by Francis Marion Crawford
[Illustration: He pressed the handsome chalked hand in his own and
then to his lips in a very un-English way.]
F. MARION CRAWFORD
AUTHOR OF SARACINESCA, SANT' ILARIO, WHOSOEVER SHALL OFFEND,
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY HORACE T. CARPENTER
NEW YORK GROSSET &DUNLAP PUBLISHERS
COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY F. MARION CRAWFORD.
COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
Set up and electrotyped. Published November, 1905. Reprinted
November, December, 1905; April, 1906; July, September, 1908; July,
1909; February, twice, 1910.
Norwood Press J. S. Cushing &Co.Berwick &Smith Co Norwood, Mass.,
'I am a realist,' said Mr. Edmund Lushington, as if that explained
everything. 'We could hardly expect to agree,' he added.
It sounded very much as if he had said: 'As you are not a realist,
my poor young lady, I can of course hardly expect you to know
Margaret Donne looked at him quietly and smiled. She was not very
sensitive to other people's opinions; few idealists are, for they
generally think more of their ideas than of themselves. Mr. Lushington
had said that he could not agree with her, that was all, and she was
quite indifferent. She had known that he would not share her opinion,
when the discussion had begun, for he never did, and she was glad of
it. She also knew that her smile irritated him, for he did not resemble
her in the very least. He was slightly aggressive, as shy persons often
are: and yet, like a good many men who profess 'realism,' brutal
frankness and a sweeping disbelief of everything not 'scientifically'
true, Mr. Lushington was almost morbidly sensitive to the opinion of
others. Criticism hurt him; indifference wounded him to the quick;
ridicule made him writhe.
He was a fair man with a healthy skin, and his eyes were blue; but
they had a particularly disagreeable trick of looking at one suddenly
for an instant, with a little pinching of the lids, and a slight
glitter, turning away again in a displeased way, as if he had expected
to be insulted, and was sure that the speaker was slighting him, at the
very least. He often blushed when he said something sharp. He wished he
were dark, because dark men could say biting things without blushing,
and pale, because he felt that it was not interesting to be pink and
white. His hair, too, was smoother and softer than he could have wished
it. He had tried experiments with his beard and moustache, and had
finally made up his mind to let both grow, but he still looked
hopelessly neat. When he pushed his hair back from his forehead with a
devastating gesture it simply became untidy, as if he had forgotten to
brush it. At last he had accepted his fate, and he resigned himself to
what he considered his physical disadvantages, but no one would ever
know how he had studied the photographs of the big men in the front of
things, trying to detect in them some single feature to which his own
bore a faint resemblance. Hitherto he had failed.
Yet he was 'somebody,' and perhaps it means more to be somebody
nowadays, in the howling fight for place and acknowledgment, than it
meant in the latter part of the nineteenth century. How easy life was
in the early eighties, compared with this, how mild were the ways of
nations, how primitive, pure and upright the dealings of financiers in
that day of pristine virtue and pastoral simplicity! It was all very
well to be an idealist then, Mr. Lushington sometimes said to Margaret;
the world was young, then; there was time for everything, then; there
was room for everybody, then; even the seasons were different, then! At
least, all old people say so, and it can hardly be supposed that all
persons over fifty years of age belong to a secret and powerful
association of liars, organised and banded together to deceive the
Mr. Lushington was somebody, even at the beginning of this truthful
little tale, and that was some time ago; and if anything about him
could have really irritated Margaret Donne, it was that she could not
understand the reason of his undeniable importance. The people who
succeed in life, and in the arts and professions, are not always the
pleasantest people, nor even the nicest. Miss Donne had found this out
before she was twenty, and she was two years older now. She had learned
a good many other things more or less connected with human nature, and
more or less useful to a young woman in her position.
She remembered two or three of those comparatively recent
discoveries as she smiled at Mr. Lushington and observed that her smile
annoyed him. Not that Margaret was cruel or fond of giving pain for the
sake of seeing suffering; but she could be both when she was roused to
defend her beliefs, her ideals, or even her tastes. The cool ferocity
of some young women is awful. Judith, Jael, Delilah, and Athaliah were
not mythical. Is there a man who has not wakened from dreams, to find
that the woman he trusted has stolen his strength or is just about to
hammer the great nail home through his temples?
Margaret Donne was not actually cruel to her fellow-creatures. She
was not one of those modern persons who feel sick at the sight of a
half-starved horse dragging a heavy load, but will turn a man's life
into a temporary hell without changing colour. Such as these give women
a bad name among men. Margaret was merely defending herself, for Mr.
Lushington sometimes drove her to extremities; his very shyness was so
aggressive, that she could not pity him, even when she saw him blush
painfully, and noticed the slight dew which an attack of social
timidity brought to his smooth forehead.
She had excellent nerves, and was not at all timid; if anything, she
thought herself a little too self-possessed, and was slightly ashamed
of it, fancying it unwomanly. She had a great fear of ever being that,
and with Mr. Lushington, who seemed to take it for granted that she
ought to think as men do, and was to be blamed for thinking otherwise,
she took especial pains to claim a woman's privileges at every turn.
'I cannot imagine,' he said presently, 'how any intelligent person
can really believe in such arrant mythology.'
'But I make no pretension of intelligence",' murmured Margaret
'That is absurd,' retorted Mr. Lushington, with a half-furtive,
half-angry glance. 'You know you are clever.'
Margaret knew it, of course, and she smiled again. The young man did
not need to see her to be sure how she looked at that moment, for he
knew her face well. It had fixed itself in the front of his memories
some time ago, and he had not succeeded in bringing any other image
there to drive it away. Perhaps he had not tried as hard as he
It was not such a very striking face either, at first sight. The
features were not perfect, by any means, and they were certainly not
Greek. Anacreon would not have compared Margaret's complexion to roses
mixed with milk, but he might have thought of cream tinged with
peach-bloom, and it would have been called a beautiful skin anywhere.
Margaret had rather light brown eyes, but when she was interested in
anything the pupils widened so much as to make them look very dark.
Then the lids would stay quite motionless for a long time, and the
colour would fade a little from her whole face; but sometimes, just
then, she would bite her lower lip, and that spoiled what some people
would have called the intenseness of her expression. It is true that
her teeth were beyond criticism and her lips were fresh and creamy
redbut Mr. Lushington wished she would not do it. The muses are never
represented 'biting their lips'; and in his moments of enthusiasm he
liked to think that Margaret was his muse. She had thick brown hair
that waved naturally, but made no little curls and baby ringlets, such
as some young women have, or make. The line of her hair along her
forehead and temples, though curved, was rather severe. She had been
fair when a little girl, but had grown darker after she was fifteen.
When she thought of it, she rather liked her own face, for she was
not everlastingly trying to be some one else. It was a satisfactory
face, on the whole, she thought, perfectly natural and frank, and
healthy. No doubt it would have been nice to be as beautiful as a
Madame de Villeneuve, or a Comtesse de Castiglione, but as that was
quite impossible, it was easy to be satisfied with what she had in the
way of looks and not to envy the insolent radiance of the fair
beauties, or the tragic splendour of the dark ones. Besides, great
beauty has disadvantages; it attracts attention at the wrong moment, it
makes travelling troublesome, it is obtrusive and hinders a woman from
doing exactly what she pleases. It is celebrity, and therefore a target
for every photographing tourist and newspaper man.
And then, to lose it, as one must, is a kind of suffering which no
male can quite understand. Every great beauty feels that she is to be
unjustly condemned to death between forty and fifty, and that every day
of her life brings her nearer to ignominious public execution; and
though beauties manage to last longer, yet is their strength but sorrow
and weakness, depending largely on the hairdresser, the dentist, the
dressmaker and other functions of the unknown quantities x and
y, as the mathematicians say.
The Emperor Tiberius is reported to have said that if a man does not
know what is good for him when he is forty years old, he must be either
a fool or a physician. Similarly, a woman who does not know her own
good points at twenty is either very foolish, or a raving beautyor a
saint. Perhaps women can be all three; it is not safe to assert
anything positively about them. Margaret Donne was clever, she was a
good girl but not a saint, and she was a little more than fairly
good-looking. That was all, and she knew her good points. If she was
not perpetually showing them to advantage, she at least realised what
they were and that she might some day have to make the most of them.
They were her complexion, her mouth and her figure; and she was clever,
if cleverness be a 'point' in a human being, which is doubtful. It is
not considered one in a puppy.
Mr. Lushington discouraged the familiarity of men who called him
plain 'Lushington.' When they were older than he, he felt that they
were patronising him; if they were younger, he thought them distinctly
cheeky. Occasionally he fell in with a relation, or an old
schoolfellow, who addressed him as 'Ned,' or even as 'Eddie,' This made
him utterly miserable; in the language of Johnson, when Mr. Lushington
was called 'Eddie,' he was convolved with agonyespecially if a third
person chanced to be present. Margaret sometimes wondered whether she
should ever be in a position to use that weapon.
There was a possibility of it, depending on her own choice. In fact,
there were two possibilities, for she could marry him if she pleased,
or she could make an intimate friend of him, and they might then call
each other by their Christian names. At the present time she knew him
so well that she avoided using his name altogether, and he called her
'Miss Margaret' when he was pleased, and 'Miss Donne' when he was not.
'It is a pity you think me clever,' she said demurely, after a
'Why?' he inquired severely.
'The idea makes you so uncomfortable,' Margaret answered. 'If I were
just a nice dull girl, you would only have to lay down the law, and I
should have to accept it. Or else you would not feel obliged to talk to
me at all, which would be simpler.'
'Much,' said Lushington, with some acerbity.
'So much simpler, that I wonder why you do not follow the line of
A short silence came after this suggestion, and Margaret turned over
the pages of her book as if making up her mind where to begin reading.
This was not quite a pretence, for Lushington had told her that it was
a book she ought to read, which it was her intellectual duty to read,
and which would develop her reasoning faculties. By way of
encouragement he had added that she would probably not like it. On that
point she agreed with him readily. To people who read much, every new
book has a personality, features and an expression, attractive, dull,
or repulsive, like most human beings one meets for the first time. This
particular book had a particularly priggish expression, like
Lushington's yellow shoes, which were too good and too new, and which
he was examining with apparent earnestness. To tell the truth he did
not see them, for he was wondering whether the blush of annoyance he
felt was unusually visible. The result of thinking about it was that it
deepened to scarlet at once.
'You look hot,' observed Margaret, with an exasperating smile.
'Not at all,' answered Lushington, feeling as if she had rubbed his
cheeks with red pepper. 'I suppose I am sunburnt.'
Tiny beads of perspiration were gathering on his forehead, and he
knew by her smile that she saw them. It would have been delightful to
walk into the pond just then, yellow shoes and all.
He told himself that he was Edmund Lushington, the distinguished
critic and reviewer, before whom authors trembled and were afraid. It
was absurd that he should feel too hot because a mere girl had said
something smart and disagreeable. In fact, what she had said was little
short of an impertinence, in his opinion.
The fool who does not know that he looks a fool is happy. The fool
who is conscious of looking one undergoes real pain. But of all the
miserable victims of shyness, the one most to be pitied is the
sensitive, gifted man who is perfectly aware that he looks silly while
rightly conscious that he is not. Margaret Donne watched Lushington,
and knew that she was amply revenged. He would call her 'Miss Donne'
presently, and say something about the weather, as if they had never
met before. She paid no more attention to him for some time, and began
to read bits of the new book, here and there, where one page looked a
little less dull than the rest.
Meanwhile Lushington smoked thoughtfully, and the unwelcome blush
subsided. He glanced sideways at Margaret's face two or three times, as
if he were going to speak, but said nothing, and sent a small cloud
straight out before him, with a rather vicious blowing, as if he were
trying to make the smoke express his feelings. Margaret knew that trick
of his very well. Lushington was an aggressive smoker, and with every
puff he seemed to say: 'There! Take that! I told you so!'
Margaret did not look up from her book, for she knew that he would
speak before long; and so it happened.
'Miss Donne,' he began, with unnecessary coldness, and then stopped
'Yes?' Margaret answered, with mild interrogation.
'Oh!' ejaculated Mr. Lushington, as if surprised that she should
reply at all. 'I thought you were reading.'
'I was.' She let the new book shut itself, as she lifted her hand
from the open pages.
'I did not mean to interrupt you,' said the young man stiffly.
No answer occurred to Margaret at once, so she waited, gently
drumming on the closed book with her loosely gloved fingers.
'I suppose you think I'm an awful idiot,' observed Mr. Lushington,
with unexpected and quite unnecessary energy.
'Dear me! This is so very sudden! Awfulidiot? Let me see.'
Her absurd gravity was even more exasperating than her smile.
Lushington threw away his cigarette angrily.
'You know what I mean,' he cried, getting red again. 'Don't be
'Then don't be silly,' retorted Margaret.
'There! I knew you thought so!'
'Perhaps I do, sometimes,' the girl answered, more seriously. 'But I
don't mind it at all. If you care to know, I think you are often much
more human when you arewellsilly, than when you are being clever.
'And I suppose you would like me better if I were always silly?'
Margaret shook her head and laughed softly, but said nothing. She
was thinking that it was good to be alive, and that it was the spring,
and that the life was stirring in her, as it stirred amongst the young
leaves overhead and in the shooting grasses and budding flowers, and in
the hearts of the nesting birds in the oaks and elms. Just then it
mattered very little to Margaret whether the man who was talking to her
made himself out to be silly or clever. She felt herself much nearer to
the simple breathing and growing of all nature than to the silliness or
cleverness of any fellow-creature.
Her lips parted a little and she drew in the air again and again,
slowly and quietly, as if she could drink it, and live on its sweet
taste, and never want food or other drink again, though she was not an
ethereal young person, but only a perfectly healthy and natural girl.
She was not tired, yet somehow she felt that she was resting body, soul
and heart, for a little while, after growing up and before beginning
what was to be her life.
Lushington was perfectly healthy, too, but he was not simple, and
was often not quite natural. He had real troubles and artificial ways
of treating them. He had also been in the thick of the big fight for
several years, he had tasted the wine of success and the vinegar of
failure, the sticky honey of flattery and some nasty little pills
prepared with malignant art by brother critics. With his faults and
weaknesses and absurd sensitiveness, he had in him the stuff that wins
battles with glory, or loses them with honour, promising to fight
again. He was complex. He was rarely quite sure what he felt, though he
could express with precision whatever he thought he was feeling at any
'How complicated you are!' he exclaimed, when Margaret laughed.
'I was just thinking how simple I am compared with you,' she
answered serenely; 'I mean, when you talk,' she added.
'Thank you for the distinction! Oliver Goldsmith, for shortness
called Noll, Who writes like an angel but talks like poor Poll. That
sort of thing, I suppose?'
'I did not say that you write like an angel,' answered Margaret, in
a tone of reflection.
'You do not talk like one,' observed Mr. Lushington bitterly. 'Are
you going to Paris to-day?' he inquired after a pause; and he looked at
'No. I had my lesson yesterday. But I am going in to-morrow.'
Lushington knew that she had only two lessons a week, and wondered
why she was going to Paris on the following day. But he was offended
and would not ask questions; moreover he did not at all approve of her
studying singing as a profession, and she knew that he did not.
His disapproval did not disturb her, though she should have liked
him to admire her voice because he was really a good judge, and praise
from him would be worth having. He often said sharp things that he did
not mean, but on the other hand, when he said that anything was good,
he always meant that it was first-rate. She wondered where he had
learned so much about music.
After all, she knew very little of his life, and as he never said
anything about his family she was inclined to think that he had no
relations and that he came of people anything but aristocratic. He had
worked his way to the front by sheer talent and energy, and she had the
good sense to think better of him for that, and not less well of him
for his reticence.
Mrs. Rushmore knew no more about Lushington's family than Margaret.
The latter was spending the spring in Versailles with the elderly
American widow, and the successful young writer had been asked to stop
a week with them. Mrs. Rushmore did not care a straw about the family
connections of celebrities, and she knew by experience that it was
generally better not to ask questions about them, as the answers might
place one in an awkward position. She had always acted on the principle
that a real lion needs no pedigree, and belongs by right to the higher
animals. Lushington was a real lion, though he was a young one. His
roar was a passport, and his bite was dangerous. Why make unnecessary
inquiries about his parents? They were probably dead, and, socially,
they had never been alive, since Society had never heard of them. It
was quite possible, Mrs. Rushmore said, that his name was not his own,
for she had met two or three celebrities who had deliberately taken
names to which they did not pretend any legal claim, but which sounded
better than their own.
He had been at Versailles to stay a few days during the previous
spring, and Margaret had seen him several times in the interval, and
they had occasionally exchanged letters. She was quite well aware that
he was in love with her, and she liked him enough not to discourage
him. To marry him would be quite another question, though she did not
look upon it as impossible. Before all, she intended to wait until her
own position was clearly defined.
For the present she did not know whether she had inherited a large
fortune, or was practically a penniless orphan living on the charity of
her friend Mrs. Rushmore; and several months might pass before this
vital question was solved. Mrs. Rushmore believed that Margaret would
get the money, or a large part of it; Margaret did not, and in the
meantime she was doing her best to cultivate her voice in order to
support herself by singing.
Her father had been English, a distinguished student and critical
scholar, holding a professorship of which the income, together with
what he received from writing learned articles in the serious reviews,
had sufficed for himself, his wife and his only child. At his death he
had left little except his books, his highly honourable reputation and
a small life insurance.
He had married an American whose father had been rich at the time,
but had subsequently lost all he possessed by an unfortunate
investment, depending upon an invention, which had afterwards become
enormously valuable. Finding himself driven to extremities and on the
verge of failure, he had been glad to make over his whole interest to a
distant relative, who assumed his liabilities as well as his chances of
success. Utterly ruined, save in reputation, he had bravely accepted a
salaried post, had worked himself to death in eighteen months and had
died universally respected by his friends and as poor as Job.
His daughter, Mrs. Donne, had felt her position keenly. She was a
sensitive woman, she had married a poor man for love, expecting to make
him rich; and instead, she was now far poorer than he. He, on his part,
never bestowed a thought on the matter. He was simple and unselfish and
he loved her simply and unselfishly. She died of a fever at forty-two
and her death killed him. Two years later, Margaret Donne was alone in
Mrs. Rushmore had known Margaret's American grandmother and had been
Mrs. Donne's best friend. She had grave doubts as to the conditions on
which the whole interest in the invention had been ceded to old Alvah
Moon, the Californian millionaire, and, after consulting her own
lawyers in New York, she had insisted upon bringing suit against him,
in Margaret Donne's name, but at her own risk, for the recovery of an
equitable share of the fortune. A tenth part of it would have made the
girl rich, but there were great difficulties in the way of obtaining
evidence as to an implied agreement, and Alvah Moon was as hard as
While the suit was going on, Mrs. Rushmore insisted that Margaret
should live with her, and Margaret was glad to accept her protection
and hospitality, for she felt that the obligation was not all on her
own side. Mrs. Rushmore was childless, a widow and very dependent on
companionship for such enjoyment as she could get out of her existence.
She had few resources as she grew older, for she did not read much and
had no especial tastes. The presence of such a girl as Margaret was a
godsend in many ways, and she looked forward with something like terror
to the not distant time when she should be left alone again, unless she
could induce one of her nieces to live with her. But that would not be
easy; they did not want her money, nor anything she could give them,
and they thought her dull. Her life would be very empty and sad, then.
She had never been vain, and she was well aware that such people as Mr.
Edmund Lushington could not be easily induced to come and spend a
fortnight with her if Margaret were not in the house. Besides, she
loved the girl for her own sake. It was very pleasant to delude herself
with the idea that Margaret was almost her daughter, and she wished she
could adopt her; but Margaret was far too independent to accept such an
arrangement, and Mrs. Rushmore had the common-sense to guess that if
the girl were bound to her in any way a sort of restraint would follow
which would be disagreeable to both in the end. If there could be a
bond, it must be one which Margaret should not feel, nor even guess,
and such a relation as that seemed to be an impossibility. Margaret was
not the sort of girl to accept anything from an unknown giver, and if
the suit failed it would be out of the question to make her believe
that she had inherited property from an unsuspected source. Mrs.
Rushmore, in her generosity, would have liked to practise some such
affectionate deception, and she would try almost anything, however
hopeless, rather than let Margaret be a professional singer.
The American woman was not puritanical; she had lived too much in
Europe for that and had met many clever people, not to say men of much
more than mere talent, who had made big marks on their times. But she
had been brought up in the narrow life of old New York, when old New
York still survived, as a tradition if not as a fact, in a score or two
of families; and one of the prejudices she had inherited early was that
there is a mysterious immorality in the practice of the fine arts,
whereas an equally mysterious morality is inherent in business.
Painters and sculptors, great actors and great singers without end, had
sat at her table and she was always interested in their talk and often
attracted by their personalities; yet in her heart she knew that she
connected them all vaguely with undefined wickedness, just as she
associated the idea of virtuous uprightness with all American and
English business men. Next to a clergyman, she unconsciously looked
upon an American banker as the most strictly moral type of man; and
though her hair was grey and she knew a vast deal about this wicked
world, she still felt a painful little shock when her favourite
newspaper informed her that a banker or a clergyman had turned aside
out of the paths of righteousness, as they occasionally do, just like
human beings. She felt a similar disagreeable thrill when she thought
of Margaret singing in public to earn a living. Prejudices are moral
corns; anything that touches one makes it ache more or less, but the
pain is always of the same kind. You cannot get a pleasurable sensation
out of a corn.
Yet Margaret was working at her music, with persevering regularity,
quite convinced that she must soon support herself unhelped and quite
sure that her voice was her only means to that end. Singing was her
only accomplishment, and she therefore supposed that the gift, such as
it was, must be her only talent.
She was modest about it, for the very reason that she believed it
was what she did best, and she was patient because she knew that she
must do it well before she could hope to live by it. Most successful
singers had appeared in public before reaching her age, yet she was
only two and twenty, and a year or two could make no great difference.
Nevertheless, she was more anxious than she would have admitted, and
she had persuaded her teacher to let her sing to Madame Bonanni, the
celebrated lyric soprano, whose opinion would be worth having, and
perhaps final. The great singer had the reputation of being very
good-natured in such cases and was on friendly terms with Margaret's
teacher, the latter being a retired prima donna. Margaret felt sure of
a fair hearing, therefore, and it was for this trial that she was going
to the city on the following morning.
Neither she nor Lushington spoke for a long time after she had given
him the information. She took up her book again, but she read without
paying any attention to the words, for the recollection of what was
coming had brought back all her anxiety about her future life. It would
be a dreadful thing if Madame Bonanni should tell her frankly that she
had no real talent and had better give it up. The great artist would
say what she thought, without wasting time or sympathy; that was why
Margaret was going to her. Women do not flatter women unless they have
something to gain, whereas men often flatter them for the mere pleasure
of seeing them smile, which is an innocent pastime in itself, though
the consequences are sometimes disastrous.
Edmund Lushington had at first been wondering why Margaret was going
to Paris the next day, then he had inwardly framed several ingenious
questions which he might ask her; and then, as he thought of her, he
had forgotten himself at last, and had momentarily escaped from the
terrible and morbid obligation of putting his thoughts into unspoken
words, which is one of the torments that pursue men of letters when
they are tired, or annoyed, or distressed. He had forgotten his
troubles, too, whatever they were, and could listen to the music spring
was making in the trees, without feeling that he might be forced to
Just then Margaret raised her eyes from her book and saw his face,
and he did not know that she was looking at him. For the first time
since she had met him she understood a little of his real nature, and
guessed the reason why he could write so well. He was a man of heart.
She knew it now, in spite of his faults, his shyness, his ridiculous
over-sensitiveness, his detestable way of blurting out cutting
speeches, his icy criticism of things he did not like. It was a
revelation. She wondered what he would say if he spoke just then.
But at that moment Mrs. Rushmore appeared on the lawn, an imposing
and rather formal figure in black and violet, against the curtain of
honeysuckle that hung down over the verandah.
Margaret went alone to the house of the famous singer, for her
teacher knew by experience that it was better not to be present on such
occasions. Margaret had not even a maid with her, for except in some
queer neighbourhoods Paris is as safe as any city in the world, and it
never occurred to her that she could need protection at her age. If she
should ever have any annoyance she could call a policeman, but she had
a firm and well-founded conviction that if a young woman looked
straight before her and held her head up as if she could take care of
herself, no one would ever molest her, from London to Pekin.
It was not very far from her teacher's rooms in the Boulevard
Malesherbes to the pretty little house Madame Bonanni had built for
herself in the Avenue Hoche; so Margaret walked. It is the pleasantest
way of getting about Paris on a May morning, when one has not to go a
long distance. Paris has changed terribly of late years, but there are
moments when all her old brilliancy comes back, when the air is again
full of the intoxicating effervescence of life, when the
well-remembered conviction comes over one that in Paris the main object
of every man's and every woman's existence is to make love, to amuse
and to be amused. Terrible things have happened, it is true; blood has
run like rain through the streets; and great works are created, great
books are written, and Art has here her workshop and her temple, her
craftsmen and her high priests. The Parisians have a right to take
themselves seriously; but we cannotwe graver, grimmer men of rougher
race. Do what they will, we can never quite believe that genius can
really hew and toil all day and laugh all night; we can never get rid
of the idea that there must be some vast delusion about Paris, some
great stage trick, some hugely clever deception by which a quicksand is
made to seem like bedrock, and a stone pavement like a river of
The great cities all have faces. If all the people who live in each
city could be photographed exactly one over the other, the result would
be the general expression of that city's face. New York would be
discontented and eager; London would be stolidly glum and healthy, with
a little surliness; Berlin would be supercilious, overbearing; Rome
would be gravely resentful; and so on; but Paris would be gay,
incredulous, frivolous, pretty and impudent. The reality may be gone,
or may have changed, but the look is in her face still when the light
of a May morning shines on it.
What should we get, if we could blend into one picture the English
descriptions of Paris left us by Thackeray, Sala, Du Maurier? Would it
not show us that face as it is still, when we see it in spring? And
drawn by loving hands too, obeying the eyes of genius. An empty square
in Berlin suggests a possible regimental parade, in London a mass
meeting; in Paris it is a playground waiting for the Parisians to come
out and enjoy themselves after their manner, like pretty moths and
dragon-flies in the sun.
But there is another side to it. More than any city in the world,
Paris has a dual nature. Like Janus, she has two faces; like Endymion,
half her life is spent with the gods, half with the powers of darkness.
She has her sweet May mornings, but she has her hideous nights when the
north wind blows and the streets are of glass. She has her life of art
and beauty, and taste and delight, but she has her fevers of blood and
fury, her awful reactions of raw brutality, her hidden sores of strange
crime. Of all cities, Paris is the most refined, the most progressive
in the highest way, the most delicately sensitive; of all cities, too,
when the spasm is on her, she is the most mediæval in her violence, her
lust for blood, her horrible 'inhumanity to man'Burns might have
written those unforgettable lines of her.
Margaret was not thinking of these things as she took her way
through the Parc Monceau, not because it was nearer but because she
loved the old trees, and the contrast between the green peace within
its gates and the intense life outside. She was nearer than she had
perhaps ever been to fright, just then, and yet would not for the world
have turned back, nor even slackened her pace. In five minutes she
would be ringing the bell at Madame Bonanni's door.
She had heard the prima donna several times but had never met her.
She knew that she was no longer young, though her great voice was
marvellously fresh and elastic. There were men, of that unpleasant type
that is quite sure of everything, who recalled her first appearance and
said that she could not be less than fifty years old. As a matter of
fact, she was just forty-eight, and made no secret of it. Margaret had
learned this from her own singing teacher, but that was all she knew
about Madame Bonanni, when she stopped at the closed door of the
carriage entrance and rang the bell. She did not know whether she was
to meet a Juliet, an Elsa, a Marguerite or a Tosca. She remembered a
large woman with heavy arms, in various magnificent costumes and a
variety of superb wigs, with a lime-light complexion that was always
the same. The rest was music. That, with a choice selection of absurdly
impossible anecdotes, is as much as most people ever know about a great
singer or a great actress. Margaret had been spared the anecdotes,
because most of them were not fit for her to hear, but she had more
than once heard fastidious ladies speak of Madame Bonanni as 'that
dreadful woman.' No one, however, denied that she was a great artist,
and that was the only consideration in Margaret's present need.
She rang the bell and glanced at the big window over the entrance.
It had a complicated arrangement of folding green blinds, which were
half open, and a grey awning with a red border. She wondered whether it
was the window of the singer's own especial room.
The house was different from those next it, though she could hardly
tell where the difference lay. She thought that if she had not known
the number she should have instinctively picked out this house, amongst
all the others in that part of the Avenue Hoche, as the one in which
the prima donna or an actress must be living; and as she stood waiting,
a very simple and well-bred figure of a young lady, she felt that on
the other side of the door there was a whole world of which she knew
nothing, which was not at all like her own world, which was going to
offend something in her, and which it was nevertheless her duty to
enter. She was in that state of mind in which a nun breathes an
ejaculatory prayer against the wiles of Satan, and a delicately
nurtured girl thinks of her mother. Her heart hardly beat any faster
than usual, though she was sure that one of the great moments of her
life was at hand; but she drew her skirt round her a little closer, and
pursed her lips together a little more tightly, and was very glad to
feel that nobody could mistake her for anything but a lady.
The servant who opened the door smiled. He was a man of thirty-five,
or thereabouts, with cheerful blue eyes, a brown moustache and pink
cheeks. He wore a blue cotton apron and had a feather duster in his
hand; and he smiled very pleasantly.
'Madame Bonanni said she would see me this morning,' Margaret
'What name, if you please?' the man asked, contemplating her with
'Very well. But Madame is in her bath,' observed the servant,
showing no inclination to let Margaret pass. 'Mademoiselle would do
better to come another day.'
'But Madame Bonanni has given me an appointment.'
'It is possible,' the man replied, still smiling calmly.
'I have come to sing to her,' Margaret said, with a little
'Ahthen it is different!' He positively beamed. 'Then Mademoiselle
is a musician? Who would have thought it?'
Margaret was not quite sure who would have thought it, but she
thought the servant decidedly familiar. At that moment he stood aside
for her to pass, shut the front door after her and led the way to the
short flight of steps that gave access to the house from the carriage
'This way, Mademoiselle. If Mademoiselle will be good enough to
wait, I will inform Madame.'
'Please don't disturb her! You said she was in her bath.'
'Oh, that has no importance!' the man cried cheerfully, and
disappeared at once.
Margaret looked about her, but if she had been blind she would have
been aware that she was in a place quite unlike any she had ever been
in before. The air had an indescribable odour that was almost a taste;
it smelt of Houbigant, Greek tobacco, Persian carpets, women's clothes,
liqueur and late hours; and it was not good to breatheexcept,
perhaps, for people used to the air of the theatre. Margaret at first
saw nothing particular to sit upon, and stood still.
It was a big room, with two very large windows on one side, a
massive chimney-piece at the end opposite the door, and facing the
windows the most enormous divan Margaret had ever seen. Over this a
great canopy was stretched, a sort of silk awning of which the corners
were stretched out and held up by more or less mediæval lances. The
divan itself was so high that an ordinary person would have to climb
upon it, and it was completely covered by a wild confusion of cushions
of all colours, thrown upon it and piled up, and tumbling off, as if a
Homeric pillow fight had just been fought upon it by several scores of
The room was plethoric with artistic objects, some good, some bad,
some atrocious, but all recalling the singer's past triumphs, and all
jumbled together, on tables, easels, pedestals, brackets and shelves
with much less taste than an average dealer in antiquities would have
shown in arranging his wares. There was not even light enough to see
them distinctly, for the terrifically heavy and expensive Genoa velvet
curtains produced a sort of dingy twilight. Moreover the Persian carpet
was so extremely thick that Margaret almost turned her ankle as she
made a step upon it.
As she knew that she must probably wait some time she looked for a
seat. There were a few light chairs here and there, but they were
occupied by various objects; on one a framed oil-painting was waiting
till a place could be found for it, on another there was a bandbox, on
a third lay some sort of garment that might be an opera-cloak or a
tea-gown, or a theatrical dress, a little silver tray with the remains
of black coffee and an empty liqueur glass stood upon a fourth chair,
and Margaret's searching eye discovered a fifth, with nothing on it,
pushed away in a corner.
She took hold of it by the back, to bring it forward a little, and
the gilt cross-bar came off in her hand. She stuck the piece on again
as well as she could, and as she did not like to disturb any of the
things she stood still, in the middle of the room, wondering vaguely
whether Madame Bonanni's visitors usually sat down, and if so, on what.
Suddenly her eyes fell upon a piano, standing behind several easels
that almost completely hid it. A piano usually has a stool, and
Margaret made her way between the easels and the little oriental
tables, and the plants, and the general confusion, towards the
keyboard. She was not disappointed; there was a stool, and she sat down
The air was oppressive and she wished herself out in the Pare
Monceau, in the May morning. The time seemed endless. By sheer force of
habit she slowly turned on the revolving stool and touched the keys;
then she struck a few chords softly, and the sound of the perfect
instrument gave her pleasure. She played something, trying to make as
little noise as possible so long as she remembered where she was, but
presently she forgot herself, her lips parted and she was singing, as
people do who sing naturally.
She sang the waltz song in the first act of Gounod's Romeo and
Juliet, and after the first few bars she had altogether forgotten
that she was not at home, with her own piano, or else standing behind
her teacher's shoulder in the Boulevard Malesherbes.
Now there are not many singers living who can sing the waltz song
and accompany themselves without making a terrible mess of the music;
but Margaret did it well, and much more than well, for she was not only
a singer with a beautiful voice but a true musician. There was not a
quaver or hesitation in her singing from beginning to end, nor a false
note in the accompaniment.
When she had finished, her lips closed and she went on playing the
music of the scene that follows. She had not gone on a dozen bars,
however, when a head appeared suddenly round the corner of a picture on
'Ah, bah!' exclaimed the head, in an accent of great surprise.
Its thick dark-brown hair was all towzled and standing on end, its
brown eyes were opened very wide in astonishment, and it was showing
magnificently strong teeth, a little discoloured.
Margaret sprang to her feet with an apology for having forgotten
herself, but the head laughed and came forward, bringing with it a
large body wrapped in an enormous gown of white Turkish towelling,
evidently held together by the invisible hands within. Margaret thought
of the statue of Balzac.
[Illustration: Margaret sprang to her feet with an apology.]
'I thought it was Caravita,' said Madame Bonanni. 'We are great
friends you know. I sometimes find her waiting for me. But who in the
world are you?'
'Ah, bah!' exclaimed the great singer again, the two syllables being
apparently her only means of expressing surprise.
'But I told your servant' Margaret began.
'Why have you not made your début?' cried Madame Bonanni,
interrupting her, and shaking her disordered locks as if in protest.
'You have millions in your throat! Why do you come here? To ask advice?
To let me hear you sing? Let the public hear you! What are you waiting
for? To-morrow you will be old! And all singers are young. How old do
you think I am? Forty-five, perhaps, because it is printed so! Not a
bit of it! A prima donna is never over thirty, never, never, never!
Imagine Juliet over thirty, or Lucia! Pah! The idea is horrible!
Fortunately, all tenors are fat. A Juliet of thirty may love a fat
Romeo, but at forty it would be disgusting, positively disgusting! I am
sick at the mere thought.'
Margaret stood up, resting one hand on the corner of the piano and
smiling at the torrent of speech. Yet all the time, while Madame
Bonanni was saying things that sounded absurd enough, the young girl
was conscious that the handsome brown eyes were studying her quietly
and perhaps not unwisely.
'I am twenty-two,' she said by way of answer.
'I made my début when I was twenty,' answered the prima
donna. 'But then,' she added, as if in explanation, 'I was married
before I was seventeen.'
'Indeed!' Margaret exclaimed politely.
'Yes. He died. Let us sing! I always want to sing when I come out of
my bath. Do you know the duo at the beginning of the fourth act? Yes?
Good. I will sing Romeo. Oh yes, I can sing the tenor partit is very
high for a man. Sit down. Imagine that you admire me and that the lark
is trying to imitate the nightingale so that we need not part. We have
not heard it yet. The man is beginning to turn up the dawn outside the
window behind us, but we do not see it. We are perfectly happy. Now,
The chords sounded softly, the two voices blended, rose and fell and
died away. The elder woman's rich lower tones imitated a tenor voice
well enough to give Margaret the little illusion she needed, and her
overflowing happiness did the rest. She sang as she had not sung
'I wish to embrace you!' cried Madame Bonanni, when they had
And forthwith Margaret felt herself enveloped in the Turkish
bath-gown, and entangled in the towzled hair and held by a pair of
tremendously strong white arms; and being thus helpless, she
experienced a kindly but portentous kiss on each cheek; after which she
was set at liberty.
'You are a real musician, too!' Madame Bonanni said with genuine
admiration. 'You can play anything, as well as sing. I hope you will
never hear me play. It is awful. I could empty any theatre instantly,
if there were a fire, merely by playing a little!'
She laughed heartily at her little joke, for like many great singers
she was half a child and half a genius, and endowed with the huge
vitality that alone makes an opera singer's life possible.
'I would give my playing to have your voice,' Margaret said.
'You would be cheated in your bargain,' observed Madame Bonanni.
'Let me look at you. Have you a big chest and a thick throat? What are
your arms like? If you have a voice and talent, strength is every
thing! Young girls come and sing to me so prettily, so sweetly! They
want to be singers! Singers, my dear, with chests like paper dolls and
throats like plucked spring chickens! Bah! They are good for nothing,
they catch cold, they give a little croak and they die. Strength is
everything. Let me see your throat! No! You will never croak! You will
never die. And your arms? Look at mine. Yes, yours will be like mine,
Margaret hoped not, for Madame Bonanni seemed to be a very big
woman, though she still managed to look human as Juliet. Perhaps that
was because the tenors were all fat.
Again a hand emerged from the thick white folds and grasped
Margaret's arm firmly above the elbow, as a trainer feels an athlete's
'Good, good! Very good!' cried Madame Bonanni approvingly. 'It is a
pity you are a lady! You are a lady, aren't you?'
'I am a peasant,' the singer answered without the least affectation.
'I always say that it takes five generations of life in the fields to
make a voice. But you are English, I suppose. Yes? All English live out
of doors. If they had a proper climate they would all sing, but they
have to keep their mouths shut all the time, to keep out the rain, and
the fog, and the smoke of their chimneys. It is incredible, how little
they open their mouths! Come and sit down. We will have a little talk.'
Margaret thought her new friend had managed to talk a good deal
already. Madame Bonanni slipped between the easels and pedestals with
surprising ease and lightness, and made for the divan. Margaret now saw
that a stool was half concealed by a fallen pillow, so that the singer
used it in order to climb up. In a moment she had settled herself
comfortably, supported on all sides by the huge cushions. Margaret
fancied she looked like a big snowball with a human head.
'Why don t you sit down, my dear?' inquired Madame Bonanni blandly.
'Yes, but where?' asked Margaret with a little laugh.
'Here! Climb up beside me on the divan.'
'I'm not used to it!' Margaret laughed. 'It looks awfully hot.'
'Then take a chair. Oh, the things? Throw them on the floor.
Somebody will pick them up. People are always sending me perfectly
useless things. Look at that picture! Did you ever see such a daub?
I'll burn it! No. I'll give it to the missionaries. They take
everything one gives them, for the African babies. Ah!'
Madame Bonanni shrieked suddenly, seized a big cushion and held it
up as a screen before her. She looked towards the door, and Margaret,
looking in the same direction, saw an over-dressed man of thirty-five
standing on the threshold.
'Go away!' screamed Madame Bonanni. 'Logotheti! Go away, I say!
Don't you see that I'm not dressed?'
'I see nothing but cushions,' answered the new-comer, showing very
white teeth and speaking with a thick accent Margaret had never heard.
'Ah! So much the better!' returned Madame Bonanni with sudden calm.
'What do you want?'
'You did me the honour to ask me to breakfast,' said Logotheti,
coming forward a few steps.
'To breakfast! Never! You are dreaming!' She paused an instant.
'Yes, I believe I did. What difference does it make? Go and get your
breakfast somewhere else!'
'Oh no!' protested the visitor, who had been examining Margaret's
face and figure. 'I can wait any length of time, but I shall keep you
to your bargain, dear lady.'
'You are detestable! Well, then you must go and look out of the
window while I get down.'
'With pleasure,' Logotheti answered, meaning exactly what he said,
and turning his back after a deliberate look at Margaret.
Madame Bonanni worked herself to the edge of the divan, with a
curious sidelong movement, got one of her feet upon the stool and
slipped down, till she stood on the floor. Then she gathered the folds
of her bathing-gown to her and ran to the door with astonishing
agility, for so large a person.
Margaret was not sure what she should do, and began to follow her,
hoping to exchange a few words with her before going away. At the door,
Madame Bonanni suddenly draped herself in the dark velvet curtain,
stuck her head out and looked back.
'Of course you will stay to breakfast, my dear!' she called out,
'Logotheti! I present you to MissMissoh, the name doesn't matter! I
'I'm afraid I cannot' Margaret began to say, not knowing how
long she might be left alone with Logotheti.
But Madame Bonanni had already unfurled the curtain and fled.
Logotheti bowed gravely to Margaret, cleared the things off one of the
chairs and offered it to her. His manner was as respectful with her as
it had been familiar with the singer, and she felt at once that he
understood her position.
'Thank you,' she said quietly, as she seated herself.
He cleared another chair and sat down at a little distance. She
glanced at him furtively and saw that he was a very dark man of rather
long features; that his eyes were almond-shaped, like those of many
orientals; that he had a heavy jaw and a large mouth with lips that
were broad rather than thick, and hardly at all concealed by a small
black moustache which was trained to lie very flat to his face, and
turned up at the ends; that his short hair was worn brush fashion,
without a parting; that he had olive brown hands with strong fingers,
on one of which he wore an enormous turquoise in a ring; that his
clothes were evidently the result of English workmanship misguided by a
very un-English taste; and finally that he was well-built and looked
strong. She wondered very much what his nationality might be, for his
accent had told her that he was not French.
After a little pause he turned his head quietly and spoke to her.
'Our friend's introduction was a little vague,' he said. 'My name is
Constantine Logotheti. I am a Greek of Constantinople by birth, or what
we call a Fanariote there. I live in Paris and I occupy myself with
what we call finance here. In other words, I spend an hour or two
every day at the Bourse. If I had anything to recommend me, I should
say so at once, but I believe there is nothing.'
'Thank you!' Margaret laughed a little at the words. 'You are very
frank. Madame Bonanni could not remember my name, as she has never seen
me before to-day. I am Miss Donne; I am studying to be an opera-singer,
and I came here for advice. I am English. I believe that is all.'
They looked at each other and smiled. Margaret was certainly not
prepossessed in the man's favour at first sight. She detested
over-dressed men, men who wore turquoise rings, and men who had oily
voices; but it was perfectly clear to her that Logotheti was a man of
the world, who knew a lady when he met one, no matter where, and meant
to behave with her precisely as if he had been introduced to her in
Mrs. Rushmore's drawing-room.
'It is my turn to thank you,' he said, acknowledging with a little
bow the favour she had conferred in telling him who she was. 'I fancy
you have not yet seen much of theatrical people, off the stage. Have
No,' answered Margaret. 'Why do you ask?'
'I wonder whether you will like them when you do,' said Logotheti.
'I never thought of it. Is Madame Bonanni a good type of them?'
'No,' Logotheti answered, after a moment's reflection. 'I don't
think she is. None of the great ones are. They all have something
original, personal, dominating, about them. That is the reason why they
are great. I was thinking of the average singer you will have to do
with if you really sing in opera. As for Madame Bonanni, she has a
heart of pure gold. We are old friends, and I know her well.'
'I can quite believe that she is kind-hearted,' Margaret answered.
But don't you think, perhaps, that she is just a little too much so?'
'How do you mean?'
'That she might be too kind to tell a beginner just what she really
'No, indeed.' Logotheti laughed at the idea. 'You would not think so
if you knew how many poor girls she sends away in tears because she
tells them the honest truth, that they have neither voice nor talent,
and will fail miserably if they go on. That is real kindness after all!
Have you sung to her?'
'Yes,' answered Margaret.
'May I ask what she said? I know her so well that I can perhaps be
of use to you. Sometimes, for instance, she says nothing at all. That
means that there may be a chance of success but that she herself is not
'She kissed me on both cheeks,' Margaret said with a laugh, 'and she
talked about my début.'
'Then I should advise you to make your début at once,'
Logotheti answered. 'She means that you will have a very great
'Do you really think so?' asked Margaret, much pleased.
'I know it,' he replied with conviction. 'That woman is utterly
incapable of saying anything she does not think, but she sometimes
gives her opinion with horrible brutality.'
'I rather like that.'
'Yes. It is good medicine.'
'Then you have only been a spectator, and never the patient!'
'Perhaps. Tell me all about Madame Bonanni.'
'All about her?' Logotheti smiled oddly. 'Well, she is a great
artist, perhaps the greatest living soprano, though she is getting old.
You can see that. Let me see, what else? She is very frank, I have told
you that. And she is charitable. She gives away a great deal. She has a
great many friends, of whom I call myself one, and we are all sincerely
attached to her. I cannot think of anything else to tell you about
'She said she was born a peasant,' observed Margaret who wished to
'Oh yes!' Logotheti laughed. 'There is no doubt of that! Besides,
she is proud of it.'
'She was married at seventeen, too.'
'They all marry,' answered Logotheti vaguely, 'and their husbands
disappear, by some law of nature we do not understandabsorbed into
the elements, evaporated, drawn up into the clouds like moisture. One
might write an interesting essay on the husbands of prima donnas and
great actresses. What becomes of them? We know whence they come, for
they are often impecunious gentlemen, but where do they go? There must
be a limbo for them, somewhere, a place of departed husbands. Possibly
they are all in lunatic asylums. The greater the singer, or the
actress, the more certain it is that she has been married and that her
husband has disappeared! It is very mysterious.'
'Very!' Margaret was rather amused by his talk.
'Have you lived long in Paris?' he asked, suddenly changing the
'We live in Versailles. I come in for my lessons.'
Without asking many direct questions Logotheti managed to find out a
good deal about Margaret during the next quarter of an hour. She was
not suspicious of a man who showed no inclination to be familiar or to
make blatant compliments to her, and she told him that her father and
mother were dead and that she lived with Mrs. Rushmore and saw many
interesting people, most of whom he seemed to know. He, on his part,
told her many things about Versailles which she did not know, and she
soon saw that he was a man of varied tastes and wide information. She
wondered why he wore such a big turquoise ring and why he had such a
wonderful waistcoat, such a superlative tie, such an amazing shirt and
such a frightfully expensive pin. But it was not the first time in her
life that she had met an otherwise intelligent man who made the mistake
of over-dressing, and her first prejudice against him began to
disappear. She even admitted to herself that he had a certain charm of
manner which she liked, a mingling of reserve and frankness, or repose
and strength, the qualities which appeal so strongly to most women. If
only his voice had not that disagreeable oiliness! After all, that was
what she liked least. He spoke French with wonderful fluency, but he
abstained from making the tiresome compliments which so many Frenchmen
reel off even at first acquaintance. He had really beautiful
almond-shaped eyes, but he never once turned them to her with that
languishing look which young men with almond eyes seem to think quite
irresistible. Surely, all this was in his favour.
After being gone about half an hour, Madame Bonanni came back, her
Juno-like figure clad in a very pale green tea-gown, very open at the
throat, and her thick hair was smoothed in great curved surfaces which
were certainly supported by cushions underneath them. Her solid arms
were bare to the elbows, and the green sleeves hung almost to her feet.
Her face was rouged and there were artificial shadows under her eyes.
Round her neck she wore a single string of pearls as big as olives, and
her fingers were covered with all sorts of rings.
'Now you may look at me,' she said, with a gay laugh.
'I see a star of the first magnitude,' Logotheti answered gravely.
Margaret bit her lip to keep from laughing, but Madame Bonanni
laughed herself, very good-naturedly, though she understood.
'I detest this man!' she cried, turning to Margaret. 'I don't know
why I ask him to breakfast.'
'Because you cannot live without me, I suppose,' suggested
'I hate Greeks!' screamed the prima donna, still laughing. 'Why are
you a Greek?'
'Doubtless by a mistake of my father's, dear lady; quite
unpardonable since you are displeased! If he had lived, he certainly
would have rectified it to please you, but the Turks killed him when I
was a baby in arms; and that was before you were born.'
'Of course it was,' answered Madame Bonanni, who must have been just
about to be married at that time. 'But that is no reason why we should
stand here starving to death while you chatter.'
Thereupon she put her arm through Margaret's and led her away at a
brisk pace, Logotheti following at a little distance and contemplating
the young girl's moving figure with the satisfaction that only an
Oriental feels in youthful womanly beauty. It was long since he had
seen any sight that pleased him as well, for his artistic sense was
fastidious in the highest degree where the things of daily life were
not concerned. He might indeed wear waistcoats that inspired terror and
jewellery that dazzled the ordinary eye, but there were few men in
Paris who were better judges of a picture, a statue, an intaglio, or a
In a few moments the three were seated at a carved and polished
table overloaded with silver and cut glass, one on each side of Madame
Bonanni. Three other places were set, but no one appeared to fill them.
The cheerful servant with the moustache was arrayed in a neat frock
coat and a white satin tie, and he smiled perpetually.
'I adore plover's eggs!' cried Madame Bonanni, as he set a plate
before her containing three tiny porcelain bowls, in each of which a
little boiled plover's egg lay buried in jelly.
It was evident that she was speaking the truth, for they disappeared
in an instant, and were followed by a bisque of shrimps of the most
'It is my passion!' she said.
She took her spoon in her hand, but appeared to hesitate, for she
glanced first at Margaret, then down at her green tea-gown, and then at
Margaret again. At last she seemed to make up her mind, and quickly
unfolding the damask napkin she tied it round her neck in a solid knot.
The stiff points stood out on each side behind her ears. She emitted a
sigh of satisfaction and went to work at the soup. Margaret pretended
to see nothing and made an indifferent remark to Logotheti.
Madame Bonanni made a good deal of noise, finally tipping up her
plate and scraping out the contents to the last drop.
'Ah!' she exclaimed with immense satisfaction. 'That was good!'
'Perfect,' assented Logotheti, who ate delicately and noiselessly,
as Orientals do.
'Delicious! said Margaret, who was hungry.
'I taught my cook the real way to make it,' Madame Bonanni said. 'I
am a good cook, a very good cook! I always did the cooking at home
before I came to Paris to study, because my mother was not able to
stand long. One of the farm horses had kicked her and broken her leg
and she was always lame after that. Well?' she asked suddenly turning
to the cheerful servant. 'Is that all we are to have to-day? I am dying
A marvellous salmon trout made its appearance a moment later.
'Oh yes!' exclaimed the prima donna. 'I am fond of eating! You may
laugh at me if you like, Logotheti. I am perfectly indifferent!'
And she was. She did all sorts of things that surprised Margaret,
and when a dish of ortolans with a rich brown sauce was put before her,
she deliberately discarded her knife and fork altogether and ate with
her hands. By way of terminating the operation, she stuck every finger
of each hand into her mouth as far as it would go, licked all ten
thoroughly, and then looked at them critically before drying them on
her napkin. By this time Margaret was past being surprised at anything.
'Logotheti says that in the East they all eat with their fingers,'
the singer observed.
'It is much cleaner,' Logotheti answered imperturbably.
Margaret uttered an involuntary exclamation of surprise.
'Of course it is!' he exclaimed. 'I know who washes my fingers. I
don't know who washes the forks, nor who used them last. If one stopped
to think about it, one would never use a fork or a spoon that was not
one's own or washed by oneself. I am sure that every sort of disease is
caught from other people's forks and spoons.'
'What a horrible idea!' exclaimed Margaret with disgust. 'I shall
never want to eat at a hotel or a restaurant again.'
'You will forget it,' replied Logotheti reassuringly. 'Civilisation
makes us forget a great many little things of the sort, I assure you!'
'But is there no way of protecting oneself?' Margaret asked.
'It is absurd!' cried Madame Bonanni. 'I don't believe in germs and
microbes and such silly things! If they exist we are full of them, and
I have no doubt they do us good.'
'It would be just as easy to boil the forks and spoons for ten
minutes in clean water, after they are washed,' observed Logotheti.
'But after all, fingers are safer.'
'Things taste better with fingers,' said Madame Bonanni
'In the East,' Logotheti answered, 'people pour water on their hands
after each course. Why don't you try that?'
'I wash my hands afterwards; it is less trouble.'
Logotheti laughed, but Margaret was disgusted, and did not even
smile. Madame Bonanni's proceedings had made an impression on her which
it would be hard to forget, and she sat silent for a while, not tasting
'Logotheti,' said Madame Bonanni later, with her mouth full of
strawberries and cream, 'you must do something for me.'
'An investment, dear lady? I suppose you want some of the bonds of
the new electric road, don't you? They are not to be had, but of course
you shall have them at once. Or else you have decided to give your
whole fortune to an eccentric charity. Is that it?'
'No,' answered the singer, swallowing. 'This charming young
ladywhat is your name, my dear? I have forgotten it twenty times this
'Donne. Margaret Donne.'
'This charming Miss Donne sings, Logotheti.'
'So I gathered while we were talking.'
'No, you didn't! You gathered no such thing! She told you that she
took lessons, perhaps. But I tell you that she sings. It is quite
Madame Bonanni pushed away her plate, planted her large white elbows
on the table and looked thoughtfully at Margaret. Logotheti looked at
the young girl, too, for he knew very well what his old friend meant by
the simple statement, slightly emphasised.
'Ah!' he ejaculated. 'I understand. I am at your service.'
'What is it?' asked Margaret, blushing a little and turning from one
to the other.
'Logotheti knows everybody,' answered Madame Bonanni. 'He is rich,
immensely rich, fabulously rich, my dear. He is in the high finance,
in fact. It is disgusting, how rich he is, but it is sometimes useful.
He wants a theatre, a newspaper; he buys it and does what he likes with
it. It makes no difference to him, for he always sells it again for
more than he gave for it, and besides, it amuses him. You would not
think it, but Logotheti is often dreadfully bored.'
'Very often,' assented the Greek, 'but never when I am with you.'
'Ah, bah! You say that! But why should I care? You always do what I
'And out of pure friendship, too.'
'The purest!' Logotheti uttered the two words with profound
'I never could induce this creature to make love to me,' cried
Madame Bonanni, turning to Margaret with a laugh. 'It is incredible!
And yet I love himalmost as well as plover's eggs! It is true that if
he made love to me, I should have him turned out of the house. But that
makes no difference. It is one of the disappointments of my life that
'What I admire next to your genius, is your logic, dear lady,' said
'Precisely. Now before you have your coffee you will give me your
word of honour that Miss Donne shall have a triumph and an ovation at
her début, and an engagement to sing next season at the Opéra.'
'Really' Margaret tried to protest.
