Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Tiffany Vergon, Charles Franks, Juliet Sutherland,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
BY BEATRICE FORBES-ROBERTSON HALE
AUTHOR OF "WHAT WOMEN WANT"
_WITH A FRONTISPIECE BY J. HENRY_
* * * * *
* * * * *
Outbound from Liverpool, the Lusitania bucked down the Irish Sea against
a September gale. Aft in her second-class quarters each shouldering from
the waves brought a sickening vibration as one or another of the ship's
great propellers raced out of water. The gong had sounded for the second
sitting, and trails of hungry and weary travelers, trooping down the
companionway, met files of still more uneasy diners emerging from the
saloon. The grinding jar of the vessel, the heavy smell of food, and the
pound of ragtime combined to produce an effect as of some sordid and
demoniac orgy--an effect derided by the smug respectability of the
Stefan Byrd, taking in the scene as he balanced a precarious way to his
seat, felt every hypercritical sense rising in revolt. Even the prosaic
but admirably efficient table utensils repelled him. "They are so useful,
so abominably enduring," he thought. The mahogany trimmings of doors and
columns seemed to announce from every overpolished surface a pompous
self-sufficiency. Each table proclaimed the aesthetic level of the second
class through the lifeless leaves of a rubber plant and two imitation
cut-glass dishes of tough fruit. The stewards, casually hovering, lacked
the democracy which might have humanized the steerage as much as the
civility which would have oiled the workings of the first cabin. Byrd
resented their ministrations as he did the heavy English dishes of the
bill of fare. There were no Continental passengers near him. He had left
the dear French tongue behind, and his ears, homesick already, shrank
equally from the see-saw Lancashire of the stewards and the monotonous
rasp of returning Americans.
Byrd's left hand neighbor, a clergyman of uncertain denomination, had
tried vainly for several minutes to attract his attention by clearing his
throat, passing the salt, and making measured requests for water, bread,
and the like.
"I presume, sir," he at last inquired loudly, "that you are an American,
and as glad as I am to be returning to our country?"
"No, sir," retorted Byrd, favoring his questioner with a withering stare,
"I am a Bohemian, and damnably sorry that I ever have to see America
The man of God turned away, pale to the temples with offense--a high-
bosomed matron opposite emitted a shocked "Oh!"--the faces of the
surrounding listeners assumed expressions either dismayed or deprecating.
Budding conversationalists were temporarily frost-bitten, and the watery
helpings of fish were eaten in a constrained silence. But with the
inevitable roast beef a Scot of unshakeable manner, decorated with a
yellow forehead-lock as erect as a striking cobra, turned to follow up
what he apparently conceived to be an opportunity for discussion.
"I'm not so strongly partial to the States mysel', ye ken, but I'll
confess it's a grand place to mak' money. Ye would be going there,
perhaps, to improve your fortunes?"
Byrd was silent.
"Also," continued the Scot, quite unrebuffed, "it would be interesting to
know what exactly ye mean when ye call yoursel' a Bohemian. Would ye be
referring to your tastes, now, or to your nationality?"
His hand trembling with nervous temper, Byrd laid down his napkin, and
rose with an attempt at dignity somewhat marred by the viselike clutch of
the swivel chair upon his emerging legs.
"My mother was a Bohemian, my father an American. Neither, happily, was
Scotch," said he, almost stammering in his attempt to control his extreme
distaste of his surroundings--and hurried out of the saloon, leaving a
table of dropped jaws behind him.
"The young man is nairvous," contentedly boomed the Scot. "I'm thinking
he'll be feeling the sea already. What kind of a place would Bohemia, be,
d'ye think, to have a mother from?" turning to the clergyman.
"A place of evil life, seemingly," answered that worthy in his high-
pitched, carrying voice. "I shall certainly ask to have my seat changed.
I cannot subject myself for the voyage to the neighborhood of a man of
The table nodded approval.
"A traitor to his country, too," said a pursy little man opposite,
snapping his jaws shut like a turtle.
A bony New England spinster turned deprecating eyes to him. "My," she
whispered shrilly, "he was just terrible, wasn't he? But so handsome! I
can't help but think it was more seasickness with him than an evil
Meanwhile the subject of discussion, who would have writhed far more at
the spinster's palliation of his offense than at the men's disdain, lay
in his tiny cabin, a prey to an attack of that nervous misery which
overtakes an artist out of his element as surely and speedily as air
suffocates a fish.
Stefan Byrd's table companions were guilty in his eyes of the one
unforgivable sin--they were ugly. Ugly alike in feature, dress, and
bearing, they had for him absolutely no excuse for existence. He felt no
bond of common humanity with them. In his lexicon what was not beautiful
was not human, and he recognized no more obligation of good fellowship
toward them than he would have done toward a company of ground-hogs. He
lay back, one fine and nervous hand across his eyes, trying to obliterate
the image of the saloon and all its inmates by conjuring up a vision of
the world he had left, the winsome young cosmopolitan Paris of the art
student. The streets, the cafes, the studios; his few men, his many
women, friends--Adolph Jensen, the kindly Swede who loved him; Louise,
Nanette, the little Polish Yanina, who had said they loved him; the
slanting-glanced Turkish students, the grave Syrians, the democratic
un-British Londoners--the smell, the glamour of Paris, returned to him
with the nostalgia of despair.
These he had left. To what did he go?
In his shivering, creaking little cabin, suspended, as it were, by the
uncertain waters between two lives, Byrd forced himself to remember the
America he had known before his Paris days. He recalled his birthplace
--a village in upper Michigan--and his mental eyes bored across the
pictures that came with the running speed of a cinematograph to his
The place was a village, but it called itself a city. The last he had
seen of it was the "depot," a wooden shed surrounded by a waste of rutted
snow, and backed by grimy coal yards. He could see the broken shades of
the town's one hotel, which faced the tracks, drooping across their dirty
windows, and the lopsided sign which proclaimed from the porch roof in
faded gilt on black the name of "C. E. Trench, Prop." He could see the
swing-doors of the bar, and hear the click of balls from the poolroom
advertising the second of the town's distractions. He could smell the
composite odor of varnish, stale air, and boots, which made the
overheated station waiting-room hideous. Heavy farmers in ear-mitts,
peaked caps, and fur collars spat upon the hissing stove round which
their great hide boots sprawled. They were his last memory of his fellow
Looking farther back Stefan saw the town in summer. There were trees in
the street where he lived, but they were all upon the sidewalk-public
property. In their yards (the word garden, he recalled, was never used)
the neighbors kept, with unanimity, in the back, washing, and in the
front, a porch. Over these porches parched vines crept--the town's
enthusiasm for horticulture went as far as that--and upon them
concentrated the feminine social life of the place. Of this intercourse
the high tones seemed to be giggles, and the bass the wooden thuds of
rockers. Street after street he could recall, from the square about the
"depot" to the outskirts, and through them all the dusty heat, the
rockers, gigglers, the rustle of a shirt-sleeved father's newspaper, and
the shrill coo-ees of the younger children. Finally, the piano--for he
looked back farther than the all-conquering phonograph. He heard "Nita,
Juanita;" he heard "Sweet Genevieve."
Beyond the village lay the open country, level, blindingly hot, half-
cultivated, with the scorched foliage of young trees showing in the ruins
of what had been forest land. Across it the roads ran straight as rulers.
In the winter wolves were not unknown there; in the summer there were
tramps of many strange nationalities, farm hands and men bound for the
copper mines. For the most part they walked the railroad ties, or rode
the freight cars; winter or summer, the roads were never wholly safe, and
children played only in the town.
There, on the outskirts, was a shallow, stony river, but deep enough at
one point for gingerly swimming. Stefan seemed never to have been cool
through the summer except when he was squatting or paddling in this hole.
He remembered only indistinctly the boys with whom he bathed; he had no
friends among them. But there had been a little girl with starched white
skirts, huge blue bows over blue eyes, and yellow hair, whom he had
admired to adoration. She wanted desperately to bathe in the hole, and he
demanded of her mother that this be permitted. Stefan smiled grimly as he
recalled the horror of that lady, who had boxed his ears for trying to
lead her girl into ungodliness, and to scandalize the neighbors. The
friendship had been kept up surreptitiously after this, with interchange
of pencils and candy, until the little girl--he had forgotten her name
--put her tongue out at him over a matter of chewing-gum which he had
insisted she should not use. Revolted, he played alone again.
The Presbyterian Church Stefan remembered as a whitewashed praying box,
resounding to his father's high-pitched voice. It was filled with heat
and flies from without in summer, and heat and steam from within in
winter. The school, whitewashed again, he recalled as a succession of
banging desks, flying paper pellets, and the drone of undigested lessons.
Here the water bucket loomed as the alleviation in summer, or the red hot
oblong of the open stove in winter time. Through all these scenes, by an
egotistical trick of the brain, he saw himself moving, a small brown-
haired boy, with olive skin and queer, greenish eyes, entirely alien,
absolutely lonely, completely critical. He saw himself in too large,
ill-chosen clothes, the butt of his playfellows. He saw the sidelong,
interested glances of little girls change to curled lips and tossed heads
at the grinning nudge of their boy companions. He saw the harassed eyes
of an anaemic teacher stare uncomprehendingly at him over the pages of an
exercise book filled with colored drawings of George III and the British
flag, instead of a description of the battle of Bunker Hill. He
remembered the hatred he had felt even then for the narrowness of the
local patriotism which had prompted him to this revenge. As a result, he
saw himself backed against the schoolhouse wall, facing with contempt a
yelling, jumping tangle of boys who, from a safe distance, called upon
the "traitor" and the "Dago" to come and be licked. He felt the rage
mount in his head like a burning wave, saw a change in the eyes and faces
of his foes, felt himself spring with a catlike leap, his lips tight
above his teeth and his arms moving like clawed wheels, saw boys run
yelling and himself darting between them down the road, to fall at last,
a trembling, sobbing bundle of reaction, into the grassy ditch.
In memory Stefan followed himself home. The word was used to denote the
house in which he and his father lived. A portrait of his mother hung
over the parlor stove. It was a chalk drawing from a photograph, crudely
done, but beautiful by reason of the subject. The face was young and very
round, the forehead beautifully low and broad under black waves of hair.
The nose was short and proud, the chin small but square, the mouth gaily
curving around little, even teeth. But the eyes were deep and somber;
there was passion in them, and romance. Stefan had not seen that face for
years, he barely remembered the original, but he could have drawn it now
in every detail. If the house in which it hung could be called home at
all, it was by virtue of that picture, the only thing of beauty in it.
Behind the portrait lay a few memories of joy and heartache, and one
final one of horror. Stefan probed them, still with his nervous hand
across his eyes. He listened while his mother sang gay or mournful little
songs with haunting tunes in a tongue only a word or two of which he
understood. He watched while she drew from her bureau drawer a box of
paints and some paper. She painted for long hours, day after day through
the winter, while he played beside her with longing eyes on her brushes.
