* * *
THERE WAS NO QUESTION in Angelica Brooks's mind as to what had altered her life from a freely flowing river to a sluggish tidal area losing its force and impetus in soggy marshland. It was her resignation in 1952, three years before, from the Wall Street law firm that bore her father's name and of which her husband, Sidney, was the brightest and most up-and-coming of the junior partners. She had been just thirty at the time and an associate in the trust and estates department — admittedly a minor, almost an "accommodation," section of a corporation firm — but she had been hoping against hope that her good record and the changing times might override what was still the prejudice in the larger houses against making female partners, when her father had taken her out to lunch to enlighten her. It had not been an easy thing, for who but he had urged her to go to law school in the first place? His tone was heavy, and his great shaggy head had shaken in regretful nods.
"Having a junior partner and an associate who are married to each other has already been frowned at in the firm," he told her, "but I have been able to control that. Having two partners who are mates I might not be able to, let alone the die-hard attitude of a few old stick-in-the-muds about having a woman partner at all.
You may well ask, if that be the case, why I let you come into the firm. The truth is, I thought the training would be valuable for you in whatever you did afterwards, and I assumed that anyone as brilliant and charming as yourself would soon be married and too busy raising a family to bother with our dusty old books and cases downtown."
"Do you imply, Daddy, that I have been neglecting Tim and Elly?"
"In no way, my dear. They're wonderful kids and doing splendidly in nursery school, and I know how conscientiously you spend your nights and weekends with them. Indeed, your mother and I have even worried about the effect on your social life. But the fact remains that here in the office you may be on a dead-end street.
As far as partnership goes, that is. You can always command the highest going salary rate for your age as an associate. But I know that's not what you want. Still, you should count your blessings, my precious girl! You have a successful and utterly devoted husband, two great children, no financial worries, plenty of friends and outside interests, a first-class brain and all the charm anyone could ask. Honey, the world's your oyster!"
* * *
Sidney was much better about it than her father when he came home late that night. He was working on a hideously tangled corporate reorganization and was pale from his hours of toil, but paleness was becoming to his slightly haggard dark good looks. As always he gave his most serious attention to anything that concerned her.
"I don't want you to stay on, darling, if you can't be a partner, and your father has finally convinced me that we haven't the votes. You could get a job in another firm fast enough, and some of the smaller ones are getting much less stuffy about making woman partners, but I've been wondering if you wouldn't do better to take a year off and think over what you'd really like. Forgive me if I've sometimes doubted your total dedication to the law. I'm not, mind you, in the least questioning your expertise."
"Well, there's a limit, it's true, to my adoration of wills and estates. Sometimes I feel like an undertaker." She felt the least bit depressed, as sometimes happened, at his eternal reasonableness. He was always so fair, so balanced, so devoted. He could never see there were moments when she just wanted to spit in the eye of the world. And she was uncomfortably aware that her own amusement in putting together the jigsaw puzzle of an estate plan that would least benefit Uncle Sam was a pale simulacrum of the "hard, gemlike flame" of his passion for the legal machinery that turned the wheels of industrial competition. The practice of law to Sidney was an art to which everything else came second. Even herself, even the children! But she couldn't complain about that. It had been the thing that had first intrigued her about him.
"I can see you in a lot of other things," he went on. "In politics, for example. You speak so well, and you have a way with people. And you care about causes.
How about getting involved with the Democratic party organization?"
He really was thinking about what she should best do. Had her father ever, really? Even when he had gone along wittttth her desire to be a lawyer, in his image, hadn't he been flattered by the vision of an adoring daughter, adoring and adored, turning into a kind of lovely Portia? Hadn't it been a fantasy?
Ethan Drury had filled the heaven and earth of her childhood and adolescence. He had been the sky, whether fair or stormy, over the sober, the sometimes God-fearing commuting community of Gulls Cove on Long Island; his small, riveting eyes, sometimes glinting with a kindness almost akin to love, but never missing a slip or a tumble, had penetrated to her boarding school, to Vassar, to Columbia Law, and even in the great gray city where so many of his grinding hours were spent, they swept the narrow dark streets of the financial district and reached to the escape vents of Times Square and the parks. Daddy's power was felt by the family, by his firm, by his great corporate clients and by the Plattsburg camps for officers' training that he had helped to organize in both wars and by the thousands of men who had been conscripted by the draft laws for whose passage he had so passionately and powerfully lobbied. He was male, incorruptibly male, the incarnation of his sex; he believed in war, holy war, and might even have been grateful for the existence of the Hun to keep Mars alive and kicking.
He was appropriately large and heavy and strong with a high brow and bushy gray hair, and although he had a habit of nervous twitches and rather stertorous breathing, his grave stare created an atmosphere of awesome stillness like a chamber of justice in which anything but the truth was unthinkable to tell. Drury represented great companies in their strife, and Angelica was too well educated to be unaware that bad things went on in that strife, yet her father's reputation for honesty and integrity somehow towered over the nefarious doings of his partners and clerks. She sometimes thought of him as a saintly pope presiding over a wily college of Italian cardinals. Was it possible that they kept certain things from him? If so, they had to be inordinately clever.
Angelica had never been jealous of her mother or of her three younger sisters. The latter were giggly, boy-crazy, party-loving, amiable creatures, greedy for the prizes then accorded to their sex and spoiled and coddled by a conventionally doting sire. Their mother played the tart, realistic ("no fancy pants") part of the good plain wife who keeps her seer of a spouse from being lost in the ether of his high thoughts, but this was a veil to cover her almost servile subjection to his every whim and wish. If she was a good-tempered Fricka and the sisters obedient if rather shrill Valkyries, to Angelica was left the function of the best beloved, Brunhilde, the intimate and confidante of Wotan.
But of course Wotan had wanted a son. How could he not? What would he be, in the end, in the twilight, without a Siegmund, a Siegfried? ...