Part 4 out of 7
"You shan't talk like that!" she said. "You shan't think like that! I
won't endure it. It's morbid. It's horrible."
"Oh, no, it's not," he said easily. "The morbidity is in being afraid
to look at it. It was morbid to struggle frantically, the way I did all
the spring, trying to resist the irresistible thing that was drawing
you along your true path. It was a cancerous egotism of mine that was
trying to eat you up, live you up into myself. That, thank God, has
been cut out of me! I think it has. Don't misunderstand me, though. I'm
not going to relinquish anything of you that I can keep;--that I ever
had a chance to keep."
He took her hands and gently--coolly--kissed them.
"Then don't relinquish anything," she said. "It's all yours. Can't you
believe that, John?"
He released her hands and sank back slackly in his chair. "Victory!" he
said, a note of inextinguishable irony in his voice. "A victory I'd have
given five years of my life for last March. Yet I could go on winning
them--a whole succession of them--and they could lead me to nothing but
She left him abruptly and the next moment he heard her fling herself down
upon his bed. When he rose and disengaged himself from his rug, she said,
over an irrepressible sob or two, that he wasn't to mind nor come to her.
She wasn't going to cry-not more than a minute.
He came, nevertheless, settled himself on the edge of the bed and took
possession of her hands again.
"I wouldn't have told you all this," he said--"for you don't need any
lessons in arithmetic, child--if I dared trust myself to remember, after
the other thing had come back. Now I'm committed--don't you see?--not to
play the fool, tragically or ludicrously, as the case might be, trying to
dispute the inevitable. And I shall contrive to keep a lot, my dear. More
than you think."
Later, the evening of that same day, he asked her what was in the letter
that had provoked their talk. Did they want her back in Chicago for
rehearsals or consultations? Because if they did there was no reason in
the world why she should not go. At the rate at which he was gaining
strength there would not be the slightest reason--he gave her his
professional word of honor--why she should not go back in a day or two.
"I should have to go back," she said, "if I were going to sing March's
opera. There is such a lot of work about a new production that there
would be no time to spare."
"But," he asked, "isn't March's opera precisely what you are going to
"No," she said rebelliously. "It's not. There wasn't anything in the
contract about that. I'll carry out the contract this summer. I'll keep
my word and yours, since that is what you want me to do. But I won't sing
'Dolores' for anybody."
He did not press her for the reason.
After a little silence, she said, "Lucile thought I'd fallen in love with
him. So did Rush, I guess,--and poor old Nat. Did you, John?"
"I tried to, hard enough," he confessed.
She stared. "Tried to!"
"That would have been the easier thing to fight," he said. "There's
nothing inevitable about a man,--any man. I'd have stood a chance at
least, of beating him, even though he had a twenty-year handicap or so.
But the other thing,--well, that was like the first bar of the Fifth
Symphony, you know; Fate knocking at the door. Clear terror that is until
one can get the courage to open the door and invite Fate in."
THE END OF IT
About a week later--just at the beginning of June, this was--Paula did go
back to Chicago, leaving her husband to go on gaining the benefit, for
another ten days or so, of that wine-like mountain air. It was an
unwelcome conviction that he really wanted her to go, rather than any
crying need for her at Ravinia that decided her to leave him. The need
would not be urgent for at least another fortnight since it had been
decided between her and LaChaise that she should make her debut in
_Tosca_, an opera she had sung uncounted times.
Since their momentous conversation in which John had attempted to revise
the fundamentals of their life together, they had not reverted to the
main theme of it; had clarified, merely, one or two of its more immediate
conclusions. Paula was to carry out in spirit as well as in letter the
terms of her Ravinia contract exactly as if it were still to be regarded
as the first step of her reopened career. What she should do about the
second step in case it offered itself to her was a bridge not to be
crossed until they came to it.
John had professed himself content to let it remain at that, but she
divined that there was something hollow in his profession. It was
possible, of course, that his restlessness represented nothing more than
a new stage in his convalescence. It didn't seem possible that after the
candors of that talk he could still be keeping something back from her.
Yet that was an impression she very clearly got. Anyhow, her presence was
doing him no good, and on that unwelcome assurance, she bade him a
forlorn farewell and went home.
It was a true intuition. John heaved a sigh of relief when she was
gone. In his present enfeebled state she was too much for him. The
electrical vitality of her overpowered him. Even before his illness he
had had moments--I think I have recorded one of them--when her ardent
strength paralyzed him with a sort of terror and these moments were more
There was, too, a real effort involved in presenting ideas to her
(intellectual ideas, if they may be so distinguished from emotional
ones). He didn't know, now, whether she had fully understood what he had
been driving at that day; whether anything had really got through to her
beyond a melancholy realization that his love had cooled. He had always
been aware of this effort, but in the days of his strength he hadn't
minded making it.
Now he was conscious of wishing for some one like Mary,--indeed, for Mary
herself. They talked the same language, absolutely. Their minds had the
same index of refraction, so that thoughts flashed back and forth between
them effortlessly and without distortion. He thought of her so often and
wished for her so much during the first two days of his solitude that it
seemed almost a case for the psychical research people when he got a
telegram from her.
It read: "Aunt Lucile worried you left alone especially traveling. Shall
you mind or will Paula if I come down and bring you back, Mary."
There was a situation made clear, at all events. He grinned over it as
he despatched his wire to her. "Perfectly unnecessary but come
straight along so that we can play together for a week or two before
Play together is just what they did. Enough of his strength soon came
back to make real walks possible and during the second week, with a
two-horse team and a side-bar buggy, they managed, without any ill
effect upon him, an excursion across the valley and up the opposite
mountainside to a log cabin road-house where they had lunch.
Mary, a born horsewoman, did the driving herself, thus relieving them of
the impediment to real companionship which a hired driver would have
been. In an inconsecutive, light-hearted way difficult to report
intelligibly, they managed to tell each other a lot. She let him see,
with none of the rhetorical solemnities which a direct statement would
have involved, her new awareness of his professional eminence. A dozen
innuendoes, as light as dandelion feathers, conveyed it to him; swift
brush-strokes of gesture and inflection sketched the picture in; an
affectionate burlesque of awe completed it, so that he could laugh at her
for it as she had meant he should.
She told him during their drive what the source of her illumination was;
described Anthony March's visit on that most desperate day of all, the
vividness of his concern over the outcome of the fight and his utter
unconcern about the effect of it upon his own fortunes. She had been
reading Kipling aloud, out at the farm, to the boys and Aunt Lucile and a
memory of it led her to make a comparison--heedless of its
absurdity--between the composer and Kirn's lama. "He isn't, anyhow, tied
to the 'wheel of things' any more than that old man was."
"I'd like to have come down that day and heard him talk," John said.
"Because it's the real thing, with him. Not words. He wouldn't be a bad
person to go to," he added musingly, "if one had got himself into a
real _impasse_--or what looked like one. Paula has chucked his opera,
She nodded, evidently not in the least surprised and, no more, perturbed
by this intelligence. "He won't mind that," she explained. "The only
thing he really needs, in the world, is to hear his music, but this, you
see, wasn't his any more. He had been trying to make it Paula's. He had
been working over it rather hopelessly, because he had promised, but it
was like letting him out of school when he found that she had forgotten
all about him;--didn't care if she never saw him again."
She caught, without an explanatory word, the meaning of the glance her
father turned upon her, and went straight on. "Oh, it seems a lot, I
know, to have found out about him in one short talk, but there's
nothing--personal in that. He doesn't, I mean--save himself up for
special people. He's there for anybody. Like a public drinking fountain,
you know. That's why he would be such a wonderful person--to go to, as
you said. No one could possibly monopolize him."
She added, after a silence, "It seems a shame, when he wants so little
that he can't have that. Can't hear, for example, that opera of his the
way he really wrote it."
"We owe him something," her father said thoughtfully. "He got rather
rough justice from Paula, anyhow. I suppose a thing like that could,
perhaps, be managed--if one put his back into it."
She understood instantly, as before, and quite without exegesis, the
twinge of pain that went across his face. "You _will_ have a back to
put into things again, one of these days. It wants only courage to wait
for it, quite patiently until it comes. You've plenty of that. That's
one of he things Mr. March told me about you," she added with the
playful purpose of surprising him again. "Only I happened to know that
"It's more than I can be sure of," he said. "I've been full of bravado
with Paula, telling her how soon I was going to be back in harness again;
cock-sure and domineering as ever, so that she'd better make hay while
the sun shone. But it was I, nevertheless, who made her go home so that
she could start to work--when the whistle blew. Some one was going to
have to support the family, I told her, and it didn't look as if it were
going to be me."
This speech, though it ended in jest, had begun, she knew, in earnest. He
meant her to understand that, and left her to judge for herself where the
dividing line fell. She answered in a tone as light as his, "Paula could
do it easily enough." But she was not satisfied with the way he took it.
The mere quality of the silence must have told her something. She turned
upon him with sudden intensity and said, "Don't tell me you're
worrying--about three great healthy people like us. You have been,
though. Whatever put it into your mind to spend half a thought on that?"
"Why, it was a letter from Martin Whitney," he said. "Oh, the best meant
thing in the world. Nothing but encouragement in it from beginning to
end, only it was so infernally encouraging, it set me off. No, let me
talk. You're quite the easiest person in the world to tell things to.
I've been remiss, there's no getting away from that. I've never taken
money-making very seriously, it came so easily. I've spent my earnings
the way my friends have spent their incomes. Well, if I'd died the other
day, there wouldn't have been much left. There would have been my life
insurance for Paula, and enough to pay my debts, including my engagements
for Rush, but beyond that, oh, a pittance merely. Of course with ten
years' health, back at my practise, even with five, I could improve the
situation a lot."
She urged as emphatically as she dared--she wanted to avoid the
mistake of sounding encouraging--that the situation needed no
improvement. The income of fifty thousand dollars would take care of
Paula, and beyond that,--well, if there were ever two healthy young
animals in the world concerning whom cares and worries were
superfluous, they were herself and Rush.
He told her thoughtfully that this was where she was; wrong. "Rush, to
begin with, isn't a healthy young animal. That's what I couldn't make
Martin Whitney understand. He's one of the war's sacrifices precisely as
much as if he had had his leg shot off. He needs support; will go on
needing it for two or three years, financial as well as moral. He mustn't
be allowed to fail. That's the essence of it. He's--spent, you see;
depleted. One speaks of it in figurative terms, but it's a physiological
thing--if we could get at it--that's behind the lassitude of these boys.
It all comes back to that. That they're restless, irresolute. That they
need the stimulus of excitement and can't endure the drag of routine.
