COLORADO SPRINGS lies in a shallow valley, under a genial sun, at almost the exact level of the summit of Mt. Washington. From the railway train, as it crawls over the hills to the east, it looks like a toy village, but is, in fact, a busy little city. To ride along its wide and leafy streets in summer, to breathe its crystalline airs in winter, is to lose belief in the necessity of disease. The grave seems afar off.
And yet it was built, and is now supported, by those who, fearing death, fled the lower, miasmatic levels of the world, and who, having abandoned all hope (or desire) of return, are loyally developing and adorning their adopted home. These fugitives are for the most part contented exiles—men as well as women—who have come to enjoy their enforced stay here beside the peaks; and their devotion to the town and its surroundings is unmistakably sincere, for they believe that the climate and the water have prolonged their lives.
Not all even of these seekers for health are ill, or even weakly, at present; on the contrary, many of them are stalwart hands at golf, and others are seasoned horsemen. In addition to those who are resident in their own behalf are many husbands attendant upon ailing wives, and blooming wives called to the care of weazened and querulous husbands, and parents who came bringing a son or daughter on whom the pale shadow of the White Death had fallen. But, after all, these Easterners color but they do not dominate the life of the town, which is a market-place for a wide region, and a place of comfort for well-to-do miners. It is, also, a Western town, with all a Western town's customary activities, and the traveller would hardly know it for a health resort, so cheerful and lively is the aspect of its streets, where everything denotes comfort and content.
In addition to the elements denoted above, it is also taken to be a desirable social centre and a charming place of residence for men like Marshall Haney, who, having made their pile in the mountain camps, have a reasonable desire to put their gold in evidence—'I to get some good of their dust," as Williams might say. Here and there along the principal avenues are luxurious homes—absurdly pretentious in some instances—which are pointed out to visitors as the residences of the big miners. They are especially given to good horses also, and ride or drive industriously, mixing very little with the more cultured and sophisticated of their neighbors, for whom they furnish a never-ending comedy of manners. "A beautiful mixture for a novelist," Congdon often said.
Yes, the town has its restricted "Smart Set," in imitation of New York city, and its literary and artistic groups (small, of course), and its staid circle of wealth and privilege, and within defined limits and at certain formal civic functions these various elements meet and interfuse genially if not sincerely. However, the bitter fact remains that the microcosm is already divided into classes and masses in a way which would be humorous if it were not so deeply significant of a deplorable change in American life. Squire Crego in discussing this very matter with Frank Congdon the portrait - painter, put it thus: "This division o: interest is inevitable. What can you do? The wife of the man who cobbles my shoes or the daughter oj the grocer who supplies my sugar is, in the eyes of God undoubtedly of the same value as my own wife, but they don't interest me. As a social democrat, I ma) wish sincerely to do them good, but, confound it, tc wish to do them good is an impertinence. And wher I've tried to bring these elements together in my house I have always failed. Mrs. Crego, while being mosi gracious and cordial, has, nevertheless, managed tc make the upholsterer chilly, and to freeze the grocer's wife entirely out of the picture."
"There's one comfort: it isn't a matter of money If it were, where would the Congdons be?"
"No, it isn't really a matter of money, and in a cer tain sense it isn't a matter of brains. It's a questior of—"
"Precisely. You haven't a cent, so you say fre quently—" Congdon stopped him, gravely.
"I owe you fifty—I was just going down into m} jeans to pay it, when I suddenly recalled—"
"Don't interrupt the court. You haven't a cent we'll say, but you go everywhere and are welcome Why?"
"That's just it. Why ? If you really want to know I'll tell you. It's all on account of Lee. Lee is i mighty smart girl. She has a cinch on the gray mattei of this family."
"You do yourself an injustice."
Crego pursued his argument. "There isn't any place that a man of your type can't go if you want to, because you take something with you. You mix. And Haney, for example—to return to the concrete again—-Haney would make a most interesting guest at one's dinner-table, but the wife, clever as she is, is impossible—or, at least, Mrs. Crego thinks she is."
Congdon fixed a finger pistol-wise and impressively said: "That little Mrs. Haney is a wonder. Don't make any mistake about her. She'll climb."
"I'm not making the mistake, it's Mrs. Crego. I've asked her to call on the girl, but she evades the issue by asking: 'What's the use? Her interests are not ours, and I don't intend to cultivate her as a freak.' So there we stand."
Congdon looked thoughtful. "She may be right, but I don't think so. The girl interests me, because I think I see in her great possibilities."
"Her abilities certainly are remarkable. She needs but one statement of a point in law. She seems never to forget a word I say. Sometimes this realization is embarrassing. When she fixes those big wistful eyes on me I feel bound to give her my choicest diction and my soundest judgments. Haney, too, for all his wild career, attaches my sympathy. You're painting his portrait—why don't you and Lee give them a dinner?"
"Good thought! I told Lee this morning that it was a shame to draw the line on that little girl just because that rotten, bad brother-in-law of hers was base enough to slur her at the club. But, as you say, women can't be driv. However, I think Lee can manage a dinner if anybody can. As you say, we're only artists, and artists can do anything—except borrow money. However, if you want to know, Lee says that this barber lover of Mrs. Haney's has done more to queer her with our set than anything else. They think her tastes are low."