Part 7 out of 7
to have a hard time getting things. Then you appreciate
them, and have learned how to hold on.''
``No trouble about holding on to this,'' said Mildred
``Please don't talk that way, child,'' pleaded Agnes,
almost tearful. ``It's frightful to me, who've had
experience, to hear you invite a fall-down.''
Mildred disdainfully fluttered the typewritten copy of
the musical comedy. ``This is child's play,'' said she.
``The lines are beneath contempt. As for the songs,
you never heard such slop.''
``The stars in those pieces get four and five hundred,
and more, a week,'' said Mrs. Belloc. ``Believe me,
those managers don't pay out any such sums for child's
play. You look out. You're going at this wrong.''
``I shan't care if I do fail,'' said Mildred.
``Do you mean that?'' demanded Mrs. Belloc.
``No, I don't,'' said Mildred. ``Oh, I don't know
what I mean.''
``I guess you're just talking,'' said Mrs. Belloc after
a reflective silence. ``I guess a girl who goes and gets
a good job, first crack out of the box, must have a
streak of shrewdness.''
``I hope so,'' said Mildred doubtfully.
``I guess you'll work hard, all right. After you
went out this morning, I took that paper down to Miss
Blond. She's crazy about it. She wants to make a
copy of it. I told her I'd ask you.''
``Certainly,'' said Mildred.
``She says she'll return it the same day.''
``Tell her she can keep it as long as she likes.''
Mrs. Belloc eyed her gravely, started to speak,
checked herself. Instead, she said, ``No, I shan't do
that. I'll have it back in your room by this evening.
You might change your mind, and want to use it.''
``Very well,'' said Mildred, pointedly uninterested and
ignoring Mrs. Belloc's delicate but distinct emphasis
Mrs. Belloc kept a suspicious eye upon her--an eye
that was not easily deceived. The more she thought
about Mildred's state of depression and disdain the more
tolerant she became. That mood was the natural and
necessary result of the girl's bringing up and mode of
life. The important thing--and the wonderful thing
--was her being able to overcome it. After a week of
rehearsal she said: ``I'm making the best of it. But
I don't like it, and never shall.''
``I should hope not,'' replied Mrs. Belloc. ``You're
going to the top. I'd hate to see you contented at the
bottom. Aren't you learning a good deal that'll be
useful later on?''
``That's why I'm reconciled to it,'' said she. ``The
stage director, Mr. Ransdell, is teaching me everything
--even how to sing. He knows his business.''
Ransdell not only knew, but also took endless pains
with her. He was a tall, thin, dark man, strikingly
handsome in the distinguished way. So distinguished
looking was he that to meet him was to wonder why he
had not made a great name for himself. An extraordinary
mind he certainly had, and an insight into the
reasons for things that is given only to genius. He
had failed as a composer, failed as a playwright, failed
as a singer, failed as an actor. He had been forced
to take up the profession of putting on dramatic and
musical plays, a profession that required vast knowledge
and high talents and paid for them in niggardly
fashion both in money and in fame. Crossley owed to
him more than to any other single element the series
of successes that had made him rich; yet the ten thousand
a year Crossley paid him was regarded as evidence
of Crossley's lavish generosity and was so. It
would have been difficult to say why a man so splendidly
endowed by nature and so tireless in improving himself
was thus unsuccessful. Probably he lacked judgment;
indeed, that lack must have been the cause. He could
judge for Crossley; but not for himself, not when he
had the feeling of ultimate responsibility.
Mildred had anticipated the most repulsive associations--
men and women of low origin and of vulgar
tastes and of vulgarly loose lives. She found herself
surrounded by simple, pleasant people, undoubtedly
erratic for the most part in all their habits, but without
viciousness. And they were hard workers, all. Ransdell
--for Crossley--tolerated no nonsense. His people
could live as they pleased, away from the theater, but
there they must be prompt and fit. The discipline was
as severe as that of a monastery. She saw many signs
that all sorts of things of the sort with which she wished
to have no contact were going on about her; but as she
held slightly--but not at all haughtily--aloof, she
would have had to go out of her way to see enough to
scandalize her. She soon suspected that she was being
treated with extraordinary consideration. This was by
Crossley's orders. But the carrying out of their spirit
as well as their letter was due to Ransdell. Before the
end of that first week she knew that there was the
personal element behind his admiration for her voice and
her talent for acting, behind his concentrating most of
his attention upon her part. He looked his love boldly
whenever they were alone; he was always trying to
touch her--never in a way that she could have resented,
or felt like resenting. He was not unattractive to her,
and she was eager to learn all he had to teach, and saw
no harm in helping herself by letting him love.
Toward the middle of the second week, when they were
alone in her dressing-room, he--with the ingenious
lack of abruptness of the experienced man at the game
--took her hand, and before she was ready, kissed her.
He did not accompany these advances with an outburst
of passionate words or with any fiery lighting up of the
eyes, but calmly, smilingly, as if it were what she was
expecting him to do, what he had a right to do.
She did not know quite how to meet this novel attack.
She drew her hand away, went on talking about the
part--the changes he had suggested in her entrance,
as she sang her best solo. He discussed this with her
until they rose to leave the theater. He looked
smilingly down on her, and said with the flattering air of
the satisfied connoisseur:
``Yes, you are charming, Mildred. I can make a
great artist and a great success out of you. We need
``I certainly need you,'' said she gratefully. ``How
much you've done for me.''
``Only the beginning,'' replied he. ``Ah, I have
such plans for you--such plans. Crossley doesn't
realize how far you can be made to go--with the right
training. Without it--'' He shook his head laughingly.
``But you shall have it, my dear.'' And he
laid his hands lightly and caressingly upon her shoulders.
The gesture was apparently a friendly familiarity.
To resent it, even to draw away, would put her in the
attitude of the woman absurdly exercised about the
desirability and sacredness of her own charms.
Still smiling, in that friendly, assured way, he went
on: ``You've been very cold and reserved with me, my
dear. Very unappreciative.''
Mildred, red and trembling, hung her head in confusion.
``I've been at the business ten years,'' he went on,
``and you're the first woman I've been more than casually
interested in. The pretty ones were bores. The
homely ones--I can't interest myself in a homely
woman, no matter how much talent she has. A woman
must first of all satisfy the eye. And you--'' He
seated himself and drew her toward him. She, cold all
over and confused in mind and almost stupefied, resisted
with all her strength; but her strength seemed to be
oozing away. She said:
``You must not do this. You must not do this. I'm
horribly disappointed in you.''
He drew her to his lap and held her there without
any apparent tax upon his strength. He kissed her,
laughingly pushing away the arms with which she tried
to shield her face. Suddenly she found strength to
wrench herself free and stood at a distance from him.
She was panting a little, was pale, was looking at him
with cold anger.
``You will please leave this room,'' said she.
He lit a cigarette, crossed his legs comfortably, and
looked at her with laughing eyes. ``Don't do that,'' he
said genially. ``Surely my lessons in acting haven't
been in vain. That's too obviously a pose.''
She went to the mirror, arranged her hat, and moved
toward the door. He rose and barred the way.
``You are as sensible as you are sweet and lovely,''
said he. ``Why should you insist on our being bad
``If you don't stand aside, I'll call out to the watchman.''
``I'd never have thought you were dishonest. In
fact, I don't believe it yet. You don't look like one of
those ladies who wish to take everything and give
nothing.'' His tone and manner were most attractive.
Besides, she could not forget all he had
done for her--and all he could do for her. Said
``Mr. Ransdell, if I've done anything to cause you to
misunderstand, it was unconscious. And I'm sorry.
``Be honest,'' interrupted he. ``Haven't I made it
plain that I was fascinated by you?''
She could not deny it.
``Haven't I been showing you that I was willing to
do everything I could for you?''
``I thought you were concerned only about the
success of the piece.''
``The piece be jiggered,'' said he. ``You don't
imagine YOU are necessary to its success, do you? You,
a raw, untrained girl. Don't your good sense tell you
I could find a dozen who would do, let us say, ALMOST
``I understand that,'' murmured she.
