Part 3 out of 7
was not a worm. She must have somewhere in her the
germs of something less contemptible than the essential
character of so many of the eminently respectable
women she knew. She could picture them in the situation
in which she had found herself. What would they
have done? Why, what every instinct of her education
impelled her to do; what some latent love of freedom,
some unsuspected courage of self-respect had forbidden
her to do, had withheld her from doing.
Her thoughts and the gorgeous sunshine and her
youth and health put her in a steadily less cheerless
mood as by a roundabout way she sought the shop of the
jeweler who sold the general the gold bag she had
selected. The proprietor himself was in the front part
of the shop and received ``Madame la Generale'' with
all the honors of her husband's wealth. She brought
no experience and no natural trading talent to the
enterprise she was about to undertake; so she went
directly to the main point.
``This bag,'' said she, laying it upon the glass
between them, ``I bought it here a short time ago.''
``I remember perfectly, madame. It is the handsomest,
the most artistic, we have sold this year.''
``I wish to sell it back to you,'' said she.
``You wish to get something else and include it as
part payment, madame?''
``No, I wish to get the money for it.''
``Ah, but that is difficult. We do not often make
those arrangements. Second-hand articles--''
``But the bag is quite new. Anyhow, it must have
some value. Of course I'd not expect the full price.''
The jeweler smiled. ``The full price? Ah, madame,
we should not think of offering it again as it is.
``No matter,'' interrupted Mildred. The man's
expression--the normally pleasant and agreeable countenance
turned to repulsive by craft and lying--made
her eager to be gone. ``What is the most you will
``I shall have to consider--''
``I've only a few minutes. Please do not irritate
The man was studying her countenance with a
desperate look. Why was she, the bride of the monstrously
rich American, why was she trying to sell the
bag? Did it mean the end of her resources? Or, were
there still huge orders to be got from her? His shrewd-
ness, trained by thirty years of dealing with all kinds of
luxurious human beings, went exploring in vain. He
was alarmed by her frown. He began hesitatingly:
``The jewels and the gold are only a small part of
the value. The chief value is the unique design, so
elegant yet so simple. For the jewels and the gold,
perhaps two thousand francs--''
``The purse was twelve thousand francs,'' interrupted
``Perfectly, madame. But--''
``I am in great haste. How much will you give me?''
``The most would be four thousand, I fear. I shall
count up more carefully, if madame will--''
``No, four thousand will do.''
``I will send the money to madame at her hotel. The
Continental, is it not?''
``No, I must have it at once.''
The jeweler hesitated. Mildred, flushing scarlet with
shame--but he luckily thought it anger--took up the
bag and moved toward the door.
``Pardon, madame, but certainly. Do you wish
some gold or all notes?''
``Notes,'' answered she. ``Fifty and hundred-franc
A moment later she was in the street with the notes
in a small bundle in the bosom of her wrap. She went
hurriedly up the street. As she was about to turn the
corner into the boulevard she on impulse glanced back.
An automobile had just drawn up at the jeweler's door
and General Siddall--top-hat, sable-lined overcoat,
waxed mustache and imperial, high-heeled boots, gold-
mounted cane--was descending. And she knew that
he had awakened to his one oversight, and was on his
way to repair it. But she did not know that the jeweler
--old and wise in human ways--would hastily vanish
with the bag and that an assistant would come forward
with assurances that madame had not been in the shop
and that, if she should come in, no business would be
negotiated without the general's express consent. She
all but fainted at the narrowness of her escape and fled
round into the boulevard. She entered a taxi and told
the man to drive to Foyot's restaurant on the left bank
--where the general would never think of looking for
When she had breakfasted she strolled in the Luxembourg
Gardens, in even better humor with herself and
with the world. There was still that horrid-faced
future, but it was not leering into her very face. It
was nearly four thousand francs away--``and if I
hadn't been so stupid, I'd have got eight thousand, I'm
sure,'' she said. But she was rather proud of a stupidity
about money matters. And four thousand francs,
eight hundred dollars--that was quite a good sum.
She had an instinct that the general would do
something disagreeable about the French and English ports
of departure for America. But perhaps he would not
think of the Italian ports. That night she set out for
Genoa, and three days later, in a different dress and
with her hair done as she never wore it, sailed as Miss
Mary Stevens for America on a German Mediterranean
She had taken the whole of a cabin on the quieter
deck below the promenade, paying for it nearly half
of what was left of the four thousand francs. The
first three days she kept to her cabin except at the
dinner-hour, when she ventured to the deck just outside
and walked up and down for exercise. Then followed
four days of nasty weather during which she did not
leave her bed. As the sea calmed, she, wretched and
reckless, had a chair put for herself under her window
and sat there, veiled and swathed and turning her face
away whenever a rare wandering passenger happened
to pass along. Toward noon a man paused before her
to light a cigarette. She, forgetting for the moment
her precautions, looked at him. It chanced that he
looked at her at exactly the same instant. Their
glances met. He started nervously, moved on a few
steps, returned. Said she mockingly:
``You know you needn't speak if you don't want to,
``There isn't a soul on board that anybody ever
knew or that ever knew anybody,'' said he. ``So why
``And you look horribly bored.''
``Unspeakably,'' replied Baird. ``I've spoken to no
one since I left Paris.''
``What are you doing on this ship?'' inquired she.
``To be perfectly honest,'' said he, ``I came this way
to avoid you. I was afraid you'd take passage on my
steamer just to amuse yourself with my nervousness.
And--here you are!''
``Amusing myself with your nervousness.''
``But I'm not nervous. There's no danger. Will
you let me have a chair put beside yours?''
``It will be a charity on your part,'' said she.
When he was comfortably settled, he explained his
uneasiness. ``I see I've got to tell you,'' said he, ``for
I don't want you to think me a shouting ass. The fact
is my wife wants to get a divorce from me and to soak
me for big alimony. She's a woman who'll do anything
to gain her end, and--well, for some reason she's always
been jealous of you. I didn't care to get into
trouble, or to get you into trouble.''
``I'm traveling as Mary Stevens,'' said Mildred.
``No one knows I'm aboard.''
``Oh, I'm sure we're quite safe. We can enjoy the
rest of this voyage.''
A sea voyage not merely induces but compels a
feeling of absolute detachment from the world. To both
Stanley and Mildred their affairs--the difficulties in
which they were involved on terra firma--ceased for
the time to have any reality. The universe was nothing
but a vast stretch of water under a vast stretch
of sky; the earth and the things thereof were a retrospect
and a foreboding. Without analyzing it, both
he and she felt that they were free--free from cares,
from responsibilities--free to amuse themselves. And
they proceeded to enjoy themselves in the necessarily
quiet and limited way imposed by the littleness of
their present world and the meagerness of the
As neither had the kind of mind that expands in
abstractions, they were soon talking in the most intimate
and personal way about themselves--were confessing
things which neither would have breathed to anyone
on land. It was the man who set the example of breaking
through the barriers of conventional restraint--
perhaps of delicacy, though it must be said that human
beings are rarely so fine in their reticences as the theory
of refinement would have us believe. Said Stanley,
after the preliminaries of partial confidence and halting
avowal that could not be omitted, even at sea, by a man
of ``gentlemanly instinct'':
``I don't know why I shouldn't own up. I know
you'll never tell anybody. Fact is, I and my wife were
never in love with each other for a second. We married
because we were in the same set and because our incomes
together gave us enough to do the thing rather well.''
After a solemn pause. ``I was in love with another
woman--one I couldn't marry. But I'll not go into
that. As for my wife, I don't think she was in love
with anyone. She's as cold as a stone.''
Mildred smiled ironically.
Baird saw and flushed. ``At least, she was to me.
I was ready to make a sort of bluff. You see, a man
feels guilty in those circumstances and doesn't want
to humiliate a woman. But she--'' he laughed
unpleasantly--``she wasn't bothering about MY feelings.
That's a nice, selfish little way you ladies have.''
``She probably saw through you and hated you for
playing the hypocrite to her,'' said Mildred.
``You may be right, I never thought of that,''
confessed he. ``She certainly had a vicious way of
hammering the other woman indirectly. Not that she ever
admitted being jealous. I guess she knew. Everybody
usually knows everything.''
``And there was a great deal of talk about you and
me,'' said Mildred placidly.
``I didn't say it was you,'' protested Stanley, reddening.
