“Don’t grow hard, Kenneth. ’The Son of Man came not to condemn the world, but to save it.’ Let’s each try to save our little piece!”
We are listening across the street, you see; between the windows in the rain; it is strange what chords one catches that do not catch each other, and were never planned to be played together,—by the players.
Kenneth Kincaid’s father Robert had been a ship-builder. When shipping went down in the whirlpool of 1857, Robert Kincaid’s building had gone; and afterward he had died leaving his children little beside their education, which he thanked God was secured, and a good repute that belonged to their name, but was easily forgotten in the crowd of young and forward ones, and in the strife and scramble of a new business growth.
Between college and technical studies Kenneth had been to the war. After that he had a chance to make a fortune in Wall Street. His father’s brother, James, offered to take him in with him to buy and sell stocks and gold, to watch the market, to touch little unseen springs, to put the difference into his own pocket every time the tide of value shifted, or could be made to seem to shift. He might have been one of James R. Kincaid and Company. He would have none of it. He told his uncle plainly that he wanted real work; that he had not come back from fighting to—well, there he stopped, for he could not fling the truth in his uncle’s face; he said there were things he meant to finish learning, and would try to do; and if nobody wanted them of him he would learn something else that was needed. So with what was left to his share from his father’s little remnant of property, he had two years at the Technological School, and here he was in Boston waiting. You can see what he meant by real work, and how deep his theories and distinctions lay. You can see that it might be a hard thing for one young man, here or there, to take up the world on these terms now, in this year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty-nine.
Over the way Desire Ledwith was beginning again, after a pause in which we have made our little chassee.
“I know a girl,” she said, “who has got a studio. And she talks about art, and she knows styles, and who has done what, and she runs about to see pictures, and she copies things, and she has little plaster legs and toes and things hanging round everywhere. She thinks it is something great; but it’s only Mig, after all. Everything is. Florence Migs into music. And I won’t Mig, if I never do anything. I’m come here this morning to darn stockings.” And she pulled out of her big waterproof pocket a bundle of stockings and a great white ball of darning cotton and a wooden egg.
“There is always one thing that is real,” said Mrs. Ripwinkley, gently, “and that shows the way surely to all the rest.”
“I know what you mean,” said Desire, “of course; but they’ve mixed that all up too, like everything else, so that you don’t know where it is. Glossy Megilp has a velvet prayer-book, and she blacks her eyelashes and goes to church. We’ve all been baptized, and we’ve learned the Lord’s Prayer, and we’re all Christians. What is there more about it? I wish, sometimes, they had let it all alone. I think they vaccinated us with religion, Aunt Frank, for fear we should take it the natural way.”