Like Sherman marching to the sea, it divided 
the audience in twain ; and so great was its 
cry, it was impossible to be heard above it. 
These youthful enthusiasts, the freedom of the 
city theirs, all their dynamic enthusiasm let 
loose, hysterical with excitement, searching 
only for some excess more absurd and unreal 
than the last, spread everywhere like an ominous 
horde of Goths. 

Then they saw Deborah on her box. 

Theirs not to reason why! Theirs not to 
weigh the situation delicately, to consider the 
question of courtesy and sanity and advisability. 

56 



MERE MAN 

Theirs not even to imagine what they might 
have done in a less hysterical moment. 

" To the fountain with the Suffragettes ! " 

To the lions with the Christians ! The Roman 
mob has tasted blood. Nothing will stop them. 
The phalanx turns its head. The crowd is 
thrust apart and down the lane sweeps the mob 
of avenging spirits, crazy for sacrifice. There 
is the fountain, and there are Deborah and her 
standard-bearer. The standard-bearer, pale as 
a ghost, pulls her sleeve. 

" Come away ! " she cries. 

But Deborah continues to talk over the heads 
of chaos. No word of hers is audible. She is 
outwardly calm, but within is a great tumult of 
excitement. Her mind is working quickly. 
She scarcely gives a thought to her words. 
The riot is upon her. For the first time she 
glances down at the faces before her. A man 
in her audience has stepped to her side, but 
she does not need his help. 

The onslaught is led by a great flaxen-haired 
boy, huge in his college sweater, with mischief 

57 



MERE MAN 

in his eyes. As he reaches the pavement before 
her box, she bursts into a radiant smile, and 
holds out her hand. 

" Who," she cried, " would have thought of 
seeing you here ? " 

Certainly not Deborah, who had never seen 
him at all before. The boy stopped astounded. 
He could not remember that face, but he was 
confused and rattled and suddenly ashamed. 
The color mounted his cheeks. He stood there 
backing up the crowd behind him, and took her 
hand. 

" We came," he said, sheepishly, not know- 
ing at all what to say, "to congratulate 
you." 

She smiled, and then the crowd, its inertia 
gone, its interest fading, began to flow in an- 
other direction. 

(i Bravo ! " cried the voice of the man who 
was standing beside her. " Back with your 
heathen horde, Ethelwolfe. She beat you to it 
that time." 

The boy smiled, with a diverting mixture of 
58 



MERE MAN 

shamefacedness and interest, and was presently 
lost in the crowd. 

Mrs. Devine's automobile rolled up to the 
curb. The standard-bearer clambered in. Deb- 
orah looked curiously at the man who had 
spoken. It was her young man of the roof ! 

" Don't go in that machine," he said. " Come 
with me." 

She smiled and shook her head. 

" Hurry, please, Miss Carver," said Mrs. De- 
vine, grown suddenly nervous. 

A great turning of the crowd swept Deborah 
away. Mrs. Devine saw the young man seize 
her and shoulder a way through it. When the 
girl stood still once more the machine was gone. 



59 



CHAPTER VI 

my word," said her young man of 
the roof, " this is a wild night. One 
thousand congratulations," he went on, " for 
your strategy. It was Napoleonic." 

She laughed. 

" It was necessary," she replied. 

He looked for the automobile. 

" Gone ! " she said. 

He smiled. 

" Marooned, are you ? Let's strike out for 
the mainland, then. I see a bright light ahead." 

They started out along the sidewalk, now less 
densely crowded. 

" I am in a delicate position," he observed. 
" You refuse to accompany me, and then your 
friends thrust you defenseless upon me. I am 
a monstrous ogre carrying you off." 

" I could take a street car," she assured him, 
placidly. 

" Always resourceful. So you could. I am 
60 



MERE MAN 

reassured. If I find you dashing off in the mid- 
dle of a sentence, I shall know that you have 
taken a street car." 

" Where are we going, anyway ? " she asked. 
"Are you taking me home? " 

He looked at his watch. 

" Seven o'clock," he said. " Who ever heard 
of going home at seven o'clock ! " 

" What then ? " she asked. 

" I must ask you an intimate and highly per- 
sonal question first," he said. 

She looked at him warily. 

" Go on," she said, smiling. 

" Have you had your dinner ? " he asked. 

"No." 

" If I should propose to you that we stop at 
this twelve story wayside inn, and call roundly 
for our suppers, would you inform me that you 
did not know me well enough, or would you in- 
sist on my procuring from the thin air a dull, 
toothless chaperon ? " 

" Neither," she replied, with bewildering di- 
rectness. " I should say ' yes,' quickly." 

61 



MERE MAN 

His face brightened, and presently they en- 
tered the inn, ablaze with lights and people. 

" As a suffragist and a feminist and all those 
iniquitous things," she explained, when they 
were seated at a table and he was glancing at 
the card with the air of a poet about to com- 
pose a sonnet, " I am supposed to take care of 
myself without the aid of a chaperon. Haven't 
you heard that woman is the intellectual equal 
of man ? " 

" Yes, I knew it had been so decided. Tell 
me," he added when he had arranged the 
various formalities that would assure them of 
their dinner, " how did they get you ? " 

" Why not ? " she asked, amused. 

" You are that unusual type of woman who 
possesses femininity. People would have 
recognized you for a woman in eighteen 
forty." 

She put her elbows on the table. 

"You are delicious," she said. "It isn't 
only the masculine woman that is backing the 

equal suffrage movement." 

62 



MERE MAN 

He shook his head doubtfully. 

" The whole thing is upside down," he as- 
serted. " Here is a multitude of women and 
men who bring forth the doctrine that woman 
is indistinguishable from man and possessed of 
all masculine attributes and call their propa- 
ganda the feminist movement It is the non- 
feminist movement. They say no such thing 
as woman exists." 

" I feel somehow," she said, pleasantly, " that 
you do not sympathize with women in their 
crusade." 

" Sympathize with them I My heart goes 
out to them. I pray for them with tears in my 
eyes." 

She laughed and then grew suddenly serious. 

" Why shouldn't women have the ballot ? " 

He waved his hand. 

" It wouldn't be interesting to hear me rehash 
all that." 

" Certainly it would. Take this theorem. 
If women are intellectually the equals of men, 
why shouldn't they vote ? " 

63 



MERE MAN 

" But, my dear woman, what has intellectu- 
ality to do with the ballot ? The ballot is a 
thing of brawn not brain. It has been passed 
up, so to speak, by women during the years 
because it is symbolic of brawling man. It 
isn't a man's intellect that makes us respect his 
vote. It's his biceps." 

" I don't think I understand." 

He gazed at her thoughtfully. 

" This is an age," he said, " of substitutes. 
When I buy a city house for one hundred thou- 
sand dollars this is all pure fable, of course 
I don't pay for it in gold florins. I give a 
check a check absolutely worthless except for 
what it represents. Well. In the olden days 
when there was a ruler to be chosen, each side 
got together its voters and provided them with 
spears in place of ballots. Sometimes a wise 
head would win with a minority by means of 
strategy just as at the polls to-day. But in 
general the majority prevailed, after their op- 
ponents had sampled the quality of their spears. 
In our wise civilization, the piece of paper called 

64 



MERE MAN 

the ballot simply represents a man with a spear 
or a Winchester rifle, as the case may be. It 
does not represent intellect." 

She looked at him keenly, but did not reply. 

" One thing which most people fail to con- 
sider," he went on, " is the fact that had it not 
been for the efforts and the finer feelings of 
men, the propaganda of equal suffrage would 
not even have been possible. Our civilization 
accords woman a consideration, which the 
strength God gave her would be powerless to 
exact. There was no such civilization three or 
four centuries ago. In those days a man would 
stretch a lady on the rack with the same care- 
free spirit with which he now rises to give her 
his seat on the street car. Those were times of 
absolute equality of the sexes, when she must 
expect to be treated just as if she were a man. 
Imagine her then chaining herself to a seat in 
Parliament and screaming at the speakers, or 
conducting a hunger strike. The militant suf- 
fragist is a person who seeks to defeat man by 
virtue of his own consideration for her. She 

65 



MERE MAN 

exists as a result of the civilization he has per- 
fected. She shouts for equality of the sexes ; 
and what she really wants is a little more in- 
equality. She does not go about her crusade 
frankly. If she would bend her energies to 
proving that all women, or most women, want 
the ballot, men in this country at least would 
undoubtedly grant it to her. But I sometimes 
feel that in her heart she does not find much 
excitement in having it merely granted. She 
wants to believe that she forced it." 

Her eyes had not left his face. She smiled. 

" Is that last an argument," she said, " against 
equal suffrage?" 

He spread out his hands. 

" I forgot myself," he replied, with a whim- 
sical smile. " It is useless for a man a mere 
man to argue on the subject of woman's suf- 
frage. It is a woman's fight. Her greatest 
trouble is to convince, not men, but her fellow 
women." 

" Are you a mere man ? " she asked. 

" It's all one word," he replied, smiling. 
66 



MERE MAN 

" Man is simply the abbreviation from your 
point of view." 

While her companion had been talking, he 
had looked around him, and spoken to several 
people scattered here and there about the room. 
She could not help wondering about him. He 
had the confident bearing of a man who accom- 
plished things. The people who spoke to him 
did so with a certain amount of deference, and 
she imagined afterward that they were talking 
about him. It was a strange thing for her to be 
dining with him here when she did not even 
know his name. It added to the excitement of 
it. When she had tried to fathom him a little 
more she would ask him about himself and per- 
haps let him tell her his name. She felt satis- 
fied as to his decency of feeling, which was 
credentials enough for the present. As to the 
rest, it lent interest to the situation to have a 
few things undetermined. 

" Tell me something about yourself, won't 
you ? " he asked, as if in evidence that he had 
been pursuing a counter line of thought. 

67 



MERE MAN 

She laughed. 

" In the words of the women who write to the 
newspapers," she said, " I am a young brunette 
of an earnest disposition except that in my 
case I have lost the bloom of youth." 

" Is it possible ? " he cried. 

She nodded. 

" I am twenty-six." 

" Ah me ! " he sighed. " It is the heyday of 
youth." 

" But," she said, " I have accomplished noth- 
ing. I am a prim old maid school-teacher." 

" Few of us really accomplish things. Once 
in a decade some one invents a sewing-machine 
or a telephone. But that is grand-stand play. 
If I could go to Heaven with a certificate stat- 
ing that out of every two opportunities to help 
the people around me I had accepted one, I 
would have an even chance with the sewing- 
machine man and the telephone man." 

She looked at him with a warm kindliness in 
her eyes. 

" If you are a school-teacher," he said, " and 
68 



MERE MAN 

every day put one fine idea into a small mind, 
you have accomplished a wonderful thing. 
Think of a school-teacher sighing for more 
worlds to conquer I " he exclaimed. " Why, 
an old professor of mine, living along now on 
nothing at all a year, as he always has, I look back 
upon as the guiding star of my life. He was in- 
spiration and incentive to me. And his reward 
in life was to realize that every once in a while 
he succeeded in sending a man out into the 
world." 

She smiled appreciatively. 

" And," she asked, with a new-born liking for 
him, " were you one of them ? " 

" You must not catch me up so quickly," he 
replied. " I try very hard to be one of them. 
But I am thirty-two which is twice as old as 
twenty-six and have accomplished very little 
of what I had expected to accomplish. So I 
may not be one of them." 

The man put dishes before them, and they 
were busy for a while with the aroma and the 
first taste of much-desired food. 

69 



MERE MAN 

" I find myself groping about," he said, at 
length, " for something to call you. Have you 
a name ? " he asked, laughing. 

" Two," she replied. 

" What is the proper way to go about know- 
ing them, I wonder? " 

" You have adopted it." 

She told him then. 

" Deborah Carver," he repeated. " I think I 
like that name." 

She bowed to him. A tremendous curiosity 
tugged at her. She wanted to know his name, 
yet she scarcely wanted to ask him so quickly 
on the heels of his own similar question. The 
mystery of him entertained her. 

But presently some men rose and passed their 
table. One of them, a round jolly man with 
that air of intimate familiarity with all the 
crowned heads of Olympus and elsewhere, that 
characterizes your newspaper correspondent, 
stopped by their table* and addressed her com- 
panion with an air of simply wishing to say 

something friendly. 

70 



MERE MAN 

" When is that bill," he said, " coming out of 
your committee ? " 

There was a silence after that gentleman had 
gone. She looked at him with a renewed in- 
terest. 

" Are you in Congress ? " she asked, quietly. 

" For my sins," he said. 

" And which one are you ? " 

" Fifth row, third from the aisle. Name, Lea. 
John Marshall Lea." 



CHAPTER VII 

HE looked at her in amusement, quite well 
aware of what she was thinking. 

" I am the ogre," he said, smiling. 

She hesitated. She had the unconvinced air 
of a person into whose mind there is no space 
to fit an unexpected fact. The fact was unex- 
pected and unbelievable. It was certainly ridic- 
ulous for her, an avowed and active suffra- 
gist, to dine and converse pleasantly with this 
strenuous opponent of woman's suffrage. 

" Of course it's ridiculous," he asserted, when 
she said something to that effect presently. 
" But differences of opinion are very unimpor- 
tant things. My opinion on this question is 
part of my profession. Yours is the result of 
philanthropic impulse. In our moments of re- 
laxation we leave those things behind us. 
There is nothing incongruous in your dining 



MERE MAN 

with me here to-night, and then throwing a 
bomb at me on the street in the morning. In 
fact, it would show that you did the thing on 
principle and not from personal motives." 

" I have no intention of throwing a bomb at 
you," she said. " The trouble is if I am seen 
making a suffrage speech in the afternoon, and 
then trailing around in the most comfortable 
way in the world with you in the evening, it 
will cause comment." 

" True enough," he cried ; " we must hurry to 
shelter before that newspaper man returns and 
takes a flash-light picture of us." 

They rose from the table. 

" I see that the only way for me to enjoy a 
little of your society," he said, later, as they 
approached the house where she lived, " is to 
dash up in a cab, thrust you in it and hustle 
you off to dinner against your will. Then no 
one could doubt your sincerity." 

" In that case," she said, smiling, " the rules 
require a hunger and thirst strike." 

" You give me no chance." 
73 



MERE MAN 

" Unless," she observed, mischievously, " you 
change your opinions." 

" A bribe ! " he exclaimed. " Madam," he 
went on, thrusting his hand into the breast of 
his coat, " all congressmen are incorruptible. 
If you don't believe it, read the ' Congressional 
Record.' " 

She laughed. 

" Then good-bye," she said, holding out her 
hand. 

" Good-bye. You know," he added, thought- 
fully, " there is a great deal of very fine ozone 
to be breathed on the housetops nowadays." 

She gazed at him understandingly. 

" But it is growing too cold," she said, her 
lips firmly set. 

He looked at her keenly, and then taking off 
his hat, bowed pleasantly, and walked down 
the street. She did not look after him, but went 
immediately into the house. 

This gentleman was an ideal person to let 
alone. He possessed almost every characteris- 
tic to render him objectionable. He opposed the 

74 



MERE MAN 

crusade to which she had resolutely decided to 
devote her life ; and she could not run with the 
hare and hunt with the hounds. Moreover, he 
was entertaining and companionable and con- 
genial, which barred him entirely from her 
sight. Those were faults in a man which she 
nun that she was ! could not overlook. She 
had nothing to do now with men that appealed 
to her and interested her. All that was behind 
her. She smiled as she glanced at her reflec- 
tion in the hallway mirror. She was a martyr. 
Like old Saint Simeon Stylites, she sat forever 
on the top of a high column and watched the 
world of men pass by beneath her. They were 
not for her. There was no love and marriage 
on the top of the column ; nothing but the 
storm and sleet of continued spinsterhood. The 
whole situation was indeed grotesquely im- 
probable. 

But she had joined in a serious movement 
with serious-minded women, and she must carry 
out her part. As a famous suffrage speaker had 
said, the beginnings of all great reforms were 

75 



MERE MAN 

ludicrous and excited the ridicule of the world. 
Mr. Lea himself had told her that she must not 
view her own ambitions with a sense of humor, 
for that destroyed the essential element of confi- 
dence. She looked at her trim, well-dressed 
figure in the glass. 

" You don't look like a martyr, my dear," she 
said, " but I think you had best continue to be 
one." 

She stumbled up the dark staircase. The gas 
lights in the hall above burned like pin points. 
Miss Howell met her in the third floor hall. 

" Deborah," she exclaimed, in an elaborate 
stage whisper that could be heard all over the 
house, " Mrs. Dobson has been here nearly an 
hour waiting for you. She is almost wild. I 
never saw such a fidgety woman. She paces 
the room like a lioness." 

"Surplus energy," the other commented. 

" Where is that girl ? " cried a voice suddenly. 
Mrs. Dobson burst out of their room, and to 
Deborah's immeasurable astonishment and con- 
fusion, kissed her right on the mouth. 

76 



MERE MAN 

" Come in and sit down," she said, when she 
had recovered. 

" I hope I never have to sit down again," the 
lady ejaculated. "I sat in that chair twelve 
months waiting for you to-night." 

" Sorry I was so late," the girl replied, peni- 
tently. 

" Never mind. I would have waited two 
hours more. I made up my mind I was not 
going to leave this room until I had told you 
how splendid you were. I heard all about your 
speech and the way you put the college boys to 
rout. You have real resourcefulness. I need 
you. I admire you. I adore you." 

