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The Price She Paid by David Graham Phillips

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``That depends,'' said he.

``On what?''

``On what you want.''

``I want to be a singer, a great singer.''

``No, there's no hope.''

She grew cold with despair. He had a way of saying
a thing that gave it the full weight of a verdict
from which there was no appeal.

``Now, if you wanted to make a living,'' he went on,
``and if you were determined to learn to sing as well
as you could, with the idea that you might be able to
make a living--why, then there might be hope.''

``You think I can sing?''

``I never heard you. Can you?''

``They say I can.''

``What do YOU say?''

``I don't know,'' she confessed. ``I've never been
able to judge. Sometimes I think I'm singing well, and
I find out afterward that I've sung badly. Again, it's
the other way.''

``Then, obviously, what's the first thing to do?''

``To learn to judge myself,'' said she. ``I never
thought of it before--how important that is. Do you
know Jennings--Eugene Jennings?''

``The singing teacher? No.''

``Is he a good teacher?''


``Why not?''

``Because he has not taught you that you will never
sing until you are your own teacher. Because he has
not taught you that singing is a small and minor part
of a career as a singer.''

``But it isn't,'' protested she.

A long silence. Looking at him, she felt that he had
dismissed her and her affairs from his mind.

``Is it?'' she said, to bring him back.

``What?'' asked he vaguely.

``You said that a singer didn't have to be able to

``Did I?'' He glanced down the shore toward the
house. ``It feels like lunch-time.'' He rose.

``What did you mean by what you said?''

``When you have thought about your case a while
longer, we'll talk of it again--if you wish. But until
you've thought, talking is a waste of time.''

She rose, stood staring out to sea. He was observing
her, a faint smile about his lips. He said:

``Why bother about a career? After all, kept
woman is a thoroughly respectable occupation--or can
be made so by any preacher or justice of the peace.
It's followed by many of our best women--those who
pride themselves on their high characters--and on
their pride.''

``I could not belong to a man unless I cared for him,''
said she. ``I tried it once. I shall never do it again.''

``That sounds fine,'' said he. ``Let's go to lunch.''

``You don't believe me?''

``Do you?''

She sank down upon the sand and burst into a wild
passion of sobs and tears. When her fight for self-
control was over and she looked up to apologize for her
pitiful exhibition of weakness--and to note whether
she had made an impression upon his sympathies--she
saw him just entering the house, a quarter of a mile
away. To anger succeeded a mood of desperate
forlornness. She fell upon herself with gloomy ferocity.
She could not sing. She had no brains. She was taking
money--a disgracefully large amount of money--
from Stanley Baird under false pretenses. How could
she hope to sing when her voice could not be relied upon?
Was not her throat at that very moment slightly sore?
Was it not always going queer? She--sing! Absurd.
Did Stanley Baird suspect? Was he waiting for
the time when she would gladly accept what she must
have from him, on his own terms? No, not on his
terms, but on the terms she herself would arrange--
the only terms she could make. No, Stanley believed
in her absolutely--believed in her career. When he
discovered the truth, he would lose interest in her, would
regard her as a poor, worthless creature, would be
eager to rid himself of her. Instead of returning to
the house, she went in the opposite direction, made a
circuit and buried herself in the woods beyond the
Shrewsbury. She was mad to get away from her own
company; but the only company she could fly to was
more depressing than the solitude and the taunt and
sneer and lash of her own thoughts. It was late in the
afternoon before she nerved herself to go home. She
hoped the others would have gone off somewhere; but
they were waiting for her, Stanley anxious and Cyrilla
Brindley irritated. Her eyes sought Keith. He was,
as usual, the indifferent spectator.

``Where have you been?'' cried Stanley.

``Making up my mind,'' said she in the tone that
forewarns of a storm.

A brief pause. She struggled in vain against an
impulse to look at Keith. When her eyes turned in
his direction he, not looking at her, moved in his listless
way toward the door. Said he:

``The auto's waiting. Come on.''

She vacillated, yielded, began to put on the wraps
Stanley was collecting for her. It was a big touring-
car, and they sat two and two, with the chauffeur alone.
Keith was beside Mildred. When they were under way,
she said:

``Why did you stop me? Perhaps I'll never have
the courage again.''

``Courage for what?'' asked he.

``To take your advice, and break off.''

``MY advice?''

``Yes, your advice.''

``You have to clutch at and cling to somebody, don't
you? You can't bear the idea of standing up by your
own strength.''

``You think I'm trying to fasten to you?'' she said,
with an angry laugh.

``I know it. You admitted it. You are not satisfied
with the way things are going. You have doubts about
your career. You shrink from your only comfortable
alternative, if the career winks out. You ask me my
opinion about yourself and about careers. I give it.
Now, I find you asked only that you might have someone
to lean on, to accuse of having got you into a
mess, if doing what you think you ought to do turns out
as badly as you fear.''

It was the longest speech she had heard him make.
She had no inclination to dispute his analysis of her
motives. ``I did not realize it,'' said she, ``but that
is probably so. But--remember how I was brought

``There's only one thing for you to do.''

``Go back to my husband? You know--about me
--don't you?''


``I can't go back to him.''


``Then--what?'' she asked.

``Go on, as now,'' replied he.

``You despise me, don't you?''


``But you said you did.''

``Dislike and despise are not at all the same.''

``You admit that you dislike me,'' cried she triumphantly.
He did not answer.

``You think me a weak, clinging creature, not able
to do anything but make pretenses.''

No answer.

``Don't you?'' she persisted.

``Probably I have about the same opinion of you that
you have of yourself.''

``What WILL become of me?'' she said. Her face
lighted up with an expression of reckless beauty. ``If
I could only get started I'd go to the devil, laughing
and dancing--and taking a train with me.''

``You ARE started,'' said he, with an amiable smile.
``Keep on. But I doubt if you'll be so well amused as
you may imagine. Going to the devil isn't as it's
painted in novels by homely old maids and by men too
timid to go out of nights. A few steps farther, and
your disillusionment will begin. But there'll be no
turning back. Already, you are almost too old to make
a career.''

``I'm only twenty-four. I flattered myself I looked
still younger.''

``It's worse than I thought,'' said he. ``Most of
the singers, even the second-rate ones, began at fifteen--
began seriously. And you haven't begun yet.''

``That's unjust,'' she protested. ``I've done a little.
Many great people would think it a great deal.''

``You haven't begun yet,'' repeated he calmly. ``You
have spent a lot of money, and have done a lot of
dreaming and talking and listening to compliments,
and have taken a lot of lessons of an expensive
charlatan. But what have those things to do with a

``You've never heard me sing.''

``I do not care for singing.''

``Oh!'' said she in a tone of relief. ``Then you
know nothing about all this.''

``On the contrary, I know everything about a career.
And we were talking of careers, not of singing.''

``You mean that my voice is worthless because I
haven't the other elements?''

``What else could I have meant?'' said he. ``You
haven't the strength. You haven't the health.''

She laughed as she straightened herself. ``Do I
look weak and sickly?'' cried she.

``For the purposes of a career as a female you are
strong and well,'' said he. ``For the purpose of a
career as a singer--'' He smiled and shook his head.
``A singer must have muscles like wire ropes, like a
blacksmith or a washerwoman. The other day we were
climbing a hill--a not very steep hill. You stopped
five times for breath, and twice you sat down to rest.''

She was literally hanging her head with shame. ``I
wasn't very well that day,'' she murmured.

``Don't deceive yourself,'' said he. ``Don't indulge
in the fatal folly of self-excuse.''

``Go on,'' she said humbly. ``I want to hear it all.''

``Is your throat sore to-day?'' pursued he.

She colored. ``It's better,'' she murmured.

``A singer with sore throat!'' mocked he. ``You've
had a slight fogginess of the voice all summer.''

``It's this sea air,'' she eagerly protested. ``It
affects everyone.''

