His Family


The next morning on his arrival in town, Roger went to his office. He had little cause for uneasiness there, for twice in the summer he had come down to keep an eye on the business, while John had taken brief vacations at a seaside place nearby. The boy had no color now in his cheeks; as always, they were a sallow gray with the skin drawn tight over high cheek bones; his vigor was all in his eyes. But here was a new John, nevertheless, a successful man of affairs. He had on a spruce new suit of brown, no cheap ready-made affair but one carefully fitted to conceal and soften his deformity. He was wearing a bright blue tie and a cornflower in his buttonhole, and his sandy hair was sleekly brushed. He showed Roger into his private room, a small place he had partitioned off, where over his desk was a motto in gold: "This is no place for your troubles or mine."

"Lord, but you've got yourself fixed up fine in here," said Roger. John smiled broadly. "And you're looking like a new man, Johnny."

"I had a great time at the seashore. Learned to sail a boat alone. What do you think of this chair of mine?" And John complacently displayed the ingenious contrivance in front of his desk, somewhat like a bicycle seat. It was made of steel and leather pads.

"Wonderful," said Roger. "Where'd you ever pick it up?"

"I had it made," was the grave reply. "When a fellow has got up in life enough to have a stenographer, it's high time he was sitting down."

"[289]Let's see you do it." John sat down. "Now how is business?" Roger asked.

"Great. Since the little slump we had in August it has taken a new start—and not only war business, at that—the old people are sending in orders again. I tell you what it is, Mr. Gale, this country is right on the edge of a boom!"

And the junior member of the firm tilted triumphantly back in his chair.

With the solid comfort which comes to a man when he returns to find his affairs all going well, Roger worked on until five o'clock, and then he started for his home.

Deborah had not yet come in, and a deep silence reigned in the house. He looked through the rooms downstairs, and with content he noticed how little had been altered. His beloved study had not been touched. On the third floor, in the large back room, he found John comfortably installed. There were gay prints upon the walls, fresh curtains at the windows, a mandolin lying on a chair. And Roger, glancing down at the keen glad face of his partner, told himself that the doctor who had said this lad would die was a fool.

"These doctors fool themselves often," he thought.

Deborah and Allan had the front room on the floor below. Roger went in, and for a moment he stood looking about him. How restful and how radiant was this large old-fashioned chamber, so softly lighted, waiting. Through a passageway lined with cupboards he went into his room at the back. Deborah had repapered it, but with a pattern so similar that Roger did not notice the change. He only felt a vague freshness here, as though even this old chamber, too, were making a new start in life. And he felt as though he were to live here for years. Slowly he unpacked his trunk and took a bath and dressed at his leisure. Then he heard Deborah's voice at the door.

"Come in, come in!" he answered.

"[290]Why, father! Dearie!" Deborah cried "Oh, how well you're looking, dad!" And she kissed him happily. "Oh, but I'm glad to have you back—"

"That's good," he said, and he squeezed her hand "Here, come to the light, let me look at you." He saw her cheeks a little flushed, the gladness in her steady eyes. "Happy? Everything just right?" His daughter nodded, smiling, and he gave a whimsical frown. "No ups and down at all? That's bad."

"Oh, yes, plenty—but all so small."

"Good fellow to live with."


"And your work?

"It's going splendidly. I'll tell you about it this evening, after you give me the news from the farm."

They chatted on for a short while, but he saw she was barely listening.

"Can't you guess what it means," she asked him softly, "to a woman of my age—after she has been so afraid she was too old, that she'd married too late—to know at last—to be sure at last—that she's to have a baby, dad?" He drew back a little, and a lump rose in his throat.

"By George!" he huskily exclaimed. "Oh, my dear, my dear!" And he held her close in his arms for some time, till both of them grew sensible.

Soon after she had gone to her room, he heard Allan coming upstairs. He heard her low sweet cry of welcome, a silence, then their voices. He heard them laughing together and later Deborah humming a song. And still thinking of what she had told him, he felt himself so close to it all. And again the feeling came to him that surely he would live here for years.

Allan came in and they had a talk.

"Deborah says she has told you the news."

"Yes. Everything's all right, I suppose—her condition, I mean," said Roger.

"[291]Couldn't be better."

"Just as I thought."

"Those six weeks we had up in Maine—"

"Yes, you both show it. Working hard?"


"And Deborah?" Roger asked.

"You'll have to help me hold her in."

They talked a few moments longer and went down to the living room. John was there with Deborah. All four went in to dinner. And through the conversation, from time to time Roger noticed the looks that went back and forth between husband and wife; and again he caught Deborah smiling as though oblivious of them all. After dinner she went with him into his den.

"Well! Do you like the house?" she inquired.

"Better than ever," he replied.

"I wonder if you'll mind it. There'll be people coming to dinner, you know—"

"That won't bother me any," he said.

"And committee meetings now and then. But you're safe in here, it's a good thick door."

"Let 'em talk," he retorted, "as hard as they please. You're married now—they can't scare me a bit. Only at ten o'clock, by George, you've got to knock off and go to bed."

"Oh, I'll take care of myself," she said.

"If you don't, Allan will. We've had a talk."

"Scheming already."

"Yes. When will it be?"

"In April, I think."

"You'll quit work in your schools?"

"A month before."

"And in the meantime, not too hard."

"No, and not too easy. I'm so sure now that I can do both." And Deborah kissed him gently. "I'm so happy, dearie—and oh, so very glad you're here!"

[292]There followed for Roger, after that, many quiet evenings at home, untroubled days in his office. Seldom did he notice the progress of his ailment. His attention was upon his house, as this woman who mothered thousands of children worked on for her great family, putting all in order, making ready for the crisis ahead when she would become the mother of one.

Now even more than ever before, her work came crowding into his home. The house was old, but the house was new. For from schools and libraries, cafés and tenements and streets, the mighty formless hunger which had once so thrilled her father poured into the house itself and soon became a part of it. He felt the presence of the school. He heard the daily gossip of that bewildering system of which his daughter was a part: a world in itself, with its politics, its many jarring factions, its jealousies, dissensions, its varied personalities, ambitions and conspiracies; but in spite of these confusions its more progressive elements downing all distrusts and fears and drawing steadily closer to life, fearlessly rousing everywhere the hunger in people to live and learn and to take from this amazing world all the riches that it holds: the school with its great challenge steadily increasing its demands in the name of its children, demands which went deep down into conditions in the tenements and ramified through politics to the City Hall, to Albany, and even away to Washington—while day by day and week by week, from cities, towns and villages came the vast prophetic story of the free public schools of the land.

And meanwhile, in the tenements, still groping and testing, feeling her way, keeping close watch on her great brood, their wakening desires, their widening curiosities, Deborah was bringing them, children, mothers and fathers too, together through the one big hope of brighter and more ample lives for everybody's children. Step by step this hope was spread out into the surrounding swamps and [293]jungles of blind driven lives, to find surprising treasures there deep buried under dirt and din, locked in the common heart of mankind—old songs and fables, hopes and dreams and visions of immortal light, handed down from father to son, nurtured, guarded, breathed upon and clothed anew by countless generations, innumerable millions of simple men and women blindly struggling toward the sun. Over the door of one of the schools, were these words carved in the stone:

"Humanity is still a child. Our parents are all people who have lived upon the earth—our children, all who are to come. And the dawn at last is breaking. The great day has just begun."

This spirit of triumphal life poured deep into Roger's house. It was as though his daughter, in these last months which she had left for undivided service, were strengthening her faith in it all and pledging her devotion—as communing with herself she felt the crisis drawing near.

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