Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Rebellious Heroine by John Kendrick Bangs

Part 2 out of 2

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Very well," I rejoiced to hear him say. "I won't give it up until
then, but I haven't much hope after that last chapter."

So Harley went to Barnegat, after destroying his letter to Messrs.
Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick, whilst I put my breach of faith into
operation.)

CHAPTER VII: A BREACH OF FAITH

"Having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath,
Study to break it, and not to break my troth."
- "Love's Labor's Lost."

When I assured Harley that I should keep my hands off his heroine
until he requested me to do otherwise, after my fruitless attempt to
discipline her into a less refractory mood, I fully intended to keep
my promise. She was his, as far as she possessed any value as
literary material, and he had as clear a right to her exclusive use
as if she had been copyrighted in his name--at least so far as his
friends were concerned he had. Others might make use of her for
literary purposes with a clear conscience if they chose to do so, but
the hand of a friend must be stayed. Furthermore, my own experience
with the young woman had not been successful enough to lead me to
believe that I could conquer where Harley had been vanquished.
Physical force I had found to be unavailing. She was too cunning to
stumble into any of the pitfalls that with all my imagination I could
conjure up to embarrass her; but something had to be done, and I now
resolved upon a course of moral suasion, and wholly for Harley's
sake. The man was actually suffering because she had so persistently
defied him, and his discomfiture was all the more deplorable because
it meant little short of the ruin of his life and ambitions. The
problem had to be solved or his career was at an end. Harley never
could do two things at once. The task he had in hand always absorbed
his whole being until he was able to write the word finis on the last
page of his manuscript, and until the finis to this elusive book he
was now struggling with was written, I knew that he would write no
other. His pot-boilers he could do, of course, and so earn a living,
but pot-boilers destroy rather than make reputations, and Harley was
too young a man to rest upon past achievements; neither had he done
such vastly superior work that his fame could withstand much
diminution by the continuous production of ephemera. It was
therefore in the hope of saving him that I broke faith with him and
temporarily stole his heroine. I did not dream of using her at all,
as you might think, as a heroine of my own, but rather as an
interesting person with ideas as to the duty of heroines--a sort of
Past Grand Mistress of the Art of Heroinism--who was worth
interviewing for the daily press. I flatter myself it was a good
idea, worthy almost of a genius, though I am perfectly well aware
that I am not a genius. I am merely a man of exceptional talent. I
have talent enough for a genius, but no taste for the unconventional,
and by just so much do I fall short of the realization of the hopes
of my friends and fears of my enemies. There are stories I have in
mind that are worthy of the most exalted French masters, for
instance, and when I have the time to be careful, which I rarely do,
I can write with the polished grace of a De Maupassant or a James,
but I shall never write them, because I value my social position too
highly to put my name to anything which it would never do to publish
outside of Paris. I do not care to prove my genius at the cost of
the respect of my neighbors--all of which, however, is foreign to my
story, and is put in here merely because I have observed that readers
are very much interested in their favorite authors, and like to know
as much about them as they can.

My plan, to take up the thread of my narrative once more, was,
briefly, to write an interview between myself, as a representative of
a newspaper syndicate, and Miss Marguerite Andrews, the "Well-Known
Heroine." It has been quite common of late years to interview the
models of well-known artists, so that it did not require too great a
stretch of the imagination to make my scheme a reasonable one. It
must be remembered, too, that I had no intention of using this
interview for my own aggrandizement. I planned it solely in the
interests of my friend, hoping that I might secure from Miss Andrews
some unguarded admission that might operate against her own
principles, as Harley and I knew them, and that, that secured, I
might induce her to follow meekly his schedule until he could bring
his story to a reasonable conclusion. Failing in this, I was going
to try and discover what style of man it was she admired most, what
might be her ideas of the romance in which she would most like to
figure, and all that, so that I could give Harley a few points which
would enable him so to construct his romance that his heroine would
walk through it as easily and as docilely as one could wish.
Finally, all other things failing, I was going to throw Harley on her
generosity, call attention to the fact that she was ruining him by
her stubborn behavior, and ask her to submit to a little temporary
inconvenience for his sake.

As I have already said, so must I repeat, there was genius in the
idea, but I was forced to relinquish certain features of it, as will
be seen shortly. I took up my pen, and with three bold strokes
thereof transported myself to Newport, and going directly to the
Willard Cottage, I rang the bell. Miss Andrews was still elusive.
With all the resources of imagination at hand, and with not an
obstacle in my way that I could not clear at a bound, she still held
me at bay. She was not at home--had, in fact, departed two days
previously for the White Mountains. Fortunately, however, the butler
knew her address, and, without bothering about trains, luggage, or
aught else, in one brief paragraph I landed myself at the Profile
House, where she was spending a week with Mr. and Mrs. Rushton of
Brooklyn. This change of location caused me to modify my first idea,
to its advantage. I saw, when I thought the matter over, that, on
the whole, the interview, as an interview for a newspaper syndicate,
was likely to be nipped in the bud, since the moment I declared
myself a reporter for a set of newspapers, and stated the object of
my call, she would probably dismiss me with the statement that she
was not a professional heroine, that her views were of no interest to
the public, and that, not having the pleasure of my acquaintance, she
must beg to be excused. I wonder I didn't think of this at the
outset. I surely knew Harley's heroine well enough to have foreseen
this possibility. I realized it, however, the moment I dropped
myself into the great homelike office of the Profile House. Miss
Andrews walked through the office to the dining-room as I registered,
and as I turned to gaze upon her as she passed majestically on, it
flashed across my mind that it would be far better to appear before
her as a fellow-guest, and find out what I wanted and tell her why I
had come in that guise, rather than introduce myself as one of those
young men who earn their daily bread by poking their noses into other
people's business.

Had this course been based upon any thing more solid than a pure bit
of imagination, I should have found it difficult to accommodate
myself so easily to circumstances. If it had been Harley instead of
myself, it would have been impossible, for Harley would never have
stooped to provide himself with a trunk containing fresh linen and
evening-dress clothes and patent-leather pumps by a stroke of his
pen. This I did, however, and that evening, having created another
guest, who knew me of old and who also was acquainted with Miss
Andrews, just as I had created my excellent wardrobe, I was
presented.

