Part 2 out of 6
"You'll get most everything at this first place," she said. "It's pretty
near the biggest department store in the city, and only two blocks from
here--ain't that convenient? You can deal there right along for
everything in the way of dry goods."
Mary had no conception of what either a department store or dry goods
might be, but determined not to confound her mentor by a display of such
"Seemed to me, though, you might get some things second hand, so I got a
list of likely places from my sister, who's lived in New York longer'n I
have. I thought mebbe--" her tone was tactful--"you didn't want to waste
your money any?"
Mary was impressed again, as she had been before her wedding, by the
natural good manners of this simple and half educated woman. "Why is it,"
she wondered to herself, "that one would not dream of knowing people of
her class at home, but rather likes them here?" She did not realize as
yet that for Miss Mason no classes existed, and that consequently she was
as much at ease with Mary, whose mother had been "county," as she would
be with her own colored "help."
"You guessed quite rightly, Miss Mason," Mary smiled. "I want to spend as
little as possible, and shall depend on you to prevent my making
"I reckon I know all there is t' know 'bout economy," nodded Miss Mason,
and, as if by way of illustration, drew from her bag a pair of cotton
gloves, for which she exchanged her kid ones, rolling these carefully
away. "They get real mussed shopping," she explained.
Within half an hour, Mary realized that she would have been lost indeed
without her guide. First they inspected the studio. Mary had had a vague
idea of cleaning it herself, but Miss Mason demanded to see the
janitress, and ascended, after a ten minutes' emersion in the noisome
gloom of the basement, in high satisfaction. "She's a dago," she
reported, "but not so dirty as some, and looks a husky worker. It's her
business to clean the flats for new tenants, but I promised her fifty
cents to get the place done by noon, windows and all. She seemed real
pleased. She says her husband will carry your coal up from the cellar for
a quarter a week; I guess it will be worth it to you. You don't want to
give the money to him though," she admonished, "the woman runs
everything. I shouldn't calc'late," she sniffed, "he does more'n a couple
of real days' work a month. They mostly don't."
So the first problem was solved, and it was the same with all the rest.
Many dollars did Miss Mason save the Byrds that day. Mary would have
bought a bedstead and screened it, but her companion pointed out the
extravagance and inconvenience of such a course, and initiated her
forthwith into the main secret of New York's apartment life.
"You'll want your divan new," she said, and led her in the great
department store to a hideous object of gilded iron which opened into a
double bed, and closed into a divan. At first Mary rejected this Janus-
faced machine unequivocally, but became a convert when Miss Mason showed
her how cretonne (she pronounced it "_cree_ton") or rugs would
soften its nakedness to dignity, and how bed-clothes and pillows were
swallowed in its maw by day to be released when the studio became a
sleeping room at night.
These trappings they purchased at first hand, and obliging salesmen
promised Miss Mason with their lips, but Mary with their eyes, that they
should go out on the noon delivery. For other things, however, the two
searched the second-hand stores which stand in that district like logs in
a stream, staying abandoned particles of the city's ever moving current.
Here they bought a high, roomy chest of drawers of painted pine, a Morris
chair, three single chairs, and a sturdy folding table in cherry, quite
old, which Mary felt to be a "find," and which she destined for Stefan's
paints. Miss Mason recommended a "rocker," and Mary, who had had visions
of stuffed English easy chairs, acquiesced on finding in the rocker and
Morris types the only available combinations of cheapness and comfort. A
second smaller table of good design, two brass candlesticks, and a little
looking-glass in faded greenish gilt, rejoiced Mary's heart, without
unreasonably lightening her pocket. During these purchases Miss Mason's
authority paled, but she reasserted herself on the question of iceboxes.
One dealer's showroom was half full of them, and Miss Mason pounced on a
small one, little used, marked six dollars. "That's real cheap--you
couldn't do better--it's a good make, too." Mary had never seen an ice-
box in her life, and said so, striking Miss Mason almost dumb.
"I'm sure we shouldn't need such a thing," she demurred.
Recovering speech, Miss Mason launched into the creed of the ice-box--its
ubiquity, values and economies. Mary understood she was receiving her
second initiation into flat life, and mentally bracketed this new cult
with that of the divan.
"All right, Miss Mason. In Rome, et cetera," she capitulated, and paid
for the ice-box.
Thanks to her friend, their shopping had been so expeditious that the day
was still young. Mary was fired by the determination to have some sort of
nest for her tired and probably disheartened husband to return to that
evening, and Miss Mason entered whole-heartedly into the scheme. The
transportation of their scattered purchases was the main difficulty, but
it yielded to the little spinster's inspiration. A list of their
performances between noon and five o'clock would read like the
description of a Presidential candidate's day. They dashed back to the
studio and reassured themselves as to the labors of the janitress. Miss
Mason unearthed the lurking husband, and demanded of him a friend and a
hand-cart. These she galvanized him into producing on the spot, and sent
the pair off armed with a list of goods to be retrieved. In the midst of
this maneuver the department store's great van faithfully disgorged their
bed and bedding. Hardly waiting to see these deposited, the two hurried
out in quest of sandwiches and milk.
"I guess we're the lightning home-makers, all right," was Miss Mason's
comment as they lunched.
Returning to the department store they bought and brought away with them
a kettle, a china teapot ("Fifteen cents in the basement," Miss Mason
instructed), three cups and saucers, six plates, a tin of floor-polish
and a few knives, forks, and spoons. Meanwhile they had telephoned the
hotel to send over the baggage. When the street car dropped them near the
studio they found the two Italians seated on the steps, the furniture and
baggage in the room, and Mrs. Corriani wiping her last window pane. "I
shall want your husband again for this floor," commanded the
indefatigable Miss Mason, opening her tin of polish, "and his friend for
errands." They fell upon their task.
An hour later the spinster dropped into the rocking chair. "Well, we've
done it," she said, "and I don't mind telling you I'm tuckered out."
Mary's voice answered from the sink, where she was sluicing her face and
"You've been a marvel--the whole thing has been Napoleonic--and I simply
don't know how to thank you." She appeared at the door of the closet,
which was to serve as kitchenette and bathroom, drying her hands.
"My, your face is like a rose! _You_ don't look tired any!"
exclaimed the spinster. "As for thanks, why, it's been a treat to me.
I've felt like I was a girl again. But we're through now, and I've got to
go." She rose. "I guess I'll enjoy my sleep to-night."
"Oh, don't go, Miss Mason, stay for tea and let my husband thank you
But the little New Englander again showed her simple tact. "No, no, my
dear, it's time I went, and you and Mr. Byrd will want to be alone
together your first evening," and she pulled on her cotton gloves.
At the door Mary impulsively put her arms round Miss Mason and kissed
"You have been good to me--I shall never forget it," she whispered,
almost loath to let this first woman friend of her new life go.
Alone, Mary turned to survey the room.
The floor, of wide uneven planks, was bare, but it carried a dark stain,
and this had been waxed until it shone. The walls, painted gray, had
yielded a clean surface to the mop. The grate was blackened. On either
side of it stood the two large chairs, and Mary had thrown a strip of
bright stuff over the cushions of the Morris. Beside this chair stood the
smaller table, polished, and upon it blue and white tea things. Near the
large window stood the other table, with Stefan's palette, paint tubes,
and brushes in orderly array, and a plain chair beside it, while centered
at that end was the model-throne. Opposite the fireplace the divan
fronted the wall, obscured by Mary's steamer rug and green deck cushion.
At the end of the room the heavy chest of drawers, with its dark walnut
paint, faced the window, bearing the gilded mirror and a strip of
embroidery. On the mantlepiece stood Mary's traveling clock and the two
brass candlesticks, and above it Stefan's pastoral of the stream and the
dancing faun was tacked upon the wall. She could hear the kettle singing
from the closet, through the open door of which a shaft of sunlight fell
from the tiny window to the floor.
Suddenly Mary opened her arms. "Home," she whispered, "home." Tears
started to her eyes. With a caressing movement she leant her face against
the wall, as to the cheek of her lover.
But emotion lay deep in Mary--she was ashamed that it should rise to
facile tears. "Silly girl," she thought, and drying her eyes proceeded
more calmly to her final task, which was to change her dress for one
fitted to honor Stefan's homecoming.
Hardly was she ready when she heard his feet upon the stair. Her heart
leapt with a double joy, for he was springing up two steps at a time,
triumph in every bound. The door burst open; she was enveloped in a
whirlwind embrace. "Mary," he gasped between kisses, "I've sold the boy
--sold him for a hundred! At the very last place--just as I'd given up.
You beloved oracle!"
Then he held her away from him, devouring with his eyes her glowing face,
her hair, and her soft blue dress. "Oh, you beauty! The day has been a
thousand years long without you!" He caught her to him again.
Mary's heart was almost bursting with happiness as she clung to him.
Here, in the home she had prepared, he had brought her his success, and
their love glorified both. Her emotion left her wordless. Another moment,
and his eyes swept the room.
"Why, Mary!" It was a shout of joy. "You magician, you miracle-worker!
It's beautiful! Don't tell me how you did it--" hastily--"I couldn't
understand. It's enough that you waved your hand and beauty sprang up!
Look at my little faun dancing--we must dance too!" He lilted a swaying
air, and whirled her round the room with gipsy glee. His face looked like
the faun's, elfin, mischievous, happy as the springtime.
At last he dropped into a chair. Then Mary fetched her teakettle. They
quenched their thirst, she shared his cigarette, they prattled like
children. It was late before they remembered to go out in search of
dinner, hours later before they dropped asleep upon the gilded Janus-
faced couch that had become for Mary the altar of a sacrament.
Mary's original furnishings had cost her less than a hundred dollars. In
the first days of their housekeeping she made several additions, and
Stefan contributed a large second-hand easel, a stool, and a piece of
strangely colored drapery for the divan. This he discovered during a walk
with Mary, in the window of an old furniture dealer, and instantly fell a
victim to. He was so delighted with it that Mary had not the heart to
veto its purchase, though it was a sad extravagance, costing them more
than a week's living expenses. The stuff was of oriental silk, shot with
a changing sheen, of colors like a fire burning over water, which made it
seem a living thing in their hands. The night they took it home Stefan
lit six candles in its honor.
In spite of these expenses Mary banked four hundred dollars, leaving
herself enough in hand for a fortnight to come, for she found that they
could live on twenty-five dollars a week. She calculated that they must
make, as an absolute minimum, to be safe, one hundred dollars a month,
for she was determined, if possible, not to draw further upon their
hoard. This was destined for a future use, the hope of which trembled
constantly in her heart. All her plans centered about this hope, but she
still forebore to speak of it to Stefan, even as she had done before
their marriage. Perhaps she instinctively feared a possible lack of
response in him. Meanwhile, she must safeguard her nest.
