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The Conflict   By: (1867-1911)

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David Graham Phillips


Four years at Wellesley; two years about equally divided among Paris, Dresden and Florence. And now Jane Hastings was at home again. At home in the unchanged house spacious, old fashioned looking down from its steeply sloping lawns and terraced gardens upon the sooty, smoky activities of Remsen City, looking out upon a charming panorama of hills and valleys in the heart of South Central Indiana. Six years of striving in the East and abroad to satisfy the restless energy she inherited from her father; and here she was, as restless as ever yet with everything done that a woman could do in the way of an active career. She looked back upon her years of elaborate preparation; she looked forward upon nothing. That is, nothing but marriage dropping her name, dropping her personality, disappearing in the personality of another. She had never seen a man for whom she would make such a sacrifice; she did not believe that such a man existed.

She meditated bitterly upon that cruel arrangement of Nature's whereby the father transmits his vigorous qualities in twofold measure to the daughter, not in order that she may be a somebody, but solely in order that she may transmit them to sons. "I don't believe it," she decided. "There's something for ME to do." But what? She gazed down at Remsen City, connected by factories and pierced from east, west and south by railways. She gazed out over the fields and woods. Yes, there must be something for her besides merely marrying and breeding just as much for her as for a man. But what? If she should marry a man who would let her rule him, she would despise him. If she should marry a man she could respect a man who was of the master class like her father how she would hate him for ignoring her and putting her in her ordained inferior feminine place. She glanced down at her skirts with an angry sense of enforced masquerade. And then she laughed for she had a keen sense of humor that always came to her rescue when she was in danger of taking herself too seriously.

Through the foliage between her and the last of the stretches of highroad winding up from Remsen City she spied a man climbing in her direction a long, slim figure in cap, Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers. Instantly and long before he saw her there was a grotesque whisking out of sight of the serious personality upon which we have been intruding. In its stead there stood ready to receive the young man a woman of the type that possesses physical charm and knows how to use it and does not scruple to use it. For a woman to conquer man by physical charm is far and away the easiest, the most fleeting and the emptiest of victories. But for woman thus to conquer without herself yielding anything whatsoever, even so little as an alluring glance of the eye that is quite another matter. It was this sort of conquest that Jane Hastings delighted in and sought to gain with any man who came within range. If the men had known what she was about, they would have denounced her conduct as contemptible and herself as immoral, even brazen. But in their innocence they accused only their sophisticated and superbly masculine selves and regarded her as the soul of innocence. This was the more absurd in them because she obviously excelled in the feminine art of inviting display of charm. To glance at her was to realize at once the beauty of her figure, the exceeding grace of her long back and waist. A keen observer would have seen the mockery lurking in her light brown eyes, and about the corners of her full red lips.

She arranged her thick dark hair to make a secret, half revealed charm of her fascinating pink ears and to reveal in dazzling unexpectedness the soft, round whiteness of the nape of her neck.

Because you are thus let into Miss Hastings' naughty secret, so well veiled behind an air of earnest and almost cold dignity, you must not do her the injustice of thinking her unusually artful... Continue reading book >>

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