by Robert W. Chambers
ROBERT W. CHAMBERS
D. APPLETON &CO.
New York MDCCCCV
Does anybody remember the opera of The Inca, and that
heartbreaking episode where the Court Undertaker, in a morbid desire to
increase his professional skill, deliberately accomplishes the
destruction of his middle-aged relatives in order to inter them for the
sake of practise?
If I recollect, his dismal confession runs something like this:
It was in a bleak November
When I slew them, I remember,
As I caught them unawares
Drinking tea in rocking-chairs.
And so he talked them to death, the subject being What Really is
Art? Afterward he was sorry
The squeak of a door,
The creak of the floor,
My horrors and fears enhance;
And I wake with a scream
As I hear in my dream
The shrieks of my maiden aunts!
Now it is a very dreadful thing to suggest that those highly
respectable pseudo-spinsters, the Sister Arts, supposedly cozily immune
in their polygamous chastity (for every suitor for favor is popularly
expected to be wedded to his particular art)I repeat, it is very
dreadful to suggest that these impeccable old ladies are in danger of
being talked to death.
But the talkers are talking and Art Nouveau rockers are rocking, and
the trousers of the prophet are patched with stained glass, and it is a
day of dinkiness and of thumbs.
Let us find comfort in the ancient proverb: Art talked to death
shall rise again. Let us also recollect that Dinky is as dinky does;
that All is not Shaw that Bernards; that Better Yeates than Clever;
that words are so inexpensive that there is no moral crime in robbing
Henry to pay James.
Firmly believing all this, abjuring all atom-pickers, slab
furniture, and woodchuck literaturesave only the immortal verse:
And there the wooden-chuck doth tread;
While from the oak trees' tops
The red, red squirrel on thy head
The frequent acorn drops.
Abjuring, as I say, dinkiness in all its forms, we may still hope
that those cleanly and respectable spinsters, the Sister Arts, will
continue throughout the ages, rocking and drinking tea unterrified by
the million-tongued clamor in the back yard and below stairs, where
thumb and forefinger continue the question demanded by intellectual
exhaustion: L'arr! Kesker say l'arr?
The little things, he continued,
delicately perforating the atmosphere
as though selecting a diatom.
From a drawing by J. C. Leyendecker.
Simplicity, breathed Guilforda single
blossom against a background of nothing at all
From a drawing by J. C. Leyendecker.
He paused; his six tall and blooming daughters,
two and two behind him
From a drawing by Karl Anderson.
Aphrodite's slender fingers, barely resting
on the harp-strings, suddenly contracted
in a nervous tremor
From a drawing by Karl Anderson.
Decorative drawings by Arthur C. Becker.
I ain't never knowed no one like him, continued the station-agent
reflectively. He made us all look like monkeys, but he was good to us.
Ever see a ginuine poet, sir?
Years ago one was pointed out to me, replied Briggs.
Was yours smooth shaved, with large, fat, white fingers? inquired
If I remember correctly, he was thin, said Briggs, sitting down on
his suit-case and gazing apprehensively around at the landscape. There
was nothing to see but low, forbidding mountains, and forests, and a
railroad track curving into a tunnel.
The station-agent shoved his hairy hands into the pockets of his
overalls, jingled an unseen bunch of keys, and chewed a dry grass stem,
ruminating the while in an undertone:
This poet come here five years ago with all them kids, an' the fust
thing he done was to dress up his girls in boys' pants. Then he went
an' built a humpy sort o' house out of stones and boulders. Then he
went to work an' wrote pieces for the papers about jay-birds an'
woodchucks an' goddesses. He claimed the woods was full of goddesses.
That was his way, sir.
The agent contemplated the railroad track, running his eye along the
perspective of polished rails:
Yes, sir; his name wasand isClarence Guilford, an' I fust seen
it signed to a piece in the Uticy Star. An' next I knowed, folks began
to stop off here inquirin' for Mr. Guilford. 'Is this here where
Guilford, the poet, lives?' sez they; an' they come thicker an' thicker
in warm weather. There wasn't no wagon to take 'em up to Guilford's,
but they didn't care, an' they called it a lit'r'y shrine, an' they hit
the pike, women, children, men'speshil the women, an' I heard 'em
tellin' how Guilford dressed his kids in pants an' how Guilford was a
famous new lit'r'y poet, an' they said he was fixin' to lecture in
The agent gnawed off the chewed portion of the grass stem,
readjusted it, and fixed his eyes on vacancy.
Three year this went on. Mr. Guilford was makin' his pile, I guess.
He set up a shop an' hired art bookbinders from York. Then he set up
another shop an' hired some of us 'round here to go an' make them big,
slabby art-chairs. All his shops was called At the sign of somethin'
'r other. Bales of vellum arrived for to bind little dinky books; art
rocking-chairs was shipped out o' here by the carload. Meanwhile
Guilford he done poetry on the side an' run a magazine; an' hearin' the
boys was makin' big money up in that crank community, an' that the town
was boomin', I was plum fool enough to drop my job here an' be a
art-worker up to Rose-Crossthat's where the shops was; 'bout three
mile back of his house into the woods.
The agent removed his hands from his overalls and folded his arms
Well? inquired Briggs, looking up from his perch on the suit-case.
Well, sir, continued the agent, the hull thing bust. I guess the
public kinder sickened o' them art-rockers an' dinky books without much
printin' into them. Guilford he stuck to it noble, but the shops closed
one by one. My wages wasn't paid for three months; the boys that
remained got together that autumn an' fixed it up to quit in a bunch.
The poet was sad; he come out to the shops an' he says, 'Boys,' sez
he, 'art is long an' life is dam brief. I ain't got the cash, but,' sez
he, 'you can levy onto them art-rockers an' the dinky vellum books in
stock, an',' sez he, 'you can take the hand-presses an' the tools an'
bales o' vellum, which is very precious, an' all the wagons an' hosses,
an' go sell 'em in that proud world that refuses to receive my message.
The woodland fellowship is rent,' sez he, wavin' his plump fingers at
us with the rings sparklin' on 'em.
Then the boys looked glum, an' they nudged me an' kinder shoved me
front. So, bein' elected, I sez, 'Friend,' sez I, 'art is on the bum.
It ain't your fault; the boys is sad an' sorrerful, but they ain't
never knocked you to nobody, Mr. Guilford. You was good to us; you done
your damdest. You made up pieces for the magazines an' papers an' you
advertised how we was all cranks together here at Rose-Cross, a-lovin'
Nature an' dicky-birds, an' wanderin' about half nood for art's sake.
'Mr. Guilford,' sez I, 'that gilt brick went. But it has went as
far as it can travel an' is now reposin' into the soup. Git wise or eat
hay, sir. Art is on the blink.'
The agent jingled his keys with a melancholy wink at Briggs.
So I come back here, an' thankful to hold down this job. An' five
mile up the pike is that there noble poet an' his kids a-makin' up
pieces for to sell to the papers, an' a sorrerin' over the cold world
what refuses to buy his poemsan' a mortgage onto his house an' a
threat to foreclose.
Indeed, said Briggs dreamily, for it was his business to attend to
the foreclosure of the mortgage on the poet's house.
Was you fixin' to go up an' see the place? inquired the agent.
Shall I be obliged to walk?
I guess you will if you can't flutter, replied the agent. I ain't
got no wagon an' no horse.
How far is it?
Five mile, sir.
With a groan Mr. Briggs arose, lifted his suit-case, and, walking to
the platform's edge, cast an agitated glance up the dusty road.
Then he turned around and examined the single building in
sightstation, water-tower, post-office and telegraph-office all in
one, and incidentally the abode of the station-agent, whose duties
included that of postmaster and operator.
I'll write a letter first, said Briggs. And this is what he wrote:
June 25, 1904.
DEAR WAYNE: Do you remember that tract of land, adjoining your
preserve, which you attempted to buy four years ago? It was held
a crank community, and they refused to sell, and made trouble for
your patrols by dumping dye-stuffs and sawdust into the Ashton
Well, the community has broken up, the shops are in ruins, and
is nobody there now except that bankrupt poet, Guilford. I bought
the mortgage for you, foreseeing a slump in that sort of art, and
I expect to begin foreclosure proceedings and buy in the tract,
which, as you will recollect, includes some fine game cover and
Ashton stream, where you wanted to establish a hatchery. This is
God-forsaken spot. I'm on my way to the poet's now. Shall I begin
foreclosure proceedings and fire him? Wire me what to do.
Wayne received this letter two days later. Preoccupied as he was in
fitting out his yacht for commission, he wired briefly, Fire poet,
and dismissed the matter from his mind.
The next day, grappling with the problem of Japanese stewards and
the decadence of all sailormen, he received a telegram from Briggs:
Can't you manage to come up here?
Irritated, he telegraphed back:
Impossible. Why don't you arrange to fire poet? And Briggs
replied: Can't fire poet. There are extenuating circumstances.
Did you say exterminating or extenuating? wired Wayne. I said
extenuating, replied Briggs.
Then the following telegrams were exchanged in order:
What are the extenuating circumstances?
Eight innocent children. Come up at once.
Boat in commission. Can't go. Why don't you fix things?
(Dated NEW LONDON.)
What on earth is the matter with you? Are you going to fix things
and join me at Bar Harbor or are you not?
As I don't know how you want me to fix things, I can not join you.
(Dated PORTLAND, MAINE.)
Stuyvesant Briggs, what the devil is the matter with you? It's
absolutely necessary that I have the Ashton stream for a
and you know it. What sort of a business man are you, anyhow? Of
course I don't propose to treat that poet inhumanly. Arrange to
in the tract, run up the price against your own bidding, and let
the poet have a few thousand if he is hard put. Don't worry me
more; I'm busy with a fool crew, and you are spoiling my cruise
not joining me.
He won't do it.
Who won't do what?
Poet refuses to discuss the matter.
Fire that poet. You've spoiled my cruise with your telegrams.
Look here, George Wayne, don't drive me to desperation. You ought
come up and face the situation yourself. I can't fire a poet with
eight helpless children, can I? And while I'm about it, let me
inform you that every time you telegraph me it costs me five
for a carrier to bring the despatch over from the station; and
time I telegraph you I am obliged to walk five miles to send it
five miles back again. I'm mad all through, and my shoes are worn
out, and I'm tired. Besides, I'm too busy to telegraph.
Do you expect me to stop my cruise and travel up to that hole on
account of eight extenuating kids?
Are you mad?
Thoroughly. And extremely busy.
For the last time, Stuyve Briggs, are you going to bounce one
defaulting poet and progeny, arrange to have survey and warnings
posted, order timber and troughs for hatchery, engage extra
patrolor are you not?
(Received a day later by Mr. Wayne.)
Are you coming?
I'm coming to punch your head.
When George Wayne arrived at Rose-Cross station, seaburnt, angry,
and in excellent athletic condition, Briggs locked himself in the
waiting-room and attempted to calm the newcomer from the window.
If you're going to pitch into me, George, he said, I'm hanged if
I come out, and you can go to Guilford's alone.
Come out of there, said Wayne dangerously.
It isn't because I'm afraid of you, explained Briggs, but it's
merely that I don't choose to present either you or myself to a lot of
pretty girls with the marks of conflict all over our eyes and noses.
At the words pretty girls Wayne's battle-set features relaxed. He
motioned to the Pullman porter to deposit his luggage on the empty
platform; the melancholy bell-notes of the locomotive sounded, the
train moved slowly forward.
Pretty girls? he repeated in a softer voice. Where are they
staying? Of course, under the circumstances a personal encounter is
superfluous. Where are they staying?
At Guilford's. I told you so in my telegrams, didn't I?
No, you didn't. You spoke only of a poet and his eight helpless
Well, those girls are the eight children, retorted Briggs
sullenly, emerging from the station.
Do you mean to tell me
Yes, I do. They're his children, aren't theyeven if they are
girls, and pretty. He offered a mollifying hand; Wayne took it, shook
it uncertainly, and fell into step beside his friend. Eight pretty
girls, he repeated under his breath. What did you do, Stuyve?
What was I to do? inquired Briggs, nervously worrying his short
blond mustache. When I arrived here I had made up my mind to fire the
poet and arrange for the hatchery and patrol. The farther I walked
through the dust of this accursed road, lugging my suit-case as you are
doing now, the surer I was that I'd get rid of the poet without mercy.
Well? inquired Wayne, astonished.
But when I'd trudged some five miles up the stifling road I
suddenly emerged into a wonderful mountain meadow. I tell you, George,
it looked fresh and sweet as Heaven after that dusty, parching trampa
mountain meadow deep with mint and juicy green grasses, and all cut up
by little rushing streams as cold as ice. There were a lot of girls in
pink sunbonnets picking wild strawberries in the middle distance, he
added thoughtfully. It was picturesque, wasn't it? Come, now, George,
wouldn't that give you pause?eight girls in pink pajamas
And sunbonnetsa sort of dress reform of the poet's.
Well? inquired Wayne coldly.
And there was the 'house beautiful,' mercifully screened by woods,
continued Briggs. He calls it the house beautiful, you know.
Why not the beautiful house? asked Wayne, still more coldly.
Oh, he gets everything upside down. Guilford is harmless, you'll
see. He began to whistle Fatinitza softly. There was a silence; then
You interrupted your narrative.
Where was I?
In the foreground with eight pink pajamas in the middle distance.
Oh, yes. So there I was, travel-worn, thirsty, weary,
Cut it, observed Wayne.
And a stranger, continued Briggs with dignity, in a strange
Peculiarity of strangers.
Briggs took no notice. I drank from the cool springs; I lingered to
pluck a delicious berry or two, I bathed my hot face, I
Where, demanded Wayne, were the eight pink 'uns?
Still in the middle distance. Don't interrupt me, George; I'm
slowly drawing closer to them.
Well, get a move on, retorted Wayne sulkily.
I'm quite close to them now, explained Briggs; close enough to
remove my hat and smile and inquire the way to Guilford's. One superb
young creature, with creamy skin and very red lips
Wayne halted and set down his suit-case.
I'm not romancing; you'll see, said Briggs earnestly. As I was
saying, this young goddess looked at me in the sweetest way and said
that Guilford was her father. And, Wayne, do you know what she did?
Sheercame straight up to me and took hold of my hand, and led me up
the path toward the high-art house, which is built of cobblestones!