In spite of Stefan's initial success, Mary wondered if his art would at
first yield the necessary monthly income, and cast about for some means
by which she could increase his earnings. She had come to America to
attain independence, and there was nothing in her code to make dependence
a necessary element of marriage.
"Stefan," she said one morning, as she sat covering a cushion, while he
worked at one of the unfinished pastorals, "you know I sold several short
stories for children when I was in London. I think I ought to try my luck
here, don't you?"
"You don't need to, sweetheart," he replied. "Wait till I've finished
this little thing. You see if the man I sold the boy to won't jump at it
for another hundred." And he whistled cheerily.
"I'm sure he will," she smiled. "Still, I should like to help."
"Do it if you want to, Beautiful, only I can't associate you with pens
and typewriters. I'm sure if you were just to open your mouth, and sing,
out there in the square--" he waved a brush--"people would come running
from all over the city and throw yellow and green bills at you like
leaves, till you had to be dug out with long shovels by those funny
street-cleaners who go about looking dirty in white clothes. You would be
a nymph in a shower of gold--only the gold would be paper! How like
America!" He whistled again absently, touching the canvas with delicate
"You are quite the most ridiculous person in the world," she laughed at
him. "You know perfectly well that my voice is much too small to be of
"But I'm not being practical, and you mustn't be literal, darling
--goddesses never should."
"Be practical just for a moment then," she urged, "and think about my
chances of selling stories."
"I couldn't," he said absently, holding his brush suspended. "Wait a
minute, I've got an idea! That about the shower of gold--I know--Danae!"
he shouted suddenly, throwing down his palette. "That's how I'll paint
you. I've been puzzling over it for days. Darling, it will be my chef
d'oeuvre!" He seized her hands. "Think of it! You standing under a great
shaft of sun, nude, exalted, your hands and eyes lifted. About you gold,
pouring down in cataracts, indistinguishable from the sunlight--a
background of prismatic fire--and your hair lifting into it like wings!"
He was irradiated.
She had blushed to the eyes. "You want me to sit to you--like that!" Her
He gazed at her in frank amazement. "Should you mind?" he asked, amazed.
"Why, you rose, you're blushing. I believe you're shy!" He put his arms
around her, smiling into her face. "You wouldn't mind, darling, for me!"
he urged, his cheek to hers. "You are so glorious. I've always wanted to
paint your glory since the first day I saw you. You _can't_ mind!"
He saw she still hesitated, and his tone became not only surprised but
hurt. He could not conceive of shame in connection with beauty. Seeing
this she mastered her shrinking. He was right, she felt--she had given
him her beauty, and a denial of it in the service of his art would rebuff
the God in him--the creator. She yielded, but she could not express the
deeper reason for her emotion. As he was so oblivious, she could not
bring herself to tell him why in particular she shrank from sitting as
Danae. He had not thought of the meaning of the myth in connection with
her all-absorbing hope.
"Promise me one thing," she pleaded. "Don't make the face too like me
--just a little different, dearest, please!"
This a trifle fretted him.
"I don't really see why; your face is just the right type," he puzzled.
"I shan't sell the picture, you know. It will be for us--our marriage
present to each other."
"Nevertheless, I ask it, dearest." With that he had to be content.
Stefan obtained that afternoon a full-length canvas, and the sittings
began next morning. He was at his most inspiring, laughed away Mary's
stage fright, posed her with a delight which, inspired her, too, so that
she stood readily as he suggested, and made half a dozen lightning
sketches to determine the most perfect position, exclaiming
When absorbed, Stefan was a sure and rapid worker. Mary posed for him
every morning, and at the end of a week the picture had advanced to a
thing of wonderful promise and beauty. Mary would stand before it almost
awed. Was this she, she pondered, this aspiring woman of flame? It
troubled her a little that his ideal of her should rise to such splendor;
this apotheosis left no place for the pitying tenderness of love, only
for its glory. The color of this picture was like the sound of silver
trumpets; the heart-throb of the strings was missing. Mary was neither
morbid nor introspective, but at this time her whole being was keyed to
more than normal comprehension. Watching the picture, seeing that it was
a portrayal not of her but of his love for her, she wondered if any woman
could long endure the arduousness of such deification, or if a man who
had visioned a goddess could long content himself with a mortal.
The face, too, vaguely troubled her. True to his promise, Stefan had not
made it a portrait, but its unlikeness lay rather in the meaning and
expression than in the features. These differed only in detail from her
own. A slight lengthening of the corners of the eyes, a fuller and wider
mouth were the only changes. But the expression amidst its exaltation
held a quality she did not understand. Translated into music, it was the
call of the wood-wind, something wild and unhuman flowing across the
silver triumph of the horns.
Of these half questionings, however, Mary said nothing, telling Stefan
only what she was sure of, that the picture would be a masterpiece.
The days were shortening. Stefan found the light poor in the afternoons,
and had to take part of the mornings for work on his pastoral. This he
would have neglected in his enthusiasm for the Danae, but for Mary's
urgings. He obeyed her mandates on practical issues with the
unquestioning acceptance of a child. His attitude suggested that he was
willing to be worldly from time to time if his Mary--not too often--told
The weather had turned cool, and Mr. Corriani brought them up their first
scuttle of coal. They were glad to drink their morning coffee and eat
their lunch before the fire, and Mary's little sable neck-piece, relic of
former opulence, appeared in the evenings when they sought their dinner.
This they took in restaurants near by--quaint basements, or back parlors
of once fine houses, where they were served nutritious meals on bare
boards, in china half an inch thick. Autumn, New York's most beautiful
season, was in the air with its heart-lightening tang; energy seemed to
flow into them as they breathed. They took long walks in the afternoons
to the Park, which Stefan voted hopelessly banal; to the Metropolitan
Museum, where they paid homage to the Sorollas and the Rodins; to the
Battery, the docks, and the whole downtown district. This they found
oppressive at first, till they saw it after dark from a ferry boat, when
Stefan became fired by the towerlike skyscrapers sketched in patterns of
light against the void.
Immediately he developed a cult for these buildings. "America's one
creation," he called them, "monstrous, rooted repellently in the earth's
bowels, growing rank like weeds, but art for all that." He made several
sketches of them, in which the buildings seemed to sway in a drunken
abandonment of power. "Wicked things," he named them, and saw them
menacing but fascinating, titanic engines that would overwhelm their
makers. He and Mary had quite an argument about this, for she thought the
"They reach sunward, Stefan, they do not menace, they aspire," she
"The aspiration is yours, Goddess. They are only fit symbols of a super-
materialism. Their strength is evil, but it lures."
He was delighted with his drawings. Mary, who was beginning to develop
civic pride, told him they were goblinesque.
"Clever girl, that's why I like them," he replied.
Late in October Stefan sold his pastoral, though only for seventy-five
dollars. This disappointed him greatly. He was anxious to repay his debt
to Adolph, but would not accept the loan of it from his wife. Mary
renewed her determination to be helpful, and sent one of her old stories
to a magazine, but without success. She had no one to advise her as to
likely markets, and posted her manuscript to two more unsuitable
publications, receiving it back with a printed rejection slip.
Her fourth attempt, however, was rewarded by a note from the editor which
gave her much encouragement. Children's stories, he explained, were
outside the scope of his magazine, but he thought highly of Mrs. Byrd's
manuscript, and advised her to submit it to one of the women's papers--he
named several--where it might be acceptable. Mary was delighted by this
note, and read it to Stefan.
"Splendid!" he cried, "I had no idea you had brought any stories over
with you. Guarded oracle!" he added, teasingly.
"Oracles don't tell secrets unless they are asked," she rejoined.
"True. And now I do ask. Give me the whole secret--read me the story,"
he exclaimed, promptly putting away his brushes, lighting a cigarette,
and throwing himself, eagerly attentive, into the Morris chair.
Mary prepared to comply, gladly, if a little nervously. She had been
somewhat hurt at his complete lack of interest in her writing; now she
was anxious for his approbation. Seated in the rocking chair she read
aloud the little story in her clear low voice. When she had finished she
found Stefan regarding her with an expression affectionate but somewhat
"Mary, you have almost a maternal air, sitting there reading so lovingly
about a baby. It's a new aspect--the rocker helps. I've never quite liked
that chair--it reminds me of Michigan."
Mary had flushed painfully, but he did not notice it in the half light of
the fire. It had grown dark as she read.
"But the story, Stefan?" she asked, her tone obviously hurt. He jumped up
and kissed her, all contrition.
"Darling, it sounded beautiful in your voice, and I'm sure it is. In fact
I know it is. But I simply don't understand that type of fiction; I have
no key to it. So my mind wandered a little. I listened to the lovely
sounds your voice made, and watched the firelight on your hair. You were
like a Dutch interior--quite a new aspect, as I said--and I got
interested in that."
Mary was abashed and disappointed. For the first time she questioned
Stefan's generosity, contrasting his indifference with her own absorbed
interest in his work. She knew her muse trivial by comparison with his,
but she loved it, and ached for the stimulus his praise would bring.
Beneath the wound to her craftsmanship lay another, in which the knife
was turning, but she would not face its implication. Nevertheless it
oppressed her throughout the evening, so that Stefan commented on her
silence. That night as she lay awake listening to his easy breathing, for
the first time since her marriage her pillow was dampened by tears.
In the nest morning's sun Mary's premonitions appeared absurd. Stefan
waked in high spirits, and planned a morning's work on his drawings of
the city, while Mary, off duty as a model, decided to take her story in
person to the office of one of the women's papers. As she crossed the
Square and walked up lower Fifth Avenue she had never felt more buoyant.
The sun was brilliant, and a cool breeze whipped color into her cheeks.
The office to which she was bound was on the north side of Union Square.
Crossing Broadway, she was held up half way over by the traffic. As she
waited for an opening her attention was attracted by the singular antics
of a large man, who seemed to be performing some kind of a ponderous
fling upon the curbstone opposite. A moment more and she grasped that the
dance was a signal to her, and that the man was none other than McEwan,
sprucely tailored and trimmed in the American fashion, but unmistakable
for all that. She crossed the street and shook hands with him warmly,
delighted to see any one connected with the romantic days of her voyage.
McEwan's smile seemed to buttress his whole face with teeth, but to her
amazement he greeted her without a trace of Scotch accent.
"Well," said he, pumping both her hands up and down in his enormous fist,
"here's Mrs. Byrd! That's simply great. I've been wondering where I could
locate you both. Ought to have nosed you out before now, but my job keeps
me busy. I'm with a magazine house, you know--advertising manager."
