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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesTogether - Part One - Chapter 11
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Together - Part One - Chapter 11 Post by :hlpunltd Category :Long Stories Author :Robert Herrick Date :May 2012 Read :1934

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Together - Part One - Chapter 11


The child was coming!

When Isabelle realized it, she had a shock, as if something quite outside her had suddenly interposed in her affairs. That cottage at Bedmouth for the summer would have to be given up and other plans as well. At first she had refused to heed the warning,--allowed John to go away to New York on business without confiding in him,--at last accepted it regretfully. Since the terrifying fear those first days in the Adirondack forest lest she might have conceived without her passionate consent, the thought of children had gradually slipped out of her mind. They had settled into a comfortable way of living, with their plans and their expectations. "That side of life," as she called it, was still distasteful to her,--she did not see why it had to be. Fortunately it did not play a large part in their life, and the other, the companionable thing, the being admired and petted, quite satisfied her. Children, of course, sometime; but "not just yet."

"It will be the wrong time,--September,--spoil everything!" she complained to Bessie.

"Oh, it's always the wrong time, no matter when it happens. But you'll get used to it. Rob had to keep me from going crazy at first. But in the end you like it."

"It settles Bedmouth this year!"

"It is a bore," Bessie agreed sympathetically, feeling sorry for herself, as she was to have spent six weeks with Isabelle. "It takes a year out of a woman's life, of course, no matter how she is situated. And I'm so fearfully ugly all the time. But you won't be,--your figure is better."

Bessie, like most childlike persons, took short views of immediate matters. She repeated her idea of child-bearing:--

"I hated it each time,--especially the last time. It did seem so unnecessary--for us.... And it spoils your love, being so afraid. But when it comes, why you like it, of course!"

John arrived from his hurried trip to New York, smiling with news. He did not notice his wife's dejected appearance when he kissed her, in his eagerness to tell something.

"There is going to be a shake-up in the road," he announced. "That's why they sent for me."

"Is there?" she asked listlessly.

"Well, I am slated for fourth Vice-president. They were pleased to say handsome things about what I have done at Torso. Guess they heard of that offer from the D. and O."

"What is fourth Vice-president?" Isabelle inquired.

"In charge of traffic west--headquarters at St. Louis!"

He expected that his wife would be elated at this fulfilment of her desires; but instead Isabelle's eyes unaccountably filled with tears. When he understood, he was still more mystified at her dejection. Very tenderly holding her in his arms, he whispered his delight into her ears. His face was radiant; it was far greater news than his promotion to the fourth vice-presidency of the A. and P.

"And you knew all this time!" he exclaimed reproachfully.

"I wasn't sure!"

He seemed to take the event as natural and joyful, which irritated her still more. As Bessie had said, "Whatever ties a woman to the home, makes her a piece of domestic furniture, the men seem to approve of!"

"What a fright I look already!" Isabelle complained, gazing at the dark circles under her eyes in the glass. She thought of Aline, whose complexion like a Jacqueminot rose had been roughened and marred. Something still virginal in her soul rebelled against it all.

"Oh, not so bad," Lane protested. "You are just a little pinched. You'll be fitter than ever when it's over!"

The man doesn't care, she thought mutinously. It seems to him the proper thing,--what woman is made for. Isabelle was conscious that she was made for much more, for her own joy and her own activity, and she hated to part with even a little of it!

He could not understand her attitude. As a man he had retained the primitive joy in the coming of the child, any child,--but _his child and the first one above all! Compared with that nothing was of the least importance. Seeing her pouting into the glass, he said reproachfully:--

"But you like children, Belle!"

And taking her again into his arms and kissing her, he added, "We'll give the little beggar a royal welcome, girl!"

His grave face took on a special look of content with the world and his share in it, while Isabelle continued to stare at herself in the glass and think of the change a child would make in her life. Thus the woman of the new generation, with her eagerness for a "large, full life," feels towards that process of nature for which the institution of marriage was primarily designed.

* * * * *

So for a time longer Isabelle tried to ignore the coming fact, to put it out of her mind, and grasp as much of her own life as she could before the life within her should deprive her of freedom. As Lane's new duties would not begin until the summer, it was arranged that Isabelle should spend the hot weeks at the Grafton farm with her mother, and then return to St. Louis for her confinement in her old home. Later they would settle themselves in the city at their leisure.... It was all so provoking, Isabelle persisted in thinking. They might have had at least a year of freedom in which to settle themselves in the new home. And she had had visions of a few months in Europe with Vickers, who was now in Rome. John might have come over after her. To give up all this for what any woman could do at any time!

