THE SENATOR’S DAUGHTER
I THE SMALL GOLD BOX
On the evening of the fourth of March, year of grace nineteen hundred and thirty-seven, Mr. Daniel Webster Wanlee devoted several hours to the consummation of a rather elaborate toilet. That accomplished, he placed himself before a mirror and critically surveyed the results of his patient art.
The effect appeared to give him satisfaction. In the glass he beheld a comely young man of thirty, something under the medium stature, faultlessly attired in evening dress. The face was a perfect oval, the complexion delicate, the features refined. The high cheekbones and a slight elevation of the outer corners of the eyes, the short upper lip, from which drooped a slender but aristocratic mustache, the tapered fingers of the hand, and the remarkably small feet, confined tonight in dancing pumps of polished red morocco, were all unmistakable heirlooms of a pure Mongolian ancestry. The long, stiff, black hair, brushed straight back from the forehead, fell in profusion over the neck and shoulders. Several rich decorations shone on the breast of the black broadcloth coat. The knickerbocker breeches were tied at the knees with scarlet ribbons. The stockings were of a flowered silk. Mr. Wanlee’s face sparked with intelligent good sense; his figure poised itself before the glass with easy grace.
A soft, distinct utterance, filling the room yet appearing to proceed from no particular quarter, now attracted Mr. Wanlee’s attention. He at once recognized the voice of his friend, Mr. Walsingham Brown.
“How are we off for time, old fellow?”
“It’s getting late,” replied Mr. Wanlee, without turning his face from the mirror. “You had better come over directly.”
In a very few minutes the curtains at the entrance to Mr. Wanlee’s apartments were unceremoniously pulled open, and Mr. Walsingham Brown strode in. The two friends cordially shook hands.
“How is the honorable member from the Los Angeles district?” inquired the newcomer gaily. “And what is there new in Washington society? Prepared to conquer tonight, I see. What’s all this? Red ribbons and flowered silk hose! Ah, Wanlee. I thought you had outgrown these frivolities!”
The faintest possible blush appeared on Mr. Daniel Webster Wanlee’s cheeks. “It is cool tonight?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Infernally cold,” replied his friend. “I wonder you have no snow here. It is snowing hard in New York. There were at least three inches on the ground just now when I took the Pneumatic.”
“Pull an easy chair up to the thermo-electrode,” said the Mongolian. “You must get the New York climate thawed out of your joints if you expect to waltz creditably. The Washington women are critical in that respect.”
Mr. Walsingham Brown pushed a comfortable chair toward a sphere of shining platinum that stood on a crystal pedestal in the center of the room. He pressed a silver button at the base, and the metal globe began to glow incandescently. A genial warmth diffused itself through the apartment. “That feels good,” said Mr. Walsingham Brown, extending both hands to catch the heat from the thermo-electrode.
“By the way,” he continued, “you haven’t accounted to me yet for the scarlet bows. What would your constituents say if they saw you thus– you, the impassioned young orator of the Pacific slope; the thoughtful student of progressive statesmanship; the mainstay and hope of the Extreme Left; the thorn in the side of conservative Vegetarianism; the bete noire of the whole Indo-European gang–you, in knee ribbons and florid extensions, like a club man at a fashionable Harlem hop, or a-”
Mr. Brown interrupted himself with a hearty but goodnatured laugh.
Mr. Wanlee seemed ill at ease. He did not reply to his friend’s raillery. He cast a stealthy glance at his knees in the mirror, and then went to one side of the room, where an endless strip of printed paper, about three feet wide, was slowly issuing from between noiseless rollers and falling in neat folds into a willow basket placed on the floor to receive it. Mr. Wanlee bent his head over the broad strip of paper and began to read attentively.
“You take the Contemporaneous News, I suppose,” said the other.
“No, I prefer the Interminable Intelligencer,” replied Mr. Wanlee. “The Contemporaneous is too much of my own way of thinking. Why should a sensible man ever read the organ of his own party? How much wiser it is to keep posted on what your political opponents think and say.”
“Do you find anything about the event of the evening?”