The evening passed pleasantly enough, and I found Harley's heroine to
be all that he had told me and a great deal more besides. In fact,
so greatly did I enjoy her society that I intentionally prolonged the
evening to about three times its normal length--which was a very
inartistic bit of exaggeration, I admit; but then I don't pretend to
be a realist, and when I sit down to write I can make my evenings as
long or as short as I choose. I will say, however, that, long as my
evening was, I made it go through its whole length without having
recourse to such copy-making subterfuges as the description of
doorknobs and chairs; and except for its unholy length, it was not at
all lacking in realism. Miss Andrews fascinated me and seemed to
find me rather good company, and I found myself suggesting that as
the next day was Sunday she take me for a walk. From what I knew of
Harley's experience with her, I judged she'd be more likely to go if
I asked her to take me instead of offering to take her. It was a
subtle distinction, but with some women subtle distinctions are
chasms which men must not try to overleap too vaingloriously, lest
disaster overtake them. My bit of subtlety worked like a charm.
Miss Andrews graciously accepted my suggestion, and I retired to my
couch feeling certain that during that walk to Bald Mountain, or
around the Lake, or down to the Farm, or wherever else she might
choose to take me, I could do much to help poor Stuart out of the
predicament into which his luckless choice of Miss Andrews as his
heroine had plunged him. And I wasn't far wrong, as the event
transpired, although the manner in which it worked out was not
exactly according to my schedule.

I dismissed the night with a few paragraphs; the morning, with its
divine service in the parlor, went quickly and impressively; for it
IS an impressive sight to see gathered beneath those towering cliffs
a hundred or more of pleasure and health seekers of different creeds
worshipping heartily and simply together, as accordantly as though
they knew no differences and all men were possessed of one common
religion--it was too impressive, indeed, for my pen, which has been
largely given over to matters of less moment, and I did not venture
to touch upon it, passing hastily over to the afternoon, when Miss
Andrews appeared, ready for the stroll.

I gazed at her admiringly for a moment, and then I began:

"Is that the costume you wore"--I was going to say, "when you
rejected Parker?" but I fortunately caught my error in time to pass
it off--"at Newport?" I finished, with a half gasp at the narrowness
of my escape; for, it must be remembered, I was supposed as yet to
know nothing of that episode.

"How do you know what I wore at Newport?" she asked, quickly--so
quickly that I almost feared she had found me out, after all.

"Why--ah--I read about you somewhere," I stammered. "Some newspaper
correspondent drew a picture of the scene on the promenade in the
afternoon, and--ah--he had you down."

"Oh!" she replied, arching her eyebrows; "that was it, was it? And
do you waste your valuable time reading the vulgar effusions of the
society reporter?"

Wasn't I glad that I had not come as a man with a nose to project
into the affairs of others--as a newspaper reporter!

"No, indeed," I rejoined, "not generally; but I happened to see this
particular item, and read it and remembered it. After all," I added,
as we came to the sylvan path that leads to the Lake--"after all, one
might as well read that sort of stuff as most of the novels of the
present day. The vulgar reporter may be ignorant or a boor, and all
that is reprehensible in his methods, but he writes about real flesh
and blood people; and, what is worse, he generally approximates the
truth concerning them in his writing, which is more than can be said
of the so-called realistic novel writers of the day. I haven't read
a novel in three years in which it has seemed to me that the heroine,
for instance, was anything more than a marionette, with no will of
her own, and ready to do at any time any foolish thing the author
wanted her to do."

Again those eyes of Miss Andrews rested on me in a manner which gave
me considerable apprehension. Then she laughed, and I was at ease
again.

"You are very amusing," she said, quietly. "The most amusing of them
all."

The remark nettled me, and I quickly retorted:

"Then I have not lived in vain."

"You do really live, then, eh?" she asked, half chaffingly, gazing at
me out of the corners of her eyes in a fashion which utterly disarmed
me.

"Excuse me, Miss Andrews," I answered, "but I am afraid I don't
understand you."

"I am afraid you don't," she said, the smile leaving her lips. "The
fact that you are here on the errand you have charged yourself with
proves that."

"I am not aware," I said, "that I have come on any particularly
ridiculous errand. May I ask you what you mean by the expression
'most amusing of them all'? Am I one among many, and, if so, one
what among many what?"

"Your errand is a good one," she said, gravely, "and not at all
ridiculous; let me assure you that I appreciate that fact. Your
question I will answer by asking another: Are you here of your own
volition, or has Stuart Harley created you, as he did Messrs.
Osborne, Parker, and the Professor? Are you my new hero, or what?"

The question irritated me. This woman was not content with
interfering seriously with my friend's happiness: she was actually
attributing me to him, casting doubts upon my existence, and placing
me in the same category with herself--a mere book creature. To a man
who regards himself as being the real thing, flesh and blood, and,
well, eighteen-carat flesh and blood at that, to be accused of living
only a figmentary existence is too much. I retorted angrily.

"If you consider me nothing more than an idea, you do not manifest
your usual astuteness," I said.

Her reply laid me flat.

"I do not consider you anything of the sort. I never so much as
associated you with anything resembling an idea. I merely asked a
question," she said. "I repeat it. Do you or do you not exist? Are
you a bit of the really real or a bit of Mr. Harley's realism? In
short, are you here at Profile Lake, walking and talking with me, or
are you not?"

A realizing sense of my true position crept over me. In reality I
was not there talking to her, but in my den in New York writing about
her. I may not be a realist, but I am truthful. I could not deceive
her, so I replied, hesitatingly:

"Well, Miss Andrews, I am--no, I am not here, except in spirit."

"That's what I thought," she said, demurely. "And do you exist
somewhere, or is this a 'situation' calculated to delight the
American girl--with pin-money to spend on Messrs. Herring, Beemer, &
Chadwick's publications?"

