There were very few men to be found in the club at this hour. The dingy library, buzzing like a beehive at noon with young men, was empty now except for a stranger who was whiling away his time before a dinner engagement. Most of the men that the architect met at this club were, like himself, younger members of the professions, struggling upward in the crowded ranks of law, medicine, architecture. Others were employed in brokers’ offices, or engaged in general business. Some of them had been his classmates in Cornell, or in the technological school, and these had welcomed him with a little dinner on his return from Paris.
After that cheerful reunion he had seen less of these old friends than he had hoped to when he had contemplated Chicago from his Paris apartment. Perhaps there had been something of envy among them for Jackson Hart. Things had seemed very pleasantly shaped for him, and Chicago is yet a community that resents special favors.
Every one was driving himself at top speed. At noon the men fell together about the same table in the grill-room,—worried, fagged, preoccupied. As soon as the day’s work was over, their natural instinct was to flee from the dirt and noise of the business street, where the club was situated, to the cleaner quarters north or south, or to the semi-rural suburbs. Thus the centrifugal force of the city was irresistible.
To-night there were a number of young men in the card-room, sitting over a game of poker, which, judging from the ash-trays on the table, had been in progress since luncheon. Several other men, with hats on and coats over their arms, were standing about the table, looking on.
“Well, Jackie, my boy!” one of the players called out, “where have you been hiding yourself this week?”
Ben Harris, the man who hailed the architect, had apparently been drinking a good deal. The other men at the table called out sharply, “Shut up, Ben. Play!”
But the voluble Harris, whose drink had made him more than usually impudent, remarked further:—
“Say, Jack! ain’t you learned yet that we don’t pattern after the German Emperor here in Chicago? Better comb out your mustache, or they’ll be taking you for some foreign guy.”
Hart merely turned his back on Harris, and listened with exaggerated interest to what a large, heavy man, with a boy’s smooth face, was saying:—
“He was of no special ‘count in college,—a kind of second-rate hustler, you know. But, my heavens! Since he struck this town, he’s got in his work. I don’t believe he knows enough law to last him over night. But he knows how to make the right men think he does. He started in to work for those Selinas Mills people,—damage suits and collecting. Here in less than five years he’s drawing the papers for the consolidation of all the paper-mills in the country!”
“Who’s that, Billy?” Hart asked.
“Leverett, Joe Leverett. He was Yale ’89, and at the law school with me.”
“He must have the right stuff in him, all the same,” commented one man.
“I don’t know about that!” the first speaker retorted. “Some kind of stuff, of course. But I said he was no lawyer, and never will be, and I repeat it. And what’s more, half the men who are earning the big money in law here in Chicago don’t know enough law to try a case properly.”
“That’s so,” assented one man.
“Same thing in medicine.”
“Oh, it’s the same all over.”
The men about the card-table launched out into a heated discussion of the one great topic of modern life—Success. The game of poker finally closed, and the players joined in the conversation. Fresh drinks were ordered, and cigars were passed about. The theme caught the man most eager to go home, and fired the brain most fagged.
“The pity of it, too,” said the large man called Billy, dominating the room with his deep voice and deliberate speech,—”the pity of it is that it ruins the professions. You can see it right here in Chicago. Who cares for fine professional work, if it don’t bring in the stuff? Yes, look at our courts! look at our doctors! And look at our buildings. It’s money every time. The professions have been commercialized.”
“Oh, Billy!” exclaimed Ben Harris. “Is this a commencement oration you are giving us?”
A quiet voice broke in from behind the circle:—
“There’s much in what you say, Mr. Blount. Time has been when it meant something of honor for a man to be a member of one of the learned professions. Men were content to take part of their pay in honor and respect from the community. There’s no denying that’s all changed now. We measure everything by one yardstick, and that is money. So the able lawyer and the able doctor have joined the race with the mob for the dollars. But”—his eye seemed to rest on the young architect, who was listening attentively—”that state of affairs can’t go on. When we shake down in this modern world of ours, and have got used to our wealth, and have made the right adjustment between capital and labor,—the professions, the learned professions, will be elevated once more. Men are so made that they want to respect something. And in the long run they will respect learning, ideas, and devotion to the public welfare.”
