The MAN IN THE CASEby Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
An excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter:
LIVIN' is like cat's cradle," said Mary Caroline. It 's quite interestin' long's there ain't a man's hand a-holdin' of the string." Miss Dare smiled. She
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An excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter:
LIVIN' is like cat's cradle," said Mary Caroline. It 's quite interestin' long's there ain't a man's hand a-holdin' of the string." Miss Dare smiled. She smiled easily and charmingly; most easily that day, for she was light at heart. I t was an October day, fair of face, warm of impulse, grave of purpose, like an experienced and beautiful woman,—a day deep to the soul of it with color, and alive to the last nerve of it with tenderness. One might have said that it was a day when the two halves of the year met before their separation; that winter clasped summer in his arms and gave her in one solemn embrace the passion of betrothal and farewell.
Miss Dare's living-room was so far a thing from the accepted suburban "parlor," that it was called a library, and, to an extent, deserved the name. For it was unpretentious, well lighted, and lined with books. The windows of this room were open—the late afternoon was so warm—and the floating leaves from the maples that arched the street flew in on the south wind; two or three struck Miss Dare on the forehead and remained on her hair like fragments of a shattered crown; one, a yellow one with carmine cheeks, fell to the bosom of her white woolen gown, and clung there: she fastened the leaf in the place it had chosen, but shook the others off, laughing.
"Oh, but Mary Caroline! Every man doesn't snarl. And if he doesn't , just think how splendidly he holds the game! His hands don't shake—nor scratch—and they're so—big"—
"The bigger they be, the wuss they snarl," said Mary Caroline obstinately. It's the natur' of the critter. I hain't got no use for 'em, nor you neither. Thanks be to mercy there ain't none of 'em 'round us, clutterin' us up with late dinners, fussin' over ice in the grapes, and takin' the seeds out of their oranges same as they was babies to get stuck in their throats. They're a passel of sp'iled boys — men-folks; they hadn't orter be let loose in the same world with women to sp'ile 'em. 'T ain't fair play, not to neither party."
"Mary Caroline," said Miss Dare sweetly, "I wonder what you are going to give me for supper?"
Mary Caroline felt that she and the subject were dismissed with a consideration equaled only by its diplomacy. Nothing in the range of human imagination (so far as this mysterious faculty had been granted to her)—nothing was too much for Mary Caroline to do for Joan Dare. The old servant stooped heavily and picked up the leaves which were littering the floor at Miss Dare's feet.
"There 's a stitch outen you," she said. "I must run you up."
She held the hem of the white gown a moment, letting it go reluctantly; she seemed to fondle it; her plain, middle-aged face flushed with the motion of stooping, and she limped away as if the effort of the action had hurt her somewhere. But Mary Caroline never "complained" to her mistress.
Miss Dare had started to close the open window, and to reach the shade which had sprung to the top; thus she had one of the beautiful poses of the eternal feminine—that of the uplifted arms; an attitude significant at once of grace and strength, of appeal and support.
Joan had one of the faces of which we say, It is strong," and afterwards, "It is sweet." She had passed her first youth, and reached the age when women can be most miserable or most happy; some cynics have said, when women can love most. Her form and coloring had the ripeness and richness of her thirty-fifth year; her brown eye was warm, and her motions were pliant, and rather dependent than assertive, but her head was well poised, and about her mouth, despite its swift smile and the charming way of it, were the lines of emotion outlived, and suffering uncommunicated.
As she stood in this position, the electric car came crying up the suburban street, and whirred through the maple arch that covered it; the prosaic outlines of the car were unnaturally picturesque, seeming a shallop of green upon a sea of fire.
The passengers were coming from the business train. Many of them were walking, and one who at that moment passed the house turned and looked at it, and her. His feet lagged; he stood for a moment with raised hat, and then came up the avenue. This was something of a distance, for Miss Dare's house stood well back from the street in a little estate of several acres, conspicuous in the suburb of Mapleleaf for its relative size, and its obstinate refusal to be butchered into corner lots.
Joan's arms dropped. Her visitor raised his with the impulse of a man who would have embraced the atmosphere which surrounded her, but he recalled himself.
"Are you coming in?"
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