Actions and Reactions
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Pages (PDF): 210
Publication Date: 1909
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Actions and Reactions is a collection of short stories and poems. Chapters include: An Habitation Enforced; The Recall; Garm — A Hostage; The Power Of The Dog; The Mother Hive; The Bees And The Flies; With The Night Mail - A Story Of 2000 A. D.; The Four Angels; A Deal In Cotton; The New Knighthood; The Puzzler; The Puzzler; Little Foxes - A Tale Of The Gihon Hunt; Gallio’s Song; The House Surgeon; and, The Rabbi’s Song.
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It came without warning, at the very hour his hand was outstretched to crumple the Holz and Gunsberg Combine. The New York doctors called it overwork, and he lay in a darkened room, one ankle crossed above the other, tongue pressed into palate, wondering whether the next brain-surge of prickly fires would drive his soul from all anchorages. At last they gave judgment. With care he might in two years return to the arena, but for the present he must go across the water and do no work whatever. He accepted the terms. It was capitulation; but the Combine that had shivered beneath his knife gave him all the honours of war: Gunsberg himself, full of condolences, came to the steamer and filled the Chapins’ suite of cabins with overwhelming flower-works.
“Smilax,” said George Chapin when he saw them. “Fitz is right. I’m dead; only I don’t see why he left out the ‘In Memoriam’ on the ribbons!”
“Nonsense!” his wife answered, and poured him his tincture. “You’ll be back before you can think.”
He looked at himself in the mirror, surprised that his face had not been branded by the hells of the past three months. The noise of the decks worried him, and he lay down, his tongue only a little pressed against his palate.
An hour later he said: “Sophie, I feel sorry about taking you away from everything like this. I— I suppose we’re the two loneliest people on God’s earth to-night.”
Said Sophie his wife, and kissed him: “Isn’t it something to you that we’re going together?”
They drifted about Europe for months — sometimes alone, sometimes with chance met gipsies of their own land. From the North Cape to the Blue Grotto at Capri they wandered, because the next steamer headed that way, or because some one had set them on the road. The doctors had warned Sophie that Chapin was not to take interest even in other men’s interests; but a familiar sensation at the back of the neck after one hour’s keen talk with a Nauheimed railway magnate saved her any trouble. He nearly wept.
“And I’m over thirty,” he cried. “With all I meant to do!”
“Let’s call it a honeymoon,” said Sophie. “D’ you know, in all the six years we’ve been married, you’ve never told me what you meant to do with your life?”
“With my life? What’s the use? It’s finished now.” Sophie looked up quickly from the Bay of Naples. “As far as my business goes, I shall have to live on my rents like that architect at San Moritz.”
“You’ll get better if you don’t worry; and even if it rakes time, there are worse things than — How much have you?”
“Between four and five million. But it isn’t the money. You know it isn’t. It’s the principle. How could you respect me? You never did, the first year after we married, till I went to work like the others. Our tradition and upbringing are against it. We can’t accept those ideals.”
“Well, I suppose I married you for some sort of ideal,” she answered, and they returned to their forty-third hotel.
In England they missed the alien tongues of Continental streets that reminded them of their own polyglot cities. In England all men spoke one tongue, speciously like American to the ear, but on cross-examination unintelligible.
“Ah, but you have not seen England,” said a lady with iron-grey hair. They had met her in Vienna, Bayreuth, and Florence, and were grateful to find her again at Claridge’s, for she commanded situations, and knew where prescriptions are most carefully made up. “You ought to take an interest in the home of our ancestors as I do.”
“I’ve tried for a week, Mrs. Shonts,” said Sophie, “but I never get any further than tipping German waiters.”
“These men are not the true type,” Mrs. Shouts went on. “I know where you should go.”
Chapin pricked up his ears, anxious to run anywhere from the streets on which quick men, something of his kidney, did the business denied to him.
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