Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Nest Builder by Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale

Part 5 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

as Mrs. Elliot said--all but two heads, and is already roughly blocked in
marble. I want your head, with your son's--I must have them. Six sittings
will be enough. If you cannot, as I imagine, come to the city, I will
bring my clay here, and we will work in your husband's studio. These
figures, of whom the man is modeled from myself, do not represent
pioneers in the ordinary sense. They embody my idea of those who will
lead the race to future greatness. That is why I feel it essential to
have you as a model."

He spoke quite simply, without a trace of flattery, as if he were merely
putting into words a self-evident truth. A compliment of such staggering
dimensions, however, left Mary abashed.

"You may wonder," he went on, seeing her silent, "why I so regard you. It
is not merely your beauty, Mrs. Byrd, of which as an artist I can speak
without offense, it is because to my mind you combine strong mentality
and morale with simplicity of temperament. You are an Apollonian, rather
than a Dionysian. Of such, in my judgment, will the super-race be made."
Gunther folded his arms and leaned back.

He was sufficiently distinguished to be able to carry off a pronouncement
which in a lesser man would have been an impertinence, and he knew it.

Constance threw up her hands. "There, Mary, your niche is carved. I don't
quite know what Mr. Gunther means, but he sounds right."

Mary found her voice. "Mr. Gunther honors me very much, and, although of
course I do not deserve his praise, I shall certainly not refuse his

Gunther bowed gravely from the hips in the Continental manner, without

"When may I come," he asked; "to-morrow? Good! I will bring the clay out
by auto."

"You lucky woman," exclaimed Constance. "To think of being immortalized
by two great artists in one year!"

"Her type is very rare," said Gunther in explanation. "When does one see
the classic face with expression added? Almost always, it is dull."

"Now, Mary, produce the infant!" Constance did not intend the whole
morning to be devoted to the Olympian discourse of the sculptor.

The baby was brought down, and the rest of the visit pivoted about him.
Mary glowed at the praises he received; she looked immeasurably brighter,
Constance thought, than when they arrived.

On the way home Gunther unbosomed himself of a final pronouncement. "She
does not look too happy, but her beauty is richer and its meaning deeper
than before. She is what the mothers of men should be. I am sorry," he
concluded simply, "that I did not meet her more than a year ago."

Constance almost gasped. What an advantage, she thought, great physical
gifts bring. Even without this man's distinction in his art, it was
obvious that he had some right to assume his ability to mate with
whomever he might choose.

Early the next morning the sculptor drove up to the barn, his tonneau
loaded with impedimenta. Mary was ready for him, and watched with
interest while he lifted out first a great wooden box of clay, then a
small model throne, then two turntables, and finally, two tin buckets.
These baffled her, till, having installed the clay-box, which she doubted
if an ordinary man could lift, he made for the garden pump and watered
his clay with the contents of the buckets.

He set up his three-legged turntables, each of which bore an angle-iron
supporting a twisted length of lead pipe, stood a bucket of water beneath
one, and explained that in a few minutes he would be ready to begin.
Donning a linen blouse, he attacked the mass of damp clay powerfully,
throwing great pieces onto the skeleton lead-pipe, which he explained had
been bent to the exact angle of the head in his group.

"The woman's figure I modeled from ideal proportions, Mrs. Byrd, and this
head will be set upon its shoulders. My statue will then be a living
thing instead of a mere symbol."

When Mary was posed she became absorbed in watching Gunther's work grow.
He modeled with extraordinary speed, yet his movements had none of the
lightning swoops and darts of Stefan's method. Each motion of his
powerful hands might have been preordained; they seemed to move with a
deliberate and effortless precision, so that she would hardly have
realized their speed had the head and face not leaped under them into
being. He was a silent worker, yet she felt companioned; the man's
presence seemed to fill the little building.

"After to-day I shall ask you to hold the child, for as long as it will
not disturb him. I shall then have the expression on your face which I
desire, and I will work at a study of the boy's head at those moments
when he is awake."

Mary sincerely enjoyed her sittings, which came as a welcome change in
her even days. Gunther usually stayed to lunch, Constance joining them on
one occasion, and Mrs. Farraday on another. Both these came to watch the
work, Gunther, unlike Stefan, being oblivious of an audience; and once
McEwan came, his sturdy form appearing insignificant beside the giant
Norseman. Wallace hung about smoking a pipe for half an hour or more. He
was at his most Scotch, appeared well pleased, and ejaculated "Aye, aye,"
several times, nodding a ponderous head.

"Wallace, what are you so solemnly aye-ayeing about? Why so mysterious?"
enquired Mary.

"I'm haeing a few thochts," responded the Scot, his expression divided
between an irritating smile and a kindly twinkle.

"Well, don't be annoying, and stay to lunch," said Mary, dispensing even
justice to both expressions.

Stefan, returning home one afternoon half way through the sittings,
expressed a mild interest in the news of them, and, going out to the
barn, unwrapped the wet cloths from the head.

"He's an artist," said he; "this has power and beauty. Never sit to a
second-rater, Mary, you've had the best now." And he covered the head
again with a craftsman's thoroughness.

Mary was sorry when the sittings came to an end. On the last day the
sculptor brought two men with him, who made the return journey in the
tonneau, each guarding a carefully swathed bust against the inequalities
of the road. Gunther bowed low over her hand with a word of thanks at
parting, and she watched his car out of sight regretfully.


The week's interlude over, Mary's days reverted to their monotonous
tenor. As November drew to a close, she began to think of Christmas,
remembering how happy her last had been, and wondering if she could
summon enough courage for an attempt to engage Stefan's interest in some
kind of celebration. She now admitted to herself that she was actively
worried about her relations with him. He was quite agreeable to her when
in the house, but she felt this was only because she made no demands on
him. Let her reach out ever so little for his love, and he instantly
became vague or restless. Their intercourse was friendly, but he appeared
absolutely indifferent to her as a woman; she might have been a well-
liked sister. Under the grueling strain of self-repression Mary was
growing nervous, and the baby began to feel the effects. His weekly gains
were smaller, and he had his first symptoms of indigestion.

She redoubled the care of her diet, and lengthened her daily walks, but
he became fretful, and at last, early in December, she found on weighing
him that he had made no gain for a week. Terrified, she telephoned for
Dr. Hillyard, and received her at the door with a white face. It was a
Sunday morning, and McEwan had just dropped in with some chrysanthemums
from the Farradays' greenhouse. Finding Mary disturbed he had not
remained, and was leaving the house as the doctor drove up.

Dr. Hillyard's first words were reassuring. There was absolutely nothing
to fear in a week's failure to gain, she explained. "It always happens at
some stage or other, and many babies don't gain for weeks."

Still, the outcome of her visit was that Mary, with an aching heart,
added a daily bottle to Elliston's regime. In a week the doctor came
again, gave Mary a food tonic, and advised the introduction of a second
bottle. Elliston immediately responded, palpably preferring his bottle
feedings to the others. His fretfulness after these continued, he turned
with increased eagerness to his bottle, and with tears of disappointment
Mary yielded to his loudly voiced demands. By Christmas time he was
weaned. His mother felt she could never forgive herself for failing him
so soon, and a tinge of real resentment colored for the first time her
attitude toward Stefan, whom she knew to be the indirect cause of her

The somewhat abrupt deterioration of Mary's magnificent nervous system
would have been unaccountable to Dr. Hillyard had it not been for a
chance encounter with McEwan after her first visit. The Scotchman had
hailed her in the lane, asking for a lift to a house beyond the village,
where he had some small errand. During a flow of discursive remarks he
elicited from the doctor, without her knowledge, her opinion that Mary
was nervously run down, after which he rambled at some length about the
value of art, allowing the doctor to pass his destination by a mile or

With profuse thanks for her kindness in turning back, he continued his
ramblings, and she gathered the impression that he was a dull,
inconsequential talker, that he considered young couples "kittle cattle,"
that artists were always absorbed in their work, that females had a habit
of needless worrying, and that commuting in winter was distracting to a
man's labors. She only half listened to him, and dropped him with relief,
wondering if he was an anti-suffragist. Some memory of his remarks must,
however, have remained with her, for after her next visit to Mary she
found herself thinking that Mr. McEwan was probably neither an anti-
suffragist, nor dull.

A little before Christmas McEwan called on Constance, and found her
immersed in preparations for a Suffrage bazaar and fete.

"I can't talk to any one," she announced, receiving him in a chaos of
boxes, banners, paper flowers, and stenographers, in the midst of which
she appeared to be working with two voices and six hands. "Didn't the
maid warn you off the premises?"

"She did, but I sang 'Take back the lime that thou gavest' in such honey
tones that she complied," said Mac.

"Just for that, you can give the fete a two-inch free ad in The Household
Magazine," Constance implacably replied.

He grinned. "I raise the ante. Three inches, at the risk of losing my
job, for five minutes alone with you."

"You lose your job!" scoffed Constance, leading the way into an empty
room, and seating herself at attention, one eye on her watch. "Proceed--I
am yours."

Mac sat opposite her, and shot out an emphatic forefinger.

"The Berber girl's middle name is Mischief," he began, plunging in medias
res; "Byrd's is Variability; for the last five months the Mary lady's has
been Mother. Am I right?"

Constance's bright eyes looked squarely at him.

"Wallace McEwan, you are," she said.

His finger continued poised. "Very well, we are 'on,' and _our_
middle name is Efficiency, eh?"

"Yes," Constance nodded doubtfully, "but--"

McEwan's hand slapped his knee. "Here's the scheme," he went on rapidly.
"Variable folk must have variety, either in place or people. If we don't
want it to be people, we make it place, see? Is your country house closed

"No, I fancied I might go there to relax for a week after the fete."

"A1 luck. You won't relax, you'll have a week's house-party, sleighing,
skating, coasting, all that truck. The Byrds, Farraday (I'll persuade him
he can leave the office), a couple of pretty skirts with no brains--me if
you like. Get me?"

Constance gasped, her mind racing. "But Mary's baby?" she exclaimed,
clutching at the central difficulty.

"You're the goods," replied McEwan admiringly. "She couldn't shine as
Queen of the Slide if she was tied to the offspring--granted. Now then."
He leant forward. "She's had to wean him--you didn't know that. Your dope
is to talk up the house-party, tell her she owes it to herself to get a
change, and make her leave the boy with a trained nurse. The Mary lady's
no fool, she'll be on."

Constance's eyes narrowed to slits, she fingered her beads, and nodded
once, twice.

"More trouble," she said, "but it's a go. Second week in January."

He grasped her hand. "Votes for Women," he beamed.

She looked at her watch. "Five minutes exactly. Three inches, Mr.

"Three inches!" he called from the door.


