THE CONFESSION

A rainy night was followed by a rainy morning. Between the looped
curtains of the alcove window the ground of the square could be seen
soggy and wet. The marble of Washington Arch showed dark streaks of
moisture. Rachel leaned an arm on the dining room mantel. The
housekeeper had been complaining of a litter of kittens in the basement
which she could get no one to destroy.

“Bring them in here, Theresa,” Rachel ordered peremptorily; then with a
sigh she cast herself in a chair.

The woman disappeared but presently returned bearing in her hands a
basket containing three white and grey kittens. The mother cat, a
handsome sleek animal with a plume-like tail and round golden eyes,
followed at her heels, alternately mewing anxiously and purring
contentedly.

“I didn’t know that you were fond of cats, ma’am,” murmured the
housekeeper in an ingratiating tone. “I suppose they are all well
enough for those who likes ’em.”

Before proceeding to study the kittens, Rachel drew a small flask from
the pocket of her morning-gown. “If there isn’t any more whiskey in
the house, Theresa, send out before breakfast and get some at the
nearest drugstore. Then refill this and take it up to Mr. Hart,” she
added without looking at the other.

The housekeeper, a tall angular woman–whose flat bust and prominent
shoulder-blades suggested the awful idea that her head was put on the
wrong way–paused on the threshold. The bosom of her gown bristled
with needles and bits of embroidery cotton clung to her black silk
apron. In spite of her unattractive person there was something smart
and pretentious about Theresa. She carried her head, covered with its
glossy hair, as if it were decorated with an aigrette.

“Shall I take up his breakfast at the same time?” she asked, and lifted
eyes of innocence.

“Mr. Hart will come downstairs for breakfast,” Rachel answered shortly;
then, sinking on the rug, she began fondling the kittens.

She lifted them out of the basket one at a time, and holding them at a
distance, looked at their faces, which, three-cornered and mottled
light and dark, suggested pansies; at their paws, soft as velvet and
harmless as yet; at their short frisky tails and little red mouths
which they opened wide as they mewed straight at her. During this
pretty play the mother cat sat by the fender and washed her face. But
presently, at an especially distressed mew, she crossed the room and
laid a remonstrative paw on Rachel’s arm. But the girl held the kitten
still higher so that the cat was obliged to rear herself on her hind
feet in order to reach it. At that instant Simon Hart entered the room.

“Isn’t that rather cruel of you?” he asked, stooping to pat the cat
that arched its back under his hand.

“Let her reach it then,” Rachel answered.

After several trials, the mother cat succeeded in taking the kitten by
the nape of its limp neck, and then hopped nimbly with it into the
basket. Rachel looked at her gravely as she began rather roughly to
lick the kittens with her little scarlet tongue, covered with tiny
cones.

Simon extended his hand, but Rachel made no move to rise. Instead,
turning her head which she rested on her palm, she looked at him and
across her face flitted a variety of emotions. He would have assisted
her to her feet, but she would have none of him. Then another glance
and her mood changed completely. Self-contained and enigmatic as he
was on ordinary occasions, he showed now an embarrassment that struck
to her heart. She put up her hands, and with a sudden violence of
emotion, he lifted her in his arms.

A moment later, she had forced him to release her, and, pale and
thoughtful, she left the room.

“We’ll have breakfast in a moment,” she said, reappearing. “I gave
Theresa your flask; she is sending out,” she added in a lower voice.

Already Simon had assumed his usual equivocal and aloof manner. At
these words, he lowered his eyes.

“That was kind of you,” he said, “I required merely a drop and I found
what I needed. My cold,” he continued, “is no worse; on the contrary,
I shall go to the shop to-day.”

Since the night of the opera, three weeks before, Simon had been
confined to the house by his dread enemy, the influenza. During this
illness he had consumed a great quantity of liquor. If he went without
it for any number of hours, he showed the effect. That morning Rachel
had been moved by his pale and wretched look.

During the meal he read to her part of a paper he expected to deliver
before the Jewellers’ Association. But she crumbled her bread, her
thoughts wandering. As he was preparing to leave the house, she
lingered about in his vicinity.

“Do you know,” she ventured, following him to the door, “I’m not half
satisfied with what you did about Mr. St. Ives?” and she gave him a
direct, almost accusing glance.

“But I sent him a check, certainly liberal in the circumstances, since
he is free to go on and manufacture–” Simon began, and he wrinkled his
brow.

Rachel shrugged her shoulders in impatience. “You sent him a check;
yes, you even advised him to go on and manufacture that instrument.
But he isn’t capable of making a practical move. Now if you’d shown
any real interest–” She stayed her words, silenced by contrition.

After Simon had gone, she established herself with a bit of sewing in
the dining room. It was the only room that did not weigh on her
spirits. But she had discovered at once that this house, lonely,
silent, forbidding, suited Simon as it was; therefore she had confined
herself merely to refitting and converting into a sitting room an
unused chamber on the second floor; and to making more comfortable the
quarters of old Nicholas Hart. There her efforts had ended. An entire
remodelling of the mansion would have been necessary to disperse the
atmosphere of depression that, tangible as dampness, emanated from its
walls.

It had sheltered in its time, apparently, a goodly number of
soft-moving, mirthless people. Its inner doors of dark polished wood,
never emitted a squeak; and the occasional sounds that penetrated the
plaster of its ceilings, suggested a company of rats that went about
their business in hushed, apologetic groups, instead of in scampering
hordes. The house had never become reconciled to Simon’s pianola, and
when he seated himself before the instrument, as he did with
conscientious regularity every day after dinner, Rachel often fancied
that the house lifted shoulders of aversion.

And the legitimate inmates, she decided, were in keeping with the
house. Simon and his housekeeper, Theresa Walker, could have desired
nothing different in the way of a dwelling. As for old Nicholas and
herself, not to mention the various maids who succeeded one another
rapidly (for Theresa was difficult to suit in the matter of assistants)
they were merely interlopers.

