Part 3 out of 6
expeditions. On Christmas Eve Stefan was gone the whole afternoon, and
returned radiant, full of absurd jokes and quivers of suppressed glee. He
was evidently highly pleased with himself, but cherished with touching
faith, she thought, the illusion that his manner betrayed nothing.
That night, when she was supposed to be asleep, she felt him creep
carefully out of bed, heard him fumbling for his dressing gown, and saw a
shaft of light as the studio door was cautiously opened. A moment later a
rustling sounded through the transom, followed by the shrill whisper of
Madame Corriani. Listening, she fell asleep.
She was wakened by Stefan's arms round her.
"A happy Christmas, darling! So wonderful--the first Christmas I ever
There was a ruddy glow of firelight in the room, but to her opening eyes
it seemed unusually dark, and in a moment she saw that the great piece of
Chinese silk they used for their couch cover was stretched across the
room on cords, shutting off the window end. She jumped up hastily.
"Oh, Stefan, how thrilling!" she exclaimed, girlishly excited. As for
him, he was standing before her dressed, and obviously tingling with
impatience. She slipped into a dressing gown of white silk, and caught
her hair loosely up. Simultaneously Stefan emerged from the kitchenette
with two steaming cups of coffee, which he placed on a table before the
"Clever boy!" she exclaimed delighted, for he had never made the coffee
before. In a moment he produced rolls and butter.
"Dejeuner first," he proclaimed gleefully, "and then the surprise!" They
ate their meal as excitedly as two children. In the midst of it Mary rose
and, fetching from the bureau two little ribbon-tied parcels, placed them
in his hands.
"For me? More excitements!" he warbled. "But I shan't open them till the
curtain comes down. There, we've finished." He jumped up. "Beautiful,
allow me to present to you the Byrds' Christmas tree." With a dramatic
gesture he unhooked a cord. The curtain fell. There in the full morning
light stood a tree, different from any Mary had ever seen. There were no
candles on it, but from top to bottom it was all one glittering white.
There were no garish tinsel ornaments, but from every branch hung a white
bird, wings outstretched, and under each bird lay, on the branch below,
something white. At the foot of the tree stood a little painting framed
in pale silver. It was of a nude baby boy, sitting wonderingly upon a
hilltop at early dawn. His eyes were lifted to the sky, his hands groped.
Mary, with an exclamation of delight, stepped nearer. Then she saw what
the white things were under the spreading wings of the birds. Each was
the appurtenance of a baby. One was a tiny cap, one a cloak, others were
dresses, little jackets, vests. There were some tiny white socks, and, at
the very top of the tree, a rattle of white coral and silver.
"Oh, Stefan, my dearest--'the little white bird'!" she cried.
"Do you like it, darling?" he asked delightedly, his arms about her.
"Mrs. Elliot told me about Barrie's white bird--I hadn't known the story.
But I wanted to show you I was glad about ours," he held her close, "and
directly she spoke of the bird, I thought of this. She went with me to
get those little things--" he waved at the tree--"some of them are from
her. But the picture was quite my own idea. It's right, isn't it? What
you would feel, I mean? I tried to get inside your heart."
She nodded, her eyes shining with tears. She could find no words to tell
him how deeply she was touched. Her half-formed doubts were swept away
--he was her own dear man, kind and comprehending. She took the little
painting and sat with it on her knee, poring over it, Stefan standing by
delighted at his success. Then he remembered his own parcels. The larger
he opened first, and instantly donned one of the two knitted ties it
held, proclaiming its golden brown vastly becoming. The smaller parcel
contained a tiny jeweler's box, and in it Stefan found an old and heavy
seal ring of pure design, set with a transparent greenish stone, which
bore the intaglio of a winged head. He was enchanted.
"Mary, you wonder," he cried. "You must have created this--you couldn't
just have found it. It symbolizes what you have given me--sums up all
that you are!" and he kissed her rapturously.
"Oh, Stefan," she answered, "it is all perfect, for your gift symbolizes
what you have brought to me!"
"Yes, darling, but not all I am to you, I hope," he replied, rubbing his
cheek against hers.
"Foolish one," she smiled back at him.
They spent a completely happy day, rejoicing in the successful attempt of
each to penetrate the other's mind. They had never, even on their
honeymoon, felt more at one. Later, Mary asked him about the missing
"Yes, I sold it for the bird's trappings," he answered gleefully; "wasn't
it clever of me? But don't ask me for the horrid details, and don't tell
me a word about my wonderful ring. I prefer to consider that you fetched
it from Olympus."
And Mary, whose practical conscience had given her sharp twinges over her
extravagance, was glad to let it rest at that.
During the morning a great sheaf of roses came for Mary with the card of
James Farraday, and on its heels a bush of white heather inscribed to
them both from McEwan. The postman contributed several cards, and a tiny
string of pink coral from Miss Mason. "How kind every one is!" Mary cried
In the afternoon the Corrianis were summoned. Mary had small presents for
them and a glass of wine, which Stefan poured to the accompaniment of a
song in his best Italian. This melted the somewhat sulky Corriani to
smiles, and his wife to tears. The day closed with dinner at their
beloved French hotel, and a bottle of Burgundy shared with Stefan's
During Christmas week Stefan worked hard at his interior, but about the
fifth day began to show signs of restlessness. The following morning,
after only half an hour's painting, he threw down his brush.
"It's no use, Mary," he announced, "I don't think I shall ever be able to
do this kind of work; it simply doesn't inspire me."
She looked up from her sewing. "Why, I thought it promised charmingly."
"That's just it." He ruffled his hair irritably. "It does. Can you
imagine my doing anything 'charming'? No, the only hope for this interior
is for me to get depth into it, and depth won't come--it's facile." And
he stared disgustedly at the canvas.
"I think I know what you mean," Mary answered absently. She was thinking
that his work had power and height, but that depth she had never seen in
Stefan shook himself. "Oh, come along, Mary, let's get out of this. We've
been mewed up in this domestic atmosphere for days. I shall explode soon.
Let's go somewhere."
"Very well," she agreed, folding up her work.
"You feel all right, don't you?" he checked himself to ask.
"Rather, don't I look it?"
"You certainly do," he replied, but without his usual praise of her. "I
have it, let's take a look at Miss Felicity Berber! I shall probably get
some new ideas from her. Happy thought! Come on, Mary, hat, coat, let's
hurry." He was all impatience to be gone.
They started to walk up the Avenue, stopping at the hotel to find in the
telephone book the number of the Berber establishment. It was entered,
"Berber, Felicity, Creator of Raiment."
"How affected!" laughed Mary.
"Yes," said Stefan, "amusing people usually are."
Though he appeared moody the crisp, sunny air of the Avenue gradually
brightened him, and Mary, who was beginning to feel her confined
mornings, breathed it in joyfully.
The house was in the thirties, a large building of white marble. A lift
carried them to the top floor, and left them facing a black door with
"Felicity Berber" painted on it in vermilion letters. Opening this, they
found themselves in a huge windowless room roofed with opaque glass. The
floor was inlaid in a mosaic of uneven tiles which appeared to be of
different shades of black. The walls, from roof to floor, were hung with
shimmering green silk of the shade of a parrot's wing. There were no
show-cases or other evidences of commercialism, but about the room were
set couches of black japanned wood, upon which rested flat mattresses
covered in the same green as the walls. On these silk cushions in black
and vermilion were piled. The only other furniture consisted of low
tables in black lacquer, one beside every couch. On each of these rested
a lacquered bowl of Chinese red, obviously for the receipt of cigarette
ashes. A similar but larger bowl on a table near the door was filled with
green orchids. One large green silk rug--innocent of pattern--invited the
entering visitor deeper into the room; otherwise the floor was bare.
There were no pictures, no decorations, merely this green and black
background, relieved by occasional splashes of vermilion, and leading up
to a great lacquered screen of the same hue which obscured a door at the
further end of the room.
From the corner nearest the entrance a young woman advanced to meet them.
She was clad in flowing lines of opalescent green, and her black hair was
banded low across the forehead with a narrow line of emerald.
"You wish to see raiment?" was her greeting.
Mary felt rather at a loss amidst these ultra-aestheticisms, but Stefan
promptly asked to see Miss Berber.
"Madame rarely sees new clients in the morning." The green damsel was
pessimistic. Mary felt secretly amused at the ostentatious phraseology.
"Tell her we are friends of Mrs. Theodore Elliot's," replied Stefan, with
his most brilliant and ingratiating smile.
The damsel brightened somewhat. "If I may have your name I will see what
can be done," she offered, extending a small vermilion tray. Stefan
produced a card and the damsel floated with it toward the distant exit.
Her footsteps were silent on the dead tiling, and there was no sound from
the door beyond the screen.
"Isn't this a lark? Let's sit down," Stefan exclaimed, leading the way to
"It's rather absurd, don't you think?" smiled Mary.
"No doubt, but amusing enough for mere mortals," he shrugged, a scarcely
perceptible snub in his tone. Mary was silent. They waited for several
minutes. At last instinct rather than hearing made them turn to see a
figure advancing down the room.
Both instantly recognized the celebrated Miss Berber. A small, slim
woman, obviously light-boned and supple, she seemed to move forward like
a ripple. Her naturally pale face, with its curved scarlet lips and
slanting eyes, was set on a long neck, and round her small head a heavy
swathe of black hair was held by huge scarlet pins. Her dress, cut in a
narrow V at the neck, was all of semi-transparent reds, the brilliant
happy reds of the Chinese. In fact, but for her head, she would have been
only half visible as she advanced against the background of the screen.
Mary's impression of her was blurred, but Stefan, whose artist's eye
observed everything, noticed that her narrow feet were encased in
heelless satin shoes which followed the natural shape of the feet like
"Mr. and Mrs. Byrd! How do you do?" she murmured, and her voice was
light-breathed, a mere memory of sound. It suggested that she customarily
mislaid it, and recaptured only an echo.
"Pull that other couch a little nearer, please," she waved to Stefan,
appropriating the one from which they had just risen. Upon this she
stretched her full length, propping the cushions comfortably under her
"Do you smoke?" she breathed, and stretching an arm produced from a
hidden drawer in the table at her elbow cigarettes in a box of black
lacquer, and matches in one of red. Mary declined, but Stefan immediately
lighted a cigarette for himself and held a match for Miss Berber. Mary
and he settled themselves on the couch which he drew up, and which
slipped readily over the tiles.