``No self-excuse, please,'' interrupted he. ``Cigarettes,
champagne, all kinds of foolish food, an impaired
digestion--that's the truth, and you know it.''

``I've got splendid digestion! I can eat anything!''
she cried. ``Oh, you don't know the first thing about
singing. You don't know about temperament, about
art, about all the things that singing really means.''

``We were talking of careers,'' said he. ``A career
means a person who can be relied upon to do what is
demanded of him. A singer's career means a powerful
body, perfect health, a sound digestion. Without them,
the voice will not be reliable. What you need is not
singing teachers, but teachers of athletics and of hygiene.
To hear you talk about a career is like listening to a
child. You think you can become a professional singer
by paying money to a teacher. There are lawyers and
doctors and business men in all lines who think that way
about their professions--that learning a little routine
of technical knowledge makes a lawyer or a doctor or
a merchant or a financier.''

``Tell me--WHAT ought I to learn?''

``Learn to think--and to persist. Learn to
concentrate. Learn to make sacrifices. Learn to handle
yourself as a great painter handles his brush and colors.
Then perhaps you'll make a career as a singer. If not,
it'll be a career as something or other.''

She was watching him with a wistful, puzzled expression.
``Could I ever do all that?''

``Anyone could, by working away at it every day.
If you gain only one inch a day, in a year you'll have
gained three hundred and sixty-five inches. And if you
gain an inch a day for a while and hold it, you soon
begin to gain a foot a day. But there's no need to
worry about that.'' He was gazing at her now with an
expression of animation that showed how feverishly alive
he was behind that mask of calmness. ``The day's
work--that's the story of success. Do the day's work
persistently, thoroughly, intelligently. Never mind
about to-morrow. Thinking of it means dreaming or
despairing--both futilities. Just the day's work.''

``I begin to understand,'' she said thoughtfully.
``You are right. I've done nothing. Oh, I've been a
fool--more foolish even than I thought.''

A long silence, then she said, somewhat embarrassed
and in a low voice, though there was no danger of those
in front of them hearing:

``I want you to know that there has been nothing
wrong--between Stanley and me.''

``Do you wish me to put that to your credit or to
your discredit?'' inquired he.

``What do you mean?''

``Why, you've just told me that you haven't given
Stanley anything at all for his money--that you've
cheated him outright. The thing itself is discreditable,
but your tone suggests that you think I'll admire you
for it.''

``Do you mean to say that you'd think more highly
of me if I were--what most women would be in the
same circumstances?''

``I mean to say that I think the whole business is
discreditable to both of you--to his intelligence, to
your character.''

``You are frank,'' said she, trying to hide her anger.

``I am frank,'' replied he, undisturbed. He looked
at her. ``Why should I not be?''

``You know that I need you, that I don't dare
resent,'' said she. ``So isn't it--a little cowardly?''

``Why do you need me? Not for money, for you
know you'll not get that.''

``I don't want it,'' cried she, agitated. ``I never
thought of it.''

``Yes, you've probably thought of it,'' replied he
coolly. ``But you will not get it.''

``Well, that's settled--I'll not get it.''

``Then why do you need me? Of what use can I be
to you? Only one use in the world. To tell you the
truth--the exact truth. Is not that so?''

``Yes,'' she said. ``That is what I want from you
--what I can't get from anyone else. No one else
knows the truth--not even Mrs. Brindley, though she's
intelligent. I take back what I said about your being
cowardly. Oh, you do stab my vanity so! You
mustn't mind my crying out. I can't help it--at
least, not till I get used to you.''

``Cry out,'' said he. ``It does no harm.''

``How wonderfully you understand me!'' exclaimed
she. ``That's why I let you say to me anything you

He was smiling peculiarly--a smile that somehow
made her feel uncomfortable. She nerved herself for
some still deeper stab into her vanity. He said, his gaze
upon her and ironical:

``I'm sorry I can't return the compliment.''

``What compliment?'' asked she.

``Can't say that you understand me. Why do you
think I am doing this?''

She colored. ``Oh, no indeed, Mr. Keith,'' she
protested, ``I don't think you are in love with me--or
anything of that sort. Indeed, I do not. I know you
better than that.''

``Really?'' said he, amused. ``Then you are not

``How can you think me so vain?'' she protested.

``Because you are so,'' replied he. ``You are as
vain--no more so, but just as much so--as the average
pretty and attractive woman brought up as you
have been. You are not obsessed by the notion that
your physical charms are all-powerful, and in that
fact there is hope for you. But you attach entirely too
much importance to them. You will find them a
hindrance for a long time before they begin to be a help
to you in your career. And they will always be a
temptation to you to take the easy, stupid way of making
a living--the only way open to most women that
is not positively repulsive.''

``I think it is the most repulsive,'' said Mildred.

``Don't cant,'' replied he, unimpressed. ``It's not
so repulsive to your sort of woman as manual labor--
or as any kind of work that means no leisure, no luxury
and small pay.''

``I wonder,'' said Mildred. ``I--I'm afraid you're
right. But I WON'T admit it. I don't dare.''

``That's the finest, truest thing I've ever heard you
say,'' said Keith.

Mildred was pleased out of all proportion to the
compliment. Said she with frank eagerness, ``Then
I'm not altogether hopeless?''

``As a character, no indeed,'' replied he. ``But as a
career-- I was about to say, you may set your mind
at rest. I shall never try to collect for my services.
I am doing all this solely out of obstinacy.''

``Obstinacy?'' asked the puzzled girl.

``The impossible attracts me. That's why I've never
been interested to make a career in law or politics or
those things. I care only for the thing that can't be
done. When I saw you and studied you, as I study
every new thing, I decided that you could not possibly
make a career.''

``Why have you changed your mind?'' she interrupted eagerly.

``I haven't,'' replied he. ``If I had, I should have
lost interest in you. Just as soon as you show signs of
making a career, I shall lose interest in you. I have a
friend, a doctor, who will take only cases where cure is
impossible. Looking at you, it occurred to me that
here was a chance to make an experiment more interesting
than any of his. And as I have no other impossible
task inviting me at present, I decided to undertake
you--if you were willing.''

``Why do you tell me this?'' she asked. ``To
discourage me?''

``No. Your vanity will prevent that.''

``Then why?''

``To clear myself of all responsibility for you. You
understand--I bind myself to nothing. I am free to
stop or to go on at any time.''

``And I?'' said Mildred.

``You must do exactly as I tell you.''

``But that is not fair,'' cried she.

``Why not?'' inquired he. ``Without me you have
no hope--none whatever.''

``I don't believe that,'' declared she. ``It is not

``Very well. Then we'll drop the business,'' said he
tranquilly. ``If the time comes when you see that I'm
your only hope, and if then I'm in my present humor,
we will go on.''

And he lapsed into silence from which she soon gave
over trying to rouse him. She thought of what he had
said, studied him, but could make nothing of it. She
let four days go by, days of increasing unrest and
unhappiness. She could not account for herself. Donald
Keith seemed to have cast a spell over her--an
evil spell. Her throat gave her more and more
trouble. She tried her voice, found that it had vanished.
She examined herself in the glass, and saw or fancied
that her looks were going--not so that others would
note it, but in the subtle ways that give the first alarm
to a woman who has beauty worth taking care of and
thinks about it intelligently. She thought Mrs. Brindley
was beginning to doubt her, suspected a covert
uneasiness in Stanley. Her foundations, such as they
were, seemed tottering and ready to disintegrate. She
saw her own past with clear vision for the first time--
saw how futile she had been, and why Keith believed
there was no hope for her. She made desperate
efforts to stop thinking about past and future, to absorb
herself in present comfort and luxury and opportunities
for enjoyment. But Keith was always there--and
to see him was to lose all capacity for enjoyment. She
was curt, almost rude to him--had some vague idea of
forcing him to stay away. Yet every time she lost
sight of him, she was in terror until she saw him again.