The housekeeper inspired Rachel with a kind of horror. She had somehow
gleaned the knowledge that this woman, with her crafty smile but
undeniable capacity for work, when well launched in middle life, had
seized upon the idea of marrying her cousin, a certain Jeremiah Foggs,
when the cousin’s wife, a forlorn, feckless, half-witted creature,
should die. As the wife was little more than a troublesome charge on
Jeremiah’s hands and he feared leaving her to herself in their village
home, he always brought her with him on the occasions of his visits to
Theresa. During the premature courting of the hard-grained pair, the
poor daft thing sat by the cheek of the chimney with frightened eyes
and a shaking chin. Rachel had a theory that with kind treatment, her
wits might have returned. But no kindness was ever shown her; on the
contrary, Jeremiah and Theresa waited impatiently for the creeping
disease to make way with her. Meanwhile Theresa employed the time of
waiting to good advantage.

Packed away in a chest in her room was a great quantity of hemstitched
linen, doilies, spreads, embroidered curtains and what not. Indeed, it
was a question whether Theresa’s means of attraction did not repose
solely in her needle; for these products of her skill, which she
displayed on every visit of Jeremiah, certainly had a killing effect
upon the fellow, with his bullet head. And Theresa, destitute of every
feminine grace, gave herself airs on her handiwork as if it had been
beauty of person and feature. They were a right curious pair; each
with the same air of eager avidity, as if tormented by a keen desire to
gain something, each with the same oily and ingratiating manner.
Rachel detested Theresa even more than she had detested Nora Gage, and
only consented to retain her because Simon seemed to desire it. In
truth, Theresa worked in this house as smoothly and briskly as a
shuttle in a well-oiled machine.

For a time Rachel pursued her work, but presently her interest flagged
and she dressed herself for the street. She was of two minds. Instead
of going out immediately she ascended to the top story to take a peep
at Nicholas. At her suggestion the old man’s workroom was now on the
third floor and it was no longer necessary for him to descend a flight
of steps to his chamber. Also, his meals were all served to him in his
workroom. Without comprehending the cause of his greater comfort, the
old fellow cherished a whimsical and flighty affection for Rachel;
while Simon was humbly grateful to her for this interest in his erratic
parent. Now the only time Nicholas was obliged to attempt the stairs
was when he went for an airing. On certain days of the week, if the
weather were fine, a man nurse appeared and conveyed him to the street
and remained with him in the Square. From these excursions Nicholas
never returned without some token for Rachel. Now it was a cornucopia
of popcorn which he had bought from a vender; later, as the spring
advanced and grass began to show along the paths, it was a cluster of
leaves and buds; not infrequently it happened that he treasured up and
presented to her particularly handsome specimens of insects mounted on
pins.

If truth were told, little and lithe and still spry, this old
reprobate, with his eagerness regarding the habits of the house-fly,
his raptures and his rages, came nearer than any other person in the
house to being keyed to the same pitch as Rachel herself. If rumour
could be trusted, a number of discreditable experiences had made up
Nicholas’s life. He had gamed and drunk, driven fast horses, followed
fast women. He had conducted one thriving business after another, and
among them, the car shops that had employed old David. He had made
fortunes with ease and lost them with equal facility. Now, in his last
years, he was penniless and Simon was engaged in patiently paying the
debts Nicholas had contracted; but for this, be it understood, he
received scorn rather than gratitude.

As a result of his evil ways Nicholas, in the early years of his
marriage, had broken his wife’s heart. Her patience had annoyed him,
and, had she shown more spirit, her fate might have been a happier one.
As it was, she had slipped out of life, mown down with grief as grass
is mown with the scythe. And Nicholas had made scant pretence of
regretting her, just as he made scant pretence of approving his son.
Simon had early betrayed a lack of zest for life–a trait his father
could ill tolerate. Therefore, with taunts and gibes, he had made
Simon’s life miserable through boyhood and early manhood. At first, it
may be, he thought by this method to kindle some spirit in the lad, but
failing to strike a spark–for Simon remained through all pale and
silent, a human riddle to the father,–Nicholas had continued his jeers
for sheer malicious joy in the practice. Even now his wit kindled at
the thought of Simon, and sure of an appreciative listener, he would
make clever satirical remarks about him to his niece, Julia Burgdorf,
whenever she put in an appearance. And Julia would match these
sallies. To this joking Rachel, in a storm of anger, had endeavoured
to put a stop. Now when the pair exchanged their witticisms, it was
out of her hearing.

Though this old man bore not the slightest resemblance to old David,
his age and animation endeared him to Rachel. Then he had once helped
her grandfather, a thing she never forgot.

Now his voice, which leaped constantly to a childish treble, reached
her before she gained the stair’s head. A stuttering of the words of
his ditty, decided her to postpone her call. Owing to his excitable
heart and his years, liquor was forbidden the old man. Resolving to
take the housemaid sharply to task for giving Nicholas whiskey, Rachel
descended the stairs. Through delicacy she never spoke to Simon of his
own or his father’s failing. When moved to disapproval of her husband,
as she had been that morning, her only reproach was a look. A
childhood passed among fishermen had taught her tolerance for this
particular weakness.

When Simon returned at lunch time, she was nowhere about and he was
forced to sit down to the table without her. But she entered before he
had finished the first course, and taking her place opposite him, began
slowly unfastening her jacket. Wishing to please her, he launched into
a description of St. Ives’s _pyrometer_.

“We melt up different alloys to get the different colour effects,” he
concluded, “and the colour and intensity of the light bear certain
definite relations–”

Rachel opened her eyes: “Then it’s a success, is it?”

Simon avoided her gaze. “Why yes, certainly. In fact,” he added,
“it’s a very ingenious device. A trifling thing, you understand; but
it is an instrument for which there is a definite need, and for that
reason I should judge he might possibly be able to do something with
it.”

Rachel nodded. “I see. Now Simon, I’ll tell you what I’ve done; I’ve
just been out and sent notes by messenger to Mr. St. Ives and his wife,
and to Emily Short, asking them to come this afternoon and stay to
dinner. Tell me, did I do right?”

Without visible effect Simon had tried to shape her to more
conventional standards. Rachel exhibited as much independence as
before their marriage. Now he replied a little wearily:

“Why of course, though I should have considered that the case scarcely
required anything as complimentary, in a social sense, as an invitation
to dinner.”

“And why not?” she flashed back hotly. “Though when it comes to that,
I don’t wish to compliment Emil St. Ives; I wish to _help_ him. Heaven
knows, he’s egotistic enough. But you don’t realize,” she pursued in a
softer tone, “how helpless he is. He needs someone to advise him, or
he’ll spend himself in a thousand useless ways; someone to take an
intelligent interest in him.”