"Now we can talk," exhaled their hostess on a spiral of smoke. "I never
see strangers in the morning, not even friends of dear Connie's, but
there was something in the name--" She seemed to be fingering a small
knob protruding from the lacquer of her couch. It must have been a bell,
for in a moment the green maiden appeared.
"Chloris, has that picture come for the sylvan fitting room?" she
murmured. "Yes? Bring it, please." Her gesture seemed to waft the damsel
over the floor. During this interlude the Byrds were silent, Stefan
hugely entertained, Mary beginning to feel a slight antagonism toward
this super-casual dressmaker.
A moment and the attendant nymph reappeared, bearing a large canvas
framed in glistening green wood.
"Against the table--toward Mr. Byrd." Miss Berber supplemented the murmur
with an indicative gesture. "You know that?" dropped from her lips as the
nymph glided away.
It was Stefan's pastoral of the dancing faun. He nodded gaily, but Mary
felt herself blushing. Her husband's work destined for a fitting room!
"I thought so," Miss Berber enunciated through a breath of smoke. "I
picked it up the other day. Quite lovely. My sylvan fitting room required
just that note. I use it for country raiment only. Atmosphere, Mr. Byrd.
I want my clients to feel young when they are preparing for the country.
I am glad to see you here."
Stefan reciprocated. So far, Miss Berber had ignored Mary.
"I might consult you about my next color scheme--original artists are so
rare. I change this room every year." Her eyelids drooped.
At this point Mary ventured to draw attention to herself.
"Why is it, Miss Berber," she asked in her clear English voice, "that you
have only couches here?"
Felicity's lids trembled; she half looked up. "How seldom one hears a
beautiful voice," she uttered. "Chairs, Mrs. Byrd, destroy women's
beauty. Why sit, when one can recline? My clients may not wear corsets;
reclining encourages them to feel at ease without."
Mary found Miss Berber's affectations absurd, but this explanation
heightened her respect for her intelligence. "Method in her madness," she
quoted to herself.
"Miss Berber, I want you to create a gown for my wife. I am sure when you
look at her you will be interested in the idea." Stefan expected every
one to pay tribute to Mary's beauty.
Again Miss Berber's fingers strayed. The nymph appeared. "How long have
I, Chloris? ... Half an hour? Then send me Daphne. You notice the
silence, Mr. Byrd? It rests my clients, brings health to their nerves.
Without it, I could not do my work."
Mary smiled as she mentally contrasted these surroundings with Farraday's
office, where she had last heard that expression. Was quiet so rare a
privilege in America, she wondered?
A moment, and a second damsel emerged, brown-haired, clad in a paler
green, and carrying paper and pencil. Not until this ministrant had
seated herself at the foot of Miss Berber's couch did that lady refer to
Stefan's request. Then, propping herself on her elbow, she at last looked
full at Mary. What she saw evidently pleased her, for she allowed herself
a slight smile. "Ah," she breathed, "an evening, or a house gown?"
"Evening," interposed Stefan. Then to Mary, "You look your best
decolletee, you know."
"Englishwomen always do," murmured Miss Berber.
"Will you kindly take off your hat and coat, and stand up, Mrs. Byrd?"
Mary complied, feeling uncomfortably like a cloak model.
"Classic, pure classic. How seldom one sees it!" Miss Berber's voice
became quite audible. "Gold, of course, classic lines, gold sandals. A
fillet, but no ornaments. You wish to wear this raiment during the
ensuing months, Mrs. Byrd?" Mary nodded. "Then write Demeter type," the
designer interpolated to her satellite, who was taking notes. "Otherwise
it would of course be Artemis--or Aphrodite even?" turning for agreement
to Stefan. "Would you say Aphrodite?"
"I always do," beamed he, delighted.
At this point the first nymph, Chloris, again appeared, and at a motion
of Miss Berber's hand rapidly and silently measured Mary, the paler hued
nymph assisting her as scribe.
"Mr. Byrd," pronounced the autocrat of the establishment, when at the
conclusion of these rites the attendants had faded from the room. "I
never design for less than two hundred dollars. Such a garment as I have
in mind for your wife, queenly and abundant--" her hands waved in
illustration--"would cost three hundred. But--" her look checked Mary in
an exclamation of refusal--"we belong to the same world, the world of
art, not of finance. Yes?" She smiled. "Your painting, Mr. Byrd, is worth
three times what I gave for it, and Mrs. Byrd will wear my raiment as few
clients can. It will give me pleasure"--her lids drooped to illustrate
finality--"to make this garment for the value of the material, which will
be--" her lips smiled amusement at the bagatelle--"between seventy and
eighty-five dollars--no more." She ceased.
Mary felt uncomfortable. Why should she accept such a favor at the hands
of this poseuse? Stefan, however, saved her the necessity of decision. He
leapt to his feet, all smiles.
"Miss Berber," he cried, "you honor us, and Mary will glorify your
design. It is probable," he beamed, "that we cannot afford a dress at
all, but I disregard that utterly." He shrugged, and snapped a finger.
"You have given me an inspiration. As soon as the dress arrives, I shall
paint Mary as Demeter. Mille remerciements!" Bending, he kissed Miss
Berber's hand in the continental manner. Mary, watching, felt a tiny
prick of jealousy. "He never kissed my hand," she thought, and instantly
scorned herself for the idea.
The designer smiled languidly up at Stefan. "I am happy," she murmured.
"No fittings, Mrs. Byrd. We rarely fit, except the model gowns. You will
have the garment in a week. Au revoir." Her eyes closed. They turned to
find a high-busted woman entering the room, accompanied by two young
girls. As they departed a breath-like echo floated after them, "Oh,
really, Mrs. Van Sittart--still those corsets? I can do nothing for you,
you know." Tones of shrill excuse penetrated to the lift door. At the
curb below stood a dyspeptically stuffed limousine, guarded by two men in
The Byrds swung southward in silence, but suddenly Stefan heaved a great
breath. "Nom d'un nom d'un nom d'un vieux bonhomme!" he exploded, voicing
in that cumulative expletive his extreme satisfaction with the morning.
Constance Elliot had not boasted her stage-management in vain. On the
first Saturday in January all proceeded according to schedule. The Danae,
beautifully framed, stood at the farther end of Constance's double
drawing-room, from which all other mural impedimenta, together with most
of the furniture, had been removed. Expertly lighted, the picture glowed
in the otherwise obscure room like a thing of flame.
Two hundred ticket holders came, saw, and were conquered. Farraday, in
his most correct cutaway, personally conducted a tour of three eminent
critics to the Village. Sir Micah, the English curator of the
Metropolitan, reflectively tapping an eye-glass upon an uplifted finger
tip, pronounced the painting a turning-point in American art. Four
reporters--whose presence in his immediate vicinity Constance had
insured--transferred this utterance to their note books. Artists gazed,
and well-dressed women did not forbear to gush. Tea, punch, and yellow
suffrage cakes were consumed in the dining room. There was much noise and
excessive heat. In short, the occasion was a success.
Toward the end, when few people remained except the genial Sir Micah,
whom Constance was judiciously holding with tea, smiles, and a good
cigar, the all-important Constantine arrived. Prompted, Sir Micah was
induced to repeat his verdict. But the picture spoke for itself, and the
famous dealer was visibly impressed. Constance was able to eat her dinner
at last with a comfortable sense of accomplishment. She was only sorry
that the Byrds had not been there to appreciate her strategy. Stefan,
indeed, did appear for half an hour, but Mary's courage had failed her
entirely. She had succumbed to an attack of stage fright and shut herself
up at home.
As for Stefan, he had developed one of his most contrary moods. Refusing
conventional attire, he clad himself in the baggy trousers and flowing
tie of his student days, under the illusion that he was thus defying the
prejudices of Philistia. He was unaware that the Philistines, as
represented by the gentlemen of the press, considered his costume
quintessentially correct for an artist just returned from Paris, and
would have been grieved had he appeared otherwise. Unconsciously playing
to the gallery, Stefan on arrival squared himself against a doorway and
eyed the crowds with a frown of disapprobation. He had not forgotten his
early snubs from the dealers, and saw in every innocent male visitor one
of the fraternity.
Constance, in her bid for publicity, had sold most of her tickets to the
socially prominent, so that Stefan was soon surrounded by voluble ladies
unduly furred, corseted, and jeweled. He found these unbeautiful, and his
misanthropy, which had been quiescent of late, rose rampant.
Presently he was introduced to a stout matron, whose costume centered in
an enormous costal cascade of gray pearls.
"Mr. Byrd," she gushed, "I dote on art. I've made a study of it, and I
can say that your picture is a triumph."
"Madam," he fairly scowled, "it is as easy for the rich to enter the
kingdom of Art as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle."
Leaving her pink with offense, he turned his back and, shaking off other
would-be admirers, sought his hostess.
"My God, I can't stand any more of this--I'm off," he confided to her.
Constance was beginning to know her man. She gave him a quick scrutiny.
"Yes, I think you'd better be," she agreed, "before you spoil any of my
good work. An absent lion is better than a snarling one. Run home to
Mary." She dismissed him laughingly, and Stefan catapulted himself out of
the house, thereby missing the attractive Miss Berber by a few minutes.
Dashing home across the Square, he flung himself on the divan with every
appearance of exhaustion. "Sing to me, Mary," he implored.
"Why, Stefan," she asked, startled, "wasn't it a success? What's the
"Success!" he scoffed. "Oh, yes. They all gushed and gurgled and squeaked
and squalled. Horrible! Sing, dearest; I must hear something beautiful."
Failing to extract more from him, she complied.
The next day brought a full account of his success from Constance, and
glowing tributes from the papers. The head-lines ranged from
"Suffragettes Unearth New Genius" to "Distinguished Exhibit at Home of
Theodore M. Elliot." The verdict was unanimous. A new star had risen in
the artistic firmament. One look at the headings, and Stefan dropped the
papers in disgust, but Mary pored over them all, and found him quite
willing to listen while she read eulogistic extracts aloud.
Thus started, the fuse of publicity burnt brightly. Constance's carefully
planned follow-up articles appeared, and reporters besieged the Byrds'
studio. Unfortunately for Mary, these gentry soon discovered that she was
the Danae's original, which fact created a mild succes de scandale.