She was alone on the small veranda facing the high-
road. She happened to glance toward the station; her
gaze became fixed, her body rigid, for, coming leisurely
and pompously toward the house, was General
Siddall, in the full panoply of his wonderful tailoring
and haberdashery. She thought of flight, but instantly
knew that flight was useless; the little general was not
there by accident. She waited, her rigidity giving her
a deceptive seeming of calm and even ease. He entered
the little yard, taking off his glossy hat and exposing
the rampant toupee. He smiled at her so slightly that
the angle of the needle-pointed mustaches and imperial
was not changed. The cold, expressionless, fishy eyes
simply looked at her.

``A delightful little house,'' said he, with a patronizing
glance around. ``May I sit down?''

She inclined her head.

``And you are looking well, charming,'' he went on,
and he seated himself and carefully planted his neat
boots side by side. ``For the summer there's nothing
equal to the seashore. You are surprised to see me?''

``I thought you were abroad,'' said Mildred.

``So I was--until yesterday. I came back because
my men had found you. And I'm here because I venture
to hope that you have had enough of this foolish
escapade. I hope we can come to an understanding.
I've lost my taste for wandering about. I wish to settle
down--to have a home and to stay in it. By that
I mean, of course, two or three--or possibly four--
houses, according to the season.'' Mildred sent her
glance darting about. The little general saw and
began to talk more rapidly. ``I've given considerable
thought to our--our misunderstanding. I feel that I
gave too much importance to your--your-- I did
not take your youth and inexperience of the world and
of married life sufficiently into account. Also the first
Mrs. Siddall was not a lady--nor the second. A lady,
a young lady, was a new experience to me. I am a
generous man. So I say frankly that I ought to have
been more patient.''

``You said you would never see me again until I came
to you,'' said Mildred. As he was not looking at her,
she watched his face. She now saw a change--behind
the mask. But he went on in an unchanged voice:

``Were you aware that Mrs. Baird is about to sue
her husband for a separation--not for a divorce but
for a separation--and name you?''

Mildred dropped limply back in her chair.

``That means scandal,'' continued Siddall, ``scandal
touching my name--my honor. I may say, I do not
believe what Mrs. Baird charges. My men have had
you under observation for several weeks. Also, Mrs.
Brindley is, I learn, a woman of the highest character.
But the thing looks bad--you hiding from your husband,
living under an assumed name, receiving the visits
of a former admirer.''

``You are mistaken,'' said Mildred. ``Mrs. Baird
would not bring such a false, wicked charge.''

``You are innocent, my dear,'' said the general.

``You don't realize how your conduct looks. She
intends to charge that her husband has been supporting

Mildred, quivering, started up, sank weakly back

``But,'' he went on, ``you will easily prove that your
money is your inheritance from your father. I assured
myself of that before I consented to come here.''

``Consented?'' said Mildred. ``At whose request?''

``That of my own generosity,'' replied he. ``But
my honor had to be reassured. When I was satisfied
that you were innocent, and simply flighty and foolish,
I came. If there had been any taint upon you, of
course I could not have taken you back. As it is, I am
willing--I may say, more than willing. Mrs. Baird
can be bought off and frightened off. When she finds
you have me to protect you, she will move very
cautiously, you may be sure.''

As the little man talked, Mildred saw and felt behind
the mask the thoughts, the longings of his physical
infatuation for her coiling and uncoiling and reaching
tremulously out toward her like unclean, horrible
tentacles. She was drawn as far as could be back
into her chair, and her soul was shrinking within her

``I am willing to make you a proper allowance, and
to give you all proper freedom,'' he went on. He
showed his sharp white teeth in a gracious smile. ``I
realize I must concede something of my old-fashioned
ideas to the modern spirit. I never thought I would,
but I didn't appreciate how fond I was of you, my
dear.'' He mumbled his tongue and noiselessly smacked
his thin lips. ``Yes, you are worth concessions and

``I am not going back,'' said Mildred. ``Nothing
you could offer me would make any difference.'' She
felt suddenly calm and strong. She stood. ``Please
consider this final.''

``But, my dear,'' said the general softly, though
there was a wicked gleam behind the mask, ``you forget
the scandal--''

``I forget nothing,'' interrupted she. ``I shall not
go back.''

Before he could attempt further to detain her she
opened the screen door and entered. It closed on the
spring and on the spring lock.

Donald Keith, coming in from the sea-front veranda,
was just in time to save her from falling. She pushed
him fiercely away and sank down on the sofa just within
the pretty little drawing-room. She said:

``Thank you. I didn't mean to be rude. I was only
angry with myself. I'm getting to be one of those
absurd females who blubber and keel over.''

``You're white and limp,'' said he. ``What's the

``General Siddall is out there.''

``Um--he's come back, has he?'' said Keith.

``And I am afraid of him--horribly afraid of him.''

``In some places and circumstances he would be a
dangerous proposition,'' said Keith. ``But not here in
the East--and not to you.''

``He would do ANYTHING. I don't know what he can do,
but I am sure it will be frightful--will destroy me.''

``You are going with him?''

She laughed. ``I loathe him. I thought I left him
through fear and anger. I was mistaken. It was
loathing. And my fear of him--it's loathing, too.''

``You mean that?'' said Keith, observing her
intently. ``You wish to be rid of him?''

``What a poor opinion you have of me,'' said she.
``Really, I don't deserve quite that.''

``Then come with me.''

The look of terror and shrinking returned.
``Where? To see him?''

``For the last time,'' said Keith. ``There'll be no

It was the supreme test of her confidence in him.
Without hesitation, she rose, preceded him into the hall,
and advanced firmly toward the screen door through
which the little general could be seen. He was standing
at the top step, his back to them. At the sound
of the opening door he turned.

``This is Mr. Donald Keith,'' said Mildred. ``He
wishes to speak to you.''

The general bowed; Keith bent his head. They eyed
each other with the measuring glance. Keith said in his
dry, terse way: ``I asked Miss Gower to come with me
because I wish her to hear what I have to say to you.''

``You mean my wife,'' said the general with a
gracious smile.

``I mean Miss Gower,'' returned Keith. ``As you
know, she is not your wife.''

Mildred uttered a cry; but the two men continued
to look each at the other, with impassive countenances.

``Your only wife is the woman who has been in the
private insane asylum of Doctor Rivers at Pueblo,
Colorado, for the past eleven years. For about twenty
years before that she was in the Delavan private asylum
near Denver. You could not divorce her under the laws
of Colorado. The divorce you got in Nevada was

``That's a lie,'' said the general coldly.

Keith went on, as if he had not heard: ``You will
not annoy this lady again. And you will stop bribing
Stanley Baird's wife to make a fool of herself. And
you will stop buying houses in the blocks where Baird
owns real estate, and moving colored families into

``I tell you that about my divorce is a lie,'' replied

``I can prove it,'' said Keith. ``And I can prove
that you knew it before you married your second wife.''

For the first time Siddall betrayed at the surface a
hint of how hard he was hit. His skin grew bright yellow;
wrinkles round his eyes and round the base of his
nose sprang into sudden prominence.

``I see you know what I mean--that attempt to
falsify the record at Carson City,'' said Keith. He
opened the screen door for Mildred to pass in. He
followed her, and the door closed behind them. They went
into the drawing-room. He dropped into an easy chair,
crossed his legs, leaned his head back indolently--a
favorite attitude of his.

``How long have you known?'' said she. Her cheeks
were flushed with excitement.

``Oh, a good many years,'' replied he. ``It was one
of those accidental bits of information a man runs across
in knocking about. As soon as Baird told me about
you, I had the thing looked up, quietly. I was going
up to see him to-morrow--about the negroes and Mrs.
Baird's suit.''

``Does Stanley know?'' inquired she.

