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HOME > Short Stories > The Crux: A Novel > CHAPTER XII. ACHIEVEMENTS.
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 There are some folk born to beauty, And some to plenteous gold,
Some who are proud of being young,
Some proud of being old.
Some who are glad of happy love,
Enduring, deep and true,
And some who enjoy
The little things they do.
Upon all this Grandma Pettigrew cast an observant eye, and thereupon. Coming to a decision, she first took a course of reading in some of Dr. Bellair's big books, and then developed a series of perplexing symptoms, not of a too or nature, that took her to Dr. Hale's office frequently.
"You haven't Dr. Bellair, have you?" he asked her.
"I have never consulted Jane Bellair as a physician," she replied, "though I her much as a friend."
The old lady's company was always welcome to him; he liked her eye, her close-lipped, sharp remarks, and appreciated the real kindness of her heart.
If he had known how closely she was peering into the locked of his own, and how much she saw there, he would perhaps have avoided her as he did Vivian, and if he had known further that this ingenious old lady, pursuing long genealogical discussions with him, had finally a old-time friend, and had forthwith started a correspondence with that friend, based on this common acquaintance in Carston, he might have left that city.
The old-time friend, baited by Mrs. Pettigrew's innocent comment on Dr. Hale's in single blessedness, poured what she knew of the cause with no more embellishment than time is sure to give.
"I know why he won't marry," wrote she. "He had reason good to begin with, but I never dreamed he'd be enough to keep it up sixteen years. When he was a boy in college here I knew him well—he was a splendid fellow, one of the very finest. But he fell in love with that beautiful Mrs. James—don't you remember about her? She married a St. Cloud later, and he left her, I think. She was as lovely as a cameo—and as hard and flat. That woman was the saintliest thing that ever breathed. She wouldn't live with her husband because he had done something wrong; she wouldn't get a divorce, nor let him, because that was wicked—and she always had a string of boys round her, and talked about the moral influence she had on them.
"Young Hale worshipped her—simply worshipped her—and she let him. She let them all. She had that much that was god-like about her—she loved . You need not ask for particulars. She was far too 'particular' for that. But one light-headed chap went and drowned himself—that was all hushed up, of course, but some of us felt pretty sure why. He was a half-brother to Dick Hale, and Dick was fond of him. Then he turned hard and hateful all at once—used to talk about women. He kept straight enough—that's easy for a mysogynist, and studying medicine didn't help him any—doctors and ministers know286 too much about women. So there you are. But I'm astonished to hear he's never gotten over it; he always was obstinate—it's his only fault. They say he swore never to marry—if he did, that accounts. Do give my regards if you see him again."
Mrs. Pettigrew considered long and deeply over this information, as she slowly produced a striped with Roman vividness. It was noticeable in this new life in Carston that Mrs. Pettigrew's knitted jackets had grown brighter in from month to month. Whereas, in Bainville, purple and brown were the high lights, and black, and navy blue the main colors; now her worsteds were as a painter's palette, and the result not only cheered, but bade fair to .
"A pig-headed man," she said to herself, as her needle steadily in and out; "a pig-headed man, with a pig-headedness of sixteen years' . His hair must 'a turned gray from the strain of it. And there's Vivian, biddin' fair to be an old maid after all. What on earth!" She appeared to have forgotten that marriages are made287 in heaven, or to disregard that saying. "The Lord helps those that help themselves," was one of her favorite mottoes. "And much more those that help other people!" she used to add.
Flitting in and out of Dr. Hale's at all hours, she that he had a fondness for music, with a phenomenal incapacity to produce any. He encouraged his boys to play on any and every instrument the town afforded, and to sing, whether they could or not; and seemed never to weary of their attempts, though far from satisfied with the product.
"Huh!" said Mrs. Pettigrew.
Vivian could play, "Well enough to know better," she said, and seldom touched the piano. She had a deep, full, contralto voice, and a fair degree of training. But she would never make music unless she felt like it—and in this busy life, with so many people about her, she had always refused.
