Part 2 out of 4
She did not understand this until afterwards. At the time she fancied that
she had merely reached the limits of endurance. In so large a charter of
liberties as the mere act of leaving Tillotson seemed to confer, the small
question of divorce or no divorce did not count. It was when she saw that
she had left her husband only to be with Gannett that she perceived the
significance of anything affecting their relations. Her husband, in
casting her off, had virtually flung her at Gannett: it was thus that the
world viewed it. The measure of alacrity with which Gannett would receive
her would be the subject of curious speculation over afternoon-tea tables
and in club corners. She knew what would be said--she had heard it so
often of others! The recollection bathed her in misery. The men would
probably back Gannett to "do the decent thing"; but the ladies' eye-brows
would emphasize the worthlessness of such enforced fidelity; and after
all, they would be right. She had put herself in a position where Gannett
"owed" her something; where, as a gentleman, he was bound to "stand the
damage." The idea of accepting such compensation had never crossed her
mind; the so-called rehabilitation of such a marriage had always seemed to
her the only real disgrace. What she dreaded was the necessity of having
to explain herself; of having to combat his arguments; of calculating, in
spite of herself, the exact measure of insistence with which he pressed
them. She knew not whether she most shrank from his insisting too much or
too little. In such a case the nicest sense of proportion might be at
fault; and how easy to fall into the error of taking her resistance for a
test of his sincerity! Whichever way she turned, an ironical implication
confronted her: she had the exasperated sense of having walked into the
trap of some stupid practical joke.
Beneath all these preoccupations lurked the dread of what he was thinking.
Sooner or later, of course, he would have to speak; but that, in the
meantime, he should think, even for a moment, that there was any use in
speaking, seemed to her simply unendurable. Her sensitiveness on this
point was aggravated by another fear, as yet barely on the level of
consciousness; the fear of unwillingly involving Gannett in the trammels
of her dependence. To look upon him as the instrument of her liberation;
to resist in herself the least tendency to a wifely taking possession of
his future; had seemed to Lydia the one way of maintaining the dignity of
their relation. Her view had not changed, but she was aware of a growing
inability to keep her thoughts fixed on the essential point--the point of
parting with Gannett. It was easy to face as long as she kept it
sufficiently far off: but what was this act of mental postponement but a
gradual encroachment on his future? What was needful was the courage to
recognize the moment when, by some word or look, their voluntary
fellowship should be transformed into a bondage the more wearing that it
was based on none of those common obligations which make the most
imperfect marriage in some sort a centre of gravity.
When the porter, at the next station, threw the door open, Lydia drew
back, making way for the hoped-for intruder; but none came, and the train
took up its leisurely progress through the spring wheat-fields and budding
copses. She now began to hope that Gannett would speak before the next
station. She watched him furtively, half-disposed to return to the seat
opposite his, but there was an artificiality about his absorption that
restrained her. She had never before seen him read with so conspicuous an
air of warding off interruption. What could he be thinking of? Why should
he be afraid to speak? Or was it her answer that he dreaded?
The train paused for the passing of an express, and he put down his book
and leaned out of the window. Presently he turned to her with a smile.
"There's a jolly old villa out here," he said.
His easy tone relieved her, and she smiled back at him as she crossed over
to his corner.
Beyond the embankment, through the opening in a mossy wall, she caught
sight of the villa, with its broken balustrades, its stagnant fountains,
and the stone satyr closing the perspective of a dusky grass-walk.
"How should you like to live there?" he asked as the train moved on.
"In some such place, I mean. One might do worse, don't you think so? There
must be at least two centuries of solitude under those yew-trees.
Shouldn't you like it?"
"I--I don't know," she faltered. She knew now that he meant to speak.
He lit another cigarette. "We shall have to live somewhere, you know," he
said as he bent above the match.
Lydia tried to speak carelessly. "_Je n'en vois pas la necessite!_ Why not
live everywhere, as we have been doing?"
"But we can't travel forever, can we?"
"Oh, forever's a long word," she objected, picking up the review he had
"For the rest of our lives then," he said, moving nearer.
She made a slight gesture which caused his hand to slip from hers.
"Why should we make plans? I thought you agreed with me that it's
pleasanter to drift."
He looked at her hesitatingly. "It's been pleasant, certainly; but I
suppose I shall have to get at my work again some day. You know I haven't
written a line since--all this time," he hastily emended.
She flamed with sympathy and self-reproach. "Oh, if you mean _that_--if
you want to write--of course we must settle down. How stupid of me not to
have thought of it sooner! Where shall we go? Where do you think you could
work best? We oughtn't to lose any more time."
He hesitated again. "I had thought of a villa in these parts. It's quiet;
we shouldn't be bothered. Should you like it?"
"Of course I should like it." She paused and looked away. "But I thought--
I remember your telling me once that your best work had been done in a
crowd--in big cities. Why should you shut yourself up in a desert?"
Gannett, for a moment, made no reply. At length he said, avoiding her eye
as carefully as she avoided his: "It might be different now; I can't tell,
of course, till I try. A writer ought not to be dependent on his _milieu_;
it's a mistake to humor oneself in that way; and I thought that just at
first you might prefer to be--"
She faced him. "To be what?"
"Well--quiet. I mean--"
"What do you mean by 'at first'?" she interrupted.
He paused again. "I mean after we are married."
She thrust up her chin and turned toward the window. "Thank you!" she
tossed back at him.
"Lydia!" he exclaimed blankly; and she felt in every fibre of her averted
person that he had made the inconceivable, the unpardonable mistake of
anticipating her acquiescence.
The train rattled on and he groped for a third cigarette. Lydia remained
"I haven't offended you?" he ventured at length, in the tone of a man who
feels his way.
She shook her head with a sigh. "I thought you understood," she moaned.
Their eyes met and she moved back to his side.
"Do you want to know how not to offend me? By taking it for granted, once
for all, that you've said your say on this odious question and that I've
said mine, and that we stand just where we did this morning before that--
that hateful paper came to spoil everything between us!"
"To spoil everything between us? What on earth do you mean? Aren't you
glad to be free?"
"I was free before."
"Not to marry me," he suggested.
"But I don't _want_ to marry you!" she cried.
She saw that he turned pale. "I'm obtuse, I suppose," he said slowly. "I
confess I don't see what you're driving at. Are you tired of the whole
business? Or was _I_ simply a--an excuse for getting away? Perhaps you
didn't care to travel alone? Was that it? And now you want to chuck me?"
His voice had grown harsh. "You owe me a straight answer, you know; don't
Her eyes swam as she leaned to him. "Don't you see it's because I care--
because I care so much? Oh, Ralph! Can't you see how it would humiliate
me? Try to feel it as a woman would! Don't you see the misery of being
made your wife in this way? If I'd known you as a girl--that would have
been a real marriage! But now--this vulgar fraud upon society--and upon a
society we despised and laughed at--this sneaking back into a position
that we've voluntarily forfeited: don't you see what a cheap compromise it
is? We neither of us believe in the abstract 'sacredness' of marriage; we
both know that no ceremony is needed to consecrate our love for each
other; what object can we have in marrying, except the secret fear of each
that the other may escape, or the secret longing to work our way back
gradually--oh, very gradually--into the esteem of the people whose
conventional morality we have always ridiculed and hated? And the very
fact that, after a decent interval, these same people would come and dine
with us--the women who talk about the indissolubility of marriage, and who
would let me die in a gutter to-day because I am 'leading a life of sin'--
doesn't that disgust you more than their turning their backs on us now? I
can stand being cut by them, but I couldn't stand their coming to call and
asking what I meant to do about visiting that unfortunate Mrs. So-and-so!"
She paused, and Gannett maintained a perplexed silence.
"You judge things too theoretically," he said at length, slowly. "Life is
made up of compromises."
"The life we ran away from--yes! If we had been willing to accept them"--
she flushed--"we might have gone on meeting each other at Mrs. Tillotson's
He smiled slightly. "I didn't know that we ran away to found a new system
of ethics. I supposed it was because we loved each other."
"Life is complex, of course; isn't it the very recognition of that fact
that separates us from the people who see it _tout d'une piece?_ If _they_
are right--if marriage is sacred in itself and the individual must always
be sacrificed to the family--then there can be no real marriage between
us, since our--our being together is a protest against the sacrifice of
the individual to the family." She interrupted herself with a laugh.
"You'll say now that I'm giving you a lecture on sociology! Of course one
acts as one can--as one must, perhaps--pulled by all sorts of invisible
threads; but at least one needn't pretend, for social advantages, to
subscribe to a creed that ignores the complexity of human motives--that
classifies people by arbitrary signs, and puts it in everybody's reach to
be on Mrs. Tillotson's visiting-list. It may be necessary that the world
should be ruled by conventions--but if we believed in them, why did we
break through them? And if we don't believe in them, is it honest to take
advantage of the protection they afford?"
Gannett hesitated. "One may believe in them or not; but as long as they do
rule the world it is only by taking advantage of their protection that one
can find a _modus vivendi."_
"Do outlaws need a _modus vivendi?"_
He looked at her hopelessly. Nothing is more perplexing to man than the
mental process of a woman who reasons her emotions.
She thought she had scored a point and followed it up passionately. "You
do understand, don't you? You see how the very thought of the thing
humiliates me! We are together to-day because we choose to be--don't let
us look any farther than that!" She caught his hands. "_Promise_ me you'll
never speak of it again; promise me you'll never _think_ of it even," she
implored, with a tearful prodigality of italics.
Through what followed--his protests, his arguments, his final unconvinced
submission to her wishes--she had a sense of his but half-discerning all
that, for her, had made the moment so tumultuous. They had reached that
memorable point in every heart-history when, for the first time, the man
seems obtuse and the woman irrational. It was the abundance of his
intentions that consoled her, on reflection, for what they lacked in
quality. After all, it would have been worse, incalculably worse, to have
detected any over-readiness to understand her.
