Part 2 out of 4
Linda wondered, later, if she'd care to go to a party of Markue's.
There was a great deal of drinking at such affairs; and though she
rather liked cordials, crême de thé and Grand Marnier, even stronger
things flavored with limes and an occasional frigid cocktail, she
disliked--from a slight experience--men affected by drink. Judith
had called her a constitutional prude; this, she understood, was a
term of reproach; and she wondered if, applied to her, it were just.
Usually it meant a religious person or one fussy about the edge of
her skirt; neither of which she ever considered. She didn't like to
sit in a corner and be hugged--even that she could now assert with a
degree of knowledge--but it wasn't because she was shocked. Nothing,
she told herself gravely, shocked her; only certain acts and moments
annoyed her excessively. It was as if her mind were a crisp dress
with ribbons which she hated to have mussed or disarranged.
Linda didn't take the trouble to explain this. Now that her mother
had withdrawn from her into a perpetual and uncomfortable politeness
she confided in no one. She would have been at a loss to put her
complicated sensations and thoughts into words. Mr. Moses Feldt, the
only one to whom she could possibly talk intimately, would be upset
by her feelings. He would give her a hug and the next day bring up a
new present from his pocket.
Her clothes, with the entire support of Lorice, were all delicate in
fabric, mostly white with black sashes, and plainly ruffled. She
detested the gray crepe de Chine from which Judith's undergarments
were made and the colored embroidery of Pansy's; while she ignored
scented toilet-waters and extracts. Markue, in finally asking her to
a party at his rooms, said that there she would resemble an Athenian
marble, of the un-painted epoch, in the ballet of Scheherazade.
"There's nothing special to say about Markue's parties," Judith,
dressing, told Linda. "You will simply have to take what comes your
way. There is always some one serious at them, if you insist, as
usual, on dignity." She stood slim and seductive, like a perverse
pierrot, before the oppressive depths of a black mirror. Linda had
finished her preparations for the evening. There was no departure
from her customary blanched exactness. She studied her reflection
across Judith's shoulder; her intense blue eyes, under the level
blot of her bang, were grave on the delicate pallor of her face.
In the taxi, slipping rapidly down-town, Linda was conscious of a
slight unusual disturbance of her indifference. This had nothing to
do with whether or not she'd be a success; her own social demands
were so small that any considerable recognition of her was
unimportant. Her present feeling came from the fact that to-night,
practically, she was making her first grown-up appearance in the
world, the world from which she must select the materials of her
happiness and success. To-night she would have an opportunity to put
into being all that--no matter how firmly held--until now had been
Her interest was not in whom or what she might meet, but in herself.
Judith, smoking a cigarette in a mist of silver fox, was plainly
excited. "I like Markue awfully," she admitted.
"Does he care for you?" Linda asked.
"That," said Judith, "I can't make out--if he likes me or if it's
just anonymous woman. I wish it were the first, Linda." Her voice
was shadowed; suddenly, in spite of her youth and exhilaration, she
seemed haggard and spent. Linda recognized this in a cold scrutiny.
Privately she decided that the other was a fool--she didn't watch
her complexion at all.
The motor turned west in the low Forties and stopped before a high
narrow stone façade with a massive griffon-guarded door. Judith led
the way directly into the elevator and designated Markue's floor. It
was at the top of the building, where he met them with his
impenetrable courtesy and took them into a bare room evidently
planned for a studio. There were an empty easel, the high blank
dusty expanse of the skylight, and chairs with the somber hats and
coats of men and women's wraps like the glistening shed skins of
They turned through the hall to an interior more remarkable than
anything Linda could have imagined; it seemed to her very high,
without windows and peaked like a tent. Draperies of intricate
Eastern color hung in long folds. There were no chairs, but low
broad divans about the walls, a thick carpet with inlaid stands in
the center laden with boxes of cigarettes, sugared exotic sweets and
smoking incense. It was so dim and full of thick scent, the shut
effect was so complete, that for a moment Linda felt painfully
oppressed; it seemed impossible to breathe in the wavering bluish
Markue, who had appeared sufficiently familiar outside, now had a
strange portentous air; the gleams of his quick black eyes, the dusky
tone of his cheeks, his impassive grace, startled her. New York was
utterly removed: the taxi that had brought Judith and her, the
swirling traffic of Columbus Circle and smooth undulations of Fifth
Avenue, were lost with a different life. She saw, however, the open
door to another room full of clear light, and her self-possession
rapidly returned. Judith--as she had threatened--at once deserted
her; and Linda found an inconspicuous corner of a divan.
There were, perhaps, twenty people in the two rooms, and each one
engaged her attention. A coffee-colored woman was sitting beyond
her, clad in loose red draperies to which were sewed shining
patterns of what she thought was gold. Markue was introducing
Judith, and the seated figure smiled pleasantly with a flash of
beautiful teeth and the supple gesture of a raised brown palm. That,
Linda decided, was the way she shook hands. Two dark-skinned men,
one in conventional evening dress, were with her; they had small
fine features and hair like carved ebony.
Linda had never before been at an affair with what she was forced to
call colored people; instinctively she was antagonistic and
superior. She turned to a solemn masculine presence with a ruffled
shirt and high black stock; he was talking in a resonant voice and
with dramatic gestures to a woman with a white face and low-drawn
hair. Linda was fascinated by the latter, dressed in a soft clinging
dull garnet. It wasn't her clothes, although they were remarkable,
that held her attention, but the woman's mouth. Apparently, it had
no corners. Like a little band of crimson rubber, or a ring of vivid
flame, it shifted and changed in the oddest shapes. It was an
unhappy mouth, and made her think of pain; but perhaps not so much
that as hunger ... not for food, Linda was certain. What did she
There was a light appealing laugh from another seated on the floor
in a floating black dinner dress with lovely ankles in delicate
Spanish lace stockings; her head was thrown back for the whisper of
a heavy man with ashen hair, a heavenly scarf and half-emptied
Her bare shoulders, Linda saw, were as white as her own, as white
but more sloping. The other's hair, though, was the loveliest red
possible. The entire woman, relaxed and laughing in the perfumery
and swimming shadows, was irresistible. A man with a huge nose and
blank eyes, his hands disfigured with extraordinary rings, momentarily
engaged her. Then, at the moment when she saw an inviting and
correctly conventional youth, he crossed and sat at her side.
"Quite a show," he said in the manner she had expected and approved.
The glow of his cigarette wavered over firmly cut lips. "We've just
come to New York," he continued. "I don't know any one here but
Markue, do you?" Linda explained her own limitations. "The Victory's
fine and familiar."
She followed his gaze to where a winged statue with flying drapery
was set on a stand. She had seen it before, but without interest.
Now it held her attention. It wasn't a large cast, not over three
feet high, but suddenly Linda thought that it was the biggest thing
in the room; it seemed to expand as she watched it.
Beside the Victory, in a glass case with an enclosed concealed
light, was a statue, greenish gray, a few inches tall, with a
sneering placidity of expression as notable as the sweep of the
other white fragment. "That's Chinese," her companion decided; "it
looks as old as lust." There was the stir of new arrivals--a
towering heavy man with a slight woman in emerald satin. "There's
Pleydon, the sculptor," the youth told her animatedly. "I've seen
him at the exhibitions. It must be Susanna Noda, the Russian singer,
with him. He's a tremendous swell."
Linda watched Pleydon as he met Markue in the middle of the room. He
was dressed carelessly, improperly for the evening; but she forgave
that as the result of indifference. The informal flannels and soft
collar, too, suited the largeness of his being and gestures. There
was a murmur of meeting, Susanna Noda smiled appealingly; and then,
as Pleydon found a place on a divan, she at once contentedly sat on
his lap. Watching her, Linda thought of a brilliant parrot; but that
was only the effect of her color; for her face, with a tilted nose
and wide golden eyes, generous warm lips, was charming. She lighted
a cigarette, turned her graceful back on the room and company, and
chatted in French to the composed sculptor.
Linda divined that he was the most impressive figure she had
encountered; the quality of his indifference was beautiful and could
only have come in the security of being a "tremendous swell." That
phrase described all for which she had cared most. It included
everything that her mother had indicated as desirable and a lot that
she, Linda, had added. Money, certainly, was an absolute necessity;
but there were other things now that vaguely she desired. She tried
to decide what they were.
Only the old inner confusion resulted, the emotion that might have
been born in music; however, it was sharper than usual, and bred a
new dissatisfaction with the easier accomplishments. Really it was
very disturbing, for the pressure of her entire experience, all she
had been told, could be exactly weighed and held. The term luxury,
too, was revealing; it covered everything--except her present
There were still newcomers, and Linda was aware of a sudden constraint.
A woman volubly French had appeared with a long pinkish-white dog in
a blanket, and the three Arabians--she had learned that much--had
risen with a concerted expression of surprise and displeasure. Their
anxiety, though, was no more dramatic than that of the dog's proprietor.
The gesture of her hands and lifted eyebrows were keenly expressive of
her impatience with any one who couldn't accept, with her, her dog.
"Markue ought to have it out," some one murmured. "Dogs, to high
caste Mohammedans, are unclean animals." Another added, "Worse than
that, if it should touch them, they would have to make the
pilgrimage to Mecca."
Without any knowledge of the situation of Mecca, Linda yet realized
that it must be a very long journey to result from the mere touch of
a dog. She didn't wonder at the restrained excitement of the
"colored" people. The situation was reduced to a sub-acid argument
between the Frenchwoman and the Begum; Madame couldn't exist without
her "_p'tit_." The Oriental lady could not breathe a common air
with the beast. The former managed a qualified triumph--the
"_p'tit_" was caged with a chair in a corner, and the episode,
for the moment, dropped.
Soon, however, Linda saw that the dog had wriggled out of captivity.
It made a cautious progress to where the candy stood on a low stand
and ran an appreciative tongue over the exposed sweet surfaces.
Rapidly a sugared fig was snapped up. Linda held her breath; no one
had noticed the animal yet--perhaps it would reach one of the
objectors and she would have the thrill of witnessing the departure
But, as always, nothing so romantic occurred; the dog was
discovered, and the Mohammedans, with a hurried politeness, made
their salaams. Instead, a man with a quizzical scrutiny through
glasses that made him resemble an owl, stopped before her.
"'Here we go 'round the mulberry-bush,'" he chanted. "Hello, Kate
Greenaway. Have you had a drink?"
"Yes, thank you," she replied sedately.
