Part 4 out of 7
``You'll see,'' said Mildred confidently. ``Why, I've
nothing else to do, and no other hope.''
Mrs. Brindley's smile had a certain sadness in it.
``It's the biggest if in all this world.''
AT Mrs. Belloc's a telephone message from Jennings
was awaiting her; he would call at a quarter-past eight
and would detain Miss Stevens only a moment. And
at eight fifteen exactly he rang the bell. This time
Mildred was prepared; she refused to be disconcerted by
his abrupt manner and by his long sharp nose that
seemed to warn away, to threaten away, even to thrust
away any glance seeking to investigate the rest of his
face or his personality. She looked at him candidly,
calmly, and seeingly. Seeingly. With eyes that saw
as they had never seen before. Perhaps from the death
of her father, certainly from the beginning of Siddall's
courtship, Mildred had been waking up. There is a
part of our nature--the active and aggressive part--
that sleeps all our lives long or becomes atrophied if
we lead lives of ease and secure dependence. It is the
important part of us, too--the part that determines
character. The thing that completed the awakening
of Mildred was her acquaintance with Mrs. Belloc.
That positive and finely-poised lady fascinated her,
influenced her powerfully--gave her just what she
needed at the particular moment. The vital moments
in life are not the crises over which shallow people
linger, but are the moments where we met and absorbed
the ideas that enabled us to weather these crises. The
acquaintance with Mrs. Belloc was one of those vital
moments; for, Mrs. Belloc's personality--her look and
manner, what she said and the way she said it--was a
proffer to Mildred of invaluable lessons which her
awakening character eagerly absorbed. She saw Jennings
as he was. She decided that he was of common
origin, that his vanity was colossal and aquiver throughout
with sensitiveness; that he belonged to the familiar
type of New-Yorker who succeeds by bluffing. Also,
she saw or felt a certain sexlessness or indifference to
sex--and this she later understood. Men whose occupation
compels them constantly to deal with women go
to one extreme or the other--either become acutely
sensitive to women as women or become utterly indifferent,
unless their highly discriminated taste is appealed
to--which cannot happen often. Jennings, teaching
only women because only women spending money they
had not earned and could not earn would tolerate
his terms and his methods, had, as much through
necessity as through inclination, gone to the extreme of
lack of interest in all matters of sex. One look at him
and the woman who had come with the idea of offering
herself in full or part payment for lessons drooped in
Jennings hastened to explain to Mildred that she need
not hesitate about closing with Mrs. Brindley. ``Your
lessons are arranged for,'' said he. ``There has been
put in the Plaza Trust Company to your credit the sum
of five thousand dollars. This gives you about a hundred
dollars a week for your board and other personal
expenses. If that is not enough, you will let me know.
But I estimated that it would be enough. I do not think
it wise for young women entering upon the preparation
for a serious career to have too much money.''
``It is more than enough,'' murmured the girl. ``I
know nothing about those things, but it seems to me--''
``You can use as little of it as you like,'' interrupted
Mildred felt as though she had been caught and
exposed in a hypocritical protest. Jennings was holding
out something toward her. She took it, and he went
``That's your check-book. The bank will send you
statements of your account, and will notify you when
any further sums are added. Now, I have nothing
more to do with your affairs--except, of course, the
artistic side--your development as a singer. You've
not forgotten your appointment?''
``No,'' said Mildred, like a primary school-child
before a formidable teacher.
``Be prompt, please. I make no reduction for
lessons wholly or partly missed. The half-hour I shall
assign to you belongs to you. If you do not use it,
that is your affair. At first you will probably be like
all women--careless about your appointments, coming
with lessons unprepared, telephoning excuses. But if
you are serious you will soon fall into the routine.''
``I shall try to be regular,'' murmured Mildred.
Jennings apparently did not hear. ``I'm on my way
to the opera-house,'' said he. ``One of my old pupils
is appearing in a new role, and she is nervous. Good
Once more that swift, quiet exit, followed almost
instantaneously by the sound of wheels rolling away.
Never had she seen such rapidity of motion without loss
of dignity. ``Yes, he's a fraud,'' she said to herself,
``but he's a good one.''
The idea of a career had now become less indefinite.
It was still without any attraction--not because of the
toil it involved, for that made small impression upon
her who had never worked and had never seen anyone
work, but because a career meant cutting herself off
from everything she had been brought up to regard as
fit and proper for a lady. She was ashamed of this;
she did not admit its existence even to herself, and in
her talks with Baird about the career she had professed
exactly the opposite view. Yet there it was--nor need
she have been ashamed of a feeling that is instilled into
women of her class from babyhood as part of their
ladylike education. The career had not become definite.
She could not imagine herself out on a stage in some
sort of a costume, with a painted face, singing before
an audience. Still, the career was less indefinite than
when it had no existence beyond Stanley Baird's enthusiasm
and her own whipped-up pretense of enthusiasm.
She shrank from the actual start, but at the same
time was eager for it. Inaction began to fret her
nerves, and she wished to be doing something to show
her appreciation of Stanley Baird's generosity. She
telephoned Mrs. Brindley that she would come in the
morning, and then she told her landlady.
Mrs. Belloc was more than regretful; she was
distressed. Said she: ``I've taken a tremendous fancy
to you, and I hate to give you up. I'd do most anything
to keep you.''
Mildred explained that her work compelled her to
``That's very interesting,'' said Mrs. Belloc. ``If I
were a few years younger, and hadn't spent all my energy
in teaching school and putting through that marriage,
I'd try to get on the stage, myself. I don't want
to lose sight of you.''
``Oh, I'll come to see you from time to time.''
``No, you won't,'' said Mrs. Belloc practically. ``No
more than I'd come to see you. Our lives lie in different
directions, and in New York that means we'll never
have time to meet. But we may be thrown together
again, some time. As I've got a twenty years' lease on
this house, I guess you'll have no trouble in finding
me. I suppose I could look you up through Professor
``Yes,'' said Mildred. Then impulsively, ``Mrs.
Belloc, there's a reason why I'd like to change without
anyone's knowing what has become of me--I mean,
anyone that might be--watching me.''
``I understand perfectly,'' said Mrs. Belloc with a
ready sympathy that made Mildred appreciate the
advantages of the friendship of unconventional, knock-
about people. ``Nothing could be easier. You've got
no luggage but that bag. I'll take it up to the
Grand Central Station and check it, and bring the
check back here. You can send for it when you
``But what about me?'' said Mildred.
``I was coming to that. You walk out of here, say,
about half an hour after I go in the taxi. You walk
through to the corner of Lexington Avenue and Thirty-
seventh Street--there aren't any cabs to be had there.
I'll be waiting in the taxi, and we'll make a dash up the
East Side and I can drop you at some quiet place in the
park and go on--and you can walk to your new
address. How does that strike you?''
Mildred expressed her admiration. The plan was
carried out, as Mrs. Belloc--a born genius at all forms
of intrigue--had evolved it in perfection on the spur
of the moment. As they went up the far East Side,
Mrs. Belloc, looking back through the little rear
window, saw a taxi a few blocks behind them. ``We haven't
given them the slip yet,'' said she, ``but we will in the
park.'' They entered the park at East Ninetieth
Street, crossed to the West Drive. Acting on Mrs.
Belloc's instructions, the motorman put on full speed--
with due regard to the occasional policeman. At a
sharp turning near the Mall, when the taxi could be
seen from neither direction, he abruptly stopped. Out
sprang Mildred and disappeared behind the bushes
completely screening the walk from the drive. At once
the taxi was under-way again. She, waiting where the
screen of bushes was securely thick, saw the taxi that
had followed them in the East Side flash by--in pursuit
of Mrs. Belloc alone.
She was free--at least until some mischance uncovered
her to the little general. At Mrs. Brindley's she
found a note awaiting her--a note from Stanley Baird:
I'm of for the Far West, and probably shall not be in
town again until the early summer. The club forwards
my mail and repeats telegrams as marked. Go in and win,
and don't hesitate to call on me if you need me. No false
pride, PLEASE! I'm getting out of the way because it's
obviously best for the present.
As she finished, her sense of freedom was complete.
She had not realized how uneasy she was feeling about
Stanley. She did not doubt his generosity, did not
doubt that he genuinely intended to leave her free, and
she believed that his delicacy was worthy of his
generosity. Still, she was constantly fearing lest
circumstances should thrust them both--as much against his
will as hers--into a position in which she would have
to choose between seeming, not to say being, ungrateful,
and playing the hypocrite, perhaps basely, with him.
The little general eluded, Stanley voluntarily removed;
she was indeed free. Now she could work with an un-
troubled mind, could show Mrs. Brindley that intelligent
and persistent work--her ``biggest if in all the
world''--was in fact a very simple matter.