``Perhaps you do, but I doubt it,'' rejoined he.
``Vanity's a fast growing weed. However, I rather
expected that you would remain sane and reasonably
humble until you'd had a real success. But it seems
not. Now tell me, why should I give my time and my
talent to training you--to putting you in the way of
quick and big success?''
She was silent.
``What did you count on giving me in return? Your
She colored, hung her head.
``Wasn't I doing for you something worth while?
And what had you to give in return?'' He laughed
with gentle mockery. ``Really, you should have been
grateful that I was willing to do so much for so little,
for what I wanted ought--if you are a sensible woman
--to seem to you a trifle in comparison with what I
was doing for you. It was my part, not yours, to think
the complimentary things about you. How shallow and
vain you women are! Can't you see that the value of
your charms is not in them, but in the imagination of
``I can't answer you,'' said she. ``You've put it all
wrong. You oughtn't to ask payment for a favor beyond price.''
``No, I oughtn't to HAVE to ask,'' corrected he, in the
same pleasantly ironic way. ``You ought to have been
more than glad to give freely. But, curiously, while
we've been talking, I've changed my mind about those
precious jewels of yours. We'll say they're pearls, and
that my taste has suddenly changed to diamonds.'' He
bowed mockingly. ``So, dear lady, keep your pearls.''
And he stood aside, opening the door for her. She
hesitated, dazed that she was leaving, with the feeling
of the conquered, a field on which, by all the precedents,
she ought to have been victor. She passed a troubled
night, debated whether to relate her queer experience to
Mrs. Belloc, decided for silence. It drafted into service
all her reserve of courage to walk into the theater the
next day and to appear on the stage among the assembled
company with her usual air. Ransdell greeted her
with his customary friendly courtesy and gave her his
attention, as always. By the time they had got through
the first act, in which her part was one of four of about
equal importance, she had recovered herself and was in
the way to forget the strange stage director's strange
attack and even stranger retreat. But the situation
changed with the second act, in which she was on the
stage all the time and had the whole burden. The act
as originally written had been less generous to her; but
Ransdell had taken one thing after another away from
the others and had given it to her. She made her first
entrance precisely as he had trained her to make it and
began. A few seconds, and he stopped her.
``Please try again, Miss Gower,'' said he. ``I'm
afraid that won't do.''
She tried again; again he stopped her. She tried a
third time. His manner was all courtesy and consideration,
not the shade of a change. But she began to
feel a latent hostility. Instinctively she knew that
he would no longer help her, that he would leave
her to her own resources, and judge her by how she
acquitted herself. She made a blunder of her third
``Really, Miss Gower, that will never do,'' said he
mildly. ``Let me show you how you did it.''
He gave an imitation of her--a slight caricature.
A titter ran through the chorus. He sternly rebuked
them and requested her to try again. Her fourth
attempt was her worst. He shook his head in gentle
remonstrance. ``Not quite right yet,'' said he
regretfully. ``But we'll go on.''
Not far, however. He stopped her again. Again
the courteous, kindly criticism. And so on, through
the entire act. By the end of it, Mildred's nerves were
unstrung. She saw the whole game, and realized how
helpless she was. Before the end of that rehearsal,
Mildred had slipped back from promising professional into
clumsy amateur, tolerable only because of the beautiful
freshness of her voice--and it was a question whether
voice alone would save her. Yet no one but Mildred
herself suspected that Ransdell had done it, had
revenged himself, had served notice on her that since she
felt strong enough to stand alone she was to have every
opportunity to do so. He had said nothing disagree-
able; on the contrary, he had been most courteous, most
In the third act she was worse than in the second.
At the end of the rehearsal the others, theretofore
flattering and encouraging, turned away to talk among
themselves and avoided her. Ransdell, about to leave,
``Don't look so down-hearted, Miss Gower. You'll
be all right to-morrow. An off day's nothing.''
He said it loudly enough for the others to hear.
Mildred's face grew red with white streaks across it, like
the prints of a lash. The subtlest feature of his
malevolence had been that, whereas on other days he had
taken her aside to criticize her, on this day he had
spoken out--gently, deprecatingly, but frankly--before
the whole company. Never had Mildred Gower
been so sad and so blue as she was that day and that
night. She came to the rehearsal the following day with
a sore throat. She sang, but her voice cracked on the
high notes. It was a painful exhibition. Her fellow
principals, who had been rather glad of her set-back
the day before, were full of pity and sympathy. They
did not express it; they were too kind for that. But
their looks, their drawing away from her--Mildred
could have borne sneers and jeers better. And Ransdell
was SO forbearing, SO gentle.
Her voice got better, got worse. Her acting
remained mediocre to bad. At the fifth rehearsal after
the break with the stage-director, Mildred saw Crossley
seated far back in the dusk of the empty theater. It was
his first appearance at rehearsals since the middle of
the first week. As soon as he had satisfied himself that
all was going well, he had given his attention to other
matters where things were not going well. Mildred
knew why he was there--and she acted and sang atrociously.
Ransdell aggravated her nervousness by ostentatiously
trying to help her, by making seemingly
adroit attempts to cover her mistakes--attempts
apparently thwarted and exposed only because she was
In the pause between the second and third acts
Ransdell went down and sat with Crossley, and they engaged
in earnest conversation. The while, the members of the
company wandered restlessly about the stage, making
feeble attempts to lift the gloom with affected cheerfulness.
Ransdell returned to the stage, went up to Mildred,
who was sitting idly turning the leaves of a
``Miss Gower,'' said he, and never had his voice been
so friendly as in these regretful accents, ``don't try to
go on to-day. You're evidently not yourself. Go home
and rest for a few days. We'll get along with your
understudy, Miss Esmond. When Mr. Crossley wants
to put you in again, he'll send for you. You mustn't
be discouraged. I know how beginners take these
things to heart. Don't fret about it. You can't fail
Mildred rose and, how she never knew, crossed the
stage. She stumbled into the flats, fumbled her way to
the passageway, to her dressing-room. She felt that
she must escape from that theater quickly, or she would
give way to some sort of wild attack of nerves. She
fairly ran through the streets to Mrs. Belloc's, shut
herself in her room. But instead of the relief of a storm of
tears, there came a black, hideous depression. Hour
after hour she sat, almost without motion. The afternoon
waned; the early darkness came. Still she did not
move--could not move. At eight o'clock Mrs. Belloc
knocked. Mildred did not answer. Her door opened
--she had forgotten to lock it. In came Mrs. Belloc.
``Isn't that you, sitting by the window?'' she said.
``Yes,'' replied Mildred.
``I recognized the outline of your hat. Besides, who
else could it be but you? I've saved some dinner for
you. I thought you were still out.''
Mildred did not answer.
``What's the matter?'' said Agnes? ``Ill? bad
``I've lost my position,'' said Mildred.
A pause. Then Mrs. Belloc felt her way across the
room until she was touching the girl. ``Tell me about
it, dear,'' said she.
In a monotonous, lifeless way Mildred told the story.
It was some time after she finished when Agnes said:
``That's bad--bad, but it might be worse. You
must go to see the manager, Crossley.''
``Why?'' said Mildred.
``Tell him what you told me.''
Mildred's silence was dissent.
``It can't do any harm,'' urged Agnes.
``It can't do any good,'' replied Mildred.
``That isn't the way to look at it.''
A long pause. Then Mildred said: ``If I got a
place somewhere else, I'd meet the same thing in
``You've got to risk that.''
``Besides, I'd never have had a chance of succeeding
if Mr. Ransdell hadn't taught me and stood behind
It was many minutes before Agnes Belloc said in a
hesitating, restrained voice: ``They say that success
--any kind of success--has its price, and that one has
to be ready to pay that price or fail.''
Again the profound silence. Into it gradually
penetrated the soft, insistent sound of the distant roar of
New York--a cruel, clamorous, devouring sound like
a demand for that price of success. Said Agnes timidly:
``Why not go to see Mr. Ransdell.''
``He wouldn't make it up,'' said Mildred. ``And I
--I couldn't. I tried to marry Stanley Baird for
money--and I couldn't. It would be the same way
now--only more so.''
``But you've got to do something.''
``Yes, and I will.'' Mildred had risen abruptly, was
standing at the window. Agnes Belloc could feel her
soul rearing defiantly at the city into which she was
gazing. ``I will!'' she replied.
``It sounds as if you'd been pushed to where you'd
turn and make a fight,'' said Agnes.
``I hope so,'' said Mildred. ``It's high time.''
She thought out several more or less ingenious
indirect routes into Mr. Crossley's stronghold, for use in
case frontal attack failed. But she did not need them.
Still, the hours she spent in planning them were by no
means wasted. No time is wasted that is spent in desperate,
concentrated thinking about any of the practical
problems of life. And Mildred Gower, as much
as any other woman of her training--or lack of training--
was deficient in ability to use her mind purposefully.
Most of us let our minds act like a sheep in a
pasture--go wandering hither and yon, nibbling at
whatever happens to offer. Only the superior few
deliberately select a pasture, select a line of procedure in
that pasture and keep to it, concentrating upon what
is useful to us, and that alone. So it was excellent
experience for Mildred to sit down and think connectedly
and with wholly absorbed mind upon the phase of her
career most important at the moment. When she had
worked out all the plans that had promise in them she
went tranquilly to sleep, a stronger and a more determined
person, for she had said with the energy that
counts: ``I shall see him, somehow. If none of these
schemes works, I'll work out others. He's got to see
But it was no occult ``bearing down'' that led him
to order her admitted the instant her card came. He
liked her; he wished to see her again; he felt that it
was the decent thing, and somehow not difficult gently
but clearly to convey to her the truth. On her side she,
who had looked forward to the interview with some
nervousness, was at her ease the moment she faced him
alone in that inner office. He had extraordinary personal
charm--more than Ransdell, though Ransdell
had the charm invariably found in a handsome human
being with the many-sided intellect that gives lightness
of mind. Crossley was not intellectual, not in the
least. One had only to glance at him to see that he
was one of those men who reserve all their intelligence
for the practical sides of the practical thing that forms
the basis of their material career. He knew something
of many things, had a wonderful assortment of talents
--could sing, could play piano or violin, could compose,
could act, could do mystifying card tricks, could order
women's clothes as discriminatingly as he could order
his own--all these things a little, but nothing much
except making a success of musical comedy and comic
opera. He had an ambition, carefully restrained in a
closet of his mind, where it could not issue forth and
interfere with his business. This ambition was to be a
giver of grand opera on a superb scale. He regarded
himself as a mere money-maker--was not ashamed of
this, but neither was he proud of it. His ambition then
represented a dream of a rise to something more than
business man, to friend and encourager and wet nurse
Mildred Gower had happened to set his imagination
to working. The discovery that she was one of those
whose personalities rouse high expectations only to mock
them had been a severe blow to his confidence in his own
judgment. Though he pretended to believe, and had
the habit of saying that he was ``weak and soft,'' was
always being misled by his good nature, he really
believed himself an unerring judge of human beings, and,
as his success evidenced, he was not far wrong. Thus,
though convinced that Mildred was a ``false alarm,''
his secret vanity would not let him release his original
idea. He had the tenacity that is an important element
in all successes; and tenacity become a fixed habit has
even been known to ruin in the end the very careers it
Said Mildred, in a manner which was astonishingly
unemotional and businesslike: ``I've not come to tattle
and to whine, Mr. Crossley. I've hesitated about coming
at all, partly because I've an instinct it's useless,
partly because what I have to say isn't easy.''
Crossley's expression hardened. The old story!--
excuses, excuses, self-excuse--somebody else to blame.
``If it hadn't been for Mr. Ransdell--the trouble
he took with me, the coaching he gave me--I'd have
been a ridiculous failure at the very first rehearsal. But
--it is to Mr. Ransdell that my failure is due.''
``My dear Miss Gower,'' said Crossley, polite but
cold, ``I regret hearing you say that. The fact is
very different. Not until you had done so--so
unacceptably at several rehearsals that news of it reached
me by another way--not until I myself went to Mr.
Ransdell about you did he admit that there could be a
possibility of a doubt of your succeeding. I had to go
to rehearsal myself and directly order him to restore
Miss Esmond and lay you off.''
Mildred was not unprepared. She received this
tranquilly. ``Mr. Ransdell is a very clever man,'' said she
with perfect good humor. ``I've no hope of convincing
you, but I must tell my side.''
And clearly and simply, with no concealments through
fear of disturbing his high ideal of her ladylike deli-
cacy, she told him the story. He listened, seated well
back in his tilted desk-chair, his gaze upon the ceiling.
When she finished he held his pose a moment, then got
up and paced the length of the office several times, his
hands in his pockets. He paused, looked keenly at her,
a good-humored smile in those eyes of his so fascinating
to women because of their frank wavering of an inconstancy
it would indeed be a triumph to seize and hold.
``And your bad throat? Did Ransdell give you a
She colored. He had gone straight at the weak
``If you'd been able to sing,'' he went on, ``nobody
could have done you up.''
She could not gather herself together for speech.
``Didn't you know your voice wasn't reliable when
you came to me?''
``Yes,'' she admitted.
``And wasn't that the REAL reason you had given up
grand opera?'' pursued he mercilessly.
``The reason was what I told you--lack of money,''
replied she. ``I did not go into the reason why I lacked
money. Why should I when, even on my worst days,
I could get through all my part in a musical comedy--
except songs that could be cut down or cut out? If I
could have made good at acting, would you have given
me up on account of my voice?''
``Not if you had been good enough,'' he admitted.
``Then I did not get my engagement on false pretenses?''
``No. You are right. Still, your fall-down as a
singer is the important fact. Don't lose sight of it.''
``I shan't,'' said she tersely.
His eyes were frankly laughing. ``As to Ransdell
--what a clever trick! He's a remarkable man. If
he weren't so shrewd in those little ways, he might have
been a great man. Same old story--just a little too
smart, and so always doing the little thing and missing
the big thing. Yes, he went gunning for you--and
got you.'' He dropped into his chair. He thought a
moment, laughed aloud, went on: ``No doubt he has
worked that same trick many a time. I've suspected it
once or twice, but this time he fooled me. He got you,
Miss Gower, and I can do nothing. You must see that
I can't look after details. And I can't give up as
invaluable a man as Ransdell. If I put you back, he'd
put you out--would make the piece fail rather than let
Mildred was gazing somberly at the floor.
``It's hard lines--devilish hard lines,'' he went on
sympathetically. ``But what can I do?''
``What can I do?'' said Mildred.
``Do as all people do who succeed--meet the conditions.''
``I'm not prepared to go as far as that, at least not
yet,'' said she with bitter sarcasm. ``Perhaps when
I'm actually starving and in rags--''
``A very distressing future,'' interrupted Crossley.
``But--I didn't make the world. Don't berate me.
Be sensible--and be honest, Miss Gower, and tell me--
how could I possibly protect you and continue to give
successful shows? If you can suggest any feasible way,
I'll take it.''
``No, there isn't any way,'' replied she, rising to go.
He rose to escort her to the hall door. ``Personally,
the Ransdell sort of thing is--distasteful to me. Perhaps
if I were not so busy I might be forced by my own
giddy misconduct to take less high ground. I've
observed that the best that can be said for human nature
at its best is that it is as well behaved as its real
temptations permit. He was making you, you know. You've
``There's no doubt about that,'' said Mildred.
``Mind you, I'm not excusing him. I'm simply
explaining him. If your voice had been all right--if
you could have stood to any degree the test he put you
to, the test of standing alone--you'd have defeated
him. He wouldn't have dared go on. He's too shrewd
to think a real talent can be beaten.''
The strong lines, the latent character, in Mildred's
face were so strongly in evidence that looking at her
then no one would have thought of her beauty or even
of her sex, but only of the force that resists all and
overcomes all. ``Yes--the voice,'' said she. ``The voice.''
``If it's ever reliable, come to see me. Until then--''
He put out his hand. When she gave him hers, he held
it in a way that gave her no impulse to draw back.
``You know the conditions of success now. You must
prepare to meet them. If you put yourself at the mercy
of the Ransdells--or any other of the petty intriguers
that beset every avenue of success--you must take the
consequences, you must conciliate them as best you can.
If you don't wish to be at their mercy, you must do
She nodded. He released her hand, opened the hall
door. He said:
``Forgive my little lecture. But I like you, and I
can't help having hope of you.'' He smiled charmingly,
his keen, inconstant eyes dimming. ``Perhaps I
hope because you're young and extremely lovely and I
am pitifully susceptible. You see, you'd better go.
Every man's a Ransdell at heart where pretty women
She did not leave the building. She went to the
elevator and asked the boy where she could find Signor
Moldini. His office was the big room on the third floor
where voice candidates were usually tried out, three days
in the week. At the moment he was engaged. Mildred,
seated in the tiny anteroom, heard through the glass
door a girl singing, or trying to sing. It was a
distressing performance, and Mildred wondered that
Moldini could be so tolerant as to hear her through. He
came to the door with her, thanked her profusely, told
her he would let her know whenever there was an opening
``suited to your talents.'' As he observed Mildred,
he was still sighing and shaking his head over the
``Ugly and ignorant!'' he groaned. ``Poor
creature! Poor, poor creature. She makes three dollars a
week--in a factory owned by a great philanthropist.
Three dollars a week. And she has no way to make a
cent more. Miss Gower, they talk about the sad,
naughty girls who sell themselves in the street to piece
out their wages. But think, dear young lady, how
infinitely better of they are than the ugly ones who can't
piece out their wages.''
There he looked directly at her for the first time.
Before she could grasp the tragic sadness of his idea,
he, with the mobility of candid and highly sensitized
natures, shifted from melancholy to gay, for in looking
at her he had caught only the charm of dress, of face,
of arrangement of hair. ``What a pleasure!'' he
exclaimed, bursting into smiles and seizing and kissing her
gloved hands. ``Voice like a bird, face like an angel
--only not TOO good, no, not TOO good. But it is so
rare--to look as one sings, to sing as one looks.''
For once, compliment, sincere compliment from one
whose opinion was worth while, gave Mildred pain. She
burst out with her news: ``Signor Moldini, I've lost
my place in the company. My voice has gone back
Usually Moldini abounded in the consideration of fine
natures that have suffered deeply from lack of consideration.
But he was so astounded that he could only stare
stupidly at her, smoothing his long greasy hair with his
thin brown hand.
``It's all my fault; I don't take care of myself,'' she
went on. ``I don't take care of my health. At least,
I hope that's it.''
``Hope!'' he said, suddenly angry.
``Hope so, because if it isn't that, then I've no chance
for a career,'' explained she.
He looked at her feet, pointed an uncannily long
forefinger at them. ``The crossings and sidewalks are
slush--and you, a singer, without overshoes! Lunacy!
``I've never worn overshoes?'' said Mildred apologetically.
``Don't tell me! I wish not to hear. It makes me
--like madness here.'' He struck his low sloping brow
with his palm. ``What vanity! That the feet may
look well to the passing stranger, no overshoes!
Rheumatism, sore throat, colds, pneumonia. Is it not
disgusting. If you were a man I should swear in all the
languages I know--which are five, including Hungarian,
and when one swears in Hungarian it is `going
some,' as you say in America. Yes, it is going quite
``I shall wear overshoes,'' said Mildred.
``And indigestion--you have that?''
``A little, I guess.''
``Much--much, I tell you!'' cried Moldini, shaking
the long finger at her. ``You Americans! You eat
too fast and you eat too much. That is why you are
always sick, and consulting the doctors who give the
medicines that make worse, not better. Yes, you
Americans are like children. You know nothing. Sing?
Americans cannot sing until they learn that a stomach
isn't a waste-basket, to toss everything into. You have
been to that throat specialist, Hicks?''
``Ah, yes,'' said Mildred brightening. ``He said
there was nothing organically wrong.''
``He is an ass, and a criminal. He ruins throats.
He likes to cut, and he likes to spray. He sprays those
poisons that relieve colds and paralyze the throat and
cords. Americans sing? It is to laugh! They have
too many doctors; they take too many pills. Do you
know what your national emblem should be? A dollar-
sign--yes. But that for all nations. No, a pill--a
pill, I tell you. You take pills?''
``Now and then,'' said Mildred, laughing. ``I admit
I have several kinds always on hand.''
``You see!'' cried he triumphantly. ``No, it is not
mere art that America needs, but more sense about
eating--and to keep away from the doctors. People full
of pills, they cannot make poems and pictures, and write
operas and sing them. Throw away those pills, dear
young lady, I implore you.''
``Signor Moldini, I've come to ask you to help
Instantly the Italian cleared his face of its half-
humorous, half-querulous expression. In its place came
a grave and courteous eagerness to serve her that was a
pleasure, even if it was not altogether sincere. And
Mildred could not believe it sincere. Why should he
care what became of her, or be willing to put himself
out for her?
``You told me one day that you had at one time
taught singing,'' continued she.
``Until I was starved out?'' replied he. ``I told
people the truth. If they could not sing I said so. If
they sang badly I told them why, and it was always the
upset stomach, the foolish food, and people will not take
care about food. They will eat what they please, and
they say eating is good for them, and that anyone who
opposes them is a crank. So most of my pupils left,
except those I taught for nothing--and they did not
heed me, and came to nothing.''
``You showed me in ten minutes one day how to cure
my worst fault. I've sung better, more naturally ever
``You could sing like the birds. You do--almost.
You could be taught to sing as freely and sweetly and
naturally as a flower gives perfume. That is YOUR
divine gift, young lady song as pure and fresh as a
bird's song raining down through the leaves from the
``I have no money. I've got to get it, and I shall
get it,'' continued Mildred. ``I want you to teach me
--at any hour that you are free. And I want to know
how much you will charge, so that I shall know how
much to get.''
``Two dollars a lesson. Or, if you take six lessons
a week, ten dollars. Those were my terms. I could
not take less.''
``It is too little,'' said Mildred. ``The poorest kinds
of teachers get five dollars an hour--and teach nothing.''
``Two dollars, ten dollars a week,'' replied he. ``It
is the most I ever could get. I will not take more from
``It is too little,'' said she. ``But I'll not insist--
for obvious reasons. Now, if you'll give me your home
address, I'll go. When I get the money, I'll write to
``But wait!'' cried he, as she rose to depart. ``Why
so hurried? Let us see. Take of the wrap. Step be-
hind the screen and loosen your corset. Perhaps even
you could take it off?''
``Not without undressing,'' said Mildred. ``But I
can do that if it's necessary.'' She laughed queerly.
``From this time on I'll do ANYTHING that's necessary.''
``No,--never mind. The dress of woman--of
your kind of women. It is not serious.'' He laughed
grimly. ``As for the other kind, their dress is the only
serious thing about them. It is a mistake to think that
women who dress badly are serious. My experience has
been that they are the most foolish of all. Fashionable
dress--it is part of a woman's tools. It shows that
she is good at her business. The women who try to
dress like men, they are good neither at men's business
nor at women's.''
This, while Mildred was behind the screen, loosening
her corset--though, in fact, she wore it so loose at all
times that she inconvenienced herself simply to show her
willingness to do as she was told. When she came out,
Moldini put her through a rigid physical examination
--made her breathe while he held one hand on her
stomach, the other on her back, listened at her heart,
opened wide her throat and peered down, thrust his long
strong fingers deep into the muscles of her arms, her
throat, her chest, until she had difficulty in not crying
out with pain.
``The foundation is there,'' was his verdict. ``You
have a good body, good muscles, but flabby--a lady's
muscles, not an opera singer's. And you are stiff--
not so stiff as when you first came here, but stiff for a
professional. Ah, we must go at this scientifically,
``You will teach me to breathe--and how to produce
my voice naturally?''
``I will teach you nothing,'' replied he. ``I will tell
you what to do, and you will teach yourself. You must
get strong--strong in the supple way--and then you
will sing as God intended. The way to sing, dear
young lady, is to sing. Not to breathe artificially, and
make faces, and fuss with your throat, but simply to
drop your mouth and throat open and let it out!''
Mildred produced from her hand-bag the Keith
paper. ``What do YOU think of that?'' she asked.
Presently he looked up from his reading. ``This
part I have seen before,'' said he. ``It is Lucia Rivi's.
Her cousin, Lotta Drusini, showed it to me--she was
a great singer also.''
``You approve of it?''
``If you will follow that for two years, faithfully,
you will be securely great, and then you will follow it
all your singing life--and it will be long. But
remember, dear young lady, I said IF you follow it, and
I said faithfully. I do not believe you can.''
``Why not?'' said Mildred.
``Because that means self-denial, colossal self-denial.
You love things to eat--yes?''
``We all do,'' said Moldini. ``And we hate routine,
and we like foolish, aimless little pleasures of all kinds.''
``And it will be two years before I can try grand
opera--can make my living?'' said Mildred slowly.
``I did not say that. I said, before you would be
great. No, you can sing, I think, in--wait.''
Moldini flung rapidly through an enormous mass of
music on a large table. ``Ah, here!'' he cried, and he
showed her a manuscript of scales. ``Those two papers.
It does not look much? Well, I have made it
up, myself. And when you can sing those two papers
perfectly, you will be a greater singer than any that
ever lived.'' He laughed delightedly. ``Yes, it is all
there--in two pages. But do not weep, dear lady,
because you will never sing them perfectly. You will do
very well if-- Always that if, remember! Now, let
us see. Take this, sit in the chair, and begin. Don't
bother about me. I expect nothing. Just do the best
Desperation, when it falls short of despair, is the
best word for achievement. Mildred's voice, especially
at the outset, was far from perfect condition. Her
high notes, which had never been developed properly,
were almost bad. But she acquitted herself admirably
from the standpoint of showing what her possibilities
were. And Moldini, unkempt, almost unclean, but as
natural and simple and human a soul as ever paid the
penalties of poverty and obscurity and friendlessness
for being natural and simple and human, exactly suited
her peculiar temperament. She knew that he liked her,
that he believed in her; she knew that he was as
sympathetic toward her as her own self, that there was no
meanness anywhere in him. So she sang like a bird--
a bird that was not too well in soul or in body, but still
a bird out in the sunshine, with the airs of spring cheer-
ing his breast and its foliage gladdening his eyes. He
kept her at it for nearly an hour. She saw that he
was pleased, that he had thought out some plan and
was bursting to tell her, but had forbidden himself to
speak of it. He said:
``You say you have no money?''
``No, but I shall get it.''
``You may have to pay high for it--yes?''
She colored, but did not flinch. ``At worst, it will be
--unpleasant, but that's all.''
``Wait one--two days--until you hear from me.
I may--I do not say will, but may--get it. Yes, I
who have nothing.'' He laughed gayly. ``And we--
you and I--we will divide the spoils.'' Gravely. ``Do
not misunderstand. That was my little joke. If I get
the money for you it will be quite honorable and businesslike.
So--wait, dear young lady.''
As she was going, she could not resist saying:
``You are SURE I can sing?--IF, of course--always the if.''
``It is not to be doubted.''
``How well, do you think?''
``You mean how many dollars a night well? You
mean as well as this great singer or that? I do not
know. And you are not to compare yourself with anyone
but yourself. You will sing as well as Mildred
Gower at her best.''
For some reason her blood went tingling through her
veins. If she had dared she would have kissed him.
THAT same afternoon Donald Keith, arrived at the
top of Mrs. Belloc's steps, met Mildred coming out.
Seeing their greeting, one would have thought they had
seen each other but a few minutes before or were casual
acquaintances. Said she:
``I'm going for a walk.''
``Let's take the taxi,'' said he.
There it stood invitingly at the curb. She felt tired.
She disliked walking. She wished to sit beside him and
be whirled away--out of the noisy part of the city, up
where the air was clean and where there were no crowds.
But she had begun the regimen of Lucia Rivi. She
hesitated. What matter if she began now or put off
beginning until after this one last drive?
``No, we will walk,'' said she.
``But the streets are in frightful condition.''
She thrust out a foot covered with a new and shiny
``Let's drive to the park then. We'll walk there.''
``No. If I get into the taxi, I'll not get out. Send
When they were moving afoot up Madison Avenue,
he said: ``What's the matter? This isn't like you.''
``I've come to my senses,'' replied she. ``It may be
too late, but I'm going to see.''
``When I called on Mrs. Brindley the other day,''
said he, ``she had your note, saying that you were going
into musical comedy with Crossley.''
``That's over,'' said she. ``I lost my voice, and I
lost my job.''
``So I heard,'' said he. ``I know Crossley. I
dropped in to see him this morning, and he told me
about a foolish, fashionable girl who made a bluff at
going on the stage--he said she had a good voice and
was a swell looker, but proved to be a regular `four-
flusher.' I recognized you.''
``Thanks,'' said she dryly.
``So, I came to see you.''
She inquired about Mrs. Brindley and then about
Stanley Baird. Finding that he was in Italy, she
inquired: ``Do you happen to know his address?''
``I'll get it and send it to you. He has taken a house
at Monte Carlo for the winter.''
``I shall stay here--I think.''
``You may join him?''
``It depends''--he looked at her--``upon you.''
He could put a wonderful amount of meaning into a
slight inflection. She struggled--not in vain--to
keep from changing expression.
``You realize now that the career is quite hopeless?''
She did not answer.
``You do not like the stage life?''
``And the stage life does not like you?''
``Your voice lacks both strength and stability?''
``And you have found the one way by which you
could get on--and you don't like it?''
``Crossley told you?'' said she, the color flaring.
``Your name was not mentioned. You may not
believe it, but Crossley is a gentleman.''
She walked on in silence.
``I did not expect your failure to come so soon--or
in quite that way,'' he went on. ``I got Mrs. Brindley
to exact a promise from you that you'd let her know
about yourself. I called on Mrs. Belloc one day when
you were out, and gave her my confidence and got hers
--and assured myself that you were in good hands.
Crossley's tale gave me--a shock. I came at once.''
``Then you didn't abandon me to my fate, as I
He smiled in his strange way. ``I?--when I loved
``Then you did interest yourself in me because you
cared--precisely as I said,'' laughed she.
``And I should have given you up if you had
succeeded--precisely as I said,'' replied he.
``You wished me to fail?''
``I wished you to fail. I did everything I could to
help you to succeed. I even left you absolutely alone,
set you in the right way--the only way in which anyone
can win success.''
``Yes, you made me throw away the crutches and try
``It was hard to do that. Those strains are very
wearing at my time of life.''
``You never were any younger, and you'll never be
any older,'' laughed she. ``That's your charm--one
``Mildred, do you still care?''
``How did you know?'' inquired she mockingly.
``You didn't try to conceal it. I'd not have ventured
to say and do the things I said and did if I hadn't felt
that we cared for each other. But, so long as you were
leading that fatuous life and dreaming those foolish
dreams, I knew we could never be happy.''
``That is true--oh, SO true,'' replied she.
``But now--you have tried, and that has made a
woman of you. And you have failed, and that has
made you ready to be a wife--to be happy in the quiet,
She was silent.
``I can make enough for us both--as much as we
will need or want--as much as you please, if you aren't
too extravagant. And I can do it easily. It's making
little sums--a small income--that's hard in this ridiculous
world. Let's marry, go to California or Europe
for several months, then come back here and live like
She was silent. Block after block they walked along,
as if neither had anything especial in mind, anything
worth the trouble of speech. Finally he said:
``I can't answer--yet,'' said she. ``Not to-day--
not till I've thought.''
She glanced quickly at him. Over his impassive face,
so beautifully regular and, to her, so fascinating, there
passed a quick dark shadow, and she knew that he was
suffering. He laughed quietly, his old careless,
``Oh, yes, you can answer,'' said he. ``You have
She drew in her breath sharply.
``You have refused.''
``Why do you say that, Donald?'' she pleaded.
``To hesitate over a proposal is to refuse,'' said he
with gentle raillery. ``A man is a fool who does not
understand and sheer off when a woman asks for time.''
``You know that I love you,'' she cried.
``I also know that you love something else more.
But it's finished. Let's talk about something else.''
``Won't you let me tell you why I hesitate?'' begged
``It doesn't matter.''
``But it does. Yes, I do refuse, Donald. I'll never
marry you until I am independent. You said a while
ago that what I've been through had made a woman of
me. Not yet. I'm only beginning. I'm still weak--
still a coward. Donald, I must and will be free.''
He looked full at her, with a strange smile in his
brilliant eyes. Said he, with obvious intent to change the
subject: ``Mrs. Brindley's very unhappy that you
haven't been to see her.''
``When you asked me to marry you, the only reason
I almost accepted was because I want someone to support
me. I love you--yes. But it is as one loves
before one has given oneself and has lived the same
life with another. In the ordinary sense, it's love that
I feel. But--do you understand me, dearest?--in
another sense, it's only the hope of love, the belief that
love will come.''
He stopped short and looked at her, his eyes alive with
the stimulus of a new and startling idea.
``If you and I had been everything to each other,
and you were saying `Let us go on living the one life'
and I were hesitating, then you'd be right. And I
couldn't hesitate, Donald. If you were mine, nothing
could make me give you up, but when it's only the hope
of having you, then pride and self-respect have a chance
to be heard.''
He was ready to move on. ``There's something in
that,'' said he, lapsed into his usual seeming of
impassiveness. ``But not much.''
``I never before knew you to fail to understand.''
``I understand perfectly. You care, but you don't
care enough to suit me. I haven't waited all these years
before giving a woman my love, to be content with a
love seated quietly and demurely between pride and self-
``You wouldn't marry me until I had failed,'' said
she shrewdly. ``Now you attack me for refusing to
marry you until I've succeeded.''
A slight shrug. ``Proposal withdrawn,'' said he.
``Now let's talk about your career, your plans.''
``I'm beginning to understand myself a little,'' said
she. ``I suppose you think that sort of personal talk
is very silly and vain--and trivial.''
``On the contrary,'' replied he, ``it isn't absolutely
necessary to understand oneself. One is swept on in
the same general direction, anyhow. But understanding
helps one to go faster and steadier.''
``It began, away back, when I was a girl--this idea
of a career. I envied men and despised women, the
sort of women I knew and met with. I didn't realize
why, then. But it was because a man had a chance to
be somebody in himself and to do something, while a
woman was just a--a more or less ornamental
belonging of some man's--what you want me to become
``As far as possible from my idea.''
``Don't you want me to belong to you?''
``As I belong to you.''
``That sounds well, but it isn't what could happen.
The fact is, Donald, that I want to belong to you--
want to be owned by you and to lose myself in you.
And it's that I'm fighting.''
She felt the look he was bending upon her, and
glowed and colored under it, but did not dare to turn
her eyes to meet it. Said he: ``Why fight it? Why
not be happy?''
``Ah, but that's just it,'' cried she. ``I shouldn't
be happy. And I should make you miserable. The
idea of a career--the idea that's rooted deep in me
and can't ever be got out, Donald; it would torment
me. You couldn't kill it, no matter how much you
loved me. I'd yield for the time. Then, I'd go back--
or, if I didn't, I'd be wretched and make you wish you'd
never seen me.''
``I understand,'' said he. ``I don't believe it, but I
``You think I'm deceiving myself, because you saw me
wasting my life, playing the idler and the fool,
pretending I was working toward a career when I was
really making myself fit for nothing but to be Stanley
``And you're still deceiving yourself. You won't see
``No matter,'' said she. ``I must go on and make a
career--some kind of a career.''
``At grand opera.''
``How'll you get the money?''
``Of Stanley, if necessary. That's why I asked his
address. I shan't ask for much. He'll not refuse.''
``A few minutes ago you were talking of self-
``As something I hoped to get. It comes with
independence. I'll pay any price to get it.''
``Any price?'' said he, and never before had she seen
his self-control in danger.
``I shan't ask Stanley until my other plans have
``What other plans?''
``I am going to ask Mrs. Belloc for the money. She
could afford to give--to lend--the little I'd want.
I'm going to ask her in such a way that it will be as
hard as possible for her to refuse. That isn't ladylike,
but--I've dropped out of the lady class.''
``And if she refuses?''
``Then I'll go one after another to several very
rich men I know, and ask them as a business proposition.''
``Go in person,'' advised he with an undisguised sneer.
``I'll raise no false hopes in them,'' she said. ``If
they choose to delude themselves, I'll not go out of my
way to undeceive them--until I have to.''
``So THIS is Mildred Gower?''
``You made that remark before.''
``When Stanley showed you a certain photograph of me.''
``I remember. This is the same woman.''
``It's me,'' laughed she. ``The real me. You'd not
care to be married to her?''
``No,'' said he. Then, after a brief silence: ``Yet,
curiously, it was that woman with whom I fell in love.
No, not exactly in love, for I've been thinking about
what you said as to the difference between love in posse
and love in esse, to put it scientifically--between love
as a prospect and love as a reality.''
``And I was right,'' said she. ``It explains why
marriages go to pieces and affairs come to grief. Those
lovers mistook love's promise to come for fulfillment.
Love doesn't die. It simply fails to come--doesn't
redeem its promise.''
``That's the way it might be with us,'' said he.
``That's the way it would be with us,'' rejoined she.
He did not answer. When they spoke again it was
of indifferent matters. An hour and a half after they
started, they were at Mrs. Belloc's again. She asked
him to have tea in the restaurant next door. He
declined. He went up the steps with her, said:
``Well, I wish you luck. Moldini is the best teacher
``How did you know Moldini was to teach me?''
He smiled, put out his hand in farewell. ``Crossley
told me. Good-by.''
``He told Crossley! I wonder why.'' She was so
interested in this new phase that she did not see his
outstretched hand, or the look of bitter irony that came
into his eyes at this proof of the subordinate place love
and he had in her thoughts.
``I'm nervous and anxious,'' she said apologetically.
``Moldini told me he had some scheme about getting
the money. If he only could! But no such luck for
me,'' she added sadly.
Keith hesitated, debated with himself, said: ``You
needn't worry. Moldini got it--from Crossley.
Fifty dollars a week for a year.''
``You got Crossley to do it?''
``No. He had done it before I saw him. He had
just promised Moldini and was cursing himself as `weak
and soft.' But that means nothing. You may be sure
he did it because Moldini convinced him it was a good
She was radiant. She had not vanity enough where
he was concerned to believe that he deeply cared, that her
joy would give him pain because it meant forgetfulness
of him. Nor was she much impressed by the
expression of his eyes. And even as she hurt him, she
made him love her the more; for he appreciated how
rare was the woman who, in such circumstances, does
not feed her vanity with pity for the poor man suffering
so horribly because he is not to get her precious
It flashed upon her why he had not offered to help
her. ``There isn't anybody like you,'' said she, with no
explanation of her apparent irrelevancy.
``Don't let Moldini see that you know,'' said he, with
characteristic fine thoughtfulness for others in the midst
of his own unhappiness. ``It would deprive him of a
He was about to go. Suddenly her eyes filled and,
opening the outer door, she drew him in. ``Donald,'' she
said, ``I love you. Take me in your arms and make
He looked past her; his arms hung at his sides. Said
he: ``And to-night I'd get a note by messenger saying
that you had taken it all back. No, the girl in the
photograph--that was you. She wasn't made to be MY
wife. Or I to be her husband. I love you because
you are what you are. I should not love you if you
were the ordinary woman, the sort who marries and
merges. But I'm old enough to spare myself--and
you--the consequences of what it would mean if we
were anything but strangers to each other.''
``Yes, you must keep away--altogether. If you
didn't, I'd be neither the one thing nor the other, but
just a poor failure.''
``You'll not fail,'' said he. ``I know it. It's
written in your face.'' He looked at her. She was not
looking at him, but with eyes gazing straight ahead
was revealing that latent, inexplicable power which,
when it appeared at the surface, so strongly dominated
and subordinated her beauty and her sex. He shut his
teeth together hard and glanced away.
``You will not fail,'' he repeated bitterly. ``And
that's the worst of it.''
Without another word, without a handshake, he went.
And she knew that, except by chance, he would never
see her again--or she him.
Moldini, disheveled and hysterical with delight and
suspense, was in the drawing-room--had been there
half an hour. At first she could hardly force her mind
to listen; but as he talked on and on, he captured her
attention and held it.
The next day she began with Moldini, and put the
Lucia Rivi system into force in all its more than
conventual rigors. And for about a month she worked
like a devouring flame. Never had there been such
energy, such enthusiasm. Mrs. Belloc was alarmed for
her health, but the Rivi system took care of that; and
presently Mrs. Belloc was moved to say, ``Well, I've
often heard that hard work never harmed anyone, but
I never believed it. Now I know the truth.''
Then Mildred went to Hanging Rock to spend Saturday
to Monday with her mother. Presbury, reduced
now by various infirmities--by absolute deafness, by
dimness of sight, by difficulty in walking--to where
eating was his sole remaining pleasure, or, indeed,
distraction, spent all his time in concocting dishes for him-
self. Mildred could not resist--and who can when
seated at table with the dish before one's eyes and under
one's nose. The Rivi regimen was suspended for the
visit. Mildred, back in New York and at work again,
found that she was apparently none the worse for her
holiday, was in fact better. So she drifted into the
way of suspending the regimen for an evening now
and then--when she dined with Mrs. Brindley, or when
Agnes Belloc had something particularly good. All
went well for a time. Then--a cold. She neglected
it, feeling sure it could not stay with one so soundly
healthy through and through. But it did stay; it
grew worse. She decided that she ought to take medicine
for it. True, starvation was the cure prescribed
by the regimen, but Mildred could not bring herself to
two or three days of discomfort. Also, many people
told her that such a cure was foolish and even dangerous.
The cold got better, got worse, got better. But
her throat became queer, and at last her voice left her.
She was ashamed to go to Moldini in such a condition.
She dropped in upon Hicks, the throat specialist. He
``fixed her up'' beautifully with a few sprayings. A
week--and her voice left her again, and Hicks could
not bring it back. As she left his office, it was raining
--an icy, dreary drizzle. She splashed her way home,
in about the lowest spirits she had ever known. She
locked her door and seated herself at the window and
stared out, while the storm raged within her. After
an hour or two she wrote and sent Moldini a note:
``I have been making a fool of myself. I'll not come
again until I am all right. Be patient with me. I
don't think this will occur again.'' She first wrote
``happen.'' She scratched it out and put ``occur'' in
its place. Not that Moldini would have noted the slip;
simply that she would not permit herself the satisfaction
of the false and self-excusing ``happen.'' It had
not been a ``happen.'' It had been a deliberate folly,
a lapse to the Mildred she had buried the day she
sent Donald Keith away. When the note was on its
way, she threw out all her medicines, and broke the
new spraying apparatus Hicks had instructed her to
She went back to the Rivi regime. A week passed,
and she was little better. Two weeks, and she began
to mend. But it was six weeks before the last traces of
her folly disappeared. Moldini said not a word, gave
no sign. Once more her life went on in uneventful,
unbroken routine--diet, exercise, singing--singing,
exercise, diet--no distractions except an occasional
visit to the opera with Moldini, and she was hating
opera now. All her enthusiasm was gone. She simply
worked doggedly, drudged, slaved.
When the days began to grow warm, Mrs. Belloc said:
``I suppose you'll soon be off to the country? Are you
going to visit Mrs. Brindley?''
``No,'' said Mildred.
``Then come with me.''
``Thank you, but I can't do it.''
``But you've got to rest somewhere.''
``Rest?'' said Mildred. ``Why should I rest?''
Mrs. Belloc started to protest, then abruptly
changed. ``Come to think of it, why should you?
You're in perfect health, and it'll be time enough to rest
when you `get there.' ''
``I'm tired through and through,'' said Mildred,
``but it isn't the kind of tired that could be rested
except by throwing up this frightful nightmare of a
``And you can't do that.''
``I won't,'' said Mildred, her lips compressed and her
She and Moldini--and fat, funny little Mrs. Moldini
--went to the mountains. And she worked on. She
would listen to none of the suggestions about the dangers
of keeping too steadily at it, about working oneself
into a state of staleness, about the imperative
demands of the artistic temperament for rest, change,
variety. ``It may be so,'' she said to Mrs. Brindley.
``But I've gone mad. I can no more drop this routine
than--than you could take it up and keep to it for a
``I'll admit I couldn't,'' said Cyrilla. ``And
Mildred, you're making a mistake.''
``Then I'll have to suffer for it. I must do what
seems best to me.''
``But I'm sure you're wrong. I never knew anyone
to act as you're acting. Everyone rests and freshens
Mildred lost patience, almost lost her temper.
``You're trying to tempt me to ruin myself,'' she said.
``Please stop it. You say you never knew anyone to
do as I'm doing. Very well. But how many girls
have you known who have succeeded?''
Cyrilla hesitatingly confessed that she had known
``Yet you've known scores who've tried.''
``But they didn't fail because they didn't work enough.
Many of them worked too much.''
Mildred laughed. ``How do you know why they
failed?'' said she. ``You haven't thought about it as
I have. You haven't LIVED it. Cyrilla, I served my
apprenticeship at listening to nonsense about careers.
I want to have nothing to do with inspiration, and
artistic temperament, and spontaneous genius, and all
the rest of the lies. Moldini and I know what we are
about. So I'm living as those who have succeeded lived
and not as those who have failed.''
Cyrilla was silenced, but not convinced. The
amazing improvement in Mildred's health, the splendid slim
strength and suppleness of her body, the new and stable
glories of her voice--all these she knew about, but they
did not convince her. She believed in work, in hard
work, but to her work meant the music itself. She felt
that the Rivi system and the dirty, obscure little Moldini
between them were destroying Mildred by destroying
all ``temperament'' in her.
It was the old, old criticism of talent upon genius.
Genius has always won in its own time and generation
all the world except talent. To talent contemporaneous
genius, genius seen at its patient, plodding toil,
seems coarse and obvious and lacking altogether in
inspiration. Talent cannot comprehend that creation
is necessarily in travail and in all manner of unloveliness.
Mildred toiled on like a slave under the lash, and
Moldini and the Rivi system were her twin relentless
drivers. She learned to rule herself with an iron hand.
She discovered the full measure of her own deficiencies,
and she determined to make herself a competent lyric
soprano, perhaps something of a dramatic soprano.
She dismissed from her mind all the ``high'' thoughts,
all the dreams wherewith the little people, even the
little people who achieve a certain success, beguile the
tedium of their journey along the hard road. She was
not working to ``interpret the thought of the great
master'' or to ``advance the singing art yet higher'' or
even to win fame and applause. She had one object
--to earn her living on the grand opera stage, and
to earn it as a prima donna because that meant the best
living. She frankly told Cyrilla that this was her
object, when Cyrilla forced her one day to talk about her
aims. Cyrilla looked pained, broke a melancholy silence
``I know you don't mean that. You are too
intelligent. You sing too well.''
``Yes, I mean just that,'' said Mildred. ``A living.''
