Part 3 out of 4
Herman did not see Helen for several days after the reception, but she
came down to the studio Sunday afternoon to begin the repairing of her
mutilated bas-relief. The sculptor heard her step pass his door, and
felt a thrill at the sound for which he had longingly waited every
waking hour since he had heard Helen go out upon the night of Ninitta's
He waited what seemed to him a long time, forcing himself to perform
certain trifling things needful in the studio, yet Mrs. Greyson had
only been able to get fairly to work before she heard his footstep, and
then his tap upon her door.
He entered the studio almost hesitatingly, and after the usual
greetings stood looking gravely at the disfigured clay.
"I began to think you were never coming to restore it," he remarked,
breaking at last the silence.
"I could not bear to touch it," she returned, not caring to confess
that she had also wished to avoid him until time should have restored
his usual self-control. "But I determined yesterday to begin this
morning, only strangely enough I went to church for the first time
since I came from Europe."
"Ah!" returned Herman smiling. "I often go to church when I am not too
"I hardly supposed that a Pagan was guilty of going to any church where
he could not worship Pasht."
"One can worship whatever deity he pleases in whatever temple, I
suppose," was his rejoinder. "I'm catholic in my tastes. I do not so
much mind what people worship, if they are only sincere about it."
"It must be a great comfort to believe every thing, if one only could."
"There is often danger," he observed, "that we assume it to be a
weakness to believe any thing."
"It is, I'm afraid," replied she, turning her face from him and
seemingly intent upon her modeling.
"At least we believe in work," Herman answered, "else we are not
artists. You certainly find joy and support in your art."
"Yes," Helen said with a sigh; "but I fancy the joy of creation, great
as it is, can never be so satisfying to a woman as to a man. It is
humiliating to confess--or it is presumptuous to boast, I am not sure
which--but a woman is never so fully an artist as a man. He is in great
moments all artist; but a woman is never able to lay herself aside even
in her most imaginative moods."
"I cannot think you wholly right," her master returned smiling; "but to
go back a little, at least faith is woman's peculiar province and
prerogative. We seem nowadays to pride ourselves upon being superior to
belief in any thing; but it is really a poor enough hypocrisy. If we
really believed nothing, should we ever give up a single selfish desire
or combat any impulse that seizes us. For my part, I am glad to find
men better than their professions. But this," he added with his genial
smile, "is more of a sermon, very likely, than you heard at church."
"I at least agree with it better than the one I heard at church this
morning. The preacher patronized the Deity so that he shocked me."
"That troubles me at church," Herman assented; "preachers are so
Helen stepped back to observe the effects of the work she was doing.
"Do you think," she ventured, "that it would be possible for me to
induce Ninitta to pose again for the May? If I told her that I am not
angry, that I understand, and that----"
"But Ninitta is gone!" exclaimed the sculptor, suddenly recalled to
present difficulties. "I have not been able to find her since the day
she did this."
"Gone!" echoed Helen in dismay; "and you cannot find her?"
Herman related in detail the steps he had taken to trace Ninitta, all
of which had thus far proved unavailing. He had endeavored to avoid
publicity, but he already began to fear that it would be necessary to
call detectives to his aid.
"Not yet," Helen said. "Let me try first. Have you seen Mr. Fenton?"
"No; why? I have been very cautious. I have told nobody but Fred
Helen reflected a moment. Her woman's instinct told her that it was not
likely Ninitta would put any great distance between herself and the
sculptor. The model could have but few acquaintances in the city, and
as she would need support it seemed probable she might try posing for
some of the artists. As this thought crossed her mind, Helen remembered
that Ninitta had promised to pose for Fenton when no longer wanted for
the has-relief. It was therefore possible that Fenton might know
something of the whereabouts of the missing girl; and in any case Helen
had been so used to consulting the artist in any perplexity, that it
was but natural for her thoughts to turn to him now.
"Let me try," she repeated. "It will be less likely to excite talk if I
look for her; she was my model. Trust the search to me for a day or
He was only too glad to do so; glad to be released from the burden of
anxiety, as by virtue of some subtle faith in Mrs. Greyson he was; glad
of any thing in which he might obey her; glad above all of any bond of
common interest which might draw them nearer to each other, even if it
were search for the woman who stood between them.
On her way homeward Helen went into Studio Building, but before she had
climbed half way to Fenton's room, she encountered Dr. Ashton.
"It is of no use," was his greeting. "He isn't in. His wife has
probably taken him to church."
"He was at church this morning," Helen answered, putting her hand into
the one Dr. Ashton extended. "I saw him."
"Did you go to church? What a lark."
"It was rather a lark," she assented; "only I got wretchedly blue
before the service was done."
"What church was it? Mrs. Fenton looks as if she'd poise dizzily on
high church altitudes like the angel on St. Angelo."
"So she does; she goes to the Nativity."
"How did Arthur look?"
"Amused at first; then bored; then cross; and finally, when the sermon
was well under way, indignant."
"And his wife?"
"His wife, Will," Helen said with a sudden enthusiasm, "looked like a
saint. She really believes all these fables. I wish I did."
"It will be some fun to watch Arthur's conversion and backsliding," Dr.
Ashton observed, "if he really gets far enough along to be able to
backslide. Where are you going?"
"To see Arthur. I have an errand."
"Do you object to my walking with you?" he asked with a deference rare
enough to attract her notice.
The sun was setting, and the trees on the Common, as yet showing but
faintest signs of coming buds, stood out against the saffron sky. The
long shadows stretched softly over the dull ground, while every slight
prominence was gilded and transfigured by the golden glow which flooded
from the west. The atmosphere had that peculiar brilliancy
characteristic of the season, while the cool and bracing air was full
of that champagne-like exhilaration in which lies at once the
fascination and the fatality of the New England climate.
It was some time before either broke the silence.
"How I wish," at length began Helen wistfully.
"That shows," spoke her husband, as she left the sentence unfinished,
"that you are still under forty. When you have quadrupled your decades
you'll thank your stars for deliverances and ask for nothing more."
"When I get to that stage, then," she returned, "I'll take poison."
"Is that a hint?"
"Life is bad enough now," she continued without heeding the
interruption, "but better a bitter savor than none at all."
"You should devote yourself to cultivating the approval of conscience
as I do. I only do what I think to be right, you know."
"But think right whatever you do."
"Not quite that," returned the Doctor with a laugh, "but the approval
of my conscience--or of my reason, which stands in its place--is
necessary to my happiness, so I change my principles whenever my acts
don't accord with them."
"So do a great many persons," she responded; "perhaps most of us, for
that matter, only we are seldom honest enough to own it."
"By the way," queried her companion, as they approached her
destination, "how came Mrs. Fenton so quickly domesticated at the
Church of the Nativity?"
"There is a young man there--a deacon or a monk; I never know these
high church terms; they are usually faded out pieces of Romanism--that
once wrote an article which enjoyed the honor of being interred in the
Princeton Review when her uncle was one of its editors."
They reached the doorsteps and Dr. Ashton said good-by. Then he turned
"By the by," he said. "I walked up with you to make you invite me to
supper again. I enjoyed the last time very much."
"Did you?" returned his wife, rather carelessly. "Come to-morrow--no,
not until Thursday night."
"Very well. I am to dine here then, and I'll come and give you an
account of my visit."
HEART-SICK WITH THOUGHT.
Two Gentlemen of Verona; i.--I.
The Fentons were just going to dinner when Helen arrived, and she was
persuaded to dine with them. She was not without some curiosity to
observe her friend in his new relations, and she also found herself
attracted by Edith, although the two women had apparently little in
The talk at dinner flowed on easily enough, Arthur conversing in the
strain which of old Helen had been pleased to call "amiable," and which
fretted her by being conventional and not wholly sincere. She liked the
artist best when he spoke without restraint, even though she might not
agree with his extravagances and often detected a trace of
artificiality in his clever epigrams. It seemed to her that the whole
tendency of Edith's influence upon her husband was towards restraint,
yet she could not be sure whether the ultimate result upon Fenton's
character might not be beneficial.
"It depends upon Arthur himself," Helen mused. "If he is strong enough
to endure the struggle of adapting his honest belief to her honest
belief, he will be the better for it. I hope his love of ease will not
make him evade the difficulty. It never used to occur to me how little
I really know Arthur, so that I cannot tell how this will be."
When the host was enjoying his after dinner cigar, which by especial
indulgence upon the part of Edith he was allowed to smoke in the
parlor, Helen disclosed the object of her visit.
"Do you remember," she asked, "that model who posed for my May, and was
to come to you next week?"
"Ninitta? Of course. What of her?"
"That is precisely what I wish to find out," she responded. "She has
changed her address, and I thought it possible you might know something
of her whereabouts."
"I have not seen her since the morning when she came into your studio.
Doesn't Herman know?"
"The truth is," Helen said slowly, weighing her words with regard to
their effect upon Edith, "that she has run away, and we do not know
what has become of her. She went off in a rage, and I am troubled about
"Is she the Italian you spoke of, Arthur?" interrupted Mrs. Fenton in
her soft voice. "What is she like?"
"Yes; a black-haired, splendidly shaped girl with piercing black eyes."
"I think I know where she is," Edith said quietly.
"You?" the others asked in one breath.