Christmas was a blank period for Mary that year. Stefan came home on
Christmas eve in a mood of somewhat forced conviviality, but Mary had had
no heart for festive preparations. Stefan had failed her and she had
failed her baby--these two ever present facts shadowed her world. She had
bought presents for Lily and the baby, a pair of links for Stefan, books
for Mrs. Farraday and Jamie, and trifles for Constance and Miss Mason,
but the holly and mistletoe, the tree, the new frock and the Christmas
fare which normally she would have planned with so much joy, were
missing. Stefan's gift to her--a fur-lined coat--was so extravagant that
she could derive no pleasure from it, and she had the impression that he
had chosen it hurriedly, without much thought of what would best please
her. From Constance she received a white sweater of very beautiful heavy
silk, with a cap and scarf to match, but she thought bitterly that pretty
things to wear were of little use to her now.

It was obvious that Stefan's conscience pricked him. He spent the morning
hanging about her, and even played a little with his son, who now sat up,
bounced, crowed with laughter, clutched every article within reach, and
had two teeth. Mary's heart reached out achingly to Stefan, but he seemed
to her a strange man. The contrast between this and their last Christmas
smote her intolerably.

In the afternoon they walked over to the Farradays', where there was a
tree for Jamie and a few friends, including the chauffeur's and
gardener's children. Here Stefan prowled into the picture gallery, while
Mary, surrounded by children, was in her element. Returning to the
drawing room, Stefan watched her playing with them as he had watched her
on the Lusitania fifteen months before. She was less radiant now, and her
figure was fuller, but as she smiled and laughed with the children, her
cheeks pink and her hair all a-glitter under the lights, she looked very
lovely, he thought. Why did the sight of her no longer thrill him? Why
did he enjoy more the society of Felicity Berber, whom he knew to be
affected and egotistic, and suspected of being insincere, than that of
this beautiful, golden woman of whose truth he could never conceive a

A feeling of deep sadness, of unutterable regret, swept through him.
Better never to have married than to have outlived so soon the magic of
romance. Which of them had lost the key? When Mary had furled her wings
to brood over her nest he had thought it was she; now he was not so sure.

Walking home through the dark woods he stopped suddenly, and drew her to

"Mary, my Beautiful, I'm drifting, hold me close," he whispered. Her
breath caught, she clung to him, he felt her face wet with tears. No more
words were spoken, but they walked on comforted, groping their way under
the damp fingers of the trees. Stefan felt no passion, but his tenderness
for his wife had reawakened. For her part, tears had thawed her
bitterness, without washing it away.

The next morning Constance drove over.

"Children," she said, hurrying in from the cold air, "what a delicious
scene! I invite myself to lunch."

Mary was playing with Elliston on a blanket by the fire, Stefan sketching
them, the room full of sun and firelight. The two greeted her

"Now," she said, settling herself on the couch, "let me tell you why I
came," and she proceeded to unfold her plans for a house-party at
Burlington. "You've never seen our winter sports, Mary, they're glorious,
and you need a change from so much domesticity. As for you, Mr. Byrd, it
will give you a chance to learn that America can be attractive even
outside New York."

Both the Byrds were looking interested, Stefan unreservedly, Mary with a
pucker of doubt.

"Now, don't begin about Elliston," exclaimed Constance, forestalling
objections. "We've heaps of room, but it would spoil your fun to bring
him. I want you to get a trained nurse for the week--finest thing in the
world to take a holiday from maternity once in a while." She turned to
Stefan as a sure ally. "Don't you agree, Mr. Byrd?"

"Emphatically," beamed he, seizing her hand and kissing it. "A glorious
idea! Away with domesticity! A real breath of freedom, eh, Mary?"

Constance again forestalled difficulties.

"We are all going to travel up by night, ten of us, and Theodore is
engaging a compartment car with rooms for every one, so there won't be
any expense about that part of it, Mary, my dear. Does it seem too
extravagant to ask you to get a trained nurse? I've set my heart on
having you free to be the life of the party. All your admirers are
coming, that gorgeous Gunther, my beloved James, and Wallace McEwan. I
baited my hooks with you, so you simply _can't_ disappoint me!" she
concluded triumphantly.

Stefan pricked up his ears. Here was Mary in a new guise; he had not
thought of her for some time as having "admirers." Yet he had always
known Farraday for one; and certainly Gunther, who modeled her, and
McEwan, who dogged her footsteps, could admire her no less than the
editor. The thought that his wife was sought after, that he was probably
envied by other men, warmed Stefan's heart pleasantly, just as Constance
intended it should.

"It sounds fascinating, and I certainly think we must come," Mary was
saying, "though I don't know how I shall bring myself to part with
Elliston," and she hugged the baby close.

"You born Mother!" said Constance. "I adored my boys, but I was always
enchanted to escape from them." She laughed like a girl. "Now you grasp
the inwardness of my Christmas present--it is a coasting outfit. Won't
she look lovely in it, Mr. Byrd?"

"Glorious!" said Stefan, boyishly aglow; and "I don't believe two and two
do make four, after all," thought Constance.

All through luncheon they discussed the plan with animation, Constance
enlisting Mary's help at the Suffrage Fete the first week in January in
advance payment, as she said, for the house-party. "Why not get your
nurse a few days earlier to break her in, and be free to give me as much
time as possible?" she urged.

"Good idea, Mary," Stefan chimed in. "I'll stay in town that week and
lunch with you at the bazaar, and you could sleep a night or two at the

"We'll see," said Mary, a little non-committal. She knew she should enjoy
the Fete immensely, but somehow, she did not feel she could bring herself
to sleep in the little studio, with Felicity the Nixie sneering down at
her from one wall, and Felicity the Dancer challenging from the other.

But it was a much cheered couple that Constance left behind, and Stefan
came home every afternoon during the week that remained till the opening
of the bazaar.

Being in the city for this event, Mary, in addition to engaging a nurse,
indulged in some rather extravagant shopping. She had made up her mind to
look her best at Burlington, and though Mary was slow to move, when she
did take action her methods were thorough. She realized with gratitude
that Constance, whom she suspected of knowing more than she indicated,
had given her a wonderful opportunity of renewing her appeal to her
husband, and she was determined to use it to the full. Incapable--as are
all women of her type--of coquetry, Mary yet knew the value of her
beauty, and was too intelligent not to see that both it and she had been
at a grave disadvantage of late. She understood dimly that she was
confronted by one of the fundamental problems of marriage, the difficulty
of making an equal success of love and motherhood. She could not put her
husband permanently before her child, as Constance had done, and as she
knew most Englishwomen did, but she meant to do it completely for this
one week of holiday, at least.

Meanwhile, amidst the color and music of the great drill-hall where the
suffragists held their yearly Fete, Mary, dispensing tea and cakes in a
flower-garlanded tent, enjoyed herself with simple whole-heartedness. All
Constance's waitresses were dressed as daffodils, and the high cap,
representing the inverted cup of the flower, with the tight-sheathed
yellow and green of the gown, was particularly becoming to Mary. She knew
again the pleasure, which no one is too modest to enjoy, of being a
center of admiration. Stefan dropped in once or twice, and waxed
enthusiastic over Constance's arrangements and Mary's looks.

On one of these occasions Miss Berber suddenly appeared in the tent,
dressed wonderfully in white panne, with a barbaric mottle of black and
white civet-skins flung over one shoulder, and a tight-drawn cap of the
fur, apparently held in place by the great claws of some feline mounted
in heavy gold. She wore circles of fretted gold in her ears, and carried
a tall ebony stick with a gold handle, Louis Quatorze fashion. From her
huge civet muff a gold purse dangled. She looked at once more
conventional and more dynamic than Mary had seen her, and her rich dress
made the simple effects of the tent seem amateurish.

Neither Mary nor she attempted more than a formal salutation, but she
discoursed languidly with Constance for some minutes. Stefan, who had
been eating ice cream like a schoolboy with two pretty girls at the other
side of the tent, came forward on seeing the new arrival, and after a
good deal of undecided fidgeting, and a "See you later" to Mary, wandered
off with Miss Berber and disappeared for the rest of the afternoon. In
spite of her best efforts, Mary's spirits were completely dashed by this
episode, but they rose again when Stefan met her at the Pennsylvania
Station and traveled home with her. As they emerged from the speech-
deadening roar of the tunnel he said casually, "Felicity Berber is an
amusing creature, but she's a good deal of a bore at times." Mary took
his hand under the folds of their newspaper.


On the evening of their departure Mary parted from her baby with a pang,
but she knew him to be in the best of hands, and felt no anxiety as to
his welfare. The nurse she had obtained was a friend of Miss McCullock's,
and a most efficient and kindly young woman.

Their journey up to town reminded Mary of their first journey from
Shadeham, so full of spirits and enthusiasm was Stefan. The whole party
met at the Grand Central, and boarded the train amid laughter,
introductions, and much gay talk. Constance scintillated. The solid Mr.
Elliot was quite shaken out of his sobriety, McEwan's grin was at its
broadest, Farraday's smile its pleasantest, and the three young women
whom Constance had collected bubbled and shrilled merrily.

Only Gunther appeared untouched by the holiday atmosphere. He towered
over the rest of the party calm and direct, disposing of porters and
hand-baggage with an unruffled perfection of address. Mary, watching him,
pulled Stefan's sleeve.

"Look," she said, pointing to two long ribbons of narrow wood lashed to
some other impedimenta of Gunther's. "Skis, Stefan, how thrilling! I've
never seen them used."

Stefan nodded. "I'd like to get a drawing of that chap in action. His
lines are magnificent," Mary had never been in a sleeping car before, and
was fascinated to see the sloping ceilings of the state-rooms change like
pantomime trick into beds under the deft handling of the porter. She
liked the white coat of this autocrat of the road, and the smart, muslin
trimmings of the colored maid. She and Stefan had the compartment next
their host's; Farraday and McEwan shared one beyond; Gunther and his skis
and Walter, the Elliot's younger son, completely filled the next; Mrs.
Thayer, a cheerful young widow, and Miss Baxter and Miss Van Sittart, the
two girls of the party, occupied the remaining three. The drawing room
had been left empty to serve as a general overflow. To this high-balls,
coffee, milk and sandwiches were borne by white-draped waiters from the
buffet, and set upon a magically installed table. Mrs. Thayer, Constance,
and the men fell upon the stronger beverages, while Mary and the girls
divided the milk.

Under cover of the general chatter McEwan raised his glass to Constance.

"I take off my hat to you, Mrs. Elliot, for a stage manager," he
whispered, glancing at the other women. "A black-haired soubrette, a
brown pony, and a redheaded slip; no rivals to the leading lady in this

Their train reached Burlington in a flurry of snow, and they were bundled
into big, two-seated sleighs for the drive out of the city.