"I do exist," I replied, meekly; for, I must confess it, I realized
more than ever that Miss Andrews was too much for me, and I heartily
wished I was well out of it. "And I alone am responsible for this.
Harley is off fishing at Barnegat--and do you know why?"

"I presume he has gone there to recuperate," she said.

"Precisely," said I.

"After his ungentlemanly, discourteous, and wholly uncalled-for
interference with my comfort at Newport," she said, her face flushing
and tears coming into her eyes, "I don't wonder he's prostrated."

"I do not know to what you refer," said I.

"I refer to the episode of the runaway horse," she said, in wrathful
remembrance of the incident. "Because I refuse to follow blindly his
will, he abuses his power, places me in a false and perilous
situation, from which I, a defenceless woman, must rescue myself
alone and unaided. It was unmanly of him--and I will pay him the
compliment of saying wholly unlike him."

I stood aghast. Poor Stuart was being blamed for my act. He must be
set right at once, however unpleasant it might be for me.

"He--he didn't do that," I said, slowly; "it was I. I wrote that bit
of nonsense; and he--well, he was mad because I did it, and said he'd
like to kill any man who ill-treated you; and he made me promise
never to touch upon your life again."

"May I ask why you did that?" she asked, and I was glad to note that
there was no displeasure in her voice--in fact, she seemed to cheer
up wonderfully when I told her that it was I, and not Stuart, who had
subjected her to the misadventure.

"Because I was angry with you," I answered. "You were ruining my
friend with your continued acts of rebellion: he was successful; now
he is ruined. He thinks of you day and night--he wants you for his
heroine; he wants to make you happy, but he wants you to be happy in
your own way; and when he thinks he has discovered your way, he works
along that line, and all of a sudden, by some act wholly unforeseen,
and, if I may say so, unforeseeable, you treat him and his work with
contempt, draw yourself out of it--and he has to begin again."

"And why have you ventured to break your word to your friend?" she
asked, calmly. "Surely you are touching upon my life now, in spite
of your promise."

"Because I am willing to sacrifice my word to his welfare," I
retorted; "to try to make you understand how you are blocking the
path of a mighty fine-minded man by your devotion to what you call
your independence. He will never ask you to do anything that he
knows will be revolting to you, and until he has succeeded in
pleasing you to the last page of his book he will never write again.
I have done this in the hope of persuading you, at the cost even of
some personal discomfort, not to rebel against his gentle leadership-
-to fall in with his ideas until he can fulfil this task of his,
whether it be realism or pure speculation on his part. If you do
this, Stuart is saved. If you do not, literature will be called upon
to mourn one who promises to be one of its brightest ornaments."

I stopped short. Miss Andrews was gazing pensively out over the
mirror-like surface of the Lake. Finally she spoke.

"You may tell Mr. Harley," she said, with a sigh, "that I will
trouble him no more. He can do with me as he pleases in all save one
particular. He shall not marry me to a man I do not love. If he
takes the man I love for my hero, then will I follow him to the
death."

"And may I ask who that man is?"

"You may ask if you please," she replied, with a little smile. "But
I won't answer you, except to say that it isn't you."

"And am I forgiven for my runaway story?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "You wouldn't expect me to condemn a man for
loyalty to his friend, would you?"

With which understanding Miss Andrews and I continued our walk, and
when we parted I found that the little interview I had started to
write had turned into the suggestion of a romance, which I was in
duty bound to destroy--but I began to have a glimmering of an idea as
to who the man was that Marguerite Andrews wished for a hero, and I
regretted also to find myself convinced of the truth of her statement
that that man did not bear my name.

CHAPTER VIII: HARLEY RETURNS TO THE FRAY

"I will be master of what is mine own:
She is my goods, my chattels."
- "Taming of the Shrew."

At the end of ten days Harley returned from Barnegat, brown as a
berry and ready for war, if war it was still to be. The outing had
done him a world of good, and the fish stories he told as we sat at
dinner showed that, realist though he might be, he had yet not failed
to cultivate his imagination in certain directions. I may observe in
passing, and in this connection, that if I had a son whom it was my
ambition to see making his mark in the world as a writer of romance,
as distinguished from the real, I should, as the first step in his
development, take care that he became a fisherman. The telling of
tales of the fish he caught when no one else was near to see would
give him, as it has given many another, a good schooling in the
realms of the imagination.

I was glad to note that Harley's wonted cheerfulness had returned,
and that he had become more like himself than he had been at any time
since his first failure with Miss Andrews.

"Your advice was excellent," he said, as we sipped our coffee at the
club the night of his return. "I have a clear two weeks in which to
tackle that story, and I feel confident now that I shall get it done.
Furthermore, I shall send the chapters to Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick
as I write them, so that there must be no failure. I shall be
compelled to finish the tale, whatever may happen, and Miss Andrews
shall go through to the bitter end, willy-nilly."

"Don't be rash, Harley," I said; for it seemed to me that Miss
Andrews, having consented at my solicitation to be a docile heroine
for just so long as Harley did not insist upon her marrying the man
she did not love, it was no time for him to break away from the
principles he had so steadfastly adhered to hitherto and become a
martinet. He struck me as being more than likely to crack the whip
like a ring-master in his present mood than to play the indulgent
author, and I felt pretty confident that the instant the snap of the
lash reached the ears of Marguerite Andrews his troubles would begin
again tenfold, both in quality and in quantity, with no possible hope
for a future reconciliation between them.

"I'm not going to be rash," said Harley. "I never was rash, and I'm
not going to begin now, but I shall use my nerve. That has been the
trouble with me in the past. I haven't been firm. I have let that
girl have her own way in everything, and I'm very much afraid I have
spoiled her. She behaves like a child with indulgent parents. In
the last instance, the Parker proposal, she simply ran her
independence into the ground. She was not only rebellious to me, but
she was impertinent to him. Her attitude toward him was not nature
at all; it was not realism, because she is a woman of good breeding,
and would naturally be the last to treat any man, distasteful or not,
with such excessive rudeness. I compelled him to go on and propose
to her, though after he had been at it for five minutes I could see
that he wished he was well out of it. I should have taken her in
hand and controlled her with equal firmness, declining to permit her
to speak so openly. Frankness is good enough, especially in women,
among whom you rarely find it; but frankness of the sort she indulged
in has no place in the polite circle in which she moves."