They need a generous allowance, my dear,--even for an occasional failure
in self-command, those two boys out at Hickory Hill."
She had nothing to say to that, though his pause gave her opportunity. A
sudden surmise as to the drift of that last sentence, silenced her. And
it was a surmise that leaped, in the next instant, to full conviction. He
was pleading Graham's cause with her! Why? Was it something that had been
as near his heart as that, all along? Or had some one--Rush--or even
Graham himself--engaged his advocacy?
She said at last, rather breathlessly (it was necessary to say something
or he would perceive that his stratagem had betrayed itself): "Well, at
the gloomy worst, Rush is taken care of. And as for me, I'm not a war
sacrifice, anyhow. That's not a possible conception--even for a worried
convalescent. Did you ever _see_ anything as gorgeous as that tree, even
in an Urban stage setting?"
"No," he said, "the war wasn't what you were sacrificed to."
She held her breath until she saw he wasn't going on with that. But he
seemed willing to follow her lead to lighter matters, and for the rest
of their excursion they carried out the pretense that there was nothing
like a cloud in their sky.
That evening, though, after she had bidden him good night, she changed
her mind and came back into his room. There had been something wistful
about his kiss that, determined her.
"Which of them wrote to you about me?" she asked.
"Both," he told her. "Of course I should have known you'd guess. Forgive
me for having tried to--manage you. I'll show you both their letters if
you like. It's a breach of confidence, of course, but I don't know that I
could do better."
"I'll read Rush's," she said. "Not the other."
She carried it over to the lamp, and for a while after she had taken in
its easily grasped intent she went on turning its pages back and forth
while she sought for an end of the tangled skein of her thoughts to
hold on by.
Finally, "Do you want me to marry him, dad?" she asked. Then, before he
could answer she hurried on. "I mean, would it relieve you from some
nightmare worry about me if I did?--This has to be plain talk, doesn't
it, if it is to get us anywhere?"
"That's a fair question of yours," he said. But he wasn't ready at once
with an answer. "It _would_ be such a relief, provided you really wanted
to marry him. That goes to the bottom of it, I think. My responsibility
is to make it possible for you to--follow your heart. To marry or not as
you wish. To marry a poor man if you wish. But if Graham is your choice
and all that holds you back from him is some remediable
misunderstanding--or failure to understand ..."
"I don't know whether it's remediable or not," she said; and added, "I
told him I would marry him if I could. Did he tell you that?"
It was a mistake to have quoted that expression to her father. He took
it just as Graham had. Of course! What else could he think? She sat with
clenched hands and a dry throat, listening while he tried to enlighten
what he took to be her innocent misunderstanding.
They had never spoken, she realized, about matters of sex. For anything
he really knew to the contrary she might have been as ignorant as a
child. He was actually talking as one talks to a child;--kindly,
tolerantly, tenderly, but with an unconscious touch of patronage, like
one trying to explain away--misgivings about Santa Claus! There were
elements, inevitably, in a man's love for a woman, that a young girl
could not understand. Nothing but experience could bring that
understanding home to her. This was what in one way after another, he was
trying to convey.
But the intuition which, in good times or bad, always betrayed their
emotions to each other, showed him that he was, somehow missing the mark.
Her silence through his tentative little pauses disconcerted him heavily.
He ran down at last like an unwound clock.
It was only after a long intolerably oppressive silence that she found
her voice. "The misunderstanding isn't what you think," she said. "Nor
what Graham thinks. It's his misunderstanding, not mine. He thinks that I
am--a sort of innocent angel that he's not good enough for. And the fact
is that I'm not--not innocent enough for him. Not an angel at all. Not
But she got no further. The plea for comprehension, for an ear that would
not turn away from her plain story, never was made. In a smother of words
he halted her. Affectionately, with a gentleness that achieved absolute
finality. She was overwrought. She carried paradox too far. In her
innocence she used a form of speech that she didn't know the meaning of,
and should be careful to avoid. Her troubles, with patience, would work
themselves out in the end. Meanwhile let her as far as possible stop
thinking about them.
But she had got, during the intaken breath before he began to speak, a
sensation,--as sharp and momentary as the landscape revealed in a
lightning flash,--of a sudden terror on his part; as of one finding
himself on the edge of an abyss of understanding. For that one glaring
instant before he had had time to turn his face away he had known what
she meant. But he never would look again. Never would know.
Ravinia is one of Chicago's idiosyncrasies, a ten-weeks' summer season of
grand opera with a full symphony orchestra given practically
out-of-doors. Its open pavilion seats from fifteen hundred to two
thousand people and on a warm Saturday night, you will find twice as many
more on the, "bleachers" that surround it or strolling about under the
trees in the park. The railroad runs special trains to it all through the
season from town, and crammed and groaning interurbans collect their toll
for miles from up and down the shore.
It had begun as an amusement park with merry-go-rounds, Ferris-wheels and
such--to the scandalized indignation of numerous super-urban persons
whose summer places occupied most of the district roundabout. They took
the enterprise into their own hands, abolished the calliope, put a
symphony orchestra into the bandstand and, eventually, transformed the
shell into a stage and went in for opera; opera popularized with a blue
pencil so that no performance was ever more than two hours long, and at
the modest price of fifty cents.
Its forces, recruited chiefly from among the younger stars at the
Metropolitan, give performances that want no apologetic allowance from
anybody. It has become an institution of which the town and especially
the North Shore is boastful.
Paula foresaw no easy conquest here. Her social prestige, part of which
she enjoyed as John Wollaston's wife and part of which she had earned
during the last four years for herself, counted as much against her as it
did in her favor. It was evident from the way the announcements of her
prospective appearance at Ravinia had been elaborated in the society
columns of the newspapers that it would arouse a lot of curiosity. It
would be one of the topics that everybody, in the social-register sense
of the word, would be talking about and in order to talk authoritatively
everybody--four or five hundred people this is to say--would have to
attend at least one of her performances.
Nothing less than a downright unmistakable triumph would convince them.
She was a professional in the grain and yet in this adventure she would
be under the curse of an amateur's status, a thing she hated as all
It was evidently from an instinct to cut herself off as completely as
possible from these social connections of hers that she rented for the
summer, a furnished house in the village of Ravinia, within a mile or so
of the park. John was rather disconcerted over this when she told him
about it. She greeted him with it as an accomplished fact upon his
return to Chicago with Mary. She made a genuine effort to explain the
necessity, but explanations were not in Paula's line and she didn't
She made it clear enough, though, that she didn't want to be fussed by
the attentions of friends or family, of her husband least of all. She
didn't want to be congratulated nor encouraged. She didn't want to be
asked to little suppers or luncheons nor to be made the objective of
personally conducted tourist parties back stage. She didn't want to be
called to the telephone, ever, except on matters of professional business
by her Ravinia colleagues.
All of this, John pointed out, could be accomplished at home. He,
himself, could deal with the telephoners and the tourists. This was about
all apparently that he was going to be good for this summer; but a
watchdog's duties he could perform in a highly efficient manner.
"But a home and a husband are the very first things I've got to forget
about," cried Paula. "Oh, can't you see!"
Darkly and imperfectly, he did. The atmosphere of the home in which one
has been guarded and pampered as a priceless possession was--must
be--enervating, and to one who was screwing up her powers to their
highest pitch for a great effort like this, it would be
poisonous--malarial! He would have been clearer about it, though, but for
the misgiving that, consciously or not, Paula was punishing him for
having insisted that she carry her contract through. Or--if that were too
harsh a way of putting it,--that she was coquetting with him. Having told
her down there in the South that he didn't care for her in a loverlike
way, he might now have an opportunity of proving that he did--over
It gave him a twinge, for a fact, but he managed to ask good-humoredly if
this meant that he was to be barred from the whole show, from
performances as well as from rehearsals and the Ravinia house.
"I won't care," she said with a laugh of desperation, "after I've once
got my teeth in. But until then... Oh, I know it sounds horrible but I
don't want even to--feel you; not even in the fringe of it.
"I'll tell you who I would like, though," she went on over a palpable
hesitation and with a flush of color rising to her cheeks. "I can't live
all alone up there of course. I could get along with just a maid, but it
would be easier and nicer if I could have some one for a--companion. And
the person I'd choose, if she'd do it, is Mary."
He said, not quite knowing whether to be pleased or not, that they could
ask her about it at all events. They were rather counting on her out at
Hickory Hill but he didn't know that that need matter. Only wasn't
Mary--family, herself, a reminder of home?
"Not a bit," said Paula, with a laugh. "Not but what she likes me well
enough," she went on, trying to account for her preference (these
Wollastons were always concerned about the whys of things) "but she
stands off a little and looks on; without holding her breath, either. And
then, well, she'd be a sort of reminder of you, after all."
Put that way, he couldn't quarrel with it, though there was a
challenge about it that chilled him a little. Watched over by his own
daughter (this was what it came to) Paula would be beyond
suspicion--even of Lucile.
Mary, when the scheme was put up to her was no less surprised than
John had been, but she was pleased clear through, and with a
clean-cutting executive skill he had hardly credited her with, she
thought out the details of the plan and revised the rest of their
summer arrangements to fit.
The Dearborn Avenue house should be closed and her father should move out
to the farm. The apple house was now remodeled to a point where it would
accommodate him as well as Aunt Lucile very comfortably. The boys and the
servants could live around in tents and things. She'd want only one maid
for the cottage at Ravina and the small car which she'd drive herself.
The sum of all the activities that Mary proposed for herself added up to
a really exacting job; housekeeper, personal maid, chauffeur, chaperon
and secretary. It was with a rather mixed lot of emotions that John
thought of delivering her over to be tied to Paula's chariot wheels like
that. One of the two women who loved him serving the other in a capacity
so nearly menial! The thought of it gave him an odd sort of thrill even
while he shrank from it. Certainly, he would not have assented to it, had
it not been so unmistakably what Mary herself wanted. Her reasons for
wanting it he couldn't feel that he had quite fathomed.
There was, as a matter of fact, nothing fine-spun about them. It was a
job in the first place and gave her, therefore, she mordantly told
herself, an excuse for continuing to exist. It was an escape from Hickory
Hill. (Clear cowardice this was, she confessed. That situation would have
to be met and settled one way or the other before long; but her dread of
both the possible alternatives had mounted since her frustrated attempt
to confide in her father.) The third reason which she avowed to
everybody, was simple excited curiosity for a look into a new world. The
mystery and the glamour of it attracted her. Paula's proposal gave her
the opportunity to see what these strange persons were like when they
were not strutting their little while upon the stage.
