August, 1902


"The marriage law of the new dispensation will be: THOU SHALT NOT


A discreet murmur of approval filled the studio, and through the

haze of cigarette smoke Mrs. Clement Westall, as her husband

descended from his improvised platform, saw him merged in a

congratulatory group of ladies. Westall's informal talks on "The

New Ethics" had drawn about him an eager following of the

mentally unemployed--those who, as he had once phrased it, liked

to have their brain-food cut up for them. The talks had begun by

accident. Westall's ideas were known to be "advanced," but

hitherto their advance had not been in the direction of

publicity. He had been, in his wife's opinion, almost

pusillanimously careful not to let his personal views endanger

his professional standing. Of late, however, he had shown a

puzzling tendency to dogmatize, to throw down the gauntlet, to

flaunt his private code in the face of society; and the relation

of the sexes being a topic always sure of an audience, a few

admiring friends had persuaded him to give his after-dinner

opinions a larger circulation by summing them up in a series of

talks at the Van Sideren studio.

The Herbert Van Siderens were a couple who subsisted, socially,

on the fact that they had a studio. Van Sideren's pictures were

chiefly valuable as accessories to the mise en scene which

differentiated his wife's "afternoons" from the blighting

functions held in long New York drawing-rooms, and permitted her

to offer their friends whiskey-and-soda instead of tea. Mrs. Van

Sideren, for her part, was skilled in making the most of the kind

of atmosphere which a lay-figure and an easel create; and if at

times she found the illusion hard to maintain, and lost courage

to the extent of almost wishing that Herbert could paint, she

promptly overcame such moments of weakness by calling in some

fresh talent, some extraneous re-enforcement of the "artistic"

impression. It was in quest of such aid that she had seized on

Westall, coaxing him, somewhat to his wife's surprise, into a

flattered participation in her fraud. It was vaguely felt, in

the Van Sideren circle, that all the audacities were artistic,

and that a teacher who pronounced marriage immoral was somehow as

distinguished as a painter who depicted purple grass and a green

sky. The Van Sideren set were tired of the conventional color-

scheme in art and conduct.

Julia Westall had long had her own views on the immorality of

marriage; she might indeed have claimed her husband as a

disciple. In the early days of their union she had secretly

resented his disinclination to proclaim himself a follower of the

new creed; had been inclined to tax him with moral cowardice,

with a failure to live up to the convictions for which their

marriage was supposed to stand. That was in the first burst of

propagandism, when, womanlike, she wanted to turn her

disobedience into a law. Now she felt differently. She could

hardly account for the change, yet being a woman who never

allowed her impulses to remain unaccounted for, she tried to do

so by saying that she did not care to have the articles of her

faith misinterpreted by the vulgar. In this connection, she was

beginning to think that almost every one was vulgar; certainly

there were few to whom she would have cared to intrust the

defence of so esoteric a doctrine. And it was precisely at this

point that Westall, discarding his unspoken principles, had

chosen to descend from the heights of privacy, and stand hawking

his convictions at the street-corner!

It was Una Van Sideren who, on this occasion, unconsciously

focussed upon herself Mrs. Westall's wandering resentment. In

the first place, the girl had no business to be there. It was

"horrid"--Mrs. Westall found herself slipping back into the old

feminine vocabulary--simply "horrid" to think of a young girl's

being allowed to listen to such talk. The fact that Una smoked

cigarettes and sipped an occasional cocktail did not in the least

tarnish a certain radiant innocency which made her appear the

victim, rather than the accomplice, of her parents' vulgarities.

Julia Westall felt in a hot helpless way that something ought to

be done--that some one ought to speak to the girl's mother. And

just then Una glided up.

"Oh, Mrs. Westall, how beautiful it was!" Una fixed her with

large limpid eyes. "You believe it all, I suppose?" she asked

with seraphic gravity.

"All--what, my dear child?"

The girl shone on her. "About the higher life--the freer

expansion of the individual--the law of fidelity to one's self,"

she glibly recited.

Mrs. Westall, to her own wonder, blushed a deep and burning


"My dear Una," she said, "you don't in the least understand what

it's all about!"

Miss Van Sideren stared, with a slowly answering blush. "Don't

YOU, then?" she murmured.

Mrs. Westall laughed. "Not always--or altogether! But I should

like some tea, please."

Una led her to the corner where innocent beverages were

dispensed. As Julia received her cup she scrutinized the girl

more carefully. It was not such a girlish face, after all--

definite lines were forming under the rosy haze of youth. She

reflected that Una must be six-and-twenty, and wondered why she

had not married. A nice stock of ideas she would have as her

dower! If THEY were to be a part of the modern girl's trousseau--

Mrs. Westall caught herself up with a start. It was as though

some one else had been speaking--a stranger who had borrowed her

own voice: she felt herself the dupe of some fantastic mental

ventriloquism. Concluding suddenly that the room was stifling

and Una's tea too sweet, she set down her cup, and looked about

for Westall: to meet his eyes had long been her refuge from every

uncertainty. She met them now, but only, as she felt, in

transit; they included her parenthetically in a larger flight.