"Nevertheless, she spoke that way--you said yourself she did," I
said, seeing that he was wrathful with Marguerite, and wishing to
assuage his anger before it carried him to lengths he might regret.
"And you've got to take her as she is or drop her altogether."

"She did--I repeat that she did speak that way, but that was no
reason why I should submit to it," Harley answered. "It was the
fault of her mood. She was nervous, almost hysterical--thanks to her
rebellious spirit. The moment I discovered how things were going I
should have gone back and started afresh, and kept on doing so until
I had her submissive. A hunter may balk at a high fence, but the
rider must not give in to him unless he wishes to let the animal get
the better of him. If he is wise he will go back and put the horse
to it again and again, until he finally clears the topmost bar. That
I should have done in this instance, and that I now intend to do,
until that book comes out as I want it."

I had to laugh in my sleeve. On the whole, Harley was very like most
other realists, who pretend that they merely put down life as it is,
and who go through their professional careers serenely unconscious of
the truth that their fancies, after all, serve them when their facts
are lacking. Even that most eminent disciple of the Realistic Cult,
Mr. Darrow, has been known to kill off a hero in a railroad accident
that owed its being to nothing short of his own imagination, in order
that the unhappy wight might not offend the readers of the highly
moral magazine, in which the story first appeared, by marrying a
widow whom he had been forced by Mr. Darrow to love before her
husband died. Mr. Darrow manufactured, with five strokes of his pen,
an engine and a tunnel to crush the life out of the poor fellow, whom
an immoral romancer would have allowed to live on and marry the lady,
and with perfect propriety too, since the hero and the heroine were
both of them the very models of virtue, in spite of the love which
they did not seek, and which Mr. Darrow deliberately and almost
brutally thrust into their otherwise happy lives. Of course the
railway accident was needed to give the climax to the story, which
without it might have run through six more numbers of the magazine,
to the exclusion of more exciting material; but that will not relieve
Mr. Darrow's soul of the stain he has put upon it by deserting Dame
Realism for a moment to flirt with Romance, when it comes to the
Judgment Day.

"As I want it to be, so must it be," quoth Harley.

"Good," thought I. "It will no doubt be excellent; but be honest,
and don't insist that you've taken down life as it is; for you may
have an astigmatism, for all you know, and life may not be at all
what it has seemed to you while you were putting it down."

"Yes, sir," said Harley, leaning back in his chair and drawing a long
breath, which showed his determination, "to the bitter end she shall
go, through such complications as I choose to have her, encountering
whatever villains I may happen to find most convenient, and to
complete her story she shall marry the man I select for my hero, if
he is as commonplace as the average salesman in a Brooklyn universal
dry-goods emporium."

Imagine my feelings if you can! Having gone as a self-appointed
ambassador to the enemy to secure terms of peace, to return to find
my principal donning his armor and daubing his face with paint for a
renewal of the combat, was certainly not pleasant. What could I say
to Marguerite Andrews if I ever met her in real life? How could I
look her in the eye? The situation overpowered me, and I hardly knew
what to say. I couldn't beg Harley to stick to his realism and not
indulge in compulsion, because I had often jeered at him for not
infusing a little more of the dramatic into his stories, even if it
had to be "lugged in by the ears," as he put it. Nor was he in any
mood for me to tell him of my breach of faith--the mere knowledge
that she had promised to be docile out of charity would have stung
his pride, and I thought it would be better, for the time, at least,
to let my interview remain a secret. Fortune favored me, however.
Kelly and the Professor entered the dining room at this moment, and
the Professor held in his hand a copy of the current issue of The
Literary Man, Messrs. Herring, Beemer, & Chadwick's fortnightly
publication, a periodical having to do wholly with things bookish.

"Who sat for this, Stuart?" called out the Professor, tapping the
frontispiece of the magazine.

"Who sat for what?" replied Stuart, looking up.

"This picture," said the Professor.

"It's a picture of a finely intellectual-looking person with your
name under it, Harley," put in the Doctor.

"Oh--that," said Harley. "It does flatter me a bit."

"So does the article with it," said Kelly. "Says you are a great
man--man with an idea, and all that. Is that true, or is it just
plain libel? Have you an idea?"

Harley laughed good-naturedly. "I had one once, but it's lost," he
said. "As to that picture, they're bringing out a book for me," he
added, modestly. "Good ad., you know."

"When you are through with that, Professor," I put in, "let me have
it, will you? I want to see what it says about Harley."

"It's a first-rate screed," replied the Professor, handing over the
publication. "It hits Harley right on the head."

"I don't know as that's pleasant," said Harley.

"What I mean, my dear boy," said the Professor, "is that it does you
justice."

And it really did do Harley justice, although, as he had suggested,
it was written largely to advertise the forthcoming work. It spoke
nicely of Harley's previous efforts, and judiciously, as it seemed to
me. He had not got to the top of the ladder yet, but he was getting
there by a slow, steady development, and largely because he was a man
with a fixed idea as to what literature ought to be.

"Mr. Harley has seen clearly from the outset what it was that he
wished to accomplish and how to accomplish it," the writer observed.
"He has swerved neither to the right nor to the left, but has
progressed undeviatingly along the lines he has mapped out for
himself, and keeping constantly in mind the principles which seemed
to him at the beginning of his career to be right. It has been this
persistent and consistent adherence to principle that has gained for
Mr. Harley his hearing, and which is constantly rendering more
certain and permanent his position in the world literary. Others may
be led hither and yon by the fads and follies of the scatter-brained,
but Realism will ever have one steadfast champion in Stuart Harley."

"Read that," I said, tossing the journal across the table.

He read it, and blushed to the roots of his ears.

"This is no time to desert the flag, Harley," said I, as he read.
"Stick to your colors, and let her stick to hers. You'd better be
careful how you force your heroine."