"It was something with gin," she particularized, "and too sweet." He
took the place beside her and solemnly recited a great many nursery
rhymes. On the whole she liked him, deciding that he was very
wicked. Soon he was holding her hand in both of his. "I know you're
not real," he proceeded. "Verlaine wrote you--_'Les Ingenus':_
"'From which the sudden gleam of whiteness shed
Met in our eyes a frolic welcoming.'
"What if I'd kiss you?"
"Nothing," she returned coldly.
"You're remarkable!" he exclaimed with enthusiasm. "If you are not
already one of the celebrated beauties you're about to be. As cool
as a fish! Look--Pleydon is going to rise and spill little Russia.
Have you heard her sing Scriabine?" Linda ignored him in a sharp
return of her interest in the big carelessly-dressed man. He put
Susanna Noda aside and moved to the dim middle of the room. His
features, Linda saw, were rugged and pronounced; he was very strong.
For a moment he stood gazing at the Winged Victory, his brow
gathered into a frown, while he made a caressing gesture with his
whole hand. Then he swung about and, from the heavy shadows of his
face, he looked down at her. He was still for a disconcerting length
of time, but through which Linda steadily met his interrogation.
Then he bent over and seriously removed the man beside her.
"Adieu, Louis," he said.
The weight of Pleydon's body depressed the entire divan. "An
ordinary man," he told her, "would ask how the devil you got here.
Then he would take you to your home with some carefully chosen words
for whatever parents you had. But I can see that all this is
needless. You are an extremely immaculate person.
"That isn't necessarily admirable," he added.
"I don't believe I am admirable at all," Linda replied.
"How old are you?" he demanded abruptly.
She told him.
"Age doesn't exist for some women, they are eternal," he continued.
"You see, I call you a woman, but you are not, and neither are you a
child. You are Art--Art the deathless," his gaze strayed back to the
As she, too, looked at it, it seemed to Linda that the cast filled
all the room with a swirl of great white wings and heroic robes. In
an instant the incense and the dark colors, the uncertain pallid
faces and bare shoulders, were swept away into a space through which
she was dizzily borne. The illusion was so overpowering that
involuntarily she caught at the heavy arm by her.
"Why did you do that?" he asked quickly, with a frowning regard.
Linda replied easily and directly. "It seemed as if it were carrying
me with it," she specified; "on and on and on, without ever
stopping. I felt as if I were up among the stars." She paused,
leaning forward, and gazed at the statue. Even now she was certain
that she saw a slight flutter of its draperies. "It is beautiful,
isn't it? I think it's the first thing I ever noticed like that. You
know what I mean--the first thing that hadn't a real use."
"But it has," he returned. "Do you think it is nothing to be swept
into heaven? I suppose by 'real' you mean oatmeal and scented soap.
Women usually do. But no one, it appears, has any conception of the
practical side of great art. You might try to remember that it is
simply permanence given to beauty. It's like an amber in which
beautiful and fragile things are kept forever in a lovely glow. That
is all, and it is enough.
"When I said that you were Art I didn't mean that you were skilfully
painted and dressed, but that there was a quality in you which
recalled all the charming women who had ever lived to draw men out
of the mud--something, probably, of which you are entirely
unconscious, and certainly beyond your control. You have it in a
remarkable degree. It doesn't belong to husbands but to those who
create 'Homer's children.'
"That's a dark saying of Plato's, and it means that the
_Alcestis_ is greater than any momentary offspring of the
Linda admitted seriously, "Of course, I don't understand, yet it
seems quite familiar--"
"Don't, for Heaven's sake, repeat the old cant about reincarnation;"
he interrupted, "and sitting together, smeared with antimony, on a
roof of Babylon."
She hadn't intended to, she assured him. "Tell me about yourself,"
he directed. It was as natural to talk with him as it was, with
others, to keep still. Her frank speech flowed on and on, supported
by the realization of his attention.
"There really isn't much, besides hotels, all different; but you'd
be surprised how alike they were, too. I mean the things to eat, and
the people. I never realized how tired I was of them until mother
married Mr. Moses Feldt. The children were simply dreadful, the
children and the women; the men weren't much better." She said this
in a tone of surprise, and he nodded. "I can see now--I am supposed
to be too old for my age, and it was the hotels. You learn a great
"Do you like Mr. Moses Feldt?"
"Enormously; he is terribly sweet. I intend to marry a man just like
him. Or, at least, he was the second kind I decided on: the first
only had money, then I chose one with money who was kind, but now I
don't know. It's very funny: kindness makes me impatient. I'm
perfectly sure I'll never care for babies, they are so mussy. I
don't read, and I can't stand being--well, loved.
"Mother went to a great many parties; every one liked her and she
liked every one back; so it was easy for her. I used to long for the
time when I'd wear a lovely cloak and go out in a little shut motor
with a man with pearls; but now that's gone. They want to kiss you
so much. I wish that satisfied me. Why doesn't it? Is there anything
the matter with me, do you think? I've been told that I haven't any
As he laughed at her she noticed how absurdly small a cigarette
seemed in his broad powerful hand. "What has happened to you is
this," he explained: "a combination of special circumstances has
helped you in every way to be what, individually, you were. As a
rule, children are brought up in a house of lies, like taking a fine
naked body and binding it into hideous rigid clothes. You escaped
the damnation of cheap ready-cut morals and education. Your mother
ought to have a superb monument--the perfect parent. Of course you
haven't a 'heart.' From the standpoint of nature and society you're
as depraved as possible. You are worse than any one else here--than
all of them rolled together."
Curiously, she thought, this didn't disturb her, which proved at
once that he was right. Linda regarded herself with interest as a
supremely reprehensible person, perhaps a vampire. The latter,
though, was a rather stout woman who, dressed in frightful lingerie,
occupied couches with her arms caught about the neck of a man
bending over her. Every detail of this was distasteful.
What was she?
Her attention wandered to the squat Chinese god in the glass case.
It was clear that he hadn't stirred for ages. A difficult thought
partly formed in her mind--the Chinese was the god of this room, of
Markue's party, of the women seated in the dim light on the floor
and the divans; the low gurgle of their laughter, the dusky
whiteness of their shoulders in the upcoiling incense, the smothered
gleams of their hair, with the whispering men, were the world of the
She explained this haltingly to Pleydon, who listened with a
flattering interest. "I expect you're laughing at me inside," she
ended impotently. "And the other, the Greek Victory," he added, "is
the goddess of the other world, of the spirit. It's quaint a heathen
woman should be that."
Linda discovered that she liked Pleydon enormously. She continued
daringly that he might be the sort of man she wanted to marry. But
he wouldn't be easy to manage; probably he could not be managed at
all. Her mother had always insisted upon the presence of that
possibility in any candidate for matrimony. And, until now, Linda's
philosophy had been in accord with her. But suddenly she entertained
the idea of losing herself completely in--in love.
A struggle was set up within her: on one hand was everything that
she had been, all her experience, all advice, and her innate
detachment; on the other an obscure delicious thrill. Perhaps this
was what she now wanted. Linda wondered if she could try it--just a
little, let herself go experimentally. She glanced swiftly at
Pleydon, and his bulk, his heavy features, the sullen mouth,
Men usually filled her with an unaccountable shrinking into her
remotest self. Pleydon was different; her liking for him had
destroyed a large part of her reserve; but a surety of instinct told
her that she couldn't experiment there. It was characteristic that a
lesser challenge left her cold. She had better marry as she had
Susanna Noda came up petulantly and sank in a brilliant graceful
swirl at his feet. Her golden eyes, half shut, studied Linda
"I am fatigued," she complained; "you know how weary I get when you
ignore me." He gazed down at her untouched. "I have left Lao-tze for
Greece," he replied. She found this stupid and said so. "Has he been
no more amusing than this?" she asked Linda. "But then, you are a
child, it all intrigues you. You listen with the flattery of your
blue eyes and mouth, both open."
"Don't be rude, Susanna," Pleydon commanded. "You are so feminine
that you are foolish. I'm not the stupid one--look again at our
'child.' Tell me what you see."
"I see Siberia," she said finally. "I see the snow that seems so
pure while it is as blank and cold as death. You are right, Dodge. I
was the dull one. This girl will be immensely loved; perhaps by you.
A calamity, I promise you. Men are pigs," she turned again to Linda;
"no--imbeciles, for only idiots destroy the beauty that is given to
them. They take your reputation with a smile, they take your heart
with iron fingers; your beauty they waste like a drunken Russian
"Susanna, like all spendthrifts, is amazed by poverty."
Even in the gloom Linda could see the pallor spreading over the
other's face; she was glad that Susanna Noda spoke in Russian.
However, with a violent effort, she subdued her bitterness. "Go into
your Siberia!" she cried. "I always thought you were capable of the
last folly of marriage. If you do it will spoil everything. You are
not great, you know, not really great, not in the first rank. You've
only the slightest chance of that, too much money. You were never in
the gutter as I was--"
"Chateaubriand," he interrupted, "Dante, Velasquez."
"No, not spiritually!" she cried again. "What do you know of the
inferno! Married, you will get fat." Pleydon turned lightly to
"As a supreme favor do not, when I ask you, marry me."
This, for Linda, was horribly embarrassing. However, she gravely
promised. The Russian lighted a cigarette; almost she was serene
again. Linda said, "Fatness is awful, isn't it?"
Pleydon replied, "Death should be the penalty. If women aren't
lovely--" he waved away every other consideration.
"And if men have fingers like carrots--" Susanna mimicked him.
Judith, flushed, her hair loosened, approached. "Linda," she
demanded, "do you remember when we ordered the taxi? Was it two or
three?" Markue, at her shoulder, begged her not to consider home.
"I'm going almost immediately," Pleydon said, "and taking your
Linda." His height and determined manner scattered all objections.
Linda, at the entrance to the apartment, found to her great
surprise--in place of the motor she had expected--a small graceful
single-horse victoria, the driver buttoned into a sealskin rug. Deep
in furs, beside Pleydon, she was remarkably comfortable, and she was
soothed by the rhythmic beat of the hoofs, the even progress through
the crystal night of Fifth Avenue.
Her companion flooded his being with the frozen air. They had, it
seemed, lost all desire to talk. The memory of Markue's party
lingered like the last vanishing odor of his incense; there was a
confused vision of the murmurous room against the lighted exterior
where the drinks sparkled on a table. Linda made up her mind that
she would not go to another. Then she wondered if she'd see Pleydon
again. The Russian singer had been too silly for words.
