Part 2 out of 7
wall,--and, so, directly opposite the trellised, vine-covered arch of the
entrance,--a small, lattice bower, with a rustic table and seats within,
was completely covered, as was the barn, by the magically woven tapestry
of the flowers. In the corner of the hedge farthest from the entrance they
found a narrow gate. Unlike the rest of the premises, the garden was in
perfect order--the roses trimmed and cared for; the walks neatly edged and
clean; with no weed or sign of untidiness or neglect anywhere.
The two men had come upon the spot so suddenly--so unexpectedly--the
contrast with the neglected grounds and buildings was so marked--that they
looked at each other in silence. The little retreat--so lovely, so hidden
by its own beauty from the world, so cared for by careful hands--seemed
haunted by an invisible spirit. Very quietly,--almost reverently,--they
moved about; talking in low tones, as though half expecting--they knew not
"Some one loves this place," said the novelist, softly, when they stood,
again, in the entrance.
And the artist answered in the same hushed voice, "I wonder what it
When they were again in the barn, Aaron King became eagerly enthusiastic
over the possibilities of the big room. "Some rightly toned burlap on the
walls and ceiling,"--he pointed out,--"with floor covering and rugs in
harmony; there"--rolling back the big door as he spoke--"your north light;
some hangings and screens to hide the stairway to the loft, and the stable
door; your entrance over here in the corner, nicely out of the way; and
the window looking into the garden--it's great man, great!"
"And," answered Conrad Lagrange, from where he stood in the big front
door, "the mountains! Don't forget the mountains. The soft, steady, north
light on your canvas, and a message from the mountains to your soul,
through the same window, should make it a good place to work, Mr.
Painter-man. I suppose over here"--he moved away from the window, and
spoke in his mocking way--"over here, you will have a tea-table for the
ladies of the circle elect--who will come to, 'oh', and, 'ah', their
admiration of the newly discovered genius, and to chatter their
misunderstandings of his art. Of course, there will be a page in velvet
and gold. By all means, get hold of an oriental kid of some kind--oriental
junk is quite the rage this year. You should take advantage of every
influence that can contribute to your success, you know. And, whatever you
do, don't fail to consult the 'Goddess' about these essentials of your
craft. Many a promising genius has been lost to fame, through inviting the
wrong people to take tea in his studio. But"--he finished whimsically,
looking from the window into the garden--"but what the devil do you
suppose the spirit who lives out there will think about it all."
* * * * *
The days of the two following weeks were busy days for Aaron King. He
leased the place in the orange groves, and set men to work making it
habitable. The lawn and grounds were trimmed and put in order; the
interior of the house was renovated by painter and paper-hanger; and the
barn, under the artist's direction, was transformed into an ideal studio.
There was a trip to Los Angeles--quite fortunately upon a day when Mrs.
Taine must go to the city shopping--for rugs and hangings; and another
trip to purchase the tools of the artist's craft. And, at last, there was
a Chinese cook and housekeeper to find; with supplies for his kitchen. It
was at Conrad Lagrange's suggestion, that, from the first, every one was
given strict orders to keep out of the rose garden.
Every day, the novelist--accompanied, always, by Czar--walked out that way
to see how things were progressing; and often,--if he had not been too
busy to notice,--Aaron King might have seen a look of wistfulness in the
keen, baffling eyes of the famous man--so world-weary and sad. And, while
he did not cease to mock and jeer and offer sarcastic advice to his
younger friend, the touch of pathos--that, like a minor chord, was so
often heard in his most caustic and cruel speeches--was more pronounced.
As for Czar--he always returned to the hotel with evident reluctance; and
managed to express, in his dog way, the thoughts his distinguished master
would not put in words.
Very often, too, the big touring car from the house on Fairlands Heights
stopped in front of the cottage, while the occupants inspected the
premises, and--with many exclamations of flattering praise, and a few
suggestions--made manifest their interest.
In time, it was finished and ready--from the big easel by the great, north
window in the studio, to the white-jacketed Yee Kee in the kitchen. When
the last workman was gone with his tools; and the two men, after looking
about the place for an hour, were standing on the front porch; Conrad
Lagrange said, "And the stage is set. The scene shifters are off. The
audience is waiting. Ring up the curtain for the next act. Even Czar has
looked upon everything and calls it good--heh Czar?"
The dog went to him; and, for some minutes, the novelist looked down into
the brown eyes of his four-footed companion who seemed so to understand.
Still fondling the dog,--without looking at the artist,--the older man
continued, "You will have your things moved over in the morning, I
suppose? Or, will we lunch together, once more?"
Aaron King laughed--as a boy who has prepared a surprise, and has been
struggling manfully to keep the secret until the proper moment should
arrive. Placing his hand on the older man's shoulder, he answered
meaningly, "I had planned that _we_ would move in the morning." At the
other's puzzled expression he laughed again.
"We?" said the novelist, facing his friend, quickly.
"Come here," returned the other. "I must show you something you haven't
He led the way to a room that they had decided he would not need, and the
door of which was locked. Taking a key from his pocket, he handed it to
"What's this?" said the older man, looking foolishly at the key in his
"It's the key to that door," returned the other, with a gleeful chuckle.
"Sure--that's what I gave you the key for."
Conrad Lagrange obeyed. Through the open door, he saw, not the bare and
empty room he supposed was there, but a bedroom--charmingly furnished,
complete in every detail. Turning, he faced his companion silently,
inquiringly--with a look that Aaron King had never before seen in those
strange, baffling eyes.
"It's yours"--said the artist, hastily--"if you care to come. You'll have
a free hand here, you know; for I will be in the studio much of the time.
Kee will cook the things you like. You and Czar can come and go as you
will. There is the arbor in the rose garden, you know, and see here"--he
stepped to the window--"I chose this room for you, because it looks out
upon your mountains."
The strange man stood at the window for, what seemed to the artist, a long
time. Suddenly, he turned to say sharply, "Young man, why did you do
"Why"--stammered the other, disconcerted--"because I want you--because I
thought you would like to come. I beg your pardon--if I have made a
mistake--but surely, no harm has been done."
"And you think you could stand living with me--for any length of time?"
The' painter laughed with relief. "Oh, _that's_ it! I didn't know you had
such a tender conscience. You scared me for a minute, I should think you
would know by this time that you can't phase me with your wicked tongue."
The novelist's face twisted into a grotesque smile. "I warn you--I will
flay you and your friends just the same. You need it for the good of your
"As often and as hard as you like"--returned the other, heartily--"just so
it's for the good of my soul. You will come?"
"You will permit me to stand my share of the expense?"
"Anything you like--if you will only come."
The older man said gently,--for the first time calling the artist by his
given name,--"Aaron, I believe that you are the only person in the world
who would, really want me; and I _know_ that you are the only person in
the world to whom I would be grateful for such an invitation."
The artist was about to reply, when the big automobile stopped in front of
the house. Czar, on the porch, gave a low growl of disapproval; and,
through the open door, they saw Mr. Taine and his wife with James Rutlidge
The novelist said something, under his breath, that had a vicious
sound--quite unlike his words of the moment before. Czar, in disgust,
retreated to the shelter of Yee Kee's domain. With a laugh, the younger
man went out to meet his friends.
"Are you at home this afternoon, Sir Artist?" called Mrs. Taine, gaily, as
he went down the walk.
"I will always be at home to the right people," he answered, greeting the
other members of the party.
As they moved toward the house,--Mr. Taine choking and coughing, his
daughter chattering and exclaiming, and James Rutlidge critically
observing,--Mrs. Taine dropped a little back to Aaron King's side. "And
are you really established, at last?" she asked eagerly; with a charming,
"We move to-morrow morning," he answered.
"We?" she questioned.
"Conrad Lagrange and I. He is going to live with me, you know."
It is remarkable how much meaning a woman can crowd into that one small
syllable; particularly, when she draws a little away from you as she
"Why," he murmured apologetically, "don't you approve?"
Mrs. Taine's beautiful eyebrows went up inquiringly--"And why should I
either approve or disapprove?"
The young man was saved by the arrival of his guests at the porch steps,
and by the appearance of Conrad Lagrange, in the doorway.
"How delightful!" exclaimed Mrs. Taine, heartily; as she, in turn, greeted
the famous novelist. "Mr. King was just telling me that you were going to
share this dear little place with him. I quite envy you both."
The others had passed into the house.
"You are sometimes guilty of saying twisty things yourself, aren't you?"
returned the man; and, as he spoke, his remarkable eyes were fixed upon
her as though reading her innermost thoughts.
She flushed under his meaning gaze, but carried it off gaily with--"Oh
dear! I wonder if my maid has hooked me up properly, this time?"
They left Mr. Taine in an easy chair, with a bottle of his favorite
whisky; and went over the place--from the arbor in the rose garden to Yee
Kee's pantry--Mr. Rutlidge, critically and authoritatively approving;
Louise, effervescing the same sugary nothings at every step; Mrs. Taine,
with a pretty air of proprietorship; Conrad Lagrange, thoughtfully
watching; and Aaron King, himself, irresponsibly gay and boyishly proud as
he exhibited his achievements.
In the studio, Mrs. Taine--standing before the big easel--demanded to
know of the artist, when he would begin her portrait--she was so
interested, so eager to begin--how soon could she come? Louise assumed a
worshipful attitude, and, gazing at the young man with reverent eyes,
waited breathlessly. James Rutlidge drew near, condescendingly attentive,
to the center of attraction. Conrad Lagrange turned his back.
"Really," murmured the painter, "I hope you will not be too impatient,
Mrs. Taine, I fear I cannot be ready for some time yet. I suppose I must
confess to being over-sensitive to my environment; for it is a fact that
my working mood does not come upon me readily amid strange surroundings.
When I have become acclimated, as it were, I will be ready for you."
"How wonderful!" breathed Louise.
"Quite right," agreed Mr. Rutlidge.
"Whenever you are ready," said Mrs. Taine, submissively.
When their friends from the Heights were gone, Conrad Lagrange looked the
artist up and down, as he said with cutting sarcasm, "You did that very
nicely. Over-sensitive to your environment, hell! If you _are_ a bit fine
strung, you have no business to make a _show_ of it. It's a weakness, not
a virtue. And the man who makes capital out of any man's weakness,--even
of his own,--is either a criminal or a fool or both."
Then they went back to the hotel for dinner.
The next morning, the artist and the novelist moved from the hotel, to
establish themselves in the little house in the orange groves--the
little house with its unobstructed view of the mountains, and with its
rose garden, so mysteriously tended.
An Unknown Friend
When Yee Kee announced lunch, the artist, the novelist, and the dog were
settled in their new home. In the afternoon, the painter spent an hour
or two fussing over portfolios of old sketches, in his studio; while
Conrad Lagrange and Czar lounged on the front porch.
Once, the dog rose quietly, and, walking sedately to the edge of the
porch toward the west, stood for some minutes gazing intently into the
dark green mass of the orange grave. At last, as if concluding that
whatever it was it was all right, he went calmly back to his place
beside the novelist's chair.
"Do you know,"--said the artist, as they sat on the porch that evening,
with their after-dinner pipes,--"I believe this old place is haunted."
"If it isn't, it ought to be," answered the other, contentedly--playing
with Czar's silky ears. "A good ghost would fit in nicely here, wouldn't
it--or he, or she. Its spookship would travel far to find a more
delightful place for spooking in, and--providing, of course, she were a
perfectly respectable hant--what a charming addition to our family he
would make. When it was weary of moping and mowing and sobbing and
wailing and gibbering, she could curl up at the foot of your bed and
sleep; as Czar, here, curls up and sleeps at the foot of mine. A good
ghost, you know--if he becomes really attached to you--is as constant
and faithful and affectionate and companionable as a good dog."
"B-r-r-r," said the artist. And Czar turned to look at him,
"All the same"--the painter continued--"when I was out there in the
studio, I could feel some one watching me--you know the feeling."
Conrad Lagrange returned mockingly, "I trust your over-sensitive, artistic
temperament is not to be so influenced by our ghostly visitor that you
will be unfitted for your work."
The other laughed. Then he said seriously, "Joking aside, Lagrange, I feel
a presentiment--I can't put it into words--but--I feel that I _am_ going
to begin the real work of my life right here. I"--he hesitated--"it seems
to me that I can sense some influence that I can't define--it's the
mystery of the rose garden, perhaps," he finished with another short
The man, who, in the eyes of the world, had won so large a measure of the
success that his friend desired; and whose life was so embittered by the
things for which he was envied by many; made no reply other than his slow,
Silently, they watched the purple shadows of the mountains deepen; and saw
the outlines of the tawny foothills grow vague and dim, until they were
lost in the dusky monotone of the evening. The last faint tint of sunset
color went from the sky back of the San Gabriels; while, close to the
mountain peaks and ridges, the stars came out. The rows and the contour of
the orange groves could no longer be distinguished the forms of the nearby
trees were lost--the rich, lustrous green of their foliage brushed out
with the dull black of the night; while the twinkling lights of the
distant towns and hamlets, in the valley below, shone as sparkling jewels
on the inky, velvet robe that, fold on fold, lay over the landscape.
When the two had smoked in silence, for some time, the artist said slowly,
"You knew my mother very well, did you not, Mr. Lagrange?"
"We were children together, Aaron." As he spoke, the man's deep voice was
gentle, as always, when the young man's mother was mentioned.
Again, for a little, neither spoke. As they sat looking away to the
mountains, each seemed occupied with his own thoughts. Yet each felt that
the other, to a degree, understood what he, himself, was thinking.
Once more, the artist broke the silence,--facing his mother's friend with
quiet resolution,--as though he felt himself forced to speak but knew not
exactly how to begin. "Did you know her well--after--after my father's
death--and while I was abroad?"
The other bowed his head--"Yes."
As if at loss for words, Aaron King still hesitated. "Mr. Lagrange," he
said, at last, "there are some things about--about mother--that I would
like to tell you--that I think she would want me to tell you, under the
"Yes," said Conrad Lagrange, gently.
"Well,--to begin,--you know, perhaps, how much mother and I have always
been--" his fine voice broke and the older man bowed his head; but, with a
slight lift of his determined chin, the painter went on calmly--"to each
other. After father's death, until I was seventeen, we were never
separated. She was my only teacher. Then I went away to school, seeing her
only during my vacations, which we always spent, together in the country.
Three years ago, I went abroad to finish my study. I did not see her again
until--until I was called home."
"I know," came in low tones from the other.
"But, sir, while it seemed necessary that I should be away from
home,--that we should be separated,--all through this period, we exchanged
almost daily letters; planning for the future, and looking forward to the
time when we could, again, be together."
"I know, Aaron. It was very unusual--and very beautiful."
"When we were together, before I went away, I was a mere lad," continued
the artist. "I knew in a general way that father had been a successful
lawyer, and quite prominent in politics; and--because there was no change
in our manner of living after his death, and there seemed to be always
money for whatever we wanted, I suppose--I assumed, thoughtlessly, that
there would always be plenty. During the years while I was at school,
there was never, in any way, the slightest hint in mother's letters that
would lead me to question the abundance of her resources. When they called
me home,--" his voice broke, "--I found my mother dying--almost in
poverty--our home stripped of the art treasures she loved--her own room,
even, empty of everything save the barest necessities." In bitter sorrow
and shame, the young man buried his face in his hands.
The novelist, his gaunt features twitching with the emotion that even his
long schooling in the tragedies of life could not suppress, waited
When the artist had regained, in a measure, his self-control, he
continued,--and every word came from him in shame and humiliation,--"Before
she died, she told me about--my father. In the settlement of his affairs,
at the time of his death, it appeared that he had taken advantage of the
confidence of certain clients and had betrayed his trust; appropriating
large sums to his own interests. He had even taken advantage of mother's
influence in certain circles, and, relying upon her unquestioning faith
in his integrity, had made her an unconscious instrument in furthering
Conrad Lagrange made as if to speak, but checked himself and waited for
the other to continue.
Aaron King went on; "Out of regard for my mother, the matter was kept as
quiet as possible. The one who suffered the heaviest loss was able to
protect her--in a measure. All the others were fully reimbursed. But
mother--it would have been easier for her if she had died then. She
withdrew from her friends and from the life she loved--she denied herself
to all who sought her and devoted her life to me. Above all, she planned
to keep me in ignorance of the truth until I should be equipped to win the
place in the world that she coveted for me. It was for that, she sent me
away, and kept me from home. As the demands for my educational expenses
grew naturally heavier, she supplemented the slender resources, left in
the final settlement of my father's estate, by sacrificing the treasures
of her home, and by giving up the luxuries to which she had been
accustomed from childhood. She even provided for me after her death--not
wealth, but a comfortable amount, sufficient to support me in good
circumstances until I can gain recognition and an income from my work."
Under the lash of his memories, the young man sprang to his feet.
"In God's name, Lagrange, why did not some one tell me? I did not know--I
did not know--I thought--O mother, mother, mother--why did you do it? Why
was I not told? All these years I have lived a selfish fool, and
you--you--I would have given up everything--I would have worked in a
ditch, rather than accept this."
The deep, quiet voice of Conrad Lagrange broke the stillness that followed
the storm of the artist's passionate words. "And that is the answer,
Aaron. She knew, too well, that you would not have accepted her sacrifice,
if you had known. That is why she kept the secret until you had finished
your education. She forbade her friends--she forbade me to interfere. And
don't you see that she was right? Don't you see it? We would have done her
the greatest injustice if we had, against her will, deprived her of this
privilege. Her splendid pride, her high sense of honor, her nobility of
spirit demanded the sacrifice. It was her right. God forgive me--I tried
to make her see it otherwise--but she knew best. She always knew best,
Aaron. Her only hope of regaining for you that self-respect and that
position in life to which you--by right of birth and natural
endowment--are entitled, was in you. The name which she had given to you
could be restored to honor by you only. To train and equip you for your
work, and to enable you, unhampered by need, to gain your footing, was the
determined passion of her life. Her sacrifice, her suffering to that end,
was the only restitution she could make to you for that which your father
had squandered. Her proud spirit, her fine intelligence, her mother love
for you, demanded it."
"I know," returned the artist. "She told me before she died. She made me
understand. She said that it was my inheritance. She asked for my promise
that I would be true to her purpose. Her last words were an expression of
her confidence that I would not disappoint her--that I would win a place
and name that would wipe out the shame of my father's dishonor. And I
will, Lagrange, I must. Mother--mother shall not be disappointed--she
shall not be disappointed."
"No,"--said the older man, so softly that the other, torn by the passion
of his own thoughts, did not hear,--"No, Aaron, your mother will not be
For a time longer they sat in silence. Then the young man said, "I wish I
knew the name of my mother's friend--the one who suffered the heaviest
loss through my father, and who so generously protected her in the crisis.
I would like to thank him, at least. I begged her to tell me, but she
would not. She said he would not want me to know--that for me to attempt
to reimburse him would, to his mind, rob him of his real reward."
Conrad Lagrange, his head bowed, spoke quietly to the dog at his feet.
Rising, Czar laid his soft muzzle on his master's knee and looked up into
the homely, world-worn face. Gently, the strange man--so lonely and
embittered in the fame that he had won--at a price--stroked the brown
head. "Your mother knew best, Aaron," he said slowly, without looking at
his companion. "You must believe that she knew best. Her beautiful spirit
could not lead her astray. She was right in this, also. Your sentiment
does you honor, but you must respect her wish. Whoever the man was--she
had reasons, I am sure, for feeling as she did--that it would be better
for you not to know. It was some one, perhaps, whose influence upon you,
she had cause to fear."
"It was very strange," returned the artist, hesitatingly. "Perhaps I ought
not to say it. But I felt that, as you suggest, she feared for me to know.
She seemed to want to tell me, but did not, for _my_ sake. It was very
Conrad Lagrange made no reply.
"I wanted you to know about mother,"--continued the artist,--"because I
would like you to understand why--why I must succeed in my work."
The older man smiled to himself, in the dusk. "I have always known why
you must succeed, Aaron," he returned. "I have never questioned your
motives. I question only your understanding of success. I question--if you
will pardon me--your understanding of your mother's wish for you."
Then, in one of those rare momentary moods, when he seemed to reveal to
his young friend his real nature that lay so deeply hidden from the world,
he added, "You are right, Aaron. This place _is_ haunted--haunted by the
spirit of the mountains, yonder--haunted by the spirit of the rose garden,
out there. The silent strength of the hills, and the loveliness of the
garden will attend you in your studio, as you work. I do not wonder that
you feel a presentiment that your artistic future is to be shaped here;
for between these influences and the other influences that will be brought
to bear upon you, you will be forced to decide. May the God of all true
art and artists help you to make no mistake. Listen!"
As though in answer to the solemn words of the man who spoke from the
fullness of a life-long experience and from the depths of a life-old love,
a strain of music came from out the fragrant darkness. Somewhere, hidden
in the depths of the orange grove, the soul of a true musician was seeking
expression in the tones of a violin.
Softly, sadly, with poignant clearness, the music lifted into the
night--low and pleadingly at first; then stronger and more vibrant with
feeling, as though sweetly insistent in its call; swelling next in volume
and passion, as though in warning of some threatening evil; ringing with
loving fear; sobbing, wailing, moaning, in anguish; clearly, gloriously,
triumphant, at last; then sinking into solemn, reverent
benediction--losing itself, finally, in the darkness, even as it had come.
The two men, so fashioned by nature to receive such music, listened with
emotions they could not have put into words. For the moment, the music to
them was the voice of the guarding, calling, warning spirit of the
mountains that, in their calm, majestic strength, were so far removed from
the petty passions and longings of the baser world at their feet--it was
the voice of the loving intimacy, the sweet purity, and the sacred beauty
of the spirit of the garden. It was as though the things of which Conrad
Lagrange had just spoken so reverently had cried aloud to them, out of the
night, in confirmation of his words.
Mrs. Taine in Quaker Gray
Aaron King seemed loth to begin his work on the portrait of Mrs. Taine.
Day after day, without apparent reason, he put it off--spending the hours
in wandering aimlessly about the place, idling on the porch, or doing
nothing in his studio. He would start from the house to the building at
the end of the rose garden, as though moved by some clearly defined
purpose--and then, for an hour or more, would dawdle among the things of
his craft, with irresolute mind--turning over his sketches and drawings
with uncertain hands, as though searching for something he knew was not
there; toying with his paints and brushes; or sitting before his empty
easel, looking away through the big window to the distant mountains. He
seemed incapable of fixing his mind upon the task to which he attached so
much importance. Several times, Mrs. Taine called, but he begged her to be
patient; and she, with pretended awe of the moods of genius, waited.
Conrad Lagrange jeered and mocked, offered sneering advice or sarcastic
compliment; and, under it all, was keenly watchful and sympathetic--
understanding better than the artist himself, perhaps, the secret of the
painter's hesitation. Every day,--sometimes in the morning, sometimes in
the afternoon or evening unseen musician, in the orange grove wrought
for them melodie that, whether grave or gay, always carried, somehow,
the feeling that had so moved them in the mysterious darkness of
that first evening.
They knew, now, of course, that the musician lived in the neighboring
house--the gable and chimney of which was just visible above the
orange-trees. But that was all. Obedient to some whimsical impulse that
prompted them both, and was born, no doubt, of the circumstance and mood
of that first evening, they did not seek to learn more. They
feared--though they did not say it--that to learn the identity of the
musician would rob them of the peculiar pleasure they found in the music,
itself. So they spoke always of their unknown neighbor in a fanciful vein,
as in like humor they spoke of the spirit that Aaron King still insisted
haunted the place, or as they alluded to the mystery of the carefully
tended rose garden.
When the artist could put it off no longer, a day was finally set when
Mrs. Taine was to come for the beginning of her portrait. The appointed
hour found the artist in his studio. A canvas stood ready upon the easel;
palette, colors and brushes were at hand. The painter was standing at the
big, north window, looking up away to the mountains--the mountains that
the novelist said called so insistently. Suddenly, he turned his head to
listen. Sweetly clear and low, through the green wall of the orange-trees,
came the music of that hidden violin.
As he stood there,--with his eyes fixed upon the mountains, listening to
the spirit that spoke in the tones of the unseen instrument,--Aaron King
knew, all at once, that the passing moment was one of those rare
moments--that come, all unexpectedly--when, with prophetic vision, one
sees clearly the end of the course he pursues and the destiny that waits
him at its completion. As clearly, too, he saw the other way, and knew the
meaning of the vision. But seldom is the strength given to man, in such
moments, to choose for himself. Though he may see the other way clearly,
his feet cling to the path he has elected to follow; nor will he, unless
some one takes him by the hand saying, "Come," turn aside.
A voice, not at all in harmony with the music, broke upon the artist's
consciousness. He turned to see Mrs. Taine standing expectantly in the
open door. "Hush!" said the painter, still under the spell of that moment
so big with possibilities. "Listen,"--with a gesture, he checked her
A look of haughty surprise flashed over the woman's too perfect features.
Then, as her ear caught the tones of the violin, she half turned--but only
for a moment.
"Very clever, isn't it," she said as she came forward "It must be old
Professor Becker. He lives somewhere around here, I understand. They say
he is very good."
The artist looked at her for an instant, in amazement Then, as his normal
mind asserted itself, he burst into an embarrassed laugh.
At her look of puzzled inquiry, he said, "I beg your pardon, Mrs. Taine.
I did not realize how harshly I greeted you. The fact is I--I was
dreaming"--he turned suggestively toward the canvas upon the easel. "You
see I was expecting you--I was thinking--then the music
came--and--well--when you actually appeared in the flesh, I did not for
the moment realize that it was really you."
"How charming of you!" she returned. "To be made the subject of an
artist's dream--really it is quite the nicest compliment I have ever
received. Tell me, do you like me in this?" she slipped the wrap she wore
from her shoulders, and stood before him, gowned in the simple, gray dress
of a Quaker Maid. Deliberately, she turned her beautiful self about for
his critical inspection. Moving to and fro, sitting, half-reclining,
standing--in various graceful poses she invited, challenged, dared, his
closest attention--professional attention, of course--to every curve and
In spite of its simplicity of color and line, the gown still bore the
unmistakable stamp of the wearer's world. The severity of line was subtly
made to emphasize the voluptuousness of the body that was covered but not
hidden. The quiet color was made to accentuate the flesh the dress
concealed only to reveal. The very lack of ornament but served to center
the attention upon the charms that so loudly professed to scorn them. It
was worldliness speaking in the quiet voice of religion. It was vulgarity
advertising itself in terms of good taste. She had made modesty the
handmaiden of blatant immodesty, and the daring impudence of it all
fairly stunned the painter.
"Oh dear!" she said, watching his face, "I fear you don't like it, at
all--and I thought it such a beautiful little gown. You told me to wear
whatever I pleased, you know."
"It _is_ a beautiful gown," he said--then added impulsively, "and you are
beautiful in it. You would be beautiful in anything."
She shook her head; favoring him with an understanding smile. "You say
that to please me. I can see that you don't like me this way."
"But I do," he insisted. "I like you that way, immensely. I was a bit
surprised, that's all. You see, I thought, of course, that you would
select an evening gown of some sort--something, you know, that would fit
your social position--your place in the world. In this costume, the beauty
of your shoulders--"
Lowering her eyes as if embarrassed, she said coldly, "The beauty of my
shoulders is not for the public. I have never worn--I will not wear--one
of those dreadful, immodest gowns."
Aaron King was bewildered. Suddenly, he remembered what Conrad Lagrange
had said about her fad. But after so frankly exhibiting herself before
him, dressed as she was in a gown that was deliberately planned to
advertise her physical charms, to be particular about baring her shoulders
in a conventional costume--! It was quite too much.
"Again, I beg your pardon, Mrs. Taine," he managed to say. "I did not
know. Under the circumstances, this is exactly the thing. Your portrait,
in what is so frankly a costume assumed for the purpose, takes us out of
the dilemma very nicely, indeed."
"Why, that's exactly what I thought," she returned eagerly. "And this is
so in keeping with my real tastes--don't you see? A real portrait--I mean
a serious work of art, you know--should always be something more than a
mere likeness, should it not? Don't you think that to be genuinely good, a
portrait must reveal the spirit and character--must portray the soul, as
well as the features? I _do_ so want this to be a truly great picture--for
your sake." Her manner seemed to say that she was doing it all for him. "I
have never permitted any one to paint my portrait before, you know," she
"You are very kind, Mrs. Taine," he returned gravely. "Believe me, I do
appreciate this opportunity I shall do my best to express my appreciation
here"--he indicated the canvas on the easel.
When his sitter was posed to his liking, and the artist, with a few bold,
sweeping, strokes of the charcoal had roughed out his subject on the
canvas, and was bending over his color-box--he said, casually, to put her
at ease, "You came alone this afternoon, did you?"
"Oh, no, indeed! I brought Louise with me. I shall always bring her, or
some one. One cannot be too careful, you know," she added with simulated
The painter, studying her face, replied mechanically "No indeed."
As he turned back to his canvas, Mrs. Taine continued, "I left her in the
house, with a box of chocolates and a novel. I felt that you would rather
we were alone."
"Please don't look down," said the artist. "I want your eyes about
here"--he indicated a picture on the wall, a little back and to the left
of where he stood at the easel.
After this, there was silence in the studio, for a little while. Mrs.
Taine obediently kept the pose; her eyes upon the point the artist had
indicated; but--as the man, himself, was almost directly in her line of
vision--it was easy for her to watch him at his work, when his eyes were
on his canvas or palette. The arrangement was admirable in that it
relieved the tedium of the hour for the sitter; and gave her face an
expression of animated interest that, truthfully fixed upon the canvas,
should insure the fame and future of any painter.
It would be quite too much to say that Aaron King became absorbed in his
occupation. Thorough master of the tools of his craft, and of his own
technic, as well; he was interested in the mere exercising of his skill,
but he in no sense lost himself in his work. Two or three times, Mrs.
Taine saw him glance quickly over his shoulder, as though expecting some
one. Once, for quite a moment, he deliberately turned from his easel to
stand at the window, looking up at the distant mountain peaks. Several
times, he seemed to be listening.
"May I talk?" she said at last.
"Why, certainly," he returned. "I want you to feel perfectly at ease. You
must be altogether at home here. Just let yourself go--say what you like,
with no conventional restraints whatever--consider me a mechanical
something that is no more than an article of furniture--be as thoroughly
yourself as if alone in your own room."
"How funny," she said musingly.
"Not at all"--he returned--"just a matter of business."
"But it _would_ be funny if I were to take you at your word," she replied;
suddenly breaking the pose and meeting his gaze squarely. "Is it--is it
quite necessary for the mechanical something to look at me like that?"
"I said that you were to _consider_ me as an article of furniture. I
didn't say that I _felt_ like a table or chair."
"Don't look down; keep the pose, please," came somewhat sharply from the
man at the easel, as though he were mentally taking himself in hand.
After that, she watched him with increasing interest and, when he turned
his head in that listening attitude, a curious, resentful light came into
Presently, she asked abruptly, "What is it that you hear?"
"I thought I heard music," he answered, coloring slightly and turning to
his work with suddenly absorbing interest.
"The violin that so enchanted you when I came to break the spell?" she
persisted playfully--though the light in her eyes was not a playful light.
"Yes," he answered shortly; stepping back and shading his eyes with his
hand for a careful look at his canvas.
"And don't you know who it is?"
"You said it was an old professor somebody."
"That was my _first_ guess," she retorted. "Was I right?"
"I don't know."
"But it comes from that little box of a house, next door, doesn't it?"
"Evidently," the artist answered. Then, laying aside his palette and
brushes he said abruptly, "That is all for to-day; thank you."
"Oh, so soon!" she exclaimed; and the regret in her voice was very
pleasing to the man who was decidedly not a mechanical something.
She started eagerly forward toward the easel. But the artist, with a quick
motion, drew a curtain across the canvas, to hide his work; while he
checked her with--"Not yet, please. I don't want you to see it until I say
"How mean of you," she protested; charmingly submissive. Then,
eagerly--"And do you want me to-morrow? You do, don't you?"
"Yes, please--at the same hour."
When the Quaker Maiden's dress was safely hidden under her wrap, Mrs.
Taine stood, for a moment, looking thoughtfully about the studio; while
the artist waited at the door, ready to escort her to the automobile. "I
am going to love this room," she said slowly; and, for the first time, her
voice was genuinely sincere, with a hint of wistfulness in its tone that
made him regard her wonderingly.
She went to him impulsively. "Will you, when you are famous--when you are
a great artist and all the great and famous people go to you to have their
portraits painted--will you remember poor me, I wonder?"
"Am I really going to be famous?" he returned doubtfully. "Are you so sure
that this picture will mean success?"
"Of course I am sure--I _know_. You want to succeed don't you?"
Aaron King returned her look, for a moment, without answering. Then, with
a quick, fierce determination that betrayed a depth of feeling she had
never before seen in him, he exclaimed, "Do I want to succeed! I--I must
succeed. I tell you I _must_."
And the woman answered very softly, with her hand upon his arm, "And you
* * * * *
Conrad Lagrange and Czar found the artist on the front porch, pulling
moodily at his pipe.
"Is it all over for to-day?" asked the novelist as he stood looking down
upon the young man with that peculiarly piercing, baffling gaze.
"All over," replied the artist, answering the greeting thrust of Czar's
muzzle against his knee, with caressing hand. "Where did you fly to?"
The other dropped into a chair. "I would fly anywhere to escape being
entertained by that Ragtime' piece of human nonentity--Louise Taine. I
saw them coming, just in time." He was filling his pipe as he spoke. "And
how did the work go?"
"All right," replied the painter, indifferently.
The older man shot a curious sidewise glance at his moody companion; then,
striking a match, he gave careful attention to his pipe. Watching the
cloud of blue smoke, he said quizzingly, "I suppose 'Her Majesty' was
royally apparelled for the occasion-properly arrayed in purple and fine
linen; as befits the dignity of her state?"
The artist turned at the mocking, suggestive tone and answered savagely,
"I suppose you have got to know, damn you! I'm painting her as a Quaker
Conrad Lagrange's reply was as surprising in its way as was the outburst
of the artist. Instead of the tirade of biting sarcasm and stinging abuse
that the painter expected, the older man only gazed at him from under his
scowling brows and, shaking his head, sadly, said with sincere regret and
understanding "You poor fellow! It must be hell." Then, as his keen mind
grasped the full significance of the artist's words, he murmured
meditatively, "The personification of the age masquerading in Quaker
gray--Shades of the giants who used to be! What an opportunity--if you
only had the nerve to do it."
The artist flung out his hand in protest as he rose from his chair to pace
up and down the porch. "Don't, Lagrange, don't! I can't stand it, just
"All right." said the other, heartily, "I won't." Rising, he put his hand
on his friend's shoulder. "Come, let's go for a look at the roses, before
Yee Kee calls us to dinner."
In the garden, the artist's eye caught sight of something white lying in
the well-kept path. With an exclamation, he went quickly to pick it up. It
was a dainty square of lace--a handkerchief--with an exquisitely
embroidered "S" in the corner.
The two men looked at each other in silence; with smiling, questioning
The Portrait That Was Not a Portrait
Aaron King was putting the last touches to his portrait of the woman
who--Conrad Lagrange said--was the personification of the age.
From that evening when the young man told his friend the story of his
mother's sacrifice, their friendship had become like that friendship which
passeth the love of women. While the novelist, true to his promise, did
not cease to flay his younger companion--for the good of the artist's
soul--those moments when his gentler moods ruled his speech were, perhaps,
more frequent; and the artist was more and more learning to appreciate the
rare imagination, the delicacy of feeling, the intellectual brilliancy,
and the keenness of mental vision that distinguished the man whose life
was so embittered by the use he had made of his own rich gifts.
The novelist steadily refused to look at the picture while the work was in
progress. He said, bluntly, that he preferred to run no risk of
interfering with the young man's chance for fame; and that it would be
quite enough for him to look upon his friend's shame when it was
accomplished; without witnessing the process in its various stages. The
artist laughed to hide the embarrassing fact that he was rather pleased
to be left to himself with this particular picture.
Conrad Lagrange did not, however, refuse to accompany his friend,
occasionally, to the house on Fairlands Heights; where the painter
continued to spend much of his time. When Mrs. Taine made mocking
references to the novelist's promise not to leave the artist unprotected
to her tender mercies, he always answered with some--as she said--twisty
saying; to the effect that the present situation in no way lessened his
determination to save the young man from the influences that would
accomplish the ruin of his genius. "If"--he always added--"if he is worth
saving; which remains to be seen." Always, at the Taine home, they met
James Rutlidge. Frequently the celebrated critic dropped in at the cottage
in the orange grove.
Under the skillful management of Rutlidge,--at the request of Mrs.
Taine,--the newspapers were already busy with the name and work of Aaron
King. True, the critic had never seen the artist's work; but,
never-the-less, the papers and magazines throughout the country often
mentioned the high order of the painter's genius. There were little
stories of his study and success abroad; tactful references to his
aristocratic family; entertaining accounts of his romantic life with the
famous novelist in the orange groves of Fairlands, and of how, in his
California studio among the roses, the distinguished painter was at work
upon a portrait of the well-known social leader, Mrs. Taine--this being
the first portrait ever painted of that famous beauty. That the picture
would create a sensation at the exhibition, was the unanimous verdict of
all who had been permitted to see the marvelous creation by this rare
genius whose work was so little known in this country.
Said Conrad Lagrange--"It is all so easy."
Once or twice, the artist or his friend had seen the woman of the
disfigured face; and the novelist still tried in vain to fix her in his
memory. Every day, they heard, in the depths of the neighboring orange
grove, the music of that unseen violin. They spoke, often, in playful
mood, of the spirit that haunted the place; but they made no effort to
solve the mystery of the carefully tended rose garden. They knew that
whoever cared for the roses worked there only in the early morning hours;
and they carefully avoided going into the yard back of the house until
after breakfast. They felt that an investigation might rob them of the
peculiar humor of their fancy--a fancy that was to them, both, such a
pleasure; and gave to their home amid the orange-trees and roses such an
But the other member of the trio of friends was not so reticent. Czar had
formed an--to his most proper dogship--unusual habit. Frequently, when the
three were sitting on the porch in the evening, he would rise suddenly
from his place beside his master's chair, and walking sedately to the side
of the porch facing that neighboring gable and chimney, would stand
listening attentively; then, without so much as a "by-your-leave," he
would leap to the ground, and vanish somewhere around the corner of the
house. Later, he would come sedately back; greeting each, in turn, with
that insistent thrust his soft muzzle against a knee; and assuring them,
in the wordless speech of his expressive, brown eyes, that his mission had
been a most proper one, and that they might trust him to make no foolish
mistakes that would mar the peace and harmony of their little household.
The men never failed to agree with him that it was all right. In fact, so
fully did they trust him that they never even stepped to the corner of the
porch to see where he went; nor would they leave their chairs until he had
Upon those days when Mrs. Taine came to the studio,--being always careful
that Louise accompanied her as far as the house,--Conrad Lagrange
vanished. The man swore by all the strange and wonderful gods he knew--and
they were many--that he feared to spend an hour with that effervescing
young female devotee of the Arts--lest the mountains in their wrath should
fall upon him.
But that day, when Mrs. Taine came for the last sitting, the
novelist--engaged in interesting talk with the artist--forgot.
"You are caught," cried the painter, gleefully, as the big automobile
stopped at the gate.
"I'll be damned if I am," retorted the novelist, with no profane intent
but with meaning quite literal; and, seizing a book, he bolted through the
kitchen--nearly upsetting the startled Yee Kee.
"What's matte'," inquired the Chinaman, putting his head in at the
living-room door; his almond eyes as wide as they could go, with an
expression of celestial consternation that convulsed the artist. Catching
sight of the automobile, his oriental features wrinkled into a yellow grin
of understanding; "Oh! see um come! Ha! I know. He all time go, she come.
He say no like lagtime gal. Dog Cza', him all time gone, too; him no like
lagtime--all same Miste' Laglange. Ha! I go, too," and he, in turn,
"You are early, to-day," said Aaron King, as he escorted Mrs. Taine to the
Just inside the door, she turned impulsively to face him--standing close,
her beautifully groomed and voluptuous body instinct with the lure of her
sex, her too perfect features slightly flushed, and her eyes submissively
downcast. "And have you forgotten that this is the last time I can come?"
she asked in a low tone.
"Surely not"--he returned calmly--"you are coming to-morrow, with the
others, aren't you?" Her husband with James Rutlidge and Louise Taine were
invited for the next day, to view the portrait.
"Oh, but that will be so different!" She loosed the wrap she wore, and
threw it aside with an indescribable familiar gesture. "You don't realize
what these hours have meant to me--how could you? You do not live in my
world. Your world is--is so different You do not know--you do not know."
With a sudden burst of passion, she added, "The world that I live in is
hell; and this--this--oh, it has been heavenly!"
Her words, her voice, the poise of her figure, the gesture with
outstretched arms--it was all so nearly an invitation, so nearly a
surrender of herself to him, that the man started forward impulsively.
For the moment he forgot his work--he forgot everything--he was conscious
only of the woman who stood before him. But even as the light of triumph
blazed up in the woman's eyes, the man halted,--drew back; and his face
was turned from her as he listened to the sweetly appealing message of the
gentle spirit that made itself felt in the music of that hidden violin. It
was as though, in truth, the mountains, themselves,--from their calm
heights so remote from the little world wherein men live their baser
tragedies,--watched over him. "Don't you think we had better proceed with
our work?" he said calmly.
The light in the woman's eyes changed to anger which she turned away to
hide. Without replying, she went to her place and assumed the pose; and,
as she had watched him day after day when his eyes were upon the canvas,
she watched him now. Since that first day, when she had questioned him
about the unseen musician, they had not mentioned the subject,
although--as was inevitable under the circumstances--their intimacy had
grown. But not once had he turned from his work in that listening
attitude, or looked from the window as though half-expecting some one,
without her noting it. And, always, her eyes had flashed with resentment,
which she had promptly concealed when the painter, again turning to his
easel, had looked from his canvas to her face.
Scarcely was the artist well started in his work, that afternoon, when the
music ceased. Presently, Mrs. Taine broke her watchful silence, with the
quite casual remark; "Your musical neighbor is still unknown to you, I
"Yes,"--he answered smiling, as though more to himself than at her,--"we
have never tried to make her acquaintance."
The woman caught him up quickly; "To make _her_ acquaintance? Why do you
say, '_her_,' if you do not know who it is?"
The artist was confused. "Did I say, _her_?" he questioned, his face
flushed with embarrassment. "It was a slip of the tongue. Neither Conrad
Lagrange nor I know anything about our neighbor."
She laughed ironically. "And you _could_ know so easily."
"I suppose so; but we have never cared to. We prefer to accept the music
as it comes to us--impersonally--for what it is--not for whoever makes
it." He spoke coldly, as though the subject was distasteful to him, under
the circumstances of the moment.
But the woman persisted. "Well, _I_ know who it is. Shall I tell you?"
"No. I do not care to know. I am not interested in the musician."
"Oh, but you might be, you know," she retorted.
"Please take the pose," returned Aaron King professionally. Mrs. Taine,
wisely, for the time, dropped the subject; contenting herself with a
The artist silently gave all his attention to the nearly finished
portrait. He was not painting, now, with full brush and swift sure
strokes,--as had been his way when building up his picture,--but worked
with occasional deft touches here and there; drawing back from the canvas
often, to study it intently, his eyes glancing swiftly from the picture to
the sitter's face and back again to the portrait; then stepping forward
quickly, ready brush in hand; to withdraw an instant later for another
long and searching study. Presently, with an air of relief, he laid aside
his palette and brushes; and turning to Mrs. Taine, with a smile, held out
his hand. "Come," he said, "tell me if I have done well or ill."
"It is finished?" she cried. "I may see it?"
"It is all that I can do"--he answered--"come." He led her to the easel,
where they stood side by side before his work.
The picture, still fresh from the painter's brush, was a portrait of Mrs.
Taine--yet not a portrait. Exquisite in coloring and in its harmony of
tone and line, it betrayed in every careful detail--in every mark of the
brush--the thoughtful, painstaking care--the thorough knowledge and highly
trained skill of an artist who was, at least, master of his own technic.
But--if one might say so--the painting was more a picture than a portrait.
The face upon the canvas was the face of Mrs. Taine, indeed, in that the
features were her features; but it was also the face of a sweetly modest
Quaker Maid. The too perfect, too well cared for face of the beautiful
woman of the world was, on the canvas, given the charm of a natural
unconscious loveliness. The eyes that had watched the artist with such
certain knowledge of life and with the boldness born of that knowledge
were, in the picture, beautiful with the charm of innocent maidenhood.
The very coloring and the arrangement of the hair were changed subtly to
express, not the skill of high-priced beauty-doctors and of fashionable
hair-dressers, but the instinctive care of womanliness. The costume that,
when worn by the woman, expressed so fully her true character; in the
picture, became the emblem of a pure and deeply religious spirit.
Mrs. Taine turned impulsively to the artist, and, placing her hand upon
his arm, exclaimed in delight, "Oh, is it true? Am I really so beautiful?"
The artist laughed. "You like it?"
"Like it? How could I help liking it? It is lovely."
"I am glad," he returned. "I hoped it would please you."
"And you"--she asked, with eager eyes--"are you satisfied with it? Does it
seem good to you?"
"Oh, as for that," he answered, "I suppose one is never satisfied. I know
the work is good--in a way. But it is very far from what it should be, I
fear. I feel that, after all, I have not made the most of my opportunity."
He spoke with a shade of sadness.
Again, she put out her hand impulsively to touch his arm, as she answered
eagerly, "Ah, but no one else will say that. No one else will dare. It
will be the sensation of the year--I tell you. Just you wait until Jim
Rutlidge sees it. Wait until it is hung for exhibition, and he tells the
world about it. Everybody worth while will be coming to you then. And I--I
will remember these hours with you, and be glad that I could help--even
so little. Will you remember them, too, I wonder. Are you glad the picture
"And are you not glad?" he returned meaningly.
They had both forgotten the painting before them. They did not see it.
They each saw only the other.
"No, I am not glad," she said in a low tone. "People would very soon be
talking if I should come here, alone--now that the picture is finished."
"I suppose in any case you will be leaving Fairlands soon, for the
summer," he returned slowly.
"O listen,"--she cried with quick eagerness--"we are going to Lake
Silence. What's to hinder your coming too? Everybody goes there, you know.
Won't you come?"
"But would it be altogether safe?" He reflected doubtfully.
"Why, of course,--Mr. Taine, Louise, and Jim,--we are all going
together--don't you see? I don't believe you want to go," she pouted. "I
believe you want to forget."
Her alluring manner, the invitation conveyed in her words and voice, the
touch of her hand on his arm, and the nearness of her person, fairly swept
the man off his feet. With quick passion, he caught her hand, and his
words came with reckless heat. "You know that I will not forget you. You
know that I could not, if I would. Do you think that I have been so
engrossed with my brushes and canvas that I have been unconscious of you?
What is that painted thing beside your own beautiful self? Do you think
that because I must turn myself into a machine to make a photograph of
your beauty, I am insensible to its charm? I am not a machine. I am a man;
as you are a woman; and I--"
She checked him suddenly--stepping aside with a quick movement, and the
words, "Hush, some one is coming."
The artist, too, heard voices, just without the door.
Mrs. Taine moved swiftly across the room toward her wrap. Aaron King,
going to his easel, drew the velvet curtain to hide the picture.
Conrad Lagrange's Adventure
Certainly, when Conrad Lagrange fled so precipitately from Louise Taine,
that afternoon, he had no thought that the trivial incident was to mark
the beginning of a new era in his life; or that it would work out in the
life of his dearest friend such far reaching results. His only purpose was
to escape an hour of the frothy vaporings of the poor, young creature who
believed herself so interested in art and letters, and who succeeded so
admirably in expressing the spirit of her environment and training.
With his pipe and book, the novelist hid himself in the rose garden;
finding a seat on the ground, in an angle of the studio wall and the
Ragged Robin hedge, where any one entering the enclosure would be least
likely to observe him. Czar, heartily approving of his master's action,
stretched himself comfortably under the nearest rose-bush, and waited
Presently, the novelist heard his friend, with Mrs. Taine, come from the
house and enter the studio. For a moment, he entertained the uncomfortable
fear that the artist, in a spirit of sheer boyish fun that so often moved
him, would bring Mrs. Taine to the garden. But the moment passed, and the
novelist,--mentally blessing the young man for his forbearance,--with a
chuckle of satisfaction, lighted his pipe and opened his book. Scarcely
had he found his place in the pages, however, when he was again
interrupted--this time, by the welcome tones of their neighbor's violin.
Putting his book aside, the man reclining in the shelter of the roses,
with half-closed eyes, yielded himself to the fancy of the spirit that
called from the depths of the fragrant orange grove.
The mass of roses in the hedge and on the wall of the studio above his
head dropped their lovely petals down upon him. The warm, slanting rays of
the afternoon sun, softened by the screen of shining leaves and branches,
played over the bewildering riot of color. Here and there, golden-bodied
bees and velvet-winged butterflies flitted about their fairy-like duties.
Far above, in the deep blue, a hawk floated on motionless wings and a
lonely crow laid his course toward the distant mountain peaks that
gleamed, silvery white, above the blue and purple of the lower ridges and
the tawny yellow of their foothills. The air was saturated with the
fragrance of the rose and orange blossoms, of eucalyptus and pepper trees,
and with the thousand other perfumes of a California spring.
The music ceased. The man waited--hoping that it would begin again. But it
did not; and he was about to take up his book, once more, when Czar arose,
stretched himself, stood for a moment in a picturesque, listening
attitude, then trotted off among the roses; leaving the novelist with an
odd feeling of uneasy expectancy--half resolved to stay, half determined
to go. The thought of Louise in the house decided him, and he kept his
place, hidden as he was, in the corner--a whimsical smile hovering over
his world-lined features as though, after all, he felt himself entering
upon some enjoyable adventure.
Presently, he heard indistinctly, somewhere in the other end of the
garden, a low murmuring voice. As it came nearer, the man's smile grew
more pronounced It was a wonderfully attractive voice, clear and full in
its pure-toned sweetness. The unseen speaker was talking to the novelist's
dog. The smile on the man's face was still more pronounced, as he
whispered to himself, "The rascal! So this is what he has been up to!"
Rising quietly to his knees, he peered through the flower-laden bushes.
A young woman of rare and exquisite beauty was moving about the
garden--bending over the roses, and talking in low tones to Czar, who--to
his hidden master--appeared to appreciate fully the favor of his gentle
companion's intimacy. The novelist--old in the study of character and
trained by his long years of observation and experience in the world of
artificiality--was fascinated by the loveliness of the scene.
Dressed simply, in some soft clinging material of white, with a modestly
low-cut square at the throat, and sleeves that ended in filmy lace just
below the elbow--her lithe, softly rounded form, as she moved here and
there, had all the charm of girlish grace with the fuller beauty of
ripening womanhood. As she bent over the roses, or stooped to caress the
dog, in gentle comradeship, her step, her poise, her every motion, was
instinct with that strength and health that is seldom seen among those who
wear the shackles of a too conventionalized society. Her face,--warmly
tinted by the golden out-of-doors, firm fleshed and clear,--in its
unconscious naturalness and in its winsome purity was like the flowers she
stooped to kiss.
As he watched, the man noticed--with a smile of understanding--that she
kept rather to the side of the garden toward the house; where the artist,
at his easel by the big, north light, could not see her through the small
window in the end of the room; and where, hidden by the tall hedge, she
would not be noticed from Yee Kee's kitchen. Often, too, she paused to
listen, as if for any chance approaching step--appearing, to the fancy of
the man, as some creature from another world--poised lightly, ready to
vanish if any rude observer came too near. Soon,--after a cautious,
hesitating, listening look about,--she slipped, swift footed as a fawn,
across the garden, and--followed by the dog--disappeared into the latticed
rose-covered arbor against the southern wall.
With a chuckle to himself, Conrad Lagrange crept quietly along the hedge
to the door of her retreat.
When she saw him there, she gave a little cry and started as though to
escape. But the novelist, smiling barred her way; while Czar, joyfully
greeting his master, turned from the man to the girl and back to the man
again, as if, by dividing his attention equally between the two, he was
bent upon assuring each that the other was a friend of the right sort.
There was no mistaking the facts that the dog was introducing them, and
that he was as proud of his new acquaintance as he was pleased to present
his older and more intimate companion.
A sunny smile broke over the girl's winsome face, as she caught the
meaning of Czar's behavior. "O," she said, "are you his master?" Her
manner was as natural and unrestrained as a child's--her voice, musically
sweet and low, as one unaccustomed to the speech of noisy, crowded cities
or shrill chattering crowds.
"I am his most faithful and humble subject," returned the man,
She was studying his face openly, while her own countenance--unschooled to
hide emotions, untrained to deceive--frankly betrayed each passing thought
and mood. The daintily turned chin, sensitive lips, delicate nostrils, and
large, blue eyes,--with that wide, unafraid look of a child that has never
been taught to fear,--revealed a spirit fine and rare; while the low,
broad forehead, shaded by a wealth of soft brown hair,--that, arranged
deftly in some simple fashion, seemed to invite the caress of every
wayward breath of air,--gave the added charm of strength and purpose. The
man, seeing these things and knowing--as few men ever know--their value,
waited her verdict.
It came with a smile and a pretty fancy, as though she caught the mood of
the novelist's reply. "He has told me so much about you--how kind you are
to him, and how he loves you. I hope you don't mind that he and I have
learned to be good friends. Won't you tell me his name? I have tried
everything, but nothing seems to fit. To call such a royal fellow,
'doggie', doesn't do at all, does it?"
Conrad Lagrange laughed--and it was the laugh of a Conrad Lagrange unknown
to the world. "No," he said with mock seriousness, "'doggie,' doesn't do
at all. He's not that kind of a dog. His name is Czar. That is"--he added,
giving full rein to his droll humor--"I gave it to him for a name. He has
made it his title. He did that, you know, so I would always remember that
he is my superior."
She laughed--low, full-throated and clear--as a girl who has not sadly
learned that she is a woman, laughs. Then she fell to caressing the dog
and calling him by name; while Czar--in his efforts to express his delight
and satisfaction--was as nearly undignified as it was possible for him to
As he watched them, the rugged, world-worn features of the famous novelist
were lighted with an expression that transformed them.
"And I suppose," she said,--still responding to the novelist's playful
mood,--"that Czar told you I was trespassing in your garden. Of course it
was his duty to tell. I hope he told you, also, that I do not steal your
The man shook his head, and his sharp, green-gray eyes were twinkling
merrily, now--as a boy in the spirit of some amusing venture. "Oh, no!
Czar said nothing at all about trespassers. He did tell me, though, about
a wonderful creature that comes every day to visit the garden. A nymph, he
thought it was--a beautiful Oread from away up there among the silver
peaks and purple canyons--or, perhaps, a lovely Dryad from among the oaks
and pines. I felt quite sure, though, that the nymph must be an Oread;
because he said that she comes to gather colors from the roses, and that
every morning and every evening she uses these colors to tint the highest
peaks and crests of her mountains--making them so beautiful that mortals
would always begin and end each day by looking up at them. Of course, the
moment I saw, you I knew who you were."
Unaffectedly pleased as a child at his quaint fancy, she answered merrily,
"And so you hid among the roses to trap me, I suppose."
"Indeed, I did not," he retorted indignantly. "I was forced to fly from a
wicked Flibbertigibbet who seeks to torment me. I barely escaped with my
life, and came into the garden to hide and recover from my fright. Then I
heard the most wonderful music and guessed that you must be somewhere
around. Then Czar, who had come with me to hide from the Flibbertigibbet
in the house, left me. I looked to see where he had gone, and so I saw,
sure enough, that it was you. All my life, you know, I have wanted to
catch a real nymph; but never could. So when you came into the arbor, I
couldn't resist trying again. And, now, here we are--with Czar to say it
is all right."
At his fanciful words, she laughed again, and her cheeks flushed with
pleasure. Then, with grave sweetness, she said, "Won't you sit down,
please, and let me explain seriously?"
"I suppose you must pretend to be like the rest of us," he returned with
an air of resignation, "but all the same, Czar and I know you are not."
When they were seated, she said simply, "My name is Sibyl Andres. This
place used to be my home. My mother planted this garden with her own
hands. Many of these roses were brought from our home in the mountains,
where I was born, and where I lived with father and mother until five
years ago. I feel, still, as though the old place in the hills were my
real home, and every summer, when nearly every one goes away from
Fairlands and there is nothing for me to do, Myra Willard and I go up
there, for as long as we can. You see, I teach music and play in the
churches. Miss Willard taught me. She and mother are the only teachers I
have ever had. After father's death, mother and Myra and I lived here for
two years; then mother died, and Myra and I moved to that little house
over there, because we could not afford to keep this place. But the man
who bought it gave me permission to care for the garden; so I come almost
every day--through that little gate in the corner of the hedge, there--to
tend the roses. Since you men moved in, though, I come, mostly, in the
morning--early--before you are up. I only slip in, sometimes, for a few
minutes, in the afternoon--when I think it will be safe. You see, being
strangers, I--I feared you would think me bold--if I--if I asked to come.
So many people really wouldn't understand, you know."
Conrad Lagrange's deep voice was very gentle as he said, "Mr. King and I
have known, all the time, that we had no real claim upon this garden,
Miss Andres." Then, with his whimsical smile, he added, "You see, we felt,
from the very first, that it was haunted by a lovely spirit that would
vanish utterly if we intruded. That is why we have been so careful. We did
not want to frighten you away. And besides, you know, Czar told us that it
was all right!"
The blue eyes shone through a bright mist as she answered the man's kindly
words. "You _are_ good, Mr. Lagrange. And all the time it was really _you_
of whom I was so afraid."
"Why me, more than my friend?" he asked, regarding her thoughtfully.
She colored a little under his searching gaze, but answered with that
childlike frankness that was so much a part of her winsome charm, "Why,
because your friend is an _artist_--I thought _he_ would be sure to
understand. I knew, of course, that you were the famous author; everybody
talks about your living here." She seemed to think that her words
"You mean that you were afraid of me because I am famous?" he asked
"Oh no," she answered, "not because you are famous. I mean--I was not
afraid of your _fame_," she smiled.
"And now," said the novelist decisively, "you must tell me at once--do you
read my books?" He waited, as though much depended upon her answer.
The blue eyes were gazing at him with that wide, unafraid look as she
answered sadly, "No, sir. I have tried, but I can't. They spoil my music.
They hurt me, somehow, all over."
Conrad Lagrange received her words with mingled emotions--with pleased
delight at her ingenuous frankness; with bitter shame, sorrow, and
humiliation and, at the last, with genuine gladness and relief. "I knew
it"--he said triumphantly--"I knew it. It was because of my books that you
were so afraid of me?" He asked eagerly, as one would ask to have a deep
"You see," she said,--smiling at the manner of his words,--"I did not know
that an author _could_ be so different from the things he writes about."
Then, with a puzzled air--"But why do you write the horrid things that
spoil my music and make me afraid? Why don't you write as you
talk--about--about the mountains? Why don't you make books
like--like"--she seemed to be searching for a word, and smiled with
pleasure when she found it--"like yourself?"
"Listen"--said the novelist impressively, taking refuge in his fanciful
humor--"listen--I'll tell you a secret that must always be for just you
and me--you like secrets don't you?"--anxiously.
She laughed with pleasure--responding instantly to his mood. "Of course I
He nodded approval. "I was sure you did. Now listen--I am not really
Conrad Lagrange, the man who wrote those books that hurt you so--not when
I am here in your rose garden, or when I am listening to your music, or
when I am away up there in your mountains, you know. It is only when I am
in the unclean world that reads and likes my books that I am the man who
Her eyes shone with quick understanding. "Of course," she agreed, "you
_couldn't_ be _that_ kind of a man, and love the music, and like to be
here among the roses or up in the mountains, could you?"
"No, and I'll tell you something else that goes with our secret. Your name
is not really Sibyl Andres, you know--any more than you really live over
there in that little house. Your real home is in the mountains--just as
you said--you _really_ live among the glowing peaks, under the dark pines,
on the ridges, and in the purple shadows of the canyons. You only come
down here to the Fairlands folk with a message from your mountains--and
_we_ call your message music. Your name is--"
She was leaning forward, her face glowing with eagerness. "What is my
"What can it be but 'Nature'," he said softly. "That's it, 'Nature'."
"And you? Who are you when you are not--when you are not in that other
"Me? Oh, my real name is 'Civilization'. Can't you guess why?"
She shook her head. "Tell me."
"Because,--in spite of all that the world that reads my books can
give,--poor old 'Civilization' cannot be happy without the message that
'Nature' brings from her mountains."
"And you, too, love the mountains and--and this garden, and my music?" she
asked half doubtingly. "You are not pretending that too--just to amuse
"No, I am not pretending that," he said.
"Then why--how can you do the--the other thing? I can't understand."
"Of course, you can't understand--how could you? You are 'Nature' and
'Nature' must often be puzzled by the things that 'Civilization' does."
"Yes. I think that is true," she agreed. "But I'm glad you like my music,
"And so am I glad--that I _can_ like it. That's the only thing that saves
"And your friend, the artist,--does he like my mountain music, do you
"Very much. He needs it too."
"I am glad," she answered simply. "I hoped he would like it, and that it
would help him. It was really for him that I have played."
"You played for him?"
"Yes," she returned without confusion. "You see, I did not know about
you--then. I thought you were altogether the man who wrote those
books--and so I _could_ not play for you. That is--I mean--you
understand--I could not play--" again she seemed to search for a word, and
finding it, smiled--"I could not play _myself_ for you. But I thought that
because he was an _artist_ he would understand; and that if I _could_ make
the music tell him of the mountains it would, perhaps, help him a little
to make his work beautiful and right--do you see?"
"Yes," he answered smilingly, "I see. I might have known that it was for
_him_ that you brought your message from the hills. But poor old
'Civilization' is frightfully stupid sometimes, you know."
Laughingly, she turned to the lattice wall of the arbor, and parting the
screen of vines a little, said to him, "Look here!"
Standing beside her, Conrad Lagrange, through the window in the end of the
studio next the garden, saw Aaron King at his easel; the artist's position
in the light of the big, north window being in a direct line between the
two openings and the arbor. Mrs. Taine was sitting too far out of line to
The girl laughed gleefully. "Do you see him at his work? At first, I only
hid here to find what kind of people were going to live in my old home.
But when he was making our old barn into a studio, and I heard who you
both were, I came because I love to watch him; as I try to make the music
I think he would love to hear."
The novelist studied her intently. She was so artless--so unaffected by
the conventions of the world--in a word, so natural in expressing her
thoughts, that the man who had given the best years of his life to feed
the vicious, grossly sensual and bestial imaginations of his readers was
deeply moved. He was puzzled what to say. At last, he murmured haltingly,
"You like the artist, then?"
Her eyes were full of curious laughter as she answered, "Why, what a funny
question--when I have never even talked with him. How _could_ I like any
one I have never known?"
"But you make your music for him; and you come here to watch him?"
"Oh, but that is for the work he is doing; that is for his pictures." She
turned to look through the tiny opening in the arbor. "How I wish I could
see inside that beautiful room. I know it must be beautiful. Once, when
you were all gone, I tried to steal in; but, of course, he keeps it
"I'll tell you what we'll do," said the man, suddenly--prompted by her
confession to resume his playful mood.
"What?" she asked eagerly, in a like spirit of fun.
"First," he answered, half teasingly, "I must know if you could, now, make
your music for me as well as for him."
"For the you that loves the mountains and the garden I'm sure I could,"
she answered promptly.
"Well then, if you will promise to do that--if you will promise not to
play _yourself_ for just him alone but for me too--I'll fix it so that you
can go into the studio yonder."
"Oh, I will always play for you, too, anyway--now that I know you."
"Of course," he said, "we could just walk up to the door, and I could
introduce you; but that would not be proper for _us_ would it?"
She shook her head positively, "I wouldn't like to do that. He would think
I was intruding, I am sure."
"Well then, we will do it this way--the first day that Mr. King and I are
both away, and Tee Kee is gone, too; I'll slip out here and leave a letter
and a key on your gate. The letter will tell you just the time when we go,
and when we will return--so you will know whether it is safe for you or
not, and how long you can stay. Only"--he became very serious--"only, you
must promise one thing."
"That you won't look at the picture on the easel."
"But why must I promise that?"
"Because that picture will not be finished for a long time yet, and you
must not look at it until I say it is ready. Mr. King wouldn't like you to
see that picture, I am sure. In fact, he doesn't like for any one to see
the picture he is working on just now."
"How funny," she said, with a puzzled look. "What is he painting it for? I
like for people to hear my music."
The man answered before he thought--"But I don't like people to read my
She shrank back, with troubled eyes, "Oh! is he--is he _that_ kind of an
"No, no, no!" exclaimed the novelist, hastily. "You must not think that. I
did not mean you to think that. If he was _that_ kind of an artist, I
wouldn't let you go into the studio at all. Mr. King is a good man--the
best man I have ever known. He is my friend because he knows the secret
about me that you know. He does not read my books. He would not read one
of them for anything. It is only that this picture is not finished. When
it is finished, he will not care who sees it."
"I'm glad," she said. "You frightened me, for a minute--I understand,
"And you promise not to look at the picture on the easel?"
She nodded,--"Of course. And when I come out I'll lock the door and put
the key back on the gate again; and no one but you and I will ever know."
"No one but you and I will know," he answered.
As he spoke, Czar, who had been lying quietly in the doorway of the arbor,
rose quickly to his feet, with a low growl.
The girl, peering through the screen on the side toward the house, uttered
an exclamation of fear and drew back, turning to her companion
appealingly. "O please, please don't let that man find me here."
Conrad Lagrauge looked and saw James Rutlidge coming down the path toward
the arched entrance to the garden, which was directly across from the
"Stop him, please stop him," whispered the girl, her hand upon his arm.
"Stay here until I get him out of sight," said the novelist quickly. "I
won't let him come into the garden. When we are gone, you can make your
escape. Don't forget the music for me, and the key at the gate."
He spoke to Czar, and with the dog obediently at heel went forward to meet
Mr. Rutlidge, who had called for Mrs. Taine and Louise.
But all the while that Conrad Lagrange was talking to the man, and leading
him toward the door of the studio, he was wondering--why that look of fear
upon the face of the girl in the garden? What had Sibyl Andres to do with
A Cry in the Night
As Conrad Lagrange and Mr. Rutlidge entered the studio, Aaron King turned
from the easel, where he had drawn the velvet curtain to hide the finished
portrait. Mrs. Taine was standing at the other side of the room, wrap in
hand, calmly waiting, ready to go. The artist greeted Mr. Rutlidge
cordially, while the woman triumphantly announced the completion of her
"Ah! permit me to congratulate you, old man," said Rutlidge, addressing
the artist familiarly. "It is too much, I suppose, to expect a look at it
"Thanks,"--returned the artist,--"you are all coming to-morrow, at three,
you know. I would rather not show it to-day. It is a little late for the
best light; and I would like for _you_ to see it under the most favorable
The critic was visibly flattered by the painter's manner and by his
well-chosen emphasis upon the personal pronoun. "Quite right"--he said
approvingly--"quite right, old boy." He turned to the novelist--"These
painter chaps, you know, Lagrange, like to have a few hours for a last
touch or two before _I_ come around." He laughed pompously at his own
words--the others joining.
When Mrs. Taine and her companions were gone, the artist said hurriedly
to his friend, "Come on, let's get it over." He led the way back to the
"I thought the light was too bad," said the older man, quizzingly, as they
entered the big room.
"It's good enough for _your_ needs," retorted the painter savagely. "You
could see all you want by candle-light." He jerked the curtain angrily
aside, and--without a glance at the canvas--walked away to stand at the
window looking out upon the rose garden--waiting for the flood of the
novelist's scorn to overwhelm him. At last, when no sound broke the quiet
of the room, he turned--to find himself alone.
Conrad Lagrange, after one look at the portrait on the easel, had slipped
quietly out of the building.
The artist found his friend, a few minutes later, meditatively smoking his
pipe on the front porch, with Czar lying at his feet.
"Well," said the painter, curiously,--anxious, as he had said, to have it
over,--"why the deuce don't you _say_ something?"
The novelist answered slowly, "My vocabulary is too limited, for one
reason, and"--he looked thoughtfully down at Czar--"I prefer to wait until
you have finished the portrait."
"It _is_ finished," returned the artist desperately. "I swear I'll never
touch a brush to the damned thing again."
The man with the pipe spoke to the dog at his feet; "Listen to him,
Czar--listen to the poor devil of a painter-man."
The dog arose, and, placing his head upon his master's knee, looked up
into the lined and rugged face, as the novelist continued, "If he was only
a wee bit puffed up and cocky over the thing, now, we could exert
ourselves, so we could, couldn't we?" Czar slowly waved a feathery tail in
dignified approval. His master continued, "But when a fellow can do a
crime like that, and still retain enough virtue in his heart to hear his
work shrieking to heaven its curses upon him for calling it into
existence, it's best for outsiders to keep quite still. Your poor old
master knows whereof he speaks, doesn't he, dog? That he does!"
"And is that all you have to say on the subject?" demanded the artist, as
though for some reason he was disappointed at his friend's reticence.
"I _might_ add a word of advice," said the other.
"Well, what is it?"
"That you pray your gods--if you have any--to be merciful, and bestow upon
you either less genius or more intelligence to appreciate it."
* * * * *
At three o'clock, the following afternoon, the little party from Fairlands
Heights came to view, the portrait Or,--as Conrad Lagrange said, while the
automobile was approaching the house, "Well, here they come--'The Age',
accompanied by 'Materialism', 'Sensual', and 'Ragtime'--to look upon the
prostitution of Art, and call it good." Escorted by the artist, and the
novelist, they went at once to the studio.
The appreciation of the picture was instantaneous--so instantaneous, in
fact, that Louise Taine's lips were shaped to deliver an expressive "oh"
of admiration, even _before_ the portrait was revealed. As though the
painter, in drawing back the easel curtain, gave an appointed signal, that
"oh" was set off with the suddenness of a sky-rocket's rush, and was
accompanied in its flight by a great volume of sizzling, sputtering,
glittering, adjectival sparks that--filling the air to no purpose
whatever--winked out as they were born; the climax of the pyrotechnical
display being reached in the explosive pop of another "oh" which released
a brilliant shower of variegated sighs and moans and ecstatic looks and
inarticulate exclamations--ending, of course, in total darkness.
Mrs. Taine hastened to turn the artist's embarrassed attention to an
appreciation that had the appearance, at least, of a more enduring value.
Drawing, with affectionate solicitude, close to her husband, she
asked,--in a voice that was tremulous with loving care and anxiety to
please,--"Do you like it, dear?"
