AND OTHER STORIES
G. H. P.
A MODERN ACCOUNT
NO. I. INTRODUCTORY AND EXPLANATORY.
(Eastlake has renewed an episode of his past life. The formalities
have been satisfied at a chance meeting, and he continues.)
… So your carnations lie over there, a bit beyond this page, in a
confusion of manuscripts. Sweet source of this idle letter and gentle
memento of the house on Grant Street and of you! I fancy I catch their
odor before it escapes generously into the vague darkness beyond my
window. They whisper: "Be tender, be frank; recall to her mind what is
precious in the past. For departed delights are rosy with deceitful
hopes, and a woman's heart becomes heavy with living. We are the woman
you once knew, but we are much more. We have learned new secrets, new
emotions, new ambitions, in love—we are fuller than before." So—for
to-morrow they will be shrivelled and lifeless—I take up their message
I see you now as this afternoon at the Goodriches', when you came in
triumphantly to essay that hot room of empty, passive folk. Someone was
singing somewhere, and we were staring at one another. There you stood
at the door, placing us; the roses, scattered in plutocratic profusion,
had drooped their heads to our hot faces. We turned from the music to
you. You knew it, and you were glad of it. You knew that they were
busy about you, that you and your amiable hostess made an effective
group at the head of the room. You scented their possible disapproval
with zest, for you had so often mocked their good-will with impunity
that you were serenely confident of getting what you wanted. Did you
want a lover? Not that I mean to offer myself in flesh and blood: God
forbid that I should join the imploring procession, even at a
respectful distance! My pen is at your service. I prefer to be your
historian, your literary maid—half slave, half confidant; for then you
will always welcome me. If I were a lover, I might some day be
inopportune. That would not be pleasant.
Yes, they were chattering about you, especially around the table where
some solid ladies of Chicago served iced drinks. I was sipping it all
in with the punch, and looking at the pinks above the dark hair, and
wondering if you found having your own way as good fun as when you were
eighteen. You have gained, my dear lady, while I have been knocking
about the world. You are now more than "sweet": you are almost
handsome. I suppose it is a question of lights and the time of day
whether or not you are really brilliant. And you carry surety in your
face. There is nothing in Chicago to startle you, perhaps not in the
She at the punch remarked, casually, to her of the sherbet: "I wonder
when Miss Armstrong will settle matters with Lane? It is the best she
can do now, though he isn't as well worth while as the men she threw
over." And her neighbor replied: "She might do worse than Lane. She
could get more from him than the showy ones." So Lane is the name of
the day. They have gauged you and put you down at Lane. I took an ice
and waited—but you will have to supply the details.
Meantime, you sailed on, with that same everlasting enthusiasm upon
your face that I knew six years ago, until you spied me. How extremely
natural you made your greeting! I confess I believed that I had lived
for that smile six years, and suffered a bad noise for the sound of
your voice. It seemed but a minute until we found ourselves almost
alone with the solid women at the ices. One swift phrase from you, and
we had slipped back through the meaningless years till we stood there
in the parlor at Grant Street, mere boy and girl. The babbling room
vanished for a few golden moments. Then you rustled off, and I believe
I told Mrs. Goodrich that musicales were very nice, for they gave you a
chance to talk. And I went to the dressing-room, wondering what rare
chance had brought me again within the bondage of that voice.
Then, then, dear pinks, you came sailing over the stairs, peeping out
from that bunch of lace. I loitered and spoke. Were the eyes green, or
blue, or gray; ambition, or love, or indifference to the world? I was
at my old puzzle again, while you unfastened the pinks, and, before the
butler, who acquiesced at your frivolity in impertinent silence, you
held them out to me. Only you know the preciousness of unsought-for
favors. "Write me," you said; and I write.
What should man write about to you but of love and yourself? My pen, I
see, has not lost its personal gait in running over the mill books.
Perhaps it politely anticipates what is expected! So much the better,
say, for you expect what all men give—love and devotion. You would not
know a man who could not love you. Your little world is a circle of
possibilities. Let me explain. Each lover is a possible conception of
life placed at a slightly different angle from his predecessor or
successor. Within this circle you have turned and turned, until your
head is a bit weary. But I stand outside and observe the whirligig.
Shall I be drawn in? No, for I should become only a conventional
interest. "If the salt," etc. I remember you once taught in a mission
The flowers will tell me no more! Next time give me a rose—a huge,
hybrid, opulent rose, the product of a dozen forcing processes—and I
will love you a new way. As the flowers say good-by, I will say
goodnight. Shall I burn them? No, for they would smoulder. And if I
left them here alone, to-morrow they would be wan. There! I have thrown
them out wide into that gulf of a street twelve stories below. They
will flutter down in the smoky darkness, and fall, like a message from
the land of the lotus-eaters, upon a prosy wayfarer. And safe in my
heart there lives that gracious picture of my lady as she stands above
me and gives them to me. That is eternal: you and the pinks are but
NO. II. ACQUIESCENT AND ENCOURAGING.
(Miss Armstrong replies on a dull blue, canvas-textured page, over
which her stub-pen wanders in fashionable negligence. She arrives on
the third page at the matter in hand.)
Ah, it was very sweet, your literary love-letter. Considerable style,
as you would say, but too palpably artificial. If you want to deceive
this woman, my dear sir trifler, you must disguise your mockery more
Why didn't I find you at the Stanwoods'? I had Nettie send you a card.
I had promised you to a dozen delightful women, "our choicest lot," who
were all agog to see my supercilious and dainty sir…. Why will you
always play with things? Perhaps you will say because I am not worth
serious moments. You play with everything, I believe, and that is
banal. Ever sincerely,
NO. III. EXPLANATORY AND AUTOBIOGRAPHIC.
(Eastlake has the masculine fondness for seeing himself in the right.)
I turned the Stanwoods' card down, and for your sake, or rather for the
sake of your memory. I preferred to sit here and dream about you in the
midst of my chimney-pots and the dull March mists rather than to run
the risk of another, and perhaps fatal, impression. And so far as you
are concerned your reproach is just. Do I "play with everything"?
Perhaps I am afraid that it might play with me. Imagine frolicking with
tigers, who might take you seriously some day, as a tidbit for
afternoon tea—if you should confess that you were serious! That's the
way I think of the world, or, rather, your part of it. Surely, it is a
magnificent game, whose rules we learn completely just as our blood
runs too slowly for active exercise. I like to break off a piece of its
cake (or its rank cheese at times) and lug it away with me to my den up
here for further examination. I think about it, I dream over it; yes,
in a reflective fashion, I feel. It is a charming, experimental way
Then, after the echo becomes faint and lifeless, or, if you prefer, the
cheese too musty, I sally out once more to refresh my larder. You play
also in your way, but not so intelligently (pardon me), for you deceive
yourself from day to day that your particular object, your temporary
mood, is the one eternal thing in life. After all, you have mastered
but one trick—the trick of being loved. With that trick you expect to
take the world; but, alas! you capture only an old man's purse or a
young man's passion.
Artificial, my letters—yes, if you wish. I should say, not
crude—matured, considered. I discuss the love you long to experience.
I dangle it before your eyes as a bit of the drapery that goes to the
ball of life. But when dawn almost comes and the ball is over, you
mustn't expect the paper roses to smell. This mystifies you a little,
for you are a plain, downright siren. Your lovers' songs have been in
simple measures. Well, the moral is this: take my love-letters as real
(in their way) as the play, or rather, the opera; infinitely true for
the moment, unreal for the hour, eternal as the dead passions of the
ages. Further, it is better to feel the aromatic attributes of love
than the dangerous or unlovely reality. You can flirt with number nine
or marry number ten, but I shall be stored away in your drawer for a
You have carried me far afield, away from men and things. So, for a
moment, I have stopped to listen to the hum of this chaotic city as it
rises from Dearborn and State in the full blast of a commercial noon.
You wonder why an unprofitable person like myself lives here, and not
in an up-town club with my fellows. Ah, my dear lady, I wish to see the
game always going on in its liveliest fashion. So I have made a den for
myself, not under the eaves of a hotel, but on the roof, among the
ventilators. Here I can see the clouds of steam and the perpetual pall
of smoke below me. I can revel in gorgeous sunsets when the fiery light
threads the smoke and the mists and the sodden clouds eastward over the
lake. And at night I take my steamer chair to the battlements and peer
over into a sea of lights below. As I sit writing to you, outside go
the click and rattle of the elevator gates and other distant noises of
humanity. My echo comes directly enough, but it does not deafen me.
Below there exists my barber, and farther down that black pit of an
elevator lies lunch, or a cigar, or a possible cocktail, if the mental
combination should prove unpleasant. Across the hall is Aladdin's lamp,
otherwise my banker; and above all is Haroun al Raschid. Am I not wise?
In the morning, if it is fair, I take a walk among the bulkheads on the
roof, and watch the blue deception of the lake. Perhaps, if the wind
comes booming in, I hear the awakening roar in the streets and think of
work. Perhaps the clear emptiness of a Sunday hovers over the shore;
then I wonder what you will say to this letter. Will you feel with me
that you should live on a housetop and eat cheese? Do you long for a
cool stream without flies, and a carpet of golden sand? Do you want a
coal fire and a husband home at six-thirty, or a third-class ticket to
the realms of nonsense? Are you thinking of Lane's income, or Smith's
cleverness, or the ennui of too many dinners?
I know: you are thinking of love while you read this, and are happy. If
I might send you a new sensation in every line, I should be happy, too,
for your prodigal nature demands novelty. I should then be master for a
moment. And love is mastery and submission, the two poles of a strong
NO. IV. FURTHER AUTOBIOGRAPHIC.
(Eastlake continues apropos of a chance meeting.)
So you rather like the curious flavor of this new dish, but it puzzles
you. You ask for facts? What a stamp Chicago has put on your soul! You
will continue to regard as facts the feeble fancies that God has
allowed to petrify. I warn you that facts kill, but you shall have
them. I had meditated a delightful sheet of love that has been
disdainfully shoved into the waste-basket. A grave moral there for you,
Do you remember when I was very young and gauche? Doubtless, for
women never forget first impressions of that sort. You dressed very
badly, and were quite ceremonious. I was the bantling son of one of
your father's provincial correspondents, to adopt the suave term of the
foreigners. I had been sent to Chicago to fit for a technical school,
where I was to learn to be very clever about mill machinery. Perhaps
you remember my father—a sweet-natured, wiry, active man, incapable of
conceiving an interest in life that was divorced from respectability. I
think he had some imagination, for now and then he was troubled about
my becoming a loafer. However, he certainly kept it in control: I was
to become a great mill owner.
It was all luck at first: you were luck, and the Tech. was luck. Then I
found my voice and saw my problem: to cross my father's aspirations, to
be other than the Wabash mill owner, would have been cruel. You see his
desires were more passionate than mine. I worried through the
mechanical, deadening routine of the Tech. somehow, and finally got
courage enough to tell him that I could not accept Wabash quite yet. I
had the audacity to propose two years abroad. We compromised on one,
but I understood that I must not finally disappoint him. He cared so
much that it would have been wicked. A few people in this world have
positive and masterful convictions. An explosion or insanity comes if
their wills smoulder in ineffectual silence. Most of us have no more
than inclinations. It seems wise and best that those of mere
inclinations should waive their prejudices in favor of those who feel
intensely. So much for the great questions of individuality and
personality that set the modern world a-shrieking. This is a
commonplace solution of the great family problem Turgénieff propounded
in "Fathers and Sons." Perchance you have heard of Turgénieff?
So I prepared to follow my father's will, for I loved him exceedingly.
His life had not been happy, and his nature, as I have said, was a more
exacting one than mine. The price of submission, however, was not plain
to me until I was launched that year in Paris in a strange,
cosmopolitan world. I was supposed to attend courses at the École
Polytechnique, but I became mad with the longings that are wafted about
Europe from capital to capital. I went to Italy—to Venice and Florence
and Rome—to Athens and Constantinople and Vienna. In a word, I
unfitted myself for Wabash as completely as I could, and troubled my
spirit with vain attempts after art and feeling.
You women do not know the intoxication of five-and-twenty—a few
hundred francs in one's pockets, the centuries behind, creation ahead.
You do not know what it is to hunger after the power of understanding
and the power of expression; to see the world as divine one minute and
a mechanic hell the next; to feel the convictions of the vagabond; to
grudge each sunbeam that falls unseen by you on some mouldering gate in
some neglected city, each face of the living wherein possible life
looks out untried by you, each picture that means a new curiosity. No,
for, after all, you are material souls; you need a Bradshaw and a
Baedeker, even in the land of dreams. All men, I like to think, for one
short breath in their lives, believe this narrow world to be shoreless.
They feel that they should die in discontent if they could not
experience, test, this wonderful conglomerate of existence. It is an
old, old matter I am writing you about. We have classified it nicely,
these days; we call it the "romantic spirit," and we say that it is
made three parts of youth and two of discontent—a perpetual expression
of the world's pessimism.
I look back, and I think that I have done you wrong. Women like you
have something nearly akin to this mood. Some time in your lives you
would all be romantic lovers. The commonest of you anticipate a
masculine soul that shall harmonize your discontent into happiness.
Most of you are not very nice about it; you make your hero out of the
most obvious man. Yet it is pathetic, that longing for something beyond
yourselves. That passionate desire for a complete illusion in love is
the one permanent note you women have attained in literature. In your
heart of hearts you would all (until you become stiff in the arms of an
unlovely life) follow a cabman, if he could make the world dance for
you in this joyous fashion. Some are hard to satisfy—for example, you,
my lady—and you go your restless, brilliant little way, flirting with
this man, coquetting with that, examining a third, until your heart
grows weary or until you are at peace. You may marry for money or for
love, and in twenty years you will teach your daughters that love
doesn't pay at less than ten thousand a year. But you don't expect them
to believe you, and they don't.
I am not sneering at you. I would not have it otherwise, for the world
would be one half cheaper if women like you did not follow the
perpetual instinct. True, civilization tends to curb this romantic
desire, but when civilization runs against a passionate nature we have
a tragedy. The world is sweeter, deeper, for that. Live and love, if
you can, and give the lie to facts. Be restless, be insatiable, be
wicked, but believe that your body and soul were meant for more than
food and raiment; that somewhere, somehow, some day, you will meet the
dream made real, and that he will unlock the secrets of this life.
It is late. I am tired. The noises of the city begin, far down in the
darkness. This carries love.
NO. V. AROUSED.
(Miss Armstrong protests and invites.)
It is real, real, real. If I can say so, after going on all these
years with but one idea (according to my good friends) of settling
myself comfortably in some large home, shouldn't you believe it? You
have lived more interestingly than I, and you are not dependent, as
most of us are. You really mock me through it all. You think I am
worthy of only a kind of candy that you carry about for agreeable
children, which you call love. To me, sir, it reads like an
insult—your message of love tucked in concisely at the close.
No, keep to facts, for they are your metier. You make them
interesting. Tell me more about your idle, contemplative self. And let
me see you to-morrow at the Thorntons'. Leave your sombre eyes at home,
and don't expect infinities in tea-gabble. I saw you at the opera last
night. For some moments, while Melba was singing, I wanted you and your
confectioner's love. That Melba might always sing, and the tide always
flood the marshes! On the whole, I like candy. Send me a page of it.
NO. VI. AUTOBIOGRAPHIC.
(Eastlake, disregarding her comments, continues.)
Dear lady, did you ever read some stately bit of prose, which caught in
its glamour of splendid words the vital, throbbing world of affairs and
passions, some crystallization of a rich experience, and then by chance
turn to the "newsy" column of an American newspaper? (Forsooth, these
must be literary letters!) Well, that tells the sensations of going
from Europe to Wabash. I had caught the sound of the greater harmony,
or struggle, and I must accept the squeak of the melodeon. I did not
think highly of myself; had started too far back in the race, and I
knew that laborious years of intense zeal would place me only third
class, or even lower, in any pursuit of the arts. Perhaps if I had felt
that I could have made a good third class, I should have fought it out
in Europe. There are some things man cannot accomplish, however, our
optimistic national creed to the contrary. And there would have been
something low in disappointing my father for such ignoble results, such
So to Wabash I went. I resolved to adapt myself to the billiards and
whiskey of the Commercial Club, and to the desk in the inner office
behind the glass partitions. And I like to think that I satisfied my
father those two years in the mills. After a time I achieved a lazy
content. At first I tried to deceive myself; to think that the newsy
column of Wabash was as significant as the grand page of London or
Paris. That simple yarn didn't satisfy me many months.
Then my father died. I hung on at the mills for a time, until the
strikes and the general depression gave me valid reasons for
withdrawing. To skip details, I sold out my interests, and with my
little capital came to Chicago. My income, still dependent in some part
upon those Wabash mills, trembles back and forth in unstable
Chicago was too much like Wabash just then. I went to Florence to join
a man, half German Jew, half American, wholly cosmopolite, whom I had
known in Paris. His life was very thin: it consisted wholly of
interests—a tenuous sort of existence. I can thank him for two things:
that I did not remain forever in Italy, trying to say something new,
and that I began a definite task. I should send you my book (now that
it is out and people are talking about it), but it would bore you, and
you would feel that you must chatter about it. It is a good piece of
journeyman work. I gathered enough notes for another volume, and then I
grew restless. Business called me home for a few months, so I came back
to Chicago. Of all places! you say. Yes, to Chicago, to see this brutal
whirlpool as it spins and spins. It has fascinated me, I admit, and I
stay on—to live up among the chimneys, hanging out over the cornice of
a twelve-story building; to soak myself in the steam and smoke of the
prairie and in the noises of a city's commerce.
Am I content? Yes, when I am writing to you; or when the pile of
manuscripts at my side grows painfully page by page; or when, peering
out of the fort-like embrasure, I can see the sun drenched in smoke and
mist and the "sky-scrapers" gleam like the walls of a Colorado canon. I
have enough to buy me existence, and at thirty I still find peepholes
Are these enough facts for you? Shall I send you an inventory of my
room, of my days, of my mental furniture? Some long afternoon I will
spirit you up here in that little steel cage, and you shall peer out of
my window, tapping your restless feet, while you sniff at the squalor
below. You will move softly about, questioning the watercolors, the
bits of bric-à-brac, the dusty manuscripts, the dull red hangings, not
quite understanding the fox in his hole. You will gratefully catch the
sounds from the mound below our feet, and when you say good-by and drop
swiftly down those long stories you will gasp a little sigh of relief.
You will pull down your veil and drive off to an afternoon tea, feeling
that things as they are are very nice, and that a little Chicago mud is
worth all the clay of the studios. And I? I shall take the roses out of
the vase and throw them away. I shall say, "Enough!" But somehow you
will have left a suggestion of love about the place. I shall fancy that
I still hear your voice, which will be so far away dealing out
banalities. I shall treasure the words you let wander heedlessly out of
the window. I shall open my book and write, "To-day she
NO. VII. OF THE NATURE OF A CONFESSION.
(Miss Armstrong is nearing the close of her fifth season. Prospect and
retrospect are equally uninviting. She wills to escape.)
I shall probably be thinking about the rents in your block, and
wondering if the family had best put up a sky-scraper, instead of doing
all the pretty little things you mention in your letter. At
five-and-twenty one becomes practical, if one is a woman whose father
has left barely enough to go around among two women who like luxury,
and two greedy boys at college with expensive "careers" ahead. This
letter finds me in the trough of the wave. I wonder if it's what you
call "the ennui of many dinners?" More likely it's because we can't
keep our cottage at Sorrento. Well-a-day! it's gray this morning, and I
will write off a fit of the blues.
I think it's about time to marry number nine. It would relieve the
family immensely. I suspect they think I have had my share of fun.
Probably you will take this as an exquisite joke, but 'tis the truth,
Last night I was at the Hoffmeyers' at dinner. It was slow. All such
dinners are slow. The good Fraus don't know how to mix the sheep and
the goats. For a passing moment they talked about you and about your
book in a puzzled way. They think you so clever and so odd. But I know
how hollow he is, and how thin his fame! I got some points on the new L
from the Hoffmeyers and young Mr. Knowlton. That was interesting and
exciting. We dealt in millions as if they were checkers. These
practical men have a better grip on life than the cynics and dreamers
like you. You call them plebeian and bourgeois and Philistine and
limited—all the bad names in your select vocabulary. But they know how
to feel in the good, old, common-sense way. You've lost that. I like
plebeian earnestness and push. I like success at something, and hearty
enjoyment, and good dinners, and big men who talk about a million as if
it were a ten-spot in the game.
You see I am looking for number nine and my four horses. Then I mean to
invite you to my country house, to have a lot of "fat" girls to meet
you who will talk slang at you, and one of them shall marry you—one
whose father is a great newspaper man. And your new papa will start you
in the business of making public opinion. You will play with that, too,
but, then, you will be coining money.
No, not here in Chicago, but if you had talked to me at Sorrento as you
write me from your sanctum on the roof, I might have listened and
dreamed. The sea makes me believe and hope. I love it so! That's why I
made mamma take a house near the lake—to be near a little piece of
infinity. Yes, if you had paddled me out of the harbor at Sorrento,
some fine night when the swell was rippling in, like the groaning of a
sleepy beast, and the hills were a-hush on the shore, then we might
have gone on to that place you are so fond of, "the land east of the
sun, and west of the moon."
NO. VIII. BIOGRAPHIC AND JUDICIAL.
(Eastlake replies analytically.)
But don't marry him until we are clear on all matters. I haven't
finished your case. And don't marry that foreign-looking cavalier you
were riding with to-day in the park. You are too American ever to be at
home over there. You would smash their fragile china, and you wouldn't
understand. England might fit you, though, for England is something
like that dark green, prairie park, with its regular, bushy trees
against a Gainsborough sky. You live deeply in the fierce open air. The
English like that. However, America must not lose you.
You it was, I am sure, who moved your family in that conventional
pilgrimage of ambitious Chicagoans—west, south, north. Neither your
father nor your mother would have stirred from sober little Grant
Street had you not felt the pressing necessity for a career. Rumor got
hold of you first on the South Side, and had it that you were
experimenting with some small contractor. The explosion which followed
reached me even in Vienna. Did you feel that you could go farther, or
did you courageously run the risk of wrecking him then instead of
wrecking yourself and him later? Oh well, he's comfortably married now,
and all the pain you gave him was probably educative. You may look at
his flaunting granite house on that broad boulevard, and think well of
Your father died. You moved northward to that modest house tucked in
lovingly under the ample shelter of the millionnaires on the Lake Shore
Drive. I fancy there has always been the gambler in your nerves; that
you have sacrificed your principle to getting a rapid return on your
money. And you have dominated your family: you sent your two brothers
to Harvard, and filled them with ambitions akin to yours. Now you are
impatient because the thin ice cracks a bit.
But I have great faith: you will mend matters by some shrewd deal with
the manipulators at Hoffmeyer's, or by marrying number nine. You will
do it honestly—I mean the marrying; for you will convince him that you
love, so far as love is in you, and you will convince yourself that
marriage, the end of it all, is unselfish, though prosaic. You will
accept resignation with an occasional sigh, feeling that you have gone
far, perhaps as far as you can go. I trust that solution will not come
quickly, however, because I cannot regard it as a brilliant ending to
your evolution. For you have kept yourself sweet and clean from fads,
and mean pushing, and the vulgar machinery of society. You never forced
your way or intrigued. You have talked and smiled and bewitched
yourself straight to the point where you now are. You were eager and
curious about pleasures, and the world has dealt liberally with you.
Were you perilously near the crisis when you wrote me? Did the
reflective tone come because you were brought at last squarely to the
mark, because you must decide what one of the possible conceptions of
life you really want? Don't think, I pray you; go straight on to the
inevitable solution, for when you become conscious you are lost.
Do you wonder that I love you, my hybrid rose; that I follow the heavy
petals as they push themselves out into their final bloom; that I
gather the aroma to comfort my heart in these lifeless pages? I follow
you about in your devious path from tea to dinner or dance, or I wait
at the opera or theatre to watch for a new light in your face, to see
your world written in a smile. You are dark, and winning, and strong.
You are pagan in your love of sensuous, full things. You are grateful
to the biting air as it touches your cheek and sends the blood leaping
in glad life. You love water and fire and wind, elemental things, and
you love them with fervor and passion. All this to the world! Much more
intimate to me, who can read the letters you scrawl for the impudent,
careless world. For deep down in the core of that rose there lies a
soul that permeates it all—a longing, restless soul, one moment
revealing a heaven that the next is shut out in dark despair.
Yes, keep the cottage by the sea for one more dream. Perchance I shall
find something stable, eternal, something better than discontent and
striving; for the sea is great and makes peace.
NO. IX. CRITICISM.
(Miss Armstrong vindicates herself by scorning.)
You are a tissue of phrases. You feel only words. You love! What
mockery to hear you handle the worn, old words! You have secluded
yourself in careful isolation from the human world you seem to despise.