Paula, of course, was, fundamentally, one of them. It was remarkable how
that simple discovery interpreted her. When you saw her surrounded by
them, working and quarreling with them, talking that horrible polyglot of
French, Italian and English, which she slipped into so easily, you
realized how exotic the environment of the Dearborn Avenue house must
have been to her and how strong a thing her passion for John Wollaston,
to enable her to endure five years of it,--of finikin social
observances,--of Aunt Lucile's standards of propriety!
Mary took real comfort in her companionship; found an immense release
from emotional pressure in it. One might quarrel furiously with Paula
(and it happened Mary very nearly did, as shall be related presently,
before they had been in the cottage three days), but one couldn't
possibly worry one's self about her, couldn't torture one's self feeling
things with Paula's nerves. That was the Wollaston trick. What frightful
tangles the thing that goes by the name of unselfishness, the attempt to
feel for others, could lead a small group like a family into!
Another thing that helped was that during the fortnight of rehearsal
before the season opened, there wasn't time to think. They were pelted
by perfectly external events, a necessity for doing this, an appointment
to do that, an engagement somewhere else. It was like being caught out
in a driving rain. You scuttled along-snatched a momentary shelter where
Even getting the clothes Paula needed would have filled the time of a
woman of leisure to the brim. A bridal trousseau would have been nothing
to it. But with Paula these activities had to be sandwiched in with daily
rehearsals,--long ones, too,--hours with Novelli while she memorized
half-forgotten parts, interviews with reporters, struggles with
photographers, everything that the diabolic ingenuity of the publicity
man could contrive. He, by the way, regarded Paula as his best bet and
lavished his efforts upon her in a way that stirred her colleagues
(rivals, of course), to a frenzied exasperation, over his sinister
partiality to this "society amateur."
(They all but enjoyed a terrible revenge, for as poetic justice narrowly
missed having it, the extent of her advance publicity and the beauty of
her clothes proved to be the rocks she went aground on. Only a lucky wave
came along and floated her off again.)
Mary's quarrel with Paula, though it never came off,--never for that
matter got through to Paula's consciousness, even as an approach to
one,--had, all the same, a chain of consequences and so deserves to be
recorded. The opera management was supposed to supply Paula with a piano
and they found one already installed in the Ravinia house when they moved
in, a small grand of a widely advertised make. Paula dug half a dozen
vicious arpeggios out of it and condemned it out of hand. Then in the
midst of a petulant outburst which had, nevertheless, a humorous savor
(the management would promise and pretend till kingdom come. They'd even
take real trouble to get out of complying with her simple request for a
new piano), she pulled herself up short and stared at Mary.
"What idiots we are! I am, anyhow. I'd forgotten all about March. He can
make a piano out of anything. When he's tuned this, I won't want another.
I've got his telephone number somewhere. You don't happen to remember it,
do you?--Why? What makes you look like that?"
For Mary was staring at her--speechless. Paula's affairs had driven her
own pretty well out of her mind. She had stopped thinking about Graham.
She'd given over worrying about Rush. But she had not forgotten Anthony
March. The alternative possibility that Paula might have gone on with his
opera, that he might have been, but for what her father spoke of as rough
justice, attending rehearsals of it, hearing that big orchestra making a
reality of its unheard melodies, had been much in her mind. She had
wondered whether it was not really in Paula's. Along with a regret for
his downcast hopes. He was, in a way, the ladder she had climbed by.
Hearing her sing those wonderful songs of his was what had led LaChaise
to offer her this opportunity. And Paula didn't know, Mary was sure, of
anything that mitigated his disappointment. To her, he was merely one who
had tried and, pitiably, failed. She must, it seemed, have felt sorry
about it and Mary had considerately avoided all reference to him.
Now it appeared that Paula had blankly forgotten all about him.
Remembered him only when she wanted him to tune the piano. She callously
proposed to exact this service of him, and if possible, over the
"I suppose," Mary said, when she had found her voice, "that I look the
way I feel. Paula, you _wouldn't_ do that!"
"Why not?" Paula demanded. And then with a laugh, "I wouldn't forget to
pay him this time. And it would be nice to see him again, too. Because I
really liked him a lot."
"Well, if you do like him, you wouldn't, would you, want to do
anything--cruel to him? Anything that he might take as--a willful insult?
Because it could be taken like that, I should think."
She spoke with a good deal of effort. Paula's surprise, the
incredulous way she had echoed the word cruel, the fact that there was
still an unshaken good humor in the look of curiosity that she
directed upon her stepdaughter, all but overwhelmed Mary with a sudden
wave of helpless anger.
What could one do with a selfishness as insolent as that? What was
there to say?
Paula got up, still looking at her in that puzzled sort of way, came over
to her chair, sat down on the arm of it and took her by the shoulders.
"You're trembling!" she said. "I suspect I am working you too hard. You
mustn't let me do that, you know. John will never forgive me if I do.
Why, about March, did you mean because I wouldn't sing his opera? He knew
all the time I wouldn't unless he could get it right. And he knew he
wasn't getting it right. He wanted to give it up long before he did, only
I wouldn't let him. But as for being insulted, bless you, he isn't like
that. And perhaps if he came I could get him all the pianos out here to
keep in tune. There must be dozens!"
At that Mary laughed in a recoil of genuine amusement. She could imagine
that Anthony March would laugh himself. In one particular Paula was
unquestionably right. He wouldn't feel insulted. He was just the last
person in the world to be accessible to such a petty emotion.
She returned Paula's hug and extricated herself from the chair.
"You needn't worry about me, at all events," she said. "I'm not tired a
bit. But could we worry a little about Mr. March? About his opera, I
mean? Don't you suppose we could get Mr. LaChaise to put it on? The way
he originally wrote it.--I mean for somebody else to sing."
"Fournier could sing it in a rather interesting way," Paula remarked
speculatively. "Only I don't believe he'd sing in English. Certainly
there's nobody else."
"Perhaps if he saw the score ..." Mary began.
"Gracious!" Paula broke in, a little startled, not much. "I haven't an
idea where that score is. I may have sent it back to him, but I don't
believe I did."
"No," Mary told her. "It's here. When I closed up the house, I brought it
along. He might be interested enough in it I should think," she
persisted, "if you and Mr. LaChaise told him how good it was,--to learn
it in English. Or it might, I suppose,--the whole thing I mean,--be
translated into French. There might, anyhow, prove to be something we
"Good heavens, child!" Paula said, "we're up to the eyes now, all three
of us. Will be for weeks as far as that goes. We simply couldn't think of
it." Through a yawn she added, "Not that it wouldn't be a nice thing to
do if we had time."
Paula's notion of getting March to come up and tune her piano was not
damped at all by the wet blanket of Mary's objection to it. From town
that day, Mary having driven her in for more fittings and photographers,
Paula telephoned to the Fullerton Avenue house and later told Mary in an
acutely dissatisfied manner that she had got simply nowhere with the
person with whom she had talked. "She pretends,--oh, it was his sister
or his mother, I suppose,--that they don't know anything whatever about
him. Haven't seen him for ever so long. Haven't an idea how to get word
to him. If only I had time to drive out there ... But I haven't a minute
Mary observed that she didn't see what good it would do to be told in
person what Paula had just learned over the telephone. She could drive
out there herself if there was any point in it, during the hour when
Paula was engaged with her dressmaker.
Paula jumped at this suggestion. She was one of those persons whom
telephones never quite convince. So Mary, rather glad of the errand,
though convinced of its futility so far as Paula's designs were
concerned, drove out to the Fullerton Avenue house and presently found
herself in a small neat parlor talking to a neat old lady who was not,
perhaps, as old as she looked, about Anthony March.
For anything that bore upon the obtainability of his service for the
Ravinia piano the telephone conversation would have done as well. His
mother had seen him for only a short time, a little more than a week ago
and judged from what he then said that he was upon the point of going
away, though not for a long absence--a month, perhaps. She had not asked
where he meant to go and he had volunteered nothing. It was possible that
he did not know himself.
Mary remained in doubt, for the first five minutes or so of her call,
whether the stiff guarded precision of this was a mark of hostility to
the whole Wollaston clan or whether it was nothing but undiluted New
England reserve. She ventured a tentative, "I suppose he didn't say
especially why he was going," and on getting a bare negative in reply,
went on, a little breathlessly:--"I didn't mean that impertinently;--only
all of us were very much interested in him and we liked him too well,
especially father and I, to be content to lose track of him. I hope he
wasn't ill;--didn't go away because of that."
"He told me that he was not," Mrs. March answered. "Though if I might
have had my way with him, I would have put him to bed for a week.
However," she added, with a fine smile, "I never did have my way with him
and neither has his father had his. And I judge it to be as well that we
No, there was no hostility about it. She perceived the genuineness in her
visitor's concern and was perhaps really touched by it. But even so she
was sparing of details. Anthony had never lived a life regulated by rule
and habit. He worked at his music much too hard when the call, as she
termed it, was upon him, and obviously quite forgot to take proper care
of himself. And then he went away, as on this occasion, to recuperate in
his own manner.
Mary adventured again just as she was getting up to take her leave. "It
must want a good courage," she said, "to let him go like that; not to
keep trying, at least, to hold him back in sheltered ways."
She got a nod of acknowledgment of the truth of this, but no words at
all. But she found herself, afterward, in possession of an impression so
clear that one would think it must have needed a long exchange of
unreserved confidences to have produced it. The man's mother loved him,
of course; one might take that for granted. And was proud of him; of
course--perhaps--again. But beyond all that, she rejoiced in him; in his
emancipation from the line and precept which had so tightly confined her;
in his very vagabondage.
She was not much in his confidence, though. Mary had made that out from
the way she had received her own resume of the status of his opera. His
mother had known nothing of his hopes, neither when Paula raised them
up nor later when she cast them down. It was odd about that--and rather
pitiable. She would have welcomed her son's confidences, Mary was sure,
with so real a sympathy, if he could only have believed it. But the
crust of family tradition was too thick, she supposed, to make even the
This failure of his fully to understand the person traditionally the
nearest and dearest to him in all the world had, upon Mary's mind, the
effect of, somehow, solidifying him; making him more completely human to
her--where it might have been expected to work the other way. It proved
the last touch she needed to quicken the concern she had from the
beginning felt for him into an entirely real thing, a motivating
principle. If it was possible to get that opera of his produced, she was
going to do it.
She stopped at the Dearborn Avenue house on her way down-town to get her
little portable typewriter and carry it out to Ravinia with her. In the
odd hours of the next few days she copied March's libretto in English,
triple spaced, out of his score and this, with a lead pencil, she took to
carrying around with her to Paula's rehearsals, to her dressing-room,
everywhere. A phrase at a time, syllable by syllable, she began putting
it into French.