Think! Built of cobble
Took you by the hand? repeated Wayne incredulously.
Oh, it was all right, George! I found out all about that sort of
innocent thing later.
Certainly. These girls have been brought up like so many guileless
speckled fawns out here in the backwoods. You know all about Guilford,
the poet who's dead stuck on Nature and simplicity. Well, that's the
man and that's his pose. He hasn't any money, and he won't work. His
daughters raise vegetables, and he makes 'em wear bloomers, and he
writes about chippy-birds and the house beautiful, and tells people to
be natural, and wishes that everybody could go around without clothes
and pick daisies
Do they? demanded Wayne in an awful voice. You said
they wore bloomers. Did you say that to break the news more gently? Did
Of course they are clothed, explained his friend querulously;
though sometimes they wade about without shoes and stockings and do
the nymph business. And, George, it's astonishing how modest that sort
of dress is. And it's amazing how much they know. Why, they can talk
Greektalk it, mind you. Every one of them can speak half a
dozen languagesGuilford is a corker on culture, you knowand they
can play harps and pianos and things, and give me thirty at tennis,
even Chlorippe, the twelve-year-old
Is that her name? asked Wayne.
Chlorippe? Yes. That bat-headed poet named all his children after
butterflies. Let's see, he continued, telling off the names on his
fingers; there's Chlorippe, twelve; Philodice, thirteen; Dione,
fourteen; Aphrodite, fifteen; Cybele, sixteen; Lissa, seventeen; Iole,
eighteen, and Vanessa, nineteen. And, Wayne, never have the Elysian
fields contained such a bunch of wholesome beauty as that mountain
meadow contains all day long.
Wayne, trudging along, suit-case firmly gripped, turned a pair of
suspicious eyes upon his friend.
Of course, observed Briggs candidly, I simply couldn't foreclose
on the father of such children, could I? Besides, he won't let me
discuss the subject.
I'll investigate the matter personally, said Wayne.
Nowhere to lay their heads! Think of it, George. And all because a
turtle-fed, claret-flushed, idle and rich young man wants their earthly
Paradise for a fish-hatchery. Think of it! A pampered, turtle-fed
You've said that before, snapped Wayne. If you were half decent
you'd help me with this suit-case. Whew! It's hot as Yonkers on this
cattle-trail you call a road. How near are we to Guilford's?
An hour later Briggs said: By the way, George, what are you going
to do about the matter?
Wayne, flushed, dusty, perspiring, scowled at him.
I don't know; how can I know until I see Guilford?
But you need the hatchery
I know it.
But he won't let you discuss it
If, said Wayne angrily, you had spent half the time talking
business with the poet that you spent picking strawberries with his
helpless children I should not now be lugging this suit-case up this
mountain. Decency requires few observations from you just now.
Pooh! said Briggs. Wait till you see Iole.
Why Iole? Why not Vanessa?
Don'tthat's all, retorted Briggs, reddening.
Wayne plumped his valise down in the dust, mopped his brow, folded
his arms, and regarded Briggs between the eyes.
You have the infernal cheek, after getting me up here, to intimate
that you have taken the pick?
I do, replied Briggs firmly. The two young fellows faced each
By the way, observed Briggs casually, the stock they come from is
as good if not better than ours. This is a straight game.
Do you mean to say that youyou areseriously
Something like it. There! Now you know.
For Heaven's sake, Stuyve
Yes, for Heaven's sake and in Heaven's name don't get any wrong
ideas into your vicious head.
I tell you, said Briggs, that I was never closer to falling in
love than I am to-day. And I've been here just two weeks.
Amen, muttered Briggs. Here, give me your carpet-bag, you brute.
We're on the edge of Paradise.
Before we discuss my financial difficulties, said the poet,
lifting his plump white hand and waving it in unctuous waves about the
veranda, let me show you our home, Mr. Wayne. May I?
Certainly, said Wayne politely, following Guilford into the house.
They entered a hall; there was absolutely nothing in the hall except
a small table on which reposed a single daisy in a glass of water.
Simplicity, breathed Guilforda single blossom against a
background of nothing at all. You follow me, Mr. Wayne?
The poet smiled a large, tender smile, and, with inverted thumb,
executed a gesture as though making several spots in the air.
The concentration of composition, he explained; the elimination
of complexity; the isolation of the concrete in the center of the
abstract; something in the midst of nothing. It is a very precious
thought, Mr. Wayne.
Certainly, muttered Wayne; and they moved on.
This, said the poet, is what I call my den.
Wayne, not knowing what to say, sidled around the walls. It was
almost bare of furniture; what there was appeared to be of the slab
I call my house the house beautiful, murmured Guilford with his
large, sweet smile. Beauty is simplicity; beauty is unconsciousness;
beauty is the child of elimination. A single fly in an empty room is
beautiful to me, Mr. Wayne.
They carry germs, muttered Wayne, but the poet did not hear him
and led the way to another enormous room, bare of everything save for
eight thick and very beautiful Kazak rugs on the polished floor.
Simplicity, breathed Guilforda single blossom against
a background of nothing at all.]
My children's bedroom, he whispered solemnly.
You don't mean to say they sleep on those Oriental rugs! stammered
They do, murmured the poet. The tender sweetness of his ample
smile was overpoweringlike too much bay rum after shaving. Sparta,
Mr. Wayne, Sparta! And the result? My babes are perfect, physically,
spiritually. Elimination wrought the miracle; yonder they sleep,
innocent as the Graces, with all the windows open, clothed in moonlight
or starlight, as the astronomical conditions may be. At the break of
dawn they are afield, simply clothed, free limbed, unhampered by the
tawdry harness of degenerate civilization. And as they wander through
the verdure, he added with rapt enthusiasm, plucking shy blossoms,
gathering simples and herbs and vegetables for our bountiful and
natural repast, they sing as they go, and every tremulous thrill of
melody falls like balm on a father's heart. The overpowering sweetness
of his smile drugged Wayne. Presently he edged toward the door, and the
poet followed, a dreamy radiance on his features as though emanating
from sacred inward meditation.
They sat down on the veranda; Wayne fumbled for his cigar-case, but
his unnerved fingers fell away; he dared not smoke.
Aboutabout that business matter, he ventured feebly; but the
poet raised his plump white hand.
You are my guest, he said graciously. While you are my guest
nothing shall intrude to cloud our happiness.
Perplexed, almost muddled, Wayne strove in vain to find a reason for
the elimination of the matter that had interrupted his cruise and
brought him to Rose-Cross, the maddest yachtsman on the Atlantic. Why
should Guilford forbid the topic as though its discussion were painful
He always gets the wrong end foremost, as Briggs said, thought the
young man. I wonder where the deuce Briggs can be? I'm no match for
His thoughts halted; he became aware that the poet was speaking in a
rich, resonant voice, and he listened in an attitude of painful
It's the little things that are most precious, the poet was
saying, and pinched the air with forefinger and thumb and pursed up his
lips as though to whistle some saccharine air.
The little things, he continued, delicately perforating the
atmosphere as though selecting a diatom.
Big things go, too, ventured Wayne.
No, said the poet; noor rather they do go, in a certain
sense, for every little thing is precious, and therefore little things
are big!-big with portent, big in value. Do you follow me, Mr.
Wayne's fascinated eyes were fixed on the poet. The latter picked
out another atom from the atmosphere and held it up for Mr. Wayne's
inspection; and while that young man's eyes protruded the poet rambled
on and on until the melody of his voice became a ceaseless sound, a
vague, sustained monotone, which seemed to bore into Wayne's brain
until his legs twitched with a furious desire for flight.
When he obtained command of himself the poet was saying, It is my
hour for withdrawal. It were insincere and artificial to ask your
He rose to his rotund height.
You are due to sit in your cage, stammered Wayne, comprehending.
My den, corrected the poet, saturating the air with the sweetness
of his smile.
Wayne arose. About that business he began desperately; but the
poet's soft, heavy hand hovered in mid-air, and Wayne sat down so
suddenly that when his eyes recovered their focus the poet had
A benumbed resentment struggled within him for adequate expression;
he hitched his chair about to command a view of the meadow, then sat
motionless, hypnotized by the view. Eight girls, clad in pink blouses
and trousers, golden hair twisted up, decorated the landscape. Some
were kneeling, filling baskets of woven, scented grasses with wild
strawberries; some were wading the branches of the meadow brook,
searching for trout with grass-woven nets; some picked early peas; two
were playing a lightning set at tennis. And in the center of everything
that was going on was Briggs, perfectly at ease, making himself
agreeably at home.
The spectacle of Briggs among the Hamadryads appeared to paralyze
Then an immense, intense resentment set every nerve in him tingling.
Briggs, his friend, his confidential business adviser, his
indispensable alter ego, had abandoned him to be tormented by
this fat, saccharine poetabandoned him while he, Briggs, made himself
popular with eight of the most amazingly bewitching maidens mortal man
might marvel on! The meanness stung Wayne till he jumped to his feet
and strode out into the sunshine, menacing eyes fastened on Briggs.
Now wouldn't that sting you! he breathed fiercely, turning up his
trousers and stepping gingerly across the brook.
Whether or not Briggs saw him coming and kept sidling away he could
not determine; he did not wish to shout; he kept passing pretty girls
and taking off his hat, and following Briggs about, but he never seemed
to come any nearer to Briggs; Briggs always appeared in the middle
distance, flitting genially from girl to girl; and presently the
absurdity of his performance struck Wayne, and he sat down on the bank
of the brook, too mad to think. There was a pretty girl picking
strawberries near-by; he rose, took off his hat to her, and sat down
again. She was one of those graceful, clean-limbed, creamy-skinned
creatures described by Briggs; her hair was twisted up into a heavy,
glistening knot, showing the back of a white neck; her eyes matched the
sky and her lips the berries she occasionally bit into or dropped to
the bottom of her woven basket.
Once or twice she looked up fearlessly at Wayne as her search for
berries brought her nearer; and Wayne forgot the perfidy of Briggs in
an effort to look politely amiable.
Presently she straightened up where she was kneeling in the long
grass and stretched her arms. Then, still kneeling, she gazed curiously
at Wayne with all the charm of a friendly wild thing unafraid.
Shall we play tennis? she asked.
Certainly, said Wayne, startled.
Come, then, she said, picking up her basket in one hand and
extending the other to Wayne.
He took the fresh, cool fingers, and turned scarlet. Once his glance
sneaked toward Briggs, but that young man was absorbed in fishing for
brook trout with a net! Oh, ye little fishes! with a net!
Wayne's brain seemed to be swarming with glittering pink-winged
thoughts all singing. He walked on air, holding tightly to the hand of
his goddess, seeing nothing but a blur of green and sunshine. Then a
clean-cut idea stabbed him like a stiletto: was this Vanessa or Iole?
And, to his own astonishment, he asked her quite naturally.
Iole, she said, laughing. Why?
Thank goodness, he said irrationally.
But why? she persisted curiously.
BriggsBriggs he stammered, and got no further. Perplexed, his
goddess walked on, thoughtful, pure-lidded eyes searching some
reasonable interpretation for the phrase, BriggsBriggs. But as
Wayne gave her no aid, she presently dismissed the problem, and bade
him select a tennis bat.
I do hope you play well, she said. Her hope was comparatively
vain; she batted Wayne around the court, drove him wildly from corner
to corner, stampeded him with volleys, lured him with lobs, and finally
left him reeling dizzily about, while she came around from behind the
net, saying, It's all because you have no tennis shoes. Come; we'll
rest under the trees and console ourselves with chess.
Under a group of huge silver beeches a stone chess-table was set
embedded in the moss; and Iole indolently stretched herself out on one
side, chin on hands, while Wayne sorted weather-beaten basalt and
marble chess-men which lay in a pile under the tree.
She chatted on without the faintest trace of self-consciousness the
while he arranged the pieces; then she began to move. He took a long
time between each move; but no sooner did he move than, still talking,
she extended her hand and shoved her piece into place without a
fraction of a second's hesitation.
When she had mated him twice, and he was still gazing blankly at the
mess into which she had driven his forces, she sat up sideways,
gathering her slim ankles into one hand, and cast about her for
something to do, eyes wandering over the sunny meadow.
We had horses, she mused; we rode like demons, bareback, until
Oh, not troublepoverty. So our horses had to go. What shall we
doyou and I? There was something so subtly sweet, so exquisitely
innocent in the coupling of the pronouns that a thrill passed
completely through Wayne, and probably came out on the other side.
I know what I'm going to do, he said, drawing a note-book and a
pencil from his pocket and beginning to write, holding it so she could
Do you want me to look over your shoulder? she asked.
She did; and it affected his penmanship so that the writing grew
wabbly. Still she could read:
TO SAILING MASTER, YACHT THENDARA, BAR HARBOR:
Put boat out of commission. I may be away all summer.
How far is it to the station? asked Wayne, turning to look into
Only five miles, she said. I'll walk with you if you like. Shall
Wealth, observed the poet, waving his heavy white hand, is a
figure of speech, Mr. Wayne. Only by the process of elimination can one
arrive at the exquisite simplicity of povertycare-free poverty. Even
a single penny is a burdenthe flaw in the marble, the fly in the
amber of perfection. Cast it away and enter Eden! And joining thumb
and forefinger, he plucked a figurative copper from the atmosphere,
tossed it away, and wiped his fingers on his handkerchief.
But began Wayne uneasily.
Try it, smiled the poet, diffusing sweetness; try it. Dismiss all
thoughts of money from your mind.
I do, said Wayne, somewhat relieved. I thought you meant for me
to chuck my securities overboard and eat herbs.
Not in your caseno, not in your case. I can do that; I
have done it. No, your sacred mission is simply to forget that you are
wealthy. That is a very precious thought, Mr. Wayneremain a Croesus
and forget it! Not to eliminate your wealth, but eliminate all
thought of it. Very, very precious.
Well, I never think about things like that except at a directors'
meeting, blurted out the young fellow. Perhaps it's because I've
never had to think about it.
The poet sighed so sweetly that the atmosphere seemed to drip with
the saccharine injection.
I wish, ventured Wayne, that you would let me mention the subject
of businessthe poet shook his head indulgentlyjust to say that
I'm not going to foreclose. He laid a packet of legal papers in the
Hush, smiled Guilford, this is not seemly in the house
beautiful.... What was it you said, Mr. Wayne?