She had not been settled at Mrs. Brindley's many
hours before she discovered that not only was she free
from all hindrances, but was to have a positive and great
help. Mrs. Brindley's talent for putting people at
their ease was no mere drawing-room trick.
She made Mildred feel immediately at home, as she
had not felt at home since her mother introduced James
Presbury into their house at Hanging Rock. Mrs.
Brindley was absolutely devoid of pretenses. When
Mildred spoke to her of this quality in her she said:
``I owe that to my husband. I was brought up like
everybody else--to be more or less of a poser and a
hypocrite. In fact, I think there was almost nothing
genuine about me. My husband taught me to be myself,
to be afraid of nobody's opinion, to show myself
just as I was and to let people seek or avoid me as they
saw fit. He was that sort of man himself.''
``He must have been a remarkable man,'' said Mildred.
``He was,'' replied Mrs. Brindley. ``But not
attractive--at least not to me. Our marriage was a
mistake. We quarreled whenever we were not at work
with the music. If he had not died, we should have
been divorced.'' She smiled merrily. ``Then he would
have hired me as his musical secretary, and we'd have
got on beautifully.''
Mildred was still thinking of Mrs. Brindley's freedom
from pretense. ``I've never dared be myself,''
confessed she. ``I don't know what myself really is like.
I was thinking the other day how for one reason and
another I've been a hypocrite all my life. You see,
I've always been a dependent--have always had to
please someone in order to get what I wanted.''
``You can never be yourself until you have an
independent income, however small,'' said Mrs. Brindley.
``I've had that joy only since my husband died. It's
as well that I didn't have it sooner. One is the better
for having served an apprenticeship at self-repression
and at pretending to virtues one has not. Only those
who earn their freedom know how to use it. If I had
had it ten or fifteen years ago I'd have been an intolerable
tyrant, making everyone around me unhappy and
therefore myself. The ideal world would be one where
everyone was born free and never knew anything else.
Then, no one being afraid or having to serve, everyone
would have to be considerate in order to get himself
``I wonder if I really ever shall be able to earn a
living?'' sighed Mildred.
``You must decide that whatever you can make shall
be for you a living,'' said the older woman. ``I have
lived on my fixed income, which is under two thousand
a year. And I am ready to do it again rather than
tolerate anything or anybody that does not suit me.''
``I shall have to be extremely careful,'' laughed
Mildred. ``I shall be a dreadful hypocrite with you.''
Mrs. Brindley smiled; but underneath, Mildred saw
--or perhaps felt--that her new friend was indeed not
one to be trifled with. She said:
``You and I will get on. We'll let each other alone.
We have to be more or less intimate, but we'll never be
After a time she discovered that Mrs. Brindley's first
name was Cyrilla, but Mrs. Brindley and Miss Stevens
they remained to each other for a long time--until
circumstances changed their accidental intimacy into
enduring friendship. Not to anticipate, in the course
of that same conversation Mildred said:
``If there is anything about me--about my life--
that you wish me to explain, I shall be glad to do so.''
``I know all I wish to know,'' replied Cyrilla
Brindley. ``Your face and your manner and your way of
speaking tell me all the essentials.''
``Then you must not think it strange when I say I
wish no one to know anything about me.''
``It will be impossible for you entirely to avoid
meeting people,'' said Cyrilla. ``You must have some simple
explanation about yourself, or you will attract attention
and defeat your object.''
``Lead people to believe that I'm an orphan--perhaps
of some obscure family--who is trying to get up
in the world. That is practically the truth.''
Mrs. Brindley laughed. ``Quite enough for New
York,'' said she. ``It is not interested in facts. All
the New-Yorker asks of you is, `Can you pay your bills
and help me pay mine?' ''
Competent men are rare; but, thanks to the advantage
of the male sex in having to make the struggle for
a living, they are not so rare as competent women.
Mrs. Brindley was the first competent woman Mildred
had ever known. She had spent but a few hours with
her before she began to appreciate what a bad atmosphere
she had always breathed--bad for a woman who
has her way to make in the world, or indeed for any
woman not willing to be content as mere more or less
shiftless, more or less hypocritical and pretentious,
dependent and parasite. Mrs. Brindley--well bred and
well educated--knew all the little matters which Mildred
had been taught to regard as the whole of a lady's
education. But Mildred saw that these trifles were but
a trifling incident in Mrs. Brindley's knowledge. She
knew real things, this woman who was a thorough-going
housekeeper and who trebled her income by giving
music lessons a few hours a day to such pupils as she
thought worth the teaching. When she spoke, she always
said something one of the first things noticed
by Mildred, who, being too lazy to think except as her
naturally good mind insisted on exercising itself,
usually talked simply to kill time and without any idea of
getting anywhere. But while Cyrilla--without in the
least intending it--roused her to a painful sense of
her own limitations, she did not discourage her. Mildred
also began to feel that in this new atmosphere of
ideas, of work, of accomplishment, she would rapidly
develop into a different sort of person. It was
extremely fortunate for her, thought she, that she was
living with such a person as Cyrilla Brindley. In the
old atmosphere, or with any taint of it, she would have
been unable to become a serious person. She would
simply have dawdled along, twaddling about ``art'' and
seriousness and careers and sacrifice, content with the
amateur's methods and the amateur's results--and
deluding herself that she was making progress. Now--
It was as different as public school from private school
--public school where the mind is rudely stimulated,
private school where it is sedulously mollycoddled. She
had come out of the hothouse into the open.
At first she thought that Jennings was to be as great
a help to her as Cyrilla Brindley. Certainly if ever
there was a man with the air of a worker and a place
with the air of a workshop, that man and that place
were Eugene Jennings and his studio in Carnegie Hall.
When Mildred entered, on that Saturday morning, at
exactly half-past ten, Jennings--in a plain if elegant
house-suit--looked at her, looked at the clock, stopped
a girl in the midst of a burst of tremulous noisy melody.
``That will do, Miss Bristow,'' said he. ``You have
never sung it worse. You do not improve. Another
lesson like this, and we shall go back and begin all over
The girl, a fattish, ``temperamental'' blonde, burst
``Kindly take that out into the hall,'' said Jennings
coldly. ``Your time is up. We cannot waste Miss
Stevens's time with your hysterics.''
Miss Bristow switched from tears to fury. ``You
brute! You beast!'' she shrieked, and flung herself
out of the room, slamming the door after her. Jennings
took a book from a pile upon a table, opened it,
and set it on a music-stand. Evidently Miss Bristow
was forgotten--indeed, had passed out of his mind at
half-past ten exactly, not to enter it again until she
should appear at ten on Monday morning. He said
``Now, we'll see what you can do. Begin.''
``I'm a little nervous,'' said Mildred with a shy
laugh. ``If you don't mind, I'd like to wait till I've
got used to my surroundings.''
Jennings looked at her. The long sharp nose
seemed to be rapping her on the forehead like a wood-
pecker's beak on the bark of the tree. ``Begin,'' he
said, pointing to the book.
Mildred flushed angrily. ``I shall not begin until
I CAN begin,'' said she. The time to show this man that
he could not treat her brutally was at the outset.
Jennings opened the door into the hall. ``Good
day, Miss Stevens,'' he said with his abrupt bow.
Mildred looked at him; he looked at her. Her lip
trembled, the hot tears flooded and blinded her eyes.
She went unsteadily to the music-stand and tried to see
the notes of the exercises. Jennings closed the door
and seated himself at the far end of the room. She
began--a ridiculous attempt. She stopped, gritted
her teeth, began again. Once more the result was
absurd; but this time she was able to keep on, not
improving, but maintaining her initial off-key quavering.
``You see,'' said she. ``Shall I go on?''
``Don't stop again until I tell you to, please,'' said
She staggered and stumbled and somersaulted through
two pages of DO-RE-ME-FA-SOL-LA-SI. Then he held up
``Enough,'' said he.
Silence, an awful silence. She recalled what Mrs.
Belloc had told her about him, what Mrs. Brindley had
implied. But she got no consolation. She said timidly:
``Really, Mr. Jennings, I can do better than that.
Won't you let me try a song?''
``God forbid!'' said he. ``You can't stand. You
can't breathe. You can't open your mouth. Naturally,
you can't sing.''
She dropped to a chair.
``Take the book, and go over the same thing,
sitting,'' said he.
She began to remove her wraps.
``Just as you are,'' he commanded. ``Try to forget
yourself. Try to forget me. Try to forget what a
brute I am, and what a wonderful singer you are. Just
open your mouth and throw the notes out.''