“The ball has opened,” said Mr. Wanlee, “and the floor of the Capitol is already crowded. Let me see,” he continued, beginning to read aloud: “‘The wealth, the beauty, the chivalry, and the brains of the nation combine to lend unprecedented luster to the Inauguration Ball, and the brilliant success of the new Administration is assured beyond all question.’”
“That is encouraging logic,” Mr. Brown remarked.
“'President Trimbelly has just entered the rotunda, escorting his beautiful and stately wife, and accompanied by ex-President Riley, Mrs. Riley, and Miss Norah Riley. The illustrious group is of course the cynosure of all eyes. The utmost cordiality prevails among statesmen of all shades of opinion. For once, bitter political animosities seem to have been laid aside with the ordinary habiliments of everyday wear. Conspicuous among the guests are some of the most distinguished radicals of the opposition. Even General Quong, the defeated Mongol-Vegetarian candidate, is now proceeding across the rotunda, leaning on the arm of the Chinese ambassador, with the evident intention of paying his compliments to his successful rival. Not the slightest trace of resentment or hostility is visible upon his strongly marked Asiatic features.’
"The hero of the Battle of Cheyenne can afford to be magnanimous,” remarked Mr. Wanlee, looking up from the paper.
“True,” said Mr. Walsingham Brown, warmly. “The noble old hoodlum fighter has settled forever the question of the equality of your race. The presidency could have added nothing to his fame.”
Mr. Wanlee went on reading: “'The toilets of the ladies are charming. Notable among those which attract the reportorial eye are the peacock feather train of the Princess Hushyida; the mauve-’”
“Cut that,” suggested Mr. Brown. “We shall see for ourselves presently. And give me a dinner, like a good fellow. It occurs to me that I have eaten nothing for fifteen days.”
The Honorable Mr. Wanlee drew from his waistcoat pocket a small gold box, oval in form. He pressed a spring and the lid flew open. Then he handed the box to his friend. It contained a number of little gray pastilles, hardly larger than peas. Mr. Brown took one between his thumb and forefinger and put it into his mouth. “Thus do I satisfy mine hunger,” he said, “or, to borrow the language of the opposition orators, thus do I lend myself to the vile and degrading practice, subversive of society as at present constituted, and outraging the very laws of nature.”
Mr. Wanlee was paying no attention. With eager gaze he was again scanning the columns of the Interminable Intelligencer. As if involuntarily, he read aloud: “’-Secretary Quimby and Mrs. Quimby, Count Schneeke, the Austrian ambassador, Mrs. Hoyette and the Misses Hoyette of New York, Senator Newton of Massachusetts, whose arrival with his lovely daughter is causing no small sensation-’”
He paused, stammering, for he became aware that his friend was regarding him earnestly. Coloring to the roots of his hair, he affected indifference and began to read again: “'Senator Newton of Massachusetts, whose arrival with his lovely-”’
“I think, my dear boy,” said Mr. Walsingham Brown, with a smile, “that it is high time for us to proceed to the Capitol.”
II THE BALL AT THE CAPITOL
Through a brilliant throng of happy men and charming women, Mr. Wanlee and his friend made their way into the rotunda of the Capitol. Accustomed as they both were to the spectacular efforts which society arranged for its own delectation, the young men were startled by the enchantment of the scene before them. The dingy historical panorama that girds the rotunda was hidden behind a wall of flowers. The heights of the dome were not visible, for beneath that was a temporary interior dome of red roses and white lilies, which poured down from the concavity a continual and almost oppressive shower of fragrance. From the center of the floor ascended to the height of forty or fifty feet a single jet of water, rendered intensely luminous by the newly discovered hydrolectric process, and flooding the room with a light ten times brighter than daylight, yet soft and grateful as the light of the moon. The air pulsated with music, for every flower in the dome overhead gave utterance to the notes which Ratibolial, in the conservatoire at Paris, was sending across the Atlantic from the vibrant tip of his baton.
The friends had hardly reached the center of the rotunda, where the hydrolectric fountain threw aloft its jet of blazing water, and where two opposite streams of promenaders from the north and the south wings of the Capitol met and mingled in an eddy of polite humanity, before Mr. Walsingham Brown was seized and led off captive by some of his Washington acquaintances.