She painted always one thing--flowers--using no pencil, drawing their
shapes with the brush. Her flowers were of many kinds, nearly all strange
to him, but most were roses--pink, yellow, crimson, almost black.
Sometimes their petals flared like wings; sometimes they were close-
furled. Of these paintings he remembered much, but of her speech little,
for she was silent as she worked.
One day his mother put a brush into his hand. The rapture of it was as
sharp and near as to-day's misery. He sat beside her after that for many
days and painted. First he tried to paint a rose, but he had never seen
such roses as her brush drew, and he tired quickly. Then he drew a bird.
His mother nodded and smiled--it was good. After that his memory showed
him the two sitting side by side for weeks, or was it months?--while the
snow lay piled beyond the window--she with her flowers, he with his
First he drew birds singly, hopping on a branch, or simply standing,
claws and beaks defined. Then he began to make them fly, alone, and again
in groups. Their wings spread across the paper, wider and more
sweepingly. They pointed upward sharply, or lay flat across the page.
Flights of tiny birds careened from corner to corner. They were blue,
gold, scarlet, and white. He left off drawing birds on branches and drew
them only in flight, smudging in a blue background for the sky.
One day by accident he made a dark smudge in the lower left-hand corner
of his page.
"What is that?" asked his mother.
The little boy looked at it doubtfully for a moment, unwilling to admit
it a blot. Then he laughed.
"Mother, Mother, that is America." (Stefan heard himself.) "Look!" And
rapidly he drew a bird flying high above the blot, with its head pointed
to the right, away from it.
His mother laughed and hugged him quickly. "Yes, eastward," she said.
After that all his birds flew one way, and in the left-hand lower corner
there was usually a blob of dark brown or black. Once it was a square,
red, white, and blue.
On her table his mother had a little globe which revolved above a brass
base. Because of this he knew the relative position of two places
--America and Bohemia. Of this country he thought his mother was unwilling
to speak, but its name fell from her lips with sighs, with--as it now
seemed to him--a wild longing. Knowing nothing of it, he had pictured it
a paradise, a land of roses. He seemed to have no knowledge of why she
had left it; but years later his father spoke of finding her in Boston in
the days when he preached there, penniless, searching for work as a
teacher of singing. How she became jettisoned in that--to her--cold and
inhospitable port, Stefan did not know, nor how soon after their marriage
the two moved to the still more alien peninsula of Michigan.
Into his memories of the room where they painted a shadow constantly
intruded, chilling them, such a shadow, deep and cold, as is cast by an
iceberg. The door would open, and his father's face, high and white with
ice-blue eyes, would hang above them. Instantly, the man remembered, the
boy would cower like a fledgling beneath the sparrow-hawk, but with as
much distaste as fear in his cringing. The words that followed always
seemed the same--he could reconstruct the scene clearly, but whether it
had occurred once or many times he could not tell. His father's voice
would snap across the silence like a high, tight-drawn string--
"Still wasting time? Have you nothing better to do? Where is your sewing?
And the boy--why is he not outside playing?"
"This helps me, Henry," his mother answered, hesitating and low. "Surely
it does no harm. I cannot sew all the time."
"It is a childish and vain occupation, however, and I disapprove of the
boy being encouraged in it. This of course you know perfectly well. Under
ordinary circumstances I should absolutely forbid it; as it is, I condemn
"Henry," his mother's voice trembled, "don't ask me to give up his
companionship. It is too cold for me to be outdoors, and perhaps after
the spring I might not be with him."
This sentence terrified Stefan, who did not know the meaning of it. He
was glad, for once, of his father's ridicule.
"That is perfectly absurd, the shallow excuse women always make their
husbands for self-indulgence," said the man, turning to go. "You are a
healthy woman, and would be more so but for idleness."
His wife called him back, pleadingly. "Please don't be angry with me, I'm
doing the best I can, Henry--the very best I can." There was a sweet
foreign blur in her speech, Stefan remembered.
His father paused at the door. "I have shown you your duty, my dear. I am
a minister, and you cannot expect me to condone in my wife habits of
frivolity and idleness which I should be the first to reprimand in my
flock. I expect you to set an example."
"Oh," the woman wailed, "when you married me you loved me as I was--"
With a look of controlled annoyance her husband closed the door. Whether
the memory of his father's words was exact or not, Stefan knew their
effect by heart. The door shut, his mother would begin to cry, quietly at
first, then with deep, catching sobs that seemed to stifle her, so that
she rose and paced the room breathlessly. Then she would hold the boy to
her breast, and slowly the storm would change again to gentle tears. That
day there would be no more painting.
These, his earliest memories, culminated in tragedy. A spring day of
driving rain witnessed the arrival of a gray, plain-faced woman, who
mounted to his mother's room. The house seemed full of mysterious bustle.
Presently he heard moans, and rushed upstairs thinking his mother was
crying and needed him. The gray-haired woman thrust him from the bedroom
door, but he returned again and again, calling his mother, until his
father emerged from the study downstairs, and, seizing him in his cold
grip, pushed him into the sanctum and turned the key upon him.
Much later, a man whom Stefan knew as their doctor entered the room with
his father. A strange new word passed between them, and, in his high-
strung state, impressed the boy's memory. It was "chloroform." The doctor
used the word several times, and his father shook his head.
"No, doctor," he heard him saying, "we neither of us approve of it. It is
contrary to the intention of God. Besides, you say the case is normal."
The doctor seemed to be repeating something about nerves and hysteria.
"Exactly," his father replied, "and for that, self-control is needed, and
not a drug that reverses the dispensation of the Almighty."
Both men left the room. Presently the boy heard shrieks. Lying, a grown
man, in his berth, Stefan trembled at the memory of them. He fled in
spirit as he had fled then--out of the window, down the roaring, swimming
street, where he knew not, pursued by a writhing horror. Hours later, as
it seemed, he returned. The shades were pulled down across the windows of
his house. His mother was dead.
Looking back, the man hardly knew how the conviction had come to the
child that his father had killed his mother. A vague comprehension
perhaps of the doctor's urgings and his father's denials--a head-shaking
mutter from the nurse--the memory of all his mother's tears. He was
hardly more than a baby, but he had always feared and disliked his
father--now he hated him, blindly and intensely. He saw him as the cause
not only of his mother's tears and death, but of all the ugliness in the
life about him. "Bohemia," he thought, would have been theirs but for
this man. He even blamed him, in a sullen way, for the presence in their
house of a tiny little red and wizened object, singularly ugly, which the
gray-haired woman referred to as his "brother." Obviously, the thing was
not a brother, and his father must be at the bottom of a conspiracy to
deceive him. The creature made a great deal of noise, and when, by and
by, it went away, and they told him his brother too was dead, he felt
nothing but relief.
So darkened the one bright room in his childhood's mansion. Obscured, it
left the other chambers dingier than before, and filled with the ache of
loss. Slowly he forgot his mother's companionship, but not her beauty,
nor her roses, nor "Bohemia," nor his hatred of the "America" which was
his father's. To get away from his native town, to leave America, became
the steadfast purpose of his otherwise unstable nature.
The man watched himself through high school. He saw himself still hating
his surroundings and ignoring his schoolfellows--save for an occasional
girl whose face or hair showed beauty. At this time the first step in his
plan of escape shaped itself--he must work hard enough to get to college,
to Ann Arbor, where he had heard there was an art course. For the boy
painted now, in all his spare time, not merely birds, but dogs and
horses, boys and girls, all creatures that had speed, that he could draw
in action, leaping, flying, or running against the wind. Even now Stefan
could warm to the triumph he felt the day he discovered the old barn
where he could summon these shapes undetected. His triumph was over the
arch-enemy, his father--who had forbidden him paint and brushes and
confiscated the poor little fragments of his mother's work that he had
hoarded. His father destined him for a "fitting" profession--the man
smiled to remember it--and with an impressive air of generosity gave him
the choice of three--the Church, the Law, or Medicine. Hate had given him
too keen a comprehension of his father to permit him the mistake of
argument. He temporized. Let him be sent to college, and there he would
discover where his aptitude lay.
So at last it was decided. A trunk was found, a moth-eaten bag. His
cheap, ill-cut clothes were packed. On a day of late summer he stepped
for the first time upon a train--beautiful to him because it moved--and
was borne southward.
At Ann Arbor he found many new things, rules, and people, but he brushed
them aside like flies, hardly perceiving them; for there, for the first
time, he saw photographs and casts of the world's great art. The first
sight, even in a poor copy, of the two Discoboli--Diana with her swinging
knee-high tunic--the winged Victory of Samothrace--to see them first at
seventeen, without warning, without a glimmering knowledge of their
existence! And the pictures! Portfolios of Angelo, of the voluptuous
Titian, of the swaying forms of Botticelli's maidens--trite enough now
How long he could have deceived his father as to the real nature of his
interests he did not know. Already there had been complaints of cut
lectures, reprimands, and letters from home. Evading mathematics,
science, and divinity, he read only the English and classic subjects
--because they contained beauty--and drew, copying and creating, in every
odd moment. The storm began to threaten, but it never broke; for in his
second year in college the unbelievable, the miracle, happened--his
father died. They said he had died of pneumonia, contracted while
visiting the sick in the winter blizzards, and they praised him; but
Stefan hardly listened.
One fact alone stood out amid the ugly affairs of death, so that he
regarded and remembered nothing else. He was free--and he had wings! His
father left insurance, and a couple of savings-bank accounts, but through
some fissure of vanity or carelessness in the granite of his propriety,
he left no will. The sums, amounting in all to something over three
thousand dollars, came to Stefan without conditions, guardians, or other
hindrances. The rapture of that discovery, he thought, almost wiped out
his father's debt to him.
He knew now that not Bohemia, but Paris, was his El Dorado. In wild haste
he made ready for his journey, leaving the rigid trappings of his home to
be sold after him. But his dead father was to give him one more pang--the
scales were to swing uneven at the last. For when he would have packed
the only possession, other than a few necessities, he planned to carry
with him, he found his mother's picture gone. Dying, his father, it
appeared, had wandered from his bed, detached the portrait, and with his
own hands burnt it in the stove. The motive of the act Stefan could not
comprehend. He only knew that this man had robbed him of his mother
twice. All that remained of her was her wedding ring, which, drawn from
his father's cash-box, he wore on his little finger. With bitterness amid
his joy he took the train once more, and saw the lights of the town's
shabby inn blink good-bye behind its frazzled shades.
