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  • 1919
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them. Here, she repeated, was when affection, generously radiated through life, should have reflected over her a tranquil and contented joy. She had never given it, and she was without the ability to receive. She admitted to herself, with a little annoyed laugh, that her old desire for inviolable charm, for the integrity of a memorable slimness, was unimpaired. It was, she thought, too ridiculously inappropriate for words.

Yet it had changed slightly into the recognition that what so often had been called her beauty was all she now had for sustenance, all she had ever had. Her mind returned continually to Pleydon, and– deep in the mystery of his passion–she was suddenly invaded by an insistent desire to see the monument at Cottarsport. She spoke to Arnaud at once about this; and alone, through his delicacy of perception, Linda went to Boston the following day.

The further ride to Cottarsport followed the sea–a brilliant serene blue, fretted on the landward side by innumerable bare promontories, hideous towns and factories, but bowed in a far unbroken arc at the immaculate horizon. She left the train for a hilly cluster of houses, gray and low like the rock everywhere apparent, dropping to a harbor that bore a company of motionless boats with half-spread drying sails.

The day was at noon, and the sky, blue like the sea, held, still as the anchored schooners, faint, chalky symmetrical clouds. Linda found the Common without guidance; and at once saw, on its immovable base of rugged granite, the bronze statue of Simon Downige. It stood well in advance of what, evidently, was the court-house, the white steeple Dodge had described. She found a bench by a path in the thin grass; and there, her gloved hands folded, at rest in her lap, her gaze and longing were lifted to the fixed aspiration.

From where she sat the seated figure was projected against the sky; Simon’s face was turned toward the west; the West that, for him, was the future, but which for Linda represented all the past. This conviction flooded her with unutterable sadness. A sense of failure weighed on her, no less heavy for the fact that it was perpetually vague. Her thoughts gathered about Dodge himself; and she recalled the curious vividness of his vision of her as a child, perhaps ten. She, too, tried to remember that time and age. It was almost in her grasp, but her realization was spoiled by absurd mental fragments– the familiar illusion of a leopard and a rider with bright hair, a forest with the ascending voices of angels, and an ominous squat figure with a slowly nodding plumed head.

The vista of a hotel returned, a fleet recollection of marble columns and a wide red carpet … the white gleam and carbolized smell of a drug-store … a thick magazine in a brown cover. These, changed into emotions of mingled joy and pain, shifted in bright or dim colors and sensations. There was a slow heavy plodding of feet, now above her head, the passage of a carried weight; and, in a flash of perception, she knew it was a coffin. She raised her clasped hands to her breast, crying into the sunny silence, to the figure of Simon Downige lost in dream:

“He died that night, at the Boscombe, after he had told me about the meadows with silk tents–“

Her memory, thrilling with the echoed miraculous chord of the child of ten, sitting gravely, alone, among the shrill satins and caustic voices of a feminine throng, was complete. She saw herself, Linda Condon, as objectively as Pleydon’s described vision: there was a large bow on her straight black hair, and, from under the bang, her gaze was clear and wondering. How marvelously young she was! The vindictive curiosity of the questioning women, intent on their rings, brought out her eager defense of her mother, the effort to explain away the ugly fact that–that Mr. Jasper was married.

She saw Linda descending the marble stairs to the lower floor where the games were kept in a somber corridor, and heard a voice halting her irresolute passage:

“Hello, Bellina.”

That wasn’t her name, and she corrected him, waiting afterward to listen to a strange fairy-like tale. The solitary, sick-looking man, with inky shadows under fixed eyes, was so actual that she recaptured the pungent drift of his burning cigarette. He talked about love in a bitter intensity that hurt her. Yet, at first, he had said that she was lovely, a touch of her … forever in the memory. Mostly, however, he spoke of a beautiful passion. It had largely vanished, his explanation continued; men had come to worship other things. Plato started it.

She recalled Plato, as well, in connection with Dodge; now, it appeared to her, that remote name had always been at the back of her consciousness. There were other names, other men, of an age long ago in Italy. Their ideal, religion, was contained in the adoration of a woman, but not her body–it was a love of her spirit, the spirit their purity of need recognized, perhaps helped to create. It was a passion as different as possible in essence from all she had observed about her. It was useless for common purposes, withheld from Arnaud Hallet.

The man, seriously addressing the serious uncomprehending interest of ten, proceeded with a description of violins–but she had heard them through all her life–and a parting that left only a white glove for remembrance. Then he had repeated that line, in Italian, which, not long back, her husband had recalled. The old gesture toward the stars, the need to escape fatality–how she had suffered from that!

Yet it was a service of the body, a faith spiritual because, here, it was never to be won, never to be realized in warm embrace. It had no recognition in flesh, and it was the reward of no prayer or humility or righteousness. Only beauty knew and possessed it. His image grew dim like the blurring of his voice by pain and the shadow of death. Linda’s thoughts and longing turned again to Dodge; it seemed to her that he no more than took up the recital where the other was silent.

Pleydon–was it at Markue’s party or later?–talking about “Homer’s children” had meant the creations of great artists, in sound or color or words or form, through that supreme love unrealized in other life. The statue of Simon Downige, towering before her against the sky and above the sea, held in immutable bronze his conviction. The meager bundle and crude stick rested by shoes clogged with mud; Simon’s body was crushed with weariness; but under the sweat-plastered brow his gaze pierced indomitable and undismayed to the vision of a place of truth.

She was choked by a sharp rush of joy at Dodge’s accomplishment, an entire understanding of the beauty he had vainly explained, the deathless communication of old splendid courage, an unshaken divine need, to succeeding men and hope. This had been hers. She had always felt her presence in his success; but, until now, it had belonged exclusively to him. Dodge had, in his love, absorbed her, and that resulted in the statues the world applauded. She, Linda thought, had been an element easily dismissed. It had hurt her pride almost beyond endurance, the pride that took the form of an inner necessity for the survival of her grace–all she had.

She had even asked him, in a passing resentment, why he had never directly modeled her, kept, with his recording genius, the shape of her features. She had gone to him in a blinder vanity for the purpose of stamping her participation in his triumph on the stupid insensibility of their world. How incredible! But at last she could see that he had preserved her spirit, her secret self, from destruction. He had cheated death of her fineness. The delicate perfection of her youth would never perish, never be dulled by old age or corrupted in death. It had inspired and entered into Pleydon’s being, and he had lifted it on the pedestal rising between the sea and sky.

She was in the Luxembourg, in that statue of Cotton Mather, the somber flame, about which he had written with a comment on the changing subjects of his creations. From the moment when he sat beside her on the divan in that room stifling with incense, with the naked glimmer of women’s shoulders, she had been the source of his power. She had been his power. Linda smiled quietly, in retrospect, at her years of uncertainty, the feeling of waste, that had robbed her of peace. How complete her mystification had been! And, all the while, she had had the thrill of delight, of premonition, born in her through the forgotten hour with the man who had died.

The sun, moving in celestial space, shifted the shadow about the base of Simon Downige’s monument. The afternoon was advancing. She rose and turned, looking out over the sea to the horizon as brightly sharp as a curved sword. The life of Cottarsport, below her, proceeded in detached figures, an occasional unhurried passage. The boats in the harbor were slumberous. It was time to go. She gazed again, for a last view, at the bronze seated figure; and a word of Pleydon’s, but rather it was Greek, wove its significance in the placid texture of her thoughts. Its exact shape evaded her, a difficult word to recall–_Katharsis_, the purging of the heart. About her was the beating of the white wings of a Victory sweeping her–a faded slender woman in immaculate gloves and a small matchless hat–into a region without despair.

THE END