``No,'' said Keith. ``Not necessary. Never will
be. If you like, you can have the marriage
annulled without notoriety. But that's not necessary,

After a long silence, she said: ``What does this
make out of me?''

``You mean, what would be thought of you, if it were
known?'' inquired he. ``Well, it probably wouldn't
improve your social position.''

``I am disgraced,'' said she, curiously rather than

``Would be, if it were known,'' corrected he, ``and
if you are nothing but a woman without money looking
for a husband. If you happened to be a singer
or an actress, it would add to your reputation--make
you more talked about.''

``But I am not an actress or a singer.''

``On the other hand, I should say you didn't amount
to much socially. Except in Hanging Rock, of course
--if there is still a Hanging Rock. Don't worry about
your reputation. Fussing and fretting about your
social position doesn't help toward a career.''

``Naturally, you take it coolly. But you can hardly
expect me to,'' cried she.

``You are taking it coolly,'' said he. ``Then why
try to work yourself up into a fit of hysterics? The
thing is of no importance--except that you're free
now--will never be bothered by Siddall again. You
ought to thank me, and forget it. Don't be one of the
little people who are forever agitating about trifles.''

Trifles! To speak of such things as trifles! And
yet-- Well, what did they actually amount to in her
life? ``Yes, I AM free,'' she said thoughtfully. ``I've
got what I wanted--got it in the easiest way possible.''

``That's better,'' said he approvingly.

``And I've burnt my bridges behind me,'' pursued
she. ``There's nothing for me now but to go ahead.''

``Which road?'' inquired he carelessly.

``The career,'' cried she. ``There's no other for me.
Of course I COULD marry Stanley, when he's free, as he
would be before very long, if I suggested it. Yes, I
could marry him.''

``Could you?'' observed he.

``Doesn't he love me?''


``Then why do you say he would not marry me?''
demanded she.

``Did I say that?''

``You insinuated it. You suggested that there was
a doubt.''

``Then, there is no doubt?''

``Yes, there is,'' she cried angrily. ``You won't let
me enjoy the least bit of a delusion. He might marry
me if I were famous. But as I am now-- He's an
inbred snob. He can't help it. He simply couldn't
marry a woman in my position. But you're overlooking
one thing--that _I_ would not marry HIM.''

``That's unimportant, if true,'' said Keith.

``You don't believe it?''

``I don't care anything about it, my dear lady,'' said
Keith. ``Have you got time to waste in thinking about
how much I am in love with you? What a womanly
woman you are, to be sure. Your true woman, you
know, never thinks of anything but love--not how
much she loves, but how much she is loved.''

``Be careful!'' she warned. ``Some day you'll go
too far in saying outrageous things to me.''

``And then?'' said he smilingly.

``You care nothing for our friendship?''

``The experiment is the only interest I have in you,''
replied he.

``That is not true,'' said she. ``You have always
liked me. That's why you looked up my hus--
General Siddal{sic} and got ready for him. That's why you
saved me to-day. You are a very tender-hearted and
generous man--and you hide it as you do everything
else about yourself.''

He was looking off into space from the depths of
the easy chair, a mocking smile on his classical,
impassive face.

``What puzzles me,'' she went on, ``is why you interest
yourself in as vain and shallow and vacillating a
woman as I am. You don't care for my looks--and
that's all there is to me.''

``Don't pause to be contradicted,'' said he.

She was in a fine humor now. ``You might at least
have said I was up to the female average, for I am.
What have they got to offer a man but their looks?
Do you know why I despise men?''

``Do you?''

``I do. And it's because they put up with women
as much as they do--spend so much money on them,
listen to their chatter, admire their ridiculous clothes.
Oh, I understand why. I've learned that. And I can
imagine myself putting up with anything in some one
man I happened to fancy strongly. But men are foolish
about the whole sex--or all of them that have a
shadow of a claim to good looks.''

``Yes, the men make fools of themselves,'' admitted
he. ``But I notice that the men manage somehow to
make the careers, and hold on to the money and the
power, while the women have to wheedle and fawn and
submit in order to get what they want from the men.
There's nothing to be said for your sex. It's been
hopelessly corrupted by mine. For all the talk about
the influence of woman, what impression has your sex
made upon mine? And your sex--it has been made
by mine into exactly what we wished it to be. Take
my advice, get out of your sex. Abandon it, and make
a career.''

After a while she recalled with a start the events of
less than an hour ago--events that ought to have
seemed wildly exciting, arousing the deepest and strongest
emotions. Yet they had made no impression upon
her. Absolutely none. She had no horror in the
thought that she had been the victim of a bigamist;
she had no elation over her release into freedom and
safety. She wondered whether this arose from utter
frivolousness or from indifference to the trifles of
conventional joys, sorrows, agitations, excitements which
are the whole life of most people--that indifference
which is the cause of the general opinion that men and
women who make careers are usually hardened in the

As she lay awake that night--she had got a very
bad habit of lying awake hour after hour--she suddenly
came to a decision. But she did not tell Keith
for several days. She did it in this way:

``Don't you think I'm looking better?'' she asked.

``You're sleeping again,'' said he.

``Do you know why? Because my mind's at rest.
I've decided to accept your offer.''

``And my terms?'' said he, apparently not interested
by her announcement.

``And your terms,'' assented she. ``You are free to
stop whenever the whim strikes you; I must do exactly
as you bid. What do you wish me to do?''

``Nothing at present,'' replied he. ``I will let you

She was disappointed. She had assumed that something--
something new and interesting, probably irritating,
perhaps enraging, would occur at once. His
indifference, his putting off to a future time, which his
manner made seem most hazily indefinite, gave her the
foolish and collapsing sense of having broken through
an open door.


THE first of September they went up to town.
Stanley left at once for his annual shooting trip;
Donald Keith disappeared, saying--as was his habit--
neither what he was about nor when he would be seen
again. Mrs. Brindley summoned her pupils and her
musical friends. Mildred resumed the lessons with
Jennings. There was no doubt about it, she had
astonishingly improved during the summer. There had
come--or, rather, had come back--into her voice the
birdlike quality, free, joyous, spontaneous, that had not
been there since her father's death and the family's
downfall. She was glad that her arrangement with
Donald Keith was of such a nature that she was really
not bound to go on with it--if he should ever come
back and remind her of what she had said. Now that
Jennings was enthusiastic--giving just and deserved
praise, as her own ear and Mrs. Brindley assured her,
she was angry at herself for having tolerated Keith's
frankness, his insolence, his insulting and contemptuous
denials of her ability. She was impatient to see him,
that she might put him down. She said to Jennings:

``You think I can make a career?''

``There isn't a doubt in my mind now,'' replied he.
``You ought to be one of the few great lyric sopranos
within five years.''

``A man, this summer--a really unusual man in
some ways--told me there was no hope for me.''

``A singing teacher?''

``No, a lawyer. A Mr. Keith--Donald Keith.''

``I've heard of him,'' said Jennings. ``His mother
was Rivi, the famous coloratura of twenty years ago.''

Mildred was astounded. ``He must know something
about music.''

``Probably,'' replied Jennings. ``He lived with her
in Italy, I believe, until he was almost grown. Then
she died. You sang for him?''

``No,'' Mildred said it hesitatingly.

``Oh!'' said Jennings, and his expression--interested,
disturbed, puzzled--made Mildred understand
why she had been so reluctant to confess. Jennings
did not pursue the subject, but abruptly began the
lesson. That day and several days thereafter he put her
to tests he had never used before. She saw that he
was searching for something--for the flaw implied in
the adverse verdict of the son of Lucia Rivi. She was
enormously relieved when he gave over the search without
having found the flaw. She felt that Donald
Keith's verdict had been proved false or at least faulty.
Yet she was not wholly reassured, and from time to time
she suspected that Jennings had not been, either.