Byrd had lived for seven years in Paris, wandering on foot in summer
through much of France and Italy. His little patrimony, stretched to the
last sou, and supplemented in later years by the occasional sale of his
work to small dealers, had sufficed him so long. His headquarters were in
a high windowed attic facing north along the rue des Quatre Ermites. His
work had been much admired in the ateliers, but his personal unpopularity
with, the majority of the students had prevented their admiration
changing to a friendship whose demands would have drained his small
resources. "Ninety-nine per cent of the Quarter dislikes Stefan Byrd," an
Englishman had said, "but one per cent adores him." Repeated to Byrd,
this utterance was accepted by him with much complacence, for, even more
than the average man, he prided himself upon his faults of character. His
adoration of Paris had not prevented him from criticizing its denizens;
the habits of mental withdrawal and reservation developed in his boyhood
did not desert him in the city of friendship, but he became more deeply
aware of the loneliness which they involved. He searched eagerly for the
few whose qualities of mind or person lifted them beyond reach of his
demon of disparagement, and he found them, especially among women.
To a minority of that sex he was unusually attractive, and he became a
lover of women, but as subjects for enthusiasm rather than desire. In
passion he was curious but capricious, seldom rapidly roused, nor long
held. In his relations with women emotion came second to mental
stimulation, so that he never sought one whose mere sex was her main
attraction. This saved him from much--he was experienced, but not
degraded. Of love, however, in the fused sense of body, mind, and spirit,
he knew nothing. Perhaps his work claimed too much from him; at any rate
he was too egotistical, too critical and self-sufficient to give easily.
Whether he had received such love he did not ask himself--it is probable
that he had, without knowing it, or understanding that he had not himself
given full measure in return. The heart of France is practical; with all
her ardor Paris had given Byrd desire and friendship, but not romance.
In his last year, with only a few francs of his inheritance remaining,
Stefan had three pictures in the Beaux Arts. One of these was sold, but
the other two importuned vainly from their hanging places. Enormous
numbers of pictures had been exhibited that year. Every gallery, public
and private, was crowded; Paris was glutted with works of art. Stefan
faced the prospect of speedy starvation if he could not dispose of
another canvas. He had enough for a summer in Brittany, after which, if
the dealers could do nothing for him, he was stranded. Nevertheless, he
enjoyed his holiday light-heartedly, confident that his two large
pictures could not long fail to be appreciated. Returning to Paris in
September, however, he was dismayed to find his favorite dealers
uninterested in his canvases, and disinclined to harbor them longer.
Portraits and landscapes, they told him, were in much demand, but
fantasies, no. His sweeping groups of running, flying figures against
stormy skies, or shoals of mermaids hurrying down lanes of the deep sea,
did not appeal to the fashionable taste of the year. Something more
languorous, more subdued, or, on the other hand, more "chic," was
In a high rage of disgust, Stefan hired a fiacre, and bore his children
defiantly home to their birthplace. Sitting in his studio like a ruffled
bird upon a spoiled hatching, he reviewed the fact that he had 325 francs
in the world, that the rent of his attic was overdue, and that his
pictures had never been so unmarketable as now.
At this point his one intimate man friend, Adolph Jensen, a Swede,
appeared as the deus ex machine. He had, he declared, an elder brother in
New York, an art dealer. This brother had just written him, describing
the millionaires who bought his pictures and bric-a-brac. His shop was
crowded with them. Adolph's brother was shrewd and hard to please, but
let his cher Stefan go himself to New York with his canvases, impress the
brother with his brilliance and the beauty of his work, and, undoubtedly,
his fortune would at once be made. The season in New York was in the
winter. Let Stefan go at once, by the fastest boat, and be first in the
field--he, Adolph, who had a little laid by, would lend him the
necessary money, and would write his brother in advance of the great
opportunity he was sending him.
Ultimately, with a very ill grace on Stefan's part--who could hardly be
persuaded that even a temporary return to America was preferable to
starvation--it was so arranged. The second-class passage money was 250
francs; for this and incidentals, he had enough, and Adolph lent him
another 250 to tide him over his arrival. He felt unable to afford
adequate crating, so his canvases were unstretched and made into a roll
which he determined should never leave his hands. His clothing was packed
in two bags, one contributed by Adolph. Armed with his roll, and followed
by his enthusiastic friend carrying the bags, Stefan departed from the
Gare Saint-Lazare for Dieppe, Liverpool, and the Lusitania.
Reacting to his friend's optimism, Stefan had felt confident enough on
leaving Paris, but the discomforts of the journey had soon flattened his
spirits, and now, limp in his berth, he saw the whole adventure mistaken,
unreal, and menacing. In leaving the country of his adoption for that of
his birth, he now felt that he had put himself again in the clutches of a
chimera which had power to wither with its breath all that was rare and
beautiful in his life. Nursing a grievance against himself and fate, he
at last fell asleep, clothed as he was, and forgot himself for a time in
such uneasy slumber as the storm allowed.
The second-class deck was rapidly filling. Chairs, running in a double
row about the deck-house were receiving bundles of women, rugs, and
babies. Energetic youths, in surprising ulsters and sweaters, tramped in
broken file between these chairs and the bulwarks. Older men, in woolen
waistcoats and checked caps, or in the aging black of the small clergy
and professional class, obstructed, with a rooted constancy, the few
clear corners of the deck. Elderly women, with the parchment skin and dun
tailored suit of the "personally conducted" tourist, tied their heads in
veils and ventured into sheltered corners. On the boat-deck a game of
shuffleboard was in progress. Above the main companion-way the ship's
bands condescended to a little dance music on behalf of the second class.
The Scotchman, clad in inch-thick heather mixture, was already discussing
with all whom he could buttonhole the possibilities of a ship's concert.
In a word, it was the third day out, the storm was over, and the
passengers were cognizant of life, and of each other.
The Scot had gravitated to a group of men near the smoking-room door, and
having received from his turtle-jawed neighbor of the dinner table, who
was among them, the gift of a cigar, interrogated him as to musical
gifts. "I shall recite mesel'," he explained complacently, sucking in his
smoke. "Might we hope for a song, now, from you? I've asked yon artist
chap, but he says he doesna' sing."
His neighbor also disclaimed talents. "Sorry I can't oblige you. Who
wants to hear a man sing, anyway? Where are your girls?"
"There seems to be a singular absence of bonny girrls on board," replied
the Scot, twisting his erect forelock reflectively.
"Have you asked the English girl?" suggested a tall, rawboned New
"Which English girrl?" demanded the Scot.
"Listen to him--which! Why, that one over there, you owl."
The Scotchman's eyes followed the gesture toward a group of children
surrounding a tall girl who stood by the rail on the leeward side. She
was facing into the wind toward the smoking-room door.
"Eh, mon," said the Scot, "till now I'd only seen the back of yon young
woman," and he promptly strode down the deck to ask, and receive, the
promise of a song.
Stefan Byrd, after a silent breakfast eaten late to avoid his table
companions, had just come on deck. It had been misty earlier, but now the
sun was beginning to break through in sudden glints of brightness. The
deck was still damp, however, and the whole prospect seemed to the
emerging Stefan cheerless in the extreme. His eyes swept the gray,
huddled shapes upon the chairs, the knots of gossiping men, the clumsy,
tramping youths, with the same loathing that the whole voyage had
hitherto inspired in him. The forelocked Scot, tweed cap in hand, was
crossing the deck. "There goes the brute, busy with his infernal
concert," he thought, watching balefully. Then he actually seemed to
point, like a dog, limbs fixed, eyes set, his face, with its salient
nose, thrust forward.
The Scot was speaking to a tall, bareheaded girl, about whom half a dozen
nondescript children crowded. She was holding herself against the wind,
and from her long, clean limbs her woolen dress was whipped, rippling.
The sun had gleamed suddenly, and under the shaft of brightness her hair
shone back a golden answer. Her eyes, hardly raised to those of the tall
Scotchman, were wide, gray, and level--the eyes of Pallas Athene; her
features, too, were goddess-like. One hand upon the bulwarks, she seemed,
even as she listened, to be poised for flight, balancing to the sway of
Stefan exhaled a great breath of joy. There was something beautiful upon
the ship, after all. He found and lit a cigarette, and squaring his
shoulders to the deckhouse wall, leaned back the more comfortably to
indulge what he took to be his chief mission--the art of perceiving
The girl listened in silence till the Scotchman had finished speaking,
and replied briefly and quietly, inclining her head. The Scot, jotting
something in a pocket notebook, left her with an air of elation, and she
turned again to the children. One, a toddler, was picking at her skirt.
She bent toward him a smile which gave Stefan almost a stab of
satisfaction, it was so gravely sweet, so fitted to her person. She
stooped lower to speak to the baby, and the artist saw the free, rhythmic
motion which meant developed, and untrammeled muscles. Presently the
children, wriggling with joy, squatted in a circle, and the girl sank to
the deck in their midst with one quick and easy movement, curling her
feet under her. There proceeded an absurd game, involving a slipper and
much squealing, whose intricacies she directed with unruffled ease.
Suddenly the wind puffed the hat of one of the small boys from his head,
carrying it high above their reach. In an instant the girl was up,
springing to her feet unaided by hand or knee. Reaching out, she caught
the hat as it descended slantingly over the bulwarks, and was down again
before the child's clutching hands had left his head.
A mother, none other than the prominently busted lady of Stefan's table,
blew forward with admiring cries of gratitude. Other matrons, vocative,
surrounded the circle, momentarily cutting off his view. He changed his
position to the bulwarks beside the group. There, a yard or two from the
gleaming head, he perched on the rail, feet laced into its supports, and
continued his concentrated observation.
"See yon chap," remarked the Scot from the smoking-room door to which his
talent-seeking round of the deck had again brought him. "He's fair
staring the eyes oot o'his head!"
"Exceedingly annoying to the young lady, I should imagine," returned his
table neighbor, the prim minister, who had joined the group.
"Hoots, she willna' mind the likes of him," scoffed the other, with his
And indeed she did not. Oblivious equally of Byrd and of her more distant
watchers, the English girl passed from "Hunt the Slipper" to "A Cold and
Frosty Morning," and from that to story-telling, as absorbed as her small
companions, or as her watcher-in-chief.
Gradually the sun broke out, the water danced, huddled shapes began to
rise in their chairs, disclosing unexpected spots of color--a bright tie
or a patterned blouse--animation increased on all sides, and the ring
about the storyteller became three deep.
After a time a couple of perky young stewards appeared with huge iron
trays, containing thick white cups half full of chicken broth, and piles
of biscuits. Upon this, the pouter-pigeon lady bore off her small son to
be fed, other mothers did the same, and the remaining children, at the
lure of food, sidled off of their own accord, or sped wildly, whooping
out promises to return. For the moment, the story-teller was alone.
Stefan, seeing the Scot bearing down upon her with two cups of broth in
his hand and purpose in his eye, wakened to the danger just in time.
Throwing his cigarette overboard, he sprang lightly between her and the
"Won't you be perfectly kind, and come for a walk?" he asked, stooping to
where she sat. The girl looked up into a pair of green-gold eyes set in a
brown, eager face. The face was lighted with a smile of dazzling
friendliness, and surmounted by an uncovered head of thick, brown-black
hair. Slowly her own eyes showed an answering smile.
