Part 2 out of 4
take his own life."
"But what puts it into his head just now? Why should he marry if he
dreads it so?"
"It is all of a piece with his morbidness. He is really in love with
Miss Caldwell, I think, but he has brooded over the matter as he broods
over every thing, and seeing the uncertain nature of matrimony, he like
a wise man provides for contingencies. There may be something behind
that I don't know of, but I think not. He'll feel easier if he has
this, and I am honestly doing him a favor, if it isn't in the way he
"I do not know," persisted Helen, "but I do wish you wouldn't do it.
How would his bride feel if she knew?"
"I don't know her," Dr. Ashton returned coolly, "so of course I can't
tell how sensible she is; but in any case I can trust Arthur's
"She's orthodox," said Helen, "or, no, I think she is not so bad as
that; but she would regard the idea of suicide as unspeakably wicked.
At least I think so; I never saw her but once. Oh, I do hate to have
Arthur marry her. It's dreadful!"
"Of course; it's dreadful to think of any man's marrying, for that
matter," he returned with a smile, "but he is a man who was sure to do
it sooner or later."
"He's a man of so much principle," Helen mused, half aloud.
"Principle," sneered her companion laughingly, "principle is only
"I am dreadfully tired of epigrams," sighed Helen as they walked down
West street. "Whether Arthur learned the habit of you or you of him I
don't know; but the pair of you are enough to corrupt all Boston. I do
wish you'd give me that case. I'm sure I need it far more than Arthur
does. He's going to be married, his pictures are praised and are
beginning to sell, he has life before him and every thing to live for,
while I have nothing."
"Life is before you, too," answered her husband gravely, putting his
hand upon her arm to prevent her flying under the wheels of a carriage
which in her absorption she had not noticed. "Look here, Helen; it
wouldn't be any better if Arthur wanted to marry you. You are too
melancholy alone without having him to push you deeper into the slough
"You are mistaken, Will," was the quiet response. "I am fond of Arthur,
very fond, indeed; but not in that way. I am a fool to grieve about his
marriage; I own that, though after all I've lived through I ought to be
too hardened to care. But you must acknowledge that it isn't very
pleasant for me to see him deliberately going away to marry a woman who
would consider me a Bohemian, and very likely anything but respectable,
because you and I choose to be comfortable apart instead of miserable
together. If I were not so utterly alone in the world, losing a friend
would not be so great a matter, perhaps; but he is all I have now,
"It is hard, old lady; that's a fact. I wish I could straighten things
out for you, but I don't see how I can."
"No," Helen said drearily, "nobody can."
WHOM THE FATES HAVE MARKED.
Comedy of Errors; i.--I.
Upon entering the small studio where her bas-relief stood, Helen found
Herman there before her. He had removed the wet cloths from the clay
and was examining the work with close attention.
"You need a model for this figure," he said, indicating the month of
May. "You must take that turn of the shoulder from nothing but life."
Helen came and stood beside him, looking at the work. The instinct of
the artist for the moment superseded all other feelings in her mind,
and she forgot alike her own troubles and the ill-omened gift with
which her husband purposed remembering the nuptials of her friend.
The figure of May of which Herman spoke was that of a beautiful young
girl casting backward a wistful look at the fallen flowers which she
had dropped but might not stay to gather up again. The splendid
movement of the youthful figure, thrown forward in her running, but
with one shoulder turned toward the spectator, so that the upper
portion of the beautiful bosom was seen, formed one of the finest
details of the composition.
"Yes," the sculptor said again, "you must have a model for that, and I
have one coming this morning. To be honest, I came up here hoping you'd
need her. I believe she is a good girl, and I do not like the idea of
her being about among the studios."
He went on to speak of the figure, adding suggestions of treatment,
feeling and posing; and as he talked he was conscious of needlessly
prolonging the conversation for the mere pleasure of being near this
woman, and of secretly cherishing some vague feeling that not only
would Ninitta be safe under Mrs. Greyson's guardianship, but that some
solution of the complexities in which he found himself involved would
result from bringing together the two women so closely connected with
He went away into his own studio at length, but Helen had scarcely got
fairly to work before he reappeared with Ninitta.
Ninitta was much the same in outward appearance as upon the previous
day, but between this morning's mental state and that of yesterday
there was a great gulf. The Italian's character was a strange if not
wholly unique mixture of simplicity and worldly wisdom. All her
experiences, her life as a model in various parts of the world, her
hardships and successes, while teaching her only too sharply the
follies and vices of mankind, had never for an instant shaken her faith
in Grant Herman. He was her god. It is even doubtful if any thing he
could have done would have destroyed her belief in his integrity and
nobility of soul. When he left her, she acquiesced, it is true, but
with a wild passion of anguish. She knew he misjudged, but she chose to
phrase it to herself that he was deceived; his rashness and
hot-headedness were to her only so many fresh evidences of his
greatness of character. She was not the first woman who has vaguely felt
that unreasoning jealousy and passion are admirable or even
essential attributes of virility, and who has worshiped a man as much
for his faults as for his virtues.
To the dream of meeting Herman with the proofs that he had been
deceived, Ninitta had clung unyieldingly through the dreary years since
the death of Hoffmeir, who had been kind to her for the sake of his
shattered friendship with Herman, and for the sake, too, of his own
hopeless love for herself. It was from mingled shyness and pride that
Ninitta had waited for a summons from the sculptor after she had
reached Boston; but when she had at last gone to his studio it was with
keen emotion. She had not considered that both herself and her old-time
lover had changed in the seven years of separation. She had not
reflected that believing her false he could not but have endeavored to
forget her. She could not know that contact with the world, if it had
not made him ashamed of his youthful enthusiasm, had at least showed
him how the marriage he had contemplated would have appeared in the
eyes of worldly wisdom, and had so educated him that reason was less
helpless before passion than of old.
But to-day Ninitta was a different woman, changed by the agony of a
night into which had been compressed the bitterness of years. She had
been too sharply wounded at being greeted by a hand-shake in place of
the too well remembered kisses, with commonplace kind inquiries instead
of an embrace, not to realize at least how entirely the relations
between herself and Herman were changed. She did not understand the
alteration, it is true. To do that would have required not only a
knowledge of facts of which she could have no cognizance, but far
keener powers of reason than were centered in Ninitta's shapely head.
Only of one thing she was sure; there the instinct of her sex stood her
in good stead. She was convinced that some other woman had won the
sculptor's love from her. When she came into Helen's studio this
morning she watched sharply for some token which should show her the
relations in which the two artists stood to each other; but she could
detect nothing significant. Mrs. Greyson was intent only upon her work,
and whatever the sculptor may have felt at the meeting of Helen and
Ninitta, he made no outward sign.
The model showed a quickness of comprehension in taking the pose
required, and the shoulder she bared was of so exquisite mold that
Helen's keenest artistic powers were aroused. Ninitta understood the
art of posing as a painter knows the use of brush and colors; she had
for it an inborn capacity impossible except in the child of an art
land. Moved by the inspiration of that most beautiful bust, Mrs.
Greyson worked enthusiastically, scarcely noticing when her master left
the room, an indication of indifference which the model did not fail to
WHAT TIME SHE CHANTED.
It was February, and the night but one before the day fixed for Arthur
Fenton's marriage. He was spending the evening with Mrs. Greyson, and
it chanced that Grant Herman and Fred Rangely were also there. The
sculptor went seldom to the house of his pupil, and when he did visit
her, he satisfied some fine, secret delicacy by taking always a friend
with him. Helen was sufficiently Bohemian or sufficiently unworldly to
care little if people criticised her way of living. She had inherited a
small property which made her comfortable and independent; and she
declined being hampered by a chaperon.
"My art is my chaperon," she wrote to an elderly relative who wished to
come to Boston and matronize her. "A woman who is daring enough to be
an artist is regarded as bold enough to take care of herself, I
suppose. At least nobody troubles me, and I ask nothing more."
On the present occasion Arthur Fenton asked leave to light his cigar,
and although Herman felt this something of a profanation, it was not
long before he and Rangely added their wreaths to the smoke garlands
which hung upon the air, and had not the hostess become somewhat
accustomed to tobacco in foreign _ateliers,_ it is to be doubted
if she could have complacently endured the fumes which arose.
All subjects of heaven and earth came drifting into the talk, and at
length something evoked from Rangely his opinion of Emerson.
"Emerson was great," he said, "Emerson often recalled Goethe in
Goethe's cooler and more intellectual moods; but Emerson lacked the
loftiness of vice; he was eternally narrow."
"'The loftiness of vice,'" echoed the hostess. "What does that mean? It
sounds vicious enough."
"Emerson," Rangely returned, "knew only half of life. He never had any
conception of the passionate longing for vice _per se;_ the
thrill, the glow which comes to some men at the splendid caress of sin
in her most horrible shape. Do you see what I mean? He couldn't imagine
the ecstasy that may lie in mere foulness."
"No," replied Helen, "I'm afraid I don't quite see. Though I am sure I
ought to be shocked. Do you mean that he should have been vicious?"
"Certainly not; but it was his limitation not to be tempted; not to be
able to project himself into a personality which riots in wickedness
far more intensely than a saint follows righteousness."
"If you mean that he could not have been wicked if he tried, that, I
own, was in a sense a limitation."
"Yes; and a fatal one. No man can be wholly great who understands only
one half of human impulses."
"But what do you mean by wickedness?" demanded Herman, a little
"Oh," laughed Rangely, "I'm not to be entrapped into giving
metaphysical and theological definitions. I mean what we are expected
to call wickedness, conventionally speaking. I've an old cad of a
parson in my new play and I am trying to decide if it will do to have
him advocate a grand scheme for reforming the world by reversing
definitions and calling those things men choose to do virtues, and
dubbing whatever man detests, vices."
