“I suppose,” he growled, “that’s Charlie’s idea of a joke, huh?”
Stella turned away from the tiny garments, one little, hood crumpled tight in her hand. She laid her hot face against his breast and her shoulders quivered. She was crying.
“Stella, Stella, what’s the matter?” he whispered.
“It’s no joke,” she sobbed. “It’s a—it’s a reality.”
IN WHICH EVENTS MARK TIME
From that day on Stella found in her hands the reins over a smooth, frictionless, well-ordered existence. Sam Foo proved himself such a domestic treasure as only the trained Oriental can be. When the labor of an eight-room dwelling proved a little too much for him, he urbanely said so. Thereupon, at Fyfe’s suggestion, he imported a fellow countryman, another bland, silent-footed model of efficiency in personal service. Thereafter Stella’s task of supervision proved a sinecure.
A week or so after their return, in sorting over some of her belongings, she came across the check Charlie had given her: that two hundred and seventy dollars which represented the only money she had ever earned in her life. She studied it a minute, then went out to where her husband sat perched on the verandah rail.
“You might cash this, Jack,” she suggested.
He glanced at the slip.
“Better have it framed as a memento,” he said, smiling. “You’ll never earn two hundred odd dollars so hard again, I hope. No, I’d keep it, if I were you. If ever you should need it, it’ll always be good—unless Charlie goes broke.”
There never had been any question of money between them. From the day of their marriage Fyfe had made her a definite monthly allowance, a greater sum than she needed or spent.
“As a matter of fact,” he went on, “I’m going to open an account in your name at the Royal Bank, so you can negotiate your own paper and pay your own bills by check.”
She went in and put away the check. It was hers, earned, all too literally, in the sweat of her brow. For all that it represented she had given service threefold. If ever there came a time when that hunger for independence which had been fanned to a flame in her brother’s kitchen should demand appeasement—she pulled herself up short when she found her mind running upon such an eventuality. Her future was ordered. She was married—to be a mother. Here lay her home. All about her ties were in process of formation, ties that with time would grow stronger than any shackles of steel, constraining her to walk in certain ways,—ways that were pleasant enough, certain of ease if not of definite purpose.