Part 3 out of 4
this garden, you tried to give me more--"
The infinitely removed thunder was like the continued echo of his
voice. There was a stirring of the leaves above her head; and the
light that had shone against the house in Elouise Lowrie's window
was suddenly extinguished. All that she felt was weariness and a
confused dejection, the weight of an insuperable disappointment. She
could say nothing. Words, even Pleydon's, seemed to her vain. The
solid fact of Arnaud, of what Dodge, more than seven years before,
had robbed her, put everything else aside, crushed it.
She realized that she would never get from life what supremely
repaid the suffering of other women, made up for them the failure of
practically every vision. She was sorry for herself, yes, and for
Dodge Pleydon. Yet he had his figures in metal and stone; his sense
of the importance of his work had increased enormously; and, well,
there were Lowrie and Vigné; it would be difficult, every one
agreed, to find better or handsomer children. But they seemed no
more than shadows or colored mist. This terrified her--what a
hopelessly deficient woman she must be! But even in the profundity
of her depression the old vibration of nameless joy reached her
In the morning there was a telegram from Judith Feldt, saying that
her mother was dangerously sick, and she had lunch on the train for
New York. The apartment seemed stuffy; there was a trace of
dinginess, neglect, about the black velvet rugs and hangings. Her
mother, she found, had pneumonia; there was practically no chance of
her recovering. Linda sat for a short while by the elder's bed,
intent upon a totally strange woman, darkly flushed and ravished in
an agonizing difficulty of breathing. Linda had a remembered vision
of her gold-haired and gay in floating chiffons, and suddenly life
seemed shockingly brief. A serious-visaged clergyman entered the
room as she left and she heard the rich soothing murmur of a
The Stella Condon who had become Mrs. Moses Feldt had had little
time for the support of the church; although Linda recalled that she
had uniformly spoken well of its offices. To condemn Christianity,
she had asserted, was to invite bad luck. She treated this in
exactly the way she regarded walking under ladders or spilling salt
or putting on a stocking wrong. Linda, however, had disregarded
these possibilities of disaster and, with them, religion.
A great many people, she noticed, talked at length about it; women
in their best wraps and with expensive little prayer books left the
hotels for various Sunday morning services, and ministers came in
later for tea. All this, she understood, was in preparation for
heaven, where everybody, who was not in hell, was to be forever the
same and yet radiantly different. It seemed very vague and far away
to Linda, and, since there was such a number of immediate problems
for her to consider, she had easily ignored the future. When now,
with her mother dying, it was thrust most uncomfortably before her.
She half remembered sentences, admonitions, of the godly--a woman
had once told her that dancing and low gowns were hateful in the
sight of God, some one else that playing-cards were an instrument of
the devil. Pleasure, she had gathered, was considered wrong, and she
instinctively put these opinions, together with a great deal else,
aside as envious.
That expressed her whole experience. She had never keenly associated
the thought of death with herself before, and she was unutterably
revolted by the impending destruction of her fine body, the delicate
care of which formed her main preoccupation in life. Age was
supremely distasteful, but this other ... she shuddered.
Linda wanted desperately to preserve the whiteness of her skin, the
flexible black distinction of her hair, yes--her beauty. Here,
again, with other women the vicarious immortality of children would
be sufficient. But not for her. She was in the room that had been
hers before marriage, with her infinite preparations for the night
at an end; and, her hair loose across the blanched severity of her
attire, her delicately full arms bare, she clasped her cold hands in
She would do anything, anything, to escape that repulsive fatality
to her lavished care. It was only to be accomplished by being good;
and goodness was in the charge of the minister. She saw clearly and
at once her difficulty--how could she go to a solemn man in a
clerical vest and admit that she was solely concerned by the
impending loss of her beauty. The promised splendor of heaven, in
itself, failed to move her--it threatened to be monotonous; and she
was honest in her recognition that charity, the ugliness of poverty,
repelled her. Linda was certain that she could never change in these
particulars; she could only pretend.
A surprising multiplication of such pretense occurred to her in
people regarded as impressively religious. She had seen men like
that--she vaguely thought of the name Jasper--going off with her
mother in cabs to dinners that must have been "godless." She
wondered if this mere attitude, the public show, were enough. And an
instinctive response told her that it was not. If all she had been
informed about the future were true she decided that her mother's
chance was no worse than that of any false display of virtue.
She, Linda, could do nothing.
The funeral ceremony with its set form--so inappropriate to her
mother's qualities--was even more remote from Linda's sympathies
than was common in her encounters. But Mr. Moses Feldt's grief
appeared to her actual and affecting. He invested every one with the
purity of his own spirit.
She left New York at the first possible moment with the feeling that
she was definitely older. The realization, she discovered, happened
in that way--ordinarily giving the flight of time no consideration
it was brought back to her at intervals of varying length. As she
aged they would grow shorter.
The result of this experience was an added sense of failure; she
tried more than ever to overcome her indifference, get a greater
happiness from her surroundings and activity. Linda cultivated an
attention to Lowrie and Vigné. They responded charmingly but her
shyness with them persisted in the face of her inalienable right to
their full possession. She insisted, too, on going about vigorously
in spite of Arnaud's humorous groans and protests. She forced
herself to talk more to the men attracted to her, and assumed, with
disconcerting ease, an air of sympathetic interest. But, unfortunately,
this brought on her a rapid increase of the love-making that she
found so fatiguing.
She studied her husband thoughtfully through the evenings at home,
before the Franklin stove, or, in summer, in the secluded garden.
Absolutely nothing was wrong with him; he had, after several deaths,
inherited even more money; and, in his deprecating manner where it
was concerned, devoted it to her wishes. Except for books, and the
clothes she was forced to remind him to get, he had no personal
expenses. In addition to the money he never offended her, his
relationships and manner were conducted with an inborn nice
formality that preserved her highest self-opinion.
Yet she was never able to escape from the limitations of a calm
admiration; she couldn't lose herself, disregard herself in a flood
of generous emotion. When, desperately, she tried, he, too, was
perceptibly ill at ease. Usually he was undisturbed, but once, when
she stood beside him with her coffee cup at dinner, he disastrously
lost his equanimity. Tensely putting the cup away he caught her with
"Oh, Linda," he cried, "is it true that you love me! Do you really
belong to us--to Vigné and Lowrie and me? I can't stand it if you
won't ... some day."
She backed away into the opening of a window, against the night, from
the justice of his desire; and she was cold with self-detestation as
her fingers touched the glass. Linda tried to speak, to lie; but,
miserably still, she was unable to deceive him. The animation, the
fervor of his longing, swiftly perished. His arms dropped to his
side. An unbearable constraint deepened with the silence in the room,
and later he lightly said:
"You mustn't trifle with my ancient heart, Linda, folly and age--"
The only other quantity in her life was Dodge Pleydon. He wrote her
again, perhaps three months after the explanation of his love; but
his letter was devoted wholly to his work, and so technical that she
had to ask Arnaud to interpret it. He added:
"That is the mind of an impressive man. He has developed enormously--
curious, so late in life. Pleydon must be fully as old as myself.
It's clear that he has dropped his women. I saw a photograph of the
Cotton Mather reproduced in a weekly, and it was as gaunt as a
Puritan Sunday. Brimmed with power. Why don't we see him oftener?
Write and say I'd like to contradict him again about the Eastlake
He made no further reference to Pleydon then, and Linda failed to
write as Arnaud suggested. Though she wasn't disturbed at the
possibility of a continuation of his admissions of love she was
weary of the thought of its uselessness. Linda was, she told
herself, damned by practicability. Her husband used the familiar
term of reproach, material. She didn't in the least want to be.
Circumstance, she had a feeling, had forced it upon her.
Arnaud, however, who had met Dodge Pleydon in Philadelphia, brought
him home. Linda saw with a strange constriction of the heart that
Pleydon's hair was definitely gray. He had had a recurrence of the
fever contracted in Soochow. The men at once entered on another
discussion which she was unable to follow; but it was clear that her
husband now listened with an increasing surrender of opinion to the
sculptor. Pleydon, it was true, was correspondingly more impatient
with minds that disagreed with his. He was at once thinner and
bigger, his face deeply lined; but his eyes had a steady vital
intensity difficult to encounter.
She considered him in detail as the talk left dinner, the glasses
and candles spent. He drank, from a tall tumbler with a single piece
of ice, the special whisky Arnaud kept. He had been neglecting
himself, too--there were traces of clay about his finger-nails, and
he ate hurriedly and insufficiently. When she had an opportunity,
Linda decided, she would speak to him about these necessary trifles.
Then, she had no chance; and it was not until the following winter,
at a Thursday afternoon concert during the yearly exhibition of the
Academy of Fine Arts, that she could gently complain.
It was gloomy, with a promise of snow outside; and the great space
of the stairway to the galleries was filled with shadow and the
strains of _Armide_ echoing from the orchestra playing at the
railing above the entrance. Pleydon, together with a great many
others, had spread an overcoat on the masonry of the steps, and they
were seated in the obscurity of the balustrade.
"You look as though you hadn't had enough to eat," she observed.
"You used to be almost thick but now you are a thing of terrifying
grimness. You look like a monk. I wonder why you're like a monk,
"Linda Condon," he replied.
"That can't be it now; I haven't been Linda Condon for years, but
Mrs. Arnaud Hallet. It's very pretty, of course, and I'd like to
think you could keep a young love alive so long. Experience makes me
doubt anything of the sort; but then I was always skeptical."
"You have never been anyone else," he asserted positively. "You were
born Linda Condon and you'll die that, except for some extraordinary
accident. I can't imagine what it would be--a miracle like quaker-ladies
in the Antarctic."
"It sounds uncomplimentary, and I'm sick of being compared with
polar places. What are quaker-ladies?"
"Fragile little flowers in the spring meadows."
"I'd rather listen to the music than you."
"That is why loving you is so eternal, why it doesn't fluctuate like
a human emotion. You can't exhaust it and rest before a new tide
sweeps back; the timeless ecstasy of a worship of God ... breeding
She failed to understand and turned a troubled gaze to his bitter
repression. "I don't like to make you unhappy, Dodge," she said in a
low tone. "What can I do? I am a horrid disappointment to all of
you, but most to myself. I can't go over it again."
"Beauty has nothing to do with happiness," he declared harshly. He
rose, without consulting her wishes; and Linda followed him as he
proceeded above, irresistibly drawn to the bronze he was showing in
It was the head and part of the shoulders of a very old woman,
infinitely worn, starved by want and spent in brutal labor. There
was a thin wisp of hair pinned in a meager knot on her skull; her
bones were mercilessly indicated, barely covered with drum-like
skin; her mouth was stamped with timid humility; while her eyes
peered weakly from their sunken depths.
"Well?" he demanded, interrogating her in the interest of his work.
"I--I suppose it's perfectly done," she replied, at a loss for a
satisfactory appreciation. "It's true, certainly. But isn't it more
unpleasant than necessary?" Pleydon smiled patiently. "Beauty," he
said, with his mobile gesture. "Pity, _Katharsis_--the wringing
out of all dross."
