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mentioned Hilda Moore. And he looked uneasily at Helen. At the next Sunday evening party I came to, Hilda was conspicuously not present. But from something Richard said, I knew he had still been seeing her outside of business.
I should have liked to know exactly what was going on in Richard's mind and heart during these months. After Hilda's marriage Richard talked fairly vaguely about it to me one evening, but I am frank to admit that my picture of what happened is at best reconstructive surmise.
As far as I can make out, Richard discovered that the eternal triangle is a little differently composed than it is conceived in the best conventional traditions. At the beginning I think Richard would have been surprised to learn that he was getting perilously near the eternal triangle at all. The choice that a married man has to face, Richard found out, when he began to realize whither he was drifting, is not primarily a choice between two women. He must make his decision between two modes of life, between acquiescence to a momentary passion for a transient presence and a permanent absorption to his wife and his home. Richard, who hates to think of life as shaped by institutions or constrained by them, has, among other passions, a passion for loyalty and an unremitting allegiance to any human enterprise in which he has become involved. I might have known better than to have worried about him. For if it had come to a choice, it would have been impossible for Richard to make the hectic and rebellious one. Long before he was married, I had heard him rail at some of his contemporaries
whose marriage had gone on the rocks. "They want to have their cake and eat it at the same time," he had said. "Well, they can't. The things that marriage has to offer are permanent, and they ought to be willing to be good sports and give up momentary entanglements for it. At eighteen I used to believe in the right 'to drift with every passion till my soul' was a stringed lute, and all that sort of thing. Well, you can't do that when you're an adult living in a grown-up world."
I do not know how much Richard would have abided by this high doctrine if Hilda had not simplified the matter for him. Richard is no Don Juan and no philanderer, but Hilda, if she had wanted him very badly, might have had him. Or perhaps she knew better.
At any rate, Hilda disappeared from Richard's life and Richard's conversation, and, I suspect, from his memory. So far as I can gather his imagination was absorbed completely these next few months in the fact that Helen was going to have a child. He-how extraordinarily the thought exhilarated him!-was going to be a father.
The next winter I was spending in Sicily on a sabbatical year. Here in this remote corner of the world, in the shadow of Greek temples among olive hills, metaphysics flowed more easily than it could in the interruptions of an American university. I was having an after-luncheon coffee in the luxuriantly tropical gardens behind the Hotel des Temples. Hotel des Temples. The concierge brought me a letter. I recognized Richard's handwriting. I had not heard from him in months.
"New York, January 6.
"The tables are turned, and you are basking in the Sicilian sun, while I am wading in the January slush of New York. Well, if you should see Venus Genetrix rising from the sea, tell her her influence is still abroad in the world. I beg to announce the arrival in the solar system of Richard Kane, Junior. He's a dear little bundle of chaos.
Helen insists he looks like me, but surely I never looked quite so formless and red and meaningless as that. We were going to name him after you, but Helen says it 's enough having one philosopher in the family. Oddly enough, she means me.
"I don't remember your ever teaching me anything about the paternal instinct. Maybe I'm the first one to have it. Of course it probably strikes you as absurd to think of me as a father at all. You'll never get over picturing me as a freshman. But I have become the very fatheriest of men. We manage, despite Junior's limited vocabulary, to have the most elaborate conversations. He misses the wit of most of what I say, but if it does not make him laugh, at least it makes him stop crying. Helen ridiculed me the other day because I brought him a rattle. It will be months before he gets that far, she says. But I have more faith in a child of ours. I am sure he looked at it for ten whole seconds yesterday.
"I did n't know a little bundle of flesh and noise could so profoundly transmogrify one's view of the world. This business of being a father seems for the moment to be the only important fact about my life. Not that I'm defeated, or that I have given up the idea of some day going roller
skating on the rainbow. But there is a little breathlessness in the thought that everything I might have accomplished or hoped for has another and a fighting chance in this infant.
"I am trying to think up everything I ever knew about heredity and environment. It seems a frightfully important subject now. I am encouraged to remember that many of a child's good traits come from ancestors further back than his father and mother. His grandparents, though they do not like Shaw or Stravinsky, have all the solid virtues.