Wanlee pushed on, scarcely noticing his friend’s defection. He directed his steps wherever the crowd seemed thickest, casting ahead and on either side of him quick glances of inquiry, now and then exchanging bows with people whom he recognized, but pausing only once to enter into conversation. That was when he was accosted by General Quong, the leader of the MongolVegetarian party and the defeated candidate for President in the campaign of 1936. The veteran spoke familiarly to the young congressman and detained him only a moment. “You are looking for somebody, Wanlee,” said General Quong, kindly. “I see it in your eyes. I grant you leave of absence.”
Mr. Wanlee proceeded down the long corridor that leads to the Senate chamber, and continued there his eager search. Disappointed, he turned back, retraced his steps to the rotunda, and went to the other extremity of the Capitol. The Hall of Representatives was reserved for the dancers. From the great clock above the Speaker’s desk issued the music of a waltz, to the rhythm of which several hundred couples were whirling over the polished floor.
Wanlee stood at the door, watching the couples as they moved before him in making the circuit of the hall. Presently his eyes began to sparkle. They were resting upon the beautiful face and supple figure of a girl in white satin, who waltzed in perfect form with a young man, apparently an Italian. Wanlee advanced a step or two, and at the same instant the lady became aware of his presence. She said a word to her partner, who immediately relinquished her waist.
“I have been expecting you this age,” said the girl, holding out her hand to Wanlee. “I am delighted that you have come.”
“Thank you, Miss Newton,” said Wanlee.
“You may retire, Francesco,” she continued, turning to the young man who had just been her partner. “I shall not need you again.”
The young man addressed as Francesco bowed respectfully and departed without a word.
“Let us not lose this lovely waltz,” said Miss Newton, putting her hand upon Wanlee’s shoulder. “It will be my first this evening.”
“Then you have not danced?” asked Wanlee, as they glided off together.
“No, Daniel,” said Miss Newton, “I haven’t danced with any gentlemen.”
The Mongolian thanked her with a smile.
“I have made good use of Francesco, however,” she went on. “What a blessing a competent protectional partner is! Only think, our grandmothers, and even our mothers, were obliged to sit dismally around the walls waiting the pleasure of their high and mighty-”
She paused suddenly, for a shade of annoyance had fallen upon her partner’s face. “Forgive me,” she whispered, her head almost upon his shoulder. “Forgive me if I have wounded you. You know, love, that I would not-”
“I know it,” he interrupted. “You are too good and too noble to let that weigh a feather’s weight in your estimation of the Man. You never pause to think that my mother and my grandmother were not accustomed to meet your mother and your grandmother in society–for the very excellent reason,” he continued, with a little bitterness in his tone, “that my mother had her hands full in my father’s laundry in San Francisco, while my grandmother’s social ideas hardly extended beyond the cabin of our ancestral san-pan on the Yangtze Kiang. You do not care for that. But there are others-’
They waltzed on for some time in silence, he, thoughtful and moody, and she, sympathetically concerned.
"And the senator; where is he tonight?” asked Wanlee at last.
“Papa!” said the girl, with a frightened little glance over her shoulder. “Oh! Papa merely made his appearance here to bring me and because it was expected of him. He has gone home to work on his tiresome speech against the vegetables.”
“Do you think,” asked Wanlee, after a few minutes, whispering the words very slowly and very low, “that the senator has any suspicion?”
It was her turn now to manifest embarrassment. “I am very sure,” she replied, “that Papa has not the least idea in the world of it all. And that is what worries me. I constantly feel that we are walking together on a volcano. I know that we are right, and that heaven means it to be just as it is; yet, I cannot help trembling in my happiness. You know as well as I do the antiquated and absurd notions that still prevail in Massachusetts, and that Papa is a conservative among the conservatives. He respects your ability, that I discovered long ago. Whenever you speak in the House, he reads your remarks with great attention. I think,” she continued with a forced laugh, “that your arguments bother him a good deal.”