When the train at night-fall brought them to their journey's end at the
edge of one of the lakes, Lydia was glad that they were not, as usual, to
pass from one solitude to another. Their wanderings during the year had
indeed been like the flight of outlaws: through Sicily, Dalmatia,
Transylvania and Southern Italy they had persisted in their tacit
avoidance of their kind. Isolation, at first, had deepened the flavor of
their happiness, as night intensifies the scent of certain flowers; but in
the new phase on which they were entering, Lydia's chief wish was that
they should be less abnormally exposed to the action of each other's
She shrank, nevertheless, as the brightly-looming bulk of the fashionable
Anglo-American hotel on the water's brink began to radiate toward their
advancing boat its vivid suggestion of social order, visitors' lists,
Church services, and the bland inquisition of the _table-d'hote_. The mere
fact that in a moment or two she must take her place on the hotel register
as Mrs. Gannett seemed to weaken the springs of her resistance.
They had meant to stay for a night only, on their way to a lofty village
among the glaciers of Monte Rosa; but after the first plunge into
publicity, when they entered the dining-room, Lydia felt the relief of
being lost in a crowd, of ceasing for a moment to be the centre of
Gannett's scrutiny; and in his face she caught the reflection of her
feeling. After dinner, when she went upstairs, he strolled into the
smoking-room, and an hour or two later, sitting in the darkness of her
window, she heard his voice below and saw him walking up and down the
terrace with a companion cigar at his side. When he came up he told her he
had been talking to the hotel chaplain--a very good sort of fellow.
"Queer little microcosms, these hotels! Most of these people live here all
summer and then migrate to Italy or the Riviera. The English are the only
people who can lead that kind of life with dignity--those soft-voiced old
ladies in Shetland shawls somehow carry the British Empire under their
caps. _Civis Romanus sum_. It's a curious study--there might be some good
things to work up here."
He stood before her with the vivid preoccupied stare of the novelist on
the trail of a "subject." With a relief that was half painful she noticed
that, for the first time since they had been together, he was hardly aware
of her presence. "Do you think you could write here?"
"Here? I don't know." His stare dropped. "After being out of things so
long one's first impressions are bound to be tremendously vivid, you know.
I see a dozen threads already that one might follow--"
He broke off with a touch of embarrassment.
"Then follow them. We'll stay," she said with sudden decision.
"Stay here?" He glanced at her in surprise, and then, walking to the
window, looked out upon the dusky slumber of the garden.
"Why not?" she said at length, in a tone of veiled irritation.
"The place is full of old cats in caps who gossip with the chaplain. Shall
you like--I mean, it would be different if--"
She flamed up.
"Do you suppose I care? It's none of their business."
"Of course not; but you won't get them to think so."
"They may think what they please."
He looked at her doubtfully.
"It's for you to decide."
"We'll stay," she repeated.
Gannett, before they met, had made himself known as a successful writer of
short stories and of a novel which had achieved the distinction of being
widely discussed. The reviewers called him "promising," and Lydia now
accused herself of having too long interfered with the fulfilment of his
promise. There was a special irony in the fact, since his passionate
assurances that only the stimulus of her companionship could bring out his
latent faculty had almost given the dignity of a "vocation" to her course:
there had been moments when she had felt unable to assume, before
posterity, the responsibility of thwarting his career. And, after all, he
had not written a line since they had been together: his first desire to
write had come from renewed contact with the world! Was it all a mistake
then? Must the most intelligent choice work more disastrously than the
blundering combinations of chance? Or was there a still more humiliating
answer to her perplexities? His sudden impulse of activity so exactly
coincided with her own wish to withdraw, for a time, from the range of his
observation, that she wondered if he too were not seeking sanctuary from
"You must begin to-morrow!" she cried, hiding a tremor under the laugh
with which she added, "I wonder if there's any ink in the inkstand?"
* * * * *
Whatever else they had at the Hotel Bellosguardo, they had, as Miss
Pinsent said, "a certain tone." It was to Lady Susan Condit that they owed
this inestimable benefit; an advantage ranking in Miss Pinsent's opinion
above even the lawn tennis courts and the resident chaplain. It was the
fact of Lady Susan's annual visit that made the hotel what it was. Miss
Pinsent was certainly the last to underrate such a privilege:--"It's so
important, my dear, forming as we do a little family, that there should be
some one to give _the tone_; and no one could do it better than Lady
Susan--an earl's daughter and a person of such determination. Dear Mrs.
Ainger now--who really _ought_, you know, when Lady Susan's away--
absolutely refuses to assert herself." Miss Pinsent sniffed derisively. "A
bishop's niece!--my dear, I saw her once actually give in to some South
Americans--and before us all. She gave up her seat at table to oblige
them--such a lack of dignity! Lady Susan spoke to her very plainly about
Miss Pinsent glanced across the lake and adjusted her auburn front.
"But of course I don't deny that the stand Lady Susan takes is not always
easy to live up to--for the rest of us, I mean. Monsieur Grossart, our
good proprietor, finds it trying at times, I know--he has said as much,
privately, to Mrs. Ainger and me. After all, the poor man is not to blame
for wanting to fill his hotel, is he? And Lady Susan is so difficult--so
very difficult--about new people. One might almost say that she
disapproves of them beforehand, on principle. And yet she's had warnings--
she very nearly made a dreadful mistake once with the Duchess of Levens,
who dyed her hair and--well, swore and smoked. One would have thought that
might have been a lesson to Lady Susan." Miss Pinsent resumed her knitting
with a sigh. "There are exceptions, of course. She took at once to you and
Mr. Gannett--it was quite remarkable, really. Oh, I don't mean that
either--of course not! It was perfectly natural--we _all_ thought you so
charming and interesting from the first day--we knew at once that Mr.
Gannett was intellectual, by the magazines you took in; but you know what
I mean. Lady Susan is so very--well, I won't say prejudiced, as Mrs.
Ainger does--but so prepared _not_ to like new people, that her taking to
you in that way was a surprise to us all, I confess."
Miss Pinsent sent a significant glance down the long laurustinus alley
from the other end of which two people--a lady and gentleman--were
strolling toward them through the smiling neglect of the garden.
"In this case, of course, it's very different; that I'm willing to admit.
Their looks are against them; but, as Mrs. Ainger says, one can't exactly
tell them so."
"She's very handsome," Lydia ventured, with her eyes on the lady, who
showed, under the dome of a vivid sunshade, the hour-glass figure and
superlative coloring of a Christmas chromo.
"That's the worst of it. She's too handsome."
"Well, after all, she can't help that."
"Other people manage to," said Miss Pinsent skeptically.
"But isn't it rather unfair of Lady Susan--considering that nothing is
known about them?"
"But, my dear, that's the very thing that's against them. It's infinitely
worse than any actual knowledge."
Lydia mentally agreed that, in the case of Mrs. Linton, it possibly might
"I wonder why they came here?" she mused.
"That's against them too. It's always a bad sign when loud people come to
a quiet place. And they've brought van-loads of boxes--her maid told Mrs.
Ainger's that they meant to stop indefinitely."
"And Lady Susan actually turned her back on her in the _salon?_"
"My dear, she said it was for our sakes: that makes it so unanswerable!
But poor Grossart _is_ in a way! The Lintons have taken his most expensive
_suite_, you know--the yellow damask drawing-room above the portico--and
they have champagne with every meal!"
They were silent as Mr. and Mrs. Linton sauntered by; the lady with
tempestuous brows and challenging chin; the gentleman, a blond stripling,
trailing after her, head downward, like a reluctant child dragged by his
"What does your husband think of them, my dear?" Miss Pinsent whispered as
they passed out of earshot.
Lydia stooped to pick a violet in the border.
"He hasn't told me."
"Of your speaking to them, I mean. Would he approve of that? I know how
very particular nice Americans are. I think your action might make a
difference; it would certainly carry weight with Lady Susan."
"Dear Miss Pinsent, you flatter me!"
Lydia rose and gathered up her book and sunshade.
"Well, if you're asked for an opinion--if Lady Susan asks you for one--I
think you ought to be prepared," Miss Pinsent admonished her as she moved
Lady Susan held her own. She ignored the Lintons, and her little family,
as Miss Pinsent phrased it, followed suit. Even Mrs. Ainger agreed that it
was obligatory. If Lady Susan owed it to the others not to speak to the
Lintons, the others clearly owed it to Lady Susan to back her up. It was
generally found expedient, at the Hotel Bellosguardo, to adopt this form
Whatever effect this combined action may have had upon the Lintons, it did
not at least have that of driving them away. Monsieur Grossart, after a
few days of suspense, had the satisfaction of seeing them settle down in
his yellow damask _premier_ with what looked like a permanent installation
of palm-trees and silk sofa-cushions, and a gratifying continuance in the
consumption of champagne. Mrs. Linton trailed her Doucet draperies up and
down the garden with the same challenging air, while her husband, smoking
innumerable cigarettes, dragged himself dejectedly in her wake; but
neither of them, after the first encounter with Lady Susan, made any
attempt to extend their acquaintance. They simply ignored their ignorers.
As Miss Pinsent resentfully observed, they behaved exactly as though the
hotel were empty.
It was therefore a matter of surprise, as well as of displeasure, to
Lydia, to find, on glancing up one day from her seat in the garden, that
the shadow which had fallen across her book was that of the enigmatic Mrs.
"I want to speak to you," that lady said, in a rich hard voice that seemed
the audible expression of her gown and her complexion.
Lydia started. She certainly did not want to speak to Mrs. Linton.
"Shall I sit down here?" the latter continued, fixing her intensely-shaded
eyes on Lydia's face, "or are you afraid of being seen with me?"
"Afraid?" Lydia colored. "Sit down, please. What is it that you wish to
Mrs. Linton, with a smile, drew up a garden-chair and crossed one open-
work ankle above the other.
"I want you to tell me what my husband said to your husband last night."
Lydia turned pale.
"My husband--to yours?" she faltered, staring at the other.