It suddenly occurred to her that the man now with her had taken
Susanna Noda, and that he had left her planted. He had preferred
driving her, Linda Condon, home. He wasn't very enthusiastic about
it, though; his face was gloomy.
"The truth is," he remarked at last, "that Susanna is right--I am
not in the first rank. But that was all nonsense about the necessity
of the gutter--sentimental lies."
Linda was not interested in this, but it left her free to explore
her own emotions. The night had been eventful because it had shaken
all the foundation of what she intended. That single momentary
delicious thrill had been enough to threaten the entire rest. At the
same time her native contempt of the other women, of Judith with her
tumbled hair, persisted. Was there no other way to capture such
happiness? Was it all hopelessly messy with drinks and unpleasant
What did Pleydon mean by spirit? Surely there must be more kinds of
love than one--he had intimated that. She gathered that "Homer's
children," those airs of Gluck that she liked so well, were works of
art, sculpture, such as he did. Yet she had never thought of them as
important, important as oatmeal or delicate soap. She made up her
mind to ask him about it, when she saw that they had reached the
Eighties; she was almost home.
"I am going away to-morrow," he told her, "for the winter, to South
America. When I come back we'll see each other. If you should change
address send me a line to the Harvard Club." The carriage had
stopped before the great arched entrance to the apartment-house,
towering in its entire block. He got out and lifted her to the
pavement as if she had been no more than a flower in his hands. Then
he walked with her into the darkness of the garden.
The fountains were cased in boards; the hedged borders, the bushes and
grass, were dead. High above them on the dark wall a window was bright.
Linda's heart began to pound loudly, she was trembling ... from the
cold. There was a faint sound in the air--the elevated trains, or
stirring wings? It was nothing, then, to be lifted into heaven. There
was the door to the hall and elevator. She turned, to thank Dodge
Pleydon for all his goodness to her, when he lifted her--was it
toward heaven?--and kissed her mouth.
She was still in his arms, with her eyes closed. "Linda Condon?" he
said, in a tone of inquiry.
At the same breath in which she realized a kiss was of no importance
a sharp icy pain cut at her heart. It hurt her so that she gasped.
Then, and this was strange, she realized that--as a kiss--it hadn't
annoyed her. Suddenly she felt that it wasn't just that, but
something far more, a part of all her inner longing. He had put her
down and was looking away, a face in shadow with an ugly protruding
She saw him that way in her dreams--in the court under the massive
somber walls, with a troubled frown over his eyes. It seemed to her
that, reaching up, she smoothed it away as they stood together in a
darkness with the fountains, the hedges, dead, the world with never
a sound sleeping in the prison of winter.
Linda thought about Dodge Pleydon on a warm evening of the following
May. At four o'clock, in a hotel, Pansy had been married; and the
entire Feldt connection had risen to a greater height of clamorous
cheer than ever before. Extravagant unseasonable dishes, wines and
banked flowers were lavishly mingled with sentimental speeches,
healths and tears. Linda had been acutely restless, impatient of all
the loud good humor and stupid compliments. The sense of her
isolation from their life was unbearably keen. She would have a very
different wedding with a man in no particular like Pansy's.
After dinner--an occasion, with Pansy absent, where Mr. Moses
Feldt's tears persisted in flowing--she had strayed into the formal
chamber across from the dining-room and leaned out of a window,
gazing into the darkening court. Directly below was where Pleydon
had kissed her. She often re-examined her feelings about that; but
only to find that they had dissolved into an indefinite sense of the
inevitable. Not alone had it failed to shock her--she hadn't even
been surprised. Linda thought still further about kissing, with the
discovery that if, while it was happening, she was conscious of the
kiss, it was a failure; successful, it carried her as far as
possible from the actuality.
Pleydon, of course, had not written to her; he had intimated nothing
to the contrary, only asking her to let him know, at the Harvard
Club, if she changed address. That wasn't necessary, and now,
probably, he was back from South America. Where, except by accident,
might she see him? Markue, with his parties, had dropped from
Judith's world, his place taken by a serious older dealer in Dutch
masters with an impressive gallery just off Fifth Avenue.
That she would see him Linda was convinced; this feeling absorbed
any desire; it was no good wanting it or not wanting it;
consequently she was undisturbed. She considered him gravely and in
detail. Had there been any more Susanna Nodas in his stay south? She
had heard somewhere that the women of Argentine were irresistible.
Her life had taught her nothing if not the fact that a number of
women figured in every man's history. It was deplorable but couldn't
be avoided; and whether or not it continued after marriage depended
on the cunning of any wife.
Now, however, Linda felt weary already at the prospect of a married
life that rested on the constant play of her ingenuity. A great many
things that, but a little before, she had willingly accepted, seemed
to her probably not less necessary but distinctly tiresome. Linda
began to think that she couldn't really bother; the results weren't
She slept in a composed order until the sun was well up. It was
warmer than yesterday; and, going to an afternoon concert with
Judith, she decided to walk. Linda strolled, in a short severe
jacket and skirt, a black straw hat turned back with a cockade and a
crisp flushed mass of sweet peas at her waist. The occasion, as it
sometimes happened, found her in no mood for music. The warmth of
the sunlight, the open city windows and beginning sounds of summer,
had enveloped her in a mood in which the jangling sentimentality of
a street organ was more potent than the legato of banked violins.
She was relieved when the concert was over, but lingered at her seat
until the crowd had surged by; it made Linda furious to be shoved or
indiscriminately touched. Judith had gone ahead, when Linda was
conscious of the scrutiny of a pale well-dressed woman of middle
age. It became evident that the other was debating whether or not to
speak; clearly such an action was distasteful to her; and Linda had
turned away before a restrained voice addressed her:
"You will have to forgive me if I ask your name ... because of a
certain resemblance. Seeing you I--I couldn't let you go."
"Linda Condon," she replied.
The elder, Linda saw, grew even paler. She put out a gloved hand.
"Then I was right," she said in a slightly unsteady voice. "But
perhaps, when I explain, you will think it even stranger,
inexcusable. My dear child, I am your father's sister."
Linda was invaded by a surprise equally made up of interest and
resentment. The first was her own and the second largely borrowed
from her mother. Besides, why had her father's family never made the
slightest effort to see her. This evidently had simultaneously
occurred to the other.
"Of course," she added, quite properly, "we can't undertake family
questions here. I shouldn't blame you a bit, either, if you went
directly away. I had to speak, to risk that, because you were so
unmistakably a Lowrie. It is not a common appearance. We--I--" she
floundered for a painful moment; then she gathered herself with a
considerable dignity. "Seeing you has affected me tremendously,
changed everything. I have nothing to say in our defense, you must
understand that. I am certain, too, that my sister will feel the
same--we live together in Philadelphia. I hope you will give me your
address and let us write to you. Elouise will join with me
Linda told her evenly where she lived, and then allowed Miss Lowrie
to precede her toward the entrance. She said nothing of this to
Judith, nor, momentarily, to her mother. She wanted to consider it
undisturbed by a flood of talk and blame. It was evident to her that
the Lowries had behaved very badly, but just how she couldn't make
out. She recalled her father's sister--her aunt--minutely, forced to
the realization that she was a person of entire superiority. Here,
she suddenly saw, had been the cause of all their difficulties--the
Lowries hadn't approved of the marriage, they had objected to her
Five years ago she would have been incensed at this; but now,
essentially, she was without personal indignation. She wanted, for
herself, to discover as much as possible about her father and his
family. A need independent of maternal influences stirred her. Linda
was reassured by the fact that her father had been gently born;
while she realized that she had always taken this for granted. Her
mother must know nothing about the meeting with Miss Lowrie until
the latter had written.
That was Friday and the letter came the following Tuesday. Linda,
alone at the breakfast-table, instantly aware of the source of the
square envelope addressed in a delicate regular writing, opened it
and read in an unusual mental disturbance:
"My dear Linda,
I hope you will not consider it peculiar for me to call you this,
for nothing else seems possible. Meeting you in that abrupt manner
upset me, as you must have noticed. Of course I knew of you, and
even now I can not go into our long unhappy affair, but until I saw
you, and so remarkably like the Lowries, I did not realize how
wicked Elouise and I had been. But I am obliged to add only where
you were concerned. We have no desire to be ambiguous in that.
However, I am writing to say that we should love to have you visit
us here. It is possible under the circumstances that your mother
will not wish you to come. Yet I know the Lowries, a very
independent and decided family, and although it is my last intention
to be the cause of difficulty with your mother, still I hope it may
In closing I must add how happy I was at the evidence of your blood.
But that, I now see, was a certainty. You will have to forgive us
for a large measure of blindness. Affectionately,
AMELIA VIGNÉ LOWRIE."
Almost instantaneously Linda was aware that she would visit the
Lowries. She liked the letter extremely, as well as all that she
remembered of its sender. At the same time she prepared for a scene
with her mother, different from those of the past--with the recourse
to the brandy flask--but no less unpleasant. They had very little to
say to each other now; and, when she went into her mother's room
with an evident definite purpose, the latter showed a constrained
surprise, a palpable annoyance that her daughter had found her at
the daily renovation of her worn face.
Linda said directly, "I met Miss Lowrie, father's sister, at a
concert last week, and this morning I had a letter asking me to stay
with them in Philadelphia."
Mrs. Feldt's face suddenly had no need for the color she held poised
on a cloth. Her voice, sharp at the beginning, rose to a shrill
"I wonder at the brass of her speaking to you at all let alone
writing here. Just you give me the letter and I'll shut her up. The
idea! I hope you were cool to her, the way they treated us. Stay
with them--I guess not!"
"But I thought of going," Linda replied. "It's only natural. After
all, you must see that he was my father."
"A pretty father he was, too good for the girl he married. It's my
fault I didn't tell you long ago, but I just couldn't abide the
mention of him. He deserted me, no, us, cold, without a word--walked
out of the door one noon, taking his hat as quiet as natural, and
never came back. I never saw him again nor heard except through
lawyers. That was the kind of heart he had, and his sisters are
worse. I hadn't a decent speech of any kind out of them. The
Lowries," she managed to inject a surprising amount of contempt into
her pronouncement of that name. "What it was all about you nor any
sensible person would never believe:
"The house smelled a little of boiled cabbage. That's why he left
me, and you expected in a matter of a few months. He said in his
dam' frigid way that it had become quite impossible and took down
"There must have been more," Linda protested, suppressing a mad
desire to laugh.
