Part 19 out of 19
true. She felt the big interest--the career--growing up
within her, and expanding, and already overstepping all other
interests and emotions.
Brent had left her and Clelie more to do than could be done;
thus they had no time to bother either about the absent or
about themselves. Looking back in after years on the days
that Freddie was away, Susan could recall that from time to
time she would find her mind wandering, as if groping in the
darkness of its own cellars or closets for a lost thought, a
missing link in some chain of thought. This even awakened her
several times in the night--made her leap from sleep into
acute and painful consciousness as if she had recalled and
instantly forgotten some startling and terrible thing.
And when Freddie unexpectedly came--having taken passage on the
_Lusitania_ for the return voyage, after only six nights and
five days in New York--she was astonished by her delight at
seeing him, and by the kind of delight it was. For it rather
seemed a sort of relief, as from a heavy burden of anxiety.
"Why didn't you wait and come with Brent?" asked she.
"Couldn't stand it," replied he. "I've grown clear away from
New York--at least from the only New York I know. I don't
like the boys any more. They bore me. They--offend me. And
I know if I stayed on a few days they'd begin to suspect. No,
it isn't Europe. It's--you. You're responsible for the
change in me."
He was speaking entirely of the internal change, which indeed
was great. For while he was still fond of all kinds of
sporting, it was not in his former crude way; he had even
become something of a connoisseur of pictures and was
cultivating a respect for the purity of the English language
that made him wince at Susan's and Brent's slang. But when he
spoke thus frankly and feelingly of the change in him, Susan
looked at him--and, not having seen him in two weeks and three
days, she really saw him for the first time in many a month.
She could not think of the internal change he spoke of for
noting the external change. He had grown at least fifty
pounds heavier than he had been when they came abroad. In one
way this was an improvement; it gave him a dignity, an air of
consequence in place of the boyish good looks of the days
before the automobile and before the effects of high living
began to show. But it made of him a different man in Susan's
eyes--a man who now seemed almost a stranger to her.
"Yes, you _have_ changed," replied she absently. And she went
and examined herself in a mirror.
"You, too," said Freddie. "You don't look older--as I do.
But--there's a--a--I can't describe it."
Susan could not see it. "I'm just the same," she insisted.
Palmer laughed. "You can't judge about yourself. But all
this excitement--and studying--and thinking--and God knows
what---- You're not at all the woman I came abroad with."
The subject seemed to be making both uncomfortable; they
Women are bred to attach enormous importance to their physical
selves--so much so that many women have no other sense of
self-respect, and regard themselves as possessing the entirety
of virtue if they have chastity or can pretend to have it.
The life Susan had led upsets all this and forces a woman
either utterly to despise herself, even as she is despised of
men, or to discard the sex measure of feminine self-respect as
ridiculously inadequate, and to seek some other measure.
Susan had sought this other measure, and had found it. She
was, therefore, not a little surprised to find--after Freddie
had been back three or four days--that he was arousing in her
the same sensations which a strange man intimately about would
have aroused in her in the long past girlhood of innocence.
It was not physical repulsion; it was not a sense of
immorality. It was a kind of shyness, a feeling of violated
modesty. She felt herself blushing if he came into the room
when she was dressing. As soon as she awakened in the morning
she sprang from bed beside him and hastened into her
dressing-room and closed the door, resisting an impulse to
lock it. Apparently the feeling of physical modesty which she
had thought dead, killed to the last root, was not dead, was
once more stirring toward life.
"What are you blushing about?" asked he, when she, passing
through the bedroom, came suddenly upon him, very scantily dressed.
She laughed confusedly and beat a hurried retreat. She began
to revolve the idea of separate bedrooms; she resolved that
when they moved again she would arrange it on some
pretext--and she was looking about for a new place on the plea
that their quarters in Half Moon Street were too cramped. All
this close upon his return, for it was before the end of the
first week that she, taking a shower bath one morning, saw the
door of the bathroom opening to admit him, and cried out sharply:
"Close that door!"
"It's I," Freddie called, to make himself heard above the
noise of the water. "Shut off that water and listen."
She shut off the water, but instead of listening, she said,
nervous but determined:
"Please close the door. I'll be out directly."
"Listen, I tell you," he cried, and she now noticed that his
voice was curiously, arrestingly, shrill.
"Brent--has been hurt--badly hurt." She was dripping wet.
She thrust her arms into her bathrobe, flung wide the partly
open door. He was standing there, a newspaper in his
trembling hand. "This is a dispatch from New York--dated
yesterday," he began. "Listen," and he read:
"During an attempt to rob the house of Mr. Robert Brent, the
distinguished playwright, early this morning, Mr. Brent was
set upon and stabbed in a dozen places, his butler, James
Fourget, was wounded, perhaps mortally, and his secretary, Mr.
J. C. Garvey, was knocked insensible. The thieves made their
escape. The police have several clues. Mr. Brent is hovering
between life and death, with the chances against him."
Susan, leaning with all her weight against the door jamb, saw
Palmer's white face going away from her, heard his agitated
voice less and less distinctly--fell to the floor with a crash
and knew no more.
When she came to, she was lying in the bed; about it or near
it were Palmer, her maid, his valet, Clelie, several
strangers. Her glance turned to Freddie's face and she looked
into his eyes amid a profound silence. She saw in those eyes
only intense anxiety and intense affection. He said:
"What is it, dear? You are all right. Only a fainting spell."
"Was that true?" she asked.
"Yes, but he'll pull through. The surgeons save everybody
nowadays. I've cabled his secretary, Garvey, and to my
lawyers. We'll have an answer soon. I've sent out for all
"She must not be agitated," interposed a medical looking man
with stupid brown eyes and a thin brown beard sparsely veiling
his gaunt and pasty face.