"Didn't you know they were closeted together for hours in the smoking-room
after you went upstairs? My man didn't get to bed until nearly two o'clock
and when he did I couldn't get a word out of him. When he wants to be
aggravating I'll back him against anybody living!" Her teeth and eyes
flashed persuasively upon Lydia. "But you'll tell me what they were
talking about, won't you? I know I can trust you--you look so awfully
kind. And it's for his own good. He's such a precious donkey and I'm so
afraid he's got into some beastly scrape or other. If he'd only trust his
own old woman! But they're always writing to him and setting him against
me. And I've got nobody to turn to." She laid her hand on Lydia's with a
rattle of bracelets. "You'll help me, won't you?"
Lydia drew back from the smiling fierceness of her brows.
"I'm sorry--but I don't think I understand. My husband has said nothing to
me of--of yours."
The great black crescents above Mrs. Linton's eyes met angrily.
"I say--is that true?" she demanded.
Lydia rose from her seat.
"Oh, look here, I didn't mean that, you know--you mustn't take one up so!
Can't you see how rattled I am?"
Lydia saw that, in fact, her beautiful mouth was quivering beneath
"I'm beside myself!" the splendid creature wailed, dropping into her seat.
"I'm so sorry," Lydia repeated, forcing herself to speak kindly; "but how
can I help you?"
Mrs. Linton raised her head sharply.
"By finding out--there's a darling!"
"Finding what out?"
"What Trevenna told him."
"Trevenna--?" Lydia echoed in bewilderment.
Mrs. Linton clapped her hand to her mouth.
"Oh, Lord--there, it's out! What a fool I am! But I supposed of course you
knew; I supposed everybody knew." She dried her eyes and bridled. "Didn't
you know that he's Lord Trevenna? I'm Mrs. Cope."
Lydia recognized the names. They had figured in a flamboyant elopement
which had thrilled fashionable London some six months earlier.
"Now you see how it is--you understand, don't you?" Mrs. Cope continued on
a note of appeal. "I knew you would--that's the reason I came to you. I
suppose _he_ felt the same thing about your husband; he's not spoken to
another soul in the place." Her face grew anxious again. "He's awfully
sensitive, generally--he feels our position, he says--as if it wasn't _my_
place to feel that! But when he does get talking there's no knowing what
he'll say. I know he's been brooding over something lately, and I _must_
find out what it is--it's to his interest that I should. I always tell him
that I think only of his interest; if he'd only trust me! But he's been so
odd lately--I can't think what he's plotting. You will help me, dear?"
Lydia, who had remained standing, looked away uncomfortably.
"If you mean by finding out what Lord Trevenna has told my husband, I'm
afraid it's impossible."
"Because I infer that it was told in confidence."
Mrs. Cope stared incredulously.
"Well, what of that? Your husband looks such a dear--any one can see he's
awfully gone on you. What's to prevent your getting it out of him?"
"I'm not a spy!" she exclaimed.
"A spy--a spy? How dare you?" Mrs. Cope flamed out. "Oh, I don't mean that
either! Don't be angry with me--I'm so miserable." She essayed a softer
note. "Do you call that spying--for one woman to help out another? I do
need help so dreadfully! I'm at my wits' end with Trevenna, I am indeed.
He's such a boy--a mere baby, you know; he's only two-and-twenty." She
dropped her orbed lids. "He's younger than me--only fancy! a few months
younger. I tell him he ought to listen to me as if I was his mother;
oughtn't he now? But he won't, he won't! All his people are at him, you
see--oh, I know _their_ little game! Trying to get him away from me before
I can get my divorce--that's what they're up to. At first he wouldn't
listen to them; he used to toss their letters over to me to read; but now
he reads them himself, and answers 'em too, I fancy; he's always shut up
in his room, writing. If I only knew what his plan is I could stop him
fast enough--he's such a simpleton. But he's dreadfully deep too--at times
I can't make him out. But I know he's told your husband everything--I knew
that last night the minute I laid eyes on him. And I _must_ find out--you
must help me--I've got no one else to turn to!"
She caught Lydia's fingers in a stormy pressure.
"Say you'll help me--you and your husband."
Lydia tried to free herself.
"What you ask is impossible; you must see that it is. No one could
interfere in--in the way you ask."
Mrs. Cope's clutch tightened.
"You won't, then? You won't?"
"Certainly not. Let me go, please."
Mrs. Cope released her with a laugh.
"Oh, go by all means--pray don't let me detain you! Shall you go and tell
Lady Susan Condit that there's a pair of us--or shall I save you the
trouble of enlightening her?"
Lydia stood still in the middle of the path, seeing her antagonist through
a mist of terror. Mrs. Cope was still laughing.
"Oh, I'm not spiteful by nature, my dear; but you're a little more than
flesh and blood can stand! It's impossible, is it? Let you go, indeed!
You're too good to be mixed up in my affairs, are you? Why, you little
fool, the first day I laid eyes on you I saw that you and I were both in
the same box--that's the reason I spoke to you."
She stepped nearer, her smile dilating on Lydia like a lamp through a fog.
"You can take your choice, you know; I always play fair. If you'll tell
I'll promise not to. Now then, which is it to be?"
Lydia, involuntarily, had begun to move away from the pelting storm of
words; but at this she turned and sat down again.
"You may go," she said simply. "I shall stay here."
She stayed there for a long time, in the hypnotized contemplation, not of
Mrs. Cope's present, but of her own past. Gannett, early that morning, had
gone off on a long walk--he had fallen into the habit of taking these
mountain-tramps with various fellow-lodgers; but even had he been within
reach she could not have gone to him just then. She had to deal with
herself first. She was surprised to find how, in the last months, she had
lost the habit of introspection. Since their coming to the Hotel
Bellosguardo she and Gannett had tacitly avoided themselves and each
She was aroused by the whistle of the three o'clock steamboat as it neared
the landing just beyond the hotel gates. Three o'clock! Then Gannett would
soon be back--he had told her to expect him before four. She rose
hurriedly, her face averted from the inquisitorial facade of the hotel.
She could not see him just yet; she could not go indoors. She slipped
through one of the overgrown garden-alleys and climbed a steep path to the
It was dark when she opened their sitting-room door. Gannett was sitting
on the window-ledge smoking a cigarette. Cigarettes were now his chief
resource: he had not written a line during the two months they had spent
at the Hotel Bellosguardo. In that respect, it had turned out not to be
the right _milieu_ after all.
He started up at Lydia's entrance.
"Where have you been? I was getting anxious."
She sat down in a chair near the door.
"Up the mountain," she said wearily.
Gannett threw away his cigarette: the sound of her voice made him want to
see her face.
"Shall we have a little light?" he suggested.
She made no answer and he lifted the globe from the lamp and put a match
to the wick. Then he looked at her.
"Anything wrong? You look done up."
She sat glancing vaguely about the little sitting-room, dimly lit by the
pallid-globed lamp, which left in twilight the outlines of the furniture,
of his writing-table heaped with books and papers, of the tea-roses and
jasmine drooping on the mantel-piece. How like home it had all grown--how
"Lydia, what is wrong?" he repeated.
She moved away from him, feeling for her hatpins and turning to lay her
hat and sunshade on the table.
Suddenly she said: "That woman has been talking to me."
"That woman? What woman?"
"Mrs. Linton--Mrs. Cope."
He gave a start of annoyance, still, as she perceived, not grasping the
full import of her words.
"The deuce! She told you--?"
"She told me everything."
Gannett looked at her anxiously.
"What impudence! I'm so sorry that you should have been exposed to this,
"Exposed!" Lydia laughed.
Gannett's brow clouded and they looked away from each other.
"Do you know _why_ she told me? She had the best of reasons. The first
time she laid eyes on me she saw that we were both in the same box."
"So it was natural, of course, that she should turn to me in a
"It seems she has reason to think that Lord Trevenna's people are trying
to get him away from her before she gets her divorce--"
"And she fancied he had been consulting with you last night as to--as to
the best way of escaping from her."
Gannett stood up with an angry forehead.
"Well--what concern of yours was all this dirty business? Why should she
go to you?"
"Don't you see? It's so simple. I was to wheedle his secret out of you."
"To oblige that woman?"
"Yes; or, if I was unwilling to oblige her, then to protect myself."
"To protect yourself? Against whom?"
"Against her telling every one in the hotel that she and I are in the same
"She threatened that?"
"She left me the choice of telling it myself or of doing it for me."
There was a long silence. Lydia had seated herself on the sofa, beyond the
radius of the lamp, and he leaned against the window. His next question
"When did this happen? At what time, I mean?" She looked at him vaguely.
"I don't know--after luncheon, I think. Yes, I remember; it must have been
at about three o'clock."
He stepped into the middle of the room and as he approached the light she
saw that his brow had cleared.
"Why do you ask?" she said.
"Because when I came in, at about half-past three, the mail was just being
distributed, and Mrs. Cope was waiting as usual to pounce on her letters;
you know she was always watching for the postman. She was standing so
close to me that I couldn't help seeing a big official-looking envelope
that was handed to her. She tore it open, gave one look at the inside, and
rushed off upstairs like a whirlwind, with the director shouting after her
that she had left all her other letters behind. I don't believe she ever
thought of you again after that paper was put into her hand."
"Because she was too busy. I was sitting in the window, watching for you,
when the five o'clock boat left, and who should go on board, bag and
baggage, valet and maid, dressing-bags and poodle, but Mrs. Cope and
Trevenna. Just an hour and a half to pack up in! And you should have seen
her when they started. She was radiant--shaking hands with everybody--
waving her handkerchief from the deck--distributing bows and smiles like
an empress. If ever a woman got what she wanted just in the nick of time
that woman did. She'll be Lady Trevenna within a week, I'll wager."
"You think she has her divorce?"
"I'm sure of it. And she must have got it just after her talk with you."
Lydia was silent.