``No matter,'' said Mildred. ``Don't bother about
that. It's all past and gone.''
``Well, at any rate, my marriage was the mistake of
my life. I'm determined that she shan't trip me up and
trim me for any alimony. And as matters stand, she
can't. She left me of her own accord.''
``Then,'' said Mildred thoughtfully, ``if the wife
leaves of her own accord, she can't get alimony?''
``Certainly not--not a cent.''
``I supposed so,'' said she. ``I'm not sure I'd take it
if I could get it. Still, I suppose I would.'' She
laughed. ``What's the use of being a hypocrite with
oneself? I know I would. All I could get.''
``Then you had no LEGAL excuse for leaving?''
``No,'' said she. ``I--just bolted. I don't know
what's to become of me. I seem not to care, at present,
but no doubt I shall as soon as we see land again.''
``You'll go back to him,'' said Stanley.
``No,'' replied she, without emphasis or any accent
``Sure you will,'' rejoined he. ``It's your living.
What else can you do?''
``That's what I must find out. Surely there's
something else for a woman besides such a married life as
mine. I can't and won't go back to my husband. And
I can't and won't go to the house at Hanging Rock.
Those two things are settled.''
``You mean that?''
``Absolutely. And I've got--less than three hundred
and fifty dollars in the whole world.''
Baird was silent. He was roused from his abstraction
by gradual consciousness of an ironical smile on
the face of the girl, for she did not look like a married
woman. ``You are laughing at me. Why?'' inquired
``I was reading your thoughts.''
``You think you've frightened me?''
``Naturally. Isn't a confession such as I made
enough to frighten a man? It sounded as though I
were getting ready to ask alms.''
``So it did,'' said he. ``But I wasn't thinking of it
in that way. You WILL be in a frightful fix pretty soon,
``It looks that way. But you need not be uneasy.''
``Oh, I want to help you. I'll do everything I can.
I was trying to think of something you could make
money at. I was thinking of the stage, but I suppose
you'd balk at that. I'll admit it isn't the life for a
lady. But the same thing's true of whatever money
can be made at. If I were you, I'd go back.''
``If I were myself, I'd go back,'' said Mildred.
``But I'm not myself.''
``You will be again, as soon as you face the situation.''
``No,'' said she slowly, ``no, I shall never be myself
``But you could have everything a woman wants.
Except, of course--perhaps-- But you never struck
me as being especially sentimental.''
``Sentiment has nothing to do with it,'' rejoined she.
``Do you think I could get a place on the stage?''
``Oh, you'd have to study a while, I suppose.''
``But I can't afford that. If I could afford to study,
I'd have my voice trained.''
Baird's face lighted up with enthusiasm. ``The very
thing!'' he cried. ``You've got a voice, a grand-opera
voice. I've heard lots of people say so, and it sounded
that way to me. You must cultivate your voice.''
Mildred laughed. ``Don't talk nonsense. Even I
know that's nonsense. The lessons alone would cost
thousands of dollars. And how could I live for the
four or five years?''
``You didn't let me finish,'' said Baird. ``I was
going to say that when you get to New York you must
go and have your voice passed on--by some impartial
person. If that person says it's worth cultivating, why,
I'm willing to back you--as a business proposition.
I can afford to take the risk. So, you see, it's all
He had spoken rapidly, with a covert suggestion of
fear lest she would rebuke him sharply for what she
might regard as an impertinent offer. She surprised
him by looking at him calmly, reflectively, and saying:
``Yes, you could afford it, couldn't you?''
``I'm sure I could. And it's the sort of thing that's
done every day. Of course, no one'd know that we had
made this little business arrangement. But that's easily
managed. I'd be glad if you'd let me do it, Mildred.
I'd like to feel that I was of some use in the world.
And I'd like to do something for YOU.''
By way of exceedingly cautious experiment he
ventured to put ever so slight an accent of tenderness upon
the ``you.'' He observed her furtively but nervously.
He could not get a hint of what was in her mind. She
gazed out toward the rising and falling horizon line.
Presently she said:
``I'll think about it.''
``You must let me do it, Mildred. It's the sensible
thing--and you know me well enough to know that
my friendship can be counted on.''
``I'll think about it,'' was all she would concede.
They discussed the singing career all that and the
succeeding days--the possibilities, the hopes, the dangers--
but the hopes a great deal more than the dangers.
He became more and more interested in her and
in the project, as her beauty shone out with the
tranquillizing sea and as her old charm of cleverness at
saying things that amused him reasserted itself. She,
dubious and lukewarm at first, soon was trying to curb
her own excited optimism; but long before they sighted
Sandy Hook she was merely pretending to hang back.
He felt discouraged by her parting! ``If I decide to
go on, I'll write you in a few days.'' But he need not
have felt so. She had made up her mind to accept his
offer. As for the complications involved in such curiously
intimate relations with a man of his temperament,
habits, and inclinations, she saw them very vaguely in-
deed--refused to permit herself to see them any less
vaguely. Time enough to deal with complications
when and as they arose; why needlessly and foolishly
annoy herself and hamper herself? Said she to herself,
``I must begin to be practical.''
AT the pier Mildred sent her mother a telegram,
giving the train by which she would arrive--that and
nothing more. As she descended from the parlor-car
there stood Mrs. Presbury upon the platform, face
wreathed in the most joyous of welcoming smiles, not
a surface trace of the curiosity and alarm storming
within. After they had kissed and embraced with a
genuine emotion which they did not try to hide, because
both suddenly became unconscious of that world whereof
ordinarily they were constantly mindful--after caresses
and tears Mrs. Presbury said:
``It's all very well to dress plain, when everyone
knows you can afford the best. But don't you think
you're overdoing it a little?''
Mildred laughed somewhat nervously. ``Wait till
we're safe at home,'' said she.
On the way up from the station in the carriage they
chattered away in the liveliest fashion, to make the
proper impression upon any observing Hanging-
Rockers. ``Luckily, Presbury's gone to town to-day,''
said his wife. ``But really he's quite livable--hasn't
gone back to his old ways. He doesn't know it, but
he's rapidly growing deaf. He imagines that everyone
is speaking more and more indistinctly, and he has
lost interest in conversation. Then, too, he has done
well in Wall Street, and that has put him in a good
``He'll not be surprised to see me--alone,'' said
``Wait till we're home,'' said her mother nervously.
At the house Mrs. Presbury carried on a foolish,
false-sounding conversation for the benefit of the servants,
and finally conducted Mildred to her bedroom and
shut doors and drew portieres and glanced into closets
before saying: ``Now, what IS the matter, Millie?
WHERE is your husband?''
``In Paris, I suppose,'' replied Mildred. ``I have
left him, and I shall never go back.''
``Presbury said you would!'' cried her mother.
``But I didn't believe it. I don't believe it. I brought
you up to do your duty, and I know you will.''
This was Mildred's first opportunity for frank and
plain speaking; and that is highly conducive to frank
and plain thinking. She now began to see clearly why
she had quit the general. Said she: ``Mamma, to be
honest and not mince words, I've left him because there's
nothing in it.''
``Isn't he rich?'' inquired her mother. ``I've always
had a kind of present--''
``Oh, he's rich, all right,'' interrupted the girl.
``But he saw to it that I got no benefit from that.''
``But you wrote me how he was buying you everything!''
``So I thought. In fact he was buying ME nothing.''
And she went on to explain the general's system.
Her mother listened impatiently. She would have in-
terrupted the long and angry recital many times had
not Mildred insisted on a full hearing of her grievances,
of the outrages that had been heaped upon her.
``And,'' she ended, ``I suppose he's got it so arranged
that he could have me arrested as a thief for taking the
``Yes, it's terrible and all that,'' said her mother.
``But I should have thought living with me here when
Presbury was carrying on so dreadfully would have
taught you something. Your case isn't an exception,
any more than mine is. That's the sort of thing we
women have to put up with from men, when we're in
``Not I,'' said Mildred loftily.
``Yes, you,'' retorted her mother. ``ANY woman.
EVERY woman. Unless we have money of our own, we all
have trouble with the men about money, sooner or later,
in one way or another. And rich men!--why, it's
notorious that they're always more or less mean about money.
A wife has got to use tact. Why, I even had to use
some tact with your father, and he was as generous a
man as ever lived. Tact--that's a woman's whole life.
You ought to have used tact. You'll go back to him
and use tact.''