Grandma meditated.
She selected an evening when most of the boarders were out at some entertainment, and selfishly begged Vivian to stay at home288 with her—said she was feeling badly and wanted company. Grandma so seldom wanted anything that Vivian readily ; in fact, she was quite worried about her, and asked Dr. Bellair if she thought anything was the matter.
"She has seemed more quiet lately," said that lady, "and I've noticed her going in to Dr. Hale's during office hours. But perhaps it's only to visit with him."
"Are you in any pain, Grandma?" asked the girl, affectionately. "You're not sick, are you?"
"O, no—I'm not sick," said the old lady, . "I'm just—well, I felt sort of lonesome to-night—perhaps I'm homesick."
As she had never shown the faintest sign of any feeling for their home, except criticism and unfavorable comparison, Vivian rather questioned this theory, but she began to think there was something in it when her grandmother, sitting by the window in the spring , began to talk of how this time of year always made her think of her girlhood.
"Time for the March peepers at home.289 It's early here, and no peepers anywhere that I've heard. ' this time we'd be going to evening meeting. Seems as if I could hear that little old organ—and the singing!"
"Hadn't I better shut that window," asked Vivian. "Won't you get cold?"
"No, indeed," said her grandmother, . "I'm plenty warm—I've got this little shawl around me. And it's so soft and pleasant out."
It was soft and pleasant, a delicious May-like night in March, full of spring and hints of coming flowers. On the dark across the way she could make out a still figure sitting alone, and the of Balzac's heel as he struggled with his intimate enemies told her who it was.
"Come Ye Disconsolate," she began to hum, most erroneously. "How does that go, Vivian? I was always fond of it, even if I can't sing any more'n a peacock."
Vivian hummed it and gave the words in a low voice.
"That's good!" said the old lady. "I declare, I'm kinder hungry for some of those old . I wish you'd play me some of 'em, Vivian."
So Vivian, glad to please her, woke the yellow keys to softer music than they were accustomed to, and presently her rich, low voice, sure, easy, full of quiet feeling, flowed out on the soft night air.
Grandma was not long content with the hymns. "I want some of those old-fashioned songs—you used to know a lot of 'em. Can't you do that 'Kerry Dance' of Molloy's, and 'Twickenham Ferry'—and 'Lauriger Horatius?'"
Vivian gave her those, and many another, , English songs and German Lieder—glad to please her grandmother so easily, and quite unconscious of a dark figure which had crossed the street and come silently to sit on the farthest corner of their piazza.
Grandma, meanwhile, watched him, and Vivian as well, and then, with the most unsuspected suddenness, took to her bed. Sciatica, she said. An pain that came upon her so suddenly she couldn't stand up. She felt much better lying down.291 And Dr. Hale must attend her unceasingly.
This unlooked for of the phenomenally active old lady was a great blow to Mr. Skee; he showed real concern and begged to be allowed to see her.
"Why not?" said Mrs. Pettigrew. "It's nothing ."
She lay, high-pillowed, as stiff and well arranged as a Templar on a tombstone, arrayed for the occasion in a most little sack and ribbony night-cap.
"Why, ma'am," said Mr. Skee, "it's highly becomin' to you to be sick. It leads me to hope it's nothin' serious."
She regarded him enigmatically. "Is Dr. Hale out there, or Vivian?" she inquired in a low voice.
"No, ma'am—they ain't," he replied, after a glance in the next room.
Then he a penetrating eye upon her. She met it unflinchingly, but as his smile appeared and grew, its limitless widening spread , and her calm front was broken.
"Elmer Skee," said she, with sudden fury, "you hold your tongue!"
"Ma'am!" he replied, "I have said nothin'—and I don't intend to. But if the throne of Europe was occupied by you, Mrs. Pettigrew, we would have a better managed world."
He proved a most agreeable and steady visitor during this period of , and gave her full accounts of all that went on outside, with occasional bursts of merriment which no from Mrs. Pettigrew seemed wholly to check.