'You know nothing about business,' interrupted Madame Bonanni. 'You
are nothing but a child! These things are done in this way. Logotheti,
give me your word of honour.'
'Are you sure of the voice?' asked the Greek quietly.
'As sure as I am of my own.'
'Very well. I give you my word. It is done.'
'Good. I hate you, Logotheti, because you are so cautious, but you
always do what you promise. You may have your coffee now! What name are
you going to take, my dear?' she asked, turning to Margaret, who felt
very uncomfortable. 'The name is very important, you know, even when
one has your genius.'
'My genius!' exclaimed the young girl in confusion.
'I know what I am talking about,' answered Madame Bonanni in a
matter-of-fact tone. 'You will get up on the morning of your début
as little Miss Donne, nobody! You will go to bed as the great new
soprano, famous! That is what you will do. Now don't talk, but let me
give you a name, and we will drink your health to it in a drop of that
old white Chartreuse. You like that old white Chartreuse, Logotheti.
You shall have none till you have found a name for Miss Donne.'
'May I not keep my own?' Margaret asked timidly.
'No. It is an absurd name for the stage, my dear. All the people
would make jokes about it. Of course you must be either Italian, or
French, or German, or Hungarian, or Spanish. There is no great Italian
soprano just now. I advise you to be an Italian. You are
SignorinaSignorina what? Logotheti, do make haste! You know Italian.'
'May I ask where you were born, Miss Donne?' inquired Logotheti.
'In Oxford. But what has that to do with it?'
'Translate into Italian: ox, bove, ford, guado. No, that won't
'Certainly not!' cried Madame Bonanni. 'Guadoguano! Fancy! Try
again. Think of a pretty Italian name. It must be very easy! Take an
historical name, the name of a great family. Those people never
'Cordova is a fine name,' observed Logotheti. 'She may just as well
be Spanish, after all. Margarita da Cordova. That sounds rather well.'
'Yes. Do you like it, my dear?' asked Madame Bonanni.
'But I don't know a word of Spanish'
'What in the world has that to do with it? It is a good name. You
may have your Chartreuse, Logotheti. Margarita da Cordova, the great
Spanish soprano! Your health! You were born in the little town of
Boveguado in Andalusia.'
'Your father was the famous contrabandier Ramon da Cordova, who sang
like an angel and played the guitar better than any one in Spain.'
'Was there ever such a man?'
'No, of course not! And besides, he was stabbed in a love affair
when you were a baby, so that it does not matter. You ought to be able
to make something out of that for the papers, Logotheti. Carmen, don't
you know? Heavens, how romantic!'
Margaret had a vague idea that she was dreaming, that Madame Bonanni
and Logotheti were not real people, and that she was going to waken in
a few minutes. The heavy, middle-aged woman with the good-natured face
and the painted cheeks could not possibly be the tragic Juliet, the
terrible Tosca, the poor, mad, fluttering Lucia, whose marvellous voice
had so often thrilled the young girl to the heart, in Paris and in
London. It was either a dream or a cruel deception. Her own words
sounded far away and unsteady when she was at last allowed to speak.
'I am sure I cannot sing in public in less than a year,' she said.
'You are very kind, but you are exaggerating my talent. I could never
get through the whole opera well enough.'
Madame Bonanni looked at her curiously for a moment, not at all
certain that she was in earnest; but she saw that Margaret meant what
she said. There was no mistaking the troubled look in the girl's eyes.
'I suppose you are not afraid to come here and sing before an
impresario and three or four musicians, are you?' inquired the singer.
'No!' cried Margaret. 'But that is different.'
'Did you think that any manager would engage you, even for one
night, merely on my word, my child? You will have to show what you can
do. But I can tell you one thing, little Miss Donne!' A great,
good-natured laugh rolled out before Madame Bonanni proceeded to state
the one thing she could tell. 'When you have sung the waltz song in
Romeo and Juliet, and the duo in the fifth act, to four or five of
the men who make a living out of us artists, you will be surprised at
what happens afterwards! Those people will not risk their money for
your handsome eyes, my dear! And they know their business, don't they,
He answered by speaking directly to Margaret.
'I think,' he said quietly, 'that you can have confidence in Madame
'Listen to me,' said the prima donnasuddenly, and for some unknown
reason, rubbing all the rouge off her right cheek with the corner of
her napkin and then inspecting curiously the colour that adhered to the
linen'listen to me! I sing day after to-morrow, for the last time
before going to London. Come to my dressing-room after the second act.
I will have Schreiermeyer there, and we will make an appointment for
the next day, and settle the matter at once. It's understood, isn't
Margaret was delighted, for Logotheti's quiet words had reassured
her a little. Madame Bonanni rose suddenly, untying her napkin from her
neck as she got up, and throwing it on the floor behind her. Before she
had reached the door she yawned portentously.
'I always go to sleep when I have eaten,' she said. 'Find a cab for
little Miss Donne, Logothetifor the famous Señorita da Cordova!' She
laughed sleepily, and waved her hand to Margaret.
'I don't know how to thank you,' the young girl began, but before
she got any further Madame Bonanni had disappeared.
A few moments later Margaret and Logotheti were in the street. The
noonday air was warm and bright and she drew in deep breaths of it, as
she had done in the morning. Logotheti looked at her from under the
brim of his Panama hat.
'We shall find a cab in a minute,' he said, in an indifferent tone.
They walked a few steps in silence.
'I hope you don't really mean to do what Madame Bonanni asked of
you,' Margaret said, rather awkwardly. 'I mean, about my début,
if it really comes off.'
Logotheti laughed lightly.
'She always talks in that way,' he said. 'She thinks I can do
anything, but as a matter of fact I have no influence to speak of, and
money has nothing to do with an artist's success. I shall certainly be
there on your first night, and you will not object to my splitting my
gloves in applauding you?'
'Oh no!' Margaret laughed, too. 'You are welcome to do that! There
is a cab.'
She held up her parasol to attract the driver's attention, and
Logotheti made a few steps forward and called him.
'Where shall I tell the man to take you?' Logotheti asked, as she
'To the Saint Lazare station, please. Thank you very much!'
She smiled pleasantly and nodded as she drove away. He stood still a
moment on the pavement, looking after her, and then turned in the
opposite direction, lighting a cigarette as he walked.
He was a Greek, and an educated one, and as he sauntered along on
the shady side of the Avenue Hoche, the cigarette twitched oddly in his
mouth, as if he were talking to himself. From four and twenty centuries
away, in the most modern city of the world, broken lines of an ode of
Anacreon came ringing to his ears, and his lips formed the words
'I wish I were the zone that lies
Warm to thy breast, and feels its sighs ...
Oh, anything that touches thee!
Nay, sandals for those fairy feet ...'
That, at least, is the English for it, according to Thomas Moore.
Margaret was not quite sure how she could find her way to Madame
Bonanni's dressing-room at the Opéra, but she had no intention of
missing the appointment. The most natural and easy way of managing
matters would be to ask her teacher to go with her, and she could then
spend the night at the latter's house. She accordingly stopped there
before she went to the station.
The elderly artist burst into tears on hearing the result of the
interview with Madame Bonanni, and fell upon Margaret's neck.
'I knew it,' she said. 'I was sure of it, but I did not dare to tell
Margaret was very happy, but she was a little nervous about her
frock and wondered whether tears stained, as sea water does. The old
singer was of a very different type from Madame Bonanni, and had never
enjoyed such supremacy as the latter, even for a few months. But she
had been admired for her perfect method, her good acting, and her
agreeable voice, and for having made the most of what nature had given
her; and when she had retired from the stage comparatively young, as
the wife of the excellent Monsieur Durand, she had already acquired a
great reputation as a model for young singers, and she soon consented
to give lessons. Unfortunately, Monsieur Durand had made ducks and
drakes of her earnings in a few years, by carefully mis-investing every
penny she possessed; but as he had then lost no time in destroying
himself by the over-use of antidotes to despair, such as absinthe, his
widow had soon re-established the equilibrium of her finances by hard
work and was at the present time one of the most famous teachers of
singers for the stage. Madame Durand was a Neapolitan by birth and had
been known to modest fame on the stage as Signora De Rosa, that being
her real name; for Italian singers seem to be the only ones who do not
care for high-sounding pseudonyms. She was a voluble little person,
over-flowing with easy feeling which made her momentarily intensely
happy, miserable, or angry, as the case might be. Whichever it might
be, she generally shed abundant tears.
Margaret went back to Versailles feeling very happy, but determined
to say nothing of what had happened except to Mrs. Rushmore, who need
only know that Madame Bonanni had spoken in an encouraging way and
wished to see her at the theatre. For the girl herself found it hard to
believe half of what the prima donna had told her, and was far from
believing that she was on the eve of signing her first engagement.
Madame Bonanni had breakfasted at half-past eleven, but Mrs.
Rushmore lunched at half-past one, and Margaret found her at table with
Lushington and three or four other people who had dropped in. There was
an English officer who had got his Victoria Cross in South Africa and
was on his way to India, with a few days to spare by the way; there was
a middle-aged French portrait-painter who had caressing ways and an
immense reputation; there was a woman of the world whose husband was an
Austrian and was in the diplomatic service; and there was a young
archæologist just from Crete, who foregathered with Lushington.
They were at the end of luncheon when Margaret came in, they were
sipping fine wine from very thin glasses, they were all saying their
second-best things, because each one was afraid that if he said his
very best before dinner one of the others would steal it; and Mrs.
Rushmore was in her element.
Margaret came in with her hat on and sat down in her place, which
was opposite Mrs. Rushmore. The men subsided again into their chairs
and looked at her. Lushington was next to her, but she smiled at the
others first, nodding quietly and answering their greetings.
'You seem pleased,' Lushington said, when he saw that she would hear
'Do I?' She smiled again.
'That sort of answer always means a secret,' Lushington replied.
'Happiness for one, don't you know?'
'By the way,' asked the English officer on her other side, 'was not
your father the famous army coach?'
'No,' Margaret replied. 'I'm often asked that.'
'What is an army coach?' inquired the French painter, who spoke some
English. 'Is it not an ambulance? But I do not understand.'
Mrs. Rushmore began to explain in an undertone.
'Miss Donne's father was an Oxford don,' observed Lushington, rather
At this quite unintentional pun the French painter laughed so much
that every one turned and looked at him. He had once painted a famous
man in Oxford, and knew what a don was.
'Make the next one in Greek,' said Margaret to Lushington, with a
'There are some very bad puns in Aristophanes,' observed the
archæologist thoughtfully. 'Why don't you go to Crete?' he inquired
very suddenly of Mrs. Rushmore.
Mrs. Rushmore, who did not happen to have heard of the recent
discoveries yet, felt a little as if the young man had asked her why
she did not go to Jericho. But she concealed her feelings, being quite
sure that no offence to her dignity was meant.
'It is so far,' she answered with a vague smile.
'It's a beastly hole,' observed the soldier. 'I was there when that
row was going on.'
'The discoveries have all been made since then,' answered the
archæologist, who could think of nothing else. 'You have no idea what
those paintings are,' he continued, talking to the table. 'I have been
there several weeks and I'm going back next month. Logotheti is going
to take a party of us in his big yacht.'
'Who is Logotheti?' inquired Margaret, with great calm.
'A financier,' put in Lushington.
'A millionaire,' said the artist. 'I have painted his portrait.'
'He seems to be interested in discoveries,' Margaret said to the
archæologist. 'I suppose you know him very well?'
'Oh yes! He is a most interesting person, a Greek of Constantinople
by birth, but a real Greek at heart, who knows his own literature, and
loves his country, and spends immense sums in helping archæology. He
really cares for nothing but art! Finance amuses him now and then for a
while, and he has been tremendously lucky. They consider him one of the
important men in the money market, don't they?'
The question was directed to the French artist.
'Certainly they do!' replied the latter, with alacrity. 'I have
painted his portrait.'
'I should like to know him,' said Mrs. Rushmore.
'He is quite delightful,' the woman of the world chimed in. 'Quite
the most amusing man I know!'
'You know him, too?' Mrs. Rushmore asked.
'Everybody knows Logotheti!' answered the other.
'You must really bring him,' said Mrs. Rushmore, in a general way,
'I am sure he will be enchanted!' cried the archæologist. 'I am
dining with him to-night, and if you will allow me I'll bring him
'You seem very sure that he will come,' Margaret said.
'But why should he not? Every one is glad to come to Mrs. Rushmore's
This was an unanswerable form of complimentary argument. Margaret
reflected on that strange law by which, when we have just heard for the
first time of a fact or a person, we are sure to come across it, or
him, again, within the next twenty-four hours. She did not believe that
Logotheti could be found at short notice and introduced to new
acquaintances so easily as the young scholar seemed to think; but she
made up her mind, if he came at all, that she would prevent him from
talking about their meeting at Madame Bonanni's, which she wished to
avoid mentioning for the present. That would be easy enough, for a man
of his tact would understand the slightest sign, and behave as if he
had not met her before.
In the afternoon she was alone with Lushington again. He was not at
all in an aggressive mood; indeed, he seemed rather depressed. They
walked slowly under the oaks and elms.
'What is the matter?' Margaret asked gently, after a silence.
'I have been thinking a great deal about you,' he answered.
'The thought seems to make you sad!' Margaret laughed, for she was
'Yes. It does,' he answered, with a sigh that certainly was not
'But why?' she asked, growing grave at once.
'There is no reason why I should not tell you. After all, we know
each other too well to apologise for saying what we think. Don't we?'
'I hope so,' Margaret answered, wondering what he was going to say.
'But then,' said Lushington disconsolately, 'I am perfectly sure
that nothing I can say can have the slightest effect.'
'Who knows?' The young girl's lids drooped a little and then opened
'You know.' He spoke gravely and with regret.
She tried to laugh.
'I wish I did! But what is it? There can be no harm in saying it!'
'You have made up your mind to be an opera-singer,' Lushington
answered. 'You have a beautiful voice, you have talent, you have been
well taught. You will succeed.'
He had never said as much as that about her singing, and she was
pleased. After many months of patient work, the acknowledgment of it
seemed to be all coming in one day.
'You talk as if you were quite sure.'
'Yes. You will succeed. But there is another side to it. Shall you
think me priggish and call me disagreeable if I tell you that it is no
life for a woman brought up like you?'
Margaret had just acquired some insight into the existence of the
class she meant to join, though by no means into the worst phase of it.
She was sure that if she closed her eyes she should see Madame Bonanni
vividly before her, and hear her talking to Logotheti, and smell the
heavy air of the big room. She felt that she could not call Lushington
'I think I know what you mean,' she answered. 'But surely, an artist
can lead her own life, especially if she is successful.'
'No,' Lushington answered, 'she cannot. That's just it.'
'How do you know?' Margaret asked, incredulously.
'I do know,' he said with emphasis. 'I assure you that I know. I
have seen a great deal of operatic people. A few, and they are not
generally the great ones, try to lead their own lives, as you put it,
but they either don't succeed at all or else they make themselves so
disagreeable to their fellow artists that life becomes a burden.'
'If they don't succeed, it's because they have no strength of
character,' Margaret answered, 'and if they make themselves
disagreeable, it's because they have no tact!'
'That settles it!' Lushington laughed drily. 'I had better not say
'I did not mean to cut you short. I beg your pardon. Please go on,
She turned to him as she said the last words, and there was in the
word 'please' that one tone of hers which he could never resist. It is
said that even lifeless things, like bridges and towers, are subject by
nature to the vibration of a sympathetic note, and that the greatest
buildings in the world would tremble, and shake, and rock and fall in
ruins if that single musical sound were steadily produced near to them.
We men cannot pretend to be harder of hearing and feeling than stocks
and stones. The woman who loves, whether she herself knows it or not,
has her call, that we answer as the wood-bird answers his mate, her
sympathetic word and note at which we vibrate to our heart's core.
When Margaret said 'please' in a certain way, Lushington's free will
seemed to retire from him suddenly, to contemplate his weakness from a
little distance. When she said 'please go on,' he went on, and not only
said what he had meant to say but a great deal more, too.
'It would bore you to know all about my existence,' he began, 'but
as a critic and otherwise I happen to have been often in contact with
theatrical people, especially opera-singers. I have at least
oneerone very dear friend amongst them.
'A man?' suggested Margaret.
'No. A womanof a certain age. As I see her very often, I naturally
see other singers, especially as she is very much liked by them. I only
tell you that to explain why I know so much about them; and if I want
to explain at all, it's only because I like you so much, and because I
suppose that what I like most about you, next to yourself, is just that
something which my dear old friend can never have. Do you understand?'
Lushington was certainly very shy as a rule, and most people would
have said that he was very cold; but Margaret suddenly felt that there
was a true and deep emotion behind his plain speech.
'You have been very fond of her,' she said gently.
He flushed almost before she had finished speaking; but he could not
have been angry, for he smiled.
'Yes, I have always been very fond of her,' he answered, after a
scarcely perceptible pause, 'and I always shall be. But she is old
enough to be my mother.'
'I'm glad if it's really a friendship,' said Margaret; 'and only a
friendship,' she added.
He turned his eyes to her rather slowly.
'I believe you really are glad,' he answered. 'Thank you. I'm very
fond of you. I can't help it. I suppose I love you, and I have no
business toand sometimes you say things that touch me. That's all.
After this rather inexplicable speech he relapsed into silence. But
there are silences of all sorts, as there is speech of all sorts. There
are silences that set one's teeth on edgeit is always a relief to
break them; and there are silences that are gentler, kinder, sweeter,
more loving, more eloquent than any words, and which it is always a
wrench to interrupt. Of these was the pause that followed now; but
Margaret was asking herself what he meant by saying that he had no
right to love her.
'Do you know what the hardest thing in my life is?' Lushington
asked, suddenly rousing himself. 'It is the certainty that my friend
can never have been and never can be at all like you in everything that
appeals to me most. But it would be still worseoh, infinitely
worse!to see you grow like her, by living amongst the same people.
You will suffer if you do, and you will suffer if you cannot. That is
why I dread the idea of your going on the stage.'
'But I really think I shall not change so much as you think, if I
do,' Margaret said.
'You don't know the life,' Lushington answered rather sadly. 'All I
can do is to tell you that it is not fit for you, or that you are not
fit for it, because you are not by nature what most of them are, and
please God you never will be.'
He spoke very earnestly, and another little silence followed, during
which the two walked on.
'Please notice that I have not called you a prig for saying that,'
said Margaret at last. 'And I have not thought you one either,' she
added, before he could answer.
'You re very nice!' Lushington tried to laugh, but it was rather a
'But of course you've no business to think me nice, have you?'
It was not even curiosity, nor an idle inclination to flirt that
made Margaret ask the question at last. She had never felt so strongly
drawn to him as now.
He looked at her quietly, and answered without the least hesitation
'I've no business to be in love with you, because I'm a fraud,' he
'A fraud! You? What in the world do you mean?'
Margaret was thoroughly surprised. This gifted, shy, youthful man
who had fought his way to the front by his own talent and hard work,
was of all people she knew the one with whom she least connected any
idea of deception. He only nodded and looked at her.
'A fraud!' she exclaimed again. 'I suppose it's some sort of false
modesty that makes you say that! You know that you are a very
successful writer and that you have earned your success. Why do you try
to make out'
'I'm not trying to make out anything. I tell you the plain truth.
I'm a fraud.'
'Nonsense!' Margaret was almost angry at his persistence.
'I would not tell you, if I did not care for you so much,' he
answered. 'But as I do, and as you seem to like me a little, I should
be an awful cad if I kept you in the dark any longer. You won't publish
it on the housetops. I'm not Edmund Lushington at all.'
'You are not Edmund Lushington, the critic?' Margaret's mouth opened
'I'm the critic all right,' he answered, with a faint smile. 'I'm
the man that writes, the man you've heard of. But I'm not Lushington.
It's an assumed name.'
'Oh!' Margaret seemed relieved. 'Is that all? Many people who write
take other names.'
'But they are not generally known by them to their friends,'
Lushington observed. 'That's where the fraud comes in, in my case. A
man may sign his book Judas Iscariot or Peter the Great if he likes,
provided he's known as Mr. Smith at home, if that's his real name.'
'Is your real name Smith?' Margaret asked. 'Is that why you changed
Lushington could not help smiling.
'No. If I had been called Smith, I would have stuck to it. Smith is
a very good, honest name. Most of the people who originally came by it
made armour and were more or less artists. No! I wish I were a Smith,
indeed I do! The name is frequent, not common, that's all.'
Margaret was puzzled, and looked at his face, as if she were
thinking out the problem.
'No,' she said suddenly, and with decision. 'You are not a Jew.
'I'm not a Jew.' He laughed this time. 'But I know several very
interesting Jews, and I don't dislike them at all. I really should not
mind being called Solomon Isaacs! I would not have changed the name
'You might have been called Isidore Guggenheimer,' Margaret
'Wellthat! For purposes of literature, it would not be practical.'
'You forget that you have not told me your real name yet. You see,
if I should ever happen to think of you again, I'd rather not think of
you under a pseudonym, unless it were in connection with your books.'
'That's the only way in which you are likely to think of me,' he
answered. 'But if you really want to know, my first name is Thomas,
diminutive Tomplain Tom.'
'I like that much better than Edmund,' said Margaret, who had simple
tastes. 'Is the other one as nice?'
'I don't know what you might think of it,' Lushington answered. 'It
is neither common nor uncommon, and not at all striking, but I cannot
tell you what it is. I'm sorry to make a mystery of it, for my father
was nobody in particular, and I was nobody in particular until I was
heard of as Lushington, the critic. And I've been Lushington so long
that I'm used to it. I was called so at school and at Oxford.'
'As long ago as that!' Margaret again seemed relieved.
'Yes. Oh, I've done nothing disgraceful, nor my father either! It's
not that. I cannot possibly explain, but it's the reason why I'm a
fraudas far as you are concerned.'
'Only as far as I am concerned?'
'Nobody else happens to matter. Mrs. Rushmore receives all sorts of
interesting people, many of whom have played tricks with their names.
Why should she care? Why should anybody care? We have all done the
things we are known for, and we are not in love with Mrs. Rushmore,
though she is a very agreeable woman! She wouldn't care to call me Tom,
'I don't know,' Margaret answered with a laugh. 'She might!'
'At all events, it's not necessary to tell her,' said Lushington.
'No. But suppose that I should not care to call you Tom either, and
yet should wish to call you something, don't you know? That might
Lushington did not answer at once, and Margaret was a little
displeased, for she had said more than she had ever meant to say to
show him what she was beginning to feel. She held her head rather high
as they walked on under the great trees, and her eyes sparkled coldly
now and then.
She had known for a long time that he loved her, and to-day he had
told her so, almost roughly; and for some time, also, she had
understood that she was growing fond of him. But now that she held out
her hand, metaphorically, he would not take it.
'I don't want to know your secret, if it is as important as that,'
she said at last. 'A man who hides his real name so carefully must have
some very good reason for doing it.'
She emphasised the words almost cruelly and looked straight before
her, and her eyes sparkled again. His lips parted to make a quick
retort, but he checked himself, and then spoke quietly.
'I have never done anything I am ashamed of,' he said.
'I don't think it's very nice to do what you are doing now,'
Margaret retorted, coolly. 'It doesn't inspire confidence, you know.'
'Can't we part without quarrelling?'
'Oh, certainly! Do you mean to go away?'
'You leave me no choice. Shall we turn back to the house? It will
sooner be over. I can leave before dinner. It will be easy to find an
'Yes! Those proofs you have been talking of latelyyour
publishersanything will do!'
Margaret was thoroughly angry with him and with herself by this
time, and he was deeply hurt, and they turned and walked stiffly, with
their noses in the air, as if they never meant to speak to each other
'It's very odd!' Margaret observed at last, as if she had made a
'What is very odd?'
'I never liked you as much as I did a quarter of an hour ago, and I
never disliked you as much as I do now! Do you understand that?'
'Yes. You make it very clear. I never heard any thing put more
'I'm glad of that. But it's very funny. I detest you just now, and
yet, if you go away at once, I know I shall be sorry. On the whole, do
you know?you had better not leave to-night.'
Lushington turned sharply on her.
'Are you playing with me?' he asked, in an angry tone.
'No,' she answered with exasperating coolness, 'I don't think I am.
Only, you are two people, you see. It confuses me. You are Mr.
Lushington, and then, the next minute, you'reTom. I hate Mr.
Lushington. I believe I always did. I wish I might never see him
'Oh indeed! How about Tom?'
'Tom is rather bearable than otherwise,' Margaret answered, laughing
again. 'He knows that I think so, too, and it's no reason why he should
be always trying to keep out of the way!'
'He has no right to be in the way.'
'Then he ought never to have come here. But since he has, I would
rather have him stay.'
When she had thus explained herself with perfect frankness and made
known her wishes, Margaret seemed to think that there was nothing more
to be said. But Lushington thought otherwise.
'Why do you hate Mr. Lushington?' he asked.
'Because he is a fraud,' Margaret answered. 'As you have just told
me that he is, you cannot possibly deny it, and you can't quarrel with
me for not liking him. So there!'
All her good-humour had come back, the cold sparkle in her eyes had
turned into afternoon sunshine, and she swung her closed parasol gently
on one finger by its hook as she walked, nodding her head just
perceptibly as if keeping time with it. She expected an answer, a laugh
perhaps, or a retort; but nothing came. She glanced sideways at
Lushington, thinking to meet his eyes, but they were watching the
ground as he walked, a yard before his feet. She turned her head and
looked at his face, and she realised that it was a little drawn, and
had grown suddenly pale, and that there were dark shadows under his
eyes which she had never seen before. The healthy, shy, rather too
youthful mask was gone, and in its place she saw the features of a
mature man who was quietly suffering a great deal. She fancied that he
must often look as he did now, when he was alone.
'Could any one do anything to make it easier for you?' she asked
softly, after a moment.
He looked up quickly in surprise, and then shook his head, without
'Because, if I could help you, I would,' she added.
'Thank you. I know you would,' He spoke with real gratitude, and the
colour began to come back to his face. You see, it's not a thing that
can be changed, or helped, or bettered. It's a condition from which I
cannot escape, and I've got to live in it. It would have been easier if
I had never met you, my dear Miss Donne!'
He straightened himself and put on something of the formality that
had become a habit with him, as it easily does with shy men who feel
'Please don't call me Miss Donne,' Margaret said, very low.
'Margaret' he paused on the syllables, as he almost whispered
them. 'No!' he said, suddenly, as if angry with himself. 'That's silly!
Don't make me do such things, please, or I shall hate myself! Nothing
in the world can ever change what is, and I shall never have the right
to put out my hand and ask you to marry me. The best we can do is to
say good-bye, and I'll try to keep out of your way. Help me to do that,
for it's the only help you can ever give me!'
'I don't believe it,' Margaret answered. 'We can always be friends,
if we cannot be anything else.'
Lushington shook his head incredulously, but said nothing.
'Why not?' Margaret asked, clinging to her idea. 'Why can't we like
each other, be very, very fond of each other, and meet often, and each
help the other in life? I don't want to know your secret. I won't even
call you Tom, as I want to, and you shall be as stiff and formal with
me as you please. What do such things matter, if we really care? If we
really trust one another, and know it? The main thing is to know, to be
absolutely sure. Why do you wish to go away, just when I've found out
how much I want you to stay? It's not right, and it's not kind! Indeed
They had been walking very slowly, and now she stood still and faced
him, waiting for his answer.
He looked steadily into her eyes as he spoke.
'I don't think I can stay,' he said slowly. 'You can't tear love up
by the roots and plant it in a pot and call it friendship. If you try,
something will happen. Excuse me if the simile sounds lyric, but I
don't happen to think of a better one, on the spur of the moment. I'll
behave all right before the others, but I had better go away to-morrow
morning. The thing will only get worse if I keep on seeing you.'
Margaret heard the short, awkward sentences and knew what they cost
him. She looked down and stuck the bright metal tip of her parasol into
the thin dry mud of the macadamised road, grinding it in slowly, half
round and half back, with both hands, and unconsciously wondering what
made the earth so hard just in that place.
'I wish I were a man!' she said all at once, and the parasol bent
dangerously as she gave it a particularly vicious twist, leaning upon
it at the same time.
'It would certainly simplify matters for me, if you were,' said
She looked up with a hurt expression.
'Oh, please don't go back to that way of talking!' she said. 'It's
bad enough, as it is! Don't you see how hard I am trying?'
'I'm sorry,' Lushington said. 'Don't pay any attention to what I
say. I'm all over the place.'
He mumbled the words and turned away from her as he stood. She
watched him, and desisted from digging holes in the ground. Then, as he
did not look at her again she put out one hand rather shyly and touched
'Look at me,' she said. 'What is this for? What are we making
ourselves miserable about? We care for each other a great deal, much
more than I had any idea of this morning. Why should we say good-bye? I
don't believe it's at all necessary, after all. You have got some
silly, quixotic idea into your head, I'm sure. Tell me what it is, and
let me judge for myself!'
'I can't,' he answered, in evident distress. 'You may find out what
it is some day, but I cannot tell you. It's the one thing I couldn't
say to anybody alive. If I did, I should deserve to be kicked out of
decent society for ever!'
She saw the look of suffering in his face again, and she felt as if
she were going to cry, out of sympathy.
'Of course,' she faltered, 'if it would bewhat you call
'Yes. It would be dishonourable to tell.'
There was a little silence.
'All I can hope,' he continued presently, 'is that you won't believe
it's anything I've done myself.'
'Indeed, indeed I don't. I never could!'
She held out her hand and he took it gladly, and kept it in his for
a moment; then he dropped it of his own accord, before she had made the
least motion to take it back.
They walked on without speaking again for a long time, and without
wishing to speak. When they were in sight of Mrs. Rushmore's gate
Margaret broke the silence at last.
'Do you mean to take an early train to-morrow morning?' she asked.
'Nine o'clock, I think,' he answered.
There was another little pause, and again Margaret spoke, but very
low, this time.
'I shall be in the garden at half-past eightto say good-bye.'
'Yes,' Lushington answered. 'Thank you,' he added after a moment.
They were side by side, very near together as they walked, and her
left hand hung down close to his right. He caught her fingers suddenly,
and they pressed his, and parted from them instantly.
Little Madame Durand-De Rosa took Margaret behind the scenes just
before the second act of Romeo and Juliet was over. The famous
teacher of singing was a privileged person at the Opéra, and the man
who kept the side door of communication between the house and the stage
bowed low as he opened for her and Margaret. Things are well managed in
the great opera-houses nowadays, and it is not easy to get behind when
anything is going on.
The young girl felt a new sensation of awe and excitement. It was
the first time she had ever found herself on the working side of the
vast machinery of artistic pleasure, and her first impression was that
she had been torn from an artificial paradise and was being dragged
through an artificial inferno. Huge and unfamiliar objects loomed about
her in the deep shadows; men with pale faces, in working clothes, stood
motionless at their posts, listening and watching; others lurked in
corners, dressed in mediæval costumes that glittered in the dark.
Between the flies, Margaret caught glimpses of the darkened stage, and
the sound of the orchestra reached her as if muffled, while the tenor's
voice sounded very loud, though he was singing softly. On a rough bit
of platform six feet above the stage, stood Madame Bonanni in white
satin, apparently laced to a point between life and death, her hands
holding the two sides of the latticed door that opened upon the
balcony. In a loft on the stage left a man was working a lime-light
moon behind a sheet of blue glass in a frame; the chorus of old
retainers in grey stood huddled together in semi-darkness by a fly,
listening to the tenor and waiting to hear Madame Bonanni's note when
she should come out.
[Illustration: The young girl felt a new sensation of awe and
Margaret would have waited too, but her teacher hurried her along,
holding her by the hand and checking her when they came to any obstacle
which the girl's unpractised eyes might not have seen in time. To the
older woman it was all as familiar as her own sitting-room, for her
life had been spent in the midst of it; to Margaret it was all strange,
and awe-inspiring, and a little frightening. It was to be her own life,
too, before long. In a few months, or perhaps a few weeks, she, too,
would be standing on a platform, like Madame Bonanni, waiting to go out
into the lime-light, waiting to be heard by two thousand people. She
wondered whether she should be frightened, whether by any possibility
her voice would stick in her throat at the great moment and suddenly
croak out a hideous false note, and end her career then and there. Her
heart beat fast at the thought, even now, and she pressed her teacher's
guiding hand nervously; and yet, as the music reached her ears, she
longed to be standing in Madame Bonanni's place with only a latticed
balcony door between her and the great public. She was not thinking of
Lushington now, though she had thought all day of his face when she had
met him for one moment under the trees, yesterday morning, and had felt
that something was gone from her life which she was to miss for a long
time. That was all forgotten in what she felt at the present moment, in
the wild quivering longing to be in front, the centre of the great
illusion, singing as she knew that she could sing, as she had never
Madame De Rosa led her quickly down a dark corridor and a moment
later she found herself in a dazzling blaze of light, in the prima
The ceiling was low, the walls were white, and innumerable electric
lamps, with no shades, filled the place with a blinding glare. It all
looked bare and uncomfortable, and very untidy. There was a
toilet-table, covered with little pots of grease and paint, and
well-worn pads and hare's-feet, and vast stores of hairpins, besides a
quantity of rings and jewels of great value, all lying together in
bowls in the midst of the confusion. A tall mirror stood on one side,
with wing mirrors on hinges, and bunches of lamps that could be moved
about. On one of the walls half-a-dozen theatrical gowns and cloaks
hung limply from pegs. Two large trunks were open and empty not far
from the door. The air was hot and hard to breathe, and smelt of many
There were three people in the room when the two visitors entered;
there was a very tall maid with an appallingly cadaverous face and
shiny black hair, and there was a short fat maid who grinned and showed
good teeth at Madame De Rosa. Both wore black and had white aprons, and
both were perspiring profusely. The third person was an elderly man in
evening dress, who rose and shook hands with the retired singer, and
bowed to Margaret. He seemed to be a very quiet, unobtrusive man, who
was nevertheless perfectly at his ease, and he somehow conveyed the
impression that he must be always dressed for the evening, in a
perfectly new coat, a brand-new shirt, a white waistcoat never worn
before, and a made tie. Perhaps it was the made tie that introduced a
certain disquieting element in his otherwise highly correct appearance.
He wore his faded fair hair very short, and his greyish yellow beard
was trimmed in a point. His fat hands were incased in tight white
gloves. His pale eyes looked quietly through his glasses and made one
think of the eyes of a big fish in an aquarium when it swims up and
pushes its nose against the plate-glass front of the tank to look at
The eyes examined Margaret attentively.
'Monsieur Schreiermeyer, this is Miss Donne, my pupil,' said Madame
'Enchanted,' mumbled the manager.
He continued to scrutinise the young girl's face, and he looked so
much like a doctor that she felt as if he were going to feel her pulse
and tell her to put out her tongue. At the thought, she smiled
'Hum!' Schreiermeyer grunted softly, almost musically, in fact.
Perhaps this was a good sign, for little Madame De Rosa beamed.
Margaret looked about for an empty chair, but there never seemed to be
any in a room used by Madame Bonanni. There was one indeed, but
Schreiermeyer had appropriated it, and sat down upon it again with
'Sit down,' he said, as he did so himself.
'Yes,' answered Margaret sweetly, and remained standing.
Suddenly he seemed to realise that she could not, and that the maids
were not inclined to offer her a seat. His face and figure were
transfigured in an instant, one fat, gloved hand shot out with extended
forefinger in a gesture of command and his pale eyes flashed through
his glasses, and glared furiously at the maids.
'Clear two chairs!' he shouted in a voice of thunder.
Margaret started in surprise and protest.
'But the things are all ready' objected the cadaverous maid.
'Damn the things!' yelled Schreiermeyer. 'Clear two chairs at once!'
He seemed, on the verge of a white apoplexy, though he did not move
from his seat. The cadaverous maid lifted an embroidered bodice from
one of the chairs and laid it in one of the black trunks; she looked
like a female undertaker laying a dead baby in its coffin. The fat maid
showed all her teeth and laughed at Schreiermeyer and cleared the other
chair, and brought up both together for the two ladies.
'Give yourselves the trouble to be seated,' said Schreiermeyer, in a
tone so soft that it would not have disturbed a sleeping child.
As soon as he was obeyed he became quite quiet and unobtrusive
again, the furious glare faded from his eyes, and the white kid hand
returned to rest upon its fellow.
'How good you are!' cried Madame De Rosa gratefully, as she sat down
on the cane chair.
'Hum!' grunted Schreiermeyer, musically, as if he agreed with her.
'Miss Donne has a good soprano,' the teacher ventured to say after a
'Ah?' ejaculated the manager in a tone of very indifferent
There was a little pause.
'Lyric,' observed Madame De Rosa, breaking the silence.
Another pause. Schreiermeyer seemed not to have heard, and neither
moved nor looked at the two.
'Lyric?' he inquired, suddenly, but with extreme softness.
'Lyric,' repeated Madame De Rosa, leaning forward a little, and
fanning herself violently.
'Thank God!' exclaimed Schreiermeyer, without moving, but so very
devoutly that Margaret stared at him in surprise.
Madame De Rosa knew that this also was an excellent sign; she looked
at Margaret and nodded energetically. Whatever Schreiermeyer might mean
by returning devout thanks to his Maker at that moment, the retired
singer was perfectly sure that he knew his business. He was probably in
need of a lyric soprano for the next season, and that might lead to an
immediate engagement for Margaret.
'How hot it is!' the latter complained, in an undertone. 'There is
no air at all here!'
The maids were mopping their faces with their handkerchiefs, and
Madame De Rosa's fan was positively whirring. Schreiermeyer seemed
quite indifferent to the temperature.
He must nevertheless have been reflecting on Margaret's last remark
when he slowly turned to her after a silence of nearly a minute.
'Have you a good action of the heart?' he inquired, precisely as a
doctor might have done.
'I don't know.' Margaret smiled. 'I don't know anything about my
'Then it is good,' said the manager. 'It ought to be, for you have a
magnificent skin. Do you eat well and sleep well, always?'
'Perfectly. May I ask if you are a doctor?'
Madame De Rosa made furious signs to Margaret. A very faint smile
flitted over the manager's quiet face.
'Some people call me an executioner,' he answered, 'because I kill
the weak ones.'
'I am not afraid of work.' Margaret laughed.
'No. You will grow fat if you sing. You will grow very fat.' He
spoke thoughtfully. 'After you are forty,' he added, as if by way of
'I hope not!' cried the young girl.
'Yes, you will. It is the outward sign of success in the profession.
Singers who grow thin lose their voices.'
'I never grew very fat,' said Madame De Rosa, in a tone of regret.
'Precisely, my darling,' answered Schreiermeyer. 'Therefore you
Margaret was a little surprised that he should call her teacher 'my
darling,' and that the good lady should seem to think it quite natural,
but her reflections on obesity and the manners of theatrical people
were interrupted, though not by any means arrested for the night, by
the clattering sound of high-heeled shoes in the corridor. The act was
over, and Madame Bonanni was coming back from the stage. In a moment
she was in the doorway, and as she entered the room she unmasked a
third maid who followed her with a cloak.
She saw Margaret first, as the latter rose to meet her. Margaret
felt as if the world itself were putting huge arms round her and
kissing her on both cheeks. The embrace was of terrific power, and a
certain amount of grease paint came off.
'Little Miss Donne,' cried the prima donna, relaxing her hold on
Margaret's waist but instantly seizing her by the wrist and turning her
round sharply, like a dressmaker's doll on a pivot, 'that is
Schreiermeyer! The great Schreiermeyer! The terrible Schreiermeyer! You
see him before you, my child! Tremble! Every one trembles before
The manager had risen, but was perfectly imperturbable and silent.
He did not even grunt. Madame Bonanni dropped Margaret's wrist and
shrugged her Juno-like shoulders.
'Schreiermeyer,' she said, as if she had forgotten all about
Margaret, 'if that lime-light man plays the moon in my eyes again I
shall come out on the balcony with blue goggles. You shall hear the
public then! It is perfectly outrageous! I am probably blind for life!'
She winked her big painted eyelids vigorously as if trying whether
she could see at all. Margaret was looking at her, not sure that it was
not all a dream, and wondering how it was possible that such a face and
figure could still produce illusions of youth and grace when seen from
the other side of the footlights. Yet Margaret herself had felt the
illusion only a quarter of an hour ago. The paint on Madame Bonanni's
face was a thick mask of grease, pigments and powder; the wig was the
most evident wig that ever was; the figure seemed of gigantic girth
compared with the woman's height, though that was by no means small;
the eye lids were positively unwieldy with paint and the lashes looked
like very thick black horsehairs stuck in with glue, in rows.
She shook her solid fist at Schreiermeyer and blinked violently
'It is outrageous!' she cried again. 'Do you understand?'
'Schreiermeyer!' screamed Madame Bonanni. 'If you take no more
notice of my complaints than that I refuse to finish the opera. I will
not sing the rest of it! Find somebody else to go on. I am going home!
Undress me!' she cried, turning to the three perspiring maids, not one
of whom moved an inch at her summons. 'Oh, you won't? You are afraid of
him? Ah, bah! I am not. Schreiermeyer, I refuse to go on; I absolutely
refuse. Go away! I am going to undress.'
Thereupon she tore off her brown wig with a single movement and
threw it across the room. It struck the wall with a thud and fell upon
the floor, a limp and shapeless mass. The cadaverous maid instantly
picked it up and began smoothing it. Madame Bonanni's own dark hair
stood on end, giving her a decidedly wild look.
Schreiermeyer smiled perceptibly.
'Miss Donne will go on and sing the rest of the opera with pleasure,
I have no doubt,' he said, gently, looking at Margaret.
The girl's heart stood still for an instant at this sudden proposal,
before she realised that the manager was not in earnest.
'Of course she can sing it!' chimed in Madame De Rosa, understanding
perfectly. 'But our dear friend is much too kind to disappoint the
Parisian public,' she added, turning to the prima donna and speaking
'Nothing can move that man!' cried Madame Bonanni, in a helpless
'Nothing but the sound of your marvellous voice, my angel artist,'
said Schreiermeyer. 'That always makes me weep, especially in the last
act of this opera.'
Margaret could not fancy the manager blubbering, though she had more
than once seen people in front with their handkerchiefs to their eyes
during the scene in the tomb.
'Put my wig on,' said Madame Bonanni to the cadaverous maid, and she
sat down in front of the toilet-table. 'We must talk business at once,'
she continued, suddenly speaking with the utmost calm. 'The appointment
is at my house, at ten o'clock to-morrow morning, Schreiermeyer. Miss
Donne will sing for us. Bring a pianist and the Minister of Fine Arts
if you can get him.'
'I have not the Minister of Fine Arts in my pocket, dearest lady,'
observed the manager, 'but I will try. Why do you name such a very
'Because I breakfast at eleven. Tell the Minister that the King is
coming too. That will bring him. All Ministers are snobs.'
'The King?' repeated Margaret in surprise, and somewhat aghast.
'He is in Paris,' explained Madame Bonanni carelessly. 'He's an old
friend of mine, and we dined together last night. I told him about you
and he said he would come if he could but you never can count on those
Margaret was too timid to ask what king Madame Bonanni was talking
of, but she supposed her teacher would tell her in due time; and, after
all, he might not come. Margaret hoped that he would, however, for she
had never spoken to a royalty in her life and thought it would be very
amusing to see a real, live king in the prima donna's eccentric
'I shall turn you all out when you have heard her sing,' continued
Madame Bonanni. You and I will lunch quite alone, my dear, and talk
things over. There is one good point in Schreiermeyer's character. He
never flatters unless he wants something. If he tells you that you sing
well, it means an engagement next year. If he says you sing divinely,
your début will be next week, or as soon as you can rehearse
with a company.'
She touched up her cheeks with a hare's-foot while she talked.
'So that is settled,' she said, turning sharp round on the stool,
which creaked loudly. 'Go home and go to bed, my children, unless you
want to hear poor old Bonanni sing the rest of this stupid opera!'
She laughed, at herself perhaps; but suddenly in the tones Margaret
heard a far-off suggestion of sadness that went to her heart very
strangely. The singer turned her back again and seemed to pay no more
attention to her visitors. Margaret came close to her, to say goodbye,
and to thank her for all she was doing. The great artist looked up
quietly into the young girl's eyes for a moment, and laid a hand on
hers very kindly.
'Good-night, little Miss Donne,' she said, so low that the others
could not hear distinctly. 'It is the setting sun that bids you
good-night, childyou, the dawn and the sun of to-morrow!'
Margaret pressed the kind hand, and a moment later her teacher was
hurrying her back through the dark wilderness of the stage to the
brilliant house beyond. Schreiermeyer had already disappeared without
so much as a word.
Mrs. Rushmore had not been at all surprised at Lushington's sudden
departure. She was accustomed to the habits of lions and was well aware
that they must be allowed to come and go exactly as they please if you
wish them to eat out of your hand from time to time; and when the
eminent young critic announced rather suddenly that he must leave early
the next morning the good lady only said that she was sorry, and that
she hoped he would come back soon. Sham lions love to talk about
themselves, and to excite curiosity, but real ones resent questions
about their doings as they would resent a direct insult. Mrs. Rushmore
knew that, too.
She was really sorry to lose him, however, and had counted on his
staying at least a week longer. She liked him herself, and she saw that
Margaret liked him very much; and it was more moral in a nice girl to
like an Englishman than a foreigner, just as it would be still more
moral of her to prefer an American to an Englishman, according to Mrs.
Rushmore's scale of nationalities. Next to what was moral, she was fond
of lions, who are often persons without any morals whatsoever. But
Lushington seemed to fill both requirements. He was a highly moral
lion. She was quite sure that he did not drink, did not gamble, and did
not secretly worship Ashtaroth; and he never told her naughty stories.
Therefore she was very sorry when he was gone.
At the present juncture, however, she was in considerable anxiety
about Margaret. She did not know one note from another, but she had
heard all the greatest singers of the last thirty years, in all the
greatest opera-houses from Bayreuth to New York, and it horrified her
to be obliged to admit that Margaret's singing sounded dreadfully like
the best. The girl meant to sing in opera, and if she could really do
it well it would be quite impossible to hinder her, as she had no means
of support and could not be blamed for refusing to live on charity.
Everything was combining to make an artist of her, for the chances of
winning the suit brought on her behalf were growing as slender as the
seven lean kine.
It was characteristic of Margaret that she had kept to herself most
of what Madame Bonanni had told her, but Mrs. Rushmore knew the girl
well, and guessed from her face that there was much more behind. The
appointment at the theatre confirmed this surmise, and when Margaret
telegraphed the next day that she was going to stay in town until the
afternoon, with Madame De Rosa, there was no longer any room for doubt.
As for poor Lushington, Margaret had told him nothing at all, and
her visit to Madame Bonanni had been a secret between herself and Mrs.
Rushmore. Logotheti had not made his appearance after all, but the
young archæologist had brought assurances that the financier would be
honoured, charmed and otherwise delighted to be presented to Mrs.
Rushmore within a day or two, if convenient to her. So it happened that
Logotheti made his first visit after Lushington had left Versailles.
The latter went away in a very disconsolate frame of mind, and
disappeared into Paris. It is not always wise to follow a discouraged
man into the retirement of a shabby room in a quiet hotel on the left
bank of the Seine, and it is never amusing. Psychology in fiction seems
to mean the rather fruitless study of what the novelist himself thinks
he might feel if he ever got himself into one of those dreadful scrapes
which it is a part of his art to invent outright, or to steal from the
lives of men and women he has known or heard of. People who can analyse
their own feelings are never feeling enough to hurt them much; a
medical student could not take his scalpel and calmly dissect out his
own nerves. You may try to analyse pain and pleasure when they are
past, but nothing is more strangely and hopelessly undefined than the
memory of a great grief, and no analysis of pleasure can lead to
anything but the desire for more. The only real psychologists have been
the great lyric poets, before they have emerged from the gloom of
The outward signs of Lushington's condition were few and not such as
would have seemed dramatic to an acquaintance. When he was in his room
at the hotel in the Rue des Saints Pères, he got an old briar pipe out
of his bag, filled it and lit it, and stood for nearly a quarter of an
hour at the window, smoking thoughtfully with his hands in his pockets.
The subtle analyst, observing that the street is narrow and dull and
presents nothing of interest, jumps to the conclusion that Lushington
is thinking while he looks out of the window. Perhaps he is. The next
thing to be done is to unpack his bag and place his dressing things in
order on the toilet-table. They are simple things, but mostly made
expressly for him, of oxidised silver, with his initials in plain block
letters; and each object has a neat sole leather case of its own, so
that they can be thrown pell-mell into a bag and jumbled up together
without being scratched. But Lushington takes them out of their cases
and disposes them on the table with mathematical precision, smoking
vigorously all the time. This done, he unpacks his valise, his
shirt-case and other belongings, in the most systematic way possible,
looks through the things he left in the room when he went to
Versailles, to see that everything is in order, and at last rings for
the servant to take away the clothes and shoes that need cleaning. The
subtle analyst would argue from all this that Lushington was one of
those painfully orderly persons, who are made positively nervous by the
sight of a hair-brush lying askew, or a tie dropped on the floor.
It was at most true that he had acquired a set of artificially
precise habits to which he clung most tenaciously, and which certainly
harmonised with the natural appearance of neatness that had formerly
been his despair. Why he had taken so much trouble to become orderly
was his own business. Possibly he had got tired of that state of life
in which it is impossible to find anything in less than half an hour
when one wants it in half a minute. At all events, he had taken pains
to acquire orderliness, and, for reasons which will appear hereafter,
it is worth while to note the fact.
When everything was arranged to his satisfaction, he sat down in the
most comfortable chair in the room, filled another of the three wooden
pipes that now lay side by side on the writing-table, and continued to
smoke as if his welfare depended on consuming a certain quantity of
tobacco in a given time. He must have had a sound heart and a strong
head, for he did not desist from his occupation for many hours, though
he had not eaten anything particular at breakfast, at Mrs. Rushmore's,
and nothing at all since.
The afternoon was wearing on when he knocked the ashes out of his
pipe very carefully, laid it in its place, rose from his seat and
uttered a single profane ejaculation.
Having said this, he said no more, for indeed, if taken literally,
there could be nothing more to be said. The malediction, however, was
directed against nothing particular, and certainly against no person
living or dead; it only applied to the aggregate of the awkward
circumstances in which he found himself, and as he was alone he felt
quite sure of not being misunderstood.
He did not even take a servant with him when he travelled, though he
had an excellent Scotchman for a valet, who could do a great variety of
useful things, besides holding his tongue, which is one of the finest
qualities in the world, in man or dog. And he also had a dog in London,
a particularly rough Irish terrier called Tim; but as Tim would have
been quarantined every time he came home it was practically impossible
to bring him to the Continent. It will be seen, therefore, that
Lushington was really quite alone in the quiet hotel in the Rue des
He might have had company enough if he had wanted it, for he knew
many men of letters in Paris and was himself known to them, which is
another thing. They liked him, too, in their own peculiar way of liking
their foreign colleagues. Most of them, without affectation and in
perfect good faith, are convinced that there never was, is not, and
never can be any literature equal to the French except that of Edgar
Poe; but they feel that it would be rude and tactless of them to let us
know that they think so. They are the most agreeable men in the world,
as a whole, and considering what they really think of usrightly or
wrongly, but honestlythe courtesy and consideration they show us are
worthy of true gentlemen. The most modest among ourselves seem a little
arrogant and self-asserting in comparison with them. They praise us,
sometimes, and not faintly either; but their criticism of us compares
us with each other, not with them. The very highest eulogy they can
bestow on anything we do is to say that it is 'truly French,' but they
never quite believe it and they cannot understand why that is perhaps
the very compliment that pleases us least, though we may have the
greatest admiration for their national genius. With all our vanity,
should we ever expect to please a French writer by telling him that his
work was 'truly English'?
Lushington liked a good many of his French colleagues in literature,
and had at least one friend among them, a young man of vast learning
and exquisite taste, who was almost an invalid. For a moment, he
thought of going to see this particular one amongst them all, but he
realised all at once that he did not wish to see any one at all that
day. He went out and wandered towards the Quai Voltaire, and smelt the
Seine and nosed an old book here and there at the stalls. Later he went
and ate something in an eating-house on the outskirts of the Latin
Quarter, and then went back to his hotel, smoked several more pipes by
the open window, and went to bed.
That was the first day, and the second was very like it, so that it
is not necessary to describe it in detail in order to produce an
impression of profound dulness in the reader's mind. Lushington's hair
continued to be as preternaturally smooth as before, his beard was as
glossy and his complexion as blooming and child-like, and yet the look
of pain that Margaret had seen in his face was there most of the time
during those two days.
But in the evening he crossed the river and went to hear Romeo
and Juliet, for he knew that it was the last night on which Madame
Bonanni would sing before she left for the London season. He sat in the
second row of the orchestra stalls, and never moved from his seat
during the long performance. No secret intuition told him that Margaret
was in the house, and that if he stood up and looked round after the
second act he might see her and Madame De Rosa going out and coming
back again and sitting at the end of a back row. He did not want to see
any one he knew, and the surest way of avoiding acquaintances was to
sit perfectly still while most people went out between the acts. His
face only betrayed that the music pleased him, by turning a shade paler
now and then; at the places he liked best, he shut his eyes, as if he
did not care to see Madame Bonanni or the fat tenor.
She sang very beautifully that night, especially after the second
act, and Lushington thought he had hardly ever heard so much real
feeling in her marvellous voice. Afterwards he walked home, and he
heard it all the way, and for an hour after he had gone to bed, when he
fell asleep at last, and dreamt that he himself had turned into a very
fat tenor and was singing Romeo, but the Juliet was Margaret Donne
instead of Madame Bonanni, and though she sang like an angel, she was
evidently disgusted by his looks; which was very painful indeed, and
made him sing quite out of tune and perspire terribly.
'You look hot,' said Margaret-Juliet, with cruel distinctness, just
as he was trying to throw the most intense pathos into the words, ''tis
not the lark, it is the nightingale!'
Perhaps dreaming nonsense is also a subject for the inquiries of
psychology. At the moment the poor man's imaginary sufferings were
positively frightful, and he awoke with a gasp. He had always secretly
dreaded growing fat, he had always felt a horror of anything like
singing or speaking in public, and the only thing in the world he
really feared was the possibility of being ridiculous in Margaret's
eyes. Of course the ingenious demon of his dreams found a way of
applying all these three torments at once, and it was like being saved
from sudden death to wake up in the dark and smell the stale smoke of
the pipe he had enjoyed before putting out his light.
Then he fell asleep again and did not awake till morning, being
naturally a very good sleeper. It was raining when he got up, and he
looked out disconsolately upon the dull street. It seemed to him that
if it was going to rain in Paris he might as well go back to London,
where he had plenty to do, and he began to consider which train he
should take, revolving the advantages and disadvantages of reaching
London early in the evening or late at night. He knew the different
time-tables by heart.