On the last Saturday night in June the Ravinia season opened with _Tosca_
sung in Italian; Paula singing the title part and Fournier as "Scarpia."
A veteran American tenor, Wilbur Hastings, an old Ravinia favorite, sang
"Cavaradossi." Taken as a whole, the performance was quite as good as any
one has a right to expect any opening night to be. The big audience which
went away good-naturedly satisfied, had had its moments of really
stirring enthusiasm. Fournier scored a well deserved triumph with a
"Scarpia" that was characterized by a touch of really sinister
distinction. Hastings, incapable as he was of subtleties or refinements,
did as usual all the obvious things pretty well and got the welcome he
had so rightly counted upon. But Paula fell unmistakably short of winning
the smashing success she had so ardently hoped for.
She did not, of course, fail. Wallace Hood, to take him for a sample of
her admiring friends, went home assuring himself that her success had
been all he or any of the rest of them could have wished. And he wrote
that same night a letter to John Wollaston out at Hickory Hill saying as
much. Her beauty, he told John, had been a revelation even to him and
there could be no doubt that the audience had been deeply moved by it.
Her acting also had taken him by surprise. It was a talent he had not
looked for in her and he was correspondingly delighted by this
manifestation of it. In the great scene with Fournier when he stated the
terms of his abominable bargain to her, Wallace had hardly been able to
realize it was Paula that he saw on the stage.
When it came to her singing (he knew John would want his most impartial
honest judgment)--here where he had been surest of her, she came nearest
to disappointing him. It was a shame, of course, to subject a lovely
voice like hers to singing in the great vacancy of all outdoors, to say
nothing of forcing it into competition with a shouter and bellower like
Hastings. But he felt sure when she was a little better accustomed to her
surroundings, she would rise superior even to these drawbacks.
This was somewhere near the facts, though stated with a strong friendly
bias. Paula was nervous, never really got into the stride of her acting
at all. The strong discrepancy between Fournier's methods and Hastings'
served perhaps to prevent her getting into step with either. And she sang
all but badly. There had been only one rehearsal in the pavilion and at
that she had been content merely to sketch her work in, singing off the
top of her voice. When she really opened up at the performance, the
unfamiliar acoustics of the place frightened her into forcing, with the
result that she was constantly singing sharp.
Paula herself, though disappointed, didn't feel too badly about it,
knowing that all her difficulties were merely matters of adjustment,
until she read what the critics said about her in the papers the next
morning. What they said was not on the face of it, severe;--came, indeed,
to much the same thing as Wallace Hood's verdict. But the picture between
the lines which they unanimously presented, was of a spoiled beauty,
restless for the publicity that private life deprived her of, offering in
a winning manner to a gullible public, a gold brick.
Paula was furiously angry over this, justifiably, too. Her work had
been professional even in its defects and deserved professional
judgment. The case was serious, too, for if that notion of her once got
fairly planted in the minds of her public, it would be almost
impossible to eradicate it.
But Anthony March had not been mistaken when he spoke of her as a
potential tamer of wild beasts. Her anger was no mere gush of emotions,
to spend itself and leave her exhausted. It was a sort that hardened in
an adamantine resolution. The next chance she got, she'd show them!
Unluckily, she wasn't billed to sing again until toward the end of the
week. It happened, however, that the Sunday papers, taking away with one
hand, gave in a roundabout but effective fashion with the other.
The opera billed for that night was _Pagliacci_. A young American
baritone with a phenomenal high A, was to sing "Tonio" and a new Spanish
soprano was cast for "Nedda." When this young woman saw the Sunday papers
she, too, went into a violent rage. Her knowledge of English was not
sufficient to enable her to draw any comfort from the subtle cruelties
which the critics had inflicted on Paula in the news section. But the
music and drama supplements which had been printed days before, devoted
as they were to the opening of the season, simply made Paula the whole
thing. The Spanish young lady's rage was of a different quality from
Paula's. She wept and stormed. She demanded like Herodias, the head of
that press agent on a charger. Simply that and nothing more. And when she
failed to get it, she went to bed.
The management, disconcerted but by no means at the end of its resources,
decreed a change of the bill to _Lucia_. They were ready to go on with
_Lucia_ which had been billed for Tuesday night. All they needed was to
bring the scenery out from town in a truck. This they ordered done; but
at five o'clock, about two miles south of the park, the truck went
through a bridge culvert and rolled all the way to the bottom of a
ravine. The driver escaped with his life but the production of _Lucia_
was smashed to splinters.
Mary chanced upon this piece of information and brought it straight to
Paula. "Tell them to go ahead with _Pagliacci_, then," Paula said. "I'll
sing 'Nedda' myself. Get LaChaise on the phone and let me talk to him."
She did sing it without any rehearsal at all. And she gave a performance
which for most of the persons who saw it, made her the, and the only,
"Nedda"; though--or perhaps, because--she didn't give the part quite its
traditional characterization; adapted it with the unscrupulousness of the
artist to her own purpose.
Paula's "Nedda" was a sulky slattern, indifferent, lazy, smoldering with
passion,--dangerous. The sensuous quality of her beauty had never been
more apparent than it was in the soiled cheap mountebank fineries which
she had worn for so many performances of the part in Europe. And this
beauty, of course, did a lot of the work for her. Explained the tragedy
all by itself. And, indeed, tragedy hung visibly over her from the moment
of her first entrance upon the stage in the donkey cart. She was the sort
of woman men kill and are killed for.
She played the part with an extreme economy of movement, with a kind of
feline stillness which made her occasional explosions into action, as
when she attacked Tonio with the whip, literally terrifying. She sang it
carelessly and therefore in a manner absolutely gorgeous. She swept them
all, critics as well as the immense audience, clean off their feet.
Also, by way of a foot-note, the managerial announcement that Madame
Carresford had volunteered for the part at six o'clock, to rescue them
from the necessity of closing the park and was to sing it absolutely
without rehearsal, exploded for all time the notion that there was
anything of the amateur about her.
"You can do anything," LaChaise told her as she came out into the wings.
And he kissed her on both cheeks rather solemnly, in the manner of one
conferring a decoration. In full measure pressed down and running over,
that was how Paula's success came to her.
By the time Paula had got back to her dressing-room after the long series
of tumultuous curtain calls was over, the rush of her friends to express
their congratulations in person had begun. After the _Tosca_, performance
she had been adamant about seeing anybody but to-night with a laugh she
said, "I don't care. For a few minutes. If they're people I really know."
So Mary took her station beside the Rhadamanthus at the stockade gate--in
a proper opera-house, he would have been the stage door-keeper--to pick
out the sheep from the goat-like herd of the merely curious who, but for
firm measures, would have stormed the place. Those who came down again,
pushed out by the weight of new arrivals, lingered about the gate talking
things over with Mary. It amused her to see how radically their attitude
had changed. Such people as the Averys, the Cravens and the Byrnes, who
in a social way had known Paula well, seemed to regard her now as a
personage utterly remote, translated into another world altogether. And
when they asked about John Wollaston, as most of them did, there was an
undertone almost of commiseration about their inquiries, though on the
surface this didn't go beyond an expressed regret that he hadn't been
here to witness the triumph.
Mary drove them all away at last, even the lingerers in Paula's
dressing-room, left her safely in the hands of her dresser and went out
into the automobile park to get her car. Coming up softly across the
grass and reaching in to turn on the lights, she was startled to discover
that there was a man in it. But before she had time more than to gasp,
she recognized him as her father.
"I didn't want to push my way in with the mob," he explained, after
apologizing for having frightened her. "The car, when I spotted it,
seemed a safe place to wait. And the privacy of it," he added, "will be
grateful, too, since I'm not perfectly sure that Paula won't refuse
outright to see me."
Mary smiled at this and said she hoped he hadn't missed the performance.
"No," he told her somberly, "I didn't miss--any of it." Then on a
different note, "Now we'll see whether those dogs of critics won't change
"Paula herself changed the tune," Mary observed. Then, "She's longing to
see you, of course. And there's no reason why you should wait. No one's
with her now except her dresser."
She led the way, without giving him a chance to demur, to the gate to the
stockade and turned him over to the gatekeeper.
"Please take Doctor Wollaston up to his wife's dressing-room," she said.
And with a momentary pleasure in having evaded introducing him as Madame
Carresford's husband, she turned away and went back to the car.
For the moment the spectacle of her father in the role of a young lover
touched her no more acutely than with a mild half-humorous melancholy.
She even paid the tribute of a passing smile to the queer reversal of
their roles, her own and his. She was more like a mother brooding over
the first love-affair of an adolescent son. It was so young of him,
younger, she believed, than any act she herself could be capable of, to
have come to Paula's performance without letting her know and waited
shyly alone in the dark while the herd of her acquaintances crowded in
and monopolized her. Pathetically young, almost intolerably pathetic in
a man in his middle fifties. She wondered if he had come up for _Tosca_
the night before and gone away without a word.
She had spoken quite without authority in assuring him of Paula's
welcome. Paula had not, she thought, spoken of him once either in
connection with her disappointment the night before or with her triumph
to-night. Yet that he would get a lover's welcome she had very little
doubt. It was his moment certainly. Paula left alone up there at last,
sated with an overwhelming success, tired, relaxed...
With an effort of will Mary settled herself a little more deeply in the
seat behind the wheel and lighted a cigarette. She hated having to wait,
having to be found waiting when they came down together. She wished she
could just--disappear. It wasn't possible, of course.
It was not very long before they came down. "She says I may stay two
days," John told Mary as they squeezed into their seats in the little
roadster. "Then, relentlessly, she's going to turn me out." But his voice
was beyond disguise that of a lover who has prospered.
Mary drove them in almost unbroken silence all the way, down the ravine
road and up through the woods to the house in the village. Then she went
on with the car to their garage which stood in a yard of a neighbor, two
or three doors away. She rejected with curt good-humor her father's offer
to help her with this job. It was what she always did by herself, she
said, and took a momentary perverse pleasure, which she despised herself
for, in the obvious fact that this troubled him.
Back in the cottage living-room, ten minutes later perhaps, she found him
alone and heard then, the explanation of his having come. They had got
the Sunday papers out at Hickory Hill as usual in the middle of the
morning but had found no reference to the performance of _Tosca_ the
night before. John had spent a good part of the day fretting over the
absence of any news as to how Paula's venture had succeeded and puzzling
over the lack of it in the papers. Then the obvious explanation had
struck one of the boys, that the papers that came out to Hickory Hill on
Sunday were an early edition.
