She had done her duty by his dreadful, impossible family. She passed glibly to other subjects. He was glad she had had the ladylike tact not to look at him during the episode; he wouldn’t have liked any human being to see the look he knew his face was wearing.
In the press of agitating events, both forgot the incident—for the time.
A SWOOP AND A SCRATCH
When Molly Stillwater heard that Margaret and her “wild man” had gone into the woods for their honeymoon she said: “Rita’s got to tame him and train him for human society. So she’s taken him where there are no neighbors to hear him scream as—as—” Molly cast about in her stock of slang for a phrase that was vigorous enough —“as she ‘puts the boots’ to him.”
It was a shrewd guess; Margaret had decided that she could do more toward “civilizing” him in those few first weeks and in solitude than in years of teaching at odd times. In China, at the marriage feast, the bride and the groom each struggle to be first to sit on the robe of the other; the idea is that the winner will thenceforth rule. As the Chinese have been many ages at the business of living, the custom should not be dismissed too summarily as mere vain and heathenish superstition. At any rate, Margaret had reasoned it out that she must get the advantage in the impending initial grapple and tussle of their individualities, or choose between slavery and divorce. With him handicapped by awe of her, by almost groveling respect for her ideas and feelings in all man and woman matters, domestic and social, it seemed to her that she could be worsted only by a miracle of stupidity on her part.
Never had he been so nearly “like an ordinary man—like a gentleman”—as when they set out for the Adirondacks. She could scarcely believe her own eyes, and she warmed to him and felt that she had been greatly overestimating her task. He had on one of the suits he had bought ready made that morning. It was of rough blue cloth—dark blue—most becoming and well draped to show to advantage his lithe, powerful frame, its sinews so much more manly-looking than the muscularity of artificially got protuberances usually seen in the prosperous classes in our Eastern cities. Grant had selected the suit, had selected all the suits, and had superintended the fittings. Grant had also selected the negligee shirt and the fashionable collar, and the bright, yet not gaudy, tie, and Grant had selected the shoes that made his feet look like feet; and Grant had conducted him to a proper barber, who had reduced the mop of hair to proportion and order, and had restored its natural color and look of vitality by a thorough shampooing. In brief, Grant had taken a gloomy pleasure in putting his successful rival through the machine of civilization and bringing him out a city man, agreeable to sight, smell and touch.
“Now,” said he, when the process was finished, “for Heaven’s sake try to keep yourself up to the mark. Take a cold bath every morning and a warm bath before dinner.”