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your intimates for a few years, you can't eschew the whole race of your contemporaries and expect to make very much of the time left you. It's rather ridiculous in you, Linda, to despise all motion because you could n't keep up with a fast set. So, unless you absolutely forbid me, I'm coming out to see you to-morrow. For one reason, it's your birthday; and for another, there are n't any rules in the etiquette book on how to behave on your husband's wedding-day; and at least you can talk to me, which you can't to Philippa or Tiny.
Linda digested this with her breakfast. She had long ago ceased to wonder that Leigh Vane rushed in upon ground where the most tactful of ministering angels could not have trodden; yet she knew he was as wholesome for her as are sun and air for a fever patient. Many times in the past few years he had opened windows letting in light to the sick-room of her almost morbid brain. In a way, his letter took the edge off the mood in which she found herself prepared to face life; only a short time ago she had felt that she was ready for whatever the future held for her; but she realized now that she had wanted nothing so disturbing to her tranquillity as this meeting with Vane to happen at once. She was quite willing to enjoy her peace superficially, without stirring any of the depths of thought which he invariably discovered in her; nor did she want to be scolded for the philosophy of little resistance upon which she planned to erect her life. Vane, who appreciated only what he gained by his own labor, was not always sympathetic to Linda's moods. She had once told him that he made accomplishment his God, and had lost all temperament in his mania for efficiency.
As she dressed for riding, she regarded herself very critically. In the past months she had been a bit slack about her personal appearance, but she realized that her physical attractiveness was no less an asset than her mentality. She certainly did not look thirty: she was still essentially young in the slimness of her figure and the contour of her face; the hair was bright and luxuriant; and if the light eyes were a little hard, the mouth was adorable. She was, moreover, lucky in that supreme gift of wearing her clothes well and in being blessed with a skin that every color became. She was considered a beauty, but in reality she was more dependent on a certain dramatic quality than on any perfection of line.
She had ordered her horse at ten, and there was much to be attended to now she was up and dressed. Her house, her servants, and the welfare of her children brought duties which she treated with serious consideration, though the result produced so smooth a mechanism that a casual critic might have failed to recognize the personality which lay behind it.
It was a delightful day. The sun beat down with the first radiance that everything alive must respond to; the fresh wind from the northwest seemed to be engaged in a gigantic housecleaning to remove any traces of the old tenant before spring took up her definite abode. Linda, mounted on a young chestnut thoroughbred, enjoyed her ride hugely. It made her feel even more enthusiastic about life in general and her own in particular, than she had in the confining walls of her house. In this riot of sun and air, face to face with this colossal transformation that the world undertook every year, her own immediate problems took on their relative proportions. Harry's marriage, her own birthday, her meeting with Leigh Vane, all proved themselves in Nature's scheme of things as trivial as the dandelions that were beginning to star the fields she rode through. It was enough for the moment just to live and enjoy, to let the sun reawaken all that the winter of her discontent had felt die within her; enough to let this clean wind freshen the habitation of her mind and make it fit for the Linda Mainwaring who was preparing to abide there.
Her thoughts were distracted from herself by a chance meeting with a neighbor, a man too closely connected with the old order of her existence to render him entirely welcome. He was the husband of a woman who had once been a boon companion of the Mainwarings; and though Linda had often felt that he did not entirely endorse her, he apparently was making an effort to be cordial to-day, probably because he approved of Harry still less. As he was riding for exercise, he joined her, making civil remarks about the weather. It was obviously difficult for him to bring his conversation down to any local topic for fear of wounding her susceptibilities; but at last he ventured to mention a mutual friend who was not too closely connected with the somewhat unsavory memories they shared in common.
'I see that your friend Leigh Vane is slated for great things,' he said. 'If they run him for governor and he does pull it off, at his age, there's no telling where he'll end up.'
She was interested at once.
'Are they considering running him, then? I have n't seen Leigh for ages; and while I knew he was always dabbling in politics, I had no idea they really took him as seriously as that.'
'He is very well thought of in the state to-day,' the neighbor told her. 'He did a big thing in keeping out of the congressional election last year, and the powers that be are n't always ungrateful. He ought to have a chance, be
cause, if a good man is put up for our party, he 'll poll a good many votes from the Democrats. Their man, you see, is a renegade from the Roman Church, and so Leigh has a hope of that vote.'
'I do hope he'll win out,' Linda said. 'He's exactly the type of man who ought to go in for politics in this country at a time like this. I must leave you here,' she added, 'as I'm going home through the woods. It's been awfully nice to see you.'