"Nonsense!" said Palmer, curtly. "My wife is not an invalid.
Our closest friend has been almost killed. To keep the news
from her would be to make her sick."
Susan closed her eyes. "Thank you," she murmured. "Send them
all away--except Clelie. . . . Leave me alone with Clelie."
Pushing the others before him, Freddie moved toward the door
into the hall. At the threshold he paused to say:
"Shall I bring the papers when they come?"
She hesitated. "No," she answered without opening her eyes.
"Send them in. I want to read them, myself."
She lay quiet, Clelie stroking her brow. From time to time a
shudder passed over her. When, in answer to a knock, Clelie
took in the bundle of newspapers, she sat up in bed and read
the meager dispatches. The long accounts were made long by
the addition of facts about Brent's life. The short accounts
added nothing to what she already knew. When she had read
all, she sank back among the pillows and closed her eyes. A
long, long silence in the room. Then a soft knock at the
door. Clelie left the bedside to answer it, returned to say:
"Mr. Freddie wishes to come in with a telegram."
Susan started up wildly. Her eyes were wide and staring--a
look of horror. "No--no!" she cried. Then she compressed her
lips, passed her hand slowly over her brow. "Yes--tell him to
Her gaze was upon the door until it opened, leaped to his
face, to his eyes, the instant he appeared. He was
smiling--hopefully, but not gayly.
"Garvey says"--and he read from a slip of paper in his hand--"
`None of the wounds necessarily mortal. Doctors refuse to
commit themselves, but I believe he has a good chance.'"
He extended the cablegram that she might read for herself, and
said, "He'll win, my dear. He has luck, and lucky people
always win in big things."
Her gaze did not leave his face. One would have said that she
had not heard, that she was still seeking what she had admitted
him to learn. He sat down where Clelie had been, and said:
"There's only one thing for us to do, and that is to go over
She closed her eyes. A baffled, puzzled expression was upon
her deathly pale face.
"We can sail on the _Mauretania_ Saturday," continued he.
"I've telephoned and there are good rooms."
She turned her face away.
"Don't you feel equal to going?"
"As you say, we must."
"The trip can't do you any harm." His forced composure
abruptly vanished and he cried out hysterically: "Good God!
It's incredible." Then he got himself in hand again, and went
on: "No wonder it bowled you out. I had my anxiety about you
to break the shock. But you---- How do you feel now?"
"I'm going to dress."
"I'll send you in some brandy." He bent and kissed her. A
shudder convulsed her--a shudder visible even through the
covers. But he seemed not to note it, and went on: "I didn't
realize how fond I was of Brent until I saw that thing in the
paper. I almost fainted, myself. I gave Clelie a horrible scare."
"I thought you were having an attack," said Clelie. "My
husband looked exactly as you did when he died that way."
Susan's strange eyes were gazing intently at him--the
searching, baffled, persistently seeking look. She closed
them as he turned from the bed. When she and Clelie were
alone and she was dressing, she said:
"Freddie gave you a scare?"
"I was at breakfast," replied Clelie, "was pouring my coffee.
He came into the room in his bathrobe--took up the papers from
the table opened to the foreign news as he always does. I
happened to be looking at him"--Clelie flushed--"he is very
handsome in that robe--and all at once he dropped the
paper--grew white--staggered and fell into a chair. Exactly
like my husband."
Susan, seated at her dressing-table, was staring absently out
of the window. She shook her head impatiently, drew a long
breath, went on with her toilet. XXIV
A FEW minutes before the dinner hour she came into the drawing
room. Palmer and Madame Deliere were already there, near
the fire which the unseasonable but by no means unusual
coolness of the London summer evening made extremely
comfortable--and, for Americans, necessary. Palmer stood with
his back to the blaze, moodily smoking a cigarette. That
evening his now almost huge form looked more degenerated than
usual by the fat of high living and much automobiling. His
fleshy face, handsome still and of a refined type, bore the
traces of anxious sorrow. Clelie, sitting at the corner of
the fireplace and absently turning the leaves of an
illustrated French magazine, had in her own way an air as
funereal as Freddie's. As Susan entered, they glanced at her.
Palmer uttered and half suppressed an ejaculation of
amazement. Susan was dressed as for opera or ball--one of her
best evening dresses, the greatest care in arranging her hair
and the details of her toilette. Never had she been more
beautiful. Her mode of life since she came abroad with
Palmer, the thoughts that had been filling her brain and
giving direction to her life since she accepted Brent as her
guide and Brent's plans as her career, had combined to give
her air of distinction the touch of the extraordinary--the
touch that characterizes the comparatively few human beings
who live the life above and apart from that of the common
run--the life illuminated by imagination. At a glance one
sees that they are not of the eaters, drinkers, sleepers, and
seekers after the shallow easy pleasures money provides
ready-made. They shine by their own light; the rest of mankind
shines either by light reflected from them or not at all.
Looking at her that evening as she came into the comfortable,
old-fashioned English room, with its somewhat heavy but
undeniably dignified furniture and draperies, the least
observant could not have said that she was in gala attire
because she was in gala mood. Beneath the calm of her surface
expression lay something widely different. Her face, slim
and therefore almost beyond the reach of the attacks of time
and worry, was of the type to which a haggard expression is
becoming. Her eyes, large and dreamy, seemed to be seeing
visions of unutterable sadness, and the scarlet streak of her
mouth seemed to emphasize their pathos. She looked young,
very young; yet there was also upon her features the stamp of
experience, the experience of suffering. She did not notice
the two by the fire, but went to the piano at the far end of the
room and stood gazing out into the lovely twilight of the garden.