Deborah blushed rose-red. 

" My dear Mrs. Dobson," she protested. 

Mrs. Dobson sat down on the edge of the bed 
for a moment and then bounced excitedly to her 
feet again. 

" I mean every word of it, and I want you to 
help us in our hearings before the Congressional 
Committee. You can help us." 

" But," Deborah exclaimed, awed by this new 
77 



MERE MAN 

responsibility, "I should make a very poor 
witness." 

" Why ? " shot out the visitor. 

" I haven't the poise, the sangfroid" 

" Bosh ! " exclaimed Mrs. Dobson. She 
reached for her umbrella. 

" Well," she said, " think it over. I will not 
rest until I get you. But the hearings are a 
month off. I simply wanted to let you know 
to-night that you are a doomed woman." 

She started toward the door, and then coming 
back looked at Deborah searchingly. 

" Has anything happened to make you regret 
that you signed that paper? " 

" Why do you ask ? " the girl demanded, sur- 
prised. 

" I have an intuition about things sometimes," 
she responded. " If you have changed your 
mind, I can have the pledge you took re- 
scinded." 

Astonishment was in Deborah's eyes. 

" I am sure I have no such desire," she as- 
serted. 

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MERE MAN 

" Good 1 Then think over what I asked you 
to do." 

She presently departed, a majestic figure. 
Her skirt rode at an angle with the floor. Wisps 
of her hair, unrestrained, blew about her uncom- 
fortably, so that you wanted to take affairs in 
your own hands and put them in place. But 
in her bright eyes, shining through the gold- 
bowed spectacles, was the light of determina- 
tion. And when that foot, clad in its square- 
toed, common-sense shoe, planted itself firmly, 
it had the immovable air of a house builded on 
a rock. 

"Of course she's efficient," Deborah ex- 
claimed. " She has one idea, and she drives at 
that. All her impulses are masculine. Imagine 
her in a home superintending the dusting and 
cleaning of woodwork, and the preparation of 
hash from yesterday's beefsteak. She couldn't 
exist." 

" I think she is a tremendous argument in 
favor of woman suffrage. Women like that 
ought to have an interest in public affairs." 

79 



MERE MAN 

" If all women were like that there wouldn't 
be any need of argument. They would march 
up to the Capitol and run every one out of it. 
But they aren't all like that" 

" Sometimes I hardly know whether you favor 
woman's suffrage or not, Deborah." 

Deborah laughed softly. 

"I am always a woman," she said, enig- 
matically. 



80 



CHAPTER VIII 

ONE day two or three weeks later, Deborah 
walked into the Capitol. It was a very un- 
residential thing to do. She had not been within 
those walls for many a day. She had passed by 
its glorious dome daily, and given but little 
thought to what happened beneath it, except to 
note that of late years Congress sat there almost 
continually. The long session dragged on until 
it merged into the short session ; and in the nine 
months when there should have been a recess 
for the welfare of the country, they sat in special 
session until it was time to convene again. 

To-day some impulse led her up the broad 
steps and into the rotunda. The place was 
filled with tourists trotting amiably in compact 
masses after their respective guides. She did 
not know why she came. She was like the 

girl in the fairy-story who followed an invisible 

81 



MERE MAN 

thread in her hand, which led her on to un- 
known places. The thread that led Deborah 
was invisible and intangible, but it had a tract- 
ive power. It led on through that circular 
storehouse for statues, by the busy telegraph 
desks, by the doorkeeper at his post, keeping 
all but the elect from the sacred floor beyond, 
up marble stairs, paused to allow a diplomatic 
exchange of conversation with another door- 
keeper, and terminated finally in a secluded 
spot in the corner of the Members' Gallery. No 
one could have been more surprised in the end 
than was Deborah herself. 

Under that dome is a diverting show. The 
Speaker pounds the wooden top of his marble 
desk, until the place resounds like a carpen- 
ter shop. Conversation continues. Gentlemen 
make speeches some audible, some inaudible. 
The chosen representatives of a great people 
lose their tempers and invite each other out- 
side, pugilistic encounters not being furnished 
on the floor of the House for the entertainment 

of the galleries. A lull. A man rises, and 

82 



MERE MAN 

before you know it, he has launched into a 
real speech which ends in a flurry of applause. 
In the morning the newspapers will repeat it, 
and perhaps fifty years from now your grand- 
children may read a sentence or two of it in 
their histories. 

When Deborah entered the gallery, the floor 
of the House sounded like the drone of the 
mob in Julius Caesar, A gentleman was mak- 
ing a speech in a confidential tone to the offi- 
cial stenographer, who sat in the seat directly 
in front of him driving his pencil earnestly 
across his paper. The House buzzed with con- 
versation. But the man on the floor was not 
talking to them; he was addressing his con- 
stituents through the medium of the " Congres- 
sional Record." The Speaker listened in a state 
of coma. Deborah's eyes wandered over the 
chamber. At length they stopped and fixed 
themselves on one spot almost with the air of 
being surprised at what they saw. John Mar- 
shall Lea sat at his desk. She watched him 
impersonally. If any excitement or interest 

83 



MERE MAN 

was aroused in her heart, she showed none 
of it in her face. By leaning forward she could 
have seen more of him than just his head. But 
she did not lean forward. 

Presently the man on the floor finished his 
task and subsided into his seat. The stenog- 
rapher, thrusting carelessly under his arm the 
only existing record of the recent winged words, 
rose, thirsting for more words. The clerk at 
the desk adjusted his glasses, and with a poise 
that was absolute, sang a short selection to the 
House. 

The song, which like grand opera in Eng- 
lish was more or less indistinguishable, had 
something to do with the limit of cost of a 
certain Federal building which the bill in the 
clerk's hands proposed to raise from such and 
such a figure to such and such a figure. All 
this was as unimportant to Deborah as it ap- 
peared to be to every one else in the chamber. 
The place this Federal building was to adorn 
she had never heard of before. She wondered 
what was to happen next. 

84 



MERE MAN 

The Speaker seized his gavel and delivered 
a muscular blow upon the desk. 

" The gentleman from Kentucky," he cried. 
" The House will be in order. Gentlemen will 
cease conversation." 

He glared about the chamber. Bang. Bang. 
The gavel fell again. The contented murmur 
died down a trifle. 

" The gentleman from Kentucky." 

Deborah did not know who the gentleman 
from Kentucky might be. She glanced at the 
clock, wondering whether to stay longer. 

She made a tentative move, preparatory to 
rising. And then the sound of a firm, clear 
voice, a familiar voice, reached her ear. She 
did not have to look down upon the floor of 
the House to know that it was John Marshall 
Lea who had been elected from the State of 
Kentucky. 

But she did look down upon the floor of 
the House. Her eyes sought the speaker. A 
tremor of excitement ran through her. He ad- 
dressed the House of Representatives in the 

85 



MERE MAN 

same even, dispassionate tone that he had 
used when he had talked to her. A whimsical 
choosing of his words, a crispness to his 
sentences, and the carrying power of his 
voice mowed down the conversation about 
him. He used no flowers of speech. He 
was asking for the increase in appropriation 
carried by the bill that had just been read 
at the desk. He did not ask for it in the 
name of the forty-eight stars and the thirteen 
stripes. He asked for it by virtue of cer- 
tain statistics which he read and followed 
by a logical, concise statement. The whole 
speech took two minutes by the clock over 
the Speaker's desk. But she noted with a 
feeling that might almost have been called 
pride that all about the House the mem- 
bers were listening. However, it availed him 
little. 

After he had finished, a gentleman sitting 
near the Speaker's desk rose impressively and 
replied in a colorless speech that referred to a 

certain goddess by the name of Economy, that 

86 



MERE MAN 

great name to conjure with when all other 
deities fail. It was plain from his speech that 
he was saying, though not in so many words, 
that the House of Representatives was not in- 
terested in the needs of the town in Kentucky, 
that the money might be better used for build- 
ings in Maine or California or whatever state it 
was the respective members had been chosen 
from. What is patriotism in one's own state is 
extravagance in another man's state. The 
vote was taken and the bill was, with a certain 
air of nonchalance, voted down. Lea had not 
touched deep enough. He was thinking, per- 
haps, at that moment that to put through a bill 
so special in its appeal, he must hold in his 
hand a great lever to pry the House out of its 
lethargy. 

He called immediately for a division and de- 
layed the decision long enough to send out for 
his friends who were in the cloak-rooms. But 
many were in the committee rooms which were 
in the House Office Building across the street ; 
and it is a long journey even by the under- 

8? 



MERE MAN 

ground passage, so that he could not get his 
majority. Deborah was as chagrined and cast 
down as if it had been her own bill that was 
defeated. 

But John Lea was not idle. He left the cham- 
ber for a moment and returned presently to his 
seat. Something in the resolute set of his mouth 
prompted Deborah to remain. In a short time 
a score of members who had not been there 
before entered and took their seats. Lea 
rose. She wondered. It would have been im- 
possible to get the House of Representatives 
under ordinary circumstances to reconsider his 
bill. 

" Why does the gentleman rise ? " demanded 
the Speaker. 

There was a strange light in the gentleman's 
eyes. 

" Mr. Speaker," he said, gravely and impress- 
ively, " I rise to a question of the highest per- 
sonal privilege." 

The House held its breath. This meant ex- 
citement. 

88 



MERE MAN 

" This question affects the right of a member 
to his seat in the House." 

The statement was serious and far-reaching. 
Deborah could see the members leaning for- 
ward in their seats. But they all saw the 
glimmer of humor in his eyes. Lea was calm 
and self-possessed. He had the situation in his 
hands. 

" The member," he said, amidst an absolute 
silence, " is myself." 

The House burst into a roar of laughter. He 
had touched beneath their skins. 

"If I do not get the appropriation for my 
custom house," he exclaimed, " under the im- 
perative facts I stated a moment ago, my 
constituents will not return me to my seat 
in this House and I shall not deserve to be 
returned. I ask you now to reconsider and 
pass my bill." 

There was nothing parliamentary in this 
unique method of attack. In fact it might 
have been said that it was merely a subtly 
transparent evasion of parliamentary proce- 

89 



MERE MAN 

dure. But in it was embodied a serene under- 
standing of the natures about him. 

The leader of his side of the chamber asked 
him again as to certain facts he had stated. 
The Goddess Economy faded into the misty 
distance. Lea pressed his advantage gently 
and skilfully. A gentleman rose and made a 
brief speech full of legislative humor which ac- 
centuated the good spirits of the tired members. 
Lea had put rose glasses upon them. And 
when the vote was taken again on the bill, it 
slipped pleasantly through by a comfortable 
majority. 

Deborah looked at him when it was all over 
triumph in her heart. He sat at his desk 
just as he had before. And then he looked 
up, almost directly at her, as though he felt her 
presence. 

She walked home. Dusk was just beginning 
to fall. The sky in the west was a deep rose- 
pink and against it stood the black silhouette of 
the buildings before her. Lights everywhere 

were springing into life. The new moon hung 
90 



MERE MAN 

in the sky. The sidewalks bustled with people 
hurrying home. She turned presently into a 
quieter street and she heard footsteps resound- 
ing behind her. 

" Miss Carver," said a voice. 

She wheeled about. 

11 Mr. Lea." 

" I hope you will forgive my sleuthing you, 
but I felt that I must see you." 

"I sat in the gallery of your place of business 
just now," she confessed. 

" I know. I saw you there. I have been 
endeavoring to have a moment's conversation 
with you for some time. But you are more 
difficult of access than the President. I prom- 
enaded the roof one warm evening a week ago 
hoping the starlight would tempt you. But I 
think you were not in your room." 

" How did you know that?" she demanded. 

" Deep deduction. I saw the shadow of the 
prim lady who occupies the room adjoining 
yours falling on the brick wall beside your 
window. You have said she talks readily. As 



MERE MAN 

she was not talking, I assumed there was no 
one in the room with her." 

She smiled at him. 

"Sometimes you are really bright, you 
know." 

He bowed. 

" I value your good opinion above fine 
gold," he asserted. 

" I wonder if you do," she said. " I am all 
curiosity to know what you wanted to see me 
about." 

" Is it true," he asked, " that you are expect- 
ing to appear before our committee in behalf of 
the suffragists?" 

"Yes." 

He hesitated. 

" I hardly know," he went on, " how to ask 
what I have to ask. I have no right to ask it 
as a favor, nor can I give a very good and 
sensible reason for it. I want to ask you not 
to appear." 

"Why?" she asked, evenly. 

" Because," he replied, " your friendship, 
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MERE MAN 

your personality, mean too much to me to 
have you appear there. To me you are 
wonderfully and exquisitely feminine. There 
are fundamental things in life for you 
womanly things, motherly things, things that 
have been important in the world for thousands 
of years which are more valuable and dearer 
to your heart than the mere matter of voting. 
Why drag yourself out of yourself for a bauble 
like that ? Your supporters in this movement 
will say it is old-fashioned for a man to expect 
a woman to remain a woman ; but I do. I 
would rather you stayed on your mountain 
height." 

" I could not change now," she said, in a low 
voice, but firmly. 

He looked at her keenly. 

" You are certain of that ? " 

"Absolutely." 

He sighed. 

"Very well," he replied, smiling. "I shall 
have to forget for the time that you are you." 

"I'm very sorry," she returned. "Wouldn't 
93 



MERE MAN 

it be better," she asked, presently, " to simply 
come over to our side ? " 

He smiled. 

"'Again the Devil taketh Him up into an 
exceeding high mountain,' " he said. 



94 



CHAPTER IX 

QOUTHEAST of the Capitol te the low- 
*^ lying white marble structure that is the 
office building of the House of Representatives. 
It and its twin the Senate Office Building 
are the last word in refinement and culture. 
They are almost supercilious in their propriety, 
in their studied correctness, flaunting their 
architectural blue-blood in the face of the 
sturdy old Capitol as though they would say, 
" My wehd, old chap, don't throw out your 
chest so. It's crewd, you know. It isn't done 
at all, really." 

Within are the Turkish baths and the restau- 
rants and offices and committee rooms of those 
fortunate or unfortunate, according as you 
look at it individuals who have been chosen 
by the people at home to be statesmen, for 
which thankless job they receive a little bit of 

95 



MERE MAN 

money, the privilege of using their signature 
instead of a two-cent stamp, the maledictions 
of the public press, and railroad fare. 

It was toward this white office building of the 
House that Deborah, her heart beating at more 
than its usual cadence, her eyes bright with 
excitement, walked slowly along one sunny 
day in November. This was the day she was 
to appear before the committee and make her 
plea. The leafless trees on the Capitol grounds 
stood bare and gaunt in the sunshine. The 
little gray squirrels, foreseeing the approach of 
winter, scampered over the hard earth search- 
ing for food, pausing now and then, alert on 
their haunches, enjoying the pretense that they 
were wild in the woods and that these humans 
who passed were carrying guns for little squir- 
rels instead of peanuts. 

At the street corner, a girl who had been 
waiting for a car ran up to her. 

"Why, Deborah Carver," she cried, grasp- 
ing both her hands. 

" Frances." 

96 



MERE MAN 

"Where are you going?" demanded the 
other. 

" I am a spinster lady going to make my 
testimony before some congressmen on the sub- 
ject of woman's suffrage." 

" Dear, oh, dear 1 There is such a question, 
isn't there ? How do you get time oh, but you 
are not married. I am so busy thinking about 
babies, and babies' foods and babies' baths and 
those flitting evanescent things called chil- 
dren's shoes, which are here to-day and to- 
morrow are worn to shreds, that I have no time 
to think of these advanced ideas." 

" The foremost feminists say that's stagnation, 
Frances, dear." 

" But I like it. I would go through fire for 
my children. Before I was married, I used to 
belong to current events clubs and discuss 
weighty questions and feel that I was stirring 
atoms of intellect that might help some day in 
the uplift of woman. The uplift of woman, in- 
deed ! Do you realize, my dear, that there can 
be nothing more glorious for women than in fol- 

97 



MERE MAN 

lowing out her natural bent and raising fine, 
strong children for the world. Beside that the 
mere privilege of casting a ballot twice a year 
is too insignificant to think about." 

" Even," observed Deborah, mildly, " if it 
helped to pass legislation that was beneficial to 
the fine, strong children ? " 

The other hesitated as if that were a phase 
of the situation she had not considered. 

" The arguments for woman's suffrage," she 
said, at length, tracing a pattern on the pave- 
ment with her umbrella, " presuppose that all 
laws to be advocated by women will be benefi- 
cial laws ; that is, that the feminine intellect is 
on such a high plane that no combination of 
women will support legislation which it will be 
necessary for the remainder of us to oppose. 
Women will all act together as a unit for the 
public good." 

" Don't you believe that they will ? " 

" I believe they are human. I believe they 
will sometimes support good legislation and 

sometimes bad. I believe that there would 

98 



MERE MAN 

come times when I should have to oppose issues 
that other women supported. And opposition 
in politics means endless activity. Simply drop- 
ping one intelligent vote in the ballot box helps 
very little." 

" But if many women dropped in the intelli- 
gent vote, it would help materially." 