"You see," Mrs. Fenton explained, turning towards Helen, "I have made
rather a plunge into charity work. Of course I meant to do something,
but I hardly expected to begin quite so soon. But Mr. Candish is my
rector, and he came for me yesterday to go to an Italian family that
cannot speak English well. The children have just been put into our
schools, but they have not advanced very far as yet. Their teacher
asked Mr. Candish to do something for them; they are wretchedly poor. I
wish you could see the place, Mrs. Greyson. Eight people in a room not
so large as this, and such poverty as you could hardly imagine. Yet
these people had taken in another. The mother goes about selling fruit,
and she happened to speak to this girl that I think is Ninitta in her
own language one night. The girl had been wandering about in the cold,
not knowing where to go, and I suppose the sound of her own tongue
touched her heart. Poor thing; she would not speak a word to me. How
strange that I should chance to find her."
"Thank heaven she is safe," was Helen's inward exclamation. Aloud she
said: "But what is she doing?"
"Nothing," Edith answered. "She seems to have had a little money, so
that she can pay the family something, and she has helped to take care
of the children. They are Catholics, naturally, and not in Mr.
Candish's parish; but they do not seem to have much religion of any
kind, and keep clear of the priest for some reason."
"My wife will know more of the North End in a month," Arthur observed
with an effort at good humor which did not wholly conceal from Helen a
trace of annoyance, "than I should in six years. I wonder she can bear
to go into such dirty places. Of course philanthropy is all very well,
but I'd rather take it after it has been disinfected."
The bitterness in his tone jarred upon Helen. She felt a pang at his
evident dissatisfaction with his wife's views, his want of harmony with
his new surroundings.
"Arthur must be disciplined," Mrs. Fenton said, smiling fondly. "If he
once learns that the secret of being happy lies in helping others,
he'll be unselfish from mere selfishness, if from nothing else."
"Happy!" Helen exclaimed involuntarily. "Does one ever expect to be
happy nowadays? Happiness went out of fashion with our grandmothers'
"In this world," Edith answered, without any trace in her voice of the
reproof which Helen half expected, "perhaps you are right. The age is
too restless and skeptical for happiness here; but that makes me long
the more for it hereafter."
"But even in a future life," returned Helen, "I can hardly expect to be
happy, since I shall still be myself."
"Happiness," was Mrs. Fenton's reply, "is a question of harmony with
surroundings, is it not? And your surroundings in the other life may be
such that you cannot but be happy."
"No more theology, please," interposed Arthur. "You forget, Edith, that
I have been to church to-day, and too much piety at once might impair
my spiritual digestion forever."
A perception that the flippancy of his tone shocked his wife, made
Helen turn the conversation again to Ninitta, arranging to go with Mrs.
Fenton in the morning to find the missing girl.
They fell into silence after this, the twilight deepening until only
the glow of the fire lighted the room. Edith went to the piano and
played a bit of Mozart, wandering off then into the hymn-tunes which
she loved and which were familiar in all orthodox homes of the last
generation: plaintive _Olmutz_ and stately _Geneva_, aspiring
_Amsterdam_ and resonant _St. Martin's_, placid _Boylston_ and grand
_Hamburg, Nuremburg, Benevento, Turner_ and _Old Hundred_; the tunes
of our fathers, the melodies which embody the spirit of the old time
New England Sabbath, a day heavy, constrained and narrow, it may be;
but, too, a day calm, unworldly and pure.
Arthur's cigar was finished, and he had fallen into a deep reverie,
looking into the coals. He recalled his conversations with Helen before
his marriage. He wondered whether his acquiescence in the limitations
of his present condition, his yielding to his wife's social and
religious views, was an advance or a deterioration. These pious tunes
jarred upon his mood, and he was glad when his wife left the
instrument. His Bohemian instinct stirred within him, and taunted the
ease-loving quality of his nature which put him in subjection to that
which he believed no more now than in the days when he was the most
sharp-spoken of the Pagans. A wave of disgust and self-loathing swept
over him. He turned abruptly in the dusk toward Helen.
"Sing to us," he said. "Edith has never heard you."
But Helen had been moved by the melodies, which came to her as an echo
from her childhood. She understood the half-peremptory accent in
Arthur's voice to which she had so often yielded, but to which she
would not now submit.
"No," she answered. "How can you ask me. My barbaric chant would be
wholly out of keeping here. Some other time I shall be glad to sing for
Mrs. Fenton; now I must go home."
IN PLACE AND IN ACCOUNT NOTHING.
I. Henry IV.; v.--I.
Notwithstanding her previous visit, Mrs. Fenton found it no easy matter
to guide Helen to the place where Ninitta had taken refuge.
The poorer classes of foreigners in any city are led by similarity of
language and occupations to gather into neighborhoods according to
their nationality, and the Italians are especially clannish. The
fruit-venders and organ-grinders form separate colonies, each
distinguished by the peculiarities incident to the calling of its
inhabitants, the crooked courts in the fruit-sellers' neighborhood
being chiefly marked to outward observance by the number of two-wheeled
hand-carts which, out of business hours, are crowded together there.
Ninitta was found in a room tolerably clean for that portion of the
city, the old fruit woman who was its mistress having retained more of
the tidiness of thrifty peasant ancestors than most of her class. One
room was made to accommodate the mother and seven children, and during
the absence of the former from home the premises were left in charge of
a girl just entering her teens, who, when Helen and Edith reached the
place, was engaged in preparing the family dinner of maccaroni. The
younger members of the family had just returned from school, and were
noisily clamoring for their share, and all together relating the
incidents of the day.
Upon a bed in one corner lay the object of their search, her face
flushed, her hair disordered, her eyes wild and vacant. To all
appearances she was in a high fever, and she took no heed of Edith, who
approached the bed and spoke to her. At the sound of Mrs. Greyson's
voice, however, the sick girl gave a cry and raised herself into a
"No, no!" she exclaimed in Italian, excitedly, "I will not! I will
Helen drew off her gloves and sat down upon the dingy bed beside
Ninitta, regarding her with pitying eyes.
"You shall not," she answered, in the girl's own language. "You need do
nothing but what you choose."
The soft tone seemed to calm Ninitta. She allowed Helen to arrange the
soiled and crumpled pillows, and yielded when her self-constituted
nurse wished her to lie down again. The latter procured a bowl of
water, and with her handkerchief bathed the sick girl's face, soothing
her with womanly touches which waked in Edith a new feeling of sympathy
and tenderness. Mrs. Greyson's white fingers, contrasting strongly with
the Italian's clear dark skin, smoothed the tangled hair from the hot
forehead, and all the while her rich, pure voice murmured comforting
words, of little meaning in themselves, perhaps, but sweet with the
sympathy and womanhood which spoke through them.
Edith meanwhile was not idle. She applied herself to hushing the
boisterous children, and to bringing something like quiet out of the
tumult of the crowded room. She assisted the girl with her maccaroni,
gravely listening to the principles which governed its equitable
distribution, with her own hands giving the grimy little children the
share belonging to each. An air of comfort seemed to come over the
frowsy room after Edith had quietly set a chair straight here, picked
up something from the floor there, and arranged the ragged shade at the
window. Even the little Italians, half barbarians as they were, felt
the change, and were more subdued.
Ninitta, too, was calmed and soothed, and, with Helen's cool hand upon
her hot brow, she sank presently into a drowse.
"Mrs. Fenton," Helen whispered, fanning her sleeping patient, "Ninitta
cannot remain here. I must take her home with me. I think she had
better run the risk of being moved than to be ill in this crowded
"But," remonstrated Edith, somewhat aghast at this summary procedure,
"you do not even know what is the matter with her."
"No," Helen returned lightly, "but I shall probably discover."
"Not by finding it something contagious, I hope," her friend said,
laying her hand upon Mrs. Greyson's forehead with a slight, caressing
"Can you get me a hack?" Helen asked of the girl who kept the house.
But the girl had no idea how to obtain one of those vehicles, which she
had been accustomed to see driving about with a certain awe, but
without the hope of ever being able to do more than admire them from a
distance, unless, indeed, she should have the great good fortune of
going to a funeral, when perhaps she might even ride in one, as did
little Sally McMann of the next court, when her mother died. Mrs.
Fenton therefore went herself for the carriage, finding remonstrance in
vain to change her companion's decision.
During her absence Ninitta awakened, and, while seeming more rational,
was less quiet than before. She repulsed her visitor with angry looks
and muttered defiance. Knowing perfectly well the cause of the girl's
agitation, Helen knew, also, that it was best to go directly to the
root of the matter, and she did so unshrinkingly.
"You are wrong," she said in Ninitta's ear. "It is you he loves. You
are to go home with me because he wishes it."
At first the sick girl seemed to gather no meaning from these words,
but as Helen repeated the assurance again and again, in different
phrases and with Herman's name, she became passive, as if she at least
caught the spirit if not the actual significance.
Mrs. Fenton had some difficulty in finding a carriage, and by the time
she returned Ninitta had yielded herself submissively to Helen's
Mrs. Greyson saw that her charge was carefully protected against the
cold, a matter which the mildness of the day rendered easy, and,
supported by the two ladies, the model was able to walk down stairs to
During the drive homeward Helen lay back thinking hotly, and flushed
with excitement. Ninitta sank into a doze, and Mrs. Fenton sat looking
at her friend with the air of one who has discovered in an acquaintance
characteristics before wholly unsuspected. She hesitated a little, and
then, mastering her shyness, she bent forward and kissed Helen's hand.