I? I was going to say that I just wantedwanted to stay herebe
your guest, if you'll let me, he said honestly. I was cruisingI
didn't understandBriggsBriggs He stuck.
Yes, Briggs, softly suggested the poet, spraying the night air
with more sweetness.
Briggs has spoken to you aboutabout your daughter Vanessa. You
see, Briggs is my closest friend; his happiness iserimportant to
me. I want to see Briggs happy; that's why I want to stay here, just to
see Briggs happy. II love Briggs. You understand me, don't you, Mr.
The poet breathed a dulcet breath. Perfectly, he murmured. The
contemplation of Mr. Briggs' happiness eliminates all thoughts of self
within you. By this process of elimination you arrive at happiness
yourself. Ah, the thought is a very precious one, my young friend, for
by elimination only can we arrive at perfection. Thank you for the
thought; thank you. You have given me a very, very precious thought to
II have been here a week, muttered Wayne. I
thoughtperhapsmy welcome might be outworn
In the house beautiful, murmured the poet, rising and waving his
heavy white hand at the open door, welcome is eternal. He folded his
arms with difficulty, for he was stout, and one hand clutched the legal
papers; his head sank. In profound meditation he wandered away into the
shadowy house, leaving Wayne sitting on the veranda rail, eyes fixed on
a white shape dimly seen moving through the moonlit meadows below.
Briggs sauntered into sight presently, his arms full of flowers.
Get me a jug of water, will you? Vanessa has been picking these and
she sent me back to fix 'em. Hurry, man! She is waiting for me in the
garden. Wayne gazed earnestly at his friend.
So you have done it, have you, Stuyve?
Done what? demanded Briggs, blushing.
If you mean, he said with dignity, that I've asked the sweetest
girl on earth to marry me, I have. And I'm the happiest man on the
footstool, too. Good Heaven, George, he broke out, if you knew the
meaning of love! if you could for one second catch a glimpse of the
beauty of her soul! Why, man of sordid clay that I wascreature of
club and claret and turtlelike you
Drop it! said Wayne somberly.
I can't help it, George. We were beastsand you are yet.
But my base clay is transmuted, spiritualized; my soul is awake,
traveling, toiling toward the upward heights where hers sits enthroned.
When I think of what I was, and what you still are
Wayne rose exasperated:
Do you think your soul is doing the only upward hustling? he said
Briggs, clasping his flowers to his breast, gazed out over them at
You don't mean
Yes, I do, said Wayne. I may be crazy, but I know something,
with which paradox he turned on his heel and walked into the moonlit
meadow toward that dim, white form moving through the dusk.
I wondered, she said, whether you were coming, as he stepped
through the long, fragrant grass to her side.
You might have wondered if I had not come, he answered.
Yes, that is true. This moonlight is too wonderful to miss, she
added without a trace of self-consciousness.
It was for you I came.
Couldn't you find my sisters? she asked innocently.
He did not reply. Presently she stumbled over a hummock, recovered
her poise without comment, and slipped her hand into his with
Do you know what I have been studying to-day? she asked.
That curious phycomycetous fungus that produces resting-spores by
the conjugation of two similar club-shaped hyphæ, and in which conidia
also occur. It's fascinating.
After a silence he said:
What would you think of me if I told you that I do not comprehend a
single word of what you have just told me?
Don't you? she asked, astonished.
No, he replied, dropping her hand. She wondered, vaguely
distressed; and he went on presently: As a plain matter of fact, I
don't know much. It's an astonishing discovery for me, but it's a fact
that I am not your mental, physical, or spiritual equal. In sheer,
brute strength perhaps I am, and I am none too certain of that, either.
But, and I say it to my shame, I can not follow you; I am inferior in
education, in culture, in fine instinct, in mental development. You
chatter in a dozen languages to your sisters: my French appals a Paris
cabman; you play any instrument I ever heard of: the guitar is my
limit, the fandango my repertoire. As for alert intelligence, artistic
comprehension, ability to appreciate, I can not make the running with
you; I am outclassedhopelessly. Now, if this is all trueand I have
spoken the wretched truthwhat can a man like me have to say
Her head was bent, her fair face was in shadow. She strayed on a
little way, then, finding herself alone, turned and looked back at him
where he stood. For a moment they remained motionless, looking at one
another, then, as on some sweet impulse, she came back hastily and
looked into his eyes.
I do not feel as you do, she said; you are verygoodcompany. I
am not all you say; I know very little. Listen. Itit distresses me to
have you think I hold youlightly. Truly we are not apart.
There is but one thing that can join us.
What is that?
Her pure gaze did not falter nor her eyes droop. Curiously regarding
him, she seemed immersed in the solution of the problem as he had
Do you love me? she asked.
With all my soulsuch as it is, with all my heart, with every
thought, every instinct, every breath I draw.
She considered him with fearless eyes; the beauty of them was all he
You love me? she repeated.
He bent his head, incapable of speech.
You wish me to love you?
He looked at her, utterly unable to move his lips.
How do you wish me to love you?
He opened his arms; she stepped forward, close to him.
Then their lips met.
Oh, she said faintly, I did not know itit was so sweet.
And as her head fell back on his arm about her neck she looked up at
him full of wonder at this new knowledge he had taught her, marvelous,
unsuspected, divine in its simplicity. Then the first delicate blush
that ever mounted her face spread, tinting throat and forehead; she
drew his face down to her own.
The poet paced the dim veranda, arms folded, head bent. But his
glance was sideways and full of intelligence as it included two vague
figures coming slowly back through the moon-drenched meadow.
By elimination we arrive at perfection, he mused; and perfection
is success. There remain six more, he added irrelevantly, but they're
young yet. Patience, subtle patienceand attention to the little
things. He pinched a morsel of air out of the darkness, examined it
and released it.
The little things, he repeated; that is a very precious
thought.... I believe the sea air may agree with menow and then.
And he wandered off into his den and unlocked a drawer in his
desk, and took out a bundle of legal papers, and tore them slowly,
carefully, into very small pieces.
The double wedding at the Church of Sainte Cicindella was pretty and
sufficiently fashionable to inconvenience traffic on Fifth Avenue.
Partly from loyalty, partly from curiosity, the clans of Wayne and
Briggs, with their offshoots and social adherents, attended; and they
saw Briggs and Wayne on their best behavior, attended by Sudbury Grey
and Winsted Forest; and they saw two bridal visions of loveliness,
attended by six additional sister visions as bridesmaids; and they saw
the poet, agitated with the holy emotions of a father, now almost
unmanned, now rallying, spraying the hushed air with sweetness. They
saw clergymen and a bishop, and the splendor of stained glass through
which ushers tiptoed. And they heard the subdued rustling of skirts and
the silken stir, and the great organ breathing over Eden, and a single
artistically-modulated sob from the poet. A good many other things they
heard and saw, especially those of the two clans who were bidden to the
breakfast at Wayne's big and splendid house on the southwest corner of
Seventy-ninth Street and Madison Avenue.
For here they were piped to breakfast by the boatswain of Wayne's
big seagoing yacht, the Thendaraon which brides and grooms
were presently to embark for Cairo via the Azoresand speeches were
said and tears shed into goblets glimmering with vintages worth
And in due time two broughams, drawn by dancing horses, with the
azure ribbons aflutter from the head-stalls, bore away two very
beautiful and excited brides and two determined, but entirely rattled,
grooms. And after that several relays of parents fraternized with the
poet and six daughters, and the clans of Briggs and of Wayne said a
number of agreeable things to anybody who cared to listen; and as
everybody did listen, there was a great deal of talkmore talk in a
minute than the sisters of Iole had heard in all their several limited
and innocently natural existences. So it confused them, not with its
quality, but its profusion; and the champagne made their cheeks feel as
though the soft peachy skin fitted too tight, and a number of
persistent musical instruments were being tuned in their little ears;
and, not yet thoroughly habituated to any garments except pink
sunbonnets and pajamas, their straight fronts felt too tight, and the
tops of their stockings pulled, and they balanced badly on their high
heels, and Aphrodite and Cybele, being too snugly laced, retired to rid
themselves of their first corsets.
The remaining four, Lissa, now eighteen; Dione, fifteen; Philodice,
fourteen, and Chlorippe, thirteen, found the missing Pleiads in the
great library, joyously donning their rose-silk lounging pajamas, while
two parlor maids brought ices from the wrecked feast below.
So they, too, flung from them crinkling silk and diaphanous lace,
high-heel shoon and the delicate body-harness never fashioned for
free-limbed dryads of the Rose-Cross wilds; and they kept the electric
signals going for ices and fruits and pitchers brimming with clear cold
water; and they sat there in a circle like a thicket of fluttering
pale-pink roses, until below the last guest had sped out into the
unknown wastes of Gotham, and the poet's heavy step was on the stair.
The poet was agitatedand like a humble bicolored quadruped of the
Rose-Cross wilds, which, when agitated, sprays the airso the poet,
laboring obesely under his emotion, smiled with a sweetness so
intolerable that the air seemed to be squirted full of saccharinity to
the point of plethoric saturation.
My lambs, he murmured, fat hands clasped and dropped before him as
straight as his rounded abdomen would permit; my babes!
Do you think, suggested Aphrodite, busy with her ice, that we are
going to enjoy this winter in Mr. Wayne's house?
Enjoyment, breathed the poet in an overwhelming gush of sweetness,
is not in houses; it is in one's soul. What is wealth? Everything!
Therefore it is of no value. What is poverty? Nothing! And, as it is
the little things that are the most precious, so nothing, which is less
than the very least, is precious beyond price. Thank you for listening;
thank you for understanding. Bless you.
And he wandered away, almost asphyxiated with his emotions.
I mean to have a gay winterif I can ever get used to being laced
in and pulled over by those dreadful garters, observed Aphrodite,
stretching her smooth young limbs in comfort.
I suppose there would be trouble if we wore our country clothes on
Broadway, wouldn't there? asked Lissa wistfully.
Chlorippe, aged thirteen, kicked off her sandals and stretched her
pretty snowy feet: They were never in the world made to fit into
high-heeled shoes, she declared pensively, widening her little rosy
But we might as well get used to all these things, sighed
Philodice, rolling over among the cushions, a bunch of hothouse grapes
suspended above her pink mouth. She ate one, looked at Dione, and
I'm going to practise wearing 'em an hour a day, said Aphrodite,
because I mean to go to the theater. It's worth the effort. Besides,
if we just sit here in the house all day asking each other Greek
riddles, we will never see anybody until Iole and Vanessa come back
from their honeymoon and give teas and dinners for all sorts of
interesting young men.
Oh, the attractive young men I have seen in these few days in New
York! exclaimed Lissa. Would you believe it, the first day I walked
out with George Wayne and Iole, I was perfectly bewildered and
enchanted to see so many delightful-looking men. And by and by Iole
missed me, and George came back and found me standing entranced on the
corner of Fifth Avenue; and I said, Please don't disturb me, George,
because I am only standing here to enjoy the sight of so many
agreeable-looking men. But he acted so queerly about it. She ended
with a little sigh. However, I love George, of course, even if he does
bore me. I wonder where they are nowthe bridal pairs?
I wonder, mused Philodice, whether they have any children by this
Not yet, explained Aphrodite. But they'll probably have some when
they return. I understand it takes a good many weeksto
To find new children, nodded Chlorippe confidently. I suppose
they've hidden the cunning little things somewhere on the yacht, and
it's like hunt the thimble and lots and lots of fun. And she
distributed six oranges.
Lissa was not so certain of that, but, discussing the idea with
Cybele, and arriving at no conclusion, devoted herself to the large
juicy orange with more satisfaction, conscious that the winter's
outlook was bright for them all and full of the charming mystery of
anticipations so glittering yet so general that she could form not even
the haziest ideas of their wonderful promise. And so, sucking the
sunlit pulp of their oranges, they were content to live, dream, and
await fulfilment under the full favor of a Heaven which had never yet
sent them aught but happiness beneath the sun.
Neither Lethbridge nor Harrowlately exceedingly important
undergraduates at Harvard and now twin nobodies in the employment of
the great Occidental Fidelity and Trust Companyneither of these young
men, I say, had any particular business at the New Arts Theater that
For the play was Barnard Haw's Attitudes, the performance was
private and intensely intellectual, the admission by invitation only,
and between the acts there was supposed to be a general causerie
among the gifted individuals of the audience.
Why Stanley West, president of the Occidental Trust, should have
presented to his two young kinsmen the tickets inscribed with his own
name was a problem, unless everybody else, including the elevator boys,
had politely declined the offer.
That's probably the case, observed Lethbridge. Do we go?
Art, said Harrow, will be on the loose among that audience. And
if anybody can speak to anybody there, we'll get spoken to just as if
we were sitting for company, and first we know somebody will ask us
what Art really is.
I'd like to see a place full of atmosphere, suggested Lethbridge.
I've seen almost everythingthe Café Jaune, and Chinatown, andyou
remember that joint at Tangier? But I've never seen atmosphere. I don't
care how thin it is; I just want to say that I've seen it when the next
girl throws it all over me. And as Harrow remained timid, he added:
We won't have to climb across the footlights and steal a curl from the
author, because he's already being sheared in England. There's nothing
to scare you.
Normally, however, they were intensely afraid of Art except at their
barbers', and they had heard, in various ways as vague as Broad Street
rumors, something concerning these gatherings of the elect at the New
Arts Theater on Saturday afternoons, where unselfish reformers produced
plays for Art's sake as a rebuke to managers who declined to produce
that sort of play for anybody's sake.
I'll bet, said Harrow, that some thrifty genius sent Stanley West
those tickets in a desperate endeavor to amalgamate the aristocracies
of wealth and intellect!as though you could shake 'em up as you shake
a cocktail! As though you'd catch your Uncle Stanley wearing his
richest Burgundy flush, sitting in the orchestra and talking Arr
Noovo to a young thing with cheek-bones who'd pinch him into a
cocked hat for a contribution between the acts!
Still, said Lethbridge, even Art requires a wad to pay its
license. Isn't West the foxy Freddie! Do you suppose, if we go, they'll
sting us for ten?
They'll probably take up a collection for the professor, said
Harrow gloomily. Better come to the club and give the tickets to the
Oh, that's putting it all over Art! If anybody with earnest eyes
tries to speak to us we can call a policeman.
