I do not care to tell the story of it,—indeed, I do not know it,—but the man learned the old-fashioned lesson, which seems to hold good still, that for a really comfortable wedded life a little love, as a preliminary, is a good thing always—usually a requisite. The woman lacked neither perception nor good sense. It was she who proposed, since they were ill-mated, they should live apart, and he consented, with only such show of courtesy as might conceal his height of gladness. There were money features to the arrangement made, and it was all dignified and thoughtful. The world knew nothing of the agreement, though that generation of vipers, the relations of Mrs. Grundy, wondered why Mr. Harlson’s wife and he so lived apart, and if either of them were opium-eaters, or dangerous in insane moods. The relations of Mrs. Grundy have the reputation of the universe on their hands, and, the task being one so great, they must be pardoned if they err occasionally.
From the day he was alone, Grant Harlson appeared himself again, and I speak knowingly, for I was with him then. His old self seemed then restored. The buoyancy of boyhood was his as it had never been to me since we were young together. It matters not what a chance,—this is a land where all men drift about,—but I was in the city near him now, and the old relationship was resumed. We rioted in the past of the country, and we visited it together. As time went on, Harlson seemed to forget that he was, or ever had been, a married man, and eventually the woman found other things in life than awaiting old age without social potency, and suggested, from a distance, that the separation be completed. Perhaps there was another man. I know that Harlson did not hesitate. He responded carelessly, and then reverted to things practical.
The reflection came that the mismated in this present age must ordinarily bear the burden to the end. Collusion, which in such case is but a term for a mutual business agreement, is not allowable. The social problem is a puzzle the solution of which is left to those whose ideas were given to them stereotyped. The separation was delayed, but was, vaguely, a thing possible. And Harlson laughed and threw out his arms, and made friends of many women.
They were the variety of his life, which else was a hard-working one. He was not a saint nor a deliberate sinner. He but drifted again.
“Eh, but she’s winsome.”
“Eh, but she’s winsome!”
Grant Harlson entered my room one evening with this irrelevant exclamation.
I have remained unmarried, and have learned how to live, as a man may, after a fashion, who has no aid from that sex which alone knows how to make a home.