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Chapter 19 PHIL MOVES TO AMZI'S

  • When he had recovered from the first shock of his wife's return, Kirkwoo_djusted himself to the new order of things in a philosophic temper. Nan ha_ithdrawn absolutely her day-old promise to marry him. That episode in hi_ife was ended. He felt the nobility of her attitude without wholly acceptin_ts conclusions. He had tried to persuade her that the geography of the matte_ad nothing to do with it; that having promised to marry him when the_elieved Lois to be safely out of the way, her return did not affect thei_tatus in the least. This was the flimsiest casuistry, as he well knew. I_ade a tremendous difference where Lois was!
  • "I have to go away to-morrow, Phil, and I'm likely to be in Indianapolis muc_f the time until spring. I can't take you with me very well; a hotel is n_lace for you, and I shall be very busy. And I can't leave you here alone, yo_now."
  • His tone was kind; he always meant to be kind, this dear father of hers! H_urried on with an even greater thoughtfulness to anticipate a solution o_his problem which had occurred to her instantly, but which she lacked th_ourage to suggest.
  • "I saw your Uncle Amzi to-day and had a long talk with him about you. _roposed that you go to his house and stay, at least until I get through m_ork with the Sycamore Company. We won't make any definite date for you_eturn, for the reason that I don't just know when I'll be free to settle dow_ere again. Amzi was perfectly agreeable to the idea—quite splendid about it, in fact. Your mother, it seems, means to stay with him. And now there's thi_urther thing, Phil. You won't mind my going into it a little bit, once an_or all. The law gave you to me long ago, but apart from that I suppose I hav_ certain moral claim to you. But I want you to feel free to do as you lik_here your mother's concerned. What I said of her yesterday I'm sorry for; _houldn't have done that if I'd been myself. And I'm not making it necessar_or you to make a choice between us. We're old comrades, you and I, Phil, an_here can't be any shadow of a difference between us, now or ever. It's th_implest and easiest thing for you to go to your uncle's house, and we won'_ven consider the fact that your mother is there; we'll just assume that he_eing there is the most natural thing in the world, and that it's a matter o_ur common convenience for you to be there, too. You see how perfectly eas_nd natural it all comes about."
  • She clung to him, the tears welling. She had never been disappointed in him, and this generosity moved her deeply. He was making it easy for her to go t_er mother; that was all. Her soul rebelled against the fate that mad_ecessary any choice when her father was so gentle, so wise, so kind, and he_other so transcendently charming and lovable.
  • "You are so good to me; you have always been so good!" she sobbed. "And I'_orry I was ugly yesterday, about Nan. You know I love Nan. No one was eve_inder to me than Nan—hardly you, even! And I don't want you to give her up; you need each other; you do understand each other! Oh, everything is so quee_nd wrong!"
  • "No, Phil; things are not as queer and wrong as they look. Don't get that ide_nto your head. Life isn't queer or wrong; life simply isn't as easy as i_ooks, and that's very different."
  • He smiled, turning her face so that she could see that he smiled no_nhappily.
  • "But I don't want you to go away; I'd die if I thought I shouldn't see you an_ore—and all the good times we've had, right here in this old house—an_verything—"
  • "But this isn't the end of things. When I'm back, as I shall be for a day o_wo frequently, I'll always let you know; or you can run over to the city an_o a theater with me whenever you like. So let's be cheerful abou_verything."
  • The passing of her trunk from her father's house to her uncle's was no_eglected by the gossips. Her three aunts noted it, and excoriated Kirkwoo_nd Amzi. They took care that every one should know how they felt about th_ransfer of poor, dear Phil (on whom they had lavished their love and care fo_ears, to the end that she might grow up respectable, etc., etc.) to a roo_hat sheltered her Jezebel of a mother.
  • "That was nice of him," said Lois, when Phil explained her coming. "How's you_ather getting on these days?"
  • "Oh, quite well!" Phil replied.
  • She was establishing herself in a room adjoining her mother's. Lois, in _lowered silk kimona, commented upon Phil's clothes as they were hauled fro_he trunk. Her opinions in the main were touched with her light, glancin_rony.
  • "I'll wager Jo bought that walnut-stain effect," she remarked, pointing a_ccusing finger at a dark waist. "That has Josephine stamped on it. Poor ol_oul!"
  • Her manner of speaking of her sister set Phil to giggling. Mrs. Waterman ha_ought that particular article over Phil's solemn protest, and she now sat o_he bed and watched her mother carry the odious thing gingerly by the colla_o the door and fling it in the direction of the back stairs.
  • Lois brought from her own room a set of silver toilet articles and distribute_hem over the top of Phil's bureau.
  • "I forgot all about these, Phil; but they fit in handily right here. A littl_elf-indulgence of my own, but my old ones are good enough. Oh, please don't!"
  • she exclaimed, as Phil began to thank her. "Why shouldn't you have them? Wh_as a better right to them, I'd like to know!"
  • Whereupon she began experimenting with the nail-polisher from Phil's set.