Well, said Harrow, on your promise to keep your mouth shut I'll
go with you. If you open it they'll discover you're an appraiser and
I'm a broker, and then they'll think we're wealthy, because there'd be
no other reason for our being there, and they'll touch us both for a
brace of come-ons, and
Perhaps, interrupted the other, we'll be fortunate enough to sit
next to a peach! And as it's the proper thing there to talk to your
neighbor, the prospecterneedn't jar you.
There was a silence as they walked up-town, which lasted until they
entered their lodgings. And by that time they had concluded to go.
So they went, having nothing better on hand, and at two o'clock they
sidled into the squatty little theater, shyly sought their reserved
seats and sat very still, abashed in the presence of the massed
intellects of Manhattan.
When Clarence Guilford, the Poet of Simplicity, followed by six
healthy, vigorous young daughters, entered the middle aisle of the New
Arts Theater, a number of people whispered in reverent recognition:
Guilford, the poet! Those are his daughters. They wear nothing but
pink pajamas at home. Sh-sh-h-h!
Perhaps the poet heard, for he heard a great deal when
absent-minded. He paused; his six tall and blooming daughters, two and
two behind him, very naturally paused also, because the poet was bulky
and the aisle narrow.
Those of the elect who had recognized him had now an opportunity to
view him at close range; young women with expressive eyes leaned
forward, quivering; several earnest young men put up lorgnettes.
It was as it should have been; and the poet stood motionless in
dreamy abstraction, until an usher took his coupons and turned down
seven seats. Then the six daughters filed in, and the poet, slowly
turning to survey the house, started slightly, as though surprised to
find himself under public scrutiny, passed a large, plump hand over his
forehead, and slowly subsided into the aisle-seat with a smile of
whimsical acquiescence in the knowledge of his own greatness.
Who, inquired young Harrow, turning toward Lethbridgewho is
You can search me, replied Lethbridge in a low voice, but for
Heaven's sake look at those girls! Is it right to bunch such
beauty and turn down Senators from Utah?
Harrow's dazzled eyes wandered over the six golden heads and snowy
necks, lovely as six wholesome young goddesses fresh from a bath in the
Thethe one next to the one beside you, whispered Lethbridge,
edging around. I want to run away with her. Would you mind getting me
The one next to me has them all pinched to death, breathed Harrow
unsteadily. Look!when she isn't looking. Did you ever see such eyes
and mouthsuch a superb free poise
Sh-sh-h-h! muttered Lethbridge, the bell-mule is talking to
Art, said the poet, leaning over to look along the line of
fragrant, fresh young beauty, Art is an art. With which epigram he
slowly closed his eyes.
His daughters looked at him; a young woman expensively but not
smartly gowned bent forward from the row behind. Her attitude was
almost prayerful; her eyes burned.
He paused; his six tall and blooming daughters two and two
Art, continued the poet, opening his heavy lids with a large,
sweet smile, Art is above Art, but Art is never below Art. Art, to be
Art, must be artless. That is a very precious thoughtvery, very
precious. Thank you for understanding methank you. And he included
in his large smile young Harrow, who had been unconsciously bending
forward, hypnotized by the monotonous resonance of the poet's deep,
Now that the spell was broken, he sank back in his chair, looking at
Lethbridge a little wildly.
Let me sit nextafter the first act, began Lethbridge, coaxing;
they'll be watching the stage all the first act and you can look at
'em without being rude, and they'll do the same next act, and I can
look at 'em, and perhaps they'll ask us what Art really is
Did you hear what that man said? interrupted Harrow, recovering
his voice. Did you?
Well, listen next time. And all I have to say is, if that
firing-line, with its battery of innocent blue eyes, understands him,
you and I had better apply to the nearest night-school for the
rudiments of an education.
Well, what did he say? began the other uneasily, when again the
poet bent forward to address the firing-line; and the lovely blue
battery turned silently upon the author of their being.
Art is the result of a complex mental attitude capable of producing
Help! whispered Harrow, but the poet had caught his eye, and was
fixing the young man with a smile that held him as sirup holds a fly.
You ask me what is Art, young sir? Why should I not heed you? Why
should I not answer you? What artificial barriers, falsely called
convention, shall force me to ignore the mute eloquence of your
questioning eyes? You ask me what is Art. I will tell you; it is
this! And the poet, inverting his thumb, pressed it into the air.
Then, carefully inspecting the dent he had made in the atmosphere, he
erased it with a gesture and folded his arms, looking gravely at
Harrow, whose fascinated eyes protruded.
Behind him Lethbridge whispered hoarsely, I told you how it would
be in the New Arts Theater. I told you a young man alone was likely to
get spoken to. Now those six girls know you're a broker!
Don't say it so loud, muttered Harrow savagely. I'm all right so
far, for I haven't said a word.
You'd better not, returned the other. I wish that curtain would
go up and stay up. It will be my turn to sit next them after this act,
Harrow ventured to glance at the superb young creature sitting
beside him, and at the same instant she looked up and, catching his
eye, smiled in the most innocently friendly fashionthe direct,
clear-eyed advance of a child utterly unconscious of self.
I have never before been in a theater, she said; have you?
II beg your pardon, stammered Harrow when he found his voice,
but were you good enough to speak to me?
Why, yes! she said, surprised but amiable; shouldn't I have
spoken to you?
Indeedoh, indeed you should! said Harrow hastily, with a quick
glance at the poet. The poet, however, appeared to be immersed in
thought, lids partially closed, a benignant smile imprinted on his
What are you doing? breathed Lethbridge in his ear. Harrow
calmly turned his back on his closest friend and gazed rapturously at
his goddess. And again her bewildering smile broke out and he fairly
blinked in its glory.
This is my first play, she said; I'm a little excited. I hope I
shall care for it.
Haven't you ever seen a play? asked Harrow, tenderly amazed.
Never. You see, we always lived in the country, and we have always
been poor until my sister Iole married. And now our father has come to
live with his new son-in-law. So that is how we came to be here in New
I am so glad you did come, said Harrow fervently.
So are we. We have never before seen anything like a large city. We
have never had enough money to see one. But now that Iole is married,
everything is possible. It is all so interesting for usparticularly
the clothing. Do you like my gown?
It is a dream! stammered the infatuated youth.
Do you think so? I think it is wonderfulbut not very
Doesn't it fit? he inquired.
Perfectly; that's the trouble. It is not comfortable. We never
before were permitted to wear skirts and all sorts of pretty fluffy
frills under them, and such high heels, and such long
stockings, and such tight lacing She hesitated, then calmly:
But I believe father told us that we are not to mention our pretty
underwear, though it's hard not to, as it's the first we ever had.
Harrow was past all speech.
I wish I had my lounging-suit on, she said with a sigh and a hitch
of her perfectly modeled shoulders.
Wwhat sort of things do you usually dress in? he ventured.
Why, in dress-reform clothes! she said, laughing. We never have
worn anything else.
I don't know; we had trousers and blouses and sandalssomething
like the pink pajamas we have for night-wear now. Formerly we wore
nothing at night. I am beginning to wonder, from the way people look at
us when we speak of this, whether we were odd. But all our lives we
have never thought about clothing. However, I am glad you like my new
gown, and I fancy I'll get used to this tight lacing in time.... What
is your name?
James Harrow, he managed to say, aware of an innocence and
directness of thought and speech which were awaking in him faintest
responsive echoes. They were the blessed echoes from the dim, fair land
of childhood, but he did not know it.
James Harrow, she repeated with a friendly nod. My name is
Lissamy first name; the other is Guilford. My father is the famous
poet, Clarence Guilford. He named us all after butterfliesall my
sisterscounting them on her white fingers while her eyes rested on
himChlorippe, twelve years old, that pretty one next to my father;
then Philodice, thirteen; Dione, fourteen; Aphrodite, fifteen; Cybele,
the one next to me, sixteen, and almost seventeen; and myself,
seventeen, almost eighteen. Besides, there is Iole, who married Mr.
Wayne, and Vanessa, married to Mr. Briggs. They have been off on Mr.
Wayne's yacht, the Thendara, on their wedding trip. Now you know
all about us. Do you think you would like to know us?
Like to! I'd simply love to! I
That is very nice, she said unembarrassed.
I thought I should like you when I saw you leaning over and
listening so reverently to father's epigrams. Then, besides, I had
nobody but my sisters to talk to. Oh, you can't imagine how many
attractive men I see every day in New Yorkand I should like to know
them alland many do look at me as though they would like it,
too; but Mr. Wayne is so queer, and so are father and Mr. Briggsabout
my speaking to people in public places. They have told me not to, but
IIthought I would, she ended, smiling. What harm can it do for me
to talk to you?
It's perfectly heavenly of you
Oh, do you think so? I wonder what father thinksturning to look;
then, resuming: He generally makes us stop, but I am quite sure he
expected me to talk to you.
The lone note of a piano broke the thread of the sweetest, maddest
discourse Harrow had ever listened to; the girl's cheeks flushed and
she turned expectantly toward the curtained stage. Again the lone note,
thumped vigorously, sounded a staccato monotone.
Preciousvery precious, breathed the poet, closing his eyes in a
sort of fatty ecstasy.
Harrow looked at his program, then, leaning toward Lissa, whispered:
That is the overture to Attitudesthe program explains it: 'A
series of pale gray notes'what the deuce!'pale gray notes
giving the value of the highest light in which the play is pitched'
He paused, aghast.
I understand, whispered the girl, resting her lovely arm on the
chair beside him. Look! The curtain is rising! How my heart
beats! Does yours?
He nodded, unable to articulate.
The curtain rose very, very slowly, upon the first scene of Barnard
Haw's masterpiece of satire; and the lovely firing-line quivered, blue
batteries opening very wide, lips half parted in breathless
anticipation. And about that time Harrow almost expired as a soft,
impulsive hand closed nervously over his.
And there, upon the stage, the human species was delicately
vivisected in one act; human frailty exposed, human motives detected,
human desire quenched in all the brilliancy of perverted epigram and
the scalpel analysis of the astigmatic. Life, love, and folly were
portrayed with the remorseless accuracy of an eye doubly sensitive
through the stimulus of an intellectual strabismus. Barnard Haw at his
greatest! And how he dissected attitudes; the attitude assumed by the
lover, the father, the wife, the daughter, the mother, the
mistressproving that virtue, per se, is a pose. Attitudes! How
he flayed those who assumed them. His attitude toward attitudes was
remorseless, uncompromising, inexorable.
And the curtain fell on the first act, its gray and silver folds
swaying in the half-crazed whirlwind of applause.
Lissa's silky hand trembled in Harrow's, her grasp relaxed. He
dropped his hand and, searching, encountered hers again.
What do you think of it? she asked.
I don't think there's any harm in it, he stammered guiltily,
supposing she meant the contact of their interlaced fingers.
Harm? I didn't mean harm, she said. The play is perfectly
harmless, I think.
Ohthe play! Oh, that's just that sort of play, you know.
They're all alike; a lot of people go about telling each other how
black white is and that white is always blackuntil somebody suddenly
discovers that black and white are a sort of greenish red. Then the
audience applauds frantically in spite of the fact that everybody in it
had concluded that black and white were really a shade of yellowish
She had begun to laugh; and as he proceeded, excited by her
approval, the most adorable gaiety possessed her.
I never heard anything half so clever! she said, leaning
I? Clever! he faltered. Youyou don't really mean that!
Why? Don't you know you are? Don't you know in your heart that you
have said the very thing that I in my heart found no words to explain?
Did I, really?
Yes. Isn't it delightful!
It was; Harrow, holding tightly to the soft little hand half hidden
by the folds of her gown, cast a sneaking look behind him, and
encountered the fixed and furious glare of his closest friend, who had
Pig! hissed Lethbridge, do I sit next or not?
II can't; I'll explain
You don't understand
I understand you!
No, you don't. Lissa and I
Yaas! We're talking very cleverly; I am, too. Wha'd'you
wan' to butt in for? with sudden venom.
Butt in! Do you think I want to sit here and look at tha' damfool
play! Fix it or I'll run about biting!
Harrow turned. Lissa, he whispered in an exquisitely modulated
voice, what would happen if I spoke to your sister Cybele?
Why, she'd answer you, silly! said the girl, laughing. Wouldn't
I'll tell you what I'd like to do, said Cybele, leaning forward:
I'd like very much to talk to that attractive man who is trying to
look at meonly your head has been in the way. And she smiled
innocently at Lethbridge.
So Lissa moved down one. Harrow took her seat, and Cybele dropped
gaily into Harrow's vacant place.
Now, she said to Lethbridge, we can tell each other all
sorts of things. I was so glad that you looked at me all the while and
so vexed that I couldn't talk to you. How do you like my new
gown? And what is your name? Have you ever before seen a play? I
haven't, and my name is Cybele.
It is perperfectly heavenly to hear you talk, stammered
Harrow heard him, turned and looked him full in the eyes, then
slowly resumed his attitude of attention: for the poet was speaking:
The Art of Barnard Haw is the quintessence of simplicity. What is
the quintessence of simplicity? He lifted one heavy pudgy hand, joined
the tips of his soft thumb and forefinger, and selecting an atom of
air, deftly captured it. That is the quintessence of
simplicity; that is Art!
He smiled largely on Harrow, whose eyes had become wild again.
That! he repeated, pinching out another molecule of
atmosphere, and that! punching dent after dent in the viewless
void with inverted thumb.
On the hapless youth the overpowering sweetness of his smile acted
like an anesthetic; he saw things waver, even wabble; and his hidden
clutch on Lissa's fingers tightened spasmodically.
Thank you, said the poet, leaning forward to fix the young man
with his heavy-lidded eyes. Thank you for the precious thoughts you
inspire in me. Bless you. Our mental and esthetic commune has been very
precious to mevery, very precious, he mooned bulkily, his rich voice
dying to a resonant, soothing drone.
Lissa turned to the petrified young man. Please be clever some
more, she whispered. You were so perfectly delightful about this
Child! he groaned, I have scarcely sufficient intellect to keep
me overnight. You must know that I haven't understood one single thing
your father has been kind enough to say.
What didn't you understand? she asked, surprised.
'That!' He flourished his thumb. What does 'That!'