She followed the flight, and it carried her to a corner to which

Una had withdrawn--one of the palmy nooks to which Mrs. Van

Sideren attributed the success of her Saturdays. Westall, a

moment later, had overtaken his look, and found a place at the

girl's side. She bent forward, speaking eagerly; he leaned back,

listening, with the depreciatory smile which acted as a filter to

flattery, enabling him to swallow the strongest doses without

apparent grossness of appetite. Julia winced at her own

definition of the smile.

On the way home, in the deserted winter dusk, Westall surprised

his wife by a sudden boyish pressure of her arm. "Did I open

their eyes a bit? Did I tell them what you wanted me to?" he

asked gaily.

Almost unconsciously, she let her arm slip from his. "What I


"Why, haven't you--all this time?" She caught the honest wonder

of his tone. "I somehow fancied you'd rather blamed me for not

talking more openly--before-- You've made me feel, at times, that

I was sacrificing principles to expediency."

She paused a moment over her reply; then she asked quietly: "What

made you decide not to--any longer?"

She felt again the vibration of a faint surprise. "Why--the wish

to please you!" he answered, almost too simply.

"I wish you would not go on, then," she said abruptly.

He stopped in his quick walk, and she felt his stare through the


"Not go on--?"

"Call a hansom, please. I'm tired," broke from her with a sudden

rush of physical weariness.

Instantly his solicitude enveloped her. The room had been

infernally hot--and then that confounded cigarette smoke--he had

noticed once or twice that she looked pale--she mustn't come to

another Saturday. She felt herself yielding, as she always did,

to the warm influence of his concern for her, the feminine in her

leaning on the man in him with a conscious intensity of

abandonment. He put her in the hansom, and her hand stole into

his in the darkness. A tear or two rose, and she let them fall.

It was so delicious to cry over imaginary troubles!

That evening, after dinner, he surprised her by reverting to the

subject of his talk. He combined a man's dislike of

uncomfortable questions with an almost feminine skill in eluding

them; and she knew that if he returned to the subject he must

have some special reason for doing so.

"You seem not to have cared for what I said this afternoon. Did

I put the case badly?"

"No--you put it very well."

"Then what did you mean by saying that you would rather not have

me go on with it?"

She glanced at him nervously, her ignorance of his intention

deepening her sense of helplessness.

"I don't think I care to hear such things discussed in public."

"I don't understand you," he exclaimed. Again the feeling that

his surprise was genuine gave an air of obliquity to her own

attitude. She was not sure that she understood herself.

"Won't you explain?" he said with a tinge of impatience.

Her eyes wandered about the familiar drawing-room which had been

the scene of so many of their evening confidences. The shaded

lamps, the quiet-colored walls hung with mezzotints, the pale

spring flowers scattered here and there in Venice glasses and

bowls of old Sevres, recalled, she hardly knew why, the apartment

in which the evenings of her first marriage had been passed--a

wilderness of rosewood and upholstery, with a picture of a Roman

peasant above the mantel-piece, and a Greek slave in "statuary

marble" between the folding-doors of the back drawing-room. It

was a room with which she had never been able to establish any

closer relation than that between a traveller and a railway

station; and now, as she looked about at the surroundings which

stood for her deepest affinities--the room for which she had left

that other room--she was startled by the same sense of

strangeness and unfamiliarity. The prints, the flowers, the

subdued tones of the old porcelains, seemed to typify a

superficial refinement that had no relation to the deeper

significances of life.

Suddenly she heard her husband repeating his question.

"I don't know that I can explain," she faltered.

He drew his arm-chair forward so that he faced her across the

hearth. The light of a reading-lamp fell on his finely drawn

face, which had a kind of surface-sensitiveness akin to the

surface-refinement of its setting.

"Is it that you no longer believe in our ideas?" he asked.

"In our ideas--?"

"The ideas I am trying to teach. The ideas you and I are

supposed to stand for." He paused a moment. "The ideas on which

our marriage was founded."

The blood rushed to her face. He had his reasons, then--she was

sure now that he had his reasons! In the ten years of their

marriage, how often had either of them stopped to consider the

ideas on which it was founded? How often does a man dig about

the basement of his house to examine its foundation? The

foundation is there, of course--the house rests on it--but one

lives abovestairs and not in the cellar. It was she, indeed, who

in the beginning had insisted on reviewing the situation now and

then, on recapitulating the reasons which justified her course,

on proclaiming, from time to time, her adherence to the religion

of personal independence; but she had long ceased to feel the

need of any such ideal standards, and had accepted her marriage

as frankly and naturally as though it had been based on the

primitive needs of the heart, and needed no special sanction to

explain or justify it.

