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The Genius by Theodore Dreiser

 

BOOK I. YOUTH

BOOK II. THE STRUGGLE

BOOK III. THE REVOLT

L'ENVOI

 

THE “GENIUS”

BY THEODORE DREISER

SISTER CARRIE

JENNIE GERHARDT

A TRAVELER AT FORTY

******

A TRILOGY OF DESIRE

  1. THE FINANCIER

  2. THE TITAN

  3. * * * * * * * *

THE

“GENIUS”

BY

THEODORE DREISER

NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY

LONDON: JOHN LANE, THE BODLEY HEAD

TORONTO: S. B. GUNDY MCMXV

1915. By JOHN LANE COMPANY

Press of J. J. Little &Ives Company New York, U. S. A.

“Eugene Witla, wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honour her, and keep her in sickness and in health; and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?”

“I will.”

BOOK I. YOUTH

THE “GENIUS”

CHAPTER I

This story has its beginnings in the town of Alexandria, Illinois, between 1884 and 1889, at the time when the place had a population of somewhere near ten thousand. There was about it just enough of the air of a city to relieve it of the sense of rural life. It had one street-car line, a theatre,—or rather, an opera house, so-called (why no one might say, for no opera was ever performed there)—two railroads, with their stations, and a business district, composed of four brisk sides to a public square. In the square were the county court-house and four newspapers. These two morning and two evening papers made the population fairly aware of the fact that life was full of issues, local and national, and that there were many interesting and varied things to do. On the edge of town, several lakes and a pretty stream—perhaps Alexandria's most pleasant feature—gave it an atmosphere not unakin to that of a moderate-priced summer resort. Architecturally the town was not new. It was mostly built of wood, as all American towns were at this time, but laid out prettily in some sections, with houses that sat back in great yards, far from the streets, with flower beds, brick walks, and green trees as concomitants of a comfortable home life. Alexandria was a city of young Americans. Its spirit was young. Life was all before almost everybody. It was really good to be alive.

In one part of this city there lived a family which in its character and composition might well have been considered typically American and middle western. It was not by any means poor—or, at least, did not consider itself so; it was in no sense rich. Thomas Jefferson Witla, the father, was a sewing machine agent with the general agency in that county of one of the best known and best selling machines made. From each twenty, thirty-five or sixty-dollar machine which he sold, he took a profit of thirty-five per cent. The sale of machines was not great, but it was enough to yield him nearly two thousand dollars a year; and on that he had managed to buy a house and lot, to furnish it comfortably, to send his children to school, and to maintain a local store on the public square where the latest styles of machines were displayed. He also took old machines of other makes in exchange, allowing ten to fifteen dollars on the purchase price of a new machine. He also repaired machines,—and with that peculiar energy of the American mind, he tried to do a little insurance business in addition. His first idea was that his son, Eugene Tennyson Witla, might take charge of this latter work, once he became old enough and the insurance trade had developed sufficiently. He did not know what his son might turn out to be, but it was always well to have an anchor to windward.

He was a quick, wiry, active man of no great stature, sandy-haired, with blue eyes with noticeable eye-brows, an eagle nose, and a rather radiant and ingratiating smile. Service as a canvassing salesman, endeavoring to persuade recalcitrant wives and indifferent or conservative husbands to realize that they really needed a new machine in their home, had taught him caution, tact, savoir faire. He knew how to approach people pleasantly. His wife thought too much so.

Certainly he was honest, hard working, and thrifty. They had been waiting a long time for the day when they could say they owned their own home and had a little something laid away for emergencies. That day had come, and life was not half bad. Their house was neat,—white with green shutters, surrounded by a yard with well kept flower beds, a smooth lawn, and some few shapely and broad spreading trees. There was a front porch with rockers, a swing under one tree, a hammock under another, a buggy and several canvassing wagons in a nearby stable. Witla liked dogs, so there were two collies. Mrs. Witla liked live things, so there were a canary bird, a cat, some chickens, and a bird house set aloft on a pole where a few blue-birds made their home. It was a nice little place, and Mr. and Mrs. Witla were rather proud of it.

Miriam Witla was a good wife to her husband. A daughter of a hay and grain dealer in Wooster, a small town near Alexandria in McLean County, she had never been farther out into the world than Springfield and Chicago. She had gone to Springfield as a very young girl, to see Lincoln buried, and once with her husband she had gone to the state fair or exposition which was held annually in those days on the lake front in Chicago. She was well preserved, good looking, poetic under a marked outward reserve. It was she who had insisted upon naming her only son Eugene Tennyson, a tribute at once to a brother Eugene, and to the celebrated romanticist of verse, because she had been so impressed with his “Idylls of the King.”

Eugene Tennyson seemed rather strong to Witla père, as the name of a middle-western American boy, but he loved his wife and gave her her way in most things. He rather liked the names of Sylvia and Myrtle with which she had christened the two girls. All three of the children were good looking,—Sylvia, a girl of twenty-one, with black hair, dark eyes, full blown like a rose, healthy, active, smiling. Myrtle was of a less vigorous constitution, small, pale, shy, but intensely sweet—like the flower she was named after, her mother said. She was inclined to be studious and reflective, to read verse and dream. The young bloods of the high school were all crazy to talk to Myrtle and to walk with her, but they could find no words. And she herself did not know what to say to them.

Eugene Witla was the apple of his family's eye, younger than either of his two sisters by two years. He had straight smooth black hair, dark almond-shaped eyes, a straight nose, a shapely but not aggressive chin; his teeth were even and white, showing with a curious delicacy when he smiled, as if he were proud of them. He was not very strong to begin with, moody, and to a notable extent artistic. Because of a weak stomach and a semi-anæmic condition, he did not really appear as strong as he was. He had emotion, fire, longings, that were concealed behind a wall of reserve. He was shy, proud, sensitive, and very uncertain of himself.

When at home he lounged about the house, reading Dickens, Thackeray, Scott and Poe. He browsed idly through one book after another, wondering about life. The great cities appealed to him. He thought of travel as a wonderful thing. In school he read Taine and Gibbon between recitation hours, wondering at the luxury and beauty of the great courts of the world. He cared nothing for grammar, nothing for mathematics, nothing for botany or physics, except odd bits here and there. Curious facts would strike him—the composition of clouds, the composition of water, the chemical elements of the earth. He liked to lie in the hammock at home, spring, summer or fall, and look at the blue sky showing through the trees. A soaring buzzard poised in speculative flight held his attention fixedly. The wonder of a snowy cloud, high piled like wool, and drifting as an island, was like a song to him. He had wit, a keen sense of humor, a sense of pathos. Sometimes he thought he would draw; sometimes write. He had a little talent for both, he thought, but did practically nothing with either. He would sketch now and then, but only fragments—a small roof-top, with smoke curling from a chimney and birds flying; a bit of water with a willow bending over it and perhaps a boat anchored; a mill pond with ducks afloat, and a boy or woman on the bank. He really had no great talent for interpretation at this time, only an intense sense of beauty. The beauty of a bird in flight, a rose in bloom, a tree swaying in the wind—these held him. He would walk the streets of his native town at night, admiring the brightness of the store windows, the sense of youth and enthusiasm that went with a crowd; the sense of love and comfort and home that spoke through the glowing windows of houses set back among trees.

He admired girls,—was mad about them,—but only about those who were truly beautiful. There were two or three in his school who reminded him of poetic phrases he had come across—“beauty like a tightened bow,” “thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,” “a dancing shape, an image gay”—but he could not talk to them with ease. They were beautiful but so distant. He invested them with more beauty than they had; the beauty was in his own soul. But he did not know that. One girl whose yellow hair lay upon her neck in great yellow braids like ripe corn, was constantly in his thoughts. He worshiped her from afar but she never knew. She never knew what solemn black eyes burned at her when she was not looking. She left Alexandria, her family moving to another town, and in time he recovered, for there is much of beauty. But the color of her hair and the wonder of her neck stayed with him always.

There was some plan on the part of Witla to send these children to college, but none of them showed any great desire for education. They were perhaps wiser than books, for they were living in the realm of imagination and feeling. Sylvia longed to be a mother, and was married at twenty-one to Henry Burgess, the son of Benjamin C. Burgess, editor of the Morning Appeal. There was a baby the first year. Myrtle was dreaming through algebra and trigonometry, wondering whether she would teach or get married, for the moderate prosperity of the family demanded that she do something. Eugene mooned through his studies, learning nothing practical. He wrote a little, but his efforts at sixteen were puerile. He drew, but there was no one to tell him whether there was any merit in the things he did or not. Practical matters were generally without significance to him. But he was overawed by the fact that the world demanded practical service—buying and selling like his father, clerking in stores, running big business. It was a confusing maze, and he wondered, even at this age, what was to become of him. He did not object to the kind of work his father was doing, but it did not interest him. For himself he knew it would be a pointless, dreary way of making a living, and as for insurance, that was equally bad. He could hardly bring himself to read through the long rigamarole of specifications which each insurance paper itemized. There were times—evenings and Saturdays—when he clerked in his father's store, but it was painful work. His mind was not in it.

As early as his twelfth year his father had begun to see that Eugene was not cut out for business, and by the time he was sixteen he was convinced of it. From the trend of his reading and his percentage marks at school, he was equally convinced that the boy was not interested in his studies. Myrtle, who was two classes ahead of him but sometimes in the same room, reported that he dreamed too much. He was always looking out of the window.

Eugene's experience with girls had not been very wide. There were those very minor things that occur in early youth—girls whom we furtively kiss, or who furtively kiss us—the latter had been the case with Eugene. He had no particular interest in any one girl. At fourteen he had been picked by a little girl at a party as an affinity, for the evening at least, and in a game of “post-office” had enjoyed the wonder of a girl's arms around him in a dark room and a girl's lips against his; but since then there had been no re-encounter of any kind. He had dreamed of love, with this one experience as a basis, but always in a shy, distant way. He was afraid of girls, and they, to tell the truth, were afraid of him. They could not make him out.

But in the fall of his seventeenth year Eugene came into contact with one girl who made a profound impression on him. Stella Appleton was a notably beautiful creature. She was very fair, Eugene's own age, with very blue eyes and a slender sylph-like body. She was gay and debonair in an enticing way, without really realizing how dangerous she was to the average, susceptible male heart. She liked to flirt with the boys because it amused her, and not because she cared for anyone in particular. There was no petty meanness about it, however, for she thought they were all rather nice, the less clever appealing to her almost more than the sophisticated. She may have liked Eugene originally because of his shyness.

He saw her first at the beginning of his last school year when she came to the city and entered the second high school class. Her father had come from Moline, Illinois, to take a position as manager of a new pulley manufactory which was just starting. She had quickly become friends with his sister Myrtle, being perhaps attracted by her quiet ways, as Myrtle was by Stella's gaiety.

One afternoon, as Myrtle and Stella were on Main Street, walking home from the post office, they met Eugene, who was on his way to visit a boy friend. He was really bashful; and when he saw them approaching he wanted to escape, but there was no way. They saw him, and Stella approached confidently enough. Myrtle was anxious to intercept him, because she had her pretty companion with her.

“You haven't been home, have you?” she asked, stopping. This was her chance to introduce Stella; Eugene couldn't escape. “Miss Appleton, this is my brother Eugene.”

Stella gave him a sunny encouraging smile, and her hand, which he took gingerly. He was plainly nervous.

“I'm not very clean,” he said apologetically. “I've been helping father fix a buggy.”

“Oh, we don't mind,” said Myrtle. “Where are you going?”

“Over to Harry Morris's,” he explained.

“What for?”

“We're going for hickory nuts.”

“Oh, I wish I had some,” said Stella.

“I'll bring you some,” he volunteered gallantly.

She smiled again. “I wish you would.”

She almost proposed that they should be taken along, but inexperience hindered her.

Eugene was struck with all her charm at once. She seemed like one of those unattainable creatures who had swum into his ken a little earlier and disappeared. There was something of the girl with the corn-colored hair about her, only she had been more human, less like a dream. This girl was fine, delicate, pink, like porcelain. She was fragile and yet virile. He caught his breath, but he was more or less afraid of her. He did not know what she might be thinking of him.

“Well, we're going on to the house,” said Myrtle.

“I'd go along if I hadn't promised Harry I'd come over.”

“Oh, that's all right,” replied Myrtle. “We don't mind.”

He withdrew, feeling that he had made a very poor impression. Stella's eyes had been on him in a very inquiring way. She looked after him when he had gone.

“Isn't he nice?” she said to Myrtle frankly.

“I think so,” replied Myrtle; “kind o'. He's too moody, though.”

“What makes him?”

“He isn't very strong.”

“I think he has a nice smile.”

“I'll tell him!”

“No, please don't! You won't, will you?”

“No.”

“But he has a nice smile.”

“I'll ask you round to the house some evening and you can meet him again.”

“I'd like to,” said Stella. “It would be a lot of fun.”

“Come out Saturday evening and stay all night. He's home then.”

“I will,” said Stella. “Won't that be fine!”

“I believe you like him!” laughed Myrtle.

“I think he's awfully nice,” said Stella, simply.

The second meeting happened on Saturday evening as arranged, when he came home from his odd day at his father's insurance office. Stella had come to supper. Eugene saw her through the open sitting room door, as he bounded upstairs to change his clothes, for he had a fire of youth which no sickness of stomach or weakness of lungs could overcome at this age. A thrill of anticipation ran over his body. He took especial pains with his toilet, adjusting a red tie to a nicety, and parting his hair carefully in the middle. He came down after a while, conscious that he had to say something smart, worthy of himself, or she would not see how attractive he was; and yet he was fearful as to the result. When he entered the sitting room she was sitting with his sister before an open fire-place, the glow of a lamp with a red-flowered shade warmly illuminating the room. It was a commonplace room, with its blue cloth-covered center table, its chairs of stereotyped factory design, and its bookcase of novels and histories, but it was homey, and the sense of hominess was strong.

Mrs. Witla was in and out occasionally, looking for things which appertained to her functions as house-mother. The father was not home yet; he would get there by supper-time, having been to some outlying town of the county trying to sell a machine. Eugene was indifferent to his presence or absence. Mr. Witla had a fund of humor which extended to joking with his son and daughters, when he was feeling good, to noting their budding interest in the opposite sex; to predicting some commonplace climax to their one grand passion when it should come. He was fond of telling Myrtle that she would one day marry a horse-doctor. As for Eugene, he predicted a certain Elsa Brown, who, his wife said, had greasy curls. This did not irritate either Myrtle or Eugene. It even brought a wry smile to Eugene's face for he was fond of a jest; but he saw his father pretty clearly even at this age. He saw the smallness of his business, the ridiculousness of any such profession having any claim on him. He never wanted to say anything, but there was in him a burning opposition to the commonplace, a molten pit in a crater of reserve, which smoked ominously now and then for anyone who could have read. Neither his father nor his mother understood him. To them he was a peculiar boy, dreamy, sickly, unwitting, as yet, of what he really wanted.

“Oh, here you are!” said Myrtle, when he came in. “Come and sit down.”

Stella gave him an enticing smile.

He walked to the mantel-piece and stood there, posing. He wanted to impress this girl, and he did not quite know how. He was almost lost for anything to say.

“You can't guess what we've been doing!” his sister chirped helpfully.

“Well—what?” he replied blankly.

“You ought to guess. Can't you be nice and guess?”

“One guess, anyhow,” put in Stella.

“Toasting pop-corn,” he ventured with a half smile.

“You're warm.” It was Myrtle speaking.

Stella looked at him with round blue eyes. “One more guess,” she suggested.

“Chestnuts!” he guessed.

She nodded her head gaily. “What hair!” he thought. Then—“Where are they?”

“Here's one,” laughed his new acquaintance, holding out a tiny hand.

Under her laughing encouragement he was finding his voice. “Stingy!” he said.

“Now isn't that mean,” she exclaimed. “I gave him the only one I had. Don't you give him any of yours, Myrtle.”

“I take it back,” he pleaded. “I didn't know.”

“I won't!” exclaimed Myrtle. “Here, Stella,” and she held out the few nuts she had left, “take these, and don't you give him any!” She put them in Stella's eager hands.

He saw her meaning. It was an invitation to a contest. She wanted him to try to make her give him some. He fell in with her plan.

“Here!” He stretched out his palm. “That's not right!”

She shook her head.

“One, anyhow,” he insisted.

Her head moved negatively from side to side slowly.

“One,” he pleaded, drawing near.

Again the golden negative. But her hand was at the side nearest him, where he could seize it. She started to pass its contents behind her to the other hand but he jumped and caught it.

“Myrtle! Quick!” she called.

Myrtle came. It was a three-handed struggle. In the midst of the contest Stella twisted and rose to her feet. Her hair brushed his face. He held her tiny hand firmly. For a moment he looked into her eyes. What was it? He could not say. Only he half let go and gave her the victory.

“There,” she smiled. “Now I'll give you one.”

He took it, laughing. What he wanted was to take her in his arms.

A little while before supper his father came in and sat down, but presently took a Chicago paper and went into the dining room to read. Then his mother called them to the table, and he sat by Stella. He was intensely interested in what she did and said. If her lips moved he noted just how. When her teeth showed he thought they were lovely. A little ringlet on her forehead beckoned him like a golden finger. He felt the wonder of the poetic phrase, “the shining strands of her hair.”

After dinner he and Myrtle and Stella went back to the sitting room. His father stayed behind to read, his mother to wash dishes. Myrtle left the room after a bit to help her mother, and then these two were left alone. He hadn't much to say, now that they were together—he couldn't talk. Something about her beauty kept him silent.

“Do you like school?” she asked after a time. She felt as if they must talk.

“Only fairly well,” he replied. “I'm not much interested. I think I'll quit one of these days and go to work.”

“What do you expect to do?”

“I don't know yet—I'd like to be an artist.” He confessed his ambition for the first time in his life—why, he could not have said.

Stella took no note of it.

“I was afraid they wouldn't let me enter second year high school, but they did,” she remarked. “The superintendent at Moline had to write the superintendent here.”

“They're mean about those things,” he cogitated.

She got up and went to the bookcase to look at the books. He followed after a little.

“Do you like Dickens?” she asked.

He nodded his head solemnly in approval. “Pretty much,” he said.

“I can't like him. He's too long drawn out. I like Scott better.”

“I like Scott,” he said.

“I'll tell you a lovely book that I like.” She paused, her lips parted trying to remember the name. She lifted her hand as though to pick the title out of the air. “The Fair God,” she exclaimed at last.

“Yes—it's fine,” he approved. “I thought the scene in the old Aztec temple where they were going to sacrifice Ahwahee was so wonderful!”

“Oh, yes, I liked that,” she added. She pulled out “Ben Hur” and turned its leaves idly. “And this was so good.”

“Wonderful!”

They paused and she went to the window, standing under the cheap lace curtains. It was a moonlight night. The rows of trees that lined the street on either side were leafless; the grass brown and dead. Through the thin, interlaced twigs that were like silver filigree they could see the lamps of other houses shining through half-drawn blinds. A man went by, a black shadow in the half-light.

“Isn't it lovely?” she said.

Eugene came near. “It's fine,” he answered.

“I wish it were cold enough to skate. Do you skate?” She turned to him.

“Yes, indeed,” he replied.

“My, it's so nice on a moonlit night. I used to skate a lot at Moline.”

“We skate a lot here. There're two lakes, you know.”

He thought of the clear crystal nights when the ice of Green Lake had split every so often with a great resounding rumble. He thought of the crowds of boys and girls shouting, the distant shadows, the stars. Up to now he had never found any girl to skate with successfully. He had never felt just easy with anyone. He had tried it, but once he had fallen with a girl, and it had almost cured him of skating forever. He felt as though he could skate with Stella. He felt that she might like to skate with him.

“When it gets colder we might go,” he ventured. “Myrtle skates.”

“Oh, that'll be fine!” she applauded.

Still she looked out into the street.

After a bit she came back to the fire and stood before him, pensively looking down.

“Do you think your father will stay here?” he asked.

“He says so. He likes it very much.”

“Do you?”

“Yes—now.”

“Why now?”

“Oh, I didn't like it at first.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I guess it was because I didn't know anybody. I like it though, now.” She lifted her eyes.

He drew a little nearer.

“It's a nice place,” he said, “but there isn't much for me here. I think I'll leave next year.”

“Where do you think you'll go?”

“To Chicago. I don't want to stay here.”

She turned her body toward the fire and he moved to a chair behind her, leaning on its back. She felt him there rather close, but did not move. He was surprising himself.

“Aren't you ever coming back?” she asked.

“Maybe. It all depends. I suppose so.”

“I shouldn't think you'd want to leave yet.”

“Why?”

“You say it's so nice.”

He made no answer and she looked over her shoulder. He was leaning very much toward her.

“Will you skate with me this winter?” he asked meaningly.

She nodded her head.

Myrtle came in.

“What are you two talking about?” she asked.

“The fine skating we have here,” he said.

“I love to skate,” she exclaimed.

“So do I,” added Stella. “It's heavenly.”

CHAPTER II

Some of the incidents of this courtship that followed, ephemeral as it was, left a profound impression on Eugene's mind. They met to skate not long after, for the snow came and the ice and there was wonderful skating on Green Lake. The frost was so prolonged that men with horses and ice-saws were cutting blocks a foot thick over at Miller's Point, where the ice houses were. Almost every day after Thanksgiving there were crowds of boys and girls from the schools scooting about like water skippers. Eugene could not always go on week evenings and Saturdays because he had to assist his father at the store. But at regular intervals he could ask Myrtle to get Stella and let them all go together at night. And at other times he would ask her to go alone. Not infrequently she did.

On one particular occasion they were below a group of houses which crept near the lake on high ground. The moon was up, its wooing rays reflected in the polished surfaces of the ice. Through the black masses of trees that lined the shore could be seen the glow of windows, yellow and homey. Eugene and Stella had slowed up to turn about, having left the crowd of skaters some distance back. Stella's golden curls were covered, except for a few ringlets, with a French cap; her body, to below the hips, encased in a white wool Jersey, close-fitting and shapely. The skirt below was a grey mixture of thick wool and the stockings were covered by white woolen leggings. She looked tempting and knew it.

Suddenly, as they turned, one of her skates came loose and she hobbled and exclaimed about it. “Wait,” said Eugene, “I'll fix it.”

She stood before him and he fell to his knees, undoing the twisted strap. When he had the skate off and ready for her foot he looked up, and she looked down on him, smiling. He dropped the skate and flung his arms around her hips, laying his head against her waist.

“You're a bad boy,” she said.

For a few minutes she kept silent, for as the center of this lovely scene she was divine. While he held her she pulled off his wool cap and laid her hand on his hair. It almost brought tears to his eyes, he was so happy. At the same time it awakened a tremendous passion. He clutched her significantly.

“Fix my skate, now,” she said wisely.

He got up to hug her but she would not let him.

“No, no,” she protested. “You mustn't do like that. I won't come with you if you do.”

“Oh, Stella!” he pleaded.

“I mean it,” she insisted. “You mustn't do like that.”

He subsided, hurt, half angry. But he feared her will. She was really not as ready for caresses as he had thought.

Another time a sleighing party was given by some school girls, and Stella, Eugene and Myrtle were invited. It was a night of snow and stars, not too cold but bracing. A great box-wagon had been dismantled of its body and the latter put on runners and filled with straw and warm robes. Eugene and Myrtle, like the others, had been picked up at their door after the sleigh had gone the rounds of some ten peaceful little homes. Stella was not in yet, but in a little while her house was reached.

“Get in here,” called Myrtle, though she was half the length of the box away from Eugene. Her request made him angry. “Sit by me,” he called, fearful that she would not. She climbed in by Myrtle but finding the space not to her liking moved farther down. Eugene made a special effort to have room by him, and she came there as though by accident. He drew a buffalo robe around her and thrilled to think that she was really there. The sleigh went jingling around the town for others, and finally struck out into the country. It passed great patches of dark woods silent in the snow, little white frame farmhouses snuggled close to the ground, and with windows that gleamed in a vague romantic way. The stars were countless and keen. The whole scene made a tremendous impression on him, for he was in love, and here beside him, in the shadow, her face palely outlined, was this girl. He could make out the sweetness of her cheek, her eyes, the softness of her hair.

There was a good deal of chatter and singing, and in the midst of these distractions he managed to slip an arm about her waist, to get her hand in his, to look close into her eyes, trying to divine their expression. She was always coy with him, not wholly yielding. Three or four times he kissed her cheek furtively and once her mouth. In a dark place he pulled her vigorously to him, putting a long, sensuous kiss on her lips that frightened her.

“No,” she protested, nervously. “You mustn't.”

He ceased for a time, feeling that he had pressed his advantage too closely. But the night in all its beauty, and she in hers made a lasting impression.

******

“I think we ought to get Eugene into newspaper work or something like that,” Witla senior suggested to his wife.

“It looks as though that's all he would be good for, at least now,” replied Mrs. Witla, who was satisfied that her boy had not yet found himself. “I think he'll do something better later on. His health isn't very good, you know.”

Witla half suspected that his boy was naturally lazy, but he wasn't sure. He suggested that Benjamin C. Burgess, the prospective father-in-law of Sylvia and the editor and proprietor of the Morning Appeal, might give him a place as a reporter or type-setter in order that he might learn the business from the ground up. The Appeal carried few employees, but Mr. Burgess might have no objections to starting Eugene as a reporter if he could write, or as a student of type-setting, or both. He appealed to Burgess one day on the street.

“Say, Burgess,” he said, “you wouldn't have a place over in your shop for that boy of mine, would you? He likes to scribble a little, I notice. I think he pretends to draw a little, too, though I guess it doesn't amount to much. He ought to get into something. He isn't doing anything at school. Maybe he could learn type-setting. It wouldn't hurt him to begin at the bottom if he's going to follow that line. It wouldn't matter what you paid him to begin with.”

Burgess thought. He had seen Eugene around town, knew no harm of him except that he was lackadaisical and rather moody.

“Send him in to see me some day,” he replied noncommittally. “I might do something for him.”

“I'd certainly be much obliged to you if you would,” said Witla. “He is not doing much good as it is now,” and the two men parted.

He went home and told Eugene. “Burgess says he might give you a position as a type-setter or a reporter on the Appeal if you'd come in and see him some day,” he explained, looking over to where his son was reading by the lamp.

“Does he?” replied Eugene calmly. “Well, I can't write. I might set type. Did you ask him?”

“Yes,” said Witla. “You'd better go to him some day.”

Eugene bit his lip. He realized this was a commentary on his loafing propensities. He wasn't doing very well, that was certain. Still type-setting was no bright field for a person of his temperament. “I will,” he concluded, “when school's over.”

“Better speak before school ends. Some of the other fellows might ask for it around that time. It wouldn't hurt you to try your hand at it.”

“I will,” said Eugene obediently.

He stopped in one sunny April afternoon at Mr. Burgess' office. It was on the ground floor of the three-story Appeal building in the public square. Mr. Burgess, a fat man, slightly bald, looked at him quizzically over his steel rimmed spectacles. What little hair he had was gray.

“So you think you would like to go into the newspaper business, do you?” queried Burgess.

“I'd like to try my hand at it,” replied the boy. “I'd like to see whether I like it.”

“I can tell you right now there's very little in it. Your father says you like to write.”

“I'd like to well enough, but I don't think I can. I wouldn't mind learning type-setting. If I ever could write I'd be perfectly willing to.”

“When do you think you'd like to start?”

“At the end of school, if it's all the same to you.”

“It doesn't make much difference. I'm not really in need of anybody, but I could use you. Would you be satisfied with five a week?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, come in when you are ready. I'll see what I can do.”

He waved the prospective type-setter away with a movement of his fat hand, and turned to his black walnut desk, dingy, covered with newspapers, and lit by a green shaded electric light. Eugene went out, the smell of fresh printing ink in his nose, and the equally aggressive smell of damp newspapers. It was going to be an interesting experience, he thought, but perhaps a waste of time. He did not think so much of Alexandria. Some time he was going to get out of it.

The office of the Appeal was not different from that of any other country newspaper office within the confines of our two hemispheres. On the ground floor in front was the business office, and in the rear the one large flat bed press and the job presses. On the second floor was the composing room with its rows of type cases on their high racks—for this newspaper was, like most other country newspapers, still set by hand; and in front was the one dingy office of the so-called editor, or managing editor, or city editor—for all three were the same person, a Mr. Caleb Williams whom Burgess had picked up in times past from heaven knows where. Williams was a small, lean, wiry man, with a black pointed beard and a glass eye which fixed you oddly with its black pupil. He was talkative, skipped about from duty to duty, wore most of the time a green shade pulled low over his forehead, and smoked a brown briar pipe. He had a fund of knowledge, piled up in metropolitan journalistic experience, but he was anchored here with a wife and three children, after sailing, no doubt, a chartless sea of troubles, and was glad to talk life and experiences after office hours with almost anybody. It took him from eight in the morning until two in the afternoon to gather what local news there was, and either write it or edit it. He seemed to have a number of correspondents who sent him weekly batches of news from surrounding points. The Associated Press furnished him with a few minor items by telegraph, and there was a “patent insides,” two pages of fiction, household hints, medicine ads. and what not, which saved him considerable time and stress. Most of the news which came to him received short shrift in the matter of editing. “In Chicago we used to give a lot of attention to this sort of thing,” Williams was wont to declare to anyone who was near, “but you can't do it down here. The readers really don't expect it. They're looking for local items. I always look after the local items pretty sharp.”

Mr. Burgess took care of the advertising sections. In fact he solicited advertising personally, saw that it was properly set up as the advertiser wanted it, and properly placed according to the convenience of the day and the rights and demands of others. He was the politician of the concern, the handshaker, the guider of its policy. He wrote editorials now and then, or, with Williams, decided just what their sense must be, met the visitors who came to the office to see the editor, and arbitrated all known forms of difficulties. He was at the beck and call of certain Republican party-leaders in the county; but that seemed natural, for he was a Republican himself by temperament and disposition. He was appointed postmaster once to pay him for some useful services, but he declined because he was really making more out of his paper than his postmastership would have brought. He received whatever city or county advertising it was in the power of the Republican leaders to give him, and so he did very well. The complications of his political relationships Williams knew in part, but they never troubled that industrious soul. He dispensed with moralizing. “I have to make a living for myself, my wife and three children. That's enough to keep me going without bothering my head about other people.” So this office was really run very quietly, efficiently, and in most ways pleasantly. It was a sunny place to work.

Witla, who came here at the end of his eleventh school year and when he had just turned seventeen, was impressed with the personality of Mr. Williams. He liked him. He came to like a Jonas Lyle who worked at what might be called the head desk of the composing room, and a certain John Summers who worked at odd times—whenever there was an extra rush of job printing. He learned very quickly that John Summers, who was fifty-five, grey, and comparatively silent, was troubled with weak lungs and drank. Summers would slip out of the office at various times in the day and be gone from five to fifteen minutes. No one ever said anything, for there was no pressure here. What work was to be done was done. Jonas Lyle was of a more interesting nature. He was younger by ten years, stronger, better built, but still a character. He was semi-phlegmatic, philosophic, feebly literary. He had worked, as Eugene found out in the course of time, in nearly every part of the United States—Denver, Portland, St. Paul, St. Louis, where not, and had a fund of recollections of this proprietor and that. Whenever he saw a name of particular distinction in the newspapers he was apt to bring the paper to Williams—and later, when they became familiar, to Eugene—and say, “I knew that fellow out in ——. He was postmaster (or what not) at X——. He's come up considerably since I knew him.” In most cases he did not know these celebrities personally at all, but he knew of them, and the echo of their fame sounding in this out-of-the-way corner of the world impressed him. He was a careful reader of proof for Williams in a rush, a quick type-setter, a man who stayed by his tasks faithfully. But he hadn't got anywhere in the world, for, after all, he was little more than a machine. Eugene could see that at a glance.

It was Lyle who taught him the art of type-setting. He demonstrated the first day the theory of the squares or pockets in a case, how some letters were placed more conveniently to the hand than others, why some letters were well represented as to quantity, why capitals were used in certain offices for certain purposes, in others not. “Now on the Chicago Tribune we used to italicize the names of churches, boats, books, hotels, and things of that sort. That's the only paper I ever knew to do that,” he remarked. What slugs, sticks, galleys, turnovers, meant, came rapidly to the surface. That the fingers would come to recognize weights of leads by the touch, that a letter would almost instinctively find its way back to its proper pocket, even though you were not thinking, once you became expert, were facts which he cheerfully communicated. He wanted his knowledge taken seriously, and this serious attention, Eugene, because of his innate respect for learning of any kind, was only too glad to give him. He did not know what he wanted to do, but he knew quite well that he wanted to see everything. This shop was interesting to him for some little time for this reason, for though he soon found that he did not want to be a type-setter or a reporter, or indeed anything much in connection with a country newspaper, he was learning about life. He worked at his desk cheerfully, smiling out upon the world, which indicated its presence to him through an open window, read the curious bits of news or opinion or local advertisements as he set them up, and dreamed of what the world might have in store for him. He was not vastly ambitious as yet, but hopeful and, withal, a little melancholy. He could see boys and girls whom he knew, idling in the streets or on the corner squares; he could see where Ted Martinwood was driving by in his father's buggy, or George Anderson was going up the street with the air of someone who would never need to work. George's father owned the one and only hotel. There were thoughts in his mind of fishing, boating, lolling somewhere with some pretty girl, but alas, girls did not apparently take to him so very readily. He was too shy. He thought it must be nice to be rich. So he dreamed.

Eugene was at that age when he wished to express himself in ardent phrases. He was also at the age when bashfulness held him in reserve, even though he were in love and intensely emotional. He could only say to Stella what seemed trivial things, and look his intensity, whereas it was the trivial things that were most pleasing to her, not the intensity. She was even then beginning to think he was a little strange, a little too tense for her disposition. Yet she liked him. It became generally understood around town that Stella was his girl. School day mating usually goes that way in a small city or village. He was seen to go out with her. His father teased him. Her mother and father deemed this a manifestation of calf love, not so much on her part, for they were aware of her tendency to hold lightly any manifestation of affection on the part of boys, but on his. They thought his sentimentalism would soon be wearisome to Stella. And they were not far wrong about her. On one occasion at a party given by several high school girls, a “country post office” was organized. That was one of those games which mean kissing only. A system of guessing results in a series of forfeits. If you miss you must be postmaster, and call someone for “mail.” Mail means to be kissed in a dark room (where the postmaster stands) by someone whom you like or who likes you. You, as postmaster, have authority or compulsion—however you feel about it—to call whom you please.

In this particular instance Stella, who was caught before Eugene, was under compulsion to call someone to kiss. Her first thought was of him, but on account of the frankness of the deed, and because there was a lurking fear in her of his eagerness, the name she felt impelled to speak was Harvey Rutter. Harvey was a handsome boy whom Stella had met after her first encounter with Eugene. He was not as yet fascinating to her, but pleasing. She had a coquettish desire to see what he was like. This was her first direct chance.

He stepped gaily in, and Eugene was at once insane with jealousy. He could not understand why she should treat him in that way. When it came to his turn he called for Bertha Shoemaker, whom he admired, and who was sweet in a way, but who was as nothing to Stella in his estimation. The pain of kissing her when he really wanted the other girl was great. When he came out Stella saw moodiness in his eyes, but chose to ignore it. He was obviously half-hearted and downcast in his simulation of joy.

A second chance came to her and this time she called him. He went, but was in a semi-defiant mood. He wanted to punish her. When they met in the dark she expected him to put his arms around her. Her own hands were up to about where his shoulders should be. Instead he only took hold of one of her arms with his hand and planted a chilly kiss on her lips. If he had only asked, “Why did you?” or held her close and pleaded with her not to treat him so badly, the relationship might have lasted longer. Instead he said nothing, and she grew defiant and she went out gaily. There was a strain of reserve running between them until the party broke up and he took her home.

“You must be melancholy tonight,” she remarked, after they had walked two blocks in complete silence. The streets were dark, and their feet sounded hollowly on the brick pavement.

“Oh, I'm feeling all right,” he replied moodily.

“I think it's awfully nice at the Weimers', we always have so much fun there.”

“Yes, lots of fun,” he echoed contemptuously.

“Oh, don't be so cross!” she flared. “You haven't any reason for fussing.”

“Haven't I?”

“No, you haven't.”

“Well if that's the way you feel about it I suppose I haven't. I don't see it that way.”

“Well, it doesn't make any difference to me how you see it.”

“Oh, doesn't it?”

“No, it doesn't.” Her head was up and she was angry.

“Well I'm sure then it doesn't to me.”

There was another silence which endured until they were almost home.

“Are you coming to the sociable next Thursday?” he inquired. He was referring to a Methodist evening entertainment which, although he cared very little about it, was a convenience as it enabled him to see her and take her home. He was prompted to ask by the fear that an open rupture was impending.

“No,” she said. “I don't think I will.”

“Why not?”

“I don't care to.”

“I think you're mean,” he said reprovingly.

“I don't care,” she replied. “I think you're too bossy. I don't think I like you very much anyhow.”

His heart contracted ominously.

“You can do as you please,” he persisted.

They reached her gate. It was his wont to kiss her in the shadow—to hold her tight for a few minutes in spite of her protests. Tonight, as they approached, he thought of doing it, but she gave him no chance. When they reached the gate she opened it quickly and slipped in. “Good-night,” she called.

“Good-night,” he said, and then as she reached her door, “Stella!”

It was open, and she slipped in. He stood in the dark, hurt, sore, oppressed. What should he do? He strolled home cudgelling his brain whether never to speak to or look at her again until she came to him, or to hunt her up and fight it all out with her. She was in the wrong, he knew that. When he went to bed he was grieving over it, and when he awoke it was with him all day.

He had been gaining rather rapidly as a student of type-setting, and to a certain extent of the theory of reporting, and he worked diligently and earnestly at his proposed trade. He loved to look out of the window and draw, though of late, after knowing Stella so well and coming to quarrel with her because of her indifference, there was little heart in it. This getting to the office, putting on an apron, and starting in on some local correspondence left over from the day before, or some telegraph copy which had been freshly filed on his hook, had its constructive value. Williams endeavored to use him on some local items of news as a reporter, but he was a slow worker and almost a failure at getting all the facts. He did not appear to know how to interview anybody, and would come back with a story which needed to be filled in from other sources. He really did not understand the theory of news, and Williams could only make it partially clear to him. Mostly he worked at his case, but he did learn some things.

For one thing, the theory of advertising began to dawn on him. These local merchants put in the same ads. day after day, and many of them did not change them noticeably. He saw Lyle and Summers taking the same ads. which had appeared unchangingly from month to month in so far as their main features were concerned, and alter only a few words before returning them to the forms. He wondered at the sameness of them, and when, at last, they were given to him to revise he often wished he could change them a little. The language seemed so dull.

“Why don't they ever put little drawings in these ads?” he asked Lyle one day. “Don't you think they'd look a little better?”

“Oh, I don't know,” replied Jonas. “They look pretty good. These people around here wouldn't want anything like that. They'd think it was too fancy.” Eugene had seen and in a way studied the ads. in the magazines. They seemed so much more fascinating to him. Why couldn't newspaper ads. be different?

Still it was never given to him to trouble over this problem. Mr. Burgess dealt with the advertisers. He settled how the ads were to be. He never talked to Eugene or Summers about them, not always to Lyle. He would sometimes have Williams explain just what their character and layout was to be. Eugene was so young that Williams at first did not pay very much attention to him, but after a while he began to realize that there was a personality here, and then he would explain things,—why space had to be short for some items and long for others, why county news, news of small towns around Alexandria, and about people, was much more important financially to the paper than the correct reporting of the death of the sultan of Turkey. The most important thing was to get the local names right. “Don't ever misspell them,” he once cautioned him. “Don't ever leave out a part of a name if you can help it. People are awfully sensitive about that. They'll stop their subscription if you don't watch out, and you won't know what's the matter.”

Eugene took all these things to heart. He wanted to see how the thing was done, though basically it seemed to be a little small. In fact people seemed a little small, mostly.

One of the things that did interest him was to see the paper put on the press and run off. He liked to help lock up the forms, and to see how they were imposed and registered. He liked to hear the press run, and to help carry the wet papers to the mailing tables and the distributing counter out in front. The paper hadn't a very large circulation but there was a slight hum of life about that time and he liked it. He liked the sense of getting his hands and face streaked and not caring, and of seeing his hair tousled, in the mirror. He tried to be useful and the various people on the paper came to like him, though he was often a little awkward and slow. He was not strong at this period and his stomach troubled him. He thought, too, that the smell of the ink might affect his lungs, though he did not seriously fear it. In the main it was interesting but small; there was a much larger world outside, he knew that. He hoped to go to it some day; he hoped to go to Chicago.

CHAPTER III

Eugene grew more and more moody and rather restless under Stella's increasing independence. She grew steadily more indifferent because of his moods. The fact that other boys were crazy for her consideration was a great factor; the fact that one particular boy, Harvey Rutter, was persistently genial, not insistent, really better looking than Eugene and much better tempered, helped a great deal. Eugene saw her with him now and then, saw her go skating with him, or at least with a crowd of which he was a member. Eugene hated him heartily; he hated her at times for not yielding to him wholly; but he was none the less wild over her beauty. It stamped his brain with a type or ideal. Thereafter he knew in a really definite way what womanhood ought to be, to be really beautiful.

Another thing it did was to bring home to him a sense of his position in the world. So far he had always been dependent on his parents for food, clothes and spending money, and his parents were not very liberal. He knew other boys who had money to run up to Chicago or down to Springfield—the latter was nearer—to have a Saturday and Sunday lark. No such gaieties were for him. His father would not allow it, or rather would not pay for it. There were other boys who, in consequence of amply provided spending money, were the town dandies. He saw them kicking their heels outside the corner book store, the principal loafing place of the elite, on Wednesdays and Saturdays and sometimes on Sunday evenings preparatory to going somewhere, dressed in a luxury of clothing which was beyond his wildest dreams. Ted Martinwood, the son of the principal drygoods man, had a frock coat in which he sometimes appeared when he came down to the barber shop for a shave before he went to call on his girl. George Anderson was possessed of a dress suit, and wore dancing pumps at all dances. There was Ed Waterbury, who was known to have a horse and runabout of his own. These youths were slightly older, and were interested in girls of a slightly older set, but the point was the same. These things hurt him.

He himself had no avenue of progress which, so far as he could see, was going to bring him to any financial prosperity. His father was never going to be rich, anybody could see that. He himself had made no practical progress in schoolwork—he knew that. He hated insurance—soliciting or writing, despised the sewing machine business, and did not know where he would get with anything which he might like to do in literature or art. His drawing seemed a joke, his writing, or wish for writing, pointless. He was broodingly unhappy.

One day Williams, who had been watching him for a long time, stopped at his desk.

“I say, Witla, why don't you go to Chicago?” he said. “There's a lot more up there for a boy like you than down here. You'll never get anywhere working on a country newspaper.”

“I know it,” said Eugene.

“Now with me it's different,” went on Williams. “I've had my rounds. I've got a wife and three children and when a man's got a family he can't afford to take chances. But you're young yet. Why don't you go to Chicago and get on a paper? You could get something.”

“What could I get?” asked Eugene.

“Well, you might get a job as type-setter if you'd join the union. I don't know how good you'd be as a reporter—I hardly think that's your line. But you might study art and learn to draw. Newspaper artists make good money.”

Eugene thought of his art. It wasn't much. He didn't do much with it. Still he thought of Chicago; the world appealed to him. If he could only get out of here—if he could only make more than seven or eight dollars a week. He brooded about this.

One Sunday afternoon he and Stella went with Myrtle to Sylvia's home, and after a brief stay Stella announced that she would have to be going; her mother would be expecting her back. Myrtle was for going with her, but altered her mind when Sylvia asked her to stay to tea. “Let Eugene take her home,” Sylvia said. Eugene was delighted in his persistent, hopeless way. He was not yet convinced that she could not be won to love. When they walked out in the fresh sweet air—it was nearing spring—he felt that now he should have a chance of saying something which would be winning—which would lure her to him.

They went out on a street next to the one she lived on quite to the confines of the town. She wanted to turn off at her street, but he had urged her not to. “Do you have to go home just yet?” he asked, pleadingly.

“No, I can walk a little way,” she replied.

They reached a vacant place—the last house a little distance back—talking idly. It was getting hard to make talk. In his efforts to be entertaining he picked up three twigs to show her how a certain trick in balancing was performed. It consisted in laying two at right angles with each other and with a third, using the latter as an upright. She could not do it, of course. She was not really very much interested. He wanted her to try and when she did, took hold of her right hand to steady her efforts.

“No, don't,” she said, drawing her hand away. “I can do it.”

She trifled with the twigs unsuccessfully and was about to let them fall, when he took hold of both her hands. It was so sudden that she could not free herself, and so she looked him straight in the eye.

“Let go, Eugene, please let go.”

He shook his head, gazing at her.

“Please let go,” she went on. “You mustn't do this. I don't want you to.”

“Why?”

“Because.”

“Because why?”

“Well, because I don't.”

“Don't you like me any more, Stella, really?” he asked.

“I don't think I do, not that way.”

“But you did.”

“I thought I did.”

“Have you changed your mind?”

“Yes, I think I have.”

He dropped her hands and looked at her fixedly and dramatically. The attitude did not appeal to her. They strolled back to the street, and when they neared her door he said, “Well, I suppose there's no use in my coming to see you any more.”

“I think you'd better not,” she said simply.

She walked in, never looking back, and instead of going back to his sister's he went home. He was in a very gloomy mood, and after sitting around for a while went to his room. The night fell, and he sat there looking out at the trees and grieving about what he had lost. Perhaps he was not good enough for her—he could not make her love him. Was it that he was not handsome enough—he did not really consider himself good looking—or what was it, a lack of courage or strength?

After a time he noticed that the moon was hanging over the trees like a bright shield in the sky. Two layers of thin clouds were moving in different directions on different levels. He stopped in his cogitations to think where these clouds came from. On sunny days when there were great argosies of them he had seen them disappear before his eyes, and then, marvel of marvels, reappear out of nothingness. The first time he ever saw this it astonished him greatly, for he had never known up to then what clouds were. Afterward he read about them in his physical geography. Tonight he thought of that, and of the great plains over which these winds swept, and of the grass and trees—great forests of them—miles and miles. What a wonderful world! Poets wrote about these things, Longfellow, and Bryant, and Tennyson. He thought of “Thanatopsis,” and of the “Elegy,” both of which he admired greatly. What was this thing, life?

Then he came back to Stella with an ache. She was actually gone, and she was so beautiful. She would never really talk to him any more. He would never get to hold her hand or kiss her. He clenched his hands with the hurt. Oh, that night on the ice; that night in the sleigh! How wonderful they were! Finally he undressed and went to bed. He wanted to be alone—to be lonely. On his clean white pillow he lay and dreamed of the things that might have been, kisses, caresses, a thousand joys.

One Sunday afternoon he was lying in his hammock thinking, thinking of what a dreary place Alexandria was, anyhow, when he opened a Chicago Saturday afternoon paper, which was something like a Sunday one because it had no Sunday edition,—and went gloomily through it. It was as he had always found, full of a subtle wonder, the wonder of the city, which drew him like a magnet. Here was the drawing of a big hotel someone was going to build; there was a sketch of a great pianist who was coming to play. An account of a new comedy drama; of a little romantic section of Goose Island in the Chicago river, with its old decayed boats turned into houses and geese waddling about; an item of a man falling through a coal hole on South Halstead street fascinated him. This last was at sixty-two hundred and something and the idea of such a long street seized on his imagination. What a tremendous city Chicago must be. The thought of car lines, crowds, trains, came to him with almost a yearning appeal.

All at once the magnet got him. It gripped his very soul, this wonder, this beauty, this life.

“I'm going to Chicago,” he thought, and got up.

There was his nice, quiet little home laid out before him. Inside were his mother, his father, Myrtle. Still he was going. He could come back. “Sure I can come back,” he thought. Propelled by this magnetic power he went in and upstairs to his room, and got a little grip or portmanteau he had. He put in it the things he thought he would immediately need. In his pocket were nine dollars, money he had been saving for some time. Finally he came downstairs and stood in the door of the sitting room.

“What's the matter?” asked his mother, looking at his solemn introspective face.

“I'm going to Chicago,” he said.

“When?” she asked, astonished, a little uncertain of just what he meant.

“Today,” he said.

“No, you're joking.” She smiled unbelievingly. This was a boyish prank.

“I'm going today,” he said. “I'm going to catch that four o'clock train.”

Her face saddened. “You're not?” she said.

“I can come back,” he replied, “if I want to. I want to get something else to do.”

His father came in at this time. He had a little work room out in the barn where he sometimes cleaned machines and repaired vehicles. He was fresh from such a task now.

“What's up?” he asked, seeing his wife close to her boy.

“Eugene's going to Chicago.”

“Since when?” he inquired amusedly.

“Today. He says he's going right now.”

“You don't mean it,” said Witla, astonished. He really did not believe it. “Why don't you take a little time and think it over? What are you going to live on?”

“I'll live,” said Eugene. “I'm going. I've had enough of this place. I'm going to get out.”

“All right,” said his father, who, after all, believed in initiative. Evidently after all he hadn't quite understood this boy. “Got your trunk packed?”

“No, but mother can send me that.”

“Don't go today,” pleaded his mother. “Wait until you get something ready, Eugene. Wait and do a little thinking about it. Wait until tomorrow.”

“I want to go today, ma.” He slipped his arm around her. “Little ma.” He was bigger than she by now, and still growing.

“All right, Eugene,” she said softly, “but I wish you wouldn't.” Her boy was leaving her—her heart was hurt.

“I can come back, ma. It's only a hundred miles.”

“Well, all right,” she said finally, trying to brighten. “I'll pack your bag.”

“I have already.”

She went to look.

“Well, it'll soon be time,” said Witla, who was thinking that Eugene might back down. “I'm sorry. Still it may be a good thing for you. You're always welcome here, you know.”

“I know,” said Eugene.

They went finally to the train together, he and his father and Myrtle. His mother couldn't. She stayed to cry.

On the way to the depot they stopped at Sylvia's.

“Why, Eugene,” she exclaimed, “how ridiculous! Don't go.”

“He's set,” said Witla.

Eugene finally got loose. He seemed to be fighting love, home ties, everything, every step of the way. Finally he reached the depot. The train came. Witla grabbed his hand affectionately. “Be a good boy,” he said, swallowing a gulp.

Myrtle kissed him. “You're so funny, Eugene. Write me.”

“I will.”

He stepped on the train. The bell rang. Out the cars rolled—out and on. He looked out on the familiar scenes and then a real ache came to him—Stella, his mother, his father, Myrtle, the little home. They were all going out of his life.

“Hm,” he half groaned, clearing his throat. “Gee!”

And then he sank back and tried, as usual, not to think. He must succeed. That's what the world was made for. That was what he was made for. That was what he would have to do....

CHAPTER IV

The city of Chicago—who shall portray it! This vast ruck of life that had sprung suddenly into existence upon the dank marshes of a lake shore. Miles and miles of dreary little houses; miles and miles of wooden block-paved streets, with gas lamps placed and water mains laid, and empty wooden walks set for pedestrians; the beat of a hundred thousand hammers; the ring of a hundred thousand trowels! Long, converging lines of telegraph poles; thousands upon thousands of sentinel cottages, factory plants, towering smoke stacks, and here and there a lone, shabby church steeple, sitting out pathetically upon vacant land. The raw prairie stretch was covered with yellow grass; the great broad highways of the tracks of railroads, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, laid side by side and strung with thousands upon thousands of shabby cars, like beads upon a string. Engines clanging, trains moving, people waiting at street crossings—pedestrians, wagon drivers, street car drivers, drays of beer, trucks of coal, brick, stone, sand—a spectacle of new, raw, necessary life!

As Eugene began to draw near it he caught for the first time the sense and significance of a great city. What were these newspaper shadows he had been dealing with in his reading compared to this vivid, articulate, eager thing? Here was the substance of a new world, substantial, fascinating, different. The handsome suburban station at South Chicago, the first of its kind he had ever seen, took his eye, as the train rolled cityward. He had never before seen a crowd of foreigners—working men—and here were Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, waiting for a local train. He had never seen a really large factory plant, and here was one, and another, and another—steel works, potteries, soap-factories, foundries, all gaunt and hard in the Sunday evening air. There seemed to be, for all it was Sunday, something youthful, energetic and alive about the streets. He noted the streetcars waiting; at one place a small river was crossed on a draw,—dirty, gloomy, but crowded with boats and lined with great warehouses, grain elevators, coal pockets—that architecture of necessity and utility. His imagination was fired by this for here was something that could be done brilliantly in black—a spot of red or green for ship and bridge lights. There were some men on the magazines who did things like this, only not so vivid.

The train threaded its way through long lines of cars coming finally into an immense train shed where arc lights were spluttering—a score under a great curved steel and glass roof, where people were hurrying to and fro. Engines were hissing; bells clanging raucously. He had no relatives, no soul to turn to, but somehow he did not feel lonely. This picture of life, this newness, fascinated him. He stepped down and started leisurely to the gate, wondering which way he should go. He came to a corner where a lamp post already lit blazoned the name Madison. He looked out on this street and saw, as far as the eye could reach, two lines of stores, jingling horse cars, people walking. What a sight, he thought, and turned west. For three miles he walked, musing, and then as it was dark, and he had arranged for no bed, he wondered where he should eat and sleep. A fat man sitting outside a livery stable door in a tilted, cane-seated chair offered a possibility of information.

“Do you know where I can get a room around here?” asked Eugene.

The lounger looked him over. He was the proprietor of the place.

“There's an old lady living over there at seven-thirty-two,” he said, “who has a room, I think. She might take you in.” He liked Eugene's looks.

Eugene crossed over and rang a downstairs bell. The door was opened shortly by a tall, kindly woman, of a rather matriarchal turn. Her hair was gray.

“Yes?” she inquired.

“The gentleman at the livery stable over there said I might get a room here. I'm looking for one.”

She smiled pleasantly. This boy looked his strangeness, his wide-eyed interest, his freshness from the country. “Come in,” she said. “I have a room. You can look at it.”

It was a front room—a little bed-room off the one main living room, clean, simple, convenient. “This looks all right,” he said.

She smiled.

“You can have it for two dollars a week,” she proffered.

“That's all right,” he said, putting down his grip. “I'll take it.”

“Have you had supper?” she asked.

“No, but I'm going out soon. I want to see the streets. I'll find some place.”

“I'll give you something,” she said.

Eugene thanked her, and she smiled. This was what Chicago did to the country. It took the boys.

He opened the closed shutters of his window and knelt before it, leaning on the sill. He looked out idly, for it was all so wonderful. Bright lights were burning in store windows. These people hurrying—how their feet sounded—clap, clap, clap. And away east and away west it was all like this. It was all like this everywhere, a great big, wonderful city. It was nice to be here. He felt that now. It was all worth while. How could he have stayed in Alexandria so long! He would get along here. Certainly he would. He was perfectly sure of that. He knew.

Chicago at this time certainly offered a world of hope and opportunity to the beginner. It was so new, so raw; everything was in the making. The long lines of houses and stores were mostly temporary make-shifts—one and two story frame affairs—with here and there a three and four story brick building which spoke of better days to come. Down in the business heart which lay between the lake and the river, the North Side and the South Side, was a region which spoke of a tremendous future, for here were stores which served the buying public, not only of Chicago, but of the Middle West. There were great banks, great office buildings, great retail stores, great hotels. The section was running with a tide of people which represented the youth, the illusions, the untrained aspirations, of millions of souls. When you walked into this area you could feel what Chicago meant—eagerness, hope, desire. It was a city that put vitality into almost every wavering heart: it made the beginner dream dreams; the aged to feel that misfortune was never so grim that it might not change.

Underneath, of course, was struggle. Youth and hope and energy were setting a terrific pace. You had to work here, to move, to step lively. You had to have ideas. This city demanded of you your very best, or it would have little to do with you. Youth in its search for something—and age—were quickly to feel this. It was no fool's paradise.

Eugene, once he was settled, realized this. He had the notion, somehow, that the printer's trade was all over for him. He wanted no more of that. He wanted to be an artist or something like that, although he hardly knew how to begin. The papers offered one way, but he was not sure that they took on beginners. He had had no training whatever. His sister Myrtle had once said that some of his little thumb-nail sketches were pretty, but what did she know? If he could study somewhere, find someone who would teach him.... Meanwhile he would have to work.

He tried the newspapers first of course, for those great institutions seemed the ideal resort for anyone who wanted to get up in the world, but the teeming offices with frowning art directors and critical newspaper workers frightened him. One art director did see something in the three or four little sketches he showed, but he happened to be in a crusty mood, and did not want anybody anyway. He simply said no, there was nothing. Eugene thought that perhaps as an artist also, he was destined to be a failure.

The trouble with this boy was really that he was not half awake yet. The beauty of life, its wonder, had cast a spell over him, but he could not yet interpret it in line and color. He walked about these wonderful streets, gazing in the windows, looking at the boats on the river, looking at the ships on the lake. One day, while he was standing on the lake shore, there came a ship in full sail in the offing—the first he had ever seen. It gripped his sense of beauty. He clasped his hands nervously and thrilled to it. Then he sat down on the lake wall and looked and looked and looked until it gradually sank below the horizon. So this was how the great lakes were; and how the great seas must be—the Atlantic and the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Ah, the sea! Some day, perhaps he would go to New York. That was where the sea was. But here it was also, in miniature, and it was wonderful.

One cannot moon by lake shores and before store windows and at bridge draws and live, unless one is provided with the means of living, and this Eugene was not. He had determined when he left home that he would be independent. He wanted to get a salary in some way that he could at least live on. He wanted to write back and be able to say that he was getting along nicely. His trunk came, and a loving letter from his mother, and some money, but he sent that back. It was only ten dollars, but he objected to beginning that way. He thought he ought to earn his own way, and he wanted to try, anyhow.

After ten days his funds were very low, a dollar and seventy-five cents, and he decided that any job would have to do. Never mind about art or type-setting now. He could not get the last without a union card, he must take anything, and so he applied from store to store. The cheap little shops in which he asked were so ugly they hurt, but he tried to put his artistic sensibilities aside. He asked for anything, to be made a clerk in a bakery, in a dry goods store, in a candy store. After a time a hardware store loomed up, and he asked there. The man looked at him curiously. “I might give you a place at storing stoves.”

Eugene did not understand, but he accepted gladly. It only paid six dollars a week, but he could live on that. He was shown to a loft in charge of two rough men, stove fitters, polishers, and repairers, who gruffly explained to him that his work was to brush the rust off the decayed stoves, to help piece and screw them together, to polish and lift things, for this was a second hand stove business which bought and repaired stoves from junk dealers all over the city. Eugene had a low bench near a window where he was supposed to do his polishing, but he very frequently wasted his time here looking out into the green yards of some houses in a side street. The city was full of wonder to him—its every detail fascinating. When a rag-picker would go by calling “rags, old iron,” or a vegetable vender crying “tomatoes, potatoes, green corn, peas,” he would stop and listen, the musical pathos of the cries appealing to him. Alexandria had never had anything like this. It was all so strange. He saw himself making pen and ink sketches of things, of the clothes lines in the back yards and of the maids with baskets.

On one of the days when he thought he was working fairly well (he had been there two weeks), one of the two repairers said, “Hey, get a move on you. You're not paid to look out the window.” Eugene stopped. He had not realized that he was loafing.

“What have you got to do with it?” he asked, hurt and half defiant. He was under the impression that he was working with these men, not under them.

“I'll show you, you fresh kid,” said the older of the two, who was an individual built on the order of “Bill Sykes.” “You're under me. You get a move on you, and don't give me any more of your lip.”

Eugene was startled. It was a flash of brutality out of a clear sky. The animal, whom he had been scanning as an artist would, as a type, out of the corner of his eye, was revealing himself.

“You go to the devil,” said Eugene, only half awake to the grim reality of the situation.

“What's that!” exclaimed the man, making for him. He gave him a shove toward the wall, and attempted to kick him with his big, hob-nailed boot. Eugene picked up a stove leg. His face was wax white.

“Don't you try that again,” he said darkly. He fixed the leg in his hand firmly.

“Call it off, Jim,” said the other man, who saw the uselessness of so much temper. “Don't hit him. Send him down stairs if you don't like him.”

“You get to hell out of here, then,” said Eugene's noble superior.

Eugene walked to a nail where his hat and coat were, carrying the stove leg. He edged past his assailant cautiously, fearing a second attack. The man was inclined to kick at him again because of his stubbornness, but forebore.

“You're too fresh, Willie. You want to wake up, you dough face,” he said as Eugene went.

Eugene slipped out quietly. His spirit was hurt and torn. What a scene! He, Eugene Witla, kicked at, and almost kicked out, and that in a job that paid six dollars a week. A great lump came up in his throat, but it went down again. He wanted to cry but he could not. He went downstairs, stovepolish on his hands and face and slipped up to the desk.

“I want to quit,” he said to the man who had hired him.

“All right, what's the matter?”

“That big brute up there tried to kick me,” he explained.

“They're pretty rough men,” answered the employer. “I was afraid you wouldn't get along. I guess you're not strong enough. Here you are.” He laid out three dollars and a half. Eugene wondered at this queer interpretation of his complaint. He must get along with these men? They musn't get along with him? So the city had that sort of brutality in it.

He went home and washed up, and then struck out again, for it was no time now to be without a job. After a week he found one,—as a house runner for a real estate concern, a young man to bring in the numbers of empty houses and post up the “For Rent” signs in the windows. It paid eight dollars and seemed to offer opportunities of advancement. Eugene might have stayed there indefinitely had it not failed after three months. He had reached the season of fall clothes then, and the need of a winter overcoat, but he made no complaint to his family. He wanted to appear to be getting along well, whether he was or not.

One of the things which tended to harden and sharpen his impressions of life at this time was the show of luxury seen in some directions. On Michigan Avenue and Prairie Avenue, on Ashland Avenue and Washington Boulevard, were sections which were crowded with splendid houses such as Eugene had never seen before. He was astonished at the magnificence of their appointments, the beauty of the lawns, the show of the windows, the distinction of the equipages which accompanied them and served them. For the first time in his life he saw liveried footmen at doors: he saw at a distance girls and women grown who seemed marvels of beauty to him—they were so distinguished in their dress; he saw young men carrying themselves with an air of distinction which he had never seen before. These must be the society people the newspapers were always talking about. His mind made no distinctions as yet. If there were fine clothes, fine trappings, of course social prestige went with them. It made him see for the first time what far reaches lay between the conditions of a beginner from the country and what the world really had to offer—or rather what it showered on some at the top. It subdued and saddened him a little. Life was unfair.

These fall days, too, with their brown leaves, sharp winds, scudding smoke and whirls of dust showed him that the city could be cruel. He met shabby men, sunken eyed, gloomy, haggard, who looked at him, apparently out of a deep despair. These creatures all seemed to be brought where they were by difficult circumstances. If they begged at all,—and they rarely did of him, for he did not look prosperous enough, it was with the statement that unfortunate circumstances had brought them where they were. You could fail so easily. You could really starve if you didn't look sharp,—the city quickly taught him that.

During these days he got immensely lonely. He was not very sociable, and too introspective. He had no means of making friends, or thought he had none. So he wandered about the streets at night, marveling at the sights he saw, or staying at home in his little room. Mrs. Woodruff, the landlady, was nice and motherly enough, but she was not young and did not fit into his fancies. He was thinking about girls and how sad it was not to have one to say a word to him. Stella was gone—that dream was over. When would he find another like her?

After wandering around for nearly a month, during which time he was compelled to use some money his mother sent him to buy a suit of clothes on an instalment plan, he got a place as driver of a laundry, which, because it paid ten dollars a week, seemed very good. He sketched now and then when he was not tired, but what he did seemed pointless. So he worked here, driving a wagon, when he should have been applying for an art opening, or taking art lessons.

During this winter Myrtle wrote him that Stella Appleton had moved to Kansas, whither her father had gone; and that his mother's health was bad, and that she did so want him to come home and stay awhile. It was about this time that he became acquainted with a little Scotch girl named Margaret Duff, who worked in the laundry, and became quickly involved in a relationship which established a precedent in his experiences with women. Before this he had never physically known a girl. Now, and of a sudden, he was plunged into something which awakened a new, and if not evil, at least disrupting and disorganizing propensity of his character. He loved women, the beauty of the curves of their bodies. He loved beauty of feature and after a while was to love beauty of mind,—he did now, in a vague, unformed way,—but his ideal was as yet not clear to him. Margaret Duff represented some simplicity of attitude, some generosity of spirit, some shapeliness of form, some comeliness of feature,—it was not more. But, growing by what it fed on, his sex appetite became powerful. In a few weeks it had almost mastered him. He burned to be with this girl daily—and she was perfectly willing that he should, so long as the relationship did not become too conspicuous. She was a little afraid of her parents, although those two, being working people, retired early and slept soundly. They did not seem to mind her early philanderings with boys. This latest one was no novelty. It burned fiercely for three months—Eugene was eager, insatiable: the girl not so much so, but complaisant. She liked this evidence of fire in him,—the hard, burning flame she had aroused, and yet after a time she got a little tired. Then little personal differences arose,—differences of taste, differences of judgment, differences of interest. He really could not talk to her of anything serious, could not get a response to his more delicate emotions. For her part she could not find in him any ready appreciation of the little things she liked—theater jests, and the bright remarks of other boys and girls. She had some conception of what was tasteful in dress, but as for anything else, art, literature, public affairs, she knew nothing at all, while Eugene, for all his youth, was intensely alive to what was going on in the great world. The sound of great names and great fames was in his ears,—Carlyle, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman. He read of great philosophers, painters, musicians, meteors that sped across the intellectual sky of the western world, and he wondered. He felt as though some day he would be called to do something—in his youthful enthusiasm he half-thought it might be soon. He knew that this girl he was trifling with could not hold him. She had lured him, but once lured he was master, judge, critic. He was beginning to feel that he could get along without her,—that he could find someone better.

Naturally such an attitude would make for the death of passion, as the satiation of passion would make for the development of such an attitude. Margaret became indifferent. She resented his superior airs, his top-lofty tone at times. They quarreled over little things. One night he suggested something that she ought to do in the haughty manner customary with him.

“Oh, don't be so smart!” she said. “You always talk as though you owned me.”

“I do,” he said jestingly.

“Do you?” she flared. “There are others.”

“Well, whenever you're ready you can have them. I'm willing.”

The tone cut her, though actually it was only an ill-timed bit of teasing, more kindly meant than it sounded.

“Well, I'm ready now. You needn't come to see me unless you want to. I can get along.”

She tossed her head.

“Don't be foolish, Margy,” he said, seeing the ill wind he had aroused. “You don't mean that.”

“Don't I? Well, we'll see.” She walked away from him to another corner of the room. He followed her, but her anger re-aroused his opposition. “Oh, all right,” he said after a time. “I guess I'd better be going.”

She made no response, neither pleas nor suggestions. He went and secured his hat and coat and came back. “Want to kiss me good-bye?” he inquired.

“No,” she said simply.

“Good-night,” he called.

“Good-night,” she replied indifferently.

The relationship was never amicably readjusted after this, although it did endure for some time.

CHAPTER V

For the time being this encounter stirred to an almost unbridled degree Eugene's interest in women. Most men are secretly proud of their triumph with woman—their ability to triumph—and any evidence of their ability to attract, entertain, hold, is one of those things which tends to give them an air of superiority and self-sufficiency which is sometimes lacking in those who are not so victorious. This was, in its way, his first victory of the sort, and it pleased him mightily. He felt much more sure of himself instead of in any way ashamed. What, he thought, did the silly boys back in Alexandria know of life compared to this? Nothing. He was in Chicago now. The world was different. He was finding himself to be a man, free, individual, of interest to other personalities. Margaret Duff had told him many pretty things about himself. She had complimented his looks, his total appearance, his taste in the selection of particular things. He had felt what it is to own a woman. He strutted about for a time, the fact that he had been dismissed rather arbitrarily having little weight with him because he was so very ready to be dismissed, sudden dissatisfaction with his job now stirred up in him, for ten dollars a week was no sum wherewith any self-respecting youth could maintain himself,—particularly with a view to sustaining any such relationship as that which had just ended. He felt that he ought to get a better place.

Then one day a woman to whom he was delivering a parcel at her home in Warren Avenue, stopped him long enough to ask: “What do you drivers get a week for your work?”

“I get ten dollars,” said Eugene. “I think some get more.”

“You ought to make a good collector,” she went on. She was a large, homely, incisive, straight-talking woman. “Would you like to change to that kind of work?”

Eugene was sick of the laundry business. The hours were killing. He had worked as late as one o'clock Sunday morning.

“I think I would,” he exclaimed. “I don't know anything about it, but this work is no fun.”

“My husband is the manager of The People's Furniture Company,” she went on. “He needs a good collector now and then. I think he's going to make a change very soon. I'll speak to him.”

Eugene smiled joyously and thanked her. This was surely a windfall. He was anxious to know what collectors were paid but he thought it scarcely tactful to ask.

“If he gives you a job you will probably get fourteen dollars to begin with,” she volunteered.

Eugene thrilled. That would be really a rise in the world. Four dollars more! He could get some nice clothes out of that and have spending money besides. He might get a chance to study art. His visions began to multiply. One could get up in the world by trying. The energetic delivery he had done for this laundry had brought him this. Further effort in the other field might bring him more. And he was young yet.

He had been working for the laundry company for six months. Six weeks later, Mr. Henry Mitchly, manager of the People's Furniture, wrote him care of the laundry company to call at his home any evening after eight and he would see him. “My wife has spoken to me of you,” he added.

Eugene complied the same day that he received the note, and was looked over by a lean, brisk, unctuous looking man of forty, who asked him various questions as to his work, his home, how much money he took in as a driver, and what not. Finally he said, “I need a bright young man down at my place. It's a good job for one who is steady and honest and hardworking. My wife seems to think you work pretty well, so I'm willing to give you a trial. I can put you to work at fourteen dollars. I want you to come to see me a week from Monday.”

Eugene thanked him. He decided, on Mr. Mitchly's advice, to give his laundry manager a full week's notice. He told Margaret that he was leaving and she was apparently glad for his sake. The management was slightly sorry, for Eugene was a good driver. During his last week he helped break in a new man in his place, and on Monday appeared before Mr. Mitchly.

Mr. Mitchly was glad to have him, for he had seen him as a young man of energy and force. He explained the simple nature of the work, which was to take bills for clocks, silverware, rugs, anything which the company sold, and go over the various routes collecting the money due,—which would average from seventy five to a hundred and twenty-five dollars a day. “Most companies in our line require a bond,” he explained, “but we haven't come to that yet. I think I know honest young men when I see them. Anyhow we have a system of inspection. If a man's inclined to be dishonest he can't get very far with us.”

Eugene had never thought of this question of honesty very much. He had been raised where he did not need to worry about the matter of a little pocket change, and he had made enough at the Appeal to supply his immediate wants. Besides, among the people he had always associated with it was considered a very right and necessary thing to be honest. Men were arrested for not being. He remembered one very sad case of a boy he knew being arrested at Alexandria for breaking into a store at night. That seemed a terrible thing to him at the time. Since then he had been speculating a great deal, in a vague way as to what honesty was, but he had not yet decided. He knew that it was expected of him to account for the last penny of anything that was placed in his keeping and he was perfectly willing to do so. The money he earned seemed enough if he had to live on it. There was no need for him to aid in supporting anyone else. So he slipped along rather easily and practically untested.

Eugene took the first day's package of bills as laid out for him, and carefully went from door to door. In some places money was paid him for which he gave a receipt, in others he was put off or refused because of previous difficulties with the company. In a number of places people had moved, leaving no trace of themselves, and packing the unpaid for goods with them. It was his business, as Mr. Mitchly explained, to try to get track of them from the neighbors.

Eugene saw at once that he was going to like the work. The fresh air, the out-door life, the walking, the quickness with which his task was accomplished, all pleased him. His routes took him into strange and new parts of the city, where he had never been before, and introduced him to types he had never met. His laundry work, taking him from door to door, had been a freshening influence, and this was another. He saw scenes that he felt sure he could, when he had learned to draw a little better, make great things of,—dark, towering factory-sites, great stretches of railroad yards laid out like a puzzle in rain, snow, or bright sunlight; great smoke-stacks throwing their black heights athwart morning or evening skies. He liked them best in the late afternoon when they stood out in a glow of red or fading purple. “Wonderful,” he used to exclaim to himself, and think how the world would marvel if he could ever come to do great pictures like those of Doré. He admired the man's tremendous imagination. He never thought of himself as doing anything in oils or water colors or chalk—only pen and ink, and that in great, rude splotches of black and white. That was the way. That was the way force was had.

But he could not do them. He could only think them.

One of his chief joys was the Chicago river, its black, mucky water churned by puffing tugs and its banks lined by great red grain elevators and black coal chutes and yellow lumber yards. Here was real color and life—the thing to draw; and then there were the low, drab, rain-soaked cottages standing in lonely, shabby little rows out on flat prairie land, perhaps a scrubby tree somewhere near. He loved these. He would take an envelope and try to get the sense of them—the feel, as he called it—but it wouldn't come. All he did seemed cheap and commonplace, mere pointless lines and stiff wooden masses. How did the great artists get their smoothness and ease? He wondered.

CHAPTER VI

Eugene collected and reported faithfully every day, and had managed to save a little money. Margaret was now a part of his past. His landlady, Mrs. Woodruff, had gone to live with a daughter in Sedalia, Missouri, and he had moved to a comparatively nice house in East Twenty-first Street on the South Side. It had taken his eye because of a tree in a fifty foot space of ground before it. Like his other room it cost him little, and he was in a private family. He arranged a twenty cent rate per meal for such meals as he took there, and thus he managed to keep his bare living expenses down to five dollars a week. The remaining nine he spent sparingly for clothes, car-fare, and amusements—almost nothing of the latter. When he saw he had a little money in reserve he began to think of looking up the Art Institute, which had been looming up in his mind as an avenue of advancement, and find out on what condition he could join a night class in drawing. They were very reasonable, he heard, only fifteen dollars a quarter, and he decided to begin if the conditions were not too severe. He was beginning to be convinced that he was born to be an artist—how soon he could not tell.

The old Art Institute, which preceded the present impressive structure, was located at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, and presented an atmosphere of distinction which was not present in most of the structures representing the public taste of the period. It was a large six storey building of brown stone, and contained a number of studios for painters, sculptors, and music teachers, besides the exhibition rooms and the rooms for the classes. There were both day and evening classes, and even at that time a large number of students. The western soul, to a certain extent, was fired by the wonder of art. There was so little of it in the life of the people—the fame of those who could accomplish things in this field and live in a more refined atmosphere was great. To go to Paris! To be a student in any one of the great ateliers of that city! Or of Munich or Rome, to know the character of the artistic treasures of Europe—the life of the Art quarter—that was something. There was what might have been termed a wild desire in the breast of many an untutored boy and girl to get out of the ranks of the commonplace; to assume the character and the habiliments of the artistic temperament as they were then supposed to be; to have a refined, semi-languorous, semi-indifferent manner; to live in a studio, to have a certain freedom in morals and temperament not accorded to the ordinary person—these were the great things to do and be. Of course, art composition was a part of this. You were supposed ultimately to paint great pictures or do noble sculptures, but in the meanwhile you could and should live the life of the artist. And that was beautiful and wonderful and free.

Eugene had long had some sense of this. He was aware that there were studios in Chicago; that certain men were supposed to be doing good work—he saw it in the papers. There were mentions now and then of exhibitions, mostly free, which the public attended but sparingly. Once there was an exhibition of some of the war pictures of Verestchagin, a great Russian painter who had come West for some purpose. Eugene saw them one Sunday afternoon, and was enthralled by the magnificence of their grasp of the elements of battle; the wonder of color; the truth of character; the dramatic quality; the sense of force and danger and horror and suffering which was somehow around and in and through everything that was shown. This man had virility and insight; stupendous imagination and temperament. Eugene stood and stared, wondering how such things could be done. Ever afterward the name of Verestchagin was like a great call to his imagination; that was the kind of an artist to be if you were going to be one.

Another picture came there once, which appealed to another side of his nature, although primarily the basis of its appeal was artistic. It was a great, warm tinted nude by Bouguereau, a French artist who was startling his day with his daring portrayal of the nude. The types he depicted were not namby-pamby little slim-bodied women with spindling qualities of strength and passion, but great, full-blown women whose voluptuous contour of neck and arms and torso and hip and thigh was enough to set the blood of youth at fever heat. The man obviously understood and had passion, love of form, love of desire, love of beauty. He painted with a sense of the bridal bed in the background; of motherhood and of fat, growing babies, joyously nursed. These women stood up big in their sense of beauty and magnetism, the soft lure of desire in their eyes, their full lips parted, their cheeks flushed with the blood of health. As such they were anathema to the conservative and puritanical in mind, the religious in temperament, the cautious in training or taste. The very bringing of this picture to Chicago as a product for sale was enough to create a furore of objection. Such pictures should not be painted, was the cry of the press; or if painted, not exhibited. Bouguereau was conceived of by many as one of those dastards of art who were endeavoring to corrupt by their talent the morals of the world; there was a cry raised that the thing should be suppressed; and as is always the case in all such outbursts of special class opposition, the interest of the general public was aroused.

Eugene was one of those who noted the discussion. He had never seen a picture by Bouguereau or, indeed, an original nude by any other artist. Being usually at liberty after three o'clock, he was free to visit some of these things, and having found it possible to do his work in good clothes he had come to wear his best suit every day. He was a fairly presentable youth with a solemn mien, and his request to be shown anything in any art store would have aroused no surprise. He looked as though he belonged to the intellectual and artistic classes.

Not being sure of what reception would be accorded one so young—he was now nearing twenty—he nevertheless ventured to stop at the gallery where the Bouguereau was being exhibited and ask to see it. The attendant in charge eyed him curiously, but led him back to a room hung in dark red, and turning on a burst of incandescent bulbs set in the ceiling of a red plush hung cabinet, pulled back the curtain revealing the picture. Eugene had never seen such a figure and face. It was a dream of beauty—his ideal come to life. He studied the face and neck, the soft mass of brown, sensuous hair massed at the back of the head, the flowerlike lips and soft cheeks. He marveled at the suggestion of the breasts and the abdomen, that potentiality of motherhood that is so firing to the male. He could have stood there hours dreaming, luxuriating, but the attendant who had left him alone with it for a few minutes returned.

“What is the price of this?” Eugene asked.

“Ten thousand dollars,” was the reply.

He smiled solemnly. “It's a wonderful thing,” he said, and turned to go. The attendant put out the light.

This picture, like those of Verestchagin, made a sharp impression on him. Curiously he had no longing to paint anything of this kind. He only rejoiced to look at it. It spoke to him of his present ideal of womanhood—physical beauty, and he longed with all his heart to find a creature like that who would look on him with favor.

There were other exhibitions—one containing a genuine Rembrandt—which impressed him, but none like these that had definitely stirred him. His interest in art was becoming eager. He wanted to find out all about it—to do something himself. One day he ventured to call at the Art Institute building and consult the secretary, who explained to him what the charges were. He learned from her, for she was a woman of a practical, clerical turn, that the classes ran from October to May, that he could enter a life or antique class or both, though the antique alone was advisable for the time, and a class in illustration, where costumes of different periods were presented on different models. He found that each class had an instructor of supposed note, whom it was not necessary for him to see. Each class had a monitor and each student was supposed to work faithfully for his own benefit. Eugene did not get to see the class rooms, but he gained a sense of the art of it all, nevertheless, for the halls and offices were decorated in an artistic way, and there were many plaster casts of arms, legs, busts, and thighs and heads. It was as though one stood in an open doorway and looked out upon a new world. The one thing that gratified him was that he could study pen and ink or brush in the illustration class, and that he could also join a sketch class from five to six every afternoon without extra charges if he preferred to devote his evening hours to studying drawing in the life class. He was a little astonished to learn from a printed prospectus given him that the life class meant nude models to work from—both men and women. He was surely approaching a different world now. It seemed necessary and natural enough, and yet there was an aloof atmosphere about it, something that suggested the inner precincts of a shrine, to which only talent was admitted. Was he talented? Wait! He would show the world, even if he was a raw country boy.

The classes which he decided to enter were first a life class which convened Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at seven in one of the study rooms and remained in session until ten o'clock, and second a sketch class which met from five to six every afternoon. Eugene felt that he knew little or nothing about figure and anatomy and had better work at that. Costume and illustration would have to wait, and as for the landscapes, or rather city-scapes, of which he was so fond, he could afford to defer those until he learned something of the fundamentals of art.

Heretofore he had rarely attempted the drawing of a face or figure except in miniature and as details of a larger scene. Now he was confronted with the necessity of sketching in charcoal the head or body of a living person, and it frightened him a little. He knew that he would be in a class with fifteen or twenty other male students. They would be able to see and comment on what he was doing. Twice a week an instructor would come around and pass upon his work. There were honors for those who did the best work during any one month, he learned from the prospectus, namely: first choice of seats around the model at the beginning of each new pose. The class instructors must be of considerable significance in the American art world, he thought, for they were N. A.'s, and that meant National Academicians. He little knew with what contempt this honor was received in some quarters, or he would not have attached so much significance to it.

One Monday evening in October, armed with the several sheets of paper which he had been told to purchase by his all-informing prospectus, he began his work. He was a little nervous at sight of the brightly lighted halls and class rooms, and the moving crowd of young men and women did not tend to allay his fears. He was struck at once with the quality of gaiety, determination and easy grace which marked the different members of this company. The boys struck him as interesting, virile, in many cases good looking; the girls as graceful, rather dashing and confident. One or two whom he noted were beautiful in a dark way. This was a wonderful world.

The rooms too, were exceptional. They were old enough in use to be almost completely covered, as to the walls, with the accumulation of paint scraped from the palettes. There were no easels or other paraphernalia, but simply chairs and little stools—the former, as Eugene learned, to be turned upside down for easels, the latter for the students to sit on. In the center of the room was a platform, the height of an ordinary table, for the model to pose on, and in one corner a screen which constituted a dressing room. There were no pictures or statuary—just the bare walls—but curiously, in one corner, a piano. Out in the halls and in the general lounging center were pictures of nude figures or parts of figures posed in all sorts of ways which Eugene, in his raw, youthful way, thought suggestive. He secretly rejoiced to look at them but he felt that he must not say anything about what he thought. An art student, he felt sure, must appear to be indifferent to such suggestion—to be above such desire. They were here to work, not to dream of women.

When the time came for the classes to assemble there was a scurrying to and fro, conferring between different students, and then the men found themselves in one set of rooms and the women in another. Eugene saw a young girl in his room, sitting up near the screen, idly gazing about. She was pretty, of a slightly Irish cast of countenance, with black hair and black eyes. She wore a cap that was an imitation of the Polish national head-dress, and a red cape. Eugene assumed her to be the class model and secretly wondered if he was really to see her in the nude. In a few minutes all the students were gathered, and then there was a stir as there strolled in a rather vigorous and picturesque man of thirty-six or thereabouts, who sauntered to the front of the room and called the class to order. He was clad in a shabby suit of grey tweed and crowned with a little brown hat, shoved rakishly over one ear, which he did not trouble to take off. He wore a soft blue hickory shirt without collar or tie, and looked immensely self-sufficient. He was tall and lean and raw-boned, with a face which was long and narrow; his eyes were large and wide set, his mouth big and firm in its lines; he had big hands and feet, and an almost rolling gait. Eugene assumed instinctively that this was Mr. Temple Boyle, N. A., the class instructor, and he imagined there would be an opening address of some kind. But the instructor merely announced that Mr. William Ray had been appointed monitor and that he hoped that there would be no disorder or wasting of time. There would be regular criticism days by him—Wednesdays and Fridays. He hoped that each pupil would be able to show marked improvement. The class would now begin work. Then he strolled out.

Eugene soon learned from one of the students that this really was Mr. Boyle. The young Irish girl had gone behind the screen. Eugene could see partially, from where he was sitting, that she was disrobing. It shocked him a little, but he kept his courage and his countenance because of the presence of so many others. He turned a chair upside down as he saw the others do, and sat down on a stool. His charcoal was lying in a little box beside him. He straightened his paper on its board and fidgeted, keeping as still as he could. Some of the students were talking. Suddenly he saw the girl divest herself of a thin, gauze shirt, and the next moment she came out, naked and composed, to step upon the platform and stand perfectly erect, her arms by her side, her head thrown back. Eugene tingled and blushed and was almost afraid to look directly at her. Then he took a stick of charcoal and began sketching feebly, attempting to convey something of this personality and this pose to paper. It seemed a wonderful thing for him to be doing—to be in this room, to see this girl posing so; in short, to be an art student. So this was what it was, a world absolutely different from anything he had ever known. And he was self-called to be a member of it.

CHAPTER VII

It was after he had decided to enter the art class that Eugene paid his first visit to his family. Though they were only a hundred miles away, he had never felt like going back, even at Christmas. Now it seemed to him he had something definite to proclaim. He was going to be an artist; and as to his work, he was getting along well in that. Mr. Mitchly appeared to like him. It was to Mr. Mitchly that he reported daily with his collections and his unsatisfied bills. The collections were checked up by Mr. Mitchly with the cash, and the unpaid bills certified. Sometimes Eugene made a mistake, having too much or too little, but the “too much” was always credited against the “too little,” so that in the main he came out even. In money matters there was no tendency on Eugene's part to be dishonest. He thought of lots of things he wanted, but he was fairly well content to wait and come by them legitimately. It was this note in him that appealed to Mitchly. He thought that possibly something could be made of Eugene in a trade way.

He left the Friday night preceding Labor Day, the first Monday in September, which was a holiday throughout the city. He had told Mr. Mitchly that he thought of leaving Saturday after work for over Sunday and Monday, but Mr. Mitchly suggested that he might double up his Saturday's work with Thursday's and Friday's if he wished, and go Friday evening.

“Saturday's a short day, anyhow,” he said. “That would give three days at home and still you wouldn't be behind in your work.”

Eugene thanked his employer and did as suggested. He packed his bag with the best he had in the way of clothes, and journeyed homeward, wondering how he would find things. How different it all was! Stella was gone. His youthful unsophistication had passed. He could go home as a city man with some prospects. He had no idea of how boyish he looked—how much the idealist he was—how far removed from hard, practical judgment which the world values so highly.

When the train reached Alexandria, his father and Myrtle and Sylvia were at the depot to greet him—the latter with her two year old son. They had all come down in the family carryall, which left one seat for Eugene. He greeted them warmly and received their encomiums on his looks with a befitting sense of humility.

“You're bigger,” his father exclaimed. “You're going to be a tall man after all, Eugene. I was afraid you had stopped growing.”

“I hadn't noticed that I had grown any,” said Eugene.

“Ah, yes,” put in Myrtle. “You're much bigger, Gene. It makes you look a little thinner. Are you good and strong?”

“I ought to be,” laughed Eugene. “I walk about fifteen or twenty miles a day, and I'm out in the air all the time. If I don't get strong now I never will.”

Sylvia asked him about his “stomach trouble.” About the same, he told her. Sometimes he thought it was better, sometimes worse. A doctor had told him to drink hot water in the morning but he didn't like to do it. It was so hard to swallow the stuff.

While they were talking, asking questions, they reached the front gate of the house, and Mrs. Witla came out on the front porch. Eugene, at sight of her in the late dusk, jumped over the front wheel and ran to meet her.

“Little ma,” he exclaimed. “Didn't expect me back so soon, did you?”

“So soon,” she said, her arms around his neck. Then she held him so, quite still for a few moments. “You're getting to be a big man,” she said when she released him.

