The situation which here presented itself was subject to no such gracious an_enerous development. Angela was the soul of watchfulness, insistence on duty, consideration for right conduct and for the privileges, opportunities an_moluments which belonged to her as the wife of a talented artist, temporaril_isabled, it is true, but certain to be distinguished in the future. She wa_eluding herself that this recent experience of reverses had probably hardene_nd sharpened Eugene's practical instincts, made him less indifferent to th_ecessity of looking out for himself, given him keener instincts of self- protection and economy. He had done very well to live on so little sh_hought, but they were going to do better—they were going to save. She wa_oing to give up those silly dreams she had entertained of a magnificen_tudio and hosts of friends, and she was going to start now saving a fractio_f whatever they made, however small it might be, if it were only ten cents _eek. If Eugene could only make nine dollars a week by working every day, the_ere going to live on that. He still had ninety-seven of the hundred dollar_e had brought with him, he told her, and this was going in the bank. He di_ot tell her of the sale of one of his pictures and of the subsequen_issipation of the proceeds. In the bank, too, they were going to put an_oney from subsequent sales until he was on his feet again. One of these day_f they ever made any money, they were going to buy a house somewhere in whic_hey could live without paying rent. Some of the money in the bank, a ver_ittle of it, might go for clothes if worst came to worst, but it would not b_ouched unless it was absolutely necessary. She needed clothes now, but tha_id not matter. To Eugene's ninety-seven was added Angela's two hundred an_wenty-eight which she brought with her, and this total sum of three hundre_nd twenty-five dollars was promptly deposited in the Bank of Riverwood.
Angela by personal energy and explanation found four rooms in the house of _urniture manufacturer; it had been vacated by a daughter who had married, an_hey were glad to let it to an artist and his wife for practically nothing s_ar as real worth was concerned, for this was a private house in a lovel_awn. Twelve dollars per month was the charge. Mrs. Witla seemed very charmin_o Mrs. Desenas, who was the wife of the manufacturer, and for her especia_enefit a little bedroom on the second floor adjoining a bath was turned int_ kitchen, with a small gas stove, and Angela at once began housekeepin_perations on the tiny basis necessitated by their income. Some furniture ha_o be secured, for the room was not completely furnished, but Angela b_aunting the second-hand stores in New York, looking through all th_epartment stores, and visiting certain private sales, managed to find a fe_hings which she could buy cheaply and which would fit in with the dressin_able, library table, dining table and one bed which were already provided.
The necessary curtains for the bath and kitchen windows she cut, decorated an_ung for herself. She went down to the storage company where the unsold an_ndisplayed portion of Eugene's pictures were and brought back seven, whic_he placed in the general living-room and dining-room. All Eugene's clothes, his underwear and socks particularly, received her immediate attention, an_he soon had his rather attenuated wardrobe in good condition. From the loca_arket she bought good vegetables and a little meat and made delightful stews, ragouts, combinations of eggs and tasty meat juices after the French fashion.
All her housekeeping art was employed to the utmost to make everything loo_lean and neat, to maintain a bountiful supply of varied food on the table an_et to keep the cost down, so that they could not only live on nine dollars _eek, but set aside a dollar or more of that for what Angela called thei_rivate bank account. She had a little hollow brown jug, calculated to hol_ifteen dollars in change, which could be opened when full, which sh_onscientiously endeavored to fill and refill. Her one desire was t_ehabilitate her husband in the eyes of the world—this time to stay—and sh_as determined to do it.
For another thing, reflection and conversation with one person and another ha_aught her that it was not well for herself or for Eugene for her to encourag_im in his animal passions. Some woman in Blackwood had pointed out a loca_ase of locomotor-ataxia which had resulted from lack of self-control, and sh_ad learned that it was believed that many other nervous troubles sprang fro_he same source. Perhaps Eugene's had. She had resolved to protect him fro_imself. She did not believe she could be injured, but Eugene was s_ensitive, so emotional.
The trouble with the situation was that it was such a sharp change from hi_ecent free and to him delightful mode of existence that it was almos_ainful. He could see that everything appeared to be satisfactory to her, tha_he thought all his days had been moral and full of hard work. Carlotta'_resence in the background was not suspected. Her idea was that they woul_ork hard together now along simple, idealistic lines to the one end—succes_or him, and of course, by reflection, for her.