"Of course I still believe in our ideas!" she exclaimed.

"Then I repeat that I don't understand. It was a part of your

theory that the greatest possible publicity should be given to

our view of marriage. Have you changed your mind in that


She hesitated. "It depends on circumstances--on the public one

is addressing. The set of people that the Van Siderens get about

them don't care for the truth or falseness of a doctrine. They

are attracted simply by its novelty."

"And yet it was in just such a set of people that you and I met,

and learned the truth from each other."

"That was different."

"In what way?"

"I was not a young girl, to begin with. It is perfectly

unfitting that young girls should be present at--at such times--

should hear such things discussed--"

"I thought you considered it one of the deepest social wrongs

that such things never ARE discussed before young girls; but that

is beside the point, for I don't remember seeing any young girl

in my audience to-day--"

"Except Una Van Sideren!"

He turned slightly and pushed back the lamp at his elbow.

"Oh, Miss Van Sideren--naturally--"

"Why naturally?"

"The daughter of the house--would you have had her sent out with

her governess?"

"If I had a daughter I should not allow such things to go on in

my house!"

Westall, stroking his mustache, leaned back with a faint smile.

"I fancy Miss Van Sideren is quite capable of taking care of


"No girl knows how to take care of herself--till it's too late."

"And yet you would deliberately deny her the surest means of


"What do you call the surest means of self-defence?"

"Some preliminary knowledge of human nature in its relation to

the marriage tie."

She made an impatient gesture. "How should you like to marry

that kind of a girl?"

"Immensely--if she were my kind of girl in other respects."

She took up the argument at another point.

"You are quite mistaken if you think such talk does not affect

young girls. Una was in a state of the most absurd exaltation--"

She broke off, wondering why she had spoken.

Westall reopened a magazine which he had laid aside at the

beginning of their discussion. "What you tell me is immensely

flattering to my oratorical talent--but I fear you overrate its

effect. I can assure you that Miss Van Sideren doesn't have to

have her thinking done for her. She's quite capable of doing it


"You seem very familiar with her mental processes!" flashed

unguardedly from his wife.

He looked up quietly from the pages he was cutting.

"I should like to be," he answered. "She interests me."


If there be a distinction in being misunderstood, it was one

denied to Julia Westall when she left her first husband. Every

one was ready to excuse and even to defend her. The world she

adorned agreed that John Arment was "impossible," and hostesses

gave a sigh of relief at the thought that it would no longer be

necessary to ask him to dine.

There had been no scandal connected with the divorce: neither

side had accused the other of the offence euphemistically

described as "statutory." The Arments had indeed been obliged to

transfer their allegiance to a State which recognized desertion

as a cause for divorce, and construed the term so liberally that

the seeds of desertion were shown to exist in every union. Even

Mrs. Arment's second marriage did not make traditional morality

stir in its sleep. It was known that she had not met her second

husband till after she had parted from the first, and she had,

moreover, replaced a rich man by a poor one. Though Clement

Westall was acknowledged to be a rising lawyer, it was generally

felt that his fortunes would not rise as rapidly as his

reputation. The Westalls would probably always have to live

quietly and go out to dinner in cabs. Could there be better

evidence of Mrs. Arment's complete disinterestedness?

If the reasoning by which her friends justified her course was

somewhat cruder and less complex than her own elucidation of the

matter, both explanations led to the same conclusion: John Arment

was impossible. The only difference was that, to his wife, his

impossibility was something deeper than a social

disqualification. She had once said, in ironical defence of her

marriage, that it had at least preserved her from the necessity

of sitting next to him at dinner; but she had not then realized

at what cost the immunity was purchased. John Arment was

impossible; but the sting of his impossibility lay in the fact

that he made it impossible for those about him to be other than

himself. By an unconscious process of elimination he had

excluded from the world everything of which he did not feel a

personal need: had become, as it were, a climate in which only

his own requirements survived. This might seem to imply a

deliberate selfishness; but there was nothing deliberate about

Arment. He was as instinctive as an animal or a child. It was

this childish element in his nature which sometimes for a moment

unsettled his wife's estimate of him. Was it possible that he

was simply undeveloped, that he had delayed, somewhat longer than

is usual, the laborious process of growing up? He had the kind

of sporadic shrewdness which causes it to be said of a dull man

that he is "no fool"; and it was this quality that his wife found

most trying. Even to the naturalist it is annoying to have his

deductions disturbed by some unforeseen aberrancy of form or

function; and how much more so to the wife whose estimate of

herself is inevitably bound up with her judgment of her husband!