``You don't know him, mamma!'' cried Mildred.
``He's a monster. He isn't human.''
Mrs. Presbury drew a long face and said in a sad,
soothing voice: ``Yes, I know, dear. Men are very,
very awful, in some ways, to a nice woman--with
refined, ladylike instincts. It's a great shock to a
``Oh, gammon!'' interrupted Mildred. ``Don't be
silly, mother. It isn't worth while for one woman to
talk that kind of thing to another. I didn't fully know
what I was doing when I married a man I didn't love
--a man who was almost repulsive to me. But I knew
enough. And I was getting along well enough, as any
woman does, no matter what she may say--yes, you
needn't look shocked, for that's hypocrisy, and I know
it now-- But, as I was saying, I didn't begin to HATE
him until he tried to make a slave of me. A slave!''
she shuddered. ``He's a monster!''
``A little tact, and you can get everything you want,''
insisted her mother.
``I tell you, you don't know the man,'' cried Mildred.
``By tact I suppose you mean I could have sold things
behind his back--and all that.'' She laughed. ``He
hasn't got any back. He had it so arranged that those
cold, wicked eyes of his were always watching me. His
second wife tried `tact.' He caught her and drove her
into the streets. I'd have had no chance to get a cent,
and if I had gotten it I'd not have dared spend it. Do
you imagine I ran away from him without having
THOUGHT? If there'd been any way of staying on, any
way of making things even endurable, I'd have
``But you've got to go back, Milly,'' cried her
mother, in tears.
``You mean that you can't support me?''
``And your brother Frank--'' Mrs. Presbury's
eyes flashed and her rather stout cheeks quivered. ``I
never thought I'd tell anybody, but I'll tell you. I
never liked your brother Frank, and he never liked me.
That sounds dreadful, doesn't it?''
``No, mother dear,'' said Mildred gently. ``I've
learned that life isn't at all as--as everybody pretends.''
``Indeed it isn't,'' said her mother. ``Mothers always
have favorites among their children, and very often a
mother dislikes one of her children. Of course she
hides her feeling and does her duty. But all the same
she can't help the feeling that is down in her heart. I
had a presentiment before he was born that I wouldn't
like him, and sure enough, I didn't. And he didn't like
me, or his father, or any of us.''
``It would never occur to me to turn to him,'' said
``Then you see that you've got to go back to the
general. You can't get a divorce and alimony, for it
was you that left him--and for no cause. He was
within his rights.''
Mildred hesitated, confessed: ``I had thought of
going back to him and acting in such a way that he'd
be glad to give me a divorce and an allowance.''
``Yes, you might do that,'' said her mother. ``A
great many women do. And, after all, haven't they a
right to? A lady has got to have proper support, and
is it just to ask her to live with a man she loathes?''
``I haven't thought of the right or wrong of it,'' said
Mildred. ``It looks to me as though right and wrong
have very little to do with life as it's lived. They're for
``Mildred!'' exclaimed her mother, deeply shocked.
Mildred was not a little shocked at her own thoughts
as she inspected them in the full light into which speech
had dragged them. ``Anyhow,'' she went on, ``I soon
saw that such a plan was hopeless. He's not the man to
be trifled with. Long before I could drive him to give
me a living and let me go he would have driven me to
flight or suicide.''
Her mother had now had time to reflect upon Mildred's
revelations. Aided by the impressions she herself had
gotten of the little general, she began to understand why
her daughter had fled and why she would not return.
She felt that the situation was one which time alone
could solve. Said she: ``Well, the best thing is for
you to stay on here and wait until he makes some
``He'll have me watched--that's all he'll do,'' said
Mildred. ``When he gets ready he'll divorce me for
Mrs. Presbury felt that she was right. But,
concealing her despondency, she said: ``All we can do
is to wait and see. You must send for your luggage.''
``I've nothing but a large bag,'' said Mildred. ``I
checked it in the parcel-room of the New York station.''
Mrs. Presbury was overwhelmed. How account to
Hanging Rock for the reappearance of a baggageless
and husbandless bride? But she held up bravely.
With a cheerfulness that did credit to her heart and
showed how well she loved her daughter she said: ``We
must do the best we can. We'll get up some story.''
``No,'' said Mildred. ``I'm going back to New
York. You can tell people here what you please--
that I've gone to rejoin him or to wait for him--any
``At least you'll wait and talk with Presbury,''
pleaded her mother. ``He is VERY sensible.''
``If he has anything to suggest,'' said Mildred, ``he
can write it. I'll send you my address.''
``Milly,'' cried her mother, agitated to the depths,
``where ARE you going? WHAT are you going to do?
You look so strange--not at all like yourself.''
``I'm going to a hotel to-night--probably to a
boarding-house to-morrow,'' said Mildred. ``In a few
days I shall begin to--'' she hesitated, decided against
confidence--'' begin to support myself at something or
``You must be crazy!'' cried her mother. ``You
wouldn't do anything--and you couldn't.''
``Let's not discuss it, mamma,'' said the girl tranquilly.
The mother looked at her with eyes full of the
suspicion one lady cannot but have as to the projects of
another lady in such circumstances.
``Mildred,'' she said pleadingly, ``you must be
careful. You'll find yourself involved in a dreadful scandal.
I know you wouldn't DO anything WRONG no matter how
you were driven. But--''
``I'll not do anything FOOLISH, mamma,'' interrupted
the girl. ``You are thinking about men, aren't you?''
``Men are always ready to destroy a woman,'' said
her mother. ``You must be careful--''
Mildred was laughing. ``Oh, mamma,'' she cried, ``do
be sensible and do give me credit for a little sense. I've
got a very clear idea of what a woman ought to do
about men, and I assure you I'm not going to be FOOLISH.
And you know a woman who isn't foolish can be trusted
where a woman who's only protected by her principles
would yield to the first temptation--or hunt round for
``But you simply can't go to New York and live
there all alone--and with nothing!''
``Can I stay here--for more than a few days?''
``But maybe, after a few days--'' stammered her
``You see, I've got to begin,'' said Mildred. ``So
why delay? I'd gain nothing. I'd simply start Hanging
Rock to gossiping--and start Mr. Presbury to
acting like a fiend again.''
Her mother refused to be convinced--was the firmer,
perhaps, because she saw that Mildred was unshakable
in her resolve to leave forthwith--the obviously sensible
and less troublesome course. They employed the rest
of Mildred's three hours' stop in arguing--when Mildred
was not raging against the little general. Her
mother was more than willing to assist her in this
denunciation, but Mildred preferred to do it all herself.
She had--perhaps by unconsciously absorbed training
from her lawyer father--an unusual degree of ability
to see both sides of a question. When she assailed her
husband, she saw only her own side; but somehow when
her mother railed and raved, she began to see another
side--and the sight was not agreeable. She wished
to feel that her husband was altogether in the wrong;
she did not wish to have intruded upon her such facts
as that she had sold herself to him--quite in the
customary way of ladies, but nevertheless quite shamelessly
--or that in strict justice she had done nothing for him
to entitle her to a liberal money allowance or any allowance
On the train, going back to New York, she admitted
to herself that the repulsive little general had held
strictly to the terms of the bargain--'' but only a devil
and one with not a single gentlemanly instinct would
insist on such a bargain.'' It took away much of the
shame, and all of the sting, of despising herself to feel
that she was looking still lower when she turned to
To edge out the little general she began to think of
her mother, but as she passed in review what her mother
had said and how she had said it she saw that for all
the protests and arguings her mother was more than
resigned to her departure. Mildred felt no bitterness;
ever since she could remember her mother had been a
shifter of responsibility. Still, to stare into the face
of so disagreeable a fact as that one had no place
on earth to go to, no one on earth to turn to, not even
one's own mother--to stare on at that grimacing ugliness
did not tend to cheerfulness. Mildred tried to
think of the future--but how could she think of something
that was nothing? She knew that she would go
on, somehow, in some direction, but by no effort of
her imagination could she picture it. She was so
impressed by the necessity of considering the future that,
to rouse herself, she tried to frighten herself with
pictures of poverty and misery, of herself a derelict in the
vast and cold desert of New York--perhaps in rags,
hungry, ill, but all in vain. She did not believe it.
Always she had had plenty to wear and to eat, and
comfortable surroundings. She could no more think
of herself as without those things than a living person
can imagine himself dead.