“This must have an end, Clara,” said the Chinaman, as the music ceased and the waltzers stopped. “I cannot allow you to remain a day longer in an equivocal position. My honor and your own peace of mind require that there shall be an explanation to your father. Have you the courage to stake all our happiness on one bold move?”
“I have courage,” frankly replied the girl, “to go with you before my father and tell him all. And furthermore,” she continued, slightly pressing his arm and looking into his face with a charming blush, “I have courage even beyond that.”
“You beloved little Puritanl” was his reply.
As they passed out of the Hall of Representatives, they encountered Mr. Walsingham Brown with Miss Hoyette of New York. The New York lady spoke cordially to Miss Newton, but recognized Wanlee with a rather distant bow. Wanlee’s eyes sought and met those of his friend. “I may need your counsel before morning,” he said in a low voice.
“All right, my dear fellow,” said Mr. Brown. “Depend on me.” And the two couples separated.
The Mongolian and his Massachusetts sweetheart drifted with the tide into the supper room. Both were preoccupied with their own thoughts. Almost mechanically, Wanlee led his companion to a corner of the supper room and established her in a seat behind a screen of palmettos, sheltered from the observation of the throne.
“It is nice of you to bring me here,” said the girl, “for I am hungry after our waltz.”
Intimate as their souls had become, this was the first time that she had ever asked him for food. It was an innocent and natural request, yet Wanlee shuddered when he heard it, and bit his under lip to control his agitation. He looked from behind the palmettos at the tables heaped with delicate viands and surrounded by men, eagerly pressing forward to obtain refreshment for the ladies in their care. Wanlee shuddered again at the spectacle. After a momentary hesitation he returned to Miss Newton, seated himself beside her, and taking her hand in his, began to speak deliberately and earnestly.
“Clara,” he said, “I am going to ask you for a final proof of your affection. Do not start and look alarmed, but hear me patiently. If, after hearing me, you still bid me bring you a pâté, or the wing of a fowl, or a salad, or even a plate of fruit, I will do so, though it wrench the heart in my bosom. But first listen to what I have to say.”
“Certainly I will listen to all you have to say,” she replied.
“You know enough of the political theories that divide parties,” he went on, nervously examining the rings on her slender fingers, “to be aware that what I conscientiously believe to be true is very different from what you have been educated to believe.”
“I know,” said Miss Newton, “that you are a Vegetarian and do not approve the use of meat. I know that you have spoken eloquently in the House on the right of every living being to protection in its life, and that that is the theory of your party. Papa says that it is demagogy–that the opposition parade an absurd and sophistical theory in order to win votes and get themselves into office. Still, I know that a great many excellent people, friends of ours in Massachusetts, are coming to believe with you, and, of course, loving you as I do, I have the firmest faith in the honesty of your convictions. You are not a demagogue, Daniel. You are above pandering to the radicalism of the rabble. Neither my father nor all the world could make me think the contrary.”
Mr. Daniel Webster Wanlee squeezed her hand and went on:
“Living as you do in the most ultra-conservative of circles, dear Clara, you have had no opportunity to understand the tremendous significance and force of the movement that is now sweeping over the land, and of which I am a very humble representative. It is something more than a political agitation; it is an upheaval and reorganization of society on the basis of science and abstract right. It is fit and proper that I, belonging to a race that has only been emancipated and enfranchised by the march of time, should stand in the advance guard– in the forlorn hope, it may be–of the new revolution.”
His flaming eyes were now looking directly into hers. Although a little troubled by his earnestness, she could not hide her proud satisfaction in his manly bearing.
“We believe that every animal is born free and equal,” he said. “That the humblest polyp or the most insignificant mollusk has an equal right with you or me to life and the enjoyment of happiness. Why, are we not all brothers? Are we not all children of a common evolution? What are we human animals but the more favored members of the great family? Is Senator Newton of Massachusetts further removed in intelligence from the Australian bushman, than the Australian bushman or the Flathead Indian is removed from the ox which Senator Newton orders slain to yield food for his family? Have we a right to take the paltriest life that evolution has given? Is not the butchery of an ox or of a chicken murder–nay, fratricide–in the view of absolute justice? Is it not cannibalism of the most repulsive and cowardly sort to prey upon the flesh of our defenseless brother animals, and to sacrifice their lives and rights to an unnatural appetite that has no foundation save in the habit of long ages of barbarian selfishness?”