"I find myself sitting here for hours regarding this blatant little mass of energy and wondering what will become of him. What can we do with him or for him? Helen says nothing for the present except buy the Book of Knowledge and be ready to answer questions he 'll be asking in two or three years.
"One thing the child has already done is to revise all my notions of parenthood. I 've had a complex these last ten years against all parents. I thought they blighted and corrupted children by their prejudices and their middle-class habits. Here Helen and I have become parents. I shudder to think what the baby will think of us twenty years from now. Or whether he will think of us at all. You tell me I don't look more than twenty. I am afraid my ideas are of about the same vintage. My main aim now will be to keep up with the baby.
"Now that the child is here, marriage has taken on quite another dimension. It seemed the first two years simply the close intimacy of two good friends. It was hard to think of us two as a family. Now all of a sudden our
apartment has become a household, an establishment, an organized society, all revolving around the presence of a child. Even so tiny and incipient a one can make marriage seem so completely different an institution. Childless marriages seem to me a tragedy now, almost a decadence. I don't mean anything about duty to society and all that. But the fulness and meaning of marriage seem to me only revealed in the presence and absorption of children. I feel now a partnership in posterity with Helen. The future seems a real and tangible investment. Twenty years from now used to seem altogether blank and impossible. It does n't now. All the years of the next two decades are filled with the images of the growth of Junior. His future has become my adventure. I abdicate in favor of the heir apparent.
"How much of life bachelors know nothing about! And how many philosophers, as I recall it, were bachelors!
It is three years afterward. I am at Richard's for a week-end at the seashore during the summer. The novelty, though not the delight, of parenthood has worn off for Richard. Junior is nearly three. There is a little girl of three months. Richard seems very much married. I like the patient way Richard answers all the boy's questions. There is something sweet about the way he follows him with a watchful eye lest he tumble off the porch or collide with the iron frame of the hammock. Richard Junior is a sunny, robust little fellow whose golden curls and golden smile would,
save for his robustness, make him seem as fragile and fine as an angel. Helen has become a bustling little matron. She has not deserted her music, but she is for the present, and confessedly, the completely absorbed mother. For that matter, it is becoming almost impossible for me to imagine Richard outside the domestic state. I confess that on the Sundays I spend with them I think the children are too much with us, late and soon. There were no babies in Plato's dialogues. I'll be more interested in Richard Junior when he is ready to enter college. There is a felicity in Richard's absorption in his family that is natural and agreeable. Yet I am beginning to have very genuine fears for him. I am missing of late his old alert attention and engaging wonder about the broad world of events and ideas. He has capitulated to bridge, but not yet to golf. I am beginning to fear that domesticity, security, and suburbia are killing him. Perhaps torments and maladjustments are necessary to keep the soul alive. Toward sunset Richard and I walked down to the beach together. Helen was busy with the children. Richard was, perhaps, divining some of the thoughts that were going through my head.
"Well, Professor, I seem to have capitulated to provincialism, don't I? I have a notion I am living in the most real of worlds. A man cannot see life steadily or see it whole who sees it from the cell of a hermit, or with the myopia of a bachelor or a celibate. A roaming vagabondage, a childless marriage, none of these things seem a life as rich and solid as this."
Going home in the train that evening, my mind drifted back to the boy
who had drifted into my office ten years ago for advice as to how to save his soul. An eager, though not eagle, spirit, free yet of the ruts of the world and unwilling to be constrained by them. Well, I reflect to myself, there is no great genius lost here, no dreams undreamed, no heights unscaled-and yet. Richard himself feels an "and yet." It occurs to him, I gather, most frequently in the hour's ride between his suburban shore station and the New York terminal. Early in June he met a few college boys commuting to school.
