Part 1 out of 7
"Unexpected obstacle. Please don't come till thirtieth.
All the way from Charing Cross to Dover the train had
hammered the words of the telegram into George Darrow's
ears, ringing every change of irony on its commonplace
syllables: rattling them out like a discharge of musketry,
letting them, one by one, drip slowly and coldly into his
brain, or shaking, tossing, transposing them like the dice
in some game of the gods of malice; and now, as he emerged
from his compartment at the pier, and stood facing the wind-
swept platform and the angry sea beyond, they leapt out at
him as if from the crest of the waves, stung and blinded him
with a fresh fury of derision.
"Unexpected obstacle. Please don't come till thirtieth.
She had put him off at the very last moment, and for the
second time: put him off with all her sweet reasonableness,
and for one of her usual "good" reasons--he was certain that
this reason, like the other, (the visit of her husband's
uncle's widow) would be "good"! But it was that very
certainty which chilled him. The fact of her dealing so
reasonably with their case shed an ironic light on the idea
that there had been any exceptional warmth in the greeting
she had given him after their twelve years apart.
They had found each other again, in London, some three
months previously, at a dinner at the American Embassy, and
when she had caught sight of him her smile had been like a
red rose pinned on her widow's mourning. He still felt the
throb of surprise with which, among the stereotyped faces of
the season's diners, he had come upon her unexpected face,
with the dark hair banded above grave eyes; eyes in which he
had recognized every little curve and shadow as he would
have recognized, after half a life-time, the details of a
room he had played in as a child. And as, in the plumed
starred crowd, she had stood out for him, slender, secluded
and different, so he had felt, the instant their glances
met, that he as sharply detached himself for her. All that
and more her smile had said; had said not merely "I
remember," but "I remember just what you remember"; almost,
indeed, as though her memory had aided his, her glance flung
back on their recaptured moment its morning brightness.
Certainly, when their distracted Ambassadress--with the cry:
"Oh, you know Mrs. Leath? That's perfect, for General
Farnham has failed me"--had waved them together for the
march to the diningroom, Darrow had felt a slight pressure
of the arm on his, a pressure faintly but unmistakably
emphasizing the exclamation: "Isn't it wonderful?--In
London--in the season--in a mob?"
Little enough, on the part of most women; but it was a sign
of Mrs. Leath's quality that every movement, every syllable,
told with her. Even in the old days, as an intent grave-
eyed girl, she had seldom misplaced her light strokes; and
Darrow, on meeting her again, had immediately felt how much
finer and surer an instrument of expression she had become.
Their evening together had been a long confirmation of this
feeling. She had talked to him, shyly yet frankly, of what
had happened to her during the years when they had so
strangely failed to meet. She had told him of her marriage
to Fraser Leath, and of her subsequent life in France, where
her husband's mother, left a widow in his youth, had been
re-married to the Marquis de Chantelle, and where, partly in
consequence of this second union, the son had permanently
settled himself. She had spoken also, with an intense
eagerness of affection, of her little girl Effie, who was
now nine years old, and, in a strain hardly less tender, of
Owen Leath, the charming clever young stepson whom her
husband's death had left to her care...
A porter, stumbling against Darrow's bags, roused him to the
fact that he still obstructed the platform, inert and
encumbering as his luggage.
Was he crossing? He really didn't know; but for lack of any
more compelling impulse he followed the porter to the
luggage van, singled out his property, and turned to march
behind it down the gang-way. As the fierce wind shouldered
him, building up a crystal wall against his efforts, he felt
anew the derision of his case.
"Nasty weather to cross, sir," the porter threw back at him
as they beat their way down the narrow walk to the pier.
Nasty weather, indeed; but luckily, as it had turned out,
there was no earthly reason why Darrow should cross.
While he pushed on in the wake of his luggage his thoughts
slipped back into the old groove. He had once or twice run
across the man whom Anna Summers had preferred to him, and
since he had met her again he had been exercising his
imagination on the picture of what her married life must
have been. Her husband had struck him as a characteristic
specimen of the kind of American as to whom one is not quite
clear whether he lives in Europe in order to cultivate an
art, or cultivates an art as a pretext for living in Europe.
Mr. Leath's art was water-colour painting, but he practised
it furtively, almost clandestinely, with the disdain of a
man of the world for anything bordering on the professional,
while he devoted himself more openly, and with religious
seriousness, to the collection of enamelled snuff-boxes. He
was blond and well-dressed, with the physical distinction
that comes from having a straight figure, a thin nose, and
the habit of looking slightly disgusted--as who should not,
in a world where authentic snuff-boxes were growing daily
harder to find, and the market was flooded with flagrant
Darrow had often wondered what possibilities of communion
there could have been between Mr. Leath and his wife. Now
he concluded that there had probably been none. Mrs.
Leath's words gave no hint of her husband's having failed to
justify her choice; but her very reticence betrayed her.
She spoke of him with a kind of impersonal seriousness, as
if he had been a character in a novel or a figure in
history; and what she said sounded as though it had been
learned by heart and slightly dulled by repetition. This
fact immensely increased Darrow's impression that his
meeting with her had annihilated the intervening years.
She, who was always so elusive and inaccessible, had grown
suddenly communicative and kind: had opened the doors of her
past, and tacitly left him to draw his own conclusions. As
a result, he had taken leave of her with the sense that he
was a being singled out and privileged, to whom she had
entrusted something precious to keep. It was her happiness
in their meeting that she had given him, had frankly left
him to do with as he willed; and the frankness of the
gesture doubled the beauty of the gift.
Their next meeting had prolonged and deepened the
impression. They had found each other again, a few days
later, in an old country house full of books and pictures,
in the soft landscape of southern England. The presence of a
large party, with all its aimless and agitated
displacements, had served only to isolate the pair and give
them (at least to the young man's fancy) a deeper feeling of
communion, and their days there had been like some musical
prelude, where the instruments, breathing low, seem to hold
back the waves of sound that press against them.
Mrs. Leath, on this occasion, was no less kind than before;
but she contrived to make him understand that what was so
inevitably coming was not to come too soon. It was not that
she showed any hesitation as to the issue, but rather that
she seemed to wish not to miss any stage in the gradual
reflowering of their intimacy.
Darrow, for his part, was content to wait if she wished it.
He remembered that once, in America, when she was a girl,
and he had gone to stay with her family in the country, she
had been out when he arrived, and her mother had told him to
look for her in the garden. She was not in the garden, but
beyond it he had seen her approaching down a long shady
path. Without hastening her step she had smiled and signed
to him to wait; and charmed by the lights and shadows that
played upon her as she moved, and by the pleasure of
watching her slow advance toward him, he had obeyed her and
stood still. And so she seemed now to be walking to him down
the years, the light and shade of old memories and new hopes
playing variously on her, and each step giving him the
vision of a different grace. She did not waver or turn
aside; he knew she would come straight to where he stood;
but something in her eyes said "Wait", and again he obeyed
On the fourth day an unexpected event threw out his
calculations. Summoned to town by the arrival in England of
her husband's mother, she left without giving Darrow the
chance he had counted on, and he cursed himself for a
dilatory blunderer. Still, his disappointment was tempered
by the certainty of being with her again before she left for
France; and they did in fact see each other in London.
There, however, the atmosphere had changed with the
conditions. He could not say that she avoided him, or even
that she was a shade less glad to see him; but she was beset
by family duties and, as he thought, a little too readily
resigned to them.
The Marquise de Chantelle, as Darrow soon perceived, had the
same mild formidableness as the late Mr. Leath: a sort of
insistent self-effacement before which every one about her
gave way. It was perhaps the shadow of this lady's
presence--pervasive even during her actual brief eclipses--
that subdued and silenced Mrs. Leath. The latter was,
moreover, preoccupied about her stepson, who, soon after
receiving his degree at Harvard, had been rescued from a
stormy love-affair, and finally, after some months of
troubled drifting, had yielded to his step-mother's counsel
and gone up to Oxford for a year of supplementary study.
Thither Mrs. Leath went once or twice to visit him, and her
remaining days were packed with family obligations: getting,
as she phrased it, "frocks and governesses" for her little
girl, who had been left in France, and having to devote the
remaining hours to long shopping expeditions with her
mother-in-law. Nevertheless, during her brief escapes from
duty, Darrow had had time to feel her safe in the custody of
his devotion, set apart for some inevitable hour; and the
last evening, at the theatre, between the overshadowing
Marquise and the unsuspicious Owen, they had had an almost
decisive exchange of words.
Now, in the rattle of the wind about his ears, Darrow
continued to hear the mocking echo of her message:
"Unexpected obstacle." In such an existence as Mrs. Leath's,
at once so ordered and so exposed, he knew how small a
complication might assume the magnitude of an "obstacle;"
yet, even allowing as impartially as his state of mind
permitted for the fact that, with her mother-in-law always,
and her stepson intermittently, under her roof, her lot
involved a hundred small accommodations generally foreign to
the freedom of widowhood--even so, he could not but think
that the very ingenuity bred of such conditions might have
helped her to find a way out of them. No, her "reason",
whatever it was, could, in this case, be nothing but a
pretext; unless he leaned to the less flattering alternative
that any reason seemed good enough for postponing him!
Certainly, if her welcome had meant what he imagined, she
could not, for the second time within a few weeks, have
submitted so tamely to the disarrangement of their plans; a
disarrangement which--his official duties considered--might,
for all she knew, result in his not being able to go to her
"Please don't come till thirtieth." The thirtieth--and it
was now the fifteenth! She flung back the fortnight on his
hands as if he had been an idler indifferent to dates,
instead of an active young diplomatist who, to respond to
her call, had had to hew his way through a very jungle of
engagements! "Please don't come till thirtieth." That was
all. Not the shadow of an excuse or a regret; not even the
perfunctory "have written" with which it is usual to soften
such blows. She didn't want him, and had taken the shortest
way to tell him so. Even in his first moment of
exasperation it struck him as characteristic that she should
not have padded her postponement with a fib. Certainly her
moral angles were not draped!