She was rosy with rage. She was reckless. She
sang. At the end of three pages he stopped her with
an enthusiastic hand-clapping. ``Good! Good!'' he
cried. ``I'll take you. I'll make a singer of you.
Yes, yes, there's something to work on.''
The door opened. A tall, thin woman with many
jewels and a superb fur wrap came gliding in. Jennings
looked at the clock. The hands pointed to eleven.
Said he to Mildred:
``Take that book with you. Practice what you've
done to-day. Learn to keep your mouth open. We'll
go into that further next time.'' He was holding the
door open for her. As she passed out, she heard him
``Ah, Mrs. Roswell. We'll go at that third song
The door closed. Reviewing all that had occurred,
Mildred decided that she must revise her opinion of
Jennings. A money-maker he no doubt was. And
why not? Did he not have to live? But a teacher also,
and a great teacher. Had he not destroyed her vanity
at one blow, demolished it?--yet without discouraging
her. And he went straight to the bottom of things--
very different from any of the teachers she used to have
when she was posing in drawing-rooms as a person with
a voice equal to the most difficult opera, if only she
weren't a lady and therefore not forced to be a professional
singing person. Yes, a great teacher--and in
deadly earnest. He would permit no trifling! How
she would have to work!
And she went to work with an energy she would not
have believed she possessed. He instructed her
minutely in how to stand, in how to breathe, in how to open
her mouth and keep it open, in how to relax her throat
and leave it relaxed. He filled every second of her
half-hour; she had never before realized how much time
half an hour was, how use could be made of every one
of its eighteen hundred seconds. She went to hear
other teachers give lessons, and she understood why
Jennings could get such prices, could treat his pupils
as he saw fit. She became an extravagant admirer of
him as a teacher, thought him a genius, felt confident
that he would make a great singer of her. With the
second lesson she began to progress rapidly. In a few
weeks she amazed herself. At last she was really singing.
Not in a great way, but in the beginnings of a
great way. Her voice had many times the power of
her drawing-room days. Her notes were full and
round, and came without an effort. Her former ideas
of what constituted facial and vocal expression now
seemed ridiculous to her. She was now singing without
making those dreadful faces which she had once
thought charming and necessary. Her lower register,
always her best, was almost perfect. Her middle
register--the test part of a voice--was showing signs
of strength and steadiness and evenness. And she was
fast getting a real upper register, as distinguished from
the forced and shrieky high notes that pass as an upper
register with most singers, even opera singers. After
a month of this marvelous forward march, she sang for
Mrs. Brindley--sang the same song she had essayed
at their first meeting. When she finished, Mrs. Brindley said:
``Yes, you've done wonders. I've been noticing your
improvement as you practiced. You certainly have a
very different voice and method from those you had a
month ago,'' and so on through about five minutes of
critical and discriminating praise.
Mildred listened, wondering why her dissatisfaction,
her irritation, increased as Mrs. Brindley praised on
and on. Beyond question Cyrilla was sincere, and was
saying even more than Mildred had hoped she would
say. Yet-- Mildred sat moodily measuring off
octaves on the keyboard of the piano. If she had been
looking at her friend's face she would have flared out
in anger; for Cyrilla Brindley was taking advantage
of her abstraction to observe her with friendly sympathy
and sadness. Presently she concealed this candid
expression and said:
``You are satisfied with your progress, aren't you,
Mildred flared up angrily. ``Certainly!'' replied
she. ``How could I fail to be?''
Mrs. Brindley did not answer--perhaps because she
thought no answer was needed or expected. But to
Mildred her silence somehow seemed a denial.
``If you can only keep what you've got--and go
on,'' said Mrs. Brindley.
``Oh, I shall, never fear,'' retorted Mildred.
``But I do fear,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``I think it's
always well to fear until success is actually won. And
then there's the awful fear of not being able to hold
After a moment's silence Mildred, who could not hide
away resentment against one she liked, said: ``Why
aren't YOU satisfied, Mrs. Brindley?''
``But I am satisfied,'' protested Cyrilla. ``Only it
makes me afraid to see YOU so well satisfied. I've seen
that often in people first starting, and it's always
dangerous. You see, my dear, you've got a straight-away
hundred miles to walk. Can't you see that it would be
possible for you to become too much elated by the way
you walked the first part of the first mile?''
``Why do you try to discourage me?'' said Mildred.
Mrs. Brindley colored. ``I do it because I want to
save you from despair a little later,'' said she. ``But
that is foolish of me. I shall only irritate you against
me. I'll not do it again. And please don't ask my
opinion. If you do, I can't help showing exactly what
``Then you don't think I've done well?'' cried Mildred.
``Indeed you have,'' replied Cyrilla warmly.
``Then I don't understand. What DO you mean?''
``I'll tell you, and then I'll stop and you must not ask
my opinion again. We live too close together to be
able to afford to criticize each other. What I meant
was this: You have done well the first part of the great
task that's before you. If you had done it any less
well, it would have been folly for you to go on.''
``That is, what I've done doesn't amount to
anything? Mr. Jennings doesn't agree with you.''
``Doubtless he's right,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``At
any rate, we all agree that you have shown that you
have a voice.''
She said this so simply and heartily that Mildred
could not but be mollified. Mrs. Brindley changed the
subject to the song Mildred had sung, and Mildred
stopped puzzling over the mystery of what she had
meant by her apparently enthusiastic words, which had
yet diffused a chill atmosphere of doubt.
She was doing her scales so well that she became
impatient of such ``tiresome child's play.'' And presently
Jennings gave her songs, and did not discourage
her when she talked of roles, of getting seriously at
what, after all, she intended to do. Then there came a
week of vile weather, and Mildred caught a cold. She
neglected it. Her voice left her. Her tonsils swelled.
She had a bad attack of ulcerated sore throat. For
nearly three weeks she could not take a single one of the
lessons, which were, nevertheless, paid for. Jennings
rebuked her sharply.
``A singer has no right to be sick,'' said he.
``You have a cold yourself,'' retorted she.
``But I am not a singer. I've nothing that interferes
with my work.''
``It's impossible not to take cold,'' said Mildred.
``You are unreasonable with me.''
He shrugged his shoulders. ``Go get well,'' he said.
The sore throat finally yielded to the treatment of
Dr. Hicks, the throat-specialist. His bill was seventy-
five dollars. But while the swelling in the tonsils
subsided it did not depart. She could take lessons again.
Some days she sang as well as ever, and on those days
Jennings was charming. Other days she sang atrociously,
and Jennings treated her as if she were doing
it deliberately. A third and worse state was that of
the days when she in the same half-hour alternately
sang well and badly. On those days Jennings acted
like a lunatic. He raved up and down the studio, all
but swearing at her. At first she was afraid of him--
withered under his scorn, feared he would throw open
his door and order her out and forbid her ever to enter
again. But gradually she came to understand him--
not enough to lose her fear of him altogether, but
enough to lose the fear of his giving up so profitable a
The truth was that Jennings, like every man who
succeeds at anything in this world, operated upon a
system to which he rigidly adhered. He was a man of
small talent and knowledge, but of great, persistence
and not a little common sense. He had tried to be a
singer, had failed because his voice was small and
unreliable. He had adopted teaching singing as a means
of getting a living. He had learned just enough about
it to enable him to teach the technical elements--what
is set down in the books. By observing other and older
teachers he had got together a teaching system that was
as good--and as bad--as any, and this he dubbed
the Jennings Method and proceeded to exploit as the
only one worth while. When that method was worked
out and perfected, he ceased learning, ceased to give a
thought to the professional side of his profession, just
as most professional men do. He would have resented
a suggestion or a new idea as an attack upon the Jennings
Method. The overwhelming majority of the
human race--indeed, all but a small handful--have
this passion for stagnation, this ferocity against change.
It is in large part due to laziness; for a new idea means
work in learning it and in unlearning the old ideas
that have been true until the unwelcome advent of the
new. In part also this resistance to the new idea arises
from a fear that the new idea, if tolerated, will put one
out of business, will set him adrift without any means of
support. The coachman hates the automobile, the
hand-worker hates the machine, the orthodox preacher
hates the heretic, the politician hates the reformer, the
doctor hates the bacteriologist and the chemist, the old
woman hates the new--all these in varying proportions
according to the degree in which the iconoclast attacks
laziness or livelihood. Finally we all hate any and all
new ideas because they seem to imply that we, who have
held the old ideas, have been ignorant and stupid in so
doing. A new idea is an attack upon the vanity of
everyone who has been a partisan of the old ideas and
their established order.