"Ha, ha!" he laughed. "I should think so, and for more reasons than
one. I never really intended to do horrible things with her, my boy.
Trust me, if I do lead her, to lead her gently. My persuasion will
be suggestive rather than mandatory."

"And that hero--from the Brooklyn dry-goods shop?" I asked, with a
smile.

"I'd like to see him so much as--tell her the price of anything,"
cried Harley. "A man like that has no business to live in the same
hemisphere with a woman like Marguerite Andrews. When I threatened
her with him I was conversing through a large and elegant though
wholly invisible hat."

I breathed more freely. She was still sacred and safe in his hands.
Shortly after, dinner over, we left the table, and went to the
theatre, where we saw what the programme called the "latest London
realistic success," in which three of the four acts of an intensely
exciting melodrama depended upon a woman's not seeing a large navy
revolver, which lay on the table directly before her eyes in the
first. The play was full of blood and replete with thunder, and we
truly enjoyed it, only Harley would not talk much between the acts.
He was unusually moody. After the play was over his tongue loosened,
however, and we went to the Players for a supper, and there he burst
forth into speech.

"If Marguerite Andrews had been the heroine of that play she'd have
seen that gun, and the audience would have had to go home inside of
ten minutes," he said. Later on he burst out with, "If my Miss
Andrews had been the heroine of that play, the man who falls over the
precipice in the second act would have been alive at this moment."
And finally he demanded: "Do you suppose a heroine like Marguerite
Andrews would have overlooked the comma on the postal card that woman
read in the third act, and so made the fourth act possible? Not she.
She's a woman with a mind. And yet they call that the latest London
realistic success! Realistic! These Londoners do not seem to
understand their own language. If that play was realism, what sort
of a nightmare do you suppose a romantic drama would be?"

"Well, maybe London women in real life haven't any minds," I said,
growing rather weary of the subject. I admired Miss Andrews myself,
but there were other things I could talk about--"like lemonade and
elephants," as the small boy said. "Let it go at that. It was an
interesting play, and that's all plays ought to be. Realism in plays
is not to be encouraged. A man goes to the theatre to be amused and
entertained, not to be reminded of home discomforts."

Stuart looked at me reproachfully, ordered a fresh cigar, and
suggested turning in for the night. I walked home with him and tried
to get him interested in a farce I was at work on, but it was of no
use. He had become a monomaniac, and his monomania was his
rebellious heroine. Finally I blurted out:

"Well, for Heaven's sake, Stuart, get the woman caged, will you?
For, candidly, I'd like to talk about something else, and until
Marguerite Andrews is disposed of I don't believe you'll be able to."

"I'll have half the work done by this time to-morrow night," said he.
"I've got ten thousand words of it in my mind now."

"I'll bet you there are only two words down in your mind," said I.

"What are they?" he asked.

"Marguerite and Andrews," said I.

Stuart laughed. "They're the only ones I'm sure of," said he. And
then we parted.

But he was right about what he would have accomplished by that time
the next night; for before sundown he had half the story written,
and, what is more, the chapters had come as easily as any writing he
ever did. For docility, Marguerite was a perfect wonder. Not only
did she follow out his wishes; she often anticipated them, and in
certain parts gave him a lead in a new direction, which, Stuart said,
gave the story a hundred per cent. more character.

In short, Marguerite Andrews was keeping her promise to me nobly.
The only thing I regretted about it, now that all seemed plain
sailing, was its effect on Stuart. Her amiability was proving a
great attraction to his susceptible soul, and I was beginning to fear
that Stuart was slowly but surely falling in love with his rebellious
heroine, which would never do, unless she were really real, on which
point I was most uncertain.

"It would be a terrible thing," said I confidentially to myself, "if
Stuart Harley were to fall in love with a creation of his own
realism."

CHAPTER IX: A SUMMONS NORTH

"PORTIA. A quarrel, ho, already? What's the matter?
"GRATIANO. About a hoop of gold, a paltry ring."
- "Merchant of Venice."

The events just narrated took place on the 15th of August, and as
Harley's time to fulfil his contract with Messrs. Herring, Beemer, &
Chadwick was growing very short--two weeks is short shrift for an
author with a book to write for waiting presses, even with a willing
and helpful cast of characters--so I resolved not to intrude upon him
until he himself should summon me. I knew myself, from bitter
experience, how unwelcome the most welcome of one's friends can be at
busy hours, having had many a beautiful sketch absolutely ruined by
the untimely intrusion of those who wished me well, so I resolutely
kept myself away from his den, although I was burning with curiosity
to know how he was getting on.

On occasions my curiosity would get the better of my judgment, and I
would endeavor, with the aid of my own muses, to hold a moment's chat
with Miss Andrews; but she eluded me. I couldn't find her at all--
as, indeed, how should I, since Harley had not taken me into his
confidence as to his intentions in the new story? He might have laid
the scene of it in Singapore, for aught I knew, and, wander where I
would in my fancy, I was utterly unable to discover her whereabouts,
until one evening a very weird thing happened--a thing so weird that
I have been pinching myself with great assiduity ever since in order
to reassure myself of my own existence. I had come home from a hard
day's editorial work, had dined alone and comfortably, and was
stretched out at full length upon the low divan that stands at the
end of my workshop--the delight of my weary bones and the envy of my
friends, who have never been able to find anywhere another exactly
like it. My cigar was between my lips, and above my head, rising in
a curling cloud to the ceiling, was a mass of smoke. I am sure I was
not dreaming, although how else to account for it I do not know.
What happened, to put it briefly, was my sudden transportation to a
little mountain hotel not far from Lake George, where I found myself
sitting and talking to the woman I had so futilely sought.

"How do you do?" said she, pleasantly, as I materialized at her side.

"I am as well as a person can be," I replied, rubbing my eyes in
confusion, "who suddenly finds himself two hundred and fifty miles
away from the spot where, a half-hour before, he had lain down to
rest."

Miss Andrews laughed. "You see how it is yourself," she said.

"See how what is myself?" I queried.

"To be the puppet of a person who--writes," she answered.

"And have I become that?" I asked.

"You have," she smiled. "That's why you are here."