"That is rather more clever than orthodox," Helen laughed. "How is your
play getting on, Mr. Rangely?"
"Oh, fairish, thank you. The trouble is that the drama went out of
fashion long ago. First they replaced it by dresses and scenery, but
now every thing has given way to souvenir programmes; so I've got to
write up to a souvenir or I sha'n't make any thing out of the play."
"I hoped you were above such mercenary considerations."
"I am trying to make myself so," he retorted. "I think about three
successful plays would be tonic enough to bring my conscience up to
proper art levels."
Herman had taken little part in this colloquy, smoking in silence, and
regarding his companions. Fenton had thus far been even more quiet,
scarcely contributing a word to the conversation; and the sculptor's
thoughts turned upon the handsome young fellow, sitting in one of his
favorite twisted attitudes in a German chair, his beardless face paler
than usual, though a red spot glowed in either cheek, and his dilated
pupils betrayed his excitement. He was smoking steadily, but with
little apparent knowledge of either his cigar or his surroundings.
"Upon my word," mused Herman. "A cheerful looking man for a bridegroom
he is. If he were going to the scaffold he could hardly seem more
melancholy. What in the world is the matter with him? I wonder if he
has been dragged into a marriage he doesn't like. How Mrs. Greyson
Helen was indeed watching Fenton closely, although to a less keen
observer than Herman her surveillance would hardly have been apparent.
She, too, was thinking of Fenton's downcast air, and knowing him more
intimately than did the sculptor, she reasoned less doubtfully,
although perhaps not more accurately than the latter concerning what
was passing in the mind of her silent friend.
"He surely loves Miss Caldwell," she thought, "but he is so foolish. He
is thinking now that he will never meet these comrades again as an
unhampered man. He feels just now all he is giving up. I should like
him better to remember what he is gaining. Are all men inherently
selfish, I wonder. It is well for Miss Caldwell's peace of mind that
she cannot see him now. Perhaps when he is with her he sees only the
other side; I am sure I hope so."
She turned away with a sigh, and saw Herman looking at her. Their eyes
met in one of those brief glances of intelligence which serve as fine
fibers to knit people together.
The conversation soon turned upon the opinion a certain critic had
expressed concerning a picture then on exhibition.
"Bah!" cried Fenton suddenly; "what does he know about art?--he is
"Hallo!" exclaimed Rangely, "have you waked up? I thought we were safe
from you for the whole evening."
"It is never safe to count on his silence," Herman said. "He has
probably been meditating some stinging epigram against woman. We shall
have something wild directly."
"No; I've nothing to say against women now," Arthur returned, rising,
"for I want Mrs. Greyson to sing. I wish you'd stop poisoning the air
with those confounded cigarettes, Fred. The use of cigarettes degrades
smoking to the level of the small vices, and I object to it on
He opened the piano as he spoke, and without demur Helen allowed him to
lead her to the instrument.
"If you do not mind," she said a little diffidently, turning to her
guests after she had seated herself, "I should like to have the gas
lowered a trifle. It may seem a little sentimental, but I do not like
to be looked at too keenly when I sing."
The flames of the gas jets were dimmed, and Helen struck a few soft
chords. Herman listened intently. He had heard Fenton praise Mrs.
Greyson's singing, but he was entirely unprepared for what was to come,
and he never forgot the thrill of that experience.
An unpretending, flowing prelude; then suddenly the tones of the
Helen's voice was a rich, fibrous mezzo-soprano; and the music she
sang, half chant, half melody, was evidently an improvisation. The
words were the exquisite song which opens Shelley's _Hellas:_
I strew these opiate flowers
On thy restless pillow,--
They were plucked from Orient bowers,
By the Indian billow.
Be thy sleep
Calm and deep,
Like theirs who fell; not ours who weep.
Away, unlovely dreams!
Away, false shapes of sleep!
Be his, as Heaven seems,
Clear and bright and deep!
Soft as love and calm as death,
Sweet as summer night without a breath.
Sleep! sleep! My song is laden
With the soul of slumber;
It was sung by a Samian maiden
Whose lover was of the number
Who now keep
That calm sleep
Whence none may wake; where none shall weep.
I touch thy temples pale!
I breathe my soul on thee!
And could my prayers avail,
All my joy should be
Dead, and I would live to weep,
So thou might'st win one hour of quiet sleep!
It is difficult to convey the effect of this song upon its hearers. The
strangeness, the unconventionality of the recitative, the wonderful,
sad beauty of the poem, the dim light through which Helen's vibrating,
passionate voice thrilled, all helped to impress the hearers. There was
a personal quality about the chant which made it seem like a direct
appeal from the singer to the heart of each listener. It came to each
as a spontaneous outflowing of the singer's innermost self; a
confidence made in mystic wise, sacred and inviolable, and setting him
honored by receiving it forever from the common multitude of men. It
was an appeal to some unspoken and unspeakable bond of fealty, which
made the pulses throb and great emotions stir in the breast. Before
hearing one would be stubbornly incredulous of the possibility of his
being so deeply affected; afterward he would remember how he had been
moved with wonder and longing.
Especially was Grant Herman much moved. Thoughts came into his mind of
the old minstrels chanting to their harps; he seemed to hear Sappho
singing again in the gardens of Mytilene; this was the woman he loved,
and he felt himself as never before surrounded palpably by her
presence. The improvisation was a part of herself as no other music
could have been; and in some subtle, sensuous way, the lover seemed for
the moment to be one with his beloved. His eyes filled with tears in a
sort of ecstasy, and he shrank back into the shadow lest some of his
friends should detect the glad, salt drops which no eyes but hers had a
right to see.
THE GREAT ASSAY OF ART.
A hush followed the conclusion of Mrs. Greyson's song.
No one wished to speak what all felt, and when the silence was broken,
it was with talk of the poet rather than of the singer. To the singing
they came only by slow degrees, and over it, when at length their
admiration found speech, they passed lightly.
One thing which seemed to be effected by the music was the awakening of
Fenton from his gloomy reverie. He began to talk in his most
extravagant and whimsical style, answering every question instantly, if
with no especial care concerning the relevancy of his replies.
"What nonsense it is," he exclaimed, "to talk of any man's originating
any thing. Why, when even Adam couldn't be made without material, what
are we, his descendants, that we should hope to create? The authors of
this old wisdom that we revamp to-day copied somebody further back, and
those in turn put down what the masses felt; collected the foam which
gathered on the yeasty waves of their age. Every truth comes to the
people first if they could only recognize it when it comes. It is
evolved by the friction of the masses, just as a fire is set by the
rubbing together of tree-boughs in primeval forests, and the dusky
redman incontinently roasted in his uncontaminated innocence. The
longer I live the less faith I have that a man evolves any thing from
his inner consciousness. Fancies are only the lies of the mendacious
brain, which perceives one thing and declares to us another."
"Go slow, Fenton," interrupted Herman, "you know our poor wits are apt
to be dazzled by too much brilliancy."
"The age," Fenton rattled on, "blooms once into a great man as an aloe
into a crown of bloom."
"Right in there," broke in Rangely, who longed for a share in the
conversation, "just consider how necessary it is that every art
producer shall be in sympathy with the human life about him. That he
should take the best wherever it is to be found. There's a miserable
sentiment about shutting one's self up in some dark corner, and
producing some tremendous thing. Don't you know how many New York and
Boston artists have gone to Europe and hermetically sealed themselves
up somewhere to ferment into greatness like a jug of cider turning into
vinegar in a farmer's cellar?"
"That's what made Hunt such a big fellow," Herman interposed; "because
he took the good wherever it offered."
"But that depends upon whether a man goes direct to Nature for
inspiration," declared Fenton, "or sets himself to get a living by
filching the good things his neighbors have won from her."
"Hunt did go to nature; that is just where he was great."
"I think," said Fred, laughingly, "that you will appreciate the mood in
which I once wrote a preface. I planned a great metaphysical and
philosophical work--I was a good deal younger than I am now--and the
preface was to be, 'As to the originality of these ideas, I have
nothing more to say than that I do not remember that they have ever
been printed with my name on the title-page.' Of course, after that
declaration, I felt at liberty to take any thing I wanted from any
where; but, unluckily, my book never got beyond the preface."
"I'm glad you had the sense to stop there," declared Arthur. "I forgive
the preface, but I could never have forgiven the book."
Helen rose from her seat at the piano and turned up the gas a little.
The effect for which the light had been lowered was secured, and it was
better, she recognized, to give to her singing a certain isolation,
which must be done before the conversation became so general that the
change from gloom to light would not be noticed.
She wore that evening a gray silk with black lace, a slight turning
away showing the whiteness of her beautiful throat. Her jewels were
"Do you wear your cats'-eyes in honor of the cat-headed deity of the
Pagans, Mrs. Greyson?" Rangely asked, as she paused near his chair,
watching a burner which seemed disposed to flicker.
"No," returned she, smiling. "I am no follower of your Pasht; a goddess
of 'winged-words' attracts me less than a deity whose province is the
sacred sphere of silence. My dress is of Mr. Fenton's designing. He is
deeply versed in the subject of clothes. I even suspect him of being
the true author of _'Sartor Resartus.'_"
"That brings up my pet abomination," Fenton observed, with emphasis. "I
do hate Carlyle. I've even lain awake nights to think how I'd like to
pound his head. The self-conceited, self-centered, self-adoring old
humbug! He was the sham _par excellence_ of the nineteenth
century, this century of shams."
"It's something to be at the top of the heap in anything," interpolated
Herman, "even in shams."
