“I am for an honest earthenware tankard myself!” he said, jovially, as the two went in to supper.
THE HIGH COST OF CONSCIENCE
BY BEATRICE RAVENEL
From Harper’s Magazine
“Any woman who can accept money from a gentleman who is in no way related to her—” Miss Fowler delivered judgment.
“My dear Aunt Maria, you mean a gentleman’s disembodied spirit,” Hugh’s light, pleasant tones intervened.
“A legacy, Maria, is not quite the same thing. Mr. Winthrop Fowler’s perfect intonation carried its usual implication that the subject was closed.
“—— is what I call an adventuress,” Miss Fowler summed up. She had a way of ignoring objections, of reappearing beyond them like a submarine with the ultimate and detonating answer. “And now she wants to reopen the matter when the whole thing’s over and done with. After three years. Extraordinary taste.” She hitched her black-velvet Voltaire arm-chair a little away from the fire and spread a vast knitting-bag of Chinese brocade over her knees. “I suppose she isn’t satisfied; she wants more.”
“Naturally. I cannot imagine what other reason she could have for insisting on a personal interview,” her brother agreed, dryly. He retired into the Transcript as a Trappist withdraws into his vows. A chastened client of Mr. Fowler’s once observed that a half-hour’s encounter with him resulted in a rueful of asphyxiated topics.
Miss Maria, however, preferred disemboweling hers, “I shouldn’t have consented,” she snapped. “Hugh, if you would be so good as to sit down. You are obstructing the light. And the curtain-cord. If you could refrain from twisting it for a few moments.”
Hugh let his long, high-shouldered figure lapse into the window-seat. “And besides, we’re all dying to know what she looks like,” he suggested.
“Speak for yourself, please,” said Miss Fowler, with the vivacity of the lady who protests too much.
“I do, I do! Good Lord! I’m just as bad as the rest of you. All my life I’ve been consumed to know what Uncle Hugh could have seen in a perfectly obscure little person to make him do what he did. There must have been something.” His eyes travelled to a sketch in pencil of a man’s head which hung in the shadow of the chimneypiece, a sketch whose uncanny suggestion might have come from the quality of the sitter or merely from a smudging of the medium. “Everything he did always seemed to me perfectly natural,” he went on, as though conscious of new discovery. “Even those years when he was knocking about the world, hiding his address. Even when he had that fancy that people were persecuting him. Most people did worry him horribly.”
A glance flashed between the two middle-aged listeners. It was a peculiar glance, full of a half-denied portent. Then Miss Fowler’s fingers, true to their traditions, loosened their grip on her needles and casually smoothed out her work.