The Coast of Bohemia by William Dean Howells
By WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
By BRANDER MATTHEWS
By CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER
THE COAST OF BOHEMIA
By W. D. Howells
NEW YORK AND LONDON HARPER &BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS 1899
Copyright, 1893, 1899, by WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS.
All rights reserved.
In one of the old-fashioned books for children there was a story of
the adventures of a cent (or perhaps that coin of older lineage, a
penny) told by itself, which came into my mind when the publishers
suggested that the readers of a new edition of this book might like to
know how it happened to be written. I promptly fancied the book
speaking, and taking upon itself the burden of autobiography, which we
none of us find very heavy; and no sooner had I done so than I began
actually to hear from it in a narrative of much greater distinctness
than I could have supplied for it.
You must surely remember, it protested to my forgetfulness, that
you first thought of me in anything like definite shape as you stood
looking on at the trotting-races of a county fair in Northern Ohio, and
that I began to gather color and character while you loitered through
the art-building, and dwelt with pitying interest upon the forlorn,
unpromising exhibits there.
But previous to this, my motive existed somewhere in that nebulous
fore-life where both men and books have their impalpable beginning; for
even you cannot have forgotten that when a certain passionately
enterprising young editor asked you for a novel to be printed in his
journal, you so far imagined me as to say that I would be about a girl.
When you looked over those hapless works of art at the Pymantoning
County Fair, you thought, 'What a good thing it would be to have a nice
village girl, with a real but limited gift, go from here to study art
in New York! And get in love there! And married!' Cornelia and her
mother at once stepped out of the inchoate; Ludlow advanced from
another quarter of Chaos, and I began really to be.
The getting me down on paper was a much later affairnearly two
years later. There were earlier engagements to be met; there was an
exciting editorial episode to be got behind you; and there was material
for a veridical representation of the ardent young life of the New York
Synthesis of Art Studies to be gathered as nearly at first hands and as
furtively as possible.
I should be almost ashamed to remind you of the clandestine means
you employed before you were forced to a frankness alien to your
nature, and went and threw yourself on the mercy of a Member who, upon
your avowing your purpose, took you through the schools of the
Synthesis and instructed you in its operation. Not satisfied with this,
you got an undergraduate of the Synthesis to coach you as to its social
side, and while she was consenting to put it all down in writing for
your convenience, you were shamelessly making notes of her
boarding-house, as the very place to have Cornelia come to.
Your methods were at first so secret and uncandid that I wonder I
ever came to be the innocent book I am; and I feel that the credit is
far less due to you than to the friends who helped you. But I am glad
to remember how you got your come-uppings when, long after, a student
of the Synthesis whom you asked, in your latent vanity, how she thought
that social part of me was managed, answered, 'Well, any one could see
that it was studied altogether from the outside, that it wasn't at all
the spirit of the Synthesis.'
It was enough almost to make me doubt myself, but I recovered my
belief in my own truth when I reflected that it was merely a just
punishment for you. I could expose you in other points, if I chose, and
show what slight foundations you built my facts and characters upon;
but perhaps that would be ungrateful. You were at least a doting
parent, if not a wise one, and in your fondness you did your best to
spoil me. You gave me two heroines, and you know very well that before
you were done you did not know but you preferred Charmian to Cornelia.
And you had nothing whatever to build Charmian upon, not the slightest
suggestion from life, where you afterwards encountered her Egyptian
profile! I think I ought to say that you had never been asked to a
Synthesis dance when you wrote that account of one in me; and though
you have often been asked since, you have never had the courage to go
for fear of finding out how little it was like your description.
But if Charmian was created out of nothing, what should you say if
I were frank about the other characters of my story? Could you deny
that the drummer who was first engaged to Cornelia was anything more
than a materialization from seeing a painter very long ago make his two
fingers do a ballet-dance? Or that Ludlow was not at first a mere
pointed beard and a complexion glimpsed in a slim young Cuban one night
at Saratoga? Or that Cornelia's mother existed by any better right than
your once happening to see a poor lady try to hide the gap in her teeth
when she smiled?
When I think what a thing of shreds and patches I am, I wonder that
I have any sort of individual temperament or consciousness at all. But
I know that I have, and that you wrote me with pleasure and like me
still. You think I have form, and that, if I am not very serious, I am
sincere, and that somehow I represent a phase of our droll American
civilization truly enough. I know you were vexed when some people said
I did not go far enough, and insisted that the coast of Bohemia ought
to have been the whole kingdom. As if I should have cared to be that!
There are shady places inland where I should not have liked my girls to
be, and where I think my young men would not have liked to meet them;
and I am glad you kept me within the sweet, pure breath of the sea. I
think I am all the better book for that, and, if you are fond of me,
you have your reasons. I
Upon my word, I interrupted at this point, it seems to me that
you are saying rather more for yourself than I could say for you, if
you are one of my spoiled children. Don't you think we had both
better give the reader a chance, now?
Oh, if there are to be any readers! cried the book, and lapsed
into the silence of print.
[Illustration: W. D. Howells.]
THE COAST OF BOHEMIA.
The forty-sixth annual fair of the Pymantoning County Agricultural
Society was in its second day. The trotting-matches had begun, and the
vast majority of the visitors had abandoned the other features of the
exhibition for this supreme attraction. They clustered four or five
deep along the half-mile of railing that enclosed the track, and sat
sweltering in the hot September sun, on the benching of the grandstand
that flanked a stretch of the course. Boys selling lemonade and
peanuts, and other boys with the score of the races, made their way up
and down the seats with shrill cries; now and then there was a shriek
of girls' laughter from a group of young people calling to some other
group, or struggling for a programme caught back and forth; the young
fellows shouted to each other jokes that were lost in mid-air; but, for
the most part, the crowd was a very silent one, grimly intent upon the
rival sulkies as they flashed by and lost themselves in the clouds that
thickened over the distances of the long, dusty loop. Here and there
some one gave a shout as a horse broke, or settled down to his work
under the guttural snarl of his driver; at times the whole throng burst
into impartial applause as a horse gained or lost a length; but the
quick throb of the hoofs on the velvety earth and the whir of the
flying wheels were the sounds that chiefly made themselves heard.
The spectacle had the importance which multitude givers, and Ludlow
found in it the effects which he hoped to get again in his impression.
He saw the deep purples which he looked to see with eyes trained by the
French masters of his school to find them, and the indigo blues, the
intense greens, the rainbow oranges and scarlets; and he knew just how
he should give them. In the light of that vast afternoon sky,
cloudless, crystalline in its clearness, no brilliancy of rendering
could be too bold.
If he had the courage of his convictions, this purely American event
could be reported on his canvas with all its native character; and yet
it could be made to appeal to the enlightened eye with the charm of a
French subject, and impressionism could be fully justified of its
follower in Pymantoning as well as in Paris. That golden dust along the
track; the level tops of the buggies drawn up within its ellipse, and
the groups scattered about in gypsy gayety on the grass there; the dark
blur of men behind the barrier; the women, with their bright hats and
parasols, massed flower-like,all made him long to express them in
lines and dots and breadths of pure color. He had caught the vital
effect of the whole, and he meant to interpret it so that its truth
should be felt by all who had received the light of the new faith in
painting, who believed in the prismatic colors as in the ten
commandments, and who hoped to be saved by tone-contrasts. For the
others, Ludlow was at that day too fanatical an impressionist to care.
He owed a duty to France no less than to America, and he wished to
fulfil it in a picture which should at once testify to the excellence
of the French method and the American material. At twenty-two, one is
often much more secure and final in one's conclusions than one is
He was vexed that a lingering doubt of the subject had kept him from
bringing a canvas with him at once, and recording his precious first
glimpses of it. But he meant to come to the trotting-match the next day
again, and then he hoped to get back to his primal impression of the
scene, now so vivid in his mind. He made his way down the benches, and
out of the enclosure of the track. He drew a deep breath, full of the
sweet smell of the bruised grass, forsaken now by nearly all the feet
that had trodden it. A few old farmers, who had failed to get places
along the railing and had not cared to pay for seats on the stand, were
loitering about, followed by their baffled and disappointed wives. The
men occasionally stopped at the cattle-pens, but it was less to look at
the bulls and boars and rams which had taken the premiums, and wore
cards or ribbons certifying the fact, than to escape a consciousness of
their partners, harassingly taciturn or voluble in their reproach. A
number of these embittered women brokenly fringed the piazza of the
fair-house, and Ludlow made his way toward them with due sympathy for
their poor little tragedy, so intelligible to him through the memories
of his own country-bred youth. He followed with his pity those who
sulked away through the deserted aisles of the building, and nursed
their grievance among the prize fruits and vegetables, and the fruits
and vegetables that had not taken the prizes. They were more censorious
than they would have been perhaps if they had not been defeated
themselves; he heard them dispute the wisdom of most of the awards as
the shoutings and clappings from the racetrack penetrated the lonely
hall. They creaked wearily up and down in their new shoes or best
shoes, and he knew how they wished themselves at home and in bed, and
wondered why they had ever been such fools as to come, anyway.
Occasionally, one of their husbands lagged in, as if in search of his
wife, but kept at a safe distance, after seeing her, or hung about with
a group of other husbands, who could not be put to shame or suffering
as they might if they had appeared singly.
Ludlow believed that if the right fellow ever came to the work, he
could get as much pathos out of our farm folks as Millet got out of his
Barbizon peasants. But the fact was that he was not the fellow; he
wanted to paint beauty not pathos; and he thought, so far as he thought
ethically about it, that, the Americans needed to be shown the festive
and joyous aspects of their common life. To discover and to represent
these was his pleasure as an artist, and his duty as a citizen. He
suspected, though, that the trotting-match was the only fact of the
Pymantoning County Fair that could be persuaded to lend itself to his
purpose. Certainly, there was nothing in the fair-house, with those
poor, dreary old people straggling through it, to gladden an artistic
conception. Agricultural implements do not group effectively, or pose
singly with much picturesqueness; tall stalks of corn, mammoth
squashes, huge apples and potatoes want the beauty and quality that
belong to them out of doors, when they are gathered into the sections
of a county fair-house; piles of melons fail of their poetry on a
wooden floor, and heaps of grapes cannot assert themselves in a very
bacchanal profusion against the ignominy of being spread upon long
tables and ticketed with the names of their varieties and exhibitors.
Ludlow glanced at them, to right and left, as he walked through the
long, barn-like building, and took in with other glances the inadequate
decorations of the graceless interior. His roving eye caught the
lettering over the lateral archways, and with a sort of contemptuous
compassion he turned into the Fine Arts Department.
The fine arts were mostly represented by photographs and crazy
quilts; but there were also tambourines and round brass plaques painted
with flowers, and little satin banners painted with birds or autumn
leaves, and gilt rolling-pins with vines. There were medley-pictures
contrived of photographs cut out and grouped together in novel and
unexpected relations; and there were set about divers patterns and
pretences in keramics, as the decoration of earthen pots and jars was
called. Besides these were sketches in oil and charcoal, which Ludlow
found worse than the more primitive things, with their second-hand
chic picked up in a tenth-rate school. He began to ask himself
whether people tasteless enough to produce these inanities and imagine
them artistic, could form even the subjects of art; he began to have
doubts of his impression of the trotting-match, its value, its
possibility of importance. The senseless ugliness of the things really
hurt him: his worship of beauty was a sort of religion, and their
badness was a sort of blasphemy. He could not laugh at them; he wished
he could; and his first impulse was to turn and escape from the Fine
Arts Department, and keep what little faith in the artistic future of
the country he had been able to get together during his long sojourn
out of it. Since his return he had made sure of the feeling for color
and form with which his country-women dressed themselves. There was no
mistake about that; even here, in the rustic heart of the continent he
had seen costumes which had touch and distinction; and it could not be
that the instinct which they sprang from should go for nothing in the
arts supposed higher than mantua-making and millinery. The village
girls whom he saw so prettily gowned and picturesquely hatted on the
benches out there by the race-course, could it have been they who
committed these atrocities? Or did these come up from yet deeper depths
of the country, where the vague, shallow talk about art going on for
the past decade was having its first crude effect? Ludlow was
exasperated as well as pained, for he knew that the pretty frocks and
hats expressed a love of dressing prettily, which was honest and
genuine enough, while the unhappy effects about him could spring only
from a hollow vanity far lower than a woman's wish to be charming. It
was not an innate impulse which produced them, but a sham ambition,
implanted from without, and artificially stimulated by the false and
fleeting mood of the time. They must really hamper the growth of
æsthetic knowledge among people who were not destitute of the instinct.
He exaggerated the importance of the fact with the sensitiveness of
a man to whom æsthetic cultivation was all-important. It appeared to
him a far greater evil than it was; it was odious to him, like a vice;
it was almost a crime. He spent a very miserable time in the Fine Arts
Department of the Pymantoning County Agricultural Fair; and in a kind
of horrible fascination he began to review the collection in detail, to
guess its causes in severalty and to philosophize its lamentable
In this process Ludlow discovered that there was more of the Fine
Arts Department than he had supposed at first. He was aware of some
women who had come into the next aisle or section, and presently he
overheard fragments of their talk.
A girl's voice said passionately: I don't care! I shan't leave them
here for folks to make remarks about! I knew they wouldn't take the
premium, and I hope you're satisfied now, mother.
Well, you're a very silly child, came in an older voice,
suggestive of patience and amiability. Don't tear them, anyway!
I shall! I don't care if I tear them all to pieces.
There was a sound of quick steps, and of the angry swirl of skirts,
and the crackling and rending of paper.
There, now! said the older voice. You've dropped one.
I don't care! I hope they'll trample it under their great stupid
The paper, whatever it was, came skating out under the draped
tabling in the section where Ludlow stood, arrested in his sad
employment by the unseen drama, and lay at his feet. He picked it up,
and he had only time to glance at it before he found himself confronted
by a fiercely tearful young girl who came round the corner of his
section, and suddenly stopped at sight of him. With one hand she
pressed some crumpled sheets of paper against, her breast; the other
she stretched toward Ludlow.
Oh! will you she began, and then she faltered; and as she
turned her little head aside for a backward look over her shoulder, she
made him, somehow, think of a hollyhock, by the tilt of her tall, slim,
young figure, and by the colors of her hat from which her face
flowered; no doubt the deep-crimson silk waist she wore, with its
petal-edged ruffle flying free down her breast, had something to do
with his fantastic notion. She was a brunette, with the lightness and
delicacy that commonly go with the beauty of a blonde. She could not
have been more than fifteen; her skirts had not yet matured to the full
womanly length; she was still a child.
A handsome, mild, middle-aged woman appeared beside the stormy young
thing, and said in the voice which Ludlow had already heard, Well,
Cornelia! She seemed to make more account than the girl made of the
young fellow's looks. He was of the medium height for a man, but he was
so slight that he seemed of lower stature, and he eked out an effect of
distinction by brushing his little moustache up sharply at the corners
in a fashion he had learned in France, and by wearing a little black
dot of an imperial. His brow was habitually darkened by a careworn
frown, which came from deep and anxious thinking about the principles
and the practice of art. He was very well dressed, and he carried
himself with a sort of worldly splendor which did not intimidate the
lady before him. In the country women have no more apprehension of men
who are young and stylish and good-looking than they have in the city;
they rather like them to be so, and meet them with confidence in any
The lady said, Oh, thank you, as Ludlow came up to the girl with
the paper, and then she laughed with no particular intention, and said,
It's one of my daughter's drawings.
Oh, indeed! said Ludlow, with a quick perception of the mother's
pride in it, and of all the potentialities of prompt intimacy. It's
Well, I think so, said the lady, while the girl darkled and
bridled in young helplessness. If she knew that her mother ought not to
be offering a stranger her confidence like that, she did not know what
to do about it. She was just going to take them home, said the mother
I'm sorry, said Ludlow. I seem to be a day after the fair, as far
as they're concerned.
Well, I don't know, said the mother, with the same amiable
vagueness. She had some teeth gone, and when she smiled she tried to
hide their absence on the side next Ludlow; but as she was always
smiling she did not succeed perfectly. She looked doubtfully at her
daughter, in the manner of mothers whom no severity of snubbing can
teach that their daughters when well-grown girls can no longer be
treated as infants. I don't know as you'd think you had lost much. We
didn't expect they would take the premium, a great deal.
I should hope not, said Ludlow. The competition was bad enough.
The mother seemed to divine a compliment in this indefinite speech.
She said: Well, I don't see myself why they didn't take it.
There was probably no one to feel how much better they were, said
Well, that's what I think, said the mother, and it's what
I tell her. She stood looking from Ludlow to her daughter and back,
and now she ventured, seeing him so intent on the sketch he still held,
You an artist?
A student of art, said Ludlow, with the effect of uncovering
himself in a presence.
The mother did not know what to make of it apparently; she said
blankly, Oh! and then added impressively, to her daughter: Why don't
you show them to him, Cornelia?
I should think it a great favor, said Ludlow, intending to be
profoundly respectful. But he must have overdone it. The girl
majestically gave her drawings to her mother, and marched out of the
Ludlow ignored her behavior, as if it had nothing to do with the
question, and began to look at the drawings, one after another, with
various inarticulate notes of comment imitated from a great French
master, and with various foreign phrases, such as Bon! Bon! Pas
mauvais! Joli! Chic! He seemed to waken from them to a
consciousness of the mother, and returned to English. They are very
interesting. Has she had instruction?
Only in the High School, here. And she didn't seem to care any for
that. She seems to want to work more by herself.
That's wrong, said Ludlow, though she's probably right about the
The mother made bold to ask, Where are you taking lessons?
I? said Ludlow, dreamily. Oh! everywhere.
I thought, perhaps, the mother began, and she stopped, and then
resumed, How many lessons do you expect to take?
Ludlow descended from the high horse which he saw it was really
useless for him to ride in that simple presence. I didn't mean that I
was a student of art in that sense, exactly. I suppose I'm a painter of
some sort. I studied in Paris, and I'm working in New Yorkif that's
what you mean.
Yes, said the lady, as if she did not know quite what she meant.
Ludlow still remained in possession of the sketches, and he now
looked at them with a new knot between his eyebrows. He had known at
the first glance, with the perception of one who has done things in any
art, that here was the possibility of things in his art, and he had
spoken from a generous and compassionate impulse, from his recognition
of the possibility, and from his sympathy with the girl in her defeat.
Now his conscience began to prick him. He asked himself whether he had
any right to encourage her, whether he ought not rather to warn her. He
asked her mother: Has she been doing this sort of thing long?
Ever since she was a little bit of a thing, said the mother. You
might say she's been doing it ever since she could do anything; and
she ain't but about fifteen, now. Well, she's going on
sixteen, the mother added, scrupulously. She was born the third of
July, and now it's the beginning of September. So she's just fifteen
years and a little over two months. I suppose she's too young to
commence taking lessons regularly?
No one would be too young for that, said Ludlow, austerely, with
his eyes on the sketch. He lifted them, and bent them frankly and
kindly on the mother's face. And were you thinking of her going on?
The mother questioned him for his exact meaning with the sweet unwisdom
of her smile. Did you think of her becoming an artist, a painter?
Well, she returned, I presume she would have as good a chance as
anybody, if she had the talent for it.
She has the talent for it, said Ludlow, and she would have a
better chance than mostthat's very little to saybut it's a terribly
Yes, the mother faltered, smiling.
Yes. It's a hard road for a man, and it's doubly hard for a woman.
It means work that breaks the back and wrings the brain. It means for a
woman, tears, and hysterics, and nervous prostration, and
insanitysome of them go wild over it. The conditions are bad air, and
long hours, and pitiless criticism; and the rewards are slight and
uncertain. One out of a hundred comes to anything at all; one out of a
thousand to anything worth while. New York is swarming with girl
art-students. They mostly live in poor boarding-houses, and some of
them actually suffer from hunger and cold. For men the profession is
hazardous, arduous; for women it's a slow anguish of endeavor and
disappointment. Most shop-girls earn more than most fairly successful
art-students for years; most servant-girls fare better. If you are
rich, and your daughter wishes to amuse herself by studying art, it's
all very well; but even then I wouldn't recommend it as an amusement.
If you're poor
I presume, the mother interrupted, that she would be
self-supporting by the time she had taken six months' lessons, and I
guess she could get along till then.
Ludlow stared at the amiably smiling creature. From her unruffled
composure his warning had apparently fallen like water from the back of
a goose. He saw that it would be idle to go on, and he stopped short
and waited for her to speak again.
If she was to go to New York to take lessons, how do you think
she'd better She seemed not to know enough of the situation to
formulate her question farther. He had pity on her ignorance, though he
doubted whether he ought to have.
Oh, go into the Synthesis, he said briefly.
Yes; the Synthesis of Art Studies; it's the only thing. The work is
hard, but it's thorough; the training's excellent, if you live through
Oh, I guess she'd live through it, said the mother with a laugh.
She added, I don't know as I know just what you mean by the Synthesis
of Art Studies.
It's a society that the art-students have formed. They have their
own building, and casts, and models; the principal artists have classes
among them. You submit a sketch, and if you get in you work away till
you drop, if you're in earnest, or till you're bored, if you're amusing
And should you think, said the mother gesturing toward him with
the sketches in her hand, that she could get in?
I think she could, said Ludlow, and he acted upon a sudden
impulse. He took a card from his pocketbook, and gave it to the mother.
If you'll look me up when you come to New York, or let me know, I may
be of use to you, and I shall be very glad to put you in the way of
getting at the Synthesis.
Thanks, the mother drawled with her eyes on the card. She probably
had no clear sense of the favor done her. She lifted her eyes and
smiled on Ludlow with another kind of intelligence. You're visiting at
Yes, said Ludlow, remembering after a moment of surprise how
pervasive the fact of a stranger's presence in a village is. Mr.
Burton can tell you who I am, he added in some impatience with her
renewed scrutiny of his card.
Oh, it's all right, she said, and she put it in her pocket, and
then she began to drift away a little. Well, I'm sure I'm much obliged
to you. She hesitated a moment, and then she said, Well, good
Good-by, said Ludlow, and he lifted his hat and stood bowing her
out of the Fine Arts Department, while she kept her eyes on him to the
last with admiration and approval.
Well, I declare, Cornelia, she burst out to her daughter, whom she
found glowering at the agricultural implements, that is about
the nicest fellow! Do you know what he's done? She stopped and began a
search for her pocket, which ended successfully. He's given me his
name, and told me just what you're to do. And when you get to New York,
if you ever do, you can go right straight to him.
She handed Ludlow's card to the girl, who instantly tore it to
pieces without looking at it. I'll never go to himhorrid, mean,
cross old thing! And you go and talk about me to a perfect stranger as
if I were a baby. And now he'll go and laugh at you with the Burtons,
and they'll say it's just like you to say everything that comes into
your head, that way, and think everybody's as nice as they seem. But
he isn't nice! He's horrid, and conceited,
andandhateful. And I shall never study art anywhere. And I'd
die before I asked him to help me. He was just making fun of
you all the time, and anybody but you would see it, mother! Comparing
me to a hired girl!
No, I don't think he did that, Cornelia, said the mother
with some misgiving. I presume he may have been a little touched up by
your pictures, and wanted to put me down about them
Oh, mother, mother, mother! The girl broke into tears over the
agricultural implements. They were the dust under his feet.
Why, Cornelia, how you talk!
I wish you wouldn't talk, mother! I've asked you a thousand
times, if I've asked you once, not to talk about me with anybody, and
here you go and tell everything that you can think of to a person that
you never saw before.
What did I tell him about you? asked her mother, with the
uncertainty of ladies who say a great deal.
You told him how old I was almost to a day!
Oh, well, that wasn't anything! I saw he'd got to know if he was to
give any opinion about your going on that was worth having.
It'll be all over town, to-morrow. Well, never mind! It's the last
time you'll ever have a chance to do it. I'll never, never, never touch
a pencil to draw with again! Never! You've done it now, mother!
I don't care! I'll help you with your work, all you want, but don't
ever ask me to draw a single thing after this. I guess he wouldn't have
much to say about the style of a bonnet, or set of a dress, if it
The girl swept out of the building with tragedy-queen strides that
refused to adjust themselves to the lazy, lounging pace of her mother,
and carried her homeward so swiftly that she had time to bang the front
gate and the front door, and her own room door and lock it, and be
crying on the bed with her face in the pillow, long before her mother
reached the house. The mother wore a face of unruffled serenity, and as
there was no one near to see, she relaxed her vigilance, and smiled
with luxurious indifference to the teeth she had lost.
Ludlow found his friend Burton smoking on his porch when he came
back from the fair, and watching with half-shut eyes the dust that
overhung the street. Some of the farmers were already beginning to
drive home, and their wheels sent up the pulverous clouds which the
western sun just tinged with red; Burton got the color under the lower
boughs of the maple grove of his deep door-yard.
Well, he called out, in a voice expressive of the temperament
which kept him content with his modest fortune and his village
circumstance, when he might have made so much more and spent so much
more in the world outside, did you get your picture?
Ludlow was only half-way up the walk from the street when the
question met him, and he waited to reach the piazza steps before he
Oh, yes, I think I've got it. By this time Mrs. Burton had
appeared at the hall door-way, and stood as if to let him decide
whether he would come into the house, or join her husband outside. He
turned aside to take a chair near Burton's, tilted against the wall,
but he addressed himself to her.
Mrs. Burton, who is rather a long-strung, easy-going, good-looking,
middle-aged lady, with a daughter about fifteen years old, extremely
pretty and rather peppery, who draws?
Mrs. Burton at once came out, and sat sidewise in the hammock,
facing the two men.
How were they dressed?
Ludlow told as well as he could; he reserved his fancy of the girl's
being like a hollyhock.
Was the daughter pretty?
Yes, 'all that's best of dark and bright.'
Were they both very graceful?
Very graceful indeed.
Why it must be Mrs. Saunders. Where did you see them?
In the Art Department.
Yes. She came to ask me whether I would exhibit some of Cornelia's
drawings, if I were she.
And you told her you would? her husband asked, taking his pipe out
for the purpose.
Of course I did. That was what she wished me to tell her.
Burton turned to Ludlow. Had they taken many premiums?
No; the premiums had been bestowed on the crazy quilts and the
medley pictureswhat extraordinarily idiotic inventions!and Miss
Saunders was tearing down her sketches in the next section. One of them
slipped through on the floor, and they came round after it to where I
And so you got acquainted with Mrs. Saunders? said Mrs. Burton.
No. But I got intimate, said Ludlow. I sympathized with her, and
she advised with me about her daughter's art-education.
What did you advise her to do? asked Burton.
Not to have her art-educated.
Why, don't you think she has talent? Mrs. Burton demanded, with a
touch of resentment.
Oh, yes. She has beauty, too. Nothing is commoner than the talent
and beauty of American girls. But they'd better trust to their beauty.
I don't think so, said Mrs. Burton, with spirit.
You can see how she's advised Mrs. Saunders, said Burton, winking
the eye next Ludlow.
Well, you mustn't be vexed with me, Mrs. Burton, Ludlow replied to
her. I don't think she'll take my advice, especially as I put it in
the form of warning. I told her how hard the girl would have to work:
but I don't think she quite understood. I told her she had talent, too;
and she did understand that; there was something uncommon in the
child's work; somethingdifferent. Who are they, Mrs. Burton?
Isn't there! cried Mrs. Burton. I'm glad you told the poor
thing that. I thought they'd take the premium. I was going to tell you
about her daughter. Mrs. Saunders must have been awfully disappointed.
She didn't seem to suffer much, Ludlow suggested.
No, Mrs. Burton admitted, she doesn't suffer much about anything.
If she did she would have been dead long ago. First, her husband blown
up by his saw-mill boiler, and then one son killed in a railroad
accident, and another taken down with pneumonia almost the same day!
And she goes on, smiling in the face of death
And looking out that he doesn't see how many teeth she's lost,
Ludlow laughed at the accuracy of the touch.
Mrs. Burton retorted, Why shouldn't she? Her good looks and her
good nature are about all she has left in the world, except this
Are they very poor? asked Ludlow, gently.
Oh, nobody's very poor in Pymantoning, said Mrs. Burton.
And Mrs. Saunders has her business,when she's a mind to work at it.
I suppose she has it, even when she hasn't a mind to work at it,
said Burton, making his pipe purr with a long, deep inspiration of
satisfaction. I know I have mine.
What is her business? asked Ludlow.
Well, she's a dressmaker and millinerwhen she is. Mrs.
Burton stated the fact with the effect of admitting it. You mustn't
suppose that makes any difference. In a place like Pymantoning, she's
'as good as anybody,' and her daughter has as high social standing. You
can't imagine how Arcadian we are out here.
Oh, yes, I can; I've lived in a village, said Ludlow.
A New England village, yes; but the lines are drawn just as hard
and fast there as they are in a city. You have to live in the West to
understand what equality is, and in a purely American population, like
this. You've got plenty of independence, in New England, but you
haven't got equality, and we have,or used to have. Mrs.
Burton added the final words with apparent conscience.
Just saved your distance, Polly, said her husband. We haven't got
equality now, any more than we've got buffalo. I don't believe we ever
had buffalo in this section; but we did have deer once; and when I was
a boy here, venison was three cents a pound, and equality cheaper yet.
When they cut off the woods the venison and the equality disappeared;
they always do when the woods are cut off.
There's enough of it left for all practical purposes, and Mrs.
Saunders moves in the first circles of Pymantoning, said Mrs. Burton.
When she does move, said Burton. She doesn't like
Well, she has the greatest taste, and if you can get her to do
anything for you your fortune's made. But it's a favor. She'll take a
thing that you've got home from the city, and that you're frantic
about, it's so bad, and smile over it a little, and touch it here and
there, and it comes out a miracle of style and becomingness. It's like
She was charming, said Ludlow, in dreamy reminiscence.
Isn't she? Mrs. Burton demanded. And her daughter gets all
her artistic talent from her. Mrs. Saunders is an artist, though
I don't suppose you like to admit it of a dressmaker.
Oh, yes, I do, said Ludlow. I don't see why a man or woman who
drapes the human figure in stuffs, isn't an artist as well as the man
or woman who drapes it in paint or clay.
Well, that's sense, Mrs. Burton began.
She didn't know you had any, Ludlow, her husband explained.
Mrs. Burton did not regard him. If she had any ambition she would
be anythingjust like some other lazy-boots, and now she gave the
large, dangling congress gaiter of her husband a little push with the
point of her slipper, for purposes of identification, as the newspapers
say. But the only ambition she's got is for her daughter, and she
is proud of her, and she would spoil her if she could get up the
energy. She dotes on her, and Nie is fond of her mother, too. Do you
think she can ever do anything in art?
If she were a boy, I should say yes; as she's a girl, I don't
know, said Ludlow. The chances are against her.
Nature's against her, too, said Burton.
Human nature ought to be for her, then, said Mrs. Burton.
If she were your sister what should you wish her to be? she asked
I should wish her to beLudlow thought a moment and then
Well, that's a shame! cried Mrs. Burton.
Her husband laughed, while he knocked the ashes out of his pipe
against the edge of his chair-seat. Rough on the holy estate of
Oh, pshaw! I believe as much in the holy estate of matrimony as
anybody, but I don't believe it's the begin-all or the end-all for a
woman, any more than it is for a man. What, Katy? she spoke to a girl
who appeared and disappeared in the doorway. Oh! Well, come in to
supper, now. I hope you have an appetite, Mr. Ludlow. Mr. Burton's such
a delicate eater, and I like to have some_body keep me in
countenance. She suddenly put her hand on the back of her husband's
chair, and sprung it forward from its incline against the wall, with a
violence that bounced him fearfully, and extorted a roar of protest
They were much older than Ludlow, and they permitted themselves the
little rowdy freedoms that good-natured married people sometimes use,
as fearlessly in his presence as if he were a grown-up nephew. They
prized him as a discovery of their own, for they had stumbled on him
one day before any one else had found him out, when he was sketching at
Fontainebleau. They liked the look of his picture, as they viewed it at
a decent remove over his shoulder, and after they got by Burton
proposed to go back and kill the fellow on account of the solemn
coxcombery of his personal appearance. His wife said: Well, ask him
what he'll take for his picture, first, and Burton returned and said
with brutal directness, while he pointed at the canvas with his stick,
Combien? When Ludlow looked round up at him and answered with
a pleasant light in his eye, Well, I don't know exactly. What'll you
give? Burton spared his life, and became his friend. He called his
wife to him, and they bought the picture, and afterwards they went to
Ludlow's lodging, for he had no studio, and conscientiously painted in
the open air, and bought others. They got the pictures dog cheap, as
Burton said, for Ludlow was just beginning then, and his reputation
which has never since become cloud-capt, was a tender and lowly plant.
They made themselves like a youngish aunt and uncle to him, and had him
with them all they could while they stayed in Paris. When they came
home they brought the first impressionistic pictures ever seen in the
West; at Pymantoning, the village cynic asked which was right side up,
and whether he was to stand on his head or not to get them in range.
Ludlow remained in France, which he maintained had the only sun for
impressionism; and then he changed his mind all at once, and under an
impulse of sudden patriotism, declared for the American sky, and the
thin, crystalline, American air. His faith included American subjects,
and when, after his arrival in New York, Burton wrote to claim a visit
from him and ironically proposed the trotting-match at the County Fair
as an attraction for his pencil, Ludlow remembered the trotting-matches
he had seen in his boyhood, and came out to Pymantoning with a
seriousness of expectation that alarmed and then amused his friends.
He was very glad that he had come, and that night, after the supper
which lasted well into the early autumn lamp-light, he went out and
walked the village streets under the September moon, seeing his picture
everywhere before him, and thinking his young, exultant thoughts. The
maples were set so thick along the main street that they stood like a
high, dark wall on either side, and he looked up at the sky as from the
bottom of a chasm. The village houses lurked behind their door-yard
trees, with breadths of autumnal bloom in the gardens beside them.
Within their shadowy porches, or beside their gates, was
The delight of happy laughter,
The delight of low replies,
hushing itself at his approach, and breaking out again at his
retreat. The air seemed full of love, and in the midst of his proud,
gay hopes, he felt smitten with sudden isolation, such as youth knows
in the presence of others' passion. He walked back to Burton's rather
pensively, and got up to his room and went to bed after as little stay
for talk with his hosts as he could make decent; he did not like to
break with his melancholy.
He was roused from his first sleep by the sound of singing, which
seemed to stop with his waking. There came a confused murmur of girls'
and young men's voices, and Ludlow could see from his open window the
dim shapes of the serenaders in the dark of the trees below. Then they
were still, and all at once the silence was filled with a rich
contralto note, carrying the song, till the whole choir of voices took
up the burden. Nothing prettier could have happened anywhere in the
world. Ludlow hung rapt upon the music till Burton flung up his window,
as if to thank the singers. They stopped at the sound, and with gay
shouts and shrieks, and a medley of wild laughter, skurried away into
the farther darkness, where Ludlow heard them begin their serenade
again under distant windows as little localized as any space of the
Ludlow went back to New York and took up his work with vigor and
with fervor. The picture of the County Fair, which he exhibited at the
American Artists', ran a gauntlet of criticism in which it was
belabored at once for its unimaginative vulgarity and its fantastic
unreality; then it returned to his studio and remained unsold, while
the days, weeks, months and years went by and left each their fine
trace on him. His purposes dropped away, mostly unfulfilled, as he grew
older and wiser, but his dreams remained and he was still rich in a
vast future. His impressionism was somewhat modified; he offered his
palette less frequently to the public; he now and then permitted a
black object to appear in his pictures; his purples and greens were
less aggressive. His moustache had grown so thick that it could no
longer be brushed up at the points with just the effect he desired, and
he suffered it to branch straight across his cheeks; his little dot of
an imperial had become lost in the beard which he wore so
conscientiously trimmed to a point that it might be described as
religiously pointed. He was now twenty-seven.
At sixteen Cornelia Saunders had her first love-affair. It was with
a young man who sold what he called art-goods by samplesatin banners,
gilt rolling-pins, brass disks and keramics; he had permitted himself
to speak to her on the train coming over from the Junction, where she
took the cars for Pymantoning one afternoon after a day's shopping with
her mother in Lakeland. It did not last very long, and in fact it
hardly survived the brief stay which the young man made in Pymantoning,
where his want of success in art-goods was probably owing to the fact
that he gave his whole time to Cornelia, or rather Cornelia's mother,
whom he found much more conversable; he played upon the banjo for her,
and he danced a little clog-dance in her parlor, which was also her
shop, to the accompaniment of his own whistling, first setting aside
the bonnet-trees with their scanty fruitage of summer hats, and pushing
the show-table against the wall. Won't hurt 'em a mite, he reassured
her, and he struck her as a careful as well as accomplished young man.
His passion for Cornelia lingered a while in letters, which he proposed
in parting, and then, about six months later, Mrs. Saunders received
the newspaper announcement of his marriage to Miss Tweety Byers of
Lakeland. There were No Cards, but Mrs. Saunders made out, with Mrs.
Burton's help, that Tweety was the infantile for the pet name of
Sweety; and the marriage seemed a fit union for one so warm and true as
the young traveller in art-goods.
Mrs. Saunders was a good deal surprised, but she did not suffer
keenly from the disappointment which she had innocently done her best
to bring upon her daughter. Cornelia, who had been the passive
instrument of her romance, did not suffer from it at all, having always
objected to the thickness of the young man's hands, and to the early
baldness which gave him the Shakespearian brow he had so little use
for. She laughed his memory to scorn, and employed the episode as best
she could in quelling her mother's simple trust of passing strangers.
They worked along together, in the easy, unambitious village fashion,
and kept themselves in the average comfort, while the time went by and
Cornelia had grown from a long, lean child to a tall and stately young
girl, who carried herself with so much native grace and pride that she
had very little attention from the village youth. She had not even a
girl friendship, and her chief social resource was in her intimacy at
the Burtons. She borrowed books of them, and read a good deal; and when
she was seventeen she rubbed up her old studies and got a teacher's
certificate for six months, and taught a summer term in a district at
Burnt Pastures. She came home in the fall, and when she called at the
Burtons' to get a book, as usual, Mrs. Burton said, Nelie, you're not
feeling very well, are you? Somehow you looked fagged.
Well, I do feel queer, said the girl. I seem to be in a kind of
dream. Itscares me. I'm afraid I'm going to be sick.
Oh, I guess not, Mrs. Burton answered comfortably. You're just
tired out. How did you like your school?
I hated it, said the girl, with a trembling chin and wet eyes. I
don't believe I'm fit for teaching. I won't try it any more; I'll stay
at home and help mother.