“I have never thought of these things,” said Miss Clara, slowly. “Would you elevate them to the suffrage–I mean the ox and the chicken and the baboon?”
“There speaks the daughter of the senator from Massachusetts,” cried Wanlee. “No, we would not give them the suffrage–at least, not at present. The right to live and enjoy life is a natural, an inalienable right. The right to vote depends upon conditions of society and of individual intelligence. The ox, the chicken, the baboon are not yet prepared for the ballot. But they are voters in embryo; they are struggling up through the same process that our own ancestors underwent, and it is a crime, an unnatural, horrible thing, to cut off their career, their future, for the sake of a meal!”
“Those are noble sentiments, I must admit,” said Miss Newton, with considerable enthusiasm.
“They are the sentiments of the Mongol-Vegetarian party,” said Wanlee. “They will carry the country in 1940, and elect the next President of the United States.”
“I admire your earnestness,” said Miss Newton after a pause, “and I will not grieve you by asking you to bring me even so much as a chicken wing. I do not think I could eat it now, with your words still in my ears. A little fruit is all that I want.”
“Once more,” said Wanlee, taking the tall girl’s hand again, “I must request you to consider. The principles, my dearest, that I have already enunciated are the principles of the great mass of our party. They are held even by the respectable, easygoing, not oversensitive voters such as constitute the bulk of every political organization. But there are a few of us who stand on ground still more advanced. We do not expect to bring the laggards up to our line for years, perhaps in our lifetime. We simply carry the accepted theory to its logical conclusions and calmly await ultimate results.”
“And what is your ground, pray?” she inquired. “I cannot see how anything could be more dreadfully radical–that is, more bewildering and generally upsetting at first sight–than the ground which you just took.”
“If what I have said is true, and I believe it to be true, then how can we escape including the Vegetable Kingdom in our proclamation of emancipation from man’s tyranny? The tree, the plant, even the fungus, have they not individual life, and have they not also the right to live?”
“And indeed,” continued the Chinaman, not noticing the interruption, “who can say where vegetable life ends and animal life begins? Science has tried in vain to draw the boundary line. I hold that to uproot a potato is to destroy an existence certainly, although perhaps remotely akin to ours. To pluck a grape is to maim the living vine; and to drink the juice of that grape is to outrage consanguinity. In this broad, elevated view of the matter it becomes a duty to refrain from vegetable food. Nothing less than the vital principal itself becomes the test and tie of universal brotherhood. 'All living things are born free and equal, and have a right to existence and the enjoyment of existence.’ Is not that a beautiful thought?”
“It is a beautiful thought,” said the maiden. “But-I know you will think me dreadfully cold, and practical, and unsympathetic–but how are we to live? Have we no right, too, to existence? Must we starve to death in order to establish the theoretical right of vegetables not to be eaten?”
“My dear love,” said Wanlee, “that would be a serious and perplexing question, had not the latest discovery of science already solved it for us.”
He took from his waistcoat pocket the small gold box, scarcely larger than a watch, and opened the cover. In the palm of her white hand he placed one of the little pastilles.
“Eat it,” said he. “It will satisfy your hunger.”
She put the morsel into her mouth. “I would do as you bade me,” she said, “even if it were poison.”
“It is not poison,” he rejoined. “It is nourishment in the only rational form.”
“But it is tasteless; almost without substance.”
“Yet it will support life for from eighteen to twenty-five days. This little gold box holds food enough to afford all subsistence to the entire Seventy-sixth Congress for a month.”
She took the box and curiously examined its contents.
“And how long would it support my life–for more than a year, perhaps?”
“Yes, for more than ten–more than twenty years.”