"The trouble with Carlyle," Fenton continued, "besides his enormous
egotism, was that he never got beyond the whim that the truth is
something absolute. He could not abide the idea that it is merely a
relative thing and must be treated as such. If he'd got above the mass
of cloudy vapor he called truth, he might have gained a glimpse of real
sunlight; but his aggressive self-conceit clogged his wings. Don't you
recognize that a lie is often truer than the truth?" he ran on, sitting
up in his chair and speaking more rapidly; "that where the truth will
often produce an erroneous impression, a lie will convey a correct one?
that to be true to the spirit it is often necessary to violate the
"Your patron saint should be the god of falsehood," Helen said lightly.
"I fear your allegiance to Pasht is not very sincere."
"Ah! but it is," retorted he, quickly. "My allegiance is to the goddess
of 'winged words'; to the glorious mother of fictitious speech; to
Pasht, the goddess of splendid, golden lying. A lie is only the truth
agreeably and effectively told. _Vive la faussete!_"
"Doubtless each interprets Pasht's attributes according to his own
light," Herman observed, a little grimly.
He was only half-pleased with Fenton's badinage. But the latter,
apparently, did not feel the thrust.
"Let him alone," Helen said, "he believes in nothing; he is a genuine
"You are wrong in your idea," was Fenton's swift reply. "A true Pagan
must have a belief in some god to take from his shoulders the burden of
personal responsibility, or he cannot be joyous as a Pagan should.
However, to-night I make myself believe that I believe something, so it
comes to much the same thing."
Helen turned and looked at him, attracted by some subtle quality in his
He was sitting sidewise in his chair, holding an ivory paper-knife in
his slender fingers. His cheeks burned, his eyes were bright, his lips
red. He had shaken off the depression which oppressed him earlier in
the evening. An air of joyous, quivering excitement pervaded him. He
threw up his head with a characteristic gesture, and looked about him
like one who has conquered in some desperate conflict.
"Come," the hostess said, wondering in what inward struggle he had come
off victor; "you promised to assist me with the coffee. I make no boast
of my house or my hospitality, gentlemen," she added, with a charming
glance around, "but I warn you in advance that not to admire my coffee
is to lose my friendship forever."
In answer to her ring, a servant brought in a small mortar and a pretty
little bowl of whole coffee, delicately browned, and scarcely cold from
its roasting. Arthur, who seemed acquainted with Mrs. Greyson's methods
of procedure, began to pound the berries, roasted to perfect crispness,
in the ebony mortar, reducing them to an almost impalpable powder,
which diffused upon the air the entrancing odor dear to the nostrils of
The servant meantime had provided tiny cups, a little copper ibrik and
an alcohol lamp over which simmered a vessel of boiling water.
"Coffee should be prepared only over coals of perfumed wood," Helen
remarked as she measured into the ibrik the small spoonful of coffee
dust designed for a single cup. "But alcohol is the next best thing, it
burns with such a supernatural flame."
She put into the ibrik a measure of boiling water, rested it an instant
over the flame to restore the heat lost in the cooler copper, and then
poured the beverage into the egg-shell cup destined for it.
"To my master first," she said, presenting the steaming cup to Herman,
who received it much as one might a gift from the skies. "I learned my
coffee making," she continued, "from an old Arab at Cairo, who used to
say that it was one of the only two things in life worth doing, the
other being the duties of religion; and it therefore should be
"It is simply divine," the sculptor said. "I have never really tasted
coffee before. Only if it is made like this your Arab might have said
there was but one thing in life, for this becomes a religious duty."
One by one with equal care were prepared cups for the others, who were
neither slow nor perfunctory in their endorsement of the sculptor's
THIS IS NOT A BOON.
"'I strew these opiate flowers
On thy restless pillow;'"
Hummed Grant Herman to himself, taking his lonely way down the dim and
dingy streets leading to the wharves where he had his abode:
"'I strew these opiate flowers--'
Oh, what a woman she is! She might be Brunhilde, or she might be Burd
'I strew these--'
I wonder what she had to say to Fenton that she made him stay. Confound
that fellow! I'm not more than half sure that I'm fond of him; though I
can't bring myself fairly and squarely to dislike him. But I wish he
didn't know Mrs. Greyson quite so well; he's going to be married, too.
I wonder how he came to know her, any how. It is strange she doesn't
wear black if she is a widow. I'd like to learn something more definite
about her, but Fenton's the only one who would be likely to know, and I
certainly will not ask him. I suppose he is there yet, lounging in some
sort of an outlandish shape."
Arthur was indeed still in Helen's parlor, and in as crooked an
attitude as a man ever compassed. He had so managed to dispose of
himself over three chairs as to give the general effect of having been
suddenly arrested in the midst of an acrobatic feat of unusual
difficulty, and with a cigar in his long, nervous fingers, was watching
Mrs. Greyson, who occupied herself in tidying the room a little.
"We have been too good friends," she said, "to say good-by in public.
The old days have been pleasant, and it is hard to give them up."
"You have insisted upon it that they are gone forever," he returned,
"until I almost begin to believe you. But it is no matter. _Che sara
"Yes; _che sara sara_," she echoed. "But now are you willing to do
me a favor? I haven't asked many of you."
"You certainly deserve that I should say yes without a quibble,"
replied Fenton, "but your air is so serious that I do not dare run the
risk; so I will merely answer,--I would like to do you a favor if I
She came and sat down near him, a beautiful woman, flushed and tender.
It arose perhaps from the delicate sensitiveness of both that they had
always instinctively avoided those chance contacts which between lovers
become so significant, confining themselves to rare hand-shakes at
meeting and parting; and it may be that their very scrupulousness in
this matter proves how near they had been to more emotional relations
than those of simple friendship. Now when Helen laid her hand upon her
friend's arm it marked an earnestness which showed how much she felt
what she was about to say.
"I want you to give me something that Will gave you the other day."
Fenton's first feeling was one of annoyance, but this was quickly
replaced by a desire to fathom the motives which prompted her request.
"How did you know of it?" he asked.
"By divination," she answered, with a faint smile. "Will you give it to
"Why should I?"
"Because I ask you."
"To go back to that, then, why do you ask me?"
"Because I cannot bear to think of your going to be married with that
in your possession. Because it is cruel for you so to wrong Miss
Caldwell as to marry her while you find it possible to think it may
lead you to--to use that. How can you do it! You know I've no sympathy
with those who call it cowardly to take one's life. I think we've a
right to do that sometimes, perhaps. But it is cowardly to many a woman
with the deliberate idea of escaping her if you are not happy; of
deserting her after you have inextricably involved her life in yours.
You've no right to do that if you mean to make it a tragedy."
"She is involved in my life already," he returned gravely; "and it is a
tragedy. But I am not so wholly selfish as you assume. Honestly, Helen,
it is for her sake as much, at least, as my own that I wanted that
vial. It is all like a scene in _The City of Dreadful Night_. I
cannot be sure that I may not have to kill myself for her happiness.
Heaven knows I have not found myself so good company as to have very
strong reasons to suppose that any body else will."
"No," Helen said. "That is sophistry. I am a woman and I have been a
wife. I know what I say. You have no right to marry any woman and allow
the existence of such a possibility. It may not be logic, but it is
"But she will not know."
"She may not know, but she will feel. You are too finely strung not to
discover to a delicate ear any discord, no matter how hard you try to
conceal it; and the ear of a woman who loves is sensitive to the
slightest changes. No, Arthur, if you have any love for her, any
friendship for me, any respect for yourself, give me that vial."
He made no answer to her appeal for a moment, although she clasped his
arm more tightly and looked beseechingly into his face. It was one of
those moments when he gave way to his best impulses; when he indulged
in the pleasure of letting his higher nature vibrate in response to
appeals addressed to it, and for the instant tasted the intoxicating
pleasure of conscious virtue. He turned to scrutinize her more closely.
"But what would you do with it, Helen?"
She started a little. She had not been without a half-formed thought
that she should be glad to have the deadly gift with its power of swift
oblivion in her possession, although until now she had scarcely been
conscious of it. But she saw that some suspicion of this was present in
Arthur's mind, and must be allayed before she could hope to accomplish
"You are wrong," she said quickly. "It is for your own sake that I want
you to give it up. I will do whatever you like with it. I pledge you my
word that I will never use it myself."
He still made no movement to surrender the vial, but she held out her
"Come," she pleaded. "I appeal to your best self. For the sake of your
mother, Arthur,--you have told me you could refuse her nothing she
asked, and she would surely ask this if she were alive and knew. Give
it to me."
He slowly drew from some inner pocket the little morocco case and held
it in both hands looking at it.
"It is a comfort to me," he said. "It means an end of every thing. It
means annihilation; it means getting rid of this nightmare of
existence. I can remember when I dreaded the idea of annihilation, but
I have come to feel that it is the only good to be desired. To be done
with every thing and to forget every thing! Don't you see, Helen; I
should never be satisfied with any thing short of omnipotence and
omniscience, and annihilation is the only refuge for a nature like
that. I want to be everything; to feel the joy of the conqueror and yet
not miss the keen, fine pang of the conquered--Lowell says it
somewhere; to be
'Both maiden and lover'--
I forget it--'bee and clover, you know; to be the 'red slayer' and 'the
slain' both. Do you wonder I want to keep this?"
A feeling of helplessness and hopelessness came over Helen. Only half
consciously she spoke a thought aloud:
"You are half mad from introspection."
He turned upon her a quizzical smile.
"I dare say," said he. "It isn't a comfortable process either. If a man
has lived twenty-five years, Helen, and has not so entangled his life
in a web of circumstances that no power will ever be able to
extricate it, he may consider his first quarter century of existence a
He spoke with a bitter good humor not uncommon with him, and he
believed himself sincere. He even mentally applauded himself for the
justness of the sentiment, and was not untouched with pity for a being
in whom such sadness was possible. It may have been this secret
complacency that Helen detected in his face and fancied it a sign of
relenting. She put out her hand and took hold of the morocco case.