The helpless feeling of her overwhelming ignorance returned. She was
like a woman held beyond the closed door of treasure. "Come over
here." He unceremoniously led her to the modeling of a ruffled
grouse, faithful in every diversified feather. Linda thought it
admirable, really amazing; but he dismissed it with a passionate
energy. "The dull figuriste!" he exclaimed. "Daguerre. Once I could
have done that, yes, and been entertained by its adroitness and
insolence--before you made me. Do you suppose I was able then to
understand the sheer tragic fortitude to live of a scrubwoman! The
head you thought unpleasant--haven't you seen her going home in the
March slush of a city? Did you notice the gaps in her shoes, the
ragged shawl about a body twisted with forty, fifty, sixty years of
wet stone floors and steps? Did you wonder what she had for supper?"
"No, Dodge, I didn't. They always make me wretched."
"Well, to realize all that, to feel the degradation of her nature,
to lie, sick with exhaustion, on the broken slats of her bed under a
ravelled-out travesty of a quilt, and get up morning after morning
in an iron winter dark--to experience that in your spirit and put it
into durable metal, hard stone--is to hold beauty in your hands."
Her interest in his speech was mingled with the knowledge that, in
order to dress comfortably for dinner, she must leave immediately.
Pleydon helped her into the Hallet open motor landaulet. Linda
demanded quantities of air. He was, he told her at the door, leaving
in an hour for New York. "I wish you could be happier," she
insisted. He reminded her that he had had the afternoon with her. It
was so little, she thought, carried rapidly over a smooth wide
street. His love for her increased rather than lessened. How
wonderful it was.... The woman outside that barred door of treasure.
Linda thought frequently about Dodge and his feeling for her;
memories of his words, his appearance, speculations, spread through
her tranquil daily affairs like the rich subdued pattern of a fine
carpet on the bare floor of her life. She was puzzled by the depth
of a passion that, apparently, made no demands other than the
occasional necessity to be with her and the knowledge that she
existed. If she had been a very intelligent woman, and, of course,
not quite bad-looking, she might have understood both Pleydon and
Arnaud, the latter a man whose mind was practically absorbed in the
pages of books. There could be no doubt, no question, of their love
Then there had always been the others--the men at the parties, in
her garden, through the old days of her childhood in hotels. It was
very stupid, very annoying, but at the same time she became
interested in what, with her candid indifference, affected them. She
had never, really, even when she desired, succeeded in giving them
anything, anything conscious or for which they moved. Judith Feldt,
on the contrary, had been prodigal. And, while certainly numbers of
men had been attracted to her, they all tired of her with marked
rapidity. Men met Judith, Linda recalled, with eagerness, they came
immediately and often to see her ... for, perhaps, a month. Then,
temporarily deserted, she was submerged in depression and nervous
But, while it was obviously impossible for all lovers to be constant,
two extraordinary and superior men would be faithful to her as long
as she lived, no--as long as they lived. This was beyond doubt. One
was celebrated--she watched with a quiet pride Pleydon's fame
penetrate the country--and the other, her husband, a person of
the most exacting delicacy of habits, intellect and wit.
What was it, she wondered, that made the supreme importance of women
to men worth consideration. Linda was thinking of this now in
connection with her daughter. Vigné was fourteen; a larger girl than
she had ever been, with her father's fine abundant cinnamon-brown
hair, a shapely sensitive mouth, and a wide brown gaze with a habit
of straying, at inappropriate moments, from things seen to the
invisible. She was, Linda realized thankfully, transparently honest;
her only affectation was the slight supercilious manner of her
associations; and she read, ridiculously like her father, with
However, what engaged Linda most was the fact that Vigné already
liked men; she had been at the fringe, as it were, of young dances,
with a sparkling satisfaction to herself and the securely nice
youths who "cut in" at her brief appearances.
The truth was that Linda saw that more than a trace of Stella
Condon's warm generosity of emotion had been brought by herself to
Arnaud's daughter. The faults of every life, every circumstance,
were endlessly multiplied through all existence. At fourteen, it was
Linda's frowning impression, her mother had very fully instructed
her in the wiles and structure of admirable marriage, and she had
never completely lost some hard pearls of the elder's wisdom. Should
she, in turn, communicate them to Vigné?
The moment, the anxiety, she dreaded was arriving, and it found her
no freer of doubt than had the other aspects of her own responses.
Yet here she was possessed by the keenest need for absolute
rectitude; and perhaps this, she thought, with an unusual pleasure,
was an evidence of the affection she had seemed to lack. But in the
end she said nothing.
She was still unable to disentangle the flesh from the spirit, love--the
love that so amazingly illuminated Dodge Pleydon--from comfort. Dodge
had disturbed all her sense of values, even to the point of unsettling
her allegiance to the supremacy of a great deal of money. He had worked
this without giving her anything definite, that she could explain to
Vigné, in return. Linda preserved her demand for the actual. If she
could only comprehend the force animating Dodge she felt life would be
She was tempted to experiment--when had such a possibility occurred
to her before?--and discover just how far in several directions
Pleydon's devotion went. This would be easy now, she was
unrestrained by the fact of Arnaud, and the old shrinking from the
sculptor happily vanished. Yet with him before her, on one of his
infrequent visits to their house, she realized that her courage was
insufficient. Was it that or something deeper--a reluctance to turn
herself like a knife in the source of the profoundest compliment a
woman could be paid. Linda thought too highly of his love for that;
the texture of the carpet had become too gratifying.
They were all three in the library, as customary; and Linda,
restless, saw her reflection in a closed long window. She was
wearing yellow, the color of the jonquils on a candle-stand; but
with her familiar sash tied and the ends falling to the hem of her
skirt. The pointed oval of her face was unchanged, her pallor, the
straight line of her black bang, the blueness of her eyes, were as
they had been a surprisingly long while ago. Arnaud, with a
disconcerting comprehension, demanded, "Well, are you satisfied?"
She replied coolly, "Entirely." Pleydon, seated for over an hour
without moving, or even the trivial relief of a cigarette, followed
her with his luminous uncomfortable gaze, his disembodied passion.
Linda heard Vigné's laugh, the expression of a sheer lightness of
heart, following a low eager murmur of voices in her daughter's
room, and she was startled by its resemblance to the gay pitch of
Mrs. Moses Feldt's old merriment. Three of Vigné's friends were with
her, all approximately eighteen, talking, Linda knew, men and--it
was autumn--anticipating the excitements of their bow to formal
society that winter. They had, she silently added, little enough to
learn about the latter. Through the year past they had been to a
dancing-class identical, except for an earlier hour and age, with
mature affairs; but before that they had been practically introduced
to the pleasures of their inheritance.
The men were really boys at the university, past the first year,
receptacles of unlimited worldly knowledge and experience. They
belonged to exclusive university societies and eating clubs, and
Linda found their stiff similarity of correct bigoted pattern highly
entertaining. She had no illusions about what might be called their
morals; they were midway in the period of youthful unrestraint; but
she recognized as well that their attitude toward, for example,
Vigné was irreproachable. Such boys affected to disdain the girls of
their associated families ... or imagined themselves incurably in
The girls, for their part, while insisting that forty was the ideal
age for a lover--the terms changed with the seasons, last year
"suitor" had been the common phrase--were occasionally swept in
young company into a high irrational passion. Mostly, through
skillful adult pressure or firm negation, such affairs came to
nothing; but even these were sometimes overcome. And, when Linda had
been disturbed by the echo of old days in her daughter's tones, she
was considering exactly such a state.
One of the nicest youths imaginable, Bailey Sandby, had lost all
trace of superior aloofness in a devotion to Vigné. He was short,
squarely built, with clear pink cheeks, steady light blue eyes and
crisp very fair hair. This was his last season of academic
instruction, after which a number of years, at an absurdly low
payment, awaited him in his father's bond brokerage concern.
However, he was, Linda gathered, imperious in his urgent need for
Ridiculous, she thought, at the same time illogically rehearsing
the resemblances of Vigné to her grandmother. She had no doubt that
the parties Vigné shared on the terraces and wide lawns, in the
informal dancing at country houses, were sufficiently sophisticated;
there was on occasion champagne, and--for the masculine element
anyhow--cocktails. The aroma of wine, lightly clinging to her young
daughter's breath, filled her with an old instinctive sickness.
She had spoken to Arnaud who, in turn, severely addressed Vigné; but
during this Linda had been oppressed by the familiar feeling of
impotence. The girl, of course, had properly heard them; but she
gave her mother the effect of slipping easily beyond their grasp.
When she had gone to bed Arnaud repeated a story brought to him by
the juvenile Lowrie, under the influence of a temporary indignation
at his sister's unwarranted imposition of superiority. Arnaud went
"Actually they had this kissing contest, it was at Chestnut Hill,
with a watch held; and Vigné, or so Lowrie insisted, won the prize
for length of time--something like a minute. Now, when I was young--"
Submerged in apprehensive memory Linda lost most of his account of
the Eden-like youth of his earlier day. When, at last, his
assertions pierced her abstraction, it was only to bring her to the
realization of how pathetically little he knew of either Vigné or
her. She weighed the question of utter frankness here--the quality
enhanced by universal obscurity--but she was obliged to check her
desire for perfect understanding. A purely feminine need to hide,
even from Arnaud, any detracting facts about women shut her into a
diplomatic silence. In reality he could offer them no help; their
problems--in a world created more objectively by the hand of man
than God--were singular to themselves. Women were quite like spoiled
captives to foreign princes, masking, in their apparent complacency,
a necessarily secret but insidiously tyrannical control. It wouldn't
do, in view of this, to expose too much.
The following morning it was Arnaud, rather than herself, who had a
letter from Pleydon. "He wants us to come over to New York and his
studio," the former explained. "He has some commission or other from
a city in the Middle West, and a study to show us. I'd like it very
much; we haven't seen this place, and his surroundings are not to be
Pleydon's rooms were directly off Central Park West, in an apartment
house obviously designed for prosperous creative arts, with a hall
frescoed in the tones of Puvis de Chavannes and an elevator cage
beautifully patterned in iron grilling. Dodge Pleydon met them in
his narrow entry and conducted them into a pleasant reception-room.
"It's a duplex," he explained of his quarters; "the dining-room you
see and the kitchen's beyond, while the baths and all that are over
our heads; the studio fills both floors."
There were low book cases with their continuous top used as a shelf
for a hundred various objects, deep long chairs of caressing ease
and chairs of coffee-colored wicker with amazingly high backs woven
with designs of polished shells into the semblance of spread
peacocks' tails. The yellow silk curtains at the windows, the rug
with the intricate coloring of a cashmere shawl, the Russian tea
service, were in a perfection of order; and Linda almost resentfully
acknowledged the skilful efficiency of his maid. It was surprising
that, without a wife, a man could manage such a degree of comfort!
Over tea far better than hers, in china of an infinitely finer
fragility, she studied Pleydon thoughtfully. He looked still again
perceptibly older, his face continued to grow sparer of flesh,
emphasizing the aggressively bony structure of his head. When he
shut his mouth after a decided statement she could see the
projection of the jaw and the knotted sinews at the base of his
cheeks. No, Dodge didn't seem well. She asked if there had been any
return of the fever and he nodded in an impatient affirmative,
returning at once to the temporarily suspended conversation with
Arnaud. There was a vast difference, too, in the way in which he
His attitude was as assertive as ever, but it had less expression in
words; unaccountable periods of silence, almost ill-natured,
overtook him, spaces of abstraction when it was plain that he had
forgotten the presence of whoever might be by. Even direct questions
sometimes failed to pierce immediately his consciousness. Dodge,
Linda told herself, lived entirely too much alone. Then she said
this aloud, thoughtlessly, and she was startled by the sudden
intolerable flash of his gaze. An awkward pause followed, broken by
the uprearing of Pleydon's considerable length.
"I must take you into the studio before it is too dark," he
proceeded. "Every creative spirit knows when its great moment has
come. Well, mine is here." The men stood aside as Linda, her head
positively ringing with the thrill that was like a strain of Gluck,
the happy sadness, entered the bare high spaciousness of Dodge
Everything she saw, the stripped floor, the white walls bare but for
some casts like the dismembered fragments of flawless blanched
bodies, the inclined plane of the wide skylight, bore an impalpable
white dust of dried clay. In a corner, enclosed in low boards, a
stooped individual with wood-soled shoes and a shovel was working a
mass of clay over which at intervals he sprinkled water, and at
intervals halted to make pliable lumps of a uniform size which he
added to a pile wrapped in damp cloths. There were a number of
modeling stands with twisted wires grotesquely resembling a child's
line drawing of a human being; while a stand with some modeling
tools on its edge bore an upright figure shapeless in its swathing
of dampened cloths.
"The great moment," Pleydon said again, in a vibrant tone. "But you
know nothing of all this," he directly addressed Linda. "Neither,
probably, will you have heard of Simon Downige. He was born at
Cottarsport, in Massachusetts, about eighteen forty; and, after--in
the support of his hatred of any slavery--he fought through the
Civil War, he came home and found that his town stifled him. He
didn't marry at once, as so many returning soldiers did; instead he
was wedded to a vision of freedom, freedom of opinion, of spirit,
worship--any kind of spaciousness whatever. And, in the pursuit of
that, he went West.
"He told them that he was going to find--but found was the word--a place
where men could live together in a purity of motives and air. No more,
you understand; he hadn't a personal fanatical belief to exploit and
attract the hysteria of women and insufficient men. He was not a
pathological messiah; but only Simon Downige, an individual who
couldn't comfortably breathe the lies and injustice and hypocrisy of
the ordinary community. No doubt he was unbalanced--his sensitiveness
to a universal condition would prove that. Normally people remain
undisturbed by such trivialities. If they didn't an end would come to
one or the other, the lies or the world.
"He traveled part way in a Conestoga wagon--a flight out of Egypt;
they were common then, slow canvas-covered processions with entire
families drawn by the mysterious magnetism of the West. Then,
leaving even such wayfarers, he walked, alone, until he came on a
meadow by a little river and a grove of trees, probably
cottonwoods.... That was Simon Downige, and that, too, was Hesperia.
Yes, he was unbalanced--the old Greek name for beautiful lands. It
is a city now, successful and corruptly administered--what always
happens to such visions.
"It is necessary, Linda, as I've always told you, to understand the
whole motive behind a creation in permanent form. A son of Simon's--yes,
he finally married--a unique and very rich character, wife dead and
no children, commissioned a monument to the founder of Hesperia, in
Ohio, and of his fortune.
"They even have a civic body for the control of public building; and
they came East to approve my statue, or rather the clay sketch for
it. They were very solemn, and one, himself a sculptor, a graduate
of the Beaux Arts, ran a suggestive thumb over Simon and did
incredible damage. But, after a great deal of hesitation, and a
description from the sculptor of what he thought excellently
appropriate for such magnificence, they accepted my study. The
present Downige, really--though I understand there is another
pretentious branch in Hesperia--bullied them into it. He cursed the
Beaux-Arts graduate with the most brutal and satisfactory freedom--the
tyranny of his money; the crown, you see, of Simon's hope."
He unwrapped one by one the wet cloths; and Linda, in an eagerness
sharp like anxiety, finally saw the statue, under life-size, of a
seated man with a rough stick and bundle at his feet. A limp hat was
in his hand, and, beneath a brow to which the hair was plastered by
sweat, his eyes gazed fixed and aspiring into a hidden dream
perfectly created by his desire. Here, she realized at last, she had
a glimmer of the beauty, the creative force, that animated Dodge
Pleydon. Simon Downige's shoes were clogged with mud, his entire
body, she felt, ached with weariness; but his gaze--nothing Linda
discovered but shadows over two depressions--was far away in the
attainment of his place of justice and truth.
She found a stool and, careless of the film of dust, sat absorbed in
the figure. Pleydon again had lost all consciousness of their
presence; he stood, hands in pockets, his left foot slightly
advanced, looking at his work from under drawn brows. Arnaud spoke
"It's impertinent to congratulate you, Pleydon. You know what you've
done better than any one else could. You have all our admiration."
Linda watched the tenderness with which the other covered Simon
Downige's vision in clay. Later, returning home after dinner, Arnaud
speculated about Pleydon's remarkable increase in power. "I had
given him up," he went on; "I thought he was lost in those notorious
debauches of esthetic emotions. Does he still speak of loving you?"
"Yes," Linda replied. "Are you annoyed by it?" He answered, "What
good if I were?" She considered him, turned in his chair to face
her, thoughtfully. "I haven't the slightest doubt of its quality,
however--all in that Hesperia of old Downige's. To love you, my dear
Linda, has certain well-defined resemblances to a calamity. If you
ask me if I object to what you do give him, my answer must shock the
gods of art. I would rather you didn't."
"What is it, Arnaud?" she demanded. "I haven't the slightest idea. I
wish I had."
"Platonic," he told her shortly. "The term has been hopelessly
ruined, yet the sense, the truth, I am forced to believe, remains."
"But you know how stupid I am and that I can't understand you."
"The woman in whom a man sees God," he proceeded irritably:
"'_La figlia della sua mente, l'amorosa, idea_.'"
"Oh," she cried, wrung with a sharp obscure hurt. "I know that, I've
heard it before." Her excitement faded at her absolute inability to
place the circumstances of her memory. The sound of the words
vanished, leaving no more than the familiar deep trouble, the
disappointing sensation of almost grasping--Linda was unable to
"After all, you are my wife." He had recovered his normal shy humor.
"I can prove it. You are the irreproachable mother of our
unsurpassed children. You have a hopeless vision--like this Simon's--of
seeing me polished and decently pressed; and I insist on your
continuing with the whole show."
Her mind arbitrarily shifted to the thought of her father, who had
walked out of his house, left--yes--his family, without any
intimation. Then, erratically, it turned to Vigné, to Vigné and
young Sandby with his fresh cheeks and impending penniless years
acquiring a comprehension of the bond market. She said, "I wonder if
she really likes Bailey?" Arnaud's energy of dismay was laughable,
"What criminal folly! They haven't finished Mother Goose yet."
Linda, who expected to see Pleydon's statue of Simon Downige
finished immediately in a national recognition of its splendor, was
disappointed by his explanation that, probably, it would not be
ready for casting within two years. He intended to model it again,
life-size, before he was ready for the heroic. April, the vivifying,
had returned; and, as always in the spring, Linda was mainly
conscious of the mingled assuaging sounds of life newly admitted
through open windows. A single shaded lamp was lighted by a far
table, where Arnaud sat cutting the pages of _The Living Age_
with an ivory blade; Dodge was blurred in the semi-obscurity.
He came over to see them more frequently now, through what he called
the great moment--so tiresomely extended--of his life. Pleydon came
oftener but he said infinitely less. It was his custom to arrive for
dinner and suddenly depart early or late in the evening. At times
she went up to her room and left the two almost morosely silent men
to their own thoughts or pages; at others she complained--no other
woman alive would stay with such uninteresting and thoroughly
selfish creatures. They never made the pretense of an effort to
consider or amuse her. At this Arnaud would put aside his book and
begin an absurd social conversation in the manner of Vigné's
associates. Pleydon, however, wouldn't speak; nothing broke the
somberness of his passionate absorption in invisible tyrannies. She
gave up, finally, a persistent effort to lighten his moods. Annoyed
she told him that if he did not change he'd be sick, and then where
would everything be.
All at once, through the open window, she heard Stella, her mother,
laughing; the carelessly gay sound overwhelmed her with an
instinctive unreasoning dread. Linda rose with a half gasp--but of
course it was Vigné in the garden with Bailey Sandby.
She sank back angry because she had been startled; but her
irritation perished in disturbing thought. It wasn't, she told
herself, Vigné's actions that made her fear the future so much as
her, Linda's, knowledge of the possibilities of the past. Her
undying hatred of that existence choked in her throat; the chance of
its least breath touching Vigné, Arnaud's daughter, roused her to
any embittered hazard.
The girl, she was certain, returned a part at least of Bailey's
feeling. Linda expected no confidences--what had she done to have
them?--and Arnaud was right, affairs of the heart were never
revealed until consummated. Her conclusion had been reached by
indirect quiet deductions. Vigné, lately, was different; her
attitude toward her mother had changed to the subtle reserve of
feminine maturity. Her appearance, overnight, it seemed, had
improved; her color was deeper, a delicate flush burned at any
surprise in her cheeks, and the miracle of her body was perfected.
It wasn't, Linda continued silently, that Vigné could ever follow the
example of Stella Condon through the hotels and lives of men partly
bald, prodigal, and with distant families. Whatever happened to her
would be in excellent surroundings and taste; but the result--the
sordid havoc, inside and out, the satiety alternating with the points
of brilliancy, and finally, inexorably, sweeping over them in a
leaden tide--would be identical. She wondered a little at the
strength of her detestation for such living; it wasn't moral in any
sense with which she was familiar; in fact it appeared to have a
vague connection with her own revolt from the destruction of death.
She wanted Vigné as well to escape that catastrophe, to hold
inviolate the beauty of her youth, her fineness and courage.
She was convinced, too, that if she loved Bailey, and was
disappointed, some of the harm would be done immediately; Linda saw,
in imagination, the pure flame of Vigné's passion fanned and then
arbitrarily extinguished. She saw the resemblance of the dead woman,
all those other painted shades, made stronger. A sentence formed so
vividly in her mind that she looked up apprehensively, certain that
she had spoken it aloud:
If Vigné does come to care for him they must marry.
Her thoughts left the girl for Arnaud--he would absolutely oppose
her there, and she speculated about the probable length his
opposition would reach. What would he say to her? It couldn't be
helped, in particular it couldn't be explained, neither to him nor
to the friendly correctness of Bailey Sandby's mother. She, alone,
must accept any responsibility, all blame.
The threatened situation developed more quickly than she had
anticipated. Linda met Bailey, obviously disturbed, in the portico,
leaving their house; his manner, mechanically, was good; and then,
with an irrepressible boyish rush of feeling, he stopped her:
"Vigné and I love each other and Mr. Hallet won't hear of it. He
insulted us with the verse about the old woman who went to the
cupboard to get a bone, and if he hadn't been her father--" he
breathed a portentous and difficult self-repression. "Then he took a
cowardly advantage of my having no money, just now; right after I
explained how I was going to make wads--with Vigné."
An indefinable excitement possessed Linda, accompanied by a sudden
acute fear of what Arnaud might say. She wanted more than anything
else in life to go quickly, inattentively, past Bailey Sandby and up
to her room. Nothing could be easier, more obvious, than her
disapproval of a moneyless boy. She made a step forward with an
assumed resolute ignoring of his disturbed presence. It was useless.
A dread greater than her fright at Arnaud held her in the portico,
her hand lifted to the polished knob of the inner door. Linda turned
slowly, cold and white, "Wait," she said to his shoulder in an
admirable coat; then she gazed steadily into his frank pained eyes.
"How do you know that you love Vigné?" she demanded. "You are so
young to be certain it will last always. And Vigné--"
"How does any one know?" he replied. "How did you? Married people
always forget their own experiences, the happy way things went with
them. From all I see money hasn't much to do with loving each other.
But, of course, I'm not going to be poor, not with Vigné. Nobody
could. She'd inspire them. Mr. Hallet knows all about me, too; and
he's the oldest kind of a friend of the family. I suppose when he
sees father at the Rittenhouse Club they'll have a laugh--a laugh at
Vigné and me." His hand, holding the brim of a soft brown hat,
"No," Linda told him, "they won't do that." Her obscure excitement
was communicated to him. "Why not?" he demanded.
"Because," she paused to steady her voice, "because I am going to
take a very great responsibility. If it fails, if you let it fail,
you'll ruin ever so much. Yes, Mr. Hallet, I am sure, will consent
to your marrying Vigné." She escaped at the first opening from his
incoherent gratitude. Arnaud was in the library, and she stopped in
the hall, busy with the loosening of her veil. Perhaps it would be
better to speak to him after dinner; she ought to question Vigné
first; but, as she stood debating, her daughter passed her
tempestuously, blurred with crying, and Arnaud angrily demanded her
"You were quite right," he cried; "this young idiot Sandby has been
telling Vigné that he loves her; and now Vigné assures me, with
tears, that she likes it! They want to get married--next week,
tomorrow, this evening." Linda stood by the window; soon the
magnolia-tree would be again laden with flowers. She gathered her
courage into a determined composure of tone. "I saw Bailey outside,"
she admitted. "He told me. It seems excellent to me."
Arnaud Hallet incredulously challenged her. "What do you mean--that
you gave him a trace of encouragement!" Linda replied:
"I said that I was certain you would consent." She halted his
exasperated gesture. "You think Vigné is nothing but a child, and
yet she is as old as I was at our wedding. My mother was no older
when Bartram Lowrie married her. I think Vigné is very fortunate,
Bailey is as nice as possible; and, as he said, it isn't as if you
knew nothing of the Sandbys; they are as dignified as the Lowries."
An expression she had never before seen hardened his countenance
into a sarcasm that travestied his customary humor. "You realize, of
course, that except for what his father gives him young Sandby is
wretchedly poor. He's nice enough but what has that to do with it?
And, in particular, how does it touch you, Linda Condon? Do you
suppose I can ever forget your answer that time I first asked you to
marry me? You wouldn't consider a poor man; you were worth, really,
a hundred thousand a year; but, if nothing better came along, you
might sacrifice yourself for fifty."
"I remember very well," she answered; "and, curiously enough, I am
not ashamed. I was very sensible then, in a horrible position with
extravagant habits. They were me. I couldn't change myself. Without
money I should have made you, any man, entirely miserable. Arnaud, I
hadn't--I haven't now--the ability to see everything important
through the affections, like so many many women. You often told me
that; who hasn't? I have always admitted it wasn't pleasant nor
praiseworthy. But how, to use your own words, does all that affect
Vigné? She isn't cold but very warm-hearted; and, instead of my
experience, she has her own so much better feeling."
"I absolutely refuse to allow anything of the sort," he declared
sharply. "I won't even discuss it--for three years. Tell this Sandby
infant, if you like, to come back then."
"In three years, or in one year, Vigné may be quite different, yes-less
lovable. Happiness, too, is queer, Arnaud; there isn't a great deal
of it. Not an overwhelming amount. If it appears for an instant it
must be held as tightly as possible. It doesn't come back, you know.
Don't turn to your book yet--you can't get rid of us, of Vigné and
me, like that; and then it's rude; the first time, I believe, you
have ever been impolite to me."
"Forgive me," he spoke formally. "You seem to think that I am as
indifferent as yourself. You might be asking the day of the week to
judge from your calm appearance. The emotion of a father, or even of
a mother, perhaps, you have never explored. On the whole you are
fortunate. And you are always protected by your celebrated honesty."
"I promised Bailey your consent."
"Why bother about that? It isn't necessary for your new romantic
mood. An elopement, with you to steady the ladder, would be more
She repeated the fact of her engagement. Her dread for him had
vanished, its place now taken by a distrust of what, in her merged
detachment and suffering, she might blunderingly do. At the back of
this she realized that his case, his position, was hopeless. Without
warning, keen and undimmed, his love for her flashed through his
resentful misery. There was no spoken acknowledgement of surrender;
he sank into his chair dejected and pitiable, infinitely gray. His
shoes, on the brightness of the hooked rug, were dingy, his coat
drawn and wrinkled.
Linda saw herself on her knees before him, before his patience and
generosity, sobbing her contrition into his forgiving hands. She
longed with every nerve--as she had so often before--to lose herself
in passionate emotion. She had never been more erect or withdrawn,
never essentially less touched. After a little, waiting for him to
speak, she saw that he, too, had retreated into the profound depths
of his own illusions and despairs.
For a surprising while--even in the face of Vigné's radiance--Arnaud
was as still and shadowed as the inert surface of a dammed stream.
Then slowly, the slenderest trickle at first, his wit revived his
spirit; and he opened an unending mock-solemn attack on Bailey
Sandby's eminently serious acceptance of the responsibilities of his
The boy had left the university, and his father--a striking replica
of Arnaud's prejudices, impatience and fundamental kindness--exchanged
with Vigné's male parent the most dismal prophecies together with
concrete plans for their children's future security. This, inevitably,
resulted in Vigné's marriage; a ceremony unattended by Pleydon except
by the presence of a very liberal check.
The life-size version of his Simon Downige was again under way--it
had been torn down, Linda knew, more than once--and he was in a
fever of composition. Nor was this, she decided with Arnaud, his
only oppression: the Asiatic fever clung to him with disquieting
persistence. Pleydon himself admitted he had a degree or two in the
Linda was seated in his studio near Central Park West, perhaps a
year later, and she observed aloud that so much wet clay around was
bad for him. He laughed: nothing now could happen to him, he was
forever beyond accident, sickness, death--his statue for the
monument in Hesperia was finished. It stood revealed before them,
practically as Linda had first seen it, but enlarged, towering, as
if the vision it portrayed had grown, would continue to grow
eternally, because of the dignity of its hope, the necessity of its
"Now," she said, "it will go to the foundry and be cast." He
corrected her. "You will go to the foundry and be cast ... in
bronze." A distinct graceful happiness possessed her at the
knowledge that his love for her was as constant as though it, too,
were metal. Not flesh but bronze, spirit, he insisted.
The multiplying years made that no more comprehensible than when, a
child, she had thrilled in a waking dream. Love, spirit, death.
Three mysteries. But only one, she thought, was inevitably hers, the
last. To be loved was not love itself, but only the edge of its
cloak; response was an indivisible part of realization. No,
sterility was the measure--of its absence. And she was, Linda felt,
in spite of Vigné and Lowrie, the latter a specially vigorous
contradiction, the most sterile woman alive. There were always
Dodge's assurances, but clay, stone, metal, were cold for a belief
to embrace. And she was, she knew, lovelier now than she had ever
been before, than she would ever be again.
The faint ringing of the bell from outside that probably announced
Arnaud sounded unreal, futile, to Linda. He came into the studio,
and at once a discussion began between the two men of the difference
in the surfaces of clay and bronze. The talk then shifted to the
pictorial sources of the heroic Simon Downige before them, and Linda
declared, "Dodge, you have never made a head of me. How very
"You're an affair for a painter," he replied; "Goya or Alfred
Stevens. No one but Goya could have found a white for you, with the
quality of flower petals; and Stevens would have fixed you in an
immortality of delicate color, surrounded by your Philadelphia
garden." He stood quite close to her, with his jacket dragged
forward by hands thrust into its pockets, and he added at the end of
a somber interrogation, "But if you would really like to know why--"
In a moment more, she recognized, Dodge would explain his feeling
for her--to Arnaud, to any one who might be present. The gleam in
his eyes, his remoteness from earthly concern, were definitely not
normal. Pleydon, his love, terrified her. "No," she said with an
assumed hurried lightness, "don't try to explain. I must manage to
survive the injury to my vanity."
They left New York almost immediately, Pleydon suddenly determining
to go with them; and later were scattered through the Hallet
household. Vigné and her husband were temporarily living there; with
their heads close together they were making endless computations,
numerous floor plans and elevations. Linda, at the piano in the
drawing-room, could hear them through the hall. Pleydon was lounging
in a chair beyond her. She couldn't play but she was able, slowly,
to pick out the notes of simple and familiar airs--echoes of Gluck
and blurred motives of Scarlatti. It was for herself, she explained;
the sounds, however crude and disconnected, brought things back to
her. What things, she replied to Pleydon's query, she didn't in the
least know; but pleasant.
The fact that she understood so little depressed her with increasing
frequency. It was well enough to be ignorant as a girl, or even as a
young woman newly married; but she had left all that behind; she had
lost her youth without any compensating gain of knowledge. Linda
could not assure herself that life was clearer than it had been to
her serious childhood. It had always been easily measured on the
surface; she had had a very complete grasp of its material aspects
almost at once, accomplishing exactly what she had planned. Perhaps
this was all; and her trouble an evidence of weakness--the
indecision, she saw with contempt, that kept so many people in a
constant agitation of disappointment.
Perhaps this was enough; more than the majority had or accomplished.
She made, again, a resolute effort to be contented, at rest. Her
straying fingers clumsily wrought a fragmentary refrain that mocked
her determination. It wasn't new, this--this dissatisfaction; but it
had grown sharper. As she was older her restlessness increased at
the realization that life, opportunity, were slipping from her. Soon
she would be forty.
The conviction seized her that most lives reflected hers in that
their questioning was never answered. The fortunate, then, were the
incurious and the hearts undisturbed by a maddening thrill. She said
aloud, "The ones who never heard music." Pleydon was without a sign
that she had spoken. Her emotions were very delicate, very fragile,
and enormously difficult to perceive. They were like plants in stony
ground. Where had she heard that--out of the Bible? Then she thought
of her failure to get anything from religion--a part of her
inability to drink at the springs which others declared so
refreshing. Linda pressed her hands more sharply on the keys and the
answering discord had the effect of waking her to reality.
Pleydon remained until the following afternoon, and then was lost--in
the foundry casting his statue--for six months. Arnaud went over to
view the completion of the bronze and returned filled with enthusiasm.
"Its simplicity is the surprising part," he told her. "The barest
statement possible. But Pleydon himself is in a disturbing condition;
I can't decide if it is mental or physical. The fever of course; yet
that doesn't account for his distance from ordinary living. The truth
is, I suppose, that men weren't designed for great arts, and nature,
like the jealous God of the Hebrews, retaliates. It is absurd, but
Pleydon reminds me of you; you're totally different. I suppose it's
because of the detachment you have in common." He veered to a detail
of Lowrie's first year at a university, and exhibited, against a
decent endeavor to the contrary, his boundless pride in their son.
The boy was, Linda acknowledged, more than commonly dependable and
able. He was heavy, like his father, and so diffident that he almost
stuttered; but his mental processes flashed in quick intuitive
perceptions. Lowrie was an easy and brilliant student; and, perhaps
because of this, of his mental certainty, he was not intimate with
her as Arnaud had hoped and predicted. It seemed to Linda that he
instinctively penetrated her inner doubt and regarded it without
sympathy. In this he was her son. Lowrie was a confident and
unsympathetic critic of humanity.
Even now, so soon, there was no question of his success in the law
his fitness had elected. The springs of his being were purely
intellectual, reasoning. In him Linda saw magnified her own
coldness; and, turned on herself, she viewed it with an arbitrary
feminine resentment. He was actually courteous to her; but under all
their intercourse there was a perceptible impatience. His scorn of
other women, girls, however, was openly expressed and honest; it had
no trace of the mere affectation of pessimism natural to his age.
Arnaud, less thoughtful than she, was vastly entertained by this,
and drew Lowrie out in countless sly sallies and contradictions.
Yes, he would succeed, but, after all, what would his success be
worth--placed, that was, against Vigné's radiant happiness, Bailey
Sandby's quiet eyes and the quality of his return home each evening?
Her thoughts came back to Pleydon--she had before her a New York
paper describing the ceremony of unveiling his Simon Downige at
Hesperia. There was a long learned article praising its beauty and
emphasizing Pleydon's eminence. He was, it proceeded, an anomaly in
an age of momentary experimental talents--a humanized Greek force.
He didn't belong to to-day but to yesterday and to-morrow. This gave
her an uncomfortable vision of Dodge in space, with no warm points
of contact. She, too, was suspended in that vague emptiness. Linda
had the sensation of grasping at streamers, forms, of sparkling
mist. A strange position in view of her undeniable common sense, the
solid foundations of her temperament and experience. She saw from
the paper, further, that the Downige who had commissioned the
monument was dead.
In the middle of the festive period that connected Christmas with
the new year Arnaud turned animatedly from his breakfast scanning of
the news. "It seems," he told her, "that a big rumpus has developed
in Hesperia over the Pleydon statue--the present Downige omnipotence,
never friendly with our old gentleman, has condemned its bronze founder.
You know what I mean. It's an insult to their pride, their money and
position, to see him perpetuated as a tramp. On the contrary he was a
very respectable individual from a prominent family and town.
"They have been moving the local heavens, ever since the monument
was placed, to have it set aside. I suppose they would have
succeeded, too, if a large amount given to the city were not
contingent on its preservation. But then they can always donate more
money in the cause of their sacred respectability."
Linda had never, she exclaimed, heard of anything more disgusting.
It was plain that Hesperia knew nothing of art. "Every one," she ran
on in the heat of her resentment, "every one, that is, who should
decide, agrees it's magnificent. They were frightfully lucky to get
it--Dodge's finest work." She wrote at once to Pleydon commanding
his presence and expressing her contempt of such depravity of
opinion. To her surprise he was undisturbed, apparently, by the
condemnation of his monument.
He even laughed at her energy of scorn. She was hurt, perceptibly
silenced, with a feeling of having been misunderstood or rather
undervalued. Her disturbance at any blame attached to the statue of
Simon Downige was extremely acute. But, she thought, if it failed to
worry Dodge why should she bother. She did, in spite of this
philosophy; Simon was tremendously important to her.
He stood for things: she had watched his evolution from the clay
sketch, and in Pleydon's mind, to the final heroic proportions; and
she had taken for granted that a grateful world would see him in her
light. A woman, she decided, had made the trouble; and she hated her
with a personal vigor. Pleydon said:
"I told you that old Simon was unbalanced; now you can see it by his
reception in a successful city. The sculptor--do you remember him, a
Beaux-Arts graduate?--admits that he had always opposed it, but that
political motives overbore his pure protest. There is a scheme now
to build a pavilion, for babies, and shut out the monument from open
view. They may do that but time will sweep away their walls. If I
had modeled Simon Downige, yes, he would go; but I modeled his
vision, his aspiration--the hope of all men for release and purity.
"Downige and the individual babies are unimportant compared to a
vision of perfection, of escape. As long as men live, if they live,
they'll reach up; and that gesture in itself is heaven. Not
accomplishment. The spirit dragging the flesh higher; but spirit
alone--empty balloons. A dream in bronze, harder even than men's
heads, more durable than their prejudices, so permanent that it will
wear out their ignorance; and in the end--always in the end--they'll
bring their wreath.
"A replica has gone to Cottarsport, from me; and you ought to see it
there, on a block of New England granite. It's in the Common, a
windswept reach with low houses and a white steeple and the sea. It
might have been there from the beginning, rising on rock against the
pale salt day. They can go to hell in Hesperia."
Still Linda's hurt persisted; she saw the unfortunate occurrence as
a direct blow at her pride. Arnaud, too, failed her; he was splendid
in his assault upon such rapacious stupidity; but it was only an
impersonal concern. His manner expressed the conviction that it
might have been expected. He was blind to her special enthusiasm,
her long intimate connection with the statue. Exasperated she almost
told him that it was more real to her than their house, than Vigné
and Lowrie, than he. She was stopped, fortunately, by the perception
that, amazingly, the statue was more actual than Dodge Pleydon. It
touched the center of her life more nearly.
Why, she didn't know.
If her mental confusion increased by as much as a feeling, Linda
thought, she would be close to madness. It was unbearable at
Lowrie said, at the worst possible moment, that he found the entire
episode ridiculously overemphasized. A statue more or less was of
small importance. If the Downige family were upset why didn't they
employ an able lawyer to dispose of it? There were many ways for
such a proceeding--
"I have no desire to hear them," she interrupted. "You seem to know
a tremendous lot, but what good it will do you in the end who can
say! And, with all your cleverness, you haven't an ounce of
appreciation for art. Besides, I hate to see any one as young as you
so sure of himself. Often I suspect you are patronizing your father
and me. It's not pretty nor polite."
Lowrie was obviously embarrassed by her attack, and managed the
abrupt semblance of an apology. Arnaud, who had put down his eternal
book, said nothing until the boy had vanished. "Wasn't that rather
sharp?" he asked mildly. "Perhaps," she replied in a tone without
warmth or regret. "Somehow I am never comfortable with Lowrie."
"You are too much alike," he shrewdly observed. "It is laughable at
times. Did you expect your children to be fountains of sentiment?
And, look here--if I can get along in comfort with you for life you
in particular ought to put up peacefully with Lowrie. He is a damned
sight more human than, at bottom, you are; a woman of alabaster."
"I loathe quarrels," she admitted; "they are so vulgar. You know
that they are not like me and just said so. Oh, Arnaud, why does
life get harder instead of easier?"
He put his book aside completely and gazed at her in patient
thought. "Linda," he said finally, "I have never heard anything that
stirred me so much; not what you said, my dear, but the recognition
in your voice." A wistfulness of love for her enveloped him; an
ineffable desire as vain as the passion she struggled to give him in
return. She smiled in an unhappiness of apology.
"Perhaps--" he stopped, waiting any assurance whatever, his face
eager like a dusty lamp in which the light had been turned sharply
up. She was unable to stir, to move her gaze from his hopeful eyes,
to mitigate by a breath her slender white aloofness. A smile
different from hers, tender with remission, lingered in his fading
irradiation. The dusk was gathering, adding its melancholy to his
age--sixty-five now. Why that was an old man! Her sympathy vanished
in her shrinking from the twilight that was, as well, slowly,
inevitably, deepening about her.
It was laughable that, as she approached an age whose only resource
was tranquillity, she grew more restless. Her present vague
agitation belonged ridiculously to youth. The philosophy of the
evident that had supported her so firmly was breaking at the most
inopportune time. And it was, she told herself, too late for
anything new; the years for that had been spent insensibly with
Arnaud. Linda was very angry with herself, for, in all her shifting
state of mind, she preserved an inner necessity for the quality of
exactness expressed in her clothes. There were literally no
neglected spaces in her conscious living.
Her thoughts finally centered about the statue in Hesperia--it
presented an actual mark for her fleeting resentments. She wondered
why it so largely occupied her thoughts, moved her so personally.
She watched the papers for the scattered reports of the progress of
the contention it had roused, some ill-natured, others supposedly
humorous, and nearly all uninformed. She became, Arnaud said, the
champion of the esthetic against Dagon. He elaborated this picture
until she was forced to smile against her inclination, her profound
seriousness. Linda had the feeling that she, too, was on the
pedestal that held the bronze effigy of Simon Downige challenging
the fog that obscured men. Its fate was hers. She didn't pretend to
As time passed it seemed to her that it took her longer and longer
to dress in the morning, while her preparations couldn't be simpler;
her habit of deliberation had become nearly a vice, the precision of
her ruffles, her hair, a tyranny. She never quite lost the
satisfaction of her mirror's faultless reflection; and stopped, now,
for a moment's calm interrogation of the being--hardly more silvery
cool than the reality--before her.
Arnaud was at the table, and the gaze with which he met her was
troubled. The morning paper, she saw, was, against custom, at her
place, and she picked it up with an instinctive sense of calamity.
The blackly printed sensational headline that immediately
established her fear sank vivid and entire into her brain: an
anonymous inflamed mob in Hesperia had pulled down and destroyed
Pleydon's statue. Their act was described as a tribute to the
liberality of the present Downige family in the light of its
objection to the monument.
As if in the development of her feeling Linda had a sensation of
crashing with a sickening violence from a pedestal to the ground.
Actually, it seemed, the catastrophe had happened to her. She heard,
with a sense of inutility, Arnaud denouncing the outrage; he had a
pencil in his hand for the composition of a telegram to Dodge. He
paid--but perhaps only naturally--no attention to her, suffering
dully from her fall. She shuddered before the recreated lawless
approaching voice of the mob; the naked ugly violence froze her with
terror; she felt the gross hurried hands winding ropes about her,
the rending brutality of force--
She sat and automatically took a small carved glass of orange-juice
from a bed of ice, and her chilled fingers recalled a dim image of
her mother. Arnaud was speaking, "I'm afraid this will cut through
Pleydon's security, it was such a wanton destruction of his unique
power. You see, he worked lovingly over the cast with little files
and countless finite improvements. The mold, I think, was broken.
What a piece of luck the thing's at Cottarsport." He paused,
obviously expecting her to comment; but suddenly phrases failed her.
In place of herself she should be considering Dodge; her sympathy
even for him was submerged in her own extraordinary injury. However,
she recovered from her first gasping shock, and made an utterly
commonplace remark. Never had her sense of isolation been stronger.
"I must admit," her husband continued, "that I looked for some small
display of concern. I give you my word there are moments when I
think Pleydon himself cut you out of stone. He isn't great enough
for that, though; in the way of perfection you successfully gild the
lily. A thing held to be impossible."
Linda told him with amazing inanity that his opinion of her was
unreliable; and, contented, he lightly pursued his admiration of
what he called her boreal charm. At intervals she responded
appropriately and proceeded with breakfast. She had entered a region
of dispassionate consideration, her characteristic detachment, she
thought, regained. She mentally, calmly, reconstructed the motives
and events that had led to the destruction of the statue; they, at
least, were evident to her. She reaffirmed silently her conviction
that it had resulted from the stupidity, the vanity, of a woman. The
limitations of men, fully as narrow, operated in other directions.
Then, with an incredulous surprise, she was aware that the clear
space of her reason was filling with anger. Never before had such a
flood of emotion possessed her; and she surrendered herself, in an
enormous relief, to the novelty of its obliterating tide. It
deepened immeasurably, sweeping her far from the security of old
positions of indifference and critical self-possession. Linda became
enraged at a world that had concentrated all its degraded vulgarity
in one unspeakable act.
It was fall, October, and the day was a space of pale gold foliage
wreathed in blue garlands of mist. The gardener was busy with a
wooden rake and wheelbarrow in which he carted away dead leaves for
burning. The fire was back of the low fence, in the rear, and Linda,
at the dining-room window, could hear the fierce small crackle of
flames; the drifting pungent smoke was like a faint breath of
ammonia. Arnaud had left for the day, Lowrie was at the university,
while Vigné and her husband--moving toward their ultimate colonial
threshold--had taken a small house. She was alone.
However, in her present state her solitude had lost its
inevitability; she failed to see why it must continue until the end
of time. She could no longer discover a sufficient reason for her
limitless endurance, her placid acceptance of all that chance, or
any inconsiderable person, happened to dictate. She wasn't like that
in the least. Her temper had solidified as though it were ice,
taking everywhere the form in which it was held. It was a reality.
She determined, as well, that her feeling should not melt back into
the familiar acceptance of a routine that had led her blindfolded
across such an extent of life.
She understood now, in a large part, her disturbance at the
indignity to Dodge's monument--he had assured her that she was its
inspiration; except for her it would never have been realized, he
would have kept on modeling those Newport fountains, continued with
the Susanna Nodas, spending himself ignobly. He loved her, and that
love had resulted in a statue the world of art, of taste, honored.
But it was she all the while they were approving, discussing,
writing about, Linda Condon.
She had always been that, Pleydon had informed her, never Linda
Hallet--in spite of Arnaud and their children. It sounded like
nonsense; but, at the bottom, it was truth. Of course it couldn't be
explained, for example, to the man who had every right, every
evidence, to consider himself her husband. Nothing was susceptible
of explanation. Absolutely nothing! There was the earth, which
appeared to be everything, the houses you entered, the streets you
passed over, the people among whom you lived, yet that wasn't all.
Heavens, no! It was quite unimportant compared with--with other
facts latent in the mind and blood.
Dodge Pleydon's love was one of those other facts; it was simply
impossible to deny its existence, its power. Dodge had been totally
changed by it, born over again. But she, who had been the source,
had had no good from it, nothing except the thrill that had always
been hers. No one knew of it, counted it as her achievement, paid
the slightest attention to her. Arnaud smiled indulgently, Lowrie
scoffed. When the statue had been thrown down they thought of it
merely as a deplorable part of the day's news. They hadn't seen that
she, Linda Condon, was unspeakably insulted.
She doubted if she could bring them to comprehend what had happened--to
her. Or if Arnaud understood, if she made it plain, what good would be
done! That wouldn't save her, put her back again on the pedestal. The
latter was necessary. Linda recognized that a great deal of her feeling
was based on pride; but it was a pride entirely justified. She had no
intention of submitting to the coarse hands and ropes of public affront.
Throughout her life she had rebelled against any profanation of her
person, she had hated to be touched.
Every instinct, she found, every delicate self-opinion, was bound
into Pleydon's success; the latter had kept her alive. Without it
existence would have been intolerable. It was unbearable now.
She discharged the small daily duties of her efficient housekeeping
with a contemptuous exactness; for years she had accomplished, in
herself, nothing more. But at last a break had come. Linda
recognized this without any knowledge of what reparation it would
find. She wasn't concerned with that, a small detail. It would be
apparent. Arnaud was silent through dinner; tired, it seemed. She
saw him as if at the distant end of a dull corridor--as she looked
back. There was no change in her liking for him. Mechanically she
noticed the disorder of his scant hair and rumpled sleeves.
Not until, waking sharply, in the middle of the night, did she have
a glimpse of a possible course--she might live with Dodge and
perfectly express both her retaliation and her accomplishment. In
that way she would reestablish herself beside him and place their
vision in bronze on an elevation beyond the spite of the envious and
It was so directly simple that she was surprised it hadn't occurred
to her before. The possibility had always been a part, unsuspected
and valuable, of her special being; the largely condemned faults of
her character and experience had at least brought her this--a not
inconsiderable freedom in a world everywhere barred by the necessity
for upholding a hypocritical show of superiority to honest desire.
The detachment that deprived her of life's conventional joys
released her from its common obligations. That conviction, however,
was too intimately connected with all her inheritance to bring her
any conscious dramatic sense of rebellion or high feeling of
Sleep had deserted her, and she waited for the dawn in the windows
that would bring her escape. It was very slow coming; the blackness
took on a grayer tone, like ink with added faint infusions of water.
Slowly the blackness dissolved and she heard the stir of the
sparrows in the ivy. There was the passing rumble of an early
electric car on the paved aged street, the blurred hurried shuffle
of a workman's clumsy shoes. The brightening morning was cool with a
premonitory touch of frost; at the window she saw a vanishing silver
sheen on the lawn and board fence.
A sensation of youth pervaded her; and while, perhaps, it was out of
keeping with her years, she had still her vitality unspent; she was
without a trace of the momentary frost on the grass. She was
tranquil, leisurely; her heart evenly sent its life through her
unflushed body. Piece by piece she put on her web-like garments,
black and white; brushing the heavy stream of her hair and tying the
inevitable sash about her supple waist.
Below she met Arnaud with an unpleasant shock--she hadn't given him
a thought. Her feeling now was hardly more than annoyance at her
forgetfulness. He would be terribly distressed at her going, and she
was genuinely sorry for this, poised at the edge of an explanation
of her purpose. Arnaud was putting butter and salt into his egg-cup,
after that he would grind the pepper from a French mill--pure spices
were a precision of his--and she waited until the operation was
Then it occurred to her that all she could hope to accomplish by
admitting her intention was the ruin of his last hour alone with
her. He was happier, gayer, than usual. But his age was evident in
his voice, his gestures. Linda marveled at her coldness, her
ruthless disregard of Arnaud's claim on her, of his affection as
deep as Pleydon's, perhaps no less fine but not so imperative. Yet
Arnaud had had over twenty years of her life, the best; and she had
never deceived him about the quality of her gift. It was right, now,
for Dodge to have the remainder. But whether it were right or wrong,
there was no failure of her determination to go to Pleydon in the
vindication of her existence.
She delayed speaking to Arnaud until, suddenly, breakfast was over.
He seldom went to the law office where he had been a partner, but
stayed about the lower floor of his house, in the library or
directing small outside undertakings. Either that or he left, late,
for the Historical Society, with which his connection and interest
were uninterrupted. As Linda passed him in the hall he was fumbling
in the green bag that accompanied all his journeyings into the city;
and she gathered that he intended to make one of his occasional
sallies. She proceeded above, to her room, where with steady hands
she pinned on her hat. It would be impossible to take any additional
clothes, and she'd have to content herself with something ready-made
until she could order others in the establishment of her living with
Dodge. Her close-fitting jacket, gloves, and a short cape of sables
were collected; she gazed finally, thoughtfully, about the room, and
then, with a subdued whisper of skirts, descended the stair. Arnaud
was in the library, bending over the table that bore his accumulation
of papers and serious journals. A lingering impulse to speak was
overborne by the memory of what, lately, she had endured--she saw him
at the dusty end of that long corridor through which she had
monotonously journeyed, denied of her one triumph, lost in
inconsequential shadows--and she continued firmly to the door which
closed behind her with a normal mute smoothness, an inanimate
The maid who admitted Linda to Pleydon's apartment, first replying,
"Yes, Mrs. Hallet. No, Mrs. Hallet," to her questions, continued in
fuller sentences expressing a triumph of sympathy over mere
correctness. She lingered at the door of the informal drawing-room,
imparting the information that Mr. Pleydon had become very irregular
indeed about his meals, and that his return for lunch was uncertain.
Something, however, would be prepared for her. Linda acknowledged
this briefly. Often, with Mr. Pleydon at home, he wouldn't so much
as look at his dinner. Times, too, it seemed as though he had been
in the studio all night. He went out but seldom now, and rarely
remained away for more than an hour or two. Linda heard this without
an indication of responsive interest, and the servant, returning
abruptly from the excursion into humanity, disappeared.
She was glad to have this opportunity alone to accustom herself to a
novel position. But she was once more annoyingly calm. Annoyingly,
she reiterated; the fervor of her anger, which at the same time had
been bitterly cold, had lessened. She was practically normal. She
regarded this, the loss of her unprecedented emotion, in the light
of a fraud on her sanguine decision. Linda had counted on its
support, its generous irresistible tide, to carry her through the
remainder of her life with the exhilaration she had so largely
Here in Dodge's room she was as placid, almost, as though she were
in the library at home. That customary term took its place in her
thoughts before she recognized that, with her, it had shifted.
However, it was unimportant--home had never been a magical word to
her; it belonged in the vast category which, of such universal
weight, left her unstirred. She resembled those Eastern people
restlessly and perpetually moving across sandy deserts as they
exhausted, one after another, widely separated scanty oases.
She studied the objects around her with the pleased recognition that
they were unique, valuable, and in faultless taste. Then she fell to
wondering at the difference had Dodge been poor: she would have come
to him, Linda knew, just the same. But, she admitted frankly, it
would have been uncomfortable. Perhaps that--actual poverty, actual
deprivation--was what her character needed. A popular sentiment
upheld such a view; she decided it was without foundation. There was
no reason why beauty, finely appropriate surroundings, should damage
Her mind turned to an examination of her desertion of Arnaud, but
she could find no trace of conventional regret; of what, she felt,
her sensation ought to be. The instinctive revolt from oblivion was
an infinitely stronger reality than any allegiance to abstract duty.
She was consumed by the passionate need to preserve the integrity of
being herself. The word selfish occurred to her but to be met
unabashed by the query, why not? Selfishness was a reproach applied
by those who failed to get what they wanted to all who succeeded.
Linda wasn't afraid of public opinion, censure; she didn't shrink
even from the injury to her husband. What Dodge would think,
however, was hidden from her.
She had no doubt of his complete acceptance of all she offered;
ordinary obligations to society bound him as little as they held
her. It would be enough that she wanted to come to him.
She would bother him, change his habit of living, very little. Long
years of loneliness had taught her to be self-sufficient. Linda
would be too wise to insist on distasteful regularity in the
interest of a comparatively unimportant well-being. In short, she
wouldn't bother him. That must be made clear at once.
More than anything else he would be inexpressibly delighted to have
her with him, to find--at last--his love. Little intimacies of satin
mules, glimpses, charming to an artist! He'd be faultless, too, in
the relationships where Arnaud as well had never for a moment
deviated from beautiful consideration. Two remarkable men. While her
deficiency in humor was admitted, she saw a glimmer of the absurd in
her attitude and present situation. The combination, at least, was
uncommon. There had been no change in her feeling for either Arnaud
or Dodge, their places in her being were undisturbed; she liked her
husband no less, Dodge no better.
Lunch was announced, a small ceremony of covered silver dishes,
heavy crystal, Nankin china, and flowers. The linen, which was old,
bore a monogram unfamiliar to her--that of Dodge's mother, probably.
When she had finished, but was still lingering at the narrow
refectory table, she heard Pleydon enter the hall and the
explanatory voice of the servant. An unexpected embarrassment
pervaded her, but she overcame it by the realization that there was
no need for an immediate announcement of her purpose. Dodge would
naturally suppose that she was in New York shopping.
He did, to her intense relief, with a moving pleasure that she had
lunched with him. "It's seldom," he went on, "that you are so
sensible. I hope you haven't any plans or concerts to drag you away
immediately. I owe you a million strawberries; but, aside from that,
I'd like you to stay as long as possible."
"Very well," she replied quietly; "I will."
She hadn't seen him since the statue at Hesperia had been destroyed,
and she tried faintly to tell him how much that outrage had hurt
her. It had injured him too, she realized; just as Arnaud predicted.
He showed his age more gauntly, more absolutely, than the other. His
skin was dry as though the vitality of his countenance had been
burned out by the flame visible in his eyes.
"The drunken fools!" he exclaimed of the mob that had torn Simon
Downige from his eminence; "they came by way of all the saloons in
the city. Free drinks! That is the disturbing thing about what the
optimistic call civilization--the fact that it is always at the
mercy of the ignorant and the brutal. There is no security; none,
that is, except in the individual spirit. And they, mostly, are the
victims of a singular insane resentment--Savonarola and there were
"But you mustn't think, you mustn't suppose, that I mean it's
hopeless. How could I? Who has had more from living? Love and
complete self-expression. That exhausts every possibility. Three
words. Remember Cottarsport. But the love--ah," he smiled, but not
directly at her. Linda was at once reassured and disturbed; and she
rose, proceeding into the drawing-room.
There she sat gracefully composed and with still hands; she never
embroidered or employed her leisure with trivial useful tasks.
Pleydon was extended on a chair, his fingers caught beyond his head
and his long legs thrust out and crossed at the ankles. His gaze was
fixed on her unwaveringly; and yet, when she tried to meet its
focus, it went behind her as though it pierced the solidity of her
body and the walls in the contemplation of a far-removed shining
image. Her disturbance grew to the inclusion of a degree of
fretfulness at his unbroken silence, his apparent absorption in
whatever his meditation projected or found.
Now, she decided, was the moment for her revelation; or rather, it
couldn't very well be further deferred, for it promised to be
halting. But, with her lips forming the words, he abruptly spoke:
"I have lived so long with your spirit, it has become so familiar--I
mean the ability of completely making you out of my heart--that when
you are here the difference isn't staggering. You see, you are never
away. I have that ability; it came out of the other wreck. But you
know about it--from years back. Time has only managed a greater
power. Lately, and I have nothing to do with it, I have been seeing
you again as a girl; as young as at Markue's party; younger. Not
more than ten. I don't mean that there is anything--isn't the
present fashionable word subliminal?--esoteric. God forbid. You'll
remember my hatred of that brutal deception.
"No, it's only a part of my ability to create the shape of feeling,
of Simon's hope. I see things as realities capable of exact
statement; and, naturally, more than all the rest, you come to me
that way. But as a child--who knows why?" he relinquished the answer
with an opened palm. "And young like that, perhaps ten, I love you
more sharply, more unutterably, than at any other age. What is it I
love? Not your adorable plastic body, not that. It isn't necessary
"You have, as a child, a quality of blinding loveliness in a world I
absolutely distrust. An Elysian flower. Is it possible, do you
suppose, to worship an abstract idea? It's not important to insist
on my sanity."
The question of that had occurred independently to Linda; his
hurried voice and lost gaze filled her with apprehension. A dull
reddish patch, she saw, burned in either thin cheek; and she told
herself that the fever had revived in him. Pleydon continued:
"Yet it is a timeless vision, because you never get old. I see
Hallet failing year by year, and your children, only yesterday dabs
of soft flesh, grow up and pass through college and marry. I hear
myself in the studio with an old man's cough; the chisels slip under
the mall and I can't move the clay about without help--all fading,
decaying, but you. Candles burn out, hundreds of them, while your
whiteness, your flame--
"Strange, too, how you light a world, a sky, eternity. A word we
have no business with; a high-sounding word for a penny purpose.
Look, we try to keep alive because it's necessary to life, to
nature; and the effort, the struggle, breeds the dream. You can
understand that. Men who ought to know say that love is nothing
more." He rose and stood over her, towering and portentous against
the curtained light. "I don't pretend to guess. I'm a creative
artist--Simon Downige at Cottarsport--I have you. If it's God so
much the better."
What principally swept over Linda was the knowledge that his
possession of her must keep them always apart. The reality, all
realities, were veils to Pleydon. Her momentary vision of things
beyond brick and earth was magnified in him until everything else
was obliterated. The fever! Oh, yes, that and his passion for work
merged in his passion for her. She could bring him nothing; and she
had a curious picture of two Lindas visible to him here--the Linda
that was actual and the other, the child. And of them it was the
latter he cared most for, recreated out of his desire to defraud his
loneliness, to repay the damage to his spirit realized in bronze.
She was, suddenly, too weary to stir or lift her hand; a depression
as absolute as her flare of rage enveloped her. Now the reason for
her coming seemed inexplicable, as if, for the while, her mind had
failed. She repressed a shudder at the thought of being, through the
long nights of his restlessness and wandering voice, alone with
Pleydon. She hadn't, Linda discovered, any of the transmuting
feeling for him which alone made surrender possible. She calculated
mentally how long it would take her to reach the station, what train
would be available.
Linda accepted dumbly the fatality to her own hope; for a few hours
she had thought it possible to break out of the prison of
circumstance, to walk free from all hindrance; but it had been vain.
She gazed at Dodge Pleydon intensely--a comprehensive view of the
man she had so nearly married, and who, more than any other force,
dominated her being. It was already too late for anything but
memory; she saw--filled with pity for them both--hardly more than a
strange old man with deadened hair and a yellow parchment-like skin.
His suit of loose gray flannel gave her a feeling that it had been
borrowed from some one she lovingly knew. The gesture of his hand,
too, had been copied from a brilliant personage with a consuming
impatience at all impotence.
"Remember me to Arnaud," he said, holding her gloves and the short
fur cape. "Wait!" he cried sharply, turning to the bookcase against
the wall. Pleydon fumbled in a box of lacquered gilt with a silk
cord and produced a glove once white but now brown and fragile with
age. "You never missed it," he proceeded in a gleeful triumph; "but
then you had so many pairs. Once I sent you nine dozen together from
Grenoble. They were nothing, but this you had worn. For a long while
it kept the shape of your hand."
"Dodge," she tried without success to steady her voice, "it stayed
with you anyhow, my--my hand."
"But yes," he answered impatiently. He returned the glove to its
box, carefully tying the tasselled cord. Then, after clumsily
helping her with the cape, he accompanied her to the elevator.
"There were other things," he told her. "Did you see the letters
about the Hesperia affair? Heaps of them. Rodin.... But what can you
expect in a world where there is no safety--" The stopping cage cut
off his remark. She held out the hand that was less real to him than
"Yes, Linda. But watch that door, your skirt might easily be caught
in it." He fussed over her safety until, abruptly, he seemed to rise
in space, shut out from her by the limitations of her faith.
The evening overshadowed her in the train, as though she were
whirling in the swiftest passage possible, through an indeterminate
grayness, from day to night. The latter descended on her as she
reached the steps of her home. It was still that; now it would
continue to be until death. Nothing could ever again offer her
change, release, vindication; nothing, that was, which might give
her, for a day, what even her mother had plentifully experienced--the
igniting exultation of the body.
It was inevitable, she thought, for Arnaud to be in the library. He
rose unsteadily as she stood in the doorway. "Linda," he articulated
with difficulty. A book had rested open on the table beside him and,
closing it, he put it back in its place. His arm trembled so that it
took a painfully long while. Then he moved forward, still confused.
"What a confounded time you were gone. I had the most idiotic fancy.
You see, it was so unlike you; none more exact in habit. All day. I
didn't get to the Historical Society, it seemed so devilish far off.
I'd never blame you for leaving an old man without any gumption." He
must never think that again, she replied. Wasn't she, too, middle-aged?
Linda admitted, definitely, the loss of her youth; and yet a
stubborn inner conviction remained that she was unchanged. In this
she had for support her appearance; practically she was as freshly
and gracefully pale as the girl who had married Arnaud Hallet. Even
Vigné, with indelible traces of her motherhood, had faint lines
absent from Linda's flawless countenance. Her children, and Arnaud,
were immensely proud of her beauty; it had become a part--in the
form of her ridiculously young air--of the family conversational
resources. She was increasingly aware of its supreme significance to
One of her few certainties had been the discovery that, while small
truths might be had from others, all that intimately and deeply
concerned her was beyond questioning and advice. The importance of
her attractiveness, for example, which seemed the base of her entire
being, was completely out of accord with the accepted standard of
values for middle-aged women. Other things, called moral and spiritual,
she inferred, should take up her days and thoughts. There was a
course of discipline--exactly like exercises in the morning--for the
preparation of the willingness to die.
But such an attitude was eternally beyond her; she repudiated it
with a revolt stringing every nerve indignantly tense. She had had,
on the whole, singularly little from life but her fine body; it had
always been the temple and altar of her service, and no mere wordy
reassurance could now repay her for its swift or gradual
destruction. The latter, except for accident, would be her fate; she
was remarkably sound. In her social adventures, the balls to which,
without Arnaud, she occasionally went, she was morbid in her
sensitive dread of discovering, through a waning admiration, that
she was faded.
It would be impossible to spend more care on her person than she had
in the past; but that was unrelenting. Linda was inexorable in her
demands on the establishments that made her suits and dresses. The
slightest imperfection of fit exasperated her; and she regarded the
endless change of fashions with contempt. This same shifting, she
observed, occurred not only in women's clothes but in the women
Linda remembered her mother, eternal in gaiety, but very obviously
different from her in states of mind affecting her appearance. She
was unable to define the change; but it was unmistakable--Stella
Condon seemed a little old-fashioned. When now, to Lowrie's wife,
Linda was unmistakably out-of-date. Lowrie, fast accomplishing all
that had been predicted for him, had married a girl incomprehensible
to his mother. Observing this later feminine development she had the
baffled feeling of inspecting a creature of a new order.
To Linda, Jean Tynedale, now a Hallet, seemed harder than ever her
own famous coldness had succeeded in being. This came mostly from
Jean's imposing education; there had been, in addition to the
politest of finishing schools, college--a woman's concern, Bryn
Mawr--and then post-graduate honors in a noteworthy university. She
was entirely addressed, in a concrete way, to the abstract problems
of social progress and hygiene; and, under thirty, the animating
spirit, as well as financial support, of an incredible number of
Settlements and allied undertakings. She spoke crisply before civic
and other clubs; even, in the interest of suffrage, addressing
nondescript audiences from a box on the street.
But it was her unperturbed dissection of the motives of sex, the
denouncement of a criminal mysterious ignorance, that most daunted
Linda. She listened to Jean with a series of distinct shocks to her
sense of propriety. What she had agreed to consider a nameless
attribute of women, or, if anything more exact, the power of their
charm over men, the other defined in unequivocal scientific terms.
She understood every impulse veiled for Linda in a reticence
absolutely needful to its appeal.
This, of course, the elder distrusted; just as she had no approval
for Jean's public activities. Linda didn't like public women; her
every instinct cried for a fine seclusion, fine in the meaning of an
appropriate setting for feminine distinction, the magic of dress and
cut roses. Her private inelegant word for Lowrie's wife was "bold;"
indeed, describing to herself the younger woman's patronage of her
bearing, she descended to her mother's colloquialism "brass."
She thought this sitting at a dinner-table which held Vigné and her
husband and Lowrie and Jean Hallet. Arnaud, drawing life from the
vitality of an atmosphere charged with youth, was unflagging in
splendid spirits and his valorous wit. Jean would never inspire the
affection Arnaud had given her; nor the passion that, in Pleydon,
had burned unfed even by hope.
Her thoughts slipped away from the present to the sculptor. Three
years had vanished since she had gone with an intention of finality
to his apartment, and in that time he had neither been in their
house nor written. Linda had expected this; she was without the
desire to see or hear from him. Dodge Pleydon was finished for her;
as a man, a potentiality, he had departed from her life. He was a
piece with her memories, the triumphs of her young days. Without an
actual knowledge of the moment of its accomplishment she had passed
over the border of that land, leaving it complete and fair and
radiant for her lingering view. Whether or not she had been happy
was now of no importance; the magic of its light showed only a
garden and a girl in white with a black bang against her blue eyes.
The bang, the blueness of gaze, were still hers; but, only this
morning, brush in hand, the former had offered less resistance in
its arrangement; it was thinner, and the color perceptibly not so
dense. At this, with a chill edge of fear, she had determined to go
at once to her hairdresser; no one, neither Arnaud, who loved its
luster, nor an unsympathetic bold scrutiny, a scrutiny of brass,
should see that she was getting gray. There was no fault about her
figure; she had that for her satisfaction; she was more graceful
than Jean's square thinness, more slim than Vigné's maternal
Linda had the feeling that she was engaged in a struggle with time,
a ruthless antagonist whom she viewed with a personal enmity. Time
must, would, of course, triumph in the end; but there would be no
sign of her surrender in the meanwhile; she wouldn't bend an inch,
relinquish by a fraction the pride and delicacy of her person. The
skilful dyeing of her hair to its old absolute blackness, as natural
and becoming in appearance as ever, was a symbol of her
determination to cheat an intolerable tyranny.
The process, dismaying her soul, she bore with a rigid fortitude; as
she endured the coldness of a morning bath from which, often, she
was slow to react. This, to her, was widely different from the
futile efforts of her mother, those women of the past, to preserve
for practical ends their flushes of youth and exhilaration. She felt
obscurely that she was serving a deeper reality created by the hands
of Pleydon, Arnaud's faith and pure pleasure, all that countless men
had seen in her for admiration, solace and power.
But it was inevitable, she told herself bitterly, that she should
hear the first intimation of her decline from Jean Hallet. Rather,
she overheard it, the discussion of her, from the loiterers at
breakfast as she moved about the communicating library. Jean's
emphatic slightly rough-textured voice arrested her in the
arrangement of a bowl of zinnias:
"You can't say just where she has failed, but it's evident. Perhaps
a general dryness. Perfectly natural. Thoroughly silly to fight
against it--" Vigné interrupted her. "I think mother's wonderful. I
can't remember any other woman nearly her age who looks so
enchanting in the evening."
Linda quietly left the flowers as they were and went up to the room
that had been her father's. It was now used as a spare bedroom; and
she had turned into it, in place of her own chamber, instinctively,
without reason. She had kept it exactly as it had been when Amelia
Lowrie first conducted her there, as it was when her father, a boy,
slept under the white canopy.
Linda advanced to the mirror; and, her hands so tightly clenched
that the finger-nails dug into the palms, forced herself to gaze
steadily at the wavering reflection. It seemed to her that there had
been a malicious magic in Jean's detraction; for immediately, as
though the harm had been wrought by the girl's voice, she saw that
her clear freshness had gone. Her face had a wax-like quality, the
violet shadows under her eyes were brown. Who had once called her a
gardenia? Now she was wilting--how many gardenias had she seen
droop, turn brown. Her heart beat with a disturbing echo in her
ears, and, with a slight gasp that resembled a sob, she sank on one
of the uncomfortable painted chairs.
What, above every other sensation, oppressed her was a feeling of
terrific loneliness--the familiar isolation magnified until it was
past bearing. Yet, there was Arnaud, infallible in his tender
comprehension, she ought to go to him at once and find support. But
it was impossible; all that he could give her was, to her special
necessity, useless. She had never been able to establish herself in
his sympathy; the reason for that lay in the fact that she could
bring nothing similar in return.
The room--except for the timed clangor of the electric cars, like
the measure of lost minutes--was quiet. The photograph of Bartram
Hallet in cricketing clothes had faded until it was almost
indistinguishable. Soon the faint figure would disappear entirely,
as though the picture were amenable to the relentless principle
operating in her.
The peace about her finally lessened her acute suffering, stilled
her heart. She told herself with a show of vigor that she was a
coward, a charge that roused an unexpected activity of denial. She
discovered that cowardice was intolerable to her. What had happened,
too, was so far out of her hands that a trace of philosophical
acceptance, recognition, came to her support. The loveliest woman
alive must do the same, meet in a looking-glass--that eternal
accompanying sibyl--her disaster. She rose, her lips firmly set,
composed and pale, and returned to the neglected flowers in the
Vigné entered and put an affectionate arm about her shoulders,
repeating--unconscious that Linda had heard the discussion which had
given it being--the conviction that her mother was wonderful,
specially in the black dinner dress with the girdle of jet. With no
facility of expression she gave her daughter's arm a quick light
From then she watched the slow progress of age with a new
realization, but an unabated distaste and, wherever it was possible,
a determined artifice. Arnaud had failed swiftly in the past months;
and, while she was inspecting the impaired supports of an arbor in
the garden, he came to her with an unopened telegram. "I abhor these
things," he declared fretfully; "they are so sudden. Why don't
people write decent letters any more! It's like the telephone....
Good manners have been ruined."
She tore open the envelope, read the brief line within, and, a hand
suddenly put out to the arbor, sank on its bench. There had been
rain, but a late sun was again pouring over the sparkling grass, and
robins were singing with a lyrical clearness. "What is it?" Arnaud
demanded anxiously, tremulous in the unsparing sunlight. She
"Dodge died this morning."
His concern was as much for her as for Pleydon's death. "I'm sorry,
Linda," his hand was on her shoulder. "It is a shock to you. A fine
man, a genius--none stronger in our day. When you were young and for
so long after.... I was lucky, Linda, to get you; have you all this
while. Nothing in Pleydon's life, not even his success, could have
made up for your loss."
She wondered dully if Dodge had missed her, if Arnaud Hallet had
ever had her in his possession. The robins filled the immaculate air
with song. It was impossible that Dodge, who was so imperious in his
certainty that he would never say good-by to her, was dead.
There was a revival of public interest in the destruction of
Pleydon's statue at Hesperia, the papers again printed accounts
colored by a variety of attitudes unembarrassed by fact; and the
serious journals united in a dignity of eminently safe praise. At
first Linda made an effort to preserve these; but soon their
similarity, her inability to find, among sonorous periods, any trace
of Dodge's spirit--in reality she knew so blindingly much more than
the most penetrating critical intellect--caused her to leave the
reviews unread. No one else living had understood Pleydon; and when
descriptions of his life spoke of the austerity in his later years,
his fanatical aversion to women, Linda thought of the brittle glove
in the gilt-lacquer box.
Her own emotion, it seemed to her, was the most confused of all the
unintelligible pressures that had converted her life into an enigma.
She had a distinct sense of overwhelming loss--of something, Linda
was obliged to add, she had never owned. However, she realized that
during Pleydon's life she had dimly expected a happy accident of
explanation; until almost the last, yes--after she had returned from
that ultimate journey, she had been conscious of the presence of
hope. The hope had been for herself, created out of her constant
But now the man in whom solely she had been expressed, the only
possible reason for her obstinate pride, had left her in a world
that, but for Arnaud's fondness, looked on her without remark. The
loss of her distinction had been finally evident at balls, in the
dresses in which Vigné had thought her so wonderful, and she dropped