"If I asked her to marry me, she'd have refused in the same
language. But thank heaven I haven't!" he reflected.
These considerations, which had been with him every yard of
the way from London, reached a climax of irony as he was
drawn into the crowd on the pier. It did not soften his
feelings to remember that, but for her lack of forethought,
he might, at this harsh end of the stormy May day, have been
sitting before his club fire in London instead of shivering
in the damp human herd on the pier. Admitting the sex's
traditional right to change, she might at least have advised
him of hers by telegraphing directly to his rooms. But in
spite of their exchange of letters she had apparently failed
to note his address, and a breathless emissary had rushed
from the Embassy to pitch her telegram into his compartment
as the train was moving from the station.
Yes, he had given her chance enough to learn where he lived;
and this minor proof of her indifference became, as he
jammed his way through the crowd, the main point of his
grievance against her and of his derision of himself. Half
way down the pier the prod of an umbrella increased his
exasperation by rousing him to the fact that it was raining.
Instantly the narrow ledge became a battle-ground of
thrusting, slanting, parrying domes. The wind rose with the
rain, and the harried wretches exposed to this double
assault wreaked on their neighbours the vengeance they could
not take on the elements.
Darrow, whose healthy enjoyment of life made him in general
a good traveller, tolerant of agglutinated humanity, felt
himself obscurely outraged by these promiscuous contacts.
It was as though all the people about him had taken his
measure and known his plight; as though they were
contemptuously bumping and shoving him like the
inconsiderable thing he had become. "She doesn't want you,
doesn't want you, doesn't want you," their umbrellas and
their elbows seemed to say.
He had rashly vowed, when the telegram was flung into his
window: "At any rate I won't turn back"--as though it might
cause the sender a malicious joy to have him retrace his
steps rather than keep on to Paris! Now he perceived the
absurdity of the vow, and thanked his stars that he need not
plunge, to no purpose, into the fury of waves outside the
With this thought in his mind he turned back to look for his
porter; but the contiguity of dripping umbrellas made
signalling impossible and, perceiving that he had lost sight
of the man, he scrambled up again to the platform. As he
reached it, a descending umbrella caught him in the collar-
bone; and the next moment, bent sideways by the wind, it
turned inside out and soared up, kite-wise, at the end of a
helpless female arm.
Darrow caught the umbrella, lowered its inverted ribs, and
looked up at the face it exposed to him.
"Wait a minute," he said; "you can't stay here."
As he spoke, a surge of the crowd drove the owner of the
umbrella abruptly down on him. Darrow steadied her with
extended arms, and regaining her footing she cried out: "Oh,
dear, oh, dear! It's in ribbons!"
Her lifted face, fresh and flushed in the driving rain, woke
in him a memory of having seen it at a distant time and in a
vaguely unsympathetic setting; but it was no moment to
follow up such clues, and the face was obviously one to make
its way on its own merits.
Its possessor had dropped her bag and bundles to clutch at
the tattered umbrella. "I bought it only yesterday at the
Stores; and--yes--it's utterly done for!" she lamented.
Darrow smiled at the intensity of her distress. It was food
for the moralist that, side by side with such catastrophes
as his, human nature was still agitating itself over its
"Here's mine if you want it!" he shouted back at her through
the shouting of the gale.
The offer caused the young lady to look at him more
intently. "Why, it's Mr. Darrow!" she exclaimed; and then,
all radiant recognition: "Oh, thank you! We'll share it, if
She knew him, then; and he knew her; but how and where had
they met? He put aside the problem for subsequent solution,
and drawing her into a more sheltered corner, bade her wait
till he could find his porter.
When, a few minutes later, he came back with his recovered
property, and the news that the boat would not leave till
the tide had turned, she showed no concern.
"Not for two hours? How lucky--then I can find my trunk!"
Ordinarily Darrow would have felt little disposed to involve
himself in the adventure of a young female who had lost her
trunk; but at the moment he was glad of any pretext for
activity. Even should he decide to take the next up train
from Dover he still had a yawning hour to fill; and the
obvious remedy was to devote it to the loveliness in
distress under his umbrella.
"You've lost a trunk? Let me see if I can find it."
It pleased him that she did not return the conventional "Oh,
WOULD you?" Instead, she corrected him with a laugh--Not
a trunk, but my trunk; I've no other--" and then added
briskly: "You'd better first see to getting your own things
on the boat."
This made him answer, as if to give substance to his plans
by discussing them: "I don't actually know that I'm going
"Not going over?"
"Well...perhaps not by this boat." Again he felt a stealing
indecision. "I may probably have to go back to London.
I'm--I'm waiting...expecting a letter...(She'll think me a
defaulter," he reflected.) "But meanwhile there's plenty of
time to find your trunk."
He picked up his companion's bundles, and offered her an arm
which enabled her to press her slight person more closely
under his umbrella; and as, thus linked, they beat their way
back to the platform, pulled together and apart like
marionettes on the wires of the wind, he continued to wonder
where he could have seen her. He had immediately classed
her as a compatriot; her small nose, her clear tints, a kind
of sketchy delicacy in her face, as though she had been
brightly but lightly washed in with water-colour, all
confirmed the evidence of her high sweet voice and of her
quick incessant gestures.She was clearly an American, but
with the loose native quality strained through a closer woof
of manners: the composite product of an enquiring and
adaptable race. All this, however, did not help him to fit
a name to her, for just such instances were perpetually
pouring through the London Embassy, and the etched and
angular American was becoming rarer than the fluid type.
More puzzling than the fact of his being unable to identify
her was the persistent sense connecting her with something
uncomfortable and distasteful. So pleasant a vision as that
gleaming up at him between wet brown hair and wet brown boa
should have evoked only associations as pleasing; but each
effort to fit her image into his past resulted in the same
memories of boredom and a vague discomfort...
Don't you remember me now--at Mrs. Murrett's?"
She threw the question at Darrow across a table of the quiet
coffee-room to which, after a vainly prolonged quest for her
trunk, he had suggested taking her for a cup of tea.
In this musty retreat she had removed her dripping hat, hung
it on the fender to dry, and stretched herself on tiptoe in
front of the round eagle-crowned mirror, above the mantel
vases of dyed immortelles, while she ran her fingers comb-
wise through her hair. The gesture had acted on Darrow's
numb feelings as the glow of the fire acted on his
circulation; and when he had asked: "Aren't your feet wet,
too?" and, after frank inspection of a stout-shod sole, she
had answered cheerfully: "No--luckily I had on my new
boots," he began to feel that human intercourse would still
be tolerable if it were always as free from formality.
The removal of his companion's hat, besides provoking this
reflection, gave him his first full sight of her face; and
this was so favourable that the name she now pronounced fell
on him with a quite disproportionate shock of dismay.
"Oh, Mrs. Murrett's--was it THERE?"
He remembered her now, of course: remembered her as one of
the shadowy sidling presences in the background of that
awful house in Chelsea, one of the dumb appendages of the
shrieking unescapable Mrs. Murrett, into whose talons he had
fallen in the course of his head-long pursuit of Lady Ulrica
Crispin. Oh, the taste of stale follies! How insipid it
was, yet how it clung!
"I used to pass you on the stairs," she reminded him.
Yes: he had seen her slip by--he recalled it now--as he
dashed up to the drawing-room in quest of Lady Ulrica. The
thought made him steal a longer look. How could such a face
have been merged in the Murrett mob? Its fugitive slanting
lines, that lent themselves to all manner of tender tilts
and foreshortenings, had the freakish grace of some young
head of the Italian comedy. The hair stood up from her
forehead in a boyish elf-lock, and its colour matched her
auburn eyes flecked with black, and the little brown spot on
her cheek, between the ear that was meant to have a rose
behind it and the chin that should have rested on a ruff.
When she smiled, the left corner of her mouth went up a
little higher than the right; and her smile began in her
eyes and ran down to her lips in two lines of light. He had
dashed past that to reach Lady Ulrica Crispin!
"But of course you wouldn't remember me," she was saying.
"My name is Viner--Sophy Viner."
Not remember her? But of course he DID! He was genuinely
sure of it now. "You're Mrs. Murrett's niece," he declared.
She shook her head. "No; not even that. Only her reader."
"Her reader? Do you mean to say she ever reads?"
Miss Viner enjoyed his wonder. "Dear, no! But I wrote
notes, and made up the visiting-book, and walked the dogs,
and saw bores for her."
Darrow groaned. "That must have been rather bad!"
"Yes; but nothing like as bad as being her niece."
"That I can well believe. I'm glad to hear," he added,
"that you put it all in the past tense."
She seemed to droop a little at the allusion; then she
lifted her chin with a jerk of defiance. "Yes. All is at
an end between us. We've just parted in tears--but not in
"Just parted? Do you mean to say you've been there all this
"Ever since you used to come there to see Lady Ulrica? Does
it seem to you so awfully long ago?"
The unexpectedness of the thrust--as well as its doubtful
taste--chilled his growing enjoyment of her chatter. He had
really been getting to like her--had recovered, under the
candid approval of her eye, his usual sense of being a
personable young man, with all the privileges pertaining to
the state, instead of the anonymous rag of humanity he had
felt himself in the crowd on the pier. It annoyed him, at
that particular moment, to be reminded that naturalness is
not always consonant with taste.
She seemed to guess his thought. "You don't like my saying
that you came for Lady Ulrica?" she asked, leaning over the
table to pour herself a second cup of tea.
He liked her quickness, at any rate. "It's better," he
laughed, "than your thinking I came for Mrs. Murrett!"
"Oh, we never thought anybody came for Mrs. Murrett! It was
always for something else: the music, or the cook--when
there was a good one--or the other people; generally ONE
of the other people."
She was amusing, and that, in his present mood, was more to
his purpose than the exact shade of her taste. It was odd,
too, to discover suddenly that the blurred tapestry of Mrs.
Murrett's background had all the while been alive and full
of eyes. Now, with a pair of them looking into his, he was
conscious of a queer reversal of perspective.
"Who were the 'we'? Were you a cloud of witnesses?"
"There were a good many of us." She smiled. "Let me see--
who was there in your time? Mrs. Bolt--and Mademoiselle--and
Professor Didymus and the Polish Countess. Don't you
remember the Polish Countess? She crystal-gazed, and played
accompaniments, and Mrs. Murrett chucked her because Mrs.
Didymus accused her of hypnotizing the Professor. But of
course you don't remember. We were all invisible to you;
but we could see. And we all used to wonder about you----"
Again Darrow felt a redness in the temples. "What about
"Well--whether it was you or she who..."
He winced, but hid his disapproval. It made the time pass
to listen to her.
"And what, if one may ask, was your conclusion?"
"Well, Mrs. Bolt and Mademoiselle and the Countess naturally
thought it was SHE; but Professor Didymus and Jimmy
"Just a moment: who on earth is Jimmy Brance?"
She exclaimed in wonder: "You WERE absorbed--not to
remember Jimmy Brance! He must have been right about you,
after all." She let her amused scrutiny dwell on him. "But
how could you? She was false from head to foot!"
"False----?" In spite of time and satiety, the male instinct
of ownership rose up and repudiated the charge.
Miss Viner caught his look and laughed. "Oh, I only meant
externally! You see, she often used to come to my room after
tennis, or to touch up in the evenings, when they were going
on; and I assure you she took apart like a puzzle. In fact
I used to say to Jimmy--just to make him wild--:'I'll bet
you anything you like there's nothing wrong, because I know
she'd never dare un--'" She broke the word in two, and her
quick blush made her face like a shallow-petalled rose
shading to the deeper pink of the centre.
The situation was saved, for Darrow, by an abrupt rush of
memories, and he gave way to a mirth which she as frankly
echoed. "Of course," she gasped through her laughter, "I
only said it to tease Jimmy----"
Her amusement obscurely annoyed him. "Oh, you're all
alike!" he exclaimed, moved by an unaccountable sense of
She caught him up in a flash--she didn't miss things! "You
say that because you think I'm spiteful and envious? Yes--I
was envious of Lady Ulrica...Oh, not on account of you or
Jimmy Brance! Simply because she had almost all the things
I've always wanted: clothes and fun and motors, and
admiration and yachting and Paris--why, Paris alone would
be enough!--And how do you suppose a girl can see that sort
of thing about her day after day, and never wonder why some
women, who don't seem to have any more right to it, have it
all tumbled into their laps, while others are writing dinner
invitations, and straightening out accounts, and copying
visiting lists, and finishing golf-stockings, and matching
ribbons, and seeing that the dogs get their sulphur? One
looks in one's glass, after all!"
She launched the closing words at him on a cry that lifted
them above the petulance of vanity; but his sense of her
words was lost in the surprise of her face. Under the
flying clouds of her excitement it was no longer a shallow
flower-cup but a darkening gleaming mirror that might give
back strange depths of feeling. The girl had stuff in her--
he saw it; and she seemed to catch the perception in his
"That's the kind of education I got at Mrs. Murrett's--and
I never had any other," she said with a shrug.
"Good Lord--were you there so long?"
"Five years. I stuck it out longer than any of the others."
She spoke as though it were something to be proud of.
"Well, thank God you're out of it now!"
Again a just perceptible shadow crossed her face. "Yes--I'm
out of it now fast enough."
"And what--if I may ask--are you doing next?"
She brooded a moment behind drooped lids; then, with a touch
of hauteur: "I'm going to Paris: to study for the stage."
"The stage?" Darrow stared at her, dismayed. All his
confused contradictory impressions assumed a new aspect at
this announcement; and to hide his surprise he added
lightly: "Ah--then you will have Paris, after all!"
"Hardly Lady Ulrica's Paris. It s not likely to be roses,
roses all the way."
"It's not, indeed." Real compassion prompted him to
continue: "Have you any--any influence you can count on?"
She gave a somewhat flippant little laugh. "None but my
own. I've never had any other to count on."
He passed over the obvious reply. "But have you any idea
how the profession is over-crowded? I know I'm trite----"
"I've a very clear idea. But I couldn't go on as I was."
"Of course not. But since, as you say, you'd stuck it out
longer than any of the others, couldn't you at least have
held on till you were sure of some kind of an opening?"
She made no reply for a moment; then she turned a listless
glance to the rain-beaten window. "Oughtn't we be
starting?" she asked, with a lofty assumption of
indifference that might have been Lady Ulrica's.
Darrow, surprised by the change, but accepting her rebuff as
a phase of what he guessed to be a confused and tormented
mood, rose from his seat and lifted her jacket from the
chair-back on which she had hung it to dry. As he held it
toward her she looked up at him quickly.
"The truth is, we quarrelled," she broke out, "and I left
last night without my dinner--and without my salary."
"Ah--" he groaned, with a sharp perception of all the sordid
dangers that might attend such a break with Mrs. Murrett.
"And without a character!" she added, as she slipped her
arms into the jacket. "And without a trunk, as it appears--
but didn't you say that, before going, there'd be time for
another look at the station?"
There was time for another look at the station; but the look
again resulted in disappointment, since her trunk was
nowhere to be found in the huge heap disgorged by the newly-
arrived London express. The fact caused Miss Viner a
moment's perturbation; but she promptly adjusted herself to
the necessity of proceeding on her journey, and her decision
confirmed Darrow's vague resolve to go to Paris instead of
retracing his way to London.
Miss Viner seemed cheered at the prospect of his company,
and sustained by his offer to telegraph to Charing Cross for
the missing trunk; and he left her to wait in the fly while
he hastened back to the telegraph office. The enquiry
despatched, he was turning away from the desk when another
thought struck him and he went back and indited a message to
his servant in London: "If any letters with French post-mark
received since departure forward immediately to Terminus
Hotel Gare du Nord Paris."
Then he rejoined Miss Viner, and they drove off through the
rain to the pier.
Almost as soon as the train left Calais her head had dropped
back into the corner, and she had fallen asleep.
Sitting opposite, in the compartment from which he had
contrived to have other travellers excluded, Darrow looked
at her curiously. He had never seen a face that changed so
quickly. A moment since it had danced like a field of
daisies in a summer breeze; now, under the pallid
oscillating light of the lamp overhead, it wore the hard
stamp of experience, as of a soft thing chilled into shape
before its curves had rounded: and it moved him to see that
care already stole upon her when she slept.
The story she had imparted to him in the wheezing shaking
cabin, and at the Calais buffet--where he had insisted on
offering her the dinner she had missed at Mrs. Murrett's--
had given a distincter outline to her figure. From the
moment of entering the New York boarding-school to which a
preoccupied guardian had hastily consigned her after the
death of her parents, she had found herself alone in a busy
and indifferent world. Her youthful history might, in fact,
have been summed up in the statement that everybody had been
too busy to look after her. Her guardian, a drudge in a big
banking house, was absorbed by "the office"; the guardian's
wife, by her health and her religion; and an elder sister,
Laura, married, unmarried, remarried, and pursuing, through
all these alternating phases, some vaguely "artistic" ideal
on which the guardian and his wife looked askance, had (as
Darrow conjectured) taken their disapproval as a pretext for
not troubling herself about poor Sophy, to whom--perhaps for
this reason--she had remained the incarnation of remote
In the course of time a sudden "stroke" of the guardian's
had thrown his personal affairs into a state of confusion
from which--after his widely lamented death--it became
evident that it would not be possible to extricate his
ward's inheritance. No one deplored this more sincerely
than his widow, who saw in it one more proof of her
husband's life having been sacrificed to the innumerable
duties imposed on him, and who could hardly--but for the
counsels of religion--have brought herself to pardon the
young girl for her indirect share in hastening his end.
Sophy did not resent this point of view. She was really
much sorrier for her guardian's death than for the loss of
her insignificant fortune. The latter had represented only
the means of holding her in bondage, and its disappearance
was the occasion of her immediate plunge into the wide
bright sea of life surrounding the island-of her captivity.
She had first landed--thanks to the intervention of the
ladies who had directed her education--in a Fifth Avenue
school-room where, for a few months, she acted as a buffer
between three autocratic infants and their bodyguard of
nurses and teachers. The too-pressing attentions of their
father's valet had caused her to fly this sheltered spot,
against the express advice of her educational superiors, who
implied that, in their own case, refinement and self-respect
had always sufficed to keep the most ungovernable passions
at bay. The experience of the guardian's widow having been
precisely similar, and the deplorable precedent of Laura's
career being present to all their minds, none of these
ladies felt any obligation to intervene farther in Sophy's
affairs; and she was accordingly left to her own resources.
A schoolmate from the Rocky Mountains, who was taking her
father and mother to Europe, had suggested Sophy's
accompanying them, and "going round" with her while her
progenitors, in the care of the courier, nursed their
ailments at a fashionable bath. Darrow gathered that the
"going round" with Mamie Hoke was a varied and diverting
process; but this relatively brilliant phase of Sophy's
career was cut short by the elopement of the inconsiderate
Mamie with a "matinee idol" who had followed her from New
York, and by the precipitate return of her parents to
negotiate for the repurchase of their child.
It was then--after an interval of repose with compassionate
but impecunious American friends in Paris--that Miss Viner
had been drawn into the turbid current of Mrs. Murrett's
career. The impecunious compatriots had found Mrs. Murrett
for her, and it was partly on their account (because they
were such dears, and so unconscious, poor confiding things,
of what they were letting her in for) that Sophy had stuck
it out so long in the dreadful house in Chelsea. The
Farlows, she explained to Darrow, were the best friends she
had ever had (and the only ones who had ever "been decent"
about Laura, whom they had seen once, and intensely
admired); but even after twenty years of Paris they were the
most incorrigibly inexperienced angels, and quite persuaded
that Mrs. Murrett was a woman of great intellectual
eminence, and the house at Chelsea "the last of the salons"
--Darrow knew what she meant? And she hadn't liked to
undeceive them, knowing that to do so would be virtually to
throw herself back on their hands, and feeling, moreover,
after her previous experiences, the urgent need of gaining,
at any cost, a name for stability; besides which--she threw
it off with a slight laugh--no other chance, in all these
years, had happened to come to her.
She had brushed in this outline of her career with light
rapid strokes, and in a tone of fatalism oddly untinged by
bitterness. Darrow perceived that she classified people
according to their greater or less "luck" in life, but she
appeared to harbour no resentment against the undefined
power which dispensed the gift in such unequal measure.
Things came one's way or they didn't; and meanwhile one
could only look on, and make the most of small
compensations, such as watching "the show" at Mrs.
Murrett's, and talking over the Lady Ulricas and other
footlight figures. And at any moment, of course, a turn of
the kaleidoscope might suddenly toss a bright spangle into
the grey pattern of one's days.
This light-hearted philosophy was not without charm to a
young man accustomed to more traditional views. George
Darrow had had a fairly varied experience of feminine types,
but the women he had frequented had either been pronouncedly
"ladies" or they had not. Grateful to both for ministering
to the more complex masculine nature, and disposed to assume
that they had been evolved, if not designed, to that end, he
had instinctively kept the two groups apart in his mind,
avoiding that intermediate society which attempts to
conciliate both theories of life. "Bohemianism" seemed to
him a cheaper convention than the other two, and he liked,
above all, people who went as far as they could in their own
line--liked his "ladies" and their rivals to be equally
unashamed of showing for exactly what they were. He had not
indeed--the fact of Lady Ulrica was there to remind him--
been without his experience of a third type; but that
experience had left him with a contemptuous distaste for the
woman who uses the privileges of one class to shelter the
customs of another.
As to young girls, he had never thought much about them
since his early love for the girl who had become Mrs. Leath.
That episode seemed, as he looked back on it, to bear no
more relation to reality than a pale decorative design to
the confused richness of a summer landscape. He no longer
understood the violent impulses and dreamy pauses of his own
young heart, or the inscrutable abandonments and reluctances
of hers. He had known a moment of anguish at losing her--the
mad plunge of youthful instincts against the barrier of
fate; but the first wave of stronger sensation had swept
away all but the outline of their story, and the memory of
Anna Summers had made the image of the young girl sacred,
but the class uninteresting.
Such generalisations belonged, however, to an earlier stage
of his experience. The more he saw of life the more
incalculable he found it; and he had learned to yield to his
impressions without feeling the youthful need of relating
them to others. It was the girl in the opposite seat who
had roused in him the dormant habit of comparison. She was
distinguished from the daughters of wealth by her avowed
acquaintance with the real business of living, a familiarity
as different as possible from their theoretical proficiency;
yet it seemed to Darrow that her experience had made her
free without hardness and self-assured without
The rush into Amiens, and the flash of the station lights
into their compartment, broke Miss Viner's sleep, and
without changing her position she lifted her lids and looked
at Darrow. There was neither surprise nor bewilderment in
the look. She seemed instantly conscious, not so much of
where she was, as of the fact that she was with him; and
that fact seemed enough to reassure her. She did not even
turn her head to look out; her eyes continued to rest on him
with a vague smile which appeared to light her face from
within, while her lips kept their sleepy droop.
Shouts and the hurried tread of travellers came to them
through the confusing cross-lights of the platform. A head
appeared at the window, and Darrow threw himself forward to
defend their solitude; but the intruder was only a train
hand going his round of inspection. He passed on, and the
lights and cries of the station dropped away, merged in a
wider haze and a hollower resonance, as the train gathered
itself up with a long shake and rolled out again into the
Miss Viner's head sank back against the cushion, pushing out
a dusky wave of hair above her forehead. The swaying of the
train loosened a lock over her ear, and she shook it back
with a movement like a boy's, while her gaze still rested on
"You're not too tired?"
She shook her head with a smile.
"We shall be in before midnight. We're very nearly on
time." He verified the statement by holding up his watch to
She nodded dreamily. "It's all right. I telegraphed Mrs.
Farlow that they mustn't think of coming to the station; but
they'll have told the concierge to look out for me."
"You'll let me drive you there?"
She nodded again, and her eyes closed. It was very pleasant
to Darrow that she made no effort to talk or to dissemble
her sleepiness. He sat watching her till the upper lashes
met and mingled with the lower, and their blent shadow lay
on her cheek; then he stood up and drew the curtain over the
lamp, drowning the compartment in a bluish twilight.
As he sank back into his seat he thought how differently
Anna Summers--or even Anna Leath--would have behaved. She
would not have talked too much; she would not have been
either restless or embarrassed; but her adaptability, her
appropriateness, would not have been nature but "tact." The
oddness of the situation would have made sleep impossible,
or, if weariness had overcome her for a moment, she would
have waked with a start, wondering where she was, and how
she had come there, and if her hair were tidy; and nothing
short of hairpins and a glass would have restored her self-
The reflection set him wondering whether the "sheltered"
girl's bringing-up might not unfit her for all subsequent
contact with life. How much nearer to it had Mrs. Leath
been brought by marriage and motherhood, and the passage of
fourteen years? What were all her reticences and evasions
but the result of the deadening process of forming a "lady"?
The freshness he had marvelled at was like the unnatural
whiteness of flowers forced in the dark.
As he looked back at their few days together he saw that
their intercourse had been marked, on her part, by the same
hesitations and reserves which had chilled their earlier
intimacy. Once more they had had their hour together and
she had wasted it. As in her girlhood, her eyes had made
promises which her lips were afraid to keep. She was still
afraid of life, of its ruthlessness, its danger and mystery.
She was still the petted little girl who cannot be left
alone in the dark...His memory flew back to their youthful
story, and long-forgotten details took shape before him.
How frail and faint the picture was! They seemed, he and
she, like the ghostly lovers of the Grecian Urn, forever
pursuing without ever clasping each other. To this day he
did not quite know what had parted them: the break had been
as fortuitous as the fluttering apart of two seed-vessels on
a wave of summer air...
The very slightness, vagueness, of the memory gave it an
added poignancy. He felt the mystic pang of the parent for
a child which has just breathed and died. Why had it
happened thus, when the least shifting of influences might
have made it all so different? If she had been given to him
then he would have put warmth in her veins and light in her
eyes: would have made her a woman through and through.
Musing thus, he had the sense of waste that is the bitterest
harvest of experience. A love like his might have given her
the divine gift of self-renewal; and now he saw her fated to
wane into old age repeating the same gestures, echoing the
words she had always heard, and perhaps never guessing that,
just outside her glazed and curtained consciousness, life
rolled away, a vast blackness starred with lights, like the
night landscape beyond the windows of the train.
The engine lowered its speed for the passage through a
sleeping station. In the light of the platform lamp Darrow
looked across at his companion. Her head had dropped toward
one shoulder, and her lips were just far enough apart for
the reflection of the upper one to deepen the colour of the
other. The jolting of the train had again shaken loose the
lock above her ear. It danced on her cheek like the flit of
a brown wing over flowers, and Darrow felt an intense desire
to lean forward and put it back behind her ear.
As their motor-cab, on the way from the Gare du Nord, turned
into the central glitter of the Boulevard, Darrow had bent
over to point out an incandescent threshold.
Above the doorway, an arch of flame flashed out the name of
a great actress, whose closing performances in a play of
unusual originality had been the theme of long articles in
the Paris papers which Darrow had tossed into their
compartment at Calais.
"That's what you must see before you're twenty-four hours
The girl followed his gesture eagerly. She was all awake
and alive now, as if the heady rumours of the streets, with
their long effervescences of light, had passed into her
veins like wine.
"Cerdine? Is that where she acts?" She put her head out of
the window, straining back for a glimpse of the sacred
threshold. As they flew past it she sank into her seat with
a satisfied sigh.
"It's delicious enough just to KNOW she's there! I've
never seen her, you know. When I was here with Mamie Hoke
we never went anywhere but to the music halls, because she
couldn't understand any French; and when I came back
afterward to the Farlows' I was dead broke, and couldn't
afford the play, and neither could they; so the only chance
we had was when friends of theirs invited us--and once it
was to see a tragedy by a Roumanian lady, and the other time
it was for 'L'Ami Fritz' at the Francais."
Darrow laughed. "You must do better than that now. 'Le
Vertige' is a fine thing, and Cerdine gets some wonderful
effects out of it. You must come with me tomorrow evening
to see it--with your friends, of course.--That is," he
added, "if there's any sort of chance of getting seats."
The flash of a street lamp lit up her radiant face. "Oh,
will you really take us? What fun to think that it's
It was wonderfully pleasant to be able to give such
pleasure. Darrow was not rich, but it was almost impossible
for him to picture the state of persons with tastes and
perceptions like his own, to whom an evening at the theatre
was an unattainable indulgence. There floated through his
mind an answer of Mrs. Leath's to his enquiry whether she
had seen the play in question. "No. I meant to, of course,
but one is so overwhelmed with things in Paris. And then
I'm rather sick of Cerdine--one is always being dragged to
That, among the people he frequented, was the usual attitude
toward such opportunities. There were too many, they were a
nuisance, one had to defend one's self! He even remembered
wondering, at the moment, whether to a really fine taste the
exceptional thing could ever become indifferent through
habit; whether the appetite for beauty was so soon dulled
that it could be kept alive only by privation. Here, at any
rate, was a fine chance to experiment with such a hunger: he
almost wished he might stay on in Paris long enough to take
the measure of Miss Viner's receptivity.
She was still dwelling on his promise, "It's too beautiful
of you! Oh, don't you THINK you'll be able to get
seats?" And then, after a pause of brimming appreciation: "I
wonder if you'll think me horrid?--but it may be my only
chance; and if you can't get places for us all, wouldn't you
perhaps just take ME? After all, the Farlows may have
He had not, of course, thought her horrid, but only the more
engaging, for being so natural, and so unashamed of showing
the frank greed of her famished youth. "Oh, you shall go
somehow!" he had gaily promised her; and she had dropped
back with a sigh of pleasure as their cab passed into the
dimly-lit streets of the Farlows' quarter beyond the
This little passage came back to him the next morning, as he
opened his hotel window on the early roar of the Northern
The girl was there, in the room next to him. That had been
the first point in his waking consciousness. The second was
a sense of relief at the obligation imposed on him by this
unexpected turn of everts. To wake to the necessity of
action, to postpone perforce the fruitless contemplation of
his private grievance, was cause enough for gratitude, even
if the small adventure in which he found himself involved
had not, on its own merits, roused an instinctive curiosity
to see it through.
When he and his companion, the night before, had reached the
Farlows' door in the rue de la Chaise, it was only to find,
after repeated assaults on its panels, that the Farlows were
no longer there. They had moved away the week before, not
only from their apartment but from Paris; and Miss Viner's
breach with Mrs. Murrett had been too sudden to permit her
letter and telegram to overtake them. Both communications,
no doubt, still reposed in a pigeon-hole of the loge;
but its custodian, when drawn from his lair, sulkily
declined to let Miss Viner verify the fact, and only flung
out, in return for Darrow's bribe, the statement that the
Americans had gone to Joigny.
To pursue them there at that hour was manifestly impossible,
and Miss Viner, disturbed but not disconcerted by this new
obstacle, had quite simply acceded to Darrow's suggestion
that she should return for what remained of the night to the
hotel where he had sent his luggage.
The drive back through the dark hush before dawn, with the
nocturnal blaze of the Boulevard fading around them like the
false lights of a magician's palace, had so played on her
impressionability that she seemed to give no farther thought
to her own predicament. Darrow noticed that she did not
feel the beauty and mystery of the spectacle as much as its
pressure of human significance, all its hidden implications
of emotion and adventure. As they passed the shadowy
colonnade of the Francais, remote and temple-like in the
paling lights, he felt a clutch on his arm, and heard the
cry: "There are things THERE that I want so desperately
to see!" and all the way back to the hotel she continued to
question him, with shrewd precision and an artless thirst
for detail, about the theatrical life of Paris. He was
struck afresh, as he listened, by the way in which her
naturalness eased the situation of constraint, leaving to it
only a pleasant savour of good fellowship. It was the kind
of episode that one might, in advance, have characterized as
"awkward", yet that was proving, in the event, as much
outside such definitions as a sunrise stroll with a dryad in
a dew-drenched forest; and Darrow reflected that mankind
would never have needed to invent tact if it had not first
invented social complications.
It had been understood, with his good-night to Miss Viner,
that the next morning he was to look up the Joigny trains,
and see her safely to the station; but, while he breakfasted
and waited for a time-table, he recalled again her cry of
joy at the prospect of seeing Cerdine. It was certainly a
pity, since that most elusive and incalculable of artists
was leaving the next week for South America, to miss what
might be a last sight of her in her greatest part; and
Darrow, having dressed and made the requisite excerpts from
the time-table, decided to carry the result of his
deliberations to his neighbour's door.
It instantly opened at his knock, and she came forth looking
as if she had been plunged into some sparkling element which
had curled up all her drooping tendrils and wrapped her in a
shimmer of fresh leaves.
"Well, what do you think of me?" she cried; and with a hand
at her waist she spun about as if to show off some miracle
of Parisian dress-making.
"I think the missing trunk has come--and that it was worth
"You DO like my dress?"
"I adore it! I always adore new dresses--why, you don't mean
to say it's NOT a new one?"
She laughed out her triumph.
"No, no, no! My trunk hasn't come, and this is only my old
rag of yesterday--but I never knew the trick to fail!" And,
as he stared: "You see," she joyously explained, "I've
always had to dress in all kinds of dreary left-overs, and
sometimes, when everybody else was smart and new, it used to
make me awfully miserable. So one day, when Mrs. Murrett
dragged me down unexpectedly to fill a place at dinner, I
suddenly thought I'd try spinning around like that, and say
to every one: 'WELL, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ME?' And, do
you know, they were all taken in, including Mrs. Murrett,
who didn't recognize my old turned and dyed rags, and told
me afterward it was awfully bad form to dress as if I were
somebody that people would expect to know! And ever since,
whenever I've particularly wanted to look nice, I've just
asked people what they thought of my new frock; and they're
always, always taken in!"
She dramatized her explanation so vividly that Darrow felt
as if his point were gained.
"Ah, but this confirms your vocation--of course," he cried,
"you must see Cerdine!" and, seeing her face fall at this
reminder of the change in her prospects, he hastened to set
forth his plan. As he did so, he saw how easy it was to
explain things to her. She would either accept his
suggestion, or she would not: but at least she would waste
no time in protestations and objections, or any vain
sacrifice to the idols of conformity. The conviction that
one could, on any given point, almost predicate this of her,
gave him the sense of having advanced far enough in her
intimacy to urge his arguments against a hasty pursuit of
Yes, it would certainly be foolish--she at once agreed--in
the case of such dear indefinite angels as the Farlows, to
dash off after them without more positive proof that they
were established at Joigny, and so established that they
could take her in. She owned it was but too probable that
they had gone there to "cut down", and might be doing so in
quarters too contracted to receive her; and it would be
unfair, on that chance, to impose herself on them
unannounced. The simplest way of getting farther light on
the question would be to go back to the rue de la Chaise,
where, at that more conversable hour, the concierge
might be less chary of detail; and she could decide on her
next step in the light of such facts as he imparted.
Point by point, she fell in with the suggestion,
recognizing, in the light of their unexplained flight, that
the Farlows might indeed be in a situation on which one
could not too rashly intrude. Her concern for her friends
seemed to have effaced all thought of herself, and this
little indication of character gave Darrow a quite
disproportionate pleasure. She agreed that it would be well
to go at once to the rue de la Chaise, but met his proposal
that they should drive by the declaration that it was a
"waste" not to walk in Paris; so they set off on foot
through the cheerful tumult of the streets.
The walk was long enough for him to learn many things about
her. The storm of the previous night had cleared the air,
and Paris shone in morning beauty under a sky that was all
broad wet washes of white and blue; but Darrow again noticed
that her visual sensitiveness was less keen than her feeling
for what he was sure the good Farlows--whom he already
seemed to know--would have called "the human interest." She
seemed hardly conscious of sensations of form and colour, or
of any imaginative suggestion, and the spectacle before
them--always, in its scenic splendour, so moving to her
companion--broke up, under her scrutiny, into a thousand
minor points: the things in the shops, the types of
character and manner of occupation shown in the passing
faces, the street signs, the names of the hotels they
passed, the motley brightness of the flower-carts, the
identity of the churches and public buildings that caught
her eye. But what she liked best, he divined, was the mere
fact of being free to walk abroad in the bright air, her
tongue rattling on as it pleased, while her feet kept time
to the mighty orchestration of the city's sounds. Her
delight in the fresh air, in the freedom, light and sparkle
of the morning, gave him a sudden insight into her stifled
past; nor was it indifferent to him to perceive how much his
presence evidently added to her enjoyment. If only as a
sympathetic ear, he guessed what he must be worth to her.
The girl had been dying for some one to talk to, some one
before whom she could unfold and shake out to the light her
poor little shut-away emotions. Years of repression were
revealed in her sudden burst of confidence; and the pity she
inspired made Darrow long to fill her few free hours to the
She had the gift of rapid definition, and his questions as
to the life she had led with the Farlows, during the
interregnum between the Hoke and Murrett eras, called up
before him a queer little corner of Parisian existence. The
Farlows themselves--he a painter, she a "magazine writer"--
rose before him in all their incorruptible simplicity: an
elderly New England couple, with vague yearnings for
enfranchisement, who lived in Paris as if it were a
Massachusetts suburb, and dwelt hopefully on the "higher
side" of the Gallic nature. With equal vividness she set
before him the component figures of the circle from which
Mrs. Farlow drew the "Inner Glimpses of French Life"
appearing over her name in a leading New England journal:
the Roumanian lady who had sent them tickets for her
tragedy, an elderly French gentleman who, on the strength of
a week's stay at Folkestone, translated English fiction for
the provincial press, a lady from Wichita, Kansas, who
advocated free love and the abolition of the corset, a
clergyman's widow from Torquay who had written an "English
Ladies' Guide to Foreign Galleries" and a Russian sculptor
who lived on nuts and was "almost certainly" an anarchist.
It was this nucleus, and its outer ring of musical,
architectural and other American students, which posed
successively to Mrs. Farlow's versatile fancy as a centre of
"University Life", a "Salon of the Faubourg St. Germain", a
group of Parisian "Intellectuals" or a "Cross-section of
Montmartre"; but even her faculty for extracting from it the
most varied literary effects had not sufficed to create a
permanent demand for the "Inner Glimpses", and there were
days when--Mr. Farlow's landscapes being equally
unmarketable--a temporary withdrawal to the country
(subsequently utilized as "Peeps into Chateau Life") became
necessary to the courageous couple.
Five years of Mrs. Murrett's world, while increasing Sophy's
tenderness for the Farlows, had left her with few illusions
as to their power of advancing her fortunes; and she did not
conceal from Darrow that her theatrical projects were of the
vaguest. They hung mainly on the problematical good-will of
an ancient comedienne, with whom Mrs. Farlow had a slight
acquaintance (extensively utilized in "Stars of the French
Footlights" and "Behind the Scenes at the Francais"), and
who had once, with signs of approval, heard Miss Viner
recite the Nuit de Mai.
"But of course I know how much that's worth," the girl broke
off, with one of her flashes of shrewdness. "And besides,
it isn't likely that a poor old fossil like Mme. Dolle could
get anybody to listen to her now, even if she really thought
I had talent. But she might introduce me to people; or at
least give me a few tips. If I could manage to earn enough
to pay for lessons I'd go straight to some of the big people
and work with them. I'm rather hoping the Farlows may find
me a chance of that kind--an engagement with some American
family in Paris who would want to be 'gone round' with like
the Hokes, and who'd leave me time enough to study."
In the rue de la Chaise they learned little except the exact
address of the Farlows, and the fact that they had sub-let
their flat before leaving. This information obtained,
Darrow proposed to Miss Viner that they should stroll along
the quays to a little restaurant looking out on the Seine,
and there, over the plat du jour, consider the next step
to be taken. The long walk had given her cheeks a glow
indicative of wholesome hunger, and she made no difficulty
about satisfying it in Darrow's company. Regaining the
river they walked on in the direction of Notre Dame, delayed
now and again by the young man's irresistible tendency to
linger over the bookstalls, and by his ever-fresh response
to the shifting beauties of the scene. For two years his
eyes had been subdued to the atmospheric effects of London,
to the mysterious fusion of darkly-piled city and low-lying
bituminous sky; and the transparency of the French air,
which left the green gardens and silvery stones so
classically clear yet so softly harmonized, struck him as
having a kind of conscious intelligence. Every line of the
architecture, every arch of the bridges, the very sweep of
the strong bright river between them, while contributing to
this effect, sent forth each a separate appeal to some
sensitive memory; so that, for Darrow, a walk through the
Paris streets was always like the unrolling of a vast
tapestry from which countless stored fragrances were shaken
It was a proof of the richness and multiplicity of the
spectacle that it served, without incongruity, for so
different a purpose as the background of Miss Viner's
enjoyment. As a mere drop-scene for her personal adventure
it was just as much in its place as in the evocation of
great perspectives of feeling. For her, as he again
perceived when they were seated at their table in a low
window above the Seine, Paris was "Paris" by virtue of all
its entertaining details, its endless ingenuities of
pleasantness. Where else, for instance, could one find the
dear little dishes of hors d'oeuvre, the symmetrically-
laid anchovies and radishes, the thin golden shells of
butter, or the wood strawberries and brown jars of cream
that gave to their repast the last refinement of rusticity?
Hadn't he noticed, she asked, that cooking always expressed
the national character, and that French food was clever and
amusing just because the people were? And in private houses,
everywhere, how the dishes always resembled the talk--how
the very same platitudes seemed to go into people's mouths
and come out of them? Couldn't he see just what kind of menu
it would make, if a fairy waved a wand and suddenly turned
the conversation at a London dinner into joints and
puddings? She always thought it a good sign when people
liked Irish stew; it meant that they enjoyed changes and
surprises, and taking life as it came; and such a beautiful
Parisian version of the dish as the navarin that was
just being set before them was like the very best kind of
talk--the kind when one could never tell before-hand just
what was going to be said!
Darrow, as he watched her enjoyment of their innocent feast,
wondered if her vividness and vivacity were signs of her
calling. She was the kind of girl in whom certain people
would instantly have recognized the histrionic gift. But
experience had led him to think that, except at the creative
moment, the divine flame burns low in its possessors. The
one or two really intelligent actresses he had known had
struck him, in conversation, as either bovine or primitively
"jolly". He had a notion that, save in the mind of genius,
the creative process absorbs too much of the whole stuff of
being to leave much surplus for personal expression; and the
girl before him, with her changing face and flexible
fancies, seemed destined to work in life itself rather than
in any of its counterfeits.
The coffee and liqueurs were already on the table when her
mind suddenly sprang back to the Farlows. She jumped up
with one of her subversive movements and declared that she
must telegraph at once. Darrow called for writing materials
and room was made at her elbow for the parched ink-bottle
and saturated blotter of the Parisian restaurant; but the
mere sight of these jaded implements seemed to paralyze Miss
Viner's faculties. She hung over the telegraph-form with
anxiously-drawn brow, the tip of the pen-handle pressed
against her lip; and at length she raised her troubled eyes
"I simply can't think how to say it."
"What--that you're staying over to see Cerdine?"
"But AM I--am I, really?" The joy of it flamed over her
Darrow looked at his watch. "You could hardly get an answer
to your telegram in time to take a train to Joigny this
afternoon, even if you found your friends could have you."
She mused for a moment, tapping her lip with the pen. "But I
must let them know I'm here. I must find out as soon as
possible if they CAN, have me." She laid the pen down
despairingly. "I never COULD write a telegram!" she
"Try a letter, then and tell them you'll arrive tomorrow."
This suggestion produced immediate relief, and she gave an
energetic dab at the ink-bottle; but after another interval
of uncertain scratching she paused again."Oh, it's fearful!
I don't know what on earth to say. I wouldn't for the world
have them know how beastly Mrs. Murrett's been."
Darrow did not think it necessary to answer. It was no
business of his, after all. He lit a cigar and leaned back
in his seat, letting his eyes take their fill of indolent
pleasure. In the throes of invention she had pushed back
her hat, loosening the stray lock which had invited his
touch the night before. After looking at it for a while he
stood up and wandered to the window.
Behind him he heard her pen scrape on.
"I don't want to worry them--I'm so certain they've got
bothers of their own." The faltering scratches ceased again.
"I wish I weren't such an idiot about writing: all the words
get frightened and scurry away when I try to catch them."
He glanced back at her with a smile as she bent above her
task like a school-girl struggling with a "composition." Her
flushed cheek and frowning brow showed that her difficulty
was genuine and not an artless device to draw him to her
side. She was really powerless to put her thoughts in
writing, and the inability seemed characteristic of her
quick impressionable mind, and of the incessant come-and-go
of her sensations. He thought of Anna Leath's letters, or
rather of the few he had received, years ago, from the girl
who had been Anna Summers. He saw the slender firm strokes
of the pen, recalled the clear structure of the phrases,
and, by an abrupt association of ideas, remembered that, at
that very hour, just such a document might be awaiting him
at the hotel.
What if it were there, indeed, and had brought him a
complete explanation of her telegram? The revulsion of
feeling produced by this thought made him look at the girl
with sudden impatience. She struck him as positively
stupid, and he wondered how he could have wasted half his
day with her, when all the while Mrs. Leath's letter might
be lying on his table. At that moment, if he could have
chosen, he would have left his companion on the spot; but he
had her on his hands, and must accept the consequences.
Some odd intuition seemed to make her conscious of his
change of mood, for she sprang from her seat, crumpling the
letter in her hand.
"I'm too stupid; but I won't keep you any longer. I'll go
back to the hotel and write there."
Her colour deepened, and for the first time, as their eyes
met, he noticed a faint embarrassment in hers. Could it be
that his nearness was, after all, the cause of her
confusion? The thought turned his vague impatience with her
into a definite resentment toward himself. There was really
no excuse for his having blundered into such an adventure.
Why had he not shipped the girl off to Joigny by the evening
train, instead of urging her to delay, and using Cerdine as
a pretext? Paris was full of people he knew, and his
annoyance was increased by the thought that some friend of
Mrs. Leath's might see him at the play, and report his
presence there with a suspiciously good-looking companion.
The idea was distinctly disagreeable: he did not want the
woman he adored to think he could forget her for a moment.
And by this time he had fully persuaded himself that a
letter from her was awaiting him, and had even gone so far
as to imagine that its contents might annul the writer's
telegraphed injunction, and call him to her side at once...
At the porter's desk a brief "Pas de lettres" fell
destructively on the fabric of these hopes.
Mrs. Leath had not written--she had not taken the trouble to
explain her telegram. Darrow turned away with a sharp pang
of humiliation. Her frugal silence mocked his prodigality
of hopes and fears. He had put his question to the porter
once before, on returning to the hotel after luncheon; and
now, coming back again in the late afternoon, he was met by
the same denial. The second post was in, and had brought
A glance at his watch showed that he had barely time to
dress before taking Miss Viner out to dine; but as he turned
to the lift a new thought struck him, and hurrying back into
the hall he dashed off another telegram to his servant:
"Have you forwarded any letter with French postmark today?
Telegraph answer Terminus."
Some kind of reply would be certain to reach him on his
return from the theatre, and he would then know definitely
whether Mrs. Leath meant to write or not. He hastened up to
his room and dressed with a lighter heart.
Miss Viner's vagrant trunk had finally found its way to its
owner; and, clad in such modest splendour as it furnished,
she shone at Darrow across their restaurant table. In the
reaction of his wounded vanity he found her prettier and
more interesting than before. Her dress, sloping away from
the throat, showed the graceful set of her head on its
slender neck, and the wide brim of her hat arched above her
hair like a dusky halo. Pleasure danced in her eyes and on
her lips, and as she shone on him between the candle-shades
Darrow felt that he should not be at all sorry to be seen
with her in public. He even sent a careless glance about
him in the vague hope that it might fall on an acquaintance.
At the theatre her vivacity sank into a breathless hush, and
she sat intent in her corner of their baignoire, with
the gaze of a neophyte about to be initiated into the sacred
mysteries. Darrow placed himself behind her, that he might
catch her profile between himself and the stage. He was
touched by the youthful seriousness of her expression. In
spite of the experiences she must have had, and of the
twenty-four years to which she owned, she struck him as
intrinsically young; and he wondered how so evanescent a
quality could have been preserved in the desiccating Murrett
air. As the play progressed he noticed that her immobility
was traversed by swift flashes of perception. She was not
missing anything, and her intensity of attention when
Cerdine was on the stage drew an anxious line between her
After the first act she remained for a few minutes rapt and
motionless; then she turned to her companion with a quick
patter of questions. He gathered from them that she had
been less interested in following the general drift of the
play than in observing the details of its interpretation.
Every gesture and inflection of the great actress's had been
marked and analyzed; and Darrow felt a secret gratification
in being appealed to as an authority on the histrionic art.
His interest in it had hitherto been merely that of the
cultivated young man curious of all forms of artistic
expression; but in reply to her questions he found things to
say about it which evidently struck his listener as
impressive and original, and with which he himself was not,
on the whole, dissatisfied. Miss Viner was much more
concerned to hear his views than to express her own, and the
deference with which she received his comments called from
him more ideas about the theatre than he had ever supposed
himself to possess.
With the second act she began to give more attention to the
development of the play, though her interest was excited
rather by what she called "the story" than by the conflict
of character producing it. Oddly combined with her sharp
apprehension of things theatrical, her knowledge of
technical "dodges" and green-room precedents, her glibness
about "lines" and "curtains", was the primitive simplicity
of her attitude toward the tale itself, as toward something
that was "really happening" and at which one assisted as at
a street-accident or a quarrel overheard in the next room.
She wanted to know if Darrow thought the lovers "really
would" be involved in the catastrophe that threatened them,
and when he reminded her that his predictions were
disqualified by his having already seen the play, she
exclaimed: "Oh, then, please don't tell me what's going to
happen!" and the next moment was questioning him about
Cerdine's theatrical situation and her private history. On
the latter point some of her enquiries were of a kind that
it is not in the habit of young girls to make, or even to
know how to make; but her apparent unconsciousness of the
fact seemed rather to reflect on her past associates than on
When the second act was over, Darrow suggested their taking
a turn in the foyer; and seated on one of its cramped
red velvet sofas they watched the crowd surge up and down in
a glare of lights and gilding. Then, as she complained of
the heat, he led her through the press to the congested
cafe at the foot of the stairs, where orangeades were
thrust at them between the shoulders of packed
consommateurs and Darrow, lighting a cigarette while she
sucked her straw, knew the primitive complacency of the man
at whose companion other men stare.
On a corner of their table lay a smeared copy of a
theatrical journal. It caught Sophy's eye and after poring
over the page she looked up with an excited exclamation.
'They're giving Oedipe tomorrow afternoon at the
Francais! I suppose you've seen it heaps and heaps of
He smiled back at her. "You must see it too. We'll go
She sighed at his suggestion, but without discarding it.
"How can I? The last train for Joigny leaves at four."
"But you don't know yet that your friends will want you."
"I shall know tomorrow early. I asked Mrs. Farlow to
telegraph as soon as she got my letter."
A twinge of compunction shot through Darrow. Her words
recalled to him that on their return to the hotel after
luncheon she had given him her letter to post, and that he
had never thought of it again. No doubt it was still in the
pocket of the coat he had taken off when he dressed for
dinner. In his perturbation he pushed back his chair, and
the movement made her look up at him.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing. Only--you know I don't fancy that letter can have
caught this afternoon's post."
"Not caught it? Why not?"
"Why, I'm afraid it will have been too late." He bent his
head to light another cigarette.
She struck her hands together with a gesture which, to his
amusement, he noticed she had caught from Cerdine.
"Oh, dear, I hadn't thought of that! But surely it will
reach them in the morning?"
"Some time in the morning, I suppose. You know the French
provincial post is never in a hurry. I don't believe your
letter would have been delivered this evening in any case."
As this idea occurred to him he felt himself almost
"Perhaps, then, I ought to have telegraphed?"
"I'll telegraph for you in the morning if you say so."
The bell announcing the close of the entr'-acte shrilled
through the cafe, and she sprang to her feet.
"Oh, come, come! We mustn't miss it!"
Instantly forgetful of the Farlows, she slipped her arm
through his and turned to push her way back to the theatre.
As soon as the curtain went up she as promptly forgot her
companion. Watching her from the corner to which he had
returned, Darrow saw that great waves of sensation were
beating deliciously against her brain. It was as though
every starved sensibility were throwing out feelers to the
mounting tide; as though everything she was seeing, hearing,
imagining, rushed in to fill the void of all she had always
Darrow, as he observed her, again felt a detached enjoyment
in her pleasure. She was an extraordinary conductor of
sensation: she seemed to transmit it physically, in
emanations that set the blood dancing in his veins. He had
not often had the opportunity of studying the effects of a
perfectly fresh impression on so responsive a temperament,
and he felt a fleeting desire to make its chords vibrate for
his own amusement.
At the end of the next act she discovered with dismay that
in their transit to the cafe she had lost the beautiful
pictured programme he had bought for her. She wanted to go
back and hunt for it, but Darrow assured her that he would
have no trouble in getting her another. When he went out in
quest of it she followed him protestingly to the door of the
box, and he saw that she was distressed at the thought of
his having to spend an additional franc for her. This
frugality smote Darrow by its contrast to her natural bright
profusion; and again he felt the desire to right so clumsy
When he returned to the box she was still standing in the
doorway, and he noticed that his were not the only eyes
attracted to her. Then another impression sharply diverted
his attention. Above the fagged faces of the Parisian crowd
he had caught the fresh fair countenance of Owen Leath
signalling a joyful recognition. The young man, slim and
eager, had detached himself from two companions of his own
type, and was seeking to push through the press to his step-
mother's friend. The encounter, to Darrow, could hardly
have been more inopportune; it woke in him a confusion of
feelings of which only the uppermost was allayed by seeing
Sophy Viner, as if instinctively warned, melt back into the
shadow of their box.
A minute later Owen Leath was at his side. "I was sure it
was you! Such luck to run across you! Won't you come off
with us to supper after it's over? Montmartre, or wherever
else you please. Those two chaps over there are friends of
mine, at the Beaux Arts; both of them rather good fellows--
and we'd be so glad----"
For half a second Darrow read in his hospitable eye the
termination "if you'd bring the lady too"; then it deflected
into: "We'd all be so glad if you'd come."
Darrow, excusing himself with thanks, lingered on for a few
minutes' chat, in which every word, and every tone of his
companion's voice, was like a sharp light flashed into
aching eyes. He was glad when the bell called the audience
to their seats, and young Leath left him with the friendly
question: "We'll see you at Givre later on?"
When he rejoined Miss Viner, Darrow's first care was to find
out, by a rapid inspection of the house, whether Owen
Leath's seat had given him a view of their box. But the
young man was not visible from it, and Darrow concluded that
he had been recognized in the corridor and not at his
companion's side. He scarcely knew why it seemed to him so
important that this point should be settled; certainly his
sense of reassurance was less due to regard for Miss Viner
than to the persistent vision of grave offended eyes...
During the drive back to the hotel this vision was
persistently kept before him by the thought that the evening
post might have brought a letter from Mrs. Leath. Even if
no letter had yet come, his servant might have telegraphed
to say that one was on its way; and at the thought his
interest in the girl at his side again cooled to the
fraternal, the almost fatherly. She was no more to him,
after all, than an appealing young creature to whom it was
mildly agreeable to have offered an evening's diversion; and
when, as they rolled into the illuminated court of the
hotel, she turned with a quick movement which brought her
happy face close to his, he leaned away, affecting to be
absorbed in opening the door of the cab.
At the desk the night porter, after a vain search through
the pigeon-holes, was disposed to think that a letter or
telegram had in fact been sent up for the gentleman; and
Darrow, at the announcement, could hardly wait to ascend to
his room. Upstairs, he and his companion had the long
dimly-lit corridor to themselves, and Sophy paused on her
threshold, gathering up in one hand the pale folds of her
cloak, while she held the other out to Darrow.
"If the telegram comes early I shall be off by the first
train; so I suppose this is good-bye," she said, her eyes
dimmed by a little shadow of regret.
Darrow, with a renewed start of contrition, perceived that
he had again forgotten her letter; and as their hands met he
vowed to himself that the moment she had left him he would
dash down stairs to post it.
"Oh, I'll see you in the morning, of course!"
A tremor of pleasure crossed her face as he stood before
her, smiling a little uncertainly.
"At any rate," she said, "I want to thank you now for my
He felt in her hand the same tremor he had seen in her face.
"But it's YOU, on the contrary--" he began, lifting the
hand to his lips.
As he dropped it, and their eyes met, something passed
through hers that was like a light carried rapidly behind a
"Good night; you must be awfully tired," he said with a
friendly abruptness, turning away without even waiting to
see her pass into her room. He unlocked his door, and
stumbling over the threshold groped in the darkness for the
electric button. The light showed him a telegram on the
table, and he forgot everything else as he caught it up.
"No letter from France," the message read.
It fell from Darrow's hand to the floor, and he dropped into
a chair by the table and sat gazing at the dingy drab and
olive pattern of the carpet. She had not written, then; she
had not written, and it was manifest now that she did not
mean to write. If she had had any intention of explaining
her telegram she would certainly, within twenty-four hours,
have followed it up by a letter. But she evidently did not
intend to explain it, and her silence could mean only that
she had no explanation to give, or else that she was too
indifferent to be aware that one was needed.
Darrow, face to face with these alternatives, felt a
recrudescence of boyish misery. It was no longer his hurt
vanity that cried out. He told himself that he could have
borne an equal amount of pain, if only it had left Mrs.
Leath's image untouched; but he could not bear to think of
her as trivial or insincere. The thought was so intolerable
that he felt a blind desire to punish some one else for the
pain it caused him.
As he sat moodily staring at the carpet its silly
intricacies melted into a blur from which the eyes of Mrs.
Leath again looked out at him. He saw the fine sweep of her
brows, and the deep look beneath them as she had turned from
him on their last evening in London. "This will be good-
bye, then," she had said; and it occurred to him that her
parting phrase had been the same as Sophy Viner's.
At the thought he jumped to his feet and took down from its
hook the coat in which he had left Miss Viner's letter. The
clock marked the third quarter after midnight, and he knew
it would make no difference if he went down to the post-box
now or early the next morning; but he wanted to clear his
conscience, and having found the letter he went to the door.
A sound in the next room made him pause. He had become
conscious again that, a few feet off, on the other side of a
thin partition, a small keen flame of life was quivering and
agitating the air. Sophy's face came hack to him
insistently. It was as vivid now as Mrs. Leath's had been a
moment earlier. He recalled with a faint smile of
retrospective pleasure the girl's enjoyment of her evening,
and the innumerable fine feelers of sensation she had thrown
out to its impressions.
It gave him a curiously close sense of her presence to think
that at that moment she was living over her enjoyment as
intensely as he was living over his unhappiness. His own
case was irremediable, but it was easy enough to give her a
few more hours of pleasure. And did she not perhaps
secretly expect it of him? After all, if she had been very
anxious to join her friends she would have telegraphed them
on reaching Paris, instead of writing. He wondered now that
he had not been struck at the moment by so artless a device
to gain more time. The fact of her having practised it did
not make him think less well of her; it merely strengthened
the impulse to use his opportunity. She was starving, poor
child, for a little amusement, a little personal life--why
not give her the chance of another day in Paris? If he did
so, should he not be merely falling in with her own hopes?
At the thought his sympathy for her revived. She became of
absorbing interest to him as an escape from himself and an
object about which his thwarted activities could cluster.
He felt less drearily alone because of her being there, on
the other side of the door, and in his gratitude to her for
giving him this relief he began, with indolent amusement, to
plan new ways of detaining her. He dropped back into his
chair, lit a cigar, and smiled a little at the image of her
smiling face. He tried to imagine what incident of the day
she was likely to be recalling at that particular moment,
and what part he probably played in it. That it was not a
small part he was certain, and the knowledge was undeniably
Now and then a sound from her room brought before him more
vividly the reality of the situation and the strangeness of
the vast swarming solitude in which he and she were
momentarily isolated, amid long lines of rooms each holding
its separate secret. The nearness of all these other
mysteries enclosing theirs gave Darrow a more intimate sense
of the girl's presence, and through the fumes of his cigar
his imagination continued to follow her to and fro, traced
the curve of her slim young arms as she raised them to undo
her hair, pictured the sliding down of her dress to the
waist and then to the knees, and the whiteness of her feet
as she slipped across the floor to bed...
He stood up and shook himself with a yawn, throwing away the
end of his cigar. His glance, in following it, lit on the
telegram which had dropped to the floor. The sounds in the
next room had ceased, and once more he felt alone and
Opening the window, he folded his arms on the sill and
looked out on the vast light-spangled mass of the city, and
then up at the dark sky, in which the morning planet stood.
At the Theatre Francais, the next afternoon, Darrow yawned
and fidgeted in his seat.
The day was warm, the theatre crowded and airless, and the
performance, it seemed to him, intolerably bad. He stole a
glance at his companion, wondering if she shared his
feelings. Her rapt profile betrayed no unrest, but
politeness might have caused her to feign an interest that
she did not feel. He leaned back impatiently, stifling
another yawn, and trying to fix his attention on the stage.
Great things were going forward there, and he was not
insensible to the stern beauties of the ancient drama. But
the interpretation of the play seemed to him as airless and
lifeless as the atmosphere of the theatre. The players were
the same whom he had often applauded in those very parts,
and perhaps that fact added to the impression of staleness
and conventionality produced by their performance. Surely
it was time to infuse new blood into the veins of the
moribund art. He had the impression that the ghosts of
actors were giving a spectral performance on the shores of
Certainly it was not the most profitable way for a young man
with a pretty companion to pass the golden hours of a spring
afternoon. The freshness of the face at his side,
reflecting the freshness of the season, suggested dapplings
of sunlight through new leaves, the sound of a brook in the
grass, the ripple of tree-shadows over breezy meadows...
When at length the fateful march of the cothurns was stayed
by the single pause in the play, and Darrow had led Miss
Viner out on the balcony overhanging the square before the
theatre, he turned to see if she shared his feelings. But
the rapturous look she gave him checked the depreciation on
"Oh, why did you bring me out here? One ought to creep away
and sit in the dark till it begins again!"
"Is THAT the way they made you feel?"
"Didn't they YOU?...As if the gods were there all the
while, just behind them, pulling the strings?" Her hands
were pressed against the railing, her face shining and
darkening under the wing-beats of successive impressions.
Darrow smiled in enjoyment of her pleasure. After all, he
had felt all that, long ago; perhaps it was his own fault,
rather than that of the actors, that the poetry of the play
seemed to have evaporated...But no, he had been right in
judging the performance to be dull and stale: it was simply
his companion's inexperience, her lack of occasions to
compare and estimate, that made her think it brilliant.
"I was afraid you were bored and wanted to come away."
"BORED?" She made a little aggrieved grimace. "You mean
you thought me too ignorant and stupid to appreciate it?"
"No; not that." The hand nearest him still lay on the
railing of the balcony, and he covered it for a moment with
his. As he did so he saw the colour rise and tremble in her
"Tell me just what you think," he said, bending his head a
little, and only half-aware of his words.
She did not turn her face to his, but began to talk rapidly,
trying to convey something of what she felt. But she was
evidently unused to analyzing her aesthetic emotions, and
the tumultuous rush of the drama seemed to have left her in
a state of panting wonder, as though it had been a storm or
some other natural cataclysm. She had no literary or
historic associations to which to attach her impressions:
her education had evidently not comprised a course in Greek
literature. But she felt what would probably have been
unperceived by many a young lady who had taken a first in
classics: the ineluctable fatality of the tale, the dread
sway in it of the same mysterious "luck" which pulled the
threads of her own small destiny. It was not literature to
her, it was fact: as actual, as near by, as what was
happening to her at the moment and what the next hour held
in store. Seen in this light, the play regained for Darrow
its supreme and poignant reality. He pierced to the heart
of its significance through all the artificial accretions
with which his theories of art and the conventions of the
stage had clothed it, and saw it as he had never seen it: as
After this there could be no question of flight, and he took
her back to the theatre, content to receive his own
sensations through the medium of hers. But with the
continuation of the play, and the oppression of the heavy
air, his attention again began to wander, straying back over
the incidents of the morning.
He had been with Sophy Viner all day, and he was surprised
to find how quickly the time had gone. She had hardly
attempted, as the hours passed, to conceal her satisfaction
on finding that no telegram came from the Farlows. "They'll
have written," she had simply said; and her mind had at once
flown on to the golden prospect of an afternoon at the
theatre. The intervening hours had been disposed of in a
stroll through the lively streets, and a repast, luxuriously
lingered over, under the chestnut-boughs of a restaurant in
the Champs Elysees. Everything entertained and interested
her, and Darrow remarked, with an amused detachment, that
she was not insensible to the impression her charms
produced. Yet there was no hard edge of vanity in her sense
of her prettiness: she seemed simply to be aware of it as a
note in the general harmony, and to enjoy sounding the note
as a singer enjoys singing.
After luncheon, as they sat over their coffee, she had again
asked an immense number of questions and delivered herself
of a remarkable variety of opinions. Her questions testified
to a wholesome and comprehensive human curiosity, and her
comments showed, like her face and her whole attitude, an
odd mingling of precocious wisdom and disarming ignorance.
When she talked to him about "life"--the word was often on
her lips--she seemed to him like a child playing with a
tiger's cub; and he said to himself that some day the child
would grow up--and so would the tiger. Meanwhile, such
expertness qualified by such candour made it impossible to
guess the extent of her personal experience, or to estimate
its effect on her character. She might be any one of a
dozen definable types, or she might--more disconcertingly to
her companion and more perilously to herself--be a shifting
and uncrystallized mixture of them all.
Her talk, as usual, had promptly reverted to the stage. She
was eager to learn about every form of dramatic expression
which the metropolis of things theatrical had to offer, and
her curiosity ranged from the official temples of the art to