When a Man Marries
The Way It Began
It makes me angry every time I think how I tried to make that dinner a success. I canceled
a theater engagement, and I took the Mercer girls in the electric brougham father had
given me for Christmas. Their chauffeur had been gone for hours with their machine, and
they had telephoned all the police stations without success. They were afraid that there
had been an awful smash; they could easily have replaced Bartlett, as Lollie said, but it
takes so long to get new parts for those foreign cars.
Jim had a house well up-town, and it stood just enough apart from the other houses to be
entirely maddening later. It was a three-story affair, with a basement kitchen and servants'
dining room. Then, of course, there were cellars, as we found out afterward. On the first
floor there was a large square hall, a formal reception room, behind it a big living room
that was also a library, then a den, and back of all a Georgian dining room, with windows
high above the ground. On the top floor Jim had a studio, like every other one I ever saw-
-perhaps a little mussier. Jim was really a grind at his painting, and there were cigarette
ashes and palette knives and buffalo rugs and shields everywhere. It is strange, but when
I think of that terrible house, I always see the halls, enormous, covered with heavy rugs,
and stairs that would have taken six housemaids to keep in proper condition. I dream
about those stairs, stretching above me in a Jacob's ladder of shining wood and Persian
carpets, going up, up, clear to the roof.
The Dallas Browns walked; they lived in the next block. And they brought with them a
man named Harbison, that no one knew. Anne said he would be great sport, because he
was terribly serious, and had the most exaggerated ideas of society, and loathed
extravagance, and built bridges or something. She had put away her cigarettes since he
had been with them--he and Dallas had been college friends--and the only chance she had
to smoke was when she was getting her hair done. And she had singed off quite a lot--a
burnt offering, she called it.
"My dear," she said over the telephone, when I invited her, "I want you to know him.
He'll be crazy about you. That type of man, big and deadly earnest, always falls in love
with your type of girl, the appealing sort, you know. And he has been too busy, up to
now, to know what love is. But mind, don't hurt him; he's a dear boy. I'm half in love
with him myself, and Dallas trots around at his heels like a poodle."
But all Anne's geese are swans, so I thought little of the Harbison man except to hope that
he played respectable bridge, and wouldn't mark the cards with a steel spring under his
finger nail, as one of her "finds" had done.
We all arrived about the same time, and Anne and I went upstairs together to take off our
wraps in what had been Bella's dressing room. It was Anne who noticed the violets.
"Look at that!" she nudged me, when the maid was examining her wrap before she laid it
down. "What did I tell you, Kit? He's still quite mad about her."
Jim had painted Bella's portrait while they were going up the Nile on their wedding trip.
It looked quite like her, if you stood well off in the middle of the room and if the light
came from the right. And just beneath it, in a silver vase, was a bunch of violets. It was
really touching, and violets were fabulous. It made me want to cry, and to shake Bella