At length she said, with a kind of reluctance, "She was horribly angry
when she left me. It wouldn't have taken long to tell Lady Susan Condit."
"Lady Susan Condit has not been told."
"How do you know?"
"Because when I went downstairs half an hour ago I met Lady Susan on the
He stopped, half smiling.
"And she stopped to ask if I thought you would act as patroness to a
charity concert she is getting up."
In spite of themselves they both broke into a laugh. Lydia's ended in sobs
and she sank down with her face hidden. Gannett bent over her, seeking her
"That vile woman--I ought to have warned you to keep away from her; I
can't forgive myself! But he spoke to me in confidence; and I never
dreamed--well, it's all over now."
Lydia lifted her head.
"Not for me. It's only just beginning."
"What do you mean?"
She put him gently aside and moved in her turn to the window. Then she
went on, with her face turned toward the shimmering blackness of the lake,
"You see of course that it might happen again at any moment."
"This--this risk of being found out. And we could hardly count again on
such a lucky combination of chances, could we?"
He sat down with a groan.
Still keeping her face toward the darkness, she said, "I want you to go
and tell Lady Susan--and the others."
Gannett, who had moved towards her, paused a few feet off.
"Why do you wish me to do this?" he said at length, with less surprise in
his voice than she had been prepared for.
"Because I've behaved basely, abominably, since we came here: letting
these people believe we were married--lying with every breath I drew--"
"Yes, I've felt that too," Gannett exclaimed with sudden energy.
The words shook her like a tempest: all her thoughts seemed to fall about
her in ruins.
"You--you've felt so?"
"Of course I have." He spoke with low-voiced vehemence. "Do you suppose I
like playing the sneak any better than you do? It's damnable."
He had dropped on the arm of a chair, and they stared at each other like
blind people who suddenly see.
"But you have liked it here," she faltered.
"Oh, I've liked it--I've liked it." He moved impatiently. "Haven't you?"
"Yes," she burst out; "that's the worst of it--that's what I can't bear. I
fancied it was for your sake that I insisted on staying--because you
thought you could write here; and perhaps just at first that really was
the reason. But afterwards I wanted to stay myself--I loved it." She broke
into a laugh. "Oh, do you see the full derision of it? These people--the
very prototypes of the bores you took me away from, with the same fenced--
in view of life, the same keep-off-the-grass morality, the same little
cautious virtues and the same little frightened vices--well, I've clung to
them, I've delighted in them, I've done my best to please them. I've
toadied Lady Susan, I've gossiped with Miss Pinsent, I've pretended to be
shocked with Mrs. Ainger. Respectability! It was the one thing in life
that I was sure I didn't care about, and it's grown so precious to me that
I've stolen it because I couldn't get it in any other way."
She moved across the room and returned to his side with another laugh.
"I who used to fancy myself unconventional! I must have been born with a
card-case in my hand. You should have seen me with that poor woman in the
garden. She came to me for help, poor creature, because she fancied that,
having 'sinned,' as they call it, I might feel some pity for others who
had been tempted in the same way. Not I! She didn't know me. Lady Susan
would have been kinder, because Lady Susan wouldn't have been afraid. I
hated the woman--my one thought was not to be seen with her--I could have
killed her for guessing my secret. The one thing that mattered to me at
that moment was my standing with Lady Susan!"
Gannett did not speak.
"And you--you've felt it too!" she broke out accusingly. "You've enjoyed
being with these people as much as I have; you've let the chaplain talk to
you by the hour about 'The Reign of Law' and Professor Drummond. When they
asked you to hand the plate in church I was watching you--_you wanted to
She stepped close, laying her hand on his arm.
"Do you know, I begin to see what marriage is for. It's to keep people
away from each other. Sometimes I think that two people who love each
other can be saved from madness only by the things that come between
them--children, duties, visits, bores, relations--the things that protect
married people from each other. We've been too close together--that has
been our sin. We've seen the nakedness of each other's souls."
She sank again on the sofa, hiding her face in her hands.
Gannett stood above her perplexedly: he felt as though she were being
swept away by some implacable current while he stood helpless on its bank.
At length he said, "Lydia, don't think me a brute--but don't you see
yourself that it won't do?"
"Yes, I see it won't do," she said without raising her head.
His face cleared.
"Then we'll go to-morrow."
"To Paris; to be married."
For a long time she made no answer; then she asked slowly, "Would they
have us here if we were married?"
"Have us here?"
"I mean Lady Susan--and the others."
"Have us here? Of course they would."
"Not if they knew--at least, not unless they could pretend not to know."
He made an impatient gesture.
"We shouldn't come back here, of course; and other people needn't know--no
one need know."
She sighed. "Then it's only another form of deception and a meaner one.
Don't you see that?"
"I see that we're not accountable to any Lady Susans on earth!"
"Then why are you ashamed of what we are doing here?"
"Because I'm sick of pretending that you're my wife when you're not--when
you won't be."
She looked at him sadly.
"If I were your wife you'd have to go on pretending. You'd have to pretend
that I'd never been--anything else. And our friends would have to pretend
that they believed what you pretended."
Gannett pulled off the sofa-tassel and flung it away.
"You're impossible," he groaned.
"It's not I--it's our being together that's impossible. I only want you to
see that marriage won't help it."
"What will help it then?"
She raised her head.
"My leaving you."
"Your leaving me?" He sat motionless, staring at the tassel which lay at
the other end of the room. At length some impulse of retaliation for the
pain she was inflicting made him say deliberately:
"And where would you go if you left me?"
"Oh!" she cried.
He was at her side in an instant.
"Lydia--Lydia--you know I didn't mean it; I couldn't mean it! But you've
driven me out of my senses; I don't know what I'm saying. Can't you get
out of this labyrinth of self-torture? It's destroying us both."
"That's why I must leave you."
"How easily you say it!" He drew her hands down and made her face him.
"You're very scrupulous about yourself--and others. But have you thought
of me? You have no right to leave me unless you've ceased to care--"
"It's because I care--"
"Then I have a right to be heard. If you love me you can't leave me."
Her eyes defied him.
He dropped her hands and rose from her side.
"Can you?" he said sadly.
The hour was late and the lamp flickered and sank. She stood up with a
shiver and turned toward the door of her room.
At daylight a sound in Lydia's room woke Gannett from a troubled sleep. He
sat up and listened. She was moving about softly, as though fearful of
disturbing him. He heard her push back one of the creaking shutters; then
there was a moment's silence, which seemed to indicate that she was
waiting to see if the noise had roused him.
Presently she began to move again. She had spent a sleepless night,
probably, and was dressing to go down to the garden for a breath of air.
Gannett rose also; but some undefinable instinct made his movements as
cautious as hers. He stole to his window and looked out through the slats
of the shutter.
It had rained in the night and the dawn was gray and lifeless. The cloud-
muffled hills across the lake were reflected in its surface as in a
tarnished mirror. In the garden, the birds were beginning to shake the
drops from the motionless laurustinus-boughs.
An immense pity for Lydia filled Gannett's soul. Her seeming intellectual
independence had blinded him for a time to the feminine cast of her mind.
He had never thought of her as a woman who wept and clung: there was a
lucidity in her intuitions that made them appear to be the result of
reasoning. Now he saw the cruelty he had committed in detaching her from
the normal conditions of life; he felt, too, the insight with which she
had hit upon the real cause of their suffering. Their life was
"impossible," as she had said--and its worst penalty was that it had made
any other life impossible for them. Even had his love lessened, he was
bound to her now by a hundred ties of pity and self-reproach; and she,
poor child! must turn back to him as Latude returned to his cell....
A new sound startled him: it was the stealthy closing of Lydia's door. He
crept to his own and heard her footsteps passing down the corridor. Then
he went back to the window and looked out.
A minute or two later he saw her go down the steps of the porch and enter
the garden. From his post of observation her face was invisible, but
something about her appearance struck him. She wore a long travelling
cloak and under its folds he detected the outline of a bag or bundle. He
drew a deep breath and stood watching her.
She walked quickly down the laurustinus alley toward the gate; there she
paused a moment, glancing about the little shady square. The stone benches
under the trees were empty, and she seemed to gather resolution from the
solitude about her, for she crossed the square to the steam-boat landing,
and he saw her pause before the ticket-office at the head of the wharf.
Now she was buying her ticket. Gannett turned his head a moment to look at
the clock: the boat was due in five minutes. He had time to jump into his
clothes and overtake her--
He made no attempt to move; an obscure reluctance restrained him. If any
thought emerged from the tumult of his sensations, it was that he must let
her go if she wished it. He had spoken last night of his rights: what were
they? At the last issue, he and she were two separate beings, not made one
by the miracle of common forbearances, duties, abnegations, but bound
together in a _noyade_ of passion that left them resisting yet clinging as
they went down.
After buying her ticket, Lydia had stood for a moment looking out across
the lake; then he saw her seat herself on one of the benches near the
landing. He and she, at that moment, were both listening for the same
sound: the whistle of the boat as it rounded the nearest promontory.
Gannett turned again to glance at the clock: the boat was due now.
Where would she go? What would her life be when she had left him? She had
no near relations and few friends. There was money enough ... but she
asked so much of life, in ways so complex and immaterial. He thought of
her as walking bare-footed through a stony waste. No one would understand
her--no one would pity her--and he, who did both, was powerless to come to
He saw that she had risen from the bench and walked toward the edge of the
lake. She stood looking in the direction from which the steamboat was to
come; then she turned to the ticket-office, doubtless to ask the cause of
the delay. After that she went back to the bench and sat down with bent
head. What was she thinking of?
The whistle sounded; she started up, and Gannett involuntarily made a
movement toward the door. But he turned back and continued to watch her.
She stood motionless, her eyes on the trail of smoke that preceded the
appearance of the boat. Then the little craft rounded the point, a dead-
white object on the leaden water: a minute later it was puffing and
backing at the wharf.