Eugene saw the charm of it well enough, but it was only as something quit_uitable for others. He was an artist. The common laws of existence could no_easonably apply to an artist. The latter should have intellectual freedom, the privilege of going where he pleased, associating with whom he chose. Thi_arriage business was a galling yoke, cutting off all rational opportunity fo_njoyment, and he was now after a brief period of freedom having that yok_eavily adjusted to his neck again. Gone were all the fine dreams of pleasur_nd happiness which so recently had been so real—the hope of living wit_arlotta—the hope of associating with her on easy and natural terms in tha_uperior world which she represented. Angela's insistence on the thought tha_e should work every day and bring home nine dollars a week, or rather it_onthly equivalent, made it necessary for him to take sharp care of the littl_oney he had kept out of the remainder of the three hundred in order to suppl_ny deficiency which might occur from his taking time off. For there was n_pportunity now of seeing Carlotta of an evening, and it was necessary to tak_ regular number of afternoons or mornings off each week, in order to mee_er. He would leave the little apartment as usual at a quarter to seven in th_orning, dressed suitably for possible out-door expeditions, for i_nticipation of difficulty he had told Angela that it was his custom to d_his, and sometimes he would go to the factory and sometimes he would not.
There was a car line which carried him rapidly cityward to a rendezvous, an_e would either ride or walk with her as the case might be. There was constan_hought on his and her part of the risk involved, but still they persisted. B_ome stroke of ill or good fortune Norman Wilson returned from Chicago, s_hat Carlotta's movements had to be calculated to a nicety, but she did no_are. She trusted most to the automobiles which she could hire at convenien_arages and which would carry them rapidly away from the vicinity where the_ight be seen and recognized.
It was a tangled life, difficult and dangerous. There was no peace in it, fo_here is neither peace nor happiness in deception. A burning joy at one tim_as invariably followed by a disturbing remorse afterward. There wa_arlotta's mother, Norman Wilson, and Angela, to guard against, to say nothin_f the constant pricking of his own conscience.
It is almost a foregone conclusion in any situation of this kind that i_annot endure. The seed of its undoing is in itself. We think that our action_hen unseen of mortal eyes resolve themselves into nothingness, but this i_ot true. They are woven indefinably into our being, and shine fort_ltimately as the real self, in spite of all our pretences. One could almos_ccept the Brahmanistic dogma of a psychic body which sees and is seen wher_e dream all to be darkness. There is no other supposition on which to explai_he facts of intuition. So many individuals have it. They know so well withou_nowing why they know.
Angela had this intuitive power in connection with Eugene. Because of he_reat affection for him she divined or apprehended many things in connectio_ith him long before they occurred. Throughout her absence from him she ha_een haunted by the idea that she ought to be with him, and now that she wa_ere and the first excitement of contact and adjustment was over, she wa_eginning to be aware of something. Eugene was not the same as he had been _ittle while before he had left her. His attitude, in spite of a kindly sho_f affection, was distant and preoccupied. He had no real power of concealin_nything. He appeared at times—at most times when he was with her—to be los_n a mist of speculation. He was lonely and a little love-sick, because unde_he pressure of home affairs Carlotta was not able to see him quite so much.
At the same time, now that the fall was coming on, he was growing weary of th_hop at Speonk, for the gray days and slight chill which settled upon th_arth at times caused the shop windows to be closed and robbed the yard o_hat air of romance which had characterized it when he first came there. H_ould not take his way of an evening along the banks of the stream to the arm_f Carlotta. The novelty of Big John and Joseph Mews and Malachi Dempsey an_ittle Suddsy had worn off. He was beginning now to see also that they wer_othing but plain workingmen after all, worrying over the fact that they wer_ot getting more than fifteen or seventeen and a half cents an hour; jealou_f each other and their superiors, full of all the frailties and weaknesses t_hich the flesh is heir.
His coming had created a slight diversion for them, for he was very strange, but his strangeness was no longer a novelty. They were beginning to see hi_lso as a relatively commonplace human being. He was an artist, to be sure, but his actions and intentions were not so vastly different from those o_ther men.
A shop of this kind, like any other institution where people are compelled b_orce of circumstances to work together whether the weather be fair or foul, or the mood grave or gay, can readily become and frequently does become _eritable hell. Human nature is a subtle, irritable, irrational thing. It i_ot so much governed by rules of ethics and conditions of understanding as _hing of moods and temperament. Eugene could easily see, philosopher that h_as, that these people would come here enveloped in some mist of home troubl_r secret illness or grief and would conceive that somehow it was not thei_tate of mind but the things around them which were the cause of all thei_oe. Sour looks would breed sour looks in return; a gruff question would bege_ gruff answer; there were long-standing grudges between one man and another, based on nothing more than a grouchy observation at one time in the past. H_hought by introducing gaiety and persistent, if make-believe, geniality tha_e was tending to obviate and overcome the general condition, but this wa_nly relatively true. His own gaiety was capable of becoming as much of _eariness to those who were out of the spirit of it, as was the sour brutalit_ith which at times he was compelled to contend. So he wished that he migh_rrange to get well and get out of here, or at least change his form of work, for it was plain to be seen that this condition would not readily improve. Hi_resence was a commonplace. His power to entertain and charm was practicall_one.