She nodded and turned her horse, starting off briskly through the sundappled path, glad to be alone again.
She had lunch with the little girls and their governess. When the clock struck twice, as they finished, it occurred to her that their father was already the husband of another woman. As the two younger girls left the dining-room with Mademoiselle, Philippa dawdled behind, apparently eager to converse with her mother. She waited, with the intuitive tact that children sometimes display, until they were alone in the room, before she put the question which had been troubling her ever since she had overhead a conversation between the servants that morning.
• 'Mother,' she said, 'how can Daddy marry somebody else? Caroline told Hermence this morning it was a wonder you felt like riding horseback at the very hour of your husband's wedding.'
Linda had been expecting some such question, but it found her with no ready answer. She was almost tempted to evade it, to chide Philippa for listening to the servants' gossip; but she knew that would in no way check the ideas forming in the busy little head.
'I am sorry you heard Caroline,' she said at last. 'I had hoped you need know nothing about it until you were older, when of course I should have explained it to you myself. You knew that Daddy did n't live here with us any more because Daddy and I are not married any longer.'
'Is n't he our father any more?' asked Philippa.
'Yes, he's your father still, and because he's your father you must always love him and believe the best of him. You see, when he and I were married, we loved each other very much, so it was right for us to be married and have you and Tiny and Nancy for children; but after we found we did n't care, it became wrong to live together the way people do who love each other.'
'Did you get unmarried?' queried Philippa.
'So we got unmarried,' answered her mother. 'Only it's called getting divorced, and that left Daddy free to marry again, someone whom he did love.'
'How do you get di — divorced?' the child asked. 'Is it like a wedding? Do you go to church and have music and flowers and wear a white dress like Aunt Tina's?'
'It is n't like a wedding at all, dear. When people are married, it is a very happy time; but there is nothing happy about a divorce. It is very sad when two people, who planned to live all their lives together, find they don't love each other enough to make it possible.'
'Are you very sad, mother?'.
She wished she could answer truthfully that she was. It seemed so terrible to have to explain the sordid tragedy of divorce, and to admit that it had left her almost untouched. All the arguments which she had used a few months before in justifying the course she had determined to pursue appeared so futile in the face of Philippa's bewildered gaze.
'I'm not very sad any longer,' she answered at last. 'You see, I have you three girls to make me happy; and if I had never married Daddy, I should never have had you. And we will hope
that Daddy will be very happy, too, won't we?'
She tried to smile and started to rise from her chair, hoping that her rather lame explanation had satisfied the child; but Philippa had one more question.
'Then will you marry somebody, too?'
This time Linda was able to laugh.
'Oh, dear, no,' she said. 'I don't want to marry anybody. We shall all be very contented here just as we always have been. Run along now, my darling, and remember that mother has been telling you things she does n't want you to talk about with anyone, not even Mademoiselle or the little girls. If there's anything you don't understand, you're to ask me.'
They left the dining-room together, Philippa to prepare for her afternoon drive in the pony-cart, and Linda to read up on any political news she cculd find before Vane should appear. She discovered, however, that it was almost impossible to keep her mind on the printed pages, so often did her thoughts revert to her conversation with Philippa. She had not meant to make light to the child of the sanctity of marriage; yet it seemed impossible to explain the enormity of the step she and Harry had taken, and she doubted whether Philippa's psychology would not be more affected if she found her parents in a position which they themselves questioned.
But her pleasure in the day had gone, and Vane found her as he very possibly expected to find her when he had chosen this particular time to prove his friendship. It would have surprised and probably shocked him had he discovered Linda in her mood of the morning. As it was, he had the satisfaction of drawing her out of herself by talking to her openly of his own prospects. He had a delightful personality, and as he always took it for granted that women are no less interested in the broader topics of life than men, he took the same pains to talk well to them.
When he had broken down the barriers of her reserve, and they were again on their old footing, he began to question her about herself. He approved her attitude: she had been dignified and yet she had won the sympathy of everyone, simply by making no bid for it. He found her distinctly improved, and told her so.
'You've grown up,' he told her; 'not old, you understand, because, as a matter of fact, you look younger than ever, but you strike one now as an intelligent adult being.'
'I'd like to strike you as an adult lieing,' she answered, making a little face at him; but she was not displeased to be again talking personalities with a man who was interested in her. She told him how keen she was to make up for all the time she had lost on things which had proved so deplorably worthless, and how eager she felt to reconstruct her life on more rugged lines.
'One part of life is so entirely over,' she said, 'and that's the only part I know anything about. It's rather hard to know where to begin afresh.'