The speaker’s eye seemed to challenge the young architect, who listened attentively, without thorough conviction. Something in the older man antagonized Jackson’s mood. It was easy enough for a man like Pemberton with an assured position and comfortable means to take lofty views!
“That’s all right, Pemberton,” Harris retorted. “That’s first-class talk. But I guess I see about as much of human nature in my business as any man, and I tell you, it’s only human nature to get what you can out of the game. What men respect in this town is money,—first, last, and all the time. So it’s only natural for a man, whether he is a lawyer or anything else, to do as the other Romans do.”
Harris brought his bony, lined hand down on the card-table with a thump, and leaned forward, thrusting out his long, unshaven chin at the older man who had spoken. His black hair, which was thin above the temples and across the middle of his head, was rumpled, his collar bent, and his cuffs blackened about the edges. Hart had known him as a boy twelve years before at the South Side High School. Thence he had gone to a state university where four years had made little impression, at least externally, on his raw character, and then he had entered a broker’s office, and had made money on the Board of Trade. Lately it had been reported that he was losing money in wheat.
“Yes, sir,” he snarled on, having suppressed the others for the moment. “It don’t make much difference, either, how you get your money so far as I can see. Whether you do a man in a corner in wheat, or run a pool room. All is, if you want to be in the game, you must have the price of admission about you. And the rest is talk for the ladies and the young.”
Pemberton replied in a severe tone:—
“That is easy to say and easy to believe. But when I think of the magnificent gift to the public just made by one of these very men whom you would consider a mere money-grabber, I confess I am obliged to doubt your easy analysis of our modern life!”
Pemberton spoke with a kind of authority. He was one of the older men of the club, much respected in the city, and perfectly fearless. But the broker, also, feared no man’s opinion.
“Gifts to education!” sneered Ben Harris. “That’s what they do to show off when they’re through with their goods. Anyway, there’s too much education going around. It don’t count. The only thing that counts, to-day, here, now, is money. Can you make it or steal it or—inherit it!”
He looked across the room at Jackson Hart and laughed. The architect disliked this vulgar reference to his own situation, but, on the whole, he was much more inclined to agree with the broker than he would have been a few days earlier.
“I am sorry that such ideas should be expressed inside this club,” Pemberton answered gravely. “If there is one place in this city where the old ideals of the professions should be reverenced, where men should deny that cheap philosophy of the street, by their acts as well as by their words, it should be here in this club.”
Some of the others in the group nodded their approval of this speech. They said nothing, however; for the conversation had reached a point of delicacy that made men hesitate to say what they thought. Pemberton turned on his heel and walked away. The irrepressible Harris called after him belligerently:—
“Oh, I don’t know about that, now, Mr. Pemberton. It takes all kinds of men to make a club, you know.”
As the little group broke up, Harris linked his arm in Hart’s.
“I’ve got something to say to you, Jackie,” he said boisterously. “We’ll order dinner, if you are free, and I’ll put you up to something that’s better than old Pemberton’s talk. It just occurred to me while we were gassing here.”
The young architect did not quite like Harris’s style, but he had already planned to dine at the club, and they went upstairs to the dining-room together. He was curious to hear what the broker might have to suggest to him.
Hart had agreed with Pemberton’s ideas, naturally enough, in the abstract. But in the concrete, the force of circumstances, here in this roaring city where he found himself caught, was fast preparing him to accept the Harris view. Like most men of his class he was neither an idealist nor a weakling: he was merely a young man, still making up his character as he went along, and taking color more or less from the landscape he found himself in.