You have no right to its passions and solaces. Incarnate selfishness,
dear friend, I suspect you are. You would not permit the disturbance of
a ripple in the contemplative lake of your life such as love and
marriage might bring.
Pray what right may you have to stew me in a saucepan up on your roof,
and to send me flavors of myself done up nicely into little packages
labelled deceitfully "love"? It is lucky that this time you have come
across a woman who has played the game before, and can meet you point
by point. But I am too weary to argue with a man who carries two-edged
words, flattery on one side and sneers on the reverse. Mark this one
thing, nevertheless: if I should decide to sell myself advantageously
next season I should be infinitely better than you,—for I am only a
NO. X. THE LIMITATION OF LIFE.
(Eastlake summarizes, and intends to conclude.)
My lady, my humor of to-day makes me take up the charges in your last
letters; I will define, not defend, myself. You fall out with me
because I am a dilettante (or many words to that one effect), and you
abuse me because I deal in the form rather than the matter of love. Is
that not just to you?
In short, I am not as your other admirers, and the variation in the
species has lost the charm of novelty.
Believe me that I am honest to-day, at least; indeed, I think you will
understand. Only the college boy who feeds on Oscar Wilde and
sentimental pessimism has that disease of indifference with which you
crudely charge me. It is a kind of chicken-pox, cousin-French to the
evils of literary Paris. But I must not thank God too loudly, or you
will think I am one with them at heart.
No, I am in earnest, in terrible earnest, about all this—I mean life
and what to do with it. That is a great day when a man comes into his
own, no matter how paltry the pittance may be the gods have given
him—when he comes to know just how far he can go, and where lies his
path of least resistance. That I know. I am tremendously sure of myself
now, and, like your good business men, I go about my affairs and
dispose of my life with its few energies in a cautious, economical way.
What is all this I make so much to-do about? Very little, I confess,
but to me more serious than L's and sky-scrapers; yes, than love. Mine
is an infinite labor: first to shape the true tool, and then to master
the material! I grant you I may die any day like a rat on a housetop,
with only a bundle of musty papers, the tags of broken conversations,
and one or two dead, distorted nerves. That is our common risk. But I
shall accomplish as much of the road as God permits the snail, and I
shall have moulded something; life will have justified itself to me, or
I to life. But that is not our problem to-day.
Why do I isolate myself? Because a few pursuits in life are great
taskmasters and jealous ones. A wise man who had felt that truth wrote
about it once. I must husband my devotions: love, except the idea of
love, is not for me; pleasure, except the idea of pleasure, is too keen
for me; energy, except the ideas energy creates, is beyond me. I am
limited, definite, alone, without you.
I confess that two passions are greater than any man, the passion for
God and the passion of a great love. They send a man hungry and naked
into the street, and make his subterfuges with existence ridiculous.
How rarely they come! How inadequate the man who is mistaken about
them! We peer into the corners of life after them, but they elude us.
There are days of splendid consciousness, and we think we have
No, it is foolish, bête, dear lady, to be deceived by a sentiment;
better the comfortable activities of the world. They will suit you
best; leave the other for the dream hidden in a glass of champagne.
But let me love you always. Let me fancy you, when I walk down these
gleaming boulevards in the silent evenings, as you sit flashingly
lovely by some soft lamplight, wrapped about in the cotton-wools of
society. That will reconcile me to the roar of these noonday streets.
The city exists for you.
NO. XI. UNSATISFIED.
(Miss Armstrong wills to drift.)
… Come to Sorrento….
NO. XII. THE ILLUSION.
(Eastlake resumes some weeks later. He has put into Bar Harbor on a
yachting trip. He sits writing late at night by the light of the
Sweet lady, a few hours ago we slipped in here past the dark shore of
your village, in almost dead calm, just parting the heavy waters with
our prow. It was the golden set of the summer afternoon: a thrush or
two were already whistling clear vespers in he woods; all else was
And then, in the stillness of the ebb, we floated together, you and I,
round that little lighthouse into the sheltering gloom of the woods.
Then we drifted beyond it all, in serene solution of this world's fret!
To-morrows you may keep for another.
This night was richly mine. You brought your simple self, undisturbed
by the people who expect of you, without your little airs of
experience. I brought incense, words, devotion, and love. And I
treasure now a few pure tones, some simple motions of your arm with the
dripping paddle, a few pure feelings written on your face. That is all,
but it is much. We got beyond necessity and the impertinent commonplace
of Chicago. We had ourselves, and that was enough.
And to-night, as I lie here under the cool, complete heavens, with only
a twinkling cottage light here and there in the bay to remind me of
unrest, I see life afresh in the old, simple, eternal lines. These are
our days of full consciousness.
Do you remember that clearing in the woods where the long weeds and
grass were spotted with white stones—burial-place it was—their bright
faces turned ever to the sunshine and the stars? They spoke of other
lives than yours and mine. Forgotten little units in our disdainful
world, we pass them scornfully by. Other lives, and perhaps better, do
you think? For them the struggle never came which holds us in a fist of
brass, and thrashes us up and down the pavement of life. Perhaps—can
you not, at one great leap, fancy it?—two sincere souls could escape
from this brass master, and live, unmindful of strife, for a little
grave on a hillside in the end? They must be strong souls to renounce
that cherished hope of triumph, to be content with the simple, antique
things, just living and loving—the eternal and brave things; for,
after all, what you and I burn for so restlessly is a makeshift
ambition. We wish to go far, "to make the best of ourselves." Why not,
once for all, rely upon God to make? Why not live and rejoice?
And the little graves are not bad: to lie long years within sound of
this great-hearted ocean, with the peaceful, upturned stones bearing
this full legend, "This one loved and lived…." Forgive me for making
you sad. Perhaps you merely laugh at the intoxication your clear air
has brought about. Well, dearest lady, the ships are striking their
eight bells for midnight, the gayest cottages are going out, light by
light, and somewhere in the still harbor I can hear a fisherman
laboriously sweeping his boat away to the ocean. Away!—that is the
word for us: I, in this boat southward, and ever away, searching in
grim fashion for an accounting with Fate; you, in your intrepid
loveliness, to other lives. And if I return some weeks hence, when I
have satisfied the importunate business claims, what then? Shall we
slip the cables and drift quietly out "to the land east of the sun and
west of the moon"?
NO. XIII. SANITY.
(Eastlake refuses Miss Armstrong's last invitation, continues, and
Last night was given to me for insight. You were brilliantly your best,
and set in the meshes of gold and precious stones that the gods willed
for you. There was not a false note, not an attribute wanting. Over
your head were mellow, clear, electric lights that showed forth coldly
your faultless suitability. From the exquisitely fit pearls about your
neck to the scents of the wine and the flowers, all was as it should
be. I watched your face warm with multifold impressions, your nostrils
dilate with sensuousness, appreciation, your pagan head above the
perfect bosom; about you the languid eyes of your well-fed neighbors.
The dusky recesses of the rooms, heavy with opulent comfort, stretched
away from our long feast. There you could rest, effectually sheltered
from the harsh noises of the world. And I rejoiced. Each minute I saw
more clearly things as they are. I saw you giving the nicest dinners in
Chicago, and scurrying through Europe, buying a dozen pictures here and
there, building a great house, or perhaps, tired of Chicago, trying
your luck in New York; but always pressing on, seizing this
exasperating life, and tenaciously sucking out the rich enjoyments
thereof! For the gold has entered your heart.
What splendid folly we played at Sorrento! If you had deceived yourself
with a sentiment, how long would you have maintained the illusion? When
would the morning have come for your restless eyes to stare out at the
world in longing and the unuttered sorrow of regret? Ah, I touch you
but with words! The cadence of a phrase warms your heart, and you fancy
your emotion is supreme, inevitable. Nevertheless, you are a practical
goddess: you can rise beyond the waves toward the glorious ether, but
at night you sink back. 'Tis alluring, but—eternal?
Few of us can risk being romantic. The penalty is too dreadful. To be
successful, we must maintain the key of our loveliest enthusiasm
without stimulants. You need the stimulants. You imagined that you were
tired, that rest could come in a lover's arms. Better the furs that are
soft about your neck, for they never grow cold. Perchance the lover
will come, also, as a prince with his princedom. It will be comfortable
to have your cake and the frosting, too. If not, take the frosting; go
glittering on with your pulses full of the joys, until you are old and
fagged and the stupid world refuses to revolve. Remember my sure word
that you were meant for dinners, for power and pleasure and excitement.
Trust no will-o'-the-wisp that would lead you into the stony paths of
Some days in the years to come I shall enter at your feasts and watch
you in admiration and love. (For I shall always love you.) Then will
stir in your heart a mislaid feeling of some joy untasted. But you will
smile wisely, and marvel at my exact judgment. You will think of
another world where words and emotions alone are alive, where it is
always high tide, and you will be glad that you did not force the
gates. For life is not always lyric. Farewell.
NO. XIV. THAT OTHER WORLD.
(Miss Armstrong writes with a calm heart.)
I have but a minute before I must go down to meet him. Then it will
be settled. I can hear his voice now and mother's. I must be quick.
So you tested me and found me wanting in "inevitableness." I was too
much clay, it seems, and "pagan." What a strange word that is! You mean
I love to enjoy; and, perhaps you are right, that I need my little
world. Who knows? One cannot read the whole story—even you, dear
master—until we are dead. We can never tell whether I am only
frivolous and sensuous, or merely a woman who takes the best substitute
at hand for life. I do not protest, and I think I never shall. I, too,
am very sure—now. You have pointed out the path and I shall follow
it to the end.
But one must have other moments, not of regret, but of wonder. Did you
have too little faith? Am I so cheap and weak? Before you read this it
will all be over…. Now and then it seems I want only a dress for my
back, a bit of food, rest, and your smile. But you have judged
otherwise, and perhaps you are right. At any rate, I will think so.
Only I know that the hours will come when I shall wish that I might lie
among those little white gravestones above the beach.
CHICAGO, November, 1893.
A QUESTION OF ART
John Clayton had pretty nearly run the gamut of the fine arts. As a boy
at college he had taken a dilettante interest in music, and having
shown some power of sketching the summer girl he had determined to
become an artist. His numerous friends had hoped such great things for
him that he had been encouraged to spend the rest of his little
patrimony in educating himself abroad. It took him nearly two years to
find out what being an artist meant, and the next three in thinking
what he wanted to do. In Paris and Munich and Rome, the wealth of the
possible had dazzled him and confused his aims; he was so skilful and
adaptable that in turn he had wooed almost all the arts, and had
accomplished enough trivial things to raise very pretty expectations of
his future powers. He had enjoyed an uncertain glory among the crowd of
American amateurs. When his purse had become empty he returned to
America to realize on his prospects.
On his arrival he had elaborately equipped a studio in Boston, but as
he found the atmosphere "too provincial" he removed to New York. There
he was much courted at a certain class of afternoon teas. He was in
full bloom of the "might do," but he had his suspicions that a fatally
limited term of years would translate the tense into "might have done."
He argued, however, that he had not yet found the right milieu; he
was fond of that word—conveniently comprehensive of all things that
might stimulate his will. He doubted if America ever could furnish him
a suitable milieu for the expression of his artistic instincts. But
in the meantime necessity for effort was becoming more urgent; he could
not live at afternoon teas.
Clayton was related widely to interesting and even influential people.
One woman, a distant cousin, had taken upon herself his affairs.
"I will give you another chance," she said, in a business-like tone,
after he had been languidly detailing his condition to her and
indicating politely that he was coming to extremities. "Visit me this
summer at Bar Harbor. You shall have the little lodge at the Point for
a studio, and you can take your meals at the hotel near by. In that way
you will be independent. Now, there are three ways, any one of which
will lead you out of your difficulties, and if you don't find one that
suits you before October, I shall leave you to your fate."
The young man appeared interested.
"You can model something—that's your line, isn't it?"
Clayton nodded meekly. He had resolved to become a sculptor during his
last six months in Italy.
"And so put you on your feet, professionally." Clayton sighed. "Or you
can find some rich patron or patroness who will send you over for a
couple of years more until your chef d' oeuvre makes its appearance."
Her pupil turned red, and began to murmur, but she kept on unperturbed.
"Or, best of all, you can marry a girl with some money and then do what
you like." At this Clayton rose abruptly.
"I haven't come to that," he growled.
"Don't be silly," she pursued. "You are really charming; good
character; exquisite manners; pleasant habits; success with women. You
needn't feel flattered, for this is your stock in trade. You are
decidedly interesting, and lots of those girls who are brought there
every year to get them in would be glad to make such an exchange. You
know everybody, and you could give any girl a good standing in Boston
or New York. Besides, there is your genius, which may develop. That
will be thrown in to boot; it may bear interest."
Clayton, who had begun by feeling how disagreeable his situation was
when it exposed him to this kind of hauling over, ended by bursting
into a cordial laugh at the frank materialism with which his cousin
presented his case. "Well," he exclaimed, "it's no go to talk to you
about the claims and ideals of art, Cousin Della, but I will accept
your offer, if only for the sake of modelling a bust of 'The Energetic
"Of course, I don't make much of ideals in art and all that," replied
his cousin, "but I will put this through for you, as Harry says. You
must promise me only one thing: no flirting with Harriet and Mary.
Henry has been foolish and lost money, as you know, and I cannot have
another beggar on my hands!"
By the end of July Clayton had found out two things definitely; he was
standing in his little workshop, pulling at his mustache and looking
sometimes at a half-completed sketch, and sometimes at the blue stretch
of water below the cliff. The conclusions were that he certainly should
not become interested in Harriet and Mary, and, secondly, that Mount
Desert made him paint rather than model.
"It's no place," he muttered, "except for color and for a poet. A man
would have to shut himself up in a cellar to escape those glorious
hills and the bay, if he wanted to work at that putty." He cast a
contemptuous glance at a rough bust of his Cousin Della, the only thing
he had attempted. As a solution of his hopeless problem he picked up a
pipe and was hunting for some tobacco, preparatory to a stroll up
Newport, when someone sounded timidly at the show knocker of the front
"Is that you, Miss Marston?" Clayton remarked, in a disappointed tone,
as a middle-aged woman entered.
"The servants were all away," she replied, "and Della thought you might
like some lunch to recuperate you from your labors." This was said a
little maliciously, as she looked about and found nothing noteworthy
"I was just thinking of knocking off for this morning and taking a
walk. Won't you come? It's such glorious weather and no fog," he added,
parenthetically, as if in justification of his idleness.
"Why do you happen to ask me?" Miss Marston exclaimed, impetuously.
"You have hitherto never paid any more attention to my existence than
if I had been Jane, the woman who usually brings your lunch." She
gasped at her own boldness. This was not coquettishness, and was
"Why! I really wish you would come," said the young man, helplessly.
"Then I'll have a chance to know you better."
"Well! I will." She seemed to have taken a desperate step. Miss Jane
Marston, Della's sister-in-law, had always been the superfluous member
of her family. Such unenviable tasks as amusing or teaching the younger
children, sewing, or making up whist sets, had, as is usual with the
odd members in a family, fallen to her share. All this Miss Marston
hated in a slow, rebellious manner. From always having just too little
money to live independently, she had been forced to accept invitations
for long visits in uninteresting places. As a girl and a young woman,
she had shown a delicate, retiring beauty that might have been made
much of, and in spite of gray hair, thirty-five years, and a somewhat
drawn look, arising from her discontent, one might discover sufficient
traces of this fading beauty to idealize her. All this summer she had
watched the wayward young artist with a keen interest in the fresh life
he brought among her flat surroundings. His buoyancy cheered her
habitual depression; his eagerness and love of life made her blood flow
more quickly, out of sympathy; and his intellectual alertness
bewildered and fascinated her. She was still shy at thirty-five, and
really very timid and apologetic for her commonplaceness; but at times
the rebellious bitterness at the bottom of her heart would leap forth
in a brusque or bold speech. She was still capable of affording
"Won't I spoil the inspiration?" she ventured, after a long silence.
"Bother the inspiration!" groaned Clayton. "I wish I were a blacksmith,
or a sailor, or something honest. I feel like a hypocrite. I have
started out at a pace that I can't keep up!"
Miss Marston felt complimented by this apparent confidence. If she had
had experience in that kind of nature, she would have understood how
indifferent Clayton was to her personally. He would have made the same
confession to the birds, if they had happened to produce the same
irritation in his mind.
"They all say your work is so brilliant," she said, soothingly.
"Thunder!" he commented. "I wish they would not say anything kind and
pleasant and cheap. At college they praised my verses, and the theatres
stole my music for the Pudding play, and the girls giggled over my
sketches. And now, at twenty-six, I don't know whether I want to
fiddle, or to write an epic, or to model, or to paint. I am a victim of
every artistic impulse."
"I know what you should do," she said, wisely, when they had reached a
shady spot and were cooling themselves.
"Smoke?" queried Clayton, quizzically.
"You ought to marry!"
"That's every woman's great solution, great panacea," he replied,
"It would steady you and make you work."
"No," he replied, thoughtfully, "not unless she were poor, and in that
case it would be from the frying-pan into the fire!"
"You should work," she went on, more courageously. "And a wife would
give you inspiration and sympathy."
"I have had too much of the last already," he sighed. "And it's better
not to have it all of one sort. After awhile a woman doesn't produce
pleasant or profitable reactions in my soul. Yes, I know," he added, as
he noticed her look of wonderment, "I am selfish and supremely
egotistical. Every artist is; his only lookout, however, should be that
his surroundings don't become stale. Or, if you prefer to put it more
humanely, an artist isn't fit to marry; it's criminal for him to marry
and break a woman's heart."
After this heroic confession he paused to smoke. "Besides, no woman
whom I ever knew really understands art and the ends which the artist
is after. She has the temperament, a superficial appreciation and
interest, but she hasn't the stimulus of insight. She's got the nerves,
but not the head."
"But you just said that you had had too much sympathy and
"Did I? Well, I was wrong. I need a lot, and I don't care how idiotic.
It makes me courageous to have even a child approve. I suppose that
shows how closely we human animals are linked together. We have got to
have the consent of the world, or at any rate a small part of it, to
believe ourselves sane. So I need the chorus of patrons, admiring
friends, kind women, etc., while I play the Protagonist, to tell me
that I am all right, to go ahead. Do you suppose any one woman would be
enough? What a great posture for an arm!" His sudden exclamation was
called out by the attitude that Miss Marston had unconsciously assumed
in the eagerness of her interest. She had thrown her hand over a ledge
above them, and was leaning lightly upon it. The loose muslin sleeve
had fallen back, revealing a pretty, delicately rounded arm, not to be
suspected from her slight figure. Clayton quickly squirmed a little
nearer, and touching the arm with an artist's instinct, brought out
still more the fresh white flesh and the delicate veining.
"Don't move. That would be superb in marble!" Miss Marston blushed
"How strange you are," she murmured, as she rose. "You just said that
you had given up modelling, or I would let you model my arm in order to
give you something to do. You should try to stick to something."
"Don't be trite," laughed Clayton, "and don't make me consistent. You
will keep yourself breathless if you try that!"
"I know what you need," she said, persistently unmindful of his
admonition. "You need the spur. It doesn't make so much difference
what you do—you're clever enough."
"'Truth from the mouths of babes——'"
"I am not a babe." She replied to his mocking, literally. "Even if I am
stupid and commonplace, I may have intuitions like other women."
"Which lead you to think that it's all chance whether Raphael paints or
plays on the piano. Well, I don't know that you are so absurd. That's
my theory: an artist is a fund of concentrated, undistributed energy
that has any number of possible outlets, but selects one. Most of us
are artists, but we take so many outlets that the hogshead becomes
empty by leaking. Which shall it be? Shall we toss up a penny?"
"Painting," said Miss Marston, decisively. "You must stick to that."
"How did you arrive at that conclusion—have you observed my work?"
"No! I'll let you know some time, but now you must go to work. Come!"
She rose, as if to go down to the lodge that instant. Clayton, without
feeling the absurdity of the comedy, rose docilely and followed her
down the path for some distance. He seemed completely dominated by the
sudden enthusiasm and will that chance had flung him.
"There's no such blessed hurry," he remarked at last, when the first
excitement had evanesced. "The light will be too bad for work by the
time we reach Bar Harbor. Let's rest here in this dark nook, and talk
it all over."
Clayton was always abnormally eager to talk over anything. Much of his
artistic energy had trickled away in elusive snatches of talk. "Come,"
he exclaimed, enthusiastically, "I have it. I will begin a great
work—a modern Magdalen or something of that sort. We can use you in
just that posture, kneeling before a rock with outstretched hands, and
head turned away. We will make everything of the hands and arms!"
Miss Marston blushed her slow, unaccustomed blush. At first sight it
pleased her to think that she had become so much a part of this
interesting young man's plans, but in a moment she laughed calmly at
the frank desire he expressed to leave out her face, and the
characteristic indifference he had shown in suggesting negligently such
"All right. I am willing to be of any service. But you will have to
make use of the early hours. I teach the children at nine."
"Splendid!" he replied, as the vista of a new era of righteousness
dawned upon him. "We shall have the fresh morning light, and the cool
and the beauty of the day. And I shall have plenty of time to loaf,
"No, you mustn't loaf. You will find me a hard task-mistress!"
True to her word, Miss Marston rapped at the door of the studio
promptly at six the next morning. She smiled fearfully, and finding no
response, tried stones at the windows above. She kept saying to
herself, to keep up her courage: "He won't think about me, and I am too
old to care, anyway." Soon a head appeared, and Clayton called out, in
a sleepy voice:
"I dreamt it was all a joke; but wait a bit, and we will talk it over."
Miss Marston entered the untidy studio, where the débris of a month's
fruitless efforts strewed the floor. Bits of clay and carving-tools,
canvases hurled face downward in disgust and covered with paint-rags,
lay scattered about. She tip-toed around, carefully raising her skirt,
and examined everything. Finally, discovering an alcohol-lamp and a
coffee-pot, she prepared some coffee, and when Clayton appeared—a
somewhat dishevelled god—he found her hunting for biscuit.
"You can't make an artist of me at six in the morning," he growled.
In sudden inspiration, Miss Marston threw open the upper half of the
door and admitted a straight pathway of warm sun that led across the
water just rippling at their feet. The hills behind the steep shore
were dark with a mysterious green and fresh with a heavy dew, and from
the nooks in the woods around them thrush was answering thrush. Miss
Marston gave a sigh of content. The warm, strong sunlight strengthened
her and filled her wan cheeks, as the sudden interest in the artist's
life seemed to have awakened once more the vigor of her feelings. She
clasped her thin hands and accepted both blessings. Clayton also
revived. At first he leant listlessly against the door-post, but as
minute by minute he drank in the air and the beauty and the hope, his
weary frame dilated with incoming sensations. "God, what beauty!" he
murmured, and he accepted unquestioningly the interference in his life
brought by this woman just as he accepted the gift of sunshine and
"Come to work," said Miss Marston, at last.
"That's no go," he replied, "that subject we selected."
"I dare say you won't do much with it, but it will do as well as any
other for experiment and practice."
"I see that you want those arms preserved."
The little woman shrank into her shell for a moment: her lazy artist
could scatter insults as negligently as epigrams. Then she blazed out.
"Mr. Clayton, I didn't come here to be insulted."
Clayton, utterly surprised, opened his sleepy eyes in real alarm.
"Bless you, my dear Miss Marston, I can't insult anybody. I never mean
"Perhaps that's the trouble," replied Miss Marston, somewhat mollified.
But the sitting was hardly a success. Clayton wasted almost all his
time in improvising an easel and in preparing his brushes. Miss Marston
had to leave him just as he was ready to throw himself into his work.
He was discontented, and, instead of improving the good light and the
long day, he took a pipe and went away into the hills. The next morning
he felt curiously ashamed when Miss Marston, after examining the rough
sketch on the easel, said:
"Is that all?"
And this day he painted, but in a fit of gloomy disgust destroyed
everything. So it went on for a few weeks. Miss Marston was more
regular than an alarm-clock; sometimes she brought some work, but
oftener she sat vacantly watching the young man at work. Her only
standard of accomplishment was quantity. One day, when Clayton had
industriously employed a rainy afternoon in putting in the drapery for
the figure, she was so much pleased by the quantity of the work
accomplished that she praised him gleefully. Clayton, who was, as
usual, in an ugly mood, cast an utterly contemptuous look at her and
then turned to his easel.
"You mustn't look at me like that," the woman said, almost frightened.
"Then don't jabber about my pictures."
Her lips quivered, but she was silent. She began to realize her
position of galley-slave, and welcomed with a dull joy the contempt and
insults to come.