Mary, wrapped in her fur-lined coat and covered with a huge bearskin,
watched with interest the tidy, dignified little town speed by. Even
Stefan was willing to admit it had some claims to the picturesque, but a
little way beyond, when they came to the open country, he gave almost a
whoop of satisfaction. Before them stretched tumbled hills, converging on
an icebound lake. Their snowy sides glittered pink in the sun and purple
in the shadows; they reared their frosted crests as if in welcome of the
morning; behind them the sky gleamed opalescent. Stefan leant forward in
the speeding sleigh as if to urge it with the sway of his body, the
frosty air stung his nostrils, the breath of the horses trailed like
smoke, the road seemed leading up to the threshold of the world. The
speed of their cold flight was in tune with the frozen dance of the
hills--Stefan whooped again, intoxicated, the others laughed back at him
and cheered, Mary's face glowed with delight, they were like children in
their joy.

The Elliot house lay in a high fold of the hills, overlooking the lake,
and almost out of sight of other buildings. Within, all was spacious
warmth and the crackle of great wood fires; on every side the icy view,
seen through wide windows, contrasted with the glowing colors of the
rooms. A steaming breakfast waited to fortify the hastily drunk coffee of
the train. After it, when the Byrds found themselves in their cozy
bedroom with its old New England furniture and blue-tiled bathroom,
Stefan, waltzing round the room, fairly hugged Mary in excited glee.

"What fun, Beautiful, what a lovely place, what air, what snow!" She
laughed with him, her own heart bounding with unwonted excitement.

The six-day party was a marked success throughout. Even the two young
girls were satisfied, for Constance contrived the appearance of several
stalwart youths of the neighborhood to help her son leaven the group of
older men. Mrs. Thayer flirted pleasantly and wittily with whoever
chanced to be at hand, Mr. Elliot hobnobbed with Farraday and made
touchingly laborious efforts to be frivolous, and McEwan kept the
household laughing at his gambols, heavy as those of a St. Bernard pup.

Constance darted from group to group like a purposeful humming-bird, but
did not lack the supreme gift of a hostess--that of leaving her guests
reasonably alone. All the women were inclined to hover about Byrd, who,
with Gunther, represented the most attractive male element. As the women
were sufficiently pretty and intelligent, Stefan enjoyed their notice,
but Gunther stalked away from them like a great hound surrounded by lap-
dogs. He was invariably courteous to his hostess, but had eyes only for
Mary. Never seeming to follow her, and rarely talking to her alone, he
was yet always to be found within a few yards of the spot she happened to
occupy. Farraday would watch her from another room, or talk with her in
his slow, kind way, and Wallace always drew her into his absurd games or
his sessions at the piano. But Gunther neither watched nor chattered, he
simply _was_, seeming to draw a silent and complete satisfaction
from her nearness. Of the men he took only cursory notice, talking
sometimes with Stefan on art, or with Farraday on life, but never seeking
their society.

Indoors Gunther seemed negative, outdoors he became godlike. The Elliots
possessed a little Norwegian sleigh they had brought from Europe. It was
swan-shaped, stood on low wooden runners, and was brightly painted in the
Norse manner. This Gunther found in the stable, and, promptly harnessing
to it the fastest horse, drove round to the house. Striding into the
hall, where the party was discussing plans for the day, he planted
himself before Mary, and invited her to drive. The others, looking out of
the window, exclaimed with pleasure at the pretty little sleigh, and Mary
gladly threw on her cap and coat. Gunther tucked her in and started
without a word. They were a mile from the house before he broke silence.

"This sleigh comes from my country, Mrs. Byrd; I wish I could drive you
there in it."

He did not speak again, and Mary was glad to enjoy the exhilarating air
in silence. By several roads they had gradually climbed a hillside. Now
from below they could see the house at some distance to their right, and
another road running in one long slope almost straight to it from where
they sat. Gunther suddenly stood up in the sleigh, braced his feet, and
wrapped a rein round each arm.

"Now we will drive," said he. They started, they gathered speed, they
flew, the horse threw himself into a stretching gallop, the sleigh
rocked, it leapt like a dashing wave. Gunther half crouched, swaying with
it. The horse raced, his flanks stretched to the snow. Mary clung to her
seat breathless and tense with excitement--she looked up at the driver.
His blue eyes blazed, his lips smiled above a tight-set jaw, he looked
down, and meeting her eyes laughed triumphantly. Expanding his great
chest he uttered a wild, exultant cry--they seemed to be rushing off the
world's rim. She could see nothing but the blinding fume of the upflung
snow. She, too, wanted to cry aloud. Then their pace slackened, she could
see the road, black trees, a wall, a house. They drove into the courtyard
and stopped.

The hall door was flung open. They were met by a group of faces excited
and alarmed. Gunther, his eyes still blazing, helped her down and,
throwing the reins to a waiting stable-boy, strode silently past the
guests and up to his room.

"Good heavens! you might have been killed," fussed Mr. Elliot. Farraday
looked pale, the women laughed excitedly.

"Mary," cried Stefan, his face flashing with eagerness, "you weren't
frightened, were you?"

She shook her head, still breathless.

"It was glorious, you were like storm gods. I've never seen anything so
inspiring." And he embraced her before them all.

After this episode Gunther resumed his impassive manner, nor did any
other of their outdoor sports draw from him the strange, exultant look he
had given Mary in the sleigh. But his feats on the toboggan slide and
with his skis were sufficiently daring to supply the party with liberal
thrills. His obvious skill gained him the captaincy of the toboggan, but
after his exhibition of driving, most of the women hesitated at first to
form one of his crew. Mary, however, who was quite fearless and
fascinated by this new sport, dashed down with him and the other men
again and again, and was, with her white wraps and brilliant pink cheeks,
as McEwan had prophesied, "the queen of the slide."

Stefan was intoxicated by the tobogganing, and though he was only less
new to it than Mary he soon became expert. But on his skis the great
Norwegian was alone, the whole party turning out to watch whenever he
strapped them to his feet. His daring leaps were, Stefan said, the
nearest thing to flying he had ever seen. "For I don't count aeroplanes
--they are mere machinery."

"Ah, if the lake were frozen enough for ice-boating," replied Gunther, "I
could show you something nearer still. But they tell me there is little
chance till February for more than in-shore skating."

Only in this last named sport had Gunther a rival, Stefan making up in
grace what he lacked in practice. Beside his, the Norwegian's skating was
powerful, but too unbending.

Mary, owing to the open English winters, had had less experience than any
one there, but she was so much more graceful and athletic than the other
women that she soon outstripped them. She skated almost entirely with
Stefan, only once with Gunther, who, since his strange look in the
sleigh, a little troubled her. On that one occasion he tore round the
clear ice at breakneck speed, halting her dramatically, by sheer weight,
a few inches from the bank, where she arrived breathless and thrilled.

Seeing her thus at her best, happy and admired, and full of vigorous
life, Stefan found himself almost as much in love as in the early weeks
of their marriage.

"You are more beautiful than ever, Mary," he exclaimed; "there is an
added life and strength in you; you are triumphant."

It was a joy again to feel her in his arms, to know that they were each
other's. After his troubled flights he came back to her love with a
feeling of deep spiritual peace. The night, when he could be alone with
her, became the happy climax of the day.

The amusements of the week ended in an impromptu dance which Constance
arranged by a morning at the telephone. For this, Mary donned her main
extravagance, a dress of rainbow colored silk gauze, cut short to the
ankle, and worn with pale pink slippers. She had found it "marked down"
at a Fifth Avenue house, and had been told it was a model dubbed
"Aurora." With it she wore her mother's pearl ornaments. Stefan was
entranced by the result, and Constance almost wept with satisfaction.

"Oh, Mary Byrd," she cried, hugging her daintily to avoid crushing the
frock; "you are the best thing that has happened in my family since my
mother-in-law quit living with me."

That night Stefan was at his best. Delighted with all his surroundings,
he let his faunlike spirits have full play, and his keen, brown face and
green-gold eyes flashed apparently simultaneously from every corner of
the room. Gunther did not dance; Farraday's method was correct but quiet,
and none of the men could rival Stefan in light-footed grace. Both he and
Mary were ignorant of any of the new dances, but Constance had given Mary
a lesson earlier in the day, and Stefan grasped the general scheme with
his usual lightning rapidity. Then he began to embroider, inventing steps
of his own which, in turn, Mary was quick to catch. No couple on the
floor compared with them in distinction and grace, and they danced, to
the chagrin of the other men and girls, almost entirely together.

Whatever disappointment this caused, however, was not shared by their
hostess and McEwan. After enduring several rounds of Mac's punishing
dancing, Constance was thankful to sit out with him and watch the others.
She was glad to be silent after her strenuous efforts as a hostess, and
McEwan was apparently too filled with satisfaction to have room left for
speech. His red face beamed, his big teeth glistened, pleasure radiated
from him.

"Aye, aye," he chuckled, nodding his ponderous head, and again "Aye,
aye," in tones of fat content, as the two Byrds swung lightly by.

"Aye, aye, Mr. McEwan," smiled Constance, tapping his knee with her fan.
"All this was your idea, and you are a good fellow. From this moment, I
intend to call you by your first name."

"Aye, aye," beamed McEwan, more broadly than before, extending a huge
hand; "that'll be grand."

The dance was the climax of the week. The next day was their last, leave-
takings were in the air, and toward afternoon a bustle of packing. Stefan
was in a mood of slight reaction from his excitement of the night before.
While Mary packed for them both he prowled uncertainly about the house,
and, finding the men in the library, whiled away the time in an utterly
impossible attempt to quarrel with McEwan on some theory of art.

They all left for the train with lamentations, and arrived in New York
the next morning in a cheerless storm of wet snow.

But by this time Mary's regret at the ending of their holiday was lost in
joy at the prospect of seeing her baby. She urged the stiff and tired
Stefan to speed, and, by cutting short their farewells and jumping for a
street car, managed to make the next train out for Crab's Bay. She could
hardly sit still in the decrepit cab, and it had barely stopped at their
gate before she was out and tearing up the stairs.

Stefan paid the cab, carried in their suitcase, and wandered, cold and
lonely, to the sitting room. For him their home-coming offered no
alleviating thrill. Already, he felt, Mary's bright wings were folding
again above her nest.


Refreshed, in spite of his natural reaction of spirits, by the week's
holiday, Stefan turned to his work with greater content in it than he had
felt for some time. His content was, to his own surprise, rather
increased than lessened by the discovery that Felicity Berber had left
New York for the South. Arriving at his studio the day after their return
from Vermont, he found one of her characteristic notes, in crimson ink
this time, upon snowy paper.

"Stefan," it read, "the winter has found his strength at last in storms.
But our friendship dallies with the various moods of spring. It leaves me
restless. The snow chills without calming me. My designing is beauty
wasted on the blindness of the city's overfed. A need of warmth and
stillness is upon me--the south claims me. The time of my return is
unrevealed as yet. Felicity."

Stefan read this epistle twice, the first time with irritation, the
second with relief. "Affected creature," he said to himself, "it's a good
job she's gone. I've frittered away too much time with her as it is."

