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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThat Fortune - Chapter 10
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That Fortune - Chapter 10 Post by :Finner Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :596

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That Fortune - Chapter 10

CHAPTER X

All winter long that face seemed to get between Philip and his work. It was an inspiration to his pen when it ran in the way of literature, but a distinct damage to progress in his profession. He had seen Evelyn again, more than once, at the opera, and twice been excited by a passing glimpse of her on a crisp, sunny afternoon in the Mavick carriage in the Park-always the same bright, eager face. So vividly personal was the influence upon him that it seemed impossible that she should not be aware of it--impossible that she could not know there was such a person in the world as Philip Burnett.

Fortunately youth can create its own world. Between the secluded daughter of millions and the law clerk was a great gulf, but this did not prevent Evelyn's face, and, in moments of vanity, Evelyn herself, from belonging to Philip's world. He would have denied--we have a habit of lying to ourselves quite as much as to others--that he ever dreamed of possessing her, but nevertheless she entered into his thoughts and his future in a very curious way. If he saw himself a successful lawyer, her image appeared beside him. If his story should gain the public attention, and his occasional essays come to be talked of, it was Evelyn's interest and approval that he caught himself thinking about. And he had a conviction that she was one to be much more interested in him as a man of letters than as a lawyer. This might be true. In Philip's story, which was very slowly maturing, the heroine fell in love with a young man simply for himself, and regardless of the fact that he was poor and had his career to make. But he knew that if his novel ever got published the critics would call it a romance, and not a transcript of real life. Had not women ceased to be romantic and ceased to indulge in vagaries of affection?

Was it that Philip was too irresolute to cut either law or literature, and go in, single-minded, for a fortune of some kind, and a place? Or was it merely that he had confidence in the winning character of his own qualities and was biding his time? If it was a question of making himself acceptable to a woman--say a woman like Evelyn--was it not belittling to his own nature to plan to win her by what he could make rather than by what he was?

Probably the vision he had of Evelyn counted for very little in his halting decision. "Why don't you put her into a novel?" asked Mr. Brad one evening. The suggestion was a shock. Philip conveyed the idea pretty plainly that he hadn't got so low as that yet. "Ah, you fellows think you must make your own material. You are higher-toned than old Dante." The fact was that Philip was not really halting. Every day he was less and less in love with the law as it was practiced, and, courting reputation, he would much rather be a great author than a great lawyer. But he kept such thoughts to himself. He had inherited a very good stock of common-sense. Apparently he devoted himself to his office work, and about the occupation of his leisure hours no one was in his confidence except Celia, and now and then, when he got something into print, Alice. Professedly Celia was his critic, but really she was the necessary appreciator, for probably most writers would come to a standstill if there was no sympathetic soul to whom they could communicate, while they were fresh, the teeming fancies of their brains.

The winter wore along without any incident worth recording, but still fruitful for the future, as Philip fondly hoped. And one day chance threw in his way another sensation. Late in the afternoon of a spring day he was sent from the office to Mavick's house with a bundle of papers to be examined and signed.

"You will be pretty sure to find him," said Mr. Sharp, "at home about six. Wait till you do see him. The papers must be signed and go to Washington by the night mail."

Mr. Mavick was in his study, and received Philip very civilly, as the messenger of his lawyers, and was soon busy in examining the documents, flinging now and then a short question to Philip, who sat at the table near him.

Suddenly there was a tap at the door, and, not waiting for a summons, a young girl entered, and stopped after a couple of steps.

"Oh, I didn't know--"

"What is it, dear?" said Mr. Mavick, looking up a moment, and then down at the papers.

"Why, about the coachman's baby. I thought perhaps--" She had a paper in her hand, and advanced towards the table, and then stopped, seeing that her father was not alone.

Philip rose involuntarily. Mr. Mavick looked up quickly. "Yes, presently. I've just now got a little business with Mr. Burnett."

It was not an introduction. But for an instant the eyes of the young people met. It seemed to Philip that it was a recognition. Certainly the full, sweet eyes were bent on him for the second she stood there, before turning away and leaving the room. And she looked just as true and sweet as Philip dreamed she would look at home. He sat in a kind of maze for the quarter of an hour while Mavick was affixing his signature and giving some directions. He heard all the directions, and carried away the papers, but he also carried away something else unknown to the broker. After all, he found himself reflecting, as he walked down the avenue, the practice of the law has its good moments!

What was there in this trivial incident that so magnified it in Philip's mind, day after day? Was it that he began to feel that he had established a personal relation with Evelyn because she had seen him? Nothing had really happened. Perhaps she had not heard his name, perhaps she did not carry the faintest image of him out of the room with her. Philip had read in romances of love at first sight, and he had personal experience of it. Commonly, in romances, the woman gives no sign of it, does not admit it to herself, denies it in her words and in her conduct, and never owns it until the final surrender. "When was the first moment you began to love me, dear?" "Why, the first moment, that day; didn't you know it then?" This we are led to believe is common experience with the shy and secretive sex. It is enough, in a thousand reported cases, that he passed her window on horseback, and happened to look her way. But with such a look! The mischief was done. But this foundation was too slight for Philip to build such a hope on.

Looking back, we like to trace great results to insignificant, momentary incidents--a glance, a word, that turned the current of a life. There was a definite moment when the thought came to Alexander that he would conquer the world! Probably there was no such moment. The great Alexander was restless, and at no initial instant did he conceive his scheme of conquest. Nor was it one event that set him in motion. We confound events with causes. It happened on such a day. Yes, but it might have happened on another. But if Philip had not been sent on that errand to Mavick probably Evelyn would never have met him. What nonsense this is, and what an unheroic character it makes Philip! Is it supposable that, with such a romance as he had developed about the girl, he would not some time have come near her, even if she had been locked up with all the bars and bolts of a safety deposit?

The incident of this momentary meeting was, however, of great consequence. There is no such feeder of love as the imagination. And fortunate it was for Philip that his romance was left to grow in the wonder-working process of his own mind. At first there had been merely a curiosity in regard to a person whose history and education had been peculiar. Then the sight of her had raised a strange tumult in his breast, and his fancy began to play about her image, seen only at a distance and not many times, until his imagination built up a being of surpassing loveliness, and endowed with all the attractions that the poets in all ages have given to the sex that inspires them. But this sort of creation in the mind becomes vague, and related to literature only, unless it is sustained by some reality. Even Petrarch must occasionally see Laura at the church door, and dwell upon the veiled dreamer that passed and perhaps paused a moment to regard him with sad eyes. Philip, no doubt, nursed a genuine passion, which grew into an exquisite ideal in the brooding of a poetic mind, but it might in time have evaporated into thin air, remaining only as an emotional and educational experience. But this moment in Mr. Mavick's library had given a solid body to his imaginations, and a more definite turn to his thought of her.

If, in some ordinary social chance, Philip had encountered the heiress, without this previous wonderworking of his imagination in regard to her, the probability is that he would have seen nothing especially to distinguish her from the other girls of her age and newness in social experience. Certainly the thought that she was the possessor of uncounted millions would have been, on his side, an insuperable barrier to any advance. But the imagination works wonders truly, and Philip saw the woman and not the heiress. She had become now a distinct personality; to be desired above all things on earth, and that he should see her again he had no doubt.

This thought filled his mind, and even when he was not conscious of it gave a sort of color to life, refined his perceptions, and gave him almost sensuous delight in the masterpieces of poetry which had formerly appealed only to his intellectual appreciation of beauty.

He had not yet come to a desire to share his secret with any confidant, but preferred to be much alone and muse on it, creating a world which was without evil, without doubt, undisturbed by criticism. In this so real dream it was the daily office work that seemed unreal, and the company and gossip of his club a kind of vain show. He began to frequent the picture-galleries, where there was at least an attempt to express sentiment, and to take long walks to the confines of the city-confines fringed with all the tender suggestions of the opening spring. Even the monotonous streets which he walked were illumined in his eyes, glorified by the fullness of life and achievement. "Yes," he said again and again, as he stood on the Heights, in view of the river, the green wall of Jersey and the great metropolis spread away to the ocean gate, "it is a beautiful city! And the critics say it is commonplace and vulgar." Dear dreamer, it is a beautiful city, and for one reason and another a million of people who have homes there think so. But take out of it one person, and it would have for you no more interest than any other huge assembly of ugly houses. How, in a lover's eyes, the woman can transfigure a city, a landscape, a country!

Celia had come up to town for the spring exhibitions, and was lodging at the Woman's Club. Naturally Philip saw much of her, indeed gave her all his time that the office did not demand. Her company was always for him a keen delight, an excitement, and in its way a rest. For though she always criticised, she did not nag, and just because she made no demands, nor laid any claims on him, nor ever reproached him for want of devotion, her society was delightful and never dull. They dined together at the Woman's Club, they experimented on the theatres, they visited the galleries and the picture-shops, they took little excursions into the suburbs and came back impressed with the general cheapness and shabbiness, and they talked--talked about all they saw, all they had read, and something of what they thought. What was wanting to make this charming camaraderie perfect? Only one thing.

It may have occurred to Philip that Celia had not sufficient respect for his opinions; she regarded them simply as opinions, not as his.

One afternoon, in the Metropolitan Picture-Gallery, Philip had been expressing enthusiasm for some paintings that Celia thought more sentimental than artistic, and this reminded her that he was getting into a general way of admiring everything.

"You didn't use, Philip, to care so much for pictures."

"Oh, I've been seeing more."

"But you don't say you like that? Look at the drawing."

"Well, it tells the story."

"A story is nothing; it's the way it's told. This is not well told."

"It pleases me. Look at that girl."