His aspirations for art, if not fine, were sufficiently earnest and sincere. He had always thought of himself as luckily fortuned, so that he could devote himself to getting real distinction in his profession. So he had planned his life in Paris. Now, brought back from that pleasant world into this stern city, with all its striving, apparently, centred upon the one business of making money, then deprived by what seemed to him a harsh and unfair freak of fortune of all his pleasant expectations, he was trying to read the face of Destiny. And there he seemed to find written what this gritty broker had harshly expressed. There was, to be sure, another road to fortune, which had not been mentioned, and that was to make a rich marriage. This road had been followed with signal success by a number of his acquaintances: it was one of the well-recognized methods of attaining that point of vantage which he had hoped to inherit,—to win one of the daughters of wealth! And since his return from Europe the young architect had had his opportunities in the society where he had been welcomed. But apart from his growing love for Helen Spellman, he was too sturdy a man to like this easy method of advancement. He turned from the idea with instinctive repugnance, and an honest feeling of contempt for the men who in that way had sneaked into fortune.
“Say, you’ve got a good friend in Mrs. Will Phillips,” Harris began bluntly when they were seated opposite each other.
“Oh, Mrs. Phillips! I used to see something of her in Paris,” Jackson acknowledged indifferently.
He remembered that he had not followed the widow’s invitation to call upon her, all thought of her having been driven out of his mind by the happenings of the last few days.
“I rather think she would like to see more of you in Chicago!” the broker laughed back.
“How do you know?” Hart asked, wondering where Harris’s path crossed that of the gay Mrs. Phillips.
“Oh, I know all right. She’s a good customer of ours. I’ve been talking to her half the afternoon about things.”
“Oh!” Jackson exclaimed, not much interested in the subject.
The broker’s next remark had nothing to do with Mrs. Phillips.
“You fellows don’t make much money building houses. Ain’t that so? You need other jobs. Well, I am going to give you a pointer.”
He stopped mysteriously, and then began again:—
“I happen to know that the C. R. and N. Road is going to put a lot of money into improvements this summer. Among other things they’re getting ready to build new stations all along the north shore line,—you know, up through the suburbs,—Forest Park, Shoreham, and so on. They’ve got a lot of swell patronage out that way, and they are making ready for more.”
Hart listened to the broker with renewed interest. He wondered how Harris should happen to know this news ahead of the general public, and he began to see the connection it might have with his own fortune.
“That’s where they are going to put a lot of their surplus earnings. Now, those stations must be the top of the style,—real buildings, not sheds. And I don’t think they have any architect yet.”
“Well!” the architect remarked cynically. “The president or one of the vice-presidents will have a son, or nephew, or some one to work in. Or, perhaps, they may have a competitive trial for the plans.”
“Perhaps they will, and perhaps they won’t,” Harris answered knowingly. “The man who will decide all that is their first vice-president,—Raymond, Colonel Stevens P. Raymond,—know him?”
Hart shook his head.
“Well, Mrs. Phillips does. He lives out in Forest Park, where she’s thinking of building a big house.”
“Is Mrs. Phillips thinking of building in Forest Park?” the architect asked quickly.
Harris looked at him in a bored manner.
“Why, I thought you were going to draw the plans!”
“She asked me to come to see her,” Hart admitted. “But that was all. I thought it was just a social matter.”
“Well, if a rich and good-looking woman asked me to call on her, I shouldn’t take all year about making up my mind!”
Jackson could not help thinking that it would be more embarrassing to call on the widow now than if he had not had this talk with the broker. His relations with Mrs. Phillips in Paris had been pleasant, unalloyed with business. He remembered how he had rather patronized the ambitious young woman, who had desired to meet artists, to go to their studios, and to give little dinners where every one talked French but her stupid husband.
“The widow Phillips thinks a lot of your ability, Jackie, and old S.P.R. thinks a lot of the widow. Now do you see?”
The architect laughed nervously. He could see plainly enough what was meant, but he did not like it altogether.
“She can do what she likes with the old man. The job is as good as yours, if you work it properly. I’ve given you the tip straight ahead of the whole field. Not a soul knows that the C. R. and N. is going in for this kind of thing.”
“It would be a big chance,” the architect replied. “It was good of you to think of me, Ben.”
“That’s all right. It popped into my head when that ass Pemberton began his talk about your uncle’s gift to the public. I must say, Jack, it seemed to me a dirty trick of the old man to cut you out the way he did. Are you going to fight the will, or is it so fixed that you can’t?”
“I don’t know, yet, what I shall do about it.”
“To bring a fellow up as he did you, and then knock on him at the end,—it’s just low down!”
That was the view Jackson Hart was more and more inclined to take of his uncle’s will, and he warmed to the coarse, outspoken broker, who had shown him real friendliness when he was no longer in a position to be of importance to any one. Harris seemed to him to be warm-blooded and human. The young architect was beginning to feel that this was not a world for delicacy of motive and refinement. When he suggested diffidently that some large firm of architects would probably be chosen by the C. R. and N. people, Harris said:—
“Rats! Raymond won’t hunt round for references, beyond what Mrs. Phillips will give him. You see her as quick as you can and tell her you want the chance.”
The Opportunity which Harris had suggested would be given to him by a woman. Yet, however much he might dislike to go to a woman for such help, the chance began to loom large in his imagination. Here was something that even Wright would be glad to have. He saw himself in his own office, having two large commissions to start with, and possibly a third,—Mrs. Phillips’s new house in Forest Park!
Perhaps Wright did know, after all, about the C. R. and N. matter. Hart’s fighting blood rose: he would do his best to snatch this good thing from him, or from any other architect! And to do it he would take the readiest means at hand. He forgot his contempt for that American habit of pull which he had much deplored in studio discussions. All that had been theory; this was personal and practical. When Harris had to leave, after coffee, the architect shook him warmly by the hand and thanked him again for his friendliness.
Within the day Fortune had smiled upon him twice. Neither time, to be sure, was the way to her favor quite what he would have chosen if he could have chosen. But one must not discriminate too nicely, the young man was beginning to feel, when one picks up the cards to play….
Below, from the busy street, rose the piercing note of the city,—rattle, roar, and clang,—scarcely less shrill at eight of an evening than at noon. From the bulk-heads on the roof of the next building soared a drab-colored cloud of steam, eddying upwards even to the open windows of the club dining-room. The noise, the smell, the reek of the city touched the man, folded him in, swayed him like a subtle opiate. The thirst of the terrible game of living, the desire of things, the brute love of triumph, filled his veins. Old Powers Jackson, contemptuously putting him to one side, had unconsciously worked this state of mind in him. He, Jackson Hart, would show the world that he could fight for himself, could snatch the prize that every one was fighting for, the supreme prize of man’s life to-day—a little pot of gold!
“How did young Mr. Hart take the will?” Mrs. Phillips asked her brother-in-law the first time she saw him after the funeral.
“Why, all right, I guess,” the judge answered slowly. “Why shouldn’t he?”
“I hoped he would fight it,” the widow replied, eying the judge calmly.
“I believe he isn’t that much of a fool. Just because Powers looked after his mother, and fed him all these years, and gave him an expensive education,—why should he be obliged to leave the chap all his money, if he didn’t want to?”
Mrs. Phillips avoided a direct reply, and continued to announce her opinions,—a method of conversation which she knew was highly irritating to the judge.
“Philanthropy! What’s the use of such philanthropy? The city has enough schools. It’s all foolishness to give your money to other people to eat up!”
“That is a matter of feeling,” Judge Phillips answered dryly. “I shouldn’t expect you to feel as Powers did about such things.”
Harrison Phillips had few illusions concerning his sister-in-law, and she knew it. Years before they had reached the point where they dispensed with polite subterfuges and usually confined their social intercourse to the superficial surface of conversation. He had known her ever since she came to Chicago from a little Illinois town to study music. Indeed, he had first introduced his younger brother to her, he remembered unhappily. She was Louise Faunce, then,—a keen, brown-eyed country girl of eighteen. When Will Phillips wanted to marry her, the judge had already felt the pretty girl’s little claws, and had been foolish enough to warn his brother of his fate. Will Phillips was a dull young man, and had poor health. The older brother knew that Will was being married for his money,—a considerable fortune for a girl from Ottumwa, Illinois.