"It is magnificent, splendid, perfect!" This effort to give his praise of
the artist's work the appearance of substantial reality cost the wretched
product of lust and luxury a fit of coughing that racked his burnt-out
body almost to its last feeble hold upon the world of flesh and, with a
force that shamed the strength of his words, drove home the truth that
neither his praise nor his scorn could long endure. When he could again
speak, he said, in his husky, rasping whisper,--while grasping the
painter's hand in effusive cordiality,--"My dear fellow, I congratulate
you. It is exquisite. It will create a sensation, sir, when it is
exhibited. Your fame is assured. I must thank you for the honor you have
done me in thus immortalizing the beauty and character of Mrs. Taine." And
then, to his wife,--"Dearest, I am glad for you, and proud. It is as
worthy of you as paint and canvas could be." He turned to Conrad Lagrange
who was an interested observer of the scene--"Am I not right, Lagrange?"
"Quite right, Mr. Taine,--quite right. As you say, the portrait is most
worthy the beauty and character of the charming subject."
Another paroxysm of coughing mercifully prevented the poor creature's
With one accord, the little group turned, now, to James Rutlidge--the
dreaded authority and arbiter of artistic destinies. That distinguished
expert, while the others were speaking, had been listening intently;
ostensibly, the while, he examined the picture with a show of trained
skill that, it seemed, could not fail to detect unerringly those more
subtle values and defects that are popularly supposed to be hidden from
the common eye. Silently, in breathless awe, they watched the process by
which professional criticism finds its verdict. That is, they _thought_
they were watching the process. In reality, the method is more subtle than
While the great critic moved back and forth in front of the easel; drew
away from or bent over to closely scrutinize the canvas; shifted the easel
a hair breadth several times; sat down; stood erect; hummed and muttered
to himself abstractedly; cleared his throat with an impressive "Ahem";
squinted through nearly closed eyes, with his head thrown back, or turned
in every side angle his fat neck would permit: peered through his
half-closed fist; peeped through funnels of paper; sighted over and under
his open hand or a paper held to shut out portions of the painting;--the
others _thought_ they saw him expertly weighing the evidence for and
against the merit of the work. In _reality_ it was his _ears_ and not his
_eyes_ that helped the critic to his final decision--a decision which was
delivered, at last, with a convincing air of ponderous finality. Indeed it
was a judgment from which there could be no appeal, for it expressed
exactly the views of those for whose benefit it was rendered. Then, in a
manner subtly insinuating himself into the fellowship of the famous, he,
too, turned to Conrad Lagrange with a scholarly; "Do you not agree, sir?"
The novelist answered with slow impressiveness; "The picture, undoubtedly,
fully merits the appreciation and praise you have given it. I have already
congratulated Mr. King--who was kind enough to show me his work before you
After this, Yee Kee appeared upon the scene, and tea was served in the
studio--a fitting ceremony to the launching of another genius.
"By the way, Mr. Lagrange," said Mrs. Taine, quite casually,--when, under
the influence of the mildly stimulating beverage, the talk had assumed a
more frivolous vein,--"Who is your talented neighbor that so charms Mr.
King with the music of a violin?"
The novelist, as he turned toward the speaker, shot a quick glance at the
Artist. Nor did those keen, baffling eyes fail to note that, at the
question, James Rutlidge had paused in the middle of a sentence. "That is
one of the mysteries of our romantic surroundings madam," said Conrad
"And a very charming mystery it seems to be," returned the woman. "It has
been quite affecting to watch its influence upon Mr. King."
The artist laughed. "I admit that I found the music, in combination with
the beauty I have so feebly tried to out upon canvas, very stimulating."
A flash of angry color swept into the perfect cheeks of Mrs. Taine, as she
retorted with meaning; "You are as flattering in your speech as you are
with your brush. I assure you I do not consider myself in your unknown
The small eyes of James Rutlidge were fixed inquiringly upon the speakers,
while his heavy face betrayed--to the watchful novelist--an interest he
could not hide. "Is this music of such exceptional merit?" he asked with
an attempt at indifference.
Louise Taine--sensing that the performances of the unnamed violinist had
been acceptable to Conrad Lagrange and Aaron King--the two representatives
of the world to which she aspired--could not let the opportunity slip. She
fairly deluged them with the spray of her admiring ejaculations in praise
of the musician--employing, hit or miss, every musical term that popped
into her vacuous head.
"Indeed,"--said the critic,--"I seem to have missed a treat." Then,
directly to the artist,--"And you say the violinist is wholly unknown to
"Wholly," returned the painter, shortly.
Conrad Lagrange saw a faint smile of understanding and disbelief flit for
an instant over the heavy face of James Rutlidge.
When the automobile, at last, was departing with the artist's guests; the
two friends stood for a moment watching it up the road to the west, toward
town. As the big car moved away, they saw Mrs. Taine lean forward to speak
to the chauffeur while James Rutlidge, who was in the front seat, turned
and shook his head as though in protest. The woman appeared to insist. The
machine slowed down, as though the chauffeur, in doubt, awaited the
outcome of the discussion. Then, just in front of that neighboring house,
Rutlidge seemed to yield abruptly, and the automobile turned suddenly in
toward the curb and stopped. Mrs. Taine alighted, and disappeared in the
depths of the orange grove.
Aaron King and Conrad Lagrange looked at each other, for a moment, in
questioning silence. The artist laughed. "Our poor little mystery," he
But the novelist--as they went toward the house--cursed Mrs. Taine, James
Rutlidge, and all their kin and kind, with a vehement earnestness that
startled his companion--familiar as the latter was with his friend's
peculiar talent in the art of vigorous expression.
After dinner, that evening, the painter and the novelist sat on the
porch--as their custom was--to watch the day go out of the sky and the
night come over valley and hill and mountain until, above the highest
peaks, the stars of God looked down upon the twinkling lights of the towns
of men. At that hour, too, it was the custom, now, for the violinist
hidden in the orange grove, to make the music they both so loved.
In the music, that night, there was a feeling that, to them, was new--a
vague, uncertain, halting undertone that was born, they felt, of fear. It
stirred them to question and to wonder. Without apparent cause or reason,
they each oddly connected the troubled tone in the music with the stopping
of the automobile from Fairlands Heights, that afternoon, at the gate of
the little house next door--the artist, because of Mrs. Taine's insistent
inquiry about the, to him, unknown musician;--Conrad Lagrange, because of
the manner of the girl in the garden when James Rutlidge appeared and
because of the critic's interest when they had spoken of the violinist in
the studio. But neither expressed his thought to the other.
Presently, the music ceased, and they sat for an hour, perhaps, in
silence--as close friends may do--exchanging only now and then a word.
Suddenly, they were startled by a cry. In the still darkness of the night,
from the mysterious depths of the orange grove, the sound came with such a
shock that the two men, for the moment, held their places,
motionless--questioning each other sharply--"What was that?" "Did you
hear?"--as though they doubted, almost, their own ears.
The cry came again; this time, undoubtedly, from that neighboring house to
the west. It was unmistakably the cry of a woman--a woman in fear and
They leaped to their feet.
Again the cry came from the black depths of the orange grove--shuddering,
horrible--in an agony of fear.
The two men sprang from the porch, and, through the darkness that in the
orange grove was like a black wall, ran toward the spot from which the
sound came--the dog at their heels.
Breathless, they broke into the little yard in front of the tiny box-like
house. Lights shone in the windows. All seemed peaceful and still. Czar
betrayed no uneasiness. Going to the front door, they knocked.
There was no answer save the sound of some one moving inside.
Again, the artist knocked vigorously.
The door opened, and a woman stood on the threshold.
Standing a little to one side, the men saw her features clearly, in the
light from the room. It was the woman with the disfigured face.
Conrad Lagrange was first to command himself. "I beg your pardon, madam.
We live in the house next door. We thought we heard a cry of distress. May
we offer our assistance in any way? Is there anything we can do?"
"Thank you, sir, you are very kind,"--returned the woman, in a low
voice,--"but it is nothing. There is nothing you can do."
And the voice of Sibyl Andres, who stood farther back in the room, where
the artist from his position could not see her, added, "It was good of you
to come, Mr. Lagrange; but it is really nothing. We are so sorry you were
"Not at all," returned the men, as the woman of the disfigured face drew
back from the door. "Good night."
"Good night," came from within the house, and the door was shut.
Go Look In Your Mirror, You Fool
As the Taine automobile left Aaron King and his friend, that afternoon,
Mrs. Taine spoke to the chauffeur; "You may stop a moment, at the next
If she had fired a gun, James Rutlidge could not have turned with a more
"What in thunder do you want there?" he demanded shortly.
"I want to stop," she returned calmly.
"But I must get down town, at once," he protested. "I have already lost
the best part of the afternoon."
"Your business seems to have become important very suddenly," she
"I have something to do besides making calls with you," he retorted. "Go
Mrs. Taine spoke sharply; "Really, Jim, you are going too far. Henry, turn
in at the house." The machine moved toward the curb and stopped. As she
stepped from the car, she added, "I will only be a minute, Jim."
Rutlidge growled an inarticulate curse.
"What deviltry do you suppose she is up to now," rasped Mr. Taine.
Which brought from his daughter the usual protest,--"O, papa, don't,"
As Mrs. Taine approached the house, Sibyl Andres--busy among the flowers
that bordered the walk--heard the woman's step, and stood quietly waiting
her. Mrs. Taine's face was perfect in its expression of cordial interest,
with just enough--but not too much--of a conscious, well-bred superiority.
The girl's countenance was lighted by an expression of childlike surprise
and wonder. What had brought this well-known leader in the social world
from Fairlands Heights to the poor, little house in the orange grove, so
far down the hill?
"Good afternoon," said the caller. "You are Miss Andres, are you not?"
"Yes," returned the girl, with a smile. "Won't you come in? I will call
"Oh, thank you, no. I have only a moment. My friends are waiting. I am
"Yes, I know. I have often seen you passing."
The other turned abruptly. "What beautiful flowers."
"Aren't they lovely," agreed Sibyl, with frank pleasure at the visitor's
appreciation. "Let me give you a bunch." Swiftly she gathered a generous
Mrs. Taine protested, but the girl presented her offering with such grace
and winsomeness that the other could not refuse. As she received the gift,
the perfect features of the woman of the world were colored by a blush
that even she could not control. "I understand, Miss Andres," she said,
"that you are an accomplished violinist."
"I teach and play in Park Church," was the simple answer.
"I have never happened to hear you, myself,"--said Mrs. Taine
smoothly,--"but my friends who live next door--Mr. Lagrange and Mr.
King--have told me about you."
"Oh!" The girl's voice was vaguely troubled, while the other, watching,
saw the blush that colored her warmly tinted cheeks.