Arment's shrewdness did not, indeed, imply any latent

intellectual power; it suggested, rather, potentialities of

feeling, of suffering, perhaps, in a blind rudimentary way, on

which Julia's sensibilities naturally declined to linger. She so

fully understood her own reasons for leaving him that she

disliked to think they were not as comprehensible to her husband.

She was haunted, in her analytic moments, by the look of

perplexity, too inarticulate for words, with which he had

acquiesced to her explanations.

These moments were rare with her, however. Her marriage had been

too concrete a misery to be surveyed philosophically. If she had

been unhappy for complex reasons, the unhappiness was as real as

though it had been uncomplicated. Soul is more bruisable than

flesh, and Julia was wounded in every fibre of her spirit. Her

husband's personality seemed to be closing gradually in on her,

obscuring the sky and cutting off the air, till she felt herself

shut up among the decaying bodies of her starved hopes. A sense

of having been decoyed by some world-old conspiracy into this

bondage of body and soul filled her with despair. If marriage

was the slow life-long acquittal of a debt contracted in

ignorance, then marriage was a crime against human nature. She,

for one, would have no share in maintaining the pretence of which

she had been a victim: the pretence that a man and a woman,

forced into the narrowest of personal relations, must remain

there till the end, though they may have outgrown the span of

each other's natures as the mature tree outgrows the iron brace

about the sapling.

It was in the first heat of her moral indignation that she had

met Clement Westall. She had seen at once that he was

"interested," and had fought off the discovery, dreading any

influence that should draw her back into the bondage of

conventional relations. To ward off the peril she had, with an

almost crude precipitancy, revealed her opinions to him. To her

surprise, she found that he shared them. She was attracted by

the frankness of a suitor who, while pressing his suit, admitted

that he did not believe in marriage. Her worst audacities did

not seem to surprise him: he had thought out all that she had

felt, and they had reached the same conclusion. People grew at

varying rates, and the yoke that was an easy fit for the one

might soon become galling to the other. That was what divorce

was for: the readjustment of personal relations. As soon as

their necessarily transitive nature was recognized they would

gain in dignity as well as in harmony. There would be no farther

need of the ignoble concessions and connivances, the perpetual

sacrifice of personal delicacy and moral pride, by means of which

imperfect marriages were now held together. Each partner to the

contract would be on his mettle, forced to live up to the highest

standard of self-development, on pain of losing the other's

respect and affection. The low nature could no longer drag the

higher down, but must struggle to rise, or remain alone on its

inferior level. The only necessary condition to a harmonious

marriage was a frank recognition of this truth, and a solemn

agreement between the contracting parties to keep faith with

themselves, and not to live together for a moment after complete

accord had ceased to exist between them. The new adultery was

unfaithfulness to self.

It was, as Westall had just reminded her, on this understanding

that they had married. The ceremony was an unimportant

concession to social prejudice: now that the door of divorce

stood open, no marriage need be an imprisonment, and the contract

therefore no longer involved any diminution of self-respect. The

nature of their attachment placed them so far beyond the reach of

such contingencies that it was easy to discuss them with an open

mind; and Julia's sense of security made her dwell with a tender

insistence on Westall's promise to claim his release when he

should cease to love her. The exchange of these vows seemed to

make them, in a sense, champions of the new law, pioneers in the

forbidden realm of individual freedom: they felt that they had

somehow achieved beatitude without martyrdom.

This, as Julia now reviewed the past, she perceived to have been

her theoretical attitude toward marriage. It was unconsciously,

insidiously, that her ten years of happiness with Westall had

developed another conception of the tie; a reversion, rather, to

the old instinct of passionate dependency and possessorship that

now made her blood revolt at the mere hint of change. Change?

Renewal? Was that what they had called it, in their foolish

jargon? Destruction, extermination rather--this rending of a

myriad fibres interwoven with another's being! Another? But he

was not other! He and she were one, one in the mystic sense

which alone gave marriage its significance. The new law was not

for them, but for the disunited creatures forced into a mockery

of union. The gospel she had felt called on to proclaim had no

bearing on her own case. . . . She sent for the doctor and told

him she was sure she needed a nerve tonic.

She took the nerve tonic diligently, but it failed to act as a

sedative to her fears. She did not know what she feared; but

that made her anxiety the more pervasive. Her husband had not

reverted to the subject of his Saturday talks. He was unusually

kind and considerate, with a softening of his quick manner, a

touch of shyness in his consideration, that sickened her with new

fears. She told herself that it was because she looked badly--

because he knew about the doctor and the nerve tonic--that he

showed this deference to her wishes, this eagerness to screen her

from moral draughts; but the explanation simply cleared the way

for fresh inferences.

The week passed slowly, vacantly, like a prolonged Sunday. On

Saturday the morning post brought a note from Mrs. Van Sideren.