"I didn't know," answered Mary, whose head was whirling.
"Ah," he grinned at her, "you're surprised at my metamorphosis. I allow
myself a month every year of my native heath, heather-mixture, and burr
--I like to do the thing up brown. The rest of the time I'm a Gothamite,
of necessity. Some time, when I've made my pile, I shall revert for
keeps, and settle down into a kilt and a castle."
Much amused by this unsuspected histrionic gift, Mary walked on beside
McEwan. He was full of interest in her affairs, and she soon confided to
him the object of her expedition.
"You're just the man to advise me, being on a paper," she said, and added
laughing, "I should have been terrified of you if I'd known that on the
"Then I'm glad I kept it dark. You say your stuff is for children? Where
were you going to?"
She told him.
"A woman's the boss of that shop. She's O.K. and so's her paper, but her
prices aren't high." He considered. "Better come to our shop. We run two
monthlies and a weekly, one critical, one household, one entirely for
children. The boss is a great pal of mine. Name of Farraday--an American.
Come on!" And he wheeled her abruptly back the way they had come. She
followed unresistingly, intensely amused at his quick, jerky sentences
and crisp manner--the very antithesis of his former Scottish heaviness.
"Mr. McEwan, what an actor you would have made!"
She smiled up at him as she hurried at his side. He looked about with
pretended caution, then stooped to her ear.
"Hoots, lassie!" he whispered, with a solemn wink.
"Stefan will never believe this!" she said, bubbling with laughter.
At the door of a building close to the corner where they had met he
stopped, and for a moment his manner, though not his voice, assumed its
"Never mind!" he held up an admonishing forefinger. "I do the talking.
What do you know about business? Nothing!" His hand swept away possible
objections. "I know your work." She gasped, but the finger was up again,
solemnly wagging. "And I say it's good. How many words?" he half snapped.
"Three thousand five hundred," she answered.
"Then I say, two hundred dollars--not a cent less--and what I say
_goes_, see?" The finger shot out at her, menacing.
"I leave it to you, Mr. McEwan," she answered meekly, and followed him to
the lift, dazed. "This," she said to herself, "simply is not happening!"
She felt like Alice in Wonderland.
They shot up many stories, and emerged into a large office furnished with
a switch-board, benches, tables, desks, pictures, and office boys. A
ceaseless stenographic click resounded from behind an eight-foot
partition; the telephone girl seemed to be engaged conjointly on a novel
and a dozen plugs; the office boys were diligent with their chewing gum;
all was activity. Mary felt at a loss, but the great McEwan, towering
over the switchboard like a Juggernaut, instantly compelled the
operator's eyes from their multiple distractions. "Good morning, Mr.
McEwan--Spring one-O-two-four," she greeted him.
"'Morning. T'see Mr. Farraday," he economized.
"M'st Farraday--M'st McEwan an' lady t'see you. Yes. M'st Farraday'll see
you right away. 'Sthis three-one hundred? Hold th' line, please," said
the operator in one breath, connecting two calls and waving McEwan
forward simultaneously. Mary followed him down a long corridor of doors
to one which he opened, throwing back a second door within it.
They entered a sunny room, quiet, and with an air of spacious order.
Facing them was a large mahogany table, almost bare, save for a vase
which held yellow roses. Flowers grew in a window box and another vase of
white roses stood on a book shelf. Mary's eyes flew to the flowers even
before she observed the man who rose to greet them from beyond the table.
He was very tall, with the lean New England build. His long, bony face
was unhandsome save for the eyes and mouth, which held an expression of
great sweetness. He shook hands with a kindly smile, and Mary took an
instant liking to him, feeling In his presence the ease that comes of
class-fellowship. He looked, she thought, something under forty years
"I am fortunate. You find me in a breathing spell," he was saying.
"He's the busiest man in New York, but he always has time," McEwan
explained, and, indeed, nothing could have been more unhurried than the
whole atmosphere of both man and room. Mary said so.
"Yes, I must have quiet or I can't work," Farraday replied. "My windows
face the back, you see, and my walls are double; I doubt if there's a
quieter office in New York."
"Nor a more charming, I should think," added Mary, looking about at the
restful tones of the room, with its landscapes, its beautifully chosen
old furniture, and its flowers.
"The owner thanks you," he acknowledged, with his kindly smile.
"Business, business," interjected McEwan, who, Mary was amused to
observe, approximated much more to the popular idea of an American than
did his friend. "I've brought you a find, Farraday. This lady writes for
children--she's printed stuff in England. I haven't read it, but I know
it's good because I've seen her telling stories to the kids by the hour
aboard ship, and you couldn't budge them. You can see," he waved his hand
at her, "that her copy would be out of the ordinary run."
This absurdity would have embarrassed Mary but that Mr. Farraday turned
on her a smile which seemed to make them allies in their joint
comprehension of McEwan's advocacy.
"She's got a story with her for you to see," went on that enthusiast.
"I've told her if it's good enough for our magazine it's two hundred
dollars good enough. There's the script." He took it from her, and
flattened it out on Farraday's table. "Look it over and write her."
"What's your address?" he shot at Mary. She produced it.
"I'll remember that," McEwan nodded; "coming round to see you. There you
are, James. We won't keep you. You have no time and I have less. Come on,
Mrs. Byrd." He made for the door, but Farraday lifted his hand.
"Too fast, Mac," he smiled. "I haven't had a chance yet. A mere American
can't keep pace with the dynamic energy you store in Scotland. Where does
it come from? Do you do nothing but sleep there?"
"Much more than that. He practises the art of being a Scotchman," laughed
"He has no need to practise. You should have heard him when he first came
over," said Farraday.
"Well, if you two are going to discuss me, I'll leave you at it; I'm not
a highbrow editor; I'm the poor ad man--my time means money to me."
McEwan opened the door, and Mary rose to accompany him.
"Won't you sit down again, Mrs. Byrd? I'd like to ask you a few
questions," interposed Farraday, who had been turning the pages of Mary's
manuscript. "Mac, you be off. I can't focus my mind in the presence of a
"I've got to beat it," agreed the other, shaking hands warmly with Mary.
"But don't you be taken in by him; he likes to pretend he's slow, but
he's really as quick as a buzz-saw. See you soon," and with a final wave
of the hand he was gone.
"Now tell me a little about your work," said Farraday, turning on Mary
his kind but penetrating glance. She told him she had published three or
four stories, and in what magazines.
"I only began to write fiction a year ago," she explained. "Before that
I'd done nothing except scribble a little verse at home."
"What kind of verse?"
"Oh, just silly little children's rhymes."
"Have you sold any of them?"
"No, I never tried."
"I should like to see them," he said, to her surprise. "I could use them
perhaps if they were good. As for this story," he turned the pages, "I
see you have an original idea. A child bird-tamer, dumb, whose power no
one can explain. Before they talk babies can understand the birds, but as
soon as they learn to speak they forget bird language. This child is
dumb, so he remembers, but can't tell any one. Very pretty."
Mary gasped at his accurate summary of her idea. He seemed to have
photographed the pages in his mind at a glance.
"I had tried to make it a little mysterious," she said rather ruefully.
His smile reassured her.
"You have," he nodded, "but we editors learn to get impressions quickly.
Yes," he was reading as he spoke, "I think it likely I can use this. The
style is good, and individual." He touched a bell, and handed the
manuscript to an answering office boy. "Ask Miss Haviland to read this,
and report to me to-day," he ordered.
"I rarely have time to read manuscripts myself," he went on, "but Miss
Haviland is my assistant for our children's magazine. If her judgment
confirms mine, as I feel sure it will, we will mail you a cheque to-night,
Mrs. Byrd--according to our friend McEwan's instructions--" and he
Mary blushed with pleasure, and again rose to go, with an attempt at
thanks. The telephone bell had twice, with a mere thread of sound,
announced a summons. The editor took up the receiver. "Yes, in five
minutes," he answered, hanging up and turning again to Mary.
"Don't go yet, Mrs. Byrd; allow me the luxury of postponing other
business for a moment. We do not meet a new contributor and a new
citizen every day." He leant back with an air of complete leisure,
turning to her his kindly, open smile. She felt wonderfully at her ease,
as though this man and she were old acquaintances. He asked more about
her work and that of her husband.
"We like to have some personal knowledge of our authors; it helps us in
criticism and suggestion," he explained.
Mary described Stefan's success in Paris, and mentioned his sketches of
downtown New York. Farraday looked interested.
"I should like to see those," he said. "We have an illustrated review in
which we sometimes use such things. If you are bringing me your verses,
your husband might care to come too, and show me the drawings."
Again the insistent telephone purred, and this time he let Mary go,
shaking her hand and holding the door for her.
"Bring the verses whenever you like, Mrs. Byrd," was his farewell.
When she had gone, James Farraday returned to his desk, lit a cigar, and
smoked absently for a few moments, staring out of the window. Then he
pulled his chair forward, and unhooked the receiver.
Mary hurried home vibrant with happiness, and ran into the studio to find
Stefan disconsolately gazing out of the window. He whirled at her
approach, and caught her in his arms.
"Wicked one! I thought, like Persephone, you had been carried off by Dis
and his wagon," he chided. "I could not work when I realized you had been
gone so long. Where have you been?" He looked quite woebegone.
"Ah, I'm so glad you missed me," she cried from his arms. Then, unable to
contain her delight, she danced to the center of the room, and, throwing
back her head, burst into song. "Praise God from whom all blessings
flow," chanted Mary full-throated, her chest expanded, pouring out her
gratitude as whole-heartedly as a lark.
"Mary, I can see your wings," interrupted Stefan excitedly. "You're
soaring!" He seized a stick of charcoal and dashed for paper, only to
throw down his tools again in mock despair. "Pouf, you're beyond
sketching at this moment--you need a cathedral organ to express you. What
has happened? Have you been sojourning with the immortals?"
But Mary had stopped singing, and dropped on the divan as if suddenly
tired. She held out her arms to Stefan, and he sat beside her, lover-
"Oh, dearest," she said, her voice vibrating with tenderness, "I've
wanted so to help, and now I think I've sold a story, and I've found a
chance for your New York drawings. I'm so happy."
"Why, you mysterious creature, your eyes have tears in them--and all
because you've helped me! I've never seen your tears, Mary; they make
your eyes like stars lost in a pool." He kissed her passionately, and she
responded, but waited eagerly to hear him praise her success. After a
moment, however, he got up and wandered to his drawing board.
"You say you found a chance for these," indicating the sketches. "How
splendid of you! Tell me all about it." He was eagerly attentive, but she
might never have mentioned her story. Apparently, that part of her report
simply had not registered in his brain.