"Thank you, I should love to," she said, and rising, swung off beside
him, just in time--as Stefan maneuvered it--to avoid seeing the Scot and
his carefully balanced offering. Discomfited, that individual consoled
himself with both cups of broth, and bided his time.
"My name is Stefan Byrd. I am a painter, going to America to sell some
pictures. I'm twenty-six. What is your name?" said Stefan, who never
wasted time in preliminaries and abhorred small talk--turning his
brilliant happy smile upon her.
"To answer by the book," she replied, smiling too, "my name is Mary
Elliston. I'm twenty-five. I do odd jobs, and am going to America to try
to find one to live on."
"What fun!" cried Stefan, with a faunlike skip of pleasure, as they
turned onto the emptier windward deck. "Then we're both seeking our
"Living, rather than fortune, in my case, I'm afraid."
"Well, of course you don't need a fortune, you carry so much gold with
you," and he glanced at her shining hair.
"Not negotiable, unluckily," she replied, taking his compliment as he had
paid it, without a trace of self-consciousness.
"Like the sunlight," he answered. "In fact,"--confidentially--"I'm afraid
you're a thief; you've imprisoned a piece of the sun, which should belong
to us all. However, I'm not going to complain to the authorities, I like
the result too much. You don't mind my saying that, do you?" he
continued, sure that she did not. "You see, I'm a painter. Color means
everything to me--that and form."
"One never minds hearing nice things, I think," she replied, with a frank
smile. They were swinging up and down the windward deck, and as he talked
he was acutely aware of her free movements beside him, and of the blow of
her skirts to leeward. Her hair, too closely pinned to fly loose, yet
seemed to spring from her forehead with the urge of pinioned wings. Life
radiated from her, he thought, with a steady, upward flame--not fitfully,
as with most people.
"And one doesn't mind questions, does one--from real people?" he
continued. "I'm going to ask you lots more, and you may ask me as many as
you like. I never talk to people unless they are worth talking to, and
then I talk hard. Will you begin, or shall I? I have at least two hundred
things to ask."
"It is my turn, though, I think." She accepted him on his own ground,
with an open and natural friendliness.
"I have only one at the moment, which is, 'Why haven't we talked
before?'" and she glanced with a quiet humorousness at the few
unpromising samples of the second cabin who obstructed the windward deck.
"Oh, good for you!" he applauded, "aren't they loathly!"
"Oh, no, all right, only not stimulating--"
"And we are," he finished for her, "so that, obviously, your question has
only one answer. We haven't talked before because I haven't seen you
before, and I haven't seen you because I have been growling in my cabin
"Oh, never growl--it's such a waste of time," she answered. "You'll see,
the second cabin isn't bad."
"It certainly isn't, _now_," rejoiced Stefan. "My turn for a
question. Have you relatives, or are you, like myself, alone in the
"Quite alone," said Mary, "except for a married sister, who hardly
counts, as she's years older than I, and fearfully preoccupied with
husband, houses, and things." She paused, then added, "She hasn't any
babies, or I might have stayed to look after them, but she has lots of
money and 'position to keep up,' and so forth."
"I see her," said Stefan. "Obviously, she takes after the _other_
parent. You are alone then. Next question--"
"Oh, isn't it my turn again?" Mary interposed, smilingly.
"It is, but I ask you to waive it. You see, questions about _me_ are
so comparatively trivial. What sort of work do you do?"
"Well, I write a little," she replied, "and I've been a governess and a
companion. But I'm really a victim of the English method of educating
girls. That's my chief profession--being a monument to its inefficiency,"
and she laughed, low and bell-like.
"Tell me about that--I've never lived in England," he questioned, with
eager interest. ("And oh, Pan and Apollo, her voice!" he thought.)
"Well," she continued, "they bring us up so nicely that we can't do
anything--except _be_ nice. I was brought up in a cathedral town,
right in the Close, and my dear old Dad, who was a doctor, attended the
Bishop, the Dean, and all the Chapter. Mother would not let us go to
boarding-school, for fear of 'influences'--so we had governesses at home,
who taught us nothing we didn't choose to learn. My sister Isobel married
'well,' as they say, while I was still in the schoolroom. Her husband
belongs to the county--"
"What's that?" interrupted Stefan.
"Don't you know what the county is? How delightful! The 'county' is the
county families--landed gentry--very ancient and swagger and all that
--much more so than the titled people often. It was very great promotion
for the daughter of one of the town to marry into the county--or would
have been except that Mother was county also." She spoke with mock
"How delightfully picturesque and medieval!" exclaimed Stefan. "The
Guelphs and Ghibellines, eh?"
"Yes," Mary replied, "only there is no feud, and it doesn't seem so
romantic when you're in it. The man my sister married I thought was
frightfully boring except for his family place, and being in the army,
which is rather decent. He talks," she smiled, "like a phonograph with
only one set of records."
"Wondrous Being--Winged Goddess--" chanted Stefan, stopping before her
and apostrophizing the sky or the boat-deck--"a goddess with a sense of
humor!" And he positively glowed upon her.
"About the first point I know nothing," she laughed, walking on again
beside him, "but for the second," and her face became a little grave,
"you have to have some humor if you are a girl in Lindum, or you go
"Tell me, tell me all about it," he urged. "I've never met an English
girl before, _nor_ a goddess, and I'm so interested!"
They rested for a time against the bulwarks. The wind was dropping, and
the spume seethed against the black side of the ship without force from
the waves to throw it up to them in spray. They looked down into deep
blue and green water glassing a sky warm now, and friendly, in which high
white cumuli sailed slowly, like full-rigged ships all but becalmed.
"It is a very commonplace story with us," Mary began. "Mother died a
little time after Isobel married, and Dad kept my governess on. I begged
to go to Girton, or any other college he liked, but he wouldn't hear of
it. Said he wanted a womanly daughter." She smiled rather ruefully. "Dad
was doing well with his practice, for a small-town doctor, and had a good
deal saved, and a little of mother's money. He wanted to have more, so he
put it all into rubber. You've heard about rubber, haven't you?" she
asked, turning to Stefan.
"Not a thing," he smiled.
"Well, every one in England was putting money into rubber last year, and
lots of people did well, but lots--didn't. Poor old Dad didn't--he lost
everything. It wouldn't have really mattered--he had his profession--but
the shock killed him, I think; that and being lonely without Mother." She
paused a moment, looking into the water. "Anyhow, he died, and there was
nothing for me to do except to begin earning my living without any of the
"What about the brother-in-law?" asked Stefan.
"Oh, yes, I could have gone to them--I wasn't in danger of starvation.
But," she shook her head emphatically, "a poor relation! I couldn't have
"Well," he turned squarely toward her, his elbow on the rail, "I can't
help asking this, you know; where were the bachelors of Lindum?"
She smiled, still in her friendly, unembarrassed way.
"I know what you mean, of course. The older men say it quite openly in
England.--'Why don't a nice gel like you get married?'--It's rather a
long story." ("Has she been in love?" Stefan wondered.) "First of all,
there are very few young men of one's own sort in Lindum; most of them
are in the Colonies. Those there are--one or two lawyers, doctors, and
squires' sons--are frightfully sought after." She made a wry face. "Too
much competition for them, altogether, and--" she seemed to take a plunge
before adding--"I've never been successful at bargain counters."
He turned that over for a moment. "I see," he said. "At least I should
do, if it weren't for it being you. Look here, Miss Elliston, honestly
now, fair and square--" he smiled confidingly at her--"you're not asking
me to believe that the competition in your ease didn't appear in the
"Mr. Byrd," she answered straightly, "in my world girls have to have more
than a good appearance." She shrugged her shoulders rather disdainfully.
"I had no money, and I had opinions."
("She's been in love--slightly," he decided.) "Opinions," he echoed,
"what kind? Mustn't one have any in Lindum?"
"Young girls mustn't--only those they are taught," she replied. "I read a
good deal, I sympathized with the Liberals. I was even--" her voice
dropped to mock horror--"a Suffragist!"
"I've heard about that," he interposed eagerly, "though the French women
don't seem to care much. You wanted to vote? Well, why ever not?"
She gave him the brightest smile he had yet received.
"Oh, how nice of you!" she cried. "You really mean that?"
"Couldn't see it any other way. I've always liked and believed in women
more than men. I learnt that in childhood," he added, frowning.
"Splendid! I'm so glad," she responded. "You see, with our men it's
usually the other way round. My ideas were a great handicap at home."
"So you decided to leave?"
"Yes; I went to London and got a job teaching some children sums and
history--two hours every morning. In the afternoons I worked at stories
for the magazines, and placed a few, but they pay an unknown writer
horribly badly. I lived with an old lady as companion for two months, but
that was being a poor relation minus the relationship--I couldn't stand
it. I joined the Suffragists in London--not the Militants--I don't quite
see their point of view--and marched in a parade. Brother-in-law heard of
it, and wrote me I could not expect anything from them unless I stopped
it." She laughed quietly.
Stefan flushed. He pronounced something--conclusively--in French. Then
--"Don't ask me to apologize, Miss Elliston."
"I won't," reassuringly. "I felt rather like that, too. I wrote that I
didn't expect anything as it was. Then I sat down and thought about the
whole question of women in England and their chances. I had a hundred
pounds and a few ornaments of Mother's. I love children, but I didn't
want to be a governess. I wanted to stand alone in some place where my
head wouldn't be pushed down every time I tried to raise it. I believed
in America people wouldn't say so often, 'Why doesn't a nice girl like
you get married?' so I came, and here I am. That's the whole story--a
very humdrum one."
"Yes, here you are, thank God!" proclaimed Stefan devoutly. "What
magnificent pluck, and how divine of you to tell me it all! You've saved
me from suicide, almost. These people immolate me."
"How delightfully he exaggerates!" she thought.
"What thousands of things we can talk about," he went on in a burst of
enthusiasm. "What a perfectly splendid time we are going to have!" He all
"I hope so," she answered, smilingly, "but there goes the gong, and I'm
"Dinner!" he cried scornfully; "suet pudding, all those horrible people
--you want to leave this--?" He swept his arm over the glittering water.
"I don't, but I want my dinner," she maintained.
This checked his spirits for a moment; then enlightenment seemed to burst
"Glorious creature!" he apostrophized her. "She must be fed, or she would
not glow with such divine health! That gong was for the first table, and
I'm not in the least hungry. Nevertheless, we will eat, here and now."
She demurred, but he would have his way, demanding it in celebration of
their meeting. He found the deck steward, tipped him, and exacted the
immediate production of two dinners. He ensconced Miss Elliston in some
one else's chair, conveniently placed, settled her with some one else's
cushions, which he chose from the whole deck for their color--a clean
blue--and covered her feet with the best rug he could find. She accepted
his booty with only slight remonstrance, being too frankly engaged by his
spirits to attempt the role of extinguisher. He settled himself beside
her, and they lunched delightedly, like children, on chops and a rice
It is not too easy to appropriate a pretty girl on board ship. There are
always young men who expect the voyage to offer a flirtation, and who
spend much ingenuity in heading each other off from the companionship of
the most attractive damsels. But the "English girl" was not in the
"pretty" class. She was a beauty, of the grave and pure type which
implies character. All the children knew her; all the women and men
watched her; but few of the latter had ventured to speak to her, even
before Stefan claimed her as his monopoly. For this he did, from the
moment of their first encounter. To him nobody on the ship existed but
her, and he assumed the right to show it.
He had trouble from only two people. One was the Scotchman, McEwan, whose
hide seemed impervious to rebuffs, and who would charge into a
conversation with the weight of a battering ram, planting himself
implacably in a chair beside Miss Elliston, and occasionally reducing
even Stefan to silence. The other was Miss Elliston herself. She was
kind, she was friendly, she was boyishly frank. But occasionally she
would withdraw into herself, and sometimes would disappear altogether
into her cabin, to be found again, after long search, telling stories to
some of the children. On such occasions Stefan roamed the decks and
saloons very like a hungry wolf, snapping with intolerable rudeness at
any one who spoke to him. This, however, few troubled to do, for he was
cordially disliked, both for his own sake and because of his success with
Miss Elliston. That success the ship could not doubt. Though she was
invariably polite to every one, she walked and talked only with him or
the children. She was, of course, above the social level of the second-
class; but this the English did not resent, because they understood it,
nor the Americans, because they were unaware of it. On the other hand,
English and Americans alike resented Byrd, whom they could neither place
nor understand. These two became the most conspicuous people in the
cabin, and their every movement was eagerly watched and discussed, though
both remained entirely oblivious to it. Stefan was absorbed in the girl,
that was clear; but how far she might be in him the cabin could not be
sure. She brightened when he appeared. She liked him, smiled at him, and
listened to him. She allowed him to monopolize her. But she never sought
him out, never snubbed McEwan for his intrusions into their tete-a-tetes,
seemed not to be "managing" the affair in any way. Used to more obvious
methods, most of the company were puzzled. They did not understand that
they were watching the romance of a woman who added perfect breeding to
her racial self-control. Mary Elliston would never wear her feelings
nakedly, nor allow them to ride her out of hand.
Not so Stefan, who was, as yet unknowingly, experiencing romantic love
for the first time. This girl was the most glorious creature he had ever
known, and the most womanly. Her sex was the very essence of her; she had
no need to wear it like a furbelow. She was utterly different from the
feminine, adroit women he had known; there was something cool and deep
about her like a pool, and withal winged, like the birds that fly over
it. She was marvelous--marvelous! he thought. What a find!
His spirit flung itself, kneeling, to drink at the pool--his imagination
reached out to touch the wings. For the first time in his life he was too
deeply enthralled to question himself or her. He gloried in her openly,
On the morning of the fifth day they had their first dispute. They were
sitting on the boat deck, aft, watching the wake of the ship as it
twisted like an uncertain white serpent. Stefan was sketching her, as he
had done already several times when he could get her apart from hovering
children--he could not endure being overlooked as he worked. "They chew
gum in my ear, and breathe down my neck," he would explain.
He had almost completed an impression of her head against the sky, with a
flying veil lifting above it, when a shadow fell across the canvas, and
the voice of McEwan blared out a pleased greeting.
"Weel, here ye are!" exclaimed that mountain of tweed, lowering himself
onto a huge iron cleat between which and the bulwarks the two were
sitting cross-legged. "I was speerin' where ye'd both be."
"Good Lord, McEwan, can't you speak English?" exclaimed Byrd, with quick
"I hae to speak the New York lingo when I get back there, ye ken,"
replied the Scot with imperturbable good humor, "so I like to use a wee
bit o' the guid Scotch while I hae the chance."
"A wee bit!" snorted Stefan, and "Good morning, Mr. McEwan, isn't it
beautiful up here?" interposed Miss Elliston, pleasantly.
"It's grand," replied the Scotchman, "and ye look bonnie i' the sun," he
"So Mr. Byrd thinks. You see he has just been painting me," she answered
smilingly, indicating, with a touch of mischief, the drawing that Stefan
had hastily slipped between them.
The Scotchman stooped, and, before Stefan could stop him, had the sketch
in his hand.
"It's a guid likeness," he pronounced, "though I dinna care mesel' for
yon new-fangled way o' slappin' on the color. I'll mak'ye a suggestion--"
But he got no further, for Stefan, incoherent with irritation, snatched
the sketch from his hands and broke out at him in a stammering torrent of
French of the Quarter, which neither of his listeners, he was aware,
could understand. Having safely consigned all the McEwans of the universe
to pig-sties and perdition, he walked off to cool himself, the sketch
under his arm, leaving both his hearers incontinently dumb.
McEwan recovered first. "The puir young mon suffers wi' his temper,
there's nae dooting," said he, addressing himself to the task of
entertaining his rather absent-minded companion.
His advantage lasted but a few moments, however. Byrd, repenting his
strategic error, returned, and in despair of other methods succeeded in
summoning a candid smile.
"Look here, McEwan," said he, with the charm of manner he knew so well
how to assume, "don't mind my irritability; I'm always like that when I'm
painting and any one interrupts--it sends me crazy. The light's just
right, and it won't be for long. I can't possibly paint with anybody
round. Won't you, like a good fellow, get out and let me finish?"
His frankness was wonderfully disarming, but in any case, the Scot was
always good nature's self.
"Aye, I ken your nairves trouble ye," he replied, lumbering to his feet,
"and I'll no disobleege ye, if the leddy will excuse me?" turning to her.
Miss Elliston, who had not looked at Stefan since his outburst, murmured
her consent, and the Scot departed.
Stefan exploded into a sigh of relief. "Thank heaven! Isn't he
maddening?" he exclaimed, reassembling his brushes. "Isn't he the most
fatuous idiot that ever escaped from his native menagerie? Did you hear
him commence to criticize my work? The oaf! I'm afraid--" glancing at her
face--"that I swore at him, but he deserved it for butting in like that,
and he couldn't understand what I said." His tone was slightly, very
"I don't think that's the point, is it?" asked the girl, in a very cool
voice. She was experiencing her first shock of disappointment in him, and
felt unhappy; but she only appeared critical.
"What do you mean?" he asked, dashed.
"Whether he understood or not." She was still looking away from him. "It
was so unkind and unnecessary to break out at the poor man like that
--and," her voice dropped, "so horribly rude."
"Well," Stefan answered uncomfortably, "I can't be polite to people like
that. I don't even try."
"No, I know you don't. That's what I don't like," Mary replied, even more
coldly. She meant that it hurt her, obscured the ideal she was
constructing of him, but she could not have expressed that.
He painted for a few minutes in a silence that grew more and more
constrained. Then he threw down his brush. "Well, I can't paint," he
exclaimed in an aggrieved tone, "I'm absolutely out of tune. You'll have
to realize I'm made like that. I can't change, can't hide my real self."
As she still did not speak, he added, with an edge to his voice, "I may
as well go away; there's nothing I can do here." He stood up.
"Perhaps you had better," she replied, very quietly. Her throat was
aching with hurt, so that she could hardly speak, but to him she appeared
"Good-bye," he exclaimed shortly, and strode off.
For some time she remained where he had left her, motionless. She felt
very tired, without knowing why. Presently she went to her cabin and lay
Mary did not see Stefan again until after the midday meal, though by the
time she appeared on deck he had been waiting and searching for her for
an hour. When he found her it was in an alcove of the lounge, screened
from the observation of the greater part of the room. She was reading,
but as he came toward her she looked up and closed her book. Before he
spoke both knew that their relation to each other had subtly changed.
They were self-conscious; the hearts of both beat. In a word, their
quarrel had taught them their need of each other.
He took her hand and spoke rather breathlessly.
"I've been looking for you for hours. Thank God you're here. I was
abominable to you this morning. Can you possibly forgive me? I'm so
horribly lonely without you." He was extraordinarily handsome as he stood
before her, looking distressed, but with his eyes shining.
"Of course I can," she murmured, while a weight seemed to roll off her
heart--and she blushed, a wonderful pink, up to the eyes.
He sat beside her, still holding her hand. "I must say it. You are the
most beautiful thing in the world. The--most--beautiful!" They looked at
"Oh!" he exclaimed with a long breath, jumping up again and half pulling
her after him in a revulsion of relief, "come on deck and let's walk--and
talk--or," he laughed excitedly, "I don't know what I shall do next!"
She obeyed, and they almost sped round the deck, he looking spiritually
intoxicated, and she, calm by contrast, but with an inward glow as though
behind her face a rose was on fire. The deck watched them and nodded its
head. There was no doubt about it now, every one agreed. Bets began to
circulate on the engagement. A fat salesman offered two to one it was
declared before they picked up the Nantucket light. The pursy little
passenger snapped an acceptance. "I'll take you. Here's a dollar says the
lady is too particular." The high-bosomed matron confided her fears for
the happiness of the girl, "who has been real kind to Johnnie," to the
spinster who had admired Stefan the first day out. Gossip was universal,
but through it all the two moved radiant and oblivious.
McEwan had succeeded in his fell design of getting up a concert, and the
event was to take place that night. Miss Elliston, who had promised to
sing, went below a little earlier than usual to dress for dinner. Byrd
had tried to dissuade her from taking part, but she was firm.
"It's a frightful bother," she said, "but I can't get out of it. I
promised Mr. McEwan, you know."
"I won't say any further what I think of McEwan," replied Stefan,
laughing. "Instead, I'll heap coals of fire on him by not trying any
longer to persuade you to turn him down."
As she left, Stefan waved her a gay "Grand succes!" but he was already
prey to an agony of nervousness. Suppose she didn't make a success, or
--worse still--suppose she _did_ make a success--by singing bad
music! Suppose she lacked art in what she did! _She_ was perfection;
he was terrified lest her singing should not be. His fastidious brain
tortured him, for it told him he would love her less completely if
Like most artists, Stefan adored music, and, more than most, understood
it. Suppose--just suppose--she were to sing Tosti's "Good-bye!" He
shuddered. Yet, if she did not sing something of that sort, it would fall
flat, and she would be disappointed. So he tortured himself all through
dinner, at which he did not see her, for he had been unable to get his
place changed to the first sitting with hers. He longed to keep away from
the concert, yet knew that he could not. At last, leaving his dessert
untouched, he sought refuge in his cabin.