You ought to keep up your drawing, said Mrs. Burton in general
admonition. Do you draw any now?
Nothing much, said the girl.
I should think you would, to please your mother. Don't you care
anything for it yourself?
Yes; but I haven't the courage I had when I thought I knew it all.
I don't think I should ever amount to anything. It would be a waste of
I don't think so, said Mrs. Burton. I believe you could be a
The girl laughed. What ever became of that painter who visited you
year before last at fair time?
Mr. Ludlow? Oh, he's in New York. He thought your sketches
were splendid, Nelie.
He said the girls half-killed themselves there studying art.
Did he? demanded Mrs. Burton with a note of wrath in her voice.
Mm. He told mother so that day.
He had no business to say such a thing before you. Was that what
Oh, I don't know. I got discouraged. Of course, I should like to
please mother. How much do you suppose it would cost a person to live
in New York? I don't mean take a room and board yourself; I shouldn't
like to do that; but everything included.
I don't know, indeed, Nelie. Jim always kept the accounts when we
were there, and we stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel.
Do you suppose it would be twice as much as it is here? Five
dollars a week?
Yes, I'm afraid it would, Mrs. Burton admitted.
I've got sixty-five dollars from my school. I suppose it would keep
me three months in New York, if I was careful. But I'm not going to
throw it away on any such wild scheme as that. I know that
They talked away from the question, and then talked back to it
several times, after they had both seemed to abandon it. At last Mrs.
Burton said, Why don't you let me write to Mr. Ludlow, Nelie, and ask
him all about it?
The girl jumped to her feet in a fright. If you do, Mrs. Burton,
I'll kill myself! No, I didn't mean to say that. But I'll never speak
to you again. Now you won't really, will you?
No, I won't, Nelie, if you don't want me to; but I don't see
why Why, bless the child!
Mrs. Burton sprang forward and caught the girl, who was reeling as
if she were going to fall. Katy! Katy! Bring some water here, quick!
When they had laid Cornelia on a sofa and restored her from her
faint, Mrs. Burton would not let her try to rise. She sent out to
Burton, who was reading a novel in the mild forenoon air under the
crimson maples, and made him get the carryall and take Cornelia home in
it. They thought they would pretend that they were out for a drive, and
were merely dropping her at her mother's door; but no ruse was
necessary. Mrs. Saunders tranquilly faced the fact; she said she
thought the child hadn't been herself since she got back from her
school, and she guessed she had better have the doctor now.
It was toward the end of January before Cornelia was well enough to
be about in the old way, after her typhoid fever. Once she was so low
that the rumor of her death went out; but when this proved false it was
known for a good sign, and no woman, at least, was surprised when she
began to get well. She was delirious part of the time, and then she
raved constantly about Ludlow, and going to New York to study art. It
was a mere superficial effect from her talk with Mrs. Burton just
before she was taken down with the fever; but it was pathetic, all the
same, to hear her pleading with him, quarrelling, protesting that she
was strong enough, and that she was not afraid but that she should get
through all right if he would only tell her how to begin. Now you just
tell me that, tell me that, tell me that! It's the place that I
can't find. If I can get to the right door! But it won't open! It won't
open! Oh, dear! What shall I do!
Mrs. Burton, who heard this go on through the solemn hours of night,
thought that if Ludlow could only hear it he would be careful how he
ever discouraged any human being again. It was as much as her husband
could do to keep her from writing to him, and making the girl's fever a
matter of personal reproach to him; but she refrained, and when
Cornelia got up from it she was so changed that Mrs. Burton was glad
she had never tried to involve any one else in her anxieties about her.
Not only the fever had burned itself out, but Cornelia's temperament
seemed for awhile to have been consumed in the fire. She came out of it
more like her mother. She was gentler than she used to be, and
especially gentle and good to her mother; and she had not only grown to
resemble her in a greater tranquillity and easy-goingness, but to have
come into her ambitions and desires. The change surprised Mrs. Saunders
a good deal; up to this time it had always surprised her that Cornelia
should not have been at all like her. She sometimes reflected, however,
that if you came to that, Cornelia's father had never been at all like
It was only a passing phase of the girl's evolution. With the return
of perfect health and her former strength, she got back her old
energetic self, but of another quality and in another form. Probably
she would have grown into the character she now took on in any case;
but following her convalescence as it did, it had a more dramatic
effect. She began to review her studies and her examination papers
before the doctor knew it, and when the county examiners met in June
she was ready for them, and got a certificate authorizing her to teach
for a year. With this she need not meet the poor occasions of any such
forlorn end-of-the-earth as Burnt Pastures. She had an offer of the
school at Hartley's Mills, and she taught three terms there, and
brought home a hundred and fifty dollars at the end. All through the
last winter she drew, more or less, and she could see better than any
one else that she had not fallen behind in her art, but after having
let it drop for a time, had taken it up with fresh power and greater
skill. She had come to see things better than she used, and she had
learned to be faithful to what she saw, which is the great matter in
all the arts.
She had never formulated this fact, even if she knew it; and Mrs.
Burton was still further from guessing what it was that made Cornelia's
sketches so much more attractive than they were, when the girl let her
look at them, in one of her proud, shy confidences. She said, I do
wish Mr. Ludlow could see these, Nelie.
Do you think he would be very much excited? asked the girl, with
the sarcastic humor which had risen up in her to be one of the reliefs
of her earlier intensity.
He ought to be, said Mrs. Burton. You know he did admire
your drawings, Nelie; even those you had at the fair, that time.
Did he? returned the girl, carelessly. What did he say?
Well, he said that if you were a boy there couldn't be any doubt
Cornelia laughed. That was a pretty safe kind of praise. I'm not
likely ever to be a boy. She rose up from where they were sitting
together, and went to put her drawings away in her room. When she came
back, she said, It would be fun to show him, some day, that even so
low down a creature as a girl could be something.
I wish you would, Nie, said Mrs. Burton, I just wish you
would. Why don't you go to New York, this winter, and study! Why don't
you make her, Mrs. Saunders?
Who? Me? said Mrs. Saunders, who sat by, in an indolent abeyance.
Oh! I ain't allowed to open my mouth any more.
Well, said Cornelia, don't be so ungrammatical, then, when you do
it without being allowed, mother.
Mrs. Saunders laughed in lazy enjoyment. One thing I know; if I had
my way she'd have been in New York studying long ago, instead of
fooling away her time out here, school-teaching.
And where would you have been, mother?
Me? said Mrs. Saunders again, incorrigibly. Oh, I guess I should
have been somewhere!
Well, I'll tell you what, Mrs. Burton broke in, Nie must go, and
that's all about it. I know from what Mr. Ludlow said that he believes
she could be an artist. She would have to work hard, but I don't call
teaching school play, exactly.
Indeed it isn't! said Mrs. Saunders. I'd sooner set all day at
the machine myself, and dear knows that's trying enough!
I'm not afraid of the hard work, said Cornelia.
What are you afraid of, then? demanded her mother. Afraid of
No; of succeeding, answered Cornelia, perversely.
I can't make the child out, said Mrs. Saunders, with
apparent pleasure in the mystery.
Cornelia went on, at least partially, to explain herself. I mean,
succeeding in the way women seem to succeed. They make me sick!
Oh, said her mother, with sarcasm that could not sustain itself
even by a smile letting Mrs. Burton into the joke, going to be a Rosa
Cornelia scorned this poor attempt of her mother. If I can't
succeed as men succeed, and be a great painter, and not just a great
woman painter, I'd rather be excused altogether. Even Rosa Bonheur:
I don't believe her horses would have been considered so
wonderful if a man had done them. I guess that's what Mr. Ludlow meant,
and I guess he was right. I guess if a girl wants to turn out an artist
she'd better start by being a boy.
I guess, said Mrs. Burton, with admiring eyes full of her beauty,
that if Mr. Ludlow could see you now, he'd be very sorry to have you a
Cornelia blushed the splendid red of a brunette. There it is, Mrs.
Burton! That's what's always in everybody's mind about a girl when she
wants to do something. It's what a magnificent match she'll make by her
painting or singing or acting! And if the poor fool only knew, she
needn't draw or sing or act, to do that.
A person would think you'd been through the wars, Cornelia, said
I don't care! It's a shame!
It is a shame, Nelie, said Mrs. Burton, soothingly; and she
added, unguardedly, and I told Mr. Ludlow so, when he spoke
about a girl's being happily married, as if there was no other
happiness for a girl.
Oh! He thinks that, does he?
No, of course, he doesn't. He has a very high ideal of women; but
he was just running on, in the usual way. He told afterwards how hard
the girl art-students work in New York, and go ahead of the young men,
some of themwhere they have the strength. The only thing is that so
few of them have the strength. That's what he meant.
What do you think, mother? asked the girl with an abrupt turn
toward her. Do you think I'd break down?
I guess if you didn't break down teaching school, that you hated,
you won't break down studying art, when you love it so.
Well, Cornelia said, with the air of putting an end to the
audience, I guess there's no great hurry about it.
She let her mother follow Mrs. Burton out, recognizing with a smile
of scornful intelligence the ladies' wish to have the last word about
her to themselves.
I don't know as I ever saw her let herself go so far before, said
Mrs. Saunders, leaning on the top of the closed gate, and speaking
across it to Mrs. Burton on the outside of the fence. I guess she's
thinking about it, pretty seriously. She's got money enough, and more
Well, said Mrs. Burton, I'm going to write to Mr. Ludlow about
it, as soon as I get home, and I know I can get him to say something
that'll decide her.
So do! cried Mrs. Saunders, delighted.
She lingered awhile talking of other things, so as to enable herself
to meet Cornelia with due unconsciousness when she returned to her.
Have you been talking me over all this time, mother? the girl
We didn't hardly say a word about you, said her mother, and now
she saw what a good thing it was that she had staid and talked
impersonalities with Mrs. Burton.
Well, one thing I know, said the girl, if she gets that Mr.
Ludlow to encourage me, I'll never go near New York in the world.
Mrs. Saunders escaped into the next room, and answered back from
that safe distance, I guess you'd better get her to tell you
what she's going to do.
When she returned, the girl stood looking dreamily out of the little
crooked panes of the low window. She asked, with her back to her
mother, What would you do, if I went?
Oh, I should get along, said Mrs. Saunders with the lazy piety
which had never yet found Providence to fail it. I should get Miss
Snively to go in with me, here. She ain't making out very well, alone,
and she could be company to me in more ways than one.
Yes, said the girl, in a deep sigh. I thought of her. She faced
Why, land, child! cried her mother, what's the matter?
Cornelia's eyes were streaming with tears, and the passion in her
heart was twisting her face with its anguish. She flung her arms round
her mother's neck, and sobbed on her breast. Oh, I'm going, I'm going,
and you don't seem to care whether I go or stay, and it'll kill
me to leave you.
Mrs. Saunders smiled across the tempest of grief in her embrace, at
her own tranquil image in the glass, and took it into the joke. Well,
you ain't going to leave this minute, she said, smoothing the girl's
black hair. And I don't really care if you never go, Nie. You mustn't
go on my account.
Don't you want me to?
Not unless you do.
And you don't care whether I'm ever an artist or not?
What good is your being an artist going to do me? asked her
mother, still with a joking eye on herself in the mirror.
And I'm perfectly free to go or to stay, as far as your wish is
Well! said Mrs. Saunders, with insincere scorn of the question.
The girl gave her a fierce hug; she straightened herself up, and
dashed the water from her eyes. Well, then, she said, I'll see. But
promise me one thing, mother.
What is it?
That you won't ask me a single thing about it, from this out, if I
Well, I won't, Nie. I promise you that. I don't want to
drive you to anything. And I guess you know ten times as well what you
want to do, as I do, anyway. I ain't going to worry you.
Three weeks later, just before fair time, Cornelia went to see Mrs.
Burton. It was warm, and Mrs. Burton brought out a fan for her on the
Oh, I'm not hot, said Cornelia. Mrs. Burton, I've made up my mind
to go to New York this winter, and study art.
I knew you would, Nie! Mrs. Burton exulted.
Yes. I've thought it all out. I've got the money, now. I keep
wanting to paint, and I don't know whether I can or not, and the only
way is to go and find out. It'll be easy enough to come home. I'll keep
money enough to pay my way back.
Yes, said Mrs. Burton, it's the only way. But I guess you'll find
out you can paint fast enough. It's a pretty good sign you can, if you
Oh, I don't know. Some girls want to write poetry awfully, and
can't. Mrs. Burton, she broke off, with a nervous laugh, I don't
suppose you expect that Mr. Ludlow out to the fair this year?
No, Nelie, I don't, said Mrs. Burton, with tender reluctance.
Because, said the girl with another laugh, he might save me a
trip to New York, if he could see my drawings. Something, she did not
know what, in Mrs. Burton's manner, made her ask: Have you heard from
him lately? Perhaps he's given it up, too!
Oh, no! sighed Mrs. Burton, with a break from her cheerfulness
with Cornelia, which set its voluntary character in evidence to the
girl's keen, young perception. But he seemed to be rather discouraged
about the prospects of artists when he wrote. She was afraid Cornelia
might ask her when he had written. He seemed to think the ranks were
very full. He's a very changeable person. He's always talked, before
now, about there being plenty of room at the top.
Well, that's where I expect to be, said the girl, smiling but
trembling. She turned the talk, and soon rose to go, ignoring to the
last Mrs. Burton's forced efforts to recur to her plan of studying art
in New York. Now she said: Mrs. Burton, there's one thing I'd like to
ask you, and she lifted her eyes upon her with a suddenness that
almost made Mrs. Burton jump.
What is it, Nelie?
You've always been so good to meandand taken such an interest,
that I'm afraidI thought you might tryI want you to promise me you
won't write to Mr. Ludlow about me, or ask him to do the least thing,
I won't, I won't indeed, Nelie! Mrs. Burton promised with grateful
Because, said the girl, taking her skirt in her left hand,
preparatory to lifting it for her descent of the piazza steps, now
that I've made up my mind, I don't want to be discouraged, and I don't
want to be helped. If I can't do for myself, I won't be done for.
After she got down through the maples, and well out of the gate,
Burton came and stood in the hall door-way, with his pipe in his mouth.
Saved your distance, Polly, as usual; saved your distance.
What would you have done? retorted his wife.
I should have told her that I'd just got a letter from Ludlow this
morning, and that he begged and entreated me by everything I held dear,
to keep the poor girl from coming to New York, and throwing away her
time and health and money.
You wouldn't! cried Mrs. Burton. You wouldn't have done anything
of the kind. It would have made her perfectly hate him.
Burton found his pipe out. He lighted a match and hollowed his hands
over it above the pipe, to keep it from the draught. Well, he said,
avoiding the point in controversy, why shouldn't she perfectly
September was theoretically always a very busy month with Mrs.
Saunders. She believed that she devoted it to activities which she
called her fall work, and that she pressed forward in the fulfilments
of these duties with a vigor inspired by the cool, clear weather. But
in reality there was not much less folding of the hands with her in
September than there was in July. She was apt, on the coolest and
clearest September day, to drop into a chair with a deep drawn Oh, hum! after the fatigue of bringing in an apronful of apples, or
driving the hens away from her chrysanthemums, and she spent a good
deal of time wondering how, with all she had to do, she was ever going
to get those flowers in before the frost caught them. At one of these
times, sitting up slim, graceful and picturesque, in the
feather-cushioned rocker-lounge, and fanning her comely face with her
shade-hat, it occurred to her to say to Cornelia, sewing hard beside
the window, I guess you won't see them in blossom this
Not unless you cut them at the roots and send them to me by mail to
look at, said the girl.
Her mother laughed easily. Well, I must really take hold and help
you, or you'll never get away. I've put off everybody else's
work, till it's perfectly scandalous, and I'm afraid they'll bring the
roof about my ears, and yet I seem to be letting you do all your
sewing. Well, one thing, I presume I hate to have you go so!
Mother! cried the girl, drawing out her needle to the full length
of her thread before she let her hand drop nervelessly at her side, and
she fell back to look fixedly at Mrs. Saunders. If that's the
way you feel!
I don't! I want you to go just as much as ever I did. But looking
at you there, just against the window, that way, I got to thinking you
wouldn't be there a great while; and Mrs. Saunders caught her
breath, and was mute a moment before she gave way and began to whimper.
From the force of habit she tried to whimper with one side of her
mouth, as she smiled, to keep her missing teeth from showing; and at
the sight of this characteristic effort, so familiar and so full of
long association, Cornelia's heart melted within her, and she ran to
her mother, and pulled her head down on her breast and covered the
unwhimpering cheek with kisses.
Don't you suppose I think of that, too, mother? And when you go
round the room, or out in the yard, I just keep following you as if I
was magnetized, and I can see you with my eyes shut as well as I can
with them open; and I know how I shall feel when that's all I've
got of you! But I'll soon be back! Why I'll be here in June again! And
it's no use, now. I've got to go.
Oh, yes, said her mother, pushing herself free, and entering upon
so prolonged a search for her handkerchief that her tears had almost
time to dry without it before she found it. But that don't make it any
They had agreed from the time Cornelia made up her mind to go, and
they had vowed the Burtons to secrecy, that they were not to tell any
one till just before she started; but it was not in Mrs. Saunders's
nature or the nature of things, that she should keep her part of the
agreement. She was so proud of Cornelia's going to study art in New
York, and going on her own money, that she would have told all her
customers that she was going, even if it had not proved such a good
excuse for postponing and delaying the work they brought her.
It was all over town before the first week was out, and the fact had
been canvassed in and out of the presence of the principals, with much
the same frankness. What Cornelia had in excess of a putting-down pride
her mother correspondingly lacked; what the girl forbade, Mrs. Saunders
invited by her manner, and there were not many people, or at least many
ladies, in Pymantoning, who could not put their hands on their hearts
and truly declare that they had spoken their minds as freely to Mrs.
Saunders as they had to anybody.
As the time drew near Mrs. Burton begged to be allowed to ask Mr.
Ludlow about a boarding-place for Cornelia; and to this Cornelia
consented on condition that he should be strictly prohibited from
taking any more trouble than simply writing the address on a piece of
paper. When Mrs. Burton brought it she confessed that Mr. Ludlow seemed
to have so far exceeded his instructions as to have inquired the price
of board in a single room.
I'm afraid, Nelie, it's more than you expected. But everything
is very dear in New York, and Mr. Ludlow thought it was cheap.
There's no fire in the room, even at that, but if you leave the door
open when you're out, it heats nicely from the hall. It's over the
door, four flights up; it's what they call a side room.
How much is it, Mrs. Burton? Cornelia asked, steadily; but she
held her breath till the answer came.
It's seven dollars a week.
Well, the land! said Mrs. Saunders, for all comment on the
For a moment Cornelia did not say anything. Then she quietly
remarked, I can be home all the sooner, and she took the paper which
Ludlow had written the address on; she noticed that it smelt of tobacco
He said you could easily find your way from the Grand Central Depot
by the street cars; it's almost straight. He's written down on the back
which cars you take. You give your check to the baggage expressman that
comes aboard the train before you get in, and then you don't have the
least trouble. He says there are several girl art-students in the same
house, and you'll soon feel at home. He says if you feel the least
timid about getting in alone, he'll come with a lady friend of his, to
meet you, and she'll take you to your boarding-house.
Mrs. Burton escaped with rather more than her life from the
transmission of this offer. Cornelia even said, I'm very much obliged
to him, I'm sure. But I shouldn't wish to trouble him, thank you. I
won't feel the least timid.
But her mother followed Mrs. Burton out to the gate, as usual. I
guess, Mrs. Saunders explained, she hated to have him make so much
to-do about it. What makes him want to bring a lady friend to meet her?
Somebody he's engaged to?
Well, that's what I wondered, at first, said Mrs. Burton. But
then when I came to think how very different the customs are in New
York, I came to the conclusion that he did it on Cornelia's account. If
he was to take her to the boarding-house himself, they might think he
was engaged to her.
Well! said Mrs. Saunders.
You may be sure it's because he's good and thoughtful about it, and
wants her not to have any embarrassment.
Oh, I guess he's all right, said Mrs. Saunders. But who'd ever
have thought of having to take such precautions? I shouldn't think life
was worth having on such terms, if I was a girl.
She told Cornelia about this strange social ceremony of chaperonage,
which now for the first time practically concerned them.
The night began to fall an hour before Cornelia's train reached New
York, and it drew into the station, through the whirl and dance of
parti-colored lights everywhere.
The black porter of the sleeping-ear caught up her bag and carried
it out for her, as if he were going to carry it indefinitely; and
outside she stood letting him hold it, while she looked about her,
scared and bewildered, and the passengers hurrying by, pushed and
bumped against her. When she collected her wits sufficiently to take it
from him, she pressed on with the rest up toward the front of the
station where the crowd frayed out in different directions. At the open
doorway giving on the street she stopped, and stood holding her bag,
and gazed fearfully out on a line of wild men on the curbstone; they
all seemed to be stretching their hands out to her, and they rattled
and clamored: Keb? A keb, a keb, a keb? Want a keb? Keb here! Keb? A
keb, a keb, a keb! They were kept back by a policeman who prevented
them from falling upon the passengers, and restored them to order when
they yielded by the half-dozen to the fancy that some one had ordered a
cab, and started off in the direction of their vehicles, and then
rushed back so as not to lose other chances. The sight of Cornelia
standing bag in hand there, seemed to drive them to a frenzy of hope;
several newsboys, eager to share their prosperity, rushed up and
offered her the evening papers.
Cornelia strained forward from the doorway and tried to make out, in
the kaleidoscopic pattern of lights, which was the Fourth Avenue car;
the street was full of cars and carts and carriages, all going every
which way, with a din of bells, and wheels and hoofs that was as if
crushed to one clangerous mass by the superior uproar of the railroad
trains coming and going on a sort of street-roof overhead. A sickening
odor came from the mud of the gutters and the horses and people, and as
if a wave of repulsion had struck against every sense in her, the girl
turned and fled from the sight and sound and smell of it all into the
ladies' waiting-room at her right.
She knew about that room from Mrs. Burton, who had said she could go
in there, and fix her hair if it had got tumbled, when she came off the
train. But it had been so easy to keep everything just right in the
nice dressing-room on the sleeper that she had expected to step out of
the station and take a Fourth Avenue car without going into the
ladies-room. She found herself the only person in it, except a
comfortable, friendly-looking, middle-aged woman, who seemed to be in
charge of the place, and was going about with a dust-cloth in her hand.
She had such a home-like air, and it was so peaceful there, after all
that uproar outside, that Cornelia could hardly keep back the tears,
though she knew it was silly, and kept saying so to herself under her
She put her hand-bag down, and went and stood at one of the windows,
trying to make up her mind to venture out; and then she began to move
back and forth from one window to the other. It must have been this
effect of restlessness and anxiety that made the janitress speak to her
at last: Expecting friends to meet you?
Cornelia turned round and took a good look at the janitress. She
decided from her official as well as her personal appearance that she
might be trusted, as least provisionally. It had been going through her
mind there at the windows what a fool she was to refuse to let Mr.
Ludlow come to meet her with that friend of his, and she had been
helplessly feigning that she had not refused, and that he was really
coming, but was a little late. She was in the act of accepting his
apology for the delay when the janitress spoke to her, and she said: I
don't know whether I'd better wait any longer. I was looking for a
Fourth Avenue car.
Well, you couldn't hardly miss one, said the janitress. They're
going all the time. Stranger in the city?
Yes, I am, Cornelia admitted; she thought she had better admit it.
Well, said the janitress, if I was you I'd wait for my friends a
while longer. It's after dark, now, and if they come here and find you
gone, they'll be uneasy, won't they?
Well, said Cornelia, and she sank submissively into a seat.
The janitress sat down too. Not but what it's safe enough, and you
needn't be troubled, if they don't come. You can go half an hour later
just as well. My! I've had people sit here all day and wait. The things
I've seen here, well, if they were put into a story you couldn't hardly
believe them. I had a poor woman come in here one morning last week
with a baby in her arms, and three little children hanging round her,
to wait for her husband; and she waited till midnight, and he didn't
come. I could have told her first as well as last that he wasn't ever
coming; I knew it from the kind of a letter he wrote her, and that she
fished up out of her pocket to show me, so as to find whether she had
come to the right place to wait, or not, but I couldn't bear to do it;
and I did for her and the children as well as I could, and when it came
to it, about twelve, I coaxed her to go home, and come again in the
morning. She didn't come back again; I guess she began to suspect
Why, don't you suppose he ever meant to come? Cornelia asked,
I don't know, said the janitress. I didn't tell her
so. I've had all kinds of homeless folks come in here, that had lost
their pocket-books, or never had any, and little tots of children, with
papers pinned on to tell me who they were expecting, and I've had 'em
here on my hands till I had to shut up at night.
And what did you do then? Cornelia began to be anxious about her
own fate, in case she should not get away before the janitress had to
Well, some I had to put into the street, them that were used to it;
and then there are homes of all kinds for most of 'em; old ladies'
homes, and young girls' homes, and destitute females' homes, and
children's homes, where they can go for the night, and all I've got to
do is to give an order. It isn't as bad as you'd think, when you first
come to the city; I came here from Connecticut.
Cornelia thought she might respond so far as to say, I'm from
Ohio, and the janitress seemed to appreciate the confidence.
She said, Not on your way to the White House, I suppose? There
are so many Presidents from your State. Well, I knew you were not
from near New York, anywhere. I do have so many different sorts
of folks coming in here, and I have to get acquainted with so many of
'em whether or no. Lots of foreigners, for one thing, and men
blundering in, as well as women. They think it's a ticket-office, and
want to buy tickets of me, and I have to direct 'em where. It's
surprising how bright they are, oftentimes. The Irish are the hardest
to get pointed right; the Italians are quick; and the Chinese! My,
they're the brightest of all. If a Chinaman comes in for a ticket up
the Harlem road, all I've got to do is to set my hand so, and so! She faced south and set her hand westward; then she faced west, and
set her hand northward. They understand in a minute, and they're off
like a flash.
As if she had done now all that sympathy demanded for Cornelia, the
janitress went about some work in another part of the room and left the
girl to herself. But Cornelia knew that she was keeping a friendly eye
on her, and in the shelter of her presence, she tried to gather courage
to make that start into the street alone, which she must finally make
and which she was so foolish to keep postponing. She had written to the
landlady of her boarding house that she should arrive on such a day, at
such an hour; and here was the day, and she was letting the hour go by,
and very likely the landlady would give her room to some one else. Or,
if the expressman who took her check on the train, should get there
with her trunk first, the landlady might refuse to take it. Cornelia
did not know how people acted about such things in New York. She ought
to go, and she tried to rise; but she was morally so unable that it was
as if she were physically unable.
People came and went; some of them more than once, and Cornelia
began to feel that they noticed her and recognized her, but still she
could not move. Suddenly a figure appeared at the door, the sight of
which armed her with the power of flight. She knew that it was Ludlow,
from the photograph he had lately sent Mrs. Burton, with the pointed
beard and the branching moustache which he had grown since they met
last, and she jumped up to rush past him where he stood peering sharply
round at the different faces in the room, and finally letting his eyes
rest in eager question on hers.
He came towards her, and then it was too late to escape. Miss
Saunders? Oh, I'm so glad! I've been out of town, and I've only
just got Mrs. Burton's telegram. Have I kept you waiting long?
Not very, said Cornelia. She might have said that he had not kept
her waiting at all; the time that she had waited, without being kept by
him, was now like no time at all; but she could not say anything more,
and she wished to cry, she felt so glad and safe in his keeping. He
caught up her bag, and she followed him out, with a blush over her
shoulder for the janitress, who smiled after her with mistaken
knowingness. But this was at least her self-delusion, and Cornelia had
an instant in the confusion when it seemed as if Ludlow's coming had
somehow annulled the tacit deceit she had practised in letting the
janitress suppose she expected some one.
Ludlow kept talking to her all the way in the horse-car, but she
could find only the briefest and dryest answers to his friendly
questions about her mother and the Burtons; and all Pymantoning; and
she could not blame him for taking such a hasty leave of her at her
boarding-house that he almost flew down the steps before the door
closed upon her.
She knew that she had disgusted him; and she hinted at this in the
letter of scolding gratitude which she wrote to Mrs. Burton before she
slept, for the trick she had played her. After all, though, she
reasoned, she need not be so much troubled: he had done it for Mrs.
Burton, and not for her, and he had not thought it worth while to bring
a chaperon. To be sure, he had no time for that; but there was
something in it all which put Cornelia back to the mere child she was
when they first met in the Fair House at Pymantoning; she kept seeing
herself angry and ill-mannered and cross to her mother, and it was as
if he saw her so, too. She resented that, for she knew that she was
another person now, and she tingled with vexation that she had done
nothing to make him realize it.
Ludlow caught a cab in the street, and drove furiously to his
lodging, where he dressed in ten minutes, so that he was not more than
fifteen minutes late at the dinner he had risked missing for Cornelia's
I'm afraid I'm very late, he said, from his place at the left of
his hostess; he pulled his napkin across his lap, and began to attack
his oysters at once.
Oh, not at all, said the lady, but he knew that she would have
said much the same if he had come as they were rising from table.
A clear, gay voice rose from the corner of the board diagonally
opposite: The candles haven't begun to burn their shades yet; so you
are still early, Mr. Ludlow.
The others laughed with the joy people feel in having a familiar
fact noted for the first time. They had all seen candle-shades weakly
topple down on the flames and take fire at dinner.
The gay voice went on, rendered, perhaps, a little over-bold by
success: If you see the men rising to put them out, you may be sure
that they've been seated exactly an hour.
Ludlow looked across the bed of roses which filled two-thirds of the
table, across the glitter of glass, and the waver of light and shadow,
and said, Oh, you're there!
The wit that had inspired the voice before gave out; the owner tried
to make a pout do duty for it. Of course I'm there, she said; then
pending another inspiration she was silent. Everybody waited for her to
rise again to the level of her reputation for clever things, and the
general expectation expressed itself in a subdued creaking of stiff
linen above the board, and the low murmur of silken skirts under the
Finally one of the men said, Well, it's bad enough to come late,
but it's a good deal worse to come too early. I'd rather come late, any
Mr. Wetmore wants you to ask him why, Mrs. Westley, said Ludlow.
Mrs. Westley entreated, Oh, why, Mr. Wetmore? and every one
All right, Ludlow, said the gentleman in friendly menace. Then he
answered Mrs. Westley: Well, one thing, your hostess respects you
more. If you come too early you bring reproach and you meet contempt;
reproach that she shouldn't have been ready to receive you, and
contempt that you should have supposed her capable of dining at the
It was a Mrs. Rangeley who had launched the first shaft at Ludlow;
she now fitted another little arrow to her string, under cover of the
laugh that followed Mr. Wetmore's reasons. I shouldn't object to any
one's coming late, unless I were giving the dinner; but what I can't
bear is wondering what it was kept them.
Again she had given a touch that reminded the company of their
common humanity and their unity of emotion, and the laugh that
responded was without any of that reservation or uncertainty which a
subtle observer may often detect in the enjoyment of brilliant things
said at dinner. But the great charm of the Westley dinners was that
people generally did understand each other there. If you made a joke,
as Wetmore said, you were not often required to spell it. He celebrated
the Westleys as ideal hosts: Mrs. Westley had the youth and beauty
befitting a second wife; her social ambition had as yet not developed
into the passion for millionaires; she was simply content with
painters, like himself and Ludlow, literary men, lawyers, doctors and
their several wives.
General Westley was in what Wetmore called the bloom of age. He
might be depended upon for the unexpected, like fate. He occasionally
did it, he occasionally said it, from the passive hospitality that
I believe I share that impatience of yours, Mrs. Rangeley, he now
remarked; though in the present case I think we ought to leave
everything to Mr. Ludlow's conscience.
Oh, do you think that would be quite safe? she asked with
burlesque seriousness. Well! If we must!
Ludlow said, Why, I think Mrs. Rangeley is right. I would much
rather yield to compulsion. I don't mind telling what kept me, if I'm
Oh, I almost hate to have you, now! Mrs. Rangeley bubbled back.
Your willingness, somehow, makes it awful. You may be going to boast
No, no! Wetmore interposed. I don't believe it's anything to
Now, you see, you must speak, said Mrs. Westley.
Ludlow fell back in his chair, and dreamily crumbled his bread. I
don't see how I can, exactly.
Wetmore leaned forward and looked at Ludlow round the snowy shoulder
of a tall lady next him.
Is there any particular form of words in which you like to be
prompted, when you get to this point?
Dr. Brayton might hypnotize him, suggested the lady whose shoulder
Wetmore was looking round.
The doctor answered across the table, In these cases of the
inverted or prostrated will, there is often not volition enough to
coöperate with the hypnotizer. I don't believe I could do anything with
How much, sighed Mrs. Rangeley, I should like to be the centre of
universal interest like that!
It's a good pose, said Wetmore; but really I think Ludlow is
working it too hard. I don't approve of mob violence, as the papers say
when they're going to; but if he keeps this up much longer I won't be
answerable for the consequences. I feel that we are getting beyond the
control of our leaders.
Ludlow was tempted to exploit the little incident with Cornelia, for
he felt sure that it would win the dinner-table success which we all
like to achieve. Her coming to study art in New York, and her arriving
in that way, was a pretty romance; prettier than it would have been if
she were plainer, and he knew that he could give the whole situation so
that she should appear charming, and should appeal to everybody's
sympathy. If he could show her stiff and blunt, as she was, so much the
better. He would go back to their first meeting, and bring in a sketch
of Pymantoning County Fair, and of the village itself and its social
conditions, with studies of Burton and his wife. Every point would
tell, for though his commensals were now all well-to-do New Yorkers, he
knew that the time had been with them when they lived closer to the
ground, in simple country towns, as most prosperous and eminent
Americans have done.
Well, said Wetmore, how long are you going to make us wait?
Oh, you mustn't wait for me, said Ludlow. Once is enough
to-night. I'm not going to say what kept me.
This also was a success in its way. It drew cries of protest and
reproach from the ladies, and laughter from the men. Wetmore made
himself heard above the rest. Mrs. Westley, I know this man, and I
can't let you be made the victim of one of his shameless fakes. There
was really nothing kept him. He either forgot the time, or, what is
more probable, he deliberately put off coming so as to give himself a
little momentary importance by arriving late. I don't wish to be hard
upon him, but that is the truth.
No, no, said the hostess in the applause which recognized
Wetmore's mischievous intent. I'll not believe anything of the kind.
From her this had the effect of repartee, and when she asked with the
single-heartedness which Wetmore had praised among her friends as her
strongest point, and advised her keeping up as long as she possibly
could, It isn't so, is it, Mr. Ludlow? the finest wit could not have
done more for her. The general beamed upon her over the length of the
table. Mrs. Rangeley said at his elbow, She's always more charming
than any one else, simply because she is, and he made no effort
to turn the compliment upon her as she thought he might very well have
Under cover of what the others now began saying about different
matters, Ludlow murmured to Mrs. Westley, I don't mind telling you. You know that young girl you said you would go with me to meet when I
should ask you?
The little school-mistress?
Yes. Ludlow smiled. She isn't so very little, any more. It was
she who kept me. I found a dispatch at my place when I got home to-day,
telling me she was coming, and would arrive at six, and there was no
time to trouble you; it was half-past when I got it.
She's actually come then? asked Mrs. Westlay. Nothing you could
say would stop her?
No, said Ludlow with a shrug. He added, after a moment, But I
don't know that I blame her. Nothing would have stopped me.
And is there anything else I can do? Has she a pleasant place to
Good enough, I fancy. It's a boarding-house where several people I
know have been. She must be left to her own devices, now. That's the
best thing for her. It's the only thing.
In spite of his theory as to what was best for her, in some ways
Ludlow rather expected that Cornelia would apply to him for advice as
to how and where she should begin work. He forgot how fully he had
already given it; but she had not. She remembered what she had
overheard him say to her mother, that day in the Fair House, about the
superiority of the Synthesis of Studies, and she had since confirmed
her faith in his judgment by much silent inquiry of the newspapers.
They had the Sunday edition of the Lakeland Light at
Pymantoning, and Cornelia had kept herself informed of the Gossip of
the Ateliers, and concerning Women and Artists, Artists' Summer
Homes, Phases of Studio Life, The Ladies who are Organizing Ceramic
Clubs, Women Art Students, Glimpses of the Dens of New York Women
Artists, and other æsthetic interests which the Sunday edition of the
Light purveyed with the newspaper syndicate's generous and
indiscriminate abundance. She did not believe it all; much of it seemed
to her very silly; but she nourished her ambition upon it all the same.
The lady writers who celebrated the lady artists, and who mostly
preferred to swim in seas of personal float, did now and then offer
their readers a basis of solid fact; and they all agreed that the
Synthesis of Art Studies was the place for a girl if she was in earnest
and wished to work.
As these ladies described them the conditions were of the exacting
sort which Cornelia's nature craved, and she had her sex-pride in the
Synthesis, too, because she had read that women had borne an important
part in founding it; the strictest technical training and the freest
spirit of artistic endeavor prevailed in a school that owed its
existence so largely to them. That was a great point, even if every one
of the instructors was a man. She supposed that Mr. Ludlow would have
sheltered himself behind this fact if she had used the other to justify
herself in going on with art after he had urged that as a woman, she
had better not do so. But the last thing Cornelia intended was to
justify herself to Mr. Ludlow, and she vehemently wished he would not
try to do anything more for her, now. After sleeping upon the facts of
their meeting she felt sure that he would not try. She approved of
herself for not having asked him to call in parting. She was almost
glad that he hardly had given her a chance to do so.
It was Saturday night when Cornelia arrived, and she spent Sunday
writing home a full account of her adventures to her mother, whom she
asked to give Mrs. Barton the note she enclosed, and in looking over
her drawings, and trying to decide which she should take to the
Synthesis with her. She had a good deal of tacit argument about them
with Mr. Ludlow, who persisted in her thoughts after several definitive
dismissals; and Monday morning she presented herself with some drawings
she had chosen as less ridiculous than some of the others, and hovered
with a haughty humility at the door of the little office till the
janitor asked her if she would not come in and sit down. He had
apparently had official experience of cases like hers; he refused
without surprise the drawings which she offered him as her credentials,
and said the secretary would be in directly. He did not go so far as to
declare his own quality, but he hospitably did what he could to make
her feel at home.
Numbers of young people began to appear, singly and in twos and
threes, and then go out again, and go on up the stairs which led
crookedly to and from the corner the office was cramped into. Some of
them went up stairs after merely glancing into the office, others found
letters there, and staid chatting awhile. They looked at Cornelia with
merely an identifying eye, at first, as if they perceived that she was
a new girl, but as if new girls were such an old story that they could
not linger long over one girl of the kind. Certain of the young ladies
after they went up stairs came down in long, dismal calico aprons that
covered them to the throat, and with an air of being so much absorbed
in their work that they did not know what they had on. They looked at
Cornelia again, those who had seen her before, and those who had not,
made up for it by looking at her twice, and Cornelia began to wonder if
there was anything peculiar about her, as she sat upright, stiffening
with resentment and faintly flushing under their scrutiny. She wore her
best dress, which was a street dress, as the best dress of a village
girl usually is; her mother had fitted it, and they had made it
themselves, and agreed that it was very becoming; Mrs. Burton had said
so, too. The fashion of her hat she was not so sure about, but it was a
pretty hat, and unless she had got it on skewy, and she did not believe
she had, there was nothing about it to make people stare so. There was
one of these girls, whom Cornelia felt to be as tall as herself, and of
much her figure; she was as dark as Cornelia, but of a different
darkness. Instead of the red that always lurked under the dusk in
Cornelia's cheeks, and that now burned richly through it, her face was
of one olive pallor, except her crimson lips; her long eyes were black,
with level brows, and with a heavy fringe of lucent black hair cut
straight above them; her nose was straight, at first glance, but showed
a slight arch in profile; her mouth was a little too full, and her chin
slightly retreated. She came in late, and stopped at the door of the
office, and bent upon Cornelia a look at once prehistoric and fin de
siècle, which lighted up with astonishment, interest and sympathy,
successively; then she went trailing herself on up stairs with her
strange Sphinx-face over her shoulder, and turned upon Cornelia as long
as she could see her.
At last a gentleman came in and sat down behind the table in the
corner, and Cornelia found a hoarse voice to ask him if he was the
secretary. He answered in the friendly way that she afterwards found
went all through the Synthesis, that he was, and she said, with her
country bluntness, that she wished to study at the Synthesis, and she
had brought some of her drawings with her, if he wanted to look at
them. He took them, but either he did not want to look at them, or else
it was not his affair to do so. He said she would have to fill out a
form, and he gave her a blank which asked her in print a number of
questions she had not thought of asking herself till then. It obliged
her to confess that she had never studied under any one before, and to
say which master in the Synthesis she would like to study under, now.
She had to choose between life, and still-life, and the antique, and
she chose the antique. She was not governed by any knowledge or desire
in her choice more definite than such as come from her having read
somewhere that the instructor in the antique was the severest of all
the Synthesis instructors, and the most dreaded in his criticisms by
the students. She did not forget, even in the presence of the
secretary, and with that bewildering blank before her, that she wished
to be treated with severity, and that the criticism she needed was the
criticism that every one dreaded.
When the secretary fastened her application to her drawings, she
asked if she should wait to learn whether it was accepted or not; but
he said that he would send her application to the Members' Room, and
the instructor would see it there in the morning. She would have liked
to ask him if she should come back there to find out, but she was
afraid to do it; he might say no, and then she should not know what to
do. She determined to come without his leave, and the next morning she
found that the master whom they had been submitted to had so far
approved her drawings as to have scrawled upon her application,
Recommended to the Preparatory. The secretary said the instructor in
the Preparatory would tell her which grade to enter there.
Cornelia's heart danced, but she governed herself outwardly, and
asked through her set teeth, Can I begin at once? She had lost one
day already, and she was not going to lose another if she could help
The secretary smiled. If the instructor in the Preparatory will
Before noon she had passed the criticism needed for this, and was in
the lowest grade of the Preparatory. But she was a student at the
Synthesis, and she was there to work in the way that those who knew
best bade her. She wished to endure hardness, and the more hardness the
Cornelia found herself in the last of a long line of sections or
stalls which flanked a narrow corridor dividing the girl students from
the young men, who were often indeed hardly more than boys. There was a
table stretching from this corridor to a window looking down on the
roofs of some carpenter shops and stables; on the board before her lay
the elementary shape of a hand in plaster, which she was trying to
draw. At her side that odd-looking girl, who had stared so at her on
the stairs the day before, was working at a block foot, and not getting
it very well. She had in fact given it up for the present and was
watching Cornelia's work and watching her face, and talking to her.
What is your name? she broke off to ask, in the midst of a
monologue upon the social customs and characteristics of the Synthesis.
Cornelia always frowned, and drew her breath in long sibilations,
when she was trying hard to get a thing right. She now turned a knotted
forehead on her companion, but stopped her hissing to ask, What? Then
she came to herself and said, Oh! Saunders.
I don't mean your last name, said the other, I mean your first
Cornelia, said the owner of it, as briefly as before.
I should have thought it would have been Gladys, the other
Cornelia looked up in astonishment and some resentment. Why in the
world should my name be Gladys? she demanded.
I don't know, the other explained. But the first moment I saw you
in the office, I said to myself, 'Of course her name is Gladys.' Mine
Is it? said Cornelia, not so much with preoccupation, perhaps, as
with indifference. She thought it rather a nice name, but she did not
know what she had to do with it.
Yes, the other said, as if she had somehow expected to be doubted.
My last name's Maybough. Cornelia kept on at her work without remark,
and Miss Maybough pursued, as if it were a branch of autobiography,
I'm going to have lunch; aren't you?
Cornelia sighed dreamily, as she drew back for an effect of her
drawing, which she held up on the table before her, Is it time?
Do you suppose they would be letting me talk so to you if it
weren't? The monitor would have been down on me long ago.
Cornelia had noticed a girl who seemed to be in authority, and who
sat where she could oversee and overhear all that went on.
Is she one of the students? she asked.
Miss Maybough nodded. Elected every month. She's awful. You can't
do anything with her when she's on duty, but she's a little dear when
she isn't. You'll like her. Miss Maybough leaned toward her, and
joined Cornelia in a study of her drawing. How splendidly you're
getting it. It's very chic. Oh, anybody can see that you've
Her admiration made no visible impression upon Cornelia, and for a
moment she looked a little disappointed; then she took a basket from
under the table, and drew from it a bottle of some yellowish liquid, an
orange and a bit of sponge cake. Are you going to have yours here?
she asked, as Cornelia opened a paper with the modest sandwich in it
which she had made at breakfast, and fetched from her boarding-house.
Oh, I'm so glad you haven't brought anything to drink with you! I felt
almost sure you hadn't, and now you've got to share mine. She took a
cup from her basket, and in spite of Cornelia's protest that she never
drank anything but water at dinner, she poured it full of tea for her.
I'll drink out of the bottle, she said. I like to. Some of the girls
bring chocolate, but I think there's nothing like cold tea for the
brain. Chocolate's so clogging; so's milk; but sometimes I bring that;
it's glorious, drinking it out of the can. She tilted the bottle to
her lips, and half drained it at a draught. I always feel that I'm
working with inspiration after I've had my cold tea. Of course they
won't let you stay here long, she added.
Why? Cornelia fluttered back in alarm.
When they see your work they'll see that you're fit for still-life,
Oh! said Cornelia, vexed at having been scared for nothing. I
guess they won't be in any great hurry about it.
How magnificent! said Miss Maybough. Of course, with that calm of
yours, you can wait, as if you had eternity before you. Do you know
that you are terribly calm?
Cornelia turned and gave her a long stare. Miss Maybough broke her
bit of cake in two, and offered her half, and Cornelia took it
mechanically, but ate her sandwich. I feel as if I had eternity
behind me, I've been in the Preparatory so long.
On the common footing this drop to the solid ground gave, Cornelia
asked her how long.
Well, it's the beginning of my second year, now. If they don't let
me go to round hands pretty soon, I shall have to see if I can't get
the form by modelling. That's the best way. I suppose it's my
imagination; it carries me away so, and I don't see the thing as it is
before me; that's what they say. But with the clay, I'll have
to, don't you know. Well, you know some of the French painters model
their whole picture in clay and paint it, before they touch the canvas,
any way. I shall try it here awhile longer, and then if I can't get to
the round in any other way, I'll take to the clay. If sculpture
concentrates you more, perhaps I may stick to it altogether. Art is
one, anyhow, and the great thing is to live it. Don't you think
I don't know, said Cornelia. I'm not certain I know what you
You will, said Miss Maybough, after you've been here awhile, and
get used to the atmosphere. I don't believe I really knew what life
meant before I came to the Synthesis. When you get to realizing the
standards of the Synthesis, then you begin to breathe freely for the
first time. I expect to pass the rest of my days here. I shouldn't care
if I stayed till I was thirty. How old are you?
I'm going on twenty, said Cornelia. Why?
Oh, nothing. You can't begin too young; though some people think
you oughtn't to come before you're eighteen. I look upon my days before
I came here as simply wasted. Don't you want to go out and sit on the
I don't believe I do, said Cornelia, taking up her drawing again,
as if she were going on with it.
Horrors! Miss Maybough put her hand out over the sketch. You
don't mean that you're going to carry it any farther?
Why, it isn't finished yet, Cornelia began.
Of course it isn't, and it never ought to be! I hope you're
not going to turn out a niggler! Please don't! I couldn't
bear to have you. Nobody will respect you if you finish. Don't!
If you won't come out with me and get a breath of fresh air, do start a
new drawing! I want them to see this in the rough. It's so
Miss Maybough had left her own drawing in the rough, but it could
not be called bold; though if she had seen the block hand with a
faltering eye, she seemed to have had a fearless vision of many other
things, and she had covered her paper with a fantastic medley of
grotesque shapes, out of that imagination which she had given Cornelia
to know was so fatally mischievous to her in its uninvited activities.
Don't look at them! she pleaded, when Cornelia involuntarily
glanced at her study. My only hope is to hate them. I almost pray
to be delivered from them. Let's talk of something else. She turned
the sheet over. Do you mind my having said that about your drawing?
No! said Cornelia, provoked to laughter by the solemnity of the
demand. Why should I?
Oh, I don't know. Do you think you shall like me? I mean, do you
care if I like youvery, very much?
I don't suppose I could stop it if I did, could I? asked Cornelia.
The Sphinx seemed to find heart to smile. Of course, I'm
ridiculous. But I do hope we're going to be friends. Tell me about
yourself. Or, have some more tea!
I don't want any more tea, thank you, said Cornelia, and there
isn't anything to tell.
There must be! the other girl insisted, clinging to her bottle
with tragic intensity. Any one can see that you've lived. What
part of the country did you come from?
Ohio, said Cornelia, as the best way to be done with it.
And have you ever been in Santa Fé?
Goodness, no! Why, it's in New Mexico!
Yes; I was born there. Then my father went to Colorado. He isn't
living, now. Are your father and mother living?
My mother is, said Cornelia; the words brought up a vision of her
mother, as she must be sitting that moment in the little front-room,
and a mist came suddenly before her eyes; she shut her lips hard to
keep them from trembling.
I see, you worship her, said Miss Maybough fervidly, keeping her
gaze fixed upon Cornelia. You are homesick!
I'm not homesick! said Cornelia, angry that she should be
so and that she should be denying it.
Mine, said the other, died while I was a baby. She had Indian
blood, she added in the same way in which she had said her name was
Did she? Cornelia asked.
That is the legend, said Miss Maybough solemnly. Her grandmother
was a Zuñi princess. She turned her profile. See?
It does look a little Indian, said Cornelia.
Some people think it's Egyptian, Miss Maybough suggested, as if
she had been leading up to the notion, and were anxious not to have it
Cornelia examined the profile steadily presented, more carefully:
It's a good deal more Egyptian.
Miss Maybough relieved her profile from duty, and continued, We've
been everywhere. Paris two years. That's where I took up art in dead
earnest; Julian, you know. Mamma didn't want me to; she wanted me to go
into society there; and she does here; but I hate it. Don't you think
society is very frivolous, or, any way, very stupid?
I don't know much about it. I never went out, much, said Cornelia.
Well, I hope you're not conventional! Nobody's conventional here.
I don't believe I'm conventional enough to hurt, said Cornelia.
You have humor, too, said Miss Maybough, thoughtfully, as if she
had been mentally cataloguing her characteristics. You'll be
Cornelia stared at her and turned to her drawing.
But you're proud, said the other, I can see that. I adore pride.
It must have been your pride that fascinated me at the first glance. Do
you mind my being fascinated with you?
Cornelia wanted to laugh; at the same time she wondered what new
kind of crazy person she had got with; this was hardly one of the
art-students that went wild from overwork. Miss Maybough kept on
without waiting to be answered: I haven't got a bit of pride, myself.
I could just let you walk over me. How does it feel to be proud? What
are you proud for?
Cornelia quieted a first impulse to resent this pursuit. I don't
think I'm very proud. I used to be proud when I was little;I guess
you ought to have asked me then.
Oh, yes! Tell me about yourself! Miss Maybough implored again, but
she went on as before without giving Cornelia any chance to reply. Of
course, when I say mamma, I mean my step-mother. She's very good to me,
but she doesn't understand me. You'll like her. I'll tell you what sort
of a person she is. She did so at such length that the lunch hour
passed before she finished, and a hush fell upon all the babbling
voices about, as the monitor came back to her place.
Toward the end of the afternoon the monitor's vigilance relaxed
again, and Miss Maybough began to talk again. If you want to be
anything by the Synthesis standards, she said, you've got to keep
this up a whole year, you know. It was now four o'clock, and Cornelia
had been working steadily since eleven, except for the half-hour at
lunch-time. They'll see how well you draw; you needn't be afraid of
their not doing that; and they'll let you go on to the round at once,
perhaps. But if you're truly Synthetic in spirit, you won't want to.
You'll want to get all you can out of the block; and it'll take you a
year to do that; then another year for the full length, you know. At
first we only had the block here, and a good many people think now that
the full length Preparatory encroaches on the Antique. Sometimes they
even let you put in backgrounds here, but it don't matter much: when
the instructor in the Antique gets hold of you he makes you unlearn
everything you've learnt in the full-length. He's grand.
A girl who was working at the other end of the table said with a
careless air, They told me I might go up to the Antique to-day.
Lida! Miss Maybough protested, in a voice hoarse with admiration.
Yes; but I'm not going.
Why not? I should think you would be so proud. How
did they come to tell you?
Oh, they just said I might. But I'm not going. They're so severe in
the Antique. They just discourage you.
Yes, that is so, said Miss Maybough, with a sigh of solemn joy.
They make you feel as if you couldn't draw at all.
Yes, said the other girl. They act as if you didn't know a
I wouldn't go, said Miss Maybough.
I don't know. Perhaps I may. The girl went on drawing, and Miss
Maybough turned to Cornelia again.
Towards the end of your third yearor perhaps you don't like to
have your future all mapped out. Does it scare you?
I guess if it does I shall live through it, said Cornelia
steadily; her heart was beginning to quake somewhat, but she was all
the more determined not to show it.
Well, the third year you may get to painting still-life, while you
keep up your drawing afternoons here. The next year you'll go into the
antique class, if they'll let you, and draw heads, and keep up your
still-life mornings. When they think you're fit for it, they'll let you
do an arm, maybe, and work along that way to the full figure; and that
takes another whole winter. Then you go into the life class, one of
them, all the morning, and keep drawing from the antique in the
afternoons, or else do heads from the model. You do a head every day,
and then paint it out, and begin another the next day. You learn to
sacrifice self to art. It's grand! Well, then, the next winter you keep
on just the same, and as many winters after that as you please. You
know what one instructor said to a girl that asked him what she should
do after she had been five years in the Synthesis?
No, I don't, answered Cornelia anxiously.
Stay five years more!
Miss Maybough did not give this time to sink very deep into
Cornelia's spirit. Will you let me call you by your first name?
Why, I've hardly ever been called by any other, said Cornelia
And will you call me Charmian?
I had just as lief. Cornelia laughed; she could not help it; that
girl seemed so odd; she did not know whether she liked her or not.
What poise you have got! sighed Charmian. May I come to
see you? Not a ceremonious call. In your own room; where we can talk.
Cornelia thought that if they went on as they had that day, they
should probably talk quite enough at the Synthesis; but she said, Why,
yes, I should like to have you, if you won't care for my sitting on the
trunk. There's only one chair.
Let me have the trunk! Promise me you'll let me sit on the
trunk. It's divine! Is it in a Salvation Hotel?
What do you mean? asked Cornelia.
Why, that's what they call the places that the Young Women's
Christian Association keep.
No, it isn't. It's just a boarding-house. Cornelia wrote her
address on a piece of paper, and Charmian received it with solemn
rapture. She caught Cornelia in a sudden embrace and kissed her, before
Cornelia could help herself. Oh, I adore you! she cried.
They parted at the head of the stairs, where they found themselves
among groups of students arriving from all parts of the place, and
pausing for Synthesis gossip, which Cornelia could not have entered
into yet if she had wished. She escaped, and walked home to her
boarding-house with rather a languid pace, and climbed to her little
room on the fifth story, and lay down on her bed. It was harder work
than teaching, and her back ached, and her heart was heavy with the
thought of five years in the Synthesis, when she barely had money
enough for one winter. She was not afraid of the work; she liked that;
she would be glad to spend her whole life at it; but she could not give
five years to it, and perhaps ten. She was ashamed now to think she had
once dreamed of somehow slipping through in a year, and getting the
good of it without working for it. She tried to plan how she could go
home and teach a year, and then come back and study a year, and so on;
but by the end of the twenty years that it would take for ten years'
study at this rate, she would be an old woman of forty, ready to drop
into the grave. She was determined not to give up, and if she did not
give up, there was no other end to it; or so it seemed at the close of
her first day in the Synthesis.
She was very homesick, and she would have liked to give up
altogether and go home. But she thought of what people would say; of
how her mother, who would be so glad to see her, would feel. She would
not be a baby, and she turned her face over in the pillow and sobbed.
Cornelia thought that perhaps Mr. Ludlow would feel it due to Mrs.
Burton to come and ask how she was getting on; but if she did not wish
him to come she had reason to be glad, for the whole week passed, and
she did not see him, or hear anything from him. She did not blame him,
for she had been very uncouth, and no doubt he had done his whole duty
in meeting her at the depot, and seeing her safely housed the first
night. She wished to appreciate his kindness, and when she found
herself wondering a little at his not caring to know anything more
about her, she made much of it. If it was not all that she could have
imagined from his offer to be of use to her in any way he could, she
reminded herself that he had made that offer a very long time ago, and
that she never meant to use him. Beside, she was proud of having made
her start alone, and she knew which way she wished to go, though the
way seemed so hard and long at times. She was not sure that all the
students at the Synthesis were so clear as to their direction, but they
all had the same faith in the Synthesis and its methods. They hardly
ever talked to her of anything else, and first and last they talked a
good deal to her. It was against the rules to loiter and talk in the
corridors, as much against the rules as smoking; but every now and then
you came upon a young man with a cigarette, and he was nearly always
talking with a group of girls. At lunch-time the steps and window-seats
were full, and the passages were no longer thoroughfares. After the
first day Cornelia came out with the rest; Charmian Maybough said that
one could not get into the spirit of the Synthesis unless one did; and
in fact those who wished to work and those who would rather have
played, as it seemed to her, met there in the same æsthetic equality.
She found herself acquainted with a great many girls whose names she
did not know, in the fervor of the common interest, the perpetual glow
of enthusiasm which crowned the severest ordeals of the Synthesis with
the halo of happy martyrdom if not the wreath of victory.
They talked about the different instructors, how awful they were,
and how they made you cry sometimes, they were so hard on your work;
but if you amounted to anything, you did not mind it when you got to
feel what they meant; then you wanted them to be harsh. They
said of one, My! You ought to see him! He can spoil your
drawing for you! He just takes your charcoal, and puts thick black
lines all over everything. It don't do to finish much for him.
They celebrated another for sitting down in front of your work, and
drooping in silent despair before it for awhile, and then looking up at
you in cold disgust, and asking, What made you draw it that
way? as if it were inconceivable anybody should have been willing to
do it so. There were other instructors who were known to have the idea
of getting at the best in you by a sympathetic interest in what you had
tried for, and looking for some good in it. The girls dramatized their
manner of doing this; they did not hold them in greater regard than the
harder masters, but they did not hold them in less, and some of them
seemed to value an instructor as much for the way he squinted his eyes
at your drawing as for what he said of it.
The young men did not talk so much of the instructors; they were
more reticent about everything. But some had formed themselves upon
them, and you could tell which each of these was studying under; or
this was what Charmian Maybough said.
She led Cornelia all about through the quaint old rookery, with its
wandering corridors, and its clusters of rooms distributed at random in
the upper stories of several buildings which the Synthesis had gathered
to itself as if by a sort of affinity, and she lectured upon every one
It was against usage for students in the lower grades to visit the
upper classes when they were at work; but Charmian contrived stolen
glimpses of the still-life rooms and the rooms where they were working
from the draped models. For the first time Cornelia saw the irregular
hemicycle of students silently intent upon the silent forms and faces
of those strange creatures who sat tranced in a lifeless immobility, as
if the long practice of their trade had resolved them into something as
impersonal as the innumerable pictures studied from them. She even
penetrated with Charmian to the women's life-room, where you really
could not go while the model was posing, and where they had to time
their visit at the moment when the girls had left off for lunch, and
were chattering over their chocolate. They had set it out on the vacant
model-stand, and they invited their visitors to break bread with them:
the bread they had brought to rub out their drawings with. They made
Cornelia feel as much at home with them on the summit they had reached,
as she felt with the timidest beginners in the Preparatory. Charmian
had reported everywhere that she had genius, and in the absence of
proofs to the contrary the life-class accepted her as if she had. Their
talk was not very different from the talk of the students in the lower
grades. They spoke of the Synthesis, and asked her how she liked it,
but they did not wait for her to say. They began to descant upon their
instructors, and the pictures their instructors had last exhibited at
the Academy or the American Artists; and the things that the old
Synthesis pupils had there. Cornelia learned here that even actual
Synthetics had things in the exhibitions, and that in the last Academy
a Preparatory girl had sold a picture; she determined that before the
winter was over she would at least give the Academy a chance to refuse
the picture of another Preparatory girl.
She got Charmian to point out the girl who had sold the picture; she
was a little, quiet-looking thing; Cornelia saw some of her work in
round hands and she did not think it was better than she could do
herself. She took courage and dreamed of trying not to disappoint the
hopes of immediate performance, which she knew her mother would be
having in spite of her pretending the contrary. Her mother had written
that she must not work herself down, trying to learn too fast, but must
take the whole winter for it. Cornelia wondered what she would think if
she knew how little a person could be expected to do in one winter, in
the regular Synthesis way.
She was happier at the end of the first week than she had been at
the end of the first day, though she was very tired, and was glad to
stop at the earlier hour when most of the students left their work on
Saturday afternoon. She had begun to feel the charm of the Synthesis,
which every one said she would feel. She was already a citizen of the
little republic where the heaviest drudgery was sweet with a vague,
high faith and hope. It was all a strange happiness to her, and yet not
strange. It was like a heritage of her own that she had come into;
something she was born to, a right, a natural condition.
She did not formulate this, or anything; she did not ask herself why
the frivolities and affectations which disgusted her in the beginning
no longer offended her so much; she only saw that some of the most
frivolous and affected of her fellow-citizens were the cleverest; and
that the worst of them were better than they might have been where the
ideal was less generous. She did not know then or afterwards just why
some of them were there, and they did not seem to know themselves.
There were some who could reasonably expect to live by their art; there
were more who could hope to live by teaching it. But there were others
who had no definite aim or purpose, and seemed to think their study
would shape them to some design. They were trying it, they did not know
clearly why, or at least were not able to say clearly why. There were
several rich girls, and they worked from the love of it, as hard as the
poorest. There were some through whom she realized what Ludlow meant
when he spoke to her mother of the want that often went hand in hand
with art; there were others even more pitiful, who struggled with the
bare sufficiency of gift to keep within the Synthesis. But even among
the girls who were so poor that they had to stint themselves of food
and fire, for art's sake, there were the bravest and gayest spirits;
and some of these who could never have learned to draw well if they had
spent their lives in the Synthesis, and were only waiting till their
instructor should find the heart to forbid them further endeavor, were
so sweet and good that Cornelia's heart ached for them.
At first she was overawed by all the students, simply because they
were all older students at the Synthesis than she was. Then she
included them without distinction in the slight that she felt for the
chatter and the airs of some. After that she made her exceptions among
them; she begun to see how every one honored and admired the hard
workers. She could not revert to her awe of them, even of the hardest
workers; but she became more tolerant of the idlest and vaguest. She
compared herself with the clever ones, and owned herself less clever,
not without bitterness, but certainly with sincerity, and with a final
humility that enabled her to tolerate those who were least clever.
When she got home from the Synthesis the first Saturday afternoon,
Cornelia climbed up the four flights of stairs that led to her little
room, and lay down to rest, as she promised Mrs. Burton she would do
every day; some days she did not. She had to lie on her bed, which
filled two-thirds of the room. There was a bureau with a glass, which
she could not see the bottom of her skirt in without jumping up; and a
wash-stand with a shut-down lid, where she wrote her letters and drew;
a chair stood between that and her trunk, which was next the door, and
let the door open part way.
It seemed very cramped at first, but she soon got used to it, and
then she did not think about it; but accepted it as she did everything
else in the life that was all so strange to her. She had never been in
a boarding-house before, and she did not know whether it was New York
usage or not, that her trunk, which the expressman had managed to leave
in the lower hall, should be left standing there for twenty-four hours
after his escape, and that then she should be asked to take some things
out of it so that it should not be too heavy for the serving-maids to
carry up to her room. There was no man-servant in the place; but the
landlady said that they expected to have a furnace-man as soon as it
came cold weather.
The landlady was such an indistinct quality, that it could seldom be
known whether she was at home or not, and when she was identifiably
present, whether she had promised or had not promised to do this or
that. People were always trying to see her for some reason or no
reason, and it was said that the best time to find her was at table.
This was not so easy; the meals had a certain range in time, and the
landlady was nominally at the head of the table; but those who came
early to find her made the mistake of not having come late, and if you
came late you just missed her. Yet she was sometimes actually to be
encountered at the head of the stairs from the kitchen, or evanescing
from the parlor; and somehow the house was operated; the meals came and
went, and the smell of their coming and going filled the hall-way from
the ground floor to the attic. Some people complained of the meals, but
Cornelia's traditions were so simple that she thought them a constant
succession of prodigies, with never less than steak, fish and hash for
breakfast, and always turkey and cranberry sauce for dinner, and often
ice-cream; sometimes the things were rather burnt, but she did not see
that there was much to find fault with. She celebrated the luxury in
her letters home, and she said that she liked the landlady, too, and
that they had got to be great friends; in fact the landlady reminded
the girl of her own mother in the sort of springless effectiveness with
which she brought things to pass, when you would never have expected
any result whatever; and she was gentle like her mother, and
simple-hearted, with all her elusiveness. But she was not neat, like
Mrs. Saunders; the house went at loose ends. Cornelia found fluff under
her bed that must have been there a long time. The parlor and the
dining-room were kept darkened, and no one could have told what
mysteries their corners and set pieces of furniture harbored. The
carpets, where the subdued light struck them, betrayed places worn down
to the warp. Mrs. Montgomery herself had a like effect of unsparing
use; her personal upholstery showed frayed edges and broken woofs,
which did not seriously discord with her nerveless gentility.
The parlor was very long and rather narrow, and it was crossed at
the rear by the dining-room which showed the table in stages of
preparation or dismantling through sliding-doors never quite shut. At
intervals along the parlor walls were set sofas in linen brocade and
yellow jute; and various easy and uneasy chairs in green plush stood
about in no definite relation to the black-walnut, marble-topped
centre-table. A scarf, knotted and held by a spelter vase to one of the
marble mantles, for there were two, recorded a moment of the æsthetic
craze which had ceased before it got farther amidst the earlier and
honester ugliness of the room. The gas-fixtures were of the vine-leaf
and grape-cluster bronze-age; some of the garlands which ought to have
been attached to the burners, hung loose from the parent stem, without
the effort on the part of any witness to complete the artistic
intention. In the evening, the lady-boarders received their
gentlemen-callers in the parlor; their lady-callers were liable at all
times to be asked if they would not like to go to the boarders' rooms,
and whether they expressed this preference or not, they were directed
where to find them by the maid, who then rapidly disappeared down the
In fact, the door-service at Mrs. Montgomery's was something she
would probably have deprecated if any one had asked her to do so. It
was the charge of a large, raw-boned Irish girl, who made up by her
athletic physique and her bass voice for the want of a man-servant on
the premises. She brow-beat visitors into acceptance of the theory that
the persons they came to see were not at home, especially if they
showed signs of intending to wait in the parlor while she went upstairs
to find out. Those who suffered from her were of the sex least fitted
to combat her. The gentlemen boarders seldom had callers; when they
had, their callers did not ask whether their friends were in or not;
they went and saw for themselves.
The gentlemen at Mrs. Montgomery's were fewer than the ladies, and
they were for several reasons in greater favor. For one thing they gave
less trouble: they had a less lively fear of mice, and they were not so
apt to be out of health and to want their meals sent up; they ate more,
but they did not waste so much, and they never did any sort of washing
in their rooms. Cornelia did not know who or what some of them were;
but she made sure of a theatrical manager; two or three gentlemen in
different branches of commerce; a newspaper writer of some sort, and an
oldish gentleman who had been with Mrs. Montgomery a great while, and
did not seem to be anything but a gentleman boarder, pure and simple.
They were all very civil and quiet, and they bore with the amiable
American fortitude the hardships of the common lot at Mrs.
Montgomery's, which Cornelia underwent ignorantly as necessary
incidents of life in New York.
She now fell asleep where she lay, and she was startled from her
nap, but hardly surprised, to hear her name spoken in the hall far
below, as if it were a theme of contention between the bass-voiced
Irish girl and some one at the street door, who supported the other
side of the question in low, indistinct, lady-like murmurs.
No, she don't be in, said the Irish girl bluntly. The polite
murmur insisted, and the Irish girl said, with finality, Well, then,
yous can go up yourselves and see; the room is right over the dure,
four flights up.
Cornelia jumped up and tried to pull her hair into a knot before the
glass. There came a tap at her door and the voice of Charmian Maybough
asked, May I come in, Miss Saunders,Cornelia?
Yes, said Cornelia, and she opened the door as far as her trunk
would let her.
Charmian pushed impetuously in. She took Cornelia in her arms and
kissed her, as if they had not met for a long time.
Oh, she said, whirling about, so as to sweep the whole room with
her glance, before sinking down on Cornelia's trunk, why can't I
have something like this? Well, I shall have, I hope, before I die,
yet. What made her say you weren't in? I knew you were. She rose and
flew about the room, and examined it in detail. She was very
beautifully dressed, in a street costume of immediate fashion, without
a suggestion of the æstheticism of the picturesque gown she wore at the
Synthesis; that had originality, but Cornelia perceived with the eye
trained to see such differences, that this had authority. Charmian
could not help holding and carrying herself differently in it, too. She
was exquisitely gloved, and Cornelia instinctively felt that her hat
was from Paris, though till then she had never seen a Paris hat to know
it. She might have been a little overawed by it, if the wearer had not
abruptly asked her what she thought of it.
Well, said Cornelia, with her country directness, which was so
different from the other's abruptness, I think it's about the most
perfect thing I ever saw.
Charmian sighed. I saw you looking at it. Yes, it is a
dream. But it's a badge of slavery. So's the whole costume. Look how
I'm laced! She flung open the jacket and revealed a waist certainly
much smaller than she had earlier in the day. That's the way it goes
through my whole life. Mamma is dead set against the artistic, and I'm
dead set against the fashionable. As long as I'm at the Synthesis, I do
as the Synthetics do. I dress like the Synthesis, and I think like it,
and I act like it. As soon as I get home in the afternoon, I have to be
of the world worldly. I put on a Worth frock, and mamma would make me
put on a Worth spirit, if she could. I do my best to conform, because
it's the bargain, and I'll keep my word if it kills me. Now you
see what a double life I lead! If I could only be steeped in hopeless
poverty to the lips! If I could have a room like this, even! Sometimes
I'm so bewildered by the twofold existence I'm leading, I don't really
know what I'm saying. Those your things, of course? She sprang from
Cornelia's trunk, which she had sank down upon again, and swiftly
traversed the sketches Cornelia had pinned about the wall. What touch!
Yes, you merely have to live on, to be anything you like. It'll do
itself for you. Well, I suppose you'll have to see her. She
turned about to Cornelia with an air of deprecation. Mamma, you know.
She's down stairs waiting for us. She thinks it right to come with me
always. I dare say it is. She isn't so very bad, you know. Only she
insists upon knowing all the girls I take a fancy to, herself. You
needn't be afraid of her.
I don't know why I should be afraid of anybody, said Cornelia.
The darker corner of the long parlor was occupied by a young couple
in the earnest inquiry into each other's psychological peculiarities
which marks a stage of the passion of love. It obliged them to get very
close together, where they sat, she on a lounge and he in the chair,
which he kept pulling nearer and nearer; they fulfilled these
conditions and exchanged their observations with a freedom that ignored
the presence of the lady sitting somewhat severely upright between the
two long, front windows, exactly midway of the dingy lace curtains,
trained fan-wise on the carpet. They were not disturbed when Cornelia
and Charmian appeared; the young lady continued to dangle the tassel of
a cushion through her fingers, and the young man leaned toward her with
his face in his hand, and his elbow sunk in the arm of the lounge; but
the other lady rose at once and came quickly forward, as if escaping
from them. Beside the tall girls she looked rather little, and she was
decidedly blonde against their brunette color. She wore a veil that
came just between her upper and her lower lip, and that stirred lightly
when she spoke. She was dressed with the same authoritative fashion as
Charmian, but not so simply.
She did not wait for her daughter to speak, but took Cornelia's
hand, and said in a soft voice, Miss Saunders? I am very glad we found
you at home. My daughter has been speaking to me about you, and we
hoped to have come sooner, but we couldn't manage together before.
Won't you sit down? asked Cornelia.
No, I thank you, Mrs. Maybough returned, with a velvety tenderness
of tone that seemed to convey assent. We shall be rather late, as it
is. I hope you're comfortably situated here.
Oh, very, said Cornelia. I've never been away from home before,
and of course it isn't like home.
Yes, said Mrs. Maybough, one misses the refinements of home in
such places. She turned and swept the appointments of the room,
including the students of psychology, with a critical eye.
I wish I could come here, sighed the daughter. If I could
have a room like Cornelia's, mamma! I wish you could see it.
I'm glad you're pleasantly placed, Miss Saunders. I hope you're not
working too hard at the Synthesis. I understand the young ladies there
are so enthusiastic.
Oh, no, Cornelia protested.
Of course she is! said Charmian. Everybody works too hard at the
Synthesis. It's the ideal of the place. We woke her out of a nap, and I
know she was tired to death.
Cornelia could not deny it, and so she said nothing.
Oh! said Mrs. Maybough, non-committally; that won't do. She
paused, without intermitting the scrutiny which Cornelia felt she had
been subjecting her to from the first moment through her veil. You
mustn't wear yourself out. She paused again, and then while Charmian
turned away with an effect of impatience, she asked, Do you ever go
out on Sundays?
Why, I don't know, Cornelia began, not certain whether Mrs.
Maybough meant walking out or driving out; young people did both in
Mrs. Maybough pursued: We receive on Thursdays, but we have a few
friends coming in to-morrow afternoon, and we should be very glad to
see you, if you have nothing better.
The invitation was so tentatively, so gingerly offered in manner, if
not in words, that Cornelia was not quite sure it had been given. She
involuntarily searched her memory for something better before she
spoke; for the first time in her life she was about to invent a
previous engagement, when Charmian suddenly turned and laid her arms
about her neck.
You'll come, of course!
Charmian! said Mrs. Maybough. It would have been hard to tell
whether she was reproving the action or the urgence. Then we shall
hope to see you?
Yes, thank you, said Cornelia.
Do come! said Charmian, as if she had not yet accepted. I can't
let it be a whole day and two nights before I see you again! She put
her arm round Cornelia's waist, as the girl went with them to the outer
door, to open it for them, in her village fashion. In the hall,
Charmian whispered passionately, Don't you envy them? Oh, if I could live in such a house with you, and with people like that
just to look at!
My dear! said Mrs. Maybough.
They seem to be engaged, said Cornelia placidly, without sense of
anything wrong in the appearance of the fact.
Evidently, said Mrs. Maybough.
I shouldn't care for the engagement, said Charmian. That would be
rather horrid. But if you were in love, to feel that you needn't hide
it or pretend not to be! That is life! I'm coming here, mamma!
Mrs. Maybough had an apartment in the Mandan Flats, and her windows
looked out over miles of the tinted foliage of the Park, and down
across the avenue into one of the pretty pools which light up its
woodland reaches. The position was superb, and the Mandan was in some
sort worthy of it. The architect had done his best to give unity and
character to its tremendous mass, and he had failed in much less
measure than the architects of such buildings usually do. Cornelia
dismounted into the dirty street in front of it from a shabby
horse-car, and penetrated its dimmed splendors of mosaic pavement and
polished granite pillars and frescoed vaults, with a heart fluttered by
a hall-boy all over buttons, and a janitor in blue and silver livery,
and an elevator-man in like keeping with American ideals. She was
disgusted with herself that she should be so scared, and she was
ashamed of the relief she felt when a servant in plain clothes opened
Mrs. Maybough's door to her; she knew he must be a servant because he
had on a dress-coat and a white tie, and she had heard the Burtons joke
about how they were always taking the waiters for clergymen at first in
Europe, He answered her with subdued respectfulness when she asked for
the ladies, and then he went forward and for the first time in her life
she heard her name called into a drawing-room, as she had read it was
done in England, but never could imagine it. The man held aside the
portière for her to pass, but before she could pass there came a kind
of joyous whoop from within, a swishing of skirts toward her, and she
was caught in the arms of Charmian, who kissed her again and again, and
cried out over her goodness in coming.
Why, didn't you expect me? Cornelia asked bluntly.
Yes, but I was just pretending you wouldn't come, or something had
happened to keep you, so that I could have the good of the revulsion
when you did come, and feel that it was worth all I had suffered. Don't
you like to do that?
I don't believe I ever did it, said Cornelia.
That's what makes you so glorious, Charmian exulted. You don't
need to do such things. You're equal to life as it comes. But I
have to prepare myself for it every way I can. Don't you see?
She led her, all embraced, into the drawing-room, where she released
her to the smooth welcome of Mrs. Maybough. There was no one else in
the vast, high room which was lit with long windows and darkened again
with long, thick curtains, but was still light enough to let Cornelia
see the elaborate richness of Mrs. Maybough's dress and the simple
richness of Charmian's. She herself wore her street-dress and she did
not know whether she ought to keep her hat on or not; but Charmian said
she must pour tea with her, and she danced Cornelia down the splendid
length of the three great salons opening into each other along the
front of the apartment, toward her own room where she said she must
leave it. The drawing-room was a harmony of pictures so rich and soft,
and rugs so rich and soft, that the colors seemed to play from wall to
floor and back again in the same mellow note; the dimness of the
dining-room was starred with the glimmer of silver and cut-glass and
the fainter reflected light of polished mahogany; the library was a
luxury of low leather chairs and lounges, lurking window-seats,
curtained in warm colors, and shelves full of even ranks of books in
French bindings of blue and green leather. There was a great carved
library table in front of the hearth where a soft-coal fire flickered
with a point or two of flame; on the mantel a French clock of classic
architecture caught the eye with the gleam of its pendulum as it
vibrated inaudibly. It was all extremely well done, infinitely better
done than Cornelia could have known. It was tasteful and refined, with
the taste and refinement of the decorator who had wished to produce the
effect of long establishment and well-bred permanency; the Mandan Flats
were really not two years old, and Mrs. Maybough had taken her
apartment in the spring and had been in it only a few weeks.
Now all this is mamma, Charmian said, suffering Cornelia to
pause for a backward glance at the rooms as she pushed open a door at
the side of the library. I simply endure it because it's in the
bargain. But it's no more me than my gown is. This is where I stay, when I'm with mamma, but I'm going to show you where I live,
where I dream. She glided down the electric-lighted corridor
where they found themselves, and apologized over her shoulder to
Cornelia behind her: Of course, you can't have an attic in a flat; and
anything like rain on the roof is practically impossible; but I've come
as near to it as I could. Be careful! Here are the stairs. She mounted
eight or ten steps that crooked upward, and flung wide a door at the
top of the landing. It gave into a large room fronting northward and
lighted with one wide window; the ceiling sloped and narrowed down to
this from the quadrangular vault, and the cool gray walls rose not much
above Cornelia's head where they met the roof. They were all stuck
about with sketches in oil and charcoal. An easel with a canvas on it
stood convenient to the light; a flesh-tinted lay-figure in tumbled
drapery drooped limply in a corner; a table littered with palettes and
brushes and battered tubes of color was carelessly pushed against the
window; there were some lustrous rugs hung up beside the door; the
floor was bare except for a great tiger-skin, with the head on, that
sprawled in front of the fire-place. This was very simple, with rough
iron fire-dogs; the low mantel was scattered with cigarettes, cigars in
Chinese bronze vases at either end, and midway a medley of pipes,
long-stemmed in clay and stubbed in briar-wood.
Good gracious! said Cornelia. Do you smoke?
Not yet, Charmian answered gravely, but I'm going to learn:
Bernhardt does. These are just some pipes that I got the men at the
Synthesis to give me; pipes are so full of character. And isn't this
something like? She invited Cornelia to a study of the place by
turning about and looking at it herself. It seemed as if it never
would come together, at one time. Everything was in it, just as it
should be; and then I found it was the ridiculous ceiling that was the
trouble. It came to me like a flash, what to do, and I got this canvas
painted the color of the walls, and sloped so as to cut off half the
height of the room; and now it's a perfect symphony. You wouldn't have
thought it wasn't a real ceiling?
No, I shouldn't, said Cornelia, as much surprised as Charmian
could have wished.
You can imagine what a relief it is to steal away here from all
that unreality of mamma's, down there, and give yourself up to the
truth of art; I just draw a long breath when I get in here, and leave
the world behind me. Why, when I get off here alone, for a minute, I
Cornelia went about looking at the sketches on the walls; they were
all that mixture of bad drawing and fantastic thinking which she was
used to in the things Charmian scribbled over her paper at the
Synthesis. She glanced toward the easel, but Charmian said, Don't look
at it! There's nothing there; I haven't decided what I shall do yet. I
did think I should paint this tiger skin, but I don't feel easy
painting the skin of a tiger I haven't killed myself. If I could get
mamma to take me out to India and let me shoot one! But don't you think
the whole place is perfect? I've tried to make it just what a studio
ought to be, and yet keep it free from pose, don't you know?
Yes, said Cornelia. I've never seen a studio, before.
You poor thing, you don't mean it! cried Charmian in deep pity.
Cornelia said nothing, and Charmian went on with an air of candor,
Well, I haven't seen a great many myselfonly two or threebut I
know how they are, and it's easy enough to realize one. What I want is
to have the atmosphere of art about me, all the time. I'm like a fish
out of water when I'm out of the atmosphere of art. I intend to spend
my whole time here when I'm not at the Synthesis.
I should think it would be a good place to work, Cornelia
Yes, and I am going to work here, said Charmian. The great
trouble with me is that I have so many things in my mind I don't know
which to begin on first. That's why the Synthesis is so good for me; it
concentrates me, if it is on a block hand. You're
concentrated by nature, and so you can't feel what a glorious pang it
is to be fixed to one spot like a butterfly with a pin through you. I
don't see how I ever lived without the Synthesis. I'm going to have a
wolf-houndas soon as I can get a good-tempered one that the man can
lead out in the Park for exerciseto curl up here in front of the
fire; and I'm going to have foils and masks over the chimney. As soon
as I'm a member of the Synthesis I'm going to get them to let me be one
of the monitors: that'll concentrate me, if anything will, keeping the
rest in order, and I can get a lot of ideas from posing the model;
don't you think so? But you've got all the ideas you want,
already. Aren't you going to join the sketch class?
I don't know but I am, said Cornelia. I haven't got quite turned
Well, you must do it. I'm going to have the class here, some day,
as soon as I get the place in perfect order. I must have a suit
of Japanese armor for that corner, over there; and then two or three of
those queer-looking, old, long, faded trunks, you know, with eastern
stuffs gaping out of them, to set along the wall. I should be ashamed
to have anybody see it now; but you have an eye, you can supply every
thing with a glance. I'm going to have a bed made up in the alcove,
over there, and sleep here, sometimes: just that broad lounge, you
know, with some rugs on itI've got the cushions, you see,
alreadyand mice running over you, for the crumbs you've left when
you've got hungry sitting up late. Are you afraid of mice?
Well, I shouldn't care to have them run over me, much, said
Well, I shouldn't either, said Charmian, but if you sleep in your
studio, sometime you have to. They all do. Just put your hat in
here, and she glided before Cornelia through the studio door into one
that opened beside it. The room was a dim and silent bedchamber,
appointed with the faultless luxury that characterized the rest of the
apartment. Cornelia had never dreamt of anything like it, but Don't
look at it! Charmian pleaded. I hate it, and I'm going to get into
the studio to sleep as soon as I've thought out the kind of hangings.
Well, we shall have to hurry back now, but she kept Cornelia while she
critically rearranged a ribbon on her, and studied the effect of it
over her shoulder in the glass. Yes, she said, with a deep sigh of
satisfaction, perfectly Roman! Gladys wouldn't have done for you.
Cornelia was a step in the right direction; but it ought to have been
'I should have clung to Fulvia's waist and thrust
The dagger through her side,'
she chanted tragically; and she flung her arms about Cornelia for
illustration. Dream of Fair Women, you know. What part are you
going to play, today?
What part? Cornelia demanded, freeing herself, with her darkest
frown of perplexity. You're not going to have theatricals, I hope.
She thought it was going pretty far to receive company Sunday
afternoon, and if there was to be anything more she was ready to take
her stand now.
Charmian gave a shout of laughter. I wish we were. Then I could be
natural. But I mean, what are you going to be: very gentle and mild
and sweet and shrinking; or very philosophical and thoughtful; or very
stately and cold and remote? You know you have to be something.
Don't you always plan out the character you want them to think you?
No, said Cornelia, driven to her bluntest by the discomfort she
felt at such a question, and the doubt it cast her into.
Charmian looked at her gloomily. You strange creature! she
murmured. But I love you, she added aloud. I simply idolize you!
Cornelia said, half-laughing, Don't be ridiculous, and pulled
herself out of the embrace which her devotee had thrown about her. But
she could not help liking Charmian for seeming to like her so much.
They still had some time with Mrs. Maybough, when they went back to
her before any one else came; Cornelia could see that her features were
rather small and regular, and that her hair was that sort of elderly
blond in color which makes people look younger than they are after they
have passed a certain age. She was really well on in the thirties when
she went out to Leadville to take charge of Charmian Maybough's
education from the New England town where she had always lived, and
ended by marrying Charmian's father. At that time Andrew Maybough had
already made and lost several fortunes without great depravation from
the immoralities of the process; he remained, as he had always been, a
large, loosely good-natured, casual kind of creature, of whom it was a
question whether he would not be buried by public subscription, in the
end; but he died so opportunely that he left the widow of his second
marriage with the income from a million dollars, which she was to share
during her lifetime with the child of his first. Mrs. Maybough went
abroad with her step-daughter, and most of the girl's life had been
spent in Europe.
There was a good deal of Dresden in their sojourn, something of
Florence, necessarily a little of Paris; it was not altogether wanting
in London, where Mrs. Maybough was presented at court. But so far as
definitively materialized society was concerned, Europe could not be
said to have availed. When she came back to her own country, it was
without more than the hope that some society people, whom she had met
abroad, might remember her.
You'll see the greatest lot of frumps, if they ever do come,
Charmian said to Cornelia, after her stepmother had made her excuses to
Cornelia for her friends being rather late, and I don't think they're
half as uncertain to come as mamma does. Anyway, they're certain to
stay, after they get here, till you want to rise up and howl.
My dear! said Mrs. Maybough.
Oh, I don't suppose I ever shall howl. I'm too thoroughly
subdued; and with Cornelia here to-day I shall be able to hold in.
You're the first Synthesis girl, she frankly explained to Cornelia,
that mamma's ever let me have. She thinks they spend all their time
drawing the nude.
Mrs. Maybough looked at Cornelia for the effect of this boldness
upon her, and the girl frowned to keep herself from laughing, and then
gave way. Mrs. Maybough smiled with a ladylike decorum which redeemed
the excess from impropriety. Charmian seemed to know the bounds of her
license, and as if Mrs. Maybough's smile had marked them, she went no
farther, and her mother began softly to question Cornelia about
herself. The girl perceived that Charmian had not told her anything
quite right concerning her, but had got everything dramatically and
picturesquely awry. She tried to keep Cornelia from setting the facts
straight, because it took all the romance out of them, and she said she
should always believe them as she had reported them. Cornelia knew from
novels that they were very humble facts, but she was prepared to abide
by them whatever a great society woman like Mrs. Maybough should think
of them. Mrs. Maybough seemed to think none the worse of them in the
simple angularity which Cornelia gave them.
Her friends began to come in at last, and Cornelia found herself,
for the first time, in a company of those modern nomads whom prosperity
and the various forms of indigestion have multiplied among us. They
were mostly people whom Mrs. Maybough had met in Europe, drinking
different waters and sampling divers climates, and they had lately
arrived home, or were just going abroad, or to Florida, or Colorado, or
California. The men were not so sick as the women, but they were
prosperous, and that was as good or as bad a reason for their
homelessness. They gradually withdrew from the ladies, and stirred
their tea in groups of their own sex, and talked investments; sometimes
they spoke of their diseases, or their hotels and steamers; and they
took advice of each other about places to go to if they went in this
direction or that, but said that, when it came to it they supposed they
should go where their wives decided. The ladies spoke of where they had
met last, and of some who had died since, or had got their daughters
married; they professed a generous envy of Mrs. Maybough for being so
nicely settled, and said that now they supposed she would always live
in New York, unless, one of them archly suggested, her daughter should
be carried off somewhere; if one had such a lovely daughter it was what
one might expect to happen, any day.
The part that Charmian had chosen to represent must have been that
of an Egyptian slave. She served her mother's guests with the tea that
Cornelia poured, in attitudes of the eldest sculptures and mural
paintings, and received their thanks and compliments with the passive
impersonality of one whose hope in life had been taken away some time
in the reign of Thotmes II. She did not at once relent from her
self-sacrificial conception of herself, even under the flatteries of
the nice little fellow who had decorated the apartment for Mrs.
Maybough, and had come to drink a cup of tea in the environment of his
own taste. Perhaps this was because he had been one of the first to
note the peculiar type of Charmian's style and beauty, and she wished
to keep him in mind of it. He did duty as youth and gayety beside the
young ladies at their tea-urn, and when he learned that Cornelia was
studying at the Synthesis, he professed a vivid interest and a great
I want Huntley to paint Miss Maybough, he said. Don't you think
he would do it tremendously well, Miss Saunders?
Miss Saunders is going to paint me, said Charmian, mystically.
As soon as I get to the round, said Cornelia to Charmian; she was
rather afraid to speak to the decorator. I suppose you wouldn't want
to be painted with block hands.
The decorator laughed, and Charmian asked, Isn't she nice not to
say anything about a block head? Very few Synthesis girls could have
helped it; it's one of the oldest Synthesis jokes.
The young man smiled sympathetically, and said he was sure they
would not keep Miss Saunders long at the block. There's a friend of
mine I should like to bring here, some day.
Mamma would be glad to see him, said Charmian. Who is it?
Somebody began to sing: a full-bodiced lady, in a bonnet, and with
an over-arching bust distended with chest-notes, which swelled and sank
tumultuously to her music; her little tightly-gloved hands seemed of an
earlier period. Cornelia lost the name which Mr. Plaisdell gave, in the
first outburst, and caught nothing more of the talk which Charmian
dropped, and then caught up again when the hand-clapping began.
Some of the people went, and others came, with brief devoirs to Mrs.
Maybough in the crepuscular corner where she sat. The tea circulated
more and more; the babble rose and fell; it was all very curious to
Cornelia, who had never seen anything like it before, and quite lost
the sense of the day being Sunday. The stout lady's song had been
serious, if not precisely devotional in character; but Cornelia could
not have profited by the fact, for she did not know German. Mr.
Plaisdell kept up his talk with Charmian, and she caught some words now
and then that showed he was still speaking of his friend, or had
recurred to him. I'm rather dangerous when I get started on him. He's
working out of his mannerisms into himself. He's a great fellow. I'm
going to ask Mrs. Maybough. But he did not go at once. He drew nearer
Cornelia, and tried to include her in the talk, but she was ashamed to
find that she was difficult to get on common ground. She would not keep
on talking Synthesis, as if that were the only thing she knew, but in
fact she did not know much else in New York, even about art.
Ah! he broke off to Charmian, with a lift of his head. That's
too bad! There he comes now, with Wetmore!
Cornelia looked toward Mrs. Maybough with him. One gentleman was
presenting another to Mrs. Maybough. They got through with her as
quickly as most people did, and then they made their way toward
Cornelia's table. She had just time to govern her head and hand into
stony rigidity, when Wetmore came up with Ludlow, whom he introduced to
Charmian. She was going to extend the acquaintance to Cornelia, but had
no chance before Ludlow took Cornelia's petrified fingers and bowed
over them. The men suppressed their surprise, if they had any, at this
meeting as of old friends, but Charmian felt no obligation to silence.
Where in the world have you met before? Why, Cornelia Saunders, why
didn't you say you knew Mr. Ludlow?
I'm afraid I didn't give her time, Ludlow answered.
Yes, but we were just speaking of youMr. Plaisdell was! said
Charmian, with the injury still in her voice.
I didn't hear you speak of him, Cornelia said, with a vague
flutter of her hands toward the teacups.
The action seemed to justify Wetmore to himself in saying, Yes,
thank you, I will have some tea, Miss Saunders, and then I'll
get some one to introduce me to you. You haven't seen me before,
and I can't stand these airs of Ludlow's. He made them laugh, and
Charmian introduced them, and Cornelia gave him his tea; then Charmian
returned to her grievance and complained to Cornelia: I thought you
didn't know anybody in New York.
Well, it seems you were not far wrong, Wetmore interposed. I
don't call Ludlow much of anybody.
You don't often come down to anything as crude as that, Wetmore,
Not if I can help it. But I was driven to it, this time; the
provocation was great.
I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Saunders at home, several years
ago, Ludlow said in obedience to Charmian. We had some very
delightful friends in common, thereold friends of mineat
What a pretty name, said Mr. Plaisdell. What a pity that none of
our great cities happen to have those musical Indian names.
Chicago, Wetmore suggested.
Yes, Chicago is big, and the name is Indian; but is it pretty?
You can't have everything. I don't suppose it is very decorative.
Pymantoning is as pretty as its name, said Ludlow. It has the
loveliness of a level, to begin with; we're so besotted with mountains
in the East that we don't know how lovely a level is.
The sea, Wetmore suggested again.
Well, yes, that's occasionally level, Ludlow admitted. But it
hasn't got white houses with green blinds behind black ranks of maples
in the moonlight.
If 'good taste' could have had its way, the white house with green
blinds would have been a thing of the past. said the decorator. And
they were a genuine instinct, an inspiration, with our people. The
white paint is always beautiful,as marble is. People tried to replace
it with mud-colorthe color of the ground the house was built on! I
congratulate Miss Saunders on the conservatism of Py?
Pymantoning, said Cornelia, eager to contribute something to the
talk, and then vexed to have it made much of by Mr. Plaisdell.
Wetmore was looking away. He floated lightly off, with the buoyancy
which is sometimes the property of people of his bulk, and Ludlow
remained talking with Charmian. Then, with what was like the insensible
transition of dreams to her, he was talking with Cornelia. He said he
had been meaning to come and see her all the week past, but he had been
out of town, and very busy, and he supposed she was occupied with
looking about and getting settled. He did not make out a very clear
case, she chose to think, and she was not sure but he was treating her
still as a child, and she tried to think how she could make him realize
that she was not. He seemed quite surprised to hear that she had been
at work in the Synthesis ever since Tuesday. He complimented her
energy, and asked, not how she was getting on there, but how she liked
it; she answered stiffly, and she knew that he was ignoring her blunt
behavior as something she could not help, and that vexed her the more;
she wished to resist his friendliness because she did not deserve it.
She kept seeing how handsome he was, with his brilliant brown beard,
and his hazel eyes. There were points of sunny light in his eyes, when
he smiled, and then his teeth shone very white. He did not smile very
much; she liked his being serious and not making speeches; she wished
she could do something to make him think her less of an auk, but when
she tried, it was only worse. He did not say anything to let her think
he had changed his mind as to the wisdom of her coming to study art in
New York; and she liked that; she should have hated him if he had.
Have you got that little Manet, yet? Mr. Plaisdell broke in upon
them. I was telling Miss Maybough about it.
Yes, said Ludlow. It's at my place. Why won't Miss Maybough and
Miss Saunders come and see it? You'll come, won't you, Miss Maybough?
If mamma will let me, said Charmian, meekly.
Of course! Suppose we go ask her?
The friends of Mrs. Maybough had now reduced themselves to Wetmore,
who sat beside her, looking over at the little tea-table group. Ludlow
led the rest toward her.
What an imprudence, he called out, when I'd just been booming
you! Now you come up in person to spoil everything.
Ludlow presented his petition, and Mrs. Maybough received it with
her provisional anxiety till he named the day for the visit. She said
she had an engagement for Saturday afternoon, and Ludlow ventured,
Then perhaps you'd let the young ladies come with a friend of mine:
Mrs. Westley. She'll be glad to call for them, I'm sure.
Mrs. General Westley?
We met them in Rome, said Mrs. Maybough. I shall be very happy,
indeed, for my daughter. But you know Miss Saundersis not staying
Miss Saunders will be very happy for herself, said Charmian.
The men took their leave, and Charmian seized the first moment to
breathe in Cornelia's ear: Oh, what luck! I didn't suppose he would
do it, when I got Mr. Plaisdell to hint about that Manet. And it's all
for you. Now come into my room and tell me everything about it. You
have got to stay for dinner.
No, no; I can't, Cornelia gasped. And I'm not going to his
studio. He asked me because he had to.
I should think he did have to. He talked to you as if there
was no one else here. How did you meet him before? When
did you? She could not wait for Cornelia to say, but broke out with
fresh astonishment. Why, Walter Ludlow! Do you know who Walter
Ludlow is? He's one of the greatest painters in New York. He's the
Who is Mr. Wetmore? Cornelia asked evasively.
Don't name him in the same century! He's grand, too! Does those
little Meissonier things. He's going to paint mamma. She's one of his
types. He must have brought Mr. Ludlow to see me. But he didn't. He saw
nobody but you! Oh Cornelia! She caught Cornelia in her arms.
Don't be a goose! said Cornelia, struggling to get away.
Will you tell me all about it, then?
Yes. But it isn't anything.
At the end of the story Charmian sighed, How romantic! Of course,
he's simply in a frenzy till he sees you again. I don't believe he can
live through the week.
He'll have to live through several, said Cornelia; You can excuse
me when you go. He's very conceited, and he talks to you as if he were
a thousand years old. I think Mr. Plaisdell is a great deal nicer. He
doesn't treat you as if you wereI don't know what!
The next day Cornelia found herself the object of rumors that filled
the Synthesis. She knew that they all came from Charmian, and that she
could not hope to overtake them with denial. The ridiculous romances
multiplied themselves, and those who did not understand that Cornelia
and Ludlow had grown up together in the same place, or were first
cousins, had been encouraged to believe that they were old lovers, who
had quarrelled, and never spoken till they happened to meet at Mrs.
Maybough's. Ludlow was noted for a certain reticence and austerity with
women, which might well have come from an unhappy love-affair; once
when he took one of the instructor's classes at the Synthesis
temporarily, his forbidding urbanity was so glacial, that the girls
scarcely dared to breathe in his presence, and left it half-frozen. The
severest of the masters, with all his sarcasm, was simply nothing to
Cornelia liked to hear that. She should have despised Ludlow if she
had heard he was silly with girls, and she did not wish to despise him,
though she knew that he despised her; she could bear that. The
Synthesis praises made her the more determined, however, to judge his
recent work when she came to see it, just as she would judge any one's
work. But first of all she meant not to see it.
She seemed to have more trouble in bringing herself back to this
point than in keeping Charmian to it. Charmian came to believe her at
last, after declaring it the rudest thing she ever heard of, and asking
Cornelia what she expected to say to Mrs. Westley when she came for
her. Cornelia could never quite believe it herself, though she
strengthened her purpose with repeated affirmation, tacit and explicit,
and said it would be very easy to tell Mrs. Westley she was not going,
if she ever did come for her. She could not keep Charmian from
referring the case to every one on the steps and window-sills in the
Synthesis, and at the sketch-class, where Charmian published it the
first time Cornelia came, and wove a romance from it which involved
herself as the close friend and witness of so strange a being.
Cornelia tried not to let all this interfere with her work, but it
did, and at the sketch-class where she might have shown some rebound
from the servile work of the Preparatory, and some originality, she
disappointed those whom Charmian had taught to expect anything of her.
They took her rustic hauteur and her professed indifference to the
distinction of Ludlow's invitation, as her pose. She went home from the
class vexed to tears by her failure, and puzzled to know what she
really should say to that Mrs. Westley when she came; it wouldn't be so
easy to tell her she was not going, after all. Cornelia hated her, and
wished she would not come; she had let the whole week go by, now, till
Thursday, and perhaps she really would not come. The girl knew so
little of the rigidity of city dates that she thought very likely Mrs.
Westley had decided to put it off till another week.
She let herself into her boarding-house with her latch-key and stood
confronted in the hall with Ludlow, who was giving some charge to the
maid. Oh, Miss Saunders, he said, and he put the card he held into
his pocket, I'm so glad not to miss you; I was just leaving a written
message, but now I can tell you.
He hesitated, and Cornelia did not know what to do. But she said,
Won't you come in? with a vague movement toward the parlor.
Why, yes, thank you, for a moment, he said; and he went back with
I hope I haven't kept you waiting, she said, with a severity which
was for her own awkwardness.
He did not take it for himself. Oh, no! I've just come from Mrs.
Westley's, and she's charged me with a message for you. He handed
Cornelia a note. She will call for you and Miss Maybough at the
Synthesis rather earlier than you usually leave work, I believe, but I
want you to have some daylight on my Manet. I hope half-past two won't
be too early?
Oh, no, said Cornelia, and while she wondered how she could make
this opening of assent turn to refusal in the end, Ludlow went on:
There's something of my own, that I'd like to have you look at. Of
course, you won't get away with the Manet, alone; I don't suppose you
expected that. I've an idea you can tell me where I've gone wrong, if I
have; it's all a great while ago. Have you ever been at the County Fair
at Pymantoning since
He stopped, and Cornelia perceived that it was with doubt whether it
might not still be a tender point with her.
Oh, yes, I've forgiven the Fair long ago. She laughed, and he
laughed with her.
It's best not to keep a grudge against a defeat, I suppose. If we
do, it won't help us. I've had my quarrel with the Pymantoning County
Fair, too; but it wasn't with the Fine Arts Committee.
No, I didn't suppose you wanted to exhibit anything there, said
Why, I don't know. It might be a very good thing for me. Why not?
I'd like to exhibit this very picture there. It's an impressionnot
just what I'd do, nowof the trotting-match I saw there that day.
Yes, said Cornelia, letting her eyes fall, Mrs. Burton said you
had painted it, or you were going to.
Well, I did, said Ludlow, and nobody seemed to know what I was
after. I wonder if they would in Pymantoning! But what I wanted to ask
was that you would try to look at it from the Pymantoning point of
view. I hope you haven't lost that yet?
Well, I haven't been away such a great while, said Cornelia,
No; but still, one sophisticates in New York very soon. I'll tell
you what I've got a notion of! Well, it's all very much in the air,
yet, but so far as I've thought it out, it's the relation of our art to
our life. It sounds rather boring, I know, and I suppose I'm a bit of a
theorist; I always was. It's easy enough to prove to the few that our
life is full of poetry and picturesqueness; but can I prove it to the
many? Can the people themselves be made to see it and feel it? That's
the question. Can they be interested in a picturea real work of art
that asserts itself in a good way? Can they be taught to care for my
impression of the trotting-match at the Pymantoning County Fair, as
much as they would for a chromo of the same thing, and be made to feel
that there was something more in it perhaps?
He sat fronting her, with his head down over the hat he held between
his hands; now he lifted his face and looked into hers. She smiled at
his earnestness, and for a little instant felt herself older and wiser
in her practicality.
You might send it out to the next County Fair, and see.
Why, that's just what I thought of! he said, and he laughed. Do
you suppose they would let me exhibit it in the Fine Arts Department?
I don't believe they would give you the first premium, said
Well, well, then I should have to put up with the second! I should
like to get the first, I confess, Ludlow went on seriously. The
premium would mean something to menot so much, of course, as a
popular recognition. What do you think the chance of that would be?
Well, I haven't seen the picture yet, Cornelia suggested.
Ah, that's true! I forgot that, he said, and they both laughed.
But what do you think of my theory? It seems to me, and now he leaned
back in his chair, and smiled upon her with that bright earnestness
which women always found charming in him, it seems to me that the
worst effect of an artist's life is to wrap him up in himself, and
separate him from his kind. Even if he goes in for what they call
popular subjects, he takes from the many and gives to the few; he ought
to give something back to the crowdhe ought to give everything back.
But the terrible question is whether they'll have it; and he has no
means of finding out.
And you've come to one of the crowd to inquire? Cornelia asked. Up
to that moment she had been flattered, too, by his serious appeal to
her, and generously pleased. But the chance offered, and she perversely
He protested with a simple Ah! and she was ashamed.
I don't know, she hurried on to say. I never thought about it in
Well, it isn't so simple any more, after you once begin. I don't
suppose I shall be at peace quite till I try what I can do; and seeing
you Sunday brought Pymantoning all so freshly back, that I've been
wondering, from time to time, ever since, whether you could possibly
I will try, as the good little boy said, Cornelia assented.
It makes me feel like a good little boy to have asked it. Ludlow
did not profit by the chance which the conclusion of their agreement
offered him, to go. He stayed and talked on, and from time to time he
recurred to what he had asked, and said he was afraid she would think
he was using her, and tried to explain that he really was not, but was
approaching her most humbly for her opinion. He could not make it out,
but they got better and better acquainted in the fun they had with his
failures. It went on till Cornelia said, Now, really, if you keep it
up, I shall have to stand you in the corner, with your face to the
Oh, do! he entreated. It would be such a relief.
You know I was a teacher two winters, she said, and have
actually stood boys in corners.
That seemed to interest him afresh; he made her tell him all about
her school-teaching. He stayed till the bell rang for dinner, and he
suffered a decent moment to pass before he rose then.
After all, he said at parting, I think you'd better decide that
it's merely my Manet you're coming to see.
Yes, merely the Manet, Cornelia assented. If I choose, the
Ludlows will all be stood in the corners with their faces to the wall.
She found her own face very flushed, when she climbed up to her room
for a moment before going in to dinner, and her heart seemed to be
beating in her neck. She looked at Mrs. Westley's note. It stated
everything so explicitly that she did not see why Mr. Ludlow need have
come to explain. She remembered now that she had forgotten to tell him
she was not going.
Cornelia thought Mrs. Westley would come for Charmian and herself in
her carriage; but when they went down to her in the Synthesis office,
they found that she had planned to walk with them to Ludlow's studio.
She said it was not a great way off; and she had got into the habit of
walking there, when he was painting her; she supposed they would rather
walk after their work. Cornelia said Oh, yes, and Charmian asked, at
her perfervidest, Had Mr. Ludlow painted her? and Mrs. Westley
answered calmly. Yes; she believed he did not think it very successful;
her husband liked it, though. Charmian said, Oh, how much she should
like to see it, and Mrs. Westley said she must show it her some time.
Cornelia thought Mrs. Westley very pretty, but she decided that she did
not care to see Ludlow's picture of her.
His studio stood a little back from the sidewalk; it was approached
by a broad sloping pavement, and had two wide valves for the doorway.
He opened the door himself, at their ring, and they found themselves in
a large, gray room which went to the roof, with its vaulted ceiling;
this was pierced with a vast window, that descended half-way down the
northward wall. My studio started in life as a gentleman's stable;
then it fell into the hands of a sculptor, and then it got as low as a
painter. He said to Charmian, Mr. Plaisdell has told me how
ingeniously you treated one of your rooms that you took for a studio.
Charmian answered with dark humility, But a studio without a
painter in it! and there were some offers and refusals of compliment
between them, which ended in his saying that he would like to see her
studio, and her saying that Mrs. Maybough would always be glad to see
him. Then he talked with Mrs. Westley, who was very pleasant to
Cornelia while the banter with Charmian went on, and proposed to show
his pictures; he fancied that was what he had got them there, for; but
he would make a decent pretence of the Manet, first.
The Manet was one of that painter's most excessive; it was almost
insolent in its defiance of the old theory and method of art. He had
to go too far, in those days, or he wouldn't have arrived anywhere,
Ludlow said, dreamily, as he stood looking with them at the picture.
He fell back to the point he had really meant to reach. He put the
picture away amidst the sighs and murmurs of Mrs. Westley and Charmian,
and the silence of Cornelia, which he did not try to break. He began to
show his own pictures, taking them at random, as it seemed, from the
ranks of canvasses faced against the wall. You know we impressionists
are nothing if not prolific, he said, and he kept turning the frame on
his easel, now for a long picture, and now for a tall one. The praises
of the others followed him, but Cornelia could not speak. Some of the
pictures she did not like; some she thought were preposterous; but
there were some that she found brilliantly successful, and a few that
charmed her with their delicate and tender poetry. He said something
about most of them, in apology or extenuation; Cornelia believed that
she knew which he liked by his not saying anything of them.
Suddenly he set a large picture on the easel that quite filled the
frame. Trotting Match at the Pymantoning County Fair, he announced,
and he turned away and began to make tea in a little battered copper
kettle over a spirit-lamp, on a table strewn with color-tubes in the
Ah, yes, said Mrs. Westley. I remember this at the American
Artists; three or four years ago, wasn't it? But you've done something
to it, haven't you?
Improved with age, said Ludlow, with his back toward them, bent
above his tea-kettle. That's all.
It seems like painting a weed, though, said Charmian. How can you
care for such subjects?
Ludlow came up to her with the first cup of tea. It's no use to
paint lilies, you know.
Do you call that an answer?
A poor one.
He brought Mrs. Westley some tea, and then he came to Cornelia with
a cup in each hand, one for her, and one for himself, and frankly put
himself between her and the others. Well, what do you think of it? he
asked, as if there were no one else but they two.
She felt a warm flush of pleasure in his boldness. I don't know.
It's like it; that's the way I've always seen it; and it's beautiful.
It looks as if it were somewhere else.
You've hit it, said Ludlow. It serves me right. You see I was so
anxious to prove that an American subject was just as susceptible of
impressionistic treatment as a French one, that I made this look as
French as I could. I must do it again and more modestly; not be so
patronizing. I should like to come out there next fall again, and see
another trotting-match. I suppose they'll have one?
They always have them; it wouldn't be the Fair without them, said
Well, I must come, and somehow do it on the spot; that's the only
way. He pulled himself more directly in front of her and ignored the
others, who talked about his picture with faded interest to each other,
and then went about, and looked at the objects in the studio. I don't
think I made myself quite clear the other day, about what I wanted to
do in this way. He plunged into the affair again, and if Cornelia did
not understand it better, it was not for want of explanation. Perhaps
she did not listen very closely. All the time she thought how
brilliantly handsome he was, and how fine, by every worldly criterion.
Yes, he said, that is something I have been thinking of ever since
my picture failed with the public; it deserved to fail, and you've made
it so clear why, that I can't refuse to know, or to keep myself in the
dark about it any longer. I don't believe we can take much from the
common stock of life in any way, and find the thing at all real in our
hands, without intending to give something back. Do you?
Cornelia had never thought about it before; she did not try to
pretend that she had; it seemed a little fantastic to her, but it
flattered her to have him talk to her about it, and she liked his
seriousness. He did not keep up the kind of banter with her that he did
with Charmian; he did not pay her compliments, and she hated
compliments from men.
Ludlow went off to speak to Mrs. Westley of something he saw her
looking at; Charmian edged nearer to Cornelia. I would give the world
to be in your place. I never saw anything like it. Keep on looking just
as you are! It's magnificent. Such color, and that queenly pose of the
head! It would kill those Synthesis girls if they knew how he had been
talking to you. My, if I could get anybody to be serious with me! Talk! Say something! Do you think its going to rain before we get
home? His eyes keep turning this way, all the time; you can't see
them, but they do. I am glad I brought my umbrella. Have you got
your waterproof? I'm going to make you tell me every word he said
when he came to see you yesterday; it'll be mean if you don't. No, I
think I shall go up by the elevated, and then take the surface-car
across. It's the most romantic thing I ever heard of. No, I
don't believe it will be dark. Speak! Say something! You mustn't
let me do all the talking; he'll notice.
Cornelia began to laugh, and Charmian turned away and joined Mrs.
Westley and Ludlow, who were tilting outward some of the canvasses
faced against the wall, and talking them over. Cornelia followed her,
and they all four loitered over the paintings, luxuriously giving a
glance at each, and saying a word or two about it. Yes, Ludlow said,
sometimes I used to do three or four of them a day. I work more slowly
now; if you want to get any thinking in, you've got to take time to
It was growing dark; Ludlow proposed to see them all home one after
another. Mrs. Westley said no, indeed; the Broadway car, at the end of
the second block, would leave her within three minutes of her door.
And nothing could happen in three minutes, said Ludlow. That
stands to reason.
And my one luxury is going home alone, said Charmian.
Mamma doesn't allow it, except to and from the Synthesis. Then I'm an
art student and perfectly safe. If I were a young lady my life wouldn't
be worth anything.
Yes, Ludlow assented, the great thing is to have some sort of
business to be where you are.
I know a girl who's in some of the charities, and she goes about at
all hours of the night, and nobody speaks to her, said Charmian.
Well, then, said Ludlow, I don't see that there's anything for me
to do, unless we all go together with Mrs. Wesley to get her Broadway
car, and then keep on to the Elevated with you, Miss Maybough. Miss
Saunders may be frightened enough then to let me walk to her door with
her. A man likes to be of some little use in the world.
They had some mild fun about the weakness of Cornelia in needing an
escort. She found it best to own that she did not quite know her way
home, and was afraid to ask if she got puzzled.
Ludlow put out his spirit-lamp, which had been burning blue all the
time, and embittering the tea in the kettle over it, and then they
carried out their plan. Cornelia went before with Mrs. Westley, who
asked her to come to her on her day, whenever she could leave her work
for such a reckless dissipation. At the foot of the Elevated station
stairs, where Charmian inflexibly required that they should part with
her, in the interest of the personal liberty which she prized above
personal safety, she embraced Cornelia formally, and then added an
embrace of a more specific character, and whispered to her ear, You're
glorious! and fled up the station stairs.
Cornelia understood that she was glorious because Mr. Ludlow was
walking home with her, and that Charmian was giving the fact a
significance out of all reason. They talked rather soberly, as two
people do when a gayer third has left them, and they had little
silences. They spoke of Charmian, and Cornelia praised her beauty and
her heart, and said how everybody liked her at the Synthesis.
Do they laugh at her a little, too? Ludlow asked.
She's rather romantic.
Oh, I thought all girls were romantic.
Yes? You're not.
What makes you think so? asked the girl. I'm a great deal more
romantic than is good for me. Don't you like romantic people? I do!
I don't believe I do, said Ludlow. They're rather apt to make
trouble. I don't mean Miss Maybough. She'll probably take it out in
madly impossible art. Can she draw?
Cornelia did not like to say what she thought of Charmian's drawing,
exactly. She said, Well, I don't know.
Ludlow hastened to say, I oughtn't to have asked that about your
We're both in the Preparatory, you know, Cornelia explained. I
think Charmian has a great deal of imagination.
Well, that's a good thing, if it doesn't go too far. Fortunately it
can't, in the Preparatory.
At her door Cornelia did not know whether to ask him in, as she
would have done in Pymantoning; she ended by not even offering him her
hand; but he took it all the same, as if he had expected her to offer
Cornelia found herself in her room without knowing how she got
there, or how long she had been there, when the man-voiced Irish girl
came up and said something to her. She did not understand at first;
then she made out that there was a gentleman asking for her in the
parlor; and with a glance at her face in the glass, she ran down
stairs. She knew it was Ludlow, and that he had thought of something he
wanted to say, and had come back. It must be something very important;
it might be an invitation to go with him somewhere; she wondered if
they would have a chaperone.
In the vague light of the long parlor, where a single burner was
turned half up, because it was not yet dark outside, a figure rose from
one of the sofas and came toward her with one hand extended in gay and
even jocose greeting. It was the figure of a young man, with a high
forehead, and with nothing to obstruct the view of the Shakespearian
dome it mounted into, except a modest growth of hair above either ear.
He was light upon his feet, and he advanced with a rhythmical step.
Cornelia tried to make believe that she did not know who it was; she
recoiled, but her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth, and she could
not gainsay him when he demanded joyfully, Why, Nie! Why, Nelie! Don't
you remember me? Dickerson, J. B., with Gates &Clarkson, art goods?
Pymantoning? Days of yore, generally? Oh, pshaw, now!
Yes, I remember you, said Cornelia, in a voice as cold as the
finger-tips which she inwardly raged to think she gave him, but was
helpless to refuse, simply because he was holding out his hand to her.
Well, it's good for sore eyes to see you again, said Mr.
Dickerson, closing both of his hands on hers. Let's see; it's four
years ago! How the time flies! I declare, it don't hardly seem a day.
Mustn't tell you how you've grown, I suppose? Well, we weren't
much more than children, then, anyhow. Set down! I'm at home here. Old
stamping-ground of mine, when I'm in New York; our house has its
headquarters in New York, now; everything's got to come, sooner or
later. Well, it's a great place.
Cornelia obeyed him for the same reason that she gave him her hand,
which was no reason. I heard your voice there at the door, when you
came in a little while ago, and I was just going to rush out and speak
to you. I was sure it was you; but thinks I, 'It can't be; it's too
good to be true'; and I waited till I could see Mrs. Montgomery, and
then I sent up for you. Didn't send my name; thought I'd like to
surprise you. Well, how's the folks? Mother still doing business at the
old stand? Living and well, I hope?
My mother is well, said Cornelia. She wondered how she should rid
herself of this horrible little creature, who grew, as she looked at
him in her fascination, more abominable to her every moment. She was
without any definite purpose in asking, How is Mrs. Dickerson?
The question appeared to give Mr. Dickerson great satisfaction; he
laughed, throwing back his head: Who, Tweet? Well, I thought you'd be
after me there, about the first thing! I don't blame you; don't blame
you a bit. Be just so myself, if I was in your place! Perfectly natural
you should! Then you ain't heard?
I don't know what you mean, said Cornelia, with mounting aversion.
She edged away from him, for in the expression of his agreeable emotion
he had pushed nearer to her on the sofa.
Why, Tweet is Mrs. Byers, now; court let her take back her maiden
name. I didn't oppose the divorce; nothing like peace in families, you
know. Tweet was all right, and I hain't got anything to say against
her. She's a good girl; but we couldn't seem to hit it off, and
we agreed to quit, after we'd tried it a couple of years or so, and
I've been a free man ever since.
It could not be honestly said that Cornelia was profoundly revolted
by the facts so lightly, almost gaily, presented. Her innocence of so
much that they implied, and her familiarity with divorce as a common
incident of life, alike protected her from the shock. But what really
struck terror to her heart was something that she realized with the
look that the hideous little man now bent upon her: the mutual
understanding; the rights once relinquished which might now be urged
again; the memory of things past, were all suggested in this look. She
thought of Ludlow, with his lofty ideals and his great gifts, and then
she looked at this little grinning, leering wretch, and remembered how
he had once put his arm round her and kissed her. It seemed
impossibletoo cruel and unjust to be. She was scarcely more than a
child, then, and that foolish affair had been more her mother's folly
than her own. It flashed upon her that unless she put away the shame of
it, the shame would weaken her and master her. But how to assert
herself she did not know till he gave her some pretext.
Well, he sighed, rolling his head against the back of the sofa,
and looking up at the chandelier, sometimes a man has more freedom
than he's got any use for. I don't know as I want to be back under
Tweet's thumb, but I guess the Scripture was about right where it says
it ain't good for a man to be alone. When d'you leave Pymantoning,
It makes no difference when I left. Cornelia got to her feet,
trembling. And I'll thank you not to call me by my first name, Mr.
Dickerson. I don't know why you should do it, and I don't like it.
Oh, all right, all right, said Mr. Dickerson. I don't blame you.
I think you're perfectly excusable to feel the way you do. But some
time, when I get a chance, I should like to tell you about it, and put
it to you in the right light
I don't want to hear about it, cried Cornelia fiercely. And I
won't have you thinking that it's because I ever did care for you. I
didn't. And I was only too glad when you got married. And I don't hate
you, for I despise you too much; and I always did. So!
She stamped her foot for a final emphasis, but she was aware of her
words all having fallen effectless, like blows dealt some detestable
thing in a dream.
Good! Just what I expected and deserved, said Mr. Dickerson, with
a magnanimity that was appalling. I did behave like a perfect
scallawag to you, Nie; but I was young then, and Tweet got round me
before I knew. I can explain
I don't want you to explain! I won't let you. You're too disgusting
for anything. Don't I tell you I never cared for you?
Why, of course, said Mr. Dickerson tolerantly, you say that now;
and I don't blame you. But I guess you did care, once,
Oh, my goodness, what shall I do? She found herself appealing in
some sort to the little wretch against himself.
Why, let's see how you look; I hain't had a fair peep at you, yet.
As if with the notion of affording a relief to the strain of the
situation, he advanced, and lifted his hand toward the low-burning
Stop! cried Cornelia. Are you staying herein this house?
Well, I inferred that I was, from a remark that I made.
Then I'm going away instantly. I will tell Mrs. Montgomery, and I
will go to-night.
Hush! Don't youdon't dare to speak to me! Oh, youyou She
could not find a word that would express all her loathing of him, and
her scorn of herself in the past for having given him the hold upon her
that nothing appeared to have loosed. She was putting on a bold front,
and she meant to keep her word, but if she left that house, she did not
know where, in the whole vast city, she should go. Of course she could
go to Charmian Maybough; but besides bring afraid to venture out after
dark, she knew she would have to tell Charmian all about it; or else
make a mystery of it; there was nothing, probably, that Charmian would
have liked better, but there was nothing that Cornelia would have liked
less. She wanted to cry; it always seems hard and very unjust to us, in
after life, when some error or folly of our youth rises up to perplex
us; and Cornelia was all the more rebellious because the fault was not
wholly hers, or not even largely, but mostly her dear, innocent, unwise
Mr. Dickerson dropped his hand without turning up the gas; perhaps
he did not need a stronger light on Cornelia, after all. Oh, well! I
don't want to drive you out of the house. I'll go. I've got my grip out
here in the hall. But see here! I told Mrs. Montgomery we hailed from
the same placechildren together, and I don't know but what
cousinsand how glad I was to find you here, and now if I leave
Better let me stay here, over night, anyhow! I'm off on the road
to-morrow, anyway. I won't trouble you; I won't, indeed. Now you can
depend upon it. Word's as good as my bond, if my bond ain't
worth a great deal. But, honor bright!
Cornelia's heart, which stood still at the threat she made, began to
pound in her breast. She panted so that she could hardly speak.
Will you call me by my first name? she demanded.
No. You shall be Miss Saunders to me till you say when.
And will you ever speak to me, or look at me, as if we were ever
anything but the most perfect strangers?
It'll be a good deal of a discount from what I told Mrs.
Montgomery, but I guess I shall have to promise.
And you will go in the morning?
Well, I don't like a very early breakfast, but I guess I can
get out of the house by about nine, or half-past eight, maybe.
Then you may stay. Cornelia turned and marched out of the parlor
with a state that failed her more and more, the higher she mounted
toward her room. If it had been a flight further she would have had to
crawl on her hands and knees.
At first she thought she would not go down to dinner, but after a
while she found herself very hungry, and she decided she must go for
appearance sake at any rate. At the bottom of her heart, too, she was
curious to see whether that little wretch would keep his word.
He was the life of the table. His jokes made everybody laugh; it
could be seen that he was a prime favorite with the landlady. After the
coffee came he played a great many tricks with knives and forks and
spoons, and coins. He dressed one of his hands, all but two fingers,
with a napkin which he made like the skirts of a ballet-dancer, and
then made his fingers dance a hornpipe. He tried a skirt-dance with
them later, but it was comparatively a failure, for want of practice,
Toward Cornelia he behaved with the most scrupulous deference, even
with delicacy, as if they had indeed met in former days, but as if she
were a person of such dignity and consequence that their acquaintance
could only have been of the most formal character. He did it so well,
and seemed to take such a pleasure in doing it that she blushed for
him. Some of the things he said to the others were so droll that she
had to laugh at them. But he did not presume upon her tolerance.
The false courage that supported her in Dickerson's presence left
Cornelia when she went back to her room, and she did not sleep that
night, or she thought she did not. She came down early for a cup of
coffee, and the landlady told her that Mr. Dickerson had just gone; he
wished Mrs. Montgomery to give Cornelia his respects, and apologize for
his going away without waiting to see her again. He had really expected
to stay over till Monday, but he found he could save several days by
taking the Chicago Limited that morning. Mrs. Montgomery praised his
energy; she did not believe he would be on the road a great while
longer; he would be in the firm in less than another year. She hinted
at his past unhappiness in the married state, and she said she did hope
that he would get somebody who would appreciate him, next time. There
did not seem to be any doubt in her mind that there would be a next
time with him.
Cornelia wanted to ask whether she expected him back soon; she could
not; but she resolved that whenever he came he should not find her in
that house. She thought where she should go, and what excuse she should
make for going, what she should tell Charmian, or Mr. Ludlow, if she
ever saw him again. It seemed to her that she had better go home, but
Cornelia hated to give up; she could not bear to be driven away. She
went to church, to escape herself, and a turmoil of things alien to the
place and the hour whirled through her mind during the service; she
came out spent with a thousand-fold dramatization of her relations to
Mr. Dickerson and to Mr. Ludlow. She sat down on a bench in the little
park before the church, and tried to think what she ought to do, while
the children ran up and down the walks, and the people from the
neighboring East Side avenues, in their poor Sunday best, swarmed in
the square for the mild sun and air of the late October. The street
cars dinned ceaselessly up and down, and back and forth; the trains of
the Elevated hurtled by on the west and on the east; the troubled city
roared all round with the anguish of the perpetual coming and going;
but it was as much Sunday there as it would have been on the back
street in Pymantoning where her mother's little house stood. The leaves
that dripped down at her feet in the light warm breaths of wind passing
over the square might have fallen from the maple before the gate at
home. The awful unity of life for the first time appeared to her. Was
it true that you could not get away from what you had been? Was that
the meaning of that little wretch's coming back to claim her after he
had forfeited every shadow of right to her that even her mother's
ignorance and folly had given him? Then it meant that he would come
back again and again, and never stop coming. She made believe that if
she looked up, she should now see him actually coming down the path
toward her; she held her eyes fixed upon the ground at her feet, and
then it seemed to her every moment that he was just going to take the
seat next her. The seat was already taken; a heavy German woman filled
it so solidly that no phantasm could have squeezed in beside her. But
the presence of Dickerson became so veritable that Cornelia started up
breathless, and hurried home, sick with the fear that she should find
him waiting for her there.
She was afraid to go out the next morning, lest she should meet him
on the street, though she knew that by this time he was a thousand
At the Synthesis she was ashamed to let Charmian think that her
absent and tremulous mood had something to do with Ludlow; but she was
so much more ashamed of the shabby truth that she would have been
willing to accept the romance herself. This was very dishonest; it was
very wicked and foolish; Cornelia saw herself becoming a guilty
accomplice in an innocent illusion. She found strength to silence
Charmian's surmise, if not to undeceive her; she did her best; and as
the days began to remove her farther and farther from the moment of her
actual encounter with Dickerson, her reason came more and more into
control of her conscience. She tried not to be the fool of a useless
remorse for something she was at least not mainly to blame for. She had
to make the struggle alone; there was no one she could advise with; her
heart shut when she thought of telling any one her trouble; but in her
perpetual reveries she argued the case before Ludlow.
It seemed to her as if he had come to render her a final judgment
when his name was sent up to her room, that Saturday afternoon which
ended the longest week of her life. She went down, and found him alone
in the long parlor, and it was in keeping with her fantastic
prepossession that he should begin, I wonder how I shall say what I've
come for? as if he would fain have softened her sentence.
He kept her hand a moment longer than he need; but he was not one of
those disgusting people who hold your hand while they talk to you, and
whom Cornelia hated. She did not now resent it, though she was sensible
of having to take her hand from him.
I don't know, she answered, with hysterical flippancy. If I did I
would tell you.
He laughed, as if he liked her flippancy, and he said, It's very
simple. In fact, that's what makes it so difficult.
Then you might practice on something hard first, she suggested
wildly. How would the weather do?
Yes, hasn't it been beautiful? said Ludlow, with an involuntary
lapse into earnestness. I was in the Park to-day for a little effect I
wanted to get, and it was heartbreaking to leave the woods. I was away
up in those forest depths that look wild in spite of the asphalt. If
you haven't been there, you must go some day while the autumn color
lasts. I saw a lot of your Synthesis ladies painting there. I didn't
know but I might see you.
This was all very matter of fact. Cornelia took herself in hand, and
shook herself out of her hallucination. No, I don't suppose it would
be right for a person who was merely in the Preparatory to go sketching
in the Park. And Charmian and I were very good to-day, and kept working
away at our block hands as long as the light lasted.
Ah, yes; Miss Maybough, said Ludlow; then he paused absently a
moment. Do you think she is going to do much in art?
How should I know? returned Cornelia. She thought it rather odd he
should recur to that after she had let him see she did not want to talk
about Charmian's art.
Because you know that you can do something yourself, said Ludlow.
That is the only kind of people who can really know. The other sort of
people can make clever guesses; they can't know.
And you believe that I can do something? asked Cornelia, and a
sudden revulsion of feeling sent the tears to her eyes. It was so sweet
to be praised, believed in, after what she had been through. But you
haven't seen anything of mine except those thingsin the Fair House.
Oh, yes, I have. I've seen the drawings you submitted at the
Synthesis. I've just seen them. I may as well confess it: I asked to
You did! Andandwell? she fluttered back.
It will take hard work.
Oh, I know that!
And it will take time.
Yes, that is the worst of it. I don't see how I can give the time.
Why? he asked.
Oh, becauseI can't very well be away from home. She colored as
she said this, for she could have been away from home well enough if
she had the money. I thought I would come and try it for one winter.
He said lightly, Perhaps you'll get so much interested that you'll
find you can take more time.
I don't know, she answered.
Well, then, you must get in all the work you can this winter. Block
hands are well enough, but they're not the whole of art nor the whole
preparation for it.
Oh, I've joined the sketch class, she said.
Yes, that's well enough, too, he assented. But I want you to come
and paint with me, he suddenly added.
You? Me? she gasped.
Yes, he returned. I'll tell you what I mean. I've been asked to
paint a lady. She'll have to come to my place, and I want you to come
with her, and see what you can do, too. I hope it doesn't seem too
extraordinary? he broke off, at sight of the color in her face.
Oh, no, said Cornelia. She wondered what Charmian would say if she
knew this; she wondered what the Synthesis would say; the Synthesis
held Mr. Ludlow in only less honor than the regular Synthesis
instructors, and Mr. Ludlow had asked her to come and paint with him!
She took shelter in the belief that Mrs. Burton must have put him up to
it, somehow, but she ought to say something grateful, or at least
something. She found herself stupidly and aimlessly asking, Is it Mrs.
Westley? as if that had anything to do with the matter.
No; I don't see why I didn't tell you at once, said Ludlow. It's
your friend, Miss Maybough.
Cornelia relieved her nerves with a laugh. I wonder how she ever
kept from telling it.
Perhaps she didn't know. I've only just got a letter from her
mother, asking me to paint her, and I haven't decided yet that I shall
She thought that he wanted her to ask him why, and she asked, What
are you waiting for?
For two reasons. Do you want the real reason first? he asked,
smiling at her.
She laughed. No, the unreal one!
Well, I doubt whether Mrs. Maybough wrote to me of her own
inspiration, entirely. I suspect that Wetmore and Plaisdell have been
working the affair, and I don't like that.
And I'm waiting for you to say whether I could do it. That's the
How should I know?
I could make a picture of her, he said, but could I make a
portrait? There is something in every one which holds the true
likeness; if you don't get at that, you don't make a portrait, and you
don't give people their money's worth. They haven't proposed to buy
merely a picture of you; they've proposed to buy a picture of a certain
person; you may give them more, but you can't honestly give them less;
and if you don't think you can give them that, then you had better not
try. I should like to try for Miss Maybough's likeness, and I'll do
that, at least, if you'll try with me. The question is whether you
would like to.
Like to? It's the greatest opportunity! Why, I hope I know what a
chance it is, and I don't know why you ask me to.
I want to learn of you.
If you talk that way I shall know you are making fun of me.
Then I will talk some other way. I mean what I say. I want you to
show me how to look at Miss Maybough. It sounds fantastic
It sounds ridiculous. I shall not do anything of the kind.
Very well, then, I shall not paint her.
You don't expect me to believe that, said Cornelia, but she did
believe it a little, and she was daunted. She said, Charmian would
I don't believe she would, said Ludlow. I don't think she would
mind being painted by half-a-dozen people at once. The more the
That shows you don't understand her, Cornelia began.
Didn't I tell you I didn't understand her? Now, you see, you must.
I should have overdone that trait in her. Of course there is something
better than that.
I don't see how you could propose my painting her, too, Cornelia
Ludlow was daunted in his turn; he had not thought of that. It would
be a little embarrassing, certainly, but he could not quite own this.
He laughed and said, I have a notion she will propose it herself, if
you give her a chance.
Oh, said Cornelia, if she does that, all well and good.
Then I may say to her mother that I will make a try at the
What have I to do with it? Cornelia demanded, liking and not
liking to have the decision seem left to her. I shall have nothing to
do with it if she doesn't do it of her own accord.
You may be sure that she shall not have even a suggestion of any
kind, said Ludlow, solemnly.
I shall know it if she does, Cornelia retorted, not so solemnly,
and they both laughed.
While he stayed and talked with her the affair had its reason and
justification; it seemed very simple and natural; but when he went away
it began to look difficult and absurd. It was something else she would
have to keep secret, like that folly of the past; it cast a malign
light upon Ludlow, and showed him less wise and less true than she had
thought him. She must take back her consent; she must send for him,
write to him, and do it; but she did not know how without seeming to
blame him, and she wished to blame only herself. She let the evening go
by, and she stood before the glass, putting up her hand to her back
hair to extract the first dismantling hairpin, for a sleepless night,
when a knock at her door was followed by the words, He's waitun' in
the parlor. The door was opened and the Irish girl put a card in her
The card was Ludlow's, and the words, Do see me, if you can, for a
moment, were scribbled on it.
Cornelia ran down stairs. He was standing, hat in hand, under the
leafy gas chandelier in the parlor, and he said at once, I've come
back to say it won't do. You can't come to paint Miss Maybough with me.
It would be a trick. I wonder I ever thought of such a thing.
She broke out in a joyful laugh. I knew you came for that.
He continued to accuse himself, to explain himself. He ended, You
must have been despising me!
I despised myself. But I had made up my mind to tell Charmian all
about it. There's no need to do that, now it's all over.
But it isn't all over for me, said Ludlow gloomily. I went
straight home from here, and wrote to Mrs. Maybough that I would paint
her daughter, and now I'm in for it.
He looked so acutely miserable that Cornelia gave way to a laugh,
which had the effect of raising his fallen spirits, and making him
laugh, too. They sat down together and began to talk the affair all
Some of the boarders who were at the theatre came in before he rose
Cornelia followed him out into the hall. Then there is nothing for
me to do about it?
No, nothing, he said, unless you want to take the commission off
my hands, and paint the picture alone. He tried to look gloomy again,
but he smiled.
Every one slept late at Mrs. Montgomery's on Sunday morning; all
sects united in this observance of the day; in fact you could not get
breakfast till nine. Cornelia opened her door somewhat later even than
this, and started at the sight of Charmian Maybough standing there,
with her hand raised in act to knock. They exchanged little shrieks of
Did I scare you? Well, it's worth it, and you'll say so when you
know what's happened. Go right back in! Charmian pushed Cornelia back
and shut the door. You needn't try to guess, and I won't ask you to.
But it's simply this: Mr. Ludlow is going to paint me. What do you
think of that? Though I sha'n't expect you to say at once. But it's so.
Mamma wrote to him several days ago, but she kept the whole affair from
me till she knew he would do it, and he only sent his answer last night
after dinner. Charmian sat down on the side of the bed with the effect
of intending to take all the time that was needed for the full
sensation. And now, while you're absorbing the great central fact, I
will ask if you have any idea why I have rushed down here this morning
before you were up, or mamma either, to interview you?
No, I haven't, said Cornelia.
You don't happen to have an olive or a cracker any where about? I
don't need them for illustration, but I haven't had any breakfast,
There are some ginger-snaps in the bureau box right before you,
said Cornelia from the window-sill.
Ginger-snaps will do, in an extreme case like this, said Charmian,
and she left her place long enough to search the bureau box. What
little ones! she sighed. But no matter; I can eat them all. She
returned to her seat on Cornelia's bed with the paper bag which she had
found, in her hand. Well, I have thought it perfectly out, and all you
have to do is to give your consent; and if you knew how much valuable
sleep I had lost, thinking it out, you would consent at once. You know
that the sittings will have to be at his studio, and that I shall have
to have somebody go with me. Cornelia was silent, and Charmian urged,
You know that much, don't you?
Yes, I suppose so, Cornelia allowed.
Well, then, you know I could have mamma go, but it would bore her;
or I could have a maid go, but that would bore me; and so I've decided
to have you go.
Yes; and don't say you can't till you know what you're talking
about. It'll take all your afternoons for a week or a fortnight, and
you'll think you can't give the time. But I'll tell you how you can,
and more too; how you can give the whole winter, if it takes him that
long to paint me; but they say he paints very rapidly, and gets his
picture at a dash, or else doesn't get it at all; and it's neither more
nor less than this: I'm going to get him to let you paint me at the
same time? What do you think of that?
All our motives are mixed, and it was not pure conscience which now
wrought in Cornelia. It was pride, too, and a certain resentment that
Charmian should assume authority to make Mr. Ludlow do this or that.
For an instant she questioned whether he had not broken faith with her,
and got Charmian to propose this; then she knew that it could not have
been. She said coldly, I can't do it.
What! Not when I've come down here before breakfast to ask
you? Why can't you? Charmian wailed.
Because Mr. Ludlow was here last night, and asked me to do it.
He did? Then I am the happiest girl in the world! Let me
embrace you, Cornelia!
Don't bedisgusting! said Cornelia, but she felt that Charmian
was generously glad of the honor done her, and that she had wronged her
by suspecting her of a wish to show power over Mr. Ludlow. I told him
I couldn't, and I can't, because it would have seemed to be making use
of you, andandyou wouldn't like it, and I wouldn't like it in your
place, andI wouldn't do it. And I should have to tell you that he
proposed it, and that you would perfectly hate it.
When it was the very first thing I thought of? Let me embrace you
again, Cornelia Saunders, you adorable wooden image! Why his proposing
it makes it perfectly divine, and relieves me of all responsibility.
Oh, I would come down here every day before breakfast a whole
week, for a moment like this! Then it's all settled; and we will send
him word that we will begin to-morrow afternoon. Let's discuss the
character you will do me in. I want you to paint me in characterboth
of yousomething allegorical or mythical. Or perhaps you're hungry,
too! And I've eaten every one of the snaps.
No, I can't do it, Cornelia still protested; but the reasons why
she could not, seemed to have escaped her, or to have turned into mere
excuses. In fact, since Charmian had proposed it, and seemed to wish
it, they were really no longer reasons. Cornelia alleged them again
with a sense of their fatuity. She did not finally assent; she did not
finally refuse; but she felt that she was very weak.
I see what you're thinking about, said Charmian, but you needn't
be afraid. I shall not show anything out. I shall be a perfecttomb.
What do you mean? demanded Cornelia, with a vexation heightened by
the sense of her own insincerity.
Oh, you know what. But from this time forth I don't.
It will be glorious not to let myself realize it. I shall just sit and
think up conundrums, and not hear, or see, or dream anything. Yes, I
can do it, and it will be splendid practice. This is the way I shall
look. She took a pose in Cornelia's one chair, and put on an air of
impenetrable mystery, which she relinquished a moment to explain, Of
course this back is rather too stiff and straight; I shall be more
crouching. She pushed a ginger-snap between her lips, and chewed
enigmatically upon it. See? she said.
Now, look here, Charmian Maybough, said Cornelia sternly, if you
ever mention that again, or allude to it the least in the world
Don't I say I won't? demanded Charmian, jumping up. That
will be the whole fun of it. From the very first moment, till I'm
framed and hung in a good light, I'm going to be mum, through
and through, and if you don't speak of him, I sha'n't, except as
What a simpleton! said Cornelia. She laughed in spite of her
vexation. I'm not obliged to let what you think trouble me.
Of course not.
Your thinking it doesn't make it so.
But if you let him see
The whole idea is not to let him see! That's what I shall do
it all for. Good-by!
She put the paper bag down on the bureau for the greater convenience
of embracing Cornelia.
Why don't you stay and have breakfast with me? Cornelia asked.
You'll be sick.
Breakfast? And ruin everything! I would rather never have
any breakfast! She took up the paper bag again, and explored it with
an eager hand, while she stared absently at Cornelia. Ah! I thought
there was one left! What mites of things. She put the last ginger-snap
into her mouth, and with a flying kiss to Cornelia as she passed, she
flashed out of the door, and down the stairs.
After all, Ludlow decided that he would paint Charmian in her own
studio, with the accessories of her peculiar pose in life about her;
they were factitious, but they were genuine expressions of her
character; he could not realize her so well away from there.
The first afternoon was given to trying her in this light and that,
and studying her from different points. She wished to stand before her
easel, in her Synthesis working-dress, with her palette on her thumb,
and a brush in her other hand. He said finally, Why not? and Cornelia
made a tentative sketch of her.
At the end of the afternoon he waited while the girl was putting on
her hat in Charmian's room, where she smiled into the glass at
Charmian's face over her shoulder, thinking of the intense fidelity her
friend had shown throughout to her promise of unconsciousness.
Didn't I do it magnificently? Charmian demanded. It almost killed
me; but I meant to do it if it did kill me; and now his offering to see
you aboard the car shows that he is determined to do it, too, if
it kills him. I call it masterly.
Well, don't go and spoil it now, said Cornelia. And if you're
going to ask me every day how you've done
Oh, I'm not! Only the first day and the last day!
As Ludlow walked with Cornelia toward the point where she was to
take her car down town, he began, You see, she is so dramatic,
that if you tried to do her in any other waythat is, simplyyou
would be doing her artificially. You have to take her as she is, don't
I don't know as I think Charmian is acting all the time, if that's
what you mean, said Cornelia. Or any of the time, even.
Ludlow wished she had said she did not know that instead of
as, but he reflected that ninety Americans out of a hundred,
lettered or unlettered, would have said the same. Oh, I don't at all
mean that she is, intentionally. It's because it's her nature that I
want to recognize it. You think it is her nature, don't you? he
Oh, I suppose it is, she answered; it amused her to have him take
such a serious tone about Charmian.
I shall have to depend a great deal on your judgment in that
matter, he went on. You won't mind it, I hope?
Not if you won't mind it's not being worth anything.
It will be worth everything!
Or if you won't care for my not giving it, sometimes.
I don't understand.
Well, I shouldn't want to seem to talk her over.
Oh, no! You don't think I expected you to do that? It was
merely the right point of view I wanted to get.
I don't know as I object to that, said Cornelia.
The car which she wished to take came by, and he stopped it and
handed her aboard. She thought he might decide to come with her, but he
bowed his good-night, and she saw him walking on down town as she
At the end of a fortnight Ludlow had failed to get his picture of
Charmian; at the end of a month he began with a new pose and a fresh
theory. That quality of hers which he hoped to surprise with Cornelia's
help, and which was to give verity and value to his portrait, when once
he expressed it there, escaped him still.
She was capable of perfect poses, but they were mere flashes of
attitude. Then the antique mystery lurking in her face went out of it,
and she became fin de siècle and romantic, and young ladyish,
and uninteresting to Ludlow.
She made tea every afternoon when they finished, and sometimes the
talk they began with before they began work prolonged itself till the
time for the tea had come. On the days when Mr. Plaisdell dropped in
for a cup, the talk took such a range that the early dark fell before
it ended, and then Cornelia had to stay for dinner and to be sent home
in Mrs. Maybough's coupé.
She had never supposed there was anything like it in all the world.
Money, and, in a certain measure, the things that money could buy, were
imaginable in Pymantoning; but joys so fine, so simple as these, were
what she could not have forecast from any ground of experience or
knowledge. She tried to give her mother a notion of what they said and
did; but she told her frankly she never could understand. Mrs.
Saunders, in fact, could not see why it was so exciting; she read
Cornelia's letters to Mrs. Burton, who said she could see, and she told
Mrs. Saunders that, she would like it as much as Cornelia did, if she
were in her place; that she was a kind of Bohemian herself.
She tried to explain what Bohemian meant, and what Bohemia was; but
this is what no one can quite do. Charmian herself, who aimed to be a
perfect Bohemian, was uncertain of the ways and means of operating the
Bohemian life, when she had apparently thrown off all the restrictions,
for the afternoon, at least, that prevented its realization. She had a
faultless setting for it. There never was a girl's studio that was more
like a man's studio, an actual studio. Mr. Ludlow himself praised it;
he said he felt at home in it, and he liked it because it was not
carried a bit too far. Charmian's mother had left her free to do what
she wished, and there was not a convention of Philistine housekeeping
in the arrangement of the place. Everything was in the admired disorder
of an artist's environment; but Mrs. Maybough insisted upon neatness.
Even here Charmian had to submit to a compromise. She might and did
keep things strewn all about in her studio, but every morning the
housemaid was sent in to sweep it and dust it. She was a housemaid of
great intelligence, and an imperfect sense of humor, and she obeyed
with unsmiling scrupulosity the instructions she had to leave
everything in Miss Charmian's studio exactly as she found it, but to
leave it clean. In consequence, this home of art had an effect of
indescribable coldness and bareness, and there were at first some
tempestuous scenes which Cornelia witnessed between Charmian and her
mother, when the girl vainly protested:
But don't you see, mamma, that if you have it regularly
dusted, it never can have any sentiment, any atmosphere?
I don't see how you can call dust atmosphere, my dear, said
her stepmother. If I left your studio looking as you want it, and
there should be a fire, what would people think?
Well, if there should happen to be anybody from Wilbraham, Mass.,
Charmian retorted, they might criticise, but I don't think the New
York Fire Department would notice whether the place had been dusted or
not. But, go on, mamma! Some day I shall have a studio out of
the houseCornelia and I are going to have oneand then I guess you
won't have it dusted!
I'm sure Miss Saunders wouldn't let it get dusty, said Mrs.
Maybough, and then, in self-defence, Charmian gave Cornelia the worst
character for housekeeping that she could invent from her knowledge of
She begged her pardon afterwards, but she said she had to do it, and
she took what comfort she could in slamming everything round, as she
called it, in her studio, when she went with Cornelia to have her
coffee there. The maid restored it to its conscious picturesqueness the
Charmian was troubled to decide what was truly Bohemian to eat, when
they became hungry over their work. She provided candy and chocolate in
all their forms and phases, but all girls ate candy and chocolate, and
they were so missish, and so indistinctive, and they both went so badly
with tea, which she must have because of the weird effect of the
spirit-lamp under the kettle, that she disused them after the first
week. There remained always crackers, which went with anything, but the
question was what to have with them. Their natural association with
cheese was rejected because Charmian said she should be ashamed to
offer Mr. Ludlow those insipid little Neufchatel things, which were
made in New Jersey, anyway, and the Gruyère smelt so, and so did
Camembert; and pine-apple cheese was Philistine. There was nothing for
it but olives, and though olives had no savor of originality, the
little crescent ones were picturesque, and if you picked them out of
the bottle with the end of a brush-handle, sharpened to a point, and
the other person received them with their thumb and finger, the whole
act was indisputably Bohemian.
There was one day when they all got on particularly well, and
Charmian boldly ordered some champagne for a burst. The man brought
back Apollinaris water, and she was afraid to ask why, for fear he
should say Mrs. Maybough sent it. Ludlow said he never took champagne,
and was awfully glad of the Apollinaris, and so the change was a great
success, for neither Charmian nor Cornelia counted, in any case; they
both hated every kind of wine.
Another time, Cornelia, when she came, found Charmian lighting one
of the cigars kept for show on her mantel. She laughed wildly at
Cornelia's dismay, and the smoke, which had been going up her nose,
went down her throat in a volume, and Cornelia had to run and catch
her; she was reaching out in every direction for help.
Cornelia led her to the couch, which was still waiting its rugs to
become a bed, and she lay down there, very pale and still, and was
silent a long time, till Cornelia said, Now, if I could find a moose
somewhere to run over you, and they both burst into a shriek of
But I'm going to learn Charmian declared. Where did that
cigar go? She sprang up to look for it, but they never could find it,
and they decided it must have gone into the fire, and been burnt up;
that particular cigar seemed essential to the experiment, or at least
Charmian did not try another.
They were both very grave after Ludlow came. When he went away, he
said, with an absent look at Charmian, You have a magnificent pallor
to-day, Miss Maybough, and I must compliment you on keeping much
quieter than usual.
Oh, thank you, said Charmian, gravely, and as soon as the door
closed upon him she flung herself into Cornelia's arms, and they
stifled their laughter in each other's necks. It seemed to them that
nothing so wildly funny had ever happened before; they remained a long
while quaking over the question whether there was smell of smoke enough
in the room to have made him suspect anything, and whether his
congratulations were not ironical. Charmian said that her mistake was
in not beginning with a cigarette instead of a cigar; she said she was
ready to begin with a cigarette then, and she dared Cornelia to try
one, too. Cornelia refused the challenge, and then she said, well, she
would do it herself, some day.
There was a moment when it seemed to her that the Bohemian ideal
could be realized to a wild excess in pop-corn. She bought a popper and
three ears of corn, and brought them home tied up in paper, and
fastened to some canvases she got for Cornelia. She insisted that it
was part of the bargain that she should supply Cornelia's canvases. But
the process of popping made them all very red in the face; they had to
take it by turns, for she would not let Ludlow hold the popper the
whole time. They had a snowy heap of corn at last, which she put on the
hearth before them in the hollow of a Japanese shield, detached from a
suit of armor, for that use. They sat on the hearth to eat it, and they
told ghost-stories and talked of the most psychological things they
could think of. In all this Charmian put Cornelia forward as much as
she dared, and kept herself in a sort of impassioned abeyance. If
Cornelia had been the most jealous and exacting of principals she could
not have received from her second a more single and devoted allegiance.
Charmian's joy in her fortunately mounted in proportion to the devotion
she paid her, rather than Cornelia's gratitude for it. She did not like
to talk of herself, and these séances were nothing if not strictly
personal; but Charmian talked for her, and represented her in phases of
interest which Cornelia repudiated with a laugh, or denied outright,
without scruple, when the invention was too bold. Charmian contrived
that she should acquire the greater merit, from her refusals of it, and
went on to fresh self-sacrifices in her behalf.
Sometimes she started the things they talked of; not because she
ever seemed to have been thinking of them, or of anything, definitely,
but because she was always apparently letting her mind wander about in
space, and chanced upon them there. Mostly, however, the suggestions
came from Ludlow. He talked of art, its methods, its principles, its
duties to the age, the people, the civilization; the large moral uses,
which kindled Charmian's fancy, and made Cornelia laugh when Charmian
proposed a scheme for the relief and refinement of the poor on the East
Side, by frescoing the outsides of the tenement houses in Mott Street
and Mulberry Bend, with subjects recalling the home life of the
dwellers there: rice-fields and tea-plantations for the Chinese, and
views of Etna and Vesuvius and their native shores for the Sicilians
and Neapolitans, with perhaps religious histories.
Ludlow had to explain that he had not meant the employment of any
such direct and obvious means, but the gradual growth of a conscience
in art. Cornelia thought him vague, but it seemed clear to Charmian.
She said, Oh, yes; that, and she made tea, and had him set
fire to some pieces of Southern lightwood on her hearth, for the sake
of the murky fumes and the wreaths of dusky crimson flame, which she
said it was so weird to sit by.
In all matters of artistic theory and practice she set Cornelia the
example of grovelling at the master's feet, as if there could be no
question of anything else; but in other things Cornelia sometimes
asserted herself against this slavish submission with a kind of
violence little short of impertinence. After these moral paroxysms, in
which she disputed the most obviously right and reasonable things, she
was always humiliated and cast down before his sincerity in trying to
find a meaning in her difference from him, as if he could not imagine
the nervous impulse that carried her beyond the bounds of truth, and
must accuse himself of error. When this happened she would not let
Charmian take her to task for her behavior; she would not own that she
was wrong; she put the blame on him, and found him arrogant and
patronizing. She had always known he was that kind of person, and she
did not mean to be treated like a child in everything, even if he was a
By this time they were far away from that point in Charmian's
romance where the faithful friend of the heroine remains forever
constant to her vow not to speak to the heroine of the hero's passion
for her, and in fact rather finds it a duty to break her vow, and
enjoys being snubbed for it. As the transaction of the whole affair
took place in Charmian's fancy, Cornelia had been obliged to indulge
her in it, with the understanding that she should not let it interfere
with their work, or try to involve her visibly or palpably in it.
With all their idling they had days when they worked intensely, and
Ludlow was as severe with Cornelia's work as he was with his own. He
made her rub out and paint out, and he drew ruthless modifications of
her work all over it, like the crudest of the Synthesis masters. He
made her paint out every day the work of the day before, as they did in
the Synthesis; though sometimes he paused over it in a sort of puzzle.
Once he said, holding her sketch into the light he wanted, at the close
of the afternoon, If I didn't know you had done that to-day, I should
say it was the one you had done yesterday.
Toward the end of the month he recurred to this notion again.
Suppose, he said, we keep this, and you do another to-morrow.
The next day he said, in the same perplexity, Well, keep this, and
After a week he took all her canvases, and set them one back of
another, but so that he could see each in nearly the same light. He
stood looking at them silently, with the two girls behind him, one at
It's as lovely as standing between two mirrors, Charmian suggested
Pretty much of a sameness, Cornelia remarked.
Mm, Ludlow made in his throat. He glanced over the shoulder next
her, and asked, as if Charmian were not there, What makes you do her
Because she is always alike.
Then I've seen her wrong, said Ludlow, and he stared at Charmian
as if she were a lay-figure. She bore his scrutiny as impassively as a
He turned again to Cornelia's sketches, and said gloomily, I should
like to have Wetmore see these.
Oh! said Cornelia.
Charmian came to life with another Oh! and then she demanded.
When? We must have something besides tea for Mr. Wetmore.
I think I'll ask him to step round in the morning, said Ludlow,
Charmian said Oh! again, but submitted with the eagerness of a
disciple; all phases of the art-life were equally precious, and even a
snub from such a master must be willingly accepted.
He went away and would not have any tea; he had an air of
troublealmost of offence. Isn't he grand, gloomy and peculiar?
Charmian said. I wonder what's the matter?
She turned to Ludlow's picture which he had left standing on the
chair where he painted at it in disdain of an easel, and silently
compared it with Cornelia's sketches. Then she looked at Cornelia and
gave a dramatic start.
What is the matter? asked Cornelia. She came up and began to look
at the picture, too.
Charmian demanded, Don't you see?
No, I don't see anything, said Cornelia, but as she looked
something became apparent which she could not deny. She blushed
violently and turned upon Charmian. You ought to be ashamed, she
began, and she tried to take hold of her; she did not know why.
Charmian escaped, and fled to the other end of the room with a wild
laugh, and stood there. Cornelia dropped into the chair before the
picture, with her head fallen on her elbow. She seemed to be laughing,
too, and Charmian went on:
What is there to be ashamed of? I think it's glorious. It's one of
the most romantic things I ever heard of. He simply couldn't help it,
and it proves everything I've said. Of course that was the reason he
couldn't see me all along. Why, if such a thing had happened to
me, I should go round shouting it from the house-tops. I don't suppose
he knew what he was doing, or else he didn't care; perfectly desperate.
Cornelia kept laughing, but Charmian stopped and waited a moment and
listened. Why, Cornelia! she said remorsefully, entreatingly, but she
remained the length of the room away. Then she approached tentatively,
and when Cornelia suddenly ceased to laugh she put her hand on her
head, and tenderly lifted her face. It was dabbled with tears.
Cornelia! she said again.
Cornelia sprang to her feet with a fierceness that sent her flying
some yards away. Charmian Maybough! Will you ever speak of this to any
No, no! Indeed I won't Charmian began.
Will you ever think of it!
Because I don't choose to have you think I am such a fool as
No, indeed, I don't.
Because there isn't anything of it, and it wouldn't mean anything,
if there were.
No, said Charmian. The only thing is to tear him out of your
heart; and I will help you! She made as if she were ready to begin
then, and Cornelia broke into a genuine laugh.
Don't be ridiculous. I guess there isn't much to tear.
Then what are you going to do?
Nothing! What can I! There isn't anything to do anything about. If
it's there, he knows it, and he's left it there because he didn't care
what we thought. He was just trying something. He's always treated me
like a perfectchild. That's all there is of it, and you know it.
Yes, Charmian meekly assented. Then she plucked up a spirit in
Cornelia's behalf. The only thing is to keep going on the same as
ever, and show him we haven't seen anything, and don't care if we
No, said Cornelia sadly, I shall not come any more. Or, if I do,
it will just be toI'm not certain yet what I shall do. She
provisionally dried her eyes and repaired her looks at the little
mirror which hung at one side of the mantel, and then came back to
Charmian who stood looking at Cornelia's sketches, still in the order
Ludlow had left them in. She stole her arm round Cornelia's waist.
Well, anyway, he can't say you've returned the compliment.
They're perfectly magnificent, every one; and they're all me.
Now we can both live for art.
Wetmore came the next morning with Ludlow, and looked at Cornelia's
studies. Well, there's no doubt about her talent. I wonder why it was
wasted on one of her sex! These gifted girls, poor things, there don't
seem to be any real call for them. He turned from the sketches a
moment to the arrangement of Charmian's studio. I suppose this is the
other girl's expression. He looked more closely at the keeping of the
room, and said, with a smile of mixed compassion and amusement, Why,
this girl seems to be trying to do the Bohemian act!
That is her pose, Ludlow admitted.
And does she get a great deal of satisfaction out of it?
The usual amount I fancy. Ludlow began to tell of some of
Charmian's attempts to realize her ideal.
Wetmore listened with a pitying smile. Poor thing! It isn't much
like the genuine thing, as we used to see it in Paris, is it? We
Americans are too innocent in our traditions and experiences; our
Bohemia is a non-alcoholic, unfermented condition. When it is diluted
down to the apprehension of an American girl it's no better, or no
worse, than a kind of Arcadia. Miss Maybough ought to go round with a
shepherdess's crook and a straw hat with daisies in it. That's what
she wants to do, if she knew it. Is that a practicable pipe? I
suppose those cigarettes are chocolates in disguise. Well! He reverted
to Cornelia's canvases. Why, of course they're good. She's doomed. She
will have to exhibit. You couldn't do less, Ludlow, than have her carry
this one a little fartherhe picked out one of the canvases and set
it apartand offer it to the Academy.
Do you really think so? asked Ludlow, looking at it gravely.
I don't know. With the friends you've got on the CommitteeBut
you don't suppose I came up here to see these things alone, did you?
Where's your picture?
I haven't any, said Ludlow.
Ob, rubbish! Where's your theory of a picture, then? I don't care
what you call it. My only anxiety, when you got a plain, simple,
every-day conundrum like Miss Maybough to paint, was that you would try
to paint the answer instead of the conundrum, and I dare say that's the
trouble. You've been trying to give something more of her character
than you found in her face; is that it? Well, you deserved to fail,
then. You've been trying to interpret her; to come the prophet!
I don't condemn the poetry in your nature, Ludlow, Wetmore went on,
and if I could manage it for you, I think I could keep it from doing
mischief. That is why I am so plain-spoken with you.
Do you call it plain-speaking? Ludlow said, putting his picture
where it could be seen best. I was going to accuse you of flattery.
Well, you had better ponder the weighty truths I have let fall. I
don't go round dropping them on everybody's toes.
Probably there are not enough of them, Ludlow suggested.
Oh, yes, there are. Wetmore waited till Ludlow should say he was
ready to have him look at his picture. The fact is, I've been giving a
good deal of attention to your case, lately. You're not simple enough,
and you've had the wrong training. You would naturally like to paint
the literature of a thing, and let it go at that. But you've studied in
France, where they know better, and you can't bring yourself to do it.
Your nature and your school are at odds. You ought to have studied in
England. They don't know how to paint there, but they've brought
fiction in color to the highest point, and they're not ashamed of it.
Perhaps you've boon theorizing, too, said Ludlow, stepping aside
from his picture.
Not on canvas, Wetmore returned. He put himself in the place
Ludlow had just left. Hello! he began, but after a glance at Ludlow
he went on, with the effect of having checked himself, to speak
carefully and guardedly of the work in detail. His specific criticism
was as gentle and diffident as his general censure of Ludlow was blunt
and outright. It was given mostly in questions, and in recognitions of
Well, the sum of it is, said Ludlow at last, you see it's a
Wetmore shrugged, as if this were something Ludlow ought not to have
asked. He went back to Cornelia's sketches, and looked at them one
after another. That girl knows what she's about, or what she wants to
do, and she goes for it every time. She has got talent. Whether
she's got enough to stand the training! That's the great difference,
after all. Lots of people have talent; that's the gift. The question is
whether one has it in paying quantity, or enough of it to amount to
anything after the digging and refining. I should say that girl had,
but very likely I might be mistaken.
Ludlow joined in the examination of the sketches. He put his hand on
the weak points as well as on the strong ones; he enjoyed with Wetmore
the places where her artlessness had frankly offered itself instead of
her art. There was something ingenuous and honest in it all that made
it all charming.
Yes, I think she can do it, said Wetmore, if she wants to bad
enough, or if she doesn't want to get married worse.
Ludlow winced. Isn't there something a little vulgar in that notion
of ours that a woman always wishes first and most of all to get
My dear boy, said Wetmore, with an affectionate hand on Ludlow's
shoulder, I never denied being vulgar.
Oh, I dare say. But I was thinking of myself.
Ludlow sent word to Charmian at the Synthesis that he should not ask
her to sit to him that afternoon, and in the evening he went to see
Wetmore. It was eleven o'clock, and he would have been welcome at
Wetmore's any time between that hour of the night and two of the
morning. He found a number of people. Mrs. Westley was there with Mrs.
Rangeley; they had been at a concert together. Mrs. Wetmore had just
made a Welsh rabbit, and they were all talking of the real meaning of
the word beautiful.
I think, Mrs. Rangeley was saying, that the beautiful is
whatever pleases or fascinates. There are lots of good-looking people
who are not beautiful at all, because they have no atmosphere: and you
see other people, who are irregular, and quite plain even, and yet you
come away feeling that they are perfectly beautiful. Mrs. Rangeley's
own beauty was a little irregular. She looked anxiously round, and
caught Wetmore in a smile. What are you laughing at? she demanded in
Oh, nothing, nothing! he said. I was thinking how convincing you
Nothing of the kind! said one of the men, who had been listening
patiently till she fully committed herself. There couldn't be a more
fallacious notion of the meaning of beauty. The thing exists in itself,
independently of our pleasure or displeasure; they have almost nothing
to do with it. If you mix it with them you are lost, as far as a true
conception of it goes. Beauty is something as absolute as truth, and
whatever varies from it, as it was ascertained, we'll say, by the Greek
sculptors and the Italian painters, is unbeautiful, just as anything
that varies from the truth is untrue. Charm, fascination, atmosphere,
are purely subjective; one feels them and another doesn't. But beauty
is objective, and nobody can deny it who sees it, whether he likes it
or not. You can't get away from it, any more than you can get away from
the truth. There it is!
Where? asked Wetmore. He looked at the ladies as if he thought one
of them had been indicated.
How delightful to have one's ideas jumped on just as if they were a
man's! sighed Mrs. Rangeley. Her opponent laughed a generous delight,
as if he liked nothing better than having his reasoning brought to
naught. He entered joyously into the tumult which the utterance of the
different opinions, prejudices and prepossessions of the company
Ludlow escaped from it, and made his way to Mrs. Westley, in that
remoter and quieter corner, which she seemed to find everywhere when
you saw her out of her own house; there she was necessarily prominent.
I think Mr. Agnew is right, and Mrs. Rangeley is altogether wrong,
she said. There couldn't be a better illustration of it than in those
two young art-student friends of yours. Miss Saunders is beautiful in
just that absolute way Mr. Agnew speaks of; you simply can't refuse to
see it; and Miss Maybough is fascinating, if you feel her so. I should
think you'd find her very difficult to paint, and with Miss Saunders
there, all the time, I should be afraid of getting her decided
qualities into my picture.
Ludlow said, Ah, that's very interesting.
He meant to outstay the rest, for he wished to speak with Wetmore
alone, and it seemed as though those people would never go. They went
at last. Mrs. Wetmore herself went off to the domestic quarter of the
apartment, and left the two men together.
'Baccy? asked Wetmore, with a hospitable gesture toward the pipes
on his mantel.
No, thank you, said Ludlow.
Wetmore, what was it you saw in my picture today, when you began
with that 'Hello' of yours, and then broke off to say something else?
Did I do that? Well, if you really wish to know
I'll tell you. I was going to ask you which of those two girls you
had painted it from. The topography was the topography of Miss
Maybough, but the landscape was the landscape of Miss Saunders. He
waited, as if for Ludlow to speak; then he went on: I supposed you had
been working from some new theory of yours, and I thought I had said
about as much on your theories as you would stand for the time.
Was that all? Ludlow asked.
All? It seems to me that's a good deal to be compressed into one
Wetmore lighted a pipe, and began to smoke in great comfort. We
were talking, just before you dropped in, of what you may call the
psychical chemistry of our kind of shop: the way a fellow transmutes
himself into everything he does. I can trace the man himself in every
figure he draws or models. You can't get away from yourself, simply
because you are always thinking yourself, or through yourself; you
can't see or know any one else in any other way.
It's a very curious thing, said Ludlow, uneasily. I've noticed
that, too; I suppose every one has. Butgood-night.
Wetmore followed him out of the studio to the head of the public
stairs with a lamp, and Ludlow stopped there again. Should you think
there was anything any one but you would notice?
You mean the two girls themselves? Well, I should say, on general
principles, that what two such girls didn't see in your work
Of course! Thenwhat would you do? Would you speak to her about
You know: Miss Saunders.
Ah! It seems rather difficult, doesn't it?
Why, if you mean to say it was unconscious, perhaps I was mistaken.
The thing may have been altogether in my own mind. I'd like to take
another look at it
You can't. I've painted it out. Ludlow ran down one flight of the
stairs, and then came stumbling quickly back. I say, Wetmore. Do you
tell your wife everything?
My dear boy, I don't tell her anything. She finds it out. But,
then, she never tells anybody.
Ludlow sent word again to Charmian that he should not be able to
keep his appointment for the afternoon, and as soon as he could hope to
find Cornelia at home from the Synthesis, he went to see her.
He began abruptly, I came to tell you, Miss Saunders, when I first
thought of painting Miss Maybough, and now I've come to tell you that
I've given it up.
Given it up? she repeated.
You've seen the failures I've made. I took my last one home
yesterday, and painted it out. He looked at Cornelia, but if he
expected her to give him any sort of leading, he was disappointed. He
had to conclude unaided, I'm not going to try any more.
She did not answer, and he went on, after a moment: Of course, it's
humiliating to make a failure, but it's better to own it, and leave it
behind you; if you don't own it, you have to carry it with you, and it
remains a burden.
She kept her eyes away from him, but she said, Oh, yes; certainly.
The worst of it was the disappointment I had to inflict upon Mrs.
Maybough, he went on uneasily. She was really hurt, and I don't
believe I convinced her after all that I simply and honestly couldn't
get the picture. I went to tell her this afternoon, and she seemed to
feel some sort of disparagementI can't express itin my giving it
He stopped, and Cornelia asked, as if forced to say something, Does
I suppose she does, by this time, said Ludlow. He roused himself
from a moment of revery, and added, But I didn't intend to oppress you
with this. I want to tell you somethingelse.
He drew a deep breath. She started forward where she sat, and looked
past him at the door, as if to see whether the way of escape was clear.
He went on: I took Wetmore there with me yesterday, and I showed him
your sketches, and he thinks you might get one of them into the Academy
exhibition in the spring, after you've carried it a little farther.
She sank back in her chair. Does he? she asked listlessly, and she
thought, as of another person, how her heart would once have thrilled
at the hope of this.
Yes. But I don't feel sure that it would be well, said Ludlow. I
wanted to say, though, that I shall be glad to come and be of any
little use I can if you're going on with it.
Oh, thank you, said Cornelia. She thought she was going to say
something more, but she stopped stiffly at that, and they both stood in
an embarrassment which neither could hide from the other. He repeated
his offer, in other terms, and she was able finally to thank him a
little more fitly, and to say that she should not forget his kind
offer; she should not forget all he had done for her, all the trouble
he had taken, and they parted with a vague alienation.
As we grow older, we are impatient of misunderstandings, of
disagreements; we make haste to have them explained; but while we are
young, life seems so spacious and so full of chances that we fetch a
large compass round about such things, and wait for favoring
fortuities, and hope for occasions precisely fit; we linger in
dangerous delays, and take risks that may be ruinous.
Cornelia went hack to her work at the Synthesis as before, but she
worked listlessly and aimlessly; the zest was gone, and the meaning.
She knew that for the past month she had drudged through the morning at
the Synthesis that she might free herself to the glad endeavor of the
afternoon at Charmian's studio with a good conscience. Ludlow's
criticism, even when it was harshest, was incentive and inspiration;
and her life was blank and dull on the old terms.
The arts have a logic of their own, which seems no logic at all to
the interests. Ludlow's world found it altogether fit and intelligible
that he should give up trying to paint Charmian if he had failed to get
his picture of her, and thought he could not get it. Mrs. Maybough's
world regarded it as a breach of contract for him not to do what he had
undertaken. She had more trouble to reconcile her friends to his
behavior than she had in justifying it to herself. Through Charmian she
had at least a second-hand appreciation of motives and principles that
were instantly satisfactory to the girl and to all her comrades at the
Synthesis; they accepted it as another proof of Ludlow's greatness that
he should frankly own he had missed his picture of her, and they
exalted Charmian as a partner in his merit, for being so impossible.
The arguments of Wetmore went for something with Mrs. Maybough, though
they were mainly admissions to the effect that Ludlow was more of a
crank than he had supposed, and would have to be humored in a case of
the kind; but it was chiefly the courage and friendship of Mrs. Westley
that availed. She enforced what she had to say in his behalf with the
invitation to her January Thursdays which she had brought. She had
brought it in person because she wished to beg Mrs. Maybough to let her
daughter come with her friend, Miss Saunders, and pour tea at the first
of the Thursdays.
I got you off, she said to Ludlow, when they met, but it was not
easy. She still thinks you ought to have let her see your last attempt,
and left her to decide whether it was good or not.
Mrs. Westley showed her amusement at this, but Ludlow answered
gravely that there was a certain reason in the position. If she's
disappointed in not having any portrait, though, he added, she had
better take Miss Saunders's.
Do you really mean that? Mrs. Westley asked, with more or less of
that incredulity concerning the performance of a woman which all the
sex feel, in spite of their boasting about one another. Has she so
Why not? Somebody has to have the talent.
This was like Wetmore's tone, and it made Mrs. Westley think of him.
And do you believe she could get her picture into the exhibition?
Has Wetmore been talking to you about it?
I don't know, said Ludlow. That was Wetmore's notion.
And does she know about it?
I mentioned it to her.
It would be a great thing for her if she could get her picture
inand sell it.
Yes, Ludlow dryly admitted. He wished he had never told Mrs.
Westley how Cornelia had earned the money for her studies at the
Synthesis; he resented the implication of her need, and Mrs. Westley
vaguely felt that she had somehow gone wrong. She made haste to
retrieve her error by suggesting, Perhaps Miss Maybough would object,
That's hardly thinkable. said Ludlow lightly. He would have gone
away without making Mrs. Westley due return for the trouble she had
taken for him with Mrs. Maybough, and she was so far vexed that she
would have let him go without telling him that she was going to have
his protégée pour tea for her; she had fancied that this would
have pleased him.
But by one of those sudden flashes that seem to come from somewhere
without, he saw himself in the odious light in which she must see him,
and he turned in time. Mrs. Westley, I think you have taken a great
deal more pains for me than I'm worth. It's difficult to care what such
a poor little Philistine as Mrs. Mayboughthe mere figment of somebody
else's misgotten moneythinks of me. But she is to be regarded,
and I know that you have looked after her in my interest; and it's very
kind of you, and very goodit's like you. If you've done it, though,
with the notion of my keeping on in portraits, or getting more
portraits to paint, I'm sorry, for I shall not try to do any. I'm not
fit for that kind of work. I don't say it because I despise the work,
but because I despise myself. I should always let some wretched
preoccupation of my ownsome fancy, some whimcome between me and
what I see my sitter to be, and paint that.
That is, you have some imagination, she began, in defence of him
No, no! There's scope for the greatest imagination, the most
intense feeling, in portraits. But I can't do that kind of thing, and I
must stick to my little sophistical fantasies, or my bald reports of
nature. But Miss Saunders, if she were not a womanexcuse me!
Oh, I understand!
She could do it, and she will, if she keeps on. She could have a
career; she could be a painter of women's portraits. A man's idea of a
woman, it's interesting, of course, but it's never quite just; it's
never quite true; it can't be. Every woman knows that, but you go on
accepting men's notions of women, in literature and in art, as if they
were essentially, or anything but superficially, like women. I couldn't
get a picture of Miss Maybough because I was always making more or less
than there really was of her. You were speaking the other night at
Wetmore's, of the uncertain quality of her beauty, and the danger of
getting something else in, said Ludlow, suddenly grappling with the
fact, and I was always doing that, or else leaving everything out. Her
beauty has no fixed impression. It ranges from something exquisite to
something grotesque; just as she ranges in character from the noblest
generosity to the most inconceivable absurdity. You never can know how
she will look or how she will behave. At least, I couldn't. I
was always guessing at her; but Miss Saunders seemed to understand her.
All her studies of her are alike; the last might be taken for the
first, except that the handling is better. It's invariably the very
person, without being in the least photographic, as people call it,
because it is one woman's unclouded perception of another. The only
question is whether Miss Saunders can keep that saving simplicity. It
may be trained out of her, or she may be taught to put other things
before it. Wetmore felt the danger of that, when we looked at her
sketches. I'm not saying they're not full of faults; the technique is
bad enough; sometimes it's almost childish; but the root of the matter
is there. She knows what she sees, and she tells.
Really? said Mrs. Westley. It is hard for a woman to
believe much in women; we don't expect anything of each other yet.
Should you like her to paint me?
I mean, do you think she could do it?
Not yet. She doesn't know enough of life, even if she knew enough
of art. She merely painted another girl.
That is true, said Mrs. Westley with a sigh. She added
impersonally; But if people only kept to what they knew, and didn't do
what they divined, there would be very little art or literature left,
it seems to me.
Well, perhaps the less the better. said Ludlow, with a smile for
the absurdity he was reduced to. What was left would certainty be the
He felt as if his praise of Cornelia were somehow retrieval; as if
it would avail where he seemed otherwise so helpless, and would bring
them together on the old terms again. There was, indeed, nothing
explicit in their alienation, and when he saw Cornelia at Mrs.
Westley's first Thursday, he made his way to her at once, and asked her
if she would give him some tea, with the effect of having had a cup
from her the day before. He did not know whether to be pleased or not
that she treated their meeting as something uneventful, too, and made a
little joke about remembering that he liked his tea without sugar.
I wasn't aware that you knew that, he said.
Oh, yes; that is the way Charmian always made it for you; and
sometimes I made it.
To be sure. It seems a great while ago. How are you getting on with
I'm not getting on, said Cornelia, and she turned aside to make a
cup of tea for an old gentleman, who confessed that he liked a spoonful
of rum in his. General Westley had brought him up and presented him,
and he remained chatting with Cornelia, apparently in the fatuity that
if he talked trivially to her he would be the same as a young man.
Ludlow stayed, too, and when the old gentleman got away, he said, the
same as if there had been no interruption, Why aren't you getting on?
Because I'm not doing anything to it.
You ought to. I told you what Wetmore said of it.
Yes; but I don't know how, said Cornelia, with a laugh that he
liked; it seemed an effect of pleasure in his presence at her elbow;
though from time to time she ignored him, and talked with other people
who came for tea. He noticed that she had begun to have a little
society manner of her own; he did not know whether he liked it or not.
She wore a very pretty dress, too; one he had not seen before.
Will you let me show you howas well as I can?
After I've asked you? Thank you!
I offered, once, before you asked.
Oh! said Cornelia, with her face aslant from him over her
tea-cups. I thought you had forgotten that.
He winced, but he knew that he deserved the little scratch. He did
not try to exculpate himself, but he asked, May I talk with Miss
Maybough about it?
Cornelia returned gayly, It's a free country.
He rose from the chair which he had been keeping at her elbow, and
looked about over the room. It was very full, and the first of Mrs.
Westley's Thursdays was successful beyond question. With the roving
eye, which he would not suffer to be intercepted, he saw the
distinguished people whom she had hitherto affected in their usual
number, and in rather unusual number the society people who had
probably come to satisfy an amiable curiosity; he made his reflection
that Mrs. Westley's evolution was proceeding in the inevitable
direction, and that in another winter the swells would come so
increasingly that there would be no celebrities for them to see. His
glance rested upon Mrs. Maybough, who stood in a little desolation of
her own, trying to look as if she were not there, and he had the
inspiration to go and speak to her instead of her daughter; there were
people enough speaking to Charmian, or seeming to speak to her, which
serves much the same purpose on such occasions. She was looking her
most mysterious, and he praised her peculiar charm to Mrs. Maybough.
It's no wonder I failed with that portrait.
Mrs. Maybough said, You must try again, Mr. Ludlow.
No, I won't abuse your patience again, but I will tell you: I
should like to come and look now and then at the picture Miss Saunders
has begun of her, and that I want her to keep on with.
Why not? asked Mrs. Maybough in the softest assent. She would not
listen to the injuries which Ludlow heaped upon himself in proof of his
unworthiness to cross her threshold.
He went back to Cornelia, and said, Well, it's arranged. I've
spoken with Mrs. Maybough, and we can begin again whenever you like.
With Mrs. Maybough? You said you were going to speak to Charmian!
It doesn't matter, does it?
Yes. II don't know yet as I want to go on with the picture. I
Oh! said Ludlow, with marked politeness. Then I misunderstood.
But don't let it annoy you. It doesn't matter, of course. There's no
sort of appointment.
He found Mrs. Westley in a moment of disoccupation before he went,
and used a friend's right to recognize the brilliancy of her Thursday.
She refused all merit for it and asked him if he had ever seen any
thing like the contrast of Charmian at the chocolate with Cornelia at
the tea. Did you notice the gown Miss Saunders had on? It's one that
her mother has just sent her from home. She says her mother made it,
and she came to ask me, the other day, if it would do to pour tea in.
Wasn't it delightful? I'm going to have her spend a week with me in
Lent. The general has taken a great fancy to her. I think I begin to
appreciate her fascination; it's her courage and her candor together.
Most girls are so uncertain and capricious. It's delightful to meet
such a straightforward and downright creature.
Oh, yes, said Ludlow.
Cornelia knew that Ludlow was offended. She had not meant to hurt or
offend him; though she thought he had behaved very queerly ever since
he gave up painting Charmian. She had really not had time to think of
his offer before he went off to speak with Charmian, as she supposed.
The moment he was gone she saw that it would not do; that she could not
have him coming to look at her work; she did not feel that she could
ever touch it again. She wondered at him, and now if he had spoken to
Mrs. Maybough instead of Charmian, it was not her fault, certainly. She
did not wish to revenge herself, but she remembered how much she had
been left to account for as she could, or painfully to ignore. If he
was mystified and puzzled now, it was no more than she had been before.
There was nothing that Cornelia hated so much as to be made a fool
of, and this was the grievance which she was willing fate should
retaliate upon him, though she had not meant it at all. She ought to
have been satisfied, and she ought to have been happy, but she was not.
She wished to escape from herself, and she eagerly accepted an
invitation to go with Mrs. Montgomery to the theatre that night. The
manager had got two places and given them to the landlady.
Cornelia had a passion for the theatre, and in the excitement of the
play, which worked strongly in her ingenuous fancy, she forgot herself
for the time, or dimly remembered the real world and her lot in it, as
if it were a subordinate action of the piece. At the end of the fourth
act she heard a voice which she knew, saying, Well, well! Is this the
way the folks at Pymantoning expect you to spend your evenings? She
looked up and around, and saw Mr. Dickerson in the seat behind her. He
put forward two hands over her shoulderone for her to shake, and one
for Mrs. Montgomery.
Why, Mr. Dickerson! said the landlady, where did you spring from?
You been sitting here behind us all the time?
I wish I had, said Dickerson. But this seat is 'another's,' as
they say on the stage; he's gone out 'to see a man,' and I'm keeping it
for him. Just caught sight of you before the curtain fell. Couldn't
hardly believe my eyes.
But where are you? Why haven't you been round to the house?
Well, I'm only here for a day, said Dickerson, with a note of
self-denial in his voice that Cornelia knew was meant for her, and I
thought I wouldn't disturb you. No use making so many bites of a
cherry. I got in so late last night I had to go to a hotel anyway.
Mrs. Montgomery began some hospitable expostulations, but be waived
them with, Yes; that's all right. I'll remember it next time, Mrs.
Montgomery, and then he began to speak of the play, and he was so
funny about some things in it that he made Cornelia laugh. He took
leave of them when the owner of the seat came back. He told Mrs.
Montgomery he should not see her again this time; but at the end of the
play they found him waiting for them at the outer door of the theatre.
He skipped lightly into step with them. Thought I might as well see
you home, as they say in Pymantoning. Do' know as I shall be back for
quite a while, this next trip, and we don't see much ladies' society on
the road; at least, I don't. I'm not so easy to make
acquaintance as I used to be. I suppose it was being married so long. I
can't manage to help a pretty girl raise a car-window, or put her grip
into the rack, the way I could once. Fact is, there don't seem to be
so many pretty girls as there were, or else I'm gettin' old-sighted,
and can't see 'em.
He spoke to Mrs. Montgomery, but Cornelia knew he was talking at
her. Now he leaned forward and addressed her across Mrs. Montgomery:
Do' know as I told you that I saw your mother in Lakeland day before
yesterday, Miss Saunders.
Oh, did you? Cornelia eagerly besought him. The apparition of her
mother rose before her; it was almost like having her actually there,
to meet some one who had seen her so lately. Was she looking well? The
last letter she wrote she hadn't been very
Well, I guess she's all right, now. You know I think your
mother is about the finest woman in this world, Miss Nelie, and the
prettiest-looking. I've never told you about Mrs. Saunders, have I,
Mrs. Montgomery? Well, you wouldn't know but her and Miss Nelie were
sisters. She looks like a girl, a little way off; and she is a
girl, in her feelings. She's got the kindest heart, and she's the best
person I ever saw. I tell you, it would be a different sort of a
world if everybody was like Mrs. Saunders, and I should ha' been a
different sort of a man if I'd always appreciated her goodness. Well,
so it goes, he said, with a sigh of indefinite regret, which availed
with Cornelia because it was mixed with praise of her mother; it made
her feel safer with him and more tolerant. He leaned forward again, and
said across Mrs. Montgomery, as before: She was gettin' off the train
from Pymantoning, and I was just takin' my train West, but I knew it
was her as soon as I saw her walk. I was half a mind to stop and speak
to her, and let my train go.
Cornelia could see her mother, just how she would look, wandering
sweetly and vaguely away from her train, and the vision was so
delightful to her, that it made her laugh. I guess you're mother's
girl, Mrs. Montgomery interpreted, and Mr. Dickerson said:
Well, I guess she's got a good right to be. I wasn't certain
whether it was her or Miss Saunders first when I saw her, the other
At her door Mrs. Montgomery invited him to come in, and he said he
did not know but he would for a minute, and Cornelia's gratitude for
his praise of her mother kept her from leaving them at once. In the
dining-room, where Mrs. Montgomery set out a lunch for him, he began to
Cornelia had no grudge against him for the past. She was only too
glad that it had all fallen out as it did; and though she still knew
that he was a shameless little wretch, she did not feel so personally
disgraced by him, as she had at first, when she was not sure she could
make him keep his distance. He was a respite from her own thoughts, and
she lingered and lingered, and listened and listened, remotely aware
that it was wrong, but somehow bewildered and constrained.
Mrs. Montgomery went down to the kitchen a moment, for something
more to add to the lunch, and he seized the chance to say, I know how
you feel about me, Miss Saunders, and I don't blame you. You needn't be
afraid; I ain't going to trouble you. I might, if you was a different
kind of girl; but I've thought it all over since I saw you, and I
respect you. I hope you won't give me away to Mrs. Montgomery, but if
you do, I shall respect you all the same, and I sha'n't blame you, even
then. The landlady returned, and he went on, I was just tellin' Miss
Saunders about my friend Bob Whiteley's railroad accident. But you've
heard it so often.
Oh, well, do go on! said Mrs. Montgomery, setting down the plate
of cold chicken she had brought back with her.
It was midnight before he rose. I declare I could listen all
night, said Mrs. Montgomery.
Cornelia could have done so, too, but she did not say it. While the
talk lasted, she had a pleasure in the apt slang, and sinister wit and
low wisdom, which made everything higher and nobler seem ridiculous.
She tried helplessly to rise above the delight she found in it, and
while she listened, she was miserably aware that she was unworthy even
of the cheap respect which this amusing little wretch made a show of
paying her before Mrs. Montgomery.
She loathed him, and yet she hated to have him go; for then she
would be left to herself and her own thoughts. As she crept up the long
stairs to her room, she asked herself if she could be the same girl who
had poured tea at Mrs. Westley's, and talked to all those refined
people, who seemed to admire her and make much of her, as if she were
one of them. Before, she had escaped from the toils of that folly of
the past by disowning it; but now, she had voluntarily made it hers.
She had wilfully entangled herself in its toils; they seemed to trip
her steps, and make her stumble on the stairs as if they were tangible
things. She had knowingly suffered such a man as that, whose commonness
of soul she had always instinctively felt, to come back into her life,
and she could never banish him again. She could never even tell any
one; she was the captive of her shabby secret till he should come again
and openly claim her. He would come again; there could be no doubt of
On the bureau before her glass lay a letter. It was from Ludlow, and
it delicately expressed the hope that there had been nothing in his
manner of offering to help her with her picture which made it
impossible for her to accept. I need not tell you that I think you
have talent, for I have told you that before. I have flattered myself
that I had a personal interest in it, because I saw it long ago, and I
have been rather proud of thinking that you were making use of me. I
wish you would think the matter over, and decide to go on with your
picture of Miss Maybough. I promise to reduce my criticism to a
minimum, for I think it is more important that you should keep on in
your own way, even if you go a little wrong in it, now and then, than
that you should go perfectly right in some one's else. Do let me hear
from you, and say that I may come Saturday to Miss Maybough's studio,
and silently see what you are doing.
In a postscript he wrote: I am afraid that I have offended you by
something in my words or ways. If I have, won't you at least let me
come and be forgiven?
She dropped her face on the letter where it lay open before her, and
stretched out her arms, and moaned in a despair that no tears even came
to soften. She realized how much worse it was to have made a fool of
herself than to be made a fool of.
There was only one thing for Cornelia to do now, and she did it as
well as she knew how, or could hope to know without the help that she
could not seek anywhere. She wrote to Ludlow and thanked him, and told
him that she did not think she should go on with the picture of
Charmian, for the present. She said, in the first five or six drafts of
her letter, that it had been her uncertainty as to this which made her
hesitate when he spoke to her, but in every form she gave this she
found it false; and at last she left it out altogether, and merely
assured him that she had nothing whatever to forgive him. She wished to
forbid his coming to see her; she did not know quite how to do that;
but either the tone of her letter was forbidding enough, or else he
felt that he had done his whole duty, now, for he did not come.
With moments of utter self-abasement, she had to leave Charmian to
the belief that she was distraught and captious, solely for the reason
they shared the secret of, and Charmian respected this with a devotion
so obvious as to be almost spectacular. Cornelia found herself turning
into a romantic heroine, and had to make such struggle against the
transformation as she could in bursts of hysterical gayety. These had
rather the effect of deepening Charmian's compassionate gloom, till she
exhausted her possibilities in that direction and began to crave some
new expression. There was no change in her affection for Cornelia; and
there were times when Cornelia longed to trust her fully; she knew that
it would be safe, and she did not believe that it would lower her in
Charmian's eyes; but to keep the fact of her weakness altogether her
own seemed the only terms on which she could bear it.
One day there came a letter from her mother out of her usual order
of writing; she wrote on Sunday, and her letters reached Cornelia the
next evening; but this letter came on a Wednesday morning, and the
sight of it filled Cornelia with alarm, first for her mother, and then
for herself; which deepened as she read:
DEAR NIE: That good-for-nothing little scrub has been here,
aboute you, and acting as if you was hand-and-glove with him.
Nelie, I don't want to interfere with you anyway and I won't if
say the word. But I never felt just righte about that fellow,
what I done long ago to make you tollerate him, and now I want
make it up to you if I can. He is a common low-down person, and
isn't fit to speake to you, and I hope you wont speake to him.
divorce, the way I look at it, don't make any difference; hese
as much married as what he ever was, and if he had never been
married atoll, it wouldn't of made any difference as far as I
about it. Now Nelie, you are old enough to take care of
but I hope if that fellow ever comes around you again, you'll
his ears and be done with him. I know hes got a smooth tongue,
he can make you laugh in spite of yourselfe, but don't you have
anything to do with him.
P. S. I have been talken it over with Mrs. Burton, and she
just the way I do aboute it. She thinks you are good enough for
best, and you no need to throw yourself away on such a perfect
little scamp. In haste. How is that cellebrated picture that
are painting with Mr. Ludlow getting along?
* * * * *
Cornelia got this letter from the postman at Mrs. Montgomery's door,
when she opened it to go out in the morning, and she read it on her way
to the Synthesis. It seemed to make the air reel around her, and step
by step she felt as if she should fall. A wild anger swelled her heart,
and left no room there for shame even. She wondered what abominable
lies that little wretch had told; but they must have been impudent
indeed to overcome her mother's life-long reluctance from writing and
her well-grounded fears of spelling, so far as to make her send a
letter out of the usual course. But when her first fury passed, and she
began to grow weak in the revulsion, she felt only her helplessness in
the presence of such audacity, and a fear that nothing could save her
from him. If he could make her so far forget herself as to tolerate
him, to listen to his stories, to laugh at his jokes, and show him that
she enjoyed his company, after all she knew of him, then he could make
her marry him, if he tried.
The logic was perfect, and it seemed but another link in the
infrangible chain of events, when she found another letter waiting for
her at the office of the Synthesis. It bore the postmark of Lakeland,
of the same date as her mother's, and in the corner of the envelope the
business card of Gates &Clarkson, Dealers in Art Goods; J. B.
Dickerson, in a line of fine print at the top was modestly with them.
The address, Dear friend, was written over something else which
had been rubbed out, but beyond this the letter ran fluently and
uninterruptedly along in a hand which had a business-like directness
and distinctness. I don't know, the writer said, as you expected to
hear from me, and I don't know as I expected to let you, but
circumstances alter cases, and I just wanted to drop you a line and
tell you that I have been in Pymantoning and seen your mother. She is
looking prime, and younger than ever. We had a long talk about old
times, and I told her what a mistake I made. Confession is good for the
soul, they say, and I took a big dose of it; I guess I confessed pretty
much everything; regular Topsey style. Well, your mother didn't spare
me any, and I don't know but what she was about right. The fact is, a
man on the road don't think as much about his p's and q's as he ought
as long as he is young, and if I made a bad break in that little
matrimonial venture of mine, I guess it was no more than I deserved to.
I told your mother just how I happened to meet you again, and how the
sight of you was enough to make another man of me. I was always a
little too much afraid of you, or it might have turned out different;
but I can appreciate a character like yours, and I want you to know it.
I guess your mother sized it up about right when I said all I asked was
to worship you at a distance, and she said she guessed you would look
out for the distance. I told her you had, up to date. I want you
to understand that I don't presume on anything, and if we seemed to
have a pretty good time after the theatre, the other night, it was
because you didn't want to spoil Mrs. Montgomery's fun, and treated me
well just because I was a friend of hers. Well, it's pretty hard to
realize that my life is ruined, and that I have got nobody but myself
to thank for it, but I guess that's what I've got to come to, sooner or
later. It's what your mother said, and I guess she was right; she
didn't spare me a bit, and I didn't want her to. I knew she would write
to you, as soon as I was gone, and tell you not to have anything to do
with me; and if she has, all I have got to say is, all right. I
have been a bad lot, and I don't deny it, and all I can ask now, from
this time forward, is to be kept from doing any more mischief. I don't
know as I shall ever see you again; I had a kind of presentiment I
shouldn't, and I told your mother so. I don't know but I told a little
more about how kind you were to me the other evening than what the
facts would justify exactly, but as sure as you live I didn't mean
to lie about it. If I exaggerated any, it was because it seemed the
greatest thing in the world to me, just to talk to you, and be where I
could see you smile, and hear you laugh; you've got a laugh that is
like a child's, or an angel's, if angels laugh. I've heard of their
weeping, and if you knew my whole life, I think you would shed a tear
or two over me. But that is not what I am trying to get at; I want to
explain that if I appeared to brag of being tolerated by you, and made
it seem any thing more than toleration, it was because it was like
heaven to me not to have you give me the grand bounce again. And what I
want to ask you now, is just to let me write to you, every now and
then, and when I am tempted to go wrong, anywaysand a business life
is full of temptationslet me put the case before you, and have you
set me right. I won't want but a word from you, and most part of the
time, I shall just want to free my mind to you on life in general, and
won't expect any answer. I feel as if you had got my soul in your
hands, and you could save it, or throw it away. That is all. I am
writing on the train, and I have to use pencil. I hope you'll excuse
the stationery; it's all the porter could get me, and I'm anxious to
have a letter go back to you at once. I know your mother has written to
you, and I want to corroborate everything she says against me.
The letter covered half-a-dozen telegraph blanks, and filled them
full, so that the diffident suggestion, My permanent address is with
Gates & Clarkson, had to be written along the side of the first page.
The low cunning, the impudent hypocrisy, the leering pretence of
reverence, the affectation of penitence, the whole fraudulent design,
so flimsy that the writer himself seemed to be mocking at it, was open
to Cornelia, and she read the letter through with distinct relief.
Whatever the fascinations of Mr. Dickerson were when he was personally
at hand, he had none at a distance, and when she ran over the pages a
second time, it was with a laugh, which she felt sure he would have
joined her in, if he had been there. It turned her tragedy into farce
so completely, for the time, that she went through her morning's work
with a pleasure and a peace of mind which she had not felt for many
days. It really seemed such a joke, that she almost yielded to the
temptation of showing passages of the letter to Charmian; and she
forebore only because she would have had to tell more than she cared to
have any one know of Mr. Dickerson, if she did. She had a right to keep
all that from those who had no right to know it, but she had no right,
or if she had the right, she had not the power to act as if the past
had never been. She set herself to bear what was laid upon her, and if
she was ever to have strength for her burden she must begin by owning
her weakness. There was no one to whom she could own it but her mother,
and she did this fully as soon as she got back to her room, and could
sit down to answer her letter. She enclosed Dickerson's, and while she
did not spare him, she took the whole blame upon herself, for she said
she might have known that if she suffered him to see that he amused her
or pleased her at all, he was impudent enough to think that he could
make her like him again. And mother, she wrote, you know I never
really liked him, and was only too glad to get rid of him; you know
that much. But I suppose you will wonder, then, why I ever let him
speak to me if I really despised him as much as ever; and that is not
easy to explain. For one thing he was with Mrs. Montgomery, and she
likes him, and she has always been so good to me that I hated to treat
him badly before her; but that is not the real reason, and I am not
going to pretend it was. You know yourself how funny he is, and can
make you laugh in spite of yourself, but it was not that, either. It
was because I was angry with myself for having been angry with some one
else, without a cause, as I can see it now, and I had made a fool of
myself, and I wanted to get away from myself. I cannot tell you just
how it was, yet, and I do not know as I ever can, but that was truly
it, and nothing else, though the other things had something to do with
it. I suppose it was just like men when they take a drink of whiskey to
make them forget. The worst of it all is, and the discouraging part is,
that it shows me I have not changed a particle. My temper is just us
bad as ever, and I might as well be back at sixteen, for all the sense
I've got. Sometimes it seems to me that the past is all there is of us,
anyway. It seems to come up in me, all the time, and I am so ashamed I
don't know what to do. I make all kinds of good resolutions, and I want
to be good, and then comes something and it is all over with me. Then,
it appears as if it was not me, altogether, that is to blame. I know I
was to blame, this last time, laughing at that little 'scrub's' jokes
as you call him, and behaving like a fool; but I don't see how I was to
blame for his coming back into my life, when I never really wanted him
at all, and certainly never wished to set eyes on him again.
I don't suppose it would be the least use to ask you not to show
this letter to Mrs. Burton, and I won't, but if you do, I wish you
would ask her what she thinks it means, and whether it's fate, or
foreordination, or what.
Mrs. Saunders carried Cornelia's letter to Mrs. Burton, as Cornelia
had foreseen, but the question she put to her was not the abstraction
the girl had suggested. Mrs. Burton, she asked, who was it do you
suppose Nie was so mad with that she had to go off and play the fool,
Mrs. Burton passed the point of casuistry too. Well, of course I
don't know, Mrs. Saunders. Has she said anything about Mr. Ludlow
No, she hain't said a word, and that seems suspicious. She said a
week or two ago that he had give up trying to paint that Maybough girl,
and that she guessed she had got the last of her lessons from him; but
she didn't seem much troubled about it. But I guess by her not wantin'
to tell, it's him. What do you suppose he did to provoke her?
Oh, just some young people's nonsense, probably. It'll come all
right. You needn't worry about it, because if it won't come right of
itself, he'll make it come.
Oh, I'm not worrying about that, said Mrs. Saunders, I'm worrying
about this. She gave her the letter Cornelia had enclosed, and as Mrs.
Burton began to read it she said, If that fellow keeps on writing to
her, I don't know what I will do.
Ludlow did not come to see Cornelia, but they met, from time to
time, at Mrs. Westley's, where he was aware of her being rather taken
up; at Mrs. Maybough's, where he found it his duty to show himself
after his failure with Charmian's picture, so as to help Mrs. Maybough
let people know there was nothing but the best feeling about it; and,
more to his surprise, at Wetmore's. At the painter's, Charmian, who
came with her, realized more than anywhere else, her dream of Bohemia,
and Wetmore threw a little excess into the social ease of his life that
he might fulfil her ideal. He proposed that Mrs. Wetmore should set the
example of hilarities that her domestic spirit abhorred; he accused her
of cutting off his beer, and invented conditions of insolvency and
privation that surpassed Charmian's wildest hopes. He borrowed money of
Ludlow in her presence, and said that he did not know that he should
ever be able to pay it back. He planned roystering escapades which were
never put in effect, and once he really went out with the two girls to
the shop of an old German, on the Avenue, who dealt in delicatessen, and bought some Nuremberg gingerbread and a bottle of lime-juice,
after rejecting all the ranker meats and drinks as unworthy the palates
of true Bohemians. He invited Charmian to take part in various bats, for the purpose of shocking the Pymantoning propriety of Cornelia, and
they got such fun out of it as children do when the make-believe of
their elders has been thinned to the most transparent pretence; but
Charmian, who knew he was making fun of her, remained as passionately
attached to the ideal he mocked as ever; and Cornelia had the guilty
pang of wondering what he would think of her if he knew all about Mr.
Dickerson, whose nature she now perceived to be that of the vulgarest
She did not answer the letter she first got, nor any of those which
immediately followed, and this had the effect of checking Mr.
Dickerson's ardor for so long a time that she began to think he would
not trouble her again.
There was no real offence between her and Ludlow, or any but such as
could wear itself away with time and the custom of friendly meeting. He
had the magnanimity to ignore it when he first saw her after that
Thursday of Mrs. Westley's, and she had too keen a sense of having been
a fool not to wish to act more wisely as soon as she could forget.
There came so long a lapse between the letters of Mr. Dickerson that he
ceased, at least perpetually, to haunt her thoughts. She had moments
when it seemed as if she might justly consent to be happy again, or at
least allow herself to enjoy the passing pleasure of the time without
blame. She even suffered herself to fancy taking up the picture of
Charmian, and carrying it farther under Ludlow's criticism. She was
very ambitious to try her fate with the Academy, and when he offered so
generously to help her again, as if she had not refused him once so
rudely, she could not deny him. She found herself once more in
Charmian's studio, and it all began to go on the same as if it had
never stopped. It seemed like a dream, sometimes, when she thought
about it, and it did not seem like a very wise dream. Cornelia now
wished, above all things, to have a little bit of sense, as she phrased
it in her thoughts; and she was aware that the present position of
affairs might look rather crazy to some people. The best excuse for it
was that it would have looked crazier yet if she had refused such an
opportunity simply because of the circumstances. She began to be a
little vague about the circumstances, and whether they were queer
because she had fancied a likeness of herself in Mr. Ludlow's picture
of Charmian, or because she had afterwards made a fool of herself so
irreparably as to be unworthy Mr. Ludlow's kindness.
If it was merely kindness, and she was the object of charity, it was
all right; she could accept it on those terms. She even tempted him to
patronize her, but when he ventured upon something elderly and paternal
in his monitions, she resented it so fiercely that she was astonished
and ashamed. There was an inconsistency in it all that was perplexing,
but not so perplexing as to spoil the pleasure of it.
There were not sittings every day, now; Ludlow came once or twice a
week, and criticised her work; sometimes he struck off a sketch
himself, in illustration of a point, and these sketches were now so
unlike Cornelia, and so wholly like Charmian, that when he left them
for her guidance, she studied them with a remote ache in her heart.
Never mind, Charmian consoled her once, he just does it on purpose.
Does what? Cornelia demanded awfully.
One of the sketches he fancied so much that he began to carry it
forward. He worked at it whenever he came, and under his hand it grew
an idealized Charmian, in which her fantastic quality expressed itself
as high imagination, and her formless generosity as a wise and noble
She made fun of it when they were alone, but Cornelia could see that
she was secretly proud of having inspired it, and that she did not
really care for the constant portrait which Cornelia had been
faithfully finishing up, while Ludlow changed and experimented, though
Charmian praised her to his disadvantage.
One day he said he had carried his picture as far as he could, and
he should let it go at that. It seemed an end of their pleasant days
together; the two girls agreed that now there could be no further
excuse for their keeping on, and Cornelia wondered how she could let
him know that she understood. That evening he came to call on her at
Mrs. Montgomery's, and before he sat down he began to say: I want to
ask your advice, Miss Saunders, about what I shall do with my sketch of
Cornelia blenched, for no reason that she could think of; she could
not gasp out the Yes that she tried to utter.
You see, he went on, I know that I've disappointed Mrs. Maybough,
and I'd like to make her some sort of reparation, but I can't offer her
the sketch instead of the portrait; if she liked it she would want to
pay for it, and I can't take money for it. So I've thought of giving
the sketch to Miss Maybough.
He looked at Cornelia, now, for the advice he had asked, but she did
not speak, and he had to say: But I don't know whether she likes it or
not. Do you know whether she does? Has she ever spoken of it to you? Of
course she's said civil things to me about it. I beg your pardon! I
suppose you don't care to tell, and I had no right to inquire.
Oh, yes; yes.
I know she likes it; she must.
But she hasn't said so?
Then what makes you think she does?
I don't know. Any one would. It's very beautiful. Cornelia spoke
very dryly, very coldly.
But is it a likeness? Is it she? Her character? What do you
think of it yourself?
I don't know as I can say
Ah, I see you don't like it! said Ludlow, with an air of
disappointment. And yet I aimed at pleasing you in it.
At pleasing me? she murmured thickly back.
Yes, you. I tried to see her as you do; to do her justice, and if
it is overdone, or flattered, or idealized, it is because I've been
working toward your notion
Oh! said Cornelia, and then, to the great amazement of herself as
well as Ludlow, she began to laugh, and she laughed on, with her face
in her handkerchief. When she took her handkerchief down, her eyes
looked strange, but she asked, with a sort of radiance, And did you
think I thought Charmian was really like that?
Why, I didn't knowYou've been very severe with me when I've
suggested she wasn't. At first, when I wanted to do her as Humbug, you
wouldn't stand it, and now, when I've done her as Mystery, you laugh.
Cornelia pressed her handkerchief to her shining eyes, and laughed a
little more. That is because she isn't either. Can't you understand?
I could understand her being both, I think. Don't you think she's a
little of both?
I told you, said Cornelia gravely, that I didn't like to talk
That was a good while ago. I didn't know but you might, by this
Why? she asked. Am I so changeable?
No; you're the one constant and steadfast creature in a world of
variableness. I didn't really expect that. I know that I can always
find you where I left you. You are the same as when I first saw you.
It seemed to Cornelia that she had been asking him to praise her,
and she was not going to have that. Do you mean that I behave as badly
as I did in the Fair House? No wonder you treat me like a child. This
was not at all what she meant to say, however, and was worse than what
she had said before.
No, he answered seriously. I meant that you are not capricious,
and I hate caprice. But do I treat you like a child?
Sometimes, said Cornelia, looking down and feeling silly.
I am very sorry. I wish you would tell me how.
She had not expected this pursuit, and she flashed back, You are
doing it now! You wouldn't say that totoany one else.
Ludlow paused thoughtfully. Then he said, I seem to treat myself
like a child when I am with you. Perhaps that's what displeases you.
Well, I can't help that. It is because you are so true that I can't
keep up the conventions with you. They were both silent; Cornelia was
trying to think what she should say, and he added, irrelevantly, If
you don't like that sketch of her, I won't give it to her.
I? What have I to do with it? She did not know what they were
talking about, or to what end. Yes, you must give it to her. I know
she wants it. And I know how kind you are, and good. I didn't meanI
didn't wish to blame youI don't know why I'm making such a perfect
fool of myself.
She had let him have her hand somehow, and he was keeping it; but
they had both risen.
May I stay a moment? he entreated.
No one thing now seemed more inconsequent than another, and Cornelia
answered, with a catching of her breath, but as if it quite followed,
Why, certainly, and they both sat down again.
There is something I wish to tellto speak of, he began. I think
it's what you mean. In my picture of Miss Maybough
I didn't mean that at all. That doesn't make any difference to me,
she broke incoherently in upon him. I didn't care for it. You can do
what you please with it.
He looked at her in a daze while she spoke. Oh, he said, I am
very stupid. I didn't mean this sketch of mine; I don't care for that,
now. I meant that other picture of herthe last onethe one I painted
out before I gave up painting herDid you see that it was like you?
Cornelia felt that he was taking an advantage of her, and she lifted
her eyes indignantly. Mr. Ludlow!
Ah! Don't think that, he pleaded, and she knew that he
meant her unexpressed sense of unfairness in him. I know you saw it;
and the likeness was there becauseI wanted to tell you long ago, but
I couldn't, because when we met afterwards I was afraid that I was
mistaken, in what I thoughthoped. I had no right to know anything
till I was sure of myself; butthe picture was like you because you
were all the time in my thoughts, and nothing and no one but you.
Cornelia She rose up crazily, and looked toward the door, as if
she were going to run out of the room. What is it? he implored. You
know I love you.
Let me go! she panted.
If you tell me you don't care for me
I don't! I don't care for you, andlet me go!
He stood flushed and scared before her. II am sorry. I didn't
meanI hopedBut it is all rightI mean you are right, and I am
wrong. I am very wrong.
Ludlow stood aside and Cornelia escaped. When she reached her own
room, she had a sense of her failure to take formal leave of him, and
she mechanically blamed herself for that before she blamed herself for
anything else. At first he was altogether to blame, and she heaped the
thought of him with wild reproach and injury; if she had behaved like a
fool, it was because she was trapped into it, and could not help it;
she had to do so. She recalled distinctly, amidst the turmoil, how she
had always kept in mind that a girl who had once let a man, like that
dreadful little wretch, whose name she could not take into her
consciousness, suppose that she could care for him, could not let a man
like Ludlow care for her. If she did, she was wicked, and she knew she
had not done it for she had been on her guard against it. The reasoning
was perfect, and if he had spoiled everything now, he had himself to
thank for it; and she did not pity him. Still she wished she had not
run out of the room; she wished she had behaved with more dignity, and
not been rude; he could laugh at her for that; it was like her behavior
with him from the very beginning; there was something in him that
always made her behave badly with him, like a petulant child. He would
be glad to forget her; he would believe, now, that she was not good
enough for him; and he might laugh; but at least he could not say that
she had ever done or said the least thing to let him suppose that she
cared for him. If she had, she should not forgive herself, and she
should pity him as much as she blamed him now. There was nothing in her
whole conduct that would have warranted her in supposing such a thing,
if she were a man. Cornelia had this comfort, and she clung to it, till
it flashed through her that not being a man, she could not imagine what
the things were that could let a man suppose it. She had never thought
of that before, and it dazed her. Perhaps he had seen all along that
she did care for him, that he had known it in some way unknown and
forever unknowable to her; the way a man knows; and all her disguises
had availed nothing against him. Then, if he had known, he had acted
very deceitfully and very wrongfully, and nothing could excuse him
unless there had been other signs that a girl would recognize, too.
That would excuse him, it would justify him, and she tried to see the
affair with another woman's eyes. She tried to see it with Charmian's
eves, but she knew they were filled with a romantic iridescence that
danced before them and wrapt it in a rainbow mist. Then she tried Mrs.
Westley's eyes, which she knew were friendly to both Ludlow and
herself, and she told her everything in her impassioned revery: all
about that little wretch; all about the first portrait of Charmian and
the likeness they had seen in it; all about what had happened since
Ludlow began to criticise her work again. In the mere preparation for
this review she found another's agency insufferable; she abandoned
herself wildly to a vision which burned itself upon her in mass and
detail, under a light that searched motive and conduct alike, and left
her no refuge from the truth. Then she perceived, how at every moment
since they began those last lessons at Charmain's he must have believed
she cared for him and wished him to care for her. If she had not seen
it too, it was because she was stupid, and she was to blame all the
same. She was blind to what he saw in her, and she had thought because
she was hidden from herself that she was hidden from him.
It was not a question now of whether she cared for him, or not; that
was past all question; but whether she had not led him on to think she
did, and she owned that down to the last moment before he had spoken,
wittingly or unwittingly she had coaxed him to praise her, to console
her, lo make love to her. She was rightly punished, and she was ready
to suffer, but she could not let him suffer the shame of thinking
himself wrong. That was mean, that was cowardly, and whatever she was,
Cornelia was not base, and not afraid. She would have been willing to
follow him into the night, to go to his door, and knock at it, and when
he came, flash out at him, I did love you, I do love you, and then
run, she did not know where, but somewhere out of the world. But he
might not be there, or some one else might come to the door; the crude,
material difficulties denied her the fierce joy of this exploit, but
she could not rest (she should never really rest again) till she had
done the nearest thing to it that she could. She looked at the little
busy-bee clock ticking away on her bureau and saw that it was half-past
eleven o'clock, and that there was no time to lose, and she sat down
and wrote: I did care for you. But I can never see you again. I cannot
tell you the reason.
She drew a deep breath when the thing was done, and hurried the
scrap unsigned into an envelope and addressed it to Ludlow. She was in
a frenzy till she could get it out of her hands and into the postal-box
beyond recall. She pulled a shawl over her head and flew down stairs
and out of the door into the street toward the postal-box on the
corner. But before she reached it she thought of a special-delivery
stamp, which should carry the letter to Ludlow the first thing in the
morning, and she pushed on to the druggist's at the corner beyond to
get it. She was aware of the man staring at her, as if she had asked
for arsenic; and she supposed she must have looked strange. This did
not come into her mind till she found herself again at Mrs.
Montgomery's door, where she stood in a panic ecstasy at having got rid
of the letter, which the special stamp seemed to make still more
irrevocable, and tried to fit her night-latch into the lock. The cat,
which had been shut out, crept up from the area, and rubbed with a soft
insinuation against her skirt. She gave a little shriek of terror, and
the door was suddenly pulled open from within.
She threw back her shawl from her head, and under the low-burning
gas-light held aloft by the spelter statuette in the newel post, she
confronted Mr. Dickerson. He had his hat on, and had the air of just
having let himself in; his gripsack stood at his feet.
Why, Nelie! Miss Saunders! Is that you? Why, where in the world
Well, this is something like 'Willy, we have missed you'; I've
just come. What was the matter out there? Somebody trying to scare you?
Well, there's nothing to be afraid of now, anyway. How you do pant! But
it becomes you. Yes, it does! You look now just like I've seen you all
the time I've been gone! You didn't answer any of my letters; I don't
know as I could have expected any different. But I did hopeNelie,
it's no use! I've got to speak out, and it's now or never; maybe there
won't be another chance. Look here, my girl! I want youI love
you, Nie! and I always d
He had got her hand, and he was drawing her toward him. She
struggled to free herself, but he pulled her closer.
Her heart swelled with a fury of grief for all she had suffered and
lost through him. She thought of what her mother had said she ought to
do if he ever spoke to her again; there came without her agency,
almost, three swift, sharp, electrical blows from the hand she had
freed; she saw him reeling backward with his hand at his face, and then
she was standing in her own room, looking at her ghost in the glass.
Now, if Mr. Ludlow knew, he would surely despise her, and she wished
she were dead indeed: not so much because she had boxed Dickerson's
ears as because she had done what obliged her to do it.
It is hard for the young to understand that the world which seems to
stop with their disaster is going on with smooth indifference, and that
a little time will carry them so far from any fateful event that when
they gather courage to face it they will find it curiously shrunken in
the perspective. Nothing really stops the world but death, and that
only for the dead. If we live, we must move on, we must change, we must
outwear every motion, however poignant or deep. Cornelia's shame failed
to kill her; she woke the next morning with a self-loathing that seemed
even greater than that of the night before, but it was actually less;
and it yielded to the strong will which she brought to bear upon
herself. She went to her work at the Synthesis as if nothing had
happened, and she kept at it with a hard, mechanical faithfulness which
she found the more possible, perhaps, because Charmian was not there,
for some reason, and she had not her sympathy as well as her own
weakness to manage. She surprised herself with the results of her
pitiless industry, and realized for the first time the mysterious
duality of being, in the power of the brain and the hand to toil while
the heart aches.
She was glad, she kept assuring herself, that she had put an end to
all hope from Ludlow; she rejoiced bitterly that now, however she had
disgraced herself in her violent behavior, she had at least disgraced
no one else. No one else could suffer through any claim upon her, or
kindness for her, or had any right to feel ashamed of her or injured by
her. But Cornelia was at the same time puzzled and perplexed with
herself, and dismayed with the slightness of her hold upon impulses of
hers which she thought she had overcome and bound forever. She made the
discovery, which she was yet far too young to formulate, that she had a
temperament to deal with that could at any time shake to ruins the
character she had so carefully built upon it, and had so wholly
mistaken for herself. In the midst of this dismay she made another
discovery, and this was that perhaps even her temperament was not what
she had believed it, but was still largely unknown to her. She had
always known that she was quick and passionate, but she certainly had
not supposed that she was capable of the meanness of wondering whether
Mr. Ludlow would take her note as less final than she had meant it, and
would perhaps seek some explanation of it. No girl that she ever heard
or read of, had ever fallen quite so low as to hope that; but was not
she hoping just that? Perhaps she had even written those words with the
tacit intention of calling him back! But this conjecture was the mere
play of a morbid fancy, and weak as she was, Cornelia had the strength
to forbid it and deny it.
At the end of the afternoon, she pretended that she ought to go and
see what had happened to Charmian, and on the way, she had time to
recognize her own hypocrisy, and to resolve that she would do penance
for it by coming straight at the true reason of her errand. She was
sent to Charmian in her studio, and she scarcely gave her a chance to
explain that she had staid at home on account of a cold, and had
written a note for Cornelia to come to dinner with her, which she would
find when she got back.
Cornelia said, I want to tell you something, Charmian, and I want
you to tell me what you really thinkwhether I've done right, or not.
Charmian's eyes lightened. Wait a moment! She got a piece of the
lightwood, and put it on the fire which she had kindled on the hearth
to keep the spring chill off, and went and turned Ludlow's sketch of
herself to the wall. I know it's about him. Then she came and
crouched on the tiger-skin at Cornelia's feet, and clasped her hands
around her knees, and fixed her averted face on the blazing pine. Now
go on, she said, as if she had arranged the pose to her perfect
Cornelia went on. It's about him, and it's about some one else,
too, and she had no pity on herself in telling Charmian all about that
early, shabby affair with Dickerson.
I knew it, said Charmian, with a sigh of utter content, I told
you, the first time I saw you, that you had lived. Well: and has
He has turned upthree times, said Cornelia.
Charmian shivered with enjoyment of the romantic situation. She
reached a hand behind her and tried to clutch one of Cornelia's but had
to get on without it. And well: have they met?
No, they haven't, said Cornelia crossly, but not so much with
Charmian as with the necessity she was now in of telling her about her
last meeting with Ludlow. She began, They almost did, and when
Charmian in the intensity of her interest could not keep turning around
to stare at her, Cornelia took hold of her head and turned her face
toward the fire again. Then she went on to tell how it had all
happened. She did not spare herself at any point, and she ended the
story with the expression of her belief that she had deserved it all.
It wasn't boxing that little wretch's ears that was the disgrace; it
was having brought myself to where I had to box them.
Yes, that was it, sighed Charmian, with deep conviction.
And I had to tell him that I could never care for him,
because I couldn't bear to tell him what a fool I had been.
No, no; you never could do that!
And I couldn't bear to have him think I was better than I really
was, or let him care for me unless I told him all about that miserable
No, you couldn't, Cornelia, said Charmian solemnly.
Some girls might; most girls would. They would just
consider it a flirtation, and not say anything about it, or not till
after they were engaged, and then just laugh. But you are different
from other girlsyou are so true! Yes, you would have to tell
it if it killed you; I can see that; and you couldn't tell it, and you
had to break his heart. Yes, you had to!
Oh, Charmian Maybough! How cruel you are! Cornelia flung herself
forward and cried; Charmian whirled round, and kneeling before her,
threw her arms around her, in a pose of which she felt the perfection,
and kissed her tenderly.
Why didn't you let me see how you were looking? How I have gone
Cornelia pulled herself loose. Charmian! Do you dare to mean
that I want him to ever speak to me againor look at me?
Or that I'm sorry I did it?
No; it's this cold that's making me so stupid.
If he were to come back again this instant, I should have to tell
him just the same, or else tell him about thatthatand you know I
couldn't do that if I lived a thousand years.
Now she melted, indeed, and suffered Charmian to moan over her, and
fortify her with all the reasons she had urged herself in various forms
of repetition. Charmain showed her again how impossible everything that
she had thought impossible was, and convinced her of every conviction.
She made Cornelia's tragedy her romance, and solemnly exulted in its
fatality, while she lifted her in her struggle of conscience to a
height from which for the present at least, Cornelia could not have
descended without a ruinous loss of self-respect. In the renunciation
in which the worshipper confirmed her saint, Ludlow and his rights and
feelings were ignored, and Cornelia herself was offered nothing more
substantial than the prospect that henceforth she and Charmian could
live for each other in a union that should be all principle on one side
and all adoration on the other.
Cornelia did not go to pass that week in Lent with Mrs. Westley.
When she went, rather tardily, to withdraw her promise, she said that
the time was now growing so short she must give every moment to the
Synthesis. Mrs. Westley tacitly arranged to cancel some little plans
she had made for her, and in the pity a certain harassed air of the
girl's moved in her, she accepted her excuses as valid, and said, But
I am afraid you are overworking at the Synthesis, Miss Saunders. Are
you feeling quite well?
Oh, perfectly, Cornelia answered with a false buoyancy from which
she visibly fell. She looked down, and said, I wish the work was twice
Ah, you have come to that very soon, said Mrs. Westley; and then
they were both silent, till she added, How are you getting on with
your picture of Miss Maybough?
Oh, I'm not doing anything with that, said Cornelia, and she stood
up to go.
But you are going to exhibit it? Mrs. Westley persisted.
No, T don't know as I am. I should have to offer it first.
It would be sure to be accepted; Mr. Ludlow thinks it would.
Oh, yes; I know, said Cornelia, feeling herself get very red. But
I guess I won't offer it. Goodbye.
Mrs. Westley kept the impression of something much more personal
than artistic in Cornelia's reference to her picture, and when she met
Ludlow a few days after, she asked him if he knew that Miss Saunders
was not going to offer her picture to the Exhibition.
He said simply that he did not know it.
Don't you think she ought? I don't think she's looking very well,
of late; do you?
I don't know; isn't she? I haven't seen her He began
carelessly; he added anxiously. When did you see her?
A few days ago. She came to say she could not take the time from
the Synthesis to pay me that little visit. I'm afraid she's working too
hard. Of course, she's very ambitious; but I can't understand her not
wanting to show her picture, there, and trying to sell it.
Ludlow stooped forward and pulled the long ears of Mrs. Westley's
fashionable dog which lay on the rug at his feet.
Have you any idea why she's changed her mind?
Yes, said Ludlow. I think it's because I helped her with it.
Is she so independent? Or perhaps I am not quite discreet
Why not? You say she didn't look well?
He asked, as if it immediately followed, Mrs. Westley, should you
mind giving me a little advice about a mattera very serious matter?
If you won't follow it.
Do we ever?
How much use can a man be to a girl when he knows that he can't be
of the greatest?
None, if he is sure.
He is perfectly sure.
He had better let her alone, then. He had better not try.
I am going to try. But I thank you for your advice more than if I
were going to take it.
They parted laughing; and Mrs. Westley was contented to be left with
the mystery which she believed was no mystery to her.
Ludlow went home and wrote to Cornelia:
DEAR MISS SAUNDERS: I hear you are not going to try to get your
picture into the Exhibition. I will not pretend not to
why, and you would not wish me to; so I feel free to say that
are making a mistake. You ought to offer your picture; I think
would be accepted, and you have no right to forego the chance
would give you, for the only reason you can have. I know that
Wetmore would be glad to advise you about it; and I am sure you
will believe that I have not asked him to do so.
Cornelia turned this letter in many lights, and tried to take it in
many ways; but in the end she could only take it in the right way, and
she wrote back:
DEAR MR. LUDLOW: I thank you very much for your letter, and I
going to do what you say. Yours sincerely,
P. S. I do appreciate your kindness very much.
She added this postscript after trying many times to write a reply
that would seem less blunt and dry; but she could not write anything at
all between a letter that she felt was gushing and this note which
certainly could not be called so; she thought the postscript did not
help it much, but she let it go.
As soon as she had done so, it seemed to her that she had no reason
for having done so, and she did not see how she could justify it to
Charmian, whom she had told that she should not offer her picture. She
would have to say that she had changed her mind simply because Mr.
Ludlow had bidden her, and she tried to think how she could make that
appear sufficient. But Charmian was entirely satisfied. Oh, yes, she
said, that was the least you could do, when he asked you. You
certainly owed him that much. Now, she added mystically,
he never can say a thing.
They were in Charmian's studio, where Cornelia's sketch of her had
been ever since she left working on it; and Charmian ran and got it,
and set it where they could both see it in the light of the new event.
It's magnificent, Cornelia. There's no other word for it. Did you
know he was going to give me his?
Yes, he told me he was going to, said Cornelia, looking at her
sketch, with a dreamy suffusion of happiness in her face.
It's glorious, but it doesn't come within a million miles of yours.
Mr. Wetmore isn't on the Committee, this year, but he knows them all,
Cornelia turned upon her. Charmian Maybough, if you breathe, if you
dream a word to him about it I will never speak to you. If my
picture can't get into the Exhibition without the help of friends
Oh, I shan't speak to him about it, Charmian hastened to
assure her. In pursuance of her promise, she only spoke to Mrs.
Wetmore, and at the right time Wetmore used his influence with the
committee. Then, for the reason, or the no reason that governs such
matters, or because Cornelia's picture was no better than too many
others that were accepted, it was refused.
The blow was not softened to Cornelia by her having prophesied to
Charmian as well as to herself, that she knew her picture would be
refused. Now she was aware that at the bottom of her heart she had
always hoped and believed it would be accepted. She had kept it all
from her mother, but she had her fond, proud visions of how her mother
would look when she got her letter saying that she had a picture in the
Exhibition, and how she would throw on her sacque and bonnet, and run
up to Mrs. Burton for an explanation and full sense of the honor. In
these fancies Cornelia even had them come to New York, to see her
picture in position; it was not on the line, of course, and yet it was
Her pride was not involved, and she suffered no sting of wounded
vanity from its rejection: her hurt was in a tenderer place. She would
not have cared how many people knew of her failure, if her mother and
Mrs. Burton need not have known; but she wrote faithfully home of it,
and tried to make neither much nor little of it. She forbade Charmian
the indignation which she would have liked to vent, but she let her cry
over the event with her. No one else knew that it had actually happened
except Wetmore and Ludlow; she was angry with them at first for
encouraging her to offer the picture, but Wetmore came and was so
mystified and humbled by its refusal, that she forgave him and even
comforted him for his part in the affair.
She acted like a little man about it, he reported to Ludlow.
She'll do. When a girl can take a blow like that the way she does, she
makes you wish that more fellows were girls. When I had my first
picture refused, it laid me up. But I'm not going to let this thing
rest. I'm going to see if that picture can't be got into the American
Better not, said Ludlow so vaguely that Wetmore thought he must
OhI don't believe she'd like it.
What makes you think so? Have you seen her?
You haven't? Well, Ludlow, I didn't lose any time. Perhaps
you think there was no one else to blame for the mortification of that
No, I don't. I am to blame, too. I encouraged her to tryI urged
Then I should think you would go and tell her so.
Ah, I think she knows it. If I told her anything, I should tell her
no one was to blame but myself.
Well, that wouldn't be a bad idea. Wetmore lighted his pipe.
Confound those fellows! I should like to knock their heads together.
If there is anything like the self-righteousness of a committee when
it's wrong-but there isn't, fortunately.
It was not the first time that Ludlow had faltered in the notion of
going to Cornelia and claiming to be wholly at fault. In thought he was
always doing it, and there were times when he almost did it in reality,
but he let these times pass effectless, hoping for some better time
when the thing would do itself, waiting for the miracle which love
expects, when it is itself the miracle that brings all its desires to
fulfilment. He certainly had some excuses for preferring a passive part
in what he would have been so glad to have happen. Cornelia had
confessed that she had once cared for him, but at the same time she had
implied that she cared for him no longer, and she had practically
forbidden him to see her again. Much study of her words could make
nothing else of them, and it was not until Ludlow saw his way to going
impersonally in his quality of mistaken adviser, from whom explanation
and atonement were due, that he went to Cornelia. Even then he did not
quite believe that she would see him, and he gladly lost the bet he
made himself, at the sound of a descending step on the stairs, that it
was the Irish girl coming back to say that Miss Saunders was not at
They met very awkwardly, and Ludlow had such an official tone in
claiming responsibility for having got Cornelia to offer her picture,
and so have it rejected, that he hardly knew who was talking. That is
all, he said, stiffly; and he rose and stood looking into his hat. It
seemed to me that I couldn't do less than come and say this, and I hope
you don't feel that I'mI'm unwarranted in coming.
Oh, no, cried Cornelia, it's very kind of you, and no one's to
blame but me. I don't suppose I should care; onlyshe bit her lips
hard, and added deep in her throatI hated to have my motherBut I
am rightfully punished.
She meant for the Dickerson business, but Ludlow thought she meant
for her presumption, and his heart smote him in tender indignation as
her head sank and her face averted itself. It touched him keenly that
she should speak to him in that way of her mother, as if from an
instinctive sense of his loving and faithful sympathy; and then,
somehow he had her in his arms, there in Mrs. Montgomery's dim parlor;
he noted, as in a dream, that his hat had fallen and was rolling half
the length of it.
Oh, wait! cried the girl. What are you doingYou don't know.
There is something I must tell youthat will make you hate me She
struggled to begin somehow, but she did not know where.
No, he said. You needn't tell me anything. There isn't anything
in the world that could change me to younothing that you could tell
me! Sometime, if you mustif you wish; but not now. I've been too
miserable, and now I'm so happy.
But it's very foolish, it's silly! I tell you
Not now, not now! He insisted. He made her cry, he made her laugh;
but he would not listen to her. She knew it was all wrong, that it was
romantic and fantastic, and she was afraid of it; but she was so happy
too, that she could not will it for the moment to be otherwise. She put
off the time that must come, or let him put it off for her, and gladly
lost herself in the bliss of the present. The fear, growing more and
more vague and formless, haunted her rapture, but even this ceased
before they parted, and left her at perfect peace in his lovetheir
He told her how much she could be to him, how she could supplement
him in every way where he was faltering and deficient, and he poured
out his heart in praises of her that made her brain reel. They talked
of a thousand things, touching them, and leaving them, and coming back,
but always keeping within the circle of their relation to themselves.
They flattered one another with the tireless and credulous egotism of
love; they tried to tell what they had thought of each other from the
first moment they met, and tried to make out that they neither had ever
since had a thought that was not the other's; they believed this. The
commonplaces of the passion ever since it began to refine itself from
the earliest savage impulse, seemed to have occurred to them for the
first time in the history of the race; they accused themselves each of
not being worthy of the other; they desired to be very good, and to
live for the highest things.
They began this life by spending the whole afternoon together. When
some other people came into the parlor, they went out to walk. They
walked so long and far, that they came at last to the Park without
meaning to, and sat on a bench by a rock. Other people were doing the
same: nurses with baby-carriages before them; men smoking and reading;
elderly husbands with their elderly wives beside them, whom they
scarcely spoke to; it must have been a very common, idle thing, but to
them it had the importance, the distinction of something signal, done
for the first time. They staid there till it was almost dark, and then
they went and had tea together in the restaurant of one of the vast
hotels at the entrance of the Park. It was a very Philistine place,
with rich-looking, dull-looking people, travellers and sojourners,
dining about in its spacious splendor; but they got a table in a corner
and were as much alone there as in the Park; their happiness seemed to
push the world away from them wherever they were, and to leave them
free within a wide circle of their own. She poured the tea for them
both from the pot which the waiter set at her side; he looked on in
joyful wonder and content. How natural it all is, he sighed. I
should think you had always been doing that for me. But I suppose it is
only from the beginning of time!
She let him talk the most, because she was too glad to speak, and
because they had both the same thoughts, and it did not need two to
utter them. Now and then, he made her speak; he made her answer some
question; but it was like some question that she had asked herself.
From time to time they spoke of others besides themselves; of her
mother and the Burtons, of Charmian, of Mrs. Westley, of Wetmore; but
it was in relation to themselves; without this relation, nothing had
When they parted after an evening prolonged till midnight in Mrs.
Montgomery's parlor, that which had been quiescent in Cornelia's soul,
stirred again, and she knew that she was wrong to let Ludlow go without
telling him of Dickerson. It was the folly of that agreement of theirs
about painting Charmian repeating itself in slightly different terms,
and with vastly deeper meaning, but to a like end of passive deceit, of
tacit untruth; his wish did not change it. She thought afterwards she
could not have let him go without telling him, if she had not believed
somehow that the parallel would complete itself, and that he would come
back, as he had done before, and help her undo what was false between
them; but perhaps this was not so; perhaps if she had been sure he
would not come back she would not have spoken; at any rate he did not
Cornelia was left to no better counsels than those of Charmian
Maybough, and these were disabled from what they might have been at
their best, by Cornelia's failure to be frank with her. If she was
wronging Charmian by making her a half-confidant only, she could not be
more open with her than with Ludlow, and she must let her think that
she had told him everything until she had told him everything.
She did honestly try to do so, from time to time; she tried to lead
him on to ask her what it was he had kept her from telling him in that
first moment of their newly confessed love, when it would have been
easier than it could ever be again. She reproached him in her heart for
having prevented her then; it seemed as if he must know that she was
longing for his help to be frank; but she never could make that cry for
his help pass her lips where it trembled when she ought to have felt
safest with him. She began to be afraid of him, and he began to be
aware of her fear.
He went home after parting with her that first night of their
engagement too glad of all that was, to feel any lack in it; but the
first thought in his mind when he woke the next morning was not that
perfect joy which the last before he fell asleep had been. His
discomfort was a formless emotion at first, and it was a moment before
it took shape in the mistake he had made, in forbidding Cornelia to
tell him what she had kept from him, merely because he knew that she
wished to keep it. He ought to have been strong enough for both, and he
had joined his weakness to hers from a fantastic impulse of generosity.
Now he perceived that the truth, slighted and postponed, must right
itself at the cost of the love which it should have been part of. He
began to be tormented with a curiosity to know what he could not ask,
or let her suspect that he even wished to know. Whether he was with her
or away from her, he always had that in his mind, and in the small
nether ache, inappeasable and incessant, he paid the penalty of his
romantic folly. He had to bear it and to hide it. Yet they both seemed
flawlessly happy to others, and in a sort they seemed so to themselves.
They waited for the chance that should make them really so.
Cornelia kept on at her work, all the more devotedly because she was
now going home so soon and because she knew herself divided from it by
an interest which made art seem slight and poor, when she felt secure
in her happiness, and made it seem nothing when her heart misgave her.
She never could devolve upon that if love failed her; art could only be
a part of her love henceforward. She could go home and help her mother
with her work till she died, if love failed her, but she could never
draw another line.
There was going to be an exhibition of Synthesis work at the close
of the Synthesis year, and there was to be a masquerade dance in the
presence of the pictures. Charmian was the heart and soul of the
masquerade, and she pushed its claims to the disadvantage of the
exhibition. Some of the young ladies who thought that art should have
the first place, went about saying that she was for the dance because
she could waltz and mask better than she could draw, and would rather
exhibit herself than her work, but it was a shame that she should make
Miss Saunders work for her the way she did, because Miss Saunders,
though she was so overrated, was really learning something, thanks to
the Synthesis atmosphere; and Charmian Maybough would never learn
anything. It was all very well for her to pretend that she scorned to
send anything to a school exhibition, but she was at least not such a
simpleton as to risk offering anything, for it would not be accepted.
That, they said, was the real secret of her devotion to the masquerade
and of her theory that the spirit of the Synthesis could be expressed
as well in making that beautiful, as in the exhibition. Charmian had
Cornelia come and stay with her the whole week before the great event,
and she spent it in a tumult of joyful excitement divided between the
tremendous interests of Ludlow's coming every night to see Cornelia,
and of having them both advise with her about her costume. Ludlow was
invited to the dance, and he was to be there so as to drive home with
her and Cornelia.
In the mean time Charmian's harshest critics were not going to be
outdone, if they could help it, in any way; they not only contributed
to the exhibition, but four or five days beforehand they began to stay
away from the Synthesis, and get up their costumes for the masquerade.
Everything was to be very simple, and you could come in costume or not,
as you pleased, but the consensus was that people were coming in
costume, and you would not want to look odd.
The hall for the dancing was created by taking down the board
partitions that separated three of the class-rooms; and hanging the
walls with cheese-cloth to hide the old stains and paint-marks, and
with pictures by the instructors. There was a piano for the music, and
around the wall rough benches were put, with rugs over them to save the
ladies' dresses. The effect was very pretty, with palettes on nails,
high up, and tall flowers in vases on brackets, and a life-study in
plaster by one of the girls, in a corner of the room. It all had the
charm of tasteful design yielding here and there to happy caprice; this
mingling of the ordered and the bizarre, expressed the spirit, at once
free and submissive, of the place. There had been a great deal of
trouble which at times seemed out of all keeping with the end to be
gained, but when it was all over, the trouble seemed nothing. The
exhibition was the best the Synthesis had ever made, and those who had
been left out of it were not the least of those in the masquerade; they
were by no means the worst dressed, or when they unmasked, the
plainest, and Charmian's favorite maxim that art was all one, was
verified in the costumes of several girls who could not draw any better
than she could. If they were not on the walls in one way neither were
they in another. After they had wandered heart-sick through the
different rooms, and found their sketches nowhere, they had their
compensation when the dancing began.
The floor was filled early, and the scene gathered gayety and
brilliancy. It had the charm that the taste of the school could give in
the artistic effects, and its spirit of generous comradery found play
in the praises they gave each other's costumes, and each other's looks
when they were not in costume. It was a question whether Cornelia who
came as herself, was lovelier than Charmian, who was easily
recognizable as Cleopatra, with ophidian accessories in her dress that
suggested at once the serpent of old Nile, and a Moqui snake-dancer.
Cornelia looked more beautiful than ever; her engagement with Ludlow
had come out and she moved in the halo of poetic interest which
betrothal gives a girl with all other girls; it was thought an
inspiration that she should not have come in costume, but in her own
character. Ludlow's fitness to carry off such a prize was disputed; he
was one of the heroes of the Synthesis, and much was conceded to him
because he had more than once replaced the instructor in still-life
there. But there remained a misgiving with some whether Cornelia was
right in giving up her art for him; whether she were not recreant to
the Synthesis in doing that; the doubt, freshly raised by her beauty,
was not appeased till Charmian met it with the assertion that Cornelia
was not going to give up her art at all, but after her marriage was
coming back to study and paint with Ludlow.
Charmian bore her honors graciously, both as the friend of the new
fiancée, and as the most successful mask of the evening. In her pride
and joy, she set the example of looking out for girls who were not
having a good time, and helping them to have one with the men of her
own too constant following, and with those who stood about, wanting the
wish or the courage to attach themselves to any one. In the excitement
she did not miss Cornelia, or notice whether Ludlow had come yet. When
she did think of her it was to fancy that she was off somewhere with
him, and did not want to be looked up. Before the high moment when one
of the instructors appeared, and chose a partner fur the Virginia Reel,
Charmian had fused all the faltering and reluctant temperaments in the
warmth of her amiability. Nobody ever denied her good nature, in fact,
whatever else they denied her, and there were none who begrudged her
its reward at last. She was last on the floor, when the orchestra,
having played as long as it had bargained to, refused to play any
longer, and the dance came to an end. She then realized that it was
after twelve, and she remembered Cornelia. She rushed down into the
dressing-room, and found her sitting there alone, bonneted and wrapped
for the street. There was something suddenly strange and fateful about
it all to Charmian.
Cornelia! she entreated. What is the matter? What has become of
Mr. Ludlow? Hasn't he been here to-night?
Cornelia shook her head, and made a hoarse murmur in her throat, as
if she wished to speak and could not. There seemed to be some sort of
weight upon her, so that she could not rise, but Charmian swiftly made
her own changes of toilet necessary for the street, and got Cornelia
out of doors and into her coupé which was waiting for them, before the
others descended from the dancing-room, where the men staid to help the
janitor put out the lights. As the carriage whirled them away, they
could hear the gay cries and laughter of the first of the revellers who
came out into the night after them.
The solemn man-servant, who was now also sleepy, but who saved the
respect due the young ladies by putting his hand over a yawn when he
let them in, brought Cornelia a letter which he seemed to have been
keeping on his professional salver. A letter for you, miss. It came
about an hour after you went out. The messenger said he wasn't to wait
for an answer, and Mrs. Maybough thought she needn't send it to you at
the Synthesis. She wanted me to tell you, miss.
Oh, it is all right, thank you, said Cornelia, with a tremor which
she could not repress at the sight of Ludlow's handwriting.
Charmian put her arm round her. Come into the studio, dear. You can
answer it there, if you want to, at once.
Well, said Cornelia, passively.
Charmian found her sitting with the letter in her lap, as if she had
not moved from her posture while she had been away exchanging her
Ptolemaic travesty for the ease of a long silken morning gown of Nile
green. She came back buttoning it at her throat, when she gave a start
of high tragic satisfaction at something stonily rigid in Cornelia's
attitude, but she kept to herself both her satisfaction and the
poignant sympathy she felt at the same time, and sank noiselessly into
a chair by the fireless hearth.
After a moment Cornelia stirred and asked, Do you want to see it,
Do you want me to? Charmian asked back, with her heart in her
throat, lest the question should make Cornelia change her mind.
There were two lines from Ludlow, unsigned: I have received the
enclosed letter, which I think you should see before I see you again.
His note enclosed a letter from Dickerson to Ludlow, which ran:
Although you are a stranger to me, I feel an old friend's
in your engagement to Miss Cornelia Saunders, of which I have
been informed. I can fully endorse your good taste. Was once
engaged to the young lady myself some years since, and have
correspondence with her up to a very recent date. Would call
offer my well wishes in person, but am unexpectedly called away
business. Presume Miss Saunders has told you of our little
so will not enlarge upon the facts. Please give her my best
regards and congratulations.
J. B. DICKERSON.
Charmian let the papers fall to her lap, and looked at Cornelia who
stared blankly, helplessly back at her. What a hateful, spiteful
little cad! she began, and she enlarged at length upon Mr. Dickerson's
character and behavior. She arrested herself in this pleasure, and
said, But I don't understand why Mr. Ludlow should have staid away
this evening on account of his letter, or why he should have sent it to
you, if he knew about it already. It seems to me
He didn't know about it, said Cornelia. I haven't told him yet.
The reproachful superiority in Charmian's tone was bitter to
Cornelia, but she did not even attempt to resent it. She said meekly,
I did try to tell him. I wanted to tell him the very first thing, but
he wouldn't let me, then; and thenI couldn't.
Charmian's superiority melted into sympathy: Of course, she said.
And now, I never can tell him, Cornelia desperately concluded.
Never! Charmian assented. The gleam of common-sense which had
visited her for an instant, was lost in the lime-light of romance,
which her fancy cast upon the situation. And what are you going to
do? she asked, enraptured by its hopeless gloom.
Nothing. What can I do?
No. You can do nothing. She started, as with a sudden inspiration.
Why, look here, Cornelia! Why wouldn't this do?
She stopped so long that Cornelia asked, somewhat crossly, Well?
I don't know whether I'd better tell you. But I know it would be
the very thing. Do you want me to tell you?
Oh, it makes no difference, said Cornelia, hopelessly.
Charmian went on tentatively, Why, it's this. I've often heard of
such things: Me to pretend that I wrote this horrid Dickerson
letter, and there isn't any such person; but I did it just for a joke,
or wanted to break off the engagement because I couldn't bear to give
you up. Don't you see? It's like lots of things on the stage, and I've
read of them, I'd be perfectly willing to sacrifice myself in such a
cause, and I should have to, for after I said I had done such a thing
as that, he would never let you speak to me again, or look at me, even.
But I should die happy She stopped, frozen to silence, by the
scornful rejection in Cornelia's look. Oh, no, no! It wouldn't do! I
see it wouldn't! Don't speak! But there's nothing else left, that I
know of. She added, by another inspiration, Or, yes! Nownow
we can live for each other, Cornelia. You will outlive this. You will
be terribly changed, of course; and perhaps your health may be
affected; but I shall always be with you from this on. I have loved you
more truly than he ever did, if he can throw you over for a little
thing like that. If I were a man I should exult to ignore such a thing.
Oh, if men could only be what girls would be if they were men! But now
you must begin to forget him from this instantto put him out of your
To further this end Charmian talked of Ludlow for a long time, and
entered upon a close examination of his good and bad qualities; his
probable motives for now behaving as he was doing, and the influence of
the present tragedy upon his future as a painter. It would either
destroy him or it would be the fire out of which he would rise a
master; he would degenerate into a heartless worldling, which he might
very well do, for he was fond of society, or he might become a gloomy
recluse, and produce pictures which the multitude would never know were
painted with tears and blood. Of course, I don't mean literally; the
idea is rather disgusting; but you know what I mean, Cornelia. He may
commit suicide, like that French painter, Robert; but he doesn't seem
one of that kind, exactly; he's much more likely to abandon art and
become an art-critic. Yes, it may make an art-critic of him.
Cornelia sat in a heavy muse, hearing and not hearing what she said.
Charmian bustled about, and made a fire of lightwood, and then kindled
her spirit lamp, and made tea, which she brought to Cornelia. We may
as well take it, she said. We shall not sleep to-night anyway. What a
strange ending to our happy evening. It's perfectly Hawthornesque.
Don't you think it's like the Marble Faun, somehow? I believe
you will rise to a higher life through this trouble, Cornelia, just as
Donatello did through his crime. I can arrange it with mamma to be with
you; and if I can't I shall just simply abandon her, and we will take a
little flat like two newspaper girls that I heard of, and live
together. We will get one down-town, on the East Side.
Cornelia look the tea and drank it, but she could not speak. It
would have been easier to bear if she had only had herself alone to
blame, but mixed with her shame, and with her pity for him, was a sense
of his want of wisdom in refusing to let her speak at once, when she
wanted to tell him all about Dickerson. That was her instinct; she had
been right, and he wrong; she might be to blame for everything since,
but he was to blame then and for that. Now it was all wrong, and past
undoing. She tried, in the reveries running along with what she was
hearing of Charmian's talk, every way of undoing it that she could
imagine: she wrote to Ludlow; she sent for him; she went to him; but it
was all impossible. She did not wish to undo the wrong that she might
have back her dream of happiness again; she had been willing to be less
than true, and she could wish him to know that she hated herself for
It went on and on, in her brain; there was no end to it; no way to
undo the snarl that life had tangled itself up into. She looked at the
clock on the mantel, and saw that it was three o'clock. Why don't you
go to bed? she asked Charmian.
I shall not go to bed, I shall never go to bed, said Charmian
darkly. She added, If you'll come with me, I will.
I can't, said Cornelia, with a sort of dry anguish. She rose from
where she had been sitting motionless so long. Let me lie down on that
couch of yours, there. I'm tired to death.
She went toward the alcove curtained off from the studio, and
Charmian put her arm round her to stay her and help.
Don't. I can get along perfectly well.
I will lie down here with you, said Charmian. You won't mind?
No, I shall like to have you.
Cornelia shivered as she sat down on the edge of this divan, and
Charmian ran back to put another stick of lightwood on the fire, and
turn the gas down to a blue flame. She pulled down rugs and draperies,
and dragged them toward the alcove for covering. Oh, how different it
is from the way I always supposed it would be when I expected to sleep
here! She sank her voice to a ghostly whisper, and yawned. Now you go
to sleep, Cornelia; but if you want anything I shall be watching here
beside you, and you must ask me. Would you like anything now? An olive,
Nothing, said Cornelia, tumbling wearily upon the couch.
Charmian surveyed her white, drawn face with profound appreciation.
Then she stretched herself at her side, and in a little while Cornelia
knew by her long, regular breathing that she had found relief from the
stress of sympathy in sleep.
The cold north-light of the studio showed that it was broad day when
a tap at the door roused Cornelia from a thin drowse she had fallen
into at dawn. She stirred, and Charmian threw herself from the couch to
her feet. Don't moveI'll get itlet me She tossed back the
black mane that fell over her eyes and stared about her. Whatwhat is
it? Have I been asleep? Oh, I never can forgive myself!
The tapping at the door began again, and she ran to open it. The
inexorable housemaid was there; she said that Mrs. Maybough was
frightened at her not finding either of the young ladies in their
rooms, and had sent her to see if they were in the studio.
Yes, tell her we are, please; we fell asleep on the couch, please;
and, Norah! we want our breakfast here. We are verybusy, and we can't
She twisted her hair into a loose knot, and cowered over the hearth,
where she kindled some pieces of lightwood, and then sat huddled before
it, watching the murky roll of its flames, till the maid came back with
the tray. Charmian wished to bring Cornelia a cup of coffee where she
still lay, so crushed with the despair that had rolled back upon her
with the first consciousness that she thought she never could rise
again. But as the aroma of the coffee that Charmian poured out stole to
her, she found strength to lift herself on her elbow, and say, No, I
will take it there with you.
The maid had put the tray on the low table where Charmian usually
served tea, but in spite of all the poignant associations of this piece
of furniture with happier times, the two girls ate hungrily of the
omelette and the Vienna rolls; and by the time the maid had put the
studio in order, and beaten up the cushions of the couch into their
formal shape, they had cleared the tray, and she took it away with her
quite empty. Even in the house of mourning, and perhaps there more than
elsewhere, the cravings of the animal, which hungers and thirsts on,
whatever happens, satisfy themselves, while the spirit faints and
Perhaps if Cornelia had thought of it she would not have chosen to
starve to no visible end, but she did not think, and she ate ravenously
as long as there was anything left, and when she had eaten, she felt so
much stronger in heart and clearer in mind, that after the maid had
gone she began, Charmian, I am going home, at once, and you mustn't
try to stop me; I mean to Mrs. Montgomery's. I want to write to Mr.
Ludlow. I shall tell him it is all true.
Yes; what else could I tell him?
Oh, you must! But must you write it?
Yes; I never can see him again, and I won't let him think that I
want to, or to have him forgive me. He was to blame, but I was the
most, for he might have thought it was just some little thing, and I
knew what it was, and that it was something he ought to know at once.
He will always believe now that it was worse than it is, if anything
can be worse. I shall tell him that after I had seen Mr. Dickerson
again, and knew just what aa dreadful thing he was, I tolerated him,
and lured him on
You didn't lure him on, and I won't let you say such a
thing, Cornelia Saunders, Charmian protested. You always did profess
to have sense, and that isn't sense.
I never had any sense, said Cornelia, I can see that now. I have
been a perfect fool from the beginning.
You may have been a fool, said Charmian, judicially, but you have
not been false, and I am not going to let you say so. If you don't
promise not to, I will tell Mr. Ludlow myself that you were always
perfectly true, and you couldn't help being true, any more than aa
broomstick, or anything else that is perpendicular. Now, will you
I will tell him just how everything was, and he can judge. But what
difference? It's all over, and I wouldn't help it if I could.
Yes, I know that, said Charmian, but that's all the more reason
why you shouldn't go and say more than there is. He can't think, even
if you're just to yourself, that you want towheedle.
Wheedle! cried Cornelia.
Well, not wheedle, exactly, but what would be wheedling in
some other girlin me, said Charmian, offering herself up. Will you
let me see the letter before you send it? I do believe I've got more
sense than you have about such things, this minute.
You wouldn't have any to brag of, even then, said Cornelia with
gloomy meekness, and unconscious sarcasm. Yes, I will let you see the
Well, then, you needn't go home to write it; you can write in your
room here. I want to see that letter, and I sha'n't let it go if
there's the least thing wrong in it. She jumped up gayly, as if this
were the happiest possible solution of the whole difficulty, and began
to push Cornelia out of the room. Now go, and after you've put
yourself in shape, and got your hair done, you'll have some
self-respect. I suppose you won't begin to write till you're all as
spick and span as if you were going to receive a call from him. I'm
such a slouch that I should just sit down and write, looking every
which-waybut I know you can't.
She came back to the studio an hour later, and waited impatiently
for Cornelia's appearance. She was so long coming that Charmian opened
the door, to go and ask her some question, so as to get her to say that
she would be with her in a moment, even if she didn't come, and almost
ran against the man-servant, who was bringing her a card. She gave a
little nervous shriek, and caught it from his salver.
For Miss Saunders, miss, he said, in respectful deprecation of her
Yes, yes; it's all right. Say that sheis in the studio.
Charmian spoke in thick gasps. The card was Ludlow's; and between the
man's going and Ludlow's coming, she experienced a succession of
sensations which were, perhaps, the most heroically perfect of any in a
career so much devoted to the emotions. She did not stop to inquire
what she should do after she got Ludlow there, or to ask herself what
he was coming for, a little after nine o'clock in the morning; she
simply waited his approach in an abandon which exhausted the
capabilities of the situation, and left her rather limp and languid
when he did appear. If it had been her own affair she could not have
entered into it with more zeal, more impassioned interest. So far as
she reasoned her action at all, it was intended to keep Ludlow, after
she got him there, till Cornelia should come, for she argued that if
she should go for her Cornelia would suspect something, and she would
not come at all.
When Ludlow found Charmian and not Cornelia waiting for him, he
managed to get through the formalities of greeting decently, but he had
an intensity which he had the effect of not allowing to relax. He sat
down with visible self-constraint when Charmian invited him to do so.
Miss Saunders has just gone to her room; she'll be back in a
moment. She added, with wild joy in a fact which veiled the truth,
She is writing a note.
Oh! said Ludlow, and he was so clearly able not to say anything
more that Charmian instantly soared over him in smooth self-possession.
We were so sorry not to see you last night, Mr. Ludlow. It was a
perfect success, except your not coming, of course.
Thank you, said Ludlow, I wasI couldn't comeat the last
Yes, I understood you intended to come. I do wish you could have
seen Miss Saunders! I don't believe she ever looked lovelier. I wanted
her to go in costume, you know, but she wouldn't, and in fact when I
saw her, I saw that she needn't. She doesn't have to eke herself out,
as some people do.
Ludlow was aware of the opening for a civil speech, but he was quite
helpless to use it. He stared blankly at Charmian, who went on:
And then, Cornelia is so perfectly truthful, you know, so sincere,
that any sort of disguise would have been out of character with her,
and I'm glad she went simply as herself. We were up so late talking,
that we slept till I don't know when, this morning. I forgot to wind my
clock. I suppose it's very late.
No, said Ludlow, it's so very early that I ought to apologize for
coming, I suppose. But I wished to see Miss Saunders He stopped,
feeling that he had given too rude a hint.
Charmian did not take it amiss. Oh, Cornelia is usually up at all
sorts of unnatural hours of the day. I expected when she came here to
spend the week with me, we should have some fun, sitting up and
talking, but last night is the only time we have had a real good talk,
and I suppose that was because we were so excited that even Cornelia
couldn't go to sleep at once. I do wish you could have seen some of the
costumes, Mr. Ludlow!
Ludlow began to wonder whether Cornelia had got his letter, or
whether, if she had got it, she had kept the matter so carefully from
Charmian that she had not suspected anything was wrong. Or, what was
more likely, had not Cornelia cared? Was she glad to be released, and
had she joyfully hailed his letter and its enclosure as a means of
escape? His brain reeled with these doubts, which were the next moment
relieved with the crazy hope that if his letter had not yet been
delivered, he might recover it, and present the affair in the shape he
had now come to give it. He believed that Charmian must have some
motive for what she was doing and saying beyond the hospitable purpose
of amusing him till Cornelia should appear. We always think that other
people have distinct motives, but for the most part in our intercourse
with one another we are really as superficially intentioned, when we
are intentioned at all, as Charmian was in wishing to get what
sensation she could out of the dramatic situation by hovering darkly
over it, and playing perilously about its circumference. She divined
that he was not there to deepen its tragical tendency at least, and she
continued without well knowing what she was going to say next: Yes, I
think that the real reason why Cornelia wouldn't go in costume was that
she felt that it was a kind of subterfuge. She keeps me in a perfect
twitter of self-reproach. I tell her I would rather have the conscience
of the worst kind of person than hers; I could get along with it a
great deal easier. Don't you think you could, Mr. Ludlow?
Yes, yes, said Ludlow aimlessly. He rose up, and pretended a
curiosity about a sketch on the wall; he could not endure to sit still.
Won't you have a cup of tea? asked Charmian. Cornelia and I had
some last night, and
No, thank you, said Ludlow.
Do let me ring for some coffee, then?
No, I have just breakfastedthat is, I have breakfasted
Why, were you up early, too? said Charmian, with what
seemed to Ludlow a supernatural shrewdness. It's perfectly telepathic!
The Psychical Research ought to have it. It would be such fun if we
could get together and compare our reasons for waking so early. But
Cornelia and I didn't know just when we did wake, and I suppose the
Psychical Research wouldn't care for it without. She seems to be
writing a pretty long note, or a pretty hard one! Ludlow lifted his
downcast eyes, and gave her a look that was ghastly. Did you look at
your watch? she asked.
Look at my watch? he returned in a daze.
When you woke, that is.
Oh! he groaned.
Charmian suddenly stopped and ran to the door, which Cornelia opened
before she could reach it.
Cornelia gave her a letter. See if this will do, she said
spiritlessly, and Charmian caught it from her hand.
Yes, yes, I'll read it, she said, as she slipped out of the door
and shut Cornelia in.
Cornelia saw Ludlow, and made an instinctive movement of flight.
For pity's sake, don't go! he implored.
I didn't know you were here, she said, the same dejection in her
No, they told me you were here; but let me stay long enough to tell
youThat abominable letteryou ought never to have known that it
existed. I don't expect you to forgive me; I don't ask you; but I am so
ashamed; and I would do anything if I could recallundoCornelia!
Isn't there any way of atoning for it? Come! I don't believe a word
of that scoundrel's. I don't know what his motive was, and I don't
care. Let it all be as if nothing of the kind had ever happened.
Dearest, don't speak of it, and I never will!
Cornelia was tempted. She could see how he had wrought himself up to
this pitch, and she believed that he would keep his word; we believe
such miracles of those we love, before life has taught us that love
cannot make nature err against itself. In his absence the duty she had
to do was hard; in his presence it seemed impossible, now when he asked
her not to do it. She had not expected ever to see him again, or to be
tried in this way. She had just written it all to him, but she must
speak it now. She had been weak, and had brought on herself the worst
she had to tell, and should she be false, even though he wished it, and
She forced the words out in a voice that hardly seemed her own at
No, we made a mistake; you did, and I did, too. There was
somethingsomethingI wanted to tell you at first, but you wouldn't
let me, and I was glad you wouldn't; but it was all wrong, and now I
have got to tell you, when everything is over, and it can never do any
good. She gave a dry sob, and cast upon him a look of keen reproach,
which he knew he deserved. I was engaged to him once. Or, she
added, as if she could not bear to see him blench, he could think so.
It was the year after you were in Pymantoning.
She went on and told him everything. She did not spare herself any
fact that she thought he ought to know, and as she detailed the squalid
history, it seemed to her far worse than it had ever been in her own
thoughts of it.
He listened patiently, and at the end he asked, Is that all?
Yes. I wanted to know just how much you have to forgive me. She
looked at him stupefied. Yes, I ought to have let you tell me all this
before, when you wanted to, at first. But I have been a romantic fool,
and I have made you suffer for my folly. I have left you to think, all
the time, that I might care for this; that I might not know that you
were yourself through it all, or that I could care for you any the less
because of it, when it only makes you dearer to me.
No! she said for all protest, and he understood.
Oh, I don't mean that you were always right in it, or always wise;
but I can truly say it makes no difference with me except to make you
dearer. If I had always had more sense than I had, you would not have
to blame yourself for the only wrong or unwise thing you have done, and
I am really to blame for that.
She knew that he meant her having taken refuge from his apparent
indifference in Dickerson, when she fell below her ideal of herself.
This was what she had thought at the time; it was the thought with
which she had justified herself then, and she could not deny it now.
She loved him for taking her blame away, and she said to strengthen
herself for her doom, Well, it is all over!
No, he said, why is it over? Don't be worse than I was. Let us be
reasonable about it! Why shouldn't we talk of it as if we were other
people? Do you mean it is all over because you think I must be troubled
by what you've told me, or because you can't forgive me for not letting
you tell me before?
You know which! she said.
Well, then, what should you think of some other man if he could
care for such a thing, when some other girl had told it him of herself?
You would think him very unjust and
But it isn't some other man; it isn't some other girl!
No, I'm glad it isn't. But can't we reason about it as if it were?
No, we can't. It would bewicked.
It would be wicked not to. Do you think you ought to break our
engagement because I didn't let you tell me this at first?
Cornelia could not say that she did; she could hardly say, I don't
Ludlow assumed that she had said more. Then if you don't think you
ought to do it for that, do you think you ought to do it for nothing?
For nothing? Cornelia asked herself. Was there really nothing
else, then? She stood looking at him, as if she were asking him that
aloud. He was not so far off as when they began to talk, just after
they had risen, and now he suddenly came much nearer still.
Are you going to drive me from you because I don't care for all
You ought to care, she persisted.
But if I don't? If I can't? Then what is the reason you won't let
it all be as if nothing had happened? Ah, I see! You can't forgive me
for sending you his letter! Well, I deserve to be punished for that!
No; I should have despised you if you hadn't
She was silent, looking at the floor. He put his arm round her, and
pushed her head down on his shoulder. Oh, how silly! she said, with
lips muted against his own.
Cornelia and Ludlow were married at Pymantoning in the latter part
of June, and he spent the summer there, working at a picture which he
was going to exhibit in the fall. At the same time he worked at a good
many other pictures, and he helped Cornelia with the things she was
trying. He painted passages and incidents in her pictures, sometimes
illustratively, and sometimes for the pleasure of having their lives
blended in their work, and he tried to see how nearly he could lose his
work in hers. He pretended that he learned more than he taught in the
process, and that he felt in her efforts a determining force, a clear
sense of what she wanted to do, that gave positive form and direction
to what was vague and speculative in himself. He was strenuous that she
should not, in the slightest degree, lapse from her ideal and purpose,
or should cease to be an artist in becoming a wife. He contended that
there was no real need of that, and though it had happened in most of
the many cases where artists had married artists, he held that it had
happened through the man's selfishness and thoughtlessness, and not
through the conditions. He was resolved that Cornelia should not lose
faith in herself from want of his appreciation, or from her own
over-valuation of his greater skill and school; and he could prove to
any one who listened that she had the rarer gift. He did not persuade
her, with all his reasons, but her mother faithfully believed him. It
had never seemed surprising to her that Cornelia should win a man like
Ludlow; she saw no reason why Cornelia should not; and she could
readily accept the notion of Cornelia's superiority when he advanced
it. She was not arrogant about it; she was simply and entirely
satisfied; and she was every moment so content with Cornelia's husband
that Cornelia herself had to be a little critical of him in
self-defence. She called him a dreamer and theorist; she ran him down
to the Burtons, and said he would never come to anything, because
artists who talked well never painted so well. She allowed that he
talked divinely, and it would not have been safe for Mrs. Burton to
agree with her otherwise; but Mrs. Burton was far too wise a woman to
do so. She did not, perhaps, ride so high a horse as Mrs. Saunders in
her praises of Ludlow, but it would have been as impossible to unseat
her. She regarded herself as somehow the architect of Cornelia's
happiness in having discovered Ludlow and believed in him long before
Cornelia met him, and she could easily see that if he had not come out
to visit Burton, that first time, they would never have met at all.
Mrs. Saunders could joyfully admit this without in the least
relinquishing her own belief, so inarticulate that it was merely part
of her personal consciousness, that this happiness was of as remote an
origin as the foundations of the world. She could see, now, that
nothing else could have been intended from the beginning, but she did
not fail at the same time to credit herself with forethought and wisdom
in bracing Cornelia against the overtures of Dickerson when he
reappeared in her life. Burton, of course, advanced no claim to
recognition in the affair. He enjoyed every moment of Ludlow's stay in
Pymantoning, and gave his work a great deal of humorous attention and
gratuitous criticism, especially the picture he was chiefly engaged
upon. This, when it was shown at the County Fair, where Ludlow chose to
enter it, before he took it back to Now York with him in the fall, did
not keep the crowd away from the trotting-matches, and it did not take
either the first or the second premium. In fact, if the critics of the
metropolis were right in their judgment of it when it appeared later in
the Academy, it did not deserve either of them. They said that it was
an offence to those who had hoped better things of the painter as time
went on with him, and who would now find themselves snubbed by this
return to his worst manner. Here, they said, was his palette again,
with a tacit invitation to the public to make what it liked of the
colors, as children did with the embers on the hearth, or the frost on
the window. You paid your money and you took your choice as to what Mr.
Ludlow meant by this extraordinary performance, if he really meant
anything at all.
As far as it could be made out with the naked eye, it represented a
clump of hollyhocks, with a slim, shadowy and uncertain young girl
among them, and the painter had apparently wished to suggest a family,
resemblance among them all. To this end he had emphasized some facts of
the girl's dress, accessories to his purpose, the petal-edged ruffle of
her crimson silk waist, the flower-like flare of her red hat, and its
finials of knotted ribbon; and in the hollyhocks he had recognized a
girlishness of bearing, which he evidently hoped would appeal to a
fantastic sympathy in the spectator. The piece was called Hollyhocks;
it might equally well be called Girls, though when you had called it
one or the other, it would be hard to say just what you were to do
about it, especially with the impression curiously left by the picture
that whether it was a group of girls, or a clump of hollyhocks, they
were not in very good humor. The moment chosen, if one might judge from
some suggestions of light, was that just before the breaking of a
thunderstorm; the girl, if it was a girl, had flashed into sight round
the corner of the house where the hollyhocks, if they were hollyhocks,
were blowing outward in the first gust of the storm. It could not be
denied that there was something fine in the wild toss and pull of the
flowers, with the abandon of the storm in them; this was the best thing
in the piece. It was probably intended to express a moment of electric
passion; but there was something so forced, and at the same time so
ineffectual in the execution of the feebly fantastic design, that it
became the duty of impartial criticism, to advise Mr. Ludlow, if he
must continue to paint at all, to paint either girls or flowers, but
not both at once, or both together, or convertibly.
Ludlow did not mind these criticisms much, being pretty well used to
that kind of thing, and feeling secure of his public in any event; but
Cornelia was deeply vexed. She knew that it must be evident to those
who knew her and knew him that she was the girl and she was the
hollyhocks, and though the origin of the picture was forever hid in the
memories of their first meeting, she was aware of a measure of justice
in the censure that condemned it for obscurity. She had not wished him
to show it, but here, as often elsewhere, she found him helpless to
yield to her, even though he confessed that she was right. He did not
try to justify himself, and he did not explain himself very clearly. I
don't know how it is about one's work, exactly. Up to a certain point
you are master over it, and it seems to belong absolutely to you; but
beyond that it is its own master and does what it pleases with itself.
Of course I could have kept from showing that picture, and yetI
Well, at least, then, you can keep from selling it, said Cornelia.
I want it; give it to me.
My dear, I will buy it for you. Mrs. Maybough became the owner of
the picture, yesterday, but I will offer her an advance on the price
Cornelia now thought she was really angry with him for the first
time since their marriage. She would not speak at once, but when she
did speak, it was to say, No, let her keep it. I know Charmian made
her buy it and I wouldn't like to take it from her. She has so much
imagination that maybe she can see some meaning in it and it will
always be such a pleasure to her to explain it even if she can't.
Charmian made the Ludlows a Bohemian dinner as soon as the people
whom she wanted got back to town. She said it was a Bohemian dinner,
and she asked artists, mostly; but of course she had the Westleys and
their friend Mrs. Rangeley. There were several of the Synthesis girls,
who said the Synthesis would never be itself again without Cornelia,
and there were some of the students, nice fellows, whom Charmian had
liked; there were, of course, the Wetmores. Ludlow's picture was in
evidence in a place of honor, especially created for it, and Wetmore
said, when they sat down at dinner, Well, Ludlow, all this
company can tell where you got your hollyhocks. Cornelia turned the
color of the reddest in the picture, and Wetmore recognized her
consciousness with the added remark, Oh, you'll be in all his
imaginative pictures, now, Mrs. Ludlow. That's the fate of the wife of
an imaginative painter. But you really must get him to keep you out of
Charmian checked herself in a wild laugh, and sent Cornelia a look
of fond and proud intelligence, which Mrs. Rangeley tapped, as it were,
on its way up the length of the table. O Mrs. Ludlow! she entreated.
What is it? I hope it isn't professional envy! Is he afraid of Mr.
Ludlow becoming too popular?
Ludlow answered for his wife, Mrs. Rangeley, that was worthy even
of you, and he boldly kissed his hand to her.
The dinner was remembered for several weeks as one of the
pleasantest people had ever been at, and it established Mrs. Maybough
in such social acceptance that she was asked to the first of the
Westley dinners, where swells prevailed, and where she was as null as
any of them. But although Charmian was apparently radiant the whole
evening, and would hardly let Cornelia go away at the end, she wanted
her to stay so and talk it over, she had a girl's perverseness in not
admitting the perfection of the occasion to Mrs. Maybough, when she
said, Well, my dear, I hope your dinner was Bohemian enough for you.
Bohemian! she retorted. It wasn't Bohemian at all. You oughtn't
to have taken the ladies away at coffee. They ought to have stayed and
had cigarettes with the gentlemen.
My dear, you know that the mere smell of tobacco makes you sick!
No matter, I shouldif I could only have seen Cornelia Ludlow
smokingI should have been willing to die. And nownow, I'm
afraid she's going to be perfectly respectable!
* * * * *