Personal paragraphs appeared about her and her writing, and, greatly
embarrassed, she disconnected the door-bell for over a week. But the
picture was all the more talked about. In a week Constantine had it on
exhibition; in three, he had sold it for five thousand dollars to a
"Mary," groaned Stefan when he heard the news, "we have given in to
Mammon. We are capitalists."
"Oh, dear, think of our beautiful picture going to some odious nouveau
riche!" Mary sighed. But she was immeasurably relieved that Stefan's name
was made, and that they were permanently lifted from the ranks of the
That very day, as if to illustrate their change of status, Mrs. Corriani
puffed up the stairs with the news that the flat immediately below them
had been abandoned over night. The tenants, a dark couple of questionable
habits and nationality, had omitted the formality of paying their rent--
the flat was on the market. The outcome was that Stefan and Mary, keeping
their studio as a workshop, overflowed into the flat beneath, and found
themselves in possession of a bed and bathroom, a kitchen and maid's
room, and a sitting room. These they determined to furnish gradually, and
Mary looked forward to blissful mornings at antique stores and auctions.
She had been brought up amidst the Chippendale, old oak, and brasses of a
cathedral close, and new furniture was anathema to her. A telephone and a
colored maid-servant were installed. Their picnicking days were over.
True to her word, Constance arranged a reception in the Byrds' honor, at
which they were to meet Felicity Berber. The promise of this encounter
reconciled Stefan to the affair, and he was moreover enthusiastically
looking forward to Mary's appearance in her new gown. This had arrived,
and lay swathed in tissue paper in its box. In view of their change of
fortune they had, in paying the account of seventy-five dollars,
concocted a little note to Miss Berber, hoping she would now reconsider
her offer, and render them a bill for her design. This note, written and
signed by Mary in her upright English hand, brought forth a
characteristic reply. On black paper and in vermilion ink arrived two
lines of what Mary at first took to be Egyptian hieroglyphics. Studied
from different angles, these yielded at last a single sentence: "A gift
is a gift, and repays itself." This was followed by a signature traveling
perpendicularly down the page in Chinese fashion. It was outlined in an
oblong of red ink, but was itself written in green, the capitals being
supplied with tap-roots extending to the base of each name. Mary tossed
the letter over to Stefan with a smile. He looked at it judicially.
"There's draughtsmanship in that," he said; "she might have made an
etcher. It's drawing, but it's certainly not handwriting."
On the evening of the party Stefan insisted on helping Mary to dress.
Together they opened the great green box and spread its contents on the
bed. The Creator of Raiment had not done things by halves. In addition to
the gown, she had supplied a wreath of pale white and gold metals,
representing two ears of wheat arranged to meet in a point over the brow,
and a pair of gilded shoes made on the sandal plan, with silver-white
buckles. Pinned to the gown was a printed green slip, reading "No
corsets, petticoats or jewelry may be worn with this garb."
The dress was of heavy gold tissue, magnificently draped in generous
classic folds. It left the arms bare, the drapery being fastened on
either shoulder with great brooches of white metal, reproduced, as Stefan
at once recognized, from Greek models. Along all the edges of the drapery
ran a border of ears of wheat, embroidered in deep gold and pale silver.
Mary, who had hitherto only peeped at the gown, felt quite excited when
she saw it flung across the bed.
"Oh, Stefan, I do think it will be becoming," she cried, her cheeks
bright pink. She had never dreamed of owning such a dress.
He was enchanted. "It's a work of art. Very few women could wear it, but
on you--! Well, it's worthy of you, Beautiful."
During the dressing he made her quite nervous by his exact attention to
every detail. The arrangement of her hair and the precise position of the
wreath had to be tried and tried again, but the result justified him.
"Olympian Deity," he cried, "I must kneel to you!" And so he did, gaily
adoring, with a kiss for the hem of her robe. They started in the highest
spirits, Stefan correct this time in an immaculate evening suit which
Mary had persuaded him to order. As they prepared to enter the drawing
room he whispered, "You'll be a sensation. I'm dying to see their faces."
"Don't make me nervous," she whispered back.
By nature entirely without self-consciousness, she had become very
sensitive since the Danae publicity. But her nervousness only heightened
her color, and as with her beautiful walk she advanced into the room
there was an audible gasp from every side. Constance pounced upon her.
"You perfectly superb creature! You ought to have clouds rolling under
your feet. There, I can't express myself. Come and receive homage. Mr.
Byrd, you're the luckiest man on earth--I hope you deserve it all--but
then of course no man could. Mary, here are two friends of yours--Mr.
Byrd, come and be presented to Felicity."
Farraday and McEwan had advanced toward them and immediately formed the
nucleus of a group which gathered about Mary. Stefan followed his hostess
across the room to a green sofa, on which, cigarette in hand, reclined
Miss Berber, surrounded by a knot of interested admirers.
"Yes, Connie," that lady murmured, with the ghost of a smile, "I've met
Mr. Byrd. He brought his wife to the Studio." She extended a languid hand
to Stefan, who bowed over it.
"Ah! I might have known you had a hand in that effect," Constance
exclaimed, looking across the room toward Mary.
"Of course you might," the other sighed, following her friend's eyes.
"It's perfect, I think; don't you agree, Mr. Byrd?" and she actually rose
from the sofa to obtain a better view.
"Absolutely," answered Stefan, riveted in his turn upon her.
Miss Berber was clad in black tulle, so transparent as barely to obscure
her form. Sleeves she had none. A trifle of gauze traveled over one
shoulder, leaving the other bare save for a supporting strap of tiny
scarlet beads. Her triple skirt was serrated like the petals of a black
carnation, and outlined with the same minute beads. Her bodice could
scarcely be said to exist, so deep was its V. From her ears long
ornaments of jet depended, and a comb in scarlet bead-work ran wholly
across one side of her head. A flower of the same hue and workmanship
trembled from the point of her corsage. She wore no rings, but her nails
were reddened, and her sleek black hair and scarlet lips completed the
chromatic harmony. The whole effect was seductive, but so crisp as to
"I must paint you, Miss Berber," was Stefan's comment.
"All the artists say that." She waved a faint expostulation.
Her hands, he thought, had the whiteness and consistency of a camelia.
"All the artists are not I, however," he answered with a smiling shrug.
"Greek meets Greek," thought Constance, amused, turning away to other
"I admit that." Miss Berber lit another cigarette. "I have seen your
Danae. The people who have painted me have been fools. Obvious--treating
me like an advertisement for cold cream."
She breathed a sigh, and sank again to the sofa. Her lids drooped as if
in weariness of such banalities. Stefan sat beside her, the manner of
both eliminating the surrounding group.
"One must have subtlety, must one not?" she murmured.
How subtle she was, he thought; how mysterious, in spite of her obvious
posing! He could not even tell whether she was interested in him.
"I shall paint you, Miss Berber," he said, watching her, "as a Nixie.
Water creatures, you know, without souls."
"No soul?" she reflected, lingering on a puff of smoke. "How chic!"
Stefan was delighted. Hopefully, he broke into French. She replied with
fluent ease, but with a strange, though charming, accent. The exotic
French fitted her whole personality, he felt, as English could not do. He
was pricked by curiosity as to her origin, and did not hesitate to ask
it, but she gave her shadow of a smile, and waved her cigarette vaguely.
"Quien sabe?" she shrugged.
"Do you know Spanish?" he asked in French, seeking a clue.
"Only what one picks up in California." He was no nearer a solution.
"Were you out there long?"
She looked at him vaguely. "I should like some coffee, please."
Defeated, he was obliged to fetch a cup. When he returned, it was to find
her talking monosyllabic English to a group of men.
Farraday and McEwan had temporarily resigned Mary to a stream of
newcomers, and stood watching the scene from the inner drawing room.
"James," said McEwan, "get on to the makeup of the crowd round our lady,
and compare it with the specimens rubbering the little Berber."
Farraday smiled in his grave, slow way.
"You're right, Mac, the substance and the shadow."
Many of the women seated about the room were covertly staring at
Felicity, but so far none had joined her group. This consisted, besides
Stefan, of two callow and obviously enthralled youths, a heavy semi-bald
man with paunched eyes and a gluttonous mouth, and a tall languid person
wearing tufts of hair on unexpected parts of his face, and showing the
hands of a musician.
Round Mary stood half a dozen women, their host, the kindly and practical
Mr. Elliot, a white-haired man of distinguished bearing, and a gigantic
young viking with tawny hair and beard and powerful hands.
"That's Gunther, an A1 sculptor," said McEwan, indicating the viking, who
was looking at Mary as his ancestors might have looked at a vision of
"They're well matched, eh, James?"
"As well as she could be," the other answered gravely. McEwan looked at
his friend. "Mon," he said, relapsing to his native speech, "come and hae
a drop o' the guid Scotch."
Constance had determined that Felicity should dance, in spite of her
well-known laziness. At this point she crossed the room to attack her,
expecting a difficult task, but, to her surprise, Felicity hardly
demurred. After a moment of sphinx-like communing, she dropped her
cigarette and rose.
"Mr. Byrd is going to paint me as something without a soul--I think I
will dance," she cryptically vouchsafed.
"Shall I play?" offered Constance, delighted.
Miss Berber turned to the languid musician.
"Have you your ocarina, Marchmont?" she breathed.
"I always carry it, Felicity," he replied, with a reproachful look,
drawing from his pocket what appeared to be a somewhat contorted
"Then no piano to-night, Connie. A little banal, the piano, perhaps." Her
hands waved vaguely.
A space was cleared; chairs were arranged.
Miss Berber vanished behind a portiere. The languid Marchmont draped
himself in a corner, and put the fat little meerschaum to his lips. A
clear, jocund sound, a mere thread of music, as from the pipe of some
hidden faun, penetrated the room. The notes trembled, paused, and fell to
the minor. Felicity, feet bare, toes touched with scarlet, wafted into
the room. Her dancing was incredibly light; she looked like some exotic
poppy swaying to an imperceptible breeze. The dance was languorously sad,
palely gay, a thing half asleep, veiled. It seemed always about to break
into fierce life, yet did not. The scent of mandragora hung over it--it
was as if the dancer, drugged, were dreaming of the sunlight.
When, waving a negligent hand to the applause, Felicity passed Stefan at
the end of her dance, he caught a murmured phrase from her.
"Not soulless, perhaps, but sleeping." Whether she meant this as an
explanation of her dance or of herself he was not sure.
