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TheProjectGutenbergEBookofTheFifthWheel,byOliveHigginsProuty ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith almostnorestrictionswhatsoever Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.org Title:TheFifthWheel ANovel Author:OliveHigginsProuty ReleaseDate:October2,2006[EBook#19436] Language:English ***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEFIFTHWHEEL*** ProducedbySuzanneLybarger,JacquelineJeremy,Brian JanesandtheOnlineDistributedProofreadingTeamat http://www.pgdp.net THEFIFTHWHEEL cover "'Why,Breck,don'tbeabsurd!Iwouldn'tmarryyou foranythingintheworld'"—Page24 THE FIFTHWHEEL ANOVEL BY OLIVEHIGGINSPROUTY AUTHOROF "BOBBIE,GENERALMANAGER" cover WITHFOURILLUSTRATIONSBY JAMESMONTGOMERYFLAGG NEWYORK FREDERICKA STOKESCOMPANY PUBLISHERS Copyright,1916,by FrederickA StokesCompany Copyright,1915,1916,by ThePhillipsPublishingCompany Allrightsreserved,includingthatoftranslation intoforeignlanguages DEDICATED TO MYMOTHER CONTENTS CHAPTER I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X XI XII XIII XIV XV XVI XVII XVIII XIX XX XXI XXII XXIII XXIV XXV XXVI XXVII XXVIII XXIX XXX RUTHVARSCOMESOUT BRECKENRIDGESEWALL EPISODEOFASMALLDOG ABACK-SEASONDÉBUTANTE THEUNIMPORTANTFIFTHWHEEL BRECKSEWALLAGAIN THEMILLIONSWIN THEHORSE-SHOW CATASTROPHE AUNIVERSITYTOWN AWALKINTHERAIN ADINNERPARTY LUCYTAKESUPTHENARRATIVE BOBTURNSOUTACONSERVATIVE ANOTHERCATASTROPHE AFAMILYCONFERENCE RUTHGOESTONEWYORK AYEARLATER RUTHRESUMESHEROWNSTORY THEFIFTHWHEELGAINSWINGS INTHESEWALLMANSION THEPARADE ANENCOUNTERWITHBRECK THEOPENDOOR MOUNTAINCLIMBING THEPOTOFGOLD VANDEVERE'S ACALLFROMBOBJENNINGS LONGINGS AGAINLUCYNARRATES PAGE 10 18 27 36 44 50 56 69 80 90 101 112 124 135 142 156 166 177 187 198 206 212 222 232 239 248 258 266 274 XXXI XXXII RUTHDRAWSCONCLUSIONS BOBDRAWSCONCLUSIONSTOO 282 291 ILLUSTRATIONS "'Why,Breck,don'tbeabsurd!Iwouldn'tmarryyouforanythingin theworld'" Frontispiece FACING PAGE "'Menseemtowanttomakejustnicesoftpussy-catsoutofus,with ribbonsroundournecks,andhearuspurr'" 128 "Straightaheadshegazed;straightaheadsherode;unafraid,eager, hopeful;theflagheronlystaff" 170 "Iwastheonlyoneinherwholeestablishmentwhomshewasn't obligedtotreatasaservantandmenial" 202 THEFIFTHWHEEL "Well?"shesmiled,unalarmed "You see your mistake now," he hurried on "You make your mad dash for freedom,andnowcomeseekingshelter Thatiswhatmostof'emdo Youtried freedomandfounditlacking." "And what is your conclusion, Tom?" asked Ruth, baring herself, it seemed to me,totheonslaughtofTom'sopposition "My conclusion! Do I need even to state it?" he inquired, as if flourishing the flag before sticking its staff into the pinnacle of Ruth's defense "Is it not selfevident?Ifyouhadmarriedfiveyearsago,todayyouwouldhaveapermanent familyofyourowninsteadofaborrowedoneforeightmonths Yourfreedom hasrobbedyouofwhatyouimplyyoudesire—ahome,Imean Myconclusion isthatyourownhistoryprovesthatfreedomisadangerousthingforwomen." Ruth answered Tom quietly I thrilled at her mild and gentle manner We all listenedintently "Tom," she said slowly and with conviction, "my own history proves just the opposite TheveryfactthatIdofeelthedeficienciesoffreedom,isproofthatit has not been a dangerous tool If it had killed in me the home instinct, then I mightconcedethatyourfearswerejustified,butif,asyousay,mostwomendo notrovefarbutcomehomeinanswertotheirheart'scall,thenmenneednotfear to cut the leash." With some such words Ruth pulled Tom's flag from out her fortress where he had planted it As Tom made no reply she went on talking "OnceIhadnoexcuseforexistenceunlessImarried Myeffortswerenarrowed tothatoneaccomplishment Isoughtmarriage,desperately,toescapethestigma ofbecomingasuperfluousandunoccupiedfemale TodayifImarryitwillbein answertomygreatdesire,and,whethermarriedornot,abroaderoutlookanda deeper appreciation are mine I believe that working hard for something worth whilepaysdividendstoawomanalways IfIneverhaveahomeofmyown," Ruth went on, "and I may not—spinsters," she added playfully, "like the poor must always be with us—at least I have a trade by which I can be selfsupporting I'mbetterequippedwhateverhappens Oh,Idon'tregrethavinggone forth No,Tom,pioneersmustexpecttopay I'msoconvinced,"sheburstforth eagerly, "that wider activities and broader outlooks for women generally are a wisething,thatifIhadafortuneleftmeIwouldspenditinestablishingtradeschoolsinlittletownsalloverthecountry,liketheCarnegielibraries,sothatall girlscouldhaveeasyaccesstoself-support I'dmakeitthecustomforgirlsto haveatradeaswellasaneducationandathleticandparloraccomplishments I'd unhamperwomenineverywayIknewhow,givethematrainingtousemodern tools,andthenI'dgivethemthetools Theywon'tteardownhomeswiththem Don'tbeafraidofthat Instinctistoostrong They'llbuildbetterones." Mybrothershookhishead "Igiveyouup,Ruth,Igiveyouup,"hesaid "Don'tdothat,"shereplied "I'mlikesomanyothergirlsinthisage Don'tgive usup Wewantyou Weneedyourconservatismtobalanceandsteady Weneed ournewfreedomguidedanddirected We'rethenewgeneration,Tom We'rethe newspirit Therearehundreds—thousands—ofus Don'tgiveusup."Iseemed toseeRuth'sarmysuddenlyswarmingaboutherasshespoke,andRuth,starryeyedandvictorious,standingonthesummitintheirmidst CHAPTERXXXII BOBDRAWSCONCLUSIONSTOO IT was Edith who told me the news about Mrs Sewall I ought to have been preparedforanything EversinceRuthhadbeenemployedassecretarytoMrs Sewall there had been something mysterious about their relations Ruth had never explained the details of her life in the Sewall household—I had never inquiredtooparticularly—butwhenevershereferredtoMrs Sewalltherewasa troubled and sort of wistful expression in her eyes which made me suspicious She admired Mrs Sewall, no doubt of that She felt deep affection for her Severaltimesshehadsaidtomeduringourintimatetalkstogether,ofwhichwe hadhadagoodmanylately,"Oh,Lucy,Iwishtheoceanwasn'tsowide I'drun across for over a Sunday." I knew, without asking, that Ruth was thinking of Mrs Sewall ShewaslivinginLondon EdithcalledmeonthetelephoneearlyoneMondaymorning Shefrequentlyis inBoston,shopping Fromthehour,evidentlyshehadjustarrivedfromHilton "Well,"shebeganexcitedly,"whathaveyougottosay?" "Say?Whatabout?" "Haven'tyouseenthepaper?"shedemanded "Notyet,"Ihadtoconfess "I'vebeenterriblyrushedthismorning." "Youdon'tknowwhathashappened,then?" "No Whathas?Outwithit,"Iretortedalittlealarmed Edith'svoicewashighpitchedandstrained "TheoldladySewallhasdied." "Oh,I'msorry,"Ireplied,relieved,however "InLondon—aweekago,"wentonEdith "Really?Whatashame!DoesRuthknow?" "Sheoughtto Itratheraffectsher." "How'sthat?" "How's that!" repeated Edith "Good heavens, if you'd read your paper you'd understandhow Theoldlady'swillispublished It'sterriblythrilling." Thecolormountedtomyface "Whatdoyoumean,Edith?" "Neveryoumind Yougoalongandreadforyourself,andthenmeetmeatone o'clock—no,makeittwelve I'vegottotalktosomeone—quick Ineversawthe article myself until I was on the train coming down I'm just about bursting Goodgracious,Lucy,hustleup,andmakeiteleveno'clock,sharp." Weagreedonameeting-placeandIhungupthereceiver,wentupstairstomy room,satdown,andopenedthepaper IfoundthearticleEdithreferredtoeasily enough Itwasontheinsideofthefrontpageprintedunderneathlargeletters It was appalling! The third sentence of the headlines containedmysister'sname Theremustbesomemistake Wasn'tsuchnewsasthisbornebyalawyerwith proper ceremony and form, or at least delivered by mail, inside an envelope sealed with red wax? Ruth had known nothing of this three days ago when I calledtoseeher Itcouldnotbetrue AllthewayintoBostonontheelectriccar, I felt self-conscious and ill-at-ease I was afraid some one I knew would meet me, and refer to the newspaper announcement I would dislike to confess, "I knownomoreaboutitthanyou."Ihatenewspapernotorietyanyhow Edith greeted me as if we hadn't met for years, kissed me ecstatically and grasped both my hands tight in hers Her sparkling eyes expressed what the publicity of the hotel corridor, where we met, prevented her from proclaiming aloud "Wherecanwegotobealoneforhalfaminute?"shewhispered "Let's try in here," I said, and we entered a deserted reception-room, and sat downinabay-window "DidyoutelephonetoRuth?"wasEdith'sfirstremark Ishookmyhead "No Ididn'tliketo,"Isaid "NorI,"confessedEdith "She'salwaysbeentouchywithmeonthesubjectof Mrs Sewallsincetherow Isn'tittooexciting?" "Canitbelegal,Edith?"Iinquired "Of course, silly Wills aren't published until they're looked into Legal? Of courseitis IalwayssaidRuthwoulddosomethingsplendid,oneofthesedays, andshehas,shehas—therascal." "You'vegotsomuchmoneyyourself,Edith,whydoesalittlemoreinthefamily pleaseyouso?"Iasked Edithwasextremelyexcited "Alittle Itisn'talittle It'salot Butitisn'tjustthemoney It'smore It'swhat themoneydoes Therehasalwaysbeenakindofpityingattitudetowardusin Hilton since that Sewall affair of Ruth's, for all my efforts This clears it up absolutely Haven't you read the way the thing's worded? Wait a minute." She openedherfoldedpaper "Here,Ihaveit."Hereyesknewexactlywheretolook Ruth's name appeared in the will at the very end of a long list of bequests to variouscharitableinstitutions "Listen 'All the rest, residue, and remainder of my property, wheresoever and whatsoever, including my house in New York City, my house in Hilton, Massachusetts,knownasGrassmere;myfurniture,books,picturesandjewels,I give, devise, and bequeath to the former fiancée of my son, now deceased, in affectionatememoryofourrelations Thisportionofmyestatetobeusedandto bedirected,accordingtothedictatesofherownhighdiscretion,duringtheterm ofhernaturallifeandatherdeathtopasstoherlawfulissue.'Didyoueverhear anything to equal it?" demanded Edith "Don't you see the old lady recognizes Ruth before the world? Don't you see, however humiliated I was at that distressingaffairthreeorfoursummersago,it'sallwipedofftheslatenow,by this? She makes Ruth her heir, Lucy Don't you see that? And she does it affectionately,too Ican'tgetoverit!Idon'tknowwhatmadetheoldveterando suchathing Idon'tcaremucheither AllIknowis,thatwe'refixedallrightin Hiltonsocietynow GrassmereRuth's!Goodheavens—thinkofit!Thinkofthe powerinmyhands,ifonlyRuthbehaves,topaybackafewoldscores Ionly wishBreckwasalive She'dmarryhimnow,Iguess,withallthisrecognition I wonderwhatevershe'lldowithGrassmereanyhow." "Turn it into some sort of institution for making women independent human beings,I'llwager."Ilaughed,recallingRuth'swordsofscarcelyafortnightago "Ifonlyshehadn'tgottensoabnormal,andqueer!"Edithsighed "Perhapsthis strokeofgoodluckwillmakeheralittlemoreliketherestofus Wemustall lookoutandnotletRuthdoanythingridiculouswiththisfortuneofhers." WillandIwentovertoseeRuththatevening "Why,hello!"shecalleddown,surprised,throughthetube,inanswertomyring "Willandyou!Really?Comerightup." "Shedoesn'tknow,"ItoldWill,pushingopentheheavydoorandbeginningto mount "Guess not," agreed my husband "Here's her evening paper in her box, untouched." WefoundRuthjustfinishingwiththedishes Themaid-of-all-workwasout,and Ruth was alone She called to me to come back and help her, and sang out brightly for Will to amuse himself with the paper He'd probably find it downstairsinthebox FiveminuteslaterRuthslippedoffherblue-checkedapron,andwejoinedWill bythelowlampintheliving-room Mysisterlookedveryprettyinalooseblack velvet smock Her hair was coiled into a simple little knot in the nape of her neck Therewereafewslightlywavingstrandsastrayaboutherface Herhands, stilldampfromrecentdish-washing,werethecolorofpinkcoral "I'mtiredtonight,"shesaid,sighingaudibly,andpullingherselfuponthetopof thehighcarvedchest Shetuckedadullredpillowbehindherhead,andleaned back in the corner "There! This is comfort," she went on "Read the news out loudtome,Will,whileIsithereandluxuriate."Sheclosedhereyes "All right," Will agreed "By the way," he broke off, as unconsciously as possible, a minute or so later, "Have you heard anything from Mrs Sewall lately?" Therewasaslightpause Thelady'snameinvariablycloudedmysister'sbright spirit Sheopenedhereyes Theywerewistful "No,"sherepliedquietly,"Ihaven't She'sinEngland Whydoyouask?" "Oh,Iwasjustwondering,"myhusbandreplied,losinghissplendidcourage "I supposeyoutwogottobeprettygoodfriends." "Yes, we did," Ruth replied shortly There was another pause Then in a low, troubled voice Ruth added, "But not now We're not friends now Something happened All her affection for me has died I have never been forgiven for something." "Oh, I wouldn't be so sure," belittled Will, making violent signs to me to announcethenewswebore Ihadaclippinginmyshopping-bagcutfromthemorningpaper Itookitoutof theenvelopethatcontainedit "Ruth,"Ibegan,"here'ssomethingIranacrosstoday." Thetelephoneinterruptedsharply "Justaminute,"shesaid,andsliddownoffthechestandwentoutintothehall "Hello," I heard her say "Hello," and then in a changed voice, "Oh, you?" A pauseandthen,"Really?Tonight?"Anotherpause,andmoregently "Ofcourse youmust OfcourseIdo,"andatlastverytenderly,"Yes,I'llberighthere I'llbe waiting Good-by." I looked at Will, and he lifted his eyebrows Ruth came back and stood in the doorway Therewasapeculiar,shiningqualityaboutherexpression "ThatwasBob,"shesaidquietly "Bob?"Iexclaimed "BobJennings?"ejaculatedWill Ruth nodded and smiled Standing there before us, dressed simply in the plain blacksmock,cheeksflushed,eyeslikestars,sheremindedmeofsomerarestone inavelvetcase Thebarenessoftheroom,withitsfewgenuinearticles,setoff thejewel-likebrightnessofmysisterinastartlingfashion "Youdon'tmeantosayoldBob'sturnedup,"commentedWill "Tell us," bluntly I demanded, "what in the world is Robert Jennings doing aroundhere,Ruth?" "Bob'sbeenintownforseveraldays,"shereplied "Hehasjusttelephonedthat he is called back on business His train leaves in a little over an hour He's droppinginhereintenminutes." "Why,Ididn'tknowyouevenwrotetoeachother,"Isaid Ruth came over to the table and sat down in a low chair, stretching out her foldedhandsarms-lengthalongthetable'ssurface,andleaningtowardus "I'm going to tell you two about it," she announced with finality "I wrote to Bob," she confessed, half proud, half apologetic "I wrote to Bob without any excuseatall,exceptthatIwantedtotellhimwhatI'dfoundout Iwantedtotell him that I had discovered that this sort of thing," she opened her hands, and made a little gesture that included everything that those few small rooms of Oliver's epitomized, "that this sort of thing," she resumed, "was what most women want more than anything else in the world Any other activity was simply preparation, or courageous makeshift if this was denied I made it easy forBob,inmyletter,toanswermeinthespiritoffriendlyargumentifhechose, but he didn't He came on instead We're going to be married," she said, in a voiceascasualasifshewereannouncingthattheyweregoingoutfordinner "You'regoingtobemarried?"Irepeated "Yes," she nodded "After all these years! Once," she went on in a triumphant voice,"ourfieldsofvisionweresosmallthatourdifferencesofopinionloomed up like insurmountable barriers Now the differences are mere specks on our broadenedoutlooks Oh,Iknow,"shewentonasifinspired,"I'vebeenalong journey,simplytocomebacktoBobagain Butithasn'tbeeninvain Therewas noshortcuttotheperfectunderstandingthatisBob'sandminetoday." "Andwhen,"timidlyIinquired,"doyouintendtobemarried,Ruth?" Mysister'sexpressionclouded Shesmiled,andshookherhead "Idon'tknow," shesaid,"IwishIdid Yearsaresopreciouswhenoneisconcealingalittlenest of gray hairs behind one's left ear Bob and I have got to wait You see Bob wasn'tplanningforthis Hehadsomeideaacareerwouldalwayssatisfyme He hasn'tbeensaving Hehasputaboutallhehasbeenabletoearnintofightingfor cleanpolitics Imyselfhaven'tbeenabletolaybybutapaltrythousand Madge comeshomeinMay Ishallthenprobablyhavetolookupanotherjobformyself somewhereorother,whileBob'sestablishinghimselfandmakingreadyforme outthere." Will cleared his throat and coughed He had simply stared until now "I suppose,"hesaid,asifinanattempttolightentheconversationwithalittlelight humor,"Isupposealegacyofsomesortwouldn'tproveunwelcometoyouand Bobjustaboutnow." It must have struck Ruth as a stereotyped attempt at fun But she smiled and repliedinthesamevein,"Ithinkwe'dknowhowtomakeuseofaportionofit." Then she rose The door bell had rung sharply twice "There he is," she explained "There'sBobnow I'lllethimin." She went out into the hall and pressed the button that released the lock of the doorthreefloorsbelow I knew how fleeting every minute of last hours before train-time can be I motionedtoWill,andwhenRuthcamebacktousIsaid,"We'lljustrundown thebackway,Ruth." Sheflashedmeanappreciativeglance "Youdon'tneedto,"shedeprecated "Still,wewill,"Iassuredher,andthenIwentoverandkissedmyradiantsister HerfacewasilluminedasitusedtobeyearsagowhenRobertJenningswason hiswaytoher Thesameoldtendernessgleamedinherlarger-visionedeyes "Whenhecomesreadthistogether,"Isaid,andIslippedtheenvelope,withthe clippinginsideit,intoherhands ThenWillandIwentoutthroughthekitchen,anddownthebackstairs THEEND EndoftheProjectGutenbergEBookofTheFifthWheel,byOliveHigginsProuty ***ENDOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEFIFTHWHEEL*** *****Thisfileshouldbenamed19436-h.htmor19436-h.zip***** Thisandallassociatedfilesofvariousformatswillbefoundin: http://www.gutenberg.org/1/9/4/3/19436/ ProducedbySuzanneLybarger,JacquelineJeremy,Brian JanesandtheOnlineDistributedProofreadingTeamat http://www.pgdp.net Updatededitionswillreplacethepreviousone theoldeditions willberenamed Creatingtheworksfrompublicdomainprinteditionsmeansthatno oneownsaUnitedStatescopyrightintheseworks,sotheFoundation 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