The few passengers who were waiting--two or three peasants and a snuffy
priest--were clustered near the ticket-office. Lydia stood apart under the
The boat lay alongside now; the gang-plank was run out and the peasants
went on board with their baskets of vegetables, followed by the priest.
Still Lydia did not move. A bell began to ring querulously; there was a
shriek of steam, and some one must have called to her that she would be
late, for she started forward, as though in answer to a summons. She moved
waveringly, and at the edge of the wharf she paused. Gannett saw a sailor
beckon to her; the bell rang again and she stepped upon the gang-plank.
Half-way down the short incline to the deck she stopped again; then she
turned and ran back to the land. The gang-plank was drawn in, the bell
ceased to ring, and the boat backed out into the lake. Lydia, with slow
steps, was walking toward the garden....
As she approached the hotel she looked up furtively and Gannett drew back
into the room. He sat down beside a table; a Bradshaw lay at his elbow,
and mechanically, without knowing what he did, he began looking out the
trains to Paris....
"My daughter Irene," said Mrs. Carstyle (she made it rhyme with _tureen_),
"has had no social advantages; but if Mr. Carstyle had chosen--" she
paused significantly and looked at the shabby sofa on the opposite side of
the fire-place as though it had been Mr. Carstyle. Vibart was glad that it
Mrs. Carstyle was one of the women who make refinement vulgar. She
invariably spoke of her husband as _Mr. Carstyle_ and, though she had but
one daughter, was always careful to designate the young lady by name. At
luncheon she had talked a great deal of elevating influences and ideals,
and had fluctuated between apologies for the overdone mutton and affected
surprise that the bewildered maid-servant should have forgotten to serve
the coffee and liqueurs _as usual_.
Vibart was almost sorry that he had come. Miss Carstyle was still
beautiful--almost as beautiful as when, two days earlier, against the
leafy background of a June garden-party, he had seen her for the first
time--but her mother's expositions and elucidations cheapened her beauty
as sign-posts vulgarize a woodland solitude. Mrs. Carstyle's eye was
perpetually plying between her daughter and Vibart, like an empty cab in
quest of a fare. Miss Carstyle, the young man decided, was the kind of
girl whose surroundings rub off on her; or was it rather that Mrs.
Carstyle's idiosyncrasies were of a nature to color every one within
reach? Vibart, looking across the table as this consolatory alternative
occurred to him, was sure that they had not colored Mr. Carstyle; but
that, perhaps, was only because they had bleached him instead. Mr.
Carstyle was quite colorless; it would have been impossible to guess his
native tint. His wife's qualities, if they had affected him at all, had
acted negatively. He did not apologize for the mutton, and he wandered off
after luncheon without pretending to wait for the diurnal coffee and
liqueurs; while the few remarks that he had contributed to the
conversation during the meal had not been in the direction of abstract
conceptions of life. As he strayed away, with his vague oblique step, and
the stoop that suggested the habit of dodging missiles, Vibart, who was
still in the age of formulas, found himself wondering what life could be
worth to a man who had evidently resigned himself to travelling with his
back to the wind; so that Mrs. Carstyle's allusion to her daughter's lack
of advantages (imparted while Irene searched the house for an
undiscoverable cigarette) had an appositeness unintended by the speaker.
"If Mr. Carstyle had chosen," that lady repeated, "we might have had our
city home" (she never used so small a word as town) "and Ireen could have
mixed in the society to which I myself was accustomed at her age." Her
sigh pointed unmistakably to a past when young men had come to luncheon to
The sigh led Vibart to look at her, and the look led him to the unwelcome
conclusion that Irene "took after" her mother. It was certainly not from
the sapless paternal stock that the girl had drawn her warm bloom: Mrs.
Carstyle had contributed the high lights to the picture.
Mrs. Carstyle caught his look and appropriated it with the complacency of
a vicarious beauty. She was quite aware of the value of her appearance as
guaranteeing Irene's development into a fine woman.
"But perhaps," she continued, taking up the thread of her explanation,
"you have heard of Mr. Carstyle's extraordinary hallucination. Mr.
Carstyle knows that I call it so--as I tell him, it is the most charitable
view to take."
She looked coldly at the threadbare sofa and indulgently at the young man
who filled a corner of it.
"You may think it odd, Mr. Vibart, that I should take you into my
confidence in this way after so short an acquaintance, but somehow I can't
help regarding you as a friend already. I believe in those intuitive
sympathies, don't you? They have never misled me--" her lids drooped
retrospectively--"and besides, I always tell Mr. Carstyle that on this
point I will have no false pretences. Where truth is concerned I am
inexorable, and I consider it my duty to let our friends know that our
restricted way of living is due entirely to choice--to Mr. Carstyle's
choice. When I married Mr. Carstyle it was with the expectation of living
in New York and of keeping my carriage; and there is no reason for our not
doing so--there is no reason, Mr. Vibart, why my daughter Ireen should
have been denied the intellectual advantages of foreign travel. I wish
that to be understood. It is owing to her father's deliberate choice that
Ireen and I have been imprisoned in the narrow limits of Millbrook
society. For myself I do not complain. If Mr. Carstyle chooses to place
others before his wife it is not for his wife to repine. His course may be
noble--Quixotic; I do not allow myself to pronounce judgment on it, though
others have thought that in sacrificing his own family to strangers he was
violating the most sacred obligations of domestic life. This is the
opinion of my pastor and of other valued friends; but, as I have always
told them, for myself I make no claims. Where my daughter Ireen is
concerned it is different--"
It was a relief to Vibart when, at this point, Mrs. Carstyle's discharge
of her duty was cut short by her daughter's reappearance. Irene had been
unable to find a cigarette for Mr. Vibart, and her mother, with beaming
irrelevance, suggested that in that case she had better show him the
The Carstyle house stood but a few yards back from the brick-paved
Millbrook street, and the garden was a very small place, unless measured,
as Mrs. Carstyle probably intended that it should be, by the extent of her
daughter's charms. These were so considerable that Vibart walked back and
forward half a dozen times between the porch and the gate, before he
discovered the limitations of the Carstyle domain. It was not till Irene
had accused him of being sarcastic and had confided in him that "the
girls" were furious with her for letting him talk to her so long at his
aunt's garden-party, that he awoke to the exiguity of his surroundings;
and then it was with a touch of irritation that he noticed Mr. Carstyle's
inconspicuous profile bent above a newspaper in one of the lower windows.
Vibart had an idea that Mr. Carstyle, while ostensibly reading the paper,
had kept count of the number of times that his daughter had led her
companion up and down between the syringa-bushes; and for some undefinable
reason he resented Mr. Carstyle's unperturbed observation more than his
wife's zealous self-effacement. To a man who is trying to please a pretty
girl there are moments when the proximity of an impartial spectator is
more disconcerting than the most obvious connivance; and something about
Mr. Carstyle's expression conveyed his good-humored indifference to
When the garden-gate closed behind Vibart he had become aware that his
preoccupation with the Carstyles had shifted its centre from the daughter
to the father; but he was accustomed to such emotional surprises, and
skilled in seizing any compensations they might offer.
The Carstyles belonged to the all-the-year-round Millbrook of paper-mills,
cable-cars, brick pavements and church sociables, while Mrs. Vance, the
aunt with whom Vibart lived, was an ornament of the summer colony whose
big country-houses dotted the surrounding hills. Mrs. Vance had, however,
no difficulty in appeasing the curiosity which Mrs. Carstyle's enigmatic
utterances had aroused in the young man. Mrs. Carstyle's relentless
veracity vented itself mainly on the "summer people," as they were called:
she did not propose that any one within ten miles of Millbrook should keep
a carriage without knowing that she was entitled to keep one too. Mrs.
Vance remarked with a sigh that Mrs. Carstyle's annual demand to have her
position understood came in as punctually as the taxes and the water-
"My dear, it's simply this: when Andrew Carstyle married her years ago--
Heaven knows why he did; he's one of the Albany Carstyles, you know, and
she was a daughter of old Deacon Ash of South Millbrook--well, when he
married her he had a tidy little income, and I suppose the bride expected
to set up an establishment in New York and be hand-in-glove with the whole
Carstyle clan. But whether he was ashamed of her from the first, or for
some other unexplained reason, he bought a country-place and settled down
here for life. For a few years they lived comfortably enough, and she had
plenty of smart clothes, and drove about in a victoria calling on the
summer people. Then, when the beautiful Irene was about ten years old, Mr.
Carstyle's only brother died, and it turned out that he had made away with
a lot of trust-property. It was a horrid business: over three hundred
thousand dollars were gone, and of course most of it had belonged to
widows and orphans. As soon as the facts were made known, Andrew Carstyle
announced that he would pay back what his brother had stolen. He sold his
country-place and his wife's carriage, and they moved to the little house
they live in now. Mr. Carstyle's income is probably not as large as his
wife would like to have it thought, and though I'm told he puts aside, a
good part of it every year to pay off his brother's obligations, I fancy
the debt won't be discharged for some time to come. To help things along
he opened a law office--he had studied law in his youth--but though he is
said to be clever I hear that he has very little to do. People are afraid
of him: he's too dry and quiet. Nobody believes in a man who doesn't
believe in himself, and Mr. Carstyle always seems to be winking at you
through a slit in his professional manner. People don't like it--his wife
doesn't like it. I believe she would have accepted the sacrifice of the
country-place and the carriage if he had struck an attitude and talked
about doing his duty. It was his regarding the whole thing as a matter of
course that exasperated her. What is the use of doing something difficult
in a way that makes it look perfectly easy? I feel sorry for Mrs.
Carstyle. She's lost her house and her carriage, and she hasn't been
allowed to be heroic."
Vibart had listened attentively.
"I wonder what Miss Carstyle thinks of it?" he mused.
Mrs. Vance looked at him with a tentative smile. "I wonder what _you_
think of Miss Carstyle?" she returned,
His answer reassured her.
"I think she takes after her mother," he said.
"Ah," cried his aunt cheerfully, "then I needn't write to _your_ mother,
and I can have Irene at all my parties!"