" Some women could do more. Unmarried 
women and married women without children 
or who leave the care of their children to nurses 
would have an immeasurable advantage over 
the rest of us. Winning at the polls is a busi- 
ness in which organization and generalship are 
the essential things. A woman who wishes to 
be efficient in her home cannot properly give 
the time to perfecting an organization and lay- 
ing plans of battle. She has an organization 
under her own roof that requires her to con- 
serve her resources and is entitled to her first 
consideration. No one has forced the care of 
that household upon her. She assumes it will- 
ingly no, in the majority of cases she assumes 
it with enthusiasm." 

99 



MERE MAN 

Deborah looked at her companion queerly. 
She remembered that, by the time she was 
twenty-six, she had thought she would have as- 
sumed that responsibility certainly with en- 
thusiasm. 

" But," she exclaimed, " you are in the infe- 
rior position of having no voice in your own 
government. Isn't that a slur on your intel- 
lect?" 

" No. I feel that the whole thing is merely 
an amicable division of effort. Woman, by 
reason of her ability to bear and nurse children, 
assumes the responsibility of the home ; man, 
by reason of his strength, assumes the responsi- 
bility of earning their living and caring for their 
political welfare. It is just the same as any 
other division of responsibility. When my hus- 
band and I were first married and were too 
thoroughly poor to afford a maid, he took care 
of the furnace and I took care of the kitchen 
range. We made that arrangement because it 
best suited our respective convenience and 
strength. But I did not feel that it was a slur 

100 



MERE MAN 

on my intellect or capacity because I was not 
allowed to care for the furnace too." 

" But suppose you felt that he could have 
done it better with your help ? " 

Frances laughed. 

" It would only have ended in the range go- 
ing out. Wouldn't I have made a pretty figure, 
my dear, explaining that I could do my work 
and half of his as well ? " 

Deborah smiled. 

" I think, Frances, the thing you overlook is 
the fact that woman's influence will be always a 
power for good." 

" Why should it ? " demanded the other 
quickly. " Are women any more immune from 
error, or mistakes in judgment, or culpability, 
than men ? Aren't they the same frail humans, 
possessing the same average of faults and 
virtues ? You are not introducing a new ele- 
ment into politics. You are simply doubling 
the present one." 

Deborah started to reply and then suddenly 

she was struck with the force of the statement. 

101 



MERE MAN 

" That is a new idea for me," she said, 
slowly. 

Frances brightened. 

" Then I shall not count this day lost." She 
stepped out into the street to board the car that 
was approaching. " Remember this, Deborah," 
she said. " God made you a woman, with all 
a woman's weakness of body. And God made 
them men. That is the fundamental idea to be 
borne in mind in this agitation." 

Deborah stared after the car as it rumbled 
away, and then walked thoughtfully on up the 
steep street toward the white building before 
her. 

The Gommittee room was an ornate room, 
and not the bare, bald torture chamber she had 
expected. At one end a closely packed audi- 
ence sat. They had been standing in line for 
hours, and hordes of their disappointed sisters 
were even now crowding the corridor, picking 
up crumbs of gossip and hoping that something 
would happen that would let them too into the 

sacred precinct. At the far end of the room 

102 



MERE MAN 

was a long mahogany table, around which sat 
ten inquisitors, to use a term that corresponded 
with the feeling within her. The chairman, 
drowsily awake, sat at the head of it and 
directed the proceedings. Mrs. Dobson, her 
bonnet sitting at the same angle at which she 
had firmly planted it in her haste immediately 
after breakfast, her square-toed shoes set res- 
olutely on the rug before her, her mouth in a 
hard, firm line as if she were a reincarnation of 
the Sphinx, dominated the scene, dealing out 
the time allotted her to her various supporters 
as she saw fit. 

Deborah found a seat waiting for her beside 
Mrs. Dobson. The hearings had already be- 
gun. A woman seated at the end of the long 
table opposite the chairman was making an im- 
passioned appeal, the feathers in her bonnet 
bobbing emphatically as she spoke. There was 
enthusiasm and assurance in her voice and in 
her eyes the inspired light of a prophet. The 
whole question lay before her like a map. She 

knew her way around her conception of it 

103 



MERE MAN 

blindfold. There was something inspiring in 
her sureness and her unmoved conviction that 
she was in the right. 

On the opposite side of the table from Deb- 
orah sat John Lea. She gazed at him as he 
sat there leaning back in his chair, his eyes 
fixed on the blotter before him. It was evident 
that nothing that was said escaped him. Oc- 
casionally he would look up at the speaker as 
though something she had said had attracted 
his attention and once he leaned forward and 
scratched a few words on his pad. 

The next speaker was an aggressive young 
woman with a tongue like a thin Damascus 
blade. Her caustic conversation roused the 
committeemen. They gazed at her with inter- 
est and once or twice interrupted her to ask a 
question, getting in return replies with a sting 
that left the questioners discomfited. Lea 
sometimes smiled at her sallies. Once, a 
humorous gleam in his eyes, he interrupted her 
himself, with the exaggerated air of a man about 

to enter a den of lions. 

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MERE MAN 

" Could you tell me," he asked, pleasantly, 
" how many women in the United States favor 
woman's suffrage ? " 

" All of them." 

" Every one ? " 

" Except a few old aunts and antis." 

" Naturally," he agreed. " And how many 
women are enrolled in your organization ? " 

" Two hundred and fifty thousand. But with 
five thousand Joshua marched round the city of 
Jericho and the walls fell." 

" Joshua knew the combination," he observed, 
smiling, and let her go on with her argument. 

The questions he asked now and then of the 
women who spoke were direct and for informa- 
tion. He did not attempt to " rattle " them or 
confuse their testimony. On the contrary, he 
was considerate and courteous. Deborah found 
that her sympathy was with him. It was not 
sympathy with his side of the question, but 
sympathy with him as a person. How could 
she help bring confusion upon the man's cause 

if she looked with favor on him? But Mrs. 

105 



MERE MAN 

Dobson felt no sympathy for him. Every time 
he spoke her mouth drew tighter, until it seemed 
that it could stand the strain but a little while 
longer. Presently she leaned toward Deborah 
and said : 

" We have just time for one more speaker. 
I want you to take the stand." 

Deborah sat up straighter in her chair. A 
hot fire of excitement burned in her breast. 
Her mind and heart were back in her own camp. 
She had visited the enemy's outpost, so to 
speak, and now she was ready to fight. 

The speaker finished Mrs. Dobson rose. 

" In yielding," she said, " the last few minutes 
of my time to Miss Carver, I wish to say that 
she typifies the spirit of the women who are 
fighting for equal suffrage. Young, attractive, 
with all the charm that could make any woman 
lovable, she voluntarily gave up her chance of 
marriage to follow in our cause and help us 
fight this great fight. Nothing could be more 
admirable and touching and forceful than that. 

I yield to Miss Carver." 

1 06 



MERE MAN 

A storm of applause burst out in the room. 
Deborah glanced for a fraction of a second at 
Lea. A flush had mounted his face. Had he 
known before what Mrs. Dobson had said ? 
The applause continued. She rose and walked 
to her place at the head of the table. A hush 
fell upon the room. 

She found that she was as cool as if she were 
in her own school facing her pupils. She noted 
the reflection of the lights on the polished table. 
She saw the pattern of the vest on the ample 
bosom of the gentleman beside her. Realizing 
the value of the silence, she did not hurry with 
her beginning, but when she was comfortably 
seated, allowed them a moment of expectancy, 
and then, catching them on the crest of the 
wave, began to talk. 

There was no sound in the room but her clear 
voice. The voice was not strong, but it had a 
quality that made every word distinctly audible 
in the far corners of the chamber. She did not 
attempt to rise to any height of feeling. Her 

whole idea was to present a connected argu- 

107 



MERE MAN 

ment, which should carry itself along by its own 
momentum like a proof in geometry. The 
arguments she used had all been advanced be- 
fore again and again. She merely selected and 
arranged and coordinated them. She pre- 
sented the whole question from its ethical stand- 
point the standpoint of the right of the indi- 
vidual woman to the ballot, without respect to 
expediency. To her mind this was the strong- 
est phase of the question. Discrimination in 
the suffrage seemed to her unfair. That was 
the citadel of her belief. And backed by that 
conviction, she spoke clearly and impressively. 
She could feel that she was being listened to. 

When she had finished, the room burst into 
a thunder of applause, in which some of the 
men round the table, notably the gentleman in 
the flowered vest, joined. She sat still in her 
chair, gazing mildly at her white-gloved hands, 
folded before her. The applause died down. 
There was a tense silence. 

It was broken by John Lea. 

" Miss Carver," he said, quietly, " your speech 
1 08 



MERE MAN 

has been heard with more than usual attention, 
and I feel that I speak for the whole committee 
when I say we are all indebted to you for your 
clear explanation of your case. The question 
of suffrage for women," he went on, " depends 
wholly on the women. There are twenty-five 
million adult women in the United States. 
There are two hundred and fifty thousand 
women in your association. We will note the 
testimony of you and your colleagues, Miss 
Carver, as the expression of the views of one 
woman in each one hundred." 

A murmur broke loose in the room. 

Deborah faced Mr. Lea. 

" You must remember," she said, " there are 
thousands of women not enrolled in our asso- 
ciation who favor the suffrage." 

" Undoubtedly," returned he, quickly. " I 
simply call attention to the fact that no evidence 
as to them has been presented to us." 

There was no reply to that. 

" It is perhaps unnecessary," Lea continued, 

" as this is merely a hearing, for me to make a 

109 



MERE MAN 

statement. But I feel that it will perhaps facil- 
itate matters during the remainder of the hear- 
ings if I do so. I have made the point of the 
minority who favor woman's suffrage I believe 
it is generally acknowledged to be about one 
woman in ten because I feel that it is the pivot 
of the whole matter. Woman's suffrage is a 
sweepingly revolutionary measure it is not a 
thing to be decided offhand, or by virtue of 
a theory, or from motives of chivalry. Men 
and women are different in their bodies, in their 
functions, in their emotions and in their mental 
processes. It is for this reason that certain du- 
ties of the home have devolved upon the woman 
and certain duties of breadwinning and gov- 
ernment have devolved upon men. This divi- 
sion of responsibilities has been in operation for 
centuries and under it the world has moved for- 
ward to a high state of civilization. In other 
words, it is efficient. That is the point I wish 
to make." 

He paused. Deborah found her eyes fixed 
upon him. 

no 



MERE MAN 

"We are now asked to give up an efficient 
system," he went on, " for one that may be 
efficient, but has not been proven so ; a system 
whose adoption would only be justifiable in 
event of its being shown that woman has out- 
grown the present one. It will be necessary to 
show that they have outgrown it not that 
ten per cent, have outgrown it, but that the 
whole body of them have ; that the terms 
1 masculine ' and ' feminine,' which made male 
suffrage possible, have grown synonymous, 
that woman, in the average, is no longer willing 
to sit peacefully beside the man of her choice 
without her hand too on the throttle. The 
relation between the majority of men and 
women is that of man and wife. That is what 
is intended in the scheme of the universe. The 
woman's suffrage movement is made possible 
by unmarried women, who have attacked the 
world from necessity in a man's way, who 
labor shoulder to shoulder with men, who try 
to think as men think. They feel that their 

sex, instead of being a prerogative, is a handi- 

iii 



MERE MAN 

cap to them. They wish to establish a condi- 
tion for all women to suit their own special 
case. I make no criticism of this, but I say 
there are other women to be convinced." 

Deborah had listened with no thought of 
aggression in her. Indignation seized her, 
when he had finished, that she had no reply to 
his arraignment of her cause. She had still 
a minute of her time left. But, instead of argu- 
ments martialing themselves in her brain, she 
found herself instead struck on a sudden rock 
of doubt. Was it true that her duty as a 
woman required certain things of her merely 
by virtue of her being a woman and that her 
cause was not an attack against an artificial 
system, but against a deep-rooted fundamental 
thing against Providence for having created 
her a woman ? 

The idea staggered her. She was not 
ashamed of being a woman. Her sex was 
precious to her. In her heart burned a sting- 
ing flame of resentment, of half-formed self- 
accusation fired by the charge in Lea's words 

112 



MERE MAN 

the charge against them against her of 
masculinity. Until to-day, she had not 
thought of it in that way. The question had 
not been complex to her. She had been 
actuated merely by a desire to have her own 
opinion officially recognized. She strove to 
enter no alien field. Far above everything 
else more important than any civil regulation 
was her pride in her own womanliness. 

In the midst of her absorption, she heard 
the voice of the gentleman, the wearer of the 
flowered waistcoat, as if he were speaking from 
the far distance. 

" Miss Carver," he said, " it has been stated 
as an argument that you are so zealous in this 
cause that you would rather have the right to 
vote than have a husband. Is that actually 
true ? It would throw an interesting side-light 
on this question." 

There was a hush in the room. Then 
Deborah felt herself rising to her feet. The 
tips of her fingers pressed against the polished 
wood of the table. Her intention had been to 



MERE MAN 

refuse to answer to say that the question was 
too personal and had no bearing on the subject. 
But an irresistible force moved her, put in her 
a desire to lay her position accurately before 
them. 

" The action you refer to," she found herself 
saying, in a low voice, but quite distinctly, 
" was taken because I thought it would help 
the cause. It represented no personal prefer- 
ence. I am quite certain, on the contrary," 
she concluded, the blood rushing to her face, 
" that I should prefer a husband to the vote." 



CHAPTER X 

AFTER the first dazed silence, the room 
broke into an uproar. Mrs. Dobson sat 
as motionless as if one view of the head of 
Medusa had turned her to stone. 

" I told you beforehand," asserted Deborah, 
reaching for her muff, " that I would have to 
be honest." 

The other bounced to her feet. 

" Oh, I don't blame you," she cried. " But 
that Lea man. He avoids the issue. He 
poisons the minds of the congressmen by say- 
ing we are only a small minority. Does that 
affect the righteousness of our cause ? If one 
woman came here and proved that equal 
suffrage was righf, Congress ought to pass a 
law and make the other women vote whether 
they wanted to or not^ If the ballot is a 
woman's right, she ought to be made to 
exercise it." 

"5 



MERE MAN 

Deborah presently escaped from a crowd of 
excited women and came out upon the streets, 
now lighted with their electric lights. She was 
tremendously agitated. She did not want it to 
be considered that she was dissatisfied with her 
sex. She had no fault to find with the way she 
had been created. She was proud that she was 
a woman. This new idea that Providence had 
endowed man with strength for the purpose of 
administering the belligerent functions of life 
and woman with gentleness to deal with chil- 
dren and her home, gave her pause. If this 
were true, was her revolt against the domina- 
tion of man, or was it against the decree of 
heaven ? If it were true, did not the doctrine of 
woman's suffrage become a mere dissatisfaction 
with sex ? It was a dissatisfaction with a woman's 
restrictions, which were all traceable to the mere 
fact that she was a woman. 

For the first time, doubt crossed her mind. 
And she felt vaguely that the doubt was there 
because a new element had entered into her 

being. She tried to prove to herself that her 

116 



MERE MAN 

passing interest in John Lea was an incidental 
thing, that she thought of him merely with the 
same friendly lukewarmness she reserved for 
Jane. She pretended there was no pursuit, that 
his interest awakened in her no refreshed pride 
in her good looks and her personal charms. 
She pretended, in a word, that her satisfaction 
that she was a woman was not augmented by 
his presence on the scene ; that no primary emo- 
tion stirred in her heart, threatening to drive all 
other considerations from it. But it was only a 
thin pretense. 

As she walked up Pennsylvania Avenue she 
felt as if she wanted something to take her mind 
off the subject that she had been thinking about 
for the past week. She wanted to fill her head 
up with anything that would adulterate the 
strong solution of woman's suffrage that clogged 
the convolutions of her brain. A bright light 
burned in the building before her a bright 
light that marked the open door to a wonderful 
land of fancy a place of magic carpets which 

whirled one in an instant to the far East and the 

117 



MERE MAN 

far West, to the mysteries of the dimmest past, 
to the still deeper mysteries of the present. 
When you say this palace of wonder was noth- 
ing but a moving-picture show, you have de- 
scribed it exactly. But you have described the 
greatest gripping force of our modern civiliza- 
tion ; the force that has changed the manners 
and customs of our people, that has furnished 
them with a non-toxic outlet for their desire to 
be passively entertained, that has been mildly 
diverting, that has stirred their fancy, that has 
sometimes educated them. It is a relaxer, that 
sweeps a man's own life out of his brain for a 
while, and returns him again to earth recreated. 
Deborah felt that it was a somewhat unintellec- 
tual thing to turn her mind over to this anaes- 
thetic, but there was a certain luxury about it 
on that account. She approached the beautiful 
female in the glass enclosure with a five cent 
piece in her hand. 