“I will not bore you with chemical and physiological facts,” continued Wanlee, “but you must know that the food which we take, in whatever form, resolves itself into what are called proximate principles– starch, sugar, oleine, flurin, albumen, and so on. These are selected and assimilated by the organs of the body, and go to build up the necessary tissues. But all these proximate principles, in their turn, are simply combinations of the ultimate chemical elements, chiefly carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen. It is upon these elements that we depend for sustenance. By the old plan we obtained them indirectly. They passed from the earth and the air into the grass; from the grass into the muscular tissues of the ox; and from the beef into our own persons, loaded down and encumbered by a mass of useless, irrelevant matter. The German chemists have discovered how to supply the needed elements in compact, undiluted form–here they are in this little box. Now shall mankind go direct to the fountainhead of nature for his aliment; now shall the old roundabout, cumbrous, inhuman method be at an end; now shall the evils of gluttony and the attendant vices cease; now shall the brutal murdering of fellow animals and brother vegetables forever stop–now shall all this be, since the new, holy cause has been consecrated by the lips I love!”
He bent and kissed those lips. Then he suddenly looked up and saw Mr. Walsingham Brown standing at his elbow.
“You are observed–compromised, I fear,” said Mr. Brown, hurriedly. “That Italian dancer in your employ, Miss Newton, has been following you like a hound. I have been paying him the same gracious attention. He has just left the Capitol post haste. I fear there may be a scene.”
The brave girl, with clear eyes, gave her Mongolian lover a look worth to him a year of life. “There shall be no scene,” she said; “we will go at once to my father, Daniel, and bear ourselves the tale which Francesco would carry.”
The three left the Capitol without delay. At the head of Pennsylvania Avenue they entered a great building, lighted up as brilliantly as the Capitol itself. An elevator took them down toward the bowels of the earth. At the fourth landing they passed from the elevator into a small carriage, luxuriously upholstered. Mr. Walsingham Brown touched an ivory knob at the end of the conveyance. A man in uniform presented himself at the door.
“To Boston,” said Mr. Walsingham Brown.
III THE FROZEN BRIDE
The senator from Massachusetts sat in the library of his mansion on North Street at two o'clock in the morning. An expression of astonishment and rage distorted his pale, cold features. The pen had dropped from his fingers, blotting the last sentences written upon the manuscript of his great speech–for Senator Newton still adhered to the ancient fashion of recording thought. The blotted sentences were these:
“The logic of events compels us to acknowledge the political equality of those Asiatic invaders–shall I say conquerors?–of our Indo- European institutions. But the logic of events is often repugnant to common sense, and its conclusions abhorrent to patriotism and right. The sword has opened for them the way to the ballot box; but, Mr. President, and I say it deliberately, no power under heaven can unlock for these aliens the sacred approaches to our homes and hearts!”
Beside the senator stood Francesco, the professional dancer. His face wore a smile of malicious triumph.
“With the Chinaman? Miss Newton–my daughter?” gasped the senator. “I do not believe you. It is a lie.”
“Then come to the Capitol, Your Excellency, and see it with your own eyes,” said the Italian.
The door was quickly opened and Clara Newton entered the room, followed by the Honorable Mr. Wanlee and his friend.
“There is no need of making that excursion, Papa,” said the girl. “You can see it with your own eyes here and now. Francesco, leave the house!”
The senator bowed with forced politeness to Mr. Walsingbam Brown. Of the presence of Wanlee he took not the slightest notice.
Senator Newton attempted to laugh. “This is a pleasantry, Clara,” he said; “a practical jest, designed by yourself and Mr. Brown for my midnight diversion. It is a trifle unseasonable.”
“It is no jest,” replied his daughter, bravely. She then went up to Wanlee and took his hand in hers. “Papa,” she said, “this is a gentleman of whom you already know something. He is our equal in station, in intellect, and in moral worth. He is in every way worthy of my friendship and your esteem. Will you listen to what he has to say to you? Will you, Papa?”
The senator laughed a short, hard laugh, and turned to Mr. Walsingham Brown. “I have no communication to make to the member of the lower branch,” said he. “Why should he have any communication to make to me?”