Freddie, who saw only the costume, said in an undertone to
Clelie, "What sort of freak is this?"
Said Madame Deliere: "An uncle of mine lost his wife. They
were young and he loved her to distraction. Between her death
and the funeral he scandalized everybody by talking
incessantly of the most trivial details--the cards, the
mourning, the flowers, his own clothes. But the night of the
funeral he killed himself."
Palmer winced as if Clelie had struck him. Then an expression
of terror, of fear, came into his eyes. "You don't think
she'd do that?" he muttered hoarsely.
"Certainly not," replied the young Frenchwoman. "I was simply
trying to explain her. She dressed because she was
unconscious of what she was doing. Real sorrow doesn't think
about appearances." Then with quick tact she added: "Why
should she kill herself? Monsieur Brent is getting well.
Also, while she's a devoted friend of his, she doesn't love
him, but you."
"I'm all upset," said Palmer, in confused apology.
He gazed fixedly at Susan--a straight, slim figure with the
carriage and the poise of head that indicate self-confidence
and pride. As he gazed Madame Clelie watched him with
fascinated eyes. It was both thrilling and terrifying to see
such love as he was revealing--a love more dangerous than
hate. Palmer noted that he was observed, abruptly turned to
face the fire.
A servant opened the doors into the dining-room, Madame
Deliere rose. "Come, Susan," said she.
Susan looked at her with unseeing eyes.
"Dinner is served."
"I do not care for dinner," said Susan, seating herself at the piano.
"Oh, but you----"
"Let her alone," said Freddie, curtly. "You and I will go in."
Susan, alone, dropped listless hands into her lap. How long
she sat there motionless and with mind a blank she did not
know. She was aroused by a sound in the hall--in the
direction of the outer door of their apartment. She started
up, instantly all alive and alert, and glided swiftly in the
direction of the sound. A servant met her at the threshold.
He had a cablegram on a tray.
"For Mr. Palmer," said he.
But she, not hearing, took the envelope and tore it open. At
a sweep her eyes took in the unevenly typewritten words:
Brent died at half past two this afternoon.
She gazed wonderingly at the servant, reread the cablegram.
The servant said: "Shall I take it to Mr. Palmer, ma'am?"
"No. That is all, thanks," replied she.
And she walked slowly across the room to the fire. She
shivered, adjusted one of the shoulder straps of her low-cut
pale green dress. She read the cablegram a third time, laid
it gently, thoughtfully, upon the mantel. "Brent died at half
past two this afternoon." Died. Yes, there was no mistaking
the meaning of those words. She knew that the message was
true. But she did not feel it. She was seeing Brent as he
had been when they said good-by. And it would take something
more than a mere message to make her feel that the Brent so
vividly alive, so redolent of life, of activity, of energy, of
plans and projects, the Brent of health and strength, had
ceased to be. "Brent died at half past two this afternoon."
Except in the great crises we all act with a certain
theatricalism, do the thing books and plays and the example of
others have taught us to do. But in the great crises we do as
we feel. Susan knew that Brent was dead. If he had meant
less to her, she would have shrieked or fainted or burst into
wild sobs. But not when he was her whole future. She _knew_
he was dead, but she did not _believe_ it. So she stood
staring at the flames, and wondering why, when she knew such
a frightful thing, she should remain calm. When she had heard
that he was injured, she had felt, now she did not feel at
all. Her body, her brain, went serenely on in their routine.
The part of her that was her very self--had it died, and not Brent?
She turned her back to the fire, gazed toward the opposite
wall. In a mirror there she saw the reflection of Palmer, at
table in the adjoining room. A servant was holding a dish at
his left and he was helping himself. She observed his every
motion, observed his fattened body, his round and large face,
the forming roll of fat at the back of his neck. All at once
she grew cold--cold as she had not been since the night she
and Etta Brashear walked the streets of Cincinnati. The ache
of this cold, like the cold of death, was an agony. She shook
from head to foot. She turned toward the mantel again, looked
at the cablegram. But she did not take it in her hands. She
could see--in the air, before her eyes--in clear, sharp
lettering--"Brent died at half past two this afternoon. Garvey."
The sensation of cold faded into a sensation of approaching
numbness. She went into the hall--to her own rooms. In the
dressing-room her maid, Clemence, was putting away the afternoon
things she had taken off. She stood at the dressing table,
unclasping the string of pearls. She said to Clemence tranquilly:
"Please pack in the small trunk with the broad stripes three
of my plainest street dresses--some underclothes--the things
for a journey--only necessaries. Some very warm things,
please, Clemence, I've suffered from cold, and I can't bear
the idea of it. And please telephone to the--to the Cecil for
a room and bath. When you have finished I shall pay you what
I owe and a month's wages extra. I cannot afford to keep you
"But, madame"--Clemence fluttered in agitation--"Madame
promised to take me to America."
"Telephone for the rooms for Miss Susan Lenox," said Susan.
She was rapidly taking off her dress. "If I took you to
America I should have to let you go as soon as we landed."
"But, madame--" Clemence advanced to assist her.
"Please pack the trunk," said Susan. "I am leaving here at once."
"I prefer to go to America, even if madame----"
"Very well. I'll take you. But you understand?"
A sound of hurrying footsteps and Palmer was at the threshold.
His eyes were wild, his face distorted. His hair, usually
carefully arranged over the rapidly growing bald spot above
his brow, was disarranged in a manner that would have been
ludicrous but for the terrible expression of his face. "Go!"
he said harshly to the maid; and he stood fretting the knob
until she hastened out and gave him the chance to close the
door. Susan, calm and apparently unconscious of his presence,
went on with her rapid change of costume. He lit a cigarette
with fingers trembling, dropped heavily into a chair near the
door. She, seated on the floor, was putting on boots.