Within, to her unaccustomed eyes, it was 
dark as the pit. There was a brass rail some- 
where, and then, in the dimness, an aisle. She 

118 



MERE MAN 

groped her way to a seat close to the rear. On 
the screen was a square of light where people in 
the moonlight were doing unintelligible things, 
which she comprehended no more than a con- 
versation of which she might hear the last few 
words. But there was a soothing quiet here. 
The darkness was comforting and restful. The 
tension to which her body and nerves had been 
put all day relaxed slowly, with a luxurious 
sense of passing responsibility. She watched 
the screen idly. Of course she did not care 
whether the gentleman in evening clothes kissed 
the lady in the silk dress. But then she did not 
object to it. It was pleasant to relax thor- 
oughly, amid silence and darkness, and have 
even the current of her thoughts directed for her. 
It was diverting not to have to take sides 
not to feel that she must either sympathize or 
condemn. Therefore when the gentleman in 
the evening clothes and his silk lady had pres- 
ently faded away and gone back again into the 
archives of the gentleman over her head, she 

was rather pleased than dismayed to, find the 

119 



MERE MAN 

title of the next picture was none other than 
"Stolen for Wedlock." It tasted of melodrama 
and of emotions delivered to the consumer as 
the raw product, but that was perfectly satisfac- 
tory to her. In fact she was a little disappointed 
when it turned out not to be painted in the pri- 
mary colors that the title suggested. It was, 
instead, one of those painstaking harkings back 
to the far past that seem to be carried out no- 
where so minutely as before the cinematograph. 
The story was the story of the Sabine women. 
Costume and setting and the archaeology of the 
subject were treated with an almost too respect- 
ful deference an almost too apparent striving 
for metallic accuracy that instead of creating 
an illusion dispelled it. But the romance of the 
story was there. That is, indeed an indestruc- 
tible fabric. 

There was of course embroidered into it a 
special love story. There was the one girl, 
more beautiful, naturally, than all the rest, who 
escaped the throng of Roman youths who 

swept down upon them, and hid in an obscure 

1 20 



MERE MAN 

spot, where they all passed her by. All save 
one. And this one was a great muscular fel- 
low, of the proportions of an Achilles, who up 
to this time had found no wife to suit him He 
discovered her, hiding, and, deciding that she 
was satisfactory, carried her off with him, holding 
her lithe, slender body in his sturdy arms as if 
she were but a child. She was terror-stricken. 

" Do you suppose," exclaimed a damsel be- 
hind Deborah, suddenly, " I'd let a man carry 
me off like that ? I'd slap him." 

Whereupon the Sabine girl, almost as if 
stung into action by this comment, struggled 
valiantly for freedom. But the man simply 
held her firmly in his arms and gazed at her 
calmly, until she saw the futility of resistance 
and lay there quiet and exhausted. Then he 
carried her off. 

The sequel of the story was that she lived 
with him as his wife. She was forced to. His 
strength left no alternative. But he was kind 
to her ; and, in the end, she learned to love 

him for his power and for his domination over 

121 



MERE MAN 

her, as well as for his fine character. After 
the picture was finished, Deborah sat for a few 
moments. Then she rose and went out upon 
the street. 

" Most women are like that," she said, " espe- 
cially I myself. I am a true Sabine." 

She sat in her room half an hour later. Miss 
Howell came bustling in, loaded down with an 
armful of tiny packages, which gave her the 
appearance of having bought twenty spools 
of cotton and had them wrapped separately. 
These packages she set down absently in vari- 
ous obscure places. Her hat and coat and 
gloves she took off and threw down with per- 
fect abandon. In the morning she would 
doubtless wonder why one glove would be 
discovered inside a pillow-case and the other 
in the bottom bureau drawer. Like a presti- 
digitator she talked all the time as if with the 
purpose of distracting your attention from these 
little feats of legerdemain. 

" Oh," she cried, suddenly, " I forgot all 

about it. How did your hearing come off ? " 
122 



MERE MAN 

" Fine," returned Deborah. " Listen to me, 
Jane. Were these Sabine women you read 
about in history real people, or was that a 
fable ? " 

" What a question. Why, they were real." 

"You don't think it was meant as an alle- 
gory?" observed the other, thoughtfully. "You 
know what I mean, typifying the fact that 
sooner or later some great, big, strong man is 
coming along for every woman to carry her off." 

" I never heard it spoken of that way. What 
are you driving at anyway, Deborah ? " 

" I'm striving to get your opinion," returned 
Deborah, smiling. "You know I have been 
thinking a great deal about the sphere of 
woman lately. And sometimes I come to the 
conclusion that there is only one sphere for 
woman and that's to be contented to be a 
woman." 

" Every one is isn't she ? " Miss Howell 
was a little bewildered. 

Deborah shook her head. 

" No. I have it dinned into me that woman 
123 



MERE MAN 

is indistinguishable from man, that she must 
live like him, and have all his privileges. For 
this some of them even go so far as to say 
they will be willing to give up the privileges 
they now possess as women." 

" Now, I had a cousin in Michigan " 

Deborah put an arm around her shoulder. 

"Just a moment, Jane, before this biography 
begins. I have something on my mind." 

Jane looked at her full in the eyes. 

" Deborah, are you in love ? " 

" It is impossible for me to be in love. I 
signed a paper saying I wouldn't." 

Jane brightened. 

"But suppose this great, strong man you 
say comes into every woman's life comes into 
yours. What are you going to do ? " 

The other stretched out her arms. 

"That's it What was the answer to that 
old problem of an irresistible force meeting an 
immovable object ? " 

She looked amusedly at her companion and 

going over to the closet began to rummage 
124 




ARE YOU IN LOVE 



MERE MAN 

amidst a terminal moraine composed of Jane's 
shoe-trees, bedroom slippers, overshoes, polish- 
ing outfit, old letters and a score of things that 
lady had been hunting for for the past week, in 
search of a pair of pumps. 

"What is it that is on your mind?" de- 
manded Jane. 

" Nothing, nothing 1 " replied Deborah, on 
her knees in the closet. " But did you ever 
feel, Jane, as though you were going two ways 
at once ? " 

" That's one of the symptoms of intoxication, 
isn't it?" demanded the other, seriously. 

Her companion laughed, and dragged out 
her shoes. 

" Not quite," she said, slipping her feet into 
the soft leather things. " It's the difference be- 
tween what your mind wants to do and what 
the atom inside you wants to do. You can 
figure a thing out very minutely and thor- 
oughly in your mind and decide on the direc- 
tion you intend to go, but suddenly you find 

there is something in your nature that holds 

125 



MERE MAN 

your feet to the ground so you cannot take a 
step. I have been trying to make myself view 
the world as if I were a man and I find in the 
end I am a woman." 

" Why, Deborah, are you going to turn anti- 
suffrage ? " 

Deborah fumbled absently among the things 
in her bureau drawer. 

" I am going to turn nothing," she said. " I 
intend to go through to the finish as I started 
out. If there is something stronger in me that 
takes my own personal interest out of the cause, 
that is no reason to back water. The cause is 
the same and I am in it to stay." 

Jane looked at her companion with transpar- 
ent astuteness. 

" Do you regret your celibacy pledge?" she 
asked. 

Deborah laughed and took from the drawer 
a cascade of lace to put at her throat. 

" Why should I ? " she asked. 

Jane glanced at her watch, and forgot the 

conversation. 

126 



MERE MAN 

" Mercy ! " she exclaimed, " if I am going out 
to-night, I must hurry to dinner. Where is my 
pocketbook? I have to pay Mrs. Prouty." 

" Right there in the waste paper basket, to- 
gether with the rest of the things you just 
threw into it," sighed Deborah. 

Jane smiled happily and stewed about with 
an air of great haste, gathering together all the 
things she thought she might need, like a man 
preparing for a dash to the Pole. Finally, the 
door closed behind her, and she seemed to be 
gone. But that was a mere figment of the im- 
agination. In a moment there she stood again 
in the doorway. Perhaps it was her astral self 
projected there by some miraculous piece of 
metaphysics. But no. 

" I have forgotten my pocketbook after all," 
she said. 

It was the real, flesh and blood Jane 1 

" Do you know, Deborah," she cried, look- 
ing in the purse anxiously, "there ought to 
be six dollars in here instead of five. I'll tell 

you why. When I bought my green veil yes- 

127 



MERE MAN 

terday you know the ones we saw in the win- 
dow for ninety-eight cents the girl gave me a 
five dollar bill, three ones, a fifty cent piece, a 
quarter, two ten cent pieces, a nickel and two 
pennies. Then I went into Stein's and gave the 
man a dollar and one of the fifty cent pieces 
and the change he gave me " 

Deborah arose quickly. 

" If you start to tell me about all the change 
you were given yesterday, Jane dear, you will 
never get your dinner." 

"But I wanted to explain why I ought to 
have another dollar," objected the other, wor- 
ried. 

" Go get your dinner," counseled Deborah. 
" It will all come to you as an inspiration." 

Finally she was gone. Deborah sat in her 
chair by the window. She would go to her 
dinner later. She did not feel that she could 
listen to the pompous compliments of the 
Colonel or the idle chatter of Mr. Derry. She 
would go down when they had gone. It is true 

that her coffee would be cold then, as would be 

128 



MERE MAN 

the tiny scraps of vegetables in the dishes ; and 
perhaps the meat would be entirely gone. But 
sometimes one has to sacrifice bodily comfort to 
peace of mind. It occurred to her that what 
she would really like would be a dinner some- 
where where there was a stiff white cloth on the 
table with the folds straight and sharp as a knife 
edge, candles on the table, music far enough off 
not to interfere with the pleasure of eating yet 
audible enough to give the idea of festivity. 
Perhaps it would be advisable to have them 
play Shubert's Serenade. Oysters flavored with 
Shubert have more the feeling of lyrical cry, 
more that touch of subtle melancholy which is 
part of the nature of the animal. Then there 
would be food brought in under great silver 
covers, preserving the air of mystery as to its 
identity the air of uncertainty that piques the 
palate. If you allow yourself to reflect that the 
personage masquerading under the alias of the 
Duke of Filet Mignon Rudesheimer is no one 
but plain old Mr. Tenderloin, it spoils the whole 

setting. All this Deborah reflected would be 

129 



MERE MAN 

much more satisfactory than sitting at Mrs. 
Prouty's table, where the napkin she had used 
yesterday at dinner lay at her place clutched in 
a clothes-pin on which was written her name, 
where on the wall opposite her was a lithograph 
of a basket of fruit, wrinkled in its frame as if it 
had been exposed to the weather or defective 
plumbing pipes, and where her plate careened 
like a vessel at sea because her place was just 
at that subtle point where the tables which 
formed Mrs. Prouty's festive board joined. Per- 
haps it would be more enjoyable to-night for 
her to get her dinner at a little restaurant down- 
town. 

She reached for her book, and putting her 
feet upon the chair before her, in an unladylike 
but thoroughly comfortable manner, settled her- 
self to read. The glint of the rising moon fell 
on the window sill. She read no word in the 
book, but let it lay comfortably in her lap, a 
treasure-house to be consulted when the spirit 
moved her. She gazed out upon the white 
circle in the sky ; and as she looked she saw the 

130 



MERE MAN 

shadow of her own head cast by the gas light 
on the brick wall opposite. She smiled won- 
dering if a certain gentleman could have recog- 
nized her by that silhouette. 

Suddenly she sat rigid, still listening. 

Of course it could not be a footstep on the 
roof crunching the pebbles. It would have been 
impossible for her to have heard such a thing 
through the thickness of the roof and height of 
the attic space. Besides, it was quite imma- 
terial to her if it were the crunching of a foot- 
step. If they were the footsteps of Mr. John 
Lea, he was beyond her horizon. He repre- 
sented several things she was sailing with all 
speed away from. Her duty and self-respect 
her manhood, she was about to tell herself re- 
quired her to put space between her and this 
man. He was the gulf stream that carried her 
out of her course. Farewell, Mr. Lea. 

She took up her book. There was a strange 
tapping at the window where she sat. She lis- 
tened. The tapping continued. She raised 
the window and there, hanging by a string, 



MERE MAN 

suspended from heaven, was a white piece of 
paper rolled into a little cylinder and swinging 
against the glass. 

" Dear Miss Carver," it said, " to-night the 
moon is full." 



132 



CHAPTER XI 

TO-NIGHT the moon was full ! 
She held the paper in her hand. She 
had never seen his handwriting before, with its 
small upright characters carefully made, and the 
whole sentence arranged neatly on the sheet. 
It was an exciting event. But suppose the 
moon were full ? 

She rose and went to the palsied table that 
served her as a desk. With her pencil in her 
hand she stood irresolute, and her eye wandered 
to the tightly-closed trap-door over her bureau. 
She shook her head and leaning over the table 
wrote beneath his sentence. 

" Isn't it beautiful ? " she wrote. " I love to sit 
in this warm spot and watch it." 

She fastened this to the dangling string, 
whereupon it disappeared immediately. She 
settled herself again in her chair and propped 
her feet upon the one before her. 

133 



MERE MAN 

" I shall not take them down," she asserted, 
" until he has gone from the roof." 

She read a page of print that is, her eyes 
performed that duty for her. But had there 
been any great message of truth on that page 
as there must be on every page of every 
really important book, since Mr. H. G. Wells 
has brought forth the theorem that it is sinful 
to write a book which amuses people it was 
lost upon her ; and probably she will never 
again have a chance to make up that loss. 
Her mind whose nimble feet rested on no re- 
straining chair was on the roof in the moon- 
light. 

A long pause. She heard no sound above as 
of footsteps retreating. Then again the swing- 
ing thing appeared and tapped upon her window 
pane. She watched it interestedly as it swung 
there, her hands folded in her lap. After a 
little while she reached out and took it in her 
hand. 

" Try a coat," said the paper. " Will you 
come ? " 

134 



MERE MAN 

" No," she wrote beneath it and tied it again 
to the string. 

She waited for him to go away. He did not 
go away. The string descended again. 

" Dinner together," it suggested. " I know 
of a warm place with an artificial moon in the 
ceiling." 

" Thank you, no," she wrote. " I have been 
brought up to hate artificial moons." 

It is impossible to estimate what pangs that 
reply cost her. Here was her chance to have 
white table-cloths and Shubert's Serenade with 
oysters. But her two feet moved not an inch 
upon the chair before her. 

Again the string descended. 

" I will wait for you by the street corner," it 
said. " You may choose your own moon." 

She returned it without comment. 

His retreating footsteps crunched upon the 
gravel. He was gone. It rather accentuated 
the humor of the situation that he should be 
waiting for her at the street corner. That made 
it possible for her to exhibit her control by re- 

135 



MERE MAN 

straining her impulses for half an hour longer. 
It would be too late then to go to dinner. 
What did that matter ? She would do without 
dinner. She would put temptation behind her. 

She kicked off her pumps and unfastened the 
hooks of her dress, which presently lay in a circle 
about her feet. It had been many a day since 
she had been sent to bed without her supper. 
She thought grimly that it was the best discipline 
for her. 

" If I am dressed for bed," she said, as she 
hung her clothes in the closet, " I shall certainly 
meet no man on the street corner to-night." 

She thrust her bare feet into slippers and drew 
on her kimono. She felt safe now. 

Mrs. Prouty appears at the door. 

" Are you ill, Miss Carver ? " she exclaims. 

" No." 

" You did not come down to your dinner. I 
am worried about you. You are sure you are 
not ill?" 

" Perfectly sure." 

" Though I don't know why you are not ill. 
136 



MERE MAN 

Think of a girl signing a pledge not to get 
married. I am a plain woman " this was un- 
doubtedly true, Mrs. Prouty's face not having 
been designed as a decoration " but / say that 
a woman's place in life is to marry and have chil- 
dren. All these suffragists, and feminists and 
old-maidists are not natural. I believe in a 
woman being advanced in her thoughts, but I 
say she oughtn't to turn her back on the duties 
the Lord laid down for her." 

" You are not modern enough, Mrs. Prouty. 
The Lord laid down some duties for some 
women and other duties for others. I am help- 
ing in a great movement for the benefit of all 
women." 

" Don't tell me ! " said Mrs. Prouty. " The 
greatest advantage about the suffrage is the ex- 
citement of getting it." 

Deborah smiled. 

"When my youngest son," went on Mrs. 
Prouty, " was a boy, he always harped on getting 
a rocking-horse. Nothing would do but he 
must have a rocking-horse. It was rocking- 

137 



MERE MAN 

horse, rocking-horse, day and night until he got 
it. And then he rocked on it a few times and 
at the end of a week he would have nothing to 
do with it. That's the way I say the women 
are going to be with this suffrage question." 

Mrs. Prouty at length disappeared, as all 
Mrs. Prouty s will in the course of time. Deb- 
orah thought of the man outside. The clock 
on her bureau said half-past seven. How long 
would he wait on the street corner? It had 
been a half hour now since he had left the roof. 
Surely he would not wait much longer. 

Presently one of the other boarders in the 
house rapped on the door and said some one 
wanted to speak to her on the telephone. Her 
heart gave a bound. But he could not be tele- 
phoning, for he did not know Mrs. Prouty's 
name. The telephone was in the dark space at 
the foot of the stair. She pattered down, her 
heart full of excitement. But it was not John 
Lea. Instead it was Bobby Mitchell. 

" Listen, Debby," said he, " what are you do- 
ing?" 

138 



MERE MAN 

There was a caress in every sentence Bobby 
spoke to a girl. He stroked her with his con- 
versation. 

" Principally nothing," responded Deborah, 
not feeling it advisable to tell him exactly. 

" Let's go somewhere." 

She laughed. 

" I can't," she cried. " I I haven't had my 
dinner yet." 

This was a good excuse. 

"That's me. We'll go together," replied 
Bobby, promptly. 

Deborah gasped. 

" Bobby, one dinner is enough for you." 

" I can get along with it, but two is better for 
me." 

" You're perfectly silly." 

" How about that ? Is it a go ? " 

She hesitated. 

" I have to eat," she said at length. " Well, 
all right." 

" Bully. I'll be there in thirteen minutes." 

Deborah hung up her receiver. 
139 



MERE MAN 

" I wish I hadn't done that," she said. 