Would dear Julia ask Mr. Westall to come half an hour earlier

than usual, as there was to be some music after his "talk"?

Westall was just leaving for his office when his wife read the

note. She opened the drawing-room door and called him back to

deliver the message.

He glanced at the note and tossed it aside. "What a bore! I

shall have to cut my game of racquets. Well, I suppose it can't

be helped. Will you write and say it's all right?"

Julia hesitated a moment, her hand stiffening on the chair-back

against which she leaned.

"You mean to go on with these talks?" she asked.

"I--why not?" he returned; and this time it struck her that his

surprise was not quite unfeigned. The discovery helped her to

find words.

"You said you had started them with the idea of pleasing me--"


"I told you last week that they didn't please me."

"Last week? Oh--" He seemed to make an effort of memory. "I

thought you were nervous then; you sent for the doctor the next


"It was not the doctor I needed; it was your assurance--"

"My assurance?"

Suddenly she felt the floor fail under her. She sank into the

chair with a choking throat, her words, her reasons slipping away

from her like straws down a whirling flood.

"Clement," she cried, "isn't it enough for you to know that I

hate it?"

He turned to close the door behind them; then he walked toward

her and sat down. "What is it that you hate?" he asked gently.

She had made a desperate effort to rally her routed argument.

"I can't bear to have you speak as if--as if--our marriage--were

like the other kind--the wrong kind. When I heard you there, the

other afternoon, before all those inquisitive gossiping people,

proclaiming that husbands and wives had a right to leave each

other whenever they were tired--or had seen some one else--"

Westall sat motionless, his eyes fixed on a pattern of the


"You HAVE ceased to take this view, then?" he said as she broke

off. "You no longer believe that husbands and wives ARE

justified in separating--under such conditions?"

"Under such conditions?" she stammered. "Yes--I still believe

that--but how can we judge for others? What can we know of the


He interrupted her. "I thought it was a fundamental article of

our creed that the special circumstances produced by marriage

were not to interfere with the full assertion of individual

liberty." He paused a moment. "I thought that was your reason

for leaving Arment."

She flushed to the forehead. It was not like him to give a

personal turn to the argument.

"It was my reason," she said simply.

"Well, then--why do you refuse to recognize its validity now?"

"I don't--I don't--I only say that one can't judge for others."

He made an impatient movement. "This is mere hair-splitting.

What you mean is that, the doctrine having served your purpose

when you needed it, you now repudiate it."

"Well," she exclaimed, flushing again, "what if I do? What does

it matter to us?"

Westall rose from his chair. He was excessively pale, and stood

before his wife with something of the formality of a stranger.

"It matters to me," he said in a low voice, "because I do NOT

repudiate it."


"And because I had intended to invoke it as"--

He paused and drew his breath deeply. She sat silent, almost

deafened by her heart-beats.

--"as a complete justification of the course I am about to take."

Julia remained motionless. "What course is that?" she asked.

He cleared his throat. "I mean to claim the fulfilment of your


For an instant the room wavered and darkened; then she recovered

a torturing acuteness of vision. Every detail of her

surroundings pressed upon her: the tick of the clock, the slant

of sunlight on the wall, the hardness of the chair-arms that she

grasped, were a separate wound to each sense.

"My promise--" she faltered.

"Your part of our mutual agreement to set each other free if one

or the other should wish to be released."

She was silent again. He waited a moment, shifting his position

nervously; then he said, with a touch of irritability: "You

acknowledge the agreement?"

The question went through her like a shock. She lifted her head

to it proudly. "I acknowledge the agreement," she said.

"And--you don't mean to repudiate it?"

A log on the hearth fell forward, and mechanically he advanced

and pushed it back.

"No," she answered slowly, "I don't mean to repudiate it."

There was a pause. He remained near the hearth, his elbow

resting on the mantel-shelf. Close to his hand stood a little

cup of jade that he had given her on one of their wedding

anniversaries. She wondered vaguely if he noticed it.

"You intend to leave me, then?" she said at length.

His gesture seemed to deprecate the crudeness of the allusion.

"To marry some one else?"

Again his eye and hand protested. She rose and stood before him.

"Why should you be afraid to tell me? Is it Una Van Sideren?"

He was silent.

"I wish you good luck," she said.


She looked up, finding herself alone. She did not remember when

or how he had left the room, or how long afterward she had sat

there. The fire still smouldered on the hearth, but the slant of

sunlight had left the wall.

Her first conscious thought was that she had not broken her word,

that she had fulfilled the very letter of their bargain. There

had been no crying out, no vain appeal to the past, no attempt at

temporizing or evasion. She had marched straight up to the guns.

Now that it was over, she sickened to find herself alive. She

looked about her, trying to recover her hold on reality. Her

identity seemed to be slipping from her, as it disappears in a

physical swoon. "This is my room--this is my house," she heard

herself saying. Her room? Her house? She could almost hear the

walls laugh back at her.

