THE SLEEPER WAKES -- HARLEM RENAISSANCE STORIES BY WOMEN
His Great Career
The travel-scarred motorcar came to a pause in the driveway of the great mountain mansion. "The Squire," as he was lovingly called for miles around, greeted the owner of the car as he rather stiffly set foot on the ground.
"It's good of you to come up here to see us in our mountain fastness," he said warmly.
"Didn't know you lived here until we broke down somewhere in your peaks and crags, and Martin inquired of the nearest civilized house."
The Squire talked cheerfully as he carried the bags of the great criminal lawyer up the broad walk.
"We're having a big house party here," he explained the group of guests on the veranda. "My wife's birthday, and when we give a party up here, it means a weekend stay, for we have to go so far for our festivities, it would be a pity to go right home."
The great lawyer was introduced to the fluttering and flattered group of maidens and wives, and to the hearty men who hovered on the edges. He bent his great grizzled frame over small eager hands, while his host stood by, enjoying his embarrassment in the pause before he went to his room.
"And so you're married?" asked the lawyer, as they went up the broad stairs.
"Fifteen years. You remember when my health broke eighteen years ago? I found her here in a sanitarium, wrecked too, and 'sick of that disease called life.' Between us, we mended our lives, and then she didn't care for the east and all that it means any more than I did -- so we stayed, and here we are."
The great lawyer revelled in the scene, a marvelous panorama spreading out from the window.
"Prominent citizen, leader of the community, and the rest?" he asked smilingly.
The Squire was modest. "Well, we've helped build the community, and all that sort of thing. You can't live in a place without being part of it. And you, old Hard-head, you've become one of the most famous lawyers in the country!"
The lawyer waved a deprecating hand. "I'm motoring in out of the way places now to forget it awhile."
The veranda was not in a mood to allow him to forget. Famous celebrities did not drop into their lives often enough for them to be blase. The lawyer put down the excellent cocktail that his host brought him in lieu of tea, and inquired for the mistress of the house. She had ridden to town for a last bit of foolery for tonight's costume party, explained the Squire.
The almond-eyed widow was subtly intent on opening up a flood of reminiscences. She fluttered slender hands and widened black eyes suggestively. Even the great lawyer's habitual taciturnity relaxed under the enveloping warmth of remembering the night she had sworn to be avenged on the slim, pale woman, who had taken him, her legitimate prey. A wife and a widow since, but the almond eyes still avid for vengeance.
"You must have had some interesting experiences, have you not? Oh, do tell us about some of your early struggles."
The great lawyer expanded under the enveloping perfume of her Incense.
"Well," he began, his great voice booming softly in the mountain sunlight, "I shall never forget my first case. I was a briefless barrister, and hungry, or I would not have taken it. Everyone concerned in the affair is dead now, so I can smile at it. My first client was a murderer, a woman. She confessed the truth to me, and expected me to clear her."
"And did you?" chorused an octave of soprano voices.
"Yes. It was the beginning of my career."
A soft intake of breath from the window, and a flattering flutter from the rest of the veranda left the great lawyer to turn to his host.
But the Squire was oblivious, for coming up the walk was the mistress of the mansion. His soul was in his eyes as he watched her. Her eyes glowed, and her face was wind-whipped from riding; she had taken off her hat and her packages dangled from her arm. The lawyer stood in intent stillness. The same lithe form. The same aureole of auburn hair, as yet untinged by gray. The same still, quiet little face with deep pools of eyes. The same questioning droop of head. She came quickly up the walk and onto the veranda with incredible lightness.
"My dear," said the Squire, his voice a protecting caress, "this is --"
But she extended her hand smilingly to the great lawyer, grasping his with welcoming warmth.
"I did not die, you see," she said in her deep, vibrant voice, "The west gave me health and happiness," and still holding his hand with proprietary grasp, she turned to the group on the veranda.
"Mr. Booth is an old friend of mine, too. You see, I was his very first client, and I flatter myself that I started him on his great career."
CA. I928-I932, UNPUBLISHED