They were married while the flowers were knee-deep over the sunny slopes and mesas, and the canyons gulfs of color and fragrance, and went for their first moon together to a far high mountain valley hidden among wooded peaks, with a clear lake for its central jewel.
A month of heaven; while wave on wave of perfect rest and world-forgetting oblivion rolled over both their hearts.
They swam together in the dawn-flushed lake, seeing the morning mists float up from the silver surface, breaking the still reflection of thick trees and rosy clouds, rejoicing in the level shafts of forest filtered sunlight. They played and ran like children, rejoiced over their picnic meals; lay flat among the crowding flowers and slept under the tender starlight.
"I don't see," said her lover, "but that my strenuous Amazon is just as much a woman as—as any woman!"
"Who ever said I wasn't?" quoth Diantha demurely.
A month of perfect happiness. It was so short it seemed but a moment; so long in its rich perfection that they both agreed if life brought no further joy this was Enough.
Then they came down from the mountains and began living.
Day service is not so easily arranged on a ranch some miles from town. They tried it for a while, the new runabout car bringing out a girl in the morning early, and taking Diantha in to her office.
But motor cars are not infallible; and if it met with any accident there was delay at both ends, and more or less friction.
Then Diantha engaged a first-class Oriental gentleman, well recommended by the "vegetable Chinaman," on their own place. This was extremely satisfactory; he did the work well, and was in all ways reliable; but there arose in the town a current of malicious criticism and protest—that she "did not live up to her principles."
To this she paid no attention; her work was now too well planted, too increasingly prosperous to be weakened by small sneers.
Her mother, growing plumper now, thriving continuously in her new lines of work, kept the hotel under her immediate management, and did bookkeeping for the whole concern. New Union Home ran itself, and articles were written about it in magazines; so that here and there in other cities similar clubs were started, with varying success. The restaurant was increasingly popular; Diantha's cooks were highly skilled and handsomely paid, and from the cheap lunch to the expensive banquet they gave satisfaction.
But the "c. f. d." was the darling of her heart, and it prospered exceedingly. "There is no advertisement like a pleased customer," and her pleased customers grew in numbers and in enthusiasm. Family after family learned to prize the cleanliness and quiet, the odorlessness and flylessness of a home without a kitchen, and their questioning guests were converted by the excellent of the meals.
Critical women learned at last that a competent cook can really produce better food than an incompetent one; albeit without the sanctity of the home.
"Sanctity of your bootstraps!" protested one irascible gentleman. "Such talk is all nonsense! I don't want sacred meals—I want good ones—and I'm getting them, at last!"
"We don't brag about 'home brewing' any more," said another, "or 'home tailoring,' or 'home shoemaking.' Why all this talk about 'home cooking'?"
What pleased the men most was not only the good food, but its clock-work regularity; and not only the reduced bills but the increased health and happiness of their wives. Domestic bliss increased in Orchardina, and the doctors were more rigidly confined to the patronage of tourists.
Ross Warden did his best. Under the merciless friendliness of Mr. Thaddler he had been brought to see that Diantha had a right to do this if she would, and that he had no right to prevent her; but he did not like it any the better.
When she rolled away in her little car in the bright, sweet mornings, a light went out of the day for him. He wanted her there, in the home—his home—his wife—even when he was not in it himself. And in this particular case it was harder than for most men, because he was in the house a good deal, in his study, with no better company than a polite Chinaman some distance off.
It was by no means easy for Diantha, either. To leave him tugged at her heart-strings, as it did at his; and if he had to struggle with inherited feelings and acquired traditions, still more was she beset with an unexpected uprising of sentiments and desires she had never dreamed of feeling.
With marriage, love, happiness came an overwhelming instinct of service—personal service. She wanted to wait on him, loved to do it; regarded Wang Fu with positive jealousy when he brought in the coffee and Ross praised it. She had a sense of treason, of neglected duty, as she left the flower-crowned cottage, day by day.
But she left it, she plunged into her work, she schooled herself religiously.
"Shame on you!" she berated herself. "Now—now that you've got everything on earth—to weaken! You could stand unhappiness; can't you stand happiness?" And she strove with herself; and kept on with her work.
After all, the happiness was presently diluted by the pressure of this blank wall between them. She came home, eager, loving, delighted to be with him again. He received her with no complaint or criticism, but always an unspoken, perhaps imagined, sense of protest. She was full of loving enthusiasm about his work, and he would dilate upon his harassed guinea-pigs and their development with high satisfaction.
But he never could bring himself to ask about her labors with any genuine approval; she was keenly sensitive to his dislike for the subject, and so it was ignored between them, or treated by him in a vein of humor with which he strove to cover his real feeling.
When, before many months were over, the crowning triumph of her effort revealed itself, her joy and pride held this bitter drop—he did not sympathize—did not approve. Still, it was a great glory.