"Not an inch," her mother asserted. "Nothing, after a little, suited
him. He'd sit up like a poker, just as I've seen you, with his lips
tight together in the Lowrie manner. It didn't please him no matter
what you'd do. He wouldn't blow out at you like a Christian and I
never knew where I was at. I'd come down in a matinée, the prettiest
I could buy, and then see he didn't like it. He would expect you to
be dressed in the morning like it was afternoon and you going out.
And as for loosening your corsets for a little comfort about the
house, you might as well have slapped him direct.
"That wasn't the worst, though; but his going away without as much
as a flicker of his hand; and with me like I was. Nobody on earth
but would blame him for that. I only got what was allowed me after
we had changed back to my old name, me and you. He never asked one
single question about you nor tried to see or serve you a scrap. For
all he knew, at a place called Santa Margharita in Italy, you might
have been born dead."
She was unable, Linda recognized, to defend him in any way; he had
acted frightfully. She acknowledged this logically with her power of
reason, but somehow it didn't touch her as it had her mother, and
as, evidently, the latter expected. She was absorbed in the vision
of her father sitting, in the Lowrie manner, rigid as a poker; she
saw him quietly take up his hat and go away forever. Linda
understood his process completely; she was capable of doing
precisely the same thing. Whatever was the matter with her--in the
heartlessness so often laid to her account--had been equally true of
"You ought to know what to say to them," Mrs. Moses Feldt cried, "or
I'll do it for you! If only I had seen her she would have heard a
thing or two not easy forgotten."
Linda's determination to go to Philadelphia had not been shaken, and
she made a vain effort to explain her attitude. "Of course, it was
horrid for you," she said. "I can understand how you'd never never
forgive him. But I am different, and, I expect, not at all nice.
It's very possible, since he was my father, that we are alike. I
wish you had told me this before--it explains so much and would have
made things easier for me. I am afraid I must see them."
She was aware of the bitterness and enmity that stiffened her mother
into an unaccustomed adequate scorn:
"I might have expected nothing better of you, and me watching it
coming all these years. You can go or stay. I had my life in spite
of the both of you, as gay as I pleased and a good husband just the
same. I don't care if I never see you again, and if it wasn't for
the fuss it would make I'd take care I didn't. You'll have your
father's money now I'm married; I wonder you stay around here at all
with your airs of being better than the rest. God's truth is you
ain't near as good, even if I did bring you into the world."
"I am willing to agree with you," Linda answered. "No one could be
sweeter than the Feldts. I sha'n't do nearly as well. But that isn't
it, really. People don't choose themselves; I'm certain father
didn't at that lonely Italian place. If you weren't happy laced in
the morning it wasn't your fault. You see, I am trying to excuse
myself, and that isn't any good, either."
"Unnatural," Mrs. Moses Feldt pronounced. And Linda, weary and
depressed, allowed her the last word.
Nothing further during the subsequent brief exchange of notes
between Miss Lowrie and Linda was said of the latter's intention to
visit her father's family. Mrs. Feldt, however, whose attitude
toward Linda had been negatively polite, now displayed an animosity
carefully hidden from her husband but evident to the two girls. The
elder never neglected an opportunity to emphasize Linda's selfishness
or make her personality seem ridiculous. But this Linda ignored from
her wide sense of the inconsequence of most things.
Yet she was relieved when, finally, she had actually left New York.
She looked forward with an unusual hopeful curiosity to the Lowries.
To her surprise their house--miles, it appeared, from the center of
the city--was directly on a paved street with electric cars,
unpretentious stores and very humble dwellings nearby. Back from the
thoroughfare, however, there were spacious green lawns. The street
itself, she saw at once, was old--a highway of gray stone with low
aged stone façades, steep eaves and blackened chimney-pots reaching,
dusty with years, into the farther hilly country.
A gable of the Lowrie house, with a dignified white door, a fanlight
of faintly iridescent glass and polished brasses, faced the brick
sidewalk, while to the left there was a high board fence and an
entrance with a small grille open on a somber reach of garden. A
maid in a stiff white cap answered the fall of the knocker; she took
Linda's bag; and, in a hall that impressed her by its bareness,
Linda was greeted by the Miss Lowrie she had seen.
Her aunt was composed, but there was a perceptible flush on her
cheeks, and she said in a rapid voice, after a conventional welcome,
"You must meet Elouise at once, before you go up to your room."
Elouise Lowrie was older than Amelia, but she, too, was slender and
erect, with black hair startling in its density on her wasted
countenance. Linda noticed a fine ruby on a crooked finger and
beautiful rose point lace. "It was good of you," the elder
proceeded, "to come and see two old women. I don't know whether we
have more to say or to keep still about. But I, for one, am going to
avoid explanations. You are here, a fool could see that you were
Bartram's girl, and that is enough for a Lowrie."
The room was nearly as bare as the hall: in place of the deep carpets
of the Feldts' the floor, of dark uneven oak boards, was merely waxed
and covered by a rough-looking oval rug. The walls were paneled
in white, with white ruffled curtains at small windows; and the
furniture, the dull mahogany ranged against the immaculate paint, the
rocking-chairs of high slatted walnut and rush bottoms, the slender
formality of tables with fluted legs, was dignified but austere.
There were some portraits in heavy old gilt--men with florid faces
and tied hair, and the delicate replicas of high-breasted women in
There was, plainly, an air of the exceptional in Amelia Lowrie's
conduction of Linda to her room. She waited at the door while the
other moved forward to the center of a chamber empty of all the
luxury Linda had grown to demand. There was a bed with tall graceful
posts supporting a canopy like a frosting of sugar, a solemn set of
drawers with a diminutive framed mirror in which she could barely
see her shoulders, a small unenclosed brass clock with long exposed
weights, and two uninviting painted wooden chairs. This was not,
although very nearly, all. Linda's attention was attracted by a
framed and long-faded photograph of a young man, bareheaded, with a
loosely knotted scarf, a striped blazer and white flannels. His face
was thin and sensitive, his lips level, and his eyes gazed with a
steady questioning at the observer.
"That was Bartram," Amelia Lowrie told her; "your father. This was
She went down almost immediately and left Linda, in a maze of dim
emotions, seated on one of the uncomfortable painted chairs. Her
father! This was his room; nothing, she realized, had been disturbed.
The mirror had held the vaguely unsteady reflection of his face; he
had slept under the arched canopy of the bed. She rose and went to
a window from which he, too, had looked.
Below her was the garden shut in on its front by the high fence.
There was a magnolia-tree, now covered with thick smooth white
flowers, and, at the back, low-massed rhododendron with fragile
lavender blossoms on a dark glossy foliage. But the space was mainly
green and shadowed in tone; while beyond were other gardens, other
emerald lawns and magnolia-trees, an ordered succession of
tranquillity with separate brick or stone or white dwellings in the
lengthening afternoon shadows of vivid maples.
It was as different as possible from all that Linda had known, from
the elaborate hotels and gigantic apartment houses, the tropical
interiors, of her New York life. She unpacked her bag, putting her
gold toilet things on the chest of drawers, precisely arranging in a
shallow closet what clothes she had brought, and then, changing,
went down to the Lowries.
They surveyed her with eminent approval at a dinner-table lighted
only with candles, beside long windows open on a dusk with a glimmer
of fireflies. Suddenly Linda felt amazingly at ease; it seemed to
her that she had sat here before, with the night flowing gently in
over the candle-flames. The conversation, she discovered, never
strayed far from the concerns and importance of the Lowrie blood.
"My grandmother, Natalie Vigné," Elouise informed her, "came with
her father to Philadelphia from France, in eighteen hundred and one,
at the invitation of Stephen Girard, who was French as well. She
married Hallet Lowrie whose mother was a Bartram.
"That, my dear, explains our black hair and good figgers. There
never was a lumpy Lowrie. Well, Hallet built this house, or rather
enlarged it, for his wife; and it has never been out of the family.
Our nephew, Arnaud Hallet--Arnaud was old Vigné's name--owns it now.
Isaac Hallet, you may recall, was suspected of being a Tory; at any
rate his brother's descendants, Fanny Rodwell is the only one left,
The placid conversation ran on unchanged throughout dinner and the
evening. Linda was relieved by the absence of any questioning;
indeed nothing contemporary, she realized, was held to be significant.
"I thought Arnaud would be in to-night," Elouise Lowrie said; "he
knew Linda was expected." No one, however, appeared; and Linda went
up early to her room. There, too, were only candles, a pale wavering
illumination in which the past, her father, were extraordinarily
nearby. A sense of pride was communicated to her by so much that
time had been unable to shake. The bed was steeped in the magic of
Arnaud Hallet appeared for dinner the evening after Linda's arrival;
a quiet man with his youth lost, slightly stooped shoulders,
crumpled shoes and a green cloth bag. But he had a memorable voice
and an easy distinction of manner; in addition to these she
discovered, at the table, a lighter amusing sense of the absurd. She
watched him--as he poured the sherry from a decanter with a silver
label hung on a chain--with a feeling of mild approbation. On the
whole he was nice but uninteresting. What a different man from
The days passed in a pleasant deliberation, with Arnaud Hallet
constantly about the house or garden, while Linda's thoughts
continually returned to the sculptor. He was clearer than the
actuality of her mother and the Feldts or the recreated image of her
father. At times she was thrilled by the familiar obscure sense of
music, of longing slowly translated into happiness. Then more actual
problems would envelop her in doubt. Mostly she was confused--in her
cool material necessity for understanding--by the temper of her
feeling for Dodge Pleydon. Linda wondered if this were love. Perhaps,
when she saw him again, she'd be able to decide. Then she remembered
promising to let him know if she changed her address. It was possible
that already he had called at the Feldts', or written, and that her
mother had refused to inform him where she had gone.
Linda had been at the Lowries' two weeks now, but they were acutely
distressed when she suggested that her visit was unreasonably
prolonged. "My dear," they protested together, "we hoped you'd stay
the summer. Bartram's girl! Unless, of course, it is dull with us.
Something brighter must be arranged. No doubt we have only thought
of our own pleasure in having you."
Linda replied honestly that she enjoyed being with them extremely.
Her mother's dislike, the heavy luxury of the Feldt apartment, held
little attraction for her. Then, too, losing the sense of the
bareness of the house Hallet Lowrie had built for his French wife,
she began to find it surprisingly appealing.
Her mind returned to her promise to Pleydon. She told herself that
probably he had forgotten her existence, but she had a strong
unreasoning conviction that this was not so. It seemed the most
natural thing in the world to write him and, almost before she was
aware of the intention, she had put "Dear Mr. Pleydon" at the head
of a sheet of note-paper.