Soon the gayety of the preceding winter and spring
was in full swing again. Keith did not return, did not
write, and Cyrilla Brindley inquired and telephoned in
vain. Mildred worked with enthusiasm, with hope,
presently with confidence. She hoped every day that Keith
would come; she would make him listen to her, force him
to admit. She caught a slight cold, neglected it, tried
to sing it away. Her voice left her abruptly. She
went to Jennings as usual the day she found herself
able to do nothing more musical than squeak. She told
him her plight. Said he:

``Begin! Let's hear.''

She made a few dismal attempts, stopped short, and,
half laughing, half ashamed, faced him for the lecture
she knew would be forthcoming. Now, it so happened
that Jennings was in a frightful humor that day--one
of those humors in which the most prudent lose their
self-control. He had been listening to a succession of
new pupils--women with money and no voice, women
who screeched and screamed and thoroughly enjoyed
themselves and angled confidently for compliments. As
Jennings had an acute musical ear, his sufferings had
been frightful. He was used to these torments, had the
habit of turning the fury into which they put him into
excellent financial or disciplinary account. But on this
particular day his nerves went to pieces, and it was with
Mildred that the explosion came. When she looked at
him, she was horrified to see a face distorted and
discolored by sheer rage.

``You fool!'' he shouted, storming up and down.
``You fool! You can't sing! Keith was right. You
wouldn't do even for a church choir. You can't be
relied on. There's nothing behind your voice--no
strength, no endurance, no brains. No brains! Do
you hear?--no brains, I say!''

Mildred was terrified. She had seen him in tantrums
before, but always there had been a judicious reserving
of part of the truth. Instead of resenting, instead of
flashing eye or quivering lips, Mildred sat down and with
white face and dazed eyes stared straight before her.
Jennings raved and roared himself out. As he came
to his senses from this debauch of truth-telling his first
thought was how expensive it might be. Thus, long
before there was any outward sign that the storm had
passed, the ravings, the insults were shrewdly tempered
with qualifyings. If she kept on catching these colds,
if she did not obey his instructions, she might put off
her debut for years--for three years, for two years at
least. And she would always be rowing with managers
and irritating the public--and so on and on. But
the mischief had been done. The girl did not rouse.

``No use to go on to-day,'' he said gruffly--the
pretense at last rumblings of an expiring storm.

``Nor any other day,'' said Mildred.

She stood and straightened herself. Her face was
beautiful rather than lovely. Its pallor, its strong
lines, the melancholy intensity of the eyes, made her
seem more the woman fully developed, less, far less, the
maturing girl.

``Nonsense!'' scolded Jennings. ``But no more
colds like that. They impair the quality of the voice.''

``I have no voice,'' said the girl. ``I see the truth.''

Jennings was inwardly cursing his insane temper.
In about the kindliest tone he had ever used with her,
he said: ``My dear Miss Stevens, you are in no
condition to judge to-day. Come back to-morrow. Do
something for that cold to-night. Clear out the throat
--and come back to-morrow. You will see.''

``Yes, I know those tricks,'' said she, with a sad little
smile. ``You can make a crow seem to sing. But you
told me the truth.''

``To-morrow,'' he cried pleasantly, giving her an
encouraging pat on the shoulder. He knew the folly of
talking too much, the danger of confirming her fears by
pretending to make light of them. ``A good sleep, and
to-morrow things will look brighter.''

He did not like her expression. It was not the one
he was used to seeing in those vain, ``temperamental''
pupils of his--the downcast vanity that will be up
again in a few hours. It was rather the expression of
one who has been finally and forever disillusioned.

On her way home she stopped to send Keith a
telegram: ``I must see you at once.''

There were several at the apartment for tea, among
them Cullan, an amateur violinist and critic on music
whom she especially liked. For, instead of the dreamy,
romantic character his large brown eyes and sensitive
features suggested, he revealed in talk and actions a
boyish gayety--free, be it said, from boyish silliness--
that was most infectious. His was one of those souls
that put us in the mood to laugh at all seriousness, to
forget all else in the supreme fact of the reality of
existence. He made her forget that day--forget until
Keith's answering telegram interrupted: ``Next Monday

A week less a day away! She shrank and trembled
at the prospect of relying upon herself alone for six
long days. Every prop had been taken away from her.
Even the dubious prop of the strange, unsatisfactory
Keith. For had he not failed her? She had said,
``must'' and ``at once''; and he had responded with
three words of curt refusal.

After dinner Stanley unexpectedly appeared. He
hardly waited for the necessary formalities of the
greeting before he said to Mrs. Brindley: ``I want to see
Mildred alone. I know you won't mind, Mrs. Brindley.
It's very important.'' He laughed nervously but cheerfully.
``And in a few minutes I'll call you in. I think
I'll have something interesting to tell you.''

Mrs. Brindley laughed. With her cigarette in one
hand and her cup of after-dinner coffee in the other,
she moved toward the door, saying gayly to Mildred:

``I'll be in the next room. If you scream I shall
hear. So don't be alarmed.''

Stanley closed the door, turned beaming upon
Mildred. Said he: ``Here's my news. My missus has
got her divorce.''

Mildred started up.

``Yes, the real thing,'' he assured her. ``Of course
I knew what was doing. But I kept mum--didn't
want to say anything to you till I could say everything.
Mildred, I'm free. We can be married to-morrow, if
you will.''

``Then you know about me?'' said she, confused.

``On the way I stopped in to see Keith. He told me
about that skunk--told me you were free, too.''

Mildred slowly sat down. Her elbows rested upon
the table. There was her bare forearm, slender and
round, and her long, graceful fingers lay against her
cheek. The light from above reflected charmingly
from the soft waves and curves of her hair. ``You're
lovely--simply lovely!'' cried Stanley. ``Mildred--
darling--you WILL marry me, won't you? You can
go right on with the career, if you like. In fact, I'd
rather you would, for I'm frightfully proud of your
voice. And I've changed a lot since I became sincerely
interested in you. The other sort of life and people
don't amuse me any more. Mildred, say you'll
marry me. I'll make you as happy as the days are

She moved slightly. Her hand dropped to the table.

``I guess I came down on you too suddenly,'' said
he. ``You look a bit dazed.''

``No, I'm not dazed,'' replied she.

``I'll call Mrs. Brindley in, and we'll all three talk
it over.''

``Please don't,'' said she. ``I've got to think it out
for myself.''

``I know there isn't anyone else,'' he went on. ``So,
I'm sure--dead sure, Mildred, that I can teach you
to love me.''

She looked at him pleadingly. ``I don't have to
answer right away?''

``Certainly not,'' laughed he. ``But why shouldn't
you? What is there against our getting married?
Nothing. And everything for it. Our marriage will
straighten out all the--the little difficulties, and you
can go ahead with the singing and not bother about
money, or what people might say, or any of those

``I--I've got to think about it, Stanley,'' she said
gently. ``I want to do the decent thing by you and
by myself.''

``You're afraid I'll interfere in the career--won't
want you to go on? Mildred, I swear I'm--''

``It isn't that,'' she interrupted, her color high.
``The truth is--'' she faltered, came to a full stop--
cried, ``Oh, I can't talk about it to-night.''

``To-morrow?'' he suggested.

``I--don't know,'' she stammered. ``Perhaps to-
morrow. But it may be two or three days.''

Stanley looked crestfallen. ``That hurts, Mildred,''
he said. ``I was SO full of it, so anxious to be entirely
happy, and I thought you'd fall right in with it.
Something to do with money? You're horribly sensitive
about money, dear. I like that in you, of course.
Not many women would have been as square, would
have taken as little--and worked hard--and thought
and cared about nothing but making good-- By Jove,
it's no wonder I'm stark crazy about YOU!''

