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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThat Fortune - Chapter 13
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That Fortune - Chapter 13 Post by :Finner Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dudley Warner Date :May 2012 Read :3159

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That Fortune - Chapter 13


When Philip said that Evelyn was educated in the world of literature and not in the conflicts of life he had hit the key-note of her condition at the moment she was coming into the world and would have to act for herself. The more he saw of her the more was he impressed with the fact that her discrimination, it might almost be called divination, and her judgment were based upon the best and most vital products of the human mind. A selection had evidently been made for her, until she had acquired the taste, or the habit rather, of choosing only the best for herself. Very little of the trash of literature, or the ignoble--that is to say, the ignoble view of life--had come into her mind. Consequently she judged the world as she came to know it by high standards. And her mind was singularly pure and free from vulgar images.

It might be supposed that this sort of education would have its disadvantages. The word is firmly fixed in the idea that both for its pleasure and profit it is necessary to know good and evil. Ignorance of the evil in the world is, however, not to be predicated of those who are familiar only with the great masterpieces of literature, for if they are masterpieces, little or great, they exhibit human nature in all its aspects. And, further than this, it ought to be demonstrable, a priori, that a mind fed on the best and not confused by the weak and diluted, or corrupted by images of the essentially vulgar and vile, would be morally healthy and best fitted to cope with the social problems of life. The Testaments reveal about everything that is known about human nature, but such is their clear, high spirit, and their quality, that no one ever traced mental degeneration or low taste in literature, or want of virility in judgment, to familiarity with them. On the contrary, the most vigorous intellects have acknowledged their supreme indebtedness to them.

It is not likely that Philip made any such elaborate analysis of the girl with whom he was in love, or attempted, except by a general reference to the method of her training, to account for the purity of her mind and her vigorous discernment. He was in love with her more subtle and hidden personality, with the girl just becoming a woman, with the mysterious sex that is the inspiration of most of the poetry and a good part of the heroism in the world. And he would have been in love with her, let her education have been what it might. He was in love before he heard her speak. And whatever she would say was bound to have a quality of interest and attraction that could be exercised by no other lips. It might be argued--a priori again, for the world is bound to go on in its own way--that there would be fewer marriages if the illusion of the sex did not suffice for the time to hide intellectual poverty, and, what is worse, ignobleness of disposition.

It was doubtless fortunate for this particular lovemaking, though it did not seem so to Philip, that it was very much obstructed by lack of opportunities, and that it was not impaired in its lustre by too much familiarity. In truth, Philip would have said that he saw very little of Evelyn, because he never saw her absolutely alone. To be sure he was much in her presence, a welcome member of the group that liked to idle on the veranda of the inn, and in the frequent excursions, in which Philip seemed to be the companion of Mrs. Mavick rather than of her daughter. But she was never absent from his thought, his imagination was wholly captive to her image, and the passion grew in these hours of absence until she became an indispensable associate in all that he was or could ever hope to be. Alice, who discerned very clearly Mrs. Mavick and her ambition, was troubled by Philip's absorption and the cruel disappointment in store for him. To her he was still the little boy, and all her tenderness for him was stirred to shield him from the suffering she feared.

But what could she do? Philip liked to talk about Evelyn, to dwell upon her peculiarities and qualities, to hear her praised; to this extent he was confidential with his cousin, but never in regard to his own feeling. That was a secret concerning which he was at once too humble and too confident to share with any other. None knew better than he the absurd presumption of aspiring to the hand of such a great heiress, and yet he nursed the vanity that no other man could ever appreciate and love her as he did.

Alice was still more distracted and in sympathy with Philip's evident aspirations by her own love for Evelyn and her growing admiration for the girl's character. It so happened that mutual sympathy--who can say how it was related to Philip?--had drawn them much together, and chance had given them many opportunities for knowing each other. Alice had so far come out of her shell, and broken the reserve of her life, as to make frequent visits at the inn, and Mrs. Mavick and Evelyn found it the most natural and agreeable stroll by the river-side to the farmhouse, where naturally, while the mother amused herself with the original eccentricities of Patience, her daughter grew into an intimacy with Alice.