I promised to let you know in the spring when you came back from
South America where I was. I did not think I would have to do it,
but here I am in Philadelphia with my father's sisters. I do not
know just how long for, but a month, anyhow. It is very quiet, but
charming. I have the room that was my father's when he was young,
and look out of the window like he must have. If you should come to
Philadelphia my aunts ask me to say that they would be glad to have
you for dinner. This is how you get here....
She walked to a street crossing, where she dropped the envelope into
a letter-box on a lamppost, and returned to find Arnaud Hallet
waiting for her. He said:
"Everyone agrees I'm serious, but actually you are worse than the
Assembly." They went through the dining-room to the garden, and sat
on the stone step of a deep window. It was quite late, perhaps
eleven o'clock, and the fireflies, slowly rising into the night, had
vanished. Linda was cool and remote and grave, silently repeating
and weighing the phrases of her letter to Pleydon.
She realized that Arnaud Hallet was coming to like her a very great
deal; but she gave this only the slightest attention. She liked him,
really, and that dismissed him from serious consideration. Anyhow,
in spite of the perfection of his manner, Arnaud's careless dress
displeased her: his shoes and the shoulders of his coat were
perpetually dusty, and his hair, growing scant, was always ruffled.
Linda understood that he was highly intellectual, and frequently
contributed historical and genealogical papers to societies and
bulletins, but compared with Dodge Pleydon's brilliant personality
and reputation, Pleydon surrounded by the Susanna Nodas of life,
Arnaud was as dingy as his shoes.
She wondered idly when the latter would actually try to love her. He
was holding her hand and it might well be to-night. Linda decided
that he would do it delicately; and when, almost immediately, he
kissed her, she was undisturbed. No, surprisingly, it had been quite
pleasant. He hadn't mussed her ribbons, nor her spirit, a particle.
In addition he did not at once become impossible and urgently
sentimental; there was even a shade of amusement on his heavy face.
"You appear to take a lot for granted," he complained.
"I'd been wondering when it would happen," she admitted coolly.
"It always does, then?"
"Usually I stop it," she continued. "I don't believe I'll ever like
being kissed. Can you tell me why? No one ever has; they all think
they can bring me around to it."
"And to them," he added.
"But they end by being furious at me. I've been sworn at and called
dreadful names. Sometimes they're only silly. One cried; I hated
that the most."
"Do you mean that you were sorry for him?"
"Oh, dear, no. Why should I be? He looked so odious all smeared with
Arnaud Hallet returned promptly: "Linda, you're a little beast." To
counteract his rude speech he kissed her again. "This," he said with
less security, "threatens to become a habit. I thought, at forty-five,
that I was safely by the island of sirens, but I'll be on the rocks
before I know it."
She laughed with the cool remoteness of running water.
"I wonder you haven't been murdered," he proceeded, "in a moonless
garden by an elderly lawyer. Do you ever think of the lyric day
when, preceded by a flock of bridesmaids and other flowery pagan
truck, you'll meet justice?"
"Marriage?" she asked. "But of course. I have everything perfectly
"Then, my dear Linda, describe him."
"Very straight," she said, "with beautiful polished shoes and
"You ought to have no trouble finding that. Any number of my friends
have one--to open the door and take your things. I might arrange a
very satisfactory introduction for everybody concerned--a steady man
well on his way to preside over the pantry and table."
"You're not as funny as usual," Linda decided critically. "That,
too, disturbs me," he replied. "It looks even more unpromising for
the near future."
In her room Linda thought, momentarily, of Arnaud Hallet; whatever
might have been serious in her attitude toward him dissolved by the
lightness of his speech. Dodge Pleydon appealed irresistibly to her
deepest feelings. Now her mental confusion was at least clear in
that she knew what troubled her. It was not new, it extended even to
times before Pleydon had entered her life--the difficulties
presented by the term "love."
In her mind it was divided into two or three widely different
aspects, phases which she was unable to reconcile. Her mother, in
the beginning, had informed her that love was a nuisance. To be
happy, a man must love you without any corresponding return; this
was necessary to his complete management, the securing of the
greatest possible amount of new clothes. It was as far as love
should be allowed to enter marriage. But that reality, with a
complete expression in shopping, was distant from the immaterial and
delicate emotions that in her responded to Pleydon.
Linda had been familiar with the materials, the processes, of what,
she had been assured, was veritable love since early childhood. Her
mother's dressing, the irritable hours of fittings and at her
mirror, the paint she put on her cheeks, the crimping of her hair
were for the favor of men. These struggles had absorbed the elder,
all the women Linda had encountered, to the exclusion of everything
else. This, it seemed, must, from its overwhelming predominance, be
the greatest thing in life.
There was nothing mysterious about it. You did certain things
intelligently, if you had the figure to do them with, for a
practical end. The latter, carefully controlled, like an essence of
which a drop was delightful and more positively stifling, was as
real as the methods of approach. Oatmeal or scented soap! The force of
example and association combined to bathe such developments in the
sanest light possible, and Linda had every intention of the successful
grasping of an easy and necessary luxury. She had, until--vaguely--now,
been entirely willing to accept the unescapable conditions of love
used as a means or the element of pleasure at parties. Now, however,
the unexpected element of Dodge Pleydon disturbed her philosophy.
Suddenly all the lacing and painting and crimping, the pretense and
lies and carefully planned accidental effects, filled her with
revolt. The insinuations of women, the bareness of their
revelations, her mother returning unsteady and mussed from a dinner,
were unutterably disgusting. Even to think of them hurt her
fundamentally: so much of what she was, of what she had determined,
had been destroyed by an emotion apparently as slight as echoed
Here was the real mystery and for which nothing in her experience
had prepared her. She began to see why it was called a nuisance--if
this were love--and wondered if she had better not suppress it at
once. It wouldn't be suppressed. Her thoughts continually came back
to Pleydon, and the warmth, the disturbing thrill, always resulted.
It led her away from herself, from Linda Condon; a sufficiently
strange accomplishment. A concern for Dodge Pleydon, little schemes
for his happiness and well-being, put aside her clothes and
complexion and her future.
Until the present her acts had been the result of deliberation. She
had been impressed by the necessity for planning with care; but, in
the cool gloom of the covered bed, a sharp joy held her at the
possibility of flinging caution away. Yet she couldn't quite, no
matter how much she desired it, lose herself. Linda was glad that
Pleydon was rich; and there were, she remembered, moments for
As usual these problems, multiplying toward night, were fewer in the
bright flood of morning. She laughed at the memory of Arnaud
Hallet's humor; and then, it was late afternoon, the maid told her
that Pleydon was in the drawing room. Her appearance satisfactory
she was able to see him at once. To her great pleasure neither
Pleydon nor his clothes had changed. He was dressed in light-gray
flannels; a big easy man with a crushing palm, large features and an
expression of intolerance.
"Linda," he said, "what a splendid place to find you. So much better
than Markue's." He was, she realized, very glad to see her, and
dropped at once, as if they had been uninterruptedly together, into
intimate talk. "My work has been going badly," he proceeded; "or
rather not at all. I made a rather decent fountain at Newport;
but--remember what Susanna said?--it's not in the first rank. A happy
balance and strong enough conception; yet it is like a Cellini ewer
done in granite. The truth is, too much interests me; an artist
ought to be the victim of a monomania. I'm a normal animal." He
studied her contentedly:
"How lovely you are. I came over--in an automobile at last--because
I was certain you couldn't exist as I remembered you. But you could
and do. Lovely Linda! And what a gem of a letter. It might have been
copied from 'The Perfect Correspondent for Young Females.' You're
not going to lose me again. When I was a little boy I had a passion
She smiled at him with half-closed eyes and the conviction that,
with Pleydon, she could easily be different. He leaned forward and
his voice startled her with the impression that he had read her
"If you could care for any one a lifetime would be short to get you.
Look, you have never been out of my thoughts--or within my reach. It
seems a myth that I kissed you; impossible ... Linda."
"But you did," she told him, gaining happiness from the mere
assurance. They were alone in the drawing-room, and he rose,
sweeping her up into his arms. Yet the expected joy evaded her
desire and the sudden determination to lose utterly her reserve. It
was evident that he as well was conscious of this, for he released
her and stood frowning, his protruding lower lip uglier than ever.
"A lifetime would be nothing," he said again; "or it might be
everything wasted. Which are you--all soul and spirit, or none?"
"I don't know," she replied, in her bitter disappointment, her heart
pinched by the sharpest pain she remembered. There was the stir of
skirts at the door; Linda turned with a sense of relief to Amelia
Lowrie. However, dinner progressed very well indeed. "Then your
aunt," Elouise said to Pleydon, "was Carrie Dodge. I recall her
perfectly." That established, the Lowrie women talked with a
gracious freedom, exploring the furthermost infiltrations of blood
Linda was again serene. She watched Pleydon with an extraordinary
formless conviction--each of them was a part of the other's life;
while in some way marriage and love were now hopelessly confused. It
was beyond effort or planning. That was all she could grasp, but she
was contented. Sometimes when he talked he made the familiar
descriptive gesture with his hand, as if he were shaping the form of
his speech: a sculptor's gesture, Linda realized.
Later they wandered into the garden, a dark enclosure with the long
ivy-covered façade of the house broken by the lighted spaces of
windows. Beyond the fence at regular intervals an electric car
passed with an increasing and diminishing clangor. The white petals
of the magnolia-tree had fallen and been wheeled away; the blossoms
of the rhododendron were dead on their stems. It was, Linda felt, a
very old garden that had known many momentary emotions and lives.
Dodge Pleydon, standing before her, put his hands on her shoulders.
"Would I have any success?" he asked. "Do you think you'd care for
She smiled confidently up at his intent face. "Oh, yes." Yet she
hoped that he would not kiss her--just then. The delicacy of her
longing and need were far removed from material expressions. This,
of course, meant marriage; but marriage was money, comfort, the cold
thing her mother had impressed on her. Love, her love, was a mistake
here. But in a little it would all come straight and she would
understand. She no longer had confidence in her mother's wisdom.
In spite of her shrinking, of a half articulate appeal, he crushed
her against his face. Whatever that had filled her with hope, she
thought, was being torn from her. A sickening aversion over which
she had no control made her stark in his arms. The memories of the
painted coarse satiety of women and the sly hard men for which they
schemed, the loose discussions of calculated advances and sordid
surrenders, flooded her with a loathing for what she passionately
needed to be beautiful.