The other submitted in silence. Indeed, the exaltation of her mood
seemed to lift her above her surroundings so that she felt a strange
remoteness from her companion. Yet she was conscious of a vague twinge
of annoyance at Edith's act, although she could neither have excused
nor defined the feeling. Mrs. Fenton not infrequently aroused in her a
curious mingling of attraction and repulsion; and it was under the
influence of the latter that she answered brusquely her friend's next
"How did you quiet Ninitta?" Edith asked.
"By telling her lies," returned Helen wearily and laconically.
"She is in no condition to be dealt with rationally," continued Mrs.
Greyson, in a tone explanatory, but in no way defensive, "so I said
whatever would soothe her."
Edith sat in silent dismay. Apparently the woman before her, by whose
generous self-forgetfulness she had been touched, was perfectly
untroubled by the idea of speaking a falsehood, a state of mind so
utterly beyond Edith's experience as to be incomprehensible to her. She
could not bring herself to remonstrate, but it pained her that such
philanthropy should be stained by what she considered so wrong.
Mrs. Fenton was perhaps equally mistaken in her opinion of Helen's
regard for truth and of her philanthropy. Mrs. Greyson had a deep
repugnance to falsehood, and Arthur Fenton had often good-humoredly
jeered at what he called her Puritanic scrupulousness in this respect.
On an occasion such as at present, however, the use of an untruth would
cause her not even a second thought, her reason so strongly supporting
her course as even to overcome her instincts; a fact which a moralist
might deplore but which still remains a fact.
Her philanthropy, upon the other hand, although seeming to Edith so
disinterested, was largely instigated by a desire to aid Grant Herman.
Just what she wished or expected him to do, she could not have told,
her actions being no more regulated by strict logic than those of most
women; but she felt that it was the office of friendship to see, if
possible, that no harm came to the Italian through the jealousy which
both herself and Herman knew to be but too well founded. She determined
to take Ninitta home and do for her all that was necessary, in order
that the sculptor be spared the remorse which would pursue him if harm
came to his old betrothed. She was not without a secret feeling,
moreover, scarcely acknowledged to herself, that she owed some
reparation to the girl whose lover's heart she had won, no matter how
Reaching home, she got Ninitta to bed and sent for Dr. Ashton. Then she
dispatched a note to Grant Herman, saying:
"Ninitta is with me; give yourself no uneasiness."
THIS DEED UNSHAPES ME.
Measure for Measure; iv.--4.
Ninitta's illness proved after all very slight. So slight, indeed, that
Dr. Ashton, calling in on his way to dine with the Fentons Thursday
evening, found her gone. She had insisted upon returning to her attic,
although Helen had not allowed her to depart without promising not to
abscond a second time.
Ninitta was grateful to Mrs. Greyson with all the ardor of her
passionate southern heart. She did not, it is true, understand the
relations between Herman and Helen, but even her jealousy was lost in
the gratitude she felt for the beautiful woman who had cared for her,
and it is not unlikely saved her from a dangerous illness. It did not
seem possible to the undisciplined Italian, versed only in crude,
simple emotions, that a woman who was her rival could treat her with
tenderness. She accepted Helen's kindness as indisputable proof that
the latter did not love the sculptor, a conclusion which the premises
scarcely warranted. She volunteered to pose again, and Mrs. Greyson,
thinking it well to keep the girl under her influence, and desiring a
return to at least the semblance of the peaceful existence preceding
the stormy episode just ended, eagerly accepted this offer, only
stipulating that the model should undertake nothing until she was
really well able.
"I shall come back to supper," Dr. Ashton said, as he left his wife. "I
have half a mind not to go to Fenton's; only it amuses me to watch the
"It never amuses me to watch any degradation," she returned gravely.
"How do you know he is degenerating? If you mean by following his wife,
why, they may be right after all, and what we call superstition the
"Of course," answered he. "I never pretended to administer the
exclusive mysteries of truth; but it is always a degradation to yield
to personal influence at the expense of conviction. Arthur is as much
of a heathen to-day as he ever was, only he is too fond of comfort to
have the courage of his opinions."
"Truth to me," she said thoughtfully, "is whatever one sincerely
believes; I cannot conceive of any other standard. One man's truth is
often another's falsehood."
"You are as dull as a preface to-night, Helen; what carking care is
gnawing at your vitals?"
"Nothing in particular. A certain melancholy is befitting a widow, you
know, and that's what I am supposed to be."
"On the contrary there is a certain vivacity about the word widow to my
"Your experience has been wider than mine. I am aware that I am too
much given to vast moral reflections, but you provoke them."
"I am sorry to provoke you," he said gayly. "Forgive me before supper
time; who knows what rich experiences I may have between now and then.
As he walked toward his appointment, could Dr. Ashton's vision have
reached to the house whither he was going, he would have seen Arthur
Fenton and his wife sitting together before an open fire awaiting their
guest. The artist was showing Edith a portfolio of sketches by foreign
painters, which he had brought from his studio.
"What a strange uncanny thing this is," he remarked, holding one up.
"It is just like Frontier; I never saw any thing more characteristic. I
wonder you got so few of his tricks, Edith, while you studied with
"He always repelled me. I was afraid of him. Where did you get this
"Dr. Ashton gave it to me."
"Yes; when he was in Paris, both he and his wife were intimate with
Frontier. Or at least Will was."
She leaned forward in her chair, her always pale face assuming a new
pallor. Laying her hand upon her husband's, she asked in a quick,
"Do you know how Frontier died?"
"I know he died suddenly; now you speak of it, I have an idea it was a
case of _felo de se_. You know I was in Munich at the time."
"Arthur," Edith said earnestly, "I have never told even you; but I saw
Frontier die. I had a pass-key to his studio, and his private rooms
were just behind it. That night I went in on my way from dinner--Uncle
Peter and I had been dining together, and I left him at the door with
the carriage--after a study I'd forgotten. We were going to Rome the
next morning, and I didn't want to leave it. The picture was at the
further end of the studio, and as I went down the room I heard voices
and saw that Frontier's door was open. He sat at a table with a tiny
wine-glass in his hand. A man who stood back to me said, just as I came
within hearing: 'It is none of my affair, and I shall not interfere;
but you'll allow me to advise you not to be rash.' I could not hear
Frontier's answer, partly because I paid no attention, of course never
suspecting the truth. But as I went towards my easel, Frontier, hearing
the noise, I suppose, and afraid of being interrupted, caught up the
glass and drank what was in it. The other man sprang forward just in
time to catch him as he fell back, and it suddenly came over me that he
was taking poison. I cried out and ran into the room, but it seemed
only an instant before it vas all over. Oh, it was terrible, Arthur,
She covered her agitated face with her hands, as if to shut out the
vision which rose before her. Her husband sat in silent astonishment, a
conviction growing in his mind of whom the other witness of Frontier's
death must have been.
"Arthur," Edith broke out suddenly, "that man was no better than a
murderer. He let Frontier kill himself. When I cried out, 'Oh, why
didn't you stop him!' he said as coolly as if I had asked the most
trivial question, 'Why should I? What right had I to interfere?' It was
terrible! He seemed to me a perfect fiend!"
"It was--who was it?" demanded her husband, a name almost escaping him
in his excitement.
"It was Dr. Ashton; the man who is coming to sit down at your table
to-night. Arthur, I cannot meet him! I knew when he came to our
reception that I had seen him before, but I could not tell where. There
is his ring now. Let me get by you!"
"But where are you going?" Fenton asked in amazement.
"To my room. Any where to get out of his way."
"But what shall I tell him?"
"The truth; that I will not sit down to eat with a murderer."
She vanished from the room, leaving her husband alone. Dr. Ashton's
step was already upon the stair, and however keenly Mrs. Fenton might
feel the wickedness of the Doctor in not preventing Frontier's
self-destruction, the action was too strictly in accord with Arthur's
own views to allow of his condemning it. His friend found him in a
state of confusion which instantly connected itself in the guest's mind
with the non-appearance of Edith, an impression which was strengthened
by the lameness of the excuses tendered for her absence. Dr. Ashton not
unnaturally concluded that he had just escaped stumbling upon a family
quarrel. He accepted whatever his host chose to say, and the two
proceeded rather gloomily to dinner.
In Arthur's mind there sprang an irritation against both his wife and
his friend. His instincts were all protective, that term including
comfort as well as self-preservation. He was intensely annoyed at his
wife's attitude, and began to vent his spleen in cynical speeches,
which since his marriage had been rare with him.
"Christian grace," he declared, "is exactly like milk; excellent and
nourishing while it is fresh, but hard to get pure, and even then sure
"Say something more original if you are cross, Arthur," observed his
friend good humoredly. "What is the matter? Is it a new rug or a
Japanese bronze you are dying for?"
"Hang rugs and bronzes," retorted Arthur, with a vicious determination
to be ill-natured. "If I can get the necessities of life, I am lucky."
"Nonsense," was the reply. "It isn't that. The lack of the necessities
of life makes a man sad; it is the lack of luxuries that makes him
Dr. Ashton was perfectly right in his inward comment that Fenton was
secretly regretting his marriage. This was the thought that filled
Arthur's mind. It was true he had had no absolute disagreement with his
wife, although it is not impossible that it might have come to this,
had a delay in the guest's arrival allowed time. But it filled the
husband with an unreasoning rage that Edith presumed to establish so
strict a code of morals. He felt that her position as his wife demanded
more conformity to his standards. Why need she trouble herself about
that which did not concern her, and sit in such lofty judgment upon the
morals of her neighbors? Did she propose keeping Dr. Ashton's
conscience as well as her own--and his? Certainly those whom the
husband found worthy his friendship it ill became the wife to
stigmatize and avoid. He sat moodily tearing his fish in pieces instead
of eating; for the moment wholly forgetting his duty as host.
"If you'll pardon my mentioning it," Dr. Ashton said at length, "you
are about as cheerful company as a death's head. You are so melancholy
that I am tempted to fling in your face one of my old epigrams; that
love is a gay young bachelor who can never be persuaded to marry and
The other laughed and made an effort to shake off his gloom; but with
so little success that his guest resolved to escape at the earliest
moment possible. Something in Fenton's forced talk, however, attracted
Dr. Ashton's attention.
"My wife was a pupil of Frontier."
The simple phrase, which had escaped Arthur's lips because it had been
in his mind not to allude to this fact, might have gone unnoticed had
not the speaker himself so strongly felt the shock of disclosure as to
show sudden confusion. The whole matter was at once clear to Dr.
Ashton, who having recognized Edith at the reception, had been prepared
for identification in his own turn.
"So that," he observed calmly, "is the reason Mrs. Fenton does not dine
with us to-night. I knew she was sure to recognize me sooner or later;
but as I had no motive for concealing this matter, on the other hand I
had no reason for recalling so unpleasant a circumstance to her mind."
There was a pause of a moment, and then the Doctor continued:
"I think Frontier was rather foolish. I told him so. A charming little
Hungarian girl of whom he was fond, had left him to follow the fortunes
of a Polish Count, or something of the sort. I do not see why a man
should kill himself for so trifling a thing as a woman; but if he chose
to, I am not one of those officious persons who feel justified in
interfering with any private act they don't happen to approve. I
certainly should resent such impertinent intrusion into my own
"And I," assented Arthur doggedly; "but my wife----"
"Certainly; I understand. Mrs. Fenton says hard things of me because I
would not rob poor Frontier of what little comfort he could get from
dying. Very well; I will not offend her by my presence. Only she is
setting herself a hard task in attempting to treat people according to
their conservatism. In these days the sheep and goats have come to be
so much alike in appearance, that I scarcely see how a mere mortal is
to distinguish between them. My own case I settle for her by avoiding
"But this is my house," protested Arthur, intensely chagrined.
"No," his guest replied, still smiling and moving toward the door. "It
is the nest you have built for your love and your--regeneration! Good
THERE BEGINS CONFUSION.
I Henry VI.; iv.--i.
Alone in her own room, Edith relieved her overwrought feelings by a
burst of tears, brief, indeed, but bitter. Like her husband, she felt
that this incident, although not assuming the guise of a quarrel, was
an opening wedge in the unity of their affection. Unlike Arthur,
however, she thought of it with self-reproach and misgiving. She did
not for an instant consider the possibility of having taken a different
position in regard to Dr. Ashton, yet in a womanly, illogical way, she
felt that she should have learned her husband's wishes before so
vehemently declaring her own views.
She heard the artist and his guest go in to dinner, and the thought
flashed upon her that this was the first time her husband had dined
without her since their marriage. She wondered if he remembered it,
and, remembering, regretted. She longed for companionship, for some
friend into whose sympathetic ear she could pour her story, from whom
she might ask advice. She reflected sadly how far she was removed from
her intimate friends. Of her new acquaintances many had been most kind
to her, but towards none of them, not even to her relatives, had she
been so strongly drawn as to wish now to go to them for confidence and
sympathy; unless, came a second thought, it were Mrs. Greyson. She was
a widow, Edith reflected, and had evidently suffered much, while the
strength of her character was evident from her dealing with the Italian
girl. It would be no disloyalty to go to her; there had been no words
spoken between husband and wife which could not be told a friend, and
Edith felt that she needed the advice of a woman more versed in the
intricacies of life than herself.
She dressed herself for walking, and slipped noiselessly out of the
Mrs. Greyson was at dinner, and was naturally surprised at seeing her
caller, but she had both too much tact and too much breeding to ask
"I do hope you have not dined," she said. "I am so much alone that it
is a perfect delight to me to have company. My dinner is a little like
a picnic, but if you will only consider how great a favor you are doing
me by sharing it, the consciousness of philanthropy ought to make it
Neither lady mentioned Arthur, although his name was uppermost in the
thoughts of both. They sat down together in Helen's tiny dining-room,
and served by her only maid, had a charming meal. The hostess exerted
herself to entertain her guest, wisely judging that what Edith said in
calmness she would be far less likely to regret than words uttered in
the unguarded moments of her excitement. She told Mrs. Fenton stories
of her studio life both in Boston and abroad, she led Edith on to speak
of her own travels and experiences, until the latter almost forgot that
she was dining in one house and her husband in another. It was not
until the coffee was reached, coffee made as only Helen could make it,
that the subject of the visit was really broached.
"How is Mr. Fenton?" Helen asked deliberately, believing the time had
come for such a question.
The face of the other fell. She experienced a pang at the consciousness
of having been gay and happy, forgetful of her husband and her trouble.
"He is well," she answered falteringly.
"Why did you not bring him with you?" continued Mrs. Greyson lightly,
yet with a secret determination to know the cause of her guest's
"He did not know I was coming," Edith responded in a low voice. "That
is what I came to talk about. I thought you might understand; but it
involves a third person, and perhaps I ought not to tell you. I am
sure, though," she went on, gaining confidence now that the ice was
broken, "that I can trust you. A friend of Arthur's came to dine
to-night, and just as the door-bell rang, I found him to be the man I
once saw commit murder in Paris."
"Murder!" exclaimed Helen, turning white. "Commit murder?"
"Consent to it," corrected Edith, unconsciously a little pleased to
have produced so great an effect upon her usually self-possessed
friend. "He looked on while Frontier took poison, without trying to
"But that," Mrs. Greyson said slowly, "is hardly the same thing as
"It is quite as bad," Edith protested earnestly. "It makes me shudder
to think of his dining alone with Arthur at this moment. Who knows what
"Nothing tragic, I think," Helen replied smiling. "He does not go about
with pistols in his belt, I suppose.'
"It is awful to me," Edith continued, with increasing excitement, too
much stirred to notice the sarcasm. "I told Arthur I could not sit down
with a murderer, and just at that moment we heard his step, and I ran
away upstairs; and then I felt dreadfully, and I came to you."
"I thank you for your confidence. But what do you mean to do? What will
Arthur tell him?"
"The truth, I hope."
"He is scarcely likely to say to the guest he has himself invited that
you think him a murderer," answered her friend, smiling again, "and I
am not sure that he would even look at this quite so severely as you
"How else can he look at it?" demanded Edith. "How else can any one
look at it? Isn't it murder to take human life, and if one does not
prevent suicide when he might, isn't it the same as if he did it
"We will not get into a discussion," Helen replied gently. "I feel
about it as you do; though I believe very differently. But I see
perfectly well how a man might be strictly honest in thinking that it
was the privilege of any human being to lay aside his life when he is
weary of it; and I do not presume to condemn others for feeling what I
only think I believe."
"Think you believe!" cried the other in horror. "You do not think you
believe that murder is right?"
"Assuredly not; but as there are so many related points upon which we
do not agree, would it not be better to talk of this particular case
than of general belief?"
"But it is impossible for any one to believe as you say," persisted
Edith; "simply impossible. No one can believe that wrong is right."
"But each has his own standard."
Against this Edith protested, but Helen returned no answer. She
regretted being involved in such a debate, and resolved to let the
discussion go no further. They sat in silence a moment, and then Edith
"I do not know what to do," she said. "Of course Arthur cannot know
that man any longer. You were in Paris at the time Frontier died, were
you not? Did you ever know----"
She broke off suddenly, remembering that she had not intended
disclosing the name of her guest.
"Dr. Ashton?" Helen returned, fixing her eyes upon her companion, and
unconsciously speaking with a deliberation which gave especial weight
to her words. "Yes; I know him. We went to Paris together."
"Together! Was he a friend of your husband? How did you know whom I
There was no perceptible pause before Helen answered; but meanwhile she
determined to throw aside all concealment. She could no longer stand
before Arthur Fenton's wife with the humiliation of even a tacit
deception between them. She felt a spirit of defiance rising within
her. Who was this woman that she assumed the right to judge them all by
standards for whose narrowness only contempt was possible! At least she
would rise above all conventional prejudices, and no longer tacitly
ask, as by silence she had done, exemption from the harsh judgments of
Mrs. Fenton's creed.
Helen was too womanly not to shrink from this disclosure, and she had
been too thoroughly educated in the faith by which Edith lived not to
understand just how her life would appear seen through the latter's
belief. Disconnected with a question relating to the marriage relation
and by implication casting reflection upon her delicacy and even purity
of life as a woman separated from her lawful husband, Helen could have
met with dispassionate reasoning whatever assault Edith made upon her.
This point was too vital, it touched too closely the core of her
woman's nature, and although she retained perfectly her self-control,
there was a pulse of passion in her voice when she spoke.
"Dr. Ashton," she said unflinchingly, "is my husband."
"What?" cried Edith.
"We have not found it convenient to live together," Helen continued,
with increasing calmness, a faint tinge of contempt creeping into her
voice, "and so since my return from Europe I have taken my mother's
name to avoid gossip. Dr. Ashton and I are very good friends still."
"And did Mr. Fenton know this?" asked the other, very pale.
"Certainly; although you understand that it is not a matter which we
discuss with the world at large. I pass, I believe, as a widow; though
I have never done or said any thing to give color to that idea."
It is doubtful if Helen fully comprehended the effect of these words
upon her guest. Every fiber of Edith's being tingled. All her most
sacred principles seemed outraged. She in some remote way felt,
moreover, as if to hear without protest so lax notions of the
responsibilities of marriage was to stain her womanhood and dim the
luster of her modesty.
"How dared he introduce you to me?" she cried. "You are the wife of a
murderer and you defend his crime; you pretend to be a widow, you
ignore your marriage----"
"Stop," the hostess said with dignity. "We need not go over the ground.
Mr. Fenton made us acquainted, I presume, because he agrees with me in
seeing nothing wrong in my position, however unconventional it may be.
You will see that if I had been ashamed of the fact I could easily have
kept it from your knowledge."
But Edith made her no answer. She was too much overwhelmed by the
various emotions which the disclosure of the evening had aroused.
Edith was, from Helen's point of view, fatally narrow, it is true; but
the latter might have reflected that the limitations of her friend's
vision were the faiths of the Christian world, and that her tenacity
arose not from obstinacy but sincerity. It is an age when belief and
doubt are brought face to face so sharply that the shock disturbs by
its jar the most ordinary affairs of life.
Edith was pure, high minded, simple souled, and for the rest she was
honest and earnest. Her creeds were vitalized by the warm fervor with
which she clung to them, and what more could be demanded of her?
She quitted the dining-room, and soon Helen heard the outer door close
behind her. The night gathered, and the lonely woman left behind sat
long in sad reverie, until the door was again opened to admit Dr.
WEIGHING DELIGHT AND DOLE.
Dr. Ashton came in too full of his own interview with Arthur to notice
particularly if his wife showed signs of agitation.
"My dear," he said, throwing himself into a chair, "it is at once one
of the latest and the wisest of my reflections that you had better
consider a newly married man as an entire stranger and form his
acquaintance quite from the foundation, wholly unbiased by any notion
you had of him as a bachelor."
"His wife," responded Helen quietly, "has been dining with me, so I
understand something of the situation. But how did Arthur behave?"
"Like any husband who does not care to quarrel with his wife even when
he disapproves of her. It is upon that principle that matrimonial
felicity depends. Do you say Mrs. Fenton has been here?"
"Yes; she came to me for sympathy and I administered it by telling her
that I am your wife."
"The devil! I beg your pardon; but, Helen, it was precisely because I
knew she was sure to remember this Frontier scrape that I wanted her
not to know. She will be very hard on you."
"Christianity is always hard," returned she; "but what difference does
it make; it was only a question of time. She is sweet and pure and
good, Will, but her religion holds her in bands stronger than steel. I
couldn't long keep step with one in chains. It might as well come now
as any time."
Her husband looked at her with evident interest not unmixed with
"She provokes me to do and to say childish things," Helen continued,
"just to shock her. I told her bluntly the other day that I had been
telling a falsehood, and she had the impertinence to look shocked. I am
not sure that I did not go so far as to say I 'lied,' a word that
hardly holds the place in English that it did in the good days of Mrs.
Opie. She would have been reconciled if I had said I told what I hoped
"I should have told her," laughed Dr. Ashton, "that I only used truth
as the Egyptians used straw in bricks, the smallest possible quantity
that will hold the rest together."
"I cannot see why Arthur married her," Helen said musingly.
"Oh, as to that, an idle man will fall in love with any pretty woman
who will snub him."
"But Arthur isn't idle, and she doesn't snub him."
"Very well; he married her because he fell in love for no reason but
the weakness of our sex."
"Love seems generally to be regarded by the masculine mind in the light
of a weakness."
"Isn't it?" her husband returned. "Love is the condition of desiring
the impossible, and if that is not a weakness, what becomes of logic?"
"I am tired of logic," she said, rising abruptly. "I am tired of every
thing. Let us have supper. I want a glass of wine. I am sure I tried to
be kind to Mrs. Fenton. I would have helped her if I could; but how
could I assist her unless she chose to let me, and that, too, knowing
who I am."
"I never knew you to be other than kind," was the grave reply, which
brought to Helen's cheek a faint flush of pleasure.
The servant came in with supper, and the slender glasses were filled
with Rhine wine.
"I could not help thinking," Dr. Ashton said, lifting his glass,--"I
drink to your very good health, my dear--I could not help thinking of
my wedding gift to Arthur, that he asked me for it, I mean."
"I thought of it, too, when his wife told me the story. It is well she
does not know that of you."
"Oh, it wouldn't matter," he said carelessly. "She couldn't feel a
greater horror of me than she does already. Do you see the mark of Cain
on my forehead, Helen?"
"Isn't it droll," she returned, with a smile half pensive, half
humorous, "to feel ourselves suddenly tried by new standards and found
so wanting. I am not sure but dramatic propriety demands that I should
poison Mrs. Fenton. I have that vial, you know."
"Did you notice the inscription on the vial?"
"No; is there one?"
"See for yourself," he answered, refilling his glass.
She rose from the table and brought from a small cabinet the morocco
case, unopened since Arthur had given it to her. A certain dread and
distaste had prevented her examining it. Now she sat down again in her
place, a beautiful woman, with the light falling upon her from above,
shining upon her golden hair, and bringing out the hues of her sea-blue
dress. Her husband watched her as she held the case a moment in her
delicate, firm fingers before unclasping it. He had learned within
these last weeks that his old love for Helen had re-awakened; or more
truly that a new affection had been born. The knowledge had come to him
through thinking upon the relations between Helen and Arthur and in
speculating concerning her feeling for Grant Herman, and it had been in
his mind when he described love as the desire for the impossible. He
had determined to speak his passion, but as he looked at his wife
sitting within arm's length yet as remote as if half the world lay
between them, he hesitated. Helen unclasped the case and lifted the
tiny cut-glass vial from its velvet bed.
"How extravagant you were in your vial," she said, involuntarily
lifting it to her nostrils.
"Don't!" Dr. Ashton exclaimed, leaning forward suddenly.
"Is it so deadly as that!" she asked in some dismay, holding it off.
"It is simply pure prussic acid," he replied. "But it might be loosely
She examined carefully the minute writing engraved upon the glass.
"'Death foils the gods,'" she read. "Is it one of your own
wickednesses, Will?" "I don't know. By the way, we might send it to
Mrs. Fenton now as a souvenir of the two desirable acquaintances she
"What a brood of vipers she must think us, Will. I think it is
pathetic, probably; but I cannot help being amused. It is rather an odd
sensation to find that instead of being the harmless, insignificant
body I have always supposed, I am really a hardened and abandoned
"Oh, I've always known it, but I did not tell you for fear of
destroying your peace of mind."
"I'm afraid," sighed Helen, rather absently, "that--if you don't mind
the slang--Arthur has an elephant on his hands."
"Yes," assented the other, "himself."
She laughed musically, toying with the little cut-glass vial.
"How familiarity takes away the dread of any thing," she remarked. "We
become accustomed to any thing; and, while I dare say it is the
shallowest of sophistry, that ought to be an argument in favor of the
theory that vice and fearfulness are alike only strangeness."
"That is rather a sophistical bit of logic; so perfectly so that it
ought to be theology. Excuse me, but could you let me have a morsel of
"There does not seem to be any for you to have," she said, glancing
over the table.
"Isn't there," returned he, as carelessly as if he had not noted that
fact. "It is of no consequence."
"Oh, I can easily get it; I suppose Hannah forgot it."
She restored the vial to its place, laying the closed case by her
plate, and left the room. The instant the door closed behind her, Dr.
Ashton reached across the table, possessed himself of the vial,
returning the case to its former position. His wife turned just outside
the door, and came back with a meaning smile to take up the empty case
and lock it again in the cabinet.
"I cannot trust you," she remarked with a smile; "you are too eager to
foil the gods."
He smiled in return, holding his wine-glass up to the light.
"There is more where that came from," he said. "You forget my
"Of what are you musing so intently?" Helen queried, half an hour
later, while, the supper being ended, her husband was enjoying his
"Of two things which I have to communicate. One is a folly and the
other--or perhaps I should say each--is a misfortune."
"The folly," returned she, "I forgive; the misfortune I regret. What
are they?" "I am glad you forgive the folly. That gives me boldness to
tell it. I have fallen in love."
"You, Will! With whom?"
"That is the madness of it. With my wife."
"It is the truth," he went on, half whimsically, but with a certain
ring of earnestness in his tone. "I acknowledge the madness, the poor
taste of a man's falling in love with his own wife, but the fact
stubbornly remains. I have been in love with you for a long time, but I
stood back for Arthur like a good fellow."
"I never was in love with Arthur," she interrupted.
"It is no matter," he continued. "The question is, can't you get up a
grain of grace for me, old lady?"
He leaned over the table, his dark eyes shining as she had never seen
them before. She was fascinated by his gaze; she felt as if the ground
were slipping from beneath her feet, and as though he were casting upon
her an evil spell. A wave of despair swept over her. Must she again
submit to his power; were the old days of bitter bondage to return; was
she nothing but a puppet to his will?
In this extremity a memory saved her. Unable to withdraw her gaze from
her husband's face, there came to her suddenly the look in the eyes of
Grant Herman that day when he told her his love. The blood surged to
her cheeks, but her calmness returned.
"It is of no use, Will," she said with gentle firmness. "All that is
past forever between us. We had better not speak of it," she added
wistfully. "I have so few friends that I cannot bear to lose any one of
"My folly is then my misfortune," he responded, with no appearance of
diminished good humor. "It is the pleasure of the gods to torment me; I
suppose it amuses them. The old Romans were only aping them in their
blood-thirsty sports, and I fancy that is the secret of their
deification, for nothing seems so much to the liking of the gods as to
The evident endeavor which the speaker made to appear flippant and at
his ease showed her how deeply he was moved. His wife felt this without
fully reasoning it out, and the consciousness that this self-controlled
man was so stirred awoke in her a strange and powerful excitement. She
turned a shade paler, as she looked silently down into her wine-glass.
Her own life had been too sad for her not to feel some emotion at his
words. She strove to repress the thoughts which made her bosom swell
and heave, yet it was from them her words came when she broke the
"It is bitterest to find one's self mistaken. To find that our gods are
only clay like the rest of humanity. I could forgive a friend for
neglect, abuse or any cruelty; but I could never forgive him for
falling below my ideal of him."
"You do not mean me," he returned placidly, "for of me you never had an
ideal; but waiving that for a moment, I should like to tell you of my
second misfortune--if it isn't to be reckoned a blessing."
She looked at him without speaking. If this disclosure were but a
repetition in varied form of the other, she had no wish to help him put
it into words. Yet even as this thought passed through her mind, she
fancied she had detected in his tone some new gravity.
"I've discovered," continued Dr. Ashton, with the same light manner he
had used throughout the interview, "that I have a cancer gayly but with
grim persistency developing under my arm."
"Oh, Will," Helen cried, clasping her hands, "you are not in earnest!"
"I assure you it is a very earnest matter with me, and has been for
some time. I might have an operation, I suppose, if it were worth
while; though it is so near the heart that it would be uncomfortably
Helen became suddenly calm. The color faded slowly from her cheeks, and
her husband, watching her narrowly, saw her beautiful lips assume a new
expression of firmness and determination. She unconsciously lifted her
head into a more erect carnage. Her eyes were moist and full of
feeling. Slowly in her mind formed a resolve, and with a full knowledge
of the renunciation of self which it involved, she called up all the
nobility of her soul to aid her in living up to it. Creeds were little
to this woman, yet her life was formed upon the principles which give
to creeds their stability, and by which the moral is removed from the
"Will," she at length said, slowly and gravely, "could it not be
arranged for me to live with you? You did not tell me you were fond of
me without having thought out the possibilities."
"I should have hesitated to ask so much," was his reply, "even of your
love; I shall certainly not take it of your pity."
"My pity?" she murmured, not raising her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"You know. You cannot think me so dull as not to see that your proffer
comes not from affection, but from generosity. I thank you, but I will
accept no sacrifices."
He rose as he spoke, and put out his hand.
"I must be going," he said in an indifferent tone. "I have letters to
write that must be mailed by midnight. I am not more than half as bad,
Helen, as you have always persisted in thinking. I never made very
profound pretensions, but I've treated every body squarely from my own
point of view. If they have regarded my blessings as curses, it wasn't
my fault, and I am not sufficiently hypocritical to pretend that I
think it was. Good night."
He gave her hand a warmer and more lingering pressure than usual.
"I've had a very pleasant evening," he added, "despite the admixture of
truth. Young people don't like any bitters, but we old, shattered
wrecks need a dash of it in the wine of life to help digestion. Good
LIKE COVERED FIRE.
Much Ado about Nothing; iii.--I.
That night marked an epoch in the married life of Arthur and Edith
The results of matrimony upon character are for the most part slow and
hardly perceptible, yet even so not without certain well-defined stages
by which their progression forces itself into recognition; and in
fervid temperaments like that of the artist, any change is sure to be
rapid, and marked by sharp and sudden crises.
Edith returned from Helen with her soul in a tumult. Grant Herman had
described more than her face when he applied to her the epithet
nun-like. It was a source of perpetual wonderment to many of her
friends that such a girl could be so strongly attracted by Arthur
Fenton; but those who knew his marvelous flexibility, the unconscious
hypocrisy with which he adapted himself to any nature with which he
came in contact, and on the other hand his fascinating manner, at once
brilliant and sympathetic, felt Edith's love to be the perfectly
natural consequence. She believed him to be what she wished, and he,
without conscious deceit, became for the time being what she believed
him to be.
It was a theory of Dr. Ashton's that what Arthur Fenton became was so
purely a question of environment as to leave the artist all but
irresponsible. This fatalistic view he had laid before his wife with
some detail, at once explaining and defending his position.
"If a chameleon is put upon a black tree," he said on one occasion when
the matter was under discussion, "you have really no right to blame him
for becoming black too; it is simply his nature. If Arthur is like that
it isn't his fault. He wasn't consulted, I fancy, about how he should
be made at all. He is self-indulgent, and if a point hurts him he
glides away from it. He cannot help it."
"There is something in what you say," Helen had reluctantly assented,
"but I think you put it far too strongly."
"Oh, very likely," was the careless reply. "His strongest instinct,
though, is to escape pain. We are none of us better than our
To such a decision as this, had she heard it, Edith, too religious to
acknowledge any thing tending towards fatalism, would not for a moment
have agreed; yet it embodied a truth destined to cause her deepest
sorrow, and which was gradually forcing itself upon her. Already,
although they had been married so few weeks, even her love-blinded eyes
could not but perceive much in her husband which shocked and pained
her. She had not considered deeply enough, never having had the
experience which would have taught her the need of considering, how
great was the gulf between her moral standpoint and that of her
betrothed. He had seemed so yielding that she had failed to perceive
that his compliances were merely outward, and left his mental attitude
unchanged. Now when it became necessary, as in every wedded life it
must sooner or later, for her to appeal to his ultimate moral belief,
she was startled to find nothing with which she was in sympathy. A
cynic--or, indeed, her husband himself--would have assured her that it
was, after all, a question of standards merely, and that difference of
judgment was natural and inevitable, and that measured by his own
convictions Arthur was quite well enough. Her answer to such a
proposition would have been that there was but one standard, and that
what differed from that were not moral principles at all, but excuses
for immoral obliquity.
Outwardly, it is true, there was little in her husband's life of which
Edith could complain. He accompanied her to church, and if he quizzed
the preacher after returning home, she was ready to excuse this as the
natural result of a keen appreciation of the ludicrous. He allowed her
to do as she chose in the matter of charity work, and he even refrained
from going to his studio on Sunday, a sacrifice whose magnitude she had
no means of estimating, and which she therefore thought would be
continuous. It was when some ethical question arose between them that
Edith was disquieted, feeling sometimes as if she were looking into
black deeps of immorality. The principles which to her were most
sacred, were to him light subjects upon which, she was well aware, only
her presence prevented his jesting. The most obvious laws of rectitude
were but thistle-down before the whirlwind of his subversive theories;
and Edith found argument impossible with one who denied her every
His old acquaintances found in Arthur Fenton a change more subtle but
none the less distasteful. It was a trait of his nature to assume the
character he was half unconsciously acting, as a player may between the
scenes still feel the personality he is simulating upon the stage; and
there was about Fenton when he came in contact with the Pagans, a vague
air of remonstrance and disapproval, even when he was as bold as ever
in his own cynical utterances.
"An expression of virtuous indignation isn't becoming in you, Fenton,"
Rangely said to him one day. "Especially in a discussion which you
started yourself by the most shocking piece of wickedness I ever
And among all the Pagans there existed a yet unspoken feeling that
Fenton was ceasing to be one of them.
On returning from Helen's, Edith found her husband still engaged with
Dr. Ashton, but as soon as the latter had gone Arthur came to her room.
"Well," he said, sinking leisurely into a chair. "Do you feel any
milder? Have you had your dinner?"
"Yes," she returned, not leaving her seat on the opposite side of the
room. "I have been dining with Mrs. Ashton."
"What!" cried Arthur, as if a bomb had exploded at his feet. Then he
sank back into his languid position. "So she has told you," he remarked
"Yes, she has told me. Did you know, Arthur, when you brought us
together, that she was living under a false name, and under false
"I knew certainly," replied her husband with a coolness that marked his
inward irritation, "that her legal name was Ashton. I have still to
learn that she is living under false pretenses."
"Is it not false," retorted Edith, with difficulty controlling her
voice, her indignation increasing with every word, "to pass as widow,
to live separated from her husband?"
"Oh, false? Why, in your stiff, conventional definition of the word
that calls the letter every thing, the spirit nothing, I dare say it is
false; but what of that? She has a right to do as she pleases, has she
Edith drew herself back in her chair and looked at him across the dimly
lighted chamber. It is but justice to her husband to consider that he
could not dream of the anguish she suffered. It was, as he so often
said, a question of standards. By his, she was narrow, uncharitable,
even bigoted; tried by the code of more orthodox circles she was simply
high-minded, true and noble in her devotion to principle. She was
neither bigoted nor prudish, however the alien circumstances in which
she was placed made her appear so. To her it was a vital question of
right and purity of which Arthur disposed with such contemptuous
lightness. True as the sunlight herself, no pang could be more bitter
than the knowledge that the truth was not sacred to the man she loved.
Her husband's words pierced her like a dagger. It was some minutes
before she answered him. He rose moodily, lit a cigar at the gas jet
and sat down again before she broke the silence.
"Arthur," she said in a voice which was sad and full of the solemnity
of deep feeling, "have you no regard for truth?"
"Truth!" retorted he. "To go back to Pilate's conundrum, 'What is
truth?' If you mean a strict and fantastic adherence to facts and to
stiff conventional rules, no, I haven't the slightest regard for truth.
If you mean the eternal verities as a man's own nature and the occasion
interpret them, yes, I have the highest."
"But that is only a confusion of words, Arthur. What do you mean by
'eternal verities' if not adherence to facts? The eternal verities
cannot be whatever it pleases any one to say. Doesn't all human
intercourse depend upon faith in one another that we will adhere to
facts? Even if you do not look at the right and the wrong, there are
surely reasons enough why the truth should be sacred."
Her husband whiffed his cigar, idly blowing a succession of graceful
"You are quite a metaphysician. Did you have a pleasant dinner?"
"But, Arthur," Edith persisted, ignoring his attempt to break away,
according to his habit, from a discussion which did not please him,
"but, Arthur, do you think it right for Mrs. Greyson--Mrs. Ashton, I
mean, to live so?"
"Right? Oh, that is the same old question in another shape. Mr. Candish
will answer all those theological riddles; it is his business to. They
don't interest me."
He threw away his half smoked cigar, dusted his coat sleeve of a stray
fleck of ash, settled his cravat before the glass, and humming a tune
walked towards his wife, his hands clasped behind him.
"We do not agree, Edith," he said with cold deliberation, "and unless
you broaden your views, I am afraid we never shall. You are a dozen
decades behind the day, and are foolish enough to take all your church
teaches you in earnest. Religion should no more be taken without salt
than radishes. The church inculcates it to excuse its own existence,
but you certainly are reasonable enough to outgrow this old-fashioned
"Arthur," was her answer, "we do not agree, and if you wait for me to
come to your standards, I am afraid you are right in saying that we
never shall; and, indeed, I hope you are right. It makes me more
unhappy than you can think," she continued, her eyes swimming with
bitter tears, "that we are so far apart on what I must believe to be
vital points; on truths which I believe, Arthur, with my whole soul--as
you would, too, had you not carefully educated yourself into a doubt
which cannot make you better or happier."
She had risen as she spoke, and stood facing him, her pure, pale face
confronting his with a look of pathos which touched him despite
himself. She came a step nearer, and put her arms about his neck.
"Oh, Arthur!" she pleaded, "I love you, and how can I help mourning
that you wrong your better nature; that you resist the impulses of your
own best self?"
He yielded to her caresses in silence. He remembered that Helen had
used this same phrase.
"Women always appeal to one's best self," he commented inly, with a
mental shrug, "which means a man's inclination to do whatever a woman
asks of him."
But he kissed his wife's lips, and said, tolerantly:
"We will talk it over some other time, my dear. We are both tired
to-night. But you are right, I suppose, as you always are."
And she loosened her arms from his neck, recognizing that he had put
her appeal aside and waived the whole matter.
A NECESSARY EVIL.
Julius Caesar; ii.--2.
At the St. Filipe Club, somewhere in the small hours of that same
night, half-a-dozen members were lingering. One was at the piano,
recalling snatches from various composers, the air being clouded alike
with music and smoke wreaths.
"I think you fellows are hard on Fenton," the musician protested, in
response to some remark of Ainsworth's. "I don't see what he's done to
make you all so down on him."
"It isn't any thing that he has done," Tom Bently replied, "it is what
he has become. He has developed an entirely new side of his nature, and
a deucedly unpleasant one, too."
"I always had a mental reservation on Fenton," remarked another. "He
was always insisting that his soul was his own, don't you know; and
when a man keeps that up I always conclude that he has his private
doubts on the subject; or if he hasn't, I have."
"That's about the case with all the musical rowing we've been having
for the last year or two; every musician has been in a fever lest he
should be thought to be truckling to somebody."
"What rubbish all this concert business is," remarked Tom. "In Boston a
concert interests a little _clique_ of people, and another bigger
_clique_ pretend to be interested. The nonsense that is talked
about music here is nauseating. The public doesn't really care any
thing about it. In Boston a concert is given in Music Hall; but in
Paris it is given in the whole city. It is an event there, not a
"What do you know about music?" retorted the player, clashing a furious
discord with his elbow as he turned towards the speaker. "I'll attend
to you presently. Now I want to know about Fenton. What has he done
that you are all blackguarding him?"
"I think he's got a creed," said Ainsworth, scowling and smiling
together, according to his wont. "I hate to charge a man with any thing
so black, but I think Fenton's wife has made him take a creed, and a
pretty damned narrow one at that."
"By Jove!" the musician observed, solemnly. "It's too bad. Fenton is a
mighty bright fellow, and no end obliging."
"If it's only a creed," swore Bently, "what's all this fuss about?
Every body has a creed, hasn't he? A man's temperament is his creed."
"It isn't his having a creed that I object to," remarked Grant Herman;
"it is the question of his sincerity that troubles me. If he has taken
up some collection of dogmas merely to please his wife--who seems a
very sweet, quiet body--that is of course against him; but if he
believes it, I don't see why we should object."
"Believes it!" sniffed Ainsworth, in great contempt. "That is worse
than any thing I've said. I don't think Fenton is quite such an idiot
as that comes to. The idea of his believing in Puritanism! Oh, good
"Puritanism," Bently threw in irrelevantly, and because he liked the
sound of it, "Puritanism is the preliminary rottenness of New England.
If he is struck with that by all means let him go; the further the
"Isn't it his night for the Pagans this month?" somebody inquired.
"Yes," returned Bently, "but I took the liberty of going to him and
asking if he would let me take it this turn. I hope you fellows don't
mind." The talk thus flowed on in a desultory fashion amid ever
thickening clouds of tobacco smoke, and Grant Herman, sitting for the
most part quiet, had a whimsical idea in looking at his
half-extinguished cigar. Certain excellent cigars, his thoughts ran,
have a way of burning sluggishly about the middle, and without actually
going out, yet need to be relighted; and in the same way a man's life
goes on better for the kindling flame of a fresh attachment in middle
life. He fell into reverie, thinking of Helen and of Ninitta. He had
not seen the Italian since her flight, but from Mrs. Greyson he had
learned the story of the finding and recovery of the fugitive; and his
heart kindled with gratitude toward the woman who had prevented
consequences which he should have fruitlessly regretted. He became so
absorbed in his thoughts that only the entrance of Fred Rangely aroused
"Hallo, Rangely," the new comer was greeted, "where do you come from at
this time of night?"
"Oh, from the office of the Daily Day-before-yesterday. I had an
article in, and I wanted to read the proof. I can stand any thing in
the world better than I can endure a compositor's blunders. Do any of
you know Dr. Ashton?"
"I do," somebody answered. "What of him?"
"Rather clever fellow, wasn't he?"
"Why, yes; I think he is. He's rather odd sometimes. What about him?"
"Nonsense! I saw him myself not three hours ago, posting a letter in
the box opposite his office."
"He is dead, though. Heart disease. They just got the news at the
"Where was he?"
"In his office. The night porter of the building heard him fall against
the door. They say he must have died without a struggle."
HOW CHANCES MOCK.
II Henry IV.; in.--I.
Early on the following forenoon Helen took her way to the studio. She
was in unusually good spirits that day, for no especial reason that she
could have told, although indeed it is possible that the prospect of
meeting Grant Herman may have subtly contributed to the buoyancy of her
She walked briskly through the bracing morning across the Common, her
mind full of bright fancies. A thin column of smoke arose from the
chimney of the lodge in the deer-park, rising straight in the clear
air, and cheerfully suggestive that some tiny family, not too large for
the building, were at breakfast within. It might even be the deer
themselves; and Helen smiled at her whim, almost laughing outright as a
picture arose of a matronly doe preparing coffee, while a solemn buck
sat in his easy chair before the fire, reading his morning paper and
now and then glancing at his wife over his spectacles.
In this joyous mood she came to the studio. A sudden thought darted
through her mind, with no apparent connection, of the talk of the night
previous, and for an instant her face clouded; but the exhilaration of
the morning and the reaction from the sad, overstrained state in which
her husband had left her, both helped her to throw off all mournful
thoughts. Ninitta had not arrived, and Mrs. Greyson busied herself
about the bas-relief, preparing for work. Suddenly the tap of Grant
Herman sounded upon her door.
"Good morning," he said, entering in response to her invitation. "I
knew by your step that you were in good spirits, and it gave me so much
pleasure to think you were glad to be back, that I had to come up."
"I am in good spirits," she returned. "It is such a glorious morning,
and Ninitta has kept me away from my work long enough for me to be very
glad to return to it."
"What of Ninitta?" he asked, a shadow coming over his fine face. "She
is not still with you?"
"No, but she is coming to pose this morning, though I hardly think she
is strong enough."
The sculptor took in his hands a bit of clay and began nervously to
model it into various shapes.
"Why did you take her home, Mrs. Greyson?" he asked after a moment's
"Because she needed me," Helen answered. "And besides," she added
hesitatingly, "I thought you would like her to be under my care."
"Did you?" he returned eagerly. "I was more grateful to you than you
would let me tell you! I--"
He broke off abruptly as if determined to keep himself from any
"Come into my studio a moment," said he, throwing down the clay he
held. "I have something to show you."
Helen followed willingly, glad to avoid the chance of their being
interrupted by the arrival of Ninitta, whose jealousy might easily be
aroused again. The sculptor led the way through a couple of chambers,
bringing her out at the top of the stairs leading down in the corner of
his studio. The morning sun shone in through the window far up in the
side wall, tinged to rich colors by the stained glass which Herman had
set there. The statues and casts looked in the light coming from above
them, as if they had just emerged from garments of shadows which yet
lay fallen about their feet. Helen uttered an exclamation of
"How charming the studio is in this light," she said. "It is like
looking down into a ghost world."
"It is a ghost world," was the response. "It has long been haunted, but
I had not supposed that any eyes but my own saw the wraiths which dwell
The vibratory quality in his voice warned her not to answer. She felt
that she stood upon the brink of a significant interview, yet she
lacked the resolution to turn back.
She descended the first flight of steps into the gallery, the sculptor
following closely. She could not have defined to herself what she
wished or intended. Somewhat paradoxically she wished to escape from
Herman, yet had she fled she would have been unhappy had he not
pursued. Nothing is more contradictory than a nascent passion, and,
indeed, the tenderness of any woman for a man is not very profound if
unmixed with some desire to escape from him.
All sorts of artistic rubbish had accumulated in the little gallery;
broken casts, fragments of statues and vases, pieces of time discolored
marble, and the thousand objects which make up the _debris_ of a
sculptor's studio. A bit of warm colored though faded tapestry hung
dustily over the railing of the little balcony, making the
white-plaster goddess appear doubly wan. Against it stood a small
antique altar, around whose base a train of garland-bearing Cupids
danced in immortal glee.
"How lovely," Mrs. Greyson said eagerly. "I never saw this altar
before. Where did you get it, and why is it hidden up here?"
"I picked it up in Rome, years ago," Herman returned, a trifle
shamefacedly. "It came from somewhere in Greece. Isn't it beautiful?"
"Yes; but why is it hidden here?" she repeated.
"The truth is that when I was young and romantic, I bought that altar--
it is a Hymeneal altar, they say--and said I would pour a libation upon
it at my marriage; a sentimental and heathenish notion enough."
He paused a moment, a certain hesitancy showing itself more and more
definitely in his manner. He glanced at his companion, then looked away
into the ghost world below. Her heart was beating quickly. She cast
down her eyes, her hand, the whiter by contrast with the discolored
marble, resting upon the altar.
"When I left Rome," he resumed, "I could not quite make up my mind to
leave it behind; so I had it boxed up and sent home. It has been boxed
up ever since until--until recently."
However determined Helen might be to avoid dangerous topics, she was
yet a woman, and she had in her heart a strong yearning towards the
sculptor which could hardly be repressed. Before she had considered to
what the question might lead, she asked:
"Recently," re-echoed he, regaining his composure, "I took it out and
meant it to stand down in the corner there to remind me."
He pointed as he spoke, down into the studio below, still dim, since
the screens covered the large windows. Her glance followed his motion
in an abstracted, impersonal way.
"To remind you?" she in turn echoed.
"To remind me," he took up the words again, "that I am like other men,
and that life is at best an aspiration; at worst a despair."
She understood the intimation of his words, but it seemed not to touch
her. She did not flush or start, but regarded abstractedly the jocund
Cupids. Then she raised her eyes to his face.
"But you removed it here."
"Yes," he said. "Our friend Fenton once said that there is in this
world only one good, into which all others resolve themselves--the
amelioration of life. The reminder, with all its suggestiveness, was
too poignant; I ameliorated my life by putting it up here out of
She did not question him further, but, gathering up her dress, turned
and went down the next flight of stairs, which brought her to a landing
eight or ten feet from the floor of the studio. There she turned again
and looked back at him descending. She almost seemed to herself not to
speak, yet by some inward volition her lips formed the words:
"Hope is only a bubble, yet it rims with rainbows whatever we see
mirrored in it."
"Yes?" he returned, inquiringly.
"I was only thinking," replied she, continuing her descent, "that it is
worth some pains to keep the bubble unbroken as long as possible."
"But facts are such achromatic glasses."
To this she made no answer, and together they moved towards a modeling
stand upon which stood something covered with wet cloths. These the
sculptor carefully removed.
A perfectly nude male figure was disclosed, exquisitely modeled, and
of superb proportions. It lay upon a hillock, about which fragments of
broken weapons and the torn ground indicated a recent battle. The head
and limbs of the figure drooped down the sides of the mound, falling
with the limpness of death. About the noble, lifeless head were bent
and broken stalks of poppies, ridden down by the horses, yet not wholly
Herman and Mrs. Greyson stood in silence looking at the figure, the
pathos of the work so penetrating Helen that the tears gathered in her
"What do you call it?" she asked, struggling to regain composure.
Her companion pulled away the cloth, which still lay against the
pedestal, and she saw the words:
"I strew these opiate flowers
Round thy restless pillow."
Again she was silent. Perplexity, regret, and, more keenly than all, a
delicious exultation, overcame her. She stole a half-glance up into the
face of the tall form beside her.
"But he is dead," she murmured at length.
"It seems so," he assented.
She turned and faced him, a sudden paleness making her very lips white.
"I have no right to let you show me this," she cried, in a voice
thrilling with emotion. "My husband is alive. I never pretended to love
him, but I am his wife. You must have seen him with Arthur Fenton--Dr.
"Dr. Ashton!" he echoed, in bewilderment. "Your husband? Dr. Ashton,
"Yes," replied she, her eyes falling, and her breast beginning to
heave. "I had promised not to tell; but it was not right. I should have
told you, but I could not bear--Oh," she cried, breaking off her
sentence abruptly, "if you despise me it is only my due!"
"Despise you! As if it were possible! But don't you know? Haven't you
"Know? Been told?" demanded Helen, in alarm. "What is it?"
"Haven't you seen the morning paper, even?"
"No. What was in it? Has any thing happened to Dr. Ashton?"
"Yes," Herman said slowly, wondering in a baffled way if 'it was
possible to soften the blow. "He is dead."
Her cry rang out sharply in the dim studio, over that clay figure of a
A cry of horror, of pain, and, too, of remorse. There was in it nothing
of love, only that nameless fear that death brings, and still more
that groundless self-reproach which sensitive natures must feel when
confronted by the irremediable--as if some blame must be taken for the
acts of fate. Imaginative natures never quite shake off the
responsibility of the inevitable, and Helen began instinctively to
question herself. The scene of the previous night came before her.
Ought she to have yielded to the love which had called her, late
aftermath of a blighted wedded life? At least when her husband spoke of
his suffering she might more strongly--A sudden thought pierced her
like a knife.
"How did he die?" she questioned breathlessly.
"Of heart disease."
So then the world would not know the truth, if what she feared were
"I will go home," she said. "Please tell Ninitta."
When she reached her rooms she found a letter, addressed in Dr.
Ashton's hand, which the penny-post had left for her after she had gone
out in the morning. It contained only an impression in wax which
resembled a large seal. With hot eyes she bent over it, making nothing
of its reversed letters. Then, with a sudden thought, she held it
before the glass, seeing in the mirror the words, which read backwards,
like the life of him whose last act had been their forming:
"DEATH FOILS THE GODS."
HE SPEAKS THE MERE CONTRARY.
Love's Labor's Lost; i.--1.
"Edith," Arthur Fenton said, looking up from his paper at breakfast
that morning, "Dr. Ashton is dead."
"Dead!" she exclaimed.
Her husband's indifferent tone shocked her. She was not without an
unphrased feeling that death was so sacred or at least so solemn a
subject that it should be treated with reverence. Any jesting upon it
made her cringe, and the light mention of it seemed to her almost
"So the paper says," replied he; and he read aloud the paragraph
containing the announcement of Dr, Ashton's sudden death from heart
disease. "It is too bad," he commented. "He was a mighty smart fellow
and square as a brick. I wonder what made him do it now."
"Made him do what?" she asked. "How strangely you talk. Made him die?"
"Yes; that's what I meant. I knew he had a trouble which would probably
make him do it sooner or later, but I'd no idea it would come so soon."
"Arthur, what do you mean," Edith repeated, the tears coming into her
eyes. "I don't like to hear you speak of death so--so--flippantly."
"Flippantly, my dear?" returned he. "I'm sure I don't know why you
should use that word. If a man takes his life, why shouldn't I speak of
it,--to you, that is; of course I should not in public."
"Takes his life!" she cried. "Do you mean--"
"Of course I know nothing about it," her husband replied as coolly as
ever, and watching sharply the effect of his words; "but I presume Will
took poison, poor old fellow."
She sank back in her chair, white and trembling.
"It is what might have been expected," she said. "It almost seems as if
Providence measured to him the portion of poor Frontier."
"Providence is noted for close observance of the _lex talionis_"
sneered Arthur, "but Dr. Ashton didn't believe in the existence of that
functionary, so it really ought to have passed him by. It would
certainly have been more dignified."
"But, oh!" she cried out, apparently not hearing or not heeding his
last words, "into what sort of a world have you brought me, Arthur? Are
all your friends so desperate that they think only of taking their own
lives? Have they no faith, no hope, no beyond? I feel as if it were all