by Willa Sibert Cather
DON HEDGER had lived for four years on the top floor of an old
house on the south side of Washington Square, and nobody had ever
disturbed him. He occupied one big room with no outside exposure except
on the north, where he had built in a many-paned studio window that
looked upon a court and upon the roofs and walls of other buildings.
His room was very cheerless, since he never got a ray of direct
sunlight; the south corners were always in shadow. In one of the
corners was a clothes closet, built against the partition, in another a
wide divan, serving as a seat by day and a bed by night. In the front
corner, the one farther from the window, was a sink, and a table with
two gas burners where he sometimes cooked his food. There, too, in the
perpetual dusk, was the dog's bed, and often a bone or two for his
The dog was a Boston bull terrier, and Hedger explained his surly
disposition by the fact that he had been bred to the point where it
told on his nerves. His name was Caesar III, and he had taken prizes at
very exclusive dog shows. When he and his master went out to prowl
about University Place or to promenade along West Street, Caesar III
was invariably fresh and shining. His pink skin showed through his
mottled coat, which glistened as if it had just been rubbed with olive
oil, and he wore a brass-studded collar, bought at the smartest
saddler's. Hedger, as often as not, was hunched up in an old striped
blanket coat, with a shapeless felt hat pulled over his bushy hair,
wearing black shoes that had become grey, or brown ones that had become
black, and he never put on gloves unless the day was biting cold.
Early in May, Hedger learned that he was to have a new neighbour in
the rear apartment two rooms, one large and one small, that faced
the west. His studio was shut off from the larger of these rooms by
double doors, which, though they were fairly tight, left him a good
deal at the mercy of the occupant. The rooms had been leased, long
before he came there, by a trained nurse who considered herself knowing
in old furniture. She went to auction sales and bought up mahogany and
dirty brass and stored it away here, where she meant to live when she
retired from nursing. Meanwhile, she sub-let her rooms, with their
precious furniture, to young people who came to New York to "write" or
to "paint" who proposed to live by the sweat of the brow rather than
of the hand, and who desired artistic surroundings. When Hedger first
moved in, these rooms were occupied by a young man who tried to write
plays, and who kept on trying until a week ago, when the nurse had
put him out for unpaid rent.
A few days after the playwright left, Hedger heard an ominous
murmur of voices through the bolted double doors: the lady-like
intonation of the nurse doubtless exhibiting her treasures and
another voice, also a woman's, but very different; young, fresh,
unguarded, confident. All the same, it would be very annoying to have a
woman in there. The only bath-room on the floor was at the top of the
stairs in the front hall, and he would always be running into her as he
came or went from his bath. He would have to be more careful to see
that Caesar didn't leave bones about the hall, too; and she might
object when he cooked steak and onions on his gas burner.
As soon as the talking ceased and the women left, he forgot them.
He was absorbed in a study of paradise fish at the Aquarium, staring
out at people through the glass and green water of their tank. It was a
highly gratifying idea; the incommunicability of one stratum of animal
life with another, though Hedger pretended it was only an experiment
in unusual lighting. When he heard trunks knocking against the sides of
the narrow hall, then he realized that she was moving in at once.
Toward noon, groans and deep gasps and the creaking of ropes, made him
aware that a piano was arriving. After the tramp of the movers died
away down the stairs, somebody touched off a few scales and chords on
the instrument, and then there was peace. Presently he heard her lock
her door and go down the hall humming something; going out to lunch,
probably. He stuck his brushes in a can of turpentine and put on his
hat, not stopping to wash his hands. Caesar was smelling along the
crack under the bolted doors; his bony tail stuck out hard as a hickory
withe, and the hair was standing up about his elegant collar.
Hedger encouraged him. "Come along, Caesar. You'll soon get used to
a new smell."
In the hall stood an enormous trunk, behind the ladder that led to
the roof, just opposite Hedger's door. The dog flew at it with a growl
of hurt amazement. They went down three flights of stairs and out into
the brilliant May afternoon.
Behind the Square, Hedger and his dog descended into a basement
oyster house where there were no tablecloths on the tables and no
handles on the coffee cups, and the floor was covered with sawdust, and
Caesar was always welcome, not that he needed any such precautionary
flooring. All the carpets of Persia would have been safe for him.
Hedger ordered steak and onions absent-mindedly, not realizing why he
had an apprehension sion that this dish might be less readily at hand
hereafter. While he ate, Caesar sat beside his chair, gravely
disturbing the sawdust with his tail.
After lunch Hedger strolled about the Square for the dog's health
and watched the stages pull out; that was almost the very last
summer of the old horse stages on Fifth Avenue. The fountain had but
lately begun operations for the season and was throwing up a mist of
rainbow water which now and then blew south and sprayed a bunch of
Italian babies that were being supported on the outer rim by older,
very little older, brothers and sisters. Plump robins were hopping
about on the soil; the grass was newly cut and blindingly green.
Looking up the Avenue through the Arch, one could see the young poplars
with their bright, sticky leaves, and the Brevoort glistening in its
spring coat of paint, and shining horses and carriages, occasionally
an automobile, mis-shapen and sullen, like an ugly threat in a stream
of things that were bright and beautiful and alive.
While Caesar and his master were standing by the fountain, a girl
approached them, crossing the Square. Hedger noticed her because she
wore a lavender cloth suit and carried in her arms a big bunch of fresh
lilacs. He saw that she was young and handsome, beautiful, in fact,
with a splendid figure and good action. She, too, paused by the
fountain and looked back through the Arch up the Avenue. She smiled
rather patronizingly as she looked, and at the same time seemed
delighted. Her slowly curving upper lip and half-closed eyes seemed to
say: "You're gay, you're exciting, you are quite the right sort of
thing; but you're none too fine for me!"
In the moment she tarried, Caesar stealthily approached her and
sniffed at the hem of her lavender skirt, then, when she went south
like an arrow, he ran back to his master and lifted a face full of
emotion and alarm, his lower lip twitching under his sharp white teeth
and his hazel eyes pointed with a very definite discovery. He stood
thus, motionless, while Hedger watched the lavender girl go up the
steps and through the door of the house in which he lived.
"You're right, my boy, it's she! She might be worse looking, you
When they mounted to the studio, the new lodger's door, at the back
of the hall, was a little ajar, and Hedger caught the warm perfume of
lilacs just brought in out of the sun. He was used to the musty smell
of the old hall carpet. (The nurse-lessee had once knocked at his
studio door and complained that Caesar must be somewhat responsible for
the particular flavour of that mustiness, and Hedger had never spoken
to her since.) He was used to the old smell, and he preferred it to
that of the lilacs, and so did his companion, whose nose was so much
more discriminating. Hedger shut his door vehemently, and fell to work.
Most young men who dwell in obscure studios in New York have had a
beginning, come out of something, have somewhere a home town, a family,
a paternal roof. But Don Hedger had no such background. He was a
foundling, and had grown up in a school for homeless boys, where
book-learning was a negligible part of the curriculum. When he was
sixteen, a Catholic priest took him to Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to
keep house for him. The priest did something to fill in the large gaps
in the boy's education, taught him to like "Don Quixote" and "The
Golden Legend," and encouraged him to mess with paints and crayons in
his room up under the slope of the mansard. When Don wanted to go to
New York to study at the Art League, the priest got him a night job as
packer in one of the big department stores. Since then, Hedger had
taken care of himself; that was his only responsibility. He was
singularly unencumbered; had no family duties, no social ties, no
obligations toward any one but his landlord. Since he travelled light,
he had travelled rather far. He had got over a good deal of the earth's
surface, in spite of the fact that he never in his life had more than
three hundred dollars ahead at any one time, and he had already
outlived a succession of convictions and revelations about his art.
Though he was now but twenty-six years old, he had been twice on
the verge of becoming a marketable product; once through some studies
of New York streets he did for a magazine, and once through a
collection of pastels he brought home from New Mexico, which Remington,
then at the height of his popularity, happened to see, and generously
tried to push. But on both occasions Hedger decided that this was
something he didn't wish to carry further, simply the old thing over
again and got nowhere, so he took enquiring dealers experiments in a
"later manner," that made them put him out of the shop. When he ran
short of money, he could always get any amount of commercial work; he
was an expert draughtsman and worked with lightning speed. The rest of
his time he spent in groping his way from one kind of painting into
another, or travelling about without luggage, like a tramp, and he was
chiefly occupied with getting rid of ideas he had once thought very
Hedger's circumstances, since he had moved to Washington Square,
were affluent compared to anything he had ever known before. He was now
able to pay advance rent and turn the key on his studio when he went
away for four months at a stretch. It didn't occur to him to wish to be
richer than this. To be sure, he did without a great many things other
people think necessary, but he didn't miss them, because he had never
had them. He belonged to no clubs, visited no houses, had no studio
friends, and he ate his dinner alone in some decent little restaurant,
even on Christmas and New Year's. For days together he talked to nobody
but his dog and the janitress and the lame oysterman.