When she had finished one and was beginning on the other he
"You think I did it"--not a question but an assertion.
"I know it," replied she. She was so seated that he was
seeing her in profile.
"Yes--I did," he went on. He settled himself more deeply in
the chair, crossed his leg. "And I am glad that I did."
She kept on at lacing the boot. There was nothing in her
expression to indicate emotion, or even that she heard.
"I did it," continued he, "because I had the right. He
invited it. He knew me--knew what to expect. I suppose he
decided that you were worth taking the risk. It's strange
what fools men--all men--we men--are about women. . . .
Yes, he knew it. He didn't blame me."
She stopped lacing the boot, turned so that she could look at him.
"Do you remember his talking about me one day?" he went on,
meeting her gaze naturally. "He said I was a survival of the
Middle Ages--had a medieval Italian mind--said I would do
anything to gain my end--and would have a clear conscience
about it. Do you remember?"
"But you don't see why I had the right to kill him?"
A shiver passed over her. She turned away again, began again
to lace the boot--but now her fingers were uncertain.
"I'll explain," pursued he. "You and I were getting along
fine. He had had his chance with you and had lost it.
Well, he comes over here--looks us up--puts himself between
you and me--proceeds to take you away from me. Not in a
square manly way but under the pretense of giving you a career.
He made you restless--dissatisfied. He got you away from me.
Isn't that so?"
She was sitting motionless now.
Palmer went on in the same harsh, jerky way:
"Now, nobody in the world--not even you--knew me better than
Brent did. He knew what to expect--if I caught on to what was
doing. And I guess he knew I would be pretty sure to catch on."
"He never said a word to me that you couldn't have heard,"
"Of course not," retorted Palmer. "That isn't the question.
It don't matter whether he wanted you for himself or for his
plays. The point is that he took you away from me--he, my
friend--and did it by stealth. You can't deny that."
"He offered me a chance for a career--that was all," said she.
"He never asked for my love--or showed any interest in it. I
gave him that."
He laughed--his old-time, gentle, sweet, wicked laugh. He said:
"Well--it'd have been better for him if you hadn't. All it
did for him was to cost him his life."
Up she sprang. "Don't say that!" she cried passionately--so
passionately that her whole body shook. "Do you suppose I
don't know it? I know that I killed him. But I don't feel
that he's dead. If I did, I'd not be able to live. But I
can't! I can't! For me he is as much alive as ever."
"Try to think that--if it pleases you," sneered Palmer. "The
fact remains that it was _you_ who killed him."
Again she shivered. "Yes," she said, "I killed him."
"And that's why I hate you," Palmer went on, calm and
deliberate--except his eyes; they were terrible. "A few
minutes ago--when I was exulting that he would probably
die--just then I found that opened cable on the mantel. Do
you know what it did to me? It made me hate you. When I read
it----" Freddie puffed at his cigarette in silence. She
dropped weakly to the chair at the dressing table.
"Curse it!" he burst out. "I loved him. Yes, I was crazy
about him--and am still. I'm glad I killed him. I'd do it
again. I had to do it. He owed me his life. But that
doesn't make me forgive _you_."
A long silence. Her fingers wandered among the articles
spread upon the dressing table. He said:
"You're getting ready to leave?"
"I'm going to a hotel at once."
"Well, you needn't. I'm leaving. You're done with me. But
I'm done with you." He rose, bent upon her his wicked glance,
sneering and cruel. "You never want to see me again. No more
do I ever want to see you again. I wish to God I never had
seen you. You cost me the only friend I ever had that I cared
about. And what's a woman beside a friend--a _man_ friend?
You've made a fool of me, as a woman always does of a
man--always, by God! If she loves him, she destroys him. If
she doesn't love him, he destroys himself."
Susan covered her face with her bare arms and sank down at the
dressing table. "For pity's sake," she cried brokenly, "spare
He seized her roughly by the shoulder. "Just flesh!" he said.
"Beautiful flesh--but just female. And look what a fool
you've made of me--and the best man in the world dead--over
yonder! Spare you? Oh, you'll pull through all right.
You'll pull through everything and anything--and come out
stronger and better looking and better off. Spare you! Hell!
I'd have killed you instead of him if I'd known I was going to
hate you after I'd done the other thing. I'd do it yet--you
He jerked her unresisting form to its feet, gazed at her
like an insane fiend. With a sob he seized her in his arms,
crushed her against his breast, sunk his fingers deep into her
hair, kissed it, grinding his teeth as he kissed. "I hate
you, damn you--and I love you!" He flung her back into the
chair--out of his life. "You'll never see me again!" And he
fled from the room--from the house. XXV
THE big ship issued from the Mersey into ugly waters--into the
weather that at all seasons haunts and curses the coasts of
Northern Europe. From Saturday until Wednesday Susan and
Madame Deliere had true Atlantic seas and skies; and the ship
leaped and shivered and crashed along like a brave cavalryman
in the rear of a rout--fighting and flying, flying and
fighting. Four days of hours whose every waking second lagged
to record itself in a distinct pang of physical wretchedness;
four days in which all emotions not physical were suspended,
in which even the will to live, most tenacious of primal
instincts in a sane human being, yielded somewhat to the
general lassitude and disgust. Yet for Susan Lenox four most
fortunate days; for in them she underwent a mental change that
enabled her to emerge delivered of the strain that threatened
at every moment to cause a snap.