Miss Newton put her arm around the waist of the young Chinaman and led him squarely in front of her father. “Because,” she said, in a voice as firm and clear as the note of a silver bell “-because I love him.”
In recalling with Wanlee the circumstances of this interview, Mr. Walsingham Brown said long afterward, “She glowed for a moment like the platinum of your thermo-electrode.”
“If the member from California,” said Senator Newton, without changing the tone of his voice, and still continuing to address himself to Mr. Brown, “has worked upon the sentimentality of this foolish child, that is her misfortune, and mine. It cannot be helped now. But if the member from California presumes to hope to profit in the least by his sinister operations, or to enjoy further opportunities for pursuing them, the member from California deceives himself.”
So saying he turned around in his chair and began to write on his great speech.
“I come,” said Wanlee slowly, now speaking for the first time, “as an honorable man to ask of Senator Newton the hand of his daughter in honorable marriage. Her own consent has already been given.”
“I have nothing further to say,” said the Senator, once more turning his cold face toward Mr. Brown. Then he paused an instant, and added with a sting, “I am told that the member from California is a prophet and apostle of Vegetable Rights. Let him seek a cactus in marriage. He should wed on his own level.”
Wanlee, coloring at the wanton insult, was about to leave the room. A quick sign from Miss Newton arrested him.
“But I have something further to say,” she cried with spirit. “Listen, Father; it is this. If Mr. Wanlee goes out of the house without a word from you–a word such as is due him from you as a gentleman and as my father–I go with him to be his wife before the sun rises!”
“Go if you will, girl,” the senator coldly replied. “But first consult with Mr. Walsingham Brown, who is a lawyer and a gentleman, as to the tenor and effect of the Suspended Animation Act.”
Miss Newton looked inquiringly from one face to another. The words had no meaning to her. Her lover turned suddenly pale and clutched at the back of a chair for support. Mr. Brown’s cheeks were also white. He stepped quickly forward, holding out his hands as if to avert some dreadful calamity.
“Surely you would not-” he began. “But no! That is an absolute low, an inhuman, outrageous enactment that has long been as dead as the partisan fury that prompted it. For a quarter of a century it has been a dead letter on the statute books.”
“I was not aware,” said the senator, from between firmly set teeth, “that the act had ever been repealed.”
He took from the shelf a volume of statutes and opened the book. “I will read the text,” he said. “It will form an appropriate part of the ritual of this marriage.” He read as follows:
“Section 7.391. No male person of Caucasian descent, of or under the age of 25 years, shall marry, or promise or contract himself in marriage with any female person of Mongolian descent without the full written consent of his male parent or guardian, as provided by law; and no female person, either maid or widow, under the age of 30 years, of Caucasian parentage, shall give, promise, or contract herself in marriage with any male person of Mongolian descent without the full written and registered consent of her male and female parents or guardians, as provided by law. And any marriage obligations so contracted shall be null and void, and the Caucasian so contracting shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and liable to punishment at the discretion of his or her male parent or guardian as provided by law.
"Section 7.392. Such parents or guardians may, at their discretion and upon application to the authorities of the United States District Court for the district within which the offense is committed, deliver the offending person of Caucasian descent to the designated officers, and require that his or her consciousness, bodily activities, and vital functions be suspended by the frigorific process known as the Werkomer process, for a period equal to that which must elapse before the offending person will arrive at the age of 25 years, if a male, or 30 years, if a female; or for a shorter period at the discretion of the parent or guardian; said shorter period to be fixed in advance.”
“What does it mean?” demanded Miss Newton, bewildered by the verbiage of the act, and alarmed by her lover’s exclamation of despair.
Mr. Walsingbam Brown shook his head, sadly. “It means,” said he, “that the cruel sin of the fathers is to be visited upon the children.”
“It means, Clara,” said Wanlee with a great effort, “that we must part.”
“Understand me, Mr. Brown,” said the senator, rising and motioning impatiently with the hand that held the pen, as if to dismiss both the subject and the intruding party. “I do not employ the Suspended Animation Act as a bugaboo to frighten a silly girl out of her lamentable infatuation. As surely as the law stands, so surely will I put it to use.”