Mary's spirits suddenly dropped. She had come from an interview in which
she was treated as a serious artist, and her husband could not even hear
the account of her success. She rose and began to prepare their luncheon,
recounting her adventures meanwhile in a rather flat voice. Stefan
listened to her description of McEwan's metamorphosis only half
"Don't tell me," he commented, "that the cloven hoof will not out. Do you
mean to say it's to him that you owe this chance?"
"I don't see how we can take favors from that brute," he said, running
his hands moodily into his pockets.
Mary looked at him in frank astonishment.
"I don't understand you, Stefan," she said. "Mr. McEwan was kindness
itself, and I am grateful to him, but there can be no question of
receiving favors on your part. He introduced me to Mr. Farraday as a
writer, and it was only through me that your work was mentioned at all."
She was hurt by his narrow intolerance, and he saw it.
"Very well, goddess, don't flash your lightnings at me." He laughed
gaily, and sat down to his luncheon. Throughout it Mary listened to a
detailed account of his morning's work.
Next day she received by the first post a cheque for two hundred dollars,
with a formal typewritten note from Farraday, expressing pleasure, and a
hope that the Household Publishing Company might receive other
manuscripts from her for its consideration. Stefan was setting his
pallette for a morning's work on the Danae. She called to him rather
constrainedly from the door where she had opened the letter.
"Stefan, I've received a cheque for two hundred dollars for my story."
"That's splendid," he answered cheerfully. "If I sell these sketches we
shall be quite rich. We must move from this absurd place to a proper
studio flat. Mary shall have a white bathroom, and a beautiful blue and
gold bed. Also minions to set food before her. Tra-la-la," and he hummed
gaily. "I'm ready to begin, beloved," he added.
As Mary prepared for her sitting she could not subdue a slight feeling of
irritation. Apparently she might never, even for a moment, enjoy the
luxury of being a human being with ambitions like Stefan's own, but must
remain ever pedestaled as his inspiration. She was irked, too, by his
hopelessly unpractical attitude toward affairs. She would have enjoyed
the friendly status of a partner as a wholesome complement to the ardors
of marriage. She knew that her husband differed from the legendary
bohemian in having a strictly upright code in money matters, but she
wished it could be less visionary. He mentally oscillated between
pauperism and riches. Let him fail to sell a picture and he offered to
pawn his coat; but the picture sold, he aspired to hire a mansion. In a
word, she began to see that he was incapable either of foresight or
moderation. Could she alone, she wondered, supply the deficiency?
That evening when they returned from dinner, which as a rare treat they
had eaten in the cafe of their old hotel, they found McEwan waiting their
arrival from a seat on the stairs.
"Here you are," his hearty voice called to them as they labored up the
last flight. "I was determined not to miss you. I wanted to pay my
respects to the couple, and see how the paint-slinging was getting on."
Mary, knowing now that the Scotchman was not the slow-witted blunderer he
had appeared on board ship, looked at him with sudden suspicion. Was she
deceived, or did there lurk a teasing gleam in those blue eyes? Had
McEwan used the outrageous phrase "paint-slinging" with malice
aforethought? She could not be sure. But if his object was to get a rise
from Stefan, he was only partly successful. True, her husband snorted
with disgust, but, at a touch from her and a whispered "Be nice to him,"
restrained himself sufficiently to invite McEwan in with a frigid show of
politeness. But once inside, and the candles lighted, Stefan leant glumly
against the mantelpiece with his hands in his pockets, evidently
determined to leave their visitor entirely on Mary's hands.
McEwan was nothing loath. He helped himself to a cigarette, and proceeded
to survey the walls of the room with interest.
"Nifty work, Mrs. Byrd. You must be proud of him," and again Mary seemed
to catch a glint in his eye. "These sketches now," he approached the
table on which lay the skyscraper studies. "Very harsh--cruel, you might
say--but clever, yes, _sir_, mighty clever." Mary saw Stefan writhe
with irritation at the other's air of connoisseur. She shot him a glance
at once amused and pleading, but he ignored it with a shrug, as if to
indicate that Mary was responsible for this intrusion, and must expect no
aid from him.
McEwan now faced the easel which held the great Danae, shrouded by a
"Is this the latest masterpiece--can it be seen?" he asked, turning to
his host, his hand half stretched to the cover.
Mary made an exclamation of denial, and started forward to intercept the
hand. But even as she moved, dismay visible on her face, the perverse
devil which had been mounting in Stefan's brain attained the mastery. She
had asked him to be nice to this jackass--very well, he would.
"Yes, that's the best thing I've done, McEwan. As you're a friend of both
of us, you ought to see it," he exclaimed, and before Mary could utter a
protest had wheeled the easel round to the light and thrown back the
drapery. He massed the candles on the mantelpiece. "Here," he called,
"stand here where you can see properly. Mythological, you see, Danae.
What do you think of it?" There were mischief and triumph in his tone,
and a shadow of spite.
Mary had blushed crimson and stood, incapable of speech, in the darkest
corner of the room. McEwan had not noticed her protest, it had all
happened so instantaneously. He followed Stefan's direction, and faced
the canvas expectantly. There was a long silence. Mary, watching, saw the
spruce veneer of metropolitanism fall from their guest like a discarded
mask--the grave, steady Highlander emerged. Stefan's moment of malice had
flashed and died--he stood biting his nails, already too ashamed to
glance in Mary's direction. At last McEwan turned. There was homage in
his eyes, and gravity.
"Mr. Byrd," he said, and his deep voice carried somewhat of its old
Scottish burr, "I owe ye an apology. I took ye for a tricky young mon,
clever, but better pleased with yersel' than ye had a right to be. I see
ye are a great artist, and as such, ye hae the right even to the love of
that lady. Now I will congratulate her." He strode over to Mary's corner
and took her hand. "Dear leddy," he said, his native speech still more
apparent, "I confess I didna think the young mon worthy, and in me
blunderin' way, I would hae kept the two o' ye apart could I hae done it.
But I was wrong. Ye've married a genius, and ye can be proud o' the way
ye're helping him. Now I'll bid ye good night, and I hope ye'll baith
count me yer friend in all things." He offered his hand to Stefan, who
took it, touched. Gravely he picked up his hat, and opened the door,
turning for a half bow before closing it behind him.
Stefan knew that he had behaved unpardonably, that he had been betrayed
into a piece of caddishness, but McEwan had given him the cue for his
defense. He hastened to Mary and seized her hand.
"Darling, forgive me. I knew you didn't want the picture shown, but it's
got to be done some day, hasn't it? It seemed a shame for McEwan not to
see what you have inspired. I ought not to have shown it without asking
you, but his appreciation justified me, don't you think?" His tone
Mary was choking back her tears. Explanations, excuses, were to her
trivial, nor was she capable of them. Wounded, she was always dumb, and
to discuss a hurt seemed to her to aggravate it.
"Don't let's talk about it, Stefan," she murmured. "It seemed to me you
showed the picture because I did not wish it--that's what I don't
understand." She spoke lifelessly.
"No, no, you mustn't think that," he urged. "I was irritated, and I'm
horribly sorry, but I do think it should be shown."
But Mary was not deceived. If only for a moment, he had been disloyal to
her. The urge of her love made it easy to forgive him, but she knew she
could not so readily forget.
Though she put a good face on the incident, though Stefan was his most
charming self throughout the evening, even though she refused to
recognize the loss, one veil of illusion had been stripped from her
heart's image of him.
In his contrite mood, determined to please her, Stefan recalled the
matter of her stories, and for the first time spoke of her success with
enthusiasm. He asked her about the editor, and offered to go with her the
next morning to show Mr. Farraday his sketches.
"Have you anything else to take him?" he asked.
"Yes," replied Mary. "I am to show him some verses I wrote at home in
Lindum. Just little songs for children."
"Verses," he exclaimed; "how wonderful! I knew you were a goddess and a
song-bird, but not that you were a poet, too."
"Nor am I; they are the most trifling things."
"I expect they are delicious, like your singing. Read them to me,
beloved," he begged.
But Mary would not. He pressed her several times during the evening, but
for the first time since their marriage he found he could not move her to
"Please don't bother about them, Stefan. They are for children; they
would not interest you."
He felt himself not wholly forgiven.
A day or two later the Byrds went together to the office of the Household
Publishing Company and sent in their names to Mr. Farraday. This time
they had to wait their turn for admittance for over half an hour, sharing
the benches of the outer office with several men and women of types
ranging from the extreme of aestheticism to the obviously commercial. The
office was hung with original drawings of the covers of the firm's three
publications--The Household Review, The Household Magazine, and The Child
at Home. Stefan prowled around the room mentally demolishing the
drawings, while Mary glanced through the copies of the magazines that
covered the large central table. She was impressed by the high level of
makeup and illustration in all three periodicals, contrasting them with
the obvious and often inane contents of similar English publications. At
a glance the sheets appeared wholesome, but not narrow; dignified, but
not dull. She wondered how much of their general tone they owed to Mr.
Farraday, and determined to ask McEwan more about his friend when next
she saw him. Her speculations were interrupted by Stefan, who somewhat
excitedly pulled her sleeve, pointing to a colored drawing of a woman's
head on the wall behind her.
"Look, Mary!" he ejaculated. "Rotten bourgeois art, but an interesting
face, eh? I wonder if it's a good portrait. It says in the corner, 'Study
of Miss Felicity Berber.' An actress, I expect. Look at the eyes; subtle,
aren't they? And the heavy little mouth. I've never seen a face quite
like it." He was visibly intrigued.
Mary thought the face provocative, but somewhat unpleasant.
"It's certainly interesting--the predatory type, I should think," she
replied. "I'll bet it's true to life--the artist is too much of a fool
to have created that expression," Stefan went on. "Jove, I should like to
meet her, shouldn't you?" he asked naively.
"Not particularly," said Mary, smiling at him. "She'll have to be your
friend; she's too feline for me."
"The very word, observant one," he agreed.
At this point their summons came. Mary was very anxious that her husband
should make a good impression. "I hope you'll like him, dearest," she
whispered as for the second time the editor's door opened to her.
Farraday shook hands with them pleasantly, but turned his level glance
rather fixedly on her husband, Mary thought, before breaking into his
kindly smile. Stefan returned the smile with interest, plainly delighted
at the evidences of taste that surrounded him.
"I'm sorry you should have had to wait so long," said Farraday. "I'm
rarely so fortunately unoccupied as on your first visit, Mrs. Byrd.