Arthur did not release his hold, yet neither did his grasp tighten, and
she drew the dangerous gift out of his fingers.
She sprang up and locked it away in a cabinet.
"There!" she exclaimed, standing before him in a sudden revulsion of
feeling, her face flushed and her eyes shining. "Now I will tell you
what I think of you. I think you mean to be good to others, but--"
"You always think better of me than I deserve," he interrupted; "at
least you treat me better."
"That does not necessarily indicate any leniency of judgment," retorted
Helen. "I think you are self-centered, and morbid; and if marriage
doesn't reform you, I give you up, for nothing will. Suffering is only
an effect, the cause is sensibility; and you keep yourself abnormally
sensitive by having yourself always upon the vivisection table."
She turned and walked away from him. Her emotion was getting beyond her
control. Her friendships were keen with the intensity of her passionate
nature; she had not passed through this struggle lightly, and perhaps
the victory unnerved her more than defeat would have done. On his part
he endeavored to turn every thing off as usual with a jest.
"Have I told you Bently's latest?" he began. "He--"
"It is of no use," she said, returning to him, tears overflowing her
eyes. "You cannot help my making a spectacle of myself; and you had
better go. Oh, Arthur, I hope so much for you; I do so hope for
happiness coming to you out of this marriage; but I shall be so
Her voice broke despite her effort. She came nearer, she hesitated an
instant; then she bent over and kissed his forehead. A hot tear
splashed upon his hand.
"There," she said. "Good night, and good-by. When you come back you
will see what a fine steady old lady I have become."
He got on to his feet, confused, troubled, pitying her profoundly and
commiserating himself upon the awkwardness of the situation. He tried
to frame some sentence which might bridge the distance that seemed
suddenly to have opened between them. Like a farewell, a renunciation
or a dedication, that kiss impressed upon him a certain remoteness new
"Bah!" he broke off. "I can say nothing, Helen. I have thus far served
in an already sufficiently unhappy world only to make people more
miserable still. I'm not worth a faintest regret. Good-night. If I can
ever serve you--Good-by!"
'TWAS WONDROUS PITIFUL.
Helen's first conscious sensation next morning was a feeling of loss,
which resolved itself into a deep sadness when she was fairly awake and
realized that Arthur had gone. She had not Considered how much his
companionship and friendliness had been to her until now, when she felt
them lost. A woman so lonely yet so affectionate as Helen could not
spare from her life a friend so dear as Fenton had been without being
much moved. So strong had been her attachment, and so intimate had been
the acquaintance between herself and Arthur, that Dr. Ashton had
believed his wife to love the artist; but Helen, closely questioning
her heart, was able to assure herself that warm as had been her regard
for Fenton, he had never awakened in her bosom a single thrill of love.
She was sad this morning with the sorrow of a broken friendship, not of
a blighted passion.
She sighed deeply, the sigh of one but too well accustomed to life's
disappointments, and arose the determination to lose herself in her
work, and to shake off if possible the sadness which seemed to paralyze
her energies and enervate her whole being.
The gown which she had worn upon the previous evening lay over a chair,
giving out, as she lifted it, an odor of tobacco smoke. Some remark
made by Grant Herman about the fumes which had filled the little parlor
came into her mind, giving a new current to her thoughts. She
unconsciously fell to thinking of the sculptor, and, by a natural
connection of ideas, of Ninitta, who was still nominally posing for
Partly from interest in the girl herself and partly from the perception
that it pleased her master to have the Italian remain with her, she had
retained Ninitta, although the bas-relief was so far advanced that the
model was hardly needed. She had even set herself, by those unobtrusive
ways at the command of gracious women, to win the girl's confidence,
not so much for the sake of hearing her story as to give the waif so
strangely cast in her path the feeling that the friendship she so
sorely needed was within her reach. It had resulted, however, in her
hearing Ninitta's history. Many women have no idea of returning
kindness save by unreserved confidence, and although Ninitta was
perhaps scarcely to be reckoned among these extremists, she yet found
so much comfort in pouring out her sorrows to one who could both
sympathize and appreciate, that little by little the whole pathetic
tale was told.
"I did not understand," Ninitta said once in her broken English, "when
he left Rome. It was as if somebody had taken my life away somehow. I
couldn't make it seem that I was really alive all the same, though I
knew it could not be his fault. He would not have done it if he had
known. You do not believe he would have left me if he had known the
"No," Helen answered. "He could not have left you if he had known. It
was because he was hurt so much, and that could only be because he
loved you so much."
"He loved me so much," poor Ninitta repeated murmuringly, "he loved me
And all that day she followed Helen with wistful eyes, as if she longed
to hear her say again those precious words.
"I cannot tell you what it was like in Paris," she said at another
time. "In Rome they all knew me. They knew I was betrothed, and no one
ever troubled me. But in Paris it was different. Oh, I hate Paris! And
it was so cruel that he was not there. It was so dreadful that he
should be on the other side of that horrible sea!"
The girl was so self-forgetful in these revelations, she spoke always
with such an unshaken faith in Herman and was so free from any thought
of blaming him, that Helen could not but be touched. She soothed poor
Ninitta as well as she was able, having power to promise nothing,
seeing no way out of the entanglement, yet at least showing to the
lonely Italian that her woman's heart bled for her sorrow if she might
not alleviate it. Sometimes she felt like going to the sculptor and
entreating him to take pity upon the girl who so adoringly loved him.
Once when the model had told her how just as she had saved by long,
painful economy, nearly money enough to pay the passage to America it
was stolen and she was forced to begin the slow process over again,
Helen impulsively left her studio and found herself on the very
threshold of Herman's door before she realized what she had been about
to do. By what authority was she to interfere in a matter like this? If
Ninitta loved the sculptor who had long ago ceased to return her
affection, could matters be helped by an unloving marriage? It was not
for her, moreover, to give unasked her advice to such a man as she knew
Grant Herman to be. If he consulted her, she reflected, she might
present the pathetic, touching story which Ninitta had told her, but
she had plainly no pretext for forcing her feelings upon her master
She turned and went slowly up the stairs toward her little room; but
suddenly she paused. She had all at once become conscious that she
desired eagerly to know the nature of the sculptor's feelings toward
his old love. Why, she asked herself, was she so interested in what
after all did not personally concern her. A quick emotion, almost too
vague to be called a thought, made her cheek flame.
"No, no," she said half aloud. "It is only that I am touched by
Ninitta's sadness. It is nothing more."
But her breath came more quickly, and it was with difficulty that upon
re-entering her studio she assumed a quiet mien, lest her model should
guess at her unfulfilled errand.
On the morning following the meeting of the Pagans at her rooms, Helen
was alone in her studio. She had told Ninitta she should be late and
the latter was therefore tardy in arriving. Mrs. Greyson uncovered her
bas-relief, now rapidly nearing completion, and stood before it,
examining critically its merits and defects. A familiar step in the
passage, a tap at the door, and Grant Herman joined her.
"You look as fresh as ever this morning," he said. "I feared that the
entertaining of such a company of Bohemians would have tired you out."
"No, indeed," she returned. "I am of far too much endurance to be worn
out by any thing of that sort. I have a drop of Bohemian blood in my
veins myself, I think, and I like to meet men as men--when they are
simply good fellows together, I mean. A woman usually sees men in an
attitude of either deference or defense, and there is something
inspiriting to her in being occasionally received as a comrade."
"There are few women who can be received so," returned Herman. "I
suppose it requires both an especial temperament and especial
experiences to render a woman capable of being a comrade to men."
The talk drifted away to general and indifferent subjects, broken here
and there by allusions and criticisms relating to the Flight of the
Months, and not infrequently dropping into brief silences. One of these
Herman broke by saying abruptly:
"You do not know how your song has haunted me all night. I have been
saying over and over to myself
'I strew these opiate flowers
On thy restless pillow.'
And, indeed, I longed for some such soporific myself before morning.
Your coffee or your song, or--yourself,"--he hesitated over the last
word--kept me very effectually awake."
"It must have been the coffee; there was little potency in either of
the other causes."
"There is much," he returned resolutely, advancing a step nearer. "Mrs.
Greyson, I have not wasted the night. I have thought out a great many
things; the first and chief being in regard to yourself."
His tone, the piercing glow of his eyes, warned Helen what was coming.
She thought of Ninitta, and retreated a step.
"It is true," the sculptor continued, as if answering the doubt implied
by her movement, "that I--"
The door opened softly and Ninitta came in.
His outstretched hand dropped; the words died upon his lips. He turned
from one woman to the other an appealing look of hopeless sadness and
left the studio in silence.
It was characteristic of Helen's generosity that her first thought
should be of the pain which Ninitta must feel. One glance at the model
was sufficient to show that the Italian had comprehended enough of the
interrupted scene to be made wretched; but it did not then occur to
Mrs. Greyson that to Ninitta's jealous soul, unsuspicious of Herman,
the only explanation of a fondness between the sculptor and his pupil
lay in an effort on the part of the latter to win from the model her
rightful and long betrothed lover.
CRUEL PROOF OF THIS MAN'S STRENGTH.
As You Like It; i.--2.
Grant Herman sat in his studio in the gathering twilight thinking
gloomily. However little Mrs. Greyson suspected the tumult which would
be aroused in Ninitta's breast by the misadventure of the morning, the
sculptor was too well aware of the Italian's passionate nature not to
dread the consequences of the jealousy she was sure to feel. He knew,
moreover, that Ninitta's rage would vent itself not upon him but upon
Helen, and he wondered how best to avert the danger that threatened.