She stood up, a dull ache in every bone. The silence of the room

frightened her. She remembered, now, having heard the front door

close a long time ago: the sound suddenly re-echoed through her

brain. Her husband must have left the house, then--her HUSBAND?

She no longer knew in what terms to think: the simplest phrases

had a poisoned edge. She sank back into her chair, overcome by a

strange weakness. The clock struck ten--it was only ten o'clock!

Suddenly she remembered that she had not ordered dinner . . . or

were they dining out that evening? DINNER--DINING OUT--the old

meaningless phraseology pursued her! She must try to think of

herself as she would think of some one else, a some one

dissociated from all the familiar routine of the past, whose

wants and habits must gradually be learned, as one might spy out

the ways of a strange animal. . .

The clock struck another hour--eleven. She stood up again and

walked to the door: she thought she would go up stairs to her

room. HER room? Again the word derided her. She opened the

door, crossed the narrow hall, and walked up the stairs. As she

passed, she noticed Westall's sticks and umbrellas: a pair of his

gloves lay on the hall table. The same stair-carpet mounted

between the same walls; the same old French print, in its narrow

black frame, faced her on the landing. This visual continuity

was intolerable. Within, a gaping chasm; without, the same

untroubled and familiar surface. She must get away from it

before she could attempt to think. But, once in her room, she

sat down on the lounge, a stupor creeping over her. . .

Gradually her vision cleared. A great deal had happened in the

interval--a wild marching and countermarching of emotions,

arguments, ideas--a fury of insurgent impulses that fell back

spent upon themselves. She had tried, at first, to rally, to

organize these chaotic forces. There must be help somewhere, if

only she could master the inner tumult. Life could not be broken

off short like this, for a whim, a fancy; the law itself would

side with her, would defend her. The law? What claim had she

upon it? She was the prisoner of her own choice: she had been

her own legislator, and she was the predestined victim of the

code she had devised. But this was grotesque, intolerable--a mad

mistake, for which she could not be held accountable! The law

she had despised was still there, might still be invoked . . .

invoked, but to what end? Could she ask it to chain Westall to

her side? SHE had been allowed to go free when she claimed her

freedom--should she show less magnanimity than she had exacted?

Magnanimity? The word lashed her with its irony--one does not

strike an attitude when one is fighting for life! She would

threaten, grovel, cajole . . . she would yield anything to keep

her hold on happiness. Ah, but the difficulty lay deeper! The

law could not help her--her own apostasy could not help her. She

was the victim of the theories she renounced. It was as though

some giant machine of her own making had caught her up in its

wheels and was grinding her to atoms. . .

It was afternoon when she found herself out-of-doors. She walked

with an aimless haste, fearing to meet familiar faces. The day

was radiant, metallic: one of those searching American days so

calculated to reveal the shortcomings of our street-cleaning and

the excesses of our architecture. The streets looked bare and

hideous; everything stared and glittered. She called a passing

hansom, and gave Mrs. Van Sideren's address. She did not know

what had led up to the act; but she found herself suddenly

resolved to speak, to cry out a warning. it was too late to save

herself--but the girl might still be told. The hansom rattled up

Fifth Avenue; she sat with her eyes fixed, avoiding recognition.

At the Van Siderens' door she sprang out and rang the bell.

Action had cleared her brain, and she felt calm and self-

possessed. She knew now exactly what she meant to say.

The ladies were both out . . . the parlor-maid stood waiting for

a card. Julia, with a vague murmur, turned away from the door

and lingered a moment on the sidewalk. Then she remembered that

she had not paid the cab-driver. She drew a dollar from her

purse and handed it to him. He touched his hat and drove off,

leaving her alone in the long empty street. She wandered away

westward, toward strange thoroughfares, where she was not likely

to meet acquaintances. The feeling of aimlessness had returned.

Once she found herself in the afternoon torrent of Broadway,

swept past tawdry shops and flaming theatrical posters, with a

succession of meaningless faces gliding by in the opposite

direction. . .

A feeling of faintness reminded her that she had not eaten since

morning. She turned into a side street of shabby houses, with

rows of ash-barrels behind bent area railings. In a basement

window she saw the sign LADIES' RESTAURANT: a pie and a dish of

doughnuts lay against the dusty pane like petrified food in an

ethnological museum. She entered, and a young woman with a weak

mouth and a brazen eye cleared a table for her near the window.

The table was covered with a red and white cotton cloth and

adorned with a bunch of celery in a thick tumbler and a salt-

cellar full of grayish lumpy salt. Julia ordered tea, and sat a

long time waiting for it. She was glad to be away from the noise

and confusion of the streets. The low-ceilinged room was empty,

and two or three waitresses with thin pert faces lounged in the

background staring at her and whispering together. At last the

tea was brought in a discolored metal teapot. Julia poured a cup

and drank it hastily. It was black and bitter, but it flowed

through her veins like an elixir. She was almost dizzy with

exhilaration. Oh, how tired, how unutterably tired she had been!