Jennings, thoroughly human in thus closing his mind
to all ideas about his profession, was equally human in
that he had his mind and his senses opened full width
to ideas on how to make more money. If there had
been money in new ideas about teaching singing
Jennings would not have closed to them. But the money
was all in studying and learning how better to handle
the women--they were all women who came to him for
instruction. His common sense warned him at the outset
that the obviously easygoing teacher would not long
retain his pupils. On the other hand, he saw that the
really severe teacher would not retain his pupils, either.
Who were these pupils? In the first place, they were
all ignorant, for people who already know do not go
to school to learn. They had the universal delusion
that a teacher can teach. The fact is that a teacher
is a well. Some wells are full, others almost dry. Some
are so arranged that water cannot be got from them,
others have attachments of various kinds, making the
drawing of water more or less easy. But not from the
best well with the latest pump attachment can one get
a drink unless one does the drinking oneself. A teacher
is rarely a well. The pupil must not only draw the
water, but also drink it, must not only teach himself,
but also learn what he teaches. Now we are all of us
born thirsty for knowledge, and nearly all of us are
born both capable of teaching ourselves and capable of
learning what we teach, that is, of retaining and assimilating
it. There is such a thing as artificially feeding
the mind, just as there is such a thing as artificially
feeding the body; but while everyone knows that artificial
feeding of the body is a success only to a limited
extent and for a brief period, everyone believes that
the artificial feeding of the mind is not only the best
method, but the only method. Nor does the discovery
that the mind is simply the brain, is simply a part of
the body, subject to the body's laws, seem materially to
have lessened this fatuous delusion.
Some of Jennings's pupils--not more than two of
the forty-odd were in genuine earnest; that is, those two
were educating themselves to be professional singers,
were determined so to be, had limited time and means
and endless capacity for work. Others of the forty--
about half-thought they were serious, though in fact
the idea of a career was more or less hazy. They were
simply taking lessons and toiling aimlessly along, not
less aimlessly because they indulged in vague talk and
vaguer thought about a career. The rest--the other
half of the forty--were amusing themselves by taking
singing lessons. It killed time, it gave them a feeling
of doing something, it gave them a reputation of being
serious people and not mere idlers, it gave them an
excuse for neglecting the domestic duties which they
regarded as degrading--probably because to do them
well requires study and earnest, hard work. The Jennings
singing lesson, at fifteen dollars a half-hour, was
rather an expensive hypocrisy; but the women who
used it as a cloak for idleness as utter as the mere
yawners and bridgers and shoppers had rich husbands
Thus it appears that the Jennings School was a perfect
microcosm, as the scientists would say, of the human
race--the serious very few, toiling more or less
successfully toward a definite goal; the many, compelled to
do something, and imagining themselves serious and
purposeful as they toiled along toward nothing in par-
ticular but the next lesson--that is, the next day's
appointed task; the utterly idle, fancying themselves
busy and important when in truth they were simply a
fraud and an expense.
Jennings got very little from the deeply and
genuinely serious. One of them he taught free, taking
promissory notes for the lessons. But he held on to
them because when they finally did teach themselves
to sing and arrived at fame, his would be part of the
glory--and glory meant more and more pupils of
the paying kinds. His large income came from the
other two kinds of pupils, the larger part of it from
the kind that had no seriousness in them. His problem
was how to keep all these paying pupils and also keep
his reputation as a teacher. In solving that problem
he evolved a method that was the true Jennings's method.
Not in all New York, filled as it is with people living
and living well upon the manipulation of the weaknesses
of their fellow beings--not in all New York was there
an adroiter manipulator than Eugene Jennings. He
was harsh to brutality when he saw fit to be so--or,
rather, when he deemed it wise to be so. Yet never
had he lost a paying pupil through his harshness.
These were fashionable women--most delicate, sensitive
ladies--at whom he swore. They wept, stayed on,
advertised him as a ``wonderful serious teacher who
won't stand any nonsense and doesn't care a hang
whether you stay or go--and he can teach absolutely
anybody to sing!'' He knew how to be gentle without
seeming to be so; he knew how to flatter without uttering
a single word that did not seem to be reluctant praise
or savage criticism; he knew how to make a lady with
a little voice work enough to make a showing that would
spur her to keep on and on with him; he knew how
to encourage a rich woman with no more song than a
peacock until she would come to him three times a week
for many years--and how he did make her pay for
what he suffered in listening to the hideous squawkings
and yelpings she inflicted upon him!
Did Jennings think himself a fraud? No more than
the next human being who lives by fraud. Is there any
trade or profession whose practitioners, in the bottom
of their hearts, do not think they are living excusably
and perhaps creditably? The Jennings theory was that
he was a great teacher; that there were only a very few
serious and worth-while seekers of the singing art;
that in order to live and to teach these few, he had to
receive the others; that, anyhow, singing was a fine
art for anyone to have and taking singing lessons made
the worst voice a little less bad--or, at the least, singing
was splendid for the health. One of his favorite
dicta was, ``Every child should be taught singing--
for its health, if for nothing else.'' And perhaps he
was right! At any rate, he made his forty to fifty
thousand a year--and on days when he had a succession
of the noisy, tuneless squawkers, he felt that he
more than earned every cent of it.
Mildred did not penetrate far into the secret of the
money-making branch of the Jennings method. It was
crude enough, too. But are not all the frauds that
fool the human race crude? Human beings both cannot
and will not look beneath surfaces. All Mildred
learned was that Jennings did not give up paying pupils.
She had not confidence enough in this discovery to put
it to the test. She did not dare disobey him or shirk--
even when she was most disposed to do so. But gradually
she ceased from that intense application she had
at first brought to her work. She kept up the forms.
She learned her lessons. She did all that was asked.
She seemed to be toiling as in the beginning. In reality,
she became by the middle of spring a mere lesson-taker.
Her interest in clothes and in going about revived. She
saw in the newspapers that General Siddall had taken
a party of friends on a yachting trip around the world,
so she felt that she was no longer being searched for,
at least not vigorously. She became acquainted with
smart, rich West Side women, taking lessons at
Jennings's. She amused herself going about with them and
with the ``musical'' men they attracted--amateur and
semi-professional singers and players upon instruments.
She drew Mrs. Brindley into their society. They had
little parties at the flat in Fifty-ninth Street--the most
delightful little parties imaginable--dinners and suppers,
music, clever conversations, flirtations of a harmless
but fascinating kind. If anyone had accused Mildred
of neglecting her work, of forgetting her career,
she would have grown indignant, and if Mrs. Brindley
had overheard, she would have been indignant for her.
Mildred worked as much as ever. She was making
excellent progress. She was doing all that could be done.
It takes time to develop a voice, to make an opera-singer.
Forcing is dangerous, when it is not downright useless.
In May--toward the end of the month--Stanley
Baird returned. Mildred, who happened to be in unusually
good voice that day, sang for him at the Jennings
studio, and he was enchanted. As the last note died
away he cried out to Jennings:
``She's a wonder, isn't she?''
Jennings nodded. ``She's got a voice,'' said he.
``She ought to go on next year.''
``Not quite that,'' said Jennings. ``We want to
get that upper register right first. And it's a young
voice--she's very young for her age. We must be
careful not to strain it.''
``Why, what's a voice for if not to sing with?'' said
``A fine voice is a very delicate instrument,'' replied
the teacher. He added coldly, ``You must let me judge
as to what shall be done.''
``Certainly, certainly,'' said Stanley in haste.
``She's had several colds this winter and spring,''
pursued Jennings. ``Those things are dangerous until
the voice has its full growth. She should have two
months' complete rest.''
Jennings was going away for a two months' vacation.
He was giving this advice to all his pupils.
``You're right,'' said Baird. ``Did you hear, Mildred?''
``But I hate to stop work,'' objected Mildred. ``I
want to be doing something. I'm very impatient of
this long wait.''
And honest she was in this protest. She had no idea
of the state of her own mind. She fancied she was still
as eager as ever for the career, as intensely interested
as ever in her work. She did not dream of the real
meaning of her content with her voice as it was, of
her lack of uneasiness over the appalling fact that such
voice as she had was unreliable, came and went for no
``Absolute rest for two months,'' declared Jennings
grimly. ``Not a note until I return in August.''
Mildred gave a resigned sigh.
There is much inveighing against hypocrisy, a vice
unsightly rather than desperately wicked. And in the
excitement about it its dangerous, even deadly near
kinsman, self-deception, escapes unassailed. Seven
cardinal sins; but what of the eighth?--the parent of
all the others, the one beside which the children seem
During the first few weeks Mildred had been careful
about spending money. Economy she did not understand;
how could she, when she had never had a lesson
in it or a valuable hint about it? So economy was
impossible. The only way in which such people can
keep order in their finances is by not spending any
money at all. Mildred drew nothing, spent nothing.
This, so long as she gave her whole mind to her work.