``I'm a fool,'' she said to herself. ``I'm certain to
get into all sorts of trouble. How can it be otherwise,
when I've no money, no friends, no experience, no way
of making a living--no honest way--perhaps no way
of the other kind, either?'' There are many women
who ecstasize their easily tickled vanities by fancying
that if they were so disposed they need only flutter an
eyelid to have men by the legion striving for their favors,
each man with a bag of gold. Mildred, inexperienced
as she was, had no such delusions. Her mind happened
not to be of that chastely licentious caste which continually
revolves and fantastically exaggerates the things
of the body.
She could not understand her own indifference about
the future. She did not realize that it was wholly due
to Stanley Baird's offer. She was imagining she was
regarding that offer as something she might possibly
consider, but probably would not. She did not know
that her soul had seized upon it, had enfolded it and
would on no account let it go. It is the habit of our
secret selves thus to make decisions and await their own
good time for making us acquainted with them.
With her bag on the seat beside her she set out to
find a temporary lodging. Not until several hotels had
refused her admittance on the pretext that they were
``full up'' did she realize that a young woman alone is
an object of suspicion in New York. When a fourth
room-clerk expressed his polite regrets she looked him
straight in the eye and said:
``I understand. But I can't sleep in the street. You
must tell me where I can go.''
``Well, there's the Ripon over in Seventh Avenue,''
``Is it respectable?'' said she.
``Oh, it's very clean and comfortable there,'' said he.
``They'll treat you right.''
``Is it respectable?'' said she.
``Well, now, it doesn't LOOK queer, if that's what you
mean,'' replied he. ``You'll do very nicely there. You
can be just as quiet as you want.''
She saw that hotel New York would not believe her
respectable. So to the Ripon she went, and was admitted
without discussion. As the last respectable clerk
had said, it did not LOOK queer. But it FELT queer; she
resolved that she would go into a boarding-house the
very next day.
Here again what seemed simple proved difficult. No
respectable boarding-house would have Miss Mary
Stevens. She was confident that nothing in her dress
or manner hinted mystery. Yet those sharp-eyed land-
ladies seemed to know at once that there was something
peculiar about her. Most of them became rude the
instant they set eyes upon her. A few--of the obviously
less prosperous class--talked with her, seemed to be
listening for something which her failing to say decided
them upon all but ordering her out of the house. She,
hindered by her innocence, was slow in realizing that
she could not hope for admission to any select respectable
circle, even of high-class salesladies and clerks,
unless she gave a free and clear account of herself--
whence she had come, what she was doing, how she got
Toward the end of the second day's wearisome and
humiliating search she found a house that would admit
her. It was a pretentious, well-furnished big house in
Madison Avenue. The price--thirty-five dollars a
week for board, a bedroom with a folding bed in an
alcove, and a bath, was more than double what she had
counted on paying, but she discovered that decent and
clean lodgings and food fit to eat were not to be had
for less. ``And I simply can't live pig-fashion,'' said
she. ``I'd be so depressed that I could do nothing. I
can't live like a wild animal, and I won't.'' She had
some vague notion--foreboding--that this was not
the proper spirit with which to face life. ``I suppose
I'm horribly foolish,'' reflected she, ``but if I must go
down, I'll go down with my colors flying.'' She did
not know precisely what that phrase meant, but it
sounded fine and brave and heartened her to take the
The landlady was a Mrs. Belloc. Mildred had not
talked with her twenty minutes before she had a feeling
that this name was assumed. The evening of her first
day in the house she learned that her guess was correct
--learned it from the landlady herself. After dinner
Mrs. Belloc came into her room to cheer her up, to find
out about her and to tell her about herself.
``Now that you've come,'' said she, ``the house is
full up--except some little rooms at the top that I'd
as lief not fill. The probabilities are that any ladies
who would take them wouldn't be refined enough to suit
those I have. There are six, not counting me, every
one with a bath and two with private parlors. And as
they're all handsome, sensible women, ladylike and
steady, I think the prospects are that they'll pay
promptly and that I won't have any trouble.''
Mildred reflected upon this curious statement. It
sounded innocent enough, yet what a peculiar way to
put a simple fact.
``Of course it's none of my business how people live
as long as they keep up the respectabilities,'' pursued
Mrs. Belloc. ``It don't do to inquire into people in
New York. Most of 'em come here because they want
to live as they please.''
``No doubt,'' said Mildred a little nervously, for she
suspected her landlady of hitting at her, and wondered
if she had come to cross-examine her and, if the results
were not satisfactory, to put her into the street.
``I know _I_ came for that reason,'' pursued Mrs.
Belloc. ``I was a school-teacher up in New England
until about two years ago. Did you ever teach
``Not yet,'' said Mildred. ``And I don't think I ever
shall. I don't know enough.''
``Oh, yes, you do. A teacher doesn't need to know
much. The wages are so poor--at least up in New
England--that they don't expect you to know anything.
It's all in the books. I left because I couldn't
endure the life. Lord! how dull those little towns are!
Ever live in a little town?''
``All my life,'' said Mildred.
``Well, you'll never go back.''
``I hope not.''
``You won't. Why should you? A sensible woman
with looks--especially if she knows how to carry her
clothes--can stay in New York as long as she pleases,
and live off the fat of the land.''
``That's good news,'' said Mildred. She began to
like the landlady--not for what she said, but for the
free and frank and friendly way of the saying--a
human way, a comradely way, a live-and-let-live way.
``I didn't escape from New England without a
struggle,'' continued Mrs. Belloc, who was plainly showing
that she had taken a great fancy to ``Mary Stevens.''
``I suppose it was hard to save the money out of
your salary,'' said Mildred.
Mrs. Belloc laughed. She was about thirty-five years
old, though her eyes and her figure were younger than
that. Her mouth was pleasant enough, but had lost
some of its freshness. ``Save money!'' cried she.
``I'd never have succeeded that way. I'd be there yet.
I had never married--had two or three chances, but
all from poor sticks looking for someone to support
them. I saw myself getting old. I was looking years
older than I do now. Talk about sea air for freshening a
woman up--it isn't in it with the air of New York.
Here's the town where women stay young. If I had
come here five years ago I could almost try for the squab
``Squab class?'' queried Mildred.
``Yes, squabs. Don't you see them around everywhere?--
the women dressed like girls of sixteen to
eighteen--and some of them are that, and younger.
They go hopping and laughing about--and they seem
to please the men and to have no end of a good time.
Especially the oldish men. Oh, yes, you know a squab
on sight--tight skirt, low shoes and silk stockings,
cute pretty face, always laughing, hat set on rakishly
and hair done to match, and always a big purse or
bag--with a yellow-back or so in it--as a kind of a
hint, I guess.''
Mildred had seen squabs. ``I've envied them--in a
way,'' said she. ``Their parents seem to let them do
about as they please.''
``Their parents don't know--or don't care. Sometimes
it's one, sometimes the other. They travel in two
sets. One is where they meet young fellows of their
own class--the kind they'll probably marry, unless
they happen to draw the capital prize. The other set
they travel in--well, it's the older men they meet round
the swell hotels and so on--the yellow-back men.''
``How queer!'' exclaimed Mildred, before whose eyes
a new world was opening. ``But how do they--these
--squabs--account for the money?''
``How do a thousand and one women in this funny
town account at home for money and things?'' retorted
Mrs. Belloc. ``Nothing's easier. For instance, often
these squabs do--or pretend to do--a little something
in the way of work--a little canvassing or artists'
model or anything you please. That helps them to
explain at home--and also to make each of the yellow-
back men think he's the only one and that he's being
almost loved for himself alone.''
Mrs. Belloc laughed. Mildred was too astonished
to laugh, and too interested--and too startled or
``But I was telling you how _I_ got down here,''
continued the landlady. ``Up in my town there was an
old man--about seventy-five--close as the bark on
a tree, and ugly and mean.'' She paused to draw a
long breath and to shake her head angrily yet
triumphantly at some figure her fancy conjured up.
``Oh, he WAS a pup!--and is! Well, anyhow, I
decided that I'd marry him. So I wrote home for fifty
dollars. I borrowed another fifty here and there. I
had seventy-five saved up against sickness. I went up
to Boston and laid it all out in underclothes and house
things--not showy but fine and good to look at. Then
one day, when the weather was fine and I knew the old
man would be out in his buggy driving round--I
dressed myself up to beat the band. I took hours to
it--scrubbing, powdering, sacheting, perfuming,
fixing the hair, fixing my finger-nails, fixing up my feet,
polishing every nail and making them look better than
Mildred was so interested that she was excited. What
strange freak was coming?