“He has a wife, hasn’t he?”

“I said _intelligent_ interest.”

“But I assure you, my love,” he began, “that I’m by no means the proper
person–”

However, before he left the house he had promised to return earlier
than was his custom in order to further his wife’s plan.

In the course of the afternoon Rachel received a note from Emily Short
explaining that she could not be present at the dinner. The note
concluded: “You may remember Betty Holden. I think you were with me
one evening when she came in. Poor child! Fortunately her baby never
drew breath. She’s to be taken this afternoon to Bellevue and I’ve
promised to go with her. I shan’t get away early for she’s in a great
taking and no wonder. The landlady at the place where she boarded
threatened to put her into the street. Poor soft defenceless things,
besieged both from within and without, there’s small chance for the
Betty Holdens.” This news at any other time would have stirred Rachel,
but now she had no time for reflection.

Emil and his wife arrived promptly at five o’clock. Enlivened by hope,
Annie was looking especially pretty. She had arrayed herself in a gown
she had so far held in reserve, and had donned her rings which
glistened like dew on her thin fingers. But Rachel gave small heed to
Annie. She had counted on turning her over to Emily, telling herself
that the toy-maker’s companionship would benefit the lackadaisical
girl. But now this plan was frustrated. Conducting her guests into
the chamber which she had converted into a sitting room, Rachel
established Annie in a corner and furnished her with several books of
engraving. And thereafter, with undisguised eagerness, she gave her
own attention to Emil.

She had weathered a tempest.

In youth the blood flows warm, and the unexpected meeting with her
former friend when she was off guard, when she was excited by her first
opera, had produced a storm. But the storm had passed, the last gleam
of lightning and rumble of thunder had ceased and the air was clearer
than before. So she was convinced. She denounced herself as an
inflammable creature, and turned with renewed allegiance to her
husband, dwelling desperately on her gratitude and esteem. Finally,
sure of herself and luxuriating in a sense of renewed activity, she
fancied she could serve Emil as simply as she would serve another
friend. Nor did she see in the attempt Love in one of its
multitudinous disguises.

The room, which was long and shadowy, overlooked the Square. She led
the way to a divan under a window and motioned Emil to a place at her
side.

“Now,” she said, “I want to know just where you stand with your work?
Tell me what you have done–what you intend doing–all,” with an
expansive gesture.

He followed it closely; then glued his eyes to her fingers. For some
reason he was displeased at this abrupt buckling to a subject that
ordinarily would have received his ready endorsement.

“But are there not other things to talk about–first?” he suggested.

“Not of so much importance.”

“No?”

“No.”

The gentle rebuke only incited his dominating nature: “But I should
like to ask– For one thing, you know you treated me shamefully,
Rachel, when I left Pemoquod.” He dropped his head to a level with
hers. Into his voice had crept the old dangerous and caressing tone.

Amazed at the double temerity of the use of her name and the allusion
to the Past, she returned his look, flushing uncontrollably.

“Why did you do that?” he pursued, enjoying her embarrassment.

“I–I do not recall it,” she said and flamed yet more to the lie. “And
hereafter, please remember I am Mrs. Hart.”

She had a grip on the reins and he must heed the sharp tug, though he
still chafed under the restraint like a restive horse. “And now we’ll
speak of another matter–your work;” she continued.

“It’s two years since we’ve seen each other,” he remonstrated sulkily.

“It’s nearer three,” she might have answered, but checked the words.
Instead, severely: “You ought to have something to show for that length
of time.”

“I have something.”

“So I supposed. Now tell me.”

And gradually with those arts known to woman, she subdued the quondam
lover and roused the genius. Yielding to the flattery of her attitude,
which was one of keen interest in his work, he was soon discoursing
enthusiastically on the subject she had prescribed. A fish in the
water or a bird in the air could not have been more at home than was he
in her presence.

Thus they talked till twilight fell and the maid came in to light the
gas: and they were still deeply absorbed when Simon appeared.

He stood for a space, his face a blur of white in the doorway; then he
came forward into the circle of light.

Instantly three heads were raised, Rachel’s and Emil’s abstractedly,
Annie’s with a distinct expression of relief. She had soon wearied of
the books of engravings with which Rachel had thoughtfully supplied
her, and the volumes were piled on the floor beside her chair; all save
one, which she still held listlessly in her lap. She was pleased at
the interest Mrs. Hart exhibited in her husband’s work, for a word
which she caught now and then, had convinced her of the topic of their
conversation, and her jealousy had not been aroused. But she was weary
and she now stood up with a pretty air of welcome for Simon.

He shook hands with her cordially. Then crossing the room, he shook
hands with the inventor.

But Emil scarcely waited to answer his few studied words of greeting;
instead, he settled himself immediately at Rachel’s side, and rumpling
his heavy mane with his fingers, he stared dreamily. “The next thing I
completed was the _electrometer_,” he said, and Simon noticed that
Rachel wrote the word “electrometer” on a tablet she held on her knees.

He returned to Annie and until dinner was announced, he talked to her
in his low even tones.

Dinner brought the party into no closer harmony. Rachel, with a
carnation blazing in her hair and her dark intelligent eyes speaking
more swiftly than her lips, still talked to Emil; and Simon, concealing
every trace of annoyance if he felt any, devoted himself to Annie.
After the meal, he even proposed playing to her on the pianola, and
Rachel, knowing that he was very fond of performing on the instrument,
allowed him to go through two pieces in his usual faithful uninspired
manner. Then she approached him.

“Come Simon,” she said, laying hold of his hands. “You know why I
asked them here,” she added in an urgent whisper as he made no move to
rise. “He is the inventor of all these instruments,” and she displayed
a list. “But he hasn’t the remotest idea what steps to take in order
to get the right people interested. Now can’t you give him letters to
different men, Simon? Come–you can think up some plan if you try!”

Simon Hart had not the slightest interest in Alexander Emil St. Ives;
moreover, in general, he was ignorant of the matters upon which the
other required advice. However, he yielded; subsequently he was
influenced to the point of going several times to visit the inventor;
later, he organized The St. Ives and Hart Company of which he himself
was the president. All this he did because of the imperious, and at
the same time, pleading look in a pair of dark clear eyes.