'Meaning, I suppose,' Vane answered, 'that your career as a wife is closed? My dear Linda, you have only just learned how to be a wife for a man; not a boy, you understand, but a grown-up man who wants a grown-up woman. Not,' he added, 'that your present frame of mind is n't a very healthy one until the right man comes along. You can't afford a second mistake.'
This was going a little far, even for Leigh. Linda became intensely serious.
'I wish you would try to appreciate the situation,' she said. 'You say I seem to have grown up, and I assure Vol. its—No. s
you that it is true, if it is only in the way I look at the things which I accepted so lightly a few months ago. While I find myself happier to-day than I have been since I outgrew my infatuation for Harry and have seen him with the eyes of all the people, yourself included, who begged me not to marry him, I realize more than ever before the tragedy that has occurred, and I would rather go back to the hell which made up my life until six months ago than have had to make the explanation which I made to Philippa to-day. So there is no need, Leigh, for your kindly little warning about second mistakes.'
'My dear Linda,' he said, quite as serious as she, 'I don't want you to think that I, of all people, have taken this step of yours as anything but the very best way out of an intolerable situation, and I trust with all my heart that it is one which will prove to be for the happiness of everyone concerned; although I understand you perfectly when you say that to-day you feel that happiness is hardly an essential compared to your children's belief in the sanctity of marriage. Forgive me if I have offended by too great frankness in stating that I can't believe that life is over for anyone who has developed under it as magnificently as you.'
Compliments from Leigh were few and far between, and Linda treasured them correspondingly. She took his proffered hand.
'You will help me to go on, won't you?' she said. 'I am depending on you to keep me in touch with lots of big things, which are all around you and quite out of reach of a lone woman.'
'As a start, I'll send you some books which may be of interest,' he promised. 'At least, I hope they'll prove so involved you 'll have to let me come often to explain them.'
In a few moments he took his departure, conscious that he felt more intense sympathy for this old friend than he had in all the miserable years which had followed her rash disregard of his advice and the advice of all the people who had known both Linda and Mainwaring. To him, divorce was a very hideous thing; and the fact that it had become so to her made her more appealing than she had been before she had experienced it. Linda, on her side, felt that her friendship with Leigh had been put through the acid test and come out pure gold.
She began to pick up the broken threads again, and in the next few months, although she became intimate with no one, she resumed a normal intercourse with the people who had been lifelong friends and neighbors. But behind her outer life she continued to expand and develop within herself. The books which Leigh sent her she not only read, but studied; and soon he was coming, not only to expound their meanings, but to discuss and argue them with her. That summer they went deep into a comprehension of Socialism, and, strangely enough, it made a strong appeal both to the woman who had spent her whole life among the frivolous by-products of capitalism and to the man who was running for governor, the choice of serious capitalists. As the work of his campaign grew more engrossing, he found tremendous inspiration in Linda's freshly awakened mental responsiveness; and in meeting the demands of her eager mind for more and ever more facts and explanations, he developed a knowledge of the psychology of the people whom he wanted for his constituents.
It happened that year that there was no dearth of gubernatorial material for the Republicans to choose from, and the nomination of a candidate promised a more bitter fight than the election it
self. The state had suffered through a considerable period from a Democratic governor, who had been sustained in office by the labor vote and the Roman Church, of which he was a member. He had pushed representatives of that institution on every state board which had hitherto kept clear of sectarian differences; and he had been very much to the fore in advocating parochial schools to be supported by the unredeemed but tax-paying public.
But, although many people despised the Governor, his policies did not awaken enough antagonism in the country districts, where the Republicans must look for their strength, to defeat him, unless some defalcation should split his own ranks. Suddenly, when his enemies were despairing, he not only threw ammunition into their hands, but caused an explosion among his own adherents. Whether it was a question of real conviction, or pressure brought to bear by some political magnate who was in matrimonial difficulties, could not be ascertained; but without warning to the leaders of his party or his Church, the Governor announced himself in favor of more uniform and lenient divorce laws. The present laws, he was quoted as saying, entailed suffering only on the poor, while the rich evaded them by taking up residence in some other state. It was preposterous, if a person could obtain divorce from a criminal, that one could not from a lunatic; and if religious conviction made divorce and remarriage possible for one cause, it should do as much for several causes. He added that the state laws could not affect people to whom the Church denied divorce; that personally, as a Catholic, he deplored divorce, but as governor of a people of varying creeds, he invoked justice.
This last, which was obviously intended as a sop to his Church, failed to abate the antagonism that his position