She was flushed and trembling. ``Don't,'' she
pleaded. ``You're beating me down into the dust. I
--I'm--'' She started up. ``I can't talk to-night.
I might say things I'd be-- I can't talk about it. I

She pressed her lips together and fled through the
hall to her own room, to shut and lock herself in. He
stared in amazement. When he heard the distant sound
of the turning key he dropped to a chair again and
laughed. Certainly women were queer creatures--
always doing what one didn't expect. Still, in the end--
well, a sensible woman knew a good chance to marry
and took it. There was no doubt a good deal of
pretense in Mildred's delicacy as to money matters--but
a devilish creditable sort of pretense. He liked the
ladylike, ``nice'' pretenses, of women of the right sort
--liked them when they fooled him, liked them when
they only half fooled him.

Presently he knocked on the door of the little library,
opened it when permission came in Cyrilla's voice. She
was reading the evening paper--he did not see the
glasses she hastily thrust into a drawer. In that soft
light she looked a scant thirty, handsome, but for his
taste too intellectual of type to be attractive--except
as a friend.

``Well,'' said he, as he lit a cigarette and dropped the
match into the big copper ash-bowl, ``I'll bet you can't
guess what I've been up to.''

``Making love to Miss Stevens,'' replied she. ``And
very foolish it is of you. She's got a steady head
in that way.''

``You're mighty right,'' said he heartily. ``And I
admire her for that more than for anything else. I'd
trust her anywhere.''

``You're paying yourself a high compliment,''
laughed Cyrilla.

``How's that?'' inquired he. ``You're too subtle
for me. I'm a bit slow.''

Mrs. Brindley decided against explaining. It was
not wise to risk raising an unjust doubt in the mind
of a man who fancied that a woman who resisted him
would be adamant to every other man. ``Then I've got
to guess again?'' said she.

``I've been asking her to marry me,'' said Stanley,
who could contain it no longer. ``Mrs. B. was released
from me to-day by the court in Providence.''

``But SHE'S not free,'' said Cyrilla, a little severely.

Stanley looked confused, finally said: ``Yes, she is.
It's a queer story. Don't say anything. I can't
explain. I know I can trust you to keep a close mouth.''

``Minding my own business is my one supreme talent,''
said Cyrilla.

``She hasn't accepted me--in so many words,'' pursued
Baird, ``but I've hopes that it'll come out all

``Naturally,'' commented Cyrilla dryly.

``I know I'm not--not objectionable to her. And
how I do love her!'' He settled himself at his ease.
``I can't believe it's really me. I never thought I'd
marry--just for love. Did you?''

``You're very self-indulgent,'' said Cyrilla.

``You mean I'm marrying her because I can't get
her any other way. There's where you're wrong, Mrs.
Brindley. I'm marrying her because I don't want her
any other way. That's why I know it's love. I didn't
think I was capable of it. Of course, I've been rather
strong after the ladies all my life. You know how it
is with men.''

``I do,'' said Mrs. Brindley.

``No, you don't either,'' retorted he. ``You're one
of those cold, stand-me-off women who can't comprehend
the nature of man.''

``As you please,'' said she. In her eyes there was a
gleam that more than suggested a possibility of some
man--some man she might fancy--seeing an amazingly
different Cyrilla Brindley.

``I may say I was daft about pretty women,''
continued Baird. ``I never read an item about a pretty
woman in the papers, or saw a picture of a pretty woman
that I didn't wish I knew her--well. Can you imagine
that?'' laughed he.

``Commonplace,'' said Cyrilla. ``All men are so.
That's why the papers always describe the woman as
pretty and why the pictures are published.''

``Really? Yes, I suppose so.'' Baird looked
chagrined. ``Anyhow, here I am, all for one woman.
And why? I can't explain it to myself. She's pretty,
lovely, entrancing sometimes. She has charm, grace,
sweetness. She dresses well and carries herself with a
kind of sweet haughtiness. She looks as if she knew a
lot--and nothing bad. Do you know, I can't imagine
her having been married to that beast! I've tried to
imagine it. I simply can't.''

``I shouldn't try if I were you,'' said Mrs. Brindley.

``But I was talking about why I love her. Does this
bore you?''

``A little,'' laughed Cyrilla. ``I'd rather hear some
man talking about MY charms. But go on. You are amusing,
in a way.''

``I'll wager I am. You never thought I'd be caught?
I believed I was immune--vaccinated against it.
I thought I knew all the tricks and turns of the sex.
Yet here I am!''

``What do you think caught you?''

``That's the mystery. It's simply that I can't do
without her. Everything she looks and says and does
interests me more than anything else in the world. And
when I'm not with her I'm wishing I were and wondering
how she's looking or what she's saying or doing. You
don't think she'll refuse me?'' This last with real

``I haven't an idea,'' replied Mrs. Brindley. ``She's
--peculiar. In some moods she would. In others, she
couldn't. And I've never been able to settle to my
satisfaction which kind of mood was the real Mary

``She IS queer, isn't she?'' said Stanley thoughtfully.
``But I've told her she'd be free to go on with the career.
Fact is, I want her to do it.''

Mrs. Brindley's eyes twinkled. ``You think it would
justify you to your set in marrying her, if she made
a great hit?''

Stanley blushed ingenuously. ``I'll not deny that has
something to do with it,'' he admitted. ``And why

``Why not, indeed?'' said she. ``But, after she had
made the hit, you'd want her to quit the stage and take
her place in society. Isn't that so?''

``You ARE a keen one,'' exclaimed he admiringly.
``But I didn't say that to her. And you won't, will you?''

``It's hardly necessary to ask that,'' said Mrs.
Brindley. ``Now, suppose-- You don't mind my talking
about this?''

``What I want,'' replied he. ``I can't talk or think
anything but her.''

``Now, suppose she shouldn't make a hit. Suppose
she should fail--should not develop reliable voice

Stanley looked frightened. ``But she can't fail,''
he cried with over-energy. ``There's no question about
her voice.''

``I understand,'' Mrs. Brindley hastened to say. ``I
was simply making conversation with her as the subject.''

``Oh, I see.'' Stanley settled back.

``Suppose she should prove not to be a great artist--
what then?'' persisted Cyrilla, who was deeply interested
in the intricate obscure problem of what people
really thought as distinguished from what they professed
and also from what they imagined they thought.

``The fact that she's a great artist--that's part of
her,'' said Baird. ``If she weren't a great singer, she
wouldn't be she--don't you see?''

``Yes, I see,'' said Mrs. Brindley with an ironic
sadness which she indulged openly because there was no
danger of his understanding.

``I don't exactly love her because she amounts to a
lot--or is sure to,'' pursued he, vaguely dissatisfied
with himself. ``It's just as she doesn't care for me
because I've got the means to take care of her right, yet
that's part of me--and she'd not be able to marry me
if I hadn't. Don't you see?''

``Yes, I see,'' said Mrs. Brindley with more irony
and less sadness. ``There's always SOME reason beside love.''

``I'd say there's always some reason FOR love,'' said
Baird, and he felt that he had said something brilliant--
as is the habit of people of sluggish mentality when
they say a thing they do not themselves understand.
``You don't doubt that I love her?'' he went on. ``Why
should I ask her to marry me if I didn't?''

``I suppose that settles it,'' said Cyrilla.

``Of course it does,'' declared he.

For an hour he sat there, talking on, most of it a
pretty dull kind of drivel. Mrs. Brindley listened
patiently, because she liked him and because she had
nothing else to do until bedtime. At last he rose with
a long sigh and said:

``I guess I might as well be going.''

``She'll not come in to-night again,'' said Cyrilla

He laughed. ``You are a good one. I'll own up,
I've been staying on partly in the hope that she'd come
back. But it's been a great joy to talk to you about
her. I know you love her, too.''

``Yes, I'm extremely fond of her,'' said she. ``I've
not known many women--many people without petty
mean tricks. She's one.''

``Isn't she, though?'' exclaimed he.

``I don't mean she's perfect,'' said Mrs. Brindley.
``I don't even mean that she's as angelic as you think
her. I'd not like her, if she were. But she's a superior
kind of human.''

