A DOMESTIC DISCORD
After a month in the South, I was
well again younger in feeling, and in looks,
than I had been for ten years. Carlotta and the
children, except “Junior” who was in college,
had gone to Washington when I went to Florida.
I found her abed with a nervous attack from the double
strain of the knowledge that Junior had eloped with
an “impossible” woman he had met, I shall
not say where, and of the effort of keeping the calamity
from me until she was sure he had really entangled
She was now sitting among her pillows,
telling the whole story. “If he only hadn’t
married her!” she ended.
This struck me as ludicrous a
good woman citing to her son’s discredit the
fact that he had goodness’ own ideals of honor.
“What are you laughing at?” she demanded.
I was about to tell her I was hopeful
of the boy chiefly because he had thus shown the splendid
courage that more than redeems folly. But I refrained.
I had never been able to make Carlotta understand me
or my ideas, and I had long been weary of the resentful
silences or angry tirades which mental and temperamental
“Courage never gets into a man
unless it’s born there,” said I. “Folly
is born into us all and can be weeded out.”
“What can be expected?”
she went on after trying in vain to connect my remark
with our conversation. “A boy needs a father.
You’ve been so busy with your infamous politics
that you’ve given him scarcely a thought.”
Painfully true, throughout; but it
was one of those criticisms we can hardly endure even
when we make it upon ourselves. I was silent.
“I’ve no patience with
men!” she went on. “They’re
always meddling with things that would get along better
without them, and letting their own patch run to weeds.”
Unanswerable. I held my peace.
“What are you going to do about
it, Harvey? How can you be so calm?
Isn’t there anything that would rouse
“I’m too busy thinking
what to do to waste any energy in blowing off steam,”
was my answer in my conciliatory tone.
“But there’s nothing we
can do,” she retorted, with increasing
anger, which vented itself toward me because the true
culprit, fate, was not within reach.
“Precisely,” I agreed. “Nothing.”
“That creature won’t let him come to see
“And you musn’t see him
when he sends for you,” said I. “He’ll
come as soon as his money gives out. She’ll
see that he does.”
“But you aren’t going to cut him off!”
“Just that,” said I.
A long silence, then I added in answer
to her expression: “And you must
not let him have a cent, either.”
In a gust of anger, probably at my
having read her thoughts, she blurted out: “One
would think it was your money.”
I had seen that thought in her eyes,
had watched her hold it back behind her set teeth,
many times in our married years. And I now thanked
my stars I had had the prudence to get ready for the
inevitable moment when she would speak it. But
at the same time I could not restrain a flush of shame.
“It is my money,” I forced myself
to say. “Ask your brother. He’ll
tell you what I’ve forbidden him to tell before that
I have twice rescued you and him from bankruptcy.”
“With our own money,”
she retorted, hating herself for saying it, but goaded
on by a devil that lived in her temper and had got
control many a time, though never before when I happened
to be the one with whom she was at outs.
“No with my own,” I replied
“Your own!” she
sneered. “Every dollar you have has come
through what you got by marrying me through
what you married me for. Where would you be if
you hadn’t married me? You know very well.
You’d still be fighting poverty as a small lawyer
in Pulaski, married to Betty Crosby or whatever her
name was.” And she burst into hysterical
tears. At last she was showing me the secrets
that had been tearing at her, was showing me her heart
where they had torn it.
“Probably,” said I in
my usual tone, when she was calm enough to hear me.
“So, that’s what you brood over?”
“Yes,” she sobbed.
“I’ve hated you and myself. Why don’t
you tell me it isn’t so? I’ll believe
it I don’t want to hear the truth.
I know you don’t love me, Harvey. But just
say you don’t love her.”
“What kind of middle-aged, maudlin
moonshine is this, anyway?” said I. “Let’s
go back to Junior. We’ve passed the time
of life when people can talk sentimentality without
“That’s true of me, Harvey,”
she said miserably, “but not of you. You
don’t look a day over forty you’re
still a young man, while I
She did not need to complete the sentence.
I sat on the bed beside her and patted her vaguely.
She took my hand and kissed it. And I said I
tried to say it gently, tenderly, sincerely: “People
who’ve been together, as you and I have, see
each other always as at first, they say.”
She kissed my hand gratefully again.
“Forgive me for what I said,” she murmured.
“You know I didn’t think it, really.
I’ve got such a nasty disposition and I felt
so down, and that was the only thing I could
find to throw at you.”
I protested. “Forgive isn’t a word
that I’d have the right to use to any one.”
“But I must
“Now, I’ve known
for years,” I went on, “that you were in
love with that other man when I asked you to marry
me. I might have taunted you with it, might have
told you how I’ve saved him from going to jail
for passing worthless checks.”
This delighted her this
jealousy so long and so carefully hidden. Under
cover of her delight I escaped from the witness-stand.
And the discovery that evening by Doc Woodruff that
my son’s ensnarer had a husband living put her
in high good humor. “If he’d only
come home,” said she, adding: “Though,
now I feel that he’s perfectly safe with her.”
“Yes let them alone,”
I replied. “He has at least one kind of
sense a sense of honor. And I suspect
and hope that he has at bottom common sense too.
Let him find her out for himself. Then, he’ll
be done with her, and her kind, for good.”
“I must marry him off as soon
as possible,” said Carlotta. “I’ll
look about for some nice, quiet young girl with character
and looks and domestic tastes.” She laughed
a little bitterly. “You men can profit by
experience and it ruins us women.”
“Unjust,” said I, “but
injustice and stupidity are the ground plan of life.”
We had not long to wait. The
lady, as soon as Junior reached the end of his cash,
tried to open negotiations. Failing and becoming
convinced that he had been cast off by his parents,
she threw aside her mask. One straight look into
her real countenance was enough for the boy. He
fled shuddering but not to me as I had
expected. Instead, he got a place as a clerk
“Why not let him shift for himself
a while?” suggested Woodruff, who couldn’t
have taken more trouble about the affair if the boy
had been his own. “A man never knows whether
his feet were made to stand on and walk with, unless
he’s been down to his uppers.”
“I think the boy’s got
his grandmother in him,” said I. “Let’s
give him a chance.”
“He’ll make a career for
himself yet like his father’s,”
That, with the sincerest enthusiasm.
But instinctively I looked at him for signs of sarcasm.
And then I wondered how many “successful”
men would, in the same circumstances, have had the
same curiously significant instinct.