Miss Newton gave her father a long, steady look which neither Wanlee nor Mr. Brown could interpret and then slowly led the way to the parlor. She closed the door and locked it. The clock on the mantel said four.
A complete change had come over the girl’s manner. The spirit of defiance, of passionate appeal, of outspoken love, had gone. She was calm now, as cold and self-possessed as the senator himself. “Frozen!” she kept saying under her breath. “He has frozen me already with his frigid heart.”
She quickly asked Mr. Walsingham Brown to explain clearly the force and bearings of the statute which her father had read from the book. When he had done so, she inquired, “Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?”
“The Twenty-seventh Amendment to the Constitution,” replied the lawyer, “recognizes the right of any individual, not satisfied with the condition of his life, to suspend that life for a time, long or short, according to his pleasure. But it is rarely, as you know, that any one avails himself of the right–practically never, except as the only means to procure divorce from uncongenial marriage relations.”
“Still,” she persisted, “the right exists and the way is open?” He bowed. She went to Wanlee and said:
“My darling, it must be so. I must leave you for a time, but as your wife. We will arrange a wedding”–and she smiled sadly–“within this hour. Mr. Brown will go with us to the clergyman. Then we will proceed at once to the Refuge, and you yourself shall lead me to the cloister that is to keep me safe till times are better for us. No, do not be startled, my love! The resolution is taken; you cannot alter it. And it will not be so very long, dear. Once, by accident, in arranging my father’s papers, I came across his Life Probabilities, drawn up by the Vital Bureau at Washington. He has less than ten years to live. I never thought to calculate in cold blood on the chances of my father’s life, but it must be. In ten years, Daniel, you may come to the Refuge again and claim your bride. You will find me as you left me.”
With tears streaming down his pale cheeks, the Mongolian strove to dissuade the Caucasian from her purpose. Hardly less affected, Mr. Walsingham Brown joined his entreaties and arguments.
“Have you ever seen,” he asked, “a woman who has undergone what you propose to undergo? She went into the Refuge, perhaps, as you will go, fresh, rosy, beautiful, full of life and energy. She comes out a prematurely aged, withered, sallow, flaccid body, a living corpse–a skeleton, a ghost of her former self. In spite of all they say, there can be no absolute suspension of animation. Absolute suspension would be death. Even in the case of the most perfect freezing there is still some activity of the vital functions, and they gnaw and prey upon the existence of the unconscious subject. Will you risk,” he suddenly demanded, using the last and most perfect argument that can be addressed to a woman “-will you risk the effect your loss of beauty may have upon Wanlee’s love after ten years’ separation?”
Clara Newton was smiling now. “For my poor beauty,” she replied, “I care very little. Yet perhaps even that may be preserved.”
She took from the bosom of her dress the little gold box which the Chinaman had given her in the supper room of the Capitol, and hastily swallowed its entire contents.
Wanlee now spoke with determination: “Since you have resolved to sacrifice ten years of your life my duty is with you. I shall share with you the sacrifice and share also the joy of awakening.”
She gravely shook her head. “It is no sacrifice for me,” she said. “But you must remain in life. You have a great and noble work to perform. Till the oppressed of the lower orders of being are emancipated from man’s injustice and cruelty, you cannot abandon their cause. I think your duty is plain.”
“You are right,” he said, bowing his head to his breast.
In the gray dawn of the early morning the officials at the Frigorific Refuge in Cambridgeport were astonished by the arrival of a bridal party. The bridegroom’s haggard countenance contrasted strangely with the elegance of his full evening toilet, and the bright scarlet bows at his knees seemed a mockery of grief. The bride, in white satin, wore a placid smile on her lovely face. The friend accompanying the two was grave and silent.
Without delay the necessary papers of admission were drawn up and signed and the proper registration was made upon the books of the establishment. For an instant husband and wife rested in each other’s arms. Then she, still cheerful, followed the attendants toward the inner door, while he, pressing both hands upon his tearless eyes, turned away sobbing.
A moment later the intense cold of the congealing chamber caught the bride and wrapped her close in its icy embrace.