He debated with himself, too, how much he owed to the girl who gave her
life up so unreservedly to him. His old love--"call it rather mere
boyish passion," he-thought scornfully--was long since dead beyond
hope; yet the devotion which it had awakened in Ninitta burned on as
steadily as ever. Had he now a right to repulse the love he had himself
called into being; to throw aside the fondness he had himself fostered
and which he had once prized above measure.
"No," he thought, "a thousand times no. A man must be a villain who
would not marry a girl under such circumstances. I am hers; the fact
that I have changed is my misfortune, not her fault. If I have any
manliness about me, I won't let things go on in this way any longer.
I'll marry Ninitta. It is the smallest reparation I can make for the
long years of pain I have caused her. There is no other course for me.
"But I do not love her, and a woman, they say, always instinctively
feels it when a man's heart is not hers. Nonsense! That is only a
cowardly excuse. At least Ninitta would never be troubled. She has not
known so much love that she can draw very sharp comparisons. No; she
will be satisfied; and I--well, if a man is such a devilish fool as I
have been, it remains for him to pay the penalty. Oh, if youth only
He sighed deeply and began to walk up and down the studio, in which the
dusk was gathering thickly. A last faint gleam from a window high in
the riverward wall fell upon one of the mutilated goddesses in the
gallery. Herman looked up, contemplating the phantom-like head
gloomily. Something in its pose, or perhaps more truly something in his
own mind, suggested a faint likeness to Helen, as if it were her ghost
looking down from some far height upon the conflict of his soul.
"Ah!" he cried hotly to himself. "And she? How can I give up the hope
of winning her? What was a boy's foolish fancy to the passion of a
man--and for such a woman! She is half goddess. No, no; I cannot do it.
I cannot marry this Italian peasant, this model that has who knows what
history! I will not; I owe something to myself, to my art. What is the
simple happiness of Ninitta to my art? I should be a fool to ignore how
much more to the world my own well-being is worth than is hers; and
what could I not do with the inspiration of the other! Oh, my God!"
The darkness grew. The phantom faded imperceptibly away. He was left
alone in the darkness to fight out his battle. He marched with great
strides, avoiding obstacles by a certain sixth sense born of constant
familiarity with the place. He fought manfully, persuading himself that
his scruples were as idle as air, remnants of the long since outgrown
superstitions of his childhood. He defiantly claimed the right to be
true to his powers, to his genius, rather than to an empirical standard
erected by narrow moralists. He should be thankful that he had escaped
entangling his life by that absurd marriage in Rome seven years ago,
and that he was now free to win a wife worthy Of himself and of his
Yet he cut through all the meshes of logic he had himself been weaving,
by striking his strong hands together there in the dark, and crying
aloud, his voice startling him in the stillness:
"My God! What a poltroon I have become! Shall I cast on others the
burden of my own mistakes?"
And seizing hat and cloak he left the studio, taking his way towards
the narrow street where Ninitta lodged, hastening to ask her to marry
him before his resolution faltered.
THIS "WOULD" CHANGES.
Herman found Ninitta alone in the attic which served her for a home in
this bleak northern city, so far and so different from her own sunny
Bare and half furnished as was the room, the girl had contrived to
impart to it a certain air which removed it from the common-place. A
bit of flimsy drapery, begged from some studio, hung over one of the
windows; a rude print of the Madonna was pinned to the wall, and under
it, on the wooden table, was a bunch of withered flowers. They were
roses which Helen had given Ninitta, and the Italian, returning home
that day, had in her jealous rage thrown them to the floor and trampled
upon them. Then remembering that they had been offered to the Madonna,
she had been seized with a superstitious fear, and carefully restoring
the battered flowers, had eagerly vowed a fresh bunch to the Holy
Mother if she might be forgiven this sacrilege.
But the most beautiful article in the room was a cast of a woman's
shoulder. It had been modeled by Herman in the earliest days of his
acquaintance with Ninitta, when she had been still only his model and
not his betrothed. He was touched as he looked at it now. Yellow with
time and soiled by its various journeyings, it still preserved unmarred
its lovely shape, exquisite curve melting into exquisite curve as
softly and sweetly as in those glowing days when he had molded it under
the sky of Italy.
He looked from the cast to Ninitta. He had only seen her at the studio,
and he experienced a faint feeling of surprise at detecting a subtle
difference in her here at home. It was nothing so tangible that he
could have told by what means he received the impression, yet it was
sufficiently definite to make him lose something of the freedom with
which he had always addressed her. She was no longer simply the model,
she was an Italian woman in her own home.
The years during which they had been separated had formed and
strengthened Ninitta's character. If Herman had not before noted the
alteration, it was due in part to his pre-occupation and in part to the
force of old habit which made her manner toward him much the same as
formerly. To-night he began to appreciate the change in her, and he
felt the awkwardness which always results from the discovery that we
must adapt ourselves to a modified condition in a friend.
On her side Ninitta was naturally surprised at seeing the sculptor. She
had come to regard as hopeless all speculations upon his intentions,
and she had waited patiently until he should choose to show her favor,
tacitly acknowledging his right to do whatever should be his good
pleasure. Had he come at any time and said, "Ninitta, I am here to
marry you," she would gladly but quietly have made ready to follow
where he chose to lead, even to the world's end. Equally, had he said,
"Ninitta, I have come to say good-by; you will never see me again," she
would have acquiesced without a murmur, and then, perhaps, have taken
her own life. As long as it was his simple wish, uninfluenced by the
will of another, she would never have questioned.
Now, however, all passive acquiescence was at an end. Since the scene
in Helen's studio, Ninitta had an object upon which to expend all her
energies, and she even almost forgot to love Herman in the intensity of
her sudden jealous hatred of Mrs. Greyson. Yesterday Grant Herman would
have found a woman not unlike the Ninitta of old times, tender, loving,
pathetically submissive; today he was confronted by a fury, only
restrained by the respect for his presence born of long habit.
"Good evening!" he said gently, as he entered, his mood softened by the
struggle through which he had passed in his studio.
"Good evening!" she answered defiantly, in Italian. "So you are not
"What!" he exclaimed.
He had been wholly unprepared for this outburst, and for the instant
was too surprised to at all understand it.
A sudden rage seemed to seize Ninitta, which swept away all barriers of
"_Si_, _si_, _si_," she cried, "I am not blind! What if
you are my betrothed, when this woman comes to entrap you, to bewitch
you with an evil eye, to steal your soul! Yes, yes; you are not with
her to-night as you were last night. Did I not see you myself come out
of her house?"
"Stop!" he said in his most commanding tone, but without anger.
The calmness and decision of the manner arrested her. She sank back
into a chair, regarding him with defiant eyes.
"So you have followed me," continued Herman, speaking with painful
slowness, so that every word seemed to poor Ninitta to fall upon her
like a curse; "so you have played the spy upon me. Ah!"
As he looked at her she began to cower. She shrank back in her seat,
putting up her hands to shield her face from his gaze.
"Yet I meant to marry you," he said, half to himself, although still
addressing her. "I came to-night to say, 'Come, Ninitta, let us take up
the broken romance that a cruel mistake interrupted there in Rome.' I
had long ago outgrown my old fancy, but I meant to be true to my
promise to you. I meant to give up even my ambition for your sake; to
make your life happy and secure. And this is your trust in me! If you
really loved me, to track me like a thief would have been impossible to
you. And where have you learned this trick of playing the spy?" he went
on with growing wrath, becoming more and more cruel with every word.
"It is a relic of your Paris life, I fancy. It is hardly a resource to
which a good girl would be driven. I at least believed you when you
told me you had been true to me."
He spoke rapidly, aggressively. The fact that he was outraging his own
instincts in beating with bitter words the girl who bowed before him
with drooping head and disheveled hair made him but the more harsh. To
fall from the height of self-sacrifice into a pool of vulgar intrigue!
Bah! His disgust at himself for ever having known this woman seemed too
great to be borne.
Yet under all his passionate protest and repulsion he was conscious
that he doubted what he was himself saying with so much vehemence; that
he secretly believed Ninitta to be true and pure, and that to her
Italian blood, to her peasant nurture, was due the espionage in which
she had been self-betrayed. The sting of conscience, too, in the
knowledge that the model's jealousy of Helen was well founded, the
humiliation of finding his feelings and motives discovered, increased
his irritation. He felt a base desire to stab and humiliate Ninitta,
but for whom he might be free to win the one woman he had ever loved;
and the more his denunciations recoiled to hurt himself, the more
eagerly he poured them out, as in some moods of mental anguish one
finds relief in the pain of self-inflicted physical hurts.
"Yes," he said, more and more completely abandoning control of himself;
"yes, this tells sufficiently what you have learned in Paris."
"Oh, no, no, no!" she cried, flinging herself at his feet and groveling
there. "No, no! For the love of the Virgin, signor, not that! I have
been good. Oh, for the love of God, signor! For the love of God!"
She was shaken by the storm of sobs in which her words ended. She got
hold of his feet and refused to rise when he attempted to lift her. Her
long hair, escaped from its stilletto, fell about her face. Even in
this agitated moment the sculptor in Grant Herman noted with a sharp,
aesthetic pleasure the beautiful curves of her neck and shoulders.
"Pity," she went on between her agonized sobs. "Oh, forgive me! I will
do any thing you wish. I will go away and leave you."
He stooped and raised her by main force, yet tenderly.
"There, there, Ninitta," he said, "I was wrong. I do believe you are a
good girl; but you should not have played the spy."
He soothed her as well as he was able, her violence spending itself in
passionate tears. She drew herself away from him, and sat down again in
the chair she had been occupying. She put up her hands to her head,
twisting the loose tresses into a great coil. The sleeve of her dress,
unfastened in her agitation, fell back from her rounded arm. The superb
lines of her figure were displayed by her attitude. Her face, flushed
with weeping and lighted by the still tear-wet eyes, if not beautiful,
was appealing and pitiful. Some fiber touched of old vibrated anew in
his being. He made a step forward.
"Ninitta," he said, "I came to-night to ask you to marry me at once; to
fulfill the promise I made you so long ago."
The words and the tone both were tender, but he had said those same
words in anger just before.
"But you do not love me," she responded, her arms dropping pathetically
into her lap. "You have said it."
"But I was angry," answered Herman, for the moment almost believing
that his old love was re-awakened. "I did not mean you to believe it."
"If you do love me," she said, a new look coming into her eyes, "you
will promise me never to see her again."
He started back as if from a blow. His frail dream of passion was
shattered like a bubble at her words. A wave of bitter self-contempt
that its existence had been possible swept over him. The blood surged
into his cheeks. Ninitta saw the flush and her eye kindled.
"Promise me," she repeated. "It is little for love to ask. It is my
With instinctive feminine guile she leaned towards him in an attitude
so beautiful, so appealing that even now he was moved. But with this
emotion came, too, a subtle if now fainter sense of degradation that he
was susceptible to this dangerous fascination, with a painful
consciousness of how wide a moral gulf had opened between them by the
anger and vulgar jealousy which Ninitta displayed. It is not
impossible, too, that his instinctive clinging to Helen was a stronger
power than he knew; while still through all his mingled emotions ran
the resolve he had made to give himself up to his old betrothed.
"No," he said; yet as he moved slowly towards the door he had the air
of a man who still deliberates.
She threw herself back in her seat with a touching gesture of despair,
but also with a gleam of malice in her eyes, which he, turning with his
hand upon the latch, caught and understood.
"No," he repeated with final decision. "No, no!"
BEDECKING ORNAMENTS OF PRAISE.
Love's Labor's Lost; ii.--I.
Fenton had returned to Boston with his bride, but as yet Helen had not
seen him. One morning late in March, however, he came to call.
"I could not come before," he said after the first greeting, "'I have
married a wife,' and the amount of arrangement and adjustment implied
in that statement is simply astounding."
"I am glad to see you at last," she returned. "And your wife, is she
"My wife," replied he, with a little hesitancy over the unfamiliar
term, "is well. Cannot you come to see us before that dreadful
reception through which I am to be dragged? I'd like you to know Edith
in a different way from the crowd."
Helen crossed the room and sat down in her favorite chair by the
"He ought to understand," was her thought. "Why cannot he see that it
is impossible for his wife and me to harmonize. We have no common
"I shall be glad to," she said aloud, inwardly shrinking at the need of
speaking disingenuously to one with whom she had so long been upon
terms of frankness. "I will come very soon; to-day or to-morrow.
To-day, though, I must go and see my bas-relief. It is all ready to be
cut for the furnace; I only want to take a last look at it, to be sure
that every thing is right. If it will not bore you," she added, a
little hesitatingly, "you might come too; it is your last chance to
find fault to any advantage, for any changes must be made at once."
"I'd like to go," answered her friend, looking at his watch, "if I can
get back to luncheon. Yes, there's plenty of time."
"Benedick, the married man," laughed Helen. "That I should ever live to
see this air of domesticity!"
They crossed the Common, chatting idly, and both conscious that the
frankness of their old intercourse was somehow lacking; that it was
necessary to begin a new adjustment upon a basis different from the
former one. They talked upon indifferent subjects, of what had occurred
during the three weeks of Arthur's absence, playing the part of
amiability without pleasure, endeavoring to simulate the old relations
which no longer had real existence.
"Oh, Arthur," Helen laughed, suddenly, "let's not go on in this way!
Let us quarrel, or something. Say a wicked epigram; do any thing,
only don't be so eminently amiable!"
"My head is as empty of ideas," he returned laughing, in his turn, "as
is a modern title-page of punctuation points. Besides, Edith has
forbidden wicked epigrams."
"Does she therefore suppose she can suppress them?"
"Oh, I don't know," responded Fenton, good-humoredly. "I am not in as
epigrammatic a frame of mind as I was."
"'Tis a good sign."
"Yes; a sign I am growing inane and respectable."
"I can imagine you one about as easily as the other."
"That is bitter-sweet; a compliment and a flout."
"If I had said that," Helen observed, smiling, "you would have
retorted, with a look of gloomy solemnity, that most things in life are
bitter-sweet; unless, indeed, you felt called upon to phrase it that it
had the advantage of most earthly matters by not being wholly bitter."
"Was I ever guilty of such commonplace attempts at epigrams as that?"
returned Arthur. "If so it is certainly a good thing that I have given
up repartee for matrimony."
"Oh, that is brilliant beside many of your attempts, I assure you. And
as for your giving them up--I reserve my decision."
"You shall see, skeptic," he said lightly. "I expect to change the face
of the whole world if necessary."
"It is a common error of ardent temperaments," she returned pleasantly,
but with evident sincerity, "to assume that a state of feeling can
change the world."
"But I must, I will," he began eagerly. Then the light died out of his
face and he ended with a shrug.
Helen put up her hand with an impulsive gesture, as if about to speak.
Then letting her arms fall by her side, she turned to unlock the studio
door, which by this time they had reached.
The bas-relief was still shrouded in its damp envelopes, which Helen
carefully removed, keeping Fenton away, that he might first see the
work as a whole, and not lose its legitimate effect by catching
fragmentary glimpses as it was uncovered. When at last it was fully
disclosed, she called him to her as she stood before it.
"By Jove! That's stunning!" he exclaimed, after an instant's pause,
which gave him time to see it fairly. "Helen, you have outdone
yourself! That figure is simply superb. I hadn't an idea you would come
out so well. I'm wonderfully proud of you."
"You are more amiable than ever," she responded; but her flushed cheek
showed that she was touched by his earnest praise. "For that figure I
have to thank Ninitta's posing. She is an inspiration."
"But Ninitta did not inspire that splendid head," observed Arthur,
pointing with his cane at the December, "and you evidently did that
_con amore_. By Jove! It's Grant Herman, as I live!"
As he spoke he turned and saw Ninitta on the threshold.
"Shall you want me to-day?" the latter asked of Helen.
"What made that girl look so savage?" Fenton questioned as the door
closed behind the model.
"She perhaps chooses to be jealous of me," Helen replied composedly.
"_Elle a peutetre raison_."
"You say that too calmly by half," was his gay response. "Yet as every
work a woman does has a man for its end--I learned that from the
classics; Penelope, you know, and even washwoman Nausicaae--I suppose it
is fair to assume this had. Only who is the man?"
Helen flushed slightly. She recalled the ambition with which she had
begun this work, to make the man beside her praise its completion; and
she was conscious that before she finished it was the praise of Herman
for which she strove.
"It is filthy lucre that inspires me," she replied steadily. "I need no
They walked about the studio, talking of the bas-relief as seen from
different points; of how it was to be cut for firing; and on the safe
ground of art they forgot all personal constraints, until the striking
of a clock aroused Fenton to a sense of the flight of time.
"I must go," he said. "I am no end glad I came. The truth is I am not
very well acquainted with this married man, and it is comfortable to
slip back occasionally into a familiar bachelor mood. However," he
continued with his brightest smile, "I like the Benedick far better
than I should ever have dreamed possible; and his wife is charming. And
I want to say, too," he added, "that I have a thousand times thanked
you for taking that vial before I went to be married. I'm in a spasm of
virtuousness just now, and it is pleasant to remember that I did not
have it that day."
They went down stairs and out into the soft, spring-like day,
sauntering homeward in a happy and accordant mood. Arthur urged Helen's
going home to lunch with himself and Edith, but to Helen the morning
was far too precious to be ended in a possibly inharmonious meeting
with Mrs. Fenton.
And that afternoon Herman sent for Mrs. Greyson in all haste. Ninitta
had vented her jealous rage upon the bas-relief, destroying the head of
December which she heard Fenton say must have been done _con
amore_, and the beautiful May for which she herself had posed.
NOW HE IS FOR THE NUMBERS.
Romeo and Juliet; ii.--4.
Mrs. Fenton's wedding reception was largely attended. However strongly
the artist might savor of Bohemianism, his wife was connected with
certain prominent Philistines, and he had exhibited a most remarkable
readiness to have them present in force.
"Into the camp of Philistia itself," muttered Rangely to Bently, as
they elbowed their way through the crowd. "By the great horn spoon, if
there isn't Peter Calvin! Arthur calls him the Great Boston Art Greek.
That ever I should live to see the humbug under Fenton's roof-tree!"
"Pshaw!" returned Bently with an oath. "What a set of rubbishy old fobs
and dowagers there is here anyway. Is this the kind of people Fenton
means to know?"
"Means to know," echoed Rangely. "He's got to go down on his marrow
bones to get them to consent to know him. They patronize art, and that
means that they snub artists."
"Humph!" exclaimed Bently. "Is he sycophant enough to do that?"
"That's as you look at it. His wife probably decides the matter for
him. She very naturally likes to know what she would call 'nice
people.' How those women chatter! I wonder what they find to talk
"Not necessarily any thing. They always talk all the same whether
they've any thing to say or not."
"How much of life is wasted in enduring people for whom one does not
care," philosophized Rangely, looking over the throng which filled to
overflowing the Fentons' somewhat limited rooms. "Ah! There is Dr.
Ashton. How do you do, Doctor?"
"As well as could be expected," the Doctor answered, "in this
"Oh, Boston is only an antiquarian society," laughed Rangely, "and
these old tabbies are all honorary members. By Jove, though, there are
some awfully pretty girls here."
"I've observed that Boston girls are apt to be pretty when they give
their minds to it," remarked Bently. "Not when they wander round with
Homer under one arm and Virgil under the other and dyspepsia in the
stomach, but when they are deliberately frivolous."
The throng separated them at this moment, and Dr. Ashton went in search
of host and hostess. Arthur caught sight of his tall figure, and made a
sign at once of recognition and summons. Struggling between a young
Episcopal clergyman and a corpulent old lady, Dr. Ashton made his way
with difficulty to the spot where his friend was standing.
"You are the most married man I know, Arthur," was his greeting.
"Brigham Young wasn't a circumstance. I have been half an hour crossing
"Dr. Ashton, Edith; my wife, Will," was the only reply Fenton made,
unless one could interpret the quizzical glance he bestowed upon his
"I feel already acquainted with you," was Mrs. Fenton's remark, "I have
heard of you so often. My husband has spoken to me so much of his
friends that it is hard for me to realize that I do not know them
"You have been very little in Boston, I believe," Dr. Ashton said,
looking at her in a sudden surprise at remembering that he had seen her
"Very little," replied she, "I have been abroad a great part of my life
New claims upon her attention ended the conversation with that charming
abruptness characteristic of such an occasion, and the Doctor was left
to elbow his way out of the crush, with the sense of having done all
that would be required of him. He found a corner where he could watch
the hostess and fell to wondering whether Mrs. Fenton in her turn
remembered their previous meeting.
Edith Fenton was a slender, nun-like woman, too pale, with a smile of
wonderful attractiveness. "A woman to wear lilies," was the way Grant
Herman put it afterward; a remark which conveyed well the purity of her
face. Her ease of manner showed familiarity with the conventionalities
of life, yet in some vague way she seemed removed from the people by
whom she was to-day surrounded.
"She has been brought up in the old narrow ways," Dr. Ashton reflected,
"but there are great possibilities about her. She'll either be the
making of Fenton or send him to the dogs. She will scarcely find much
room in her house for many of his former friends, I fancy."
He stood watching the people and amusing himself with cynical
speculations until he saw Grant Herman's great figure among the guests.
He knew him but slightly and looked at him with an indifference which a
couple of hours later he regretted. Herman cared little for the
formalities of the occasion, and very likely might have gone away
without even being presented to the hostess had not Fred Rangely taken
him in charge and brought him safely through that ceremony. Now the
sculptor was looking for Mrs. Greyson, of whom he soon caught sight,
when he began making his way towards her. She however perceived him,
and with the feeling that she could not bear to meet him in public just
at this time, she evaded him by slipping into the window where her
husband was ensconced.
"Take me out of this, please," she said, "I am tired."
He gave her his arm without speaking, and together they made their way
from the room.
"I want to talk to you," he remarked easily. "Mayn't I walk home with
When she was ready they went together out into the starlit streets.
Neither spoke at first, each carrying on a train of thought to which
the other could have no adequate clew.
"Who is Arthur's wife?" Dr. Ashton asked at length. "I know she was a
Miss Caldwell, that she came from Providence, and that she has been an
orphan so short a time that they had a perfectly quiet wedding; but
that is the extent of my knowledge. Is she an artist?"
"An amateur," answered Helen. "She studied in Paris. He met her there.
She is a relative, I forget just how far or near, of Peter Calvin. She
seems to me an icicle. Think of Arthur's marrying a _religieuse_!"
"What is his game, I wonder," said her companion thoughtfully. "Do you
know when she was in Paris? Was it when we were there."
"Let me see," Helen responded, with a mental calculation. "Yes; she
must have been there the last year we were. Why? Did you ever meet
"Perhaps," was the careless reply.
They reached Helen's door as he spoke.
"Come in," she said. "Fortunately I can make you a salad. It is a long
time since we had a _petit souper_ together. I have, too,
something to say to you."
He followed her to the pretty parlor, and sat idly chatting while she
made her preparations for the supper.
THE WORLD IS STILL DECEIVED.
Merchant of Venice; iii.--2.
It was a dainty little table to which Helen invited her husband when
every thing was ready. The china was of odd bits picked up here and
there abroad, and it was now disposed with an artist's eye for color
and grouping. A tall bottle of Rhine wine had come from some mysterious
nook, and beside it were a pair of fine old German glasses, frail as
"I have always to offer my guests Rhine wine," Helen said, "for I've no
glasses for any thing else. Arthur is ungracious enough to object. He
does not like white wine as you do."
"I do like it," her guest answered, drawing the cork, "and so does
Arthur, only he does not know it. He has somewhere stumbled upon the
whim of pretending not to, and he can deceive himself more completely
than any other man I ever saw. Rhine wine is the most poetic of
beverages. It should go down like oil and only leave a fragrance like a
poet's dream behind it."
"That is quite a rhapsody for you, Will; only your cool tone gives it a
certain cynical flavor."
"I mean all I say, I assure you. Champagne is vulgar. It is the drink
of self-made snobs and cads who wish to pass for men of the world; but
Rhine wine is the drink for poets and artists."
"I am delighted to hear you defend it; it is very good of you, when I
happen to know you are not fond of it. It is a graceful return for my
inhospitality in not giving you your favorite Burgundy, but I haven't a
"Oh, don't mind the wine! I came to see you," Dr. Ashton said, with his
delightful smile. "How droll it was to see Arthur to-day. Do you think
he has really persuaded himself he is in love with his wife?"
"Arthur has great adaptability," Helen returned. "I think he believes
he is in love. I'm sure I hope you'll not feel it your duty to tell him
"I'm not Mephistopheles," answered Dr. Ashton, smiling, and watching
appreciatively as she made the salad.
Mrs. Greyson had dressed carefully for the reception from which she had
just come, and her cream-colored cashmere, with soft old thread lace,
and a bunch of amber-hued roses at the throat, became her as only a
dress chosen by an artist could. It fell away from her exquisite arms,
and from among the lace rose her beautiful neck, the stuff of her gown
setting off the lovely texture of her skin to perfection.
"I must not ruin my best attire," she said lightly, gathering it up.
"Now Ninitta has spoiled my bas-relief, it may be long before I get
more. I owe you a good deal, Will, for letting me study modeling in
"It was pure selfishness," he returned good-humoredly. "I wanted to
keep you busy so that I might go my own way. But what about your
bas-relief? Who spoiled it? Who is Ninitta, and what has she against
"That is what I wanted to tell you."
She did not speak again for a moment, seemingly intent upon the exact
measurement of the ingredients of her salad. In reality she was
considering how best to present what she had to say. She mentally ran
over the points she wished to make, becoming thereby conscious that she
had herself come to no definite conclusions upon the topic she was
about to discuss. She looked furtively at her husband, noting his
attitude, his expression, and whatever her past experience enabled her
to construe into indications of his mood. As well and as long as she
had known this man, she was still ignorant of the key to his nature--
that feeling or motive which, touched in an ultimate appeal, would
always insure a response. Conscience is the fruit of the tree of
experience, and, taken in this sense, every man must be possessed of a
conscience, which by its inner voice re-enforces any pleading which
coincides with its dictates. What was the nature of her husband's
inward monitor Helen had never been able to discover and at this moment
she realized keenly her ignorance.
"Will," she said earnestly, laying down her salad-fork and spoon, "I
think it is wrong for us to live as we do."
He shrugged his shoulders, looking at her curiously.
"I cannot flatter myself that you care to return to the old
She flushed warmly, with a keen pang of mingled pain and indignation.
"No," she replied. "No; never that. It is not for ourselves, but for
She flushed more deeply still.
"I have told you already that you are mistaken about my regard for
Arthur. It was not he I meant."
She served her guest, and sat playing nervously with her fork as he ate
and praised the salad.
"Mr. Herman sent for me the other afternoon," she began again, forcing
herself to speak calmly. "My model Ninitta is very fond of him, and
chose to be jealous of his praise of my work. It might have all gone
over without an outburst, I suppose, if she had not had her attention
called to the fact that I had modeled his head for December. Why she
had never happened to notice it I don't know; she was in the studio
"Not when he was there?" queried Dr. Ashton, holding up his graceful,
antique wine-glass and admiring it.
"No, not when he was there," repeated his wife. "She had pounded off
the head when he sent for me with a mallet she had picked up in his
studio. I never saw him in such a rage. She was gone when I got there.
She didn't make any attempt to conceal it. She came stalking
melodramatically into his studio with the mallet and laid it down.
'There,' said she, 'now kill me. I have broken her work.' It was like a
fashion magazine story. He thought at first she had gone mad."
"So she had. Women are always insane when they are jealous. I wish I
had Arthur's knack at epigram, and I'd make that sound original."
"He says he was very harsh," Helen continued, "though I fancy he could
not be quite that in any circumstances. It was very hard," she added
with a sigh. "It was like looking at a dead child to see my best work
ruined. It was really a part of myself."
"But can't it be repaired? It was in the clay, wasn't it?"
"Yes, but I fear for my exhausted enthusiasm. I can never do it as it
was before. My poor, unlucky December."
She toyed with her glass absently, apparently for the moment forgetting
her companion, who continued his supper with no less relish than
before. He watched her keenly, however, fully aware that there was more
to be told. He was a man too accustomed to follow any desire or indulge
any whim not to notice appreciatively, as he had noticed many times
before, how beautiful were the curves of his wife's arms and throat,
and with what grace her head was poised. He had once defined a liberal
man as one who could appreciate his own wife, and he would have been
far more insensible than he was, if, with this beautiful woman before
him he had not been, judged by his own standard, extremely liberal.
"And this has what to do with the question of our relations being
known?" he asked.
She started from her reverie, the red again showing faintly in her
"It is hardly fair," she answered in a tone softer and lower than that
in which she had been speaking, "to tell you all that Mr. Herman said.
He wishes to marry me."
"And you wish you were free to have it so?"
There was once more a pause. Helen busied herself in an elaborate
arrangement of the torn lettuce leaves upon her plate, seemingly
concentrating all her thoughts upon forming them into an intricate
"Will," she said, suddenly, lifting her eyes and leaning towards him,
"I do not know how to make you understand. I haven't succeeded so well
in my attempts thus far in life as to be very sanguine of doing it now.
You do not know how ashamed and contemptible I felt for being party to
the deception that made it possible for him to speak so to me. He was
so honest, so earnest; he was so unconscious of the barriers between
us. I felt that I had done him such an irreparable wrong by concealing
the truth. He had a right to know that I am a married woman."
"Did you tell him?"
"No; but I must. I want to be free from the promise we made to each
"It all comes," returned her husband without any show of irritation,
"from my telling Fenton."
"I cannot see what that has to do with it. I like the absence from
questioning, the avoidance of gossip, as much as you can; but it makes
me feel as if I were a living lie to have Mr. Herman bringing his
honest love to me to be met only by deception. It is cruel and it is
"That depends entirely upon how you define wrong," retorted Dr. Ashton
coolly. "I do not see why it is wrong for me to decline to sacrifice my
convenience to Mr. Herman's sentiment. But without going into the
question of metaphysics, let us look at the matter reasonably. Do you
love Mr. Herman?"
Notwithstanding the studied nonchalance of his tone, a glance into his
eyes might have shown Helen how much importance he attached to her
answer. A woman is peculiarly dangerous when she is telling one man
that another loves her. The masculine greed of possession is aroused by
the mere thought of a possible rival, and Dr. Ashton was conscious at
this moment of a kindling desire himself to win Helen's love, which he
knew perfectly well had never been his.
"That is not at all relevant," was her reply, her eyes downcast. "The
question of honesty is enough now. At least I respect Mr. Herman, and I
must treat him squarely, as you would say. You have always told me to
be 'a square fellow,' you know," she added, raising her glance with a
"But if you tell him," said her husband, with a subtle tinge of
impatience in his tone, "others must know. You can't go on letting one
after another into the secret without its soon becoming public
"Why not then?" she responded. "I wonder we have been able to keep it
so long. It is sure to be known now you have come home. I do not mean
to proclaim it upon the housetops; but to let it work out if it will.
What harm can it do?"
"It will harm me. My life is not so secluded as yours is, Helen, It
will make things confoundedly awkward. I shall have to go about giving
endless explanations. Besides, here is Arthur's wife. I particularly
don't want her to know."
"Why not? It is precisely that I was coming to. She seems to feel far
more kindly to me than I should have supposed possible. I can't lie to
her, Will. She has already asked me questions about my past life hard
to answer. I want to tell her, so that we may have an honest basis for
our friendship. I don't want to lose my hold on her."
"Nor on Arthur," acquiesced he gravely. "It is for that reason that I
say you had better not tell her. I usually know what I am saying, do I
not? I tell you it is for your own sake that I warn you to be quiet.
Arthur isn't going to be held in the leash very long by that piece of
china-ware piety, and it is to you he will naturally turn for sympathy.
Don't spoil your chance of his friendship by breaking with her yet."
"Will," his wife said, with a glitter in her eyes he knew of old,
"sometimes you talk like a very fiend incarnate."
"That," he replied rising, "is precisely what I am. There are a few
rare, but fairly well authenticated cases on record, Helen, where a man
under stress of circumstances, has been able to keep his own counsel;
women without a confidant go mad. For your own sake you'd better trust
me, now that Arthur isn't available; so I'll come and see you again. I
am obliged to you for this jolly little supper. Your salads always were
perfection. I'd like to stay and have you make me some coffee, but I
have an engagement at twelve. Good-night."
HIS PURE HEART'S TRUTH.
Two Gentlemen of Verona; iv.--2.
When Grant Herman attempted to speak with Mrs. Greyson at the Fenton's
reception, he had more in view than simply the desire of being near the
woman he loved. He was full of trouble and bewilderment, and
instinctively turned toward her for aid and sympathy.
The scene between himself and Helen, to which the latter had alluded in
her conversation with Dr. Ashton, was of far deeper import than her
words might have seemed to imply. In the first shock of discovering
that her work was broken she had been so overcome, that although she
struggled bravely to conceal her feelings, she had excited the
sculptor's keenest pity; and it not unnaturally followed that in
attempting to express his sympathy he found himself telling his love
before he was aware. He had determined to be silent upon this subject.
Uncertain what were Helen's feelings towards him and restrained by a
sense of loyalty to the bond which united him to Ninitta, he had
resolved to bury his love in his own breast, at least until time gave
him opportunity of honorably declaring it. Now circumstances betrayed
him into an avowal of his passion; and he was not without the indignant
feeling that Ninitta's act had freed him from all obligations to her.
It might have required an ingenious casuist to arrive logically at the
conclusion that an injury which the Italian had done to another
released him from his plighted word, but the person injured was the
woman he loved, and he blindly felt that Ninitta had struck at himself
through his most sensitive feelings. He renounced all the fealty to
which he had been held by a sense of honor, and he now poured out to
Helen the full tide of his passionate love.
The sculptor was not a man to be lightly moved, but it is these calm,
grave natures that once aroused are most irresistible. His passionate
outburst took Helen unaware; she scarcely knew what she did, and she
became suddenly aware of a truth so overwhelming that every thing else
faded into insignificance beside it.
"I love you!" he cried out; and at the word she first knew, with a
poignant pang of mingled bliss and anguish, that she too loved him.
It seemed to her that some power above her own volition ruled her, as
in moments of high excitement the body sometimes appears to declare its
independence of the will, and to act wholly by its own decisions. She
was aware that she raised her eyes to his, although she would have
given much to avoid his glance; and she knew that it was from what he
read there that he took courage to fold her in his embrace.
Yet with his arms about her and his piercing kisses upon her face,
Helen felt as if sinking helplessly into a mighty ocean; as if all
struggles must be unavailing, and she could only yield to the
resistless love which engulfed her.
From this first feeling of powerlessness, however, her strong nature
sprang with a sharp recoil. She was too noble to surrender without a
struggle. She would not even think whether she loved this man; that
might be considered upon some safe vantage ground; now all energy must
be concentrated upon escaping from the deadly peril in which she found
Helen had freed herself as far as she was able from the marriage bond
which had so galled her, and she was glad to forget that such a tie had
ever existed, but she yet remembered that she was still a wife, and the
kiss of a man not her husband overwhelmed her with shuddering
humiliation and fear. She struggled from her lover's embrace with such
an expression of terror upon her face, that he started back amazed and
He began to stammer confused words of contrition, of sorrow, of love,
and of supplication.
"How could you!" she gasped. "Oh, leave me!"
There came into her excited mind a way of escape, upon which, even
though it brought with it a sense of baseness, she seized in despair.
"Ninitta," she said. "Ninitta!"
He gave her a look of pain which went to her very heart. He did not
move or answer, but his whole soul seemed to look through his dark eyes
in pitiful appeal.
"Go," she continued, but in a hurried voice which betrayed her
agitation. "Leave me now. Oh, I cannot bear it!"
And crushed with pain and shame, she buried her face in her hands and
burst into tears.
Herman made a step towards her, but instantly she recovered herself,
looking up with swimming eyes and lips that quivered despite her utmost
"No," she said, "do not touch me. You must go. I cannot bear another
word. Forgive me," she went on rapidly, as he hesitated, still with
those appealing eyes fixed upon her. "Oh, forgive me, but go."
He turned slowly and moved towards the door. The broken bas-relief,
with its beautiful mutilated figure caught his eye, and seemed again to
remind him that he had at last a right to speak to Helen, unhampered by
the thought of Ninitta. He looked back as if he would even now disobey
her and plead his love anew. But her eyes refused his prayer before it
could be uttered. He lingered still an instant.
"I cannot go," he broke out suddenly. "I love you! I must stay! I must
at least have an answer. Do you think a man could kiss you once and
then leave you like this?"
She shivered as if she felt anew his passionate embrace and shrank from
it. She threw her glance about as to discover some means of escape. The
gesture, the look, overwhelmed him with sudden remorse. He trusted
himself not for a single backward look now, but rushed out of the
studio, leaving her sitting there like the princess of the fairy tale
who overcame the genii only by recourse to immortal fire which consumed
Alone in his studio the sculptor strode up and down, struggling with
the emotion which mastered him. He debated with himself whether Helen
loved him or not; yet the more carefully he recalled his interview with
her, the more impossible he found it to determine. But hope plucked
courage out of this very uncertainty, and clung to the belief that had
not Helen in her heart some affection for him, she could not have been
But what of Ninitta? He threw back his head and walked down the studio,
his steps sounding sharply upon the hard cement floor. What of Ninitta?
He had absurdly dallied with his supposed obligations to her long
enough. Now, at least, after this outrage, he repeated to himself, he
was free. He was at liberty now--if indeed he had not always been--to
consider what he owed to himself; what to the woman he loved.
He recalled the hot words he had spoken to the model earlier in the
afternoon when the anger of discovery was fresh upon him, and he felt a
pang of self-reproach. He could not but know how poignant to Ninitta
must be the grief of giving him up, although he assured himself that in
the long years of separation she must have become accustomed to live
without him, and that her grief would be rather fancied than real. Yet
he was too tender-hearted to be wholly at ease after all his reasoning.
He at last started out to find Ninitta, perhaps to comfort her, perhaps
to cast her off forever. At least to come to some definite conclusion
of their doubtful relations.
But Ninitta was not to be found. She was not in her attic; nor did she
return that night, nor the next day, nor yet the following; and it was
to tell of the model's disappearance, and to ask aid in tracing her,
that Herman had wished to speak to Helen at the Fenton's reception.
UPON A CHURCH BENCH.
Much Ado about Nothing; iii.--3.