At home that evening he told Mary. His devotion during their holiday had
already obscured her memory of the autumn's unhappiness, and his carefree
manner of imparting his tidings laid any ghost of doubt that still
remained with her. Secure once more in his love, she was as uncloudedly
happy as she had ever been.

In his newly acquired mood of sanity, Stefan faced the fact that he had
less work to show for the last nine months than in any similar period of
his career, and that he was still living on his last winter's success.
What had these months brought him? An expensive and inconclusive
flirtation at the cost of his wife's happiness, a few disturbing
memories, and two unfinished pictures. Out of patience with himself, he
plunged into his work. In two weeks of concentrated effort he had
finished the Nixie, and had arranged with Constantine to exhibit it and
the Demeter immediately. This last the dealer appeared to admire,
pronouncing it a fine canvas, though inferior to the Danae. About the
Nixie he seemed in two minds.

"We shall have a newspaper story with that one, Mr. Byrd, the lady being
so well known, and the subject so dramatic, but if you ask me will it
sell--" he shrugged his fat shoulders--"that's another thing."

Stefan stared at him. "I could sell that picture in France five times

Constantine waved his pudgy fingers.

"Ah, France! V'la c' qui est autre chose,'s pas? But if we fail in New
York for this one I think we try Chicago."

The reception of the pictures proved Constantine a shrewd prophet. The
academic Demeter was applauded by the average critic as a piece of
decorative work in the grand manner, and a fit rebuke to all Cubists,
Futurists, and other anarchists. It was bought by a committee from a
western agricultural college, which had come east with a check from the
state's leading politician to purchase suitable mural enrichments for the
college's new building. Constantine persuaded these worthies that one
suitable painting by a distinguished artist would enrich their
institution more than the half dozen canvases "to fit the auditorium"
which they had been inclined to order. Moreover, he mulcted them of two
thousand dollars for Demeter, which, in his private estimation, was more
than she was worth. He achieved the sale more readily because of the
newspaper controversy aroused by the Nixie. Was this picture a satire on
life, or on the celebrated Miss Berber? Was it great art, or merely
melodrama? Were Byrd's effects of river-light obtained in the old
impressionist manner, or by a subtler method of his own? Was he a master
or a poseur?

These and other questions brought his name into fresh prominence, but
failed to sell their object. Just, however, as Constantine was
considering a journey for the Nixie to Chicago, a purchaser appeared in
the shape of a certain Mr. Einsbacher. Stefan happened to be in the
gallery when this gentleman, piloted by Constantine himself, came in, and
recognized him as the elderly satyr of the pouched eyes who had been so
attentive to Felicity on the night of Constance's reception. When, later,
the dealer informed him that this individual had bought the Nixie for
three thousand, Stefan made no attempt to conceal his disgust.

"Thousand devils, Constantine, I don't paint for swine of that type,"
said he, scowling.

The dealer's hands wagged. "His check is good," he replied, "and who
knows, he may die soon and leave the picture to the Metropolitan."

But Stefan was not to be mollified, and went home that afternoon in a
state of high rebellion against all commercialism. Mary tried to console
him by pointing out that even with the dealer's commission deducted, he
had made more than a year's income from the two sales, and could now work
again free from all anxiety.

"What's the good," he exclaimed, "of producing beauty for sheep to bleat
and monkeys to leer at! What's the good of producing it in America at
all? Who wants, or understands it!"

"Oh, Stefan, heaps of people. Doesn't Mr. Farraday understand art, for

"Farraday," he snorted, "yes!--landscapes and women with children. What
does he know of the radiance of beauty, its mystery, the hot soul of it?
Oh, Mary," he flung himself down beside her, and clutched her hand
eagerly, "don't be wise; don't be sensible, darling. It's March, spring
is beginning in Europe. It's a year and a half since I became an exile.
Let's go, beloved. You say yourself we have plenty of money; let's take
ship for the land where beauty is understood, where it is put first,
above all things. Let's go back to France, Mary!"

His face was fired with eagerness; he almost trembled with the passion to
be gone. Mary flushed, and then grew pale with apprehension. "Do you mean
break up our home, Stefan, for good?"

"Yes, darling. You know I've counted the days of bondage. We couldn't
travel last spring, and since then we've been too poor. What have these
last months brought us? Only disharmony. We are free now, there is
nothing to hold us back. We can leave Elliston in Paris, and follow the
spring south to the vineyards. A progress a-foot through France, each day
finding colors richer, the sun nearer--think of it, Beautiful!" He kissed
her joyously.

Her hands were quite cold now, "But, Stefan," she temporized, "our little
house, our friends, my work, the--the _place_ we've been making?"

"Dearest, all these we can find far better there."

She shook her head. "I can't. I don't speak French properly, I don't
understand French people. I couldn't sell my stories there or--or
anything," she finished weakly.

He jumped up, his eyes blank, hands thrust in his pockets.

"I don't get you, Mary. You don't mean--you surely can't mean, that you
don't want to go to France _at all_? That you want to _live_

She floundered. "I don't know, Stefan. Of course you've always talked
about France, and I should love to go there and see it, and so on, but
somehow I've come to think of the Byrdsnest as home--we've been so happy

"Happy?" he interrupted her. "You say we've been happy?" His tone was
utterly confounded.

"Yes, dear, except--except when you were so--so busy last autumn--"

He dropped down by the table, squaring himself as if to get to the bottom
of a riddle.

"What is your idea of happiness, Mary, of _life_ in fact?" he asked,
in an unusually quiet voice. She felt glad that he seemed so willing to
talk things over, and to concede her a point of view of her own.

"Well," she began, feeling for her words, "my idea of life is to have a
person and work that you love, and then to build--both of you--a place, a
position; to have friends--be part of the community--so that your
children--the immortal part of you--may grow up in a more and more
enriching atmosphere." She paused, while he watched her, motionless. "I
can't imagine," she went on, "greater happiness for two people than to
see their children growing up strong and useful--tall sons and daughters
to be proud of, such as all the generations before us have had. Something
to hand our life on to--as it was in the beginning--you know, Stefan--"
She flushed with the effort to express.

"Then,"--his voice was quieter still; she did not see that his hands were
clenched under the flap of the table--"in this scheme of life of yours,
how many children--how many servants, rooms, all that sort of thing
--should you consider necessary?"

She smiled. "As for houses, servants and things, that just depends on
one's income. I hate ostentation, but I do like a beautifully run house,
and I adore horses and dogs and things. But the children--" she flushed
again--"why, dearest, I think any couple ought to be simply too thankful
for all the children they can have. Unless, perhaps," she added naively,
"they're frightfully poor."

"Where should people live to be happy in this way?" he asked, still in
those carefully quiet tones.

She was looking out of the window, trying to formulate her thoughts. "I
don't think it matters very much _where_ one lives," she said in her
soft, clear tones, "as long as one has friends, and is not too much in
the city. But to own one's house, and the ground under one, to be able to
leave it to one's son, to think of _his_ son being born in it--that
I think would add enormously to one's happiness. To belong to the place
one lives in, whether it's an old country, or one of the colonies, or

"I see," said Stefan slowly, in a voice low and almost harsh. Startled,
she looked at him. His face was knotted in a white mask; it was like the
face of some creature upon which an iron door has been shut. "Stefan,"
she exclaimed, "what--?"

"Wait a minute," he said, still slowly. "I suppose it's time we talked
this thing out. I've been a fool, and judged, like a fool, by myself.
It's time we knew each other, Mary. All that you have said is horrible to
me--it's like a trap." She gave an exclamation. "Wait, let me do
something I've never done, let me _think_ about it." He was silent,
his face still a hard, knotted mask. Mary waited, her heart trembling.

"You, Mary, told me something about families in England who live as you
describe--you said your mother belonged to one of them. I remember that
now." He nodded shortly, as if conceding her a point. "My father was a
New Englander. He was narrow and self-righteous, and I hated him, but he
came of people who had faced a hundred forms of death to live
primitively, in a strange land."

"I'm willing to live in a strange country, Stefan," she almost cried to

"Don't, Mary--I'm still trying to understand. I'm not my father's son,
I'm my mother's. I don't know what she was, but she was beautiful and
passionate--she came of a mixed race, she may have had gipsy blood--I
don't know--but I do know she had genius. She loved only color and
movement. Mary--" he looked straight at her for the first time, his eyes
were tortured--"I loved you because you were beautiful and free. When
your child bound you, and you began to collect so many things and people
about you, I loved you less. I met some one else who had the beauty of
color and movement, and I almost loved her. She told me the name Berber
wasn't her own, that she had taken it because it belonged to a tribe of
wanderers--Arabs. I almost loved her for that alone. But, Mary, you still
held me. I was faithful to you because of your beauty and the love that
had been between us. Then you rose from your petty little surroundings"
--he cast a look of contempt at the pretty furnishings of the room--"I saw
you like a storm-spirit, I saw you moving among other women like a
goddess, adored of men. I felt your beautiful body yield to me in the joy
of wild movement, in the rhythm of the dance. You were my bride, alive,
gloriously free--once more, you were the Desired. I loved you, Mary." He
rose and put his hands on her shoulders. Her face was as white as his
now. His hands dropped, he almost leapt away from her, the muscles of his
face writhed. "My God, Mary, I've never wanted to _think_ about you,
only to feel and see you! Now I must think. This--this existence that you
have described! Is that all you ask of life? Are you sure?"

"What more could one ask!" she uttered, dazed.

"What _more?_" he cried out, throwing up his arms. "What
_more,_ Mary! Why, it isn't life at all, this deadly, petty
intricate day by day, surrounded by things, and more things. The
hopeless, unalterable tameness of it!" He began to pace the room.

"But, my dear, I don't understand you. We have love, and work, and if
some part of our life is petty, why, every one's always has been, hasn't

She was deeply moved by his distress, afraid again for their happiness,
longing to comfort him. Yet, under and apart from all these emotions,
some cool little faculty of criticism wondered if he was not making
rather a theatrical scene. "Daily life must be a little monotonous,
mustn't it?" she urged again, trying to help him.

"No!" he almost shouted, with a gesture of fierce repudiation. "Was
Angelo's life petty? Was da Vinci's? Did Columbus live monotonously, did
Scott or Peary? Does any explorer or traveler? Did Thoreau surround
himself with _things_--to hamper--did George Borrow, or Whitman, or
Stevenson? Do you suppose Rodin, or de Musset, or Rousseau, or Millet, or
any one else who has ever _lived_, cared whether they had a
position, a house, horses, old furniture? All the world's wanderers, from
Ulysses down to the last tramp who knocked at this door, have known more
of life than all your generations of staid conventional county families!
Oh, Mary"--he leant across the table toward her, and his voice pleaded--
"think of what life _should_ be. Think of the peasants in France
treading out the wine. Think of ships, and rivers, and all the beauty of
the forests. Think of dancing, of music, of that old viking who first
found America. Think of those tribes who wander with their tents over the
desert and pitch them under stars as big as lamps--all the things we've
never seen, Mary, the songs we've never heard. The colors, the scents,
and the cruel tang of life! All these I want to see and feel, and
translate into pictures. I want you with me, Mary--beautiful and free--I
want us to drink life eagerly together, as if it were heady wine." He
took her hand across the table. "You'll come, Beloved, you'll give all
the little things up, and come?"