By the end of the year the house in Washington Square had undergone a
change. This change had nothing to do with the renewing of bricks or
mortar, or the altering of any outward feature; materially the
residence remained the same. Never the less, it was now connected with
a certain loft in John Street by a subtle, tenuous web. In this web,
love,–unacknowledged, innocent, strong as death, thrown out from a
woman’s heart and returning ever to it,–was the solitary thread.

As might have been foreseen, even after the formation of The St. Ives
and Hart Company, the world continued in ignorance of Emil St. Ives. A
few devices composed of shining brass, crystal, and wood occupied a
modest amount of space in one of Simon Hart’s shop windows, and
occasionally men of science, attracted by their ingenuity, made
inquiries about them; oftener than not, they returned to watch them in
operation, again and yet again. But the great public took no interest
and never made inquiries; the great public was interested in improved
stove-handles and door-locks and the rescue of discarded tin cans, and
gave not a thought to Emil St. Ives’s little instruments.

But in heaven, or more properly speaking, the world of complete
objectivity which lies close about this and which only gifted minds
prematurely penetrate, there was excitement after excitement, all
produced by the childlike monster, Emil St. Ives. He had to his credit
an instrument for recording colours in the atmosphere, another little
instrument for recording the vibrations of the air occasioned by sound,
and numerous temporarily useless devices which were calculated to
delight those who came after him, but which were entirely unappreciated
and unapprehended by the age in which he lived. None the less, his
happiness was extreme.

The John Street loft, to which he and Annie had removed on the first
hint of improvement in his fortunes, was spacious; and here, under a
sky-light which glistened beneath the sun in pleasant weather and was
befogged by rain and snow when the weather was inclement, he lived and
worked. He ate irregularly and slept little. When he slept, in order
not to waste time he was in the habit of entrusting the problem upon
which he was engaged to his subconscious mind. Then after a sleep of a
few hours’ duration, he would wake, and on first opening his large,
speculative eyes, would oftener than not see in mid-air the completed
instrument working perfectly.

The loft, which chanced to be singularly habitable, was divided by
partitions into four rooms. In order to be removed as far as possible
from the sound of the pounding and drilling, Annie had taken up her
abode in the rear room, which, besides the bay in the ceiling, had a
large window looking upon a court. Below, in that scrap of earth, a
maple tree had taken root and flourished to such a degree that its
topmost branches came opposite the window. In the branches of the
tree, a robin had built its nest. But Annie paid little attention to
the tree or the robin. Though she wept less than in the past, she
complained more; her lips drooped and her tongue had acquired
sharpness. When with her hands resting on her slight hips, she
remonstrated with Emil, her scolding sounded exactly like the chatter
of an enraged bird; indeed, she looked more than ever like a bird.
Though she occasionally might have managed to buy herself something
new, Annie no longer troubled herself about her clothes. What was the
use, she argued, since Alexander persisted in living in an attic; and
in any case, was it not wiser to save every penny toward the rent,
since he was so erratic in his methods of work, and insisted on making
impractical things for which he used up all his salary? So Annie, a
greater part of the time, lay on a sofa and sulked. In her inactivity,
she was a contrast to Emil.

The corner of the loft in which the inventor spent most of his time was
furnished, in addition to a workbench, with a cot upon which he slept,
a disreputable-looking chair in which he rested when he was not pacing
the floor, second-hand bookcases in which he kept his inventions and
his library, a basket for the monkey, and a three-legged stool upon
which Ding Dong could perch himself when so minded.

But Ding Dong, day or night, seldom had time to rest; and where he
slept was a question; sometimes, without doubt, on a square of carpet
outside his master’s door. Willing, devoted, pathetic in his
resemblance to a dumb brute, Ding Dong was an extra pair of hands and
feet for Emil. He could scrub and sweep and make coffee, he could lift
heavy machines in his sinewy arms, he could pack boxes and run errands;
but he could not drill or hammer or saw with any accuracy. Though the
field of his usefulness was limited, he was invaluable to the inventor.

The atmosphere of unparalleled devotion which this humble creature
threw around him was agreeable to Emil; and the same could be said of
Annie’s love. Whenever he observed it, his wife’s faithful affection,
contributing to his egotism, helped him to work the harder. And so
again with Rachel Hart’s intelligent and unwavering interest in his
progress; her interest so stirred in him the creative impulse that he
sped ahead like a fiery steed under the plaudits of the arena. On the
whole, Emil received much from the people surrounding him; and yet, in
the last analysis, their devotion was not essential to the “un-named,
seeing, acting, produced being” that constituted his genius.

When at work, in the depths of his eye lurked the consciousness of a
world; but in his mouth and chin was something less perfect and more
human; they looked as if they had been slighted by the sculptor who
fashioned him. For the rest, an almost supernatural serenity marked
his manner, despite the often convulsive manifestations of his energy.
It was as if a god drove the chariot of his forces. If allowed to
emerge gently from this state, he was unfailingly good natured; but if
broken in upon abruptly, “care, genius, and hell” distorted and
illuminated his face. Pausing on the threshold of that narrow gateway
between the world of thought and the world of materiality, Emil St.
Ives was a demon. Annie, bent upon some trifling business of her own,
had one day ventured so to interrupt him; the offence had never been
repeated.

As has been hinted, conscience played no part in him. For Annie, for
Ding Dong, even for his employers, when the mood for work was upon him,
Emil showed not the slightest consideration. Nor was Rachel, in this
respect, an exception. Whatever his attitude was toward her–and he
bore himself in her presence at moments with a strange humility, at
other times with an ill-concealed turbulent admiration that threatened
to break all bounds–her influence at this period had well defined
limits. His mother alone had uninterrupted power over him. At a word
from her, even though he were on the eve of inspiration, he would drop
everything to fulfil her slightest whim.

Small wonder then that the mother adored him,–that she saw in him a
gifted creature not to be approached by the common run of humanity. It
had come to be Emil’s custom to visit his mother at least once in a
fortnight, and, from the moment that they met, those thin hands of hers
had power in their caresses to transform him. Under their gentle
touch, the fire of his mind dwindled, the warmth of his heart grew; the
genius of a world was submerged in the son of a mother. And on Mrs.
St. Ives their companionship had an opposite effect. Questioning him
about his work, her brain in his presence acquiring something of the
agility of youth, she lit herself at the flame that was in her son.