Miss Carstyle was an important factor in the restricted social
combinations of a Millbrook hostess. A local beauty is always a useful
addition to a Saturday-to-Monday house-party, and the beautiful Irene was
served up as a perennial novelty to the jaded guests of the summer colony.
As Vibart's aunt remarked, she was perfect till she became playful, and
she never became playful till the third day.
Under these conditions, it was natural that Vibart should see a good deal
of the young lady, and before he was aware of it he had drifted into the
anomalous position of paying court to the daughter in order to ingratiate
himself with the father. Miss Carstyle was beautiful, Vibart was young,
and the days were long in his aunt's spacious and distinguished house; but
it was really the desire to know something more of Mr. Carstyle that led
the young man to partake so often of that gentleman's overdone mutton.
Vibart's imagination had been touched by the discovery that this little
huddled-up man, instead of travelling with the wind, was persistently
facing a domestic gale of considerable velocity. That he should have paid
off his brother's debt at one stroke was to the young man a conceivable
feat; but that he should go on methodically and uninterruptedly
accumulating the needed amount, under the perpetual accusation of Irene's
inadequate frocks and Mrs. Carstyle's apologies for the mutton, seemed to
Vibart proof of unexampled heroism. Mr. Carstyle was as inaccessible as
the average American parent, and led a life so detached from the
preoccupations of his womankind that Vibart had some difficulty in fixing
his attention. To Mr. Carstyle, Vibart was simply the inevitable young man
who had been hanging about the house ever since Irene had left school; and
Vibart's efforts to differentiate himself from this enamored abstraction
were hampered by Mrs. Carstyle's cheerful assumption that he _was_ the
young man, and by Irene's frank appropriation of his visits.
In this extremity he suddenly observed a slight but significant change in
the manner of the two ladies. Irene, instead of charging him with being
sarcastic and horrid, and declaring herself unable to believe a word he
said, began to receive his remarks with the impersonal smile which he had
seen her accord to the married men of his aunt's house-parties; while Mrs.
Carstyle, talking over his head to an invisible but evidently sympathetic
and intelligent listener, debated the propriety of Irene's accepting an
invitation to spend the month of August at Narragansett. When Vibart,
rashly trespassing on the rights of this unseen oracle, remarked that a
few weeks at the seashore would make a delightful change for Miss
Carstyle, the ladies looked at him and then laughed.
It was at this point that Vibart, for the first time, found himself
observed by Mr. Carstyle. They were grouped about the debris of a luncheon
which had ended precipitously with veal stew (Mrs. Carstyle explaining
that poor cooks _always_ failed with their sweet dish when there was
company) and Mr. Carstyle, his hands thrust in his pockets, his lean
baggy-coated shoulders pressed against his chair-back, sat contemplating
his guest with a smile of unmistakable approval. When Vibart caught his
eye the smile vanished, and Mr. Carstyle, dropping his glasses from the
bridge of his thin nose, looked out of the window with the expression of a
man determined to prove an alibi. But Vibart was sure of the smile: it had
established, between his host and himself, a complicity which Mr.
Carstyle's attempted evasion served only to confirm.
On the strength of this incident Vibart, a few days later, called at Mr.
Carstyle's office. Ostensibly, the young man had come to ask, on his
aunt's behalf, some question on a point at issue between herself and the
Millbrook telephone company; but his purpose in offering to perform the
errand had been the hope of taking up his intercourse with Mr. Carstyle
where that gentleman's smile had left it. Vibart was not disappointed. In
a dingy office, with a single window looking out on a blank wall, he found
Mr. Carstyle, in an alpaca coat, reading Montaigne.
It evidently did not occur to him that Vibart had come on business, and
the warmth of his welcome gave the young man a sense of furnishing the
last word in a conjugal argument in which, for once, Mr. Carstyle had come
The legal question disposed of, Vibart reverted to Montaigne: had Mr.
Carstyle seen young So-and-so's volume of essays? There was one on
Montaigne that had a decided flavor: the point of view was curious. Vibart
was surprised to find that Mr. Carstyle had heard of young So-and-so.
Clever young men are given to thinking that their elders have never got
beyond Macaulay; but Mr. Carstyle seemed sufficiently familiar with recent
literature not to take it too seriously. He accepted Vibart's offer of
young So-and-so's volume, admitting that his own library was not exactly
Vibart went away musing. The next day he came back with the volume of
essays. It seemed to be tacitly understood that he was to call at the
office when he wished to see Mr. Carstyle, whose legal engagements did not
seriously interfere with the pursuit of literature.
For a week or ten days Mrs. Carstyle, in Vibart's presence, continued to
take counsel with her unseen adviser on the subject of her daughter's
visit to Narragansett. Once or twice Irene dropped her impersonal smile to
tax Vibart with not caring whether she went or not; and Mrs. Carstyle
seized a moment of _tete-a-tete_ to confide in him that the dear child
hated the idea of leaving, and was going only because her friend Mrs.
Higby would not let her off. Of course, if it had not been for Mr.
Carstyle's peculiarities they would have had their own seaside home--at
Newport, probably: Mrs. Carstyle preferred the tone of Newport--and Irene
would not have been dependent on the _charity_ of her friends; but as it
was, they must be thankful for small mercies, and Mrs. Higby was certainly
very kind in her way, and had a charming social position--for
These confidences, however, were soon superseded by an exchange, between
mother and daughter, of increasingly frequent allusions to the delights of
Narragansett, the popularity of Mrs. Higby, and the jolliness of her
house; with an occasional reference on Mrs. Carstyle's part to the
probability of Hewlett Bain's being there as usual--hadn't Irene heard
from Mrs. Higby that he was to be there? Upon this note Miss Carstyle at
length departed, leaving Vibart to the undisputed enjoyment of her
Vibart had at no time a keen taste for the summer joys of Millbrook, and
the family obligation which, for several months of the year, kept him at
his aunt's side (Mrs. Vance was a childless widow and he filled the
onerous post of favorite nephew) gave a sense of compulsion to the light
occupations that chequered his leisure. Mrs. Vance, who fancied herself
lonely when he was away, was too much engaged with notes, telegrams and
arriving and departing guests, to do more than breathlessly smile upon his
presence, or implore him to take the dullest girl of the party for a drive
(and would he go by way of Millbrook, like a dear, and stop at the market
to ask why the lobsters hadn't come?); and the house itself, and the
guests who came and went in it like people rushing through a railway-
station, offered no points of repose to his thoughts. Some houses are
companions in themselves: the walls, the book-shelves, the very chairs and
tables, have the qualities of a sympathetic mind; but Mrs. Vance's
interior was as impersonal as the setting of a classic drama.
These conditions made Vibart cultivate an assiduous exchange of books
between himself and Mr. Carstyle. The young man went down almost daily to
the little house in the town, where Mrs. Carstyle, who had now an air of
receiving him in curl-papers, and of not always immediately distinguishing
him from the piano-tuner, made no effort to detain him on his way to her
Now and then, at the close of one of Vibart's visits, Mr. Carstyle put on
a mildewed Panama hat and accompanied the young man for a mile or two on
his way home. The road to Mrs. Vance's lay through one of the most amiable
suburbs of Millbrook, and Mr. Carstyle, walking with his slow uneager
step, his hat pushed back, and his stick dragging behind him, seemed to
take a philosophic pleasure in the aspect of the trim lawns and opulent
Vibart could never induce his companion to prolong his walk as far as Mrs.
Vance's drawing-room; but one afternoon, when the distant hills lay blue
beyond the twilight of overarching elms, the two men strolled on into the
country past that lady's hospitable gateposts.
It was a still day, the road was deserted, and every sound came sharply
through the air. Mr. Carstyle was in the midst of a disquisition on
Diderot, when he raised his head and stood still.
"What's that?" he said. "Listen!"
Vibart listened and heard a distant storm of hoof-beats. A moment later, a
buggy drawn by a pair of trotters swung round the turn of the road. It was
about thirty yards off, coming toward them at full speed. The man who
drove was leaning forward with outstretched arms; beside him sat a girl.
Suddenly Vibart saw Mr. Carstyle jump into the middle of the road, in
front of the buggy. He stood there immovable, his arms extended, his legs
apart, in an attitude of indomitable resistance. Almost at the same moment
Vibart realized that the man in the buggy had his horses in hand.
"They're not running!" Vibart shouted, springing into the road and
catching Mr. Carstyle's alpaca sleeve. The older man looked around
vaguely: he seemed dazed.
"Come away, sir, come away!" cried Vibart, gripping his arm. The buggy
swept past them, and Mr. Carstyle stood in the dust gazing after it.
At length he drew out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead. He was very
pale and Vibart noticed that his hand shook.
"That was a close call, sir, wasn't it? I suppose you thought they were
"Yes," said Mr. Carstyle slowly, "I thought they were running."
"It certainly looked like it for a minute. Let's sit down, shall we? I
feel rather breathless myself."
Vibart saw that his friend could hardly stand. They seated themselves on a
tree-trunk by the roadside, and Mr. Carstyle continued to wipe his
forehead in silence.
At length he turned to Vibart and said abruptly:
"I made straight for the middle of the road, didn't I? If there _had_ been
a runaway I should have stopped it?"
Vibart looked at him in surprise.
"You would have tried to, undoubtedly, unless I'd had time to drag you
Mr. Carstyle straightened his narrow shoulders.
"There was no hesitation, at all events? I--I showed no signs of--avoiding
"I should say not, sir; it was I who funked it for you."
Mr. Carstyle was silent: his head had dropped forward and he looked like
an old man.
"It was just my cursed luck again!" he exclaimed suddenly in a loud voice.
For a moment Vibart thought that he was wandering; but he raised his head
and went on speaking in more natural tones.
"I daresay I appeared ridiculous enough to you just now, eh? Perhaps you
saw all along that the horses weren't running? Your eyes are younger than
mine; and then you're not always looking out for runaways, as I am. Do you
know that in thirty years I've never seen a runaway?"