She rose, her face pitifully white. They stood with hands clasped, the
table between them.

"The boy, Stefan?"

He laughed, thinking he had won her. "Bring him, too, as the Arab women
carry theirs, in a shawl. We'll leave him here and there, and have him
with us whenever we stay long in one place."

She pulled her hand away, her eyes filled with tears. "I love you,
Stefan, but I can't bring my child up like a gipsy. I'll live in France,
or anywhere you say, but I must have a home--I can't be a wanderer."

"You shall have a home, sweetheart, to keep coming back to." His face was
brightening to eagerness.

"Oh, you don't understand. I can't leave my child; I can't be with him
only sometimes. I want him always. And it isn't only him. Oh, Stefan,
dear"--her voice in its turn was pleading--"I don't believe I can come to
France just now. I think, I'm almost sure, we're going to have another

He straightened, they faced each other in silence. After a moment she
spoke again, looking down, her hands tremblingly picking at her

"I was so happy about it. It was the sign of your renewed love. I thought
we could build a little wing on the cottage, and have a nurse." Her voice
fell to a whisper. "I thought it might be a little girl, and that you
would love her better than the boy. I'll come later, dear, if you say so,
but I can't come now." She sank into her chair, her head drooping. He,
too, sat down, too dazed by this new development to find his way for a
minute through its implications.

"I'm sorry, Mary," he said at last, dully. "I don't want a little girl.
If she could be put away somewhere till she were grown, I should not
mind. But to live like this all through one's youth, with a house, and
servants, and people calling, and the place cluttered up with babies--I
don't think I can do that, possibly."

She was frankly crying now. "But, dear one, can't we compromise? After
this baby is born, I'll give up the house. We'll live in France--I'll
travel with you a little. That will help, won't it?"

He sighed. "I suppose so. We shall have to think out some scheme. But the
ghastly part is that we shall both have to be content with half measures.
You want one thing of life, Mary, I another. No amount of self-sacrifice
on either side alters that fact. We married, strangers, and it's taken us
a year and a half to find it out. My fault, of course. I wanted love and
beauty, and I got it--I didn't think of the cost, and I didn't think of
_you_. I was just a damned egotistical male, I suppose." He laughed
bitterly. "My father wanted a wife, and he got the burning heart of a
rose. I--I never wanted a wife, I see that now, I wanted to snare the
very spirit of life and make it my own--you looked a vessel fit to carry
it. But you were just a woman like the rest. We've failed each other,
that's all."

"Oh, Stefan," she cried through her tears, "I've tried so hard. But I was
always the same--just a woman. Only--" her tears broke out afresh--"when
you married me, I thought you loved me as I was."

He looked at her, transfixed. "My God," he whispered, "that's what I
heard my mother say more than twenty years ago. What a mockery--each
generation a scorn and plaything for the high Gods! Well, we'll do the
best we can, Mary. I'm utterly a pagan, so I'm not quite the inhuman
granite my Christian father was. Don't cry, dear." He stooped and kissed
her, and she heard his light, wild steps pass through the room and out
into the night. She sat silent, amid the ruins of her nest.


For a month Stefan brooded. He hung about the house, dabbled at a little
work, and returned, all without signs of life or interest. He was kind to
Mary, more considerate than he used to be, but she would have given all
his inanimate, painstaking politeness for an hour of his old, gay
thoughtlessness. They had reached the stage of marriage in which, all
being explained and understood, there seems nothing to hope for. Alone
together they were silent, for there was nothing to say. Each condoned
but could not comfort the other. Stefan felt that his marriage had been a
mistake, that he, a living thing, had tied about his neck a dead mass of
institutions, customs and obligations which would slowly crush his life
out. "I am twenty-seven," he said to himself, "and my life is over." He
did not blame Mary, but himself.

She, on the other hand, felt she had married a man outside the pale of
ordinary humanity, and that though she still loved him, she could no
longer expect happiness through him. "I am twenty-five," she thought,
"and my personal life is over. I can be happy now only in my children."
As those were assured her, she never thought of regretting her marriage,
but only deplored the loss of her dream. Nor did she judge Stefan. She
understood the wild risk she had run in marrying a man of whom she knew
nothing. "He is as he is," she thought; "neither of us is to blame."
Lonely and grieved, she turned for companionship to her writing, and
began a series of fairy tales which she had long planned for very young
children. The first instalment of her serial was out, charmingly
illustrated; she had felt rather proud on seeing her name, for the first
time, on the cover of a magazine. She engaged a young girl from the
village to take Elliston for his daily outings, and settled down to a
routine of work, small social relaxations, and morning and evening care
of the baby. The daily facts of life were pleasant to Mary; if some hurt
or disappointed, her balanced nature swung readily to assuage itself with
others. She honestly believed she felt more deeply than her husband, and
perhaps she did, but she was not of the kind whom life can break. Stefan
might dash himself to exhaustion against a rock round which Mary would
find a smooth channel.

While her work progressed, Stefan's remained at a standstill.
Disillusioned with his marriage and with his whole way of life he fretted
himself from his old sure confidence to a mood of despair. Their friends
bored him, his studio like his house became a cage. New York appeared in
her old guise of mammoth materialist, but now he had no heart to satirize
her dishonor. He wanted only to be gone, but told himself that in common
decency he must remain with Mary till her child was born. He longed for
even the superficial thrill of Felicity's presence, but she still
lingered in the South. So fretting, he tossed himself against the bars
through the long snows of an unusually severe March, until April broke
the frost, and the road to the Byrdsnest became a morass of running mud.

In the last two weeks Stefan had begun a portrait of Constance, but
without enthusiasm. She was a fidgety sitter, and was moreover so busy
with her suffrage work that she could never be relied on for more than an
hour at a time. After a few of these fragmentary sittings his ragged
nerves gave out completely.

"It's utterly useless, Constance!" he exclaimed, throwing down his
pallette and brushes, as the telephone interrupted them for the third
time in less than an hour. "I can't paint in a suffrage office. This is a
studio, not the Club's headquarters. If you can't shut these people off
and sit rationally, please don't trouble to come again."

"I know, my dear boy, it's abominable, but what can I do? Our bill has
passed the Legislature; until it is submitted next year I can't be my own
or Theodore's, much less yours. As for you, you look a rag. This winter
has about made me hate my country. I don't wonder you long for France."

Her eyes narrowed at him, she dangled her beads reflectively, and perched
on the throne again without attempting to resume her pose. "My dear boy,"
she said suddenly, "why stay here and be eaten by devils--why not fly
from them?"

"I wish to God I could," he groaned.

"You can. Mary was in to see our shop yesterday; she looked dragged. You
are both nervous. Do what I have always done--take a holiday from each
other. There's nothing like it as a tonic for love."

"Do you really think she wouldn't mind?" he exclaimed eagerly. "You know
she--she isn't very well."

"Chtt," shrugged Constance, "_that's_ only being more than usually
well. You don't think Mary needs coddling, do you? She's worried because
you are bored. If you aren't there, she won't worry. I shall take your
advice--I shan't come here again--" and she settled her hat briskly--"and
you take mine. Go away--" Constance threw on her coat-- "go anywhere you
like, my dear Stefan--" she was at the door--"except south," she added
with a mischievous twinkle, closing it.

Stefan, grinning appreciatively at this parting shot, unscrewed his
sketch of Constance from the easel, set it face to the wall in a corner,
cleaned his brushes, with the meticulous care he always gave to his
tools, and ran for the elevated, just in time to catch the next train for
Crab's Bay. At the station he jumped into a hack, and, splashing home as
quickly as the liquid road bed would allow, burst into the house to find
Mary still lingering over her lunch.

"What has happened, Stefan?" she exclaimed, startled at his excited face.

"Nothing. I've got an idea, that's all. Let me have something to eat and
I'll tell you about it."

She rang for Lily, and he made a hasty meal, asking her unwonted
questions meantime about her work, her amusements, whether many of the
neighbors were down yet, and if she felt lonely.

"No, I'm not lonely, dear. There are only a few people here, but they are
awfully decent to me, and I'm very busy at home."

"You are sure you are not lonely?" he asked anxiously, drinking his
coffee, and lighting a cigarette.

"Yes, quite sure. I'm not exactly gay--" and she smiled a little sadly--
"but I'm really never lonely."

"Then," he asked nervously, "what would you say if I suggested going off
by myself for two or three months, to Paris." He watched her intently,
fearful of the effect of his words. To his unbounded relief, she appeared
neither surprised nor hurt, but, after twisting her coffee cup
thoughtfully for a minute, looked up with a frank smile.

"I think it would be an awfully good thing, Stefan dear. I've been
thinking so for a month, but I didn't like to say anything in case you
might feel--after our talk--" her voice faltered for a moment--"that I
was trying to--that I didn't care for you so much. It isn't that, dear--"
she looked honestly at him--"but I know you're not happy, and it doesn't
help me to feel I am holding you back from something you want. I think we
shall be happier afterwards if you go now."

"I do, too," said he, "but I was so afraid it would seem cruel in me to
suggest it. I don't want to grow callous like my father." He shuddered.
"I want to do the decent thing, Mary." His eyes were pleading.

"I know, dearest, you've been very kind. But for both our sakes, it will
be far better if you go for a time." She rose, and, coming round the
table, kissed his rough hair. He caught her hand, and pressed it
gratefully. "You are good to me, Mary."

The matter settled, Stefan's spirit soared. He rang up the French Line
and secured one of the few remaining berths for their next sailing, which
was in three days. He telephoned an ecstatic cable to Adolph. Then,
hurrying to the attic, he brought down his friend's old Gladstone, and
his own suitcase, and began to sort out his clothes. Mary, anxious to
quell her heartache by action, came up to help him, and vetoed his idea
of taking only the barest necessities.

"I know," she said, "you want to get back to your old Bohemia. But
remember you are a well-known artist now--the celebrated Stefan Byrd,"
and she courtesied to him. "Suppose you were to meet some charming people
whom you wanted to see something of? Do take a dinner-jacket at least."

He grinned at her. "I shall live in a blouse and sleep in my old attic
with Adolph. That's the only thing I could possibly want to do. But I
won't be fractious, Mary. If it will please you to have me take dress
clothes I'll do it--only you must pack them yourself!"