Naturally the neglected Annie was jealous of this love. She never
missed an opportunity to pick a quarrel with her husband on the subject
of his devotion to his mother, but it was seldom she could provoke a
retort. Emil bore her reproaches indifferently. One morning in May
matters reached a decisive point.

At midnight Emil was off, bound for the village that drew him like a
magnet, and some hours later Annie sat over breakfast. She sat in one
of the interior rooms, which was fitted up with a gas-stove and a few
household necessities. Being left by herself frightened Annie. The
janitress of the building, a good motherly soul, had orders to look out
for her in Emil’s absence; but the woman had gone about her duties some
time earlier. Now, except for Ding Dong and the little chattering
monkey, Annie was alone. Ding Dong, who had taken upon himself the
duties of cook in this establishment, tried to tempt her with choice
bits of food and Lulu made constant timid advances toward her
friendship; Annie would look at neither of them. She saw in them a
summing-up of the unusual, wretched and ridiculous situation.

Now tears rolled down her face. Why had she left home? Why had she
married Alexander? This was the constant refrain that beat in her
brain. All things considered, the imperturbable inventor could
scarcely have chosen a more unlucky moment to appear. The door opened
and there he stood.

Smiling, he entered the room, and at the account he gave of his
movements, Annie’s eyes gleamed with anger and the muscles of one cheek
twitched.

“Well,” he explained, tossing aside his hat, “Mother was all right. I
saw her through the window, and then I managed to get the next train
back. You see, it was raining when I got in this morning,” he went on,
“and had I let Mother know I was there, she’d have been out to meet me,
if she got her death for it. So I took only a look at her. There she
was with the tiresome brats tumbling all over her, enough to wear her
out, but she looked as cheerful as could be. Only six o’clock, and the
whole lot of them waiting for breakfast! By Jove, but Edgar’s family
get up betimes! it’s part of his confounded thrift. Breakfast and
lunch at one sitting is more to my mind,” and Emil approached the table
to pour himself a cup of coffee.

But Annie was quicker. Seizing the coffee-pot, she held it behind her
at imminent risk of spilling the contents.

“No, you shan’t have it,” she cried. “I’m sick of your performances,
and I’ll not put up with them. You say you went to your brother’s? If
you did, why didn’t you go in openly? Edgar’s not a wolf, I suppose.
From all you tell me, he lives decently in a house, which is more than
we do; and they have nice things. He’s a wealthy man and your meeting
might have led to something–instead of that, you take an expensive
trip, just for the sake of peeping through a window at your mother,
when you saw her only a few days ago. And then you come back here,
thinking only of her, always of her–and you expect to go on eating and
drinking–”

Emil viewed his wife in troubled astonishment:

“And why shouldn’t I eat and drink?”

“At my expense;” she finished; “for you owe everything to me. If it
hadn’t been for me, you wouldn’t have even what you’ve got. And now
when I’ve nothing more to give–” Dashing the coffee-pot on the table
and huddling her hands over her face, Annie escaped from the room.

For a few minutes Emil remained without stirring. The look of
amazement in his peculiar eyes was succeeded by a slight darkening of
his whole face. But he was never actually reached by Annie’s flashes
of anger. They seemed to him like little storms taking place at a
great distance. Now with a shrug of the shoulders he began tranquilly
to eat his breakfast.

He could not remain insensible to his brother’s continued antipathy;
therefore, that he might not be reminded of it, he never put himself in
the way of seeing Edgar. What would have been the use? Between the
now flourishing merchant and himself, there was even less in common
than formerly. They would not have found a word to say to each other.
And his mother, who had at first sought feverishly to bring about a
reconciliation between them, now did all she could to prevent their
meeting. Had not Edgar told her that he would never receive him, Emil?
Had he not warned her that if she tried to foist Emil’s presence upon
him, he would insult him to his face?

At times Emil was tempted to urge his mother to leave his brother’s
house and cast in her lot with his own, but remembering his
uncomfortable quarters and the openly hostile Annie, he was driven to
silence. The one thing that consoled him was the thought that at least
his mother was comfortably housed where she was; at least she was happy
in her grandchildren. So the pair, kept apart by poverty, continued to
meet like lovers. Anything prettier than the eagerness with which the
little old woman went to a rendezvous with her favourite son, it would
be impossible to imagine. In vain, actuated by a wish to torment her,
Edgar’s wife and even the children, put obstacles in the way of the
meetings. Now it was a jacket to be mended which was brought to Mrs.
St. Ives at the exact moment of her setting forth; it was a sheet to be
hemmed, or a stocking to be darned. With every faculty alert, she
always circumvented her annoyers, never failing to meet Emil at the
appointed spot. This slyness, which is a part of love, brought back
her youth.

Had the conditions of her own life been other than just what they were,
Annie might have found in Mrs. St. Ives a staunch friend. Now she
hated her mother-in-law.

For a time after her angry outburst, she lay face downward upon the
bed. But presently, having wept herself into a repentant mood, she was
all for running to Emil and putting up her tear-stained face for a
kiss. In fancy she pictured him still sitting discomfited; and,
trembling with a desire to make peace, she slipped into the passageway.
But Emil had quitted the scene of the breakfast, and a glance at the
table revealed the fact that he had eaten his fill. Annie passed on to
his workroom and, at what she saw through the door, rage, bitter and
stifling, once more filled her breast.

Annie had never said a word to Rachel of Emil’s constant shortcomings
in relation to his company; “But I’ll tell her now, I will tell her!”
she whispered. She was convinced that Rachel’s belief in Emil could
not be shaken; therefore she would gratify her desire to expose his
faults without further result than putting him to shame. So she
argued. But as usual, where her husband was concerned, she reasoned
wildly. As sensibly expect a bird of the air to drop its eyes in
acknowledgement of a fault, as expect the inventor to show
embarrassment for what he had done amiss or failed to do at all.

As it chanced Rachel put in an appearance that afternoon and Annie flew
to her. She caught the other by the hand and drew her into her own
room. Then she subsided on the sofa and burst into tears.

“What is it, Annie?” Rachel asked. She had never been greatly drawn to
Annie, perhaps for some reason she would have died rather than admit.

Annie was nettled.