You've brought the verses to show me? Good! And Mr. Byrd has his
drawings?" He turned to Stefan. "America owes you a debt for the new
citizen you have given her, Mr. Byrd. May I offer my congratulations?"
"Thanks," beamed Stefan, "but you couldn't, adequately, you know."
"Obviously not," assented the other with a glance at Mary. "Our mutual
friend, McEwan, was here again yesterday, with a most glowing account of
your work, Mr. Byrd; he seems to have adopted the role of press agent for
"He's the soul of kindness," said Mary.
"Yes, a thoroughly good sort," Stefan conceded. "Here are the New York
sketches," he went on, opening his portfolio on Farraday's desk. "Half a
dozen of them."
"Thank you, just a moment," interposed the editor, who had opened Mary's
manuscript. "Your wife's work takes precedence. She is an established
contributor, you see," he smiled, running his eyes over the pages.
Stefan sat down. "Of course," he said, rather absently.
Farraday gave an exclamation of pleasure.
"Mrs. Byrd, these are good; unusually so. They have the Stevenson flavor
without being imitations. A little condensation, perhaps--I'll pencil a
few suggestions--but I must have them all. I would not let another
magazine get them for the world! Let me see, how many are there! Eight.
We might bring them out in a series, illustrated. What if I were to offer
the illustrating to Mr. Byrd, eh?" He put down the sheets and glanced
from wife to husband, evidently charmed with his idea. "What do you
think, Mr. Byrd? Is your style suited to her work?" he asked.
Stefan looked thoroughly taken aback. He laughed shortly. "I'm a painter,
Mr. Farraday, not an illustrator. I haven't time to undertake that kind
of thing. Even these drawings," he indicated the portfolio, "were done in
spare moments as an amusement. My wife suggested placing them with you--I
shouldn't have thought of it."
To Mary his tone sounded needlessly ungracious, but the editor appeared
not to notice it.
"I beg your pardon," he replied suavely. "Of course, if you don't
illustrate--I'm sorry. The collaboration of husband and wife would have
been an attraction, even though the names were unknown here. I'll get
Ledward to do them."
Stefan sat up. "You don't mean Metcalf Ledward, the painter, do you?" he
"Yes," replied Farraday quietly; "he often does things for us--our policy
is to popularize the best American artists."
Stefan was nonplused. Ledward illustrating Mary's rhymes! He felt
"Don't you think he would get the right atmosphere better perhaps than
anyone?" queried Farraday, who seemed courteously anxious to elicit
Stefan's opinion. Mary interposed hastily.
"Mr. Farraday, he can't answer you. I'm afraid I've been stupid, but I
was so pessimistic about these verses that I wouldn't show them to him. I
thought I would get an outside criticism first, just to save my face,"
she hurried on, anxious in reality to save her husband's.
"I pleaded, but she was obdurate," contributed Stefan, looking at her
Farraday smiled enlightenment. "I see. Well, I shall hope you will change
your mind about the illustrations when you have read the poems--that is,
if your style would adapt itself. Now may I see the sketches?" and he
held out his hand for them.
Stefan rose with relief. Much as he adored Mary, he could not comprehend
the seriousness with which this man was taking the rhymes which she
herself had described as "just little songs for children." He was the
more baffled as he could not dismiss Farraday's critical pretensions with
contempt, the editor being too obviously a man of cultivation. Now,
however, that attention had been turned to his own work, Stefan was at
his ease. Here, he felt, was no room for doubts.
"They are small chalk and charcoal studies of the spirit of the city
--mere impressions," he explained, putting the drawings in Farraday's
hands with a gesture which belied the carelessness of his words.
Farraday glanced at them, looked again, rose, and carried them to the
window, where he examined them carefully, one by one. Mary watched him
breathlessly, Stefan with unconcealed triumph. Presently he turned again
and placed them in a row on the bare expanse of his desk. He stood
looking silently at them for a moment more before he spoke.
"Mr. Byrd," he said at last, "this is very remarkable work." Mary exhaled
an audible breath of relief, and turned a glowing face to Stefan. "It is
the most remarkable work," went on the editor, "that has come into this
office for some time past. Frankly, however, I can't use it."
Mary caught her breath--Stefan stared. The other went on without looking
"This company publishes strictly for the household. Our policy is to send
into the average American home the best that America produces, but it
must be a best that the home can comprehend. These drawings interpret New
York as you see it, but they do not interpret the New York in which our
readers live, or one which they would be willing to admit existed."
"They interpret the real New York, though," interposed Stefan.
"Obviously so, to you," replied the editor, looking at him for the first
time. "For me, they do not. These drawings are an arraignment, Mr. Byrd,
and--if you will pardon my saying so--a rather bitter and inhuman one.
You are not very patriotic, are you?" His keen eyes probed the artist.
"Emphatically no," Stefan rejoined. "I'm only half American by birth, and
wholly French by adoption."
"That explains it," nodded Farraday gravely. "Well, Mr. Byrd, there are
undoubtedly publications in which these drawings could find a place, and
I am only sorry that mine are not amongst them. May I, however, venture
to offer you a suggestion?"
Stefan was beginning to look bored, but Mary interposed with a quick "Oh,
please do!" Farraday turned to her.
"Mrs. Byrd, you will bear me out in this, I think. Your husband has
genius--that is beyond question--but he is unknown here as yet. Would it
not be a pity for him to be introduced to the American public through
these rather sinister drawings? We are not fond of the too frank critic
here, you know," he smiled, whimsically. "You may think me a Philistine,
Mr. Byrd," he continued, "but I have your welfare in mind. Win your
public first with smiles, and later they may perhaps accept chastisement
from you. If you have any drawings in a different vein I shall feel
honored in publishing them"--his tone was courteous--"if not, I should
suggest that you seek your first opening through the galleries rather
than the press. Whichever way you decide, if I can assist you at all by
furnishing introductions, I do hope you will call on me. Both for your
wife's sake and for your own, it would be a pleasure. And now"--gathering
up the drawings--"I must ask you both to excuse me, as I have a long
string of appointments. Mrs. Byrd, I will write you our offer for the
verses. I don't know about the illustrations; you must consult your
husband." They found themselves at the door bidding him goodbye: Mary
with a sense of disappointment mingled with comprehension; Stefan not
knowing whether the more to deplore what he considered Farraday's
Philistinism, or to admire his critical acumen.
"His papers and his policy are piffling," he summed up at last, as they
walked down the Avenue, "but I must say I like the man himself--he is the
first person of distinction I have seen since I left France."
"Oh! Oh! The first?" queried Mary.
"Darling," he seized her hand and pressed it, "I said the first person,
not the first immortal!" He had a way of bestowing little endearments in
public, which Mary found very attractive, even while her training obliged
her to class them as solecisms.
"I felt sure you would like him. He seems to me charming," she said,
withdrawing the hand with a smile.
"Grundy!" he teased at this. "Yes, the man is all right, but if that is a
sample of their attitude toward original work over here we have a pretty
prospect of success. 'Genius, get thee behind me!' would sum it up.
Imbeciles!" He strode on, his face mutinous.
Mary was thinking. She knew that Farraday's criticism of her husband's
work was just. The word "sinister" had struck home to her. It could be
applied, she felt, with equal truth to all his large paintings but one
"Stefan," she asked, "what did you think of his advice to win the public
first by smiles?"
"Tennysonian!" pronounced Stefan, using what she knew to be his final
adjective of condemnation.
"A little Victorian, perhaps," she admitted, smiling at this succinct
repudiation. "Nevertheless, I'm inclined to think he was right. There is
a sort of Pan-inspired terror in your work, you know."
He appeared struck. "Mary, I believe you've hit it!" he exclaimed,
suddenly standing still. "I've never thought of it like that before--the
thing that makes my work unique, I mean. Like the music of Pan, it's
outside humanity, because I am."
"Don't say that, dear," she interrupted, shocked.
"Yes, I am. I hate my kind--all except a handful. I love beauty. It is
not my fault that humanity is ugly."
Mary was deeply disturbed. Led on by a chance phrase of hers, he was
actually boasting of just that lack which was becoming her secret fear
for him. She touched his arm, pleadingly.
"Stefan, don't speak like that; it hurts me dreadfully. It is awful for
any one to build up a barrier between himself and the world. It means
much unhappiness, both for himself and others."
He laughed affectionately at her. "Why, sweet, what do we care? I love
you enough to make the balance true. You are on my side of the barrier,
shutting me in with beauty."
"Is that your only reason for loving me?" she asked, still distressed.
"I love you because you have a beautiful body and a beautiful mind
--because you are like a winged goddess of inspiration. Could there be a
more perfect reason?"
Mary was silent. Again the burden of his ideal oppressed her. There was
no comfort in it. It might be above humanity, she felt, but it was not of
it. Again her mind returned to the pictures and Farraday's criticism.
"Sinister!" So he would have summed up all the others, except the Danae.
To that at least the word could not apply. Her heart lifted at the
realization of how truly she had helped Stefan. In his tribute to her
there was only beauty. She knew now that her gift must be without
Home again, she stood long before the picture, searching its strange
face. Was she wrong, or did there linger even here the sinister, half-
"Stefan," she said, calling him to her, "I was wrong to ask you not to
make the face like me. It was stupid--'Tennysonian,' I'm afraid." She
smiled bravely. "It _is_ me--your ideal of me, at least--and I want
you to make the face, too, express me as I seem to you." She leant
against him. "Then I want you to exhibit it. I want you to be known first
by our gift to each other, this--which is our love's triumph." She was
trembling; her face quivered--he had never seen her so moved. She fired
"How glorious of you, darling!" he exclaimed, "and oh, how beautiful you
look! You have never been so wonderful. If I could paint that rapt face!
Quick, I believe I can get it. Stand there, on the throne." He seized his
pallette and brushes and worked furiously while Mary stood, still flaming
with her renunciation. In a few minutes it was done. He ran to her and
covered her face with kisses. "Come and look!" he cried exultingly,
holding her before the canvas.
The strange face with its too-wide eyes and exotic mouth was gone.
Instead, she saw her own purely cut features, but fired by such exultant
adoration as lifted them to the likeness of a deity. The picture now was
incredibly pure and passionate--the very flaming essence of love. Tears
started to her eyes and dropped unheeded. She turned to him worshiping.
"Beloved," she cried, "you are great, great. I adore you," and she kissed
He had painted love's apotheosis, and his genius had raised her love to
its level. At that moment Mary's actually was the soul of flame he had
That day, illumined by the inspiration each had given each, was destined
to mark a turning point in their common life. The next morning the
understanding which Mary had for long instinctively feared, and against
which she had raised a barrier of silence, came at last.