On the fifth day her mind, crutched by her resuming body, took
up again its normal routine. She began to dress herself, to
eat, to exercise--the mechanical things first, as always--then
to think. The grief that had numbed her seemed to have been
left behind in England where it had suddenly struck her
down--England far away and vague across those immense and
infuriated waters, like the gulf of death between two
incarnations. No doubt that grief was awaiting her at the
other shores; no doubt there she would feel that Brent was
gone. But she would be better able to bear the discovery.
The body can be accustomed to the deadliest poisons, so that
they become harmless--even useful--even a necessary aid to
life. In the same way the mind can grow accustomed to the
cruelest calamities, tolerate them, use them to attain a
strength and power the hot-housed soul never gets.
When a human being is abruptly plunged into an unnatural
unconsciousness by mental or physical catastrophes, the
greatest care is taken that the awakening to normal life again
be slow, gradual, without shock. Otherwise the return would
mean death or insanity or lifelong affliction with radical
weakness. It may be that this sea voyage with its four days
of agitations that lowered Susan's physical life to a harmony
of wretchedness with her mental plight, and the succeeding
days of gradual calming and restoration, acted upon her to
save her from disaster. There will be those readers of her
story who, judging her, perhaps, by themselves--as revealed in
their judgments, rather than in their professions--will think
it was quite unnecessary to awaken her gradually; they will
declare her a hard-hearted person, caring deeply about no one
but herself, or one of those curiosities of human nature that
are interested only in things, not at all in persons, even in
themselves. There may also be those who will see in her a
soft and gentle heart for which her intelligence finally
taught her to construct a shield--more or less
effective--against buffetings which would have destroyed or,
worse still, maimed her. These will feel that the sea voyage, the
sea change, suspending the normal human life, the life on land,
tided her over a crisis that otherwise must have been disastrous.
However this may be--and who dares claim the definite
knowledge of the mazes of human character and motive to be
positive about the matter?--however it may be, on Thursday
afternoon they steamed along a tranquil and glistening sea
into the splendor and majesty of New York Harbor. And Susan
was again her calm, sweet self, as the violet-gray eyes gazing
pensively from the small, strongly-featured face plainly
showed. Herself again, with the wound--deepest if not
cruelest of her many wounds--covered and with its poison under
control. She was ready again to begin to live--ready to
fulfill our only certain mission on this earth, for we are not
here to succumb and to die, but to adapt ourselves and live.
And those who laud the succumbers and the diers--yea, even
the blessed martyrs of sundry and divers fleeting issues
usually delusions--may be paying ill-deserved tribute to
vanity, obstinacy, lack of useful common sense, passion for
futile and untimely agitation--or sheer cowardice. Truth--and
what is truth but right living?--truth needs no martyrs; and
the world needs not martyrs, not corpses rotting in unmarked
or monumented graves, but intelligent men and women, healthy
in body and mind, capable of leading the human race as fast as
it is able to go in the direction of the best truth to which
it is able at that time to aspire.
As the ship cleared Quarantine Susan stood on the main deck
well forward, with Madame Clelie beside her. And up within
her, defying all rebuke, surged the hope that cannot die in
strong souls living in healthy bodies.
She had a momentary sense of shame, born of the feeling that
it is basest, most heartless selfishness to live, to respond
to the caress of keen air upon healthy skin, of glorious light
upon healthy eyes, when there are others shut out and shut
away from these joys forever. Then she said to herself, "But
no one need apologize for being alive and for hoping. I must
try to justify him for all he did for me."
A few miles of beautiful water highway between circling shores
of green, and afar off through the mist Madame Clelie's
fascinated eyes beheld a city of enchantment. It appeared and
disappeared, reappeared only to disappear again, as its veil
of azure mist was blown into thick or thin folds by the light
breeze. One moment the Frenchwoman would think there was
nothing ahead but more and ever more of the bay glittering in
the summer sunlight. The next moment she would see again that
city--or was it a mirage of a city?--towers, mighty walls,
domes rising mass above mass, summit above summit, into the
very heavens from the water's edge where there was a fringe of
green. Surely the vision must be real; yet how could tiny man
out of earth and upon earth rear in such enchantment of line
and color those enormous masses, those peak-like piercings of
"Is that--_it?_" she asked in an awed undertone.
Susan nodded. She, too, was gazing spellbound. Her beloved
City of the Sun.
"But it is beautiful--beautiful beyond belief. And I have
always heard that New York was ugly."
"It is beautiful--and ugly--both beyond belief!" replied Susan.
"No wonder you love it!"
"Yes--I love it. I have loved it from the first moment I saw
it. I've never stopped loving it--not even----" She did not
finish her sentence but gazed dreamily at the city appearing
and disappearing in its veils of thin, luminous mist. Her
thoughts traveled again the journey of her life in New York.
When she spoke again, it was to say:
"Yes--when I first saw it--that spring evening--I called it my
City of the Stars, then, for I didn't know that it belonged to
the sun--Yes, that spring evening I was happier than I ever
had been--or ever shall be again."
"But you will be happy again "dear" said Clelie, tenderly
pressing her arm.
A faint sad smile--sad but still a smile--made Susan's
beautiful face lovely. "Yes, I shall be happy--not in those
ways--but happy, for I shall be busy. . . . No, I don't take the
tragic view of life--not at all. And as I've known misery, I
don't try to hold to it."
"Leave that," said Clelie, "to those who have known only the
comfortable make-believe miseries that rustle in crepe and
shed tears--whenever there's anyone by to see."
"Like the beggars who begin to whine and exhibit their
aggravated sores as soon as a possible giver comes into view,"
said Susan. "I've learned to accept what comes, and to try to
make the best of it, whatever it is. . . . I say I've learned.
But have I? Does one ever change? I guess I was born that
sort of philosopher."
She recalled how she put the Warhams out of her life as soon
as she discovered what they really meant to her and she to
them--how she had put Jeb Ferguson out of her life--how she
had conquered the grief and desolation of the loss of
Burlingham--how she had survived Etta's going away without
her--the inner meaning of her episodes with Rod--with Freddie
And now this last supreme test--with her soul rising up and
gathering itself together and lifting its head in strength----
"Yes, I was born to make the best of things," she repeated.
"Then you were born lucky," sighed Clelie, who was of those
who must lean if they would not fall and lie where they fell.
Susan gave a curious little laugh--with no mirth, with a great
deal of mockery. "Do you know, I never thought so before, but
I believe you're right," said she. Again she laughed in that
queer way. "If you knew my life you'd think I was joking.
But I'm not. The fact that I've survived and am what I am
proves I was born lucky." Her tone changed, her expression
became unreadable. "If it's lucky to be born able to live.
And if that isn't luck, what is?"
She thought how Brent said she was born lucky because she had
the talent that enables one to rise above the sordidness of
that capitalism he so often denounced--the sordidness of the
lot of its slaves, the sordidness of the lot of its masters.
Brent! If it were he leaning beside her--if he and she were
coming up the bay toward the City of the Sun!
A billow of heartsick desolation surged over her.
Alone--always alone. And still alone. And always to be alone.
Garvey came aboard when the gangway was run out. He was in
black wherever black could be displayed. But the grief
shadowing his large, simple countenance had the stamp of the
genuine. And it was genuine, of the most approved enervating
kind. He had done nothing but grieve since his master's
death--had left unattended all the matters the man he loved
and grieved for would have wished put in order. Is it out of
charity for the weakness of human nature and that we may think
as well as possible of it--is that why we admire and praise
most enthusiastically the kind of love and the kind of
friendship and the kind of grief that manifest themselves in
obstreperous feeling and wordiness, with no strength left for
any attempt to _do?_ As Garvey greeted them the tears filled
Clelie's eyes and she turned away. But Susan gazed at him
steadily; in her eyes there were no tears, but a look that
made Garvey choke back sobs and bend his head to hide his
expression. What he saw--or felt--behind her calmness filled
him with awe, with a kind of terror. But he did not recognize
what he saw as grief; it did not resemble any grief he had
felt or had heard about.
"He made a will just before he died," he said to Susan. "He
left everything to you."
Then she had not been mistaken. He had loved her, even as she
loved him. She turned and walked quickly from them. She
hastened into her cabin, closed the door and flung herself
across the bed. And for the first time she gave way. In that
storm her soul was like a little land bird in the clutch of a
sea hurricane. She did not understand herself. She still had
no sense that he was dead; yet had his dead body been lying
there in her arms she could not have been more shaken by
paroxysms of grief, without tears or sobs--grief that vents
itself in shrieks and peals of horrible laughter-like
screams--she smothered them in the pillows in which she buried
her face. Clelie came, opened the door, glanced in, closed
it. An hour passed--an hour and a half. Then Susan appeared
on deck--amber-white pallor, calm, beautiful, the fashionable
woman in traveling dress.
"I never before saw you with your lips not rouged!" exclaimed Clelie.
"You will never see them rouged again," said Susan.
"But it makes you look older."
"Not so old as I am," replied she.
And she busied herself about the details of the landing and
the customs, waving aside Garvey and his eager urgings that
she sit quietly and leave everything to him. In the carriage,
on the way to the hotel, she roused herself from her apparently
tranquil reverie and broke the strained silence by saying:
"How much shall I have?"
The question was merely the protruding end of a train of
thought years long and pursued all that time with scarcely an
interruption. It seemed abrupt; to Garvey it sounded brutal.
Off his guard, he showed in flooding color and staring eye how
profoundly it shocked him. Susan saw, but she did not
explain; she was not keeping accounts in emotion with the
world. She waited patiently. After a long pause he said in
a tone that contained as much of rebuke as so mild a dependent
"He left about thirty thousand a year, Miss Lenox."
The exultant light that leaped to Susan's eye horrified him.
It even disturbed Clelie, though she better understood Susan's
nature and was not nearly so reverent as Garvey of the
hypocrisies of conventionality. But Susan had long since lost
the last trace of awe of the opinion of others. She was not
seeking to convey an impression of grief. Grief was too real
to her. She would as soon have burst out with voluble
confession of the secret of her love for Brent. She saw what
Garvey was thinking; but she was not concerned. She continued
to be herself--natural and simple. And there was no reason
why she should conceal as a thing to be ashamed of the fact
that Brent had accomplished the purpose he intended, had
filled her with honest exultation--not with delight merely,
not with triumph, but with that stronger and deeper joy which
the unhoped for pardon brings to the condemned man.
She must live on. The thought of suicide, of any form of
giving up--the thought that instantly possesses the weak and
the diseased--could not find lodgment in that young, healthy
body and mind of hers. She must live on; and suddenly she
discovered that she could live _free!_ Not after years of
doubtful struggles, of reverses, of success so hardly won that
she was left exhausted. But now--at once--_free!_ The heavy
shackles had been stricken off at a blow. She was
free--forever free! Free, forever free, from the wolves of
poverty and shame, of want and rags and filth, the wolves that
had been pursuing her with swift, hideous padded stride, the
wolves that more than once had dragged her down and torn and
trampled her, and lapped her blood. Free to enter of her own
right the world worth living in, the world from which all but
a few are shut out, the world which only a few of those
privileged to enter know how to enjoy. Free to live the life
worth while the life of leisure to work, instead of slaving to
make leisure and luxury and comfort for others. Free to
achieve something beside food, clothing, and shelter. Free to
live as _she_ pleased, instead of for the pleasure of a master
or masters. Free--free--free! The ecstasy of it surged up in
her, for the moment possessing her and submerging even thought
of how she had been freed.