  • "This is a good polisher, Phil. I'm going to show you how to do your ow_anicuring—every lady her own maid. Sarah dug up a colored hairdresser, manicurist, and light-running domestic chatterbox this morning, and she gav_y hair a pulling I shan't forget in a hurry. Never again! If you can't have _rained maid, you'd better be your own beautifier. I had a wonderful girl th_ast time I was over, and took her with me on a motor trip through the châtea_ountry. She was an outrageous little flirt. Two chauffeurs got into a ro_bout her during the week we spent at Tours, and one pounded the other into _ulp. The French rural police are duller than the ox, and they locked up Mari_s a witness. Imagine my feelings! It was very annoying."
  • Her smile belied the annoyance. Phil surmised that she had enjoyed th_xperience; but Lois added no details to her hasty picture. Lois did no_rouble herself greatly with details; everything with her was sketchy an_mpressionistic.
  • "What about boys, Phil?"
  • "I've had one proposal; he was a senior with a funny stammer. He went awa_ith his diploma last June, and said he'd never forget. I got his cards to- day. She's a Lafayette girl he had down for the 'Pan' in his senior year. Sh_as golden hair," Phil added musingly.
  • "The scoundrel; to forget you as quick as that!" And Lois laughed as Phil ben_er head and clasped her hands in a mockery of dejection. "You've come out an_ suppose you are asked to all the parties. Let me see, when I was a gir_here were candy-pullings, and 'companies' where you sat around and were bore_ntil somebody proposed playing 'The Prince of Paris Lost his Hat' or som_ame like that. When the old folks went to bed, our hostess would find a pac_f cards—authors, most likely—or play a waltz on the soft pedal for tw_ouples to dance. Wholesome but not exciting."
  • "Oh, we're livelier and better than that! They have real balls now at th_asonic Hall; and all the fraternities have dances, and there's the Pan- Hellenic, and so on. And there are dinners in courses, and bridge no end!"
  • "Bridge!"
  • Lois shrugged her shoulders, lifted her pretty brows, and tossed the nail- polisher on to the bureau to emphasize her contempt for bridge in all it_orms.
  • "As to young men, Phil. Tell me all about the Montgomery cavaliers."
  • "Oh, every girl knows all the boys. They are divided into two classes a_sual, nice and un-nice. Some of them have flirted with me and I have flirte_ith them. I suppose there was nothing very naughty in that."
  • "We will pass that for the present. Tell me about the young fellows who pa_ou attentions."
  • Phil ran over the list, Lois interrupting when some familiar name arrested he_ttention. Phil hit off one after the other in a few apt phrases. Her mothe_n a rocking-chair, with arms folded, was more serious than in any of thei_revious talks. What Phil disclosed was only the social experience of th_verage country-town girl. The fact that she had made a few acquaintances i_ndianapolis interested her mother.
  • "The Fitches? Yes; nice people. That was through your father? All right. G_n."
  • "Well, there are the two Holton boys," said Phil, self-conscious for the firs_ime. "You see, my aunts thought everything ought to be fixed up with th_oltons, and they asked Mr. and Mrs. William to my party, and threw in Charli_nd Ethel, and I suggested that they add Fred, too. They are Samuel'_hildren. There being the two brothers it didn't seem nice to leave out one; and I already knew Fred anyhow."
  • "Why this sudden affection of your aunts for the Holtons?—there is a reaso_or everything those creatures do."
  • "Mrs. William is stylish and does things. Her maid wears a cap when she open_he door, and Mrs. William makes her calls in a neat electric."
  • "Everything is explained quite satisfactorily, Phil. Amzi told me our sister_ad buried the hatchet, but he didn't put it quite as clearly as you do. H_id tell me, though, that Jack had spoiled your beautiful party by turning u_runk. That was nasty, vile," she added, shrugging her shoulders. "Well, abou_hese nephews?"
  • "Charlie is older, and very citified; quite the most dashing man who lighten_ur horizons. He sends me flowers and bon-bons, most expensive. And he's a jo_t paying compliments; makes you feel that you're the only one, or tries to.
  • He has very large ideas about business and life generally. But nice, I think, and kind and generous. But, mamma—"
  • She paused, disconcerted by a sudden keen look her mother gave her.
  • "He sounds like an agreeable person," remarked Lois, glancing at the point o_er slipper.
  • "What I started to say was that if you think I shouldn't see them any more—"
  • "Bless me, no! I see what's in your mind, Phil, but you needn't trouble abou_hat. We're just trying to get acquainted, you and I. We understand each othe_eautifully, and after while we'll see whether we have any advice for eac_ther. At your age I hadn't the sense of a kitten. You're most astonishingl_ise; I marvel at you! And you've grown up a nice, sensible girl in spite o_our aunts—none of their cattishness—not a hint of it. I can't tell you ho_elieved I am to find you just as you are. The way they have cuddled up to th_oltons is diverting, but nothing more. It's what you would have expected o_hem. The proud and haughty Montgomerys turned snobs! It's frightful to thin_f it! As for me, I have nothing against the Holtons. I'm this kind of _inner, Phil: I carry my own load. No shoving it off on anybody else! Som_eople are born with ideals; I wasn't! But I hope to acquire some before _ie; we're all entitled to a show at them. But, bless me, what are we talkin_bout? There's the other Holton boy; what's he got to say for himself?"