One morning Clayton was not to be found. He did not appear during that
week, and at last Miss Marston determined to find him. She made an
excuse for a journey to Boston, and divining where Clayton could be
found, she sent him word at a certain favorite club that she wanted to
see him. He called at her modest hotel, dejected, listless, and
somewhat shamefaced; he found Miss Marston calm and commonplace as
usual. But it was the calm of a desperate resolve, won after painful
hours, that he little recognized. Her instinct to attach herself to
this strange, unaccountable creature, to make him effective to himself,
had triumphed over her prejudices. She humbled herself joyfully,
recognizing a mission.
"Della said that I might presume on your escort home," she remarked
dryly, trembling for fear that she had exposed herself to some
contemptuous retort. One great attraction, however, in Clayton was that
he never expected the conventional. It did not occur to him as
particularly absurd that this woman, ten years his senior, should hunt
him up in this fashion. He took such eccentricities as a matter of
course, and whatever the circumstances or the conversation, found it
all natural and reasonable. Women did not fear him, but talked
indiscreetly to him about all things.
"What's the use of keeping up this ridiculous farce about my work?" he
said, sadly. Then he sought for a conventional phrase. "Your unexpected
interest and enthusiasm in my poor attempts have been most kind, my
dear Miss Marston. But you must allow me to go to the dogs in my own
fashion; that's the inalienable right of every emancipated soul in
these days." The politeness and mockery of this little epigram stung
"Don't be brutal, as well as good for nothing," she said, bitterly.
"You're as low as if you took to drink or any other vice, and you know
it. I can't appreciate your fine ideas, perhaps, but I know you ought
to do something more than talk. You're terribly ambitious, but you're
too weak to do anything but talk. I don't care what you think about my
interference. I can make you work, and I will make you do something.
You know you need the whip, and if none of your pleasant friends will
give it to you, I can. Come!" she added, pleadingly.
"Jove!" exclaimed the young man, slowly, "I believe you're an awful
trump. I will go back."
On their return they scarcely spoke. Miss Marston divined that her
companion felt ashamed and awkward, and that his momentary enthusiasm
had evaporated under the influence of a long railroad ride. While they
were waiting for the steamer at the Mount Desert ferry, she said, as
negligently as she could, "I have telegraphed for a carriage, but you
had better walk up by yourself."
He nodded assent. "So you will supply the will for the machine, if I
will grind out the ideas. But it will never succeed," he added,
gloomily. "Of course I am greatly obliged and all that, and I will
stick to it until October for the sake of your interest." In answer she
smiled with an air of proprietorship.
One effect of this spree upon Clayton was that he took to landscape
during the hours that he had formerly loafed. He found some quiet bits
of dell with water, and planted his easel regularly every day.
Sometimes he sat dreaming or reading, but he felt an unaccustomed
responsibility if, when his mentor appeared with the children late in
the afternoon, he hadn't something to show for his day. She never
attempted to criticise except as to the amount performed, and she soon
learned enough not to measure this by the area of canvas. Although
Clayton had abandoned the Magdalen in utter disgust, Miss Marston
persisted in the early morning sittings. She made herself useful in
preparing his coffee and in getting his canvas ready. They rarely
talked. Sometimes Clayton, in a spirit of deviltry, would tease his
mentor about their peculiar relationship, about herself, or, worse than
all, would run himself and say very true things about his own
imperfections. Then, on detecting the tears that would rise in the
tired, faded eyes of the woman he tortured, he would throw himself into
So the summer wore away and the brilliant September came. The
unsanctified crowds flitted to the mountains or the town, and the
island and sea resumed the air of free-hearted peace which was theirs
by right. Clayton worked still more out of doors on marines, attempting
to grasp the perplexing brilliancy that flooded everything.
"It's no use," he said, sadly, as he packed up his kit one evening in
the last of September. "I really don't know the first thing about
color. I couldn't exhibit a single thing I have done this entire
"What's the real matter?" asked Miss Marston, with a desperate calm.
"Why, I have fooled about so much that I have lost a lot I learnt over
there in Paris."
"Why don't you get—get a teacher?"
Clayton laughed ironically. "I am pretty old to start in, especially as
I have just fifty dollars to my name, and a whole winter before me."
They returned silently. The next morning Miss Marston appeared at the
usual hour and made the coffee. After Clayton had finished his meagre
meal, she sat down shyly and looked at him.
"You've never interested yourself much in my plans, but I am going to
tell you some of them. I'm sick of living about like a neglected cat,
and I am going to New York to—to keep boarders." Her face grew very
red. "They will make a fuss, but I am ready to break with them all."
"So you, too, find dependence a burden?" commented Clayton,
"You haven't taken much pains to know me," she replied. "And if I were
a man," she went on, with great scorn, "I would die before I would be
"Talking about insults—but an artist isn't a man," remarked Clayton,
philosophically smoking his pipe.
"I hate you when you're like that," Miss Marston remarked, with intense
"Then you must hate me pretty often! But continue with your plans.
Don't let our little differences in temperament disturb us."
"Well," she continued, "I have written to some friends who spend the
winters in New York, and out of them I think I shall find enough
boarders—enough to keep me from starving. And the house has a large
upper story with a north light." She stopped and peeped at him
"Oh," said Clayton, coolly, "and you're thinking that I would make a
"Exactly," assented Miss Marston, uncomfortably.
"And who will put up the tin: for you don't suppose that I am low
enough to live off you?"
"No," replied the woman, quietly. "I shouldn't allow that, though I was
not quite sure you would be unwilling. But you can borrow two or three
hundred dollars from your brother, and by the time that's gone you
ought to be earning something. You could join a class; the house isn't
far from those studios."
Clayton impulsively seized her arms and looked into her face. She was
startled and almost frightened.
"I believe," he began, but the words faded away.
"No, don't say it. You believe that I am in love with you, and do this
to keep you near me. Don't be quite such a brute, for you are a
brute, a grasping, egotistical, intolerant brute." She smiled slightly.
"But don't think that I am such a fool as not to know how impossible
Clayton still held her in astonishment. "I think I was going to say
that I was in love with you."
"Oh, no," she laughed, sadly. "I am coffee and milk and bread and
butter, the 'stuff that dreams are made on.' You want some noble young
woman—a goddess, to make you over, to make you human. I only save you
from the poor-house."
There followed a bitter two years for this strange couple. Clayton
borrowed a thousand dollars—a more convenient number to remember, he
said, than three hundred dollars—and induced a prominent artist "who
happens to know something," to take him into his crowded classes for a
year. He began with true grit to learn again what he had forgotten and
some things that he had never known. At the end of the year he felt
that he could go alone, and the artist agreed, adding, nonchalantly:
"You may get there; God knows; but you need loads of work."
Domestically, the life was monotonous. Clayton had abandoned his old
habits, finding it difficult to harmonize his present existence with
his clubs and his fashionable friends. Besides, he hoarded every cent
and, with Miss Marston's aid, wrung the utmost of existence out of the
few dollars he had left. Miss Marston's modest house was patronized by
elderly single ladies. It was situated on one of those uninteresting
East Side streets where you can walk a mile without remembering an
individual stone. The table, in food and conversation, was monotonous.
In fact, Clayton could not dream of a more inferior milieu for the
birth of the great artist.
Miss Marston had fitted herself to suit his needs, and in submitting to
this difficult position felt that she was repaying a loan of a new
life. He was so curious, so free, so unusual, so fond of ideas, so
entertaining, even in his grim moods, that he made her stupid life
over. She could enjoy vicariously by feeling his intense interest in
all living things. In return, she learnt the exact time to bring him an
attractive lunch, and just where to place it so that it would catch his
eye without calling out a scowl of impatience. She made herself at home
in his premises, so that all friction was removed from the young
artist's life. He made no acknowledgment of her devotion, but he worked
grimly, doggedly, with a steadiness that he had never before known.
Once, early in the first winter, having to return to Boston on some
slight business, he permitted himself to be entrapped by old friends
and lazed away a fortnight. On his return Miss Marston noticed with a
pang that this outing had done him good; that he seemed to have more
spirit, more vivaciousness, more ideas, and more zest for his work. So,
in a methodical fashion, she thought out harmless dissipations for him.
She induced him to take her to the opera, even allowing him to think
that it was done from pure charity to her. Sunday walks in the
picturesque nooks of New York—they both shunned the Fifth Avenue
promenade for different reasons—church music, interesting novels, all
the "fuel," as Clayton remarked, that she could find she piled into his
furnace. She made herself acquainted with the peculiar literature that
seemed to stimulate his imagination, and sometimes she read him asleep
in the evenings to save his overworked eyes. Her devotion he took
serenely, as a rule. During the second winter, however, after a slight
illness brought on by over-application, he seemed to have a thought
upon his mind that troubled him. One day he impatiently threw down his
palette and put his hands upon her shoulders.
"Little woman, why do you persist in using up your life on me?"
"I am gambling," she replied, evasively.
"What do you expect to get if you win?"
"A few contemptuous thanks; perhaps free tickets when you exhibit, or a
line in your biography. But seriously, Jack, don't you know women well
enough to understand how they enjoy drudging for someone who is
"But even if I have any ability, which you can't tell, how do you enjoy
it? You can't appreciate a picture."
She smiled. "Don't bother yourself about me. I get my fun, as you say,
because you make me feel things I shouldn't otherwise. I suppose that's
the only pay you artists ever give those who slave for you?"
Such talks were rare. They experienced that physical and mental unity
in duality which comes to people who live and think and work together
for a common aim. They had not separated a day since that first visit
to Boston. The summer had been spent at a cheap boarding-house on Cape
Ann, in order that Clayton might sketch in company with the artist who
had been teaching him. Neither thought of conventionality; it was too
late for that.
As the second year came to an end, the pressure of poverty began to be
felt. Clayton refused to make any efforts to sell his pictures. He eked
out his capital and went on. The end of his thousand came; he took to
feeding himself in his rooms. He sold his clothes, his watch, his
books, and at last the truck he had accumulated abroad. "More fuel for
the fire," he said bitterly.
"I will lend you something," remarked Miss Marston.
"No, thanks," he said, shortly, and then added, with characteristic
brutality, "my body is worth a hundred. Stevens will give that for it,
which would cover the room-rent. And my brother will have to whistle
for his cash or take it out in paint and canvas."
She said nothing, for she had a scheme in reserve. She was content
meantime to see him pinched; it brought out the firmer qualities in the
man. Her own resources, moreover, were small, for the character of her
boarders had fallen. Unpleasant rumors had deprived her of the
unexceptionable set of middle-aged ladies with whom she had started,
but she had pursued her course unaltered. The reproach of her
relatives, who considered her disgraced, had been a sweet solace to her
The rough struggle had told on them both. He had forgotten his delicate
habits, his nicety of dress. A cheap suit once in six months was all
that he could afford. His mind had become stolidly fixed, so that he
did not notice the gradual change. It was a grim fight! The elements
were relentless; day by day the pounding was harder, and the end of his
resistance seemed nearer. Although he was deeply discontented with his
work, he did not dare to think of ultimate failure, for it unnerved him
for several days. Miss Marston's quiet assumption, however, that it was
only a question of months, irritated him.
"God must have put the idea into your head that I am a genius," he
would mutter fiercely at her. "I never did, nor work of mine. You don't
know good from bad, anyway, and we may both be crazy." He buried his
face in his hands, overcome by the awfulness of failure. She put her
arms about his head.
"Well, we can stand it a little longer, and then——"
"And then?" he asked, grimly.
"Then," she looked at him significantly. They both understood. "Lieber
Gott," he murmured, "thou hast a soul." And he kissed her gently, as in
momentary love. She did not resist, but both were indifferent to
passion, so much their end absorbed them.
At last she insisted upon trying to sell some marines at the art
stores. She brought him back twenty-five dollars, and he did not
suspect that she was the patron. He looked at the money wistfully.
"I thought we should have a spree on the first money I earned. But it's
all fuel now."
Her eyes filled with tears at this sign of humanity. "Next time,
"So you think that's the beginning of a fortune. I have failed—failed
if you get ten thousand dollars for every canvas in this shop. You will
never know why. Perhaps I don't myself." And then he went to work. Some
weeks later he came to her again. This time she tried to enlist the
sympathy of the one successful artist Clayton knew, and through his
influence she succeeded in selling a number of pictures and placed
others upon sale. She was so happy, so sure that the prophetic instinct
in her soul was justified, that she told Clayton of her previous fraud.
He listened carefully; his face twitched, as if his mind were adjusting
itself to new ideas. First he took twenty-five dollars from the money
she had just brought him and handed it to her. Then putting his arms
about her, he looked inquisitively down into her face, only a bit more
tenderly than he squinted at his canvases.
"Jane!" She allowed him to kiss her once or twice, and then she pushed
him away, making a pathetic bow.
"Thanks for your sense of gratitude. You're becoming more civilized.
Only I wish it had been something more than money you had been thankful
for. Is money the only sacrifice you understand?"
"You can take your dues in taunts if you like. I never pretended to be
anything but a huge, and possibly productive polypus. I am honest
enough, anyway, not to fool with lovers' wash. You ought to know how I
feel toward you—you're the best woman I ever knew."
"Kindest to you, you mean? No, Jack," she continued, tenderly; "you can
have me, body and soul. I am yours fast enough now, what there is left
of me. I have given you my reputation, and that sort of thing long
ago—no, you needn't protest. I know you despise people who talk like
that, and I don't reproach you. But don't deceive yourself. You feel a
little moved just now. If I had any charms, like a pretty model, you
might acquire some kind of attachment for me, but love—you never
dreamed of it. And," she continued, after a moment, "I begin to think,
after watching you these two years, never will. So I am safe in saying
that I am yours to do with what you will. I am fuel. Only, oh, Jack, if
you break my heart, your last fuel will be gone. You can't do without
It seemed very absurd to talk about breaking hearts—a tired, silent
man; a woman unlovely from sordid surroundings, from age, and from
care. Clayton pulled back the heavy curtain to admit the morning light,
for they had talked for hours before coming to the money question. The
terrible, passionate glare of a summer sun in the city burst in from
the neighboring housetops.
"Why don't you curse Him?" muttered Clayton.
"Because He gave you a heart to love, and made you lonely, and then
wasted your love!"
"Jack, the worst hasn't come. It's not all wasted."
Clayton gradually became conscious of a new feeling about his work. He
was master of his tools, for one thing, and he derived exquisite
pleasure from the exercise of execution. The surety of his touch, the
knowledge of the exact effect he was after, made his working hours an
absorbing pleasure rather than an exasperating penance. And through his
secluded life, with its singleness of purpose, its absence of the
social ambitions of his youth, and the complexity of life in the world,
the restlessness and agitation of his earlier devotion to his art
disappeared. He was content to forget the expression of himself—that
youthful longing—in contemplating and enjoying the created matter. In
other words, the art of creation was attended with less friction. He
worked unconsciously, and he did not, hen-like, call the attention of
the entire barnyard to each new-laid egg. He felt also that human,
comfortable weariness after labor when self sinks out of sight in the
universal wants of mankind—food and sleep. Perhaps the fact that he
could now earn enough to relieve him from actual want, that to some
extent he had wrestled with the world and wrung from it the conditions
of subsistence, relieved the strain under which he had been laboring.
He sold his pictures rarely, however, and only when absolutely
compelled to get money. Miss Marston could not comprehend his feeling
about the inadequacy of his work, and he gave up attempting to make her
understand where he failed.
The bond between them had become closer. This one woman filled many
human relationships for him—mother, sister, friend, lover, and wife in
one. The boarding-house had come to be an affair of transients and
young clerks, so that all her time that could be spared from the
drudgery of housekeeping was spent in the studio. Slowly he became
amenable to her ever-present devotion, and even, in his way, thoughtful
for her. And she was almost happy.
The end came in this way. One day Clayton was discovered on the street
by an intimate college friend. They had run upon each other abruptly,
and Clayton, finding that escape was decently impossible, submitted
without much urging to be taken to one of his old clubs for a quiet
luncheon. As a result he did not return that night, but sent a note to
Miss Marston saying that he had gone to Lenox with a college chum. That
note chilled her heart. She felt that this was the beginning of the
end, and the following week she spent in loneliness in the little
studio, sleeping upon the neglected lounge. And yet she divined that
the movement and stimulus of this vacation was what Clayton needed
most. She feared he was becoming stale, and she knew that in a week, or
a fortnight, or perhaps a month, he would return and plunge again into
He came back. He hardly spoke to her; he seemed absorbed in the
conception of a new work. And when she brought him his usual luncheon
she found the door locked, the first time in many months. She sat down
on the stairs and waited—how long she did not know—waited, staring
down the dreary hall and at the faded carpet and at herself, faded to
suit the surroundings. At length she knocked, and Clayton came, only to
take her lunch and say absently that he was much absorbed by a new
picture and should not be disturbed. Would she bring his meals? He
seemed to refuse tacitly an entrance to the studio. So a week passed,
and then one day Clayton disappeared again, saying that he was going
into the country for another rest. He went out as he had come in,
absorbed in some dream or plan of great work. Pride kept her from
entering his rooms during that week.
One day, however, he came back as before and plunged again into his
work. This time she found the door ajar and entered noiselessly, as she
had learned to move. He was hard at work; she admired his swift
movements that seemed premeditated, the ease with which the picture
before him was rowing. Surely he had a man's power, now, to execute
what his spirit conceived! And the mechanical effort gave him evidently
great pleasure. His complete absorption indicated the most intense
though unconscious pleasure.
The picture stunned her. She knew that she was totally ignorant of art,
but she knew that the picture before her was the greatest thing Clayton
had accomplished. It seemed to breathe power. And she saw without
surprise that the subject was a young woman. Clayton's form hid the
face, but she could see the outline of a woman beside a dory, on a
beach, in the early morning. So it had come.
When she was very close to Clayton, he felt her presence, and they both
stood still, looking at the picture. It was almost finished—all was
planned. Miss Marston saw only the woman. She was youthful, just
between girlhood and womanhood—unconscious, strong, and active as the
first; with the troubled mystery of the second. The artist had divined
an exquisite moment in life, and into the immature figure, the face of
perfect repose, the supple limbs, he had thrown the tender mystery that
met the morning light. It was the new birth—that ancient, solemn,
joyous beginning of things in woman and in day.
Clayton approached his picture as if lovingly to hide it. "Isn't it
immense?" he murmured. "It's come at last. I don't daub any more, but I
can see, I can paint! God, it's worth the hell I have been through—"
He paused, for he felt that his companion had left him.
"Jane," he said, curiously examining her face. "Jane, what's the
"Don't you know?" she replied, looking steadily at him. He looked first
at her and then at the picture, and then back again. Suddenly the facts
in the case seemed to get hold of him. "Jane," he cried, impetuously,
"it's all yours—you gave me the power, and made me human, too—or a
little more so than I was. But I am killing you by living in this
fashion. Why don't you end it?"
She smiled feebly at his earnestness. "There is only one end," she
whispered, and pointed to his picture. Clayton comprehended, and
seizing a paint-rag would have ruined it, but the woman caught his hand.
"Don't let us be melodramatic. Would you ruin what we have been living
for all these years? Don't be silly—you would always regret it."
"It's your life against a little fame."
"No, against your life." They stood, nervelessly eying the picture.
"Oh, Jack, Jack," she cried, at last, "why did God make men like you?
You take it all, everything that life gives, sunshine and love and hope
and opportunity. Your roots seem to suck out what you want from the
whole earth, and you leave the soil exhausted. My time has gone; I know
it, I know it, and I knew it would go. Now some other life will be
sacrificed. For you'll break her heart whether she's alive now or
you're dreaming of someone to come. You'll treat her as you have
everything. It isn't any fault—you don't understand." The words ended
with a moan. Clayton sat doggedly looking at his picture. But his heart
refused to be sad.
LITTLE CRANBERRY, ME.,
The narrow slant of water that could be seen between the posts of the
felza was rippling with little steely waves. The line of the heavy beak
cut the opening between the tapering point of the Lido and the misty
outline of Tre Porti. Inside the white lighthouse tower a burnished
man-of-war lay at anchor, a sluggish mass like a marble wharf placed
squarely in the water. From the lee came a slight swell of a
harbor-boat puffing its devious course to the Lido landing. The
sea-breeze had touched the locust groves of San Niccolò da Lido, and
caught up the fragrance of the June blossoms, filling the air with the
soft scent of a feminine city.
When the scrap of the island Sant' Elena came enough into the angle to
detach itself from the green mass of the Giardino Pubblico, the prow
swung softly about, flapping the little waves, and pointed in shore
where a bridge crossed an inlet into the locust trees.
"You can see the Italian Alps," Miss Barton remarked, pulling aside the
felza curtains and pointing lazily to the snow masses on the blue north
horizon. "That purplish other sea is the Trevisan plain, and back of it
is Castelfranco—Giorgione's Castelfranco—and higher up where the blue
begins to break into the first steps of the Alps is perched
Asolo—Browning's Asolo. Oh! It is so sweet! a little hill town! And
beyond are Bassano and Belluno, and somewhere in the mist before you
get to those snow-heads is Pieve da Cadore." Her voice dropped
caressingly over the last vowels. The mere, procession of names was a
lyric sent across sea to the main.
"They came over them, then, the curious ones," the younger man of the
two who lounged on cushions underneath the felza remarked, as if to
prolong the theme. "To the gates of Paradise," he continued, while his
companion motioned to the gondolier. "And they broke them open, but
they could never take the swag after all."
He laughed at her puzzled look. He seemed to mock her, and his face
became young in spite of the bald-looking temples and forehead, and the
copperish skin that indicated years of artificial heat.
"They got some things," the older man put in, "and they have been
living off 'em ever since."
"But they never got it," persisted his companion, argumentatively.
"Perhaps they were afraid."
The gondola was gliding under the stone bridge, skilfully following the
line of the key-stones in the arch. It passed out into a black pool at
the feet of the Church of San Niccolò. The marble bishop propped up
over the pediment of the door lay silently above the pool. The grove of
blossoming locusts dropped white-laden branches over a decaying barca
chained to the shore.
"What is 'it'?" the girl asked, slowly turning her face from the
northern mountains. She seemed to carry a suggestion of abundance, of
opulence; of beauty made of emphasis. "You," the young man laughed
"They came again and again, and they longed for you, and would have
carried you away by force. But their greedy arms snatched only a few
jewels, a dress or two, and you they left."
The girl caught at a cluster of locust blossoms that floated near.
"It is an allegory."
"I'll leave Niel to untie his riddles." Their companion lit his pipe
and strode ashore. "I am off for an hour with the Adriatic. Don't
bother about me if you get tired of waiting."
He disappeared in the direction of the Lido bathing stablimento. The
two gathered up cushions and rugs, and wandered into the grove. The
shade was dark and cool. Beyond were the empty acres of a great fort
grown up in a tangle of long grass like an abandoned pasture. Across
the pool they could see the mitred bishop sleeping aloft in the sun,
and near him the lesser folk in their graves beside the convent wall.
"No, I am not all that," Miss Barton said, thoughtfully, her face
bending, as if some rich, half-open rose were pondering.
"He says that I am a fragment, a bit of detritus that has been washed
around the world—"
"And finally lodged and crystallized in Italy."
This mystified her again, as if she were compelled to use a medium of
expression that was unfamiliar.
"Papa was consul-general, you know, first at Madrid, then in the East,
and lastly merely a consul at Milan." She fell back in relief upon a
statement of fact.
"Yes, I know."
"And mamma—she was from the South but he married her in Paris. They
called me the polyglot bébé at the convent." She confided this as
lazily interesting, like the clouds, or the locusts, or the faint
chatter of the Adriatic waves around the breakwater of the Lido.
"Nevertheless you are Venice, you are Italy, you are Pagan"—the young
man iterated almost solemnly, as if a Puritan ancestry demanded this
reproach. Then he rolled his body half over and straightened himself to
look at her rigidly. "How did you come about? How could Council Bluffs
make it?" His voice showed amusement at its own intensity. She shook
"I don't know," she said, softly.
"It doesn't seem real. They tell me so, just as they say that the
marble over there comes from that blue mountain. But why bother about
it? I am here——"
They drifted on in personal chat until the sunlight came in parallel
lines between the leaves.
"Where is Caspar?" he said at last, reluctantly. "It's too late to get
back to the Britannia for dinner." He jumped up as if conscious of a
"Oh, we'll dine here. Caspar has found some one at the stablimento and
has gone off. Ask Bastian—there must be some place where we can get
enough to eat."
Lawrence hesitated as if not quite sure of the outcome of such
unpremeditation. But Miss Barton questioned the gondolier. "The Buon
Pesche—that will be lovely; Bastian will paddle over and order the
supper. We can walk around."
So Lawrence, as if yielding against his judgment, knelt down and picked
up her wrap. "Bastian will take care of the rest," she said, gleefully,
walking on ahead through the long grass of the abandoned fort. "Be a
bit of detritus, too, and enjoy the few half-hours," she added,
coaxingly, over her shoulder.