"You're fortunate," said Vibart, still bewildered.
"Fortunate? Good God, man, I've _prayed_ to see one: not a runaway
especially, but any bad accident; anything that endangered people's lives.
There are accidents happening all the time all over the world; why
shouldn't I ever come across one? It's not for want of trying! At one time
I used to haunt the theatres in the hope of a fire: fires in theatres are
so apt to be fatal. Well, will you believe it? I was in the Brooklyn
theatre the night before it burned down; I left the old Madison Square
Garden half an hour before the walls fell in. And it's the same way with
street accidents--I always miss them; I'm always just too late. Last year
there was a boy knocked down by a cable-car at our corner; I got to my
gate just as they were carrying him off on a stretcher. And so it goes. If
anybody else had been walking along this road, those horses would have
been running away. And there was a girl in the buggy, too--a mere child!"
Mr. Carstyle's head sank again.
"You're wondering what this means," he began after another pause. "I was a
little confused for a moment--must have seemed incoherent." His voice
cleared and he made an effort to straighten himself. "Well, I was a damned
coward once and I've been trying to live it down ever since."
Vibart looked at him incredulously and Mr. Carstyle caught the look with a
"Why not? Do I look like a Hercules?" He held up his loose-skinned hand
and shrunken wrist. "Not built for the part, certainly; but that doesn't
count, of course. Man's unconquerable soul, and all the rest of it ...
well, I was a coward every inch of me, body and soul."
He paused and glanced up and down the road. There was no one in sight.
"It happened when I was a young chap just out of college. I was travelling
round the world with another youngster of my own age and an older man--
Charles Meriton--who has since made a name for himself. You may have heard
"Meriton, the archaeologist? The man who discovered those ruined African
cities the other day?"
"That's the man. He was a college tutor then, and my father, who had known
him since he was a boy, and who had a very high opinion of him, had asked
him to make the tour with us. We both--my friend Collis and I--had an
immense admiration for Meriton. He was just the fellow to excite a boy's
enthusiasm: cool, quick, imperturbable--the kind of man whose hand is
always on the hilt of action. His explorations had led him into all sorts
of tight places, and he'd shown an extraordinary combination of
calculating patience and reckless courage. He never talked about his
doings; we picked them up from various people on our journey. He'd been
everywhere, he knew everybody, and everybody had something stirring to
tell about him. I daresay this account of the man sounds exaggerated;
perhaps it is; I've never seen him since; but at that time he seemed to me
a tremendous fellow--a kind of scientific Ajax. He was a capital
travelling-companion, at any rate: good-tempered, cheerful, easily amused,
with none of the been-there-before superiority so irritating to
youngsters. He made us feel as though it were all as new to him as to us:
he never chilled our enthusiasms or took the bloom off our surprises.
There was nobody else whose good opinion I cared as much about: he was the
biggest thing in sight.
"On the way home Collis broke down with diphtheria. We were in the
Mediterranean, cruising about the Sporades in a felucca. He was taken ill
at Chios. The attack came on suddenly and we were afraid to run the risk
of taking him back to Athens in the felucca. We established ourselves in
the inn at Chios and there the poor fellow lay for weeks. Luckily there
was a fairly good doctor on the island and we sent to Athens for a sister
to help with the nursing. Poor Collis was desperately bad: the diphtheria
was followed by partial paralysis. The doctor assured us that the danger
was past; he would gradually regain the use of his limbs; but his recovery
would be slow. The sister encouraged us too--she had seen such cases
before; and he certainly did improve a shade each day. Meriton and I had
taken turns with the sister in nursing him, but after the paralysis had
set in there wasn't much to do, and there was nothing to prevent Meriton's
leaving us for a day or two. He had received word from some place on the
coast of Asia Minor that a remarkable tomb had been discovered somewhere
in the interior; he had not been willing to take us there, as the journey
was not a particularly safe one; but now that we were tied up at Chios
there seemed no reason why he shouldn't go and take a look at the place.
The expedition would not take more than three days; Collis was
convalescent; the doctor and nurse assured us that there was no cause for
uneasiness; and so Meriton started off one evening at sunset. I walked
down to the quay with him and saw him rowed off to the felucca. I would
have given a good deal to be going with him; the prospect of danger
"'You'll see that Collis is never left alone, won't you?' he shouted back
to me as the boat pulled out into the harbor; I remembered I rather
resented the suggestion.
"I walked back to the inn and went to bed: the nurse sat up with Collis at
night. The next morning I relieved her at the usual hour. It was a sultry
day with a queer coppery-looking sky; the air was stifling. In the middle
of the day the nurse came to take my place while I dined; when I went back
to Collis's room she said she would go out for a breath of air.
"I sat down by Collis's bed and began to fan him with the fan the sister
had been using. The heat made him uneasy and I turned him over in bed, for
he was still helpless: the whole of his right side was numb. Presently he
fell asleep and I went to the window and sat looking down on the hot
deserted square, with a bunch of donkeys and their drivers asleep in the
shade of the convent-wall across the way. I remember noticing the blue
beads about the donkeys' necks.... Were you ever in an earthquake? No? I'd
never been in one either. It's an indescribable sensation ... there's a
Day of Judgment feeling in the air. It began with the donkeys waking up
and trembling; I noticed that and thought it queer. Then the drivers
jumped up--I saw the terror in their faces. Then a roar.... I remember
noticing a big black crack in the convent-wall opposite--a zig-zag crack,
like a flash of lightning in a wood-cut.... I thought of that, too, at the
time; then all the bells in the place began to ring--it made a fearful
discord.... I saw people rushing across the square ... the air was full of
crashing noises. The floor went down under me in a sickening way and then
jumped back and pitched me to the ceiling ... but where _was_ the ceiling?
And the door? I said to myself: _We're two stories up--the stairs are just
wide enough for one_.... I gave one glance at Collis: he was lying in bed,
wide awake, looking straight at me. I ran. Something struck me on the head
as I bolted downstairs--I kept on running. I suppose the knock I got dazed
me, for I don't remember much of anything till I found myself in a
vineyard a mile from the town. I was roused by the warm blood running down
my nose and heard myself explaining to Meriton exactly how it had
"When I crawled back to the town they told me that all the houses near the
inn were in ruins and that a dozen people had been killed. Collis was
among them, of course. The ceiling had come down on him."
Mr. Carstyle wiped his forehead. Vibart sat looking away from him.
"Two days later Meriton came back. I began to tell him the story, but he
"'There was no one with him at the time, then? You'd left him alone?'
"'No, he wasn't alone.'
"'Who was with him? You said the sister was out.'
"'I was with him.'
"'_You were with him?_'
"I shall never forget Meriton's look. I believe I had meant to explain, to
accuse myself, to shout out my agony of soul; but I saw the uselessness of
it. A door had been shut between us. Neither of us spoke another word. He
was very kind to me on the way home; he looked after me in a motherly way
that was a good deal harder to stand than his open contempt. I saw the man
was honestly trying to pity me; but it was no good--he simply couldn't."
Mr. Carstyle rose slowly, with a certain stiffness.
"Shall we turn toward home? Perhaps I'm keeping you."
They walked on a few steps in silence; then he spoke again.
"That business altered my whole life. Of course I oughtn't to have allowed
it to--that was another form of cowardice. But I saw myself only with
Meriton's eyes--it is one of the worst miseries of youth that one is
always trying to be somebody else. I had meant to be a Meriton--I saw I'd
better go home and study law....
"It's a childish fancy, a survival of the primitive savage, if you like;
but from that hour to this I've hankered day and night for a chance to
retrieve myself, to set myself right with the man I meant to be. I want to
prove to that man that it was all an accident--an unaccountable deviation
from my normal instincts; that having once been a coward doesn't mean that
a man's cowardly... and I can't, I can't!"
Mr. Carstyle's tone had passed insensibly from agitation to irony. He had
got back to his usual objective stand-point.
"Why, I'm a perfect olive-branch," he concluded, with his dry indulgent
laugh; "the very babies stop crying at my approach--I carry a sort of
millennium about with me--I'd make my fortune as an agent of the Peace
Society. I shall go to the grave leaving that other man unconvinced!"
Vibart walked back with him to Millbrook. On her doorstep they met Mrs.
Carstyle, flushed and feathered, with a card-case and dusty boots.
"I don't ask you in," she said plaintively, to Vibart, "because I can't
answer for the food this evening. My maid-of-all-work tells me that she's
going to a ball--which is more than I've done in years! And besides, it
would be cruel to ask you to spend such a hot evening in our stuffy little
house--the air is so much cooler at Mrs. Vance's. Remember me to Mrs.
Vance, please, and tell her how sorry I am that I can no longer include
her in my round of visits. When I had my carriage I saw the people I
liked, but now that I have to walk, my social opportunities are more
limited. I was not obliged to do my visiting on foot when I was younger,
and my doctor tells me that to persons accustomed to a carriage no
exercise is more injurious than walking."
She glanced at her husband with a smile of unforgiving sweetness.
"Fortunately," she concluded, "it agrees with Mr. Carstyle."
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOD
_A Newport drawing-room. Tapestries, flowers, bric-a-brac. Through the
windows, a geranium-edged lawn, the cliffs and the sea_. Isabel Warland
_sits reading_. Lucius Warland _enters in flannels and a yachting-cap_.
_Isabel_. Back already?
_Warland_. The wind dropped--it turned into a drifting race. Langham took
me off the yacht on his launch. What time is it? Two o'clock? Where's Mrs.
_Isabel_. On her way to New York.
_Warland_. To New York?
_Isabel_. Precisely. The boat must be just leaving; she started an hour
ago and took Laura with her. In fact I'm alone in the house--that is,
until this evening. Some people are coming then.
_Warland_. But what in the world--
_Isabel_. Her aunt, Mrs. Griscom, has had a fit. She has them constantly.
