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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHis Second Wife - Chapter 18
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His Second Wife - Chapter 18 Post by :StartFromHere Category :Long Stories Author :Ernest Poole Date :May 2012 Read :2430

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His Second Wife - Chapter 18

CHAPTER XVIII

The next morning at eleven o'clock she met Dwight in his studio, and in a brisk pleasant businesslike way she began to tell him of her voice--what singing she had done at home and how she had always meant to take lessons when she should come to New York to live.

"To find out how much of a voice I really have, you know," she said. Her manner was more affable now. "But my husband and my baby have kept me rather busy, you see, and so I've put it off and off--until just lately I began to look about and make inquiries. And then by good luck I learned of you--from my husband's partner."

"You're Joe Lanier's wife, aren't you?" he asked.

"His second," she said with emphasis. And a moment later she told herself, "Yes, his eyes do twinkle, and he seems to be quite nice. He isn't so excessively fat, and he has a big wide generous mouth, and I like his eyes. But he thinks my coming like this a bit queer, and he's wondering what's behind it." She downed her excitement and went on in the same resolute tone she had used with such success on Nourse. No personal conversation just yet, she would show him she meant business. And so she stuck to the lessons.

"If you'll take me as a pupil," she said, "I'd like to begin immediately."

"Let me try your voice," he proposed. He went to the piano, and there his manner had soon changed. From genial and curious it grew interested. He spoke rather sharply, asking her to do this and that, and she felt as though she were being probed. "You have a voice," he said, at the end. "Not a world shaker," he added, smiling, "but one that interests me a lot." She beamed on him.

"You'll take me, then?"

"Assuredly."

"Oh, that's so nice." They decided on the time for her lessons. Then she glanced at her wrist watch. "Will you see if my car is waiting!" she asked. "I had him take the nurse and baby up to the Park--and he ought to be back by now, I think." But as Dwight went to the telephone, she added excitedly to herself, "Now if that idiot of a chauffeur is as late as I told him to be, you and I will have quite a talk, Mr. Dwight."

"It isn't here yet," he informed her.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I'll have to walk." She smiled and held out her hand to him. "Will you send the chauffeur home!"

"If you like," he replied good-humouredly. "But I'd much rather you'd wait here--if you have nothing pressing." And as she hesitated, "It's not only your voice, you know--I used to be quite a friend of Joe's."

"Oh, yes, I remember his telling me. Over in Paris, wasn't it?"

Soon they were talking easily. Dwight had lit a cigarette, and Ethel could see he was studying her. She tried to look unconscious.

"I've wanted to go to Paris all my life," she told him. "How long is it since you left?"

"Only a year." She looked at him.

"Is there a Paris in New York?"

"I'm not sure yet--I'm new, you see."

"So am I," she confided frankly. And at that he gave her a swift glance which made Ethel add to herself, "Yes, he could be very personal."

She asked him what he had found in New York as a contrast, coming from abroad. She spoke of the high buildings here, and from that she passed quite naturally to her husband's business.

"It isn't the work I'd like for him," she said with a regretful sigh. "Joe is getting to be like all the rest--he's making too much money." She waited a moment and added, "I should so like him to be as he was when you knew him."

"I'll be curious to see how he has changed. You must let me see him," Dwight replied.

"Why yes, of course."

"Over in Paris he had so much. He was such a wonderful lad for dreams--with the most exuberant fancy in the way he used to talk of New York and what he wanted to do back here--to use the backyards and the roofs and turn them into gardens. This town, when Joe got through with it--well, from an aeroplane it was to look more or less like a bed of roses--or a hill town in Italy. But that was only his lighter vein. When his fancy was really, working hard, he took department stores, hotels and huge railroad terminals and jammed them all together into one big building. How deep in the earth it was to have gone I really can't remember, nor how far up into the skies. But there was a garden at the top--or a meadow or prairie or something."

"Yes," thought Ethel, "I'm going to like him."

"Joe could talk of his plans all night," Dwight went on good-naturedly. "And keep a poor lazy musician like me from my piano where I belonged."

"Was it you who taught him to play?" she asked.

"On the piano? It was," he replied. "Isn't his touch amazing? And so thoroughly Christian, too."

"Christian?"

"Yes. He doesn't let his right hand know what his left hand is doing." They laughed. And from that laugh she emerged with eagerness in her brown eyes.

"Oh, please go on," she begged him. "I had no idea you knew him so well. Did he do nothing but talk over there?"