Oh, that is only a trick father has caught from painters who tell
you how they're going to use their brushes. But the truth is I've
usually noticed that they do most of their work in the air with their
thumbs.... What else did you not understand?
OhArt! he said wearily. What is it? Or, as Barnard Haw, the
higher exponent of the Webberfield philosophy, might say: 'What it iss?
I don't know what the Webberfield philosophy is, said Lissa
innocently, but Art is only things one believes. And it's awfully
hard, too, because nobody sees the same thing in the same way, or
believes the same things that others believe. So there are all kinds of
Art. I think the only way to be sure is when the artist makes himself
and his audience happier; then that is Art.... But one need not use
one's thumb, you know.
Thethe way you make me happy? Is that Art?
Do I? she laughed. Perhaps; for I am happy, toofar, far happier
than when I read the works of Henry Haynes. And Henry Haynes is
Art. Oh, dear!
But Harrow knew nothing of the intellectual obstetrics which
produced that great master's monotypes.
Have you read Double or Quits? he ventured shyly. It's a humming
Wall Street story showing up the entire bunch and exposing the
trading-stamp swindle of the great department stores. The heroine is a
detective and She was looking at him so intently that he feared he
had said something he shouldn't. But I don't suppose that would
interest you, he muttered, ashamed.
It does! It is new! II never read that sort of a novel.
Are you serious?
Of course. It is perfectly wonderful to think of a heroine being a
Oh, she's a dream! he said with cautious enthusiasm. She falls in
love with the worst stock-washer in Wall Street, and pushes him off a
ferry-boat when she finds he has cornered the trading-stamp market and
is bankrupting her father, who is president of the department store
Go on! she whispered breathlessly.
I will, but
What is it? Ohis it my hand you are looking for? Here it is; I
only wanted to smooth my hair a moment. Now tell me; for I never, never
knew that such books were written. The books my father permits us to
read are not concerned with all those vital episodes of every-day life.
Nobody ever does anything in the few novels I am allowed to
readexcept, once, in Cranford, somebody gets up out of a chair
in one chapterbut sits down again in the next, she added wearily.
I'll send you something to make anybody sit up and stay up,
he said indignantly. Baffles, the Gent Burglar; Love Militant, by Nora
Norris Newman; The Crown-Snatcher, by Reginald Rodman Roonyoh, it's
simply ghastly to think of what you've missed! This is the Victorian
era; you have a right to be fully cognizant of the great literary
movements of the twentieth century!
I love to hear you say such things, she said, her beautiful face
afire. I desire to be modernintensely, humanly modern. All my life I
have been nourished on the classics of ages dead; the literature of the
Orient, of Asia, of Europe I am familiar with; the literature of
Englandas far as Andrew Bang's boyhood verses. Iall my
sistersread, write, speak, even think, in ten languages. I long for
something to read which is vital, familiar, friendlysomething of my
own time, my own day. I wish to know what young people do and dare;
what they really think, what they believe, strive for, desire!
Wellwell, I don't think people really do and say and think the
things that you read in interesting modern novels, he said doubtfully.
Fact is, only the tiresome novels seem to tell a portion of the truth;
but they end by overdoing it and leave you yawning with a nasty taste
in your mouth. II think you'd better let your father pick out your
I don't want to, she said rebelliously. I want you to.
He looked at the beautiful, rebellious face and took a closer hold
on the hidden hand.
I wish youI wish I could chooseeverything for you, he said
I wish so, too. You are exactly the sort of man I like.
Dodo you mean it?
Why, yes, she replied, opening her splendid eyes. Don't I show
the pleasure I take in being with you?
Butwould you tire of me ifif we alwaysforever
Were friends? No.
Mo-m-m-more than friends? Then he choked.
The speculation in her wide eyes deepened. What do you mean? she
But again the lone note of the thumped piano signaled silence. In
the sudden hush the poet opened his lids with a sticky smile and folded
his hands over his abdomen, plump thumbs joined.
What do you mean? repeated Lissa hurriedly, tightening her
slender fingers around Harrow's.
I meanI mean
He turned in silence and their eyes met. A moment later her fingers
relaxed limply in his; their hands were still in contactbut scarcely
so; and so remained while the Attitudes of Barnard Haw held the
There was a young wife behind the footlights explaining to a young
man who was not her husband that her marriage vows need not be too
seriously considered if he, the young man, found them too inconvenient.
Which scared the young man, who was plainly a purveyor of heated air
and a short sport. And, although she explained very clearly that if he
needed her in his business he had better say so quick, the author's
invention gave out just there and he called in the young wife's husband
to help him out.
And all the while the battery of round blue eyes gazed on unwinking;
the poet's dewlaps quivered with stored emotion, and the spellbound
audience breathed as people breathe when the hostess at table attempts
to smooth over a bad break by her husband.
Is that life? whispered Cybele to Lethbridge, her sensitive
mouth aquiver. Did the author actually know such people? Do you
? Is conscience really only an attitude? Is instinct the only guide? Am
No, no, whispered Lethbridge; all that is only a dramatist's
attitude. Don'tdon't look grieved! Why, every now and then some man
discovers he can attract more attention by standing on his head. That
is allreally, that is all. Barnard Haw on his feet is not amusing;
but the same gentleman on his head is worth an orchestra-chair. When a
man wears his trousers where other men wear their coats, people are
bound to turn around. It is not a new trick. Mystes, the Argive comic
poet, and the White Queen, taught this author the value of substituting
'is' for 'is not,' until, from standing so long inverted, he himself
forgets what he means, and at this point the eminent brothers Rogers
take up the important work.... Please, please, Cybele, don't
take it seriously!... If you look that wayif you are unhappy,
A gentle snore from the poet transfixed the firing-line, but the
snore woke up the poet and he mechanically pinched an atom out of the
atmosphere, blinking at the stage.
Preciousvery, very precious, he murmured drowsily. Thank
youthank everybody And he sank into an obese and noiseless slumber
as the gray and silver curtain slowly fell. The applause, far from
rousing him, merely soothed him; a honeyed smile hovered on his lips
which formed the words Thank you. That was all; the firing-line
stirred, breathed deeply, and folded twelve soft white hands.
Chlorippe, twelve, and Philodice, thirteen, yawned, pink-mouthed,
sleepy-eyed; Dione, fourteen, laid her golden head on the shoulder of
The finger-tips of Lissa and Harrow still touched, scarcely
clinging; they had turned toward one another when the curtain fell. But
the play, to them, had been a pantomime of silhouettes, the stage, a
void edged with flamethe scene, the audience, the theater, the poet
himself as unreal and meaningless as the shadowy attitudes of the
shapes that vanished when the phantom curtain closed its folds.
And through the subdued light, turning noiselessly, they peered at
one another, conscious that naught else was real in the misty,
golden-tinted gloom; that they were alone together there in a formless,
soundless chaos peopled by shapes impalpable as dreams.
Now tell me, she said, her lips scarcely moving as the soft
voice stirred them like carmine petals stirring in a scented breeze.
Tell you that it islove?
Yes, tell me.
That I love you, Lissa?
He stooped nearer; his voice was steady and very low, and she leaned
with bent head to listen, clear-eyed, intelligent, absorbed.
So that is lovewhat you tell me?
And the other part?
The other part is when you find you love me.
Ido. I think it must be love, because I can't bear to have you go
away. Besides, I wish you to tell methings.
Wellwhen twolike you and me, begin to lovewhat happens?
We confess it
I do; I'm not ashamed.... Should I be? And then?
Then? he faltered.
Yes; do we kiss?... For I am curious to have you do itI am so
certain I shall adore you when you do.... I wish we could go away
somewhere together.... But we can't do that until I am a bride, can we?
Ohdo you really want me?
Can you ask? he breathed.
Ask? Yesyes.... I love to ask! Your hand thrills me. We can't go
away now, can we? It took Iole so long to be permitted to go away with
Mr. Wayneall that time lost in so many foolish wayswhen a girl is
so impatient.... Is it not strange how my heart beats when I look into
your eyes? Oh, there can be no doubt about it, I am dreadfully in
love.... And so quickly, too. I suppose it's because I am in such
splendid health; don't you?
Oh, I do want to get up at once and go away with you!
Can't we? I could explain to father.
Wait! he gasped, hehe's asleep. Don't speakdon't touch him.
How unselfish you are, she breathed. No, you are not hurting my
fingers. Tell me moreabout love and the blessed years awaiting us,
and about our childrenoh, is it not wonderful!
Exextremely, he managed to mutter, touching his suddenly
dampened forehead with his handkerchief, and attempting to set his
thoughts in some sort of order. He could not; the incoherence held him
speechless, dazed, under the magic of this superb young being instinct
with the soft fire of life.
Her loveliness, her innocence, the beautiful, direct gaze, the
childlike fulness of mouth and contour of cheek and throat, left him
spellbound. The very air around them seemed suffused with the vital
glow of her youth and beauty; each breath they drew increased their
wonder, till the whole rosy universe seemed thrilling and singing at
their feet, and they two, love-crowned, alone, saw Time and Eternity
flowing like a golden tide under the spell of Paradise.
The hoarse whisper of Lethbridge shook the vision from him; he
turned a flushed countenance to his friend; but Cybele spoke:
We are very tired sitting here. We would like to take some tea at
Sherry's, she whispered. What do you think we had better do? It seems
soso futile to sit herewhen we wish to be alone together
You and Henry, too! gasped Harrow.
Yes; do you wonder? She leaned swiftly in front of him; a fragrant
breeze stirred his hair. Lissa, I'm desperately infatuated with Mr.
Lethbridge. Do you see any use in our staying here when I'm simply
dying to have him all to myself somewhere?
No, it is silly. I wish to go, too. Shall we?
You need not go, began Cybele; then stopped, aware of the new
magic in her sister's eyes. Lissa! Lissa! she said softly. You, too! Oh, my dearmy dearest!
Dear, is it not heavenly? IIwas quite sure that if I ever had a
good chance to talk to a man I really liked something would happen. And
If Philodice might awaken father perhaps he would let us go now,
whispered Cybele. Henry says it does not take more than an hour
To become a bride?
Yes; he knows a clergyman very near
Do you? inquired Lissa. Lethbridge nodded and gave a scared glance
at Harrow, who returned it as though stunned.
Butbut, muttered the latter, your father doesn't know who we
Oh, yes, he does, said Cybele calmly, for he sent you the tickets
and placed us near you so that if we found that we liked you we might
talk to you
Only he made a mistake in your name, added Lissa to Harrow, for
he wrote 'Stanley West, Esq.' on the envelope. I know because I mailed
Invited Westput you where you couldgood God!
What is the matter? whispered Lissa in consternation; havehave
I said anything I should not? And, as he was silent: What is it? Have
I hurt youI who
There was a silence; she looked him through and through and, after a
while, deep, deep in his soul, she saw, awaking once again, all he had
deemed deadthe truth, the fearless reason, the sweet and faultless
instinct of the child whose childhood had become a memory. Then, once
more spiritually equal, they smiled at one another; and Lissa, pausing
to gather up her ermine stole, passed noiselessly out to the aisle,
where she stood, perfectly self-possessed, while her sister joined her,
smiling vaguely down at the firing-line and their lifted battery of
blue, inquiring eyes.
The poetand whether he had slumbered or not nobody but himself is
qualified to judgethe poet pensively opened one eye and peeped at
Harrow as that young man bent beside him with Lethbridge at his elbow.
In sending those two tickets you have taught us a new creed,
whispered Harrow; you have taught us innocence and simplicityyou
have taught us to be ourselves, to scorn convention, to say and do what
we believe. Thank you.
Dear friend, said the poet in an artistically-modulated whisper,
I have long, long followed you in the high course of your career. To
me the priceless simplicity of poverty: to you the responsibility for
millions. To me the daisy, the mountain stream, the woodchuck and my
Art! To you the busy mart, the haunts of men, the ship of finance laden
with a nation's wealth, the awful burden of millions for which you are
answerable to One higher! He raised one soft, solemn finger.
The young men gazed at one another, astounded. Lethbridge's startled
eyes said, He still takes you for Stanley West!
Let him! flashed the grim answer back from the narrowing gaze of
Daughters, whispered the poet playfully, are you so soon tired of
the brilliant gems of satire which our master dramatist scatters with a
No, said Cybele; we are only very much in love.
The poet sat up briskly and looked hard at Harrow.
Youryour friend? he begandoubtless associated with you in the
We are inseparable, said Harrow calmly, in the busy marts.
The sweetness of the poet's smile was almost overpowering.
To discuss this suddenahcondition which soahabruptly
confronts a father, I can not welcome you to my little home in the
wildwhich I call the House Beautiful, he said. I would it were
possible. There all is quiet and simple and exquisitely humblethough
now, through the grace of my valued son, there is no mortgage hanging
like the brand of Damocles above our lowly roof. But I bid you welcome
in the name of my son-in-law, on whomI should say, with
whomI and my babes are sojourning in this clamorous city. Come and
let us talk, soul to soul, heart to heart; come and partake of what
simples we have. Set the day, the hour. I thank you for understanding
The hour, replied Harrow, will be about five P.M. on Monday
afternoon.... You see, we are going out now toto
To marry each other, whispered Lissa with all her sweet
fearlessness. Oh, dear! there goes that monotonous piano and we'll be
blocking people's view!
The poet tried to rise upon his great flat feet, but he was wedged
too tightly; he strove to speak, to call after them, but the loud
thumping notes of the piano drowned his voice.
Chlorippe! Dione! Philodice! Tell them to stop! Run after them and
stay them! panted the poet.
You go! pouted Dione.
No, I don't want to, explained Chlorippe, because the curtain is
I'll go, sighed Philodice, rising to her slender height and moving
up the aisle as the children of queens moved once upon a time. She came
back presently, saying: Dear me, they're dreadfully in love, and they
have driven away in two hansoms.
Gone! wheezed the poet.
Quite, said Philodice, staring at the stage and calmly folding her
smooth little hands.
When the curtain at last descended upon the parting attitudes of the
players the poet arose with an alacrity scarcely to be expected in a
gentleman of his proportions. Two and two his big, healthy
daughtersthere remained but four nowfollowed him to the lobby. When
he was able to pack all four into a cab he did so and sent them home
without ceremony; then, summoning another vehicle, gave the driver the
directions and climbed in.