He had had old Pete drive him straight into town, at that, and there he
had found the news-stand edition containing the criticisms. The
unfairness of them had disturbed him greatly. Orders or no orders, he
hadn't been able to endure the thought of leaving Paula to suffer under
the sting of a sneer like that without making at least an effort to
comfort her. He had driven out to Ravinia without any idea that she was
to sing again that night; had been told of it at the park where he had
stopped for the purpose of picking up some one who could conduct him to
her house. Learning that she was about to sing again, he had exerted all
his will power and waited until this second ordeal should be over.
"It was as much one for me as it could have been for her," he concluded.
"I don't know what stage fright is, but vicarious stage fright is the
devil. I never was so terrified in my life. I hope nobody I knew saw me.
I took pains they shouldn't, for I must have looked like a ghost."
"There's nothing the matter with your looks now," she told him. "Hickory
Hill must be just the place for you."
"It would be," he assented, "if it were possible for me to be
whole-heartedly there. By the way, we've got a visitor. Anthony March."
She felt herself flush at that with clear pleased surprise. "Oh, that's
as nice as possible," she said. "But how in the world did it happen? How
did you find him? Paula was trying to and couldn't."
"Was she?" Her father's voice, she thought, flattened a little on the
question. "Why, he found us. He turned up on foot--Friday morning, it
must have been--with a knapsack on his shoulders; came to the farm-house
door and asked if he should tune the piano. Luckily, I happened to be
about and caught him before he could get away. He was combining a walking
trip, he said, with his own way of earning a living and I persuaded him
to stay for a few days and make us a visit."
The last part of that sentence, Paula, coming down into the room from
"Who?" she asked. "Who's the visitor you've been persuading?"
It was just a good-natured way of showing her interest in anything that
her husband might happen to be talking about. But when he answered,
"Anthony March," she came into focus directly.
"Thank goodness, you've found him!" she said. "I had about given him
up.--And I really need him."
"I thought," said John, "that you had given him up. Are you going to do
his opera, after all?"
"Opera!" said Paula blankly, as if she had never heard of such a thing.
"No, I want him to see if he can fix this beastly piano they've given me
so that it's fit to work with."
And John, after a moment-laughed.
It was a shattering sort of laugh to Mary. She stared at the man who
uttered it as if he were--what he had for the moment become--a stranger.
He was not, certainly, the man who, down in North Carolina had talked
about March with her, regretted the "rough justice" he had had from Paula
and considered the possibility of repairing it. That momentary blank look
of his had shown that he perceived the insensitive egotism of his wife's
attitude. Not even now that her success was an established thing had she
a regretful thought for the man who had hoped to share it with her. She
had forgotten those hopes. All she remembered now about Anthony March was
that he could tune pianos better than any one else.
This Mary's father saw and yet he laughed. A cruel laugh. He had felt
for the moment a recurrence of the old jealousy. In his relief from it,
he, a reassured lover, triumphed in the humiliation of one he had
supposed his rival.
Mary managed to hide her face from him--superfluously because he wasn't
looking at her--and thought up, desperately, a few more questions about
how they were getting on at Hickory Hill.
But she went on feeling from moment to moment more horribly in the way,
and at last with a simulated yawn she said she was going to bed.
"This--vicarious success is rather tiring," she told her father; "almost
as bad as vicarious stage fright." And then to Paula, "Is there any
reason, if you're going to keep father here for two days, why I shouldn't
steal a holiday?"
"Go away, do you mean?" Paula asked with a faint flush. "Why,--where
would you go?"
"I could drive over to Hickory Hill," Mary said, "either by myself in the
little car or with Pete in the big one. Whichever you wouldn't rather
"I think that's a capital idea," John said. "Oh, you'd better take the
big car with Pete. It would be rather a long drive for you all by
yourself in the little one."
This was not the real reason, of course. He wouldn't want a chauffeur
under foot while he was honeymooning about with Paula.
Owing to a late start and an errand which at the last moment Paula wanted
done in Chicago, it was getting on toward four o'clock when Pete drove
Mary up to the loading platform of the old apple house at Hickory Hill.
The farm Ford was standing there idling in a syncopated manner and
apparently on the point of departure somewhere. Where, was explained a
moment later by the emergence of Sylvia Stannard in her conventional farm
costume of shirt and breeches with a two-gallon jug in each hand.
"Oh," she said, "then the big car can take Miss Wollaston over to Durham,
can't it?--so she won't have to ride in the Ford which she hates. How do
you do? I'm awfully glad you've come. We weren't expecting you, were we?
Was anybody, I mean?"
Mary allowed herself a laugh at this young thing with her refreshing way
of saying first whatever first came into her head and letting this serve
as a greeting, said she was sure the big car and Pete were equal to
taking her aunt to the four-miles-distant village.
"That's all right then. I won't have to wait for her," said Sylvia,
letting down her jugs into the tonneau of the Ford. "I'll run
straight along with this. They must be simply perishing for it. Isn't
it hot, though!"
Mary wanted to know who they were and what they were perishing for.
"Lemonade," said Sylvia, "for the boys out in the hay field. It's
perfectly gorgeous out there but hot enough to frizz your hair."
"Where is the hay field?" Mary asked. "Is it very far?"
"It's just over in the northeast eighty," said Sylvia, with a rather
conscious parade of her mastery of bucolic vernacular. "But you don't
want to walk. It would be awfully jolly if you would come along with me."
"Wait two minutes until I've said hello to Aunt Lucile and I will," said
Mary, and turned to go into the house.
"Don't step on any of the piano," Sylvia called after her. "It's spread
all over the place."
They had made a good many changes in the apple house since Mary had gone
to Ravinia, but the thing that drew a little cry of surprise from her was
this old square piano. The case of it stood snugly in the corner of the
west wall. But the works were spread about the room in a manner which
made Sylvia's warning less far-fetched than it seemed.
The feeling that caught Mary at sight of it was more than just surprise.
Its dismantled condition brought to her a half-scared but wholly happy
reassurance that Anthony March was really here.
Her journey to Hickory Hill had been, so she had told herself at
intervals during the day, merely a flight from her father and Paula.
There was no real reason for thinking that she would find March at the
end of it. Week-end visits usually ended Monday morning, and it was
probable that he would have gone hours before she arrived. She was
conscious now of having commanded herself not to be silly when she was
fretting over the late start from Ravinia and Paula's errand in town. It
_would_ be nice to see him again! He was probably out in the hay field
with the others.
She gave her aunt a rather absent-minded greeting and a highly condensed
summary of her news. Her father was well and was stopping on with Paula
for a day or two.
"He's taken over my job," she concluded mischievously, "maid, chauffeur
and chaperon. Paula doesn't mind now that she's made such an enormous hit
and she doesn't sing again until Thursday. Pete will take you in the big
car to Durham."
"Well, that's Heaven's mercy," exclaimed Miss Wollaston. "I don't like to
drive with Sylvia in any car and I don't like riding in a Ford no matter
who drives. But Sylvia driving a Ford--her own car's broken down
somehow--is simply frightful."
"She's waiting for me now," said Mary, "to take me out to the hay field.
I must run before she grows any more impatient."
And run was precisely what she did, down the slope to where Sylvia
awaited her, a lighter-hearted creature altogether than she had supposed
this morning that it was possible for her to be.
She got an explanation of the piano from Sylvia. She had gone with Rush
and Mr. March to an auction sale late Saturday afternoon at a farm three
or four miles away. Just for a lark. They hadn't meant seriously to buy
anything. But this old piano, Mr. March having sworn that he would make
it play despite the fact that half the keys wouldn't go down at all and
the rest when they did made only the most awful noises, they had bought
for eleven dollars, and had fetched home in the truck on Sunday.
"I think he's terribly nice," Sylvia confided. "You know him, don't you?
He's quite old, of course.--Well, over thirty he says; but he's
awfully--don't you know--well preserved. There are a whole lot of things
he can do."
Mary laughed. "That is remarkable. How old are you, you nice young thing?
Going on six? Lookout! You'll smash the lemonade!"
"We're going to surprise them," Sylvia announced when they had arrived,
miraculously without disaster, at the northeast eighty. They had careened
through the wagon gate and halted under an oak tree at the edge of the
field. "I'll go and tell them I've brought the lemonade, but I won't say
anything about you. You keep out of sight behind the tree. Then Graham
won't want to go and brush his hair."
It startled Mary to realize that she had forgotten all about Graham. Not
even the sight of his sister had recalled the--highly special nature of
the state of things between them nor suggested the need for preparing an
attitude to greet him with. At all events she wouldn't follow Sylvia's
suggestion and pop out at him from behind a tree.
He was, it happened, the first person the child encountered in her flight
across the field; the others, indistinguishable at that distance, were in
a group a little farther away. Mary walked out to meet him when she saw
him coming toward her and competently gave the encounter its tone by
beginning to talk to him--about how hot it was and how nice the hay
smelled and how good it seemed to be back here at Hickory Hill--while
they were still a good twenty paces apart. You couldn't strike any sort
of sentimental note very well when you had to begin at a shout. Then she
led him back to the lemonade, gave him a cigarette and answered at length
and with a good deal of spontaneous vivacity his obligatory questions
about Paula and the opening of the Ravinia season.
She was in the full tide of this--and was, since she had sat down upon a
small boulder Graham had insisted she take possession of, screened by the
trunk of the tree--when Sylvia hailed her brother from, not very far away
with the statement that Rush wouldn't stop for anything or anybody until
once more around the field. It was March, then, who was audibly coming
along with her. Mary rose, broke off about Paula, and moved the single
step it needed to give her sight of him.
She saw nothing else but him. She saw his head go back as from the actual
impact of the sight of her. She saw the look, unmistakable as a blast
from a trumpet, that flamed into his face. And then her world swam. Paula
wasn't singing now, "Hither, my love! Here I am! Here!" Nor could Paula
come upon him now, from anywhere, and take him by the shoulders and kiss
his cheek and lead him away with her. This moment was not
Paula's--whatever the other had been.
And the rest, standing there looking on, hadn't seen the bolt fall! They
were talking as idly and easily as if this were nothing but a hot summer
afternoon in the hay field.
"I told him," she heard Sylvia saying, "that there was another nice old
person he knew here with the lemonade, who thought I was only about
six.--Were you surprised when you saw who she was?--I'm going to take
him back to the apple house with us, now that Mary's come, so that he
can have the piano ready to dance by to-night." This last, apparently,
She even heard herself join in,--the voice was hers anyhow--when Graham,
commenting upon the view across the field, remarked that it was so
intensely farm-like that it had almost the look of a stage setting.