"I wonder if I seemed to them," he said to me, "as much out of their generation as they did to me. I wonder if they are destined to the same cycle of bourgeois destiny. Perhaps it's as good and rich a fate as any. And yet-"
We were discussing the implications of that phrase at dinner in an Italian restaurant one evening when Richard was staying in town on business. He talks now with more assurance, with a smiling deprecation of the possibilities of life, and with a note of precocious reminiscence that is a novelty in him. I suppose I shall treat him all my life as a kind of younger brother. But he has come to seem to me, though he hardly shows more than twenty-two of his twenty-nine years, a great deal older and more worldly-wise than I.
Richard was depressed, with that lassitude that comes ironically in the fresh spring of the year to those wearied by a winter's work. We were smoking our after-dinner cigarettes.
"I came to you ten years ago with my spiritual troubles. They're not
over yet. That may be a good sign. It's curious how for a time a man may become absorbed in his family, and satisfied with the absorption. I have been, and am, I suppose. It saves you from loneliness and isolation and the torture of self-questionings. It almost saves you. And then all of a sudden it all seems terribly outside of you. I am maddened sometimes to think of the terrific futility of this amiable cycle I 've got into. Helen and Junior and the baby are enough to make a happiness, I suppose; but I seem to be closed in by them. Confound it! is the only lesson life teaches you before your twenties are over that there are no rainbows really, no heights, no depths, no eternities? Only pleasant anemia and golden mediocrity. I am getting to feel as if I were spiritually in solitary confinement or marking time in a treadmill. Is that bound to be the experience of even the fortunate youths of my generation? For I am fortunate. Economically, I am secure. I 've got a reasonably interesting job, an agreeable and healthy family. Is that the summit? Is that all there is? Why at twenty-nine are the stars all gone out in my heaven?"
"You 're tired, Dick," I suggested; "it's been a hard year."
"No; it 's middle-age coming on. First thing you know forty will come and be my final quietus.'
"I'm sorry, my boy," said an elderly gentleman who had accidently stepped on Richard's foot as we were walking out.
"Perhaps there 's hope for me yet," Richard whispered to me, smiling.
Memories of Chicago
II-The Age of Gentility
By H. C. CHATFIELD-TAYLOR
N a world where political, religious, and ethical beliefs that have long been held dear are being destroyed or altered before my very eyes, to accept the new order of things as being, on the whole, a change for the better would seem to be the part of wisdom. Nevertheless, I am inclined to suspect that almost as many crimes are being committed to-day in the name of that magical word "progress" as once were laid by Mme. Roland at the door of liberty; or at least that the countless changes that are being made are not all to be viewed in the light of "good deeds shining in a naughty world."
But this is a progressive age, declare you of a generation "knocking," as Ibsen has said, "at the door," or, as Mr. G. K. Chesterton has put it more aptly, "entering without knocking❞—
do without ceremony, and cannot do without art, but are only allowed to choose whether our ceremony or our art shall be dignified or vulgar." All of which has nothing to do with the Chicago of fifty years ago, I readily admit, save that in a city of three hundred thousand souls there was more dignity and less vulgarity, I believe, than in one of three million.
There was more piety, too, the Chicagoans who did not attend church being anathema then in the eyes of their neighbors. Yet the piety of that day verged upon sanctimoniousness, even my father being looked upon askance by some because he played whist, and my mother by others for permitting dancing in her house. Ah, but there was one custom of those strait-laced days the comity of which I sorely miss
an age in which youth may express it--that of calling on "New Year's," I
self freely both in life and in art.
Alas! unless it be lived in abject loneliness upon a desert isle, life is never free from restraint; and I suspect that Cicero was right when he said, two thousand years ago, that "in art, the chief thing is that what you do shall be befitting." I am sure, at least, that I agree with Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who is not to be dismissed with Cicero as an old fogy of a bygone day, in his contention that "we cannot
mean, which, burdensome though it no doubt was to hostess and caller alike, was indeed a courtly custom, free from the rowdyism and vulgarity of "seeing," or rather drinking, the New Year in that has succeeded it.
Indeed, no more pleasing recollection remains to me that that of New Year's day half a century ago. I can even hear the sleigh-bells jingling in West Washington Street and the snow being crunched beneath the wheels of