She went up to her room and tore into her 
clothes. There hung the string dangling be- 
side her window. Why hadn't she gone with 
him when he had asked her ? It was her pride. 
She had been afraid to acknowledge that she 
was a Sabine. She had been afraid to acknowl- 
edge that she had wanted to go with him. That 
act would not have brought confusion upon the 
whole suffragist cause. Nor would it have 
proved what she feared in her heart, that for 
once she had found a person whose wish she 
was only too willing to follow. 

She turned low her light and stumbled down 
the dark stairs. It was almost time for Bobby 
to arrive. She sat on the hall-seat in the dim, 
religious light. 

" I hope he doesn't come," she said. 

She went out upon the front steps to look for 
him. No machine was in sight. The streets to 

north and south were empty, except She 

stood perfectly rigid on the steps. Beneath the 

lamp at the street corner, his cane tucked un- 

140 



MERE MAN 

der his arm, his hands thrust deep into his 
pockets, his head bent, paced John Marshall 
Lea, with true Mohammedan patience, waiting. 
She stared at him. Her eyes filled. She stood 
for a moment hesitating and then ran into the 
house. 

" Mrs. Prouty," she said to that person com- 
ing down the stairs, " if Mr. Mitchell comes, 
tell him I couldn't wait. I will explain to him 
later." 

She closed the door and ran lightly down the 
steps. She hurried along the sidewalk to the 
corner and laying her fingers on the soft woolly 
fabric of his coat sleeve, said : 

" And where shall we go ? " 



141 



CHAPTER XII 

HE turned toward her. An expression of 
surprised wonder lit up his face. He 
held out his hand and she felt his slender fingers 
clasp hers in a firm grip. 

" The same moon," he observed, waving his 
other hand with a smile toward the sky, " that 
we were speaking of." 

She looked up at the circle thoughtfully. 

" I thought," she said, " you would have 
grown tired and be gone by now." 

" And peradventure I should," he returned, 
" in the course of another hour or so." 

She glanced at him with an unaccustomed 
shyness and laughed. 

"Your first question to me," he went on, 
" which I do not as yet seem to have found 
time to answer, was as to where we should go. 
Have you any preference ? " 

" None at all." 

142 



MERE MAN 

A taxicab turned the corner and rolled down 
the street with an air of uninhabited loneliness. 
Lea made a sign with his cane and the car 
stopped at the curb. Deborah stepped in. 

" Congress Hall," he said, addressing the 
driver. " I hope you don't mind," he contin- 
ued, when he sat beside her, "a hotel away 
down there on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. 
They have jolly things to eat." 

" I prefer it to be a little secluded. I feel as 
if I were doing an adventurous thing in appear- 
ing coolly in public with you." 

" Never mind. I'll wager Molly Pitcher used 
to meet Lord Cornwallis for a quiet dinner oc- 
casionally when no one was looking. All you 
great women of history have to have your fling." 

She smiled. 

" You did not tell me," she observed, irrele- 
vantly, " that there was a circle around our 
moon. It is going to snow." 

" Let the blizzard come now that you are 
safely here." 

" Why did you want to see me ? " she asked, 
143 



MERE MAN 

glancing curiously at him out of the corners of 
her eyes. 

" Why, indeed ? " he returned. " Isn't a con- 
gressman to be allowed sunshine in his life ? I 
had to see you. It was a natural law, like the 
law of gravitation." 

A faint flush came out on her cheeks 

" Why was it so imperative just now ? " she 
murmured. 

He looked at her smiling. 

" All my life," he said, half to himself, " seems 
to be just now." 

The machine drew up at a porte-cochere. 

" The port of entry," he announced, " of the 
Caribbean Sea." 

Within, they sat down at the identical table 
she had thought about, with folds in the snowy 
cloth straight and sharp. And when the defer- 
ential Ganymede, with his book, bent over Mr. 
Lea, she was thrilled to hear the exciting mys- 
teries he was directed to write on the sheet. 

" I am thoroughly excited," she exclaimed. 

" One of the greatest pleasures," he said, 

144 



MERE MAN 

" of being 1 young and twenty-six, is the still-re- 
maining talent you have to give yourself over 
to high spirits." 

" Young and twenty-six," she exclaimed, as 
though she would call attention to the contrast 
of the words. But for the first time in a long 
while she felt the blood in her veins was in- 
deed young. 

A clock somewhere was striking eight when 
the advance guard of their dinner bore down 
upon them. If it is ill-bred to be hungry, Deb- 
orah was in very bad form that night. She 
confessed to him presently that such a dinner 
had been the thing she was thinking of when 
she should have been sitting at Mrs. Prouty's 
board. 

" And when I asked her," he exclaimed, 
" she cried ' No ' as briskly as she could 1 " 

She bent over her plate. 

" Don't you know what a woman's ' No ' is 
said to mean ? " she murmured, without look- 
ing up. 

" Until this moment I didn't. But in the fu- 
H5 



MERE MAN 

ture I shall remember it. I may need to re- 
member it," he added. 

He looked at her steadily. She raised her 
eyes until they met his. 

" But sometimes," she said, smiling sweetly, 
" it means ' No.' " 

" Doubtless if a fellow could but determine 
when." 

Presently a tall, distinguished gentleman, 
whose features were strangely familiar to Deb- 
orah, perhaps from having seen them repro- 
duced in the papers, rose from a table near 
them. It was hard to tell in what the distinc- 
tion of him lay. There was a carelessness 
about his dress, as though that were one of the 
smaller things in life he found not quite enough 
time to care for. The distinction was perhaps 
in the softness of his eye and the firmness of 
his mouth, Deborah would have taken him 
for a great man anywhere. 

He glanced about him, and when his eye fell 
upon her companion, he smiled, with a frank 

air of pleasure. Deborah's heart beat faster 

146 



MERE MAN 

with a violent pride she could not suppress for 
the man before her. The distinguished gentle- 
man came to their table, holding out his hand 
to Lea. When Lea introduced him to her, she 
found he was indeed the great man she had 
supposed he was. 

" I imagine Mr. Lea is endeavoring to poison 
your mind against the doctrine of equal suf- 
frage," he said, with a smile that had a frank 
and boyish sweetness in it. 

Her companion answered for her. 

" No," he exclaimed, " a long, bitter ' no.' " 

11 1 am of the other persuasion," she said. 

" Ah 1 " returned their visitor, " I sympathize 
with you. I once said in a speech that women 
did not need to vote so much as the country 
needed to have them vote." 

" There," cried Deborah, darting her com- 
panion a look with an air of triumph she could 
not help thinking even then was almost con- 
jugal. She did not see the Great Man glance 
at her keenly, as though he were trying to de- 
cide something. 

H7 



MERE MAN 

" See, Miss Carver, he's dumb. He has no 
argument against us. What do you think of 
it, Lea? Didn't I strike the nail on the head ? " 

" Not at all," returned Lea, smiling. 

The other drew out a chair and sat down. 

" You don't agree with me ?" 

" Your statement is too poetic. It throws a 
rose-glow over the question, whereas what it 
really needs is white daylight. The advocates 
of this cause have something to prove. If they 
represent it to all women as a duty and a means 
of obtaining absolute results, they must prove 
that to them. The test of their case is whether 
the women themselves support it. Then we can 
legislate. At present, what data have I as to 
what the women want when I am asked to vote 
on an equal suffrage amendment?" 

The Great Man smiled. Lea began to laugh. 

" There are some things concerning women," 
he went on, " upon which I think Congress 
could legislate without such data. They might 
with propriety pass a law that no woman's 

gown should have more than twenty-four hooks 
148 



MERE MAN 

and eyes up the back, for most congressmen 
have to fasten their wives' dresses. All the 
data in that case is at their finger-tips, so to 
speak. But not so the suffrage." 

" Isn't it the duty of Congress, then, to find 
out about it ? " asked the Great Man. 

Lea's eyes brightened. 

" I think so. I have prepared a bill I shall 
one day introduce into Congress which provides 
that women shall once a year vote upon the 
question of the suffrage. When a majority 
favors it, the suffrage is to become a law. If no 
majority favors it after five votes, the matter 
will be dropped and the people in the country 
allowed to rest and recuperate." 

Deborah laughed. 

"He speaks of the question as if it were the 
great London plague." 

Their visitor rose. 

" You and I have to smile, Miss Carver, at 
the way it has undermined his reason. How- 
ever, upon all other questions I feel he is a re- 
markable young man." 

149 



MERE MAN 

He shook hands with them both. Then turn- 
ing to her with a quizzical smile, he said : 

" I am sure I shouldn't worry about what he 
said on the subject of the twenty-four hooks and 
eyes. I scarcely think he means it." 

He bowed gravely and took his departure. 

For some reason Deborah blushed red as the 
flowers before her. 



ISO 



CHAPTER XIII 

WHEN they came out upon the pavement 
it was snowing. The white flakes swirled 
along the street. The automobiles, drawn up 
at the curb, were covered with a thin layer of 
white. In the angle of the wall chauffeurs stood, 
their fur collars drawn up about their ears. 
There was in the air the pleasant silence that 
comes with falling snow. As she looked up the 
flakes seemed to come suddenly out of nowhere 
at all. 

" We had best go in," said he, " until I can get 
a machine." 

But she ran quickly down the steps. 

" Oh, no," she cried. " I want to walk a 
little." 

Out from beneath the shelter of the marquise, 
the falling flakes dropped upon her upturned 
face and her hair. Her twenty-six years became 



MERE MAN 

thirteen at the touch of it. Will the memory 
of that childish ecstasy that was once wont to 
appear simultaneously with the first fall of snow 
ever vanish entirely from us ? 

The white things began industriously to build 
a superimposed dome upon Lea's hat. Their 
shoulders and the fronts of their coats were 
powdered as if they were some baker's products 
dusted with sugar. As they walked they kicked 
little storms of snow before them. 

The office building of the House, cold and 
white, with the still whiter high light of the 
storm on its balustrades and sills, threw a warm 
yellow light from its windows on the lacy 
covering that lay without. The Library of 
Congress, a-sprinkle with lights behind the net- 
work of trees, reared its gilt dome indistinctly 
through the flurrying snow. The myriad of 
tree branches gathered snow, evergreens thrust 
their heads solemnly into white cowls, know- 
ing all the while they were no better than just 
ordinary trees, the homely copings and posts 

of the Capitol grounds took on a coat of ermine 

152 



MERE MAN 

and stood transformed like the ugly duckling 
of old. 

The whitened terraces of the Capitol were as 
deserted as if no man's foot had ever trod 
there. She stood for a moment looking up at 
the west front. The snow clung here and there 
in patches to the gray stonework of the end 
wing, but found no lodgment on the smoothly- 
painted surfaces of the old centre portion, which 
shone very white in the diffused light of the 
hidden moon. The great dome reared itself to 
impossible heights through the falling flakes 
until its white-crested statue lost itself against 
the sky. 

" All this," she said, " was built so you might 
have a seat in there." 

He nodded smiling. She stopped by the 
broad balustrade and wrote : 

John Marshall Lea, 

Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

He laughed good-humoredly. 
" The snow," he said, " is more truthful. It 
is beginning already to erase the statement." 

153 



MERE MAN 

She looked at the balustrade. 

" Do you often," she asked, " come out and 
walk on this ? " 

" I should be afraid." 

"I'm not." 

She put her hand on his shoulder and raised 
herself to the broad, flat surface. He held the 
hand as he would a child's and walked beside 
her, captivated by her youth. The spirit of it 
was contagious. The hand carried a not quite 
understood emotion down to him, as though 
that contact had completed a circuit that had 
long been broken. 

She smiled at him. It seemed then as if the 
rest of the world had purposely left them alone 
there in this place which hundreds of people 
crowded daily and which now was left solely to 
them. The Capitol of the United States was 
their possession for the moment. To him it 
seemed, in a fine exhilaration, as if the whole 
world was theirs. She appeared to feel what was 
in his mind. She stood still, and leaned over, 
supporting herself with a hand on his shoulder. 

154 



MERE MAN 

"What were you thinking?" she asked, 
gently. 

He caught the hand both hands in his 
own. 

"I am thinking now," he said, laughing, 
"that I am in possession of you." 

" Are you ? " she asked. 

He looked up eagerly. 

"Didn't you say a moment ago that the god- 
dess on the dome was lost in the clouds ? " he 
said. " I think she is here." 

She smiled down at him. 

" I like your conversation," she cried. " I 
must come down." 

She bore her weight on her arms and 
dropped lightly to the pavement beside him. 

" It isn't necessary," she continued, sweetly, 
looking calmly at him, her face quite near to 
him, " to hold my hands now." 

" It was not necessity," he returned, calmly, 
" that was the mother of this inventioh in the 
first place." 

He placed her hands together before her so 
J55 



MERE MAN 

that she had the air of Joan of Arc receiving 
the blessing of the angel, and reluctantly with- 
drew his own. There was a moment of silence. 
She stood there unmoving, as if, as she thought 
to herself presently, she felt to move would des- 
troy the pleasant memory of his touch. When 
she found herself thinking that, she moved im- 
mediately and destroyed the picture. 

" Apropos of nothing," he asked, " why did 
you make that promise ? " 

She understood perfectly well the promise he 
referred to. So she said : 

" What promise ? " 

He smiled. 

" Had I made such a promise," he asserted, 
" it would have driven the thought of all other 
promises I might ever have made forever from 
my mind." 

" Then I think, man-like, you refer to a cer- 
tain promise I made relative to my marriage. 
A mere trifle." 

She waved her hand with a perfection of non- 
chalance, but she did not look at him. 

156 



MERE MAN 

" Look at me," he said. 

" It is one of my joys," she returned, bowing 
with a mocking smile. 

" Look at me and say again what you said 
about the promise," he persisted. 

She backed up against the balustrade, with 
a fascinating air of defending herself. The eyes 
that met his held nothing but impudence. 

" I told you once," she observed at length. 

" But I trust you will pardon me not the 
truth." 

"Sir!" 

He laughed. 

" Look at me again. Was it true ? " 

Her elbows rested gently on the balustrade 
behind her. 

"I will look at you forever," she mur- 
mured, not doing so, " but I answer no ques- 
tions." 

" None at all ? " 

With the toe of her shoe she traced a pattern 
that went impudently close to him as he stood 
there. 

157 



MERE MAN 

" Absolutely none," she said, presently, look- 
ing up. 

" I am sorry," he returned, " for I had a very 
important one to ask." 

She took his cane from him and began more 
designs in the snow. But she did not answer. 
She did not look up. The snow fell gently, 
but she was scarcely aware of it. He gazed at 
her intently. 

" I think you know what it is." 

" I know what it is ? " she asked, studying in- 
tently the head of his cane. 

" I wish you would look at me," he said, in a 
low tone. 

She tilted her chin up. All the impudence 
was suddenly gone. She knew too well what 
his question would have been. A subtle un- 
derstanding carried the glorious, vibrating 
chords of the music in his breast to the very 
vaults of her soul. The mist in her eyes drove 
all the impudence from them. The red lips, 
once smiling, now quivered with tears that 

seemed to rise in her throat. 

158 



MERE MAN 

He stood awed by the force of the storm 
within him. And then with no word, no futile 
human word, to express the great gift of Heaven 
that abode within him, solemn and glorious and 
wonderful, he closed his arms, like protecting 
things, about her. 

The wind blew the snow across the silent ter- 
races of the Capitol. The noisy, lighted city, 
lying spread out there at the foot of the hill, 
made no sound behind the muffling blanket of 
falling snowflakes. All was quiet. Two living 
people inhabited the world. 



159 



CHAPTER XIV 

SHE broke from his embrace like some start- 
led animal and ran excitedly along the ter- 
race toward the steps that led down to the 
street. Her only idea, quickly formed, was to 
escape him. She put her wet glove to her face 
and brushed away impatiently the moisture 
from her eyes. She ran not from the man be- 
hind her but from what was in his heart. But 
from what was in her own heart she could not 
escape. 

He followed but leisurely, knowing with his 
unerring perception what force had broken 
loose within her. But she ran on, hoping to 
escape, carrying, as she was, all the trouble with 
her. Down the long, slippery steps she ran, 
scarcely touching the iron rail with her hand. 
Two steps on the landing and down the next 

flight. At the bottom the world seemed to slip 

1 60 



MERE MAN 

from under her and she found herself suddenly 
sitting in the snow her foot, with electric cur- 
rents running through it, bent under her. 

Walking with much less than her speed be- 
hind her, he saw her fall and fear gave wings to 
his feet. He stood by her side. 

" Don't touch me," she cried. " Don't touch 
me," and burst into tears. 

" You're hurt," he said, gently. 

" I'm not," she exclaimed, staggering to her 
feet. 

She wavered pathetically and would have 
fallen had he not caught her. She held to 
him. 

" Just when I want to be miles from you and 
the sound of your voice," she cried, bitterly, 
" here I am, a foolish cripple." 

He tore off his coat and spread it on the steps. 

" Sit on that," he said, with a roughness that 
gave her confidence. She sat upon it. 

He bent over her and touched her ankle 
tentatively. 

" Hurt ? " he said. 

161 



MERE MAN 

" No." 

" There ? " 

" No." 

"There?" 

She winced. 

" Yes." 

He found his handkerchief and bound it 
tightly about the place. 

" First aid to the injured. Can't make it any 
worse," he said. 