The idea made me nervous, and I pinched my arm to see whether I was
there or not. The result was not altogether reassuring. I never
felt the pinch, and, try as I would, I couldn't make myself feel it.

"Excuse me," I said, "for deviating a moment from the matter in hand,
but have you a hat-pin?"

"No," she answered; "but I have a brooch, if that will serve your
purpose. What do you want it for?"

"I wish to run it into my arm for a moment," I explained.

"It won't help you any," she answered, smiling divinely. "I must
have a word with you; all the hat-pins in the world shall not prevent
me, now that you are here."

"Well, wait a minute, I beg of you," I implored. "You intimated a
moment ago that I was a puppet in the hands of some author. Whose?
I've a reputation to sustain, and shall not give myself up willingly,
unless I am sure that that person will not trifle with my character."

"Exactly my position," said she. "As I said, you can now understand
how it is yourself. But I will tell you in whose hands you are now--
you are in mine. Surely if you had the right to send me tearing down
Bellevue Avenue at Newport behind a runaway horse, and then pursue me
in spirit to the Profile House, I have the right to bring you here,
and I have accordingly done so."

For a woman's, her logic was surprisingly convincing. She certainly
had as much right to trifle with my comfort as I had to trifle with
hers.

"You are right, Miss Andrews," I murmured, meekly. "Pray command me
as you will--and deal gently with the erring."

"I will treat you far better than you treated me," she said. "So
have no fear--although I have been half minded at times to revenge
myself upon you for that runaway. I could make you dreadfully
uncomfortable, for when I take my pen in hand my imagination in the
direction of the horrible is something awful. I shall be merciful,
however, for I believe in the realistic idea, and I will merely make
use of the power my pen possesses over you to have you act precisely
as you would if you were actually here."

"Then I am not here?" I queried.

"What do you think?' she asked, archly.

I was about to say that if I weren't, I wished most heartily that I
were; but I remembered fortunately that it would never do for me to
flirt with Stuart Harley's heroine, so I contented myself with
saying, boldly, "I don't know what to think."

Miss Andrews looked at me for a moment, and then, reaching out her
hand, took mine, pressed it, and relinquished it, saying, "You are a
loyal friend indeed."

There was nothing flirtatious about the act; it was a simple and
highly pleasing acknowledgment of my forbearance, and it made me
somewhat more comfortable than I had been at any time since my sudden
transportation through the air.

"You remember what I said to you?" she resumed. "That I would cease
to rebel, whatsoever Mr. Harley asked me to do, unless he insisted
upon marrying me to a man I did not love?"

"I do," I replied. "And, as far as I am aware, you have stuck by
your agreement. Stuart, I doubt not, has by this time got ready for
his finishing-touches."

"Your surmise is correct," she answered, sadly; and then, with some
spirit, she added: "And they are finishing-touches with a vengeance.
I have been loyal to my word, in spite of much discomfort. I have
travelled from pillar to post as meekly as a lamb, because it fitted
in with Stuart Harley's convenience that I should do so. He has
taken me and my friend Mrs. Willard to and through five different
summer resorts, where I have cut the figure he wished me to cut
without regard to my own feelings. I have discussed all sorts of
topics, of which in reality I know nothing, to lend depth to his
book. I have snubbed men I really liked, and appeared to like men I
profoundly hated, for his sake. I have wittingly endured peril for
his sake, knowing of course that ultimately he would get me out of
danger; but peril is peril just the same, and to that extent
distracting to the nerves. I have been upset in a canoe at Bar
Harbor, and lost on a mountain in Vermont. I have sprained my ankle
at Saratoga, and fainted at a dance at Lenox; but no complaint have I
uttered--not even the suggestion of a rebellion have I given. Once,
I admit, I was disposed to resent his desire that I should wear a
certain costume, which he, man as he is, could not see would be
wofully unbecoming. Authors have no business to touch on such
things. But I overcame the temptation to rebel, and to please him
wore a blue and pink shirt-waist with a floral silk skirt at a
garden-party--I suppose he thought floral silk was appropriate to the
garden; nor did I even show my mortification to those about me.
Nothing was said in the book about its being Stuart Harley's taste;
it must needs be set down as mine; and while the pages of Harley's
book contain no criticism of my costume, I know well enough what all
the other women thought about it. Still, I stood it. I endured also
without a murmur the courtship and declaration of love of a perfect
booby of a man; that is to say, he was a booby in the eyes of a
woman--men might like him. I presume that as Mr. Harley has chosen
him to stand for the hero of his book, he must admire him; but I
don't, and haven't, and sha'n't. Yet I have pretended to do so; and
finally, when he proposed marriage to me I meekly answered 'yes,'
weeping in the bitterness of my spirit that my promise bound me to do
so; and Stuart Harley, noting those tears, calls them tears of joy!"

"You needn't have accepted him," I said, softly. "That wasn't part
of the bargain."

"Yes, it was," she returned, positively; "that is, I regarded it so,
and I must act according to my views of things. What I promised was
to follow his wishes in all things save in marriage to a man I didn't
love. Getting engaged is not getting married, and as he wished me to
get engaged, so I did, expecting of course that the book would end
there, as it ought to have done, and that therefore no marriage would
ever come of the engagement."

"Certainly the book should end there, then," said I. "You have kept
to the letter of your agreement, and nobly," I added, with
enthusiasm, for I now saw what the poor girl must have suffered.
"Harley didn't try to go further, did he?"

"He did," she said, her voice trembling with emotion. "He set the
time and place for the wedding, issued the cards, provided me with a
trousseau--a trousseau based upon his intuitions of what a trousseau
ought to be, and therefore about as satisfactory to a woman of taste
as that floral silk costume of the garden-party; he engaged the
organist, chose my bridesmaids--girls I detested--and finally
assembled the guests. The groom was there at the chancel rail; Mr.
Willard, whom he had selected to give me away, was waiting outside in
the lobby, clad in his frock-coat, a flower in his button-hole, and
his arm ready for the bride to lean on; the minister was behind the
rail; the wedding-march was sounding--"

"And you?" I cried, utterly unable to contain myself longer.