``You never could guess,'' pursued Mrs. Belloc,
complacently. ``I took my sunshade and went out, all got
up to kill. And I walked along the road until I saw
the old man's buggy coming with him in it. Then I
gave my ankle a frightful wrench. My! How it
``What a pity!'' said Mildred sympathetically.
``What a shame!''
``A pity? A shame?'' cried Mrs. Belloc, laughing.
``Why, my dear, I did it a-purpose.''
``On purpose!'' exclaimed Mildred.
``Certainly. That was my game. I screamed out
with pain--and the scream was no fake, I can tell
you. And I fell down by the roadside on a nice grassy
spot where no dust would get on me. Well, up comes
the old skinflint in his buggy. He climbed down and
helped me get off my slipper and stocking. I knew
I had him the minute I saw his old face looking at that
foot I had fixed up so beautifully.''
``How DID you ever think of it?'' exclaimed Mildred.
``Go and teach school for ten years in a dull little
town, my dear--and look in the glass every day and
see your youth fading away--and you'll think of most
anything. Well, to make a long story short, the old
man took me in the buggy to his house where he lived
with his deaf, half-blind old widowed daughter. I had
to stay there three weeks. I married him the fourth
week. And just two months to a day from the afternoon
I sprained my ankle, he gave me fifty dollars a
week--all signed and sealed by a lawyer--to go away
and leave him alone. I might have stood out for more,
but I was too anxious to get to New York. And here
I am!'' She gazed about the well-furnished room,
typical of that almost luxurious house, with an air of
triumphant satisfaction. Said she: ``I've no patience
with a woman who says she can't get on. Where's her
Mildred was silent. Perhaps it was a feeling of what
was hazily in the younger woman's mind and a desire
to answer it that led Mrs. Belloc to say further: ``I
suppose there's some that would criticize my way of
getting there. But I want to know, don't all women
get there by working men? Only most of them are so
stupid that they have to go on living with the man.
I think it's low to live with a man you hate.''
``Oh, I'm not criticizing anybody,'' said Mildred.
``I didn't think you were,'' said Mrs. Belloc. ``If
I hadn't seen you weren't that kind, I'd not have been
so confidential. Not that I'm secretive with anybody.
I say and do what I please. Anyone who doesn't like
my way or me can take the other side of the street.
I didn't come to New York to go in society. I came
here to LIVE.''
Mildred looked at her admiringly. There were
things about Mrs. Belloc that she did not admire; other
things--suspected rather than known things--that
she knew she would shrink from, but she heartily
admired and profoundly envied her utter indifference to
the opinion of others, her fine independent way of
walking her own path at her own gait.
``I took this boarding-house,'' Mrs. Belloc went on,
``because I didn't want to be lonesome. I don't like
all--or even most of--the ladies that live here. But
they're all amusing to talk with--and don't put on
airs except with their men friends. And one or two
are the real thing--good-hearted, fond of a joke, with-
out any meanness. I tell you, New York is a mighty
fine place if you get `in right.' Of course, if you
don't, it's h-e-l-l.'' (Mrs. Belloc took off its unrefined
edge by spelling it.) ``But what place isn't?'' she
``And your husband never bothers you?'' inquired
``And never will,'' replied Mrs. Belloc. ``When he
dies I'll come into a little more--about a hundred and
fifty a week in all. Not a fortune, but enough with
what the boarding-house brings in. I'm a pretty fair
``I should say so!'' exclaimed Mildred.
``You said you were Miss Stevens, didn't you?'' said
Mrs. Belloc--and Mildred knew that her turn had
``Yes,'' replied she. ``But I am also a married
woman.'' She hesitated, reddened. ``I didn't give you
my married name.''
``That's your own business,'' said Mrs. Belloc in her
easiest manner. ``My right name isn't Belloc, either.
But I've dropped that other life. You needn't feel a
bit embarrassed in this house. Some of my boarders
SEEM to be married. All that have regular-appearing
husbands SAY they are. What do I care, so long as
everything goes along smoothly? I don't get excited
``Some day perhaps I'll tell you about myself,'' said
Mildred. ``Just at present I--well, I seem not to
be able to talk about things.''
``It's not a bad idea to keep your mouth shut, as
long as your affairs are unsettled,'' advised Mrs. Belloc.
``I can see you've had little experience. But you'll
come out all right. Just keep cool, and don't fret
about trifles. And don't let any man make a fool of
you. That's where we women get left. We're afraid
of men. We needn't be. We can mighty easily make
them afraid of us. Use the soft hand till you get him
well in your grip. Then the firm hand. Nothing
coarse or cruel or mean. But firm and self-respecting.''
Mildred was tempted to take Mrs. Belloc fully into
her confidence and get the benefit of the advice of
shrewdness and experience. So strong was the
temptation, she would have yielded to it had Mrs. Belloc
asked a few tactful, penetrating questions. But Mrs.
Belloc refrained, and Mildred's timidity or delicacy
induced her to postpone. The next day she wrote Stanley
Baird, giving her address and her name and asking him
to call ``any afternoon at four or five.'' She assumed
that he would come on the following day, but the letter
happened to reach him within an hour of her mailing
it, and he came that very afternoon.
When she went down to the drawing-room to receive
him, she found him standing in the middle of the room
gazing about with a quizzical expression. As soon as
the greetings were over he said:
``You must get out of here, Mildred. This won't
``Indeed I shan't,'' said she. ``I've looked everywhere,
and this is the only comfortable place I could
find--where the rates were reasonable and where the
landlady didn't have her nose in everybody's business.''
``You don't understand,'' said he. ``This is a bird-
cage. Highly gilded, but a bird-cage.''
She had never heard the phrase, but she understood--
and instantly she knew that he was right. She colored
violently, sat down abruptly. But in a moment she
recovered herself, and with fine defiance said:
``I don't care. Mrs. Belloc is a kind-hearted woman,
and it's as easy to be respectable here as anywhere.''
``Sure,'' assented he. ``But you've got to consider
appearances to a certain extent. You won't be able to
find the right sort of a boarding-house--one you'd be
comfortable in. You've got to have a flat of your
``I can't afford it,'' said Mildred. ``I can't afford
this, even. But I simply will not live in a shabby,
``That's right!'' cried Stanley. ``You can't do
proper work in poor surroundings. Some women
could, but not your sort. But don't worry. I'm going
to see you through. I'll find a place--right away.
You want to start in at once, don't you?''
``I've got to,'' said Mildred.
``Then leave it all to me.''
``But WHAT am I to do?''
``Sing, if you can. If not, then act. We'll have
you on the stage within a year or so. I'm sure of it.
And I'll get my money back, with interest.''
``I don't see how I can accept it,'' said Mildred very
``You've got to,'' said Stanley. ``What alternative
is there? None. So let's bother no more about it.
I'll consult with those who know, find out what the thing
costs, and arrange everything. You're as helpless as a
baby, and you know it.''
Yes, Mildred knew it.
He looked at her with an amused smile. ``Come,
out with it!'' he cried. ``You've got something on
your mind. Let's get everything straight--and keep
it that way.''
Mildred hung her head.
``You're uneasy because I, a man, am doing this for
you, a young woman? Is that it?''
``Yes,'' she confessed.
He leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs, and
spoke in a brisk, businesslike way. ``In the first place,
it's got to be done, hasn't it? And someone has got
to do it? And there is no one offering but me? Am
``Then _I_'ve got to do it, and you've GOT to let me.
There's logic, if ever there was logic. A Philadelphia
lawyer couldn't knock a hole in it. You trust me, don't
She was silent.
``You don't trust me, then,'' said he cheerfully.
``Well, perhaps you're right. But you trust yourself,
She moved restlessly, but remained silent.
``You are afraid I might put you in a difficult position?''
``Something like that,'' she admitted, in a low,
``You fear that I expect some return which you do
not intend to give?''
She was silent.
``Well, I don't,'' said he bluntly. ``So put your
mind at rest. Some day I'll tell you why I am doing
this, but I want you to feel that I ask nothing of you
but my money back with interest, when you can afford
``I can't feel that,'' said she. ``You're putting me
in your debt--so heavily that I'd feel I ought to pay
anything you asked. But I couldn't and wouldn't
``Unless you felt like it?'' suggested he.
``It's honest for me to warn you that I'm not likely
to feel that way.''
``There is such a thing as winning a woman's love,
isn't there?'' said he jestingly. It was difficult to tell
when Stanley Baird was jesting and when he was in
``Is that what you expect?'' said she gravely.
``If I say yes?''
She lowered her eyes and laughed in an embarrassed
He was frankly amused. ``You see, you feel that
you're in my power. And you are. So why not make
the best of it?'' A pause, then he said abruptly and
with a convincing manliness, ``I think, Mildred, you
can trust me not to be a beast.''
She colored and looked at him with quick contrition.
``I'm ashamed of myself,'' said she. ``Please forget
that I said anything. I'll take what I must, and I'll
pay it back as soon as I can. And--thank you, Stanley.''
The tears were in her eyes. ``If I had anything
worth your taking I'd be glad to give it to you. What
vain fools we women are!''
``Aren't you, though!'' laughed he. ``And now it's
all settled--until you're on the stage, and free, and
the money's paid back--WITH interest. I shall charge
you six per cent.''
When she first knew him she had not been in the least
impressed by what now seemed to her his finest and
rarest trait, for, in those days she had been as ignorant
of the realities of human nature as one who has never
adventured his boat beyond the mouth of the peaceful
land-locked harbor is ignorant of the open sea. But
in the hard years she had been learning--not only
from Presbury and General Siddall, but from the cook
and the housemaid, from every creditor, every tradesman,
everyone whose attitude socially toward her had
been modified by her changed fortunes--and whose
attitude had not been changed? Thus, she was now
able to appreciate--at least in some measure--Stanley
Baird's delicacy and tact. No, not delicacy and
tact, for that implied effort. His ability to put this
offer in such a way that she could accept without serious
embarrassment arose from a genuine indifference to
money as money, a habit of looking upon it simply
as a means to an end. He offered her the money
precisely as he would have offered her his superior strength
if it had been necessary to cross a too deep and swift
creek. She had the sense that he felt he was doing
something even less notable than he admitted, and that
he talked of it as a valuable and rather unusual service
simply because it was the habit thus to regard such
As they talked on of ``the great career'' her spirits
went up and up. It was evident that he now had a
new and keen interest in life, that she was doing him
a greater favor than he was doing her. He had always
had money, plenty of it, more than he could use. He
now had more than ever--for, several rich relatives
had died and, after the habit of the rich, had left
everything to him, the one of all the connections who needed
it least. He had a very human aversion to spending
money upon people or things he did not like. He
would have fought to the last court an attempt by his
wife to get alimony. He had a reputation with the
``charity gang'' of being stingy because he would not
give them so much as the price of a bazaar ticket.
Also, the impecunious spongers at his clubs spread his
fame as a ``tight-wad'' because he refused to let them
``stick him up'' for even a round of drinks. Where
many a really stingy man yielded through weakness
or fear of public opinion, he stood firm. His one
notable surrender of any kind had been his marriage;
that bitter experience had cured him of the surrendering
habit for all time. Thenceforth he did absolutely
and in everything as he pleased.
Mildred had heard that he was close about money.
She had all but forgotten it, because her own experience
with him had made such a charge seem ridiculous.
She now assumed--so far as she thought about it at
all--that he was extremely generous. She did not
realize what a fine discriminating generosity his was,
or how striking an evidence of his belief in her as well
as of his liking for her.
As he rose to go he said: ``You mustn't forget that
our arrangement is a secret between us. Neither of
us can afford to have anyone know it.''
``There isn't anyone in the world who wouldn't
misunderstand it,'' said she, without the least feeling of
``Just so,'' said he. ``And I want you to live in
such a way that I can come to call. We must arrange
things so that you will take your own name--''
``I intend to use the name Mary Stevens in my
work,'' she interrupted.
``But there mustn't be any concealment, any mystery
to excite curiosity and scandal--''
This time the interruption was her expression. He
turned to see what had startled her, and saw in the
doorway of the drawing-room the grotesquely neat and
stylish figure of the little general. Before either could
speak he said:
``How d'you do, Mr. Baird? You'll pardon me if
I ask you to leave me alone with my WIFE.''
Stanley met the situation with perfect coolness.
``How are you, General?'' said he. ``Certainly, I
was just going.'' He extended his hand to Mildred,
said in a correct tone of conventional friendliness,
``Then you'll let me know when you're settled?'' He
bowed, moved toward the door, shook hands with the
general, and passed out, giving from start to finish a
model example of a man of the world extricating him-
self from an impossible situation and leaving it the
better for his having been entangled. To a man of
Siddall's incessant and clumsy self-consciousness such
unaffected ease could not but be proof positive of
Mildred's innocence--unless he had overheard. And his
first words convinced her that he had not. Said he:
``So you sent for your old admirer?''
``I ran across him accidentally,'' replied Mildred.
``I know,'' said the little general. ``My men picked
you up at the pier and haven't lost sight of you since.
It's fortunate that I've kept myself informed, or I
might have misunderstood that chap's being here.'' A
queer, cloudy look came into his eyes. ``I must give
him a warning for safety's sake.'' He waved his hand
in dismissal of such an unimportant trifle as the accidental
Baird. He went on, his wicked eyes bent coldly
and dully upon her: ``Do you know what kind of a
house this is?''
``Stanley Baird urged me to leave,'' replied she.
``But I shall stay until I find a better--and that's not
``Yes, my men have reported to me on the difficulties
you've had. It was certainly fortunate for you
that I had them look after you. Otherwise I'd never
have understood your landing in this sort of a house.
You are ready to come with me?''
``Your secretary explained that if I left the hotel
it was the end.''
``He told you that by my orders.''
``So he explained,'' said Mildred. She seated herself,
overcome by a sudden lassitude that was accompanied
not by fear, but by indifference. ``Won't you sit down?
I am willing to hear what you have to say.''
The little general, about to sit, was so astonished
that he straightened and stiffened himself. ``In
consenting to overlook your conduct and take you back
I have gone farther than I ever intended. I have taken
into consideration your youth and inexperience.''
``But I am not going back,'' said Mildred.
The little general slowly seated himself. ``You have
less than two hundred and fifty dollars left,'' said he.
``Really? Your spies know better than I.''
``I have seen Presbury. He assures me that in no
circumstances will he and your mother take you back.''
``They will not have the chance to refuse,'' said
``As for your brother--''
``I have no brother,'' said she coldly.
``Then you are coming back with me.''
``No,'' said Mildred. ``I should''--she cast about
for an impressive alternative--``I should stay on here,
The little general--his neat varnished leather and
be-spatted shoes just touched the floor--examined his
highly polished top-hat at several angles. Finally he
said: ``You need not fear that your misconduct will
be remembered against you. I shall treat you in every
way as my wife. I shall assume that your--your
flight was an impulse that you regret.''
``I shan't go back,'' said Mildred. ``Nothing you
could offer would change me.''
``I cannot make any immediate concession on the--
the matter that caused you to go,'' pursued he, as if
she had not spoken, ``but if I see that you have reliability
and good sense, I'll agree to give you an allowance later.''
Mildred eyed him curiously. ``Why are you making
these offers, these concessions?'' she said. ``You think
everyone in the world is a fool except yourself. You're
greatly deceived. I know that you don't mean what
you've been saying. I know that if you got me in
your power again, you would do something frightful.
I've seen through that mask you wear. I know the
kind of man you are.''
``If you know that,'' said the general in his even
slow way, monotonous, almost lifeless, ``you know you'd
better come with me than stand out against me.''
She did not let him see how this struck terror into
her. She said: ``No matter what you might do to me,
when I'm away from you, it would be less than you'd
do with me under your roof. At any rate, it'd seem
The general reflected, decided to change to another
point: ``You made a bargain with me. You've broken
it. I never let anyone break a bargain with me without
making them regret it. I'm giving you a chance
to keep your bargain.''
She was tempted to discuss, but she could not find
the words, or the strength. Besides, how futile to
discuss with such a man. She sank back in her chair
wearily. ``I shall never go back,'' she said.
He looked at her, his face devoid of expression, but
she had a sense of malignance unutterable eying her
from behind a screen. He said: ``I see you've
misunderstood my generosity. You think I'm weak where
you are concerned because I've come to you instead of
doing as I said and making you come to me.'' He rose.
``Well, my offer to you is closed. And once more I
say, you will come to me and ask to be taken back. I
may or may not take you back. It depends on how
I'll feel at that time.''
Slowly, with his ludicrously pompous strut, he
marched to the drawing-room door. She had not felt
like smiling, but if there had been any such inclination
it would have fled before the countenance that turned
upon her at the threshold. It was the lean, little face
with the funny toupee and needle-like mustache and
imperial, but behind it lay a personality like the dull,
cold, yellow eyes of the devil-fish ambushed in the hazy
mass of dun-colored formlessness of collapsed body
and tentacles. He said:
``You'd best be careful how you conduct yourself.
You'll be under constant observation. And any friends
you make--they'd do well to avoid you.''
He was gone. She sat without the power of motion,
without the power of thought. After a time--perhaps
long, perhaps short, she did not know--Mrs.
Belloc came in and entered upon a voluble apology for
the maid's having shown ``the little gentleman'' into
the drawing-room when another was already there.
``That maid's as green as spring corn,'' said she.
``Such a thing never happened in my house before.
And it'll never happen again. I do hope it didn't cause
``It was my husband,'' said Mildred. ``I had to see
him some time.''
``He's certainly a very elegant little gentleman,''
said Mrs. Belloc. ``I rather like small men, myself.''
Mildred gazed at her vaguely and said, ``Tell me--
a rich man, a very rich man--if he hates anyone, can
he make trouble?''
``Money can do anything in this town,'' replied Mrs.
Belloc. ``But usually rich men are timid and stingy.
If they weren't, they'd make us all cringe. As it is,
I've heard some awful stories of how men and women
who've got some powerful person down on them have
Mildred turned deathly sick. ``I think I'll go to
my room,'' she said, rising uncertainly and forcing
herself toward the door.
Mrs. Belloc's curiosity could not restrain itself.
``You're leaving?'' she asked. ``You're going back
to your husband?''
She was startled when the girl abruptly turned on
her and cried with flashing eyes and voice strong and
vibrant with passion: ``Never! Never! No matter
The rest of the day and that night she hid in her
room and made no effort to resist the terror that preyed
upon her. Just as our strength is often the source of
weakness, so our weaknesses often give birth to strength.
Her terror of the little general, given full swing,
shrieked and grimaced itself into absurdity. She was
ashamed of her orgy, was laughing at it as the sun
and intoxicating air of a typical New York morning
poured in upon her. She accepted Mrs. Belloc's
invitation to take a turn through the park and up
Riverside Drive in a taxicab, came back restored to her
normal state of blind confidence in the future. About
noon Stanley Baird telephoned.
``We must not see each other again for some time,''
said he. ``I rather suspect that you--know--who may be
having you watched.''
``I'm sure of it,'' said she. ``He warned me.''
``Don't let that disturb you,'' pursued Stanley. ``A
man--a singing teacher--his name's Eugene Jennings--
will call on you this afternoon at three. Do
exactly as he suggests. Let him do all the talking.''
She had intended to tell Baird frankly that she
thought, indeed knew, that it was highly dangerous for
him to enter into her affairs in any way, and to urge
him to draw off. She felt that it was only fair to act
so toward one who had been unselfishly generous to
her. But now that the time for speaking had come,
she found herself unable to speak. Only by flatly
refusing to have anything to do with his project could
she prevail upon him. To say less than that she had
completely and finally changed her mind would sound,
and would be, insincere. And that she could not say.
She felt how noble it would be to say this, how selfish,
and weak, too, it was to cling to him, possibly to
involve him in disagreeable and even dangerous complications,
but she had no strength to do what she would have
denounced another as base for not doing. Instead of
the lofty words that flow so freely from the lips of stage
and fiction heroines, instead of the words that any and
every reader of this history would doubtless have
pronounced in the same circumstances, she said:
``You're quite sure you want to go on?''
``Why not?'' came instantly back over the wire.
``He is a very, very relentless man,'' replied she.
``Did he try to frighten you?''
``I'm afraid he succeeded.''
``You're not going back on the career!'' exclaimed
he excitedly. ``I'll come down there and--''
``No, no,'' cried she. ``I was simply giving you a
chance to free yourself.'' She felt sure of him now.
She scrambled toward the heights of moral grandeur.
``I want you to stop. I've no right to ask you to
involve yourself in my misfortunes. Stanley, you
mustn't. I can't allow it.''
``Oh, fudge!'' laughed he. ``Don't give me these
scares. Don't forget--Jennings at three. Good-by
and good luck.''
And he rang off that she might have no chance on
impulse to do herself mischief with her generous
thoughtfulness for him. She felt rather mean, but not
nearly so mean as she would have felt had she let the
opportunity go by with no generous word said. ``And
no doubt my aversion for that little wretch,'' thought
she, ``makes me think him more terrible than he is.
After all, what can he do? Watch me--and discover
nothing, because there'll be nothing to discover.''
Jennings came exactly at three--came with the air
of a man who wastes no one's time and lets no one waste
his time. He was a youngish man of forty or there-
abouts, with a long sharp nose, a large tight mouth,
and eyes that seemed to be looking restlessly about for
money. That they had not looked in vain seemed to be
indicated by such facts as that he came in a private
brougham and that he was most carefully dressed,
apparently with the aid of a valet.
``Miss Stevens,'' he said with an abrupt bow, before
Mildred had a chance to speak, ``you have come to New
York to take singing lessons--to prepare yourself for
the stage. And you wish a comfortable place to live
and to work.'' He extended his gloved hand, shook
hers frigidly, dropped it. ``We shall get on--IF you
work, but only if you work. I do not waste myself upon
triflers.'' He drew a card from his pocket. ``If you
will go to see the lady whose name and address are
written on this card, I think you will find the quarters
you are looking for.''
``Thank you,'' said Mildred.
``Come to me--my address is on the card, also--
at half-past ten on Saturday. We will then lay out
``If you find I have a voice worth while,'' Mildred
``That, of course,'' said Mr. Jennings curtly.
``Until half-past ten on Saturday, good day.''
Again he gave the abrupt foreign bow and, while
Mildred was still struggling with her surprise and
confusion, she saw him, through the window, driving
rapidly away. Mrs. Belloc came drifting through the
room; she had the habit of looking about whenever
there were new visitors, and in her it was not irritating
because her interest was innocent and sympathetic.
``Did you see that man, Mrs. Belloc?''
``What an extraordinary nose he had,'' replied she.
``Yes, I noticed that,'' said Mildred. ``But it was
the only thing I did notice. He is a singing teacher--
``He's the best known singing teacher in New York.
He gets fifteen dollars a half-hour.''
``Then I simply can't take from him!'' exclaimed
Mildred, before she thought. ``That's frightful!''
``Isn't it, though?'' echoed Mrs. Belloc. ``I've
heard his income is fifty thousand a year, what with
lessons and coaching and odds and ends. There's a lot
of them that do well, because so many fool women with
nothing to do cultivate their voices--when they can't
sing a little bit. But he tops them all. I don't see
how ANY teacher can put fifteen dollars of value into
half an hour. But I suppose he does, or he wouldn't
get it. Still, his may be just another case of New York
nerve. This is the biggest bluff town in the world, I
do believe. Here, you can get away with anything, I
don't care what it is, if only you bluff hard enough.''
As there was no reason for delay and many reasons
against it, Mildred went at once to the address on the
card Jennings had left. She found Mrs. Howell
Brindley installed in a plain comfortable apartment in
Fifty-ninth Street, overlooking the park and high
enough to make the noise of the traffic endurable. A
Swedish maid, prepossessingly white and clean, ushered
her into the little drawing-room, which was furnished
with more simplicity and individual taste than is usual
anywhere in New York, cursed of the mania for useless
and tasteless showiness. There were no messy draperies,
no fussy statuettes, vases, gilt boxes, and the like.
Mildred awaited the entrance of Mrs. Brindley hopefully.
She was not disappointed. Presently in came a
quietly-dressed, frank-looking woman of a young forty
--a woman who had by no means lost her physical
freshness, but had gained charm of another and more
enduring kind. As she came forward with extended
but not overeager hand, she said:
``I was expecting you, Mrs. Siddall--that is, Miss
``Mr. Jennings did not say when I was to come. If
I am disturbing you--''
Mrs. Brindley hastened to assure her that her visit
was quite convenient. ``I must have someone to share
the expense of this apartment with me, and I want the
matter settled. Mr. Jennings has explained about you
to me, and now that I've seen you--'' here she smiled
charmingly--``I am ready to say that it is for you to
Mildred did not know how to begin. She looked at
Mrs. Brindley with appeal in her troubled young
``You no doubt wish to know something about me,''
said Mrs. Brindley. ``My husband was a composer--
a friend of Mr. Jennings. He died two years ago.
I am here in New York to teach the piano. What the
lessons will bring, with my small income, will enable me
to live--if I can find someone to help out at the
expenses here. As I understand it, you are willing to
pay forty dollars a week, I to run the house, pay all
the bills, and so on--all, of course, if you wish to come
Mildred made a not very successful attempt to conceal
``Perhaps you would like to look at the apartment?''
suggested Mrs. Brindley.
``Thank you, yes,'' said Mildred.
The tour of the apartment--two bedrooms, dining-
room, kitchen, sitting-room, large bath-room, drawing-
room--took only a few minutes, but Mildred and Mrs.
Brindley contrived to become much better acquainted.
Said Mildred, when they were in the drawing-room
``It's most attractive--just what I should like.
What--how much did Mr. Jennings say?''
``Forty dollars a week.'' She colored slightly and
spoke with the nervousness of one not in the habit of
discussing money matters. ``I do not see how I could
make it less. That is the fair share of the--''
``Oh, I think that is most reasonable,'' interrupted
Mildred. ``And I wish to come.''
Mrs. Brindley gave an almost childlike sigh of relief
and smiled radiantly. ``Then it's settled,'' said she.
``I've been so nervous about it.'' She looked at Mildred
with friendly understanding. ``I think you and I are
somewhat alike about practical things. You've not had
much experience, either, have you? I judge so from
the fact that Mr. Jennings is looking after everything
``I've had no experience at all,'' said Mildred.
``That is why I'm hesitating. I'm wondering if I can
afford to pay so much.''
Mrs. Brindley laughed. ``Mr. Jennings wished to
fix it at sixty a week, but I insisted that forty was
enough,'' said she.
Mildred colored high with embarrassment. How
much did Mrs. Brindley know?--or how little? She
stammered: ``Well, if Mr. Jennings says it is all right,
``You'll let me know to-morrow? You can telephone
``Yes, I'll let you know to-morrow. I'm almost sure
I'll come. In fact, I'm quite sure. And--I think we
shall get on well together.''
``We can help each other,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``I
don't care for anything in the world but music.''
``I want to be that way,'' said Mildred. ``I shall be
``It's the only sure happiness--to care for something,
for some THING,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``People
die, or disappoint one, or become estranged. But when
one centers on some kind of work, it gives pleasure
always--more and more pleasure.''
``I am so afraid I haven't voice enough, or of the
right kind,'' said Mildred. ``Mr. Jennings is going
to try me on Saturday. Really I've no right to settle
anything until he has given his opinion.''
Mrs. Brindley smiled with her eyes only, and Mildred
``If he should say that I wouldn't do,'' she went on,
``I'd not know which way to turn.''
``But he'll not say that,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``You
can sing, can't you? You have sung?''
``Then you'll be accepted by him. And it will take
him a long time to find out whether you'll do for a professional.''
``I'm afraid I sing very badly.''
``That will not matter. You'll sing better than at
least half of Jennings's pupils.''
``Then he doesn't take only those worth while?''
Mrs. Brindley looked amused. ``How would he live
if he did that? It's a teacher's business to teach.
Learning--that's the pupil's lookout. If teachers
taught only those who could and would learn, how would
``Then I'll not know whether I'll do!'' exclaimed Mildred.
``You'll have to find out for yourself,'' said Mrs.
Brindley. ``No one can tell you. Anyone's opinion
might be wrong. For example, I've known Jennings,
who is a very good judge, to be wrong--both ways.''
Hesitatingly: ``Why not sing for me? I'd like to
``Would you tell me what you honestly thought?''
Mrs. Brindley laughingly shook her head.
Mildred liked her honesty. ``Then it'd be useless to
sing for you,'' said she. ``I'm not vain about my voice.
I'd simply like to make a living by it, if I could. I'll
even confess that there are many things I care for more
than for music. Does that prove that I can never sing
``No, indeed,'' Mrs. Brindley assured her. ``It'd be
strange if a girl of your age cared exclusively for
music. The passion comes with the work, with progress,
success. And some of the greatest--that is, the most
famous and best paid--singers never care much about
music, except as a vanity, and never understand it. A
singer means a person born with a certain shape of
mouth and throat, a certain kind of vocal chords. The
rest may be natural or acquired. It's the instrument
that makes the singer, not brains or temperament.''
``Do let me sing for you,'' said Mildred. ``I think
it will help me.''
Between them they chose a little French song--
``Chanson d'Antonine''--and Mrs. Brindley insisted on
her playing her own accompaniment. ``I wish to
listen,'' said she, ``and I can't if I play.''
Mildred was surprised at her own freedom from
nervousness. She sang neither better nor worse than usual
--sang in the clear and pleasant soprano which she
flattered herself was not unmusical. When she finished she
``That's about as I usually sing. What do you
Mrs. Brindley reflected before she replied: ``I
BELIEVE it's worth trying. If I were you, I should keep on
trying, no matter what anyone said.''
Mildred was instantly depressed. ``You think Mr.
Jennings may reject me?'' she asked.
``I KNOW he will not,'' replied Mrs. Brindley. ``Not
as long as you can pay for the lessons. But I was
thinking of the real thing--of whether you could win
out as a singer.''
``And you don't think I can?'' said Mildred.
``On the contrary, I believe you can,'' replied Mrs.
Brindley. ``A singer means so much besides singing.
The singing is the smallest part of it. You'll understand
when you get to work. I couldn't explain now.
But I can say that you ought to go ahead.''
Mildred, who had her share of vanity, had hoped for
some enthusiasm. Mrs. Brindley's judicial tone was a
severe blow. She felt a little resentful, began to cast
about for vanity-consoling reasons for Mrs. Brindley's
restraint. ``She means well,'' she said to herself, ``but
she's probably just a tiny bit jealous. She's not so
young as she once was, and she hasn't the faintest hope
of ever being anything more than a piano-teacher.''
Mrs. Brindley showed that she had more than an
inkling of Mildred's frame of mind by going on to say
in a gentle, candid way: ``I want to help you. So
I shall be careful not to encourage you to believe too
much in what you have. That would prevent you from
getting what you need. You must remember, you are
no longer a drawing-room singer, but a candidate for
the profession. That's a very different thing.''
Mildred saw that she was mistaken, that Mrs. Brindley
was honest and frank and had doubtless told her the
exact truth. But her vanity remained sore. Never be-
fore had anyone said any less of her singing than that
it was wonderful, marvelous, equal to a great deal that
passed for fine in grand opera. She had known
that this was exaggeration, but she had not known how
grossly exaggerated. Thus, this her first experience
of the professional attitude was galling. Only her
unusual good sense saved her from being angry with Mrs.
Brindley. And it was that same good sense that moved
her presently to try to laugh at herself. With a brave
attempt to smile gayly she said:
``You don't realize how you've taken me down. I
had no idea I was so conceited about my singing. I
can't truthfully say I like your frankness, but there's
a part of me that's grateful to you for it, and when I
get over feeling hurt, I'll be grateful through and
Mrs. Brindley's face lighted up beautifully. ``You'll DO!''
she cried. ``I'm sure you'll do. I've been waiting
and watching to see how you would take my criticism.
That's the test--how they take criticism. If
they don't take it at all, they'll not go very far, no
matter how talented they are. If they take it as you've
taken it, there's hope--great hope. Now, I'm not
afraid to tell you that you sang splendidly for an
amateur--that you surprised me.''
``Don't spoil it all,'' said Mildred. ``You were
right; I can't sing.''
``Not for grand opera, not for comic opera even,''
replied Mrs. Brindley. ``But you will sing, and sing
well, in one or the other, if you work.''
``You really mean that?'' said Mildred.
``If you work intelligently and persistently,'' said
Mrs. Brindley. ``That's a big if--as you'll discover
in a year or so.''