He stood up and gave the situation thought. 
For a moment she felt the luxurious joy of leav- 
ing herself and the conduct of the affair entirely 
to him. Then her indignation at her helpless- 
ness caught up to her and she sat with com- 
pressed lips, which he attributed to the pain in 
her foot. He frowned. 

" Must get you away from here," he rumi- 
nated, aloud. " Cabs, taxicabs, street cars don't 
run up these steps, though." 

Chagrin, anger at herself, mortification, and 
a still unquenched tiny fountain of joy that 

bubbled into the midst of the sombreness within 

162 



MERE MAN 

her, left her silent sitting there on his coat, re- 
belling at the submission of her attitude. 

" I must carry you," he said, desperately. 

She did not reply. 

" Please stand up." 

She made no move. 

" You can't sit here forever," he cried, " like 
the choragic monument of Lysicrates." 

Unexpectedly, she laughed. Then grasping 
the rail beside her, she stood up. 

" Your coat. Put it on. You're cold." 

" I'm not. I'm hot with embarrassment." 

She laughed again a clear, silvery, suddenly 
happy laugh. 

"At what?" 

" At having to carry a lady who doesn't want 
me to." 

She put her arm gently on his shoulder. 

" I do," she whispered. 

The touch of him froze her to ice. He car- 
ried a limp, heavy burden toward the street. 
Her lips, so close to his face that he could feel 
her warm breath, said no word. He set her 

163 



MERE MAN 

down presently on the coping by the gateway ; 
and, putting two fingers to his lips, whistled 
into the night. 

They waited with the tense air of castaways, 
hoping for a passing ship. Again and again he 
whistled to the world beyond the falling snow. 
They were cold now and wet. 

" If a man comes by," he said, " I'll send him 
to telephone." 

And then out of the storm, like a full-rigged 
barkentine coming through a fog, came an an- 
cient but honorable night-liner. It was not 
much of a cab and it was much less of a horse, 
but it moved it felt the breath of life, as it 
were. Even they, captious critics that they 
were, could see that it moved ; and, being 
dirigible as well, it was as a gift from heaven. 

He carried her across the sidewalk and put 
her comfortably on the cushions of the musty 
cabriolet. The door slammed, the driver shook 
renewed vigor into his steed and they all 
rumbled into motion. 

She sat silent in her corner, disgusted with 
164 



MERE MAN 

herself, hating him, fascinated with him, won- 
dering at the kaleidoscope of emotions that ran 
through her breast, alternating from cold to 
fever, siding with him, siding against him, de- 
spising herself, encouraging herself, wondering 
that she should be so happy. The pain in her 
ankle was but a small part of the ills that dis- 
turbed her so small a part that she was scarcely 
aware of it. 

The lights without moved by, shining on the 
snow-covered windows. They rode in silence, 
she with her foot propped up on the opposite 
seat and her hands clasped tightly in her lap, 
he with folded arms and clouded brow. Pres- 
ently without moving, without looking at her, 
he said : 

" I respect your promise. I do not ask you 
to break it mere trifle though it is." 

She wondered what she could say to him. 
Her only refuge was in silence. He waited a 
moment. 

" I am in a strange position," he continued, 

presently. " I want you with all my soul, but I 

165 



MERE MAN 

want you, many times more, to keep your 
pledge, because that is like all the things in you 
I love." 

Tears stung her eyes. But indignation at 
them overpowered every other emotion in her. 

" You need have no fears," she said, shortly, 
" concerning my ability to keep my promise." 

" I have none at all that you will dishonor 
your ideals," he exclaimed, " but at the same 
time " 

He stopped. She looked at him wonderingly. 
He met her eyes. 

" I shall fight till I get you," he said. 

She turned her gaze again out through the 
snow-obscured panes. 

" You will waste your efforts," she observed, 
coldly. " I could not break my promise under 
any circumstances. It would be published all 
over the country. And one Benedict Arnold 
would do more harm than a thousand sup- 
porters could repair. I would rather die than 
do it." 

He disregarded the frigidity in her tone. 
1 66 



MERE MAN 

" I understand," he said. " I ask no favors. 
But I find that when I need a thing very badly 
a lever is put into my hands. I shall come and 
take you as if you were a Sabine a mere 
Sabine." 



167 



CHAPTER XV 

THE whole story of how and where Deborah 
sprained her ankle, who the man was that 
brought her home, how he whoever he was 
discovered her, whether she had ever seen him 
before or would know him again if she saw 
him and a thousand other tantalizing details 
that the unenlightened members of Mrs. 
Prouty's boarding-house thirsted to know 
was never given out to the public. The only 
information that the curious obtained was Mrs. 
Prouty's statement a quite insufficient thing. 
All Mrs. Prouty could say was that on that 
night about half-past ten or maybe it was 
eleven there came a ring at the door and a 
very distinguished gentleman very distin- 
guished explained that he had found Miss 
Carver with a sprained ankle and had brought 
her home. Mrs. Prouty was that excited she 
1 68 



MERE MAN 

had run out in the snow in her second-best 
dress that spotted if you looked at it. And in 
front of her very eyes didn't the gentleman lift 
Miss Carver from the carriage and carry her up 
the steps into the house and then right on up to 
her room, the flustered landlady following 
after. The gentleman was very polite quite 
the gentleman all the time. He put Miss 
Carver, wet shoes and all, down on the bed on 
the coverlet, and then, asking her who her 
physician was, stepped to the telephone and told 
him to come leaving a five-cent piece on the 
table to pay for the call. Then he said good- 
night with all the dignity of a United States 
Senator. And the next day a huge box of 
roses came, and the only thing that was on the 
card was, " From an admirer." After that every 
time any one at Mrs. Prouty's table discovered 
a picture of a senator or a cabinet officer or a 
foreign ambassador, he showed it to Mrs. 
Prouty and asked her if it looked like the 
man. 

But as time passed and no one was ever 
169 



MERE MAN 

identified and Miss Carver's recovery and con- 
sequent reappearance at the table prevented 
discussion on the subject, interest began to turn 
to other things. Jane Howell was greatly dis- 
tressed that Deborah had not confided in her, 
but as she felt that it would be useless to try to 
pry the secret from her, she did not attempt to 
do so. 

One evening in the early weeks of December, 
Jane burst into the room. Deborah, whose in- 
structions were to be careful of her ankle, had 
been staying in all the afternoon. 

" Deborah," cried Jane, " the bill for the 
Equal Suffrage amendment was reported to the 
House this afternoon without recommendation. 
Every one hoped that the committee would re- 
port it favorably." 

" Without recommendation, you say ? " de- 
manded Deborah. 

"Yes. Now, don't you think that was 

strange ? " cried Jane, earnestly. She provided 

in her mind for Congress and governors and 

presidents and cabinet officers a sort of super- 

170 



MERE MAN 

etherial code of conduct, based upon the con- 
victions that grew in her brain ; and when any 
one of these powers, for some complex reason 
of expediency, failed to coincide with the course 
she laid down for him, she knew that it was 
due to a wilful and culpable perversity. In 
this case she felt that the congressional com- 
mittee could very easily have reported favorably 
upon the bill, but they just happened not to be 
in the humor. 

" You know, I don't see how they have the 
face to do such a thing," she went on. " Here 
are all these women throughout the country 
waiting and praying, some of them I actually 
heard of a case in Ohio of a woman who took 
her husband out on the back lawn and prayed 
with him all night long for woman's suffrage ; 
and they both caught cold I should think they 
would, wouldn't you, just in their night-clothes 
and nearly died. I should think when Con- 
gress knows people want the vote as much as 
that, they would be ashamed not to endorse 

the bill with all their body and soul. I should 

171 



MERE MAN 

think they would praise the Lord for the oppor- 
tunity." 

" Perhaps they conscientiously feel " 

" But you know this isn't conscience. They 
just don't want to bother with it. I think they 
don't like to pass bills in Congress unless they 
happen to think of them of their own accord. 
They're jealous. They're just afraid that some- 
body else will get the credit of inventing the 
bill so they don't pass it at all. I know this 
because the bookkeeper at our office, who has 
made a great study of politics he knows all 
the congressmen and the states they come from 
and their first names told me about it in con- 
fidence." 

" Did your source of information state, Jane," 
asked her companion, " when the bill was to be 
voted on ? " 

" My source of information was the evening 
paper I heard the boys calling, ' All about the 
Suffrage bill,' so I just had to buy a paper, 
although usually when they say all about any- 
thing there is only a word or two about it. 
172 



MERE MAN 

But it really did have a long account of the 
thing to-night I meant to bring the paper 
home with me, but I happened to leave it at 
the milliner's when I went in to buy a paper of 
pins. I left the paper of pins at the post-office 
while I was writing to Aunt Caroline I knew 
I simply must write to her on her seventy-third 
birthday she has been so good to me, sent me 
that lovely pair of gilt shoe-trees last Christmas. 
But I don't care. I didn't need the pins any- 
way I just thought they would be nice to 
have." 

" Did the paper say anything about when the 
vote would be taken ? " 

" Oh, yes, that was what I started to tell you. 
Why, yes, the paper said that an agreement 
had been reached whereby the bill was to come 
up for final reading and vote a week from to- 
day. They just had to do it, you know. Pres- 
sure has been brought upon them from all over 
the country. They couldn't afford to delay ; 
public opinion is aroused." 

" Did your bookkeeper say that ? " 

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MERE MAN 

" Yes. He said the congressmen were in a 
delicate position ; they didn't want to vote for 
the suffrage ; it was inadvisable to vote against 
it, unless they justified their position ; and they 
did not dare delay." 

Mrs. Prouty knocked on the door. 

" Some one to see you," she announced, and 
ushered in Mrs. Dobson without further for- 
mality, in the same way she would have handed 
in a package of laundry. Deborah greeted her 
visitor with enthusiasm. 

" Mercy me," cried Jane. " I had a dinner 
engagement at six, and it is now a quarter past." 

She rushed to the bed, gathered up her coat, 
Deborah's umbrella, one glove and her pocket- 
book and dashed from the room. 

"Goodness," cried Mrs. Dobson, who had 
been fidgeting about standing on one foot, " I 
am glad I have more repose of manner than 
that." 

"What do you think," asked Deborah, 
" about the action of the committee ? " 

Mrs. Dobson sputtered. 
174 



MERE MAN 

" It's infamous downright infamous and dis- 
honorable that's what I think. I have given 
out interviews to the papers to-day saying 
that's what I think. The congressmen will not 
enjoy the interviews either. In addition to 
that I have sent out circular letters to every 
Equal Suffrage organization in the United 
States urging them to pass resolutions censur- 
ing the committee for their action. The plain 
duty of that committee was to report the bill 
favorably." 

" That won't put Congress in a very pleasant 
frame of mind, will it ? " 

" We are not trying to. We are not asking 
favors. We are demanding our rights. The 
only diplomacy we propose to use is a great 
big club." 

" I don't understand the policy of antagoniz- 
ing them all just now. If it is coming to a vote 
in a week, I should think you would want to 
rub them the right way." 

Mrs. Dobson rose from her chair and stood 
up before the fireplace. 

175 



MERE MAN 

" The whole thing," she said, " is all fixed. 
We have found out all about it." 

" They are going to amend it to death ? " 

41 No, not that. They have decided that 
would not be advisable. The bill is coming up 
for the vote just as it stands. But, as I say, it 
is all fixed. The members will want something 
to hide behind when they vote against the bill 
some very impressive, spectacular justifica- 
tion for their action. They wish to keep under 
cover until the last minute, run out and vote, and 
then point righteously to a string of balderdash 
and say, 4 There is my justification.' The bal- 
derdash is to be furnished in the shape of a fire- 
works oration on the floor of the House and 
the orator is to be John Marshall Lea." 

Deborah looked fixedly at a spot on the rug 
and said nothing. Mrs. Dobson thrust her 
glasses up into the region of her hair. 

44 This rascal Lea," she continued, 4< knows 

just how to frame such a speech. I can hear 

him now calling the attention of the House to 

the blessed and divine function of woman, the 

176 



MERE MAN 

sanctity of her presence, the glory of her mother- 
hood, the inscrutable wonder of the plan God in 
His heaven has laid down for her. And he will 
caution this distinguished assembly that the 
hem of her robe must not be dragged in the 
mire of politics as the result of the action of the 
House of Representatives. I can first see him. 
He is a finished orator. There will not be a 
dry eye in the House. The very ink-wells will 
weep. The press gallery will be a cohort of 
frenzied gloom. The linotype machines of their 
papers back home will shake with sobs. And 
the evening extras with two-inch high head- 
lines will bring tears to every fireside in the 
country. In the wake of that the members can 
point without nervousness to the fact that they 
killed the bill." 

Deborah looked helplessly at her companion. 
She should have risen to the same heights of 
indignation where dwelt Mrs. Dobson. But no 
irresistible force carried her there. Instead, the 
thought of this compelling speech aroused in 

her a thrill of enthusiasm. It was the same 

177 



MERE MAN 

thrill, she told herself, that she used to feel when 
she read of the great orations of the old states- 
men. 

Mrs. Dobson paced the floor. 

" Something must be done," she said, solilo- 
quizing. " We must win. We must spring a 
surprise. We must beat them." 

"But how?" 

" There is only one way. I have tried to 
think of another. But there is no other." 

Deborah looked at her keenly. 

" What is the way ? " she demanded, faintly. 

Mrs. Dobson sank on the bed. 

" We must get rid of Mr. Lea." Her eyes 
bored into Deborah. " On that day we must 
kidnap him." 

There was a silence in the room. An unex- 
pected wave of hostility against Mrs. Dobson 
swept over the girl. She felt an impulse to ex- 
claim indignantly against the other's scheme. 
But she held herself in hand. 

" But," she said, for the sake of saying some- 
thing, " they would only postpone the vote." 
178 



MERE MAN 

" They can't. They have agreed to vote a 
week from to-day. They have promised the 
country. They will have to do it. Without 
John Marshall Lea there will be no speech. The 
wavering members will have nothing to hide be- 
hind. Driven out in the open they will vote 
with us." 

Deborah sought for a reply but found none. 

" Well," cried her companion, " what do you 
think of it?" 

" Isn't kidnapping a man difficult ? " 

" Nothing is difficult. Nothing is impossible. 
Nothing is even improbable in a good cause." 

" But," cried Deborah, incredulously, " will 
you simply hit him on the head with a sand- 
bag and drag him off? " 

Mrs. Dobson laughed comfortably. 

" Oh, no. Finesse, my dear. There are a 
thousand ways. This is one. Listen. On the 
night before the vote, it happens that Mrs. 
Thingumbob I never can remember these so- 
cial women's names is giving a reception at 
her country home. Mr. Lea is going in a 

179 



MERE MAN 

taxicab. You see what a system I have. I 
know everything. What is to hinder us, under 
cover of night on a country road, from whisking 
him off to a quiet place of retirement ? " 

" Where, for instance ? " asked Deborah, 
dully. 

" Don't ask me details, child. I don't know. 
Yes, I do too," she contradicted, suddenly. 
" Mrs. Devine has a country house somewhere 
there in Maryland. It is unoccupied. It would 
make an ideal place for the incarceration of this 
rascal." 

She rose and paced the floor. Presently she 
paused and stared fixedly at Deborah. The 
color rushed to the girl's face. Why was Mrs. 
Dobson telling her of these plans ? That lady 
did not usually take others into her confidence 
to no purpose. 

" What we need," said the older lady, firmly, 
" is some one to carry this scheme through 
some young person whose wits work quickly." 

Deborah was hot all over. She could feel 

the flush of a miserable embarrassment sting- 
180 



MERE MAN 

ing her face. She wondered what Mrs. Dobson 
was thinking. 

"Yes," she said, meeting the other's eyes 
with an effort. 

"This," said Mrs. Dobson, "is the most im- 
portant single act in the history of our whole 
movement. It is the chance of a lifetime for 
some one to make history to write her name 
down as the one who almost single-handed 
made woman's suffrage possible." 

Deborah felt the keen eyes upon her. 

"I suppose, Mrs. Dobson," she said, pres- 
ently, " you mean me ? " 

"Yes, I do." 

The girl gazed at her folded hands in her lap. 

" What do you wish me to do ? " 

" I want you to work out a plan of kid- 
napping him and then do it. You can have 
all the assistance and money and everything 
else you need." 

Deborah's handkerchief was rolled up in a 
tight ball in her hands. The palms of those 

hands were moist and nervously clenched. She 

181 



MERE MAN 

would have liked to flee from the room and 
leave Mrs. Dobson and her schemes. She 
would have liked to run away from the thing 
inside her, all aflame, that she knew was con- 
science. It was this conscience that assured 
her of her own iniquity. Her wrong-doing 
loomed up mountain high before her. Was 
she sliding backward, was she failing to keep 
faith, in her heart, with Mrs. Dobson and all 
her inspired crusade ? 

Perhaps she felt that before her lay the old, 
old, irresistible pathway of every woman, the 
way that God had laid out for her, the way that 
led to a man that she loved. Perhaps for a 
moment that mirage eclipsed everything, made 
the crusade for suffrage seem like something 
afar off. But it was only for a moment. 

She would not backslide. There was no real 
earnest fibre in her that urged that What if 
she did proceed against a man whose memory 
was a rosy picture, and whose companionship 
was pleasant nay, exciting to her? What if 
she did attempt to thwart him ? They were on 
182 



MERE MAN 

equal terms. If he must do his duty, she must 
also do hers. It seemed like a Spartan remedy, 
but 

She arose and threw her crumpled handker- 
chief on the bed. 