But after the first great cold, so depressing, so subtly
undermining, she began to go about, to think of, to
need and to buy clothes, to spend money in a dozen
necessary ways. After all, she was simply borrowing
the money. Presently, she would be making a career,
would be earning large sums. She would pay back
everything, with interest. Stanley meant for her to
use the money. Really, she ought to use it. How
would her career be helped by her going about looking
a dowd and a frump? She had always been used to the
comforts of life. If she deprived herself of them, she
would surely get into a frame of mind where her work
would suffer. No, she must lead the normal life of a
woman of her class. To work all the time--why, as
Jennings said, that took away all the freshness, made
one stale and unfit. A little distraction--always, of
course, with musical people, people who talked and
thought and did music--that sort of distraction was
quite as much a part of her education as the singing
lessons. Mrs. Brindley, certainly a sensible and serious
woman if ever there was one--Mrs. Brindley believed
so, and it must be so.
After that illness and before she began to go about,
she had fallen into several fits of hideous blues, had been
in despair as to the future. As soon as she saw something
of people--always the valuable, musical sort of
people--her spirits improved. And when she got a
few new dresses--very simple and inexpensive, but
stylish and charming--and the hats, too, were successful--
as soon as she was freshly arrayed she was singing
better and was talking hopefully of the career
again. Yes, it was really necessary that she live as
she had always been used to living.
When Stanley came back her account was drawn up
to the last cent of the proportionate amount. In fact,
it might have been a few dollars--a hundred or so--
overdrawn. She was not sure. Still, that was a small
matter. During the summer she would spend less, and
by fall she would be far ahead again--and ready to
buy fall clothes. One day he said:
``You must be needing more money.''
``No indeed,'' cried she. ``I've been living within
the hundred a week--or nearly. I'm afraid I'm frightfully
``Extravagant?'' laughed he. ``You are afraid to
borrow! Why, three or four nights of singing will
pay back all you've borrowed.''
``I suppose I WILL make a lot of money,'' said she.
``They all tell me so. But it doesn't seem real to me.''
She hastily added: ``I don't mean the career. That
seems real enough. I can hardly wait to begin at the
roles. I mean the money part. You see, I never earned
any money and never really had any money of my own.''
``Well, you'll have plenty of it in two or three years,''
said Stanley, confidently. ``And you mustn't try to
live like girls who've been brought up to hardship. It
isn't necessary, and it would only unfit you for your
``I think that's true,'' said she. ``But I've enough--
more than enough.'' She gave him a nervous, shy,
almost agonized look. ``Please don't try to put me
under any heavier obligations than I have to be.''
``Please don't talk nonsense about obligation,''
retorted he. ``Let's get away from this subject. You
don't seem to realize that you're doing me a favor, that
it's a privilege to be allowed to help develop such a
marvelous voice as yours. Scores of people would jump
at the chance.''
``That doesn't lessen my obligation,'' said she. And
she thought she meant it, though, in fact, his generous
and plausible statement of the case had immediately
lessened not a little her sense of obligation.
On the whole, however, she was not sorry she had
this chance to talk of obligation. Slowly, as they saw
each other from time to time, often alone, Stanley had
begun--perhaps in spite of himself and unconsciously
--to show his feeling for her. Sometimes his hand
accidentally touched hers, and he did not draw it away
as quickly as he might. And she--it was impossible
for her to make any gesture, much less say anything,
that suggested sensitiveness on her part. It would put
him in an awkward position, would humiliate him most
unjustly. He fell into the habit of holding her hand
longer than was necessary at greeting or parting, of
touching her caressingly, of looking at her with the
eyes of a lover instead of a friend. She did not like
these things. For some mysterious reason--from
sheer perversity, she thought--she had taken a strong
physical dislike to him. Perfectly absurd, for there
was nothing intrinsically repellent about this handsome,
clean, most attractively dressed man, of the best type
of American and New-Yorker. No, only perversity
could explain such a silly notion. She was always
afraid he would try to take advantage of her delicate
position--always afraid she would have to yield something,
some trifle; yet the idea of giving anything from
a sense of obligation was galling to her. His very
refraining made her more nervous, the more shrinking.
If he would only commit some overt act--seize her,
kiss her, make outrageous demands--but this refrain-
ing, these touches that might be accidental and again
might be stealthy approach-- She hated to have him
shake hands with her, would have liked to draw away
when his clothing chanced to brush against hers.
So she was glad of the talk about obligation. It set
him at a distance, immediately. He ceased to look
lovingly, to indulge in the nerve-rasping little caresses.
He became carefully formal. He was evidently eager
to prove the sincerity of his protestations--too eager
perhaps, her perverse mind suggested. Still, sincere
or not, he held to all the forms of sincerity.
Some friends of Mrs. Brindley's who were going
abroad offered her their cottage on the New Jersey
coast near Seabright, and a big new touring-car and
chauffeur. She and Mildred at once gave up the plan
for a summer in the Adirondacks, the more readily as
several of the men and women they saw the most of
lived within easy distance of them at Deal Beach and
Elberon. When Mildred went shopping she was lured
into buying a lot of summer things she would not have
needed in the Adirondacks--a mere matter of two
hundred and fifty dollars or thereabouts. A little
additional economy in the fall would soon make up for such
a trifle, and if there is one time more than another when
a woman wishes to look well and must look well, that
time is summer--especially by the sea.
When her monthly statement from the bank came on
the first of July she found that five thousand dollars
had been deposited to her credit. She was moved by
this discovery to devote several hours--very depressed
hours they were--to her finances. She had spent a
great deal more money than she had thought; indeed,
since March she had been living at the rate of fifteen
thousand a year. She tried to account for this amazing
extravagance. But she could recall no expenditure
that was not really almost, if not quite, necessary. It
took a frightful lot of money to live in New York.
How DID people with small incomes manage to get along?
Whatever would have become of her if she had not had
the good luck to be able to borrow from Stanley? What
would become of her if, before she was succeeding on
the stage, Stanley should die or lose faith in her or
interest in her? What would become of her! She had
been living these last few months among people who
had wide-open eyes and knew everything that was going
on--and did some ``going-on'' themselves, as she was
now more than suspecting. There were many women,
thousands of them--among the attractive, costily
dressed throngs she saw in the carriages and autos and
cabs--who would not like to have it published how they
contrived to live so luxuriously. No, they would not
like to have it published, though they cared not a fig
for its being whispered; New York too thoroughly
understood how necessary luxurious living was, and was
too completely divested of the follies of the old-fashioned,
straight-laced morality, to mind little shabby
details of queer conduct in striving to keep up with
the procession. Even the married women, using their
husbands--and letting their husbands use them--did
not frown on the irregularities of their sisters less
fortunately married or not able to find a permanent ``leg
to pull.'' As for the girls--Mildred had observed
strange things in the lives of the girls she knew more
or less well nowadays. In fact, all the women, of all
classes and conditions, were engaged in the same mad
struggle to get hold of money to spend upon fun and
finery--a struggle matching in recklessness and
resoluteness the struggle of the men down-town for money
for the same purposes. It was curious, this double
mania of the men and the women--the mania to get
money, no matter how; the instantly succeeding mania
to get rid of it, no matter how. Looking about her,
Mildred felt that she was peculiar and apart from nearly
all the women she knew. SHE got her money honorably.
SHE did not degrade herself, did not sell herself, did not
wheedle or cajole or pretend in the least degree. She
had grown more liberal as her outlook on life had
widened with contact with the New York mind--no,
with the mind of the whole easy-going, luxury-mad,
morality-scorning modern world. She still kept her
standard for herself high, and believed in a purity for
herself which she did not exact or expect in her friends.
In this respect she and Cyrilla Brindley were sympathetically
alike. No, Mildred was confident that in no
circumstances, in NO circumstances, would she relax her
ideas of what she personally could do and could not do.
Not that she blamed, or judged at all, women who did
as she would not; but she could not, simply could not,
however hard she might be driven, do those things--
though she could easily understand how other women
did them in preference to sinking down into the working
class or eking out a frowsy existence in some poor
boarding-house. The temptation would be great.
Thank Heaven, it was not teasing her. She would
resist it, of course. But--
What if Stanley Baird should lose interest? What
if, after he lost interest, she should find herself without
money, worse of than she had been when she sold
herself into slavery--highly moral and conventionally
correct slavery, but still slavery--to the little general
with the peaked pink-silk nightcap hiding the absence
of the removed toupee--and with the wonderful
pink-silk pajamas, gorgeously monogramed in violet--
and the tiny feet and ugly hands--and those loathsome
needle-pointed mustaches and the hideous habit of
mumbling his tongue and smacking his lips? What
if, moneyless, she should not be able to find another
Stanley or a man of the class gentleman willing to
help her generously even on ANY terms? What then?