She who had never acquired the habit of hypocrisy frankly
exulted in countenance exultant beyond laughter. She could
conceal her feelings, could refrain from expressing. But if
she expressed at all, it must be her true self--what she
honestly felt. Garvey hung his head in shame. He would not
have believed Susan could be so unfeeling. He would not let
his eyes see the painful sight. He would try to forget, would
deny to himself that he had seen. For to his shallow,
conventional nature Susan's expression could only mean delight
in wealth, in the opportunity that now offered to idle and to
luxuriate in the dead man's money, to realize the crude dreamings
of those lesser minds whose initial impulses toward growth have
been stifled by the routine our social system imposes upon all
but the few with the strength to persist individual.
Free! She tried to summon the haunting vision of the old
women with the tin cups of whisky reeling and staggering in
time to the hunchback's playing. She could remember every
detail, but these memories would not assemble even into a
vivid picture and the picture would have been far enough from
the horror of actuality in the vision she formerly could not
banish. As a menace, as a prophecy, the old women and the
hunchback and the strumming piano had gone forever.
After a long silence Garvey ventured stammeringly:
"He said to me--he asked me to request--he didn't make it a
condition--just a wish--a hope, Miss Lenox--that if you could,
and felt it strongly enough----"
"Wished what?" said Susan, with a sharp impatience that showed
how her nerves were unstrung.
"That you'd go on--go on with the plays--with the acting."
The violet eyes expressed wonder. "Go on?" she inquired,
"Go on?" Then in a tone that made Clelie sob and Garvey's
eyes fill she said:
"What else is there to live for, now?"
"I'm--I'm glad for his sake," stammered Garvey.
He was disconcerted by her smile. She made no other
answer--aloud. For _his_ sake! For her own sake, rather.
What other life had she but the life _he_ had given her? "And
he knew I would," she said to herself. "He said that merely to
let me know he left me entirely free. How like him, to do that!"
At the hotel she shut herself in; she saw no one, not even
Clelie, for nearly a week. Then--she went to work--and worked
like a reincarnation of Brent.
She inquired for Sperry, found that he and Rod had separated
as they no longer needed each other; she went into a sort of
partnership with Sperry for the production of Brent's
plays--he, an excellent coach as well as stage director,
helping her to finish her formal education for the stage. She
played with success half a dozen of the already produced Brent
plays. At the beginning of her second season she appeared
in what has become her most famous part--_Roxy_ in Brent's last
play, "The Scandal." With the opening night her career of
triumph began. Even the critics--therefore, not unnaturally,
suspicious of an actress who was so beautiful, so beautifully
dressed, so well supported, and so well outfitted with
actor-proof plays even the critics conceded her ability. She
was worthy of the great character Brent had created--the
wayward, many-sided, ever gay _Roxy Grandon_.
When, at the first night of "The Scandal," the audience
lingered, cheering Brent's picture thrown upon a drop,
cheering Susan, calling her out again and again, refusing to
leave the theater until it was announced that she could answer
no more calls, as she had gone home--when she was thus finally
and firmly established in her own right--she said to Sperry:
"Will you see to it that every sketch of me that appears
tomorrow says that I am the natural daughter of Lorella Lenox?"
Sperry's Punch-like face reddened.
"I've been ashamed of that fact," she went on. "It has made
me ashamed to be alive in the bottom of my heart."
"Absurd," said Sperry.
"Exactly," replied Susan. "Absurd. Even stronger than my
shame about it has been my shame that I could be so small as
to feel ashamed of it. Now--tonight" she was still in her
dressing-room. As she paused they heard the faint faraway
thunders of the applause of the lingering audience--"Listen!"
she cried. "I am ashamed no longer. Sperry, _Ich bin ein Ich!_"
"I should say," laughed he. "All you have to say is `Susan
Lenox' and you answer all questions."
"At last I'm proud of it," she went on. "I've justified
myself. I've justified my mother. I am proud of her, and she
would be proud of me. So see that it's done, Sperry."
"Sure," said he. "You're right."
He took her hand and kissed it. She laughed, patted him on the
shoulder, kissed him on both cheeks in friendly, sisterly fashion.
He had just gone when a card was brought to her--"Dr. Robert
Stevens"--with "Sutherland, Indiana," penciled underneath.
Instantly she remembered, and had him brought to her--the man
who had rescued her from death at her birth. He proved to be
a quiet, elderly gentleman, subdued and aged beyond his
fifty-five years by the monotonous life of the drowsy old
town. He approached with a manner of embarrassed respect and
deference, stammering old-fashioned compliments. But Susan
was the simple, unaffected girl again, so natural that he soon
felt as much at ease as with one of his patients in Sutherland.
She took him away in her car to her apartment for supper with
her and Clelie, who was in the company, and Sperry. She kept
him hour after hour, questioning him about everyone and
everything in the old town, drawing him out, insisting upon
more and more details. The morning papers were brought and
they read the accounts of play and author and players. For
once there was not a dissent; all the critics agreed that it
was a great performance of a great play. And Susan made
Sperry read aloud the finest and the longest of the accounts
of Brent himself--his life, his death, his work, his lasting
fame now peculiarly assured because in Susan Lenox there had
been found a competent interpreter of his genius.
After the reading there fell silence. Susan, her pallid face
and her luminous, inquiring violet eyes inscrutable, sat
gazing into vacancy. At last Doctor Stevens moved uneasily
and rose to go. Susan roused herself, accompanied him to the
adjoining room. Said the old doctor.
"I've told you about everybody. But you've told me nothing
about the most interesting Sutherlander of all--yourself."