The interval that must be dragged through while the stewards cleared the
saloon Stefan occupied in routing from Adolph's huge old Gladstone his
one evening suit. He had not at first dreamed of dressing, but many of
the other men had done so, and he determined that for her sake he must
play the game at least to that extent. Byrd added the scorn of the artist
to the constitutional dislike of the average American for conventional
evening dress. His, however, was as little conventional as possible, and
while he nervously adjusted it he could not help recognizing that it was
exceedingly becoming. He tore a tie and destroyed two collars, however,
before the result satisfied him, and his nerves were at leaping pitch
when staccato chords upon the piano announced that the concert had begun.
He found a seat in the farthest corner of the saloon, and waited,
penciling feverish circles upon the green-topped table to keep his hands
Mary Elliston's name was fourth on the program, and came immediately
after McEwan's, who was down for a "recitation." Stefan managed to sit
through the piano-solo and a song by a seedy little English baritone
about "the rolling deep." But when the Scot began to blare out, with
tremendous vehemence, what purported to be a poem by Sir Walter Scott,
Stefan, his forehead and hands damp with horror, could endure no more,
and fled, pushing his way through the crowd at the door. He climbed to
the deck and waited there, listening apprehensively. When the scattered
applause warned him that the time for Mary's song had come, he found
himself utterly unable to face the saloon again. Fortunately the main
companionway gave on a well opening directly over the saloon; and it was
from the railing of this well that Stefan saw Mary, just as the piano
sounded the opening bars.
She stood full under the brilliant lights in a gown of white chiffon, low
in the neck, which drooped and swayed about her in flowing lines of
grace. Her hair gleamed; her arms showed slim, white, but strong. And
"Oh, my golden girl!" his heart cried to her, leaping. Her lips parted,
and quite easily, in full, clear tones that struck the very center of the
notes, she began to sing. "Good girl, _good girl!"_ he thought. For
what she sang was neither sophisticated nor obvious--was indeed the only
thing that could at once have satisfied him and pleased her audience.
"Under the greenwood tree--" the notes came gay and sweet. Then, "Fear no
more the heat o' the sun--" and the tones darkened. Again, "Oh, mistress
mine--" they pulsed with happy love. Three times Mary sang--the immortal
ballads of Shakespeare--simply, but with sure art and feeling. As the
last notes ceased, "Love's a stuff will not endure," and the applause
broke out, absolute peace flooded Stefan's heart.
In a dream he waited for her at the saloon door, held her coat, and
mounted beside her to the boat deck. Not until they stood side by side at
the rail, and she turned questioningly toward him, did he speak.
"You were perfect, without flaw. I can't tell you--" he broke off,
"I'm so glad--glad that you were pleased," she whispered.
They leant side by side over the bulwarks. They were quite alone, and the
moon was rising. There are always liberating moments at sea when the
spirit seems to grow--to expand to the limits of sky and water, to
become one with them. Such a moment was theirs, the perfect hour of
moonrise on a calm and empty sea. The horizon was undefined. They seemed
suspended in limitless ether, which the riding moon pierced with a swale
of living brightness, like quicksilver. They heard nothing save the
hidden throb and creak of the ship, mysterious yet familiar, as the night
itself. It was the perfect time. Stefan turned to her. Her face and hair
shone silver, glorified. They looked at each other, their eyes strange in
the moonlight. They seemed to melt together. His arms were round her, and
A little later he began to talk, and it was of his young mother, dead
years ago in Michigan, that he spoke. "You are the only woman who has
ever reminded me of her, Mary. The only one whose beauty has been so
divinely kind. All my life has been lonely between losing her and finding
This thrilled her with an ache of mother-pity. She saw him misunderstood,
unhappy, and instantly her heart wrapped him about with protection. In
that moment his faults were all condoned--she saw them only as the fruits
of his loneliness.
Later, "Mary," he said, "yours is the most beautiful of all names. Poets
and painters have glorified it in every age, but none as I shall do"; and
he kissed her adoringly.
Again, he held his cheek to hers. "Beloved," he whispered, "when we are
married" (even as he spoke he marveled at himself that the word should
come so naturally) "I want to paint you as you really are--a goddess of
beauty and love."
She thrilled in response to him, half fearful, yet exalted. She was his,
As they clung together he saw her winged, a white flame of love, a
goddess elusive even in yielding. He aspired, and saw her, Cytheria-like,
shining above yet toward him. But her vision, leaning on his heart, was
of those two still and close together, nestling beneath Love's protecting
wings, while between their hands she felt the fingers of a little child.
That night Mary and Stefan spoke only of love, but the morning brought
plans. Before breakfast they were together, pacing the sun-swept deck.
Mary took it for granted that their engagement would continue till
Stefan's pictures were sold, till they had found work, till their future
was in some way arranged. Stefan, who was enormously under her influence,
and a trifle, in spite of his rapture, in awe of her sweet
reasonableness, listened at first without demur. After breakfast,
however, which they ate together, he occupying the place of a late comer
at her table after negotiation with the steward, his impatient
temperament asserted itself in a burst.
"Dearest one," he cried, when they were comfortably settled in their
favorite corner of the boat deck, "listen! I'm sure we're all wrong. I
know we are. Why should you and I--" and he took her hand--"wait and plan
and sour ourselves as little people do? We've both got to live, haven't
we? And we are going to live; you don't expect we shall starve, do you?"
She shook her head, smiling.
"Well, then," triumphantly, "why shouldn't we live together? Why, it
would be absurd not to, even from the base and practical point of view.
Think of the saving! One rent instead of two--one everything instead of
two!" His arm gave her a quick pressure.
"Yes, but--" she demurred.
He turned on her suddenly. "You don't want to wait for trimmings
--clothes, orange blossoms, all that stuff--do you?" he expostulated.
"No, of course not, foolish one," she laughed.
"Well, then, where's the difficulty?" exultingly.
She could not answer--could hardly formulate the answer to herself. Deep
in her being she seemed to feel an urge toward waiting, toward
preparation, toward the collection of she knew not what small household
gods. It was as if she wished to make fair a place to receive her
sacrament of love. But this she could not express, could not speak to him
of the vision of the tiny hand.
"You're brave, Mary. Your courage was one of the things I most loved in
you. Let's be brave together!" His smile was irresistibly happy.
She could not bear that he should doubt her courage, and she wanted
passionately not to take that smile from his face. She began to weaken.
"Mary," he cried, fired by the instinct to make the courage of their
mating artistically perfect. "I've told you about my pictures. I know
they are good--I know I can sell them in New York. But let's not wait for
that. Let's bind ourselves together before we put our fortunes to the
touch! Then we shall be one, whatever happens. We shall have that." He
kissed her, seeing her half won.
"You've got five hundred dollars, I've only got fifty, but the pictures
are worth thousands," he went on rapidly. "We can have a wonderful week
in the country somewhere, and have plenty left to live on while I'm
negotiating the sale. Even at the worst," he exulted, "I'm strong. I can
work at anything--with you! I don't mind asking you to spend your money,
sweetheart, because I _know_ my things are worth it five times
She was rather breathless by this time. He pressed his advantage, holding
"Beloved, I've found you. Suppose I lost you! Suppose, when you were
somewhere in the city without me, you got run over or something." Even as
she was, strained to him, she saw the horror that the thought conjured in
his eyes, and touched his cheek with her hand, protectingly.
"No," he pleaded, "don't let us run any risks with our wonderful
happiness, don't let us ever leave each other!" He looked imploringly at
She saw that for Stefan what he urged was right. Her love drew her to
him, and upon its altar she laid her own retarding instinct in happy
sacrifice. She drew his head to hers, and holding his face in the cup of
her hands, kissed him with an almost solemn tenderness. This was her
surrender. She took upon herself the burden of his happiness, even as she
yielded to her own. It was a sacrament. He saw it only as a response.
Later in the day Stefan sought out the New England spinster, Miss Mason,
who sat opposite to him at table. He had entirely ignored her hitherto,
but he remembered hearing her talk familiarly about New York, and his
male instinct told him that in her he would find a ready confidante. Such
she proved, and a most flattered and delighted one. Moreover she
proffered all the information and assistance he desired. She had moved
from Boston five years ago, she said, and shared a flat with a widowed
sister uptown. If they docked that night Miss Elliston could spend it
with them. The best and cheapest places to go to near the city, she
assured him, were on Long Island. She mentioned one where she had spent a
month, a tiny village of summer bungalows on the Sound, with one small
but comfortable inn. Questioned further, she was sure this inn would be
nearly empty, but not closed, now in mid-September. She was evidently
practical, and pathetically eager to help.
Unwilling to stay his plans, however, on such a feeble prop, Byrd hunted
up the minister, whom he took to be a trifle less plebeian than most of
the men, and obtained from him an endorsement of Miss Mason's views. The
man of God, though stiff, was too conscientious to be unforgiving, and on
receiving Stefan's explanation congratulated him sincerely, if with
restraint. He did not know Shadeham personally, he explained, but he knew
similar places, and doubted if Byrd could do better.
Mary, all enthusiasm now that her mind was made up, was enchanted at the
prospect of a tiny seaside village for their honeymoon. In gratitude she
made herself charming to Miss Mason until Stefan, impatient every moment
that he was not with her, bore her away.
They docked at eight o'clock that night. Stefan saw Mary and Miss Mason
to the door of their flat, and would have lingered with them, but they
were both tired with the long process of customs inspection. Moreover,
Mary said that she wanted to sleep well so as to look "very nice" for him
"Imperturbable divinity!" admired Stefan, in mock amazement. "I shall not
sleep at all. I am far too happy; but to you, what is a mere marriage?"
The jest hurt her a little, and seeing it, he was quick with loverlike
recompense. They parted on a note of deep tenderness. He lay sleepless,
as he had prophesied, at the nearest cheap hotel, companioned by visions
at once eagerly masculine and poetically exalted. Mary slept fitfully,
The next morning they were married. Stefan's first idea had been the City
Hall, as offering the most expeditious method, but Mary had been firm for
a church. A sight of the municipal authorities from whom they obtained
their license made of Stefan an enthusiastic convert to her view. "All
the ugliness and none of the dignity of democracy," he snorted as they
left the building. They found a not unlovely church, half stifled between
tall buildings, and were married by a curate whose reading of the service
was sufficiently reverent. For a wedding ring Mary had that of Stefan's
mother, drawn from his little finger.
By late afternoon they were in Shadeham, ensconced in a small wooden
hotel facing a silent beach and low cliffs shaded with scrub-oak. The
house was clean, and empty of other guests, and they were given a
pleasant room overlooking the water. From its windows they watched the
moon rise over the sea as they had watched her two nights before on deck.
She was the silver witness to their nuptials.
Mary found Stefan an ideal lover. Their marriage, entered into with such,
headlong adventurousness, seemed to unfold daily into more perfect bloom.