"He did--he worked like a tiger. Joe could stand more hard labour in one consecutive day and night than any fellow I ever met. And he could do it night after night. I remember dropping in on him for coffee and rolls one morning. A chap named Crothers and myself--" Ethel started at the name--"had just come home from the 'Quatres Arts Ball.' We found Joe in his room with the curtains drawn--he didn't know it was morning yet. He had a towel bound round his head and was building an opera house for Chicago--or Kansas City--I'm not sure which. And he wasn't just dreaming of building it in his successful middle age--he was building it now, in a terrible rush, as though Kansas City were pushing him hard. Joe didn't live in the future, you see--he took the future and made it the present, and then lived in the present like mad."

Dwight tossed away his cigarette.

"But you say it's money now."

"Yes," she replied. "It's money." He smiled at her dejected tone.

"I wouldn't be so sad," he remarked. "Money isn't as bad as it seems."

"Oh, yes, and I want it," Ethel declared. "But I want the others so much more!"

When her car had come, she rose and said, "You and Joe must get together some time. Couldn't you call him up some day and get him to lunch with you?"

"Gladly." They went to the door.

"But don't be disappointed," she said, "if you find him changed even more than you think. Money has such a pull on a man."

"I know, but I rather like it."

"What?"

"Oh, don't be so indignant, please. I am an artist--honestly. But some of these men I've met over here--well, they fascinate me. Such boundless energy and drive ought to go into a symphony. Plenty of drums and crashing brass. Good-bye, Mrs. Lanier," he added. "This has been a lucky day for me."

"Thank you. Don't forget about Joe. And meanwhile--till next Tuesday."

As she settled back in her car she thought,

"All right, Ethel, very good."


Twice a week, that autumn, she went to Dwight for lessons. But until some time had passed, she did not mention it to Joe.

"When you meet him," she said to Dwight, "I'd rather you wouldn't speak of my lessons. I want my singing to be a surprise. And besides, I'd so much rather that any old friends of my husband's come to him through his partner. It seems so much more natural."

"I see," said Dwight. "But he doesn't," she thought, "and I'll have to explain."

"Later, of course, I'll tell him," she said, "But just now, in the state he's in, if you or any one else of his friends who knew him as he used to be should come and say, 'Sent by your wife, with her compliments and fervent hopes of your speedy resurrection '--oh, no, it wouldn't do at all." Dwight was watching her curiously.

"How many of us are there!" he asked. She looked at him in a questioning way.

"Of us," he explained, "Joe's old friends, who are to dig him up, you know."

"Only you, at present--and of course his partner. He smiled:

"Bill Nourse is not a very brisk digger."

"Well," she remarked, in a casual tone, "if you know of brisker diggers about--people who knew him--"

"Say no more. I'll search the town." Their eyes had met for an instant. "Yes," she thought, "I'm getting on."

Dwight lunched with Joe soon after that, and later in the studio he and Ethel had a talk.

"In a good many ways," he assured her, "he struck me as the same old Joe--friendly and hospitable--he insisted on ordering quite a meal. But we didn't eat much of it. We talked."

"Of Paris!"

"Very much so. There's a lot of Paris in him yet." And he told of their long conversation.

"Now," she said, when she rose to leave, "if you'll just keep at him occasionally--while his partner does the same at the office, and I do what I can at home--"

"You insist on his being home every night?"

"That depends," said Ethel gravely.

"Suppose I take him some night to my club. We have quite a number of architects there."

"Oh, wonderful! How good of you!"

"Mrs. Lanier," said her teacher, "I'm under your orders--digging for gold."

He took Joe to his club on the following night, and later several times for lunch.

"Joe likes it," he reported. "And he has already met some chaps who knew of him and his earlier work, not only in Paris but over here, he was one of the most brilliant designers in the city, I find--and a good many men were disappointed when he threw over his true profession and went after ready cash. How would you like me to put up his name?"

"For club membership?"

"Precisely."

"I'd like it, sir.

"And I obey."

"This is getting rather intimate," Ethel told herself that night. "Never mind, my love, you've been perfectly honest. He knows very well what you're after. And if he likes you and wants to help, so much the better."

Some days in the studio she stuck severely to her voice and showed him she meant business. She was practising quite hard, and her progress was by no means slow. But on other days half the hour at least was spent in learning from her new friend about "a Paris in New York." Dwight was already finding one, although he had been here less than a year. In this teeming city of endless change he had found a deep joy of creation, of newness, youth and boldness that made even Paris seem far behind. "It's all so amazingly big," he said, "with such revealing chances opening up on every side!" How simple it was for him, she thought, with a little pang of envy. A young musician with plenty of talent, easy manners, single, free. As he spoke of his club friends and some of their homes that were open to him, the glimpses exasperated her. Here were the people she wanted to know, a little world of artists, architects and writers, and goodness only knew what else. She was still rather vague about them. To her surprise she discovered that many were after money, too. "Decidedly," her teacher said. "Excessively," he added.