``At any rate, don't say it. You give such a false
``To whom? Not to Crossley, and not to Moldini,
and why should I care what any others think? They
are not paying my expenses. And regardless of what
they think now, they'll be at my feet if I succeed, and
they'll put me under theirs if I don't.''
``How hard you have grown,'' cried Cyrilla.
``How sensible, you mean. I've merely stopped
being a self-deceiver and a sentimentalist.''
``Believe me, my dear, you are sacrificing your
character to your ambition.''
``I never had any real character until ambition came,''
replied Mildred. ``The soft, vacillating, sweet and
weak thing I used to have wasn't character.''
``But, dear, you can't think it superior character to
center one's whole life about a sordid ambition.''
``Merely to make a living.''
Mildred laughed merrily and mockingly. ``You call
that sordid? Then for heaven's sake what is high?
You had left you money enough to live on, if you have
to. No one left me an income. So, I'm fighting for
independence--and that means for self-respect. Is
self-respect sordid, Cyrilla!''
And then Cyrilla understood--in part, not altogether.
She lived in the ordinary environment of flap-
doodle and sweet hypocrisy and sentimentality; and
none such can more than vaguely glimpse the realities.
Toward the end of the summer Moldini said:
``It's over. You have won.''
Mildred looked at him in puzzled surprise.
``You have learned it all. You will succeed. The
rest is detail.''
``But I've learned nothing as yet,'' protested she.
``You have learned to teach yourself,'' replied the
Italian. ``You at last can hear yourself sing, and you
know when you sing right and when you sing wrong,
and you know how to sing right. The rest is easy.
Ah, my dear Miss Gower, you will work NOW!''
Mildred did not understand. She was even daunted by
that ``You will work NOW!'' She had been thinking
that to work harder was impossible. What did he expect
of her? Something she feared she could not realize.
But soon she understood--when he gave her songs,
then began to teach her a role, the part of Madame
Butterfly herself. ``I can help you only a little there,''
he said. ``You will have to go to my friend Ferreri
for roles. But we can make a beginning.''
She had indeed won. She had passed from the stage
where a career is all drudgery--the stage through
which only the strong can pass without giving up and
accepting failure or small success. She had passed
to the stage where there is added pleasure to the drudgery,
for, the drudgery never ceases. And what was the
pleasure? Why, more work--always work--bringing
into use not merely the routine parts of the mind,
but also the imaginative and creative faculties. She
had learned her trade--not well enough, for no
superior man or woman ever feels that he or she knows
the trade well enough--but well enough to begin to use
Said Moldini: ``When the great one, who has
achieved and arrived, is asked for advice by the sweet,
enthusiastic young beginner, what is the answer?
Always the same: `My dear child, don't! Go back
home, and marry and have babies.' You know why
And Mildred, looking back over the dreary drudgery
that had been, and looking forward to the drudgery
yet to come, dreary enough for all the prospects of a
few flowers and a little sun--Mildred said: ``Indeed
I do, maestro.''
``They think it means what you Americans call
morals--as if that were all of morality! But it doesn't
mean morals; not at all. Sex and the game of sex is
all through life everywhere--in the home no less than
in the theater. In town and country, indoors and out,
sunlight, moonlight, and rain--always it goes on.
And the temptations and the struggles are no more and
no less on the stage than off. No, there is too much
talk about `morals.' The reason the great one says
`don't' is the work.'' He shook his head sadly.
``They do not realize, those eager young beginners.
They read the story-books and the lives of the great
successes and they hear the foolish chatter of common-
place people--those imbecile `cultured' people who
know nothing! And they think a career is a triumphal
march. What think you, Miss Gower--eh?''
``If I had known I'd not have had the courage, or
the vanity, to begin,'' said she. ``And if I could
realize what's before me, I probably shouldn't have the
courage to go on.''
``But why not? Haven't you also learned that it's
just the day's work, doing every day the best you can?''
``Oh, I shall go on,'' rejoined she.
``Yes,'' said he, looking at her with awed admiration.
``It is in your face. I saw it there, the day you
came--after you sang the `Batti Batti' the first time
``There was nothing to me then.''
``The seed,'' replied he. ``And I saw it was an acorn,
not the seed of one of those weak plants that spring
up overnight and wither at noon. Yes, you will win.''
He laughed gayly, rolled his eyes and kissed his fingers.
``And then you can afford to take a little holiday, and
fall in love. Love! Ah, it is a joyous pastime--
for a holiday. Only for a holiday, mind you. I shall
be there and I shall seize you and take you back to your
In the following winter and summer Crossley
disclosed why he had been sufficiently interested in grand
opera to begin to back undeveloped voices. Crossley
was one of those men who are never so practical as
when they profess to be, and fancy themselves, impractical.
He became a grand-opera manager and organized
for a season that would surpass in interest any
New York had known. Thus it came about that on a
March night Mildred made her debut.
The opera was ``Faust.'' As the three principal
men singers were all expensive--the tenor alone,
twelve hundred a night--Crossley put in a comparatively
modestly salaried Marguerite. She was seized
with a cold at the last moment, and Crossley ventured to
substitute Mildred Gower. The Rivi system was still in
force. She was ready--indeed, she was always ready,
as Rivi herself had been. And within ten minutes of
her coming forth from the wings, Mildred Gower had
leaped from obscurity into fame. It happens so, often
in the story books, the newly gloriously arrived one
having been wholly unprepared, achieving by sheer force
of genius. It occurs so, occasionally, in life--never
when there is lack of preparation, never by force of
unassisted genius, never by accident. Mildred
succeeded because she had got ready to succeed. How could
she have failed?
Perhaps you read the stories in the newspapers--
how she had discovered herself possessed of a marvelous
voice, how she had decided to use it in public, how
she had coached for a part, had appeared, had become
one of the world's few hundred great singers all in a
single act of an opera. You read nothing about what
she went through in developing a hopelessly uncertain
and far from strong voice into one which, while not
nearly so good as thousands of voices that are tried
and cast aside, yet sufficed, with her will and her
concentration back of it, to carry her to fame--and
That birdlike voice! So sweet and spontaneous, so
true, so like the bird that ``sings of summer in full
throated ease!'' No wonder the audience welcomed it
with cheers on cheers. Greater voices they had heard,
but none more natural--and that was Moldini.
He came to her dressing-room at the intermission.
He stretched out his arms, but emotion overcame him,
and he dropped to a chair and sobbed and cried and
laughed. She came and put her arms round him and
kissed him. She was almost calm. The GREAT fear had
seized her--Can I keep what I have won?
``I am a fool,'' cried Moldini. ``I will agitate you.''
``Don't be afraid of that,'' said she. ``I am nerv-
ous, yes, horribly nervous. But you have taught me
so that I could sing, no matter what was happening.''
It was true. And her body was like iron to the
He looked at her, and though he knew her and had
seen her train herself and had helped in it, he marveled.
``You are happy?'' he said eagerly. ``Surely--yes,
you MUST be happy.''
``More than that,'' answered she. ``You'll have to
find another word than happiness--something bigger
and stronger and deeper.''
``Now you can have your holiday,'' laughed he.
``But''--with mock sternness--``in moderation! He
must be an incident only. With those who win the high
places, sex is an incident--a charming, necessary
incident, but only an incident. He must not spoil your
career. If you allowed that you would be like a mother
who deserts her children for a lover. He must not
touch your career!''
Mildred, giving the last touches to her costume before
the glass, glanced merrily at Moldini by way of it.
``If he did touch it,'' said she, ``how long do you think
he would last with me?''
Moldini paused half-way in his nod of approval, was
stricken with silence and sadness. It would have been
natural and proper for a man thus to put sex beneath
the career. It was necessary for anyone who developed
the strong character that compels success and
holds it. But-- The Italian could not get away from
tradition; woman was made for the pleasure of one
man, not for herself and the world.
``You don't like that, maestro?'' said she, still
observing him in the glass.
``No man would,'' said he, with returning
cheerfulness. ``It hurts man's vanity. And no woman would,
either; you rebuke their laziness and their dependence!''
She laughed and rushed away to fresh triumphs.