“Nothing’s the matter. Did you bring any message from Mr. Hart?” she
asked, drying her eyes with an assumption of dignity.

“Yes; the telephone at the shop is out of order, and I told him I’d
come round and deliver this note. See here, Annie,” Rachel interrupted
herself, “tell me what’s bothering you.”

“Oh–it’s just Alexander!” returned Annie, and without more persuasion
unburdened herself. “You see what my life is here?” she wailed. “And
we might live so differently if Alexander wished–if he cared–if he
even did the things he ought to do in connection with the Company; if
he wasn’t a fool, in short. Now take that _radiometer_,” she went on,
“you know as well as I do that it’s considered wonderful. Well, only
yesterday, your husband sent someone from Columbia University to
inspect it; the college thought of getting one. Emil was out, so I
showed the gentleman the old model, for the new one isn’t done, and I
was just thinking what we’d make on the sale, when in comes Alexander.
‘Oh, that’s trash!’ he cries. ‘That ought to go in the junk heap!
Don’t take that; I have something else on hand that will put that in
the shade completely.’ So,” she finished in a tone between tragedy and
disgust, “the sale was ruined. And if that kind of thing has happened
once, it’s happened dozens of times.”

“But the college will get the instrument eventually?” Rachel asked;
and, as she looked at Annie, in spite of her sympathy, she was
conscious of an inclination to laugh.

“Possibly, but we’ll likely as not be dead, for Alexander goes on
perfecting a thing and perfecting it and the people can wait an
eternity and he doesn’t care. Sometimes,” she concluded, “I’m tempted
to give it all up.”

As she reviewed the situation, Rachel also for the moment was forced
into depression. Similar complaints reached her from every side.
Scarcely a day passed when Simon was not moved to anger by some
shortcoming on the part of the inventor. Now it was his failure to be
on hand at a critical moment to sign necessary papers; again it was his
mysterious disappearance from the city. In fact, his unbusiness-like
methods placed the struggling company in many an embarrassing
situation. More than once Simon had threatened to withdraw from the
enterprise and it was only her own persuasions that restrained him.
His faith in the inventor, never of the strongest, was clearly on the
wane.

“And you mustn’t think it’s just one thing,” resumed Annie, putting
renewed pathos in her voice, “it’s a whole succession of things. Take
that Washington matter. You never heard the rights of that, I’ll be
bound. And I’m going to tell you. You remember, don’t you, that time
a month or two ago when the Government showed such interest in that
_colour wave_ device, and the Company were so encouraged? Well, your
husband thought it would be a good plan for them to send Alexander to
Washington instead of anyone else because Alexander could explain the
thing eloquently. And he did explain it–to the wrong official. He
went there, as I found out afterward from a letter, and demonstrated it
to the wrong man. Then he returned home, blandly satisfied with
himself, and of course nothing came of the matter on which the Company
had built such hopes. But I never said a word to explain it; I was so
ashamed.”

Looking at Annie’s little woe-begone visage, Rachel burst out laughing.

The other, however, stared at her angrily.

“I don’t see anything to laugh at. Alexander is enough to try the
patience of a saint; and I guess if you were married to him, you’d know
it.”

Rachel’s mirth vanished and the colour flew over her face.

After an uncomfortable pause, she took Annie’s hand.

“You look too much on the dark side, try to be patient awhile longer.
Things may straighten themselves.” She pressed Annie’s fingers. “Now
tell me, shall I slip this note under his door, or shall I hand it to
him. It’s important.”

“Oh, you needn’t slip it under the door, you can just go right in and
put it where he’ll see it; the door will be open fast enough. A lot of
good that special lock does,” Annie finished in a burst of scorn. “Mr.
Mudge thought we’d better have it put on to protect Alexander from
dishonest people who come in and get him talking and then steal his
ideas. But do you suppose he leaves the door closed? Not a bit of it.
Why only yesterday he had the lock tied back with a string while he
poured all he knew into the ear of a man from that screw company across
the street. A word of flattery and he forgets everything.”

“Don’t–don’t tell me any more, please;” and as Rachel turned away
smiles rippled over her face. Why could not Annie, Simon, Victor
Mudge, everyone, see that the inventor lived in another world and hence
was not amenable to the laws of this. Nodding to Annie, who refused to
be won from her dejected mood, Rachel traversed the passageway, and
paused at the door of Emil’s eyrie.

As Annie had pictured, the patent lock was out of commission and the
door stood wide open. Placing her note on the corner of a desk where
he could not fail to see it, Rachel lingered on the threshold. Had he
observed her, she could not have remained, but he kept steadily forward
with his work.

It was a rich pleasure to note every detail of the room–the sagging
couch, the shabby coat hanging against the wall, the table laden with
dust, bottles and tobacco boxes, the long bench, on the lower shelf of
which was ranged, with astonishing order, a multitude of tools. She
drew a contented sigh.

The sun poured through the skylight and twinkled on the brass-work of
his darling inventions, enthroned behind the glass of an old bookcase.
Even while he slept, they peered out at him, these children of his
active brain. And in every corner some mechanism was revealed, some
cunning, complicated thing of joints and prisms.

Rachel completed her inventory, then her brows suddenly rose and her
eyes with involuntary devotion fixed themselves upon Emil. It was as
if she had saved him until the last for a closer inspection, like a
little girl who reserves her chief treasure for a leisurely examination.

Seated on a high stool, before a bench, he was at work, from his head
covered with its thick mane, the eyes burning beneath like coals, down
to his big feet, planted against a convenient shelf. These feet hinted
at a force in him that urged him to make a rift in the wall of the
Unknown.

She remained for a long time motionless. Then with a smile,
unfathomable in its freshness, its terror, its confusion, she turned
away.

There, rises a mountain peak–in silence, clouds, eternal snows! The
sun beats on the snow and the sparkling snow responds to the light.
There is the laboratory of genius!

From the mountain roll downward, sometimes small streamlets, sometimes
mighty rivers. These streamlets and rivers nourish the valley below
and even the cities out on the plain, these rivers nourish the world.

Yet the trees and shrubs at the base of the mountain suffer, for
sometimes instead of refreshing streamlets, avalanches of snow come
down. At such times the bushes and trees cling together; with their
twisted branches and denuded roots, they whisper and moan execrations
on the mountain.