She was looking out over the sea, her bank-book and
statements and canceled checks in her lap. Their cottage
was at the very edge of the strand; its veranda
was often damp from spray after a storm. It was not
storming as she sat there, ``taking stock''; under a
blue sky an almost tranquil sea was crooning softly in
the sunlight, innocent and happy and playful as a child.
She, dressed in a charming negligee and looking forward
to a merry day in the auto, with lunch and dinner
at attractive, luxurious places farther down the coast--
she was stricken with a horrible sadness, with a terror
that made her heart beat wildly.
``I must be crazy!'' she said, half aloud. ``I've
never earned a dollar with my voice. And for two
months it has been unreliable. I'm acting like a crazy
person. What WILL become of me?''
Just then Stanley Baird came through the pretty little
house, seeking her. ``There you are!'' he cried. ``Do
go get dressed.''
Hastily she flung a scarf over the book and papers
in her lap. She had intended to speak to him about
that fresh deposit of five thousand dollars--to refuse
it, to rebuke him. Now she did not dare.
``What's the matter?'' he went on. ``Headache?''
``It was the wine at dinner last night,'' explained she.
``I ought never to touch red wine. It disagrees with
``That was filthy stuff,'' said he. ``You must take
some champagne at lunch. That'll set you right.''
She stealthily wound the scarf about the papers.
When she felt that all were secure she rose. She was
looking sweet and sad and peculiarly beautiful. There
was an exquisite sheen on her skin. She had washed
her hair that morning, and it was straying fascinatingly
about her brow and ears and neck. Baird looked at
her, lowered his eyes and colored.
``I'll not be long,'' she said hurriedly.
She had to pass him in the rather narrow doorway.
From her garments shook a delicious perfume. He
caught her in his arms. The blood had flushed into his
face in a torrent, swelling out the veins, giving him
a distorted and wild expression.
``Mildred!'' he cried. ``Say that you love me a
little! I'm so lonely for you--so hungry for you!''
She grew cold with fear and with repulsion. She
neither yielded to his embrace nor shook it off. She
simply stood, her round smooth body hard though corsetless.
He kissed her on the throat, kissed the lace over
her bosom, crying out inarticulately. In the frenzy of
his passion he did not for a while realize her lack of
response. As he felt it, his arms relaxed, dropped away
from her, fell at his side. He hung his head. He was
breathing so heavily that she glanced into the house
apprehensively, fearing someone else might hear.
``I beg pardon,'' he muttered. ``You were too much
for me this morning. It was your fault. You are
She moved on into the house.
``Wait a minute!'' he called after her.
She halted, hesitating.
``Come back,'' he said. ``I've got something to say
She turned and went back to the veranda, he retreating
before her and his eyes sinking before the cold,
clear blue of hers.
``You're going up, not to come down again,'' he said.
``You think I've insulted you--think I've acted outrageously.''
How glad she was that he had so misread her thoughts
--had not discovered the fear, the weakness, the sudden
collapse of all her boasted confidence in her strength of
``You'll never feel the same toward me again,'' he
went fatuously on. ``You think I'm a fraud. Well,
I'll admit that I am in love with you--have been ever
since the steamer--always was crazy about that mouth
of yours--and your figure, and the sound of your
voice. I'll admit I'm an utter fool about you--respect
you and trust you as I never used to think any woman
deserved to be respected and trusted. I'll even admit
that I've been hoping--all sorts of things. I knew
a woman like you wouldn't let a man help her unless
she loved him.''
At this her heart beat wildly and a blush of shame
poured over her face and neck. He did not see. He
had not the courage to look at her--to face that
expression of the violated goddess he felt confident her
face was wearing. In love, he reasoned and felt about
her like an inexperienced boy, all his experience going
for nothing. He went on:
``I understand we can never be anything to each other
until you're on the stage and arrived. I'd not have it
otherwise, if I could. For I want YOU, and I'd never
believe I had you unless you were free.''
The color was fading from her cheeks. At this it
flushed deeper than before. She must speak. Not to
speak was to lie, was to play the hypocrite. Yet speak
she dared not. At least Stanley Baird was better than
Siddall. Anyhow, who was she, that had been the wife
of Siddall, to be so finicky?
``You don't believe me?'' he said miserably. ``You
think I'll forget myself sometime again?''
``I hope not,'' she said gently. ``I believe not. I
trust you, Stanley.''
And she went into the house. He looked after her,
in admiration of the sweet and pure calm of this quiet
rebuke. She tried to take the same exalted view of it
herself, but she could not fool herself just then with
the familiar ``good woman'' fake. She knew that she
had struck the flag of self-respect. She knew what she
would really have done had he been less delicate, less
in love, and more ``practical.'' And she found a small
and poor consolation in reflecting, ``I wonder how many
women there are who take high ground because it costs
nothing.'' We are prone to suspect everybody of any
weakness we find in ourselves--and perhaps we are not
so far wrong as are those who accept without question
the noisy protestations of a world of self-deceivers.
Thenceforth she and Stanley got on better than ever
--apparently. But though she ignored it, she knew
the truth--knew her new and deep content was due to
her not having challenged his assertion that she loved
him. He, believing her honest and high minded,
assumed that the failure to challenge was a good
woman's way of admitting. But with the day of reckoning--
not only with him but also with her own self-
respect--put off until that vague and remote time when
she should be a successful prima donna, she gave herself
up to enjoyment. That was a summer of rarely fine
weather, particularly fine along the Jersey coast. They
--always in gay parties--motored up and down the
coast and inland. Several of the ``musical'' men--
notably Richardson of Elberon--had plenty of money;
Stanley, stopping with his cousins, the Frasers, on the
Rumson Road, brought several of his friends, all rich
and more or less free. As every moment of Mildred's
day was full and as it was impossible not to sleep and
sleep well in that ocean air, with the surf soothing the
nerves as the lullaby of a nurse soothes a baby, she was
able to put everything unpleasant out of mind. She
was resting her voice, was building up her health;
therefore the career was being steadily advanced and no
time was being wasted. She felt sorry for those who
had to do unpleasant or disagreeable things in making
their careers. She told herself that she did not deserve
her good fortune in being able to advance to a brilliant
career not through hardship but over the most delightful
road imaginable--amusing herself, wearing charming
and satisfactory clothes, swimming and dancing,
motoring and feasting. Without realizing it, she was
strongly under the delusion that she was herself already
rich--the inevitable delusion with a woman when she
moves easily and freely and luxuriously about, never
bothered for money, always in the company of rich
people. The rich are fated to demoralize those around
them. The stingy rich fill their satellites with envy and
hatred. The generous rich fill them with the feeling
that the light by which they shine and the heat with
which they are warm are not reflected light and heat
but their own.
Never had she been so happy. She even did not
especially mind Donald Keith, a friend of Stanley's and of
Mrs. Brindley's, who, much too often to suit her, made
one of the party. She had tried in vain to discover
what there was in Keith that inspired such intense liking
in two people so widely different as expansive and
emotional Stanley Baird and reserved and distinctly cold
Cyrilla Brindley. Keith talked little, not only seemed
not to listen well, but showed plainly, even in tete-a-tete
conversations, that his thoughts had been elsewhere.
He made no pretense of being other than he was--an
indifferent man who came because it did not especially
matter to him where he was. Sometimes his silence and
his indifference annoyed Mildred; again--thanks to
her profound and reckless contentment--she was able
to forget that he was along. He seemed to be and probably
was about forty years old. His head was beautifully
shaped, the line of its profile--front, top, and
back--being perfect in intellectuality, strength and
symmetry. He was rather under the medium height,
about the same height as Mildred herself. He was
extremely thin and loosely built, and his clothes seemed
to hang awry, giving him an air of slovenliness which
became surprising when one noted how scrupulously
neat and clean he was. His brown hair, considerably
tinged with rusty gray, grew thinly upon that beautiful
head. His skin was dry and smooth and dead white.
This, taken with the classic regularity of his features,
gave him an air of lifelessness, of one burnt out by the
fire of too much living; but whether the living had been
done by Keith himself or by his immediate ancestors
appearances did not disclose. This look of passionless,
motionless repose, like classic sculpture, was sharply and
startlingly belied by a pair of really wonderful eyes--
deeply and intensely blue, brilliant, all seeing, all
comprehending, eyes that seemed never to sleep, seemed the
ceaselessly industrious servants of a brain that busied
itself without pause. The contrast between the dead
white calm of his face, the listlessness of his relaxed
figure, and these vivid eyes, so intensely alive, gave to
Donald Keith's personality an uncanniness that was
most disagreeable to Mildred.