"It is like something," she said then. "It's like the first act of _Le
Chemineau_. We ought to have a keg of cider instead of two jugs of
lemonade and we should have brought it in a wheelbarrow instead of in
"Well, we couldn't take Mr. March back in a wheelbarrow," Sylvia said,
"so I'm glad it isn't the first act of whatever-you-call-it. Because he's
simply got to fix the piano well enough for jazz."
Mary couldn't remember that he spoke a word, but he got into the back
seat of the Ford with her when Sylvia slid under the wheel.
"If you'll promise," Sylvia said to March at the end of the breathless
mile back to the apple house, "if you'll promise to go straight to work
at it and never stop until it'll play the _Livery Stable Blues_, then
I'll go back to the hay field and see that Rush gets some of the lemonade
before those laborers drink it all up. You'll see to him, won't you,
Mary? Stand right over him and be severe, so that we can dance to-night.
You aren't as excited about it as you ought to be. I think I'll come in
and start him."
And this she did while the Ford executed a little jazz rhythm of its own
outside. She didn't stay more than a minute or two though. When she saw
him fairly occupied, tools in hand, over his task, she darted away again
with a last injunction to severity upon Mary.
She had seen nothing. The two were left alone.
Mary sat where she could watch his fine skilled hands at work. The
negligent precision with which they accomplished their varied tasks
occupied her, made it possible to continue for a while the silence she
needed until her world should have stopped swimming; until the blindness
of that revelation should have passed.
She had been wrong about him again. He was not an Olympian. (But, of
course, Olympians themselves weren't, if it came to that; not always.)
He could never, she had been telling herself since that day when they
had had their one talk together, belong to any one. He did not--save
himself up for special people. He was just there, the same for
everybody, like, she had half humorously observed to her father, a
public drinking fountain.
If that was the rule, she, Mary Wollaston, was the exception to it. Not
Paula with her opulent armory, but she who had listened with him,
clinging to him, while Paula sang; she, who had talked to him while Paula
fought for her husband's life; she, whom he had come upon in the shade of
the oak tree at the edge of the hay field; she who sat near him, silent
now. This was the meager total that outweighed those uncounted hours of
Paula's. Somehow she had acquired a special significance for him.
Was she trying to evade saying that he had fallen in love with her. What
was the good--except that it sounded sweet--of using a phrase which could
be packed like a hand-bag with anything you chose to put into it? Graham
was in love with her. That boy in New York, whom she had found in a
panic of lonely terror lest he should prove a coward in the great ordeal
he was facing overseas had been for a few hours in love with her. What
would be the content of the phrase for a man like this?
Was she in love with him? Her thoughts up to now had been deep,
submerged, almost formless, but this question came to the surface and
touched her lips with a smile. Well, and what did the phrase mean to her?
All she could think of as she sat so still watching him, was those fine
hands of his, working as skillfully and swiftly as her father's ever
worked but at this humble task. She kept her eyes away for just a
little longer from his face. She wanted those hands. She wanted them
with an intensity that made it impossible at last to let the silence
endure any longer.
"Paula..." she said, and stopped in sheer surprise that her voice had
come at all; then began again, "Paula wanted you to tune her piano.
At Ravinia. I was angry, at that, until she reminded me that you
His hand laid down the small, odd shaped tool it held, but the next
moment picked it up again.
"I shouldn't have minded tuning her piano," he told her.
"I know," she said. "I knew as soon as I had had a minute in which
to--gather you up. And when I had done that, I helped her try to find
you. I had a special reason, a different one from Paula's, for hoping
that we could. And for my reason," she went on, trembling a little
and finding it harder to make her words come steadily, "it
isn't--yet, too late.
"You see if you were there with her where she could see you every
day--there'd be a lot of pianos there she said; enough to keep you
going--she'd remember you again. She is like that. Lots of people are, I
suppose. When she doesn't see you, she forgets. But if she remembered how
much she liked you and how good your opera was,--the real one, the one
you wrote for yourself--she might do something about it.--To get it
played--so that you could hear it. Now that she's had a great success,
she could do almost anything quite easily, I think. Infinitely more than
I. I've been trying, but I haven't got very far."
He laid down the tool once more and locked his hands together. "You have
been trying?" he repeated. The tension, like the grip of his hands, was
drawing up almost unbearably.
"There's a French baritone there, Fournier, who could play your officer's
part. As you meant it to be played, I think. But he doesn't sing in
English. I thought it might be possible, if you didn't mind its being
sung in French, to translate it. That's one of the things I've
been--trying to do."
And then with a gasp and a sob, "Oh, don't,--don't hurt them like that!"
she reached out and took the hands she wanted.
He responded to the caress, as before, so quickly that one could
hardly have known where it began; only Mary did know. She looked up
then into his face, steadily, open-eyed, though she could not see much
for the blur.
"This time," he said, laboriously,--"this time it isn't the song."
She shook her head.
"I couldn't have waited, like that," he told her, three breaths later,
"except for being afraid that if I tried to touch you, you wouldn't be
there at all. Like a fairy story;--or a dream. I have never been sure
that the other time wasn't."
"It's real enough," she said. "You're sure now, aren't you?"
His answer, the one she meant him to make, was to draw her up into a
deep embrace, his lips upon hers.
"What does it mean?" he asked, when they had drawn back from it.
She smiled at that. "You don't need ask. That's the Wollaston trick, to
ask for meanings and reasons." She added, a moment later, "It means
whatever it says to your heart."
It was at her half-humorous suggestion that he went back, presently, to
work at the piano. She settled contentedly near him where with an
outstretched hand she could occasionally respond to his touch. They
hadn't, either of them, very much to say.
Once the work was interrupted, when he asked, rather tensely, "Do you
want me to come to Ravinia?"
She found herself at a loss for a categorical reply. She'd have thought
that a whole-hearted yes would have been the only thing she could say.
"I don't want you--tortured any more with unheard melodies," she answered
after a moment's reflection.
His nod, decisive as it was, struck her as equivocal. But she was too
happy to probe into anything this afternoon. There would be plenty of
time; unstinted hours. It was with no more than a mild regret that she
heard, under the windows, the return of the big car with Aunt Lucile.
This inextinguishable happiness expressed itself in the touch of impudent
mischief with which she slipped up close behind Anthony March and, in the
last possible instant before her aunt's entrance into the room, bent down
and kissed him; then flashed back to her decorously distant chair.
It was funny how calm she was. This day that was closing down over the
hill behind the apple house couldn't be, it seemed, the same that had
dawned over the lake at Ravinia. The whole Ravinia episode, even as she
told Lucile and March about it, seemed remote, like something out of a
book; but became for that very reason, rather pleasant to dwell upon.
Sylvia came in pretty soon for a critical survey of what March had
accomplished with the piano, volunteered to help and attempted to. But
having pled some of Anthony's arrangements of loose parts, she was
sacked off the job and sent back to the hay field to bring the boys in
After supper the excitement over the piano increased. They all gathered
round March like people watching a conjurer's trick when he slid the
action into place and proved, chromatically, that every hammer would
strike and every key return.
"But it isn't tuned at all," Sylvia wailed. "It will be hours before you
can play on it."
"Minutes," March corrected with a grin. And they watched, amazed,--but
less so really than an ordinary piano tuner would have been,--at the way
he caught octaves, fifths and fourths, sixths and thirds up and down that
keyboard like a juggler keeping seven tennis balls in the air.
"There you are," he said suddenly, before it seemed that he could be
half-way through and began playing a dance.
"But you can play tunes!" cried Sylvia. "I thought you only did terribly
high-brow things. That's what Rush said."
"I was pianist in the best jazz orchestra in Bordeaux," March told her.
He stayed there at the piano quite contentedly for more than an hour.
Some of the musical jokes he indulged in (his sense of humor expressed
itself more easily and impudently in musical terms than in any other)
were rather over his auditors' heads. Parodies whose originals they
failed to recognize, experiments in the whole-tone scale that would have
interested disciples of Debussy, but his rhythms they understood and
recognized as faultless.
And Mary danced. With Graham when she must, with Rush when she could. The
latter happened oftener than you would have supposed.
"Those Wollastons can certainly dance," Sylvia remarked to her brother.
"I wonder they'll have anything to do with us. Let's just watch them for
a minute.--Here, we'll turn the piano around so Mr. March can see, too."
It was queer, Mary reflected, how easy it was for her and also, she was
sure, for her lover, to acquiesce in a spending of the hours like that;
how little impatient she was of the presence of these others that kept
them apart. She gave no thought to any maneuver, practicable or
fantastic, for stealing away with him, not even when, as the party
broke up for the night it became evident that chance was not going so to
She realized afterward that there had been something factitious about her
tranquillity. What he had said in the moment before their first embrace
had been on that same note. He had been afraid to touch her for fear
that--as in a fairy story, or a dream,--she wouldn't be there. All that
afternoon and evening, despite an ineffable security in their miracle,
she had walked softly and so far as the future was concerned, avoided
trying to look.
Something in his gaze when he said good night to her, gave her a
momentary foreboding, though she told herself on the way up to the tent
she was to share with Sylvia that this was nothing but the scare that
always comes along with a too complete happiness.
But in the morning when her aunt told her that March had gone, she
realized that it had been more than that.
It was in the presence of the others who had gathered in the apple house
for breakfast that she heard the news, and this was perhaps a mercy; for
the effort she had to make to keep from betraying herself rallied her
forces and prevented a rout.
To the others his having gone like that seemed natural enough,--likably
characteristic of him, at any rate. In his note to Miss Wollaston he had
merely said that he realized that he must be off and wished to make the
most of the cool of the morning. He hoped she would understand and pardon
his not having spoken of his intention last night.
"It's the crush Sylvia had on him that accounts for that," Graham
observed. "He was afraid of the row she'd make if he let on."
Sylvia's riposte to this was the speculation that Mary had scared him
away, but one could see that her brother's explanation pleased her.
"Anyhow," she concluded, "he was good while he lasted."
What held Mary together was the obvious fact that none of them saw--no
more than they had seen--anything. Not one curious or questioning glance
was turned her way. A sense she was not until later able to find words
for, that she was guarding something, his quite as much as her own, from
profaning eyes, gave her the resolution it needed to carry on like that
until she could be alone. Naturally,--or at all events plausibly--alone.
She wouldn't run away from anybody.
Toward eleven o'clock chance befriended her. She hid herself in the old
orchard, lay prone upon the warm grass, her cheek upon her folded
forearms, and let herself go. She did not cry even now. Grief was not
what she felt, still less resentment.
She was lonely as she had never been before, and frightened by her
loneliness. All the familiar things of her life seemed far away, unreal.
She wanted a hand to hold;--his--oh, one of his!--until she could find
her way into a path again.
She had known, she reflected,--somewhere in the depths of her she had
known--from the first moment of their meeting, that he would go away.