Half an hour later he was deposited under the bronze shelter of the
porte-cochère belonging to an extremely expensive mansion overlooking
the park; and presently, admitted, he prowled ponderously and softly
about an over-gilded rococo reception-room. But all anxiety had now
fled from his face; he coyly nipped the atmosphere at intervals as
various portions of the furniture attracted his approval; he stood
before a splendid canvas of Goya and pushed his thumb at it; he moused
and prowled and peeped and snooped, and his smile grew larger and
larger and sweeter and sweeter, untildare I say it!a low smooth
chuckle, all but noiseless, rippled the heavy cheeks of the poet; and,
raising his eyes, he beheld a stocky, fashionably-dressed and red-faced
man of forty intently eying him. The man spoke decisively and at once:
Mr. Guilford? Quite so. I am Mr. West.
You are The poet's smile flickered like a sickly candle.
Ithis isare you Mr. Stanley West?
It mustit probably was your son
I am unmarried, said the president of the Occidental tartly, and
the only Stanley West in the directory.
The poet swayed, then sat down rather suddenly on a Louis XIV chair
which crackled. Several times he passed an ample hand over his
features. A mechanical smile struggled to break out, but it was not
the smile, any more than glucose is sugar.
Didahdid you receive two tickets for the New Arts
TheaterahMr. West? he managed to say at last.
I did. Thank you very much, but I was not able to avail myself
Quite so. Andahdo you happen to know who it was
thatahpresented your tickets and occupied the seats this
Why, I suppose it was two young men in our employMr. Lethbridge,
who appraises property for us, and Mr. Harrow, one of our brokers. May
I ask why?
For a long while the poet sat there, eyes squeezed tightly closed as
though in bodily anguish. Then he opened one of them:
They areahquite penniless, I presume?
They have prospects, said West briefly. Why?
The poet rose; something of his old attitude returned; he feebly
gazed at a priceless Massero vase, made a half-hearted attempt to join
thumb and forefinger, then rambled toward the door, where two spotless
flunkies attended with his hat and overcoat.
Mr. Guilford, said West, following, a trifle perplexed and
remorseful, I should be veryerextremely happy to subscribe to the
New Arts Theaterif that is what you wished.
Thank you, said the poet absently as a footman invested him with a
Is there anything more I could do for you, Mr. Guilford?
The poet's abstracted gaze rested on him, then shifted.
II don't feel very well, said the poet hoarsely, sitting down in
a hall-seat. Suddenly he began to cry, fatly.
Nobody did anything; the stupefied footman gaped; West looked,
walked nervously the length of the hall, looked again, and paced the
inlaid floor to and fro, until the bell at the door sounded and a
messenger-boy appeared with a note scribbled on a yellow telegraph
Lethbridge and I just married and madly happy. Will be on hand
Monday, sure. Can't you advance us three months' salary?
Idiots! said West. Then, looking up: What are you waiting for,
Me answer, replied the messenger calmly.
Oh, you were told to bring back an answer?
Then give me your pencil, my infant Chesterfield. And West
scribbled on the same yellow blank:
Checks for you on your desks Monday. Congratulations. I'll see
through, you damfools.
Here's a quarter for you, observed West, eying the messenger.
T'anks. Gimme the note.
West glanced at the moist, fat poet; then suddenly that intuition
which is bred in men of his stamp set him thinking. And presently he
tentatively added two and two.
Mr. Guilford, he said, I wonder whether this noteand my answer
to itconcerns you.
The poet used his handkerchief, adjusted a pair of glasses, and
blinked at the penciled scrawl. Twice he read it; then, like the full
sun breaking through a drizzlelike the glory of a search-light
dissolving a sticky fog, the smile of smiles illuminated
everything: footmen, messenger, financier.
Thank you, he said thickly; thank you for your thought. Thought
is but a trifle to bestowa little thing in itself. But it is the
little things that are most importantthe smaller the thing the more
vital its importance, untilhe added in a genuine burst of his old
eloquencethe thing becomes so small that it isn't anything at all,
and then the value of nothing becomes so enormous that it is past all
computation. That is a very precious thought! Thank you for it; thank
you for understanding. Bless you!
Exuding a rich sweetness from every feature the poet moved toward
the door at a slow fleshy waddle, head wagging, small eyes half closed,
thumbing the atmosphere, while his lips moved in wordless
self-communion: The attainment of nothing at allthat is rarest, the
most precious, the most priceless of triumphsvery, very precious.
Soand his glance was sideways and nimbly intelligentso if nothing
at all is of such inestimable value, those two young pups can live on
their expectationsquod erat demonstrandum.
He shuddered and looked up at the façade of the gorgeous house which
he had just quitted.
So many sunny windows to sit into dream in. II should have
found it agreeable. Pups!
Crawling into his cab he sank into a pulpy mound, partially closing
his eyes. And upon his pursed-up lips, unuttered yet imminent, a word
trembled and wabbled as the cab bounced down the avenue. It may have
been precious; it was probably pups!
But there were further poignant emotions in store for the poet, for,
as his cab swung out of the avenue and drew up before the great house
on the southwest corner of Seventy-ninth Street and Madison Avenue, he
caught a glimpse of his eldest daughter, Iole, vanishing into the
house, and, at the same moment, he perceived his son-in-law, Mr. Wayne,
paying the driver of a hansom-cab, while several liveried servants bore
houseward the luggage of the wedding journey.
George! he cried dramatically, thrusting his head from the window
of his own cab as that vehicle drew up with a jolt that made his
stomach vibrate, George! I am here!
Wayne looked around, paid the hansom-driver, and, advancing slowly,
offered his hand as the poet descended to the sidewalk. How are you?
he inquired without enthusiasm as the poet evinced a desire to paw him.
All is well here, I hope.
George! Son! The poet gulped till his dewlap contracted. He laid a
large plump hand on Wayne's shoulders. Where are my lambs? he
quavered; where are they?
Which lambs? inquired the young man uneasily. If you mean Iole
No! My ravished lambs! Give me my stolen lambs. Trifle no longer
with a father's affections! Lissa!Cybele! Great Heavens! Where are
they? he sobbed hoarsely.
Well, where are they? retorted his son-in-law, horrified.
Come into the house; people in the street are looking.
In the broad hall the poet paused, staggered, strove to paw Wayne,
then attempted to fold his arms in an attitude of bitter scorn.
Two penniless wastrels, he muttered, are wedded to my lambs. But
there are laws to invoke
An avalanche of pretty girls in pink pajamas came tumbling down the
bronze and marble staircase, smothering poet and son-in-law in happy
embraces; and Oh, George! they cried, how sunburned you are! So is
Iole, but she is too sweet! Did you have a perfectly lovely honeymoon?
When is Vanessa coming? And how is Mr. Briggs? Andoh, do you know the
news? Cybele and Lissa married two such extremely attractive young men
Married! cried Wayne, releasing Dione's arms from his neck.
Whom did they marry?
Pups! sniveled the poetpenniless, wastrel pups!
Their names, said Aphrodite coolly, from the top of the staircase,
are James Harrow and Henry Lethbridge. I wish there had been
Harrow! Lethbridge! gasped Wayne. Whenhe turned helplessly to
the poetwhen did they do this?
Through the gay babble of voices and amid cries and interruptions,
Wayne managed to comprehend the story. He tried to speak, but everybody
except the poet laughed and chatted, and the poet, suffused now with a
sort of sad sweetness, waved his hand in slow unctuous waves until even
the footmen's eyes protruded.
It's all right, said Wayne, raising his voice; it's topsyturvy
and irregular, but it's all right. I've known Harrow and LethFor
Heaven's sake, Dione, don't kiss me like that; I want to talk!You're
hugging me too hard, Philodice. Oh, Lord! will you stop
chattering all together! IIDo you want the house to be pinched?
He glanced up at Aphrodite, who sat astride the banisters lighting a
cigarette. Who taught you to do that? he cried.
I'm sixteen, now, she said coolly, and I thought I'd try it.
Her voice was drowned in the cries and laughter; Wayne, with his
hands to his ears, stared up at the piquant figure in its pink pajamas
and sandals, then his distracted gaze swept the groups of parlor maids
and footmen around the doors: Great guns! he thundered, this is the
limit and they'll pull the house! Morton!to a footmanring up
7009B Murray Hill. My compliments and congratulations to Mr.
Lethbridge and to Mr. Harrow, and say that we usually dine at eight!
Philodice! stop that howling! Oh, just you wait until Iole has a talk
with you all for running about the house half-dressed
I won't wear straight fronts indoors, and my garters hurt!
cried Aphrodite defiantly, preparing to slide down the banisters.
Help! said Wayne faintly, looking from Dione to Chlorippe, from
Chlorippe to Philodice, from Philodice to Aphrodite. I won't have my
house turned into a confounded Art Nouveau music hall. I tell you
Let me tell them, said Iole, laughing and kissing her hand
to the poet as she descended the stairs in her pretty bride's traveling
She checked Aphrodite, looked wisely around at her lovely sisters,
then turned to remount the stairs, summoning them with a gay little
And when the breathless crew had trooped after her, and the pad of
little, eager, sandaled feet had died away on the thick rugs of the
landing above, the poet, clasping his fat white hands, thumbs joined,
across his rotund abdomen, stole a glance at his dazed son-in-law,
which was partly apprehensive and partly significant, almost cunning.
An innocent saturnalia, he murmured. The charming abandon of
children. He unclasped one hand and waved it. Did you note the
unstudied beauty of the composition as my babes glided in and out
following the natural and archaic yet exquisitely balanced symmetry of
the laws which govern mass and line composition, all unconsciously, yet
perhapshe reversed his thumb and left his sign manual upon the
atmosphereperhaps, he mused, overflowing with sweetnessperhaps
the laws of Art Nouveau are divine!perhaps angels and cherubim,
unseen, watch fondly o'er my babes, lest all unaware they guiltlessly
violate some subtle canon of Art, marring the perfect symmetry of
Wayne's mouth was partly open, his eyes hopeless yet fixed upon the
poet with a fearful fascination.
Art, breathed the poet, is a solemn, a fearful responsibility.
You are responsible, George, and some day you must answer for every
violation of Art, to the eternal outraged fitness of things. You
must answer, I must answer, every soul must answer!
A-ansanswer! What, for God's sake? stammered Wayne.
The poet, deliberately joining thumb and forefinger, pinched out a
portion of the atmosphere.
That! That George! For that is Art! And Art is justice! And
justice, affronted, demands an answer.
He refolded his arms, mused for a space, then stealing a veiled
Youyou areahconvinced that my two lost lambs need dread no
Cybele and Lissa?
Lethbridge will have money to burn if he likes the aroma of the
smoke. Harrow has burnt several stacks already; but his father will
continue to fire the furnace. Is that what you mean?
No! said the poet softly, no, George, that is not what I mean.
Wealth is a great thing. Only the little things are precious to me. And
the most precious of all is absolutely nothing! But, as he wandered
away into the great luxurious habitation of his son-in-law, his smile
grew sweeter and sweeter and his half-closed eyes swam, melting into a
The little things, he murmured, thumbing the air absentlythe
little things are precious, but not as precious as absolutely nothing.
For nothing is perfection. Thank you, he said sweetly to a petrified
footman, thank you for understanding. It is preciousvery, very
precious to know that I am understood.
By early springtide the poet had taken an old-fashioned house on the
south side of Washington Square; his sons-in-law standing for itas
the poet was actually beginning to droop amid the civilized luxury of
Madison Avenue. He missed what he called his own den. So he got it,
rent free, and furnished it sparingly with furniture of a slabby
variety until the effect produced might, profanely speaking, be
described as dinky.
His friends, too, who haunted the house, bore curious conformity to
the furnishing, being individually in various degrees either squatty,
slabby or dinky; and twice a week they gathered for Conferences upon
what he and they described as L'Arr Noovo.
L'Arr Noovo, a pleasing variation of the slab style in Art, had
profoundly impressed the poet. Glass window-panes, designed with tulip
patterns, were cunningly inserted into all sorts of furniture where
window-glass didn't belong, and the effect appeared to be profitable;
for up-stairs in his shop, workmen were very busy creating
extraordinary designs and setting tulip-patterned glass into everything
with, as the poet explained, a loving care and considerable glue.
His four unmarried daughters came to see him, wandering
unconcernedly between the four handsome residences of their four
brothers-in-law and the den of the author of their beingChlorippe,
aged thirteen; Philodice, fourteen; Dione, fifteen, and Aphrodite,
sixteenlovely, fresh-skinned, free-limbed young girls with the
delicate bloom of sun and wind still creaming their cheekslingering
effects of a life lived ever in the open, until the poet's sons-in-law
were able to support him in town in the style to which he had been
To the Conferences of the poet came the mentally, morally, and
physically dinkyand a few badgered but normal husbands, hustled
thither by wives whose intellectual development was tending toward the
People read poems, discussed Yeats, Shaw, Fiona, Mendes, and L'Arr
Noovo; sang, wandered about pinching or thumbing the atmosphere under
stimulus of a cunningly and unexpectedly set window-pane in the back of
a mission rocking-chair. And when the proper moment arrived the poet
would rise, exhaling sweetness from every pore of his bulky entity, to
interpret what he called a Thought. Sometimes it was a demonstration
of the priceless value of nothings; sometimes it was a naive
suggestion that no house could afford to be without an Art"-rocker
with Arr Noovo insertions. Such indispensable luxuries were on sale
up-stairs. Again, he performed a necklace of precious soundsin
other words, some verses upon various topics, nature, woodchucks, and
the dinkified in Art.
And it was upon one of these occasions that Aphrodite ran away.
Aphrodite, the sweet, the reasonable, the self-possessedAphrodite
ran away, having without any apparent reason been stricken with an
overpowering aversion for civilization and Arr Noovo.
At the poet's third Franco-American Conference that afternoon the
room was still vibrating with the echoes of Aphrodite's harp
accompaniment to her own singing, and gushing approbation had scarcely
ceased, when the poet softly rose and stood with eyes half-closed as
though concentrating all the sweetness within him upon the surface of
his pursed lips.
A wan young man whose face figured only as a by-product of his hair
whispered Hush! and several people, who seemed to be more or less out
of drawing, assumed attitudes which emphasized the faulty
La Poésie! breathed the poet; Kesker say la poésie?
La poésiesay la vee! murmured a young woman with profuse teeth.
Wee, wee, say la vee! cried several people triumphantly.
Nong! sighed the poet, spraying the hushed air with sweetness,
nong! Say pas le vee; say l'Immortalitay!
After which the poet resumed his seat, and the by-product read, in
French verse, An Appreciation of the works of Wilhelmina Ganderbury
And that was the limit of the Franco portion of the Conference; the
remainder being plain American.
Aphrodite, resting on her tall gilded harp, looked sullenly straight
before her. Somebody lighted a Chinese joss-stick, perhaps to kill the
aroma of defunct cigarettes.
Verse, said the poet, opening his heavy lids and gazing around him
with the lambent-eyed wonder of a newly-wakened ram, verse is a
necklace of tinted sounds strung idly, yet lovingly, upon stray
tinseled threads of thought.... Thank you for understanding; thank
The by-product in the corner of the studio gathered arms and legs
into a series of acute angles, and writhed; a lady ornamented with
cheek-bones well sketched in, covered her eyes with one hand as though
locked in jiu-jitsu with Richard Strauss.
Aphrodite's slender fingers, barely resting on the harp-strings,
suddenly contracted in a nervous tremor; a low twang echoed the
involuntary reflex with a discord.
A young man, whose neck was swathed in a stock à la d'Orsay, bent
close to her shoulder.
I feel that our souls, blindfolded, are groping toward one
another, he whispered.
Don'tdon't talk like that! she breathed almost fiercely; I am
tiredsuffocated with sound, drugged with joss-sticks and sandal. I
can't stand much more, I warn you.
Are you not well, beloved.
Perfectly wellphysically. I don't know what it isit has come so
suddenlythis overwhelming revulsionthis exasperation with scents
and sounds.... I could rip out these harp-strings andand kick that
chair over! II think I need somethingsunlight and the wind blowing
my hair loose
Aphrodite's slender fingers, barely resting on the harp-strings,
suddenly contracted in a nervous tremor.]
The young man with the stock nodded. It is the exquisite pagan
athirst in you, scorched by the fire of spring. Quench that sweet
thirst at the fount beautiful
What fount did you say? she asked dangerously.
The precious fount of verse, dear maid.
No! she whispered violently. I'm half drowned already. Words,
smells, sounds, attitudes, rocking-chairsand candles profaning the
sunshineI am suffocated, I need more air, more sense and less
incenseless sound, less art
Lesswhat? he gasped.
Less art!what you call 'l'arr'!yes, I've said it; I'm sick!
sick of art! I know what I require now. And as he remained agape in
shocked silence: I don't mean to be rude, Mr. Frawley, but I also
require less of you.... So much less that father will scarcely expect
me to play any more accompaniments to your 'necklaces of precious
tones'so much less that the minimum of my interest in you vanishes to
absolute negation.... So I shall not marry you.
Aphroditeareare you mad?
Her sulky red mouth was mute.
Meanwhile the poet's rich, resonant voice filled the studio with an
agreeable and rambling monotone:
Verse is a vehicle for expression; expression is a vehicle for
verse; sound, in itself, is so subtly saturated with meaning that it
requires nothing of added logic for its vindication. Sound, therefore,
is sense, modified by the mysterious portent of tone. Thank you for
understanding, thank you for a thoughtvery, very precious, a thought
He smeared the air with inverted thumb and smiled at Mr. Frawley,
who rose, somewhat agitated, and, crooking one lank arm behind his
back, made a mechanical pinch at an atmospheric atom.
Ifif you do that againif you dare to recite those verses about
me, I shall go! I tell you I can't stand any more, breathed Aphrodite
between her clenched teeth.
The young man cast his large and rather sickly eyes upon her. For a
moment he was in doubt, but belief in the witchery of sound prevailed,
for he had yet to meet a being insensible to the music of the soul,
and so with a fond and fatuous murmur he pinched the martyred
atmosphere once more, and began, mousily:
A tear a year
My pale desire requires,
And that is all.
Enlacements weary, passion tires,
Kisses are cinder-ghosts of fires
Smothered at birth with mortal earth;
And that is all.
A year of fear
My pallid soul desires
And that is all
Terror of bliss and dread of happiness,
A subtle need of sorrow and distress
And you to weep one tear, no more, no less,
And that is all I ask
And that is all.
People were breathing thickly; the poet unaffectedly distilled the
suggested tear; it was a fat tear; it ran smoothly down his nose,
twinkled, trembled, and fell.
Aphrodite's features had become tense; she half rose, hesitated.
Then, as the young man in the stock turned his invalid's eyes in her
direction and began:
Oh, sixteen tears
In sixteen years
she transfixed her hat with one nervous gesture sprang to her feet,
turned, and vanished through the door.
She is too young to endure it, sobbed the by-product to her of the
sketchy face. And that was no idle epigram, either.
She had no definite idea; all she craved for was the openor its
metropolitan substitutesunshine, air, the glimpse of sanely
preoccupied faces, the dull, quickening tumult of traffic. The tumult
grew, increasing in her ears as she crossed Washington Square under the
sycamores and looked up through tender feathery foliage at the white
arch of marble through which the noble avenue flows away between its
splendid arid chasms of marble, bronze, and masonry to that blessed
leafy oasis in the norththe Park.
She took an omnibus, impatient for the green rambles of the only
breathing-place she knew of, and settled back in her seat, rebellious
of eye, sullen of mouth, scarcely noticing the amused expression of the
young man opposite.
Two passengers left at Twenty-third Street, three at Thirty-fourth
Street, and seven at Forty-second Street.
Preoccupied, she glanced up at the only passenger remaining, caught
the fleeting shadow of interest on his face, regarded him with natural
indifference, and looked out of the window, forgetting him. A few
moments later, accidentally aware of him again, she carelessly noted
his superficially attractive qualities, and, approving, resumed her
idle inspection of the passing throng. But the next time her pretty
head swung round she found him looking rather fixedly at her, and
involuntarily she returned the gaze with a childlike directnessa gaze
which he sustained to the limit of good breeding, then evaded so
amiably that it left an impression rather agreeable than otherwise.
I don't see, thought Aphrodite, why I never meet that sort of
man. He hasn't art nouveau legs, and his features are not by-products
of his hair.... I have told my brothers-in-law that I am old enough to
go out without coming out.... And I am.
The lovely mouth grew sullen again: I don't wish to wait two years
and be what dreadful newspapers call a 'bud'! I wish to go to dinners
and dances now!... Where I'll meet that sort of man.... The sort
one feels almost at liberty to talk to without anybody presenting
anybody.... I've a mind to look amiable the next time he
He raised his eyes at that instant; but she did not smile.
II suppose that is the effect of civilization on me, she
reflectedmetropolitan civilization. I felt like saying, 'For
goodness' sake, let's say something'even in spite of all my sisters
have told me. I can't see why it would be dangerous for me to look
amiable. If he glances at me againso agreeably
He did; but she didn't smile.
You see! she said, accusing herself discontentedly; you don't
dare look human. Why? Because you've had it so drummed into you that
you can never, never again do anything natural. Why? Oh, because they
all begin to talk about mysterious dangers when you say you wish to be
natural.... I've made up my mind to look interested the next time he
turns.... Why shouldn't he see that I'm quite willing to talk to
him?... And I'm so tired of looking out of the window.... Before I came
to this curious city I was never afraid to speak to anybody who
attracted me.... And I'm not now.... So if he does look at me
The faintest glimmer of a smile troubled her lips. She thought: I
do wish he'd speak!
There was a very becoming color in his face, partly because he was
experienced enough not to mistake her; partly from a sudden and
complete realization of her beauty.
It's so odd, thought Aphrodite, that attractive people consider
it dangerous to speak to one another. I don't see any danger.... I
wonder what he has in that square box beside him? It can't be a
camera.... It can't be a folding easel! It simply can't
be that he is an artist! a man like that
Are you? she asked quite involuntarily.
What? he replied, astonished, wheeling around.
Anan artist. I can't believe it, and I don't wish to! You don't
look it, you know!
For a moment he could scarcely realize that she had spoken; his keen
gaze dissected the face before him, the unembarrassed eyes, the oval
contour, the smooth, flawless loveliness of a child.
Yes, I am an artist, he said, considering her curiously.
I am sorry, she said, no, not sorryonly unpleasantly surprised.
You see I am so tired of artand I thought you looked soso
He began to laugha modulated laughrather infectious, too, for
Aphrodite bit her lip, then smiled, not exactly understanding it all.
Why do you laugh? she asked, still smiling. Have I said something
I should not have said?
But he replied with a question: Have you found art unwholesome?
II don't know, she answered with a little sigh; I am so tired
of it all. Don't let us talk about itwill you?
It isn't often I talk about it, he said, laughing again.
Oh! That is unusual. Why don't you talk about art?
I'm much too busy.
Ddoing what? If that is not very impertinent.
Oh, making pictures of things, he said, intensely amused.
Pictures? You don't talk about art, and you paint pictures!
Wwhat kind? Do you mind my asking? You are soso very unusual.
Well, to earn my living, I make full-page pictures for magazines;
to satisfy an absurd desire, I paint peoplethingsanything that
might satisfy my color senses. He shrugged his shoulders gaily. You
see, I'm the sort you are so tired of
But you paint! The artists I know don't paintexcept
that way She raised her pretty gloved thumb and made a gesture
in the air; and, before she had achieved it, they were both convulsed
You never do that, do you? she asked at length.
No, I never do. I can't afford to decorate the atmosphere for
Thenthen you are not interested in art nouveau?
No; and I never could see that beautiful music resembled frozen
They were laughing again, looking with confidence and delight upon
one another as though they had started life's journey together in that
What is a 'necklace of precious tones'? she asked.
Let me cite, as an example, those beautiful verses of Henry
Haynes, he replied gravely.
TO BE OR NOT TO BE
I'd rather be a Could Be,
If I can not be an Are;
For a Could Be is a May Be,
With a chance of touching par.
I had rather be a Has Been
Than a Might Have Been, by far;
For a Might Be is a Hasn't Been
But a Has was once an Are!
Also an Are is Is and Am;
A Was was all of these;
So I'd rather be a Has Been
Than a Hasn't, if you please.
And they fell a-laughing so shamelessly that the 'bus driver turned
and squinted through his shutter at them, and the scandalized horses
stopped of their own accord.
Are you going to leave? he asked as she rose.
Yes; this is the Park, she said. Thank you, and good-by.
He held the door for her; she nodded her thanks and descended,
turning frankly to smile again in acknowledgment of his quickly lifted
He was nice, she reflected a trifle guiltily, and I had a
good time, and I really don't see any danger in it.
She drew a deep, sweet breath as she entered the leafy shade and
looked up into the bluest of cloudless skies. Odors of syringa and
lilac freshened her, cleansing her of the last lingering taint of
joss-sticks. The cardinal birds were very busy in the scarlet masses of
Japanese quince; orioles fluttered among golden Forsythia; here and
there an exotic starling preened and peered at the burnished purple
grackle, stalking solemnly through the tender grass.
For an hour she walked vigorously, enchanted with the sun and sky
and living green, through arbors heavy with wistaria, iris hued and
scented, through rambles under tall elms tufted with new leaves, past
fountains splashing over, past lakes where water-fowl floated or
stretched brilliant wings in the late afternoon sunlight. At times the
summer wind blew her hair, and she lifted her lips to it, caressing it
with every fiber of her; at times she walked pensively, wondering why
she had been forbidden the Park unless accompanied.
More danger, I suppose, she thought impatiently.... Well, what is
this danger that seems to travel like one's shadow, dogging a girl
through the world? It seems to me that if all the pleasant things of
life are so full of danger I'd better find out what it is.... I might
as well look for it so that I'll recognize it when I encounter it....
And learn to keep away.
She scanned the flowery thickets attentively, looked behind her,
then walked on.
If it's robbers they mean, she reflected, I'm a good wrestler,
and I can make any one of my four brothers-in-law look foolish....
Besides, the Park is full of fat policemen.... And if they mean I'm
likely to get lost, or run over, or arrested, or poisoned with
soda-water and bonbons She laughed to herself, swinging on in her
free-limbed, wholesome beauty, scarcely noticing a man ahead, occupying
a bench half hidden under the maple's foliage.
So I'll just look about for this danger they are all afraid of, and
when I see it, I'll know what to do, she concluded, paying not the
slightest heed to the man on the bench until he rose, as she passed
him, and took off his hat.
You! she exclaimed.
She had stopped short, confronting him with the fearless and
charming directness natural to her. What an amusing accident, she
The truth is, he began, it is not exactly an accident.
Nno.... Are you offended?
Offended? No. Should I be? Why?... Besides, I suppose when we have
finished this conversation you are going the other way.
Ino, I wasn't.
Oh! Then you are going to sit here?
YyesI suppose so.... But I don't want to.
Then why do you?
Well, if I'm not going the other way, and if I'm not going
to remain here He looked at her, half laughing. She laughed, too,
not exactly knowing why.
Don't you really mind my walking a little way with you? he asked.
No, I don't. Why should I? Is there any reason? Am I not old enough
to know why we should not walk together? Is it because the sun is going
down? Is there what people call 'danger'?
He was so plainly taken aback that her fair young face became
Is there any reason why you should not walk with me? she
The clear, direct gaze challenged him. He hesitated.
Yes, there is, he said.
Aa reason why you should not walk with me?
What is it?
And, as he did not find words to answer, she studied him for a
moment, glanced up and down the woodland walk, then impulsively seated
herself and motioned him to a place beside her on the bench.
Now, she said, I'm in a position to find out just what this
danger is that they all warn me about. You know, don't you?
Know what? he answered.
About the danger that I seem to run every time I manage to enjoy
myself.... And you do know; I see it by the way you look at
meand your expression is just like their expression when they tell me
not to do things I find most natural.
You must tell me! I shall be thoroughly vexed with you if
Then he began to laugh, and she let him, leaning back to watch him
with uncertain and speculative blue eyes. After a moment he said:
You are absolutely unlike any girl I ever heard of. I am trying to
get used to itto adjust things. Will you help me?
How? she asked innocently.
Well, by telling mehe looked at her a momentyour age. You
look about nineteen.
I am sixteen and a half. I and all my sisters have developed our
bodies so perfectly because, until we came to New York last autumn, we
had lived all our lives out-of-doors. She looked at him with a
friendly smile. Would you really like to know about us?
Well, there are eight of us: Chlorippe, thirteen; Philodice,
fourteen; Dione, fifteen; Aphrodite, sixteenI am Aphrodite; Cybele,
seventeen, married; Lissa, eighteen, married; Iole, nineteen, married,
and Vanessa, twenty, married. She raised one small, gloved finger to
emphasize the narrative. All our lives we were brought up to be
perfectly natural, to live, act, eat, sleep, play like primitive
people. Our father dressed us like youthsboys, you know. Why, she
said earnestly, until we came to New York we had no idea that girls
wore such lovely, fluffy underwearbut I believe I am not to mention
such things; at least they have told me not tobut my straight front
is still a novelty to me, and so are my stockings, so you won't mind if
I've said something I shouldn't, will you?
No, he said; his face was expressionless.
Then that's all right. So you see how it is; we don't quite
know what we may do in this city. At first we were delighted to see so
many attractive men, and we wanted to speak to some of them who seemed
to want to speak to us, but my father put a stop to thatbut it's
absurd to think all those men might be robbers, isn't it?
Very. There was not an atom of intelligence left in his face.
So that's all right, then. Let me see, what was I saying?
Oh, yes, I know! So four of my sisters were married, and we four
remaining are being civilized.... But, ohI wish I could be in the
country for a little while! I'm so homesick for the meadows and brooks
and my pajamas and my bare feet in sandals again.... And people seem to
know so little in New York, and nobody understands us when we make
little jests in Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, and nobody seems to have
been very well educated and accomplished, so we feel strange at times.
Dddo you do all those things?
Mmake jests in Arabic?
Why, yes. Don't you?
No. What else do you do?
Why, not many things.
Oh, of course.
Yes, piano, violin, harp, guitar, zitherall that sort of
thing.... Don't you?
No. What else?
Whyjust various things, ride, swim, fence, boxI box pretty
wellall those things
Rudiments. Of course I couldn't, for example, discourse with
authority upon the heteropterous mictidæ or tell you in what genus or
genera the prothorax and femora are digitate; or whether climatic and
polymorphic forms of certain diurnal lepidoptera occur within certain
boreal limits. I have only a vague and superficial knowledge of any
science, you see.
I see, he said gravely.
She leaned forward thoughtfully, her pretty hands loosely interlaced
upon her knee.
Now, she said, tell me about this danger that such a girl as I
must guard against.
There is no danger, he said slowly.
But they told me
Let them tell you what it is, then.
No; you tell me?
BecauseI simply can't.
Are you ashamed to?
Perhaps He lifted his boxed sketching-kit by the strap, swung
it, then set it carefully upon the ground: Perhaps it is because I am
ashamed to admit that there could be any danger to any woman in this
world of men.
She looked at him so seriously that he straightened up and began to
laugh. But she did not forget anything he had said, and she began her
questions at once:
Why should you not walk with me?
I'll take that back, he said, still laughing; there is every
reason why I should walk with you.
Oh!... But you said
All I meant was not for you, but for the ordinary sort of girl.
Now, the ordinary, every-day, garden girl does not concern you
Yes, she does! Why am I not like her?
Don't attempt to be
Am I differentvery different?
Superbly different! The flush came to his face with the impulsive
She considered him in silence, then: Should I have been offended
because you came into the Park to find me? And why did you? Do you find
So interesting, he said, that I don't know what I shall do when
you go away.
Another pause; she was deeply absorbed with her own thoughts. He
watched her, the color still in his face, and in his eyes a growing
I'm not out, she said, resting her chin on one gloved hand, so
we're not likely to meet at any of those jolly things you go to. What
do you think we'd better do?because they've all warned me against
doing just what you and I have done.
Speaking without knowing each other? he asked guiltily.
Yes.... But I did it first to you. Still, when I tell them about
it, they won't let you come to visit me. I tried it once. I was in a
car, and such an attractive man looked at me as though he wanted to
speak, and so when I got out of the car he got out, and I thought he
seemed rather timid, so I asked him where Tiffany's was. I really
didn't know, either. So we had such a jolly walk together up Fifth
Avenue, and when I said good-by he was so anxious to see me again, and
I told him where I lived. Butdo you know?when I explained about it
at home they acted so strangely, and they never would tell me whether
or not he ever came.
Then you intend to tell them all aboutus?
Of course. I've disobeyed them.
Andand I am never to see you again?
Oh, I'm very disobedient, she said innocently. If I wanted to see
you I'd do it.
But do you?
II am not sure. Do you want to see me?
His answer was stammered and almost incoherent. That, and the color
in his face and the something in his eyes, interested her.
Do you really find me so attractive? she asked, looking him
directly in the eyes. You must answer me quickly; see how dark it is
growing! I must go. Tell me, do you like me?
I never cared so much forfor any woman.
She dimpled with delight and lay back regarding him under level,
That is very pleasant, she said. I've often wished that a manof
your kindwould say that to me. I do wish we could be together a great
deal, because you like me so much already and I truly do find you
agreeable.... Say it to me againabout how much you like me.
IIthere is no womannone I ever saw soso interesting.... I
mean more than that.
Say it then.
Say what I mean?
I am afraid
Afraid? Of what?
Of offending you
Is it an offense to me to tell me how much you like me? How
can it offend me?
Butit is incredible! You won't believe
That in so short a time II could care for you so much
But I shall believe you. I know how I feel toward you. And every
time you speak to me I feel more so.
Feel more so? he stammered.
Yes, I experience more delight in what you say. Do you think I am
insensible to the way you look at me?
Youyou mean He simply could not find words.
She leaned back, watching him with sweet composure; then laughed a
little and said: Do you suppose that you and I are going to fall in
love with one another?
In the purpling dusk the perfume of wistaria grew sweeter and
I've done it already His voice shook and failed; a thrush,
invisible in shadowy depths, made soft, low sounds.
You love mealready? she exclaimed under her breath.
Love you! IIthere are no words The thrush stirred the
sprayed foliage and called once, then again, restless for the moon.
Her eyes wandered over him thoughtfully: So that is love....
I didn't know.... I supposed it could be nothing pleasanter than
friendship, although they say it is.... But how could it be? There is
nothing pleasanter than friendship.... I am perfectly delighted that
you love me. Shall we marry some day, do you think?
He strove to speak, but her frankness stunned him.
I meant to tell you that I am engaged, she observed. Does that
Engaged! He found his tongue quickly enough then; and she,
surprised, interested, and in nowise dissenting, listened to his
eloquent views upon the matter of Mr. Frawley, whom she, during the
lucid intervals of his silence, curtly described.
Do you know, she said with great relief, that I always felt that
way about love, because I never knew anything about it except from the
symptoms of Mr. Frawley? So when they told me that love and friendship
were different, I supposed it must be so, and I had no high opinion of
love ... until you made it so agreeable. Now II prefer it to anything
else.... I could sit here with you all day, listening to you. Tell me
He did. She listened, sometimes intently interested, absorbed,
sometimes leaning back dreamily, her eyes partly veiled under silken
lashes, her mouth curved with the vaguest of smiles.
He spoke as a man who awakes with a startnot very clearly at
first, then with feverish coherence, at times with recklessness almost
eloquent. Still only half awakened himself, still scarcely convinced,
scarcely credulous that this miracle of an hour had been wrought in
him, here under the sky and setting sun and new-born leaves, he spoke
not only to her but of her to himself, formulating in words the rhythm
his pulses were beating, interpreting this surging tide which thundered
in his heart, clamoring out the factthe factthe fact that he
loved!that love was on him like the grip of Fateon him so suddenly,
so surely, so inexorably, that, stricken as he was, the clutch only
amazed and numbed him.
He spoke, striving to teach himself that the incredible was
credible, the impossible possiblethat it was done! done! done! and
that he loved a woman in an hour because, in an hour, he had read her
innocence as one reads through crystal, and his eyes were opened for
the first time upon loveliness unspoiled, sweetness untainted, truth
Do you know, she said, that, as you speak, you make me care for
you so much more than I supposed a girl could care for a man?
Can you love me?
Oh, I do already! I don't mean mere love. It is something
something that I never knew about before. Every_thing about you
is soso exactly what I care foryour voice, your head, the way you
think, the way you look at me. I never thought of men as I am thinking
about you.... I want you to belong to meall alone.... I want to see
how you look when you are angry, or worried, or tired. I want you to
think of me when you are perplexed and unhappy and ill. Will you? You
must! There is nobody else, is there? If you do truly love me?
Nobody but you.
That is what I desire.... I want to live with youI promise I
won't talk about arteven your art, which I might learn to care
for. All I want is to really live and have your troubles to meet and
overcome them because I will not permit anything to harm you.... I will
love you enough for that.... Ido you love other women?
Good God, no!
And you shall not! She leaned closer, looking him through and
through. I will be what you love! I will be what you desire
most in all the world. I will be to you everything you wish, in
every way, always, ever, and forever and ever.... Will you marry me?
She suddenly stripped off her glove, wrenched a ring set with
brilliants from the third finger of her left hand, and, rising, threw
it, straight as a young boy throws, far out into deepening twilight. It
was the end of Mr. Frawley; he, too, had not only become a by-product
but a good-by product. Yet his modest demands had merely required a
tear a year! Perhaps he had not asked enough. Love pardons the selfish.
She was laughing, a trifle excited, as she turned to face him where
he had risen. But, at the touch of his hand on hers, the laughter died
at a breath, and she stood, her limp hand clasped in his, silent,
expressionless, save for the tremor of her mouth.
II must go, she said, shrinking from him.
He did not understand, thrilled as he was by the contact, but he let
her soft hand fall away from his.
Then with a half sob she caught her own fingers to her lips and
kissed them where the pressure of his hand burned her white
fleshkissed them, looking at him.
Youyou find a childyou leave a woman, she said unsteadily. Do
you understand how I love youfor that?
He caught her in his arms.
Nonot yetnot my mouth! she pleaded, holding him back; I love
you too muchalready too much. Wait! Oh, will you
wait?... And let me waitmake me wait?... II begin to
understand some things I did not know an hour ago.
In the dusk he could scarcely see her as she swayed, yielding, her
arms tightening about his neck in the first kiss she had ever given or
forgiven in all her life.
And through the swimming tumult of their senses the thrush's song
rang like a cry. The moon had risen.
Mounting the deadened stairway noiselessly to her sister's room,
groping for the door in the dark of the landing, she called: Iole!
And again: Iole! Come to me! It is I!
The door swung noiselessly; a dim form stole forward, wide-eyed and
white in the electric light.
Then down at her sister's feet dropped Aphrodite, and laid a burning
face against her silken knees. And, Oh, Iole, Iole, she whispered,
Iole, Iole, Iole! There is danger, as you saythere is, and I
understand it ... now.... But I love him soII have been so
happyso happy! Tell me what I have done ... and how wrong it is! Oh,
Iole, Iole! What have I done!
Done, child! What in the name of all the gods have you done?
Loved himin the names of all the gods! Oh, Iole! Iole! Iole!
The thrush singing in darkness; the voice of spring calling,
calling me to his arms! Oh, Iole, Iole!these, and my soul and his,
alone under the pagan moon! alone, save for the old gods whispering in
And listening, I heard the feathery tattoo of wings close
bythe wings of Eros all aquiver like a soft moth trembling ere it
flies! Peril divine! I understood it then. And, stirring in darkness,
sweet as the melody of unseen streams, I heard the old gods
laughing.... Then I knew.
Is that all, little sister?
And when, at length, the trembling tale was told, Iole caught her in
her white arms, looked at her steadily, then kissed her again and
If he is all you saythis miracleII think I can make them
understand, she whispered. Where is he?
D-down-stairsat b-bay! Hark! You can hear George swearing! Oh,
Iole, don't let him!
In the silence from the drawing-room below came the solid sobs of
P-pup! P-p-penniless pup!
He must not say that! cried Aphrodite fiercely. Can't you
make father and George understand that he has nearly six hundred
dollars in the bank?
I will try, said Iole tenderly. Come!
And with one arm around Aphrodite she descended the great stairway,
where, on the lower landing, immensely interested, sat Chlorippe,
Philodice and Dione, observant, fairly aquiver with intelligence.
Oh, that young man is catching it! remarked Dione, looking up as
Iole passed, her arm close around her sister's waist. George has said
'dammit' seven times and father is rockingnot in a
rocking-chairjust rocking and expressing his inmost thoughts. And Mr.
Briggs pretends to scowl and mutters: 'Hook him over the ropes, George.
'E ain't got no friends!' Take a peep, Iole. You can just see them if
you lean over and hang on to the banisters
But Iole brushed by her younger sisters, Aphrodite close beside her,
and, entering the great receiving-hall, stood still, her clear eyes
focused upon her husband's back.
Mr. Wayne stiffened and wheeled; Mr. Briggs sidled hastily toward
the doorway, crabwise; the poet choked back the word, Phup! and gazed
at his tall daughter with apprehension and protruding lips.
Iole, began Wayne, this is no place for you! Aphrodite! let that
fellow alone, I say!
Iole turned, following with calm eyes the progress of her sister
toward a tall young man who stood by the window, a red flush staining
his strained face.
The tense muscles in jaw and cheek relaxed as Aphrodite laid one
hand on his arm; the poet, whose pursed lips were overloaded, expelled
a passionate Phupp! and the young man's eyes narrowed again at the
Then silence lengthened to a waiting menace, and even the three
sisters on the stairs succumbed to the oppressive stillness. And all
the while Iole stood like a white Greek goddess under the glory of her
hair, looking full into the eyes of the tall stranger.
A minute passed; a glimmer dawned to a smile and trembled in the
azure of Iole's eyes; she slowly lifted her arms, white hands
outstretched, looking steadily at the stranger.
He came, tense, erect; Iole's cool hands dropped in his. And,
turning to the others with a light on her face that almost blinded him,
she said, laughing: Do you not understand? Aphrodite brings us the
rarest gift in the world in this tall young brother! Look! Touch him!
We have never seen his like before for all the wisdom of wise years.
For he is one of fewand men are many, and artists legionthis
honorable miracle, this sane and wholesome wonder! this trinity, Lover,
Artist, and Man!
And, turning again, she looked him wistfully, wonderingly, in the