And the marriage had not been a happy one. The last years of his life Will Phillips had taken to drinking. The judge felt that the wife had driven his brother to his sodden end, and he hated her for it, with a proper and legal hatred. Six months before his end Will Phillips had come home from Europe, leaving his two children in Paris with his wife, apparently for an indefinite separation. Why the widow had chosen to return to Chicago after her husband’s death was a mystery to the judge, who never gave Louise Phillips credit for half her character. For she was shrewd enough to perceive that neither she nor her children could have any permanent position in the world outside of Chicago. And she had no mind to sacrifice the social position that her husband’s family and friends had made for her.
She told her brother-in-law on her return that she had found Europe an unsuitable place in which to bring up the children, and proposed before long to build a new house, perhaps in Forest Park,—one of the older and more desirable suburbs to the north of the city.
“I must make a home for my children among their father’s friends,” she said to the judge with perfect propriety. “Venetia, especially, should have the right background now that she is becoming a young woman.”
Venetia—so named in one of the rare accesses of sentiment which came to Mrs. Phillips, as to all mortals, because it was to Venice that she had first been taken as a young bride—was now sixteen years old. Her brother Stanwood, a year younger, had been placed in a fashionable Eastern school, where he was preparing for Yale, and ultimately for the “career of diplomacy,” as his mother called it.
The judge, who was trustee for his brother’s children, had called this Sunday afternoon to discuss the project of the new house with his sister-in-law. She had notified him that she should need presently a considerable sum of money, and expected to take a part of it, at least, from the children’s inheritance. About this money matter they had come to a warm difference of opinion, which Mrs. Phillips had put aside momentarily to discuss the Jackson will.
“If you will wait,” she remarked, having exhausted her opinion about philanthropy and Powers Jackson’s will, “you might see my architect. I have asked Mr. Hart to call this afternoon.”
“I don’t pine to see him,” the old man retorted testily. “So you have gone that far?”
“Yes! There isn’t the slightest use of being disagreeable about it, you see. Nothing that you can say will change my mind. It never has. You would like to keep me from spending the money. But you can’t without a row, a scandal. Besides, I know it will be a good investment for both the children.”
“You were always pretty keen for a good investment!”
“You mean by that sarcasm that you think I was sharp when I married your brother, because I had nothing but my good looks. They were certainly worth as much as a husband—who—drank himself—to death.”
“We won’t go into that, please,” the judge said, his bright blue eyes glittering. “I hope, Louise, to live to see the day when you get what you deserve,—just how I don’t know.”
“Thank you, Harrison,” Mrs. Phillips replied unperturbed. “We all do get what we deserve, sooner or later, don’t we?”
“Sometimes I give up hope!” the old man exclaimed irascibly.
“There’s my young man now!” she observed, looking out of the window. “If you want to know just what extravagances I am going into, you had better wait.”
“I’ll know soon enough! Where’s Ven? I want to see her.”
“She should be out riding with John.”
Mrs. Phillips rose from her deep chair to greet the architect. All at once her face and manner seemed to lose the hard, cold surface that she had presented to the judge, the surface of a middle-aged, shrewd woman. Suddenly she expanded, opened herself graciously to the young man.
The old gentleman stalked out of the drawing-room, with a curt nod and a grunt for Hart. The architect looked to the widow for an explanation of the stormy atmosphere, but, ignoring the judge, she smiled all the warmer welcome to her visitor.
“So good of you to answer my note promptly,” she murmured. “For I know how busy you are!”
“I had already promised myself the pleasure for to-day,” Jackson replied quickly, using a phrase he had thought up on his way into the room.
And as he looked at her resting in her deep chair, he realized that it was a distinct pleasure to be there. He felt that here in Chicago even in the ugly drawing-room of the old-fashioned house Mrs. Will Phillips was much more of a person than she had been in Paris. Still, here as there, the woman in her was the first and last fact. She was thirty-seven, and in the very best of health. To one who did not lay exclusive emphasis on mere youth, the first bloom of the fruit, she was much more beautiful than when, as a raw girl from Ottumwa, she had married Willie Phillips. Sensitive, nervous, in the full tide of her physical life, she had what is euphemistically called to-day temperament. To this instinctive side of the woman, the handsome, strong young man had always appealed.
It is also true that she was clever, and had learned with great rapidity how to cover up the holes of a wretched education. At first, however, a man could think of but one thing in the presence of Mrs. Phillips: “You are a woman, and a very inviting one!”
Doubtless she meant that men should think that, and nothing more, at first. Those who had come through the fire, to whom she was cold and hard, like an inferior gem, might say later with the judge:—
“Louise flings her sex at you from the first smile. If you feel that sort of thing, the only thing to do is to run.”
Jackson Hart had not yet reached this point of human experience. Nevertheless, he was but dimly aware that the woman opposite him troubled his mind, preoccupied as it happened to be with business, like a too pronounced perfume. Here, in the hard atmosphere of an American city, he was not inclined to remember the sentimentalities of his Paris days and was more interested in the widow’s prospective house than in her personal charms. Accordingly, Mrs. Phillips, with quick perception, soon dropped the reminiscential tone that she had been inclined to take at first. She came promptly to business:—
“Could you consider a small commission, Mr. Hart?” she asked with apparent hesitation.
The architect would have undertaken to build a doll’s house. Nevertheless, his heart sank at the word “small.”
“I so much want your advice, at any rate. I value your taste so highly. You taught me how to look at things over there. And we should agree, I am sure!”
Then she unfolded more plainly her purpose of building in Forest Park. She had thought of something Tudor. (She had been visiting at a Tudor house in the East.) But the architect, without debating the point, sketched on the back of an envelope the outline of an old French château,—a toy study in part of the famous château at Chenonceaux.
“What a lovely roof!” Mrs. Phillips exclaimed responsively. “And how the thing grows under your hand! It seems as though you must have had just what I wanted in mind.” She leaned over the little piece of paper, fascinated by the architect’s facility.
As he drew in the façade, he noticed that the widow had very lovely hair, of a tone rarely found in America, between brown and black,—dusky. Then he remembered that he had made the same observation before in Paris. The arch of her neck, which was strong and full, was also excellent. And her skin was of a perfect pallor.
By the time he had made these observations and finished his rough little sketch, the Tudor period had been forgotten, and the question of the commission had been really decided. There remained to be debated the matter of cost. After one or two tactful feints the architect was forced to ask bluntly what the widow expected to spend on the house. At the mention of money Mrs. Phillips’s brows contracted slightly. A trace of hardness, like fine enamel, settled on her features.
“What could you build it for?” she demanded brusquely.
“Why, on a thing like this you can spend what you like,” he stammered. “Of course a house in Forest Park ought to be of a certain kind,—to be a good investment,” he added politely.
“Of course. Would twenty-five thousand dollars be enough?”
The architect felt relieved on hearing the size of the figure, but he had had time to realize that this agreeable client might be close in money matters. It would be well to have her mind keyed to a liberal figure at the start, and he said boldly:—
“You could do a good deal for that. But not a place like this,—such a one as you ought to have, Mrs. Phillips,” he added, appealing to her vanity.
Once he had called her Louise, and they both were conscious of the fact. Nevertheless, she eyed him keenly. She was quite well aware that he wanted to get all the freedom to develop his sketch that a good sum of money would give, and also had in mind the size of his fee, which would be a percentage of the cost. But this consideration did not offend her. In this struggle, mental and polite, over the common topic of money, she expected him to assert himself.
“It’s no use being small in such matters,” she conceded at length, having reflected on the profits of certain dealings with Ben Harris’s firm. “Let us say fifty thousand!”
“That’s much more possible!” the architect replied buoyantly, with a vague idea already forming that his sketches might call for a house that would cost seventy or seventy-five thousand dollars to complete.
The money matter out of the way, the widow relapsed into her friendly manner.
“I hope you can begin right away! I am so anxious to get out of this old barn, and I want to unpack all the treasures I bought in Europe the last time.”