  • "Oh, he'd never say it if it were left to him! He's shy, modest, proud. N_rills."
  • "Handsome?"
  • "Well, he has a nice face," Phil answered, so earnestly that her mothe_aughed. "And he's modest and genuine and sincere."
  • "Those are good qualities. As near as I can make out, you like all these youn_en well enough—the boys you knew in high school and the college boys. An_hese Holtons have broken into the circle lately, and have shown you smal_ttentions—nothing very important."
  • "Charlie sends me American Beauties, and Fred has brought me quails and _ook."
  • "What was the book?"
  • "'The Gray Knight of Picardy.'"
  • "That's Nan Bartlett's?" Lois looked at the palm of her hand carelessly.
  • "Yes; it's a great success—the hit of the season."
  • "I suppose your father and Nan have been good friends—literary interests i_ommon, and all that?"
  • "Of course," Phil answered, uncomfortable under this seemingly indifferen_uestioning.
  • "I have read the story. There are pages in it that are like your father. _uppose, seeing so much of each other, they naturally talked it over—a sort o_ollaboration?"
  • The question required an answer, and Phil shrank from answering. Closeted wit_er mother she was reluctant to confess how close had been the relationshi_etween her father and Nan Bartlett. Her mind worked quickly. She wa_utspokenly truthful by habit; but she was a loyal soul, too. She decided tha_he could answer her mother's question without violating her father'_onfidence as to his feelings toward Nan. That was all over now; her fathe_ad told her so in a word. Lois hummed, picking bits of lint from her skir_hile Phil deliberated.
  • "Father did help with it. I suppose he even wrote part of it, but nobody nee_now that. Daddy doesn't mean to go in for writing; he says the very suspicio_hat he's literary would hurt him in the law."
  • "I suppose he helped on the book just to get Nan interested. Now that she'_aunched as a writer, he drops out of the combination."
  • "Something like that. Daddy is very busy, you know."
  • Phil entertained views of her own as to the cause of her father's sudde_wakening. She was sure that his interest in Nan was the inspiration of it, quite as much as alarm at the low ebb of his fortunes. In the genera_onfusion into which the world had been plunged, Phil groped in the dark alon_nfamiliar walls. It was a grim fate that flung her back and forth betwee_ather and mother, a shuttle playing across the broken, tangled threads o_heir lives. She started suddenly as a new thought struck her. Perhaps behin_his seemingly inadvertent questioning lay some deeper interest. Suddenly th_ose light of romance touched the situation. Phil looked at Lois guardedly.
  • What if—? With an accession of feeling she flung herself at her mother's knee_nd took her hands.
  • "Could you and daddy ever make it up? Could you do that now, after all thes_ears?" she asked earnestly.
  • Lois looked at her absently, with her trick of trying to recall a question no_ully comprehended.
  • "Oh, _that_! Never in this world! What do you think your father's made of?"
  • Again the shrug, so becoming, so expressive, so final! She freed her hands, and drew out and replaced a hairpin. For an instant Phil was dismayed, bu_nce so far afield in dangerous territory she would not retreat.
  • "But what would you say?" she persisted.
  • "Dear Phil, don't think of such a terrible thing; it fairly chills me. You_ather is a gentleman; he wouldn't—he wouldn't do anything so cruel as that!"
  • she said ambiguously.
  • "I don't see how it would be cruel, if he meant it—if he wanted to!"
  • "That's because you are an angel and don't know anything about this sad ol_orld of ours. Life isn't like the story-books, Phil. In a novel a nice dea_aughter like you might reconcile her parents with tears and flowers and tha_ort of thing; but in real life it's very different as you will see when yo_hink of it; only I don't want you to think of it at all. I believe you lik_e; we hit it off quite wonderfully; and I should expect you to hate me if _ver dreamed of anything so contemptible as spoiling a man's life twice."
  • And remembering Nan, Phil could not argue the matter. She was unable t_isualize her father on his knees to her mother. No flimsy net of sentimen_lung across the chasm could bring them within hailing distance of each other; they were utterly irreconcilable characters. It was incredible that they ha_ver pledged themselves to love and cherish each other forever.
  • "Phil, what did your father say about my coming back?" asked Lois abruptly.
  • Phil hesitated. Her mother looked at her keenly in that instant of delay, an_hen laid her hand gently upon Phil's lips.
  • "No; don't answer that! It isn't a fair question. And now let us forget al_hese things forever and ever!"
  • She proposed a walk before dinner. "I'll get into my boots and be ready in _inute."
  • Phil heard her whistling as she moved about her room.