Close to the summit–in order to observe what is taking place
there–its foot in the snow and its head in the clouds, pushes that
imperturbable and daring little flower, the edelweiss.

Rachel climbed close to heaven in order to have sight of her love.

One June morning in the second year of the existence of The St. Ives
and Hart Company, Emil entered his wife’s room.

In order to be in range of the draught from the window, Annie had
pulled forward a couch. Clothed in a shabby wrapper, open at the neck,
she was curled up languidly with her head on a cushion. Emil gazed at
her while something like compunction blazed up in his eyes. He amazed
her by sitting down by her side and drawing her to his breast. Holding
her two tiny hands in one of his own, he caressed her hair and even
drew a pitying finger over the prominent cords of her poor little
throat. Then he strained her to him, sighing as if from a full heart.

Annie burst into tears at this unexpected tenderness. Twisting herself
around, she rested her cheek against his.

“You–you leave me to myself all the time, Alexander,” she sobbed, “and
I’ve no one at all but you.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” he responded mournfully.

“And you don’t talk to me about your work as you do to Mrs. Hart; and I
could understand as well as she if you would take the trouble to
explain to me.”

“Well, don’t cry, little kitten,” he said, “I’ve come to explain
something to you now and I hope it will please you.”

“How please me?” she asked.

“Well, I have an idea at last which I think will strike your fancy. I
mean it’s practical,” he explained, “–has commercial possibilities.”

“Are you sure?” she demanded doubtfully: “you aren’t a very good judge,
you know.”

“Never the less, I can’t help knowing that anything in the line of a
novel improvement of a musical instrument like the organ,–in fact, an
innovation,–in these days is almost certain to succeed.”

“Oh, Alexander, tell me! Tell me what you have in mind!” and raising
her head from his shoulder she laid hold of his hand.

“What an excitable little creature it is,” he said tenderly. “Well,
it’s a scheme for increasing the capacity for emotional expression in
an organ. I shall manage to combine the vibrations of strings with
those of pipes by incorporating in the organ a complete piano action.
Do you understand?”

She nodded.

He laughed. “A pile you do! I shall combine them in such a way, that
by a separate keyboard the strings can be used for piano accompaniment,
and also can be coupled with the organ keys so that when they are
depressed, the corresponding dampers in the piano are lifted from the
strings to admit of their free sympathetic vibration.”

“Oh!” said Annie, on a long breath. “And you think it might mean a big
thing?”

“In a commercial sense, yes; in fact I think it’s about certain to be
popular. But in order to carry out the scheme I shall have to have
every chance for experimenting, you know,” and he looked pleadingly
into her face.

“Of course;” she agreed, “but this place suits you, Alexander–you
always said that it did?”

“Yes, the place is all right,” he answered, hesitating, “but I need an
instrument, you see. So I–I’ve bought one,” he added softly.

“Not a pipe organ, Alexander?”

He nodded. “A second-hand one, very small, naturally, only two
manuals. But even so, I shall have to pull out one of the partitions
before it can be set up.”

“How much did it cost?” she cried, and her eyes and her mouth assumed
the appearance in her countenance of three little round holes of horror.

“Well, by paying cash for it to the church committee who put it up at
auction,” he said in a low voice, “I got it for eight hundred dollars.”

At these words Annie crossed to the further side of the room and
dropping into a chair, leaned her forehead against the wall.

Alexander looked at her with miserable eyes. Her action was a thousand
times more disquieting than the volley of reproaches he had expected.

“They’ve come now, I think,” he said after a pause. “They’re going to
hoist part of it up from the outside, and I hear them on the roof.
Don’t feel that way about it,” he implored. “The scheme really is a
good one, Annie, and I’ll make a success of it, I promise you. I’ll
get the eight hundred dollars back and any amount besides.”

But Annie continued motionless and he approached her chair. “I suppose
it does seem like a lot for us to put into it,” he continued with
unwonted tenderness, “but it was a tempting bargain and as I couldn’t
develop my scheme without it– See here,” he interrupted himself,
“haven’t you told me often enough that I ought to invent something that
would prove to be a success; that I ought to do it to justify the
Company’s belief in me, and especially Mrs. Hart’s belief?”

Then Annie turned on him. She even rose from her chair, the back of
which she grasped with a shaking hand. “And it’s to justify _her_
belief in you, is it? that you spent all that we’d managed to save?
Very thoughtful, I am sure. _Her_ interest indeed! I wish you’d never
seen her. I hate her, I do, I hate her!”

“Annie!” he exclaimed, for her little visage was twisted out of all
semblance to itself.

“I do, I hate her!” she repeated. “As for buying that organ because
you needed it, don’t you suppose I know you’ve always hung around organ
lofts and even followed hurdy-gurdies on the street? You bought the
organ because you wanted it. Alexander, you–you leave me!” she
finished hysterically.

Abashed, Emil stared at her; then relieved at this outburst, which was
what he had looked for, he went to superintend the installing of his
luckless possession. Since concluding the purchase of the organ the
wisdom of the step had appeared dubious to his unpractical mind. Now,
had it been possible for him to transfer the burden of ownership, he
would gladly have transferred it. But the organ, to another, would
have been an undesirable acquisition. It was wheezy of tone and sadly
out of order, but this very condition was what had recommended it to
him, and he looked forward with exultant joy to restoring it to a sense
of perfection.

As no retreat was possible, between ruefulness and pride he lifted the
blue and gold pipes from the long coffin-shaped box in which they had
been packed. Other parts of the organ, being less liable to damage,
were hoisted through the window.

When Annie emerged half an hour later, dressed for the street, the
passageway and the two workrooms presented a scene of indescribable
confusion. Had she glanced in at the door of the larger room, she
might have seen the uncouth monster minus the ornamental front it
usually turned to an audience. But she looked neither to the right nor
the left. Despite the warmth of the day she had a veil tied over her
face. The only signs of her distress were the damp blotches in the
material over the regions of mouth and eyes. She had decided to carry
her story straight to Simon Hart.

When Annie reached the house in Washington Square, Rachel was mounting
the steps. Simon had only just returned for luncheon and Rachel
conducted the visitor to his study, a cool dark room on the second
floor, and then stood by to listen to what the other had to say.