But it stopped raining while he was dressing, and the sun came out,
and a bird began to sing somewhere at a window high above the street,
and it was suddenly spring again. It was a great thing to be alone in
spring. If he went back to London he must see people he knew, and dine
with people he hardly knew at all, and be asked out by others whom he
had not even met, because he was the distinguished critic, flattered
and feared and asked to dinner by everybody who had a seventh cousin in
danger of literary judgment. He belonged to the flock of dramatic lions
and must herd with them, eat with them and roar with them, for the
greater glory of London society and his native country generally. Under
ordinary circumstances such an existence was bearable and at times
delightful, but just now he wanted to roar in the wilderness and assert
his leonine right of roaming in desolate places not less than two
geographical degrees east of Pall Mall.
He went out at last and strolled towards the bridge, and across it
and much farther, but not aimlessly, for though he did not always take
the shortest way, he kept mainly in the same direction till he came to
the Avenue Hoche.
At the end of the street he stopped and looked at his watch. It was
five minutes to eleven. Looking along the pavement in front of him his
eye was attracted by the striped awning that distinguished Madame
Bonanni's house from the others on the same side, and he noticed an
extremely smart brougham that stood just before the door. The handsome
black horse stood perfectly motionless in the morning sunshine, the
stony-faced English coachman sat perfectly motionless on the box,
looking straight between the horse's ears; he wore a plain black livery
that fitted to perfection and there was no cockade on his polished hat.
No turnout could have been simpler and yet none could have looked more
Lushington suddenly turned on his heel and walked off in the
opposite direction, as if he were not pleased, but he had not gone
fifty yards when he heard the brougham behind him, and in a few seconds
it passed him at a sharp pace. He caught sight of the elderly man
insidea tremendous profile over a huge fair beard that was half grey,
one large and rather watery blue eye behind a single eyeglass with a
broad black ribbon, a gardenia in the button-hole of a smart grey coat,
a cloud of cigarette smoke, one very large and aristocratic hand, with
a plain gold ring, holding the cigarette and resting on the edge of the
window. He smelt the smoke after the brougham had passed, and he
recognised the fact that it was superlatively fragrant.
He turned back again in a few moments and saw that three men were
just coming out of Madame Bonanni s house. One was Schreiermeyer, whom
he knew, and one looked like a poor musician. The third was the
Minister of Fine Arts, whom he did not know but recognised. The
Minister and the pianist walked one on each side of Schreiermeyer, and
were talking excitedly, but the manager looked at neither of them and
never turned his head. They went down the Avenue Hoche away from
Lushington, who walked very slowly and looked at his watch twice before
he reached Madame Bonanni's door. There he stopped, rang and was
admitted without question, as if he were in the habit of coming and
going as he pleased. He apparently took it for granted that the prima
donna must be alone and already at her late breakfast, but he was
stopped by the smiling servant who came out of the dining-room, arrayed
as usual in a frock coat and a white satin tie.
'I will inform Madame,' he said.
'Is there any one there?' asked Lushington, evidently not pleased.
The servant shrugged his shoulders in a deprecatory way, and his
smile became rather compassionate.
'One young person to breakfast,' he said, 'a musician'.
'Oh, very well.' Lushington's brow cleared.
The servant left him and went in again. A screen was so placed as to
mask the interior of the dining-room when the door was open. Within,
Madame Bonanni and Margaret were seated at table. Encouraged by
circumstances the prima donna had on this occasion tied her napkin
round her neck as soon as she had sat down; the inevitable plovers'
eggs had already been demolished, and she was at work on a creamy purée
soup of the most exquisite pale green colour. It was clear that she had
not lost a moment in getting to her meal after the men had left.
Margaret was eating too, but though there was fresh colour in her
cheeks her eyes had a startled look each time she looked up, as if
something very unusual had happened.
The servant whispered something in Madame Bonanni's ear. She seemed
to hesitate a moment, and glanced at Margaret before making up her
mind. Then she nodded to the man without saying a word, and went on
eating her soup.
A few seconds later Lushington entered. Margaret faced the door and
their eyes met. Madame Bonanni dropped her spoon into her plate with a
clang and uttered a scream of delight, as if she had not known
perfectly well that Lushington was coming.
'What luck!' she cried. 'Little Miss Donne, this is my son!'
Margaret's jaw dropped in sheer amazement.
'Your son? Mr. Lushington is your son?'
'Yes. Ah, my child!' she cried, springing up and kissing Lushington
on both cheeks with resounding affection. 'What a joy it is to see
Lushington was rather pale as he laid his hand quietly on Madame
'I have the pleasure of knowing Miss Donne already, mother,' he said
steadily, 'but she did not know that I was your son. She is a little
'Yes,' answered Margaret, faintly, 'a little.'
'Ah, you know each other?' Madame Bonanni seemed delighted. 'So much
the better! Miss Donne will keep our little secret, I am sure. Besides
she has another name, too. She is Señorita Margarita da Cordova from
to-day. Sit down, my darling child! You are starving! I know you are
starving! Angelo!' she screamed at the smiling servant, 'why do you
stand there staring like a stuffed codfish? Bring more plovers' eggs!'
Angelo smiled as sweetly as ever and disappeared for an instant.
Madame Bonanni took Lushington by the shoulders, as if he had been a
little boy, made him sit down in the vacant place beside her, unfolded
the napkin herself, spread it upon his knees, patted both his cheeks
and kissed the top of his head, precisely as she had done when he was
six years old. Margaret looked on in dumb surprise, and poor Lushington
turned red to the roots of his hair.
'You have no idea what a dear child he is,' she said to Margaret, as
she sat herself down in her own chair again. 'He has been my passion
ever since he was born! My dear, you never saw such a beautiful baby as
he was! He was all pink and white, like a little sugar angel, and he
had dimples everywhereeverywhere, my dear!' she repeated with
'I don't doubt it,' said Margaret, biting her lips and looking at
By this time the plovers' eggs had come for Lushington and he was
glad of anything to do with his hands.
'My mother can never believe that I am grown up,' he said, with much
more self-possession than Margaret had expected; and suddenly he raised
his eyes and looked steadily and quietly at her across the table.
It must have cost him something of an effort, for his colour came
and went quickly. Margaret knew what he was suffering and her respect
for him increased a hundredfold in those few minutes, because he did
not betray the least irritation in his tone or manner. His mother
evidently worshipped him, but her way of showing it was such as must be
horribly uncomfortable to a man of his retiring character and sensitive
taste. He might easily have been forgiven if he had shown that it hurt
him, as well it might. Whatever reason he and Madame Bonanni might have
had for changing his name, he was brave enough not to be falsely
ashamed of her, in the presence of the woman he loved.
'You see,' Margaret said, looking at him, but speaking to the prima
donna, 'Mr. Lushington has been stopping with us at Versailles for a
good while, but I did not tell him that I had been to see you, and he
never even said that he know you, though he often spoke of your
'Did he?' asked Madame Bonanni with intense anxiety. 'What did he
say? Did he say that I was growing old and ought to give up the stage?'
'Mother!' exclaimed Lushington reproachfully.
'He never said anything of the kind!' cried Margaret, taking his
part with energy.
'Because he always says just what he thinks,' explained Madame
Bonanni, who seemed relieved. 'And the worst part of it is that he
knows,' she added, thoughtfully. 'I do not pretend to understand what
he writes, but I would take his opinion about music rather than any
one's. You wretched little boy!' she cried, turning on Lushington
suddenly. 'How you frightened me!'
'I frightened you? How?'
'I was sure that you had told everybody that I was growing old! How
could you? My darling child, how could you be so unkind? Oh, you have
'But he never said so!' cried Margaret vehemently and feeling as if
she were in a madhouse. 'He has told me again and again that you are
still the greatest lyric soprano living'
'Angelo,' said Madame Bonanni, with perfect calm, 'change my plate.'
Margaret glanced at Lushington, who seemed to think it all quite
natural. He was eating little bits of thin toast thoughtfully, and from
time to time he looked at his mother with a gentle expression. But he
did not meet Margaret's glance.
'You never sang better in your life than you did last night,
mother,' he observed.
The prima donna's face glowed with pleasure, and as she turned her
big eyes to his Margaret saw in them a look of such loving tenderness
as she had rarely seen in her life.
'I saw you, my dear,' said Madame Bonanni to her son. 'You were in
the second row of the stalls. I sang for you last night, for I thought
you looked sad and lonely.'
Lushington laid his hand on hers for a moment.
'Thank you,' he said simply.
There was a short silence, which was unusual when the prima donna
was present. Margaret had recovered from her first surprise, and had
understood that Madame Bonanni adored her son and that he felt real
affection for her, though he suffered a good deal from the manner in
which hers showed itself. If Lushington had fancied that he might fall
in Margaret's estimation through her discovery of his birth, he was
much mistaken. His patience and perfect simplicity did more to make her
love him than anything he had done before. She had learned his secret,
or a great part of it, and she understood him now, and the reason why
he had changed his name, and she felt that he had behaved very well to
her in going away, though she wished that he had boldly taken her into
his confidence before leaving Mrs. Rushmore's. But she did not know
all, though she was neither too young nor too innocent to guess a part
of the truth. Few young women of twenty-two years are. Madame Bonanni's
career as an artist had been a long series of triumphs, but her past as
a woman had been variegated, of the sort for which the French have
invented a number of picturesquely descriptive expressions, such as
'leading the life of Punch,' 'throwing one's cap over the windmills,'
and other much less elegant phrases. Margaret saw that Lushington was
not ashamed of his mother, as his mother; but she knew instinctively
that his mother's past was a shame which he felt always and to the
Madame Bonanni ate a good deal before she spoke again, feeling,
perhaps, that she had lost time.
'Schreiermeyer says she sings divinely,' she said at last, looking
at Lushington and then nodding at Margaret. 'You know what that means.'
'London?' inquired Lushington, who knew the manager.
'London next year, and an appearance this season if any one breaks
down. Meanwhile he signs for her début in Belgium and a three
months' tour. Twenty-four performances in three operas, fifty thousand
'I congratulate you,' said Lushington, looking at Margaret and
trying to seem pleased.
'You seem to think it is too little,' observed Madame Bonanni.
'Little?' cried Margaret. 'It's a fortune!'
'You may talk of a fortune when you get three hundred pounds a
night,' said Lushington. 'But it is a good beginning. I wonder that
Schreiermeyer agreed to it so easily.'
'Easily!' Madame Bonanni laughed. 'I wish you had been there, my
dear boy! He kicked and screamed, and we called him bad names. The King
told him he was a dirty little Jew, which he is not, poor man, but it
had a very good effect.'
'Oh!' Lushington did not seem surprised at the royal personage's
reported language. 'Then it was the King who passed me in that smart
brougham? I thought so.'
'Yes,' answered Madame Bonanni rather brusquely, and she became very
busy with some little birds.
'It's funny,' Margaret said to Lushington. 'One always imagines a
king with a crown and a sort of ermine dressing-gown, and a sceptre
like the Lord Mayor's mace! Of course it s perfectly ridiculous, isn't
'I believe His Majesty possesses those things,' answered Lushington,
as if he did not like the subject.
'He looked and talked much more like an old friend than anything
else,' Margaret went on, remembering that Madame Bonanni had used the
same expression before Schreiermeyer.
To her surprise and sudden discomfiture neither of the two paid the
least attention to her remark.
'What train shall you take, mother?' asked Lushington so abruptly
upon Margaret's speech that she understood her mistake.
Though she had guessed something, it had somehow not occurred to her
to connect the royal personage with Madame Bonanni's past; but now she
scarcely dared to glance at Lushington. When she did, he seemed to be
avoiding her eyes again, and she saw the old look of pain in his face,
though he was talking about the timetables and the turbine
'You must come over to London and see me before your début,
my dear,' Madame Bonanni said, breaking off the discussion of trains
and turning to Margaret. 'That is, if Schreiermeyer will let you,' she
added. 'You will have to do exactly what he tells you, now, and he is
always right. He will be a father to you, now that he is going to make
money out of you.'
'Will he call me his darling?' inquired Margaret, with a shade of
'Of course he will! And when you sing well he will kiss you on both
'Indeed he won't!' cried Margaret, turning red.
Madame Bonanni laughed heartily, but Lushington looked annoyed.
'My dear, why not?' asked the prima donna. 'Everybody kisses us
artists, when we have a triumph, and we kiss everybody! The author, the
manager, the dressmaker and the stage carpenter, besides all our old
friends! What difference can it make? It means nothing.'
'But it's such an unpleasant idea!' Margaret objected.
'Of course,' returned Madame Bonanni, licking her fingers between
the words, 'there are artists who ride the high horse and insist on
being treated like duchesses. The other artists hate them, and real
society laughs at them. It is far better to be simple, and kiss
everybody. It costs so little and it gives them so much pleasure, as
Rachel said of her lovers!'
'It was Sophie Arnould,' said Lushington, correcting her mistake.
'Was it? I don't care. I say it, and that is enough. Besides I hate
children who are always setting their parents right! It's my own fault,
because I was so anxious to have you well educated. If I had brought
you up as I was brought up, you would never have left me! As it
is'she turned to Margaret with suddenly flashing eyes'do you know,
my dear? that atrocious little wretch will never take a penny from me,
from me, his own mother! Ah, it is villainous! He is perfectly
heartless! He denies me the only pleasure I wish for. Even when he was
at school, at Eton, my dear, at the great English school, you know, he
worked like a poor boy and won scholarshipsmoney! Is it not
disgusting? And at Oxford he lived on that money and won more! And then
he worked, and worked at those terrible books, and wrote for the
abominable press, and never would let me give him anything. Ah, you
ungrateful little boy!
She seemed perfectly furious with him and shook her fist in his
face; but the next moment she laughed and patted his cheek with her fat
'And to say that I am proud of him!' she said, beaming with motherly
smiles. 'Proud of him, my dear, you don't know! He is beating them all,
as he always did! At the school, at the university, he was always the
best! He used to get what they call firsts and double firsts every
Margaret could not help laughing, and even Lushington smiled in his
'It was splendid,' said the young girl, looking at him. 'Did you
really get a double first?'
'One?' screamed Madame Bonanni. 'Twenty, I tell you! A hundred'
'No, no, mother,' interrupted Lushington. No one can get more than
'Ah, did I not tell you?' cried the prima donna, triumphantly. There
is only one, and he got it! What did I tell you? How can you expect me
not to be proud of him?'
'You ought to be,' answered Margaret, very much in earnest, and for
the first time Lushington saw in her eyes the light of absolutely
It was not for the double first at Oxford that she gave it. There
had been a moment when it had hurt her to think that he probably
accepted a good deal of luxury in his existence out of his mother's
abundant fortune, but it was gone now. Even as a schoolboy he had
guessed whence at least a part of that wealth really came, and had
refused to touch a penny of it. But Lushington felt as if he were being
combed with red-hot needles from head to foot, and the perspiration
stood on his forehead. It would have filled him with shame to mop it
with his handkerchief and yet he felt that in another moment it would
run down. The awful circumstances of his dream came vividly back to
him, and he could positively hear Margaret telling him that he looked
hot, so loud that the whole house could understand what she said. But
at this point something almost worse happened.
Madame Bonanni's motherly but eagle eye detected the tiny beads on
his brow. With a cry of distress she sprang to her feet and began to
wipe them away with the corner of her napkin that was tied round her
neck, talking all the time.
'My darling!' she cried. 'I always forget that you feel hot when I
feel cold! Angelo, open everythingthe windows, the doors! Why do you
stand there like a dressed-up doll in a tailor's window? Don't you see
that he is going to have a fit?'
'Mother, mother! Please don't!' protested the unfortunate
Lushington, who was now as red as a beet.
But Madame Bonanni took the lower end of her napkin by the corners,
as if it had been an apron, and fanned him furiously, though he put up
his hands and cried for mercy.
'He is always too hot,' she said, suddenly desisting and sitting
down again. 'He always was, even when he was a baby.' She was now at
work on a very complicated salad. 'But then,' she went on, speaking
between mouthfuls, 'I used to lay him down in the middle of my big bed,
with nothing on but his little shirt, and he would kick and crow until
he was quite cool.'
Again Margaret bit her lip, but this time it was of no use, and
after a conscientious effort to be quiet she broke into irrepressible
laughter. In a moment Lushington laughed too, and presently he felt
quite cool and comfortable again, feeling that after all he had been
ridiculous only when he was a baby.
'We used to call him Tommy,' said Madame Bonanni, putting away her
plate and laying her knife and fork upon it crosswise. 'Poor little
Tommy! How long ago that was! After his father died I changed his name,
you know, and then it seemed as if little Tommy were dead too.'
There was visible moisture in the big dark eyes for an instant.
Margaret felt sorry for the strange, contradictory creature, half
child, half genius, and all mother.
'My husband's name was Goodyear,' continued the prima donna
thoughtfully. 'You will find it in all biographies of me.'
'Goodyear,' Margaret repeated, looking at Lushington. 'What a nice
name! I like it.'
'You understand,' Madame Bonanni went on, explaining. 'Goodyear,
buon anno, bonanno, Bonanni; that is how it is made up. It's a
good name for the stage, is it not?'
'Yes. But why did you change it at all for your son?'
Madame Bonanni shrugged her large shoulders, glanced furtively at
Lushington, and then looked at Margaret.
'It was better,' she said. 'Fruit, Angelo!'
'Can I be of any use to you in getting off, mother?' asked
Margaret felt that she had made another mistake, and looked at her
'No, my angel,' said Madame Bonanni, answering her son's question,
and eating hothouse grapes; 'you cannot help me in the least, my sweet.
I know you would if you could, dear child! But you will come and dine
with me quietly at the Carlton on Sunday at half-past eight, just you
and I. I promise you that no one shall be there, not even
Logothetithough you do not mind him so much.'
'Not in the least,' Lushington answered, with a smile which Margaret
thought a little contemptuous. 'All the same, I would much rather be
alone with you.'
'Do you wonder that I love him?' asked Madame Bonanni, turning to
'No, I don't wonder in the least,' answered the young girl, with
such decision that Lushington looked up suddenly, as if to thank her.
The ordeal was over at last, and the prima donna rose with a yawn of
'I am going to turn you out,' she said. 'You know I cannot live
without my nap.'
She kissed Margaret first, and then her son, each on both cheeks,
but it was clear that she could hardly keep her eyes open, and she left
Margaret and Lushington standing together, exactly as she had left the
young girl with Logotheti on the first occasion.
Their eyes met for an instant and then Lushington got his hat and
stick and opened the door for Margaret to go out.
'Shall I call a cab for you?' he asked.
'No, thank you. I'll walk a little way first, and then drive to the
When they were in the street, Lushington stood still.
'You believe that it was an accident, don't you?' he asked. 'I mean
my coming to-day.'
'Of course! Shall we walk on?'
He could not refuse, and he felt that he was not standing by his
resolution; yet the circumstances were changed, since she now knew his
secret, and was warned.
They had gone twenty steps before she spoke.
'You might have trusted me,' she said.
'I should think you would understand why I did not tell you,' he
answered rather bitterly.
She opened her parasol so impatiently that it made an ominous little
noise as if it were cracking.
'I do understand,' she said, almost harshly, as she held it up
against the sun.
'And yet you complain because I did not tell you,' said Lushington
in a puzzled tone.
'It's you who don't understand!' Margaret retorted.
'No. I don't.'
They went on a little way in silence, walking rather slowly. She was
angry with herself for being irritated by him, just when she admired
him more than ever before, and perhaps loved him better; though love
has nothing to do with admiration except to kindle it sometimes, just
when it is least deserved. Now it takes generous people longer to
recover from a fit of anger against themselves than against their
neighbours, and in a few moments Margaret began to feel very unhappy,
though all her original irritation against Lushington had subsided. She
now wished, in her contrition, that he would say something
disagreeable; but he did not. He merely changed the subject, speaking
'So it is all decided,' he said, 'and you are to make your début.'
'Yes,' she answered, with a sort of eagerness to be friendly again.
'I'm a professional from to-day, with a stage name, a prey to critics,
reporters and photographersjust like your mother, except that she is
a very great artist and I am a very little one.'
It was not very skilfully done, but Lushington was grateful for what
she meant by it, and for saying 'your mother' instead of 'Madame
'I think you will be great, too,' he said, 'and before very long.
There is no young soprano on the stage now, who has half your voice or
half your talent.'
Margaret coloured with pleasure, though she could not quite believe
what he told her. But he glanced at her and felt sure that he was
right. She had voice and talent, he knew, but even with both some
singers fail; she had the splendid vitality, the boundless health and
the look of irresistible success, which only the great ones have. She
was not a classic beauty, but she would be magnificent on the stage.
There was a short silence, before she spoke.
'Two days ago,' she said, 'I did not think we would meet again so
'Part again so soon, you ought to say,' he answered. 'It is nothing
but that, after all.'
She bit her lip.
'Must we?' she asked, almost unconsciously.
'Yes. Don't make it harder than it is. Let's get it over. There's a
He held up his stick and signalled to the cabman, who touched his
horse and moved towards them. Margaret stood still, with a
half-frightened look, and spoke in a low voice.
'Tom, if you leave me, I won't answer for myself!'
'I will. Good-byeGod bless you!'
The cab stopped beside them, as he held out his hand. She took it
silently and he made her get in. A moment later she was driving away at
a smart pace, sitting bolt upright and looking straight before her, her
lips pressed tight together, while Lushington walked briskly in the
opposite direction. It had all happened in a moment, in a sort of
Constantine Logotheti had at least two reasons for not going out to
Versailles as soon as Mrs. Rushmore signified her desire to know him.
In the first place he was 'somebody,' and an important part of being
'somebody' is to keep the fact well before the eyes of other people. He
was altogether too great a personage to be at the beck and call of
every one who wanted to know him. Secondly, he did not wish Margaret to
think that he was running after her, for the very good reason that he
meant to do so with the least possible delay.
Lushington, who was really both sensitive and imaginative, used to
tell Margaret that he was a realist. Logotheti, who was by nature,
talent and education a thorough materialist, loved to believe that he
possessed both a rich imagination and the gift of true sentiment.
Margaret had delighted him at first sight, though he was hard to
please, and though she was not a great beauty. She appealed directly to
that love of life for its own sake which was always the strength, the
genius and the snare of the Greek people, and which is not extinct in
their modern descendants. Logotheti certainly had plenty of it, and his
first impression, when he had met Margaret Donne, was that he had met
his natural mate. There was nothing in the very least psychological
about the sensation, and yet it was not the result of a purely physical
attraction. It brought with it a satisfaction of artistic taste that
was an unmarred pleasure in itself.
True art has gone much further in deifying humanity than in
humanising divinity. The Hermes of Olympia is a man made into a god; no
Christian artist has ever done a tenth as well in presenting the image
of God made Man. When imagination soars towards an invisible world it
loses love of life as it flies higher, till it ends in glorifying death
as the only means of reaching heaven; and in doing that it has often
descended to a gross realism that would have revolted the Greeksto
the materialism of anatomical preparations that make one think of the
dissecting-room, if one has ever been there.
Love of genuine art is the best sort of love of life, and the really
great artists have always been tremendously vital creatures. So-called
artistic people who are sickly or merely under-vitalised generally go
astray after strange gods; or, at the best, they admire works of art
for the sake of certain pleasing, or sad, or even unhealthy
associations which these call up.
Logotheti came of a race which, through being temporarily isolated
from modern progress, has not grown old with it. For it seems pretty
sure that progress means, with many other things, the survival of the
unfit and the transmission of unfitness to a generation of old babies;
but where men are not disinfected, sterilised, fed on preserved carrion
and treated with hypodermics from the cradle to the grave, the good old
law of nature holds its own and the weak ones die young, while the
strong fight for life and are very much alive while they live.
Such people, when transplanted from what we call a half-barbarous
state to live amongst us, never feel as we do, and when they are roused
to action their deeds are not of the sort which our wives, our
mothers-in-law and the clergy expect us to approve. It does not follow
that they are villains, though they may occasionally kill some one in a
fit of anger, or carry off by force the women they fall in love with;
for such doings probably seem quite natural in their own country, and
after all they cannot be expected to know more about right and wrong
than their papas and mammas taught them when they were little things.
The object of this long-winded digression is not to excite sympathy
on behalf of Logotheti, but to forestall surprise at some of the things
he did when he had convinced himself that of all the women he had ever
met, Margaret Donne was the one that suited him best, and that she must
be his at any cost and at any risk.
The conviction was almost formed at the first meeting, and took full
possession of him when he met her again, and she seemed glad to see
him. By this time she had no reason for concealing from Mrs. Rushmore
that she had seen him at Madame Bonanni's, and she held out her hand
with a frank smile. It was on a Sunday afternoon and there were a
number of lions on the lawn, and half a dozen women of the world.
Logotheti seemed to know more than half the people present, which is
rather unusual in Paris, and most of them treated him with the rather
fawning deference accorded by society to the superior claims of wealth
over good blood.
The Greek smiled pleasantly and reflected that the nobility of the
Fanar, which goes back to the Byzantine Empire, is as good as any in
France, and even less virtuous. He by no means despised his wealth, and
he continually employed his excellent faculties in multiplying it; but
in his semi-barbarous heart he was an aristocrat and was quietly amused
when people whose real names seemed to have been selected from a list
of Rhine wines took titles which emanated from the Vatican, or when
plain Monsieur Dubois turned himself into 'le comte du Bois de
Vincennes'. Yet since few people seemed to know anything about Leo the
Isaurian, under whom his direct ancestor had held office as treasurer
and had eventually had his eyes put out for his pains, Logotheti was
quite willing to be treated with deference for the sake of the more
tangible advantages of present fortune. In Mrs. Rushmore's garden of
celebrities, he at once took his place as a rare bird.
He crossed the lawn beside Margaret, indeed, with the air and
assurance of a magnificent peacock. He was perhaps a shade less
over-dressed than when she had seen him last, but there was an
astonishing lustre about everything he wore, and even his almond-shaped
eyes were bright almost to vulgarity; but though he tired the sight, as
a peacock does in the sun, it was impossible not to watch him.
'What a handsome man Logotheti is!' exclaimed a Roumanian poetess,
who was there.
'What an awful cad!' observed a fastidious young American to the
English officer who was still on his way to India, and was very
comfortable at Mrs. Rushmore's.
The Englishman looked at Logotheti attentively for nearly half a
minute before he answered.
'No,' he said quietly. 'That man is not a cad, he is simply a rich
Oriental, dressed up in European clothes. I've met that sort before,
and they are sometimes nasty customers. That fellow is as strong as a
horse and as quick as a cat.'
Meanwhile the Greek and Margaret reached a seat near the little pond
and sat down. She did not know that he had watched every one of her
movements with as much delight as if Psyche, made whole and alive, had
been walking beside him. He had not seemed to look at her at all, and
he did not begin the conversation by making her compliments.
'I should have left a card on Mrs. Rushmore the day after I met
you,' he began in a rather apologetic tone, 'but I was not quite sure
that she knew about your visit to our friend, and she might have asked
who I was and where you had met me. Besides, as she is an American, she
would have thought I was trying to scrape acquaintance.'
'Hardly that. But you did quite right,' Margaret answered. 'Thank
He was tactful. She leaned back a little in the corner of the seat
and looked at him with an air of curiosity, wondering why everything he
had said and done so far had pleased her so much better than his
appearance. She was always expecting him to say something blatant or to
do something vulgar, mainly because he wore such phenomenal ties and
such gorgeous pins. To-day he displayed a ruby of astonishing size and
startling colour. She was sure that it must be real, because he was so
rich, but she had never known that rubies could be so big except in a
fairy story. The tie was knitted of the palest mauve, shot with green
and gold threads.
'I have seen Schreiermeyer,' he said. 'Is there to be any secret
about your début?'
'None whatever! But I have said nothing about it, and none of the
people here seem to have found it out yet.'
'So much the better. In everything connected with the theatre I
believe it is a mistake to try and excite interest before the event.
What is said beforehand is rarely said afterwards. You can be sure that
Schreiermeyer will say nothing till the time comes, and if Madame
Bonanni talks about you to her friends in London, nobody will believe
she is in earnest.'
'But she is so outspoken,' Margaret objected.
'Yes, but no one could possibly understand that a prima donna just
on the edge of decline could possibly wish to advertise a rising light.
It is hardly human!'
'I think she is the most good-natured woman I ever knew,' said
Margaret with conviction.
'She has a heart of gold. Her only trouble in life is that she has
too much of it! There is enough for everybody. She has always had far
too much for one.'
Logotheti smiled at his own expression.
'Perhaps that is better than having no heart at all,' Margaret
answered, not quite realising how the words might have been
'The heart is a convenient and elastic organ,' observed Logotheti.
'It does almost everything. It sinks, it swells, it falls, it leaps, it
stands still, it quivers, it gets into one's throat and it breaks; but
it goes on beating all the time with more or less regularity, just as
the violin clown scrapes his fiddle while he turns somersaults, sticks
out his tongue, sits down with frightful suddenness and tumbles in and
out of his white hat.'
He talked to amuse her and occupy her while he looked at her,
studying her lines, as a yacht expert studies those of a new and
beautiful model; yet he knew so well how to glance and look away, and
glance again, that she was not at all aware of what he was really
doing. She laughed a little at what he said.
'Where did you learn to speak English so well?' she asked.
'Languages do not count nowadays,' he answered carelessly. 'Any
Levantine in Smyrna can speak a dozen, like a native. Have you never
been in the East?'
'Should you like to go to Greece?'
'Of course I should.'
'Then come! I am going to take a party in my yacht next month. It
will give me the greatest pleasure if you and Mrs. Rushmore will come
'You forget that I am a real artist, with a real engagement!' she
'Yes, I forgot that. I wanted to! I can make Schreiermeyer forget
it, too, if you will come. I'll hypnotise him. Will you authorise me?'
He smiled pleasantly but his long eyes were quite grave. Margaret
supposed that it would be absurd to suspect anything but chaff in his
proposal, and yet she felt an odd conviction that he meant what he
said. Only vain women are easily mistaken about such things. Margaret
turned the point with another little laugh.
'If you put him to sleep he will hibernate, like a dormouse,' she
said. 'It will take a whole year to wake him up!'
'I don't think so, but what if it did?'
'I should be a year older, and I am not too young as it is! I'm
'It's only in Constantinople that they are so particular about age,'
laughed the Greek. 'After seventeen the price goes down very fast.'
'Really?' Margaret was amused. 'What do you suppose I should be
worth in Turkey?'
Logotheti looked at her gravely and seemed to be estimating her
'If you were seventeen, you would be worth a good thousand pounds,'
he said presently, 'and at least three hundred more for your singing.'
'Is that all, for my voice?' She could not help laughing. 'And at
twenty-two, what should I sell for?'
'I doubt whether any one would give much more than eight hundred for
you,' answered Logotheti with perfect gravity. 'That's a big price, you
know. In Persia they give less. I knew a Persian ambassador, for
instance, who got a very handsome wife for four hundred and fifty.'
'Are you in earnest?' asked Margaret. 'Do you mean to say that you
could just go out and buy yourself a wife in the market in
'I could not, because I am a Christian. The market exists in a quiet
place where Europeans never find it. You see all the Circassians in
Turkey live by stealing horses and selling their daughters. They are a
noble race, the Circassians! The girls are brought up with the idea,
and they rarely dislike it at all.'
'I never heard of such things!'
'No. The East is very interesting. Will you come? I'll take you
wherever you like. We will leave the archæologists in Crete and go on
to Constantinople. It will be the most beautiful season on the
Bosphorus, you know, and after that we will go along the southern shore
of the Black Sea to Samsoun, and Kerasund, and Trebizond, and round by
the Crimea. There are wonderful towns on the shores of the Black Sea
which hardly any European ever sees. I'm sure you would like them, just
as I do.'
'I am sure I should.'
'You love beautiful things, don't you?'
'Yesthough I don't pretend to be a judge.'
'I do. And when I see anything that really pleases me, I always try
to get it; and if I succeed, nothing in the world will induce me to
part with it. I'm a miser about the things I like. I keep them in safe
places, and it gives me pleasure to look at them when I'm alone.'
'That's not very generous. You might give others a little pleasure,
too, now and then.'
'So few people know what is good! Some of us Greeks have the
instinct in our blood still, and we recognise it in a few men and women
we meetyou are one, for instance. As soon as I saw you the first
time, I was quite sure that we should think alike about a great many
things. Do you mind my saying as much as that, at a second meeting?'
'Not if you think it is true,' she answered with a smile. 'Why
'It might sound as if I were trying to make out that we have some
natural bond of sympathy,' said Logotheti. 'That's a favourite way of
opening the game, you know. Do you like carrots? So do Ia bond, at
once! Do you go in, when it rains? I always dosecond bond. We must
be sympathetic to each other! Do you smile when you are pleased? Of
course! We are exactly alike, and our hearts beat in unison! That's
the sort of thing.'
He amused her; perhaps she was easily amused now, because she had
been feeling rather depressed all the morning. Women are subject to
such harmless self-contradictions.
'I love to be out in the rain, and I don't like carrots!' she
answered. 'There are evidently things about which our hearts don't beat
in unison at all!'
'If people agreed about everything, what would become of
conversation, lawyers and standing armies? But I meant to suggest that
we might possibly like each other if we met often.'
'I have begun,' said Logotheti lightly, but again his long eyes were
'I have begun by liking you. You don't object, do you?'
'Oh no! I like to be likedby everybody!' Margaret laughed again,
and watched him.
'It only remains for you to like everybody yourself. Will you kindly
'Yes, in a general way, as a neighbour, in the biblical sense, you
know. Are you English enough to understand that expression?'
'I happen to have read the story of the Good Samaritan in Greek,'
Logotheti answered. 'Since you are willing that we should be
neighbours, in the biblical sense, you cannot blame me for saying
that I love my neighbour as myself.'
Once more her instinct told her that the words were meant less
carelessly than they were spoken, though she could not possibly seem to
take them in earnest. Yet her curiosity was aroused, as he intended
that it should be.
'I remember that the Samaritan loved his neighbour, in the biblical
sense, at first sight,' he said, with a quick glance.
'But those were biblical times, you know!'
'Men have not changed much since then. We can still love at first
sight, I assure you, even after we have seen a good deal of the world.
It depends on meeting the right woman, and on nothing else. Do you
suppose that if the Naples Psyche, or the Syracuse Venus, or the Venus
of Milo, or the Victory of Samothrace suddenly appeared in Paris or
London, all the men would not lose their heads about herat first
sight? Of course they would!'
'If you expect to have such neighbours as thosein the biblical
'I have one,' said Logotheti, 'and that's enough.'
Margaret had received many compliments of a more or less complicated
nature, but she did not remember that any one had yet compared her to
two Venuses, the Psyche and the Samothrace Nikê in a single breath.
'That's nonsense!' she exclaimed, blushing a little, and not at all
'No,' Logotheti answered, imperturbably. 'Besides, neither the
Victory nor the Venus of Syracuse has a head, so I am at liberty to
suppose yours on their shoulders. Take the Victory. You move exactly as
she seems to be moving, for she is not flying at all, you know, though
she has wings. The wings are only a symbol. The Greeks knew perfectly
well that a winged human being could not fly straight without a
feathered tail two or three yards long!'
'That you should move like the Victory? Not at all. The reason why I
love my neighbour as myself is that my neighbour is the most absolutely
satisfactory being, from an artistic point of view. I don't often make
'They are astonishing when you do!'
'Perhaps. But I was going on to say that what satisfies my love of
the beautiful, can only be what satisfies my love of life itself, which
'In other words,' said Margaret, wondering how he would go on, 'I am
'Do you know what an ideal is?'
'Yeswellno!' She hesitated. 'Perhaps I could not define it
'A man's ideal is what he wants, and nothing else in the world.'
Margaret was not sure whether she should resent the speech a little,
or let it pass. For an instant they looked at each other in silence.
Then she made up her mind to laugh.
'Do you know that you are going ahead at a frightful pace?' she
'Why should I waste time? My time is my life. It's all I have. Any
fool can make money when he has wasted it and really wants more, but no
power in heaven or earth can give me back an hour thrown away, an hour
of what might have been.'
'I'm sure you must have learnt that in an English Sunday school!
It's a highly moral and practical sentiment! But what becomes of the
'Oh, that's the other side,' Logotheti answered, laughing. 'Never do
to-day what you can put off till to-morrow, for if you do you'll lose
all the pleasure of anticipating it! And the anticipation is much more
delightful than the reality, so you must never realise your dream, if
you mean to be happyand all that sort of thing! But if reality knocks
at my door while I am asleep and dreaming, and if I don't wake up to
let it in, it may never take the trouble to knock again, you know, and
I shall be left dreaming. I don't know about the Sunday school maxim
being moral in all cases, but it's certainly very practical. I wish you
would follow it and come with me to the Eastyou and Mrs. Rushmore.'
'You mean that if I don't, you'll never ask me again, I suppose?'
'No. That was not what I meant.' He looked steadily into her eyes
till she turned her head away. 'What I meant was that you might be
induced to give up the idea of the stage.'
'And as an inducement to throw up my engagement and sacrifice a
career that may turn out wellyou have told me so!you offer me a
trip to Constantinople!'
'You shall keep the yacht as a memento of the cruise. She's not a
'What should I do with a steam yacht?'
'Oh, you would have to take the owner with her,' Logotheti answered
'Eh?' Margaret stared at him in amazement.
'Yes. Don't be surprised. I'm quite in earnest. I never lose time,
'I should think not! Do you know that this is only our second
'Exactly,' replied the Greek coolly. 'Of course, I might have asked
you the first time we met, when we were standing together on the
pavement outside Madame Bonanni's door. I thought of it, but I was
afraid it might strike you as sudden.'
'Yes. But a second meeting is different. You must admit that I have
had plenty of time to think it over and to know my own mind.'
'In two meetings?'
'Yes. Surely you know that in France young people are often engaged
to be married when they have never seen each other at all.'
'That is arranged for them by their parents,' objected Margaret.
'Whereas we can arrange the matter for ourselves,' Logotheti said.
'It's more dignified, and far more independent. Isn't it?'
'I suppose soI hardly know.'
'Oh yes, it is! You cannot deny it. Besides we have no parents and
we are not children. You may think me hasty, but you cannot possibly be
'I'm not, but I think you are quite madunless you are joking.'
'Mad, because I love you?' asked Logotheti, lowering his voice and
looking at her.
'But how is it possible? We hardly know each other!' Margaret was
beginning to feel uncomfortable.
'Never mind; it is possible, since it is so. Of course, I cannot
expect you to feel as I do, so soon, but I want to be before any one
Margaret was silent, and her expression changed as she listened to
his low and earnest tones.
'I don't want to believe there is any one else,' he went on. 'I
don't believe it, not even if you tell me there is. But you would not
tell me, I suppose.'
She turned her eyes full upon him and spoke as low as he, but a
'There is some one else,' she said slowly.
Logotheti's lips moved, but she could not hear what he said, and
almost as soon as she had spoken he looked down at the grass. There was
no visible change in his face, and though she watched him for a few
seconds, she did not think his hold tightened on his stick or that his
brows contracted. She was somewhat relieved at this, for she was
inclined to conclude that he had not been in earnest at all, and had
idly asked her to marry him just to see whether he could surprise her
into saying anything foolish. Yet this idea did not please her either.
If there is anything a woman resents, it is that a man should pretend
to be in love with her, in order to laugh at her in his sleeve.
Margaret rose during the silence that followed. Logotheti sat still for
a moment, as if he had not noticed her, and then he got up suddenly,
and glanced at her with a careless smile.
'I wish you good luck,' he said lightly.
'Thank you,' she answered. 'One can never have too much of it!'
'Never. Get a talisman, a charm, a jadoo. You will need something
of the sort in your career. A black opal is the best, but if you choose
that you must get it yourself, you must buy it, find it, or steal it.
Otherwise it will have no effect!'
They moved away from the place where they had sat, and they joined
the others. But after they had separated Margaret looked more than once
at Logotheti, as if her eyes were drawn to him against her will, and
she was annoyed to find that he was watching her.
She had thought of Lushington often that day, and now she wished
with all her heart that he were beside her, standing between her and
something she could not define but which she dreaded just because she
could not imagine what it was, though it was certainly connected with
Logotheti and with what he had said. She changed her mind about the
Greek half-a-dozen times in an hour, but after each change the
conviction grew on her that he had meant not only what he had said, but
much more. His eyes were not like other men's eyes at all, when they
looked at her, though they were so very quiet and steady; they were the
eyes of another race which she did not know, and they saw the world as
her own people did not see it, nor as Frenchmen, nor as Italians, nor
Germans, nor as any people she had met. They had seen sights she could
never see, in countries where the law, if there was any, took it for
granted that men would risk their lives for what they wanted. She, who
was not easily frightened, suddenly felt the fear of the unknown, and
the unknown was somehow embodied in Logotheti.
She did not show what she felt when he strolled up to her to say
good-bye, but through her glove she felt that his hand was stone cold,
and as he said the half-dozen conventional words that were necessary
she was sure that he smiled strangely, even mysteriously, as if such
phrases as 'I hope to see you again before long,' and 'such a heavenly
afternoon,' would cloak the deadly purposes of a diabolical design.
Margaret was alone with Mrs. Rushmore for a few minutes before
Mrs. Rushmore uttered the single word in an ejaculatory and
interrogative tone, as only a certain number of old-fashioned Americans
can. Spoken in that peculiar way it can mean a good deal, for it can
convey suspicion, or approval or disapproval and any degree of
acquaintance with the circumstances concerned, from almost total
ignorance to the knowledge of everything except the result of the
On the present occasion Mrs. Rushmore meant that she had watched
Margaret and Logotheti and had guessed approximately what had
passedthat she thought the matter decidedly interesting, and wished
to know all about it.
But Margaret was not anxious to understand, if indeed her English
ear detected all the hidden meaning of the monosyllable.
'There were a good many people, weren't there?' she observed with a
sort of query, meant to lead the conversation in that direction.
Mrs. Rushmore would not be thrown off the scent.
'My dear,' she said severely, 'he proposed to you on that bench.
Don't deny it.'
'Good gracious!' exclaimed Margaret, taken by surprise.
'Don't deny it,' repeated Mrs. Rushmore.
'I had only met him once before to-day,' said Margaret.
'It's all the same,' retorted Mrs. Rushmore with an approach to
asperity. 'He proposed to you. Don't deny it. I say, don't deny it.'
'I haven't denied it,' answered Margaret. 'I only hoped that you had
not noticed anything. He must be perfectly mad. Why in the world should
he want to marry me?'
'All Greeks,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'are very designing.'
Margaret smiled at the expression.
'I should have said that Monsieur Logotheti was hasty,' she
'My dear,' said Mrs. Rushmore with conviction, 'this man is an
adventurer. You may say what you like, he is an adventurer. I am sure
that ruby he wears is worth at least twenty thousand dollars. You may
say what you like; I am sure of it.'
'But I don't say anything,' Margaret protested. 'I daresay it is.'
'I know it is,' retorted Mrs. Rushmore with cold emphasis. 'What
business has a man to wear such jewellery? He's an adventurer, and
'He's one of the richest men in Paris for all that,' observed
'There!' exclaimed Mrs. Rushmore. 'Now you're defending him! I told
'I don't quite see'
'Of course not. You're much too young to understand such things. The
wretch has designs on you. I don't care what you say, my dear, he has
In Mrs. Rushmore's estimation she could say nothing worse of any
human being than that.
'What sort of designs?' inquired Margaret, somewhat amused.
'In the first place, he wants to marry you. You admit that he does.
My dear Margaret, it's bad enough that you should talk in your
cold-blooded way of going on the stage, but that you should ever marry
a Greek! Good heavens, child! What do you think I am made of? And then
you ask me what designs the man has. It's not to be believed!'
'I must be very dull,' said Margaret in a patient tone, 'but I don't
'I do,' retorted Mrs. Rushmore with severity, 'and that's enough!
Wasn't I your dear mother's best friend? Haven't I been a good friend
'Indeed you have!' cried Margaret very gratefully.
'Well then,' explained Mrs. Rushmore, 'I don't see that there is
anything more to be said. It follows that the man is either an agent of
that wicked old Alvah Moon'
'Why?' asked Margaret, opening her eyes.
'Or else,' continued Mrs. Rushmore with crushing logic, 'he means to
live on you when you've made your fortune by singing. It must be one or
the other, and if it isn't the one, it's certainly the other. Certainly
it is! You may say what you like. So that's settled, and I've warned
you. You can't afford to despise your old friend's warning,
Margaretindeed you can't.'
'But I've no idea of marrying the man,' said Margaret helplessly.
'Of course not! But I should like to say, my child, that whatever
you do, I won't leave you to your fate. You may be sure of that. If
nothing else would serve I'd go on the stage myself! I owe it to your
Margaret wondered in what capacity Mrs. Rushmore would exhibit
herself to the astounded public if she carried out her threat.
If Mrs. Rushmore's logic was faulty and the language of her argument
vague, her instinct was keen enough and had not altogether misled her.
Logotheti was neither a secret agent of the wicked Alvah Moon who had
robbed Margaret of her fortune, nor had he the remotest idea of making
Margaret support him in luxurious idleness in case she made a success.
But if, when a young and not over-scrupulous Oriental has been refused
by an English girl, he does not abandon the idea of marrying her, but
calmly considers the possibilities of making her marry him against her
will, he may be described as having 'designs' upon her, then Logotheti
was undeniably a very 'designing' person, and Mrs. Rushmore was not
nearly so far wrong as Margaret thought her. Whether it was at all
likely that he might succeed, was another matter, but he possessed both
the qualities and the weapons which sometimes ensure success in the
most unpromising undertakings.
He was tenacious, astute and cool, he was very rich, he was very
much in love and he had no scruples worth mentioning; moreover, if he
failed, he belonged to a country from which it is extremely hard to
obtain the extradition of persons who have elsewhere taken the name of
the law in vain. It is with a feeling of national pride and security
that the true-born Greek takes sanctuary beneath the shadow of the
He had played his first card boldly, but not recklessly, to find out
how matters stood. He had been the target of too many matrimonial aims
not to know that even such a girl as Margaret Donne might be suddenly
dazzled and tempted by the offer of his hand and fortune, and might
throw over the possibilities of a stage career for the certainties of
an enormously rich marriage. But he had not counted on that at all, and
had really set Margaret much higher in his estimation than to suppose
that she would marry him out of hand for his money; he had reckoned
only on finding out whether he had a rival, and in this he had
succeeded, to an extent which he had not anticipated, and the result
was not very promising. There had been no possibility of mistaking
Margaret's tone and manner when she had confessed that there was 'some
On reflection he had to admit that Margaret had not been dazzled by
his offer, though she had seemed surprised. She had either been
accustomed to the idea of unlimited money, because Mrs. Rushmore was
rich, or else she did not know its value. It came to the same thing in
the end. Orientals very generally act on the perfectly simple theory
that nine people out of ten are to be imposed upon by the mere display
of what money can buy, and that if you show them the real thing they
will be tempted by it. It is not pleasant to think how often they are
right; and though Logotheti had made no impression on Margaret with his
magnificent ruby and his casual offer of a yacht as a present, he did
not reproach himself with having made a mistake. He had simply tried
what he considered the usual method of influencing a woman, and as it
had failed he had eliminated it from the arsenal of his weapons. That
was all. He had found out at once that it was of no use, and as he
hated to waste time he was not dissatisfied with the result of his
Like most men who have lived much in Paris he cared nothing at all
for the ordinary round of dissipated amusement which carries foreigners
and even young Frenchmen off their feet like a cyclone, depositing them
afterwards in strange places and in a damaged condition. It was long
since he had dined 'in joyous company,' frequented the lobby of the
ballet or found himself at dawn among the survivors of an
indiscriminate orgy. Men who know Paris well may not have improved upon
their original selves as to moral character, but they have almost
always acquired the priceless art of refined enjoyment; and this is
even more true now than in the noisy days of the Second Empire. In
Paris senseless dissipation is mostly the pursuit of the young, who
know no better, or of much older men who have never risen above the
animal state, and who sink with age into half-idiotic bestiality.
Logotheti had never been counted amongst the former, and was in no
danger of ending his days in the ranks of the latter. He was much too
fond of real enjoyment to be dissipated. Most Orientals are.
He spent the evening alone in an inner room to which no mere
acquaintance and very few of his friends had ever been admitted. His
rule was that when he was there he was not to be disturbed on any
'But if the house should take fire?' a new man-servant inquired on
receiving these instructions.
'The fire-engines will put it out,' Logotheti answered. 'It is none
of my business. I will not be disturbed.'
'Very good, sir. But if the house should burn down before they
'Then I should advise you to go away. But be careful not to disturb
'Very good, sir. And if'the man's voice took a confidential
tone'if any lady should ask for you, sir?'
'Tell her that to the best of your knowledge I am dead. If she
faints, call a cab.'
'Very good, sir.'
Thereupon the new man-servant had entered upon his functions,
satisfied that his master was an original character, if not quite mad.
But there was no secret about the room itself, as far as could be seen,
and it was regularly swept and dusted like other rooms. The door was
never locked except when Logotheti was within, and the room contained
no hidden treasures, nor any piece of furniture in which such things
might have been concealed. There was nothing peculiar about the
construction of the place, except that the three windows were high
above the ground like those of a painter's studio, and could be opened
or shut, or shaded, by means of cords and chains. There were also heavy
curtains, such as are never seen in studios, which could be drawn
completely across the windows.
In a less civilised country Logotheti's servants might have supposed
that he retired to this solitude to practise necromancy or study
astrology, or to celebrate the Black Mass. But his matter-of-fact
Frenchmen merely said that he was 'an original'; they even said so with
a certain pride, as if there might be bad copies of him extant
somewhere, which they despised. One man, who had an epileptic aunt,
suggested that Logotheti probably had fits, and disappeared into the
inner room in order to have them alone; but this theory did not find
favour, though it was supported, as the man pointed out, by the fact
that the double doors of the room were heavily padded, and that the
whole place seemed to be sound-proof, as indeed it was. On the other
hand there was nothing about the furniture within that could give
colour to the supposition, which was consequently laughed at in the
servants' hall. Monsieur was simply 'an original'; that was enough to
explain everything, and his order as to being left undisturbed was the
more strictly obeyed because it would apparently be impossible to
disturb him with anything less than artillery.
It is a curious fact that when servants have decided that their
masters are eccentric they soon cease to take any notice of their
doings, except to laugh at them now and then when more eccentric than
usual. It being once established that Logotheti was an original he
might have kept his private room full of Bengal tigers for all the
servants hall would have cared, provided the beasts did not get about
the house. It was a 'good place,' for he was generous, and there were
perquisites; therefore he might do anything he pleased, so long as he
paidas indeed most of us might in this modern world, if we were able
and willing to pay the price.
On this particular evening Logotheti dined at home alone, chiefly on
a very simple Greek pilaff, Turkish preserved rose leaves and cream
cheese, which might strike a Parisian as strange fare, unless he were a
gourmet of the very highest order. Having sipped a couple of small
glasses of very old Samos wine, Logotheti ordered lights and coffee in
his private room, told the servants not to disturb him, went in and
locked the outer door.
Then he gave a sigh of satisfaction and sat down, as if he had
reached the end of a day's journey. He tasted his coffee, and kicked
off first one of his gleaming patent leather slippers and then the
other, and drew up his feet under him on the broad leather seat, and
drank more coffee, and lit a big cigarette; after which he sat almost
motionless for at least half an hour, looking most of the time at a
statue which occupied the principal place in the middle of the room.
Now and then he half closed his eyes, and then opened them again
suddenly, with an evident sense of pleasure. He had the air of a man
completely satisfied with his surroundings, his sensations and his
thoughts. There was something almost Buddha-like in his attitude, in
his perfect calm, in the expression of his quiet almond eyes; even the
European clothes he wore did not greatly hinder the illusion. Just then
he did not look at all the sort of person to do anything sudden or
violent, to pitch order to the dogs and tear the law to pieces, to kill
anything that stood in his way as coolly as he would kill a mosquito,
or to lay violent hands on what he wanted if he was hindered from
taking it peacefully. Neither does a wild-cat look very dangerous when
it is dozing.
On the rare occasions when he allowed any one but his servants to
enter that room, he said that the statue was a copy, which he had
caused to be very carefully made after an original found in Lesbos and
secretly carried off by a high Turkish official, who kept it in his
house and never spoke of it. This accounted for its being quite unknown
to the artistic world. He called attention to the fact that it was
really a facsimile, rather than a copy, and he seemed pleased at the
perfect reproduction of the injured points, which were few, and of the
stains, which were faint and not unpleasing. But he never showed it to
an artist or an expert critic.
'A mere copy,' he would say, with a shrug of his shoulders. 'Nothing
that would interest any one who really knows about such things.'
A very perfect copy, a very marvellous copy, surely; one that might
stand in the Vatican, with the Torso, or in the Louvre, beside the
Venus of Milo, or in the British Museum, opposite the Pericles, or in
Olympia itself, facing the Hermes, the greatest of all, and yet never
be taken for anything but the work of a supreme master's own hands. But
Constantine Logotheti shrugged his shoulders and said it was a mere
copy, nothing but a clever facsimile, carved and chipped and stained by
a couple of Italian marble-cutters, whose business it was to
manufacture antiquities for the American market and whom any one could
engage to work in any part of the world for twenty francs a day and
their expenses. Yes, those Italian workmen were clever fellows,
Logotheti admitted. But everything could be counterfeited now, as
everybody knew, and his only merit lay in having ordered this
particular counterfeit instead of having been deceived by it.
As Logotheti sat there in the quiet light, looking at it, the word
'copy' sounded in his memory, as he had often spoken it, and a peaceful
smile played upon his broad Oriental lips. The 'copy' had cost human
lives, and he had almost paid for it with his own, in his haste to have
it for himself, and only for himself.
His eyes were half-closed again, and he saw outlines of strong
ragged men staggering down to a lonely cove at night, with their marble
burden, and he heard the autumn gale howling among the rocks, and the
soft thud of the baled statue as it was laid in the bottom of the
little fishing craft; and then, because the men feared the weather, he
was in the boat himself, shaming them by his courage, loosing the sail,
bending furiously to one of the long sweeps, yelling, cheering,
cursing, promising endless gold, then baling with mad energy as the
water swirled up and poured over the canvas bulwark that Greek boats
carry, and still wildly urging the fishermen to keep her up; and then,
the end, a sweep broken and foul of the next, a rower falling headlong
on the man in front of him, confusion in the dark, the crazy boat
broached to in the breaking sea, filling, fuller, now quite full and
sinking, the raging hell of men fighting for their lives amongst broken
oars, and tangled rigging and floating bottom-boards; one voice less,
two less, a smashing sea and then no voices at all, no boat, no men, no
anything but the howling wind and the driving spray, and he himself,
Logotheti, gripping a spar, one of those long booms the fishermen carry
for running, half-drowned again and again, but gripping still, and
drifting with the storm past the awful death of sharp black rocks and
pounding seas, into the calm lee beyond.
And then, a week later, on a still October night, his great yacht
lying where the boat had sunk, with diver and crane and hoisting gear,
and submarine light; and at last, the thing itself brought up from ten
fathoms deep with noise of chain and steam winch, and swung in on deck,
the water-worn baling dropping from it and soon torn off, to show the
precious marble perfect still. And then'full speed ahead' and west by
north, straight for the Malta channel.
Logotheti's personal reminiscences were not exactly dull, and the
vivid recollection of struggles and danger and visible death made the
peace of his solitude more profound; the priceless thing he had fought
for was alive in the stillness with the supernatural life of the ever
beautiful; his fingers pressed an ebony key in the table beside him and
the marble turned very slowly and steadily and noiselessly on the low
base, seeming to let her shadowy eyes linger on him as she looked back
over the curve of her shoulder. Again his fingers moved, and the motion
ceased, obedient to the hidden mechanism; and so, as he sat still, the
goddess moved this way and that, facing him at his will, or looking
back, or turning quite away, as if ashamed to meet his gaze, being
clothed only in warm light and dreamy shadows, then once more
confronting him in the pride of a beauty too faultless to fear a man's
He leaned against his cushions, and sipped his coffee now and then,
and let the thin blue smoke make clouds of lace between him and the
very slowly moving marble, for he knew what little things help great
illusions, or destroy them. Nothing was lacking. The dark blue
pavement, combed like rippling water and shot with silver that cast
back broken reflections, was the sea itself; snowy gauze wrapped
loosely round the base was breaking foam; the tinted walls, the morning
sky of Greece; the goddess, Aphrodite, sea-born, too human to be quite
divine, too heavenly to be only a living woman.
And she was his; his not only for the dangers he had faced to have
her, but his because he was a Greek, because his heart beat with a
strain of the ancient sculptor's blood; because his treasure was the
goddess of his far forefathers, who had made her in the image of the
loveliness they adored; because he worshipped her himself, more than
half heathenly; but doubly his now, because his imagination had found
her likeness in the outer world, clothed, breathing and alive, and
created for him only.
He leaned against his cushions, and lines of the old poetry rose to
his lips, and the words came aloud. He loved the sound when he was
alone, the vital rush of it, and the voluptuous pause and the soft,
lingering cadence before it rose again. In the music of each separate
verse there was the whole episode of man's love and woman's, the
illusion and the image, the image and the maddening, leaping,
all-satisfying, softly-subsiding reality.
It was no wonder that he would not allow anything to disturb him in
that inner sanctuary of rare delight. His bodily nature, his
imagination, his deep knowledge and love of his own Hellenic poets, his
almost adoration of the beautiful, all that was his real self, placed
him far outside the pale that confines the world of common men as the
sheepfold pens in the flock.
It was late in the night when he rose from his seat at last,
extinguished the lights himself and left the room, with a regretful
look on his face; for, after his manner, he had been very happy in his
solitude, if indeed he had been alone where his treasure reigned.
He went downstairs, for the sanctuary was high up in the house, and
he found his man dozing in a chair in the vestibule at the door of his
dressing-room. The valet rose to his feet instantly, took a little
salver from the small table beside him, and held it out to Logotheti.
'A telegram, sir,' he said.
Logotheti carelessly tore the end off the blue cover and glanced at
Can buy moon. Cable offer and limit.
Logotheti looked at his watch and made a short calculation which
convinced him that no time would really be lost in buying the moon if
he did not answer the telegram till the next morning. Then he went to
bed and read himself to sleep with Musurus' Greek translation of
On the following day Margaret received a note from Schreiermeyer
informing her in the briefest terms and in doubtful French that he had
concluded the arrangements for her to make her début in the part
of Marguerite, in a Belgian city, in exactly a month, and requiring
that she should attend the next rehearsal of Faust at the Opéra
in Paris, where Faust is almost a perpetual performance and yet
seems to need rehearsing from time to time.
She showed the letter to Mrs. Rushmore, who sighed wearily after
reading it, and said nothing. But there was a little more colour in
Margaret's cheek, and her eyes sparkled at the prospect of making a
beginning at last. Mrs. Rushmore took up her newspaper again with an
air of sorrowful disapproval, but presently she started uncomfortably
and looked at Margaret.
'Oh!' she exclaimed, and sighed once more.
'What is it?' asked the young girl.
'It must be true, for it's in the Herald.'
Mrs. Rushmore read the following paragraph:
We hear on the best authority that a new star is about to dazzle
the operatic stage. Monsieur Schreiermeyer has announced to a
select circle of friends that it will be visible in the
heaven on the night of June 21, in the character of Marguerite
in the person of a surprisingly beautiful young Spanish
the Señorita Margarita da Cordova, whose romantic story as
to a contrabandista of Andalusia and granddaughter to the
celebrated bullfighter Ramon and
'Oh, my dear! This is too shameful! I told you so!'
Mrs. Rushmore's elderly cheeks were positively scarlet as she stared
at the print. Margaret observed the unwonted phenomenon with surprise.
'I don't see anything so appallingly improper in that,' she
'You don't see! No, my child, you don't! I trust you never may.
Indeed if I can prevent it, you never shall. Disgusting! Vile!'
And the good lady read the rest of the paragraph to herself, holding
up the paper so as to hide her modest blushes.
'My dear, what a story!' she cried at last. 'It positively makes me
'This is very tantalising,' said Margaret. 'I suppose it has to do
with my imaginary ancestry in Andalusia.'
'I should think it had! Where do they get such things, I wonder? A
bishop, my dearoh no, really! it would make a pirate blush! Can you
tell me what good this kind of thing can do?'
'Advertisement,' Margaret answered coolly. 'It's intended to excite
interest in me before I appear, you know. Don't they do it in America?'
'Never!' cried Mrs. Rushmore with solemn emphasis. 'Apart from its
being all a perfectly gratuitous falsehood.'
'Gratuitous? Perhaps Schreiermeyer paid to have it put in.'
'Then I never wish to see him, Margaret, never! Do you understand! I
think I shall bring an action against him. At all events I shall take
legal advice. This cannot be allowed to go uncontradicted. If I were
you, I would sit down and write to the paper this very minute, and tell
the editor that you are a respectable English girl. You are, I'm sure!'
'I hope so! But what has respectability to do with art?'
'A great deal, my dear,' answered Mrs. Rushmore wisely. 'You may say
what you like, there is a vast difference between being respectable and
disreputableperfectly vast! It's of no use to deny it, because you
'There now, I told you so! I must say, child, you are getting some
very strange ideas from your new acquaintances. If these are the
principles you mean to adopt, I am sorry for you, very sorry!'
Margaret did not seem very sorry for herself, however, for she went
off at this point, singing the 'jewel song' in Faust at the top
of her voice, and wishing with all her heart that she were already
behind the footlights with the orchestra at her feet.
Two days later, Mrs. Rushmore received a cable message from New York
which surprised her almost as much as the paragraph about Margaret had.
Alvah Moon has sold invention for cash to anonymous New York
syndicate who offer to compromise suit. Cable instructions
sum you will accept, if disposed to deal.
Now Mrs. Rushmore was a wise woman, as well as a good one, though
her ability to express her thoughts in concise language was
insignificant. She had long known that the issue of the suit she had
brought was doubtful, and that as it was one which could be appealed to
the Supreme Court of the United States, it might drag on for a long
time; so that the possibility of a compromise was very welcome, and she
at once remembered that half a loaf is better than no bread, especially
when the loaf is of hearty dimensions and easily divided. What she
could not understand was that any one should have been willing to pay
Alvah Moon the sum he must have asked, while his interest was still in
litigation, and that, after buying that interest, the purchasers should
propose a compromise when they might have prolonged the suit for some
time, with a fair chance of winning it in the end. But that did not
matter. More than once since Mrs. Rushmore had taken up the case her
lawyers had advised her to drop it and submit to losing what she had
already spent on the suit, and of late her own misgivings had
increased. The prospect of obtaining a considerable sum for Margaret,
at the very moment when the girl had made up her mind to support
herself as a singer, was in itself very tempting; and as it presented
itself just when the horrors of an artistic career had been brought
clearly before Mrs. Rushmore's mind by the newspaper paragraph, she did
not hesitate a moment.
Margaret was in Paris that morning, at her first rehearsal, and
could not come back till the afternoon; but after all it would be of no
use to consult her, as she was so infatuated with the idea of singing
in public that she would very probably be almost disappointed by her
good fortune. Mrs. Rushmore read the message three times, and then went
out under the trees to consider her answer, carrying the bit of paper
in her hand as if she did not know by heart the words written on it.
For once, she had no guests, and for the first time she was glad of it.
She walked slowly up and down, and as it was a warm morning, still and
overcast, she fanned herself with the telegram in a very futile way,
and watched the flies skimming over the water of the little pond, and
repeated her inward question to herself many times.
Mrs. Rushmore never thought anything out. When she was in doubt, she
asked herself the same question, 'What had I better do?' or, 'What will
he or she do next?' over and over again, with a frantic determination
to be logical. And suddenly, sooner or later, the answer flashed upon
her in a sort of accidental way as if it were not looking for her, and
so completely outran all power of expression that she could not put it
into words at all, though she could act upon it well enough. The odd
part of it all was that these accidental revelations rarely misled her.
They were like fragments of a former world of excellent common-sense
that had gone to pieces, which she now and then encountered like
meteors in her own orbit.
When she had walked up and down for a quarter of an hour one of
these aeroliths of reason shot across the field of her mental sight,
and she understood that one of two things must have occurred. Either
Alvah Moon had lost confidence in his chances and had sold the
invention to some greenhorn for anything he could get; or else some one
else had been so deeply interested in the affair as to risk a great
deal of money in it. Mrs. Rushmore's gleam of intelligence was a comet;
but her comet had two tails, which was very confusing.
Her meditations were disturbed by the noise of a big motor car,
approaching the house from a distance, and heralding its advance with a
steadily rising whizz and a series of most unearthly toots. Motor cars
often passed the house and ran down the Boulevard St. Antoine at
frightful speed, for the beautiful road is generally clear; but
something, perhaps a small meteor again, warned her that this one was
going to stop at the gate and demand admittance for itself.
Thereupon Mrs. Rushmore looked at her fingers; for she kept up an
extensive correspondence, in the course of which she often inked them.
For forty years she had asked herself why she, who prided herself on
her fastidious neatness, should have been predestined and condemned to
have inky fingers like an untidy school-girl, and she had spent time
and money in search of an ink that would wash off easily and
completely, without the necessity of flaying her hands with pumice
stone and chemicals. When suddenly aware of the approach of an
unexpected visitor, she always looked at her fingers.
The thing came nearer, roared, sputtered, tooted and was silent. In
the silence Mrs. Rushmore heard the tinkle of the gate bell and in a
few moments she saw Logotheti coming towards her across the lawn. She
was not particularly pleased to see him.
'I am afraid,' she said rather stiffly, 'that Miss Donne is out.'
In a not altogether well-spent life Logotheti had seen many things;
but he was not accustomed to American chaperons, whose amazing humility
always takes it for granted that no man under forty can possibly call
upon them except for the sake of seeing the young woman in their
charge. Logotheti looked vaguely surprised.
'Indeed?' he answered, with a little interrogation as though he
found it hard to be astonished, but wished to be obliging. 'That is
rather fortunate,' he continued, 'for I was hoping to find you alone.'
'Me?' Mrs. Rushmore unbent a little and smiled rather grimly.
'Yes. If I had not been so anxious to see you at once, I should have
written or telegraphed to ask for a few minutes alone with you. But I
could not afford to waste time.'
He spoke so gravely that she immediately suspected him of dark
designs. Perhaps he was going to propose to her, since Margaret had
refused him. She remembered instances of adventurers who had actually
married widows of sixty for their money. She compressed her lips. She
would be firm with him; he should have a piece of her mind.
'I am alone,' she said severely, a little as if warning him not to
'My errand concerns a matter in which we have common interests at
stake,' he said.
Mrs. Rushmore sat down on a garden chair, and pointed to the bench,
on which he took his seat.
'I cannot imagine what interests you mean,' she said, with dignity.
'Pray explain. If you refer to Miss Donne, I may as well inform you
with perfect frankness that it is of no use.'
Logotheti smiled and shook his head gently, keeping his eyes on Mrs.
Rushmore's face, all of which she took to mean incredulity on his part.
'You may say what you like,' she said. 'It's of no use.'
When Mrs. Rushmore declared that you might say what you liked, she
was in earnest, but her visitor was not familiar with the expression.
'Nevertheless,' he said, in a soothing way, 'my errand concerns Miss
'Well then,' said Mrs. Rushmore, 'don't! That's all I have to say,
and it's my last word. She doesn't care for you. I don't want to be
unkind, but I daresay you have made yourself think all sorts of
She felt that this was a great concession, to a Greek and an
'Excuse me,' said Logotheti quietly, 'but we are talking at cross
purposes. What I have to say concerns Miss Donne's financial
interestsher fortune, if you like to call it so.'
Mrs. Rushmore's suspicions were immediately confirmed.
'She has none,' said she, with a snap as if she were shutting up a
safe with a spring lock.
'That depends on what you call a fortune,' answered the Greek
coolly. 'In Paris most people would think it quite enough. It is true
that it is in litigation.'
'I really cannot see how that can interest you,' said Mrs. Rushmore
in an offended tone.
'It interests me a good deal. I have come to see you in order to
propose that you should compromise the suit about that invention.'
Mrs. Rushmore drew herself up against the straight back of the
garden chair and glared at him in polite wrath.
'You will pardon my saying that I consider your interferences very
much out of place, sir,' she said.
'But you will forgive me, dear madam, for differing with you,' said
Logotheti with the utmost blandness. 'This business concerns me quite
as much as Miss Donne.'
'You?' Mrs. Rushmore was amazed.
'I fancy you have heard that Mr. Alvah Moon has sold the invention
to a New York syndicate.'
'I am the syndicate.'
'You!' The good lady was breathless with astonishment. 'I cannot
believe it,' she gasped.
Logotheti's hand went to his inner breast pocket.
'Should you like to see the telegrams?' he asked quietly. 'Here they
are. My agent's cable to me, my instructions to him, his
acknowledgment, his cable saying that the affair is closed and the
money paid. They are all here. Pray look at them.'
Mrs. Rushmore looked at the papers, for she was cautious, even when
surprised. There was no denying the evidence he showed her. Her hands
fell upon her knees and she stared at him.
'So you have got control of all that Margaret can ever hope to have
of her own,' she said blankly, at last. 'Why have you done it?'
Logotheti smiled as he put the flimsy bits of paper into his pocket
'Purely as a matter of business,' he answered. 'I shall make money
by it, though I have paid Mr. Moon a large sum, and expect to make a
heavy payment to you if we agree to compromise the old suit, which, as
you have seen by the telegrams, I have assumed with my eyes open. Now,
my dear Mrs. Rushmore, shall we talk business? I am very anxious to
oblige you, and I am not fond of bargaining. I propose to pay a lump
sum on condition that you withdraw the suit at once. You pay your
lawyers and I pay those employed by Mr. Moon. Now, what sum do you
think would be fair? That is the question. Please understand that it is
you who will be doing me a favour, not I who offer to do you a service.
As I understand it, you never claimed of Mr. Moon the whole value of
the invention. It was a suit in equity brought on the ground that Mr.
Moon had paid a derisory price for what he got, in other wordsbut is
Mr. Moon a personal friend of yours, apart from his business?'
'A friend!' cried Mrs. Rushmore in horror. 'Goodness gracious, no!'
'Very well,' continued Logotheti. 'Then we will say that he cheated
Miss Donne's maternal grandfatheris that the relationship? Yes. Very
good. I propose to hand over to you the sum out of which Miss Donne's
maternal grandfather was cheated. If you will tell me just how much it
was, allowing a fair interest, I will write you a cheque. I think I
have a blank one here.'
He produced a miniature card-case of pale blue morocco, which
exactly matched his tie, and drew from it a blank cheque carefully
folded to about the size of two postage stamps.
'Dear me!' exclaimed Mrs. Rushmore. 'Dear me! This is very sudden!'
'You must have made up your mind a long time ago as to what Miss
Donne's share should be worth,' suggested Logotheti, smoothing the
cheque on his knee.
Mrs. Rushmore hesitated.
'But you have already paid much more to Senator Moon,' she said.
'That is my affair,' answered the Greek. 'I have my own views about
the value of the invention, and I have no time to lose. What shall we
say, Mrs. Rushmore.'
'I wish Margaret were here,' said the good lady vaguely.
'I'm very glad she is not. Now, tell me what I am to write, please.'
He produced a fountain pen and was already writing the date. The pen
was evidently one specially made to suit his tastes, for it was of
gold, the elaborate chasing was picked out with small rubies and a
large brilliant was set in the end of the cap. Mrs. Rushmore could not
help looking at it, and in her prim way she wondered how any man who
was not an adventurer or a sort of glorified commercial traveller could
carry such a thing. There was an unpleasant fascination in the mere
look of it, and she watched it move instead of answering.
'Yes?' said Logotheti, looking up interrogatively. 'What shall we
'II honestly don't know what to say,' Mrs. Rushmore answered,
really confused by the suddenness of the man's proposal. I
supposenoyou must let me consult my lawyer.'
'I am sorry,' said Logotheti, 'but I cannot afford to waste so much
time. Allow me to be your man of business. How much were you suing Mr.
'Half a million dollars,' answered Mrs. Rushmore.
'Have you been paying your lawyer, or was he to get a percentage on
the sum recovered?'
'I have paid him about seventeen thousand, so far.'
'For doing nothing. I should like to be your lawyer! I suppose three
thousand more will satisfy him? Yes, that will make it a round twenty
thousand. That leaves your claim worth four hundred and eighty thousand
dollars, does it not?'
'Which at four-eighty-four is' he looked at the ceiling for ten
seconds'ninety-nine thousand one hundred and eleven pounds, two
shillings and twopence halfpennywithin a fraction. Is that it? My
mental arithmetic is generally pretty fair.'
'I've no doubt that the calculation is correct,' said Mrs. Rushmore,
'only it seems to melet me seeI'm a little confusedbut it seems
to me that if I had won the suit for half a million, the lawyer's
expenses would have come out of that.'
'They do come out of it,' answered Logotheti blandly. 'That is why
you don't get half a million.'
'Yes,' insisted Mrs. Rushmore, who was not easily misled about
money, 'certainly. But as it is, after I have received the four hundred
and eighty thousand, I shall still have to deduct the twenty thousand
for the lawyers before handing it over to Margaret, who would only get
four hundred and sixty. Excuse me, perhaps you don't understand.'
'Yes, yes! I do.' Logotheti smiled pleasantly. 'It was very stupid
of me, wasn't it? I'm always doing things like that!'
As indeed financiers are, for arithmetical obliquity about money is
caused by having too much or too little of it, and the people who lose
to both sides are generally the comparatively honest ones who have
enough. It certainly did not occur to Logotheti that he had tried to do
Margaret Donne out of four thousand pounds; he would have been only too
delighted to give her ten times the sum if she would have accepted it,
and so far as profit went the whole transaction was for her benefit,
and he might lose heavily by it. But in actual dealing he was
constitutionally unable to resist the impulse to get the better of the
person with whom he dealt. And on her side, Mrs. Rushmore, though
generous to a fault, was by nature incapable of allowing money to slip
through her fingers without reason. So the two were well matched, being
both born financiers, and Logotheti respected Mrs. Rushmore for
detecting his little 'mistake,' and she recognised in him a real 'man
of business' because he had made it.
'Let us call it a half million dollars, then,' he said, with a
smile. 'At four-eighty-four, that is'again he looked at the ceiling
for ten seconds'that is one hundred and three thousand three hundred
and five pounds fifteen shillings fivepence halfpenny, nearly. Is that
it? Shall we say that, Mrs. Rushmore.'
'How quickly you do it!' exclaimed the lady in admiration. 'I wish I
could do that! Oh yes, I have no doubt it is quite correct. You
couldn't do it on paper, could you? You see it doesn't matter so much
about the halfpenny, but if there were a little slip in the thousands,
you knowit would make quite a difference'
She paused significantly. Logotheti quietly pulled his cuff over his
hand, produced a pencil instead of his fountain pen, and proceeded to
divide five hundred thousand by four hundred and eighty-four to three
places of decimals.
'Fifteen and fivepence halfpenny,' he said, when he had turned the
fraction into shillings and pence, 'and the pounds are just what I
'Do you mean to say that you did all that in your head in ten
seconds?' asked Mrs. Rushmore, with renewed admiration.
'Oh no,' he answered. 'We have much shorter ways of reckoning money
in the East, but you could not understand that. You are quite satisfied
that this is right?'
Mrs. Rushmore could no more have divided five hundred thousand by
four hundred and eighty-four to three places of decimals than she could
have composed Parsifal, but her doubts were satisfied by its
having been done 'on paper.'
Logotheti put away his jewelled pencil, took out his jewelled
fountain pen again, spread the cheque on the seat of the bench beside
him and filled it in for the amount, including the halfpenny. He handed
it to her, holding it by the corner.
'It's wet,' he observed. 'It's drawn on the Bank of England. It will
be necessary for you to sign a statement to the effect that you
withdraw the suit and that Miss Donne's claim is fully satisfied. She
will have to sign that too. I'll send you the paper. If you have any
doubts,' he smiled, 'you need not return it until the cheque has been
That was precisely what Mrs. Rushmore intended to do, but she
protested politely that she had no doubt whatever on the score of the
cheque, looking all the time at the big figures written out in
Logotheti's remarkably clear handwriting. Only the signature was
perfectly illegible. He noticed her curiosity about it.
'I always sign my cheques in Greek,' he observed 'It is not so easy
He rose and held out his hand.
'I suppose I ought to thank you on Margaret's behalf,' said Mrs.
Rushmore, as she took it. 'She will be so sorry not to have seen you.'
'It was much easier to do business without her. And as for that,
there is no reason for telling her anything about the transaction. You
need only say that a syndicate has bought out Alvah Moon and has
compromised the old suit by a cash payment. I am not at all anxious to
have her know that I have had a hand in the matterin fact, I had
rather that she shouldn't, if you don't object.'
Mrs. Rushmore looked hard at him. She had not even thought of
refusing his offer, which would save Margaret a considerable fortune by
a stroke of a pen; but she had taken it for granted that what might
easily be made to pass for an act of magnificent liberality was
intended to produce a profound impression on Margaret's feelings. The
elder woman was shrewd enough to guess that the Greek would not lose
money in the end, but she went much too far in suspecting him of
anything so vulgar as playing on the girl's gratitude. She looked at
'Do you mean that?' she asked, almost incredulously.
His quiet almond eyes gazed into hers with the trustful simplicity
of a child's.
'Yes,' he answered. 'This is purely a matter of business, in which I
am consulting nothing but my own interests. I should have acted
precisely in the same way if I had never had the pleasure of knowing
either of you. If it chances that I have been of service to Miss Donne,
so much the better, but there is no reason why she should ever know it,
so far as I am concerned. I would rather she should not. She might
fancy that I had acted from other motives.'
'Very well,' Mrs. Rushmore answered; 'then I shall not tell her.'
Nevertheless, when the motor car had tooted and puffed itself away
to Paris and Mrs. Rushmore still sat in her straight-backed garden
chair holding the cheque in her hand, she thought it all very strange
and unaccountable; and the only explanation that occurred to her was
that the invention must be worth far more than she had supposed. This
was not altogether a pleasant reflection either, as it made her
inclined to reproach herself for not having driven a hard bargain with
'But after all,' she said to herself, 'if half a million is not a
fortune, it's a competence, even nowadays, and I suppose the man isn't
an adventurer after allat least, not if his cheque is good.'
In her complicated frame of mind she felt a distinct sense of
disappointment at the thought that her judgment had been at fault, and
that the Greek was not a blackleg, as she had decided that he ought to
Logotheti's motor car was built to combine the greatest comfort and
the greatest speed which can be made compatible. It was not meant for
sport, though it could easily beat most things on the road, for though
the Greek lived a good deal among sporting men and often did what they
did, he was not one himself. It was not in his nature to regard any
sport as an object to be pursued for its own sake. Only the English
take that view naturally, and, of late years, some Frenchmen. All other
Europeans look upon sport as pastime which is very well when there is
nothing else to do, but not at all comparable with love-making, or
gambling, for the amusement it affords. They take the view of the late
Shah of Persia, who explained why he would not go to the Derby by
saying that he had always known that one horse could run faster than
another, but that it was a matter of perfect indifference to him which
that one horse might be. In the same way Logotheti did not care to
possess the fastest motor car in Europe, provided that he could be
comfortable in one which was a great deal faster than the majority.
Moreover, though he was by no means timid, he never went in search of
danger merely for the sake of its pleasant excitement. Possibly he was
too natural and too primitive to think useless danger attractive; but
if danger stood between him and anything he wanted very much, he could
be as reckless as an Irishman or a Cossackwhich is saying all there
is to be said.
The motor tooted and whizzed itself from Mrs. Rushmore's gate to the
stage entrance of the Opéra in something like thirty minutes without
the slightest strain, and could have covered the distance in much less
time if necessary.
Logotheti found Schreiermeyer sitting alone in the dusk, in the
stalls. Half the footlights and one row of border lights illuminated
the stage, and a fat man in very light grey clothes, a vast white
waistcoat and a pot hat was singing 'Salut demeure' in a nasal
half-voice to the tail of the Commendatore's white horse, from Don
Juan. The monumental animal had apparently stopped to investigate
an Egyptian palm tree which happened to grow near the spot usually
occupied by Marguerite's cottage. The tenor had his hands in his
pockets, his hat was rather on the back of his head, and he looked
So did Schreiermeyer when Logotheti sat down beside him. He turned
his round glasses to the newcomer with a slight expression of
recognition which was not perceptible at all in the gloom, and then he
looked at the stage again, without a word. The tenor had heard somebody
moving in the house, and he stuck a single glass in his eye and peered
over the footlights into the abyss, thinking the last comer might be a
woman, in which case he would perhaps have condescended to sing a
little louder and better. A number of people were loafing on the stage,
standing up or sitting on the wooden steps of somebody's enchanted
palace, but Logotheti could not see Margaret amongst them.
The conductor of the orchestra rapped sharply on his desk, the music
ceased suddenly and he glared down at an unseen offender.
'D sharp!' he said, as if he were swearing at the man.
'I believe they hire their band from the deaf and dumb asylum,'
observed the tenor very audibly, but looking vaguely at the plaster
tail of the horse.
Some of the young women at the back of the stage giggled
obsequiously at this piece of graceful wit, but the orchestra
manifested its indignation by hissing. Thereupon the director rapped on
his desk more noisily than ever.
'Da capo,' he said, and the bows began to scrape and quiver
The tenor only hummed his part now, picking bits of straw out of the
plaster tail and examining them with evident interest.
'Is Miss Donne here?' Logotheti inquired of Schreiermeyer.
The impresario nodded indifferently, without looking round.
'I wish you had chosen Rigoletto for her début,' said
the Greek. 'The part of Gilda is much better suited to her voice, take
my word for it.'
'What do you know about it?' asked Schreiermeyer, smiling faintly,
just enough to save the rude question from being almost insulting.
'When Gounod began Faust he was in love with a lady with a
deep voice,' answered Logotheti, 'but when he was near the end he was
in love with one who had a high voice. The consequence is that
Marguerite's part ranges over nearly three octaves, and is frightfully
trying, particularly for a beginner.'
'Bosh!' ejaculated the impresario, though he knew it was quite true.
He looked at the stage again, as if Logotheti did not exist.
'Oh, very well,' said the latter carelessly. 'It probably won't
matter much, as they say that Miss Donne is going to throw up her
engagement, and give up going on the stage.'
He had produced an effect at last, for Schreiermeyer's jaw dropped
as he turned quickly.
'Eh? What? Who says she is not going to sing? What?'
'I dare say it is nothing but gossip,' Logotheti answered coolly.
'You seem excited.'
'Excited? Eh? Some one has heard her sing and has offered her more!
You shall tell me who it is!' He gripped Logotheti's arm with fingers
that felt like talons. 'Tell me quickly!' he cried. 'I will offer her
more, more than anybody can! Tell me quickly.'
'Take care, you are spoiling my cuff,' said Logotheti. 'I know
nothing about it, beyond that piece of gossip. Of course you are aware
that she is a lady. Somebody may have left her a fortune, you know. Her
only reason for singing was that she was poor.'
'Nonsense!' cried Schreiermeyer, with a sort of suppressed yell. 'It
is all bosh! Somebody has offered her more money, and you know who it
is! You shall tell me!' He was in a violent passion by this time, or
seemed to be. 'You come here, suggesting and interfering with my prima
donnas! You are in league, damn you! Damn you, you are a conspiracy!'
His face was as white as paper, his queer eyes blazed through his
glasses, and his features were disfigured with rage. He showed his
teeth and hissed like a wildcat; his nervous fingers fastened
themselves upon Logotheti's arm.
But Logotheti gazed at him with a look of amusement in his quiet
eyes, and laughed softly.
'If I were conspiring against you, you would not guess it, my
friend,' he observed in a gentle tone. 'And you will never get anything
out of me by threatening, you know.'
Schreiermeyer's face relaxed instantly into an expression of
disappointment, and he looked wearily at the stage again.
'No, it is of no use,' he answered in a melancholy tone. 'You are
'Perfectly,' Logotheti assented. 'If I were you, I would put her on
'Does she know the part?' Schreiermeyer asked, as calmly as if
nothing had happened.
'Ask Madame De Rosa,' suggested the Greek. 'I see her on the stage.'
'I will. There is truth in what you say about Faust. The part
'You told me it was bosh,' Logotheti observed with a smile.
'I had forgotten that you are such a phlegmatic man, when I said
that,' answered Schreiermeyer with the frankness of a conjurer who
admits that his trick has been guessed.
They had been talking as if nothing were going on, but now the
conductor turned to them, and gave a signal for silence, which was
taken up by all the people on the stage.
'Shshshsh' it came from all directions.
'Here comes Cordova,' observed Schreiermeyer in a low tone.
Margaret appeared, wearing an extremely becoming hat, and poked her
head round the white horse's tail, which represented the door of her
cottage as to position.
The tenor, who had nothing to do and was supposed to be off, at once
turned himself into a stage Faust, so far as expression went, but his
white waistcoat and pot hat hindered the illusion so much that Margaret
She sang the 'King of Thule,' and every one listened in profound
silence. When she had finished, Schreiermeyer and Logotheti turned
their heads slowly, by a common instinct, looked at each other a moment
and nodded gravely. Then Logotheti rose rather suddenly.
'What's the matter?' asked the impresario.
But the Greek had disappeared in the gloom of the house and
Schreiermeyer merely shrugged his shoulders when he saw that his
question had not been heard. It would have been perfectly impossible
for him to understand that Logotheti, who was so 'phlegmatic,' could
not bear the disturbing sight of the white waistcoat and the hat while
Margaret was singing the lovely music and looking, Logotheti thought,
as she had never looked before.
He went behind, and sat down in a corner where he could hear without
seeing what was going on; he lent himself altogether to the delight of
Margaret's voice, and dreamt that she was singing only for him in some
vast and remote place where they were quite alone together.
The rehearsal went on by fits and starts; some scenes were repeated,
others were left out; at intervals the conductor rapped his desk
nervously and abused somebody, or spoke with great affability to
Margaret, or with the familiarity of long acquaintance to one of the
other singers. Logotheti did not notice these interruptions, for his
sensitiveness was not of the sort that suffers by anything which must
be and therefore should be; it was only the unnecessary that disturbed
himthe tenor's white waistcoat and dangling gold chain. While
Margaret was singing, the illusion was perfect; the rest was a blank,
provided that nothing offended his eyes.
The end was almost reached at last. There was a pause.
'Will you try the trio to-day?' inquired the conductor of Margaret.
'Or are you tired?'
'Tired?' Margaret laughed. 'Go on, please.'
Now Marguerite's part in the trio, where she sings 'Anges pures,'
repeating the refrain three times and each time in a higher key, is one
of the most sustained high pieces ever written for a woman's voice; and
Logotheti, listening, suddenly shut out his illusions and turned
himself into a musical critic, or at least into a judge of singing.
Not a note quavered, from first to last; there was not one sound
that was not as true as pure gold, to the very end, not one tone that
was forced, either, in spite of the almost fantastic pitch of the last
It is not often that everybody applauds a singer at a rehearsal of
Faust, which has been sung to death for five-and-forty years; but
as the trio ended, and the drums rolled the long knell, there was a
shout of genuine enthusiasm from the little company on the stage.
'Vive la Cordova! Vive la Diva!' yelled the tenor, and he threw up
his pot hat almost to the border lights, quite forgetting to be
'Brava, la Cordova!' boomed the bass, with a tremendous roar.
'Brava, brava, brava!' shouted all the lesser people at the back of
Little Madame De Rosa was in hysterics of joy, and embraced
everybody and everything in her way till she came to Margaret and
reached the climax of embracing in a perfect storm of tears. By this
time the tenor and bass were kissing Margaret's gloved hands with
fervour and every one was pressing round her.
Logotheti had come forward and stood a little aloof, waiting for the
excitement to subside. Margaret, surrounded as she was, did not see him
at once, and he watched her quietly. She was the least bit pale and her
eyes were very bright indeed. She was smiling rather vaguely, he
thought, though she was trying to thank everybody for being so pleased,
and Logotheti fancied she was looking for somebody who was not there,
probably for the mysterious 'some one else,' whose existence she had
confessed a few days earlier.
Presently she seemed to feel that he was looking at her, for she
turned her head to him and met his eyes. He came forward at once, and
the others made way for him a little, for most of them knew him by
sight as the famous financier, though he rarely condescended to come
behind the scenes at a rehearsal, or indeed at any other time.
Margaret held out her hand, and Logotheti had just begun to say a
few rather conventional words of congratulation when Schreiermeyer
rushed up with his hat on, pushing everybody aside without ceremony
till he seized Margaret's wrist and would apparently have dragged her
away by main force if she had not gone with him willingly.
'Ill-mannered brute!' exclaimed Logotheti in such a tone that
Schreiermeyer must certainly have heard the words, though he did not
even turn his head.
'I must speak to you at once,' he was saying to Margaret, very
hurriedly, as he led her away. 'It is all bosh, nonsense, stupid stuff,
I tell you! Rubbish!'
'What is rubbish?' asked Margaret in surprise, just as they reached
the other side of the stage. 'My singing?'
'Stuff! You sing well enough. You know it too, you know it quite
well! Good. Are you satisfied with the contract we signed?'
'Perfectly,' answered Margaret, more and more surprised at his
'Ah, very good. Because, I tell you, if you are not pleased, it is
just the same. I will make you stick to it, whether you like it or not.
Margaret drew herself up, and looked at him coldly.
'If I carry out my contract,' she said, 'it will be because I signed
my name to it, not because you can force me to do anything against my
Schreiermeyer turned a little pale and glared through his glasses.
'Ah, you are proud, eh? You say to yourself, First I am a lady, and
then I am a singer that is going to be a prima donna. But the law is
on my side. The law will give me heavy damages, enormous damages, if
you fail to appear according to contract. You think because you have
money in your throat somebody will pay me my damages if you go to
somebody else. You don't know the law, my lady! I can get an injunction
to prevent you from singing anywhere in Europe, pending suit. The other
man will have to pay me before you can open your beautiful mouth to let
the money out! Just remember that! You take my advice. You be an artist
first and a lady afterwards when you have plenty of time, and you stick
to old Schreiermeyer, and he'll stick to you. No nonsense, now, no
stupid stuff! Eh?'
'I haven't the slightest idea what you are driving at,' said
Margaret. 'I have made an agreement with you, and unless I lose my
voice during the next month I shall sing wherever you expect me to.'
'All right, because if you don't, I'll make you dance from here to
Jerusalem,' answered Schreiermeyer, glaring again.
'Do you know that you are quite the rudest and most brutal person I
ever met?' inquired Margaret, raising her eyebrows.
But Schreiermeyer now smiled in the most pleasant manner possible,
ceased glaring, spread out his palms and put his head on one side as he
answered her, apparently much pleased by her estimate of him.
'Ah, you are not phlegmatic, like Logotheti! We shall be good
friends. I shall be rude to you when I am in a rage, and tell you the
truth, and you shall call me many bad names. Then we shall be perfectly
good friends. You will say, Bah! it is only old Schreiermeyer! and I
shall say, Pshaw! Cordova may call me a brute, but she is the greatest
soprano in the world, what does it matter? Do you see? We are going to
be good friends!'
It was impossible not to laugh at his way of putting it; impossible,
too, not to feel that behind his strange manner, his brutal speeches
and his serio-comic rage there was the character of a man who would
keep his word and who expected others to do the same. There might even
be lurking somewhere in him a streak of generosity.
'Good friends?' he repeated, with an interrogation.
'Yes, good friends,' Margaret answered, taking his hand frankly and
'I like you,' said Schreiermeyer, looking at her with sudden
thoughtfulness, as if he had just discovered something.
And then without a word he turned on his heel and disappeared as
quickly as he had come, his head sinking between his shoulders till the
collar of the snuff-coloured overcoat he wore in spite of the warm
weather was almost up to the brim of his hat behind.
Logotheti and little Madame De Rosa came up to Margaret at once. The
other singers were already filing out, eager to get into the fresh air.
'The Signora,' said Logotheti, 'says she will come and lunch with
me. Will you come too? I daresay we shall find something ready, and
then, if you like, I'll run you out to Mrs. Rushmore's in the motor
Margaret hesitated a moment, and looked from one to the other. She
was very hungry, and the prospect of a luxurious luncheon was much more
alluring than that of the rather scrappy sort of meal she had expected
to get at a Bouillon Duval. As 'Miss Donne,' a fortnight ago, she would
certainly not have thought of going to Logotheti's house, except with
Mrs. Rushmore; but as the proposal tempted her she found it easy to
tell herself that since she was a real artist she could go where she
pleased, that people would gossip about her wherever she went, and that
what she did was nobody's business. And surely, for an artist, Madame
De Rosa was a chaperon of sufficient weight. Moreover, Margaret was
curious to see the place where the man lived. He interested her in
spite of herself, and since Lushington had insisted on going off,
though she had begged him to stay, she felt just a little reckless.
'Do come!' said Logotheti.
The two words were spoken in just the right tone, neither as if his
life depended on her answer, nor as if he were asking her to do
something just a little risky, which would be amusing; but quite
naturally, as if he would be really glad should she accept, but by no
means overwhelmed with despair if she refused.
'Thank you,' she answered. 'It's very nice of you to ask us. I'll
Logotheti smiled pleasantly, but looked away, perhaps not caring
that she should see his eyes, even in the uncertain light. The three
hastened to leave the theatre, for the stage was already full of
workmen, the Egyptian palm was moving in one direction, the
Commendatore's white horse was joggling away uneasily in another, and
the steps of somebody's enchanted palace were being dragged forward
into place. All was noise, dust and apparent confusion.
Margaret expected that Logotheti's house would somehow correspond
with his own outward appearance and would be architecturally
over-dressed, inside and out, but in this she was greatly mistaken. It
was evidently a new house, in a quarter where many houses were new and
where some were not in the most perfect taste, though none were
monstrosities. It was not exceptionally big, and was certainly not
showy; on the whole, it had the unmistakable air of having been built
by a good architect, of the very best materials and in a way to last as
long as hewn stone can. Such beauty as it had lay in its proportions
and not in any sort of ornament, for it was in fact rather plainer than
most of its neighbours in the Boulevard Péreire.
The big door opened noiselessly just as the car came up, but
Logotheti, who drove himself, did not turn in.
'It's rather a tight fit,' he explained, as he stopped by the
He gave his hand to Margaret to get down. As her foot touched the
pavement a man who was walking very fast, with his head down, made a
step to one side, to get out of the way, and then, recognising her and
the Greek, lifted his hat hastily and would have passed on. She started
with an exclamation of surprise, for it was Lushington, whom she had
supposed to be in London. Logotheti spoke first, calling to him in
'Hollo! LushingtonI say!'
Lushington stopped instantly and turned half round, with an
exclamation intended to express an imaginary surprise, for he had
recognised all three at first sight.
'Oh!' he exclaimed coldly. 'Is that you? How are you?'
Margaret offered her hand as he did not put out his. She was a
little surprised to see that he did not change colour when he took it,
as he always used to do when they met; he did not seem in the least
shy, now, and there was a hard look in his eyes.
'All right?' he said, with a cool interrogation, and he turned to
Logotheti before Margaret could give any answer.
'Come in and lunch, my dear fellow,' said the Greek affably.
'I never lunchthanks all the same.' He moved to go on, nodding a
'Are you here for long?' asked Margaret, forcing him to stop again.
'That depends on what you call long. I leave this evening.'
'I should call that a very short time!' Margaret tried to laugh a
little, with a lingering hope that he might unbend.
'It's quite long enough for me, thank you,' he answered roughly.
He lifted his hat again and walked off very fast. Margaret's face
fell, and Logotheti saw the change of expression.
'He's an awfully good fellow in spite of his shyness,' he said
quietly. 'I wish we could have made him stay.'
'Yes,' Margaret answered, in a preoccupied tone.
She was wondering whether Logotheti had guessed that there had been
anything between her and Lushington. Logotheti ushered his guests in
under the main entrance.
'Do you know Mr. Lushington well?' she asked.
'Yes, in a way. I once published a little book, and he wrote a very
nice article about it in a London Review. You did not know I was a man
of letters, did you?' Logotheti laughed quietly. 'My book was not very
longonly about a hundred pages, I think. But Lushington made out that
it wasn't all rubbish, and I was always grateful to him.'
'What was your book about?' asked Margaret, as they entered the
'Oh, nothing that would interest youthe pronunciation of Greek.
Will you take off your hat?'
At every step, at every turn, Margaret realised how much she had
been mistaken in thinking that anything in Logotheti's house could be
in bad taste. There was perfect harmony everywhere, and a great deal of
simplicity. The man alone offended her eye a little, the man himself,
with his resplendent tie, his jewellery and his patent leather shoes;
and even so, it was only the outward man, in so far as she could not
help seeing him and contrasting his appearance with his surroundings.
For he was as tactful and quiet, and as modest about himself as ever;
he did not exhibit the conquering air which many men would have found
it impossible not to assume under the circumstances; he showed himself
just as anxious to please little Madame De Rosa as Margaret herself,
and talked to both indiscriminately. If Margaret at first felt that she
was doing something a little eccentric, not to say compromising, in
accepting the invitation, the sensation had completely worn off before
luncheon was half over, and she was as much at her ease as she could
have been in Mrs. Rushmore's own house. She felt as if she had known
Logotheti all her life, as if she understood him thoroughly and was not
displeased that he should understand her.
They went into the next room for coffee.
'You used to like my Zara maraschino,' said Logotheti to Madame De
He took a decanter from a large case, filled a good-sized liqueur
glass for her and set it beside her cup.
'It is the most delicious thing in the world,' cried the little
woman, sipping it eagerly.
'May I not have some, too?' asked Margaret.
'Not on any account,' answered Logotheti, putting the decanter back
on the other side. 'It's very bad for the voice, you know.'
'I never heard that,' said Madame De Rosa, laughing. 'I adore it!
But as my singing days are over it does not matter at all. Oh, how good
She sipped it again and again, with all sorts of little cries and
sighs of satisfaction.
Logotheti and Margaret looked on, smiling at her childish delight.
'Do you think I might have a little more?' she asked, presently.
'Only half a glass!'
Logotheti filled the glass again, though she laughingly protested
that half a glass was all she wanted. But he took none himself.
Margaret saw a picture at the other end of the room which attracted
her attention, and she rose to go and look at it. Logotheti followed
her, but Madame De Rosa, who had established her small person in the
most comfortable arm-chair in the room, was too much interested in the
maraschino to move. Margaret stood in silence before the painting for a
few moments, and Logotheti waited for her to speak, watching her as he
always did when she was not looking.
'What is it?' she asked, at last. 'It's quite beautiful, but I don't
'Nor do I, in the least,' answered Logotheti. 'I found it in Italy
two years ago. It's what they call an encaustic painting, like the Muse
of Cortona, probably of the time of Tiberius. It is painted on a slab
of slate three inches thick, and burnt in by a process that is lost.
You might put it into the fire and leave it there without doing it any
harm. That much I know, for I found it built into a baker's oven. But I
can tell you no more about it. I have some pretty good things here, but
this is quite my best picture. It is very like somebody,
toouncommonly like! Do you see the resemblance?'
'No. I suppose I don't know the person.'
Logotheti laughed and took up a little mirror set in an old Spanish
'Look at yourself,' he said. 'The picture is the image of you.'
'Of me?' Margaret took the glass, and her cheek flushed a little as
she looked at herself and then at the picture, and realised that the
likeness was not imaginary.
'In future,' said Logotheti, 'I shall tell people that it is a
portrait of you.'
'Of me? Oh please, no!' cried Margaret anxiously, and blushing
'Did you think I was in earnest?' he asked.
The painting represented the head and shoulders of a womanperhaps
of a goddess, though it had that strangely living look about the eyes
and mouth which belongs to all good portraits that are like the
originals. The woman's head was thrown back, her deep-set eyes were
looking up with an expression of strange longing, the rich hair flowed
down over her bare neck, where one beautiful hand caught it and seemed
to press the tangled locks upon her heart.
The picture's beauty was the beauty of life, for the features were
not technically faultless. The lips glowed with burning breath, the
twining hair was alive and elastic, the after-light of a profound and
secret pleasure lingered in the liquid eyes, blending with the shadow
of pain just past but passionately desired again.
Margaret gazed at the painting a few seconds, for it fascinated her
against her will. Then she laid down the small looking-glass and turned
away rather abruptly.
'I don't like to look at it,' she said, avoiding Logotheti's eyes.
'I think it must be time to be going,' she added. 'Mrs. Rushmore will
be wondering where I am.'
She went back across the room a little way with Logotheti by her
side. Suddenly he stopped and laughed softly.
'By Jove!' he exclaimed under his breath, pointing to the arm-chair
in which Madame De Rosa was sitting. 'She's fast asleep!'
She was sleeping as peacefully as a cat after a meal, half curled up
in the big chair, her head turned to one side and her cheek buried in a
cushion of Rhodes tapestry. Margaret stood and looked at her with
curiosity and some amusement.
'She's not generally a very sleepy person,' said the young girl.
'The emotions of your first rehearsal have tired her out,' said
Logotheti. 'They don't seem to have affected you at all,' he added.
'Shall we wake her?'
Margaret hesitated, and then bent down and touched the sleeping
woman's arm gently, and called her by name in a low tone; but without
the slightest result.
'She must be very tired,' Margaret said in a tone of sympathy.
'After all, it's not so very late. We had better let her sleep a few
minutes longer, poor thing.'
Logotheti bent his head gravely.
'We'll make up the time with the motor in going to Versailles,' he
By unspoken consent, they moved away and sat down at some distance
from Madame De Rosa's chair, at the end of the room opposite to the
picture. Logotheti did not speak at once, but sat leaning forward, his
wrists resting on his knees, his hands hanging down limply, his eyes
bent on the carpet. As she sat, Margaret could see the top of his head;
there was a sort of fascination about his preternaturally glossy black
hair, and the faultless parting made it look like the wig on a barber's
doll. She thought of Lushington and idly wondered whether she was
always to be admired by men with phenomenally smooth hair.
'What are you thinking of?' Logotheti asked, looking up suddenly and
smiling as he met her eyes.
She laughed low.
'I was wondering how you kept your hair so smooth!' she answered.
'I should look like a savage if I did not,' he said. 'My only chance
of seeming civilised is to overdo the outward fashions of civilisation.
If I wore rough clothes like an Englishman, and did not smooth my hair
and let my man do all sorts of things to my moustache to keep it flat,
I should look like a pirate. And if I looked like a Greek pirate you
would have hesitated about coming to lunch with me to-day. Do you see?
There is a method in my bad taste.'
Margaret looked at him a moment and then laughed again.
'So that's it, is it? How ingenious! Do you know that I have
wondered at the way you dress, ever since I met you?'
'I'm flattered. But think a moment. I daresay you wonder why I wear
a lot of jewellery, too. Of course it's in bad taste. I quite agree
with you. But the world is often nearer to first principles than you
realise. A man who wears a ruby in his tie worth ten thousand pounds is
not suspected of wanting to get other people's money as soon as he
makes acquaintance. On the contrary, they are much more likely to try
to get his, and are rather inclined to think him a fool for showing
that he has so much. It is always an advantage to be thought a fool
when one is not. If one is clever it is much better to have it believed
that one is merely lucky. In business everybody likes lucky people, but
every one avoids a clever man. It is one of the elements of success to
'You won't easily persuade any one that you are a foolish person,'
'It would be much harder if I did not take pains,' he answered
gravely. 'Now you know my secret, but don't betray me.'
'Not for worlds!'
They both laughed a little, and their eyes met.
'But just now, I'm in a very awkward position about that,' Logotheti
continued. I cannot afford to sacrifice my reputation as a lucky fool,
and yet I want you to think me a marvel of cleverness, good taste and
perfection in every way.'
'Is that all?' asked Margaret, more and more amused.
'Almost all. You see I know perfectly well that I cannot surprise
you into falling in love with meYes, she's sound asleep! The ideal
chaperon, isn't she?'
'I don't know,' Margaret answered lightly, and she glanced at Madame
De Rosa, as if she thought of waking her.
'Excuse me, you do; for if I were some one else you would be
delighted that she should be asleep. But that's not the question. As I
cannot surprise you intothere's no harm in saying it!into loving
me, I'm driven to use what they call the arts of persuasion! But in
order to persuade, it's necessary to inspire confidence. Do you
'Have I succeeded at all?' His voice changed suddenly as he asked
'I don't know why I should distrust you, I'm sure,' Margaret
answered gravely. 'You are certainly very outspoken,' she continued
more lightly, as if wishing to keep the conversation from growing
serious. 'In fact, I never knew anything like your frankness!'
'I'm in earnest, and I don't wish to leave the least doubt in your
mind. You are the first woman I have ever met whom I wanted to marry,
and you are likely to be the last. I'm not a boy and I know the world
as you can never know it, even if you insist upon going on the stage.
I'm not amazingly young, for I'm five-and-thirty, and I suppose I have
had as large a share of what the world holds as most rich men. That is
my position. Until I met you, I thought I had really had everything.
When I knew you I found that I had never had the only thing worth
having at all.'
He spoke quietly, without the least affectation of feeling, or the
smallest apparent attempt to make an impression upon her; but it was
impossible not to believe that he was speaking the truth. Margaret was
silent, and looked steadily at an imaginary point in the distance.
'So far,' he said, in the same tone, 'I have always got what I
wanted. I don't mean to say,' he continued quickly, as she made a
movement, 'that I expected you to accept me when I asked you to marry
me, at our second meeting. I was sure you would not. I merely put in a
claimthat was all.'
Margaret turned a little and rested her elbow on the back of her
chair, facing him.
'And I told you there was some one else. Do you understand clearly?
I am frank, too. I love another man, and he loves me.'
'And you are going to be married, I suppose?' said Logotheti, his
lids contracting a very little.
'I hope so. Some day.'
'Ah! There is an obstacle. I see. A question of fortune, I daresay?'
'No.' Her tone was meant to discourage further questioning, and she
moved in her seat and looked away again.
'That man does not love you,' Logotheti said. 'If he did, nothing
could hinder your marriage, since he knows that you are willing.'
'There may be a reason you don't understand,' Margaret answered
'A man who loves does not reason. A man who wants a certain woman
wants nothing else, any more than a man who is dying of thirst can want
anything but drink. He must have it or die, and nothing can keep him
from it if he sees it.'
There was a shade of more energy in his tone now, though he still
spoke quietly enough. Margaret was silent again, possibly because the
same thought had crossed her own mind during the last few days, and
even an hour ago, when she had met Lushington at the door. Since she
was willing to marry him, in spite of his birth, could he be in earnest
as long as he hesitated?
She wished that he might have said what Logotheti was saying now,
instead of reasoning with her about a point of honour.
'When people think themselves in love and hesitate,' Logotheti
continued, almost speaking her own thoughts aloud, 'it is because
something else in them is stronger than love, or quite as strong.'
'There may be honour,' said Margaret, defending Lushington in her
mind, out of sheer loyalty.
'There ought to be, sometimes, but it is more in the nature of real
love to tear honour to pieces than to be torn in pieces for it. I'm not
defending such things, I'm only stating a fact. More men have betrayed
their country for love than have sacrificed love to save their
'That's not a very noble view of love!'
'If you were passionately in love with a man, should you like him to
sacrifice you in order to save his country, especially if his country
were not yours? If it were your own, you might be as patriotic as he
and you would associate yourself with him in the salvation of your own
people. But that would not be a fair case. The question is whether, in
a matter that concerns him only and not yourself, you would set his
honour higher than his love for you and let yourself be sacrificed,
without feeling that if he had loved you as you would like to be loved
he would forfeit his honour rather than give you up.'
'That's a dreadfully hard question to answer!' Margaret smiled.
'It is only hard to answer, because you are conscious of a
convention called honour which man expects you to set above everything.
Very good. A couple of thousand years hence there will be some other
convention in its place called by another name; but love will be
precisely the same passion that it is now, because it's purely human
and not subject to any conventions when it is realany more than you
can make the circulation of your blood conventional or the beating of
your heart, or hunger, or thirst, or sleepiness, instead of being
natural as they all are.'
'You're a materialist,' said Margaret, finding nothing else to say.
'I don't think so, but whatever I am, I'm in earnest, and I don't
pretend to be anything but human.'
He stopped and looked straight into Margaret's eyes; and somehow she
did not turn away, for there was nothing in his that she was afraid to
meet. Just then she would rather have tried to stare him out of
countenance than look for one minute at the woman's face in the
picture, which he said was so like her. She did not remember that in
all her life anything had so strangely disturbed her as that likeness.
She had seen pictures and statues by the score in exhibitions and
public places, which should have offended her maiden modesty far more.
What was there in that one painting that could offend at all? A woman's
head thrown back, a woman's hand pressing her hair to her breastit
ended there, and that was all; and what was that, compared with the
acres of raw nudity that crowd the walls of the Salon every year.
Logotheti said that he was 'human,' and she felt it was true, in the
sense that he was a 'primitive,' or an 'elementary being,' as some
people would say. The fact that he had all the profound astuteness of
the true Oriental did not conflict with this in the least. The
astuteness of the Asiatic, and of the Greek of Asia, is an instinct
like that of the wild animal; talent alone is 'human' in any true
sense, but instinct is animal, even in men, whether it shows itself in
matters of money-getting or matters of taste.
Yet somehow Margaret was beginning to be attracted by the man. He
had never shown the least lack of respect, or of what Mrs. Rushmore
would have called 'refinement,' and he had done nothing which even
distantly resembled taking a liberty. He spoke quietly, and even
gently, and his eyes did not gloat upon her face and figure as some
men's eyes did. Even as to the picture, he had not led her to see it,
for she had gone up to it herself, drawn to it against her will, and he
had only told the truth in saying that it was like her. Yet he was very
much in love with her, she was sure, and most of the men she had met
would not have behaved as well as he did, under the rather unusual
circumstances. For little Madame De Rosa had been sleeping so soundly
that she might as well not have been in the room at all. Behind all he
did and said, she felt his almost primitive sincerity, and the
elementary strength of the passion she had inspired. No woman can feel
that and not be flattered, and few, being flattered by a man's love,
can resist the temptation to play with it.
Women are more alike than men are; some of the nature of the worst
of them is latent in the very best, and in the very worst there are
little treasures of gentleness and faith that can ransom the poor soul
'I am in earnest, indeed I am,' Logotheti repeated, looking at
'Yes,' she answered, 'I am sure you are.'
There was something in her tone that acquiesced, that almost
approved, and he felt that these were the first words of encouragement
she had vouchsafed him.
A portentous yawn from Madame De Rosa made them both turn round. She
was stretching herself like a cat when it wakes, and looking about her
with blinking eyes, as if trying to remember where she was. Then she
saw Margaret, smiled at her spasmodically, and yawned again.
'I must have been asleep,' she said, and she laughed rather
'Only for a few minutes,' answered Logotheti in a reassuring tone.
Margaret rose and came up to her, followed by the Greek.
'It's most extraordinary!' cried Madame De Rosa. 'I never go to
sleep like that! Do you think it could possibly have been the
'No indeed!' Logotheti laughed carelessly. 'You were tired, after
He put the decanter back into the large liqueur case from which he
had taken it, shut down the lid, locked it and put the key in his
pocket. Madame De Rosa watched him in silence, but Margaret paid no
attention to what he was doing, for she was accustomed to see Mrs.
Rushmore do the same thing. The taste of servants for liqueur and
cigars is quite irreproachable; they always take the best there is.
A few minutes later the three were on their way to Versailles, and
before long Logotheti put Margaret down at Mrs. Rushmore's gate,
starting to take Madame De Rosa back to Paris, as soon as the girl had
gone in. Neither of them said much on the way, and the motor stopped
again in the Boulevard Malesherbes. Madame De Rosa thanked Logotheti,
with an odd little smile of intelligence.
'Take care!' she said, as they parted, and her beady little black
eyes looked sharply at him.
'Why?' he asked, with perfect calm, but his lids were slightly
Madame De Rosa shook her finger at him, laughed and ran in, leaving
him standing on the pavement.
Great singers and, generally, all good singers, are perfectly
healthy animals with solid nerves, in which respect they differ from
other artists, with hardly an exception. They have good appetites, they
sleep soundly, they are not oppressed by morbid anticipations of
failure nor by the horrible reaction that follows a great artistic
effort of any kind except singing. Without a large gift of calm
physical strength they could not possibly do the physical work required
of them, and as they possess the gift they have also the
characteristics that go with it and help to preserve it.
It does not follow that they have no feelings; but it does follow
that their feelings are natural and healthy, when those of other
musicians are apt to be frightfully morbid. A great deal of nonsense
has been thought and written about the famous Malibran, because Alfred
de Musset was moved to write of her as if she were a consumptive and
devoured by the flame of genius. Malibran was a genius, but she was no
more consumptive than Hercules. She died of internal injuries caused by
a fall from a horse.
Margaret Donne, when she was about to go on the stage as Margarita
da Cordova, was a perfectly normal young woman; which does not mean
that she felt no anxiety about her approaching début, but only
that her actual diffidence as to the result did not keep her awake or
spoil her appetite, though it made her rather more quiet and thoughtful
than usual, because so very much depended on success.
At least, she had thought so when Logotheti had set her down at the
gate. Five minutes later that aspect of the matter had changed. Mrs.
Rushmore met her at the door of the morning room and gathered her in
with a large embrace.
'My dear child!' cried the good lady. 'My dear child!'
This was indefinite, but Margaret felt that something more was
coming, of a nature which Mrs. Rushmore considered fortunate in the
extreme, and in a short time she had learned the news, but with no
mention of Logotheti's name.
Six months earlier Margaret would have rejoiced at her good fortune.
Yesterday she might still have hesitated about keeping the engagement
she had signed with Schreiermeyer; but between yesterday and today
there was her first rehearsal, there was the echo of that little round
of real applause from fellow-artists, there was the sound of her own
voice, high and true, singing 'Anges pures'; and there was the smell of
the stage, with its indescribable attraction. To have gone back now
would have been to gainsay every instinct and every aspiration she
felt. She told Mrs. Rushmore this, as quietly as she could.
'You're quite mad,' said Mrs. Rushmore. 'You may say what you
please. I maintain that you are quite mad.'
'I can't help it,' Margaret answered without a smile. 'I began by
wishing to do it to earn my living, if I could, but as it turns out, I
have a great voice. I believe I have one of the great voices of the
day. I'm born to sing, and I should sing if you told me I had millions.
I feel it now, and I am not boasting in the least. Ask Schreiermeyer,
if you like.'
'Who is that person with the queer name?' inquired Mrs. Rushmore
'He's one of the big managersthe one who has engaged me.'
'Engaged fiddlesticks!' commented Mrs. Rushmore, with contempt. 'I
say you are quite mad. If not, how do you account for your wishing to
go on the stage?'
Margaret was thinking how she could account for it, when Mrs.
Rushmore went on.
'I'll have a specialist out this afternoon to look at you,' she
said. 'You're not sane. I wonder who the best man is.'
The last sentence was spoken in an undertone of reflection.
'Nonsense!' exclaimed Margaret emphatically, and adding to the
emphasis by taking off her hat and throwing her head back, shaking it a
little as if she wished her hair were down.
Mrs. Rushmore turned upon her with the moral dignity of five
generations of Puritan ancestors.
'Do you mean to say that after all I've done to get you this money,
you are going to give me up to be an actress?' she demanded with scorn.
'That you're going to give up your best friends, and your position as a
lady, and the chance of making a respectable marriage, not to mention
your immortal soul, just for the pleasure of showing yourself every
night half-dressed to every commercial traveller in Europe? It's
disgraceful. I don't care what you say. You're insane. You shan't do
At this view of the case Margaret's forehead flushed a little.
'You talk as if I were going to be a music-hall singer,' she said.
'That's where you'll end!' retorted Mrs. Rushmore, without the
slightest regard for facts. 'That's where they all end! There, or in
the divorce courtsor both! It's the same thing!' she concluded
'I never heard a divorce court compared to a music-hall,' observed
'You know exactly what I mean,' answered Mrs. Rushmore angrily.
'Don't take me up at every word! Contradicting isn't reasoning. Anybody
'And besides,' continued Margaret, growing cooler as the other grew
warm, 'one cannot be divorced till one has been married.'
'Oh, you'll marry soon enough!' cried Mrs. Rushmore, infuriated by
her calm. 'You'll marry an adventurer with dyed moustaches and a sham
title, who'll steal your money and beat you! And though I am your dear
mother's best friend, Margaret, I'm bound to say that it will serve you
right. It's useless to deny it. It will serve you right.'
'It would certainly serve me right if I married the individual with
the dyed moustaches,' said Margaret, smiling in spite of herself.
'I'm glad you agree with me at last. It shows that you're not so
perfectly mad as you seemed. If you had gone on as you were talking at
first I should certainly have had a mad doctor to examine you. As it
is, I don't believe you're fit to have all that money. You mean well, I
daresay. But you have no sense. None at all.'
Margaret laughed and took the opportunity of the lull in the battle
to escape to her own room. A moment later Mrs. Rushmore followed her
and knocked at the door.
'I'm sure you've had nothing to eat all day,' she called out
anxiously, before Margaret could answer.
Margaret opened and put her head out, to explain that she had
lunched, but she did not say where.
'Oh, very well!' answered Mrs. Rushmore, unwilling to show that her
anger had subsided so soon. 'That's all I wanted to know.'
Like most Anglo-Saxons, she vaguely connected regular meals with
When Margaret was alone she realised that she was more disturbed by
Lushington's unexpected appearance at Logotheti's door than she had
thought it possible to be. At the time, she had been surprised to see
him and a little hurt by his manner, but she had attributed the latter
to his natural shyness. Now that she could think quietly about the
meeting, she remembered his eyes and the look of cold resentment she
had seen in them for the first time since she had known him. He had no
right to be angry with her for lunching with Logotheti, she was quite
sure. He had parted from her, giving her to understand that they were
to meet as little as possible in future. How could he possibly claim to
criticise her actions after that? A few days ago, she would have
married him, if he had not insisted that it was impossible. She was not
sure that she would marry him now, if he came back. He had looked as if
he meant to interfere in her life, after refusing to share it. No woman
will tolerate that.
Yet she was disturbed, and a little sad, now that the day was over.
Logotheti had found words for a thought that had passed through her
mind, it was true; if Lushington loved her, how could he make an
obstacle of what she had been so ready to overlook? The Greek's direct
speeches had appealed to her, while he had been at her side. But now,
she wished with all her heart that Lushington would appear to ask her
questions, and let her answer them. She had a most unreasonable
impression that she had somehow angered him, and wronged herself in his
eyes. She would not ask herself whether she loved him still, or whether
she had really loved him at all, but she longed to see him. He had said
that he was leaving again in the evening, but perhaps he would think
better of it and come out to see her. She even thought of writing to
him, for she knew his London address. He lived in Bolton Street,
Piccadilly, and she remembered his telling her that his windows looked
upon a blank brick wall opposite, in which he sought inspiration and
sometimes found it. Sometimes, he had said, he saw her face there.
Then she remembered the last hour they had spent together at Madame
Bonanni's, and the quiet dignity and courage of his behaviour under
circumstances that might almost have driven a sensitive man out of his
She thought of him a great deal that afternoon, and the result of
her thoughts was that she resolved not to go to Logotheti's house
again, though she had a vague idea that such a resolution should not be
connected with Lushington, if she meant to respect her own
independence. But when she had reached this complicated state of mind,
both Lushington and Logotheti took themselves suddenly out of the
sphere of her meditations, and she was standing once more on the
half-lighted stage, singing 'Anges pures' into the abyss of the dark
and empty house.
The evening post brought Margaret three notes from Paris. One, in
bad French, was from Schreiermeyer, to say that he had changed his
mind, that she was to make her début in Rigoletto instead
of in Faust, and that a rehearsal of the former opera was called
for the next day but one at eleven o'clock, at which, by kindness of
the director of the Opéra, she would be allowed to sing the part of
When she read this, her face fell, and she felt a sharp little
disappointment. She had already fancied herself Marguerite, the
fair-haired Gretchen, mass-book in hand and eyes cast down, and then at
the spinning-wheel, and in the church, and in the prison, and it was an
effort of imagination to turn herself into the Italian Duke's Gilda,
murdered to save her lover and dragged away in the sackprobably by
The next note was from Logotheti, who begged her to use his motor
car for going in to her rehearsals. The chauffeur would bring it to
Mrs. Rushmore's gate, the day after to-morrow, in plenty of time. The
note was in French and ended with the assurance of 'most respectful
When she had read it she stared rather vacantly into the corner of
her room for a few seconds, and then tossed the bit of paper into the
basket under her writing-table.
The third letter was from Lushington. She had recognised the small
scholarly handwriting and had purposely laid it aside to read last. It
was rather stiffly worded, and it contained a somewhat unnecessary and
not very contrite apology for having seemed rude that morning in
answering her question so roughly and in hurrying away. He had not much
else to say, except that he was going back at once to his London
lodgings in Bolton Streeta hint that if Margaret wished to write to
him he was to be found there.
She bit her lip and frowned. The note was useless and tactless as
well. If he had wished to please her he might have written a word of
greeting, as if nothing had happened, just to say that he wished he
could have seen her for a few minutes. It would have been so easy to do
that instead of sending a superfluous apology for having been rude on
purpose! She read the note again and grew angry over it. It was so
gratuitous! If he really meant to avoid her always, he need not have
written at all. 'Superfluous' was the word; it was superfluous. She
tore the letter into little bits and threw them into the basket; and
then, by an afterthought, she fished up Logotheti's note, which she had
not torn, and read it again.
At all events, he was a man of the world and could cover two pages
of note-paper without saying anything that could irritate a woman. Like
everything he said, what he wrote was just right. He did not protest
that he could not use his motor car himself, and he did not apologise
for taking the liberty of offering her the use of it; he did not even
ask for an answer, as if he were trying to draw her into writing to
him. The car would be at the gate, and he would be glad if she could
use it; meaning that if she did not want it she could send it away.
There was not the least shade of familiarity in the phrases.
'Respectful homage' was certainly not 'familiar.' Just because he did
not ask for an answer, he should have one!
She took up her pen and began. When she had written three or four
lines to thank him, she found herself going on to say more, and she
told him of the change in regard to her début, and asked if he
knew why it was made so suddenly. She explained why she preferred
Faust to Rigoletto, and all at once she saw that she had
filled a sheet and must either break off abruptly or take another. She
finished the note hastily and signed her name. When it was done she
remembered that she had not told him anything about the money which had
unexpectedly come to her, and she hesitated a moment; but she decided
that it was none of his business, and almost wondered why she had
thought of telling him anything so entirely personal. She sealed the
letter, stamped it and sent it to be posted.
Then she sat down at her piano to look over Rigoletto,
whistling her part softly while she played, in order to save her voice,
and in a few minutes she had forgotten Logotheti, Schreiermeyer and
Madame Bonanni sat in the spring sunshine by the closed window of
her sitting-room in London; she was thankful that there was any
sunshine at all, and by keeping the window shut and wrapping herself in
furs she produced the illusion that it was warming her. The room was
not very large and a good deal of space was taken up by a grand piano,
a good deal more by the big table and the heavy furniture, and the rest
by Madame Bonanni herself. Her bulk was considerably increased by the
white furs, from which only her head emerged; and as her face was made
up for the day with rather more paint than she wore in Paris, on the
ground that London is a darker city, the effect of the whole was highly
artificial and disconcerting. One might have compared the huge bundle
of white to an enormous egg out of which a large and very animated
middle-aged fowl was just hatching.
Lushington was seated before the open piano, but had turned half
away from it on the stool and was looking quietly at his mother. His
face had an expression of listless weariness which was not natural to
him. Madame Bonanni moved just then and the outer fur slipped a little
from its place. Lushington rose at once and arranged it again.
'Will you have anything else over you, mother?' he asked.
'No, my child. I am warm at last. Your English sun is like stage
lime-light. It shines, and shines, and does no good! The man turns it
off, and London is pitch dark! Nothing warms one here but eating five
times a day and wearing a fur coat all the time. But I am growing old.
Why do you say I am not? It is foolish.'
'Your voice is as perfect as ever,' said Lushington.
'My voice, my voice! What did you expect? That it would crack, or
that I should sing false? Ungrateful boy! How can you say such things
of your mother? But I am growing old. Soon I shall make the effect on
the public of a grandmother in baby's clothes. Do you think I am blind?
They will say, Poor old Bonanni, she remembers Thiers! They might as
well say at once that I remember the Second Empire! It is infamous!
Have people no heart? But why do I go on singing, my dear? Tell me
that! Why do I go on?'
'Because you sing as well as ever,' suggested Lushington gently.
'It is no reason why I should work as hard as ever! Why should I go
on earning money, money, money? Yes, I know! They come to hear me, they
crowd the house, they pay, they clap their hands when I sing the mad
scene in Lucia, or Juliet's waltz song, or the crescendo trills
in the Huguenots! But I am old, my dear!'
'Nonsense!' interjected Lushington in an encouraging tone.
'Do you know why I am sure of it? It is this. I do not care any
more. It is all the same to me, what they do. I do not care whether
they come or not, or whether they applaud, or hiss, or stamp on the
floor. Why should I care? I have had it all so often. I have seen the
people standing on the seats all over the theatre and yelling, and
often in foreign countries they have taken the horses from my carriage
and dragged it themselves. I have had everything. Why should I care for
it? And I do not want money. I have too much already.'
'You certainly have enough, mother.'
'It is your fault that I have too much,' she said, in sudden anger.
'You have no heart; you are a cruel, ungrateful boy! Is there anything
I have not done to make you happy, ever since you were a baby? Look at
your position! You are a celebrated writer, a critic! Other writers are
green with jealousy and fear of you! And why? Because I made up my mind
that you should be a great man, and sent you to school and the
university instead of keeping you to myself, at home, always pressed
against my heart! Is not that the greatest sacrifice that a mother can
make, to send her child to college, to be left alone herself, always
wondering whether he is catching cold and is getting enough to eat, and
is not being led away by wicked little boys? Ah, you do not know! You
can never be a mother!'
This was unanswerable, but Lushington really looked sorry for her,
as if it were his fault.
'And what have you given me in return for it all? How have you
repaid me for the days of anxiety and nights of fever all the time when
you were at those terrible studies? I ask you that! How have you
rewarded me? You will not take money from me. I go on making more and
more, and you will not spend it. Oh, it is not to be believed! I shall
die of grief!'
Madame Bonanni put one fat hand out from under the furs, and pressed
a podgy finger to each eyelid in succession by way of stopping the very
genuine tears that threatened her rouged cheeks with watery
'Mother, please don't!' cried Lushington, in helpless distress. 'You
know that I can't take money from you!'
'Oh, I know, I know! That is the worst of itI know! It is not
because you are proud of earning your own living, it's because you're
ashamed of me!'
Lushington rose again, and began to walk up and down, bending his
head and glancing at her now and then.
'Why will you always go back to that question?' he asked, and his
tone showed how much he resented it. 'You cannot unlive your life.
Don't make me say more than that, for you don't know how it hurts to
say that much. Indeed you don't!'
He went to the closed window and looked out, turning away from her.
She stretched out her hand and pulled at his coat timidly, as a dog
pulls his master's clothes to attract his attention. He turned his head
'I've tried to live differently, Tom,' she said. 'Of late years I've
Her voice was low and unsteady.
'I know it,' he said just above a whisper, and he turned to the
'Can't you forgive me, Tom?' she asked pitifully. 'Won't you take
some of the moneyonly what I made by singing?'
He shook his head without looking round, for it would have hurt him
to see her eyes just then.
'I have enough, mother,' he answered. 'I make as much as I need.'
'You will need much more when you marry.'
'I shall never marry.'
'You will marry little Miss Donne,' said Madame Bonanni, after a
Lushington turned sharply now, and leaned back against the glass.
'No,' he answered, with sudden hardness, 'I can't ask Miss Donne to
be my wife. No man in my position could have the right. You understand
what I mean, and heaven knows I don't wish to pain you, motherI'd
give anything not to! Why do you talk of these things?'
'Because I feel that you're unhappy, Tom, and I know that I amand
there must be some way out of it. After all, my dearnow don't be
angry!Miss Donne is a good girlshe's all that I wish I had
beenbut after all, she's going to be an opera-singer. You are the son
of an artist and I don't see why any artist should not marry you. The
public believes we are all bad, whether we are or not.'
'I'm not thinking of the public,' Lushington answered. 'I don't care
a straw what the world says. If I had been offered my choice I would
not have changed my name at all.'
'But then, my dear, what in the world are you thinking of?' asked
the prima donna, evidently surprised by what he said. 'If the girl
loves you, do you suppose she will care what I've done?'
'But I care!' cried Lushington with sudden vehemence. 'I care, for
Madame Bonanni's hand had disappeared within the furs again, after
she had ascertained that the two tears were not going to run down her
cheeks. Her large face wore the expression of a coloured sphinx, and
there was something Egyptian about the immobility of her eyes and her
painted eyebrows. No one could have guessed from her look whether she
were going to cry or laugh the next time she spoke. Lushington walked
up and down the room without glancing at her.
'Do you think' she began, and broke off as he stopped to listen.
'What?' he inquired, standing still.
'Would it make it any better ifif I married again?' She asked the
question with hesitation.
'How? I don't understand.'
'They always say that marriage is so respectable,' Madame Bonanni
answered, in a matter-of-fact tone. 'I don't know why, I'm sure, but
everybody seems to think it is, and if it would help mattersI mean,
if Miss Donne would consider that a respectable marriage with a solid,
middle-class man would settle the question, I suppose I could manage
it. I could always divorce, you know, if it became unbearable!'
'Yes,' Lushington answered. 'Marriage is the first step to the
divorce court. For heaven's sake, don't talk in this way! I've made up
my mind that I cannot marry, and that ends it. Let it alone. We each
know what the other thinks, and we are each trying to make the best of
what can't be undone. Talking about it can do no good. Nothing can.
It's the inevitable, and so the least said about it, the better.
Sometimes you say that I am ungrateful, mother, but I'm not, you don't
mean it seriously. If I've made my own way, it is because you started
me right, by making me work instead of bringing me up at your
apron-strings, to live on your money. You did it so well, too, that you
cannot undo it, now that you would like to make me rich. Why aren't you
proud of that, mother? It's the best thing you ever did in your
lifeGod bless you! And yet you say I'm ungrateful!'
At this, there was a convulsion of the white furs; Madame Bonanni
suddenly emerged, erect, massive and seething with motherly emotion;
throwing her arms round her son she pressed him to her with a strength
and vehemence that might have suffocated a weaker man. As it was,
Lushington was speechless in her embrace for several seconds, while she
uttered more or less incoherent cries of joy.
'My child! My own darling Tommy! Oh, you make me so happy!'
Lushington let her print many heavy kisses on his cheeks, and he
gently patted her shoulder with his free hand. He was very patient and
affectionate, considering the frightful dilemma with regard to her in
which he had lived all his life; for, as his mother, he loved her, but
as a woman, he knew that he could never respect her, whatever she might
do to retrieve her past. He could find excuses for the life she had
led, but they were only palliatives that momentarily soothed the
rankling sore in his heart, which nothing could heal. In his own world
of literature and work and publicity, he had a name of his own, not
without honour, and respected by every one. But to himself, to the few
trusted persons who knew his secret, above all to Margaret Donne, he
was the son of that 'Bonanni woman,' who had been the spoilt plaything
of royalty and semi-royalty from London to St. Petersburg, whose lovers
had been legion and her caprices as the sand on the sea-shore. There
were times when Lushington could not bear to see her, and kept away
from her, or even left the city in which they were together. There were
days when the natural bond drew him to her, and when he realised that,
with countless faults, she had been to him a far better mother than
most men are blessed with.
And now, poor thing, she was grateful to the verge of tears for his
one word of blessing that seemed to wipe out all the rest. She wished
that when her hour came, she might hear him say again 'God bless you,'
and then die.
She let him go, and sat down amongst her furs, with a deep sigh of
'I've made up my mind what to do,' she said, almost as if she were
talking to herself. 'I'm tired of it all, Tom, and I'm losing my good
looks and my figure. If this goes on, I shall soon be ridiculous. You
would not like your mother to be ridiculous, would you?'
'No, my angel! Be good if you can; if you can't be good, be bad; but
never be ridiculous! Oh, never, never! I could not bear that. So I
shall leave the stage, quietly, without any farewell. I shall cancel my
engagements when I have finished singing here. The doctors will swear
to anything. What are they for? I was never ill in my life, but they
shall say I am ill now. What is it that every one has nowadaysthe
appendix? I will have the appendix. The doctors shall swear that I have
it well. So I shall leave the stage with a good reason, and pay no
forfeit for cancelling the contracts. That is business. Then I will be
'Eh?' ejaculated Lushington, staring at her.
'Yes, I will be a nun,' continued Madame Bonanni unmoved. 'I will go
into religion. When your mother is a nun, my child, I presume that the
Church will protect her, and no one will dare to say anything against
her. Then you can marry or not, as you please, but you will no longer
be ashamed of your mother! I shall be a blue nun with a white bonnet
and a black veil, and I shall call myself Sister Juliet, because that
has been my great part, and the name will remind me of old times. Don't
you think Sister Juliet sounds very well? And dark blue is becoming
to meI always said so.'
'Yesyes,' answered Lushington in an uncertain tone and biting his
'I cannot do more than that for you, my treasure,' said his mother,
a touch of real human sadness in her voice. 'You will not take the
miserable moneybut perhaps you will take the sacrifice, if I shut
myself up in a convent and wear a hair shirt, and feed sick babies, and
eat cabbage. How could any one say a word against me then? And you will
be happy, Tom. That is all I ask.'
'I shall not be happy, if you make yourself miserable, mother,' said
'Miserable? Ah, well, I daresay there will not be cabbage every
day,' answered Madame Bonanni thoughtfully. 'And I like fish.
Fortunately, I am fond of fish. The simplest, you know. Only a fried
sole with a meunière sauce. Bah! When I talk of eating you never
believe I am in earnest. Go away, my beloved child! Go and write to
little Miss Donne that she may have all my engagements, because I am
entering religion. You shall see! She will marry you in a week. Go over
to Paris and talk to her. She is crying her eyes out for you, and that
is bad for the voice. It relaxes the vocal cords frightfully. I always
have to gargle for half-an-hour if I have been crying and am going to
Through all her rambling talk, half earnest and half absurd,
Lushington detected the signs of a coming change. He did not think she
would leave the stage so suddenly as she said she would; he assuredly
did not believe that she would ever 'enter religion'; but he saw for
the first time that she was tired of the life she had led, that she
felt herself growing old and longed for rest and quiet. She had lived
as very few live, to satisfy every ambition and satiate every passion
to the full, and now, with advancing years, she had not the one great
bad passion of old age, which is avarice, as an incentive for
prolonging her career. In its place, on the contrary, stood her one
redeeming virtue, that abundant generosity which had made her welcome
Margaret Donne's great talent with honest enthusiasm, and which had
been like a providence to hundreds, perhaps to thousands of unknown
men, women and children ever since she had gained the means of helping
the poor and distressed. But it had been part of her nature to hide
that. Logotheti, who managed most of her business, knew more about her
charities than her own son, and the world knew next to nothing at all.
When Lushington had run over to Paris the day before the
conversation just recorded, he had entertained a vague notion of going
out to Versailles in the afternoon; for he felt that all had not been
said between himself and Margaret and that their last parting in the
street had not been really final. The fact was that he merely yielded
to the tormenting desire to see her again, if for only a few minutes
and in the presence of Mrs. Rushmore.
But the meeting in the Boulevard Péreire had chilled him like a
stream of cold water poured down his back; than which homely simile
there is none more true. He had fancied her very grave and even a
little sad, going quietly to her rehearsals with a maid, or even with
Mrs. Rushmore, speaking to no one at the theatre and returning at once
to Versailles to reflect on the vicissitudes to which human affections
He had come upon her suddenly and unawares, in a very smart frock
and a superlatively becoming hat, smiling gaily, just stepping out of a
magnificent white motor car, resting her hand familiarly on that of the
most successful young financier in Paris, whose conquests among women
of the world were a byword, and chaperoned by a flighty little
Neapolitan teacher of singing. Truly, if some one had deliberately
rubbed the back of his neck with a large lump of ice on that warm
spring day, the chill could not have been more effectual. Morally
speaking, Lushington caught a bad cold, which 'struck in,' as old
people used to say.
He might have explained to himself that as he had insisted upon
parting from Margaret for ever, and against her will, her subsequent
doings were none of his business. But he was half an Englishman by
birth and altogether one by bringing up, and he therefore could not
admit that she should be apparently enjoying herself, while he was
gloomily brooding over the misfortunes that put her beyond his reach.
The fable of the Dog in the Manger must have been composed to describe
us Anglo-Saxons. It is sufficient that we be hindered from getting what
we want, even by our own sense of honour; we are forthwith ready to
sacrifice life and limb to prevent any other man from getting it. The
magnanimity of our renunciation is only to be compared with our
tenacity in asserting our claim to what we have renounced. Even our
charities usually have strings to them on which our hold never relaxes,
in case we should want them back.
Lushington had never trusted Logotheti, but since his instinct and
the force of circumstances had told him that the Greek was making love
to Margaret and that Margaret liked his society, he hated the man in a
most unchristian manner, and few things would have given the usually
peaceable man of letters such unmitigated satisfaction as to see the
shining white motor car blow up and scatter his rival's arms and legs
to the thirty-two points of the compass.
Logotheti, on the other hand, was as yet unaware that Lushington was
the 'some one else' of whom Margaret had spoken twice with evident
feeling. The consequence was that when the Englishman began to give
himself the bitter satisfaction of watching Logotheti, the latter was
very far from suspecting such a thing, and took no pains at all to hide
his doings; and Lushington established himself in Paris and watched
him, in his coming and going, and nursed his jealousy into hatred and
his hatred into action.
He would not have stooped to employ any one in such work, for that
would have seemed like an insult to Margaret, and a piece of cowardice
into the bargain. The time would come when the astute Greek would
discover that he was followed, and Lushington had no intention of
putting some one else in his shoes when that time came; on the
contrary, he looked forward with all a real Englishman's cool
self-confidence to the explanation that must take place some day. But
he wished to remain undiscovered as long as possible.
He had gone back to his old rooms in the Hôtel des Saints Pères, but
in order to disappear more effectually from his acquaintances he took a
lodging, and walked to it, after sending on his belongings. On his way
he stopped at a quiet barber's shop and had his beard and moustache
shaved off. After that it was not likely that any of his acquaintances
would recognise him, but he took further steps towards completing his
disguise by making radical and painful changes in his dress. He bought
ready-made French clothes, he put on a pair of square kid boots with
elastic sides and patent leather tips, he wore a soft silk cravat
artificially tied in a bow knot with wide and floating ends, and he
purchased a French silk hat with a broad and curving brim. Having
satisfied himself that the effect was good, he laid in a stock of
similar articles, and further adorned his appearance with a pair of
tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles, and a green umbrella. For possibly
cool or rainy weather he provided himself with a coffee-coloured
overcoat that had a velvet collar and tails reaching almost to the
When he had been younger Lushington had tried in vain to ruffle his
naturally excessive neatness, but he now realised that he had only
lacked the courage to make a thorough change. In his present costume he
ran no risk of being taken for a smart English lounger, nor for a
French dandy. The effect of forgetting to shave, too, was frightful,
for in forty-eight hours his fair face was covered with shiny bristles
that had a positively metallic look. Though he was so unlike his mother
in most ways, he must have inherited a little of the theatrical
instinct from her, for he wore his disguise as easily as if he had
always been used to it.
He also had the advantage of speaking French like a native, though
possibly with a very slight southern accent caught from his mother, who
originally came from Provence. As for his name, it was useless to
assume another, for Paris is full of Parisians of foreign descent,
whose names are English, German, Polish and Italian; and in a really
great city no one takes the least notice of a man unless he does
something to attract attention. Besides, Lushington had no idea of
disappearing from his own world, or of cutting himself off from his
He had not any fixed plan, for he was not sure what he wanted; he
only knew that he hated and distrusted Logotheti, and that while he
could not forgive Margaret for liking the Greek's society, he meant, in
an undetermined way, to save her from destruction. Probably, if he had
attempted to put his thoughts into words, he could have got no further
than Mrs. Rushmore, who suspected Logotheti of designs, and at the root
of his growing suspicion he would have found the fine old Anglo-Saxon
prejudice that a woman might as well trust herself to Don Juan, an
Italian Count, or Beelzebub, as to the offspring of Cadmus or Danaus.
Englishmen have indolent minds and active bodies, as a rule, but on
the other hand, when they are really roused, no people in the world are
capable of greater mental concentration and energy. They are therefore
not good detectives as a rule, but there are few better when they are
deeply and selfishly interested in the result.
Incidentally, Lushington meant to do his utmost to prevent Margaret
from going on the stage, and he would have been much surprised to learn
that in this respect he was Logotheti's ally, instead of his enemy,
against Margaret's fixed determination. If there was to be a struggle,
therefore, it was to be a three-cornered one, in which the two men
would be pitted against each other, and both together against the
resolution of the woman they both loved. Unfortunately for Lushington,
he had begun by withdrawing from Margaret's surroundings and had made
way for his adversary.
Meanwhile Logotheti made the running. He had offered Margaret his
motor car for coming in to her rehearsals, and a chauffeur appeared
with it in good time, masked, coated and gloved in the approved
fashion. Margaret supposed that Logotheti meant to ask her to luncheon
again with Madame De Rosa, and she made up her mind to refuse, for no
particular reason except that she did not wish to seem too willing to
do whatever he proposed. Mrs. Rushmore thought it bad enough that she
should accept the offer of the motor car, but was beginning to
understand that the machine had quite irresistible temptations for all
persons under fifty. She was even a little shocked that Margaret should
go alone to Paris under the sole protection of the chauffeur, though
she would have thought it infinitely worse if Logotheti himself had
The man held the door open for Margaret to get in, when she came out
upon the step with Mrs. Rushmore, who seemed anxious to keep an eye on
her as long as possible; as if she could project an influence of
propriety, a sort of astral chaperonage, that would follow the girl to
the city. She detained her at the last minute, holding her by the
elbow. The chauffeur stood impassive with his hand on the door, while
she delivered herself of her final opinion in English, which of course
he could not understand.
'I must say that your sudden intimacy with this suspicious Greek is
most extraordinary,' she said.
'Don't you think there is just a little prejudice in your opinion of
him?' asked Margaret sweetly.
'No,' answered Mrs. Rushmore with firmness, 'I don't, and I think it
very strange that a clever girl like you should be so easily taken in
by a foreigner. Much worse than a foreigner, my dear! A Greek is almost
as bad as a Turk, and we all know what Turks are! Fancy a decent young
woman trusting herself alone with a Turk! I declare, it's not to be
believed! Your dear mother's daughter too! You'll end in a harem,
Margaret, mark my word.'
'And be sewn up in a sack and thrown into the Bosphorus,' laughed
Margaret, trying to get away.
'Such things have happened before now,' said Mrs. Rushmore gloomily.
'Greeks don't have harems,' Margaret objected.
'Don't catch cold,' said Mrs. Rushmore, by way of refuting
Margaret's argument. 'It looks as if it might rain.'
The morning was still and soft and overcast, and the air was full of
the scent of the flowers and leaves, and fresh-clipped grass. The small
birds chirped rather plaintively from the trees on the lawn, or stood
about the edge of the little pond apparently expecting something to
happen, hopping down to the water occasionally, looking down at the
reflections in it and then hopping back again with a dissatisfied air;
and they muffled themselves up in their feathers as if they meant to go
to sleep, and then suddenly spread their wings out, without flying, and
scraped the grass with them. The elms were quite green already, and the
oaks were pushing out thousands of bright emerald leaves. There is a
day in every spring when the maiden year reaches full girlhood, and
pauses on the verge of woman's estate, to wonder at the mysterious
longings that disquiet all her being, and at the unknown music that
sings through her waking dreams.
Margaret sat in the motor car wrapped in a wide thin cloak and
covering her mouth lest the rush of air should affect her voice; but
the quick motion was pleasant, and she felt all the illusion of
accomplishing something worth doing, merely because she was spinning
along at breakneck speed. Somehow, too, the still air and the smell of
the flowers had made her restless that morning before starting, and the
rapid movement soothed her. If she had been offered her choice just
then, she would perhaps have been on horseback for a gallop across
country, but the motor car was certainly the next best thing to that.
For some minutes the chauffeur kept his eyes on the road ahead and
both hands on the steering-gear. Then one hand moved, the speed of the
car slackened suddenly, and the man turned and spoke over the back of
'I hope you'll forgive me,' he said in English.
Margaret started and sat up straight, for the voice was Logotheti's.
The huge goggles, the protecting curtain over half the face, the
wide-visored cap and the turned-up coat collar, had disguised him
beyond all recognition. Even his usually smooth black moustache was
ruffled out of shape, and hid his characteristic mouth.
Margaret uttered an exclamation of surprise, not quite sure whether
she ought to smile or frown.
'I thought Mrs. Rushmore would not like it, if I came for you
myself,' he continued, looking at her through his goggles.
'I'm sure she wouldn't,' Margaret assented readily.
'In point of fact,' Logotheti continued, with a grin, 'she expressed
her opinion of me with extraordinary directness. Suspicious Greek!
Worse than a foreigner! As bad as a Turk! The unprincipled owner of a
harem! It's really true that eavesdroppers never hear any good of
themselves! I never tried it before, and it served me right.'
'You cannot say that I said anything against you,' laughed Margaret.
'I took your defence.'
'Not with enthusiasm.' Logotheti joined in her laugh.
'You thought there might be just a little prejudice in her opinion
and you told her that Greeks don't have harems. YesyesI suppose
that might be called defending an absent friend.'
The car was moving very slowly now.
'If I had known it was you, I would have called you all sorts of
names,' Margaret answered. 'Should you mind taking that thing off your
face for a moment? I don t like talking to a mask, and you may be some
one else after all.'
'No,' said Logotheti, 'I'm not some one else.' He emphasised the
words that had become familiar to them both. 'I wish I were! But if I
take off my glasses and cap, you will be frightened, for my hair is not
smooth and I'm sure I look like a Greek pirate!'
'I should like to see one, and I shall not be frightened.'
He pulled off his cap and glasses, and faced her. She stared at him
in surprise, for she was not sure that she should have recognised him.
His thick black hair stuck up all over his head like a crest, his heavy
eyebrows were as bushy as an animal's fur and his rough and bristling
moustache lent his large mouth and massive jaws a look approaching to
ferocity. The whole effect was rather startling, and Margaret opened
her eyes wide in astonishment. Logotheti smiled.
'Now you understand why I smooth my hair and dress like a tailor's
manikin,' he said quietly. 'It's enough to cow a mob, isn't it?'
'Do you know, I'm not sure that I don't like you better so. You're
'You're evidently not timid,' he answered, amused. 'But you can
fancy the effect on Mrs. Rushmore's nerves, if she had seen me.'
'I should not have dared to come with you. As it is' She
'Oh, as it is, you cannot help yourself,' Logotheti said. 'You can't
get out and walk.'
'I could get out when you have to stop at the petrol station; and I
assure you that I can refuse to come with you again!'
'Of course you can. But you won't.'
'Because you're much too sensible. Have I offended you, or
frightened you? What have I done to displease you?'
'Nothingbut' She laughed and shook her head as she broke off.
'I haven't even asked you to marry me to-day! I should think that I
was taking an unfair advantage, if I did, since I could easily carry
you off just now. The car will run sixty miles at a stretch without any
trouble at all, and I don't suppose you would risk your neck to jump,
merely for the sake of getting away from me, would you?'
'Not if you behaved properly,' Margaret answered.
'And then,' Logotheti continued, 'I could put her at full speed and
say, If you won't swear to marry me, I'll give myself the satisfaction
of being killed with you at the very next bridge we come to! Most
women would rather marry a man than be smashed to atoms with him, even
if he looks like a pirate.'
'But that would be unfair. Besides, an oath taken under compulsion
is not binding. I should have to find some other way.'
'Shall we go on?' Margaret asked. 'I shall be late for the
'Give it up,' suggested Logotheti calmly. 'We'll spend the morning
at St. Cloud. Much pleasanter than tiring yourself out in that wretched
theatre! I want to talk to you.'
'You can talk to me when I am not singing.'
'No. Singing will distract your attention, and you won't listen to
what I tell you. You have no idea what delightful things I can say when
'I wonder!' Margaret laughed lightly. 'You might begin trying while
you take me to Paris. We haven't run a mile in the last ten minutes,
and it's getting late.'
'Unless you are always a little late nobody will respect you. I'll
go a little faster, just to prove to you that you can do anything you
like with me, even against my judgment. Let me put on my glasses
At that moment a man met them on a bicycle, and passed at a
leisurely pace. There was not much traffic on the Versailles road at
that hour, and Margaret let her eyes rest idly on the man, who merely
glanced at her and looked ahead again. Logotheti had taken off his cap
in order to adjust his goggles and shield. When the bicycle had gone by
'There goes a typical French bookworm, bicycling to get an
appetite,' he observed. 'I wonder why a certain type of Frenchman
always wears kid boots with square patent leather toes, and a
Lavallière tie, and spectacles with tortoise-shell rims!'
'If he could see you as you generally are,' answered Margaret, 'he
would probably wonder why a certain type of foreigner plasters his hair
down and covers himself with diamonds and rubies! Do go a little
faster, it's getting later every moment.'
'It always does.'
'Especially when one doesn't wish it to! Please go on!'
'Say at once that I've bored you to death.' He put the car at
'No. You don't bore me at all, but I want to get to the theatre.'
'To please you, I am going therefor no other reason. I'll do
anything in the world to give you pleasure. I only wish you would do
the smallest thing for me!'
'What, for instance? Perhaps I may do some very little thing. You'll
get nothing if you don't ask for it!'
'Some people take without asking. Greek pirates always do, you know!
But I can't drive at this rate and talk over my shoulder.'
The way was clear and for several minutes he ran at full speed,
keeping his eyes on the road. Margaret turned sideways and kept behind
him as much as possible, shielding her face and mouth from the
She had told the truth when she had said that he did not bore her.
The whole thing had a savour of adventure in it, and it amused her to
think how shocked Mrs. Rushmore would have been if she had guessed that
the chauffeur was Logotheti himself. There was something in the man's
coolness that attracted her very much, for though there was no danger
on the present occasion, she felt that if there had been any, he would
have been just as indifferent to it if it stood in the way of his
seeing her alone. Poor Lushington had always been so intensely proper,
so morbidly afraid of compromising her, and above all, so deadly in
She did not quite like to admit that the Greek was altogether in
earnest, too, and that she was just a little afraid of him; still less
that her unacknowledged fear gave her rather a pleasant sensation. But
it was quite true that she had liked him better than before, from the
moment when he had pulled off his cap and glasses and shown his face as
nature had made it. However he might appear hereafter when she met him,
she would always think of him as she had seen him then.
Most women are much more influenced by strength in a man than by
anything which can reasonably be called beauty. Actually and
metaphorically every woman would rather be roughly carried off her feet
by something she cannot resist than be abjectly worshipped and
flattered; yet worship and flattery, though second-best, are much
better than the terribly superior and instructive affection which the
born prig bestows upon his idol with the air of granting a favour on
Men, on the other hand, detest being carried away, almost as much as
being led. The woman who lets a man guess that she is trying to
influence him is lost, and generally forfeits for ever any real
influence she may have had. The only sort of cleverness which is
distinctly womanly is that which leads a man to do with energy,
enthusiasm and devotion the very thing which he has always assured
everybody that he will not think of doing. The old-fashioned way of
making a pig go to market is to pull his tail steadily in the opposite
direction. If you do that, nothing can save him from his fate; for he
will drag you off your feet in his effort to do what he does not want
to do at all; and there is more 'psychology' in that plain fact than in
volumes of subtle analysis.
Lushington's first discovery was not calculated to soothe his
feelings. It had come about simply enough. He had bicycled in the
Boulevard Péreire, keeping an eye on Logotheti's house from a distance,
and had seen the motor car waiting before the door, in charge of the
chauffeur. A man had come out, dressed precisely like the latter, had
got in and had gone off, apparently in no hurry, while the original
chauffeur went into the house, presumably to wait. It had been easy
enough to keep the machine in sight till it was fairly out on the road
to Versailles, after which Lushington had felt tolerably sure that by
going slowly he should meet it coming back and probably bringing
Margaret. As has been seen, this was what happened, and, as chance
favoured him, he passed the motor before Logotheti had covered his face
again. He was not likely to forget that face either, and it had done
more to reveal to him his adversary's true character than any number of
meetings in society. For once he had seen the real Logotheti, as
Margaret had. He had ridden on till they were out of sight and had then
turned back, in no very amiable frame of mind.
He understood very well that Logotheti had made great progress in a
few days; he even took it for granted that Margaret had expected him
that morning, and approved of the disguise; for it was nothing else,
after all. If the world, and therefore Mrs. Rushmore, had been meant to
know that Logotheti was acting as his own chauffeur, Margaret would
have been sitting beside him in front. Instead, she was behind him, in
the body of the car, and had evidently been talking with him over the
back of the seat. The big machine, too, was moving at a snail's pace,
clearly in order that they might talk at leisure. In other words,
Logotheti had arranged a secret meeting with Margaret, with her
consent; and that could only mean one thing. The Greek had gained
enough influence over her to make her do almost anything he liked.
It was not a pleasant discovery, but it was an important one, and
Lushington thought over the best means of following it up. He almost
choked with anger as he reflected that if matters went on at this rate,
Margaret would soon be going to Logotheti's house without even the
nominal protection afforded by little Madame De Rosa. He rode back by
the way he had taken outward and passed the Greek's house. The motor
car was not there, which was a relief, on the whole.
He went on as far as the Opéra, for he knew from his mother that
Margaret's rehearsals were taking place there, by the kindness of the
director, who was on very friendly terms with Schreiermeyer. But the
motor was not to be seen. Logotheti, who could hardly have entered
disguised as his own chauffeur, and who would not leave the machine
unguarded in the street, had possibly left Margaret at the door and
gone away. Lushington got off his bicycle and went in under the covered
way to the stage door.
In answer to his questions, the keeper told him that Mademoiselle da
Cordova was rehearsing, and would probably not come out for at least
two hours. Lushington asked the man whether he had seen Logotheti. No,
he had not; he knew Monsieur Logotheti very well; he knew all the
subscribers, and particularly all those who were members of the 'high
finance.' Besides, every one in Paris knew Monsieur Logotheti by sight;
every one knew him as well as the column in the Place Vendôme. He had
not been seen that morning. The door-keeper, who had absolutely nothing
to do just at that hour, was willing to talk; but he had nothing of
importance to say. Monsieur Logotheti came sometimes to rehearsals. A
few days ago he and Mademoiselle da Cordova had left the theatre
together. The keeper smiled, and ventured to suppose that Mademoiselle
da Cordova was 'protected' by the 'financier.' Lushington flushed
angrily and went away.
It had come already, then; what the man had said this morning, he
would say to-morrow and the next day, to any one who cared to listen,
including the second-class reporters who go to underlings for
information; Margaret's name was already coupled with that of a
millionaire who was supposed to protect her. Ten days ago, she had been
unassailable, a 'lady'Lushington did not particularly like the
worda young English girl of honourable birth, protected by no less a
personage than Mrs. Rushmore, and defended from calumny by that very
powerful organisation for mutual defence under all circumstances, which
calls itself society, which wields most of the capital of the world,
rewards its humble friends with its patronage and generally kills or
ruins its enemies. That was ten days ago. Now, the 'lady' had become an
'artist,' and was public property. The stage doorkeeper of a theatre
could smilingly suggest that she was the property of a financier, and
no one had a right to hit him between the eyes for saying so.
Lushington had been strongly tempted to do that, but he had instantly
foreseen the consequences; he would have been arrested for an
unprovoked assault, the man would have told his story, the papers would
have repeated it with lively comments, and Margaret's name would have
been dragged through the mud of a newspaper scandal. So Lushington put
his hands in his pockets and went away, which was by far the wisest
thing he could do.
He set himself resolutely to think out a plan of action, but like
many men of tolerably fertile imagination he was at a loss for any
expedient in the presence of urgent need. He could watch Logotheti and
Margaret, and they would not easily recognise him, but he was fain to
admit that he had nothing to gain by spying on them. He had seen enough
and heard enough already to convince him that Margaret had allowed
herself to be led into a situation very dangerous for her good name, to
say the least. It did not occur to him that Logotheti wished to marry
her, still less that he meant to hinder her from singing in public. He
could not help thinking of the very worst motives, and he attributed
them all to the Greek.
The mild English man of letters was momentarily turned into an
avenging demon, breathing wrath and destruction upon his adversary. The
most extravagant and reckless crimes looked comparatively easy just
then, and very tempting. He thought of getting into Logotheti's cellar
with enough dynamite to blow the house, its owner and himself to atoms,
not to speak of half the Boulevard Péreire. He fancied himself pounding
Logotheti's face quite out of shape with his fists, riddling him with
revolver bullets, running him through in all directions with duelling
swords, tearing him in pieces with wild horses and hanging him out of
his own front window. These vivacious actions all looked possible and
delightful to Lushington as he walked up and down his little
sitting-room. Then came the cold shower-bath of returning common-sense.
He sat down, filled a pipe and lit it.
'I'm an awful ass,' he said aloud to himself, in a reproachful tone.
He wished that some spirit voice would contradict him, but in the
absence of any supernatural intervention the statement remained
unrefuted. The worst of it was that he had always thought himself
clever, and in his critical writings he had sneered in a superior way
at the inventions of contemporary novelists. Just then, he would have
given his reputation for the talents of the hero in a common detective
story. But his mind refused to work in that way, and he watched with
growing discouragement the little clouds of smoke that floated upwards
to the whitewashed ceiling without leaving the least shadow of a
serviceable idea behind them.
He looked disconsolately at the square patent leather toes of his
shoes, very dusty from bicycling, and he sadly passed his hand over his
smooth-shaven chin; the curious creases in his ready-made trousers, so
conspicuously in the wrong place, depressed him still further, and the
sight of his broad-brimmed hat, lying on the table, enhanced the
melancholy of his reflections. The disguise was admirable, undoubtedly,
but it had only helped him to see with his eyes what he had already
seen in imagination, and so far as he could guess, it was not likely to
help him one step further. At that very moment Margaret was probably
seated at Logotheti's table, without even Madame De Rosa to chaperon
her, and Logotheti's men-servants were exchanging opinions about her
outside the door. Lushington nearly bit through the mouthpiece of his
pipe as he thought of that, knowing that he was powerless to interfere.
The same thing might go on for a month, and he could not stop it; then
Margaret would make her début, and the case would be more
hopeless than ever.
The truth was that after launching himself as a disguised detective,
he found himself barred from going any further than merely watching his
enemy, simply because he was incapable of stooping to a detective's
methods of work. He would as soon have lost his hand as have written an
anonymous letter or deliberately inveigled Logotheti into a trap, and
while he was so carefully concealing himself he longed in reality for
open fight, and felt that he had made himself ridiculous in his own
eyes. Yet he hesitated to put on his own English clothes and go about
as usual, for he had to pass the porter's window on the stairs every
time he went out or came in, and such a sudden change in his appearance
would certainly make the porter suspect that he was engaged in some
nefarious business. Porters are powerful personages in Parisian
lodging-houses, and this one would probably inform the police that he
had a suspicious lodger; after which Lushington would be watched in his
turn and would very probably have trouble. These reflections made him
feel more ridiculous than ever.
Now it very often happens that when a man, even of considerable
intelligence, has made up his mind to do something which at first
seemed very clever, but which, by degrees, turns out to be quite
useless, if not altogether foolish, he perseveres in his course with
mule-like obstinacy. He has taken endless trouble to prepare the means,
he has thought it all out so nicely, only omitting to reach the
conclusion! It would be a pity to go back, it would be useless to
desist, since everything has been so well prepared. Something is sure
to come of it, if he only sticks to his original plan, and any result
must be better than allowing events to go their way.
Therefore, when the clouds that curled up from Lushington's pipe
failed to shape themselves into a vision both wise and prophetic, and
left absolutely no new idea behind when they vanished, he came to the
conclusion that his first scheme was a very good one after all, and
that he had better abide by the square-toed, spring-side boots and the
rest of his admirable disguise, until something happened. Then he would
seize the opportunity and act decisively; he was not at all sure how he
should act, but he secretly hoped that the action in question might be
of the nature of a fight with something or somebody. There are many
quiet and shy men who would really rather fight than do anything else,
though they will rarely admit it, even to themselves.
Returning to his plan of watching Logotheti, Lushington argued
rightly that the trip in the motor car would be repeated the very next
time that Margaret had a rehearsal, and that the car would therefore
leave the house in the Boulevard Péreire at about the same time, every
two or three days, but never on two days consecutively. When there was
no rehearsal, Margaret would not come into town. When that was the case
it would be easy to watch the house in Versailles. Lushington was not
quite sure what he expected to see, but he would watch it all the same.
Perhaps, on those days, Logotheti would appear undisguised and call.
But what Lushington was most anxious to find out was whether Margaret
had been to the house again. He wished he had waited near the Opéra to
see where she went when she came out, or in the Boulevard Péreire,
instead of coming back to his lodgings in a bad temper after his
interview with the stage doorkeeper.
He looked out of the window and saw that it was raining. That made
it sure that Margaret would not go back to Versailles in the motor car,
but in the meantime she might very possibly be at Logotheti's, at
He glanced at his watch, and a few minutes later he was on his
bicycle again, an outlandish figure in his long-tailed, coffee-coloured
overcoat and soft student's hat. He hitched up the tails as well as he
could and sat on them, to keep them out of the mud, and he pulled the
hat well down to keep the rain off his big spectacles and his nose. His
own mother would certainly not have recognised him.
He spent a melancholy hour, riding up and down in the wet between
the Place Péreire and the Place Wagram, till he wished with all his
heart that he might never again set eyes on the statue of Alphonse de
Neuville. Half the time, too, he was obliged to look back every moment
in order to watch Logotheti's door, lest he should miss what he was
waiting so patiently to see. The rain was cold, too, and persistent as
it can be in Paris, even in spring. His gloves were pulpy and
jellified, his spring-side kid boots felt as if he were taking a foot
bath of cold glue, and some insidious drops of cold water were
trickling down his back. The broad street was almost deserted, and when
he met any one he wished it were altogether so. Yet he wondered why a
man as rich as Logotheti should have built his house there.
At last his patience was rewarded. A brougham drove up past him at a
smart pace, stopped before the door and waited. He turned back and
wheeled round, crossing and re-crossing the street, so as to keep
behind the carriage. As it was impossible to continue this singular
exercise without attracting the attention of a policeman who came in
sight just then, he rode on towards the Batignolles station. Just then,
when his back was turned, he heard the door of the brougham sharply
shut, and as he quickly turned again he saw the carriage driving off in
the opposite direction. It was driving fast, but he overtook it in a
couple of minutes and passed close to the window, which was half up,
against the rain. He almost looked in as he went by, and suddenly he
met Logotheti's almond eyes, looking straight at him, with an air of
recognition. He bent his head, swerved away from the brougham and took
the first turning out of the wide street. But he had seen that the
Greek was alone in his carriage. Margaret had not lunched at the house
in the Boulevard Péreire.
During the next few days Lushington did not lead a life of idle
repose; in fact, he did not remember that he had ever taken so much
exercise since his Oxford days. On an average he must have bicycled
twenty or thirty miles between breakfast and dinner, which is not bad
work for a literary man accustomed to spend most of his time at his
writing-table and the rest in society. Unknown to himself, he was fast
becoming one of the sights on the Versailles road, and the men at the
octroi station grinned when he went by, and called him the crazy
More than once he met the motor, bringing Margaret to town or taking
her back, and though he did not again chance upon it when Logotheti was
without his glasses and shield, he felt tolerably sure that he was the
chauffeur, and Margaret was always alone in the body of the car. Twice
he was quite certain that the two were talking when he saw them in the
distance coming towards him, but when they passed him Margaret was
leaning back quietly in her place, and the chauffeur merely glanced at
him and then kept his eyes on the road. Margaret looked at him and
smiled faintly, as if in spite of herself, most probably at his
He ascertained also that after one more rehearsal at the Opéra,
Margaret did not go there again. The newspapers informed him very soon
that Schreiermeyer had got his own company together and had borrowed
the stage of an obscure theatre in the outskirts of Paris for the
purpose of rehearsing. It had been an advantage for the young prima
donna to sing two or three times with the great orchestra of the Opéra,
but the arrangement could of course not continue. Margaret's début
was to take place in July in a Belgian town.
Lushington was certain that Margaret had been at least once again to
Logotheti's house with Madame De Rosa, but he did not believe that she
had stayed to luncheon, for she had not remained in the house much over
During all this time he made no attempt to communicate with her, and
was uncomfortably aware that Logotheti was having it all his own way.
He yielded to a morbid impulse in watching the two, since no good could
come of it for himself or Margaret. Almost every time he went out on
the Versailles road he knew that he should see them together before he
came back, and he knew equally well that he could do nothing to
separate them. He wondered what it was that attracted such a woman as
Margaret Donne to such a man, and with a humility which his friends and
enemies would have been far from suspecting in him he honestly tried to
compare himself with Logotheti, and to define the points in which the
latter had the advantage of him.
Very naturally, he failed to discover them. In spite of what
philosophers tell us, most of us know ourselves pretty well. The
conclusive and irrefutable proof of this is that we always know when we
are not telling, or showing, the truth about ourselves, as, for
instance, when we are boasting or attributing to ourselves some gift,
some knowledge, or some power which we really do not possess. We also
know perfectly well when our impulses are good and when they are bad,
and can guess approximately how much courage we have in reserve for
doing the one, and how far our natural cowardice will incline us to do
the other. But we know very little indeed about other people, and
almost always judge them by ourselves, because we have no other
convenient standard. A great many men are influenced in the same
general way by the big things in life, but one scarcely ever finds two
men who are similarly affected by the little things from which all
great results proceed. Mark Antony lost the world for a woman, but it
was for a woman that Tallien overthrew Robespierre and saved France.
So Lushington's comparison came to nothing at all, and he was no
nearer to a solution of his problem than before.
Then came the unexpected, and it furnished him with a surprisingly
simple means of comparing himself with his rival in the eyes of
There are several roads from Paris to Versailles, as every one
knows, leaving the city on opposite sides of the Seine. Hitherto
Logotheti had always taken the one that leads to the right bank, along
the Avenue de Versailles to the Porte St. Cloud. Another follows the
left bank by Bas Meudon, but the most pleasant road goes through the
woods Fausses Reposes.
One morning, when he knew that there was to be a rehearsal,
Lushington bicycled out by the usual way without meeting the motor car.
It naturally occurred to him that Logotheti must have returned by
another road. Whether he would bring Margaret out again by the same way
or not, was of course uncertain, but Lushington resolved to try the
Fausses Reposes on the chance of meeting the car, after waiting in
Versailles as long as he thought the rehearsal might last.
He set out again about half-past one. The road is in parts much more
lonely than the others, especially in the woods, and is much less
straight; there are sharp turns to the right and left in several
places. Lushington did not know the road very well and hesitated more
than once, going slowly and fast by turns, and at the end of
half-an-hour he felt almost sure that he had either lost his way or
that Logotheti was coming back by another route.
Margaret knew by this time that Logotheti was really very much in
love; she was equally sure that she was not, and that when she
encouraged him she was yielding to a rather complicated temptation that
presented elements of amusement and of mild danger. In plain English,
she was playing with the man, though she guessed that he was not the
kind of man who would allow himself to be played with very long.
There are not many young women who could resist such a temptation
under the circumstances, and small blame to them. Margaret had done
nothing to attract the Greek and was too unsophisticated to understand
the nature of her involuntary influence over him. He was still young,
he was unlike other men and he was enormously rich; a little
familiarity with him had taught her that there was nothing vulgar about
him below the surface, and he treated her with all the respect she
could exact when she chose to put herself in his power. The consequence
was that as she felt nothing herself she sometimes could not resist
making little experiments, just to see how far he would run on the
chain by which she held him. Besides, she was flattered by his
It was not a noble game that she was playing with him, but in real
life very few young men and women of two-and-twenty are 'noble' all the
time. A good many never are at all; and Margaret had at least the
excuse that the victim of her charms was no simple sensitive soul with
morbid instincts of suicide, like the poor youth who cut his throat for
Lady Clara Vere de Vere, but a healthy millionaire of five-and-thirty
who enjoyed the reputation of having seen everything and done most
things in a not particularly well-spent life.
Besides, she ran a risk, and knew it. The victim might turn at any
moment, and perhaps rend her. Sometimes there was a quick glance in the
almond-shaped eyes which sent a little thrill of not altogether
unpleasant fear through her. She had seen a woman put her head into a
wild beast's mouth, and she knew that the woman was never quite sure of
getting it out again. That was part of the game, and the woman probably
enjoyed the sensation and the doubt, since playing for one s life is
much more exciting than playing for one's money. Margaret began to
understand the lion-tamer's sensations, and not being timid she almost
wished that her lion would show his teeth. She gave herself the luxury
of wondering what form his wrath would take when he was tired of being
He was already approaching that point, on the day when Lushington
was looking out for him on the road through the Fausses Reposes woods.
When they were well away from the city, he slackened his speed as usual
and began to talk.
'I wish,' he said, 'that you would sometimes be in earnest. Won't
'You might not like it,' Margaret answered, carelessly. 'For my
part, I sometimes wish that you were not quite so much in earnest
'Do I bore you?'
'No. You never bore me, but you make me feel wicked, and that is
very disagreeable. It is inconsiderate of you to give me the impression
that I am a sort of Lorelei, coolly luring you to your destruction!
Besides, you would not be so easily destroyed, after all. You are able
to take care of yourself, I fancy.'
'Yes. I think my heart will be the last of me to break.' He laughed
and looked at her. 'But that is no reason why you should try to twist
my arms and legs off, as boys do to beetles.'
'I wish I could catch a boy doing it!'
'You may catch a woman at it any day. They do to men what boys do to
insects. Cruelty to insects or animals? Abominable! Shocking! There is
the society, there are fines, there is prison, to punish it! Cruelty to
human beings? Bah! They have souls! What does it matter, if they
suffer? Suffering purifies the spirit for a better life!'
'That is easily said. But it was on that principle that Philip
burned the Jews, and they did not think it was nonsense. The beetles
don't think it funny to be pulled to pieces, either. I don't. A large
class of us don't, and yet you women have been doing it ever since Eve
made a fool and a sinner of the only man who happened to be in the
world just then. He was her husband, which was an excuse, but that's of
no consequence to the argument.'
'Perhaps not, but the argument, as you call it, doesn't prove
anything in particular, except that you are calling me names!' Margaret
laughed again. 'After all,' she went on, 'I do the best I can to
bewhat shall I say?the contrary of disagreeable! You ask me to let
you take me to my rehearsals, and I come day after day, risking
something, because you are disguised. I don't risk much, perhapsMrs.
Rushmore's disapproval. But that is something, for she has been very,
very good to me and I wouldn't lose her good opinion for a great deal.
And you ask me to lunch with you, and I comeat least, I've been twice
to your house, and I've lunched once. Really, if you are not satisfied,
you're hard to please! We've hardly known each other a month.'
'During which time I've never had but one idea. Don't raise your
beautiful eyebrows as if you didn't understand!' He spoke very gently
and smiled, though she could not see that.
'You've no idea how funny that is!' laughed Margaret.
'If you could see yourself, and hear yourself at the same time! With
those goggles, and your leather cap and all the rest, you look like the
Frog Footman in Little Aliceor the dragon in Siegfried!
It does very well as long as you are disagreeable, but when you speak
softly and throw intense expression into your voice'she mimicked his
tone'it's really too funny, you know! It's just as if Fafnir were to
begin singing Una furtiva lacrima in a voice like Caruso's! Siegfried
would go into convulsions of laughter, instead of slitting the dragon's
'I wasn't trying to be picturesque just then,' answered Logotheti,
quite unmoved by the chaff. 'I was only expressing my idea. I've known
you about a month. The second time we met, I asked you to marry me, and
I've asked you several times since. As you can't attribute any
interested motive to my determination'
'I said, to my determination'
'Determination? How that sounds!'
'It sounds very like what I mean,' answered Logotheti, in an
'But really, how can you determine to marry me, if I won't agree?'
'I'll make you,' he replied with perfect calm.
'That sounds like a threat,' said Margaret, her voice hardening a
little, though she tried to speak lightly.
'A threat implies that the thing to be done to the person threatened
is painful or at least disagreeable. Doesn't it? I'm only a Greek, of
course, and I don't pretend to know English well! I wish you would
sometimes correct my mistakes. It would be so kind of you!'
'You know English quite as well as I do,' Margaret answered. 'Your
definition is perfect.'
'Oh! Then would it be painful, or disagreeable to you, to marry me?'
Margaret laughed, but hesitated a moment.
'It's always disagreeable to be made to do anything against one's
will,' she answered.
'I'm sorry,' said Logotheti coolly, 'but it can't be helped.'
She was not quite sure how it would be best to meet this
uncompromising statement, and she thought it wiser to laugh again,
though she felt quite sure that at the moment there was that quick
gleam in his eyes, behind the goggles, which had more than once
frightened her a little. But he was looking at the road again, and a
moment later he had put the car at full speed along a level stretch.
That meant that the conversation was at an end for a little while. Then
an accident happened.
A straight rush up an easy incline towards a turning ahead, and the
deep note of the horn; round the corner to the right, close in; the
flash of a bicycle coming down on the wrong side, and swerving
desperately; a little brittle smashing of steel; then a man sprawling
on his face in the road as the motor car flew on.
Logotheti kept his eyes on the road, one hand went down to the
levers and the machine sprang forward at forty miles an hour.
'Stop!' cried Margaret. 'Stop! you've killed him!'
Full speed. Fifty miles an hour now, on another level stretch beyond
the turn. No sign of intelligence from Logotheti. Both hands on the
'Stop, I say!' Margaret's voice rang out clear and furious.
Logotheti's hands did not move. Margaret knew what to do. She had
often been in motor cars and had driven a little herself. She was
strong and perfectly fearless. Before Logotheti saw what she was going
to do, she was beside him, she had thrown herself across him and had
got at the brake and levers. He was too much surprised to make any
resistance; he probably would not have tried to hinder her in any case,
as he could not have done so without using his strength. The car was
stopped in a few seconds; he had intuitively steered it until it stood
'How ridiculous!' he exclaimed. 'As if one ever stopped for such a
Margaret's eyes flashed angrily and her answer came short and sharp.
'Turn back at once,' she said, and she sat down beside him on the
He obeyed, for he could do nothing else. In running away from the
accident, he had simply done what most chauffeurs do under the
circumstances. His experience told him that the man was not killed,
though he had lain motionless in the road for a few moments. Logotheti
had seen perfectly well that the car had struck the hind wheel of the
bicycle without touching the man's body. Moreover, the man had been on
the wrong side of the road, and it was his fault that he had been run
into. Logotheti had not meant to give him a chance to make out a case.
But now he turned back, obedient to Margaret's command. Before she
had stopped the car it had run nearly a mile from the scene of the
accident. When it reached the spot again, coming back at a more
moderate pace, nearly five minutes had elapsed. She found the man
leaning against the rail fence that followed the outer curve of the
turning. It was the man they had so often met on the other road, in his
square-toed kid boots and ill-fitting clothes; it was Edmund
Lushington, with his soft student's hat off, and his face a good deal
scratched by the smashing of his tortoise-shell-rimmed spectacles. They
had been tied behind with a black string, and the rims of them, broken
in two, hung from his ears. His nose was bleeding profusely, as he
leaned against the fence, holding his head down. He was covered with
mud, his clothes were torn, and he was as miserable, damaged and
undignified a piece of man as ever dreaded being taken at disadvantage
by the idol of his affections. He would have made a pact with the
powers of evil for a friendly wall or a clump of trees when he saw the
car coming back. There was nothing but the fence.
The car stopped close beside him. He held his handkerchief to his
nose, covering half his face as he looked up.
'Are you hurt, Monsieur?' Margaret asked anxiously in French.
'On the contrary, Mademoiselle,' Lushington answered through the
handkerchief, and it sounded as if he had a bad cold in the head.
'I am afraid' Margaret began, and then stopped suddenly, staring
'You were on the wrong side of the road, Monsieur,' said Logotheti
in an assertive tone.
'Perfectly,' assented Lushington, holding his nose and turning half
'Then it was your fault,' observed Logotheti.
'Precisely,' admitted the other. 'Pray don't stop. It's of no
But he had betrayed himself unconsciously, in the most natural way.
His spectacles were gone, and by covering the lower part of his face
with his handkerchief he had entirely concealed the very great change
made by shaving his beard and moustache. While he and Logotheti had
been speaking, Margaret had scrutinised his features and had made sure
of the truth. Then she believed that she would have recognised him by
his voice alone. Between the emotion that followed the accident and the
extreme anxiety his position caused him, the perspiration stood in
beads on his forehead. Margaret smiled maliciously, for she remembered
how often they had passed him on the road, and realised in an instant
that he had disguised himself to watch her doings. He should pay for
'You look hot,' she observed in English, fixing her eyes on him
He blushed to the roots of his hair, though he had been rather pale.
Logotheti, whose only preoccupation hitherto had been to get away as
soon as possible, now stared at him, too. Margaret's tone and her
sudden change to the use of English did the rest. He recognised
Lushington, but remembered that he himself was completely disguised in
his chauffeur's dress and mask; so he said nothing.
Lushington writhed under Margaret's eyes for a moment; but then his
English courage and coolness suddenly returned, the colour subsided
from his face and his expression hardened, as far as the necessary
handkerchief permitted her to see it.
'Yes,' he said, 'I'm Lushington. I can only repeat that the accident
happened by my fault. I'm used to taking the left side in England and I
lost my head. Monsieur Logotheti need not have run away, for it would
never have occurred to me to make a complaint.'
He looked straight at Logotheti's goggles as he spoke, and Margaret
began to feel uncomfortable.
'I supposed that you had recognised me,' observed the Greek coldly.
'That is, no doubt, why you have taken the trouble to disguise yourself
and watch me of late.'
'That was the reason,' answered Lushington, facing his adversary,
but conscious that the necessity for holding his nose put him at a
disadvantage as to his dignity.
'It was very well done,' said the Greek with gravity. 'I should
never have known you.'
'Your own disguise is admirable,' answered the Englishman, with cool
politeness. 'If I had not seen you without your mask the other day I
should not have recognised you.'
'Shall we go on?' inquired Logotheti, turning to Margaret.
'No,' she answered, rather sharply. 'Are you hurt?' she inquired,
looking at Lushington again.
He was busy with his nose, which he had neglected for a few moments.
He shook his head.
'I won't leave him here in this state,' Margaret said to Logotheti.
The Greek made a gesture of indifference, but said nothing.
Meanwhile Lushington got so far as to be able to speak again.
'Please go on,' he said. 'I can take care of myself, thank you.
There are no bones broken.'
Logotheti inwardly regretted that his adversary had not broken his
neck, but he had tact enough to see that he must take Margaret's side
or risk losing favour in her eyes.
'I really don't see how we can leave you here,' he said to
Lushington. 'Your bicycle is smashed. I had not realised that. I'll put
what's left of it into the car.'
He jumped out as he spoke, and before Lushington could hinder him he
had hold of the broken wheel. But Lushington followed quickly, and
while he held his nose with his left hand, he grabbed the bicycle with
the other. It looked as if the two were going to try which could pull
'Let it alone, please,' said Lushington, speaking with difficulty.
'No, no'! protested Logotheti politely, for he wished to please
Margaret. 'You must really let me put it in.'
'Not at all!' retorted Lushington. 'I'll walk it to Chaville.'
'But I assure you, you can't!' retorted the Greek. 'Your hind wheel
is broken to bits! It won't go round. You would have to carry it!'
And he gently pulled with both hands.
'Then I'll throw the beastly thing away!' answered Lushington, who
did not relinquish his hold. 'It's of no consequence!'
'On the contrary,' objected Logotheti, still pulling, 'I know about
those things. It can be made a very good bicycle again for next to
'All the better for the beggar who finds it!' cried the Englishman.
'Throw it over the fence!'
'You English are so extravagant,' said the Greek in a tone of polite
reproach, but not relinquishing his hold.
'Possibly, but it's my own bicycle, and I prefer to throw it away.'
Margaret had watched the contest in silence. She now stepped out of
the car, came up to the two men and laid her hands on the object of
contention. Logotheti let go instantly, but Lushington did not.
'This is ridiculous,' said Margaret. 'Give it to me!'
Lushington had no choice, and besides, he needed his right hand for
his nose, which was getting the better of him again. He let go, and
Margaret lifted the bicycle into the body of the car herself, though
Logotheti tried to help her.
'Now, get in,' she said to Lushington. 'We'll take you as far at the
'Thank you,' he answered. 'I am quite able to walk.'
He presented such a lamentable appearance that he would have
hesitated to get into the car with Margaret even if they had been on
good terms. He was in that state of mind in which a man wishes that he
might vanish into the earth like Korah and his company, or at least
take to his heels without ceremony and run away. Logotheti had put up
his glasses and shield, over the visor of his cap, and was watching his
rival's discomfiture with a polite smile of pity. Lushington mentally
compared him to Judas Iscariot.
'Let me point out,' said the Greek, that if you won't accept a seat
with us, we, on our part, are much too anxious for your safety to leave
you here in the road. You must have been badly shaken, besides being
cut. If you insist upon walking, we'll keep beside you in the car. Then
if you faint, we can pick you up.'
'Yes,' assented Margaret, with a touch of malice, 'that is very
Lushington was almost choking.
'Do let me give you another handkerchief,' said Logotheti,
sympathetically. 'I always carry a supply when I'm motoringthey are
so useful. Yours is quite spoilt.'
A forcible expression rose to Lushington's lips, but he checked it,
and at the same time he wondered whether anybody he knew had ever been
caught in such a detestable situation. But Anglo-Saxons generally
perform their greatest feats of arms when they are driven into a corner
or have launched themselves in some perfectly hopeless undertaking. It
takes a Lucknow or a Balaclava to show what they are really made of.
Lushington was in a corner now; his temper rose and he turned upon his
tormentors. At the same time, perhaps under the influence of his
emotion, his nose stopped bleeding. It was scratched and purple from
the fall, but he found another handkerchief of his own and did what he
could to improve his appearance. His shoulders and his jaw squared
themselves as he began to speak and his eyes were rather hard and
'Look here,' he said, facing Logotheti, 'we don't owe each other
anything, I think, so this sort of thing had better stop. You've been
going about in disguise with Miss Donne, and I have been making myself
look like some one else in order to watch you. We've found each other
out and I don t fancy that we're likely to be very friendly after this.
So the best thing we can do is to part quietly and go in opposite
directions. Don't you think so?'
The last question was addressed to Margaret. But instead of
answering at once she looked down and pushed some little lumps of dry
mud about with the toe of her shoe, as if she were trying to place them
in a symmetrical figure. It is a trick some young women have when they
are in doubt. Lushington turned to Logotheti again and waited for an
Now Logotheti did not care a straw for Lushington, and cared very
little, on the whole, whether the latter watched him or not; but he was
extremely anxious to please Margaret and play the part of generosity in
'I'm very sorry if anything I've said has offended you,' he said in
a smooth tone, answering Lushington. 'The fact is, it's all rather
funny, isn't it? Yes, just so! I'm making the best apology I can for
having been a little amused. I hope we part good friends, Mr.
Lushington? That is, if you still insist on walking.'
Margaret looked up while he was speaking and nodded her approbation
of the speech, which was very well conceived and left Lushington no
loophole through which to spy offence. But he responded coldly to the
'There is no reason whatever for apologising,' he said. 'It's the
instinct of humanity to laugh at a man who tumbles down in the street.
The object of our artificial modern civilisation is, however, to cloak
that sort of instinct as far as possible. Good morning.'
After delivering this Parthian shot he turned away with the evident
intention of going off on foot.
None of the three had noticed the sound of horses' feet and a light
carriage approaching from the direction of Versailles. A phaeton came
along at a smart pace and drew up beside the motor. Margaret uttered an
exclamation of surprise, and the two men stared with something
approaching to horror. It was Mrs. Rushmore, who had presumably taken a
fancy for an airing as the day had turned out very fine. The coachman
and groom had both seen Margaret and supposed that something had
happened to the car.
Before the carriage had stopped Mrs. Rushmore had recognised
Margaret too, and was leaning out sideways, uttering loud exclamations
'My dear child!' she cried. 'Good heavens! An accident! These
dreadful automobiles! I knew it would happen!'
Portly though she was, she was standing beside Margaret in an
instant, clasping her in a motherly embrace and panting for breath. It
was evidently too late for Logotheti to draw his glasses and shield
over his face, or for Lushington to escape. Each stood stock-still,
wondering how long it would be before Mrs. Rushmore recognised him, and
trying to think what she would say when she did. For one moment, it
seemed as if nothing were going to happen, for Mrs. Rushmore was too
much preoccupied on Margaret's account to take the slightest notice of
either of the others.
'Are you quite sure you're not hurt?' she inquired anxiously, while
she scrutinised Margaret's blushing face. 'Get into the carriage with
me at once, my dear, and we'll drive home. You must go to bed at once!
There's nothing so exhausting as a shock to the nerves! Camomile tea,
my dear! Good old-fashioned camomile tea, you know! There's nothing
like it! Clotilde makes it to perfection, and she shall rub you
thoroughly! Get in, child! Get in!'
Quick to see the advantage of such a sudden escape, Margaret was
actually getting into the carriage, when Mrs. Rushmore, who was
kindness itself, remembered the two men and turned to Logotheti.
'I will leave you my groom to help,' she said, in her stiff French.
Then her eyes fell on Lushington's blood-stained face, and in the
same instant it flashed upon her that the other man was Logotheti. Her
jaw dropped in astonishment.
'Whygood gracioushow's this? Whyit's Monsieur Logotheti
himself! But you'she turned to Lushington again 'you can't be Mr.
Lushingtongood Lordyes, you are, and in those clothes, too.
Andwhat have you done to your face?'
As her surprise increased she became speechless, while the two men
bowed and smiled as pleasantly as they could under the circumstances.
'Yes, I'm Lushington,' said the Englishman. 'I used to wear a
'My chauffeur was taken ill suddenly,' said the Greek without a
blush, 'and as Miss Donne was anxious to get home I thought there would
be no great harm if I drove the car out myself. I had hoped to find you
in so that I might explain how it had happened, for, of course, Miss
Donne was a littlewhat shall I say?a little'
He hesitated, having hoped that Margaret would help him out. After
waiting two or three seconds, Mrs. Rushmore turned on her.
'Margaret, what were you?' she asked with severity. 'I insist upon
knowing what you were.'
'I'm sure I don't know,' Margaret answered, trying to speak easily,
as if it did not matter much. 'It was very kind of Monsieur Logotheti,
at all events, and I'm much obliged to him.'
'Oh, and pray, what has happened to Mr. Lushington?' inquired Mrs.
'I was on the wrong side of the road, and the car knocked me off my
bicycle,' added Lushington. 'They kindly stopped to pick me up. They
thought I was hurt.'
'Wellyou are,' said Mrs. Rushmore. 'Why don't you get into the
automobile and let Monsieur Logotheti take you home?'
As it was not easy to explain why he preferred walking in his
battered condition, Lushington said nothing. Mrs. Rushmore turned to
her groom, who was English.
'William,' she said, 'you must have a clothes-brush.'
William had one concealed in some mysterious place under the box.
'Clean Mr. Lushington, William,' said the good lady.
[Illustration: 'Clean Mr. Lushington, William,' said the good
'Oh, thank younothanks very much,' protested Lushington.
But William, having been told to clean him, proceeded to do so,
gently and systematically, beginning at his neck and proceeding thence
with bold curving strokes of the brush, as if he were grooming a horse.
Instinctively Lushington turned slowly round on his heels, while he
submitted to the operation, and the others looked on. They had ample
time to note the singular cut of his clothes.
'He used to be always so well dressed!' said Mrs. Rushmore to
Margaret in an audible whisper.
Lushington winced visibly, but as he was not supposed to hear the
words he said nothing. William had worked down to the knees of his
trousers, which he grasped firmly in one hand while he vigorously
brushed the cloth with the other.
'That will do, thank you,' said Lushington, trying to draw back one
But William was inexorable and there was no escape from his hold. He
was an Englishman, and was therefore thorough; he was a servant, and he
therefore thoroughly enjoyed the humour of seeing his betters in a
'And now, my dear,' said Mrs. Rushmore to Margaret, 'get in and I'll
take you home. You can explain everything on the way. That's enough,
William. Put away your brush.'
Margaret had no choice, since fate had intervened.
'I'm very much obliged to you,' she said, nodding to Logotheti; 'and
I hope you'll be none the worse,' she added, smiling at Lushington.
Mrs. Rushmore bent her head with dignified disapproval, first to one
and then to the other, and got into the carriage as if she were
mounting the steps of a throne. She further manifested her displeasure
at the whole affair by looking straight before her at the buttons on
the back of the coachman's coat after she had taken her seat. Margaret
got in lightly after her and she scarcely glanced at Logotheti as the
carriage turned; but her eyes lingered a little with an expression that
was almost sad as she met Lushington's. She was conscious of a reaction
of feeling; she was sorry that she had helped to make him suffer, that
she had been amused by his damaged condition and by his general
discomfiture. He had made her respect him in spite of herself, just
when she had thought that she could never respect him again; and
suddenly the deep sympathy for him welled up, which she had taken for
love, and which was as near to love as anything her heart had yet felt
for a man.
She knew, too, that it was really her heart, and nothing else, where
he was concerned. She was human, she was young, she was more alive than
ordinary women, as great singers generally are, and Logotheti's
ruthless masculine vitality stirred her and drew her to him in a way
she did not quite like. His presence disturbed her oddly and she was a
little ashamed of liking the sensation, for she knew quite well that
such feelings had nothing to do with what she called her real self. She
might have hated him and even despised him, but she could never have
been indifferent when he was close to her. Sometimes the mere touch of
his hand at meeting or parting thrilled her and made her feel as if she
were going to blush. But she was never really in sympathy with him as
she was with Lushington.
'And now, Margaret,' said Mrs. Rushmore after a silence that had
lasted a full minute, 'I insist on knowing what all this means.'
Margaret inwardly admitted that Mrs. Rushmore had some right to
insist, but she was a little doubtful herself about the meaning of what
had happened. If it meant anything, it meant that she had been flirting
rather rashly and had got into a scrape. She wondered what the two men
were saying now that they were alone together, and she turned her head
to look over the back of the phaeton, but a turn of the road already
hid the motor car from view.
Meanwhile Mrs. Rushmore's face showed that she still insisted, and
Margaret had to say something. As she was a truthful person it was not
easy to decide what to say, and while she was hesitating Mrs. Rushmore
expressed herself again.
'Margaret,' said she, 'I'm surprised at you. It makes no difference
what you say. I'm surprised.'
The words were spoken with a slow and melancholy intonation that
might have indicated anything but astonishment.
'Yes,' Margaret remarked rather desperately, 'I don't wonder. I
suppose I've been flirting outrageously with them both. But I really
could not foresee that one would run over the other and that you would
appear just at that moment, could I? I'm helpless. I've nothing to say.
You must have flirted when you were young. Try to remember what it was
like, and make allowance for human weakness!'
She laughed nervously and glanced nervously at her companion, but
Mrs. Rushmore's face was like iron.
'Mr. Rushmore,' said the latter, alluding to her departed husband,
'would not have understood such conduct.'
Margaret thought this was very probable, judging from the likenesses
of the late Ransom Rushmore which she had seen. There was one in
particular, an engraving of him when he had been president of some big
company, which had always filled her with a vague uneasiness. In her
thoughts she called him the 'commercial missionary,' and was glad for
his sake and her own that he was safe in heaven, with no present
prospect of getting out.
'I'm sorry,' she said, without much contrition. 'I mean,' she went
on, correcting herself, and with more feeling, 'I'm sorry I've done
anything that you don't like, for you've been ever so good to me.'
'So have other people,' answered the elder woman with an air of
mystery and reproof.
'Oh yes! I know! Everybody has been very kindespecially Madame
'Should you be surprised to hear that the individual who bought out
Mr. Moon and made you independent, did it from purely personal
Margaret turned to her quickly in great surprise.
'What do you mean? I thought it was a company. You said so.'
'In business, one man can be a company, if he owns all the stock,'
said Mrs. Rushmore, sententiously.
'I don't understand those things,' Margaret answered, impatient to
know the truth. 'Who was it?'
'I hardly think I ought to tell you, my dear. I promised not to. But
I will allow you to guess. That's quite different from telling, and I
think you ought to know, because you are under great obligations to
'You don't mean to say' Margaret stopped, and the blood rose
slowly in her face.
'You may ask me if it was one of those two gentlemen we have just
left in the road,' said Mrs. Rushmore. 'But mind, I'm not telling you!'
'Monsieur Logotheti!' Margaret leaned back and bit her lip.
'You've made the discovery yourself, Margaret. Remember that I've
told you nothing. I promised not to, but I thought you ought to know.'
'It's an outrage!' cried Margaret, breaking out. 'How did you dare
to take money from him for me?'
Mrs. Rushmore seemed really surprised now, though she did not say
'My dear!' she exclaimed, 'you would not have had me refuse, would
you? Money is money, you know.'
The good lady's inherited respect for the stuff was discernible in
'Money!' Margaret repeated the word with profound contempt and a
good deal of anger.
'Yes, my dear,' retorted Mrs. Rushmore severely. 'Yes, money. It is
because your father and mother spoke of it in that silly, contemptuous
way that they died so poor. And now that you've got it, take my advice
and don't turn up your nose at it.'
'Do you suppose I'll keep it, now that I know where it comes from?
I'll give it back to him to-day!'
'No, you won't,' answered Mrs. Rushmore, with the conviction of
'I tell you I will!' Margaret cried. 'I could not sleep to-night if
I knew that I had money in my possession that was given megiven me
like a giftby a man who wants to marry me! Ugh! It's disgusting!'
'Margaret, this is ridiculous. Monsieur Logotheti came to see me and
explained the whole matter. He said that he had made a very good
bargain and expected to realise a large sum by the transaction. Do you
suppose that such a good man of business would think of making any one
a present of a hundred thousand pounds? You must be mad! A hundred
thousand pounds is a great deal of money, Margaret. Remember that.'
'So much the better for him! I shall give it back to him at once!'
Mrs. Rushmore smiled.
'You can't,' she said. 'You've never even asked me where it is, and
while you are out of your mind, I shall certainly not tell you. You
seem to forget that when I undertook to bring suit against Alvah Moon
you gave me a general power of attorney to manage your affairs. I shall
do whatever is best for you.'
'I don't understand business,' Margaret answered, 'but I'm sure you
have no power to force Monsieur Logotheti's money upon me. I won't take
'You have taken it and I have given a receipt for it, my dear, so
it's of no use to talk nonsense. The best thing you can do is to give
up this silly idea of going on the stage, and just live like a lady, on
'And marry my benefactor, I suppose!' Margaret's eyes flashed.
'That's what he wantswhat you all wantto keep me from singing! He
thought that if he made me independent, I would give it up, and you
encouraged him! I see it now. As for the money itself, until I really
have it in my hands it's not mine; but just as soon as it is I'll give
it back to him, and I'll tell him so to-day.'
The carriage rolled through the pretty woods of Fausses Reposes, and
the sweet spring breeze fanned Margaret's cheeks in the shade. But she
felt fever in her blood and her heart beat fast and angrily as if it
were a conscious creature imprisoned in a cage. She was angry with
herself and with every one else, with Logotheti, with Mrs. Rushmore,
with poor Lushington for making such a fool of himself just when she
was prepared to like him better than ever. She was sure that she had
good cause to hate every one, and she hated accordingly, with a good
will. She wished that she might never spend another hour under Mrs.
Rushmore's roof, that she might never see Logotheti again, that she
were launched in her artistic career, free at last and responsible to
no one for her actions, her words or her thoughts.
But Mrs. Rushmore began to think that she had made a mistake in
letting her know too soon who had bought out Alvah Moon, and she
wondered vaguely why she had betrayed the secret, trying to account for
her action on the ground of some reasonably thought-out argument, which
was quite impossible, of course. So they both maintained a rather
hostile silence during the rest of the homeward drive.
Until the carriage was out of sight, Logotheti and Lushington stood
still where Margaret had left them. Then Lushington looked at his
adversary coolly for about four seconds, stuck his hands into his
pockets, turned his back and deliberately walked off without a word.
Logotheti was so little prepared for such an abrupt closure that he
stood looking after the Englishman in surprise till the latter had made
a dozen steps.
'I say!' said the Greek, calling after him then and affecting an
exceedingly English tone. 'I say, you know! This won't do.'
Lushington stopped, turned on his heel and faced him from a
'What won't do?' he asked coolly.
Seeing that he came no nearer, Logotheti went forward a little.
'You admitted just now that you had been playing the spy,' said the
Greek, whose temper was getting beyond his control, now that the women
'Yes,' said Lushington, 'I've been watching you.'
'I said spying,' answered Logotheti; 'I used the word spy. Do you
'You don't seem to. I'm insulting you. I mean to insult you.'
'Oh!' A faint smile crossed the Englishman's face. 'You want me to
send you a couple of friends and fight a duel with you? I won't do
anything so silly. As I told you before Miss Donne, we don't owe each
other anything to speak of, so we may as well part without calling each
other bad names.'
'If that is your view of it, you had better keep out of my way in
future.' He laid his hand on the car to get in as he spoke.
Lushington's face hardened.
'I shall not take any pains to do that,' he answered. 'On the
contrary, if you go on doing what you have been doing of late, you'll
find me very much in your way.'
Logotheti turned upon him savagely.
'Do you want to marry Miss Donne yourself?' he asked.
Lushington, who was perfectly cool now that no woman was present,
was struck by the words, which contained a fair question, though the
tone was angry and aggressive.
'No,' he answered quietly. 'Do you?'
Logotheti stared at him.
'What the devil did you dare to think that I meant?' he asked. 'It
would give me the greatest satisfaction to break your bones for asking
Lushington came a step nearer, his hands in his pockets, though his
eyes were rather bright.
'You may try if you like,' he said. 'But I've something more to say,
and I don't think we need fall to fisticuffs on the highroad like a
couple of bargees. I've misunderstood you. If you are going to marry
Miss Donne, I shall keep out of your way altogether. I made a mistake,
because you haven't the reputation of a saint, and when a man of your
fortune runs after a young singer it's not usually with the idea of
marrying her. I'm glad I was wrong.'
Logotheti was too good a judge of men to fancy that Lushington was
in the least afraid of him, or that he spoke from any motive but a fair
and firm conviction; and the Greek himself, with many faults, was too
brave not to be generous. He turned again to get into the car.
'I believe you English take it for granted that every foreigner is a
born scoundrel,' he said with something like a laugh.
'To tell the truth,' Lushington answered, 'I believe we do. But we
are willing to admit that we can be mistaken. Good morning.'
He walked away, and this time Logotheti did not stop him, but got in
and started the car in the opposite direction without looking back. He
was conscious of wishing that he might kill the cool Englishman, and
though his expression betrayed nothing but annoyance a little colour
rose and settled on his cheek-bones; and that bodes no good in the
faces of dark men when they are naturally pale. He reached home, and it
was there still; he changed his clothes, and yet it was not gone; he
drank a cup of coffee and smoked a big cigar, and the faint red spots
were still there, though he seemed absorbed in the book he was reading.
It was not his short interview with Lushington which had so much
moved him, though it had been the first disturbing cause. In men whose
nature, physical and moral, harks back to the savage ancestor, to the
pirate of northern or southern seas, to the Bedouin of the desert, to
the Tartar of Bokhara or the Suliote of Albania, the least bit of a
quarrel stirs up all the blood at once, and the mere thought of a fight
rouses every masculine passion. The silent Scotchman, the stately Arab,
the courtly Turk are far nearer to the fanatic than the quick-tempered
Frenchman or the fiery Italian.
For a long time Constantine Logotheti had been playing at
civilisation, at civilised living and especially at the more or less
gentle diversion of civilised love-making; but he was suddenly tired of
it all, because it had never been quite natural to him, and he grew
bodily hungry and thirsty for what he wanted. The round flushed spots
on his cheeks were the outward signs of something very like a fever
which had seized him within the last two hours. Until then he would
hardly have believed that his magnificent artificial calm could break
down, and that he could wish to get his hands on another man's throat,
or take by force the woman he loved, and drag her away to his own
lawless East. He wondered now why he had not fallen upon Lushington and
tried to kill him in the road. He wondered why, when Margaret had been
safe in the motor car, he had not put the machine at full speed for
Havre, where his yacht was lying. His artificial civilisation had
hindered him of course! It would not check him now, if Lushington were
within arm's length, or if Margaret were in his power. It would be very
bad for any one to come between him and what he wanted so much, just
then, that his throat was dry and he could hear his heart beating as he
sat in his chair. He sat there a long time because he was not sure what
he might do if he allowed himself the liberty of crossing the room. If
he did that, he might write a note, or go to the telephone, or ring for
his secretary, or do one of fifty little things whereby the train of
the inevitable may be started in the doubtful moments of life.
It did not occur to him that he was not the arbiter of his actions
in that moment, free to choose between good and evil, which he,
perhaps, called by other names just then. He probably could not have
remembered a moment in his whole life at which he had not believed
himself the master of his own future, with full power to do this, or
that, or to leave it undone. And now he was quite sure that he was
choosing the part of wisdom in resisting the strong temptation to do
something rash, which made it a physical effort to sit still and keep
his eyes on his book. He held the volume firmly with both hands as if
he were clinging to something fixed which secured him from being made
to move against his will.
One of fate's most amusing tricks is to let us work with might and
main to help her on, while she makes us believe that we are straining
every nerve and muscle to force her back.
If Logotheti had not insisted on sitting still that afternoon
nothing might have happened. If he had gone out, or if he had shut
himself up with his statue, beyond the reach of visitors, his destiny
might have been changed, and one of the most important events of his
life might never have come to pass.
But he sat still with his book, firm as a rock, sure of himself,
convinced that he was doing the best thing, proud of his strength of
mind and his obstinacy, perfectly pharisaical in his contempt of human
weakness, persuaded that no power in earth or heaven could force him to
do or say anything against his mature judgment. He sat in his deep
chair near a window that was half open, his legs stretched straight out
before him, his flashing patent leather feet crossed in a manner which
showed off the most fantastically over-embroidered silk socks, tightly
drawn over his lean but solid ankles.
From the wall behind him the strange face in the encaustic painting
watched him with drooping lids and dewy lips that seemed to quiver; the
ancient woman, ever young, looked as if she knew that he was thinking
of her and that he would not turn round to see her because she was so
like Margaret Donne.
His back was to the picture, but his face was to the door. It opened
softly, he looked up from his book and Margaret was before him, coming
quickly forward. For an instant he did not move, for he was taken
unawares. Behind her, by the door, a man-servant gesticulated
apologiesthe lady had pushed by him before he had been able to
announce her. Then another figure appeared, hurrying after Margaret; it
was little Madame De Rosa, out of breath.
Logotheti got up now, and when he was on his feet, Margaret was
already close to him. She was pale and her eyes were bright, and when
she spoke he felt the warmth of her breath in his face. He held out his
hand mechanically, but he hardly noticed that she did not take it.
'I want to speak to you alone,' she said.
Madame De Rosa evidently understood that nothing more was expected
of her for the present, and she sat down and made herself comfortable.
'Will you come with me?' Logotheti asked, controlling his voice.
Margaret nodded; he led the way and they left the room together.
Just outside the door there was a small lift. He turned up the electric
light, and Margaret stepped in; then he followed and worked the lift
himself. In the narrow space there was barely room for two; Logotheti
felt a throbbing in his temples and the red spots on his cheek-bones
grew darker. He could hear and almost feel Margaret's slightest
movement as she stood close behind him while he faced the shut door of
the machine. He did not know why she had come, he did not guess why she
wished to be alone with him, but that was what she had asked, and he
was taking her where they would really be alone together; and it was
not his fault. Why had she come?
When a terrible accident happens to a man, the memory of all his
life may pass before his eyes in the interval of a second or two. I
once knew a man who fell from the flying trapeze in a circus in Berlin,
struck on one of the ropes to which the safety net was laced and broke
most of his bones. He told me that he had never before understood the
meaning of eternity, but that ever afterwards, for him, it meant the
time that had passed after he had missed his hold and before he struck
and was unconscious. He could associate nothing else with the word.
Logotheti remembered, as long as he lived, the interminable interval
between Margaret's request to see him alone, and the noiseless closing
of the sound-proof door when they had entered the upper room, where
Aphrodite stood in the midst and the soft light fell from high windows
that were half-shaded.
Even then, though her anger was hot and her thoughts were chasing
one another furiously, Margaret could not repress an exclamation of
surprise when she first saw the statue facing her in its bare beauty,
like a living thing.
Logotheti laid one hand very lightly upon her arm, and was going to
say something, but she sprang back from his touch as if it burnt her.
The colour deepened in his dark cheeks and his eyes seemed brighter and
nearer together. When a woman comes to a man's house and asks to be
alone with him, she need not play horror because the tips of his
fingers rest on her sleeve for a moment. Why did she come?
Margaret spoke first.
'How did you dare to settle money on me?' she asked, standing back
Logotheti understood for the first time that she was angry with him,
and that her anger had brought her to his house. The fact did not
impress him much, though he wished she were in a better temper. The
sound of her voice was sweet to him whatever she said.
'Oh?' he ejaculated with a sort of thoughtful interrogation. 'Has
she told you? She had agreed to say nothing about it. How very
His sudden calm was exasperating, for Margaret did not know him well
enough to see that below the surface his blood was boiling. She tapped
the blue tiled floor sharply with the toe of her shoe.
'It's outrageous!' she said with energy.
'I quite agree with you. Won't you sit down?' Logotheti looked at
the divan. Margaret half sat upon the arm of a big leathern chair.
'Oh, you agree with me? Will you please explain?'
'I mean, it is outrageous that Mrs. Rushmore should have told
'You're quibbling!' Margaret broke in angrily. 'You know very well
what I mean. It's an outrage that a man should put a woman under an
enormous obligation in spite of herself, without her even knowing it!'
Logotheti had seated himself where he could watch her; the fashion
of dress was close-fitting; his eyes followed the graceful lines of her
figure. If she had not come to drive him mad, why did she take an
attitude which of all others is becoming to well-made women and fatal
to all the rest?
'I'm sorry,' said Logotheti, rather absently and as if her anger did
not affect him in the least, if he even noticed it. 'I happened to want
the invention for a company in which I am interested. You stood in the
way of my having the whole thing, so I was obliged to buy you out. I'm
very sorry that it happened to be you, and that Mrs. Rushmore could not
keep the fact to herself. I knew you wouldn't be pleased if you ever
found it out.'
'I don't believe a word of what you are telling me,' Margaret
'Really not?' Logotheti seemed momentarily interested. 'That's
generally the way when one speaks the truth,' he added, more carelessly
again. 'Nobody believes it.'
His eyes caressed her as he spoke. He was not thinking much of what
'I've come here to make you take back the money,' Margaret said. 'I
won't keep it another day.'
'Have you come all the way from Versailles again to say that?' asked
Again, as she sat on the arm of the big chair, she tapped the dark
blue tiles with the toe of her shoe. The slight movement transmitted
itself through her whole figure, and for an instant each beautiful line
and curve quivered and was very slightly modified. Logotheti saw and
drew his breath sharply between his teeth.
'Yes,' Margaret was saying impatiently. 'When Mrs. Rushmore had told
me the truth, I walked to the station and took the first train. I only
stopped to get Madame De Rosa.'
'She is not a very powerful ally,' observed Logotheti. 'She is
probably asleep in her arm-chair in the drawing-room by this time. Are
you still angry with me? Yes, I believe you are. Please forgive me. I
had not the least idea of offending you, because I trusted that
oldI mean, because I was so sure that Mrs. Rushmore would never
'Never mind Mrs. Rushmore,' Margaret said. 'What I will not forgive
you is that you made me take your money without my knowing it. I've
been flirting with youyes, I confess it! I'm not perfection, and
you're rather amusing sometimes'
'You are adorable!' Logotheti put in, as a sort of murmuring
'Don't talk nonsense,' Margaret answered. 'I mean that whatever I
may have said to you I've never given you the right to make me a
present of a hundred thousand pounds. It's the most unparalleled piece
of impertinence I ever heard of.'
'But I've not made you a present of anything. I bought what was
yours without letting you know, that's all.'
'Then give me back what is mine and take your money again.'
'Hm!' Logotheti smiled. 'That would be very like going into a
business partnership with me. Do you wish to do that?'
'What do you mean?'
'You see, I'm the whole company at present. But if you come in with
a third of the stock to your credit, we shall be partners, to all
intents and purposes. We shall have meetings of the board of directors,
just you and I, and we shall decide what to do. It will be rather a
queer sort of board, for of course I shall always do exactly what you
wish, but it's not impossible that we may make money together. Wellon
the whole I have no particular objection to selling you exactly the
amount of stock I bought from you the other day. That's the shape the
transaction takes. I'll do any thing to please you, but I'm quite
willing you should know that I am doing you a favour, as business men
would look at it.'
'A favour!' Margaret slipped from the arm of the chair as she spoke
and stood upright and made a step towards him. 'Do you think I'm a
child to believe such nonsense?'
'In matters of business all women are children. With the possible
exception of Mrs. Rushmore,' he added in a tone of reflection.
'Besides, this is not nonsense.'
'It is!' cried Margaret. 'It is absurd to try and make me believe
that a mere claim set up on the chance of getting something should have
turned out to be worth so much. It has cost Mrs. Rushmore I don't know
how much in lawsuits, and no one ever really believed in it. She fought
for it out of pure kindness of heart, and even the lawyers said she was
very foolish to go on'
'Will you listen to me?' asked Logotheti, interrupting her. 'I've
not much to say, but it's rather convincing. You probably admit that
the invention is valuable, and that Alvah Moon has made money by it.'
'I should think he had, the old thief!'
'Very well. I happened to want that invention. I've bought several
at different times and have founded companies and sold them. That's a
part of finance, which is a form of game. You deal yourself a hand and
then play it. I made up my mind to play with this particular invention.
I know much more about it than you do; in fact, I understand it
thoroughly. I cabled to my agent in America to buy it, if he could, and
he succeeded. Now please tell me whether you think Mrs. Rushmore,
acting for you, would have withdrawn the suit after the property had
changed hands, merely because I've dined in her house.'
'No,' Margaret was forced to admit. 'No, she would have gone on.'
'Precisely. Now I don't want property of that kind, about which
there is constant litigation. The credit of such property is injured by
the talk there always is about lawsuits. So I went to Mrs. Rushmore and
asked her what she thought your claim was worth, and she told me, and I
gave her a cheque for the money, and she has given me a full release,
as your attorney. If it had been her claim, or Madame De Rosa's or any
one else's, I should have done exactly the same thing. Will you tell me
how I could have acted otherwise in order to get the property into my
hands free of all chance of dispute? Was there any other way?'
Margaret was silent, for she could find no answer.
'There was one other way,' Logotheti continued. 'I could have
proposed that you should go into partnership with me, which is what you
yourself are proposing now. But in the eyes of the world I confess that
might look intimate, to say the least of it. Don't you think so too?'
'You're the most plausible person I ever listened to!' Margaret
almost laughed, though her anger had not subsided.
'Will you leave things as they are and forget all about this
business? What has been done cannot possibly be undone now. Won't you
separate me from it in your thoughts? You can, if you try. You know,
I'm two people in one. So are you. I'm Logotheti the financier, and I'm
Logotheti the man. You are Margaret Donne, and you are Señorita da
Cordova, on the very eve of being famousand then, I think you are
some thing else which I don't quite understand, but which is like my
fate, for I cannot escape from you, whether I see you, or only dream of
Margaret was silent, and looked at the Aphrodite while she sat on
the arm of the big chair. She might have breathed a little faster if
she had known that the two doors through which she had entered, and
which had closed so silently and surely after her, were as sound-proof
as six feet of earth. She would not have been afraid, for she was
fearless and confident, but her heart would have beaten a little more
quickly at the thought that she was out of hearing of the world, and in
the presence of a man whose eyes looked at her strangely and whose
cheeks were darkly flushed, who was a good deal nearer to the primitive
human animal than most men are, and in whom the main force of nature
was awake and hungry.
'I don't want you to make love to me just now,' she said, swinging
her foot a little as she sat. 'You've done something that has hurt me
very much, and has made me almost wish that I might never see you again
after this time. I wish you could find a way of undoing itI'm sure
there is a way.'
Unconsciously wise, she had checked his pulse for a moment, and she
looked at him calmly and shook her head. With a sudden and impatient
movement he rose, turned away from her and began to walk up and down at
a little distance, his head bent and his hands behind him.
Though the air in the high room was pure, it was still and hot, for
the late spring afternoon had turned sultry all at once; the fluid of a
near storm was fast condensing to the point of explosion.
The man felt the tension more than the woman just then. It acted on
his state, and made it almost unbearable. His hands were locked behind
him and his fingers twisted each other till they changed colour. He
moved with the short, noiseless steps of a young wild animal measuring
its cage, up and down, up and down, without pause.
'It's this,' Margaret continued, much more gently than she had meant
to speak, 'I don't quite believe you. I'm almost sure you thought that
I would give up the stage if I had enough money to live on without my
'Yes, I did.' He stopped as if in anger and the words came sharply;
but he was not angry.
'You see!' Margaret answered triumphantly. 'I knew it! What becomes
of your story about the company now?'
She rose also and began to walk. The big leathern arm-chair was
between them; he leaned his elbows on the back of it and watched her,
and compared her hungrily with the Aphrodite.
'All I have told you is true,' he said. 'The business happened to
serve two purposes, that's all. At least, I thought it would, and it
was a pleasure to help you without your knowing it. Why should I be
sorry? That money might as well come to you through me as through
anybody else. You're angry with me. Why? Because I'm too fond of you?
It cannot reasonably be about the money any morethe wretched money!
If you can't keep the filthy stuffif it won't prevent you from going
on the stage after allwhy then, give it away! Throw it away! Lose it,
if you can. But don't come to me with it, for it's the price of a thing
I bought in the way of business and which I won't give up, nor take as
a gift from anybody.'
He spoke in such a harsh tone now that she paused in her short walk
and met his eyes, to see what he meant, over and above what he was
saying. She stood in front of the chair; he was leaning over the back
of it, with his hands together; one hand was slowly kneading the closed
fist, and the veins stood out on both. His voice was hoarse but rather
low, like that of a man who wants water.
The light in the room had a yellowish tinge now, and the window
showed a dull glare where there had been blue sky before. The lurid
light got into Logotheti's eyes, and was ready to flash while Margaret
looked at him. The marble Aphrodite took a creamy, living tint, and the
little shadows that modelled her quivered and deepened.
All at once Margaret knew that there was danger. She could not have
told how she knew it, nor just what the danger was, but she raised her
fair head suddenly, as the stag does when the scent of the hounds comes
down the breeze. Watching her, he saw and understood, and his hands
left each other and closed tightly upon the back of the chair.
'Will you take me back to Madame De Rosa, please?' Margaret asked,
and her voice did not shake.
Before he could answer, a flash of lightning filled the room, vivid
as flame, and almost purple; it flared and danced two or three times
before it went out.
If Logotheti spoke at all, his words were drowned in the crash that
shook the house and rolled away over the city. His eyes never moved
from Margaret's face; she felt that his gaze was fastened on her lips,
as if he would have drawn them to meet his own. She was not exactly
afraid, but she knew that she must get away from him, for he was
stronger than she, and he was like a man going mad. That was what she
would have called it. And it seemed to her that one of two things was
going to happen. Either she would let his lips reach hers, without
resisting, or else she would try to kill him when he came near her. She
did not know which she should do. She was in herself two people; the
one was a human woman, tempted by the mysterious sympathy of flesh and
blood; the other self was a startled maiden caught in a trap and at
bay, without escape.
With the great peal of thunder the Aphrodite trembled from head to
foot, twice, as the vibration ran down the walls of the house to the
very foundations and then came up again and died away, like the second
shock of an earthquake. The statue trembled as if it were alive and
With a glance, Margaret measured the distance which separated her
from the door, but it was too far. There were half-a-dozen steps, and
Logotheti was much nearer to her than that, even allowing that he must
get past the chair to reach her.
Now he moved a little and it was too late to try. He was beside the
chair instead of behind it; but then he stopped and came no further
yet, while he spoke to her.
'Why did you come?' he asked in a low tone. 'You might have guessed
that it wasn't quite safe!'
It was almost as if he were speaking to himself. She kept her eyes
on him, and tried to back away towards the door so slowly that he
should not notice it. But he smiled and his lids drooped.
'You could not open the door if you reached it,' he said. 'You said
that you wanted to speak with me alone. We are alone herequite alone.
No one can hear, even if you scream. No one can get in. Why did you say
you wanted to be alone with me, if you were not in earnest? Why do you
risk playing with a man who is crazy about you, and has everything in
the world except you, and would throw it all away to have you? And now
that you are here of your own accord, why should I let you go?'
The speech was rough, but there was a sudden caress in his voice
with the last words, and he had scarcely spoken them when another flash
of lightning filled the room with a maddening purple light.
Before the peal broke, Logotheti held Margaret by the wrists, and
spoke close to her face, very fast.
'I will not let you go. I love you, and I will not let you go.'
The thunder burst, and roared and echoed away, while he drew her
nearer, looking for the woman in her eyes, too mad to know that she did
not feel what he felt. He touched her now; he could feel her
breathings, fast and frightened, and the quiver that ran through her
limbs. He held her, but without hurting her in the leastshe could
turn her wrists loosely in the bonds he made of his fingers. Yet she
could not get away from him and he drew her closer.
She threw her head back from his face, and tried to speak.
'Pleaseplease, let me go.'
'No. I love you.'
He drew her till she was pressed against him, and he held her hands
in his behind her waist. The air was clearing with a furious rush of
rain, and her courage was not all gone yet. She looked up to the high
windows, as one about to die might look up from the scaffold, and there
was a streak of clear blue sky between the driving clouds. It was as if
hope looked through, out of heaven, at the girl driven to bay.
Margaret did not try to use her strength, for she knew it was
useless against his. But she held her head back and spoke slowly.
'For your mother's sake,' she said, low and clear, her eyes on his.
For one moment his grasp tightened and his white teeth caught his
lower lip; but his look was changing slowly.
'For her sake,' Margaret said, 'as you would have kept harm from
His hold relaxed, and he turned away. There was good in him still;
he had loved his mother.
He turned deliberately, till he could see neither Margaret nor the
Aphrodite, and he leaned heavily on the table, with bent head, resting
the weight of his body on the palms of his hands, and remaining quite
motionless for some time.
He heard her go towards the door. Without looking round he slowly
shook his head.
'Don't be afraid of me,' he said, in a low voice. 'It's all over,
now. I'll let you out in a moment.'
She waited quietly by the door, which she did not understand how to
open. Presently he moved a little, and his head sank lower between his
shoulders; then he spoke again, but still without turning towards her.
'I'm sorry,' he said. 'I did not know I could be such a brute.
Forgive me, will you?'
As usual, when he was very much in earnest, there was something
rudely abrupt about his speech.
'It was my fault,' Margaret answered from the door. 'I should not
Even after her escape, something about him still pleased her. The
maiden that had been brought to bay was scarcely safe, before the human
woman began to be drawn to him again by that sympathy of flesh and
blood that had nearly cost her more than life.
But Margaret revolted against it now, as soon as she knew what it
was that made her speak kindly.
'I'm not afraid of you,' she said, almost coldly, 'but I want you to
let me out, please.'
He straightened himself and turned slowly to her. The dark red
colour was gone from his cheeks, he was suddenly pale and haggard, and
if he had not been really young, he would have looked old; as it was,
his face was drawn and pinched as if by sharp physical suffering. He
drew two or three quick, deep breaths as he came towards her.
He stood beside her a moment, and then without a word, he unfastened
the door. It swung inwards and stood open. Margaret saw that it was
thickly padded to prevent any sound from passing, and that there was
another padded door beyond it which she had not noticed when she had
entered. He understood her look of doubt.
'That one is open now,' he said. 'It locks and unlocks itself as I
shut or open the inner door.'
He was willing to let her see how completely she had been cut off
from the outer world; and she realised the truth and shuddered.
'Good-bye,' she said, abruptly, as if he were not to go downstairs
with her, and she made a step to pass him.
He thrust his arm out across the way, resting his head against the
door-post. She started, almost nervously, and then stood still again
and looked at him.
'No,' he said, 'I shall not try to keep you, and the door is open.
But please don't say good-bye like that, as if we were not going to
'It's not good for us to be alone together,' she said.
The words came by instinct, and acknowledged a weakness in herself.
After she had spoken, she was very sorry. His drawn face softened.
'That's why I forgive you,' she said, with sudden frankness, and a
blush reddened her cheeks under the fawn-coloured veil she had drawn
He took her hand, against her will and almost violently, but in an
instant his own was gentle again.
'Margaret!' His voice had a thrill in it.
'No,' she answered, but not roughly now, and scarcely trying to free
herself. 'No. I don't love you in the least. That is why I won't marry
you. There's something that draws me to you against my will
sometimesyes, I know that! But I hate it, and I'm afraid of it. It's
not what I like in you, it's what I like least. It's something like
hypnotism, I'm sure. I'm ashamed of it, because it is what has made me
flirt with you. Yes, I have! I've flirted outrageously, except that
I've always told you that I never would marry you. I've been truthful
in that, at all events.'
'Do you think I reproach you?'
'You might have, this morning. Now we have each something to
reproach the other. We will forgive and say good-bye for a while. When
we meet again, that something I'm afraid of will be goneperhapsthen
everything will be different. Now, good-bye.'
He had held her hand all the time while she had been speaking. She
pressed his now, with an impulse of frank loyalty, and dropped it
'Do you mean that I may not even come and see you?' he asked.
'Not till after my début,' answered Margaret in a decided
tone, for she felt that she dominated him at last. 'You don't want me
to be a singer and I cannot help feeling your opposition. It disturbs
me, as the time comes near. Of course I can't hinder you from being
there on the first night'
'And when you've heard me, and seen Gilda's head come out of the
sack, and when the curtain has gone down on Rigoletto's despairwhy,
then you may come behind and congratulate me, especially if I've made a
failure! Till then I don't want to see you, please!'
'I cannot wait so long. It is nearly three weeks.'
Margaret stood up very straight in the doorway, already past him and
free to go out.
'Since I am willing to forgive you for losing your head just now,'
she said, 'it's for me to decide whether you may ever see me again, and
if so when, and where. I've been very good to you. Now I am going.'
It seemed to him that she had grown all at once in strength and
individuality till there was nothing for him to do but to submit. This
was an illusion, no doubt; she was just what she had always been, and
what he had always judged her, a gifted young woman, rather inclined to
flirt and easily guided in any direction, whose exuberant animal
vitality might pass for strong character in the eyes of an
inexperienced innocent like Lushington, but could not deceive an old
hand like Logotheti for a moment. Nevertheless, when she had spoken her
last words and was leading the way out of the room, Logotheti felt a
little like a small boy who has had his ears boxed for being too
cheeky, which is a sensation not at all pleasant or natural to an old
As he took her down in the little lift, he vaguely wondered whether
he had ever thought of her till now except as an animated work of art;
comparable in beauty with his encaustic painting or his dearly loved
Aphrodite; worth more than either of them as a possible possession, as
life is worth more than stone, and endowed with a divine voice; but
having neither soul, intelligence, nor will to speak of, nor any
original power of ruling others, still less of resisting a systematic
and prolonged attack.
The change had come quickly. Logotheti thought of beautiful beings
of old, disguised as yielding, mortal women, who had visited the men
they loved on earth and had by and by revealed themselves as true and
puissant goddesses, moving in a sphere of rosy light, and speaking only
Logotheti took her down in the lift and they went back into the big
room where they had left Madame De Rosa. They found her looking out of
the window. Books did not interest her, nor pictures either, there was
no piano in the room and the maraschino was locked up. So there was
nothing to do but to look out of the window. As the two came in she
turned sharply to them, with her head on one side, as birds do, and her
intelligent little eyes sparkled. She was a good little woman herself,
and believed in heaven and salvation, but she had no particular belief
in man and none at all in woman. On the other hand, she had a very keen
scent for the truth in love affairs, and in Logotheti's subdued
expression she instantly detected sure signs of discomfiture, which
were fully confirmed by Margaret's serene and superior manner. Men
sometimes follow women into a room with such an air of submission that
one almost looks for the string by which they are led.
Madame De Rosa nodded her approval to Margaret in a rather officious
manner, much as if she were congratulating her pupil on having soundly
beaten an unruly and dangerous dog.
'Well done,' the nod said. 'Beat him again, the very next time he
But Margaret either did not understand at all, or did not care for
Madame De Rosa's approbation, for she returned no answering glance of
'I hope,' she said, 'that I have not kept you too long.'
The former prima donna looked at a tiny watch set in diamonds, the
gift of a great tenor whom she had taught.
'Not at all,' she said. 'It's not twenty minutes since we came.'
She put the watch to her ear and listened. Nine women out of ten are
generally in doubt as to whether their watches have not just stopped.
'Yes,' she said. 'It is going.'
Logotheti remembered how long the seconds had seemed while he was
taking Margaret up in the lift, and it seemed as if hours had passed
'Good-bye,' said Margaret, holding out one hand and passing the
other through Madame De Rosa's arm to lead her away.
'Good-bye,' Logotheti answered. 'Of course,' he continued, 'you must
please remember that if I can be of any use in making investments for
you, you have only to send me your commands. I am at your service for
anything connected with the money market.'
'Thank you,' said Margaret, ambiguously, as to the tone in which the
words were spoken, but with a quick glance of approval.
He had meant his speech for Madame De Rosa, who had probably been
told that Margaret came to see him on a matter of business. But it was
quite unnecessary. The little Neapolitan woman could judge of the state
of a love affair at any moment with a certainty as unerring as that of
a great cook who can tell by a mere glance what stage of development
the finest sauce has reached. She supported Logotheti's fiction,
however, without a smile.
'Ah, my dear,' she said, 'always consult him, if he will help you!
Bonanni owes half her fortune to his judgment, and I could certainly
not live as I do if he had not given me his advice and kind
'You exaggerate, dear lady,' said Logotheti, opening the door for
them, and following them into the hall.
'Not in the least,' laughed Madame De Rosa, 'though I am sure that
Cordova is quite able to take care of herself and is much too proud to
owe you anything.'
She often called Margaret by her stage name, as artists do among
themselves, but it jarred disagreeably on Logotheti's ear.
'You are right in that,' he said, rather coldly, as a footman
appeared and opened the outer door. 'Miss Donne'he emphasised the
name a little'will probably not need any help from me. But if she
should, I am her very humble servant.'
'Thank you,' Margaret said, in the same ambiguous tone as before.
Thereupon she and Madame De Rosa nodded to him and left him bowing
on his doorstep. They walked away in the direction of the Batignolles
station. When they had heard the door of the house shut, Madame De Rosa
'You are splendid, my dear,' she said with admiration. 'But take
care! To play with Logotheti is like balancing a volcano on the tip of
your nose while you juggle with the world, the flesh and the devilyou
know what I meanthe man who keeps a cannon-ball, an empty bottle and
a bit of paper all going at once with one hand. I am afraid Logotheti
will do something unexpected, to upset all our plans.'
'He had better not!' answered Margaret, drooping her lids; and her
eyes flashed, and her handsome lips pouted a little.
Margaret, it is sad to relate, was much less concerned about the two
men who were in love with her than is considered becoming in a woman of
heart. She confessed to herself, without excess of penitence, that she
had flirted abominably with them both, she consoled her conscience with
the reflection that they were both alive and apparently very well, and
she put all her strength, which was great, into preparing for her
Men never love so energetically and persuasively as when they are
fighting every day for life, honour or fame, and are already on the
road to victory; but a woman's passion, though true and lasting, may be
momentarily quite overshadowed by the anticipation of a new hat or of a
social battle of uncertain issue. How much more, then, by the near
approach of such an event as a first appearance on the stage!
Logotheti bribed the doorkeeper at the small theatre where Margaret
was rehearsing. Whenever there was a rehearsal he was there before her,
quite out of sight in the back of a lower box, and he did not go away
until he was quite sure that she had left. He knew women well enough to
be certain that if anything could make Margaret wish to see him it
would be his own strict observance of her request not to show himself;
and in the meantime he enjoyed some moments of keen delight in watching
her and listening to her. He felt something of the selfish pleasure
which filled that King of Bavaria who had a performance of Lohengrin
given for himself alone. But the pleasure was not unmixed, nor was the
Even Schreiermeyer had given up coming to the rehearsals, for he was
now sure of Margaret's success and had passed on to other business. In
the dim stalls there appeared only the shabby relations and rather
gorgeous friends of the other members of the company. There was the
young painter who loved the leading girl of the chorus, there was the
wholesale upholsterer who admired the contralto, and a little apart
there was the middle-aged great lady who entertained a romantic and
expensive passion for the tenor. The tenor was a young Italian, who was
something between a third-rate poet and a spoilt child when he was in
love and was as cynical as Macchiavelli when he was not, which was the
case at present, at least so far as the middle-aged woman of the world
was concerned. His friends could always tell the state of his
affections by the way he sang in Rigoletto. When he was
hopelessly in love himself, he sang 'La donna è mobile' with tears in
his voice, as if his heart were breaking; when, on the contrary, he
knew that some unhappy female was hopelessly in love with him, he sang
it with a sort of laugh that was diabolically irritating. At the
present time he seemed to be in an intermediate state, for he sometimes
sang it in the one way and sometimes in the other, to the despair of
the poor foolish lady in the stalls. The truth was that at irregular
intervals he felt that he was in love with Margaret.
Leading singers are very rarely attracted by each other. Perhaps
that is because they receive such a vast amount of adulation which
pleases them better, and of course there have been famous instances of
the contrary, such as Mario and Grisi. As a rule singers do not meet
much except at the theatre; it is only during rehearsals that they have
a chance of talking, and then, as everybody knows, they show the worst
side of themselves and are often in a very bad temper indeed.
Margaret had not reached that stage yet, for she had met with no
disappointments and could not complain of her manager, and moreover she
was not at all above learning what she could from her fellow-artists.
She was therefore popular with them in spite of the fact that she was a
lady born. They overlooked that, because she could sing, and the tenor
only remembered it when he tried to patronise her a little. He had
often sung with Melba, and she did this or that, and he had sung with
Bonanni and knew exactly how she sang the difficult passages, and he
reeled off the precepts and practice of half-a-dozen other lyric
sopranos, giving Margaret to understand that he was willing and able to
teach her a good deal. But she only smiled kindly, and did precisely
what Madame De Rosa told her to do, seeing that the little Neapolitan
had taught most of them what they knew. It was clear that Margaret
could not be patronised, and the other members of the company liked her
the better for it, because the tenor patronised them all and gave them
to understand that they were rather small fry compared with a man who
could hold the high C and walk off the stage with it.
From the darkness of his lower box Logotheti looked on and approved
of Margaret's behaviour. At the same time he abstracted himself from
her life and saw how she lived with respect to other men and women, and
a great change began to take place in his feelings, one of those
changes which are sometimes salutary because they may hinder an act of
folly, but which humiliate a man in his own eyes, in proportion as they
are unexpected, and tend to contradict something which he has believed
to be beyond all doubt. To many men the loss of a noble illusion feels
like a loss of strength in themselves, perhaps because such men can
never keep an ideal before them without making an unconscious effort
against the material tendency of their natures.
The change in Logotheti during the next three weeks was profound;
and it was humiliating because it deprived him all at once of a sort of
power over himself which had grown up with his love for Margaret and
depended on that for its nourishment and life; a power which had
perhaps not been an original force at all, but only a chivalrous
willingness to do her will instead of his own. He looked on and did not
betray his presence, and she, on her side, began to wonder at his
prolonged obedience. More than once she felt a sudden conviction that
he must be near, and he saw how she peered into the gloom of the empty
house as if looking for some one she expected. It was only natural, and
no theory of telepathy was needed to explain it. She had so often seen
him there in reality! But he would not show himself now, for he was
determined that she should send for him; if she did not, he could wait
for her début; and little by little, as he kept to his
determination and only saw her from a distance in the frame of the
stage, the woman who had dominated him in a moment when he was beside
himself with passion, became once more an animated work of art which he
unconsciously compared with his Aphrodite and his ancient picture, and
which he coveted as a possession.
It did not at first occur to him that Margaret had really changed
since he had met her, and not exactly in the way he might have wished.
Instead of showing any inclination to give up the stage, as he had
hoped that she might, she seemed more and more in love with her future
When he had first met her he had made the acquaintance of a
strikingly good-looking English girl, born and brought up a lady, full
of talent and enthusiasm for her art, but as yet absolutely ignorant of
professional artistic life and still in a state of mind in which some
sides of it were sure to be disagreeable to her, if not absolutely
Hidden in his box, and watching her as well as listening to her, he
gradually realised the change, and he remembered many facts which
should have prepared him for it. He recollected, for instance, her
perfect coolness and self-possession with Madame Bonanni, so absolutely
different from the paralysing shyness, the visible fright and the
pitiful helplessness at the moment of trial, which he had more than
once seen in young girls who came to Madame Bonanni for advice. They
had good voices, too, those poor trembling candidates; many of them had
talent of a certain order; but it was not the real thing, there was not
the real strength behind it, there was not the absolute self-reliance
to steady it; above all, there was not the tremendous physical
organisation which every great singer possesses.
But Margaret had all that; in other words, she had every gift that
makes a first-rate professional on the stage, and as the life became
familiar to her, those gifts, suddenly called into play, exerted their
influence directly upon her character and manner. She was born to be a
professional artist, to face the public and make it applaud her, to
believe in her own talent, to help herself, to trust to her nerves and
to defend herself with cool courage in moments of danger.
This was assuredly not the girl with whom Logotheti had fallen in
love at first sight, whom he, as well as Lushington, had believed far
too refined and delicately brought up to be happy in the surroundings
of a stage life, and much too sensitive to bear such familiarity as
being addressed as 'Cordova,' without any prefix, by an Italian tenor
singer whose father had kept a butcher's shop in Turin.
No doubt, the refinement, the sensitiveness, the delicacy of manner
were all there still, for such things do not disappear out of a woman
in a few days; but they belonged chiefly to one side of a nature that
had two very distinct sides. There was the 'lady' side, and there was
the 'actress' side; and unfortunately, thought Logotheti, there was now
no longer the slightest doubt as to which was the stronger. Margaret
Donne was already a memory; the reality was 'Cordova,' who was going to
have a fabulous success and would soon be one of the most successful
lyric sopranos of her time.
'Cordova' was a splendid creature, she was a good girl, she had a
hundred fine qualities not always found together in a great prima
donna; but no power in the world could ever make her Margaret Donne
Logotheti watched her and once or twice he sighed; for he knew that
he no longer wished to marry her. It is not in the nature of Orientals
to let their wives exhibit themselves to the public, and in most ways
the prejudices of a well-born Greek of Constantinople are just as
strong as those of a Mohammedan Turk.
As an artistic possession, 'Cordova' was as desirable as ever in
Logotheti's eyes; but she was no longer at all desirable as a wife. The
Greek, in spite of the lawless strain in him, was an aristocrat to the
marrow of his very solid bones. An aristocrat, doubtless, in the
Eastern sense, proud of his own long descent, but perfectly indifferent
to any such matter as a noble pedigree in the choice of a wife; quite
capable, if he had not chanced to be born a Christian, of taking to
himself, even by purchase, the jealously-guarded daughter of a
Circassian horse-thief, or of a Georgian cut-throat, a girl brought up
in seclusion for sale, like a valuable thoroughbred; but a man who
revolted at the thought of marrying a woman who could show herself upon
the stage, and for money, who could sing for money, and for the
applause of a couple of thousand people, nine-tenths of whom he would
never have allowed to enter his house. He was jealous of what he really
loved. To him, it would have been a real and keen suffering to see his
marble Aphrodite set up in a hall of the Louvre, to be admired in her
naked perfection by every passing tourist, criticised and compared with
famous living models by loose-talking art students, and furtively
examined by prurient and disapproving old maids from distant countries.
He prized her, and he had risked his life, not to mention the just
anger of a government, to get possession of her. If he could feel so
much for a piece of marble, it was not likely that he should feel less
keenly where the woman he loved was concerned; and circumstance for
circumstance, point for point, it was much worse that Margaret Donne
should stand and sing behind the footlights, for money, and disguise
herself as a man in the last act of Rigoletto, than that the
Aphrodite should go to the Louvre and take her place with the Borghese
Gladiator, the Venus of Milo and the Victory of Samothrace. It was true
that he would have given much to possess one of those other treasures,
too, but even then it would not have been like possessing the
Aphrodite. The other statues had been public property and had faced the
public gaze for many years; but he had found his treasure for himself,
buried safe in the earth since ages ago, and he had brought her thence
directly to that upper room where few eyes but his own had ever seen
her. Perhaps he was a little mad on this point, for strong natures that
hark back to primitive types often seem a little mad to us. But at the
root of his madness there was that which no man need be ashamed of, for
it has been the very foundation of human societythe right of every
husband to keep the mother of his children from the world in his own
home. For human society existed before the Ten Commandments, and a
large part of it seems tolerably able to survive without them even now;
but no nation has ever come to any good or greatness, since the world
began, unless its men have kept their wives from other men. Yet nature
is not mocked, and woman is a match for man; she first drove him to
invent divorce for his self-defence, and see, it is a two-edged sword
in her own hands and is turned against him! No strong nation, beginning
its life and history, ever questioned the husband's right to kill the
unfaithful wife; no old and corrupt race has ever failed to make it
easy for a wife to have many husbandsincluding those of her friends.
Logotheti belonged to the primitives. As he had once laughingly
explained to Margaret, his people had dropped out of civilisation
during a good many centuries; they had absorbed a good deal of wild
blood in that time, and, scientifically speaking, had reverted to their
type; and now that he had chosen to mingle in the throng of the
moderns, whose fathers had lost no time in the race, while his own had
remained stationary, he found himself different from other people,
stronger than they, bolder and much more lawless, but also infinitely
more responsive to the creations of art and the facts of life, as well
as to the finer fictions of his imagination and the simple cravings of
his very masculine being.
Men who are especially gifted almost always seem exaggerated to
average society, either because, like Logotheti, they feel more, want
more and get more than other men, by sheer all-round exuberance of life
and energy, or else because, as in many great poets, some one faculty
is almost missing, which would have balanced the rest, so that in its
absence the others work at incredible speed and tension, wear
themselves out in half a lifetime and leave immortal records of their
There had been a time when Margaret had appealed only to Logotheti's
artistic perceptions; at their second meeting he had asked her to marry
him because he felt sure that until he could make her his permanent
possession, he could never again know what it was to be satisfied.
There had been a moment when she had risen in his estimation from an
artistic treasure to the dignity of an ideal, and had dominated him,
even when the human animal in him was most furiously roused.
Again, and lastly, the time had come when, by watching her unseen,
instead of spending hours with her every day, by abstracting himself
from her life instead of trying to take part in it, he had lost his
hold upon his ideal for ever, and had been cruelly robbed of what for a
few short days he had held most dear.
Moreover, after the ideal had withered and fallen, there remained
something of which the man felt ashamed, though it was what had seemed
most natural before the higher thought had sprung up full-grown in a
day, and had blossomed, and perished. It was simply this. Margaret was
as much as ever the artistic treasure he coveted, and he was tormented
by the fear lest some one else should get possession of her before him.
He remembered the sleepless nights he had spent while his marble
Aphrodite had lain above ground, before he was ready to carry her off,
the unspeakable anxiety lest she should be found and taken from him,
the terror of losing her which had driven him to make the attempt in
the teeth of weather which his craft had not been fit to face; and he
remembered, too, that the short time while she had lain at the bottom
of the bay had not passed without real dread lest by a miracle another
should find her and steal her.
He felt that same sensation now, as he watched Margaret from a
distance; some one would find her, some one would marry her, some one
would take her away and own her, body and soul, and cheat him of what
had been within his grasp and all but his; and yet he was ashamed,
because he no longer wanted her for his wife, but only as a
possessionas Achilles wanted Briseis and was wroth when she was taken
from him. He felt shame at the thought, because he had already honoured
her in his imagination as his wife, and because to dream of her as
anything as near, yet less in honour, was a sort of dishonour to
himself. Let the subtle analyst make what he can of that; it is the
truth. But possibly the truth about a man very unlike his fellow-men is
not worth analysing, since it cannot lead to any useful generality; and
if analysis is not to be useful, of what use can it possibly be? It
would be more to the purpose to analyse the character of Margaret, for
instance, who represents a certain class of artists, or of Madame
Bonanni who is an arch-type, or of poor Edmund Lushington, a literary
Englishman, who was just then very unhappy and very sorry for himself.
Margaret and Lushington, and the elderly prima donna, and even Mrs.
Rushmore, are all much more like you and me than Constantine Logotheti,
the Greek financier of artistic tastes, watching the woman he covets,
from the depths of his lower box during rehearsal.
He watched, and he coveted; and presently he fell to thinking of the
wonderful things which money can do, when it is skilfully used; and he
fell to scheming and plotting, and laying deep plans; and moreover he
recalled the days when Margaret had first appeared to him as an
animated work of art, and he remembered why he had persuaded
Schreiermeyer to change the opera from Faust to Rigoletto. He had regretted the change later, when she had risen to the higher
place in his heart, because it required her to wear a man's disguise in
the last act; but now that she was again in his eyes what she had been
at first, he was glad he had made the suggestion, and that the manager
had taken his advice, for there was something in that last act which
should serve him when the time came.
After the adventure on the Versailles road, Lushington eschewed
disguises, changed his lodgings again and appeared in clothes that
fitted him. It was a great relief to look like a human being and a
gentleman, even at the cost of calling himself an ass for having tried
to look like something else. There was but one difficulty in the way of
resuming his former appearance, and that lay in the loss of his beard,
which would take some time to grow again, while its growth would
involve retirement from civilisation during several weeks. But he
reflected that it was fashionable to be clean-shaven, and that, in
point of appearance, all that is fashionable is right, though Plato
would have declared it to be removed in the third degree from truth.
A week after the accident he went out to Versailles in the morning.
Mrs. Rushmore had a headache and Margaret received him. She smiled as
she took his hand, and she looked hard at his face, as if to be sure
that it was he, after all. The absence of the gleaming fair beard made
a great difference.
'I think I like you better without it,' she said, at last. 'Your
face has more character!'
'It's the inevitable,' answered Lushington, 'so I'm glad you are
'Come out,' she said, turning to the door. 'It always seems more
natural to talk to you on the lawn, and the bench is still there.'
He felt like an exile come home. Nothing was changed, except that
Margaret was gentler and seemed more glad to see him than formerly. He
wondered how that could be, seeing that he had made himself so very
ridiculous; for he was not experienced enough to know that a woman's
sense of humour is very different from that of a man she likes, when
she herself has been concerned in the circumstances that have made him
an object of ridicule to others. Then her face grows grave, her eyes
harden, and her head goes up. 'I cannot see that there is anything to
laugh at,' she says very coldly, to the disagreeable people who are
poking fun at the poor man. At these signs, the disagreeable people
generally desist and retire to whisper in a corner.
Lushington followed Margaret out. As they passed through the hall,
she took an old garden hat from the table and fastened it upon her head
with the pin that had been left stuck in it. It was done almost with a
single motion and without even glancing at the mirror which hung above
the hall table. Lushington watched her, but not as Logotheti would have
done, in artistic admiration of the graceful movement and perfect
balance. The Englishman, who called himself a realist, was admiring the
ideal qualities with which he had long ago invested the real woman. As
he watched her, his imagination clothed her handsome reality with a
semi-divine mantle of glory; for him she could never be anything but
Margaret Donne, let her call herself Cordova or anything else, let her
sing in Rigoletto or in any other opera.
'It was nice of you to come,' she said, as they reached the bench
near the pond. 'I wanted to see you.'
'And I wanted you to see me,' Lushington laughed a little,
remembering how she had seen him the last time, after his fall, in very
bad clothes and much damaged, particularly as to his nose.
'You certainly look more civilised,' Margaret said.
'Did Logotheti tell you anything about what happened after you left
us?' asked Lushington, suddenly.
Margaret's face lost its expression for a moment. It was exactly as
if, while sitting in the full sunshine, a little cloud had blown across
the sun, taking the golden light out of her face.
'I have not seen Monsieur Logotheti since that day,' she said.
It was not necessary to tell Lushington that she had seen the Greek
once again on the same afternoon. Her companion seemed surprised.
'That's strange,' he said. 'I supposed you saw himno, I beg your
pardon, I've no right to suppose anything about you. Please forgive
'What did you suppose?' asked Margaret in a rather imperative tone.
'We are likely to meet so seldom that I may as well tell you what
happened,' answered Lushington, with more decision than he had formerly
been wont to show. 'I'd just as soon have you know, if you don't mind.'
Margaret leaned back in her seat, and pulled the garden hat over her
eyes. It was warm, and she could see the gnats in the strong light
reflected from the pond.
'He asked me if I wanted to marry you,' Lushington continued. 'I
said that such a thing was impossible. Then he gave me to understand
that he did.'
He paused, but as if he had more to say.
'What did you answer?' asked Margaret.
'I said I would keep out of the way, since he was in earnest.'
Margaret uttered the ejaculation in a tone that might have meant
anything, and she watched the gnats darting hither and thither in the
'I did right, didn't I?' asked Lushington after a long pause.
'You meant to,' said Margaret almost roughly. 'I suppose it's the
same thing. You're always so terribly honourable!'
Her humour changed suddenly, and there was a shade of contempt in
her voice. She had been very glad to see him a few moments earlier, but
now she wished he would go. She was perhaps just then in the temper to
be won, though she did not know it, and she unconsciously wished that
Lushington would take hold of her and almost hurt her, as Logotheti had
done, instead of being so dreadfully anxious to be told that he had
done right a week ago.
'You don't care a straw for Logotheti,' he said, so suddenly that
she started a little. 'I don't know why you should,' he added, as she
said nothing, 'but I had got the impression that you did.'
'There are daysI mean,' she corrected herself, 'there have been
days, when I have liked him very muchmore, it seems to me, than I
ever liked you, though in quite a different way.'
'There will be more such days,' Lushington answered.
'I hope not.'
Margaret spoke almost as if to herself and very low, turning her
head away. Lushington heard the words, however, and was surprised.
'Has anything happened?' he asked quickly, and quite without
Again she answered in a low tone, unfamiliar to him.
'Yes. Something has happened.'
Then neither spoke for some time. When Margaret broke the silence at
last, there was a little defiance in her voice, a touch of recklessness
in her manner, as new to Lushington as her low, absent-minded tone had
been when she had last spoken.
'It was only natural, I suppose,' she laughed, a little sharply.
'I'm too good for one and not good enough for the other! It would be
really interesting to know just how good one ought to bewhen one is
'What do you mean?' asked Lushington, not understanding at all.
'My dear child!' She laughed again, and both the words and the laugh
jarred on Lushington, as being a little unlike hershe had never
addressed him in that way before. 'You don't really suppose that I am
going to explain, do you? You made up your mind that I was much too
fine a lady to marry the son of a singermuch too good for you, in
factthough I would have married you just then!'
'Just then!' Lushington repeated the words sadly.
'Certainly not now,' answered Margaret viciously. 'You would come to
your senses in a week with a start, to find your idol in a very shaky
and moth-eaten state. I'm horribly human, after all! I admit it!'
'What is the matter with you?' asked Lushington, rather sharply.
'What has become of you?' he asked, as she gave him no answer. 'Where
are you, the real you? I saw you when I came, and you brought me out on
the lawn, and it was going to be so nice, just as it used to be; and
now, on a sudden, you are gone, and there is some one I don't know in
Margaret laughed, leaned back in her chair and looked at the pond.
'Some one you don't know?' she repeated, with a question.
'I wonder!' She laughed again. 'It must be that,' she said
presently. 'It cannot be anything else.'
'It must be Cordova. Don't you think so? I know just what you
meanI feel it, I hear it in my voice when I speak, I see it in the
glass when I look at myself. But not always. It comes and it goes, it
has its hours. Sometimes I'm it when I wake up suddenly in the night,
and sometimes I'm Margaret Donne, whom you used to like. And I'm sure
of something else. Shall I tell you? One of these days Margaret Donne
will go away and never come back, and there will be only Cordova left,
and then I suppose I shall go to the bad. They all do, you know.'
Lushington did know, and made an odd movement and bent himself, as
if something sharp had run into him unawares, and he turned his face
away, to hide the look of pain which he could not control. Margaret had
hardly spoken the cruel words when she realised what she had done.
'Oh, I'm so sorry!' she cried, in dreadful distress, and the voice
came from her heart and was quite her own again.
In her genuine pain for him, she took his hand in both her own, and
drew it to her and looked into his eyes.
'It's all right,' he answered. 'You did not mean it. Don't distress
There were tears in her eyes now, but they were not going to
overflow. She dropped his hands.
'How splendidly good and generous you are!' Margaret cried. 'There's
nobody like you, after all!'
Lushington forgot his pain in the pleasure he felt at this outburst.
'But why?' he asked, not very clear as to her reasons for praising
'It was the same thing the other day,' she said, 'when we upset you
on the Versailles road. You were in a bad way; I don't think I remember
ever seeing a man in a worse plight! I couldn't help laughing a
'No,' said Lushington, 'I suppose you couldn't.'
'You had your revenge afterwards, though you did not know it,'
'What sort of revenge?'
'Monsieur Logotheti was detestable. It would have given me the
greatest satisfaction to have stuck hat-pins into him, ever so many of
them, as thick as the quills on a porcupine!'
Lushington laughed, in a colourless way.
'As you say, I was revenged,' he answered.
'Oh, that wasn't it!' she laughed, too. 'Not at all! Besides, you
knew that! You were perfectly well aware that you had the heroic part,
'Indeed, I wasn't aware of it at all! I felt most awfully small, I
'That's because you're not a woman,' observed Margaret thoughtfully.
'No,' she went on, after a short pause, during which Lushington found
nothing to say, 'the revenge you had was much more complete. I don't
think I'll tell you what it was. You might think'
She broke off abruptly, and drew the big garden hat even further
over her eyes. Lushington watched her mouth, as he could see so little
of the rest of her face, but the lips were shut and motionless, with
rather a set look, as if she meant to keep a secret.
'If you don't tell me, I suppose I'm free to think what I please,'
Lushington answered. 'I might even think that you were seized with
remorse for being so extremely horrid and that you went home and
drenched a number of pillows with your tears.'
He laughed lightly. Margaret was silent for a moment, but she slowly
nodded and drummed a five-fingered exercise on her knee with her right
'I cried like a baby,' she said suddenly, with a little snort of
'Not really?' Lushington was profoundly surprised, before he was
'Yes. I hope you're satisfied? Was I not right in saying that you
'You have more heart than you like to show,' he answered. 'Thank you
for caring so much! It was nice of you.'
'I don't believe it was what you mean by heart at all,' said
Margaret. 'I don't pretend to have much, and what there is of it is not
a bit of the faithful squaw kind. I cried that night about you,
exactly as I might have cried over a poor lame horse, if somebody had
kicked it uphill and I had been brute enough to laugh at its pain!'
'Hm!' ejaculated Lushington. 'Pity, I suppose?'
'Not a bit of it. How rude you are! I should have pitied you at the
time, then. But I didn't, not the least bit. I laughed at you.
Afterwards I cried because I had been such a beast as to laugh, and I
wished that somebody would come and beat me! I assure you, it was
entirely out of disgust with myself that I cried, and not in the least
out of pity for you!'
'I'm delighted to hear it,' said Lushington. 'In the first place, I
should be sorry to have been the direct means of bringing you to tears;
secondly, I hate to be pitied; and thirdly, it's a much more difficult
thing to make a woman disgusted with herself than it is to excite her
compassion by playing lame horse or sick puppy!'
Margaret looked at him from under the brim of her hat, throwing her
head far back so as to do so. Then they both laughed a little, and
Lushington felt happy for a moment; but Margaret did not know what she
felt, if indeed she felt anything at all, beyond a momentary
satisfaction in the society of a man she really liked very much, whom
she had once believed she loved, and whom she might still have been
willing to marry if she had not been at the point of beginning her
public career, and if he had asked her, and ifbut there were
altogether too many conditions, and for the moment matrimony was out of
'I like you very much,' she said, suddenly thoughtful. 'I've seen
you act like a hero, and you always act like a gentleman. One cannot
say that of many men. If I were not such a wicked flirt, I suppose I
should be in love with you, as I was that day when you left here. I'm
glad I'm not! Do you know that it's frightfully humiliating to want to
marry a man, and to have him object, no matter why?'
Lushington said something, but he felt that again the real Margaret
had slipped away out of sight for a while, leaving somebody else in her
Whenever it happened, he felt a little painful sensation of choking,
like a man who is suddenly deprived of air; until he looked at her and
saw that she was outwardly herself. Then he adjusted the halo of
ideality upon the artist again, and continued to love Margaret Donne
with all his heart.
There is a certain kind, or perhaps it is only a certain degree, of
theatrical reputation, which makes its coming felt in all sorts of
ways, like a change in the weather. The rise of literary men to fame is
almost always a surprise to themselves, their families, and their
former instructors. Especially the latter, who know much more than the
young novelist does, but have never been able to do anything with their
knowledge, hold up their shrivelled, or podgy, or gouty old hands in
sorrow, declaring that the success of a boy who was such a dolt, such a
good-for-nothing, such a conceited jackanapes at school, only shows
what the judgment of the public is worth, and how very low its standard
has fallen. But the great public does not think much of decayed
schoolmasters at best, and is never surprised that a young man should
succeed, for the very simple reason that if he did not, some other
young man certainly would; and to those who do not know the colour of
the author's hair and eyes, the difference between Mr. Brown, Mr.
Jones, and Mr. Robinson, in private life, must be purely a matter of
But theatrical reputation is a different matter, and its rise
affects the professional barometer beforehand. The people who train
great singers and great actors know what they are about and foresee the
result, as no publisher can foresee it with regard to a new writer.
There is a right way and a wrong way of singing, one must sing in tune
unless one sings out of tune, there are standards of comparison in the
persons of the great singers who are still at their best. It is not
easy to be mistaken, where so much is a matter of certainty and so
little depends on chance, and the facts become known very easily. The
first-rate second-rate artists, climbing laboriously in the wake of the
real first-rates, and wishing that these would die and get out of the
way, feel a hopeless sinking at the heart as they hear behind them the
rush of another coming genius. The tired critics sleep less soundly in
the front row of the stalls, the fine and frivolous ladies who come to
the opera to talk the whole evening are told that for once they will
have to be silent, the reporters put on little playful airs of mystery
to say that they have been allowed to assist at a marvellous rehearsal
or have been admitted to see the future diva putting on her cloak after
a final interview with Schreiermeyer, whose attitude before her is
described as being that of the donor of the picture in an old Italian
And all this is not mere advertisement; much of it is, in fact,
nothing of the sort, and is not even suggested by Schreiermeyer, for he
knows perfectly well that one performance will place his new star very
nearly at her true value before the public, who will flock to hear her
and take infinite pains to find out where and when she is going to sing
the next time. It is just the outward, healthy stir that goes before
certain kinds of theatrical success, and which is quite impossible
where most other arts are concerned; perhapsI suggest it with
apologies to all living prima donnas and first tenorsthe higher the
art, the less can success be predicted. Was ever a great painter, a
great sculptor or a great poet 'announced'? On the other hand, was
there ever a great singer who was not appreciated till after death?
The public probably did not hear the name of Margaret Donne till
much later, and then, with considerable indifference, but long before
Margarita da Cordova made her début, her name was repeated, with
more or less mistakes and eccentricities of pronunciation, from mouth
to mouth, in London and Paris, and was even mentioned in St.
Petersburg, Berlin and New York. Every one connected with the musical
world, even if only as a regular spectator, felt that something
extraordinary was coming.
Madame Bonanni wrote to Margaret that she wished to see her, and
would come over to Paris expressly, if Margaret would only telegraph.
She would come out to Versailles, she would make the acquaintance of
that charming Mrs. Rushmore. Margaret wondered what would happen if the
two women met, and what mutual effect they would produce upon each
other, but her knowledge of Mrs. Rushmore made her doubt whether such a
meeting were desirable. Instead of telegraphing to Madame Bonanni, she
wrote her answer, proposing to go to the prima donna's house. But
Madame Bonanni was impatient, and as no telegram came when she expected
one, she did not wait for a possible letter. To Margaret's dismay and
stupefaction, she appeared at Versailles about luncheon time, arrayed
with less good taste than the lilies of the field, but yet in a manner
to outdo Solomon in all his glory, and she was conveyed in a perfectly
new motor car. When Margaret, looking on from beyond the pond, saw her
descend from the machine, she could not help thinking of a dreadful
fresco she had once seen on the ceiling of an Italian villa,
representing a very florid, double-chinned, powerful eighteenth-century
Juno apparently in the act of getting down into the room from her car,
to the great inconvenience of every one below.
The English servant who opened the door was in distress of mind when
he saw her, for since he had served in Mrs. Rushmore's very proper
household he had never seen anything like Madame Bonanni as she stood
there asking for Miss Donne, and evidently not in a mood to be patient.
He was very much inclined to tell her that she had mistaken the house,
and to shut the door in her face. There were people coming to luncheon,
and it was just possible that she might be one of them; but if she was
not, and if the others came and found such a person there, how truly
awful it would be! Thus the footman reflected as he stood in the
doorway, listening to Madame Bonanni's voluble French speech.
As she paused for a moment, he heard some one on the stairs. It was
Mrs. Rushmore herself. He recognised her step and turned sharp round on
his heels, still filling the door but exposing his broad back to the
'Very odd person asking to see Miss Donne, ma'am,' he said in low
and hurried tones. 'Shall I say not at home, ma'am?'
'By all means not at home, James,' said Mrs. Rushmore.
James had not miscalculated his breadth, as to the door, but his
height as compared with that of the odd person outside. She put her
head over his shoulder and looked in at Mrs. Rushmore.
'May I please come in?' she asked in comprehensible English. 'I am
Bonanni, the singer, and I want to see Miss Donne. I've come from
London toplease? Yes?'
'Goodness gracious!' cried Mrs. Rushmore. 'Let the lady in at once,
James disappeared, somehow, and the artist came into the darkened
hall, and met Mrs. Rushmore.
The latter did not often meet a woman much bigger than herself, and
actually felt small when she held out her hand. Madame Bonanni seemed
to fill the little hall of the French cottage, and Mrs. Rushmore felt
as if she were in danger of being turned out of it to make room.
'Margaret is in the garden,' she said. 'I am so pleased to meet you,
Madame Bonanni! I hope you'll stay to lunch. Do come in, and I'll send
for her. James!'
All this was said while the two large hands were mildly shaking one
another; Mrs. Rushmore was not easily startled by the sudden appearance
of lionsor lionessesand was conscious of being tolerably
consecutive in her speech. It was not Madame Bonanni's greatness that
had taken her by surprise, but her size and momentum. The prima donna
answered in French.
'You understand? Of course! Thank you! Then I will speak in my own
language. I will go out to Miss Donne, if you permit. Luncheon? Ah, if
I could! But I have just eaten. I am sure you have so many good things!
Little Miss Donneah! here she is!'
At this point Margaret came in, pulling off the old garden hat she
had worn when Lushington had come to see her. She was surprised that
the prima donna did not throw her arms round her and kiss her, but the
artist had judged Mrs. Rushmore in a flash and behaved with almost
English gravity as she took Margaret's hand.
'I have come to Paris expressly to see you,' she said.
'Let me introduce you to Mrs. Rushmore,' said Margaret.
'It is done,' said Madame Bonanni, making a little stage courtesy at
the elder woman. 'I broke into the house like a burglar, and found a
charming hostess waiting to arrest me with the kindest invitation to
'What a delightful way of putting it!' cried Mrs. Rushmore, much
Margaret felt that Madame Bonanni was showing a side of her nature
which she had not yet seen. It had never occurred to the girl that the
singer could make pretty society speeches. But Madame Bonanni had seen
many things in her time.
Margaret carried her off to her own room, after a few words more,
for it was clear that her visitor had something private to say, and had
come all the way from London to say it, apparently out of pure
friendship. Her manner changed again when they were alone. By force of
habit the big woman sat down on the piano-stool and turned over the
music that was open on the instrument, and she seemed to pay no heed to
what Margaret said. Margaret was thanking her for her visit, arranging
the blinds, asking her if there was enough air, for the day was hot,
inquiring about the weather in London, moving about the room with each
little speech, and with the evident desire to start the conversation so
as to find out why Madame Bonanni had come. But the singer turned over
the pages obstinately, looked up rather coldly at Margaret now and
then, and once or twice whistled a few bars of Rigoletto in a
way that would have been decidedly rude, had it not been perfectly
clear that she did not know what she was doing, and was really trying
to make up her mind how to begin. Margaret understood, and presently
let her alone, and just sat down on a chair at the corner of the piano
with a bit of work, and waited to see what would happen.
'I thought it might help you a little if I ran through the opera
with you,' said Madame Bonanni, after a long time. 'I have sung it very
But as she spoke she shut the score on the piano rather sharply, as
if she had changed her mind. Margaret looked up quickly in surprise and
dropped her work in her lap.
'You did not come all the way from London for that?' she asked, in a
voice full of gratitude and wonder.
There was a moment's pause, during which the singer looked uneasy.
'No,' she said, 'I didn't. I never could lie very wellI can't at
all to-day! But I would have come, only for that, if I had thought you
needed it. That is the truth.'
'How good you are!' Margaret cried.
The singer's hand covered her big eyes for a moment and her elbow
rested on the edge of the piano desk. There was a very sad note in the
single word she had spoken, a note of despair not far off; but Margaret
did not understand.
'What is the matter?' she asked, leaning forward, and laying one
hand gently on Madame Bonanni's wrist. 'Why do you speak like that?'
'Do you think you would have been any better, in my place?'
The question came in a harsh tone, suddenly, as if it broke through
some opposing medium, the hand dropped from the brow, and the big dark
eyes gazed into Margaret's almost fiercely. Still the girl did not
'Better? I? In what way? Tell me what it is, if something is
distressing you. Let me help you, if I can. You know I will, with all
'Yes, I know.' Madame Bonanni's voice sank again. 'But how can you?
The trouble is older than you are. There is one thingyesthere is
one thing, if you could say it truly! It would help me a little if you
could say itand yetnoI'm not sureif you did, it would only show
that you have more heart than he has.'
'Who?' Margaret vaguely guessed the truth.
'Who? Tommy son! Edmund Lushington, who feels that he cannot ask
a respectable girl to marry him because his mother has been a wicked
The big woman shook from head to foot as she spoke.
Margaret was pained and her fingers tightened nervously on the
'Oh, please don't!' she cried. 'Please don't!'
'He's right,' answered Madame Bonanni, hanging her large head and
shaking it despairingly. 'Of course, he's right, and it's true! But,
oh!she looked up again, suddenly'oh, how much more right it must be
for a man to forgive his mother, no matter what she has done!'
Margaret's fingers glided from the wrist they held, to the large
hand, and pressed it sympathetically, but she could not find anything
to say which would do. The friendly pressure, however, evidently meant
enough to the distressed woman.
'Thank you, dear,' she said gratefully. 'You re very good to me. I
know you mean it, too. Only, you re not placed as he is. If you were my
daughter, you would think as he thinksyou would not live under my
roof! Perhaps you would not even see me when we met in the street! You
would look the other way!'
Margaret could not have told, for her life, what she would have
done, but she was far too kind-hearted not to protest.
'Indeed I wouldn't!' she cried, with so much energy that Madame
Bonanni believed her.
'No matter what I had done?' asked she pathetically eager for the
'You'd have been my mother just the same,' answered Margaret softly.
As the girl spoke, she felt a little sharp revolt in her heart
against what she had said, at the mere thought of associating the word
'mother' with Madame Bonanni.
There was nothing at all psychological in that, and it would hardly
bear analysing even by a professional dissector of character. It was
just the natural feeling, in a natural girl, whose mother had been
honest and good. But Madame Bonanni only heard the kind words.
'Yes,' she answered, 'I should have been your mother, just the same.
But I couldn't have been a better mother to you than I've been to Tom.
I couldn't, indeed!'
'No,' Margaret said, in the same gentle tone as before, 'you've been
very good to him.'
'Yes! I have! He knows it, and he does not deny it!' Madame Bonanni
suddenly sat up quite straight and squeezed Margaret's hands by way of
emphasis. 'But he does not care,' she went on, her anger rising a
little. 'Not he! He would rather that I should have been any sort of
miserable little proper middle-class woman, if I could only have been
technically virtuous! If I had been that, I might have beaten him to
an omelette every day when he was a boy, and tormented him like a
gadfly when he was a man! He would have preferred itoh, by far! That
is the logic of men, my dear, their irrefutable logic that they are
always talking about and facing us down with! The miserable little
animal! I will give up loving him, I will hate him, as he deserves, I
will tell him to go to Peru, where he will never see his wicked old
mother again! Then he will be sorry, he will wish he were dead, but I
shall not go to him, never, never, never!'
She spoke the last words with tremendous energy, and a low echo of
her voice came back out of the open piano from the strings. She
clenched her fist and shook it at an imaginary Lushington in space, and
for a moment her face wore a look of Medean menace.
Margaret might have smiled, if she had not felt that the strange
creature was really and truly suffering, in her own way, to the borders
of distraction. Then, suddenly, the great frame was convulsed again and
quivered from head to foot.
'I'm going to cry,' she announced, in rather shaky tones.
And she cried. She slipped from the piano-stool to the floor, upon
her knees, and her heavy arms fell upon the keys with a crashing
discord, and her face buried itself in the large depths of one bent
elbow, quite regardless of damage to Paquin's masterpiece of a summer
sleeve; and with huge sobs the tears welled up and overflowed, taking
everything they found in their way, including paint, and washing all
down between the ivory keys of Margaret's piano.
Margaret saw that there was nothing to be done. At first she tried
to soothe her as best she could, standing over her, and laying a hand
gently on her shoulder; but Madame Bonanni shook it off with a sort of
convulsive shudder, as a big carthorse gets rid of a fly that has
settled on a part of his back inaccessible to his tail. Then Margaret
desisted, knowing that the fit must go on to its natural end, and that
it was hopeless to try and stop it sooner. Women are very practical
with each other in crying matters, but it is bad for us men if we treat
them in the same sensible way under the identical circumstances.
Margaret sat down again in her chair, and instead of taking up her
work, she leaned forward towards the weeping woman, to be ready with a
word of sympathy as soon as it could be of any use. She watched the
heavy head, the strong and coarse dark hair, the large animal
construction of the neck and shoulders, the massive hands, discoloured
now with straining upon themselves; nothing escaped her, as she quietly
waited for the sobbing to cease; and though she felt the peasant nature
there, close to her, in all its rugged strength, yet she felt, too,
that with certain differences of outward refinement, it was not unlike
her own. Her own hair, for instance, was much finer; but then, fair
hair is generally finer than dark. Her own hands were smaller than
Madame Bonanni's; but then, they had never been used to manual labour
when she had been a girl. And as for the rest of her, she knew that
Madame Bonanni had been reckoned a beauty in her day, such a beauty
that very great and even royal personages indeed had done extremely
foolish things to please her; and that very beauty had been in part the
cause of those very tears the poor woman was shedding now. Margaret was
quite sensible enough to admit that she herself, after a quarter of a
century of stage life, might turn into very much the same type of
woman. While waiting to be sympathetic at the right moment, therefore,
she studied Madame Bonanni's appearance with profound and melancholy
interest. She had never had such a good chance.
The convulsive sobbing grew regular, then more slow, then merely
intermittent, and then it stopped altogether. But before she lifted her
face from the hollow of her elbow, Madame Bonanni felt about for
something with her other hand; and Margaret, being a woman, knew that
she wanted her handkerchief before showing her face, and picked it up
and gave it to her. A man would probably have taken the groping fingers
and pressed them, or kissed them, probably supposing that to be what
was wanted, and thereby much retarding the progress of events.
Madame Bonanni pushed up the handkerchief between her face and her
elbow and moved it about, with a vague idea of equalising her colour in
one general tint, then blew her nose, and then sprang to her feet at
once, with that wonderful elasticity which was always so surprising in
her sudden movements. Moreover, she got up turning her face away from
Margaret, and made for the nearest mirror.
'Lord!' she exclaimed, laconically, as she looked at herself and
realised the full extent of the damage done.
'Wouldn't you like to wash your face?' asked Margaret, following her
at a discreet distance.
'My dear,' answered Madame Bonanni, in a perfectly matter-of-fact
tone, 'it's awful, of course, but there's nothing else to be done!'
'Come into my dressing-room.'
'If I were at home, I should take a bath and dress over aaa'
One last most unexpected sob half choked her and then made her cough,
till she stamped her foot with anger.
'Bah!' she cried with contempt when she got her breath. 'If I had
often made myself look like such a monster, I should have been a
perfectly good woman! The men would have run from me like mice from a
barn on fire! Have you got any of that Vienna liquid soap, my dear!'
Margaret had the liquid soap, as it chanced, and in a few moments
she was busily occupied in helping Madame Bonanni to restore her
appearance. Though long, the process was only partially successful,
from the latter's own point of view. Having washed away all that had
been, she produced a gold box from the bag she wore at her side. The
box was divided into three compartments containing respectively rouge,
white powder and a miniature puff for applying both, which she
proceeded to do abundantly, sitting at Margaret's toilet-table and
talking while she worked. She had made more confusion in the small
dressing-room in five minutes than Margaret could have made in dressing
twice over. Paint-stained towels strewed the floor, chairs were upset,
soap and water was splashed everywhere. Now she started afresh, by
rubbing plentiful daubs of rouge into her dark cheeks.
'But why do you put on so much?' Margaret asked in wonder.
'My dear, I'm an actress,' said Madame Bonanni. 'I'm not ashamed of
my profession! If I didn't paint, people would say I was trying to pass
myself off for a lady! Besides, now that I have cried, nothing but
powder will hide it. Look at my nose, my dearjust look at my nose!
Little Miss Donne'she turned upon Margaret with sudden, tragic
energy'don't ever let that wretched boy know that I cried about him!
Eh? Never! Promise you won't!'
'No, indeed! You may trust me. Why should I tell?'
'But it doesn't matter. Tell him if you like. I don't care. My life
is over now, and there is no reason why I should care about anything,
'What do you mean by saying that your life is over?' Margaret asked.
Madame Bonanni's head fell upon the edge of the table and she looked
at herself in the glass for some moments before she answered.
'I have left the stage,' she said, very quietly.
'Left the stage? For good?' Margaret was amazed.
'Yes. I was not going to have any farewells or last appearances.
Those things are only done to make money. Schreiermeyer was very nice
about it. He agreed to cancel the rest of my engagements in a friendly
'But why? Why have you done it?' asked Margaret, still bewildered by
Madame Bonanni had done one cheek and half the other. She leaned
back in the comfortable chair before the glass and looked at herself
again, not at all at the effect of her work, but at her eyes, as if she
were searching for something.
'There is not room for you and me,' she said, presently.
'I don't understand,' Margaret answered. 'Not room? Where?'
'On the stage. I have been the great lyric soprano a long time. Next
month you will be the great lyric sopranothere is not room'
'Nonsense!' Margaret broke in. 'I shall never be what you are'
'Not what I was, perhaps, because this is another age. Taste and
teaching and the art itselfall have changed. But you are young,
fresh, untouched, unheardall, you have it all, as I had once. You are
not the artist I am, but you will be one day, and meanwhile you have
all I have no more. If I had stayed on the stage, we should have been
rivals next season. They would have said: Cordova has a better voice,
but Bonanni is still the greater artist. Do you see?'
'Yes. And why should you not be pleased at that?' asked Margaret.
'Or why should not I be quite satisfied, and more than satisfied?'
'I wasn't thinking of us,' said Madame Bonanni, looking up to
Margaret's face with an expression that was almost beautiful, in spite
of the daubs of paint and the disarranged hair. 'I was thinking of
Margaret began to guess, and her lip quivered a moment, for she was
'Yes,' she said. 'I think I see.'
'He loves you,' said Madame Bonanni, still looking at her. 'I have
guessed it. It is very hard for me to get him to like me a little, and
he would not forgive me if the really good critics said I was a better
artist than you. That would be one thing more against me, my dear, and
he has so many things against me already! So I have given it up. Why
should I go on singing, now? He does not care any more. When he has
once heard you he will never want to come again and sit in the middle
of the theatre all alone in the audience just to hear me, as he often
did. Then I sang my best. I never sang as I have sung for him, when I
have caught sight of his face in the audience. No, not for kings. I
used to go and look through the curtain before it went up, if I thought
he was there. And it was just to hear me that he came, just for the
artistic pleasure! He never came to my dressing-room, for that
destroyed the illusion. But now he will go and hear you, and it would
make him very bitter against me if any one said I sang better. Do you
'Yes. I understand.'
Margaret bent her head a little and looked down, wondering and
puzzled, yet believing.
'At least I can do that for him.' Madame Bonanni sighed, looking
into the glass again. 'I cannot undo my life, but I need not seem to
him to be a hindrance in yours.'
It was impossible to receive such a confidence without being deeply
touched, and Margaret's own voice shook a little as she answered.
'There have not been many mothers like you since the world began,'
'I will tell you!' The singer turned half round in her chair with
one of her sudden movements. 'If I had known that I was going to be so
fond of himand oh, my dear, if I could have guessed that he would
care so much!I would have led a different life! I would have left the
stage if I could not. Oh, don't think it is so easy to be good! But
it's possible! One canone could, if one only knewfor the sake of
some one whom one loves very dearly!'
'Of course it is!' answered Margaret, with all the heavenly
self-confidence of untried virtue.
Madame Bonanni looked at her with a peculiar expression. There was a
little pity in the look, and great doubt, a shade of amusement,
perhaps, and a great longing envy through it all.
'Of course?' she repeated, in a thoughtful way. 'Did you mean of
course it is possibleand easy, my dear? The tone of your voice made
me think that was what you meant. Yesyou meant that, and you have a
right to mean it, but you don't know. That's the great differenceyou
don't know! You haven't begun as I did. You're a lady, a real lady,
brought up amongst ladies from your childhood. But that's not what will
keep you good! It's not your refinement, nor your good manners, nor
your white hands that never milked a cow, or swept a stable, or hoed
the weeds out from between the vines in summer. That was my work till I
was seventeen. And my mother was a good woman, my dear, just as good as
yours, though she was only a peasant of Provence. How do I know it? If
she had not been good, my father would have killed her, of course. That
was our custom. And he was good, in his way, too, and kind. He always
told me that if I went wrong he would shoot meand when the English
artist came and lodged in our house for the summer and made love to me,
my father explained everything to him also. So poor Goodyear saw that
he must marry me, and we were married, before I was eighteen. He took
me away to Paris, and tried to make a lady of me, and he had me taught
to sing, because he loved my voice. Do you see? That was how it all
happenedand still I was good, as good as you are! Yesof course,
as you say! It was easy enough!'
'He died young, didn't he?' Margaret asked quietly.
She had seated herself on the corner of the toilet-table to listen,
while Madame Bonanni leaned back in the low chair and looked at
herself, sometimes absently, some times with pity.
'Yes,' she answered. 'He died very soon and left me nothing but
Tommy and my voice. Poor Goodyear! He painted very badly, he never sold
anything, and his father starved him because he had married me. It was
far better that he should die of pneumonia than of hunger, for that
would certainly have been the end of it.
'And you went on the stage at once?' Margaret asked, wishing to hear
Madame Bonanni shrugged her shoulders and leaned forward to the
'I had a fortune in my throat,' she said, daubing rouge on the cheek
that was only half done. 'I had been well taught in those years, and
there were plenty of managers only too anxious to offer me their
protectionmanagers and other people, too. What could I do?'
She shrugged her shoulders again, and laughed a little harshly as
she gave a half-shy glance at Margaret. The latter was not a child, but
a grown woman of two-and-twenty. She answered gravely.
'With your voice and talent, I don't see why you needed any
protection, as you call it.'
Madame Bonanni laughed again.
'No? You don't see? All the better, little Miss Donne, all the
better for you that you have never been made to see, and perhaps you
never will now. I hope not. But I tell you that in Paris, or in London,
or Berlin, or Petersburg you may have the voice and talent of Malibran,
Grisi and Patti all in one, but if you are not protected you will
never get any further than leading chorus-girl, and perhaps not so
'No one has protected me,' said Margaret, 'and I've got a good
The prima donna stared at her for a moment in surprise, and then
went on making up her face. The girl had talent, genius, perhaps, but
she must be oddly simple if she did not realise that she owed her
engagement altogether to the woman who was talking to her. Was Margaret
going to take that position from the first? Madame Bonanni wondered.
Was she going to deliberately ignore that she had been taken up bodily,
as it were, and carried through the short cut to celebrity? Or was it
just the simple, stupid, innocent vanity that so often goes with great
gifts, making their possessors quite sure that they can never owe the
least part of their success to any help received from any one else?
Whatever it might be, Madame Bonanni was not the woman to remind
Margaret of what had happened. She only smiled a little and put on more
'I'm not defending my life, my dear,' she said, quietly, after a
little pause. 'Of what use would that be, now that the best part of it
is overor the worst part? I'm not even asking for your sympathy, am
I?' Her voice was suddenly bitter. 'I only care for one human being in
the worldI think I never cared for any other, since he was born! Does
that make my life worse? It does, doesn't it? In the name of heaven,
child,' she broke out fiercely and angrily, without the least warning,
'was no woman ever flattered into playing at love? Not even by a King?
Am I the only living woman that has been carried off her feet by
royalty? It wasn't only the King, of courseI don't pretend it
wasthere were others. But that's what Tom will never forgive methe
money and the jewels! What could I do? Throw them in his face, scream
outraged virtue and cry that he was offending me, when he had nothing
more to ask, and I was half drunk with pride and vanity and amusement,
because he was really in love? Tell some great lady, your duchess, your
princess, to do that sort of thingif you think she will! Don't ask it
of a Provence girl who has milked the cows and hoed the vines, and then
suddenly has half Europe at her feet, and a King into the bargain!
There was only one thing in the world that could have saved me thenit
would have been to know that Tom would never forgive me. And he was
only a little boyhow could I guess?'
She looked up almost wildly into Margaret's eyes, and then bent
down, resting her forehead upon her hands, on the edge of the table.
'Don't be afraid,' she said, 'I'm not going to cry againnever
again, I think! It's over and finished, with the other things!'
She remained in the same position nearly a minute, and then sat up
quite straight before the glass, as if nothing had happened, and
powdered her cheeks again.
Margaret sat still on the corner of the table, not at all sure of
what she had better say or do. She only hoped that Madame Bonanni would
not ask her whether she cared for Lushington and would marry him,
supposing that his scruples could be overcome, and she had a strong
suspicion that it was to ask this that Madame Bonanni had come to see
her. It would be rather hard to answer, Margaret knew, and she turned
over words and expressions in her mind.
She might have spared herself the trouble, for nothing could have
been further from her companion's thoughts just then. The dramatic
moment had passed and Margaret had scarcely noticed it, beyond being
very much surprised at the news it had brought her of the great
singer's retiring from the stage. Perhaps, too, Margaret was a little
inclined to doubt whether Madame Bonanni would abide by her resolution
in the future, though she was perfectly in earnest at present.
'I shall be at your first night,' said the prima donna, finishing
her operations at last, and carefully shutting her little gold box. 'If
you have a dress rehearsal, I'll be at that, too.'
'Thank you,' Margaret answered. 'Yesthere is to be a dress
rehearsal on Sunday. Schreiermeyer insists on it for me. He's afraid I
shall have stage fright because I'm so cool now, I suppose.'
She laughed, contentedly and perfectly sure of herself.
'The only thing I don't like is being brought on in the sack to sing
that last scene.'
'Eh?' Madame Bonanni stared in surprise.
'The sack,' Margaret repeated. 'The last scene. Don't you know?'
'I knowbut it's always left out. Nobody has sung that for years.
It's a chorus-girl who is brought on in the bag, and when Rigoletto
sees her face he screams and the curtain goes down. You don't mean to
say that Schreiermeyer wants you to do the whole scene?
'Yes. We've rehearsed it ever so often. I thought it was strange,
too. He says that if it does not please people at the dress rehearsal,
we can leave it out on the real night.'
'I never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life!' Madame Bonanni
was evidently displeased.
She had once done the 'sack' scene herself to satisfy the caprice of
a foreign sovereign who wished to see the effect of it, and she had a
vivid and disagreeable recollection of being half dragged, half
carried, inside a brown canvas bag, and then put down rather roughly;
and then, of not knowing at what part of the stage she was, while she
listened to Rigoletto s voice; and of the strong, dusty smell of the
canvas, that choked her, so that she wanted to cough and sneeze when
Rigoletto tore open the bag and let her head out; and then, of having
to sing in a very uncomfortable position; and, altogether, of a most
disagreeable quarter of an hour just at the very time when she should
have been getting her wig and paint off in her dressing-room. Moreover,
the scene was a failure, as it always has been wherever it has been
tried. She told Margaret this.
'At all events,' she concluded, 'you won't have to do it on the real
They were in the larger room again. But for the decided damage done
to her sleeve by her tears, Madame Bonanni had restored her outward
appearance tolerably well. She stood at the corner of the piano,
resting one hand upon it.
'I'm sorry for you, my dear,' she said cheerfully, because I've
given you so much trouble, but I'm glad I cried as much as I wanted to.
It's horribly bad for the voice and complexion, but nothing really
refreshes one so much. I felt as if my heart were going to break when I
'And now?' Margaret smiled, standing beside the elderly woman and
idly turning over the music on the desk of the instrument.
'I suppose it has broken,' Madame Bonanni answered. 'At all events,
I don't feel it any more. NoreallyI don't! He may go to Peru, if he
likesI hope he will, the ungrateful little beast! I'll never think of
him again! When you have made your début, I'm going to live in
the country. There's plenty to do there! Bonanni shall milk cows again
and hoe the furrows between the vines this summer! Bonanni shall go
back to Provence and be an old peasant woman, where she was once a
peasant girl, and married the English painter. Do you think I've
forgotten the language, or the songs?'
One instant's pause, and the singer's great voice broke out in the
small room with a volume of sound so tremendous that it seemed as if it
would rend the walls and the ceiling. It was an ancient Provençal song
that she sang, in long-drawn cadences with strange falls and wild
intervals, the natural music of an ancient, gifted people. It was very
short, for she only sang one stanza of it, and in less than a minute it
was finished and she was silent again. But her big dark eyes, still
swollen and bloodshot, were looking out to a distance far beyond the
green trees she saw through the open window.
Margaret, who had listened, repeated the wild melody very softly,
and sounded each note of it without the words, as if she wished to
remember it always; and a nearer sight came back to the elder woman's
eyes as she listened to the true notes that never faltered, and were as
pure as sounding silver, and as smooth as velvet and as rich as gold.
It was a little thing, but one of those little things that only a born
great singer could have done faultlessly at the first attempt; and
Madame Bonanni listened with rare delight. Then she laughed, as happily
as if she had no heartaches in the world.
'Little Miss Donne, little Miss Donne!' she cried, shaking a fat
finger, 'you will turn many heads before long! You shall come to my
cottage in the autumn, when we have the vintage, and there you will
find old Bonanni looking after the work in a ragged straw hat, with no
paint on her cheeks. And in the evening we will sit upon the door-step
together, and you shall tell me how the heads turned round and round,
and I will teach you all the old songs of Provence. Will you come?'
'Indeed, I will,' Margaret answered, smiling. 'I would cross Europe
to see youyou have been so good to me. Do you know? I want you to
forgive me for what I said in the dressing-room about my engagement. I
remember how you looked when I said it, and now I know that you did not
understand. Of course I owe it all to youbut that isn't what you
The prima donna's expression changed again, and grew hard and almost
'Never mind that,' she said, roughly. 'I wasn't thinking of that. I
didn't notice what you said.'
She turned her back to Margaret, walked to the window and stood
there looking out while she put on her gloves. But Margaret was humble,
in spite of the rudeness.
'I'm sorry,' she said, following a little way. 'I'm very
Madame Bonanni did not even turn her head to listen. Margaret did
not try to say anything more, but broke off and waited patiently. Then
the elder woman turned quickly and fiercely, buttoning the last button
of her glove.
'If my own son has done much worse to me, why should I care what any
one else can do?' she asked.
But Margaret was obstinate in her humility and would not be put off.
She took one of Madame Bonanni's hands and made her look at her.
'I would not say or do anything that could hurt you for all the
world,' said Margaret, very earnestly. 'I won't let you go away
thinking that I could, and angry with me. Don't you believe me?'
There was no resisting the tone and the look, and Madame Bonanni was
not able to be angry long. Her large mouth widened slowly in a bright
smile, and the next moment she threw her arms round Margaret and kissed
her on both cheeks.
'Bah!' she cried, 'I didn't think I could still be so fond of
anybody, since that wretched boy of mine broke my heart! It's
ridiculous, but I really believe there's nothing I wouldn't do for you,
She was heartily in earnest, though she little guessed what she was
going to do for Margaret within a few days. But Margaret, who was
really grateful, was nevertheless glad that there was apparently
nothing more that Madame Bonanni could do. She was not quite sure that
the great singer's retirement would prove final; and on cool reflection
she found it hard to believe that the motive for it was the one the
latter alleged, and which had so touched her at first that it had
brought tears to her eyes. The Anglo-Saxon woman could not help looking
at the Latin woman with a little apprehension and a good deal of
The stage was set for the introduction to the first act of
Rigoletto, the curtain was down, the lights were already up in the
house and a good many people were in their seats or standing about and
chatting quietly. It was a hot afternoon in July, and high up in the
gallery the summer sunshine streamed through an open window full upon
the blazing lights of the central chandelier, a straight, square beam
of yellow gold thrown across a white fire, and clearly seen through it.
It was still afternoon when the dress rehearsal began, but the night
would have come when it ended. There is always a pleasant latitude
about dress rehearsals, even when the piece is old and there is no new
stage machinery to be tried. While the play or the opera is actually
going on, everything works quickly as in a real performance, but
between the acts, or even between one scene and another, there is a
tendency on the part of the actors and the invited public to treat the
whole affair as a party of pleasure. Doors of communication are opened
which would otherwise be shut, people wander about the house, looking
for their friends, and if there is plenty of room they change seats now
and then. Many of the people are extremely shabby, others are
preternaturally smart; if it is in the daytime everybody wears street
clothes and the women rarely take off their hats. It is only at the
evening dress rehearsals of important new pieces at the great Paris
theatres that the house presents its usual appearance, but then there
have been already three or four real dress rehearsals at which the
necessary work has been done.
The theatre at which Margaret was making her début was a
large one in a Belgian city, a big modern house, to all appearance, and
really fitted with the usual modern machinery which has completely
changed the working of the stage since electricity was introduced. But
the building itself was old and was full of queer nooks at the back,
and passages and shafts long disused; and it had two stage entrances,
one of which was now kept locked, while the other had the usual
swinging doors guarded by a sharp-eyed doorkeeper who knew and
remembered several thousand faces of actors, singers, authors,
painters, and carpenters, and of other privileged persons from princes
and bankers to dressmakers' girls who had, or had once had, the right
to enter by the stage door. The two entrances were on opposite sides of
the building. The one no longer in use led out to a dark, vaulted
passage or alley wide enough for a carriage to enter; and formerly the
carriages of the leading singers had driven up by that way, entering at
one end and going out at the other, but the side that had formerly led
to the square before the theatre was now built up, and contained a
small shop having a back door in the dark alley, and only the other
exit remained, and it opened upon an unfrequented street behind the
The dressing-rooms had been disposed with respect to this old
entrance, and their position had never been changed. It had been
convenient for the prima donna to be able to reach her carriage after
the performance without crossing the stage; whereas, as things were now
arranged, she had a long distance to go. The new stage door had been
made within the last ten years, so that every one who had known the
theatre longer than that was well aware of the existence of the old
one, though few people knew that it could still be opened on emergency,
as in case of fire, and that it was also used for bringing in the
unusually big boxes in which some of the great singers sent their
dresses. The dressing-rooms opened upon a wide but ill-lighted corridor
which led from the stage near the back on the left; the last
dressing-room was the largest and was always the prima donna's. Just
beyond it a door closed the end of the passage, leading to the
doorkeeper's former vestibule, which was now never lighted, and beyond
that a short flight of steps led down to the locked outer door, on the
level of the street. In the same corridor there were of course other
dressing-rooms which were not all used in Rigoletto, an opera
which has only two principal women's parts; whereas in the Huguenots, for instance, the rooms would all have been full, there would have
been a number of maids about and more lights. In Rigoletto, too,
the contralto does not even come to the theatre to dress until the
opera is more than half over, as she is only on in the third act. The
Contessa and Giovanna do not count, as they have so little to do.
This short explanation of the topography of the building is
necessary in order to understand clearly what happened on that
memorable afternoon and evening.
Margaret Donne was in her dressing-room, quite unaware that anything
was going to occur beyond the first great ordeal of singing to a full
house, a matter which was of itself enough to fill the day and to bring
even Margaret's solid nerves to a state of tension which she had not
anticipated. The bravest and coolest men have felt their hearts beating
faster just before facing cold steel or going into battle, and almost
all of them have felt something else too, which has nothing to do with
the heart, and which I can only compare to what many women suffer from
when there is going to be a thunderstorman indescribable physical
restlessness and bodily irritation which make it irksome to stay long
in one position and impossible to think consecutively and reasonably
about ordinary matters. There is no sport like fighting with real
weapons, with the certainty that life itself is depending at every
instant on one's own hand and eye. No other game of skill or hazard can
compare with that. It is chess, played for life and death, with an
element of chance which chess has not; your foot may slip, your eye may
be dazzled by a ray of light or a sudden reflection, or if you are not
a first-rate player you may miscalculate your distance by four inches,
which, in steel, is exactly enough; or if the weapons are fire-arms you
may aim a little too high or too low, or the other man may, and that
little will mean the difference between time and eternity.
But in the scale of emotion and excitement the theatre comes next to
fighting, whether you be the author of the play or opera to be given
for the first time before the greatest and most critical audience in
the world, or the actor, or actress, or singer, who has not yet been
heard or seen and of whom wonders are expected on the great night.
Margaret had not believed it true, though she had often heard it,
and now she was amazed at the strangeness of the physical sensation
which came over her and grew till it was almost intolerable. It was not
fright, for she longed for the moment of appearing; it was not ordinary
nervousness, for she felt that she was as steady as a rock, and now and
then, when she tried a few notes, to 'limber' her voice, it was steady,
too, and exactly what it always was. Yet she felt as if some
tremendous, unseen shape of strength had hold of her and were pressing
her to itself; and then again, she was sure that she was going to see
something unreal in her brightly-lighted, whitewashed dressing-room,
and that if she did see it, she should be frightened. But she saw
nothing; nothing but the dresses she was to wear, the handsome court
gown of the second act, the limp purple silk tights, the doublet, long
cloak and spurred boots of the third, all laid out carefully in their
newness, on the small sofa and the chairs. She saw Madame Bonanni's
cadaverous maid, too, standing motionless and ready if wanted, and
looking at her with a sort of inscrutable curiosity; for the retired
prima donna had insisted upon doing Margaret the signal service of
passing on to her one of the most accomplished theatrical dressers in
Europe. A woman who had made Madame Bonanni look like Juliet or Lucia
could make Margarita da Cordova look a goddess from Olympus; and she
did, from the theatrical point of view. But Margaret was not yet used
to seeing herself in the glass when her face was made up, beautifully
though it was done, and she kept away from the two mirrors as much as
she could while she slowly paced the well-worn carpet, moving her
shoulders now and then, and her arms, as if to make sure that she was
at ease in her stage clothes.
There was no one in the room but she and the maid. She had
particularly asked Schreiermeyer not to come and see her till the end
of the second act, and Madame Bonanni stayed away of her own accord,
rather to Margaret's surprise, but greatly to her relief. At the last
minute Mrs. Rushmore had refused to come at all, and had stayed in
France, in a state of excitement and almost terror which made her very
unlike herself, and would have rendered her a most disturbing
companion. She could not see it, she said. The daughter of her old
friend should always be welcome in her house, but Mrs. Rushmore could
not face the theatre, to see Margaret come on in the last scene booted
and spurred like a man. That was more than she could bear. You might
say what you liked, but she would never see Margaret on the stage,
never, never! And so she would keep her old illusions about the girl,
and it would be easier to welcome her when she came on a visit.
Margaret must have a chaperon of course, but she must hire one of those
respectable-looking stage mothers who are always to be had when young
actresses need them. It would have broken her old friend's heart to see
her daughter chaperoned by a 'stage mother,' but it could not be
helped. That much protection was necessary. She had burst into a very
painful fit of crying when Margaret had left her, and had really
suffered more than at any time since the death of the departed Mr.
Logotheti had given no sign of life, and Margaret had neither seen
him nor heard from him since the eventful day when she had last spoken
to him in his own house. He would not even come this evening, she was
sure. He had either given her up altogether, or he had amused himself
by obeying her to the letter; in which case he would not present
himself till after the real performance, which was to take place on the
next day but one. He might have written a note, or sent a telegram, she
thought; but on the whole she cared very little. If she thought of any
one but herself at that moment she thought of Lushington and wished she
might see him again between the acts. He had called in the afternoon,
and had been very quiet and sympathetic. She had feared that even at
the last he would make a scene and entreat her to change her mind, and
give up the idea of the stage, at any cost. But instead, he now seemed
resigned to her future career, talked cheerfully and predicted
She had received very many letters and telegrams from other friends,
and some of them lay in a heap on the dressing-table. The greater part
were from people who had known her at Mrs. Rushmore's, and who did not
look upon her attempt as anything more than the caprice of a gifted
amateur. Society always finds it hard to believe that one of its own
can leave it and turn professional.
It was like Margaret to prefer solitude just then. People who trust
themselves would generally rather be alone just before a great event in
their lives, and Margaret trusted herself a good deal more than she
trusted any one else. Nevertheless, she began to feel that unless
something happened soon, the nameless, indescribable pressure she felt
would become unbearable, and as she walked the shabby carpet, her step
accented itself to a little tramp, like a marching step. The cadaverous
maid looked on with curiosity and said nothing. In her long career she
had never dressed a débutante, and she had heard that
débutantes sometimes behaved oddly before going on. Besides, she
knew something which Margaret did not know; for when she had come down
to the theatre in the morning with the luggage, she had met Madame
Bonanni in the dressing-room, and her late mistress had given her a
piece of information and some very precise instructions.
A moment came when Margaret felt that she could no longer bear the
close atmosphere of the small room and the curious eyes of the
cadaverous maid, watching her as she walked up and down. Madame Bonanni
would have made the woman go out or even stand with her face to the
wall, but Margaret had not yet lost that aristocratic sense of
consideration for servants which Plato ascribes to pride. Instead of
turning the maid out, Margaret suddenly opened the door wide and stood
on the threshold, breathing with relief the not very sweet air that
came down the corridor from the stage. It came laden with a compound
odour of ropes, dusty scenery, mouldy flour paste and cotton velvet
furniture, the whole very hot and far from aromatic, but at that moment
as refreshing as a sea-breeze to the impatient singer. The smell had
already acquired associations for her during the long weeks of
rehearsal, and she liked it; for it meant the stage, and music, and the
sound of her own beautiful voice, high and clear above the rest.
Lushington might think of her when spring violets were near him,
Logotheti might associate with her the intoxicating perfumes of the
East, but Margaret's favourite scent was already that strange compound
of smells which meets the nostrils nowhere in the world except behind
the scenes. I have often wondered why the strong draught that comes
from the back when the curtain is up does not blow the smell into the
house, to the great annoyance of the audience; but it does not.
Perhaps, like everything else behind the curtain, it is not real, after
all; or perhaps it has a very high specific gravity, and would stay
behind even if all the air passed out, preferring the vacuum which
nature abhorsnothing would seem too absurd to account for the
It did not occur to Margaret to wonder that there should be a
draught at all, at the end of a closed corridor. She stood on the
threshold, resting one hand on the door-post and looking towards the
stage. In the distance she could see it, somewhere in the neighbourhood
of what is technically described as L 3, where a group of courtiers and
court ladies were standing ready to go on in the Introduction. The
border lights were up already, Margaret could see that, and just then
she heard the warning signal to be ready to raise the curtain, and the
first distant notes of the orchestra reached her ears. She breathed a
sigh of relief. The long-wished-for ordeal had begun at last, and the
tension of her nerves relaxed. The sensation was strangely delicious
and quite new to her; the quiet and solitude of the dressing-room would
not be disagreeable now, nor the steady gaze of the sallow-faced maid.
She turned half round to step back, and in so doing faced the end of
the corridor. She had not the slightest idea of what was beyond the
door she saw there, and which she had not noticed before, but she saw
that it was now not quite shut, and that it moved slowly on its hinges
as if it had been more open until that moment. So far as she knew there
was no reason why it should be closed, but a little natural curiosity
moved her to go and see what there was on the other side of it. It was
not three steps from her own door, yet when she reached it, it was
tightly closed, and when she took hold of the handle of the latch it
resisted the effort she made to open it, though she had not heard the
key turn in the lock. This seemed strange, but being under the
influence of a much stronger excitement than she herself realised, she
turned back without thinking seriously of it, being willing to believe
that her sight had deceived her, where the light was so dim, and that
the door had not been really open at all. Her eyes met those of the
maid, who had evidently come to the threshold of the dressing-room to
'I thought that door was open,' she said, as if in answer to a
The woman said nothing, but passed her quickly and went and tried
the lock herself. Though she was so very thin, she was strong, as bony
people often are. She tried the handle with both hands, turned it,
though with much difficulty, and pulled suddenly with all her might.
The door yielded a little at firstnot more than half an inch
perhapsbut then it closed itself again with a strength far greater
than she could resist. She shrugged her shoulders as she desisted and
'It is a disused door,' she said. 'It will not open.'
Her tone was so indifferent that Margaret paid little attention to
the words, and turned away to listen to the music which reached her
from the stage. The curtain was up now, and the courtiers were dancing,
up stage; she could see a few of them pass and repass; then she heard
the little round of applause that greeted the Duke's appearance as he
went forward to begin his scene with Borsa. He had many friends in the
invited audience, and was moreover one of the popular light tenors of
the day. Doubtless, the elderly woman of the world who worshipped him
was there in her glory, in a stage-box, ready to split her gloves when
he should sing 'La donna è mobile.' Margaret knew that the wholesale
upholsterer who admired the contralto was not far off, for she had seen
a man bringing in flowers for her, and no one else would have sent them
to her for a mere dress rehearsal.
Margaret was so well used to the opera that the time passed quickly
after the Duke had begun his scene.
The silent maid approached her with a hare's-foot and a saucer, to
put a finishing touch on her face, to which she submitted with
indifference, listening all the time to the music that came to her
through the open door. There was time yet, but she was not impatient
any more; the opera had begun and she was a part of it already, before
she had set her foot upon the stage, before she had seen, for the first
time, the full house before her, instead of the yawning emptiness. It
would be dark when she went on, for Gilda's first entrance is in the
night scene in the courtyard, but it would not be empty, and perhaps it
would not be silent either. It was quite likely that a little
encouraging applause for the young débutante would be heard.
Margaret smiled to herself as she thought of that. She would make
them applaud her in real earnest before the curtain went down, not by
way of good-natured encouragement, but whether they would or not. She
was very sure of herself, and the cadaverous maid watched her with
curiosity and admiration, wondering very much whether such pride might
not go before a fall, and end in a violent stage fright. But then, the
object of the dress rehearsal was to guard against the consequences of
such a misfortune. If Margaret could not sing a note at first, it would
not matter to-day, but it would certainly matter a good deal the day
When the end of the Introduction was near, Margaret turned back into
the room and sat down before the toilet-table to wait. She heard her
maid shut the door, and the loud music of the full orchestra and chorus
immediately sounded very faint and far away. When she looked round, she
saw that the maid had gone out and that she was quite alone.
In ten minutes the scenery would be changed; five minutes after
that, and her career would have definitely begun. She folded her
whitened hands, leaned back thoughtfully and looked into her own eyes
reflected in the mirror. The world knows very little about the great
moments in artists' lives. It sees the young prima donna step upon the
stage for the first time, smiling in the paint that perhaps hides her
deadly pallor. She is so pretty, so fresh, so ready to sing! Perhaps
she looks even beautiful; at all events, she is radiant, and looks
perfectly happy. The world easily fancies that she has just left her
nearest and dearest, her mother, her sisters, in the flies; that they
have come with her to the boundary of the Play-King's Kingdom, and are
waiting to lead her back to real life when she shall have finished her
part in the pretty illusion.
The reality is different. Sometimes it is a sad and poor reality,
rarely it is tragic; most often it is sordid, uninteresting,
matter-of-fact, possibly vulgar; it is almost surely very much simpler
than romantic people would wish it to be. As likely as not, the young
prima donna is all alone just before going on, as Margaret was, looking
at herself in the glassthis last, for one thing, is a certainty; and
she is either badly frightened or very calm, for there is no such thing
as being 'only a little' frightened the first time. That condition
sometimes comes afterwards and may last through life. But pity those
whose courage fails them the first time, for there is no more awful
sensation for a man or woman in perfect health than to stand alone
before a great audience, and suddenly to forget words, music,
everything, and to see the faces of the people in the house turned
upside down, and the chandelier swinging round like a wind mill while
all the other lights tumble into it, and to notice with horror that the
big stage is pitching and rolling like the most miserable little
steamer that ever went to sea; and to feel that if one cannot remember
one's part, one's head will certainly fly off at the neck and join the
hideous dance of jumbled heads and lights and stalls and boxes in the
Margaret, however, deserved no pity on that afternoon, for she was
not in the least afraid of anything, except that the courtiers who were
to carry her off at the end of her first scene might be clumsy, or that
the sack in the last act would be dusty inside and make her sneeze. But
as for that, she was willing that the ending should be a failure, as
Madame Bonanni said it must be, for she did not mean to do it again if
she could possibly help it.
She was not afraid, but she was not so very calm as she fancied she
was, for afterwards, even on that very evening, she found it impossible
to remember anything that happened from the moment when the sallow maid
entered the dressing-room again, closely followed by the call-boy, who
knocked on the open door and spoke her stage name, until she found
herself well out on the stage, in Rigoletto's arms, uttering the
girlish cry which begins Gilda's part. The three notes, not very high,
not very loud, were drowned in the applause that roared at her from the
It was so loud, so unexpected, that she was startled for a moment,
and remained with one arm on the barytone's shoulder looking rather
shyly across the lowered footlights and over the director's head. He
had already laid down his baton to wait.
'You must acknowledge that, and I must begin over again,' said the
barytone, so loud that Margaret fancied every one must hear him.
He moved back a little when he had spoken and left her in the middle
of the stage. She drew herself up, bent her head, smiled, and made a
little courtesy, all as naturally as if she had never done anything
else. Thereupon the clapping grew louder for one instant, and then
ceased as suddenly as it had begun. The director raised his baton and
looked at her, Rigoletto came forward once more calling to her, and she
fell into his arms again with her little cry. There was no sound from
the house now, and the silence was so intense that she could easily
fancy herself at an ordinary rehearsal, with only a dozen or fifteen
people looking on out of the darkness.
But she was thinking of nothing now. She was out of the world, in
the Play-King's palace, herself a part, and a principal part, of an
illusion, an imaginary personage in one of the dreams that great old
Verdi had dreamt long ago, in his early manhood. Her lips parted and
her matchless voice floated out of its own accord, filling the darkened
air; she moved, but she did not know it, though every motion had been
studied for weeks; she sung as few have ever sung, but it was to her as
if some one else were singing while she listened and made no effort.
The duet is long, as Margaret had often thought when studying it,
but now she was almost startled because it seemed to her so soon that
she found herself once more embracing Rigoletto and uttering a very
high note at the same time. Very vaguely she wondered whether the
far-off person who had been singing for her had not left out something,
and if so, why there had been no hitch. Then came the thunder of
applause again, not in greeting now, but in praise of her, long-drawn,
tremendous, rising and bursting and falling, like the breakers on an
'Brava! brava!' yelled Rigoletto in her ear; but she could hardly
hear him for the noise.
She pressed his hand almost affectionately as she courtesied to the
audience. If she could have thought at all, she would have remembered
how Madame Bonanni had once told her that in moments of great success
everybody embraces everybody else on the stage. But she could not think
of anything. She was not frightened, but she was dazed; she felt the
tide of triumph rising round her heart, and upwards towards her throat,
like something real that was going to choke her with delight. The time
while she had been singing had seemed short; the seconds during which
the applause lasted seemed very long, but the roar sounded sweeter than
anything had ever sounded to her before that day.
It ceased presently, and Margaret heard from the house that
deep-drawn breath just after the applause ended, which tells that an
audience is in haste for more and is anticipating interest or pleasure.
The conductor's baton rose again and Margaret sang her little scene
with the maid, and the few bars of soliloquy that follow, and presently
she was launched in the great duet with the Duke, who had stolen
forward to throw himself and his high note at her feet with such an air
of real devotion, that the elderly woman of the world who admired him
felt herself turning green with jealousy in the gloom of her box, and
almost cried out at him.
He took his full share of the tremendous applause that broke out at
the end, almost before the lovers had sung the last note of their
parts, but the public made it clear enough that most of it was for
Margaret, by yelling out, 'Brava, la Cordova!' again and again. The
tenor was led off through the house by the maid at last, and Margaret
was left to sing 'Caro nome' alone. Whatever may be said of
Rigoletto as a compositionand out of Italy it was looked upon as
a failure at firstit is certainly an opera which of all others gives
a lyric soprano a chance of showing what she can do at her first
By this time Margaret was beyond the possibility of failure; she had
at first sung almost unconsciously, under the influence of a glorious
excitement like a beautiful dream, but she was now thoroughly aware of
what she was doing and sang the intricate music of the aria with a
judgment, a discrimination and a perfectly controlled taste which
appealed to the real critics much more than all that had gone before.
But the applause, though loud, was short, and hardly delayed Margaret's
exit ten seconds. A moment later she was seen on the terrace with her
Madame Bonanni had listened with profound attention to every note
that Margaret sang. She was quietly dressed in a costume of very dark
stuff, she wore a veil, and few people would have recognised the dark,
pale face of the middle-aged woman now that it was no longer painted.
She leaned back in her box alone, watching the stage and calling up a
vision of herself, from long ago, singing for the first time in the
same house. For she had made her début in that very theatre, as
many great singers have done. It was all changed, the house, the
decorations, the stage entrance, but those same walls were standing
which had echoed to her young voice, the same roof was overhead, and
all her artist's lifetime was gone by.
As Margaret disappeared at last, softly repeating her lover's name,
while the conspirators began to fill the stage, the door of the box
opened quietly, and Lushington came and sat down close behind his
'Well?' she said, only half turning her head, for she knew it was
he. 'What do you think?'
'You know what I think, mother,' he answered.
'You did not want her to do it.'
'I've changed my mind,' said Lushington. 'It's the real thing. It
would be a sin to keep it off the stage.'
Madame Bonanni nodded thoughtfully, but said nothing. A knock was
heard at the door of the box. Lushington got up and opened, and the
dark figure of the cadaverous maid appeared in the dim light. Before
she had spoken, Madame Bonanni was close to her.
'They are in the chorus,' said the maid in a low voice, 'and there
is some one behind the door, waiting. I think it will be now.'
That was all Lushington heard, but it was quite enough to awaken his
curiosity. Who was in the chorus? Behind which door was some one
waiting? What was to happen 'now'?
Madame Bonanni reflected a moment before she answered.
'They won't try it now,' she said, at last, very confidently.
The maid shrugged her thin shoulders, as if to say that she declined
to take any responsibility in the matter, and did not otherwise care
'Do exactly as I told you,' Madame Bonanni said. 'If anything goes
wrong, it will be my fault, not yours.'
'Very good, Madame,' answered the maid.
She went away, and Madame Bonanni returned to her seat in the front
of the box, without any apparent intention of explaining matters to
'What is happening?' he asked after a few moments. 'Can I be of any
'Not yet,' answered his mother. 'But you may be, by and by. I shall
want you to take a message to her.'
'To Miss Donne? When?'
'Have you ever been behind in this theatre? Do you know your way
'Yes. What am I to do?'
Madame Bonanni did not answer at once. She was scrutinising the
faces of the courtiers on the darkened stage, and wishing very much
that there were more light.
'Schreiermeyer is doing things handsomely,' Lushington observed. 'He
has really given us a good allowance of conspirators.'
'There are four more than usual,' said Madame Bonanni, who had
counted the chorus.
'They make a very good show,' Lushington observed indifferently.
'But I did not think they made much noise in the Introduction, when
they were expected to.'
'Perhaps,' suggested Madame Bonanni, 'the four supernumeraries are
dummies, put on to fill up.'
Just then the chorus was explaining at great length, as choruses in
operas often do, that it was absolutely necessary not to make the least
noise, while Rigoletto stood at the foot of the ladder, pretending
neither to hear them nor to know, in the supposed total darkness, that
his eyes were bandaged.
'Have you seen Logotheti?' asked Lushington.
'Not yet, but I shall certainly see him before it's over. I'm sure
that he is somewhere in the house.'
'He came over from Paris in his motor car,' Lushington said.
'I know he did.'
There was no reason why she should not know that Logotheti had come
in his car, but Lushington thought she seemed annoyed that the words
should have slipped out. Her eyes were still fixed intently on the
She rose to her feet suddenly, as if she had seen something that
'Wait for me!' she said almost sharply, as she passed her son.
She was gone in an instant, and Lushington leaned back in his seat,
indifferent to what was going on, since Margaret had disappeared from
the stage. As for his mother's unexpected departure, he never was
surprised at anything she did, and whatever she did, she generally did
without warning, with a rush, as if some one's life depended on it. He
fancied that her practised eye had noticed something that did not
please her in the stage management, and that she had hurried away to
give her opinion.
But she had only gone behind to meet Margaret as she was carried off
the stage with a handkerchief tied over her mouth. She knew very nearly
at what point to wait, and the four big men in costume who came off
almost at a run, carrying Margaret between them, nearly ran into Madame
Bonanni, whom they certainly did not expect to find there.
When she was in the way, in a narrow place, it was quite hopeless to
try and pass her. The four men, still carrying Margaret, stopped, but
looked bewildered, as if they did not know what to do, and did not set
Madame Bonanni sprang at them and almost took her bodily from their
arms, tearing the handkerchief from her mouth just in time to let her
utter the cry for help which is heard from behind the scenes. It was
answered instantly by the courtiers shout of triumph, in which the four
men who had carried off Gilda did not join. Margaret gave one more cry,
and instantly Madame Bonanni led her quickly away towards her
dressing-room, a little shaken and in a very bad temper with the men
who had carried her.
'I knew they would be clumsy!' she said.
'So did I,' answered her friend. 'That is why I came round to meet
They entered the dim corridor together, and an instant later they
both heard the sharp click of a door hastily closed at the other end.
It was not the door of Margaret's dressing-room, for that was wide open
and the light from within fell across the dark paved floor, nor was it
the door of the contralto's room, for that was ajar when they passed
it. She had not come in to dress yet.
'That door does not shut well,' Margaret said, indifferently.
'No,' answered Madame Bonanni, in a rather preoccupied tone. 'Where
is your maid?'
The cadaverous maid came up very quickly from behind, overtaking
them with Margaret's grey linen duster.
'They did not carry Mademoiselle out at the usual fly,' she said. 'I
was waiting there.'
'They were abominably clumsy,' Margaret said, still very much
annoyed. 'They almost hurt me, and somebody had the impertinence to
double-knot the handkerchief after I had arranged it! I'll send for
Schreiermeyer at once, I think! If I hadn't solid nerves a thing like
that might ruin my début!'
The maid smiled discreetly. The dress rehearsal for Margaret's
début was not half over yet, but she had already the dominating
tone of the successful prima donna, and talked of sending at once for
the redoubtable manager, as if she were talking about scolding the
call-boy. And the maid knew very well that if sent for Schreiermeyer
would come and behave with relative meekness, because he had a
prospective share in the fortune which was in the Cordova's throat.
But Madame Bonanni was in favour of temporising.
'Don't send for him, my dear,' she said. 'Getting angry is very bad
for the voice, and your duet with Rigoletto in the next act is always
They were in the dressing-room now, all three women, and the door
'Is it all right?' Margaret asked, sitting down and looking into the
glass. 'Am I doing well?'
'You don't need me to tell you that! You are magnificent! Divine! No
one ever began so well as you, not even I, my dear, not even I myself!'
This was said with great emphasis. Nothing, perhaps, could have
surprised Madame Bonanni more than that any one should sing better at
the beginning than she had sung herself; but having once admitted the
fact she was quite willing that Margaret should know it, and be made
'You're the best friend that ever was!' cried Margaret, springing
up; and for the first time in their acquaintance she threw her arms
round the elder woman's neck and kissed herhitherto the attack, if I
may call it so, had always come from Madame Bonanni, and had been
sustained by Margaret.
'Yes,' said Madame Bonanni, 'I'm your best friend now, but in a
couple of days you will have your choice of the whole world! Now dress,
for I'm going away, and though it's only a rehearsal, it's of no use to
keep people waiting.'
Margaret looked at her and for the first time realised the change in
her appearance, the quiet colours of her dress, the absence of paint on
her cheeks, the moderation of the hat. Yet on that very morning
Margaret had seen her still in all her glory when she had arrived from
One woman always knows when another notices her dress. Women have a
sixth sense for clothes.
'Yes, my dear,' Madame Bonanni said, as soon as she was aware that
Margaret had seen the change, 'I did not wish to come to your début
looking like an advertisement of my former greatness, so I put on this.
Tom likes it. He thinks that I look almost like a human being in it!'
'That's complimentary of him!' laughed Margaret.
'Oh, he wouldn't say such a thing, but I see it is just what he
thinks. Perhaps I'll send him to you with a message, by and by, before
you get into your sack, while the storm is going on. If I do, it will
be because it s very important, and whatever he says comes directly
'Very well,' Margaret said quietly. 'I shall always take your
advice, though I hate that last scene.'
'I'm beginning to think that it may be more effective than we
thought,' answered Madame Bonanni, with a little laugh. 'Good-bye, my
'Won't you come and dine with me afterwards?' asked Margaret, who
had begun to change her dress. 'There will only be Madame De Rosa. You
know she could not get here in time for the rehearsal, but she is
coming before nine o'clock.'
'No, dear. I cannot dine with you to-night. I've made an engagement
I can't break. But do you mean to say that anything could keep De Rosa
in Paris this afternoon?' Madame Bonanni was very much surprised, for
she knew that the excellent teacher almost worshipped her pupil.
'Yes,' said Margaret. 'She wrote me that Monsieur Logotheti had some
papers for her to sign to-day before a notary, and that somehow if she
did not stay and sign them she would lose most of what she has.'
'That's ingenious!' exclaimed Madame Bonanni, with a laugh.
'Ingenious?' Margaret did not understand. 'Do you mean that Madame
De Rosa has invented the story?'
'No, no!' cried the other. 'I mean it was ingenious of fate, you
knowto make such a thing happen just to-day.'
'Oh, very!' assented Margaret carelessly, and rather wishing that
Madame Bonanni would go away, for though she was turning into a
professional artist at an almost alarming rate, she was not yet
hardened in regard to little things and preferred to be alone with her
maid while she was dressing.
But Madame Bonanni had no intention of staying, and now went away
rather abruptly, after nodding to her old maid, unseen by Margaret, as
if there were some understanding between them, for the woman answered
the signal with an unmistakable look of intelligence.
In the corridor Madame Bonanni met the contralto taking a temporary
leave of the wholesale upholsterer at the door of her dressing-room, a
black-browed, bony young Italian woman with the face of a Medea, whose
boast it was that with her voice and figure she could pass for a man
when she pleased.
Madame Bonanni greeted her and stopped a moment.
'Please do not think I have only just come to the theatre,' said the
Italian. 'I have been listening to her in the house, though I have
heard her so often at rehearsals.'
'Well?' asked the elder woman. 'What do you think of it?'
'It is the voice of an angeland then, she is handsome, too!
'She is a statue,' answered the contralto in a tone of mingled pity
and contempt. 'She has no heart.'
'They say that of most lyric sopranos,' laughed Madame Bonanni.
'I never heard it said of you! You have a heart as big as the
world!' The Italian made a circle of her two arms, to convey an idea of
the size of the prima donna's heart, while the wholesale upholsterer,
who had a good eye, compared the measurement with that lady's waist.
'You bring the tears to my eyes when you sing,' continued the
contralto, 'but Cordova is different. She only makes me hate her
because she has such a splendid voice!'
'Don't hate her, my dear,' said Madame Bonanni gently. 'She's a
friend of mine. And as for the heart, child, it's like a loaf of bread!
You must break it to get anything out of it, and if you never break it
at all it dries up into a sort of little wooden cannon-ball! Cordova
will break hers, some day, and then you will all say that she is a
Thereupon Madame Bonanni kissed the contralto affectionately, as she
kissed most people, nodded and smiled to the wholesale upholsterer, and
went on her way to cross the stage and get back to her box.
She found Lushington there when she opened the door, looking as if
he had not moved since she had left him. He rose as she entered, and
then sat down beside her.
'Have you any money with you?' she asked, suddenly.
'Yes. How much do you want?'
'I don't want any for myself. Tom, do something for me. Go out and
buy the biggest woman's cloak you can find. The shops are all open
still. Get something that will come down to my feet, and cover me up
entirely. We are nearly of the same height, and you can measure it on
'All right,' said Lushington, who was well used to his mother's
'And, Tom,' she called, as he was going to the door, 'get a closed
carriage and bring it to the stage entrance when you come back. And be
quick, my darling child! You must be back in half-an-hour, or you won't
hear the duet.'
'It won't take half an hour to buy a cloak,' answered Lushington.
'Oh, I forgotit must have a hood that will quite cover my headI
mean without my hat, of course!'
'Very wella big hood. I understand. Anything else?'
'No. Now run, sweet child!'
Lushington went out to do the errand, and Madame Bonanni drew back
into the shadow of the box, for the lights were up in the house between
the acts. She sat quite still, leaning forward and resting her chin on
her hand, and her elbow on her knee, thinking.
There was a knock at the door; she sprang to her feet and opened,
and found a shabby woman, who looked like a rather slatternly servant,
standing outside with the box-opener, who had shown her where to find
the prima donna. The shabby woman gave her a dingy piece of paper
folded and addressed hurriedly in pencil, in Logotheti's familiar
handwriting. She spread out the half-sheet and read the contents twice
over, looked hard at the messenger and then looked at the note again.
'Who gave you this? Who sent you?' she asked.
'You are Madame Bonanni, are you not?' inquired the woman, instead
'Of course I am! I want to know who sent you to me.'
'The note is for you, Madame, is it not?' asked the woman, by way of
'Yes, certainly! Can't you answer my question?' Madame Bonanni was
beginning to be angry.
'I will take the answer to the note, if there is one,' answered the
Madame Bonanni was on the point of flying into a rage, but she
apparently thought better of it. The contents of the note might be true
after all. She read it again.
Dear lady (it said), I am the victim of the most absurd and
annoying mistake. I have been arrested for Schirmer, the
man who murdered his mother-in-law and escaped from Paris
yesterday. They will not let me communicate with any one till
tomorrow morning and I have had great trouble in getting this
to you. For heaven's sake bring Schreiermeyer and anybody else
can find, to identify me, as soon as possible. I am locked up
cell in the police station of the Third Arrondissement.
Madame Bonanni looked at the woman again.
'Did you see the gentleman?' she asked.
'The gentleman who is in prison!'
'What prison?' asked the woman with dogged stupidity.
'You re a perfect idiot!' cried Madame Bonanni, and she slammed the
door of the box in the woman's face, and bolted it inside.
She sat down and read the note a fourth time. There was no doubt as
to its being really from Logotheti. She laughed to herself.
'More ingenious than ever!' she said, half aloud.
A timid knock at the door of the box. She rose with evident
annoyance, and opened again, to meet the respectable old box-opener, a
grey-haired woman of fifty-five.
'Please, Madame, is the woman to go away? She seems to be waiting
'Tell her to go to all the devils!' answered Madame Bonanni,
furious. 'Nodon't!' she cried. 'Where is she? Come here, you!' she
called, seeing the woman at a little distance. 'Do you know what you
are doing? You are trying to help Schirmer, the murderer, to escape. If
you are not careful you will be in prison yourself before morning! That
is the answer! Now go, and take care that you are not caught!'
The woman, who was certainly not over-intelligent, stared hard at
Madame Bonanni for a moment, and then turned, with a cry of terror, and
fled along the circular passage.
'You should not let in such suspicious-looking people,' said Madame
Bonanni to the box-opener in a severe tone.
The poor soul began an apology, but Madame Bonanni did not stop to
listen, and entered the box again, shutting the door behind her.
The curtain went up before Lushington came back, but the prima donna
did not look at the stage and scarcely heard the tenor's lament, the
chorus and the rest. She seemed quite lost in her thoughts. Then
Lushington appeared with a big dark cloak on his arm.
'Will this do, mother?' he asked.
She stood up and made him put it over her. It had a hood, as she had
wished, which quite covered her head and would cover her face, too, if
she wished not to be recognised.
'It's just what I wanted,' she said. 'Hang it on the hook by the
door, and sit down. Gilda will be on in a minute.'
Lushington obeyed, and if he wondered a little at first why his
mother should want a big cloak on a suffocating evening in July, he
soon forgot all about it in listening to Margaret's duet with
Rigoletto. His mother sat perfectly motionless in her seat, her eyes
closed, following every note.
At the end of the short act, the applause became almost riotous, and
if Margaret had appeared before the curtain she would have had an
ovation. But in the first place, it was only a rehearsal, after all,
and secondly there was no one to call her back after she had gone to
her dressing-room to dress for the last act. She heard the distant
roar, however, and felt the tide of triumph rising still higher round
her heart. If she had been used to her cadaverous maid, too, she would
have seen that the woman's manner was growing more deferential each
time she saw her. Success was certain, now, a great and memorable
success, which would be proclaimed throughout the world in a very few
days. The new star was rising fast, and it was the sallow-faced maid's
business to serve stars and no others.
For the first scene of the last act Gilda puts on a gown over her
man's riding-dress; and when Rigoletto sends her off, she has only to
drop the skirt, draw on the long boots and throw her riding-cloak round
her to come on for the last scene. Of course the prima donna is obliged
to come back to her dressing-room to make even this slight change.
Madame Bonanni was speaking earnestly to Lushington in an undertone
during the interval before the last act, and as he listened to what she
said his face became very grave, and his lips set themselves together
in a look which his mother knew well enough.
The act proceeded, and Margaret's complete triumph became more and
more a matter of certainty. She sang with infinite grace and tenderness
that part in the quartet which is intended to express the operatic
broken heart, while the Duke, the professional murderer, and Maddalena
are laughing and talking inside the inn. That sort of thing does not
appeal much to our modern taste, but Margaret did what she could to
make it touching, and was rewarded with round upon round of applause.
Lushington rose quietly at this point, slipped on his thin overcoat,
took his hat and the big cloak he had bought, nodded to his mother and
left the box. A few moments later she rose and followed him.
In due time Margaret reappeared in her man's dress, but almost
completely wrapped in the traditional riding mantle. Rigoletto is off
when Gilda comes on alone at this point, outside the inn, and the stage
gradually darkens while the storm rises. When the trio is over and
Gilda enters the ruined inn, the darkness is such, even behind the
scenes, that one may easily lose one s way and it is hard to recognise
Margaret disappeared, and hurried off, expecting to meet her maid
with the sack ready for the final scene. To her surprise a man was
standing waiting for her. She could not see his face at all, but she
knew it was Lushington who whispered in her ear as he wrapped her in
the big cloak he carried. He spoke fast and decidedly.
'That is why the door at the end of the corridor is open to-night,'
he concluded. 'I give you my word that it s true. Now come with me.'
Margaret had told Lushington not very long ago that he always acted
like a gentleman and sometimes like a hero, and she had meant it. After
all, the opera was over now, and it was only a rehearsal. If there was
no sack scene, no one would be surprised, and there was no time to
hesitate not an instant.
She slipped her arm through Lushington's, and drawing the hood
almost over her eyes with her free hand and the cloak completely round
her, she went where he led her. Certainly in all the history of the
opera no prima donna ever left the stage and the theatre in such a
hurry after her first appearance.
One minute had hardly elapsed in all after she had disappeared into
the ruined inn, before she found herself driving at a smart pace in a
closed carriage, with Lushington sitting bolt upright beside her like a
policeman in charge of his prisoner. It was not yet quite dark when the
brougham stopped at the door of Margaret's hotel, and the porter who
opened the carriage looked curiously at her riding boot and spurred
heel as she got out under the covered way. She and Lushington had not
exchanged a word during the short drive.
He went up in the lift with her and saw her to the door of her
apartment. Then he stood still, with his hat off, holding out his hand
to say good-bye.
'No,' said Margaret, 'come in. I don't care what the people think!'
He followed her into her sitting-room, and she shut the door, and
turned up the electric light. When he saw her standing in the full
glare of the lamps, she had thrown back her hood; she wore a wig with
short tangled hair as part of her man's disguise, and her face was
heavily powdered over the paint in order to produce the ghastly pallor
which indicates a broken heart on the stage. The heavily-blackened
lashes made her eyes seem very dark, while her lips were still a deep
crimson. She held her head high, and a little thrown back, and there
was something wild and almost fantastic about her looks as she stood
there, that made Lushington think of one of Hoffmann's tales. She held
out her whitened hand to him; and when he took it he felt the chalk on
it, and it was no longer to him the hand of Margaret Donne, but the
hand of the Cordova, the great soprano.
'It's of no use,' she said. 'Something always brings us together. I
believe it's our fate. Thank you for what you've just done. Thank
youTom, with all my heart!'
And suddenly the voice was Margaret's, and rang true and kind. For
had he not saved her, and her career, too, perhaps? She could not but
be grateful, and forget her other triumphant self for a moment. There
was no knowing where that mad Greek might have taken her if she had
gone near the door in the corridor again; it would have been somewhere
out of Europe, to some lawless Eastern country whence she could never
have got back to civilisation again.
'You must thank my mother,' Lushington answered quietly. 'It was she
who found out the danger and told me what to do. But I'm glad you're
safe from that brute!'
He pressed the handsome, chalked hand in his own and then to his
lips when he had spoken, in a very un-English way; for, after all, he
was the son of Madame Bonanni, the French singer, and only half an
* * * * *
The last thing Madame Bonanni remembered, before a strangely sweet
and delicious perfume had overpowered her senses, was that she had
congratulated herself on not having believed that Logotheti was really
in prison, arrested by a mistake. How hugely ingenious he had been, she
thought, in trying to get poor Margaret's best friends out of the way!
But at that point, while she felt herself being carried along in the
sack as swiftly and lightly as if she had been a mere child, she
suddenly fell asleep.
She never had any idea how long she was unconscious, but she
afterwards calculated that it must have been between twenty minutes and
half an hour, and she came to herself just as she felt that she was
being laid in a comfortable position on a luxuriously cushioned sofa.
She heard heavy retreating footsteps, and then she felt that a hand
was undoing the mouth of the sack above her head.
'Dearest lady,' said a deep voice, with a sort of oily, anticipative
gentleness in it, 'can you forgive me my little stratagem?'
The voice spoke very softly, as if the speaker were not at all sure
that she was awake; but when she heard it, Madame Bonanni started, for
it was certainly not the voice of Constantine Logotheti, though it was
strangely familiar to her.
The sack was drawn down from her face quickly and skilfully. At the
same time some slight sound from the door of the room made the man look
In the softly lighted room, against the pale silk hangings, Madame
Bonanni saw a tremendous profile over a huge fair beard that was half
grey, and one large and rather watery blue eye behind a single eyeglass
with a broad black riband. Before the possessor of these features
turned to look at her, she uttered a loud exclamation of amazement.
Logotheti was really in prison, after all.
Instantly the watery blue eyes met her own. Then the eyeglass
dropped from its place, the jaw fell, with a wag of the fair beard, and
a look of stony astonishment and blank disappointment came into all the
great features, while Madame Bonanni broke into a peal of perfectly
And with the big-hearted woman's laugh ends the first part of this