She drank a second cup, blacker and bitterer, and now her mind

was once more working clearly. She felt as vigorous, as

decisive, as when she had stood on the Van Siderens' door-step--

but the wish to return there had subsided. She saw now the

futility of such an attempt--the humiliation to which it might

have exposed her. . . The pity of it was that she did not know

what to do next. The short winter day was fading, and she

realized that she could not remain much longer in the restaurant

without attracting notice. She paid for her tea and went out

into the street. The lamps were alight, and here and there a

basement shop cast an oblong of gas-light across the fissured

pavement. In the dusk there was something sinister about the

aspect of the street, and she hastened back toward Fifth Avenue.

She was not used to being out alone at that hour.

At the corner of Fifth Avenue she paused and stood watching the

stream of carriages. At last a policeman caught sight of her and

signed to her that he would take her across. She had not meant

to cross the street, but she obeyed automatically, and presently

found herself on the farther corner. There she paused again for

a moment; but she fancied the policeman was watching her, and

this sent her hastening down the nearest side street. . . After

that she walked a long time, vaguely. . . Night had fallen, and

now and then, through the windows of a passing carriage, she

caught the expanse of an evening waistcoat or the shimmer of an

opera cloak. . .

Suddenly she found herself in a familiar street. She stood still

a moment, breathing quickly. She had turned the corner without

noticing whither it led; but now, a few yards ahead of her, she

saw the house in which she had once lived--her first husband's

house. The blinds were drawn, and only a faint translucence

marked the windows and the transom above the door. As she stood

there she heard a step behind her, and a man walked by in the

direction of the house. He walked slowly, with a heavy middle-

aged gait, his head sunk a little between the shoulders, the red

crease of his neck visible above the fur collar of his overcoat.

He crossed the street, went up the steps of the house, drew forth

a latch-key, and let himself in. . .

There was no one else in sight. Julia leaned for a long time

against the area-rail at the corner, her eyes fixed on the front

of the house. The feeling of physical weariness had returned,

but the strong tea still throbbed in her veins and lit her brain

with an unnatural clearness. Presently she heard another step

draw near, and moving quickly away, she too crossed the street

and mounted the steps of the house. The impulse which had

carried her there prolonged itself in a quick pressure of the

electric bell--then she felt suddenly weak and tremulous, and

grasped the balustrade for support. The door opened and a young

footman with a fresh inexperienced face stood on the threshold.

Julia knew in an instant that he would admit her.

"I saw Mr. Arment going in just now," she said. "Will you ask

him to see me for a moment?"

The footman hesitated. "I think Mr. Arment has gone up to dress

for dinner, madam."

Julia advanced into the hall. "I am sure he will see me--I will

not detain him long," she said. She spoke quietly,

authoritatively, in the tone which a good servant does not

mistake. The footman had his hand on the drawing-room door.

"I will tell him, madam. What name, please?"

Julia trembled: she had not thought of that. "Merely say a

lady," she returned carelessly.

The footman wavered and she fancied herself lost; but at that

instant the door opened from within and John Arment stepped into

the hall. He drew back sharply as he saw her, his florid face

turning sallow with the shock; then the blood poured back to it,

swelling the veins on his temples and reddening the lobes of his

thick ears.

It was long since Julia had seen him, and she was startled at the

change in his appearance. He had thickened, coarsened, settled

down into the enclosing flesh. But she noted this insensibly:

her one conscious thought was that, now she was face to face with

him, she must not let him escape till he had heard her. Every

pulse in her body throbbed with the urgency of her message.

She went up to him as he drew back. "I must speak to you," she


Arment hesitated, red and stammering. Julia glanced at the

footman, and her look acted as a warning. The instinctive

shrinking from a "scene" predominated over every other impulse,

and Arment said slowly: "Will you come this way?"

He followed her into the drawing-room and closed the door.

Julia, as she advanced, was vaguely aware that the room at least

was unchanged: time had not mitigated its horrors. The contadina

still lurched from the chimney-breast, and the Greek slave

obstructed the threshold of the inner room. The place was alive

with memories: they started out from every fold of the yellow

satin curtains and glided between the angles of the rosewood

furniture. But while some subordinate agency was carrying these

impressions to her brain, her whole conscious effort was centred

in the act of dominating Arment's will. The fear that he would

refuse to hear her mounted like fever to her brain. She felt her

purpose melt before it, words and arguments running into each

other in the heat of her longing. For a moment her voice failed

her, and she imagined herself thrust out before she could speak;

but as she was struggling for a word, Arment pushed a chair

forward, and said quietly: "You are not well."