The difficulties of his temperament, which had been thrown into sharp
relief by the crowded life of shipboard, smoothed themselves away at the
touch of happiness and peace. No woman, Mary realized, could wish for a
fuller cup of joy than Stefan offered her in these first days of their
mating. She was amazed at herself, at the suddenness with which love had
transmuted her, at the ease with which she adjusted herself to this new
world. She found it difficult to remember what kind of life she had led
before her marriage--hardly could she believe that she had ever lived at
As for Stefan, he wasted no moments in backward glances. He neither
remembered the past nor questioned the future, but immersed himself
utterly in his present joy with an abandonment he had never experienced
save in painting. Questioned, he would have scoffed at the idea that life
for him could ever hold more than his work, and Mary.
Thus absorbed, Stefan would have allowed the days to slip into weeks
uncounted. But on the ninth day Mary, incapable of a wholly carefree
attitude, reminded him that they had planned only a week of holiday.
"Let's stay a month," he replied promptly.
But Mary had been questioning her landlord about New York.
"It appears," she explained, "that every one moves on the first of
October, and that if one hasn't found a studio by then, it is almost
impossible to get one. He says he has heard all the artists live round
about Washington Square, but that even there rents are fearfully high.
It's at the foot of Fifth Avenue, he says, which sounds very fashionable
to me, but he explains it is too far 'down town.'"
"Yes, Fifth Avenue is the great street, I understand," said Stefan, "and
my dealer's address is on Fourth, so he's in a very good neighborhood. I
don't know that I should like Washington Square--it sounds so patriotic."
"Fanatic!" laughed Mary. "Well, whether we go there or not, it's evident
we must get back before October the first, and it's now September the
"Angel, don't let's be mathematical," he replied, pinching the lobe of
her ear, which he had proclaimed to be entrancingly pretty. "I can't add;
tell me the day we have to leave, and on that day we will go."
"Three days from now, then," and she sighed.
"Oh, no! Not only three more days of heaven, Mary?"
"It will hurt dreadfully to leave," she agreed, "but," and she nestled to
him, "it won't be any less heaven there, will it, dearest?"
This spurred him to reassurance. "Of course not," he responded, quickly
summoning new possibilities of delight. "Imagine it, you haven't even
seen my pictures yet." They had left them, rolled, at Miss Mason's. "And
I want to paint you--really paint you--not just silly little sketches and
heads, but a big thing that I can only do in a studio. Oh, darling, think
of a studio with you to sit to me! How I shall work!" His imagination was
fired; instantly he was ready to pack and leave.
But they had their three days more, in the golden light of the Indian
summer. Three more swims, in which Stefan could barely join for joy of
watching her long lines cutting the water in her close English bathing
dress. Three more evening walks along the shimmering sands. Three more
nights in their moon-haunted room within sound of the slow splash of the
waves. And, poignant with the sadness of a nearing change, these days
were to Mary the most exquisite of all.
Their journey to the city, on the little, gritty, perpetually stopping
train was made jocund by the lively anticipations of Stefan, who was in a
mood of high confidence.
They had decided from the first to try their fortunes in New York that
winter; not to return to Paris till they had established a sure market
for Stefan's work. He had halcyon plans. Masterpieces were to be painted
under the inspiration of Mary's presence. His success in the Beaux Arts
would be an Open Sesame to the dealers, and they would at once become
prosperous,--for he had the exaggerated continental idea of American
prices. In the spring they would return to Paris, so that Mary should see
it first at its most beautiful. There they would have a studio, making it
their center, but they would also travel.
"Spain, Italy, Greece, Mary--we will see all the world's masterpieces
together," he jubilated. "You shall be my wander-bride." And he sang her
little snatches of gay song, in French and Italian, thrumming an
imaginary guitar or making castanets of his fingers.
"I will paint you on the Acropolis, Mary, a new Pallas to guard the
Parthenon." His imagination leapt from vista to vista of the future, each
opening to new delights. Mary's followed, lured, dazzled, a little
hesitant. Her own visions, unformulated though they were, seemed of
somewhat different stuff, but she saw he could not conceive them other
than his, and yielded her doubts happily.
At the Pennsylvania Station they took a taxicab, telling the driver they
wanted a hotel near Washington Square. The amount registered on the meter
gave Mary an apprehensive chill, but Stefan paid it carelessly. A moment
later he was in raptures, for, quite unexpectedly, they found themselves
in a French hotel.
"What wonderful luck--what a good omen!" he cried. "Mary, it's almost
like Paris!" and he broke into rapid gesticulating talk with the desk
clerk. Soon they were installed in a bright little room with French
prints on the walls, a gay old-fashioned wall paper and patterned
curtains. Stefan assured her it was extraordinarily cheap for New York.
While she freshened her face and hair he dashed downstairs, ignoring the
elevator--which seemed to exist there only as an American afterthought
--in search of a packet of French cigarettes. Finding them, he was
completely in his element, and leant over the desk puffing luxuriously,
to engage the clerk in further talk. From him he obtained advice as to
the possibilities of the neighborhood in respect of studios, and armed
with this, bounded up the stairs again to Mary. Presently, fortified by a
pot of tea and delicious French rolls, they sallied out on their quest.
That afternoon they discovered two vacant studios. One was on a top floor
on Washington Square South, a big room with bathroom and kitchenette
attached and a small bedroom opening into it. The other was an attic just
off the Square. It had water, but no bathroom, was heated only by an open
fire, and consisted of one large room with sufficient light, and a large
closet in which was a single pane of glass high up. The studio contained
an abandoned model throne, the closet a gas ring and a sink. The rent of
the first apartment was sixty dollars a month; of the second, twenty-
five. Both were approached by a dark staircase, but in one case there was
a carpet, in the other the stairs were bare, dirty, and creaking, while
from depths below was wafted an unmistakable odor of onions and cats.
Mary, whose father's rambling sunny house in Lindum with its Elizabethan
paneling and carvings had been considered dear at ninety pounds a year,
was staggered at the price of these mean garrets, the better of which she
felt to be quite beyond their reach. Even Stefan was a little dashed, but
was confident that after his interview with Adolph's brother sixty
dollars would appear less formidable.
"You should have seen my attic in Paris, Mary--absolutely falling to
pieces--but then I didn't mind, not having a goddess to house," and he
pressed her arm. "For you there should be something spacious and bright
enough to be a fitting background." He glanced up a little ruefully at
the squalid house they had just left.
But she was quick to reassure him, her courage mounting to sustain his.
"We could manage perfectly well in the smaller place for a time, dearest,
and how lucky we don't have to take a lease, as we should in England."
Her mind jumped to perceive any practical advantage. Already, mentally,
she was arranging furniture in the cheaper place, planning for a screen,
a tin tub, painting the dingy woodwork. They asked for the refusal of
both studios till the next day, and for that evening left matters
In the morning, Stefan, retrieving his canvases from Miss Mason's flat,
sought out the dealer, Jensen. Walking from Fifth Avenue, he was
surprised at the cheap appearance of the houses on Fourth, only one block
away. He had expected to find Adolph's brother in such a great stone
building as those he had just passed, with their show windows empty save
for one piece of tapestry or sculpture, or a fine painting brilliant
against its background of dull velvet. Instead, the number on Fourth
Avenue proved a tumbledown house of two stories, with tattered awnings
flapping above its shop-window, which was almost too grimy to disclose
the wares within. These were a jumble of bric-a-brac, old furniture of
doubtful value, stained prints, and one or two blackened oil paintings in
tarnished frames. With ominous misgivings, Stefan entered the half-opened
door. The place was a confused medley of the flotsam and jetsam of
dwelling houses, and appeared to him much more like a pawnbroker's than
the business place of an art dealer. From its dusty shadows a stooped
figure emerged, gray-haired and spectacled, which waited for Stefan to
speak with an air of patient humbleness.
"This isn't Mr. Jensen's, is it?" Stefan asked, feeling he had mistaken
"My name is Jensen. What can I do for you?" replied the man in a toneless
"You are Adolph's brother?" incredulously.
At the name the gray face flushed pathetically. Jensen came forward,
pressing his hands together, and peered into Stefan's face.
"Yes, I am," he answered, "and you are Mr. Byrd that he wrote to me
about. I'd hoped you weren't coming, after all. Well," and he waved his
hand, "you see how it is."
Stefan was completely dismayed. "Why," he stammered, "I thought you were
"I'm sorry." Jensen dropped his eyes, picking nervously at his coat. "You
see, I am the eldest brother; a man does not like to admit failure. I may
be sold up any time now. I wanted Adolph not to guess, so I--wrote--him
--differently." He flushed painfully again. Stefan was silent, too taken
aback for speech.
"I tell you, Mr. Byrd," Jensen stammered on, striking his hands together
impotently, "for all its wealth, this is a city of dead hopes. It's been
a long fight, but it's over now.... Yes, you are Adolph's friend, and I
can't so much as buy a sketch from you. It's quite, quite over." And
suddenly he sank his head in his hands, while Stefan stood, infinitely
embarrassed, clutching his roll of canvases. After a moment Jensen,
mastering himself, lifted his head. His lined, prematurely old face
showed an expression at once pleading and dignified.
"I didn't dream what I wrote would do any harm, Mr. Byrd, but now of
course you will have to explain to Adolph--?"
Stefan, moved to sympathy, held out his hand.
"Look here, Jensen, you've put me in an awful hole, worse than you know.
But why should I say anything? Let Adolph think we're both millionaires,"
and he grinned ruefully.
Jensen straightened and took the proffered hand in one that trembled.
"Thank you," he said, and his eyes glistened. "I'm grateful. If there
were only something I could do--"
"Well, give me the names of some dealers," said Stefan, to whom scenes
were exquisitely embarrassing, anxious to be gone.
Jensen wrote several names on a smudged half sheet of paper. "These are
the best. Try them. My introduction wouldn't help, I'm afraid," bitterly.
On that Stefan left him, hurrying with relief from the musty atmosphere
of failure into the busy street. Though half dazed by the sudden
subsidence of his plans, unable to face as yet the possible consequences,
he had his pictures, and the names of the real dealers; confidence still
Three hours later Mary, anxiously waiting, heard Stefan's step approach
their bedroom door. Instantly her heart dropped like lead. She did not
need his voice to tell her what those dragging feet announced. She sprang
to the door and had her arms round his neck before he could speak. She
took the heavy roll of canvases from him and half pushed him into the
room's one comfortable arm-chair. Kneeling beside him, she pressed her
cheek to his, stroking back his heat-damped hair. "Darling," she said,
"you are tired to death. Don't tell me about your day till you've rested
He closed his eyes, leaning back. He looked exhausted; every line of his
face drooped. In spite of his tan, it was pale, with hollows under the
eyes. It was extraordinary that a few hours should make such a change,
she thought, and held him close, comfortingly.
He did not speak for a long time, but at last, "Mary," he said, in a flat
voice, "I've had a complete failure. Nobody wants my things. This is what
I've let you in for." His tone had the indifferent quality of extreme
fatigue, but Mary was not deceived. She knew that his whole being craved
reassurance, rehabilitation in its own eyes.