She was tired of him now, and got him out speedily.
As she closed the front door upon him, Mildred's door,
down the hall, opened. Her head appeared, an inquiring
look upon her face. Mrs. Brindley nodded. Mil-
dred, her hair done close to her head, a dressing-robe
over her nightgown and her bare feet in little slippers,
came down the hall. She coiled herself up in a big
chair in the library and lit a cigarette. She looked
like a handsome young boy.

``He told you?'' she said to Mrs. Brindley.

``Yes,'' replied Cyrilla.

Silence. In all their intimate acquaintance there had
never been an approach to the confidential on either
side. It was Cyrilla's notion that confidences were a
mistake, and that the more closely people were thrown
together the more resolutely they ought to keep certain
barriers between them. She and Mildred got on too
admirably, liked each other too well, for there to be
any trifling with their relations--and over-intimacy
inevitably led to trifling. Mildred had restrained
herself because Mrs. Brindley had compelled it by rigid
example. Often she had longed to talk things over,
to ask advice; but she had never ventured further than
generalities, and Mrs. Brindley had never proffered
advice, had never accepted opportunities to give it
except in the vaguest way. She had taught Mildred a
great deal, but always by example, by doing, never by
saying what ought or ought not to be done. Thus,
such development of Mildred's character as there had
been was natural and permanent.

``He has put me in a peculiar position,'' said
Mildred. ``Or, rather, I have let myself drift into a
peculiar position. For I think you're right in saying
that oneself is always to blame. Won't you let me talk
about it to you, please? I know you hate confidences.
But I've got to--to talk. I'd like you to advise me,
if you can. But even if you don't, it'll do me good to
say things aloud.''

``Often one sees more clearly,'' was Cyrilla's reply--
noncommittal, yet not discouraging.

``I'm free to marry him,'' Mildred went on. ``That
is, I'm not married. I'd rather not explain--''

``Don't,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``It's unnecessary.''

``You know that it's Stanley who has been lending
me the money to live on while I study. Well, from
the beginning I've been afraid I'd find myself in a
difficult position.''

``Naturally,'' said Mrs. Brindley, as she paused.

``But I've always expected it to come in another
way--not about marriage, but--''

``I understand,'' said Mrs. Brindley. ``You feared
you'd be called on to pay in the way women usually
pay debts to men.''

Mildred nodded. ``But this is worse than I expected
--much worse.''

``I hadn't thought of that,'' said Cyrilla. ``Yes,
you're right. If he had hinted the other thing, you
could have pretended not to understand. If he had
suggested it, you could have made him feel cheap and

``I did,'' said Mildred. ``He has been--really
wonderful--better than almost any man would have been--
more considerate than I deserved. And I took advantage
of it.''

``A woman has to,'' said Cyrilla. ``The fight
between men and women is so unequal.''

``I took advantage of him,'' repeated Mildred.
``And he apologized, and I--I went on taking the
money. I didn't know what else to do. Isn't that

``Nothing to be proud of,'' said Cyrilla. ``But a
very usual transaction.''

``And then,'' pursued Mildred, ``I discovered that
I--that I'd not be able to make a career. But still
I kept on, though I've been trying to force myself to--
to show some pride and self-respect. I discovered it
only a short time ago, and it wasn't really until to-day
that I was absolutely sure.''

``You ARE sure?''

``There's hardly a doubt,'' replied Mildred. ``But
never mind that now. I've got to make a living at
something, and while I'm learning whatever it is, I've
got to have money to live on. And I can get it only
from him. Now, he asks me to marry him. He
wouldn't ask me if he didn't think I was going to be
a great singer. He doesn't know it, but I do.''

Mrs. Brindley smiled sweetly.

``And he thinks that I love him, also. If I accept
him, it will be under doubly false pretenses. If I refuse
him I've got to stop taking the money.''

A long silence; then Mrs. Brindley said: ``Women--
the good ones, too--often feel that they've a right to
treat men as men treat them. I think almost any woman
would feel justified in putting off the crisis.''

``You mean, I might tell him I'd give him my answer
when I was independent and had paid back.''

Cyrilla nodded. Mildred relit her cigarette, which
she had let go out. ``I had thought of that,'' said she.
``But--I doubt if he'd tolerate it. Also''--she
laughed with the peculiar intonation that accompanies
the lifting of the veil over a deeply and carefully hidden
corner of one's secret self--``I am afraid. If I don't
marry him, in a few weeks, or months at most, he'll
probably find out that I shall never be a great singer,
and then I'd not be able to marry him if I wished to.''

``He IS a temptation,'' said Cyrilla. ``That is, his
money is--and he personally is very nice.''

``I married a man I didn't care for,'' pursued
Mildred. ``I don't want ever to do that again. It is--
even in the best circumstances--not agreeable, not as
simple as it looks to the inexperienced girls who are
always doing it.''

``Still, a woman can endure that sort of thing,'' said
Mrs. Brindley, ``unless she happens to be in love with
another man.'' She was observing the unconscious Mildred
narrowly, a state of inward tension and excitement
hinted in her face, but not in her voice.

``That's just it?'' said Mildred, her face carefully
averted. ``I--I happen to be in love with another

A spasm of pain crossed Cyrilla's face.

``A man who cares nothing about me--and never
will. He's just a friend--so much the friend that he
couldn't possibly think of me as--as a woman, needing
him and wanting him''--her eyes were on fire now, and
a soft glow had come into her cheeks--``and never
daring to show it because if I did he would fly and never
let me see him again.''

Cyrilla Brindley's face was tragic as she looked at
the beautiful girl, so gracefully adjusted to the big
chair. She sighed covertly. ``You are lovely,'' she
said, ``and young--above all, young.''

``This man is peculiar,'' replied Mildred forlornly.
``Anyhow, he doesn't want ME. He knows me for the
futile, weak, worthless creature I am. He saw through
my bluff, even before I saw through it myself. If it
weren't for him, I could go ahead--do the sensible
thing--do as women usually do. But--'' She came
to a full stop.

``Love is a woman's sense of honor,'' said Cyrilla
softly. ``We're merciless and unscrupulous--anything--
everything--where we don't love. But where
we do love, we'll go farther for honor than the most
honorable man. That's why we're both worse and better
than men--and seem to be so contradictory and

``I'd do anything for him,'' said Mildred. She smiled
drearily. ``And he wants nothing.''

She had nothing more to say. She had talked herself
out about Stanley, and her mind was now filled with
thoughts that could not be spoken. As she rose to
go to bed, she looked appealingly at Cyrilla. Then,
with a sudden and shy rush she flung her arms round
her and kissed her. ``Thank you--so much,'' she said.
``You've done me a world of good. Saying it all out
loud before YOU has made me see. I know my own
mind, now.''

She did not note the pathetic tenderness of Cyrilla's
face as she said, ``Good night, Mildred.'' But she did
note the use of her first name--and her own right first
name--for the first time since they had known each
other. She embraced and kissed her again. ``Good
night, Cyrilla,'' she said gratefully.

As she entered Jennings's studio the next day he looked
at her; and when Jennings looked, he saw--as must
anyone who lives well by playing upon human nature.
He did not like her expression. She did not habitually
smile; her light-heartedness, her optimism, did not show
themselves in that inane way. But this seriousness of
hers was of a new kind, of the kind that bespeaks sobriety
and saneness of soul. And that kind of seriousness--
the deep, inward gravity of a person whose
days of trifling with themselves and with the facts of
life, and of being trifled with, are over--would have
impressed Jennings equally had she come in laughing,
had her every word been a jest.

``No, I didn't come for a lesson--at least not the
usual kind,'' said she.

He was not one to yield without a struggle. Also
he wished to feel his way to the meaning of this new
mood. He put her music on the rack. ``We'll begin
where we--''

``This half-hour of your time is mine, is it not?''
said she quietly. ``Let's not waste any of it. Yesterday
you told me that I could not hope to make a career
because my voice is unreliable. Why is it unreliable?''