She was standing for some final work on the Danae. but she had awakened
feeling rather unwell, and her pose was listless. Stefan noticed it, and
she braced herself by an effort, only to droop again. To his surprise,
she had to ask for her rest much sooner than usual; he had hitherto found
her tireless. But hardly had she again taken the pose than she felt
herself turning giddy. She tottered, and sat down limply on the throne.
He ran to her, all concern.
"Why, darling, what's the matter, aren't you well?" She shook her head.
"What can be wrong?" She looked at him speechless.
"What is it, dearest, has anything upset you?" he went on with--it seemed
to her--incredible blindness.
"I can't stand in that pose any longer, Stefan; this must be the last
time," she said at length, slowly.
He looked at her as she sat, pale-faced, drooping on the edge of the
throne. Suddenly, in a flash, realization came to him. He strode across
the room, looked again, and came back to her.
"Why, Mary, are you going to have a baby?" he asked, quite baldly, with a
surprised and almost rueful expression.
Mary flushed crimson, tears of emotion in her eyes. "Oh, Stefan, yes.
I've known it for weeks; haven't you guessed?" Her arms reached to him
He stood rooted for a minute, looking as dumfounded as if an earthquake
had rolled under him. Then with a quick turn he picked up her wrap,
folded it round her, and took her into his arms. But it was a moment too
late. He had hesitated, had not been there at the instant of her greatest
need. Her midnight fears were fulfilled, just as her instinct had
foretold. He was not glad. There in his arms her heart turned cold.
He soon rallied; kissed her, comforted her, told her what a fool he had
been; but all he said only confirmed her knowledge. "He is not glad. He
is not glad," her heart beat out over and over, as he talked.
"Why did you not tell me sooner, darling? Why did you let me tire you
like this?" he asked.
Impossible to reply. "Why didn't you know?" her heart cried out, and, "I
wasn't tired until to-day," her lips answered.
"But why didn't you tell me?" he urged. "I never even guessed. It was
idiotic of me, but I was so absorbed in our love and my work that this
never came to my mind."
"But at first, Stefan?" she questioned, probing for the answer she
already knew, but still clinging to the hope of being wrong. "I never
talked about it because you didn't seem to care. But in the beginning,
when you proposed to me--the day we were married--at Shadeham--did you
never think of it then?" Her tone craved reassurance.
"Why, no," he half laughed. "You'll think me childish, but I never did. I
suppose I vaguely faced the possibility, but I put it from me. We had
each other and our love--that seemed enough."
She raised her head and gazed at him in wide-eyed pain. "But, Stefan,
what's marriage _for?_" she exclaimed.
He puckered his brows, puzzled. "Why, my dear, it's for love--
companionship--inspiration. Nothing more so far as I am concerned." They
stared nakedly at each other. For the first time the veils were stripped
away. They had felt themselves one, and behold! here was a barrier,
impenetrable as marble, dividing each from the comprehension of the
other. To Stefan it was inconceivable that a marriage should be based on
anything but mutual desire. To Mary the thought of marriage apart from
children was an impossibility. They had come to their first spiritual
Love, feeling its fusion threatened, ever makes a supreme effort for
reunity. In the days that followed, Stefan enthusiastically sought to
rebuild his image of Mary round the central fact of her maternity. He
became inspired with the idea of painting her as a Madonna, and recalled
all the famous artists of the past who had so glorified their hearts'
"You are named for the greatest of all mothers, dearest, and my picture
shall be worthy of the name," he would cry. Or he would call her
Aphrodite, the mother of Love. "How beautiful our son will be--another
Eros," he exclaimed.
Mary rejoiced in his new enthusiasm, and persuaded herself that his
indifference to children was merely the result of his lonely
bachelorhood, and would disappear forever at the sight of his own child.
Now that her great secret was shared she became happier, and openly
commenced those preparations which she had long been cherishing in
thought. Miss Mason was sent for, and the great news confided to her.
They undertook several shopping expeditions, as a result of which Mary
would sit with a pile of sewing on her knee while Stefan worked to
complete his picture. Miss Mason took to dropping in occasionally with a
pattern or some trifle of wool or silk. Mary was always glad to see her,
and even Stefan found himself laughing sometimes at her shrewd New
England wit. For the most part, however, he ignored her, while he painted
away in silence behind the great canvas.
Mary had received twelve dollars for each of her verses--ninety-six
dollars in all. Before Christmas Stefan sold his pastoral of the dancing
faun for one hundred and twenty-five, and Mary felt that financially they
were in smooth water, and ventured to discuss the possibility of larger
quarters. For these they were both eager, having begun to feel the
confinement of their single room; but Mary urged that they postpone
moving until spring.
"We are warm and snug here for the winter, and by spring we shall have
saved something substantial, and really be able to spread out," she
"Very well, wise one, we will hold in our wings a little longer," he
agreed, "but when we do fly, it must be high." His brush soared in
She had discussed with him the matter of the illustrations for her verses
as soon as she received her cheque from Farraday. They had agreed that it
would be a pity for him to take time for them from his masterpiece.
"Besides, sweetheart," he had said, "I honestly think Ledward will do
them better. His stuff is very graceful, without being sentimental, and
he understands children, which I'm afraid I don't." He shrugged
regretfully. "Didn't you paint that adorable lost baby?" she reminded
him. "I've always grieved that we had to sell it."
"I'll buy it back for you, or paint you another better one," he offered
So the verses went to Ledward, and the first three appeared in the
Christmas number of The Child at Home, illustrated--as even Stefan had to
admit--with great beauty.
Mary would have given infinitely much for his collaboration, but she had
not urged it, feeling he was right in his refusal.
As Christmas approached they began to make acquaintances among the
polyglot population of the neighborhood. Their old hotel, the culinary
aristocrat of the district, possessed a cafe in which, with true French
hospitality, patrons were permitted to occupy tables indefinitely on the
strength of the slenderest orders. Here for the sake of the French
atmosphere Stefan would have dined nightly had Mary's frugality
permitted. As it was, they began to eat there two or three nights a week,
and dropped in after dinner on many other nights. They would sit at a
bare round table smoking their cigarettes, Mary with a cup of coffee,
Stefan with the liqueur he could never induce her to share, and watching
the groups that dotted the other tables. Or they would linger at the
cheapest of their restaurants and listen to the conversation of the young
people, aggressively revolutionary, who formed its clientele. These last
were always noisy, and assumed as a pose manners even worse than those
they naturally possessed. Every one talked to every one else, regardless
of introductions, and Stefan had to summon his most crushing manner to
prevent Mary from being monopolized by various very youthful and
visionary men who openly admired her. He was inclined to abandon the
place, but Mary was amused by it for a time, bohemianism being a
completely unknown quantity to her.
"Don't think this is the real thing," he explained; "I've had seven years
of that in Paris. This is merely a very crass imitation."
"Imitation or not, it's most delightfully absurd and amusing," said she,
watching the group nearest her. This consisted of a very short and rotund
man with hair a la Paderewski and a frilled evening shirt, a thin man of
incredible stature and lank black locks, and a pretty young girl in a
tunic, a tam o' shanter, enormous green hairpins, and tiny patent-leather
shoes decorated with three inch heels. To her the lank man, who wore a
red velvet shirt and a khaki-colored suit reminiscent of Mr. Bernard
Shaw, was explaining the difference between syndicalism and trade-
unionism in the same conversational tone which men in Lindum had used in
describing to Mary the varying excellences of the two local hunts.
"I.W.W." and "A.F. of L." fell from his lips as "M.F.H." and "J.P." used
to from theirs. The contrast between the two worlds entertained her not a
little. She thought all these young people looked clever, though
singularly vulgar, and that her old friends would have appeared by
comparison refreshingly clean and cultivated, but quite stupid.
"Why, Stefan, are dull, correct people always so clean, and clever and
original ones usually so unwashed?" she wondered.
"Oh, the unwashed stage is like the measles," he replied; "you are bound
to catch it in early life."
"I suppose that's true. I know even at Oxford the Freshmen go through an
utterly ragged and disreputable phase, in which they like to pretend they
have no laundry bill."
"Yes, it advertises their emancipation. I went through it in Paris, but
mine was a light case."
"And brief, I should think," smiled Mary, to whom Stefan's feline
perfection of neatness was one of his charms.
At the hotel, on the other hand, the groups, though equally individual,
lacked this harum-scarum quality, and, if occasionally noisy, were clean
"Is it because they can afford to dress better?" Mary asked on their next
evening there, noting the contrast.
"No," said Stefan. "That velvet shirt cost as much probably as half a
dozen cotton ones. These people have more, certainly, or they wouldn't be
here--but the real reason is that they are a little older. The other
crowd is raw with youth. These have begun to find themselves; they don't
need to advertise their opinions on their persons." He was looking about
him with quite a friendly eye.
"You don't seem to hate humanity this evening, Stefan," Mary commented.
"No," he grinned. "I confess these people are less objectionable than
most." He spoke in rapid French to the waiter, ordering another drink.
"And the language," he continued. "If you knew what it means to me to
Mary nodded rather ruefully. Her French was of the British school-girl
variety, grammatically precise, but with a hopeless, insular accent.
After a few attempts Stefan had ceased trying to speak it with her.
"Darling," he had begged, "don't let us--it is the only ugly sound you
One by one they came to know the habitues of these places. In the
restaurant Stefan was detested, but tolerated for the sake of his wife.
"Beauty and the Beast" they were dubbed. But in the hotel cafe he made
himself more agreeable, and was liked for his charming appearance, his
fluent French, and his quick mentality. The "Villagers," as these people
called themselves, owing to their proximity to New York's old Greenwich
Village, admired Mary with ardor, and liked her, but for a time were
baffled by her innate English reserve. Mentally they stood round her like
a litter of yearling pups about a stranger, sniffing and wagging friendly
but uncertain tails, doubtful whether to advance with affectionate
fawnings or to withdraw to safety. This was particularly true of the men
--the women, finding Mary a stanch Feminist, and feeling for her the
sympathy a bride always commands from her sex, took to her at once. The
revolutionary group on the other hand would have broken through her
pleasant aloofness with the force--and twice the speed--of a McEwan, had
Stefan not, with them, adopted the role of snarling watchdog.
One of Mary's first after dinner friendships was made at the hotel with a
certain Mrs. Elliott, who turned out to be the President of the local
Suffrage Club. Scenting a new recruit, this lady early engaged the Byrds
in conversation and, finding Mary a believer, at once enveloped her in
the camaraderie which has been this cause's gift to women all the world
over. They exchanged calls, and soon became firm friends.