Mary watched the dance with admiration, and wished to compare her
impressions of it with her husband's. She tried to catch his eye across
the room at the end, but he had drifted away toward the dining room.
Momentarily disappointed, she turned to find Farraday at her elbow, and
gladly let him lead her, also, in search of refreshments. There was a
general movement in that direction, and the drawing room was almost empty
as McEwan, purpose in his eye, strode across it to Constance. He spoke to
her in an undertone.
"Sing? Does she? I had no idea! She never tells one such things," his
hostess replied. "Do you think she would? But she has no music. You could
play for her? How splendid, Mr. McEwan. How perfectly lovely of you. I'll
arrange it." She hurried out, leaving McEwan smiling at nothing in
visible contentment. In a few minutes she returned with Mary.
"Of course I will if you wish it," the latter was saying, "but I've no
music, and only know foolish little ballads."
"Mr. McEwan says he can vamp them all, and it will be too delightful to
have something from each of my women stars," Constance urged. "Now I'll
leave you two to arrange it, and in a few minutes I'll get every one back
from the dining room," she nodded, slipping away again.
"Cruel man, you've given me away," Mary smiled.
"I always brag about my friends," grinned McEwan. They went over to the
"What price the Bard! Do you know this?" His fingers ran into the old air
for "Sigh No More, Ladies." She nodded.
"Yes, I like that."
"And for a second," he spun round on his stool, "what do you say to a
duet?" His candid blue eyes twinkled at her.
"A duet!" she exclaimed in genuine surprise. "Do you sing, Mr. McEwan?"
"Once in a while," and, soft pedal down, he played a few bars of
Marzials' "My True Love Hath My Heart," humming the words in an easy
"Oh, what fun!" exclaimed Mary. "I love that." They tried it over, below
The room was filling again. People began to settle down expectantly;
McEwan struck his opening chords.
Just as Mary's first note sounded, Stefan and Felicity entered the room.
He started in surprise; then Mary saw him smile delightedly, and they
both settled themselves well in front.
"'Men were deceivers ever,'" sang Mary, with simple ease, and "'Hey
nonny, nonny.'" The notes fell gaily; her lips and eyes smiled.
There was generous applause at the end of the little song. Then McEwan
struck the first chords of the duet.
"'My true love hath my heart,'" Mary sang clearly, head up, eyes shining.
"'My true love hath my heart,'" replied McEwan, in his cheery barytone.
"'--And I have his,'" Mary's bell tones announced.
"'--And I have his,'" trolled McEwan.
"'There never was a better bargain driven,'" the notes came, confident
and glad, from the golden figure with its clear-eyed, glowing face. They
ended in a burst of almost defiant optimism.
Applause was hearty and prolonged. McEwan slipped from his stool and
sought a cigarette in the adjoining room. There was a general
congratulatory movement toward Mary, in which both Stefan and Felicity
joined. Then people again began to break into groups. Felicity found her
sofa, Mary a chair. McEwan discovered Farraday under the arch between the
two drawing-rooms, and stood beside him to watch the crowd. Stefan had
moved with Felicity toward her sofa, and, as she disposed herself, she
seemed to be talking to him in French. McEwan and Farraday continued
their survey. Mary was surrounded by people, but her eyes strayed across
the room. Felicity appeared almost animated, but Stefan seemed
inattentive; he fidgeted, and looked vague.
A moment more, and quite abruptly he crossed the room, and planted
himself down beside Mary.
"Ah," sighed McEwan, apparently a propos of nothing, and with a trace of
Scotch, "James, I'll now hae another whusky."
Stefan's initial and astonishing success was not to be repeated that
winter. The great Constantine, anxious to benefit by the flood tide of
his client's popularity, had indeed called at the studio in search of
more material, but after a careful survey, had decided against exhibiting
"Tempest" and "Pursuit." Before these pictures he had stood wrapped in
speculation for some time, pursing his lips and fingering the over-heavy
seals of his fob. Mary had watched him eagerly, deeply curious as to the
effect of the paintings. But Stefan had been careless to the point of
rudeness; he had long since lost interest in his old work. When at last
the swarthy little dealer, who was a Greek Jew, and had the keen,
perceptions of both races, had shaken his head, Mary was not surprised,
was indeed almost glad.
"Mr. Byrd," Constantine had pronounced, in his heavy, imperfect English,
"I think we would make a bad mistake to exhibit these paintings now.
Technically they are clever, oh, very clever indeed, but they would be
unpopular; and this once," he smiled shrewdly, "the public would be right
about it. Your Danae was a big conception as well as fine painting; it
had inspiration--feeling--" his thick but supple hands circled in
emphasis--"we don't want to go back simply to cleverness. When you paint
me something as big again as that one I exhibit it; otherwise," with a
shrug, "I think we spoil our market."
After this visit Stefan, quite unperturbed, had turned the two fantasies
to the wall.
"I dare say Constantine is right about them," he said; "they are rather
crazy things, and anyhow, I'm sick of them."
Mary was quite relieved to have them hidden. The merman in particular had
got upon her nerves of late.
As the winter advanced, the Byrds' circle of acquaintances grew, and many
visitors dropped into the studio for tea. These showed much interest in
Stefan's new picture, a large study of Mary in the guise of Demeter, for
which she was posing seated, robed in her Berber gown. Miss Mason in
particular was delighted with the painting, which she dubbed a "companion
piece" to the Danae. The story of Constantine's decision against the two
salon canvases got about and, amusingly enough, heightened the Byrds'
popularity. The Anglo-Saxon public is both to take its art neat,
preferring it coated with a little sentiment. It now became accepted that
Stefan's genius was due to his wife, whose love had lighted the torch of
"Ah, Mr. Byrd," Miss Mason had summed up the popular view, in one of her
rare romantic moments, "the love of a good woman--!" Stefan had looked
completely vague at this remark, and Mary had burst out laughing.
"Why, Sparrow," for so, to Miss Mason's delight, she had named her,
"don't be Tennysonian, as Stefan would say. It was Stefan's power to feel
love, and not mine to call it out, that painted the Danae," and she
looked at him with proud tenderness.
But the Sparrow was unconvinced. "You can't tell me. If 'twas all in him,
why didn't some other girl over in Paris call it out long ago?"
"Lots tried," grinned Stefan, with his cheeky-boy expression.
"Ain't he terrible," Miss Mason sighed, smiling. She adored Mary's
husband, but consistently disapproved of him.
Try as she would, Mary failed to shake her friends' estimate of her share
in the family success. It became the fashion to regard her as a muse, and
she, who had felt oppressed by Stefan's lover-like deification, now found
her friends, too, conspiring to place her on a pedestal. Essentially
simple and modest, she suffered real discomfort from the cult of
adoration that surrounded her. Coming from a British community which she
felt had underestimated her, she now found herself made too much of. A
smaller woman would have grown vain amid so much admiration; Mary only
became inwardly more humble, while outwardly carrying her honors with
For some time after the night of Constance's reception, Stefan had shown
every evidence of contentment, but as the winter dragged into a cold and
slushy March he began to have recurrent moods of his restless
irritability. By this time Mary was moving heavily; she could no longer
keep brisk pace with him in his tramps up the Avenue, but walked more
slowly and for shorter distances. She no longer sprang swiftly from her
chair or ran to fetch him a needed tool; her every movement was matronly.
But she was so well, so entirely normal, as practically to be unconscious
of a change to which her husband was increasingly alive.
Another source of Stefan's dissatisfaction lay in the progress of his
Demeter. This picture showed the Goddess enthroned under the shade of a
tree, beyond which spread harvest fields in brilliant sunlight. At her
feet a naked boy, brown from the sun, played with a pile of red and
golden fruits. In the distance maids and youths were dancing. The Goddess
sat back drowsily, her eyelids drooping, her hands and arms relaxed over
her chair. She had called all this richness into being, and now in the
heat of the day she rested, brooding over the fecund earth. So far, the
composition was masterly, but the tones lacked the necessary depth; they
were vivid where they should have been warm, and he felt the deficiency
without yet having been able to remedy it.
"Oh, damn!" said Stefan one morning, throwing down his brush. "This
picture is architectural, absolutely. What possessed me to try such a
conception? I can only do movement. I can't be static. Earth! I don't
understand it--everything good I've done has been made of air and fire,
or water." He turned an irritable face to Mary.
"Why did you encourage me in this?"
She looked up in frank astonishment, about to reply, but he forestalled
"Oh, yes, I know I was pleased with the idea--it isn't your fault, of
course, and yet--Oh, what's the use!" He slapped down his pallette and
made for the door. "I'm off to get some air," he called.
Mary felt hurt and uneasy. The nameless doubts of the autumn again
assailed her. What would be the end, she wondered, of her great
adventure? The distant prospect vaguely troubled her, but she turned
easily from it to the immediate future, which held a blaze of joy
sufficient to obliterate all else.
The thought of her baby was to Mary like the opening of the gates of
paradise to Christian the Pilgrim. Her heart shook with joy of it. She
passed through her days now only half conscious of the world about her.
She had, together with her joy, an extraordinary sense of physical well-
being, of the actual value of the body. For the first time she became
actively interested in her beauty. Even on her honeymoon she had never
dressed to please her husband with the care she now gave to the donning
of her loose pink and white negligees and the little boudoir caps she had
bought to wear with them. That Stefan paid her fewer compliments, that he
often failed to notice small additions to her wardrobe, affected her not
at all. "Afterwards he will be pleased; afterwards he will love me more
than ever," she thought, but, even so, knew that it was not for him she
was now fair, but for that other. She did not love Stefan less, but her
love was to be made flesh, and it was that incarnation she now adored. If
she had been given to self-analysis she might have asked what it boded
that she had never--save for that one moment's adoration of his genius
the day he completed the Danae--felt for Stefan the abandonment of love
she felt for his coming child. She might have wondered, but she did not,
for she felt too intensely in these days to have much need of thought.
She loved her husband--he was a great man--they were to have a child. The
sense of those three facts made up her cosmos.
Farraday had asked her in vain on more than one occasion for another
manuscript. The last time she shook her head, with one of her rare
attempts at explanation, made less rarely to him than to her other
"No, Mr. Farraday, I can't think about imaginary children just now.
There's a spell over me--all the world waits, and I'm holding my breath.
Do you see?"
He took her hand between both his.