This situation, coupled with Angela's spirit of honest conservatism was bad, but it was destined to be much worse. From watching him and endeavoring t_ecipher his moods, Angela came to suspect something—she could not say what.
He did not love her as much as he had. There was a coolness in his caresse_hich was not there when he left her. What could have happened, she aske_erself. Was it just absence, or what? One day when he had returned from a_fternoon's outing with Carlotta and was holding her in his arms in greeting, she asked him solemnly:
"Do you love me, Honeybun?"
"You know I do," he asseverated, but without any energy, for he could no_egain his old original feeling for her. There was no trace of it, onl_ympathy, pity, and a kind of sorrow that she was being so badly treated afte_ll her efforts.
"No, you don't," she replied, detecting the hollow ring in what he said. He_oice was sad, and her eyes showed traces of that wistful despair into whic_he could so readily sink at times.
"Why, yes I do, Angelface," he insisted. "What makes you ask? What's come ove_ou?" He was wondering whether she had heard anything or seen anything and wa_oncealing her knowledge behind this preliminary inquiry.
"Nothing," she replied. "Only you don't love me. I don't know what it is. _on't know why. But I can feel it right here," and she laid her hand on he_eart.
The action was sincere, unstudied. It hurt him, for it was like that of _ittle child.
"Oh, hush! Don't say that," he pleaded. "You know I do. Don't look so gloomy.
I love you—don't you know I do?" and he kissed her.
"No, no!" said Angela. "I know! You don't. Oh, dear; oh, dear; I feel so bad!"
Eugene was dreading another display of the hysteria with which he wa_amiliar, but it did not come. She conquered her mood, inasmuch as she had n_eal basis for suspicion, and went about the work of getting him his dinner.
She was depressed, though, and he was fearful. What if she should ever fin_ut!
More days passed. Carlotta called him up at the shop occasionally, for ther_as no phone where he lived, and she would not have risked it if there ha_een. She sent him registered notes to be signed for, addressed to Henr_ingsland and directed to the post office at Speonk. Eugene was not know_here as Witla and easily secured these missives, which were usually ver_uarded in their expressions and concerned appointments—the vaguest, mos_ysterious directions, which he understood. They made arrangements largel_rom meeting to meeting, saying, "If I can't keep it Thursday at two it wil_e Friday at the same time; and if not then, Saturday. If anything happen_'ll send you a registered special." So it went on.
One noontime Eugene walked down to the little post office at Speonk to loo_or a letter, for Carlotta had not been able to meet him the previous day an_ad phoned instead that she would write the following day. He found it safel_nough, and after glancing at it—it contained but few words—decided to tear i_p as usual and throw the pieces away. A mere expression, "Ashes of Roses,"
which she sometimes used to designate herself, and the superscription, "Oh, Genie!" made it, however, inexpressibly dear to him. He thought he would hol_t in his possession just a little while—a few hours longer. It was enigmati_nough to anyone but himself, he thought, even if found. "The bridge, two, Wednesday." The bridge referred to was one over the Harlem at Morris Heights.
He kept the appointment that day as requested, but by some necromancy of fat_e forgot the letter until he was within his own door. Then he took it out, tore it up into four or five pieces quickly, put it in his vest pocket, an_ent upstairs intending at the first opportunity to dispose of it.
Meanwhile, Angela, for the first time since they had been living at Riverwood, had decided to walk over toward the factory about six o'clock and meet Eugen_n his way home. She heard him discourse on the loveliness of this stream an_hat a pleasure it was to stroll along its banks morning and evening. He wa_o fond of the smooth water and the overhanging leaves! She had walked wit_im there already on several Sundays. When she went this evening she though_hat a pleasant surprise it would be for him, for she had prepared everythin_n leaving so that his supper would not be delayed when they reached home. Sh_eard the whistle blow as she neared the shop, and, standing behind a clump o_ushes on the thither side of the stream, she waited, expecting to pounce ou_n Eugene with a loving "Boo!" He did not come.
The forty or fifty men who worked here trickled out like a little stream o_lack ants, and then, Eugene not appearing, Angela went over to the gate whic_oseph Mews in the official capacity of gateman, after the whistle blew, wa_losing.
"Is Mr. Witla here?" asked Angela, peering through the bars at him. Eugene ha_escribed Joseph so accurately to her that she recognized him at sight.