She nodded smilingly. "All right, I shall love to." She had failed to
make her husband happy in their home, she thought; at least she would
succeed in her manner of speeding him from it. It was her tragedy that he
should want to go. That once faced, she would not make a second tragedy
of his going.

She spent the next morning, while he went to town to buy his ticket, in a
thorough overhauling of his clothes. She found linen bags to hold his
shoes and a linen folder for his shirts. She pressed his ties and brushed
his coats, packed lavender bags in his underwear, and slipped a framed
snapshot of herself and Elliston into the bottom of the Gladstone. With
it, in a box, she put the ring she had given him, with the winged head,
which he had ceased to wear of late. She found some new poems and a novel
he had not read, and packed those. She gave him her own soapbox and
toothbrush case. She cleaned his two bags with shoe polish. Everything
she could think of was done to show that she sent him away willingly, and
she worked so hard that she forgot to notice how her heart ached. In the
afternoon she met him in town and they had dinner together. He suggested
their old hotel, but she shook her head. "No dear, not there," she said,
smiling a little tremulously. They went to a theatre, and got home so
late that she was too tired to be wakeful.

"By the by," she said next morning at breakfast, "don't worry about my
being alone after you've gone. I thought it might be triste for the first
few days, so I've rung up the Sparrow, and she's coming to occupy your
room for a couple of weeks. She's off for her yearly trip abroad at the
end of the month. Says she can't abide the Dutch, but means to see what
there is to their old Rhine, and come back by way of Tuscany and France."
Mary gurgled. "Can't you see her in Paris, poor dear, 'doing' the Louvre,
with her nose in a guidebook. Why! Perhaps you may!"

"The gods forbid," said Stefan devoutly.

He had brought his paints and brushes home the night before, and after
breakfast Mary helped him stow them away in the Gladstone, showing him
smilingly how well she had done his packing. While he admired, she
remembered to ask him if he had obtained a letter of credit. He burst out

"Mary, you wonder! I have about fifty dollars in my pocket, and should
have entirely forgotten to take more if you hadn't spoken of it. What a
bore! Can't I get it to-morrow?"

"You might not have time before sailing. I think you'd better go up
to-day, and then you could call on Constance to say good-bye."

"I don't like to leave you on our last day," he said uneasily,

"Oh, that will be all right, dear," she smiled, patting his hand. "I have
oceans to do, and I think you ought to see Constance. Get your letter of
credit for a thousand dollars, then you'll be sure to have enough."

"A thousand! Great Scott, Adolph would think I'd robbed a bank if I had
all that."

"You don't need to spend it, silly, but you ought to have it behind you.
You never know what might happen."

"Would there be plenty left for you?"

"Bless me, yes," she laughed; "we're quite rich."

While he was gone Mary arranged an impromptu farewell party for him, so
that instead of spending a rather depressing evening alone with her, as
he had expected, he found himself surrounded by cheerful friends--McEwan,
the Farradays, their next neighbors, the Havens, and one or two others.
McEwan was the last to leave, at nearly midnight, and pleading fatigue,
Mary kissed Stefan good night at the door of her room. She dared not
linger with him lest the stifled pain at her heart should clamor for
expression too urgently to be denied. But by this time he himself began
to feel the impending separation. Ready for bed, he slipped into her room
and found her lying wide-eyed in a swathe of moonlight. Without a word he
lay down beside her and drew her close. Like children lost in the dark,
they slept all night in each other's arms.

Next day Mary saw him off. New York ended at the gangway. Across it, they
were in France. French decorations, French faces, French gaiety, the
beloved French tongue, were everywhere.

"Listen to it, Mary," he cried exultingly, and she smiled a cheerful

When the warning bell sounded he suddenly became grave.

"Say good-bye again to Elliston for me, dear," he said, holding her hand
close. "I hope he grows up like you."

Her eyes were swimming now, in spite of herself. "Mary," he went on,
"this separation makes or mars us. I hope, dear, I believe, it will make
us. God bless you." He kissed her, pressed her to him. Suddenly they were
both trembling.

"Why are we parting?" he cried, in a revulsion of feeling.

She smiled at him, wiping away her tears. "It's better, dearest," she
whispered; "let me go now." They kissed again; she turned hurriedly away.
He watched her cross the gangway--she waved to him from the dock--then
the crowd swallowed her.

For a moment he felt bitterly bereaved. "How ironic life is," he thought.
Then a snatch of French chatter and a gay laugh reached him. The gangway
lifted, water widened between the bulwarks and the dock. As the ship
swung out he caught the sea breeze--a flight of gulls swept by--he was

With a deep breath Stefan turned a brilliant smile upon the deck ...

Mary, hurrying home with aching heart and throat, let the slow tears run
unheeded down her cheeks. From the train she watched the city's outskirts
stream by, formless and ugly. She was very desolate. But when, tired out,
she entered her house, peace enfolded her. Here were her child, the
things she loved, her birds, her pleasant, smiling servant. Here were
white walls and gracious calm. Her mate had flown, but the nest remained.
Her heart ached still, but it was no longer torn.


The day after Stefan sailed Felicity Berber returned from Louisiana. The
South had bored her, without curing her weariness of New York. She drove
from the Pennsylvania Station to her studio, looked through the books,
overhauled the stock, and realized with indifference that her business
had suffered heavily through her absence. She listened lazily while her
lieutenants, emphasizing this fact, implored her to take up the work

"What does it matter," she murmured through her smoke. "The place still
pays. Your salaries are all secure, and I have plenty of money. I may
come back, I may not. In any event, I am bored." She rippled out to her
landaulette, and drove home. At her apartment, her Chinese maid was
already unpacking her trunks.

"Don't unpack any more, Yo San. I may decide to go away again--abroad
perhaps. I am still very bored--give me a white kirtle and telephone Mr.
Marchmont to call in an hour."

With her maid's help she undressed, pinned her hair high, and slipped on
a knee-high tunic of heavy chiffon. Barefooted, she entered a large room,
walled in white and dull silver--the end opposite the windows filled by a
single mirror. Between the windows stood a great tank of gold and silver
fish swimming among water lilies.

Two enormous vases of dull glass, stacked with lilies against her
homecoming, stood on marble pedestals. The floor was covered with a
carpeting of dead black. A divan draped in yellow silk, a single ebony
chair inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and a low table in teakwood were the
sole furniture. Here, quite alone, Felicity danced away the stiffness of
her journey, danced away the drumming of the train from her ears, and its
dust from her lungs. Then she bathed, and Yo San dressed her in a loose
robe of silver mesh, and fastened her hair with an ivory comb carved and
tinted to the model of a water lily. These rites complete, Felicity
slowly partook of fruit, coffee and toast. Only then did she re-enter the
dance room, where, on his ebony chair, the dangling Marchmont had been
uncomfortably waiting for half an hour.

She gave him her hand dreamily, and sank full length on the divan.

"You are more marvelous than ever, Felicity," said he, with an adoring

She waved her hand. "For all that I am not in the mood. Tell me the news,
my dear Marchmont--plays, pictures, scandals, which of my clients are
richer, which are bankrupt, who has gone abroad, and all about my

Marchmont leant forward, and prepared to light a cigarette, his thin
mouth twisted to an eager smile, his loose hair wagging.

"Wait," she breathed, "I weary of smoke. Give me a lily, Marchmont." He
fetched one of the great Easter lilies from its vase. Placing this on her
bosom, she folded her supple hands over it, closed her eyes, and lay
still, looking like a Bakst version of the Maid of Astolat. Felicity's
hints were usually sufficient for her slaves. Marchmont put away his
cigarette, and proceeded with relish to recount the gossip with which, to
his long finger-tips, he was charged.

"Well," said he, after an hour's general survey of New York as they both
knew it, "I think that about covers the ground. There is, as I said, no
question that Einsbacher is still devoted. My own opinion is he will
present you with the Nixie. I suppose you received the clippings I sent
about the picture? Constance Elliot has only ordered two gowns from the
studio since you left--but you will have seen that by the books. She says
she is saving her money for the Cause." He snickered. "The fact is, she
grows dowdy as she grows older. Gunther has gone to Frisco with his
group. Polly Thayer tells me his adoration of the beautiful Byrd is
pathetic. So much in love he nearly broke her neck showing off his
driving for her benefit." Marchmont snickered again. "As for your friend
Mr. Byrd--" he smiled with a touch of sly pleasure--"you won't see him,
he sailed for France yesterday, alone. His name is in this morning's list
of departures." And he drew a folded and marked newspaper from his

A shade of displeasure had crept over the immobile features of Miss
Berber. She opened her eyes and regarded the lank Marchmont with
distaste. Her finger pressed a button on the divan. Slowly she raised
herself to her elbow, while he watched, his pale eyes fixed on her with
the expression of a ratting dog waiting its master's thanks after a

"All that you have told me," said Felicity at last, a slight edge to her
zephyr-like voice, "is interesting, but I wish you would remember that
while you are free to ridicule my clients, you are not free as regards my
friends. Your comment on Connie was in poor taste. I am not in the mood
for more conversation this morning. I am fatigued. Good-day, Marchmont."
She sank to her pillows again--her eyes closed.

"Oh, I say, Felicity, is that all the thanks I get?" whined her visitor.

"Good-day, Marchmont," she breathed again. The door opened, disclosing Yo
San. Marchmont's aesthetic veneer cracked.

"Oh, shucks," he said, "how mean of you!" and trailed out, his cutaway
seeming to hang limp like the dejected tail of a dog.

The door closed, Felicity bounded up and, running across the room,
invoked her own loveliness in the mirror.

"Alone," she whispered to herself, "alone." She danced a few steps,
swayingly. "You've never lived, lovely creature, you've never lived yet,"
she apostrophized the dancing vision in the glass.

Still swaying and posturing to some inward melody, she fluttered down the
passage to her bedroom. "Yo San," she called, her voice almost full, "we
shall go to Europe." The stolid little maid nodded acquiescence.

For the next three days Felicity Berber, creator of raiment, shut in her
pastoral fitting room and surrounded by her chief acolytes, sat at a
table opposite Stefan's dancing faun, and designed spring gowns. Felicity
the idle, the somnolent, the alluring, gave place to Felicity the
inventor, and again to Felicity the woman of business. Scissors clipped,
typewriters clicked, colored chalks covered dozens of sheets with

The staff became first relieved, then enthusiastic. What a spring display
they were to have! On the third day hundreds of primrose-yellow
envelopes, inscribed in green ink to the studio's clients, poured into
the letter-chute. Within them an announcement printed in flowing green
script read, under Felicity's letterhead, "I offer twenty-one original
designs for spring raiment, created by me under the inspiration of a
sojourn in the South. Each will be modified to the wearer's personality,
and none will be duplicated. I am about to travel in Europe, there to
gain atmosphere for my fall creations." After her signature, was stamped,
by way of seal, a tiny woodcut of Stefan's faun.