The New York Company announced the completion of their work and the Hotel del las Casas was opened to public inspection. "House of the Houses! That's a fine name!" said some disparagingly; but, at any rate, it seemed appropriate. The big estate was one rich garden, more picturesque, more dreamily beautiful, than the American commercial mind was usually able to compass, even when possessed of millions. The hotel of itself was a pleasure palace—wholly unostentatious, full of gaiety and charm, offering lovely chambers for guests and residents, and every opportunity for healthful amusement. There was the rare luxury of a big swimming-pool; there were billiard rooms, card rooms, reading rooms, lounging rooms and dancing rooms of satisfying extent.
Outside there were tennis-courts, badminton, roque, even croquet; and the wide roof was a garden of Babylon, a Court of the Stars, with views of purple mountains, fair, wide valley and far-flashing rim of sea. Around it, each in its own hedged garden, nestled "Las Casas"—the Houses—twenty in number, with winding shaded paths, groups of rare trees, a wilderness of flowers, between and about them. In one corner was a playground for children—a wall around this, that they might shout in freedom; and the nursery thereby gave every provision for the happiness and safety of the little ones.
The people poured along the winding walls, entered the pretty cottages, were much impressed by a little flock of well-floored tents in another corner, but came back with Ohs! and Ahs! of delight to the large building in the Avenue.
Diantha went all over the place, inch by inch, her eyes widening with admiration; Mr. and Mrs. Porne and Mrs. Weatherstone with her. She enjoyed the serene, well-planned beauty of the whole; approved heartily of the cottages, each one a little different, each charming in its quiet privacy, admired the plentiful arrangements for pleasure and gay association; but her professional soul blazed with enthusiasm over the great kitchens, clean as a hospital, glittering in glass and copper and cool tiling, with the swift, sure electric stove.
The fuel all went into a small, solidly built power house, and came out in light and heat and force for the whole square.
Diantha sighed in absolute appreciation.
"Fine, isn't it?" said Mr. Porne.
"How do you like the architecture?" asked Mrs. Porne.
"What do you think of my investment?" said Mrs. Weatherstone. Diantha stopped in her tracks and looked from one to the other of them.
"Fact. I control the stock—I'm president of the Hotel del las Casas Company. Our friends here have stock in it, too, and more that you don't know. We think it's going to be a paying concern. But if you can make it go, my dear, as I think you will, you can buy us all out and own the whole outfit!"
It took some time to explain all this, but the facts were visible enough.
"Nothing remarkable at all," said Mrs. Weatherstone. "Here's Astor with three big hotels on his hands—why shouldn't I have one to play with? And I've got to employ somebody to manage it!"
Within a year of her marriage Diantha was at the head of this pleasing Centre of Housekeeping. She kept the hotel itself so that it was a joy to all its patrons; she kept the little houses homes of pure delight for those who were so fortunate as to hold them; and she kept up her "c. f. d." business till it grew so large she had to have quite a fleet of delivery wagons.
Orchardina basked and prospered; its citizens found their homes happier and less expensive than ever before, and its citizenesses began to wake up and to do things worth while.
Two years, and there was a small Ross Warden born.
She loved it, nursed it, and ran her business at long range for some six months. But then she brought nurse and child to the hotel with her, placed them in the cool, airy nursery in the garden, and varied her busy day with still hours by herself—the baby in her arms.
Back they came together before supper, and found unbroken joy and peace in the quiet of home; but always in the background was the current of Ross' unspoken disapproval.
Three years, four years.
There were three babies now; Diantha was a splendid woman of thirty, handsome and strong, pre-eminently successful—and yet, there were times when she found it in her heart to envy the most ordinary people who loved and quarreled and made up in the little outlying ranch houses along the road; they had nothing between them, at least.
Meantime in the friendly opportunities of Orchardina society, added to by the unexampled possibilities of Las Casas (and they did not scorn this hotel nor Diantha's position in it), the three older Miss Wardens had married. Two of them preferred "the good old way," but one tried the "d. s." and the "c. f. d." and liked them well.
Dora amazed and displeased her family, as soon as she was of age, by frankly going over to Diantha's side and learning bookkeeping. She became an excellent accountant and bade fair to become an expert manager soon.
Ross had prospered in his work. It may be that the element of dissatisfaction in his married life spurred him on, while the unusual opportunities of his ranch allowed free effort. He had always held that the "non-transmissability of acquired traits" was not established by any number of curtailed mice or crop-eared rats. "A mutilation is not an acquired trait," he protested. "An acquired trait is one gained by exercise; it modifies the whole organism. It must have an effect on the race. We expect the sons of a line of soldiers to inherit their fathers' courage—perhaps his habit of obedience—but not his wooden leg."
To establish his views he selected from a fine family of guinea-pigs two pair; set the one, Pair A, in conditions of ordinary guinea-pig bliss, and subjected the other, Pair B, to a course of discipline. They were trained to run. They, and their descendants after them, pair following on pair; first with slow-turning wheels as in squirrel cages, the wheel inexorably going, machine-driven, and the luckless little gluttons having to move on, for gradually increasing periods of time, at gradually increasing speeds. Pair A and their progeny were sheltered and fed, but the rod was spared; Pair B were as the guests at "Muldoon's"—they had to exercise. With scientific patience and ingenuity, he devised mechanical surroundings which made them jump increasing spaces, which made them run always a little faster and a little farther; and he kept a record as carefully as if these little sheds were racing stables for a king.
Several centuries of guinea-pig time went by; generation after generation of healthy guinea-pigs passed under his modifying hands; and after some five years he had in one small yard a fine group of the descendants of his gall-fed pair, and in another the offspring of the trained ones; nimble, swift, as different from the first as the razor-backed pig of the forest from the fatted porkers in the sty. He set them to race—the young untrained specimens of these distant cousins—and the hare ran away from the tortoise completely.
Great zoologists and biologists came to see him, studied, fingered, poked, and examined the records; argued and disbelieved—and saw them run.
"It is natural selection," they said. "It profited them to run."
"Not at all," said he. "They were fed and cared for alike, with no gain from running."
"It was artificial selection," they said. "You picked out the speediest for your training."
"Not at all," said he. "I took always any healthy pair from the trained parents and from the untrained ones—quite late in life, you understand, as guinea-pigs go."
Anyhow, there were the pigs; and he took little specialized piglets scarce weaned, and pitted them against piglets of the untrained lot—and they outran them in a race for "Mama." Wherefore Mr. Ross Warden found himself famous of a sudden; and all over the scientific world the Wiesmanian controversy raged anew. He was invited to deliver a lecture before some most learned societies abroad, and in several important centers at home, and went, rejoicing.
Diantha was glad for him from the bottom of her heart, and proud of him through and through. She thoroughly appreciated his sturdy opposition to such a weight of authority; his long patience, his careful, steady work. She was left in full swing with her big business, busy and successful, honored and liked by all the town—practically—and quite independent of the small fraction which still disapproved. Some people always will. She was happy, too, in her babies—very happy.
The Hotel del las Casas was a triumph.
Diantha owned it now, and Mrs. Weatherstone built others, in other places, at a large profit.
Mrs. Warden went to live with Cora in the town. Cora had more time to entertain her—as she was the one who profited by her sister-in-law's general services.
Diantha sat in friendly talk with Mrs. Weatherstone one quiet day, and admitted that she had no cause for complaint.
"And yet—?" said her friend.
Young Mrs. Warden smiled. "There's no keeping anything from you, is there? Yes—you're right. I'm not quite satisfied. I suppose I ought not to care—but you see, I love him so! I want him to approve of me!—not just put up with it, and bear it! I want him to feel with me—to care. It is awful to know that all this big life of mine is just a mistake to him—that he condemns it in his heart."
"But you knew this from the beginning, my dear, didn't you?"
"Yes—I knew it—but it is different now. You know when you are married—"
Mrs. Weatherstone looked far away through the wide window. "I do know," she said.
Diantha reached a strong hand to clasp her friend's. "I wish I could give it to you," she said. "You have done so much for me! So much! You have poured out your money like water!"
"My money! Well I like that!" said Mrs. Weatherstone. "I have taken my money out of five and seven per cent investments, and put it into ten per cent ones, that's all. Shall I never make you realize that I am a richer woman because of you, Diantha Bell Warden! So don't try to be grateful—I won't have it! Your work has paid remember—paid me as well as you; and lots of other folks beside. You know there are eighteen good imitations of Union House running now, in different cities, and three 'Las Casas!' all succeeding—and the papers are talking about the dangers of a Cooked Food Trust!"
They were friends old and tried, and happy in mutual affection. Diantha had many now, though none quite so dear. Her parents were contented—her brother and sister doing well—her children throve and grew and found Mama a joy they never had enough of.
Yet still in her heart of hearts she was not wholly happy.
Then one night came by the last mail, a thick letter from Ross—thicker than usual. She opened it in her room alone, their room—to which they had come so joyously five years ago.
He told her of his journeying, his lectures, his controversies and triumphs; rather briefly—and then:
"My darling, I have learned something at last, on my travels, which will interest you, I fancy, more than the potential speed of all the guinea-pigs in the world, and its transmissability.
"From what I hear about you in foreign lands; from what I read about you wherever I go; and, even more, from what I see, as a visitor, in many families; I have at last begun to grasp the nature and importance of your work.
"As a man of science I must accept any truth when it is once clearly seen; and, though I've been a long time about it, I do see at last what brave, strong, valuable work you have been doing for the world. Doing it scientifically, too. Your figures are quoted, your records studied, your example followed. You have established certain truths in the business of living which are of importance to the race. As a student I recognize and appreciate your work. As man to man I'm proud of you—tremendously proud of you. As your husband! Ah! my love! I am coming back to you—coming soon, coming with my Whole Heart, Yours! Just wait, My Darling, till I get back to you!
"Your Lover and Husband."
Diantha held the letter close, with hands that shook a little. She kissed it—kissed it hard, over and over—not improving its appearance as a piece of polite correspondence.
Then she gave way to an overmastering burst of feeling, and knelt down by the wide bed, burying her face there, the letter still held fast. It was a funny prayer, if any human ear had heard it.
"Thank you!" was all she said, with long, deep sobbing sighs between. "Thank you!—O—thank you!"