Mrs. Elliot was an attractive woman in middle life, of slim, graceful
figure and vivacious manner. She had one son out in the world, and one in
college, and lived in a charming house just off the Avenue, with an
adored but generally invisible husband, who was engaged in business
downtown. As a girl Constance Elliot had been on the stage, and had
played smaller Shakespearean parts in the old Daly Company, but, bowing
to the code of her generation, had abandoned her profession at marriage.
Now, in middle life, too old to take up her calling again with any hope
of success, yet with her mental activity unimpaired, she found in the
Suffrage movement her one serious vocation.
"I am nearly fifty, Mrs. Byrd," she said to Mary, "and have twenty good
years before me. I like my friends, and am interested in philanthropy,
but I am not a Jack-of-all-trades by temperament. I need work--a real job
such as I had when the boys were little, or when I was a girl. We are all
working hard enough to win the vote, but what we shall fill the hole in
our time with when we have it, I don't know. It will be easy for the
younger ones--but I suppose women like myself will simply have to pay the
price of having been born of our generation. Some will find solace as
grandmothers--I hope I shall. But my elder son, who married a pretty
society girl, is childless, and my younger such a light-hearted young
rascal that I doubt if he marries for years to come."
Mary was much interested in this problem, which seemed more salient here
than in her own class in England, in which social life was a vocation for
At Mrs. Elliot's house she met many of the neighborhood's more
conventional women, and began to have a great liking for these gently
bred but broad-minded and democratic Americans. She also met a mixed
collection of artists, actresses, writers, reformers and followers of
various "isms"; for as president of a suffrage club it was Mrs. Elliot's
policy to make her drawing rooms a center for the whole neighborhood. She
was a charming hostess, combining discrimination with breadth of view;
her Fridays were rallying days for the followers of many more cults than
she would ever embrace, but for none toward which she could not feel
At first Stefan, who, man-like, professed contempt for social functions,
refused to accompany Mary to these at-homes. But after Mrs. Elliot's
visit to the studio he conceived a great liking for her, and to Mary's
delight volunteered to accompany her on the following Friday. Few
misanthropes are proof against an atmosphere of adulation, and in this
Mrs. Elliot enveloped Stefan from the moment of first seeing his Danae.
She introduced him as a genius--America's coming great painter, and he
frankly enjoyed the novel sensation of being lionized by a group of
clever and attractive women.
Mrs. Elliot affected house gowns of unusual texture and design, which
flowed in adroitly veiling lines about her too slim form. These
immediately attracted the attention of Stefan, who coveted something
equally original for Mary. He remarked on them to his hostess on his
"Yes," she said, "I love them. I am eclipsed by fashionable clothing.
Felicity Berber designs all my things. She's ruinous," with a sigh, "but
I have to have her. I am a fool at dressing myself, but I have
intelligence enough to know it," she added, laughing.
"Felicity Berber," questioned Stefan. "Is that a creature with Mongolian
eyes and an O-shaped mouth?"
"What a good description! Yes--have you met her?"
"I haven't, but you will arrange it, won't you?" he asked cajolingly. "I
saw a drawing of her--she's tremendously paintable. Do tell me about her.
Wait a minute. I'll get my wife!"
He jumped up, pounced on Mary, who was in a group by the tea-table, and
bore her off regardless of her interrupted conversation.
"Mary," he explained, all excitement, "you remember that picture at the
magazine office? Yes, you do, a girl with slanting black eyes--Felicity
Berber. Well, she isn't an actress after all. Sit down here. Mrs. Elliot
is going to tell us about her." Mary complied, sharing their hostess'
sofa, while Stefan wrapped himself round a stool. "Now begin at the
beginning," he demanded, beaming; "I'm thrilled about her."
"Well," said Mrs. Elliot, dropping a string of jade beads through her
fingers, "so are most people. She's unique in her way. She came here from
the Pacific coast, I believe, quite unknown, and trailing an impossible
husband. That was five years ago--she couldn't have been more than
twenty-three. She danced in the Duncan manner, but was too lazy to keep
it up. Then she went into the movies, and her face became the rage; it
was on all the picture postcards. She got royalties on every photograph
sold, and made quite a lot of money, I believe. But she hates active
work, and soon gave the movies up. About that time the appalling husband
disappeared. I don't know if she divorced him or not, but he ceased to
be, as it were. His name was Noaks." She paused, "Does this bore you?"
she asked Mary.
"On the contrary," smiled she, "it's most amusing--like the penny
novelettes they sell in England."
"Olympian superiority!" teased Stefan. "Please go on, Mrs. Elliot. Did
she attach another husband?"
"No, she says she hates the bother of them," laughed their hostess. "Men
are always falling in love with her, but-openly at least-she seems
uninterested in them."
"Hasn't found the right one, I suppose," Stefan interjected.
"Perhaps that's it. At any rate her young men are always confiding their
woes to me. My status as a potential grandmother makes me a suitable
repository for such secrets."
"Ridiculous," Stefan commented.
"But true, alas!" she laughed. "Well, Felicity had always designed the
gowns for her dancing and acting, and after the elimination of Mr. Noaks
she set up a dressmaking establishment for artistic and individual gowns.
She opened it with a the dansant, at which she discoursed on the art of
dress. Her showroom is like a sublimated hotel lobby--tea is served there
for visitors every afternoon. Her prices are high, and she has made a
huge success. She's wonderfully clever, directs everything herself.
Felicity detests exertion, but she has the art of making others work for
"That sounds as if she would get fat," said Stefan, with a shudder.
"Doesn't it?" agreed Mrs. Elliot. "But she's as slim as a panther, and
intensely alive nervously, for all her physical laziness."
"Do you like her?" Mary asked.
"Yes, I really do, though she's terribly rude, and I tell her I'm
convinced she's a dangerous person. She gives me a feeling that gunpowder
is secreted somewhere in the room with her. I will get her here to meet
you both--you would be interested. She's never free in the afternoon;
we'll make it an evening." With a confirming nod, Mrs. Elliot rose to
greet some newcomers.
"Mary," Stefan whispered, "we'll go and order you a dress from this
person. Wouldn't that be fun?"
"How sweet of you, dearest, but we can't afford it," replied Mary,
surreptitiously patting his hand.
"Nonsense, of course we can. Aren't we going to be rich?" scoffed he.
"Look who's coming!" exclaimed Mary suddenly.
Farraday was shaking hands with their hostess, his tall frame looking
more than ever distinguished in its correct cutaway. Almost instantly he
caught sight of Mary and crossed the room to her with an expression of
"How delightful," he greeted them both. "So you have found the presiding
genius of the district! Why did I not have the inspiration of introducing
you myself?" He turned to Mrs. Elliot, who had rejoined them. "Two more
lions for you, eh, Constance?" he said, with a twinkle which betokened
"Yes, indeed," she smiled, "they have no rivals for my Art and Beauty
"And what about the literary circus? I suppose you have been making Mrs.
Byrd roar overtime?"
Their hostess looked puzzled.
"Don't tell me that you are in ignorance of her status as the Household
Company's latest find?" he ejaculated in mock dismay.
Mrs. Elliot turned reproachful eyes on Mary. "She never told me, the
"Just retribution, Constance, for poring over your propagandist sheets
instead of reading our wholesome literature," Farraday retorted. "Had you
done your duty by the Household magazines you would have needed no
"A hit, a palpable hit," she answered, laughing. "Which reminds me that I
want another article from you, James, for our Woman Citizen."
"Mrs. Byrd," said Farraday, "behold in me a driven slave. Won't you come
to my rescue and write something for this insatiable suffragist?"
Mary shook her head. "No, no, Mr. Farraday, I can't argue, either
personally or on paper. You should hear me trying to make a speech!
Stefan, who had ceased to follow the conversation, and was restlessly
examining prints on the wall, turned at this. "Don't do it, dearest.
Argument is so unbeautiful, and I couldn't stand your doing anything
badly." He drifted away to a group of women who were discussing the
"Tell me about this lion, James," said Constance, settling herself on the
sofa. "I believe she is too modest to tell me herself." She looked at
"She has written a second 'Child's Garden,' almost rivaling the first,
and we have a child's story of hers which will be as popular as some of
Frances Hodgson Burnett's," summed up Farraday.
Mary blushed with pleasure at this praise, but was about to deprecate it
when Stefan signaled her away. "Mary," he called, "I want you to hear
this I am saying about the Cubists!" She left them with a little smile of
excuse, and they watched her tall figure join her husband.
"James," said Mrs. Elliot irrelevantly, "why in the world don't you
"Because, Constance," he smiled, "all the women I most admire in the
world are already married."
"A propos, have you seen Mr. Byrd's work?" she asked.
"Only some drawings, from which I suspect him of genius. But she is as
gifted in her way as he, only it's a smaller way."
"Don't place him till you've seen his big picture, painted from her. It's
tremendous. We've got to have it exhibited at Constantine's. I want you
to help me arrange it for them. She's inexperienced, and he's helplessly
unpractical. Oh!" she grasped his arm; "a splendid idea! Why shouldn't I
have a private exhibition here first, for the benefit of the Cause?"
Farraday threw up his hands. "You are indefatigable, Constance. We'd
better all leave it to you. The Byrds and Suffrage will benefit equally,
I am sure."
"I will arrange it," she nodded smiling, her eyes narrowing, her slim
hands dropping the jade beads from one to the other.
Farraday, knowing her for the moment lost to everything save her latest
piece of stage management, left her, and joined the Byrds. He engaged
himself to visit their studio the following week.
Miss Mason was folding her knitting, and Mary sat in the firelight sewing
diligently. Stefan was out in search of paints.
"I tell you what 'tis, Mary Elliston Byrd," said Miss Mason. "It's 'bout
time you saw a doctor. My mother was a physician-homeopath, one of the
first that ever graduated. Take my advice, and have a woman."
"I'd much rather," said Mary.
"I should say!" agreed the other. "I never was one to be against the men,
but oh, my--" she threw up her bony little hands--"if there's one thing I
never could abide it's a man doctor for woman's work. I s'pose I got
started that way by what my mother told me of the medical students in her
day. Anyway, it hardly seems Christian to me for a woman to go to a man
Mary laughed. "I wish my dear old Dad could have heard you. I remember he
once refused to meet a woman doctor in consultation. She had to leave
Lindum--no one would employ her. I was a child at the time, but even then
it seemed all wrong to me."
"My dear, you thank the Lord you live under the Stars and Stripes,"
rejoined Miss Mason, who conceived of England as a place beyond the reach
of liberty for either women or men.
"I shall live under the Tricolor if Stefan has his way," smiled Mary.
"Child," said her visitor, putting on her hat, "don't say it. Your
husband's an elegant man--I admire him--but don't you ever let me hear
he doesn't love his country."
"I'm certainly learning to love it myself," Mary discreetly evaded.
"You're too fine a woman not to," retorted the other. "Now I tell you.
I've been treated for my chest at the Women's and Children's Hospital.
There's one little doctor there's cute's she can be. I'm goin' to get you
her address. You've got to treat yourself right. Good-bye," nodded the
little woman; and was gone in her usual brisk fashion.
It was the day of Mr. Farraday's expected call, and Miss Mason had hardly
departed when the bell rang. Mary hastily put away her sewing and pressed
the electric button which opened the downstairs door to visitors. She
wished Stefan were back again to help her entertain the editor, and
greeted him with apologies for her husband's absence. She was anxious
that this man, whom she instinctively liked and trusted, should see her
husband at his best. Seating Farraday in the Morris chair, she got him
some tea, while he looked about with interest.
The two big pictures, "Tempest," and "Pursuit," now hung stretched but
unframed, on either side of the room. Farraday's gaze kept returning to
"Those are his Beaux Arts pictures; extraordinary, aren't they?" said
Mary, following his eyes.
"They certainly are. Remarkably powerful. I understand there is another,
though, that he has only just finished?"
"Yes, it's on the easel, covered, you see," she answered. "Stefan must
have the honor of showing you that himself."
"I wish you would tell me, Mrs. Byrd," said Farraday, changing the
subject, "how you happened to write those verses? Had you been brought up
with children, younger brothers and sisters, for instance?"
Mary shook her head. "No, I'm the younger of two. But I've always loved
children more than anything in the world." She blushed, and Farraday,
watching her, realized for the first time what a certain heightened
radiance in her face betokened. He smiled very sweetly at her. She in her
turn saw that he knew, and was glad. His manner seemed to enfold her in a
mantle of comfort and understanding.
As they finished their tea, Stefan arrived. He entered gaily, greeted
Farraday, and fell upon the tea, consuming two cups and several slices of
bread and butter with the rapid concentration he gave to all his acts.
That finished, he leaped up and made for the easel.
"Now, Farraday," he cried, "you are going to see one of the finest modern
paintings in the world. Why should I be modest about it? I'm not. It's a
masterpiece--Mary's and mine!"
Mary wished he had not included her. Though determined to overcome the
feeling, she still shrank from having the picture shown in her presence.
Farraday placed himself in position, and Stefan threw back the cloth,
watching the other's face with eagerness. The effect surpassed his
expectation. The editor flushed, then gradually became quite pale. After
a minute he turned rather abruptly from the canvas and faced Stefan.
"You are right, Mr. Byrd," he said, in an obviously controlled voice, "it
_is_ a masterpiece. It will make your name and probably your
fortune. It is one of the most magnificent modern paintings I have ever
"Your praise honors me," said Stefan, genuinely delighted.
"I'm sorry I have to run away now," Farraday continued almost hurriedly.
"You know what a busy man I am." He shook hands with Stefan. "A thousand
congratulations," he said. "Good-bye, Mrs. Byrd; I enjoyed my cup of tea
with you immensely." The hand he offered her was cold; he hardly looked
up. "You will let me have some more stories, won't you? I shall count on
them. Good-bye again--my warmest congratulations to you both," and he
took his departure with a suddenness only saved from precipitation by the
deliberate poise of his whole personality.
"I'm sorry he had to go so soon," said Mary, a little blankly.
"What got into the man?" Stefan wondered, thrusting his hands into his
pockets. "He was leisurely enough till he had seen the picture. I tell
you what!" he exclaimed. "Did you notice his expression when he looked at
it? I believe the chap is in love with you!" He turned his most impish
and mischievous face to her.
Mary blushed with annoyance. "How perfectly ridiculous, Stefan! Please
don't say such things."
"But he is!" He danced about the room, hugely entertained by his idea.
"Don't you see, that is why he is so eager about your verses, and why he
was so bouleverse by the Danae! Poor chap, I feel quite sorry for him.
You must be nice to him."
Mary was thoroughly annoyed. "Please don't talk like that," she
reiterated. "You don't know how it hurts when you are so flippant. If you
suggest such a reason for his acceptance of my work, of course I can't
send in any more." Tears of vexation were in her eyes.
"Darling, don't be absurd," he responded, teasingly. "Why shouldn't he be
in love with you? I expect everybody to be so. As for your verses, of
course he wouldn't take them if they weren't good; I didn't mean that."
"Then why did you say it?" she asked, unplacated.
"Dearest!" and he kissed her. "Don't be dignified; be Aphrodite again,
not Pallas. I never mean anything I say, except when I say I love you!"
"Love isn't the only thing, Stefan," she replied.
"Isn't it? What else is there? I don't know," and he jumped on the table
and sat smiling there with his head on one side, like a naughty little
boy facing his schoolmaster.
She wanted to answer "comprehension," but was silent, feeling the
uselessness of further words. How expect understanding of a common human
hurt from this being, who alternately appeared in the guise of a god and
a gamin? She remembered the old tale of the maiden wedded to the
beautiful and strange elf-king. Was the legend symbolic of that
mysterious thread--call it genius or what you will--that runs its erratic
course through humanity's woof, marring yet illuminating the staid
design, never straightened with its fellow-threads, never tied, and never
to be followed to its source? With the feeling of having for an instant
held in her hand the key to the riddle of his nature, Mary went to Stefan
and ran her fingers gently through his hair.
"Child," she said, smiling at him rather sadly; and "Beautiful," he
responded, with a prompt kiss.
The next morning brought Constance Elliot, primed with a complete scheme
for the future of the Danae. She found Mary busy with her sewing and
Stefan rather restlessly cleaning his pallette and brushes. The great
picture was propped against the wall, a smaller empty canvas being
screwed on the easel. Stefan greeted her enthusiastically.
"Come in!" he cried, forestalling Mary. "You find us betwixt and between.
She's finished," indicating the Danae, "and I'm thinking of doing an
interior, with Mary seated. I don't know," he went on thoughtfully; "it's
quite out of my usual line, but we're too domestic here just now for
anything else." His tone was slightly grumbling. From the rocking chair
Constance smiled importantly on them both. She had the happy faculty of
never appearing to hear what should not have been expressed.
"Children," she said, "your immediate future is arranged. I have a plan
for the proper presentation of the masterpiece to a waiting world, and I
haven't been responsible for two suffrage matinees and a mile of the
Parade for nothing. I understand publicity. Now listen."
She outlined her scheme to them. The reporters were to be sent for and
informed that the great new American painter, sensation of this year's
Salon, had kindly consented to a private exhibition of his masterpiece at
her house for the benefit of the Cause. Tickets, one dollar each, to be
limited to two hundred.
"Then a bit about your both being Suffragists, and about Mary's writing,
you know," she threw in. "Note the value of the limited sale--at once it
becomes a privilege to be there." Tickets, she went on to explain, would
be sent to the art critics of the newspapers, and Mr. Farraday would
arrange to get Constantine himself and one or two of the big private
connoisseurs. She personally knew the curator of the Metropolitan, and
would get him. The press notices would be followed by special letters and
articles by some of these men. Then Constantine would announce a two
weeks' exhibition at his gallery, the public would flock, and the picture
would be bought by one of the big millionaires, or a gallery. "I've
arranged it all," she concluded triumphantly, looking from one to the
other with her dark alert glance.
Stefan was grinning delightedly, his attention for the moment completely
captured. Mary's sewing had dropped to her lap; she was round-eyed.
"But the sale itself, Mrs. Elliot, you can hardly have arranged that?"
Constance waved her hand. "That arranges itself. It is enough to set the
machinery in motion."
"Do you mean to say," went on Mary, half incredulous, "that you can
simply send for the reporters and get them to write what you want?"
"Within reason, certainly," answered the other. "Why not?"
"In England," Mary laughed, "if a woman were to do that, unless she were
a duchess, a Pankhurst, or a great actress, they wouldn't even come."
Constance dismissed this with a shrug. "Ah, well, my dear, luckly we're
not in England! I'm going to begin to-day. I only came over to get your
permission. Let me see--this is the sixteenth--too near Christmas. I'll
have the tickets printed and the press announcement prepared, and we'll
let them go in the dead week after Christmas, when the papers are
thankful for copy. We'll exhibit the first Saturday in the New Year. For
a week we'll have follow-up articles, and then Constantine will take it.
You blessed people," and she rose to go, "don't have any anxiety.
Suffragists always put things through, and I shall concentrate on this
for the next three weeks. I consider the picture sold."
Mary tried to express her gratitude, but the other waved it aside. "I
just love you both," she cried in her impulsive way, "and want to see you
where you ought to be--at the top!" She shook hands with Stefan
effusively. "Mind you get on with your next picture!" she cried in
parting; "every one will be clamoring for your work!"
"Oh, Stefan, isn't it awfully good of her?" exclaimed Mary, linking her
arm through his. He was staring at his empty canvas. "Yes, splendid," he
responded carelessly, "but of course she'll have the kudos, and her
organization will benefit, too."
"Stefan!" Mary dropped his arm, dumfounded. It was not possible he should
be so ungenerous. She would have remonstrated, but saw he was oblivious
"Yes," he went on absently, looking from the room to the canvas, "it's
fine for every one all round--just as it should be. Now, Mary, if you
will sit over there by the fire and take your sewing, I think I'll try
and block in that Dutch interior effect I noticed some time back. The
light is all wrong, but I can get the thing composed."
He was lost in his new idea. Mary told herself she had in part misjudged
him. His comment on their friend's assistance was not dictated by lack of
appreciation so much as by indifference. No sooner was the picture's
future settled than he had ceased to be interested in it. The practical
results of its sale would have little real meaning for him, she knew. She
began to see that all he asked of humanity was that it should leave him
untrammeled to do his work, while yielding him full measure of the beauty
and acclamation that were his food. "Well," she thought, "I'm the wife of
a genius. It's a great privilege, but it is strange, for I always
supposed if I married it would simply be some good, kind man. He would
have been very dull," she smiled to herself, mentally contrasting the
imagined with the real.
A few days before Christmas Mary noticed that one of the six skyscraper
studies was gone from the studio. She spoke of it, fearing the
possibility of a theft, but Stefan murmured rather vaguely that it was
all right--he was having it framed. Also, on three consecutive mornings
she awakened to find him busily painting at a small easel close under the
window, which he would hastily cover on hearing her move. As he evidently
did not wish her to see it, she wisely restrained her curiosity. She was
herself busy with various little secrets--there was some knitting to be
done whenever his back was turned, and she had made several shopping