He went into the old sitting room and looked around. It was all quite the same—no change. There were the same books, the same table, the same chairs, the same pulley lamp hanging from the center of the ceiling. In the parlor there was nothing new, nor in the bed rooms or the kitchen. His mother looked a little older—his father not. Sylvia had changed greatly—being slightly “peaked” in the face compared to her former plumpness; it was due to motherhood, he thought. Myrtle seemed a little more calm and happy. She had a real “steady” now, Frank Bangs, the superintendent of the local furniture factory. He was quite young, good-looking, going to be well-off some day, so they thought. “Old Bill,” one of the big horses, had been sold. Rover, one of the two collies, was dead. Jake the cat had been killed in a night brawl somewhere.

Somehow, as Eugene stood in the kitchen watching his mother fry a big steak and make biscuits and gravy in honor of his coming, he felt that he did not belong to this world any more. It was smaller, narrower than he had ever thought. The town had seemed smaller as he had come through its streets, the houses too; and yet it was nice. The yards were sweet and simple, but countrified. His father, running a sewing machine business, seemed tremendously limited. He had a country or small town mind. It struck Eugene as curious now, that they had never had a piano. And Myrtle liked music, too. As for himself, he had learned that he was passionately fond of it. There were organ recitals in the Central Music Hall, of Chicago, on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, and he had managed to attend some after his work. There were great preachers like Prof. Swing and the Rev. H. W. Thomas and the Rev. F. W. Gunsaulus and Prof. Saltus, liberal thinkers all, whose public services in the city were always accompanied by lovely music. Eugene had found all these men and their services in his search for life and to avoid being lonely. Now they had taught him that his old world was no world at all. It was a small town. He would never come to this any more.

After a sound night's rest in his old room he went down the next day to see Mr. Caleb Williams at the Appeal office, and Mr. Burgess, and Jonas Lyle, and John Summers. As he went, on the court house square he met Ed Mitchell and George Taps and Will Groniger, and four or five others whom he had known in school. From them he learned how things were. It appeared that George Anderson had married a local girl and was in Chicago, working out in the stock yards. Ed Waterbury had gone to San Francisco. The pretty Sampson girl, Bessie Sampson, who had once gone with Ted Martinwood so much, had run away with a man from Anderson, Indiana. There had been a lot of talk about it at the time. Eugene listened.

It all seemed less, though, than the new world that he had entered. Of these fellows none knew the visions that were now surging in his brain. Paris—no less—and New York—by what far route he could scarcely tell. And Will Groniger had got to be a baggage clerk at one of the two depots and was proud of it. Good Heavens!

At the office of the Appeal things were unchanged. Somehow Eugene had had the feeling that two years would make a lot of difference, whereas the difference was in him only. He was the one who had undergone cataclysmic changes. He had a been a stove polisher, a real estate assistant, a driver and a collector. He had known Margaret Duff, and Mr. Redwood, of the laundry, and Mr. Mitchly. The great city had dawned on him; Verestchagin, and Bouguereau, and the Art Institute. He was going on at one pace, the town was moving at another one—a slower, but quite as fast as it had ever gone.

Caleb Williams was there, skipping about as of yore, cheerful, communicative, interested. “I'm glad to see you back, Eugene,” he declared, fixing him with the one good eye which watered. “I'm glad you're getting along—that's fine. Going to be an artist, eh? Well, I think that's what you were cut out for. I wouldn't advise every young fellow to go to Chicago, but that's where you belong. If it wasn't for my wife and three children I never would have left it. When you get a wife and family though—” he paused and shook his head. “I gad! You got to do the best you can.” Then he went to look up some missing copy.

Jonas Lyle was as portly, phlegmatic and philosophic as ever. He greeted Eugene with a solemn eye in which there was inquiry. “Well, how is it?” he asked.

Eugene smiled. “Oh, pretty good.”

“Not going to be a printer, then?”

“No, I think not.”

“Well, it's just as well, there're an awful lot of them.”

While they were talking John Summers sidled up.

“How are you, Mr. Witla?” he inquired.

Eugene looked at him. John was certainly marked for the grave in the near future. He was thinner, of a bluish-grey color, bent at the shoulders.

“Why, I'm fine, Mr. Summers,” Eugene said.

“I'm not so good,” said the old printer. He tapped his chest significantly. “This thing's getting the best of me.”

“Don't you believe it,” put in Lyle. “John's always gloomy. He's just as good as ever. I tell him he'll live twenty years yet.”

“No, no,” said Summers, shaking his head, “I know.”

He left after a bit to “go across the street,” his customary drinking excuse.

“He can't last another year,” Lyle observed the moment the door was closed. “Burgess only keeps him because it would be a shame to turn him out. But he's done for.”

“Anyone can see that,” said Eugene. “He looks terrible.”

So they talked.

At noon he went home. Myrtle announced that he was to come with her and Mr. Bangs to a party that evening. There were going to be games and refreshments. It never occurred to him that in this town there had never been dancing among the boys and girls he moved with, and scarcely any music. People did not have pianos—or at least only a few of them.

After supper Mr. Bangs called, and the three of them went to a typical small town party. It was not much different from the ones Eugene had attended with Stella, except that the participants were, in the main, just that much older. Two years make a great deal of difference in youth. There were some twenty-two young men and women all crowded into three fair sized rooms and on a porch, the windows and doors leading to which were open. Outside were brown grass and some autumn flowers. Early crickets were chirping, and there were late fire-flies. It was warm and pleasant.

The opening efforts to be sociable were a little stiff. There were introductions all around, much smart badinage among town dandies, for most of them were here. There were a number of new faces—girls who had moved in from other towns or blossomed into maturity since Eugene had left.

“If you'll marry me, Madge, I'll buy you a nice new pair of seal skin earrings,” he heard one of the young bloods remark.

Eugene smiled, and the girl laughed back. “He always thinks he's so cute.”

It was almost impossible for Eugene to break through the opening sense of reserve which clogged his actions at everything in the way of social diversion. He was a little nervous because he was afraid of criticism. That was his vanity and deep egotism. He stood about, trying to get into the swing of the thing with a bright remark or two. Just as he was beginning to bubble, a girl came in from one of the other rooms. Eugene had not met her. She was with his prospective brother-in-law, Bangs, and was laughing in a sweet, joyous way which arrested his attention. She was dressed in white, he noticed, with a band of golden brown ribbon pulled through the loops above the flounces at the bottom of her dress. Her hair was a wonderful ashen yellow, a great mass of it—and laid in big, thick braids above her forehead and ears. Her nose was straight, her lips were thin and red, her cheek-bones faintly but curiously noticeable. Somehow there was a sense of distinction about her—a faint aroma of personality which Eugene did not understand. It appealed to him.

Bangs brought her over. He was a tight, smiling youth, as sound as oak, as clear as good water.

“Here's Miss Blue, Eugene. She's from up in Wisconsin, and comes down to Chicago occasionally. I told her you ought to know her. You might meet up there sometime.”

“Say, but that's good luck, isn't it?” smiled Eugene. “I'm sure I'm glad to know you. What part of Wisconsin do you come from?”

“Blackwood,” she laughed, her greenish-blue eyes dancing.

“Her hair is yellow, her eyes are blue, and she comes from Blackwood,” commented Bangs. “How's that?” His big mouth, with its even teeth, was wide with a smile.

“You left out the blue name and the white dress. She ought to wear white all the time.”

“Oh, it does harmonize with my name, doesn't it?” she cried. “At home I do wear white mostly. You see I'm just a country girl, and I make most of my things.”

“Did you make that?” asked Eugene.

“Of course I did.”

Bangs moved away a little, looking at her as if critically. “Well, that's really pretty,” he pronounced.

“Mr. Bangs is such a flatterer,” she smiled at Eugene. “He doesn't mean any thing he says. He just tells me one thing after another.”

“He's right,” said Eugene. “I agree as to the dress, and it fits the hair wonderfully.”

“You see, he's lost, too,” laughed Bangs. “That's the way they all do. Well, I'm going to leave you two. I've got to get back. I left your sister in the hands of a rival of mine.”

Eugene turned to this girl and laughed his reserved laugh. “I was just thinking what was going to become of me. I've been away for two years, and I've lost track of some of these people.”

“I'm worse yet. I've only been here two weeks and I scarcely know anybody. Mrs. King takes me around everywhere, but it's all so new I can't get hold of it. I think Alexandria is lovely.”

“It is nice. I suppose you've been out on the lakes?”

“Oh, yes. We've fished and rowed and camped. I have had a lovely time but I have to go back tomorrow.”

“Do you?” said Eugene. “Why I do too. I'm going to take the four-fifteen.”

“So am I!” she laughed. “Perhaps we can go together.”

“Why, certainly. That's fine. I thought I'd have to go back alone. I only came down for over Sunday. I've been working up in Chicago.”

They fell to telling each other their histories. She was from Blackwood, only eighty-five miles from Chicago, and had lived there all her life. There were several brothers and sisters. Her father was evidently a farmer and politician and what not, and Eugene gleaned from stray remarks that they must be well thought of, though poor. One brother-in-law was spoken of as a banker; another as the owner of a grain elevator; she herself was a school teacher at Blackwood—had been for several years.

Eugene did not realize it, but she was fully five years older than himself, with the tact and the superior advantage which so much difference in years brings. She was tired of school-teaching, tired of caring for the babies of married sisters, tired of being left to work and stay at home when the ideal marrying age was rapidly passing. She was interested in able people, and silly village boys did not appeal to her. There was one who was begging her to marry him at this moment, but he was a slow soul up in Blackwood, not actually worthy of her nor able to support her well. She was hopefully, sadly, vaguely, madly longing for something better, and as yet nothing had ever turned up. This meeting with Eugene was not anything which promised a way out to her. She was not seeking so urgently—nor did she give introductions that sort of a twist in her consciousness. But this young man had an appeal for her beyond anyone she had met recently. They were in sympathetic accord, apparently. She liked his clear, big eyes, his dark hair, his rather waxen complexion. He seemed something better than she had known, and she hoped that he would be nice to her.

CHAPTER VIII

The rest of that evening Eugene spent not exactly with, but near Miss Blue—Miss Angela Blue, as he found her name to be. He was interested in her not so much from the point of view of looks, though she was charming enough, but because of some peculiarity of temperament which lingered with him as a grateful taste might dwell on the palate. He thought her young; and was charmed by what he considered her innocence and unsophistication. As a matter of fact she was not so much young and unsophisticated as an unconscious simulator of simplicity. In the conventional sense she was a thoroughly good girl, loyal, financially honest, truthful in all commonplace things, and thoroughly virtuous, moreover, in that she considered marriage and children the fate and duty of all women. Having had so much trouble with other peoples' children she was not anxious to have any, or at least many, of her own. Of course, she did not believe that she would escape with what seemed to be any such good fortune. She fancied that she would be like her sisters, the wife of a good business or professional man; the mother of three or four or five healthy children; the keeper of an ideal middle class home; the handmaiden of her husband's needs. There was a deep current of passion in her which she had come to feel would never be satisfied. No man would ever understand, no man at least whom she was likely to meet; but she knew she had a great capacity to love. If someone would only come along and arouse that—be worthy of it—what a whirlwind of affection she would return to him! How she would love, how sacrifice! But it seemed now that her dreams were destined never to be fulfilled, because so much time had slipped by and she had not been courted by the right one. So here she was now at twenty-five, dreaming and longing—the object of her ideals thus accidentally brought before her, and no immediate consciousness that that was the case.

It does not take sexual affinity long to manifest itself, once its subjects are brought near to each other. Eugene was older in certain forms of knowledge, broader in a sense, potentially greater than she would ever comprehend; but nevertheless, swayed helplessly by emotion and desire. Her own emotions, though perhaps stronger than his, were differently aroused. The stars, the night, a lovely scene, any exquisite attribute of nature could fascinate him to the point of melancholy. With her, nature in its largest aspects passed practically unnoticed. She responded to music feelingly, as did Eugene. In literature, only realism appealed to him; for her, sentiment, strained though not necessarily unreal, had the greatest charm. Art in its purely æsthetic forms meant nothing at all to her. To Eugene it was the last word in the matter of emotional perception. History, philosophy, logic, psychology, were sealed books to her. To Eugene they were already open doors, or, better yet, flowery paths of joy, down which he was wandering. Yet in spite of these things they were being attracted toward each other.

And there were other differences. With Eugene convention meant nothing at all, and his sense of evil and good was something which the ordinary person would not have comprehended. He was prone to like all sorts and conditions of human beings—the intellectual, the ignorant, the clean, the dirty, the gay, the sorrowful, white, yellow, black. As for Angela, she had a distinct preference for those who conducted themselves according to given standards of propriety. She was brought up to think of those people as best who worked the hardest, denied themselves the most, and conformed to the ordinary notions of right and wrong. There was no questioning of current standards in her mind. As it was written socially and ethically upon the tables of the law, so was it. There might be charming characters outside the pale, but they were not admitted to association or sympathy. To Eugene a human being was a human being. The ruck of misfits or ne'er-do-wells he could laugh joyously with or at. It was all wonderful, beautiful, amusing. Even its grimness and tragedy were worth while, although they hurt him terribly at times. Why, under these circumstances, he should have been so thoroughly attracted to Angela remains a mystery. Perhaps they complemented each other at this time as a satellite complements a larger luminary—for Eugene's egoism required praise, sympathy, feminine coddling; and Angela caught fire from the warmth and geniality of his temperament.

On the train next day Eugene had nearly three hours of what he deemed most delightful talk with her. They had not journeyed far before he had told her how he had traveled this way, on this train, at this hour, two years before; how he had walked about the streets of the big city, looking for a place to sleep, how he had got work and stayed away until he felt that he had found himself. Now he was going to study art and then to New York or Paris, and do magazine illustrating and possibly paint pictures. He was truly your flamboyant youth of talent when he got to talking—when he had a truly sympathetic ear. He loved to boast to someone who really admired him, and he felt that he had admiration here. Angela looked at him with swimming eyes. He was really different from anything she had ever known, young, artistic, imaginative, ambitious. He was going out into a world which she had longed for but never hoped to see—that of art. Here he was telling her of his prospective art studies, and talking of Paris. What a wonderful thing!

As the train neared Chicago she explained that she would have to make an almost immediate connection with one which left over the Chicago Milwaukee and St. Paul, for Blackwood. She was a little lonely, to tell the truth, a little sick at heart, for the summer vacation was over and she was going back to teach school. Alexandria, for the two weeks she had been there visiting Mrs. King (formerly a Blackwood girl and school-day chum of hers), was lovely. Her girlhood friend had tried to make things most pleasant and now it was all over. Even Eugene was over, for he said nothing much of seeing her again, or had not so far. She was wishing she might see more of this world he painted in such glowing colors, when he said:

“Mr. Bangs said that you come down to Chicago every now and then?”

“I do,” she replied. “I sometimes come down to go to the theatres and shop.” She did not say that there was an element of practical household commercialism in it, for she was considered one of the best buyers in the family and that she was sent to buy by various members of the family in quantities. From a practical household point of view she was a thoroughbred and was valued by her sisters and friends as someone who loved to do things. She might have come to be merely a family pack horse, solely because she loved to work. It was instinct to do everything she did thoroughly, but she worked almost exclusively in minor household matters.

“How soon do you expect to come down again?” he asked.

“Oh, I can't tell. I sometimes come down when Opera is on in the winter. I may be here around Thanksgiving.”

“Not before that?”

“I don't think so,” she replied archly.

“That's too bad. I thought maybe I'd see you a few times this fall. When you do come I wish you could let me know. I'd like to take you to the theatre.”

Eugene spent precious little money on any entertainment, but he thought he could venture this. She would not be down often. Then, too, he had the notion that he might get a rise one of these days—that would make a difference. When she came again he would be in art school, opening up another field for himself. Life looked hopeful.

“That's so nice of you,” she replied. “And when I come I'll let you know. I'm just a country girl,” she added, with a toss of her head, “and I don't get to the city often.”

Eugene liked what he considered the guileless naïveté of her confessions—the frankness with which she owned up to simplicity and poverty. Most girls didn't. She almost made a virtue out of these thing—at least they were charming as a confession in her.

“I'll hold you to that,” he assured her.

“Oh, you needn't. I'll be glad to let you know.”

They were nearing the station. He forgot, for the moment that she was not as remote and delicate in her beauty as Stella, that she was apparently not as passionate temperamentally as Margaret. He saw her wonderfully dull hair and her thin lips and peculiar blue eyes, and admired her honesty and simplicity. He picked up her grip and helped her to find her train. When they came to part he pressed her hand warmly, for she had been very nice to him, so attentive and sympathetic and interested.

“Now remember!” he said gaily, after he had put her in her seat in the local.

“I won't forget.”

“You wouldn't mind if I wrote you now and then?”

“Not at all. I'd like it.”

“Then I will,” he said, and went out.

He stood outside and looked at her through the train window as it pulled out. He was glad to have met her. This was the right sort of girl, clean, honest, simple, attractive. That was the way the best women were—good and pure—not wild pieces of fire like Margaret; nor unconscious, indifferent beauties like Stella, he was going to add, but couldn't. There was a voice within him that said that artistically Stella was perfect and even now it hurt him a little to remember. But Stella was gone forever, there was no doubt about that.

During the days that followed he thought of the girl often. He wondered what sort of a town Blackwood was; what sort of people she moved with, what sort of a house she lived in. They must be nice, simple people like his own in Alexandria. These types of city bred people whom he saw—girls particularly—and those born to wealth, had no appeal for him as yet. They were too distant, too far removed from anything he could aspire to. A good woman such as Miss Blue obviously was, must be a treasure anywhere in the world. He kept thinking he would write to her—he had no other girl acquaintance now; and just before he entered art school he did this, penning a little note saying that he remembered so pleasantly their ride; and when was she coming? Her answer, after a week, was that she expected to be in the city about the middle or the end of October and that she would be glad to have him call. She gave him the number of an aunt who lived out on the North Side in Ohio Street, and said she would notify him further. She was hard at work teaching school now, and didn't even have time to think of the lovely summer she had had.

“Poor little girl,” he thought. She deserved a better fate. “When she comes I'll surely look her up,” he thought, and there was a lot that went with the idea. Such wonderful hair!

CHAPTER IX

The succeeding days in the art school after his first admission revealed many new things to Eugene. He understood now, or thought he did, why artists were different from the rank and file of mankind. This Art Institute atmosphere was something so refreshing after his days rambling among poor neighborhoods collecting, that he could hardly believe that he, Eugene Witla, belonged there. These were exceptional young people; some of them, anyhow. If they weren't cut out to be good artists they still had imagination—the dream of the artist. They came, as Eugene gradually learned, from all parts of the West and South, from Chicago and St. Louis—from Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa—from Texas and California and Minnesota. One boy was in from Saskatchewan of the Canadian north west, another from the then territory of New Mexico. Because his name was Gill they called him the Gila monster—the difference in the pronunciation of the “G's” not troubling them at all. A boy who came down from Minnesota was a farmer's son, and talked about going back to plow and sow and reap during the next spring and summer. Another boy was the son of a Kansas City millionaire.

The mechanics of drawing interested Eugene from the first. He learned the first night that there was some defect in his understanding of light and shade as it related to the human form. He could not get any roundness or texture in his drawings.

“The darkest shadow is always closest to the high light,” observed his instructor laconically on Wednesday evening, looking over his shoulder. “You're making everything a dull, even tone.” So that was it.

“You're drawing this figure as a bricklayer who isn't an architect might start to build a house. You're laying bricks without having a plan. Where's your plan?” The voice was that of Mr. Boyle looking over his shoulder.

Eugene looked up. He had begun to draw the head only.

“A plan! A plan!” said his instructor, making a peculiar motion with his hands which described the outline of the pose in a single motion. “Get your general lines first. Then you can put in the details afterward.”

Eugene saw at once.

Another time his instructor was watching him draw the female breast. He was doing it woodenly—without much beauty of contour.

“They're round! They're round! I tell you!” exclaimed Boyle. “If you ever see any square ones let me know.”

This caught Eugene's sense of humor. It made him laugh, even though he flushed painfully, for he knew he had a lot to learn.

The cruelest thing he heard this man say was to a boy who was rather thick and fat but conscientious. “You can't draw,” he said roughly. “Take my advice and go home. You'll make more money driving a wagon.”

The class winced, but this man was ugly in his intolerance of futility. The idea of anybody wasting his time was obnoxious to him. He took art as a business man takes business, and he had no time for the misfit, the fool, or the failure. He wanted his class to know that art meant effort.

Aside from this brutal insistence on the significance of art, there was another side to the life which was not so hard and in a way more alluring. Between the twenty-five minute poses which the model took, there were some four or five minute rests during the course of the evening in which the students talked, relighted their pipes and did much as they pleased. Sometimes students from other classes came in for a few moments.

The thing that astonished Eugene though, was the freedom of the model with the students and the freedom of the students with her. After the first few weeks he observed some of those who had been there the year before going up to the platform where the girl sat, and talking with her. She had a little pink gauze veil which she drew around her shoulders or waist that instead of reducing the suggestiveness of her attitudes heightened them.

“Say, ain't that enough to make everything go black in front of your eyes,” said one boy sitting next to Eugene.

“Well, I guess,” he laughed. “There's some edge to that.”

The boys would sit and laugh and jest with this girl, and she would laugh and coquette in return. He saw her strolling about looking at some of the students' drawings of her over their shoulders, standing face to face with others—and so calmly. The strong desire which it invariably aroused in Eugene he quelled and concealed, for these things were not to be shown on the surface. Once, while he was looking at some photographs that a student had brought, she came and looked over his shoulder, this little flower of the streets, her body graced by the thin scarf, her lips and cheeks red with color. She came so close that she leaned against his shoulder and arm with her soft flesh. It pulled him tense, like a great current; but he made no sign, pretending that it was the veriest commonplace. Several times, because the piano was there, and because students would sing and play in the interludes, she came and sat on the piano stool herself, strumming out an accompaniment to which some one or three or four would sing. Somehow this, of all things, seemed most sensuous to him—most oriental. It set him wild. He felt his teeth click without volition on his part. When she resumed her pose, his passion subsided, for then the cold, æsthetic value of her beauty became uppermost. It was only the incidental things that upset him.

In spite of these disturbances, Eugene was gradually showing improvement as a draughtsman and an artist. He liked to draw the figure. He was not as quick at that as he was at the more varied outlines of landscapes and buildings, but he could give lovely sensuous touches to the human form—particularly to the female form—which were beginning to be impressive. He'd got past the place where Boyle had ever to say “They're round.” He gave a sweep to his lines that attracted the instructor's attention.

“You're getting the thing as a whole, I see,” he said quietly, one day. Eugene thrilled with satisfaction. Another Wednesday he said:—“A little colder, my boy, a little colder. There's sex in that. It isn't in the figure. You ought to make a good mural decorator some day, if you have the inclination,” Boyle went on; “you've got the sense of beauty.” The roots of Eugene's hair tingled. So art was coming to him. This man saw his capacity. He really had art in him.

One evening a paper sign pasted up on the bulletin board bore the significant legend: “Artists! Attention! We eat! We eat! Nov. 16th. at Sofroni's. All those who want to get in give their names to the monitor.”

Eugene had heard nothing of this, but he judged that it originated in one of the other classes. He spoke to the monitor and learned that only seventy-five cents was required of him. Students could bring girls if they wished. Most of them would. He decided that he would go. But where to get a girl? Sofroni's was an Italian restaurant in lower Clark Street, which had originally started out as an eating place for Italian laborers, because it was near an Italian boarding house section. It was located in an old house that was not exactly homely. A yard in the back had been set with plain wooden tables, and benches had been placed for use in the summer time and, later, this had been covered with a mouldy tent-cloth to protect the diners from rain. Still later this became glass and was used in winter. The place was clean and the food good. Some struggling craftsman in journalism and art had found it and by degrees Signor Sofroni had come to realize that he was dealing with a better element. He began to exchange greetings with these people to set aside a little corner for them. Finally he entertained a small group of them at dinner—charging them hardly more than cost price—and so he was launched. One student told another. Sofroni now had his yard covered in so that he could entertain a hundred at dinner, even in winter. He could serve several kinds of wines and liquors with a dinner for seventy-five cents a piece. So he was popular.

The dinner was the culmination of several other class treats. It was the custom of a class, whenever a stranger, or even a new member appeared, to yell “Treat! Treat!” at which the victim or new member was supposed to produce two dollars as a contribution to a beer fund. If the money was not produced—the stranger was apt to be thrown out or some ridiculous trick played upon him—if it was forthcoming, work for the evening ceased. A collection was immediately taken up. Kegs of beer were sent for, with sandwiches and cheese. Drinking, singing, piano playing, jesting followed. Once, to Eugene's utter astonishment, one of the students—a big, good natured, carousing boy from Omaha—lifted the nude model to his shoulders, set her astride his neck and proceeded around the room, jigging as he went—the girl meantime pulling his black hair, the other students following and shouting uproariously. Some of the girls in an adjoining room, studying in an evening life class, stopped their work to peep through a half dozen small holes which had been punched in the intervening partition. The sight of Showalter carrying the girl so astonished the eavesdroppers that the news of it was soon all over the building. Knowledge of the escapade reached the Secretary and the next day the student was dropped. But the Bacchic dance had been enacted—its impression was left.

There were other treats like this in which Eugene was urged to drink, and he did—a very little. He had no taste for beer. He also tried to smoke, but he did not care for it. He could become nervously intoxicated at times, by the mere sight of such revelry, and then he grew witty, easy in his motions, quick to say bright things. On one of these occasions one of the models said to him: “Why, you're nicer than I thought. I imagined you were very solemn.”

“Oh, no,” he said, “only at times. You don't know me.”

He seized her about the waist, but she pushed him away. He wished now that he danced, for he saw that he might have whirled her about the room then and there. He decided to learn at once.

The question of a girl for the dinner, troubled him. He knew of no one except Margaret, and he did not know that she danced. There was Miss Blue, of Blackwood—whom he had seen when she made her promised visit to the city—but the thought of her in connection with anything like this was to him incongruous. He wondered what she would think if she saw such scenes as he had witnessed.

It chanced that one day when he was in the members' room, he met Miss Kenny, the girl whom he had seen posing the night he had entered the school. Eugene remembered her fascination, for she was the first nude model he had ever seen and she was pretty. She was also the one who had come and stood by him when she was posing. He had not seen her since then. She had liked Eugene, but he had seemed a little distant and, at first, a little commonplace. Lately he had taken to a loose, flowing tie and a soft round hat which became him. He turned his hair back loosely and emulated the independent swing of Mr. Temple Boyle. That man was a sort of god to him—strong and successful. To be like that!

The girl noted a change for what she deemed the better. He was so nice now, she thought, so white-skinned and clear-eyed and keen.

She pretended to be looking at the drawing of a nude when she saw him.

“How are you?” he asked, smiling, venturing to speak to her because he was lonely and because he knew no other girl.

She turned gaily, and returned the question, facing him with smiling lips and genial eyes.

“I haven't seen you for some time,” he said. “Are you back here now?”

“For this week,” she said. “I'm doing studio work. I don't care for classes when I can get the other.”

“I thought you liked them!” he replied, recalling her gaiety of mood.

“Oh, I don't dislike it. Only, studio work is better.”

“We've missed you,” he said. “The others haven't been nearly as nice.”

“Aren't you complimentary,” she laughed, her black eyes looking into his with a twinkle.

“No, it's so,” he returned, and then asked hopefully, “Are you going to the dinner on the 16th?”

“Maybe,” she said. “I haven't made up my mind. It all depends.”

“On what?”

“On how I feel and who asks me.”

“I shouldn't think there'd be any trouble about that,” he observed. “If I had a girl I'd go,” he went on, making a terrific effort to reach the point where he could ask her. She saw his intention.

“Well?” she laughed.

“Would you go with me?” he ventured, thus so shamelessly assisted.

“Sure!” she said, for she liked him.

“That's fine!” he exclaimed. “Where do you live? I'll want to know that.” He searched for a pencil.

She gave him her number on West Fifty-seventh Street.

Because of his collecting he knew the neighborhood. It was a street of shabby frame houses far out on the South Side. He remembered great mazes of trade near it, and unpaved streets and open stretches of wet prairie land. Somehow it seemed fitting to him that this little flower of the muck and coal yard area should be a model.

“I'll be sure and get you,” he laughed. “You won't forget, will you, Miss—”

“Just Ruby,” she interrupted. “Ruby Kenny.”

“It's a pretty name, isn't it?” he said. “It's euphonious. You wouldn't let me come out some Sunday and see just where it is?”

“Yes, you may,” she replied, pleased by his comment on her name. “I'm home most every Sunday. Come out next Sunday afternoon, if you want to.”

“I will,” said Eugene.

He walked out to the street with her in a very buoyant mood.

CHAPTER X

Ruby Kenny was the adopted child of an old Irish laborer and his wife who had taken her from a quarrelling couple when they had practically deserted her at the age of four years. She was bright, good natured, not at all informed as to the social organization of the world, just a simple little girl with a passion for adventure and no saving insight which would indicate beforehand whither adventure might lead. She began life as a cash girl in a department store and was spoiled of her virtue at fifteen. She was rather fortunate in that her smartness attracted the rather superior, capable, self-protecting type of man; and these were fortunate too, in that she was not utterly promiscuous, appetite with her waiting on strong liking, and in one or two cases real affection, and culminating only after a period of dalliance which made her as much a victim of her moods as were her lovers. Her foster parents provided no guidance of any intelligent character. They liked her, and since she was brighter than they were, submitted to her rule, her explanations of conduct, her taste. She waved aside with a laughing rejoinder any slight objections they might make, and always protested that she did not care what the neighbors thought.

The visits which Eugene paid, and the companionship which ensued, were of a piece with every other relationship of this character which he ever entered into. He worshiped beauty as beauty, and he never wholly missed finding a certain quality of mind and heart for which he longed. He sought in women, besides beauty, good nature and sympathy; he shunned criticism and coldness, and was never apt to select for a sweetheart anyone who could outshine him either in emotion or rapidity or distinction of ideas.

He liked, at this time, simple things, simple homes, simple surroundings, the commonplace atmosphere of simple life, for the more elegant and imposing overawed him. The great mansions which he saw, the great trade structures, the great, significant personalities, seemed artificial and cold. He liked little people—people who were not known, but who were sweet and kindly in their moods. If he could find female beauty with anything like that as a background he was happy and settled down near it, if he could, in comfort. His drawing near to Ruby was governed by this mood.

The Sunday Eugene called, it rained and the neighborhood in which she lived was exceedingly dreary. Looking around here and there one could see in the open spaces between the houses pools of water standing in the brown, dead grass. He had crossed a great maze of black cindered car tracks, where engines and cars were in great masses, and speculated on the drawings such scenes would make—big black engines throwing up clouds of smoke and steam in a grey, wet air; great mazes of parti-colored cars dank in the rain but lovely. At night the switch lights in these great masses of yards bloomed like flowers. He loved the sheer yellows, reds, greens, blues, that burned like eyes. Here was the stuff that touched him magnificently, and somehow he was glad that this raw flowering girl lived near something like this.

When he reached the door and rang the bell he was greeted by an old shaky Irish-American who seemed to him rather low in the scale of intelligence—the kind of a man who would make a good crossing guard, perhaps. He had on common, characterful clothes, the kind that from long wear have taken the natural outlines of the body. In his fingers was a short pipe which he had been smoking.

“Is Miss Kenny in?” Eugene inquired.

“Yus,” said the man. “Come in. I'll git her.” He poked back through a typical workingman's parlor to a rear room. Someone had seen to it that almost everything in the room was red—the big silk-shaded lamp, the family album, the carpet and the red flowered wall paper.

While he was waiting he opened the album and looked at what he supposed were her relatives—commonplace people, all—clerks, salesmen, store-keepers. Presently Ruby came, and then his eye lighted, for there was about her a smartness of youth—she was not more than nineteen—which captivated his fancy. She had on a black cashmere dress with touches of red velvet at the neck and elsewhere, and she wore a loose red tie, much as a boy might. She looked gay and cheerful and held out her hand.

“Did you have much trouble in getting here?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I know this country pretty well. I collect all through here week days. I work for the Peoples' Furniture Company, you know.”

“Oh, then it's all right,” she said, enjoying his frankness. “I thought you'd have a hard time finding it. It's a pretty bad day, isn't it?”

Eugene admitted that it was, but commented on the car tracks he had seen. “If I could paint at all I'd like to paint those things. They're so big and wonderful.”

He went to the window and gazed out at the neighborhood.

Ruby watched him with interest. His movements were pleasing to her. She felt at home in his company—as though she were going to like him very much. It was so easy to talk to him. There were the classes, her studio work, his own career, this neighborhood, to give her a feeling of congeniality with him.

“Are there many big studios in Chicago?” he asked when they finally got around to that phase of her work. He was curious to know what the art life of the city was.

“No, not so very many—not, at least, of the good ones. There are a lot of fellows who think they can paint.”

“Who are the big ones?” he asked.

“Well, I only know by what I hear artists say. Mr. Rose is pretty good. Byam Jones is pretty fine on genre subjects, so they say. Walter Low is a good portrait painter, and so is Manson Steele. And let's see—there's Arthur Biggs—he does landscapes only; I've never been in his studio; and Finley Wood, he's another portrait man; and Wilson Brooks, he does figures—Oh! I don't know, there are quite a number.”

Eugene listened entranced. This patter of art matters was more in the way of definite information about personalities than he had heard during all the time he had been in the city. The girl knew these things. She was in the movement. He wondered what her relationship to these various people was?

He got up after a time and looked out of the window again. She came also. “It's not very nice around here,” she explained, “but papa and mamma like to live here. It's near papa's work.”

“Was that your father I met at the door?”

“They're not my real parents,” she explained. “I'm an adopted child. They're just like real parents to me, though, I certainly owe them a lot.”

“You can't have been posing in art very long,” said Eugene thoughtfully, thinking of her age.

“No; I only began about a year ago.”

She told how she had been a clerk in The Fair and how she and another girl had got the idea from seeing articles in the Sunday papers. There was once a picture in the Tribune of a model posing in the nude before the local life class. This had taken her eye and she had consulted with the other girl as to whether they had not better try posing, too. Her friend, like herself, was still posing. She was coming to the dinner.

Eugene listened entranced. It reminded him of how he was caught by the picture of Goose Island in the Chicago River, of the little tumble-down huts and upturned hulls of boats used for homes. He told her of that and of how he came, and it touched her fancy. She thought he was sentimental but nice—and then he was big, too, and she was so much smaller.

“You play?” he asked, “don't you?”

“Oh, just a little. But we haven't got a piano. I learned what I know by practising at the different studios.”

“Do you dance?” asked Eugene.

“Yes, indeed,” she replied.

“I wish I did,” he commented ruefully.

“Why don't you? It's easy. You could learn in no time. I could teach you in a lesson.”

“I wish you would,” he said persuasively.

“It isn't hard,” she went on, moving away from him. “I can show you the steps. They always begin with the waltz.”

She lifted her skirts and exposed her little feet. She explained what to do and how to do it. He tried it alone, but failed; so she got him to put his arm around her and placed her hand in his. “Now, follow me,” she said.

It was so delightful to find her in his arms! And she was apparently in no hurry to conclude the lesson, for she worked with him quite patiently, explaining the steps, stopping and correcting him, laughing at her mistakes and his. “You're getting it, though,” she said, after they had turned around a few times.

They had looked into each other's eyes a number of times and she gave him frank smiles in return for his. He thought of the time when she stood by him in the studio, looking over his shoulder. Surely, surely this gap of formalities might be bridged over at once if he tried if he had the courage. He pulled her a little closer and when they stopped he did not let go.

“You're mighty sweet to me,” he said with an effort.

“No, I'm just good natured,” she laughed, not endeavoring to break away.

He became emotionally tense, as always.

She rather liked what seemed the superiority of his mood. It was different, stronger than was customary in the men she knew.

“Do you like me?” he asked, looking at her.

She studied his face and hair and eyes.

“I don't know,” she returned calmly.

“Are you sure you don't?”

There was another pause in which she looked almost mockingly at him and then, sobering, away at the hall door.

“Yes, I think I do,” she said.

He picked her up in his arms. “You're as cute as a doll,” he said and carried her to the red settee. She spent the rest of the rainy afternoon resting in his arms and enjoying his kisses. He was a new and peculiar kind of boy.

CHAPTER XI

A little while before, Angela Blue at Eugene's earnest solicitation had paid her first Fall visit to Chicago. She had made a special effort to come, lured by a certain poignancy of expression which he could give to any thought, particularly when it concerned his desires. In addition to the art of drawing he had the gift of writing—very slow in its development from a structural and interpretative point of view, but powerful already on its descriptive side. He could describe anything, people, houses, horses, dogs, landscapes, much as he could draw them and give a sense of tenderness and pathos in the bargain which was moving. He could describe city scenes and the personal atmosphere which surrounded him in the most alluring fashion. He had little time to write, but he took it in this instance to tell this girl what he was doing and how he was doing it. She was captivated by the quality of the world in which he was moving, and the distinction of his own personality, which he indicated rather indirectly than otherwise. By contrast her own little world began to look very shabby indeed.

She came shortly after his art school opened, and at her invitation he went out to the residence of her aunt on the North Side, a nice, pleasant brick house in a quiet side street, which had all the airs of middle class peace and comfort. He was impressed with what seemed to him a sweet, conservative atmosphere—a fitting domicile for a girl so dainty and refined as Angela. He paid his respects early Saturday morning because her neighborhood happened to be in the direction of his work.

She played for him—better than anyone he had ever known. It seemed to him a great accomplishment. Her temperament attracted her to music of a high emotional order and to songs and instrumental compositions of indefinable sweetness. In the half hour he stayed she played several things, and he noted with a new pleasure her small shapely body in a dress of a very simple, close fitting design; her hair hung in two great braids far below her waist. She reminded him the least bit of Marguerite in “Faust.”

He went again in the evening, shining and eager, and arrayed in his best. He was full of the sense of his art prospects, and happy to see her again, for he was satisfied that he was going to fall in love with her. She had a strong, sympathetic attitude which allured him. She wanted to be nice to this youth—wanted him to like her—and so the atmosphere was right.

That evening he took her to the Chicago Opera House, where there was playing an extravaganza. This fantasy, so beautiful in its stage-craft, so gorgeous in its show of costumes and pretty girls, so idle in its humor and sweet in its love songs, captivated both Eugene and Angela. Neither had been to a theatre for a long time; both were en rapport with some such fantastic interpretation of existence. After the short acquaintance at Alexandria it was a nice coming together. It gave point to their reunion.

After the performance he guided her through the surging crowds to a North Division Street car—they had laid cables since his arrival—and together they went over the beauties and humor of the thing they had seen. He asked permission to call again next day, and at the end of an afternoon in her company, proposed that they go to hear a famous preacher who was speaking in Central Music Hall evenings.

Angela was pleased at Eugene's resourcefulness. She wanted to be with him; this was a good excuse. They went early and enjoyed it. Eugene liked the sermon as an expression of youth and beauty and power to command. He would have liked to be an orator like that, and he told Angela so. And he confided more and more of himself to her. She was impressed by his vivid interest in life, his selective power, and felt that he was destined to be a notable personality.

There were other meetings. She came again in early November and before Christmas and Eugene was fast becoming lost in the meshes of her hair. Although he met Ruby in November and took up a tentative relation on a less spiritual basis—as he would have said at the time—he nevertheless held this acquaintanceship with Angela in the background as a superior and more significant thing. She was purer than Ruby; there was in her certainly a deeper vein of feeling, as expressed in her thoughts and music. Moreover she represented a country home, something like his own, a nice simple country town, nice people. Why should he part with her, or ever let her know anything of this other world that he touched? He did not think he ought to. He was afraid that he would lose her, and he knew that she would make any man an ideal wife. She came again in December and he almost proposed to her—he must not be free with her or draw too near too rapidly. She made him feel the sacredness of love and marriage. And he did propose in January.

The artist is a blend of subtleties in emotion which can not be classified. No one woman could have satisfied all sides of Eugene's character at that time. Beauty was the point with him. Any girl who was young, emotional or sympathetic to the right degree and beautiful would have attracted and held him for a while. He loved beauty—not a plan of life. He was interested in an artistic career, not in the founding of a family. Girlhood—the beauty of youth—was artistic, hence he craved it.

Angela's mental and emotional composition was stable. She had learned to believe from childhood that marriage was a fixed thing. She believed in one life and one love. When you found that, every other relationship which did not minister to it was ended. If children came, very good; if not, very good; marriage was permanent anyhow. And if you did not marry happily it was nevertheless your duty to endure and suffer for whatever good might remain. You might suffer badly in such a union, but it was dangerous and disgraceful to break it. If you could not stand it any more, your life was a failure.

Of course, Eugene did not know what he was trifling with. He had no conception of the nature of the relationship he was building up. He went on blindly dreaming of this girl as an ideal, and anticipating eventual marriage with her. When that would be, he had no idea, for though his salary had been raised at Christmas he was getting only eighteen dollars a week; but he deemed it would come within a reasonable time.

Meanwhile, his visits to Ruby had brought the inevitable result. The very nature of the situation seemed to compel it. She was young, brimming over with a love of adventure, admiring youth and strength in men. Eugene, with his pale face, which had just a touch of melancholy about it, his sex magnetism, his love of beauty, appealed to her. Uncurbed passion was perhaps uppermost to begin with; very shortly it was confounded with affection, for this girl could love. She was sweet, good natured, ignorant of life from many points of view. Eugene represented the most dramatic imagination she had yet seen. She described to him the character of her foster parents, told how simple they were and how she could do about as she pleased. They did not know that she posed in the nude. She confided to him her particular friendship for certain artists, denying any present intimacies. She admitted them in the past, but asserted that they were bygones. Eugene really did not believe this. He suspected her of meeting other approaches in the spirit in which she had met his own. It aroused his jealousy, and he wished at once that she were not a model. He said as much and she laughed. She knew he would act like that, it was the first proof of real, definite interest in her on his part.

From that time on there were lovely days and evenings spent in her company. Before the dinner she invited him over to breakfast one Sunday. Her foster parents were to be away and she was to have the house to herself. She wanted to cook Eugene a breakfast—principally to show him she could cook—and then it was novel. She waited till he arrived at nine to begin operations and then, arrayed in a neat little lavender, close fitting house dress, and a ruffled white apron, went about her work, setting the table, making biscuit, preparing a kidney ragout with strong wine, and making coffee.

Eugene was delighted. He followed her about, delaying her work by taking her in his arms and kissing her. She got flour on her nose and he brushed it off with his lips.

It was on this occasion that she showed him a very pleasing little dance she could do—a clog dance, which had a running, side-ways motion, with frequent and rapid clicking of the heels. She gathered her skirts a little way above her ankles and twinkled her feet through a maze of motions. Eugene was beside himself with admiration. He told himself he had never met such a girl—to be so clever at posing, playing and dancing, and so young. He thought she would make a delightful creature to live with, and he wished now he had money enough to make it possible. At this high-flown moment and at some others he thought he might almost marry her.

On the night of the dinner he took her to Sofroni's, and was surprised to find her arrayed in a red dress with a row of large black leather buttons cutting diagonally across the front. She had on red stockings and shoes and wore a red carnation in her hair. The bodice was cut low in the neck and the sleeves were short. Eugene thought she looked stunning and told her so. She laughed. They went in a cab, for she had warned him beforehand that they would have to. It cost him two dollars each way but he excused his extravagance on the ground of necessity. It was little things like this that were beginning to make him think strongly of the problem of getting on.

The students who had got up this dinner were from all the art classes, day and night. There were over two hundred of them, all of them young, and there was a mixed collection of girl art students, artist's models and girl friends of various grades of thought and condition, who were brought as companions. The big dining-room was tempestuous with the rattling of dishes, the shouting of jests, the singing of songs and the exchange of greetings. Eugene knew a few of these people outside his own classes, enough to give him the chance to be sociable and not appear lonely or out of it.

From the outset it was apparent that she, Ruby, was generally known and liked. Her costume—a little bold—made her conspicuous. From various directions there were cries of “Hey! Rube!” which was a familiar interpretation of her first name, Ruby.

Eugene was surprised at this—it shocked him a little. All sorts of boys he did not know came and talked to her, exchanging familiar gossip. She was called away from him a dozen times in as many minutes. He saw her laughing and chatting at the other end of the hall, surrounded by half a dozen students. It made him jealous.

As the evening progressed the attitude of each toward the other and all toward anyone became more and more familiar. When the courses were over, a space was cleared at one end and a screen of green cloth rigged up in one corner as a dressing room for stunts. Eugene saw one of the students called with much applause to do an Irish monologue, wearing green whiskers, which he adjusted in the presence of the crowd. There was another youth who pretended to have with him an immense roll of verse—an epic, no less—wound in so tight a manner that it looked as though it might take all night to read it. The crowd groaned. With amazing savoir faire he put up one hand for silence, dropped the roll, holding, of course, to the outer end and began reading. It was not bad verse, but the amusing part was that it was really short, not more than twenty lines. The rest of the paper had been covered with scribbling to deceive the crowd. It secured a round of applause. There was one second-year man who sang a song—“Down in the Lehigh Valley”—and another who gave imitations of Temple Boyle and other instructors at their work of criticising and painting for the benefit of the class. These were greatly enjoyed. Finally one of the models, after much calling by the crowd of “Desmond! Desmond!”—her last name—went behind the green cloth screen and in a few moments reappeared in the short skirt of a Spanish dancer, with black and silver spangles, and castanets. Some friendly student had brought a mandolin and “La Paloma” was danced.

Eugene had little of Ruby's company during all these doings. She was too much sought after. As the other girl was concluding her dance he heard the cry of “Hey, Rube! Why don't you do your turn?” Someone else, eager to see her dance, called “Come on, Ruby!” The rest of the room, almost unthinkingly took it up. Some boys surrounding her had started to push her toward the dancing space. Before Eugene knew it she was up in someone's arms being passed from group to group for a joke. The crowd cheered. Eugene, however, having come so close to her, was irritated by this familiarity. She did not appear to belong to him, but to the whole art-student body. And she was laughing. When she was put down in the clear space she lifted her skirts as she had done for him and danced. A crowd of students got very close. He had to draw near to see her at all. And there she was, unconscious of him, doing her gay clog dance. When she stopped, three or four of the more daring youths urged her, seizing her by the hands and arms, to do something else. Someone cleared a table and someone else picked her up and put her on it. She did still other dances. Someone cried, “Hey, Kenny, do you need the red dress?” So this was his temporary sweetheart.

When she was finally ready to go home at four o'clock in the morning, or when the others were agreed to let her go, she hardly remembered that she had Eugene with her. She saw him waiting as two students were asking for the privilege of taking her home.

“No,” she exclaimed, seeing him, “I have my escort. I'm going now. Good-bye,” and came toward him. He felt rather frozen and out of it.

“Are you ready?” she asked.

He nodded gloomily, reproachfully.

CHAPTER XII

From drawing from the nude, which Eugene came to do very successfully that winter, his interest switched to his work in the illustration class where costume figures were used. Here, for the first time, he tried his hand at wash drawings, the current medium for magazine work, and was praised after a time for his execution. Not always, however; for the instructors, feeling that harsh criticism would make for steadier effort, pooh-poohed some of his best work. But he had faith in what he was destined to do, and after sinking to depths of despair he would rise to great heights of self-confidence.

His labor for the Peoples' Furniture Company was becoming a rather dreary grind when Vincent Beers, the instructor in the illustration class, looking over his shoulder one Wednesday afternoon said:—“You ought to be able to make a little money by your work pretty soon, Witla.”

“Do you think so?” questioned Eugene.

“It's pretty good. There ought to be a place on one of the newspapers here for a man like you—an afternoon newspaper possibly. Did you ever try to get on?”

“I did when I first came to the city, but they didn't want anyone. I'm rather glad they didn't now. I guess they wouldn't have kept me very long.”

“You draw in pen and ink pretty well, don't you?”

“I thought I liked that best of all at first.”

“Well, then, they ought to be able to use you. I wouldn't stay very long at it though. You ought to go to New York to get in the magazine illustration field—there's nothing out here. But a little newspaper work now wouldn't hurt you.”

Eugene decided to try the afternoon papers, for he knew that if he got work on one of these he could still continue his night classes. He could give the long evening session to the illustration class and take an occasional night off to work on the life studies. That would make an admirable arrangement. For several days he took an hour after his work to make inquiry, taking with him some examples of his pen and inks. Several of the men he saw liked what he had to show, but he found no immediate opening. There was only one paper, one of the poorest, that offered him any encouragement. The editor-in-chief said he might be in need of a man shortly. If Eugene would come in again in three or four weeks he could tell him. They did not pay very much—twenty-five dollars to beginners.

Eugene thought of this as a great opportunity, and when he went back in three weeks and actually secured the place, he felt that he was now fairly on the road to prosperity. He was given a desk in a small back room on a fourth floor where there was accidentally west and north light. He was in a department which held two other men, both several years older than himself, one of whom posed as “dean” of the staff.

The work here was peculiar in that it included not only pen and ink but the chalk plate process which was a method of drawing with a steel point upon a zinc plate covered with a deposit of chalk, which left a design which was easily reproduced. Eugene had never done this, he had to be shown by the “dean,” but he soon picked it up. He found it hard on his lungs, for he had constantly to keep blowing the chalk away as he scratched the surface of the plate, and sometimes the dust went up into his nostrils. He hoped sincerely there would not be much of this work, but there was rather an undue proportion at first owing to the fact that it was shouldered on to him by the other two—he being the beginner. He suspected as much after a little time, but by that time he was beginning to make friends with his companions and things were not so bad.

These two, although they did not figure vastly in his life, introduced him to conditions and personalities in the Chicago newspaper world which broadened him and presented points of view which were helpful. The elder of the two, the “dean,” was dressy and art-y; his name was Horace Howe. The other, Jeremiah Mathews, Jerry for short, was short and fat, with a round, cheerful, smiling countenance and a wealth of coarse black hair. He loved chewing tobacco, was a little mussy about his clothes, but studious, generous and good natured. Eugene found that he had several passions, one for good food, another for oriental curios and a third for archæology. He was alive to all that was going on in the world, and was utterly without any prejudices, social, moral or religious. He liked his work, and whistled or talked as he did it. Eugene took a secret like for him from the beginning.

It was while working on this paper that Eugene first learned that he really could write. It came about accidentally for he had abandoned the idea that he could ever do anything in newspaper work, which was the field he had originally contemplated. Here there was great need for cheap Sunday specials of a local character, and in reading some of these, which were given to him for illustration, he came to the conclusion that he could do much better himself.

“Say,” he asked Mathews, “who writes the articles in here?” He was looking over the Sunday issue.

“Oh, the reporters on the staff—anyone that wants to. I think they buy some from outsiders. They only pay four dollars a column.”

Eugene wondered if they would pay him, but pay or no pay he wanted to do them. Maybe they would let him sign his name. He saw that some were signed. He suggested he believed he could do that sort of thing but Howe, as a writer himself, frowned on this. He wrote and drew. Howe's opposition piqued Eugene who decided to try when the opportunity offered. He wanted to write about the Chicago River, which he thought he could illustrate effectively. Goose Island, because of the description he had read of it several years before, the simple beauties of the city parks where he liked to stroll and watch the lovers on Sundays. There were many things, but these stood as susceptible of delicious, feeling illustration and he wanted to try his hand. He suggested to the Sunday Editor, Mitchell Goldfarb, with whom he had become friendly, that he thought something nice in an illustrative way could be done on the Chicago River.

“Go ahead, try your hand,” exclaimed that worthy, who was a vigorous, robust, young American of about thirty-one, with a gaspy laugh that sounded as if someone had thrown cold water down his back. “We need all that stuff. Can you write?”

“I sometimes think I might if I practiced a little.”

“Why not,” went on the other, who saw visions of a little free copy. “Try your hand. You might make a good thing of it. If your writing is anything like your drawing it will be all right. We don't pay people on the staff, but you can sign your name to it.”

This was enough for Eugene. He tried his hand at once. His art work had already begun to impress his companions. It was rough, daring, incisive, with a touch of soul to it. Howe was already secretly envious, Mathews full of admiration. Encouraged thus by Goldfarb Eugene took a Sunday afternoon and followed up the branches of the Chicago River, noting its wonders and peculiarities, and finally made his drawings. Afterward he went to the Chicago library and looked up its history—accidentally coming across the reports of some government engineers who dwelt on the oddities of its traffic. He did not write an article so much as a panegyric on its beauty and littleness, finding the former where few would have believed it to exist. Goldfarb was oddly surprised when he read it. He had not thought Eugene could do it.

The charm of Eugene's writing was that while his mind was full of color and poetry he had logic and a desire for facts which gave what he wrote stability. He liked to know the history of things and to comment on the current phases of life. He wrote of the parks, Goose Island, the Bridewell, whatever took his fancy.

His real passion was for art, however. It was a slightly easier medium for him—quicker. He thrilled to think, sometimes, that he could tell a thing in words and then actually draw it. It seemed a beautiful privilege and he loved the thought of making the commonplace dramatic. It was all dramatic to him—the wagons in the streets, the tall buildings, the street lamps—anything, everything.

His drawing was not neglected meantime, but seemed to get stronger.

“I don't know what there is about your stuff, Witla, that gets me,” Mathews said to him one day, “but you do something to it. Now why did you put those birds flying above that smokestack?”

“Oh, I don't know,” replied Eugene. “It's just the way I feel about it. I've seen pigeons flying like that.”

“It's all to the good,” replied Mathews. “And then you handle your masses right. I don't see anybody doing this sort of thing over here.”

He meant in America, for these two art workers considered themselves connoisseurs of pen and ink and illustration generally. They were subscribers to Jugend, Simplicissimus, Pick-Me-Up and the radical European art journals. They were aware of Steinlen and Cheret and Mucha and the whole rising young school of French poster workers. Eugene was surprised to hear of these men and these papers. He began to gain confidence in himself—to think of himself as somebody.

It was while he was gaining this knowledge—finding out who was who and what and why that he followed up his relationship with Angela Blue to its logical conclusion—he became engaged to her. In spite of his connection with Ruby Kenny, which continued unbroken after the dinner, he nevertheless felt that he must have Angela; partly because she offered more resistance than any girl since Stella, and partly because she appeared to be so innocent, simple and good hearted. And she was altogether lovely. She had a beautiful figure, which no crudity of country dressmaking could conceal. She had her wonderful wealth of hair and her large, luring, water-clear blue eyes. She had colorful lips and cheeks, a natural grace in walking, could dance and play the piano. Eugene looked at her and came to the conclusion after a time that she was as beautiful as any girl he had ever seen—that she had more soul, more emotion, more sweetness. He tried to hold her hand, to kiss her, to take her in his arms, but she eluded him in a careful, wary and yet half yielding way. She wanted him to propose to her, not because she was anxious to trap him, but because her conventional conscience told her these things were not right outside a definite engagement and she wanted to be engaged first. She was already in love with him. When he pleaded, she was anxious to throw herself in his arms in a mad embrace, but she restrained herself, waiting. At last he flung his arms about her as she was sitting at the piano one evening and holding her tight pressed his lips to her cheek.

She struggled to her feet. “You musn't,” she said. “It isn't right. I can't let you do that.”

“But I love you,” he exclaimed, pursuing her. “I want to marry you. Will you have me, Angela? Will you be mine?”

She looked at him yearningly, for she realized that she had made him do things her way—this wild, unpractical, artistic soul. She wanted to yield then and there but something told her to wait.

“I won't tell you now,” she said, “I want to talk to papa and mamma. I haven't told them anything as yet. I want to ask them about you, and then I'll tell you when I come again.”

“Oh, Angela,” he pleaded.

“Now, please wait, Mr. Witla,” she pleaded. She had never yet called him Eugene. “I'll come again in two or three weeks. I want to think it over. It's better.”

He curbed his desire and waited, but it made all the more vigorous and binding the illusion that she was the one woman in the world for him. She aroused more than any woman yet a sense of the necessity of concealing the eagerness of his senses—of pretending something higher. He even tried to deceive himself into the belief that this was a spiritual relationship, but underneath all was a burning sense of her beauty, her physical charm, her passion. She was sleeping as yet, bound in convention and a semi-religious interpretation of life. If she were aroused! He closed his eyes and dreamed.

CHAPTER XIII

In two weeks Angela came back, ready to plight her faith; and Eugene was waiting, eager to receive it. He had planned to meet her under the smoky train shed of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul depot, to escort her to Kinsley's for dinner, to bring her some flowers, to give her a ring he had secured in anticipation, a ring which had cost him seventy-five dollars and consumed quite all his savings; but she was too regardful of the drama of the situation to meet him anywhere but in the parlor of her aunt's house, where she could look as she wished. She wrote that she must come down early and when he arrived at eight of a Saturday evening she was dressed in the dress that seemed most romantic to her, the one she had worn when she first met him at Alexandria. She half suspected that he would bring flowers and so wore none, and when he came with pink roses, she added those to her corsage. She was a picture of rosy youth and trimness and not unlike the character by whose name he had christened her—the fair Elaine of Arthur's court. Her yellow hair was done in a great mass that hung sensuously about her neck; her cheeks were rosy with the elation of the hour; her lips moist; her eyes bright. She fairly sparkled her welcome as he entered.

At the sight of her Eugene was beside himself. He was always at the breaking point over any romantic situation. The beauty of the idea—the beauty of love as love; the delight of youth filled his mind as a song might, made him tense, feverish, enthusiastic.

“You're here at last, Angela!” he said, trying to keep hold of her hands. “What word?”

“Oh, you musn't ask so soon,” she replied. “I want to talk to you first. I'll play you something.”

“No,” he said, following her as she backed toward the piano. “I want to know. I must. I can't wait.”

“I haven't made up my mind,” she pleaded evasively. “I want to think. You had better let me play.”

“Oh, no,” he urged.

“Yes, let me play.”

She ignored him and swept into the composition, but all the while she was conscious of him hovering over her—a force. At the close, when she had been made even more emotionally responsive by the suggestion of the music, he slipped his arms about her as he had once before, but she struggled away again, slipping to a corner and standing at bay. He liked her flushed face, her shaken hair, the roses awry at her waist.

“You must tell me now,” he said, standing before her. “Will you have me?”

She dropped her head down as though doubting, and fearing familiarities; he slipped to one knee to see her eyes. Then, looking up, he caught her about the waist. “Will you?” he asked.

She looked at his soft hair, dark and thick, his smooth pale brow, his black eyes and even chin. She wanted to yield dramatically and this was dramatic enough. She put her hands to his head, bent over and looked into his eyes; her hair fell forward about her face. “Will you be good to me?” she asked, yearning into his eyes.

“Yes, yes,” he declared. “You know that. Oh, I love you so.”

She put his head far back and laid her lips to his. There was fire, agony in it. She held him so and then he stood up heaping kisses upon her cheeks, her lips, her eyes, her neck.

“Good God!” he exclaimed, “how wonderful you are!”

The expression shocked her.

“You mustn't,” she said.

“I can't help it. You are so beautiful!”

She forgave him for the compliment.

There were burning moments after this, moments in which they clung to each other desperately, moments in which he took her in his arms, moments in which he whispered his dreams of the future. He took the ring he had bought and put it on her finger. He was going to be a great artist, she was going to be an artist's bride; he was going to paint her lovely face, her hair, her form. If he wanted love scenes he would paint these which they were now living together. They talked until one in the morning and then she begged him to go, but he would not. At two he left, only to come early the next morning to take her to church.

There ensued for Eugene a rather astonishing imaginative and emotional period in which he grew in perception of things literary and artistic and in dreams of what marriage with Angela would mean to him. There was a peculiar awareness about Eugene at this time, which was leading him into an understanding of things. The extraordinary demands of some phases of dogma in the matter of religion; the depths of human perversity in the matter of morality; the fact that there were worlds within worlds of our social organism; that really basically and actually there was no fixed and definite understanding of anything by anybody. From Mathews he learned of philosophies—Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer—faint inklings of what they believed. From association with Howe he heard of current authors who expressed new moods, Pierre Loti, Thomas Hardy, Maeterlinck, Tolstoi. Eugene was no person to read—he was too eager to live,—but he gained much by conversation and he liked to talk. He began to think he could do almost anything if he tried—write poems, write plays, write stories, paint, illustrate, etc. He used to conceive of himself as a general, an orator, a politician—thinking how wonderful he would be if he could set himself definitely to any one thing. Sometimes he would recite passages from great speeches he had composed in his imagination as he walked. The saving grace in his whole make-up was that he really loved to work and he would work at the things he could do. He would not shirk his assignments or dodge his duties.

After his evening class Eugene would sometimes go out to Ruby's house, getting there by eleven and being admitted by an arrangement with her that the front door be left open so that he could enter quietly. More than once he found her sleeping in her little room off the front room, arrayed in a red silk dressing gown and curled up like a little black-haired child. She knew he liked her art instincts and she strove to gratify them, affecting the peculiar and the exceptional. She would place a candle under a red shade on a small table by her bed and pretend to have been reading, the book being usually tossed to one side on the coverlet where he would see it lying when he came. He would enter silently, gathering her up in his arms as she dozed, kissing her lips to waken her, carrying her in his arms into the front room to caress her and whisper his passion. There was no cessation of this devotion to Ruby the while he was declaring his love for Angela, and he really did not see that the two interfered greatly. He loved Angela, he thought. He liked Ruby, thought she was sweet. He felt sorry for her at times because she was such a little thing, so unthinking. Who was going to marry her eventually? What was going to become of her?

Because of this very attitude he fascinated the girl who was soon ready to do anything for him. She dreamed dreams of how nice it would be if they could live in just a little flat together—all alone. She would give up her art posing and just keep house for him. He talked to her of this—imagining it might possibly come to pass—realizing quite fully that it probably wouldn't. He wanted Angela for his wife, but if he had money he thought Ruby and he might keep a separate place—somehow. What Angela would think of this did not trouble him—only that she should not know. He never breathed anything to either of the other, but there were times when he wondered what they would think each of the other if they knew. Money, money, that was the great deterrent. For lack of money he could not marry anybody at present—neither Angela nor Ruby nor anyone else. His first duty, he thought, was so to place himself financially that he could talk seriously to any girl. That was what Angela expected of him, he knew. That was what he would have to have if he wanted Ruby.

There came a time when the situation began to grow irksome. He had reached the point where he began to understand how limited his life was. Mathews and Howe, who drew more money, were able to live better than he. They went out to midnight suppers, theatre parties, and expeditions to the tenderloin section (not yet known by that name). They had time to browse about the sections of the city which had peculiar charms for them as Bohemians after dark—the levee, as a certain section of the Chicago River was called; Gambler's Row in South Clark Street; the Whitechapel Club, as a certain organization of newspaper men was called, and other places frequented by the literati and the more talented of the newspaper makers. Eugene, first because of a temperament which was introspective and reflective, and second because of his æsthetic taste, which was offended by much that he thought was tawdry and cheap about these places, and third by what he considered his lack of means, took practically no part in these diversions. While he worked in his class he heard of these things—usually the next day—and they were amplified and made more showy and interesting by the narrative powers of the participants. Eugene hated coarse, vulgar women and ribald conduct, but he felt that he was not even permitted to see them at close range had he wanted to. It took money to carouse and he did not have it.

Perhaps, because of his youth and a certain air of unsophistication and impracticability which went with him, his employers were not inclined to consider money matters in connection with him. They seemed to think he would work for little and would not mind. He was allowed to drift here six months without a sign of increase, though he really deserved more than any one of those who worked with him during the same period. He was not the one to push his claims personally but he grew restless and slightly embittered under the strain and ached to be free, though his work was as effective as ever.

It was this indifference on their part which fixed his determination to leave Chicago, although Angela, his art career, his natural restlessness and growing judgment of what he might possibly become were deeper incentives. Angela haunted him as a dream of future peace. If he could marry her and settle down he would be happy. He felt now, having fairly satiated himself in the direction of Ruby, that he might leave her. She really would not care so very much. Her sentiments were not deep enough. Still, he knew she would care, and when he began going less regularly to her home, really becoming indifferent to what she did in the artists' world, he began also to feel ashamed of himself, for he knew that it was a cruel thing to do. He saw by her manner when he absented himself that she was hurt and that she knew he was growing cold.

“Are you coming out Sunday night?” she asked him once, wistfully.

“I can't,” he apologized; “I have to work.”

“Yes, I know how you have to work. But go on. I don't mind, I know.”

“Oh, Ruby, how you talk. I can't always be here.”

“I know what it is, Eugene,” she replied. “You don't care any more. Oh, well, don't mind me.”

“Now, sweet, don't talk like that,” he would say, but after he was gone she would stand by her window and look out upon the shabby neighborhood and sigh sadly. He was more to her than anyone she had met yet, but she was not the kind that cried.

“He is going to leave me,” was her one thought. “He is going to leave me.”

Goldfarb had watched Eugene a long time, was interested in him, realized that he had talent. He was leaving shortly to take a better Sunday-Editorship himself on a larger paper, and he thought Eugene was wasting his time and ought to be told so.

“I think you ought to try to get on one of the bigger papers here, Witla,” he said to him one Saturday afternoon when things were closing up. “You'll never amount to anything on this paper. It isn't big enough. You ought to get on one of the big ones. Why don't you try the Tribune—or else go to New York? I think you ought to do magazine work.”

Eugene drank it all in. “I've been thinking of that,” he said. “I think I'll go to New York. I'll be better off there.”

“I would either do one or the other. If you stay too long in a place like this it's apt to do you harm.”

Eugene went back to his desk with the thought of change ringing in his ears. He would go. He would save up his money until he had one hundred and fifty or two hundred dollars and then try his luck in the East. He would leave Ruby and Angela, the latter only temporarily, the former for good very likely, though he only vaguely confessed this to himself. He would make some money and then he would come back and marry his dream from Blackwood. Already his imaginative mind ran forward to a poetic wedding in a little country church, with Angela standing beside him in white. Then he would bring her back with him to New York—he, Eugene Witla, already famous in the East. Already the lure of the big eastern city was in his mind, its palaces, its wealth, its fame. It was the great world he knew, this side of Paris and London. He would go to it now, shortly. What would he be there? How great? How soon?

So he dreamed.

CHAPTER XIV

Once this idea of New York was fixed in his mind as a necessary step in his career, it was no trouble for him to carry it out. He had already put aside sixty dollars in a savings bank since he had given Angela the ring and he decided to treble it as quickly as possible and then start. He fancied that all he needed was just enough to live on for a little while until he could get a start. If he could not sell drawings to the magazines he might get a place on a newspaper and anyhow he felt confident that he could live. He communicated to Howe and Mathews his intention of going East pretty soon and aroused in their respective bosoms the emotions which were characteristic of each. Howe, envious from the start, was glad to have him off the paper, but regretful of the stellar career which his determination foreboded. He half suspected now that Eugene would do something exceptional—he was so loose in his moods—so eccentric. Mathews was glad for Eugene and a little sorry for himself. He wished he had Eugene's courage, his fire, his talent.

“You'll make good when you get down there,” Mathews said to him one afternoon when Howe was out of the room, for he realized that the latter was jealous. “You've got the stuff. Some of the work you have done here will give you a fine introduction. I wish I were going.”

“Why don't you?” suggested Eugene.

“Who? me? What good would it do me? I'm not ready yet. I can't do that sort of stuff. I might go down some time.”

“I think you do good work,” said Eugene generously. He really did not believe it was good art, but it was fair newspaper sketching.

“Oh, no, you don't mean that, Witla,” replied Mathews. “I know what I can do.”

Eugene was silent.

“I wish when you get down there,” went on Mathews, “you would write us occasionally. I would like to know how you are getting along.”

“Sure, I'll write,” replied Eugene, flattered by the interest his determination had aroused. “Sure I will.” But he never did.

In Ruby and Angela he had two problems to adjust which were not so easy. In the one case it was sympathy, regret, sorrow for her helplessness, her hopelessness. She was so sweet and lovely in her way, but not quite big enough mentally or emotionally for him. Could he really live with her if he wanted to? Could he substitute her for a girl like Angela? Could he? And now he had involved Angela, for since her return to tell him that she accepted him as her affianced lover, there had been some scenes between them in which a new standard of emotion had been set for him. This girl who looked so simple and innocent was burning at times with a wild fire. It snapped in her eyes when Eugene undid her wonderful hair and ran his hands through its heavy strands. “The Rhine Maiden,” he would say. “Little Lorelei! You are like the mermaid waiting to catch the young lover in the strands of her hair. You are Marguerite and I Faust. You are a Dutch Gretchen. I love this wonderful hair when it is braided. Oh, sweet, you perfect creature! I will put you in a painting yet. I will make you famous.”

Angela thrilled to this. She burned in a flame which was of his fanning. She put her lips to his in long hot kisses, sat on his knee and twined her hair about his neck; rubbed his face with it as one might bathe a face in strands of silk. Finding such a response he went wild, kissed her madly, would have been still more masterful had she not, at the slightest indication of his audacity, leaped from his embrace, not opposition but self protection in her eyes. She pretended to think better of his love, and Eugene, checked by her ideal of him, tried to restrain himself. He did manage to desist because he was sure that he could not do what he wanted to. Daring such as that would end her love. So they wrestled in affection.

It was the fall following his betrothal to Angela that he actually took his departure. He had drifted through the summer, pondering. He had stayed away from Ruby more and more, and finally left without saying good-bye to her, though he thought up to the last that he intended to go out and see her.

As for Angela, when it came to parting from her, he was in a depressed and downcast mood. He thought now that he did not really want to go to New York, but was being drawn by fate. There was no money for him in the West; they could not live on what he could earn there. Hence he must go and in doing so must lose her. It looked very tragic.

Out at her aunt's house, where she came for the Saturday and Sunday preceding his departure, he walked the floor with her gloomily, counted the lapse of the hours after which he would be with her no more, pictured the day when he would return successful to fetch her. Angela had a faint foreboding fear of the events which might intervene. She had read stories of artists who had gone to the city and had never come back. Eugene seemed such a wonderful person, she might not hold him; and yet he had given her his word and he was madly in love with her—no doubt of that. That fixed, passionate, yearning look in his eyes—what did it mean if not enduring, eternal love? Life had brought her a great treasure—a great love and an artist for a lover.

“Go, Eugene!” she cried at last tragically, almost melodramatically. His face was in her hands. “I will wait for you. You need never have one uneasy thought. When you are ready I will be here, only, come soon—you will, won't you?”

“Will I!” he declared, kissing her, “will I? Look at me. Don't you know?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” she exclaimed, “of course I know. Oh, yes! yes!”

The rest was a passionate embrace. And then they parted. He went out brooding over the subtlety and the tragedy of life. The sharp October stars saddened him more. It was a wonderful world but bitter to endure at times. Still it could be endured and there was happiness and peace in store for him probably. He and Angela would find it together living in each other's company, living in each other's embrace and by each other's kisses. It must be so. The whole world believed it—even he, after Stella and Margaret and Ruby and Angela. Even he.

The train which bore him to New York bore a very meditative young man. As it pulled out through the great railroad yards of the city, past the shabby back yards of the houses, the street crossings at grade, the great factories and elevators, he thought of that other time when he had first ventured in the city. How different! Then he was so green, so raw. Since then he had become a newspaper artist, he could write, he could find his tongue with women, he knew a little something about the organization of the world. He had not saved any money, true, but he had gone through the art school, had given Angela a diamond ring, had this two hundred dollars with which he was venturing to reconnoitre the great social metropolis of the country. He was passing Fifty-seventh Street; he recognized the neighborhood he traversed so often in visiting Ruby. He had not said good-bye to her and there in the distance were the rows of commonplace, two family frame dwellings, one of which she occupied with her foster parents. Poor little Ruby! and she liked him. It was a shame, but what was he to do about it? He didn't care for her. It really hurt him to think and then he tried not to remember. These tragedies of the world could not be healed by thinking.

The train passed out into the flat fields of northern Indiana and as little country towns flashed past he thought of Alexandria and how he had pulled up his stakes and left it. What was Jonas Lyle doing and John Summers? Myrtle wrote that she was going to be married in the spring. She had delayed solely because she wanted to delay. He thought sometimes that Myrtle was a little like himself, fickle in her moods. He was sure he would never want to go back to Alexandria except for a short visit, and yet the thought of his father and his mother and his old home were sweet to him. His father! How little he knew of the real world!

As they passed out of Pittsburgh he saw for the first time the great mountains, raising their heads in solemn majesty in the dark, and great lines of coke ovens, flaming red tongues of fire. He saw men working, and sleeping towns succeeding one another. What a great country America was! What a great thing to be an artist here! Millions of people and no vast artistic voice to portray these things—these simple dramatic things like the coke ovens in the night. If he could only do it! If he could only stir the whole country, so that his name would be like that of Doré in France or Verestchagin in Russia. If he could but get fire into his work, the fire he felt!

He got into his berth after a time and looked out on the dark night and the stars, longing, and then he dozed. When he awoke again the train had already passed Philadelphia. It was morning and the cars were speeding across the flat meadows toward Trenton. He arose and dressed, watching the array of towns the while, Trenton, New Brunswick, Metuchen, Elizabeth. Somehow this country was like Illinois, flat. After Newark they rushed out upon a great meadow and he caught the sense of the sea. It was beyond this. These were tide-water streams, the Passaic and the Hackensack, with small ships and coal and brick barges tied at the water side. The thrill of something big overtook him as the brakeman began to call “Jersey City,” and as he stepped out into the vast train shed his heart misgave him a little. He was all alone in New York. It was wealthy, cold and critical. How should he prosper here? He walked out through the gates to where low arches concealed ferry boats, and in another moment it was before him, sky line, bay, the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty, ferry boats, steamers, liners, all in a grey mist of fierce rain and the tugs and liners blowing mournfully upon great whistles. It was something he could never have imagined without seeing it, and this swish of real salt water, rolling in heavy waves, spoke to him as music might, exalting his soul. What a wonderful thing this was, this sea—where ships were and whales and great mysteries. What a wonderful thing New York was, set down by it, surrounded by it, this metropolis of the country. Here was the sea; yonder were the great docks that held the vessels that sailed to the ports of all the world. He saw them—great grey and black hulls, tied to long piers jutting out into the water. He listened to the whistles, the swish of the water, saw the circling gulls, realized emotionally the mass of people. Here were Jay Gould and Russell Sage and the Vanderbilts and Morgan—all alive and all here. Wall Street, Fifth Avenue, Madison Square, Broadway—he knew of these by reputation. How would he do here—how fare? Would the city ever acclaim him as it did some? He looked wide eyed, with an open heart, with intense and immense appreciation. Well, he was going to enter, going to try. He could do that—perhaps, perhaps. But he felt lonely. He wished he were back with Angela where her soft arms could shut him safe. He wished he might feel her hands on his cheeks, his hair. He would not need to fight alone then. But now he was alone, and the city was roaring about him, a great noise like the sea. He must enter and do battle.

CHAPTER XV

Not knowing routes or directions in New York, Eugene took a Desbrosses Street ferry, and coming into West Street wandered along that curious thoroughfare staring at the dock entrances. Manhattan Island seemed a little shabby to him from this angle but he thought that although physically, perhaps, it might not be distinguished, there must be other things which made it wonderful. Later when he saw the solidity of it, the massed houses, the persistent streams of people, the crush of traffic, it dawned on him that mere humanity in packed numbers makes a kind of greatness, and this was the island's first characteristic. There were others, like the prevailing lowness of the buildings in its old neighborhoods, the narrowness of the streets in certain areas, the shabbiness of brick and stone when they have seen an hundred years of weather, which struck him as curious or depressing. He was easily touched by exterior conditions.

As he wandered he kept looking for some place where he might like to live, some house that had a yard or a tree. At length he found a row of houses in lower Seventh Avenue with an array of iron balconies in front which appealed to him. He applied here and in one house found a room for four dollars which he thought he had better take for the present. It was cheaper than any hotel. His hostess was a shabby woman in black who made scarcely any impression on him as a personality, merely giving him a thought as to what a dreary thing it was to keep roomers and the room itself was nothing, a commonplace, but he had a new world before him and all his interests were outside. He wanted to see this city. He deposited his grip and sent for his trunk and then took to the streets, having come to see and hear things which would be of advantage to him.

He went about this early relationship to the city in the right spirit. For a little while he did not try to think what he would do, but struck out and walked, here, there and everywhere, this very first day down Broadway to the City Hall and up Broadway from 14th to 42nd street the same night. Soon he knew all Third Avenue and the Bowery, the wonders of Fifth Avenue and Riverside Drive, the beauties of the East River, the Battery, Central Park and the lower East Side. He sought out quickly the wonders of metropolitan life—its crowds at dinner and theatre time in Broadway, its tremendous throngs morning and afternoon in the shopping district, its amazing world of carriages in Fifth Avenue and Central Park. He had marveled at wealth and luxury in Chicago, but here it took his breath away. It was obviously so much more fixed, so definite and comprehensible. Here one felt intuitively the far reaches which separate the ordinary man from the scion of wealth. It curled him up like a frozen leaf, dulled his very soul, and gave him a clear sense of his position in the social scale. He had come here with a pretty high estimate of himself, but daily, as he looked, he felt himself crumbling. What was he? What was art? What did the city care? It was much more interested in other things, in dressing, eating, visiting, riding abroad. The lower part of the island was filled with cold commercialism which frightened him. In the upper half, which concerned only women and show—a voluptuous sybaritism—caused him envy. He had but two hundred dollars with which to fight his way, and this was the world he must conquer.

Men of Eugene's temperament are easily depressed. He first gorged the spectacle of life and then suffered from mental indigestion. He saw too much of it too quickly. He wandered about for weeks, looking in the shop windows, the libraries, the museums, the great streets, growing all the while more despondent. At night he would return to his bare room and indite long epistles to Angela, describing what he had seen and telling her of his undying love for her—largely because he had no other means of ridding himself of his superabundant vitality and moods. They were beautiful letters, full of color and feeling, but to Angela they gave a false impression of emotion and sincerity because they appeared to be provoked by absence from her. In part of course they were, but far more largely they were the result of loneliness and the desire for expression which this vast spectacle of life itself incited. He also sent her some tentative sketches of things he had seen—a large crowd in the dark at 34th Street; a boat off 86th Street in the East River in the driving rain; a barge with cars being towed by a tug. He could not think exactly what to do with these things at that time, but he wanted to try his hand at illustrating for the magazines. He was a little afraid of these great publications, however, for now that he was on the ground with them his art did not appear so significant.

It was during the first few weeks that he received his only letter from Ruby. His parting letter to her, written when he reached New York, had been one of those makeshift affairs which faded passion indites. He was so sorry he had to leave without seeing her. He had intended to come out but the rush of preparation at the last moment, and so forth; he hoped to come back to Chicago one of these days and he would look her up. He still loved her, but it was necessary for him to leave—to come where the greatest possibilities were. “I remember how sweet you were when I first saw you,” he added. “I shall never forget my first impressions, little Ruby.”

It was cruel to add this touch of remembrance, but the artist in him could not refrain. It cut Ruby as a double edged sword, for she understood that he cared well enough that way—æsthetically. It was not her but beauty that he loved, and her particular beauty had lost its appeal.

She wrote after a time, intending to be defiant, indifferent, but she really could not be. She tried to think of something sharp to say, but finally put down the simple truth.

“Dear Eugene:” she wrote, “I got your note several weeks ago, but I could not bring myself to answer it before this. I know everything is over between us and that is all right, for I suppose it has to be. You couldn't love any woman long, I think. I know what you say about your having to go to New York to broaden your field is true. You ought to, but I'm sorry you didn't come out. You might have. Still I don't blame you, Eugene. It isn't much different from what has been going on for some time. I have cared but I'll get over that, I know, and I won't ever think hard of you. Won't you return me the notes I have sent you from time to time and my pictures? You won't want them now.

   “Ruby.”

There was a little blank space on the paper and then:—

“I stood by the window last night and looked out on the street. The moon was shining and those dead trees were waving in the wind. I saw the moon on that pool of water over in the field. It looked like silver. Oh, Eugene, I wish I were dead.”

He jumped up as he read these words and clenched the letter in his hands. The pathos of it all cut him to the quick, raised his estimate of her, made him feel as if he had made a mistake in leaving her. He really cared for her after all. She was sweet. If she were here now he could live with her. She might as well be a model in New York as in Chicago. He was on the verge of writing this, when one of the long, almost daily epistles Angela was sending arrived and changed his mood. He did not see how, in the face of so great and clean a love as hers, he could go on with Ruby. His affection had obviously been dying. Should he try to revive it now?

This conflict of emotions was so characteristic of Eugene's nature, that had he been soundly introspective, he would have seen that he was an idealist by temperament, in love with the æsthetic, in love with love, and that there was no permanent faith in him for anybody—except the impossible she.

As it was, he wrote Ruby a letter breathing regret and sorrow but not inviting her to come. He could not have supported her long if she had, he thought. Besides he was anxious to secure Angela. So that affair lapsed.

In the meantime he visited the magazine offices. On leaving Chicago he had put in the bottom of his trunk a number of drawings which he had done for the Globe—his sketches of the Chicago River, of Blue Island Avenue, of which he had once made a study as a street, of Goose Island and of the Lake front. There were some street scenes, too, all forceful in the peculiar massing of their blacks, the unexpected, almost flashing, use of a streak of white at times. There was emotion in them, a sense of life. He should have been appreciated at once, but, oddly, there was just enough of the radically strange about what he did to make his work seem crude, almost coarse. He drew a man's coat with a single dash of his pen. He indicated a face by a spot. If you looked close there was seldom any detail, frequently none at all. From the praise he had received at the art school and from Mathews and Goldfarb he was slowly coming to the conclusion that he had a way of his own. Being so individual he was inclined to stick to it. He walked with an air of conviction which had nothing but his own belief in himself to back it up, and it was not an air which drew anybody to him. When he showed his pictures at the Century, Harper's, Scribner's, they were received with an air of weary consideration. Dozens of magnificent drawings were displayed on their walls signed by men whom Eugene now knew to be leaders in the illustration world. He returned to his room convinced that he had made no impression at all. They must be familiar with artists a hundred times better than himself.

As a matter of fact Eugene was simply overawed by the material face of things. These men whose pictures he saw displayed on the walls of the art and editorial rooms of the magazines were really not, in many instances, any better than himself, if as good. They had the advantage of solid wood frames and artistic acceptance. He was a long way as yet from magazine distinction but the work he did later had no more of the fire than had this early stuff. It was a little broader in treatment, a little less intolerant of detail, but no more vigorous if as much so. The various art directors were weary of smart young artists showing drawings. A little suffering was good for them in the beginning. So Eugene was incontinently turned away with a little faint praise which was worse than opposition. He sank very low in spirits.

There were still the smaller magazines and the newspapers, however, and he hunted about faithfully, trying to get something to do. From one or two of the smaller magazines, he secured commissions, after a time, three or four drawings for thirty-five dollars; and from that had to be extracted models' fees. He had to have a room where he could work as an artist, receiving models to pose, and he finally found one in West 14th Street, a back bedroom, looking out over an open court and with a public stair which let all come who might without question. This cost him twenty-five dollars a month, but he thought he had better risk it. If he could get a few commissions he could live.

CHAPTER XVI

The art world of New York is peculiar. It was then and for some time after, broken up into cliques with scarcely any unity. There was a world of sculptors, for instance, in which some thirty or forty sculptors had part—but they knew each other slightly, criticised each other severely and retired for the most part into a background of relatives and friends. There was a painting world, as distinguished from an illustrating world, in which perhaps a thousand alleged artists, perhaps more, took part. Most of these were men and women who had some ability—enough to have their pictures hung at the National Academy of Design exhibition—to sell some pictures, get some decorative work to do, paint some portraits. There were studio buildings scattered about various portions of the city; in Washington Square; in Ninth and Tenth Streets; in odd places, such as Macdougal Alley and occasional cross streets from Washington Square to Fifty-ninth Street, which were filled with painters, illustrators, sculptors and craftsmen in art generally. This painting world had more unity than the world of sculptors and, in a way, included the latter. There were several art clubs—the Salmagundi, the Kit-Kat and the Lotus—and there were a number of exhibitions, ink, water color, oil, with their reception nights where artists could meet and exchange the courtesies and friendship of their world. In addition to this there were little communal groups such as those who resided in the Tenth Street studios; the Twenty-third Street Y. M. C. A.; the Van Dyck studios, and so on. It was possible to find little crowds, now and then, that harmonized well enough for a time and to get into a group, if, to use a colloquialism, one belonged. If you did not, art life in New York might be a very dreary thing and one might go a long time without finding just the particular crowd with which to associate.

Beside the painting world there was the illustrating world, made up of beginners and those who had established themselves firmly in editorial favor. These were not necessarily a part of the painting or sculpture worlds and yet, in spirit, were allied to them, had their clubs also, and their studios were in the various neighborhoods where the painters and sculptors were. The only difference was that in the case of the embryo illustrators they were to be found living three or four in one studio, partly because of the saving in expense, but also because of the love of companionship and because they could hearten and correct one another in their work. A number of such interesting groups were in existence when Eugene arrived, but of course he did not know of them.

It takes time for the beginner to get a hearing anywhere. We all have to serve an apprenticeship, whatever field we enter. Eugene had talent and determination, but no experience, no savoir faire, no circle of friends and acquaintances. The whole city was strange and cold, and if he had not immediately fallen desperately in love with it as a spectacle he would have been unconscionably lonely and unhappy. As it was the great fresh squares, such as Washington, Union and Madison; the great streets, such as Broadway, Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue; the great spectacles, such as the Bowery at night, the East River, the water front, the Battery, all fascinated him with an unchanging glamor.

He was hypnotized by the wonder of this thing—the beauty of it. Such seething masses of people! such whirlpools of life! The great hotels, the opera, the theatres, the restaurants, all gripped him with a sense of beauty. These lovely women in magnificent gowns; these swarms of cabs, with golden eyes, like monstrous insects; this ebb and surge of life at morning and evening, made him forget his loneliness. He had no money to spend, no immediate hope of a successful career, he could walk these streets, look in these windows, admire these beautiful women; thrill at the daily newspaper announcements of almost hourly successes in one field or another. Here and there in the news an author had made a great success with a book; a scientist with a discovery; a philosopher with a new theory; a financier with an investment. There was news of great plays being put on; great actors and actresses coming from abroad; great successes being made by débutantes in society; great movements forwarded generally. Youth and ambition had the call—he saw that. It was only a question of time, if you had talent, when you would get your hearing. He longed ardently for his but he had no feeling that it was coming to him quickly, so he got the blues. It was a long road to travel.

One of his pet diversions these days and nights was to walk the streets in rain or fog or snow. The city appealed to him, wet or white, particularly the public squares. He saw Fifth Avenue once in a driving snowstorm and under sputtering arc lights, and he hurried to his easel next morning to see if he could not put it down in black and white. It was unsuccessful, or at least he felt so, for after an hour of trying he threw it aside in disgust. But these spectacles were drawing him. He was wanting to do them—wanting to see them shown somewhere in color. Possible success was a solace at a time when all he could pay for a meal was fifteen cents and he had no place to go and not a soul with whom to talk.

It was an interesting phase of Eugene's character that he had a passion for financial independence. He might have written home from Chicago at times when he was hard pressed; he might have borrowed some money from his father now, but preferred to earn it—to appear to be further along than he was. If anyone had asked him he would have said he was doing fine. Practically he so wrote to Angela, giving as an excuse for further delay that he wanted to wait until he had ample means. He was trying all this time to make his two hundred dollars go as far as possible and to add to it by any little commissions he could get, however small. He figured his expenses down to ten dollars a week and managed to stay within that sum.

The particular building in which he had settled was really not a studio building but an old, run-down boarding and apartment house turned partially to uses of trade. The top floor contained three fair sized rooms and two hall bedrooms, all occupied by lonely individuals plying some craft or other. Eugene's next door neighbor chanced to be a hack illustrator, who had had his training in Boston and had set up his easel here in the hope of making a living. There were not many exchanges of courtesies between them at first, although, the door being open the second day he arrived, he saw that an artist worked there, for the easel was visible.

No models applying at first he decided to appeal to the Art Students' League. He called on the Secretary and was given the names of four, who replied to postal cards from him. One he selected, a young Swedish American girl who looked somewhat like the character in the story he had in mind. She was neat and attractive, with dark hair, a straight nose and pointed chin, and Eugene immediately conceived a liking for her. He was ashamed of his surroundings, however, and consequently diffident. This particular model was properly distant, and he finished his pictures with as much expedition and as little expense as he possibly could.

Eugene was not given to scraping odd acquaintances, though he made friends fast enough when the balance of intellect was right. In Chicago he had become friendly with several young artists as a result of working with them at the Institute, but here he knew no one, having come without introductions. He did become acquainted with his neighbor, Philip Shotmeyer. He wanted to find out about local art life from him, but Shotmeyer was not brilliant, and could not supply him with more than minor details of what Eugene desired to know. Through him he learnt a little of studio regions, art personalities; the fact that young beginners worked in groups. Shotmeyer had been in such a group the year before, though why he was alone now he did not say. He sold drawings to some of the minor magazines, better magazines than Eugene had yet had dealings with. One thing he did at once for Eugene which was very helpful: he admired his work. He saw, as had others before him, something of his peculiar distinction as an artist, attended every show and one day he gave him a suggestion which was the beginning of Eugene's successful magazine career. Eugene was working on one of his street scenes—a task which he invariably essayed when he had nothing else to do. Shotmeyer had drifted in and was following the strokes of his brush as he attempted to portray a mass of East Side working girls flooding the streets after six o'clock. There were dark walls of buildings, a flaring gas lamp or two, some yellow lighted shop windows, and many shaded, half seen faces—bare suggestions of souls and pulsing life.

“Say,” said Shotmeyer at one point, “that kind o' looks like the real thing to me. I've seen a crowd like that.”

“Have you?” replied Eugene.

“You ought to be able to get some magazine to use that as a frontispiece. Why don't you try Truth with that?”

“Truth” was a weekly which Eugene, along with many others in the West, had admired greatly because it ran a double page color insert every week and occasionally used scenes of this character. Somehow he always needed a shove of this kind to make him act when he was drifting. He put more enthusiasm into his work because of Shotmeyer's remark, and when it was done decided to carry it to the office of Truth. The Art Director approved it on sight, though he said nothing, but carried it in to the Editor.

“Here's a thing that I consider a find in its way.”

He set it proudly upon the editorial desk.

“Say,” said the Editor, laying down a manuscript, “that's the real thing, isn't it? Who did that?”

“A young fellow by the name of Witla, who has just blown in here. He looks like the real thing to me.”

“Say,” went on the Editor, “look at the suggestion of faces back there! What? Reminds me just a little of the masses in Doré stuff—It's good, isn't it?”

“It's fine,” echoed the Art Director. “I think he's a comer, if nothing happens to him. We ought to get a few centre pages out of him.”

“How much does he want for this?”

“Oh, he doesn't know. He'll take almost anything. I'll give him seventy-five dollars.”

“That's all right,” said the Editor as the Art Director took the drawing down. “There's something new there. You ought to hang on to him.”

“I will,” replied his associate. “He's young yet. He doesn't want to be encouraged too much.”

He went out, pulling a solemn countenance.

“I like this fairly well,” he said. “We may be able to find room for it. I'll send you a check shortly if you'll let me have your address.”

Eugene gave it. His heart was beating a gay tattoo in his chest. He did not think anything of price, in fact it did not occur to him. All that was in his mind was the picture as a double page spread. So he had really sold one after all and to Truth! Now he could honestly say he had made some progress. Now he could write Angela and tell her. He could send her copies when it came out. He could really have something to point to after this and best of all, now he knew he could do street scenes.

He went out into the street treading not the grey stone pavement but air. He threw back his head and breathed deep. He thought of other scenes like this which he could do. His dreams were beginning to be realized—he, Eugene Witla, the painter of a double page spread in Truth! Already he was doing a whole series in his imagination, all he had ever dreamed of. He wanted to run and tell Shotmeyer—to buy him a good meal. He almost loved him, commonplace hack that he was—because he had suggested to him the right thing to do.

“Say, Shotmeyer,” he said, sticking his head in that worthy's door, “you and I eat tonight. Truth took that drawing.”

“Isn't that fine,” said his floor-mate, without a trace of envy. “Well, I'm glad. I thought they'd like it.”

Eugene could have cried. Poor Shotmeyer! He wasn't a good artist, but he had a good heart. He would never forget him.

CHAPTER XVII

This one significant sale with its subsequent check of seventy-five dollars and later the appearance of the picture in color, gave Eugene such a lift in spirit that he felt, for the time being, as though his art career had reached a substantial basis, and he began to think of going to Blackwood to visit Angela. But first he must do some more work.

He concentrated his attention on several additional scenes, doing a view of Greeley Square in a sopping drizzle, and a picture of an L train speeding up the Bowery on its high, thin trestle of steel. He had an eye for contrasts, picking out lights and shadows sharply, making wonderful blurs that were like colors in precious stones, confused and suggestive. He took one of these after a month to Truth, and again the Art Director was his victim. He tried to be indifferent, but it was hard. The young man had something that he wanted.

“You might show me anything else you do in this line,” he said. “I can use a few if they come up to these two.”

Eugene went away with his head in the air. He was beginning to get the courage of his ability.

It takes quite a number of drawings at seventy-five and one hundred dollars each to make a living income, and artists were too numerous to make anyone's opportunity for immediate distinction easy. Eugene waited months to see his first drawing come out. He stayed away from the smaller magazines in the hope that he would soon be able to contribute to the larger ones, but they were not eagerly seeking new artists. He met, through Shotmeyer, two artists who were living in one studio in Waverly Place and took a great liking to them. One of them, McHugh, was an importation from Wyoming with delicious stories of mountain farming and mining; the other, Smite, was a fisher lad from Nova Scotia. McHugh, tall and lean, with a face that looked like that of a raw yokel, but with some gleam of humor and insight in the eyes which redeemed it instantly, was Eugene's first choice of a pleasing, genial personality. Joseph Smite had a sense of the sea about him. He was short and stout, and rather solidly put together, like a blacksmith. He had big hands and feet, a big mouth, big, bony eye sockets and coarse brown hair. When he talked, ordinarily, it was with a slow, halting air and when he smiled or laughed it was with his whole face. When he became excited or gay something seemed to happen distinctly to every part of his body. His face became a curious cross-hatch of genial lines. His tongue loosened and he talked fast. He had a habit of emphasizing his language with oaths on these occasions—numerous and picturesque, for he had worked with sea-faring men and had accumulated a vast vocabulary of picturesque expressions. They were vacant of evil intent so far as he was concerned, for there was no subtlety or guile in him. He was kindly and genial all through. Eugene wanted to be friendly and struck a gay relationship with these two. He found that he got along excellently well with them and could swap humorous incidents and character touches by the hour. It was some months before he could actually say that he was intimate with them, but he began to visit them regularly and after a time they called on him.

It was during this year that he came to know several models passingly well, to visit the various art exhibitions, to be taken up by Hudson Dula, the Art Director of Truth and invited to two or three small dinners given to artists and girls. He did not find anyone he liked exceptionally well barring one Editor of a rather hopeless magazine called Craft, devoted to art subjects, a young blond, of poetic temperament, who saw in him a spirit of beauty and tried to make friends with him. Eugene responded cheerfully and thereafter Richard Wheeler was a visitor at his studio from time to time. He was not making enough to house himself much better these days, but he did manage to buy a few plaster casts and to pick up a few nice things in copper and brass for his studio. His own drawings, his street scenes, were hung here and there. The way in which the exceptionally clever looked at them convinced him by degrees that he had something big to say.

It was while he was settling himself in this atmosphere—the spring of the second year—that he decided to go back and visit Angela and incidentally Alexandria and Chicago. He had been away now sixteen months, had not seen anyone who had won his affections or alienated him from his love of Angela. He wrote in March that he thought he would be coming in May or June. He did get away in July—a season when the city was suffering from a wave of intense heat. He had not done so much—illustrated eight or ten stories and drawn four double page pictures for Truth, one of which had appeared; but he was getting along. Just as he was starting for Chicago and Blackwood a second one was put on the news-stand and he proudly carried a copy of it with him on the train. It was the Bowery by night, with the L train rushing overhead and, as reproduced, it had color and life. He felt intensely proud and knew that Angela would also. She had written him such a glowing appreciation of the East Side picture called “Six O'clock.”

As he rode he dreamed.

He reached it at last, the long stretch between New York and Chicago traversed; he arrived in the Lake city in the afternoon, and without pausing to revisit the scenes of his earlier efforts took a five o'clock train for Blackwood. It was sultry, and on the way heavy thunder clouds gathered and broke in a short, splendid summer rain. The trees and grass were thoroughly wet and the dust of the roads was laid. There was a refreshing coolness about the air which caressed the weary flesh. Little towns nestling among green trees came into view and passed again, and at last Blackwood appeared. It was smaller than Alexandria, but not so different. Like the other it was marked by a church steeple, a saw mill, a pretty brick business street and many broad branching green trees. Eugene felt drawn to it at sight. It was such a place as Angela should live in.

It was seven o'clock and nearing dusk when he arrived. He had not given Angela the definite hour of his arrival and so decided to stay over night at the little inn or so-called hotel which he saw up the street. He had brought only a large suit case and a traveling bag. He inquired of the proprietor the direction and distance of the Blue house from the town, found that he could get a vehicle any time in the morning which would take him over, as the phrase ran, for a dollar. He ate his supper of fried steak and poor coffee and fried potatoes and then sat out on the front porch facing the street in a rocking chair, to see how the village of Blackwood wagged and to enjoy the cool of the evening. As he sat he thought of Angela's home and how nice it must be. This town was such a little place—so quiet. There would not be another train coming up from the city until after eleven.

After a time he rose and took a short walk, breathing the night air. Later he came back and throwing wide the windows of the stuffy room sat looking out. The summer night with its early rain, its wet trees, its smell of lush, wet, growing things, was impressing itself on Eugene as one might impress wet clay with a notable design. Eugene's mood was soft toward the little houses with their glowing windows, the occasional pedestrians with their “howdy Jakes” and “evenin' Henrys.” He was touched by the noise of the crickets, the chirp of the tree toads, the hang of the lucent suns and planets above the tree tops. The whole night was quick with the richness of fertility, stirring subtly about some work which concerned man very little or not at all, yet of which he was at least a part, till his eyelids drooped after a time and he went to bed to sleep deeply and dreamlessly.

Next morning he was up early, eager for the hour to arrive when he might start. He did not think it advisable to leave before nine o'clock, and attracted considerable attention by strolling about, his tall, spare, graceful figure and forceful profile being an unusual sight to the natives. At nine o'clock a respectable carryall was placed at his disposal and he was driven out over a long yellow road, damp with the rain of the night before and shaded in places by overhanging trees. There were so many lovely wild flowers growing in the angles of the rail fences—wild yellow and pink roses, elder flower, Queen Anne's lace, dozens of beautiful blooms, that Eugene was lost in admiration. His heart sang over the beauty of yellowing wheatfields, the young corn, already three feet high, the vistas of hay and clover, with patches of woods enclosing them, and over all, house martens and swallows scudding after insects and high up in the air his boyhood dream of beauty, a soaring buzzard.

As he rode the moods of his boyhood days came back to him—his love of winging butterflies and birds; his passion for the voice of the wood-dove (there was one crying in the still distance now)—his adoration for the virile strength of the men of the countryside. He thought as he rode that he would like to paint a series of country scenes that would be as simple as those cottage dooryards that they now and then passed; this little stream that cut the road at right angles and made a drinking place for the horses; this skeleton of an old abandoned home, doorless and windowless, where the roof sagged and hollyhocks and morning glories grew high under the eaves. “We city dwellers do not know,” he sighed, as though he had not taken the country in his heart and carried it to town as had every other boy and girl who had gone the way of the metropolis.

The Blue homestead was located in the centre of a rather wide rolling stretch of country which lay between two gently rising ridges of hill covered with trees. One corner of the farm, and that not so very far from the house, was cut by a stream, a little shallow thing, singing over pebbles and making willows and hazel bushes to grow in profusion along its banks, and there was a little lake within a mile of the house. In front of it was a ten acre field of wheat, to the right of it a grazing patch of several acres, to the left a field of clover; and near the house by a barn, a well, a pig pen, a corn crib and some smaller sheds. In front of the house was a long open lawn, down the centre of which ran a gravel path, lined on either side by tall old elm trees. The immediate dooryard was shut from this noble lawn by a low picket fence along the length of which grew lilac bushes and inside which, nearer the house, were simple beds of roses, calycanthus and golden glow. Over an arbor leading from the backdoor to a rather distant summer kitchen flourished a grapevine, and there was a tall remnant of a tree trunk covered completely with a yellow blooming trumpet vine. The dooryard's lawn was smooth enough, and the great lawn was a dream of green grass, graced with the shadows of a few great trees. The house was long and of no great depth, the front a series of six rooms ranged in a row, without an upper storey. The two middle rooms which had originally, perhaps seventy years before, been all there was of the house. Since then all the other rooms had been added, and there was in addition to these a lean-to containing a winter kitchen and dining room, and to the west of the arbor leading to the summer kitchen, an old unpainted frame storehouse. In all its parts the place was shabby and run down but picturesque and quaint.

Eugene was surprised to find the place so charming. It appealed to him, the long, low front, with doors opening from the centre and end rooms direct upon the grass, with windows set in climbing vines and the lilac bushes forming a green wall between the house and the main lawn. The great rows of elm trees throwing a grateful shade seemed like sentinel files. As the carryall turned in at the wagon gate in front he thought “What a place for love! and to think Angela should live here.”

The carryall rattled down the pebble road to the left of the lawn and stopped at the garden gate. Marietta came out. Marietta was twenty-two years old, and as gay and joyous as her elder sister Angela was sober and in a way morbid. Light souled as a kitten, looking always on the bright side of things, she made hosts of friends everywhere she went, having a perfect swarm of lovers who wrote her eager notes, but whom she rebuffed with good natured, sympathetic simplicity. Here on this farm there was not supposed to be so much opportunity for social life as in town, but beaux made their way here on one pretext and another. Marietta was the magnet, and in the world of gaiety which she created Angela shared.

Angela was now in the dining room—easy to be called—but Marietta wanted to see for herself what sort of lover her sister had captured. She was surprised at his height, his presence, the keenness of his eyes. She hardly understood so fine a lover for her own sister, but held out her hand smilingly.

“This is Mr. Witla, isn't it?” she asked.

“The same,” he replied, a little pompously. “Isn't it a lovely drive over here?”

“We think it nice in nice weather,” she laughed. “You wouldn't like it so much in winter. Won't you come in and put your grip here in the hall? David will take it to your room.”

Eugene obeyed, but he was thinking of Angela and when she would appear and how she would look. He stepped into the large, low ceiled, dark, cool parlor and was delighted to see a piano and some music piled on a rack. Through an open window he saw several hammocks out on the main lawn, under the trees. It seemed a wonderful place to him, the substance of poetry—and then Angela appeared. She was dressed in plain white linen. Her hair, braided as he liked it in a great rope, lay as a band across her forehead. She had picked a big pink rose and put it in her waist. At sight of her Eugene held out his arms and she flew to them. He kissed her vigorously, for Marietta had discreetly retired and they were left alone.

“So I have you at last,” he whispered, and kissed her again.

“Oh, yes, yes, and it has been so long,” she sighed.

“You couldn't have suffered any more than I have,” he consoled. “Every minute has been torture, waiting, waiting, waiting!”

“Let's not think of that now,” she urged. “We have each other. You are here.”

“Yes, here I am,” he laughed, “all the virtues done up in one brown suit. Isn't it lovely—these great trees, that beautiful lawn?”

He paused from kissing to look out of the window.

“I'm glad you like it,” she replied joyously. “We think it's nice, but this place is so old.”

“I love it for that,” he cried appreciatively. “Those bushes are so nice—those roses. Oh, dear, you don't know how sweet it all seems—and you—you are so nice.”

He held her off at arm's length and surveyed her while she blushed becomingly. His eager, direct, vigorous onslaught confused her at times—caused her pulse to beat at a high rate.

They went out into the dooryard after a time and then Marietta appeared again, and with her Mrs. Blue, a comfortable, round bodied mother of sixty, who greeted Eugene cordially. He could feel in her what he felt in his own mother—in every good mother—love of order and peace, love of the well being of her children, love of public respect and private honor and morality. All these things Eugene heartily respected in others. He was glad to see them, believed they had a place in society, but was uncertain whether they bore any fixed or important relationship to him. He was always thinking in his private conscience that life was somehow bigger and subtler and darker than any given theory or order of living. It might well be worth while for a man or woman to be honest and moral within a given condition or quality of society, but it did not matter at all in the ultimate substance and composition of the universe. Any form or order of society which hoped to endure must have individuals like Mrs. Blue, who would conform to the highest standards and theories of that society, and when found they were admirable, but they meant nothing in the shifting, subtle forces of nature. They were just accidental harmonies blossoming out of something which meant everything here to this order, nothing to the universe at large. At twenty-two years of age he was thinking these things, wondering whether it would be possible ever to express them; wondering what people would think of him if they actually knew what he did think; wondering if there was anything, anything, which was really stable—a rock to cling to—and not mere shifting shadow and unreality.

Mrs. Blue looked at her daughter's young lover with a kindly eye. She had heard a great deal about him. Having raised her children to be honest, moral and truthful she trusted them to associate only with those who were equally so. She assumed that Eugene was such a man, and his frank open countenance and smiling eyes and mouth convinced her that he was basically good. Also, what to her were his wonderful drawings, sent to Angela in the form of proofs from time to time, particularly the one of the East Side crowd, had been enough to prejudice her in his favor. No other daughter of the family, and there were three married, had approximated to this type of man in her choice. Eugene was looked upon as a prospective son-in-law who would fulfill all the conventional obligations joyfully and as a matter of course.

“It's very good of you to put me up, Mrs. Blue,” Eugene said pleasantly. “I've always wanted to come out here for a visit—I've heard so much of the family from Angela.”

“It's just a country home we have, not much to look at, but we like it,” replied his hostess. She smiled blandly, asked if he wouldn't make himself comfortable in one of the hammocks, wanted to know how he was getting along with his work in New York and then returned to her cooking, for she was already preparing his first meal. Eugene strolled with Angela to the big lawn under the trees and sat down. He was experiencing the loftiest of human emotions on earth—love in youth, accepted and requited, hope in youth, justified in action by his success in New York; peace in youth, for he had a well earned holiday in his grasp, was resting with the means to do so and with love and beauty and admiration and joyous summer weather to comfort him.

As he rocked to and fro in the hammock gazing at the charming lawn and realizing all these things, his glance rested at last upon Angela, and he thought, “Life can really hold no finer thing than this.”

CHAPTER XVIII

Toward noon old Jotham Blue came in from a cornfield where he had been turning the earth between the rows. Although sixty-five and with snowy hair and beard he looked to be vigorous, and good to live until ninety or a hundred. His eyes were blue and keen, his color rosy. He had great broad shoulders set upon a spare waist, for he had been a handsome figure of a man in his youth.

“How do you do, Mr. Witla,” he inquired with easy grace as he strolled up, the yellow mud of the fields on his boots. He had pulled a big jackknife out of his pocket and begun whittling a fine twig he had picked up. “I'm glad to see you. My daughter, Angela, has been telling me one thing and another about you.”

He smiled as he looked at Eugene. Angela, who was sitting beside him, rose and strolled toward the house.

“I'm glad to see you,” said Eugene. “I like your country around here. It looks prosperous.”

“It is prosperous,” said the old patriarch, drawing up a chair which stood at the foot of a tree and seating himself. Eugene sank back into the hammock.

“It's a soil that's rich in lime and carbon and sodium—the things which make plant life grow. We need very little fertilizer here—very little. The principal thing is to keep the ground thoroughly cultivated and to keep out the bugs and weeds.”

He cut at his stick meditatively. Eugene noted the chemical and physical knowledge relative to farming. It pleased him to find brain coupled with crop cultivation.

“I noticed some splendid fields of wheat as I came over,” he observed.

“Yes, wheat does well here,” Blue went on, “when the weather is moderately favorable. Corn does well. We have a splendid apple crop and grapes are generally successful in this state. I have always thought that Wisconsin had a little the best of the other valley states, for we are blessed with a moderate climate, plenty of streams and rivers and a fine, broken landscape. There are good mines up north and lots of lumber. We are a prosperous people, we Wisconsiners, decidedly prosperous. This state has a great future.”

Eugene noted the wide space between his clear blue eyes as he talked. He liked the bigness of his conception of his state and of his country. No petty little ground-harnessed ploughman this, but a farmer in the big sense of the word—a cultivator of the soil, with an understanding of it—an American who loved his state and his country.

“I have always thought of the Mississippi valley as the country of the future,” said Eugene. “We have had the Valley of the Nile and the Valley of the Euphrates with big populations, but this is something larger. I rather feel as though a great wave of population were coming here in the future.”

“It is the new paradise of the world,” said Jotham Blue, pausing in his whittling and holding up his right hand for emphasis. “We haven't come to realize its possibilities. The fruit, the corn, the wheat, to feed the nations of the world can be raised here. I sometimes marvel at the productivity of the soil. It is so generous. It is like a great mother. It only asks to be treated kindly to give all that it has.”

Eugene smiled. The bigness of his prospective father-in-law's feelings lured him. He felt as though he could love this man.

They talked on about other things, the character of the surrounding population, the growth of Chicago, the recent threat of a war with Venezuela, the rise of a new leader in the Democratic party, a man whom Jotham admired very much. As he was telling of the latter's exploits—it appeared he had recently met him at Blackwood—Mrs. Blue appeared in the front door.

“Jotham!” she called.

He rose. “My wife must want a bucket of water,” he said, and strolled away.

Eugene smiled. This was lovely. This was the way life should be—compounded of health, strength, good nature, understanding, simplicity. He wished he were a man like Jotham, as sound, as hearty, as clean and strong. To think he had raised eight children. No wonder Angela was lovely. They all were, no doubt.

While he was rocking, Marietta came back smiling, her blond hair blowing about her face. Like her father she had blue eyes, like him a sanguine temperament, warm and ruddy. Eugene felt drawn to her. She reminded him a little of Ruby—a little of Margaret. She was bursting with young health.

“You're stronger than Angela,” he said, looking at her.

“Oh, yes, I can always outrun Angel-face,” she exclaimed. “We fight sometimes but I can get things away from her. She has to give in. Sometimes I feel older—I always take the lead.”

Eugene rejoiced in the sobriquet of Angel-face. It suited Angela, he thought. She looked like pictures of Angels in the old prints and in the stained glass windows he had seen. He wondered in a vague way, however, whether Marietta did not have the sweeter temperament—were not really more lovable and cosy. But he put the thought forcefully out of his mind. He felt he must be loyal to Angela here.

While they were talking the youngest boy, David, came up and sat down on the grass. He was short and stocky for his years—sixteen—with an intelligent face and an inquiring eye. Eugene noted stability and quiet force in his character at once. He began to see that these children had inherited character as well as strength from their parents. This was a home in which successful children were being reared. Benjamin came up after awhile, a tall, overgrown, puritanical youth, with western modifications and then Samuel, the oldest of the living boys and the most impressive. He was big and serene like his father, of brown complexion and hickory strength. Eugene learned in the conversation that he was a railroad man in St. Paul—home for a brief vacation, after three years of absence. He was with a road called the Great Northern, already a Second Assistant Passenger Agent and with great prospects, so the family thought. Eugene could see that all the boys and girls, like Angela, were ruggedly and honestly truthful. They were written all over with Christian precept—not church dogma—but Christian precept, lightly and good naturedly applied. They obeyed the ten commandments in so far as possible and lived within the limits of what people considered sane and decent. Eugene wondered at this. His own moral laxity was a puzzle to him. He wondered whether he were not really all wrong and they all right. Yet the subtlety of the universe was always with him—the mystery of its chemistry. For a given order of society no doubt he was out of place—for life in general, well, he could not say.

At 12.30 dinner was announced from the door by Mrs. Blue and they all rose. It was one of those simple home feasts common to any intelligent farming family. There was a generous supply of fresh vegetables, green peas, new potatoes, new string beans. A steak had been secured from the itinerant butcher who served these parts and Mrs. Blue had made hot light biscuit. Eugene expressed a predilection for fresh buttermilk and they brought him a pitcherful, saying that as a rule it was given to the pigs; the children did not care for it. They talked and jested and he heard odd bits of information concerning people here and there—some farmer who had lost a horse by colic; some other farmer who was preparing to cut his wheat. There were frequent references to the three oldest sisters, who lived in other Wisconsin towns. Their children appeared to be numerous and fairly troublesome. They all came home frequently, it appeared, and were bound up closely with the interests of the family as a whole.

“The more you know about the Blue family,” observed Samuel to Eugene, who expressed surprise at the solidarity of interest, “the more you realize that they're a clan not a family. They stick together like glue.”

“That's a rather nice trait, I should say,” laughed Eugene, who felt no such keen interest in his relatives.

“Well, if you want to find out how the Blue family stick together just do something to one of them,” observed Jake Doll, a neighbor who had entered.

“That's sure true, isn't it, Sis,” observed Samuel, who was sitting next to Angela, putting his hand affectionately on his sister's arm. Eugene noted the movement. She nodded her head affectionately.

“Yes, we Blues all hang together.”

Eugene almost begrudged him his sister's apparent affection. Could such a girl be cut out of such an atmosphere—separated from it completely, brought into a radically different world, he wondered. Would she understand him; would he stick by her. He smiled at Jotham and Mrs. Blue and thought he ought to, but life was strange. You never could tell what might happen.

During the afternoon there were more lovely impressions. He and Angela sat alone in the cool parlor for two hours after dinner while he restated his impressions of her over and over. He told her how charming he thought her home was, how nice her father and mother, what interesting brothers she had. He made a genial sketch of Jotham as he had strolled up to him at noon, which pleased Angela and she kept it to show to her father. He made her pose in the window and sketched her head and her halo of hair. He thought of his double page illustration of the Bowery by night and went to fetch it, looking for the first time at the sweet cool room at the end of the house which he was to occupy. One window, a west one, had hollyhocks looking in, and the door to the north gave out on the cool, shady grass. He moved in beauty, he thought; was treading on showered happiness. It hurt him to think that such joy might not always be, as though beauty were not everywhere and forever present.

When Angela saw the picture which Truth had reproduced, she was beside herself with joy and pride and happiness. It was such a testimony to her lover's ability. He had written almost daily of the New York art world, so she was familiar with that in exaggerated ideas, but these actual things, like reproduced pictures, were different. The whole world would see this picture. He must be famous already, she imagined.

That evening and the next and the next as they sat in the parlor alone he drew nearer and nearer to that definite understanding which comes between a man and woman when they love. Eugene could never stop with mere kissing and caressing in a reserved way, if not persistently restrained. It seemed natural to him that love should go on. He had not been married. He did not know what its responsibilities were. He had never given a thought to what his parents had endured to make him worth while. There was no instinct in him to tell him. He had no yearnings for parenthood, that normal desire which gives visions of a home and the proper social conditions for rearing a family. All he thought of was the love making period—the billing and cooing and the transports of delight which come with it. With Angela he felt that these would be super-normal precisely because she was so slow in yielding—so on the defensive against herself. He could look in her eyes at times and see a swooning veil which foreshadowed a storm of emotion. He would sit by her stroking her hands, touching her cheek, smoothing her hair, or at other times holding her in his arms. It was hard for her to resist those significant pressures he gave, to hold him at arm's length, for she herself was eager for the delights of love.

It was on the third night of his stay and in the face of his growing respect for every member of this family, that he swept Angela to the danger line—would have carried her across it had it not been for a fortuitous wave of emotion, which was not of his creation, but of hers.

They had been to the little lake, Okoonee, a little way from the house during the afternoon for a swim.

Afterward he and Angela and David and Marietta had taken a drive. It was one of those lovely afternoons that come sometimes in summer and speak direct to the heart of love and beauty. It was so fair and warm, the shadows of the trees so comforting that they fairly made Eugene's heart ache. He was young now, life was beautiful, but how would it be when he was old? A morbid anticipation of disaster seemed to harrow his soul.

The sunset had already died away when they drew near home. Insects hummed, a cow-bell tinkled now and then; breaths of cool air, those harbingers of the approaching eve, swept their cheeks as they passed occasional hollows. Approaching the house they saw the blue smoke curls rising from the kitchen chimney, foretelling the preparation of the evening meal. Eugene clasped Angela's hand in an ecstasy of emotion.

He wanted to dream—sitting in the hammock with Angela as the dusk fell, watching the pretty scene. Life was all around. Jotham and Benjamin came in from the fields and the sound of their voices and of the splashing water came from the kitchen door where they were washing. There was an anticipatory stamping of horses' feet in the barn, the lowing of a distant cow, the hungry grunt of pigs. Eugene shook his head—it was so pastoral, so sweet.

At supper he scarcely touched what was put before him, the group at the dining table holding his attention as a spectacle. Afterwards he sat with the family on the lawn outside the door, breathing the odor of flowers, watching the stars over the trees, listening to Jotham and Mrs. Blue, to Samuel, Benjamin, David, Marietta and occasionally Angela. Because of his mood, sad in the face of exquisite beauty, she also was subdued. She said little, listening to Eugene and her father, but when she did talk her voice was sweet.

Jotham arose, after a time, and went to bed, and one by one the others followed. David and Marietta went into the sitting room and then Samuel and Benjamin left. They gave as an excuse hard work for the morning. Samuel was going to try his hand again at thrashing. Eugene took Angela by the hand and led her out where some hydrangeas were blooming, white as snow by day, but pale and silvery in the dark. He took her face in his hands, telling her again of love.

“It's been such a wonderful day I'm all wrought up,” he said. “Life is so beautiful here. This place is so sweet and peaceful. And you! oh, you!” kisses ended his words.

They stood there a little while, then went back into the parlor where she lighted a lamp. It cast a soft yellow glow over the room, just enough to make it warm, he thought. They sat first side by side on two rocking chairs and then later on a settee, he holding her in his arms. Before supper she had changed to a loose cream colored house gown. Now Eugene persuaded her to let her hair hang in the two braids.

Real passion is silent. It was so intense with him that he sat contemplating her as if in a spell. She leaned back against his shoulder stroking his hair, but finally ceased even that, for her own feeling was too intense to make movement possible. She thought of him as a young god, strong, virile, beautiful—a brilliant future before him. All these years she had waited for someone to truly love her and now this splendid youth had apparently cast himself at her feet. He stroked her hands, her neck, cheeks, then slowly gathered her close and buried his head against her bosom.

Angela was strong in convention, in the precepts of her parents, in the sense of her family and its attitude, but this situation was more than she could resist. She accepted first the pressure of his arm, then the slow subtlety with which he caressed her. Resistance seemed almost impossible now for he held her close—tight within the range of his magnetism. When finally she felt the pressure of his hand upon her quivering limbs, she threw herself back in a transport of agony and delight.

“No, no, Eugene,” she begged. “No, no! Save me from myself. Save me from myself. Oh, Eugene!”

He paused a moment to look at her face. It was wrought in lines of intense suffering—pale as though she were ill. Her body was quite limp. Only the hot, moist lips told the significant story. He could not stop at once. Slowly he drew his hand away, then let his sensitive artists' fingers rest gently on her neck—her bosom.

She struggled lamely at this point and slipped to her knees, her dress loosened at the neck.

“Don't, Eugene,” she begged, “don't. Think of my father, my mother. I, who have boasted so. I of whom they feel so sure. Oh, Eugene, I beg of you!”

He stroked her hair, her cheeks, looking into her face as Abélard might have looked at Héloïse.

“Oh, I know why it is,” she exclaimed, convulsively. “I am no better than any other, but I have waited so long, so long! But I mustn't! Oh, Eugene, I mustn't! Help me!”

Vaguely Eugene understood. She had been without lovers. Why? he thought. She was beautiful. He got up, half intending to carry her to his room, but he paused, thinking. She was such a pathetic figure. Was he really as bad as this? Could he not be fair in this one instance? Her father had been so nice to him—her mother—He saw Jotham Blue before him, Mrs. Blue, her admiring brothers and sisters, as they had been a little while before. He looked at her and still the prize lured him—almost swept him on in spite of himself, but he stayed.

“Stand up, Angela,” he said at last, pulling himself together, looking at her intensely. She did so. “Leave me now,” he went on, “right away! I won't answer for myself if you don't. I am really trying. Please go.”

She paused, looking at him fearfully, regretfully.

“Oh, forgive me, Eugene,” she pleaded.

“Forgive me,” he said. “I'm the one. But you go now, sweet. You don't know how hard this is. Help me by going.”

She moved away and he followed her with his eyes, yearningly, burningly, until she reached the door. When she closed it softly he went into his own room and sat down. His body was limp and weary. He ached from head to foot from the intensity of the mood he had passed through. He went over the recent incidents, almost stunned by his experience and then went outside and stood under the stairs, listening. Tree toads were chirping, there were suspicious cracklings in the grass as of bugs stirring. A duck quacked somewhere feebly. The bell of the family cow tinkled somewhere over near the water of the little stream. He saw the great dipper in the sky, Sirius, Canopus, the vast galaxy of the Milky Way.

“What is life anyway?” he asked himself. “What is the human body? What produces passion? Here we are for a few years surging with a fever of longing and then we burn out and die.” He thought of some lines he might write, of pictures he might paint. All the while, reproduced before his mind's eye like a cinematograph, were views of Angela as she had been tonight in his arms, on her knees. He had seen her true form. He had held her in his arms. He had voluntarily resigned her charms for tonight; anyhow, no harm had come. It never should.

CHAPTER XIX

It would be hard to say in what respect, if any, the experiences of this particular night altered Eugene's opinion of Angela. He was inclined to like her better for what he would have called her humanness. Thus frankly to confess her weakness and inability to save herself was splendid. That he was given the chance to do a noble deed was fortunate and uplifting. He knew now that he could take her if he wished, but once calm again he resolved to be fair and not to insist. He could wait.

The state of Angela's mind, on the contrary, once she had come out of her paroxysm and gained the privacy of her own room, or rather the room she shared with Marietta at the other extreme of the house, was pitiable. She had for so long considered herself an estimable and virtuous girl. There was in her just a faint trace of prudery which might readily have led to an unhappy old maid existence for her if Eugene, with his superiority, or non-understanding, or indifference to conventional theories and to old-maidish feelings, had not come along and with his customary blindness to material prosperity and age limitations, seized upon and made love to her. He had filled her brain with a whirlwind of notions hitherto unfamiliar to her world and set himself up in her brain as a law unto himself. He was not like other men—she could see that. He was superior to them. He might not make much money, being an artist, but he could make other things which to her seemed more desirable. Fame, beautiful pictures, notable friends, were not these things far superior to money? She had had little enough money in all conscience, and if Eugene made anything at all it would be enough for her. He seemed to be under the notion that he needed a lot to get married, whereas she would have been glad to risk it on almost anything at all.

This latest revelation of herself, besides tearing her mind from a carefully nurtured belief in her own virtuous impregnability, raised at the same time a spectre of disaster in so far as Eugene's love for her was concerned. Would he, now that she had allowed him those precious endearments which should have been reserved for the marriage bed only, care for her as much as he had before? Would he not think of her as a light minded, easily spoiled creature who was waiting only for a propitious moment to yield herself? She had been lost to all sense of right and wrong in that hour, that she knew. Her father's character and what he stood for, her mother's decency and love of virtue, her cleanly-minded, right-living brothers and sisters,—all had been forgotten and here she was, a tainted maiden, virtuous in technical sense it is true, but tainted. Her convention-trained conscience smote her vigorously and she groaned in her heart. She went outside the door of her own room and sat down on the damp grass in the early morning to think. It was so cool and calm everywhere but in her own soul. She held her face in her hands, feeling her hot cheeks, wondering what Eugene was thinking now. What would her father think, her mother? She wrung her hands more than once and finally went inside to see if she could not rest. She was not unconscious of the beauty and joy of the episode, but she was troubled by what she felt she ought to think, what the consequences to her future might be. To hold Eugene now—that was a subtle question. To hold up her head in front of him as she had, could she? To keep him from going further. It was a difficult situation and she tossed restlessly all night, getting little sleep. In the morning she arose weary and disturbed, but more desperately in love than ever. This wonderful youth had revealed an entirely new and intensely dramatic world to her.

When they met on the lawn again before breakfast, Angela was garbed in white linen. She looked waxen and delicate and her eyes showed dark rings as well as the dark thoughts that were troubling her. Eugene took her hand sympathetically.

“Don't worry,” he said, “I know. It isn't as bad as you think.” And he smiled tenderly.

“Oh, Eugene, I don't understand myself now,” she said sorrowfully. “I thought I was better than that.”

“We're none of us better than that,” he replied simply. “We just think we are sometimes. You are not any different to me. You just think you are.”

“Oh, are you sure?” she asked eagerly.

“Quite sure,” he replied. “Love isn't a terrible thing between any two. It's just lovely. Why should I think worse of you?”

“Oh, because good girls don't do what I have done. I have been raised to know better—to do better.”

“All a belief, my dear, which you get from what has been taught you. You think it wrong. Why? Because your father and mother told you so. Isn't that it?”

“Oh, not that alone. Everybody thinks it's wrong. The Bible teaches that it is. Everybody turns his back on you when he finds out.”

“Wait a minute,” pleaded Eugene argumentatively. He was trying to solve this puzzle for himself. “Let's leave the Bible out of it, for I don't believe in the Bible—not as a law of action anyhow. The fact that everybody thinks it's wrong wouldn't necessarily make it so, would it?” He was ignoring completely the significance of everybody as a reflection of those principles which govern the universe.

“No-o-o,” ventured Angela doubtfully.

“Listen,” went on Eugene. “Everybody in Constantinople believes that Mahomet is the Prophet of God. That doesn't make him so, does it?”

“No.”

“Well, then, everyone here might believe that what we did last night was wrong without making it so. Isn't that true?”

“Yes,” replied Angela confusedly. She really did not know. She could not argue with him. He was too subtle, but her innate principles and instincts were speaking plainly enough, nevertheless.

“Now what you're really thinking about is what people will do. They'll turn their backs on you, you say. That is a practical matter. Your father might turn you out of doors—”

“I think he would,” replied Angela, little understanding the bigness of the heart of her father.

“I think he wouldn't,” said Eugene, “but that's neither here nor there. Men might refuse to marry you. Those are material considerations. You wouldn't say they had anything to do with real right or wrong, would you?”

Eugene had no convincing end to his argument. He did not know any more than anyone else what was right or wrong in this matter. He was merely talking to convince himself, but he had enough logic to confuse Angela.

“I don't know,” she said vaguely.

“Right,” he went on loftily, “is something which is supposed to be in accordance with a standard of truth. Now no one in all the world knows what truth is, no one. There is no way of telling. You can only act wisely or unwisely as regards your personal welfare. If that's what you're worrying about, and it is, I can tell you that you're no worse off. There's nothing the matter with your welfare. I think you're better off, for I like you better.”

Angela wondered at the subtlety of his brain. She was not sure but that what he said might be true. Could her fears be baseless? She felt sure she had lost some of the bloom of her youth anyhow.

“How can you?” she asked, referring to his saying that he liked her better.

“Easily enough,” he replied. “I know more about you. I admire your frankness. You're lovely—altogether so. You are sweet beyond compare.” He started to particularize.

“Don't, Eugene,” she pleaded, putting her finger over her lips. The color was leaving her cheeks. “Please don't, I can't stand it.”

“All right,” he said, “I won't. But you're altogether lovely. Let's go and sit in the hammock.”

“No. I'm going to get you your breakfast. It's time you had something.”

He took comfort in his privileges, for the others had all gone. Jotham, Samuel, Benjamin and David were in the fields. Mrs. Blue was sewing and Marietta had gone to see a girl friend up the road. Angela, as Ruby before her, bestirred herself about the youth's meal, mixing biscuit, broiling him some bacon, cleaning a basket of fresh dewberries for him.

“I like your man,” said her mother, coming out where she was working. “He looks to be good-natured. But don't spoil him. If you begin wrong you'll be sorry.”

“You spoiled papa, didn't you?” asked Angela sagely, recalling all the little humorings her father had received.

“Your father has a keen sense of duty,” retorted her mother. “It didn't hurt him to be spoiled a little.”

“Maybe Eugene has,” replied her daughter, turning her slices of bacon.

Her mother smiled. All her daughters had married well. Perhaps Angela was doing the best of all. Certainly her lover was the most distinguished. Yet, “well to be careful,” she suggested.

Angela thought. If her mother only knew, or her father. Dear Heaven! And yet Eugene was altogether lovely. She wanted to wait on him, to spoil him. She wished she could be with him every day from now on—that they need not part any more.

“Oh, if he would only marry me,” she sighed. It was the one divine event which would complete her life.

Eugene would have liked to linger in this atmosphere indefinitely. Old Jotham, he found, liked to talk to him. He took an interest in national and international affairs, was aware of distinguished and peculiar personalities, seemed to follow world currents everywhere. Eugene began to think of him as a distinguished personality in himself, but old Jotham waved the suggestion blandly aside.

“I'm a farmer,” he said. “I've seen my greatest success in raising good children. My boys will do well, I know.”

For the first time Eugene caught the sense of fatherhood, of what it means to live again in your children, but only vaguely. He was too young, too eager for a varied life, too lustful. So its true import was lost for the time.

Sunday came and with it the necessity to leave. He had been here nine days, really two days more than he had intended to stay. It was farewell to Angela, who had come so close, so much in his grasp that she was like a child in his hands. It was farewell, moreover, to an ideal scene, a bit of bucolic poetry. When would he see again an old patriarch like Jotham, clean, kindly, intelligent, standing upright amid his rows of corn, proud to be a good father, not ashamed to be poor, not afraid to be old or to die. Eugene had drawn so much from him. It was like sitting at the feet of Isaiah. It was farewell to the lovely fields and the blue hills, the long rows of trees down the lawn walk, the white and red and blue flowers about the dooryard. He had slept so sweetly in his clean room, he had listened so joyously to the voices of birds, the wood dove and the poet thrush; he had heard the water in the Blue's branch rippling over its clean pebbles. The pigs in the barnyard pen, the horses, the cows, all had appealed to him. He thought of Gray's “Elegy”—of Goldsmith's “Deserted Village” and “The Traveller.” This was something like the things those men had loved.

He walked down the lawn with Angela, when the time came, repeating how sorry he was to go. David had hitched up a little brown mare and was waiting at the extreme end of the lawn.

“Oh, Sweet,” he sighed. “I shall never be happy until I have you.”

“I will wait,” sighed Angela, although she was wishing to exclaim: “Oh, take me, take me!” When he was gone she went about her duties mechanically, for it was as if all the fire and joy had gone out of her life. Without this brilliant imagination of his to illuminate things, life seemed dull.

And he rode, parting in his mind with each lovely thing as he went—the fields of wheat, the little stream, Lake Okoonee, the pretty Blue farmhouse, all.

He said to himself: “Nothing more lovely will ever come again. Angela in my arms in her simple little parlor. Dear God! and there are only seventy years of life—not more than ten or fifteen of true youth, all told.”

CHAPTER XX

Eugene carried home with him not only a curiously deepened feeling for Angela, due to their altered and more intimate relationship, but moreover a growing respect for her family. Old Jotham was so impressive a figure of a man; his wife so kindly and earnest. Their attitude toward their children and to each other was so sound, and their whole relationship to society so respectable. Another observer might have been repelled by the narrowness and frugality of their lives. But Eugene had not known enough of luxury to be scornful of the material simplicity of such existence. Here he had found character, poetry of location, poetry of ambition, youth and happy prospects. These boys, so sturdy and independent, were sure to make for themselves such places in the world as they desired. Marietta, so charming a girl, could not but make a good marriage. Samuel was doing well in his position with the railroad company; Benjamin was studying to be a lawyer and David was to be sent to West Point. He liked them for their familiar, sterling worth. And they all treated him as the destined husband of Angela. By the end of his stay he had become as much en rapport with the family as if he had known it all his life.

Before going back to New York he had stopped in Chicago, where he had seen Howe and Mathews grinding away at their old tasks, and then for a few days in Alexandria, where he found his father busy about his old affairs. Sewing machines were still being delivered by him in person, and the long roads of the country were as briskly traversed by his light machine-carrying buggy as in his earliest days. Eugene saw him now as just a little futile, and yet he admired him, his patience, his industry. The brisk sewing machine agent was considerably impressed by his son's success, and was actually trying to take an interest in art. One evening coming home from the post office he pointed out a street scene in Alexandria as a subject for a painting. Eugene knew that art had only been called to his father's attention by his own efforts. He had noticed these things all his life, no doubt, but attached no significance to them until he had seen his son's work in the magazines. “If you ever paint country things, you ought to paint Cook's Mill, over here by the falls. That's one of the prettiest things I know anywhere,” he said to him one evening, trying to make his son feel the interest he took. Eugene knew the place. It was attractive, a little branch of bright water running at the base of a forty foot wall of red sandstone and finally tumbling down a fifteen foot declivity of grey mossy stones. It was close to a yellow road which carried a good deal of traffic and was surrounded by a company of trees which ornamented it and sheltered it on all sides. Eugene had admired it in his youth as beautiful and peaceful.

“It is nice,” he replied to his father. “I'll take a look at it some day.”

Witla senior felt set up. His son was doing him honor. Mrs. Witla, like her husband, was showing the first notable traces of the flight of time. The crow's-feet at the sides of her eyes were deeper, the wrinkles in her forehead longer. At the sight of Eugene the first night she fairly thrilled, for he was so well developed now, so self-reliant. He had come through his experiences to a kind of poise which she realized was manhood. Her boy, requiring her careful guidance, was gone. This was someone who could guide her, tease her as a man would a child.

“You've got so big I hardly know you,” she said, as he folded her in his arms.

“No, you're just getting little, ma. I used to think I'd never get to the point where you couldn't shake me, but that's all over, isn't it?”

“You never did need much shaking,” she said fondly.

Myrtle, who had married Frank Bangs the preceding year, had gone with her husband to live in Ottumwa, Iowa, where he had taken charge of a mill, so Eugene did not see her, but he spent some little time with Sylvia, now the mother of two children. Her husband was the same quiet, conservative plodder Eugene had first noted him to be. Revisiting the office of the Appeal he found that John Summers had recently died. Otherwise things were as they had been. Jonas Lyle and Caleb Williams were still in charge—quite the same as before. Eugene was glad when his time was up, and took the train back to Chicago with a light heart.

Again as on his entrance to Chicago from the East, and on his return to it from Blackwood, he was touched keenly by the remembrance of Ruby. She had been so sweet to him. His opening art experiences had in a way been centred about her. But in spite of all, he did not want to go out and see her. Or did he? He asked himself this question with a pang of sorrow, for in a way he cared. He cared for her as one might care for a girl in a play or book. She had the quality of a tragedy about her. She—her life, her surroundings, her misfortune in loving him, constituted an artistic composition. He thought he might be able to write a poem about it some time. He was able to write rather charming verse which he kept to himself. He had the knack of saying things in a simple way and with feeling—making you see a picture. The trouble with his verse was that it lacked as yet any real nobility of thought—was not as final in understanding as it might have been.

He did not go to see Ruby. The reason he assigned to himself was that it would not be nice. She might not want him to now. She might be trying to forget. And he had Angela. It really wasn't fair to her. But he looked over toward the region in which she lived, as he travelled out of the city eastward and wished that some of those lovely moments he had spent with her might be lived again.

Back in New York, life seemed to promise a repetition of the preceding year, with some minor modifications. In the fall Eugene went to live with McHugh and Smite, the studio they had consisting of one big working room and three bed-rooms. They agreed that they could get along together, and for a while it was good for them all. The criticism they furnished each other was of real value. And they found it pleasant to dine together, to walk, to see the exhibitions. They stimulated each other with argument, each having a special point of view. It was much as it had been with Howe and Mathews in Chicago.

During this winter Eugene made his first appearance in one of the leading publications of the time—Harper's Magazine. He had gone to the Art Director with some proofs of his previous work, and had been told that it was admirable; if some suitable story turned up he would be considered. Later a letter came asking him to call, and a commission involving three pictures for $125 was given him. He worked them out successfully with models and was complimented on the result. His associates cheered him on also, for they really admired what he was doing. He set out definitely to make Scribner's and the Century, as getting into those publications was called, and after a time he succeeded in making an impression on their respective Art Directors, though no notable commissions were given him. From one he secured a poem, rather out of his mood to decorate, and from the other a short story; but somehow he could not feel that either was a real opportunity. He wanted an appropriate subject or to sell them some of his scenes.

Building up a paying reputation was slow work. Although he was being mentioned here and there among artists, his name was anything but a significant factor with the public or with the Art Directors. He was still a promising beginner—growing, but not yet arrived by a long distance.

There was one editor who was inclined to see him at his real worth, but had no money to offer. This was Richard Wheeler, editor of Craft, a rather hopeless magazine in a commercial sense, but devoted sincerely enough to art. Wheeler was a blond young man of poetic temperament, whose enthusiasm for Eugene's work made it easy for them to become friends.

It was through Wheeler that he met that winter Miriam Finch and Christina Channing, two women of radically different temperaments and professions, who opened for Eugene two entirely new worlds.

Miriam Finch was a sculptor by profession—a critic by temperament, with no great capacity for emotion in herself but an intense appreciation of its significance in others. To see her was to be immediately impressed with a vital force in womanhood. She was a woman who had never had a real youth or a real love affair, but clung to her ideal of both with a passionate, almost fatuous, faith that they could still be brought to pass. Wheeler had invited him to go round to her studio with him one evening. He was interested to know what Eugene would think of her. Miriam, already thirty-two when Eugene met her—a tiny, brown haired, brown eyed girl, with a slender, rather cat-like figure and a suavity of address and manner which was artistic to the finger tips. She had none of that budding beauty that is the glory of eighteen, but she was altogether artistic and delightful. Her hair encircled her head in a fluffy cloudy mass; her eyes moved quickly, with intense intelligence, feeling, humor, sympathy. Her lips were sweetly modelled after the pattern of a Cupid's bow and her smile was subtly ingratiating. Her sallow complexion matched her brown hair and the drab velvet or corduroy of her dress. There was a striking simplicity about the things she wore which gave her a distinctive air. Her clothes were seldom fashionable but always exceedingly becoming, for she saw herself as a whole and arrayed herself as a decorative composition from head to foot, with a sense of fitness in regard to self and life.

To such a nature as Eugene's, an intelligent, artistic, self-regulating and self-poised human being was always intensely magnetic and gratifying. He turned to the capable person as naturally as a flower turns toward the light, finding a joy in contemplating the completeness and sufficiency of such a being. To have ideas of your own seemed to him a marvellous thing. To be able definitely to formulate your thoughts and reach positive and satisfying conclusions was a great and beautiful thing. From such personalities Eugene drank admiringly until his thirst was satiated—then he would turn away. If his thirst for what they had to give returned, he might come back—not otherwise.

Hitherto all his relationships with personages of this quality had been confined to the male sex, for he had not known any women of distinction. Beginning with Temple Boyle, instructor in the life class in Chicago, and Vincent Beers, instructor in the illustration class, he had encountered successively Jerry Mathews, Mitchell Goldfarb, Peter McHugh, David Smite and Jotham Blue, all men of intense personal feeling and convictions and men who had impressed him greatly. Now he was to encounter for the first time some forceful, really exceptional women of the same calibre. Stella Appleton, Margaret Duff, Ruby Kenny and Angela Blue were charming girls in their way, but they did not think for themselves. They were not organized, self-directed, self-controlled personalities in the way that Miriam Finch was. She would have recognized herself at once as being infinitely superior intellectually and artistically to any or all of them, while entertaining at the same time a sympathetic, appreciative understanding of their beauty, fitness, equality of value in the social scheme. She was a student of life, a critic of emotions and understanding, with keen appreciative intelligence, and yet longing intensely for just what Stella and Margaret and Ruby and even Angela had—youth, beauty, interest for men, the power or magnetism or charm of face and form to compel the impetuous passion of a lover. She wanted to be loved by someone who could love madly and beautifully, and this had never come to her.

Miss Finch's home, or rather studio, was with her family in East Twenty-sixth Street, where she occupied a north room on the third floor, but her presence in the bosom of that family did not prevent her from attaining an individuality and an exclusiveness which was most illuminating to Eugene. Her room was done in silver, brown and grey, with a great wax-festooned candlestick fully five feet high standing in one corner and a magnificent carved chest of early Flemish workmanship standing in another. There was a brown combination writing desk and book-shelf which was arrayed with some of the most curious volumes—Pater's “Marius the Epicurean,” Daudet's “Wives of Men of Genius,” Richard Jefferies' “Story of My Heart,” Stevenson's “Aes Triplex,” “The Kasidah” of Richard Burton, “The House of Life” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Friedrich Nietzsche. The fact that they were here, after he had taken one look at the woman and the room, was to Eugene sufficient proof that they were important. He handled them curiously, reading odd paragraphs, nosing about, looking at pictures, and making rapid notes in his mental notebook. This was someone worth knowing, he felt that. He wanted to make a sufficiently favorable impression to be permitted to know her better.

Miriam Finch was at once taken with Eugene. There was such an air of vigor, inquiry, appreciation and understanding about him that she could not help being impressed. He seemed somewhat like a lighted lamp casting a soft, shaded, velvety glow. He went about her room, after his introduction, looking at her pictures, her bronzes and clays, asking after the creator of this, the painter of that, where a third thing came from.

“I never heard of one of these books,” he said frankly, when he looked over the small, specially selected collection.

“There are some very interesting things here,” she volunteered, coming to his side. His simple confession appealed to her. He was like a breath of fresh air. Richard Wheeler, who had brought him in, made no objection to being neglected. He wanted her to enjoy his find.

“You know,” said Eugene, looking up from Burton's “Kasidah” and into her brown eyes, “New York gets me dizzy. It's so wonderful!”

“Just how?” she asked.

“It's so compact of wonderful things. I saw a shop the other day full of old jewelry and ornaments and quaint stones and clothes, and O Heaven! I don't know what all—more things than I had ever seen in my whole life before; and here in this quiet side street and this unpretentious house I find this room. Nothing seems to show on the outside; everything seems crowded to suffocation with luxury or art value on the inside.”

“Are you talking about this room?” she ventured.

“Why, yes,” he replied.

“Take note, Mr. Wheeler,” she called, over her shoulder to her young editor friend. “This is the first time in my life that I have been accused of possessing luxury. When you write me up again I want you to give me credit for luxury. I like it.”

“I'll certainly do it,” said Wheeler.

“Yes. 'Art values' too.”

“Yes. 'Art values.' I have it,” said Wheeler.

Eugene smiled. He liked her vivacity. “I know what you mean,” she added. “I've felt the same thing about Paris. You go into little unpretentious places there and come across such wonderful things—heaps and heaps of fine clothes, antiques, jewels. Where was it I read such an interesting article about that?”

“Not in Craft I hope?” ventured Wheeler.

“No, I don't think so. Harper's Bazaar, I believe.”

“Oh, pshaw!” exclaimed Wheeler. “Harper's Bazaar! What rot!”

“But that's just what you ought to have. Why don't you do it—right?”

“I will,” he said.

Eugene went to the piano and turned over a pile of music. Again he came across the unfamiliar, the strange, the obviously distinguished—Grieg's “Arabian Dance”; “Es war ein Traum” by Lassen; “Elegie” by Massenet; “Otidi” by Davydoff; “Nymphs and Shepherds” by Purcell—things whose very titles smacked of color and beauty. Gluck, Sgambati, Rossini, Tschaikowsky—the Italian Scarlatti—Eugene marvelled at what he did not know about music.

“Play something,” he pleaded, and with a smile Miriam stepped to the piano.

“Do you know 'Es war ein Traum'?” she inquired.

“No,” said he.

“That's lovely,” put in Wheeler. “Sing it!”

Eugene had thought that possibly she sang, but he was not prepared for the burst of color that came with her voice. It was not a great voice, but sweet and sympathetic, equal to the tasks she set herself. She selected her music as she selected her clothes—to suit her capacity. The poetic, sympathetic reminiscence of the song struck home. Eugene was delighted.

“Oh,” he exclaimed, bringing his chair close to the piano and looking into her face, “you sing beautifully.”

She gave him a glittering smile.

“Now I'll sing anything you want for you if you go on like that.”

“I'm crazy about music,” he said; “I don't know anything about it, but I like this sort of thing.”

“You like the really good things. I know. So do I.”

He felt flattered and grateful. They went through “Otidi,” “The Nightingale,” “Elegie,” “The Last Spring”—music Eugene had never heard before. But he knew at once that he was listening to playing which represented a better intelligence, a keener selective judgment, a finer artistic impulse than anyone he had ever known had possessed. Ruby played and Angela, the latter rather well, but neither had ever heard of these things he was sure. Ruby had only liked popular things; Angela the standard melodies—beautiful but familiar. Here was someone who ignored popular taste—was in advance of it. In all her music he had found nothing he knew. It grew on him as a significant fact. He wanted to be nice to her, to have her like him. So he drew close and smiled and she always smiled back. Like the others she liked his face, his mouth, his eyes, his hair.

“He's charming,” she thought, when he eventually left; and his impression of her was of a woman who was notably and significantly distinguished.

CHAPTER XXI

But Miriam Finch's family, of which she seemed so independent, had not been without its influence on her. This family was of Middle West origin, and did not understand or sympathize very much with the artistic temperament. Since her sixteenth year, when Miriam had first begun to exhibit a definite striving toward the artistic, her parents had guarded her jealously against what they considered the corrupting atmosphere of the art world. Her mother had accompanied her from Ohio to New York, and lived with her while she studied art in the art school, chaperoning her everywhere. When it became advisable, as she thought, for Miriam to go abroad, she went with her. Miriam's artistic career was to be properly supervised. When she lived in the Latin Quarter in Paris her mother was with her; when she loitered in the atmosphere of the galleries and palaces in Rome it was with her mother at her side. At Pompeii and Herculaneum—in London and in Berlin—her mother, an iron-willed little woman at forty-five at that time, was with her. She was convinced that she knew exactly what was good for her daughter and had more or less made the girl accept her theories. Later, Miriam's personal judgment began to diverge slightly from that of her mother and then trouble began.

It was vague at first, hardly a definite, tangible thing in the daughter's mind, but later it grew to be a definite feeling that her life was being cramped. She had been warned off from association with this person and that; had been shown the pitfalls that surround the free, untrammelled life of the art studio. Marriage with the average artist was not to be considered. Modelling from the nude, particularly the nude of a man, was to her mother at first most distressing. She insisted on being present and for a long time her daughter thought that was all right. Finally the presence, the viewpoint, the intellectual insistence of her mother, became too irksome, and an open break followed. It was one of those family tragedies which almost kill conservative parents. Mrs. Finch's heart was practically broken.

The trouble with this break was that it came a little too late for Miriam's happiness. In the stress of this insistent chaperonage she had lost her youth—the period during which she felt she should have had her natural freedom. She had lost the interest of several men who in her nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first years had approached her longingly, but who could not stand the criticism of her mother. At twenty-eight when the break came the most delightful love period was over and she felt grieved and resentful.

At that time she had insisted on a complete and radical change for herself. She had managed to get, through one art dealer and another, orders for some of her spirited clay figurines. There was a dancing girl, a visualization of one of the moods of Carmencita, a celebrated dancer of the period, which had caught the public fancy—at least the particular art dealer who was handling her work for her had managed to sell some eighteen replicas of it at $175 each. Miss Finch's share of this was $100, each. There was another little thing, a six-inch bronze called “Sleep,” which had sold some twenty replicas at $150 each, and was still selling. “The Wind,” a figure crouching and huddling as if from cold, was also selling. It looked as though she might be able to make from three to four thousand dollars a year steadily.

She demanded of her mother at this time the right to a private studio, to go and come when she pleased, to go about alone wherever she wished, to have men and women come to her private apartment, and be entertained by her in her own manner. She objected to supervision in any form, cast aside criticism and declared roundly that she would lead her own life. She realized sadly while she was doing it, however, that the best was gone—that she had not had the wit or the stamina to do as she pleased at the time she most wanted to do so. Now she would be almost automatically conservative. She could not help it.

Eugene when he first met her felt something of this. He felt the subtlety of her temperament, her philosophic conclusions, what might be called her emotional disappointment. She was eager for life, which seemed to him odd, for she appeared to have so much. By degrees he got it out of her, for they came to be quite friendly and then he understood clearly just how things were.

By the end of three months and before Christina Channing appeared, Eugene had come to the sanest, cleanest understanding with Miss Finch that he had yet reached with any woman. He had dropped into the habit of calling there once and sometimes twice a week. He had learned to understand her point of view, which was detachedly æsthetic and rather removed from the world of the sensuous. Her ideal of a lover had been fixed to a certain extent by statues and poems of Greek youth—Hylas, Adonis, Perseus, and by those men of the Middle Ages painted by Millais, Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown. She had hoped for a youth with a classic outline of face, distinction of form, graciousness of demeanor and an appreciative intellect. He must be manly but artistic. It was a rather high ideal, not readily capable of attainment by a woman already turned thirty, but nevertheless worth dreaming about.

Although she had surrounded herself with talented youth as much as possible—both young men and young women—she had not come across the one. There had been a number of times when, for a very little while, she had imagined she had found him, but had been compelled to see her fancies fail. All the youths she knew had been inclined to fall in love with girls younger than themselves—some to the interesting maidens she had introduced them to. It is hard to witness an ideal turning from yourself, its spiritual counterpart, and fixing itself upon some mere fleshly vision of beauty which a few years will cause to fade. Such had been her fate, however, and she was at times inclined to despair. When Eugene appeared she had almost concluded that love was not for her, and she did not flatter herself that he would fall in love with her. Nevertheless she could not help but be interested in him and look at times with a longing eye at his interesting face and figure. It was so obvious that if he loved at all it would be dramatically, in all probability, beautifully.

As time went on she took pains to be agreeable to him. He had, as it were, the freedom of her room. She knew of exhibitions, personalities, movements—in religion, art, science, government, literature. She was inclined to take an interest in socialism, and believed in righting the wrongs of the people. Eugene thought he did, but he was so keenly interested in life as a spectacle that he hadn't as much time to sympathize as he thought he ought to have. She took him to see exhibitions, and to meet people, being rather proud of a boy with so much talent; and she was pleased to find that he was so generally acceptable. People, particularly writers, poets, musicians—beginners in every field, were inclined to remember him. He was an easy talker, witty, quick to make himself at home and perfectly natural. He tried to be accurate in his judgments of things, and fair, but he was young and subject to strong prejudices. He appreciated her friendship, and did not seek to make their relationship more intimate. He knew that only a sincere proposal of marriage could have won her, and he did not care enough for her for that. He felt himself bound to Angela and, curiously, he felt Miriam's age as a bar between them. He admired her tremendously and was learning in part through her what his ideal ought to be, but he was not drawn sufficiently to want to make love to her.

But in Christina Channing, whom he met shortly afterward, he found a woman of a more sensuous and lovable type, though hardly less artistic. Christina Channing was a singer by profession, living also in New York with her mother, but not, as Miss Finch had been, dominated by her so thoroughly, although she was still at the age when her mother could and did have considerable influence with her. She was twenty-seven years of age and so far, had not yet attained the eminence which subsequently was hers, though she was full of that buoyant self-confidence which makes for eventual triumph. So far she had studied ardently under various teachers, had had several love affairs, none serious enough to win her away from her chosen profession, and had gone through the various experiences of those who begin ignorantly to do something in art and eventually reach experience and understanding of how the world is organized and what they will have to do to succeed.

Although Miss Channing's artistic sense did not rise to that definite artistic expression in her material surroundings which characterized Miss Finch's studio atmosphere, it went much farther in its expression of her joy in life. Her voice, a rich contralto, deep, full, colorful, had a note of pathos and poignancy which gave a touch of emotion to her gayest songs. She could play well enough to accompany herself with delicacy and emphasis. She was at present one of the soloists with the New York Symphony Orchestra, with the privilege of accepting occasional outside engagements. The following Fall she was preparing to make a final dash to Germany to see if she could not get an engagement with a notable court opera company and so pave the way for a New York success. She was already quite well known in musical circles as a promising operatic candidate and her eventual arrival would be not so much a question of talent as of luck.

While these two women fascinated Eugene for the time being, his feeling for Angela continued unchanged; for though she suffered in an intellectual or artistic comparison, he felt that she was richer emotionally. There was a poignancy in her love letters, an intensity about her personal feelings when in his presence which moved him in spite of himself—an ache went with her which brought a memory of the tales of Sappho and Marguerite Gautier. It occurred to him now that if he flung her aside it might go seriously with her. He did not actually think of doing anything of the sort, but he was realizing that there was a difference between her and intellectual women like Miriam Finch. Besides that, there was a whole constellation of society women swimming into his ken—women whom he only knew, as yet, through the newspapers and the smart weeklies like Town Topics and Vogue, who were presenting still a third order of perfection. Vaguely he was beginning to see that the world was immense and subtle, and that there were many things to learn about women that he had never dreamed of.

Christina Channing was a rival of Angela's in one sense, that of bodily beauty. She had a tall perfectly rounded form, a lovely oval face, a nut brown complexion with the rosy glow of health showing in cheeks and lips, and a mass of blue black hair. Her great brown eyes were lustrous and sympathetic.

Eugene met her through the good offices of Shotmeyer, who had been given by some common friend in Boston a letter of introduction to her. He had spoken of Eugene as being a very brilliant young artist and his friend, and remarked that he would like to bring him up some evening to hear her sing. Miss Channing acquiesced, for she had seen some of his drawings and was struck by the poetic note in them. Shotmeyer, vain of his notable acquaintances—who in fact tolerated him for his amusing gossip—described Miss Channing's voice to Eugene and asked him if he did not want to call on her some evening. “Delighted,” said Eugene.

The appointment was made and together they went to Miss Channing's suite in a superior Nineteenth Street boarding house. Miss Channing received them, arrayed in a smooth, close fitting dress of black velvet, touched with red. Eugene was reminded of the first costume in which he had seen Ruby. He was dazzled. As for her, as she told him afterward, she was conscious of a peculiar illogical perturbation.

“When I put on my ribbon that night,” she told him, “I was going to put on a dark blue silk one I had just bought and then I thought 'No, he'll like me better in a red one.' Isn't that curious? I just felt as though you were going to like me—as though we might know each other better. That young man—what's his name—described you so accurately.” It was months afterward when she confessed that.

When Eugene entered it was with the grand air he had acquired since his life had begun to broaden in the East. He took his relationship with talent, particularly female talent, seriously. He stood up very straight, walked with a noticeable stride, drove an examining glance into the very soul of the person he was looking at. He was quick to get impressions, especially of talent. He could feel ability in another. When he looked at Miss Channing he felt it like a strong wave—the vibrating wave of an intense consciousness.

She greeted him, extending a soft white hand. They spoke of how they had heard of each other. Eugene somehow made her feel his enthusiasm for her art. “Music is the finer thing,” he said, when she spoke of his own gift.

Christina's dark brown eyes swept him from head to foot. He was like his pictures, she thought—and as good to look at.

He was introduced to her mother. They sat down, talking, and presently Miss Channing sang—“Che faro senza Euridice.” Eugene felt as if she were singing to him. Her cheeks were flushed and her lips red.

Her mother remarked after she had finished, “You're in splendid voice this evening, Christina.”

“I feel particularly fit,” she replied.

“A wonderful voice—it's like a big red poppy or a great yellow orchid!” cried Eugene.

Christina thrilled. The description caught her fancy. It seemed true. She felt something of that in the sounds to which she gave utterance.

“Please sing 'Who is Sylvia,'“ he begged a little later. She complied gladly.

“That was written for you,” he said softly as she ceased, for he had come close to the piano. “You image Sylvia for me.” Her cheeks colored warmly.

“Thanks,” she nodded, and her eyes spoke too. She welcomed his daring and she was glad to let him know it.

CHAPTER XXII

The chief trouble with his present situation, and with the entrance of these two women into his life, and it had begun to be a serious one to him, was that he was not making money. He had been able to earn about $1200 the first year; the second he made a little over two thousand, and this third year he was possibly doing a little better. But in view of what he saw around him and what he now knew of life, it was nothing. New York presented a spectacle of material display such as he had never known existed. The carriages on Fifth Avenue, the dinners at the great hotels, the constant talk of society functions in the newspapers, made his brain dizzy. He was inclined to idle about the streets, to watch the handsomely dressed crowds, to consider the evidences of show and refinement everywhere, and he came to the conclusion that he was not living at all, but existing. Art as he had first dreamed of it, art had seemed not only a road to distinction but also to affluence. Now, as he studied those about him, he found that it was not so. Artists were never tremendously rich, he learned. He remembered reading in Balzac's story “Cousin Betty,” of a certain artist of great distinction who had been allowed condescendingly by one of the rich families of Paris to marry a daughter, but it was considered a great come down for her. He had hardly been able to credit the idea at the time, so exalted was his notion of the artist. But now he was beginning to see that it represented the world's treatment of artists. There were in America a few who were very popular—meretriciously so he thought in certain cases—who were said to be earning from ten to fifteen thousand a year. How high would that place them, he asked himself, in that world of real luxury which was made up of the so-called four hundred—the people of immense wealth and social position. He had read in the papers that it took from fifteen to twenty-five thousand dollars a year to clothe a débutante. It was nothing uncommon, he heard, for a man to spend from fifteen to twenty dollars on his dinner at the restaurant. The prices he heard that tailors demanded—that dressmakers commanded, the display of jewels and expensive garments at the opera, made the poor little income of an artist look like nothing at all. Miss Finch was constantly telling him of the show and swagger she met with in her circle of acquaintances, for her tact and adaptability had gained her the friendship of a number of society people. Miss Channing, when he came to know her better, made constant references to things she came in contact with—great singers or violinists paid $1000 a night, or the tremendous salaries commanded by the successful opera stars. He began, as he looked at his own meagre little income, to feel shabby again, and run down, much as he had during those first days in Chicago. Why, art, outside the fame, was nothing. It did not make for real living. It made for a kind of mental blooming, which everybody recognized, but you could be a poor, sick, hungry, shabby genius—you actually could. Look at Verlaine, who had recently died in Paris.

A part of this feeling was due to the opening of a golden age of luxury in New York, and the effect the reiterated sight of it was having on Eugene. Huge fortunes had been amassed in the preceding fifty years and now there were thousands of residents in the great new city who were worth anything from one to fifty and in some instances a hundred million dollars. The metropolitan area, particularly Manhattan Island above Fifty-ninth Street, was growing like a weed. Great hotels were being erected in various parts of the so-called “white light” district. There was beginning, just then, the first organized attempt of capital to supply a new need—the modern sumptuous, eight, ten and twelve story apartment house, which was to house the world of newly rich middle class folk who were pouring into New York from every direction. Money was being made in the West, the South and the North, and as soon as those who were making it had sufficient to permit them to live in luxury for the rest of their days they were moving East, occupying these expensive apartments, crowding the great hotels, patronizing the sumptuous restaurants, giving the city its air of spendthrift luxury. All the things which catered to showy material living were beginning to flourish tremendously, art and curio shops, rug shops, decorative companies dealing with the old and the new in hangings, furniture, objects of art; dealers in paintings, jewelry stores, china and glassware houses—anything and everything which goes to make life comfortable and brilliant. Eugene, as he strolled about the city, saw this, felt the change, realized that the drift was toward greater population, greater luxury, greater beauty. His mind was full of the necessity of living now. He was young now; he was vigorous now; he was keen now; in a few years he might not be—seventy years was the allotted span and twenty-five of his had already gone. How would it be if he never came into this luxury, was never allowed to enter society, was never permitted to live as wealth was now living! The thought hurt him. He felt an eager desire to tear wealth and fame from the bosom of the world. Life must give him his share. If it did not he would curse it to his dying day. So he felt when he was approaching twenty-six.

The effect of Christina Channing's friendship for him was particularly to emphasize this. She was not so much older than he, was possessed of very much the same temperament, the same hopes and aspirations, and she discerned almost as clearly as he did the current of events. New York was to witness a golden age of luxury. It was already passing into it. Those who rose to distinction in any field, particularly music or the stage, were likely to share in a most notable spectacle of luxury. Christina hoped to. She was sure she would. After a few conversations with Eugene she was inclined to feel that he would. He was so brilliant, so incisive.

“You have such a way with you,” she said the second time he came. “You are so commanding. You make me think you can do almost anything you want to.”

“Oh, no,” he deprecated. “Not as bad as that. I have just as much trouble as anyone getting what I want.”

“Oh, but you will though. You have ideas.”

It did not take these two long to reach an understanding. They confided to each other their individual histories, with reservations, of course, at first. Christina told him of her musical history, beginning at Hagerstown, Maryland, and he went back to his earliest days in Alexandria. They discussed the differences in parental control to which they had been subject. He learned of her father's business, which was that of oyster farming, and confessed on his part to being the son of a sewing machine agent. They talked of small town influences, early illusions, the different things they had tried to do. She had sung in the local Methodist church, had once thought she would like to be a milliner, had fallen in the hands of a teacher who tried to get her to marry him and she had been on the verge of consenting. Something happened—she went away for the summer, or something of that sort, and changed her mind.

After an evening at the theatre with her, a late supper one night and a third call, to spend a quiet evening in her room, he took her by the hand. She was standing by the piano and he was looking at her cheeks, her large inquiring eyes, her smooth rounded neck and chin.

“You like me,” he said suddenly à propos of nothing save the mutual attraction that was always running strong between them.

Without hesitation she nodded her head, though the bright blood mounted to her neck and cheeks.

“You are so lovely to me,” he went on, “that words are of no value. I can paint you. Or you can sing me what you are, but mere words won't show it. I have been in love before, but never with anyone like you.”

“Are you in love?” she asked naïvely.

“What is this?” he asked and slipped his arms about her, drawing her close.

She turned her head away, leaving her rosy cheek near his lips. He kissed that, then her mouth and her neck. He held her chin and looked into her eyes.

“Be careful,” she said, “mamma may come in.”

“Hang mamma!” he laughed.

“She'll hang you if she sees you. Mamma would never suspect me of anything like this.”

“That shows how little mamma knows of her Christina,” he answered.

“She knows enough at that,” she confessed gaily. “Oh, if we were only up in the mountains now,” she added.

“What mountains,” he inquired curiously.

“The Blue Ridge. We have a bungalow up at Florizel. You must come up when we go there next summer.”

“Will mamma be there?” he asked.

“And papa,” she laughed.

“And I suppose Cousin Annie.”

“No, brother George will be.”

“Nix for the bungalow,” he replied, using a slang word that had become immensely popular.

“Oh, but I know all the country round there. There are some lovely walks and drives.” She said this archly, naïvely, suggestively, her bright face lit with an intelligence that seemed perfection.

“Well—such being the case!” he smiled, “and meanwhile—”

“Oh, meanwhile you just have to wait. You see how things are.” She nodded her head towards an inside room where Mrs. Channing was lying down with a slight headache. “Mamma doesn't leave me very often.”

Eugene did not know exactly how to take Christina. He had never encountered this attitude before. Her directness, in connection with so much talent, such real ability, rather took him by surprise. He did not expect it—did not think she would confess affection for him; did not know just what she meant by speaking in the way she did of the bungalow and Florizel. He was flattered, raised in his own self-esteem. If such a beautiful, talented creature as this could confess her love for him, what a personage he must be. And she was thinking of freer conditions—just what?

He did not want to press the matter too closely then and she was not anxious to have him do so—she preferred to be enigmatic. But there was a light of affection and admiration in her eye which made him very proud and happy with things just as they were.

As she said, there was little chance for love-making under conditions then existing. Her mother was with her most of the time. Christina invited Eugene to come and hear her sing at the Philharmonic Concerts; so once in a great ball-room at the Waldorf-Astoria and again in the imposing auditorium of Carnegie Hall and a third time in the splendid auditorium of the Arion Society, he had the pleasure of seeing her walk briskly to the footlights, the great orchestra waiting, the audience expectant, herself arch, assured—almost defiant, he thought, and so beautiful. When the great house thundered its applause he was basking in one delicious memory of her.

“Last night she had her arms about my neck. Tonight when I call and we are alone she will kiss me. That beautiful, distinguished creature standing there bowing and smiling loves me and no one else. If I were to ask her she would marry me—if I were in a position and had the means.”

“If I were in a position—” that thought cut him, for he knew that he was not. He could not marry her. In reality she would not have him knowing how little he made—or would she? He wondered.

CHAPTER XXIII

Towards the end of spring Eugene concluded he would rather go up in the mountains near Christina's bungalow this summer, than back to see Angela. The memory of that precious creature was, under the stress and excitement of metropolitan life, becoming a little tarnished. His recollections of her were as delightful as ever, as redolent of beauty, but he was beginning to wonder. The smart crowd in New York was composed of a different type. Angela was sweet and lovely, but would she fit in?

Meanwhile Miriam Finch with her subtle eclecticism continued her education of Eugene. She was as good as a school. He would sit and listen to her descriptions of plays, her appreciation of books, her summing up of current philosophies, and he would almost feel himself growing. She knew so many people, could tell him where to go to see just such and such an important thing. All the startling personalities, the worth while preachers, the new actors, somehow she knew all about them.

“Now, Eugene,” she would exclaim on seeing him, “you positively must go and see Haydon Boyd in 'The Signet,'“ or—“see Elmina Deming in her new dances,” or—“look at the pictures of Winslow Homer that are being shown at Knoedler's.”

She would explain with exactness why she wanted him to see them, what she thought they would do for him. She frankly confessed to him that she considered him a genius and always insisted on knowing what new thing he was doing. When any work of his appeared and she liked it she was swift to tell him. He almost felt as if he owned her room and herself, as if all that she was—her ideas, her friends, her experiences—belonged to him. He could go and draw on them by sitting at her feet or going with her somewhere. When spring came she liked to walk with him, to listen to his comments on nature and life.

“That's splendid!” she would exclaim. “Now, why don't you write that?” or “why don't you paint that?”

He showed her some of his poems once and she had made copies of them and pasted them in a book of what she called exceptional things. So he was coddled by her.

In another way Christina was equally nice. She was fond of telling Eugene how much she thought of him, how nice she thought he was. “You're so big and smarty,” she said to him once, affectionately, pinioning his arms and looking into his eyes. “I like the way you part your hair, too! You're kind o' like an artist ought to be!”

“That's the way to spoil me,” he replied. “Let me tell you how nice you are. Want to know how nice you are?”

“Uh-uh,” she smiled, shaking her head to mean “no.”

“Wait till we get to the mountains. I'll tell you.” He sealed her lips with his, holding her until her breath was almost gone.

“Oh,” she exclaimed; “you're terrible. You're like steel.”

“And you're like a big red rose. Kiss me!”

From Christina he learned all about the musical world and musical personalities. He gained an insight into the different forms of music, operatic, symphonic, instrumental. He learned of the different forms of composition, the terminology, the mystery of the vocal cords, the methods of training. He learned of the jealousies within the profession, and what the best musical authorities thought of such and such composers, or singers. He learned how difficult it was to gain a place in the operatic world, how bitterly singers fought each other, how quick the public was to desert a fading star. Christina took it all so unconcernedly that he almost loved her for her courage. She was so wise and so good natured.

“You have to give up a lot of things to be a good artist,” she said to Eugene one day. “You can't have the ordinary life, and art too.”

“Just what do you mean, Chrissy?” he asked, petting her hand, for they were alone together.

“Why, you can't get married very well and have children, and you can't do much in a social way. Oh, I know they do get married, but sometimes I think it is a mistake. Most of the singers I know don't do so very well tied down by marriage.”

“Don't you intend to get married?” asked Eugene curiously.

“I don't know,” she replied, realizing what he was driving at. “I'd want to think about that. A woman artist is in a d——of a position anyway,” using the letter d only to indicate the word “devil.” “She has so many things to think about.”

“For instance?”

“Oh, what people think and her family think, and I don't know what all. They ought to get a new sex for artists—like they have for worker bees.”

Eugene smiled. He knew what she was driving at. But he did not know how long she had been debating the problem of her virginity as conflicting with her love of distinction in art. She was nearly sure she did not want to complicate her art life with marriage. She was almost positive that success on the operatic stage—particularly the great opportunity for the beginner abroad—was complicated with some liaison. Some escaped, but it was not many. She was wondering in her own mind whether she owed it to current morality to remain absolutely pure. It was assumed generally that girls should remain virtuous and marry, but this did not necessarily apply to her—should it apply to the artistic temperament? Her mother and her family troubled her. She was virtuous, but youth and desire had given her some bitter moments. And here was Eugene to emphasize it.

“It is a difficult problem,” he said sympathetically, wondering what she would eventually do. He felt keenly that her attitude in regard to marriage affected his relationship to her. Was she wedded to her art at the expense of love?

“It's a big problem,” she said and went to the piano to sing.

He half suspected for a little while after this that she might be contemplating some radical step—what, he did not care to say to himself, but he was intensely interested in her problem. This peculiar freedom of thought astonished him—broadened his horizon. He wondered what his sister Myrtle would think of a girl discussing marriage in this way—the to be or not to be of it—what Sylvia? He wondered if many girls did that. Most of the women he had known seemed to think more logically along these lines than he did. He remembered asking Ruby once whether she didn't think illicit love was wrong and hearing her reply, “No. Some people thought it was wrong, but that didn't make it so to her.” Here was another girl with another theory.

They talked more of love, and he wondered why she wanted him to come up to Florizel in the summer. She could not be thinking—no, she was too conservative. He began to suspect, though, that she would not marry him—would not marry anyone at present. She merely wanted to be loved for awhile, no doubt.

May came and with it the end of Christina's concert work and voice study so far as New York was concerned. She had been in and out of the city all the winter—to Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Chicago, St. Paul and now after a winter's hard work retired to Hagerstown with her mother for a few weeks prior to leaving for Florizel.

“You ought to come down here,” she wrote to Eugene early in June. “There is a sickle moon that shines in my garden and the roses are in bloom. Oh, the odors are so sweet, and the dew! Some of our windows open out level with the grass and I sing! I sing!! I sing!!!”

He had a notion to run down but restrained himself, for she told him that they were leaving in two weeks for the mountains. He had a set of drawings to complete for a magazine for which they were in a hurry. So he decided to wait till that was done.

In late June he went up to the Blue Ridge, in Southern Pennsylvania, where Florizel was situated. He thought at first he would be invited to stay at the Channing bungalow, but Christina warned him that it would be safer and better for him to stay at one of the adjoining hotels. There were several on the slope of adjacent hills at prices ranging from five to ten dollars a day. Though this was high for Eugene he decided to go. He wanted to be with this marvellous creature—to see just what she did mean by wishing they were in the mountains together.

He had saved some eight hundred dollars, which was in a savings bank and he withdrew three hundred for his little outing. He took Christina a very handsomely bound copy of Villon, of whom she was fond, and several volumes of new verse. Most of these, chosen according to his most recent mood, were sad in their poetic texture; they all preached the nothingness of life, its sadness, albeit the perfection of its beauty.

At this time Eugene had quite reached the conclusion that there was no hereafter—there was nothing save blind, dark force moving aimlessly—where formerly he had believed vaguely in a heaven and had speculated as to a possible hell. His reading had led him through some main roads and some odd by-paths of logic and philosophy. He was an omnivorous reader now and a fairly logical thinker. He had already tackled Spencer's “First Principles,” which had literally torn him up by the roots and set him adrift and from that had gone back to Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Spinoza and Schopenhauer—men who ripped out all his private theories and made him wonder what life really was. He had walked the streets for a long time after reading some of these things, speculating on the play of forces, the decay of matter, the fact that thought-forms had no more stability than cloud-forms. Philosophies came and went, governments came and went, races arose and disappeared. He walked into the great natural history museum of New York once to discover enormous skeletons of prehistoric animals—things said to have lived two, three, five millions of years before his day and he marvelled at the forces which produced them, the indifference, apparently, with which they had been allowed to die. Nature seemed lavish of its types and utterly indifferent to the persistence of anything. He came to the conclusion that he was nothing, a mere shell, a sound, a leaf which had no general significance, and for the time being it almost broke his heart. It tended to smash his egotism, to tear away his intellectual pride. He wandered about dazed, hurt, moody, like a lost child. But he was thinking persistently.

Then came Darwin, Huxley, Tyndall, Lubbock—a whole string of British thinkers who fortified the original conclusions of the others, but showed him a beauty, a formality, a lavishness of form and idea in nature's methods which fairly transfixed him. He was still reading—poets, naturalists, essayists, but he was still gloomy. Life was nothing save dark forces moving aimlessly.

The manner in which he applied this thinking to his life was characteristic and individual. To think that beauty should blossom for a little while and disappear for ever seemed sad. To think that his life should endure but for seventy years and then be no more was terrible. He and Angela were chance acquaintances—chemical affinities—never to meet again in all time. He and Christina, he and Ruby—he and anyone—a few bright hours were all they could have together, and then would come the great silence, dissolution, and he would never be anymore. It hurt him to think of this, but it made him all the more eager to live, to be loved while he was here. If he could only have a lovely girl's arms to shut him in safely always!

It was while he was in this mood that he reached Florizel after a long night's ride, and Christina who was a good deal of a philosopher and thinker herself at times was quick to notice it. She was waiting at the depot with a dainty little trap of her own to take him for a drive.

The trap rolled out along the soft, yellow, dusty roads. The mountain dew was still in the earth though and the dust was heavy with damp and not flying. Green branches of trees hung low over them, charming vistas came into view at every turn. Eugene kissed her, for there was no one to see, twisting her head to kiss her lips at leisure.

“It's a blessed thing this horse is tame or we'd be in for some accident. What makes you so moody?” she said.

“I'm not moody—or am I? I've been thinking a lot of things of late—of you principally.”

“Do I make you sad?”

“From one point of view, yes.”

“And what is that, sir?” she asked with an assumption of severity.

“You are so beautiful, so wonderful, and life is so short.”

“You have only fifty years to love me in,” she laughed, calculating his age. “Oh, Eugene, what a boy you are!—Wait a minute,” she added after a pause, drawing the horse to a stop under some trees. “Hold these,” she said, offering him the reins. He took them and she put her arms about his neck. “Now, you silly,” she exclaimed, “I love you, love you, love you! There was never anyone quite like you. Will that help you?” she smiled into his eyes.

“Yes,” he answered, “but it isn't enough. Seventy years isn't enough. Eternity isn't enough of life as it is now.”

“As it is now,” she echoed and then took the reins, for she felt what he felt, the need of persistent youth and persistent beauty to keep it as it should be, and these things would not stay.

CHAPTER XXIV

The days spent in the mountains were seventeen exactly, and during that time with Christina, Eugene reached a curious exaltation of spirit different from anything he had experienced before. In the first place he had never known a girl like Christina, so beautiful, so perfect physically, so incisive mentally, so full of a fine artistic perception. She was so quick to perceive exactly what he meant. She was so suggestive to him in her own thoughts and feelings. The mysteries of life employed her mind quite as fully as they did his. She thought much of the subtlety of the human body, of its mysterious emotions, of its conscious and subconscious activities and relationships. The passions, the desires, the necessities of life, were as a fine tapestry for her mind to contemplate. She had no time to sit down and formulate her thoughts; she did not want to write—but she worked out through her emotions and through her singing the beautiful and pathetic things she felt. And she could talk in a fine, poetic melancholy vein on occasion, though there was so much courage and strength in her young blood that she was not afraid of any phase of life or what nature might do with the little substance which she called herself, when it should dissolve. “Time and change happeneth to us all,” she would quote to Eugene and he would gravely nod his head.

The hotel where he stopped was more pretentious than any he had been previously acquainted with. He had never had so much money in his life before, nor had he ever felt called upon to spend it lavishly. The room he took was—because of what Christina might think—one of the best. He took Christina's suggestion and invited her, her mother and her brother to dinner on several occasions; the remainder of the family had not arrived yet. In return he was invited to breakfast, to lunch and dinner at the bungalow.

Christina showed on his arrival that she had planned to be with him alone as much as possible, for she suggested that they make expeditions to High Hill, to Bold Face, and The Chimney—three surrounding mountains. She knew of good hotels at seven, ten, fifteen miles distance to which they could go by train, or else they drive and return by moonlight. She had selected two or three secluded spots in thickets and groves where the trees gave way to little open spaces of grass, and in these they would string a hammock, scatter their books of verse about and sit down to enjoy the delights of talk and love-making.

Under the influence of this companionship, under cloudless skies and in the heart of the June weather, Christina finally yielded to an arrangement which brought Eugene into a relationship which he had never dreamed possible with her. They had progressed by degrees through all the subtleties of courtship. They had come to discuss the nature of passion and emotion, and had swept aside as negligible the conviction that there was any inherent evil in the most intimate relationship. At last Christina said frankly:

“I don't want to be married. It isn't for me—not until I've thoroughly succeeded, anyhow. I'd rather wait—If I could just have you and singleness too.”

“Why do you want to yield yourself to me?” Eugene asked curiously.

“I don't know that I exactly want to. I could do with just your love—if you were satisfied. It's you that I want to make happy. I want to give you anything you want.”

“Curious girl,” observed her lover, smoothing her high forehead with his hand. “I don't understand you, Christina. I don't know how your mind works. Why should you? You have everything to lose if worst came to worst.”

“Oh, no,” she smiled. “I'd marry you then.”

“But to do this out of hand, because you love me, because you want me to be happy!” he paused.

“I don't understand it either, honey boy,” she offered, “I just do.”

“But why, if you are willing to do this, you wouldn't prefer to live with me, is what I don't understand.”

She took his face between her hands. “I think I understand you better than you do yourself. I don't think you'd be happy married. You might not always love me. I might not always love you. You might come to regret. If we could be happy now you might reach the point where you wouldn't care any more. Then you see I wouldn't be remorseful thinking that we had never known happiness.”

“What logic!” he exclaimed. “Do you mean to say you wouldn't care any more?”

“Oh, I'd care, but not in the same way. Don't you see, Eugene, I would have the satisfaction of knowing that even if we did separate you had had the best of me.”

It seemed astounding to Eugene that she should talk in this way—reason this way. What a curious, sacrificial, fatalistic turn of mind. Could a young, beautiful, talented girl really be like this? Would anybody on earth really believe it if they knew? He looked at her and shook his head sorrowfully.

“To think that the quintessence of life should not stay with us always.” He sighed.

“No, honey boy,” she replied, “you want too much. You think you want it to stay, but you don't. You want it to go. You wouldn't be satisfied to live with me always, I know it. Take what the gods provide and have no regrets. Refuse to think; you can, you know.”

Eugene gathered her up in his arms. He kissed her over and over, forgetting in her embrace all the loves he had ever known. She yielded herself to him gladly, joyously, telling him over and over that it made her happy.

“If you could only see how nice you are to me you wouldn't wonder,” she explained.

He concluded she was the most wonderful being he had ever known. No woman had ever revealed herself to him so unselfishly in love. No woman he had ever known appeared to have the courage and the insight to go thus simply and directly to what she desired. To hear an artist of her power, a girl of her beauty, discussing calmly whether she should sacrifice her virtue to love; whether marriage in the customary form was good for her art; whether she should take him now when they were young or bow to the conventions and let youth pass, was enough to shock his still trammelled soul. For after all, and despite his desire for personal freedom, his intellectual doubts and mental exceptions, he still had a profound reverence for a home such as that maintained by Jotham Blue and his wife, and for its results in the form of normal, healthy, dutiful children. Nature had no doubt attained to this standard through a long series of difficulties and experiments, and she would not readily relinquish it. Was it really necessary to abandon it entirely? Did he want to see a world in which a woman would take him for a little while as Christina was doing now, and then leave him? His experience here was making him think, throwing his theories and ideas up in the air, making a mess of all the notions he had ever formed about things. He racked his brain over the intricacies of sex and life, sitting on the great verandas of the hotel and wondering over and over just what the answer was, and why he could not like other men be faithful to one woman and be happy. He wondered whether this was really so, and whether he could not. It seemed to him then that he might. He knew that he did not understand himself very clearly; that he had no grasp on himself at all as yet—his tendencies, his possibilities.

These days, under such halcyon conditions, made a profound impression on him. He was struck with the perfection life could reach at odd moments. These great quiet hills, so uniform in their roundness, so green, so peaceful, rested his soul. He and Christina climbed, one day, two thousand feet to a ledge which jutted out over a valley and commanded what seemed to him the kingdoms and the powers of the earth—vast stretches of green land and subdivided fields, little cottage settlements and towns, great hills that stood up like friendly brothers to this one in the distance.

“See that man down in that yard,” said Christina, pointing to a speck of a being chopping wood in a front space serving as a garden to a country cottage fully a mile distant.

“Where?” asked Eugene.

“See where that red barn is, just this side of that clump of trees?—don't you see? there, where the cows are in that field.”

“I don't see any cows.”

“Oh, Eugene, what's the matter with your eyes?”

“Oh, now I see,” he replied, squeezing her fingers. “He looks like a cockroach, doesn't he?”

“Yes,” she laughed.

“How wide the earth is and how small we are. Now think of that speck with all his hopes and ambitions—all the machinery of his brain and nerves and tell me whether any God can care. How can He, Christina?”

“He can't care for any one particular speck much, sweet. He might care for the idea of man or a race of men as a whole. Still, I'm not sure, honey. All I know is that I'm happy now.”

“And I,” he echoed.

Still they dug at this problem, the question of the origin of life—its why. The tremendous and wearisome age of the earth; the veritable storms of birth and death that seemed to have raged at different periods, held them in discussion.

“We can't solve it, Eugenio mio,” she laughed. “We might as well go home. Poor, dear mamma will be wondering where her Christina is. You know I think she suspects that I'm falling in love with you. She doesn't care how many men fall in love with me, but if I show the least sign of a strong preference she begins to worry.”

“Have there been many preferences?” he inquired.

“No, but don't ask. What difference does it make? Oh, Eugene, what difference does it make? I love you now.”

“I don't know what difference it makes,” he replied, “only there is an ache that goes with the thought of previous experience. I can't tell you why it is. It just is.”

She looked thoughtfully away.

“Anyhow, no man ever was to me before what you have been. Isn't that enough? Doesn't that speak?”

“Yes, yes, sweet, it does. Oh, yes it does. Forgive me. I won't grieve any more.”

“Don't, please,” she said, “you hurt me as much as you hurt yourself.”

There were evenings when he sat on some one of the great verandas and watched them trim and string the interspaces between the columns with soft, glowing, Chinese lanterns, preparatory to the evening's dancing. He loved to see the girls and men of the summer colony arrive, the former treading the soft grass in filmy white gowns and white slippers, the latter in white ducks and flannels, gaily chatting as they came. Christina would come to these affairs with her mother and brother, beautifully clad in white linen or lawns and laces, and he would be beside himself with chagrin that he had not practised dancing to the perfection of the art. He could dance now, but not like her brother or scores of men he saw upon the waxen floor. It hurt him. At times he would sit all alone after his splendid evenings with his love, dreaming of the beauty of it all. The stars would be as a great wealth of diamond seed flung from the lavish hand of an aimless sower. The hills would loom dark and tall. There was peace and quiet everywhere.

“Why may not life be always like this?” he would ask, and then he would answer himself out of his philosophy that it would become deadly after awhile, as does all unchanging beauty. The call of the soul is for motion, not peace. Peace after activity for a little while, then activity again. So must it be. He understood that.

Just before he left for New York, Christina said to him:

“Now, when you see me again I will be Miss Channing of New York. You will be Mr. Witla. We will almost forget that we were ever here together. We will scarcely believe that we have seen what we have seen and done what we have done.”

“But, Christina, you talk as though everything were over. It isn't, is it?”

“We can't do anything like this in New York,” she sighed. “I haven't time and you must work.”

There was a shade of finality in her tone.

“Oh, Christina, don't talk so. I can't think that way. Please don't.”

“I won't,” she said. “We'll see. Wait till I get back.”

He kissed her a dozen farewells and at the door held her close once more.

“Will you forsake me?” he asked.

“No, you will forsake me. But remember, dear! Don't you see? You've had all. Let me be your wood nymph. The rest is commonplace.”

He went back to his hotel with an ache in his heart, for he knew they had gone through all they ever would. She had had her summer with him. She had given him of herself fully. She wanted to be free to work now. He could not understand it, but he knew it to be so.

CHAPTER XXV

It is a rather dreary thing to come back into the hot city in the summer after a period of beauty in the mountains. The quiet of the hills was in Eugene's mind, the glisten and babble of mountain streams, the soar and poise of hawks and buzzards and eagles sailing the crystal blue. He felt lonely and sick for awhile, out of touch with work and with practical life generally. There were little souvenirs of his recent happiness in the shape of letters and notes from Christina, but he was full of the premonition of the end which had troubled him on leaving.

He must write to Angela. He had not thought of her all the time he had been gone. He had been in the habit of writing to her every third or fourth day at least; while of late his letters had been less passionate they had remained fairly regular. But now this sudden break coming—it was fully three weeks—made her think he must be ill, although she had begun to feel also that he might be changing. His letters had grown steadily less reminiscent of the joys they had experienced together and of the happiness they were anticipating, and more inclined to deal with the color and character of city life and of what he hoped to achieve. Angela was inclined to excuse much of this on the grounds of the special effort he was making to achieve distinction and a living income for themselves. But it was hard to explain three weeks of silence without something quite serious having happened.

Eugene understood this. He tried to explain it on the grounds of illness, stating that he was now up and feeling much better. But when his explanation came, it had the hollow ring of insincerity. Angela wondered what the truth could be. Was he yielding to the temptation of that looser life that all artists were supposed to lead? She wondered and worried, for time was slipping away and he was setting no definite date for their much discussed nuptials.

The trouble with Angela's position was that the delay involved practically everything which was important in her life. She was five years older than Eugene. She had long since lost that atmosphere of youth and buoyancy which is so characteristic of a girl between eighteen and twenty-two. Those few short years following, when the body of maidenhood blooms like a rose and there is about it the freshness and color of all rich, new, lush life, were behind her. Ahead was that persistent decline towards something harder, shrewder and less beautiful. In the case of some persons the decline is slow and the fragrance of youth lingers for years, the artifices of the dressmaker, the chemist, and the jeweller being but little needed. In others it is fast and no contrivance will stay the ravages of a restless, eager, dissatisfied soul. Sometimes art combines with slowness of decay to make a woman of almost perennial charm, loveliness of mind matching loveliness of body, and taste and tact supplementing both. Angela was fortunate in being slow to fade and she had a loveliness of imagination and emotion to sustain her; but she had also a restless, anxious disposition of mind which, if it had not been stayed by the kindly color of her home life and by the fortunate or unfortunate intervention of Eugene at a time when she considered her ideal of love to have fairly passed out of the range of possibility, would already have set on her face the signs of old maidenhood. She was not of the newer order of femininity, eager to get out in the world and follow some individual line of self-development and interest. Rather was she a home woman wanting some one man to look after and love. The wonder and beauty of her dream of happiness with Eugene now made the danger of its loss and the possible compulsory continuance of a humdrum, underpaid, backwoods existence, heart-sickening.

Meanwhile, as the summer passed, Eugene was casually enlarging his acquaintance with women. MacHugh and Smite had gone back home for the summer, and it was a relief from his loneliness to encounter one day in an editorial office, Norma Whitmore, a dark, keen, temperamental and moody but brilliant writer and editor who, like others before her, took a fancy to Eugene. She was introduced to him by Jans Jansen, Art Director of the paper, and after some light banter she offered to show him her office.

She led the way to a little room no larger than six by eight where she had her desk. Eugene noticed that she was lean and sallow, about his own age or older, and brilliant and vivacious. Her hands took his attention for they were thin, shapely and artistic. Her eyes burned with a peculiar lustre and her loose-fitting clothes were draped artistically about her. A conversation sprang up as to his work, which she knew and admired, and he was invited to her apartment. He looked at Norma with an unconsciously speculative eye.

Christina was out of the city, but the memory of her made it impossible for him to write to Angela in his old vein of devotion. Nevertheless he still thought of her as charming. He thought that he ought to write more regularly. He thought that he ought pretty soon to go back and marry her. He was approaching the point where he could support her in a studio if they lived economically. But he did not want to exactly.

He had known her now for three years. It was fully a year and a half since he had seen her last. In the last year his letters had been less and less about themselves and more and more about everything else. He was finding the conventional love letters difficult. But he did not permit himself to realize just what that meant—to take careful stock of his emotions. That would have compelled him to the painful course of deciding that he could not marry her, and asking her to be released from his promise. He did not want to do that. Instead he parleyed, held by pity for her passing youth and her undeniable affection for him, by his sense of the unfairness of having taken up so much of her time to the exclusion of every other person who might have proposed to her, by sorrow for the cruelty of her position in being left to explain to her family that she had been jilted. He hated to hurt any person's feelings. He did not want to be conscious of the grief of any person who had come to suffering through him and he could not make them suffer very well and not be conscious. He was too tender hearted. He had pledged himself to Angela, giving her a ring, begging her to wait, writing her fulsome letters of protest and desire. Now, after three years, to shame her before her charming family—old Jotham, her mother, her sisters and brothers—it seemed a cruel thing to do, and he did not care to contemplate it.

Angela, with her morbid, passionate, apprehensive nature, did not fail to see disaster looming in the distance. She loved Eugene passionately and the pent-up fires of her nature had been waiting all these years the warrant to express their ardor which marriage alone could confer. Eugene, by the charm of his manner and person, no less than by the sensuous character of some of his moods and the subtleties and refinements of his references to the ties of sex, had stirred her to anticipate a perfect fruition of her dreams, and she was now eager for that fruition almost to the point of being willing to sacrifice virginity itself. The remembrance of the one significant scene between her and Eugene tormented her. She felt that if his love was to terminate in indifference now it would have been better to have yielded then. She wished that she had not tried to save herself. Perhaps there would have been a child, and he would have been true to her out of a sense of sympathy and duty. At least she would have had that crowning glory of womanhood, ardent union with her lover, and if worst had come to worst she could have died.

She thought of the quiet little lake near her home, its glassy bosom a mirror to the sky, and how, in case of failure, she would have looked lying on its sandy bottom, her pale hair diffused by some aimless motion of the water, her eyes sealed by the end of consciousness, her hands folded. Her fancy outran her daring. She would not have done this, but she could dream about it, and it made her distress all the more intense.

As time went by and Eugene's ardor did not revive, this problem of her love became more harrassing and she began to wonder seriously what she could do to win him back to her. He had expressed such a violent desire for her on his last visit, had painted his love in such glowing terms that she felt convinced he must love her still, though absence and the excitements of city life had dimmed the memory of her temporarily. She remembered a line in a comic opera which she and Eugene had seen together: “Absence is the dark room in which lovers develop negatives” and this seemed a case in point. If she could get him back, if he could be near her again, his old fever would develop and she would then find some way of making him take her, perhaps. It did not occur to her quite clearly just how this could be done at this time but some vague notion of self-immolation was already stirring vaguely and disturbingly in her brain.

The trying and in a way disheartening conditions of her home went some way to sustain this notion. Her sister Marietta was surrounded by a score of suitors who were as eager for her love as a bee is for the honey of a flower, and Angela could see that they were already looking upon herself as an elderly chaperon. Her mother and father watched her going about her work and grieved because so good a girl should be made to suffer for want of a proper understanding. She could not conceal her feelings entirely and they could see at times that she was unhappy. She could see that they saw it. It was hard to have to explain to her sisters and brothers, who occasionally asked after Eugene, that he was doing all right, and never be able to say that he was coming for her some day soon.

At first Marietta had been envious of her. She thought she would like to win Eugene for herself, and only consideration for Angela's age and the fact that she had not been so much sought after had deterred her. Now that Eugene was obviously neglecting her, or at least delaying beyond any reasonable period, she was deeply sorry. Once, before she had grown into the age of courtship, she had said to Angela: “I'm going to be nice to the men. You're too cold. You'll never get married.” And Angela had realized that it was not a matter of “too cold,” but an innate prejudice against most of the types she met. And then the average man did not take to her. She could not spur herself to pleasure in their company. It took a fire like Eugene's to stir her mightily, and once having known that she could brook no other. Marietta realized this too. Now because of these three years she had cut herself off from other men, particularly the one who had been most attentive to her—faithful Victor Dean. The one thing that might save Angela from being completely ignored was a spirit of romance which kept her young in looks as in feelings.

With the fear of desertion in her mind Angela began to hint in her letters to Eugene that he should come back to see her, to express the hope in her letters that their marriage need not—because of any difficulty of establishing himself—be postponed much longer. She said to him over and over that she could be happy with him in a cottage and that she so longed to see him again. Eugene began to ask himself what he wanted to do.

The fact that on the passional side Angela appealed to him more than any woman he had ever known was a saving point in her favor at this juncture. There was a note in her make-up which was stronger, deeper, more suggestive of joy to come than anything he had found elsewhere. He remembered keenly the wonderful days he had spent with her—the one significant night when she begged him to save her against herself. All the beauty of the season with which she was surrounded at that time; the charm of her family, the odor of flowers and the shade of trees served to make a setting for her delightfulness which still endured with him as fresh as yesterday. Now, without having completed that romance—a very perfect flower—could he cast it aside?

At this time he was not entangled with any woman. Miriam Finch was too conservative and intellectual; Norma Whitmore not attractive enough. As for some other charming examples of femininity whom he had met here and there, he had not been drawn to them or they to him. Emotionally he was lonely and this for him was always a very susceptible mood. He could not make up his mind that the end had come with Angela.

It so happened that Marietta, after watching her sister's love affair some time, reached the conclusion that she ought to try to help her. Angela was obviously concealing a weariness of heart which was telling on her peace of mind and her sweetness of disposition. She was unhappy and it grieved her sister greatly. The latter loved her in a whole-hearted way, in spite of the fact that their affections might possibly have clashed over Eugene, and she thought once of writing in a sweet way and telling him how things were. She thought he was good and kind, that he loved Angela, that perhaps he was delaying as her sister said until he should have sufficient means to marry well, and that if the right word were said now he would cease chasing a phantom fortune long enough to realize that it were better to take Angela while they were still young, than to wait until they were so old that the romance of marriage would for them be over. She revolved this in her mind a long time, picturing to herself how sweet Angela really was, and finally nerved herself to pen the following letter, which she sent.

Dear Eugene:

You will be surprised to get a letter from me and I want you to promise me that you will never say anything about it to anyone—above all never to Angela. Eugene, I have been watching her for a long time now and I know she is not happy. She is so desperately in love with you. I notice when a letter does not come promptly she is downcast and I can't help seeing that she is longing to have you here with her. Eugene, why don't you marry Angela? She is lovely and attractive now and she is as good as she is beautiful. She doesn't want to wait for a fine house and luxuries—no girl wants to do that, Eugene, when she loves as I know Angela does you. She would rather have you now when you are both young and can enjoy life than any fine house or nice things you might give her later. Now, I haven't talked to her at all, Eugene—never one word—and I know it would hurt her terribly if she thought I had written to you. She would never forgive me. But I can't help it. I can't bear to see her grieving and longing, and I know that when you know you will come and get her. Don't ever indicate in any way, please, that I wrote to you. Don't write to me unless you want to very much. I would rather you didn't. And tear up this letter. But do come for her soon, Eugene, please do. She wants you. And she will make you a perfectly wonderful wife for she is a wonderful girl. We all love her so—papa and mamma and all. I hope you will forgive me. I can't help it.

   “With love I am yours,

      “Marietta.”

When Eugene received this letter he was surprised and astonished, but also distressed for himself and Angela and Marietta and the whole situation. The tragedy of this situation appealed to him perhaps as much from the dramatic as from the personal point of view. Little Angela, with her yellow hair and classic face. What a shame that they could not be together as she wished; as really, in a way, he wished. She was beautiful—no doubt of that. And there was a charm about her which was as alluring as that of any girl barring the intellectually exceptional. Her emotions in a way were deeper than those of Miriam Finch and Christina Channing. She could not reason about them—that was all. She just felt them. He saw all the phases of her anguish—the probable attitude of her parents, her own feelings at being looked at by them, the way her friends wondered. It was a shame, no doubt of that—a cruel situation. Perhaps he had better go back. He could be happy with her. They could live in a studio and no doubt things would work out all right. Had he better be cruel and not go? He hated to think of it.

Anyhow he did not answer Marietta's letter, and he did tear it up into a thousand bits, as she requested. “If Angela knew no doubt she would feel wretched,” he thought.

In the meanwhile Angela was thinking, and her brooding led her to the conclusion that it might be advisable, if ever her lover came back, to yield herself in order that he might feel compelled to take her. She was no reasoner about life in any big sense. Her judgment of affairs was more confused at this time than at a later period. She had no clear conception of how foolish any trickery of this sort would be. She loved Eugene, felt that she must have him, felt that she would be willing to die rather than lose him and the thought of trickery came only as a last resource. If he refused her she was determined on one thing—the lake. She would quit this dreary world where love was crossed with despair in its finest moments; she would forget it all. If only there were rest and silence on the other side that would be enough.

The year moved on toward spring and because of some note of this, reiterated in pathetic phrases, he came to feel that he must go back. Marietta's letter preyed on his mind. The intensity of Angela's attitude made him feel that something desperate would happen. He could not, in cold blood, sit down and write her that he would not see her any more. The impressions of Blackwood were too fresh in his mind—the summer incense and green beauty of the world in which she lived. He wrote in April that he would come again in June, and Angela was beside herself with joy.

One of the things which helped Eugene to this conclusion was the fact that Christina Channing was not coming back from Europe that year. She had written a few times during the winter, but very guardedly. A casual reader could not have drawn from what she said that there had ever been anything between them. He had written much more ardently, of course, but she had chosen to ignore his eager references, making him feel by degrees that he was not to know much of her in the future. They were going to be good friends, but not necessarily lovers nor eventually husband and wife. It irritated him to think she could be so calm about a thing which to him seemed so important. It hurt his pride to think she could so deliberately throw him over. Finally he began to be incensed, and then Angela's fidelity appeared in a much finer light. There was a girl who would not treat him so. She really loved him. She was faithful and true. So his promised trip began to look much more attractive, and by June he was in a fever to see her.

CHAPTER XXVI

The beautiful June weather arrived and with it Eugene took his departure once more for Blackwood. He was in a peculiar mood, for while he was anxious to see Angela again it was with the thought that perhaps he was making a mistake. A notion of fatality was beginning to run through his mind. Perhaps he was destined to take her! and yet, could anything be more ridiculous? He could decide. He had deliberately decided to go back there—or had he? He admitted to himself that his passion was drawing him—in fact he could not see that there was anything much in love outside of passion. Desire! Wasn't that all that pulled two people together? There was some little charm of personality above that, but desire was the keynote. And if the physical attraction were strong enough, wasn't that sufficient to hold two people together? Did you really need so much more? It was logic based on youth, enthusiasm and inexperience, but it was enough to hold him for the time being—to soothe him. To Angela he was not drawn by any of the things which drew him to Miriam Finch and Norma Whitmore, nor was there the wonderful art of Christina Channing. Still he was going.

His interest in Norma Whitmore had increased greatly as the winter passed. In this woman he had found an intellect as broadening and refining as any he had encountered. Her taste for the exceptional in literature and art was as great as that of anyone he had ever known and it was just as individual. She ran to impressive realistic fiction in literature and to the kind of fresh-from-the-soil art which Eugene represented. Her sense of just how big and fresh was the thing he was trying to do was very encouraging, and she was carrying the word about town to all her friends that he was doing it. She had even gone so far as to speak to two different art dealers asking them why they had not looked into what seemed to her his perfectly wonderful drawings.

“Why, they're astonishing in their newness,” she told Eberhard Zang, one of the important picture dealers on Fifth Avenue. She knew him from having gone there to borrow pictures for reproduction.

“Witla! Witla!” he commented in his conservative German way, rubbing his chin, “I doand remember seeing anything by him.”

“Of course you don't,” replied Norma persistently. “He's new, I tell you. He hasn't been here so very long. You get Truth for some week in last month—I forget which one—and see that picture of Greeley Square. It will show you what I mean.”

“Witla! Witla!” repeated Zang, much as a parrot might fix a sound in its memory. “Tell him to come in here and see me some day. I should like to see some of his things.”

“I will,” said Norma, genially. She was anxious to have Eugene go, but he was more anxious to get a lot of things done before he had an exhibition. He did not want to risk an impression with anything short of a rather extensive series. And his collection of views was not complete at that time. Besides he had a much more significant art dealer in mind.

He and Norma had reached the point by this time where they were like brother and sister, or better yet, two good men friends. He would slip his arm about her waist when entering her rooms and was free to hold her hands or pat her on the arm or shoulder. There was nothing more than strong good feeling on his part, while on hers a burning affection might have been inspired, but his genial, brotherly attitude convinced her that it was useless. He had never told her of any of his other women friends and he was wondering as he rode west how she and Miriam Finch would take his marriage with Angela, supposing that he ever did marry her. As for Christina Channing, he did not want to think—really did not dare to think of her very much. Some sense of lost beauty came to him out of that experience—a touch of memory that had a pang in it.

Chicago in June was just a little dreary to him with its hurry of life, its breath of past experience, the Art Institute, the Daily Globe building, the street and house in which Ruby had lived. He wondered about her (as he had before) the moment he neared the city, and had a strong desire to go and look her up. Then he visited the Globe offices, but Mathews had gone. Genial, cheerful Jerry had moved to Philadelphia recently, taking a position on the Philadelphia North American, leaving Howe alone, more finicky and picayune than ever. Goldfarb, of course, was gone and Eugene felt out of it. He was glad to take the train for Blackwood, for he felt lonesome. He left the city with quite an ache for old times in his heart and the feeling that life was a jumble of meaningless, strange and pathetic things.

“To think that we should grow old,” he pondered, “that things that were as real as these things were to me, should become mere memories.”

The time just before he reached Blackwood was one of great emotional stress for Angela. Now she was to learn whether he really loved her as much as he had. She was to feel the joy of his presence, the subtle influence of his attitude. She was to find whether she could hold him or not. Marietta, who on hearing that he was coming, had rather plumed herself that her letter had had something to do with it, was afraid that her sister would not make good use of this opportune occasion. She was anxious that Angela should look her best, and made suggestions as to things she might wear, games she might play (they had installed tennis and croquet as part of the home pleasures since he had been there last) and places they might go to. Marietta was convinced that Angela was not artful enough—not sufficiently subtle in her presentation of her charms. He could be made to feel very keen about her if she dressed right and showed herself to the best advantage. Marietta herself intended to keep out of the way as much as possible when Eugene arrived, and to appear at great disadvantage in the matter of dress and appearance when seen; for she had become a perfect beauty and was a breaker of hearts without conscious effort.

“You know that string of coral beads I have, Angel Face,” she asked Angela one morning some ten days before Eugene arrived. “Wear them with that tan linen dress of mine and your tan shoes some day for Eugene. You'll look stunning in those things and he'll like you. Why don't you take the new buggy and drive over to Blackwood to meet him? That's it. You must meet him.”

“Oh, I don't think I want to, Babyette,” she replied. She was afraid of this first impression. She did not want to appear to run after him. Babyette was a nickname which had been applied to Marietta in childhood and had never been dropped.

“Oh, pshaw, Angel Face, don't be so backward! You're the shyest thing I know. Why that's nothing. He'll like you all the better for treating him just a little smartly. You do that now, will you?”

“I can't,” replied Angela. “I can't do it that way. Let him come over here first; then I'll drive him over some afternoon.”

“Oh, Angel Face! Well, anyhow, when he comes you must wear that little rose flowered house dress and put a wreath of green leaves in your hair.”

“Oh, I won't do anything of the sort, Babyette,” exclaimed Angela.

“Yes, you will,” replied her sister. “Now you just have to do what I tell you for once. That dress looks beautiful on you and the wreath will make it perfect.”

“It isn't the dress. I know that's nice. It's the wreath.”

Marietta was incensed by this bit of pointless reserve.

“Oh, Angela,” she exclaimed, “don't be so silly. You're older than I am, but I know more about men in a minute than you'll ever know. Don't you want him to like you? You'll have to be more daring—goodness! Lots of girls would go a lot farther than that.”

She caught her sister about the waist and looked into her eyes. “Now you've got to wear it,” she added finally, and Angela understood that Marietta wanted her to entice Eugene by any means in her power to make him declare himself finally and set a definite date or take her back to New York with him.

There were other conversations in which a trip to the lake was suggested, games of tennis, with Angela wearing her white tennis suit and shoes, a country dance which might be got up—there were rumors of one to be given in the new barn of a farmer some seven miles away. Marietta was determined that Angela should appear youthful, gay, active, just the things which she knew instinctively would fascinate Eugene.

Finally Eugene came. He arrived at Blackwood at noon. Despite her objections Angela met him, dressed smartly and, as urged by Marietta, carrying herself with an air. She hoped to impress Eugene with a sense of independence, but when she saw him stepping down from the train in belted corduroy travelling suit with a grey English travelling cap, carrying a green leather bag of the latest design, her heart misgave her. He was so worldly now, so experienced. You could see by his manner that this country place meant little or nothing to him. He had tasted of the world at large.

Angela had stayed in her buggy at the end of the depot platform and she soon caught Eugene's eye and waved to him. He came briskly forward.

“Why, sweet,” he exclaimed, “here you are. How nice you look!” He jumped up beside her, surveying her critically and she could feel his examining glance. After the first pleasant impression he sensed the difference between his new world and hers and was a little depressed by it. She was a little older, no doubt of that. You cannot hope and yearn and worry for three years and not show it. And yet she was fine and tender and sympathetic and emotional. He felt all this. It hurt him a little for her sake and his too.

“Well, how have you been?” he asked. They were in the confines of the village and no demonstration could be made. Until the quiet of a country road could be reached all had to be formal.

“Oh, just the same, Eugene, longing to see you.”

She looked into his eyes and he felt the impact of that emotional force which governed her when she was near him. There was something in the chemistry of her being which roused to blazing the ordinarily dormant forces of his sympathies. She tried to conceal her real feeling—to pretend gaiety and enthusiasm, but her eyes betrayed her. Something roused in him now at her look—a combined sense of emotion and desire.

“It's so fine to be out in the country again,” he said, pressing her hand, for he was letting her drive. “After the city, to see you and the green fields!” He looked about at the little one-storey cottages, each with a small plot of grass, a few trees, a neat confining fence. After New York and Chicago, a village like this was quaint.

“Do you love me just as much as ever?”

She nodded her head. They reached a strip of yellow road, he asking after her father, her mother, her brothers and sisters, and when he saw that they were unobserved he slipped his arm about her and drew her head to him.

“Now we can,” he said.

She felt the force of his desire but she missed that note of adoration which had seemed to characterize his first lovemaking. How true it was he had changed! He must have. The city had made her seem less significant. It hurt her to think that life should treat her so. But perhaps she could win him back—could hold him anyhow.

They drove over toward Okoonee, a little crossroads settlement, near a small lake of the same name, a place which was close to the Blue house, and which the Blue's were wont to speak of as “home.” On the way Eugene learned that her youngest brother David was a cadet at West Point now and doing splendidly. Samuel had become western freight agent of the Great Northern and was on the way to desirable promotion. Benjamin had completed his law studies and was practising in Racine. He was interested in politics and was going to run for the state legislature. Marietta was still the gay carefree girl she had always been, not at all inclined to choose yet among her many anxious suitors. Eugene thought of her letter to him—wondered if she would look her thoughts into his eyes when he saw her.

“Oh, Marietta,” Angela replied when Eugene asked after her, “she's just as dangerous as ever. She makes all the men make love to her.”

Eugene smiled. Marietta was always a pleasing thought to him. He wished for the moment that it was Marietta instead of Angela that he was coming to see.

She was as shrewd as she was kind in this instance. Her appearance on meeting Eugene was purposely indifferent and her attitude anything but coaxing and gay. At the same time she suffered a genuine pang of feeling, for Eugene appealed to her. If it were anybody but Angela, she thought, how she would dress and how quickly she would be coquetting with him. Then his love would be won by her and she felt that she could hold it. She had great confidence in her ability to keep any man, and Eugene was a man she would have delighted to hold. As it was she kept out of his way, took sly glances at him here and there, wondered if Angela would truly win him. She was so anxious for Angela's sake. Never, never, she told herself, would she cross her sister's path.

At the Blue homestead he was received as cordially as before. After an hour it quite brought back the feeling of three years before. These open fields, this old house and its lovely lawn, all served to awaken the most poignant sensations. One of Marietta's beaux, over from Waukesha, appeared after Eugene had greeted Mrs. Blue and Marietta, and the latter persuaded him to play a game of tennis with Angela. She invited Eugene to make it a four with her, but not knowing how he refused.

Angela changed to her tennis suit and Eugene opened his eyes to her charms. She was very attractive on the court, quick, flushed, laughing. And when she laughed she had a charming way of showing her even, small, white teeth. She quite awakened a feeling of interest—she looked so dainty and frail. When he saw her afterward in the dark, quiet parlor, he gathered her to his heart with much of the old ardour. She felt the quick change of feeling. Marietta was right. Eugene loved gaiety and color. Although on the way home she had despaired this was much more promising.

Eugene rarely entered on anything half heartedly. If interested at all he was greatly interested. He could so yield himself to the glamour of a situation as to come finally to believe that he was something which he was not. Thus, now he was beginning to accept this situation as Angela and Marietta wished he should, and to see her in somewhat the old light. He overlooked things which in his New York studio, surrounded by the influences which there modified his judgment, he would have seen. Angela was not young enough for him. She was not liberal in her views. She was charming, no doubt of that, but he could not bring her to an understanding of his casual acceptance of life. She knew nothing of his real disposition and he did not tell her. He played the part of a seemingly single-minded Romeo, and as such he was from a woman's point of view beautiful to contemplate. In his own mind he was coming to see that he was fickle but he still did not want to admit it to himself.

There was a night of stars after an evening of June perfection. At five old Jotham came in from the fields, as dignified and patriarchal as ever. He greeted Eugene with a hearty handshake, for he admired him. “I see some of your work now and then,” he said, “in these monthly magazines. It's fine. There's a young minister down here near the lake that's very anxious to meet you. He likes to get hold of anything you do, and I always send the books down as soon as Angela gets through with them.”

He used the words books and magazines interchangeably, and spoke as though they were not much more important to him than the leaves of the trees, as indeed, they were not. To a mind used to contemplating the succession of crops and seasons, all life with its multitudinous interplay of shapes and forms seemed passing shadows. Even men were like leaves that fall.

Eugene was drawn to old Jotham as a filing to a magnet. His was just the type of mind that appealed to him, and Angela gained by the radiated glory of her father. If he was so wonderful she must be something above the average of womanhood. Such a man could not help but produce exceptional children.

Left alone together it was hardly possible for Angela and Eugene not to renew the old relationship on the old basis. Having gone as far as he had the first time it was natural that he should wish to go as far again and further. After dinner, when she turned to him from her room, arrayed in a soft evening dress of clinging texture—somewhat low in the neck by request of Marietta, who had helped her to dress—Eugene was conscious of her emotional perturbation. He himself was distraught, for he did not know what he would do—how far he would dare to trust himself. He was always troubled when dealing with his physical passion, for it was a raging lion at times. It seemed to overcome him quite as a drug might or a soporific fume. He would mentally resolve to control himself, but unless he instantly fled there was no hope, and he did not seem able to run away. He would linger and parley, and in a few moments it was master and he was following its behest blindly, desperately, to the point almost of exposure and destruction.

Tonight when Angela came back he was cogitating, wondering what it might mean. Should he? Would he marry her? Could he escape? They sat down to talk, but presently he drew her to him. It was the old story—moment after moment of increasing feeling. Presently she, from the excess of longing and waiting was lost to all sense of consideration. And he—

“I shall have to go away, Eugene,” she pleaded, when he carried her recklessly into his room, “if anything happens. I cannot stay here.”

“Don't talk,” he said. “You can come to me.”

“You mean it, Eugene, surely?” she begged.

“As sure as I'm holding you here,” he replied.

At midnight Angela lifted frightened, wondering, doubting eyes, feeling herself the most depraved creature. Two pictures were in her mind alternately and with pendulum-like reiteration. One was a composite of a marriage altar and a charming New York studio with friends coming in to see them much as he had often described to her. The other was of the still blue waters of Okoonee with herself lying there pale and still. Yes, she would die if he did not marry her now. Life would not be worth while. She would not force him. She would slip out some night when it was too late and all hope had been abandoned—when exposure was near—and the next day they would find her.

Little Marietta how she would cry. And old Jotham—she could see him, but he would never be really sure of the truth. And her mother. “Oh God in heaven,” she thought, “how hard life is! How terrible it can be.”

CHAPTER XXVII

The atmosphere of the house after this night seemed charged with reproach to Eugene, although it took on no semblance of reality in either look or word. When he awoke in the morning and looked through the half closed shutters to the green world outside he felt a sense of freshness and of shame. It was cruel to come into such a home as this and do a thing as mean as he had done. After all, philosophy or no philosophy, didn't a fine old citizen like Jotham, honest, upright, genuine in his moral point of view and his observance of the golden rule, didn't he deserve better from a man whom he so sincerely admired? Jotham had been so nice to him. Their conversations together were so kindly and sympathetic. Eugene felt that Jotham believed him to be an honest man. He knew he had that appearance. He was frank, genial, considerate, not willing to condemn anyone—but this sex question—that was where he was weak. And was not the whole world keyed to that? Did not the decencies and the sanities of life depend on right moral conduct? Was not the world dependent on how the homes were run? How could anyone be good if his mother and father had not been good before him? How could the children of the world expect to be anything if people rushed here and there holding illicit relations? Take his sister Myrtle, now—would he have wanted her rifled in this manner? In the face of this question he was not ready to say exactly what he wanted or was willing to countenance. Myrtle was a free agent, as was every other girl. She could do as she pleased. It might not please him exactly but—he went round and round from one problem to another, trying to untie this Gordian knot. One thing, this home had appeared sweet and clean when he came into it; now it was just a little tarnished, and by him! Or was it? His mind was always asking this question. There was nothing that he was actually accepting as true any more. He was going round in a ring asking questions of this proposition and that. Are you true? And are you true? And are you true? And all the while he was apparently not getting anywhere. It puzzled him, this life. Sometimes it shamed him. This deed shamed him. And he asked himself whether he was wrong to be ashamed or not. Perhaps he was just foolish. Was not life made for living, not worrying? He had not created his passions and desires.

He threw open the shutters and there was the bright day. Everything was so green outside, the flowers in bloom, the trees casting a cool, lovely shade, the birds twittering. Bees were humming. He could smell the lilacs. “Dear God,” he exclaimed, throwing his arms above his head, “How lovely life is! How beautiful! Oh!” He drew in a deep breath of the flower and privet laden air. If only he could live always like this—for ever and ever.

When he had sponged himself with cold water and dressed, putting on a soft negligée shirt with turn-down collar and dark flowing tie, he issued forth clean and fresh. Angela was there to greet him. Her face was pale but she looked intensely sweet because of her sadness.

“There, there,” he said, touching her chin, “less of that now!”

“I told them that I had a headache,” she said. “So I have. Do you understand?”

“I understand your headache,” he laughed. “But everything is all right—very much all right. Isn't this a lovely day!”

“Beautiful,” replied Angela sadly.

“Cheer up,” he insisted. “Don't worry. Everything is coming out fine.” He walked to the window and stared out.

“I'll have your breakfast ready in a minute,” she said, and, pressing his hand, left him.

Eugene went out to the hammock. He was so deliciously contented and joyous now that he saw the green world about him, that he felt that everything was all right again. The vigorous blooming forces of nature everywhere present belied the sense of evil and decay to which mortality is so readily subject. He felt that everything was justified in youth and love, particularly where mutual affection reigned. Why should he not take Angela? Why should they not be together? He went in to breakfast at her call, eating comfortably of the things she provided. He felt the easy familiarity and graciousness of the conqueror. Angela on her part felt the fear and uncertainty of one who has embarked upon a dangerous voyage. She had set sail—whither? At what port would she land? Was it the lake or his studio? Would she live and be happy or would she die to face a black uncertainty? Was there a hell as some preachers insisted? Was there a gloomy place of lost souls such as the poets described? She looked into the face of this same world which Eugene found so beautiful and its very beauty trembled with forebodings of danger.

And there were days and days yet to be lived of this. For all her fear, once having tasted of the forbidden fruit, it was sweet and inviting. She could not go near Eugene, nor he near her but this flush of emotion would return.

In the daylight she was too fearful, but when the night came with its stars, its fresh winds, its urge to desire, her fears could not stand in their way. Eugene was insatiable and she was yearning. The slightest touch was as fire to tow. She yielded saying she would not yield.

The Blue family were of course blissfully ignorant of what was happening. It seemed so astonishing to Angela at first that the very air did not register her actions in some visible way. That they should be able thus to be alone was not so remarkable, seeing that Eugene's courtship was being aided and abetted, for her sake, but that her lapse should not be exposed by some sinister influence seemed strange—accidental and subtly ominous. Something would happen—that was her fear. She had not the courage of her desire or need.

By the end of the week, though Eugene was less ardent and more or less oppressed by the seeming completeness with which he had conquered, he was not ready to leave. He was sorry to go, for it ended a honeymoon of sweetness and beauty—all the more wonderful and enchanting because so clandestine—yet he was beginning to be aware that he had bound himself in chains of duty and responsibility. Angela had thrown herself on his mercy and his sense of honor to begin with. She had exacted a promise of marriage—not urgently, and as one who sought to entrap him, but with the explanation that otherwise life must end in disaster for her. Eugene could look in her face and see that it would. And now that he had had his way and plumbed the depths of her emotions and desires he had a higher estimate of her personality. Despite the fact that she was older than he, there was a breath of youth and beauty here that held him. Her body was exquisite. Her feeling about life and love was tender and beautiful. He wished he could make true her dreams of bliss without injury to himself.

It so turned out that as his visit was drawing to a close Angela decided that she ought to go to Chicago, for there were purchases which must be made. Her mother wanted her to go and she decided that she would go with Eugene. This made the separation easier, gave them more time to talk. Her usual plan was to stay with her aunt and she was going there now.

On the way she asked over and over what he would think of her in the future; whether what had passed would not lower her in his eyes. He did not feel that it would. Once she said to him sadly—“only death or marriage can help me now.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, her yellow head pillowed on his shoulder, her dark blue eyes looking sadly into his.

“That if you don't marry me I'll have to kill myself. I can't stay at home.”

He thought of her with her beautiful body, her mass of soft hair all tarnished in death.

“You wouldn't do that?” he asked unbelievingly.

“Yes, I would,” she said sadly. “I must, I will.”

“Hush, Angel Face,” he pleaded. “You won't do anything like that. You won't have to. I'll marry you—How would you do it?”

“Oh, I've thought it all out,” she continued gloomily. “You know that little lake. I'd drown myself.”

“Don't, sweetheart,” he pleaded. “Don't talk that way. It's terrible. You won't have to do anything like that.”

To think of her under the waters of little Okoonee, with its green banks, and yellow sandy shores. All her love come to this! All her passion! Her death would be upon his head and he could not stand the thought of that. It frightened him. Such tragedies occasionally appeared in the papers with all the pathetic details convincingly set forth, but this should not enter his life. He would marry her. She was lovely after all. He would have to. He might as well make up his mind to that now. He began to speculate how soon it might be. For the sake of her family she wanted no secret marriage but one which, if they could not be present at it, they could at least know was taking place. She was willing to come East—that could be arranged. But they must be married. Eugene realized the depth of her conventional feeling so keenly that it never occurred to him to suggest an alternative. She would not consent, would scorn him for it. The only alternative, she appeared to believe, was death.

One evening—the last—when it was necessary for her to return to Blackwood, and he had seen her off on the train, her face a study in sadness, he rode out gloomily to Jackson Park where he had once seen a beautiful lake in the moonlight. When he reached there the waters of the lake were still suffused and tinged with lovely suggestions of lavender, pink and silver, for this was near the twenty-first of June. The trees to the east and west were dark. The sky showed a last blush of orange. Odours were about—warm June fragrance. He thought now, as he walked about the quiet paths where the sand and pebbles crunched lightly beneath his feet, of all the glory of this wonderful week. How dramatic was life; how full of romance. This love of Angela's, how beautiful. Youth was with him—love. Would he go on to greater days of beauty or would he stumble, idling his time, wasting his substance in riotous living? Was this riotous living? Would there be evil fruition of his deeds? Would he really love Angela after he married her? Would they be happy?

Thus he stood by the bank of this still lake, studying the water, marvelling at the subtleties of reflected radiance, feeling the artist's joy in perfect natural beauty, twining and intertwining it all with love, death, failure, fame. It was romantic to think that in such a lake, if he were unkind, would Angela be found. By such a dark as was now descending would all her bright dreams be submerged. It would be beautiful as romance. He could imagine a great artist like Daudet or Balzac making a great story out of it. It was even a subject for some form of romantic expression in art. Poor Angela! If he were a great portrait painter he would paint her. He thought of some treatment of her in the nude with that mass of hair of hers falling about her neck and breasts. It would be beautiful. Should he marry her? Yes, though he was not sure of the outcome, he must. It might be a mistake but—

He stared at the fading surface of the lake, silver, lavender, leaden gray. Overhead a vivid star was already shining. How would it be with her if she were really below those still waters? How would it be with him? It would be too desperate, too regretful. No, he must marry her. It was in this mood that he returned to the city, the ache of life in his heart. It was in this mood that he secured his grip from the hotel and sought the midnight train for New York. For once Ruby, Miriam, Christina, were forgotten. He was involved in a love drama which meant life or death to Angela, peace or reproach of conscience to himself in the future. He could not guess what the outcome would be, but he felt that he must marry her—how soon he could not say. Circumstances would dictate that. From present appearances it must be immediately. He must see about a studio, announce the news of his departure to Smite and MacHugh; make a special effort to further his art ambitions so that he and Angela would have enough to live on. He had talked so glowingly of his art life that now, when the necessity for demonstrating it was at hand, he was troubled as to what the showing might be. The studio had to be attractive. He would need to introduce his friends. All the way back to New York he turned this over in his mind—Smite, MacHugh, Miriam, Norma, Wheeler, Christina—what would Christina think if she ever returned to New York and found him married? There was no question but that there was a difference between Angela and these. It was something—a matter of courage—more soul, more daring, more awareness, perhaps—something. When they saw her would they think he had made a mistake, would they put him down as a fool? MacHugh was going with a girl, but she was a different type—intellectual, smart. He thought and thought, but he came back to the same conclusion always. He would have to marry her. There was no way out. He would have to.

CHAPTER XXVIII

The studio of Messrs. Smite, MacHugh and Witla in Waverley Place was concerned the following October with a rather picturesque event. Even in the city the time when the leaves begin to yellow and fall brings a sense of melancholy, augmented by those preliminaries of winter, gray, lowery days, with scraps of paper, straws, bits of wood blown about by gusty currents of air through the streets, making it almost disagreeable to be abroad. The fear of cold and storm and suffering among those who have little was already apparent. Apparent too was the air of renewed vitality common to those who have spent an idle summer and are anxious to work again. Shopping and marketing and barter and sale were at high key. The art world, the social world, the manufacturing world, the professional worlds of law, medicine, finance, literature, were bubbling with a feeling of the necessity to do and achieve. The whole city, stung by the apprehension of winter, had an atmosphere of emprise and energy.

In this atmosphere, with a fairly clear comprehension of the elements which were at work making the colour of the life about him, was Eugene, digging away at the task he had set himself. Since leaving Angela he had come to the conclusion that he must complete the jointings for the exhibition which had been running in his mind during the last two years. There was no other way for him to make a notable impression—he saw that. Since he had returned he had gone through various experiences: the experience of having Angela tell him that she was sure there was something wrong with her; an impression sincere enough, but based on an excited and overwrought imagination of evil to follow, and having no foundation in fact. Eugene was as yet, despite his several experiences, not sufficiently informed in such affairs to know. His lack of courage would have delayed him from asking if he had known. In the next place, facing this crisis, he had declared that he would marry her, and because of her distressed condition he thought he might as well do it now. He had wanted time to do some of the pictures he was working on, to take in a little money for drawing, to find a suitable place to live in. He had looked at various studios in various sections of the city and had found nothing, as yet, which answered to his taste or his purse. Anything with a proper light, a bath, a suitable sleeping room, and an inconspicuous chamber which might be turned into a kitchen, was difficult to find. Prices were high, ranging from fifty to one hundred and twenty-five and one hundred and fifty a month. There were some new studios being erected for the rich loungers and idlers which commanded, so he understood, three or four thousand dollars a year. He wondered if he should ever attain to any such magnificence through his art.

Again, in taking a studio for Angela and himself there was the matter of furniture. The studio he had with Smite and MacHugh was more or less of a camp. The work room was bare of carpets or rugs. The two folding beds and the cot which graced their individual chambers were heirlooms from ancient predecessors—substantial but shabby. Beyond various drawings, three easels, and a chest of drawers for each, there was no suitable household equipment. A woman came twice a week to clean, send out the linen, and make up the beds.

To live with Angela required, in his judgment, many and much more significant things. His idea of a studio was some such one as that now occupied by Miriam Finch or Norma Whitmore. There ought to be furniture of a period—old Flemish or Colonial, Heppelwhite or Chippendale or Sheraton, such as he saw occasionally knocking about in curio shops and second hand stores. It could be picked up if he had time. He was satisfied that Angela knew nothing of these things. There ought to be rugs, hangings of tapestry, bits of brass, pewter, copper, old silver, if he could afford it. He had an idea of some day obtaining a figure of the Christ in brass or plaster, hung upon a rough cross of walnut or teak, which he could hang or stand in some corner as one might a shrine and place before it two great candlesticks with immense candles smoked and dripping with wax. These lighted in a dark studio, with the outlines of the Christ flickering in the shadows behind would give the desired atmosphere to his studio. Such an equipment as he dreamed of would have cost in the neighborhood of two thousand dollars.

Of course this was not to be thought of at this period. He had no more than that in ready cash. He was writing to Angela about his difficulties in finding a suitable place, when he heard of a studio in Washington Square South, which its literary possessor was going to quit for the winter. It was, so he understood, handsomely furnished, and was to be let for the rent of the studio. The owner wanted someone who would take care of it by occupying it for him until he should return the following fall. Eugene hurried round to look at it and, taken with the location, the appearance of the square from the windows, the beauty of the furnishings, felt that he would like to live here. This would be the way to introduce Angela to New York. This would be the first and proper impression to give her. Here, as in every well arranged studio he had yet seen were books, pictures, bits of statuary, implements of copper and some few of silver. There was a great fish net dyed green and spangled with small bits of mirror to look like scales which hung as a veil between the studio proper and an alcove. There was a piano done in black walnut, and odd pieces of furniture, Mission, Flemish, Venetian of the sixteenth century and English of the seventeenth, which, despite that diversity offered a unity of appearance and a harmony of usefulness. There was one bed room, a bath, and a small partitioned section which could be used as a kitchen. With a few of his pictures judiciously substituted he could see a perfect abode here for himself and his wife. The rent was fifty dollars. He decided that he would risk it.

Having gone so far as to indicate that he would take it—he was made to feel partially resigned to marriage by the very appearance of this place—he decided that he would marry in October. Angela could come to New York or Buffalo—she had never seen Niagara Falls—and they could be married there. She had spoken recently of visiting her brother at West Point. Then they could come here and settle down. He decided that this must be so, wrote to her to that effect, and vaguely hinted to Smite and MacHugh that he might get married shortly.

This was a great blow to his partners in art, for Eugene was very popular with them. He had the habit, with those he liked, of jesting constantly. “Look at the look of noble determination on Smite's brow this morning,” he would comment cheerfully on getting up; or “MacHugh, you lazy lout, crawl out and earn your living.”

MacHugh's nose, eyes and ears would be comfortably buried in the folds of a blanket.

“These hack artists,” Eugene would sigh disconsolately. “There's not much to be made out of them. A pile of straw and a couple of boiled potatoes a day is all they need.”

“Aw, cut it out,” MacHugh would grunt.

“To hell, to hell, I yell, I yell,” would come from somewhere in the voice of Smite.

“If it weren't for me,” Eugene would go on, “God knows what would become of this place. A lot of farmers and fishermen trying to be artists.”

“And laundry wagon drivers, don't forget that,” MacHugh would add, sitting up and rubbing his tousled head, for Eugene had related some of his experiences. “Don't forget the contribution made by the American Steam Laundry Company to the world of true art.”

“Collars and cuffs I would have you know is artistic,” Eugene at once declared with mock dignity, “whereas plows and fish is trash.”

Sometimes this “kidding” would continue for a quarter of an hour at a stretch, when some one remark really brighter than any other would dissolve the whole in laughter. Work began after breakfast, to which they usually sallied forth together, and would continue unbroken save for necessary engagements or periods of entertainment, lunch and so on, until five in the afternoon.

They had worked together now for a couple of years. They had, by experience, learned of each other's reliability, courtesy, kindness and liberality. Criticism was free, generous, and sincerely intended to be helpful. Pleasure trips, such as walks on grey, lowery days, or in rain or brilliant sunshine, or trips to Coney Island, Far Rockaway, the theatres, the art exhibitions, the odd and peculiar restaurants of different nationalities, were always undertaken in a spirit of joyous camaraderie. Jesting as to morality, their respective abilities, their tendencies and characteristics were all taken and given in good part. At one time it would be Joseph Smite who would come in for a united drubbing and excoriation on the part of Eugene and MacHugh. At another time Eugene or MacHugh would be the victim, the other two joining forces vigorously. Art, literature, personalities, phases of life, philosophy, were discussed by turn. As with Jerry Mathews, Eugene had learned of new things from these men—the life of fisher-folk, and the characteristics of the ocean from Joseph Smite; the nature and spirit of the great West from MacHugh. Each appeared to have an inexhaustible fund of experiences and reminiscences which refreshed and entertained the trio day by day year in and year out. They were at their best strolling through some exhibit or preliminary view of an art collection offered for sale, when all their inmost convictions of what was valuable and enduring in art would come to the surface. All three were intolerant of reputations as such, but were strong for individual merit whether it carried a great name or not. They were constantly becoming acquainted with the work of some genius little known here, and celebrating his talents, each to the others. Thus Monet, Degas, Manet, Ribera, Monticelli, by turns came up for examination and praise.

When Eugene then, toward the end of September, announced that he might be leaving them shortly, there was a united wail of opposition. Joseph Smite was working on a sea scene at the time, doing his best to get the proper colour harmony between the worm-eaten deck of a Gold Coast trading ship, a half naked West Coast negro handling a broken wheel, and a mass of blue black undulations in the distance which represented the boundless sea.

“G'wan!” said Smite, incredulously, for he assumed that Eugene was jesting. There had been a steady stream of letters issuing from somewhere in the West and delivered here week after week, as there had been for MacHugh, but this by now was a commonplace, and apparently meant nothing. “You marry? What the hell do you want to get married for? A fine specimen you will make! I'll come around and tell your wife.”

“Sure,” returned Eugene. “It's true, I may get married.” He was amused at Smite's natural assumption that it was a jest.

“Stow that,” called MacHugh, from his easel. He was working on a country corner picture, a group of farmers before a country post office. “You don't want to break up this shack, do you?” Both of these men were fond of Eugene. They found him inspiring, helpful, always intensely vigorous and apparently optimistic.

“I don't want to break up any shack. But haven't I a right to get married?”

“I vote no, by God!” said Smite emphatically. “You'll never go out of here with my consent. Peter, are we going to stand for anything like that?”

“We are not,” replied MacHugh. “We'll call out the reserves if he tries any game like that on us. I'll prefer charges against him. Who's the lady, Eugene?”

“I bet I know,” suggested Smite. “He's been running up to Twenty-sixth Street pretty regularly.” Joseph was thinking of Miriam Finch, to whom Eugene had introduced both him and MacHugh.

“Nothing like that, surely,” inquired MacHugh, looking over at Eugene to see if it possibly could be so.

“It's all true, fellers,” replied Eugene, “—as God is my judge. I'm going to leave you soon.”

“You're not really talking seriously, are you, Witla?” inquired Joseph soberly.

“I am, Joe,” said Eugene quietly. He was studying the perspective of his sixteenth New York view,—three engines coming abreast into a great yard of cars. The smoke, the haze, the dingy reds and blues and yellows and greens of kicked about box cars were showing with beauty—the vigor and beauty of raw reality.

“Soon?” asked MacHugh, equally quietly. He was feeling that touch of pensiveness which comes with a sense of vanishing pleasures.

“I think some time in October, very likely,” replied Eugene.

“Jesus Christ, I'm sorry to hear that,” put in Smite.

He laid down his brush and strolled over to the window. MacHugh, less expressive in extremes, worked on medatively.

“When'd you reach that conclusion, Witla?” he asked after a time.

“Oh, I've been thinking it over for a long time, Peter,” he returned. “I should really have married before if I could have afforded it. I know how things are here or I wouldn't have sprung this so suddenly. I'll hold up my end on the rent here until you get someone else.”

“To hell with the rent,” said Smite. “We don't want anyone else, do we, Peter? We didn't have anyone else before.”

Smite was rubbing his square chin and contemplating his partner as if they were facing a catastrophe.

“There's no use talking about that,” said Peter. “You know we don't care about the rent. Do you mind telling us who you're going to marry? Do we know her?”

“You don't,” returned Eugene. “She's out in Wisconsin. It's the one who writes the letters. Angela Blue is her name.”

“Well, here's to Angela Blue, by God, say I,” said Smite, recovering his spirits and picking up his paint brush from his board to hold aloft. “Here's to Mrs. Eugene Witla, and may she never reef a sail to a storm or foul an anchor, as they say up Nova Scotia way.”

“Right oh,” added MacHugh, catching the spirit of Smite's generous attitude. “Them's my sentiments. When d'you expect to get married really, Eugene?”

“Oh I haven't fixed the time exactly. About November first, I should say. I hope you won't say anything about it though, either of you. I don't want to go through any explanations.”

“We won't, but it's tough, you old walrus. Why the hell didn't you give us time to think it over? You're a fine jellyfish, you are.”

He poked him reprimandingly in the ribs.

“There isn't anyone any more sorry than I am,” said Eugene. “I hate to leave here, I do. But we won't lose track of each other. I'll still be around here.”

“Where do you expect to live? Here in the city?” asked MacHugh, still a little gloomy.

“Sure. Right here in Washington Square. Remember that Dexter studio Weaver was telling about? The one in the third floor at sixty-one? That's it.”

“You don't say!” exclaimed Smite. “You're in right. How'd you get that?”

Eugene explained.

“Well, you sure are a lucky man,” observed MacHugh. “Your wife ought to like that. I suppose there'll be a cozy corner for an occasional strolling artist?”

“No farmers, no sea-faring men, no artistic hacks—nothing!” declared Eugene dramatically.

“You to Hell,” said Smite. “When Mrs. Witla sees us—”

“She'll wish she'd never come to New York,” put in Eugene.

“She'll wish she'd seen us first,” said MacHugh.

BOOK II. THE STRUGGLE

CHAPTER I

The marriage ceremony between Eugene and Angela was solemnized at Buffalo on November second. As planned, Marietta was with them. They would go, the three of them, to the Falls, and to West Point, where the girls would see their brother David, and then Marietta would return to tell the family about it. Naturally, under the circumstances, it was a very simple affair, for there were no congratulations to go through with and no gifts—at least immediately—to consider and acknowledge. Angela had explained to her parents and friends that it was quite impossible for Eugene to come West at this time. She knew that he objected to a public ceremony where he would have to run the gauntlet of all her relatives, and so she was quite willing to meet him in the East and be married there. Eugene had not troubled to take his family into his confidence as yet. He had indicated on his last visit home that he might get married, and that Angela was the girl in question, but since Myrtle was the only one of his family who had seen her and she was now in Ottumwa, Iowa, they could not recall anything about her. Eugene's father was a little disappointed, for he expected to hear some day that Eugene had made a brilliant match. His boy, whose pictures were in the magazines so frequently and whose appearance was so generally distinguished, ought in New York, where opportunities abounded, to marry an heiress at least. It was all right of course if Eugene wanted to marry a girl from the country, but it robbed the family of a possible glory.

The spirit of this marriage celebration, so far as Eugene was concerned, was hardly right. There was the consciousness, always with him, of his possibly making a mistake; the feeling that he was being compelled by circumstances and his own weakness to fulfil an agreement which might better remain unfulfilled. His only urge was his desire, in the gratification of which he might find compensation, for saving Angela from an unhappy spinsterhood. It was a thin reed to lean on; there could be no honest satisfaction in it. Angela was sweet, devoted, painstaking in her attitude toward life, toward him, toward everything with which she came in contact, but she was not what he had always fancied his true mate would be—the be all and the end all of his existence. Where was the divine fire which on this occasion should have animated him; the lofty thoughts of future companionship; that intense feeling he had first felt about her when he had called on her at her aunt's house in Chicago? Something had happened. Was it that he had cheapened his ideal by too close contact with it? Had he taken a beautiful flower and trailed it in the dust? Was passion all there was to marriage? Or was it that true marriage was something higher—a union of fine thoughts and feelings? Did Angela share his with him? Angela did have exalted feelings and moods at times. They were not sensibly intellectual—but she seemed to respond to the better things in music and to some extent in literature. She knew nothing about art, but she was emotionally responsive to many fine things. Why was not this enough to make life durable and comfortable between them? Was it not really enough? After he had gone over all these points, there was still the thought that there was something wrong in this union. Despite his supposedly laudable conduct in fulfilling an obligation which, in a way, he had helped create or created, he was not happy. He went to his marriage as a man goes to fulfil an uncomfortable social obligation. It might turn out that he would have an enjoyable and happy life and it might turn out very much otherwise. He could not face the weight and significance of the social theory that this was for life—that if he married her today he would have to live with her all the rest of his days. He knew that was the generally accepted interpretation of marriage, but it did not appeal to him. Union ought in his estimation to be based on a keen desire to live together and on nothing else. He did not feel the obligation which attaches to children, for he had never had any and did not feel the desire for any. A child was a kind of a nuisance. Marriage was a trick of Nature's by which you were compelled to carry out her scheme of race continuance. Love was a lure; desire a scheme of propagation devised by the way. Nature, the race spirit, used you as you would use a work-horse to pull a load. The load in this case was race progress and man was the victim. He did not think he owed anything to nature, or to this race spirit. He had not asked to come here. He had not been treated as generously as he might have been since he arrived. Why should he do what nature bid?

When he met Angela he kissed her fondly, for of course the sight of her aroused the feeling of desire which had been running in his mind so keenly for some time. Since last seeing Angela he had touched no woman, principally because the right one had not presented herself and because the memories and the anticipations in connection with Angela were so close. Now that he was with her again the old fire came over him and he was eager for the completion of the ceremony. He had seen to the marriage license in the morning,—and from the train on which Angela and Marietta arrived they proceeded in a carriage direct to the Methodist preacher. The ceremony which meant so much to Angela meant practically nothing to him. It seemed a silly formula—this piece of paper from the marriage clerk's office and this instructed phraseology concerning “love, honor and cherish.” Certainly he would love, honor and cherish if it were possible—if not, then not. Angela, with the marriage ring on her finger and the words “with this ring I thee wed” echoing in her ears, felt that all her dreams had come true. Now she was, really, truly, Mrs. Eugene Witla. She did not need to worry about drowning herself, or being disgraced, or enduring a lonely, commiserated old age. She was the wife of an artist—a rising one, and she was going to live in New York. What a future stretched before her! Eugene loved her after all. She imagined she could see that. His slowness in marrying her was due to the difficulty of establishing himself properly. Otherwise he would have done it before. They drove to the Iroquois hotel and registered as man and wife, securing a separate room for Marietta. The latter pretending an urgent desire to bathe after her railroad journey, left them, promising to be ready in time for dinner. Eugene and Angela were finally alone.

He now saw how, in spite of his fine theories, his previous experiences with Angela had deadened to an extent his joy in this occasion. He had her again it was true. His desire that he had thought of so keenly was to be gratified, but there was no mystery connected with it. His real nuptials had been celebrated at Blackwood months before. This was the commonplace of any marriage relation. It was intense and gratifying, but the original, wonderful mystery of unexplored character was absent. He eagerly took her in his arms, but there was more of crude desire than of awed delight in the whole proceeding.

Nevertheless Angela was sweet to him. Hers was a loving disposition and Eugene was the be all and end all of her love. His figure was of heroic proportions to her. His talent was divine fire. No one could know as much as Eugene, of course! No one could be as artistic. True, he was not as practical as some men—her brothers and brothers-in-law, for instance—but he was a man of genius. Why should he be practical? She was beginning to think already of how thoroughly she would help him shape his life toward success—what a good wife she would be to him. Her training as a teacher, her experience as a buyer, her practical judgment, would help him so much. They spent the two hours before dinner in renewed transports and then dressed and made their public appearance. Angela had had designed a number of dresses for this occasion, representing the saving of years, and tonight at dinner she looked exceptionally pretty in a dress of black silk with neck piece and half sleeves of mother-of-pearl silk, set off with a decoration of seed pearls and black beads in set designs. Marietta, in a pale pink silk of peachblow softness of hue with short sleeves and a low cut bodice was, with all her youth and natural plumpness and gaiety of soul, ravishing. Now that she had Angela safely married, she was under no obligations to keep out of Eugene's way nor to modify her charms in order that her sister's might shine. She was particularly ebullient in her mood and Eugene could not help contrasting, even in this hour, the qualities of the two sisters. Marietta's smile, her humor, her unconscious courage, contrasted so markedly with Angela's quietness.

The luxuries of the modern hotel have become the commonplaces of ordinary existence, but to the girls they were still strange enough to be impressive. To Angela they were a foretaste of what was to be an enduring higher life. These carpets, hangings, elevators, waiters, seemed in their shabby materialism to speak of superior things.

One day in Buffalo, with a view of the magnificent falls at Niagara, and then came West Point with a dress parade accidentally provided for a visiting general and a ball for the cadets. Marietta, because of her charm and her brother's popularity, found herself so much in demand at West Point that she extended her stay to a week, leaving Eugene and Angela free to come to New York together and have a little time to themselves. They only stayed long enough to see Marietta safely housed and then came to the city and the apartment in Washington Square.

It was dark when they arrived and Angela was impressed with the glittering galaxy of lights the city presented across the North River from Forty-second Street. She had no idea of the nature of the city, but as the cab at Eugene's request turned into Broadway at Forty-second Street and clattered with interrupted progress south to Fifth Avenue she had her first glimpse of that tawdry world which subsequently became known as the “Great White Way.” Already its make-believe and inherent cheapness had come to seem to Eugene largely characteristic of the city and of life, but it still retained enough of the lure of the flesh and of clothes and of rush-light reputations to hold his attention. Here were dramatic critics and noted actors and actresses and chorus girls, the gods and toys of avid, inexperienced, unsatisfied wealth. He showed Angela the different theatres, called her attention to distinguished names; made much of restaurants and hotels and shops and stores that sell trifles and trash, and finally turned into lower Fifth Avenue, where the dignity of great houses and great conservative wealth still lingered. At Fourteenth Street Angela could already see Washington Arch glowing cream white in the glare of electric lights.

“What is that?” she asked interestedly.

“It's Washington Arch,” he replied. “We live in sight of that on the south side of the Square.”

“Oh! but it is beautiful!” she exclaimed.

It seemed very wonderful to her, and as they passed under it, and the whole Square spread out before her, it seemed a perfect world in which to live.

“Is this where it is?” she asked, as they stopped in front of the studio building.

“Yes, this is it. How do you like it?”

“I think it's beautiful,” she said.

They went up the white stone steps of the old Bride house in which was Eugene's leased studio, up two flights of red-carpeted stairs and finally into the dark studio where he struck a match and lit, for the art of it, candles. A soft waxen glow irradiated the place as he proceeded and then Angela saw old Chippendale chairs, a Heppelwhite writing-table, a Flemish strong box containing used and unused drawings, the green stained fish-net studded with bits of looking glass in imitation of scales, a square, gold-framed mirror over the mantel, and one of Eugene's drawings—the three engines in the gray, lowering weather, standing large and impressive upon an easel. It seemed to Angela the perfection of beauty. She saw the difference now between the tawdry gorgeousness of a commonplace hotel and this selection and arrangement of individual taste. The glowing candelabrum of seven candles on either side of the square mirror surprised her deeply. The black walnut piano in the alcove behind the half draped net drew forth an exclamation of delight. “Oh, how lovely it all is!” she exclaimed and ran to Eugene to be kissed. He fondled her for a few minutes and then she left again to examine in detail pictures, pieces of furniture, ornaments of brass and copper.

“When did you get all this?” she asked, for Eugene had not told her of his luck in finding the departing Dexter and leasing it for the rent of the studio and its care. He was lighting the fire in the grate which had been prepared by the house attendant.

“Oh, it isn't mine,” he replied easily. “I leased this from Russell Dexter. He's going to be in Europe until next winter. I thought that would be easier than waiting around to fix up a place after you came. We can get our things together next fall.”

He was thinking he would be able to have his exhibition in the spring, and perhaps that would bring some notable sales. Anyhow it might bring a few, increase his repute and give him a greater earning power.

Angela's heart sank just a little but she recovered in a moment, for after all it was very exceptional even to be able to lease a place of this character. She went to the window and looked out. There was the great square with its four walls of houses, the spread of trees, still decorated with a few dusty leaves, and the dozens of arc lights sputtering their white radiance in between, the graceful arch, cream white over at the entrance of Fifth Avenue.

“It's so beautiful,” she exclaimed again, coming back to Eugene and putting her arms about him. “I didn't think it would be anything as fine as this. You're so good to me.” She put up her lips and he kissed her, pinching her cheeks. Together they walked to the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom. Then after a time they blew out the candles and retired for the night.

CHAPTER II

After the quiet of a small town, the monotony and simplicity of country life, the dreary, reiterated weariness of teaching a country school, this new world into which Angela was plunged seemed to her astonished eyes to be compounded of little save beauties, curiosities and delights. The human senses, which weary so quickly of reiterated sensory impressions, exaggerate with equal readiness the beauty and charm of the unaccustomed. If it is new, therefore it must be better than that which we have had of old. The material details with which we are able to surround ourselves seem at times to remake our point of view. If we have been poor, wealth will seem temporarily to make us happy; when we have been amid elements and personages discordant to our thoughts, to be put among harmonious conditions seems, for the time being, to solve all our woes. So little do we have that interior peace which no material conditions can truly affect or disturb.

When Angela awoke the next morning, this studio in which she was now to live seemed the most perfect habitation which could be devised by man. The artistry of the arrangement of the rooms, the charm of the conveniences—a bathroom with hot and cold water next to the bedroom; a kitchen with an array of necessary utensils. In the rear portion of the studio used as a dining-room a glimpse of the main studio gave her the sense of art which dealt with nature, the beauty of the human form, colors, tones—how different from teaching school. To her the difference between the long, low rambling house at Blackwood with its vine ornamented windows, its somewhat haphazard arrangement of flowers and its great lawn, and this peculiarly compact and ornate studio apartment looking out upon Washington Square, was all in favor of the latter. In Angela's judgment there was no comparison. She could not have understood if she could have seen into Eugene's mind at this time how her home town, her father's single farm, the blue waters of the little lake near her door, the shadows of the tall trees on her lawn were somehow, compounded for him not only with classic beauty itself, but with her own charm. When she was among these things she partook of their beauty and was made more beautiful thereby. She did not know how much she had lost in leaving them behind. To her all these older elements of her life were shabby and unimportant, pointless and to be neglected.

This new world was in its way for her an Aladdin's cave of delight. When she looked out on the great square for the first time the next morning, seeing it bathed in sunlight, a dignified line of red brick dwellings to the north, a towering office building to the east, trucks, carts, cars and vehicles clattering over the pavement below, it all seemed gay with youth and energy.

“We'll have to dress and go out to breakfast,” said Eugene. “I didn't think to lay anything in. As a matter of fact I wouldn't have known what to buy if I had wanted to. I never tried housekeeping for myself.”

“Oh, that's all right,” said Angela, fondling his hands, “only let's not go out to breakfast unless we have to. Let's see what's here,” and she went back to the very small room devoted to cooking purposes to see what cooking utensils had been provided. She had been dreaming of housekeeping and cooking for Eugene, of petting and spoiling him, and now the opportunity had arrived. She found that Mr. Dexter, their generous lessor, had provided himself with many conveniences—breakfast and dinner sets of brown and blue porcelain, a coffee percolator, a charming dull blue teapot with cups to match, a chafing dish, a set of waffle irons, griddles, spiders, skillets, stew and roasting pans and knives and forks of steel and silver in abundance. Obviously he had entertained from time to time, for there were bread, cake, sugar, flour and salt boxes and a little chest containing, in small drawers, various spices.

“Oh, it will be easy to get something here,” said Angela, lighting the burners of the gas stove to see whether it was in good working order. “We can just go out to market if you'll come and show me once and get what we want. It won't take a minute. I'll know after that.” Eugene consented gladly.

She had always fancied she would be an ideal housekeeper and now that she had her Eugene she was anxious to begin. It would be such a pleasure to show him what a manager she was, how everything would go smoothly in her hands, how careful she would be of his earnings—their joint possessions.

She was sorry, now that she saw that art was no great producer of wealth, that she had no money to bring him, but she knew that Eugene in the depth of his heart thought nothing of that. He was too impractical. He was a great artist, but when it came to practical affairs she felt instinctively that she was much the wiser. She had bought so long, calculated so well for her sisters and brothers.

Out of her bag (for her trunks had not yet arrived) she extracted a neat house dress of pale green linen which she put on after she had done up her hair in a cosy coil, and together with Eugene for a temporary guide, they set forth to find the stores. He had told her, looking out the windows, that there were lines of Italian grocers, butchers and vegetable men in the side streets, leading south from the square, and into one of these they now ventured. The swarming, impressive life of the street almost took her breath away, it was so crowded. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, flour, butter, lamb chops, salt—a dozen little accessories were all purchased in small quantities, and then they eagerly returned to the studio. Angela was a little disgusted with the appearance of some of the stores, but some of them were clean enough. It seemed so strange to her to be buying in an Italian street, with Italian women and children about, their swarthy leathern faces set with bright, almost feverish eyes. Eugene in his brown corduroy suit and soft green hat, watching and commenting at her side, presented such a contrast. He was so tall, so exceptional, so laconic.

“I like them when they wear rings in their ears,” he said at one time.

“Get the coal man who looks like a bandit,” he observed at another.

“This old woman here might do for the witch of Endor.”

Angela attended strictly to her marketing. She was gay and smiling, but practical. She was busy wondering in what quantities she should buy things, how she would keep fresh vegetables, whether the ice box was really clean; how much delicate dusting the various objects in the studio would require. The raw brick walls of the street, the dirt and slops in the gutter, the stray cats and dogs hungry and lean, the swarming stream of people, did not appeal to her as picturesque at all. Only when she heard Eugene expatiating gravely did she begin to realize that all this must have artistic significance. If Eugene said so it did. But it was a fascinating world whatever it was, and it was obvious that she was going to be very, very happy.

There was a breakfast in the studio then of hot biscuit with fresh butter, an omelette with tomatoes, potatoes stewed in cream, and coffee. After the long period of commonplace restaurant dining which Eugene had endured, this seemed ideal. To sit in your own private apartment with a charming wife opposite you ready to render you any service, and with an array of food before you which revived the finest memories in your gustatory experience, seemed perfect. Nothing could be better. He saw visions of a happy future if he could finance this sort of thing. It would require a lot of money, more than he had been making, but he thought he could make out. After breakfast Angela played on the piano, and then, Eugene wanting to work, she started housekeeping in earnest. The trunks arriving gave her the task of unpacking and with that and lunch and dinner to say nothing of love she had sufficient to do.

It was a charming existence for a little while. Eugene suggested that they should have Smite and MacHugh to dinner first of all, these being his closest friends. Angela agreed heartily for she was only too anxious to meet the people he knew. She wanted to show him she knew how to receive and entertain as well as anyone. She made great preparations for the Wednesday evening following—the night fixed for the dinner—and when it came was on the qui vive to see what his friends were like and what they would think of her.

The occasion passed off smoothly enough and was the occasion of considerable jollity. These two cheerful worthies were greatly impressed with the studio. They were quick to praise it before Angela, and to congratulate him on his good fortune in having married her. Angela, in the same dress in which she had appeared at dinner in Buffalo, was impressive. Her mass of yellow hair fascinated the gaze of both Smite and MacHugh.

“Gee, what hair!” Smite observed secretly to MacHugh when neither Angela nor Eugene were within hearing distance.

“You're right,” returned MacHugh. “She's not at all bad looking, is she?”

“I should say not,” returned Smite who admired Angela's simple, good-natured western manners. A little later, more subtly, they expressed their admiration to her, and she was greatly pleased.

Marietta, who had arrived late that afternoon, had not made her appearance yet. She was in the one available studio bedroom making her toilet. Angela, in spite of her fine raiment, was busy superintending the cooking, for although through the janitor she had managed to negotiate the loan of a girl to serve, she could not get anyone to cook. A soup, a fish, a chicken and a salad, were the order of procedure. Marietta finally appeared, ravishing in pink silk. Both Smite and MacHugh sat up and Marietta proceeded to bewitch them. Marietta knew no order or distinctions in men. They were all slaves to her—victims to be stuck on the spit of her beauty and broiled in their amorous uncertainties at her leisure. In after years Eugene learned to speak of Marietta's smile as “the dagger.” The moment she appeared smiling he would say, “Ah, we have it out again, have we? Who gets the blade this evening? Poor victim!”

Being her brother-in-law now, he was free to slip his arm about her waist and she took this family connection as license to kiss him. There was something about Eugene which held her always. During these very first days she gratified her desire to be in his arms, but always with a sense of reserve which kept him in check. She wondered secretly how much he liked her.

Smite and MacHugh, when she appeared, both rose to do her service. MacHugh offered her his chair by the fire. Smite bestirred himself in an aimless fashion.

“I've just had such a dandy week up at West Point,” began Marietta cheerfully, “dancing, seeing dress parades, walking with the soldier boys.”

“I warn you two, here and now,” began Eugene, who had already learned to tease Marietta, “that you're not safe. This woman here is dangerous. As artists in good standing you had better look out for yourselves.”

“Oh, Eugene, how you talk,” laughed Marietta, her teeth showing effectively. “Mr. Smite, I leave it to you. Isn't that a mean way to introduce a sister-in-law? I'm here for just a few days too, and have so little time. I think it cruel!”

“It's a shame!” said Smite, who was plainly a willing victim. “You ought to have another kind of brother-in-law. If you had some people I know now—”

“It's an outrage,” commented MacHugh. “There's one thing though. You may not require so very much time.”

“Now I think that's ungallant,” Marietta laughed. “I see I'm all alone here except for Mr. Smite. Never mind. You all will be sorry when I'm gone.”

“I believe that,” replied MacHugh, feelingly.

Smite simply stared. He was lost in admiration of her cream and peach complexion, her fluffy, silky brown hair, her bright blue eyes and plump rounded arms. Such radiant good nature would be heavenly to live with. He wondered what sort of a family this was that Eugene had become connected with. Angela, Marietta, a brother at West Point. They must be nice, conservative, well-to-do western people. Marietta went to help her sister, and Smite, in the absence of Eugene, said: “Say, he's in right, isn't he? She's a peach. She's got it a little on her sister.”

MacHugh merely stared at the room. He was taken with the complexion and arrangement of things generally. The old furniture, the rugs, the hangings, the pictures, Eugene's borrowed maid servant in a white apron and cap, Angela, Marietta, the bright table set with colored china and an arrangement of silver candlesticks—Eugene had certainly changed the tenor of his life radically within the last ten days. Why he was marvellously fortunate. This studio was a wonderful piece of luck. Some people—and he shook his head meditatively.

“Well,” said Eugene, coming back after some final touches to his appearance, “what do you think of it, Peter?”

“You're certainly moving along, Eugene. I never expected to see it. You ought to praise God. You're plain lucky.”

Eugene smiled enigmatically. He was wondering whether he was. Neither Smite nor MacHugh nor anyone could dream of the conditions under which this came about. What a sham the world was anyhow. It's surface appearances so ridiculously deceptive! If anyone had known of the apparent necessity when he first started to look for an apartment, of his own mood toward it!

Marietta came back, and Angela. The latter had taken kindly to both these men, or boys as she already considered them. Eugene had a talent for reducing everybody to “simply folks,” as he called them. So these two capable and talented men were mere country boys like himself—and Angela caught his attitude.

“I'd like to have you let me make a sketch of you some day, Mrs. Witla,” MacHugh said to Angela when she came back to the fire. He was essaying portraiture as a side line and he was anxious for good opportunities to practice.

Angela thrilled at the invitation, and the use of her new name, Mrs. Witla, by Eugene's old friends.

“I'd be delighted,” she replied, flushing.

“My word, you look nice, Angel-Face,” exclaimed Marietta, catching her about the waist. “You paint her with her hair down in braids, Mr. MacHugh. She makes a stunning Gretchen.”

Angela flushed anew.

“I've been reserving that for myself, Peter,” said Eugene, “but you try your hand at it. I'm not much in portraiture anyhow.”

Smite smiled at Marietta. He wished he could paint her, but he was poor at figure work except as incidental characters in sea scenes. He could do men better than he could women.

“If you were an old sea captain now, Miss Blue,” he said to Marietta gallantly, “I could make a striking thing out of you.”

“I'll try to be, if you want to paint me,” she replied gaily. “I'd look fine in a big pair of boots and a raincoat, wouldn't I, Eugene?”

“You certainly would, if I'm any judge,” replied Smite. “Come over to the studio and I'll rig you out. I have all those things on hand.”

“I will,” she replied, laughing. “You just say the word.”

MacHugh felt as if Smite were stealing a march on him. He wanted to be nice to Marietta, to have her take an interest in him.

“Now, looky, Joseph,” he protested. “I was going to suggest making a study of Miss Blue myself.”

“Well, you're too late,” replied Smite. “You didn't speak quick enough.”

Marietta was greatly impressed with this atmosphere in which Angela and Eugene were living. She expected to see something artistic, but nothing so nice as this particular studio. Angela explained to her that Eugene did not own it, but that made small difference in Marietta's estimate of its significance. Eugene had it. His art and social connections brought it about. They were beginning excellently well. If she could have as nice a home when she started on her married career she would be satisfied.

They sat down about the round teak table which was one of Dexter's prized possessions, and were served by Angela's borrowed maid. The conversation was light and for the most part pointless, serving only to familiarize these people with each other. Both Angela and Marietta were taken with the two artists because they felt in them a note of homely conservatism. These men spoke easily and naturally of the trials and triumphs of art life, and the difficulty of making a good living, and seemed to be at home with personages of repute in one world and another, its greatest reward.

During the dinner Smite narrated experiences in his sea-faring life, and MacHugh of his mountain camping experiences in the West. Marietta described experiences with her beaux in Wisconsin and characteristics of her yokel neighbors at Blackwood, Angela joining in. Finally MacHugh drew a pencil sketch of Marietta followed by a long train of admiring yokels, her eyes turned up in a very shy, deceptive manner.

“Now I think that's cruel,” she declared, when Eugene laughed heartily. “I never look like that.”

“That's just the way you look and do,” he declared. “You're the broad and flowery path that leadeth to destruction.”

“Never mind, Babyette,” put in Angela, “I'll take your part if no one else will. You're a nice, demure, shrinking girl and you wouldn't look at anyone, would you?”

Angela got up and was holding Marietta's head mock sympathetically in her arms.

“Say, that's a dandy pet name,” called Smite, moved by Marietta's beauty.

“Poor Marietta,” observed Eugene. “Come over here to me and I'll sympathize with you.”

“You don't take my drawing in the right spirit, Miss Blue,” put in MacHugh cheerfully. “It's simply to show how popular you are.”

Angela stood beside Eugene as her guests departed, her slender arm about his waist. Marietta was coquetting finally with MacHugh. These two friends of his, thought Eugene, had the privilege of singleness to be gay and alluring to her. With him that was over now. He could not be that way to any girl any more. He had to behave—be calm and circumspect. It cut him, this thought. He saw at once it was not in accord with his nature. He wanted to do just as he had always done—make love to Marietta if she would let him, but he could not. He walked to the fire when the studio door was closed.

“They're such nice boys,” exclaimed Marietta. “I think Mr. MacHugh is as funny as he can be. He has such droll wit.”

“Smite is nice too,” replied Eugene defensively.

“They're both lovely—just lovely,” returned Marietta.

“I like Mr. MacHugh a little the best—he's quainter,” said Angela, “but I think Mr. Smite is just as nice as he can be. He's so old fashioned. There's not anyone as nice as my Eugene, though,” she said affectionately, putting her arm about him.

“Oh, dear, you two!” exclaimed Marietta. “Well, I'm going to bed.”

Eugene sighed.

They had arranged a couch for her which could be put behind the silver-spangled fish net in the alcove when company was gone.

Eugene thought what a pity that already this affection of Angela's was old to him. It was not as it would be if he had taken Marietta or Christina. They went to their bed room to retire and then he saw that all he had was passion. Must he be satisfied with that? Could he be? It started a chain of thought which, while persistently interrupted or befogged, was really never broken. Momentary sympathy, desire, admiration, might obscure it, but always fundamentally it was there. He had made a mistake. He had put his head in a noose. He had subjected himself to conditions which he did not sincerely approve of. How was he going to remedy this—or could it ever be remedied?

CHAPTER III

Whatever were Eugene's secret thoughts, he began his married life with the outward air of one who takes it seriously enough. Now that he was married, was actually bound by legal ties, he felt that he might as well make the best of it. He had once had the notion that it might be possible to say nothing of his marriage, and keep Angela in the background, but this notion had been dispelled by the attitude of MacHugh and Smite, to say nothing of Angela. So he began to consider the necessity of notifying his friends—Miriam Finch and Norma Whitmore and possibly Christina Channing, when she should return. These three women offered the largest difficulty to his mind. He felt the commentary which their personalities represented. What would they think of him? What of Angela? Now that she was right here in the city he could see that she represented a different order of thought. He had opened the campaign by suggesting that they invite Smite and MacHugh. The thing to do now was to go further in this matter.

The one thing that troubled him was the thought of breaking the news to Miriam Finch, for Christina Channing was away, and Norma Whitmore was not of sufficient importance. He argued now that he should have done this beforehand, but having neglected that it behoved him to act at once. He did so, finally, writing to Norma Whitmore and saying, for he had no long explanation to make—“Yours truly is married. May I bring my wife up to see you?” Miss Whitmore was truly taken by surprise. She was sorry at first—very—because Eugene interested her greatly and she was afraid he would make a mistake in his marriage; but she hastened to make the best of a bad turn on the part of fate and wrote a note which ran as follows:

“Dear Eugene and Eugene's Wife:

“This is news as is news. Congratulations. And I am coming right down as soon as I get my breath. And then you two must come to see me.

   “Norma Whitmore.”

Eugene was pleased and grateful that she took it so nicely, but Angela was the least big chagrined secretly that he had not told her before. Why hadn't he? Was this someone that he was interested in? Those three years in which she had doubtingly waited for Eugene had whetted her suspicions and nurtured her fears. Still she tried to make little of it and to put on an air of joyousness. She would be so glad to meet Miss Whitmore. Eugene told her how kind she had been to him, how much she admired his art, how helpful she was in bringing together young literary and artistic people and how influential with those who counted. She could do him many a good turn. Angela listened patiently, but she was just the least bit resentful that he should think so much of any one woman outside of herself. Why should he, Eugene Witla, be dependent on the favor of any woman? Of course she must be very nice and they would be good friends, but—

Norma came one afternoon two days later with the atmosphere of enthusiasm trailing, as it seemed to Eugene, like a cloud of glory about her. She was both fire and strength to him in her regard and sympathy, even though she resented, ever so slightly, his affectional desertion.

“You piggy-wiggy Eugene Witla,” she exclaimed. “What do you mean by running off and getting married and never saying a word. I never even had a chance to get you a present and now I have to bring it. Isn't this a charming place—why it's perfectly delightful,” and as she laid her present down unopened she looked about to see where Mrs. Eugene Witla might be.

Angela was in the bedroom finishing her toilet. She was expecting this descent and so was prepared, being suitably dressed in the light green house gown. When she heard Miss Whitmore's familiar mode of address she winced, for this spoke volumes for a boon companionship of long endurance. Eugene hadn't said so much of Miss Whitmore in the past as he had recently, but she could see that they were very intimate. She looked out and saw her—this tall, not very shapely, but graceful woman, whose whole being represented dynamic energy, awareness, subtlety of perception. Eugene was shaking her hand and looking genially into her face.

“Why should Eugene like her so much?” she asked herself instantly. “Why did his face shine with that light of intense enthusiasm?” The “piggy-wiggy Eugene Witla” expression irritated her. It sounded as though she might be in love with him. She came out after a moment with a glad smile on her face and approached with every show of good feeling, but Miss Whitmore could sense opposition.

“So this is Mrs. Witla,” she exclaimed, kissing her. “I'm delighted to know you. I have always wondered what sort of a girl Mr. Witla would marry. You'll just have to pardon my calling him Eugene. I'll get over it after a bit, I suppose, now that he's married. But we've been such good friends and I admire his work so much. How do you like studio life—or are you used to it?”

Angela, who was taking in every detail of Eugene's old friend, replied in what seemed an affected tone that no, she wasn't used to studio life: she was just from the country, you know—a regular farmer girl—Blackwood, Wisconsin, no less! She stopped to let Norma express friendly surprise, and then went on to say that she supposed Eugene had not said very much about her, but he wrote her often enough. She was rejoicing in the fact that whatever slight Eugene's previous silence seemed to put upon her, she had the satisfaction that she had won him after all and Miss Whitmore had not. She fancied from Miss Whitmore's enthusiastic attitude that she must like Eugene very much, and she could see now what sort of women might have made him wish to delay. Who were the others, she wondered?

They talked of metropolitan experiences generally. Marietta came in from a shopping expedition with a Mrs. Link, wife of an army captain acting as an instructor at West Point, and tea was served immediately afterward. Miss Whitmore was insistent that they should come and take dinner with her some evening. Eugene confided that he was sending a painting to the Academy.

“They'll hang it, of course,” assured Norma, “but you ought to have an exhibition of your own.”

Marietta gushed about the wonder of the big stores and so it finally came time for Miss Whitmore to go.

“Now you will come up, won't you?” she said to Angela, for in spite of a certain feeling of incompatibility and difference she was determined to like her. She thought Angela a little inexperienced and presumptuous in marrying Eugene. She was afraid she was not up to his standard. Still she was quaint, piquant. Perhaps she would do very well. Angela was thinking all the while that Miss Whitmore was presuming on her old acquaintance with Eugene—that she was too affected and enthusiastic.

There was another day on which Miriam Finch called. Richard Wheeler, having learned at Smite's and MacHugh's studio of Eugene's marriage and present whereabouts, had hurried over, and then immediately afterwards off to Miriam Finch's studio. Surprised himself, he knew that she would be more so.

“Witla's married!” he exclaimed, bursting into her room, and for the moment Miriam lost her self-possession sufficiently to reply almost dramatically: “Richard Wheeler, what are you talking about! You don't mean that, do you?”

“He's married,” insisted Wheeler, “and he's living down in Washington Square, 61 is the number. He has the cutest yellow-haired wife you ever saw.”

Angela had been nice to Wheeler and he liked her. He liked the air of this domicile and thought it was going to be a good thing for Eugene. He needed to settle down and work hard.

Miriam winced mentally at the picture. She was hurt by this deception of Eugene's, chagrined because he had not thought enough of her even to indicate that he was going to get married.

“He's been married ten days,” communicated Wheeler, and this added force to her temporary chagrin. The fact that Angela was yellow-haired and cute was also disturbing.

“Well,” she finally exclaimed cheerfully, “he might have said something to us, mightn't he?” and she covered her own original confusion by a gay nonchalance which showed nothing of what she was really thinking. This was certainly indifference on Eugene's part, and yet, why shouldn't he? He had never proposed to her. Still they had been so intimate mentally.

She was interested to see Angela. She wondered what sort of a woman she really was. “Yellow-haired! Cute!” Of course, like all men, Eugene had sacrificed intellect and mental charm for a dainty form and a pretty face. It seemed queer, but she had fancied that he would not do that—that his wife, if he ever took one, would be tall perhaps, and gracious, and of a beautiful mind—someone distinguished. Why would men, intellectual men, artistic men, any kind of men, invariably make fools of themselves! Well, she would go and see her.

Because Wheeler informed him that he had told Miriam, Eugene wrote, saying as briefly as possible that he was married and that he wanted to bring Angela to her studio. For reply she came herself, gay, smiling, immaculately dressed, anxious to hurt Angela because she had proved the victor. She also wanted to show Eugene how little difference it all made to her.

“You certainly are a secretive young man, Mr. Eugene Witla,” she exclaimed, when she saw him. “Why didn't you make him tell us, Mrs. Witla?” she demanded archly of Angela, but with a secret dagger thrust in her eyes. “You'd think he didn't want us to know.”

Angela cowered beneath the sting of this whip cord. Miriam made her feel as though Eugene had attempted to conceal his relationship to her—as though he was ashamed of her. How many more women were there like Miriam and Norma Whitmore?

Eugene was gaily unconscious of the real animus in Miriam's conversation, and now that the first cruel moment was over, was talking glibly of things in general, anxious to make everything seem as simple and natural as possible. He was working at one of his pictures when Miriam came in and was eager to obtain her critical opinion, since it was nearly done. She squinted at it narrowly but said nothing when he asked. Ordinarily she would have applauded it vigorously. She did think it exceptional, but was determined to say nothing. She walked indifferently about, examining this and that object in a superior way, asking how he came to obtain the studio, congratulating him upon his good luck. Angela, she decided, was interesting, but not in Eugene's class mentally, and should be ignored. He had made a mistake, that was plain.

“Now you must bring Mrs. Witla up to see me,” she said on leaving. “I'll play and sing all my latest songs for you. I have made some of the daintest discoveries in old Italian and Spanish pieces.”

Angela, who had posed to Eugene as knowing something about music, resented this superior invitation, without inquiry as to her own possible ability or taste, as she did Miriam's entire attitude. Why was she so haughty—so superior? What was it to her whether Eugene had said anything about her or not?

She said nothing to show that she herself played, but she wondered that Eugene said nothing. It seemed neglectful and inconsiderate of him. He was busy wondering what Miriam thought of his picture. Miriam took his hand warmly at parting, looked cheerfully into his eyes, and said, “I know you two are going to be irrationally happy,” and went out.

Eugene felt the irritation at last. He knew Angela felt something. Miriam was resentful, that was it. She was angry at him for his seeming indifference. She had commented to herself on Angela's appearance and to her disadvantage. In her manner had been the statement that his wife was not very important after all, not of the artistic and superior world to which she and he belonged.

“How do you like her?” he asked tentatively after she had gone, feeling a strong current of opposition, but not knowing on what it might be based exactly.

“I don't like her,” returned Angela petulantly. “She thinks she's sweet. She treats you as though she thought you were her personal property. She openly insulted me about your not telling her. Miss Whitmore did the same thing—they all do! They all will! Oh!!”

She suddenly burst into tears and ran crying toward their bedroom.

Eugene followed, astonished, ashamed, rebuked, guilty minded, almost terror-stricken—he hardly knew what.

“Why, Angela,” he urged pleadingly, leaning over her and attempting to raise her. “You know that isn't true.”

“It is! It is!!” she insisted. “Don't touch me! Don't come near me! You know it is true! You don't love me. You haven't treated me right at all since I've been here. You haven't done anything that you should have done. She insulted me openly to my face.”

She was speaking with sobs, and Eugene was at once pained and terrorized by the persistent and unexpected display of emotion. He had never seen Angela like this before. He had never seen any woman so.

“Why, Angelface,” he urged, “how can you go on like this? You know what you say isn't true. What have I done?”

“You haven't told your friends—that's what you haven't done,” she exclaimed between gasps. “They still think you're single. You keep me here hidden in the background as though I were a—were a—I don't know what! Your friends come and insult me openly to my face. They do! They do! Oh!” and she sobbed anew.

She knew very well what she was doing in her anger and rage. She felt that she was acting in the right way. Eugene needed a severe reproof; he had acted very badly, and this was the way to administer it to him now in the beginning. His conduct was indefensible, and only the fact that he was an artist, immersed in cloudy artistic thoughts and not really subject to the ordinary conventions of life, saved him in her estimation. It didn't matter that she had urged him to marry her. It didn't absolve him that he had done so. She thought he owed her that. Anyhow they were married now, and he should do the proper thing.

Eugene stood there cut as with a knife by this terrific charge. He had not meant anything by concealing her presence, he thought. He had only endeavored to protect himself very slightly, temporarily.

“You oughtn't to say that, Angela,” he pleaded. “There aren't any more that don't know—at least any more that I care anything about. I didn't think. I didn't mean to conceal anything. I'll write to everybody that might be interested.”

He still felt hurt that she should brutally attack him this way even in her sorrow. He was wrong, no doubt, but she? Was this a way to act, this the nature of true love? He mentally writhed and twisted.

Taking her up in his arms, smoothing her hair, he asked her to forgive him. Finally, when she thought she had punished him enough, and that he was truly sorry and would make amends in the future, she pretended to listen and then of a sudden threw her arms about his neck and began to hug and kiss him. Passion, of course, was the end of this, but the whole thing left a disagreeable taste in Eugene's mouth. He did not like scenes. He preferred the lofty indifference of Miriam, the gay subterfuge of Norma, the supreme stoicism of Christina Channing. This noisy, tempestuous, angry emotion was not quite the thing to have introduced into his life. He did not see how that would make for love between them.

Still Angela was sweet, he thought. She was a little girl—not as wise as Norma Whitmore, not as self-protective as Miriam Finch or Christina Channing. Perhaps after all she needed his care and affection. Maybe it was best for her and for him that he had married her.

So thinking he rocked her in his arms, and Angela, lying there, was satisfied. She had won a most important victory. She was starting right. She was starting Eugene right. She would get the moral, mental and emotional upper hand of him and keep it. Then these women, who thought themselves so superior, could go their way. She would have Eugene and he would be a great man and she would be his wife. That was all she wanted.

CHAPTER IV

The result of Angela's outburst was that Eugene hastened to notify those whom he had not already informed—Shotmeyer, his father and mother, Sylvia, Myrtle, Hudson Dula—and received in return cards and letters of congratulation expressing surprise and interest, which he presented to Angela in a conciliatory spirit. She realized, after it was all over, that she had given him an unpleasant shock, and was anxious to make up to him in personal affection what she had apparently compelled him to suffer for policy's sake. Eugene did not know that in Angela, despite her smallness of body and what seemed to him her babyishness of spirit, he had to deal with a thinking woman who was quite wise as to ways and means of handling her personal affairs. She was, of course, whirled in the maelstrom of her affection for Eugene and this was confusing, and she did not understand the emotional and philosophic reaches of his mind; but she did understand instinctively what made for a stable relationship between husband and wife and between any married couple and the world. To her the utterance of the marriage vow meant just what it said, that they would cleave each to the other; there should be henceforth no thoughts, feelings, or emotions, and decidedly no actions which would not conform with the letter and the spirit of the marriage vow.

Eugene had sensed something of this, but not accurately or completely. He did not correctly estimate either the courage or the rigidity of her beliefs and convictions. He thought that her character might possibly partake of some of his own easy tolerance and good nature. She must know that people—men particularly—were more or less unstable in their make-up. Life could not be governed by hard and fast rules. Why, everybody knew that. You might try, and should hold yourself in check as much as possible for the sake of self-preservation and social appearances, but if you erred—and you might easily—it was no crime. Certainly it was no crime to look at another woman longingly. If you went astray, overbalanced by your desires, wasn't it after all in the scheme of things? Did we make our desires? Certainly we did not, and if we did not succeed completely in controlling them—well—

The drift of life into which they now settled was interesting enough, though for Eugene it was complicated with the thought of possible failure, for he was, as might well be expected of such a temperament, of a worrying nature, and inclined, in his hours of ordinary effort, to look on the dark side of things. The fact that he had married Angela against his will, the fact that he had no definite art connections which produced him as yet anything more than two thousand dollars a year, the fact that he had assumed financial obligations which doubled the cost of food, clothing, entertainment, and rent—for their studio was costing him thirty dollars more than had his share of the Smite-MacHugh chambers—weighed on him. The dinner which he had given to Smite and MacHugh had cost about eight dollars over and above the ordinary expenses of the week. Others of a similar character would cost as much and more. He would have to take Angela to the theatre occasionally. There would be the need of furnishing a new studio the following fall, unless another such windfall as this manifested itself. Although Angela had equipped herself with a varied and serviceable trousseau, her clothes would not last forever. Odd necessities began to crop up not long after they were married, and he began to see that if they lived with anything like the freedom and care with which he had before he was married, his income would have to be larger and surer.

The energy which these thoughts provoked was not without result. For one thing he sent the original of the East Side picture, “Six O'clock” to the American Academy of Design exhibition—a thing which he might have done long before but failed to do.

Angela had heard from Eugene that the National Academy of Design was a forum for the display of art to which the public was invited or admitted for a charge. To have a picture accepted by this society and hung on the line was in its way a mark of merit and approval, though Eugene did not think very highly of it. All the pictures were judged by a jury of artists which decided whether they should be admitted or rejected, and if admitted whether they should be given a place of honor or hung in some inconspicuous position. To be hung “on the line” was to have your picture placed in the lower tier where the light was excellent and the public could get a good view of it. Eugene had thought the first two years he was in New York that he was really not sufficiently experienced or meritorious, and the previous year he had thought that he would hoard all that he was doing for his first appearance in some exhibition of his own, thinking the National Academy commonplace and retrogressive. The exhibitions he had seen thus far had been full of commonplace, dead-and-alive stuff, he thought. It was no great honor to be admitted to such a collection. Now, because MacHugh was trying, and because he had accumulated nearly enough pictures for exhibition at a private gallery which he hoped to interest, he was anxious to see what the standard body of American artists thought of his work. They might reject him. If so that would merely prove that they did not recognize a radical departure from accepted methods and subject matter as art. The impressionists, he understood, were being so ignored. Later they would accept him. If he were admitted it would simply mean that they knew better than he believed they did.

“I believe I will do it,” he said; “I'd like to know what they think of my stuff anyhow.”

The picture was sent as he had planned, and to his immense satisfaction it was accepted and hung. It did not, for some reason, attract as much attention as it might, but it was not without its modicum of praise. Owen Overman, the poet, met him in the general reception entrance of the Academy on the opening night, and congratulated him sincerely. “I remember seeing that in Truth,” he said, “but it's much better in the original. It's fine. You ought to do a lot of those things.”

“I am,” replied Eugene. “I expect to have a show of my own one of these days.”

He called Angela, who had wandered away to look at a piece of statuary, and introduced her.

“I was just telling your husband how much I like his picture,” Overman informed her.

Angela was flattered that her husband was so much of a personage that he could have his picture hung in a great exhibition such as this, with its walls crowded with what seemed to her magnificent canvases, and its rooms filled with important and distinguished people. As they strolled about Eugene pointed out to her this well known artist and that writer, saying almost always that they were very able. He knew three or four of the celebrated collectors, prize givers, and art patrons by sight, and told Angela who they were. There were a number of striking looking models present whom Eugene knew either by reputation, whispered comment of friends, or personally—Zelma Desmond, who had posed for Eugene, Hedda Anderson, Anna Magruder and Laura Matthewson among others. Angela was struck and in a way taken by the dash and beauty of these girls. They carried themselves with an air of personal freedom and courage which surprised her. Hedda Anderson was bold in her appearance but immensely smart. Her manner seemed to comment on the ordinary woman as being indifferent and not worth while. She looked at Angela walking with Eugene and wondered who she was.

“Isn't she striking,” observed Angela, not knowing she was anyone whom Eugene knew.

“I know her well,” he replied; “she's a model.”

Just then Miss Anderson in return for his nod gave him a fetching smile. Angela chilled.

Elizabeth Stein passed by and he nodded to her.

“Who is she?” asked Angela.

“She's a socialist agitator and radical. She sometimes speaks from a soap-box on the East Side.”

Angela studied her carefully. Her waxen complexion, smooth black hair laid in even plaits over her forehead, her straight, thin, chiseled nose, even red lips and low forehead indicated a daring and subtle soul. Angela did not understand her. She could not understand a girl as good looking as that doing any such thing as Eugene said, and yet she had a bold, rather free and easy air. She thought Eugene certainly knew strange people. He introduced to her William McConnell, Hudson Dula, who had not yet been to see them, Jan Jansen, Louis Deesa, Leonard Baker and Paynter Stone.

In regard to Eugene's picture the papers, with one exception, had nothing to say, but this one in both Eugene's and Angela's minds made up for all the others. It was the Evening Sun, a most excellent medium for art opinion, and it was very definite in its conclusions in regard to this particular work. The statement was:

“A new painter, Eugene Witla, has an oil entitled 'Six O'clock' which for directness, virility, sympathy, faithfulness to detail and what for want of a better term we may call totality of spirit, is quite the best thing in the exhibition. It looks rather out of place surrounded by the weak and spindling interpretations of scenery and water which so readily find a place in the exhibition of the Academy, but it is none the weaker for that. The artist has a new, crude, raw and almost rough method, but his picture seems to say quite clearly what he sees and feels. He may have to wait—if this is not a single burst of ability—but he will have a hearing. There is no question of that. Eugene Witla is an artist.”

Eugene thrilled when he read this commentary. It was quite what he would have said himself if he had dared. Angela was beside herself with joy. Who was the critic who had said this, they wondered? What was he like? He must be truly an intellectual personage. Eugene wanted to go and look him up. If one saw his talent now, others would see it later. It was for this reason—though the picture subsequently came back to him unsold, and unmentioned so far as merit or prizes were concerned—that he decided to try for an exhibition of his own.

CHAPTER V

The hope of fame—what hours of speculation, what pulses of enthusiasm, what fevers of effort, are based on that peculiarly subtle illusion! It is yet the lure, the ignis fatuus of almost every breathing heart. In the young particularly it burns with the sweetness and perfume of spring fires. Then most of all does there seem substantial reality in the shadow of fame—those deep, beautiful illusions which tremendous figures throw over the world. Attainable, it seems, must be the peace and plenty and sweet content of fame—that glamour of achievement that never was on sea or land. Fame partakes of the beauty and freshness of the morning. It has in it the odour of the rose, the feel of rich satin, the color of the cheeks of youth. If we could but be famous when we dream of fame, and not when locks are tinged with grey, faces seamed with the lines that speak of past struggles, and eyes wearied with the tensity, the longings and the despairs of years! To bestride the world in the morning of life, to walk amid the plaudits and the huzzahs when love and faith are young; to feel youth and the world's affection when youth and health are sweet—what dream is that, of pure sunlight and moonlight compounded. A sun-kissed breath of mist in the sky; the reflection of moonlight upon water; the remembrance of dreams to the waking mind—of such is fame in our youth, and never afterward.

By such an illusion was Eugene's mind possessed. He had no conception of what life would bring him for his efforts. He thought if he could have his pictures hung in a Fifth Avenue gallery much as he had seen Bouguereau's “Venus” in Chicago, with people coming as he had come on that occasion—it would be of great comfort and satisfaction to him. If he could paint something which would be purchased by the Metropolitan Museum in New York he would then be somewhat of a classic figure, ranking with Corot and Daubigny and Rousseau of the French or with Turner and Watts and Millais of the English, the leading artistic figures of his pantheon. These men seemed to have something which he did not have, he thought, a greater breadth of technique, a finer comprehension of color and character, a feeling for the subtleties at the back of life which somehow showed through what they did. Larger experience, larger vision, larger feeling—these things seemed to be imminent in the great pictures exhibited here, and it made him a little uncertain of himself. Only the criticism in the Evening Sun fortified him against all thought of failure. He was an artist.

He gathered up the various oils he had done—there were some twenty-six all told now, scenes of the rivers, the streets, the night life, and so forth—and went over them carefully, touching up details which in the beginning he had merely sketched or indicated, adding to the force of a spot of color here, modifying a tone or shade there, and finally, after much brooding over the possible result, set forth to find a gallery which would give them place and commercial approval.

Eugene's feeling was that they were a little raw and sketchy—that they might not have sufficient human appeal, seeing that they dealt with factory architecture at times, scows, tugs, engines, the elevated roads in raw reds, yellows and blacks; but MacHugh, Dula, Smite, Miss Finch, Christina, the Evening Sun, Norma Whitmore, all had praised them, or some of them. Was not the world much more interested in the form and spirit of classic beauty such as that represented by Sir John Millais? Would it not prefer Rossetti's “Blessed Damozel” to any street scene ever painted? He could never be sure. In the very hour of his triumph when the Sun had just praised his picture, there lurked the spectre of possible intrinsic weakness. Did the world wish this sort of thing? Would it ever buy of him? Was he of any real value?

“No, artist heart!” one might have answered, “of no more value than any other worker of existence and no less. The sunlight on the corn, the color of dawn in the maid's cheek, the moonlight on the water—these are of value and of no value according to the soul to whom is the appeal. Fear not. Of dreams and the beauty of dreams is the world compounded.”

Kellner and Son, purveyors of artistic treasures by both past and present masters, with offices in Fifth Avenue near Twenty-eighth Street, was the one truly significant firm of art-dealers in the city. The pictures in the windows of Kellner and Son, the exhibitions in their very exclusive show rooms, the general approval which their discriminating taste evoked, had attracted the attention of artists and the lay public for fully thirty years. Eugene had followed their shows with interest ever since he had been in New York. He had seen, every now and then, a most astonishing picture of one school or another displayed in their imposing shop window, and had heard artists comment from time to time on other things there with considerable enthusiasm. The first important picture of the impressionistic school—a heavy spring rain in a grove of silver poplars by Winthrop—had been shown in the window of this firm, fascinating Eugene with its technique. He had encountered here collections of Aubrey Beardsley's decadent drawings, of Helleu's silverpoints, of Rodin's astonishing sculptures and Thaulow's solid Scandinavian eclecticism. This house appeared to have capable artistic connections all over the world, for the latest art force in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, or Sweden, was quite as likely to find its timely expression here as the more accredited work of England, Germany or France. Kellner and Son were art connoisseurs in the best sense of the word, and although the German founder of the house had died many years before, its management and taste had never deteriorated.

Eugene did not know at this time how very difficult it was to obtain an exhibition under Kellner's auspices, they being over-crowded with offers of art material and appeals for display from celebrated artists who were quite willing and able to pay for the space and time they occupied. A fixed charge was made, never deviated from except in rare instances where the talent of the artist, his poverty, and the advisability of the exhibition were extreme. Two hundred dollars was considered little enough for the use of one of their show rooms for ten days.

Eugene had no such sum to spare, but one day in January, without any real knowledge as to what the conditions were, he carried four of the reproductions which had been made from time to time in Truth to the office of Mr. Kellner, certain that he had something to show. Miss Whitmore had indicated to him that Eberhard Zang wanted him to come and see him, but he thought if he was going anywhere he would prefer to go to Kellner and Son. He wanted to explain to Mr. Kellner, if there were such a person, that he had many more paintings which he considered even better—more expressive of his growing understanding of American life and of himself and his technique. He went in timidly, albeit with quite an air, for this adventure disturbed him much.

The American manager of Kellner and Son, M. Anatole Charles, was a Frenchman by birth and training, familiar with the spirit and history of French art, and with the drift and tendency of art in various other sections of the world. He had been sent here by the home office in Berlin not only because of his very thorough training in English art ways, and because of his ability to select that type of picture which would attract attention and bring credit and prosperity to the house here and abroad; but also because of his ability to make friends among the rich and powerful wherever he was, and to sell one type of important picture after another—having some knack or magnetic capacity for attracting to him those who cared for good art and were willing to pay for it. His specialties, of course, were the canvases of the eminently successful artists in various parts of the world—the living successful. He knew by experience what sold—here, in France, in England, in Germany. He was convinced that there was practically nothing of value in American art as yet—certainly not from the commercial point of view, and very little from the artistic. Beyond a few canvases by Inness, Homer, Sargent, Abbey, Whistler, men who were more foreign, or rather universal, than American in their attitude, he considered that the American art spirit was as yet young and raw and crude. “They do not seem to be grown up as yet over here,” he said to his intimate friends. “They paint little things in a forceful way, but they do not seem as yet to see things as a whole. I miss that sense of the universe in miniature which we find in the canvases of so many of the great Europeans. They are better illustrators than artists over here—why I don't know.”

M. Anatole Charles spoke English almost more than perfectly. He was an example of your true man of the world—polished, dignified, immaculately dressed, conservative in thought and of few words in expression. Critics and art enthusiasts were constantly running to him with this and that suggestion in regard to this and that artist, but he only lifted his sophisticated eyebrows, curled his superior mustachios, pulled at his highly artistic goatee, and exclaimed: “Ah!” or “So?” He asserted always that he was most anxious to find talent—profitable talent—though on occasion (and he would demonstrate that by an outward wave of his hands and a shrug of his shoulders), the house of Kellner and Son was not averse to doing what it could for art—and that for art's sake without any thought of profit whatsoever. “Where are your artists?” he would ask. “I look and look. Whistler, Abbey, Inness, Sargent—ah—they are old, where are the new ones?”

“Well, this one”—the critic would probably persist.

“Well, well, I go. I shall look. But I have little hope—very, very little hope.”

He was constantly appearing under such pressure, at this studio and that—examining, criticising. Alas, he selected the work of but few artists for purposes of public exhibition and usually charged them well for it.

It was this man, polished, artistically superb in his way, whom Eugene was destined to meet this morning. When he entered the sumptuously furnished office of M. Charles the latter arose. He was seated at a little rosewood desk lighted by a lamp with green silk shade. One glance told him that Eugene was an artist—very likely of ability, more than likely of a sensitive, high-strung nature. He had long since learned that politeness and savoir faire cost nothing. It was the first essential so far as the good will of an artist was concerned. Eugene's card and message brought by a uniformed attendant had indicated the nature of his business. As he approached, M. Charles' raised eyebrows indicated that he would be very pleased to know what he could do for Mr. Witla.

“I should like to show you several reproductions of pictures of mine,” began Eugene in his most courageous manner. “I have been working on a number with a view to making a show and I thought that possibly you might be interested in looking at them with a view to displaying them for me. I have twenty-six all told and—”

“Ah! that is a difficult thing to suggest,” replied M. Charles cautiously. “We have a great many exhibitions scheduled now—enough to carry us through two years if we considered nothing more. Obligations to artists with whom we have dealt in the past take up a great deal of our time. Contracts, which our Berlin and Paris branches enter into, sometimes crowd out our local shows entirely. Of course, we are always anxious to make interesting exhibitions if opportunity should permit. You know our charges?”

“No,” said Eugene, surprised that there should be any.

“Two hundred dollars for two weeks. We do not take exhibitions for less than that time.”

Eugene's countenance fell. He had expected quite a different reception. Nevertheless, since he had brought them, he untied the tape of the portfolio in which the prints were laid.

M. Charles looked at them curiously. He was much impressed with the picture of the East Side Crowd at first, but looking at one of Fifth Avenue in a snow storm, the battered, shabby bus pulled by a team of lean, unkempt, bony horses, he paused, struck by its force. He liked the delineation of swirling, wind-driven snow. The emptiness of this thoroughfare, usually so crowded, the buttoned, huddled, hunched, withdrawn look of those who traveled it, the exceptional details of piles of snow sifted on to window sills and ledges and into doorways and on to the windows of the bus itself, attracted his attention.

“An effective detail,” he said to Eugene, as one critic might say to another, pointing to a line of white snow on the window of one side of the bus. Another dash of snow on a man's hat rim took his eye also. “I can feel the wind,” he added.

Eugene smiled.

M. Charles passed on in silence to the steaming tug coming up the East River in the dark hauling two great freight barges. He was saying to himself that after all Eugene's art was that of merely seizing upon the obviously dramatic. It wasn't so much the art of color composition and life analysis as it was stage craft. The man before him had the ability to see the dramatic side of life. Still—

He turned to the last reproduction which was that of Greeley Square in a drizzling rain. Eugene by some mystery of his art had caught the exact texture of seeping water on gray stones in the glare of various electric lights. He had caught the values of various kinds of lights, those in cabs, those in cable cars, those in shop windows, those in the street lamp—relieving by them the black shadows of the crowds and of the sky. The color work here was unmistakably good.

“How large are the originals of these?” he asked thoughtfully.

“Nearly all of them thirty by forty.”

Eugene could not tell by his manner whether he were merely curious or interested.

“All of them done in oil, I fancy.”

“Yes, all.”

“They are not bad, I must say,” he observed cautiously. “A little persistently dramatic but—”

“These reproductions—” began Eugene, hoping by criticising the press work to interest him in the superior quality of the originals.

“Yes, I see,” M. Charles interrupted, knowing full well what was coming. “They are very bad. Still they show well enough what the originals are like. Where is your studio?”

“61 Washington Square.”

“As I say,” went on M. Charles, noting the address on Eugene's card, “the opportunity for exhibition purposes is very limited and our charge is rather high. We have so many things we would like to exhibit—so many things we must exhibit. It is hard to say when the situation would permit—If you are interested I might come and see them sometime.”

Eugene looked perturbed. Two hundred dollars! Two hundred dollars! Could he afford it? It would mean so much to him. And yet the man was not at all anxious to rent him the show room even at this price.

“I will come,” said M. Charles, seeing his mood, “if you wish. That is what you want me to do. We have to be careful of what we exhibit here. It isn't as if it were an ordinary show room. I will drop you a card some day when occasion offers, if you wish, and you can let me know whether the time I suggest is all right. I am rather anxious to see these scenes of yours. They are very good of their kind. It may be—one never can tell—an opportunity might offer—a week or ten days, somewhere in between other things.”

Eugene sighed inwardly. So this was how these things were done. It wasn't very flattering. Still, he must have an exhibition. He could afford two hundred if he had to. An exhibition elsewhere would not be so valuable. He had expected to make a better impression than this.

“I wish you would come,” he said at last meditatively. “I think I should like the space if I can get it. I would like to know what you think.”

M. Charles raised his eyebrows.

“Very well,” he said, “I will communicate with you.”

Eugene went out.

What a poor thing this exhibiting business was, he thought. Here he had been dreaming of an exhibition at Kellners which should be brought about without charge to him because they were tremendously impressed with his work. Now they did not even want his pictures—would charge him two hundred dollars to show them. It was a great come down—very discouraging.

Still he went home thinking it would do him some good. The critics would discuss his work just as they did that of other artists. They would have to see what he could do should it be that at last this thing which he had dreamed of and so deliberately planned had come true. He had thought of an exhibition at Kellner's as the last joyous thing to be attained in the world of rising art and now it looked as though he was near it. It might actually be coming to pass. This man wanted to see the rest of his work. He was not opposed to looking at them. What a triumph even that was!

CHAPTER VI

It was some little time before M. Charles condescended to write saying that if it was agreeable he would call Wednesday morning, January 16th, at 10 A. M., but the letter finally did come and this dispelled all his intermediary doubts and fears. At last he was to have a hearing! This man might see something in his work, possibly take a fancy to it. Who could tell? He showed the letter to Angela with an easy air as though it were quite a matter of course, but he felt intensely hopeful.

Angela put the studio in perfect order for she knew what this visit meant to Eugene, and in her eager, faithful way was anxious to help him as much as possible. She bought flowers from the Italian florist at the corner and put them in vases here and there. She swept and dusted, dressed herself immaculately in her most becoming house dress and waited with nerves at high tension for the fateful ring of the door bell. Eugene pretended to work at one of his pictures which he had done long before—the raw jangling wall of an East Side street with its swarms of children, its shabby push-carts, its mass of eager, shuffling, pushing mortals, the sense of rugged ground life running all through it, but he had no heart for the work. He was asking himself over and over what M. Charles would think. Thank heaven this studio looked so charming! Thank heaven Angela was so dainty in her pale green gown with a single red coral pin at her throat. He walked to the window and stared out at Washington Square, with its bare, wind-shaken branches of trees, its snow, its ant-like pedestrians hurrying here and there. If he were only rich—how peacefully he would paint! M. Charles could go to the devil.

The door bell rang.

Angela clicked a button and up came M. Charles quietly. They could hear his steps in the hall. He knocked and Eugene answered, decidedly nervous in his mind, but outwardly calm and dignified. M. Charles entered, clad in a fur-lined overcoat, fur cap and yellow chamois gloves.

“Ah, good morning!” said M. Charles in greeting. “A fine bracing day, isn't it? What a charming view you have here. Mrs. Witla! I'm delighted to meet you. I am a little late but I was unavoidably detained. One of our German associates is in the city.”

He divested himself of his great coat and rubbed his hands before the fire. He tried, now that he had unbent so far, to be genial and considerate. If he and Eugene were to do any business in the future it must be so. Besides the picture on the easel before him, near the window, which for the time being he pretended not to see, was an astonishingly virile thing. Of whose work did it remind him—anybody's? He confessed to himself as he stirred around among his numerous art memories that he recalled nothing exactly like it. Raw reds, raw greens, dirty grey paving stones—such faces! Why this thing fairly shouted its facts. It seemed to say: “I'm dirty, I am commonplace, I am grim, I am shabby, but I am life.” And there was no apologizing for anything in it, no glossing anything over. Bang! Smash! Crack! came the facts one after another, with a bitter, brutal insistence on their so-ness. Why, on moody days when he had felt sour and depressed he had seen somewhere a street that looked like this, and there it was—dirty, sad, slovenly, immoral, drunken—anything, everything, but here it was. “Thank God for a realist,” he said to himself as he looked, for he knew life, this cold connoisseur; but he made no sign. He looked at the tall, slim frame of Eugene, his cheeks slightly sunken, his eyes bright—an artist every inch of him, and then at Angela, small, eager, a sweet, loving, little woman, and he was glad that he was going to be able to say that he would exhibit these things.

“Well,” he said, pretending to look at the picture on the easel for the first time, “we might as well begin to look at these things. I see you have one here. Very good, I think, quite forceful. What others have you?”

Eugene was afraid this one hadn't appealed to him as much as he hoped it would, and set it aside quickly, picking up the second in the stock which stood against the wall, covered by a green curtain. It was the three engines entering the great freight yard abreast, the smoke of the engines towering straight up like tall whitish-grey plumes, in the damp, cold air, the sky lowering with blackish-grey clouds, the red and yellow and blue cars standing out in the sodden darkness because of the water. You could feel the cold, wet drizzle, the soppy tracks, the weariness of “throwing switches.” There was a lone brakeman in the foreground, “throwing” a red brake signal. He was quite black and evidently wet.

“A symphony in grey,” said M. Charles succinctly.

They came swiftly after this, without much comment from either, Eugene putting one canvas after another before him, leaving it for a few moments and replacing it with another. His estimate of his own work did not rise very rapidly, for M. Charles was persistently distant, but the latter could not help voicing approval of “After The Theatre,” a painting full of the wonder and bustle of a night crowd under sputtering electric lamps. He saw that Eugene had covered almost every phase of what might be called the dramatic spectacle in the public life of the city and much that did not appear dramatic until he touched it—the empty canyon of Broadway at three o'clock in the morning; a long line of giant milk wagons, swinging curious lanterns, coming up from the docks at four o'clock in the morning; a plunging parade of fire vehicles, the engines steaming smoke, the people running or staring open-mouthed; a crowd of polite society figures emerging from the opera; the bread line; an Italian boy throwing pigeons in the air from a basket on his arm in a crowded lower West-side street. Everything he touched seemed to have romance and beauty, and yet it was real and mostly grim and shabby.

“I congratulate you, Mr. Witla,” finally exclaimed M. Charles, moved by the ability of the man and feeling that caution was no longer necessary. “To me this is wonderful material, much more effective than the reproductions show, dramatic and true. I question whether you will make any money out of it. There is very little sale for American art in this country. It might almost do better in Europe. It ought to sell, but that is another matter. The best things do not always sell readily. It takes time. Still I will do what I can. I will give these pictures a two weeks' display early in April without any charge to you whatever.” (Eugene started.) “I will call them to the attention of those who know. I will speak to those who buy. It is an honor, I assure you, to do this. I consider you an artist in every sense of the word—I might say a great artist. You ought, if you preserve yourself sanely and with caution, to go far, very far. I shall be glad to send for these when the time comes.”

Eugene did not know how to reply to this. He did not quite understand the European seriousness of method, its appreciation of genius, which was thus so easily and sincerely expressed in a formal way. M. Charles meant every word he said. This was one of those rare and gratifying moments of his life when he was permitted to extend to waiting and unrecognized genius the assurance of the consideration and approval of the world. He stood there waiting to hear what Eugene would say, but the latter only flushed under his pale skin.

“I'm very glad,” he said at last, in his rather commonplace, off-hand, American way. “I thought they were pretty good but I wasn't sure. I'm very grateful to you.”

“You need not feel gratitude toward me,” returned M. Charles, now modifying his formal manner. “You can congratulate yourself—your art. I am honored, as I tell you. We will make a fine display of them. You have no frames for these? Well, never mind, I will lend you frames.”

He smiled and shook Eugene's hand and congratulated Angela. She had listened to this address with astonishment and swelling pride. She had perceived, despite Eugene's manner, the anxiety he was feeling, the intense hopes he was building on the outcome of this meeting. M. Charles' opening manner had deceived her. She had felt that he did not care so much after all, and that Eugene was going to be disappointed. Now, when this burst of approval came, she hardly knew what to make of it. She looked at Eugene and saw that he was intensely moved by not only a sense of relief, but pride and joy. His pale, dark face showed it. To see this load of care taken off him whom she loved so deeply was enough to unsettle Angela. She found herself stirred in a pathetic way and now, when M. Charles turned to her, tears welled to her eyes.

“Don't cry, Mrs. Witla,” he said grandly on seeing this. “You have a right to be proud of your husband. He is a great artist. You should take care of him.”

“Oh, I'm so happy,” half-laughed and half-sobbed Angela, “I can't help it.”

She went over to where Eugene was and put her face against his coat. Eugene slipped his arm about her and smiled sympathetically. M. Charles smiled also, proud of the effect of his words. “You both have a right to feel very happy,” he said.

“Little Angela!” thought Eugene. This was your true wife for you, your good woman. Her husband's success meant all to her. She had no life of her own—nothing outside of him and his good fortune.

M. Charles smiled. “Well, I will be going now,” he said finally. “I will send for the pictures when the time comes. And meanwhile you two must come with me to dinner. I will let you know.”

He bowed himself out with many assurances of good will, and then Angela and Eugene looked at each other.

“Oh, isn't it lovely, Honeybun,” she cried, half giggling, half crying. (She had begun to call him Honeybun the first day they were married.) “My Eugene a great artist. He said it was a great honor! Isn't that lovely? And all the world is going to know it soon, now. Isn't that fine! Oh dear, I'm so proud.” And she threw her arms ecstatically about his neck.

Eugene kissed her affectionately. He was not thinking so much of her though as he was of Kellner and Son—their great exhibit room, the appearance of these twenty-seven or thirty great pictures in gold frames; the spectators who might come to see; the newspaper criticisms; the voices of approval. Now all his artist friends would know that he was considered a great artist; he was to have a chance to associate on equal terms with men like Sargent and Whistler if he ever met them. The world would hear of him widely. His fame might go to the uttermost parts of the earth.

He went to the window after a time and looked out. There came back to his mind Alexandria, the printing shop, the Peoples' Furniture Company in Chicago, the Art Students League, the Daily Globe. Surely he had come by devious paths.

“Gee!” he exclaimed at last simply. “Smite and MacHugh'll be glad to hear this. I'll have to go over and tell them.”

CHAPTER VII

The exhibition which followed in April was one of those things which happen to fortunate souls—a complete flowering out before the eyes of the world of its feelings, emotions, perceptions, and understanding. We all have our feelings and emotions, but lack the power of self-expression. It is true, the work and actions of any man are to some degree expressions of character, but this is a different thing. The details of most lives are not held up for public examination at any given time. We do not see succinctly in any given place just what an individual thinks and feels. Even the artist is not always or often given the opportunity of collected public expression under conspicuous artistic auspices. Some are so fortunate—many are not. Eugene realized that fortune was showering its favors upon him.

When the time came, M. Charles was so kind as to send for the pictures and to arrange all the details. He had decided with Eugene that because of the vigor of treatment and the prevailing color scheme black frames would be the best. The principal exhibition room on the ground floor in which these paintings were to be hung was heavily draped in red velvet and against this background the different pictures stood out effectively. Eugene visited the show room at the time the pictures were being hung, with Angela, with Smite and MacHugh, Shotmeyer and others. He had long since notified Norma Whitmore and Miriam Finch, but not the latter until after Wheeler had had time to tell her. This also chagrined her, for she felt in this as she had about his marriage, that he was purposely neglecting her.

The dream finally materialized—a room eighteen by forty, hung with dark red velvet, irradiated with a soft, illuminating glow from hidden lamps in which Eugene's pictures stood forth in all their rawness and reality—almost as vigorous as life itself. To some people, those who do not see life clearly and directly, but only through other people's eyes, they seemed more so.

For this reason Eugene's exhibition of pictures was an astonishing thing to most of those who saw it. It concerned phases of life which in the main they had but casually glanced at, things which because they were commonplace and customary were supposedly beyond the pale of artistic significance. One picture in particular, a great hulking, ungainly negro, a positively animal man, his ears thick and projecting, his lips fat, his nose flat, his cheek bones prominent, his whole body expressing brute strength and animal indifference to dirt and cold, illustrated this point particularly. He was standing in a cheap, commonplace East Side street. The time evidently was a January or February morning. His business was driving an ash cart, and his occupation at the moment illustrated by the picture was that of lifting a great can of mixed ashes, paper and garbage to the edge of the ungainly iron wagon. His hands were immense and were covered with great red patched woolen and leather gloves—dirty, bulbous, inconvenient, one would have said. His head and ears were swaddled about by a red flannel shawl or strip of cloth which was knotted under his pugnacious chin, and his forehead, shawl and all, surmounted by a brown canvas cap with his badge and number as a garbage driver on it. About his waist was tied a great piece of rough coffee sacking and his arms and legs looked as though he might have on two or three pairs of trousers and as many vests. He was looking purblindly down the shabby street, its hard crisp snow littered with tin cans, paper, bits of slop and offal. Dust—gray ash dust, was flying from his upturned can. In the distance behind him was a milk wagon, a few pedestrians, a little thinly clad girl coming out of a delicatessen store. Over head were dull small-paned windows, some shutters with a few of their slats broken out, a frowsy headed man looking out evidently to see whether the day was cold.

Eugene was so cruel in his indictment of life. He seemed to lay on his details with bitter lack of consideration. Like a slavedriver lashing a slave he spared no least shade of his cutting brush. “Thus, and thus and thus” (he seemed to say) “is it.” “What do you think of this? and this? and this?”

People came and stared. Young society matrons, art dealers, art critics, the literary element who were interested in art, some musicians, and, because the newspapers made especial mention of it, quite a number of those who run wherever they imagine there is something interesting to see. It was quite a notable two weeks' display. Miriam Finch (though she never admitted to Eugene that she had seen it—she would not give him that satisfaction) Norma Whitmore, William McConnell, Louis Deesa, Owen Overman, Paynter Stone, the whole ruck and rabble of literary and artistic life, came. There were artists of great ability there whom Eugene had never seen before. It would have pleased him immensely if he had chanced to see several of the city's most distinguished social leaders looking, at one time and another, at his pictures. All his observers were astonished at his virility, curious as to his personality, curious as to what motive, or significance, or point of view it might have. The more eclectically cultured turned to the newspapers to see what the art critics would say of this—how they would label it. Because of the force of the work, the dignity and critical judgment of Kellner and Son, the fact that the public of its own instinct and volition was interested, most of the criticisms were favorable. One art publication, connected with and representative of the conservative tendencies of a great publishing house, denied the merit of the collection as a whole, ridiculed the artist's insistence on shabby details as having artistic merit, denied that he could draw accurately, denied that he was a lover of pure beauty, and accused him of having no higher ideal than that of desire to shock the current mass by painting brutal things brutally.

“Mr. Witla,” wrote this critic, “would no doubt be flattered if he were referred to as an American Millet. The brutal exaggeration of that painter's art would probably testify to him of his own merit. He is mistaken. The great Frenchman was a lover of humanity, a reformer in spirit, a master of drawing and composition. There was nothing of this cheap desire to startle and offend by what he did. If we are to have ash cans and engines and broken-down bus-horses thrust down our throats as art, Heaven preserve us. We had better turn to commonplace photography at once and be done with it. Broken window shutters, dirty pavements, half frozen ash cart drivers, overdrawn, heavily exaggerated figures of policemen, tenement harridans, beggars, panhandlers, sandwich men—of such is Art according to Eugene Witla.”

Eugene winced when he read this. For the time being it seemed true enough. His art was shabby. Yet there were others like Luke Severas who went to the other extreme.

“A true sense of the pathetic, a true sense of the dramatic, the ability to endow color—not with its photographic value, though to the current thought it may seem so—but with its higher spiritual significance; the ability to indict life with its own grossness, to charge it prophetically with its own meanness and cruelty in order that mayhap it may heal itself; the ability to see wherein is beauty—even in shame and pathos and degradation; of such is this man's work. He comes from the soil apparently, fresh to a great task. There is no fear here, no bowing to traditions, no recognition of any of the accepted methods. It is probable that he may not know what the accepted methods are. So much the better. We have a new method. The world is the richer for that. As we have said before, Mr. Witla may have to wait for his recognition. It is certain that these pictures will not be quickly purchased and hung in parlors. The average art lover does not take to a new thing so readily. But if he persevere, if his art does not fail him, his turn will come. It cannot fail. He is a great artist. May he live to realize it consciously and in his own soul.”

Tears leaped to Eugene's eyes when he read this. The thought that he was a medium for some noble and super-human purpose thickened the cords in his throat until they felt like a lump. He wanted to be a great artist, he wanted to be worthy of the appreciation that was thus extended to him. He thought of all the writers and artists and musicians and connoisseurs of pictures who would read this and remember him. It was just possible that from now onwards some of his pictures would sell. He would be so glad to devote himself to this sort of thing—to quit magazine illustration entirely. How ridiculous the latter was, how confined and unimportant. Henceforth, unless driven by sheer necessity, he would do it no more. They should beg in vain. He was an artist in the true sense of the word—a great painter, ranking with Whistler, Sargent, Velasquez and Turner. Let the magazines with their little ephemeral circulation go their way. He was for the whole world.

He stood at the window of his studio one day while the exhibition was still in progress, Angela by his side, thinking of all the fine things that had been said. No picture had been sold, but M. Charles had told him that some might be taken before it was all over.

“I think if I make any money out of this,” he said to Angela, “we will go to Paris this summer. I have always wanted to see Paris. In the fall we'll come back and take a studio up town. They are building some dandy ones up in Sixty-fifth Street.” He was thinking of the artists who could pay three and four thousand dollars a year for a studio. He was thinking of men who made four, five, six and even eight hundred dollars out of every picture they painted. If he could do that! Or if he could get a contract for a mural decoration for next winter. He had very little money laid by. He had spent most of his time this winter working with these pictures.

“Oh, Eugene,” exclaimed Angela, “it seems so wonderful. I can hardly believe it. You a really, truly, great artist! And us going to Paris! Oh, isn't that beautiful. It seems like a dream. I think and think, but it's hard to believe that I am here sometimes, and that your pictures are up at Kellner's and oh!—” she clung to him in an ecstasy of delight.

Out in the park the leaves were just budding. It looked as though the whole square were hung with a transparent green net, spangled, as was the net in his room, with tiny green leaves. Songsters were idling in the sun. Sparrows were flying noisily about in small clouds. Pigeons were picking lazily between the car tracks of the street below.

“I might get a group of pictures illustrative of Paris. You can't tell what we'll find. Charles says he will have another exhibition for me next spring, if I'll get the material ready.” He pushed his arms above his head and yawned deliciously.

He wondered what Miss Finch thought now. He wondered where Christina Channing was. There was never a word in the papers yet as to what had become of her. He knew what Norma Whitmore thought. She was apparently as happy as though the exhibition had been her own.

“Well, I must go and get your lunch, Honeybun!” exclaimed Angela. “I have to go to Mr. Gioletti, the grocer, and to Mr. Ruggiere, the vegetable man.” She laughed, for the Italian names amused her.

Eugene went back to his easel. He was thinking of Christina—where was she? At that moment, if he had known, she was looking at his pictures, only newly returned from Europe. She had seen a notice in the Evening Post.

“Such work!” Christina thought, “such force! Oh, what a delightful artist. And he was with me.”

Her mind went back to Florizel and the amphitheatre among the trees. “He called me 'Diana of the Mountains,'“ she thought, “his 'hamadryad,' his 'huntress of the morn.'“ She knew he was married. An acquaintance of hers had written in December. The past was past with her—she wanted no more of it. But it was beautiful to think upon—a delicious memory.

“What a queer girl I am,” she thought.

Still she wished she could see him again—not face to face, but somewhere where he could not see her. She wondered if he was changing—if he would ever change. He was so beautiful then—to her.

CHAPTER VIII

Paris now loomed bright in Eugene's imagination, the prospect mingling with a thousand other delightful thoughts. Now that he had attained to the dignity of a public exhibition, which had been notably commented upon by the newspapers and art journals and had been so generally attended by the elect, artists, critics, writers generally, seemed to know of him. There were many who were anxious to meet and greet him, to speak approvingly of his work. It was generally understood, apparently, that he was a great artist, not exactly arrived to the fullness of his stature as yet, being so new, but on his way. Among those who knew him he was, by this one exhibition, lifted almost in a day to a lonely height, far above the puny efforts of such men as Smite and MacHugh, McConnell and Deesa, the whole world of small artists whose canvases packed the semi-annual exhibition of the National Academy of Design and the Water color society, and with whom in a way, he had been associated. He was a great artist now—recognized as such by the eminent critics who knew; and as such, from now on, would be expected to do the work of a great artist. One phrase in the criticisms of Luke Severas in the Evening Sun as it appeared during the run of his exhibition remained in his memory clearly—“If he perseveres, if his art does not fail him.” Why should his art fail him?—he asked himself. He was immensely pleased to hear from M. Charles at the close of the exhibition that three of his pictures had been sold—one for three hundred dollars to Henry McKenna, a banker; another, the East Side street scene which M. Charles so greatly admired, to Isaac Wertheim, for five hundred dollars; a third, the one of the three engines and the railroad yard, to Robert C. Winchon, a railroad man, first vice-president of one of the great railroads entering New York, also for five hundred dollars. Eugene had never heard of either Mr. McKenna or Mr. Winchon, but he was assured that they were men of wealth and refinement. At Angela's suggestion he asked M. Charles if he would not accept one of his pictures as a slight testimony of his appreciation for all he had done for him. Eugene would not have thought to do this, he was so careless and unpractical. But Angela thought of it, and saw that he did it. M. Charles was greatly pleased, and took the picture of Greeley Square, which he considered a masterpiece of color interpretation. This somehow sealed the friendship between these two, and M. Charles was anxious to see Eugene's interests properly forwarded. He asked him to leave three of his scenes on sale for a time and he would see what he could do. Meanwhile, Eugene, with thirteen hundred added to the thousand and some odd dollars he had left in his bank from previous earnings, was convinced that his career was made, and decided, as he had planned to go to Paris, for the summer at least.

This trip, so exceptional to him, so epoch-making, was easily arranged. All the time he had been in New York he had heard more in his circle of Paris than of any other city. Its streets, its quarters, its museums, its theatres and opera were already almost a commonplace to him. The cost of living, the ideal methods of living, the way to travel, what to see—how often he had sat and listened to descriptions of these things. Now he was going. Angela took the initiative in arranging all the practical details—such as looking up the steamship routes, deciding on the size of trunks required, what to take, buying the tickets, looking up the rates of the different hotels and pensions at which they might possibly stay. She was so dazed by the glory that had burst upon her husband's life that she scarcely knew what to do or what to make of it.

“That Mr. Bierdat,” she said to Eugene, referring to one of the assistant steam-ship agents with whom she had taken counsel, “tells me that if we are just going for the summer it's foolish to take anything but absolute necessaries. He says we can buy so many nice little things to wear over there if we need them, and then I can bring them back duty free in the fall.”

Eugene approved of this. He thought Angela would like to see the shops. They finally decided to go via London, returning direct from Havre, and on the tenth of May they departed, arriving in London a week later and in Paris on the first of June. Eugene was greatly impressed with London. He had arrived in time to miss the British damp and cold and to see London through a golden haze which was entrancing. Angela objected to the shops, which she described as “punk,” and to the condition of the lower classes, who were so poor and wretchedly dressed. She and Eugene discussed the interesting fact that all Englishmen looked exactly alike, dressed, walked, and wore their hats and carried their canes exactly alike. Eugene was impressed with the apparent “go” of the men—their smartness and dapperness. The women he objected to in the main as being dowdy and homely and awkward.

But when he reached Paris, what a difference! In London, because of the lack of sufficient means (he did not feel that as yet he had sufficient to permit him to indulge in the more expensive comforts and pleasures of the city) and for the want of someone to provide him with proper social introductions, he was compelled to content himself with that superficial, exterior aspect of things which only the casual traveler sees—the winding streets, the crush of traffic, London Tower, Windsor Castle, the Inns of court, the Strand, Piccadilly, St. Paul's and, of course, the National Gallery and the British Museum. South Kensington and all those various endowed palaces where objects of art are displayed pleased him greatly. In the main he was struck with the conservatism of London, its atmosphere of Empire, its soldiery and the like, though he considered it drab, dull, less strident than New York, and really less picturesque. When he came to Paris, however, all this was changed. Paris is of itself a holiday city—one whose dress is always gay, inviting, fresh, like one who sets forth to spend a day in the country. As Eugene stepped onto the dock at Calais and later as he journeyed across and into the city, he could feel the vast difference between France and England. The one country seemed young, hopeful, American, even foolishly gay, the other serious, speculative, dour.

Eugene had taken a number of letters from M. Charles, Hudson Dula, Louis Deesa, Leonard Baker and others, who, on hearing that he was going, had volunteered to send him to friends in Paris who might help him. The principal thing, if he did not wish to maintain a studio of his own, and did wish to learn, was to live with some pleasant French family where he could hear French and pick it up quickly. If he did not wish to do this, the next best thing was to settle in the Montmartre district in some section or court where he could obtain a nice studio, and where there were a number of American or English students. Some of the Americans to whom he had letters were already domiciled here. With a small calling list of friends who spoke English he would do very well.

“You will be surprised, Witla,” said Deesa to him one day, “how much English you can get understood by making intelligent signs.”

Eugene had laughed at Deesa's descriptions of his own difficulties and successes, but he found that Deesa was right. Signs went very far and they were, as a rule, thoroughly intelligible.

The studio which he and Angela eventually took after a few days spent at an hotel, was a comfortable one on the third floor of a house which Eugene found ready to his hand, recommended by M. Arkquin, of the Paris branch of Kellner and Son. Another artist, Finley Wood, whom afterwards Eugene recalled as having been mentioned to him by Ruby Kenny, in Chicago, was leaving Paris for the summer. Because of M. Charles' impressive letter, M. Arkquin was most anxious that Eugene should be comfortably installed and suggested that he take this, the charge being anything he cared to pay—forty francs the month. Eugene looked at it and was delighted. It was in the back of the house, looking out on a little garden, and because of a westward slope of the ground from this direction and an accidental breach in the building line, commanded a wide sweep of the city of Paris, the twin towers of Notre Dame, the sheer rise of the Eiffel tower. It was fascinating to see the lights of the city blinking of an evening. Eugene would invariably draw his chair close to his favorite window when he came in, while Angela made lemonade or iced tea or practised her culinary art on a chafing dish. In presenting to him an almost standard American menu she exhibited the executive ability and natural industry which was her chief characteristic. She would go to the neighboring groceries, rotisseries, patisseries, green vegetable stands, and get the few things she needed in the smallest quantities, always selecting the best and preparing them with the greatest care. She was an excellent cook and loved to set a dainty and shining table. She saw no need of company, for she was perfectly happy alone with Eugene and felt that he must be with her. She had no desire to go anywhere by herself—only with him; and she would hang on every thought and motion waiting for him to say what his pleasure would be.

The wonder of Paris to Eugene was its freshness and the richness of its art spirit as expressed on every hand. He was never weary of looking at the undersized French soldiery with their wide red trousers, blue coats and red caps, or the police with their capes and swords and the cab drivers with their air of leisurely superiority. The Seine, brisk with boats at this season of the year, the garden of the Tuileries, with its white marble nudes and formal paths and stone benches, the Bois, the Champ de Mars, the Trocadero Museum, the Louvre—all the wonder streets and museums held him as in a dream.

“Gee,” he exclaimed to Angela one afternoon as he followed the banks of the Seine toward Issy, “this is certainly the home of the blessed for all good artists. Smell that perfume. (It was from a perfume factory in the distance.) See that barge!” He leaned on the river wall. “Ah,” he sighed, “this is perfect.”

They went back in the dusk on the roof of an open car. “When I die,” he sighed, “I hope I come to Paris. It is all the heaven I want.”

Yet like all perfect delights, it lost some of its savour after a time, though not much. Eugene felt that he could live in Paris if his art would permit him—though he must go back, he knew, for the present anyhow.

Angela, he noticed after a time, was growing in confidence, if not in mentality. From a certain dazed uncertainty which had characterized her the preceding fall when she had first come to New York, heightened and increased for the time being by the rush of art life and strange personalities she had encountered there and here she was blossoming into a kind of assurance born of experience. Finding that Eugene's ideas, feelings and interests were of the upper world of thought entirely—concerned with types, crowds, the aspect of buildings, streets, skylines, the humors and pathetic aspects of living, she concerned herself solely with the managerial details. It did not take her long to discover that if anyone would relieve Eugene of all care for himself he would let him do it. It was no satisfaction to him to buy himself anything. He objected to executive and commercial details. If tickets had to be bought, time tables consulted, inquiries made, any labor of argument or dispute engaged in, he was loath to enter on it. “You get these, will you, Angela?” he would plead, or “you see him about that. I can't now. Will you?”

Angela would hurry to the task, whatever it was, anxious to show that she was of real use and necessity. On the busses of London or Paris, as in New York, he was sketching, sketching, sketching—cabs, little passenger boats of the Seine, characters in the cafes, parks, gardens, music halls, anywhere, anything, for he was practically tireless. All that he wanted was not to be bothered very much, to be left to his own devices. Sometimes Angela would pay all the bills for him for a day. She carried his purse, took charge of all the express orders into which their cash had been transferred, kept a list of all their expenditures, did the shopping, buying, paying. Eugene was left to see the thing that he wanted to see, to think the things that he wanted to think. During all those early days Angela made a god of him and he was very willing to cross his legs, Buddha fashion, and act as one.

Only at night when there were no alien sights or sounds to engage his attention, when not even his art could come between them, and she could draw him into her arms and submerge his restless spirit in the tides of her love did she feel his equal—really worthy of him. These transports which came with the darkness, or with the mellow light of the little oil lamp that hung in chains from the ceiling near their wide bed, or in the faint freshness of dawn with the birds cheeping in the one tree of the little garden below—were to her at once utterly generous and profoundly selfish. She had eagerly absorbed Eugene's philosophy of self-indulgent joy where it concerned themselves—all the more readily as it coincided with her own vague ideas and her own hot impulses.

Angela had come to marriage through years of self-denial, years of bitter longing for the marriage that perhaps would never be, and out of those years she had come to the marriage bed with a cumulative and intense passion. Without any knowledge either of the ethics or physiology of sex, except as pertained to her state as a virgin, she was vastly ignorant of marriage itself; the hearsay of girls, the equivocal confessions of newly married women, and the advice of her elder sister (conveyed by Heaven only knows what process of conversation) had left her almost as ignorant as before, and now she explored its mysteries with abandon, convinced that the unrestrained gratification of passion was normal and excellent—in addition to being, as she came to find, a universal solvent for all differences of opinion or temperament that threatened their peace of mind. Beginning with their life in the studio on Washington Square, and continuing with even greater fervor now in Paris, there was what might be described as a prolonged riot of indulgence between them, bearing no relation to any necessity in their natures, and certainly none to the demands which Eugene's intellectual and artistic tasks laid upon him. She was to Eugene astonishing and delightful; and yet perhaps not so much delightful as astonishing. Angela was in a sense elemental, but Eugene was not: he was the artist, in this as in other things, rousing himself to a pitch of appreciation which no strength so undermined by intellectual subtleties could continuously sustain. The excitement of adventure, of intrigue in a sense, of discovering the secrets of feminine personality—these were really what had constituted the charm, if not the compelling urge, of his romances. To conquer was beautiful: but it was in essence an intellectual enterprise. To see his rash dreams come true in the yielding of the last sweetness possessed by the desired woman, had been to him imaginatively as well as physically an irresistible thing. But these enterprises were like thin silver strands spun out across an abyss, whose beauty but not whose dangers were known to him. Still, he rejoiced in this magnificent creature-joy which Angela supplied; it was, so far as it was concerned, what he thought he wanted. And Angela interpreted her power to respond to what seemed his inexhaustible desire as not only a kindness but a duty.

Eugene set up his easel here, painted from nine to noon some days, and on others from two to five in the afternoon. If it were dark, he would walk or ride with Angela or visit the museums, the galleries and the public buildings or stroll in the factory or railroad quarters of the city. Eugene sympathized most with sombre types and was constantly drawing something which represented grim care. Aside from the dancers in the music halls, the toughs, in what later became known as the Apache district, the summer picnicking parties at Versailles and St. Cloud, the boat crowds on the Seine, he drew factory throngs, watchmen and railroad crossings, market people, market in the dark, street sweepers, newspaper vendors, flower merchants, always with a memorable street scene in the background. Some of the most interesting bits of Paris, its towers, bridges, river views, façades, appeared in backgrounds to the grim or picturesque or pathetic character studies. It was his hope that he could interest America in these things—that his next exhibition would not only illustrate his versatility and persistence of talent, but show an improvement in his art, a surer sense of color values, a greater analytical power in the matter of character, a surer selective taste in the matter of composition and arrangement. He did not realize that all this might be useless—that he was, aside from his art, living a life which might rob talent of its finest flavor, discolor the aspect of the world for himself, take scope from imagination and hamper effort with nervous irritation, and make accomplishment impossible. He had no knowledge of the effect of one's sexual life upon one's work, nor what such a life when badly arranged can do to a perfect art—how it can distort the sense of color, weaken that balanced judgment of character which is so essential to a normal interpretation of life, make all striving hopeless, take from art its most joyous conception, make life itself seem unimportant and death a relief.

CHAPTER IX

The summer passed, and with it the freshness and novelty of Paris, though Eugene never really wearied of it. The peculiarities of a different national life, the variations between this and his own country in national ideals, an obviously much more complaisant and human attitude toward morals, a matter-of-fact acceptance of the ills, weaknesses and class differences, to say nothing of the general physical appearance, the dress, habitations and amusements of the people, astonished as much as they entertained him. He was never weary of studying the differences between American and European architecture, noting the pacific manner in which the Frenchman appeared to take life, listening to Angela's unwearied comments on the cleanliness, economy, thoroughness with which the French women kept house, rejoicing in the absence of the American leaning to incessant activity. Angela was struck by the very moderate prices for laundry, the skill with which their concierge—who governed this quarter and who knew sufficient English to talk to her—did her marketing, cooking, sewing and entertaining. The richness of supply and aimless waste of Americans was alike unknown. Because she was naturally of a domestic turn Angela became very intimate with Madame Bourgoche and learned of her a hundred and one little tricks of domestic economy and arrangement.

“You're a peculiar girl, Angela,” Eugene once said to her. “I believe you would rather sit down stairs and talk to that French-woman than meet the most interesting literary or artistic personage that ever was. What do you find that's so interesting to talk about?”

“Oh, nothing much,” replied Angela, who was not unconscious of the implied hint of her artistic deficiencies. “She's such a smart woman. She's so practical. She knows more in a minute about saving and buying and making a little go a long way than any American woman I ever saw. I'm not interested in her any more than I am in anyone else. All the artistic people do, that I can see, is to run around and pretend that they're a whole lot when they're not.”

Eugene saw that he had made an irritating reference, not wholly intended in the way it was being taken.

“I'm not saying she isn't able,” he went on. “One talent is as good as another, I suppose. She certainly looks clever enough to me. Where is her husband?”

“He was killed in the army,” returned Angela dolefully.

“Well I suppose you'll learn enough from her to run a hotel when you get back to New York. You don't know enough about housekeeping now, do you?”

Eugene smiled with his implied compliment. He was anxious to get Angela's mind off the art question. He hoped she would feel or see that he meant nothing, but she was not so easily pacified.

“You don't think I'm so bad, Eugene, do you?” she asked after a moment. “You don't think it makes so much difference whether I talk to Madame Bourgoche? She isn't so dull. She's awfully smart. You just haven't talked to her. She says she can tell by looking at you that you're a great artist. You're different. You remind her of a Mr. Degas that once lived here. Was he a great artist?”

“Was he!” said Eugene. “Well I guess yes. Did he have this studio?”

“Oh, a long time ago—fifteen years ago.”

Eugene smiled beatifically. This was a great compliment. He could not help liking Madame Bourgoche for it. She was bright, no doubt of that, or she would not be able to make such a comparison. Angela drew from him, as before, that her domesticity and housekeeping skill was as important as anything else in the world, and having done this was satisfied and cheerful once more. Eugene thought how little art or conditions or climate or country altered the fundamental characteristics of human nature. Here he was in Paris, comparatively well supplied with money, famous, or in process of becoming so, and quarreling with Angela over little domestic idiosyncrasies, just as in Washington Square.

By late September Eugene had most of his Paris sketches so well laid in that he could finish them anywhere. Some fifteen were as complete as they could be made. A number of others were nearly so. He decided that he had had a profitable summer. He had worked hard and here was the work to show for it—twenty-six canvases which were as good, in his judgment, as those he had painted in New York. They had not taken so long, but he was surer of himself—surer of his method. He parted reluctantly with all the lovely things he had seen, believing that this collection of Parisian views would be as impressive to Americans as had been his New York views. M. Arkquin for one, and many others, including the friends of Deesa and Dula were delighted with them. The former expressed the belief that some of them might be sold in France.

Eugene returned to America with Angela, and learning that he might stay in the old studio until December first, settled down to finish the work for his exhibition there.

The first suggestion that Eugene had that anything was wrong with him, aside from a growing apprehensiveness as to what the American people would think of his French work, was in the fall, when he began to imagine—or perhaps it was really true—that coffee did not agree with him. He had for several years now been free of his old-time complaint,—stomach trouble; but gradually it was beginning to reappear and he began to complain to Angela that he was feeling an irritation after his meals, that coffee came up in his throat. “I think I'll have to try tea or something else if this doesn't stop,” he observed. She suggested chocolate and he changed to that, but this merely resulted in shifting the ill to another quarter. He now began to quarrel with his work—not being able to get a certain effect, and having sometimes altered and re-altered and re-re-altered a canvas until it bore little resemblance to the original arrangement, he would grow terribly discouraged; or believe that he had attained perfection at last, only to change his mind the following morning.

“Now,” he would say, “I think I have that thing right at last, thank heaven!”

Angela would heave a sigh of relief, for she could feel instantly any distress or inability that he felt, but her joy was of short duration. In a few hours she would find him working at the same canvas changing something. He grew thinner and paler at this time and his apprehensions as to his future rapidly became morbid.

“By George! Angela,” he said to her one day, “it would be a bad thing for me if I were to become sick now. It's just the time that I don't want to. I want to finish this exhibition up right and then go to London. If I could do London and Chicago as I did New York I would be just about made, but if I'm going to get sick—”

“Oh, you're not going to get sick, Eugene,” replied Angela, “you just think you are. You want to remember that you've worked very hard this summer. And think how hard you worked last winter! You need a good rest, that's what you need. Why don't you stop after you get this exhibition ready and rest awhile? You have enough to live on for a little bit. M. Charles will probably sell a few more of those pictures, or some of those will sell and then you can wait. Don't try to go to London in the spring. Go on a walking tour or go down South or just rest awhile, anywhere,—that's what you need.”

Eugene realized vaguely that it wasn't rest that he needed so much as peace of mind. He was not tired. He was merely nervously excited and apprehensive. He began to sleep badly, to have terrifying dreams, to feel that his heart was failing him. At two o'clock in the morning, the hour when for some reason human vitality appears to undergo a peculiar disturbance, he would wake with a sense of sinking physically. His pulse would appear to be very low, and he would feel his wrists nervously. Not infrequently he would break out in a cold perspiration and would get up and walk about to restore himself. Angela would rise and walk with him. One day at his easel he was seized with a peculiar nervous disturbance—a sudden glittering light before his eyes, a rumbling in his ears, and a sensation which was as if his body were being pricked with ten million needles. It was as though his whole nervous system had given way at every minute point and division. For the time being he was intensely frightened, believing that he was going crazy, but he said nothing. It came to him as a staggering truth that the trouble with him was over-indulgence physically; that the remedy was abstinence, complete or at least partial; that he was probably so far weakened mentally and physically that it would be very difficult for him to recover; that his ability to paint might be seriously affected—his life blighted.

He stood before his canvas holding his brush, wondering. When the shock had completely gone he laid the brush down with a trembling hand. He walked to the window, wiped his cold, damp forehead with his hand and then turned to get his coat from the closet.

“Where are you going?” asked Angela.

“For a little walk. I'll be back soon. I don't feel just as fresh as I might.”

She kissed him good-bye at the door and let him go, but her heart troubled her.

“I'm afraid Eugene is going to get sick,” she thought. “He ought to stop work.”

CHAPTER X

It was the beginning of a period destined to last five or six years, in which, to say the least, Eugene was not himself. He was not in any sense out of his mind, if power to reason clearly, jest sagely, argue and read intelligently are any evidences of sanity; but privately his mind was a maelstrom of contradictory doubts, feelings and emotions. Always of a philosophic and introspective turn, this peculiar faculty of reasoning deeply and feeling emotionally were now turned upon himself and his own condition and, as in all such cases where we peer too closely into the subtleties of creation, confusion was the result. Previously he had been well satisfied that the world knew nothing. Neither in religion, philosophy nor science was there any answer to the riddle of existence. Above and below the little scintillating plane of man's thought was—what? Beyond the optic strength of the greatest telescope,—far out upon the dim horizon of space—were clouds of stars. What were they doing out there? Who governed them? When were their sidereal motions calculated? He figured life as a grim dark mystery, a sad semiconscious activity turning aimlessly in the dark. No one knew anything. God knew nothing—himself least of all. Malevolence, life living on death, plain violence—these were the chief characteristics of existence. If one failed of strength in any way, if life were not kind in its bestowal of gifts, if one were not born to fortune's pampering care—the rest was misery. In the days of his strength and prosperity the spectacle of existence had been sad enough: in the hours of threatened delay and defeat it seemed terrible. Why, if his art failed him now, what had he? Nothing. A little puny reputation which he could not sustain, no money, a wife to take care of, years of possible suffering and death. The abyss of death! When he looked into that after all of life and hope, how it shocked him, how it hurt! Here was life and happiness and love in health—there was death and nothingness—æons and æons of nothingness.

He did not immediately give up hope—immediately succumb to the evidences of a crumbling reality. For months and months he fancied each day that this was a temporary condition; that drugs and doctors could heal him. There were various remedies that were advertised in the papers, blood purifiers, nerve restorers, brain foods, which were announced at once as specifics and cures, and while he did not think that the ordinary patent medicine had anything of value in it, he did imagine that some good could be had from tonics, or the tonic. A physician whom he consulted recommended rest and an excellent tonic which he knew of. He asked whether he was subject to any wasting disease. Eugene told him no. He confessed to an over-indulgence in the sex-relationship, but the doctor did not believe that ordinarily this should bring about a nervous decline. Hard work must have something to do with it, over-anxiety. Some temperaments such as his were predisposed at birth to nervous breakdowns; they had to guard themselves. Eugene would have to be very careful. He should eat regularly, sleep as long as possible, observe regular hours. A system of exercise might not be a bad thing for him. He could get him a pair of Indian clubs or dumb-bells or an exerciser and bring himself back to health that way.

Eugene told Angela that he believed he would try exercising and joined a gymnasium. He took a tonic, walked with her a great deal, sought to ignore the fact that he was nervously depressed. These things were of practically no value, for the body had apparently been drawn a great distance below normal and all the hell of a subnormal state had to be endured before it could gradually come into its own again.

In the meantime he was continuing his passional relations with Angela, in spite of a growing judgment that they were in some way harmful to him. But it was not easy to refrain, and each failure to do so made it harder. It was a customary remark of his that “he must quit this,” but it was like the self-apologetic assurance of the drunkard that he must reform.

Now that he had stepped out into the limelight of public observation—now that artists and critics and writers somewhat knew of him, and in their occasional way were wondering what he was doing, it was necessary that he should bestir himself to especial effort in order to satisfy the public as to the enduring quality of his art. He was glad, once he realized that he was in for a siege of bad weather, that his Paris drawings had been so nearly completed before the break came. By the day he suffered the peculiar nervousness which seemed to mark the opening of his real decline, he had completed twenty-two paintings, which Angela begged him not to touch; and by sheer strength of will, though he misdoubted gravely, he managed to complete five more. All of these M. Charles came to see on occasion, and he approved of them highly. He was not so sure that they would have the appeal of the American pictures, for after all the city of Paris had been pretty well done over and over in illustration and genré work. It was not so new as New York; the things Eugene chose were not as unconventional. Still, he could say truly they were exceptional. They might try an exhibition of them later in Paris if they did not take here. He was very sorry to see that Eugene was in poor health and urged him to take care of himself.

It seemed as if some malign planetary influence were affecting him. Eugene knew of astrology and palmistry and one day, in a spirit of curiosity and vague apprehensiveness, consulted a practitioner of the former, receiving for his dollar the statement that he was destined to great fame in either art or literature but that he was entering a period of stress which would endure for a number of years. Eugene's spirits sank perceptibly. The musty old gentleman who essayed his books of astrological lore shook his head. He had a rather noble growth of white hair and a white beard, but his coffee-stained vest was covered with tobacco ash and his collar and cuffs were dirty.

“It looks pretty bad between your twenty-eighth and your thirty-second years, but after that there is a notable period of prosperity. Somewhere around your thirty-eighth or thirty-ninth year there is some more trouble—a little—but you will come out of that—that is, it looks as though you would. Your stars show you to be of a nervous, imaginative character, inclined to worry; and I see that your kidneys are weak. You ought never to take much medicine. Your sign is inclined to that but it is without benefit to you. You will be married twice, but I don't see any children.”

He rambled on dolefully and Eugene left in great gloom. So it was written in the stars that he was to suffer a period of decline and there was to be more trouble for him in the future. But he did see a period of great success for him between his thirty-second and his thirty-eighth years. That was some comfort. Who was the second woman he was to marry? Was Angela going to die? He walked the streets this early December afternoon, thinking, thinking.

The Blue family had heard a great deal of Eugene's success since Angela had come to New York. There had never been a week but at least one letter, and sometimes two, had gone the rounds of the various members of the family. It was written to Marietta primarily, but Mrs. Blue, Jotham, the boys and the several sisters all received it by turns. Thus the whole regiment of Blue connections knew exactly how it was with Angela and even better than it was; for although things had looked prosperous enough, Angela had not stayed within the limits of bare fact in describing her husband's success. She added atmosphere, not fictitious, but the seeming glory which dwelt in her mind, until the various connections of the Blue family, Marietta in particular, were convinced that there was nothing but dignity and bliss in store for the wife of so talented a man. The studio life which Angela had seen, here and in Paris, the picturesque descriptions which came home from London and Paris, the personalities of M. Charles, M. Arkquin, Isaac Wertheim, Henry L. Tomlins, Luke Severas—all the celebrities whom they met, both in New York and abroad, had been described at length. There was not a dinner, a luncheon, a reception, a tea party, which was not pictured in all its native colors and more. Eugene had become somewhat of a demi-god to his Western connections. The quality of his art was never questioned. It was only a little time now before he would be rich or at least well-to-do.

All the relatives hoped that he would bring Angela home some day on a visit. To think that she should have married such a distinguished man!

In the Witla family it was quite the same. Eugene had not been home to see his parents since his last visit to Blackwood, but they had not been without news. For one thing, Eugene had been neglectful, and somewhat because of this Angela had taken it upon herself to open up a correspondence with his mother. She wrote that of course she didn't know her but that she was terribly fond of Eugene, that she hoped to make him a good wife and that she hoped to make her a satisfactory daughter-in-law. Eugene was so dilatory about writing. She would write for him now and his mother should hear every week. She asked if she and her husband couldn't manage to come and see them sometime. She would be so glad and it would do Eugene so much good. She asked if she couldn't have Myrtle's address—they had moved from Ottumwa—and if Sylvia wouldn't write occasionally. She sent a picture of herself and Eugene, a sketch of the studio which Eugene had made one day, a sketch of herself looking pensively out of the window into Washington Square. Pictures from his first show published in the newspapers, accounts of his work, criticisms,—all reached the members of both families impartially and they were kept well aware of how things were going.

During the time that Eugene was feeling so badly and because, if he were going to lose his health, it might be necessary to economize greatly, it occurred to Angela that it might be advisable for them to go home for a visit. While her family were not rich, they had sufficient means to live on. Eugene's mother also was constantly writing, wanting to know why they didn't come out there for a while. She could not see why Eugene could not paint his pictures as well in Alexandria as in New York or Paris. Eugene listened to this willingly, for it occurred to him that instead of going to London he might do Chicago next, and he and Angela could stay awhile at Blackwood and another while at his own home. They would be welcome guests.

The condition of his finances at this time was not exactly bad, but it was not very good. Of the thirteen hundred dollars he had received for the first three pictures sold, eleven hundred had been used on the foreign trip. He had since used three hundred dollars of his remaining capital of twelve hundred, but M. Charles' sale of two pictures at four hundred each had swelled his bank balance to seventeen hundred dollars; however, on this he had to live now until additional pictures were disposed of. He daily hoped to hear of additional sales, but none occurred.

Moreover, his exhibition in January did not produce quite the impression he thought it would. It was fascinating to look at; the critics and the public imagined that by now he must have created a following for himself, else why should M. Charles make a feature of his work. But Charles pointed out that these foreign studies could not hope to appeal to Americans as did the American things. He indicated that they might take better in France. Eugene was depressed by the general tone of the opinions, but this was due more to his unhealthy state of mind than to any inherent reason for feeling so. There was still Paris to try and there might be some sales of his work here. The latter were slow in materializing, however, and because by February he had not been able to work and because it was necessary that he should husband his resources as carefully as possible, he decided to accept Angela's family's invitation as well as that of his own parents and spend some time in Illinois and Wisconsin. Perhaps his health would become better. He decided also that, if his health permitted, he would work in Chicago.

CHAPTER XI

It was in packing the trunks and leaving the studio in Washington Square (owing to the continued absence of Mr. Dexter they had never been compelled to vacate it) that Angela came across the first evidence of Eugene's duplicity. Because of his peculiar indifference to everything except matters which related to his art, he had put the letters which he had received in times past from Christina Channing, as well as the one and only one from Ruby Kenny, in a box which had formerly contained writing paper and which he threw carelessly in a corner of his trunk. He had by this time forgotten all about them, though his impression was that he had placed them somewhere where they would not be found. When Angela started to lay out the various things which occupied it she came across this box and opening it took out the letters.

Curiosity as to things relative to Eugene was at this time the dominant characteristic of her life. She could neither think nor reason outside of this relationship which bound her to him. He and his affairs were truly the sum and substance of her existence. She looked at the letters oddly and then opened one—the first from Christina. It was dated Florizel, the summer of three years before when she was waiting so patiently for him at Blackwood. It began conservatively enough—“Dear E—,” but it concerned itself immediately with references to an apparently affectionate relationship. “I went this morning to see if by chance there were any tell-tale evidences of either Diana or Adonis in Arcady. There were none of importance. A hairpin or two, a broken mother-of-pearl button from a summer waist, the stub of a lead-pencil wherewith a certain genius sketched. The trees seemed just as unconscious of any nymphs or hamadryads as they could be. The smooth grass was quite unruffled of any feet. It is strange how much the trees and forest know and keep their counsel.

“And how is the hot city by now? Do you miss a certain evenly-swung hammock? Oh, the odor of leaves and the dew! Don't work too hard. You have an easy future and almost too much vitality. More repose for you, sir, and considerably more optimism of thought. I send you good wishes.—Diana.”

Angela wondered at once who Diana was, for before she had begun the letter she had looked for the signature on the succeeding page. Then after reading this she hurried feverishly from letter to letter, seeking a name. There was none. “Diana of the Mountains,” “The Hamadryad,” “The Wood-Nymph,” “C,” “C C”—so they ran, confusing, badgering, enraging her until all at once it came to light—her first name at least. It was on the letter from Baltimore suggesting that he come to Florizel—“Christina.”

“Ah,” she thought, “Christina! That is her name.” Then she hurried back to read the remaining epistles, hoping to find some clue to her surname. They were all of the same character, in the manner of writing she despised,—top-lofty, make-believe, the nasty, hypocritical, cant and make-believe superiority of the studios. How Angela hated her from that moment. How she could have taken her by the throat and beaten her head against the trees she described. Oh, the horrid creature! How dare she! And Eugene—how could he! What a way to reward her love! What an answer to make to all her devotion! At the very time when she was waiting so patiently, he was in the mountains with this Diana. And here she was packing his trunk for him like the little slave that she was when he cared so little, had apparently cared so little all this time. How could he ever have cared for her and done anything like this! He didn't! He never had! Dear Heaven!

She began clenching and unclenching her hands dramatically, working herself into that frenzy of emotion and regret which was her most notable characteristic. All at once she stopped. There was another letter in another handwriting on cheaper paper. “Ruby” was the signature.

“Dear Eugene:”—she read—“I got your note several weeks ago, but I couldn't bring myself to answer it before this. I know everything is over between us and that is all right I suppose. It has to be. You couldn't love any woman long, I think. I know what you say about having to go to New York to broaden your field is true. You ought to, but I'm sorry you didn't come out. You might have. Still I don't blame you, Eugene. It isn't much different from what has been going on for some time. I have cared, but I'll get over that, I know, and I won't ever think hard of you. Won't you return me the notes I have sent you from time to time, and my picture? You won't want them now.—Ruby.”

“I stood by the window last night and looked out on the street. The moon was shining and those dead trees were waving in the wind. I saw the moon on that pool of water over in the field. It looked like silver. Oh, Eugene, I wish that I were dead.”

Angela got up (as Eugene had) when she read this. The pathos struck home, for somehow it matched her own. Ruby! Who was she? Where had she been concealed while she, Angela, was coming to Chicago? Was this the fall and winter of their engagement? It certainly was. Look at the date. He had given her the diamond ring on her finger that fall! He had sworn eternal affection! He had sworn there was never another girl like her in all the world and yet, at that very time, he was apparently paying court to this woman if nothing worse. Heaven! Could anything like this really be? He was telling her that he loved her and making love to this Ruby at the same time. He was kissing and fondling her and Ruby too!! Was there ever such a situation? He, Eugene Witla, to deceive her this way. No wonder he wanted to get rid of her when he came to New York. He would have treated her as he had this Ruby. And Christina! This Christina!! Where was she? Who was she? What was she doing now? She jumped up prepared to go to Eugene and charge him with his iniquities, but remembered that he was out of the studio—that he had gone for a walk. He was sick now, very sick. Would she dare to reproach him with these reprehensible episodes?

She came back to the trunk where she was working and sat down. Her eyes were hard and cold for the time, but at the same time there was a touch of terror and of agonized affection. A face that, in the ordinary lines of its repose, was very much like that of a madonna, was now drawn and peaked and gray. Apparently Christina had forsaken him, or it might be that they still corresponded secretly. She got up again at that thought. Still the letters were old. It looked as though all communication had ceased two years ago. What had he written to her?—love notes. Letters full of wooing phrases such as he had written to her. Oh, the instability of men, the insincerity, the lack of responsibility and sense of duty. Her father,—what a different man he was; her brothers,—their word was their bond. And here was she married to a man who, even in the days of his most ardent wooing, had been deceiving her. She had let him lead her astray, too,—disgrace her own home. Tears came after a while, hot, scalding tears that seared her cheeks. And now she was married to him and he was sick and she would have to make the best of it. She wanted to make the best of it, for after all she loved him.

But oh, the cruelty, the insincerity, the unkindness, the brutality of it all.

The fact that Eugene was out for several hours following her discovery gave her ample time to reflect as to a suitable course of action. Being so impressed by the genius of the man, as imposed upon her by the opinion of others and her own affection, she could not readily think of anything save some method of ridding her soul of this misery and him of his evil tendencies, of making him ashamed of his wretched career, of making him see how badly he had treated her and how sorry he ought to be. She wanted him to feel sorry, very sorry, so that he would be a long time repenting in suffering, but she feared at the same time that she could not make him do that. He was so ethereal, so indifferent, so lost in the contemplation of life that he could not be made to think of her. That was her one complaint. He had other gods before her—the god of his art, the god of nature, the god of people as a spectacle. Frequently she had complained to him in this last year—“you don't love me! you don't love me!” but he would answer, “oh, yes I do. I can't be talking to you all the time, Angel-face. I have work to do. My art has to be cultivated. I can't be making love all the time.”

“Oh, it isn't that, it isn't that!” she would exclaim passionately. “You just don't love me, like you ought to. You just don't care. If you did I'd feel it.”

“Oh, Angela,” he answered, “why do you talk so? Why do you carry on so? You're the funniest girl I ever knew. Now be reasonable. Why don't you bring a little philosophy to bear? We can't be billing and cooing all the time!”

“Billing and cooing! That's the way you think of it. That's the way you talk of it! As though it were something you had to do. Oh, I hate love! I hate life! I hate philosophy! I wish I could die.”

“Now, Angela, for Heaven's sake, why will you take on so? I can't stand this. I can't stand these tantrums of yours. They're not reasonable. You know I love you. Why, haven't I shown it? Why should I have married you if I didn't? I wasn't obliged to marry you!”

“Oh, dear! oh, dear!” Angela would sob on, wringing her hands. “Oh, you really don't love me! You don't care! And it will go on this way, getting worse and worse, with less and less of love and feeling until after awhile you won't even want to see me any more—you'll hate me! Oh, dear! oh, dear!”

Eugene felt keenly the pathos involved in this picture of decaying love. In fact, her fear of the disaster which might overtake her little bark of happiness was sufficiently well founded. It might be that his affection would cease—it wasn't even affection now in the true sense of the word,—a passionate intellectual desire for her companionship. He never had really loved her for her mind, the beauty of her thoughts. As he meditated he realized that he had never reached an understanding with her by an intellectual process at all. It was emotional, subconscious, a natural drawing together which was not based on reason and spirituality of contemplation apparently, but on grosser emotions and desires. Physical desire had been involved—strong, raging, uncontrollable. And for some reason he had always felt sorry for her—he always had. She was so little, so conscious of disaster, so afraid of life and what it might do to her. It was a shame to wreck her hopes and desires. At the same time he was sorry now for this bondage he had let himself into—this yoke which he had put about his neck. He could have done so much better. He might have married a woman of wealth or a woman with artistic perceptions and philosophic insight like Christina Channing, who would be peaceful and happy with him. Angela couldn't be. He really didn't admire her enough, couldn't fuss over her enough. Even while he was soothing her in these moments, trying to make her believe that there was no basis for her fears, sympathizing with her subconscious intuitions that all was not well, he was thinking of how different his life might have been.

“It won't end that way,” he would soothe. “Don't cry. Come now, don't cry. We're going to be very happy. I'm going to love you always, just as I'm loving you now, and you're going to love me. Won't that be all right? Come on, now. Cheer up. Don't be so pessimistic. Come on, Angela. Please do. Please!”

Angela would brighten after a time, but there were spells of apprehension and gloom; they were common, apt to burst forth like a summer storm when neither of them was really expecting it.

The discovery of these letters now checked the feeling, with which she tried to delude herself at times, that there might be anything more than kindness here. They confirmed her suspicions that there was not and brought on that sense of defeat and despair which so often and so tragically overcame her. It did it at a time, too, when Eugene needed her undivided consideration and feeling, for he was in a wretched state of mind. To have her quarrel with him now, lose her temper, fly into rages and compel him to console her, was very trying. He was in no mood for it; could not very well endure it without injury to himself. He was seeking for an atmosphere of joyousness, wishing to find a cheerful optimism somewhere which would pull him out of himself and make him whole. Not infrequently he dropped in to see Norma Whitmore, Isadora Crane, who was getting along very well on the stage, Hedda Andersen, who had a natural charm of intellect with much vivacity, even though she was a model, and now and then Miriam Finch. The latter was glad to see him alone, almost as a testimony against Angela, though she would not go out of her way to conceal from Angela the fact that he had been there. The others, though he said nothing, assumed that since Angela did not come with him he wanted nothing said and observed his wish. They were inclined to think that he had made a matrimonial mistake and was possibly artistically or intellectually lonely. All of them noted his decline in health with considerate apprehension and sorrow. It was too bad, they thought, if his health was going to fail him just at this time. Eugene lived in fear lest Angela should become aware of any of these visits. He thought he could not tell her because in the first place she would resent his not having taken her with him; and in the next, if he had proposed it first, she would have objected, or set another date, or asked pointless questions. He liked the liberty of going where he pleased, saying nothing, not feeling it necessary to say anything. He longed for the freedom of his old pre-matrimonial days. Just at this time, because he could not work artistically and because he was in need of diversion and of joyous artistic palaver, he was especially miserable. Life seemed very dark and ugly.

Eugene, returning and feeling, as usual, depressed about his state, sought to find consolation in her company. He came in at one o'clock, their usual lunch hour, and finding Angela still working, said, “George! but you like to keep at things when you get started, don't you? You're a regular little work-horse. Having much trouble?”

“No-o,” replied Angela, dubiously.

Eugene noted the tone of her voice. He thought she was not very strong and this packing was getting on her nerves. Fortunately there were only some trunks to look after, for the vast mass of their housekeeping materials belonged to the studio. Still no doubt she was weary.

“Are you very tired?” he asked.

“No-o,” she replied.

“You look it,” he said, slipping his arm about her. Her face, which he turned up with his hand, was pale and drawn.

“It isn't anything physical,” she replied, looking away from him in a tragic way. “It's just my heart. It's here!” and she laid her hand over her heart.

“What's the matter now?” he asked, suspecting something emotional, though for the life of him he could not imagine what. “Does your heart hurt you?”

“It isn't my real heart,” she returned, “it's just my mind, my feelings; though I don't suppose they ought to matter.”

“What's the matter now, Angel-face,” he persisted, for he was sorry for her. This emotional ability of hers had the power to move him. It might have been acting, or it might not have been. It might be either a real or a fancied woe;—in either case it was real to her. “What's come up?” he continued. “Aren't you just tired? Suppose we quit this and go out somewhere and get something to eat. You'll feel better.”

“No, I couldn't eat,” she replied. “I'll stop now and get your lunch, but I don't want anything.”

“Oh, what's the matter, Angela?” he begged. “I know there's something. Now what is it? You're tired, or you're sick, or something has happened. Is it anything that I have done? Look at me! Is it?”

Angela held away from him, looking down. She did not know how to begin this but she wanted to make him terribly sorry if she could, as sorry as she was for herself. She thought he ought to be; that if he had any true feeling of shame and sympathy in him he would be. Her own condition in the face of his shameless past was terrible. She had no one to love her. She had no one to turn to. Her own family did not understand her life any more—it had changed so. She was a different woman now, greater, more important, more distinguished. Her experiences with Eugene here in New York, in Paris, in London and even before her marriage, in Chicago and Blackwood, had changed her point of view. She was no longer the same in her ideas, she thought, and to find herself deserted in this way emotionally—not really loved, not ever having been really loved but just toyed with, made a doll and a plaything, was terrible.

“Oh, dear!” she exclaimed in a shrill staccato, “I don't know what to do! I don't know what to say! I don't know what to think! If I only knew how to think or what to do!”

“What's the matter?” begged Eugene, releasing his hold and turning his thoughts partially to himself and his own condition as well as to hers. His nerves were put on edge by these emotional tantrums—his brain fairly ached. It made his hands tremble. In his days of physical and nervous soundness it did not matter, but now, when he was sick, when his own heart was weak, as he fancied, and his nerves set to jangling by the least discord, it was almost more than he could bear. “Why don't you speak?” he insisted. “You know I can't stand this. I'm in no condition. What's the trouble? What's the use of carrying on this way? Are you going to tell me?”

“There!” Angela said, pointing her finger at the box of letters she had laid aside on the window-sill. She knew he would see them, would remember instantly what they were about.

Eugene looked. The box came to his memory instantly. He picked it up nervously, sheepishly, for this was like a blow in the face which he had no power to resist. The whole peculiar nature of his transactions with Ruby and with Christina came back to him, not as they had looked to him at the time, but as they were appearing to Angela now. What must she think of him? Here he was protesting right along that he loved her, that he was happy and satisfied to live with her, that he was not interested in any of these other women whom she knew to be interested in him and of whom she was inordinately jealous, that he had always loved her and her only, and yet here were these letters suddenly come to light, giving the lie to all these protestations and asseverations—making him look like the coward, the blackguard, the moral thief that he knew himself to be. To be dragged out of the friendly darkness of lack of knowledge and understanding on her part and set forth under the clear white light of positive proof—he stared helplessly, his nerves trembling, his brain aching, for truly he was in no condition for an emotional argument.

And yet Angela was crying now. She had walked away from him and was leaning against the mantel-piece sobbing as if her heart would break. There was a real convincing ache in the sound—the vibration expressing the sense of loss and defeat and despair which she felt. He was staring at the box wondering why he had been such an idiot as to leave them in his trunk, to have saved them at all.

“Well, I don't know that there is anything to say to that,” he observed finally, strolling over to where she was. There wasn't anything that he could say—that he knew. He was terribly sorry—sorry for her, sorry for himself. “Did you read them all?” he asked, curiously.

She nodded her head in the affirmative.

“Well, I didn't care so much for Christina Channing,” he observed, deprecatingly. He wanted to say something, anything which would relieve her depressed mood. He knew it couldn't be much. If he could only make her believe that there wasn't anything vital in either of these affairs, that his interests and protestations had been of a light, philandering character. Still the Ruby Kenny letter showed that she cared for him desperately. He could not say anything against Ruby.

Angela caught the name of Christina Channing clearly. It seared itself in her brain. She recalled now that it was she of whom she had heard him speak in a complimentary way from time to time. He had told in studios of what a lovely voice she had, what a charming platform presence she had, how she could sing so feelingly, how intelligently she looked upon life, how good looking she was, how she was coming back to grand opera some day. And he had been in the mountains with her—had made love to her while she, Angela, was out in Blackwood waiting for him patiently. It aroused on the instant all the fighting jealousy that was in her breast; it was the same jealousy that had determined her once before to hold him in spite of the plotting and scheming that appeared to her to be going on about her. They should not have him—these nasty studio superiorities—not any one of them, nor all of them combined, if they were to unite and try to get him. They had treated her shamefully since she had been in the East. They had almost uniformly ignored her. They would come to see Eugene, of course, and now that he was famous they could not be too nice to him, but as for her—well, they had no particular use for her. Hadn't she seen it! Hadn't she watched the critical, hypocritical, examining expressions in their eyes! She wasn't smart enough! She wasn't literary enough or artistic enough. She knew as much about life as they did and more—ten times as much; and yet because she couldn't strut and pose and stare and talk in an affected voice they thought themselves superior. And so did Eugene, the wretched creature! Superior! The cheap, mean, nasty, selfish upstarts! Why, the majority of them had nothing. Their clothes were mere rags and tags, when you came to examine them closely—badly sewed, of poor material, merely slung together, and yet they wore them with such a grand air! She would show them. She would dress herself too, one of these days, when Eugene had the means. She was doing it now—a great deal more than when she first came, and she would do it a great deal more before long. The nasty, mean, cheap, selfish, make-belief things. She would show them! O-oh! how she hated them.

Now as she cried she also thought of the fact that Eugene could write love letters to this horrible Christina Channing—one of the same kind, no doubt; her letters showed it. O-oh! how she hated her! If she could only get at her to poison her. And her sobs sounded much more of the sorrow she felt than of the rage. She was helpless in a way and she knew it. She did not dare to show him exactly what she felt. She was afraid of him. He might possibly leave her. He really did not care for her enough to stand everything from her—or did he? This doubt was the one terrible, discouraging, annihilating feature of the whole thing—if he only cared.

“I wish you wouldn't cry, Angela,” said Eugene appealingly, after a time. “It isn't as bad as you think. It looks pretty bad, but I wasn't married then, and I didn't care so very much for these people—not as much as you think; really I didn't. It may look that way to you, but I didn't.”

“Didn't care!” sneered Angela, all at once, flaring up. “Didn't care! It looks as though you didn't care, with one of them calling you Honey Boy and Adonis, and the other saying she wishes she were dead. A fine time you'd have convincing anyone that you didn't care. And I out in Blackwood at that very time, longing and waiting for you to come, and you up in the mountains making love to another woman. Oh, I know how much you cared. You showed how much you cared when you could leave me out there to wait for you eating my heart out while you were off in the mountains having a good time with another woman. 'Dear E—,' and 'Precious Honey Boy,' and 'Adonis'! That shows how much you cared, doesn't it!”

Eugene stared before him helplessly. Her bitterness and wrath surprised and irritated him. He did not know that she was capable of such an awful rage as showed itself in her face and words at this moment, and yet he did not know but that she was well justified. Why so bitter though—so almost brutal? He was sick. Had she no consideration for him?

“I tell you it wasn't as bad as you think,” he said stolidly, showing for the first time a trace of temper and opposition. “I wasn't married then. I did like Christina Channing; I did like Ruby Kenny. What of it? I can't help it now. What am I going to say about it? What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do?”

“Oh,” whimpered Angela, changing her tone at once from helpless accusing rage to pleading, self-commiserating misery. “And you can stand there and say to me 'what of it'? What of it! What of it! What shall you say? What do you think you ought to say? And me believing that you were so honorable and faithful! Oh, if I had only known! If I had only known! I had better have drowned myself a hundred times over than have waked and found that I wasn't loved. Oh, dear, oh, dear! I don't know what I ought to do! I don't know what I can do!”

“But I do love you,” protested Eugene soothingly, anxious to say or do anything which would quiet this terrific storm. He could not imagine how he could have been so foolish as to leave these letters lying around. Dear Heaven! What a mess he had made of this! If only he had put them safely outside the home or destroyed them. Still he had wanted to keep Christina's letters; they were so charming.

“Yes, you love me!” flared Angela. “I see how you love me. Those letters show it! Oh, dear! oh, dear! I wish I were dead.”

“Listen to me, Angela,” replied Eugene desperately, “I know this correspondence looks bad. I did make love to Miss Kenny and to Christina Channing, but you see I didn't care enough to marry either of them. If I had I would have. I cared for you. Believe it or not. I married you. Why did I marry you? Answer me that? I needn't have married you. Why did I? Because I loved you, of course. What other reason could I have?”

“Because you couldn't get Christina Channing,” snapped Angela, angrily, with the intuitive sense of one who reasons from one material fact to another, “that's why. If you could have, you would have. I know it. Her letters show it.”

“Her letters don't show anything of the sort,” returned Eugene angrily. “I couldn't get her? I could have had her, easily enough. I didn't want her. If I had wanted her, I would have married her—you can bet on that.”

He hated himself for lying in this way, but he felt for the time being that he had to do it. He did not care to stand in the rôle of a jilted lover. He half-fancied that he could have married Christina if he had really tried.

“Anyhow,” he said, “I'm not going to argue that point with you. I didn't marry her, so there you are; and I didn't marry Ruby Kenny either. Well you can think all you want; but I know. I cared for them, but I didn't marry them. I married you instead. I ought to get credit for something on that score. I married you because I loved you, I suppose. That's perfectly plain, isn't it?” He was half convincing himself that he had loved her—in some degree.

“Yes, I see how you love me,” persisted Angela, cogitating this very peculiar fact which he was insisting on and which it was very hard intellectually to overcome. “You married me because you couldn't very well get out of it, that's why. Oh, I know. You didn't want to marry me. That's very plain. You wanted to marry someone else. Oh, dear! oh, dear!”

“Oh, how you talk!” replied Eugene defiantly. “Marry someone else! Who did I want to marry? I could have married often enough if I had wanted to. I didn't want to marry, that's all. Believe it or not. I wanted to marry you and I did. I don't think you have any right to stand there and argue so. What you say isn't so, and you know it.”

Angela cogitated this argument further. He had married her! Why had he? He might have cared for Christina and Ruby, but he must have cared for her too. Why hadn't she thought of that? There was something in it—something besides a mere desire to deceive her. Perhaps he did care for her a little. Anyway it was plain that she could not get very far by arguing with him—he was getting stubborn, argumentative, contentious. She had not seen him that way before.

“Oh!” she sobbed, taking refuge from this very difficult realm of logic in the safer and more comfortable one of illogical tears. “I don't know what to do! I don't know what to think!”

She was badly treated, no doubt of that. Her life was a failure, but even so there was some charm about him. As he stood there, looking aimlessly around, defiant at one moment, appealing at another, she could not help seeing that he was not wholly bad. He was just weak on this one point. He loved pretty women. They were always trying to win him to them. He was probably not wholly to blame. If he would only be repentant enough, this thing might be allowed to blow over. It couldn't be forgiven. She never could forgive him for the way he had deceived her. Her ideal of him had been pretty hopelessly shattered—but she might live with him on probation.

“Angela!” he said, while she was still sobbing, and feeling that he ought to apologize to her. “Won't you believe me? Won't you forgive me? I don't like to hear you cry this way. There's no use saying that I didn't do anything. There's no use my saying anything at all, really. You won't believe me. I don't want you to; but I'm sorry. Won't you believe that? Won't you forgive me?”

Angela listened to this curiously, her thoughts going around in a ring for she was at once despairing, regretful, revengeful, critical, sympathetic toward him, desirous of retaining her state, desirous of obtaining and retaining his love, desirous of punishing him, desirous of doing any one of a hundred things. Oh, if he had only never done this! And he was sickly, too. He needed her sympathy.

“Won't you forgive me, Angela?” he pleaded softly, laying his hand on her arm. “I'm not going to do anything like that any more. Won't you believe me? Come on now. Quit crying, won't you?”

Angela hesitated for a while, lingering dolefully. She did not know what to do, what to say. It might be that he would not sin against her any more. He had not thus far, in so far as she knew. Still this was a terrible revelation. All at once, because he manoeuvred himself into a suitable position and because she herself was weary of fighting and crying, and because she was longing for sympathy, she allowed herself to be pulled into his arms, her head to his shoulder, and there she cried more copiously than ever. Eugene for the moment felt terribly grieved. He was really sorry for her. It wasn't right. He ought to be ashamed of himself. He should never have done anything like that.

“I'm sorry,” he whispered, “really I am. Won't you forgive me?”

“Oh, I don't know what to do! what to think!” moaned Angela after a time.

“Please do, Angela,” he urged, holding her questioningly.

There was more of this pleading and emotional badgering until finally out of sheer exhaustion Angela said yes. Eugene's nerves were worn to a thread by the encounter. He was pale, exhausted, distraught. Many scenes like this, he thought, would set him crazy; and still he had to go through a world of petting and love-making even now. It was not easy to bring her back to her normal self. It was bad business, this philandering, he thought. It seemed to lead to all sorts of misery for him, and Angela was jealous. Dear Heaven! what a wrathful, vicious, contentious nature she had when she was aroused. He had never suspected that. How could he truly love her when she acted like that? How could he sympathize with her? He recalled how she sneered at him—how she taunted him with Christina's having discarded him. He was weary, excited, desirous of rest and sleep, but now he must make more love. He fondled her, and by degrees she came out of her blackest mood; but he was not really forgiven even then. He was just understood better. And she was not truly happy again but only hopeful—and watchful.

CHAPTER XII

Spring, summer and fall came and went with Eugene and Angela first in Alexandria and then in Blackwood. In suffering this nervous breakdown and being compelled to leave New York, Eugene missed some of the finest fruits of his artistic efforts, for M. Charles, as well as a number of other people, were interested in him and were prepared to entertain him in an interesting and conspicuous way. He could have gone out a great deal, but his mental state was such that he was poor company for anyone. He was exceedingly morbid, inclined to discuss gloomy subjects, to look on life as exceedingly sad and to believe that people generally were evil. Lust, dishonesty, selfishness, envy, hypocrisy, slander, hate, theft, adultery, murder, dementia, insanity, inanity—these and death and decay occupied his thoughts. There was no light anywhere. Only a storm of evil and death. These ideas coupled with his troubles with Angela, the fact that he could not work, the fact that he felt he had made a matrimonial mistake, the fact that he feared he might die or go crazy, made a terrible and agonizing winter for him.

Angela's attitude, while sympathetic enough, once the first storm of feeling was over, was nevertheless involved with a substratum of criticism. While she said nothing, agreed that she would forget, Eugene had the consciousness all the while that she wasn't forgetting, that she was secretly reproaching him and that she was looking for new manifestations of weakness in this direction, expecting them and on the alert to prevent them.

The spring-time in Alexandria, opening as it did shortly after they reached there, was in a way a source of relief to Eugene. He had decided for the time being to give up trying to work, to give up his idea of going either to London or Chicago, and merely rest. Perhaps it was true that he was tired. He didn't feel that way. He couldn't sleep and he couldn't work, but he felt brisk enough. It was only because he couldn't work that he was miserable. Still he decided to try sheer idleness. Perhaps that would revive his wonderful art for him. Meantime he speculated ceaselessly on the time he was losing, the celebrities he was missing, the places he was not seeing. Oh, London, London! If he could only do that.

Mr. and Mrs. Witla were immensely pleased to have their boy back with them again. Being in their way simple, unsophisticated people, they could not understand how their son's health could have undergone such a sudden reverse.

“I never saw Gene looking so bad in all his life,” observed Witla pére to his wife the day Eugene arrived. “His eyes are so sunken. What in the world do you suppose is ailing him?”

“How should I know?” replied his wife, who was greatly distressed over her boy. “I suppose he's just tired out, that's all. He'll probably be all right after he rests awhile. Don't let on that you think he's looking out of sorts. Just pretend that he's all right. What do you think of his wife?”

“She appears to be a very nice little woman,” replied Witla. “She's certainly devoted to him. I never thought Eugene would marry just that type, but he's the judge. I suppose people thought that I would never marry anybody like you, either,” he added jokingly.

“Yes, you did make a terrible mistake,” jested his wife in return. “You worked awfully hard to make it.”

“I was young! I was young! You want to remember that,” retorted Witla. “I didn't know much in those days.”

“You don't appear to know much better yet,” she replied, “do you?”

He smiled and patted her on the back. “Well, anyhow I'll have to make the best of it, won't I? It's too late now.”

“It certainly is,” replied his wife.

Eugene and Angela were given his old room on the second floor, commanding a nice view of the yard and the street corner, and they settled down to spend what the Witla parents hoped would be months of peaceful days. It was a curious sensation to Eugene to find himself back here in Alexandria looking out upon the peaceful neighborhood in which he had been raised, the trees, the lawn, the hammock replaced several times since he had left, but still in its accustomed place. The thought of the little lakes and the small creek winding about the town were a comfort to him. He could go fishing now and boating, and there were some interesting walks here and there. He began to amuse himself by going fishing the first week, but it was still a little cold, and he decided, for the time being, to confine himself to walking.

Days of this kind grow as a rule quickly monotonous. To a man of Eugene's turn of mind there was so little in Alexandria to entertain him. After London and Paris, Chicago and New York, the quiet streets of his old home town were a joke. He visited the office of the Appeal but both Jonas Lyle and Caleb Williams had gone, the former to St. Louis, the latter to Bloomington. Old Benjamin Burgess, his sister's husband's father, was unchanged except in the matter of years. He told Eugene that he was thinking of running for Congress in the next campaign—the Republican organization owed it to him. His son Henry, Sylvia's husband, had become a treasurer of the local bank. He was working as patiently and quietly as ever, going to church Sundays, going to Chicago occasionally on business, consulting with farmers and business men about small loans. He was a close student of the several banking journals of the country, and seemed to be doing very well financially. Sylvia had little to say of how he was getting along. Having lived with him for eleven years, she had become somewhat close-mouthed like himself. Eugene could not help smiling at the lean, slippered subtlety of the man, young as he was. He was so quiet, so conservative, so intent on all the little things which make a conventionally successful life. Like a cabinet maker, he was busy inlaying the little pieces which would eventually make the perfect whole.

Angela took up the household work, which Mrs. Witla grudgingly consented to share with her, with a will. She liked to work and would put the house in order while Mrs. Witla was washing the dishes after breakfast. She would make special pies and cakes for Eugene when she could without giving offense, and she tried to conduct herself so that Mrs. Witla would like her. She did not think so much of the Witla household. It wasn't so much better than her own—hardly as good. Still it was Eugene's birthplace and for that reason important. There was a slight divergence of view-point though, between his mother and herself, over the nature of life and how to live it. Mrs. Witla was of an easier, more friendly outlook on life than Angela. She liked to take things as they came without much worry, while Angela was of a naturally worrying disposition. The two had one very human failing in common—they could not work with anyone else at anything. Each preferred to do all that was to be done rather than share it at all. Both being so anxious to be conciliatory for Eugene's sake and for permanent peace in the family, there was small chance for any disagreement, for neither was without tact. But there was just a vague hint of something in the air—that Angela was a little hard and selfish, on Mrs. Witla's part; that Mrs. Witla was just the least bit secretive, or shy or distant—from Angela's point of view. All was serene and lovely on the surface, however, with many won't-you-let-me's and please-do-now's on both sides. Mrs. Witla, being so much older, was, of course, calmer and in the family seat of dignity and peace.

To be able to sit about in a chair, lie in a hammock, stroll in the woods and country fields and be perfectly happy in idle contemplation and loneliness, requires an exceptional talent for just that sort of thing. Eugene once fancied he had it, as did his parents, but since he had heard the call of fame he could never be still any more. And just at this time he was not in need of solitude and idle contemplation but of diversion and entertainment. He needed companionship of the right sort, gayety, sympathy, enthusiasm. Angela had some of this, when she was not troubled about anything, his parents, his sister, his old acquaintances had a little more to offer. They could not, however, be forever talking to him or paying him attention, and beyond them there was nothing. The town had no resources. Eugene would walk the long country roads with Angela or go boating or fishing sometimes, but still he was lonely. He would sit on the porch or in the hammock and think of what he had seen in London and Paris—how he might be at work. St. Paul's in a mist, the Thames Embankment, Piccadilly, Blackfriars Bridge, the muck of Whitechapel and the East End—how he wished he was out of all this and painting them. If he could only paint. He rigged up a studio in his father's barn, using a north loft door for light and essayed certain things from memory, but there was no making anything come out right. He had this fixed belief, which was a notion purely, that there was always something wrong. Angela, his mother, his father, whom he occasionally asked for an opinion, might protest that it was beautiful or wonderful, but he did not believe it. After a few altering ideas of this kind, under the influences of which he would change and change and change things, he would find himself becoming wild in his feelings, enraged at his condition, intensely despondent and sorry for himself.

“Well,” he would say, throwing down his brush, “I shall simply have to wait until I come out of this. I can't do anything this way.” Then he would walk or read or row on the lakes or play solitaire, or listen to Angela playing on the piano that his father had installed for Myrtle long since. All the time though he was thinking of his condition, what he was missing, how the gay world was surging on rapidly elsewhere, how long it would be before he got well, if ever. He talked of going to Chicago and trying his hand at scenes there, but Angela persuaded him to rest for a while longer. In June she promised him they would go to Blackwood for the summer, coming back here in the fall if he wished, or going on to New York or staying in Chicago, just as he felt about it. Now he needed rest.

“Eugene will probably be all right by then,” Angela volunteered to his mother, “and he can make up his mind whether he wants to go to Chicago or London.”

She was very proud of her ability to talk of where they would go and what they would do.

CHAPTER XIII

If it had not been for the lurking hope of some fresh exciting experience with a woman, he would have been unconscionably lonely. As it was, this thought with him—quite as the confirmed drunkard's thought of whiskey—buoyed him up, kept him from despairing utterly, gave his mind the only diversion it had from the ever present thought of failure. If by chance he should meet some truly beautiful girl, gay, enticing, who would fall in love with him! that would be happiness. Only, Angela was constantly watching him these days and, besides, more girls would simply mean that his condition would be aggravated. Yet so powerful was the illusion of desire, the sheer animal magnetism of beauty, that when it came near him in the form of a lovely girl of his own temperamental inclinations he could not resist it. One look into an inviting eye, one glance at a face whose outlines were soft and delicate—full of that subtle suggestion of youth and health which is so characteristic of girlhood—and the spell was cast. It was as though the very form of the face, without will or intention on the part of the possessor, acted hypnotically upon its beholder. The Arabians believed in the magic power of the word Abracadabra to cast a spell. For Eugene the form of a woman's face and body was quite as powerful.

While he and Angela were in Alexandria from February to May, he met one night at his sister's house a girl who, from the point of view of the beauty which he admired and to which he was so susceptible, was extremely hypnotic, and who for the ease and convenience of a flirtation was very favorably situated. She was the daughter of a traveling man, George Roth by name, whose wife, the child's mother, was dead, but who lived with his sister in an old tree-shaded house on the edge of Green Lake not far from the spot where Eugene had once attempted to caress his first love, Stella Appleton. Frieda was the girl's name. She was extremely attractive, not more than eighteen years of age, with large, clear, blue eyes, a wealth of yellowish-brown hair and a plump but shapely figure. She was a graduate of the local high school, well developed for her years, bright, rosy-cheeked, vivacious and with a great deal of natural intelligence which attracted the attention of Eugene at once. Normally he was extremely fond of a natural, cheerful, laughing disposition. In his present state he was abnormally so. This girl and her foster mother had heard of him a long time since through his parents and his sister, whom they knew well and whom they visited frequently. George Roth had moved here since Eugene had first left for Chicago, and because he was so much on the road he had not seen him since. Frieda, on all his previous visits, had been too young to take an interest in men, but now at this age, when she was just blossoming into womanhood, her mind was fixed on them. She did not expect to be interested in Eugene because she knew he was married, but because of his reputation as an artist she was curious about him. Everybody knew who he was. The local papers had written up his success and published his portrait. Frieda expected to see a man of about forty, stern and sober. Instead she met a smiling youth of twenty-nine, rather gaunt and hollow-eyed, but none the less attractive for that. Eugene, with Angela's approval, still affected a loose, flowing tie, a soft turn-down collar, brown corduroy suits as a rule, the coat cut with a belt, shooting jacket fashion, a black iron ring of very curious design upon one of his fingers, and a soft hat. His hands were very thin and white, his skin pale. Frieda, rosy, as thoughtless as a butterfly, charmingly clothed in a dress of blue linen, laughing, afraid of him because of his reputation, attracted his attention at once. She was like all the young, healthy, laughing girls he had ever known, delightful. He wished he were single again that he might fall into a jesting conversation with her. She seemed inclined to be friendly from the first.

Angela being present, however, and Frieda's foster mother, it was necessary for him to be circumspect and distant. The latter, Sylvia and Angela, talked of art and listened to Angela's descriptions of Eugene's eccentricities, idiosyncrasies and experiences, which were a never-failing source of interest to the common run of mortals whom they met. Eugene would sit by in a comfortable chair with a weary, genial or indifferent look on his face as his mood happened to be. To-night he was bored and a little indifferent in his manner. No one here interested him save this girl, the beauty of whose face nourished his secret dreams. He longed to have some such spirit of youth near him always. Why could not women remain young?

While they were laughing and talking, Eugene picked up a copy of Howard Pyle's “Knights of the Round Table” with its warm heavy illustrations of the Arthurian heroes and heroines, and began to study the stately and exaggerated characteristics of the various characters. Sylvia had purchased it for her seven-year old boy Jack, asleep upstairs, but Frieda had read it in her girlhood a few years before. She had been moving restlessly about, conscious of an interest in Eugene but not knowing how to find an opportunity for conversation. His smile, which he sometimes directed toward her, was to her entrancing.

“Oh, I read that,” she said, when she saw him looking at it. She had drifted to a position not far behind his chair and near one of the windows. She pretended to be looking out at first, but now began to talk to him. “I used to be crazy about every one of the Knights and Ladies—Sir Launcelot, Sir Galahad, Sir Tristram, Sir Gawaine, Queen Guinevere.”

“Did you ever hear of Sir Bluff?” he asked teasingly, “or Sir Stuff? or Sir Dub?” He looked at her with a mocking light of humor in his eyes.

“Oh, there aren't such people,” laughed Frieda, surprised at the titles but tickled at the thought of them.

“Don't you let him mock you, Frieda,” put in Angela, who was pleased at the girl's gayety and glad that Eugene had found someone in whom he could take an interest. She did not fear the simple Western type of girl like Frieda and her own sister Marietta. They were franker, more kindly, better intentioned than the Eastern studio type, and besides they did not consider themselves superior. She was playing the rôle of the condescending leader here.

“Certainly there are,” replied Eugene solemnly, addressing Frieda. “They are the new Knights of the Round Table. Haven't you ever heard of that book?”

“No, I haven't,” answered Frieda gaily, “and there isn't any such. You're just teasing me.”

“Teasing you? Why I wouldn't think of such a thing. And there is such a book. It's published by Harper and Brothers and is called 'The New Knights of the Round Table.' You simply haven't heard of it, that's all.”

Frieda was impressed. She didn't know whether to believe him or not. She opened her eyes in a curiously inquiring girlish way which appealed to Eugene strongly. He wished he were free to kiss her pretty, red, thoughtlessly-parted lips. Angela herself was faintly doubtful as to whether he was speaking of a real book or not.

“Sir Stuff is a very famous Knight,” he went on, “and so is Sir Bluff. They're inseparable companions in the book. As for Sir Dub and Sir Hack, and the Lady Dope—”

“Oh, hush, Eugene,” called Angela gaily. “Just listen to what he's telling Frieda,” she remarked to Miss Roth. “You mustn't mind him though. He's always teasing someone. Why didn't you raise him better, Sylvia?” she asked of Eugene's sister.

“Oh, don't ask me. We never could do anything with Gene. I never knew he had much jesting in him until he came back this time.”

“They're very wonderful,” they heard him telling Frieda, “all fine rosy gentlemen and ladies.”

Frieda was impressed by this charming, good-natured man. His spirit was evidently as youthful and gay as her own. She sat before him looking into his smiling eyes while he teased her about this, that and the other foible of youth. Who were her sweethearts? How did she make love? How many boys lined up to see her come out of church on Sunday? He knew. “I'll bet they look like a line of soldiers on dress parade,” he volunteered, “all with nice new ties and clean pocket handkerchiefs and their shoes polished and—”

“Oh, ha! ha!” laughed Frieda. The idea appealed to her immensely. She started giggling and bantering with him and their friendship was definitely sealed. She thought he was delightful.

CHAPTER XIV

The opportunity for further meetings seemed to come about quite naturally. The Witla boathouse, where the family kept one small boat, was at the foot of the Roth lawn, reached by a slightly used lane which came down that side of the house; and also by a grape-arbor which concealed the lake from the lower end of the house and made a sheltered walk to the waterside, at the end of which was a weather-beaten wooden bench. Eugene came here sometimes to get the boat to row or to fish. On several occasions Angela had accompanied him, but she did not care much for rowing or fishing and was perfectly willing that he should go alone if he wanted to. There was also the friendship of Miss Roth for Mr. and Mrs. Witla, which occasionally brought her and Frieda to the house. And Frieda came from time to time to his studio in the barn, to see him paint. Because of her youth and innocence Angela thought very little of her presence there, which struck Eugene as extremely fortunate. He was interested in her charms, anxious to make love to her in a philandering sort of way, without intending to do her any harm. It struck him as a little curious that he should find her living so near the spot where once upon a winter's night he had made love to Stella. There was something not unlike Stella about her, though she was softer, more whole souledly genial and pliable to his moods.

He saw her one day, when he went for his boat, standing out in the yard, and she came down to the waterside to greet him.

“Well,” he said, smiling at her fresh morning appearance, and addressing her with that easy familiarity with which he knew how to take youth and life generally, “we're looking as bright as a butterfly. I don't suppose we butterflies have to work very hard, do we?”

“Oh, don't we,” replied Frieda. “That's all you know.”

“Well, I don't know, that's true, but perhaps one of these butterflies will tell me. Now you, for instance.”

Frieda smiled. She scarcely knew how to take him, but she thought he was delightful. She hadn't the faintest conception either of the depth and subtlety of his nature or of the genial, kindly inconstancy of it. She only saw him as a handsome, smiling man, not at all too old, witty, good-natured, here by the bright green waters of this lake, pulling out his boat. He looked so cheerful to her, so care free. She had him indissolubly mixed in her impressions with the freshness of the ground, the newness of the grass, the brightness of the sky, the chirping of the birds and even the little scintillating ripples on the water.

“Butterflies never work, that I know,” he said, refusing to take her seriously. “They just dance around in the sunlight and have a good time. Did you ever talk to a butterfly about that?”

Frieda merely smiled at him.

He pushed his boat into the water, holding it lightly by a rope, got down a pair of oars from a rack and stepped into it. Then he stood there looking at her.

“Have you lived in Alexandria long?” he asked.

“About eight years now.”

“Do you like it?”

“Sometimes, not always. I wish we lived in Chicago. O-oh!” she sniffed, turning up her pretty nose, “isn't that lovely!” She was smelling some odor of flowers blown from a garden.

“Yes, I get it too. Geraniums, isn't it? They're blooming here, I see. A day like this sets me crazy.” He sat down in his boat and put his oars in place.

“Well, I have to go and try my luck for whales. Wouldn't you like to go fishing?”

“I would, all right,” said Frieda, “only aunt wouldn't let me, I think. I'd just love to go. It's lots of fun, catching fish.”

“Yes, catching fish,” laughed Eugene. “Well, I'll bring you a nice little shark—one that bites. Would you like that? Down in the Atlantic Ocean they have sharks that bite and bark. They come up out of the water at night and bark like a dog.”

“O-o-oh, dear! how funny!” giggled Frieda, and Eugene began slowly rowing his boat lakeward.

“Be sure you bring me a nice fish,” she called.

“Be sure you're here to get it when I come back,” he answered.

He saw her with the lattice of spring leaves behind her, the old house showing pleasantly on its rise of ground, some house-martens turning in the morning sky.

“What a lovely girl,” he thought. “She's beautiful—as fresh as a flower. That is the one great thing in the world—the beauty of girlhood.”

He came back after a time expecting to find her, but her foster-mother had sent her on an errand. He felt a keen sense of disappointment.

There were other meetings after this, once on a day when he came back practically fishless and she laughed at him; once when he saw her sunning her hair on the back porch after she had washed it and she came down to stand under the trees near the water, looking like a naiad. He wished then he could take her in his arms, but he was a little uncertain of her and of himself. Once she came to his studio in the barn to bring him a piece of left-over dough which his mother had “turned” on the top of the stove.

“Eugene used to be crazy about that when he was a boy,” his mother had remarked.

“Oh, let me take it to him,” said Frieda gaily, gleeful over the idea of the adventure.

“That's a good idea,” said Angela innocently. “Wait, I'll put it on this saucer.”

Frieda took it and ran. She found Eugene staring oddly at his canvas, his face curiously dark. When her head came above the loft floor his expression changed immediately. His guileless, kindly smile returned.

“Guess what,” she said, pulling a little white apron she had on over the dish.

“Strawberries.” They were in season.

“Oh, no.”

“Peaches and cream.”

“Where would we get peaches now?”

“At the grocery store.”

“I'll give you one more guess.”

“Angel cake!” He was fond of that, and Angela occasionally made it.

“Your guesses are all gone. You can't have any.”

He reached out his hand, but she drew back. He followed and she laughed. “No, no, you can't have any now.”

He caught her soft arm and drew her close to him. “Sure I can't?”

Their faces were close together.

She looked into his eyes for a moment, then dropped her lashes. Eugene's brain swirled with the sense of her beauty. It was the old talisman. He covered her sweet lips with his own and she yielded feverishly.

“There now, eat your dough,” she exclaimed when he let her go, pushing it shamefacedly toward him. She was flustered—so much so that she failed to jest about it. “What would Mrs. Witla think,” she added, “if she could see us?”

Eugene paused solemnly and listened. He was afraid of Angela.

“I've always liked this stuff, ever since I was a boy,” he said in an offhand way.

“So your mother said,” replied Frieda, somewhat recovered. “Let me see what you're painting.” She came round to his side and he took her hand. “I'll have to go now,” she said wisely. “They'll be expecting me back.”

Eugene speculated on the intelligence of girls—at least on that of those he liked. Somehow they were all wise under these circumstances—cautious. He could see that instinctively Frieda was prepared to protect him and herself. She did not appear to be suffering from any shock from this revelation. Rather she was inclined to make the best of it.

He folded her in his arms again.

“You're the angel cake and the strawberries and the peaches and cream,” he said.

“Don't!” she pleaded. “Don't! I have to go now.”

And when he released her she ran quickly down the stairs, giving him a swift, parting smile.

So Frieda was added to the list of his conquests and he pondered over it gravely. If Angela could have seen this scene, what a storm there would have been! If she ever became conscious of what was going on, what a period of wrath there would be! It would be terrible. After her recent discovery of his letters he hated to think of that. Still this bliss of caressing youth—was it not worth any price? To have a bright, joyous girl of eighteen put her arms about you—could you risk too much for it? The world said one life, one love. Could he accede to that? Could any one woman satisfy him? Could Frieda if he had her? He did not know. He did not care to think about it. Only this walking in a garden of flowers—how delicious it was. This having a rose to your lips!

Angela saw nothing of this attraction for some time. She was not prepared yet to believe, poor little depender on the conventions as she understood them, that the world was full of plots and counter-plots, snares, pitfalls and gins. The way of the faithful and well-meaning woman in marriage should be simple and easy. She should not be harassed by uncertainty of affection, infelicities of temper, indifference or infidelity. If she worked hard, as Angela was trying to do, trying to be a good wife, saving, serving, making a sacrifice of her time and services and moods and wishes for her husband's sake, why shouldn't he do the same for her? She knew of no double standard of virtue. If she had she would not have believed in it. Her parents had raised her to see marriage in a different light. Her father was faithful to her mother. Eugene's father was faithful to his wife—that was perfectly plain. Her brothers-in-law were faithful to her sisters, Eugene's brothers-in-law were faithful to his sisters. Why should not Eugene be faithful to her?

So far, of course, she had no evidence to the contrary. He probably was faithful and would remain so. He had said so, but this pre-matrimonial philandering of his looked very curious. It was an astonishing thing that he could have deceived her so. She would never forget it. He was a genius to be sure. The world was waiting to hear what he had to say. He was a great man and should associate with great men, or, failing that, should not want to associate with anyone at all. It was ridiculous for him to be running around after silly women. She thought of this and decided to do her best to prevent it. The seat of the mighty was in her estimation the place for Eugene, with her in the foreground as a faithful and conspicuous acolyte, swinging the censer of praise and delight.

The days went on and various little meetings—some accidental, some premeditated—took place between Eugene and Frieda. There was one afternoon when he was at his sister's and she came there to get a pattern for her foster-mother from Sylvia. She lingered for over an hour, during which time Eugene had opportunities to kiss her a dozen times. The beauty of her eyes and her smile haunted him after she was gone. There was another time when he saw her at dusk near his boathouse, and kissed her in the shadow of the sheltering grape-arbor. In his own home there were clandestine moments and in his studio, the barn loft, for Frieda made occasion a few times to come to him—a promise to make a sketch of her being the excuse. Angela resented this, but she could not prevent it. In the main Frieda exhibited that curious patience in love which women so customarily exhibit and which a man can never understand. She could wait for her own to come to her—for him to find her; while he, with that curious avidness of the male in love, burned as a fed fire to see her. He was jealous of the little innocent walks she took with boys she knew. The fact that it was necessary for her to be away from him was a great deprivation. The fact that he was married to Angela was a horrible disaster. He would look at Angela, when she was with him, preventing him from his freedom in love, with almost calculated hate in his eyes. Why had he married her? As for Frieda, when she was near, and he could not draw near her, his eyes followed her movements with a yearning, devouring glance. He was fairly beside himself with anguish under the spell of her beauty. Frieda had no notion of the consuming flame she had engendered.

It was a simple thing to walk home with her from the post-office—quite accidentally on several occasions. It was a fortuitous thing that Anna Roth should invite Angela and himself, as well as his father and mother, to her house to dinner. On one occasion when Frieda was visiting at the Witla homestead, Angela thought Frieda stepped away from Eugene in a curiously disturbed manner when she came into the parlor. She was not sure. Frieda hung round him in a good-natured way most of the time when various members of the family were present. She wondered if by any chance he was making love to her, but she could not prove it. She tried to watch them from then on, but Eugene was so subtle, Frieda so circumspect, that she never did obtain any direct testimony. Nevertheless, before they left Alexandria there was a weeping scene over this, hysterical, tempestuous, in which she accused him of making love to Frieda, he denying it stoutly.

“If it wasn't for your relatives' sake,” she declared, “I would accuse her to her face, here before your eyes. She couldn't dare deny it.”

“Oh, you're crazy,” said Eugene. “You're the most suspicious woman I ever knew. Good Lord! Can't I look at a woman any more? This little girl! Can't I even be nice to her?”

“Nice to her? Nice to her? I know how you're nice to her. I can see! I can feel! Oh, God! Why can't you give me a faithful husband!”

“Oh, cut it out!” demanded Eugene defiantly. “You're always watching. I can't turn around but you have your eye on me. I can tell. Well, you go ahead and watch. That's all the good it will do you. I'll give you some real reason for watching one of these days. You make me tired!”

“Oh, hear how he talks to me,” moaned Angela, “and we're only married one year! Oh, Eugene, how can you? Have you no pity, no shame? Here in your own home, too! Oh! oh! oh!”

To Eugene such hysterics were maddening. He could not understand how anyone should want or find it possible to carry on in this fashion. He was lying “out of the whole cloth” about Frieda, but Angela didn't know and he knew she didn't know. All these tantrums were based on suspicion. If she would do this on a mere suspicion, what would she not do when she had a proved cause?

Still by her tears she as yet had the power of rousing his sympathies and awakening his sense of shame. Her sorrow made him slightly ashamed of his conduct or rather sorry, for the tougher nature was constantly presenting itself. Her suspicions made the further pursuit of this love quest practically impossible. Secretly he already cursed the day he had married her, for Frieda's face was ever before him, a haunting lure to love and desire. In this hour life looked terribly sad to him. He couldn't help feeling that all the perfect things one might seek or find were doomed to the searing breath of an inimical fate. Ashes of roses—that was all life had to offer. Dead sea fruit, turning to ashes upon the lips. Oh, Frieda! Frieda! Oh, youth, youth! That there should dance before him for evermore an unattainable desire—the holy grail of beauty. Oh life, oh death! Which was really better, waking or sleeping? If he could only have Frieda now it would be worth living, but without her—

CHAPTER XV

The weakness of Eugene was that he was prone in each of these new conquests to see for the time being the sum and substance of bliss, to rise rapidly in the scale of uncontrollable, exaggerated affection, until he felt that here and nowhere else, now and in this particular form was ideal happiness. He had been in love with Stella, with Margaret, with Ruby, with Angela, with Christina, and now with Frieda, quite in this way, and it had taught him nothing as yet concerning love except that it was utterly delightful. He wondered at times how it was that the formation of a particular face could work this spell. There was plain magic in the curl of a lock of hair, the whiteness or roundness of a forehead, the shapeliness of a nose or ear, the arched redness of full-blown petal lips. The cheek, the chin, the eye—in combination with these things—how did they work this witchery? The tragedies to which he laid himself open by yielding to these spells—he never stopped to think of them.

It is a question whether the human will, of itself alone, ever has cured or ever can cure any human weakness. Tendencies are subtle things. They are involved in the chemistry of one's being, and those who delve in the mysteries of biology frequently find that curious anomaly, a form of minute animal life born to be the prey of another form of animal life—chemically and physically attracted to its own disaster. Thus, to quote Calkins, “some protozoa are apparently limited to special kinds of food. The 'slipper-animal' (Paramecium) and the 'bell-animal' (Vorticella) live on certain kinds of bacteria, and many others, which live upon smaller protozoa, seem to have a marked affinity for certain kinds. I have watched one of these creatures (Actinobolus) lie perfectly quiet while hundreds of bacteria and smaller kinds of protozoa bumped against it, until a certain variety (Halteria grandinella) came near, when a minute dart, or 'trochocyst,' attached to a relatively long thread, was launched. The victim was invariably hit, and after a short struggle was drawn in and devoured. The results of many experiments indicate that the apparently willful selection in these cases is the inevitable action of definite chemical and physical laws which the individual organism can no more change than it can change the course of gravitation. The killing dart mentioned above is called out by the particular kind of prey with the irresistible attraction of an iron filing for a magnet.”

Eugene did not know of these curious biologic experiments at this time, but he suspected that these attractions were deeper than human will. He thought at times that he ought to resist his impulses. At other times he asked himself why. If his treasure was in this and he lost it by resistance, what had he? A sense of personal purity? It did not appeal to him. The respect of his fellow-citizens? He believed that most of his fellow-citizens were whited sepulchres. What good did their hypocritical respect do him? Justice to others? Others were not concerned, or should not be in the natural affinity which might manifest itself between two people. That was for them to settle. Besides, there was very little justice in the world. As for his wife—well, he had given her his word, but he had not done so willingly. Might one swear eternal fealty and abide by it when the very essence of nature was lack of fealty, inconsiderateness, destruction, change? A gloomy Hamlet to be sure, asking “can honor set a leg?”—a subtle Machiavelli believing that might made right, sure that it was a matter of careful planning, not ethics which brought success in this world, and yet one of the poorest planners in it. An anarchistic manifestation of selfishness surely; but his additional plea was that he did not make his own mind, nor his emotions, nor anything else. And worst of all, he counselled himself that he was not seizing anything ruthlessly. He was merely accepting that which was thrust temptingly before him by fate.

Hypnotic spells of this character like contagion and fever have their period of duration, their beginning, climax and end. It is written that love is deathless, but this was not written of the body nor does it concern the fevers of desire. The marriage of true minds to which Shakespeare would admit no impediment is of a different texture and has little sex in it. The friendship of Damon and Pythias was a marriage in the best sense, though it concerned two men. The possibilities of intellectual union between a man and a woman are quite the same. This is deathless in so far as it reflects the spiritual ideals of the universe—not more so. All else is illusion of short duration and vanishes in thin air.

When the time came for Eugene to leave Alexandria as he had originally wanted to do, he was not at all anxious to depart; rather it was an occasion of great suffering for him. He could not see any solution to the problem which confronted him in connection with Frieda's love for him. As a matter of fact, when he thought about it at all he was quite sure that she did not understand or appreciate the nature of her affection for him or his for her. It had no basis in responsibility. It was one of those things born of thin air—sunlight, bright waters, the reflection of a bright room—things which are intangible and insubstantial. Eugene was not one who, if he thought anything at all about it, would persuade a girl to immorality for the mere sake of indulgence. His feelings were invariably compounded of finer things, love of companionship, love of beauty, a variable sense of the consequences which must ensue, not so much to him as to her, though he took himself into consideration. If she were not already experienced and he had no method of protecting her, if he could not take her as his wife or give her the advantages of his presence and financial support, secretly or openly, if he could not keep all their transactions a secret from the world, he was inclined to hesitate. He did not want to do anything rash—as much for her sake as for his. In this case, the fact that he could not marry her, that he could not reasonably run away with her, seeing that he was mentally sick and of uncertain financial condition, the fact that he was surrounded by home conditions which made it of the greatest importance that he should conduct himself circumspectly, weighed greatly with him. Nevertheless a tragedy could easily have resulted here. If Frieda had been of a headstrong, unthinking nature; if Angela had been less watchful, morbid, appealing in her mood; if the family and town conditions had been less weighty; if Eugene had had health and ample means, he would probably have deserted Angela, taken Frieda to some European city—he dreamed of Paris in this connection—and found himself confronted later by an angry father or a growing realization that Frieda's personal charms were not the sum and substance of his existence, or both. George Roth, for all he was a traveling salesman, was a man of considerable determination. He might readily have ended the life of his daughter's betrayer—art reputation or no. He worshiped Frieda as the living image of his dead wife, and at best he would have been heartbroken.

As it was, there was not much chance of this, for Eugene was not rash. He was too philosophic. Conditions might have arisen in which he would have shown the most foolhardy bravado, but not in his present state. There was not sufficient anguish in his own existence to drive him to action. He saw no clear way. So, in June, with Angela he took his departure for Blackwood, pretending, to her, outward indifference as to his departure, but inwardly feeling as though his whole life were coming to nothing.

When he reached Blackwood he was now, naturally, disgusted with the whole atmosphere of it. Frieda was not there. Alexandria, from having been the most wearisome sidepool of aimless inactivity, had suddenly taken on all the characteristics of paradise. The little lakes, the quiet streets, the court house square, his sister's home, Frieda's home, his own home, had been once more invested for him with the radiance of romance—that intangible glory of feeling which can have no existence outside the illusion of love. Frieda's face was everywhere in it, her form, the look of her eyes. He could see nothing there now save the glory of Frieda. It was as though the hard, weary face of a barren landscape were suddenly bathed in the soft effulgence of a midnight moon.

As for Blackwood, it was as lovely as ever but he could not see it. The fact that his attitude had changed toward Angela for the time being made all the difference. He did not really hate her—he told himself that. She was not any different from that she had been, that was perfectly plain. The difference was in him. He really could not be madly in love with two people at once. He had entertained joint affections for Angela and Ruby, and Angela and Christina, but those were not the dominating fevers which this seemed to be. He could not for the time get the face of this girl out of his mind. He was sorry for Angela at moments. Then, because of her insistence on his presence with her—on her being in his company, “following him around” as he put it, he hated her. Dear Heaven! if he could only be free without injuring her. If he could only get loose. Think, at this moment he might be with Frieda walking in the sun somewhere, rowing on the lake at Alexandria, holding her in his arms. He would never forget how she looked the first morning she came into his barn studio at home—how enticing she was the first night he saw her at Sylvia's. What a rotten mess living was, anyhow. And so he sat about in the hammock at the Blue homestead, or swung in a swing that old Jotham had since put up for Marietta's beaux, or dreamed in a chair in the shade of the house, reading. He was dreary and lonely with just one ambition in the world—Frieda.

Meanwhile, as might be expected, his health was not getting any better. Instead of curing himself of those purely carnal expressions of passion which characterized his life with Angela, the latter went on unbroken. One would have thought that his passion for Frieda would have interrupted this, but the presence of Angela, the comparatively enforced contact, her insistence on his attentions, broke down again and again the protecting barrier of distaste. Had he been alone, he would have led a chaste life until some new and available infatuation seized him. As it was there was no refuge either from himself or Angela, and the at times almost nauseating relationship went on and on.

Those of the Blue family, who were in the home or near it, were delighted to see him. The fact that he had achieved such a great success, as the papers had reported, with his first exhibition and had not lost ground with the second—a very interesting letter had come from M. Charles saying that the Paris pictures would be shown in Paris in July—gave them a great estimate of him. Angela was a veritable queen in this home atmosphere; and as for Eugene, he was given the privilege of all geniuses to do as he pleased. On this occasion Eugene was the centre of interest, though he appeared not to be, for his four solid Western brothers-in-law gave no indication that they thought he was unusual. He was not their type—banker, lawyer, grain merchant and real estate dealer—but they felt proud of him just the same. He was different, and at the same time natural, genial, modest, inclined to appear far more interested in their affairs than he really was. He would listen by the hour to the details of their affairs, political, financial, agricultural, social. The world was a curious compost to Eugene and he was always anxious to find out how other people lived. He loved a good story, and while he rarely told one he made a splendid audience for those who did. His eyes would sparkle and his whole face light with the joy of the humor he felt.

Through all this—the attention he was receiving, the welcome he was made to feel, the fact that his art interests were not yet dead (the Paris exhibition being the expiring breath of his original burst of force), he was nevertheless feeling the downward trend of his affairs most keenly. His mind was not right. That was surely true. His money affairs were getting worse, not better, for while he could hope for a few sales yet (the Paris pictures did not sell in New York) he was not certain that this would be the case. This homeward trip had cost him two hundred of his seventeen hundred dollars and there would be additional expenses if he went to Chicago, as he planned in the fall. He could not live a single year on fifteen hundred dollars—scarcely more than six months, and he could not paint or illustrate anything new in his present state. Additional sales of the pictures of the two original exhibitions must be effected in a reasonable length of time or he would find himself in hard straits.

Meanwhile, Angela, who had obtained such a high estimate of his future by her experience in New York and Paris, was beginning to enjoy herself again, for after all, in her judgment, she seemed to be able to manage Eugene very well. He might have had some slight understanding with Frieda Roth—it couldn't have been much or she would have seen it, she thought—but she had managed to break it up. Eugene was cross, naturally, but that was due more to her quarreling than anything else. These storms of feeling on her part—not always premeditated—seemed very essential. Eugene must be made to understand that he was married now; that he could not look upon or run after girls as he had in the old days. She was well aware that he was considerably younger than she was in temperament, inclined to be exceedingly boyish, and this was apt to cause trouble anywhere. But if she watched over him, kept his attention fixed on her, everything would come out all right. And then there were all these other delightful qualities—his looks, his genial manner, his reputation, his talent. What a delightful thing it had become to announce herself as Mrs. Eugene Witla and how those who knew about him sat up. Big people were his friends, artists admired him, common, homely, everyday people thought he was nice and considerate and able and very worth while. He was generally liked everywhere. What more could one want?

Angela knew nothing of his real thoughts, for because of sympathy, a secret sense of injustice toward her on his part, a vigorous, morbid impression of the injustice of life as a whole, a desire to do things in a kindly or at least a secret and not brutal way, he was led to pretend at all times that he really cared for her; to pose as being comfortable and happy; to lay all his moods to his inability to work. Angela, who could not read him clearly, saw nothing of this. He was too subtle for her understanding at times. She was living in a fool's paradise; playing over a sleeping volcano.

He grew no better and by fall began to get the notion that he could do better by living in Chicago. His health would come back to him there perhaps. He was terribly tired of Blackwood. The long tree-shaded lawn was nothing to him now. The little lake, the stream, the fields that he had rejoiced in at first were to a great extent a commonplace. Old Jotham was a perpetual source of delight to him with his kindly, stable, enduring attitude toward things and his interesting comment on life, and Marietta entertained him with her wit, her good nature, her intuitive understanding; but he could not be happy just talking to everyday, normal, stable people, interesting and worthwhile as they might be. The doing of simple things, living a simple life, was just now becoming irritating. He must go to London, Paris—do things. He couldn't loaf this way. It mattered little that he could not work. He must try. This isolation was terrible.

There followed six months spent in Chicago in which he painted not one picture that was satisfactory to him, that was not messed into nothingness by changes and changes and changes. There were then three months in the mountains of Tennessee because someone told him of a wonderfully curative spring in a delightful valley where the spring came as a dream of color and the expense of living was next to nothing. There were four months of summer in southern Kentucky on a ridge where the air was cool, and after that five months on the Gulf of Mexico, at Biloxi, in Mississippi, because some comfortable people in Kentucky and Tennessee told Angela of this delightful winter resort farther South. All this time Eugene's money, the fifteen hundred dollars he had when he left Blackwood, several sums of two hundred, one hundred and fifty and two hundred and fifty, realized from pictures sold in New York and Paris during the fall and winter following his Paris exhibition, and two hundred which had come some months afterward from a fortuitous sale by M. Charles of one of his old New York views, had been largely dissipated. He still had five hundred dollars, but with no pictures being sold and none painted he was in a bad way financially in so far as the future was concerned. He could possibly return to Alexandria with Angela and live cheaply there for another six months, but because of the Frieda incident both he and she objected to it. Angela was afraid of Frieda and was resolved that she would not go there so long as Frieda was in the town, and Eugene was ashamed because of the light a return would throw on his fading art prospects. Blackwood was out of the question to him. They had lived on her parents long enough. If he did not get better he must soon give up this art idea entirely, for he could not live on trying to paint.

He began to think that he was possessed—obsessed of a devil—and that some people were pursued by evil spirits, fated by stars, doomed from their birth to failure or accident. How did the astrologer in New York know that he was to have four years of bad luck? He had seen three of them already. Why did a man who read his palm in Chicago once say that his hand showed two periods of disaster, just as the New York astrologer had and that he was likely to alter the course of his life radically in the middle portion of it? Were there any fixed laws of being? Did any of the so-called naturalistic school of philosophers and scientists whom he had read know anything at all? They were always talking about the fixed laws of the universe—the unalterable laws of chemistry and physics. Why didn't chemistry or physics throw some light on his peculiar physical condition, on the truthful prediction of the astrologer, on the signs and portents which he had come to observe for himself as foretelling trouble or good fortune for himself. If his left eye twitched he had observed of late he was going to have a quarrel with someone—invariably Angela. If he found a penny or any money, he was going to get money; for every notification of a sale of a picture with the accompanying check had been preceded by the discovery of a coin somewhere: once a penny in State Street, Chicago, on a rainy day—M. Charles wrote that a picture had been sold in Paris for two hundred; once a three-cent piece of the old American issue in the dust of a road in Tennessee—M. Charles wrote that one of his old American views had brought one hundred and fifty; once a penny in sands by the Gulf in Biloxi—another notification of a sale. So it went. He found that when doors squeaked, people were apt to get sick in the houses where they were; and a black dog howling in front of a house was a sure sign of death. He had seen this with his own eyes, this sign which his mother had once told him of as having been verified in her experience, in connection with the case of a man who was sick in Biloxi. He was sick, and a dog came running along the street and stopped in front of this place—a black dog—and the man died. Eugene saw this with his own eyes,—that is, the dog and the sick man's death notice. The dog howled at four o'clock in the afternoon and the next morning the man was dead. He saw the crape on the door. Angela mocked at his superstition, but he was convinced. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

CHAPTER XVI

Eugene was reaching the point where he had no more money and was compelled to think by what process he would continue to make a living in the future. Worry and a hypochondriacal despair had reduced his body to a comparatively gaunt condition. His eyes had a nervous, apprehensive look. He would walk about speculating upon the mysteries of nature, wondering how he was to get out of this, what was to become of him, how soon, if ever, another picture would be sold, when? Angela, from having fancied that his illness was a mere temporary indisposition, had come to feel that he might be seriously affected for some time. He was not sick physically: he could walk and eat and talk vigorously enough, but he could not work and he was worrying, worrying, worrying.

Angela was quite as well aware as Eugene that their finances were in a bad way or threatening to become so, though he said nothing at all about them. He was ashamed to confess at this day, after their very conspicuous beginning in New York, that he was in fear of not doing well. How silly—he with all his ability! Surely he would get over this, and soon.

Angela's economical upbringing and naturally saving instinct stood her in good stead now, for she could market with the greatest care, purchase to the best advantage, make every scrap and penny count. She knew how to make her own clothes, as Eugene had found out when he first visited Blackwood, and was good at designing hats. Although she had thought in New York, when Eugene first began to make money, that now she would indulge in tailor-made garments and the art of an excellent dressmaker, she had never done so. With true frugality she had decided to wait a little while, and then Eugene's health having failed she had not the chance any more. Fearing the possible long duration of this storm she had begun to mend and clean and press and make over whatever seemed to require it. Even when Eugene suggested that she get something new she would not do it. Her consideration for their future—the difficulty he might have in making a living, deterred her.

Eugene noted this, though he said nothing. He was not unaware of the fear that she felt, the patience she exhibited, the sacrifice she made of her own whims and desires to his, and he was not entirely unappreciative. It was becoming very apparent to him that she had no life outside his own—no interests. She was his shadow, his alter ego, his servant, his anything he wanted her to be. “Little Pigtail” was one of his jesting pet names for her because in the West as a boy they had always called anyone who ran errands for others a pigtailer. In playing “one old cat,” if one wanted another to chase the struck balls he would say: “You pig-tail for me, Willie, will you?” And Angela was his “little pigtail.”

There were no further grounds for jealousy during the time, almost two years, in which they were wandering around together, for the reason that she was always with him, almost his sole companion, and that they did not stay long enough in any one place and under sufficiently free social conditions to permit him to form those intimacies which might have resulted disastrously. Some girls did take his eye—the exceptional in youth and physical perfection were always doing that, but he had no chance or very little of meeting them socially. They were not living with people they knew, were not introduced in the local social worlds, which they visited. Eugene could only look at these maidens whom he chanced to spy from time to time, and wish that he might know them better. It was hard to be tied down to a conventional acceptance of matrimony—to pretend that he was interested in beauty only in a sociological way. He had to do it before Angela though (and all conventional people for that matter), for she objected strenuously to the least interest he might manifest in any particular woman. All his remarks had to be general and guarded in their character. At the least show of feeling or admiration Angela would begin to criticize his choice and to show him wherein his admiration was ill-founded. If he were especially interested she would attempt to tear his latest ideal to pieces. She had no mercy, and he could see plainly enough on what her criticism was based. It made him smile but he said nothing. He even admired her for her heroic efforts to hold her own, though every victory she seemed to win served only to strengthen the bars of his own cage.

It was during this time that he could not help learning and appreciating just how eager, patient and genuine was her regard for his material welfare. To her he was obviously the greatest man in the world, a great painter, a great thinker, a great lover, a great personality every way. It didn't make so much difference to her at this time that he wasn't making any money. He would sometime, surely, and wasn't she getting it all in fame anyhow, now? Why, to be Mrs. Eugene Witla, after what she had seen of him in New York and Paris, what more could she want? Wasn't it all right for her to rake and scrape now, to make her own clothes and hats, save, mend, press and patch? He would come out of all this silly feeling about other women once he became a little older, and then he would be all right. Anyhow he appeared to love her now; and that was something. Because he was lonely, fearsome, uncertain of himself, uncertain of the future, he welcomed these unsparing attentions on her part, and this deceived her. Who else would give them to him, he thought; who else would be so faithful in times like these? He almost came to believe that he could love her again, be faithful to her, if he could keep out of the range of these other enticing personalities. If only he could stamp out this eager desire for other women, their praise and their beauty!

But this was more because he was sick and lonely than anything else. If he had been restored to health then and there, if prosperity had descended on him as he so eagerly dreamed, it would have been the same as ever. He was as subtle as nature itself; as changeable as a chameleon. But two things were significant and real—two things to which he was as true and unvarying as the needle to the pole—his love of the beauty of life which was coupled with his desire to express it in color, and his love of beauty in the form of the face of a woman, or rather that of a girl of eighteen. That blossoming of life in womanhood at eighteen!—there was no other thing under the sun like it to him. It was like the budding of the trees in spring; the blossoming of flowers in the early morning; the odor of roses and dew, the color of bright waters and clear jewels. He could not be faithless to that. He could not get away from it. It haunted him like a joyous vision, and the fact that the charms of Stella and Ruby and Angela and Christina and Frieda in whom it had been partially or wholly shadowed forth at one time or another had come and gone, made little difference. It remained clear and demanding. He could not escape it—the thought; he could not deny it. He was haunted by this, day after day, and hour after hour; and when he said to himself that he was a fool, and that it would lure him as a will-o'-the-wisp to his destruction and that he could find no profit in it ultimately, still it would not down. The beauty of youth; the beauty of eighteen! To him life without it was a joke, a shabby scramble, a work-horse job, with only silly material details like furniture and houses and steel cars and stores all involved in a struggle for what? To make a habitation for more shabby humanity? Never! To make a habitation for beauty? Certainly! What beauty? The beauty of old age?—How silly! The beauty of middle age? Nonsense! The beauty of maturity? No! The beauty of youth? Yes. The beauty of eighteen. No more and no less. That was the standard, and the history of the world proved it. Art, literature, romance, history, poetry—if they did not turn on this and the lure of this and the wars and sins because of this, what did they turn on? He was for beauty. The history of the world justified him. Who could deny it?

CHAPTER XVII

From Biloxi, because of the approach of summer when it would be unbearably warm there, and because his funds were so low that it was necessary to make a decisive move of some kind whether it led to complete disaster or not, he decided to return to New York. In storage with Kellners (M. Charles had kindly volunteered to take care of them for him) were a number of the pictures left over from the original show, and nearly all the paintings of the Paris exhibition. The latter had not sold well. Eugene's idea was that he could slip into New York quietly, take a room in some side street or in Jersey City or Brooklyn where he would not be seen, have the pictures in the possession of M. Charles returned to him, and see if he could not get some of the minor art dealers or speculators of whom he had heard to come and look at them and buy them outright. Failing that, he might take them himself, one by one, to different dealers here and there and dispose of them. He remembered now that Eberhard Zang had, through Norma Whitmore, asked him to come and see him. He fancied that, as Kellners had been so interested, and the newspaper critics had spoken of him so kindly the smaller dealers would be eager to take up with him. Surely they would buy this material. It was exceptional—very. Why not?

Eugene forgot or did not know the metaphysical side of prosperity and failure. He did not realize that “as a man thinketh so is he,” and so also is the estimate of the whole world at the time he is thinking of himself thus—not as he is but as he thinks he is. The sense of it is abroad—by what processes we know not, but so it is.

Eugene's mental state, so depressed, so helpless, so fearsome—a rudderless boat in the dark, transmitted itself as an impression, a wireless message to all those who knew him or knew of him. His breakdown, which had first astonished M. Charles, depressed and then weakened the latter's interest in him. Like all other capable, successful men in the commercial world M. Charles was for strong men—men in the heyday of their success, the zenith of their ability. The least variation from this standard of force and interest was noticeable to him. If a man was going to fail—going to get sick and lose his interest in life or have his viewpoint affected, it might be very sad, but there was just one thing to do under such circumstances—get away from him. Failures of any kind were dangerous things to countenance. One must not have anything to do with them. They were very unprofitable. Such people as Temple Boyle and Vincent Beers, who had been his instructors in the past and who had heard of him in Chicago at the time of his success, Luke Severas, William McConnell, Oren Benedict, Hudson Dula, and others wondered what had become of him. Why did he not paint any more? He was never seen in the New York haunts of art! It was rumored at the time of the Paris exhibition that he was going to London to do a similar group of views, but the London exhibition never came off. He had told Smite and MacHugh the spring he left that he might do Chicago next, but that came to nothing. There was no evidence of it. There were rumors that he was very rich, that his art had failed him, that he had lost his mind even, and so the art world that knew him and was so interested in him no longer cared very much. It was too bad but—so thought the rival artists—there was one less difficult star to contend with. As for his friends, they were sorry, but such was life. He might recover. If not,—well—.

As time went on, one year, another year, another year, the strangeness of his suddenly brilliant burst and disappearance became to the talented in this field a form of classic memory. He was a man of such promise! Why did he not go on painting? There was an occasional mention in conversation or in print, but Eugene to all intents and purposes was dead.

When he came to New York it was after his capital had been reduced to three hundred dollars and he had given Angela one hundred and twenty-five of this to take her back to Blackwood and keep her there until he could make such arrangements as would permit her to join him. After a long discussion they had finally agreed that this would be best, for, seeing that he could neither paint nor illustrate, there was no certainty as to what he would do. To come here on so little money with her was not advisable. She had her home where she was welcome to stay for a while anyhow. Meanwhile he figured he could weather any storm alone.

The appearance of the metropolis, after somewhat over two years of absence during which he had wandered everywhere, was most impressive to Eugene. It was a relief after the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee and the loneliness of the Biloxi coast, to get back to this swarming city where millions were hurrying to and fro, and where one's misery as well as one's prosperity was apparently swallowed up in an inconceivable mass of life. A subway was being built. The automobile, which only a few years before was having a vague, uncertain beginning, was now attaining a tremendous vogue. Magnificent cars of new design were everywhere. From the ferry-house in Jersey City he could see notable changes in the skyline, and a single walk across Twenty-third Street and up Seventh Avenue showed him a changing world—great hotels, great apartment houses, a tremendous crush of vainglorious life which was moulding the city to its desires. It depressed him greatly, for he had always hoped to be an integral part of this magnificence and display and now he was not—might never be again.

It was still raw and cold, for the spring was just beginning to break, and Eugene was compelled to buy a light overcoat, his own imperishable great coat having been left behind, and he had no other fit to wear. Appearances, he thought, demanded this. He had spent forty of his closely-guarded one hundred and seventy-five dollars coming from Biloxi to New York, and now an additional fifteen was required for this coat, leaving him one hundred and twenty-five dollars with which to begin his career anew. He was greatly worried as to the outcome, but curiously also he had an abiding subconscious feeling that it could not be utterly destructive to him.

He rented a cheap room in a semi-respectable neighborhood in West Twenty-fourth Street near Eleventh Avenue solely because he wanted to keep out of the run of intellectual life and hide until he could get on his feet. It was an old and shabby residence in an old and shabby red brick neighborhood such as he had drawn in one of his views, but it was not utterly bad. The people were poor but fairly intellectual. He chose this particular neighborhood with all its poverty because it was near the North River where the great river traffic could be seen, and where, because of some open lots in which were stored wagons, his one single west window gave him a view of all this life. About the corner in Twenty-third Street, in another somewhat decayed residence, was a moderate priced restaurant and boarding house. Here he could get a meal for twenty-five cents. He cared nothing for the life that was about him. It was cheap, poor, from a money point of view, dingy, but he would not be here forever he hoped. These people did not know him. Besides the number 552 West 24th Street did not sound bad. It might be one of the old neighborhoods with which New York was dotted, and which artists were inclined to find and occupy.

After he had secured this room from a semi-respectable Irish landlady, a dock weigher's wife, he decided to call upon M. Charles. He knew that he looked quite respectable as yet, despite his poverty and decline. His clothes were good, his overcoat new, his manner brisk and determined. But what he could not see was that his face in its thin sallowness, and his eyes with their semi-feverish lustre bespoke a mind that was harassed by trouble of some kind. He stood outside the office of Kellner and Son in Fifth Avenue—a half block from the door, wondering whether he should go in, and just what he should say. He had written to M. Charles from time to time that his health was bad and that he couldn't work—always that he hoped to be better soon. He had always hoped that a reply would come that another of his pictures had been sold. One year had gone and then two, and now a third was under way and still he was not any better. M. Charles would look at him searchingly. He would have to bear his gaze unflinchingly. In his present nervous state this was difficult and yet he was not without a kind of defiance even now. He would force himself back into favor with life sometime.

He finally mustered up his courage and entered and M. Charles greeted him warmly.

“This certainly is good,—to see you again. I had almost given up hope that you would ever come back to New York. How is your health now? And how is Mrs. Witla? It doesn't seem as though it had been three years. You're looking excellent. And how is painting going now? Getting to the point where you can do something again?”

Eugene felt for the moment as though M. Charles believed him to be in excellent condition, whereas that shrewd observer of men was wondering what could have worked so great a change. Eugene appeared to be eight years older. There were marked wrinkles between his eyes and an air of lassitude and weariness. He thought to himself, “Why, this man may possibly be done for artistically. Something has gone from him which I noted the first time I met him: that fire and intense enthusiasm which radiated force after the fashion of an arclight. Now he seems to be seeking to draw something in,—to save himself from drowning as it were. He is making a voiceless appeal for consideration. What a pity!”

The worst of it all was that in his estimation nothing could be done in such a case. You couldn't do anything for an artist who could do nothing for himself. His art was gone. The sanest thing for him to do would be to quit trying, go at some other form of labor and forget all about it. It might be that he would recover, but it was a question. Nervous breakdowns were not infrequently permanent.

Eugene noticed something of this in his manner. He couldn't tell exactly what it was, but M. Charles seemed more than ordinarily preoccupied, careful and distant. He wasn't exactly chilly in his manner, but reserved, as though he were afraid he might be asked to do something which he could not very well do.

“I noticed that the Paris scenes did not do very well either here or in Paris,” observed Eugene with an air of nonchalance, as though it were a matter of small importance, at the same time hoping that he would have some favorable word. “I had the idea that they would take better than they did. Still I don't suppose I ought to expect everything to sell. The New York ones did all right.”

“They did very well indeed, much better than I expected. I didn't think as many would be sold as were. They were very new and considerably outside the lines of current interest. The Paris pictures, on the other hand, were foreign to Americans in the wrong sense. By that I mean they weren't to be included in that genre art which comes from abroad, but is not based on any locality and is universal in its appeal—thematically speaking. Your Paris pictures were, of course, pictures in the best sense to those who see art as color and composition and idea, but to the ordinary lay mind they were, I take it, merely Paris scenes. You get what I mean. In that sense they were foreign, and Paris has been done illustratively anyhow. You might have done better with London or Chicago. Still you have every reason to congratulate yourself. Your work made a distinct impression both here and in France. When you feel able to return to it I have no doubt you will find that time has done you no harm.”

He tried to be polite and entertaining, but he was glad when Eugene went away again.

The latter turned out into the street disconsolate. He could see how things were. He was down and out for the present and would have to wait.

CHAPTER XVIII

The next thing was to see what could be done with the other art dealers and the paintings that were left. There were quite a number of them. If he could get any reasonable price at all he ought to be able to live quite awhile—long enough anyhow to get on his feet again. When they came to his quiet room and were unpacked by him in a rather shamefaced and disturbed manner and distributed about, they seemed wonderful things. Why, if the critics had raved over them and M. Charles had thought they were so fine, could they not be sold? Art dealers would surely buy them! Still, now that he was on the ground again and could see the distinctive art shops from the sidewalks his courage failed him. They were not running after pictures. Exceptional as he might be, there were artists in plenty—good ones. He could not run to other well known art dealers very well for his work had become identified with the house of Kellner and Son. Some of the small dealers might buy them but they would not buy them all—probably one or two at the most, and that at a sacrifice. What a pass to come to!—he, Eugene Witla, who three years before had been in the heyday of his approaching prosperity, wondering as he stood in the room of a gloomy side-street house how he was going to raise money to live through the summer, and how he was going to sell the paintings which had seemed the substance of his fortune but two years before. He decided that he would ask several of the middle class dealers whether they would not come and look at what he had to show. To a number of the smaller dealers in Fourth, Sixth, Eighth Avenues and elsewhere he would offer to sell several outright when necessity pinched. Still he had to raise money soon. Angela could not be left at Blackwood indefinitely.

He went to Jacob Bergman, Henry LaRue, Pottle Frères and asked if they would be interested to see what he had. Henry Bergman, who was his own manager, recalled his name at once. He had seen the exhibition but was not eager. He asked curiously how the pictures of the first and second exhibitions had sold, how many there were of them, what prices they brought. Eugene told him.

“You might bring one or two here and leave them on sale. You know how that is. Someone might take a fancy to them. You never can tell.”

He explained that his commission was twenty-five per cent, and that he would report when a sale was made. He was not interested to come and see them. Eugene could select any two pictures he pleased. It was the same with Henry LaRue and Pottle Frères, though the latter had never heard of him. They asked him to show them one of his pictures. Eugene's pride was touched the least bit by this lack of knowledge on their part, though seeing how things were going with him he felt as though he might expect as much and more.

Other art dealers he did not care to trust with his paintings on sale, and he was now ashamed to start carrying them about to the magazines, where at least one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty per picture might be expected for them, if they were sold at all. He did not want the magazine art world to think that he had come to this. His best friend was Hudson Dula, and he might no longer be Art Director of Truth. As a matter of fact Dula was no longer there. Then there were Jan Jansen and several others, but they were no doubt thinking of him now as a successful painter. It seemed as though his natural pride were building insurmountable barriers for him. How was he to live if he could not do this and could not paint? He decided on trying the small art dealers with a single picture, offering to sell it outright. They might not recognize him and so might buy it direct. He could accept, in such cases, without much shock to his pride, anything which they might offer, if it were not too little.

He tried this one bright morning in May, and though it was not without result it spoiled the beautiful day for him. He took one picture, a New York scene, and carried it to a third rate art dealer whose place he had seen in upper Sixth Avenue, and without saying anything about himself asked if he would like to buy it. The proprietor, a small, dark individual of Semitic extraction, looked at him curiously and at his picture. He could tell from a single look that Eugene was in trouble, that he needed money and that he was anxious to sell his picture. He thought of course that he would take anything for it and he was not sure that he wanted the picture at that. It was not very popular in theme, a view of a famous Sixth Avenue restaurant showing behind the track of the L road, with a driving rain pouring in between the interstices of light. Years after this picture was picked up by a collector from Kansas City at an old furniture sale and hung among his gems, but this morning its merits were not very much in evidence.

“I see that you occasionally exhibit a painting in your window for sale. Do you buy originals?”

“Now and again,” said the man indifferently—“not often. What have you?”

“I have an oil here that I painted not so long ago. I occasionally do these things. I thought maybe you would like to buy it.”

The proprietor stood by indifferently while Eugene untied the string, took off the paper and stood the picture up for inspection. It was striking enough in its way but it did not appeal to him as being popular. “I don't think it's anything that I could sell here,” he remarked, shrugging his shoulders. “It's good, but we don't have much call for pictures of any kind. If it were a straight landscape or a marine or a figure of some kind—. Figures sell best. But this—I doubt if I could get rid of it. You might leave it on sale if you want to. Somebody might like it. I don't think I'd care to buy it.”

“I don't care to leave it on sale,” replied Eugene irritably. Leave one of his pictures in a cheap side-street art store—and that on sale! He would not. He wanted to say something cutting in reply but he curbed his welling wrath to ask,

“How much do you think it would be worth if you did want it?”

“Oh,” replied the proprietor, pursing his lips reflectively, “not more than ten dollars. We can't ask much for anything we have on view here. The Fifth Avenue stores take all the good trade.”

Eugene winced. Ten dollars! Why, what a ridiculous sum! What was the use of coming to a place like this anyhow? He could do better dealing with the art directors or the better stores. But where were they? Whom could he deal with? Where were there any stores much better than this outside the large ones which he had already canvassed. He had better keep his pictures and go to work now at something else. He only had thirty-five of them all told and at this rate he would have just three hundred and fifty dollars when they were all gone. What good would that do him? His mood and this preliminary experience convinced him that they could not be sold for any much greater sum. Fifteen dollars or less would probably be offered and he would be no better off at the end. His pictures would be gone and he would have nothing. He ought to get something to do and save his pictures. But what?

To a man in Eugene's position—he was now thirty-one years of age, with no training outside what he had acquired in developing his artistic judgment and ability—this proposition of finding something else which he could do was very difficult. His mental sickness was, of course, the first great bar. It made him appear nervous and discouraged and so more or less objectionable to anyone who was looking for vigorous healthy manhood in the shape of an employee. In the next place, his look and manner had become decidedly that of the artist—refined, retiring, subtle. He also had an air at times of finicky standoffishness, particularly in the presence of those who appeared to him commonplace or who by their look or manner appeared to be attempting to set themselves over him. In the last place, he could think of nothing that he really wanted to do—the idea that his art ability would come back to him or that it ought to serve him in this crisis, haunting him all the time. Once he had thought he might like to be an art director; he was convinced that he would be a good one. And another time he had thought he would like to write, but that was long ago. He had never written anything since the Chicago newspaper specials, and several efforts at concentrating his mind for this quickly proved to him that writing was not for him now. It was hard for him to formulate an intelligent consecutive-idea'd letter to Angela. He harked back to his old Chicago days and remembering that he had been a collector and a driver of a laundry wagon, he decided that he might do something of that sort. Getting a position as a street-car conductor or a drygoods clerk appealed to him as possibilities. The necessity of doing something within regular hours and in a routine way appealed to him as having curative properties. How should he get such a thing?

If it had not been for the bedeviled state of his mind this would not have been such a difficult matter, for he was physically active enough to hold any ordinary position. He might have appealed frankly and simply to M. Charles or Isaac Wertheim and through influence obtained something which would have tided him over, but he was too sensitive to begin with and his present weakness made him all the more fearful and retiring. He had but one desire when he thought of doing anything outside his creative gift, and that was to slink away from the gaze of men. How could he, with his appearance, his reputation, his tastes and refinement, hobnob with conductors, drygoods clerks, railroad hands or drivers? It wasn't possible—he hadn't the strength. Besides all that was a thing of the past, or he thought it was. He had put it behind him in his art student days. Now to have to get out and look for a job! How could he? He walked the streets for days and days, coming back to his room to see if by any chance he could paint yet, writing long, rambling, emotional letters to Angela. It was pitiful. In fits of gloom he would take out an occasional picture and sell it, parting with it for ten or fifteen dollars after he had carried it sometimes for miles. His one refuge was in walking, for somehow he could not walk and feel very, very bad. The beauty of nature, the activity of people entertained and diverted his mind. He would come back to his room some evenings feeling as though a great change had come over him, as though he were going to do better now; but this did not last long. A little while and he would be back in his old mood again. He spent three months this way, drifting, before he realized that he must do something—that fall and winter would be coming on again in a little while and he would have nothing at all.

In his desperation he first attempted to get an art directorship, but two or three interviews with publishers of magazines proved to him pretty quickly that positions of this character were not handed out to the inexperienced. It required an apprenticeship, just as anything else did, and those who had positions in this field elsewhere had the first call. His name or appearance did not appear to strike any of these gentlemen as either familiar or important in any way. They had heard of him as an illustrator and a painter, but his present appearance indicated that this was a refuge in ill health which he was seeking, not a vigorous, constructive position, and so they would have none of him. He next tried at three of the principal publishing houses, but they did not require anyone in that capacity. Truth to tell he knew very little of the details and responsibilities of the position, though he thought he did. After that there was nothing save drygoods stores, street-car registration offices, the employment offices of the great railroads and factories. He looked at sugar refineries, tobacco factories, express offices, railroad freight offices, wondering whether in any of these it would be possible for him to obtain a position which would give him a salary of ten dollars a week. If he could get that, and any of the pictures now on show with Jacob Bergman, Henry LaRue and Pottle Frères should be sold, he could get along. He might even live on this with Angela if he could sell an occasional picture for ten or fifteen dollars. But he was paying seven dollars a week for nothing save food and room, and scarcely managing to cling to the one hundred dollars which had remained of his original traveling fund after he had paid all his opening expenses here in New York. He was afraid to part with all his pictures in this way for fear he would be sorry for it after a while.

Work is hard to get under the most favorable conditions of health and youth and ambition, and the difficulties of obtaining it under unfavorable ones need not be insisted on. Imagine if you can the crowds of men, forty, fifty, one hundred strong, that wait at the door of every drygoods employment office, every street-car registration bureau, on the special days set aside for considering applications, at every factory, shop or office where an advertisement calling for a certain type of man or woman was inserted in the newspapers. On a few occasions that Eugene tried or attempted to try, he found himself preceded by peculiar groups of individuals who eyed him curiously as he approached, wondering, as he thought, whether a man of his type could be coming to apply for a job. They seemed radically different from himself to his mind, men with little education and a grim consciousness of the difficulties of life; young men, vapid looking men, shabby, stale, discouraged types—men who, like himself, looked as though they had seen something very much better, and men who looked as though they had seen things a great deal worse. The evidence which frightened him was the presence of a group of bright, healthy, eager looking boys of nineteen, twenty, twenty-one and twenty-two who, like himself when he first went to Chicago years before, were everywhere he went. When he drew near he invariably found it impossible to indicate in any way that he was looking for anything. He couldn't. His courage failed him; he felt that he looked too superior; self-consciousness and shame overcame him.

He learned now that men rose as early as four o'clock in the morning to buy a newspaper and ran quickly to the address mentioned in order to get the place at the head of the line, thus getting the first consideration as an applicant. He learned that some other men, such as waiters, cooks, hotel employees and so on, frequently stayed up all night in order to buy a paper at two in the morning, winter or summer, rain or snow, heat or cold, and hurry to the promising addresses they might find. He learned that the crowds of applicants were apt to become surly or sarcastic or contentious as their individual chances were jeopardized by ever-increasing numbers. And all this was going on all the time, in winter or summer, heat or cold, rain or snow. Pretending interest as a spectator, he would sometimes stand and watch, hearing the ribald jests, the slurs cast upon life, fortune, individuals in particular and in general by those who were wearily or hopelessly waiting. It was a horrible picture to him in his present condition. It was like the grinding of the millstones, upper and nether. These were the chaff. He was a part of the chaff at present, or in danger of becoming so. Life was winnowing him out. He might go down, down, and there might never be an opportunity for him to rise any more.

Few, if any of us, understand thoroughly the nature of the unconscious stratification which takes place in life, the layers and types and classes into which it assorts itself and the barriers which these offer to a free migration of individuals from one class to another. We take on so naturally the material habiliments of our temperaments, necessities and opportunities. Priests, doctors, lawyers, merchants, appear to be born with their particular mental attitude and likewise the clerk, the ditch-digger, the janitor. They have their codes, their guilds and their class feelings. And while they may be spiritually closely related, they are physically far apart. Eugene, after hunting for a place for a month, knew a great deal more about this stratification than he had ever dreamed of knowing. He found that he was naturally barred by temperament from some things, from others by strength and weight, or rather the lack of them; from others, by inexperience; from others, by age; and so on. And those who were different from him in any or all of these respects were inclined to look at him askance. “You are not as we are,” their eyes seemed to say; “why do you come here?”

One day he approached a gang of men who were waiting outside a car barn and sought to find out where the registration office was. He did not lay off his natural manner of superiority—could not, but asked a man near him if he knew. It had taken all his courage to do this.

“He wouldn't be after lookin' fer a place as a conductor now, would he?” he heard someone say within his hearing. For some reason this remark took all his courage away. He went up the wooden stairs to the little office where the application blanks were handed out, but did not even have the courage to apply for one. He pretended to be looking for someone and went out again. Later, before a drygoods superintendent's office, he heard a youth remark, “Look what wants to be a clerk.” It froze him.

It is a question how long this aimless, nervous wandering would have continued if it had not been for the accidental recollection of an experience which a fellow artist once related to him of a writer who had found himself nervously depressed and who, by application to the president of a railroad, had secured as a courtesy to the profession which he represented so ably a position as an apprentice in a surveying corps, being given transportation to a distant section of the country and employed at a laborer's wages until he was well. Eugene now thought of this as quite an idea for himself. Why it had not occurred to him before he did not know. He could apply as an artist—his appearance would bear him out, and being able to speak from the vantage point of personal ability temporarily embarrassed by ill health, his chances of getting something would be so much better. It would not be the same as a position which he had secured for himself without fear or favor, but it would be a position, different from farming with Angela's father because it would command a salary.

CHAPTER XIX

This idea of appealing to the president of one of the great railroads that entered New York was not so difficult to execute. Eugene dressed himself very carefully the next morning, and going to the office of the company in Forty-second Street, consulted the list of officers posted in one of the halls, and finding the president to be on the third floor, ascended. He discovered, after compelling himself by sheer will power to enter, that this so-called office was a mere anteroom to a force of assistants serving the president, and that no one could see him except by appointment.

“You might see his secretary if he isn't busy,” suggested the clerk who handled his card gingerly.

Eugene was for the moment undetermined what to do but decided that maybe the secretary could help him. He asked that his card might be taken to him and that no explanation be demanded of him except by the secretary in person. The latter came out after a while, an under secretary of perhaps twenty-eight years of age, short and stout. He was bland and apparently good natured.

“What is it I can do for you?” he asked.

Eugene had been formulating his request in his mind—some method of putting it briefly and simply.

“I came up to see Mr. Wilson,” he said, “to see if he would not send me out as a day-laborer of some kind in connection with some department of the road. I am an artist by profession and I am suffering from neurasthenia. All the doctors I have consulted have recommended that I get a simple, manual position of some kind and work at it until I am well. I know of an instance in which Mr. Wilson, assisted, in this way, Mr. Savin the author, and I thought he might be willing to interest himself in my case.”

At the sound of Henry Savin's name the under-secretary pricked up his ears. He had, fortunately, read one of his books, and this together with Eugene's knowledge of the case, his personal appearance, a certain ring of sincerity in what he was saying, caused him to be momentarily interested.

“There is no position in connection with any clerical work which the president could give you, I am sure,” he replied. “All of these things are subject to a system of promotion. It might be that he could place you with one of the construction gangs in one of the departments under a foreman. I don't know. It's very hard work, though. He might consider your case.” He smiled commiseratingly. “I question whether you're strong enough to do anything of that sort. It takes a pretty good man to wield a pick or a shovel.”

“I don't think I had better worry about that now,” replied Eugene in return, smiling wearily. “I'll take the work and see if it won't help me. I think I need it badly enough.”

He was afraid the under-secretary would repent of his suggestion and refuse him entirely.

“Can you wait a little while?” asked the latter curiously. He had the idea that Eugene was someone of importance, for he had suggested as a parting argument that he could give a number of exceptional references.

“Certainly,” said Eugene, and the secretary went his way, coming back in half an hour to hand him an enveloped letter.

“We have the idea,” he said quite frankly waiving any suggestion of the president's influence in the matter and speaking for himself and the secretary-in-chief, with whom he had agreed that Eugene ought to be assisted, “that you had best apply to the engineering department. Mr. Hobsen, the chief-engineer, can arrange for you. This letter I think will get you what you want.”

Eugene's heart bounded. He looked at the superscription and saw it addressed to Mr. Woodruff Hobsen, Chief Engineer, and putting it in his pocket without stopping to read it, but thanking the under-secretary profusely, went out. In the hall at a safe distance he stopped and opened it, finding that it spoke of him familiarly as “Mr. Eugene Witla, an artist, temporarily incapacitated by neurasthenia,” and went on to say that he was “desirous of being appointed to some manual toil in some construction corps. The president's office recommends this request to your favor.”

When he read this he knew it meant a position. It roused curious feelings as to the nature and value of stratification. As a laborer he was nothing: as an artist he could get a position as a laborer. After all, his ability as an artist was worth something. It obtained him this refuge. He hugged it joyously, and a few moments later handed it to an under-secretary in the Chief-Engineer's office. Without being seen by anyone in authority he was in return given a letter to Mr. William Haverford, “Engineer of Maintenance of Way,” a pale, anæmic gentleman of perhaps forty years of age, who, as Eugene learned from him when he was eventually ushered into his presence a half hour later, was a captain of thirteen thousand men. The latter read the letter from the Engineer's office curiously. He was struck by Eugene's odd mission and his appearance as a man. Artists were queer. This was like one. Eugene reminded him of himself a little in his appearance.

“An artist,” he said interestedly. “So you want to work as a day laborer?” He fixed Eugene with clear, coal-black eyes looking out of a long, pear-shaped face. Eugene noticed that his hands were long and thin and white and that his high, pale forehead was crowned by a mop of black hair.

“Neurasthenia. I've heard a great deal about that of late, but have never been troubled that way myself. I find that I derive considerable benefit when I am nervous from the use of a rubber exerciser. You have seen them perhaps?”

“Yes,” Eugene replied, “I have. My case is much too grave for that, I think. I have traveled a great deal. But it doesn't seem to do me any good. I want work at something manual, I fancy—something at which I have to work. Exercise in a room would not help me. I think I need a complete change of environment. I will be much obliged if you will place me in some capacity.”

“Well, this will very likely be it,” suggested Mr. Haverford blandly. “Working as a day-laborer will certainly not strike you as play. To tell you the truth, I don't think you can stand it.” He reached for a glass-framed map showing the various divisions of the railroad stretching from New England to Chicago and St. Louis, and observed quietly. “I could send you to a great many places, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Canada.” His finger roved idly about. “I have thirteen thousand men in my department and they are scattered far and wide.”

Eugene marveled. Such a position! Such authority! This pale, dark man sitting as an engineer at a switch board directing so large a machine.

“You have a large force,” he said simply. Mr. Haverford smiled wanly.

“I think, if you will take my advice, you will not go in a construction corps right away. You can hardly do manual labor. There is a little carpenter shop which we have at Speonk, not very far outside the city, which I should think would answer your needs admirably. A little creek joins the Hudson there and it's out on a point of land, the shop is. It's summer now, and to put you in a broiling sun with a gang of Italians would be a little rough. Take my advice and go here. It will be hard enough. After you are broken in and you think you want a change I can easily arrange it for you. The money may not make so much difference to you but you may as well have it. It will be fifteen cents an hour. I will give you a letter to Mr. Litlebrown, our division engineer, and he will see that you are properly provided for.”

Eugene bowed. Inwardly he smiled at the thought that the money would not be acceptable to him. Anything would be acceptable. Perhaps this would be best. It was near the city. The description of the little carpenter shop out on the neck of land appealed to him. It was, as he found when he looked at the map of the immediate division to which this belonged, almost within the city limits. He could live in New York—the upper portion of it anyhow.

Again there was a letter, this time to Mr. Henry C. Litlebrown, a tall, meditative, philosophic man whom Eugene found two days later in the division offices at Yonkers, who in turn wrote a letter to Mr. Joseph Brooks, Superintendent of Buildings, at Mott Haven, whose secretary finally gave Eugene a letter to Mr. Jack Stix, foreman carpenter at Speonk. This letter, when presented on a bright Friday afternoon, brought him the advice to come Monday at seven A. M., and so Eugene saw a career as a day laborer stretching very conspicuously before him.

The “little shop” in question was located in the most charming manner possible. If it had been set as a stage scene for his especial artistic benefit it could not have been better. On a point of land between the river and the main line of the railroad and a little creek, which was east of the railroad and which the latter crossed on a trestle to get back to the mainland again, it stood, a long, low two-storey structure, green as to its roof, red as to its body, full of windows which commanded picturesque views of passing yachts and steamers and little launches and row-boats anchored safely in the waters of the cove which the creek formed. There was a veritable song of labor which arose from this shop, for it was filled with planes, lathes and wood-turning instruments of various kinds, to say nothing of a great group of carpenters who could make desks, chairs, tables, in short, office furniture of various kinds, and who kept the company's needs of these fittings for its depots and offices well supplied. Each carpenter had a bench before a window on the second floor, and in the centre were the few necessary machines they were always using, small jig, cross cut, band and rip saws, a plane, and four or five lathes. On the ground floor was the engine room, the blacksmith's shop, the giant plane, the great jig and cross cut saws, and the store room and supply closets. Out in the yard were piles of lumber, with tracks in between, and twice every day a local freight called “The Dinky” stopped to switch in or take out loaded cars of lumber or finished furniture and supplies. Eugene, as he approached on the day he presented his letter, stopped to admire the neatness of the low board fence which surrounded it all, the beauty of the water, the droning sweetness of the saws.

“Why, the work here couldn't be very hard,” he thought. He saw carpenters looking out of the upper windows, and a couple of men in brown overalls and jumpers unloading a car. They were carrying great three-by-six joists on their shoulders. Would he be asked to do anything like that. He scarcely thought so. Mr. Haverford had distinctly indicated in his letter to Mr. Litlebrown that he was to be built up by degrees. Carrying great joists did not appeal to him as the right way, but he presented his letter. He had previously looked about on the high ground which lay to the back of the river and which commanded this point of land, to see if he could find a place to board and lodge, but had seen nothing. The section was very exclusive, occupied by suburban New Yorkers of wealth, and they were not interested in the proposition which he had formulated in his own mind, namely his temporary reception somewhere as a paying guest. He had visions of a comfortable home somewhere now with nice people, for strangely enough the securing of this very minor position had impressed him as the beginning of the end of his bad luck. He was probably going to get well now, in the course of time. If he could only live with some nice family for the summer. In the fall if he were improving, and he thought he might be, Angela could come on. It might be that one of the dealers, Pottle Frères or Jacob Bergman or Henry LaRue would have sold a picture. One hundred and fifty or two hundred dollars joined to his salary would go a long way towards making their living moderately comfortable. Besides Angela's taste and economy, coupled with his own art judgment, could make any little place look respectable and attractive.

The problem of finding a room was not so easy. He followed the track south to a settlement which was visible from the shop windows a quarter of a mile away, and finding nothing which suited his taste as to location, returned to Speonk proper and followed the little creek inland half a mile. This adventure delighted him for it revealed a semi-circle of charming cottages ranged upon a hill slope which had for its footstool the little silvery-bosomed stream. Between the stream and the hill slope ran a semi-circular road and above that another road. Eugene could see at a glance that here was middle class prosperity, smooth lawns, bright awnings, flower pots of blue and yellow and green upon the porches, doorsteps and verandas. An auto standing in front of one house indicated a certain familiarity with the ways of the rich, and a summer road house, situated at the intersection of a road leading out from New York and the little stream where it was crossed by a bridge, indicated that the charms of this village were not unknown to those who came touring and seeking for pleasure. The road house itself was hung with awnings and one dining balcony out over the water. Eugene's desire was fixed on this village at once. He wanted to live here—anywhere in it. He walked about under the cool shade of the trees looking at first one door yard and then another wishing that he might introduce himself by letter and be received. They ought to welcome an artist of his ability and refinement and would, he thought, if they knew. His working in a furniture factory or for the railroad as a day laborer for his health simply added to his picturesque character. In his wanderings he finally came upon a Methodist church quaintly built of red brick and grey stone trimmings, and the sight of its tall, stained glass windows and square fortress-like bell-tower gave him an idea. Why not appeal to the minister? He could explain to him what he wanted, show him his credentials—for he had with him old letters from editors, publishers and art houses—and give him a clear understanding as to why he wanted to come here at all. His ill health and distinction ought to appeal to this man, and he would probably direct him to some one who would gladly have him. At five in the afternoon he knocked at the door and was received in the pastor's study—a large still room in which a few flies were buzzing in the shaded light. In a few moments the minister himself came in—a tall, grey-headed man, severely simple in his attire and with the easy air of one who is used to public address. He was about to ask what he could do for him when Eugene began with his explanation.

“You don't know me at all. I am a stranger in this section. I am an artist by profession and I am coming to Speonk on Monday to work in the railroad shop there for my health. I have been suffering from a nervous breakdown and am going to try day labor for awhile. I want to find a convenient, pleasant place to live, and I thought you might know of someone here, or near here, who might be willing to take me in for a little while. I can give excellent references. There doesn't appear to be anything in the immediate neighborhood of the shop.”

“It is rather isolated there,” replied the old minister, studying Eugene carefully. “I have often wondered how all those men like it, traveling so far. None of them live about here.” He looked at Eugene solemnly, taking in his various characteristics. He was not badly impressed. He seemed to be a reserved, thoughtful, dignified young man and decidedly artistic. It struck him as very interesting that he should be trying so radical a thing as day labor for his nerves.

“Let me see,” he said thoughtfully. He sat down in his chair near his table and put his hand over his eyes. “I don't think of anyone just at the moment. There are plenty of families who have room to take you if they would, but I question very much whether they would. In fact I'm rather sure they wouldn't. Let me see now.”

He thought again.

Eugene studied his big aquiline nose, his shaggy grey eyebrows, his thick, crisp, grey hair. Already his mind was sketching him, the desk, the dim walls, the whole atmosphere of the room.

“No, no,” he said slowly. “I don't think of anyone. There is one family—Mrs. Hibberdell. She lives in the—let me see—first, second, third, tenth house above here. She has one nephew with her at present, a young man of about your age, and I don't think anyone else. I don't know that she would consider taking you in, but she might. Her house is quite large. She did have her daughter with her at one time, but I'm not sure that she's there now. I think not.”

He talked as though he were reporting his own thoughts to himself audibly.

Eugene pricked up his ears at the mention of a daughter. During all the time he had been out of New York he had not, with the exception of Frieda, had a single opportunity to talk intimately with any girl. Angela had been with him all the time. Here in New York since he had been back he had been living under such distressing conditions that he had not thought of either youth or love. He had no business to be thinking of it now, but this summer air, this tree-shaded village, the fact that he had a position, small as it was, on which he could depend and which would no doubt benefit him mentally, and that he was somehow feeling better about himself because he was going to work, made him feel that he might look more interestedly on life again. He was not going to die; he was going to get well. Finding this position proved it. And he might go to the house now and find some charming girl who would like him very much. Angela was away. He was alone. He had again the freedom of his youth. If he were only well and working!

He thanked the old minister very politely and went his way, recognizing the house by certain details given him by the minister, a double balconied veranda, some red rockers, two yellow jardinières at the doorstep, a greyish white picket fence and gate. He walked up smartly and rang the bell. A very intelligent woman of perhaps fifty-five or sixty with bright grey hair and clear light blue eyes was coming out with a book in her hand. Eugene stated his case. She listened with keen interest, looking him over the while. His appearance took her fancy, for she was of a strong intellectual and literary turn of mind.

“I wouldn't ordinarily consider anything of the kind, but I am alone here with my nephew and the house could easily accommodate a dozen. I don't want to do anything which will irritate him, but if you will come back in the morning I will let you know. It would not disturb me to have you about. Do you happen to know of an artist by the name of Deesa?”

“I know him well,” replied Eugene. “He's an old friend of mine.”

“He is a friend of my daughter's, I think. Have you enquired anywhere else here in the village?”

“No,” said Eugene.

“That is just as well,” she replied.

He took the hint.

So there was no daughter here. Well, what matter? The view was beautiful. Of an evening he could sit out here in one of the rocking chairs and look at the water. The evening sun, already low in the west was burnishing it a bright gold. The outline of the hill on the other side was dignified and peaceful. He could sleep and work as a day laborer and take life easy for a while. He could get well now and this was the way to do it. Day laborer! How fine, how original, how interesting. He felt somewhat like a knight-errant reconnoitring a new and very strange world.

CHAPTER XX

The matter of securing admission to this house was quickly settled. The nephew, a genial, intelligent man of thirty-four, as Eugene discovered later, had no objection. It appeared to Eugene that in some way he contributed to the support of this house, though Mrs. Hibberdell obviously had some money of her own. A charmingly furnished room on the second floor adjoining one of the several baths was assigned him, and he was at once admitted to the freedom of the house. There were books, a piano (but no one to play it), a hammock, a maid-of-all-work, and an atmosphere of content and peace. Mrs. Hibberdell, a widow, presumably of some years of widowhood, was of that experience and judgment in life which gave her intellectual poise. She was not particularly inquisitive about anything in connection with him, and so far as he could see from surface indications was refined, silent, conservative. She could jest, and did, in a subtle understanding way. He told her quite frankly at the time he applied that he was married, that his wife was in the West and that he expected her to return after his health was somewhat improved. She talked with him about art and books and life in general. Music appeared to be to her a thing apart. She did not care much for it. The nephew, Davis Simpson, was neither literary nor artistic, and apparently cared little for music. He was a buyer for one of the larger department stores, a slight, dapper, rather dandified type of man, with a lean, not thin but tight-muscled face, and a short black mustache, and he appeared to be interested only in the humors of character, trade, baseball and methods of entertaining himself. The things that pleased Eugene about him were that he was clean, simple, direct, good-natured and courteous. He had apparently no desire to infringe on anybody's privacy, but was fond of stirring up light discussions and interpolating witty remarks. He liked also to grow flowers and to fish. The care of a border of flowers which glorified a short gravel path in the back yard received his especial attention evenings and mornings.

It was a great pleasure for Eugene to come into this atmosphere after the storm which had been assailing him for the past three years, and particularly for the past ninety days. He was only asked to pay eight dollars a week by Mrs. Hibberdell, though he realized that what he was obtaining in home atmosphere here was not ordinarily purchasable at any price in the public market. The maid saw to it that a little bouquet of flowers was put on his dressing table daily. He was given fresh towels and linen in ample quantities. The bath was his own. He could sit out on the porch of an evening and look at the water uninterrupted or he could stay in the library and read. Breakfast and dinner were invariably delightful occasions, for though he rose at five-forty-five in order to have his bath, breakfast, and be able to walk to the factory and reach it by seven, Mrs. Hibberdell was invariably up, as it was her habit to rise thus early, had been so for years. She liked it. Eugene in his weary mood could scarcely understand this. Davis came to the table some few moments before he would be leaving. He invariably had some cheery remark to offer, for he was never sullen or gloomy. His affairs, whatever they were, did not appear to oppress him. Mrs. Hibberdell would talk to Eugene genially about his work, this small, social centre of which they were a part and which was called Riverwood, the current movements in politics, religion, science and so forth. There were references sometimes to her one daughter, who was married and living in New York. It appeared that she occasionally visited her mother here. Eugene was delighted to think he had been so fortunate as to find this place. He hoped to make himself so agreeable that there would be no question as to his welcome, and he was not disappointed.

Between themselves Mrs. Hibberdell and Davis discussed him, agreeing that he was entirely charming, a good fellow, and well worth having about. At the factory where Eugene worked and where the conditions were radically different, he made for himself an atmosphere which was almost entirely agreeable to him, though he quarreled at times with specific details. On the first morning, for instance, he was put to work with two men, heavy clods of souls he thought at first, familiarly known about the yard as John and Bill. These two, to his artistic eye, appeared machines, more mechanical than humanly self-directive. They were of medium height, not more than five feet, nine inches tall and weighed about one hundred and eighty pounds each. One had a round, poorly modeled face very much the shape of an egg, to which was attached a heavy yellowish mustache. He had a glass eye, complicated in addition by a pair of spectacles which were fastened over his large, protruding red ears with steel hooks. He wore a battered brown hat, now a limp shapeless mass. His name was Bill Jeffords and he responded sometimes to the sobriquet of “One Eye.”

The other man was John alias “Jack” Duncan, an individual of the same height and build with but slightly more modeling to his face and with little if any greater intelligence. He looked somewhat the shrewder—Eugene fancied there might be lurking in him somewhere a spark of humor, but he was mistaken. Unquestionably in Jeffords there was none. Jack Stix, the foreman-carpenter, a tall, angular, ambling man with red hair, a red mustache, shifty, uncertain blue eyes and noticeably big hands and feet, had suggested to Eugene that he work with these men for a little while. It was his idea to “try him out,” as he told one of the associate foremen who was in charge of a gang of Italians working in the yard for the morning, and he was quite equal to doing it. He thought Eugene had no business here and might possibly be scared off by a little rough work.

“He's up here for his health,” he told him. “I don't know where he comes from. Mr. Brooks sent him up here with orders to put him on. I want to see how he takes to real work for awhile.”

“Look out you don't hurt him,” suggested the other. “He don't look very strong to me.”

“He's strong enough to carry a few spiles, I guess. If Jimmy can carry 'em, he can. I don't intend to keep him at it long.”

Eugene knew nothing of this, but when he was told to “come along, new man” and shown a pile of round, rough ash trunk cutting six inches in diameter and eight feet long, his courage failed him. He was suffered to carry some of these to the second floor, how many he did not know.

“Take 'em to Thompson up there in the corner,” said Jeffords dully.

Eugene grasped one uncertainly in the middle with his thin, artistic hands. He did not know that there were ways of handling lumber just as there were ways of handling a brush. He tried to lift it but could not. The rough bark scratched his fingers cruelly.

“Yah gotta learn somepin about that before yuh begin, I guess,” said Jack Duncan, who had been standing by eyeing him narrowly.

Jeffords had gone about some other work.

“I suppose I don't know very much about it,” replied Eugene shamefacedly stopping and waiting for further instructions.

“Lemme show you a trick,” said his associate. “There's tricks in all these here trades. Take it by the end this-a-way, and push it along until you can stand it up. Stoop down now and put your shoulder right next the middle. Gotta pad under your shirt? You oughtta have one. Now put your right arm out ahead o'yuh, on the spile. Now you're all right.”

Eugene straightened up and the rough post balanced itself evenly but crushingly on his shoulder. It appeared to grind his muscles and his back and legs ached instantly. He started bravely forward straining to appear at ease but within fifty feet he was suffering agony. He walked the length of the shop, however, up the stairs and back again to the window where Thompson was, his forehead bursting with perspiration and his ears red with blood. He fairly staggered as he neared the machine and dropped the post heavily.

“Look what you're doin',” said a voice behind him. It was Thompson, the lathe worker. “Can't you put that down easy?”

“No, I can't,” replied Eugene angrily, his face tinged with a faint blush from his extreme exertion. He was astonished and enraged to think they should put him to doing work like this, especially since Mr. Haverford had told him it would be easy. He suspected at once a plot to drive him away. He would have added “these are too damn heavy for me,” but he restrained himself. He went down stairs wondering how he was to get up the others. He fingered about the pole gingerly hoping that the time taken this way would ease his pain and give him strength for the next one. Finally he picked up another and staggered painfully to the loft again. The foreman had his eye on him but said nothing. It amused him a little to think Eugene was having such a hard time. It wouldn't hurt him for a change, would do him good. “When he gets four carried up let him go,” he said to Thompson, however, feeling that he had best lighten the situation a little. The latter watched Eugene out of the tail of his eye noting the grimaces he made and the strain he was undergoing, but he merely smiled. When four had been dropped on the floor he said: “That'll do for the present,” and Eugene, heaving a groan of relief, went angrily away. In his nervous, fantastic, imaginative and apprehensive frame of mind, he imagined he had been injured for life. He feared he had strained a muscle or broken a blood vessel somewhere.

“Good heavens, I can't stand anything like this,” he thought. “If the work is going to be this hard I'll have to quit. I wonder what they mean by treating me this way. I didn't come here to do this.”

Visions of days and weeks of back-breaking toil stretched before him. It would never do. He couldn't stand it. He saw his old search for work coming back, and this frightened him in another direction. “I mustn't give up so easily,” he counseled himself in spite of his distress. “I have to stick this out a little while anyhow.” It seemed in this first trying hour as though he were between the devil and the deep sea. He went slowly down into the yard to find Jeffords and Duncan. They were working at a car, one inside receiving lumber to be piled, the other bringing it to him.

“Get down, Bill,” said John, who was on the ground looking up at his partner indifferently. “You get up there, new man. What's your name?”

“Witla,” said Eugene.

“Well, my name's Duncan. We'll bring this stuff to you and you pile it.”

It was more heavy lumber, as Eugene apprehensively observed, quarter cut joists for some building—“four by fours” they called them—but after he was shown the art of handling them they were not unmanageable. There were methods of sliding and balancing them which relieved him of a great quantity of labor. Eugene had not thought to provide himself with gloves though, and his hands were being cruelly torn. He stopped once to pick a splinter out of his thumb and Jeffords, who was coming up, asked, “Ain't cha got no gloves?”

“No,” said Eugene, “I didn't think to get any.”

“Your hands'll get pretty well bunged up, I'm afraid. Maybe Joseph'll let you have his for to-day, you might go in and ask him.”

“Where's Joseph?” asked Eugene.

“He's inside there. He's taking from the plane.”

Eugene did not understand this quite. He knew what a plane was, had been listening to it sing mightily all the morning, the shavings flying as it smoothed the boards, but taking?

“Where's Joseph?” he asked of the plane driver.

He nodded his head to a tall hump-shouldered boy of perhaps twenty-two. He was a big, simple, innocent looking fellow. His face was long and narrow, his mouth wide, his eyes a watery blue, his hair a shock of brown, loose and wavy, with a good sprinkling of sawdust in it. About his waist was a big piece of hemp bagging tied by a grass rope. He wore an old faded wool cap with a long visor in order to shield his eyes from the flying chips and dust, and when Eugene came in one hand was lifted protectingly to shield his eyes. Eugene approached him deprecatingly.

“One of the men out in the yard said that you might have a pair of gloves you would lend me for to-day. I'm piling lumber and it's tearing my hands. I forgot to get a pair.”

“Sure,” said Joseph genially waving his hand to the driver to stop. “They're over here in my locker. I know what that is. I been there. When I come here they rubbed it into me jist as they're doin' to you. Doncher mind. You'll come out all right. Up here for your health, are you? It ain't always like that. Somedays there ain't most nothin' to do here. Then somedays ag'in there's a whole lot. Well, it's good healthy work, I can say that. I ain't most never sick. Nice fresh air we git here and all that.”

He rambled on, fumbling under his bagging apron for his keys, unlocking his locker and producing a great pair of old yellow lumber gloves. He gave them to Eugene cheerfully and the latter thanked him. He liked Eugene at once and Eugene liked him. “A nice fellow that,” he said, as he went back to his car. “Think of how genially he gave me these. Lovely! If only all men were as genial and kindly disposed as this boy, how nice the world would be.” He put on the gloves and found his work instantly easier for he could grasp the joists firmly and without pain. He worked on until noon when the whistle blew and he ate a dreary lunch sitting by himself on one side, pondering. After one he was called to carry shavings, one basket after another back through the blacksmith shop to the engine room in the rear where was a big shaving bin. By four o'clock he had seen almost all the characters he was going to associate with for the time that he stayed there. Harry Fornes, the blacksmith or “the village smith,” as Eugene came to call him later on, Jimmy Sudds, the blacksmith's helper or “maid-of-all-work” as he promptly named him; John Peters, the engineer, Malachi Dempsey, the driver of the great plane, Joseph Mews and, in addition, carpenters, tin-smiths, plumbers, painters, and those few exceptional cabinet makers who passed through the lower floor now and then, men who were about the place from time to time and away from it at others all of whom took note of Eugene at first as a curiosity.

Eugene was himself intensely interested in the men. Harry Fornes and Jimmy Sudds attracted him especially. The former was an undersized American of distant Irish extraction who was so broad chested, swollen armed, square-jawed and generally self-reliant and forceful as to seem a minor Titan. He was remarkably industrious, turning out a great deal of work and beating a piece of iron with a resounding lick which could be heard all about the hills and hollows outside. Jimmy Sudds, his assistant, was like his master equally undersized, dirty, gnarled, twisted, his teeth showing like a row of yellow snags, his ears standing out like small fans, his eye askew, but nevertheless with so genial a look in his face as to disarm criticism at once. Every body liked Jimmy Sudds because he was honest, single-minded and free of malicious intent. His coat was three and his trousers two times too large for him, and his shoes were obviously bought at a second-hand store, but he had the vast merit of being a picture. Eugene was fascinated with him. He learned shortly that Jimmy Sudds truly believed that buffaloes were to be shot around Buffalo, New York.

John Peters, the engineer, was another character who fixed his attention. John was almost helplessly fat and was known for this reason as “Big John.” He was a veritable whale of a man. Six feet tall, weighing over three hundred pounds and standing these summer days in his hot engine room, his shirt off, his suspenders down, his great welts of fat showing through his thin cotton undershirt, he looked as though he might be suffering, but he was not. John, as Eugene soon found out, did not take life emotionally. He stood mostly in his engine room door when the shade was there staring out on the glistening water of the river, occasionally wishing that he didn't need to work but could lie and sleep indefinitely instead.

“Wouldja think them fellers would feel purty good sittin' out there on the poop deck of them there yachts smokin' their perfectos?” he once asked Eugene, apropos of the magnificent private vessels that passed up and down the river.

“I certainly would,” laughed Eugene.

“Aw! Haw! That's the life fer yer uncle Dudley. I could do that there with any of 'em. Aw! Haw!”

Eugene laughed joyously.

“Yes, that's the life,” he said. “We all could stand our share.”

Malachi Dempsey, the driver of the great plane, was dull, tight-mouthed, silent, more from lack of ideas than anything else, though oyster-wise he had learned to recede from all manner of harm by closing his shell tightly. He knew no way to avoid earthly harm save by being preternaturally silent, and Eugene saw this quickly. He used to stare at him for long periods at a time, marvelling at the curiosity his attitude presented. Eugene himself, though, was a curiosity to the others, even more so than they to him. He did not look like a workingman and could not be made to do so. His spirit was too high, his eye too flashing and incisive. He smiled at himself carrying basketful after basketful of shavings from the planing room, where it rained shavings and from which, because of the lack of a shaving blower, they had to be removed back to the hot engine room where Big John presided. The latter took a great fancy to Eugene, but something after the fashion of a dog for a master. He did not have a single idea above his engine, his garden at home, his wife, his children and his pipe. These and sleep—lots of it—were his joys, his recreations, the totality of his world.

CHAPTER XXI

There were many days now, three months all told, in which Eugene obtained insight into the workaday world such as he had not previously had. It is true he had worked before in somewhat this fashion, but his Chicago experience was without the broad philosophic insight which had come to him since. Formerly the hierarchies of power in the universe and on earth were inexplicable to him—all out of order; but here, where he saw by degrees ignorant, almost animal intelligence, being directed by greater, shrewder, and at times it seemed to him possibly malicious intelligences—he was not quite sure about that—who were so strong that the weaker ones must obey them, he began to imagine that in a rough way life might possibly be ordered to the best advantage even under this system. It was true that men quarreled here with each other as to who should be allowed to lead. There was here as elsewhere great seeking for the privileges and honors of direction and leadership in such petty things as the proper piling of lumber, the planing of boards, the making of desks and chairs, and men were grimly jealous of their talents and abilities in these respects, but in the main it was the jealousy that makes for ordered, intelligent control. All were striving to do the work of intelligence, not of unintelligence. Their pride, however ignorant it might be, was in the superior, not the inferior. They might complain of their work, snarl at each other, snarl at their bosses, but after all it was because they were not able or permitted to do the higher work and carry out the orders of the higher mind. All were striving to do something in a better way, a superior way, and to obtain the honors and emoluments that come from doing anything in a superior way. If they were not rewarded according to their estimate of their work there was wrath and opposition and complaint and self-pity, but the work of the superior intelligence was the thing which each in his blind, self-seeking way was apparently trying to do.

Because he was not so far out of his troubles that he could be forgetful of them, and because he was not at all certain that his talent to paint was ever coming back to him, he was not as cheerful at times as he might have been; but he managed to conceal it pretty well. This one thought with its attendant ills of probable poverty and obscurity were terrible to him. Time was slipping away and youth. But when he was not thinking of this he was cheerful enough. Besides he had the ability to simulate cheerfulness even when he did not feel it. Because he did not permanently belong to this world of day labor and because his position which had been given him as a favor was moderately secure, he felt superior to everything about him. He did not wish to show this feeling in any way—was very anxious as a matter of fact to conceal it, but his sense of superiority and ultimate indifference to all these petty details was an abiding thought with him. He went to and fro carrying a basket of shavings, jesting with “the village smith,” making friends with “Big John,” the engineer, with Joseph, Malachi Dempsey, little Jimmy Sudds, in fact anyone and everyone who came near him who would be friends. He took a pencil one day at the noon hour and made a sketch of Harry Fornes, the blacksmith, his arm upraised at the anvil, his helper, Jimmy Sudds, standing behind him, the fire glowing in the forge. Fornes, who was standing beside him, looking over his shoulder, could scarcely believe his eyes.

“Wotcha doin'?” he asked Eugene curiously, looking over his shoulder, for it was at the blacksmith's table, in the sun of his window that he was sitting, looking out at the water. Eugene had bought a lunch box and was carrying with him daily a delectable lunch put up under Mrs. Hibberdell's direction. He had eaten his noonday meal and was idling, thinking over the beauty of the scene, his peculiar position, the curiosities of this shop—anything and everything that came into his head.

“Wait a minute,” he said genially, for he and the smith were already as thick as thieves.

The latter gazed interestedly and finally exclaimed:

“W'y that's me, ain't it?”

“Yep!” said Eugene.

“Wat are you goin' to do with that wen you get through with it?” asked the latter avariciously.

“I'm going to give it to you, of course.”

“Say, I'm much obliged fer that,” replied the smith delightedly. “Gee, the wife'll be tickled to see that. You're a artist, ain't cher? I hearda them fellers. I never saw one. Gee, that's good, that looks just like me, don't it?”

“Something,” said Eugene quietly, still working.

The helper came in.

“Watcha' doin'?” he asked.

“He's drawin' a pitcher, ya rube, watchye suppose he's doin',” informed the blacksmith authoritatively. “Don't git too close. He's gotta have room.”

“Aw, whose crowdin'?” asked the helper irritably. He realized at once that his superior was trying to shove him in the background, this being a momentous occasion. He did not propose that any such thing should happen. The blacksmith glared at him irritably but the progress of the art work was too exciting to permit of any immediate opportunities for hostilities, so Jimmy was allowed to crowd close and see.

“Ho, ho! that's you, ain't it,” he asked the smith curiously, indicating with a grimy thumb the exact position of that dignitary on the drawing.

“Don't,” said the latter, loftily—“sure! He's gotta have room.”

“An' there's me. Ho! Ho! Gee, I look swell, don't I? Ho! ho!”

The little helper's tushes were showing joyously—a smile that extended far about either side of his face. He was entirely unconscious of the rebuke administered by the smith.

“If you're perfectly good, Jimmy,” observed Eugene cheerfully still working, “I may make a sketch of you, sometime!”

“Na! Will you? Go on! Say, hully chee. Dat'll be fine, won't it? Say, ho! ho! De folks at home won't know me. I'd like to have a ting like dat, say!”

Eugene smiled. The smith was regretful. This dividing of honors was not quite all that it might be. Still his own picture was delightful. It looked exactly like the shop. Eugene worked until the whistle blew and the belts began to slap and the wheels to whirr. Then he got up.

“There you are, Fornes,” he said. “Like it?”

“Gee, it's swell,” said the latter and carried it to the locker. He took it out after a bit though and hung it up over his bench on the wall opposite his forge, for he wanted everyone to see. It was one of the most significant events in his life. This sketch was the subject immediately of a perfect storm of discussion. Eugene was an artist—could draw pictures—that was a revelation in itself. Then this picture was so life-like. It looked like Fornes and Sudds and the shop. Everyone was interested. Everyone jealous. They could not understand how God had favored the smith in this manner. Why hadn't Eugene sketched them before he did him? Why didn't he immediately offer to sketch them now? Big John came first, tipped off and piloted by Jimmy Sudds.

“Say!” he said his big round eyes popping with surprise. “There's some class to that, what? That looks like you, Fornes. Jinged if it don't! An' Suddsy! Bless me if there ain't Suddsy. Say, there you are, kid, natural as life, damned if you ain't. That's fine. You oughta keep that, smith.”

“I intend to,” said the latter proudly.

Big John went back to his engine room regretfully. Next came Joseph Mews, his shoulders humped, his head bobbing like a duck, for he had this habit of nodding when he walked.

“Say, wot d'ye thinka that?” he asked. “Ain't that fine. He kin drawr jist as good as they do in them there magazines. I see them there things in them, now an' then. Ain't that swell? Lookit Suddsy back in there. Eh, Suddsy, you're in right, all right. I wisht he'd make a picture o' us out there. We're just as good as you people. Wats the matter with us, eh?”

“Oh, he ain't goin' to be bothered makin' pitchers of you mokes,” replied the smith jestingly. “He only draws real ones. You want to remember that, Mews. He's gotta have good people to make sketches of. None o' your half-class plane-drivers and jig-saw operators.”

“Is that so? Is that so?” replied Joseph contemptuously, his love of humor spurred by the slight cast upon his ability. “Well if he was lookin' for real ones he made a mistake wen he come here. They're all up front. You don't want to forget that, smith. They don't live in no blacksmith's shop as I ever seen it.”

“Cut it out! Cut it out!” called little Sudds from a position of vantage near the door. “Here comes the boss,” and Joseph immediately pretended to be going to the engine room for a drink. The smith blew up his fire as though it were necessary to heat the iron he had laid in the coals. Jack Stix came ambling by.

“Who did that?” he asked, stopping after a single general, glance and looking at the sketch on the wall.

“Mr. Witla, the new man,” replied the smith, reverently.

“Say, that's pretty good, ain't it?” the foreman replied pleasantly. “He did that well. He must be an artist.”

“I think he is,” replied the smith, cautiously. He was always eager to curry favor with the boss. He came near to his side and looked over his arm. “He done it here today at noon in about a half an hour.”

“Say, that's pretty good now,” and the foreman went on his way, thinking.

If Eugene could do that, why was he here? It must be his run down condition, sure enough. And he must be the friend of someone high in authority. He had better be civil. Hitherto he had stood in suspicious awe of Eugene, not knowing what to make of him. He could not figure out just why he was here—a spy possibly. Now he thought that he might be mistaken.

“Don't let him work too hard,” he told Bill and John. “He ain't any too strong yet. He came up here for his health.”

He was obeyed in this respect, for there was no gain-saying the wishes of a foreman, but this open plea for consideration was the one thing if any which could have weakened Eugene's popularity. The men did not like the foreman. He would have been stronger at any time in the affections of the men if the foreman had been less markedly considerate or against him entirely.

******

The days which followed were restful enough though hard, for Eugene found that the constant whirl of work which went on here, and of which he had naturally to do his share, was beneficial to him. For the first time in several years he slept soundly. He would don his suit of blue overalls and jumper in the morning a few minutes before the whistle blew at seven and from then on until noon, and from one o'clock until six he would carry shavings, pile lumber for one or several of the men in the yard, load or unload cars, help Big John stoke his boilers, or carry chips and shavings from the second floor. He wore an old hat which he had found in a closet at Mrs. Hibberdell's, a faded, crumpled memory of a soft tan-colored sombrero which he punched jauntily to a peak and wore over one ear. He had big new yellow gloves which he kept on his hands all day, which were creased and frayed, but plenty good enough for this shop and yard. He learned to handle lumber nicely, to pile with skill, to “take” for Malachi Dempsey from the plane, to drive the jig-saw, and other curious bits. He was tireless in his energy because he was weary of thinking and hoped by sheer activity to beat down and overcome his notion of artistic inability—to forget that he believed that he couldn't paint and so be able to paint again. He had surprised himself in these sketches he had made, for his first feeling under the old régime would have been that he could not make them. Here, because the men were so eager and he was so much applauded, he found it rather easy and, strange to say, he thought they were good.

At the home of Mrs. Hibberdell at night he would lay off all his working clothes before dinner, take a cold bath and don a new brown suit, which because of the assurance of this position he had bought for eighteen dollars, ready made. He found it hard to get off to buy anything, for his pay ceased (fifteen cents an hour) the moment he left the shop. He had put his pictures in storage in New York and could not get off (or at least did not want to take the time off) to go and sell any. He found that he could leave without question if he wanted no pay, but if he wanted pay and had a good reason he could sometimes be excused. His appearance about the house and yard after six-thirty in the evening and on Sundays was attractive enough. He looked delicate, refined, conservative, and, when not talking to someone, rather wistful. He was lonely and restless, for he felt terribly out of it. This house was lonely. As at Alexandria, before he met Frieda, he was wishing there were some girls about. He wondered where Frieda was, what she was doing, whether she had married. He hoped not. If life had only given him a girl like Frieda—so young, so beautiful! He would sit and gaze at the water after dark in the moonlight, for this was his one consolation—the beauty of nature—thinking. How lovely it all was! How lovely life was,—this village, the summer trees, the shop where he worked, the water, Joseph, little Jimmy, Big John, the stars. If he could paint again, if he could be in love again. In love! In love! Was there any other sensation in the world like that of being in love?

A spring evening, say, some soft sweet odours blowing as they were tonight, the dark trees bending down, or the twilight angelically silver, hyacinth, orange, some soothing murmurs of the wind; some faint chirping of the tree-toads or frogs and then your girl. Dear God! Could anything be finer than that? Was anything else in life worth while? Your girl, her soft young arms about your neck, her lips to yours in pure love, her eyes speaking like twin pools of color here in the night.

So had it been only a little while ago with Frieda. So had it been once with Angela. So long ago with Stella! Dear, sweet Stella, how nice she was. And now here he was sick and lonely and married and Angela would be coming back soon—and—He would get up frequently to shut out these thoughts, and either read or walk or go to bed. But he was lonely, almost irritably so. There was only one true place of comfort for Eugene anywhere and that was in the spring time in love.

CHAPTER XXII

It was while he was mooning along in this mood, working, dreaming, wishing, that there came, one day to her mother's house at Riverwood, Carlotta Wilson—Mrs. Norman Wilson, in the world in which she moved—a tall brunette of thirty-two, handsome after the English fashion, shapely, graceful, with a knowledge of the world which was not only compounded of natural intelligence and a sense of humor, but experiences fortunate and unfortunate which had shown her both the showy and the seamy sides of life. To begin with she was the wife of a gambler—a professional gambler—of that peculiar order which essays the rôle of a gentleman, looks the part, and fleeces unmercifully the unwary partakers of their companionship. Carlotta Hibberdell, living with her mother at that time in Springfield, Massachusetts, had met him at a local series of races, which she was attending with her father and mother, where Wilson happened to be accidentally upon another mission. Her father, a real estate dealer, and fairly successful at one time, was very much interested in racing horses, and owned several of worthy records though of no great fame. Norman Wilson had posed as a real estate speculator himself, and had handled several fairly successful deals in land, but his principal skill and reliance was in gambling. He was familiar with all the gambling opportunities of the city, knew a large circle of those who liked to gamble, men and women in New York and elsewhere, and his luck or skill at times was phenomenal. At other times it was very bad. There were periods when he could afford to live in the most expensive apartment houses, dine at the best restaurants, visit the most expensive country pleasure resorts and otherwise disport himself in the companionship of friends. At other times, because of bad luck, he could not afford any of these things and though he held to his estate grimly had to borrow money to do it. He was somewhat of a fatalist in his interpretation of affairs and would hang on with the faith that his luck would turn. It did turn invariably, of course, for when difficulties began to swarm thick and fast he would think vigorously and would usually evolve some idea which served to help him out. His plan was always to spin a web like a spider and await the blundering flight of some unwary fly.

At the time she married him Carlotta Hibberdell did not know of the peculiar tendencies and subtle obsession of her ardent lover. Like all men of his type he was suave, persuasive, passionate, eager. There was a certain cat-like magnetism about him also which fascinated her. She could not understand him at that time and she never did afterwards. The license which he subsequently manifested not only with her but with others astonished and disgusted her. She found him selfish, domineering, outside his own particular field shallow, not at all artistic, emotional, or poetic. He was inclined to insist on the last touch of material refinement in surroundings (so far as he understood them) when he had money, but she found to her regret that he did not understand them. In his manner with her and everyone else he was top-lofty, superior, condescending. His stilted language at times enraged and at other times amused her, and when her original passion passed and she began to see through his pretence to his motives and actions she became indifferent and then weary. She was too big a woman mentally to quarrel with him much. She was too indifferent to life in its totality to really care. Her one passion was for an ideal lover of some type, and having been thoroughly mistaken in him she looked abroad wondering whether there were any ideal men.

Various individuals came to their apartments. There were gamblers, blasé society men, mining experts, speculators, sometimes with, sometimes without a wife. From these and from her husband and her own observation she learned of all sorts of scoundrels, mes-alliances, [sic] queer manifestations of incompatibility of temper, queer freaks of sex desire. Because she was good looking, graceful, easy in her manners, there were no end of proposals, overtures, hints and luring innuendos cast in her direction. She had long been accustomed to them. Because her husband deserted her openly for other women and confessed it in a blasé way she saw no valid reason for keeping herself from other men. She chose her lovers guardedly and with subtle taste, beginning after mature deliberation with one who pleased her greatly. She was seeking refinement, emotion, understanding coupled with some ability and they were not so easy to find. The long record of her liaisons is not for this story, but their impress on her character was important.

She was indifferent in her manner at most times and to most people. A good jest or story drew from her a hearty laugh. She was not interested in books except those of a very exceptional character—the realistic school—and these she thought ought not to be permitted except to private subscribers, nevertheless she cared for no others. Art was fascinating—really great art. She loved the pictures of Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Correggio, Titian. And with less discrimination, and more from a sensual point of view the nudes of Cabanel, Bouguereau and Gerome. To her there was reality in the works of these men, lightened by great imagination. Mostly people interested her, the vagaries of their minds, the idiosyncrasies of their characters, their lies, their subterfuges, their pretences, their fears. She knew that she was a dangerous woman and went softly, like a cat, wearing a half-smile not unlike that seen on the lips of Monna Lisa, but she did not worry about herself. She had too much courage. At the same time she was tolerant, generous to a fault, charitable. When someone suggested that she overdid the tolerance, she replied, “Why shouldn't I? I live in such a magnificent glass house.”

The reason for her visit home on this occasion was that her husband had practically deserted her for the time being. He was in Chicago for some reason principally because the atmosphere in New York was getting too hot for him, as she suspected. Because she hated Chicago and was weary of his company she refused to go with him. He was furious for he suspected her of liaisons, but he could not help himself. She was indifferent. Besides she had other resources than those he represented, or could get them.

A certain wealthy Jew had been importuning her for years to get a divorce in order that he might marry her. His car and his resources were at her command but she condescended only the vaguest courtesies. It was within the ordinary possibilities of the day for him to call her up and ask if he could not come with his car. He had three. She waved most of this aside indifferently. “What's the use?” was her pet inquiry. Her husband was not without his car at times. She had means to drive when she pleased, dress as she liked, and was invited to many interesting outings. Her mother knew well of her peculiar attitude, her marital troubles, her quarrels and her tendency to flirt. She did her best to keep her in check, for she wanted to retain for her the privilege of obtaining a divorce and marrying again, the next time successfully. Norman Wilson, however, would not readily give her a legal separation even though the preponderance of evidence was against him and, if she compromised herself, there would be no hope. She half suspected that her daughter might already have compromised herself, but she could not be sure. Carlotta was too subtle. Norman made open charges in their family quarrels, but they were based largely on jealousy. He did not know for sure.

Carlotta Wilson had heard of Eugene. She did not know of him by reputation, but her mother's guarded remarks in regard to him and his presence, the fact that he was an artist, that he was sick and working as a laborer for his health aroused her interest. She had intended to spend the period of her husband's absence at Narragansett with some friends, but before doing so she decided to come home for a few days just to see for herself. Instinctively her mother suspected curiosity on her part in regard to Eugene. She threw out the remark that he might not stay long, in the hope that her daughter might lose interest. His wife was coming back. Carlotta discerned this opposition—this desire to keep her away. She decided that she would come.

“I don't know that I want to go to Narragansett just now,” she told her mother. “I'm tired. Norman has just worn my nerves to a frazzle. I think I'll come up home for a week or so.”

“All right,” said her mother, “but do be careful how you act now. This Mr. Witla appears to be a very nice man and he's happily married. Don't you go casting any looks in his direction. If you do I won't let him stay here at all.”

“Oh, how you talk,” replied Carlotta irritably. “Do give me a little credit for something. I'm not going up there to see him. I'm tired, I tell you. If you don't want me to come I won't.”

“It isn't that, I do want you. But you know how you are. How do you ever expect to get free if you don't conduct yourself circumspectly? You know that you—”

“Oh, for heaven's sake, I hope you're not going to start that old argument again,” exclaimed Carlotta defensively. “What's the use beginning on that? We've been all over it a thousand times. I can't go anywhere or do anything but what you want to fuss. Now I'm not coming up there to do anything but rest. Why will you always start in to spoil everything?”

“Well now, you know well enough, Carlotta—” reiterated her mother.

“Oh, chuck it. I'll not come. To hell with the house. I'll go to Narragansett. You make me tired!”

Her mother looked at her tall daughter, graceful, handsome, her black hair parted in rich folds, irritated and yet pleased with her force and ability. If she would only be prudent and careful, what a figure she might yet become! Her complexion was like old rose-tinted ivory, her lips the color of dark raspberries, her eyes bluish grey, wide set, large, sympathetic, kindly. What a pity she had not married some big, worthy man to begin with. To be tied up to this gambler, even though they did live in Central Park West and had a comparatively sumptuous apartment, was a wretched thing. Still it was better than poverty or scandal, though if she did not take care of herself both might ensue. She wanted her to come to Riverwood for she liked her company, but she wanted her to behave herself. Perhaps Eugene would save the day. He was certainly restrained enough in his manner and remarks. She went back to Riverwood, and Carlotta, the quarrel smoothed over, followed her.

Eugene did not see her during the day she arrived, for he was at work; and she did not see him as he came in at night. He had on his old peaked hat and carried his handsome leather lunch box jauntily in one hand. He went to his room, bathed, dressed and then out on the porch to await the call of the dinner gong. Mrs. Hibberdell was in her room on the second floor and “Cousin Dave,” as Carlotta called Simpson, was in the back yard. It was a lovely twilight. He was in the midst of deep thoughts about the beauty of the scene, his own loneliness, the characters at the shop-work, Angela and what not, when the screen door opened and she stepped out. She had on a short-sleeved house dress of spotted blue silk with yellow lace set about the neck and the ends of the sleeves. Her shapely figure, beautifully proportioned to her height, was set in a smooth, close fitting corset. Her hair, laid in great braids at the back, was caught in a brown spangled net. She carried herself with thoughtfulness and simplicity, seeming naturally indifferent.

Eugene rose. “I'm in your way, I think. Won't you have this chair?”

“No, thanks. The one in the corner will do. But I might as well introduce myself, since there isn't anyone here to do it. I'm Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Hibberdell's daughter. You're Mr. Witla?”

“Yes, I answer to that,” said Eugene, smiling. He was not very much impressed at first. She seemed nice and he fancied intelligent—a little older than he would have preferred any woman to be who was to interest him. She sat down and looked at the water. He took his chair and held his peace. He was not even interested to talk to her. She was nice to look at, however. Her presence lightened the scene for him.

“I always like to come up here,” she volunteered finally. “It's so warm in the city these days. I don't think many people know of this place. It's out of the beaten track.”

“I enjoy it,” said Eugene. “It's such a rest for me. I don't know what I would have done if your mother hadn't taken me in. It's rather hard to find any place, doing what I am.”

“You've taken a pretty strenuous way to get health, I should say,” she observed. “Day labor sounds rough to me. Do you mind it?”

“Not at all. I like it. The work is interesting and not so very hard. It's all so new to me, that's what makes it easy. I like the idea of being a day laborer and associating with laborers. It's only because I'm run down in health that I worry. I don't like to be sick.”

“It is bad,” she replied, “but this will probably put you on your feet. I think we're always inclined to look on our present troubles as the worst. I know I am.”

“Thanks for the consolation,” he said.

She did not look at him and he rocked to and fro silently. Finally the dinner gong struck. Mrs. Hibberdell came down stairs and they went in.

The conversation at dinner turned on his work for a few moments and he described accurately the personalities of John and Bill and Big John the engineer, and little Suddsy and Harry Fornes, the blacksmith. Carlotta listened attentively without appearing to, for everything about Eugene seemed singular and exceptional to her. She liked his tall, spare body, his lean hands, his dark hair and eyes. She liked the idea of his dressing as a laboring man in the morning, working all day in the shop, and yet appearing so neat and trim at dinner. He was easy in his manner, apparently lethargic in his movements and yet she could feel a certain swift force that filled the room. It was richer for his presence. She understood at a glance that he was an artist, in all probability a good one. He said nothing of that, avoided carefully all reference to his art, and listened attentively. She felt though as if he were studying her and everyone else, and it made her gayer. At the same time she had a strong leaning toward him. “What an ideal man to be associated with,” was one of her repeated thoughts.

Although she was about the house for ten days and he met her after the third morning not only at dinner, which was natural enough, but at breakfast (which surprised him a little), he paid not so very much attention to her. She was nice, very, but Eugene was thinking of another type. He thought she was uncommonly pleasant and considerate and he admired her style of dressing and her beauty, studying her with interest, wondering what sort of a life she led, for from various bits of conversation he overheard not only at table but at other times he judged she was fairly well to do. There was an apartment in Central Park West, card parties, automobile parties, theatre parties and a general sense of people—acquaintances anyhow, who were making money. He heard her tell of a mining engineer, Dr. Rowland; of a successful coal-mining speculator, Gerald Woods; of a Mrs. Hale who was heavily interested in copper mines and apparently very wealthy. “It's a pity Norman couldn't connect with something like that and make some real money,” he heard her say to her mother one evening. He understood that Norman was her husband and that he probably would be back soon. So he kept his distance—interested and curious but hardly more.

Mrs. Wilson was not so easily baffled, however. A car appeared one evening at the door immediately after dinner, a great red touring car, and Mrs. Wilson announced easily, “We're going for a little spin after dinner, Mr. Witla. Don't you want to come along?”

Eugene had never ridden in an automobile at that time. “I'd be very pleased,” he said, for the thought of a lonely evening in an empty house had sprung up when he saw it appear.

There was a chauffeur in charge—a gallant figure in a brown straw cap and tan duster, but Mrs. Wilson manoeuvred for place.

“You sit with the driver, coz,” she said to Simpson, and when her mother stepped in she followed after, leaving Eugene the place to the right of her.

“There must be a coat and cap in the locker,” she said to the chauffeur; “let Mr. Witla have it.”

The latter extracted a spare linen coat and straw cap which Eugene put on.

“I like automobiling, don't you?” she said to Eugene good-naturedly. “It's so refreshing. If there is any rest from care on this earth it's in traveling fast.”

“I've never ridden before,” replied Eugene simply. Something about the way he said it touched her. She felt sorry for him because he appeared lonely and gloomy. His indifference to her piqued her curiosity and irritated her pride. Why shouldn't he take an interest in her? As they sped under leafy lanes, up hill and down dale, she made out his face in the starlight. It was pale, reflective, indifferent. “These deep thinkers!” she chided him. “It's terrible to be a philosopher.” Eugene smiled.

When they reached home he went to his room as did all the others to theirs. He stepped out into the hall a few minutes later to go to the library for a book, and found that her door which he had to pass was wide open. She was sitting back in a Morris chair, her feet upon another chair, her skirts slightly drawn up revealing a trim foot and ankle. She did not stir but looked up and smiled winningly.

“Aren't you tired enough to sleep?” he asked.

“Not quite yet,” she smiled.

He went down stairs and turning on a light in the library stood looking at a row of books reading the titles. He heard a step and there she was looking at the books also.

“Don't you want a bottle of beer?” she asked. “I think there is some in the ice box. I forgot that you might be thirsty.”

“I really don't care,” he said. “I'm not much for drinks of any kind.”

“That's not very sociable,” she laughed.

“Let's have the beer then,” he said.

She threw herself back languidly in one of the big dining room chairs when she had brought the drinks and some Swiss cheese and crackers, and said: “I think you'll find some cigarettes on the table in the corner if you like.”

He struck her a match and she puffed her cigarette comfortably. “I suppose you find it lonely up here away from all your friends and companions,” she volunteered.

“Oh, I've been sick so long I scarcely know whether I have any.”

He described some of his imaginary ailments and experiences and she listened to him attentively. When the beer was gone she asked him if he would have more but he said no. After a time because he stirred wearily, she got up.

“Your mother will think we're running some sort of a midnight game down here,” he volunteered.

“Mother can't hear,” she said. “Her room is on the third floor and besides she doesn't hear very well. Dave don't mind. He knows me well enough by now to know that I do as I please.”

She stood closer to Eugene but still he did not see. When he moved away she put out the lights and followed him to the stairs.

“He's either the most bashful or the most indifferent of men,” she thought, but she said softly, “Good-night. Pleasant dreams to you,” and went her way.

Eugene thought of her now as a good fellow, a little gay for a married woman, but probably circumspect withal. She was simply being nice to him. All this was simply because, as yet, he was not very much interested.

There were other incidents. One morning he passed her door. Her mother had already gone down to breakfast and there was the spectacle of a smooth, shapely arm and shoulder quite bare to his gaze as she lay on her pillow apparently unconscious that her door was open. It thrilled him as something sensuously beautiful for it was a perfect arm. Another time he saw her of an evening just before dinner buttoning her shoes. Her dress was pulled three-quarters of the way to her knees and her shoulders and arms were bare, for she was still in her corset and short skirts. She seemed not to know that he was near. One night after dinner he started to whistle something and she went to the piano to keep him company. Another time he hummed on the porch and she started the same song, singing with him. He drew his chair near the window where there was a couch after her mother had retired for the night, and she came and threw herself on it. “You don't mind if I lie here?” she said, “I'm tired tonight.”

“Not at all. I'm glad of your company. I'm lonely.”

She lay and stared at him, smiling. He hummed and she sang. “Let me see your palm,” she said, “I want to learn something.” He held it out. She fingered it temptingly. Even this did not wake him.

She left for five days because of some necessity in connection with her engagements and when she returned he was glad to see her. He had been lonesome, and he knew now that she made the house gayer. He greeted her genially.

“I'm glad to see you back,” he said.

“Are you really?” she replied. “I don't believe it.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Oh, signs, omens and portents. You don't like women very well I fancy.”

“Don't I!”

“No, I think not,” she replied.

She was charming in a soft grayish green satin. He noticed that her neck was beautiful and that her hair looped itself gracefully upon the back of it. Her nose was straight and fine, sensitive because of its thin partitioning walls. He followed her into the library and they went out on the porch. Presently he returned—it was ten o'clock—and she came also. Davis had gone to his room, Mrs. Hibberdell to hers.

“I think I'll read,” he said, aimlessly.

“Why anything like that?” she jested. “Never read when you can do anything else.”

“What else can I do?”

“Oh, lots of things. Play cards, tell fortunes, read palms, drink beer—” She looked at him wilfully.

He went to his favorite chair near the window, side by side with the window-seat couch. She came and threw herself on it.

“Be gallant and fix my pillows for me, will you?” she asked.

“Of course I will,” he said.

He took a pillow and raised her head, for she did not deign to move.

“Is that enough?” he inquired.

“One more.”

He put his hand under the first pillow and lifted it up. She took hold of his free hand to raise herself. When she had it she held it and laughed a curious excited laugh. It came over him all at once, the full meaning of all the things she had been doing. He dropped the pillow he was holding and looked at her steadfastly. She relaxed her hold and leaned back, languorous, smiling. He took her left hand, then her right and sat down beside her. In a moment he slipped one arm under her waist and bending over put his lips to hers. She twined her arms about his neck tightly and hugged him close; then looking in his eyes she heaved a great sigh.

“You love me, don't you?” he asked.

“I thought you never would,” she sighed, and clasped him to her again.

CHAPTER XXIII

The form of Carlotta Wilson was perfect, her passion eager, her subtlety a match for almost any situation. She had deliberately set out to win Eugene because he was attractive to her and because, by his early indifference, he had piqued her vanity and self-love. She liked him though, liked every one of his characteristics, and was as proud of her triumph as a child with a new toy. When he had finally slipped his arm under her waist she had thrilled with a burning, vibrating thrill throughout her frame and when she came to him it was with the eagerness of one wild for his caresses. She threw herself on him, kissed him sensuously scores of times, whispered her desire and her affection. Eugene thought, now that he saw her through the medium of an awakened passion, that he had never seen anything more lovely. For the time being he forgot Frieda, Angela, his loneliness, the fact that he was working in supposed prudent self-restraint to effect his recovery, and gave himself up to the full enjoyment of this situation.

Carlotta was tireless in her attentions. Once she saw that he really cared, or imagined he did, she dwelt in the atmosphere of her passion and affection. There was not a moment that she was not with or thinking of Eugene when either was possible. She lay in wait for him at every turn, gave him every opportunity which her skill could command. She knew the movements of her mother and cousin to the least fraction—could tell exactly where they were, how long they were likely to remain, how long it would take them to reach a certain door or spot from where they were standing. Her step was noiseless, her motions and glances significant and interpretative. For a month or thereabouts she guided Eugene through the most perilous situations, keeping her arms about him to the last possible moment, kissing him silently and swiftly at the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected surroundings. Her weary languor, her seeming indifference, disappeared, and she was very much alive—except in the presence of others. There her old manner remained, intensified even, for she was determined to throw a veil of darkness over her mother and her cousin's eyes. She succeeded admirably for the time being, for she lied to her mother out of the whole cloth, pretending that Eugene was nice but a little slow so far as the ways of the world were concerned. “He may be a good artist,” she volunteered, “but he isn't very much of a ladies' man. He hasn't the first trace of gallantry.”

Mrs. Hibberdell was glad. At least there would be no disturbance here. She feared Carlotta, feared Eugene, but she saw no reason for complaint. In her presence all was seemingly formal and at times almost distant. She did not like to say to her daughter that she should not come to her own home now that Eugene was here, and she did not like to tell him to leave. Carlotta said she liked him fairly well, but that was nothing. Any married woman might do that. Yet under her very eyes was going forward the most disconcerting license. She would have been astounded if she had known the manner in which the bath, Carlotta's chamber and Eugene's room were being used. The hour never struck when they were beyond surveillance but what they were together.

Eugene grew very indifferent in the matter of his work. From getting to the point where he was enjoying it because he looked upon it as a form of exercise which was benefiting him, and feeling that he might not have to work indefinitely if he kept up physical rehabilitation at this pace, he grew languid about it and moody over the time he had to give to it. Carlotta had the privilege of a certain automobile and besides she could afford to hire one of her own. She began by suggesting that he meet her at certain places and times for a little spin and this took him away from his work a good portion of the time.

“You don't have to work every day, do you?” she asked him one Sunday afternoon when they were alone. Simpson and Mrs. Hibberdell had gone out for a walk and they were in her room on the second floor. Her mother's was on the third.

“I don't have to,” he said, “if I don't mind losing the money they pay. It's fifteen cents an hour and I need that. I'm not working at my regular profession, you must remember.”

“Oh, chuck that,” she said. “What's fifteen cents an hour? I'll give you ten times that to come and be with me.”

“No, you won't,” he said. “You won't give me anything. We won't go anywhere on that basis.”

“Oh, Eugene, how you talk. Why won't you?” she asked. “I have lots of it—at least lots more than you have just now. And it might as well be spent this way as some other. It won't be spent right anyhow—that is not for any exceptional purpose. Why shouldn't you have some of it? You can pay it back to me.”

“I won't do it,” said Eugene. “We won't go anywhere on that basis. I'd rather go and work. It's all right, though. I can sell a picture maybe. I expect to hear any day of something being sold. What is it you want to do?”

“I want you to come automobiling with me tomorrow. Ma is going over to her sister Ella's in Brooklyn. Has that shop of yours a phone?”

“Sure it has. I don't think you'd better call me up there though.”

“Once wouldn't hurt.”

“Well, perhaps not. But we'd better not begin that, or at least not make a practice of it. These people are very strict. They have to be.”

“I know,” said Carlotta. “I won't. I was just thinking. I'll let you know. You know that river road that runs on the top of the hill over there?”

“Yes.”

“You be walking along there tomorrow at one o'clock and I'll pick you up. You can come this once, can't you?”

“Sure,” said Eugene. “I can come. I was just joking. I can get some money.” He had still his hundred dollars which he had not used when he first started looking for work. He had been clinging to it grimly, but now in this lightened atmosphere he thought he might spend some of it. He was going to get well. Everything was pointing that way. His luck was with him.

“Well, I'll get the car. You don't mind riding in that, do you?”

“No,” he said. “I'll wear a good suit to the shop and change over there.”

She laughed gaily, for his scruples and simplicity amused her.

“You're a prince—my Prince Charming,” she said and she flung herself in his lap. “Oh, you angel man, heaven-born! I've been waiting for you I don't know how long. Wise man! Prince Charming! I love you! I love you! I think you're the nicest thing that ever was.”

Eugene caressed her gently.

“And you're my wise girl. But we are no good, neither you nor I. You're a wastrel and a stray. And I—I hesitate to think what I am.”

“What is a wastrel?” she asked. “That's a new one on me. I don't remember.”

“Something or someone that can be thrown away as useless. A stray is a pigeon that won't stay with the flock.”

“That's me,” said Carlotta, holding out her firm, smooth arms before her and grinning mischievously. “I won't stay with any flock. Nix for the flocks. I'd rather be off with my wise man. He is nice enough for me. He's better nor nine or ten flocks.” She was using corrupt English for the joy of it. “Just me and you, Prince Charming. Am I your lovely wastrel? Do you like strays? Say you do. Listen! Do you like strays?”

Eugene had been turning his head away, saying “scandalous! terrible, you're the worst ever,” but she stopped his mouth with her lips.

“Do you?”

“This wastrel, yes. This stray,” he replied, smoothing her cheek. “Ah, you're lovely, Carlotta, you're beautiful. What a wonderful woman you are.”

She gave herself to him completely.

“Whatever I am, I'm yours, wise man,” she went on. “You can have anything you want of me, do anything you please with me. You're like an opiate to me, Eugene, sweet! You stop my mouth and close my eyes and seal my ears. You make me forget everything I suppose I might think now and then but I don't want to. I don't want to! And I don't care. I wish you were single. I wish I were free. I wish we had an island somewhere together. Oh, hell! Life is a wearisome tangle, isn't it? 'Take the cash and let the credit go.'”

By this time Carlotta had heard enough of Eugene's life to understand what his present condition was. She knew he was sick though not exactly why. She thought it was due to overwork. She knew he was out of funds except for certain pictures he had on sale, but that he would regain his art ability and re-establish himself she did not doubt. She knew something of Angela and thought it was all right that she should be away from him, but now she wished the separation might be permanent. She went into the city and asking about at various art stores learned something of Eugene's art history and his great promise. It made him all the more fascinating in her eyes. One of his pictures on exhibition at Pottle Frères was bought by her after a little while and the money sent to Eugene, for she had learned from him how these pictures, any pictures, were exhibited on sale and the painter paid, minus the commission, when the sale was made. She took good care to make it clear to the manager at Pottle Frères that she was doing this so that Eugene could have the money and saw to it that the check reached him promptly. If Eugene had been alone this check of three hundred dollars would have served to bring Angela to him. As it was it gave him funds to disport himself with in her company. He did not know that she had been the means of his getting it, or to whom the picture had been sold. A fictitious name was given. This sale somewhat restored Eugene's faith in his future, for if one of his pictures would sell so late in the day for this price, others would.

There were days thereafter of the most curious composition. In the morning he would leave dressed in his old working suit and carrying his lunch box, Carlotta waving him a farewell from her window, or, if he had an engagement outside with Carlotta, wearing a good suit, and trusting to his overalls and jumper to protect it, working all day with John and Bill, or Malachi Dempsey and Joseph—for there was rivalry between these two groups as to which should have his company—or leaving the shop early and riding with her a part of the time, coming home at night to be greeted by Carlotta as though she had not seen him at all. She watched for his coming as patiently as a wife and was as eager to see if there was anything she could do for him. In the shop Malachi and Joseph or John and Bill and sometimes some of the carpenters up stairs would complain of a rush of work in order that they might have his assistance or presence. Malachi and Joseph could always enter the complaint that they were in danger of being hampered by shavings, for the latter were constantly piling up in great heaps, beautiful shavings of ash and yellow pine and walnut which smelled like resin and frankincense and had the shape of girl's curls or dry breakfast food, or rich damp sawdust. Or John and Bill would complain that they were being overworked and needed someone in the car to receive. Even Big John, the engineer, tried to figure out some scheme by which he could utilize Eugene as a fireman, but that was impossible; there was no call for any such person. The foreman understood well enough what the point was but said nothing, placing Eugene with the particular group which seemed to need him most. Eugene was genial enough about the matter. Wherever he was was right. He liked to be in the cars or on a lumber pile or in the plane room. He also liked to stand and talk to Big John or Harry Fornes, his basket under his arm—“kidding,” as he called it. His progress to and fro was marked by endless quips and jests and he was never weary.

When his work was done at night he would hurry home, following the right bank of the little stream until he reached a path which led up to the street whereon was the Hibberdell house. On his way he would sometimes stop and study the water, its peaceful current bearing an occasional stick or straw upon its bosom, and contrasting the seeming peace of its movement with his own troubled life. The subtlety of nature as expressed in water appealed to him. The difference between this idyllic stream bank and his shop and all who were of it, struck him forcefully. Malachi Dempsey had only the vaguest conception of the beauty of nature. Jack Stix was scarcely more artistic than the raw piles of lumber with which he dealt. Big John had no knowledge of the rich emotions of love or of beauty which troubled Eugene's brain. They lived on another plane, apparently.

And at the other end of the stream awaiting him was Carlotta, graceful, sophisticated, eager in her regard for him, lukewarm in her interest in morals, sybaritic in her moods, representing in a way a world which lived upon the fruits of this exploited toil and caring nothing about it. If he said anything to Carlotta about the condition of Joseph Mews, who carried bundles of wood home to his sister of an evening to help save the expense of fuel, she merely smiled. If he talked of the poverty of the masses she said, “Don't be doleful, Eugene.” She wanted to talk of art and luxury and love, or think of them at least. Her love of the beauty of nature was keen. There were certain inns they could reach by automobile where they could sit and dine and drink a bottle of wine or a pitcher of claret cup, and here she would muse on what they would do if they were only free. Angela was frequently in Carlotta's thoughts, persistently in Eugene's, for he could not help feeling that he was doing her a rank injustice.

She had been so patient and affectionate all this long time past, had tended him as a mother, waited on him as a servant. Only recently he had been writing in most affectionate terms, wishing she were with him. Now all that was dead again. It was hard work to write. Everything he said seemed a lie and he did not want to say it. He hated to pretend. Still, if he did not write Angela would be in a state of mortal agony, he thought, and would shortly come to look him up. It was only by writing, protesting his affection, explaining why in his judgment it was unadvisable for her to come at present, that she could be made to stay where she was. And now that he was so infatuated with Carlotta this seemed very desirable. He did not delude himself that he would ever be able to marry her. He knew that he could not get a divorce, there being no grounds, and the injustice to Angela being such a bar to his conscience; and as for Carlotta, her future was very uncertain. Norman Wilson, for all that he disregarded her at times, did not want to give her up. He was writing, threatening to come back to New York if she did not come to him, though the fact that she was in her mother's home, where he considered her safe, was some consolation to him. Angela was begging Eugene to let her come. They would get along, she argued, on whatever he got and he would be better off with her than alone. She pictured him living in some uncomfortable boarding house where he was not half attended to and intensely lonely. Her return meant the leaving of this lovely home—for Mrs. Hibberdell had indicated that she would not like to keep him and his wife—and so the end of this perfect romance with Carlotta. An end to lovely country inns and summer balconies where they were dining together! An end to swift tours in her automobile, which she guided skilfully herself, avoiding the presence of a chauffeur. An end to lovely trysts under trees and by pretty streams where he kissed and fondled her and where she lingered joyously in his arms!

“If ma could only see us now,” she would jest; or,

“Do you suppose Bill and John would recognize you here if they saw you?”

Once she said: “This is better than the engine room, isn't it?”

“You're a bad lot, Carlotta,” he would declare, and then would come to her lips the enigmatic smile of Monna Lisa.

“You like bad lots, don't you? Strays make fine hunting.”

In her own philosophy she was taking the cash and letting the credit go.

CHAPTER XXIV

Days like this could not go on forever. The seed of their destruction was in their beginning. Eugene was sad. He used to show his mood at times and if she asked him what was the matter, would say: “We can't keep this thing up much longer. It must come to an end soon.”

“You're certainly a gloomy philosopher, Genie,” she would say, reproachfully, for she had hopes that it could be made to last a long while under any circumstances. Eugene had the feeling that no pretence would escape Angela's psychology. She was too sensitive to his unspoken moods and feelings. She would come soon, willynilly, and then all this would be ended. As a matter of fact several things combined to bring about change and conclusion.

For one thing Mrs. Hibberdell had been more and more impressed with the fact that Carlotta was not merely content to stay but that once having come she was fairly determined to remain. She had her own apartment in the city, ostensibly closed for the summer, for she had protested that it was too hot to live in town when she first proposed going to Narragansett. After seeing Eugene she figured out a possible use for it, though that use was dangerous, for Norman Wilson might return at any time. Nevertheless, they had been there on occasions—this with the double effect of deceiving her mother and entertaining Eugene. If she could remain away from Riverwood a percentage of the time, she argued with Eugene, it would make her stay less suspicious and would not jeopardize their joy in companionship. So she did this. At the same time she could not stay away from Riverwood entirely, for Eugene was there necessarily morning and evening.

Nevertheless, toward the end of August Mrs. Hibberdell was growing suspicious. She had seen an automobile entering Central Park once when Carlotta had phoned her that she had a sick headache and could not come up. It looked to Mrs. Hibberdell, who had gone down town shopping on the strength of this ailment and who had phoned Carlotta that she was going to call at her apartment in the evening, as though Eugene and Carlotta were in it. Eugene had gone to work that morning, which made it seem doubtful, but it certainly looked very much like him. Still she did not feel sure it was he or Carlotta either. When she came to the latter's apartment Carlotta was there, feeling better, but stating that she had not been out. Mrs. Hibberdell concluded thoughtfully that she must have been mistaken.

Her own room was on the third floor, and several times after all had retired and she had come down to the kitchen or dining room or library for something, she had heard a peculiar noise as of someone walking lightly. She thought it was fancy on her part, for invariably when she reached the second floor all was dark and still. Nevertheless she wondered whether Eugene and Carlotta could be visiting. Twice, between breakfast and the time Eugene departed, she thought she heard Eugene and Carlotta whispering on the second floor, but there was no proof. Carlotta's readiness to rise for breakfast at six-thirty in order to be at the same table with Eugene was peculiar, and her giving up Narragansett for Riverwood was most significant. It remained for one real discovery to resolve all her suspicions into the substance of fact and convict Carlotta of being the most conscienceless of deceivers.

It came about in this fashion. One Sunday morning Davis and Mrs. Hibberdell had decided to go automobiling. Eugene and Carlotta were invited but had refused, for Carlotta on hearing the discussion several days before had warned Eugene and planned to have the day for herself and her lover. She cautioned him to pretend the need of making visits down town. As for herself she had said she would go, but on the day in question did not feel well enough. Davis and Mrs. Hibberdell departed, their destination being Long Island. It was an all day tour. After an hour their machine broke, however, and after sitting in it two hours waiting for repairs—long enough to spoil their plans—they came back by trolley. Eugene had not gone down town. He was not even dressed when the door opened on the ground floor and Mrs. Hibberdell came in.

“Oh, Carlotta,” she called, standing at the foot of the stairs and expecting Carlotta to appear from her own room or a sort of lounging and sewing room which occupied the front of the house on the second floor and where she frequently stayed. Carlotta unfortunately was with Eugene and the door to this room was commanded from where Mrs. Hibberdell was standing. She did not dare to answer.

“Oh, Carlotta,” called her mother again.

The latter's first thought was to go back in the kitchen and look there, but on second thoughts she ascended the steps and started for the sewing room. Carlotta thought she had entered. In an instant she had seized the opportunity to step into the bath which was next to Eugene's room but she was scarcely quick enough. Her mother had not gone into the room—only opened the door and looked in. She did not see Carlotta step out of Eugene's room, but she did see her entering the bath, in negligee, and she could scarcely have come from anywhere else. Her own door which was between Eugene's room and the sewing room was ten feet away. It did not seem possible that she could have come from there: she had not had time enough, and anyhow why had she not answered?

The first impulse of Mrs. Hibberdell was to call to her. Her second thought was to let the ruse seem successful. She was convinced that Eugene was in his room, and a few moments later a monitory cough on his part—coughed for a purpose—convinced her.

“Are you in the bath, Carlotta?” she called quietly, after looking into Carlotta's room.

“Yes,” came the reply, easily enough now. “Did your machine break down?”

A few remarks were exchanged through the door and then Mrs. Hibberdell went to her room. She thought over the situation steadily for it greatly irritated her. It was not the same as the discovered irregularity of a trusted and virtuous daughter. Carlotta had not been led astray. She was a grown woman, married, experienced. In every way she knew as much about life as her mother—in some respects more. The difference between them was in ethical standards and the policy that aligns itself with common sense, decency, self preservation, as against its opposite. Carlotta had so much to look out for. Her future was in her own hands. Besides, Eugene's future, his wife's rights and interests, her mother's home, her mother's standards, were things which she ought to respect—ought to want to respect. To find her lying as she had been this long time, pretending indifference, pretending absence, and no doubt associating with Eugene all the while, was disgusting. She was very angry, not so much at Eugene, though her respect for him was greatly lowered, artist though he was, as at Carlotta. She ought to do better. She ought to be ashamed not to guard herself against a man like Eugene, instead of luring him on. It was Carlotta's fault, and she determined to reproach her bitterly and to break up this wretched alliance at once.

There was an intense and bitter quarrel the next morning, for Mrs. Hibberdell decided to hold her peace until Eugene and Davis should be out of the house. She wanted to have this out with Carlotta alone, and the clash came shortly after breakfast when both the others had left. Carlotta had already warned Eugene that something might happen on account of this, but under no circumstances was he to admit anything unless she told him to. The maid was in the kitchen out of ear shot, and Mrs. Hibberdell and Carlotta were in the library when the opening gun was fired. In a way Carlotta was prepared, for she fancied her mother might have seen other things—what or how much she could not guess. She was not without the dignity of a Circe, for she had been through scenes like this before. Her own husband had charged her with infidelity more than once, and she had been threatened with physical violence by him. Her face was pale but calm.

“Now, Carlotta,” observed her mother vigorously, “I saw what was going on yesterday morning when I came home. You were in Mr. Witla's room with your clothes off. I saw you come out. Please don't deny it. I saw you come out. Aren't you ashamed of yourself? How can you treat me that way after your promise not to do anything out of the way here?”

“You didn't see me come out of his room and I wasn't in there,” said Carlotta brazenly. Her face was pale, but she was giving a fair imitation of righteous surprise. “Why do you make any such statement as that?”

“Why, Carlotta Hibberdell, how dare you contradict me; how dare you lie! You came out of that room. You know you did. You know that you were in there. You know that I saw you. I should think you would be ashamed of yourself, slipping about this house like a street girl and your own mother in it. Aren't you ashamed of yourself? Have you no sense of decency left? Oh, Carlotta, I know you are bad, but why will you come here to be so? Why couldn't you let this man alone? He was doing well enough. It's a shame, the thing you have done. It's an outrage. Mrs. Witla ought to come here and whip you within an inch of your life.”

“Oh, how you talk,” said Carlotta, irritably. “You make me tired. You didn't see me. It's the old story—suspicion. You're always full of suspicion. You didn't see me and I wasn't in there. Why do you start a fuss for nothing!”

“A fuss! A fuss for nothing—the idea, you evil woman. A fuss for nothing. How can you talk that way! I can hardly believe my senses. I can hardly believe you would dare to brazenly face me in this way. I saw you and now you deny it.”

Mrs. Hibberdell had not seen her, but she was convinced that what she said was true.

Carlotta brazened it out. “You didn't,” she insisted.

Mrs. Hibberdell stared. The effrontery of it took her breath away.

“Carlotta,” she exclaimed, “I honestly think you are the worst woman in the world. I can't think of you as my daughter—you are too brazen. You're the worst because you're calculating. You know what you're doing, and you are deliberate in your method of doing it. You're evil-minded. You know exactly what you want and you set out deliberately to get it. You have done it in this case. You started out to get this man and you have succeeded in doing it. You have no sense of shame, no pride, no honesty, no honor, no respect for me or anyone else. You do not love this man. You know you don't. If you did you would never degrade him and yourself and me as you have done. You've simply indulged in another vile relationship because you wanted to, and now when you're caught you brazen it out. You're evil, Carlotta. You're as low as a woman can be, even if you are my daughter.”

“It isn't true,” said Carlotta. “You're just talking to hear yourself talk.”

“It is true and you know it,” reproved her mother. “You talk about Norman. He never did a thing worse in his life than you have done. He may be a gambler and immoral and inconsiderate and selfish. What are you? Can you stand there and tell me you're any better? Pah! If you only had a sense of shame something could be done for you, but you haven't any. You're just vile, that's all.”

“How you talk, ma,” she observed, calmly; “how you carry on, and that on a mere suspicion. You didn't see me. I might have been in there but you didn't see me and I wasn't. You're making a storm just because you want to. I like Mr. Witla. I think he's very nice, but I'm not interested in him and I haven't done anything to harm him. You can turn him out if you want to. That's none of my affairs. You're simply raging about as usual without any facts to go upon.”

Carlotta stared at her mother, thinking. She was not greatly disturbed. It was pretty bad, no doubt of that, but she was not thinking so much of that as of the folly of being found out. Her mother knew for certain, though she would not admit to her that she knew. Now all this fine summer romance would end—the pleasant convenience of it, anyhow. Eugene would be put to the trouble of moving. Her mother might say something disagreeable to him. Besides, she knew she was better than Norman because she did not associate with the same evil type of people. She was not coarse, she was not thick-witted, she was not cruel, she was not a user of vile language or an expresser of vile ideas, and Norman was at times. She might lie and she might be calculating, but not to anyone's disadvantage—she was simply passion driven—boldly so and only toward love or romance. “Am I evil?” she often asked herself. Her mother said she was evil. Well, she was in one way; but her mother was angry, that was all. She did not mean all she said. She would come round. Still Carlotta did not propose to admit the truth of her mother's charges or to go through this situation without some argument. There were charges which her mother was making which were untenable—points which were inexcusable.

“Carlotta Hibberdell, you're the most brazen creature I ever knew! You're a terrible liar. How can you stand there and look me in the eye and say that, when you know that I know? Why lie in addition to everything else? Oh! Carlotta, the shame of it. If you only had some sense of honor! How can you lie like that? How can you?”

“I'm not lying,” declared Carlotta, “and I wish you would quit fussing. You didn't see me. You know you didn't. I came out of my room and you were in the front room. Why do you say you weren't. You didn't see me. Supposing I am a liar. I'm your daughter. I may be vile. I didn't make myself so. Certainly I'm not in this instance. Whatever I am I come by it honestly. My life hasn't been a bed of roses. Why do you start a silly fight? You haven't a thing to go on except suspicion and now you want to raise a row. I don't care what you think of me. I'm not guilty in this case and you can think what you please. You ought to be ashamed to charge me with something of which you are not sure.”

She walked to the window and stared out. Her mother shook her head. Such effrontery was beyond her. It was like her daughter, though. She took after her father and herself. Both were self-willed and determined when aroused. At the same time she was sorry for her girl, for Carlotta was a capable woman in her way and very much dissatisfied with life.

“I should think you would be ashamed of yourself, Carlotta, whether you admit it to me or not,” she went on. “The truth is the truth and it must hurt you a little. You were in that room. We won't argue that, though. You set out deliberately to do this and you have done it. Now what I have to say is this: You are going back to your apartment today, and Mr. Witla is going to leave here as quick as he can get a room somewhere else. You're not going to continue this wretched relationship any longer if I can help it. I'm going to write to his wife and to Norman too, if I can't do anything else to break this up. You're going to let this man alone. You have no right to come between him and Mrs. Witla. It's an outrage, and no one but a vile, conscienceless woman would do it. I'm not going to say anything to him now, but he's going to leave here and so are you. When it's all over you can come back if you want to. I'm ashamed for you. I'm ashamed for myself. If it hadn't been for my own feelings and those of Davis, I would have ordered you both out of the house yesterday and you know it. It's consideration for myself that's made me smooth it over as much as I have. He, the vile thing, after all the courtesy I have shown him. Still I don't blame him as much as I do you, for he would never have looked at you if you hadn't made him. My own daughter! My own house! Tch! Tch! Tch!”

There was more conversation—that fulgurous, coruscating reiteration of charges. Eugene was no good. Carlotta was vile. Mrs. Hibberdell wouldn't have believed it possible if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes. She was going to tell Norman if Carlotta didn't reform—over and over, one threat after another.

“Well,” she said, finally, “you're going to get your things ready and go into the city this afternoon. I'm not going to have you here another day.”

“No I'm not,” said Carlotta boldly, pondering over all that had been said. It was a terrible ordeal, but she would not go today. “I'm going in the morning. I'm not going to pack that fast. It's too late. I'm not going to be ordered out of here like a servant.”

Her mother groaned, but she gave in. Carlotta could not be made to do anything she did not want to do. She went to her room, and presently Mrs. Hibberdell heard her singing. She shook her head. Such a personality. No wonder Eugene succumbed to her blandishments. What man wouldn't?

CHAPTER XXV

The sequel of this scene was not to be waited for. At dinner time Mrs. Hibberdell announced in the presence of Carlotta and Davis that the house was going to be closed up for the present, and very quickly. She and Carlotta were going to Narragansett for the month of September and a part of October. Eugene, having been forewarned by Carlotta, took it with a show of polite surprise. He was sorry. He had spent such a pleasant time here. Mrs. Hibberdell could not be sure whether Carlotta had told him or not, he seemed so innocent, but she assumed that she had and that he like Carlotta was “putting on.” She had informed Davis that for reasons of her own she wanted to do this. He suspected what they were, for he had seen signs and slight demonstrations which convinced him that Carlotta and Eugene had reached an understanding. He did not consider it anything very much amiss, for Carlotta was a woman of the world, her own boss and a “good fellow.” She had always been nice to him. He did not want to put any obstacles in her way. In addition, he liked Eugene. Once he had said to Carlotta jestingly, “Well, his arms are almost as long as Norman's—not quite maybe.”

“You go to the devil,” was her polite reply.

Tonight a storm came up, a brilliant, flashing summer storm. Eugene went out on the porch to watch it. Carlotta came also.

“Well, wise man,” she said, as the thunder rolled. “It's all over up here. Don't let on. I'll see you wherever you go, but this was so nice. It was fine to have you near me. Don't get blue, will you? She says she may write your wife, but I don't think she will. If she thinks I'm behaving, she won't. I'll try and fool her. It's too bad, though. I'm crazy about you, Genie.”

Now that he was in danger of losing Carlotta, her beauty took on a special significance for Eugene. He had come into such close contact with her, had seen her under such varied conditions, that he had come to feel a profound admiration for not only her beauty but her intellect and ability as well. One of his weaknesses was that he was inclined to see much more in those he admired than was really there. He endowed them with the romance of his own moods—saw in them the ability to do things which he only could do. In doing this of course he flattered their vanity, aroused their self-confidence, made them feel themselves the possessors of latent powers and forces which before him they had only dreamed of. Margaret, Ruby, Angela, Christina and Carlotta had all gained this feeling from him. They had a better opinion of themselves for having known him. Now as he looked at Carlotta he was intensely sorry, for she was so calm, so affable, so seemingly efficient and self reliant, and such a comfort to him in these days.

“Circe!” he said, “this is too bad. I'm sorry. I'm going to hate to lose you.”

“You won't lose me,” she replied. “You can't. I won't let you. I've found you now and I'm going to keep you. This don't mean anything. We can find places to meet. Get a place where they have a phone if you can. When do you think you'll go?”

“Right away,” said Eugene. “I'll take tomorrow morning off and look.”

“Poor Eugene,” she said sympathetically. “It's too bad. Never mind though. Everything will come out right.”

She was still not counting on Angela. She thought that even if Angela came back, as Eugene told her she would soon, a joint arrangement might possibly be made. Angela could be here, but she, Carlotta, could share Eugene in some way. She thought she would rather live with him than any other man on earth.

It was only about noon the next morning when Eugene had found another room, for, in living here so long, he had thought of several methods by which he might have obtained a room in the first place. There was another church, a library, the postmaster and the ticket agent at Speonk who lived in the village. He went first to the postmaster and learned of two families, one the home of a civil engineer, where he might be welcome, and it was here that he eventually settled. The view was not quite so attractive, but it was charming, and he had a good room and good meals. He told them that he might not stay long, for his wife was coming back soon. The letters from Angela were becoming most importunate.

He gathered up his belongings at Mrs. Hibberdell's and took a polite departure. After he was gone Mrs. Hibberdell of course changed her mind, and Carlotta returned to her apartment in New York. She communicated with Eugene not only by phone but by special delivery, and had him meet her at a convenient inn the second evening of his departure. She was planning some sort of a separate apartment for them, when Eugene informed her that Angela was already on her way to New York and that nothing could be done at present.

Since Eugene had left her at Biloxi, Angela had spent a most miserable period of seven months. She had been grieving her heart out, for she imagined him to be most lonely, and at the same time she was regretful that she had ever left him. She might as well have been with him. She figured afterward that she might have borrowed several hundred dollars from one of her brothers, and carried out the fight for his mental recovery by his side. Once he had gone she fancied she might have made a mistake matrimonially, for he was so impressionable—but his condition was such that she did not deem him to be interested in anything save his recovery. Besides, his attitude toward her of late had been so affectionate and in a way dependent. All her letters since he had left had been most tender, speaking of his sorrow at this necessary absence and hoping that the time would soon come when they could be together. The fact that he was lonely finally decided her and she wrote that she was coming whether he wanted her to or not.

Her arrival would have made little difference except that by now he was thoroughly weaned away from her again, had obtained a new ideal and was interested only to see and be with Carlotta. The latter's easy financial state, her nice clothes, her familiarity with comfortable and luxurious things—better things than Eugene had ever dreamed of enjoying—her use of the automobile, her freedom in the matter of expenditures—taking the purchase of champagne and expensive meals as a matter of course—dazzled and fascinated him. It was rather an astonishing thing, he thought, to have so fine a woman fall in love with him. Besides, her tolerance, her indifference to petty conventions, her knowledge of life and literature and art—set her in marked contrast to Angela, and in all ways she seemed rare and forceful to him. He wished from his heart that he could be free and could have her.

Into this peculiar situation Angela precipitated herself one bright Saturday afternoon in September. She was dying to see Eugene again. Full of grave thoughts for his future, she had come to share it whatever it might be. Her one idea was that he was sick and depressed and lonely. None of his letters had been cheerful or optimistic, for of course he did not dare to confess the pleasure he was having in Carlotta's company. In order to keep her away he had to pretend that lack of funds made it inadmissible for her to be here. The fact that he was spending, and by the time she arrived had spent, nearly the whole of the three hundred dollars his picture sold to Carlotta had brought him, had troubled him—not unduly, of course, or he would not have done it. He had qualms of conscience, severe ones, but they passed with the presence of Carlotta or the reading of his letters from Angela.

“I don't know what's the matter with me,” he said to himself from time to time. “I guess I'm no good.” He thought it was a blessing that the world could not see him as he was.

One of the particular weaknesses of Eugene's which should be set forth here and which will help to illuminate the bases of his conduct was that he was troubled with a dual point of view—a condition based upon a peculiar power of analysis—self-analysis in particular, which was constantly permitting him to tear himself up by the roots in order to see how he was getting along. He would daily and hourly when not otherwise employed lift the veil from his inner mental processes as he might lift the covering from a well, and peer into its depths. What he saw was not very inviting and vastly disconcerting, a piece of machinery that was not going as a true man should, clock fashion, and corresponding in none of its moral characteristics to the recognized standard of a man. He had concluded by now, from watching various specimens, that sane men were honest, some inherently moral, some regulated by a keen sense of duty, and occasionally all of these virtues and others were bound up in one man. Angela's father was such an one. M. Charles appeared to be another. He had concluded from his association with Jerry Mathews, Philip Shotmeyer, Peter MacHugh and Joseph Smite that they were all rather decent in respect to morals. He had never seen them under temptation but he imagined they were. Such a man as William Haverford, the Engineer of Maintenance of Way, and Henry C. Litlebrown, the Division Engineer of this immense road, struck him as men who must have stuck close to a sense of duty and the conventions of the life they represented, working hard all the time, to have attained the positions they had. All this whole railroad system which he was watching closely from day to day from his little vantage point of connection with it, seemed a clear illustration of the need of a sense of duty and reliability. All of these men who worked for this company had to be in good health, all had to appear at their posts on the tick of the clock, all had to perform faithfully the duties assigned them, or there would be disasters. Most of them had climbed by long, arduous years of work to very modest positions of prominence, as conductors, engineers, foremen, division superintendents. Others more gifted or more blessed by fortune became division engineers, superintendents, vice-presidents and presidents. They were all slow climbers, rigid in their sense of duty, tireless in their energy, exact, thoughtful. What was he?

He looked into the well of his being and there he saw nothing but shifty and uncertain currents. It was very dark down there. He was not honest, he said to himself, except in money matters—he often wondered why. He was not truthful. He was not moral. This love of beauty which haunted him seemed much more important than anything else in the world, and his pursuit of that seemed to fly in the face of everything else which was established and important. He found that men everywhere did not think much of a man who was crazy after women. They might joke about an occasional lapse as an amiable vice or one which could be condoned, but they wanted little to do with a man who was overpowered by it. There was a case over in the railroad yard at Speonk recently which he had noted, of a foreman who had left his wife and gone after some hoyden in White Plains, and because of this offense he was promptly discharged. It appeared, though, that before this he had occasionally had such lapses and that each time he had been discharged, but had been subsequently forgiven. This one weakness, and no other, had given him a bad reputation among his fellow railroad men—much as that a drunkard might have. Big John Peters, the engineer, had expressed it aptly to Eugene one day when he told him in confidence that “Ed Bowers would go to hell for his hide,” the latter being the local expression for women. Everybody seemed to pity him, and the man seemed in a way to pity himself. He had a hang-dog look when he was re-instated, and yet everybody knew that apart from this he was a fairly competent foreman. Still it was generally understood that he would never get anywhere.

From that Eugene argued to himself that a man who was cursed with this peculiar vice could not get anywhere; that he, if he kept it up, would not. It was like drinking and stealing, and the face of the world was against it. Very frequently it went hand in hand with those things—“birds of a feather” he thought. Still he was cursed with it, and he no more than Ed Bowers appeared to be able to conquer it. At least he was yielding to it now as he had before. It mattered not that the women he chose were exceptionally beautiful and fascinating. They were women, and ought he to want them? He had one. He had taken a solemn vow to love and cherish her, or at least had gone through the formality of such a vow, and here he was running about with Carlotta, as he had with Christina and Ruby before her. Was he not always looking for some such woman as this? Certainly he was. Had he not far better be seeking for wealth, distinction, a reputation for probity, chastity, impeccable moral honor? Certainly he had. It was the way to distinction apparently, assuming the talent, and here he was doing anything but take that way. Conscience was his barrier, a conscience unmodified by cold self-interest. Shame upon himself! Shame upon his weak-kneed disposition, not to be able to recover from this illusion of beauty. Such were some of the thoughts which his moments of introspection brought him.

On the other hand, there came over him that other phase of his duality—the ability to turn his terrible searchlight of intelligence which swept the heavens and the deep as with a great white ray—upon the other side of the question. It revealed constantly the inexplicable subtleties and seeming injustices of nature. He could not help seeing how the big fish fed upon the little ones, the strong were constantly using the weak as pawns; the thieves, the grafters, the murderers were sometimes allowed to prey on society without let or hindrance. Good was not always rewarded—frequently terribly ill-rewarded. Evil was seen to flourish beautifully at times. It was all right to say that it would be punished, but would it? Carlotta did not think so. She did not think the thing she was doing with him was very evil. She had said to him over and over that it was an open question, that he was troubled with an ingrowing conscience. “I don't think it's so bad,” she once told him. “It depends somewhat on how you were raised.” There was a system apparently in society, but also apparently it did not work very well. Only fools were held by religion, which in the main was an imposition, a graft and a lie. The honest man might be very fine but he wasn't very successful. There was a great to-do about morals, but most people were immoral or unmoral. Why worry? Look to your health! Don't let a morbid conscience get the better of you. Thus she counselled, and he agreed with her. For the rest the survival of the fittest was the best. Why should he worry? He had talent.

It was thus that Eugene floundered to and fro, and it was in this state, brooding and melancholy, that Angela found him on her arrival. He was as gay as ever at times, when he was not thinking, but he was very thin and hollow-eyed, and Angela fancied that it was overwork and worry which kept him in this state. Why had she left him? Poor Eugene! She had clung desperately to the money he had given her, and had most of it with her ready to be expended now for his care. She was so anxious for his recovery and his peace of mind that she was ready to go to work herself at anything she could find, in order to make his path more easy. She was thinking that fate was terribly unjust to him, and when he had gone to sleep beside her the first night she lay awake and cried. Poor Eugene! To think he should be tried so by fate. Nevertheless, he should not be tortured by anything which she could prevent. She was going to make him as comfortable and happy as she could. She set about to find some nice little apartment or rooms where they could live in peace and where she could cook Eugene's meals for him. She fancied that maybe his food had not been exactly right, and when she got him where she could manifest a pretence of self-confidence and courage that he would take courage from her and grow better. So she set briskly about her task, honeying Eugene the while, for she was confident that this above all things was the thing he needed. She little suspected what a farce it all appeared to him, how mean and contemptible he appeared to himself. He did not care to be mean—to rapidly disillusion her and go his way; and yet this dual existence sickened him. He could not help but feel that from a great many points of view Angela was better than Carlotta. Yet the other woman was wider in her outlook, more gracious in her appearance, more commanding, more subtle. She was a princess of the world, subtle, deadly Machiavellian, but a princess nevertheless. Angela was better described by the current and acceptable phrase of the time—a “thoroughly good woman,” honest, energetic, resourceful, in all things obedient to the race spirit and the conventional feelings of the time. He knew that society would support her thoroughly and condemn Carlotta, and yet Carlotta interested him more. He wished that he might have both and no fussing. Then all would be beautiful. So he thought.

CHAPTER XXVI

The situation which here presented itself was subject to no such gracious and generous development. Angela was the soul of watchfulness, insistence on duty, consideration for right conduct and for the privileges, opportunities and emoluments which belonged to her as the wife of a talented artist, temporarily disabled, it is true, but certain to be distinguished in the future. She was deluding herself that this recent experience of reverses had probably hardened and sharpened Eugene's practical instincts, made him less indifferent to the necessity of looking out for himself, given him keener instincts of self-protection and economy. He had done very well to live on so little she thought, but they were going to do better—they were going to save. She was going to give up those silly dreams she had entertained of a magnificent studio and hosts of friends, and she was going to start now saving a fraction of whatever they made, however small it might be, if it were only ten cents a week. If Eugene could only make nine dollars a week by working every day, they were going to live on that. He still had ninety-seven of the hundred dollars he had brought with him, he told her, and this was going in the bank. He did not tell her of the sale of one of his pictures and of the subsequent dissipation of the proceeds. In the bank, too, they were going to put any money from subsequent sales until he was on his feet again. One of these days if they ever made any money, they were going to buy a house somewhere in which they could live without paying rent. Some of the money in the bank, a very little of it, might go for clothes if worst came to worst, but it would not be touched unless it was absolutely necessary. She needed clothes now, but that did not matter. To Eugene's ninety-seven was added Angela's two hundred and twenty-eight which she brought with her, and this total sum of three hundred and twenty-five dollars was promptly deposited in the Bank of Riverwood.

Angela by personal energy and explanation found four rooms in the house of a furniture manufacturer; it had been vacated by a daughter who had married, and they were glad to let it to an artist and his wife for practically nothing so far as real worth was concerned, for this was a private house in a lovely lawn. Twelve dollars per month was the charge. Mrs. Witla seemed very charming to Mrs. Desenas, who was the wife of the manufacturer, and for her especial benefit a little bedroom on the second floor adjoining a bath was turned into a kitchen, with a small gas stove, and Angela at once began housekeeping operations on the tiny basis necessitated by their income. Some furniture had to be secured, for the room was not completely furnished, but Angela by haunting the second-hand stores in New York, looking through all the department stores, and visiting certain private sales, managed to find a few things which she could buy cheaply and which would fit in with the dressing table, library table, dining table and one bed which were already provided. The necessary curtains for the bath and kitchen windows she cut, decorated and hung for herself. She went down to the storage company where the unsold and undisplayed portion of Eugene's pictures were and brought back seven, which she placed in the general living-room and dining-room. All Eugene's clothes, his underwear and socks particularly, received her immediate attention, and she soon had his rather attenuated wardrobe in good condition. From the local market she bought good vegetables and a little meat and made delightful stews, ragouts, combinations of eggs and tasty meat juices after the French fashion. All her housekeeping art was employed to the utmost to make everything look clean and neat, to maintain a bountiful supply of varied food on the table and yet to keep the cost down, so that they could not only live on nine dollars a week, but set aside a dollar or more of that for what Angela called their private bank account. She had a little hollow brown jug, calculated to hold fifteen dollars in change, which could be opened when full, which she conscientiously endeavored to fill and refill. Her one desire was to rehabilitate her husband in the eyes of the world—this time to stay—and she was determined to do it.

For another thing, reflection and conversation with one person and another had taught her that it was not well for herself or for Eugene for her to encourage him in his animal passions. Some woman in Blackwood had pointed out a local case of locomotor-ataxia which had resulted from lack of self-control, and she had learned that it was believed that many other nervous troubles sprang from the same source. Perhaps Eugene's had. She had resolved to protect him from himself. She did not believe she could be injured, but Eugene was so sensitive, so emotional.

The trouble with the situation was that it was such a sharp change from his recent free and to him delightful mode of existence that it was almost painful. He could see that everything appeared to be satisfactory to her, that she thought all his days had been moral and full of hard work. Carlotta's presence in the background was not suspected. Her idea was that they would work hard together now along simple, idealistic lines to the one end—success for him, and of course, by reflection, for her.

Eugene saw the charm of it well enough, but it was only as something quite suitable for others. He was an artist. The common laws of existence could not reasonably apply to an artist. The latter should have intellectual freedom, the privilege of going where he pleased, associating with whom he chose. This marriage business was a galling yoke, cutting off all rational opportunity for enjoyment, and he was now after a brief period of freedom having that yoke heavily adjusted to his neck again. Gone were all the fine dreams of pleasure and happiness which so recently had been so real—the hope of living with Carlotta—the hope of associating with her on easy and natural terms in that superior world which she represented. Angela's insistence on the thought that he should work every day and bring home nine dollars a week, or rather its monthly equivalent, made it necessary for him to take sharp care of the little money he had kept out of the remainder of the three hundred in order to supply any deficiency which might occur from his taking time off. For there was no opportunity now of seeing Carlotta of an evening, and it was necessary to take a regular number of afternoons or mornings off each week, in order to meet her. He would leave the little apartment as usual at a quarter to seven in the morning, dressed suitably for possible out-door expeditions, for in anticipation of difficulty he had told Angela that it was his custom to do this, and sometimes he would go to the factory and sometimes he would not. There was a car line which carried him rapidly cityward to a rendezvous, and he would either ride or walk with her as the case might be. There was constant thought on his and her part of the risk involved, but still they persisted. By some stroke of ill or good fortune Norman Wilson returned from Chicago, so that Carlotta's movements had to be calculated to a nicety, but she did not care. She trusted most to the automobiles which she could hire at convenient garages and which would carry them rapidly away from the vicinity where they might be seen and recognized.

It was a tangled life, difficult and dangerous. There was no peace in it, for there is neither peace nor happiness in deception. A burning joy at one time was invariably followed by a disturbing remorse afterward. There was Carlotta's mother, Norman Wilson, and Angela, to guard against, to say nothing of the constant pricking of his own conscience.

It is almost a foregone conclusion in any situation of this kind that it cannot endure. The seed of its undoing is in itself. We think that our actions when unseen of mortal eyes resolve themselves into nothingness, but this is not true. They are woven indefinably into our being, and shine forth ultimately as the real self, in spite of all our pretences. One could almost accept the Brahmanistic dogma of a psychic body which sees and is seen where we dream all to be darkness. There is no other supposition on which to explain the facts of intuition. So many individuals have it. They know so well without knowing why they know.

Angela had this intuitive power in connection with Eugene. Because of her great affection for him she divined or apprehended many things in connection with him long before they occurred. Throughout her absence from him she had been haunted by the idea that she ought to be with him, and now that she was here and the first excitement of contact and adjustment was over, she was beginning to be aware of something. Eugene was not the same as he had been a little while before he had left her. His attitude, in spite of a kindly show of affection, was distant and preoccupied. He had no real power of concealing anything. He appeared at times—at most times when he was with her—to be lost in a mist of speculation. He was lonely and a little love-sick, because under the pressure of home affairs Carlotta was not able to see him quite so much. At the same time, now that the fall was coming on, he was growing weary of the shop at Speonk, for the gray days and slight chill which settled upon the earth at times caused the shop windows to be closed and robbed the yard of that air of romance which had characterized it when he first came there. He could not take his way of an evening along the banks of the stream to the arms of Carlotta. The novelty of Big John and Joseph Mews and Malachi Dempsey and Little Suddsy had worn off. He was beginning now to see also that they were nothing but plain workingmen after all, worrying over the fact that they were not getting more than fifteen or seventeen and a half cents an hour; jealous of each other and their superiors, full of all the frailties and weaknesses to which the flesh is heir.

His coming had created a slight diversion for them, for he was very strange, but his strangeness was no longer a novelty. They were beginning to see him also as a relatively commonplace human being. He was an artist, to be sure, but his actions and intentions were not so vastly different from those of other men.

A shop of this kind, like any other institution where people are compelled by force of circumstances to work together whether the weather be fair or foul, or the mood grave or gay, can readily become and frequently does become a veritable hell. Human nature is a subtle, irritable, irrational thing. It is not so much governed by rules of ethics and conditions of understanding as a thing of moods and temperament. Eugene could easily see, philosopher that he was, that these people would come here enveloped in some mist of home trouble or secret illness or grief and would conceive that somehow it was not their state of mind but the things around them which were the cause of all their woe. Sour looks would breed sour looks in return; a gruff question would beget a gruff answer; there were long-standing grudges between one man and another, based on nothing more than a grouchy observation at one time in the past. He thought by introducing gaiety and persistent, if make-believe, geniality that he was tending to obviate and overcome the general condition, but this was only relatively true. His own gaiety was capable of becoming as much of a weariness to those who were out of the spirit of it, as was the sour brutality with which at times he was compelled to contend. So he wished that he might arrange to get well and get out of here, or at least change his form of work, for it was plain to be seen that this condition would not readily improve. His presence was a commonplace. His power to entertain and charm was practically gone.

This situation, coupled with Angela's spirit of honest conservatism was bad, but it was destined to be much worse. From watching him and endeavoring to decipher his moods, Angela came to suspect something—she could not say what. He did not love her as much as he had. There was a coolness in his caresses which was not there when he left her. What could have happened, she asked herself. Was it just absence, or what? One day when he had returned from an afternoon's outing with Carlotta and was holding her in his arms in greeting, she asked him solemnly:

“Do you love me, Honeybun?”

“You know I do,” he asseverated, but without any energy, for he could not regain his old original feeling for her. There was no trace of it, only sympathy, pity, and a kind of sorrow that she was being so badly treated after all her efforts.

“No, you don't,” she replied, detecting the hollow ring in what he said. Her voice was sad, and her eyes showed traces of that wistful despair into which she could so readily sink at times.

“Why, yes I do, Angelface,” he insisted. “What makes you ask? What's come over you?” He was wondering whether she had heard anything or seen anything and was concealing her knowledge behind this preliminary inquiry.

“Nothing,” she replied. “Only you don't love me. I don't know what it is. I don't know why. But I can feel it right here,” and she laid her hand on her heart.

The action was sincere, unstudied. It hurt him, for it was like that of a little child.

“Oh, hush! Don't say that,” he pleaded. “You know I do. Don't look so gloomy. I love you—don't you know I do?” and he kissed her.

“No, no!” said Angela. “I know! You don't. Oh, dear; oh, dear; I feel so bad!”

Eugene was dreading another display of the hysteria with which he was familiar, but it did not come. She conquered her mood, inasmuch as she had no real basis for suspicion, and went about the work of getting him his dinner. She was depressed, though, and he was fearful. What if she should ever find out!

More days passed. Carlotta called him up at the shop occasionally, for there was no phone where he lived, and she would not have risked it if there had been. She sent him registered notes to be signed for, addressed to Henry Kingsland and directed to the post office at Speonk. Eugene was not known there as Witla and easily secured these missives, which were usually very guarded in their expressions and concerned appointments—the vaguest, most mysterious directions, which he understood. They made arrangements largely from meeting to meeting, saying, “If I can't keep it Thursday at two it will be Friday at the same time; and if not then, Saturday. If anything happens I'll send you a registered special.” So it went on.

One noontime Eugene walked down to the little post office at Speonk to look for a letter, for Carlotta had not been able to meet him the previous day and had phoned instead that she would write the following day. He found it safely enough, and after glancing at it—it contained but few words—decided to tear it up as usual and throw the pieces away. A mere expression, “Ashes of Roses,” which she sometimes used to designate herself, and the superscription, “Oh, Genie!” made it, however, inexpressibly dear to him. He thought he would hold it in his possession just a little while—a few hours longer. It was enigmatic enough to anyone but himself, he thought, even if found. “The bridge, two, Wednesday.” The bridge referred to was one over the Harlem at Morris Heights. He kept the appointment that day as requested, but by some necromancy of fate he forgot the letter until he was within his own door. Then he took it out, tore it up into four or five pieces quickly, put it in his vest pocket, and went upstairs intending at the first opportunity to dispose of it.

Meanwhile, Angela, for the first time since they had been living at Riverwood, had decided to walk over toward the factory about six o'clock and meet Eugene on his way home. She heard him discourse on the loveliness of this stream and what a pleasure it was to stroll along its banks morning and evening. He was so fond of the smooth water and the overhanging leaves! She had walked with him there already on several Sundays. When she went this evening she thought what a pleasant surprise it would be for him, for she had prepared everything on leaving so that his supper would not be delayed when they reached home. She heard the whistle blow as she neared the shop, and, standing behind a clump of bushes on the thither side of the stream, she waited, expecting to pounce out on Eugene with a loving “Boo!” He did not come.

The forty or fifty men who worked here trickled out like a little stream of black ants, and then, Eugene not appearing, Angela went over to the gate which Joseph Mews in the official capacity of gateman, after the whistle blew, was closing.

“Is Mr. Witla here?” asked Angela, peering through the bars at him. Eugene had described Joseph so accurately to her that she recognized him at sight.

“No, ma'am,” replied Joseph, quite taken back by this attractive arrival, for good-looking women were not common at the shop gate of the factory. “He left four or five hours ago. I think he left at one o'clock, if I remember right. He wasn't working with us today. He was working out in the yard.”

“You don't know where he went, do you?” asked Angela, who was surprised at this novel information. Eugene had not said anything about going anywhere. Where could he have gone?

“No'm, I don't,” replied Joseph volubly. “He sometimes goes off this way—quite frequent, ma'am. His wife calls him up—er—now, maybe you're his wife.”

“I am,” said Angela; but she was no longer thinking of what she was saying, her words on the instant were becoming mechanical. Eugene going away frequently? He had never said anything to her! His wife calling him up! Could there be another woman! Instantly all her old suspicions, jealousies, fears, awoke, and she was wondering why she had not fixed on this fact before. That explained Eugene's indifference, of course. That explained his air of abstraction. He wasn't thinking of her, the miserable creature! He was thinking of someone else. Still she could not be sure, for she had no proof. Two adroit questions elicited the fact that no one in the shop had ever seen his wife. He had just gone out. A woman had called up.

Angela took her way home amid a whirling fire of conjecture. When she reached it Eugene was not there yet, for he sometimes delayed his coming, lingering, as he said, to look at the water. It was natural enough in an artist. She went upstairs and hung the broad-brimmed straw she had worn in the closet, and went into the kitchen to await his coming. Experience with him and the nature of her own temperament determined her to enact a rôle of subtlety. She would wait until he spoke, pretending that she had not been out. She would ask whether he had had a hard day, and see whether he disclosed the fact that he had been away from the factory. That would show her positively what he was doing and whether he was deliberately deceiving her.

Eugene came up the stairs, gay enough but anxious to deposit the scraps of paper where they would not be seen. No opportunity came for Angela was there to greet him.

“Did you have a hard job today?” she asked, noting that he made no preliminary announcement of any absence.

“Not very,” he replied; “no. I don't look tired?”

“No,” she said bitterly, but concealing her feelings; she wanted to see how thoroughly and deliberately he would lie. “But I thought maybe you might have. Did you stop to look at the water tonight?”

“Yes,” he replied smoothly. “It's very lovely over there. I never get tired of it. The sun on the leaves these days now that they are turning yellow is so beautiful. They look a little like stained glass at certain angles.”

Her first impulse after hearing this was to exclaim, “Why do you lie to me, Eugene?” for her temper was fiery, almost uncontrollable at times; but she restrained herself. She wanted to find out more—how she did not know, but time, if she could only wait a little, would help her. Eugene went to the bath, congratulating himself on the ease of his escape—the comfortable fact that he was not catechised very much; but in this temporary feeling of satisfaction he forgot the scraps of paper in his vest pocket—though not for long. He hung his coat and vest on a hook and started into the bedroom to get himself a fresh collar and tie. While he was in there Angela passed the bathroom door. She was always interested in Eugene's clothes, how they were wearing, but tonight there were other thoughts in her mind. Hastily and by intuition she went through his pockets, finding the torn scraps, then for excuse took his coat and vest down to clean certain spots. At the same moment Eugene thought of his letter. He came hurrying out to get it, or the pieces, rather, but Angela already had them and was looking at them curiously.

“What was that?” she asked, all her suspicious nature on the qui vive for additional proof. Why should he keep the torn fragments of a letter in his pocket? For days she had had a psychic sense of something impending. Everything about him seemed strangely to call for investigation. Now it was all coming out.

“Nothing,” he said nervously. “A memorandum. Throw it in the paper box.”

Angela noted the peculiarity of his voice and manner. She was taken by the guilty expression of his eyes. Something was wrong. It concerned these scraps of paper. Maybe it was in these she would be able to read the riddle of his conduct. The woman's name might be in here. Like a flash it came to her that she might piece these scraps together, but there was another thought equally swift which urged her to pretend indifference. That might help her. Pretend now and she would know more later. She threw them in the paper box, thinking to piece them together at her leisure. Eugene noted her hesitation, her suspicion. He was afraid she would do something, what he could not guess. He breathed more easily when the papers fluttered into the practically empty box, but he was nervous. If they were only burned! He did not think she would attempt to put them together, but he was afraid. He would have given anything if his sense of romance had not led him into this trap.

CHAPTER XXVII

Angela was quick to act upon her thought. No sooner had Eugene entered the bath than she gathered up the pieces, threw other bits of paper like them in their place and tried quickly to piece them together on the ironing board where she was. It was not difficult; the scraps were not small. On one triangular bit were the words, “Oh, Genie!” with a colon after it; on another the words, “The bridge,” and on another “Roses.” There was no doubt in her mind from this preliminary survey that this was a love note, and every nerve in her body tingled to the terrible import of it. Could it really be true? Could Eugene have found someone else? Was this the cause of his coolness and his hypocritical pretence of affection? and of his not wanting her to come to him? Oh, God! Would her sufferings never cease! She hurried into the front room, her face white, her hand clenching the tell-tale bits, and there set to work to complete her task. It did not take her long. In four minutes it was all together, and then she saw it all. A love note! From some demon of a woman. No doubt of it! Some mysterious woman in the background. “Ashes of Roses!” Now God curse her for a siren, a love thief, a hypnotizing snake, fascinating men with her evil eyes. And Eugene! The dog! The scoundrel! The vile coward! The traitor! Was there no decency, no morality, no kindness, no gratitude in his soul? After all her patience, all her suffering, all her loneliness, her poverty. To treat her like this! Writing that he was sick and lonely and unable to have her with him, and at the same time running around with a strange woman. “Ashes of Roses!” Oh, curses, curses, curses on her harlot's heart and brain! Might God strike her dead for her cynical, brutal seizing upon that sacred possession which belonged to another. She wrung her hands desperately.

Angela was fairly beside herself. Through her dainty little head ran a foaming torrent of rage, hate, envy, sorrow, self-commiseration, brutal desire for revenge. If she could only get at this woman! If she could only denounce Eugene now to his face! If she could only find them together and kill them! How she would like to strike her on the mouth! How tear her hair and her eyes out! Something of the forest cat's cruel rage shone in her gleaming eyes as she thought of her, for if she could have had Carlotta there alone she would have tortured her with hot irons, torn her tongue and teeth from their roots, beaten her into insensibility and an unrecognizable mass. She was a real tigress now, her eyes gleaming, her red lips wet. She would kill her! kill her!! kill her!!! As God was judge, she would kill her if she could find her, and Eugene and herself. Yes, yes, she would. Better death than this agony of suffering. Better a thousand times to be dead with this beast of a woman dead beside her and Eugene than to suffer this way. She didn't deserve it. Why did God torture her so? Why was she made to bleed at every step by this her sacrificial love? Had she not been a good wife? Had she not laid every tribute of tenderness, patience, self-abnegation, self-sacrifice and virtue on the altar of love? What more could God ask? What more could man want? Had she not waited on Eugene in sickness and health? She had gone without clothes, gone without friends, hidden herself away in Blackwood the seven months while he was here frittering away his health and time in love and immorality, and what was her reward? In Chicago, in Tennessee, in Mississippi, had she not waited on him, sat up with him of nights, walked the floor with him when he was nervous, consoled him in his fear of poverty and failure, and here she was now, after seven long months of patient waiting and watching—eating her lonely heart out—forsaken. Oh, the inconceivable inhumanity of the human heart! To think anybody could be so vile, so low, so unkind, so cruel! To think that Eugene with his black eyes, his soft hair, his smiling face, could be so treacherous, so subtle, so dastardly! Could he really be as mean as this note proved him to be? Could he be as brutal, as selfish? Was she awake or asleep? Was this a dream? Ah, God! no, no it was not a dream. It was a cold, bitter, agonizing reality. And the cause of all her suffering was there in the bathroom now shaving himself.

For one moment she thought she would go in and strike him where he stood. She thought she could tear his heart out, cut him up, but then suddenly the picture of him bleeding and dead came to her and she recoiled. No, no, she could not do that! Oh, no, not Eugene—and yet and yet——

“Oh, God, let me get my hands on that woman!” she said to herself. “Let me get my hands on her. I'll kill her, I'll kill her! I'll kill her!”

This torrent of fury and self-pity was still raging in her heart when the bathroom knob clicked and Eugene came out. He was in his undershirt, trousers and shoes, looking for a clean white shirt. He was very nervous over the note which had been thrown in scraps into the box, but looking in the kitchen and seeing the pieces still there he was slightly reassured. Angela was not there; he could come back and get them when he found out where she was. He went on into the bedroom, looking into the front room as he did so. She appeared to be at the window waiting for him. After all, she was probably not as suspicious as he thought. It was his own imagination. He was too nervous and sensitive. Well, he would get those pieces now if he could and throw them out of the window. Angela should not have a chance to examine them if she wanted to. He slipped out into the kitchen, made a quick grab for the little heap, and sent the pieces flying. Then he felt much better. He would never bring another letter home from anybody, that was a certainty. Fate was too much against him.

Angela came out after a bit, for the click of the bathroom knob had sobered her a little. Her rage was high, her pulse abnormal, her whole being shaken to its roots, but still she realized that she must have time to think. She must see who this woman was first. She must have time to find her. Eugene mustn't know. Where was she now? Where was this bridge? Where did they meet? Where did she live? She wondered for the moment why she couldn't think it all out, why it didn't come to her in a flash, a revelation. If she could only know!

In a few minutes Eugene came in, clean-shaven, smiling, his equanimity and peace of mind fairly well restored. The letter was gone. Angela could never know. She might suspect, but this possible burst of jealousy had been nipped in the bud. He came over toward her to put his arm round her, but she slipped away from him, pretending to need the sugar. He let this effort at love making go—the will for the deed, and sat down at the snow-white little table, set with tempting dishes and waited to be served. The day had been very pleasant, being early in October, and he was pleased to see a last lingering ray of light falling on some red and yellow leaves. This yard was very beautiful. This little flat, for all their poverty, very charming. Angela was neat and trim in a dainty house dress of mingled brown and green. A dark blue studio apron shielded her bosom and skirt. She was very pale and distraught-looking, but Eugene for the time was almost unconscious of it—he was so relieved.

“Are you very tired, Angela?” he finally asked sympathetically.

“Yes, I'm not feeling so well today,” she replied.

“What have you been doing, ironing?”

“Oh, yes, and cleaning. I worked on the cupboard.”

“You oughtn't to try to do so much,” he said cheerfully. “You're not strong enough. You think you're a little horse, but you are only a colt. Better go slow, hadn't you?”

“I will after I get everything straightened out to suit me,” she replied.

She was having the struggle of her life to conceal her real feelings. Never at any time had she undergone such an ordeal as this. Once in the studio, when she discovered those two letters, she thought she was suffering—but that, what was that to this? What were her suspicions concerning Frieda? What were the lonely longings at home, her grieving and worrying over his illness? Nothing, nothing! Now he was actually faithless to her. Now she had the evidence. This woman was here. She was somewhere in the immediate background. After these years of marriage and close companionship he was deceiving her. It was possible that he had been with this woman today, yesterday, the day before. The letter was not dated. Could it be that she was related to Mrs. Hibberdell? Eugene had said that there was a married daughter, but never that she was there. If she was there, why should he have moved? He wouldn't have. Was it the wife of the man he was last living with? No; she was too homely. Angela had seen her. Eugene would never associate with her. If she could only know! “Ashes of Roses!” The world went red before her eyes. There was no use bursting into a storm now, though. If she could only be calm it would be better. If she only had someone to talk to—if there were a minister or a bosom friend! She might go to a detective agency. They might help her. A detective could trace this woman and Eugene. Did she want to do this? It cost money. They were very poor now. Paugh! Why should she worry about their poverty, mending her dresses, going without hats, going without decent shoes, and he wasting his time and being upon some shameless strumpet! If he had money, he would spend it on her. Still, he had handed her almost all the money he had brought East with him intact. How was that?

All the time Eugene was sitting opposite her eating with fair heartiness. If the trouble about the letter had not come out so favorably he would have been without appetite, but now he felt at ease. Angela said she was not hungry and could not eat. She passed him the bread, the butter, the hashed brown potatoes, the tea, and he ate cheerfully.

“I think I am going to try and get out of that shop over there,” he volunteered affably.

“Why?” asked Angela mechanically.

“I'm tired of it. The men are not so interesting to me now. I'm tired of them. I think Mr. Haverford will transfer me if I write to him. He said he would. I'd rather be outside with some section gang if I could. It's going to be very dreary in the shop when they close it up.”

“Well, if you're tired you'd better,” replied Angela. “Your mind needs diversion, I know that. Why don't you write to Mr. Haverford?”

“I will,” he said, but he did not immediately. He went into the front room and lit the gas eventually, reading a paper, then a book, then yawning wearily. Angela came in after a time and sat down pale and tired. She went and secured a little workbasket in which were socks undarned and other odds and ends and began on those, but she revolted at the thought of doing anything for him and put them up. She got out a skirt of hers which she was making. Eugene watched her a little while lazily, his artistic eye measuring the various dimensions of her features. She had a well-balanced face, he finally concluded. He noted the effect of the light on her hair—the peculiar hue it gave it—and wondered if he could get that in oil. Night scenes were harder than those of full daylight. Shadows were so very treacherous. He got up finally.

“Well, I'm going to turn in,” he said. “I'm tired. I have to get up at six. Oh, dear, this darn day labor business gives me a pain. I wish it were over.”

Angela did not trust herself to speak. She was so full of pain and despair that she thought if she spoke she would cry. He went out, saying: “Coming soon?” She nodded her head. When he was gone the storm burst and she broke into a blinding flood of tears. They were not only tears of sorrow, but of rage and helplessness. She went out on a little balcony which was there and cried alone, the night lights shining wistfully about. After the first storm she began to harden and dry up again, for helpless tears were foreign to her in a rage. She dried her eyes and became white-faced and desperate as before.

The dog, the scoundrel, the brute, the hound! she thought. How could she ever have loved him? How could she love him now? Oh, the horror of life, its injustice, its cruelty, its shame! That she should be dragged through the mire with a man like this. The pity of it! The shame! If this was art, death take it! And yet hate him as she might—hate this hellish man-trap who signed herself “Ashes of Roses”—she loved him, too. She could not help it. She knew she loved him. Oh, to be crossed by two fevers like this! Why might she not die? Why not die, right now?

CHAPTER XXVIII

The hells of love are bitter and complete. There were days after that when she watched him, followed him down the pleasant lane from the house to the water's edge, slipping out unceremoniously after he had gone not more than eight hundred feet. She watched the bridge at Riverwood at one and six, expecting that Eugene and his paramour might meet there. It just happened that Carlotta was compelled to leave town for ten days with her husband, and so Eugene was safe. On two occasions he went downtown—into the heart of the great city, anxious to get a breath of the old life that so fascinated him, and Angela followed him only to lose track of him quickly. He did nothing evil, however, merely walked, wondering what Miriam Finch and Christina Channing and Norma Whitmore were doing these days and what they were thinking of him in his long absence. Of all the people he had known, he had only seen Norma Whitmore once and that was not long after he returned to New York. He had given her a garbled explanation of his illness, stated that he was going to work now and proposed to come and see her. He did his best to avoid observation, however, for he dreaded explaining the reason of his non-productive condition. Miriam Finch was almost glad that he had failed, since he had treated her so badly. Christina Channing was in opera, as he quickly discovered, for he saw her name blazoned one day the following November in the newspapers. She was a star of whose talent great hopes were entertained, and was interested almost exclusively in her career. She was to sing in “Bohème” and “Rigoletto.”

Another thing, fortunate for Eugene at this time, was that he changed his work. There came to the shop one day an Irish foreman, Timothy Deegan, master of a score of “guineas,” as he called the Italian day laborers who worked for him, who took Eugene's fancy greatly. He was of medium height, thick of body and neck, with a cheerful, healthy red face, a keen, twinkling gray eye, and stiff, closely cropped gray hair and mustache. He had come to lay the foundation for a small dynamo in the engine room at Speonk, which was to supply the plant with light in case of night work, and a car of his had been backed in, a tool car, full of boards, barrows, mortar boards, picks and shovels. Eugene was amused and astonished at his insistent, defiant attitude and the brisk manner in which he was handing out orders to his men.

“Come, Matt! Come, Jimmie! Get the shovels now! Get the picks!” he heard him shout. “Bring some sand here! Bring some stone! Where's the cement now? Where's the cement? Jasus Christ! I must have some cement. What arre ye all doing? Hurry now, hurry! Bring the cement.”

“Well, he knows how to give orders,” commented Eugene to Big John, who was standing near. “He certainly does,” replied the latter.

To himself Eugene observed, hearing only the calls at first, “the Irish brute.” Later he discovered a subtle twinkle in Deegan's eyes as he stood brazenly in the door, looking defiantly about. There was no brutality in it, only self-confidence and a hearty Irish insistence on the necessity of the hour.

“Well, you're a dandy!” commented Eugene boldly after a time, and laughed.

“Ha! ha! ha!” mocked Deegan in return. “If you had to work as harred as these men you wouldn't laugh.”

“I'm not laughing at them. I'm laughing at you,” explained Eugene.

“Laugh,” said Deegan. “Shure you're as funny to me as I am to you.”

Eugene laughed again. The Irishman agreed with himself that there was humor in it. He laughed too. Eugene patted his big rough shoulder with his hands and they were friends immediately. It did not take Deegan long to find out from Big John why he was there and what he was doing.

“An arrtist!” he commented. “Shewer he'd better be outside than in. The loikes of him packin' shavin's and him laughin' at me.”

Big John smiled.

“I believe he wants to get outside,” he said.

“Why don't he come with me, then? He'd have a foine time workin' with the guineas. Shewer 'twould make a man av him—a few months of that”—and he pointed to Angelo Esposito shoveling clay.

Big John thought this worth reporting to Eugene. He did not think that he wanted to work with the guineas, but he might like to be with Deegan. Eugene saw his opportunity. He liked Deegan.

“Would you like to have an artist who's looking for health come and work for you, Deegan?” Eugene asked genially. He thought Deegan might refuse, but it didn't matter. It was worth the trial.

“Shewer!” replied the latter.

“Will I have to work with the Italians?”

“There'll be plenty av work for ye to do without ever layin' yer hand to pick or shovel unless ye want to. Shewer that's no work fer a white man to do.”

“And what do you call them, Deegan? Aren't they white?”

“Shewer they're naat.”

“What are they, then? They're not black.”

“Nagurs, of coorse.”

“But they're not negroes.”

“Will, begad, they're naat white. Any man kin tell that be lookin' at thim.”

Eugene smiled. He understood at once the solid Irish temperament which could draw this hearty conclusion. There was no malice in it. Deegan did not underestimate these Italians. He liked his men, but they weren't white. He didn't know what they were exactly, but they weren't white. He was standing over them a moment later shouting, “Up with it! Up with it! Down with it! Down with it!” as though his whole soul were intent on driving the last scrap of strength out of these poor underlings, when as a matter of fact they were not working very hard at all. His glance was roving about in a general way as he yelled and they paid little attention to him. Once in a while he would interpolate a “Come, Matt!” in a softer key—a key so soft that it was entirely out of keeping with his other voice. Eugene saw it all clearly. He understood Deegan.

“I think I'll get Mr. Haverford to transfer me to you, if you'll let me come,” he said at the close of the day when Deegan was taking off his overalls and the “Eyetalians,” as he called them, were putting the things back in the car.

“Shewer!” said Deegan, impressed by the great name of Haverford. If Eugene could accomplish that through such a far-off, wondrous personality, he must be a remarkable man himself. “Come along. I'll be glad to have ye. Ye can just make out the O. K. blanks and the repoarts and watch over the min sich times as I'll naat be there and—well—all told, ye'll have enough to keep ye busy.”

Eugene smiled. This was a pleasant prospect. Big John had told him during the morning that Deegan went up and down the road from Peekskill on the main line, Chatham on the Midland Division, and Mt. Kisco on a third branch to New York City. He built wells, culverts, coal bins, building piers—small brick buildings—anything and everything, in short, which a capable foreman-mason ought to be able to build, and in addition he was fairly content and happy in his task. Eugene could see it. The atmosphere of the man was wholesome. He was like a tonic—a revivifying dynamo to this sickly overwrought sentimentalist.

That night he went home to Angela full of the humor and romance of his new situation. He liked the idea of it. He wanted to tell her about Deegan—to make her laugh. He was destined unfortunately to another kind of reception.

For Angela, by this time, had endured the agony of her discovery to the breaking point. She had listened to his pretences, knowing them to be lies, until she could endure it no longer. In following him she had discovered nothing, and the change in his work would make the chase more difficult. It was scarcely possible for anyone to follow him, for he himself did not know where he would be from day to day. He would be here, there, and everywhere. His sense of security as well as of his unfairness made him sensitive about being nice in the unimportant things. When he thought at all he was ashamed of what he was doing—thoroughly ashamed. Like the drunkard he appeared to be mastered by his weakness, and the psychology of his attitude is so best interpreted. He caressed her sympathetically, for he thought from her drawn, weary look that she was verging on some illness. She appeared to him to be suffering from worry for him, overwork, or approaching malady.

But Eugene in spite of his unfaithfulness did sympathize with Angela greatly. He appreciated her good qualities—her truthfulness, economy, devotion and self-sacrifice in all things which related to him. He was sorry that his own yearning for freedom crossed with her desire for simple-minded devotion on his part. He could not love her as she wanted him to, that he knew, and yet he was at times sorry for it, very. He would look at her when she was not looking at him, admiring her industry, her patience, her pretty figure, her geniality in the face of many difficulties, and wish that she could have had a better fate than to have met and married him.

Because of these feelings on his part for her he could not bear to see her suffer. When she appeared to be ill he could not help drawing near to her, wanting to know how she was, endeavoring to make her feel better by those sympathetic, emotional demonstrations which he knew meant so much to her. On this particular evening, noting the still drawn agony of her face, he was moved to insist. “What's the matter with you, Angelface, these days? You look so tired. You're not right. What's troubling you?”

“Oh, nothing,” replied Angela wearily.

“But I know there is,” he replied. “You can't be feeling well. What's ailing you? You're not like yourself at all. Won't you tell me, sweet? What's the trouble?”

He was thinking because Angela said nothing that it must be a real physical illness. Any emotional complaint vented itself quickly.

“Why should you care?” she asked cautiously, breaking her self-imposed vow of silence. She was thinking that Eugene and this woman, whoever she was, were conspiring to defeat her and that they were succeeding. Her voice had changed from one of weary resignation to subtle semi-concealed complaint and offense, and Eugene noted it. Before she could add any more, he had observed, “Why shouldn't I? Why, how you talk! What's the matter now?”

Angela really did not intend to go on. Her query was dragged out of her by his obvious sympathy. He was sorry for her in some general way. It made her pain and wrath all the greater. And his additional inquiry irritated her the more.

“Why should you?” she asked weepingly. “You don't want me. You don't like me. You pretend sympathy when I look a little bad, but that's all. But you don't care for me. If you could get rid of me, you would. That is so plain.”

“Why, what are you talking about?” he asked, astonished. Had she found out anything? Was the incident of the scraps of paper really closed? Had anybody been telling her anything about Carlotta? Instantly he was all at sea. Still he had to pretend.

“You know I care,” he said. “How can you say that?”

“You don't. You know you don't!” she flared up suddenly. “Why do you lie? You don't care. Don't touch me. Don't come near me. I'm sick of your hypocritical pretences! Oh!” And she straightened up with her finger nails cutting into her palms.

Eugene at the first expression of disbelief on her part had laid his hand soothingly on her arm. That was why she had jumped away from him. Now he drew back, nonplussed, nervous, a little defiant. It was easier to combat rage than sorrow; but he did not want to do either.

“What's the matter with you?” he asked, assuming a look of bewildered innocence. “What have I done now?”

“What haven't you done, you'd better ask. You dog! You coward!” flared Angela. “Leaving me to stay out in Wisconsin while you go running around with a shameless woman. Don't deny it! Don't dare to deny it!”—this apropos of a protesting movement on the part of Eugene's head—“I know all! I know more than I want to know. I know how you've been acting. I know what you've been doing. I know how you've been lying to me. You've been running around with a low, vile wretch of a woman while I have been staying out in Blackwood eating my heart out, that's what you've been doing. Dear Angela! Dear Angelface! Dear Madonna Doloroso! Ha! What have you been calling her, you lying, hypocritical coward! What names have you for her, Hypocrite! Brute! Liar! I know what you've been doing. Oh, how well I know! Why was I ever born?—oh, why, why?”

Her voice trailed off in a wail of agony. Eugene stood there astonished to the point of inefficiency. He could not think of a single thing to do or say. He had no idea upon what evidence she based her complaint. He fancied that it must be much more than had been contained in that little note which he had torn up. She had not seen that—of that he was reasonably sure—or was he? Could she have taken it out of the box while he was in the bath and then put it back again? This sounded like it. She had looked very bad that night. How much did she know? Where had she secured this information? Mrs. Hibberdell? Carlotta? No! Had she seen her? Where? When?

“You're talking through your hat,” he said aimlessly and largely in order to get time. “You're crazy! What's got into you, anyhow? I haven't been doing anything of the sort.”

“Oh, haven't you!” she sneered. “You haven't been meeting her at bridges and road houses and street cars, have you? You liar! You haven't been calling her 'Ashes of Roses' and 'River Nymph' and 'Angel Girl.'“ Angela was making up names and places out of her own mind. “I suppose you used some of the pet names on her that you gave to Christina Channing, didn't you? She'd like those, the vile strumpet! And you, you dog, pretending to me—pretending sympathy, pretending loneliness, pretending sorrow that I couldn't be here! A lot you cared what I was doing or thinking or suffering. Oh, I hate you, you horrible coward! I hate her! I hope something terrible happens to you. If I could get at her now I would kill her and you both—and myself. I would! I wish I could die! I wish I could die!”

Eugene was beginning to get the measure of his iniquity as Angela interpreted it. He could see now how cruelly he had hurt her. He could see now how vile what he was doing looked in her eyes. It was bad business—running with other women—no doubt of it. It always ended in something like this—a terrible storm in which he had to sit by and hear himself called brutal names to which there was no legitimate answer. He had heard of this in connection with other people, but he had never thought it would come to him. And the worst of it was that he was guilty and deserving of it. No doubt of that. It lowered him in his own estimation. It lowered her in his and her own because she had to fight this way. Why did he do it? Why did he drag her into such a situation? It was breaking down that sense of pride in himself which was the only sustaining power a man had before the gaze of the world. Why did he let himself into these situations? Did he really love Carlotta? Did he want pleasure enough to endure such abuse as this? This was a terrible scene. And where would it end? His nerves were tingling, his brain fairly aching. If he could only conquer this desire for another type and be faithful, and yet how dreadful that seemed! To confine himself in all his thoughts to just Angela! It was not possible. He thought of these things, standing there enduring the brunt of this storm. It was a terrible ordeal, but it was not wholly reformatory even at that.

“What's the use of your carrying on like that, Angela?” he said grimly, after he had listened to all this. “It isn't as bad as you think. I'm not a liar, and I'm not a dog! You must have pieced that note I threw in the paper box together and read it. When did you do it?”

He was curious about that and about how much she knew. What were her intentions in regard to him? What in regard to Carlotta? What would she do next?

“When did I do it?” she replied. “When did I do it? What has that to do with it? What right have you to ask? Where is this woman, that's what I want to know? I want to find her. I want to face her. I want to tell her what a wretched beast she is. I'll show her how to come and steal another woman's husband. I'll kill her. I'll kill her and I'll kill you, too. Do you hear? I'll kill you!” And she advanced on him defiantly, blazingly.

Eugene was astounded. He had never seen such rage in any woman. It was wonderful, fascinating, something like a great lightning-riven storm. Angela was capable of hurling thunderbolts of wrath. He had not known that. It raised her in his estimation—made her really more attractive than she would otherwise have been, for power, however displayed, is fascinating. She was so little, so grim, so determined! It was in its way a test of great capability. And he liked her for it even though he resented her abuse.

“No, no, Angela,” he said sympathetically and with a keen wish to alleviate her sorrow. “You would not do anything like that. You couldn't!”

“I will! I will!” she declared. “I'll kill her and you, too!”

And then having reached this tremendous height she suddenly broke. Eugene's big, sympathetic understanding was after all too much for her. His brooding patience in the midst of her wrath, his innate sorrow for what he could not or would not help (it was written all over his face), his very obvious presentation of the fact by his attitude that he knew that she loved him in spite of this, was too much for her. It was like beating her hands against a stone. She might kill him and this woman, whoever she was, but she would not have changed his attitude toward her, and that was what she wanted. A great torrent of heart-breaking sobs broke from her, shaking her frame like a reed. She threw her arms and head upon the kitchen table, falling to her knees, and cried and cried. Eugene stood there contemplating the wreck he had made of her dreams. Certainly it was hell, he said to himself; certainly it was. He was a liar, as she said, a dog, a scoundrel. Poor little Angela! Well, the damage had been done. What could he do now? Anything? Certainly not. Not a thing. She was broken—heart-broken. There was no earthly remedy for that. Priests might shrive for broken laws, but for a broken heart what remedy was there?

“Angela!” he called gently. “Angela! I'm sorry! Don't cry! Angela!! Don't cry!”

But she did not hear him. She did not hear anything. Lost in the agony of her situation, she could only sob convulsively until it seemed that her pretty little frame would break to pieces.

CHAPTER XXIX

Eugene's feelings on this occasion were of reasonable duration. It is always possible under such circumstances to take the victim of our brutalities in our arms and utter a few sympathetic or repentant words. The real kindness and repentance which consists in reformation is quite another matter. One must see with eyes too pure to behold evil to do that. Eugene was not to be reformed by an hour or many hours of agony on anyone's part. Angela was well within the range of his sympathetic interests. He suffered with her keenly, but not enough to outrun or offset his own keen desire for what he considered his spiritual right to enjoy beauty. What harm did it do, he would have asked himself, if he secretly exchanged affectionate looks and feelings with Carlotta or any other woman who fascinated him and in turn was fascinated by him? Could an affinity of this character really be called evil? He was not giving her any money which Angela ought to have, or very little. He did not want to marry her—and she really did not want to marry him, he thought—there was no chance of that, anyhow. He wanted to associate with her. And what harm did that do Angela? None, if she did not know. Of course, if she knew, it was very sad for her and for him. But, if the shoe were on the other foot, and Angela was the one who was acting as he was acting now he would not care, he thought. He forgot to add that if he did not care it would be because he was not in love, and Angela was in love. Such reasoning runs in circles. Only it is not reasoning. It is sentimental and emotional anarchy. There is no will toward progress in it.

When Angela recovered from her first burst of rage and grief it was only to continue it further, though not in quite the same vein. There can only be one superlative in any field of endeavor. Beyond that may be mutterings and thunderings or a shining after-glow, but no second superlative. Angela charged him with every weakness and evil tendency, only to have him look at her in a solemn way, occasionally saying: “Oh, no! You know I'm not as bad as that,” or “Why do you abuse me in that way? That isn't true,” or “Why do you say that?”

“Because it is so, and you know it's so,” Angela would declare.

“Listen, Angela,” he replied once, with a certain amount of logic, “there is no use in brow-beating me in this way. It doesn't do any good to call me names. You want me to love you, don't you? That's all that you want. You don't want anything else. Will calling me names make me do it? If I can't I can't, and if I can I can. How will fighting help that?”

She listened to him pitifully, for she knew that her rage was useless, or practically so. He was in the position of power. She loved him. That was the sad part of it. To think that tears and pleadings and wrath might not really avail, after all! He could only love her out of a desire that was not self-generated. That was something she was beginning to see in a dim way as a grim truth.

Once she folded her hands and sat white and drawn, staring at the floor. “Well, I don't know what to do,” she declared. “I suppose I ought to leave you. If it just weren't for my family! They all think so highly of the marriage state. They are so naturally faithful and decent. I suppose these qualities have to be born in people. They can't be acquired. You would have to be made over.”

Eugene knew she would not leave him. He smiled at the superior condescension of the last remark, though it was not intended as such by her. To think of his being made over after the model Angela and her relatives would lay down!

“I don't know where I'd go or what I'd do,” she observed. “I can't go back to my family. I don't want to go there. I haven't been trained in anything except school teaching, and I hate to think of that again. If I could only study stenography or book-keeping!” She was talking as much to clear her own mind as his. She really did not know what to do.

Eugene listened to this self-demonstrated situation with a shamed face. It was hard for him to think of Angela being thrown out on the world as a book-keeper or a stenographer. He did not want to see her doing anything like that. In a way, he wanted to live with her, if it could be done in his way—much as the Mormons might, perhaps. What a lonely life hers would be if she were away from him! And she was not suited to it. She was not suited to the commercial world—she was too homey, too housewifely. He wished he could assure her now that she would not have further cause for grief and mean it, but he was like a sick man wishing he could do the things a hale man might. There was no self-conviction in his thoughts, only the idea that if he tried to do right in this matter he might succeed, but he would be unhappy. So he drifted.

In the meanwhile Eugene had taken up his work with Deegan and was going through a very curious experience. At the time Deegan had stated that he would take him he had written to Haverford, making a polite request for transfer, and was immediately informed that his wishes would be granted. Haverford remembered Eugene kindly. He hoped he was improving. He understood from inquiry of the Superintendent of Buildings that Deegan was in need of a capable assistant, anyhow, and that Eugene could well serve in that capacity. The foreman was always in trouble about his reports. An order was issued to Deegan commanding him to receive Eugene, and another to Eugene from the office of the Superintendent of Buildings ordering him to report to Deegan. Eugene went, finding him working on the problem of constructing a coal bin under the depot at Fords Centre, and raising as much storm as ever. He was received with a grin of satisfaction.

“So here ye arre. Will, ye're just in time. I want ye to go down to the ahffice.”

Eugene laughed. “Sure,” he said. Deegan was down in a freshly excavated hole and his clothes were redolent of the freshly turned earth which surrounded him. He had a plumb bob in his hand and a spirit level, but he laid them down. Under the neat train shed to which he crawled when Eugene appeared and where they stood, he fished from a pocket of his old gray coat a soiled and crumpled letter which he carefully unfolded with his thick and clumsy fingers. Then he held it up and looked at it defiantly.

“I want ye to go to Woodlawn,” he continued, “and look after some bolts that arre theyer—there's a keg av thim—an' sign the bill fer thim, an' ship thim down to me. They're not miny. An' thin I waant ye to go down to the ahffice an' take thim this O. K.” And here he fished around and produced another crumpled slip. “It's nonsinse!” he exclaimed, when he saw it. “It's onraisonable! They're aalways yillen fer thim O. K. blanks. Ye'd think, begad, I was goin' to steal thim from thim. Ye'd think I lived on thim things. O. K. blanks, O. K. blanks. From mornin' 'til night O. K. blanks. It's nonsinse! It's onraisonable!” And his face flushed a defiant red.

Eugene could see that some infraction of the railroad's rules had occurred and that Deegan had been “called down,” or “jacked up” about it, as the railroad men expressed it. He was in a high state of dudgeon—as defiant and pugnacious as his royal Irish temper would allow.

“I'll fix it,” said Eugene. “That's all right. Leave it to me.”

Deegan showed some signs of approaching relief. At last he had a man of “intilligence,” as he would have expressed it. He flung a parting shot though at his superior as Eugene departed.

“Tell thim I'll sign fer thim when I git thim and naat before!” he rumbled.

Eugene laughed. He knew no such message would be accepted, but he was glad to give Deegan an opportunity to blow off steam. He entered upon his new tasks with vim, pleased with the out-of-doors, the sunshine, the opportunity for brief trips up and down the road like this. It was delightful. He would soon be all right now, that he knew.

He went to Woodlawn and signed for the bolts; went to the office and met the chief clerk (delivering the desired O. K. blanks in person) who informed him of the chief difficulty in Deegan's life. It appeared that there were some twenty-five of these reports to be made out monthly, to say nothing of endless O. K. blanks to be filled in with acknowledgments of material received. Everything had to be signed for in this way, it mattered not whether it was a section of a bridge or a single bolt or a pound of putty. If a man could sit down and reel off a graphic report of what he was doing, he was the pride of the chief clerk's heart. His doing the work properly was taken as a matter of course. Deegan was not efficient at this, though he was assisted at times by his wife and all three of his children, a boy and two girls. He was constantly in hot water.

“My God!” exclaimed the chief clerk, when Eugene explained that Deegan had thought that he might leave the bolts at the station where they would be safe until he needed them and then sign for them when he took them out. He ran his hands distractedly through his hair. “What do you think of that?” he exclaimed. “He'll leave them there until he needs them, will he? What becomes of my reports? I've got to have those O. K.'s. You tell Deegan he ought to know better than that; he's been long enough on the road. You tell him that I said that I want a signed form for everything consigned to him the moment he learns that it's waiting for him. And I want it without fail. Let him go and get it. The gall! He's got to come to time about this, or something's going to drop. I'm not going to stand it any longer. You'd better help him in this. I've got to make out my reports on time.”

Eugene agreed that he would. This was his field. He could help Deegan. He could be really useful.

Time passed. The weather grew colder, and while the work was interesting at first, like all other things it began after a time to grow monotonous. It was nice enough when the weather was fine to stand out under the trees, where some culvert was being built to bridge a small rivulet or some well to supply the freight engines with water, and survey the surrounding landscape; but when the weather grew colder it was not so nice. Deegan was always interesting. He was forever raising a ruction. He lived a life of hard, narrow activity laid among boards, wheelbarrows, cement, stone, a life which concerned construction and had no particular joy in fruition. The moment a thing was nicely finished they had to leave it and go where everything would be torn up again. Eugene used to look at the wounded ground, the piles of yellow mud, the dirty Italians, clean enough in their spirit, but soiled and gnarled by their labor, and wonder how much longer he could stand it. To think that he, of all men, should be here working with Deegan and the guineas! He became lonesome at times—terribly, and sad. He longed for Carlotta, longed for a beautiful studio, longed for a luxurious, artistic life. It seemed that life had wronged him terribly, and yet he could do nothing about it. He had no money-making capacity.

About this time the construction of a rather pretentious machine shop, two hundred by two hundred feet and four storeys high was assigned to Deegan, largely because of the efficiency which Eugene contributed to Deegan's work. Eugene handled his reports and accounts with rapidity and precision, and this so soothed the division management that they had an opportunity to see Deegan's real worth. The latter was beside himself with excitement, anticipating great credit and distinction for the work he was now to be permitted to do.

“'Tis the foine time we'll have, Eugene, me bye,” he exclaimed, “puttin' up that buildin'. 'Tis no culvert we'll be afther buildin' now. Nor no coal bin. Wait till the masons come. Then ye'll see somethin'.”

Eugene was pleased that their work was progressing so successfully, but of course there was no future in it for him. He was lonely and disheartened.

Besides, Angela was complaining, and rightfully enough, that they were leading a difficult life—and to what end, so far as she was concerned? He might recover his health and his art (by reason of his dramatic shake-up and changes he appeared to be doing so), but what would that avail her? He did not love her. If he became prosperous again it might be to forsake her, and at best he could only give her money and position if he ever attained these, and how would that help? It was love that she wanted—his love. And she did not have that, or only a mere shadow of it. He had made up his mind after this last fatal argument that he would not pretend to anything he did not feel in regard to her, and this made it even harder. She did believe that he sympathized with her in his way, but it was an intellectual sympathy and had very little to do with the heart. He was sorry for her. Sorry! Sorry! How she hated the thought of that! If he could not do any better than that, what was there in all the years to come but misery?

A curious fact to be noted about this period was that suspicion had so keyed up Angela's perceptions that she could almost tell, and that without knowing, when Eugene was with Carlotta or had been. There was something about his manner when he came in of an evening, to say nothing of those subtler thought waves which passed from him to her when he was with Carlotta, which told her instantly where he had been and what he had been doing. She would ask him where he had been and he would say: “Oh, up to White Plains” or “out to Scarborough,” but nearly always when he had been with Carlotta she would flare up with, “Yes, I know where you've been. You've been out again with that miserable beast of a woman. Oh, God will punish her yet! You will be punished! Wait and see.”

Tears would flood her eyes and she would berate him roundly.

Eugene stood in profound awe before these subtle outbreaks. He could not understand how it was that Angela came to know or suspect so accurately. To a certain extent he was a believer in spiritualism and the mysteries of a subconscious mind or self. He fancied that there must be some way of this subconscious self seeing or apprehending what was going on and of communicating its knowledge in the form of fear and suspicion to Angela's mind. If the very subtleties of nature were in league against him, how was he to continue or profit in this career? Obviously it could not be done. He would probably be severely punished for it. He was half terrified by the vague suspicion that there might be some laws which tended to correct in this way all the abuses in nature. There might be much vice and crime going seemingly unpunished, but there might also be much correction going on, as the suicides and deaths and cases of insanity seemed to attest. Was this true? Was there no escape from the results of evil except by abandoning it entirely? He pondered over this gravely.

Getting on his feet again financially was not such an easy thing. He had been out of touch now so long with things artistic—the magazine world and the art agencies—that he felt as if he might not readily be able to get in touch again. Besides he was not at all sure of himself. He had made sketches of men and things at Speonk, and of Deegan and his gang on the road, and of Carlotta and Angela, but he felt that they were weak in their import—lacking in the force and feeling which had once characterized his work. He thought of trying his hand at newspaper work if he could make any sort of a connection—working in some obscure newspaper art department until he should feel himself able to do better; but he did not feel at all confident that he could get that. His severe breakdown had made him afraid of life—made him yearn for the sympathy of a woman like Carlotta, or of a larger more hopeful, more tender attitude, and he dreaded looking for anything anywhere. Besides he hated to spare the time unless he were going to get somewhere. His work was so pressing. But he knew he must quit it. He thought about it wearily, wishing he were better placed in this world; and finally screwed up his courage to leave this work, though it was not until something else was quite safely in his hands.

CHAPTER XXX

It was only after a considerable lapse of time, when trying to live on nine dollars a week and seeing Angela struggle almost hopelessly in her determination to live on what he earned and put a little aside, that he came to his senses and made a sincere effort to find something better. During all this time he had been watching her narrowly, seeing how systematically she did all her own house work, even under these adverse and trying circumstances, cooking, cleaning, marketing. She made over her old clothes, reshaping them so that they would last longer and still look stylish. She made her own hats, doing everything in short that she could to make the money in the bank hold out until Eugene should be on his feet. She was willing that he should take money and buy himself clothes when she was not willing to spend it on herself. She was living in the hope that somehow he would reform. Consciousness of what she was worth to him might some day strike him. Still she did not feel that things could ever be quite the same again. She could never forget, and neither could he.

The affair between Eugene and Carlotta, because of the various forces that were militating against it, was now slowly drawing to a close. It had not been able to endure all the storm and stress which followed its discovery. For one thing, Carlotta's mother, without telling her husband, made him feel that he had good cause to stay about, which made it difficult for Carlotta to act. Besides she charged her daughter constantly, much as Angela was charging Eugene, with the utmost dissoluteness of character and was as constantly putting her on the defensive. She was too hedged about to risk a separate apartment, and Eugene would not accept money from her to pay for expensive indoor entertainment. She wanted to see him but she kept hoping he would get to the point where he would have a studio again and she could see him as a star in his own field. That would be so much nicer.

By degrees their once exciting engagements began to lapse, and despite his grief Eugene was not altogether sorry. To tell the truth, great physical discomfort recently had painted his romantic tendencies in a very sorry light for him. He thought he saw in a way where they were leading him. That there was no money in them was obvious. That the affairs of the world were put in the hands of those who were content to get their life's happiness out of their management, seemed quite plain. Idlers had nothing as a rule, not even the respect of their fellow men. The licentious were worn threadbare and disgraced by their ridiculous and psychologically diseased propensities. Women and men who indulged in these unbridled relations were sickly sentimentalists, as a rule, and were thrown out or ignored by all forceful society. One had to be strong, eager, determined and abstemious if wealth was to come, and then it had to be held by the same qualities. One could not relax. Otherwise one became much what he was now, a brooding sentimentalist—diseased in mind and body.

So out of love-excitement and poverty and ill health and abuse he was coming to see or thought he was this one fact clearly,—namely that he must behave himself if he truly wished to succeed. Did he want to? He could not say that. But he had to—that was the sad part of it—and since apparently he had to, he would do the best he could. It was grim but it was essential.

At this time Eugene still retained that rather ultra artistic appearance which had characterized his earlier years, but he began to suspect that on this score he was a little bizarre and out of keeping with the spirit of the times. Certain artists whom he met in times past and recently, were quite commercial in their appearance—the very successful ones—and he decided that it was because they put the emphasis upon the hard facts of life and not upon the romance connected with their work. It impressed him and he decided to do likewise, abandoning the flowing tie and the rather indiscriminate manner he had of combing his hair, and thereafter affected severe simplicity. He still wore a soft hat because he thought it became him best, but otherwise he toned himself down greatly. His work with Deegan had given him a sharp impression of what hard, earnest labor meant. Deegan was nothing but a worker. There was no romance in him. He knew nothing about romance. Picks and shovels and mortar boards and concrete forms—such was his life, and he never complained. Eugene remembered commiserating him once on having to get up at four A. M. in order to take a train which would get to work by seven. Darkness and cold made no difference to him, however.

“Shewer, I have to be theyre,” he had replied with his quizzical Irish grin. “They're not payin' me me wages fer lyin' in bed. If ye were to get up that way every day fer a year it would make a man of ye!”

“Oh, no,” said Eugene teasingly.

“Oh, yes,” said Deegan, “it would. An' yere the wan that's needin' it. I can tell that by the cut av ye.”

Eugene resented this but it stayed by him. Deegan had the habit of driving home salutary lessons in regard to work and abstemiousness without really meaning to. The two were wholly representative of him—just those two things and nothing more.

One day he went down into Printing House Square to see if he could not make up his mind to apply at one of the newspaper art departments, when he ran into Hudson Dula whom he had not seen for a long while. The latter was delighted to see him.

“Why, hello, Witla!” he exclaimed, shocked to see that he was exceptionally thin and pale. “Where have you been all these years? I'm delighted to see you. What have you been doing? Let's go over here to Hahn's and you tell me all about yourself.”

“I've been sick, Dula,” said Eugene frankly. “I had a severe case of nervous breakdown and I've been working on the railroad for a change. I tried all sorts of specialists, but they couldn't help me. So I decided to go to work by the day and see what that would do. I got all out of sorts with myself and I've been pretty near four years getting back. I think I am getting better, though. I'm going to knock off on the road one of these days and try my hand at painting again. I think I can do it.”

“Isn't that curious,” replied Dula reminiscently, “I was just thinking of you the other day and wondering where you were. You know I've quit the art director game. Truth failed and I went into the lithographic business. I have a small interest in a plant that I'm managing down in Bond Street. I wish you'd come in and see me some day.”

“I certainly will,” said Eugene.

“Now this nervousness of yours,” said Dula, as they strolled into the restaurant where they were dining. “I have a brother-in-law that was hit that way. He's still doctoring around. I'm going to tell him about your case. You don't look so bad.”

“I'm feeling much better,” said Eugene. “I really am but I've had a bad spell of it. I'm going to come back in the game, though, I feel sure of it. When I do I'll know better how to take care of myself. I over-worked on that first burst of pictures.”

“I must say that was the best stuff of that kind I ever saw done in this country,” said Dula. “I saw both your shows, as you remember. They were splendid. What became of all those pictures?”

“Oh, some were sold and the rest are in storage,” replied Eugene.

“Curious, isn't it,” said Dula. “I should have thought all those things would have been purchased. They were so new and forceful in treatment. You want to pull yourself together and stay pulled. You're going to have a great future in that field.”

“Oh, I don't know,” replied Eugene pessimistically. “It's all right to obtain a big reputation, but you can't live on that, you know. Pictures don't sell very well over here. I have most of mine left. A grocer with one delivery wagon has the best artist that ever lived backed right off the board for financial results.”

“Not quite as bad as that,” said Dula smilingly. “An artist has something which a tradesman can never have—you want to remember that. His point of view is worth something. He lives in a different world spiritually. And then financially you can do well enough—you can live, and what more do you want? You're received everywhere. You have what the tradesman cannot possibly attain—distinction; and you give the world a standard of merit—you will, at least. If I had your ability I would never sit about envying any butcher or baker. Why, all the artists know you now—the good ones, anyhow. It only remains for you to do more, to obtain more. There are lots of things you can do.”

“What, for instance?” asked Eugene.

“Why, ceilings, mural decorations. I was saying to someone the other day what a mistake it was the Boston Library did not assign some of their panels to you. You would make splendid things of them.”

“You certainly have a world of faith in me,” replied Eugene, tingling warmly. It was like a glowing fire to hear this after all the dreary days. Then the world still remembered him. He was worth while.

“Do you remember Oren Benedict—you used to know him out in Chicago, didn't you?”

“I certainly did,” replied Eugene. “I worked with him.”

“He's down on the World now, in charge of the art department there. He's just gone there.” Then as Eugene exclaimed over the curious shifts of time, he suddenly added, “Why wouldn't that be a good idea for you? You say you're just about to knock off. Why don't you go down and do some pen work to get your hand in? It would be a good experience for you. Benedict would be glad to put you on, I'm sure.”

Dula suspected that Eugene might be out of funds, and this would be an easy way for him to slip into something which would lead back to studio work. He liked Eugene. He was anxious to see him get along. It flattered him to think he had been the first to publish his work in color.

“That isn't a bad idea,” said Eugene. “I was really thinking of doing something like that if I could. I'll go up and see him maybe today. It would be just the thing I need now,—a little preliminary practise. I feel rather rusty and uncertain.”

“I'll call him up, if you want,” said Dula generously. “I know him well. He was asking me the other day if I knew one or two exceptional men. You wait here a minute.”

Eugene leaned back in his chair as Dula left. Could it be that he was going to be restored thus easily to something better? He had thought it would be so hard. Now this chance was coming to lift him out of his sufferings at the right time.

Dula came back. “He says 'Sure,'“ he exclaimed. “'Come right down!' You'd better go down there this afternoon. That'll be just the thing for you. And when you are placed again, come around and see me. Where are you living?”

Eugene gave him his address.

“That's right, you're married,” he added, when Eugene spoke of himself and Angela having a small place. “How is Mrs. Witla? I remember her as a very charming woman. Mrs. Dula and I have an apartment in Gramercy Place. You didn't know I had tied up, did you? Well, I have. Bring your wife and come to see us. We'll be delighted. I'll make a dinner date for you two.”

Eugene was greatly pleased and elated. He knew Angela would be. They had seen nothing of artistic life lately. He hurried down to see Benedict and was greeted as an old acquaintance. They had never been very chummy but always friendly. Benedict had heard of Eugene's nervous breakdown.

“Well, I'll tell you,” he said, after greeting and reminiscences were over, “I can't pay very much—fifty dollars is high here just at present, and I have just one vacancy now at twenty-five which you can have if you want to try your hand. There's a good deal of hurry up about at times, but you don't mind that. When I get things straightened out here I may have something better.”

“Oh, that's all right,” replied Eugene cheerfully. “I'm glad to get that.” (He was very glad indeed.) “And I don't mind the hurry. It will be good for a change.”

Benedict gave him a friendly handshake in farewell. He was glad to have him, for he knew what he could do.

“I don't think I can come before Monday. I have to give a few days' notice. Is that all right?”

“I could use you earlier, but Monday will do,” said Benedict, and they parted genially.

Eugene hurried back home. He was delighted to tell Angela, for this would rob their condition of part of its gloom. It was no great comfort to him to be starting in as a newspaper artist again at twenty-five dollars a week, but it couldn't be helped, and it was better than nothing. At least it was putting him back on the track again. He was sure to do still better after this. He could hold this newspaper job, he felt, and outside that he didn't care very much for the time being; his pride had received some severe jolts. It was vastly better than day labor, anyway. He hurried up the four flights of stairs to the cheap little quarters they occupied, saying when he saw Angela at the gas range: “Well, I guess our railroad days are over.”

“What's the trouble?” asked Angela apprehensively.

“No trouble,” he replied. “I have a better job.”

“What is it?”

“I'm going to be a newspaper artist for a while on the World.”

“When did you find that out?” she asked, brightening, for she had been terribly depressed over their state.

“This afternoon. I'm going to work Monday. Twenty-five dollars will be some better than nine, won't it?”

Angela smiled. “It certainly will,” she said, and tears of thanksgiving filled her eyes.

Eugene knew what those tears stood for. He was anxious to avoid painful reminiscences.

“Don't cry,” he said. “Things are going to be much better from now on.”

“Oh, I hope so, I hope so,” she murmured, and he patted her head affectionately as it rested on his shoulder.

“There now. Cheer up, girlie, will you! We're going to be all right from now on.”

Angela smiled through her tears. She set the table, exceedingly cheerful.

“That certainly is good news,” she laughed afterward. “But we're not going to spend any more money for a long while, anyhow. We're going to save something. We don't want to get in this hole again.”

“No more for mine,” replied Eugene gaily, “not if I know my business,” and he went into the one little combination parlor, sitting room, reception room and general room of all work, to open his evening newspaper and whistle. In his excitement he almost forgot his woes over Carlotta and the love question in general. He was going to climb again in the world and be happy with Angela. He was going to be an artist or a business man or something. Look at Hudson Dula. Owning a lithographic business and living in Gramercy Place. Could any artist he knew do that? Scarcely. He would see about this. He would think this art business over. Maybe he could be an art director or a lithographer or something. He had often thought while he was with the road that he could be a good superintendent of buildings if he could only give it time enough.

Angela, for her part, was wondering what this change really spelled for her. Would he behave now? Would he set himself to the task of climbing slowly and surely? He was getting along in life. He ought to begin to place himself securely in the world if he ever was going to. Her love was not the same as it had formerly been. It was crossed with dislike and opposition at times, but still she felt that he needed her to help him. Poor Eugene—if he only were not cursed with this weakness. Perhaps he would overcome it? So she mused.

CHAPTER XXXI

The work which Eugene undertook in connection with the art department of the World was not different from that which he had done ten years before in Chicago. It seemed no less difficult for all his experience—more so if anything, for he felt above it these days and consequently out of place. He wished at once that he could get something which would pay him commensurately with his ability. To sit down among mere boys—there were men there as old as himself and older, though, of course, he did not pay so much attention to them—was galling. He thought Benedict should have had more respect for his talent than to have offered him so little, though at the same time he was grateful for what he had received. He undertook energetically to carry out all the suggestions given him, and surprised his superior with the speed and imagination with which he developed everything. He surprised Benedict the second day with a splendid imaginative interpretation of “the Black Death,” which was to accompany a Sunday newspaper article upon the modern possibilities of plagues. The latter saw at once that Eugene could probably only be retained a very little while at the figure he had given him. He had made the mistake of starting him low, thinking that Eugene's talent after so severe an illness might be at a very low ebb. He did not know, being new to the art directorship of a newspaper, how very difficult it was to get increases for those under him. An advance of ten dollars to anyone meant earnest representation and an argument with the business manager, and to double and treble the salary, which should have been done in this case, was out of the question. Six months was a reasonable length of time for anyone to wait for an increase—such was the dictate of the business management—and in Eugene's case it was ridiculous and unfair. However, being still sick and apprehensive, he was content to abide by the situation, hoping with returning strength and the saving of a little money to put himself right eventually.

Angela, of course, was pleased with the turn of affairs. Having suffered so long with only prospects of something worse in store, it was a great relief to go to the bank every Tuesday—Eugene was paid on Monday—and deposit ten dollars against a rainy day. It was agreed between them that they might use six for clothing, which Angela and Eugene very much needed, and some slight entertainment. It was not long before Eugene began to bring an occasional newspaper artist friend up to dinner, and they were invited out. They had gone without much clothing, with scarcely a single visit to the theatre, without friends—everything. Now the tide began slowly to change; in a little while, because they were more free to go to places, they began to encounter people whom they knew.

There was six months of the drifting journalistic work, in which as in his railroad work he grew more and more restless, and then there came a time when he felt as if he could not stand that for another minute. He had been raised to thirty-five dollars and then fifty, but it was a terrific grind of exaggerated and to him thoroughly meretricious art. The only valuable results in connection with it were that for the first time in his life he was drawing a moderately secure living salary, and that his mind was fully occupied with details which gave him no time to think about himself. He was in a large room surrounded by other men who were as sharp as knives in their thrusts of wit, and restless and greedy in their attitude toward the world. They wanted to live brilliantly, just as he did, only they had more self-confidence and in many cases that extreme poise which comes of rare good health. They were inclined to think he was somewhat of a poseur at first, but later they came to like him—all of them. He had a winning smile and his love of a joke, so keen, so body-shaking, drew to him all those who had a good story to tell.

“Tell that to Witla,” was a common phrase about the office and Eugene was always listening to someone. He came to lunching with first one and then another, then three or four at a time; and by degrees Angela was compelled to entertain Eugene and two or three of his friends twice and sometimes three times a week. She objected greatly, and there was some feeling over that, for she had no maid and she did not think that Eugene ought to begin so soon to put the burden of entertainment upon their slender income. She wanted him to make these things very formal and by appointment, but Eugene would stroll in genially, explaining that he had Irving Nelson with him, or Henry Hare, or George Beers, and asking nervously at the last minute whether it was all right. Angela would say, “Certainly, to be sure,” in front of the guests, but when they were alone there would be tears and reproaches and firm declarations that she would not stand it.

“Well, I won't do it any more,” Eugene would apologize. “I forgot, you know.”

Still he wanted Angela to get a maid and let him bring all who would come. It was a great relief to get back into the swing of things and see life broadening out once more.

It was not so long after he had grown exceedingly weary of his underpaid relationship to the World that he heard of something which promised a much better avenue of advancement. Eugene had been hearing for some time from one source and another of the development of art in advertising. He had read one or two articles on the subject in the smaller magazines, had seen from time to time curious and sometimes beautiful series of ads run by first one corporation and then another, advertising some product. He had always fancied in looking at these things that he could get up a notable series on almost any subject, and he wondered who handled these things. He asked Benedict one night, going up on the car with him, what he knew about it.

“Why so far as I know,” said Benedict, “that is coming to be quite a business. There is a man out in Chicago, Saljerian, an American Syrian—his father was a Syrian, but he was born over here—who has built up a tremendous business out of designing series of ads like that for big corporations. He got up that Molly Maguire series for the new cleaning fluid. I don't think he does any of the work himself. He hires artists to do it. Some of the best men, I understand, have done work for him. He gets splendid prices. Then some of the big advertising agencies are taking up that work. One of them I know. The Summerville Company has a big art department in connection with it. They employ fifteen to eighteen men all the time, sometimes more. They turn out some fine ads, too, to my way of thinking. Do you remember that Korno series?”—Benedict was referring to a breakfast food which had been advertised by a succession of ten very beautiful and very clever pictures.

“Yes,” replied Eugene.

“Well, they did that.”

Eugene thought of this as a most interesting development. Since the days in which he worked on the Alexandria Appeal he had been interested in ads. The thought of ad creation took his fancy. It was newer than anything else he had encountered recently. He wondered if there would not be some chance in that field for him. His paintings were not selling. He had not the courage to start a new series. If he could make some money first, say ten thousand dollars, so that he could get an interest income of say six or seven hundred dollars a year, he might be willing to risk art for art's sake. He had suffered too much—poverty had scared him so that he was very anxious to lean on a salary or a business income for the time being.

It was while he was speculating over this almost daily that there came to him one day a young artist who had formerly worked on the World—a youth by the name of Morgenbau—Adolph Morgenbau—who admired Eugene and his work greatly and who had since gone to another paper. He was very anxious to tell Eugene something, for he had heard of a change coming in the art directorship of the Summerville Company and he fancied for one reason and another that Eugene might be glad to know of it. Eugene had never looked to Morgenbau like a man who ought to be working in a newspaper art department. He was too self-poised, too superior, too wise. Morgenbau had conceived the idea that Eugene was destined to make a great hit of some kind and with that kindling intuition that sometimes saves us whole he was anxious to help Eugene in some way and so gain his favor.

“I have something I'd like to tell you, Mr. Witla,” he observed.

“Well, what is it?” smiled Eugene.

“Are you going out to lunch?”

“Certainly, come along.”

They went out together and Morgenbau communicated to Eugene what he had heard—that the Summerfield Company had just dismissed, or parted company with, or lost, a very capable director by the name of Freeman, and that they were looking for a new man.

“Why don't you apply for that?” asked Morgenbau. “You could hold it. You're doing just the sort of work that would make great ads. You know how to handle men, too. They like you. All the young fellows around here do. Why don't you go and see Mr. Summerfield? He's up in Thirty-fourth Street. You might be just the man he's looking for, and then you'd have a department of your own.”

Eugene looked at this boy, wondering what had put this idea in his head. He decided to call up Dula and did so at once, asking him what he thought would be the best move to make. The latter did not know Summerville [sic], but he knew someone who did.

“I'll tell you what you do, Eugene,” he said. “You go and see Baker Bates of the Satina Company. That's at the corner of Broadway and Fourth Street. We do a big business with the Satina Company, and they do a big business with Summerfield. I'll send a letter over to you by a boy and you take that. Then I'll call Bates up on the phone, and if he's favorable he can speak to Summerfield. He'll want to see you, though.”

Eugene was very grateful and eagerly awaited the arrival of the letter. He asked Benedict for a little time off and went to Mr. Baker Bates. The latter had heard enough from Dula to be friendly. He had been told by the latter that Eugene was potentially a great artist, slightly down on his luck, but that he was doing exceedingly well where he was and would do better in the new place. He was impressed by Eugene's appearance, for the latter had changed his style from the semi-artistic to the practical. He thought Eugene looked capable. He was certainly pleasant.

“I'll talk to Mr. Summerfield for you,” he said, “though I wouldn't put much hope in what will come of it if I were you. He's a difficult man and it's best not to appear too eager in this matter. If he can be induced to send for you it will be much better. You let this rest until tomorrow. I'll call him up on another matter and take him out to lunch, and then I'll see how he stands and who he has in mind, if he has anyone. He may have, you know. If there is a real opening I'll speak of you. We'll see.”

Eugene went away once more, very grateful. He was thinking that Dula had always meant good luck to him. He had taken his first important drawing. The pictures he had published for him had brought him the favor of M. Charles. Dula had secured him the position that he now had. Would he be the cause of his getting this one?

On the way down town on the car he encountered a cross-eyed boy. He had understood from someone recently that cross-eyed boys were good luck—cross-eyed women bad luck. A thrill of hopeful prognostication passed over him. In all likelihood he was going to get this place. If this sign came true this time, he would believe in signs. They had come true before, but this would be a real test. He stared cheerfully at the boy and the latter looked him full in the eyes and grinned.

“That settles it!” said Eugene. “I'm going to get it.”

Still he was far from being absolutely sure.

CHAPTER XXXII

The Summerfield Advertising Agency, of which Mr. Daniel C. Summerfield was president, was one of those curious exfoliations or efflorescences of the personality of a single individual which is so often met with in the business world, and which always means a remarkable individual behind them. The ideas, the enthusiasm, the strength of Mr. Daniel C. Summerfield was all there was to the Summerfield Advertising Agency. It was true there was a large force of men working for him, advertising canvassers, advertising writers, financial accountants, artists, stenographers, book-keepers and the like, but they were all as it were an emanation or irradiation of the personality of Mr. Daniel C. Summerfield. He was small, wiry, black-haired, black-eyed, black-mustached, with an olive complexion and even, pleasing, albeit at times wolfish, white teeth which indicated a disposition as avid and hungry as a disposition well might be.

Mr. Summerfield had come up into his present state of affluence or comparative affluence from the direst poverty and by the directest route—his personal efforts. In the State in which he had originated, Alabama, his family had been known, in the small circle to which they were known at all, as poor white trash. His father had been a rather lackadaisical, half-starved cotton planter who had been satisfied with a single bale or less of cotton to the acre on the ground which he leased, and who drove a lean mule very much the worse for age and wear, up and down the furrows of his leaner fields the while he complained of “the misery” in his breast. He was afflicted with slow consumption or thought he was, which was just as effective, and in addition had hook-worm, though that parasitic producer of hopeless tiredness was not yet discovered and named.

Daniel Christopher, his eldest son, had been raised with scarcely any education, having been put in a cotton mill at the age of seven, but nevertheless he soon manifested himself as the brain of the family. For four years he worked in the cotton mill, and then, because of his unusual brightness, he had been given a place in the printing shop of the Wickham Union, where he was so attractive to the slow-going proprietor that he soon became foreman of the printing department and then manager. H