Judge Phillips would have shuddered to hear his brother’s large brick house, encircled in Chicago fashion by a neat strip of grass, referred to as a “barn.” And the architect, on his side, knowing something of Louise Phillips’s indiscriminate taste in antiquities, was resolved to cull the “treasures” before they found a place in his edifice.
“Why, I’ll begin on some sketches right away. If they please you, I could do the plans at once—just as soon as I get my own office,” he added honestly. “You know I have been working for Walker, Post, and Wright. But I am going to leave them very soon.”
“I am glad to hear that,” Mrs. Phillips replied sympathetically. “It ought to have been so different. I think that will was disgraceful! I hope you can break it.”
“I don’t know that I shall try,” he answered hastily, startled at the widow’s cool comment on his uncle’s purposes.
“Well, you know best, I suppose. But I should think a long time before I let them build that school.”
“At any rate, it looks now as if I should want all the work I can get,” he answered, looking into her eyes, and thinking of what Harris had told him of the G. R. and N. job. He had it on his lips to add, “Can’t you say a word for me to your friend Colonel Raymond?” But he could not bring himself easily to the point of asking outright for business favors at a woman’s hand. While he hesitated, not finding a phrase sufficiently delicate to express the idea, she happily saved him from the crudity of open speech.
“Perhaps I can help you in certain ways. There’s something— Well, we won’t begin on that to-day. But you can rest assured that I am your friend, can’t you?”
They understood each other thus easily. He knew that she was well aware of what was in his mind, and was disposed to help him to the full extent of her woman’s power. In his struggle for money and place,—things that she appreciated,—she would be an able friend.
Having come to a complete agreement on a number of matters, in the manner of a man and a woman, they began to talk of Paris and of other days. Outside in the hall there was the sound of steps, and a laughing, vigorous girl’s voice. The architect could see a thin, tall girl, as she threw her arms about Judge Phillips’s plump neck and pulled his head to a level with her mouth. He noticed that Mrs. Phillips was also watching this scene with stealthy eyes. When the door had closed upon the judge, she called:—
“Venetia, will you come here, dear! I want you to meet Mr. Hart. You remember Mr. Hart?”
The girl crossed the drawing-room slowly, the fire in her strangely extinguished at the sound of her mother’s voice. She gave a bony little hand to the architect, and nodded her head, like a rebellious trick dog. Then she drew away from the two and stood beside the window, waiting for the next order.
She was dark like her mother, but her features lacked the widow’s pleasant curves. They were firm and square, and a pair of dark eyes looked out moodily from under heavy eyebrows. The short red lips were full and curved, while the mother’s lips were dangerously thin and straight. As the architect looked at the girl, standing tall and erect in the light from the western window, he felt that she was destined to be of some importance. It was also plain enough that she and her mother were not sympathetic. When the widow spoke, the daughter seemed to listen with the terrible criticism of youth lurking in her eyes.
A close observer would have seen, also, that the girl had in her a capacity for passion that the mother altogether lacked. The woman was mildly sensuous and physical in mood, but totally without the strong emotions of the girl that might sweep her to any act, mindless of fate. When the clash came between the two, as it was likely to come before long, the mother would be the one to retreat.
“Have you had your ride, dear?” Mrs. Phillips asked in soothing tones, carefully prepared for the public.
“No, mamma. Uncle Harry was here, you know.”
“I am sorry not to have you take your ride every day, no matter what happens,” the mother continued, as if she had not heard the girl’s excuse.
“I had rather see uncle Harry. Besides, Frolic went lame yesterday.”
“You can always take my horse,” Mrs. Phillips persisted, her eyebrows contracting as they had over the money question.
A look of what some day might become contempt shadowed the girl’s face. She bowed to the architect in her stiff way which made him understand that it was no recommendation to her favor to be her mother’s friend, and walked across the room with a dignity beyond the older woman’s power.
“She is at the difficult age,” the mother murmured.
“She is growing beautiful!” Jackson exclaimed.
“I hope so,” Mrs. Phillips answered composedly. “When can you let me see the sketches?”
“In two or three days.”
“Won’t you dine with us next Wednesday, then?”