As the months passed she could not evade the issue. By the time she was settled in her old room at the Farm she had grown anaemic, nervous. The coming of the child had sapped rather than created strength as it properly should have done. White and wasted she lay for long hours on the lounge near the window where she could see the gentle green hills. Here her cousin Alice Johnston found her, when she arrived with her children to make Mrs. Price a visit. The large, placid woman knelt by Isabelle's side and gathered her in her arms.

"I'm so glad, dear! When is it to be?"

"Oh, sometime in the fall," Isabelle replied vaguely, bored that her condition already revealed itself. "Did you want the first one?" she asked after a time.

"Well, not at the very first. You see it was just so much more of a risk. And our marriage was a risk without that.... I hated the idea of becoming a burden for Steve. But with you it will be so different, from the start. And then it always makes its own place, you see. When it comes, you will think you always wanted it!"

She smiled in her large human way, as if she had tested the trials of life and found that all held some sweet. Isabelle looked down at her thin arms. The Johnstons had four, and they were so poor! As if divining her thought, Alice said:--

"Every time I wondered how we were going to survive, but somehow we did. And now it will all be well, with Steve's new position--"

"What is that?"

"Hasn't John told you? It has just been settled; Steve is going into the A. and P.,--John's assistant in St. Louis."

"I'm so glad for you," Isabelle responded listlessly. She recalled now something that her husband had said about Johnston being a good man, who hadn't had his chance, and that he hoped to do something for him.

"Tremendous rise in salary,--four thousand," Alice continued buoyantly. "We shan't know what to do with all that money! We can give the children the best education."

Isabelle reflected that John's salary had been five thousand at Torso, and as fourth Vice-president would be ten thousand. And she still had her twenty-five hundred dollars of allowance from her father. Alice's elation over Steve's rise gave her a sudden appreciation of her husband's growing power,--his ability to offer a struggling man his chance. Perhaps he could do something for the Falkners also. The thought took her out of herself for a little while. Men were free to work out their destiny in life, to go hither and thither, to alter fate. But a woman had to bear children. John was growing all this time, and she was separated from him. She tried to believe that this was the reason for her discontent, this separation from her husband; but she knew that when she had been perfectly free, she had not shared largely in his activity....

"You must tell me all about the St. Mary's girls," Alice said. "Have you seen Aline?"

"Yes,--she has grown very faddy, I should think,--arts and crafts and all that. Isn't it queer? I asked her to visit us, but she has another one coming,--the third!"

Isabelle made a little grimace.

"And Margaret?"

"She has suddenly gone abroad with her husband--to Munich. He's given up his business. Didn't her marriage surprise you?"

"Yes, I thought she was going to marry that Englishman who was at your wedding."

"Mr. Hollenby? Yes, every one did. Something happened. Suddenly she became engaged to this Pole,--a New York man. Very well connected, and has money, I hear. Conny wrote me about him." ...

So they gossiped on. When Alice rose to leave her, Isabelle held her large cool hand in hers. The older woman, whose experience had been so unlike hers, so difficult, soothed her, gave her a suggestion of other kinds of living than her own little life.

"I'm glad you are here," she said. "Come in often, won't you?"

And her cousin, leaning over to kiss her as she might a fretful child who had much to learn, murmured, "Of course, dear. It will be all right!"

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Together - Part One - Chapter 12 Together - Part One - Chapter 12

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PART ONE CHAPTER XIIThe Steve Johnstons had had a hard time, as Isabelle would have phrased it. He had been a faithful, somewhat dull and plodding student at the technical school he took the civil engineering degree, and had gone forth to lay track in Montana. He laid it well; but this job finished, there seemed no permanent place for him. He was heavy and rather tongue-tied, and made no impression on his superiors except that of commonplace efficiency. He drifted into Canada, then back to the States, and finally found a place in Detroit. Here, while working for thirty

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Together - Part One - Chapter 10
PART ONE CHAPTER XIf Isabelle had been curious about her husband's interest in the Pleasant Valley Coal Company, she might have developed a highly interesting chapter of commercial history, in which Mr. Freke and John Lane were enacting typical parts. The Atlantic and Pacific railroad corporation is, as may easily be inferred, a vast organism, with a history, a life of its own, lying like a thick ganglia of nerves and blood-vessels a third of the way across our broad continent, sucking its nourishment from thousands of miles of rich and populous territory. To write its history humanly, not statistically, would