He regaled her with accounts of his continuous with Mrs. St. Cloud, and the wisdom and good taste with which she invariably advised him.
"Don't you admire a Friendship, Mrs. Pettigrew?"
"I do not!" said the old lady, sharply. "And what's more I don't believe you do."
"Well, ma'am," he answered, swaying backward and forward on the legs of his chair, "there are moments when I confess it looks improbable."
Mrs. Pettigrew cocked her head on one293 side and turned a gimlet eye upon him. "Look here, Elmer Skee," she said suddenly, "how much money have you really got?"
He brought down his chair on four legs and regarded her for a few moments, his smile widening slowly. "Well, ma'am, if I live through the necessary expenses involved on my present , I shall have about two thousand a year—if rents are steady."
"Which I judge you do not wish to be known?"
"If there's one thing more than another I have always admired in you, ma'am, it is the of your . In it I have absolute confidence."
Mrs. St. Cloud had some time since summoned Dr. Hale to her side for a severe headache, but he had merely sent word that his time was occupied, and recommended Dr. Bellair.
Now, observing Mrs. Pettigrew's tactics, the fair resolved to take the bull by the horns and go herself to his office. She found him easily enough. He lifted his eyes as she entered, rose and stood with folded arms regarding her silently. The tall, heavy figure, the full beard, the glasses, confused even her excellent memory. After all it was many years since they had met, and he had been but one of a multitude.
She was all sweetness and gentle apology for forcing herself upon him, but really she had a little prejudice against women doctors—his reputation was so great—he was so temptingly near—she was in such pain—she had such perfect confidence in him—
He sat down quietly and listened, watching her from under his bent brows. Her eyes were dropped, her voice very weak and appealing; her words most chosen.
"I have told you," he said at length, "that I never treat women for their petty , if I can avoid it."
She shook her head in grieved acceptance, and lifted large eyes for one of those penetrating sympathetic glances so frequently successful.
"How you must have suffered!" she said.
"I have," he replied grimly. "I have suf295fered a long time from having my eyes opened too suddenly to the brainless cruelty of women, Mrs. James."
She looked at him again, searchingly, and gave a little cry. "Dick Hale!" she said.
"Yes, Dick Hale. Brother to poor little Joe Medway, whose foolish young heart you broke, among others; whose death you are responsible for."
She was looking at him with widening wet eyes. "Ah! If you only knew how I, too, have suffered over that!" she said. "I was scarce more than a girl myself, then. I was careless, not heartless. No one knew what pain I was bearing, then. I liked the of those nice boys—I never realized any of them would take it seriously. That has been a heavy shadow on my life, Dr. Hale—the fear that I was the thoughtless cause of that terrible thing. And you have never forgiven me. I do not wonder."
He was looking at her in grim silence again, wishing he had not spoken.
"So that is why you have never been to The Cottonwoods since I came," she pursued. "And I am responsible for all your loneliness. O, how dreadful!"
Again he rose to his feet.
"No, madam, you mistake. You were responsible for my brother's death, and for a bitter on my part, but you are in no way responsible for my attitude since. That is wholly due to myself. Allow me again to recommend Dr. Jane Bellair, an excellent physician and even more accessible."
He held the door for her, and she went out, not wholly dissatisfied with her visit. She would have been far more could she have followed his thoughts .
"What a I have been all my life!" he was . "Because I met this particular type of sex , to go sour—and forego all chance of happiness. Like a silly girl. A fool girl who says, 'I will never marry!' just because of some quarrel * * * But the girl never keeps her word. A man must."
The days were long to Vivian now, and dragged a little, for all her industry.
Mrs. St. Cloud tried to revive their former , but the girl could not renew it on the same basis. She, too, had sympathized with Mr. Dykeman, and now sympathized somewhat with Mr. Skee. But since that man still volubly on Platonism, and his fair friend openly agreed in this view, there seemed no real ground for .
Mrs. Pettigrew remained a............
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