Yet deep within her, surprising in its vitality, a fragile ardor
persisted. If she could explain, not only might he understand, but
be able to make her own longing clear and secure. But all she
managed to say was, "If you kiss me again I think it will kill me."
Even that failed to stop him. "You were never alive," he asserted.
"I'll put some feeling into you. It has been done before with
Linda, unresponsive, suffered inordinately.
Again on her feet she saw that Pleydon was angry, his face grim. He
seemed changed, threatening and unfamiliar; it was exactly as if, in
place of Dodge Pleydon, a secretive impersonal ugliness stood
disclosed before her. He said harshly:
"When will you marry me?"
It was what, above all else, she had wanted; and Linda realized that
to marry him was still the crown of whatever happiness she could
imagine. But her horror of the past recreated by his beating down of
her gossamer-like aspiration, the vision of him flushed and
ruthless, an image of indiscriminate nameless man, made it
impossible for her to reply. An abandon of shrinking fear numbed her
heart and lips.
"You won't get rid of me as you do the others about you," he
continued. "This time you made a mistake. I haven't any pride that
you can insult; but I have all that you--with your character--require.
I have more money even than you can want." She cried despairingly:
"It isn't that now! I had forgotten everything to do with money and
depended on you to take me away from it always."
"When will you marry me?"
In a flash of blinding perception, leaving her as dazed as though it
had been a physical actuality, she realized that marrying him had
become an impossibility. At the barest thought of it the dread again
closed about her like ice. She tried, with all the force of old
valuations, with even an effort to summon back the vanquished
thrill, to give herself to him. But a quality overpowering and
instinctive, the response of her incalculable injury, made any
contact with him hateful. It was utterly beyond her power to
explain. A greater mystery still partly unfolded--whatever she had
hoped from Pleydon belonged to the special emotion that had
possessed her since earliest childhood.
In the immediate tragedy of her helplessness, with Dodge Pleydon
impatient for an assurance, she paused involuntarily to wonder about
that hidden imperative sense. There was a broken mental fantasy
of--of a leopard bearing a woman in shining hair. This was succeeded
by a bright thrust of happiness and, all about her, a surging like the
imagined beat of the wings of the Victory in Markue's room. Almost
Pleydon had explained everything, almost he was everything; and then
the other, putting him aside, had swept her back into the misery of
doubt and loneliness.
"I can't marry you," she said in a flat and dragged voice. He
"I don't know." She recognized his utter right to the temper that
mastered him. For a moment Linda thought Pleydon would shake her.
"You feel that way now," he declared; "and perhaps next month; but
you will change; in the end I'll have you."
"No," she told him, with a certainty from a source outside her
consciousness. "It has been spoiled."
He replied, "Time will discover which of us is right. I'm almost
willing to stay away till you send for me. But that would only make
you more stubborn. What a strong little devil you are, Linda. I have
no doubt I'd do better to marry a human being. Then I think we both
forget how young you are--you can't pretend to be definite yet."
He captured her hands; too exhausted for any resentment or feeling
she made no effort to evade him. "I'll never say good-bye to you."
His voice had the absolute quality of her own conviction. To her
amazement her cheeks were suddenly wet with tears. "I want to go
now," she said unsteadily; "and--and thank you."
His old easy formality returned as he made his departure. In reply
to Pleydon's demand she told him listlessly that she would be here
for, perhaps, a week longer. Then he'd see her, he continued, in New
York, at the Feldts'.
In her room all emotion faded. Pleydon had said that she was still
young; but she was sure she could never, in experience or feeling,
be older. She became sorry for herself; or rather for the illusions,
the Linda, of a few hours ago. She examined her features in the
limited uncertain mirror--strong sensations, she knew, were a charge
on the appearance--but she was unable to find any difference in her
regular pallor. Then, mechanically conducting her careful
preparations for the night, her propitiation of the only omnipotence
she knew, she put out the candles of her May.
What welcome Linda met in New York came from Mr. Moses Feldt, who
embraced her warmly enough, but with an air slightly ill at ease. He
begged her to kiss her mama, who was sometimes hurt by Linda's
coldness. She made no reply, and found the same influence and
evidence of the power of suggestion in Judith. "We thought maybe you
wouldn't care to come back here," the latter said pointedly, over
her shoulder, while she was directing the packing of a trunk. The
Feldts were preparing for their summer stay at the sea.
Her mother's room resembled one of the sales of obvious and
expensive attire conducted in the lower salons of pleasure hotels.
There were airy piles of chiffon and satin, inappropriate hats and
the inevitable confections of silk and lace. "It's not necessary to
ask if you were right at home with your father's family," Mrs.
Condon observed with an assumed casual inattention. "I can see you
sitting with those old women as dry and false as any. No one saved
me in the clacking, I'm sure."
"We didn't speak of you," Linda replied. She studied, unsparing, the
loose flesh of the elder's ravaged countenance. Her mother, she
recognized, hated her, both because she was like Bartram Lowrie and
still young, with everything unspent that the other valued and had
lost. In support of herself Mrs. Feldt asserted again that she had
"lived," with stacks of friends and flowers, lavish parties and
"You may be smarter than I was," she went on, "but what good it does
you who can say? And if you expect to get something for nothing
you're fooled before you start." She shook out the airy breadths of
a vivid echo of past daring. "From the way you act a person might
think you were pretty, but you are too thin and pulled out. I've
heard your looks called peculiar, and that was, in a manner of
speaking, polite. You're not even stylish any more--the line is full
again and not suitable for bony shoulders and no bust." She still
cherished a complacency in her amplitude.
Linda turned away unmoved. Of all the world, she thought, only Dodge
Pleydon had the power actually to hurt her. She knew that she would
see him soon again and that again he would ask her to marry him. She
considered, momentarily, the possibility of saying yes; and instantly
the dread born with him in the Lowrie garden swept over her. Linda
told herself that he was the only man for whom she could ever deeply
care; that--for every conceivable reason--such a marriage was perfect.
But the shrinking from its implications grew too painful for support.
Her mother's bitterness increased hourly; she no longer hid her
feelings from her husband and Judith; and dinner, accompanied by her
elaborate sarcasm, was a difficult period in which, plainly, Mr.
Moses Feldt suffered most and Linda was the least concerned. This
condition, she admitted silently, couldn't go on indefinitely; it
was too vulgar if for no other reason. And she determined to ask the
Lowries for another and more extended invitation.
Pleydon came, as she had expected, and they sat in the small
reception-room with the high ceiling and dark velvet hangings,
the piano at which, long ago it now seemed, Judith had played the
airs of Gluck for her. He said little, but remained for a long
while spread over the divan and watching her--in a formal
chair--discontentedly. He rose suddenly and stood above her, a
domineering bulk obliterating nearly everything else. In response
to his demand she said, pale and composed, that she was not
"reasonable"; she omitted the "yet" included in his question.
Pleydon frowned. However, then, he insisted no further.
When he had gone Linda was as spent as though there had been a fresh
brutal scene; and the following day she was enveloped in an
unrelieved depression. Her mother mocked her silence as another
evidence of ridiculous pretentiousness. Mr. Moses Feldt regarded her
with a furtive concerned kindliness; while Judith followed her with
countless small irritating complaints. It was the last day at the
apartment before their departure for the summer. Linda was
insuperably tired. She had gone to her room almost directly after
dinner, and when a maid came to her door with a card, she exclaimed,
before looking at it, that she was not in. It was, however, Arnaud
Hallet; and, with a surprise tempered by a faint interest, she told
the servant that she would see him.
There was, Linda observed at once, absolutely no difference in
Arnaud's clothing, no effort to make himself presentable for New
York or her. In a way, it amused her--it was so characteristic of
his forgetfulness, and it made him seem doubly familiar. He waved a
hand toward the luxury of the interior. "This," he declared, "is
downright impressive, and lifted, I'm sure, out of a novel of
"You will remember," he continued, "complaining about my sense of
humor one evening; and that, at the time, I warned you it might grow
worse. It has. I am afraid, where you are concerned, that it has
absolutely vanished. My dear, you'll recognize this as a proposal. I
thought my mind was made up, after forty, not to marry; and I
specially tried not to bring you into it. You were too young, I
felt. I doubted if I could make you happy, and did everything
possible, exhausted all the arguments, but it was no good.
"Linda, dear, I adore you."
She was glad, without the slightest answering emotion, that Arnaud,
well--liked her. At the same time all her wisdom declared that she
couldn't marry him; and, with the unsparing frankness of youth and
her individual detachment, she told him exactly why.
"I need a great deal of money," she proceeded, "because I am
frightfully extravagant. All I have is expensive; I hate cheap
things--even what satisfies most rich girls. Why, just my satin
slippers cost hundreds of dollars and I'll pay unlimited amounts for
a little fulling of lace or some rare flowers. You'd call it wicked,
but I can't help it--it's me.
"I've always intended to marry a man with a hundred thousand dollars
a year. Of course, that's a lot--do you hate me for telling you?--but
I wouldn't think of any one with less than fifty--"
Arnaud Hallet interrupted quietly, "I have that."
Linda gazed incredulously at his neglected shoes, the wrinkles of
his inconsiderable coat and unstudied scarf. She saw that, actually,
he had spoken apologetically of his possessions; and a stinging
shame spread through her at the possibility that she had seemed
common to an infinitely finer delicacy than hers.
Most of these circumstances Linda Hallet quietly recalled sitting
with her husband in the house that had been occupied by the
Lowries'. A letter from Pleydon had taken her into a past seven
years gone by; while ordinarily her memory was indistinct;
ordinarily she was fully occupied by the difficulties, or rather
compromises, of the present. But, in the tranquil open glow of a
Franklin stove and the withdrawn intentness of Arnaud reading, her
mind had returned to the distressed period of her wedding.
Elouise Lowrie--Amelia was dead--sunk in a stupor of extreme old
age, her bloodless hands folded in an irreproachable black surah
silk lap, sat beyond the stove; and Lowrie, Linda's elder child,
five and a half, together with his sister Vigné, had been long
asleep above. Linda was privately relieved by this: her children
presented enormous obligations. The boy, already at a model school,
appalled her inadequate preparations by his flashes of perceptive
intelligence; while she was frankly abashed at the delicate rosy
perfection of her daughter.