When they were seated at the table under the laurel-trees before the
Buon Pesche, Lawrence threw himself into the situation, with all the
robustness of a moral resolve to do the delightful and sinful thing.
Just why it should be sinful to dine there out-doors in an evening
light of luminous gold, with the scent of locusts eddying about, and
the mirage-like show of Venice sleeping softly over beyond—was not
quite clear. Perhaps because his companion seemed so careless and
unfamiliar with the monitions of strenuous living; perhaps because her
face was brilliant and naïve—some spontaneous thing of nature,
unmarked by any lines of consciousness.
Under a neighboring tree a couple were already eating, or quarrelling
in staccato phrases. Lawrence thought that the man was an artist.
Miss Barton smiled at his seriousness, crossing her hands placidly on
the table and leaning forward. To her companion she gleamed, as if a
wood-thing, a hamadryad, had slipped out from the laurel-tree and come
to dine with him in the dusk.
The woman of the inn brought a flask of thin yellow wine and placed it
between them. Lawrence mutely decanted it into the glasses.
"Well?" she said, questioningly.
Her companion turned his head away to the solemn, imperial mountains,
that were preparing with purple and gold for a night's oblivion.
"You are thinking of Nassau Street, New York, of the rooms divided by
glass partitions, and typewriters and the bundles of documents—bah!
Chained!" She sipped scornfully a drop or two from the glass.
The man flushed.
"No, not that exactly. I am thinking of the police courts, of the
squalor, of taking a deposition in a cell with the filthy breathing all
about. The daily jostle." He threw his head back.
"Don't try it again," she whispered.
"I am only over for six weeks, you know, health—"
"Yes? and there is a girl in Lowell,"—she read his mind impudently.
"Was," he emended, with an uneasy blush.
"Poor, starved one! Here is our fish and spaghetti. To-night is a night
The dusk grew grayer, more powderish; the mountains faded away, and the
long Lido banks disappeared into lines pointed by the lights of
Torcello and Murano. Sant' Elena became sea, and the evening wind from
the Adriatic started in toward the city. A few sailors who had come for
a glass were sitting under the arbor of the Buon Pesche smoking, with
an occasional stinging word dropped nonchalantly into the dusk. Their
hostess was working in the garden patch behind the house. At last the
artist moved off with his companion through the grove of laurel between
the great well-heads. Bastian loitered suggestively near.
So they gathered their thoughts and followed the gondolier to the bank.
Miss Barton lingered by one of the well-heads to peer at the pitchy
"Here they came for fresh water, the last gift of Venice before they
took sail. And sometimes a man never went farther—it was a safe kind
of a grave." She laughed unconcernedly.
"Perhaps you came out of the locusts and took a hand in pitching the
The woman shivered.
"No! no! I only brought them here."
Bastian turned the prow into the current, heading to weather Sant'
Elena. Lawrence took an oar silently. He liked the rush on the forward
stroke, the lingering recovery. The evening puffs were cool. They slid
on past a ghostly full-rigged ship from the north, abandoned at the
point of Sant' Elena, until the black mass of trees in the Giardino
Pubblico loomed up. A little off the other quarter the lights from the
island of San Lazzaro gleamed and faded. It was so very silent on the
waste of waters!
Lawrence looked back at his companion; she was holding her hat idly,
huddled limply on the cushions.
"Come," she said again, adding mockingly——
"If you are so ferocious, we shall get there too soon."
Lawrence gave up his oar and lay down at her feet. Bastian's sweep
dipped daintily in and out; the good current was doing his work. They
drifted silently on near Venice. The halo of light above the squares
grew brighter. San Giorgio Maggiore appeared suddenly off the quarter.
Miss Barton signed to the gondolier to wait. They were outside the city
wash; the notes of the band in San Marco came at intervals; the water
slipped noiselessly around the channels, and fire-fly lights from the
gondolas twinkled on the Grand Canal. San Giorgio was asleep.
Miss Barton's head was leaning forward, her eyes brooding over the
black outlines, her ears sensuously absorbing the gurgle of the
currents. A big market boat from Palestrina winged past them, sliding
over the oily water. Several silent figures were standing in the stern.
Lawrence looked up; her eyes seemed lit with little candles placed
behind. Her face gleamed, and one arm slipped from her wrap to the
cushion by his side.
"Bella Venezia," he murmured.
She smiled, enveloping him, mastering him, taking him as a child with
her ample powers.
"You will never go back to 'that'!"
Her arm by his side filled out the thought.
"Never," he heard himself say as on a stage, and the dusky lights from
that radiant face seemed very near.
"Because I am——"
"Sh," she laid her fingers lightly on his forehead. "There is no thine
Bastian dipped his sweep once more. San Giorgio's austere façade went
out into the black night. One cold ripple of Adriatic wind stirred the
The garden on the Giudecca was a long narrow strip on the seaward side,
blossoming profusely with flowers. A low vine-covered villino slanted
along the canal; beyond, there was a cow-house where a boy was feeding
some glossy cows. The garden was full of the morning sun.
Lawrence could see her from the open door, a white figure, loitering in
a bed of purple tulips. Her dark hair was loosely knotted up; stray
wisps fell about her ears.
Lawrence closed the door that opened from the canal and walked softly
through the plats of lilies and tulips. Miss Barton glanced up.
"Ecco! il cavaliere!"
"Didn't you expect me!" he asked, clumsily, revealing one potent reason
for his appearance.
She smiled for an answer.
"Last night," he began again, explanatorily. Her eyes followed his lips
and interrupted him.
"What do you think of our place?" She had turned away as if to direct
his speech into indifferent channels.
He looked about bewildered.
"I can't think anything; I feel it; it's one mass of sense."
"Exactly. We found it, papa and I, one day two years ago when we were
paddling around the Giudecca. One is so much at home here. At night you
can see the lights along the Lido, and all the campaniles over there in
Venice. Then the Redentore sweeps up so grandly—"
Lawrence slapped a bending tulip.
"Yes, the world lies far away."
"And you are afraid to lose sight of it," she turned on him swiftly.
And she added, before he could find defence, "You have come to redeem
your words, to tell me that you love me desperately; that you want to
make an engagement; and some day marry me and go over there to live?"
"Caspar would do that."
"And Severance has something to offer," Lawrence remarked, bluntly.
"Half a million."
She began to walk slowly across the little grass-plot over to the Lido
side. Here the oily swell was gurgling in the stone embankment.
She was like a plant flowering in the garden—a plant, part lily, part
"And you do not want me," she began, softly, less to him than to
herself. "I don't fit in. You cannot take me up and put me aside, at
your will. You would be mine."
"It should have been different. We should never have met. They should
have made you a saint, or a priest, or a pastor for the bleeding world.
You are a trifle late; half a century ago, you could have given your
soul to God, quite easily, and not bothered about one woman."
"Yes, I agree, but that was settled by the way the world has ground,"
the young man sighed. "Why should it bother you, my fooling with the
forlorn and wretched—the others? Any more than I mind your dealings
They turned about and crossed the dozen paces to the Redentore wall
where lay a blade of dark shade.
"You could flirt with the multitude? Yes, I should object," she looked
at him slowly, "I couldn't understand it."
He threw his head back as if to look beyond Venice.
"The maimed in body and spirit," he muttered.
"They call you; I call you; you——"
"I was starved," he pleaded, "I love flesh and glory, too."
She laughed unconcernedly.
"Oh, no. I think not. You are trying to very hard. You think you are
enjoying your wine and your figs and the sun; but you say a prayer."
Her words taunted him. The vines on the villino swayed in the sun.
"Come, we will go out to the water, and I will master your doubt."
They stood silent, looking at each other, half curiously. At length she
uttered what was common to their minds.
"Marry the world; it woos you. Love me and leave me; love another and
leave her. The world, that is your mistress."
"And the world incarnate, that is you. The world, breathing, living,
loving, the world a passion of delight."
Their hands touched for a moment. Then she said, hastily:
"Too late! There is Caspar. I forgot we were to go to Burano. Will you
A figure in white ducks was coming toward them. His cordial smile
seemed to include a comment—a mental note of some hint he must give.
"In stalks the world of time and place," the young man muttered. "No, I
will not go with you."
He helped her into the waiting gondola. She settled back upon the
cushions, stretched one languid arm in farewell. He could feel the
smile with which she swept Caspar Severance, the women at work in the
rio over their kettles, the sun-bright stretch of waters—all
He lay down in the shade of the Redentore wall. Eight weeks ago there
had been a dizzy hour, a fainting scene in a crowded court-room, a
consultation with a doctor, the conventional prescription, a fortnight
of movement—then this. He had cursed that combination of nerve and
tissue; equally he cursed this. One word to his gondolier and in two
hours he could be on the train for Milan, Paris, London—then
indefinite years of turning about in the crowd, of jostling and being
jostled. But he lay still while the sun crept over him.
She was so unreal, once apart from her presence, like an evanescent
mirage on the horizon of the mind. He told himself that he had seen
her, heard her voice; that her eyes had been close to his, that she had
touched him; that there had been moments when she stood with the
flowers of the garden.
He shook the drowsy sun from his limbs and went away, closing the door
softly on the empty garden. Venice, too, was a shadow made between
water and sun. The boat slipped in across the Zattere, in and out of
cool water alleys, under church windows and palings of furtive gardens,
until he came to the plashings of the waves on the marble steps along
the Grand Canal. Empty! that, too, was empty from side to side between
cool palace façades, the length of its expressive curve. From silence
and emptiness into silence the gondola pushed. Someone to incarnate
this empty, vacuous world! Memory troubled itself with a face, and
eyes, and hair, and a voice that mocked the little goings up and down
In the afternoon Lawrence and Severance were dawdling over coffee in
the Piazza. A strident band sent up voluminous notes that boomed back
and forth between the palace and the stone arches of the procurate.
"And Burano?" Lawrence suggested, idly. The older man nodded.
"We lunched there—convent—Miss Barton bought lace."
He broke the pause by adding, negligently:
"I think I shall marry her."
Lawrence smoked; he could see the blue water about San Giorgio.
"Marry her," he repeated, vaguely. "You are engaged?"
The young man reached out a bony hand. One had but to wait to still the
problems of life. They strolled across the piazza.
"When do you leave?" Severance inquired.
"To-night," almost slipped from the young man's lips. He was murmuring
to himself. "I have played with Venice and lost. I must return to my
"I can't tell," he said.
Severance daintily stepped into a gondola. "La Giudecca."
Lawrence turned into the swarming alleys leading to the Rialto.
Streams of Venetians were eddying about the cul-de-sacs and enclosed
squares, hurrying over the bridges of the canals, turning in and out of
the calles, or coming to rest at the church doors. Lawrence drifted
tranquilly on. He had slipped a cable; he was free and ready for the
open sea. Following at random any turning that offered, he came out
suddenly upon Verocchio's black horseman against the black sky. The San
Zanipolo square was deserted; the cavernous San Zanipolo tenanted by
tombs. Stone figures, seated, a-horse, lying carved in death, started
out from the silent walls.
"Condottieri," the man muttered, "great robbers who saw and took!
Briseghella, Mocenigo, Leonardo Loredan, Vittore Capello." He rolled
the powerful names under his breath. "They are right—Take, enjoy; then
die." And he saw a hill sleeping sweetly in the mountains, where the
sun rested on its going down, and a villino with two old trees where
the court seemed ever silent. In the stealthy, passing hours she came
and sat in the sun, and was. And the two remembered, looking on the
valley road, that somewhere lay in the past a procession of storms and
mornings and nights which was called the world, and a procession of
people which was called life. But she looked at him and smiled.
Outside in the square the transparent dusk of Venice settled down. In
the broad canal of the Misericordia a faint plash and drip from a
passing gondola; then, in a moment, as the boat rounded into the rio, a
resounding "Stai"; again silence and the robber in bronze.
He waited for a sign from the Giudecca. He told himself that Theodosia
Barton was not done with him yet, nor he with her.
The tourist-stream, turning northward from Rome and Florence, met in
Venice a new stream of Germans. The paved passage beside the hotel
garden was alive with a cosmopolitan picnic party. Lawrence lingered
and watched; perhaps when the current set strongly to the north again,
it would carry him along with it.
He had not seen Caspar Severance. Each day of delay made it more
awkward to meet him, made the confession of disappointment more
obvious, he reflected. Each day it was easier to put out to the lagoons
for a still dream, and return when the Adriatic breeze was winding into
the heated calles. Over there, in the heavy-scented garden on the
Giudecca, lined against a purplish sea, she was resting; she had given
free warning for him to go, but she was there——.
"She holds me here in the Mare Morto, where the sea-weeds wind about
And he believed that he should meet her somewhere in the dead lagoon,
out yonder around the city, in the enveloping gloom of the waters which
held the pearl of Venice.
So each afternoon his gondola crept out from the Fondamenta del Zattere
into the ruffling waters of the Giudecca canal, and edged around the
deserted Campo di Marte. There the gondolier labored in the viscous
One day, from far behind, came the plash of an oar in the channel. As
the narrow hull swept past, he saw a hand gather in the felza curtains,
and a woman kneel to his side.
"So Bastian takes you always to the dead sea," she tossed aboard.
"Bastian might convoy other forestieri," Lawrence defended.
"Really? here to the laguna morta?" and as his gondola slid into the
channel, she added:
"I knew you were in Venice; you could not go without—another time."
"What would that bring?" he questioned her with his eyes.
"How should I know?" she answered, evasively. "Come with me out to the
San Giorgio in Alga. It is the loneliest place in Venice!"
Lawrence sat at her feet. The gondola moved on between the sea-weed
banks. Away off by Chioggia, filmy gray clouds grew over the horizon.
She shook her head. "For the others, landward. Those opalescent clouds
streaking the sky are merely the undertone of Venice; they are always
"The note of sadness," he suggested.
"You thought to have ended with me."
She rested her head on her hands and looked at him. He preferred to
have her mention Caspar Severance.
"Whenever I was beyond your eyes, you were not quite sure. You went
back to your hotel and wondered. The wine was over strong for your
temperate nerves, and there was so much to do elsewhere!" she mocked
"After all, I was a fragment. And you judged in your wise new-world
fashion that fragments were—useless."
Just ahead was a tiny patch of earth, rimmed close to the edge by
ruined walls. The current running landward drew them about the corner,
under the madonna's hand, and the gondola came to rest beside the
lichens and lizards of a crumbling wharf.
"No," she continued, "I shall not let you go so easily." One hand fell
beside his arm, figuratively indicating her thought.
"And I shall carry you off," he responded, slowly. "It lies between
you—and all, everything."
The gondolier had gone ashore. Silence had swallowed him up.
"All, myself and the others; effort, variety—for the man who loves
you, there is but one act in life."
"Splendid!" Her lips parted as if savoring his words.
His voice went on, low, strained to plunge his words into her heart.
"You are the woman, the curious thing that God made to stir life. You
would draw all activities to you, and through you nothing may pass.
Like the dead sea of grass you encompass the end of desire. You have
been with me from my manhood, the fata morgana that laughed at my love
of other creatures. I must meet you, I knew, face to face!"
His lips closed.
"I have met you," he added, sullenly, "and should I turn away, I should
not forget you. You will go with me, and I shall hunger for you and
hate you, and you will make it over, my life, to fill the hollow of
"To fill the hollow of my hand," she repeated softly, as if not
"You will mould it and pat it and caress it, until it fits. You will
never reason about it, nor doubt, nor talk; the tide flows underneath
into the laguna morta, and never wholly flows out. God has painted in
man's mind the possible; and he has painted the delusions, the
impossible—and that is woman?"
"Impossible," she murmured. "Oh, no, not that!"
Her eyes compelled him; her hand dropped to his hand. Venice sank into
a gray blot in the lagoon. The water was waveless like a deep night.
"Possible for a moment," he added, dreamily, "possible as the unsung
lyric. Possible as the light of worlds behind the sun and moon.
Possible as the mysteries of God that the angels whisper——"
"The only possible," again her eyes flamed; the dark hair gleamed black
above the white face.
"And that is enough for us forever!"
The heavy door of the Casa Lesca swung in, admitting Lawrence to a damp
stone-flagged room. At the farther end it opened on a little cortile,
where gnarled rose-bushes were in bloom. A broken Venus, presiding over
a dusty fountain, made the centre of the cortile, and there a strapping
girl from the campagna was busy trimming the stalks of a bunch of
roses. The signorina had not arrived; Lawrence lounged against the
gunwale of a gondola, which lay on one side of the court.
A pretentious iron gate led from the cortile to the farm, where the
running vines stretched from olive-stump to trellis, weaving a mat of
undulating green. It was so quiet, here in the rear of the palace, that
one could almost hear the hum of the air swimming over the broad vine
Lawrence, at first alert, then drowsy, reclined in the shade, and
watched the girl. From time to time she threw him a soft word of
Venetian. Then, gathering her roses, she shook them in his face and
tripped up the stairs to the palace above.
He had made the appointment without intention, but he came to fulfil it
in a tumult of energy.
She must choose and he arrange—for that future which troubled his
mind. But the heated emptiness of the June afternoon soothed his will.
He saw that whatever she bade, that he would do. Still here, while he
was alone, before her presence came to rule, he plotted little things.
When he was left with himself he wondered about it; no, he did not want
her, did not want it! His life was over there, beyond her, and she must
bend to that conception. People, women, anyone, this piece of beauty
and sense, were merely episodic. The sum was made from all, and greater
The door groaned, and he turned to meet her, shivering in the damp
passage. She gathered a wrap about her shoulders.
"Caspar would not go," she explained, appealingly.
"Which one is to go?" the young man began. She sank down on a bench and
turned her head wearily to the vineyard. Over the swaying tendrils of
the vine, a dark line, a blue slab of salt water, made the horizon.
"Should I know?" her face said, mutely.
"He thinks you should," she spoke, calmly. "He has been talking two
hours about you, your future, your brilliant performances——"
"That detained you!"
"He is plotting to make you a great man. You belong to the world, he
said, and, the world would have you. They need you to plan and exhort,
"So you come to tell me—"
"Let us go out to the garden." She laid her hand reprovingly on his
arm. "We can see the pictures later."
She took his arm and directed him down the arched walk between the
vines, toward the purple sea.
"I did not realize that—that you were a little Ulysses. He warned me!"
"That you would love and worship at any wayside shrine; that the spirit
of devotion was not in you."
"And you believed?"
"It seemed so. I have thought so. Once a few feet away and you are
The young man was guiltily silent.
"And I am merely a wayside chapel, good for an idle prayer."
"Make it perpetual."
Her arm was heavy.
"Caspar wants you—away. He will try to arrange it. Perhaps you will
yield, and I shall lose."
"You mean he will make them recall me."
She said nothing.
"You can end it now." He stopped and raised her arm. They stood for a
moment, revolving the matter; a gardener came down the path. "You will
get the message tonight," she said, gloomily. "Go! The message will say
'come,' and you will obey."
"Shall we see the pictures?"
The peasant girl admitted them to the hall, and opened, here and there,
a long shutter. The vast hall, in the form of a Latin cross, revealed a
dusky line of frescoes.
"Veronese," she murmured. Lawrence turned to the open window that
looked across the water to the piazza. Beneath, beside the quay, a
green-painted Greek ship was unloading grain. Some panting, half-naked
men were shovelling the oats.
"We might go," he said; "Caspar is probably waiting for his report. You
can tell him that he has won."
Suddenly he felt her very near him.
"No, not that way!"
"You are good to—love," she added deliberatively, placing her hands
lightly on his heart.
"You do not care enough; ah! that is sad, sad. Caspar, or denial, or
God—nothing would stand if you cared, more than you care for the
little people and things. See, I can take you now. I can say you are
mine. I can make you love—as another may again. But love me, now, as
if no other minute could ever follow."
She sighed the words.
"Here I am, to be loved. Let us settle nothing. Let us have this minute
for a few kisses."
The hall filled with dusk. The girl came back again. Suddenly a bell
"Caspar," she said. "Stay here; I will go."
"We will go together."
"No," she waved him back. "You will get the message. Caspar is right.
You are not for any woman for always."
"Go," he flung out, angrily.
The great doors of the hall had rattled to, leaving him alone half
will-less. He started and then returned to the balcony over the
fondamenta. In the half-light he could see her stepping into a waiting
gondola, and certain words came floating up clearly as if said to
"To-morrow evening, the Contessa Montelli, at nine." But she seemed to
be speaking to her companion. The gondola shot out into the broad canal.
The long June day, Lawrence sat with the yellow cablegram before his
eyes. The message had come, indeed, and the way had been cleared.
Eleven—the train for Paris! passed; then, two, and now it was dusk
Had she meant those words for him? So carelessly flung back. That he
* * * * *
"The signorina awaits you." The man pointed to the garden, and turned
back with his smoking lamp up the broad staircase that clung to one
side of the court. Across the strip of garden lay a bar of moonlight on
She was standing over the open well-head at the farther end where the
grass grew in rank tufts. The gloomy wall of the palace cast a shadow
that reached to the well. Just as he entered, a church-clock across the
rio struck the hour on a cracked bell.
"My friend has gone in—she is afraid of the night air," Miss Barton
explained. "Perhaps she is afraid of ghosts," she added, as the young
man stood silent by her side. "An old doge killed his wife and her
children here, some centuries ago. They say the woman walks. Are you
"Of only one ghost——"
"Not yet a ghost!" Indeed, her warm, breathing self threw a spirit of
life into the moonlight and gainsaid his idle words.
"I have come for you," he said, a little peremptorily. "To do it I have
lost my engagement with life."
"So the message came. You refused, and now you look for a reward. A man
must be paid!"
"I tried to keep the other engagement and could not!"
"I shall make you forget it, as if it were some silly boyish dream."
She began to walk over the moonlit grass. "I was waiting for
that—sacrifice. For if you desire me, you must leave the other
"I know it."
"I lie in the laguna morta, and the dead are under me, and the living
are caught in my sea-weed." She laughed.
"Now, we have several long hours of moonlight. Shall we stay here?"
The young man shivered.
"No, the Lady Dogessa might disturb us. Let us go out toward Murano."
"Are you really—alive and mine, not Severance's?" he threw out,
She stopped and smiled.
"First you tell me that I disturb your plans; then you want to know if
I am preoccupied. You would like to have me as an 'extra' in the
As they came out on the flags by the gondola, another boat was pushing
a black prow into the rio from the Misericordia canal. It came up to
the water-steps where the two stood. Caspar Severance stepped out.
"Caspar!" Miss Barton laughed.
"They told me you were here for dinner," he explained. He was in
evening clothes, a Roman cloak hanging from his shoulders. He looked,
standing on the steps below the other two, like an impertinent
"Lawrence! I thought you were on your way home."
Lawrence shook his head. All three were silent, wondering who would
dare to open the final theme.
"The Signora Contessa had a headache," Miss Barton began, nonchalantly.
Severance glanced skeptically at the young American by her side.
"So you fetched il dottore americano? Well, Giovanni is waiting to
carry us home."
Miss Barton stepped forward slowly, as if to enter the last gondola
whose prow was nuzzling by the steps.
Lawrence took her hand and motioned to his gondola.
Severance smiled, placidly.
"You will miss the midnight train."
The young man halted a moment, and Miss Barton's arm slipped into his
"Perhaps," he muttered.
"The night will be cool for you," Severance turned to the woman. She
wavered a moment.
"You will miss more than the midnight train," Severance added to the
young fellow, in a low voice.
Lawrence knelt beside his gondola. He glanced up into the face of the
woman above him. "Will you come?" he murmured. She gathered up her
dress and stepped firmly into the boat. Severance, left alone on the
fondamenta, watched the two. Then he turned back to his gondola. The
two boats floated out silently into the Misericordia Canal.
"To the Cimeterio," Miss Barton said. "To the Canale Grande," Severance
The two men raised their hats.
* * * * *
For a few moments the man and the woman sat without words, until the
gondola cleared the Fondamenta Nuova, and they were well out in the sea
of moonlight. Ahead of them lay the stucco walls of the Cimeterio,
glowing softly in the white light. Some dark spots were moving out from
the city mass to their right, heading for the silent island.
"There goes the conclusion," Lawrence nodded to the funeral boats.
"But between us and them lies a space of years—life."
"You looked. It was decided."
The city detached itself insensibly from them, lying black behind. A
light wind came down from Treviso, touching the white waves.
"You are thinking that back there, up the Grand Canal, lie fame and
accomplishment. You are thinking that now you have your fata
morgana—nothing else. You are already preparing a grave for her in
Lawrence took her head in his hands. "Never," he shot out the word.
"Never—you are mine; I have come all these ocean miles to find you. I
have come for an accounting with the vision that troubles man." Her
face drew nearer.
"I am Venice, you said. I am set in the mare morto. I am built on the
sea-weed. But from me you shall not go. You came over the mountains for
The man sighed. Some ultimate conception of life seemed to outline
itself on the whitish walls of the Cimeterio—a question of sex. The
man would go questioning visions. The woman was held by one.
"Caspar Severance will find his way, and will play your game for you,"
she went on coaxingly. "But this," her eyes were near him, "this is a
moment of life. You have chosen. There is no mine and thine."
One by one the campaniles of Venice loomed, dark pillars in the white
sky. And all around toward Mestre and Treviso and Torcello; to San
Pietro di Castello and the grim walls of the arsenal, the mare morto
heaved gently and sighed.
CHICAGO, January, 1897.
THE PRICE OF ROMANCE
They were paying the price of their romance, and the question was
whether they would pay it cheerfully. They had been married a couple of
years, and the first flush of excitement over their passion and the
stumbling-blocks it had met was fading away. When he, an untried young
lawyer and delicate dilettante, had married her she was a Miss Benton,
of St. Louis, "niece of Oliphant, that queer old fellow who made his
money in the Tobacco Trust," and hence with no end of prospects.
Edwards had been a pleasant enough fellow, and Oliphant had not
objected to his loafing away a vacation about the old house at Quogue.
Marriage with his niece, the one remaining member of his family who
walked the path that pleased him, was another thing. She had plenty of
warning. Had he not sent his only son adrift as a beggar because he had
married a little country cousin? He could make nothing out of Edwards
except that he was not keen after business—loafed much, smoked much,
and fooled with music, possibly wrote songs at times.
Yet Miss Benton had not expected that cruel indifference when she
announced her engagement to the keen old man. For she was fond of him
"When do you think of marrying?" had been his single comment. She
guessed the unexpressed complement to that thought, "You can stay here
until that time. Then good-by."
She found in herself an admirable spirit, and her love added devotion
and faith in the future, her lover's future. So she tided over the
months of her engagement, when her uncle's displeasure settled down
like a fog over the pleasant house. Edwards would run down frequently,
but Oliphant managed to keep out of his way. It was none of his affair,
and he let them see plainly this aspect of it. Her spirit rose. She
could do as other women did, get on without candy and roses, and it
hurt her to feel that she had expected money from her uncle. She could
show him that they were above that.
So they were married and went to live in a little flat in Harlem, very
modest, to fit their income. Oliphant had bade her good-by with the
courtesy due to a tiresome Sunday visitor. "Oh, you're off, are you?"
his indifferent tones had said. "Well, good-by; I hope you will have a
good time." And that was all. Even the colored cook had said more; the
servants in general looked deplorable. Wealth goes so well with a
pretty, bright young woman!
Thus it all rested in the way they would accept the bed they had made.
Success would be ample justification. Their friends watched to see how
well they would solve the problem they had so jauntily set themselves.
Edwards was by no means a fainéant—his record at the Columbia Law
School promised better than that, and he had found a place in a large
office that might answer for the stepping-stone. As yet he had not
individualized himself; he was simply charming, especially in correct
summer costume, luxuriating in indolent conversation. He had the
well-bred, fine-featured air of so many of the graduates from our
Eastern colleges. The suspicion of effeminacy which he suggested might
be unjust, but he certainly had not experienced what Oliphant would
call "life." He had enough interest in music to dissipate in it.
Marriage was an excellent settler, though, on a possible income of
The two years had not the expected aspiring march, however; ten-dollar
cases, even, had not been plenty in Edwards's path, and he suspected
that he was not highly valued in his office. He had been compelled to
tutor a boy the second year, and the hot summers made him listless. In
short, he felt that he had missed his particular round in the ladder.
He should have studied music, or tried for the newspapers as a musical
critic. Sunday afternoons he would loll over the piano, picturing the
other life—that life which is always so alluring! His wife followed
him heroically into all his moods with that pitiful absorption such
women give to the men they love. She believed in him tremendously, if
not as a lawyer, as a man and an artist. Somehow she hadn't been an
inspiration, and for that she humbly blamed herself. How was it
accomplished, this inspiration? A loving wife inspired the ordinary
man. Why not an artist?
They got into the habit of planning their life all differently—so that
it might not be limited and futile. If they had a few thousand
dollars! That was a bad sign, and she knew it, and struggled against
it. If she could only do something to keep the pot boiling while he
worked at his music for fame and success! But she could reduce
expenses; so the one servant went, and the house-bills grew tinier and
tinier. However, they didn't "make connections," and—something was
wrong—she wondered what.
As the second summer came in they used to stroll out of their stuffy
street of an evening, up St. Nicholas Avenue, to the Park, or to the
Riverside Drive. There they would sit speechless, she in a faded blue
serge skirt with a crisp, washed-out shirtwaist, and an old sailor
hat—dark and pretty, in spite of her troubled face; he in a ready-made
black serge suit, yet very much the gentleman—pale and listless. Their
eyes would seek out any steamer in the river below, or anything else
that reminded them of other conditions. He would hum a bit from an
opera. They needed no words; their faces were evident, though mute,
indications of the tragedy. Then they would return at bed-time into the
sultry streets, where from the open windows of the flats came the
hammered music of the city. Such discordant efforts for harmony! Her
heart would fill over him, yearning like a mother to cherish him in all
the pleasant ways of life, but impotent, impotent!
She never suggested greater effort. Conditions were hard, she said over
and over; if there were only a little money to give him a start in
another direction. She admired his pride in never referring to old
Oliphant. Her uncle was often in her mind, but she felt that even if
she could bring herself to petition him, her husband would indignantly
refuse to consider the matter.
Still, she thought about it, and especially this summer, for she knew
he was then at Quogue. Moreover, she expected her first child. That
worried her daily; she saw how hopeless another complication would make
their fate. She cried over it at night when the room was too hot to
sleep. And then she reproached herself; God would punish her for not
wanting her baby.
One day she had gone down town to get some materials for the
preparations she must make. She liked to shop, for sometimes she met
old friends; this time in a large shop she happened upon a woman she
had known at Quogue, the efficient wife of a successful minister in
Brooklyn. This Mrs. Leicester invited her to lunch at the cafe at the
top of the building, and she had yielded, after a little urging, with
real relief. They sat down at a table near the window—it was so high
up there was not much noise—and the streets suddenly seemed
interesting to Mrs. Edwards. The quiet table, the pleasant lunch, and
the energetic Mrs. Leicester were all refreshing.
"And how is your husband?" Mrs. Leicester inquired, keenly. As a
minister's wife she was compelled to interest herself in sentimental
complications that inwardly bored her. It was a part of her
professional duties. She had taken in this situation at once—she had
seen that kind of thing before; it made her impatient. But she liked
the pretty little woman before her, and was sorry she hadn't managed
"Pretty well," Mrs. Edwards replied, consciously. "The heat drags one
Mrs. Leicester sent another quick glance across the table. "You haven't
been to Quogue much of late, have you? You know how poorly your uncle
"No! You must know that Uncle James doesn't see us."
"Well," Mrs. Leicester went on, hastily, "he's been quite ill and
feeble, and they say he's growing queer. He never goes away now, and
sees nobody. Most of the servants have gone. I don't believe he will
Then her worldliness struggled with her conventional position, and she
relapsed into innuendo. "He ought to have someone look after him, to
see him die decently, for he can't live beyond the autumn, and the only
person who can get in is that fat, greasy Dr. Shapless, who is after
his money for the Methodist missions. He goes down every week. I wonder
where Mr. Oliphant's son can be?"
Mrs. Edwards took in every word avidly while she ate. But she let the
conversation drift off to Quogue, their acquaintances, and the
difficulty of shopping in the summer. "Well, I must be going to get the
train," exclaimed Mrs. Leicester at last. With a sigh the young wife
rose, looked regretfully down at the remains of their liberal luncheon,
and then walked silently to the elevator. They didn't mention Oliphant
again, but there was something understood between them. Mrs. Leicester
hailed a cab; just as she gathered her parcels to make a dive, she
seemed illuminated with an idea. "Why don't you come down some
Sunday—visit us? Mr. Leicester would be delighted."
Mrs. Edwards was taken unawares, but her instincts came to her rescue.
"Why, we don't go anywhere; it's awfully kind, and I should be
delighted; I am afraid Mr. Edwards can't."
"Well," sighed Mrs. Leicester, smiling back, unappeased, "come if you
can; come alone." The cab drove off, and the young wife felt her cheeks
* * * * *
The Edwardses had never talked over Oliphant or his money explicitly.
They shrank from it; it would be a confession of defeat. There was
something abhorrently vulgar in thus lowering the pitch of their life.
They had come pretty near it often this last summer. But each feared
what the other might think. Edwards especially was nervous about the
impression it might make on his wife, if he should discuss the matter.
Mrs. Leicester's talk, however, had opened possibilities for the
imagination. So little of Uncle James's money, she mused, would make
them ideally happy—would put her husband on the road to fame. She had
almost made up her mind on a course of action, and she debated the
propriety of undertaking the affair without her husband's knowledge.
She knew that his pride would revolt from her plan. She could pocket
her own pride, but she was tender of his conscience, of his comfort, of
his sensibilities. It would be best to act at once by herself—perhaps
she would fail, anyway—and to shield him from the disagreeable and
useless knowledge and complicity. She couldn't resist throwing out some
feelers, however, at supper that night. He had come in tired and soiled
after a day's tramp collecting bills that wouldn't collect this
droughty season. She had fussed over him and coaxed a smile out, and
now they were at their simple tea.
She recounted the day's events as indifferently as possible, but her
face trembled as she described the luncheon, the talk, the news of her
uncle, and at last Mrs. Leicester's invitation. Edwards had started at
the first mention of Quogue.
"It's been in his mind," she thought, half-relieved, and his nervous
movements of assumed indifference made it easier for her to go on.
"It was kind of her, wasn't it?" she ended.
"Yes," Edwards replied, impressively. "Of course you declined."
"Oh, yes; but she seemed to expect us all the same." Edwards frowned,
but he kept an expectant silence. So she remarked, tentatively:
"It would be so pleasant to see dear old Quogue again." Her hypocrisy
made her flush. Edwards rose abruptly from the table and wandered about
the room. At length he said, in measured tones, his face averted from
"Of course, under the circumstances, we cannot visit Quogue while
your uncle lives—unless he should send for us." Thus he had put
himself plainly on record. His wife suddenly saw the folly and meanness
of her little plans.
It was hardly a disappointment; her mind felt suddenly relieved from an
unpleasant responsibility. She went to her husband, who was nervously
playing at the piano, and kissed him, almost reverently. It had been a
temptation from which he had saved her. They talked that evening a good
deal, planning what they would do if they could get over to Europe for
a year, calculating how cheaply they could go. It was an old subject.
Sometimes it kept off the blues; sometimes it indicated how blue they
were. Mrs. Edwards forgot the disturbance of the day until she was
lying wide awake in her hot bed. Then the old longings came in once
more; she saw the commonplace present growing each month more dreary;
her husband drudging away, with his hopes sinking. Suddenly he spoke:
"What made Mrs. Leicester ask us, do you suppose?" So he was thinking
of it again.
"I don't know!" she replied, vaguely. Soon his voice came again:
"You understand, Nell, that I distinctly disapprove of our making any
effort that way." She didn't think that her husband was a hypocrite.
She did not generalize when she felt deeply. But she knew that her
husband didn't want the responsibility of making any effort. Somehow
she felt that he would be glad if she should make the effort and take
the responsibility on her own shoulders.
Why had he lugged it into plain light again if he hadn't expected her
to do something? How could she accomplish it without making it
unpleasant for him? Before daylight she had it planned, and she turned
once and kissed her husband, protectingly.
* * * * *
That August morning, as she walked up the dusty road, fringed with
blossoming golden-rod, toward the little cottage of the Leicesters, she
was content, in spite of her tumultuous mind. It was all so heavenly
quiet! the thin, drooping elms, with their pendent vines, like the
waterfalls of a maiden lady; the dusty snarls of blackberry bushes; the
midsummer contented repose of the air, and that distantly murmuring
sea—it was all as she remembered it in her childhood. A gap of
disturbed years closed up, and peace once more! The old man slowly
dying up beyond in that deserted, gambrel-roofed house would Forget and
Mrs. Leicester received her effusively, anxious now not to meddle
dangerously in what promised to be a ticklish business. Mrs. Edwards
must stay as long as she would. The Sundays were especially lonely, for
Mr. Leicester did not think she should bear the heat of the city so
soon, and left her alone when he returned to Brooklyn for his Sunday
sermon. Of course, stay as long as Mr. Edwards could spare her—a
month; if possible.
At the mention of Mr. Edwards the young wife had a twinge of remorse
for the manner in which she had evaded him—her first deceit for his
sake. She had talked vaguely about visiting a friend at Moriches, and
her husband had fallen in with the idea. New York was like a finely
divided furnace, radiating heat from every tube-like street. So she was
to go for a week or ten days. Perhaps the matter would arrange itself
before that time was up; if not, she would write him what she had done.
But ten days seemed so long that she put uncomfortable thoughts out of
Mrs. Leicester showed her to her room, a pretty little box, into which
the woodbine peeped and nodded, and where from one window she could get
a glimpse of the green marshes, with the sea beyond. After chatting
awhile, her hostess went out, protesting that her guest must be too
tired to come down. Mrs. Edwards gladly accepted the excuse, ate the
luncheon the maid brought, in two bites, and then prepared to sally
She knew the path between the lush meadow-grass so well! Soon she was
at the entrance to the "Oliphant place." It was more run down than two
years ago; the lower rooms were shut up tight in massive green blinds
that reached to the warped boards of the veranda. It looked old,
neglected, sad, and weary; and she felt almost justified in her
mission. She could bring comfort and light to the dying man.
In a few minutes she was smothering the hysterical enthusiasm of her
old friend, Dinah. It was as she had expected: Oliphant had grown more
suspicious and difficult for the last two years, and had refused to see
a doctor, or, in fact, anyone but the Rev. Dr. Shapless and a country
lawyer whom he used when absolutely necessary. He hadn't left his room
for a month; Dinah had carried him the little he had seen fit to eat.
She was evidently relieved to see her old mistress once more at hand.
She asked no questions, and Mrs. Edwards knew that she would obey her
They were sitting in Oliphant's office, a small closet off the more
pretentious library, and Mrs. Edwards could see the disorder into which
the old man's papers had fallen. The confusion preceding death had
already set in.
After laying aside her hat, she went up, unannounced, to her uncle's
room, determined not to give him an opportunity to dismiss her out of
hand. He was lying with his eyes closed, so she busied herself in
putting the room to rights, in order to quiet her nerves. The air was
heavily languorous, and soon in the quiet country afternoon her
self-consciousness fell asleep, and she went dreaming over the
irresponsible past, the quiet summers, and the strange, stern old man.
Suddenly she knew that he was awake and watching her closely. She
started, but, as he said nothing, she went on with her dusting, her
He made no comment while she brought him his supper and arranged the
bed. Evidently he would accept her services. Her spirit leapt up with
the joy of success. That was the first step. She deemed it best to send
for her meagre satchel, and to take possession of her old room. In that
way she could be more completely mistress of the situation and of him.
She had had no very definite ideas of action before that afternoon; her
one desire had been to be on the field of battle, to see what could be
done, perhaps to use a few tears to soften the implacable heart. But
now her field opened out. She must keep the old man to herself, within
her own care—not that she knew specifically what good that would do,
but it was the tangible nine points of the law.
The next morning Oliphant showed more life, and while she was helping
him into his dressing-gown, he vouchsafed a few grunts, followed by a
"Is he dead yet?"
The young wife flushed with indignant protest.
"Well, we haven't starved yet." But she was cowed by his cynical
examination. He relapsed into silence; his old, bristly face assumed a
sardonic peace whenever his eyes fell upon her. She speculated about
that wicked beatitude; it made her uncomfortable. He was still,
however—never a word from morning till night.
The routine of little duties about the sickroom she performed
punctiliously. In that way she thought to put her conscience to rights,
to regard herself in the kind rôle of ministering angel. That illusion
was hard to attain in the presence of the sardonic comment the old man
seemed to add. After all, it was a vulgar grab after the candied fruits
of this life.
She had felt it necessary to explain her continued absence to her
husband. Mrs. Leicester, who did not appear to regard her actions as
unexpected, had undertaken that delicate business. Evidently, she had
handled it tactfully, for Mrs. Edwards soon received a hurried note. He
felt that she was performing her most obvious duty; he could not but be
pleased that the breach caused by him had been thus tardily healed. As
long as her uncle continued in his present extremity, she must remain.
He would run down to the Leicesters over Sundays, etc. Mrs. Edwards was
relieved; it was nice of him—more than that, delicate—not to be
stuffy over her action.
The uppermost question these days of monotonous speculation was how
long would this ebb-tide of a tenacious life flow. She took a guilty
interest in her uncle's condition, and yet she more than half wished
him to live. Sometimes he would rally. Something unfulfilled troubled
his mind, and once he even crawled downstairs. She found him shakily
puttering over the papers in his huge davenport. He asked her to make a
fire in the grate, and then, gathering up an armful of papers, he knelt
down on the brick hearth, but suddenly drew back. His deep eyes gleamed
hatefully at her. Holding out several stiff papers, he motioned to her
to burn them. Usually she would have obeyed docilely enough, but this
deviltry of merriment she resented. While she delayed, standing erect
before the smouldering sticks, she noticed that a look of terror crept
across the sick face. A spasm shook him, and he fainted. After that his
weakness kept him in bed. She wondered what he had been so anxious to
From this time her thoughts grew more specific. Just how should she
attain her ends? Had he made a will? Could he not now do something for
them, or would it be safer to bide their time? Indeed, for a few
moments she resolved to decide all by one straightforward prayer. She
began, and the old man seemed so contentedly prepared for the scene
that she remained dumb.
In this extremity of doubt she longed to get aid from her husband. Yet
under the circumstances she dared to admit so little. One Saturday
afternoon he called at the house; she was compelled to share some of
"He seems so very feeble," she remarked. They were sitting on the
veranda some distance from Oliphant's room, yet their conversation was
furtive. "Perhaps he should see a doctor or a minister."
"No, I don't think so," Edwards replied, assuringly. "You see, he
doesn't believe in either, and such things should be left to the person
himself, as long as he's in his right mind."
"And a lawyer?" Mrs. Edwards continued, probingly.
"Has he asked for one?"
"No, but he seems to find it hard to talk."
"I guess it's best not to meddle. Who's that?"
A little, fat man in baggy black trousers and a seersucker coat was
panting up the gentle hill to the gate. He had a puggy nose and a
heavy, thinly bearded face incased about the eyes in broad steel
"That must be Dr. Shapless," she said, in a flutter.
"What of it?" Edwards replied.
"He mustn't come in," she cried, with sudden energy. "You must see him,
and send him away! He wants to see Uncle Oliphant. Tell him he's too
sick—to come another day." Edwards went down the path to meet him.
Through the window she could hear a low conversation, and then crunched
gravel. Meantime Oliphant seemed restlessly alert, expectant of
something, and with suspicious eyes intent on her.
Her heart thumped with relief when the gate clicked. Edwards had been
effective that time. Oliphant was trying to say something, but the hot
August day had been too much for him—it all ended in a mumble. Then
she pulled in the blinds, settled the pillows nervously, and left the
room in sheer fright.
The fight had begun—and grimly.
* * * * *
"I wonder what the old cove wanted?" Edwards said the next day; "he was
dead set on seeing your uncle; said he had an engagement with him, and
looked me up and down. I stood him off, but he'll be down again."
"Don't you know about that new fund the Methodists are raising? Uncle
Oliphant has always helped the Methodists, and I suppose Dr. Shapless
wanted to see him about some contributions." Edwards asked no more
questions, and, in fact, got back to town on a pretext of business that
afternoon. He was clearly of no use in Quogue. His wife sent for a
physician that week. It was tardy justice to propriety, but it was safe
then, for Oliphant had given up all attempts to talk.
The doctor came, looked at the old man, and uttered a few remarks. He
would come again. Mrs. Edwards did not need to be told that the end was
near. The question was, how soon?
That week had another scare. Somehow old Slocum, the local lawyer
Oliphant used, had been summoned, and one morning she ran across him in
the hall. She knew the man well of old. He was surprised and pleased to
see her, and it was not difficult to get him out of the house without
arousing his suspicions. But he would talk so boisterously; she felt
her uncle's eyes aflame in anger.
"Be sure and send for me when he rallies, quick," Slocum whispered
loudly in the hall. "Perhaps we can do a little something for some
folks." And with a wink he went out.
Had she done the clever thing, after all, in shooing old Slocum out?
Her mind went over the possibilities in tense anxiety. If there were no
will, James, Jr., would get the whole, she thought. If there was a will
already in the house, in that old davenport, what then? Would Shapless
get the money? She grew keen in speculation. To leave her in the lurch,
to give it all to that greasy Shapless, would be the most natural trick
in the world for an incisive old fellow like Oliphant.
It was too much! She cried a little, and she began to hate the helpless
man upstairs. It occurred to her to poke about in the papers in the
adjoining room. She must do it at once, for she expected Edwards every
First she ran upstairs to see if her uncle was all right. As soon as
she entered, he glared at her bitterly and would have spoken. She noted
the effort and failure, elated. He could not betray her now, unless he
rallied wonderfully. So leaving the door ajar, she walked firmly
downstairs. Now she could satisfy her desire.
If the money were all left to Shapless? She might secure the will,
and bargain with the old parasite for a few thousands of dollars. Her
mind was full of wild schemes. If she only knew a little more about
affairs! She had heard of wills, and read many novels that turned upon
wills lost or stolen. They had always seemed to her improbable, mere
novels. Necessity was stranger than fiction.
It did not take long to find the very articles she was after; evidently
Oliphant had been overhauling them on that last excursion from his
room. The package lay where he had dropped it when he fainted. There
were two documents. She unfolded them on the top of the mussy desk.
They were hard reading in all their legal dress, and her head was
filled with fears lest her husband should walk in. She could make out,
however, that Oliphant was much richer than she had ever vaguely
supposed, and that since her departure he had relented toward his son.
For by the first will in date she was the principal heir, a lot of
queer charities coming in besides. In the second, James, Jr., received
something. Her name did not appear. Several clauses had been added from
time to time, each one giving more money and lands to the Methodists.
Probably Shapless was after another codicil when he called.
It had taken her into the twilight to gain even a meagre idea of all
this. She was preparing to fold the documents up in their common
wrapper, when she felt the door open behind her. All she could see in
the terror of the moment was the gaunt white arm of her uncle, and the
two angry eyes in the shaking head. She shrieked, from pure
nervousness, and at her cry the old man fell in a heap.
The accident steeled her nerves. Dinah came in in a panic, and as they
were lifting the bony frame from the floor Edwards arrived. With his
assistance they got the sick man to bed.
That was clearly the last gasp. Yet Mrs. Edwards shook in dread every
time she entered the room. The look seemed conscious still, intensified
malignity and despair creeping in. She was afraid and guilty and
unstrung. Perhaps, with some sudden revival of his forces, he would
kill her. He was lying there, too still for defeat. His life had been
an expression of hates; the last one might be dreadful.
Yet she stood to her post in the sick-room, afraid, as she knew, to
trust herself with her husband. Her mind was soiled with seething
thoughts, and, in contrast, his seemed so fresh and pure! If she could
keep him unsuspicious of her, all would be well in the end. But the
task she had set herself for him was hard, so hard!
That night when all was still she crept downstairs and groped about in
the davenport for the papers. They had been lying there unopened where
they had fallen earlier in the evening. She struck a match, caught up
the fresher document, and hugged it to her as she toiled upstairs. When
she had tucked it away in her satchel the end seemed near. They must
She put her husband out of her mind. Outside, the warm summer days died
away over the sea, one by one, and the grass beyond the gates grew
heavier with dust. Life was tense in its monotony.
* * * * *
That had happened on a Saturday; Monday Dr. Shapless came again, his
shoes dusty from his long walk from the station. He looked oiled as
ever, but more determined. Mrs. Edwards daringly permitted him to see
the dying man—he had been lying in a stupor—for she was afraid that
the reverend doctor's loud tones in the hall might exasperate Oliphant
to some wild act. Dr. Shapless shut her from the room when he went in,
but he did not stay long. A restless despair had settled down on her
uncle's face, there to remain for the last few hours.
Her heart sank; she longed to cry out to the poor old man on the bed
that she did not want his money. She remained with him all night, yet
she did not dare to approach his bed. She would disturb him.
He died the next afternoon, and at the last he looked out on the world
and at her with his final note of intelligence. It was pathetic, a
suggestion of past tenderness defeated, and of defeat in hate, too. She
shuddered as she closed his sad eyes; it was awful to meddle with a
man's last purposes.
The funeral was almost surreptitious; old Dinah, the Leicesters, and
the Edwardses occupied the one carriage that followed him to the
graveyard across the village. They met a hay-cart or two on their way,
but no curious neighbors. Old Oliphant's death aroused no interest in
this village, ridden with summer strangers.
The day was impersonally suave and tender, with its gentle haze and
autumn premonitions. Mr. Leicester said a few equivocal words, while
Mrs. Edwards gazed helplessly into the grave. The others fell back
behind the minister. Between her and her uncle down there something
remained unexplained, and her heart ached.
* * * * *
They spent that night at the Leicesters', for Mrs. Edwards wearily
refused to return to the Oliphant place. Edwards carried the keys over
to Slocum, and told him to take the necessary steps toward settling the
old man's affairs. The next day they returned to the little flat in
Harlem. The Leicesters found their presence awkward, now that there was
nothing to do, and Mrs. Edwards was craving to be alone with her
husband, to shut out the past month from their lives as soon as
These September days, while they both waited in secret anxiety, she
clung to him as she had never before. He was pure, the ideal she had
voluntarily given up, given up for his sake in order that he might have
complete perfection. His delicate sensitiveness kept him from referring
to that painful month, or to possible expectations. She worshipped him
the more, and was thankful for his complete ignorance. Their common
life could go on untainted and noble.
Yet Edwards betrayed his nervous anxiety. His eagerness for the mail
every morning, his early return from business, indicated his troubled
The news came at breakfast-time. Mrs. Edwards handed Slocum's letter
across the table and waited, her face wanly eager. The letter was long;
it took some half-dozen large letter-sheets for the country lawyer to
tell his news, but in the end it came. He had found the will and was
happy to say that Mrs. Edwards was a large, a very large, beneficiary.
Edwards read these closing sentences aloud. He threw down the letter
and tried to take her in his arms. But she tearfully pushed him away,
and then, repenting, clasped his knees.
"Oh, Will! it's so much, so very much," she almost sobbed.
Edwards looked as if that were not an irremediable fault in their good
luck. He said nothing. Already he was planning their future movements.
Under the circumstances neither cared to discuss their happiness, and
so they got little fun from the first bloom.
In spite of Mrs. Edwards's delicate health and her expected confinement
they decided to go abroad. She was feverishly anxious for him to begin
his real work at once, to prove himself; and it might be easier to
forget her one vicious month when the Atlantic had been crossed. They
put their affairs to rights hurriedly, and early in November sailed for
The Leicesters were at the dock to bid them God-speed and to chirrup
over their good fortune.
"It's all like a good, old-fashioned story," beamed Mrs. Leicester,
content with romance for once, now that it had arranged itself so
"Very satisfactory; quite right," the clergyman added. "We'll see you
soon in Paris. We're thinking of a gay vacation, and will let you know."
Edwards looked fatuous; his wife had an orderly smile. She was glad
when Sandy Hook sank into the mist. She had only herself to avoid now.
They took some pleasant apartments just off the Rue de Rivoli, and then
their life subsided into the complacent commonplace of possession. She
was outwardly content to enjoy with her husband, to go to the
galleries, the opera, to try the restaurants, and to drive.
Yet her life went into one idea, a very fixed idea, such as often takes
hold of women in her condition. She was eager to see him at work. If he
accomplished something—even content!—she would feel justified and
perhaps happy. As to the child, the idea grew strange to her. Why
should she have a third in the problem? For she saw that the child must
take its part in her act, must grow up and share their life and inherit
the Oliphant money. In brief, she feared the yet unborn stranger, to
whom she would be responsible in this queer way. And the child could
not repair the wrong as could her husband. Certainly the child was an
She tried to be tender of her husband in his boyish glee and loafing.
She could understand that he needed to accustom himself to his new
freedom, to have his vacation first. She held herself in, tensely,
refraining from criticism lest she might mar his joy. But she counted
the days, and when her child had come, she said to herself, then he
This morbid life was very different from what she had fancied the rich
future would be, as she looked into the grave, the end of her struggle,
that September afternoon. But she had grown to demand so much more from
him; she had grown so grave! His bright, boyish face, the gentle
curls, had been dear enough, and now she looked for the lines a man's
face should have. Why was he so terribly at ease? The world was bitter
and hard in its conditions, and a man should not play.
Late in December the Leicesters called; they were like gleeful
sparrows, twittering about. Mrs. Edwards shuddered to see them again,
and when they were gone she gave up and became ill.
Her tense mind relieved itself in hysterics, which frightened her to
further repression. Then one night she heard herself moaning: "Why did
I have to take all? It was so little, so very little, I wanted, and I
had to take all. Oh, Will, Will, you should have done for yourself! Why
did you need this? Why couldn't you do as other men do? It's no harder
for you than for them." Then she recollected herself. Edwards was
holding her hand and soothing her.
Some weeks later, when she was very ill, she remembered those words,
and wondered if he had suspected anything. Her child came and died, and
she forgot this matter, with others. She lay nerveless for a long time,
without thought; Edwards and the doctor feared melancholia. So she was
taken to Italy for the cold months. Edwards cared for her tenderly, but
his caressing presence was irritating, instead of soothing, to her. She
was hungry for a justification that she could not bring about.
At last it wore on into late spring. She began to force herself back
into the old activities, in order to leave no excuse for further
dawdling. Her attitude became terribly judicial and suspicious.
An absorbing idleness had settled down over Edwards, partly excused to
himself by his wife's long illness. When he noticed that his desultory
days made her restless, he took to loafing about galleries or making
little excursions, generally in company with some forlorn artist he had
picked up. He had nothing, after all, so very definite that demanded
his time; he had not yet made up his mind for any attempts. And
something in the domestic atmosphere unsettled him. His wife held
herself aloof, with alien sympathies, he felt.
So they drifted on to discontent and unhappiness until she could bear
it no longer without expression.
"Aren't we to return to Paris soon?" she remarked one morning as they
idled over a late breakfast. "I am strong now, and I should like to
Edwards took the cue, idly welcoming any change.
"Why, yes, in the fall. It's too near the summer now, and there's no
"Yes, there is hurry," his wife replied, hastily. "We have lost
almost eight months."
"Out of a lifetime," Edwards put in, indulgently.
She paused, bewildered by the insinuation of his remark. But her mood
was too incendiary to avoid taking offence. "Do you mean that that
would be a life, loafing around all day, enjoying this, that, and the
other fine pleasure? That wasn't what we planned."
"No, but I don't see why people who are not driven should drive
themselves. I want to get the taste of Harlem out of my mouth." He was
a bit sullen. A year ago her strict inquiry into his life would have
been absurd. Perhaps the money, her money, gave her the right.
"If people don't drive themselves," she went on, passionately, "they
ought to be driven. It's cowardly to take advantage of having money to
do nothing. You wanted the—the opportunity to do something. Now you
Edwards twisted his wicker chair into uncomfortable places. "Well, are
you sorry you happen to have given me the chance?" He looked at her
coldly, so that a suspicious thought shot into her mind.
"Yes," she faltered, "if it means throwing it away, I am sorry."
She dared no more. Her mind was so close on the great sore in her
gentle soul. He lit a cigarette, and sauntered down the hotel garden.
But the look he had given her—a queer glance of disagreeable
intelligence—illumined her dormant thoughts.
What if he had known all along? She remembered his meaning words that
hot night when they talked over Oliphant's illness for the first time.
And why had he been so yielding, so utterly passive, during the sordid
drama over the dying man? What kept him from alluding to the matter in
any way? Yes, he must have encouraged her to go on. She had been his
tool, and he the passive spectator. The blind certainty of a woman made
the thing assured, settled. She picked up the faint yellow rose he had
laid by her plate, and tore it slowly into fine bits. On the whole, he
was worse than she.
But before he returned she stubbornly refused to believe herself.
* * * * *
In the autumn they were again in Paris, in soberer quarters, which were
conducive to effort. Edwards was working fitfully with several
teachers, goaded on, as he must confess to himself, by a pitiless wife.
Not much was discussed between them, but he knew that the price of the
statu quo was continued labor.
She was watching him; he felt it and resented it, but he would not
understand. All the idealism, the worship of the first sweet months in
marriage, had gone. Of course that incense had been foolish, but it was
sweet. Instead, he felt these suspicious, intolerant eyes following his
soul in and out on its feeble errands. He comforted himself with the
trite consolation that he was suffering from the natural readjustment
in a woman's mind. It was too drastic for that, however.
He was in the habit of leaving her in the evenings of the opera. The
light was too much for her eyes, and she was often tired. One wet April
night, when he returned late, he found her up, sitting by the window
that overlooked the steaming boulevard. Somehow his soul was
rebellious, and when she asked him about the opera he did not take the
pains to lie.
"Oh, I haven't been there," he muttered, "I am beastly tired of it all.
Let's get out of it; to St. Petersburg or Norway—for the summer," he
Now that the understanding impended she trembled, for hitherto she had
never actually known. In suspicion there was hope. So she almost
"We go to Vienna next winter anyway, and I thought we had decided on
Switzerland for the summer."
"You decided! But what's the use of keeping up the mill night and day?
There's plenty of opportunity over there for an educated gentleman with
money, if what you are after is a 'sphere' for me."
"You want to—to go back now?"
"No, I want to be let alone."
"Don't you care to pay for all you have had? Haven't you any sense of
justice to Uncle Oliphant, to your opportunities?"
"Oliphant!" Edwards laughed, disagreeably. "Wouldn't he be pleased to
have an operetta, a Gilbert and Sullivan affair, dedicated to him! No.
I have tried to humor your idea of making myself famous. But what's the
use of being wretched?" The topic seemed fruitless. Mrs. Edwards looked
over to the slight, careless figure. He was sitting dejectedly on a
large fauteuil, smoking. He seemed fagged and spiritless. She almost
pitied him and gave in, but suddenly she rose and crossed the room.
"We've made ourselves pretty unhappy," she said, apologetically,
resting her hand on the lapel of his coat. "I guess it's mostly my
fault, Will. I have wanted so much that you should do something fine
with Uncle Oliphant's money, with yourself. But we can make it up in
"What are you so full of that idea for?" Edwards asked, curiously. "Why
can't you be happy, even as happy as you were in Harlem?" His voice was
"Don't you know?" she flashed back. "You do know, I believe. Tell me,
did you look over those papers on the davenport that night Uncle James
The unexpected rush of her mind bewildered him. A calm lie would have
set matters to rights, but he was not master of it.
"So you were willing—you knew?"
"It wasn't my affair," he muttered, weakly, but she had left him.
He wandered about alone for a few days until the suspense became
intolerable. When he turned up one afternoon in their apartments he
found preparations on foot for their departure.
"We're going away?" he asked.
"Yes, to New York."
"Not so fast," he interrupted, bitterly. "We might as well face the
matter openly. What's the use of going back there?"
"We can't live here, and besides I shall be wanted there."
"You can't do anything now. Talk sensibly about it. I will not go back."
She looked at him coldly, critically. "I cabled Slocum yesterday, and
we must live somehow."
"You—" but she laid her hand on his arm. "It makes no difference now,
you know, and it can't be changed. I've done everything."
CHICAGO, August, 1895.
A REJECTED TITIAN
"John," my wife remarked in horrified tones, "he's coming to Rome!"
"Who is coming to Rome—the Emperor?"
"Uncle Ezra—see," she handed me the telegram. "Shall arrive in Rome
Wednesday morning; have Watkins at the Grand Hotel."
I handed the despatch to Watkins.
"Poor uncle!" my wife remarked.
"He will get it in the neck," I added, profanely.
"They ought to put nice old gentlemen like your uncle in bond when they
reach Italy," Watkins mused, as if bored in advance. "The antichitàs
get after them, like—like confidence-men in an American city, and the
same old story is the result; they find, in some mysterious fashion, a
wonderful Titian, a forgotten Giorgione, cheap at cinque mille lire.
Then it's all up with them. His pictures are probably decalcomanias,
you know, just colored prints pasted over board. Why, we know every
picture in Venice; it's simply impossible—"
Watkins was a connoisseur; he had bought his knowledge in the dearest
school of experience.
"What are you going to do, Mr. Watkins?" my wife put in. "Tell him the
"There's nothing else to do. I used up all my ambiguous terms over that
daub he bought in the Piazza di Spagna—'reminiscential' of half a
dozen worthless things, 'suggestive,' etc. I can't work them over
again." Watkins was lugubrious.
"Tell him the truth as straight as you can; it's the best medicine." I
was Uncle Ezra's heir; naturally, I felt for the inheritance.
"Well," my wife was invariably cheerful, "perhaps he has found
something valuable; at least, one of them may be; isn't it possible?"
Watkins looked at my wife indulgently.
"He's been writing me about them for a month, suggesting that, as I was
about to go on to Venice, he would like to have me see them; such
treasures as I should find them. I have been waiting until he should
get out. It isn't a nice job, and your uncle—"
"There are three of them, Aunt Mary writes: Cousin Maud has bought one,
with the advice of Uncle Ezra and Professor Augustus Painter, and
Painter himself is the last one to succumb."
"They have all gone mad," Watkins murmured.
"Where did Maudie get the cash?" I asked.
"She had a special gift on coming of age, and she has been looking
about for an opportunity for throwing it away"—my wife had never
sympathized with my cousin, Maud Vantweekle. "She had better save it
for her trousseau, if she goes on much more with that young professor.
Aunt Mary should look after her."
Watkins rose to go.
"Hold on a minute," I said. "Just listen to this delicious epistle from
"'… We have hoped that you would arrive in Venice before we break up
our charming home here. Mary has written you that Professor Painter has
joined us at the Palazzo Palladio, complementing our needs and
completing our circle. He has an excellent influence for seriousness
upon Maud; his fine, manly qualities have come out. Venice, after two
years of Berlin, has opened his soul in a really remarkable manner. All
the beauty lying loose around here has been a revelation to him—'"
"Maud's beauty," my wife interpreted.
"'And our treasures you will enjoy so much—such dashes of color, such
great slaps of light! I was the first to buy—they call it a Savoldo,
but I think no third-rate man could be capable of so much—such
reaching out after infinity. However, that makes little difference. I
would not part with it, now that I have lived these weeks with so fine
a thing. Maud won a prize in her Bonifazio, which she bought under my
advice. Then Augustus secured the third one, a Bissola, and it has had
the greatest influence upon him already; it has given him his education
in art. He sits with it by the hour while he is at work, and its charm
has gradually produced a revolution in his character. We had always
found him too Germanic, and he had immured himself in that barbarous
country for so long over his Semitic books that his nature was stunted
on one side. His picture has opened a new world for him. Your Aunt Mary
and I already see the difference in his character; he is gentler, less
narrowly interested in the world. This precious bit of fine art has
been worth its price many times, but I don't think Augustus would part
with it for any consideration now that he has lived with it and learned
to know its power.'"
"I can't see why he is coming to Rome," Watkins commented at the end.
"If they are confident that they know all about their pictures, and
don't care anyway who did them, and are having all this spiritual
love-feast, what in the world do they want any expert criticism of
their text for? Now for such people to buy pictures, when they haven't
a mint of money! Why don't they buy something within their means really
fine—a coin, a Van Dyck print? I could get your uncle a Whistler
etching for twenty-five pounds; a really fine thing, you know—"
This was Watkins's hobby.
"Oh, well, it won't be bad in the end of the hall at New York; it's as
dark as pitch there; and then Uncle Ezra can leave it to the
Metropolitan as a Giorgione. It will give the critics something to do.
And I suppose that in coming on here he has in mind to get an
indorsement for his picture that will give it a commercial value. He's
canny, is my Uncle Ezra, and he likes to gamble too, like the rest of
us. If he should draw a prize, it wouldn't be a bad thing to brag of."
Watkins called again the next morning.
"Have you seen Uncle Ezra?" my wife asked, anxiously.
"No. Three telegrams. Train was delayed—I suppose by the importance of
the works of art it's bringing on."
"When do you expect him?"
"Mr. Watkins," my wife flamed out, "I believe you are just shirking it,
to meet that poor old man with his pictures. You ought to have been at
the station, or at least at the hotel. Why, it's twelve now!"
Watkins hung his head.
"I believe you are a coward," my wife went on. "Just think of his
arriving there, all excitement over his pictures, and finding you gone!"
"Well, well," I said, soothingly, "it's no use to trot off now,
Watkins; stay to breakfast. He will be in shortly. When he finds you
are out at the hotel he will come straight on here, I am willing to
Watkins looked relieved at my suggestion.
"I believe you meant to run away all along," my wife continued,
severely, "and to come here for refuge."
We waited in suspense, straining our ears to hear the sound of a cab
stopping in the street. At last one did pull up. My wife made no
pretence of indifference, but hurried to the window.
"It's Uncle Ezra, with a big, black bundle. John, run down—No! there's
We looked at each other and laughed.
Our patron of art came in, with a warm, gentle smile, his tall, thin
figure a little bent with the fatigue of the journey, his beard a
little grayer and dustier than usual, and his hands all a-tremble with
nervous impatience and excitement. He had never been as tremulous
before an opinion from the Supreme Court. My wife began to purr over
him soothingly; Watkins looked sheepish; I hurried them all off to
The omelette was not half eaten before Uncle Ezra jumped up, and began
unstrapping the oil-cloth covering to the pictures. There was
consternation at the table. My wife endeavored soothingly to bring
Uncle Ezra's interest back to breakfast, but he was not to be fooled.
My Uncle Ezra was a courageous man.
"Of course you fellows," he said, smiling at Watkins, in his suave
fashion, "are just whetting your knives for me, I know. That's right. I
want to know the worst, the hardest things you can say. You can't
destroy the intrinsic worth of the pictures for us; I have lived with
mine too long, and know how precious it is!"
At last the three pictures were tipped up against the wall, and the
Madonnas and saints in gold, red, and blue were beaming out insipidly
at us. Uncle Ezra affected indifference. Watkins continued with the
omelette. "We'll look them over after breakfast," he said, severely,
thus getting us out of the hole temporarily.
After breakfast my wife cooked up some engagement, and hurried me off.
We left Uncle Ezra in the hands of the physician. Two hours later, when
we entered, the operation had been performed—we could see at a
glance—and in a bloody fashion. The pictures were lying about the vast
room as if they had been spat at. Uncle Ezra smiled wanly at us, with
the courage of the patient who is a sceptic about physicians.
"Just what I expected," he said, briskly, to relieve Watkins, who was
smoking, with the air of a man who has finished his job and is now
cooling off. "Mr. Watkins thinks Painter's picture and Maud's are
copies, Painter's done a few years ago and Maud's a little older, the
last century. My Savoldo he finds older, but repainted. You said cinque
cento, Mr. Watkins?"
"Perhaps, Mr. Williams," Watkins answered, and added, much as a dog
would give a final shake to the bird, "Much repainted, hardly
anything left of the original. There may be a Savoldo underneath, but
you don't see it." Watkins smiled at us knowingly. My wife snubbed him.
"Of course, Uncle Ezra, that's one man's opinion. I certainly should
not put much faith in one critic, no matter how eminent he may be. Just
look at the guide-books and see how the 'authorities' swear at one
another. Ruskin says every man is a fool who can't appreciate his
particular love, and Burckhardt calls it a daub, and Eastlake insipid.
Now, there are a set of young fellows who think they know all about
paint and who painted what. They're renaming all the great
masterpieces. Pretty soon they will discover that some tenth-rate
fellow painted the Sistine Chapel."
Watkins put on an aggrieved and expostulatory manner. Uncle Ezra cut in.
"Oh! my dear! Mr. Watkins may be right, quite right. It's his business
to know, I am sure, and I anticipated all that he would say; indeed, I
have come off rather better than I expected. There is old paint in it
"Pretty far down," Watkins muttered. My wife bristled up, but Uncle
Ezra assumed his most superb calm.
"It makes no difference to me, of course, as far as the worth of the
work of art is concerned. I made up my mind before I came here that my
picture was worth a great deal to me, much more than I paid for it."
There was a heroic gasp. Watkins interposed mercilessly, "And may I
ask, Mr. Williams, what you did give for it?"
Uncle Ezra was an honest man. "Twenty-five hundred lire," he replied,
"Excuse me" (Watkins was behaving like a pitiless cad), "but you paid a
great deal too much for it, I assure you. I could have got it for——"
"Mr. Watkins," my wife was hardly civil to him, "it doesn't matter much
what you could have got it for."
"No," Uncle Ezra went on bravely, "I am a little troubled as to what
this may mean to Maud and Professor Painter, for you see their pictures
"Undoubted modern copies," the unquenchable Watkins emended.
"Maud has learned a great deal from her picture. And as for Painter, it
has been an education in art, an education in life. He said to me the
night before I came away, 'Mr. Williams, I wouldn't take two thousand
for that picture; it's been the greatest influence in my life.'"
I thought Watkins would have convulsions.
"And it has brought those two young souls together in a marvellous way,
this common interest in fine art. You will find Maud a much more
serious person, Jane. No, if I were Painter I certainly should not care
a fig whether it proves to be a copy or not. I shouldn't let that
influence me in my love for such an educational wonder."
The bluff was really sublime, but painful. My wife gave a decided hint
to Watkins that his presence in such a family scene was awkward. He
took his hat and cane. Uncle Ezra rose and grasped him cordially by the
"You have been very generous, Mr. Watkins," he said, in his own sweet
way, "to do such an unpleasant job. It's a large draft to make on the
kindness of a friend."
"Oh, don't mention it, Mr. Williams; and if you want to buy something
really fine, a Van Dyck print—a——"
Uncle Ezra was shooing him toward the door. From the stairs we could
still hear his voice. "Or a Whistler etching for twenty-five pounds, I
could get you, now, a very fine——"
"No, thank you, Mr. Watkins," Uncle Ezra said, firmly. "I don't believe
I have any money just now for such an investment."
My wife tiptoed about the room, making faces at the exposed
masterpieces. "What shall we do?" Uncle Ezra came back into the room,
his face a trifle grayer and more worn. "Capital fellow, that Watkins,"
he said; "so firm and frank."
"Uncle," I ventured at random, "I met Flügel the other day in the
street. You know Flügel's new book on the Renaissance. He's the coming
young critic in art, has made a wonderful reputation the last three
years, is on the Beaux Arts staff, and really knows. He is living
out at Frascati. I could telegraph and have him here this afternoon,
"Well, I don't know;" his tone, however, said "Yes." "I don't care much
for expert advice—for specialists. But it wouldn't do any harm to hear
what he has to say. And Maud and Painter have made up their minds that
Maud's is a Titian."
So I ran out and sent off the despatch. My wife took Uncle Ezra down to
the Forum and attempted to console him with the ugliness of genuine
antiquity, while I waited for Flügel. He came in a tremendous hurry,
his little, muddy eyes winking hard behind gold spectacles.
"Ah, yes," he began to paw the pictures over as if they were live
stock, "that was bought for a Bonifazio," he had picked up Maud's
ruby-colored prize. "Of course, of course, it's a copy, an old copy, of
Titian's picture, No. 3,405, in the National Gallery at London. There
is a replica in the Villa Ludovisi here at Rome. It's a stupid copy,
some alterations, all for the bad—worthless—well, not to the
antichità, for it must be 1590, I should say. But worthless for us
and in bad condition. I wouldn't give cinque lire for it."
"And the Bissola?" I said. "Oh, that was done in the seventeenth
century—it would make good kindling. But this," he turned away from
Painter's picture with a gesture of contempt, "this is Domenico
Tintoretto fast enough, at least what hasn't been stippled over and
painted out. St. Agnes's leg here is entire, and that tree in the
background is original. A damn bad man, but there are traces of his
slop work. Perhaps the hair is by him, too. Well, good-by, old fellow;
I must be off to dinner."
That was slight consolation; a leg, a tree, and some wisps of hair in a
picture three feet six by four feet eight. Our dinner that evening was
labored. The next morning Uncle Ezra packed his three treasures
tenderly, putting in cotton-wool at the edges, my wife helping him to
make them comfortable. We urged him to stay over with us for a few
days; we would all go on later to Venice. But Uncle Ezra seemed moved
by some hidden cause. Back he would trot at once. "Painter will want
his picture," he said, "he has been waiting on in Venice just for this,
and I must not keep him." Watkins turned up as we were getting into the
cab to see Uncle Ezra off, and insisted upon accompanying us to the
station. My wife took the opportunity to rub into him Flügel's remarks,
which, at least, made Watkins out shady in chronology. At the station
we encountered a new difficulty. The ticket collector would not let the
pictures through the gate. My uncle expostulated in pure Tuscan.
Watkins swore in Roman.
"Give him five lire, Mr. Williams."
Poor Uncle Ezra fumbled in his pocket-book for the piece of money. He
had never bribed in his life. It was a terrible moral fall, to see him
tremblingly offer the piece of scrip. The man refused, "positive
orders, permesso necessary," etc., etc. The bell rang; there was a
rush. Uncle Ezra looked unhappy.
"Here," Watkins shouted, grabbing the precious pictures in a manner far
from reverent, "I'll send these on, Mr. Williams; run for your train."
Uncle Ezra gave one undecided glance, and then yielded. "You will look
after them," he pleaded, "carefully."
"You shall have them safe enough," my wife promised.
"Blast the pasteboards," Watkins put in under his breath, "the best
thing to do with them is to chop 'em up." He was swinging them back and
forth under his arm. My wife took them firmly from him. "He shall have
his pictures, and not from your ribald hands."
A week later Rome became suddenly oppressively warm. We started off for
Venice, Watkins tagging on incorrigibly. "I want to see 'Maud,'" he
explained. The pictures had been packed and sent ahead by express. "The
storm must have burst, tears shed, tempers cooled, mortification set
in," I remarked, as we were being shoved up the Grand Canal toward the
Palazzo Palladio. "There they are in the balcony," my wife exclaimed,
"waving to us. Something is up; Maudie is hanging back, with Aunt Mary,
and Professor Painter is at the other end, with Uncle Ezra."
The first thing that caught the eye after the flurry of greetings was
the impudent blue and red of Uncle Ezra's "Sancta Conversazione,"
Domenico Tintoretto, Savoldo, or what not; St. Agnes's leg and all,
beaming at us from the wall. The other two were not there. My wife
looked at me. Maudie was making herself very gracious with little
Watkins. Painter's solemn face began to lower more and more. Aunt Mary
and Uncle Ezra industriously poured oil by the bucket upon the social
At last Maud rose: "You must take me over there at once, Mr. Watkins.
It will be such an enjoyment to have someone who really knows about
pictures and has taste." This shot at poor Painter; then to my wife,
"Come, Jane, you will like to see your room."
Painter crossed to me and suggested, lugubriously, a cigar on the
balcony. He smoked a few minutes in gloomy silence.
"Does that fellow know anything?" he emitted at last, jerking his head
at Watkins, who was pouring out information at Uncle Ezra. I began
gently to give Charles Henderson Watkins a fair reputation for
intelligence. "I mean anything about art? Of course it doesn't matter
what he says about my picture, whether it is a copy or not, but Miss
Vantweekle takes it very hard about hers. She blames me for having been
with her when she bought it, and having advised her and encouraged her
to put six hundred dollars into it."
"Six hundred," I gasped.
"Cheap for a Bonifazio, or a Titian, as we thought it."
"Too cheap," I murmured.
"Well, I got bitten for about the same on my own account. I sha'n't get
that Rachel's library at Berlin, that's all. The next time you catch me
fooling in a subject where I don't know my bearings—like fine art—You
see Mr. Williams found my picture one day when he was nosing about at
an antichita's, and thought it very fine. I admire Mr. Williams
tremendously, and I valued his opinion about art subjects much more
then than I do now. He and Mrs. Williams were wild over it. They had
just bought their picture, and they wanted us each to have one. They
have lots of sentiment, you know."
"Lots," I assented.
"Mrs. Williams got at me, and well, she made me feel that it would
bring me nearer to Miss Vantweekle. You know she goes in for art, and
she used to be impatient with me because I couldn't appreciate. I was
dumb when she walked me up to some old Madonna, and the others would go
on at a great rate. Well, in a word, I bought it for my education, and
I guess I have got it!
"Then the man, he's an old Jew on the Grand Canal—Raffman, you know
him? He got out another picture, the Bonifazio. The Williamses began to
get up steam over that, too. They hung over that thing Mr. Williams
bought, that Savoldo or Domenico Tintoretto, and prowled about the
churches and the galleries finding traces of it here in the style of
this picture and that; in short, we all got into a fever about
pictures, and Miss Vantweekle invested all the money an aunt had given
her before coming abroad, in that Bonifazio.
"I must say that Miss Vantweekle held off some time, was doubtful about
the picture; didn't feel that she wanted to put all her money into it.
But she caught fire in the general excitement, and I may say"—here a
sad sort of conscious smile crept over the young professor's face—"at
that time I had a good deal of influence with her. She bought the
picture, we brought it home, and put it up at the other end of the
hall. We spent hours over that picture, studying out every line,
placing every color. We made up our minds soon enough that it wasn't a
Bonifazio, but we began to think—now don't laugh, or I'll pitch you
over the balcony—it was an early work by Titian. There was an attempt
in it for great things, as Mr. Williams said: no small man could have
planned it. One night we had been talking for hours about them, and we
were all pretty well excited. Mr. Williams suggested getting Watkins's
opinion. Maud—Miss Vantweekle said, loftily, 'Oh! it does not make any
difference what the critics say about it, the picture means everything
to me'; and I, like a fool, felt happier than ever before in my life.
The next morning Mr. Williams telegraphed you and set off."
"And when he returned?"
"It's been hell ever since."
He was in no condition to see the comic side of the affair. Nor was
Miss Vantweekle. She was on my wife's bed in tears.
"All poor Aunt Higgins's present gone into that horrid thing," she
moaned, "and all the dresses I was planning to get in Paris. I shall
have to go home looking like a perfect dowd!"
"But think of the influence it has been in your life—the education you
have received from that picture. How can you call all that color, those
noble faces, 'that horrid thing?'" I said, reprovingly. She sat upright.
"See here, Jerome Parker, if you ever say anything like that again, I
will never speak to you any more, or to Jane, though you are my
"They have tried to return the picture," my wife explained. "Professor
Painter and Uncle Ezra took it over yesterday; but, of course, the Jew
laughed at them."
"'A copy!' he said." Maud explained, "Why, it's no more a copy than
Titian's 'Assumption.' He could show us the very place in a palace on
the Grand Canal where it had hung for four hundred years. Of course,
all the old masters used the same models, and grouped their pictures
alike. Very probably Titian had a picture something like it. What of
that? He defied us to find the exact original."
"Well," I remarked, soothingly, "that ought to comfort you, I am sure.
Call your picture a new Titian, and sell it when you get home."
"Mr. Watkins says that's an old trick," moaned Maud, "that story about
the palace. He says old Raffman has a pal among the Italian nobility,
and works off copies through him all the time. I won't say anything
about Uncle Ezra; he has been as kind and good as he can be, only a
little too enthusiastic. But Professor Painter!"
She tossed her head.
The atmosphere in the Palazzo Palladio for the next few days was highly
At dinner Uncle Ezra placidly made remarks about the Domenico
Tintoretto, almost vaingloriously, I thought. "Such a piece of Venice
to carry away. We missed it so much, those days you had it in Rome. It
is so precious that I cannot bear to pack it up and lose sight of it
for five months. Mary, just see that glorious piece of color over
Meantime some kind of conspiracy was on foot. Maud went off whole
mornings with Watkins and Uncle Ezra. We were left out as
unsympathetic. Painter wandered about like a sick ghost. He would sit
glowering at Maud and Watkins while they held whispered conversations
at the other end of the hall. Watkins was the hero. He had accepted
Flügel's judgment with impudent grace.
"A copy of Titian, of course," he said to me; "really, it is quite hard
on poor Miss Vantweekle. People, even learned people, who don't know
about such things, had better not advise. I have had the photographs of
all Titian's pictures sent on, and we have found the original of your
cousin's picture. Isn't it very like?"
It was very like; a figure was left out in the copy, the light was
changed, but still it was a happy guess of Flügel.
"Well, what are you going to do about it?" I said to Maud, who had just
"Oh, Mr. Watkins has kindly consented to manage the matter for me; I
believe he has a friend here, an artist, Mr. Hare, who will give expert
judgment on it. Then the American vice-consul is a personal friend of
Mr. Watkins, and also Count Corner, the adviser at the Academy. We
shall frighten the old Jew, sha'n't we, Mr. Watkins?"
I walked over to the despised Madonna that was tipped up on its side,
ready to be walked off on another expedition of defamation.
"Poor Bonifazio," I sighed, "Maud, how can you part with a work of fine
art that has meant so much to you?"
"Do you think, Jerome, I would go home and have Uncle Higgins, with his
authentic Rembrandt and all his other pictures, laugh at me and my
Titian? I'd burn it first."
I turned to Uncle Ezra. "Uncle, what strange metamorphosis has happened
to this picture? The spiritual light from that color must shine as
brightly as ever; the intrinsic value remains forever fixed in Maud's
soul; it is desecration to reject such a precious message. Why, it's
like sending back the girl you married because her pedigree proved
defective, or because she had lost her fortune. It's positively brutal!"
Maud darted a venomous glance at me; however, I had put the judge in a
"I cannot agree with you, Jerome." Uncle Ezra could never be put in a
hole. "Maud's case is a very different one from Mr. Painter's or mine.
We can carry back what we like personally, but for Maud to carry home a
doubtful picture into the atmosphere she has to live in—why, it would
be intolerable—with her uncle a connoisseur, all her friends owners of
masterpieces." Uncle Ezra had a flowing style. "It would expose her to
annoyance, to mortification—constant, daily. Above all, to have taken
a special gift, a fund of her aunt's, and to apply it in this mistaken
fashion is cruel."
Painter remarked bitterly to me afterward, "He wants to crawl on his
share of the responsibility. I'd buy the picture if I could raise the
cash, and end the whole miserable business."
Indeed, Watkins seemed the only one blissfully in his element. As my
wife remarked, Watkins had exchanged his interest in pictures for an
interest in woman. Certainly he had planned his battle well. It came
off the next day. They all left in a gondola at an early hour. Painter
and I watched them from the balcony. After they were seated, Watkins
tossed in carelessly the suspected picture. What went on at the
antichità's no one of the boat-load ever gave away. Watkins had a
hold on the man somehow, and the evidence of the fraud was
overwhelming. About noon they came back, Maud holding an enormous
envelope in her hand.
"I can never, never thank you enough, Mr. Watkins," she beamed at him.
"You have saved me from such mortification and unhappiness, and you
were so clever."
That night at dinner Uncle Ezra was more than usually genial, and
beamed upon Maud and Watkins perpetually. Watkins was quite the hero
and did his best to look humble.
"How much rent did the spiritual influence cost, Maud?" I asked. She
was too happy to be offended. "Oh, we bought an old ring to make him
feel pleased, five pounds, and Mr. Hare's services were worth five
pounds, and Mr. Watkins thinks we should give the vice-consul a box of
"Let's see; ten pounds and a box of cigars, that's three hundred lire
at the price of exchange. You had the picture just three weeks, a
hundred lire a week for the use of all that education in art, all that
spiritual influence. Quite cheap, I should say."
"And Mr. Watkins's services, Maud!" my wife asked, viciously. There was
a slight commotion at the table.
"May I, Maud?" Watkins murmured.
"As you please, Charles," Maud replied, with her eyes lowered to the
"Maud has given herself," Uncle Ezra said, gleefully.
Painter rose from the table and disappeared into his room. Pretty soon
he came out bearing a tray with a dozen champagne glasses, of
modern-antique Venetian glass.
"Let me present this to you, Miss Vantweekle," he pronounced, solemnly,
"as an engagement token. I, I exchanged my picture for them this
"Some Asti Spumante, Ricci."
"To the rejected Titian—" I suggested for the first toast.
VENICE, May, 1896.
PAYMENT IN FULL
The two black horses attached to the light buggy were chafing in the
crisp October air. Their groom was holding them stiffly, as if bolted
to the ground, in the approved fashion insisted upon by the mistress of
the house. Old Stuart eyed them impatiently from the tower window of
the breakfast-room where he was smoking his first cigar; Mrs. Stuart
held him in a vise of astounding words.
"They will need not only the lease of a house in London for two years,
but a great deal of money besides," she continued in even tones,
ignoring his impatience.
"I've done enough for 'em already," the old fellow protested, drawing
on his driving gloves over knotted hands stained by age.
Mrs. Stuart rustled the letter that lay, with its envelope, beside her
untouched plate. It bore the flourishes of a foreign hotel and a
"My mother writes that their summer in Wiesbaden has made it surer that
Lord Raincroft is interested in Helen. It is evidently a matter of
time. I say two years—it may be less."
"Well," her husband broke in. "Haven't they enough to live on?"
"At my marriage," elucidated Mrs. Stuart, imperturbably, "you settled
on them securities which yield about five thousand a year. That does
not give them the means to take the position which I expect for my
family in such a crisis. They must have a large house, must entertain
lavishly," she swept an impassive hand toward him in royal emphasis,
"and do all that that set expects—to meet them as equals. You could
not imagine that Lord Raincroft would marry Helen out of a pension?"
"I don't care a damn how he marries her, or if he marries her at all."
He rose, testily. "I guess my family would have thought five thousand a
year enough to marry the gals on, and to spare, and it was more'n you
ever had in your best days."
"Naturally," her voice showed scorn at his perverse lack of
intelligence. "Out contract was made with that understanding."
"Let Helen marry a feller who is willing to go half way for her without
a palace. Why didn't you encourage her marrying Blake, as smart a young
man as I ever had? She was taken enough with him."
"Because I did not think it fit for my sister to marry your junior
partner, who, five years ago, was your best floor-walker."
"Well, Blake is a college-educated man and a hustler. He's bound to get
on if I back him. If Blake weren't likely enough, there's plenty more
in Chicago like me—smart business men who want a handsome young wife."
"Perhaps we have had enough of Stuart, Hodgson, and Blake. There are
other careers in the world outside Chicago."
"Tut, tut! I ain't going to fight here all day. What's the figure?
What's the figure?" He slapped his breeches with the morning paper.
"You will have to take the house in London (the Duke of Waminster's is
to let, mamma writes), and give them two hundred thousand dollars in
addition to their present income for the two years." She let her eyes
fall on his toast and coffee. The old man turned about galvanically and
peered at her.
"You're crazy! two hundred thousand these times, so's your sister can
"She's the last," interposed Mrs. Stuart, deftly.
"I tell you I've done more than most men. I've paid your old bills,
your whole family's, your brothers' in college, to the tune of five
thousand a year (worthless scamps!) and put 'em in business. You've had
all of 'em at Newport and Paris, let alone their living here off and on
nearly twenty years. Now you think I can shell out two hundred thousand
and a London house as easily as I'd buy pop-corn."
"It was our understanding." Mrs. Stuart began on her breakfast.
"Not much. I've done better by you than I agreed to, because you've
been a good wife to me. I settled a nice little fortune on you
independent of your widder's rights or your folks."
"Your daughter will benefit by that," Mrs. Stuart corrected.
"Well, what's that to do with it?" He seemed to lose the scent.
"What was our understanding when I agreed to marry you?"
"I've done more'n I promised, I tell you."
"As you very well know, I married you because my family were in
desperate circumstances. Our understanding was that I should be a good
wife, and you were to make my family comfortable according to my views.
Isn't that right?"
The old man blanched at this businesslike presentation; his voice grew
"And I have, Beatty. I have! I've done everything by you I promised.
And I built this great house and another at Newport, and you ain't
"That was our agreement, then," she continued, without mercy. "I was
just nineteen, and wise, for a girl, and you had forty-seven pretty
wicked years. There wasn't any nonsense between us. I was a stunning
girl, the most talked about in New York at that time. I was to be a
good wife, and we weren't to have any words. Have I kept my promise?"
"Yes, you've been a good woman, Beatty, better'n I deserved. But won't
you take less, say fifty thousand?" He advanced conciliatorily. "That's
an awful figure!"
His wife rose, composed as ever and stately in her well-sustained forty
"Do you think any price is too great in payment for these twenty-one
years?" Contempt crept in. "Not one dollar less, two hundred thousand,
and I cable mamma to-day."
Stuart shrivelled up.
"Do you refuse?" she remarked, lightly, for he stood irresolutely near
"I won't stand that!" and he went out.
When he had left Mrs. Stuart went on with her breakfast; a young woman
Came in hastily from the hall, where she had bade her father good-by.
She stood in the window watching the coachman surrender the horses to
the old man. The groom moved aside quickly, and in a moment the two
horses shot nervously through the ponderous iron gateway. The delicate
wheels just grazed the stanchions, lifting the light buggy in the air
to a ticklish angle. It righted itself and plunged down the boulevard.
Fast horses and cigars were two of the few pleasures still left the old
store-keeper. There was another—a costly one—which was not always
Miss Stuart watched the groom close the ornate iron gates, and then
turned inquiringly to her mother.
"What's up with papa?"
Mrs. Stuart went on with her breakfast in silence. She was superbly
preserved, and queenly for an American woman. It seemed as if something
had stayed the natural decay of her powers, of her person, and had put
her always at this impassive best. Something had stopped her heart to
render her passionless, and thus to embalm her for long years of
mechanical activity. She would not decay, but when her time should come
she would merely stop—the spring would snap.
The daughter had her mother's height and her dark coloring. But her
large, almost animal eyes, and her roughly moulded hands spoke of some
homely, prairie inheritance. Her voice was timid and hesitating.
At last Mrs. Stuart, her mail and breakfast exhausted at the same
moment, Rose to leave the room.
"Oh, Edith," she remarked, authoritatively, "if you happen to drive
down town this morning, will you tell your father that we are going to
Winetka for a few weeks? Or telephone him, if you find it more
convenient. And send the boys to me. Miss Bates will make all
arrangements. I think there is a train about three."
"Why, mamma, you don't mean to stay there! I thought we were to be here
all winter. And my lessons at the Art Institute?"
Mrs. Stuart smiled contemptuously. "Lessons at the Art Institute are
not the most pressing matter for my daughter, who is about to come out.
You can amuse yourself with golf and tennis as long as they last. Then,
perhaps, you will have a chance to continue your lessons in Paris."
"And papa!" protested the daughter, "I thought he couldn't leave this
Mrs. Stuart smiled again provokingly. "Yes?"
"Oh, I can't understand!" Her pleading was almost passionate, but still
low and sweet. "I want so much to go on with my lessons with the other
girls. And I want to go out here with all the girls I know."
"We will have them at Winetka. And Stuyvesant Wheelright—you liked him
The girl colored deeply. "I don't want him in the house. I had rather
go away. I'll go to Vassar with Mary Archer. You needn't hunt up any
man for me."
"Pray, do you think I would tolerate a college woman in my house? It's
well enough for school-teachers. And what does your painting amount to?
You will paint sufficiently well, I dare say, to sell a few daubs, and
so take the bread and butter from some poor girl. But I am afraid, my
dear, we couldn't admit your pictures to the gallery."
The girl's eyes grew tearful at this tart disdain. "I love it, and papa
has money enough to let me paint 'daubs' as long as I like. Please,
please let me go on with it!"
* * * * *
That afternoon the little caravan started for the deserted summer home
at Winetka, on a high bluff above the sandy lake-shore. It had been
bought years before, when not even the richest citizens dreamed of
going East for the summer. Of late it had been used only rarely, in the
autumn or late spring, or as a retreat in which to rusticate the boys
with their tutor. When filled with a large house-party, it made a jolly
place, though not magnificent enough for the developed hospitalities of
Old Stuart came home to an empty palace. He had not believed that his
reserved wife would take such high measures, and he felt miserably
lonely after the usual round of elaborate dinners to which he had grown
grumblingly accustomed. His one senile passion was his pride in her,
and he was avaricious of the lost days while she was absent from her
usual victorious post as the mistress of that great house. The next day
his heart sank still lower, for he saw in the Sunday papers a little
paragraph to the effect that Mrs. Stuart had invited a brilliant
house-party to her autumn home in Winetka, and that it was rumored she
and her lovely young daughter would spend the winter in London with
their relatives. It made the old man angry, for he could see with what
deliberation she had planned for a long campaign. Even the comforts of
his club were denied him; everyone knew him and everyone smiled at the
little domestic disturbance. So he asked his secretary, young Spencer,
to make his home for the present in the sprawling, brand-new "palace"
that frowned out on the South Boulevard. Young Spencer accepted, out of
pity for the old man; for he wasn't a toady and he knew his own worth.
People did talk in the clubs and elsewhere about the divided
establishments. It would have been worse had the division come earlier,
as had been predicted often enough, or had Mrs. Stuart ever given in
her younger days a handle for any gossip. But her conduct had been so
frigidly correct that it stood in good service at this crisis. She
would not have permitted a scandal. That also was in the contract.
Of course there was communication between the two camps, the gay
polo-playing, dinner-giving household on the bluff, and the forlorn,
tottering old man with his one aide-de-camp, the blithe young
secretary. Now and then the sons would turn up at the offices
down-town, amiably expectant of large checks. Stuart grimly referred
them to their mother. He had some vague idea of starving the opposition
out, but his wife's funds were large and her credit, as long as there
should be no recognized rupture, perfect.
The daughter, Edith, frequently established connections. In some way
she had got permission to take her lessons at the Art Institute. Her
mother's open contempt for her aesthetic impulses had ruined her
illusion about her ability, for Mrs. Stuart knew her ground in
painting. But she still loved the atmosphere of the great studio-room
at the Art Institute. She liked the poor girls and the Western
bohemianism and the queer dresses, and above all she liked to linger
over her own little easel, undisturbed by the creative flurry around,
dreaming of woods and soft English gardens and happy hours along a
river where the water went gently, tenderly, on to the sea. And her
sweet eyes, large and black like her mother's, but softer and gentler,
to go with her low voice, would moisten a bit from the dream. "So
nice," he would murmur to her picture, "to sit here and think of the
quiet and rest, such as good pictures always paint. I'd like not to go
back with Thomas to the train—to Winetka where they play polo and
dress up and dance and flirt, but to sail away over the sea——"
Then her eyes would see in the purplish light of her picture a certain
face that meant another life. She would blush to herself, and her voice
would stop. For she couldn't think aloud about him.
Some days, when the murky twilight came on early, she would steal away
altogether from the gay party in Winetka and spend the night with her
lonely father. They would have a queer, stately dinner for three served
in the grand dining-room by the English butler and footman. Stuart
never had much to say to her; she wasn't his "smart," queenly wife who
brought all people to her feet. When he came to his cigar and his
whiskey, she would take young Spencer to the gallery, where they
discussed the new French pictures, very knowingly, Spencer thought. She
would describe for him the intricacies of a color-scheme of some tender
Diaz, and that would lead them into the leafy woods about Barbizon and
other realms of sentiment.
When they returned to the library she would feel that there were
compensations for this dreary separation at Winetka and that her
enormous home had never been so nice and comfortable before. As she
bade the two men good-night, her father would come to the door, rubbing
his eyes and forlorn over his great loss, and to her murmured
"Good-night" he would sigh, "so like her mother." "Quite the softest
voice in the world," thought Spencer.
Once in her old little tower room that she still preferred to keep,
covered with her various attempts at sea, and sky, and forest, she was
blissfully conscious of independence, so far from Stuyvesant Wheelright
and his mother—quite an ugly old dame with no better manners than the
plain Chicago people (who despised them all as "pork-packers" and
On one of these visits late in October, Edith had found her father
ailing from a cold. He asked her, shamefacedly, to tell her mother that
"he was very bad." Mrs. Stuart, leaving the house-party in full go,
started at once for the town-house. Old Stuart had purposely stayed at
home on the chances that his wife would relent. When she came in, she
found him lying in the same morning-room, where hostilities had begun
three months before. He grew confused, like an erring school-boy, as
his wife kissed him and asked after his health in a neutral sort of
way. He made out that he was threatened with a complication of diseases
that might finally end him.
"Well, what can I do for you now," Mrs. Stuart said, with business-like
"Spencer's looking after things pretty much. He's honest and faithful,
but he ain't got any head like yours, Beatty, and times are awful hard.
People won't pay rents, and I don't dare to throw 'em out. Stores and
houses would lie empty these days. Then there's the North Shore
Electric—I was a fool to go in so heavy the Fair year and tie up all
my money. I s'pose you know the bonds ain't reached fifty this fall.
I'm not so tremendously wealthy as folks think."
Mrs. Stuart exactly comprehended this sly speech; she knew also that
there was some truth in it.
"Say, Beatty, it's so nice to have you here!" The old man raised
himself and capered about like a gouty old house-dog.
He made the most of his illness, for he suspected that it was a
condition of truce, not a bond of peace. While he was in bed Mrs.
Stuart drove to the city each day and, with Spencer's help, conducted
business for long hours. She had had experience in managing large
charities; she knew people, and when a tenant could pay, with a little
effort, he found Madam more pitiless than the old shop-keeper. Every
afternoon she would take her stenographer to Stuart's room and consult
"Ain't she a wonder?" the old man would exclaim to Spencer, in new
admiration for his wife. And Spencer, watching the stately,
authoritative woman day after day as she worked quickly, exactly, with
the repose and dignity of a perfect machine, shivered back an unwilling
All accidents played into the hands of this masterful woman. Her own
presence in town kept her daughter at Winetka en evidence for
Stuyvesant Wheelright and Mrs. Wheelright. For Mrs. Stuart had
determined upon him as, on the whole, the most likely arrangement that
she could make. He was American, but of the best, and Mrs. Stuart was
wise enough to prefer the domestic aristocracy. So to her mind affairs
were not going badly. The truce would conclude ultimately in a senile
capitulation; meantime, she could advance money for the household in
When Stuart had been nursed back into comparative activity, the grand
dinners began once more—a convenient rebuttal for all gossip. The
usual lists of distinguished strangers, wandering English story-tellers
in search of material for a new "shilling shocker," artists suing to
paint her or "Mademoiselle l'Inconnue," crept from time to time into
the genial social column of the newspaper.
Stuart spent the evenings in state on a couch at the head of the
drawing-room, where he usually remained until the guests departed. In
this way he got a few words with his wife before she sent him to bed.
One night his enthusiasm over her bubbled out.
"You're a great woman, Beatty!" She looked a little pale, but otherwise
unworn by her laborious month. It was not blood that fed those even
"You will not need my help now. You can see to your business yourself,"
"Say, Beatty, you won't leave me again, will you!" he quavered,
beseechingly. "I need you these last years; 'twon't be for long."
"Oh, you are strong and quite well again," she asserted, not unkindly.
"Will a hundred thousand do?" he pleaded. "Times are bad and ready
money is scarce, as you know."
"Sell the electric bonds," she replied, sitting down, as if to settle
"Sell them bonds at fifty?" The old shop-keeper grew red in the face.
"What's that!" she remarked, disdainfully. "What have I given?" Her
husband said nothing. "As I told you when we first talked the matter
over, I have done my part to the exact letter of the law. You admit I
have been a good and faithful wife, don't you? You know," a note of
passion crept into her colorless voice, "You know that there hasn't
been a suggestion of scandal with our home. I married you, young,
beautiful, admired; I am handsome now." She drew herself up
disdainfully. "I have not wanted for opportunity, I think you might
know; but not one man in all the world can boast I have dropped an
eyelash for his words. Not one syllable of favor have I given any man
but you. Am I not right?"
"Then what do you haggle for over a few dollars? Have I ever given you
reason to repent our arrangement? Have I not helped you in business, in
social matters put you where you never could go by yourself? And do you
think my price is high?"
"Money is so scarce," Stuart protested, feebly.
"Suppose it left you only half a million, all told! What's that, in
comparison to what I have given? Think of that. I don't complain, but
you know we women estimate things differently. And when we sell
ourselves, we name the price; and it matters little how big it is,"
Her scorn pierced the old man's somewhat leathery sensibilities.
"Well, if it's a question of price, when is it going to end—when shall
I have paid up? Next year you'll want half a million hard cash."
"There is no end."
The next morning, Mrs. Stuart returned to Winetka; the rupture
threatened to prolong itself indefinitely. Stuart found it hard to give
in completely, and it made him sore to think that their marriage had
remained a business matter for over twenty years. And yet it was hard
to face death without all the satisfaction money could buy him. The
crisis came, however, in an unexpected manner.
One morning Stuart found his daughter waiting for him at his office.
She had slipped away from Winetka, and taken an early train.
"What's up, Ede?"
"Oh, papa!" the young girl gasped "They make me so unhappy, every day,
and I can't stand it. Mamma wants me to marry Stuyvesant Wheelright,
and he's there all the time."
"Who's he?" Stuart asked, sharply. His daughter explained briefly.
"He is what mamma calls 'eligible'; he is a great swell in New York,
and I don't like him. Oh, papa, I can't be a grande dame, like mamma,
can I? Won't you tell her so, papa? Make up with her; pay her the money
she wants for Aunt Helen, and then perhaps she'll let me paint."
"No, you're not the figure your mother is, and never will be," Stuart
said, almost slightingly. "I don't think, Ede, you'll ever make a great
lady like her."
"I don't think she is very happy," the girl bridled, in her own defence.
"Well, perhaps not, perhaps not. But who do you want to marry, anyway?
You had better marry someone, Ede, 'fore I die."
"I don't know—that is, it doesn't matter much just now. I should like
to go to California, perhaps, with the Stearns girls. I want to paint,
just daubs, you know—I can't do any better. But you tell mamma I can't
be a great swell. I shouldn't be happy, either."'
The old man resolved to yield. That very afternoon he drove out to
Winetka along the lake shore. He had himself gotten up in his stiffest
best. He held the reins high and tight, his body erect in the approved
form; while now and then he glanced back to see if the footmen were as
rigid as my lady demanded. For Mrs. Stuart loved good form, and he felt
nervously apprehensive, as if he were again suing for her maiden
favors. He was conscious, too, that he had little enough to offer
her—the last months had brought humility. Beside him young Spencer
lolled, enjoying, with a free heart, his day off in the gentle,
spring-like air. Perhaps he divined that his lady would not need so
They surprised a party just setting forth from the Winetka house as
they drove up with a final flourish. Their unexpected arrival scattered
the guests into little, curious groups; everyone anticipated immediate
dissolution. They speculated on the terms, and the opinion prevailed
that Stuart's expedition from town indicated complete surrender.
Meanwhile Stuart asked for an immediate audience, and husband and wife
went up at once to Mrs. Stuart's little library facing out over the
bluff that descended to the lake.
"Well, Beatty," old Stuart cried, without preliminary effort, "I just
can't live without you—that's the whole of it." She smiled. "I ain't
much longer to live, and then you're to have it all. So why shouldn't
you take what you want now?" He drew out several checks from his
"You can cable your folks at once and go ahead. You've been the best
sort of wife, as you said, and—I guess I owe you more'n I've paid for
your puttin' up with an old fellow like me all these years."
Mrs. Stuart had a new sensation of pity for his pathetic surrender.
"There's one thing, Beatty," he continued, "so long as I live you'll
own I oughter rule in my own house, manage the boys, and that." Mrs.
Stuart nodded. "Now I want you to come back with me and break up this
Mrs. Stuart took the checks.
"You've made it a bargain, Beatty. You said I was to pay your family
what you wanted, and you were to obey me at that price?"
"Well," replied Mrs. Stuart, good-humoredly. "We'll all go up
to-morrow. Isn't that early enough?"
"That ain't all, Beatty. You can't make everybody over; you couldn't
brush me up much; you can't make a grand lady out of Edith."
Mrs. Stuart looked up inquiringly.
"Now you've had your way about your family, and I want you to let Ede
"She doesn't want that Wheelright fellow, and if you think it over
you'll see that she couldn't do as you have. She ain't the sort."
Mrs. Stuart twitched at the checks nervously.
"I sort of think Spencer wants her; in fact, he said so coming out
"And I told him he could have her, if she wanted him. I don't think I
should like to see another woman of mine live the sort of life you have
with me. It's hard on 'em." His voice quivered.
Beatrice, Lady Stuart of Winetka, as they called her, stood silently
looking out to the lake, reviewing "the sort of life she had lived"
from the time she had made up her mind to take the shop-keeper's
millions to this moment of concession. It was a grim panorama, and she
realized now that it had not meant complete satisfaction to either
party. Her twenty or more frozen years made her uncomfortable. While
they waited, young Spencer and Miss Stuart came slowly up the terraced
"Well, John," Mrs. Stuart smiled kindly. "I think this is the last
payment,—in full. Let's go down to congratulate them."
CHICAGO, March, 1895.
The best man has gone for a game of billiards with the host. The maid
of honor is inditing an epistle to one who must fall. The bridesmaids
have withdrawn themselves, each with some endurable usher, to an
appropriate retreat upon the other coasts of the veranda. The night is
full of starlight in May. The lovers discover themselves at last alone.
He. What was that flame-colored book Maud was reading to young Bishop?
She. The Dolly Dialogues; you remember we read them in London when
they came out.
He. What irreverent literature we tolerate nowadays! I suppose it's
the aftermath of agnosticism.
She. It didn't occur to me that it was irreligious.
He. Irreverent, I said—the tone of our world.
She. But how I love that world of ours—even the Dolly Dialogues!
He. Because you love it, this world you feel, you are reverent toward
it. I have hated it so many years; it carried so much pain with it that
I thought every expression of life was pain, and now, now, if it were
not for Maud and the Dolly Dialogues, these last days would seem to
launch us afresh upon quite another world.
She. Yes, another world, where there is a new terror, a strange,
inhuman terror that I never thought of before, the terror of death.
He. Why, what a perversity! You think of immortality as so real, so
sure! Relief from that terror of death is the proper fruit of your firm
She. But I never cared before about the shape, the form, the kind of
that other life. I was content to believe it quite different from this,
for I knew this so well, enjoyed it so much. When the jam-pot should be
empty, I did not want another one just like it. But now….
He. I know. And I lived so much a stranger to the experiences I could
have about me that I was indifferent to what came after. Now, what I
am, what I have, is so precious that I cannot believe in any change
which should let me know of this life as past and impossible. That
would be "the supreme grief of remembering in misery the happy days
that have been."
She. It makes me shiver; it is so blasphemous to hate the state of
being of a spirit. That would seem to degrade love, if through love we
dread to lose our bodies.
He. Strange! You have come to this confession out of a trusting
religion and I from doubt—at the best indifference. You are ashamed to
confess what seems to you wholly blasphemous against that noble faith
and prayer of a Christian; and I find an invigorating pleasure in your
blasphemy. There is no conceivable life of a spirit to compare with the
pain, even, of the human body; it is better to suffer than to know no
She. But "the resurrection of the body": perhaps the creed, word for
word without interpretation, would not mean that empty life which we
moderns have grown to consider the supreme and liberal conception of
He. Resurrection in a purified form fit for the bliss, whatever one
of all the many shapes men have dreamed it may vision itself in!
She. But this love of life, this excessive joy, must fade away. The
record of the world is not that we keep that. Think of the old people
who dream peacefully of death, after knowing all the fulness of this
life. Think of the wretches who pray for it. That vision of the life of
spirits which is so dreadful to us has been the comfort of the ages.
There must be some inner necessity for it. Perhaps with our bodies our
wills become worn out.
He. That, I think, is the mystery—the wearing out, which is death.
For death occurs oftener in life than we think; I know so many dead
people who are walking about. As for sick people, physicians say that
in a long illness they never have to warn a patient of the coming end.
He knows it, subtly, from some dim, underground intimation. Without
acknowledging it, he arranges himself, so to speak, for the grave, and
comforts himself with those visions that religion holds out. Or does he
But apart from the dying, there are so many out of whose bodies and
spirits life is ebbing. It may have been a little flood-tide, but they
know it is going. You see it on their faces. They become dull. That
leprosy of death attacks their life, joint by joint. They lay aside one
pleasure, one function, one employment of their minds after another.
The machine may run on, but the soul is dying. That is what I call
death in life.
THE EPISODE OF LIFE.
Jack Lynton is becoming stone like that. His is a case in point, and a
good one, because the atrophy is coming about not from physical
disease, or from any dissipation. You would call him sane and full of
fire. He was. He married three years ago. Their life was full, too,
like ours, and precious. They did not throw it away; they were wise
guardians of all its possibilities. The second summer—I was with them,
and Jack has told me much besides—Mary began talking, almost in joke,
of these matters, of what one must prepare for; of second marriages,
and all that. We chatted in as idle fashion as do most people over the
utterly useless topics of life. One exquisite September day, all
steeped in the essence of sunshine—misty everywhere over the
fields—how well I remember it!—she spoke again in jest about
something that might happen after her death. I saw a trace of pain on
Jack's face. She saw it, and was sad for a moment. Now I know that all
through that late summer and autumn those two were fighting death in
innuendoes. They were not morbid people, but death went to bed with
them each night.
Of course, this apprehension, this miasma, came in slowly, like those
autumn sea-mists; appearing once a month, twice this week—a little
oftener each time.
Jack is a sensible man; he does not shy at a shadow. His nerves are
tranquil, and respond as they ought. They went about the business of
life as joyfully as you or I, and in October we were all back in town.
Now, Mary is dying; the doctor sees it now. I do not mean that he
should have known it before. She knew it, and she noted how the
life was fading away until the time came when what was so full of
action, of feeling, of desire, was merely a shell—impervious to
And Jack is dying, too—his health is good enough, but pain which he
cannot master is killing him into numbness. He watches each joy, each
experience with which they were both tremulous, depart. And do you
suppose it is any comfort for those two honest souls to believe that
their spirits will recognize each other in some curious state that has
dispensed with sense? Do you suppose that a million of years of a
divine communion would make up for one spoken word, for even a shade of
agony that passes across Mary's face?
She. If God should change their souls in that other world, then
perhaps their longings would be quite different; so that what we think
of with chill they would accept as a privilege.
He. In other words, those two, who have learned to know each other in
human terms, who have loved and suffered in the body, will have ended
their page? Some strange transformation into another two? Why not
simply an end to the book? Would that not be easier?
She. If one had the courage to accept these few years of life and ask
for no more.
He. I think that it is cowardice which makes one accept the ghostly
satisfaction of a surviving spirit.
WHEN THE BODY IN LIFE FEELS THE SPIRIT.
She. But have you never forgotten the body, dreamed what it would be
to feel God? You have known those moments when your soul, losing the
sense of contact with men or women, groped alone, in an enveloping
calm, and knew content. I have had it in times of intoxication from
music—not the personal, passionate music of to-day, but some one or
two notes that sink the mazy present into darkness. I knew that my
senses were gone for the time, and in their place I held a comfortable
consciousness of power. There have been other times—in Lent, at the
close of the drama of Christ—beside the sea—after a long
dance—illusory moments when one forgot the body and wondered.
He. I know. One night in the Sierras we camped high up above the
summits of the range. The altitude, perhaps, or the long ride through
the forest, kept me awake. Our fires died down; a chalky mist rose from
the valleys, and, filtering through the ravines, at last capped the
granite heads. The smouldering tree-trunks we had lit for fires and the
little patch of rock where we lay, made an island in that white sea.
Between us and the black spaces among the stars there was nothing. How
eternally quiet it was! I can feel that isolation now coming over my
soul like the stealthy fog, until I lay there, unconscious of my body,
in a wondering placidity, watching the stars burn and fade. I could
seem to feel them whirl in their way through the heavens. And then a
thought detached itself from me, the conception of an eternity passed
in placidity like that without the pains of sense, the obligations of
action; I loved it then—that cold residence of thought!
She. You have known it, too. Those moments when the body in life
feels the state of spirit come rarely and awe one. Dear heart, perhaps
if our spirits were purified and experienced we should welcome that
perpetual contemplation. We cannot be Janus-faced, but the truth may
lie with the monks, who killed this life in order to obtain a grander
TWO SOULS IN HEAVEN REMEMBER THE LIFE LIVED ON EARTH.
He. Can you conceive of any heaven for which you would change this
shameful world? Any heaven, I mean, of spirits, not merely an Italian
palace of delights?
She. There is the heaven of the Pagans, the heaven of glorified
He. Would you like to dine without tasting the fruit and the wine?
What attainment would it be to walk in fields of asphodel, when all the
colors of all the empyrean were equally dazzling, and perceived by the
mind alone? For my part, I should prefer to hold one human violet.
She. The heaven of the Christian to-day?
He. That may be interpreted in two ways: the heaven where we know
nothing but God, and the heaven where we remember our former life. Let
us pass the first, for the second is the heaven passionately desired by
those who have suffered here, who have lost their friends.
Suppose that we two had finished with the episode of death, and had
come out beyond into that tranquillity of spirit where sorrows change
to harmony. You and I would go together, or, perhaps, less fortunate,
one should wait the other, but finally both would experience this
transformation from body into spirit. Should you like it? Would it fill
your heart with content—if you remembered the past? I think not.
Suppose we should walk out some fresh morning, as we love to do now,
and look at that earth we had been compelled to abandon. Where would be
that fierce joy of inrushing life? for, I fancy, we should ever have a
level of contentment and repose. Indeed, there would be no evening with
its comforting calm, no especially still nights, no mornings: nothing
is precious when nothing changes, and where all can be had for eternity.
We should talk, as of old, but the conversation of old men and women
would be dramatic and passionate to ours. For everything must needs be
known, and there could be no distinctions in feeling. Should you see
your sister dying in agony at sea, you would smile tranquilly at her
temporary and childish sorrow. All the affairs of this life would not
strike you, pierce your heart, or move your pulse. They would repeat
themselves in your eyes with a monotonous precision, and they would be
done almost before the actors had begun. Indeed, if you should not be
incapable of blasphemy, you would rebel at this blind game, played out
with such fever.
We must not forget that our creative force would be spent: planning,
building, executing, toiling patiently for some end that is mirrored
only in our minds—how much of our joy comes from these!—would be laid
aside. We should have shaken the world as much as we could: now,
peace…. Again, I say, peace is felt only after a storm. Like
Ulysses, we should look wistfully out from the isolation of heaven to
the resounding waves of this unconquered world.
Of course, one may say that the mind might fashion cures for all this;
that a greater architect would build a saner heaven. But, remember,
that we must not change the personal sense; in heaven, however you plan
it, no mortal must lose that "I" so painfully built from the human
ages. If you destroy his sense of the past life, his treasures acquired
in this earth, you break the rules of the game: you begin again and we
have nothing to do with it.
She. You have not yet touched upon the cruellest condition of the
life of the spirit.
He. Ah, dearest, I know that. You mean the love of the person.
Indeed, so quick it hurts me that I doubt if you would be walking that
morning in heaven with me alone. Perhaps, however, the memories of our
common life on earth would make you single me out. Let us think so. We
should walk on to some secluded spot, apart from the other spirits, and
with our eyes cast down so that we might not see that earth we were
remembering. You would look up at last with a touch of that defiance I
love so now, as if a young goddess were tossing away divine cares to
shine out again in smiles. Ah, how sad!
I should have some stir about the heart, some desire to kiss you, to
embrace you, to possess you, as the inalienable joy of my life. My hand
could not even touch you! Would our eyes look love? Could we have any
individual longing for one-another, any affection kept apart to
ourselves, not swallowed up in that general loving-kindness and
universal beatification proper to spirits?
I know upon earth to-day some women, great souls, too, who are
incapable of an individual love. They may be married, they may have
children; they are good wives and good mothers; but their souls are too
large for a single passion. Their world blesses them, worships them,
makes saints of them, but no man has ever touched the bottom of their
hearts. I suppose their husbands are happy in the general happiness,
yet they must be sad some days, over this barren love. Hours come when
they must long, even for the little heart of a coquette that has
dedicated itself to one other and with that other would trustingly
venture into hell.
Well, that universal love is the only kind such spirits as you and I
should be, could know. Would that content you?
We should sit mournfully silent, two impotent hearts, and remember,
remember. I should worship your exquisite body as I had known it on
earth. I should see that head as it bends to-night; I should hear again
your voice in those words you were singing when I passed your way that
first time; and your eyes would burn with the fire of our relinquished
love. It would all come faintly out of the past, deadened by a thin
film of recollection; now it strikes with a fierce joy, almost like a
physical blow, and wakes me to life, to desire.
She. Yes. We women say we love the spirit of the man we have chosen,
but it is a spirit that acts and expresses itself in the body. To that
body, with all its habits, so unconscious! its sure force and power, we
are bound—more than the man is bound to the loveliness of the woman he
adores. We—I, it is safer so, perhaps—understand what I see, what I
feel, what I touch, what I have kissed and loved. That is mine and
becomes mine more each day I live with it and possess it. That love of
the concrete is our limitation, so we are told, but it is our joy.
He. So we should sit, without words, for we would shrink from speech
as too sad, and we should know swiftly the thought of the other. And
when the sense of our loss became quite intolerable, we should walk on
silently, in a growing horror of the eternity ahead. At last one of us,
moved by some acute remembrance of our deadened selves, would go to the
Master of the Spirits and, standing before him in rebellion, would say:
"Cast us out as unfit for this heaven, and if Thou canst not restore us
into that past state at least give us Hell, where we may suffer a
common pain, instead of this passive calm and contemplation."
THE MEASURE OF JOY IN LIFE.
She. Yet, how short it will be! How awful to have the days and weeks
and months slip by, and know that at the best there is only a reprieve
of a few years. I think from this night I shall have my shadow of
death. I shall always be doing things for the last time; a sad life
that! And perhaps we change; as you say, we may become dead in life,
prepared for a different state; and in that change we may find a new
joy—a longing for perfection and peace.
He. That would be an acknowledgment of defeat, indeed, and that is
the sad result of so much living. The world has been too hard, we
cry—there is so much heartbreaking, so much misery, so few arrive! We
look to another world where all that will be made right, and where we
shall suffer no more.
Let the others have their opiate. You, at least, I think, are too brave
for that kind of comfort. Does it not seem a little grasping to ask for
eternity, because we have fifty years of action? And an eternity of
passivity, because we have not done well with action? No, the world has
had too much of that coddling, that kind of shuffle through, as if it
were a way station where we must spend the night and make the best of
sorry accommodations. Our benevolence, our warmheartedness, goes
overmuch to making the beds a bit better, especially for the feeble and
the sick and old, and those who come badly fitted out. We help the
unfortunate to slide through: I think it would be more sensible to make
it worth their while to stay. The great philanthropists are those who
ennoble life, and make it a valuable possession. It would be well to
poison the forlorn, hurry them post haste to some other world where
they may find the conditions better suited. Then give their lot of
misery and opportunity to another who can find joy in his burden.
She. A world without mercy would be hard—it would be full of a
strident clamor like a city street.
He. Mercy for all; no favoritism for a few. Whoever could find a new
joy, a lasting activity; whoever could keep his body and mind in full
health and could show what a tremendous reality it is to live—would be
the merciful man. There would be less of that leprosy, death in life,
and the last problem of death itself would not be insurmountable.
So I think the common men who know things, concrete things,—the price
of grain, if you will; the men of affairs who have their minds on the
struggle; the artists who in paint or words explore new
possibilities—all these are the merciful men, the true comforters whom
we should honor. They make life precious—aside from its physical value.
You know the keen movement that runs through your whole being when you
come face to face with some great Rembrandt portrait. How much the man
knew who made it, who saw it unmade! Or that Bellini's Pope we used to
watch, whose penetrating smile taught us about life. And the greater
Titian, the man with a glove, that looks at you like a live soul, one
whom a man created to live for the joy of other men. In another form, I
feel the same gift of life in a new enterprise: a railroad carried
through; a corrupt government cleaned for the day. And, again, that
Giorgione at Paris, where the men and women are doing nothing in
particular, but living in the sunlight, a joyful, pagan band.
And then think of the simpler, deeper notes of the symphony, the
elements of light and warmth and color in our world, the very seeds of
existence. I count that day the richest when we floated into the Cape
harbor in the little rowboat, bathed in the afternoon sun. The
fishermen were lazily winging in, knowing, like birds, the storm that
would soon be on them. We drank the sun in all our pores. It rained
down on you, and glorified your face and the flesh of your arms and
your hands. We landed, and walked across the evening fields to that
little hut. Then nature lived and glowed with the fervor of actual
experience. You and the air and the sun-washed ocean, all were some
great throbs of actualities.
She. You remember how I liked to ride with you and sail, the stormy
days. How I loved to feel your body battling even feebly with the wind
and rain. I loved to see your face grow crimson under the lash of the
waves, and then to feel you, alive and mine!
He. It would not be bad, a heaven like that, of perpetual physical
presentiment, of storms and sun, and rich fields, and long waves
rolling up the beaches. For nerves ever alive and strung healthily all
along the gamut of sensation! Days with terrific gloom, like the German
forests of the Middle Ages; days with small nights spent on the sea;
September days with a concealed meaning in the air. One would ride and
battle and sail and eat. Then long kisses of love in bodies that spoke.
She. And yet, how strange to life as it is is that picture—like some
mediæval song with the real people left out; strange to the dirty
streets, the breakfasts in sordid rooms, the ignoble faces, the houses
with failure written across the door-posts; strange to the life of papa
and mamma; to the comfortable home; the chatter of the day; the horses;
the summer trips—everything we have lived, you and I.
He. Incomplete, and hence merely a literary paradise. It is well,
too, as it is, for until we can go to bed with the commonplace, and
dine with sorrow, we are but children,—brilliant children, but with
the unpleasant mark of the child. Not sorrow accepted, my love, and
bemoaned; but sorrow fought and dislodged. He is great who feels the
pain and sorrow and absorbs it and survives—he who can remain calm in
it and believe in it. It is a fight; only the strong hold their own.
That fight we call duty.
And duty makes the only conceivable world given the human spirit and
the human frame: even should we believe that the world is a revolving
palæstrinum without betterment. And the next world—the next? It must
be like ours, too, in its action; it must call upon the same
activities, the same range of desires and loves and hates. Grander,
perhaps, more adorned, with greater freedom, with more swing, with a
less troubled song as it rushes on its course. But a world like unto
ours, with effort, with the keen jangle of persons in effort, with
sorrow, aye, and despair: for there must be forfeits!
Is that not better than to slink away to death with the forlorn comfort
"Requiescat in pace?"
PARIS, December, 1895.