The sound of his voice steadied her. It was neither kind nor

unkind--a voice that suspended judgment, rather, awaiting

unforeseen developments. She supported herself against the back

of the chair and drew a deep breath. "Shall I send for

something?" he continued, with a cold embarrassed politeness.

Julia raised an entreating hand. "No--no--thank you. I am quite


He paused midway toward the bell and turned on her. "Then may I


"Yes," she interrupted him. "I came here because I wanted to see

you. There is something I must tell you."

Arment continued to scrutinize her. "I am surprised at that," he

said. "I should have supposed that any communication you may

wish to make could have been made through our lawyers."

"Our lawyers!" She burst into a little laugh. "I don't think

they could help me--this time."

Arment's face took on a barricaded look. "If there is any

question of help--of course--"

It struck her, whimsically, that she had seen that look when some

shabby devil called with a subscription-book. Perhaps he thought

she wanted him to put his name down for so much in sympathy--or

even in money. . . The thought made her laugh again. She saw

his look change slowly to perplexity. All his facial changes

were slow, and she remembered, suddenly, how it had once diverted

her to shift that lumbering scenery with a word. For the first

time it struck her that she had been cruel. "There IS a question

of help," she said in a softer key: "you can help me; but only by

listening. . . I want to tell you something. . ."

Arment's resistance was not yielding. "Would it not be easier

to--write?" he suggested.

She shook her head. "There is no time to write . . . and it

won't take long." She raised her head and their eyes met. "My

husband has left me," she said.

"Westall--?" he stammered, reddening again.

"Yes. This morning. Just as I left you. Because he was tired

of me."

The words, uttered scarcely above a whisper, seemed to dilate to

the limit of the room. Arment looked toward the door; then his

embarrassed glance returned to Julia.

"I am very sorry," he said awkwardly.

"Thank you," she murmured.

"But I don't see--"

"No--but you will--in a moment. Won't you listen to me?

Please!" Instinctively she had shifted her position putting

herself between him and the door. "It happened this morning,"

she went on in short breathless phrases. "I never suspected

anything--I thought we were--perfectly happy. . . Suddenly he

told me he was tired of me . . . there is a girl he likes better. . .

He has gone to her. . ." As she spoke, the lurking anguish

rose upon her, possessing her once more to the exclusion of every

other emotion. Her eyes ached, her throat swelled with it, and

two painful tears burnt a way down her face.

Arment's constraint was increasing visibly. "This--this is very

unfortunate," he began. "But I should say the law--"

"The law?" she echoed ironically. "When he asks for his


"You are not obliged to give it."

"You were not obliged to give me mine--but you did."

He made a protesting gesture.

"You saw that the law couldn't help you--didn't you?" she went

on. "That is what I see now. The law represents material

rights--it can't go beyond. If we don't recognize an inner law . . .

the obligation that love creates . . . being loved as well as

loving . . . there is nothing to prevent our spreading ruin

unhindered . . . is there?" She raised her head plaintively,

with the look of a bewildered child. "That is what I see now . . .

what I wanted to tell you. He leaves me because he's tired . . .

but I was not tired; and I don't understand why he is. That's

the dreadful part of it--the not understanding: I hadn't realized

what it meant. But I've been thinking of it all day, and things

have come back to me--things I hadn't noticed . . . when you and

I. . ." She moved closer to him, and fixed her eyes on his with

the gaze that tries to reach beyond words. "I see now that YOU

didn't understand--did you?"

Their eyes met in a sudden shock of comprehension: a veil seemed

to be lifted between them. Arment's lip trembled.

"No," he said, "I didn't understand."

She gave a little cry, almost of triumph. "I knew it! I knew

it! You wondered--you tried to tell me--but no words came. . .

You saw your life falling in ruins . . . the world slipping from

you . . . and you couldn't speak or move!"

She sank down on the chair against which she had been leaning.

"Now I know--now I know," she repeated.

"I am very sorry for you," she heard Arment stammer.

She looked up quickly. "That's not what I came for. I don't

want you to be sorry. I came to ask you to forgive me . . . for

not understanding that YOU didn't understand. . . That's all I

wanted to say." She rose with a vague sense that the end had

come, and put out a groping hand toward the door.

Arment stood motionless. She turned to him with a faint smile.

"You forgive me?"

"There is nothing to forgive--"

"Then will you shake hands for good-by?" She felt his hand in

hers: it was nerveless, reluctant.

"Good-by," she repeated. "I understand now."

She opened the door and passed out into the hall. As she did so,

Arment took an impulsive step forward; but just then the footman,

who was evidently alive to his obligations, advanced from the

background to let her out. She heard Arment fall back. The

footman threw open the door, and she found herself outside in the


The End of The Reckoning