“No, darling, my second wife is going to choose Del Monte or Coronado!” William assured her.
“I’ll bet she does, the cat!” Susan agreed gaily, “You know when Elsie Rice married Jerry Philips,” she went on, in sudden recollection, “they went to Del Monte. They were both bridge fiends, even when they were engaged everyone who gave them dinners had to have cards afterwards. Well, it seems they went to Del Monte, and they moped about for a day or two, and, finally, Jerry found out that the Joe Carrs were at Santa Cruz,—the Carrs play wonderful bridge. So he and Elsie went straight up there, and they played every afternoon and every night for the next two weeks,—and all went to the Yosemite together, even playing on the train all the way!”
“What a damn fool class for any nation to carry!” Billy commented, mildly.
“Ah, well,” Susan said, joyfully, “we’ll fix them all! And when there are model poorhouses and prisons, and single tax, and labor pensions, and eight-hour days, and free wool—then we’ll come back here and settle down in the woods for ever and ever!”
In the years that followed they did come back to the big woods, but not every year, for in the beginning of their life together there were hard times, and troubled times, when even a fortnight’s irresponsibility and ease was not possible. Yet they came often enough to keep fresh in their hearts the memory of great spaces and great silences, and to dream their old dreams.
The great earthquake brought them home hurriedly from their honeymoon, and Susan had her work to do, amid all the confusion that followed the uprooting of ten thousand homes. Young Mrs. Oliver listened to terrible stories, while she distributed second-hand clothing, and filed cards, walked back to her own little kitchen at five o’clock to cook her dinner, and wrapped and addressed copies of the “Protest” far into the night.
With the deeper social problems that followed the days of mere physical need,—what was in her of love and charity rushed into sudden blossoming,—she found that her inexperienced hands must deal. She, whose wifehood was all joy and sanity, all sweet and mysterious deepening of the color of life, encountered now the hideous travesty of wifehood and motherhood, met by immature, ill-nourished bodies, and hearts sullen and afraid.
“You ought not be seeing these things now,” Billy warned her. But Susan shook her head.
“It’s good for me, Billy. And it’s good for the little person, too. It’s no credit to him that he’s more fortunate than these—he needn’t feel so superior!” smiled Susan.
Every cent must be counted in these days. Susan and Billy laughed long afterward to remember that on many a Sunday they walked over to the little General Post Office in Mission Street, hoping for a subscription or two in the mail, to fan the dying fires of the “Protest” for a few more days. Better times came; the little sheet struck roots, carried a modest advertisement or two, and a woman’s column under the heading “Mary Jane’s Letter” whose claims kept the editor’s wife far too busy.