"Yes, she is domestic. I admit that. But I'm not sure I do not prefer an impressionistic girl, whom you can't half see, to such a thorough bread-and-butter miss as this."

"Which would you rather live with?"

"I'm not obliged to live with either. In fact, I'd rather live with myself. If it's art, I want art; if it's cooking and sewing, I want cooking and sewing. If the artist knew enough, he'd paint a woman instead of a cook."

"Then you don't care for real life?"

"Real life! There is no such thing. You are demonstrating that. You transform this uninteresting piece of domesticity into an ideal woman, ennobling her surroundings. She doesn't do it. She is level with them."

"It would be a dreary world if we didn't idealize things."

"So it would. And that is what I complain of in such 'art' as this. I don't know what has got into you, Phil. I never saw you so exuberant. You are pleased with everything. Have you had a rise in the office? Have you finished your novel?"

"Neither. No rise. No novel. But Tweedle is getting friendly. Threw an extra job in my way the other day. Do you think I'd better offer my novel, when it is done, to Tweedle?"

"Tweedle, indeed!"

"Well, one of our clients is one of the great publishing firms, and Tweedle often dines with the publisher."

"For shame, Phil!"

Philip laughed. "At any rate, that is no meaner than a suggestion of Brad's. He says if I will just weave into it a lot of line scenery, and set my people traveling on the great trunk, stopping off now and then at an attractive branch, the interested railroads would gladly print it and scatter it all over the country."

"No doubt," said Celia, sinking down upon a convenient seat. "I begin to feel as if there were no protection for anything. And, Phil, that great monster of a Mavick, who is eating up the country, isn't he a client also?"

"Occasionally only. A man like Mavick has his own lawyers and judges."

"Did you ever see him?"

"Just glimpses."

"And that daughter of his, about whom such a fuss was made, I suppose you never met her?"

"Oh, as I wrote you, at the opera; saw her in her box."

"And--?"

"Oh, she's rather a little thing; rather dark, I told you that; seems devoted to music."

"And you didn't tell what she wore."

"Why, what they all wear. Something light and rather fluffy."

"Just like a man. Is she pretty?"

"Ye-e-s; has that effect. You'd notice her eyes." If Philip had been frank he would have answered,

"I don't know. She's simply adorable," and Celia would have understood all about it.

"And probably doesn't know anything. Yes, highly educated? I heard that. But I'm getting tired of 'highly educated'; I see so many of them. I've been making them now for years. Perhaps I'm one of them. And where am I? Don't interrupt. I tell you it is a relief to come across a sweet, womanly ignoramus. What church does she go to?"

"Who?"

"That Mavick girl."

"St. Thomas', I believe."

"That's good--that's devotional. I suppose you go there too, being brought up a Congregationalist?"

"At vespers, sometimes. But, Celia, what is the matter with you? I thought you didn't care--didn't care to belong to anything?"

"I? I belong to everything. Didn't I write you reams about my studies in psychology? I've come to one conclusion. There are only two persons in the world who stand on a solid foundation, the Roman Catholic and the Agnostic. The Roman Catholic knows everything, the Agnostic doesn't know anything."

Philip was never certain when the girl was bantering him; nor, when she was in earnest, how long she would remain in that mind and mood. So he ventured, humorously:

"The truth is, Celia, that you know too much to be either. You are what they call emancipated."

"Emancipated!" And Celia sat up energetically, as if she were now really interested in the conversation. "Become the slave of myself instead of the slave of somebody else! That's the most hateful thing to be, emancipated. I never knew a woman who said she was emancipated who wasn't in some ridiculous folly or another. Now, Phil, I'm going to tell you something. I can tell you. You know I've been striving to have a career, to get out of myself somehow, and have a career for myself. Well, today--mind, I don't say tomorrow"--(and there was a queer little smile on her lips)--"I think I will just try to be good to people and things in general, in a human way."

"And give up education?"

"No, no. I get my living by education, just as you do, or hope to do, by law or by letters; it's all the same. But wait. I haven't finished what I was going to say. The more I go into psychology, trying to find out about my mind and mind generally, the more mysterious everything is. Do you know, Phil, that I'm getting into the supernatural? You can't help running into it. For me, I am not side-tracked by any of the nonsense about magnetism and telepathy and mind-reading and other psychic imponderabilities. Isn't it queer that the further we go into science the deeper we go into mystery?

"Now, don't be shocked, I mean it reverently, just as an illustration. Do you think any one knows really anything more about the operation in the world of electricity than he does about the operation of the Holy Ghost? And yet people talk about science as if it were something they had made themselves."

"But, Celia--"

"No, I've talked enough. We are in this world and not in some other, and I have to make my living. Let's go into the other room and see the old masters. They, at least, knew how to paint--to paint passion and character; some of them could paint soul. And then, Phil, I shall be hungry. Talking about the mind always makes me hungry."

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