"Very well, Mrs. Dobson," she said. "I will 
help." 



183 



CHAPTER XVI 

SIX days later. It was seven o'clock in the 
evening. To-morrow was the date of the 
vote upon the Equal Suffrage amendment. 
The papers had worked the people up to a state 
of expectation and excitement over the ques- 
tion. It was being discussed on the street 
corners, in the shops, everywhere. Even the 
sudden death of old Senator Hemmingway, one 
of the foremost figures in public life for many 
years, failed to furnish a change of topic. 

Deborah was more than excited. She could 
scarcely wait for the hours to go by. If the 
thing were only done and over with! She 
knew she feared that at the crucial moment, if 
it required quick thought and quick action, her 
sympathies would be on the wrong side; and if 
the plans miscarried, she would always blame 
herself for it. She went into the telephone 

booth at the drug store. Her nerves by this 
184 



MERE MAN 

time were on edge, so that the slamming of the 
door startled her. 

" Mrs. Dobson," she said, presently, when 
she got that lady on the telephone, " are you 
sure about this man ? " 

She could feel the very tension in her voice. 

" Just as sure as I am of the existence of the 
moon." 

" He knows the proper place ? " 

"Knows it backward, sidewise and front- 
ward. Don't worry about him. He will carry 
it off." 

" What does he look like ? " 

" Red-headed Irishman." 

"Has he his badge?" 

" Yes, he has it. Good luck to you. Don't 
lose your nerve." 

Deborah laughed nervously. She called up 
Mrs. Devine and asked her an all-important 
question. 

^ " Robert will be there at eight o'clock, my 
dear," Mrs. Devine assured her, " without fail." 

Deborah answered vaguely, and hung up the 
185 



MERE MAN 

receiver. She sat irresolute before the instru- 
ment, hesitating like one about to plunge into 
cold water. Then with a feverish haste she 
took off the receiver and gave a number. 

"Taxicab company?" she asked, in a mo- 
ment. She could hear her heart beating. 

"Yes." 

She caught her breath. 

" Representative Lea," she began, " has or- 
dered a taxi for to-night and " 

" Just a moment." There was a pause. 
" Yes, to-night at eight" 

" Owing to a change in plans," Deborah went 
on, with cool deliberation, " we wish that 
countermanded. Will that be satisfactory?" 

" Perfectly," returned the voice, sweetly. 
" We are always willing to make a change if 
the service is not needed." 

" Then you will cancel it ? " 

" Certainly. Very glad to do so, Mrs. Lea." 

Deborah drew a long breath. 

' Thank you," she said, not referring to the 
title by which she had been addressed. 
1 86 



MERE MAN 

She went back to her room and, with the 
feeling of a man about to be executed, laid out 
her only evening gown upon the bed. With it 
she put her best underclothing and a pair of silk 
stockings. When Jane bustled into the room 
fifteen minutes later, she found her roommate, 
rosy from a lukewarm bath of the usual Prouty 
temperature, clad in the silk stockings and 
pumps and a bewildering blaze of lace and rib- 
bons, just preparing to dive through the skirt 
of her gown. 

" Mercy, Deborah, where are you going?" 

Deborah smiled with inscrutable mystery. 

" Sporting," she said. 

" With a man ? " 

" What a question ! I am a professional old 
maid." 

" You didn't tell me you were going out." 

"Didn't I?" 

" Are you going on the street cars ? " 

" No." 

" Where are you going ? " 

" I wish I knew." 

187 



MERE MAN 

" Deborah, you've gone crazy." 

" That," said Deborah, " is certainly true. 
Please hook me up in the back." 

She was finally dressed. She threw a cloak 
over her shoulders and running across to the 
drug store once more, again imprisoned herself 
in the telephone booth. This time there was no 
jauntiness at all in her manner. Her heart beat 
with sickening intensity. She could feel the 
red-hot flush that flooded her from her face 
down to her very toes. She threw off her 
cloak, and hunted, with fingers that trembled, 
for the number in the book. She hurried, yet 
she was in no haste. There was the number. 
She gazed at it blankly. She drove herself to 
lift the receiver from its hook. She gave the 
number in a strange voice that did not seem her 
own. A long pause, during which the moan of 
furies sang on the wire. Presently a voice a 
clear, sympathetic voice answered her. She 
wanted to hang up the receiver and fly from 
that place. But she caught the telephone in- 
strument in a grip of steel. 
188 



MERE MAN 

" Representative Lea ? " she asked, with a 
sharpness that surprised her. 

" Yes." The voice was brisk, but pleasantly 
deep. 

She set her teeth. 

" Taxicab company," she said. " We prom- 
ised you a cab to-night." 

" Yes. What's the matter ? " 

He could not have recognized her. Nervous- 
ness and excitement had made her inflections 
cold as steel. 

" We are short of machines," she replied. " A 
lady is very anxious to go to Mrs. Meddows' to- 
night it is almost imperative. Would you 
mind her going in your machine ? We are 
sending a touring car she could sit with the 
chauffeur." 

" Not at all," returned the voice on the wire. 
" That is perfectly satisfactory. Of course she 
must not sit with the chauffeur. I will do 
that." 

Her hand against her face was icy cold. 

" Thank you, Mr. Lea. We are deeply in- 
189 



MERE MAN 

debted to you. Our machine will stop for the 
lady first." 

She hung up the receiver and covered her 
face with her hands. 

" I am no conspirator," she said. " I feel as 
though I had been stretched on the rack for 
days." 

Twenty minutes later, Mrs. Devine's machine, 
driven by Robert, her chauffeur, drew up at Mrs. 
Prouty's door. 

"You understand everything," said Deborah 
to him. " Mrs. Devine has explained it." 

The man nodded. 

" Yes, Miss Carver. I understand." 

The whole thing seemed ridiculously melo- 
dramatic and improbable. She took her seat in 
the corner of the tonneau, feeling as if she ought 
to have a black mask and a revolver. Robert 
drove around the square and drew up presently 
before the house in which John Lea lived. He 
stepped down and rang the bell. The engine 
purred softly. A person answered the bell, and 
promised to inform Mr. Lea. Presently Mr. Lea 
190 



MERE MAN 

appeared. Deborah would have given a thou- 
sand dollars for the privilege of hiding then 
under the seat. 

She kept her nerve. She was not one to turn 
back, once her hand was on the plough. He 
came to the edge of the pavement. She broke 
into a merry laugh. 

Lea looked at her. 

" By the heavens ! " he cried. " You I " 

She held out her hand. 

" I never knew anything so ridiculous. I 
simply had to go and we made this arrange- 
ment " she burst into a laugh " I never 
knew anything so embarrassing." 

" Bless your dear heart," he cried, " I'm 
glad." 

" What can you think of me ? " 

" You know very well," he said, gravely, 
" what I think of you." 

The blood raced in her veins, but she did not 
dare to let her mind rest on him. From now 
on he was simply her legitimate quarry. He, 

being an exalted thing called man, could take 

191 



MERE MAN 

care of himself. Let him. He knew which 
side she was on. She would play the game. 

The car started. She leaned back against 
the cushions. He gazed at her intently, noting 
the fine flush of excitement on her cheek, but 
not guessing its cause. She turned her face 
full upon him and smiled with easy impudence. 
The car hurried on, weaving a tortuous course 
through the city, passing out of the busier whirl 
of down-town to the quiet of the residential dis- 
trict, and then to the dim and silent fringe of 
the city. 

"There is about three hours difference in 
time between here and down-town," said Lea, 
thoughtfully. " There the evening was just be- 
ginning. Here the good folk are ready for bed." 

" Their day's work is over. Ours is start- 
ing." 

He laughed. 

"What is the matter? " he said. "Not in a 
very festive humor to-night, are you?" 

" Of course I am." 

" Why didn't you tell me you were coming, 
192 



MERE MAN 

instead of trying to make it all alone like a 
society reporter ? " 

She smiled. 

" Sh-h-h," she said. 

" You're not really doing that kind of work? " 
he demanded, quickly. 

" Why else should I have come to a party 
alone?" 

" I'm sure I don't know." He ruminated a 
moment. " Some day you won't have to do 
that sort of thing." 

" What makes you think I shan't ? " 

He looked at her calmly. 

" I'm not going to let you," he said, firmly. 

A bantering reply came to her lips, but she 
found she did not want to utter it. 

They stopped presently to put up the top, for 
the wind had begun to blow and there were 
flakes of snow in the air. 

" When I am with you," he said, "it usually 
snows." 

" I hope," she said, idly, " it brings us good 
luck." 

193 



MERE MAN 

" As it did before." 

She made no reply. They were out on ma- 
cadam roads now, flying along in the dark. 
Their search-light cast a long white finger ahead 
of them. At a fork in the road the chauffeur 
turned to the left. 

" You should have kept right on," said Lea. 

" Fixing the road down there, sir," replied 
Robert, briskly. " We have to make this de- 
tour." 

" The road isn't very good." 

" Won't last long, sir." 

It was a dark, narrow road lined with trees. 
They went on and on. After some fifteen 
minutes of rough riding they came out again 
on macadam. 

"This doesn't look right to me," observed 
Lea. 

Robert touched his hat. 

" It's a very long way 'round, sir." 

" You had better put on all the speed you 
have then. We are a little late now." 

In response, the machine shot forward. It 
194 



MERE MAN 

seemed as though they were gliding through 
the darkness without touching the ground. 
Nothing was visible save the white glare of the 
search-light. By shutting her eyes, Deborah 
could imagine they were in an aeroplane shoot- 
ing speedily through space. It seemed once 
that they passed a man on a bicycle, but he 
slipped by so quickly it was impossible to tell. 
Presently they began to slow down. 

" Don't stop ! " cried Lea. " It's nine o'clock 
now." 

Robert made no reply. Just then they heard, 
indeed, the chug of the motorcycle they had 
passed. The chauffeur threw off his power and 
presently the man drew up beside them. 

" Stop the car," he called, briskly. 

The light fell on the man. He had red hair 
and spoke with a slight brogue. He threw open 
his coat and showed his shining badge. 

" You were exceeding the speed limit," said 
he ; " drive down the road. There is a justice 
of the peace here." 

" We can't stop now," exclaimed Lea. " Give 
195 



MERE MAN 

them your name, chauffeur, and appear in the 
morning." 

" Against the rules of the county. And you 
are responsible, sir." 

" But this is a hired car." 

" Did you give instructions to go faster? " 

" I did. Yes." 

" You are responsible then. We will keep 
you no longer than is necessary for our pur- 
pose." 

Deborah thought those words were aptly 
chosen. She lay back in the corner, not mov- 
ing a muscle. She watched the tight lips of 
John Lea. His eyes shot lightning, but he con- 
trolled himself splendidly. 

" All right. Go ahead," he said, shortly. 

The man rode on. Robert followed with the 
car. They drove half a mile and turned in at 
the gateway of a dark, uncertain place. The 
drive on which they ran led up to a dark house. 
The search-light reflected on the windows. 
Under the porte-cochere the machine stopped. 
A maid opened the door at the red-haired 
196 



MERE MAN 

man's ring. The maid was Mrs. Devine's 
maid. Within, the hall was lighted and the 
maid switched on lights on the porch. 

" Is the squire in ? " 

The woman did not move a muscle. 

" He is in the house yonder. I'll telephone 
for him." 

" Very good." The red-headed man turned 
to Lea. " Will you and the lady step into the 
squire's study for a moment ? " 

Lea looked at the man intently. 

" Now, don't fuss," said Deborah. 

He turned his back on the man and strode 
up the steps. At the end of the hall was an 
open door. 

"This way," said the maid, leading them 
toward it. 

Lea walked past her. In that moment the 
maid just ahead of Deborah held up a card 
behind her back. Deborah read on it this 
sentence : 

" Rescue party will be here soon." 

She smiled contentedly. 
197 



MERE MAN 

She and Lea entered the room. The door 
closed behind them. There was conversation 
in the hall, under cloak of which Deborah heard 
them turn the key of the door. 

John Marshall Lea was her prisoner. 



198 



CHAPTER XVII 

WHEN the key had turned with a barely 
distinguishable click and the noise of 
conversation in the hall had ceased and at 
length the muffled thud of the front door told 
of the supposed departure of one or more of 
them for the promised justice of the peace, Lea, 
assuming a sudden air of calmness, gazed about 
him with a spark of interest in his surround- 
ings. It was a low-ceilinged, beamed room 
with a fireplace at one end. Along the walls 
of the main part of the room were shelves of 
books. 

Pulling aside the heavy drapery at the win- 
dows, he looked out through sturdily wrought 
iron grilles into the snow of the night. The 
clouded-over moon cast a faint glow of light 
over the world and in it he could see the thickly 
falling flakes swirled past the window by the 

rising wind. Already the ground was white. 

199 



MERE MAN 

The curtain fell. 

"Snowing ! " he asserted pleasantly. 

" Is it? " she said, smiling, from her rigid seat 
in a straight-backed chair. 

He glanced at a row of books. 

" Let's see what the justice enjoys in the way 
of literature. Peter Ibbottson, ' The Mill on the 
Floss/ ' Sherlock Holmes.' Ah ! True to form. 
Detective stories! The proper relaxation for 
the legal mind." 

He stopped by the door through which they 
had entered the only door to the room and 
examined its physical appearance carefully. 
But somewhat to her surprise he did not try 
the knob. Instead, he walked away and seated 
himself in a leather-covered chair under the 
light on the table. He picked up a paper knife 
made in some fantastic design and examined it 
idly. His calm disconcerted her. 

" You do not converse readily, do you? " she 
asserted, solemnly. 

He bowed. 

" You compliment me," he returned. " All 

200 



MERE MAN 

my life people have assured me that I had an 
unfortunate sufficiency of conversation." 

" That's just soliloquizing thinking out loud 
like Hamlet. I mean conversation." 

" It takes two to accomplish it. And you are 
very quiet to-night." He looked across the 
table at her. " What's the matter ? Something 
on your mind ? " he asked. 

She started. She felt like Lady Macbeth at 
the knocking on the gate. But she smiled. 

" No," she said, pleasantly. 

The little clock on the mantle struck ten. 

" Old justice," observed Lea, " must be in 
the midst of an exciting game of checkers with 
the storekeeper." 

The wind whistled as it rounded the corner. 
He raised the hangings of the window again 
and looked out at the roaring storm. The 
snow had piled up with incredible rapidity and 
the wind was carrying it with such force that 
the falling flakes and the drifting snow merged 
in the swirling clouds that swept by. 

" ' St. Agnes' eve. Ah, bitter chill it was/ " 
20 1 



MERE MAN 

he muttered. " ' The owl for all his feathers 
was a-cold.' " 

She leaned forward in her chair. 

" Say some more of it," she said. 

He let the curtain fall in surprise and faced 
about with a smile. Without a word he leaned 
against the trim of the window and throwing 
back his head repeated the whole wonderful 
wintry poem not to her, for his eyes rested on 
the ceiling ; but just with the simple pleasure 
of a person humming an old song. She had 
never known him to be more wonderful. He 
made the music of it throb with a new, living, 
personal reality as of a master 'celloist who 
lets forth the wonders of some glorious inter- 
mezzo. She forgot the room, the house, the 
eternal cause and the rescue party that had not 
come. She thought only of him. It was as if 
he were admitting her to the inner mansion of 
his soul. And when he had finished, there was 
a silence in the room as marvelous and strange 
as if a celestial procession had passed through 
it. They did not look at each other. 

202 



MERE MAN 

"And that," he said, presently, "was just 
such a night as this." 

He pushed aside the curtain again. 

" Rough driving out there," he asserted. " It 
is very wild. I wouldn't trust any chauffeur to 
keep to the road a night like this." 

She followed him to the window. 

" This ought not to keep " she checked her- 
self " to keep us from going, ought it ? " 

" Nothing will stop me to-night," he ob- 
served, enigmatically. 

She looked at him hard. Then she laughed. 

" Old cock-sure I " she said, but there was a 
touch of tenderness in her voice. 

She sank down into a chair the comfortable 
one he had been sitting in. He made the cir- 
cuit of the room again, eyeing the furnishings 
and fastenings of the room with an air that was 
pleasantly curious. There were three windows 
and one door. The ornamental wrought iron 
grilles that barred the windows were let into 
the masonry and leaded into place. The door 

was of solid oak. Lea noted all these details 

203 



MERE MAN 

with interest and returned to a seat by the 
lamp. 

Deborah, who had been watching the clock 
while his back was turned, was too much ex- 
cited and perturbed now to trust herself to con- 
versation. She seized a magazine at random 
and pretended to read. Old campaigner that 
he was, and but too well schooled in the para- 
mount value of patience, he glanced over the 
books on the table and, selecting one, began 
actually to read. The clock, viewing this do- 
mestic scene, struck eleven in a peremptory 
and disapproving manner. 

The next hour was not more than usually 
long to Lea. He had nothing to worry about 
he was following that luxurious idea of let- 
ting events take their course. To Deborah it 
was months long, expecting as she did the ar- 
rival momentarily of a rescue party from Wash- 
ington. She read not a word. Her eye was 
on the nearly stationary hand of the clock. At 
the end of the several months menti9ned, the 
hands at last dragged themselves up to the 
204 



MERE MAN 

zenith like two spent explorers crawling to the 
pole, and the clock struck twelve. 