The last design was complete by Friday, and on Saturday Felicity sailed
on the Mauretania, her suite of three rooms a wilderness of flowers.
Marchmont, calling at the apartment to escort her to the boat, found the
dance-room swathed in sheeting, its heavy carpet rolled into a corner.
Evidently, this was to be no brief "sojourn." The heavy Einsbacher was at
the dock to see her off, together with a small pack of nondescript young
men. Constance was not there, and Marchmont guessed that she had not been
told of her friend's departure.

Einsbacher had the last word with Felicity. "I hope you will like the
vlowers," he whispered gutturally. "Let me know if I may make you a
present of the Nixie," and he gave a thick smile.

"You know my rule," she murmured, her lids heavy, a bored droop at the
corners of her mouth. "Nothing worth more than five dollars, except
flowers. Why should I break it--" her voice hovered--"for you?"--it sank.
She turned away, melting into the crowd. Marchmont, with malicious
pleasure, watched Einsbacher's discomfited retreat.

In her cabin Felicity collected all the donors' cards from her flowers
and, stepping outside, with a faint smile dropped them into the sea.


It was the end of April, and Paris rustled gaily in her spring dress.
Stefan and Adolph, clad in disreputable baggy trousers topped in one case
by a painter's blouse and in the other by an infinitely aged alpaca
jacket, strolled homeward in the early evening from their favorite cafe.

Adolph was in the highest spirits, as he had been ever since Stefan's
arrival three weeks before, but the other's face wore a rather moody
frown. He had begun to weary a little of his good friend's ecstatic
pleasure in their reunion.

He was in Paris again, in his old attic; it was spring, and his beloved
city as beautiful as ever. He had expected a return of his old-time
gaiety, but somehow the charm lacked potency. He wanted to paint, but his
ideas were turgid and fragmentary. He wanted excitement, but the city
only seemed to offer memories. The lapse of a short eighteen months had
scattered his friends surprisingly. Adolph remained, but Nanette was
married. Louise had left Paris, and Giddens, the English painter, had
gone back to London. Perhaps it was the spring, perhaps it was merely the
law which decrees that the past can never be recaptured--whatever the
cause, Stefan's flight had not wholly assuaged his restlessness. Of
adventures in the hackneyed sense he had not thought. He was too
fastidious for the vulgar sort, and had hitherto met no women who stirred
his imagination. Moreover, he harbored the delusion that the failure of
his great romance had killed his capacity for love. "I am done with
women," he said to himself.

Mary seemed very distant. He thought of her with gratitude for her
generosity, with regret, but without longing.

"Never marry," he said to Adolph for the twentieth time, as they turned
into the rue des Trois Ermites; "the wings of an artist must remain

"Ah, Stefan," Adolph replied, sighing over his friend's disillusionment,
"I am not like you. I should be grateful for a home, and children. I am
only a cricket scraping out my little music, not an eagle."

Stefan snorted. "You are a great violinist, but you won't realize it.
Look here, Adolph, chuck your job, and go on a walking tour with me.
Let's travel through France and along the Riviera to Italy. I'm sick of
cities. There's lots of money for us both, and if we run short, why,
bring your fiddle along and play it--why not?"

At their door the concierge handed Adolph some letters.

"My friend," said he, holding up a couple of bills, "one cannot slip away
from life so easily. How should I pay my way when we returned?"

"Hang it," said Stefan impatiently, "don't you begin to talk obligations.
I came to France to get away from all that. Have a little imagination,
Adolph. It would be the best thing that could happen to you to get shaken
out of that groove at the Opera--be the making of you."

They had reached the attic, and Adolph lit a lamp.

"We'll talk of it to-morrow, my infant, now I must dress--see, here is a
letter for you."

He handed Stefan a tinted envelope, and began leisurely to don his
conventional black. Holding the note under the lamp, Stefan saw with a
start that it was from Felicity, and had been left by hand. Excited, he
tore it open. It was written in ordinary ink, upon pale pink paper,
agreeably scented.

"My dear friend," he read in French, "I am in Paris, and
chancing to remember your old address--("I swear I never told
her the number," he thought)--send this in search of you.
How pleasant it would be to see you, and to have a little converse
in the sweet French tongue. You did not know that it
was my own, did you? But yes, I have French-Creole blood.
One is happy here among one's own kind. This evening I shall
be alone. Felicity."

So, she was a Creole--of the race of Josephine! His pulses beat. Cramming
the note into his pocket he whirled excitedly upon his friend.

"Adolph," he cried, "I'm going out--where are my clothes?" and began
hastily to rummage for his Gladstone amidst a pile of their joint
belongings. Throwing it open, he dragged out his dress suit--folded still
as Mary had packed it--and strewed a table with collars, ties, shirts,
and other accessories.

"Hot water, Adolph! Throw some sticks into the stove--I must shave," he
called, and Adolph, amazed at this sudden transformation, hastily obeyed.

"Where do you go?" he asked, as he filled the kettle.

"I'm going to see a very attractive young woman," Stefan grinned. "Wow,
what a mercy I brought some decent clothes, eh?" He was already stripped,
and shaking out a handful of silk socks. Something clicked to the floor,
but he did not notice it. The dressing proceeded in a whirl, Adolph much
impressed by the splendors of his friend's toilet. A fine shirt of tucked
linen, immaculate pumps, links of dull gold--his comrade in Bohemia had
completely vanished.

"O la, la!" cried he, beaming, "now I see it is true about all your

"I'm going to take a taxi," Stefan announced as he slipped into his coat;
"can I drop you?"

He stood ready, having overtaken Adolph's sketchy but leisured dressing.

"What speed, my child! One moment!" Adolph shook on his coat, found his
glasses, and was crossing to put out the lamp when his foot struck a
small object.

"What is this, something of yours?" He stooped and picked up a framed
snapshot of a girl playing with a baby. "How beautiful!" he exclaimed,
holding it under the lamp.

"Oh, yes," said Stefan with a slight frown, "that's Mary. I didn't know I
had it with me. Come on, Adolph," and he tossed the picture back into the
open Gladstone.

While Adolph found a taxi, Stefan paused a moment to question the
concierge. Yes, monsieur's note had been left that afternoon, Madame
remembered, by une petite Chinoise, bien chic, who had asked if Monsieur
lived here. Madame's aged eyes snapped with Gallic appreciation of a
possible intrigue.

Stefan was glad when he had dropped Adolph. He stretched at ease along
the cushions of his open taxi, breathing in the warm, audacious air of
spring, and watched the faces of the crowds as they emerged under the
lights to be lost again mysteriously in the dusk.

Paris, her day's work done, was turning lightly, with her entrancing
smile, to the pursuit of friendship, adventure, and love. All through the
scented streets eyes sought eyes, voices rose in happy laughter or
drooped to soft allurement. Stefan thrilled to the magic in the air. He,
too, was seeking his adventure.

The taxi drew up in the courtyard of an apartment house. Giving his name,
Stefan entered a lift and was carried up one floor. A white door opened,
and the small Yo San, with a salutation, took his hat, and lifted a
curtain. He was in a long, low room, yellow with candlelight. Facing him,
open French windows giving upon a balcony showed the purpling dusk above
the river and the black shapes of trees. Lights trickled their reflection
in the water, the first stars shone, the scent of flowers was heavy in
the air.

All this he saw; then a curtain moved, and a slim form appeared from the
balcony as silently as a moth fluttering to the light.

"Ah, Stefan, welcome," a voice murmured.

The setting was perfect. As Felicity moved toward him--her gown
fluttering and swaying in folds of golden pink as delicately tinted as
the petals of a rose--Stefan realized he had never seen her so alluring.
Her strange eyes shone, her lips curved soft and inviting, her cheeks and
throat were like warm, white velvet.

He took her outstretched hand--of the texture of a camelia--and it pulsed
as if a heart beat in it.

"Felicity," he half whispered, holding her hand, "how wonderful you are!"

"Am I?" she breathed, sighingly. "I have been asleep so long, Stefan.
perhaps I am awake a little now."

Her eyes, wide and gleaming as he had never seen them, held him. A
mysterious perfume, subtle and poignant, hung about her. Her gauzy dress
fluttered as she breathed; she seemed barely poised on her slim feet. He
put out his arm as if to stay her from mothlike flight, and it fell about
her waist. He pressed her to him. Her lips met his--they were incredibly
soft and warm--they seemed to blossom under his kisses.

* * * * *

Adolph, returning from the opera at midnight, donned his old jacket and a
pair of slippers and, lighting his pipe, settled himself with a paper to
await Stefan's coming. Presently first the paper, then the burnt-out
pipe, fell from his hands--he dozed, started awake, and dozed again.

At last he roused himself and stretched stiffly. The lamp was burning
low--he looked at his watch--it was four o'clock. Stefan's Gladstone bag
still yawned on a chair beside the table. In it, the dull glow of the
lamp was reflected from a small silver object lying among a litter of
ties and socks. Adolph picked it up, and looked for some moments at the
face of Mary, smiling above her little son. He shook his head.

"Tch, tch! Quel dommage-what a pity!" he sighed, and putting down the
picture undressed slowly, blew out the lamp, and went to bed.


On a Saturday morning at the end of June, Mary stood by the gate of the
Byrdsnest, looking down the lane. McEwan, who was taking a whole holiday
from the office, had offered to fetch her mail from the village. Any
moment he might be back. It was quite likely, she told herself, that
there would be a letter from France this morning--a steamer had docked on
Thursday, another yesterday. Surely this time there would be something
for her. Mary's eyes, as they strained down the lane, had lost some of
their radiant youth. A stranger might have guessed her older than the
twenty-six years she had just completed--she seemed grave and matronly--
her face had a bleak look. Mary's last letter from France had come more
than a month ago, and a face can change much in a month of waiting. She
knew that last letter--a mere scrap--by heart.

"Thank you for your sweet letters, dear," it read. "I am
well, and having a wonderful time. Not much painting yet;
that is to come. Adolph admires your picture prodigiously.
I have found some old friends in Paris, very agreeably. I may
move about a bit, so don't expect many letters. Take care of
yourself. Stefan."

No word of love, nothing about Elliston, or the child to come; just a
hasty word or two dashed off in answer to the long letters which she had
tried so hard to make amusing. Even this note had come after a two weeks'
silence. "Don't expect many letters--" she had not, but a month was a
long time.

There came Wallace! He had turned the corner--he had waved to her--but it
was a quiet wave. Somehow, if there had been a letter from France, Mary
thought he would have waved his hat round his head. She had never spoken
of her month-long wait, but Wallace always knew things without being
told. No, she was sure there was no letter. "It's too hot here in the
sun," she thought, and walked slowly into the house.

"Here we are," called McEwan cheerily as he entered the sitting room.
"It's a light mail to-day. Nothing but 'Kindly remit' for me, and one
letter for you--looks like the fist of a Yankee schoolma'am."