This was why she had been so careful not to look beyond the moments as
they came; not to tempt Nemesis by asking nor trying for too much.
There happened to be, rather uncannily, a genuine proof that this was
true. While she had been still dazed with that first look of his, there
in the oak shade at the edge of the field, she had said that it was like
the first act of _Le Chemineau_. That had been speaking all but with the
tongue of prophecy. Deeply as the story had impressed her when she heard
it, she had spoken with no conscious sense of the likeness between that
wayfarer--whom neither love nor interest nor security could tempt away
from the open road which called him,--and Anthony March. It was an inner
self that knew and found a chance to speak. It was that same self who had
answered for her when he asked whether she wanted him to come to Ravinia.
He had come to his decision then, with just that nod of the head. And
she, forlorn, was glad he had cast this temptation aside. That he was
plodding now sturdily along his highway. She flushed with shame at the
thought of him, ubiquitous among those egotists at Ravinia, enlisting
their interest, reminding Paula how much she liked him.
Why had he not hated her for suggesting such a thing? He had loved her
for it, she knew, because he understood the longing to comfort and
protect him which lay behind it. But that sort of comfort was not for
him. The torture of the unheard melodies, instead.
He did love her. This, utterly, she knew. His going away, even with no
farewell at all, cast no flaw upon the miraculous certainty of that.
Their one unreserved embrace remained the symbol of it.
She pressed her hands to her face and with a long indrawn breath
surrendered to the memory of it. It was hers--for always.
The family were sitting at dinner when she came down to the apple
house, and after a rather startled look at her, demanded to know where
she had been.
"Asleep in the orchard," she said. "And not altogether awake yet."
But she knew she must get away from them. The look she saw in Graham's
face would have decided that.
A CASE OF NECESSITY
She told Rush when they left the table, that she had some shopping to do
in town for Paula and meant to go on the afternoon train. She was
expected back at Ravinia to-morrow anyhow. Beyond trying to persuade her
to let Pete drive her in he made no protest, but she could see that he
was troubled about it and she wasn't much surprised to find Wallace Hood
waiting on the station platform when her train got in.
She didn't, very much, mind Wallace. There was no appearance of his being
there in the role of guardian because she wasn't considered safe to leave
to herself. You could always trust Wallace to do a thing like that
It was a great piece of luck for him he told her. He had called up
Hickory Hill to congratulate John upon Paula's enormous success; had
learned from Rush of Mary's visit and that she was even then on the way
to Chicago. He had just dropped round at the station in the hope of being
able to pick her up for dinner. She had some shopping to do he understood
and he wouldn't detain her now.
"Oh, nothing that matters a bit," said Mary. "It was an excuse merely,
for running away from Hickory Hill."
There was something to be said for a man like Wallace as a confidant. He
was perfectly safe not to guess anything on his own account. He seemed
touched by her candor and hugged her arm against his side as they walked
along, a gesture of endearment such as he hadn't indulged in for half a
"So if you have nothing better to do," she went on, "we can begin
our evening now. Though I suppose I had better find, first, a place
"Frederica Whitney's in town for a day or two, just for a flying visit
to Martin. She'd be glad to take you in, I'm sure."
"Oh, I think not," said Mary. "Not if I can get anything with four walls
at the Blackstone."
She thought from his glance at her that he attached some special
significance to her unwillingness to go to the Whitney house and hastened
to assure him this was not the case.
"Frederica's a dear. Only I just happen to feel like not being anybody's
guest to-night. Oh, and I didn't mean you by that either."
"It's nice to be nobody in that sense," he said.
His next suggestion was that he get his car, start north up the shore
with her, have dinner at one of the taverns along the road and deliver
her in good season for a night's sleep in the cottage at Ravinia.
But this suggestion was declined rather more curtly.
"To-morrow is as soon as I want to go there," she said. "Pete's going
over then to get father so I shall go on duty. But meanwhile I'll let him
enjoy his holiday in peace."
He made no further demur to telephoning over to the Blackstone.
On his coming back presently with the news that he had a room for her,
she said, "Then we've nothing on our minds, have we? Except finding a
place for dinner that's quiet and--not too romantic. I _am_ glad you came
to meet me."
She was quite sincere about this. It would have been ghastly she
reflected, to have spent the evening alone in a hotel bedroom with her
own thoughts, if those she had entertained on the train coming in were a
He was being just as nice to her as possible. By his old-fashioned
standards, no hotel was a proper place for a young girl to spend a night
in alone. Yet beyond offering two alternative suggestions, he forbore
trying to dissuade her. So when he chose the Saddle and Cycle as their
anchorage for the evening, she endorsed his choice with the best
appearance of enthusiasm she could muster, though she'd rather have gone
to a place where three out of four of the other diners wouldn't in all
probability be known to her.
Arriving, however, in the unclassified hour between tea and dinner, they
found they had the place pretty much to themselves and settled down in a
secluded angle of the veranda for a leisurely visit. They began on Paula,
of course, her retrieved failure and her sensational success. How sorry
Wallace was not to have been there for her "Nedda." (He didn't go in much
for Sunday entertainments of any sort, Mary remembered.) Well, it had
been just as splendid as everybody said it was. That was one thing, at
any rate, that had been put beyond discussion. Even the pundits were, for
the moment anyhow, silenced.
He was curious as to how the intimate details of this strange life she
had a chance to observe, struck her. How she liked Paula's colleagues; to
what extent the glamour evaporated when one was behind the scenes.
She satisfied him as well as she could, though her opportunities, she
said, were a good deal narrower than he took them to be. She had,
herself, so much to do as Paula's factotem that there wasn't much leisure
for loafing about. And this launched her into a humorously exaggerated
account of what was involved in being secretary, chauffeur and chaperon
to a successful opera star. But she pulled up when she saw he was taking
"It's shocking she should work you like that," he said in a burst of
undisguised indignation. "Of course, it's precisely what Paula would do.
She has very little common consideration, I'm afraid, for anybody."
Mary could not remember having heard him speak like that, in all the
years she'd known him, of anybody; she was sure he never had so spoken of
any one who bore the name of Wollaston. Taken aback as she was she
changed her tune altogether and tried to reassure him.
"But that's what I'm there for, Wallace dear! To be worked. And you've
no idea how I like having something to do which amounts, in a small way,
to a job."
"It's too hard for you, though," he persisted. "It isn't what you were
trained for. And it's rather, as I said,--shocking. If it was all
understood from the first, then so much the worse for the understanding.
I hope your father, when he went up there, didn't discover what your
duties were supposed to be."
"No," Mary said rather dryly, "I don't believe he did."
"Well," he said thoughtfully, at the end of a short silence, "I am
profoundly thankful that she's made so--solid a success."
Up to this moment none of their talk had been quite real to Mary. She had
betrayed no inattention to him and when it had come her turn to carry on
the conversational stream she had done so adequately and even with a
certain vivacity. But it had meant no more than an occupation; something
that passed the time and held her potential thoughts at bay.
This last observation of his, though, struck a different note. He had
done full justice to his pleasure in Paula's success at the very
beginning of their talk. Now he meant something by it. Leaning forward a
little for a keener look at him, she asked what it was that he meant.
He was a little surprised to be brought to book like that, but he made
hardly an effort to fence with her. "I was glad, I meant, for purely
non-sentimental reasons. Her success may prove, I suppose, a practical
solution of some difficulties."
"Practical?" she echoed. "You don't mean,--yes, I suppose you do
mean,--money difficulties. Do you mean that Paula's going to be invited
to support the family now?" She finished with a little laugh and he
winced at it. "Father said something like that to me one day while I was
down south with him," she explained. "Only he said it as a joke,--a sort
of joke. That's why I laughed."
"He talked to you then about his affairs?" Wallace asked. "May I ... Do
you mind telling me what he said?"
"Of course not, if I can remember. He'd been remiss, he said, about
making money. He said that if he had died, then when he was so ill, there
wouldn't have been, beyond his life insurance which was for Paula, much
more than enough to pay his debts. Practically nothing for Rush and me is
what that came to. I pointed out to him that we could take care of
ourselves, and he said that anyway as soon as he could get back into
practise, he'd begin to make a lot of money and save. It must be a good
deal worse,--the whole situation I mean--than I took it to be, for you to
mean that seriously about Paula."
She had managed an appearance of composure but in truth she was badly
shaken. Money matters was just about the one real taboo that she
respected and to break over this habitual reticence even with an old
friend like Wallace troubled her delicacy. The notion she got from the
look in his face that there was something dubious about her father's
solvency, was terrifying. She hid her hands under the table so that he
shouldn't see they were trembling. She wanted the truth from him now,
rather than vaguely comforting generalties, and if she betrayed her real
feelings, these latter were what she would drive him back upon.
"Can you tell me," she asked after a pause, "exactly how bad it is?"
He couldn't furnish details. He told her though that there couldn't be
any doubt her father's affairs were more involved than his summary of
them had made them appear. "He isn't a very good bookkeeper, of
course,--never was; and he has never taken remonstrances very seriously.
Why, about all I know is that Martin Whitney is worried. He tried to
dissuade John from going in anywhere near so heavily on the Hickory Hill
project.--And that, of course, was before we had any reason to suppose
that his ability to earn money was going to be ..."
It was apparent that he discarded the word that came to his tongue here
and cast about for another; "interfered with," was what he finally hit
upon. "Then he's your aunt's trustee and I believe that complicates the
situation, though just how much I don't know. Rush didn't get a letter
from Martin this morning, did he?"
"I don't know," Mary said numbly.
"I thought perhaps," he explained, "that might be the reason why you
didn't want to go to their house tonight. Rush doesn't quite understand
Martin's position nor do justice to it. Martin wants to have a really
thorough talk with him I know, as soon as possible."
"Wallace ..." Mary asked, after another silence, "what was the word
you didn't say when you spoke of father's earning power
being--interfered with? Was it--cut off? Do you mean that father
isn't--ever going to be well?"
Startled as he was, he did not attempt a total denial; answered her,
though with an effort, candidly.
"It's not hopeless, at all," he assured her. "It really is not. If he'll
rest, live an outdoor life for the next year or two, he has a good chance
to become a well man again. It's probable that he will,--practically so.
But if he attempts to take up his practise in the autumn it will simply
be, so Darby declares, suicide."
"That means tuberculosis, I suppose," she said.
He nodded; then involuntarily he reached his hands out toward her, a
gesture rare with him and eloquent equally of sympathy and consternation.
He hadn't in the least meant to tell her all that--nor indeed any of it.
Her hands met his with a warm momentary pressure and then withdrew. He
had, for a fact, pretty well forgotten where they were.