Susan looked at him. And he saw the wound hidden from all the
world--the wound she hid from herself as much of the time as
she could. He, the doctor, the professional confessor, had
seen such wounds often; in all the world there is hardly a
heart without one. He said:
"Since sorrow is the common lot, I wonder that men can be so
selfish or so unthinking as not to help each other in every
way to its consolations. Poor creatures that we
are--wandering in the dark, fighting desperately, not knowing
friend from foe!"
"But I am glad that you saved me," said she.
"You have the consolations--success--fame--honor."
"There is no consolation," replied she in her grave sweet way.
"I had the best. I--lost him. I shall spend my life in
flying from myself."
After a pause she went on: "I shall never speak to anyone as
I have spoken to you. You will understand all. I had the
best--the man who could have given me all a woman seeks from
a man--love, companionship, sympathy, the shelter of strong
arms. I had that. I have lost it. So----"
A long pause. Then she added:
"Usually life is almost tasteless to me. Again--for an hour
or two it is a little less so--until I remember what I have
lost. Then--the taste is very bitter--very bitter."
And she turned away.
She is a famous actress, reputed great. Some day she will be
indeed great--when she has the stage experience and the years.
Except for Clelie, she is alone. Not that there have been no
friendships in her life. There have even been passions. With
men and women of her vigor and vitality, passion is
inevitable. But those she admits find that she has little to
give, and they go away, she making no effort to detain them;
or she finds that she has nothing to give, and sends them away
as gently as may be. She has the reputation of caring for
nothing but her art--and for the great establishment for
orphans up the Hudson, into which about all her earnings go.
The establishment is named for Brent and is dedicated to her
mother. Is she happy? I do not know. I do not think she
knows. Probably she is--as long as she can avoid pausing to
think whether she is or not. What better happiness can
intelligent mortal have, or hope for? Certainly she is
triumphant, is lifted high above the storms that tortured her
girlhood and early youth, the sordid woes that make life an
unrelieved tragedy of calamity threatened and calamity realized
for the masses of mankind. The last time I saw her----
It was a few evenings ago, and she was crossing the sidewalk
before her house toward the big limousine that was to take her
to the theater. She is still young; she looked even younger
than she is. Her dress had the same exquisite quality that
made her the talk of Paris in the days of her sojourn there.
But it is not her dress that most interests me, nor the luxury
and perfection of all her surroundings. It is not even her
beauty--that is, the whole of her beauty.
Everything and every being that is individual in appearance
has some one quality, trait, characteristic, which stands out
above all the rest to make a climax of interest and charm.
With the rose it is its perfume; with the bird, perhaps the
scarlet or snowy feathers upon its breast. Among human beings
who have the rare divine dower of clear individuality the
crown and cap of distinction differs. In her--for me, at
least--the consummate fascination is not in her eyes, though I
am moved by the soft glory of their light, nor in the lovely
oval contour of her sweet, healthily pallid face. No, it is
in her mouth--sensitive, strong yet gentle, suggestive of all
the passion and suffering and striving that have built up her
life. Her mouth--the curve of it--I think it is, that sends
from time to time the mysterious thrill through her audiences.
And I imagine those who know her best look always first at
those strangely pale lips, curved in a way that suggests
bitterness melting into sympathy, sadness changing into
mirth--a way that seems to say: "I have suffered--but, see!
I have stood fast!"
Can a life teach any deeper lesson, give any higher inspiration?
As I was saying, the last time I saw her she was about to
enter her automobile. I halted and watched the graceful
movements with which she took her seat and gathered the robes
about her. And then I noted her profile, by the light of the
big lamps guarding her door. You know that profile? You have
seen its same expression in every profile of successful man or
woman who ever lived. Yes, she may be happy--doubtless is
more happy than unhappy. But--I do not envy her--or any other
of the sons and daughters of men who is blessed--and
And Freddie--and Rod--and Etta--and the people of
Sutherland--and all the rest who passed through her life and
out? What does it matter? Some went up, some down--not
without reason, but, alas! not for reason of desert. For the
judgments of fate are, for the most part, not unlike blows
from a lunatic striking out in the dark; if they land where
they should, it is rarely and by sheer chance. Ruth's parents
are dead; she is married to Sam Wright. He lost his father's
money in wheat speculation in Chicago--in one of the most
successful of the plutocracy's constantly recurring raids upon
the hoardings of the middle class. They live in a little
house in one of the back streets of Sutherland and he is head
clerk in Arthur Sinclair's store--a position he owes to the
fact that Sinclair is his rich brother-in-law. Ruth has
children and she is happier in them than she realizes or than
her discontented face and voice suggest. Etta is fat and
contented, the mother of many, and fond of her fat, fussy
August, the rich brewer. John Redmond--a congressman, a
possession of the Beef Trust, I believe--but not so highly
prized a possession as was his abler father.
Freddie? I saw him a year ago at the races at Auteuil. He is
huge and loose and coarse, is in the way soon to die of
Bright's disease, I suspect. There was a woman with him--very
pretty, very _chic_. I saw no other woman similarly placed
whose eyes held so assiduously, and without ever a wandering
flutter, to the face of the man who was paying. But Freddie
never noticed her. He chewed savagely at his cigar, looking
about the while for things to grumble at or to curse. Rod?
He is still writing indifferent plays with varying success.
He long since wearied of Constance Francklyn, but she clings
to him and, as she is a steady moneymaker, he tolerates her.
Brent? He is statelily ensconced up at Woodlawn. Susan has
never been to his grave--there. His grave in her heart--she
avoids that too, when she can. But there are times--there
always will be times----
If you doubt it, look at her profile.
Yes, she has learned to live. But--she has paid the price.