``Because you have a delicate throat,'' replied he,
yielding at once where he instinctively knew he could
not win.

``Then why can I sing so well sometimes?''

``Because your throat is in good condition some days
--in perfect condition.''

``It's the colds then--and the slight attacks of


``If I did not catch colds--if I kept perfectly well
--could I rely on my voice?''

``But that's impossible,'' said he.


``You're not strong enough.''

``Then I haven't the physical strength for a career?''

``That--and also you are lacking in muscular
development. But after several years of lessons--''

``If I developed my muscles--if I became strong--''

``Most of the great singers come from the lower
classes--from people who do manual labor. They did
manual labor in their youth. You girls of the better
class have to overcome that handicap.''

``But so many of the great singers are fat.''

``Yes, and under that fat you'll find great ropes of
muscle--like a blacksmith.''

``What Keith meant,'' she said. ``I wonder--
Why do I catch cold so easily? Why do I almost
always have a slight catch in the throat? Have you
noticed that I nearly always have to clear my throat
just a little?''

Her expression held him. He hesitated, tried to
evade, gave it up. ``Until that passes, you can never
hope to be a thoroughly reliable singer,'' said he.

``That is, I can't hope to make a career?''

His silence was assent.

``But I have the voice?''

``You have the voice.''

``An unusual voice?''

``Yes, but not so unusual as might be thought. As
a matter of fact, there are thousands of fine voices.
The trouble is in reliability. Only a few are reliable.''

She nodded slowly and thoughtfully. ``I begin to
understand what Mr. Keith meant,'' she said. ``I
begin to see what I have to do, and how--how impossible
it is.''

``By no means,'' declared Jennings. ``If I did not
think otherwise, I'd not be giving my time to you.''

She looked at him gravely. His eyes shifted, then
returned defiantly, aggressively. She said:

``You can't help me to what I want. So this is
my last lesson--for the present. I may come back
some day--when I am ready for what you have to

``You are going to give up?''

``Oh, no--oh, dear me, no,'' replied she. ``I realize
that you're laughing in your sleeve as I say so, because
you think I'll never get anywhere. But you--and
Mr. Keith--may be mistaken.'' She drew from her
muff a piece of music--the ``Batti Batti,'' from ``Don
Giovanni.'' ``If you please,'' said she, ``we'll spend
the rest of my time in going over this. I want to be
able to sing it as well as possible.''

He looked searchingly at her. ``If you wish,'' said
he. ``But I doubt if you'll be able to sing at all.''

``On the contrary, my cold's entirely gone,'' replied
she. ``I had an exciting evening, I doctored myself
before I went to bed, and three or four times in the night.
I found, this morning, that I could sing.''

And it was so. Never had she sung better. ``Like
a true artist!'' he declared with an enthusiasm that had
a foundation of sincerity. ``You know, Miss Stevens,
you came very near to having that rarest of all gifts--
a naturally placed voice. If you hadn't had singing
teachers as a girl to make you self-conscious and to teach
you wrong, you'd have been a wonder.''

``I may get it back,'' said Mildred.

``That never happens,'' replied he. ``But I can
almost do it.''

He coached her for half an hour straight ahead,
sending the next pupil into the adjoining room--an
unprecedented transgression of routine. He showed
her for the first time what a teacher he could be, when
he wished. There was an astonishing difference
between her first singing of the song and her sixth
and last--for they went through it carefully five
times. She thanked him and then put out her hand,

``This is a long good-by.''

``To-morrow,'' replied he, ignoring her hand.

``No. My money is all gone. Besides, I have no
time for amateur trifling.''

``Your lessons are paid for until the end of the
month. This is only the nineteenth.''

``Then you are so much in.'' Again she put out her

He took it. ``You owe me an explanation.''

She smiled mockingly. ``As a friend of mine says,
don't ask questions to which you already know the answer.''

And she departed, the smile still on her charming
face, but the new seriousness beneath it. As she had
anticipated, she found Stanley Baird waiting for her
in the drawing-room of the apartment. Being by
habit much interested in his own emotions and not at
all in the emotions of others, he saw only the healthful
radiance the sharp October air had put into her cheeks
and eyes. Certainly, to look at Mildred Gower was to
get no impression of lack of health and strength. Her
glance wavered a little at sight of him, then the expression
of firmness came back.

``You look like that picture you gave me a long time
ago,'' said he. ``Do you remember it?''

She did not.

``It has a--different expression,'' he went on. ``I
don't think I'd have noticed it but for Keith. I happened
to show it to him one day, and he stared at it in
that way he has--you know?''

``Yes, I know,'' said Mildred. She was seeing those
uncanny, brilliant, penetrating eyes, in such startling
contrast to the calm, lifeless coloring and classic chiseling
of features.

``And after a while he said, `So, THAT'S Miss
Stevens!' And I asked him what he meant, and he took
one of your later photos and put the two side by side.
To my notion the later was a lot the more attractive,
for the face was rounder and softer and didn't have a
certain kind of--well, hardness, as if you had a will
and could ride rough shod. Not that you look so
frightfully unattractive.''

``I remember the picture,'' interrupted Mildred. ``It
was taken when I was twenty--just after an illness.''

``The face WAS thin,'' said Stanley. ``Keith called it
a `give away.' ''

``I'd like to see it,'' said Mildred.

``I'll try to find it. But I'm afraid I can't. I
haven't seen it since I showed it to Keith, and when I
hunted for it the other day, it didn't turn up. I've
changed valets several times in the last six months--''

But Mildred had ceased listening. Keith had seen the
picture, had called it a ``give away,'' had been interested
in it--and the picture had disappeared. She
laughed at her own folly, yet she was glad Stanley had
given her this chance to make up a silly day-dream.
She waited until he had exhausted himself on the subject
of valets, their drunkenness, their thievish habits,
their incompetence, then she said:

``I took my last lesson from Jennings to-day.''

``What's the matter? Do you want to change?
You didn't say anything about it? Isn't he good?''

``Good enough. But I've discovered that my voice
isn't reliable, and unless one has a reliable voice there's
no chance for a grand-opera career--or for comic
opera, either.''

Stanley was straightway all agitation and protest.
``Who put that notion in your head? There's nothing
in it, Mildred. Jennings is crazy about your voice,
and he knows.''

``Jennings is after the money,'' replied Mildred.
``What I'm saying is the truth. Stanley, our beautiful
dream of a career has winked out.''

His expression was most revealing.

``And,'' she went on, ``I'm not going to take any
more of your money--and, of course, I'll pay back
what I've borrowed when I can''--she smiled--``which
may not be very soon.''

``What's all this about, anyhow?'' demanded he. ``I
don't see any sign of it in your face. You wouldn't
take it so coolly if it were so.''

``I don't understand why I'm not wringing my hands
and weeping,'' replied she. ``Every few minutes I tell
myself that I ought to be. But I stay quite calm. I
suppose I'm--sort of stupefied.''

``Do you really mean that you've given up?'' cried

``It's no use to waste the money, Stanley. I've got
the voice, and that's what deceived us all. But there's
nothing BEHIND the voice. With a great singer the
greatness is in what's behind the voice, not in the voice

``I don't believe a word of it,'' cried he violently.
``You've been discouraged by a little cold. Everybody
has colds. Why, in this climate the colds are always
getting the Metropolitan singers down.''

``But they've got strong throats, and my throat's

``You must go to a better climate. You ought to be
abroad, anyhow. That was part of my plan--for us
to go abroad--'' He stopped in confusion, reddened,
went bravely on--``and you to study there and make
your debut.''

Mildred shook her head. ``That's all over,'' said she.
``I've got to change my plans entirely.''

``You're a little depressed, that's all. For a minute
you almost convinced me. What a turn you did give
me! I forgot how your voice sounded the last time

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