" Goodness 1 " exclaimed Lea, closing his 
book. " Midnight." 

There was a scarcely audible tap at the door. 
Deborah sat up rigidly. She knew the rescue 
party had not come, for they would have made 
a tumult of noise. The rap sounded again. 

" Miss Carver," said a voice, " how long is 
you going to sit up ? " 

There was silence in the room, complete and 
absolute. She rose, however, with easy dignity. 

" What did you want, Martha ? " she asked. 

" Did you want me to stay up any longer ? " 

All pretense of concealment was useless now. 

" Is there any sign of the other people ? " 

" No, Miss Carver." 

Deborah ruminated. 

" Wait half an hour more," she said, at 
length. 



205 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THEY heard the footsteps of the maid re- 
treating down the hall. Lea looked at 
her with keen eyes. 

" Now what ? " he asked. 

" I suppose," she returned, " I had better tell 
you the whole story." 

" Why, yes. It has been gradually dawning 
on me," he said, " during the past three hours. 
I suppose I have been kidnapped ? " 

" That's it," she replied, not looking at him. 

" How long is this incarceration to last? " 

" We don't want you to be at the House to- 
morrow, when the vote is taken. You are such 
an important factor," she said, smiling, " that we 
felt it best to have you out of the way." 

" I feel the compliment deeply," he replied. 

" A party of seven or eight are on their way 
now to get me and to care for you the rest of 
the night and to-morrow." 

She strove to say this casually, as though 

206 



MERE MAN 

there were no doubt in the world as to the ar- 
rival of the party. 

" Ah, yes," -he said, " and if the party does 
not come ? " 

" I shall make other arrangements." 

He nodded. 

" What made you suspect," she went on, 
changing the subject quickly, " that you were 
being that I was running off with you ? " 

He laughed. 

" First of all," he said, " I took the precaution 
to look at the book-plate in several of those 
novels, and when I found they all bore a rather 
prominent woman's suffrage name, I began to 
see it was not for speeding I had been clapped 
into this strong-box." 

" You have been very mild about it," she 
said, wonderingly. " I hoped you would rave 
about and tear your hair." 

"Not yet," he returned, smiling. "You see, 
the game has just begun." 

She met his eyes then. He returned her gaze 

with a pleasant steadiness. That exchange of 

207 



MERE MAN 

glances each felt was like the preliminary touch 
of swords. She waited, studying him carefully. 
The clock ticked on methodically, the only 
audible thing in the room. She decided on her 
course. She rose and held out her hand with 
every appearance of graciousness. 

" Good-night," she said, with a radiant smile. 

He rose too, looking at her in surprise. 

" Going ? " he asked, mildly, 

" Yes." 

" How shall you get out ? " 

" I will ring for the maid to unlock the door." 

"Splendid idea," he agreed, unexpectedly. 
" I will go with you." 

She paused. 

" You are not to go," she said, slowly. 

He laughed easily. 

" I shall have to be restrained by force then. 
I fear that the seven or eight in your party of 
reinforcements could have overwhelmed me. 
But under the present circumstances, I shall be 
compelled to take advantage of the non-arrival 
of Blucher, so to speak." 
208 



MERE MAN 

She bit her lip. 

" But I can't stay here. It is an impossible 
situation. Surely you wouldn't think of " 

" Not at all. I think your suggestion of hav- 
ing the maid unlock the door is best. It will 
relieve the impossibility of the situation." 

She clasped her hands behind her and squared 
her shoulders. 

" I do not propose to let you go," she cried. 

He opened and shut the pocket-knife that lay 
in his hand. 

" Ah, there spoke Boadicea ! " he said. 

" What good will it do you to leave the room ? 
You don't know where you are." 

" But I do. This is Mrs. Devine's house. I 
know the country about here quite well. An 
old college friend of mine, a certain Reverend 
Richard Dinsmore, lives not more than half a 
mile away. I should rouse him up in the dead 
of the night, and in the morning he would see 
that I reached Washington. You see I am not 
without resources." 

The blood slowly mounted to her cheeks. 
209 



MERE MAN 

" But you cannot keep me here in the room 
with you." 

" I leave that to you." 

" In twenty-four hours gossip will have car- 
ried it everywhere. Surely you cannot let that 
happen to any woman." 

He stood with his back to the fireplace. 

" I suggest," he said, evenly, " that you call 
the maid." 

Anger rose in her breast. Her eyes flashed. 

" Once," she cried, indignantly, " you told me 
you loved me. If that were true, you would 
not be willing to submit me to this indignity." 

He strode across the room and grasped both 
her wrists. Instead of breaking away from him 
she looked up at him, round-eyed with wonder. 
He gazed down at her, his lips firmly drawn. 

44 You have pitted your reputation," he said, 
quietly, " against my reputation your honor as 
a woman, which I respect as heaven itself be- 
cause I do love you, against what I feel is my 
honor and duty as a member of the Congress of 
these United States. That is something you, if 
210 



MERE MAN 

you cared for me one slight atom, would not ask 
me to recede from." 

She slowly raised her eyes to his. 

" Would you have me recede ? " he asked. 

" No," she whispered. 

Suddenly his arms went about her and held 
her motionless. She did not resist, but lay for 
a moment in his embrace. Then she raised 
her head and pushed him away from her. 

" You are still, however," she announced, 
" my prisoner." 

" I always have been," he replied, quietly. 

" And I have no intention of letting you go." 

" Please heaven, no." 

She smiled. 

" You are speaking in allegories," she said. 
" I am severely literal. My duty to hold you 
here is as imperative as your duty to go." She 
made a step forward and held his wrists between 
her thumbs and forefingers. "Would you 
have me recede ? " she asked, severely. 

He caught her tightly to him. 

" A hundred times no I " he exclaimed. 

211 



MERE MAN 

" What are we to do then ? " she asked, 
quietly. 

He knitted his brows. 

" You will not let me go ? " 

" No," she whispered. 

"And I will not let you go." 

" According to the rules, then," he went on, 
" we should both go on a hunger and thirst 
strike." 

She broke away from him. 

" You are not serious," she cried. 

He followed her and stood above her chair. 

" I am very serious now," he said, gravely. 
" I have a tremendous suggestion to make." 

She leaned forward eagerly. 

" What is it ? " she asked. 

He seized both her hands and held them in 
his. 

" You must marry me, Deborah. Now." 

She caught her breath. The blood ran hot 
and cold in her. She forced a laugh. 

" You don't know what you are saying," she 
said, faintly. 

212 



MERE MAN 

He leaned over and took her face in his 
hands. 

" You cannot stay with me otherwise," he 
told her, " and I will not let you leave." 

" But," she whispered, turning her flushed 
face up to him, " I have promised. I cannot 
do it." 

He strode up and down the room. 

"My dearest Deborah" it was the second 
time he had used her name " something has 
to break. You won't let me go out of this 
room. I won't let you go. You can't stay 
unless you marry me. And you say you can't 
marry me." 

She buried her face in her hands. 

" What can I do ? " she exclaimed. 

" You have two evils to choose from. You 
have either to let me go or marry me. Choose 
the least." 

It was a long five minutes that passed. She 
leaned forward with her elbows on the arms of 
the chair and her fingers interlaced. There 

was no necessity of choosing. She had chosen 

213 



MERE MAN 

long ago. She wanted him. As far as her 
heart was concerned she would have let him 
carry her off then wherever he wished and marry 
her. But there were other considerations. She 
raised her shoulders presently with the air of 
dismissing the whole subject. He noted the 
gesture. 

She glanced at him and caught the serious- 
ness in his eyes. She reached up and took the 
lapels of his coat in her hands. 

"Well, Sir Fixit," she said, gently, "how 
could two people be married in the midst of 
such a night ? " 

" Why did Providence," he cried, " provide 
me with my dear friend, Rev. Richard Dinsmore, 
but for this identical purpose ? You know," he 
went on, presently, "this place to which you 
have carried me is in the very heart of the Gretna 
Green district, so to speak." 

" You wretch ! " she exclaimed. 

" Of course, I understand that nothing was 
further from your thoughts than " 

She bent a look of great severity upon him. 
214 



MERE MAN 

' " Now I shall never marry you," she an- 
nounced. 

She stood for a long while by the fireplace 
with her foot on the fender. 

" We have been talking foolishness," she said, 
quietly. " You know why I could not marry 
you under any circumstances." 

He strode over to her and played his last 
and biggest card. 

" You promised not to marry, for the purpose 
of helping woman's suffrage. You are holding 
me here, for the purpose of helping woman's 
suffrage. Which is the more important ? " 

" How can I decide ? " 

" There is a telephone in this house. Call up 
your headquarters, or your general-in-chief, and 
find out." 

She started. A light of relief broke upon her 
face. It seemed to be the way out. 

A knock sounded upon the door. 

" Half hour is up, Miss Carver," said the 
maid. 

"Just a moment, Martha." Deborah rose 
215 



MERE MAN 

and turned to Lea. "You are coming with 
me?" 

He nodded. 

" Do you promise to come back with me, if 
necessary ? " 

" I do," he replied. 

She swept across the room. 

"Unlock the door, Martha," she said. 



216 



CHAPTER XIX 

NO one could have known, from watching 
Lea's calm face, the tremendous impor- 
tance to him of the outcome of that interview. 
He sat upon the sofa in the hall idly fingering 
his watch-fob and following with his eye the 
moulded plaster pattern on the ceiling. But 
each time Deborah cried once more, " Hello," 
patiently waiting to get Mrs. Dobson, he glanced 
across at her expectantly. Finally Deborah 
said : 

" Is this Mrs. Dobson ? " 

Pause. He watched her face keenly. 

" This," said Deborah, " is Deborah Carver. 
.... Quite safe .... Yes .... He is here. 
That's you," she observed, putting her handover 
the transmitter. There was a long pause. 
" You say they did lose their way .... Can't 

get any one to come out until the morning. 

217 



MERE MAN 

.... But, Mrs. Dobson, you can see the posi- 
tion it puts me in." 

There was another long pause. At length 
Deborah said : 

"Mrs. Dobson, I can't stay here. I must 

either let him go or " She hesitated. There 

was the buzz in the receiver of some one talk- 
ing. She listened. " I know. It would spoil 
the whole undertaking .... I understand its 
importance but .... Yes, I have another 
scheme .... I could do it .... Alone 

.... Yes .... Then listen How shall 

I say this?" she broke off, turning her flushed 
face to him. 

" Just tell her." 

"Hello, Mrs. Dobson. The scheme is to 

marry him. Marry M-a-r-r-y " Deborah 

turned to Lea. " She says it doesn't sound like 
anything but ' marry ' to her." She spoke again 
in the receiver. "That's what I mean .... 
Exactly." 

Lea stood up like a man about to receive the 
verdict of a jury. Deborah spoke again. 
218 



MERE MAN 

"Yes .... It w a sacrifice. But I cannot 
stay with him otherwise .... I put the ques- 
tion up to you shall I let him go to appear 
in the House to-morrow or shall I break my 
promise as to marrying ? " 

Lea waited. He stood behind her, his hands 
tightly clenched. 

" Is this what you said," asked Deborah, in a 
second, " Keep him here at any cost ? " Pause. 
"I understand. I will keep him here at any 
cost." 

He leaned over and kissed her hair. And 
when she stood up, her knees shook. 

"Hold me tight. Tight," she cried. "I'm 
frightened." 

He held her. The maid sitting in the corner 
by the stairs made no difference. 

" If you do not want me " he began. 

She put her hand over his mouth. 

" You are the only thing I want. Hurry," 
she exclaimed. 

He turned to the maid. 

" Miss Carver and I," he said, with a calm- 
219 



MERE MAN 

ness he did not feel, " are to be married here in 
half an hour or so." 

The maid leaped to her feet. Lea seized the 
telephone. 

" Dick Dinsmore," he said, into that instru- 
ment, after a month of delay. " This is John 
Lea. Please come over here and marry me. 
Right away .... Bring a license clerk .... 
Think of Peary in the arctic zone, man, and this 
wind will be but the breath of spring .... 
Ride a horse, walk, fly on your angel wings 
.... Did you ever hear the story of the good 
Samaritan .... Here is your chance .... 
I am waiting for you by the wayside .... 
Many thanks. If you knew how glorious a mo- 
ment this was for me you would not blame me 
for making this test of your friendship." 

It was a strange wedding ceremony that mar- 
ried Deborah Carver not like the orange-blos- 
som event she had dreamed about a thousand 
times no thought-over dress to preserve with 
tender memories, nothing old carefully selected, 
nothing new, nothing borrowed, nothing blue ; 

220 



MERE MAN 

no friend of her childhood to pin back her veil, 
no organ, no guests, no friend at all save the 
man she was to marry. But he was church and 
choir for her, and in his heart she knew was 
music more sonorous than wedding marches. 
That simple ceremony with the deep-voiced 
friend of John Lea's college days reading the 
service, his eye not on the open book, with only 
the maid and the license clerk as guests and 
witnesses, with the man who was to be her hus- 
band saying his responses in a firm, strong, 
happy voice, she could not look upon with any- 
thing save pleasure, and wonder and an all- 
compelling gratitude. 

In a short time it was all over and on her 
finger was John Lea's seal ring a strange wed- 
ding sign, but becoming on her long, slender 
finger. They found that Martha had set a wed- 
ding breakfast in the dining-room with candles 
on the table and all Mrs. Devine's best linen 
and silver. It was not an elaborate menu such 
as might have been published with effect in the 

papers, but one of quite substantial foods which 

221 



MERE MAN 

were more than welcome to Deborah and Lea, 
who, at half-past one in the morning, were fam- 
ished from their long fast. 

The license clerk, a certain Mr. Dobbs, sat 
very stiffly at the board and shot back his cuffs 
at intervals, blinking at the light like an owl, 
and never opening his mouth save for the pur- 
pose of eating or to yawn covertly behind his 
hand. A cross section through his brain would 
probably have disclosed the word "sleep," 
blazoned in large letters upon it. He was not 
what might be called an ideal wedding guest, 
but at least he had the virtue of being sincere. 

At length Mr. Dinsmore, feeling that the oc- 
casion was drawing to a close, or else having 
compassion on Mr. Dobbs, rose from the table. 

" I am sorry," he said to Deborah, " that you 
have no bouquet to throw. Mr. Dobbs would 
enjoy catching it. For though he dispenses 
marriage licenses daily by the thousand, he is 
thoroughly single; starving as it were in the 
midst of plenty." 

Mr. Dobbs blushed fiery red, as if he had 
222 



MERE MAN 

swallowed something down the wrong throat, 
and had to shoot back his cuffs two or three 
times to regain his composure. 

Deborah smiled at him with something ap- 
proaching affection ; for was he not the only 
guest at her wedding ? Mr. Dobbs assumed an 
attitude of a little more ease and murmured 
something about the pleasantness of the occa- 
sion. 

"Good-night, Mrs. Lea," cried Dinsmore, 
noting the embarrassment the unexpected title 
caused her. " I have known John many years," 
he said, seriously, " and I know of no gentler, 
sturdier, more comforting soul than is he. I 
trust you will both be happy." 

And then to her surprise and confusion, he 
kissed her. Mr. Dobbs did not kiss her, but 
shook hands with her with one straight motion 
like a man shifting the gear lever of an automo- 
bile, and then walked after Mr. Dinsmore, his 
shoes squeaking impressively. Deborah and 
Lea, through the window, watched them mount 

their horses and ride off in the snow. 

223 



MERE MAN 

The maid was standing in the hallway. 

" Did the chauffeur that brought us and the 
red-headed man try to go back?" Lea asked 
her as he turned the key in the big lock of the 
front door. 

Martha said they did. 

" I hope they didn't run into trouble." 

The maid disappeared, leaving them alone. 
Deborah, across the hall, stood looking at 
him. 

"Tired?" he asked. 

She nodded. 

He strode to her and she dropped contentedly 
into his arms. 

" Fighting for the suffrage," he said, gently, 
" is fatiguing." 

"The suffrage." She smiled. "Think of 
fighting for that when there was this," putting 
her hand over his heart, " to fight for." 

He held her tightly to him. She buried the 
point of her chin in his shoulder. 

"I shall be happy," she said, seriously, "if 

the women win their fight for the suffrage to- 
224 



MERE MAN 

morrow, because they have worked for it. But 
I shall never be reconciled to having kept my 
my husband," she cried, gripping him tightly, 
" out of the fight when he wanted to be in the 
thick of it." 

He did not look at her. 

" You are a glorious person," he said, huskily. 
" But you need not worry on that score." 

She caught his chin and turned his face 
toward her. 

" Why ? " she asked, imperiously. 

" Because," he said, gravely, " when the 
House convenes to-morrow they will immedi- 
ately take a recess for the day out of respect to 
the memory of Senator Hemmingway, who was 
once Speaker of the House. This is not gener- 
ally known. It was decided just before I left 
the Capitol." 

She lay perfectly motionless in his arms. 
Her surprised eyes gazed at him as if her whole 
intelligence refused absolutely to comprehend 
the meaning of his words. Then gradually her 

mouth broke into a smile and she laughed 

225 



MERE MAN 

aloud. She raised her head and kissed him 
upon the lips. 

" The reason I love you," she said, " is be- 
cause I can't beat you." 



226 



i ! ; 



liii