"If you knew," she said, "how kind you've been not to try to--spare me.
No, don't bother. I'm not going to cry. Just give me a minute..."
It was less than that before she asked, in a tone reassuringly steady,
"Does father know, himself?"
"He's been warned, but he's skeptical. Steinmetz says there's nothing
surprising about that. It's his all but universal experience with men of
his own profession. Of course this summer out at Hickory Hill is so much
to the good. And if he can get sufficiently interested to stay there the
year round, why, there's no knowing. The investment in that farm may
prove the wisest one he ever made."
"If it were only possible,"--she was quoting what her father had said to
her the other night at Ravinia,--"for him to be whole-heartedly there!
And he could be--for it's a place one can't help loving and he and Rush
are wonderful companions--he could be whole-heartedly there if it weren't
It was precisely at this point, he indicated to her, that Paula could
come in by relieving him of the necessity of getting back into practise.
Martin would look out for the fixed indebtedness on the farm. He would
probably be willing, in case John made it his home and put his own mature
judgment at the disposal of the two young partners, to finance still
further increases in the investment. But for the ordinary expenses of
living during the next year or two, Paula should cease being a burden and
become a support. "Do you think," he finished by asking, "that she has
any idea what the situation really is?"
Mary replied to this question a little absently. "Father insisted that
she carry out the Ravinia contract. She told me so herself and seemed, I
don't know why, just a little resentful about it. But I'm sure she can't
have any idea that there was a need for money at the back of it. It has
irritated her rather whenever she has caught me economizing up there. And
father will never tell her any more pointedly than he has, you can be
sure. Some one of us will have to do it."
"You're on very good terms with her, aren't you?" Wallace asked. He
added instantly, though with an effort, "I'm willing to tell her if you
wish me to."
She smiled very faintly at that for she knew how terrifying such a
prospect would be to him. "Whoever told Paula," she said, "she'd
eventually attribute it, I think, back to me. So I may as well, and
rather better, do it directly."
The tension slackened between them for a while after that. The talk
became casual. Wallace, it was easy to see, was enormously relieved. Mary
had been put in unreserved possession of the facts and had endured them
better than he could possibly have hoped. He began chatting about the
farm again, not now as an incubus but as a hopeful possibility. Both the
boys had real mettle in them and might be expected to buckle down and
show it. Rush would forget the disillusionment of his holiday hopes when
the necessities of the case were really brought home to him. And as for
Wallace broke off short there, flushed, and made a rather panicky effort
to retrieve the slip. He was in the family enough to be a part of the
Graham conspiracy. Poor Graham, distracted by her innocent inability to
make up her mind to marry him! He would be all right as soon as her
maidenly hesitations should have come to an end, and she'd made him the
happiest man in the world with the almost inevitable yes.
She had gone rather white by the end of a long silence. Finally:
"Wallace," she began in a tone so tense that he waited breathlessly for
her to go on, "do you remember I asked you once, the day I came home from
New York, if you couldn't find me a job? I know you didn't think I meant
it and I did not altogether--then. But I mean it now. I need
it--desperately.--Wallace, I can't ever marry Graham. I know I can't. And
I can't go on being dependent on father while he's dependent on Paula."
He caught at a straw. "Paula is really very fond of you," he said.
"Yes, in a way," Mary agreed; "though she sometimes has regarded me a
little dubiously. But if she ever saw me--coming between her and father,
or father turning ever so little away from her--toward me, whether it was
any of my doing or not, she'd--hate me with her whole heart. It may not
be very logical but it's true."
Then she brought him back from the digression. "Anyhow, it's on my own
account, not Paula's--nor even father's--that I want a job. Father will
feel about it, of course, as you do and so will Rush and--and the rest.
And I don't want it to hurt anybody more than necessary. I'd rather stay
here but I suppose on their account I'd better go away. And you know so
many people--in so many places. There's your sister in Omaha. I remember
how much trouble you said she had finding a nursery governess. I'd be
pretty good at that I think. I could teach French and--I'd be nice to
For a moment she wildly thought she had won him. She saw the tears come
into his eyes.
"Anything I have in the world, my dear, or anything I can command is
yours. On any terms you like."
But there he disposed of the tears and got himself together, as if he'd
remembered some warning. She could imagine Rush over the telephone, "Of
course, she's terribly run down with that damned war work of hers; not
quite her real self, you know."
She saw him summon a resolute smile and heard the familiar note of
encouragement in his voice. "We'll think about it," he told her. "After
all, things aren't, probably, as black as they look. And sometimes when
they look darkest it's only the sign that they're about to change their
faces altogether. Anyhow, we've stared at them long enough to-night,
haven't we? And all I meant was to take you out for a jolly evening!
Don't you think we might save it, even yet? Is there anything at the
theatres you'd like to see?"
"Some musical show?" she asked. "Yes, I'd like that very much.
Mary returned to Ravinia--went on duty, as she put it to Wallace--the
following afternoon rather taut-drawn in her determination to have things
out with Paula at once. But the mere attitude and atmosphere of the
place, as before, let her down a little.
It was restful to have her days filled up with trivial necessary duties;
an hour's errand running in the small car; a pair of soiled satin
slippers to clean with naptha; a stack of notes to answer from such
unknown and infatuate admirers as managed to escape the classification
feebleminded and were entitled therefore to have the fact recognized
(this at a little desk in the corner while Novelli at the piano and Paula
ranging about the room, ran over her part in half-voice in the opera she
had rehearsed yesterday with the orchestra and was to sing to-night), a
run to the park for a visit to Paula's dressing-room in the pavilion in
order to make sure, in conference with her dresser, that all was in order
for to-night; a return to the cottage in time to heat Paula's milk (their
maid of all work couldn't be trusted not to boil it); then at seven,
driving Paula to the park for the performance, spending the evening in
her dressing-room or in the wings chatting sometimes with other members
of the force whom she found it possible to get acquainted with;
occasional incursions into the front of the house to note how something
went or, more simply, just to hear something she liked; driving Paula
home again at last, undressing her; having supper with her--the most
substantial meal of the day--talking it over with her; and so, like Mr.
It might shock Wallace Hood, a schedule like that, but there were days
when to Mary it was a clear God-send.
She decided within the first twenty-four hours to wait for some sort of
lead from Paula before plunging into a discussion of her father's
affairs. It would take the edge off if the thing weren't too glaringly
premeditated. Paula just now was doing all she could. Mary opened all her
mail and would know if any offer came in that involved future plans. She
accepted the respite gratefully.
She had a use to put it to. For the first two or three days after her
return, she had not been able to turn to anything that associated itself
with Anthony March without such an emotional disturbance as prevented her
from thinking at all. The mere physical effect of those sheets of score
paper was, until she could manage to control it, such as to make any
continuance of the labor of translating his opera, impossible.
By a persistent effort of will she presently got herself in hand however
and went on not only with her translation but with the other moves in her
campaign to get _The Outcry_ produced. Her first thought was that
something might be accomplished directly through LaChaise. Her simple
plan had been to make friends with him so that when she urged the
arguments for producing this work, they'd be--well--lubricated by his
liking for her.
She began saying things to him on a rather more personal note, things
with a touch of challenge in them. There was no gradual response to this
but suddenly--a week or ten days after her return from Hickory Hill this
was--he seemed to perceive her drift. He turned a look upon her, the
oddest sort of look, startled, inquiring, lighted up with a happy though
rather incredible surmise. It was an exclamatory look which one might
interpret as saying, "What's this! Do you really mean it!"
Mary got no further than that. She didn't mean it, of course, a serious
love-affair with LaChaise, and she tried for a while to feel rather
indignant against an attitude toward women which had only two categories;
did she offer amorous possibilities or not. An attitude that had no half
lights in it, no delicate tints of chivalry nor romance. LaChaise would
do nothing for the sake of her blue eyes. He had no interest whatever in
that indeterminate, unstable emotional compound that goes, between men
and women, by the name of friendship.
She tried to call this beastly and feel indignant about it, but somehow
that emotion didn't respond. She had more real sympathy for and
understanding of an attitude like that than she had for one like
Graham's. It was simpler and more natural. It involved you in no such
labyrinths of farfetched absurdities and exasperating cross-purposes as
It was characteristically,--wasn't it?--a Latin attitude; or would it be
fairer to say that its antithesis as exemplified by Graham was a northern
specialty? She extracted quite a bit of amusement from observing some of
the results of individual failures to understand this fundamental
difference, all the more after she had Jimmy Wallace to share
observations with. He was a dramatic critic, but he consented to take a
fatherly, or better avuncular, interest in the Ravinia season during the
month of his musical colleague's vacation.
The special episode they focused upon was Violet Williamson's flirtation
with Fournier. She was a pretty woman, still comfortably on the east side
of forty, socially one of the inner ring, spoiled, rather, by an
enthusiastic husband but not, thanks to her own good sense, very
seriously. James Wallace was an old and very special friend of hers and
she commandeered his services as soon as he appeared at Ravinia, in her
campaign for possession of the French baritone.
Mary had reflected over this and talked it out pretty thoroughly with
Jimmy before it occurred to her that she might be able to turn it to her
own account--or rather to her lover's. For that matter, why not, while
she had him under her hand, recruit Jimmy as an aid in the campaign?
"Do you mind being used for ulterior purposes?" she asked him.
He intimated that he did not if they were amusing, as any of Mary's were
pretty sure to be.
"I'm interested in an opera," she told him, "or rather, I'm very much
interested in a man who has written one. Father and I have agreed that
he's a great person and everybody seems willing to admit that he's a
musical genius. Paula considered the opera, but gave it up after she had
kept him working over it for weeks because the soprano part wasn't big
enough. It would be just the thing for Fournier."
Jimmy raised the language difficulty. "The book's in English, I
suppose," he said.
"It's been translated into French," Mary said, and then admitted
authorship by adding, "after a fashion; as well as an amateur like me
could do it." She didn't mind a bit how much Jimmy knew. Not that he
wasn't capable of very acute surmises but that whatever he brought up he
wouldn't have the flutters over.
"Does Fournier like it himself?" he wanted to know. "Does he see the
personal possibilities in it, I mean?"
"I haven't shown it to him yet," Mary said. "I want him to hear about it
in just the right way first. If Paula would only say just the right
thing! She means to but she forgets. LaChaise would back her up, I think,
if she took the lead. Otherwise ... well, he isn't looking for trouble,
I suppose, and of course, it would mean a lot."
"Somebody has to put his back into an enterprise of that sort,"
"I can't, directly," she said, "not with LaChaise nor with Mr. Eckstein.
But you see," she went on, "if Violet happened to hear, from somebody who