The present letter was the third she had received from Dodge
Pleydon, whom she had not seen since her marriage. At first he had
been enraged at the wrong, he had every reason to feel, she had done
him. Then his anger had dissolved into a meager correspondence of
outward and obvious facts. There was so much that she had been unable
to explain. He had always been impatient, even contemptuous, of the
emotion that made her surrender to him unthinkable--Linda realized
now that it had been the strongest impulse of her life--and, of
course, she had never accounted for the practically unbalanced
enmity of her mother.
The latter had deepened to an incredible degree, so much so that Mr.
Moses Feldt, though he had never taken an actual part in it--such
bitterness was entirely outside his generous sentimentality--had
become acutely uncomfortable in his own home, imploring Linda, with
ready tears, to be kinder to her mama. Judith, too, had grown
cutting, jealous of Linda's serenity of youth, as her appearance
showed the effect of her wasting emotions. Things quite
extraordinary had happened: once Linda's skin had been almost
seriously affected by an irritation that immediately followed the
trace of her powder-puff; and at several times she had had clumsily
composed anonymous notes of a most distressing nature.
She had wondered, calmly enough, which of the two bitter women were
responsible, and decided that it was her mother. At this the
situation at the Feldts', increasingly strained, had become an
impossibility. Arnaud Hallet, after his first visit, had soon
returned. There was no more mention of his money; but every time he
saw her he asked her again, in his special manner--a formality
flavored by a slight diffident humor--to marry him. Arnaud's
proposals had alternated with Pleydon's utterly different demand.
Linda remembered agonized evenings when, in a return of his brutal
manner of the unforgettable night in the Lowrie garden, he tried to
force a recognition of his passion. It had left her cold, exhausted,
the victim of a mingled disappointment at her failure to respond
with a hatred of all essential existence. At last, on a particularly
trying occasion, she had desperately agreed to marry him.
The aversion of her mother, becoming really dangerous, had finally
appalled her; and a headache weighed on her with a leaden pain.
Dodge, too, had been unusually considerate; he talked about the
future--tied up, he asserted, in her--of his work; and suddenly, at
the signal of her rare tears, Linda agreed to a wedding.
In the middle of the night she had wakened oppressed by a dread
resulting in an uncontrollable chill. She thought first that her
mother was bending a malignant face over her; and then realized that
her feeling was caused by her promise to Dodge Pleydon. It had grown
worse instead of vanishing, waves of nameless shrinking swept over
her; and in the morning, further harrowed by the actualities of
being, she had sent a telegram to Arnaud Hallet--to Arnaud's
kindness and affection, his detachment not unlike her own.
They were married immediately; and through the ceremony and the
succeeding days she had been almost entirely absorbed in a sensation
of escape. At the death of Amelia Lowrie, soon after, Arnaud had
suggested a temporary period in the house she remembered with
pleasure; and, making small alterations with the months and years,
they had tacitly agreed to remain.
Linda often wondered, walking about the lower floor, why it seemed
so familiar to her: she would stand in the dining-room, with its
ceiling of darkened beams, and gaze absent-minded through the long
windows at the close-cut walled greenery without. The formal
drawing-room, at the right of the street entrance, equally held her--a
cool interior with slatted wooden blinds, a white mantelpiece with
delicately reeded supports and a bas-relief of Minerva on the
center panel, a polished brass scuttle for cannel-coal and chairs
with wide severely fretted backs upholstered in old pale damask.
The house seemed familiar, but she could never grow accustomed to
the undeniable facts of her husband, the children and her completely
changed atmosphere. She admitted to herself that her principal
feeling in connection with Lowrie and Vigné was embarrassment. Here
she always condemned herself as an indifferent, perhaps unnatural,
mother. She couldn't help it. In the same sense she must be an
unsatisfactory wife. Linda was unable to shake off the conviction
that it was like a play in which she had no more than a spectator's
This was her old disability, the result of her habit of sitting, as
a child, apart from the concerns and stir of living. She made every
possible effort to overcome it, to surrender to her new conditions;
but, if nothing else, an instinctive shyness prevented. It went back
further, even, she thought, than her own experience, and she
recalled all she had heard and reconstructed of her father--a man
shut in on himself who had, one day, without a word walked out of
the door and left his wife, never to return. These realizations,
however, did little to clarify her vision; she was continually
trying to adjust her being to circumstances that persistently
remained a little distant and blurred.
In appearance, anyhow, Linda told herself with a measure of
reassurance, she was practically unchanged. She still, with the
support of Arnaud, disregarding current fashion, wore her hair in a
straight bang across her brow and blue gaze. She was as slender as
formerly, but more gracefully round, in spite of the faint
characteristic stiffness that was the result of her mental
hesitation. Her clothes, too, had hardly varied--she wore, whenever
possible, white lawns ruffled about the throat and hem, with broad
soft black sashes, while her more formal dresses were sheaths of
dull unornamented satin extravagant in the perfection of their
Arnaud Hallet stirred, sharply closing his book. He had changed--except
for a palpable settling down of grayness--as little as Linda. For a
while she had tried to bring about an improvement in his appearance,
and he had met her expressed wish whenever he remembered it; but this
was not often. In the morning a servant polished his shoes, brushed
and ironed his suits; yet by evening, somehow, he managed to look as
though he hadn't been attended to for days. She would have liked him
to change for dinner; other men of his connection did, it was a part
of his inheritance. Arnaud, however, in his slight scoffing
disparagement, declined individually to annoy himself. He was, she
learned, enormously absorbed in his historical studies and papers.
"Did you enjoy it?" she asked politely of his reading. "Extremely,"
he replied. "The American Impressions of Tyrone Power, the English
actor, through eighteen thirty-three and four. His account of a
European packet with its handbells and Saratoga water and breakfast
of spitch-cock is inimitable. I'd like to have sat at Cato's then,
with a julep or hail-storm, and watched the trotting races."
Elouise Lowrie rose unsteadily, confused with dozing; but almost
immediately she gathered herself into a relentless propriety and a
"What has been running through that mysterious mind of yours?"
"I had a letter from Dodge," she told him simply; "and I was
thinking a little about the past." He exhibited the nice unstrained
interest of his admirable personality. "Is he still in France?" he
queried. "Pleydon should be a strong man; I am sure we are both
conscious of a little disappointment in him." She said: "I'll read
you his letter, it's on the table.
"'You will see, my dear Linda, that I have not moved from the Rue de
Penthièvre, although I have given up the place at Etretat, and I am
not going to renew the lease here. Rodin insists, and I coming to
agree with him, that I ought to be in America. But the serious
attitude here toward art, how impossible that word has been made, is
charming. And you will be glad to know that I have had some success
in the French good opinion. A marble, Cotton Mather, that I cut from
the stone, has been bought for the Luxembourg.
"'I can hear you both exclaim at the subject, but it is very
representative of me now. I am tired of mythological naiads in a
constant state of pursuit. Get Hallet to tell you something about
Mather. What a somber flame! I have a part Puritan ancestry, as any
Lowrie will inform you. Well, I shall be back in a few months, very
serious, and a politician--a sculptor has to be that if he means to
land any public monuments in America.
"'I hope to see you.'"
The letter ended abruptly, with the signature, "Pleydon."
"Are you happy, Linda?" Arnaud Hallet asked unexpectedly after a
short silence. So abruptly interrogated she was unable to respond.
"What I mean is," he explained, "do you think you would have been
happier married to him? I knew, certainly, that it was the closest
possible thing between us." Now, however, she was able to satisfy
"I couldn't marry Dodge."
"Is it possible to tell me why?"
"He hurt me very much once. I tried to marry him, I tried to forget
it, but it was useless. I was dreadfully unhappy, in a great many
"So you sent for me," he put in as she paused reflectively. "I
didn't hurt you, at any rate." It seemed to her that his tone was
shadowed. "You have never hurt me, Arnaud," she assured him,
conscious of the inadequacy of her words. "You were everything I
"Except for my hats," he said in a brief flash of his saving humor.
"It would be better for me, perhaps, if I could hurt you. That
ability comes dangerously close to a constant of love. You mustn't
think I am complaining. I haven't the slightest reason in the face
of your devastating honesty. I didn't distress you and I had the
necessary minimum--the fifty thousand." His manner was so even, so
devoid of sting, that she could smile at the expression of her
material ambitions. "I realize exactly your feeling for myself, but
what puzzles me is your attitude toward the children."
"I don't understand it either," she admitted, "except that I am
quite afraid of them. They are so different from all my own
childhood; often they are too much for me. Then I dread the time
when they will discover how stupid and uneducated I am at bottom.
I'm sure you already ask questions before them to amuse yourself at
my doubt. What shall I do, Arnaud, when they are really at school
and bring home their books?"
"Retreat behind your dignity as a parent," he advised. "They are
certain to display their knowledge and ask you to bound things or
name the capital of Louisiana." She cried, "Oh, but I know that,
it's New Orleans!" She saw at once, from his entertained expression,
that she was wrong again, and became conscious of a faint flush of
annoyance. "It will be even worse," she continued, "when Vigné looks
to me for advice; I mean when she is older and has lovers."
"She won't seriously; they never do. She'll tell you when it's all
over. Lowrie will depend more on you. I may have my fun about the
capital of Louisiana, Linda, but I have the greatest confidence in
your wisdom. God knows what an unhappy experience your childhood
was, but it has given you a superb worldly balance."
"I suppose you're saying that I am cold," she told him. "It must be
true, because it is repeated by every one. Yet, at times, I used to be
very different--you'd never imagine what a romantic thrill or strange
ideas were inside of me. Like a memory of a deep woods, and--and the
loveliest adventure. Often I would hear music as clearly as possible,
and it made me want I don't know what terrifically."
"An early experience," he replied. Suddenly she saw that he was
tired, his face was lined and dejected. "You read too much," Linda
declared. He said: "But only out of the printed book." She wondered
vainly what he meant. As he stood before the glimmering coals, in
the room saturated in repose, she wished that she might give him
more; she wanted to spend herself in a riot of feeling on Arnaud and
their children. What a detestable character she had! Her desire, her
efforts, were wasted.