As for the feelings of Evelyn in these days--her first experience of something like freedom in the world--the historian has only universal experience to guide him. In her heart was working the consciousness that she had been singled out as worthy to share the confidence of a man in his most secret ambitions and aspirations, in the dreams of youth which seemed to her so noble. For these aspirations and dreams concerned the world in which she had lived most and felt most.

If Philip had talked to her as he had to Celia about his plans for success in life she would have been less interested. But there was nothing to warn her personally in these unworldly confessions. Nor did Philip ever seem to ask anything of her except sympathy in his ideas. And then there was the friendship of Alice, which could not but influence the girl. In the shelter of that the intercourse of the summer took on natural relations. For some natures there is no nurture of love like the security of family protection, under cover of which there is so little to excite the alarm of a timid maiden.

It was fortunate for Philip that Miss McDonald took a liking to him. They were thrown much together. They were both good walkers, and liked to climb the hills and explore the wild mountain streams. Philip would have confessed that he was fond of nature, and fancied there was a sort of superiority in his attitude towards it to that of his companion, who was merely interested in plants-just a botanist. This attitude, which she perceived, amused Miss McDonald.

"If you American students," she said one day when they were seated on a fallen tree in the forest, and she was expatiating on a rare plant she had found, "paid no more attention to the classics than to the world you live in, few of you would get a degree."

"Oh, some fellows go in for that sort of thing," Philip replied. "But I have noticed that all English women have some sort of fad--plants, shells, birds, something special."

"Fad!" exclaimed the Scotchwoman. "Yes, I suppose it is, if reading is a fad. It is one way of finding out about things. You admire what the Americans call scenery; we, since you provoke me to say it, love nature--I mean its individual, almost personal manifestations. Every plant has a distinct character of its own. I saw the other day an American landscape picture with a wild, uncultivated foreground. There was not a botanical thing in it. The man who painted it didn't know a sweetbrier from a thistle.

"Just a confused mass of rubbish. It was as if an animal painter should compose a group and you could not tell whether it was made up of sheep or rabbits or dogs or foxes or griffins."

"So you want things picked out like a photograph?"

"I beg your pardon, I want nature. You cannot give character to a bit of ground in a landscape unless you know the characters of its details. A man is no more fit to paint a landscape than a cage of monkeys, unless he knows the language of the nature he is dealing with down to the alphabet. The Japanese know it so well that they are not bothered with minutia, but give you character."

"And you think that science is an aid to art?"

"Yes, if there is genius to transform it into art. You must know the intimate habits of anything you paint or write about. You cannot even caricature without that. They talk now about Dickens being just a caricaturist. He couldn't have been that if he hadn't known the things he caricatured. That is the reason there is so little good caricature."

"Isn't your idea of painting rather anatomical?" Philip ventured to ask.

"Do you think that if Raphael had known nothing of anatomy the world would have accepted his Sistine Madonna for the woman she is?" was the retort.

"I see it is interesting," said Philip, shifting his ground again, "but what is the real good of all these botanical names and classifications?"

Miss McDonald gave a weary sigh. "Well, you must put things in order. You studied philology in Germany? The chief end of that is to trace the development, migration, civilization of the human race. To trace the distribution of plants is another way to find out about the race. But let that go. Don't you think that I get more pleasure in looking at all the growing things we see, as we sit here, than you do in seeing them and knowing as little about them as you pretend to?"

Philip said that he could not analyze the degree of pleasure in such things, but he seemed to take his ignorance very lightly. What interested him in all this talk was that, in discovering the mind of the governess, he was getting nearer to the mind of her pupil. And finally he asked (and Miss McDonald smiled, for she knew what this conversation, like all others with him, must ultimately come to):

"Does the Mavick family also take to botany?"

"Oh yes. Mrs. Mavick is intimate with all the florists in New York. And Miss Evelyn, when I take home these specimens, will analyze them and tell all about them. She is very sharp about such things. You must have noticed that she likes to be accurate?"

"But she is fond of poetry."

"Yes, of poetry that she understands. She has not much of the emotional vagueness of many young girls."

All this was very delightful for Philip, and for a long time, on one pretext or another, he kept the conversation revolving about this point. He fancied he was very deep in doing this. To his interlocutor he was, however, very transparent. And the young man would have been surprised and flattered if he had known how much her indulgence of him in this talk was due to her genuine liking for him.

When they returned to the inn, Mrs. Mavick began to rally Philip about his feminine taste in woodsy things. He would gladly have thrown botany or anything else overboard to win the good opinion of Evelyn's mother, but botany now had a real significance and a new meaning for him. Therefore he put in a defense, by saying:

"Botany, in the hands of Miss McDonald, cannot be called very feminine; it is a good deal more difficult to understand and master than law."

"Maybe that's the reason," said Mrs. Mavick, "why so many more girls are eager to study law now than botany."

"Law?" cried Evelyn; "and to practice?"

"Certainly. Don't you think that a bright, clever woman, especially if she were pretty, would have an advantage with judge and jury?"

"Not if judge and jury were women," Miss McDonald interposed.

"And you remember Portia?" Mrs. Mavick continued.

"Portia," said Evelyn; "yes, but that is poetry; and, McDonald, wasn't it a kind of catch? How beautifully she talked about mercy, but she turned the sharp edge of it towards the Jew. I didn't like that."

"Yes," Miss McDonald replied, "it was a kind of trick, a poet's law. What do you say, Mr. Burnett?"

"Why," said Philip, hesitating, "usually it is understood when a man buys or wins anything that the appurtenances necessary to give him full possession go with it. Only in this case another law against the Jew was understood. It was very clever, nothing short of woman's wit."

"Are there any women in your firm, Mr. Burnett?" asked Mrs. Mavick.

"Not yet, but I think there are plenty of lawyers who would be willing to take Portia for a partner."

"Make her what you call a consulting partner. That is just the way with you men--as soon as you see women succeeding in doing anything independently, you head them off by matrimony."

"Not against their wills," said the governess, with some decision.

"Oh, the poor things are easily hypnotized. And I'm glad they are. The funniest thing is to hear the Woman's Rights women talk of it as a state of subjection," and Mrs. Mavick laughed out of her deep experience.

"Rights, what's that?" asked Evelyn.

"Well, child, your education has been neglected. Thank McDonald for that."

"Don't you know, Evelyn," the governess explained, "that we have always said that women had a right to have any employment, or do anything they were fitted to do?"

"Oh, that, of course; I thought everybody said that. That is natural. But I mean all this fuss. I guess I don't understand what you all are talking about." And her bright face broke out of its look of perplexity into a smile.

"Why, poor thing," said her mother, "you belong to the down-trodden sex. Only you haven't found it out."

"But, mamma," and the girl seemed to be turning the thing over in her mind, as was her wont with any new proposition, "there seem to be in history a good many women who never found it out either."

"It is not so now. I tell you we are all in a wretched condition."

"You look it, mamma," replied Evelyn, who perfectly understood when her mother was chaffing.

"But I think I don't care so much for the lawyers," Mrs. Mavick continued, with more air of conviction; "what I can't stand are the doctors, the female doctors. I'd rather have a female priest about me than a female doctor."

This was not altogether banter, for there had been times in Carmen's career when the externals of the Roman Church attracted her, and she wished she had an impersonal confidant, to whom she could confess--well, not everything-and get absolution. And she could make a kind of confidant of a sympathetic doctor. But she went on:

"To have a sharp woman prying into all my conditions and affairs! No, I thank you. Don't you think so, McDonald?"

"They do say," the governess admitted, "that women doctors haven't as much consideration for women's whims as men." And, after a moment, she continued:

"But, for all that, women ought to understand about women better than men can, and be the best doctors for them."

"So it seems to me," said Evelyn, appealing to her mother. "Don't you remember that day you took me down to the infirmary in which you are interested, and how nice it was, nobody but women for doctors and nurses and all that? Would you put that in charge of men?"

"Oh, you child!" cried Mrs. Mavick, turning to her daughter and patting her on the head. "Of course there are exceptions. But I'm not going to be one of the exceptions. Ah, well, I suppose I am quite behind the age; but the conduct of my own sex does get on my nerves sometimes."

Evelyn was silent. She was often so when discussions arose. They were apt to plunge her into deep thought. To those who knew her history, guarded from close contact with anything but the world of ideas, it was very interesting to watch her mental attitude as she was day by day emerging into a knowledge of the actual world and encountering its crosscurrents. To Philip, who was getting a good idea of what her education had been, an understanding promoted by his knowledge of the character and attainments of her governess, her mental processes, it may be safely said, opened a new world of thought. Not that mental processes made much difference to a man in his condition, still, they had the effect of setting her personality still further apart from that of other women. One day when they happened to be tete-a-tete in one of their frequent excursions--a rare occasion--Evelyn had said:

"How strange it is that so many things that are self-evident nobody seems to see, and that there are so many things that are right that can't be done."

"That is the way the world is made," Philip had replied. She was frequently coming out with the sort of ideas and questions that are often proposed by bright children, whose thinking processes are not only fresh but undisturbed by the sophistries or concessions that experience has woven into the thinking of our race. "Perhaps it hasn't your faith in the abstract."

"Faith? I wonder. Do you mean that people do not dare go ahead and do things?"

"Well, partly. You see, everybody is hedged in by circumstances."

"Yes. I do begin to see circumstances. I suppose I'm a sort of a goose--in the abstract, as you say." And Evelyn laughed. It was the spontaneous, contagious laugh of a child. "You know that Miss McDonald says I'm nothing but a little idealist."

"Did you deny it?"

"Oh, no. I said, so were the Apostles, all save one--he was a realist."

It was Philip's turn to laugh at this new definition, and upon this the talk had drifted into the commonplaces of the summer situation and about Rivervale and its people. Philip regretted that his vacation would so soon be over, and that he must say good-by to all this repose and beauty, and to the intercourse that had been so delightful to him.

"But you will write," Evelyn exclaimed.

Philip was startled.


"Yes, your novel."

"Oh, I suppose so," without any enthusiasm.

"You must. I keep thinking of it. What a pleasure it must be to create a real drama of life."

So this day on the veranda of the inn when Philip spoke of his hateful departure next day, and there was a little chorus of protest, Evelyn was silent; but her silence was of more significance to him than the protests, for he knew her thoughts were on the work he had promised to go on with.

"It is too bad," Mrs. Mavick exclaimed; "we shall be like a lot of sheep without a shepherd."

"That we shall," the governess joined in. "At any rate, you must make us out a memorandum of what is to be seen and done and how to do it."

"Yes," said Philip, gayly, "I'll write tonight a complete guide to Rivervale."

"We are awfully obliged to you for what you have done." Mrs. Mavick was no doubt sincere in this. And she added, "Well, we shall all be back in the city before long."

It was a natural thing to say, and Philip understood that there was no invitation in it, more than that of the most conventional acquaintance. For Mrs. Mavick the chapter was closed.

There were the most cordial hand-shakings and good-bys, and Philip said good-by as lightly as anybody. But as he walked along the road he knew, or thought he was sure, that the thoughts of one of the party were going along with him into his future, and the peaceful scene, the murmuring river, the cat-birds and the blackbirds calling in the meadow, and the spirit of self-confident youth in him said not good-by, but au revoir.

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That Fortune - Chapter 14 That Fortune - Chapter 14

That Fortune - Chapter 14
CHAPTER XIVOf course Philip wrote to Celia about his vacation intimacy with the Mavicks. It was no news to her that the Mavicks were spending the summer there; all the world knew that, and society wondered what whim of Carmen's had taken her out of the regular summer occupations and immured her in the country. Not that it gave much thought to her, but, when her name was mentioned, society resented the closing of the Newport house and the loss of her vivacity in the autumn at Lenox. She is such a hand to set things going, don't you know? Mr.

That Fortune - Chapter 12 That Fortune - Chapter 12

That Fortune - Chapter 12
CHAPTER XIIMrs. Mavick thought herself fortunate in finding, in the social wilderness of Rivervale, such a presentable young gentleman as Philip. She had persuaded herself that she greatly enjoyed her simple intercourse with the inhabitants, and she would have said that she was in deep sympathy with their lives. No doubt in New York she would relate her summer adventures as something very amusing, but for the moment this adaptable woman seemed to herself in a very ingenuous, receptive, and sympathetic state of mind. Still, there was a limit to the entertaining power of Aunt Hepsy, which was perceived when she