A Poor Wise Man
"Not very young. In his thirties, I should think," Lily hesitated again. She had
meant to tell her mother of the engagement for the next day, but Grace's attitude
made it difficult. To be absolutely forbidden to meet Louis Akers at the gallery,
and to be able to give no reason beyond the fact that she had met him at the
Doyle house, seemed absurd.
"I hardly know," Lily said frankly. "In your sense of the word, perhaps not, mother.
But he is very clever."
Grace Cardew sighed and picked up her book. She never retired until Howard
came in. And Lily went upstairs, uneasy and a little defiant. She must live her
own life, somehow; have her own friends; think her own thoughts. The quiet
tyranny of the family was again closing down on her. It would squeeze her dry, in
the end, as it had her mother and Aunt Elinor.
She stood for a time by her window, looking out at the city. Behind her was her
warm, luxurious room, her deep, soft bed. Yet all through the city there were
those who did not sleep warm and soft. Close by, perhaps, in that deteriorated
neighborhood, there were children that very night going to bed hungry.
Because things had always been like that, should they always be so? Wasn't Mr.
Doyle right, after all? Only he went very far. You couldn't, for instance, take from
a man the thing he had earned. What about the people who did not try to earn?
She rather thought she would be clearer about it if she talked to Willy Cameron.
She went to bed at last, a troubled young thing in a soft white night-gown,
passionately in revolt against the injustice which gave to her so much and to
others so little. And against that quiet domestic tyranny which was forcing her to
her first deceit.
Yet the visit to the gallery was innocuous enough. Louis Akers met her there, and
carefully made the rounds with her. Then he suggested tea, and chose a quiet
tea-room, and a corner.
"I'll tell you something, now it's over," he said, his bold eyes fixed on hers. "I
loathe galleries and pictures. I wanted to see you again. That's all. You see, I am
starting in by being honest with you."
She was rather uncomfortable.
"Why don't you like pictures?"