He went about putting up the windows and closing the outside
shutters, a confirmed habit. Linda rose with her invariable sense of
separation, the feeling that, bound on a journey with a hidden
destination, she was only temporarily in a place of little
importance. It was like being always in her hat and jacket. Arnaud
shook down the grate; then he gazed over the room; it was all, she
was sure, as it had been a century ago, as it should be--all except
Yet her marriage had realized in almost every particular what she
had--so much younger--planned. The early suggestion, becoming
through constant reiteration a part of her knowledge, had been
followed and accomplished; and, as well, her later needs were
served. Linda told herself that, in a world where a very great deal
was muddled, she had been unusually fortunate. And this made her
angry at her pervading lack of interest in whatever she had
Other women, she observed, obviously less fortunate than she, were
volubly and warmly absorbed in any number of engagements and
pleasures; she continually heard them, Arnaud's connections--the
whole superior society, eternally and vigorously discussing servants
and bridge, family and cotillions, indiscretions and charities.
These seemed enough for them; their lives were filled, satisfied,
extraordinarily busy. Linda, for the most part, had but little to
do. Her servants, managed with remote exactness, gave no trouble;
she had an excellent woman for the children; her dress presented no
new points of anxiety nor departure ... she was, in short, Arnaud
admitted, perfectly efficient. She disposed of such details
mechanically, almost impatiently, and was contemptuous, no envious,
of the women whose demands they contented.
At the dinners, the balls, to which Arnaud's sense of obligation
both to family and her took them against his inclination, it was the
same--everyone, it appeared to Linda, was flushed with an intentness
she could not share. Men, she found, some of them extremely
pleasant, still made adroit and reassuring efforts for her favor;
the air here, she discovered, was even freer than the bravado of her
earlier surroundings. This love-making didn't disturb her--it was,
ultimately, the men who were fretted--indeed, she had rather hoped
that it would bring her the relief she lacked.
But again the observations and speculation of her mature childhood,
what she had heard revealed in the most skillful feminine
dissections, had cleared her understanding to a point that made the
advances of hopeful men quite entertainingly obvious. Their method
was appallingly similar and monotonous. She liked, rather than not,
the younger ones, whose confidence that their passion was something
new on earth at times refreshed her; but the navigated materialism
of greater experience finally became distasteful. She discussed this
sharply with Arnaud:
"You simply can't help believing that most women are complete
"You haven't said much more for men."
"The whole thing is too silly! Why is it, Arnaud? It ought to be
impressive and sweep you off your feet, up--"
"Instead of merely behind some rented palms," he added. "But I must
say, Linda, that you are not a very highly qualified judge of
sentiment." He pronounced this equably, but she was conscious of the
presence of an injury in his voice. She was a little weary at being
eternally condemned for what she couldn't help. Any failure was as
much Arnaud Hallet's as hers; he had had his opportunity, all that
for which he had implored her. Her thoughts returned to Dodge
Pleydon. April was well advanced, and he had written that he'd be
back and see them in the spring. Linda listened to her heart but it
was unhastened by a beat. She would be very glad to have him at
hand, in her life again, of course.
Then the direction of her mind veered--what did he still think of
her? Probably he had altogether recovered from his love for her. It
had been a warm day, and Arnaud had opened a window; but now she was
aware of a cold air on her shoulder and she asked him abruptly to
lower the sash. Linda remembered, with a lingering sense of triumph,
the Susanna Noda whom Dodge had left at a party for her. There had
been a great many Susannas in his life; the reason for this was the
absence of any overwhelming single influence. It might be that now--he
had written of the change in the subjects of his work--such a guide
had come into his existence. She hoped she had. Yet, in view of the
announced silliness of women, she didn't want him to be cheaply
He was an extremely human man.
But she, Linda, it seemed, was an inhuman woman. The days ran into
weeks that added another month to spring; a June advanced sultry
with heat; and, suddenly as usual, a maid at the door of her room
announced Pleydon. It was five o'clock in the afternoon, she had to
dress, and she sent him a message that he mustn't expect her in a
hurry. She paused in her deliberate preparations for a long
thoughtful gaze into a mirror; there was not yet a shadow on her
face, the trace of a line at her eyes. The sharp smooth turning and
absolute whiteness of her bare shoulders were flawless.
At first it appeared to Linda that he, too, had not changed. They
were in the library opening into the dining-room, a space shut
against the sun by the Venetian blinds, and faintly scented by a
bowl of early tea roses. He appeared the same--large and informally
clad in gray flannels, with aggressive features and sensitive strong
hands. He was quiet but plainly happy to be with her again and sat
leaning forward on his knees, watching her intently as she chose a
Then it slowly dawned on her that he had changed, yes--tragically.
Pleydon, in every way, was years older. His voice, less arbitrary,
had new depths of questioning, his mouth was more repressed, his
face notably sparer of flesh. He was immediately aware of the result
of her scrutiny. "I have been working like a fool," he explained. "A
breath of sickness, too, four years ago in Soochow. One of the
damnable Asiatic fevers that a European is supposed to be immune
from. You are a miracle, Linda. How long has it been--nearly eight
years; you have two children and Arnaud Hallet and yet you are the
girl I met at Markue's. I wanted to see you different, just a
little, a trace of something that should have happened to you. It
hasn't. You're the most remarkable mother alive."
"If I am," she returned, "it is not as a success, or at least for
me. Lowrie and Vigné are healthy, and happy enough; but I can't lose
myself in them, Dodge; I can't lose myself at all."
He was quiet at this, the smoke of his cigarette climbing bluely in
a space with the aqueous stillness of a lake's depths. "The same,"
he went on after a long pause; "nothing has touched you. I ought to
be relieved but, do you know, it frightens me. You are relentless.
You have no right, at the same time, to be beautiful. I have seen a
great many celebrated women at their best moments, but you are
lovelier than any. It isn't a simple affair of proportion and
features--I wish I could hold it in a phrase, the turn of a chisel.
I can't. It's deathless romance in a bang cut blackly across
heavenly blue." He was silent again, and Linda glad that he still
found her attractive. She discovered that the misery his presence
once caused her had entirely vanished, its place taken by an eager
interest in his affairs, a lightness of spirit at the realization
that, while his love for her might have grown calm, no other woman
At the dinner-table she listened--cool and fresh, Arnaud complained,
in spite of the heat--to the talk of the two men. By her side
Elouise Lowrie occasionally repeated, in a voice like the faint
jangle of an old thin piano, the facts of a family connection or a
commendation of the Dodges. Arnaud really knew a surprising lot, and
his conversation with Pleydon was strung with terms completely
unintelligible to her. It developed, finally, into an argument over
the treatment of the acanthus motive in rococo ornament. France was
summoned against Spain; the architectural degrading of Italy
deplored.... It amazed her that any one could remember so much.
Linda without a conscious reason suddenly stopped the investigation
of her feeling for Pleydon. Even in the privacy of her thoughts an
added obscurity kept her from the customary clear reasoning. After
dinner, out in the close gloom of the garden, she watched the
flicker of the cigarettes. There was thunder, so distant and vague
that for a long while Linda thought she was deceived. She had a keen
rushing sensation of the strangeness of her situation here--Linda
Hallet. The night was like a dream from which she would stir, sigh,
to find herself back again in the past waiting for the return of her
mother from one of her late parties.
But it was Arnaud who moved and, accompanying Elouise Lowrie, went
into the house for his interminable reading. Pleydon's voice began
in a low remembering tone:
"What a fantastic place the Feldt apartment was, with that smothered
room where you said you would marry me. You must have got hold of
Hallet in the devil of a hurry. I've often tried to understand what
happened; why, all the time, you were upset--why, why, why?"
"In a way it was because a ridiculous hairdresser burned out some of
my mother's front wave," she explained.
"Of course," he replied derisively, "nothing could be plainer."
She agreed calmly. "It was very plain. If you want me to try to tell
you don't interrupt. It isn't a happy memory, and I am only doing it
because I was so rotten to you.
"Yes, I can see now that it was the hairdresser and a hundred other
things exactly the same. My mother, all the women we knew, did
nothing but lace and paint and frizzle for men. I used to think it
was a game they played and wonder where the fun was. There were even
hints about that and later they particularized and it made me as
sick as possible. The men, too, were odious; mostly fat and bald;
and after a while, when they pinched or kissed me, I wanted to die.
"That was all I knew about love, I had never heard of any other--men
away from their families for what they called a good time and women
plotting and planning to give it to them or not give it to them.
Then mother, after her looks were spoiled, married Mr. Moses Feldt,
and I met Judith, who only existed for men and men's rooms and told
me worse things, I'm sure, than mother ever dreamed; and, on top of
that, I met you and you kissed me.
"But it was different from any other; it didn't shock me, and it
brought back a thrill I have always had. I wanted, then, to love
you, and have you ask me to marry you, more than anything else in
the world. I was sure, if you would only be patient, that I could
change what had hurt me into a beautiful feeling. I couldn't tell
you because I didn't understand myself." She stopped, and Pleydon
repeated, bitterly and slow:
"Fat old bald men; and I was one with them destroying your exquisite
hope." She heard the creak of the basket chair as he leaned forward,
his face masked in darkness. "Perhaps you think I haven't paid.
"You will never know what love is unless I can manage somehow to
make you understand how much I love you. Hallet will have to endure
your hearing it. This doesn't belong to him; it has not touched the
earth. Every one, more or less, talks about love; but not one in a
thousand, not one in a million, has such an experience. If they did
it would tear the world into shreds. It would tear them as it has
me. I realize the other, the common thing--who experimented more!
This has nothing to do with it. A boy lost in the idealism of his
first worship has a faint reflection. Listen:
"I can always, with a wish, see you standing before me. You
yourself--the folds of your sash, the sharp narrow print of your
slippers on the pavement or the matting or the rug, the ruffles
about your hands. I have the feeling of you near me with your
breathing disturbing the delicacy of your breast. There is the odor
and shimmer of your hair ... your lips move ... but without a sound.
"This vision is more real than reality, than an opera-house full of
people or the Place Vendôme; and it, you, is all I care for, all I
think about, all I want. I find quiet places and stay there for
hours, with you; or, if that isn't possible, I turn into a blind
man, a dead man warm again at the bare thought of your face. Listen:
"I've been in shining heaven with you. I have been melted to nothing
and made over again, in you, good. We have been walking together in
a new world with rapture instead of air to breathe. A slow walk
through dark trees--God knows why--like pines. And every time I
think of you it is exactly as though I could never die, as though
you had burned all the corruption out of me and I was made of silver
fire. And listen:
"Nothing else is of any importance, now or afterward, you are now
and the hereafter. I see people and people and hear words and words,
and I forget them the moment they have gone, the second they are
still. But I haven't lost an inflection of your voice. When I work
in clay or stone I model and cut you into every surface and fold. I
see you looking back at me out of marble and bronze. And here, in