"No, ma'am," replied Joseph, quite taken back by this attractive arrival, fo_ood-looking women were not common at the shop gate of the factory. "He lef_our or five hours ago. I think he left at one o'clock, if I remember right.
He wasn't working with us today. He was working out in the yard."
"You don't know where he went, do you?" asked Angela, who was surprised a_his novel information. Eugene had not said anything about going anywhere.
Where could he have gone?
"No'm, I don't," replied Joseph volubly. "He sometimes goes off this way—quit_requent, ma'am. His wife calls him up—er—now, maybe you're his wife."
"I am," said Angela; but she was no longer thinking of what she was saying, her words on the instant were becoming mechanical. Eugene going awa_requently? He had never said anything to her! His wife calling him up! Coul_here be another woman! Instantly all her old suspicions, jealousies, fears, awoke, and she was wondering why she had not fixed on this fact before. Tha_xplained Eugene's indifference, of course. That explained his air o_bstraction. He wasn't thinking of her, the miserable creature! He wa_hinking of someone else. Still she could not be sure, for she had no proof.
Two adroit questions elicited the fact that no one in the shop had ever see_is wife. He had just gone out. A woman had called up.
Angela took her way home amid a whirling fire of conjecture. When she reache_t Eugene was not there yet, for he sometimes delayed his coming, lingering, as he said, to look at the water. It was natural enough in an artist. She wen_pstairs and hung the broad-brimmed straw she had worn in the closet, and wen_nto the kitchen to await his coming. Experience with him and the nature o_er own temperament determined her to enact a rôle of subtlety. She would wai_ntil he spoke, pretending that she had not been out. She would ask whether h_ad had a hard day, and see whether he disclosed the fact that he had bee_way from the factory. That would show her positively what he was doing an_hether he was deliberately deceiving her.
Eugene came up the stairs, gay enough but anxious to deposit the scraps o_aper where they would not be seen. No opportunity came for Angela was ther_o greet him.
"Did you have a hard job today?" she asked, noting that he made no preliminar_nnouncement of any absence.
"Not very," he replied; "no. I don't look tired?"
"No," she said bitterly, but concealing her feelings; she wanted to see ho_horoughly and deliberately he would lie. "But I thought maybe you might have.
Did you stop to look at the water tonight?"
"Yes," he replied smoothly. "It's very lovely over there. I never get tired o_t. The sun on the leaves these days now that they are turning yellow is s_eautiful. They look a little like stained glass at certain angles."
Her first impulse after hearing this was to exclaim, "Why do you lie to me, Eugene?" for her temper was fiery, almost uncontrollable at times; but sh_estrained herself. She wanted to find out more—how she did not know, bu_ime, if she could only wait a little, would help her. Eugene went to th_ath, congratulating himself on the ease of his escape—the comfortable fac_hat he was not catechised very much; but in this temporary feeling o_atisfaction he forgot the scraps of paper in his vest pocket—though not fo_ong. He hung his coat and vest on a hook and started into the bedroom to ge_imself a fresh collar and tie. While he was in there Angela passed th_athroom door. She was always interested in Eugene's clothes, how they wer_earing, but tonight there were other thoughts in her mind. Hastily and b_ntuition she went through his pockets, finding the torn scraps, then fo_xcuse took his coat and vest down to clean certain spots. At the same momen_ugene thought of his letter. He came hurrying out to get it, or the pieces, rather, but Angela already had them and was looking at them curiously.
"What was that?" she asked, all her suspicious nature on the _qui vive_ fo_dditional proof. Why should he keep the torn fragments of a letter in hi_ocket? For days she had had a psychic sense of something impending.
Everything about him seemed strangely to call for investigation. Now it wa_ll coming out.
"Nothing," he said nervously. "A memorandum. Throw it in the paper box."
Angela noted the peculiarity of his voice and manner. She was taken by th_uilty expression of his eyes. Something was wrong. It concerned these scrap_f paper. Maybe it was in these she would be able to read the riddle of hi_onduct. The woman's name might be in here. Like a flash it came to her tha_he might piece these scraps together, but there was another thought equall_wift which urged her to pretend indifference. That might help her. Preten_ow and she would know more later. She threw them in the paper box, thinkin_o piece them together at her leisure. Eugene noted her hesitation, he_uspicion. He was afraid she would do something, what he could not guess. H_reathed more easily when the papers fluttered into the practically empty box, but he was nervous. If they were only burned! He did not think she woul_ttempt to put them together, but he was afraid. He would have given anythin_f his sense of romance had not led him into this trap.