They're not serious--at least they wouldn't be, if Mrs. Griscom were not
so rich--and childless. Naturally, under the circumstances, Marian feels a
peculiar sympathy for her; her position is such a sad one; there's
positively no one to care whether she lives or dies--except her heirs. Of
course they all rush to Newburgh whenever she has a fit. It's hard on
Marian, for she lives the farthest away; but she has come to an
understanding with the housekeeper, who always telegraphs her first, so
that she gets a start of several hours. She will be at Newburgh to-night
at ten, and she has calculated that the others can't possibly arrive
_Warland_. You have a delightful way of putting things. I suppose you'd
talk of me like that.
_Isabel_. Oh, no. It's too humiliating to doubt one's husband's
_Warland_. I wish I had a rich aunt who had fits.
_Isabel_. If I were wishing I should choose heart-disease.
_Warland_. There's no doing anything without money or influence.
_Isabel (picking up her book)_. Have you heard from Washington?
_Warland_. Yes. That's what I was going to speak of when I asked for Mrs.
Raynor. I wanted to bid her good-bye.
_Isabel_. You're going?
_Warland_. By the five train. Fagott has just wired me that the Ambassador
will be in Washington on Monday. He hasn't named his secretaries yet, but
there isn't much hope for me. He has a nephew--
_Isabel_. They always have. Like the Popes.
_Warland_. Well, I'm going all the same. You'll explain to Mrs. Raynor if
she gets back before I do? Are there to be people at dinner? I don't
suppose it matters. You can always pick up an extra man on a Saturday.
_Isabel_. By the way, that reminds me that Marian left me a list of the
people who are arriving this afternoon. My novel is so absorbing that I
forgot to look at it. Where can it be? Ah, here--Let me see: the Jack
Merringtons, Adelaide Clinton, Ned Lender--all from New York, by seven
P.M. train. Lewis Darley to-night, by Fall River boat. John Oberville,
from Boston at five P.M. Why, I didn't know--
_Warland (excitedly)_. John Oberville? John Oberville? Here? To-day at
five o'clock? Let me see--let me look at the list. Are you sure you're not
mistaken? Why, she never said a word! Why the deuce didn't you tell me?
_Isabel_. I didn't know.
_Isabel_. Why, what difference does it make?
_Warland_. What difference? What difference? Don't look at me as if you
didn't understand English! Why, if Oberville's coming--(a pause) Look
here, Isabel, didn't you know him very well at one time?
_Isabel_. Very well--yes.
_Warland_. I thought so--of course--I remember now; I heard all about it
before I met you. Let me see--didn't you and your mother spend a winter in
Washington when he was Under-secretary of State?
_Isabel_. That was before the deluge.
_Warland_. I remember--it all comes back to me. I used to hear it said
that he admired you tremendously; there was a report that you were
engaged. Don't you remember? Why, it was in all the papers. By Jove,
Isabel, what a match that would have been!
_Isabel_. You _are_ disinterested!
_Warland_. Well, I can't help thinking--
_Isabel_. That I paid you a handsome compliment?
_Warland (preoccupied)_. Eh?--Ah, yes--exactly. What was I saying? Oh--
about the report of your engagement. _(Playfully.)_ He was awfully gone on
you, wasn't he?
_Isabel_. It's not for me to diminish your triumph.
_Warland_. By Jove, I can't think why Mrs. Raynor didn't tell me he was
coming. A man like that--one doesn't take him for granted, like the piano-
tuner! I wonder I didn't see it in the papers.
_Isabel_. Is he grown such a great man?
_Warland_. Oberville? Great? John Oberville? I'll tell you what he is--the
power behind the throne, the black Pope, the King-maker and all the rest
of it. Don't you read the papers? Of course I'll never get on if you won't
interest yourself in politics. And to think you might have married that
_Isabel_. And got you your secretaryship!
_Warland_. Oberville has them all in the hollow of his hand.
_Isabel_. Well, you'll see him at five o'clock.
_Warland_. I don't suppose he's ever heard of _me_, worse luck! (_A
silence_.) Isabel, look here. I never ask questions, do I? But it was so
long ago--and Oberville almost belongs to history--he will one of these
days at any rate. Just tell me--did he want to marry you?
_Isabel_. Since you answer for his immortality--(_after a pause_) I was
very much in love with him.
_Warland_. Then of course he did. (_Another pause_.) But what in the
_Isabel (musing)_. As you say, it was so long ago; I don't see why I
shouldn't tell you. There was a married woman who had--what is the correct
expression?--made sacrifices for him. There was only one sacrifice she
objected to making--and he didn't consider himself free. It sounds rather
_rococo_, doesn't it? It was odd that she died the year after we were
_Isabel (following her own thoughts)_. I've never seen him since; it must
be ten years ago. I'm certainly thirty-two, and I was just twenty-two
then. It's curious to talk of it. I had put it away so carefully. How it
smells of camphor! And what an old-fashioned cut it has! _(Rising.)_
Where's the list, Lucius? You wanted to know if there were to be people at
_Warland_. Here it is--but never mind. Isabel--(_silence_) Isabel--
_Warland_. It's odd he never married.
_Isabel_. The comparison is to my disadvantage. But then I met you.
_Warland_. Don't be so confoundedly sarcastic. I wonder how he'll feel
about seeing you. Oh, I don't mean any sentimental rot, of course... but
you're an uncommonly agreeable woman. I daresay he'll be pleased to see
you again; you're fifty times more attractive than when I married you.
_Isabel_. I wish your other investments had appreciated at the same rate.
Unfortunately my charms won't pay the butcher.
_Warland_. Damn the butcher!
_Isabel_. I happened to mention him because he's just written again; but I
might as well have said the baker or the candlestick-maker. The
candlestick-maker--I wonder what he is, by the way? He must have more
faith in human nature than the others, for I haven't heard from him yet. I
wonder if there is a Creditor's Polite Letter-writer which they all
consult; their style is so exactly alike. I advise you to pass through New
York incognito on your way to Washington; their attentions might be
_Warland_. Confoundedly oppressive. What a dog's life it is! My poor
_Isabel_. Don't pity me. I didn't marry yon for a home.
_Warland (after a pause_). What _did_ you marry me for, if you cared for
Oberville? _(Another pause_.) Eh?
_Isabel_, Don't make me regret my confidence.
_Warland_. I beg your pardon.
_Isabel_. Oh, it was only a subterfuge to conceal the fact that I have no
distinct recollection of my reasons. The fact is, a girl's motives in
marrying are like a passport--apt to get mislaid. One is so seldom asked
for either. But mine certainly couldn't have been mercenary: I never heard
a mother praise you to her daughters.
_Warland_. No, I never was much of a match.
_Isabel_. You impugn my judgment.
_Warland_. If I only had a head for business, now, I might have done
something by this time. But I'd sooner break stones in the road.
_Isabel_. It must be very hard to get an opening in that profession. So
many of my friends have aspired to it, and yet I never knew any one who
actually did it.
_Warland_. If I could only get the secretaryship. How that kind of life
would suit you! It's as much for you that I want it--
_Isabel_. And almost as much for the butcher. Don't belittle the circle of
your benevolence. (_She walks across the room_.) Three o'clock already--
and Marian asked me to give orders about the carriages. Let me see--Mr.
Oberville is the first arrival; if you'll ring I will send word to the
stable. I suppose you'll stay now?
_Isabel_. Not go to Washington. I thought you spoke as if he could help
_Warland_. He could settle the whole thing in five minutes. The President
can't refuse him anything. But he doesn't know me; he may have a candidate
of his own. It's a pity you haven't seen him for so long--and yet I don't
know; perhaps it's just as well. The others don't arrive till seven? It
seems as if--How long is he going to be here? Till to-morrow night, I
suppose? I wonder what he's come for. The Merringtons will bore him to
death, and Adelaide, of course, will be philandering with Lender. I wonder
(_a pause_) if Darley likes boating. (_Rings the bell_.)
_Warland_. Oh, I was only thinking--Where are the matches? One may smoke
here, I suppose? _(He looks at his wife.)_ If I were you I'd put on that
black gown of yours to-night--the one with the spangles.--It's only that
Fred Langham asked me to go over to Narragansett in his launch to-morrow
morning, and I was thinking that I might take Darley; I always liked
_Isabel (to the footman who enters)_. Mrs. Raynor wishes the dog-cart sent
to the station at five o'clock to meet Mr. Oberville.
_Footman_. Very good, m'm. Shall I serve tea at the usual time, m'm?
_Isabel_. Yes. That is, when Mr. Oberville arrives.
_Footman (going out)_. Very good, m'm.
_Warland (to Isabel, who is moving toward the door)_. Where are you going?
_Isabel_. To my room now--for a walk later.
_Warland_. Later? It's past three already.
_Isabel_. I've no engagement this afternoon.
_Warland_. Oh, I didn't know. (_As she reaches the door_.) You'll be back,
_Isabel_. I have no intention of eloping.
_Warland_. For tea, I mean?
_Isabel_. I never take tea. (_Warland shrugs his shoulders_.)
_The same drawing-room. _Isabel_ enters from the lawn in hat and gloves.
The tea-table is set out, and the footman just lighting the lamp under the
_Isabel_. You may take the tea-things away. I never take tea.
_Footman_. Very good, m'm. (_He hesitates_.) I understood, m'm, that Mr.
Oberville was to have tea?
_Isabel_. Mr. Oberville? But he was to arrive long ago! What time is it?
_Footman_. Only a quarter past five, m'm.
_Isabel_. A quarter past five? (_She goes up to the clock_.) Surely you're
mistaken? I thought it was long after six. (_To herself_.) I walked and
walked--I must have walked too fast ... (_To the Footman_.) I'm going out
again. When Mr. Oberville arrives please give him his tea without waiting
for me. I shall not be back till dinner-time.
_Footman_. Very good, m'm. Here are some letters, m'm.
_Isabel (glancing at them with a movement of disgust)_. You may send them
up to my room.