After he shut the door and settled down to his paradise fish on
that first Tuesday in May, Hedger forgot all about his new neighbour.
When the light failed, he took Caesar out for a walk. On the way home
he did his marketing on West Houston Street, with a one-eyed Italian
woman who always cheated him. After he had cooked his beans and
scallopini, and drunk half a bottle of Chianti, he put his dishes in
the sink and went up on the roof to smoke. He was the only person in
the house who ever went to the roof, and he had a secret understanding
with the janitress about it. He was to have "the privilege of the
roof," as she said, if he opened the heavy trapdoor on sunny days to
air out the upper hall, and was watchful to close it when rain
threatened. Mrs. Foley was fat and dirty and hated to climb stairs,
besides, the roof was reached by a perpendicular iron ladder,
definitely inaccessible to a woman of her bulk, and the iron door at
the top of it was too heavy for any but Hedger's strong arm to lift.
Hedger was not above medium height, but he practised with weights and
dumb-bells, and in the shoulders he was as strong as a gorilla.
So Hedger had the roof to himself. He and Caesar often slept up
there on hot nights, rolled in blankets he had brought home from
Arizona. He mounted with Caesar under his left arm. The dog had never
learned to climb a perpendicular ladder, and never did he feel so much
his master's greatness and his own dependence upon him, as when he
crept under his arm for this perilous ascent. Up there was even gravel
to scratch in, and a dog could do whatever he liked, so long as he did
not bark. It was a kind of Heaven, which no one was strong enough to
reach but his great, paint-smelling master.
On this blue May night there was a slender, girlish looking young
moon in the west, playing with a whole company of silver stars. Now and
then one of them darted away from the group and shot off into the gauzy
blue with a soft little trail of light, like laughter. Hedger and his
dog were delighted when a star did this. They were quite lost in
watching the glittering game, when they were suddenly diverted by a
sound, not from the stars, though it was music. It was not the
Prologue to Pagliacci, which rose ever and anon on hot evenings from an
Italian tenement on Thompson Street, with the gasps of the corpulent
baritone who got behind it; nor was it the hurdy-gurdy man, who often
played at the corner in the balmy twilight. No, this was a woman's
voice, singing the tempestuous, over-lapping phrases of Signor Puccini,
then comparatively new in the world, but already so popular that even
Hedger recognized his unmistakable gusts of breath. He looked about
over the roofs; all was blue and still, with the well-built chimneys
that were never used now standing up dark and mournful. He moved softly
toward the yellow quadrangle where the gas from the hall shone up
through the half-lifted trapdoor. Oh yes! It came up through the hole
like a strong draught, a big, beautiful voice, and it sounded rather
like a professional's. A piano had arrived in the morning, Hedger
remembered. This might be a very great nuisance. It would be pleasant
enough to listen to, if you could turn it on and off as you wished; but
you couldn't. Caesar, with the gas light shining on his collar and his
ugly but sensitive face, panted and looked up for information. Hedger
put down a reassuring hand.
"I don't know. We can't tell yet. It may not be so bad."
He stayed on the roof until all was still below, and finally
descended, with quite a new feeling about his neighbour. Her voice,
like her figure, inspired respect, if one did not choose to call it
admiration. Her door was shut, the transom was dark; nothing remained
of her but the obtrusive trunk, unrightfully taking up room in the
For two days Hedger didn't see her. He was painting eight hours a
day just then, and only went out to hunt for food. He noticed that she
practised scales and exercises for about an hour in the morning; then
she locked her door, went humming down the hall, and left him in peace.
He heard her getting her coffee ready at about the same time he got
his. Earlier still, she passed his room on her way to her bath. In the
evening she sometimes sang, but on the whole she didn't bother him.
When he was working well he did not notice anything much. The morning
paper lay before his door until he reached out for his milk bottle,
then he kicked the sheet inside and it lay on the floor until evening.
Sometimes he read it and sometimes he did not. He forgot there was
anything of importance going on in the world outside of his third floor
studio. Nobody had ever taught him that he ought to be interested in
other people; in the Pittsburgh steel strike, in the Fresh Air Fund, in
the scandal about the Babies' Hospital. A grey wolf, living in a
Wyoming canyon, would hardly have been less concerned about these
things than was Don Hedger.
One morning he was coming out of the bathroom at the front end of
the hall, having just given Caesar his bath and rubbed him into a glow
with a heavy towel. Before the door, lying in wait for him, as it were,
stood a tall figure in a flowing blue silk dressing gown that fell away
from her marble arms. In her hands she carried various accessories of
"I wish," she said distinctly, standing in his way, "I wish you
wouldn't wash your dog in the tub. I never heard of such a thing! I've
found his hair in the tub, and I've smelled a doggy smell, and now I've
caught you at it. It's an outrage!"
Hedger was badly frightened. She was so tall and positive, and was
fairly blazing with beauty and anger. He stood blinking, holding on to
his sponge and dog-soap, feeling that he ought to bow very low to her.
But what he actually said was:
"Nobody has ever objected before. I always wash the tub, and,
anyhow, he's cleaner than most people."
"Cleaner than me?" her eyebrows went up, her white arms and neck
and her fragrant person seemed to scream at him like a band of outraged
nymphs. Something flashed through his mind about a man who was turned
into a dog, or was pursued by dogs, because he unwittingly intruded
upon the bath of beauty.
"No, I didn't mean that," he muttered, turning scarlet under the
bluish stubble of his muscular jaws. "But I know he's cleaner than I
"That I don't doubt!" Her voice sounded like a soft shivering of
crystal, and with a smile of pity she drew the folds of her voluminous
blue robe close about her and allowed the wretched man to pass. Even
Caesar was frightened; he darted like a streak down the hall, through
the door and to his own bed in the corner among the bones.
Hedger stood still in the doorway, listening to indignant sniffs
and coughs and a great swishing of water about the sides of the tub. He
had washed it; but as he had washed it with Caesar's sponge, it was
quite possible that a few bristles remained; the dog was shedding now.
The playwright had never objected, nor had the jovial illustrator who
occupied the front apartment, but he, as he admitted, "was usually
pye-eyed, when he wasn't in Buffalo." He went home to Buffalo sometimes
to rest his nerves.
It had never occurred to Hedger that any one would mind using the
tub after Caesar; but then, he had never seen a beautiful girl
caparisoned for the bath before. As soon as he beheld her standing
there, he realized the unfitness of it. For that matter, she ought not
to step into a tub that any other mortal had bathed in; the illustrator
was sloppy and left cigarette ends on the moulding.
All morning as he worked he was gnawed by a spiteful desire to get
back at her. It rankled that he had been so vanquished by her disdain.
When he heard her locking her door to go out for lunch, he stepped
quickly into the hall in his messy painting coat, and addressed her.
"I don't wish to be exigent, Miss," he had certain grant words
that he used upon occasion "but if this is your trunk, it's rather
in the way here."
"Oh, very well!" she exclaimed carelessly, dropping her keys into
her handbag. "I'll have it moved when I can get a man to do it," and
she went down the hall with her free, roving stride.
Her name, Hedger discovered from her letters, which the postman
left on the table in the lower hall, was Eden Bower.
In the closet that was built against the partition separating his
room from Miss Bower's, Hedger kept all his wearing apparel, some of it
on hooks and hangers, some of it on the floor. When he opened his
closet door now-a-days, little dust-coloured insects flew out on downy
wing, and he suspected that a brood of moths were hatching in his
winter overcoat. Mrs. Foley, the janitress, told him to bring down all
his heavy clothes and she would give them a beating and hang them in
the court. The closet was in such disorder that he shunned the
encounter, but one hot afternoon he set himself to the task. First he
threw out a pile of forgotten laundry and tied it up in a sheet. The
bundle stood as high as his middle when he had knotted the corners.
Then he got his shoes and overshoes together. When he took his overcoat
from its place against the partition, a long ray of yellow light shot
across the dark enclosure, a knot hole, evidently, in the high
wainscoting of the west room. He had never noticed it before, and
without realizing what he was doing, he stooped and squinted through
Yonder, in a pool of sunlight, stood his new neighbour, wholly
unclad, doing exercises of some sort before a long gilt mirror. Hedger
did not happen to think how unpardonable it was of him to watch her.
Nudity was not improper to any one who had worked so much from the
figure, and he continued to look, simply because he had never seen a
woman's body so beautiful as this one, positively glorious in
action. As she swung her arms and changed from one pivot of motion to
another, muscular energy seemed to flow through her from her toes to
her finger-tips. The soft flush of exercise and the gold of afternoon
sun played over her flesh together, enveloped her in a luminous mist
which, as she turned and twisted, made now an arm, now a shoulder, now
a thigh, dissolve in pure light and instantly recover its outline with
the next gesture. Hedger's fingers curved as if he were holding a
crayon; mentally he was doing the whole figure in a single running
line, and the charcoal seemed to explode in his hand at the point where
the energy of each gesture was discharged into the whirling disc of
light, from a foot or shoulder, from the up-thrust chin or the lifted
He could not have told whether he watched her for six minutes or
sixteen. When her gymnastics were over, she paused to catch up a lock
of hair that had come down, and examined with solicitude a little
reddish mole that grew under her left arm-pit. Then, with her hand on
her hip, she walked unconcernedly across the room and disappeared
through the door into her bedchamber.
Disappeared Don Hedger was crouching on his knees, staring at
the golden shower which poured in through the west windows, at the lake
of gold sleeping on the faded Turkish carpet. The spot was enchanted; a
vision out of Alexandria, out of the remote pagan past, had bathed
itself there in Helianthine fire.
When he crawled out of his closet, he stood blinking at the grey
sheet stuffed with laundry, not knowing what had happened to him. He
felt a little sick as he contemplated the bundle. Everything here was
different; he hated the disorder of the place, the grey prison light,
his old shoes and himself and all his slovenly habits. The black calico
curtains that ran on wires over his big window were white with dust.
There were three greasy frying pans in the sink, and the sink itself
He felt desperate. He couldn't stand this another minute. He took up an
armful of winter clothes and ran down four flights into the basement.
"Mrs. Foley," he began, "I want my room cleaned this afternoon,
thoroughly cleaned. Can you get a woman for me right away?"
"Is it company you're having?" the fat, dirty janitress enquired.
Mrs. Foley was the widow of a useful Tammany man, and she owned real
estate in Flatbush. She was huge and soft as a feather bed. Her face
and arms were permanently coated with dust, grained like wood where the
sweat had trickled.
"Yes, company. That's it."
"Well, this is a queer time of the day to be asking for a cleaning
woman. It's likely I can get you old Lizzie, if she's not drunk. I'll
send Willy round to see."
Willy, the son of fourteen, roused from the stupor and stain of his
fifth box of cigarettes by the gleam of a quarter, went out. In five
minutes he returned with old Lizzie, she smelling strong of spirits
and wearing several jackets which she had put on one over the other,
and a number of skirts, long and short, which made her resemble an
animated dish-clout. She had, of course, to borrow her equipment from
Mrs. Foley, and toiled up the long flights, dragging mop and pail and
broom. She told Hedger to be of good cheer, for he had got the right
woman for the job, and showed him a great leather strap she wore about
her wrist to prevent dislocation of tendons. She swished about the
place, scattering dust and splashing soapsuds, while he watched her in
nervous despair. He stood over Lizzie and made her scour the sink,
directing her roughly, then paid her and got rid of her. Shutting the
door on his failure, he hurried off with his dog to lose himself among
the stevedores and dock labourers on West Street.
A strange chapter began for Don Hedger. Day after day, at that hour
in the afternoon, the hour before his neighbour dressed for dinner, he
crouched down in his closet to watch her go through her mysterious
exercises. It did not occur to him that his conduct was detestable;
there was nothing shy or retreating about this unclad girl, a bold
body, studying itself quite coolly and evidently well pleased with
itself, doing all this for a purpose. Hedger scarcely regarded his
action as conduct at all; it was something that had happened to him.
More than once he went out and tried to stay away for the whole
afternoon, but at about five o'clock he was sure to find himself among
his old shoes in the dark. The pull of that aperture was stronger than
his will, and he had always considered his will the strongest thing
about him. When she threw herself upon the divan and lay resting, he
still stared, holding his breath. His nerves were so on edge that a
sudden noise made him start and brought out the sweat on his forehead.
The dog would come and tug at his sleeve, knowing that something was
wrong with his master. If he attempted a mournful whine, those strong
hands closed about his throat.
When Hedger came slinking out of his closet, he sat down on the
edge of the couch, sat for hours without moving. He was not painting at
all now. This thing, whatever it was, drank him up as ideas had
sometimes done, and he sank into a stupor of idleness as deep and dark
as the stupor of work. He could not understand it; he was no boy, he
had worked from models for years, and a woman's body was no mystery to
him. Yet now he did nothing but sit and think about one. He slept very
little, and with the first light of morning he awoke as completely
possessed by this woman as if he had been with her all the night
before. The unconscious operations of life went on in him only to
perpetuate this excitement. His brain held but one image now
vibrated, burned with it. It was a heathenish feeling; without
friendliness, almost without tenderness.
Women had come and gone in Hedger's life. Not having had a mother
to begin with, his relations with them, whether amorous or friendly,
had been casual. He got on well with janitresses and wash-women, with
Indians and with the peasant women of foreign countries. He had friends
among the silk-shirt factory girls who came to eat their lunch in
Washington Square, and he sometimes took a model for a day in the
country. He felt an unreasoning antipathy toward the well-dressed women
he saw coming out of big shops, or driving in the Park. If, on his way
to the Art Museum, he noticed a pretty girl standing on the steps of
one of the houses on upper Fifth Avenue, he frowned at her and went by
with his shoulders hunched up as if he were cold. He had never known
such girls, or heard them talk, or seen the inside of the houses in
which they lived; but he believed them all to be artificial and, in an
aesthetic sense, perverted. He saw them enslaved by desire of
merchandise and manufactured articles, effective only in making life
complicated and insincere and in embroidering it with ugly and
meaningless trivialities. They were enough, he thought, to make one
almost forget woman as she existed in art, in thought, and in the
He had no desire to know the woman who had, for the time at least,
so broken up his life, no curiosity about her every-day personality.
He shunned any revelation of it, and he listened for Miss Bower's
coming and going, not to encounter, but to avoid her. He wished that
the girl who wore shirt-waists and got letters from Chicago would keep
out of his way, that she did not exist. With her he had naught to make.
But in a room full of sun, before an old mirror, on a little enchanted
rug of sleeping colours, he had seen a woman who emerged naked through
a door, and disappeared naked. He thought of that body as never having
been clad, or as having worn the stuffs and dyes of all the centuries
but his own. And for him she had no geographical associations; unless
with Crete, or Alexandria, or Veronese's Venice. She was the immortal
conception, the perennial theme.
The first break in Hedger's lethargy occurred one afternoon when
two young men came to take Eden Bower out to dine. They went into her
music room, laughed and talked for a few minutes, and then took her
away with them. They were gone a long while, but he did not go out for
food himself; he waited for them to come back. At last he heard them
coming down the hall, gayer and more talkative than when they left. One
of them sat down at the piano, and they all began to sing. This Hedger
found absolutely unendurable. He snatched up his hat and went running
down the stairs. Caesar leaped beside him, hoping that old times were
coming back. They had supper in the oysterman's basement and then sat
down in front of their own doorway. The moon stood full over the
Square, a thing of regal glory; but Hedger did not see the moon; he was
looking, murderously, for men. Presently two, wearing straw hats and
white trousers and carrying canes, came down the steps from his house.
He rose and dogged them across the Square. They were laughing and
seemed very much elated about something. As one stopped to light a
cigarette, Hedger caught from the other:
"Don't you think she has a beautiful talent?"
His companion threw away his match. "She has a beautiful figure."
They both ran to catch the stage.
Hedger went back to his studio. The light was shining from her
transom. For the first time he violated her privacy at night, and
peered through that fatal aperture. She was sitting, fully dressed, in
the window, smoking a cigarette and looking out over the housetops. He
watched her until she rose, looked about her with a disdainful, crafty
smile, and turned out the light.
The next morning, when Miss Bower went out, Hedger followed her.
Her white skirt gleamed ahead of him as she sauntered about the Square.
She sat down behind the Garibaldi statue and opened a music book she
carried. She turned the leaves carelessly, and several times glanced in
his direction. He was on the point of going over to her, when she rose
quickly and looked up at the sky. A flock of pigeons had risen from
somewhere in the crowded Italian quarter to the south, and were
wheeling rapidly up through the morning air, soaring and dropping,
scattering and coming together, now grey, now white as silver, as they
caught or intercepted the sunlight. She put up her hand to shade her
eyes and followed them with a kind of defiant delight in her face.
Hedger came and stood beside her. "You've surely seen them before?"
"Oh, yes," she replied, still looking up. "I see them every day
from my windows. They always come home about five o'clock. Where do
"I don't know. Probably some Italian raises them for the market.
They were here long before I came, and I've been here four years."
"In that same gloomy room? Why didn't you take mine when it was
"It isn't gloomy. That's the best light for painting."
"Oh, is it? I don't know anything about painting. I'd like to see
your pictures sometime. You have such a lot in there. Don't they get
dusty, piled up against the wall like that?"
"Not very. I'd be glad to show them to you. Is your name really
Eden Bower? I've seen your letters on the table."
"Well, it's the name I'm going to sing under. My father's name is
Bowers, but my friend Mr. Jones, a Chicago newspaper man who writes
about music, told me to drop the 's.' He's crazy about my voice."
Miss Bower didn't usually tell the whole story, about anything.
Her first name, when she lived in Huntington, Illinois, was Edna, but
Mr. Jones had persuaded her to change it to one which he felt would be
worthy of her future. She was quick to take suggestions, though she
told him she "didn't see what was the matter with 'Edna.'"
She explained to Hedger that she was going to Paris to study. She
was waiting in New York for Chicago friends who were to take her over,
but who had been detained. "Did you study in Paris?" she asked.
"No, I've never been in Paris. But I was in the south of France all
last summer, studying with C . He's the biggest man among the
moderns, at least I think so."
Miss Bower sat down and made room for him on the bench. "Do tell me
about it. I expected to be there by this time, and I can't wait to find
out what it's like."
Hedger began to relate how he had seen some of this Frenchman's
work in an exhibition, and deciding at once that this was the man for
him, he had taken a boat for Marseilles the next week, going over
steerage. He proceeded at once to the little town on the coast where
his painter lived, and presented himself. The man never took pupils,
but because Hedger had come so far, he let him stay. Hedger lived at
the master's house and every day they went out together to paint,
sometimes on the blazing rocks down by the sea. They wrapped themselves
in light woollen blankets and didn't feel the heat. Being there and
working with C was being in Paradise, Hedger concluded; he
learned more in three months than in all his life before.
Eden Bower laughed. "You're a funny fellow. Didn't you do anything
but work? Are the women very beautiful? Did you have awfully good
things to eat and drink?"
Hedger said some of the women were fine looking, especially one
girl who went about selling fish and lobsters. About the food there was
nothing remarkable, except the ripe figs, he liked those. They drank
sour wine, and used goat-butter, which was strong and full of hair, as
it was churned in a goat skin.
"But don't they have parties or banquets? Aren't there any fine
hotels down there?"
"Yes, but they are all closed in summer, and the country people are
poor. It's a beautiful country, though."
"How beautiful?" she persisted.
"If you want to go in, I'll show you some sketches, and you'll
Miss Bower rose. "All right. I won't go to my fencing lesson this
morning. Do you fence? Here comes your dog. You can't move but he's
after you. He always makes a face at me when I meet him in the hall,
and shows his nasty little teeth as if he wanted to bite me."
In the studio Hedger got out his sketches, but to Miss Bower, whose
favourite pictures were Christ Before Pilate and a redhaired Magdalen
of Henner, these landscapes were not at all beautiful, and they gave
her no idea of any country whatsoever. She was careful not to commit
herself, however. Her vocal teacher had already convinced her that she
had a great deal to learn about many things.
"Why don't we go out to lunch somewhere?" Hedger asked, and began
to dust his fingers with a handkerchief which he got out of sight as
swiftly as possible.
"All right, the Brevoort," she said carelessly. "I think that's a
good place, and they have good wine. I don't care for cocktails."
Hedger felt his chin uneasily. "I'm afraid I haven't shaved this
morning. If you could wait for me in the Square? It won't take me ten
Left alone, he found a clean collar and handkerchief, brushed his
coat and blacked his shoes, and last of all dug up ten dollars from the
bottom of an old copper kettle he had brought from Spain. His winter
hat was of such a complexion that the Brevoort hall boy winked at the
porter as he took it and placed it on the rack in a row of fresh straw
That afternoon Eden Bower was lying on the couch in her music room,
her face turned to the window, watching the pigeons. Reclining thus she
could see none of the neighbouring roofs, only the sky itself and the
birds that crossed and re-crossed her field of vision, white as scraps
of paper blowing in the wind. She was thinking that she was young and
handsome and had had a good lunch, that a very easy-going,
light-hearted city lay in the streets below her; and she was wondering
why she found this queer painter chap, with his lean, bluish cheeks and
heavy black eyebrows, more interesting than the smart young men she met
at her teacher's studio.
Eden Bower was, at twenty, very much the same person that we all
know her to be at forty, except that she knew a great deal less. But
one thing she knew: that she was to be Eden Bower. She was like some
one standing before a great show window full of beautiful and costly
things, deciding which she will order. She understands that they will
not all be delivered immediately, but one by one they will arrive at
her door. She already knew some of the many things that were to happen
to her; for instance, that the Chicago millionaire who was going to
take her abroad with his sister as chaperone, would eventually press
his claim in quite another manner. He was the most circumspect of
bachelors, afraid of everything obvious, even of women who were too
flagrantly handsome. He was a nervous collector of pictures and
furniture, a nervous patron of music, and a nervous host; very cautious
about his health, and about any course of conduct that might make him
ridiculous. But she knew that he would at last throw all his
precautions to the winds.
People like Eden Bower are inexplicable. Her father sold farming
machinery in Huntington, Illinois, and she had grown up with no
acquaintances or experiences outside of that prairie town. Yet from her
earliest childhood she had not one conviction or opinion in common with
the people about her, the only people she knew. Before she was out
of short dresses she had made up her mind that she was going to be an
actress, that she would live far away in great cities, that she would
be much admired by men and would have everything she wanted. When she
was thirteen, and was already singing and reciting for church
entertainments, she read in some illustrated magazine a long article
about the late Czar of Russia, then just come to the throne or about to
come to it. After that, lying in the hammock on the front porch on
summer evenings, or sitting through a long sermon in the family pew,
she amused herself by trying to make up her mind whether she would or
would not be the Czar's mistress when she played in his Capital. Now
Edna had met this fascinating word only in the novels of Ouida, her
hard-worked little mother kept a long row of them in the upstairs
storeroom, behind the linen chest. In Huntington, women who bore that
relation to men were called by a very different name, and their lot was
not an enviable one; of all the shabby and poor, they were the
shabbiest. But then, Edna had never lived in Huntington, not even
before she began to find books like "Sapho" and "Mademoiselle de
Maupin," secretly sold in paper covers throughout Illinois. It was as
if she had come into Huntington, into the Bowers family, on one of the
trains that puffed over the marshes behind their back fence all day
long, and was waiting for another train to take her out.
As she grew older and handsomer, she had many beaux, but these
small-town boys didn't interest her. If a lad kissed her when he
brought her home from a dance, she was indulgent and she rather liked
it. But if he pressed her further, she slipped away from him, laughing.
After she began to sing in Chicago, she was consistently discreet. She
stayed as a guest in rich people's houses, and she knew that she was
being watched like a rabbit in a laboratory. Covered up in bed, with
the lights out, she thought her own thoughts, and laughed.
This summer in New York was her first taste of freedom. The Chicago
capitalist, after all his arrangements were made for sailing, had been
compelled to go to Mexico to look after oil interests. His sister knew
an excellent singing master in New York. Why should not a discreet,
well-balanced girl like Miss Bower spend the summer there, studying
quietly? The capitalist suggested that his sister might enjoy a summer
on Long Island; he would rent the Griffith's place for her, with all
the servants, and Eden could stay there. But his sister met this
proposal with a cold stare. So it fell out, that between selfishness
and greed, Eden got a summer all her own, which really did a great
deal toward making her an artist and whatever else she was afterward to
become. She had time to look about, to watch without being watched; to
select diamonds in one window and furs in another, to select shoulders
and moustaches in the big hotels where she went to lunch. She had the
easy freedom of obscurity and the consciousness of power. She enjoyed
both. She was in no hurry.
While Eden Bower watched the pigeons, Don Hedger sat on the other
side of the bolted doors, looking into a pool of dark turpentine, at
his idle brushes, wondering why a woman could do this to him. He, too,
was sure of his future and knew that he was a chosen man. He could not
know, of course, that he was merely the first to fall under a
fascination which was to be disastrous to a few men and pleasantly
stimulating to many thousands. Each of these two young people sensed
the future, but not completely. Don Hedger knew that nothing much would
ever happen to him. Eden Bower understood that to her a great deal
would happen. But she did not guess that her neighbour would have more
tempestuous adventures sitting in his dark studio than she would find
in all the capitals of Europe, or in all the latitude of conduct she
was prepared to permit herself.
One Sunday morning Eden was crossing the Square with a spruce young
man in a white flannel suit and a panama hat. They had been
breakfasting at the Brevoort and he was coaxing her to let him come up
to her rooms and sing for an hour.
"No, I've got to write letters. You must run along now. I see a
friend of mine over there, and I want to ask him about something before
I go up."
"That fellow with the dog? Where did you pick him up?" the young
man glanced toward the seat under a sycamore where Hedger was reading
the morning paper.
"Oh, he's an old friend from the West," said Eden easily. "I won't
introduce you, because he doesn't like people. He's a recluse.
Good-bye. I can't be sure about Tuesday. I'll go with you if I have
time after my lesson." She nodded, left him, and went over to the seat
littered with newspapers. The young man went up the Avenue without
"Well, what are you going to do today? Shampoo this animal all
morning?" Eden enquired teasingly.
Hedger made room for her on the seat. "No, at twelve o'clock I'm
going out to Coney Island. One of my models is going up in a balloon
this afternoon. I've often promised to go and see her, and now I'm
Eden asked if models usually did such stunts. No, Hedger told her,
but Molly Welch added to her earnings in that way. "I believe," he
added, "she likes the excitement of it. She's got a good deal of
spirit. That's why I like to paint her. So many models have flaccid
"And she hasn't, eh? Is she the one who comes to see you? I can't
help hearing her, she talks so loud."
"Yes, she has a rough voice, but she's a fine girl. I don't suppose
you'd be interested in going?"
"I don't know," Eden sat tracing patterns on the asphalt with the
end of her parasol. "Is it any fun? I got up feeling I'd like to do
something different today. It's the first Sunday I've not had to sing
in church. I had that engagement for breakfast at the Brevoort, but it
wasn't very exciting. That chap can't talk about anything but himself."
Hedger warmed a little. "If you've never been to Coney Island, you
ought to go. It's nice to see all the people; tailors and bar-tenders
and prize-fighters with their best girls, and all sorts of folks taking
Eden looked sidewise at him. So one ought to be interested in
people of that kind, ought one? He was certainly a funny fellow. Yet he
was never, somehow, tiresome. She had seen a good deal of him lately,
but she kept wanting to know him better, to find out what made him
different from men like the one she had just left whether he really
was as different as he seemed. "I'll go with you," she said at last,
"if you'll leave that at home." She pointed to Caesar's flickering ears
with her sunshade.
"But he's half the fun. You'd like to hear him bark at the waves
when they come in."
"No, I wouldn't. He's jealous and disagreeable if he sees you
talking to any one else. Look at him now."
"Of course, if you make a face at him. He knows what that means,
and he makes a worse face. He likes Molly Welch, and she'll be
disappointed if I don't bring him."
Eden said decidedly that he couldn't take both of them. So at
twelve o'clock when she and Hedger got on the boat at Desbrosses
street, Caesar was lying on his pallet, with a bone.
Eden enjoyed the boat-ride. It was the first time she had been on
the water, and she felt as if she were embarking for France. The light
warm breeze and the plunge of the waves made her very wide awake, and
she liked crowds of any kind. They went to the balcony of a big, noisy
restaurant and had a shore dinner, with tall steins of beer. Hedger had
got a big advance from his advertising firm since he first lunched with
Miss Bower ten days ago, and he was ready for anything.
After dinner they went to the tent behind the bathing beach, where
the tops of two balloons bulged out over the canvas. A red-faced man in
a linen suit stood in front of the tent, shouting in a hoarse voice and
telling the people that if the crowd was good for five dollars more, a
beautiful young woman would risk her life for their entertainment. Four
little boys in dirty red uniforms ran about taking contributions in
their pillbox hats. One of the balloons was bobbing up and down in its
tether and people were shoving forward to get nearer the tent.
"Is it dangerous, as he pretends?" Eden asked.
"Molly says it's simple enough if nothing goes wrong with the
balloon. Then it would be all over, I suppose."
"Wouldn't you like to go up with her?"
"I? Of course not. I'm not fond of taking foolish risks."
Eden sniffed. "I shouldn't think sensible risks would be very much
Hedger did not answer, for just then every one began to shove the
other way and shout, "Look out. There she goes!" and a band of six
pieces commenced playing furiously.
As the balloon rose from its tent enclosure, they saw a girl in
green tights standing in the basket, holding carelessly to one of the
ropes with one hand and with the other waving to the spectators. A long
rope trailed behind to keep the balloon from blowing out to sea.
As it soared, the figure in green tights in the basket diminished
to a mere spot, and the balloon itself, in the brilliant light, looked
like a big silver-grey bat, with its wings folded. When it began to
sink, the girl stepped through the hole in the basket to a trapeze that
hung below, and gracefully descended through the air, holding to the
rod with both hands, keeping her body taut and her feet close together.
The crowd, which had grown very large by this time, cheered
vociferously. The men took off their hats and waved, little boys
shouted, and fat old women, shining with the heat and a beer lunch,
murmured admiring comments upon the balloonist's figure. "Beautiful
legs, she has!"
"That's so," Hedger whispered. "Not many girls would look well in
that position." Then, for some reason, he blushed a slow, dark, painful
The balloon descended slowly, a little way from the tent, and the
red-faced man in the linen suit caught Molly Welch before her feet
touched the ground, and pulled her to one side. The band struck up
"Blue Bell" by way of welcome, and one of the sweaty pages ran forward
and presented the balloonist with a large bouquet of artificial
flowers. She smiled and thanked him, and ran back across the sand to
"Can't we go inside and see her?" Eden asked. "You can explain to
the door man. I want to meet her." Edging forward, she herself
addressed the man in the linen suit and slipped something from her
purse into his hand.
They found Molly seated before a trunk that had a mirror in the lid
and a "make-up" outfit spread upon the tray. She was wiping the cold
cream and powder from her neck with a discarded chemise.
"Hello, Don," she said cordially. "Brought a friend?"
Eden liked her. She had an easy, friendly manner, and there was
something boyish and devil-may-care about her.
"Yes, it's fun. I'm mad about it," she said in reply to Eden's
questions. "I always want to let go, when I come down on the bar. You
don't feel your weight at all, as you would on a stationary trapeze."
The big drum boomed outside, and the publicity man began shouting
to newly arrived boat-loads. Miss Welch took a last pull at her
cigarette. "Now you'll have to get out, Don. I change for the next act.
This time I go up in a black evening dress, and lose the skirt in the
basket before I start down."
"Yes, go along," said Eden. "Wait for me outside the door. I'll
stay and help her dress."
Hedger waited and waited, while women of every build bumped into
him and begged his pardon, and the red pages ran about holding out
their caps for coins, and the people ate and perspired and shifted
parasols against the sun. When the band began to play a two-step, all
the bathers ran up out of the surf to watch the ascent. The second
balloon bumped and rose, and the crowd began shouting to the girl in a
black evening dress who stood leaning against the ropes and smiling.
"It's a new girl," they called. "It ain't the Countess this time.
You're a peach, girlie!" The balloonist acknowledged these
compliments, bowing and looking down over the sea of upturned faces,
but Hedger was determined she should not see him, and he darted behind
the tent-fly. He was suddenly dripping with cold sweat, his mouth was
full of the bitter taste of anger and his tongue felt stiff behind his
teeth. Molly Welch, in a shirt-waist and a white tam-o'-shanter cap,
slipped out from the tent under his arm and laughed up in his face.
"She's a crazy one you brought along. She'll get what she wants!"
"Oh, I'll settle with you, all right!" Hedger brought out with
"It's not my fault, Donnie. I couldn't do anything with her. She
bought me off. What's the matter with you? Are you soft on her? She's
safe enough. It's as easy as rolling off a log, if you keep cool."
Molly Welch was rather excited herself, and she was chewing gum at a
high speed as she stood beside him, looking up at the floating silver
come. "Now watch," she exclaimed suddenly. "She's coming down on the
bar. I advised her to cut that out, but you see she does it first-rate.
And she got rid of the skirt, too. Those black tights show off her legs
very well. She keeps her feet together like I told her, and makes a
good line along the back. See the light on those silver slippers,
that was a good idea I had. Come along to meet her. Don't be a grouch;
she's done it fine!"
Molly tweaked his elbow, and then left him standing like a stump,
while she ran down the beach with the crowd.
Though Hedger was sulking, his eye could not help seeing the low
blue welter of the sea, the arrested bathers, standing in the surf,
their arms and legs stained red by the dropping sun, all shading their
eyes and gazing upward at the slowly falling silver star.
Molly Welch and the manager caught Eden under the arms and lifted
her aside, a red page dashed up with a bouquet, and the band struck up
"Blue Bell." Eden laughed and bowed, took Molly's arm, and ran up the
sand in her black tights and silver slippers, dodging the friendly old
women, and the gallant sports who wanted to offer their homage on the
When she emerged from the tent, dressed in her own clothes, that
part of the beach was almost deserted. She stepped to her companion's
side and said carelessly: "Hadn't we better try to catch this boat? I
hope you're not sore at me. Really, it was lots of fun."
Hedger looked at his watch. "Yes, we have fifteen minutes to get to
the boat," he said politely.
As they walked toward the pier, one of the pages ran up panting.
"Lady, you're carrying off the bouquet," he said, aggrievedly.
Eden stopped and looked at the bunch of spotty cotton roses in her
hand. "Of course. I want them for a souvenir. You gave them to me
"I give 'em to you for looks, but you can't take 'em away. They
belong to the show."
"Oh, you always use the same bunch?"
"Sure we do. There ain't too much money in this business."
She laughed and tossed them back to him. "Why are you angry?" she
asked Hedger. "I wouldn't have done it if I'd been with some fellows,
but I thought you were the sort who wouldn't mind. Molly didn't for a
minute think you would."
"What possessed you to do such a fool thing?" he asked roughly.
"I don't know. When I saw her coming down, I wanted to try it. It
looked exciting. Didn't I hold myself as well as she did?"
Hedger shrugged his shoulders, but in his heart he forgave her.
The return boat was not crowded, though the boats that passed them,
going out, were packed to the rails. The sun was setting. Boys and
girls sat on the long benches with their arms about each other,
singing. Eden felt a strong wish to propitiate her companion, to be
alone with him. She had been curiously wrought up by her balloon trip;
it was a lark, but not very satisfying unless one came back to
something after the flight. She wanted to be admired and adored. Though
Eden said nothing, and sat with her arms limp on the rail in front of
her, looking languidly at the rising silhouette of the city and the
bright path of the sun, Hedger felt a strange drawing near to her. If
he but brushed her white skirt with his knee, there was an instant
communication between them, such as there had never been before. They
did not talk at all, but when they went over the gang-plank she took
his arm and kept her shoulder close to his. He felt as if they were
enveloped in a highly charged atmosphere, an invisible network of
subtle, almost painful sensibility. They had somehow taken hold of each
An hour latter, they were dining in the back garden of a little
French hotel on Ninth Street, long since passed away. It was cool and
leafy there, and the mosquitoes were not very numerous. A party of
South Americans at another table were drinking champagne, and Eden
murmured that she thought she would like some, if it were not too
expensive. "Perhaps it will make me think I am in the balloon again.
That was a very nice feeling. You've forgiven me, haven't you?" Hedger
gave her a quick straight look from under his black eyebrows, and
something went over her that was like a chill, except that it was warm
and feathery. She drank most of the wine; her companion was indifferent
to it. He was talking more to her tonight than he had ever done before.
She asked him about a new picture she had seen in his room; a queer
thing full of stiff, supplicating female figures. "It's Indian, isn't
"Yes. I call it Rain Spirits, or maybe, Indian Rain. In the
Southwest, where I've been a good deal, the Indian traditions make
women have to do with the rain-fall. They were supposed to control it,
somehow, and to be able to find springs, and make moisture come out of
the earth. You see I'm trying to learn to paint what people think and
feel; to get away from all that photographic stuff. When I look at you,
I don't see what a camera would see, do I?"
"How can I tell?"
"Well, if I should paint you, I could make you understand what I
see." For the second time that day Hedger crimsoned unexpectedly, and
his eyes fell and steadily contemplated a dish of little radishes.
"That particular picture I got from a story a Mexican priest told me;
he said he found it in an old manuscript book in a monastery down
there, written by some Spanish Missionary, who got his stories from the
Aztecs. This one he called 'The Forty Lovers of the Queen,' and it was
more or less about rain-making."
"Aren't you going to tell it to me?" Eden asked.
Hedger fumbled among the radishes. "I don't know if it's the proper
kind of story to tell a girl."
She smiled; "Oh, forget about that! I've been balloon riding today.
I like to hear you talk."
Her low voice was flattering. She had seemed like clay in his hands
ever since they got on the boat to come home. He leaned back in his
chair, forgot his food, and, looking at her intently, began to tell his
story, the theme of which he somehow felt was dangerous tonight.
The tale began, he said, somewhere in Ancient Mexico, and concerned
the daughter of a king. The birth of this Princess was preceded by
unusual portents. Three times her mother dreamed that she was delivered
of serpents, which betokened that the child she carried would have
power with the rain gods. The serpent was the symbol of water. The
Princess grew up dedicated to the gods, and wise men taught her the
rain-making mysteries. She was with difficulty restrained from men and
was guarded at all times, for it was the law of the Thunder that she be
maiden until her marriage. In the years of her adolescence, rain was
abundant with her people. The oldest man could not remember such
fertility. When the Princess had counted eighteen summers, her father
went to drive out a war party that harried his borders on the north and
troubled his prosperity. The King destroyed the invaders and brought
home many prisoners. Among the prisoners was a young chief, taller than
any of his captors, of such strength and ferocity that the King's
people came a day's journey to look at him. When the Princess beheld
his great stature, and saw that his arms and breast were covered with
the figures of wild animals, bitten into the skin and coloured, she
begged his life from her father. She desired that he should practise
his art upon her, and prick upon her skin the signs of Rain and
Lightning and Thunder, and stain the wounds with herb-juices, as they
were upon his own body. For many days, upon the roof of the King's
house, the Princess submitted herself to the bone needle, and the women
with her marvelled at her fortitude. But the Princess was without shame
before the Captive, and it came about that he threw from him his
needles and his stains, and fell upon the Princess to violate her
honour; and her women ran down from the roof screaming, to call the
guard which stood at the gateway of the King's house, and none stayed
to protect their mistress. When the guard came, the Captive was thrown
into bonds, and he was gelded, and his tongue was torn out, and he was
given for a slave to the Rain Princess.
The country of the Aztecs to the east was tormented by thirst, and
their king, hearing much of the rain-making arts of the Princess, sent
an embassy to her father, with presents and an offer of marriage. So
the Princess went from her father to be the Queen of the Aztecs, and
she took with her the Captive, who served her in everything with entire
fidelity and slept upon a mat before her door.
The King gave his bride a fortress on the outskirts of the city,
whither she retired to entreat the rain gods. This fortress was called
the Queen's House, and on the night of the new moon the Queen came to
it from the palace. But when the moon waxed and grew toward the round,
because the god of Thunder had had his will of her, then the Queen
returned to the King. Drouth abated in the country and rain fell
abundantly by reason of the Queen's power with the stars.
When the Queen went to her own house she took with her no servant
but the Captive, and he slept outside her door and brought her food
after she had fasted. The Queen had a jewel of great value, a turquoise
that had fallen from the sun, and had the image of the sun upon it. And
when she desired a young man whom she had seen in the army or among the
slaves, she sent the Captive to him with the jewel, for a sign that he
should come to her secretly at the Queen's House upon business
concerning the welfare of all. And some, after she had talked with
them, she sent away with rewards; and some she took into her chamber
and kept them by her for one night or two. Afterward she called the
Captive and bade him conduct the youth by the secret way he had come,
underneath the chambers of the fortress. But for the going away of the
Queen's lovers the Captive took out the bar that was beneath a stone in
the floor of the passage, and put in its stead a rush-reed, and the
youth stepped upon it and fell through into a cavern that was the bed
of an underground river, and whatever was thrown into it was not seen
again. In this service nor in any other did the Captive fail the Queen.
But when the Queen sent for the Captain of the Archers, she
detained him four days in her chamber, calling often for food and wine,
and was greatly content with him. On the fourth day she went to the
Captive outside her door and said: "Tomorrow take this man up by the
sure way, by which the King comes, and let him live."
In the Queen's door were arrows, purple and white. When she desired
the King to come to her publicly, with his guard, she sent him a white
arrow; but when she sent the purple, he came secretly, and covered
himself with his mantle to be hidden from the stone gods at the gate.
On the fifth night that the Queen was with her lover, the Captive took
a purple arrow to the King, and the King came secretly and found them
together. He killed the Captain with his own hand, but the Queen he
brought to public trial. The Captive, when he was put to the question,
told on his fingers forty men that he had let through the underground
passage into the river. The Captive and the Queen were put to death by
fire, both on the same day, and afterward there was scarcity of rain.
Eden Bower sat shivering a little as she listened. Hedger was not
trying to please her, she thought, but to antagonize and frighten her
by his brutal story. She had often told herself that his lean,
big-boned lower jaw was like his bull-dog's, but tonight his face made
Caesar's most savage and determined expression seem an affectation. Now
she was looking at the man he really was. Nobody's eyes had ever defied
her like this. They were searching her and seeing everything; all she
had concealed from Livingston, and from the millionaire and his
friends, and from the newspaper men. He was testing her, trying her
out, and she was more ill at ease than she wished to show.
"That's quite a thrilling story," she said at last, rising and
winding her scarf about her throat. "It must be getting late. Almost
every one has gone."
They walked down the Avenue like people who have quarrelled, or who
wish to get rid of each other. Hedger did not take her arm at the
street crossings, and they did not linger in the Square. At her door he
tried none of the old devices of the Livingston boys. He stood like a
post, having forgotten to take off his hat, gave her a harsh,
threatening glance, muttered "goodnight," and shut his own door
There was no question of sleep for Eden Bower. Her brain was
working like a machine that would never stop. After she undressed, she
tried to calm her nerves by smoking a cigarette, lying on the divan by
the open window. But she grew wider and wider awake, combating the
challenge that had flamed all evening in Hedger's eyes. The balloon had
been one kind of excitement, the wine another; but the thing that had
roused her, as a blow rouses a proud man, was the doubt, the contempt,
the sneering hostility with which the painter had looked at her when he
told his savage story. Crowds and balloons were all very well, she
reflected, but woman's chief adventure is man. With a mind over active
and a sense of life over strong, she wanted to walk across the roofs in
the starlight, to sail over the sea and face at once a world of which
she had never been afraid.
Hedger must be asleep; his dog had stopped sniffing under the
double doors. Eden put on her wrapper and slippers and stole softly
down the hall over the old carpet; one loose board creaked just as she
reached the ladder. The trap-door was open, as always on hot nights.
When she stepped out on the roof she drew a long breath and walked
across it, looking up at the sky. Her foot touched something soft; she
heard a low growl, and on the instant Caesar's sharp little teeth
caught her ankle and waited. His breath was like steam on her leg.
Nobody had ever intruded upon his roof before, and he panted for the
movement or the word that would let him spring his jaw. Instead,
Hedger's hand seized his throat.
"Wait a minute. I'll settle with him," he said grimly. He dragged
the dog toward the manhole and disappeared. When he came back, he found
Eden standing over by the dark chimney, looking away in an offended
"I caned him unmercifully," he panted. "Of course you didn't hear
anything; he never whines when I beat him. He didn't nip you, did he?"
"I don't know whether he broke the skin or not," she answered
aggrievedly, still looking off into the west.
"If I were one of your friends in white pants, I'd strike a match
to find whether you were hurt, though I know you are not, and then I'd
see your ankle, wouldn't I?"
"I suppose so."
He shook his head and stood with his hands in the pockets of his
old painting jacket. "I'm not up to such boy-tricks. If you want the
place to yourself, I'll clear out. There are plenty of places where I
can spend the night, what's left of it. But if you stay here and I stay
here " He shrugged his shoulders.
Eden did not stir, and she made no reply. Her head drooped
slightly, as if she were considering. But the moment he put his arms
about her they began to talk, both at once, as people do in an opera.
The instant avowal brought out a flood of trivial admissions. Hedger
confessed his crime, was reproached and forgiven, and now Eden knew
what it was in his look that she had found so disturbing of late.
Standing against the black chimney, with the sky behind and blue
shadows before, they looked like one of Hedger's own paintings of that
period; two figures, one white and one dark, and nothing whatever
distinguishable about them but that they were male and female. The
faces were lost, the contours blurred in shadow, but the figures were a
man and a woman, and that was their whole concern and their mysterious
beauty, it was the rhythm in which they moved, at last, along the
roof and down into the dark hole; he first, drawing her gently after
him. She came down very slowly. The excitement and bravado and
uncertainty of that long day and night seemed all at once to tell upon
her. When his feet were on the carpet and he reached up to lift her
down, she twined her arms about his neck as after a long separation,
and turned her face to him, and her lips, with their perfume of youth
One Saturday afternoon Hedger was sitting in the window of Eden's
music room. They had been watching the pigeons come wheeling over the
roofs from their unknown feeding grounds.
"Why," said Eden suddenly, "don't we fix those big doors into your
studio so they will open? Then, if I want you, I won't have to go
through the hall. That illustrator is loafing about a good deal of
"I'll open them, if you wish. The bolt is on your side."
"Isn't there one on yours, too?"
"No. I believe a man lived there for years before I came in, and
the nurse used to have these rooms herself. Naturally, the lock was on
the lady's side."
Eden laughed and began to examine the bolt. "It's all stuck up with
paint." Looking about, her eye lighted upon a bronze Buddah which was
one of the nurse's treasures. Taking him by his head, she struck the
bolt a blow with his squatting posteriors. The two doors creaked,
sagged, and swung weakly inward a little way, as if they were too old
for such escapades. Eden tossed the heavy idol into a stuffed chair.
"That's better," she exclaimed exultantly. "So the bolts are always on
the lady's side? What a lot society takes for granted!"
Hedger laughed, sprang up and caught her arms roughly. "Whoever
takes you for granted Did anybody, ever?"
"Everybody does. That's why I'm here. You are the only one who
knows anything about me. Now I'll have to dress if we're going out for
He lingered, keeping his hold on her. "But I won't always be the
only one, Eden Bower. I won't be the last."
"No, I suppose not," she said carelessly. "But what does that
matter? You are the first."
As a long, despairing whine broke in the warm stillness, they drew
apart. Caesar, lying on his bed in the dark corner, had lifted his head
at this invasion of sunlight, and realized that the side of his room
was broken open, and his whole world shattered by change. There stood
his master and this woman, laughing at him! The woman was pulling the
long black hair of this mightiest of men, who bowed his head and
In time they quarrelled, of course, and about an abstraction, as
young people often do, as mature people almost never do. Eden came in
late one afternoon. She had been with some of her musical friends to
lunch at Burton Ives' studio, and she began telling Hedger about its
splendours. He listened a moment and then threw down his brushes. "I
know exactly what it's like," he said impatiently. "A very good
department-store conception of a studio. It's one of the show places."
"Well, it's gorgeous, and he said I could bring you to see him. The
boys tell me he's awfully kind about giving people a lift, and you
might get something out of it."
Hedger started up and pushed his canvas out of the way. "What could
I possibly get from Burton Ives? He's almost the worst painter in the
world; the stupidest, I mean."
Eden was annoyed. Burton Ives had been very nice to her and had
begged her to sit for him. "You must admit that he's a very successful
one," she said coldly.
"Of course he is! Anybody can be successful who will do that sort
of thing. I wouldn't paint his pictures for all the money in New York."
"Well, I saw a lot of them, and I think they are beautiful."
Hedger bowed stiffly.
"What's the use of being a great painter if nobody knows about
you?" Eden went on persuasively. "Why don't you paint the kind of
pictures people can understand, and then, after you're successful, do
whatever you like?"
"As I look at it," said Hedger brusquely, "I am successful."
Eden glanced about. "Well, I don't see any evidences of it," she
said, biting her lip. "He has a Japanese servant and a wine cellar, and
keeps a riding horse."
Hedger melted a little. "My dear, I have the most expensive luxury
in the world, and I am much more extravagant than Burton Ives, for I
work to please nobody but myself."
"You mean you could make money and don't? That you don't try to get
"Exactly. A public only wants what has been done over and over. I'm
painting for painters, who haven't been born." "What would you do
if I brought Mr. Ives down here to see your things?"
"Well, for God's sake, don't! Before he left I'd probably tell him
what I thought of him."
Eden rose. "I give you up. You know very well there's only one kind
of success that's real."
"Yes, but it's not the kind you mean. So you've been thinking me a
scrub painter, who needs a helping hand from some fashionable studio
man? What the devil have you had anything to do with me for, then?"
"There's no use talking to you," said Eden walking slowly toward
the door. "I've been trying to pull wires for you all afternoon, and
this is what it comes to." She had expected that the tidings of a
prospective call from the great man would be received very differently,
and had been thinking as she came home in the stage how, as with a
magic wand, she might gild Hedger's future, float him out of his dark
hole on a tide of prosperity, see his name in the papers and his
pictures in the windows on Fifth Avenue.
Hedger mechanically snapped the midsummer leash on Caesar's collar
and they ran downstairs and hurried through Sullivan Street off toward
the river. He wanted to be among rough, honest people, to get down
where the big drays bumped over stone paving blocks and the men wore
corduroy trowsers and kept their shirts open at the neck. He stopped
for a drink in one of the sagging bar-rooms on the water front. He had
never in his life been so deeply wounded; he did not know he could be
so hurt. He had told this girl all his secrets. On the roof, in these
warm, heavy summer nights, with her hands locked in his, he had been
able to explain all his misty ideas about an unborn art the world was
waiting for; had been able to explain them better than he had ever done
to himself. And she had looked away to the chattels of this uptown
studio and coveted them for him! To her he was only an unsuccessful
Then why, as he had put it to her, did she take up with him? Young,
beautiful, talented as she was, why had she wasted herself on a scrub?
Pity? Hardly; she wasn't sentimental. There was no explaining her. But
in this passion that had seemed so fearless and so fated to be, his own
position now looked to him ridiculous; a poor dauber without money or
fame, it was her caprice to load him with favours. Hedger ground his
teeth so loud that his dog, trotting beside him, heard him and looked
While they were having supper at the oyster-man's, he planned his
escape. Whenever he saw her again, everything he had told her, that he
should never have told any one, would come back to him; ideas he had
never whispered even to the painter whom he worshipped and had gone all
the way to France to see. To her they must seem his apology for not
having horses and a valet, or merely the puerile boastfulness of a weak
man. Yet if she slipped the bolt tonight and came through the doors and
said, "Oh, weak man, I belong to you!" what could he do? That was the
danger. He would catch the train out to Long Beach tonight, and
tomorrow he would go on to the north end of Long Island, where an old
friend of his had a summer studio among the sand dunes. He would stay
until things came right in his mind. And she could find a smart
painter, or take her punishment.
When he went home, Eden's room was dark; she was dining out
somewhere. He threw his things into a hold-all he had carried about the
world with him, strapped up some colours and canvases, and ran
Five days later Hedger was a restless passenger on a dirty, crowded
Sunday train, coming back to town. Of course he saw now how
unreasonable he had been in expecting a Huntington girl to know
anything about pictures; here was a whole continent full of people who
knew nothing about pictures and he didn't hold it against them. What
had such things to do with him and Eden Bower? When he lay out on the
dunes, watching the moon come up out of the sea, it had seemed to him
that there was no wonder in the world like the wonder of Eden Bower. He
was going back to her because she was older than art, because she was
the most overwhelming thing that had ever come into his life.
He had written her yesterday, begging her to be at home this
evening, telling her that he was contrite, and wretched enough.
Now that he was on his way to her, his stronger feeling
unaccountably changed to a mood that was playful and tender. He wanted
to share everything with her, even the most trivial things. He wanted
to tell her about the people on the train, coming back tired from their
holiday with bunches of wilted flowers and dirty daisies; to tell her
that the fish-man, to whom she had often sent him for lobsters, was
among the passengers, disguised in a silk shirt and a spotted tie, and
how his wife looked exactly like a fish, even to her eyes, on which
cataracts were forming. He could tell her, too, that he hadn't as much
as unstrapped his canvases, that ought to convince her.
In those days passengers from Long Island came into New York by
ferry. Hedger had to be quick about getting his dog out of the express
car in order to catch the first boat. The East River, and the bridges,
and the city to the west, were burning in the conflagration of the
sunset; there was that great home-coming reach of evening in the air.
The car changes from Thirty-fourth Street were too many and too
perplexing; for the first time in his life Hedger took a hansom cab for
Washington Square. Caesar sat bolt upright on the worn leather cushion
beside him, and they jogged off, looking down on the rest of the world.
It was twilight when they drove down lower Fifth Avenue into the
Square, and through the Arch behind them were the two long rows of pale
violet lights that used to bloom so beautifully against the grey stone
and asphalt. Here and yonder about the Square hung globes that shed a
radiance not unlike the blue mists of evening, emerging softly when
daylight died, as the stars emerged in the thin blue sky. Under them
the sharp shadows of the trees fell on the cracked pavement and the
sleeping grass. The first stars and the first lights were growing
silver against the gradual darkening, when Hedger paid his driver and
went into the house, which, thank God, was still there! On the hall
table lay his letter of yesterday, unopened.
He went upstairs with every sort of fear and every sort of hope
clutching at his heart; it was as if tigers were tearing him. Why was
there no gas burning in the top hall? He found matches and the gas
bracket. He knocked, but got no answer; nobody was there. Before his
own door were exactly five bottles of milk, standing in a row. The
milk-boy had taken spiteful pleasure in thus reminding him that he
forgot to stop his order.
Hedger went down to the basement; it, too, was dark. The janitress
was taking her evening airing on the basement steps. She sat waving a
palm-leaf fan majestically, her dirty calico dress open at the neck.
She told him at once that there had been "changes." Miss Bower's room
was to let again, and the piano would go tomorrow. Yes, she left
yesterday, she sailed for Europe with friends from Chicago. They
arrived on Friday, heralded by many telegrams. Very rich people they
were said to be, though the man had refused to pay the nurse a month's
rent in lieu of notice, which would have been only right, as the
young lady had agreed to take the rooms until October. Mrs. Foley had
observed, too, that he didn't overpay her or Willy for their trouble,
and a great deal of trouble they had been put to, certainly. Yes, the
young lady was very pleasant, but the nurse said there were rings on
the mahogany table where she had put tumblers and wine glasses. It was
just as well she was gone. The Chicago man was uppish in his ways, but
not much to look at. She supposed he had poor health, for there was
nothing to him inside his clothes.
Hedger went slowly up the stairs never had they seemed so long,
or his legs so heavy. The upper floor was emptiness and silence. He
unlocked his room, lit the gas, and opened the windows. When he went to
put his coat in the closet, he found, hanging among his clothes, a
pale, flesh-tinted dressing gown he had liked to see her wear, with a
perfume oh, a perfume that was still Eden Bower! He shut the door
behind him and there, in the dark, for a moment he lost his manliness.
It was when he held this garment to him that he found a letter in the
The note was written with a lead pencil, in haste: She was sorry
that he was angry, but she still didn't know just what she had done.
She had thought Mr. Ives would be useful to him; she guessed he was too
proud. She wanted awfully to see him again, but Fate came knocking at
her door after he had left her. She believed in Fate. She would never
forget him, and she knew he would become the greatest painter in the
world. Now she must pack. She hoped he wouldn't mind her leaving the
dressing gown; somehow, she could never wear it again.
After Hedger read this, standing under the gas, he went back into
the closet and knelt down before the wall; the knot hole had been
plugged up with a ball of wet paper, the same blue note-paper on
which her letter was written.
He was hard hit. Tonight he had to bear the loneliness of a whole
lifetime. Knowing himself so well, he could hardly believe that such a
thing had ever happened to him, that such a woman had lain happy and
contented in his arms. And now it was over. He turned out the light and
sat down on his painter's stool before the big window. Caesar, on the
floor beside him, rested his head on his master's knee. We must leave
Hedger thus, sitting in his tank with his dog, looking up at the stars.
COMING, APHRODITE! This legend, in electric lights over the
Lexington Opera House, had long announced the return of Eden Bower to
New York after years of spectacular success in Paris. She came at last,
under the management of an American Opera Company, but bringing her own
One bright December afternoon Eden Bower was going down Fifth
Avenue in her car, on the way to her broker, in Williams Street. Her
thoughts were entirely upon stocks, Cerro de Pasco, and how much she
should buy of it, when she suddenly looked up and realized that she
was skirting Washington Square. She had not seen the place since she
rolled out of it in an old-fashioned four-wheeler to seek her fortune,
eighteen years ago.
"Arretez, Alphonse. Attendez moi," she called, and opened the door
before he could reach it. The children who were streaking over the
asphalt on roller skates saw a lady in a long fur coat, and short,
high-heeled shoes, alight from a French car and pace slowly about the
Square, holding her muff to her chin. This spot, at least, had changed
very little, she reflected; the same trees, the same fountain, the
white arch, and over yonder, Garibaldi, drawing the sword for freedom.
There, just opposite her, was the old red brick house.
"Yes, that is the place," she was thinking. "I can smell the
carpets now, and the dog, what was his name? That grubby bathroom at
the end of the hall, and that dreadful Hedger still, there was
something about him, you know " She glanced up and blinked against
the sun. From somewhere in the crowded quarter south of the Square a
flock of pigeons rose, wheeling quickly upward into the brilliant blue
sky. She threw back her head, pressed her muff closer to her chin, and
watched them with a smile of amazement and delight. So they still rose,
out of all that dirt and noise and squalor, fleet and silvery, just as
they used to rise that summer when she was twenty and went up in a
balloon on Coney Island!
Alphonse opened the door and tucked her robes about her. All the
way down town her mind wandered from Cerro de Pasco, and she kept
smiling and looking up at the sky.
When she had finished her business with the broker, she asked him
to look in the telephone book for the address of M. Gaston Jules, the
picture dealer, and slipped the paper on which he wrote it into her
glove. It was five o'clock when she reached the French Galleries, as
they were called. On entering she gave the attendant her card, asking
him to take it to M. Jules. The dealer appeared very promptly and
begged her to come into his private office, where he pushed a great
chair toward his desk for her and signalled his secretary to leave the
"How good your lighting is in here," she observed, glancing about.
"I met you at Simon's studio, didn't I? Oh, no! I never forget anybody
who interests me." She threw her muff on his writing table and sank
into the deep chair. "I have come to you for some information that's
not in my line. Do you know anything about an American painter named
He took the seat opposite her. "Don Hedger? But, certainly! There
are some very interesting things of his in an exhibition at V 's.
If you would care to "
She held up her hand. "No, no. I've no time to go to exhibitions.
Is he a man of any importance?"
"Certainly. He is one of the first men among the moderns. That is
to say, among the very moderns. He is always coming up with something
different. He often exhibits in Paris, you must have seen "
"No, I tell you I don't go to exhibitions. Has he had great
success? That is what I want to know."
M. Jules pulled at his short grey moustache. "But, Madame, there
are many kinds of success," he began cautiously.
Madame gave a dry laugh. "Yes, so he used to say. We once
quarrelled on that issue. And how would you define his particular
M. Jules grew thoughtful. "He is a great name with all the young
men, and he is decidedly an influence in art. But one can't definitely
place a man who is original, erratic, and who is changing all the
She cut him short. "Is he much talked about at home? In Paris, I
mean? Thanks. That's all I want to know." She rose and began buttoning
her coat. "One doesn't like to have been an utter fool, even at
twenty." Mais, non!" M. Jules handed her her muff with a quick,
sympathetic glance. He followed her out through the carpeted show-room,
now closed to the public and draped in cheesecloth, and put her into
her car with words appreciative of the honour she had done him in
Leaning back in the cushions, Eden Bower closed her eyes, and her
face, as the street lamps flashed their ugly orange light upon it,
became hard and settled, like a plaster cast; so a sail, that has been
filled by a strong breeze, behaves when the wind suddenly dies.
Tomorrow night the wind would blow again, and this mask would be the
golden face of Aphrodite. But a "big" career takes its toll, even with
the best of luck.