He handed her the letter, holding it with a big thumb over the right-hand
corner, so that she recognized Miss Mason's hand before she saw the
French stamp.

"Mind if I hang round on the stoop and smoke a pipe?" queried McEwan,
pulling a newspaper from his pocket.

"Do," said Mary, opening her letter. It was a long, newsy sheet written
from Paris and filled with the Sparrow's opinions on continental hotels,
manners, and morals. She read it listlessly, but at the fourth page
suddenly sat upright.

"I thought as long as I was here I'd better see what there is
to see," Miss Mason's pen chatted; "so I've been doing a play
or the opera every night, and I can say that not understanding
the language don't make the plays seem any less immoral.
However, that's what people go abroad to get, so I guess we
can't complain. The night before last who was sitting in the
orchestra but your husband with that queer Miss Berber? I
saw them as plain as daylight, but they couldn't see me away up
in the circle. When I was looking for a bus at the end I
saw them getting into an elegant electric. I must say she
looked cute, all in old rose color with a pearl comb in her hair.
I think your husband looked real well too--I suppose they
were going to some party together. It's about time that young
man was home again with you, it seems to me, and so I should
have told him if I could have got anywhere near him in the
crowd. All I can say is, _I've_ had enough of Europe. I'm thinking
of going through to London for a week, and then sailing."

At the end of the letter Mary turned the last page back, and slowly read
this paragraph again. There was a dull drumming in her ears--a hand
seemed to be remorselessly pressing the blood from her heart. She sat
staring straight before her, afraid to think lest she should think too
much. At last she went to the window.

"Wallace," she called. He jumped in, paper in hand, and saw her standing
dead white by her chair.

"Ye've no had ill news, Mary?" he asked with a burr.

She shook her head. "No, Wallace; no, of course not. But I feel rather
rotten this morning. Talk to me a little, will you?"

Obediently he sat down, and shook out the paper. "Hae ye been watching
the European news much lately, Mary?" he began.

"I always try to, but it's difficult to find much in the American

"It's there, if ye know where to look. What would ye think o' this
assassination o' the Grand Duke now?" He cocked his head on one side, as
if eagerly waiting for her opinion. She began to rally.

"Why, it's awful, of course, but somehow I can't feel much sympathy for
the Austrians since they took Bosnia and Herzegovina."

"What would ye think might come of it?"

"I don't know, Wallace--what would you!"

"Weel," he said gravely, "I think something's brewing down yonder
--there'll be trouble yet."

"Those poor Balkans, always fighting," she sighed.

"I'm feered it'll be more than the Balkans this time. Watch the papers,
Mary--I dinna' like the looks o' it mesel'."

They talked on, he expounding his views on the menace of Austria's near-
east aspirations as opposed to Russia's friendship for the Slavic races.
Mary tried to listen intelligently--the effort brought a little color to
her face.

"Wallace," she said presently, "do you happen to know where Miss Berber
is this summer?"

"I do not," he said, his blue eyes steadily watching her. "But Mrs.
Elliot would ken maybe--ye might ask her."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Mary. "I just wondered."

When McEwan had gone Mary read Miss Mason's letter for the third time,
and again the cold touch of fear assailed her. She took a camp stool and
sat by the edge of the bluff for a long time, watching the water. Then
she went indoors again to her desk.

"Dear Stefan," she wrote, "I have only had one note from
you in six weeks, and am naturally anxious to know how you
are getting on. I am very well, and expect our baby about
the tenth of October. Elliston is beautiful; imagine, he is a
year old now! I think he will have your eyes. I am sorry
you are not getting on well with your work, but perhaps that
has changed by now. Dear, I had a letter from Miss Mason
this morning, and she writes of having seen you and Miss
Berber together at the opera. You didn't tell me she was in
Paris, and I can't help feeling it strange that you should not
have done so, and should leave me without news for so long.
I trust you, dear Stefan, and believe in our love in spite of the
difficulties we have had. And I think you did rightly to take
a holiday abroad. But you have been gone three months, and
I have heard so little. Am I wrong still to believe in our love?
Only six months ago we were so happy together. Do you wish
our marriage to come to an end? Please write me, dear, and
tell me what you really think, for, Stefan, I don't know how
I shall bear the suspense much longer. I'm trying to be brave,
dear--and I _do_ believe still.



Her hand was trembling as she finished writing. She longed to cry out,
"For God's sake, come back to me, Stefan"--she longed to write of the
wild ache at her heart--but she could not. She could not plead with him.
If he did not feel the pain in her halting sentences it would be true
that he no longer loved her. She sealed and stamped the letter. "I must
still believe," she kept repeating to herself. There was nothing to do
but wait.

In the weeks that followed it seemed to Mary that her friends were more
than ever kind to her. Not only did James Farraday continually send his
car to take her driving, and Mrs. Farraday appear in the pony carriage,
but not a day passed without McEwan, Jamie, the Havens, or other
neighbors dropping in for a chat, or planning a walk, a luncheon, or a
sail. Constance, too, immersed in work though she was, ran out several
times in her car and spent the night. Mary was grateful--it made her
waiting so much less hard--while her friends were with her the constant
ache at her heart was drugged asleep. Knowing Wallace, she suspected his
hand in this widespread activity, nor was she mistaken.

The day after the arrival of Miss Mason's letter McEwan had dropped in
upon Constance in the evening, when he knew she would be resting after
her strenuous day's work at headquarters. By way of a compliment on her
gown he led the conversation round to Felicity Berber, and elicited the
information that she was abroad.

"In Paris, perhaps?" he suggested.

"Now you mention it, I think they did say Paris when I was last in the

"Byrd is in Paris, you know," said McEwan, meeting her eyes.

"Ah!" said Constance, and she stared at him, her lids narrowing. "I
hadn't thought of that possibility." She fingered her jade beads.

"I wonder if you ever write her?" he asked.

"I never write any one, my dear man, and, besides, what could I say?"

"Well," said he, "I had a hunch you might need a new rig for the summer
Votes campaign, or something. I thought maybe you'd want the very latest
Berber styles, and would ask her to send a tip over. Then I thought you'd
string her the local gossip, how Mrs. Byrd's baby will be born in
October, and you don't think her looking as fit as she might. You want a
cute rattle for it from Paris, or something. Get the idea?"

"You think she doesn't know?"

"I think the kid's about as harmless as a short-circuited wire, but I
think she's a sport at bottom. My dope is, _if_ there's anything to
this proposition, then she doesn't know." He rose to go.

"Wallace, you are certainly a bright boy," said Constance, holding out
her hand. "The missive shall be despatched."

"Moreover," said Mac, turning at the door, "Mary's worried--a little
cheering up won't hurt her any."

"I'll come out," said Constance'. "What a shame it is--I'm so fond of
them both."

"Yes, it's a mean world--but we have to keep right on smiling. Good
night," said he.

"Good night," called Constance. "You dear, good soul," she added to


Adolph was practising some new Futurist music of Ravel's. Its dissonances
fatigued and irritated him, but he was lured by its horrible fascination,
and grated away with an enraged persistence. Paris was hot, the attic
hotter, for it was July. Adolph wondered as he played how long it would
be before he could get away to the sea. He was out of love with the city,
and thought longingly of a possible trip to Sweden. His reflections were
interrupted by Stefan, who pushed the door open listlessly, and instantly
implored him to stop making a din.

"What awful stuff--it's like the Cubist horrors," said he, petulantly.

"Yes, my friend, yet I play the one, and you go to see the other," said
Adolph, laying down his fiddle and mopping his head and hands.

"Not I," contradicted Stefan, wandering over to his easel. On it was an
unfinished sketch of Felicity dancing--several other impressions of her
stood about the room.

"Rotten work," he said, surveying them moodily. "All I have to show for
over three months here. Adolph," he flung himself into a chair, and
rumpled his hair angrily, "I'm sick of my way of life. My marriage was a
mistake, but it was better than this. I did better work with Mary than I
do with Felicity, and I didn't hate myself."

"Well, my infant," said Adolph, with a relieved sigh, "I'm glad to hear
you say it. You've told me nothing, but I am sure your marriage was a
better thing than you think. As for this little lady--" he shrugged his
shoulders--"I make nothing of this affair."

Stefan's frown was moodier still.

"Felicity is the most alluring woman I have ever known, and I believe she
is fond of me. But she is affected, capricious, and a perfect mass of

"For egotism you are not the man to blame her," smiled his friend.

"I know that," shrugged Stefan. "I've always believed in egotism, but I
confess Felicity is a little extreme."

"Where is she?"

"Oh, she's gone to Biarritz for a week with a party of Americans. I
wouldn't go. I loathe mobs of dressed-up spendthrifts. We had planned to
go to Brittany, but she said she needed a change of companionship--that
her soul must change the color of its raiment, or some such piffle." He
laughed shortly. "Here I am hanging about in the heat, most of my money
gone, and not able to do a stroke of work. It's hell, Adolph."

"My boy," said his friend, "why don't you go home?"

"I haven't the face, and that's a fact. Besides, hang it, I still want
Felicity. Oh, what a mess!" he growled, sinking lower into his chair.
Suddenly Adolph jumped up.

"I had forgotten; there is a letter for you," and he tossed one into his
lap. "It's from America."

Stefan flushed, and Adolph watched him as he opened the letter. The flush
increased--he gave an exclamation, and, jumping up, began walking
feverishly about the room.

"My God, Adolph, she's heard about Felicity!" Adolph exclaimed in his
turn. "She asks me about it--what am I to do?"

"What does she say; can you tell me?" enquired the Swede, distressed.

"Tiens, I'll read it to you," and Stefan opened the letter and hastily
translated it aloud. "She's so generous, poor dear," he groaned as he
finished. Adolph's face had assumed a deeply shocked expression. He was
red to the roots of his blonde hair.

"Is your wife then enceinte, Stefan!"

"Yes, of course she is--she cares for nothing but having children."

"_But_, Stefan!" Adolph's hands waved helplessly--he stammered. "It
cannot be--it is impossible, _impossible_ that you desert a
beautiful and good wife who expects your child. I cannot believe it."

"I _haven't_ deserted her," Stefan retorted angrily. "I only came
away for a holiday, and the rest just happened. I should have been home
by now if I hadn't met Felicity. Oh, you don't understand," he groaned,
watching his friend's grieved, embarrassed face. "I'm fond of Mary
--devoted to her--but you don't know what the monotony of marriage does to
a man of my sort."

"No, I don't understand," echoed his friend. "But now, Stefan," and he
brought his fist down on the table, "now you will go home, will you not,
and try to make her happy?"

"I don't think she will forgive this," muttered Stefan.

"This!" Adolph almost shouted. "This you will explain away, deny, so that
it troubles her no more!"

"Oh, rot, Adolph, I can't lie to Mary," and Stefan began to pace the room
once more.

Book of the day: