Part 4 out of 5
was too dark to see her face. Everett had scarcely noticed her,
when the switch engine came puffing up from the opposite
direction, and the headlight threw a strong glare of light on his
face. Suddenly the woman in the phaeton uttered a low cry and
dropped the reins. Everett started forward and caught the
horse's head, but the animal only lifted its ears and whisked its
tail in impatient surprise. The woman sat perfectly still, her
head sunk between her shoulders and her handkerchief pressed to
her face. Another woman came out of the depot and hurried toward
the phaeton, crying, "Katharine, dear, what is the matter?"
Everett hesitated a moment in painful embarrassment, then
lifted his hat and passed on. He was accustomed to sudden
recognitions in the most impossible places, especially by women,
but this cry out of the night had shaken him.
While Everett was breakfasting the next morning, the headwaiter
leaned over his chair to murmur that there was a gentleman waiting
to see him in the parlor. Everett finished his coffee and went in
the direction indicated, where he found his visitor restlessly
pacing the floor. His whole manner betrayed a high degree of
agitation, though his physique was not that of a man whose nerves
lie near the surface. He was something below medium height,
square-shouldered and solidly built. His thick, closely cut hair
was beginning to show gray about the ears, and his bronzed face was
heavily lined. His square brown hands were locked behind him, and
he held his shoulders like a man conscious of responsibilities;
yet, as he turned to greet Everett, there was an incongruous
diffidence in his address.
"Good morning, Mr. Hilgarde," he said, extending his hand;
"I found your name on the hotel register. My name is Gaylord.
I'm afraid my sister startled you at the station last night, Mr.
Hilgarde, and I've come around to apologize."
"Ah! The young lady in the phaeton? I'm sure I didn't know
whether I had anything to do with her alarm or not. If I did, it
is I who owe the apology."
The man colored a little under the dark brown of his face.
"Oh, it's nothing you could help, sir, I fully understand
that. You see, my sister used to be a pupil of your brother's,
and it seems you favor him; and when the switch engine threw a
light on your face it startled her."
Everett wheeled about in his chair. "Oh! Katharine Gaylord!
Is it possible! Now it's you who have given me a turn. Why, I
used to know her when I was a boy. What on earth--"
"Is she doing here?" said Gaylord, grimly filling out the
pause. "You've got at the heart of the matter. You knew my
sister had been in bad health for a long time?"
"No, I had never heard a word of that. The last I knew of
her she was singing in London. My brother and I correspond
infrequently and seldom get beyond family matters. I am deeply
sorry to hear this. There are more reasons why I am concerned
than I can tell you."
The lines in Charley Gaylord's brow relaxed a little.
"What I'm trying to say, Mr. Hilgarde, is that she wants to see
you. I hate to ask you, but she's so set on it. We live several
miles out of town, but my rig's below, and I can take you out
anytime you can go."
"I can go now, and it will give me real pleasure to do so," said
Everett, quickly. "I'll get my hat and be with you in a moment."
When he came downstairs Everett found a cart at the door,
and Charley Gaylord drew a long sigh of relief as he gathered up
the reins and settled back into his own element.
"You see, I think I'd better tell you something about my
sister before you see her, and I don't know just where to begin.
She traveled in Europe with your brother and his wife, and sang
at a lot of his concerts; but I don't know just how much you know
"Very little, except that my brother always thought her the
most gifted of his pupils, and that when I knew her she was very
young and very beautiful and turned my head sadly for a while."
Everett saw that Gaylord's mind was quite engrossed by his
grief. He was wrought up to the point where his reserve and
sense of proportion had quite left him, and his trouble was the
one vital thing in the world. "That's the whole thing," he went
on, flicking his horses with the whip.
"She was a great woman, as you say, and she didn't come of a
great family. She had to fight her own way from the first. She
got to Chicago, and then to New York, and then to Europe, where
she went up like lightning, and got a taste for it all; and now
she's dying here like a rat in a hole, out of her own world, and
she can't fall back into ours. We've grown apart, some way--
miles and miles apart--and I'm afraid she's fearfully unhappy."
"It's a very tragic story that you are telling me, Gaylord,"
said Everett. They were well out into the country now, spinning
along over the dusty plains of red grass, with the ragged-blue
outline of the mountains before them.
"Tragic!" cried Gaylord, starting up in his seat, "my God, man,
nobody will ever know how tragic. It's a tragedy I live with and
eat with and sleep with, until I've lost my grip on everything.
You see she had made a good bit of money, but she spent it all
going to health resorts. It's her lungs, you know. I've got money
enough to send her anywhere, but the doctors all say it's no use.
She hasn't the ghost of a chance. It's just getting through the
days now. I had no notion she was half so bad before she came to
me. She just wrote that she was all run down. Now that she's
here, I think she'd be happier anywhere under the sun, but she
won't leave. She says it's easier to let go of life here, and that
to go East would be dying twice. There was a time when I was a
brakeman with a run out of Bird City, Iowa, and she was a little
thing I could carry on my shoulder, when I could get her everything
on earth she wanted, and she hadn't a wish my $80 a month didn't
cover; and now, when I've got a little property together, I can't
buy her a night's sleep!"
Everett saw that, whatever Charley Gaylord's present status
in the world might be, he had brought the brakeman's heart up the
ladder with him, and the brakeman's frank avowal of sentiment.
Presently Gaylord went on:
"You can understand how she has outgrown her family. We're
all a pretty common sort, railroaders from away back. My father
was a conductor. He died when we were kids. Maggie, my other
sister, who lives with me, was a telegraph operator here while I
was getting my grip on things. We had no education to speak of.
I have to hire a stenographer because I can't spell straight--the
Almighty couldn't teach me to spell. The things that make up
life to Kate are all Greek to me, and there's scarcely a point
where we touch any more, except in our recollections of the old
times when we were all young and happy together, and Kate sang in
a church choir in Bird City. But I believe, Mr. Hilgarde, that
if she can see just one person like you, who knows about the
things and people she's interested in, it will give her about the
only comfort she can have now."
The reins slackened in Charley Gaylord's hand as they drew
up before a showily painted house with many gables and a round
tower. "Here we are," he said, turning to Everett, "and I guess
we understand each other."
They were met at the door by a thin, colorless woman, whom
Gaylord introduced as "my sister, Maggie." She asked her brother
to show Mr. Hilgarde into the music room, where Katharine wished
to see him alone.
When Everett entered the music room he gave a little start
of surprise, feeling that he had stepped from the glaring Wyoming
sunlight into some New York studio that he had always known. He
wondered which it was of those countless studios, high up under
the roofs, over banks and shops and wholesale houses, that this
room resembled, and he looked incredulously out of the window at
the gray plain that ended in the great upheaval of the Rockies.
The haunting air of familiarity about the room perplexed
him. Was it a copy of some particular studio he knew, or was it
merely the studio atmosphere that seemed so individual and
poignantly reminiscent here in Wyoming? He sat down in a reading
chair and looked keenly about him. Suddenly his eye fell upon a
large photograph of his brother above the piano. Then it all
became clear to him: this was veritably his brother's room. If
it were not an exact copy of one of the many studios that
Adriance had fitted up in various parts of the world, wearying of
them and leaving almost before the renovator's varnish had dried,
it was at least in the same tone. In every detail Adriance's
taste was so manifest that the room seemed to exhale his
Among the photographs on the wall there was one of Katharine
Gaylord, taken in the days when Everett had known her, and when
the flash of her eye or the flutter of her skirt was enough to
set his boyish heart in a tumult. Even now, he stood before the
portrait with a certain degree of embarrassment. It was the face
of a woman already old in her first youth, thoroughly
sophisticated and a trifle hard, and it told of what her brother
had called her fight. The camaraderie of her frank, confident
eyes was qualified by the deep lines about her mouth and the
curve of the lips, which was both sad and cynical. Certainly she
had more good will than confidence toward the world, and the
bravado of her smile could not conceal the shadow of an unrest
that was almost discontent. The chief charm of the woman, as
Everett had known her, lay in her superb figure and in her eyes,
which possessed a warm, lifegiving quality like the sunlight;
eyes which glowed with a sort of perpetual salutat to the
world. Her head, Everett remembered as peculiarly well-shaped and
proudly poised. There had been always a little of the imperatrix
about her, and her pose in the photograph revived all his old
impressions of her unattachedness, of how absolutely and valiantly
she stood alone.
Everett was still standing before the picture, his hands behind him
and his head inclined, when he heard the door open. A very tall
woman advanced toward him, holding out her hand. As she started to
speak, she coughed slightly; then, laughing, said, in a low, rich
voice, a trifle husky: "You see I make the traditional Camille
entrance--with the cough. How good of you to come, Mr. Hilgarde."
Everett was acutely conscious that while addressing him she
was not looking at him at all, and, as he assured her of his
pleasure in coming, he was glad to have an opportunity to collect
himself. He had not reckoned upon the ravages of a long illness.
The long, loose folds of her white gown had been especially
designed to conceal the sharp outlines of her emaciated body, but
the stamp of her disease was there; simple and ugly and obtrusive,
a pitiless fact that could not be disguised or evaded. The
splendid shoulders were stooped, there was a swaying unevenness in
her gait, her arms seemed disproportionately long, and her hands
were transparently white and cold to the touch. The changes in her
face were less obvious; the proud carriage of the head, the warm,
clear eyes, even the delicate flush of color in her cheeks, all
defiantly remained, though they were all in a lower key--older,
She sat down upon the divan and began nervously to arrange the
pillows. "I know I'm not an inspiring object to look upon, but you
must be quite frank and sensible about that and get used to it at
once, for we've no time to lose. And if I'm a trifle irritable you
won't mind?--for I'm more than usually nervous."
"Don't bother with me this morning, if you are tired," urged
Everett. "I can come quite as well tomorrow."
"Gracious, no!" she protested, with a flash of that quick,
keen humor that he remembered as a part of her. "It's solitude
that I'm tired to death of--solitude and the wrong kind of people.
You see, the minister, not content with reading the prayers for the
sick, called on me this morning. He happened to be riding
by on his bicycle and felt it his duty to stop. Of course, he
disapproves of my profession, and I think he takes it for granted
that I have a dark past. The funniest feature of his conversation
is that he is always excusing my own vocation to me--condoning it,
you know--and trying to patch up my peace with my conscience by
suggesting possible noble uses for what he kindly calls my talent."
Everett laughed. "Oh! I'm afraid I'm not the person to call
after such a serious gentleman--I can't sustain the situation.
At my best I don't reach higher than low comedy. Have you
decided to which one of the noble uses you will devote yourself?"
Katharine lifted her hands in a gesture of renunciation and
exclaimed: "I'm not equal to any of them, not even the least
noble. I didn't study that method."
She laughed and went on nervously: "The parson's not so bad.
His English never offends me, and he has read Gibbon's Decline
and Fall, all five volumes, and that's something. Then, he has
been to New York, and that's a great deal. But how we are losing
time! Do tell me about New York; Charley says you're just on from
there. How does it look and taste and smell just now? I think a
whiff of the Jersey ferry would be as flagons of cod-liver oil to
me. Who conspicuously walks the Rialto now, and what does he or
she wear? Are the trees still green in Madison Square, or have
they grown brown and dusty? Does the chaste Diana on the Garden
Theatre still keep her vestal vows through all the exasperating
changes of weather? Who has your brother's old studio now, and
what misguided aspirants practice their scales in the rookeries
about Carnegie Hall? What do people go to see at the theaters,
and what do they eat and drink there in the world nowadays? You
see, I'm homesick for it all, from the Battery to Riverside. Oh,
let me die in Harlem!" She was interrupted by a violent attack
of coughing, and Everett, embarrassed by her discomfort, plunged
into gossip about the professional people he had met in town
during the summer and the musical outlook for the winter. He was
diagraming with his pencil, on the back of an old envelope he
found in his pocket, some new mechanical device to be
used at the Metropolitan in the production of the Rheingold,
when he became conscious that she was looking at him intently, and
that he was talking to the four walls.
Katharine was lying back among the pillows, watching him
through half-closed eyes, as a painter looks at a picture. He
finished his explanation vaguely enough and put the envelope back
in his pocket. As he did so she said, quietly: "How wonderfully
like Adriance you are!" and he felt as though a crisis of some
sort had been met and tided over.
He laughed, looking up at her with a touch of pride in his
eyes that made them seem quite boyish. "Yes, isn't it absurd?
It's almost as awkward as looking like Napoleon--but, after all,
there are some advantages. It has made some of his friends like
me, and I hope it will make you."
Katharine smiled and gave him a quick, meaning glance from
under her lashes. "Oh, it did that long ago. What a haughty,
reserved youth you were then, and how you used to stare at people
and then blush and look cross if they paid you back in your own
coin. Do you remember that night when you took me home from a
rehearsal and scarcely spoke a word to me?"
"It was the silence of admiration," protested Everett, "very
crude and boyish, but very sincere and not a little painful.
Perhaps you suspected something of the sort? I remember you saw
fit to be very grown-up and worldly.
"I believe I suspected a pose; the one that college boys
usually affect with singers--'an earthen vessel in love with a
star,' you know. But it rather surprised me in you, for you must
have seen a good deal of your brother's pupils. Or had you an
omnivorous capacity, and elasticity that always met the
"Don't ask a man to confess the follies of his youth," said
Everett, smiling a little sadly; "I am sensitive about some of
them even now. But I was not so sophisticated as you imagined.
I saw my brother's pupils come and go, but that was about all.
Sometimes I was called on to play accompaniments, or to fill out
a vacancy at a rehearsal, or to order a carriage for an
infuriated soprano who had thrown up her part. But they never
spent any time on me, unless it was to notice the resemblance you
"Yes", observed Katharine, thoughtfully, "I noticed it then,
too; but it has grown as you have grown older. That is rather
strange, when you have lived such different lives. It's not
merely an ordinary family likeness of feature, you know, but a
sort of interchangeable individuality; the suggestion of the
other man's personality in your face like an air transposed to
another key. But I'm not attempting to define it; it's beyond
me; something altogether unusual and a trifle--well, uncanny,"
she finished, laughing.
"I remember," Everett said seriously, twirling the pencil
between his fingers and looking, as he sat with his head thrown
back, out under the red window blind which was raised just a
little, and as it swung back and forth in the wind revealed the
glaring panorama of the desert--a blinding stretch of yellow,
flat as the sea in dead calm, splotched here and there with deep
purple shadows; and, beyond, the ragged-blue outline of the
mountains and the peaks of snow, white as the white clouds--"I
remember, when I was a little fellow I used to be very sensitive
about it. I don't think it exactly displeased me, or that I would
have had it otherwise if I could, but it seemed to me like a
birthmark, or something not to be lightly spoken of. People were
naturally always fonder of Ad than of me, and I used to feel the
chill of reflected light pretty often. It came into even my
relations with my mother. Ad went abroad to study when he was
absurdly young, you know, and mother was all broken up over it.
She did her whole duty by each of us, but it was sort of
generally understood among us that she'd have made burnt
offerings of us all for Ad any day. I was a little fellow then,
and when she sat alone on the porch in the summer dusk she used
sometimes to call me to her and turn my face up in the light that
streamed out through the shutters and kiss me, and then I always
knew she was thinking of Adriance."
"Poor little chap," said Katharine, and her tone was a
trifle huskier than usual. "How fond people have always been of
Adriance! Now tell me the latest news of him. I haven't heard,
except through the press, for a year or more. He was in Algeria
then, in the valley of the Chelif, riding horseback night and day
in an Arabian costume, and in his usual enthusiastic fashion he
had quite made up his mind to adopt the Mohammedan faith
and become as nearly an Arab as possible. How many countries and
faiths has be adopted, I wonder? Probably he was playing Arab to
himself all the time. I remember he was a sixteenth-century duke
in Florence once for weeks together."
"Oh, that's Adriance," chuckled Everett. "He is himself
barely long enough to write checks and be measured for his
clothes. I didn't hear from him while he was an Arab; I missed
"He was writing an Algerian suite for the piano then; it
must be in the publisher's hands by this time. I have been too
ill to answer his letter, and have lost touch with him."
Everett drew a letter from his pocket. "This came about a
month ago. It's chiefly about his new opera, which is to be
brought out in London next winter. Read it at your leisure."
"I think I shall keep it as a hostage, so that I may be sure
you will come again. Now I want you to play for me. Whatever
you like; but if there is anything new in the world, in mercy let
me hear it. For nine months I have heard nothing but 'The
Baggage Coach Ahead' and 'She Is My Baby's Mother.'"
He sat down at the piano, and Katharine sat near him,
absorbed in his remarkable physical likeness to his brother and
trying to discover in just what it consisted. She told herself
that it was very much as though a sculptor's finished work had
been rudely copied in wood. He was of a larger build than
Adriance, and his shoulders were broad and heavy, while those of
his brother were slender and rather girlish. His face was of the
same oval mold, but it was gray and darkened about the mouth by
continual shaving. His eyes were of the same inconstant April
color, but they were reflective and rather dull; while Adriance's
were always points of highlight, and always meaning another thing
than the thing they meant yesterday. But it was hard to see why
this earnest man should so continually suggest that lyric,
youthful face that was as gay as his was grave. For Adriance,
though he was ten years the elder, and though his hair was
streaked with silver, had the face of a boy of twenty, so mobile
that it told his thoughts before he could put them into words.
A contralto, famous for the extravagance of her vocal
methods and of her affections, had once said to him that the
shepherd boys who sang in the Vale of Tempe must certainly have
looked like young Hilgarde; and the comparison had been
appropriated by a hundred shyer women who preferred to quote.
As Everett sat smoking on the veranda of the InterOcean
House that night, he was a victim to random recollections. His
infatuation for Katharine Gaylord, visionary as it was, had been
the most serious of his boyish love affairs, and had long
disturbed his bachelor dreams. He was painfully timid in
everything relating to the emotions, and his hurt had withdrawn
him from the society of women. The fact that it was all so done
and dead and far behind him, and that the woman had lived her
life out since then, gave him an oppressive sense of age and
loss. He bethought himself of something he had read about
"sitting by the hearth and remembering the faces of women without
desire," and felt himself an octogenarian.
He remembered how bitter and morose he had grown during his
stay at his brother's studio when Katharine Gaylord was working
there, and how he had wounded Adriance on the night of his last
concert in New York. He had sat there in the box while his
brother and Katharine were called back again and again after the
last number, watching the roses go up over the footlights until
they were stacked half as high as the piano, brooding, in his
sullen boy's heart, upon the pride those two felt in each other's
work--spurring each other to their best and beautifully
contending in song. The footlights had seemed a hard, glittering
line drawn sharply between their life and his; a circle of flame
set about those splendid children of genius. He walked back to
his hotel alone and sat in his window staring out on Madison
Square until long after midnight, resolving to beat no more at
doors that he could never enter and realizing more keenly than
ever before how far this glorious world of beautiful creations
lay from the paths of men like himself. He told himself that he
had in common with this woman only the baser uses of life.
Everett's week in Cheyenne stretched to three, and he saw no
prospect of release except through the thing he dreaded. The
bright, windy days of the Wyoming autumn passed swiftly. Letters
and telegrams came urging him to hasten his trip to the coast,
but he resolutely postponed his business engagements. The
mornings he spent on one of Charley Gaylord's ponies, or fishing
in the mountains, and in the evenings he sat in his room writing
letters or reading. In the afternoon he was usually at his post
of duty. Destiny, he reflected, seems to have very positive
notions about the sort of parts we are fitted to play. The scene
changes and the compensation varies, but in the end we usually
find that we have played the same class of business from first to
last. Everett had been a stopgap all his life. He remembered
going through a looking glass labyrinth when he was a boy and
trying gallery after gallery, only at every turn to bump his nose
against his own face--which, indeed, was not his own, but his
brother's. No matter what his mission, east or west, by land or
sea, he was sure to find himself employed in his brother's
business, one of the tributary lives which helped to swell the
shining current of Adriance Hilgarde's. It was not the first
time that his duty had been to comfort, as best he could, one of
the broken things his brother's imperious speed had cast aside
and forgotten. He made no attempt to analyze the situation or to
state it in exact terms; but he felt Katharine Gaylord's need for
him, and he accepted it as a commission from his brother to help
this woman to die. Day by day he felt her demands on him grow
more imperious, her need for him grow more acute and positive;
and day by day he felt that in his peculiar relation to her his
own individuality played a smaller and smaller part. His power
to minister to her comfort, he saw, lay solely in his link with
his brother's life. He understood all that his physical
resemblance meant to her. He knew that she sat by him always
watching for some common trick of gesture, some familiar play of
expression, some illusion of light and shadow, in which he should
seem wholly Adriance. He knew that she lived upon this and that
her disease fed upon it; that it sent shudders of remembrance
through her and that in the exhaustion which followed this
turmoil of her dying senses, she slept deep and sweet and
dreamed of youth and art and days in a certain old Florentine
garden, and not of bitterness and death.
The question which most perplexed him was, "How much shall I
know? How much does she wish me to know?" A few days after his
first meeting with Katharine Gaylord, he had cabled his brother
to write her. He had merely said that she was mortally ill; he
could depend on Adriance to say the right thing--that was a part
of his gift. Adriance always said not only the right thing, but
the opportune, graceful, exquisite thing. His phrases took the
color of the moment and the then-present condition, so that they
never savored of perfunctory compliment or frequent usage. He
always caught the lyric essence of the moment, the poetic
suggestion of every situation. Moreover, he usually did the
right thing, the opportune, graceful, exquisite thing--except,
when he did very cruel things--bent upon making people happy
when their existence touched his, just as he insisted that his
material environment should be beautiful; lavishing upon those
near him all the warmth and radiance of his rich nature, all the
homage of the poet and troubadour, and, when they were no longer
near, forgetting--for that also was a part of Adriance's gift.
Three weeks after Everett had sent his cable, when he made
his daily call at the gaily painted ranch house, he found
Katharine laughing like a schoolgirl. "Have you ever thought,"
she said, as he entered the music room, "how much these seances
of ours are like Heine's 'Florentine Nights,' except that I don't
give you an opportunity to monopolize the conversation as Heine
did?" She held his hand longer than usual, as she greeted him,
and looked searchingly up into his face. "You are the kindest
man living; the kindest," she added, softly.
Everett's gray face colored faintly as he drew his hand
away, for he felt that this time she was looking at him and not
at a whimsical caricature of his brother. "Why, what have I done
now?" he asked, lamely. "I can't remember having sent you any
stale candy or champagne since yesterday."
She drew a letter with a foreign postmark from between
the leaves of a book and held it out, smiling. "You got him to
write it. Don't say you didn't, for it came direct, you see, and
the last address I gave him was a place in Florida. This deed
shall be remembered of you when I am with the just in Paradise.
But one thing you did not ask him to do, for you didn't know about
it. He has sent me his latest work, the new sonata, the most
ambitious thing he has ever done, and you are to play it for me
directly, though it looks horribly intricate. But first for the
letter; I think you would better read it aloud to me."
Everett sat down in a low chair facing the window seat in
which she reclined with a barricade of pillows behind her. He
opened the letter, his lashes half-veiling his kind eyes, and saw
to his satisfaction that it was a long one--wonderfully tactful
and tender, even for Adriance, who was tender with his valet and
his stable boy, with his old gondolier and the beggar-women who
prayed to the saints for him.
The letter was from Granada, written in the Alhambra, as he
sat by the fountain of the Patio di Lindaraxa. The air was
heavy, with the warm fragrance of the South and full of the sound
of splashing, running water, as it had been in a certain old
garden in Florence, long ago. The sky was one great turquoise,
heated until it glowed. The wonderful Moorish arches threw
graceful blue shadows all about him. He had sketched an outline
of them on the margin of his notepaper. The subtleties of Arabic
decoration had cast an unholy spell over him, and the brutal
exaggerations of Gothic art were a bad dream, easily forgotten.
The Alhambra itself had, from the first, seemed perfectly
familiar to him, and he knew that he must have trod that court,
sleek and brown and obsequious, centuries before Ferdinand rode
into Andalusia. The letter was full of confidences about his
work, and delicate allusions to their old happy days of study and
comradeship, and of her own work, still so warmly remembered and
appreciatively discussed everywhere he went.
As Everett folded the letter he felt that Adriance had
divined the thing needed and had risen to it in his own wonderful
way. The letter was consistently egotistical and seemed to him
even a trifle patronizing, yet it was just what she had
wanted. A strong realization of his brother's charm and intensity
and power came over him; he felt the breath of that whirlwind of
flame in which Adriance passed, consuming all in his path, and
himself even more resolutely than he consumed others. Then he
looked down at this white, burnt-out brand that lay before him.
"Like him, isn't it?" she said, quietly.
"I think I can scarcely answer his letter, but when you see
him next you can do that for me. I want you to tell him many
things for me, yet they can all be summed up in this: I want him
to grow wholly into his best and greatest self, even at the cost
of the dear boyishness that is half his charm to you and me. Do
you understand me?"
"I know perfectly well what you mean," answered Everett,
thoughtfully. "I have often felt so about him myself. And yet
it's difficult to prescribe for those fellows; so little makes,
so little mars."
Katharine raised herself upon her elbow, and her face
flushed with feverish earnestness. "Ah, but it is the waste of
himself that I mean; his lashing himself out on stupid and
uncomprehending people until they take him at their own estimate.
He can kindle marble, strike fire from putty, but is it worth
what it costs him?"
"Come, come," expostulated Everett, alarmed at her excitement.
"Where is the new sonata? Let him speak for himself."
He sat down at the piano and began playing the first
movement, which was indeed the voice of Adriance, his proper
speech. The sonata was the most ambitious work he had done up to
that time and marked the transition from his purely lyric vein to
a deeper and nobler style. Everett played intelligently and with
that sympathetic comprehension which seems peculiar to a certain
lovable class of men who never accomplish anything in particular.
When he had finished he turned to Katharine.
"How he has grown!" she cried. "What the three last years have
done for him! He used to write only the tragedies of passion; but
this is the tragedy of the soul, the shadow coexistent with the
soul. This is the tragedy of effort and failure, the thing Keats
called hell. This is my tragedy, as I lie here spent by the
racecourse, listening to the feet of the runners as they pass me.
Ah, God! The swift feet of the runners!"
She turned her face away and covered it with her straining
hands. Everett crossed over to her quickly and knelt beside her.
In all the days he had known her she had never before, beyond an
occasional ironical jest, given voice to the bitterness of her
own defeat. Her courage had become a point of pride with him,
and to see it going sickened him.
"Don't do it," he gasped. "I can't stand it, I really
can't, I feel it too much. We mustn't speak of that; it's too
tragic and too vast."
When she turned her face back to him there was a ghost of the old,
brave, cynical smile on it, more bitter than the tears she could
not shed. "No, I won't be so ungenerous; I will save that for the
watches of the night when I have no better company. Now you may
mix me another drink of some sort. Formerly, when it was not
if I should ever sing Brunnhilde, but quite simply when I
should sing Brunnhilde, I was always starving myself and
thinking what I might drink and what I might not. But broken music
boxes may drink whatsoever they list, and no one cares whether they
lose their figure. Run over that theme at the beginning again.
That, at least, is not new. It was running in his head when we
were in Venice years ago, and he used to drum it on his glass at
the dinner table. He had just begun to work it out when the late
autumn came on, and the paleness of the Adriatic oppressed him,
and he decided to go to Florence for the winter, and lost touch
with the theme during his illness. Do you remember those
frightful days? All the people who have loved him are not strong
enough to save him from himself! When I got word from Florence
that he had been ill I was in Nice filling a concert engagement.
His wife was hurrying to him from Paris, but I reached him first.
I arrived at dusk, in a terrific storm. They had taken an old
palace there for the winter, and I found him in the library--a
long, dark room full of old Latin books and heavy furniture and
bronzes. He was sitting by a wood fire at one end of the room,
looking, oh, so worn and pale!--as he always does when he is ill,
you know. Ah, it is so good that you do know! Even
his red smoking jacket lent no color to his face. His first words
were not to tell me how ill he had been, but that that morning he
had been well enough to put the last strokes to the score of his
Souvenirs d'Automne. He was as I most like to remember him:
so calm and happy and tired; not gay, as he usually is, but just
contented and tired with that heavenly tiredness that comes after
a good work done at last. Outside, the rain poured down in
torrents, and the wind moaned for the pain of all the world and
sobbed in the branches of the shivering olives and about the walls
of that desolated old palace. How that night comes back to me!
There were no lights in the room, only the wood fire which glowed
upon the hard features of the bronze Dante, like the reflection of
purgatorial flames, and threw long black shadows about us; beyond
us it scarcely penetrated the gloom at all, Adriance sat staring at
the fire with the weariness of all his life in his eves, and of all
the other lives that must aspire and suffer to make up one such
life as his. Somehow the wind with all its world-pain had got into
the room, and the cold rain was in our eyes, and the wave came up
in both of us at once--that awful, vague, universal pain, that
cold fear of life and death and God and hope--and we were like
two clinging together on a spar in midocean after the shipwreck
of everything. Then we heard the front door open with a great
gust of wind that shook even the walls, and the servants came
running with lights, announcing that Madam had returned, 'and in
the book we read no more that night.'"
She gave the old line with a certain bitter humor, and with
the hard, bright smile in which of old she had wrapped her
weakness as in a glittering garment. That ironical smile, worn
like a mask through so many years, had gradually changed even the
lines of her face completely, and when she looked in the mirror
she saw not herself, but the scathing critic, the amused observer
and satirist of herself. Everett dropped his head upon his hand
and sat looking at the rug. "How much you have cared!" he said.
"Ah, yes, I cared," she replied, closing her eyes with a
long-drawn sigh of relief; and lying perfectly still, she went
on: "You can't imagine what a comfort it is to have you know how I
cared, what a relief it is to be able to tell it to someone. I
used to want to shriek it out to the world in the long nights when
I could not sleep. It seemed to me that I could not die with it.
It demanded some sort of expression. And now that you know, you
would scarcely believe how much less sharp the anguish of it is."
Everett continued to look helplessly at the floor. "I was
not sure how much you wanted me to know," he said.
"Oh, I intended you should know from the first time I looked
into your face, when you came that day with Charley. I flatter
myself that I have been able to conceal it when I chose, though I
suppose women always think that. The more observing ones may
have seen, but discerning people are usually discreet and often
kind, for we usually bleed a little before we begin to discern.
But I wanted you to know; you are so like him that it is almost
like telling him himself. At least, I feel now that he will know
some day, and then I will be quite sacred from his compassion,
for we none of us dare pity the dead. Since it was what my life
has chiefly meant, I should like him to know. On the whole I am
not ashamed of it. I have fought a good fight."
"And has he never known at all?" asked Everett, in a thick voice.
"Oh! Never at all in the way that you mean. Of course, he
is accustomed to looking into the eyes of women and finding love
there; when he doesn't find it there he thinks he must have been
guilty of some discourtesy and is miserable about it. He has a
genuine fondness for everyone who is not stupid or gloomy, or old
or preternaturally ugly. Granted youth and cheerfulness, and a
moderate amount of wit and some tact, and Adriance will always be
glad to see you coming around the corner. I shared with the
rest; shared the smiles and the gallantries and the droll little
sermons. It was quite like a Sunday-school picnic; we wore our
best clothes and a smile and took our turns. It was his kindness
that was hardest. I have pretty well used my life up at standing
"Don't; you'll make me hate him," groaned Everett.
Katharine laughed and began to play nervously with her fan.
"It wasn't in the slightest degree his fault; that is the most
grotesque part of it. Why, it had really begun before I
ever met him. I fought my way to him, and I drank my doom
Everett rose and stood hesitating. "I think I must go. You ought
to be quiet, and I don't think I can hear any more just now."
She put out her hand and took his playfully. "You've put in
three weeks at this sort of thing, haven't you? Well, it may
never be to your glory in this world, perhaps, but it's been the
mercy of heaven to me, and it ought to square accounts for a much
worse life than yours will ever be."
Everett knelt beside her, saying, brokenly: "I stayed because I
wanted to be with you, that's all. I have never cared about other
women since I met you in New York when I was a lad. You are a part
of my destiny, and I could not leave you if I would."
She put her hands on his shoulders and shook her head. "No,
no; don't tell me that. I have seen enough of tragedy, God
knows. Don't show me any more just as the curtain is going down.
No, no, it was only a boy's fancy, and your divine pity and my
utter pitiableness have recalled it for a moment. One does not
love the dying, dear friend. If some fancy of that sort had been
left over from boyhood, this would rid you of it, and that were
well. Now go, and you will come again tomorrow, as long as there
are tomorrows, will you not?" She took his hand with a smile that
lifted the mask from her soul, that was both courage and despair,
and full of infinite loyalty and tenderness, as she said softly:
For ever and for ever, farewell, Cassius;
If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why then, this parting was well made.
The courage in her eyes was like the clear light of a star to him
as he went out.
On the night of Adriance Hilgarde's opening concert in Paris
Everett sat by the bed in the ranch house in Wyoming, watching
over the last battle that we have with the flesh before we are
done with it and free of it forever. At times it seemed that the
serene soul of her must have left already and found some refuge
from the storm, and only the tenacious animal life were left to do
battle with death. She labored under a delusion at once pitiful
and merciful, thinking that she was in the Pullman on her way to
New York, going back to her life and her work. When she aroused
from her stupor it was only to ask the porter to waken her half an
hour out of Jersey City, or to remonstrate with him about the
delays and the roughness of the road. At midnight Everett and the
nurse were left alone with her. Poor Charley Gaylord had lain down
on a couch outside the door. Everett sat looking at the sputtering
night lamp until it made his eyes ache. His head dropped forward
on the foot of the bed, and he sank into a heavy, distressful
slumber. He was dreaming of Adriance's concert in Paris, and of
Adriance, the troubadour, smiling and debonair, with his boyish
face and the touch of silver gray in his hair. He heard the
applause and he saw the roses going up over the footlights until
they were stacked half as high as the piano, and the petals fell
and scattered, making crimson splotches on the floor. Down this
crimson pathway came Adriance with his youthful step, leading his
prima donna by the hand; a dark woman this time, with Spanish eyes.
The nurse touched him on the shoulder; he started and awoke.
She screened the lamp with her hand. Everett saw that Katharine
was awake and conscious, and struggling a little. He lifted her
gently on his arm and began to fan her. She laid her hands
lightly on his hair and looked into his face with eyes that
seemed never to have wept or doubted. "Ah, dear Adriance, dear,
dear," she whispered.
Everett went to call her brother, but when they came back
the madness of art was over for Katharine.
Two days later Everett was pacing the station siding,
waiting for the westbound train. Charley Gaylord walked beside
him, but the two men had nothing to say to each other. Everett's
bags were piled on the truck, and his step was hurried and his
eyes were full of impatience, as he gazed again and again up the
track, watching for the train. Gaylord's impatience was not less
than his own; these two, who had grown so close, had now become
painful and impossible to each other, and longed for the
wrench of farewell.
As the train pulled in Everett wrung Gaylord's hand among
the crowd of alighting passengers. The people of a German opera
company, en route to the coast, rushed by them in frantic haste
to snatch their breakfast during the stop. Everett heard an
exclamation in a broad German dialect, and a massive woman whose
figure persistently escaped from her stays in the most improbable
places rushed up to him, her blond hair disordered by the wind,
and glowing with joyful surprise she caught his coat sleeve with
her tightly gloved hands.
"Herr Gott, Adriance, lieber Freund," she cried,
Everett quickly withdrew his arm and lifted his hat,
blushing. "Pardon me, madam, but I see that you have mistaken
me for Adriance Hilgarde. I am his brother," he said quietly,
and turning from the crestfallen singer, he hurried into the car.
The Garden Lodge
When Caroline Noble's friends learned that Raymond d'Esquerre was
to spend a month at her place on the Sound before he sailed to fill
his engagement for the London opera season, they considered it
another striking instance of the perversity of things. That the
month was May, and the most mild and florescent of all the
blue-and-white Mays the middle coast had known in years, but added
to their sense of wrong. D'Esquerre, they learned, was ensconced
in the lodge in the apple orchard, just beyond Caroline's glorious
garden, and report went that at almost any hour the sound of the
tenor's voice and of Caroline's crashing accompaniment could be
heard floating through the open windows, out among the snowy apple
boughs. The Sound, steel-blue and dotted with white sails, was
splendidly seen from the windows of the lodge. The garden to the
left and the orchard to the right had never been so riotous with
spring, and had burst into impassioned bloom, as if to accommodate
Caroline, though she was certainly the last woman to whom the
witchery of Freya could be attributed; the last woman, as her
friends affirmed, to at all adequately appreciate and make the most
of such a setting for the great tenor.
Of course, they admitted, Caroline was musical--well, she
ought to be!--but in that, as in everything, she was paramountly
cool-headed, slow of impulse, and disgustingly practical; in
that, as in everything else, she had herself so provokingly well
in hand. Of course, it would be she, always mistress of herself
in any situation, she, who would never be lifted one inch from
the ground by it, and who would go on superintending her
gardeners and workmen as usual--it would be she who got him.
Perhaps some of them suspected that this was exactly why
she did get him, and it but nettled them the more.
Caroline's coolness, her capableness, her general success,
especially exasperated people because they felt that, for the
most part, she had made herself what she was; that she had cold-
bloodedly set about complying with the demands of life and making
her position comfortable and masterful. That was why, everyone
said, she had married Howard Noble. Women who did not get
through life so well as Caroline, who could not make such good
terms either with fortune or their husbands, who did not find
their health so unfailingly good, or hold their looks so well, or
manage their children so easily, or give such distinction to all
they did, were fond of stamping Caroline as a materialist, and
called her hard.
The impression of cold calculation, of having a definite
policy, which Caroline gave, was far from a false one; but there
was this to be said for her--that there were extenuating
circumstances which her friends could not know.
If Caroline held determinedly to the middle course, if she
was apt to regard with distrust everything which inclined toward
extravagance, it was not because she was unacquainted with other
standards than her own, or had never seen another side of life.
She had grown up in Brooklyn, in a shabby little house under the
vacillating administration of her father, a music teacher who
usually neglected his duties to write orchestral compositions for
which the world seemed to have no especial need. His spirit was
warped by bitter vindictiveness and puerile self-commiseration,
and he spent his days in scorn of the labor that brought him
bread and in pitiful devotion to the labor that brought him only
disappointment, writing interminable scores which demanded of the
orchestra everything under heaven except melody.
It was not a cheerful home for a girl to grow up in. The
mother, who idolized her husband as the music lord of the future,
was left to a lifelong battle with broom and dustpan, to
neverending conciliatory overtures to the butcher and grocer, to
the making of her own gowns and of Caroline's, and to the delicate
task of mollifying Auguste's neglected pupils.
The son, Heinrich, a painter, Caroline's only brother, had
inherited all his father's vindictive sensitiveness without his
capacity for slavish application. His little studio on the third
floor had been much frequented by young men as unsuccessful as
himself, who met there to give themselves over to contemptuous
derision of this or that artist whose industry and stupidity had
won him recognition. Heinrich, when he worked at all, did
newspaper sketches at twenty-five dollars a week. He was too
indolent and vacillating to set himself seriously to his art, too
irascible and poignantly self-conscious to make a living, too
much addicted to lying late in bed, to the incontinent reading of
poetry, and to the use of chloral to be anything very positive
except painful. At twenty-six he shot himself in a frenzy, and
the whole wretched affair had effectually shattered his mother's
health and brought on the decline of which she died. Caroline
had been fond of him, but she felt a certain relief when he no
longer wandered about the little house, commenting ironically
upon its shabbiness, a Turkish cap on his head and a cigarette
hanging from between his long, tremulous fingers.
After her mother's death Caroline assumed the management of
that bankrupt establishment. The funeral expenses were unpaid,
and Auguste's pupils had been frightened away by the shock of
successive disasters and the general atmosphere of wretchedness
that pervaded the house. Auguste himself was writing a symphonic
poem, Icarus, dedicated to the memory of his son. Caroline was
barely twenty when she was called upon to face this tangle of
difficulties, but she reviewed the situation candidly. The house
had served its time at the shrine of idealism; vague, distressing,
unsatisfied yearnings had brought it low enough. Her mother,
thirty years before, had eloped and left Germany with her music
teacher, to give herself over to lifelong, drudging bondage at the
kitchen range. Ever since Caroline could remember, the law in the
house had been a sort of mystic worship of things distant,
intangible and unattainable. The family had lived in successive
ebullitions of generous enthusiasm, in talk of masters and
masterpieces, only to come down to the cold facts in the case; to
boiled mutton and to the necessity of turning the dining-room
carpet. All these emotional pyrotechnics had ended in petty
jealousies, in neglected duties, and in cowardly fear of the little
grocer on the corner.
From her childhood she had hated it, that humiliating and
uncertain existence, with its glib tongue and empty pockets, its
poetic ideals and sordid realities, its indolence and poverty
tricked out in paper roses. Even as a little girl, when vague
dreams beset her, when she wanted to lie late in bed and commune
with visions, or to leap and sing because the sooty little trees
along the street were putting out their first pale leaves in the
sunshine, she would clench her hands and go to help her mother
sponge the spots from her father's waistcoat or press Heinrich's
trousers. Her mother never permitted the slightest question
concerning anything Auguste or Heinrich saw fit to do, but from
the time Caroline could reason at all she could not help thinking
that many things went wrong at home. She knew, for example, that
her father's pupils ought not to be kept waiting half an hour
while he discussed Schopenhauer with some bearded socialist over
a dish of herrings and a spotted tablecloth. She knew that
Heinrich ought not to give a dinner on Heine's birthday, when the
laundress had not been paid for a month and when he frequently
had to ask his mother for carfare. Certainly Caroline had served
her apprenticeship to idealism and to all the embarrassing
inconsistencies which it sometimes entails, and she decided to
deny herself this diffuse, ineffectual answer to the sharp
questions of life.
When she came into the control of herself and the house she
refused to proceed any further with her musical education. Her
father, who had intended to make a concert pianist of her, set
this down as another item in his long list of disappointments and
his grievances against the world. She was young and pretty, and
she had worn turned gowns and soiled gloves and improvised hats
all her life. She wanted the luxury of being like other people,
of being honest from her hat to her boots, of having nothing to
hide, not even in the matter of stockings, and she was willing to
work for it. She rented a little studio away from that house of
misfortune and began to give lessons. She managed well and was
the sort of girl people liked to help. The bills were
paid and Auguste went on composing, growing indignant only when
she refused to insist that her pupils should study his compositions
for the piano. She began to get engagements in New York to play
accompaniments at song recitals. She dressed well, made herself
agreeable, and gave herself a chance. She never permitted herself
to look further than a step ahead, and set herself with all the
strength of her will to see things as they are and meet them
squarely in the broad day. There were two things she feared even
more than poverty: the part of one that sets up an idol and the
part of one that bows down and worships it.
When Caroline was twenty-four she married Howard Noble, then
a widower of forty, who had been for ten years a power in Wall
Street. Then, for the first time, she had paused to take breath.
It took a substantialness as unquestionable as his; his money,
his position, his energy, the big vigor of his robust person, to
satisfy her that she was entirely safe. Then she relaxed a
little, feeling that there was a barrier to be counted upon
between her and that world of visions and quagmires and failure.
Caroline had been married for six years when Raymond
d'Esquerre came to stay with them. He came chiefly because
Caroline was what she was; because he, too, felt occasionally the
need of getting out of Klingsor's garden, of dropping down
somewhere for a time near a quiet nature, a cool head, a strong
hand. The hours he had spent in the garden lodge were hours of
such concentrated study as, in his fevered life, he seldom got in
anywhere. She had, as he told Noble, a fine appreciation of the
seriousness of work.
One evening two weeks after d'Esquerre had sailed, Caroline
was in the library giving her husband an account of the work she
had laid out for the gardeners. She superintended the care of
the grounds herself. Her garden, indeed, had become quite a part
of her; a sort of beautiful adjunct, like gowns or jewels. It
was a famous spot, and Noble was very proud of it.
"What do you think, Caroline, of having the garden lodge torn down
and putting a new summer house there at the end of the arbor; a big
rustic affair where you could have tea served in midsummer?" he
"The lodge?" repeated Caroline looking at him quickly. "Why, that
seems almost a shame, doesn't it, after d'Esquerre has used it?"
Noble put down his book with a smile of amusement.
"Are you going to be sentimental about it? Why, I'd sacrifice the
whole place to see that come to pass. But I don't believe you
could do it for an hour together."
"I don't believe so, either," said his wife, smiling.
Noble took up his book again and Caroline went into the
music room to practice. She was not ready to have the lodge torn
down. She had gone there for a quiet hour every day during the
two weeks since d'Esquerre had left them. It was the sheerest
sentiment she had ever permitted herself. She was ashamed of it,
but she was childishly unwilling to let it go.
Caroline went to bed soon after her husband, but she was not
able to sleep. The night was close and warm, presaging storm.
The wind had fallen, and the water slept, fixed and motionless as
the sand. She rose and thrust her feet into slippers and,
putting a dressing gown over her shoulders, opened the door of
her husband's room; he was sleeping soundly. She went into the
hall and down the stairs; then, leaving the house through a side
door, stepped into the vine-covered arbor that led to the garden
lodge. The scent of the June roses was heavy in the still air,
and the stones that paved the path felt pleasantly cool through
the thin soles of her slippers. Heat-lightning flashed
continuously from the bank of clouds that had gathered over the
sea, but the shore was flooded with moonlight and, beyond, the
rim of the Sound lay smooth and shining. Caroline had the key of
the lodge, and the door creaked as she opened it. She stepped
into the long, low room radiant with the moonlight which streamed
through the bow window and lay in a silvery pool along the waxed
floor. Even that part of the room which lay in the shadow was
vaguely illuminated; the piano, the tall candlesticks, the
picture frames and white casts standing out as clearly in the
half-light as did the sycamores and black poplars of the garden
against the still, expectant night sky. Caroline sat
down to think it all over. She had come here to do just that
every day of the two weeks since d'Esquerre's departure, but,
far from ever having reached a conclusion, she had succeeded
only in losing her way in a maze of memories--sometimes
bewilderingly confused, sometimes too acutely distinct--where
there was neither path, nor clue, nor any hope of finality. She
had, she realized, defeated a lifelong regimen; completely
confounded herself by falling unaware and incontinently into
that luxury of reverie which, even as a little girl, she had so
determinedly denied herself, she had been developing with
alarming celerity that part of one which sets up an idol and
that part of one which bows down and worships it.
It was a mistake, she felt, ever to have asked d'Esquerre to come
at all. She had an angry feeling that she had done it rather in
self-defiance, to rid herself finally of that instinctive fear of
him which had always troubled and perplexed her. She knew that she
had reckoned with herself before he came; but she had been equal to
so much that she had never really doubted she would be equal to
this. She had come to believe, indeed, almost arrogantly in her
own malleability and endurance; she had done so much with herself
that she had come to think that there was nothing which she could
not do; like swimmers, overbold, who reckon upon their strength and
their power to hoard it, forgetting the ever-changing moods of
their adversary, the sea.
And d'Esquerre was a man to reckon with. Caroline did not
deceive herself now upon that score. She admitted it humbly
enough, and since she had said good-by to him she had not been
free for a moment from the sense of his formidable power. It
formed the undercurrent of her consciousness; whatever she might
be doing or thinking, it went on, involuntarily, like her
breathing, sometimes welling up until suddenly she found herself
suffocating. There was a moment of this tonight, and Caroline
rose and stood shuddering, looking about her in the blue
duskiness of the silent room. She had not been here at night
before, and the spirit of the place seemed more troubled and
insistent than ever it had in the quiet of the afternoons.
Caroline brushed her hair back from her damp forehead
and went over to the bow window. After raising it she sat down
upon the low seat. Leaning her head against the sill, and
loosening her nightgown at the throat, she half-closed her eyes
and looked off into the troubled night, watching the play of
the heat-lightning upon the massing clouds between the pointed
tops of the poplars.
Yes, she knew, she knew well enough, of what absurdities
this spell was woven; she mocked, even while she winced. His
power, she knew, lay not so much in anything that he actually
had--though he had so much--or in anything that he actually was,
but in what he suggested, in what he seemed picturesque enough to
have or be and that was just anything that one chose to believe
or to desire. His appeal was all the more persuasive and alluring
in that it was to the imagination alone, in that it was as
indefinite and impersonal as those cults of idealism which so
have their way with women. What he had was that, in his mere
personality, he quickened and in a measure gratified that
something without which--to women--life is no better than
sawdust, and to the desire for which most of their mistakes and
tragedies and astonishingly poor bargains are due.
D'Esquerre had become the center of a movement, and the
Metropolitan had become the temple of a cult. When he could be
induced to cross the Atlantic, the opera season in New York was
successful; when he could not, the management lost money; so much
everyone knew. It was understood, too, that his superb art had
disproportionately little to do with his peculiar position.
Women swayed the balance this way or that; the opera, the
orchestra, even his own glorious art, achieved at such a cost, were
but the accessories of himself; like the scenery and costumes and
even the soprano, they all went to produce atmosphere, were the
mere mechanics of the beautiful illusion.
Caroline understood all this; tonight was not the first time
that she had put it to herself so. She had seen the same feeling
in other people, watched for it in her friends, studied it in the
house night after night when he sang, candidly putting herself
among a thousand others.
D'Esquerre's arrival in the early winter was the signal for
a feminine hegira toward New York. On the nights when he sang
women flocked to the Metropolitan from mansions and hotels, from
typewriter desks, schoolrooms, shops, and fitting rooms. They
were of all conditions and complexions. Women of the world who
accepted him knowingly as they sometimes took champagne for its
agreeable effect; sisters of charity and overworked shopgirls,
who received him devoutly; withered women who had taken doctorate
degrees and who worshipped furtively through prism spectacles;
business women and women of affairs, the Amazons who dwelt afar
from men in the stony fastnesses of apartment houses. They all
entered into the same romance; dreamed, in terms as various as
the hues of fantasy, the same dream; drew the same quick breath
when he stepped upon the stage, and, at his exit, felt the same
dull pain of shouldering the pack again.
There were the maimed, even; those who came on crutches, who
were pitted by smallpox or grotesquely painted by cruel birth
stains. These, too, entered with him into enchantment. Stout
matrons became slender girls again; worn spinsters felt their
cheeks flush with the tenderness of their lost youth. Young and
old, however hideous, however fair, they yielded up their heat--
whether quick or latent--sat hungering for the mystic bread
wherewith he fed them at this eucharist of sentiment.
Sometimes, when the house was crowded from the orchestra to
the last row of the gallery, when the air was charged with this
ecstasy of fancy, he himself was the victim of the burning
reflection of his power. They acted upon him in turn; he felt
their fervent and despairing appeal to him; it stirred him as the
spring drives the sap up into an old tree; he, too, burst into
bloom. For the moment he, too, believed again, desired again, he
knew not what, but something.
But it was not in these exalted moments that Caroline had
learned to fear him most. It was in the quiet, tired reserve,
the dullness, even, that kept him company between these outbursts
that she found that exhausting drain upon her sympathies which
was the very pith and substance of their alliance. It was the
tacit admission of disappointment under all this glamour
of success--the helplessness of the enchanter to at all enchant
himself--that awoke in her an illogical, womanish desire to in
some way compensate, to make it up to him.
She had observed drastically to herself that it was her
eighteenth year he awoke in her--those hard years she had spent
in turning gowns and placating tradesmen, and which she had never
had time to live. After all, she reflected, it was better to
allow one's self a little youth--to dance a little at the
carnival and to live these things when they are natural and
lovely, not to have them coming back on one and demanding arrears
when they are humiliating and impossible. She went over tonight
all the catalogue of her self-deprivations; recalled how, in the
light of her father's example, she had even refused to humor her
innocent taste for improvising at the piano; how, when she began
to teach, after her mother's death, she had struck out one little
indulgence after another, reducing her life to a relentless
routine, unvarying as clockwork. It seemed to her that ever
since d'Esquerre first came into the house she had been haunted
by an imploring little girlish ghost that followed her about,
wringing its hands and entreating for an hour of life.
The storm had held off unconscionably long; the air within
the lodge was stifling, and without the garden waited,
breathless. Everything seemed pervaded by a poignant distress;
the hush of feverish, intolerable expectation. The still earth,
the heavy flowers, even the growing darkness, breathed the
exhaustion of protracted waiting. Caroline felt that she ought
to go; that it was wrong to stay; that the hour and the place
were as treacherous as her own reflections. She rose and began
to pace the floor, stepping softly, as though in fear of
awakening someone, her figure, in its thin drapery, diaphanously
vague and white. Still unable to shake off the obsession of the
intense stillness, she sat down at the piano and began to run
over the first act of the Walkure, the last of his roles
they had practiced together; playing listlessly and absently at
first, but with gradually increasing seriousness. Perhaps it was
the still heat of the summer night, perhaps it was the heavy odors
from the garden that came in through the open windows; but as she
played there grew and grew the feeling that he was there, beside
her, standing in his accustomed place. In the duet at the end of
the first act she heard him clearly: "Thou art the Spring for
which I sighed in Winter's cold embraces." Once as he sang
it, he had put his arm about her, his one hand under her heart,
while with the other he took her right from the keyboard, holding
her as he always held Sieglinde when he drew her toward the
window. She had been wonderfully the mistress of herself at the
time; neither repellent nor acquiescent. She remembered that she
had rather exulted, then, in her self-control--which he had seemed
to take for granted, though there was perhaps the whisper of a
question from the hand under her heart. "Thou art the Spring
for which I sighed in Winter's cold embraces." Caroline lifted
her hands quickly from the keyboard, and she bowed her head in
The storm broke and the rain beat in, spattering her
nightdress until she rose and lowered the windows. She dropped
upon the couch and began fighting over again the battles of other
days, while the ghosts of the slain rose as from a sowing of
dragon's teeth, The shadows of things, always so scorned and
flouted, bore down upon her merciless and triumphant. It was not
enough; this happy, useful, well-ordered life was not enough. It
did not satisfy, it was not even real. No, the other things, the
shadows-they were the realities. Her father, poor Heinrich, even
her mother, who had been able to sustain her poor romance and
keep her little illusions amid the tasks of a scullion, were
nearer happiness than she. Her sure foundation was but made
ground, after all, and the people in Klingsor's garden were more
fortunate, however barren the sands from which they conjured
The lodge was still and silent; her fit of weeping over,
Caroline made no sound, and within the room, as without in the
garden, was the blackness of storm. Only now and then a flash of
lightning showed a woman's slender figure rigid on the couch, her
face buried in her hands.
Toward morning, when the occasional rumbling of thunder was
heard no more and the beat of the raindrops upon the orchard
leaves was steadier, she fell asleep and did not waken
until the first red streaks of dawn shone through the twisted
boughs of the apple trees. There was a moment between world and
world, when, neither asleep nor awake, she felt her dream grow
thin, melting away from her, felt the warmth under her heart
growing cold. Something seemed to slip from the clinging hold
of her arms, and she groaned protestingly through her parted lips,
following it a little way with fluttering hands. Then her eyes
opened wide and she sprang up and sat holding dizzily to the
cushions of the couch, staring down at her bare, cold feet, at
her laboring breast, rising and falling under her open nightdress.
The dream was gone, but the feverish reality of it still
pervaded her and she held it as the vibrating string holds a
tone. In the last hour the shadows had had their way with
Caroline. They had shown her the nothingness of time and space,
of system and discipline, of closed doors and broad waters.
Shuddering, she thought of the Arabian fairy tale in which the
genie brought the princess of China to the sleeping prince of
Damascus and carried her through the air back to her palace at
dawn. Caroline closed her eyes and dropped her elbows weakly
upon her knees, her shoulders sinking together. The horror was
that it had not come from without, but from within. The dream
was no blind chance; it was the expression of something she had
kept so close a prisoner that she had never seen it herself, it
was the wail from the donjon deeps when the watch slept. Only as
the outcome of such a night of sorcery could the thing have been
loosed to straighten its limbs and measure itself with her; so
heavy were the chains upon it, so many a fathom deep, it was
crushed down into darkness. The fact that d'Esquerre happened to
be on the other side of the world meant nothing; had he been
here, beside her, it could scarcely have hurt her self-respect
so much. As it was, she was without even the extenuation of an
outer impulse, and she could scarcely have despised herself more
had she come to him here in the night three weeks ago and thrown
herself down upon the stone slab at the door there.
Caroline rose unsteadily and crept guiltily from the lodge
and along the path under the arbor, terrified lest the
servants should be stirring, trembling with the chill air, while
the wet shrubbery, brushing against her, drenched her nightdress
until it clung about her limbs.
At breakfast her husband looked across the table at her with
concern. "It seems to me that you are looking rather fagged,
Caroline. It was a beastly night to sleep. Why don't you go up
to the mountains until this hot weather is over? By the way, were
you in earnest about letting the lodge stand?"
Caroline laughed quietly. "No, I find I was not very serious. I
haven't sentiment enough to forego a summer house. Will you tell
Baker to come tomorrow to talk it over with me? If we are to have
a house party, I should like to put him to work on it at once."
Noble gave her a glance, half-humorous, half-vexed. "Do you
know I am rather disappointed?" he said. "I had almost hoped
that, just for once, you know, you would be a little bit foolish."
"Not now that I've slept over it," replied Caroline, and
they both rose from the table, laughing.
The Marriage of Phaedra
The sequence of events was such that MacMaster did not make his
pilgrimage to Hugh Treffinger's studio until three years after that
painter's death. MacMaster was himself a painter, an American of
the Gallicized type, who spent his winters in New York, his summers
in Paris, and no inconsiderable amount of time on the broad waters
between. He had often contemplated stopping in London on one of
his return trips in the late autumn, but he had always deferred
leaving Paris until the prick of necessity drove him home by the
quickest and shortest route.
Treffinger was a comparatively young man at the time of his
death, and there had seemed no occasion for haste until haste was
of no avail. Then, possibly, though there had been some
correspondence between them, MacMaster felt certain qualms about
meeting in the flesh a man who in the flesh was so diversely
reported. His intercourse with Treffinger's work had been so
deep and satisfying, so apart from other appreciations, that he
rather dreaded a critical juncture of any sort. He had always
felt himself singularly inept in personal relations, and in this
case he had avoided the issue until it was no longer to be feared
or hoped for. There still remained, however, Treffinger's great
unfinished picture, the Marriage of Phaedra, which had never
left his studio, and of which MacMaster's friends had now and again
brought report that it was the painter's most characteristic
The young man arrived in London in the evening, and the next
morning went out to Kensington to find Treffinger's studio. It
lay in one of the perplexing bystreets off Holland Road, and the
number he found on a door set in a high garden wall, the top of
which was covered with broken green glass and over which
a budding lilac bush nodded. Treffinger's plate was still there,
and a card requesting visitors to ring for the attendant. In
response to MacMaster's ring, the door was opened by a cleanly
built little man, clad in a shooting jacket and trousers that had
been made for an ampler figure. He had a fresh complexion, eyes
of that common uncertain shade of gray, and was closely shaven
except for the incipient muttonchops on his ruddy cheeks. He
bore himself in a manner strikingly capable, and there was a sort
of trimness and alertness about him, despite the too-generous
shoulders of his coat. In one hand he held a bulldog pipe, and
in the other a copy of Sporting Life. While MacMaster was
explaining the purpose of his call he noticed that the man surveyed
him critically, though not impertinently. He was admitted into a
little tank of a lodge made of whitewashed stone, the back door
and windows opening upon a garden. A visitor's book and a pile
of catalogues lay on a deal table, together with a bottle of ink
and some rusty pens. The wall was ornamented with photographs
and colored prints of racing favorites.
"The studio is h'only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays,"
explained the man--he referred to himself as "Jymes"--"but of
course we make exceptions in the case of pynters. Lydy Elling
Treffinger 'erself is on the Continent, but Sir 'Ugh's orders was
that pynters was to 'ave the run of the place." He selected a key
from his pocket and threw open the door into the studio which, like
the lodge, was built against the wall of the garden.
MacMaster entered a long, narrow room, built of smoothed
planks, painted a light green; cold and damp even on that fine
May morning. The room was utterly bare of furniture--unless a
stepladder, a model throne, and a rack laden with large leather
portfolios could be accounted such--and was windowless, without
other openings than the door and the skylight, under which hung
the unfinished picture itself. MacMaster had never seen so many
of Treffinger's paintings together. He knew the painter had
married a woman with money and had been able to keep such of his
pictures as he wished. These, with all of 182 his
replicas and studies, he had left as a sort of common legacy to
the younger men of the school he had originated.
As soon as he was left alone MacMaster sat down on the edge
of the model throne before the unfinished picture. Here indeed
was what he had come for; it rather paralyzed his receptivity for
the moment, but gradually the thing found its way to him.
At one o'clock he was standing before the collection of studies
done for Boccaccio's Garden when he heard a voice at his
"Pardon, sir, but I was just about to lock up and go to
lunch. Are you lookin' for the figure study of Boccaccio
'imself?" James queried respectfully. "Lydy Elling Treffinger
give it to Mr. Rossiter to take down to Oxford for some lectures
he's been agiving there."
"Did he never paint out his studies, then?" asked MacMaster
with perplexity. "Here are two completed ones for this picture.
Why did he keep them?"
"I don't know as I could say as to that, sir," replied James,
smiling indulgently, "but that was 'is way. That is to say, 'e
pynted out very frequent, but 'e always made two studies to stand;
one in watercolors and one in oils, before 'e went at the final
picture--to say nothink of all the pose studies 'e made in pencil
before he begun on the composition proper at all. He was that
particular. You see, 'e wasn't so keen for the final effect as for
the proper pyntin' of 'is pictures. 'E used to say they ought to
be well made, the same as any other h'article of trade. I can lay
my 'and on the pose studies for you, sir." He rummaged in one of
the portfolios and produced half a dozen drawings, "These three,"
he continued, "was discarded; these two was the pose he finally
accepted; this one without alteration, as it were.
"That's in Paris, as I remember," James continued reflectively.
"It went with the Saint Cecilia into the Baron H---'s
collection. Could you tell me, sir, 'as 'e it still? I
don't like to lose account of them, but some 'as changed 'ands
since Sir 'Ugh's death."
"H---'s collection is still intact, I believe," replied MacMaster.
"You were with Treffinger long?"
"From my boyhood, sir," replied James with gravity. "I was
a stable boy when 'e took me."
"You were his man, then?"
"That's it, sir. Nobody else ever done anything around the studio.
I always mixed 'is colors and 'e taught me to do a share of the
varnishin'; 'e said as 'ow there wasn't a 'ouse in England as could
do it proper. You ayn't looked at the Marriage yet, sir?"
he asked abruptly, glancing doubtfully at MacMaster, and indicating
with his thumb the picture under the north light.
"Not very closely. I prefer to begin with something simpler;
that's rather appalling, at first glance," replied MacMaster.
"Well may you say that, sir," said James warmly. "That one regular
killed Sir 'Ugh; it regular broke 'im up, and nothink will ever
convince me as 'ow it didn't bring on 'is second stroke."
When MacMaster walked back to High Street to take his bus
his mind was divided between two exultant convictions. He felt
that he had not only found Treffinger's greatest picture, but
that, in James, he had discovered a kind of cryptic index to the
painter's personality--a clue which, if tactfully followed, might
lead to much.
Several days after his first visit to the studio, MacMaster
wrote to Lady Mary Percy, telling her that he would be in London
for some time and asking her if he might call. Lady Mary was an
only sister of Lady Ellen Treffinger, the painter's widow, and
MacMaster had known her during one winter he spent at Nice. He
had known her, indeed, very well, and Lady Mary, who was
astonishingly frank and communicative upon all subjects, had been
no less so upon the matter of her sister's unfortunate marriage.
In her reply to his note Lady Mary named an afternoon when
she would be alone. She was as good as her word, and when
MacMaster arrived he found the drawing room empty. Lady Mary
entered shortly after he was announced. She was a tall woman,
thin and stiffly jointed, and her body stood out under the folds
of her gown with the rigor of cast iron. This rather metallic
suggestion was further carried out in her heavily knuckled hands,
her stiff gray hair, and her long, bold-featured face,
which was saved from freakishness only by her alert eyes.
"Really," said Lady Mary, taking a seat beside him and
giving him a sort of military inspection through her nose
glasses, "really, I had begun to fear that I had lost you
altogether. It's four years since I saw you at Nice, isn't it? I
was in Paris last winter, but I heard nothing from you."
"I was in New York then."
"It occurred to me that you might be. And why are you in London?"
"Can you ask?" replied MacMaster gallantly.
Lady Mary smiled ironically. "But for what else, incidentally?"
"Well, incidentally, I came to see Treffinger's studio and
his unfinished picture. Since I've been here, I've decided to
stay the summer. I'm even thinking of attempting to do a
biography of him."
"So that is what brought you to London?"
"Not exactly. I had really no intention of anything so serious
when I came. It's his last picture, I fancy, that has rather
thrust it upon me. The notion has settled down on me like a thing
"You'll not be offended if I question the clemency of such a
destiny," remarked Lady Mary dryly. "Isn't there rather a
surplus of books on that subject already?"
"Such as they are. Oh, I've read them all"--here MacMaster
faced Lady Mary triumphantly. "He has quite escaped your amiable
critics," he added, smiling.
"I know well enough what you think, and I daresay we are not
much on art," said Lady Mary with tolerant good humor. "We leave
that to peoples who have no physique. Treffinger made a stir for
a time, but it seems that we are not capable of a sustained
appreciation of such extraordinary methods. In the end we go
back to the pictures we find agreeable and unperplexing. He was
regarded as an experiment, I fancy; and now it seems that he was
rather an unsuccessful one. If you've come to us in a missionary
spirit, we'll tolerate you politely, but we'll laugh in our
sleeve, I warn you."
"That really doesn't daunt me, Lady Mary," declared
MacMaster blandly. "As I told you, I'm a man with a mission."
Lady Mary laughed her hoarse, baritone laugh. "Bravo! And
you've come to me for inspiration for your panegyric?"
MacMaster smiled with some embarrassment. "Not altogether
for that purpose. But I want to consult you, Lady Mary, about
the advisability of troubling Lady Ellen Treffinger in the
matter. It seems scarcely legitimate to go on without asking her
to give some sort of grace to my proceedings, yet I feared the
whole subject might be painful to her. I shall rely wholly upon
"I think she would prefer to be consulted," replied Lady
Mary judicially. "I can't understand how she endures to have the
wretched affair continually raked up, but she does. She seems to
feel a sort of moral responsibility. Ellen has always been
singularly conscientious about this matter, insofar as her light
goes,--which rather puzzles me, as hers is not exactly a
magnanimous nature. She is certainly trying to do what she
believes to be the right thing. I shall write to her, and you
can see her when she returns from Italy."
"I want very much to meet her. She is, I hope, quite
recovered in every way," queried MacMaster, hesitatingly.
"No, I can't say that she is. She has remained in much the
same condition she sank to before his death. He trampled over
pretty much whatever there was in her, I fancy. Women don't
recover from wounds of that sort--at least, not women of Ellen's
grain. They go on bleeding inwardly."
"You, at any rate, have not grown more reconciled," MacMaster
"Oh I give him his dues. He was a colorist, I grant you;
but that is a vague and unsatisfactory quality to marry to; Lady
Ellen Treffinger found it so."
"But, my dear Lady Mary," expostulated MacMaster, "and just
repress me if I'm becoming too personal--but it must, in the
first place, have been a marriage of choice on her part as well
as on his."
Lady Mary poised her glasses on her large forefinger and
assumed an attitude suggestive of the clinical lecture room as
she replied. "Ellen, my dear boy, is an essentially
romantic person. She is quiet about it, but she runs deep. I
never knew how deep until I came against her on the issue of that
marriage. She was always discontented as a girl; she found
things dull and prosaic, and the ardor of his courtship was
agreeable to her. He met her during her first season in town.
She is handsome, and there were plenty of other men, but I grant
you your scowling brigand was the most picturesque of the lot.
In his courtship, as in everything else, he was theatrical to the
point of being ridiculous, but Ellen's sense of humor is not her
strongest quality. He had the charm of celebrity, the air of a
man who could storm his way through anything to get what he
wanted. That sort of vehemence is particularly effective with
women like Ellen, who can be warmed only by reflected heat, and
she couldn't at all stand out against it. He convinced her of his
necessity; and that done, all's done."
"I can't help thinking that, even on such a basis, the marriage
should have turned out better," MacMaster remarked reflectively.
"The marriage," Lady Mary continued with a shrug, "was made
on the basis of a mutual misunderstanding. Ellen, in the nature
of the case, believed that she was doing something quite out of
the ordinary in accepting him, and expected concessions which,
apparently, it never occurred to him to make. After his marriage
he relapsed into his old habits of incessant work, broken by
violent and often brutal relaxations. He insulted her friends
and foisted his own upon her--many of them well calculated to
arouse aversion in any well-bred girl. He had Ghillini
constantly at the house--a homeless vagabond, whose conversation
was impossible. I don't say, mind you, that he had not
grievances on his side. He had probably overrated the girl's
possibilities, and he let her see that he was disappointed in
her. Only a large and generous nature could have borne with him,
and Ellen's is not that. She could not at all understand that
odious strain of plebeian pride which plumes itself upon not
having risen above its sources.
As MacMaster drove back to his hotel he reflected that Lady
Mary Percy had probably had good cause for dissatisfaction
with her brother-in-law. Treffinger was, indeed, the last man who
should have married into the Percy family. The son of a small
tobacconist, he had grown up a sign-painter's apprentice; idle,
lawless, and practically letterless until he had drifted into the
night classes of the Albert League, where Ghillini sometimes
lectured. From the moment he came under the eye and influence of
that erratic Italian, then a political exile, his life had swerved
sharply from its old channel. This man had been at once incentive
and guide, friend and master, to his pupil. He had taken the raw
clay out of the London streets and molded it anew. Seemingly he
had divined at once where the boy's possibilities lay, and had
thrown aside every canon of orthodox instruction in the training of
him. Under him Treffinger acquired his superficial, yet facile,
knowledge of the classics; had steeped himself in the monkish Latin
and medieval romances which later gave his work so naive and remote
a quality. That was the beginning of the wattle fences, the cobble
pave, the brown roof beams, the cunningly wrought fabrics that gave
to his pictures such a richness of decorative effect.
As he had told Lady Mary Percy, MacMaster had found the imperative
inspiration of his purpose in Treffinger's unfinished picture, the
Marriage of Phaedra. He had always believed that the key to
Treffinger's individuality lay in his singular education; in the
Roman de la Rose, in Boccaccio, and Amadis, those works
which had literally transcribed themselves upon the blank soul of
the London street boy, and through which he had been born into the
world of spiritual things. Treffinger had been a man who lived
after his imagination; and his mind, his ideals and, as MacMaster
believed, even his personal ethics, had to the last been colored by
the trend of his early training. There was in him alike the
freshness and spontaneity, the frank brutality and the religious
mysticism, which lay well back of the fifteenth century. In the
Marriage of Phaedra MacMaster found the ultimate expression
of this spirit, the final word as to Treffinger's point of view.
As in all Treffinger's classical subjects, the conception
was wholly medieval. This Phaedra, just turning from her husband
and maidens to greet her husband's son, giving him her
first fearsome glance from under her half-lifted veil, was no
daughter of Minos. The daughter of heathenesse and the
early church she was; doomed to torturing visions and scourgings,
and the wrangling of soul with flesh. The venerable Theseus
might have been victorious Charlemagne, and Phaedra's maidens
belonged rather in the train of Blanche of Castile than at the
Cretan court. In the earlier studies Hippolytus had been done
with a more pagan suggestion; but in each successive drawing the
glorious figure bad been deflowered of something of its serene
unconsciousness, until, in the canvas under the skylight, he
appeared a very Christian knight. This male figure, and the face
of Phaedra, painted with such magical preservation of tone under
the heavy shadow of the veil, were plainly Treffinger's highest
achievements of craftsmanship. By what labor he had reached the
seemingly inevitable composition of the picture--with its twenty
figures, its plenitude of light and air, its restful distances
seen through white porticoes--countless studies bore witness.
From James's attitude toward the picture MacMaster could
well conjecture what the painter's had been. This picture was
always uppermost in James's mind; its custodianship formed, in
his eyes, his occupation. He was manifestly apprehensive when
visitors--not many came nowadays--lingered near it. "It was the
Marriage as killed 'im," he would often say, "and for the
matter 'o that, it did like to 'av been the death of all of us."
By the end of his second week in London MacMaster had begun the
notes for his study of Hugh Treffinger and his work. When his
researches led him occasionally to visit the studios of
Treffinger's friends and erstwhile disciples, he found their
Treffinger manner fading as the ring of Treffinger's personality
died out in them. One by one they were stealing back into the
fold of national British art; the hand that had wound them up was
still. MacMaster despaired of them and confined himself more and
more exclusively to the studio, to such of Treffinger's letters
as were available--they were for the most part singularly negative
and colorless--and to his interrogation of Treffinger's man.
He could not himself have traced the successive steps
by which he was gradually admitted into James's confidence.
Certainly most of his adroit strategies to that end failed
humiliatingly, and whatever it was that built up an understanding
between them must have been instinctive and intuitive on both
sides. When at last James became anecdotal, personal, there was
that in every word he let fall which put breath and blood into
MacMaster's book. James had so long been steeped in that
penetrating personality that he fairly exuded it. Many of his
very phrases, mannerisms, and opinions were impressions that he
had taken on like wet plaster in his daily contact with
Treffinger. Inwardly he was lined with cast-off epitheliums, as
outwardly he was clad in the painter's discarded coats. If the
painter's letters were formal and perfunctory, if his expressions
to his friends had been extravagant, contradictory, and often
apparently insincere--still, MacMaster felt himself not entirely
without authentic sources. It was James who possessed
Treffinger's legend; it was with James that he had laid aside his
pose. Only in his studio, alone, and face to face with his work,
as it seemed, had the man invariably been himself. James had
known him in the one attitude in which he was entirely honest;
their relation had fallen well within the painter's only
indubitable integrity. James's report of Treffinger was
distorted by no hallucination of artistic insight, colored by no
interpretation of his own. He merely held what he had heard and
seen; his mind was a sort of camera obscura. His very
limitations made him the more literal and minutely accurate.
One morning, when MacMaster was seated before the Marriage
of Phaedra, James entered on his usual round of dusting.
"I've 'eard from Lydy Elling by the post, sir," he remarked,
"an' she's give h'orders to 'ave the 'ouse put in readiness. I
doubt she'll be 'ere by Thursday or Friday next."
"She spends most of her time abroad?" queried MacMaster; on
the subject of Lady Treffinger James consistently maintained a
very delicate reserve.
"Well, you could 'ardly say she does that, sir. She finds
the 'ouse a bit dull, I daresay, so durin' the season she stops
mostly with Lydy Mary Percy, at Grosvenor Square. Lydy
Mary's a h'only sister." After a few moments he continued,
speaking in jerks governed by the rigor of his dusting: "H'only
this morning I come upon this scarfpin," exhibiting a very
striking instance of that article, "an' I recalled as 'ow Sir
'Ugh give it me when 'e was acourting of Lydy Elling. Blowed if
I ever see a man go in for a 'oman like 'im! 'E was that gone,
sir. 'E never went in on anythink so 'ard before nor since,
till 'e went in on the Marriage there--though 'e mostly
went in on things pretty keen; 'ad the measles when 'e was
thirty, strong as cholera, an' come close to dyin' of 'em.
'E wasn't strong for Lydy Elling's set; they was a bit too stiff
for 'im. A free an' easy gentleman, 'e was; 'e liked 'is dinner
with a few friends an' them jolly, but 'e wasn't much on what you
might call big affairs. But once 'e went in for Lydy Elling 'e
broke 'imself to new paces; He give away 'is rings an' pins, an'
the tylor's man an' the 'aberdasher's man was at 'is rooms
continual. 'E got 'imself put up for a club in Piccadilly; 'e
starved 'imself thin, an' worrited 'imself white, an' ironed
'imself out, an' drawed 'imself tight as a bow string. It was a
good job 'e come a winner, or I don't know w'at'd 'a been to
The next week, in consequence of an invitation from Lady
Ellen Treffinger, MacMaster went one afternoon to take tea with
her. He was shown into the garden that lay between the residence
and the studio, where the tea table was set under a gnarled pear
tree. Lady Ellen rose as he approached--he was astonished to
note how tall she was-and greeted him graciously, saying that she
already knew him through her sister. MacMaster felt a certain
satisfaction in her; in her reassuring poise and repose, in the
charming modulations of her voice and the indolent reserve of her
full, almond eyes. He was even delighted to find her face so
inscrutable, though it chilled his own warmth and made the open
frankness he had wished to permit himself impossible. It was a
long face, narrow at the chin, very delicately featured, yet
steeled by an impassive mask of self-control. It was behind just
such finely cut, close-sealed faces, MacMaster reflected, that
nature sometimes hid astonishing secrets. But in spite of this
suggestion of hardness he felt that the unerring taste that
Treffinger had always shown in larger matters had not deserted
him when he came to the choosing of a wife, and he admitted that
he could not himself have selected a woman who looked more as
Treffinger's wife should look.
While he was explaining the purpose of his frequent visits
to the studio she heard him with courteous interest. "I have
read, I think, everything that has been published on Sir Hugh
Treffinger's work, and it seems to me that there is much left to
be said," he concluded.
"I believe they are rather inadequate," she remarked vaguely. She
hesitated a moment, absently fingering the ribbons of her gown,
then continued, without raising her eyes; "I hope you will not
think me too exacting if I ask to see the proofs of such chapters
of your work as have to do with Sir Hugh's personal life. I have
always asked that privilege."
MacMaster hastily assured her as to this, adding, "I mean to touch
on only such facts in his personal life as have to do directly with
his work--such as his monkish education under Ghillini."
"I see your meaning, I think," said Lady Ellen, looking at
him with wide, uncomprehending eyes.
When MacMaster stopped at the studio on leaving the house he
stood for some time before Treffinger's one portrait of himself,
that brigand of a picture, with its full throat and square head;
the short upper lip blackened by the close-clipped mustache, the
wiry hair tossed down over the forehead, the strong white teeth
set hard on a short pipestem. He could well understand what
manifold tortures the mere grain of the man's strong red and
brown flesh might have inflicted upon a woman like Lady Ellen.
He could conjecture, too, Treffinger's impotent revolt against
that very repose which had so dazzled him when it first defied
his daring; and how once possessed of it, his first instinct had
been to crush it, since he could not melt it.
Toward the close of the season Lady Ellen Treffinger left
town. MacMaster's work was progressing rapidly, and he and James
wore away the days in their peculiar relation, which by this time
had much of friendliness. Excepting for the regular visits of a
Jewish picture dealer, there were few intrusions upon their
solitude. Occasionally a party of Americans rang at the
little door in the garden wall, but usually they departed speedily
for the Moorish hall and tinkling fountain of the great show
studio of London, not far away.
This Jew, an Austrian by birth, who had a large business in
Melbourne, Australia, was a man of considerable discrimination,
and at once selected the Marriage of Phaedra as the object
of his especial interest. When, upon his first visit, Lichtenstein
had declared the picture one of the things done for time, MacMaster
had rather warmed toward him and had talked to him very freely.
Later, however, the man's repulsive personality and innate
vulgarity so wore upon him that, the more genuine the Jew's
appreciation, the more he resented it and the more base he somehow
felt it to be. It annoyed him to see Lichtenstein walking up and
down before the picture, shaking his head and blinking his watery
eyes over his nose glasses, ejaculating: "Dot is a chem, a chem!
It is wordt to gome den dousant miles for such a bainting, eh? To
make Eurobe abbreciate such a work of ardt it is necessary to take
it away while she is napping. She has never abbreciated until she
has lost, but," knowingly, "she will buy back."
James had, from the first, felt such a distrust of the man
that he would never leave him alone in the studio for a moment.
When Lichtenstein insisted upon having Lady Ellen Treffinger's
address James rose to the point of insolence. "It ayn't no use
to give it, noway. Lydy Treffinger never has nothink to do with
dealers." MacMaster quietly repented his rash confidences,
fearing that he might indirectly cause Lady Ellen annoyance from
this merciless speculator, and he recalled with chagrin that
Lichtenstein had extorted from him, little by little, pretty much
the entire plan of his book, and especially the place in it which
the Marriage of Phaedra was to occupy.
By this time the first chapters of MacMaster's book were in
the hands of his publisher, and his visits to the studio were
necessarily less frequent. The greater part of his time was now
employed with the engravers who were to reproduce such of
Treffinger's pictures as he intended to use as illustrations.
He returned to his hotel late one evening after a long
and vexing day at the engravers to find James in his room, seated
on his steamer trunk by the window, with the outline of a great
square draped in sheets resting against his knee.
"Why, James, what's up?" he cried in astonishment, glancing
inquiringly at the sheeted object.
"Ayn't you seen the pypers, sir?" jerked out the man.
"No, now I think of it, I haven't even looked at a paper. I've
been at the engravers' plant all day. I haven't seen anything."
James drew a copy of the Times from his pocket and handed it
to him, pointing with a tragic finger to a paragraph in the
social column. It was merely the announcement of Lady Ellen
Treffinger's engagement to Captain Alexander Gresham.
"Well, what of it, my man? That surely is her privilege."
James took the paper, turned to another page, and silently pointed
to a paragraph in the art notes which stated that Lady Treffinger
had presented to the X--gallery the entire collection of paintings
and sketches now in her late husband's studio, with the exception
of his unfinished picture, the Marriage Of Phaedra, which
she had sold for a large sum to an Australian dealer who had come
to London purposely to secure some of Treffinger's paintings.
MacMaster pursed up his lips and sat down, his overcoat
still on. "Well, James, this is something of a--something of a
jolt, eh? It never occurred to me she'd really do it."
"Lord, you don't know 'er, sir," said James bitterly, still
staring at the floor in an attitude of abandoned dejection.
MacMaster started up in a flash of enlightenment, "What on
earth have you got there, James? It's not-surely it's not--"
Yes, it is, sir," broke in the man excitedly. "It's the
Marriage itself. It ayn't agoing to H'Australia, no'ow!"
"But man, what are you going to do with it? It's
Lichtenstein's property now, as it seems."
It ayn't, sir, that it ayn't. No, by Gawd, it ayn't!"
shouted James, breaking into a choking fury. He controlled
himself with an effort and added supplicatingly: "Oh, sir, you
ayn't agoing to see it go to H'Australia, w'ere they send
convic's?" He unpinned and flung aside the sheets as though to
let Phaedra plead for herself.
MacMaster sat down again and looked sadly at the doomed
masterpiece. The notion of James having carried it across London
that night rather appealed to his fancy. There was certainly a
flavor about such a highhanded proceeding. "However did you get
it here?" he queried.
"I got a four-wheeler and come over direct, sir. Good job I
'appened to 'ave the chaynge about me."
"You came up High Street, up Piccadilly, through the
Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, and into the Strand?" queried
MacMaster with a relish.
"Yes, sir. Of course, sir, " assented James with surprise.
MacMaster laughed delightedly. "It was a beautiful idea,
James, but I'm afraid we can't carry it any further."
"I was thinkin' as 'ow it would be a rare chance to get you to take
the Marriage over to Paris for a year or two, sir, until the
thing blows over?" suggested James blandly.
"I'm afraid that's out of the question, James. I haven't
the right stuff in me for a pirate, or even a vulgar smuggler,
I'm afraid." MacMaster found it surprisingly difficult to say
this, and he busied himself with the lamp as he said it. He heard
James's hand fall heavily on the trunk top, and he discovered
that he very much disliked sinking in the man's estimation.
"Well, sir," remarked James in a more formal tone, after a
protracted silence; "then there's nothink for it but as 'ow I'll
'ave to make way with it myself."
"And how about your character, James? The evidence would be
heavy against you, and even if Lady Treffinger didn't prosecute
you'd be done for."
"Blow my character!--your pardon, sir," cried James, starting to
his feet. "W'at do I want of a character? I'll chuck the 'ole
thing, and damned lively, too. The shop's to be sold out, an' my
place is gone any'ow. I'm agoing to enlist, or try the gold
fields. I've lived too long with h'artists; I'd never give
satisfaction in livery now. You know 'ow it is yourself, sir;
there ayn't no life like it, no'ow."
For a moment MacMaster was almost equal to abetting James in
his theft. He reflected that pictures had been whitewashed, or
hidden in the crypts of churches, or under the floors of palaces
from meaner motives, and to save them from a fate less
ignominious. But presently, with a sigh, he shook his head.
"No, James, it won't do at all. It has been tried over and
over again, ever since the world has been agoing and pictures
amaking. It was tried in Florence and in Venice, but the
pictures were always carried away in the end. You see, the
difficulty is that although Treffinger told you what was not to
be done with the picture, he did not say definitely what was to
be done with it. Do you think Lady Treffinger really understands
that he did not want it to be sold?"
"Well, sir, it was like this, sir," said James, resuming his seat
on the trunk and again resting the picture against his knee. "My
memory is as clear as glass about it. After Sir 'Ugh got up from
'is first stroke, 'e took a fresh start at the Marriage.
Before that 'e 'ad been working at it only at night for a while
back; the Legend was the big picture then, an' was under the
north light w'ere 'e worked of a morning. But one day 'e bid me
take the Legend down an' put the Marriage in its
place, an' 'e says, dashin' on 'is jacket, 'Jymes, this is a start
for the finish, this time.'
"From that on 'e worked at the night picture in the mornin'--a
thing contrary to 'is custom. The Marriage went wrong, and
wrong--an' Sir 'Ugh agettin' seedier an' seedier every day. 'E
tried models an' models, an' smudged an' pynted out on account of
'er face goin' wrong in the shadow. Sometimes 'e layed it on the
colors, an' swore at me an' things in general. He got that
discouraged about 'imself that on 'is low days 'e used to say to
me: 'Jymes, remember one thing; if anythink 'appens to me, the
Marriage is not to go out of 'ere unfinished. It's worth
the lot of 'em, my boy, an' it's not agoing to go shabby for lack
of pains.' 'E said things to that effect repeated.
"He was workin' at the picture the last day, before 'e went
to 'is club. 'E kept the carriage waitin' near an hour while 'e
put on a stroke an' then drawed back for to look at it, an' then
put on another, careful like. After 'e 'ad 'is gloves on,
'e come back an' took away the brushes I was startin' to clean, an'
put in another touch or two. 'It's acomin', Jymes,' 'e says, 'by
gad if it ayn't.' An' with that 'e goes out. It was cruel sudden,
w'at come after.
"That night I was lookin' to 'is clothes at the 'ouse when
they brought 'im 'ome. He was conscious, but w'en I ran
downstairs for to 'elp lift 'im up, I knowed 'e was a finished
man. After we got 'im into bed 'e kept lookin' restless at me
and then at Lydy Elling and ajerkin' of 'is 'and. Finally 'e
quite raised it an' shot 'is thumb out toward the wall. 'He
wants water; ring, Jymes,' says Lydy Elling, placid. But I
knowed 'e was pointin' to the shop.
"'Lydy Treffinger,' says I, bold, 'he's pointin' to the studio. He