"Yes, my dear child, I do," he answered, his mouth twisting into its sad
and gentle smile. He had come bringing a sheaf of spring flowers,
narcissus, and golden daffodils, which she was holding in her lap. He
thought as he said good-bye that she looked much more like Persephone
than the Demeter of Stefan's picture.
In spite of her deep-seated emotion, Mary was gay and practical enough in
these late winter days, with her small household tasks, her occasional
shopping, and her sewing. This last had begun vaguely to irritate Stefan,
so incessant was it.
"Mary, do put down that sewing," he would exclaim; or "Don't sing the
song of the shirt any more to-day;" and she would laughingly fold her
work, only to take it up instinctively again a few minutes later.
One evening he came upon her bending over a table in their sitting room,
tracing a fine design on cambric with a pencil. Something in her pose and
figure opened a forgotten door of memory; he watched her puzzled for a
moment, then with a sudden exclamation ran upstairs, and returned with a
pad of paper and a box of water-color paints. He was visibly excited.
"Here, Mary," he said, thrusting a brush into her hand and clearing a
place on the table. "Do something for me. Make a drawing on this pad,
anything you like, whatever first comes into your head." His tone was
eagerly importunate. She looked up in surprise, "Why, you funny boy! What
shall I draw?"
"That's just it--I don't know. Please draw whatever you want to--it
doesn't matter how badly--just draw something."
Mystified, but acquiescent, Mary considered for a moment, looking from
paper to brush, while Stefan watched eagerly.
"Can't I use a pencil?" she asked.
"No, a brush, please, I'll explain afterwards."
"Very well." She attacked the brown paint, then the red, then mixed some
green. In a few minutes the paper showed a wobbly little house with a red
roof and a smudged foreground of green grass with the suggestion of a
"There," she laughed, handing him the pad, "I'm afraid I shall never be
an artist," and she looked up.
His face had dropped. He was staring at the drawing with an expression of
almost comic disappointment.
"Why, Stefan," she laughed, rather uncomfortably, "you didn't think I
could draw, did you?"
"No, no, it isn't that, Mary. It's just--the house. I thought you might
--perhaps draw birds--or flowers."
"Birds?--or flowers?" She was at a loss.
"It doesn't matter; just an idea."
He crumpled up the little house, and closed the paintbox. "I'm going out
for awhile; good-bye, dearest"; and, with a kiss, he left the room.
Mary sat still, too surprised for remonstrance, and in a moment heard the
bang of the flat door.
"Birds, or flowers?" Suddenly she remembered something Stefan had told
her, on the night of their engagement, about his mother. So that was it.
Tears came to her eyes. Rather lonely, she went to bed.
Meanwhile Stefan, his head bare in the cold wind, was speeding up the
Avenue on the top of an omnibus.
"Houses are cages," he said to himself. For some reason, he felt
* * * * *
"I called on Miss Berber last evening," Stefan announced casually at
breakfast the next morning.
"Did you?" replied Mary, surprised, putting down her cup. "Well, did you
have a nice time?"
"It was mildly amusing," he said, opening the newspaper. The subject
Mary, who had lived all her life in a small town within sight of the open
fields, was beginning to feel the confinement of city life. Even during
her year in London she had joined other girls in weekend bicycling
excursions out of town, or tubed to Golder's Green or Shepherd's Bush in
search of country walks. Now that the late snows of March had cleared
away, she began eagerly to watch for swelling buds in the Square, and was
dismayed when Stefan told her that the spring, in this part of America,
was barely perceptible before May.
"That's the first objection I've found to your country, Stefan," she
He was scowling moodily out of the window. "The first? I see nothing but
"Oh, come!" she smiled at him; "it hasn't been so bad, has it?"
"Better than I had expected," he conceded. "But it will soon be April,
and I remember the leaves in the Luxembourg for so many Aprils back."
She came and put her arm through his. "Do you want to go, dear?"
"Oh, hang it all, Mary, you don't suppose I want to leave you?" he
answered brusquely, releasing his arm. "I want my own place, that's all."
She had, in her quieter way, become just as homesick for England, though
sharing none of his dislike of her adopted land.
"Well, shall we both go?" she suggested.
He laughed shortly. "Don't be absurd, dearest--what would your doctor say
to such a notion? No, we've got to stick it out," and he ruffled his hair
With a suppressed sigh Mary changed the subject. "By the by, I want you
to meet Dr. Hillyard; I have asked her to tea this afternoon."
"Do you honestly mean it when you say she is not an elderly ironsides
"I honestly assure you she is young and pretty. Moreover, I forbid you to
talk like an anti-suffragist," she laughed.
"Very well, then, I will be at home," with an answering grin.
And so he was, and on his best behavior, when the little doctor arrived
an hour later. She had been found by the omniscient Miss Mason, and after
several visits Mary had more than endorsed the Sparrow's enthusiastic
When the slight, well-tailored little figure entered the room Stefan
found it hard to believe that this fresh-faced girl was the physician,
already a specialist in her line, to whom Mary's fate had been entrusted.
For the first time he wondered if he should not have shared with Mary
some responsibility for her arrangements. But as, with an unwonted sense
of duty, he questioned the little doctor, his doubts vanished. Without a
trace of the much hated professional manner she gave him glimpses of wide
experience, and at one point mentioned an operation she had just
performed--which he knew by hearsay as one of grave difficulty--with the
same enthusiastic pleasure another young woman might have shown in the
description of a successful bargain-hunt. She was to Stefan a new type,
and he was delighted with her. Mary, watching him, thought with
affectionate irony that had the little surgeon been reported plain of
face he would have denied himself in advance both the duty and the
pleasure of meeting her.
Over their tea, Dr. Hillyard made a suggestion.
"Where are you planning to spend the summer?" she asked.
Stefan looked surprised. "We thought we ought to be here, near you," he
"Oh, no," the doctor shook her head; "young couples are always
martyrizing themselves for these events. By May it will be warm, and Mrs.
Byrd isn't acclimatized to our American summers. Find a nice place not
too far from the city--say on Long Island--and I can run out whenever
necessary. You both like the country, I imagine?"
Stefan was overjoyed. He jumped up.
"Dr. Hillyard, you've saved us. We thought we had to be prisoners, and
I've been eating my heart out for France. The country will be a
"Yes," said the doctor, smiling a little, "Mrs. Byrd has been longing for
England for a month or more."
"I never said so!" and "She never told me!" exclaimed Mary and Stefan
"No, you didn't," the little doctor nodded wisely at her patient, "but I
Stefan immediately began to plan an expedition in search of the ideal
spot, as unspoiled if possible as Shadeham, but much nearer town. All
through dinner he discussed it, his spirits hugely improved, and
immediately after rang up Constance Elliot for advice.
"Hold the line," the lady's voice replied, "while I consult." In a minute
or two she returned.
"Mr. Farraday is dining with us, and I've asked him. He lives at Crab's
Bay, you know."
"No, I don't," objected Stefan.
"Well, he does," her voice laughed back. "He was born there. He says if
you like he will come over and talk to you about it, and I, like a self-
sacrificing hostess, am willing to let him."
"Splendid idea," said Stefan, "ask him to come right over. Mary," he
called, hanging up the receiver, "Constance is sending Farraday across to
"Oh, dear," said she; "sometimes I feel almost overwhelmed by all the
favors we receive from our friends."
"Fiddlesticks! They are paid by the pleasure of our society. You don't
seem to realize that we are unusually interesting and attractive people,"
laughed he with a flourish.
"So I am, and vain of being vain. I believe in being as conceited as
possible, conceited enough to make one's conceit good."
She smiled indulgently, knowing that, as he was talking nonsense, he felt
Farraday appeared in a few minutes, and they settled in a group round the
fire with coffee and cigarettes. Stefan offered Mary one. She shook her
"I'm not smoking now, you know."
"Did Dr. Hillyard say so?" he asked quickly.
"Then don't be poky, dearest." He lit the cigarette and held it out to
her, but she waved it back.
"Don't tease, dear," she murmured, noticing that Farraday was watching
them. Stefan with a shrug retained the cigarette in his left hand, and
smoked it ostentatiously for some minutes, alternately with his own.
Mary, hoping he was not going to be naughty, embarked on the Long Island
"We want to be within an hour of the city," she explained, "but in pretty
country. We want to keep house, but not to pay too much. We should like
to be near the sea. Does that sound wildly impossible?"
Farraday fingered his cigarette reflectively.
"I rather think," he said at last, "that my neighborhood most nearly
meets the requirements. I have several hundred acres at Crab's Bay, which
belonged to my father, running from the shore halfway to the railroad
station. The village itself is growing suburban, but the properties
beyond mine are all large, and keep the country open. We are only an hour
from the city--hardly more, by automobile."
"Are there many tin cans?" enquired Stefan, flippantly. "In Michigan I
remember them as the chief suburban decoration."
"Yes?" said Farraday, in his invariably courteous tone, "I've never been
there. It is a long way from New York."
"Touche," cried Stefan, grinning. "But you would think pessimism
justified if you'd ever had my experience of rural life."
"Was your father really American?" enquired his guest with apparent
"Yes, and a minister."
"Oh, a minister. I see," the other replied, quietly.
"Explains it, does it?" beamed Stefan, who was nothing if not quick. They
all laughed, and the little duel was ended. Mary took up the broken
"Is there the slightest chance of our finding anything reasonably cheap
in such a neighborhood?" she asked.
"I was just coming to that," said Farraday. "You would not care to be in
the village, and any houses that might be for rent there would be
expensive, I'm afraid. But it so happens there is a cottage on the edge
of my property where my father's old farmer used to live. After his death
I put a little furniture in the place, and have occasionally used it. But
it is entirely unnecessary to me, and you are welcome to it for the
summer if it would suit you. The rent would be nominal. I don't regard it
commercially, it's too near my own place."
Mary flushed. "It's most awfully good of you," she said, "but I don't
know if we ought to accept. I'm afraid you may be making it convenient
out of kindness."
"Mary, how British!" Stefan interrupted. He had taken lately so to
labeling her small conventionalities. "Why accuse Mr. Farraday of
altruistic insincerity? I think his description sounds delightful. Let's
go tomorrow and see the cottage."
"If you will wait till Sunday," Farraday smiled, "I shall be delighted to
drive you out. It might be easier for Mrs. Byrd."
Mary again demurred on the score of giving unnecessary trouble, but
Stefan overrode her, and Farraday was obviously pleased with the plan. It
was arranged that he should call for them in his car the following
Sunday, and that they should lunch with him and his mother. When he had
left Stefan performed a little pas seul around the room.
"Tra-la-la!" he sang; "birds, Mary, trees, water. No more chimney pots,
no more walking up and down that tunnel of an avenue. See what it is to
have admiring friends."
Mary flushed again. "Why will you spoil everything by putting it like
He stopped and patted her cheek teasingly.
"It's me they admire, Mary, the great artist, creator of the famous
Danae," and he skipped again, impishly.
Mary was obliged to laugh. "You exasperating creature!" she said, and
went to bed, while he ran up to the studio to pull out the folding easel
and sketching-box of his old Brittany days.
When on the following Sunday morning Farraday drove up to the house, Mary
was delighted to find Constance Elliot in the tonneau.
"Theodore has begun golfing again, now that the snow has gone," she
greeted her, "so that I am a grass widow on holidays as well as all the
"Why don't you learn to play, too?" Mary asked, as they settled
themselves, Stefan sitting in front with Farraday, who was driving.
"Oh, for your English feet, my dear!" sighed Constance. "They are bigger
than mine--I dare say so, as I wear fours--but you can walk on them. I
was brought up to be vain of my extremities, and have worn two-inch heels
too long to be good for more than a mile. The links would kill me.
Besides," she sighed again prettily, "dear Theodore is so much happier
"How can you, Constance!" objected Mary.
"Yes, my dear," went on the other, her beautiful little hands, which she
seldom gloved, playing with the inevitable string of jade, "the result of
modern specialization. Theodore is a darling, and in theory a Suffragist,
but he has practised the matrimonial division of labor so long that he
does not know what to do with the woman out of the home."
"This is Queensborough Bridge," she pointed out in a few minutes, as they
sped up a huge iron-braced incline. "It looks like eight pepper-castors
on a grid, surmounted by bayonets, but it is very convenient."
Mary laughed. Constance's flow of small talk always put her in good
spirits. She looked about her with interest as the car emerged from the
bridge into a strange waste land of automobile factories, new stone-faced
business buildings, and tumbledown wooden cottages. The houses, in their
disarray, lay as if cast like seeds from some titanic hand, to fall,
wither or sprout as they listed, regardless of plan. The bridge seemed to
divide a settled civilization from pioneer country, and as they left the
factories behind and emerged into fields dotted with advertisements and
wooden shacks Mary was reminded of stories she had read of the far West,
or of Australia. Stefan leant back from the front seat, and waved at the
"Behold the tin can," he cried, "emblem of American civilization!" She
saw that he was right; the fields on either side were dotted with tins,
bottles, and other husks of dinners past and gone. Gradually, however,
this stage was left behind: they began to pass through villages of
pleasant wooden houses painted white or cream, with green shutters, or
groups of red-tiled stucco dwellings surrounded by gardens in the English
manner. Soon these, too, were left, and real country appeared, prettily
wooded, in which low-roofed homesteads clung timidly to the roadside as
if in search of company.
"What dear little houses!" Mary exclaimed.
"Yes," said Constance, "that is the Long Island farmhouse type, as good
architecturally as anything America has produced, but abandoned in favor
of Oriental bungalows, Italian palaces and French chateaux."
"I should adore a little house like one of those."
"Wait till you see Mr. Farraday's cottage; it's a lamb, and his home like
it, only bigger. What can one call an augmented lamb? I can only think of
sheep, which doesn't sound well."
"I'm afraid we should say it was 'twee' in England," Mary smiled, "which
"Yes, I'd rather my house were a sheep than a 'twee,' because I do at
least know that a sheep is useful, and I'm sure a 'twee' can't be."
"It's not a noun, Constance, but an adjective, meaning sweet," translated
Mary, laughing. She loved Constance's nonsense because it was never more
than that. Stefan's absurdities were always personal and, often, not
without a hidden sting.
"Well," Constance went on, "you must be particularly 'twee' then, to
James' mother, who is a Quaker from Philadelphia, and an American
gentlewoman of the old school. His father was a New Englander, and took
his pleasures sadly, as I tell James he does; but his mother is as warm
as a dear little toast, and as pleasant--well--as the dinner bell."
"What culinary similes, Constance!"
"My dear, from sheep to mutton is only a step, and I'm so hungry I can
think only in terms of a menu. And that," she prattled on, "reminds me of
Mr. McEwan, whose face is the shape of a mutton chop. He is sure to be
there, for he spends half his time with James. Do you like him?"
"Yes, I do," said Mary; "increasingly."
"He's one of the best of souls. Have you heard his story?"
"No, has he one?"
"Indeed, yes," replied Constance. "The poor creature, who, by the way,
adores you, is a victim of Quixotism. When he first came to New York he
married a young girl who lived in his boarding-house and was in trouble
by another man. Mac found her trying to commit suicide, and, as the other
man had disappeared, married her to keep her from it. She was pretty, I
believe, and I think he was fond of her because of her terrible
helplessness. The first baby died, luckily, but when his own was born a
year or two later the poor girl was desperately ill, and lost most of
what little mind she possessed. She developed two manias--the common
spendthrift one, and the conviction that he was trying to divorce her.
That was ten years ago. He has to keep her at sanitariums with a
companion to check her extravagance, and he pays her weekly visits to
reassure her as to the divorce. She costs him nearly all he makes, in
doctors' bills and so forth--he never spends a penny on himself, except
for a cheap trip to Scotland once a year. Yet, with it all, he is one of
the most cheerful souls alive."
"Poor fellow!" said Mary. "What about the child?"
"He's alive, but she takes very little notice of him. He spends most of
his time with Mrs. Farraday, who is a saint. James, poor man, adores
children, and is glad to have him."
"Why hasn't Mr. Farraday married, I wonder?" Mary murmured under the
covering purr of the car.
"Oh, what a waste," groaned Constance. "An ideal husband thrown away!
Nobody knows, my dear. I think he was hit very hard years ago, and never
got over it. He won't say, but I tell him if I weren't ten years older,
and Theodore in evidence, I should marry him myself out of hand."
"I like him tremendously, but I don't think I should ever have felt
attracted in that way," said Mary, who was much too natural a woman not
to be interested in matrimonial speculations.
"That's because you are two of a kind, simple and serious," nodded
Constance. "I could have adored him."
They had been speeding along a country lane between tall oaks, and,
breasting a hill, suddenly came upon the sea, half landlocked by curving
bays and little promontories. Beyond these, on the horizon, the coast of
Connecticut was softly visible. Mary breathed in great draughts of salt-
"Oh, how good!" she exclaimed.
"Here we are," cried Constance, as the machine swung past white posts
into a wooded drive, which curved and curved again, losing and finding
glimpses of the sea. No buds were out, but each twig bulged with nobbins
of new life; and the ground, brown still, had the swept and garnished
look which the March winds leave behind for the tempting of Spring.
Persephone had not risen, but the earth listened for her step, and the
air held the high purified quality that presages her coming.
"Lovely, lovely," breathed Mary, her eyes and cheeks glowing.
The car stopped under a porte cochere, before a long brown house of heavy
clapboards, with shingled roof and green blinds. Farraday jumped down and
helped Mary out, and the front door opened to reveal the shining grin of
McEwan, poised above the gray head of a little lady who advanced with
outstretched hand to greet them.
"My mother--Mrs. Byrd," Farraday introduced.
"I am very pleased to meet thee. My son has told me so much about thee
and thy husband. Thee must make thyself at home here," beamed the little
lady, with one of the most engaging smiles Mary had ever beheld.
Stefan was introduced in his turn, and made his best continental bow. He
liked old ladies, who almost invariably adored him. McEwan greeted him
with a "Hello," and shook hands warmly with the two women. They all moved
into the hall, Mary under the wing of Mrs. Farraday, who presently took
her upstairs to a bedroom.
"Thee must rest here before dinner," said she, smoothing with a tiny hand
the crocheted bedspread. "Ring this bell if there is anything thee wants.
Shall I send Mr. Byrd up to thee?"
"Indeed, I'm not a bit tired," said Mary, who had never felt better.
"All the same I would rest a little if I were thee," Mrs. Farraday nodded
wisely. Mary was fascinated by her grammar, never having met a Quaker
before. The little lady, who barely reached her guest's shoulder, had
such an air of mingled sweetness and dignity as to make Mary feel she
must instinctively yield to her slightest wish. Obediently she lay down,
and Mrs. Farraday covered her feet.
Mary noticed her fine white skin, soft as a baby's, the thousand tiny
lines round her gentle eyes, her simple dress of brown silk with a cameo
at the neck, her little, blue-veined hands. No wonder the son of such a
woman impressed one with his extraordinary kindliness.
The little lady slipped away, and Mary, feeling unexpected pleasure in
the quiet room and the soft bed, closed her eyes gratefully.
At luncheon, or rather dinner, for it was obvious that Mrs. Farraday kept
to the old custom of Sunday meals, a silent, shock-headed boy of about
ten appeared, whom McEwan with touching pride introduced as his son. He
was dressed in a kilt and small deerskin sporran, with the regulation
heavy stockings, tweed jacket and Eton collar.
"For Sundays only--we have to be Yankees on school days, eh, Jamie?"
explained his father. The boy grinned in speechless assent, instantly
looking a duplicate of McEwan.
Mary's heart warmed to him at once, he was so shy and clumsy; but Stefan,
who detested the mere suspicion of loutishness, favored him with an
absent-minded stare. Mary, who sat on Farraday's right, had the boy next
her, with his father beyond, Stefan being between Mrs. Farraday and
Constance. The meal was served by a gray-haired negro, of manners so
perfect as to suggest the ideal southern servant, already familiar to
Mary in American fiction. As if in answer to a cue, Mrs. Farraday
explained across the table that Moses and his wife had come from
Philadelphia with her on her marriage, and had been born in the South
before the war. Mary's literary sense of fitness was completely satisfied
by this remark, which was received by Moses with a smile of gentle pride.
"James," said Constance, "I never get tired of your mother's house; it is
so wonderful to have not one thing out of key."
Farraday smiled. "Bless you, she wouldn't change a footstool. It is all
just as when she married, and much of it, at that, belonged to her
This explained what, with Mary's keen eye for interiors, had puzzled her
when they first arrived. She had expected to see more of the perfect
taste and knowledge displayed in Farraday's office, instead of which the
house, though dignified and hospitable, lacked all traces of the
connoisseur. She noticed in particular the complete absence of any color
sense. All the woodwork was varnished brown, the hangings were of dull
brown velvet or dark tapestry, the carpets toneless. Her bedroom had been
hung with white dimity, edged with crochet-work, but the furniture was of
somber cherry, and the chintz of the couch-cover brown with yellow
flowers. The library, into which she looked from where she sat, was
furnished with high glass-doored bookcases, turned walnut tables, and
stuffed chairs and couches with carved walnut rims. Down each window the
shade was lowered half way, and the light was further obscured by lace
curtains and heavy draperies of plain velvet. The pictures were mostly
family portraits, with a few landscapes of doubtful merit. There were no
flowers anywhere, except one small vase of daffodils upon the dinner
table. According to all modern canons the house should have been hideous;
but it was not. It held garnered with loving faith the memories of
another day, as a bowl of potpourri still holds the sun of long dead
summers. It fitted absolutely the quiet kindliness, the faded face and
soft brown dress of its mistress. It was keyed to her, as Constance had
understood, to the last detail.
"Yes," said Farraday, smiling down the table at his mother, "she could
hardly bring herself to let me build my picture gallery on the end of the
house--nothing but Christian charity enabled her to yield."
The old lady smiled back at her tall son almost like a sweetheart. "He
humors me," she said; "he knows I'm a foolish old woman who love, my nest
as it was first prepared for me."
"Oh, I can so well understand that," said Mary.
"Do you mean to say, Mrs. Farraday," interposed Stefan, "that you have
lived in this one house, without changing it, all your married life?"
She turned to him in simple surprise. "Why, of course; my husband chose
it for me."
"Marvelous!" said Stefan, who felt that one week of those brown hangings
would drive him to suicide.
"Nix on the home-sweet-home business for yours, eh, Byrd?" threw in
McEwan with his glint of a twinkle.
"Boy," interposed their little hostess, "why will thee always use such
shocking slang? How can I teach Jamie English with his father's example
before him?" She shook a tiny finger at the offender.
"Ma'am, if I didn't sling the lingo, begging your pardon, in my office,
they would think I was a highbrow, and then--good night Mac!"
"Don't believe him, Mother," said Farraday. "It isn't policy, but
affection. He loves the magazine crowd, and likes to do as it does.
Besides," he smiled, "he's a linguistic specialist."
"You think slang is an indication of local patriotism?" asked Mary.
"Certainly," said Farraday. "If we love a place we adopt its customs."
"That's quite true," Stefan agreed. "In Paris I used the worst argot of
the quarter, but I've always spoken straightforward English because the
only slang I knew in my own tongue reminded me of a place I loathed."
"Stefan used to be dreadfully unpatriotic, Mrs. Farraday," explained
Mary, "but he is outgrowing it."
"Am I?" Stefan asked rather pointedly.
"Art," said McEwan grandly, "is international; Byrd belongs to the
world." He raised his glass of lemonade, and ostentatiously drank
Stefan's health. The others laughed at him, and the conversation veered.
Mary absorbed herself in trying to draw out the bashful Jamie, and Stefan
listened while his hostess talked on her favorite theme, that of her son,
They had coffee in the picture gallery, a beautiful room which Farraday
had extended beyond the drawing-room, and furnished with perfect examples
of the best Colonial period. It was hung almost entirely with the work of
Americans, in particular landscapes by Inness, Homer Martin, and George
Munn, while over the fireplace was a fine mother and child by Mary
Cassatt. For the first time since their arrival Stefan showed real
interest, and leaving the others, wandered round the room critically
absorbing each painting.
"Well, Farraday," he said at the end of his tour, "I must say you have
the best of judgment. I should have been mighty glad to paint one or two
of those myself." His tone indicated that more could not be said.
Meanwhile, Mary could hardly wait for the real object of their
expedition, the little house. When at last the car was announced, Mrs.
Farraday's bonnet and cloak brought by a maid, and everybody, Jamie
included, fitted into the machine, Mary felt her heart beating with
excitement. Were they going to have a real little house for their baby?
Was it to be born out here by the sea, instead of in the dusty,
overcrowded city? She strained her eyes down the road. "It's only half a
mile," called Farraday from the wheel, "and a mile and a half from the
station." They swung down a hill, up again, round a bend, and there was a
grassy plateau overlooking the water, backed by a tree-clad slope.
Nestling under the trees, but facing the bay, was just such a little
house as Mary had admired along the road, low and snug, shingled on walls
and roof, painted white, with green shutters and a little columned porch
at the front door. A small barn stood near; a little hedge divided house
from lane; evidences of a flower garden showed under the windows. "Oh,
what a duck!" Mary exclaimed. "Oh, Stefan!" She could almost have wept.
Farraday helped her down.
"Mrs. Byrd," said he with his most kindly smile, "here is the key. Would
you like to unlock the door yourself?"
She blushed with pleasure. "Oh, yes!" she cried, and turned instinctively
to look for Stefan. He was standing at the plateau's edge, scrutinizing
the view. She called, but he did not hear. Then she took the key and,
hurrying up the little walk, entered the house alone.
A moment later Stefan, hailed stentoriously by McEwan, followed her.
She was standing in a long sitting-room, low-ceilinged and white-walled,
with window-seats, geraniums on the sills, brass andirons on the hearth,
an eight-day clock, a small old fashioned piano, an oak desk, a chintz-
covered grandmother's chair, a gate-legged table, and a braided rag
hearth-rug. Her hands were clasped, her eyes shining.
"Oh, Stefan!" she exclaimed as she heard his step. "Isn't it a darling?
Wouldn't it be simply ideal for us?"
"It seems just right, and the view is splendid. There's a good deal
that's paintable here."
"Is there? I'm so glad. That makes it perfect. Look at the furniture,
Stefan, every bit right."
"And the moldings," he added. "All handcut, do you see? The whole place
is actually old. What a lark!" He appeared almost as pleased as she.
"Here come the others. Let's go upstairs, dearest," she whispered.
There were four bedrooms, and a bathroom. The main room had a four-post
bed, and opening out of it was a smaller room, almost empty. In this Mary
stood for some minutes, measuring with her eye the height of the window
from the floor, mentally placing certain small furnishings. "It would be
ideal, simply ideal," she repeated to herself. Stefan was looking out of
the window, again absorbed in the view. She would have liked so well to
share with him her tenderness over the little room, but he was all
unmindful of its meaning to her, and, as always, his heedlessness made
expression hard for her. She was still communing with the future when he
turned from the window.
"Come along, Mary, let's go downstairs again."
They found the others waiting in the sitting-room, and Farraday detached
Stefan to show him a couple of old prints, while Mrs. Farraday led
Constance and Mary to an exploration of the kitchen. Chancing to look
back from the hall, Mary saw that McEwan had seated himself in the
grandmother's chair, and was holding the heavy shy Jamie at his knee, one
arm thrown round him. The boy's eyes were fixed in dumb devotion on his
"The two poor lonely things," she thought.
The little kitchen was spotless, tiled shoulder-high, and painted blue
above. Against one wall a row of copper saucepans grinned their fat
content, echoed by the pale shine of an opposing row of aluminum. Snowy
larder shelves showed through one little door; through another, laundry
tubs were visible. There was a modern coal stove, with a boiler. The
quarters were small, but perfect to the last detail. Mrs. Farraday's
little face fairly beamed with pride as they looked about them.
"He did it all, bought every pot and pan, arranged each detail. There
were no modern conveniences until old Cotter died--_he_ would not
let James put them in. My boy loves this cottage; he sometimes spends
several days here all alone, when he is very tired. He doesn't even like
me to send Moses down, but of course I won't hear of that." She shook her
head with smiling finality. There were some things, her manner suggested,
that little boys could not be allowed.
"But, Mrs. Farraday," Mary exclaimed, "how can we possibly take the house
from him if he uses it?"
"My dear," the little lady's hand lighted on Mary's arm, "when thee knows
my James better, thee will know that his happiness lies in helping his
friends find theirs. He would be deeply disappointed if thee did not take
it," and her hand squeezed Mary's reassuringly.
"We are too wonderfully lucky--I don't know how to express my gratitude,"
"I think the good Lord sends us what we deserve, my dear, whether of good
or ill," the little lady replied, smiling wisely.
Constance sighed contentedly. "Oh, Mrs. Farraday, you are so good for us
all. I'm a modern backslider, and hardly ever go to church, but you
always make me feel as if I had just been."
"Backslider, Constance? 'Thy own works praise thee, and thy children rise
up and call thee blessed--thy husband also,'" quoted their hostess.
"Well, I don't know if my boys and Theodore call me blessed, but I hope
the Suffragists will one day. Goodness knows I work hard enough for
"I've believed in suffrage all my life, like all Friends," Mrs. Farraday
answered, "but where thee has worked I have only prayed for it."
"If prayers are heard, I am sure yours should count more than my work,
dear lady," said Constance, affectionately pressing the other's hand.
The little Quaker's eyes were bright as she looked at her friend.
"Ah, my dear, thee is too generous to an old woman."
Mary loved this little dialogue, "What dears all my new friends are," she
thought; "how truly good." All the world seemed full of love to her in
these days; her heart blossomed out to these kind people; she folded them
in the arms of her spirit. All about, in nature and in human kind, she
felt the spring burgeoning, and within herself she felt it most of all.
But of this Mary could express nothing, save through her face--she had
never looked more beautiful.
Coming into the dining room she found Farraday watching her. He seemed
tired. She put out her hand.
"May we really have it? You are sure?"
"You like it?" he smiled, holding the hand.
She flushed with the effort to express herself. "I adore it. I can't
"Please don't," he answered. "You don't know what pleasure this gives me.
Come as soon as you can; everything is ready for you."
"And about the rent?" she asked, hating to speak of money, but knowing
Stefan would forget.
"Dear Mrs. Byrd, I had so much rather lend it, but I know you wouldn't
like that. Pay me what you paid for your first home in New York."
"Oh, but that would be absurd," she demurred.
"Make that concession to my pride in our friendship," he smiled back.
She saw that she could not refuse without ungraciousness. Stefan had
disappeared, but now came quickly in from the kitchen door.
"Farraday," he called, "I've been looking at the barn; you don't use it,
I see. If we come, should you mind my having a north light cut in it?
With that it would make an ideal workshop."
"I should be delighted," the other answered; "it's a good idea and will
make the place more valuable. I had the barn cleaned out thinking some
one might like it for a garage."
"We shan't run to such an extravagance yet awhile," laughed Mary.
"A bicycle for me and the station hack for Mary," Stefan summed up. "I
suppose there is such a thing at Crab's Bay?"
"She won't have to walk," Farraday answered.
Started on practical issues, Mary's mind had flown to the need of a
telephone to link them to her doctor. "May we install a 'phone?" she
asked. "I never lived with one till two months ago, but already it is a
confirmed vice with me."
"Mayn't I have it put in for you--there should be one here," said he.
"Oh, no, please!"
"At least let me arrange for it," he urged.
"Now, son, thee must not keep Mrs. Byrd out too late. Get her home before
sundown," Mrs. Farraday's voice admonished. Obediently, every one moved
toward the hall. At a word from McEwan, the mute Jamie ran to open the
tonneau door. Farraday stopped to lock the kitchen entrance and found
McEwan on the little porch as he emerged, while the others were busy
settling themselves in the car. As Farraday turned the heavy front door
lock, his friend's hand fell on his shoulder.
"Ought ye to do it, James?" McEwan asked quietly.
Farraday raised his eyes, and looked steadily at the other, with his slow
"Yes, Mac, it's a good thing to do. In any case, I shouldn't have been
likely to marry, you know." The two friends took their places in the car.
After much consideration from Mary, the Byrds decided to give up their
recently acquired flat, but to keep the old studio. She felt they should
not attempt to carry three rents through the summer, but, on the other
hand, Stefan was still working at his Demeter, using an Italian model for
the boy's figure, and could not finish it conveniently elsewhere. Then,
too, he expressed a wish for a pied-a-terre in the city, and as Mary had
very tender associations with the little studio she was glad to think of
Stefan was working fitfully at this time. He would have spurts of energy
followed by fits of depression and disgust with his work, during which he
would leave the house and take long rides uptown on the tops of
omnibuses. Mary could not see that these excursions in search of air
calmed his nervousness, and she concluded that the spring fever was in
his blood and that he needed a change of scene at least as much as she
About this time he sold his five remaining drawings of New York to the
Pan-American Magazine, a progressive monthly. They gained considerable
attention from the art world, and were seized upon by certain groups of
radicals as a sermon on the capitalistic system. On the strength of them,
Stefan was hailed as that rarest of all beings, a politically minded
artist, and became popular in quarters from which his intolerance had
hitherto barred him.
It entertained him hugely to be proclaimed as a champion of democracy,
for he had made the drawings in impish hatred not of a class but of
American civilization as a whole.
Their bank account, in spite of much heightened living expenses, remained
substantial by reason of this new sale, but Stefan was as indifferent as
ever to its control, and Mary's sense of caution was little diminished.
Her growing comprehension of him warned her that their position was still
insecure; he remained, for all his success, an unknown quantity as a
producer. She wanted him to assume some interest in their affairs, and
suggested separate bank accounts, but he begged off.
"Let me have a signature at the bank, so that I can cash checks for
personal expenses, but don't ask me to keep accounts, or know how much we
have," he said. "If you find I am spending too much at any time, just
tell me, and I will stop."
Further than this she could not get him to discuss the matter, and saw
that she must think out alone some method of bookkeeping which would be
fair to them both, and would establish a record for future use.
Ultimately she transferred her own money, less her private expenditures
during the winter, to a separate account, to be used for all her personal
expenses. The old account she put in both their names, and made out a
monthly schedule for the household, beyond which she determined never to
draw. Anything she could save from this amount she destined for a savings
bank, but over and above it she felt that her husband's earnings were
his, and that she could not in honor interfere with them. Mary was almost
painfully conscientious, and this plan cost her many heart-searchings
before it was complete.
After her baby was born she intended to continue her writing; she did not
wish ever to draw on Stefan for her private purse. So far at least, she
would live up to feminist principles.
There was much to be done before they could leave the city, and Mary had
practically no assistance from Stefan in her arrangements. She would ask
his advice about the packing or disposal of a piece of furniture, and he
would make some suggestion, often impracticable; but on any further
questioning he would run his hands through his hair, or thrust them into
his pockets, looking either vague or nervous. "Why fuss about such
things, dear?" or "Do just as you like," or "I'm sure I haven't a
notion," were his most frequent answers. He developed a habit of leaving
his work and following Mary restlessly from room to room as she packed or
sorted, which she found rather wearing.
On one such occasion--it was the day before they were to leave--she was
carrying a large pile of baby's clothes from her bedroom to a trunk in
the sitting-room, while Stefan stood humped before the fireplace,
smoking. As she passed him he frowned nervously.
"How heavily you tread, Mary," he jerked out. She stood stock-still and
"I think, Stefan," she said, with the tears of feeling which came over-
readily in these days welling to her eyes, "instead of saying that you
might come and help me to carry these things."
He looked completely contrite. "I'm sorry, dearest, it was a silly thing
to say. Forgive me," and he kissed her apologetically, taking the bundle
from her. He offered to help several times that afternoon, but as he
never knew where anything was to go, and fidgeted from foot to foot while
he hung about her, she was obliged at last to plead release from his
"Stefan dear," she said, giving him rather a harassed smile, "you
evidently find this kind of thing a bore. Why don't you run out and leave
me to get on quietly with it?"
"I know I've been rotten to you, and I thought you wanted me to help," he
explained, in a self-exculpatory tone.
She stroked his cheek maternally. "Run along, dearest. I can get on
perfectly well alone."
"You're a brick, Mary. I think I'll go. This kind of thing--" he flung
his arm toward the disordered room--"is too utterly unharmonious." And
kissing her mechanically he hastened out.
That night for the first time in their marriage he did not return for
dinner, but telephoned that he was spending the evening with friends.
Mary, tired out with her packing, ate her meal alone and went to bed
immediately afterwards. His absence produced in her a dull heartache, but
she was too weary to ponder over his whereabouts.
Early next morning Mary telephoned Miss Mason. Stefan, who had come home
late, was still asleep when the Sparrow arrived, and by the time he had
had his breakfast the whole flat was in its final stage of disruption. A
few pieces of furniture were to be sent to the cottage, a few more
stored, and the studio was to be returned to its original omnibus status.
Mrs. Corriani, priestess of family emergencies, had been summoned from
the depths; the Sparrow had donned an apron, Mary a smock; Lily, the
colored maid, was packing china into a barrel, surrounded by writhing
seas of excelsior. For Stefan, the flat might as well have been given
over to the Furies. He fetched his hat.
"Mary," he said, "I'm not painting again until we have moved. Djinns,
Afrits and Goddesses should be allowed to perform their spiritings unseen
of mortals. I shall go and sit in the Metropolitan and contemplate
Rodin's Penseur--he is so spacious."
"Very well, dearest," said Mary brightly. She had slept away her low
spirits. "Don't forget Mr. Farraday is sending his car in for us at three
He looked nonplused. "You don't mean to say we are moving to-day?"
"Yes, you goose," she laughed, "don't you remember?"
"I'm frightfully sorry, Mary, but I made an engagement for this evening,
to go to the theatre. I knew you would not want to come," he added.
Mary looked blank. "But, Stefan," she exclaimed, "everything is arranged!
We are dining with the Farradays. I told you several times we were moving
on the fourth. You make it so difficult, dear, by not taking any
interest." Her voice trembled. She had worked and planned for their
flitting for a week past, was all eagerness to be gone, and now he, who
had been equally keen, seemed utterly indifferent.
He fidgeted uncomfortably, looking contrite yet rebellious. Mary was at a
loss. The Sparrow, however, promptly raised her crest and exhibited a
"Land sakes, Mr. Byrd," she piped, "you are a mighty fine artist, but
that don't prevent your being a husband first these days! Men are all
alike--" she turned to Mary--"always ready to skedaddle off when there's
work to be done. Now, young man--" she pointed a mandatory finger--"you
run and telephone your friends to call the party off." Her voice
shrilled, her beady eyes snapped; she looked exactly like one of her
namesakes, ruffled and quarreling at the edge of its nest.
Stefan burst out laughing. "All right, Miss Sparrow, smooth your
feathers. Mary, I'm a mud-headed idiot--I forgot the whole thing. Pay no
attention to my vagaries, dearest, I'll be at the door at three." He
kissed her warmly, and went out humming, banging the door behind him.
"My father was the same, and my brothers," the Sparrow philosophized.
"Spring-cleaning and moving took every ounce of sense out of them." Mary
sighed. Her zest for the preparations had departed.
Presently, seeing her languor, Miss Mason insisted Mary should lie down
and leave the remaining work to her. The only resting place left was the
old studio, where their divan had been replaced. Thither Mary mounted,
and lying amidst its dusty disarray, traced in memory the months she had
spent there. It had been their first home. Here they had had their first
quarrel and their first success, and here had come to her her
annunciation. Though they were keeping the room, it would never hold the
same meaning for her again, and though she already loved their new home,
it hurt her at the last to bid their first good-bye. Perhaps it was a
trick of fatigue, but as she lay there the conviction came to her that
with to-day's change some part of the early glamour of marriage was to
go, that not even the coming of her child could bring to life the
memories this room contained. She longed for her husband, for his voice
calling her the old, dear, foolish names. She felt alone, and fearful of
"My grief," exclaimed Miss Mason from the door an hour later. "I told you
to go to sleep 'n here you are wide awake and crying!"
Mary smiled shamefacedly.
"I'm just tired, Sparrow, that's all, and have been indulging in the
'vapors.'" She squeezed her friend's hand. "Let's have some lunch."
"It's all ready, and Lily with her hat 'n coat on. Come right downstairs
--it's most two o'clock."
Mary jumped up, amazed at the time she had wasted. Her spell of
depression was over, and she was her usual cheerful self when, at three
o'clock, she heard Stefan's feet bounding up the stairs for the last
"Tra-la, Mary, the car is here!" he called. "Thank God we are getting out
of this city! Good-by, Miss Sparrow, don't peck me, and come and see us
at Crab's Bay. March, Lily. A riverderci, Signora Corriani. Come,
dearest." He bustled them all out, seized two suitcases in one hand and
Mary's elbow in the other, chattered his few words of Italian to the
janitress, chaffed Miss Mason, and had them all laughing by the time they
reached the street. He seemed in the highest spirits, his moods of the
last weeks forgotten.