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- The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig - 40/47 -
formalities were the thin cover for a tempest of wild-man's wild emotion.
Curiously, she "got on" his nerves before he on hers. It was through her habit of rising late and taking hours to dress. Part of his code of conduct--an interpolation of his own into the Arkwright manual for a honeymooning gentleman--was that he ought to wait until she was ready to breakfast, before breakfasting himself. Several mornings she heard tempestuous sounds round the camp for two hours before she emerged from her room. She knew these sounds came from him, though all was quiet as soon as she appeared; and she very soon thought out the reason for his uproar. Next, his anger could not subdue itself beyond surliness on her appearing, and the surliness lasted through the first part of breakfast. Finally, one morning she heard him calling her when she was about half-way through her leisurely toilette: "Margaret! MARGARET!"
"Yes--what is it?"
"Do come out. You're missing the best part of the day."
"All right--in a minute."
She continued with, if anything, a slackening of her exertions; she appeared about an hour after she had said "in a minute." He was ready to speak, and speak sharply. But one glance at her, at the exquisite toilette--of the woods, yet of the civilization that dwells in palaces and reposes languidly upon the exertions of menials--at her cooling, subduing eyes, so graciously haughty--and he shut his lips together and subsided.
The next morning it was a knock at her door just as she was waking--or had it waked her? "Yes--what is it?"
"Do come out! I'm half starved."
The voice was pleading, not at all commanding, not at all the aggressive, dictatorial voice of the Josh Craig of less than a month before. But it was distinctly reminiscent of that Craig; it was plainly the first faint murmur, not of rebellion, but of the spirit of rebellion. Margaret retorted with an icily polite, "Please don't wait for me."
"Yes, I'll wait. But be as quick as you can."
Margaret neither hastened nor dallied. She came forth at the end of an hour and a half. Josh, to her surprise, greeted her as if she had not kept him waiting an instant; not a glance of sullenness, no suppressed irritation in his voice. Next morning the knock was a summons.
"Margaret! I say, Margaret!" came in tones made bold and fierce by hunger. "I've been waiting nearly two hours."
"For what?" inquired she frigidly from the other side of the door.
"Oh! Go ahead with it. I'm not even up yet."
"You've been shut in there ten hours."
"What of it?" retorted she sharply. "Go away, and don't bother me."
He had put her into such an ill humor that when she came out, two hours later, her stormy brow, her gleaming hazel eyes showed she was "looking for trouble." He was still breakfastless--he well knew how to manipulate his weaknesses so that his purposes could cow them, could even use them. He answered her lowering glance with a flash of his blue-green eyes like lightning from the dark head of a thunder-cloud. "Do you know it is nine o'clock?" demanded he.
"So early? I try to get up late so that the days won't seem so long."
He abandoned the field to her, and she thought him permanently beaten. She had yet to learn the depths of his sagacity that never gave battle until the time was auspicious.
Two mornings later he returned to the attack.
"I see your light burning every night until midnight," said he--at breakfast with her, after the usual wait.
"I read myself to sleep," explained she.
"Do you think that's good for you?"
"I don't notice any ill effects."
"You say your health doesn't improve as rapidly as you hoped."
Check! She reddened with guilt and exasperation. "What a sly trick!" thought she. She answered him with a cold: "I always have read myself to sleep, and I fancy I always shall."
"If you went to sleep earlier," observed he, his air unmistakably that of the victor conscious of victory, "you'd not keep me raging round two or three hours for breakfast."
"How often I've asked you not to wait for me! I prefer to breakfast alone, anyhow. It's the dreadful habit of breakfasting together that causes people to get on together so badly."
"I'd not feel right," said he, moderately, but firmly, "if I didn't see you at breakfast."
She sat silent--thinking. He felt what she was thinking--how common this was, how "middle class," how "bourgeois," she was calling it. "Bourgeois" was her favorite word for all that she objected to in him, for all she was trying to train out of him by what she regarded as most artistically indirect lessons. He felt that their talk about his family, what he had said, had shown he felt, was recurring to her. He grew red, burned with shame from head to foot.
"What a fool, what a pup I was!" he said to himself. "If she had been a real lady--no, by gad--a real WOMAN--she'd have shown that she despised me."
Again and again that incident had come back to him. It had been, perhaps, the most powerful factor in his patience with her airs and condescensions. He felt that it, the lowest dip of his degradation in snobism, had given her the right to keep him in his place. It seemed to him one of those frightful crimes against self-respect which can never be atoned, and, bad as he thought it from the standpoint of good sense as to the way to get on with her, he suffered far more because it was such a stinging, scoffing denial of all his pretenses of personal pride. "Her sensibilities have been too blunted by association with those Washington vulgarians," he reasoned, "for her to realize the enormity of my offense, but she realizes enough to look down at me more contemptuously every time she recalls it." However, the greater the blunder the greater the necessity of repairing. He resolutely thrust his self-abasing thoughts to the background of his mind, and began afresh.
"I'm sure," said he, "you'd not mind, once you got used to it."
She was startled out of her abstraction. "Used to--what?" she inquired.
"To getting up early."
"Oh!" She gave a relieved laugh. "Still harping on that. How persistent you are!"
"You could accomplish twice as much if you got up early and made a right start."
She frowned slightly. "Couldn't think of it," said she, in the tone of one whose forbearance is about at an end. "I hate the early morning."
"We usually hate what's best for us. But, if we're sensible, we do it until it becomes a habit that we don't mind--or positively like."
This philosophy of the indisputable and the sensible brimmed the measure. "What would you think of me," said she, in her pleasantest, most deliberately irritating way in the world, "if I were to insist that you get up late and breakfast late? You should learn to let live as well as to live. You are too fond of trying to compel everybody to do as you wish."
"I make 'em see that what I wish is what they ought. That's not compelling."
"It's even more unpopular."
"I'm not looking for popularity, but for success."
"Well, please don't annoy me in the mornings hereafter."
"You don't seem to realize you've renounced your foolish idlers and all their ways, and have joined the working classes." His good humor had come back with breakfast; he had finished two large trout, much bread and marmalade and coffee--and it had given her a pleasure that somehow seemed vulgar and forbidden to see him eat so vastly, with such obvious delight. As he made his jest about her entry into the working classes--she who suggested a queen bee, to employ the labors of a whole army of willing toilers, while she herself toiled not--he was tilted back at his ease, smoking a cigarette and watching the sunbeams sparkle in the waves of her black hair like jewels showered there. "You're surely quite well again," he went on, the trend of his thought so hidden that he did not see it himself.
"I don't feel especially well," said she, instantly on guard.
He laughed. "You'd not dare say that to yourself in the mirror. You have wonderful color. Your eyes--there never was anything so clear. You were always straight--that was one of the things I admired about you. But now, you seem to be straight without the slightest effort--the natural straightness of a sapling."
This was most agreeable, for she loved compliments, liked to
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