"Why, you old foolish darling, you're too tired to know what you're
talking about," she cried, kissing him. "Wait till you've had something
to eat." She rang the bell--four times for the waiter, as the card over
it instructed her. "Failure indeed!" she went on, clearing a small table,
"there's no such word! One doesn't grow rich in a day, you know." She
moved silently and quickly about, hung up his hat, stood the canvases in
a corner, ordered coffee, rolls and eggs, and finally unlaced Stefan's
shoes in spite of his rather horrified if feeble protest.
Not until she had watched him drink two cups of coffee and devour the
food--she guessed he had had no lunch--did she allow him to talk, first
lighting his cigarette and finding a place for herself on the arm of his
chair. By this time Stefan's extreme lassitude, and with it his despair,
had vanished. He brightened perceptibly. "You wonder," he exclaimed,
catching her hand and kissing it, "now I can tell you about it." With his
arm about her he described all his experiences, the fiasco of the Jensen
affair and his subsequent interviews with Fifth Avenue dealers. "They are
all Jews, Mary. Some are decent enough fellows, I suppose, though I hate
the Israelites!" ("Silly boy!" she interposed.) "Others are horrors. None
of them want the work of an American. Old masters, or well known
foreigners, they say. I explained my success at the Beaux Arts. Two of
them had seen my name in the Paris papers, but said it would mean nothing
to their clients. Hopeless Philistines, all of them! I do believe I
should have had a better chance if I'd called myself Austrian, instead of
American, and I only revived my American citizenship because I thought it
would be an asset!" He laughed, ironically. "They advised me to have a
one-man show, late in the winter, so as to get publicity."
"So we will then," interposed Mary confidently.
"Good Lord, child," he exclaimed, half irritably, "you don't suppose I
could have a gallery for nothing, do you? God knows what it would cost.
Besides, I haven't enough pictures--and think of the frames!" He sat up,
She saw his nerves were on edge, and quickly offered a diversion.
"Stefan," she cried, jumping to her feet and throwing her arms back with
a gesture the grace of which did not escape him even in his impatient
mood, "I haven't even seen the pictures yet, you know, and can't wait any
longer. Let me look at them now, and then I'll tell you just how idiotic
those dealers were!" and she gave her bell-like laugh. "I'll undo them."
Her fingers were busy at the knots.
"I hate the sight of that roll," said Stefan, frowning. "Still--" and he
jumped up, "I do immensely want you to see them. I know _you'll_
understand them." Suddenly he was all eagerness again. He took the
canvases from her, undid them and, casting aside the smaller ones, spread
the two largest against the wall, propping their corners adroitly with
chairs, an umbrella, and a walking stick. "Don't look yet," he called
meanwhile. "Close your eyes." He moved with agile speed, instinctively
finding the best light and thrusting back the furniture to secure a
clearer view. "There!" he cried. "Wait a minute--stand here. _Now_
Mary opened her eyes. "Why, Stefan, they're wonderful!" she exclaimed.
But even as she spoke, and amidst her sincere admiration, her heart, very
slightly, sank. She knew enough of painting to see that here was genius.
The two fantasies, one representing the spirits of a wind-storm, the
other a mermaid fleeing a merman's grasp, were brilliant in color, line
and conception. They were things of beauty, but it was a beauty strange,
menacing, subhuman. The figures that tore through the clouds urged on the
storm with a wicked and abandoned glee. The face of the merman almost
frightened her; it was repellent in its likeness at once to a fish and a
man. The mermaid's face was less inhuman, but it was stricken with a
horrid terror. She was swimming straight out of the picture as if to
fling herself, shrieking, into the safety of the spectator's arms. The
pictures were imaginative, powerful, arresting, but they were not
pleasing. Few people, she felt, would care to live with them. After a
long scrutiny she turned to her husband, at once glorying in the strength
of his talent and troubled by its quality.
"You are a genius, Stefan," she said.
"You really like them?" he asked eagerly.
"I think they are wonderful!" He was satisfied, for it was her heart, not
her voice, that held a reservation.
Stefan showed her the smaller canvases, some unfinished. Most were of
nymphs and winged elves, but there were three landscapes. One of these, a
stream reflecting a high spring sky between banks of young meadow grass,
showed a little faun skipping merrily in the distance. The atmosphere was
indescribably light-hearted. Mary smiled as she looked at it. The other
two were empty of figures; they were delicately graceful and alluring,
but there was something lacking in them---what, she could not tell. She
liked best a sketch of a baby boy, lost amid trees, behind which wood-
nymphs and fauns peeped at him, roguish and inquisitive. The boy was
seated on the ground, fat and solemn, with round, tear-wet eyes. He was
so lonely that Mary wanted to hug him; instead, she kissed Stefan.
"What a duck of a baby, dearest!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, he was a nice kid--belonged to my concierge," he answered
carelessly. "The picture is sentimental, though. This is better," and he
pointed to another mermaid study.
"Yes, it's splendid," she answered, instinctively suppressing a sigh. She
began to realize a little what a strange being she had married. With an
impulsive need of protection she held him close, hiding her face in his
neck. The reality of his arms reassured her.
That day they decided, at Mary's urging, to take the smaller studio at
once, abandoning the extravagance of hotel life. In practical manners she
was already assuming a leadership which he was glad to follow. She
suggested that in the morning he should take his smaller canvases, and
try some of the less important dealers, while she made an expedition in
search of necessary furniture. To this he eagerly agreed.
"It seems horrible to let you do it alone, but it would be sacrilegious
to discuss the price of saucepans with a goddess," he explained. "Are you
sure you can face the tedium?"
"Why, I shall love it!" she cried, astonished at such an expression.
He regarded her whimsically. "Genius of efficiency, then I shall leave it
to you. Such things appal me. In Paris, my garret was furnished only with
pictures. I inherited the bed from the last occupant, and I think Adolph
insisted on finding a pillow and a frying-pan. He used to come up and
cook for us both sometimes, when he thought I had been eating too often
at restaurants. He approved of economy, did Adolph." Stefan was lounging
on the bed, with his perpetual cigarette.
"He must be a dear," said Mary. She had begun to make a shopping list.
"Tell me, absurd creature, what you really need in the studio. There is a
model throne, you will remember."
"Oh, I'll get my own easel and stool," he replied quickly. "There's
nothing else, except of course a table for my paints. A good solid one,"
he added with emphasis. "I'll tell you what," and he sat up. "I go out
early to-morrow on my dealer hunt. I force myself to stay out until late
afternoon. When I return, behold! The goddess has waved her hand, and
invisible minions--" he circled the air with his cigarette--"have
transported her temple across the square. There she sits enthroned,
waiting for her acolyte. How will that do?" He turned his radiant smile
"Splendid," she answered, amused. "I only hope the goddess won't get
chipped in the passage."
She thought of the dusty studio, of brooms and scrubbing brushes, but she
was already wise enough in wife-lore not to mention them. Mary came of a
race whose women had always served their men. It did not seem strange to
her, as it might have to an American, that the whole labor of their
installation should devolve on her.
With her back turned to him, she counted over their resources,
calculating what would be available when their hotel bill was paid.
Except for a dollar or two, Stefan had turned his small hoard over to
her. "It's all yours anyway, dearest," he had said, "and I don't want to
spend a cent till I have made something." They had spent very little so
far; she was relieved to realize that the five hundred dollars remained
almost intact. While Stefan continued to smoke luxuriously on the bed,
she jotted down figures, apportioning one hundred and fifty dollars for
six months' rent, and trying to calculate a weekly basis for their living
expenses. She knew that they were both equally ignorant of prices in New
York, and determined to call in the assistance of Miss Mason.
"Stefan," she said, taking up the telephone, "I'm going to summon a
minion." She explained to Miss Mason over the wire. "We are starting
housekeeping to-morrow, and I know absolutely nothing about where to
shop, or what things ought to cost. Would it be making too great demands
on your kindness if I asked you to meet me here to-morrow morning and
join me in a shopping expedition?"
The request, delivered in her civil English voice, enchanted Miss Mason,
who had to obtain all her romance vicariously. "I should just love to!"
she exclaimed, and it was arranged.
Mary then telephoned that they would take the studio--a technicality
which she knew Stefan had entirely forgotten--and notified the hotel
office that their room would be given up next morning.
"O thou above rubies and precious pearls!" chanted Stefan from the bed.
After dinner they sat in Washington Square. Their marriage moon was
waning, but still shone high and bright. Under her the trees appeared
etherealized, and her light mingled in magic contest with the white beams
of the arc lamps near the arch. Above each of these, a myriad tiny moths
fluttered their desirous wings. Under the trees Italian couples wandered,
the men with dark amorous glances, the girls laughing, their necks gay
with colored shawls. Brightly ribboned children, black-haired, played
about the benches where their mothers gossiped. There was enchantment in
the tired but cooling air.
Stefan was enthusiastic. "Look at the types, Mary! The whole place is
utterly foreign, full of ardor and color. I have cursed America without
cause--here I can feel at home." To her it was all alien, but her heart
responded to his happiness.
On the bench next them sat a group of Italian women. From this a tiny boy
detached himself, plump and serious, and, urged by curiosity, gradually
approached Mary, his velvet eyes fixed on her face. She lifted him,
resistless, to her knee, and he sat there contentedly, sucking a colored
stick of candy.
"Look, Stefan!" she cried; "isn't he a lamb?"
Stefan cast a critical glance at the baby. "He's paintable, but horribly
sticky," he said. "Let's move on before he begins to yell. I want to see
the effect from the roadway of these shifting groups under the trees. It
might be worth doing, don't you think?" and he stood up.
His manner slightly rebuffed Mary, who would gladly have nursed the
little boy longer. However, she gently lowered him and, rising, moved off
in silence with Stefan, who was ignorant of any offense. The rest of
their outing passed sweetly enough, as they wandered, arm in arm, about
The next morning Stefan started immediately after his premier dejeuner of
rolls and coffee in quest of the less important dealers, taking with him
only his smaller canvases. "I'll stay away till five o'clock, not a
minute longer," he admonished. Mary, still seated in the dining-room over
her English bacon and eggs--she had smilingly declined to adopt his
French method of breakfasting--glowed acquiescence, and offered him a
"Be sure to show them the baby in the wood."
"Why that one?" he questioned. "You admit it isn't the best."
"Perhaps, but neither are they the best connoisseurs. You'll see." She
nodded wisely at him.
"The oracle has spoken--I will obey," he called from the door, kissing
his fingers to her. She ventured an answering gesture, knowing the room
empty save for waiters. She was almost as unselfconscious as he, but had
her nation's shrinking from any public expression of emotion.
Hardly had he gone when the faithful Miss Mason arrived, her mild eyes
almost youthful with enthusiasm. Prom a black satin reticule of
dimensions beyond all proportion to her meager self she drew a list of
names on which she discoursed volubly while Mary finished her breakfast.