And Annie poured forth her tale. Perched on the extreme edge of a huge
armchair, she was too carried away by her trouble to heed the presence
of Rachel, and as she finished, Simon, with a look of annoyance, was
about to express his sympathy when his wife laid her hand forcibly on
his arm.

“And why shouldn’t he buy an organ?” she demanded, turning on Annie,
and it was evident from the light in her eyes that she was angry. “You
are insane to look at the matter as you do. Of course he had to have
the organ,” she declared. “May not an inventor be allowed the
necessary materials for his work? And if the thing should prove a
success, as he thinks it may, and as I can see that it may, even from
Annie’s hazy description, why then you two will be glad enough that he
got the organ.” And she glanced from one to the other triumphantly.

“But, my dear,” her husband interposed, “you heard what Mrs. St. Ives
said; the whole point is that they are not in a position to afford it.”

“But the Company is,” Rachel answered and looked him directly in the
eyes. The next instant she was a prey to shame, bitter and scorching.

With a glance of icy disapproval, he turned away from her, and she
hurriedly crossed to a window and began nervously to remove the rings
from her fingers.

Not a day passed but she thus surprised herself. For the same emotion,
ever new, ever unlooked for, ever commencing afresh, constantly tempted
her into enthusiastic championship of Emil’s cause. Far from wishing
to disguise the feeling, however, now that she herself realized the
force of it, Rachel had often desired to speak of it to Simon; and only
the fact that he definitely and obstinately avoided the subject kept
her silent.

As a result of Annie’s visit, the complexion of affairs in John Street
took a more favourable colour, while those in Washington Square assumed
a more tragic hue. Annie, despite her bitter words about Rachel, was
not actively jealous of her. Now she was comforted by Simon’s
sympathy, which she felt; for between these two unhappy souls there was
a bond of shy understanding. Also, Rachel’s ill-considered words
produced a certain lightness in Annie and she concluded that they would
not be allowed to suffer because of Emil’s extravagance.

Upon Rachel, the result of the interview was otherwise. Seldom had she
experienced a more desperate mood than that which assailed her after
Annie had quitted the house.

More than once she went to Simon’s study determined to speak her mind,
but the door remained steadfastly closed against her.

As it was Saturday, Simon did not return to the shop in the afternoon,
nor did he emerge from the study at dinner time, and Theresa, with a
sly rolling of the eye in her mistress’s direction, prepared a tray for
him. Simon always expressed his anger by an increase of coldness and
silence and by shutting himself up in this way. “He’s in there,”
Rachel reflected, “thinking and drinking.” And she preferred the
liquor, the effect of which she had often noted, to his thoughts, the
effect of which she could not calculate. Until a late hour she heard
him walking backward and forward with irregular steps over the echoing
floor, and it was after midnight when his door opened and he descended
the stairs. This was an old-fashioned house with a cellar and there
the wine was kept. It was to the cellar she knew he had gone.
Determined to seize the opportunity of speaking to him, she threw a
wrapper over her nightdress and hurried after him through the darkened
house. He had turned on the light in the hanging electric bulb, and
when she came upon him he was standing before a table on which was
placed a case of wine. In all probability he had been drinking brandy
and was finishing with claret. To her surprise, as if actuated by mere
thirsty impatience, she saw him strike off the neck of a bottle. This
action in a man of his fastidious habits was big with meaning. He
lifted the bottle to his lips, his head flung back. He did not see her
until she touched his arm.

“Simon,” she cried, “this can’t go on!”

Thinking she referred to the liquor, he set down the bottle and
regarded her with an abashed and amazed look. His long face, without
its usual mask, was fairly pitiful. Later he would not be able to
forgive her for surprising him in this way. But she was bent solely on
making her confession.

“Simon,” she cried, laying hold of the sleeve of his coat, “I was wrong
in what I said this afternoon. I own I was wrong; and I ask you to
forgive me. But there should be no secrets between us and I have no
wish to disguise anything. Simon”–and her eyes, usually serious and a
little sulky, flew to his face and clung there brilliant with
appeal–“you must know that my feeling for Mr. St. Ives existed before
I ever knew you; it is a part of myself. I can’t explain it; but it
does you no wrong. And never could do you any wrong.”

During this explanation Simon had grown paler than was his wont.
Pushing aside her hands and standing off from her, he had begun by
drawing his fingers nervously through his fringe of hair; but as she
proceeded, he became absolutely motionless and his face assumed the
lines of a tragic mask.

“I would not have things different even if I could,” she went on; “I am
content with you and you know it. But oh,”–and she threw, out both
hands in a gesture exceedingly simple and genuine,–“please do not
misconstrue what you cannot, perhaps, understand!”

But at this point he interrupted her with a violent movement that threw
the bottle of wine to the stone floor where the contents spilled in a
red flood. “Once and for all,” he cried, articulating the words with
difficulty, “I want you to know that I will not listen to your
analysis. I may deplore your interest in–in St. Ives–I do deplore
it, but I do not wish to hear anything of it.”

He had put a special accent on the word _interest_ and Rachel once more
closely examined his face. Was it possible that he purposely
misconstrued the situation and chose to close his eyes to what he
believed–or had he understood her? “For it is possible for a woman,
as well as a man,” she told herself vehemently, “to love two, and to
love each differently.” Gallant, courageous little heart! Thus did
she disguise the truth even from herself.

The wine pouring from the bottle had splashed the bedroom slippers of
light felt which she had slipped over her bare feet. Now with a
movement, wholly womanly, she bent and tried to remove the spots by
rubbing them with her hand, while the loosened mass of her hair,
dropping forward, half enveloped her like a veil.

Simon’s eyes gleamed, but he instantly averted his gaze.

“What do you mean by coming down here?” he said harshly. “It is too
damp for you. Go upstairs.”

Rachel lifted herself and made a trembling movement toward him. He
tried to ignore her; then seizing her arm, from which the loose sleeve
fell back, he pressed his lips to it once and pushed her from him. “Go
upstairs;” he repeated in a voice which she scarcely recognized, and as
he turned away she saw that tears were forcing themselves from beneath
his tightly-closed lids and running down his convulsed face.

His repulse of her had been so violent that the hand which she flung
out to save herself was cut against the rough masonry of the wall. In
silence she looked at the wound, and an infinite tenderness and pity
replaced the stern and mournful expression on her face. Without a word
she mounted the stairs.