``That's what fascinates me,'' said Cyrilla, when they
were discussing him one day.
``Fascinates!'' exclaimed Mildred. ``He's tiresome--
when he isn't rude.''
``Not actively rude but, worse still, passively rude.''
``He is the only man I've ever seen with whom I could
imagine myself falling in love,'' said Mrs. Brindley.
Mildred laughed in derision. ``Why, he's a dead
man!'' cried she.
``You don't understand,'' said Cyrilla. ``You've
never lived with a man.'' She forgot completely, as did
Mildred herself, so completely had Mrs. Siddall returned
to the modes and thoughts of a girl. ``At home--to
live with--you want only reposeful things. That is
why the Greeks, whose instincts were unerring, had so
much reposeful statuary. One grows weary of agitating
objects. They soon seem hysterical and shallow.
The same thing's true of persons. For permanent
love and friendship you want reposeful men--
calm, strong, silent. The other kind either wear you
out or wear themselves out with you.''
``You forget his eyes,'' put in Stanley. ``Did you
ever see such eyes!''
``Yes, those eyes of his!'' cried Mildred. ``You
certainly can't call them reposeful, Mrs. Brindley.''
Mrs. Brindley did not seize the opportunity to convict
her of inconsistency. Said she:
``I admit the eyes. They're the eyes of the kind of
man a woman wants, or another man wants in his friend.
When Keith looks at you, you feel that you are seeing
the rarest being in the world--an absolutely reliable
person. When I think of him I think of reliable, just
as when you think of the sun you think of brightness.''
``I had no idea it was so serious as this,'' teased
``Nor had I,'' returned Cyrilla easily, ``until I began
to talk about him. Don't tell him, Mr. Baird, or he
might take advantage of me.''
The idea amused Stanley. ``He doesn't care a rap
about women,'' said he. ``I hear he has let a few care
about him from time to time, but he soon ceased to
be good-natured. He hates to be bored.''
As he came just then, they had to find another
subject. Mildred observed him with more interest. She
had learned to have respect for Mrs. Brindley's
judgments. But she soon gave over watching him. That
profound calm, those eyes concentrating all the life of
the man like a burning glass-- She had a disagreeable
sense of being seen through, even to her secretest
thought, of being understood and measured and weighed
--and found wanting. It occurred to her for the first
time that part of the reason for her not liking him
was the best of reasons--that he did not like her.
The first time she was left alone with him, after this
discovery, she happened to be in an audacious and
talkative mood, and his lack of response finally goaded
her into saying: ``WHY don't you like me?'' She cared
nothing about it; she simply wished to hear what he
would say--if he could be roused into saying anything.
He was sitting on the steps leading from the
veranda to the sea--was smoking a cigarette and gazing
out over the waves like a graven image, as if he
had always been posed there and always would be there,
the embodiment of repose gazing in ineffable indifference
upon the embodiment of its opposite. He made
``I asked you why you do not like me,'' said she.
``Did you hear?''
``Yes,'' replied he.
She waited; nothing further from him. Said she:
``Well, give me one of your cigarettes.''
He rose, extended his case, then a light. He was
never remiss in those kinds of politeness. When she
was smoking, he seated himself again and dropped into
the former attitude. She eyed him, wondering how it
could be possible that he had endured the incredible
fatigues and hardships Stanley Baird had related of
him--hunting and exploring expeditions into tropics
and into frozen regions, mountain climbs, wild sea
voyages in small boats, all with no sign of being able to
stand anything, yet also with no sign of being any
more disturbed than now in this seaside laziness. Stanley
had showed them a picture of him taken twenty years
and more ago when he was in college; he had looked
almost the same then--perhaps a little older.
``Well, I am waiting,'' persisted she.
She thought he was about to look at her--a thing
he had never done, to her knowledge, since they had
known each other. She nerved herself to receive the
shock, with a certain flutter of expectancy, of excitement
even. But instead of looking, he settled himself
in a slightly different position and fixed his gaze upon
another point in the horizon. She noted that he had
splendid hands--ideal hands for a man, with the same
suggestion of intense vitality and aliveness that flashed
from his eyes. She had not noted this before. Next
she saw that he had good feet, and that his boots were
his only article of apparel that fitted him, or rather,
that looked as if made for him.
She tossed her cigarette over the rail to the sand.
He startled her by speaking, in his unemotional way.
``Now, I like you better.''
``I don't understand,'' said she.
No answer from him. The cigarette depending
listlessly from his lips seemed--as usual--uncertain
whether it would stay or fall. She watched this uncertainty
with a curious, nervous interest. She was always
thinking that cigarette would fall, but it never did.
``Why did you say you liked me less?''
``Better,'' corrected he.
``We used to have a pump in our back yard at home,''
laughed she. ``One toiled away at the handle, but
nothing ever came. And it was a promising-looking
He smiled--a slow, reluctant smile, but undeniably
attractive. Said he:
``Because you threw away your cigarette.''
``You object to women smoking?''
``No,'' said he. His tone made her feel how absurd
it was to suspect him of such provincialism.
``You object to MY smoking?'' suggested she;
laughing, ``Pump! Pump!''
``No,'' said he.
``Then your remark meant nothing at all?''
He was silent.
``You are rude,'' said she coldly, rising to go into
He said something, what she did not hear, in her
agitation. She paused and inquired:
``What did you say?''
``I said, I am not rude but kind,'' replied he.
``That is detestable!'' cried she. ``I have not liked
you, but I have been polite to you because of Stanley
and Mrs. Brindley. Why should you be insulting to
``What have I done?'' inquired he, unmoved. He
had risen as she rose, but instead of facing her he was
leaning against the post of the veranda, bent upon his
``You have insinuated that your reasons for not liking
me were a reflection on me.''
``You insisted,'' said he.
``You mean that they are?'' demanded she furiously.
She was amazed at her wild, unaccountable rage.
He slowly turned his head and looked at her--a
glance without any emotion whatever, simply a look
that, like the beam of a powerful searchlight, seemed
to thrust through fog and darkness and to light up
everything in its path. Said he:
``Do you wish me to tell you why I don't like you?''
``No!'' she cried hysterically. ``Never mind--I
don't know what I'm saying.'' And she went hastily
into the house. A moment later, in her own room
upstairs, she was wondering at herself. Why had she
become confused? What did he mean? What had she
seen--or half seen--in the darkness and fog within
herself when he looked at her? In a passion she cried:
``If he would only stay away!''
BUT he did not stay away. He owned and lived in
a small house up on the Rumson Road. While the
house was little more than a bungalow and had a
simplicity that completely hid its rare good taste from the
average observer, its grounds were the most spacious in
that neighborhood of costly, showy houses set in grounds
not much more extensive than a city building lot. The
grounds had been cleared and drained to drive out and
to keep out the obnoxious insect life, but had been left
a forest, concealing the house from the roads. Stanley
Baird was now stopping with Keith, and brought him
along to the cottage by the sea every day.
The parties narrowed to the same four persons. Mrs.
Brindley seemed never to tire of talking to Keith--
or to tire of talking about him when the two men had
left, late each night. As for Stanley, he referred
everything to Keith--the weather prospects, where they
should go for the day, what should be eaten and drunk,
any point about politics or fashion, life or literature
or what not, that happened to be discussed. And he
looked upon Donald's monosyllabic reply to his inquiry
as a final judgment, ending all possibility of argument.
Mildred held out long. Then, in spite of herself, she
began to yield, ceased to dislike him, found a kind of
pleasure--or, perhaps, fascinated interest--in the
nervousness his silent and indifferent presence caused
her. She liked to watch that immobile, perfect profile,
neither young nor old, indeed not suggesting age in
any degree, but only experience and knowledge--and
an infinite capacity for emotion, for passion even. The
dead-white color declared it had already been lived;
the brilliant, usually averted or veiled eyes asserted
present vitality, pulsing under a calm surface.
One day when Stanley, in the manner of one who
wishes a thing settled and settled right, said he would
ask Donald Keith about it, Mildred, a little piqued,
a little amused, retorted:
``And what will he answer? Why, simply yes or no.''
``That's all,'' assented Stanley. ``And that's quite
enough, isn't it?''
``But how do you know he's as wise as he pretends?''
``He doesn't pretend to be anything or to know
anything. That's precisely it.''
Mildred suddenly began to like Keith. She had never
thought of this before. Yes, it was true, he did not
pretend. Not in the least, not about anything. When
you saw him, you saw at once the worst there was to
see. It was afterward that you discovered he was not
slovenly, but clean and neat, not badly but well dressed,
not homely but handsome, not sickly but soundly well,
not physically weak but strong, not dull but vividly alive,
not a tiresome void but an unfathomable mystery.
