When a Man Marries
The Door Was Closed
It was infuriating to see how much enjoyment every one but Jim and myself got out of
the situation. They howled with mirth over the feeblest jokes, and when Max told a story
without any point whatever, they all had hysteria. Immediately after dinner Aunt Selina
had begun on the family connection again, and after two bad breaks on my part, Jim
offered to show her the house. The Mercer girls trailed along, unwilling to lose any of the
possibilities. They said afterward that it was terrible: she went into all the closets, and ran
her hand over the tops of doors and kept getting grimmer and grimmer. In the studio they
came across a life study Jim was doing and she shut her eyes and made the girls go out
while he covered it with a drapery. Lollie! Who did the Bacchante dance at three benefits
last winter and was learning a new one called "Eve"!
When they heard Aunt Selina on the second floor, Anne, Dal and Max sneaked up to the
studio for cigarettes, which left Mr. Harbison to me. I was in the den, sitting in a low
chair by the wood fire when he came in. He hesitated in the doorway.
"Would you prefer being alone, or may I come in?" he asked. "Don't mind being frank. I
know you are tired."
"I have a headache, and I am sulking," I said unpleasantly, "but at least I am not actively
venomous. Come in."
So he came in and sat down across the hearth from me, and neither of us said anything.
The firelight flickered over the room, bringing out the faded hues of the old Japanese
prints on the walls, gleaming in the mother-of-pearl eyes of the dragon on the screen,
setting a grotesque god on a cabinet to nodding. And it threw into relief the strong profile
of the man across from me, as he stared at the fire.
"I am afraid I am not very interesting," I said at last, when he showed no sign of breaking
the silence. "The--the illness of the butler and--Miss Caruthers' arrival, have been
He suddenly roused with a start from a brown reverie.
"I beg your pardon," he said, "I--oh, of course not! I was wondering if I--if you were
offended at what I said earlier in the evening; the--Brushwood Boy, you know, and all
"Offended?" I repeated, puzzled.
"You see, I have been living out of the world so long, and never seeing any women but
Indian squaws"--so there were no Spanish girls!--"that I'm afraid I say what comes into
my mind without circumlocution. And then--I did not know you were married."
"No, oh, no," I said hastily. "But, of course, the more a woman is married--I mean, you
can not say too many nice things to married women. They--need them, you know."
I had floundered miserably, with his eyes on me, and I half expected him to be shocked,
or to say that married women should be satisfied with the nice things their husbands say