"I was speeding past Yonkers on the three-o'clock Saratoga express--
bound hither," she answered, with a significant toss of her head.
"No one but yourself knows where I am, and I have summoned you to
explain my action before you hear of it from him. I do not wish to
be misjudged. Stuart Harley had his warning, but he chose to ignore
it, and he can get out of the difficulty he has brought upon himself
in his own way--possibly he will destroy the whole book; but I wanted
you to know that while he did not keep the faith, I did."

I suddenly realized the appalling truth. My own weakness was
responsible for it all. I had not told Harley of my interview and
her promise, feeling that it was not necessary, and fearing its
effect upon his pride.

"I may add," she said, quietly, "that I am bitterly disappointed in
your friend. I was interested in him, and believed in him. Most of
my acts of rebellion--if you can call me rebellious--were prompted by
my desire to keep him true to his creed; and I will tell you what I
have never told to another: I regarded Stuart Harley almost as an
ideal man, but this has changed it all. If he was what I thought
him, he could not have acted with so little conscience as to try to
force this match upon me, when he must have known that I did not love
Henry Dunning."

"He didn't know," I said.

"He should have been sure before providing for the ceremony, after
hearing what I had promised you I would and would not do," said
Marguerite.

"But--I never told him anything about your promise!" I shouted,
desperately. "He has done all this unwittingly."

"Is that true? Didn't you tell him?" she cried, eagerly grasping my
hand.

Her manner left no doubt in my mind as to who the hero of her choice
would be--and again I sighed to think that it was not I.

"As true as that I stand here," I said. "I never told him."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Oh, well, you know what I mean!" I said, excitedly. "Wherever I do
stand, it's as true as that I stand there."

The phrase was awkward, but it fulfilled its purpose.

"Why didn't you tell him?" she asked.

"Because I didn't think it necessary. Fact is," I added, "I had a
sort of notion that if you married anybody in one of Harley's books,
if Harley had his own way it would be to the man who--who tells the
sto--"

A loud noise interrupted my remark and I started up in alarm, and in
an instant I found myself back in my rooms in town once more. The
little mountain house near Lake George, with its interesting and
beautiful guest, had faded from sight, and I realized that somebody
was hammering with a stick upon my door.

"Hello there!" I cried. "What's wanted?"

"It's I--Harley," came Stuart's voice. "Let me in."

I unlocked the door and he entered. The brown of Barnegat had gone,
and he was his broken self again.

"Well," I said, trying to ignore his appearance, which really shocked
me, "how's the book? Got it done?"

He sank into a chair with a groan.

"Hang the book!--it's all up with that; I'm going to Chadwick to-
morrow and call the thing off," he said. "She won't work--two weeks'
steady application gone for nothing."

"Oh, come!" I said; "not as bad as that."

"Precisely as bad as that," he retorted. "What can a fellow do if
his heroine disappears as completely as if the earth had opened and
swallowed her up?"

"Gone?" I cried, with difficulty repressing my desire to laugh.

"Completely--searched high and low for her--no earthly use," he
answered. "I can't even imagine where she is."

"All of which, my dear Stuart," I said, adopting a superior tone for
the moment, "shows that an imagination that is worth something
wouldn't be a bad possession for a realist, after all. I know where
your heroine is. She is at a little mountain house near Lake George,
and she has fled there to escape your booby of a hero, whom you
should have known better than to force upon a girl like Marguerite
Andrews. You're getting inartistic, my dear boy. Sacrifice
something to the American girl, but don't sacrifice your art. Just
because the aforesaid girl likes her stories to end up with a wedding
is no reason why you should try to condemn your heroine to life-long
misery."

Stuart looked at me with a puzzled expression for a full minute.

"How the deuce do you know anything about it?" he asked.

I immediately enlightened him. I told him every circumstance--even
my suspicion as to the hero of her heart, and it seemed to please
him.

"Won't the story go if you stop it with the engagement?" I asked,
after it was all over.

"Yes," he said, thoughtfully. "But I shall not publish it. If it
was all so distasteful to her as you say, I'd rather destroy it."

"Don't do that," I said. "Change the heroine's name, and nobody but
ourselves will ever be the wiser."

"I never thought of that," said he.

"That's because you've no imagination," I retorted.

Stuart smiled. "It's a good idea, and I'll do it; it won't be the
truest realism, but I think I am entitled to the leeway on one
lapse," he said.

"You are," I rejoined. "Lapse for the sake of realism. The man who
never lapses is not real. There never was such a man. You might
change that garden-party costume too. If you can't think of a better
combination than that, leave it to me. I'll write to my sister and
ask her to design a decent dress for that occasion."

"Thanks," said Stuart, with a laugh. "I accept your offer; but, I
say, what was the name of the little mountain house where you found
her?"

"I don't know," I replied. "You made such an infernal row battering
down my door that I came away in a hurry and forgot to ask."

"That is unfortunate," said Stuart. "I should have liked to go up
there for a while--she might help me correct the proofs, you know."

That's what he said, but he didn't deceive me. He loved her, and I
began again to hope to gracious that Harley had not deceived himself
and me, and that Marguerite Andrews was a bit of real life, and not a
work of the imagination.

At any rate, Harley had an abiding faith in her existence, for the
following Monday night he packed his case and set out for Lake
George. He was going to explore, he said.

CHAPTER X: BY WAY OF EPILOGUE

"Let, down the curtain, the farce is done."
- RABELAIS.

I suppose my story ought to end here, since Harley's rebellious
heroine has finally been subdued for the use of his publishers and
the consequent declaration of dividends for the Harley exchequer; but
there was an epilogue to the little farce, which nearly turned it
into tragedy, from which the principals were saved by nothing short
of my own ingenuity. Harley had fallen desperately in love with
Marguerite Andrews, and Marguerite Andrews had fallen in love with
Stuart Harley, and Harley couldn't find her. She eluded his every
effort, and he began to doubt that he had drawn her from real life,
after all. She had become a Marjorie Daw to him, and the notion that
he must go through life cherishing a hopeless passion was distracting
to him. His book was the greatest of his successes, which was an
additional cause of discomfort to him, since, knowing as he now did
that his study was not a faithful portrayal of the inner life of his
heroine, he felt that the laurels that were being placed upon his
brow had been obtained under false pretences.