``What does he do?'' she asked Mrs. Brindley.
Cyrilla's usually positive gray eyes looked vague.
She smiled. ``I never asked,'' said she. ``I've known
him nearly three years, and it never occurred to me
to ask, or to wonder. Isn't that strange? Usually
about the first inquiry we make is what a man does.''
``I'll ask Stanley,'' said Mildred. And she did about
an hour later, when they were in the surf together, with
the other two out of earshot. Said Stanley:
``He's a lawyer, of course. Also, he's written a novel
or two and a book of poems. I've never read them.
Somehow, I never get around to reading.''
``Oh, he's a lawyer? That's the way he makes his
``A queer kind of lawyer. He never goes to court,
and his clients are almost all other lawyers. They go to
him to get him to tell them what to do, and what not
to do. He's got a big reputation among lawyers,
Fred Norman tells me, but makes comparatively little,
as he either can't or won't charge what he ought. I
told him what Norman said, and he only smiled in that
queer way he has. I said: `You make twenty or
thirty thousand a year. You ought to make ten
times that.' ''
``And what did he answer?'' asked Mildred. ``Nothing?''
``He said: `I make all I want. If I took in more, I'd
be bothered getting rid of it or investing it. I can
always make all I'll want--unless I go crazy. And
what could a crazy man do with money? It doesn't cost
anything to live in a lunatic asylum.' ''
Several items of interest to add to those she had
collected. He could talk brilliantly, but he preferred
silence. He could make himself attractive to women
and to men, but he preferred to be detached. He could
be a great lawyer, but he preferred the quiet of obscurity.
He could be a rich man, but he preferred to be
Said Mildred: ``I suppose some woman--some
disappointment in love--has killed ambition, and
everything like that.''
``I don't think so,'' replied Baird. ``The men who
knew him as a boy say he was always as he is now. He
lived in the Arabian desert for two years.''
``Why didn't he stay?'' laughed Mildred. ``That
life would exactly suit him.''
``It did,'' said Stanley. ``But his father died, and
he had to come home and support his mother--until
she died. That's the way his whole life has been.
He drifts in the current of circumstances. He might
let himself be blown away to-morrow to the other end
of the earth and stay away years--or never come
``But how would he live?''
``On his wits. And as well or as poorly as he cared.
He's the sort of man everyone instinctively asks advice
of--me, you, his valet, the farmer who meets him at
a boundary fence, the fellow who sits nest him in a
Mildred did not merely cease to dislike him; she went
farther, and rapidly. She began to like him, to circle
round that tantalizing, indolent mystery as a deer about
a queer bit of brush in the undergrowth. She liked
to watch him. She was alternately afraid to talk before
him and recklessly confidential--all with no response
or sign of interest from him. If she was silent, when
they were alone together, he was silent, too. If she
talked, still he was silent. What WAS he thinking about?
What did he think of her?--that especially.
``What ARE you thinking?'' she interrupted herself
to say one afternoon as they sat together on the strand
under a big sunshade. She had been talking on and on
about her career--talking conceitedly, as her subject
intoxicated her--telling him what triumphs awaited
her as soon as she should be ready to debut. As he
did not answer, she repeated her question, adding:
``I knew you weren't listening to me, or I shouldn't
have had the courage to say the foolish things I did.''
``No, I wasn't,'' admitted he.
``For the reason you gave.''
``That what I said was--just talk?''
``You don't believe I'll do those things?''
``I've GOT to believe it,'' said she. ``If I didn't--''
She came to a full stop.
``If you didn't, then what?'' It was the first time
he had ever flattered her with interest enough to ask
her a question about herself.
``If I didn't believe I was going to succeed--and
succeed big--'' she began. After a pause, she added,
``I'd not dare say it.''
``Or think it,'' said he.
She colored. ``What do you mean?'' she asked.
He did not reply.
``What do you mean, Mr. Keith?'' she urged.
``You are always asking me questions to which you
already know the answer,'' said he.
``You're referring to a week or so ago, when I asked
you why you disliked me?''
No answer. No sign of having heard. No outward
sign of interest in anything, even in the cigarette drooping
from the corner of his mouth.
``Wasn't that it?'' she insisted.
``You are always asking me questions to which you
already know the answer,'' repeated he.
``I am annoying you?''
She laughed. ``Do you want me to go away and
leave you in peace with that--law case--or whatever
``I don't like to be alone.''
``But anyone would do?--a dog?''
``You mean, a dog would be better because it doesn't
ask questions to which it knows the answer.''
``Well, I have a pleasant-sounding voice. As I'm
saying nothing, it may be soothing--like the sound of
the waves. I've learned to take you as you are. I
rather like your pose.''
No reply. No sign that he was even tempted to rise
to this bait and protest.
``But you don't like mine,'' she went on. ``Yes, it
is a pose. But I've got to keep it up, and to pretend
to myself that it isn't. And it isn't altogether. I shall
be a successful singer.''
``When?'' said he. Actually he was listening!
She answered: ``In--about two years, I think.''
``You don't believe it?''
``Do you?'' A pause. ``Why ask these questions
you've already answered yourself?''
``I'll tell you why,'' replied she, her face suddenly
flushed with earnestness. ``Because I want you to help
me. You help everyone else. Why not me?''
``You never asked me,'' said he.
``I didn't know I wanted it until just now--as I
said it. But YOU must have known, because you are
so much more experienced than I--and understand
people--what's going on in their minds, deeper than
they can see.'' Her tone became indignant, reproachful.
``Yes, you must have known I needed your help.
And you ought to have helped me, even if you did
dislike me. You've no right to dislike anyone as young
He was looking at her now, the intensely alive blue
eyes sympathetic, penetrating, understanding. It was
frightful to be so thoroughly understood--all one's
weaknesses laid bare--yet it was a relief and a joy, too
--like the cruel healing knife of the surgeon. Said he:
``I do not like kept women.''
She gasped, grew ghastly. It was a frightful insult,
one for which she was wholly unprepared. ``You--
believe--that?'' she said slowly.
``Another of those questions,'' he said. And he
looked calmly away, out over the sea, as if his interest
in the conversation were at an end.
What should she say? How deny--how convince
him? For convince him she must, and then go away
and never permit him to speak to her again until he had
apologized. She said quietly: ``Mr. Keith, you have
``I do not like kept women, either with or without
a license,'' said he in the same even, indifferent way.
``When you ceased to be a kept woman, I would help
you, if I could. But no one can help a kept woman.''
There was nothing to do but to rise and go away.
She rose and went toward the house. At the veranda
she paused. He had not moved. She returned. He
was still inspecting the horizon, the cigarette depending
from his lips--how DID he keep it alight? She said:
``Mr. Keith, I am sure you did not mean to insult me.
What did you mean?''
``Another of those questions,'' said he.
``Honestly, I do not understand.''
``Then think. And when you have thought, you
``But I have thought. I do not understand.''
``Then it would be useless to explain,'' said he.
``That is one of those vital things which, if one cannot
understand them for oneself, one is hopeless--is beyond
``You mean I am not in earnest about my career?''
``Another of those questions. If you had not seen
clearly what I meant, you would have been really
offended. You'd have gone away and not come
She saw that this was true. And, seeing, she
wondered how she could have been so stupid as not to have
seen it at once. She had yet to learn that overlooking
the obvious is a universal human failing and that seeing
the obvious is the talent and the use of the superior
of earth--the few who dominate and determine the
``You reproach me for not having helped you,'' he
went on. ``How does it happen that you are uneasy
in mind--so uneasy that you are quarreling at me?''
A light broke upon her. ``You have been drawing
me on, from the beginning,'' she cried. ``You have
been helping me--making me see that I needed
``No,'' said he. ``I've been waiting to see whether
you would rouse from your dream of grandeur.''
``YOU have been rousing me.''
``No,'' he said. ``You've roused yourself. So you
may be worth helping or, rather, worth encouraging,
for no one can HELP you but yourself.''
She looked at him pathetically. ``But what shall I
do?'' she asked. ``I've got no money, no experience,
no sense. I'm a vain, luxury-loving fool, cursed with
a--with a--is it a conscience?''
``I hope it's something more substantial. I hope
it's common sense.''
``But I have been working--honestly I have.''
``Don't begin lying to yourself again.''
``Don't be harsh with me.''
He drew in his legs, in preparation for rising--no
doubt to go away.
``I don't mean that,'' she cried testily. ``You are
not harsh with me. It's the truth that's harsh--the
truth I'm beginning to see--and feel. I am afraid--
afraid. I haven't the courage to face it.''
``Why whine?'' said he. ``There's nothing in that.''
``Do you think there's any hope for me?''