"But at least," she rejoined, defending them, "when they get the money they know how to spend it on something better than food and clothes! They really live--I'm sure they do--and have ideas and really grow!" She caught her breath. What an idiot, to have said so much! "I'm so glad," she added lamely, "that you got my husband into your club. It's bound to do so much for him." She threw a sharp little glance at Dwight, and scowled, for she thought she detected a smile.

"He's doing something for the club," Dwight was saying cheerfully. "Some of those chaps are a bit too refined and remote for this raw crude city of ours. And Joe is getting back enough of his old vim and passion, his wild radical ideas of what may still be done with the town, so that he jars on such sensitive souls--makes 'em frown and bite their moustaches like the husbands in French plays. On the other hand some are decidedly for him. I hear them discuss him now and then."

"Oh, how nice!" sighed Ethel.

At times she grew so impatient to get Joe into this other world. But she had to be very careful. Repeatedly she warned herself that Dwight, for all his Paris past and his present friendliness, was very fast becoming a New Yorker like the rest: making his way and climbing his climb, and wanting no climbers who had to be carried. "Ethel Lanier, the first thing you know you'll be dropped like a hot potato," she thought. "There's nothing unselfish about this man. Don't make him feel he has you on his hands." And she would grow studiously abstract and detached in her talk about the town. But it kept cropping up in spite of her, this warm eagerness to "really live."

"It's funny," she said to Dwight one day. "I had thought of music and all that I wanted as being so different from Joe's work. But now in this city that you seem to know, I find that what I've wanted most is just what he ought to want in his work! The two go together!"

"Exactly!"

"The city Joe once lived in." She frowned. "There are so many cities in New York. But I don't want to try to get into his, until I can do it through Joe himself. People will have to want me because I'm the wife of Joe Lanier."

"I think they'll want you more than that." His tone was most reassuring. "But I like the way you are going about it. It's so delightfully novel, you see--conspiring to make your husband find his friends all by himself--so that when he has found them he'll come to you with a beaming smile and say, 'Woman, I bring you wealth and fame and friends in abundance. Take them, love, and bless me--for I have done all this for you.'"

Ethel smiled. "I don't like you to joke about it," she said.

"Very well," he agreed, "let's get back to the serious work of his resurrection. You asked me to recruit other brisk diggers, and I've hunted about quite a bit. There's that chap Crothers and his wife, but so far they're the best I can do--and the Crothers pair seem rather blind. They can't see the old Joe for the new."

"You mean they think he's hopeless," Ethel scornfully put in.

"Oh, we'll make them open their eyes in time. I drop in on them every now and then. I had Crothers to the club last week, and let him hear some of the gossip about the emerging Joe Lanier."

Often he talked of the early group of students over in Paris, of their ideas, ambitions, and their youthful views of life, which for all their gaiety had been so fervid and intense. But to Ethel, because she herself was still young, their dreams seemed very wonderful. Some she had hungrily read about long ago with the history "prof" at home. But the world which the little suffragist had revealed to her pupils had been more heroic and severe. This was warmer, dazzling, this had beauty, this was art! And yet not weak nor tame nor old--this was gloriously new in the way it jabbed deep into life and talked of really changing it all. This was youth! And her own youth responded and she made it all her own. She was reading now voraciously, with a sparkle and gleam of hope in her eyes. She was coming so very close to her goal, or rather the gate of her promised land.

At times she grew impatient at her teacher's calm, and the good-natured easy smile with which he looked upon all this. "Oh, why not get excited!" she thought. She felt the old dreams a bit cold in him, as they had been in her husband. And in dismay she would ask herself:

"Are they all too old? Is just the fact that I'm ten years younger than Joe and his friends going to mean that I'm too late--to bring back what was in him!"

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CHAPTER XIXBut all this was as nothing compared to the intensity, the ups and down, in her relations with Joe himself. He often looked tired and harassed. "What's the matter with me?" he seemed to ask. And she felt his two sides combatting each other. On the one hand were the influences of Nourse and Dwight and the men at the club, to which he went nearly every day. He took part in discussions there, long rambling talks and arguments. And his old ideals were rising hungrily within him. But meanwhile the business man in Joe kept savagely putting the dreamer
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CHAPTER XVIIWhat impression had she made? How far had she overcome the heavy weight of dislike and suspicion Amy had rolled up in his mind? As Ethel's thoughts went rapidly back over the things Nourse had told her, again and again with excitement she felt what a help he could be if he would. Here lay the gate to her husband's youth. "If only he'll believe in me! Shall I send for him? No," she decided. "If there's any hope, he'll come again." She waited three days. Then he telephoned, "Can I see you today at four o'clock?" She answered, "Yes,
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