"I feel like a hypocrite," he said, as he read an enthusiastic review
of his little work from the pen of no less a person than Mr. Darrow,
the high-priest of the realistic sect. "I am afraid I shall not be
able to look Darrow in the eye when I meet him at the club."

"Never fear for that, Stuart," I said, laughing inwardly at his
plight. "Brazen it out; keep a stiff upper lip, and Darrow will
never know. He has insight, of course, but he can't see as far in as
you and he think."

"It's a devilish situation," he cried, impatiently striding up and
down the room, "that a man of my age should be so hopelessly in love
with a woman he can't find; and that he can't find her is such a
cruel sarcasm upon his literary creed! What cursed idiosyncrasy of
fate is it that has brought this thing upon me?"

"It's the punishment that fits your crime, Harley," I said. "You've
been rather narrow minded in your literary ideas. Possibly it will
make a more tolerant critic of you hereafter, when you come to flay
fellows like Balderstone for venturing to think differently from you
as to the sort of books it is proper to write. He has as much right
to the profits he can derive from his fancy as you have to the
emoluments of your insight."

"I'd take some comfort if I thought that she really loved me," he
said, mournfully.

"Have no doubt on that score, Stuart," I said. "She does love you.
I know that. I wish she didn't."

"Then why can't I find her? Why does she hide from me?" he cried,
fortunately ignoring my devoutly expressed wish, which slipped out
before I knew it.

"Because she is a woman," I replied. "Hasn't your analytical mind
told you yet that the more a woman loves a man, the harder he's got
to work to find it out and--and clinch the bargain?"

"I suppose you are right," he said, gloomily. "But if I were a
woman, and knew I was killing a man by keeping myself in hiding, I'd
come out and show myself at any cost, especially if I loved him."

"Now you are dealing in imagination, Harley," I said; "and that never
was your strong point."

Nevertheless, he was right on one point. The hopelessness of his
quest was killing Harley--not physically exactly, but emotionally, as
it were. It was taking all the heart out of him, and his present
state of mind was far more deplorable than when he was struggling
with the book, and constantly growing worse. He tried every device
to find her--the Willards were conjured up, and knew nothing; Mrs.
Corwin and the twins were brought back from Europe, and refused to
yield up the secret; all the powers of a realistic pen were brought
to bear upon her, and yet she refused utterly to materialize.

Finally, I found it necessary to act myself. I could not stand the
sight of Harley being gradually eaten up by the longing of his own
soul, and I tried my hand at exploration. I had no better success
for several weeks; and then, like an inspiration, the whole thing
came to me. "She won't come when he summons her, because she loves
him. She won't summon him to come to her, for the same reason. Why
not summon both of them yourself to a common ground? Embalm them in
a little romance of your own. Force them if need be, but get them
there, and so bring them together, and let them work out their own
happiness," said I to myself. The only difficulty that presented
itself was as to whether or not Marguerite would allow herself to be
forced. It was worth the trial, however, and fortune favored me. I
found her far from rebellious. My pen had hardly touched paper when
she materialized, more bewilderingly beautiful than ever. I laid the
scene of my little essay at Lake-wood, and I found her sitting down
by the water, dreamily gazing out over the lake. In her lap was
Stuart Harley's book, and daintily pasted on the fly-leaf of this was
the portrait which had appeared in the August issue of The Literary
Man, which she had cut out and preserved.

Having provided the heroine with a spot conducive to her comfort, I
hastened to transport Harley to the scene. It was easy to do, seeing
how deeply interested I was in my plot and how willing he was. I got
him there looking like a Greek god, only a trifle more interesting,
because of his sympathy-arousing pallor--the pallor which comes from
an undeserved buffeting at the hands of a mischievous Cupid. I know
it well, for I have observed it several times upon my own
countenance. The moment Harley appeared upon the scene I chose to
have Marguerite hastily clasp the book in her hands, raise it to her
lips, and kiss the picture--and it must have been intensely true to
life, for she did it without a moment's hesitation, almost
anticipating my convenience, throwing an amount of passion into the
act which made my pen fairly hiss as I dipped it into the ink. Of
course Harley could not fail to see it--I had taken care to arrange
all that--and equally of course he could not fail to comprehend what
that kiss meant; could not fail to stop short, with a convulsive
effort to control himself--heroes always do that; could not fail
thereby to attract her attention. After this nothing was more
natural than that she should spring to her feet, "the blushes of a
surprised love mantling her cheeks"; it was equally natural that she
should try to run, should slip, have him catch her arm and save her
from falling, and--well, I am not going to tell the whole story. I
have neither the time, the inclination, nor the talent to lay bare to
the world the love-affairs of my friend. Furthermore, having got
them together, I discreetly withdrew, so that even if I were to try
to write up the rest of the courtship, it would merely result in my
telling you how I imagined it progressed, and I fancy my readers are
as well up in matters of that sort as I am. Suffice it to say,
therefore, that in this way I brought Stuart Harley and Marguerite
Andrews together, and that the event justified the means: and that
the other day, when Mr. and Mrs. Harley returned from their honeymoon,
they told me they thought I ought to give up humor and take to
writing love-stories.

"That kissing the picture episode," said Stuart, looking gratefully
at me, "was an inspiration. To my mind, it was the most satisfactory
thing you've ever done."

"I like that!" cried his wife, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
"He didn't do it. It was I who kissed the picture. He couldn't have
made me do anything else to save his life."

"Rebellious to the last!" said I, with a sigh to think that I must
now write the word "Finis" to my little farce.

"Yes," she answered. "Rebellious to the last. I shall never consent
to be the heroine of a book again, until--"

She paused and looked at Stuart.

"Until what?" he asked, tenderly.

"Until you write your autobiography," said she. "I have always
wanted of be the heroine of that."

And throwing down my pen, I discovered I was alone.

Book of the day: